Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Weekend Reads

According to Grandma, Lent ends at noon on Holy Saturday.  Happy Easter.  Here are some pieces that caught my attention:

The Business of Building Roller Coasters - Priceonomics

The inventor of everything - The Verge.  P.T. Barnum was right.  Even with venture capitalists. See also, A Silicon Valley Disaster: A 21-Year-Old Stanford Kid Got $30 Million, Then Everything Blew Up - Business Insider.  Conservatives claim that the poor want to get rich without working, but what is venture capital doing throwing around this crazy money but gambling for the next 100-bagger? 

The Big Ten welcome guide: What Maryland and Rutgers fans need to know - SB Nation

What Happened to Canada? - n+1.  For Americans concerned about Keystone XL and tar sands imports, realize that the U.S. has exported asshole conservative policies to the Great White North.

Why I Fixed Fights - Deadspin

Fixing the Fruits of the Earth - Texas Monthly

Field of Dreams at 25: The Making of the Movie - Des Moines Register.  Damn, I'm old. The pictures from 1988 look like the '70s more than they look like today (which makes sense mathematically).  1989 was a hell of a year for baseball movies.  When I went to the theater to watch 'Field of Dreams,' 'Major League' was playing on the screen across the hall.

A Detroit sports threefer: Bad Boys and Good Times, Saving Tiger Stadium (also see this), and The Once and Future Saint - Grantland.  I was a huge fan of the Bad Boys (especially Bill Laimbeer), I stopped by The Corner when I visited Detroit a few years back, but I hadn't heard of St. Cecilia's gym.

Fish Farming Explores Deeper, Cleaner Waters - Wall Street Journal

Uniter of Sperm and Egg Is Found - Scientific American

Resegregation in the American South - The Atlantic.  I'd say this isn't just an issue in the South.

Map of Census Blocks with zero population by Nik Freeman

Friday, April 18, 2014

California Farmers Get 5% Water Allocation

Well, it's better than nothing:
Drought-stricken California farmers and cities are set to get more water as state and federal officials ease cutbacks due to recent rain and snow, officials announced on Friday.
The Department of Water Resources said it is increasing water allotments from the State Water Project from zero to 5 percent of what water districts have requested. The State Water Project supplies water to 29 public agencies serving more than 25 million Californians and irrigates nearly a million acres of farmland.
Also, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will supply 75 percent of the water requested by water agencies in the Sacramento Valley, up from the current 40 percent.
"This is all a bit of good news in an otherwise bleak water year," Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said on a conference call with reporters.
The state's increase to a 5 percent allocation will make a little more than 200,000 acre-feet available. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre to a depth of 1 foot, and roughly enough to sustain a family of four for a year.
Federal and state officials said rain and snow from storms in February and March allowed them to increase water allotments.
The news comes as the state is experiencing its third consecutive dry year. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January.
I just can't imagine depending on irrigation water, and getting next to nothing.

Action Bill

Action Bill - A LEGO Stop Motion Short Film from AMAA Productions on Vimeo.

Peak Soil? Now That's Scary

Given that all components of human civilization are inextricably linked to petroleum, either as a chemical feedstock or a fuel, if we cannot elevate our production rate of oil, nor can we grow the global economy. The troubles of the human condition, however, are more fundamental, since we are steadily using-up Mother Earth's bestowal to us of fertile soil. This has been dubbed "peak soil" in analogy with "peak oil", and while the two phenomena are not of the same kind, they are connected, as indeed are all the elements listed in the title of this article: soil, land, water, climate (change), honeybees, oil and food. Alice Friedmann wrote, in the context of the unsustainable nature of growing land-based crops and producing biofuels from them.
"Iowa has some of the best topsoil in the world, yet in the past century it's eroded from an average of 18 inches to less than 10 inches (Pate 2004, Klee 1991). When topsoil reaches 6 inches or less (the average depth of the root zone in crops), productivity drops off sharply (Sundquist 2005). Soil erodes geologically at a rate of about 400 pounds of soil per acre per year (Troeh 2005). But on over half of America's best crop land, the erosion rate is 11,000 pounds per acre, 27 times the natural rate, and double that on the worst 7% of cropland (NCRS 2006), partly because farmers aren't paid to conserve their land, and partly because hired farmers wrench every penny of profit they can on behalf of short-sighted owners."
This is deeply disturbing, all the more so because rates of erosion that are in excess of the natural rate of soil formation are not restricted to Iowa, but are a global feature. According to a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) some 20% of the world's cultivated areas are afflicted by land degradation, and in order to feed Humankind over the next 40 years, food production must be increased by 60%. This conclusion is drawn, in part, from the expectation that another 2.5 billion people will be added to the current number of just over 7 billion of us, and that a rising middle class will have greater expectations of their diet, particularly in wanting to eat more meat. The amount of food that is wasted is another consideration, and combining this factor with population increase suggests a daily gap between the demand for food and what is likely to be available by 2050 of 900 calories (kilocalories) per capita.
I'm afraid we've seen potentially unsustainable exponential population growth as the fruits of the fossil fuel revolution, combined with modern medicine and the bountiful harvests of the green revolution have been realized. As we reach the limits of growth, we might see a very scary future with much human suffering. I hope we don't, but I think the odds are significantly above zero that we will.

