Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day 2011

Finally, there's finally something else for the sports world to talk about. I didn't fill out a bracket this year, so I have no interest in March Madness and well, I just don't follow basketball. Sorry.  I wish I could find hockey to watch, but the way the NHL handles things...well that's a rant for another time.

Here we are, the 2011 MLB season is on, in March for cryin' out loud.  The safe bet is picking the Sox and Phillies, with their  hitting and pitching.  Of course what looks good on paper quite often fails when the rubber hits the road.  Unlike Nate Silver and some folks I know, I'm not a stats geek, but I do accept that some metrics can be quite telling. One I think is complete BS is the so-called power rankings that people come up with.  First of all, it varies from source to source, so there can't be a standard ranking system. More importantly, there seems to be little relation between power ranking and haw well they dos. Look at this one on Yahoo (ignore the current rankings look at last years and the W-L record.  The World Series champs the SF Giants were 7th in power and overall there is little correlation between Power Ranking and place in the standings.

So lets not get carried away with stats. I say relax and enjoy the game as it unfolds, it a long season.

Oh yeah one more thing: Sox over the Phillies in 5.  Can't wait for the D-cells to come flying at my house.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The War on Democracy: News from the Front

Watching the "Tea Party" backed Republicans in action, I've become convinced that rather than a shadowy monolithic conspiracy, they are an amalgam of reactionary social conservatives, economic supremacists and narcissists, which consciously or subconsciously seeks to create a rigid stratified society run by a subset of wealthy people.  This society would be throwback economically to 1870s America and politically to 1830s France. It would be obtained by the disenfranchisement of much of the population and shifting the from a government answerable to elected representation to services and regulations run by private entities.  More simply, they're anti-democracy.

Today in Ohio, the Republican-controlled House labor committee voted 9-6 to forward a bill to limit collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers, including police officers and firefighters

The senior citizen lobbying group AARP is suddenly under attack from Republicans due to its support for not just health care reform, but existing Medicare.

The Wisconsin Union-busting bill has been held up in court, nevertheless the Authoritarians have declared it to be in effect by publishing it in a public record, Legislative Reference Bureau. The LRB itself however declares that their record does not constitute putting a law into effect. As a result, the judge who issued the original stay reiterated in no uncertain terms and threatened sanctions for non-compliance.  However, the Republicans are making noise that they may still ignore the court order.

The Republican House Speaker in Pennsylvania thinks there's too much representation in the Commonwealth, so he wants to cut the size of the lower house by 50 members. Sam Smith of Jefferson County says, "We would be a more efficient body if the House of Representatives was smaller,"  Constitutional scholar Bruce Ledewitz of Duquesne University says the legislature was increased in size in 1874 to help prevent corrupt lawmakers from passing bills favoring special interests and corporations.  Similar bills have been proposed in other states.

The new governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is under fire for his shenanigans regarding the health care company Solantic. Scott was on the board of directors until this past January, but rather than divest himself to avoid a conflict of interest, he instead shifted his holdings to his wife. As Kris Boughton points out, the company may stand to gain form the new free-market health care and drug testing programs that Scott is pushing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Penn. Marcellus News Roundup, March 28

In a blistering op-ed, Josh Fox takes Corbett aide Teddy Borawski, chief oil and gas geologist, to task for the latter's comparison of Fox's Gasland to Nazi propaganda.

A company called Aquatech International is promoting and testing a portable water testing system that "could drastically reduce water consumption and truck traffic while providing recycled distilled water at Marcellus Shale drilling sites across Southwestern Pennsylvania."

The DEP has suspended the licenses of Tri-County Waste Water Management and Allan’s Waste Water Service due to the indictment of the companies' owner, Robert Allen Shipman, for illegally disposing wastewater, mixing wastes from different industries, falsifying records and overcharging customers.

Republican Rep Bill Shuster is fighting efforts to federally regulate Marcellus drilling through the proposed FRAC Act. Furthermore he "... also encouraged companies and industry organizations to hire teams of young, media-savvy people, pack them in cars and send them to meet with small-town newspaper editors, publishers and reporters to promote positive messages about the industry." What an asshole.

Pennsylvania General Energy Co has agreed to pay a $25,000 settlement to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) instead of fines and damages resulting from illegal dumping of chemicals into Lycoming County’s Pine Creek.

Politics and Policy
Governor Corbett is sticking to his hard-line stance against taxing Marcellus operations.

Despite Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley's remarks predicting riches for all and negligible environmental consequences from gas shale drilling, the new Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission was confronted over environmental issues related to gas shale drilling at the first public meeting of the panel.

Richard Allan, director for Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware members of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and a former lobbyist, will be nominated by Gov. Corbett to head the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages the state lands the governor will open to drilling.

David Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist from Penn State and a researcher with the university’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research says companies hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale recycle about two-thirds of the wastewater that returns to the surface. He made these remarks during the annual Northeast Section meeting of the Geological Society of America in Pittsburgh. The abstract of his presentation can be found here.

Business and Operations
A federal judge in Erie has approved a class-action settlement between Texas-based Range Resources and about 25,000 Pennsylvania landowners who claim the gas drilling firm improperly calculated royalty payments.

