Monthly Archives: June 2013

Barack Obama will be remembered only because he got elected.

Barack Obama gave a speech today, the subject of which was his program for limiting carbon dioxide emissions. No television networks televised it (well, OK, the Weather Channel). Did he show some leadership? enough that he can claim that he did something. But it isn’t important, because it won’t change the ultimate result. It does not include a “veto” of the XL pipeline. This veto would be an essential part of limiting carbon dioxide emissions. But he will not do it. A hundred years from now, our grandchildren will be living in a very different world, and Obama will be part of the cause.
Extraction of the tar sands in Alberta will put the planet at the limit (one trillion tons) of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, that will put us at two degrees of global warming, at which scientists have estimated the effects will become truly awful (as if it isn’t already getting there). Stopping the XL pipeline will greatly impair the ability to develop the Alberta tar sands cost-effectively. But he isn’t going to do it.

It will be on him. What other legacy does he have? Drone assassinations worldwide, including U.S persons and citizens? Unprecedented surveillance of U.S. citizens?

Obama is a mixed race person, as we mostly all are, who has enough characteristics of a black man to be considered black. And he was elected president of the United States. That was historic and wonderful. That is what he will be remembered for, and that is all. Of course, his lack of accomplishments is not all his fault. The Republican Party, especially the real crazies and the financial criminals, created an economic mess, ran with the racism, and created enough confusion that the composition of Congress prevented much of anything meaningful on the legislative front. Further, the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court had been, shall we say, “re-purposed” under George W. Bush. Obama’s single claimed accomplishment, The Affordable Healthcare Act, was diluted into virtual nothingness, and will in the future be seen as nothing more than a nice thing for people with pre-existing conditions and unemployed children. He had a chance to reverse the sudden surge of militarism, illegal acts, spying, assassinations, and war crimes triggered by the events of 2001. Instead, after announcing “we do not torture,” he became the terrorist president, the only head of state in the world whose enunciated policy and personal activity is to select and execute without a trial, citizens of his own and other countries by sudden assault from the sky.  “War crime” is now an anachronism.  There is no such thing, in 2013. Similarly, so is the constitutional right to privacy.

Obama’s last hope for significance is about to be wasted, as he will approve the so called Keystone XL pipeline. This project does nothing for the US. It deprives us of land. It simply enriches a few already rich persons. And it will inevitably spill toxic petroleum and additives into our soil and our water supplies. Most importantly, it enables the development and burning of a massive store of fossil fuel, a quantity so great that it essentially means “game over” in terms of limiting the increase in atmospheric CO2. It means our chance of preventing radical climate change is really gone. It means that the sea level rise will probably be more like 200 feet, displacing millions, and the interior of the US will become “desert-ified.” It means starvation on a worldwide scale, extinction of thousands of species of plants and animals, acidification of our oceans to the point of radically changing their nature. The realities of the situation are that we HAVE to make fossil fuels more expensive, and renewables/solar/wind less expensive, to eventually eliminate fossil fuels, BEFORE we reach a trillion tons of carbon emitted. Vetoing the XL pipeline will be a huge step in shifting the cost equation in favor of renewables. Obama has failed to do it, and the significance of that dwarfs anything he has done while in office.

Obama will have no positive legacy other than being elected the “first black president.” He will have ensured that by approving the XL pipeline. OTL,S! is hard pressed to understand why, other than personal enrichment, he would do so.  The majority Democratic Party has thus far watched his performance in rather slack-jawed amazement and (largely) silent anger, tempered by knowledge of the Republican tactics. But the XL pipeline is something that he can stop by his own action. With approval of XL, his support in the progressive base of the Democratic Party will collapse, and the party will begin to fragment.

Some dreamers have misinterpreted his statement today:

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest, and our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,”….

‘This project” is just the pipeline itself.  This is a clear statement of the excuse Obama will use to approve the pipeline.  Pre-speech, there was no indication that he would even touch on it. He realized that without some statement about XL, his speech would be a ho hummer.  So he put in this ambiguous statement. The Wall Street Journal for 6/26 has it right:

Mr. Obama also said he would approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline later this year if it didn’t “significantly” increase net greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Clearly, He will claim that the tar sands will be exploited one way or another, and that the pipeline is the most efficient way of doing it. He will claim that the oil companies have purchased offsets. He will approve it. He has the power, and he understands what it means (one should also note that even his announced program is less aggressive than that in place already in California).

He has misled the public again. He has no shame. George W. Bush has for his legacy literally millions of dead, orphaned, widowed, and handicapped persons at home and in the Middle East, all because of his juvenile fantasies of being a war hero without actually risking his life.

Barack Obama’s legacy will be much worse. His results will be, in human/ecological/biological terms, devastating and permanent. In global historic terms, he is a failure. And, by this speech, he is shown to be a cynical one. And that will be his legacy. And why? what would motivate him? What is in the world would make him do this? OTL,S! knows of only a few big motivators of humans, and there is very very big money behind the XL pipeline. Until proven otherwise, one would assume that Obama is headed for a very very large payday in the future. His adolescent fantasy is, apparently, to be very rich.

