Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Looting reported in some flooded areas in NYC, particularly near a Coney Island area I know


The Huffington Post this morning runs a horrifying report of looting at some apartments and pharmacy retail businesses near the Coney Island area of Brooklyn after the storm.

The story, by Andy Campbell, with a video, is here

The story says that “people are attacking each other.”

Even though I’ve never been evacuated myself, that’s one of the most dreadful possibilities, that one will return to property actually undamaged by a storm but ransacked by thieves seeking “class warfare”.

I’m familiar with the area in the news story.  It’s at the end of the D and F trains. Along the boardwalk, there used to be a place called “Seaside Courts” where people played paddleball.  Don’t know if its still there. 

Picture: Coney Island boardwalk, late Nov., 2004 (mine)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Should the law come down harder on property owners whose trees fall (on others) in storms?


Should homeowners be held responsible when trees on their property fall outside and damage the property of others, or, through power line loss, cause big business losses for others?  That would seem to be the idea of tort liability (and “personal responsibility”) taken to extreme.

In most states and in most circumstances, property owners are responsible (through securing normal property insurance) for damage from objects that fall on their property, unless there are unusual complicating factors.  I suspect that the Navy is responsible when a jet crashed on homes in tidewater Virginia last year.  But my understanding is that usually you can’t sue your neighbor if his tree damages your house in a storm if it was extreme enough like a tornado the idea wouldn’t make sense. But if you thought that the tree was unusually weak or vulnerable, you would want to contact the owner or, if not cooperative, local fire authorities.   Sometimes you can take steps to have an external hazard to your property removed. It is true, sometimes this sort of situation can have a catastrophic downstream results for the person in the damaged property.  Some people say that in some states you can remove limbs over your property, but that would sound questionable (maybe even criminal)  if the resulting imbalance caused the tree to topple.  There are other ideas that complicate the idea of responsibility; if some of the tree roots (even if weak) are on your property, you would seem to have some responsibility anyway.

Property owners, even those who do not believe they live in flood plain areas, need to consider government-underwritten  flood insurance.  Obscure, old infrastructure (such as pipes routing underground streams, or local public drainage systems) could conceivably fail, and you might not be covered.  As a policy matter, government subsidy of floor insurance makes it possible for people to build and live in riskier areas, and that raises good “moral” questions. 

Here’s a story on tree liability on “The Morning Call”, link. It points out that if a tree on your property falls on something else (or someone else) without a storm, then indeed you may be legally responsible.
There is one report that, after Hurricane-noreaster Sandy, in one northern Virginia location, over 120000 people lost power because of one downed tree!

See also June 18, 2011 here. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Questions about commercial infrastructure have been raised by Sandy; very disturbing


I’ve noticed that the weather websites have slightly upped the wind gust and rain total estimates for major cities through late Tuesday. In the DC area, most steady winds will be 35-40 mph but in some places gusts close to hurricane strength (74 mph) are possible through Tuesday.  Gusts may be at treetop level than on the ground (where often winds are less for people walking outside), and may be stronger between buildings or on ridge tops. 

My own personal impression is that the storm is likely to make landfall slightly farther north than most predictions, maybe even around the New York City lower boroughs, with an even wider wind span.  That’s because it’s hard to imagine how a storm can make that sharp a turn in the “wrong” direction given the physics involved.
  
The transit systems in New York and Washington will be closed at least through Monday, and the Washington Metro refuses to speculate on re-opening.  It expresses concerns over commercial power outages.
  
This is of great concern.  Large office complexes, retail, hotels, apartments, etc. generally are served by underground utilities (especially newer ones) and ought to remain in good shape. I don’t know why WMATA is so concerned about the underground portion of the grid, unless rains could flood it (major power facilities should be flood proof).   Making sure that the commercial infrastructure is powered first is critical, since supplies (food, gas) etc .are needed; hotels, after all, will be useful to people needing immediate access to utilities if service isn’t restored quickly at home.

Another concern is simply the size of the affected area, and whether there are enough workers to restore utilities in a reasonable manner.  Suggestions that power grid work could be set up as a form of national service no longer sounds facetious.  Maybe the National Guard or Army Reserves (Corps of Engineers) would assist – but I haven’t heard that said.