In other news, Range Resources is selling assets in Texas in order to finance more Marcellus operations.

The firm Burleson Cooke announced that they will add eight attorneys to their Pittsburgh office, strengthening their litigation practice on the behalf of Marcellus operators.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Absurdities for a Sunday Afternoon.

In theses troubled times, its good to see suburbanites in Delaware and Pennsylvania have their priorities straight. Because imagine the problems we would have without sports programs.

Guns n' dog poop?... oh wait its Mississippi.

Now hold on a minute, maybe he's just a high talker.

Make's you wonder how many bullet grazing incidents there must be in Utah for someone to think this was a reasonable excuse.

So she goes, "I'm like so totally stupid for putting this like you know, on youtube."

Closing the house door after the snake gets out?

Well, you always want to lead with your head.

Never had anything like this in my high school, nor would you want to imagine any of the staff in something like it!

Chupacabra not real? Lies, lies and lies. Even Fox is lying, can you believe it? Sad thing is, this story has more coverage than the arrest of a white supremacist for attempting to bomb the MLK parade in Spokane or the Indiana DA suggesting a violent false flag operation to smear labor in Wisconsin.

Corbett is as bad as the Midweatern Govs.

Natural gas industry employee Tom Corbett has take time off from slashing the budget and giving tax breaks to his bros in the gas industry to choose Sam Katz for the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which oversees Philadelphia's finances.

Not being from around these parts, I never heard of him. Well my resident attorney provided me with more info:
"Perennial Philadelphia mayoral candidate Sam Katz must repay $2.1 million he obtained from three business partners by allegedly fraudulently misrepresenting information about the viability of skating rink development projects.
The Delaware Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in a civil lawsuit over a private business deal that Katz tried to keep from the public during his third failed run for mayor last year...
... the dispute arose from Katz's effort to obtain financing for the development of skating rinks, with construction partially funded by municipal investments and then managed by a Katz affiliate. He attracted several investors, who collectively contributed $2.1 million to the project...
The court said the litigation revealed that Mark Robbins, the man Katz hired as COO and touted as a highly experienced businessman, was in fact an experienced felon who was convicted of drug smuggling, armed robbery and assault.
Vice Chancellor Strine said even the most rudimentary background check would have revealed that Robbins misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own family. Instead, the vice chancellor said, Katz set him to work on preparing feasibility studies, which the two promoted to investors as independently produced."

Yeah, just the type of person to you should have overseeing municipal finances, unless your plan is to falsely accuse the city of being unable to run itself in order to strip away local democratic authority.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blogging Hiatus

With our new arrival, Joseph Patrick, I have had to take a break from this here blog. I will be back this upcoming weekend.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is the Midwest in America Anymore?

With all the natural and manmadee disasters occuring in Japan, we cannot forget the assualt on AMerican Democracy occuring by newly elected "Tea Party" Republicans. It really sticks in my craw that these Authoritarian-Narcissists have the audacity to associate their astro-turf movement with the American Revolution.  Despite their continually blabbing about the American Revolution, it is obvious that Authoritarians neither know or understand much about it. Case in point: Michele Bachmann's twice stated belief that the Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought in New Hampshire. The details are not important, the co-opting of patriotic symbols by the ANs to deceive the ignorant and fearful is.

What's happening in Michigan underscores the real nature of the Authoritarian-Narcissist Axis.The new GOP governor is following the lead of King George III and pushing a law allowing him to suspend local government and remove elected officials! One of the things that set off the Revolutionary War was George and his ministers suspending the classic form of direct democracy, the New England town meeting.  He is also cutting aid and raising taxes on the most vulnerable in society while at the same time giving 1.8 billion is subsidies and tax breaks to the big businesses that paid for his election.

You see, the only right these people believe in is the absolute unfettered right to wealth and property, that is the initial right in their eyes. They believe that all other rights flow from that one and it follows that in their eyes that the extent of your rights is dependent on your wealth. This is the attitude to liberty held by Medieval European nobles.  When they say they are for limited government but then govern as authoritarians they are not being hypocritical, just disingenuous.  They believe in government alright, just not a democratic one.

The Democratic Party has been largely useless in realizing this and fighting it. The liberal activists have been up in arms and angry at the Dems, but only on the internet.  Seriously, do you think the snarketariat over at Wonkette, the hand-wringers at Huff-Po and Democratic Underground, and the easily spooked at Firedoglake really are any threat to the ANs?

Fortunately, the actual working and middle-class have taken things into their own hands, even farmers are joining the protests in Wisconsin.  The firefighters are starting to take their pension funds out of banks that fund the ANs' campaigns. The unions are far from perfect and still have problems with corruption and overpaid bureaucracy, but at least the rank and file is doing what they need to do. And some of those I bashed above are helping to some degree, but what they mainly give is the same moral and political support that the homefront provides to soldiers in the field.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Marcellus News for Pennsylvania, March 9th edition

On Feb. 27, the New York Times published a report on drilling-related contaminants in water supplies in Pennsylvania. The story is part of an ongoing series on the Marcellus that are worth a careful reading.

