Sunday, June 20, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Final week to buy something from my shop

...before we leave the country for a spell. Help fund our trip, and give yourself or someone you know a profoundly utilitarian work of art they will use every day and appreciate for generations to come:

(more listings to be posted this evening)

Thanks to everyone who helped make Art in the Park a terrific success, once again!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oil Spil/Political Notes: Thomas Friedman still preaches the happy slave gospel from his mansion, UK pensioners versus American workers

• Update 6/15: Mixed metaphor king's idiot Thomas Friedman jumps on TOD blame-fallacy bandwagon, as predictable as it is pathetic. In John Emerson's apt appraisal:
"This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault."

This kind of bullshit comes up every time a large corporation does harm "Don't ask who killed the Kennedys, when after all, it was you and me." In the same way, how could anyone blame Enron or anyone in finance for the destruction ...of the global economy, since some of us have been known to steal pencils from work?

When it's you or me or a schoolteacher, it's "accountability". But when it's a large corporation, it's "the blame game".

It's not just that corporations are persons, with the same rights that the rest of us have. Corporations are immaculate persons and can never be blamed for anything.

Sort of like Jesus and the Virgin Mary....

If you want to say that we should all look at our oil consumption and way of life, that's a good point, but on the other hand, some of us already have, and have changed our way of life. A lot of us strongly opposed offshore drilling, but the DrillBabyDrill people won the political argument. Others live the way they do because there's not much choice (for example, living in a town without a decent bus system).

BP was guilty for cutting corners on safety, which they're on record as doing as a matter of policy. The US government is guilty of lax regulation, which they did as a matter of policy, and of approving offshore drilling in the first place. A lot of politicians and voters (but not all) are guilty of supporting offshore drilling and the weakening of safety regulations. These are the people who actually caused the problem.

If you want to go beyond that to say that we have to reduce oil consumption, fine. I agree. But saying that it's everyone's fault is just bullshit, and it's the most recent lie that the defenders of BP, the bush administration, and the Obama administration have picked up in order to absolves themselves of the actual responsibility they have for the actual things they did.

Indeed. As I may have mentioned in a comment at TOD, any analysis that fails to account for the functioning of power is pretty well just pulling the blanket over the collective citizenry's head (and in the process rendering our just and righteous fury at those precise targets which might actually be vulnerable to such pressures and compelled to change, dangerously impotent). Of course expecting literary hacks like ex-billionaire, now multi-millionaire Thomas Friedman to do anything except buttress and slather the status quo in poshlost', with superficially "clever" and "profound" analysis, would probably be about as productive as polishing a turd. I was saddened to see The Oil Drum take this line. It's probably one reason the site remains so ineffective, and frankly, self-congratulatory, and insular.

• Update 6/14: OK so I've skimmed The Oil Drum, and this comment is essential reading.

(image of one-ton tar ball via)

• A message about Obama's new position on BP, and what to watch for to determine who's in charge.

• Robert Reich: still pushing temporary receivership, and rather convincingly.

More on Helen Thomas (via):
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Press You're Stuck
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

To be honest I haven't read TOD since they started (thankfully, finally) discussing the various Corexits, as I had been prodding them to do (whether any professional consensus was reached, I have no idea...) As soon as I have a spare six hours, I may check it out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Come drink beer with me

If you're in the Asheville area, come say hello. I will be under my tent all day missing soccer, along with a hundred or so other local artists, Pack Square downtown all day long for Art in the Park. Gazing at that strange war trophy, the Vance Monument.

If you're not in the area, but would still like a custom table top, chopping block or something wood-related (for the same price as something mass-produced), there's still just barely time to have it shipped before we leave for France for four weeks:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Someone should just publish comments from TOD

...Comments that deserve to be read by people not obsessed enough (yet) to spend hours wading 300-400 comments in. Posted with the strong caveat, of course, that these are taken out of context!