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Baby back ribs

tease the membrane from the small end of the cut. Apply a knife as shown in red, NOT on the membrane.

tease the membrane from the small end of the cut and grasp with paper towel. Cut/scrape the attachments as shown in red, but don’t cut the membrane.

Baby back ribs are not from babies, so shut up.
Mix up some coating or other, with soy sauce, garlic, pepper, coriander, brown sugar, and whatever inspires you…cajun? fine. Slow cooking is the best way to tenderize. 300 degrees or so, even less if you have all day. Cover with foil if don’t have a smoker, and just bake it. Take the foil off and turn the heat up to 350 or so off for the last half hour to brown the surface.
But before you start, unless you want to end up with a repulsive mess, you have to remove the pleural membrane, as shown in the illustration. Start at the small end of your piece of ribs, tease up the edge of the surface membrane, then grasp it with a paper towel or whatever you have, and slowly peel it up, going toward the bigger end of the piece of ribs. To help it come off more easily, you can apply a knife at the base (on the ribs, not on the membrane, as shown by the red line), to sever the fine attachments of the membrane as you pull. Don’t put the blade on the membrane; if you do the membrane will tear and you will have made your job into a piecemeal mess.

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Whale Wars’ Paul Watson now a fugitive on the high seas

Paul Watson, founder and President of environmental group Sea Shepherd ConservationControversial anti-whaling activist Paul is now a fugitive from Interpol, based on complaints filed by Costa Rica and Japan. Of course, someone in Costa Rica was paid off to be a party to this, as their “Pura Vita” slogan and ecotourism boom is not compatible with this action, and they have no whaling fleet. Australia seems to be the de facto guardian of the whales in the Southern Ocean (which is a whale sanctuary), and has sided with Watson against the Japanese whaling efforts, which are based on a lie, that they are simply doing “research.”


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Book: “Detroit: An American Autopsy” by Charlie LeDuff

detroitburn In “Detroit: An American Autopsy”(Penguin Press, 2013), Charlie LeDuff tells us that over the entrance to the Detroit News building is inscribed:

Troubler of the Public Conscience

After reading this book, one feels that journalist LeDuff was about the last “troubler” left in that city. A Detroiter from childhood, LeDuff had been an award-winning reporter for the New York Times when he decided to return to his humble (to put it mildly) neighborhood on Joy Road in Detroit. The book is a conglomeration of past history and present despair of the Motor City. In the book, LeDuff tells of his investigative reporting of the corruption, incompetence, decay and crime, including the devastation of his own family and friends. He befriends witnesses, firemen, victims and families, to get his stories, embarrass public officials, and obtain some measure of justice (or at least closure). LeDuff often uses decaying landmarks as jumping off points to recount important episodes in the history of the city, many of which involve race relations and/or his own family. This is a gritty book, shocking initially, numbing. Daily murders, continual fires, arson as cheap entertainment, abandoned homes, failure of public services, politicians plundering revenues and serving up the last assets of the city to their jackals…there is little hope in this portrayal, other than the gradual return to nature of abandoned parts of the city. Whose fault was it? LeDuff doesn’t concern himself with that question, to any great degree; he seems to divide the blame between the automobile manufacturers and the unions.  OTL,S! can assure the reader that this is true. Both parties negotiated outlandish contracts under siege conditions, and both were parties to the production of terribly designed and badly assembled automobiles.  The factories were virtual war zones, populated by angry and sometimes intoxicated workers under awful working conditions, and managers who had no investment in quality. General Motors made it easy for buyers to go into debt by inventing the installment plan. Even in the 50’s, reasonable people knew it couldn’t last forever. Even before gasoline prices spiked, the handwriting was on the wall, and it was in Japanese.

LeDuff’s career has been somewhat checkered, but bravo to him for his courage; his book is a must-read for anyone who has been touched by the city, the state, the industry or the culture of the automobile, which is just about all of us.
Update 6/24/2013: OTL,S! notes a piece in Rolling Stone regarding the financial mess in Detroit and other Michigan cities. It seems that the predatory lending extended to the public sector as well as to homeowners. Several municipalities (mostly African American majority) are hard hit, with no solution in sight.

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Blade Runner (Final Cut): greatness

BattyA great film from 1982, directed by Ridley Scott and based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, which seems to be viewed as merely a cult/niche work. Really, it is a hybrid action-detective-horror-noir-science fiction-doomsday-end of life-redemption-love story. There are several versions of the film; OTL,S! recommends “Final Cut.” Don’t expect to get a lot out of this film if watch it one eye while you are answering your emails; it takes some attention.

The casting of this film took years and somehow arrived at an ideal group of players. Dustin Hoffman was initially penciled in as the protagonist; that would have been awful. Harrison Ford is very well-suited to the title role, as are the other members of the cast to theirs, including Daryl Hannah, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, William Sanderson, and Joanna Cassidy. The musical score by Vangelis adds greatly to the mood.