Cold Winter? Blame Global Warming

No, seriously.  I think the effects of climate change on the jet stream will play havoc with agricultural production going forward.  Here's Dr. Jeff Masters with more on the polar vortex:

An extreme jet stream patten observed at 00 UTC on January 16, 2014. Color-coded wind speeds at a pressure of 300 mb (roughly 9,000 meters or 30,000 feet) show the axis of the jet stream over North America, with a large upside-down "U"-shaped ridge of high pressure over the West Coast. California is outlined in orange. The strongest winds of the jet stream (orange colors, 160 mph) were observed over the Northeast United States, where a strong "U"-shaped trough of low pressure was anchored. Image generated from the 00 UTC January 16, 2014 run of the GFS model, and plotted using our wundermap.
 From November 2013 - January 2014, a remarkably extreme jet stream pattern set up over North America, bringing the infamous "Polar Vortex" of cold air to the Midwest and Eastern U.S., and a "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" of high pressure over California, which brought the worst winter drought conditions ever recorded to that state. A new study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, led by Utah State scientist S.-Y. Simon Wang, found that this jet stream pattern was the most extreme on record, and likely could not have grown so extreme without the influence of human-caused global warming. The study concluded, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity."
The researchers studied the historical pressure patterns for November - January over North America during the period 1960 - 2014, and found that a strong "dipole" pattern of high pressure over Western North America and low pressure over Eastern North America, such as occurred during the winter of 2013 - 2014, tended to occur naturally during the winter immediately preceding an El Niño event. Since NOAA is giving a greater than 50% of an El Niño event occurring later in 2014, this past winter's dipole pattern may have been a natural expression of the evolving progression towards El Niño. The study also found that the dipole pattern could be intensified by two other natural resonances in the climate system: the Arctic Oscillation, and a variation of ocean temperatures and winds in the Western North Pacific called the Western North Pacific (WNP) pattern. But the dipole of high pressure over California combined with the "Polar Vortex" low pressure trough over Eastern North America during November 2013 - January 2014 was of unprecedented intensity, and extremes in this dipole pattern--both in the positive and negative sense--have been increasing since 2000 (the peak negative value occurred during the winter of 2009 - 2010.) The researchers used a climate model to look at whether human-caused climate change might be interfering with the natural pattern to cause this unusual behavior. They ran their climate model both with and without the human-caused change to the base state of the climate included, and found that they could not reproduce the increase in amplitude of the dipole pattern unless human-caused global warming was included.
I think farmers can expect more long dry spells and more long soggy wet spells going forward.  Both drive me nuts, and both make grain production and markets more difficult, less stable and subject to greater extremes.  Fasten your seat belts, folks, it's going to be a wild ride.

Welder Shortage Threatens Gulf Coast Petrochemical Projects

How high is demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?
So high that “you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” said Peter Huntsman, chief executive officer of chemical maker Huntsman Corp.
So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night.
So high that local employers say they’re worried there won’t be adequate supply of workers of all kinds. Just for construction, Gulf Coast oil, gas and chemical companies will have to find 36,000 new qualified workers by 2016, according to Industrial Info Resources Inc. in Sugar Land, Texas. Regional estimates call for even more new hires once those projects are built.
The processing and refining industries need so many workers to build new facilities in Texas and Louisiana because of the unprecedented rise over the last three years in U.S. oil and gas production, much of it due to shale. Labor shortages, causing delays in construction, threaten to slow the boom and push back the date when the country can meet its own energy needs, estimated by BP Plc to be in 2035...
Companies will spend $35 billion, more than ever, on expansion projects along the Houston Ship Channel by next year, creating a total of 265,800 jobs, a 2012 Greater Houston Port Bureau survey shows. Louisiana, where $60 billion in building projects are planned through 2016, will need 86,300 workers over that time, according to the state’s Workforce Commission.
“This is an exponentially larger investment period than Louisiana has ever seen,” said Tom Guarisco, a spokesman for the Workforce Commission in Baton Rouge.
The biggest shortages will be for welders, electricians, instrumentation technicians, fabricators and pipe fitters, according to Roger Blackburn, executive account manager at Infinity Construction Services LP, which employs about 2,500 workers on the Gulf Coast. The scale of the projects means costs and delays will probably escalate, he said. Enterprise Products Partners LP said March 18 that permitting for a facility east of Houston, in Mont Belvieu, Texas, that turns propane into propylene is running three months behind. In December, Royal Dutch Shell Plc canceled a $20 billion gas-to-liquids plant slated for Louisiana, citing potential cost overruns. Construction for three new U.S. natural-gas-processing plants could go as much as 40 percent over budget and finish nine months late, Sergey Vasnetsov, senior vice president of strategic planning at LyondellBasell Industries NV in Houston, said at a March 12 conference in New York.
For the 874th time, I just don't understand the boom-bust nature of the oil business.  They seem to be their own worst enemy.  And what becomes of those projects if/when the rosier projections of oil and gas production don't pan out?  Better them than me.