Interested_public on June 9, 2010 - 11:32am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

This is the problem with trying to do science in a crisis - really an impossible task. A responsible study will take time (6 months to a year) and quite a bit of sampling as the gulf is a big place. A fundamental problem will be the lack of pre-spill baseline data for comparison. We don't know how the oil might change in composition and character over time as it interacts with seawater and the gulf biota. We don't know that much about underwater currents in the gulf, although there is some data on this and I expect more will be forthcoming now that there is a perceived need for it. This is also one of the reasons that knowing the leak rate is very important - there needs to be some reasonable estimate of the proportion of oil that is not reaching the surface.

As with the lack of pre-accident technical means to deal with a deepwater blowout - despite ample fore knowledge that such a problem might arise and documentation of specific problems that should be addressed - there is a similar lack of baseline data with which to evaluate the current problem, despite the extensive underwater development of oil resources in the Gulf and the likelihood of a major leak occurring at some point.

Trying to play catch-up over a few weeks or a month or two will not produce satisfactory answers to many rather important questions - we will end up realizing how much we really don't know about the Gulf ecosystems and watching the experiment play out as we work to understand what we are seeing. People with agendas will take preliminary results to say "See, no problem, why all the hand-wringing?" or "The Gulf will become a dead zone!" when the reality is "Wow, we really don't know that much about the consequences of our actions and their effects on the environment because we really never bothered to look or try and understand any of this stuff ahead of time. Only the most grossly obvious effects like oily birds or soiled beaches will be immediately apparent.

Hopefully the end result, in a few years, will be a more mature understanding of this bit of the world and a more responsible approach to extracting the resources we find useful for our needs. One can hope anyway.

[new] Paleocon on June 9, 2010 - 11:16am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Obama is the Mediocrat president.

Anger here isn't from a media-driven frenzy, but from a growing, 6-week debacle that aptly illustrates BP's approach to situations and people. Americans are reacting to disdain, sloth, and weaseling -- attitudes which are worse than negligence. Obama said the gov't was in control, and that's his 'style', so now the gov't will earn just ire as well. Obama will join the "make it up as we go" perception if he's not careful. He will increasingly struggle to blame BP while saying the gov't is doing all they can -- it's a tricky corner he chose to paint himself into.

Why I've moved from "BP is handling things" to "BP should be skewered":

1) By intentionally not measuring flow, and then acting solely on low estimates, they have assets in place that are inadequate for the situation now at hand. They have had 6 weeks to marshall resources, and yet are now leaking oil solely due to inadequate top-side resources. There is zero reason not to already have resources to deal with max flow of an unconstrained BOP already on-site. Who cares if an FPSO is already working elsewhere? Shut the site down and worry about that production later.

2) After the fact, the history of BP as a corner-cutting, law-flaunting, risk-taking company is now becoming obvious. This points blame at MMS as much as BP, as this was permitted to continue. Blame also goes to the administration -- anytime you have an obvious rogue outlier it is up to those with oversight to reign them in.

3) General defensive posture, and "wait and see" approach. While engineering work seems to be properly parallel, BP drags their feet on everything else. They are slow to provide video, capture details, date estimates, spill resources, response coordination, and a general tone of "it's not that bad" while each aspect continually gets worse. The only logical reason for a CEO to make stupid statements on air is that the company doesn't think it's important not to.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Helen Thomas "never has been/never will be a racist"

A fitting tribute. Make no mistake: Helen Thomas' retirement is our loss. Fuck Ari Fleischer, vengeful lying prick.

Gulf of America Update ("we broke it, we own it" -Colbert)

• As fellow blogger John Emerson pedantically, and correctly notes: "'Awed' is the wrong word" here. (It only took the feds two months to catch on; surely companies like Exxon bound to be responsible for future atrocities will take note.)

This comment about what caused the BP Macando blowout deserves widespread recognition.

• Also, read the articles in the left-hand column at McClatchy, one of the most reliable and reputable investigative journals out there. Particularly this one, this one, this one and last but certainly not least, this one (cf. last week).

• And, the plot thickens.

