05/23/2014 archive

Rail Transport of Oil Safe. So Says the Oil Industry

With the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline continuing, another important issue has arisen, transportation of crude oil by rail. Recent derailments and explosions have also brought into question safety considerations and the transport of Bakken crude, which is more dangerous to ship than other crude oil due to its flammability. This is not a new problem, in fact, it has been going on for decades and has been focused on the railroad tank car used, the DOT-111-A, as this McClathcy article reported in January:

Federal regulators might be weeks away from issuing new safety guidelines for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, after a series of frightening rail accidents over the past six months.

But the type of general-service tank car involved in recent incidents with crude oil trains in Quebec, Alabama and North Dakota – the DOT-111-A – has a poor safety record with hazardous cargoes that goes back decades, raising questions about why it took so long for the railroad industry and its federal regulators to address a problem they knew how to fix.

Other, more specialized types of tank cars received safety upgrades in the 1980s, and the industry’s own research shows they were effective at reducing the severity of accidents.

Tank car manufacturers have built new DOT-111A cars to a higher standard since 2011, but the improvements haven’t caught up to tens of thousands of older cars.

To be sure, improper railroad operations or defective track cause many accidents involving tank cars. But the National Transportation Safety Board, which makes recommendations but has no regulatory authority, has cited the DOT-111A’s deficiencies many times over the years for making accidents worse than they could have been.

In a segment on her show just last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow illustrated the safety shortcomings of those rail tank cars used to transport this volatile crude oil, pointing to accidents, explosions, and toothless warnings going back over decades.

In April, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has called on regulators to tighten standards and in early May, the Transportation Department issued a safety advisory pleading with companies that transport crude oil by train to discontinue old railcars

The advisory is non-binding, meaning it does not require companies to follow it, as an emergency order would. Yet it does apply to approximately 20,000 old tanker cars that companies rely on to carry Bakken crude from oil fields in North Dakota throughout the continent. The Transportation Department (DOT) recommended that only the sturdiest cars available are put to use, and that cars that cannot be destroyed should be updated.

Wednesday’s advisory came on the same day that the Transportation Department issued an emergency order forcing companies to provide communities alongside the rail routes with more information about the problems that are created when a spill or explosion takes place.  [..]

The DOT itself admitted crude shipments present “an imminent hazard” in an emergency order forcing companies to be more transparent with the areas they go through. Trains carrying oil generally include at least 100 cars. The emergency order requires all carloads with more than one million gallons of Bakken crude, equivalent to approximately 35 cars, to give local lawmakers notice that a train will be making its way through. [..]

Companies shipping oil by rail have never been forced to notify communities regarding hazardous material on board until this week.

An estimated 715,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil are shipped by rail every day.

It appears the oil industry is not going to lie down and take it.

American Petroleum Institute said it’s important to “separate fact from fiction” when it comes to shipping crude oil from North Dakota by rail.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council published a study Tuesday that shows crude oil taken from the Bakken reserve area in the state is similar to other grades of oil from North America. It does not, as the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests, pose a greater risk when transported by rail, the council said.

Rachel Maddow exposed the bias of that report

It is past time that the Department of Transportation stopped issuing toothless warnings and cracked down with inspections and heavy fines.

Geithner Meta

I’d like to explain why I’ve decided to include some familiar material in Geithner Extended (available in Earth Tones and Relentless Winter and it’s not just to fill up space (though it does an admirable job and that function is also important to the overall design).

The obvious reason is reinforcement by repetition.  The most charitable explanation of Geithner’s actions is that he’s an ignorant idiot.  Any student of Samuelson who actually achieved more than a courtesy ‘C’ in Econ 101 could tell you they’re nonsensical and self contradictory on their face, one need not be a Nobel Laureate like Krugman or Stiglitz; and denial of his policy’s abject failure if not classically delusional is a best an egotistical self defense mechanism.  Other explanations, while likely true, are more cynical and sinister.

However there is a more subtle nuance to which I’d like to draw your attention.

One great lesson I learned at Daily Kos is that most web surfing is remarkably shallow.  Markos is militant that Front Page pieces appear in their entirety on the Front Page not because he isn’t a hit whore (he’s said as much many times), but because he knows that people never click the links, even to read the bulk of an article.  It’s a time honored journalistic tradition called pyramiding, putting a short summary at the top (who, what, when, where, why, and how; or in an essay or speech- telling people what you’re about to say, saying it, and then telling them what you said).  If your object is maximum impact on the web you make your writing as accessible as possible which translates to in your face and short, otherwise it’s tl;dr (too long; didn’t read, now I’m going to start a flame war based on my visceral reaction to your title which is all I care about and am capable of understanding).

I am such a rebel that many of my links are Easter Egg jokes.  What’s important is that they amuse me.