The Island of California

Wired features 18 maps from the time when cartographers believed California was an island:

The flat northern coast of California and many place names in this 1626 map appear to be borrowed from Briggs' 1625 map. GLEN MCLAUGHLIN MAP COLLECTION / STANFORD UNIVERSITY 

The old maps represent an epic cartographic blunder, but they also contain a kernel of truth, the writer Rebecca Solnit argued in a recent essay. “An island is anything surrounded by difference,” she wrote. And California has always been different — isolated by high mountains in the east and north, desert in the south, and the ocean to the west, it has a unique climate and ecology. It’s often seemed like a place apart in other ways too, from the Gold Rush, to the hippies, to the tech booms of modern times.
The idea of California as an island existed in myth even before the region had been explored and mapped. “Around the year 1500 California made its appearance as a fictional island, blessed with an abundance of gold and populated by black, Amazon-like women, whose trained griffins dined on surplus males,” Philip Hoehn, then-map librarian at UC Berkley wrote in the foreword to a catalog of the maps that McLaughlin wrote.
Maps in the 1500s depicted California as a peninsula, which is closer to the truth (the Baja peninsula extends roughly a 1,000 miles south from the present-day Golden State). Spanish expeditions in the early 1600s concluded, however, that California was cut off from the mainland. Maps in those days were carefully guarded state secrets, McLaughlin says. “The story is, the Dutch raided a Spanish ship and found a secret Spanish map and brought it back to Amsterdam and circulated it from there,” he said.
In 1622, the British mathematician Henry Briggs published an influential article accompanied by a map that clearly showed California as an island. Briggs’ map was widely copied by European cartographers for more than a century.
The beginning of the end of California’s island phase came when a Jesuit priest, Eusebio Kino, led an overland expedition across the top of the Sea of Cortez. He wrote a report accompanied by a map in 1705 that cast serious doubt on the idea of California as an island. It took more exploration, but by 1747 King Ferdinand VI of Spain was convinced. He issued a decree stating that California was — once and for all — not an island. It took another century for cartographers to completely abandon the notion.
I was thinking more along the lines of San Francisco Bay, I forgot all about Baha California.  For some reason, I was thinking of a time when the Central Valley was underwater, even though that wasn't in recorded history.  That's just U.S. chauvinism, I guess. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Utah in 4K

Filmmaker Ian Cresswell rigs an HD camera atop a remote-controlled "octocopter" for some spectacular aerial views. To see more of Cresswell's work visit his Vimeo.

Tennessee Tries To Claim Crazy Conservative Crown

In order to prevent Nashville from building a bus rapid transit route (BRT), the legislature banned construction of BRT systems within the entire state:
Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor a bill that bans the construction of bus rapid transit (BRT) anywhere in the state.
The impetus for the vote was a proposal to build a $174 million BRT system in Nashville called The Amp, which would’ve ran on a 7.1 mile route and served rapidly growing neighborhoods across the city. There’s a more detailed summary of the project over at The Tennessean.
Although BRT has been shown to revitalize economies and reduce congestion, opponents of The Amp voiced concerns about the safety of unloading bus passengers along roadways and whether private land would be used to build dedicated bus lanes.
After the vote, Amp opponents revealed that the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, founded with the support of brothers Charles and David Koch, had lobbied in favor of the bus ban.
The legislation is startlingly specific: Senate Bill 2243 forbids “constructing, maintaining or operating any bus rapid transit system.”
The Senate version of the BRT ban also forbids buses from “loading or discharging passengers at any point within the boundary lines of a state highway or state highway right-of-way not adjacent to the right-hand, lateral curb line.” Though the House struck that provision and sent revised legislation back to the Senate, it would still require special approval from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local government bodies.
I still don't think Tennessee is as stupidly regressive as Mississippi or Arizona, but it is making it's case for inclusion in the top five idiot conservative states. Please tell me that the opponents of the project who revealed that Americans for Prosperity lobbied for the ban were making that up to troll liberals.  I can't imagine those asshole Koch brothers think it is worthwhile to waste money on idiot state legislators in an ass-backward state just to kill one little mass transit project that they should be pretty confident would fail anyway (see note about ass-backward state).  If it is true they were lobbying for this idiotic legislation, then that is proof that income taxes are way too low on those two jackasses and other too-rich jerks.