Meanwhile every day that passes BP fails to make meaningfully better what they gambled to make significantly worse last Thursday morning, or even to make it back to just as bad as it was the for the first 48 goddamn days....they aren't even going to try another approach, for another month. This would appear to be an acceptable state of affairs for BP, nearly two months on:

Can't help but notice BP is spraying carcinogenic dispersants like never before at the immediate opening (you can actually see the oil exploding into droplets on impact), most conveniently on the side being monitored by the most highly-publicized and most easily accessible feed (that is, the side most people are watching):

Once again, for all twelve BP Macondo blowout oil spill feeds, see this page for listed links:

• I seem to have begun the occasional habit of leaving comments at TheOilDrum, sometimes with what I determine to be necessary and useful provocation partly in mind, I admit.

New Heidegger

Here (via).

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Election Rigging in Arkansas

Update: It worked. Thanks in part to the DINO-loving White House. Props to the AFL/CIO though. Rahm Emmanuel is only the most obvious symptom of a disease the Democratic party needs to cure.

Charles Tapp is a total fucking asshole:

Remember how rural voters broke so heavily for Halter in the primary? Well now those same rural voters have to travel miles across a mountain range to get to town on a weekday to cast their vote, and Tapp ran away when he was asked about what this would do to disenfranchise minorities. How painfully obvious can this get?

One voter told a local TV station, "I don't know if I'm gonna vote or not now... I'm going have to get time off work, and I don't know I can leave Monday or Tuesday."

WE'VE COME TOO FAR TO LET ONE LOCAL ELECTION OFFICIAL MESS THINGS UP. We need to redouble our efforts to "get out the vote" for Halter.

In case you hadn't heard:
A new Research 2000 poll shows Bill Halter [progressive] leading Blanche Lincoln [Blue Dog DINO sellout hypocrite douchebag] 49% to 45%.

But now, a major local election official, Charles Tapp, is making it harder for Bill Halter's supporters to vote.

Garland County is the most populous county Bill Halter won 3 weeks ago, and could be key to his run-off victory this Tuesday. But election commissioner Charles Tapp reduced the number of polling places from 42 to 2.

Also, after personally promising Bill Halter there would be early voting this weekend, Tapp reversed course. Hundreds of voters showed up to vote yesterday but were denied.

Can you help fight back? We're working with Halter's campaign to call thousands of Garland County voters to tell them when/where they can vote -- and we're pumping up turnout in other parts of the state to make up for any lost votes.

Sign up to call Halter supporters to ensure they vote. Click here. Or if you don't like making calls, donate $4 toward Halter's "get out the vote" effort in the final hours.

So what actually is the law, five days or ten days? Perhaps someone could sue his lying ass.

Some interesting links

This feed right now is a pretty clear indication of just how well British Petroleum's mostly cosmetic "top hat" is not functioning (braced on top of a gusher BP deliberately made worse–nearly five days ago–worse by a degree of magnitude which remains undisclosed and certainly appears to be significant) (best live 24-7 discussion at TOD, as usual):

eho on June 6, 2010 - 3:14pm Permalink | Subthread | Comments top

My first post ... there is good exchange here at TOD... better than I have seen anywhere else. Unfortunately there is a lot of conjecture but this seems to be the result in the large part on a lack of transparency on BP's part (if we don't have the facts to discuss, we'll d - well make them up!)... unless they are operating in the dark ... which could be very well true.
I worked 15+yrs in offshore oil starting in the late 70's. A good joke then was Q - Ya'know the two things that f -d up the oilfield? A - engineers and o-rings. ... so it appears things haven't changed much. By my recollection most 'company' engineers with any authority were cost oriented, risk management (avoidance) guys. Innovation on the operational side was left to contractors. I think there are structural reasons (mainly liability) for this. The blame game. The highly skilled work for the majors where they hope to keep their butts well covered for a fruitful and uneventful 35 yr career.
So everything in this heroic response so far looks to me like a delaying game, a some what pathetic dog and pony show ... letting the clock run out until the Relief (with a capital 'R') Well is completed.
End of Rant ... Sorry ...

And here is some of that purely "anecdotal evidence," according to BP (as they continue to deny the very existence of vast underwater plumes despite more and more scientific evidence):

I give this current hat another 24 hours, before they pull it off because it has been corroded useless, and replace it with another, equally ineffective "fix."

