Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Stay Watchful

The Geminids are the last meteor shower of 2016, and you should be able to catch them between December 12 and December 15. The peak of the shower will be late at night on December 13 and early in the morning of December 14.

You’ll see the most meteors at around 2 a.m. local time, when the meteors radiate from directly overhead. The supermoon will also be visible, and even though the bright moon will make it harder to see the meteors, the Geminids are large enough that you should still be able to catch the brightest shooting stars.

Anybody going to be out there watching for meteors tonight?

(Our attempt this summer to see the Leonids shower was a major #FAIL, which ended with us & three wired little dogs stuck in a six-hour pre-dawn traffic tie-up, so I’m not even gonna mention this to the Spousal Unit… )

Speaking of immense fusterclucks, here’s a small piece of good news from The Resistance:


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Apart from scienterrific scienterrorism, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Open Thread: Trump’s Chosen Secretary-of-(Exxon)-State

From Ioffe’s Politico article:

It’s hard to imagine Tillerson publicly chiding Putin today because he is now so very dependent on that friendship. In 2011, he negotiated a multibillion-dollar deal between Exxon Mobil and Rosneft, the Russian state oil giant cobbled out of Khodorkovsky’s seized empire and run by Putin’s former KGB buddy, Igor Sechin. The deal would have allowed Exxon access to the Russian Arctic shelf—which, according to U.S. government estimates, is thought to contain some 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas deposits—in exchange for helping Rosneft, which didn’t have the technological capabilities, drill for the stuff.

In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine, seized the Crimean peninsula and started an insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, triggering a wave of American and European sanctions. But that summer, Tillerson thought it best to stay away from the St. Petersburg Economic Forum and instead sent his deputy, who, acting on behalf of Exxon Mobil, signed another energy deal with Rosneft and Sechin, who had ended up under sanctions…

… Russia had become an international pariah, and its economy—to say nothing of its rule of law or judiciary—was in shambles, but Western companies were bowing and scraping before a man who had just shocked the world by violating international law. Tillerson was at the head of that line. Instead of using their deep ties to Russia—by this point, it is said Tillerson had become buddies with Sechin—to push the Kremlin on the “rule of law” that had so bothered Tillerson six years prior, Russia’s new friends pushed on the White House. Shortly before sending his emissary to St. Petersburg to sign the deal, Tillerson told reporters in Texas that he was lobbying Washington against sanctions…

The lesson of Putin’s 16-year tenure is a lesson that all businesspeople, foreign and domestic, have learned: To do business in Russia, you have to be on good, personal terms with Putin and Sechin. And you have to understand that those two gatekeepers to Russia’s riches are fickle and sadistic, and, as former KGB operatives, know little of real friendship. To do business in Russia—both for Exxon Mobil and for Tillerson’s own massive retirement fund, whose fortunes would rise significantly if a Trump White House lifted sanctions—you have to dance to Putin’s tune, and take whatever favors and humiliations he sends your way. Putin may act a friend and pin state medals on your breast, but he is, ultimately, a cynic. And to play ball with him, you have to be a cynic, too. Forget your honor, your rule of law, your independent judiciary, your human rights, your international law, and focus on the gold coins he throws to your feet. And forget looking dignified as you gather them up.


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Breaking News — “No (DAPL) Pipeline?”

Goddess, I hope this isn’t another lie from “our” government…

The secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers has told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault that the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline will be denied.

The proposed route led to a protest encampment by the Standing Rock Sioux and other activists.

The 1,172-mile pipeline is nearly complete except for a small section beneath a Missouri River reservoir near the encampment, which is about 50 miles south of Bismarck.

Archambault cheered the decision in a statement Sunday.

“I am thankful there were some leaders in the feral government that realized something was not right even though its legal,” he said. “For the first time in hisopry native American, they heard our voices. This is something that will go down in history and is a blessing for all indigenous people.

I heard the army corp of engineers will not grant the easement and they will reroute.

I would say that it is over.”…

Story’s been picked up by the AP / Washington Post.

ETA:



Overnight Open Thread: Shocking!

Here’s an actual Tesla coil rifle to shock you awake on this early Sunday morning/late Saturday evening. If you want to build your own, the details are here. I’m going to bed, amuse yourselves!



It’s a beautiful day in Utah. Open Thread.

Doing some renovation on our house. There were relatively minor things wrong with it, with a couple of exceptions when we bought it, but it was a short sale so we got a very good deal on it.