Reactions in the wake of the NYT story have been swift and are still coming in. Both environmental activists and industry boosters are now saying that more testing of water is needed, and the report is causing a lot of discussion and concern in the Susquehanna Valley region. In response to the story, the EPA says they are looking into  radioactive contaminants from fracking.

Not everyone is happy with the Times story. Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko (R-Chamber of Commerce) defended hydrofracking , saying, "The New York Times blatant misrepresentation of Pennsylvania gas regulations glosses over the robust programs in place to protect the people and the environment in Pennsylvania," Former Governor Ed Rendell and former DEP head honcho John Hangar also took exception to the report.

But the issue isn't just being covered by one newspaper. Tim Wheeler, a blogger down in Baltimore writing for the Sun, reports that fracking waste from PA has been shipped to one of that city's wastewater treatment plants. According to DelawareOnline, "Until the second half of last year, Pennsylvania had been the only state to allow most...wastewater to be discharged into rivers after only partial treatment." And the Philadelphia Inquirer has got in on the act (AKA journalism) and reports today that the DEP is using flawed statistics and records to tout the drilling industry's wastewater recycling efforts.

At least the radioactivity levels in seven state rivers are at or below acceptable levels, or so says the DEP.

But lets not give all the attention to wastewater problems: on March 1st, a 400 barrel gas collection tank caught fire in Washington County.

The Colcom Foundation's Board of Directors has awarded $900,000 of grants from a  $1.3 million Marcellus Environmental Fund 

State Sen. Gene Yaw (R) was heckled during a public forum on Marcellus drilling held at Bucknell.

Gov. Tom Corbett's nominee for environmental protection head defended the state's regulation of natural gas drilling last Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley's says there is not even a remote chance Gov. Tom Corbett will approve a severance tax on the natural gas production in Pennsylvania.

Gov.Corbett's decision to lease mineral rights under park land is being lambasted by groups such as the Sierra Club.

The Delaware River Basin Commission will add a 30-day extension for public comment drilling regulations.

The National Park Service is looking to obtain mineral rights and update resource extraction regulations for its sites over the Marcellus Play.

Business and Operations
FBR Capital Markets claims that Marcellus operations will bring $250 billion to landowners and economic activity in Pennsylvania.

Chesapeake Energy claims that it has spent $92 million in the past year repairing and upgrading roads in Pennsylvania.

The CEO of Range Resources is talking up not only the Marcellus, but also possible gas resources in over and underlying strata.

The bankers are one group not having any issues with hydrofracking the Marcellus. Surprise, surprise.

United Vision Logistics has opened a terminal in Darlington, PA to service Marcellus operations.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Strange Stuff for this, Sunday March 6, 2011

Hmm, ya weigh 575 pounds, are a "spokesmodel" for a restaurant that serves high calorie junk called the Heart Attack Grill, you shouldn't be surprised to have a medieval life expectancy. Oh and it's in Arizona...

Maybe Mr. 575 would've been better off if this little guy took up residence in his fridge.

Coating your hair with formaldehyde and running a hot iron over can have health risks? Who'd a thunk it?

The Tea (ahem tory) Party can't decide whether they want o go back to 1920, 1877 or way back to the nullifcation question.

This is pretty mild competitive behavior for Philly, usually they use a baseball bat.

A woman was angry that a clerk was taking to long to help her, so she smashed $1,600 worth of booze...that'll show 'em!

Maybe its a CHUPACABRA?

The Teabaggers figured who are the real danger - the Boston Irish.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Growing diesel?

A Cambridge Mass based biotech company, Joule Unlimited, claims that it has genetically engineered an organism (cyanobacteria) that can produce ethanol or diesel directly from photosynthesis. These cyano bacteria are encapsulated in flat panels exposed to sunlight and supplied with water (such as non-potable water that otherwise would be unusable) and "industrial waste" CO2. That's it, no feedstock is required. This is in contrast to using algae in ponds that require input of other nutrients and produce triglycerides that must be reacted with methanol to produce diesel esters. Joule plans to build a ten acre demonstration facility will be built this year. Technical details are provided in the journal Photosynthetic Research.
Joule Unlimited's panel system containing diesel-producing cyanobacteria (click for larger image).
Joule claims that the process can produce 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually. Its not clear if this an acre of land occupied by the units or acre in surface area of the units (which would then take up more than a physical acre of real estate).  The Energy Information Agency reports that in 2009 the United States consumed 1,159,558 thousand gallons of low sulfur fuel oil distillate (diesel and fuel oil). To replace that amount with this process would require approximately 120 square miles of these photosynthetic generators, which is not a huge amount of real estate in the U.S. Burning this biodiesel would still produce CO2, but since this new process consumes the gas and presumably requires little energy from other carbon dioxide producing processes, supposedly it would not contribute much to global warming.

I have to admit, this sounds too good to be true. Assuming that this process indeed works, there are still many questions. How much infrastructure is required? Are the organisms really this efficient? Do they really only require not much more than sunlight, carbon dioxide and water? How robust are the organisms? What is the true amount of EROEI?

If this process works as claimed it would indeed by revolutionary. Which would be appropriate, since the company is located in Massachusetts. Take that Texas!