Railroads Feel Pressure On Hazardous Chemical Shipments

A massive fire sparked by the derailment of a train carrying crude oil is still burning in the eastern Quebec town of Lac-Megantic Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Surete du Quebec)

After recent high-profile accidents involving tank cars carrying tight oil, communities want to know what is going through their towns:
Local and state officials complain that they receive very little information about when hazardous materials are shipped through their communities or how railroads pick their routes. Federal interstate commerce rules give them little say in the matter and railroads are exempted from federal “right to know” regulations on hazardous material sites.
Under pressure to act, the Transportation Department said in February that railroads had agreed to apply the same routing rules to oil trains that they already apply to other hazardous materials, such as explosives, radioactive materials and poisonous substances like chlorine.
This voluntary agreement, which takes effect in July, was among commitments that also included lowering speed limits to 40 miles per hour when traveling in large metropolitan areas, and providing $5 million to develop training programs for emergency responders.
Still, the railroads remain particularly secretive about how they determine the precise routing of their hazardous cargo. The rules that apply to that cargo, which came into effect in 2008 during the Bush administration, give railroads a lot of leeway.
The problem has taken on a new urgency since federal regulators warned earlier this year that crude oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota, which is mainly transported by rail, can explode in an accident, like it did near Casselton, N.D., in December. Last July, 47 people were killed in Canada, about 10 miles from the border with the United States, when a runaway train carrying Bakken oil derailed and blew up.
I've watched the trains going by my house, and the tank cars of propane, sulfuric acid, molten sulfur, benzene, ethanol and other chemicals are a bit intimidating.  I kind of wonder if someday one of those trains will derail and blow up or fill the area with toxic gas.  Not much I can do about it, though.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

moving through New York

moving through New York from geoff tompkinson on Vimeo.

Has Crude Oil Production Actually Peaked?

While production numbers increase, it depends on what the definition of crude oil is:
When the industry and the government talk about the price of oil sold on world markets and traded on futures exchanges, they mean one thing. But, when they talk about the total production of oil, they actually mean something quite different--namely, a much broader category that includes all kinds of things that are simply not oil and that could never be sold on the world market as oil.
I've written about this issue of the true definition of oil before
. But Texas oilman Jeffrey Brown has been bending my ear recently about looking even deeper into the issue. He makes a major clarifying point: If what you're selling cannot be sold on the world market as crude oil, then it's not crude oil. It's such a simple and obvious point that I'm ashamed to have missed it. And, Brown believes that if we could find data that separates all these other non-crude oil things out, the remaining worldwide production number for crude oil alone would be flat to down from 2005 onward....
"Basically, crude oil peaked [in 2005], but natural gas and natural gas liquids [including lease condensate] didn't," he believes. Natural gas production has continued to grow, and as it has, its co-products have also grown--many of which have been lumped in with the oil production statistics....
Here's what's being added to underlying crude oil production and labelled as oil by the oil companies and reporting agencies:
•    Biofuels - Essentially ethanol and biodiesel.
•    Natural gas plant liquids - Butane, ethane, pentanes, propane and other non-methane components of raw natural gas.
•    Lease condensate - Very light hydrocarbons gathered on leased production sites from both oil and natural gas wells, often referred to as "natural gasoline" because it can in a pinch be used to power gasoline engines though it doesn't have the octane of gasoline produced at refineries.
•    Refinery gain - The most puzzling addition of all to crude oil supply calculations. This is merely the increase in the volume of refinery outputs such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel versus the volume of crude oil inputs. It is due entirely to the expansion of the liquids produced, but indicates no actual gain in energy. In fact, great gobs of energy are EXPENDED in the refinery process to give us what we actually want.....
So, if oil production hasn't really been growing or at least not growing much in the last several years, what's all the hoopla about? As petroleum geologist and consultant Art Berman likes to say, it's a retirement party. There is one last, very difficult, costly and energy-intensive store of oil in low-quality deep shales containing crude. These shales--which are accessed using hydraulic fracturing or fracking--would never have been tapped if we were not already seeing a decline in the production of conventional, easy-to-get crude oil, the kind I refer to as Beverly Hillbillies bubbling crude as seen in the opening credits of the popular 1960s sitcom of that name.
The oil from deep shales (properly called "tight oil") is allowing production to grow in the United States even as production sinks elsewhere in the world. Other countries having shales containing oil will likely try to exploit them. But, the retirement party will only be a few years later for them as a result.
Despite what the public is being led to believe, oil wells in deep shales suffer from very high annual production decline rates--40 percent per year compared to the worldwide average of 4 percent. This implies that swiftly rising production will be followed by equally swiftly declining production in a compressed time frame--a classic boom-bust pattern.
Considering how optimistic all the reports from the Bakken and the Eagle Ford are, remember that before the Iraq war, we hadn't seen $40 a barrel oil.  After a brief spike to $140 during the commodity scam of 2008, we've settled at the what would have been crazy price of $100 a barrel, despite the U.S. producing 2 million barrels a day more "crude oil" than we were in 2009.  When (not if) the shale plays top out, we're going to see much higher prices.