The greatest problem may be the sheer physical bulk of downed trees, as communities in the mid-Atlantic area do not have adequate ways of monitoring tree health.  Trees with shallow root systems, after ground is softened by several inches of rain, may simply pancake under relatively moderate winds that would normally be harmless. One consequence of “The Event” could be stricter policies holding homeowners responsible when any trees on their land damage other property.

Media broadcasts have advised using social media and cellular to keep in touch, and to have a car charger for cell phones.  Cellular towers are supposed to have their own generators or backup power units, and should be powered from the grid with particular care, preferably from underground.  Cable Internet and TV can take much longer to restore, as it cannot happen until tree removal and power restoration.  An interim solution is a portable digital TV with a modern broadcast antenna module, very simple to set up. 

We’ve had two “novel” storms in 2012.  Given the hype over this event, how would utilities prepare for a Carrington-style solar super storm and how would the media react to such an Event.

Public infrastructure failures can have secondary aftermaths that ruin lives.   

Update: Mon AM

Experts say that Sandy is most likely to come ashore in southern New Jersey.  The physics is hard to believe.  

DC area, even inland, faces 70 mph gusts tonight for about 8 hours, average wind speeds 40 mph.  Rain 6-10 inches.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy: Why don't homeowners and power companies just cut down most trees? Also, should solar storms be named?


As I try to figure out what is going to happen with “Sandy” this weekend, I find all kinds of contradicting predictions online.

“Weather.com” shows  50 mph sustained winds from about NYC down to DC along 95 Tuesday night.
For Arlington VA, Accuweather predicts 31 mph steady winds Monday night (rainfall total of 5 inches), but gusts up to 68.  In NYC, it shows gusts up to 89.

For people not near coasts, the biggest dangers seem to be falling trees, particularly on houses, or neighbors’ houses.  And it is difficult to get trees removed on land you don’t own that can reach your home. 

I don’t know why in this area we tolerate this, storm after storm. (Maybe Isabel, Irene and the derecho have already removed the most vulnerable trees.)  It’s true, when I grew up here in the 50s and 60s, the trees were younger and usually didn’t fall in storms.  But old trees within reach of homes should be removed.  Insurance companies should insist on it. It sounds like breast removal to prevent breast cancer, perhaps.  

Sandy is morphing into a giant Noreaster, but what is scary is that it is unusual for large Noreasters to go the wrong way and come on shore.  It’s happening because of blocking high around Labrador.  Something similar happened with Noreaster in later February 2010, resulting in 60 mph sustained winds here farther south.  But snow did not stick to limbs that time, and with leaves off trees there was relatively little damage.
However, unusual storms may come with climate change and may pose novel issues, even for insurance companies.  How can claims adjusters look at so many properties in a large area after a storm? Even with adequate coverage, how can homeowners get the work done quickly?


I once had a boss named Sandy.

By the way, when I arrived in Minneapolis in 1997, everybody still talked about the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.  It will happen again.

One other thing:  What would the media hype be like if a massive, Carrington-like solar storm were detected, with power companies unprepared? 



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Customer service has some bearing on employment levels


On a day trip this warm late fall day to “The Park” (Shenandoah), I had a couple of little experiences that highlight some of what is wrong in the employment area.

I stopped for gas at a Gulf station in Warrenton on US-211, around noon.  I went in for a snack and coffee, and the coffee had been tossed out.  I asked the clerk, and she said she doesn’t brew the second batch until 1 PM.  How much sense does that make?  Here is a consumer with demand and the ability to pay, and a company (or its employees) too lazy to accommodate the basic needs of motorists who come into the store.

Later at Skyland, I went in to the restaurant, and saw a line for seating in the dining room, with indeed a great view of the Sheandoah Valley and only slightly past-peak fall colors.  It was about 70 degrees outside even at 3600 feet, and dry, almost Denver weather (and good weather for hitting baseballs).  There was a second dining room, not near the window, but not seating anyone.  Had it been open, there would have been no line, at least from consumers not insisting on indulging themselves with the best possible view.  Yet I was told that this second room didn’t open until 2 PM.  I went on to Big Meadows, where everything was open (and where they actually showed the films when requested). 