Friday, June 04, 2010


Sincere thanks to the many people who've commented and emailed over the course of the past week. Unfortunately though, and despite receiving more traffic than ever before in this humble blog's rather prolonged life, unless someone out there wants to drop $160 in my account via the "donate" paypal button on the sidebar there, I cannot afford to continue doing this. (I do have lots more video from live feeds saved, should anyone have any specific requests.)

(I am a woodworker by trade. In between and after crew time building cabinets or installing finish trimwork, I work overtime on my own little business (+ our old house, animals and extensive locust raised-bed gardens/greenhouses). Please feel free to visit my online shop, if interested.)
Thanks again.

Update June 5: No further "progress" to report. The blowout remains substantially worse than it was nearly two months ago, essentially the same since BP ripped it wide open and pinned a floating flower to its side/polished the turd, Thursday morning. It seems likely BP has just given up. Certainly most experts in the field were never very optimistic about any "solution" not involving relief wells, months hence, from the beginning.

Some light reading...

June 6: Honestly, the only serious effort BP appears to be making anymore is buying up search engine terms like "oil spill" and lying to the press. Their numbers don't exactly add up, either.

A Pause, to Look at BP's Motives

(Now after 24 hours of BP's blowout gusher flowing at 20% more volume than ever before–seemingly much more, and spewing what appears to be much darker oil and less gas: The cap has been announced as officially "on" but the wellhead is still leaking furiously. They keep moving/flailing the cap around, the BOP is dangerously rocking, and they have yet to rescue/draw a single drop of oil, it seems. Nobody besides a few gullibles in the MSM is buying the "success" PR line.)

As a side note: Commentators at The Oil Drum kept repeating and insisting, the last 2-3 days, that the wellhead has been rendered unsuitable for production, that there are no plans for further producing from the well, etc, etc. While perhaps technically true, it seems a bit dishonest in a larger sense to me. Any oil they are able to capture and funnel to Discoverer Enterprise, from this relatively small wound on the ocean floor that has now been surgically ripped wide open (professionally and precisely, with a giant pair of shears, mind you)...they will process and sell, to the tune of 1.4 million/day or more, depending in part on how much is now erupting out of there. It seems obvious they had incentive to make this thing worse before it gets better. The "solution" (that was never any solution to begin with) might end up paying for a part (albeit tiny fraction) of their estimated 20-60 billion liabilities tab. Remember, this is a company that *nets* 6 billion every quarter.

9:30am: Still spraying carcinogenic Corexit like mad, 5,000 feet underwater (Update: nearly 2 million gallons of it, as of Saturday, June 5):

From a relevant comment at TOD:

E L on June 4, 2010 - 10:06am

I will tell you this. What’s going on above the surface makes this underwater fix look like a kid’s video game. Some of the most brilliant, money and blood thirsty financial minds, the same piranhas that brought you CDO’s and CDS’s and synthetic CDSs and mezzanine tranches and the Gaussian cupola are circling BP like a sick guppy. They can smell multi-million $$$ bonuses. BP’s protectors are the British government and the poison pill of untold damages. And every BP suit smells the stink of his own fear right now.

As for myself, unfortunately, I cannot afford to keep doing this pro bono. Once again, there's a "donation" button on the sidebar if people are finding this site valuable and wish it to continue. Otherwise I need to get back to woodworking. My little etsy online shop is here for those who might be interested.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Summary of Thursday's "Progress" by BP

The liveblog from today is below (with video and photos). The list of live feeds is available here. I recommend this one, this one, and this one to watch tonight (Or at least as of 11pm. I won't be watching.)