Back to the crude oil production numbers:
Okay, so what do the worldwide oil production numbers actually look like if we strip out all the non-oil components? Well, we don't actually know. Brown has been unable to find such numbers anywhere. While the search continues, he thought he'd do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of his own. Here's what he came up with:
Estimated Global Crude Oil Production
2002 to 2012 in million barrels per day
2002: 60
2003: 62
2004: 65
2005: 67
2006: 65
2007: 65
2008: 66
2009: 64
2010: 66
2011: 65
2012: 67
(For the technically minded, here are the assumptions behind his numbers: The global condensate to crude plus condensate ratio was 10 percent for 2002 to 2005--versus 11 percent for Texas in 2005--and condensate production increased at the same rate as the rate of increase in global dry processed gas production from 2005 to 2012, 2.8 percent per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Crude oil is defined as oil with an API gravity of 45 or less per RBN Energy. Data are rounded off to two significant figures.)
We may see an all-time high based on that definition of crude in 2013 or 2014, but the peak will not be far off if we do.

Tax Day Charts

Where our tax revenues come from:

Where they go to:

Historical share of individual and corporate income taxes as a percent of total revenues:

So who's winning, human people or corporate people?  More charts here.

Bud Light Crushes Rivals In Sales

 and in the craft beer segment, Samuel Adams leads the revolution:

So Bud Light sells a case of beer for almost every man, woman and child in the country (294 million versus 315 million).  Almost $6 billion is spent on that shit.  It also sells almost as many cases as Sam Adams brings in dollars.  Six of the top eight brands sold are from Budweiser?  That's domination.  Maybe advertising works.

More on the craft brewery market, including the 50 largest craft brewers, after the jump:

The Only Hope

The 1992-1993 Montreal Canadiens, the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup

The Canadiens are the only team from Canada to qualify for this year's Stanley Cup playoff:
Perhaps it is just a random quirk of probability, but the numbers are eye-opening nonetheless. For the first time since 1973, only one Canadian team — the Montreal Canadiens, fittingly — qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin Wednesday. Six of the seven Canadian teams will not play in the postseason, while 15 of the 23 teams based in the United States will.
“Everybody in Canada will be following the Montreal Canadiens, whether they like it or not,” said Michel Vigneault, a sport historian who teaches at McGill University and the University of Quebec at Montreal.
It has been a long time since this hockey-loving nation has had so barren a spring. But then again, it has been a long time since a Canadian team lifted the Stanley Cup — 1993, when Montreal won it....
The Toronto Maple Leafs, the most valuable team in hockey, are a smoking ruin. They were in playoff position until an eight-game losing streak in March wrecked their chances. Last week, they hired as their president Brendan Shanahan, a Hall of Famer from the Toronto area who never played for the Maple Leafs and has never run an N.H.L. team. They hope the infusion of fresh blood will lead them to their first Stanley Cup since 1967.
“I’d love to see the Leafs hoist the Stanley Cup on TV,” James said. “In color, instead of black and white.”
The Canadian teams in the Western Conference were even worse:
Just above the Oilers in the Western standings this year were their Alberta neighbors, the Calgary Flames, who have missed the playoffs five years in a row.
In fact, the bottom four teams in the West are Canadian. A Jets team returned to Winnipeg three seasons ago, and it has fallen short of the playoffs in all three. The team can take solace that the original Winnipeg Jets, now the Phoenix Coyotes, did not make the playoffs either.
It looks like another year will pass without the Cup returning to Canada.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Poisoning the Water Well in China