Of course a business has the right not to sell if it doesn’t want to.  But not to do so when there clearly is demand is silly, bad business, and even rude to consumers.  Donald Trump’s reaction would have been “You’re fired” in both situations. 

So customer service may have something to do with unemployment.  Not everything, but something.  The Romney-Ryan crowd might be right on this one.

Also, in Warrenton, VA I saw a car with a bumper sticker, “Obama-Ryan”.  I couldn't whip out my camera fast enough to get a shot.  Yes, the motorist was pulling our leg. And he wasn’t even visiting the famous Frost Diner.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Obamacare may be causing employers to keep workers part-time


Robert J. Samuelson has a constructive piece in the Washington Post, p. A15, Monday, Oct. 22, “Workers can lose on Obamacare”, l (“Obamacare’s rhetoric v. reality” online) ink here

Samuelson points out that employers have an unhealthful incentive to keep workers under 30 hours a week, part time, and the end result is lower earnings for many workers. Apparently, according to some BLS and oversampled Census surveys, this is starting to show up in published data. It’s actually pretty hard to sample and collect data like this (I worked on the Current Population Survey myself in 2011, and I know how difficult it is to get precise answers on details like this.)

Right now, the GOP hasn’t admitted that Romneycare in Massachusetts may not be so different, and that conservatives used to tout the individual mandate as “personal responsibility”.  Now, the GOP ideologues seem to want other family members (including the childless) to bear the burdens of others’ maladies, when individuals can’t afford care.  And the GOP has no answer to the idea that we all pay when  charity cases wind up in the emergency room.

I don’t have the details in front of me, but it seems to me that in Europe, the Swiss and Germans have been able to combine public and private insurance, reduce fee for service and pay for wellness (and for end results in care), while having some kind of mandate with protection for pre-existing conditions.  Congress ought to study how well health insurance works in Taiwan, Germany, and especially Switzerland, and consider further reform, regardless of which party is in power in 2013.  Ask Fareed Zakaria. 


Watch the video above by Oliver Wyman on “fee for service” reform. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

NRC reports on risk to nuclear power plants from dam failures


The Huffington Post is reporting on a leaked Nuclear Regulatory Commission paper indicating that a number of nuclear power plants around the country could be under threat of catastrophic damage should a dam break. 

The link for the report is here.

The main risk might come from an earthquake, particularly in areas of the country where they are less frequent.  One plant of particular concern is in western South Carolina, the Oconee plant (west of Greenville and Spartanburg).  Damage could resemble that from a major tsunami as was experience in Japan. 

A map in the article shows thirteen major dam failures in the US from 1950-1990. 

I can recall that when I ran the “Understanding” unit in New York City fro, 1976-1978, we had one member whose whole cause in life was to stop nuclear power. She wanted to take a caravan around the country expressing opposition.

The tsunami danger in California was discussed May 19. 

This problem seems to be a sleeper. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Oconee plant picture.  


Friday, October 19, 2012

"Demeny voting" would give families more political clout according to family size


There is an op-ed in “Washington Forum”, p. A21, of the Friday Oct. 19, 2012 Washington Post about an idea that has occurred to me privately in the past, but I don’t recall writing about it. In fact, the last issue in the voting rights area that I remember spending time on was "proportional representation" back in the late 1990s. 

That “modest proposal”  is to give minor children a vote, through their parents or guardians.  Parents cast the votes, which are apportioned in such a way that the number of votes cast by the family totals to the number of people in the household.  The scheme is called Demeny voting, named after demographer Paul Demeny, who had proposed the idea in the 1980s.

In some schemes, minors over 13 could vote, but their own votes would count less, and more points would be added to their parents’ votes; their own votes would count more as they approach 18. Public schools would be involved in teaching them to participate.

A single parent with two children, for example, would have three votes.  A couple with threeyoung children would cast five votes: each parent’s vote would count 2.5 votes.  Apparently marital status would not matter, and the “Modern Family” model would apply.  A same-sex couple with adopted children would have the same voting power (but both partners would have to share custody). 

