Sunday, May 30, 2010

Junkies in our midst...



“We're in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyones arguing over where they're going to sit.”

- David Suzuki

It's been over a month since the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. We now have acknowledgement from BP that the leak is bigger than the 5,000 barrels a day claimed since the disaster first happened.

While no one knows exactly how much oil is leaking, legitimate estimates range from 20,000 barrels a day to upwards of 100,000 barrels a day. And at what? 42 gallons per barrel... that's a lot of bubblin' crude.

An important point to be aware of in this incident is that there were those who warned of such possi-/proba-bilities:

How Technology Failed in the Gulf Spill

While the Deepwater Horizon leaks' depth is unprecedented, it was not unanticipated. A report by engineering consulting firm URS Corp. in 2002 concluded that "Technologies used in shallow waters are no longer adequate for water depths over 1,000 meters. As a result, the environmental consequences of some of the newer deepwater technologies are not well understood."

In 2005 petroleum engineering researchers from Texas A&M University suggested that drilling in the "dangerous and unknown" ultra-deep environment required new blowout control measures: "While drilling as a whole may be advancing to keep up with these environments, some parts lag behind. An area that has seen this stagnation and resulting call for change has been blowout control."

An analysis of incidents in the Gulf of Mexico by the Texas A&M researchers showed that offshore blowouts had continued at "a fairly stable rate" since 1960 despite the use of BOPs. Regulators require inspection of BOPs every 14 days. BP says it inspected the Deepwater Horizon's 10 days before last month's blowout.

Two attempts by BP to cap the well have failed and thousands of barrels of oil continue to spill into the Gulf of Mexico waters.

Frank Rich has a well crafted piece in the NY Times: Obama’s Katrina? Maybe Worse

FOR Barack Obama’s knee-jerk foes, of course it was his Katrina. But for the rest of us, there’s the nagging fear that the largest oil spill in our history could yet prove worse if it drags on much longer. It might not only wreck the ecology of a region but capsize the principal mission of the Obama presidency.


The only good news from the oil spill is that when catastrophe strikes, even some hard-line conservatives, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, start begging for the federal government to act, and act big. It’s the crunch moment for government to make its case — as Obama belatedly started to do on Thursday. But words are no match for results. As long as the stain washes up on shore, the hole in BP’s pipe will serve the right as a gaping hole in the president’s argument for expanded government supervision of, for starters, Big Oil and big banks. It’s not just the gulf that could suffer for decades to come.

This is a disaster - and not just an environmental one. The BP spill is also a disastrous failure of technology. How could this happen? How can companies be allowed such activities when the technology to stop such a disaster is apparently lagging behind the ability to poke holes in the ocean floor? Remember that thing our parents used to tell us? "... just because you can doesn't mean you should." Well if there is a better example than this of the principle of that...

The AP's Matthew Brown: Cleaning oil-soaked wetlands may be impossible

The gooey oil washing into the maze of marshes along the Gulf Coast could prove impossible to remove, leaving a toxic stew lethal to fish and wildlife, government officials and independent scientists said.


White [David White, a wetlands ecologist from Loyola University in New Orleans], the Loyola scientist, predicted at least short-term ruin for some of the wetlands he's been studying for three decades. Under a worst-case scenario, he said the damage could exceed the 217 square miles of wetlands lost during the 2005 hurricane season.

"When I say that my stomach turns," he said.

We are junkies, or at best we are the enablers of addiction. We are addicted to oil and the side effects of that addiction are felt at all levels of society. We need to change, we need to understand that we truly need to find and utilize alternative energy, wind and tide, more mass transit... we need to bring our troops home and work at restoring the Gulf states' damage not just from this oil "spill" (a spill is what happens when a kid's cup tips over) but what remains to be done from the swath of damage from Hurricane Katrina. We have states in the midwest reeling from disastrous tornadoes, states in the east still repairing damage from heavy rains and flooding this past winter and early spring... we have a crumbling infrastructure of highways and bridges...

... our own house is in disrepair and needs our attention. But are we too spoiled as a consumer society to become an effective and active citizenry - a populace that is willing to face the plethora of crises already here and looming on the horizon?


And from my this-and-that file:

Baltimore’s Crime Drop As War On Drugs Becomes War On Violence

BALTIMORE – In a blighted west Baltimore neighborhood, Lt. Ian Dombroski turns his unmarked police car around a corner and sees several men standing outside a liquor store. They scatter immediately.

Dombroski knows they’re probably selling drugs, but he keeps driving. Five years ago, he said, officers who happened upon a similar scene wouldn’t take such a selective approach.

“We’d all jump out, grab all the junkies, find out who had the drugs on ‘em, lock ‘em up, and that might be three or four drug arrests right there,” Dombroski said. “And we’d go, ‘Good, those are numbers.’”

But under Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, officers in one of the nation’s most violent cities are no longer being told to beef up arrest statistics. The number of arrests has declined the past two years. Yet homicides and shootings are down, too — to totals not seen since the late 1980s.