View China's major water pollution incidents since 2005 in a larger map

Millions of people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou scrambled to buy bottled water this weekend after the city’s water supply was contaminated with Benzene. Levels of the cancer-causing chemical in the city’s tap water were discovered to be 20 times China’s national limit.
All of this comes as China is coming to grips with the environmental damage caused by decades of unprecedented growth. Lanzhou officials are blaming two explosions – one of them 27 years ago, the other 12 years ago – at oil refineries in the area.
They say these explosions caused oil to slowly seep into the groundwater, and that this sudden rise in levels of Benzene shows the decades-old oil is now contaminating the city’s water supply.
“Nearly 80% of chemical industry is built in densely populated city areas,” said Du Sha of Greenpeace China, “So this type of data shows that currently the chemical industry raises the high risk to the public health. The government should take more prevention and more supervised measures to manage these chemical industries.” 
Many residents of Lanzhou say the local government should have informed the public much earlier than they did about the water contamination. The state media is now reporting that city officials waited nine days to tell the public that their water was contaminated. The Lanzhou government now says water quality in the city is returning back to normal.
China is an environmental nightmare, and it is going to cost them a fortune to clean it up.  Poisoning the air, water and soil is such a terrible idea that I think even most Republicans are against it. However, that doesn't prevent our responsible corporate citizens line Freedom Industries or Duke Energy from fouling the water in Charleston, West Virginia or North Carolina.

The Bundy Ranch and the Nevada Constitution

The Atlantic:
But Bundy's understanding of states' rights is far different. As he told Sean Hannity in an interview last week (emphasis added):
Well, you know, my cattle is only one issuethat the United States courts has ordered that the government can seize my cattle. But what they have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to the land, and have seized access to all of the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing. They've closed all those things down, and we're here to protest that action. And we are after freedom. We're after liberty. That's what we want.
Bundy's claim that the land belongs to Nevada or Clark County didn't hold up in court, nor did his claim of inheriting an ancestral right to use the land that pre-empts the BLM's role. "We definitely don't recognize [the BLM director's] jurisdiction or authority, his arresting power or policing power in any way," Bundy told his supporters, according to The Guardian.
His personal grievance with federal authority doesn't stop with the BLM, though. "I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada," Bundy said in a radio interview last Thursday. "I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing." Ironically, this position directly contradicts Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution:
All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.
The paramount-allegiance clause, a product of the era in which Nevada gained statehood, originated in Nevada's first (and unofficial) constitutional convention of 1863. Some 3,000 miles to the east, the Civil War raged between the federal government in the North and West and the rebellion that had swallowed the South.
I can't believe these loons are out there with guns defending this guy's right to graze cattle on federal land without paying grazing fees.  The West is so full of people living off of the federal government and hating it at the same time.  Freaking idiots.

Happy Birthday, Hit King

Happy 73rd birthday to my all-time favorite player growing up. If there was any player I tried to emulate (on the field), it was Pete.

If El Nino Returns, It Could Be Massive


Official NOAA Climate Prediction Center estimates peg the odds of El Niño’s return at 50 percent, but many climate scientists think that is a lowball estimate. And there are several indications that if it materializes, this year’s El Niño could be massive, a lot like the 1997-98 event that was the strongest on record.
“I think there’s no doubt that there’s an El Niño underway,” said climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The question is whether it’ll be a small or big one.”
On top of some late-’90s nostalgia, a strong El Niño would bring pronounced changes to weather patterns around the globe, and possibly relief from some of the less-pleasant weather trends that have dominated headlines this year. After a Polar Vortex-fueled, unbearably cold winter in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast, a strong El Niño could bring warmer, drier weather in late 2014. And to parched California and its prolonged drought, El Niño might provide drenching rainstorms to fill up reservoirs. But the news won’t all be good. Rainstorms in California could mean floods and mudslides and, coupled with climate change, El Niño could bring harsher droughts to parts of Australia and Africa....
Should the warm pool make it all the way to the South American coast, a much stronger “full-basin” El Niño will appear. And then we could be in for some big weather changes.
A strong El Niño could start affecting the world as early as the fall. The Pacific hurricane season, which gets active around September, is greatly enhanced during El Niño. This likely means more tropical thunderstorms that could affect eastern Pacific areas such as Mexico. In contrast, Atlantic hurricanes are suppressed, meaning fewer and less severe storms with a lower chance of making landfall and doing damage.
The winter is when El Niño really gets going, though. Moisture flows from Hawaii to southern California in an atmospheric river colloquially known as the “Pineapple Express.” This creates heavy rainfall that dumps on the region. Though this could bring some relief from California’s drought, it also comes with the risk of flash floods and mudslides because the ground has been so hard and dry.
El Niño has other effects further into North America. It tends to enhance the jet stream, creating a wall that prevents Arctic air (and the Polar Vortex) from dipping down to mid-latitudes. East Coast winters are generally drier and warmer during El Niño years, which is probably good news to those still smarting from this recent frigid season. The mild winter has interesting downstream effects, like a boost for the U.S. economy during the Christmas season.
El Nino usually leads to cooler and wetter weather to the growing season, and warmer, drier weather in the winter to our area.