The idea would seem to confer more political power to large families.  It would seem to reward marital sexual intercourse at the political expense to those who don’t partake of it, except that people would get the same voting power by adoption (not sure about foster care).

The Weekly Standard had written about the idea (Jonathan V. Last) on July 7, 2011, here.  

The whole idea sounds a bit like the “mom and pop manifesto” of Henry Hyde in the mid 1990s.
But there is one big point. Younger voters are likely to pay more attention to protecting infrastructure (like the power grid, a favorite issue of mine), and would tend to favor the aged less, perhaps reducing their benefits (or means-testing them) over time, as people live longer.

Demeny voting would tend to encourage people to have larger families or to adopt children. perhaps, in order to feel "equal".  The idea could have a much bigger direct affect on me than, say, same-sex marriage. 

Of course, this could not happen without a constitutional amendment, a difficult process (my two DADT books, Chapter 6 in the first, and Chapter 3, "Toward a Bill of Rights 2", in the second).  Go back and look at the 1990s writings of John Vile.  Furthermore, the notion of Demeny voting could extend to other areas, and involve the so-far unarticulated idea that anyone who gets anywhere in life publicly must have responsibility for others first.  
   
The Washington Post  link, for the article ("Giving children the right to vote") by Semyon Dukatch,  is here

I couldn't find any YouTube videos on this idea yet.  Strange!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NBC reports on natural gas fracking boom, controversy in eastern Ohio


Thursday evening, Oct. 18, NBC News reported on the natural gas fracking (or fracturing) boom in eastern Ohio, especially around the town of Cadiz, northeast of Wheeling W Va. 

The story emphasized that most of Appalachia, from Ohio and Kentucky almost to the Blue Bridge, is in two overlapping deposits, Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale, as on a map at the Discovery  Channel site in an Oct. 10 article by Tim Wall, here. It all fits into the "Pickens Plan". 

One average farmer near Cadiz sold gas rights for $1.6 million.  On the mother’s side of the family, someone near Wellington (farther north, almost on the Lake plain) owned a productive conventional gas well for many years. The southeastern part of Ohio is the end of "Appalachia". 

Fareed Zakaria has said that the US can be a next exporter of fossil fuels in ten years, whatever party is in power, and unfortunately regardless of climate change. 
  
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WSJ says that Romney has "pre-existing condition" base covered in his health care plan


John Goodman has an article in the Wall Street Journal today showing that the “pre-existing condition” problem could be handled under Romney’s plan.

The  biggest problem seems to be that Romney’s proposals don’t protect people with pre-existing conditions who don’t already have insurance.

And in the future, fewer people will be able to get insurance through employers. 

But pre-tax benefits, now available only to employers, can be made available to individuals.  And policies can be made portable.

Apparently Romney (or at least Goodman) wants the people who fall through the cracks to be covered with assigned risk pools (sounds like auto insurance).  And he also wants people to be able to insure their insurability, basically to be able to set up lifetime “guaranteed issue”. 

But if Romney was so gung ho for mandatory insurance when he was governor (as a sign of “personal responsibility), then why not now?

The link for the story is here

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Keystone XL provokes civil disobedience, as if getting arrested were a civic duty


Protesters are turning to civil disobedience and getting arrested, as construction on the south leg of the Keystone XL pipeline commences near the southern end in Port Arthur, TX.  Protests appear to be occurring at various locations in East Texas now.  Steven Mufson has a story in the Washington Post, p. A16, “New tack for pipeline foes”, link here

On March 12, 2012 I reviewed, on my Movies blog, two films on the Keystone XL Pipeline issue by Leslie Iwerks, “Dirty Oil” and “Pipe Dreams”, sponsored by the DC Environmental Film Festival.  People who had protested the Pipeline at the Whitehouse and even been arrested were numerous in the audience.

I have mixed feelings on this issue.  There is a lot of controversy over whether the pipeline would cause environmental damage, and the possibility of accidents.  I am quite sympathetic to the idea that national and economic security demand independence from foreign oil (Canada really counts as domestic).  I remember the gas lines of the 1970s.  I also believe that an interim strategy of making the most of natural gas (the Pickens Plan) makes sense.