Today, we’re moving a garage door opener from the big garage door to the small one. The opener on the big door is really undersized for the job, and even more so that the spring/counterbalance isn’t working. We’ll get that adjusted by a professional since everything we’ve read about adjusting or repairing it was essentially “YOU WILL DIE ARRRRRRRGH!” But in the meantime I can install the new, bigger one.
Fixed a couple of leaks, including a temporary repair until the spring, when we’ll pull the window in question and re-frame it. It wasn’t framed in properly and it’s 1/2 inch out of level/plumb, but for now it’s not leaking. It’s the window in the kitchen, so it puts off tiling the backsplash for now.  I didn’t figure out that it was out of plumb until I started layout lines for the backsplash and found it.  No way around it except to pull it and reframe it.
Getting ready to upgrade the main electrical panel and run some new circuits in the garage, basement, and the bonus room office. I can pull the wire and connect the outlets and even install breakers, but upgrading the panel itself needs doing by a professional for the same reason as above.  My challenges are nothing like John’s, though.
Landscaping–talked to the county extension office because I want to get the right plants in the right places and save water, and there’s a study going to start in the spring of some native grass/hybrid plantings. I volunteered for that. We’ll see how that goes.  We’re going to replace the water heater with a gas tankless heater next month, and we’re going to install solar panels on the roof as well.  There are a LOT of Green contractors here. People are very serious about this kind of thing here in this red state and there are a lot of state laws that support green building and renovation here.  It’s not like Oklahoma where the oil and gas interests run everything. Tourism is king here.
On the political side here in UT, this is what’s happening:
UT will NOT go for Clinton. It just isn’t going to happen. It MIGHT go to Evan McMullin (which would deny the EVs to Trump, which is almost as good) but I’m not holding my breath. Trump holds a steady 3-4pt lead over McMullin in the local polling, and local political reporters aren’t getting too excited. McMullin is pulling in the crowds, and he comes off as a clean-cut, reasonable person. That kind of thing is important here. The Mormons don’t like Trump, and McMullin is a nice alternative, but they REALLY dislike Clinton.  If it wasn’t for the fact that every single member of the UT delegation is a Republican, McMullin would have a strong chance at a House or Senate seat if he were to run and maybe he’ll primary somebody in a couple of years.  To get a feel for the Mormon mindset on politics, think of Mitt Romney. Handsome, articulate, not (overtly) a bomb-thrower, (appears) reasonable, etc.
The House campaigns are going about how one expects them. The UT3 has gotten particularly nasty but Mia Love will win. The Salt Lake Tribune “endorsed” her along the lines of “she’s useless and incompetent and probably corrupt, but the House is likely to stay Republican, so better to have an in with leadership than not.”  In the UT2, where I live, the race is between the incumbent Republican who makes a huge deal out of having been a B-1 Pilot in the Air Force and strong national defense.  The biggest single site employer in the district is the US Army, with Tooele Army Depot and Dougway Proving Ground.  His opponent is a Social Worker and Community Organizer whose main campaign thrust is about doing things for the people of the district like homeless shelters and increased access to healthcare–things the incumbent has ignored.  The Trib’s endorsement of the Republican incumbent in UT2 is essentially the same as the UT3 with the names changed.



Iraqi Oil Fields: Let Me Tell You a Story…

One of the major items that came out of last night’s Commander In Chief Town Hall on NBC/MSNBC was Donald Trump’s repeating his oft stated position that the US should have taken Iraq’s oil. I will leave the lively discussion of the logistics of this to others, and just briefly acknowledge that this would have been a war crime even for an officially UN recognized occupying power. What I really want to talk about about in regard to Iraqi oil is where Iraq’s oil is. Almost every map that I saw linked to, tweeted, posted, and/or referred to last night looked something like this:

iraq_oil_map

(Map 1: Iraq Oil Map)

There is only one problem with this map, and the similar ones that were shared/referred to last night: they’re incomplete! This is the accurate map of where Iraq’s oil actually is:

Iraqi_Oil_Exploration_Blocks

(Map 2: Iraq Oil Field Map with Exploration Blocks)

Interestingly enough Judicial Watch FOIAed Vice President Cheney’s Energy Working Group back in 2002 and before Vice President Cheney shut the release of records off this was one of the items released. I first heard about this map in 2003 or 2004 when Greg Palast was interviewed by Keith Olbermann.  Palast is a forensic accountant and had, himself, been looking into VP Cheney’s Energy Working Group. He came across the map as a result and eventually wrote the whole thing up as a chapter in his book Armed Madhouse.