Brazilian Megaprojects See Megaproblems

One example, a massive rail project:
The Transnordestina, a railroad begun in 2006 here in northeast Brazil, illustrates some of the pitfalls plaguing projects big and small. Scheduled to be finished in 2010 at a cost of about $1.8 billion, the railroad, designed to stretch more than 1,000 miles, is now expected to cost at least $3.2 billion, with most financing from state banks. Officials say it should be completed around 2016.
But with work sites abandoned because of audits and other setbacks months ago in and around Paulistana, a town in Piauí, one of Brazil’s poorest states, even that timeline seems optimistic. Long stretches where freight trains were already supposed to be running stand deserted. Wiry vaqueiros, or cowboys, herd cattle in the shadow of ghostly railroad bridges that tower 150 feet above parched valleys.“Thieves are pillaging metal from the work sites,” said Adailton Vieira da Silva, 42, an electrician who labored with thousands of others before work halted last year. “Now there are just these bridges left in the middle of nowhere.”
Brazil’s transportation minister, César Borges, expressed exasperation with the delays in finishing the railroad, which is needed to transport soybean harvests to port. He listed the bureaucracies that delay projects like the Transnordestina: the Federal Court of Accounts; the Office of the Comptroller General; an environmental protection agency; an institute protecting archaeological patrimony; agencies protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and descendants of escaped slaves; and the Public Ministry, a body of independent prosecutors.
Still, Mr. Borges insisted, “Projects get delayed in countries around the world, not just Brazil.”
Mr. da Silva, who oversaw the start of work on the Transnordestina eight years ago, was frank about the role of his Workers Party, once the opposition in Brazil’s National Congress, in creating such delays. “We created a machinery, an oversight machinery, that is the biggest oversight machinery in the world,” he said, explaining how his party helped create a labyrinthine system of audits and environmental controls before he and Ms. Rousseff were elected.
“When you’re in the opposition, you want to create difficulties for those that are in the administration,” Mr. da Silva said. “But we forget that maybe one day we’ll take office.”
Another example, wind farms that are constructed, but their transmission lines are not.  The hot money flows into China, India and Brazil during the recent developing market boom hit countries ill-prepared to deal with such projects.  It is hard to overestimate the massive amounts of wasteful spending.  I think we'll be looking at a long slowdown in these markets, and that should puncture most commodity markets.

California Drought Holds On

USDA Drought Monitor:

The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle look pretty bad, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day

April 12:

Clouds and Crosses over Haleakala
Image Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (TWAN)
Explanation: Aloha and welcome to a breathtaking skyscape. The dreamlike panoramic view from March 27 looks out over the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala on Maui, Hawai'i. A cloud layer seeps over the volcanic caldera's edge with the Milky Way and starry night sky above. Head of the Northern Cross asterism, supergiant star Deneb lurks within the Milky Way's dust clouds and nebulae at the left. From there you can follow the arc of the Milky Way all the way to the stars of the more compact Southern Cross, just above the horizon at the far right. A yellowish Mars is right of center, near the top of the frame, with rival red giant Antares below it, closer to the Milky Way's central bulge.

Simulation Shows Speed of Oso Mudslide


Nearly an entire square mile was covered by the huge landslide that struck the small town of Oso, Washington in March. The size of this slide is impressive, but it was the speed with which the mud and debris flowed down the hill that made it so deadly.
The slide’s velocity has surprised scientists studying the event. The animation above from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that the debris likely traveled a mile in just 60 seconds, giving people in its path little chance to escape. Keep in mind that the animation is sped up to 20 times normal speed, but just imagine a huge wall of earth coming at you at 60 miles per hour.....Geologists speculate that a combination of factors were to blame for the slide’s speed and the distance it covered. The same chunk of land moved a little in 2006, which probably destabilized the area. The ground consisted of fairly loose sediments that had been deposited by glaciers. Those sediments were then saturated by an unusually rainy winter, which helped them to liquefy quickly as they flowed down the hill.
That is amazing.  I can't believe the county allowed more homes to be built after the 2006 slide.