Perhaps I would be seen as part of the “enemy”.  My father invested heavily in oil and utility stocks, and that’s one reason why I came out of the passing of my parents very well, and why we could easily pay for my mother’s care in her last 18 months.  I have a lot of oil in my portfolio.  On the mother’s side of the family, one person owned a gas well, and that essentially paid for a lot more end of life care in Ohio.  Since I have family ties to Ohio, I follow the fracking v. jobs debate all the time.

Without substantial energy-based assets and income, I could very well have retired poor myself and not be able to report on the problems.  I do want to see these issues resolved well, according to science. 
   
I’ve also followed the mountaintop removal debate in coal strip mining.  There have been several small independent films made about the practice, but the major news organizations ought to cover it more.  So I cover it. 

A major protest site is “Tar Sands Action” here

Here’s a video of a protest at Paris, TX. (Remember "that movie" from the 80s?) 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An argument that "Obamacare" still saves the public money, and might save some individual lives; the dangers of social isolation


Nicholas Kristof has a syndicated column on the front page of the Sunday Review, Oct. 14, about why we need mandatory supported health insurance.  The column is titled “A possibly fatal mistake: An old college friend is fighting for his life. His story underscores why this election matters”.  The link on Real Clear Politics is here. 

The friend is Scott Androes, 52, a bachelor, fighting for his life from advanced prostate cancer.
Scott lost his job (apparently by resignation) like many people, and then worked without health insurance as a tax-preparer, making reasonable income but without benefits.  Private health insurance was just too expensive.

The story gives his medical history.  Advanced prostate cancer is unusual that young, but not unheard of.  It spread to his bones and cause blood coagulation disorders, leading possibly to sudden death, which has been staved off so far.  The Seattle hospital treats him as a charity case, so that means all the rest of us pick up the bill anyway.  Wouldn’t it make more sense if he had reasonably priced insurance, which might have detected the problem sooner.

Romney’s current plan on health insurance (if Obamacare is repealed) would not cover someone with pre-existing conditions if he did not have health insurance.  It probably would cover him if he had purchased COBRA at his layoff (which is expensive).  COBRA came about during the Reagan years. (COBRA may not be available after resignation as opposed to layoff.)

My own father died of explosive prostate cancer on January 1, 1986, just before his  83rd birthday.  He was ill only four weeks.  In the 1980s, his quick death was accepted as a normal end-of-life after a long and productive life (his life span had been longer than normal and he had experienced relatively little illness, although he had an aorta replacement at age 74).

My own prostate antigen shot up in 2010, but went down in 2011, probably because, after my mother’s death and the ending of having a caregiver who cooked, I ate less fats and probably reduced my weight and BMI to about the right level  – which is a good way to help keep the PSA down in mild cases in practice. 
By the way, my own retiree health insurance from ING was costing about $165 a month a few years ago (I turned 65 in 2008), and covered only 70% of hospitalization.  I used it only for an oral cat scan (it knocked the list price down to $380 of which I paid $160). Medicare Part B knocked down a hernia repair from $14000 to $3500 by contract, and my Part B Supplemental (about $110 a month from AARP and UHC) covered the $600 copay.

Treatment for advanced prostate cancer is not pretty.  It can involve chemotherapy, castration, and removal of all the experience of being male.  Men who don’t have a good social support system (including marriage able to withstand such a fundamental sexual challenge) may not have the incentive to survive something like this.  Dr. Oz has pointed this out before.  Fortunately, most prostate cancer is slow-growing (although it can “explode” in a blast crisis), and many men die with  indolent prostate cancer that did not need to be treated and that did not contribute to death (of something like heart disease).

The story was on CNN with Candy Crowley today.

A speaker right now (BJ Gallagher with Suzanne Greely) is saying that “self-reliance is a character defect” and that we should not be expected to “go it alone”.  That remark followed a discussion of Romney’s idea of “personal responsibility”. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

GA Congressman on House Science committee stands on creationism in church speech


A US Congressman serving on the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology, told a gathering at a church in Georgia that evolution and the Big Bang theory are “lies from the pit of Hell” and that Earth isn’t over 9000 years old.