In light of mainstream media reporting, and to summon a little bit of that deeper historical conscience or pathos of indignation that would seem to be appropriate now, it might be sensible to note that British Petroleum has "succeeded" today only insofar as they have been able to jerry-rig their way to a somewhat mangled and uncertain completion of only the first step of their two-step "solution" (after 24 hours of no progress whatsoever as their original efforts yesterday, and original plan, failed). A two-step solution, btw, which in reality is no solution at all, even if it proves to be possible (itself the subject of rather contentious debate among the most expert and informed members of the public with industry and engineering experience, despite most of them speculating in a "democratic" environment where literally mountains of crucial data are no doubt being censored as "proprietary knowledge," or just plain not being released, or made transparent). BP's own most optimistic estimates (before the mangling and jerry-rigging) were to capture "half" of what is currently gushing from beneath the ocean floor. They have "succeeded" so far today, only in making the situation significantly worse, to a degree where it is unknown in fact whether one half the current flow would even be much, if indeed any, improvement on before(!) BP isn't sharing their real flow rate and other data, needless to say, because it isn't in their corporate interest to reveal what is every day becoming more and more clearly the true scope of this greed-made disaster. And nobody is forcing them to, despite being entrusted (to the tune of 6 billion dollars pure profit every quarter) with precisely such public responsibility.

In conclusion: BP's own guess for tonight's "step two" may not reduce the flow at all from its rate previously. Worst case scenario: downward pressure causes the BOP to blowout, be further damaged in some way, or even worse a fresh rupture occurs in the casing of the pipe far beneath the seabed. THE CURRENT GEYSER VOLCANO COULD DOUBLE, OR WHO THE FUCK KNOWS WHAT (OR WHERE).

To illustrate the point as bluntly as possible. This is what has been erupting from the BP blowout, since before 11am this morning (that makes 10.5 hours now, not counting the 12+hours during which time the riser was merely half-severed). To get any real sense of the magnitude of this ongoing atrocity in real time, one really must force oneself to watch the clips in their entirety:

Remember this short clip?

BP calls this "progress." I call it being under pressure of the entire world's gaze to fix what now more resembles a volcanic inferno, like never before.

Unsurprisingly, but despairingly, the official government estimates remain corrupt and inaccurate and in dire need of serious updating.

Some inevitable, heartbreaking pictures are today's real news. Surely realizing from historical precedent (and because not a single thing has been put in place to prevent or fix these sorts of problems in 30 years–on the dramatic contrary, thanks largely to the decade lost to Bush), British Petroleum tried to postpone the capture and dissemination of these sorts of front page, public outrage-awakening images as long as possible, by spraying all that illegal, carcinogenic and microbe-killing dispersant that hides from public eyes as much as 59/60ths of the total flow, a PR decision which may well prove far, far more catastrophic for the ocean and for our general health as a nation (and global economy) in the long run:

In light of which, I for one would very much like to see a version of the following that seeks to take account of all the oil and dispersant in the water column...anyone? Even with such a more complex map, we can expect more than one nation on this earth to be surprised to discover the effects of BP dispersant "dead zones," months, years and decades hence, in completely unexpected places (and with zero accountability).

Cutting the riser (again) (liveblog)

(Yesterday's liveblog is below.)

(UPDATE 10am: For the first time all 12 live feeds are currently available through BP on this page, although not all of them appear to be working:

Have at it, blogosphere. I need to focus on making a living (there's a tip jar on the side, or better yet buy something from my shop).

(Most interesting live feeds thus far are: here and here.)

12:46: Expect to see a lot more dark oil on the surface shortly...this thing is blowing black like never before...

Another relevant comment cherry-picked from TOD:
[new] goodmanj on June 3, 2010 - 12:15pm Permalink | Subthread | Comments top

Okay, as a fluid mechanics guy, I'm watching some extreme closeups of the exit at the top of the cut riser, and I'm *fascinated*. You've got this violently turbulent mixed oil/gas flow, and every now and again you get a surge of gas coming up. You can see the white gas bubbles blast out into the water, and then I *think* you can actually see the gas react with water to form clathrate! The texture and color change suddenly, it looks like a "crust" forms on the outside of the bubble plume, and the crusty stuff rises much more slowly than the bubbles.