One notable high point is Roy Batty’s/Rutger Hauer’s soliquy, near the end of the film:

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears… in… rain. Time… to die…*

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Ice melt is now contributing more to sea level rise is than expansion of water, AND it helps to slow global warming. Temporarily.

Ice is the Earth's air conditioner

Ice is the Earth’s air conditioner

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, a summary of an article in Nature Geoscience.

Accelerated melting of polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers was the driving factor behind a rise in the global sea level of 16.8 millimeters, or about two-thirds of an inch, between 2005 and 2011, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Geoscience.

Scientists want to establish how much of the sea-level change relates to increased melt water, and how much relates to the water expanding as it warms up. Previous calculations indicated that melting might contribute about half of the increase. The latest study concludes that for the period 2005-2011 the contribution was closer to 75%.

“There was an increase in the melting rate in Greenland starting in 2005 and that is probably the underlying story why” a larger quantity of melt water has poured into the oceans in recent years, said Clark R. Wilson, geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study.

The hidden effect of massive ice melt is to ameliorate global warming, just like ice in your drink keeps it from getting warm. As long as the ice lasts, that is.  It absorbs heat during melting, to the tune of 80 calories/gram (this is termed the heat of fusion). Now, if you do some math in order to multiply that number times the number of grams of ice melted around the world in a year, it comes out to a very very large number. So large, in fact, that the number of calories of energy absorbed by melting ice is essentially equal to the total of amount of energy used annually in the entire world.

Think of it this way.  The melting ice of the world is acting in some ways like a giant air conditioner that was using all of the energy used in the world to try and keep us cool.  However, once the ice begins to run out, the cooling effect will decrease.

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Larry McMurtry’s “Custer”, Little Wolf the Iowa, Little Wolf the Northern Cheyenne, and George Catlin

Not his best work...

Not his best work…

Larry McMurtry has become an icon in the field of western American fiction, primarily for his 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Lonesome Dove, which was adapted for film. He is also an iconic bookseller, having established a huge presence in his tiny home town of Archer City, Texas (though he has since staged a massive sell-off auction). His non-fiction works have been less successful; once could characterize them as non-scholarly, parochial, and of limited depth and breadth. It’s almost as if he did his research in the books that his store happened to own. “Custer” is no exception, and is probably the worst of the lot. Factual errors are numerous, and speculation is sometimes presented as fact. Proof reading/editing is poor. In one place, an entire section of text has been transposed from another part of the book. In another spot, after stating (correctly) that Custer did not drink, McMurtry states that Custer was sampling whiskey as the fight began; obviously the author was trying to refer to Major Marcus Reno’s drunken state; this is a simple error which should have been easily corrected, had anyone been paying attention. Rumors about Custer’s marital situation and other problems seem to have occupied most of McMurtry’s thoughts.
One is tempted to excuse the book by noting that it is more a “coffee table” book than real nonfiction. However, the illustrations are actually as bad as the text. Let us count the ways:

  • He places captions in the image
  • He uses many romanticized (or perhaps even fantasized) paintings without mentioning the historical fallacies shown
  • He spreads images across two pages
  • He usually doesn’t identify the creator of the image, or the date. Most often, we learn only, in the back of the book, the source from which he obtained permission,  and even there, the images are not listed in order.
  • Some captions are missing, and a number of the captions he provides are either absurd or in error e.g. an image is identified as that of Custer’s wife, which it is not.

One notable error that would not be apparent to the casual reader is his inclusion of an image of an 1844 George Catlin portrait of Little Wolf, who was a member of the Iowa tribe.

Little Wolf, Iowa warrior, by George Catlin, 1844

Little Wolf, Iowa warrior, by George Catlin, 1844

Neither he nor any of his tribe were in the Custer fight, or in any western conflicts.

George Catlin was a pioneering western American artist. In 1844, he had hired a number of Iowa, including Little Wolf, and taken them to London, where they were “shown,” at the Egyptian Hall as a way of attracting visitors to his “Indian Gallery” of paintings. The Little Wolf portrait is considered to be one of his best. After a stay in London, the group toured the UK and France before returning to the US the next year. Two of the Iowa died along the way, as did Catlin’s wife and son. (See William H. Truettner. The Natural Man Observed: A Study of Catlin’s Indian Gallery. Washington, Smithsonian, 1979. pp. 49-50, 87.)
There was a famous Northern Cheyenne chief named Little Wolf, but he was never painted by Catlin and was not in the Little Big Horn battle.

Little Wolf and Dull Knife, Northern Cheyenne chiefs

Little Wolf and Dull Knife, Northern Cheyenne chiefs

“Custer” has gotten poor reviews at Amazon (where some reviewers have compiled long lists of errors) and elsewhere. Readers interested in the battle might consider Nathaniel Philbrick’s recent “The Last Stand.”


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