CNN has a story (by Dan Gilgoff) about the supposedly “private” remarks by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), link here.  Broun’s Congressional site is here

Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, said that this proves that Broun is not to fit to serve on a science committee.

The incident, supposedly of a "private remark" (like one made to a restricted Friend's list on Facebook or Google+), has the effect of Mitt Romney's "47%" fiasco. 
  
I doubt that Newt Gingrich (also from Georgia), who wants to put colonies on the Moon and Mars, and who writes about the dangers of a possible enemy EMP attack, would agree with him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

If Romney wins, he will govern more from the Right than he did as governor of MA

Ezra Klein argues in the Washington Post on Tuesday "Moderate Mitt isn't so moderate" (on his "Wonkblog).

A Romney win would be likely accompanied by GOP gains in both houses, and possibly control even of the Senate.  And Romney fears the ideologues in his own party much more than he fears Democrats or bipartisan pressures.


Klein points out the today "moderate Republicans" question climate change, believes Bush tax cuts for the rich should remain permanent, believe government should not guarantee health care, and even think that the government need not pay all of its debts sometimes (particularly anything that sounds like an "entitlement").


Actually, the GOP has talked about entitlements out of both ends.  Sometimes it says wealthier Seniors should make some sacrifices now, even if that means breaking "promises".  But others say that Obamacare comes on the backs of seniors.  They can't have it both ways.


Klein points out that "moderate Republicans" believe that an individual mandate is unconstitutional. But a few years ago, as a governor Romney shows, they saw it as a sign of "personal responsibility".


Ezar's link is here.


The Post also has recently run an Outlook article saying that the GOP doesn't like big cities, and sees city slickers as parasites, unable to to a lot of things for themselves or other family members.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Affirmative action case at University of Texas to come before Supreme Court: it's time for this to stop?


On October 10, the Supreme Court will hear another important affirmative action case, “Fisher v. University of Texas” (wiki story).

The History News Network has an article showing how corporations and then the US military gradually came to support some moderate racial preferences or adjustments in accession policies as necessary for diversity.  By the 1980s, during Reagan’s term, corporations already new that diversity could help them sell products globally and enhance the bottom line.  The military believed that racial diversity would give it better combat capabilities, and it had come a long way since President Truman’s action in 1948.  Both the military and corporations believed that some preferences were necessary, including those in university admissions.

The link for the HNN story is here

The Texas case was brought by Abigail Fisher, who believes she did not get into the University of Texas because she was not minority (and did not place in the top 10%).

The Stanford Daily has an argument “Affirmative action? Good, but not enough” here

I remember, shortly after publishing my 1997 book (“Do Ask Do Tell”) talking to a retailer in “Carytown” in  Richmond VA (where I would place my book), and he said in a discussion, “Oh, I am a very strong believer in affirmative action.”

Shortly after moving to Minneapolis in 1997 and being involved in the Libertarian Party, I got into an email fight with someone who said “I had started ahead in line” merely because of was White and should male “reparations”.  Well, our own president did not start behind in line.  

Conservatives argue  (with some credibility) that racial preferences will result in fewer minority (black and Latino) graduates in technology and medicine, as an unintended consequence.  And some argue that does not help anyone to place her in a school where she is not prepared.  Preparation in a community college is necessary for some. 

In Virginia (where I live now and grew up), the issue (despite the state’s history) in colleges seems less critical because there is a large number of state schools of varying sizes and admissions practices.  The university system here, compared to other states, is itself very “diverse”.


In 2003, the Supreme Court did allow limited affirmative action policies in two Michigan cases, (Gruter v. Bollinger, law school) and in general (Gratz v. Bollinger).  Scoring systems should not be used.  There were time limits on how long race could be considered.   In 2007, the Supreme Court told schools systems not do use race in bussing. 


Update:  Oct. 10

The Washington Post has an editorial with the bald title, "Why the high court should back race-based college admissions", link here. Note the concept "critical mass" in the 2003 rulings. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Sudden gasoline shortages in California, said to be local wholesale problems; could they spread? are they "political"?