Officers familiarize themselves with a list of 120 dangerous criminals and patrol where they live, talking to them and working acquaintances for tips. The serving of arrest warrants has been reprioritized to focus on people with violent backgrounds. Gun offenders are also required to register with the city, much like sex offenders do in many places.

“I’m not trying to win the drug war,” Bealefeld said. “I’m out to win the war on violence and deal effectively with violence.”

And speaking of the drug war, a couple of posts back I added a link to police video of a "drug raid" carried out by SWAT in Columbia, Missouri... it's not pretty, one can hear a dog being shot and crying in pain and then 3 shots and silence... and all for a few grams of cannabis (marijuana, pot, weed, etc). The enlightening part of the video (and there's a warehouse of sociologic info in that video) is when the homeowner - the target of the raid - asks "what is happening?" and then demands a lawyer. Best advice ever...

Oh... and the Columbia, Missouri police received heavy national attention when the video went viral on YouTube. Well, not soon after, the beleaguered Columbia PD Chief, Ken Burton, said this:

“I applaud your efforts,” he told a reporter who asked about campaigns to change marijuana laws. “If we could get out of the business [of going after marijuana offenders], I think there would be a lot of police officers that would be happy to do that.”

Look... the drug war is literally our government waging a military assault on US families and individuals under the guise of Prohibition. The Prohbition of Drugs is no different than the Prohibition of Alcohol. Substances when prohibited do not become unpopular... they just become illegal and there are always those willing to be the suppliers of a demand. That's like the most basic law of economics... but what Prohibition does is turn the manufacure and distribution of the banned products over to criminal organizations. Criminal organizations gladly will lose a few soldiers and even suffer some seizures of goods in order to be the recipients of the black market's swollen profit margins.

In international terms the global market in illegal drugs is somewhere around $500 billion a year, just under 10% of total global annual trade. Tax free, all cash, high demand... a capitalist wet dream. And all that cash buys a lot of influence, buys a lot of politicians and members of law enforcement.

There are a lot worse things in life than drugs and their abuse. But I ask you consider that smoking cannabis as a young man did not prevent Barack Obama (or Bill Clinton, prolly George Bush Jr) from becoming President of the United States. An arrest for possession of cannabis would have. And that's plain dumb, especially considering the laws against cannabis come from such putrid, bigoted beginnings.

And speaking of snakes and snakey things, just in case you thought alligators are dangerous, how about alligator-eating-snakes:

Pythons in Florida Stalked by Hunters and Tourists Alike

Thousands of Burmese pythons, the offspring of former pets, have invaded the Everglades, eating birds, bunnies, even alligators. It has gotten so bad that Congress is considering an outright ban on buying or selling nine kinds of giant snakes.


“People need to view exotic species invasions as pollution — biopollution,” said David E. Hallac, chief of biological resources for Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks. “In some cases, this form of biopollution can be even more difficult to remedy than chemical pollution, mainly because in most cases, we have no way of cleaning up exotic species from our natural environments.”

Kind of fits the theme here today, don't you think? And speaking of exotic species:

Beware alien invaders, says Stephen Hawking

They say strangers are just friends you haven't met yet - but it's not a view Stephen Hawking shares. In a new documentary series for the Discovery channel, he suggests that we should be avoiding making contact with aliens at all costs.

An important and relevant perspective on the financial crisis from Thomas Friedman in the NY Times:

Start-Ups, Not Bailouts

Here’s my fun fact for the day, provided courtesy of Robert Litan, who directs research at the Kauffman Foundation, which specializes in promoting innovation in America: “Between 1980 and 2005, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S. were created by firms that were 5 years old or less,” said Litan. “That is about 40 million jobs. That means the established firms created no new net jobs during that period.”

Message: If we want to bring down unemployment in a sustainable way, neither rescuing General Motors nor funding more road construction will do it. We need to create a big bushel of new companies — fast. We’ve got to get more Americans working again for their own dignity — and to generate the rising incomes and wealth we need to pay for existing entitlements, as well as all the new investments we’ll need to make. It was just reported that Social Security this year will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes — a red line we were not expected to cross until at least 2016.

But you cannot say this often enough: Good-paying jobs don’t come from bailouts. They come from start-ups. And where do start-ups come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers. How do we get more of those? There are only two ways: grow more by improving our schools or import more by recruiting talented immigrants.

So in light of the multiple wars we have raging - military types, economic, drug, environmental - here's an old fave from the remarkable Samuel Clements (go read the whole thing):

The War Prayer
by Mark Twain

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."


Almost forgot to add... if you're in the Bend, Oregon area my good friend Greg Burke ( ) will be having his photography on exhibit at Eastlake Framing, 1335 NW Galveston Ave, Bend, Oregon, 541-389-3770, with the artist's reception this coming Friday, June 4th, from 5 - 8 pm. Say hi to Greg for me if you go!


“I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty”

- George Burns

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