BLM Backs Off on Cattle Roundup

Las Vegas Sun:
The campaign to round up Cliven Bundy’s cattle has been canceled.
The Bureau of Land Management announced today that federal agents would conclude their one-month operation to seize the 900 cattle roaming on federally owned land about 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Additionally, federal land managers confirmed they released all 400 head of Bundy's cattle from corrals outside Mesquite.
The BLM took the action Saturday afternoon after hundreds of states' rights protesters, including militia and Tea Party members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals' return to Bundy.
The bureau issued a brief statement saying the cattle were released "due to escalating tensions."
Some protesters were armed with handguns and rifles, but there were no reports of shots fired or injuries.
“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.
“We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner,” he said.
Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie helped mediate the agreement between the Bundy family and the BLM, according to a Metro Police press release.
Business owners in Mesquite had received threats related to the dispute, according to the release.
“I want to stress to all of you that as the sheriff of Clark County, I cannot interfere with the federal government when it is operating on federal land,” Gillespie said in a statement. “And because this is BLM property, it is in their jurisdiction. But when a group of protesters threaten civil unrest or violence in this county — it is my job to step in and ensure the safety of citizens.”
Officers will remain in Bunkerville and the Mesquite area through the weekend, Metro said.
This is a very weird story.  This seems pretty clear-cut:
Some 400 cows were gathered during the roundup that began a week ago, short of the BLM's goal of 900 cows that it says have been trespassing on U.S. land without required grazing permits for over 20 years.
The fight between Bundy and the BLM has widened into a debate about states' rights and federal land-use policy. The bureau revoked Bundy's grazing rights after he stopped paying grazing fees and disregarded federal court orders to remove his animals.
Bundy, 67, doesn't recognize federal authority on land he insists belongs to Nevada. His Mormon family has operated a ranch near the tiny community of Bunkerville since the 1870s near Mesquite a few miles from the Utah line.....
A federal judge in Las Vegas first ordered Bundy to remove his trespassing cattle in 1998. The bureau was implementing two federal court orders last year to remove Bundy's cattle after making repeated efforts to resolve the matter outside court, Kornze said, adding the rancher has not paid grazing fees in 20 years.
"This is a matter of fairness and equity, and we remain disappointed that Cliven Bundy continues to not comply with the same laws that 16,000 public-lands ranchers do every year," Kornze said. "After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million. The BLM will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."
Tea Partiers should recognize moochers, since they can see them in the mirror.

China Enters the Fracking Game

But they face some severe challenges and risks:
The energy industry around the world has faced criticism about the economic viability of vast shale projects and the environmental impact of the fracking process. But interviews with residents of six hamlets here where drilling is being done, as well as with executives and experts in Beijing, the United States and Europe, suggest that China’s search poses even greater challenges.
In China, companies must drill two to three times as deep as in the United States, making the process significantly more expensive, noisier and potentially more dangerous. Chinese energy giants also operate in strict secrecy; they rarely engage with local communities, and accidents claim a high death toll.
The still-disputed incident in Jiaoshizhen has raised serious concerns among its residents.
Villagers said that employees at the time told them that eight workers died when the rig exploded that night. Sinopec officials and village leaders then ordered residents not to discuss the event, according to the villagers. Now villagers complain of fouled streams and polluted fields.
“There was a huge ball of fire,” said Liu Jiazhen, a mustard greens farmer with three children who lives a five-minute walk from the site. “The managers here all raced for their lives up the hill.”
Ms. Liu said that the flames rose higher than the pines on a nearby ridge, covering the steel frame of the rig, which is nearly 100 feet high. The flames burned for hours, she said.
Sinopec describes the incident as a controlled flaring of gas and denies that anybody died. While the company would not speak in detail about its shale projects, Sinopec said it ran its operations safely and without harm to the environment.
Li Chunguang, the president of Sinopec, said in an interview in late March that nothing had gone wrong in Jiaoshizhen. “There is no basis for this,” he said.
The bustling activity in Jiaoshizhen indicates a significant find for Sinopec.
I can only imagine how dangerous Chinese work sites are.  Much like with pollution, I can only believe that China trails the United States by decades if not a century when it comes to job safety.  I'm currently reading a book about baseball in the 1880s, and it mentioned that about 35,000 Americans died on the job every year during that time period.  That's almost as much as are killed each year in car wrecks, with a population about a quarter the size of ours. That gives you a picture of how bad things used to be here.