The media are reporting gasoline shortages and price gouging in many areas around Los Angeles and San Francisco, causing some stations (even larger ones like Costco) to close pumps, leading to 1973- and 1979-style lines. 

The problem seems to be related to a refinery fire in Richmond, CA (north of Sam Francisco – I stayed in that city once in 2002), unusual maintenance schedules, and illegal levels of impurities found in oil in some pipelines, causing temporary closure. 

To a novice journalist, some of this sounds deliberate, possibly an attempt to raise prices and drive smaller oil wholesale and retail companies out of business. 

The shortage could also serve as a warning to (largely Democratic) politicians in other parts of the country to expedite the new pipeline projects like Keystone.

A typical story appears on Zerohedge here.

Bloomberg seemed to have the most complete original story here


Can this spread to other areas?  There are also some media reports of shortages in Wisconsin (on Youtube, here, station WISN ).

In 1973 and early 1974. The Arab Oil embargo led to gasoline shortages largely on weekends on both East and West coasts, with odd-even rationing.  I was in Minnesota for a work benchmark when this was happening and saw feel effects. 

Could this latest problem spread quickly? 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Democratic Senate candidate Kaine criticizes GOP Allen for voting to raise debt ceiling -- really?


Tim Kaine, Democratic candidate for the Senate from Virginia running against Republican George Allen, is accusing Allen of voting four times to raise the national debt ceiling.

That point is a canard.  President Obama pushed for raising it during the summer of 2011 because the United States simply cannot fail to pay its debts in time, or stiff some contractors or possibly even seniors.  Even so, the US credit rating dropped one notch.  I’m surprised Kaine would say this.


NBC Washington has video of the Kaine-Allen debate here.  But only the ads load right now, not the video itself.

I'm getting a lot of political calls, mostly from GOP candidates.  I voted in the Republican primary in Virginia last Spring in order to vote for Ron Paul.  I guess that had consequences.


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Before going on the road -- new safety features on new hybrids (from Ford, without bailout)


I was at a Ford dealer in Falls Church VA for regular scheduled maintenance, and I did see a white C-Max hybrid in the show room.  The particular model was listed at $33000, which is $15000 more than my Focus in 2009.  I see also that there are “plug-in hybrids”.

I’ve seen Cadillac advertise auto park assists on ads, but this the first time I’ve seen it on an “upper medium price” new car.


The sales help said that there is technology on the C-MAX to warn the driver of pedestrians or objects behind the car when backing.  He said that Ford has offered this technology for about 18 months.  Could technology detect a jogger or cyclist coming the wrong way when one wants to make a right turn? The entire driver-assist package seems to add about $3000 to the list price.  Maybe it ought to be a mandatory safety feature.  I see on YouTube that it's also no available on some Focuses. 

The sticker said that the car had been assembled in Michigan. 

Remember, Ford did not receive (or need) Obama’s bailout in 2009.

Is this new hybrid worth $33000 now?
  

Monday, October 01, 2012

Occupy-DC commemorates first anniversary; LaRouche "demonstration" in popular Arlington shopping center


I didn’t get in to town today, but local stations report that “Occupy DC” protesters accomplished their goal of largely shutting down Washington DC’s K-Street (lobbyists’ row) today, October 1, at mid day.  There were a few tense moments with police.

Protesters claimed that their lives had been stolen from them by the rich, and that the 2008 bailouts had benefited the banks but not them.

NBCWashington has a typical story here

The McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza encampments have long been cleaned out. I'm not sure about lower Manhattan in NYC.  

I did witness something else.  In the Westover neighborhood of Arlington, outside the 7-11, there were a couple of signs reading “Dump Obama” (in cap’s) with the signature of Lyndon LaRouche underneath.  One rather rude gentleman tried to get my attention.

I didn’t have my regular camera with me (I don’t care much for cell phone photos).  I returned a couple hours later to take pictures, and apparently the LaRouche “demonstrators” had been chased out.  I didn’t see them camped out anywhere else.


Scorpio with Aries rising, anyone?

Picture (focus didn't snap): A sign (14th and P sts NW) announcing a march to help the homeless (taken Sept. 30).  But I cannot confirm that there is such a march in late 2012 online.  (I thought it said Oct. 6.)