Another observation: we're about to start seeing a *lot* more oil at the surface of the Gulf until they get this capped. Before they cut off the riser, we were seeing highly emulsified tiny droplets coming out of the leaks -- basically the aerosol spray can effect. The orange color we saw indicates the droplets were small enough to be partially transparent. But now you can see solid oil coming out the cut end, and the plume is pitch black, meaning the droplets are much larger, and will rise to the surface a lot faster, where the TV helicopters can see it. Better get that cap on quick!

... and I just notice that the Skandi Neptune "dispersant ops" ROV has started pumping out a *lot* more dispersant. Maybe BP figured this out too.

Quick back-of-the-envelope rate calculation of flow rate. The good news is, we can now see the oil+gas coming out "pure", and don't have to worry about mixing and entrainment with water. The flow right at the exit of the riser seems to rise 1 riser diameter in about 0.5-1.0 seconds. If the riser's 21 inches in diameter, that works out to a flow of OIL + GAS of 0.15-0.3 m^3/s. If that were all oil, that'd work out to 80,000-160,000 barrels a day! Last month we talked a lot about oil/gas ratios, amount of gas dissolved in the oil, etc. The flow seems to have much less gas in it than it used to, by my eye, but it's still quite possible that half or 2/3 of this is gas. So I'd say we could be anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 barrels a day at the moment.

Still, I did a similar calculation last month that guesstimated in the 15,000-30,000 bpd range. Lots of later calculations came out in the same ballpark. Now, I think I can safely say the flow is above that number.

12pm. Rate of flow/hour now?

11:39am: Close-up of the spewing well (video momentarily). Where are all those independent experts who originally claimed up to 100,000 barrels/day in congressional testimony, before the riser was removed?

11amET: Video and images below. Riser has finally been removed. Cut is ugly. It looks as though one interior pipe was clogged(?), possibly with "junk" from Friday (update: no, I think now that was an illusion), and they are continuing to spray carcinogenic, illegal and untested Corexit into the now simply monstrous plume, from about 100ft above. One commenter at TOD sez, "If they don't get this capped with something soon, I'll expect to be seeing oil up in Canada." It has never looked this bad, during the entire past month and a half. All eyes on BP now to follow through with its plan to siphon "the majority" of this, and on its promise to act quickly to remedy this situation they've now "succeeded" in making much worse before they can make it better....

9:31am: Man it is just pouring out of there...seen from roughly 100 feet above, where they are very clearly spraying dispersants, continuously:

9:20: Some video from an hour ago. They are currently doing an excellent job blocking any real view of the plume. Lots and lots of dispersants, looks like.

9:04am: Volcano is more like it. Jesus Christ. Someone at TOD sez:
watching this happen now, I'm having a really bad feeling about their chances of getting the LMRP cap on against this flow.

Despite the incredible skill of the operator, the ROV is flying blind, with a total blackout of oil across the lens except for the occasional glimpse of the BOP

I do wonder if maybe the kink was holding back the pressure much more than we all thought . . .

Someone else:

I think the battleship just got displaced from the cover of that bad ideas book.


7:40am ET: Here we go, finally...after much fumbling and jerry rigging all night long, apparently. The "plan" is to use the giant shear to cut the riser at the BOP, where the band saw previously got stuck less than 1/2 way through its cut (so they say). Oil is pouring out the cut and probably obscuring the vision of the (perhaps very tired) ROV operators. Looks like a goddamn inferno. This was probably the best comment at TOD, overnight, along with discussion about potentially fragile state of pipe below the BOP (as was found out when BP abandoned "junk shot" for fear of a blow-out beneath the sea bed):

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Meanwhile, on or just below the surface...

• BP is still on record denying underwater plumes, despite new evidence (better late than never!) collected by teams of scientists. Don't expect BP to pay for, or even be forced to acknowledge the vast majority of the spill, that which is still suspended in the water column (thanks to carcinogenic dispersants, so toxic they are banned in the UK) killing everything that feeds every creature in the ocean.

• Mac McClelland has been covering BP's outrageous and undemocratic clampdown on media coverage of the spill better than almost anybody else. How long will this behavior by BP be tolerated? Two months? Five?

• A decent New York Times summary from earlier today is here.