This matters less to me on Daily Kos where my likelihood of appearing on the Front Page can be measured in two words- ‘slim’ and ‘are you fucking kidding?’.  My readers there are either regulars or people who tune in through the ‘Recent Diaries’ list.  In any case the whole piece is visible since the effort is a prerequisite.

On my own sites, The Stars Hollow Gazette and DocuDharma, I structure around it.

When I put up the embedded video of last night’s interview with Tim Geithner (something that is not possible at Daily Kos since they refuse to support iframe video, the only format offered from Comedy Central, because of some imaginary ability to use it to launch an exploit attack), I decided to include the material that, while it was part my cross posting of TDS/TCR (Unreliable Narrator), appeared below the fold where most visitors wouldn’t see it.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Crisis of the Eurocrats

A century ago, Europe tore itself apart in what was, for a time, known as the Great War – four years of death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Later, of course, the conflict was renamed World War I – because a quarter-century later Europe did it all over again.

But that was a long time ago. It’s hard to imagine war in today’s Europe, which has coalesced around democratic values and even taken its first steps toward political union. Indeed, as I write this, elections are being held all across Europe, not to choose national governments, but to select members of the European Parliament. To be sure, the Parliament has very limited powers, but its mere existence is a triumph for the European idea.

But here’s the thing: An alarmingly high fraction of the vote is expected to go to right-wing extremists hostile to the very values that made the election possible. Put it this way: Some of the biggest winners in Europe’s election will probably be people taking Vladimir Putin’s side in the Ukraine crisis.

New York Times Editorial Board: A Surveillance Bill That Falls Short

A year ago, it would have been unimaginable for the House to pass a bill to curtail the government’s abusive surveillance practices. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, finally shocked lawmakers from both parties into action, producing promises that they would stop the government from collecting the telephone data of ordinary Americans and would bring greater transparency to its domestic spying programs.

Unfortunately, the bill passed by the House on Thursday falls far short of those promises, and does not live up to its title, the U.S.A. Freedom Act. Because of last-minute pressure from a recalcitrant Obama administration, the bill contains loopholes that dilute the strong restrictions in an earlier version, potentially allowing the spy agencies to continue much of their phone-data collection.

Still, the bill finally begins to reverse the trend of reducing civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, as embodied in various versions of the Patriot Act. And if the Senate fixes its flaws, it could start to rebuild confidence that Washington will get the balance right.

Julian Sanchez: The Pentagon report on Snowden’s ‘grave’ threat is gravely overblown

NSA defenders still won’t tell the whole truth, but a newly revealed damage assessment offers a window into government damage control – not any actual damage done by Snowden

For months, defenders of America’s spy agencies have been touting a classified Pentagon report as proof that Edward Snowden’s unprecedented disclosures have grievously harmed intelligence operations and placed American lives at risk. But heavily redacted excerpts of that report, obtained by the Guardian under a Freedom of Information Act request and published on Thursday, suggest that those harms may be largely hypothetical – an attempt to scare spy-loving legislators with the phantoms of lost capability.

The first thing to note is that the Pentagon report does not concern the putative harm of disclosures about the National Security Agency programs that have been the focus of almost all Snowden-inspired stories published to date. Rather, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s damage assessment deals only with the potential impact of “non-NSA Defense material” that the government believes Snowden may have obtained. Any harm resulting from the disclosure of NSA-related material – in other words, almost everything actually made public thus far – is not included in this assessment.

In fact, the unredacted portions of the report don’t discuss published material at all. Instead, the Pentagon was assessing the significance of the information “compromised” by Snowden – all the documents they believe he copied, whether or not they ever see the light of day.

Andrea J. Prasow: The year of living more dangerously: Obama’s drone speech was a sham

We were promised drone memos. And a case for legal targeted killing. And no more Gitmo. We’re still waiting

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot can’t.

Twelve months ago today, Barack Obama gave a landmark national security speech in which he frankly acknowledged that the United States had at least in some cases compromised its values in the years since 9/11 – and offered his vision of a US national security policy more directly in line with “the freedoms and ideals that we defend.” It was widely praised as “a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America“.

Addressing an audience at the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, the president pledged greater transparency about targeted killings, rededicated himself to closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and urged Congress to refine and ultimately repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which has been invoked to justify everything from military detention to drones strikes.

A year later, none of these promises have been met. Instead, drone strikes have continue (and likely killed and wounded civilians), 154 men remain detained at Guantanamo and the administration has taken no steps to roll back the AUMF. This is not the sort of change Obama promised.

Jessica Valenti: You can’t cut open pregnant women because you disagree with their choices

The same thinking behind ‘personhood’ arguments is being used to force pregnant women to have surgery against their will

Having a doctor perform surgery on you without permission – literally cutting into you while you protest – is the stuff of which horror movies are made. Yet that’s just what happened to 35-year-old Rinat Dray when a doctor at Staten Island University Hospital performed a C-section on the Brooklyn mother, against her will and verbal protests.