But what’s really important about this map is its history. So let me tell you a story… In the early part of the 20th Century, around 1912 or so, a young Armenian citizen of the soon to be defunct Ottoman Empire was becoming a major player in the early petroleum industry. His name was Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, but he is better know as Mr. Five Percent. Gulbenkian basically established what would become the Iraqi petroleum sector – his fee/reward for doing so was a 5% stake, hence his nickname. The map above is a representation of the estimates of where Iraq’s oil was, updated to include where exploration has happened. But compare it to Map 1 – you’ll notice the exploratory blocks are missing. There’s a reason for that. And that, my friends, is where the story really gets interesting.

Gulbenkian got 5% and the Seven Sisters Oil Company and their early controlling interests, which would eventually evolve into OPEC, got 95% of the rights to exploration. This was all part of something called the Red Line Agreement and Map divvying up the Middle East’s oil. Part of the little known history is that a decision was made, based on the exploratory blocks in Map 2, to keep Iraq’s oil in the ground. Palast details this history in his book, but the decision was made to treat Iraq like a strategic oil reserve.

When my teammates and I were getting ready to deploy to Iraq, but before we left training and attached to our Brigade Combat Team (BCT), we went through three different initial cultural preps of the operating environment. This was because they kept moving where they were sending the BCT (third time was the charm!). Initially we were going to Salah al Din Province, near some of the denoted oil fields in Map 1. And this is where I started paying attention to Map 2 as something other than a curiosity. One of my research managers had found an expatriate Iraqi, now a US citizen, with PhDs in agricultural and civil engineering who had worked for Saddam Hussein as the lead on various projects, including some dealing with the petroleum sector. He ran afoul of Saddam, was imprisoned, then Saddam – being capricious – changed his mind and rehabilitated him. Our source, smartly, made plans to flee as soon as he could. And he did so successfully. He graciously agreed to meet with the team so we could pick his brain. One of the questions we were able to ask was about Map 2. Was it legit? Was the bulk of Iraq’s oil really along the western border with Saudi Arabia? Was the history of Mr. Five Percent accurate? Things like that. Our source informed us the map was accurate, that the Iraqi Oil Ministry had always known that the bulk of their reserves were along the western border, and that was not where any of the actual exploitation of the resources were being done. He also confirmed that the decision to use Iraq’s oil as a strategic reserve from before it was an independent state (and before there was an OPEC) was also correct and that OPEC did, indeed, limit Iraq and Iran to not producing more oil than the other in any given year. This last requirement was supposed to tamp down the historic rivalry, but seems to have made it worse.

Why is any of this important? Quite simply its because the actual bulk of Iraq’s oil is in the western areas of Iraq. Specifically in Anbar Province. The Sunni tribes, who first fought us, then allied with us after the Sawha/Awakenings, control Anbar. The other western provinces of Iraq – Najaf and Muthanna are primarily Shi’a – including the holy sites and religious academy in Najaf. The people of these three provinces are sitting on a (black) gold mine. Given that there is virtually no active exploitation in the exploratory blocks along Iraq’s western border, taking Iraq’s oil isn’t just a matter of putting the entire operational US Army on the ground to protect the petroleum workers that are going to pump it out and then the oil’s transport out of Iraq. It would require building an entire new set of extraction infrastructure in a hostile environment – both physically and societally hostile to such efforts. And that is provided Map 2, after 100 years, is still accurately indicating where Iraq’s oil is. An additional concern is that a lot of Iraqi oil is not suitable for gasoline production as it is not light sweet crude. Rather it has large amounts of sulfur and other compounds in it that make it expensive to convert to anything but heating/fuel oil. This is largely what the refinery at Baiji is producing when its running.



The Keystone Pipeline Is Dead. Thanks, President Obama!

Seriously, credit where due, per Mother Jones:

On Friday, President Obama announced his administration’s decision to reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after seven years of intense deliberation over the pipeline’s potential environmental risks. The announcement is widely viewed as a major victory for environmentalists and is sure to further burnish the president’s legacy in combating climate change…

Slate-pitch, yet true — “Obama Didn’t Kill Keystone XL, Innovation Did“:

… In reality, Obama and Kerry simply delivered the coup de grace to a long-wounded project. Yes, politics was part of it. But the effort to bring more oil from the Alberta tar sands wasn’t spiked because the method used to extract produces a lot of negative environmental effects—or, I should say, only because of that. Rather, the end of this effort to benefit from newish innovations in external fuel production (extracting liquid oil from gooey tar sands through the application of steams) comes as a result of some very different innovations in fuel production and consumption…
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