Her right to bodily integrity and freedom was taken away with a swipe of a pen – the director of maternal and fetal medicine, Dr James J Ducey, wrote in Dray’s medical records, “I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section.” Dray is suing the hospital and doctors for malpractice.

It sounds like a no-brainer – you can’t force someone to have surgery. But thanks to American policy that trumps “fetal rights” over women’s personhood, Dray’s case may not be as clear cut as it seems.

David Lidington: We should trust Ukrainians to make the right choice in Sunday’s elections

Ukraine is trying to find democratic solutions to the challenges it faces, and the international community must give it time to do so

Trust in the ability of people to make decisions about their own future is a fundamental tenet of democracy. On Sunday, the citizens of Ukraine go to the polls to elect a new president in one of the most important elections of their history. Every voter in Ukraine should have their say on the future they want for their country. And as our foreign secretary, William Hague, said in his video message to Ukrainian voters this morning, they have the UK’s strong support.

I am encouraged that polling is set to take place in more than 90% of the polling districts across Ukraine except Crimea, and is likely to be unhindered in the majority of the country’s 25 regions. It is also good news that the Ukrainian parliament is making special arrangements for those who live in Crimea to vote.

The Breakfast Club: 5-23-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

The Breakfast Club Logo photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps5485351c.png

This Day in History

On This Day In History May 23

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

May 23 is the 143rd day of the year (144th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 222 days remaining until the end of the year.

Click on images to enlarge

On this day in 1873, the Canadian Parliament establishes the North West Mounted Police, the forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

North-West Mounted Police

The RCMP has its beginnings in the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP). The police was established by an act of legislation from the Temporary North-West Council the first territorial government of the Northwest Territories. The Act was approved by the Government of Canada and established on May 23, 1873, by Queen Victoria, on the advice of her Canadian Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, with the intent of bringing law and order to, and asserting sovereignty over, the Northwest Territories. The need was particularly urgent given reports of American whiskey traders, in particular those of Fort Whoop-Up, causing trouble in the region, culminating in the Cypress Hills Massacre. The new force was initially to be called the North West Mounted Rifles, but this proposal was rejected as sounding too militaristic in nature, which Macdonald feared would antagonize both aboriginals and Americans; however, the force was organized along the lines of a cavalry regiment in the British Army, and was to wear red uniforms.

The NWMP was modelled directly on the Royal Irish Constabulary, a civilian paramilitary armed police force with both mounted and foot elements under the authority of what was then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. First NWMP commissioner, Colonel George Arthur French visited Ireland to learn its methods.

The initial force, commanded by Commissioner French, was assembled at Fort Dufferin, Manitoba. They departed on July 8, 1874, on a march to what is now Alberta.

The group comprised 22 officers, 287 men – called constables and sub-constables – 310 horses, 67 wagons, 114 ox-carts, 18 yoke of oxen, 50 cows and 40 calves. A pictorial account of the journey was recorded in the diary of Henri Julien, an artist from the Canadian Illustrated News, who accompanied the expedition.

Their destination was Fort Whoop-Up, a notorious whiskey trading post located at the junction of the Belly and Oldman Rivers. Upon arrival at Whoop-Up and finding it abandoned the troop continued a few miles west and established headquarters on an island in the Oldman, naming it Fort MacLeod.

Historians have theorized that failure of the 1874 March West would not have completely ended the Canadian federal government’s vision of settling the country’s western plains, but could have delayed it for many years. It could also have encouraged the Canadian Pacific Railway to seek a more northerly route for its transcontinental railway that went through the well-mapped and partially settled valley of the North Saskatchewan River, touching on Prince Albert, Battleford and Edmonton, and through the Yellowhead Pass, as originally proposed by Sandford Fleming. This would have offered no economic justification for the existence of cities like Brandon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Medicine Hat, and Calgary, which could, in turn, have tempted American expansionists to make a play for the flat, empty southern regions of the Canadian prairies.

The NWMP’s early activities included containing the whiskey trade and enforcing agreements with the First Nations peoples; to that end, the commanding officer of the force arranged to be sworn in as a justice of the peace, which allowed for magisterial authority within the Mounties’ jurisdiction. In the early years, the force’s dedication to enforcing the law on behalf of the First Nations peoples impressed the latter enough to encourage good relations between them and the Crown. In the summer of 1876, Sitting Bull and thousands of Sioux fled from the US Army towards what is now southern Saskatchewan, and James Morrow Walsh of the NWMP was charged with maintaining control in the large Sioux settlement at Wood Mountain. Walsh and Sitting Bull became good friends, and the peace at Wood Mountain was maintained. In 1885, the NWMP helped to quell the North-West Rebellion led by Louis Riel. They suffered particularly heavy losses during the Battle of Duck Lake, but saw little other active combat.

TDS/TCR (Meta)


India Jones Part 3

The Pillow Montana Uses To Practice Kissing