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Late Night: Reflections on Halloween

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 8:00 pm

When I was a little kid in San Antonio in the 1960′s, Halloween was a huge holiday. Scores of kids would dress up in costumes, walk around local neighborhood blocks, and trick or treat, with the emphasis always on the treat part. Just about everybody participated, and those who didn’t were thought of as antisocial tightwads, too cheap to give candy to the kids.

After the kids got home, many adults would pawn them off on babysitters who had to endure sugar-high kids while they went to costumed Halloween parties where alcohol and all kinds of food flowed freely. Many took off work the next day if it was a weekday. Then, in the 1970′s, at least in Texas, things began to change.

Southern Baptist and Pentecostal ministers railed against “The Devil’s Holiday,” fueled by reaction to New Age paganism and movies showing that the Devil might just be real, such as The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Omen. Wild rumors circulated about evil people putting razor blades in apples and poisoning candy. There were a couple of such incidents nationwide, but really few and far between, and always between family members, not between strangers. But much of the media jumped on board, whipping up fear for higher ratings and newspaper sales.

By the time Reagan took office, in my part of the world back then Halloween was essentially dead. Fewer and fewer people displayed any Halloween decorations, and fewer and fewer kids went trick-or-treating. A couple of weeks before Halloween, solemn local newscasters would start warning of the dangers of allowing one’s children to trick-or-treat. It was sad. Years later, I moved to Colorado and found much the same thing going on there and more. Once church in Arvada even went so far as to have a haunted house where they graphically pantomimed abortions and the Devil gleefully waiting in hell to torment women who had them for All Eternity. I understand that eventually Children’s Services got it shut down because they found the Bible-thumping parents who dragged their kids to it every year guilty of psychological child abuse.

Then we moved to northeast Ohio. Halloween’s HUGE here. Weather permitting, hordes of kids flock through the streets trick-or-treating and there are Halloween parties all over the place. It’s great fun, like it should be, IMHO. Maybe it’s Ohioans’ love of celebrating seasons, or of feasting, or both. Maybe it’s something cultural. Whatever, I like it. I have yet to see any fearmongering on local news, or hear many  Christian types railing against Halloween because it’s the Devil’s Holiday, though there is a smidgeon of the latter. Most people here dismiss them as being handicapped by having no sense of fun.

There are haunted cornfields and mazes in the country. There are haunted houses aplenty, complete with costumed folks brandishing chainsaws. There are lots of parties. It’s nice to see what was probably once a Celtic harvest festival with deep religious meaning millennia ago still living on, no matter what form it takes. For that matter, there are real, live pagans and Wiccans here who try to celebrate old Samhain in their best approximation of the ancient rites. There’s ceremony and music and dancing and a lot of fun.

It’s a pity that there are still plenty of people in this country who take after the Puritans and try to ban what is for most just a chance to have some fun, eat some sweets, and maybe swill a bit o’ brew. Funny, you never see them call for a boycott of commercialized Christmas.

Anyway, Happy Halloween! I just finished carving my now traditional Vampire Jack o’ Lantern. Gives the little kids a fun fright, it does. What do you do for Halloween?

A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World: 30 Oct 2014

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 6:45 pm

A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World:

*US.  Fracking has resulted in the “highest level in at least three decades” of US crude oil production, with  379.7 million barrels of oil now stored.  An industry spokesperson, however, said, while they’re “still optimistic about shale growth”,  2014 is likely to be a peak year.

*US.  Scientists have found about 30% (roughly 2 million barrels) of the oil BP’s Macondo Well blowout spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.  Much of the oil is southwest of the well, deep down on the sea floor.  Maps and pics. More.  A recent BP pr effort.

*US.  “The Great Invisible”, a film documentary, records the impacts of BP’s blowout on regular folks along the Gulf.  BP did provide compensation to 100,000+ residents, “but hundreds of thousands of others were refused any compensation.”

*US.  BP and Chevron have struck oil “at a key exploration site in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.  This is BP’s second major discovery in the deepwater Gulf since the 2010 oil spill.”

*AR/CO/PA/OH/WY.  According to a University of Albany-State University of New York study, 8 “poisonous chemicals were found near wells and fracking sites” in AR, CO, PA, OH and WY at levels that far exceeded recommended federal limits.”  Gases included benzene and hydrogen sulfide.  One site’s benzene levels were “Five orders of magnitude over federal limits”.

*AK.  Fellow followed a bull moose walking across his property, only to discover “the deepening piles of ashy cement powder coating the trees and running off into a gravel pit”.  Workers from fracking company Baker Hughes had  dumped what remained of cement mixtures into the woods, reportedly including “a foul-smelling, oily liquid”.

*CA. Drill now, deal with the consequences later”—that has led one man, a former military and aerospace engineer, to run for the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.  Pivotal time, since frackers are trying to get permits from the US Bureau of Land Management to exploit the San Ardo Oil Field, which lies underneath much of “America’s Salad Bowl”.

*CA.  Chevron reportedly  ”greases local elections with [a geyser of] dark money”, including the elections in Richmond.

*CA.  Also up against big oil and gas, Santa Barbara backers of Measure P, designed to protect the county from “under-regulated” fracking, continue their fight.

*CO.  See UT & CO.

*MT.  “Tribal chiefs and leaders” of the Blackfoot Confederacy (one tribe from Montana, three from  Canada) issued a “joint proclamation insisting that the U.S. Department of Interior cancel . . . illegal oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area”.  They also want Interior to “vigorously defend” against a developer’s lawsuit and to establish, with the Blackfeet Nation, protections for Badger-Two Medicine.  (Just three paragraphs down for Badger-Two Medicine info.)

*ND.  A measure on the November ballot would “divert 5% of future oil revenue to fund clean-water projects, wildlife preservation and parks.”  Backed by conservationists and hunters, it’s opposed by the “agriculture industry, oil producers, education groups, builders and business organizations.”

*OH.  Good grief! 400 families evacuated after a natural-gas fracking well blew out in Jefferson County, “spewing natural gas and methane into the air.”

*PA.  A first-term state Congressman, Matt Cartwright (D), has reportedly “just launched an investigation into how his state deals with fracking waste”!

*SD. Keystone XL pipeline opponents in Nebraska will be given “intervenor status” before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission—but “All evidence and testimony must pertain to the project in South Dakota only”.  TransCanada, Keystone XL’s builder, objected, but lost.  Many fear contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer which underlies eight states (see map).

*TX.  Denton has become a major hot spot with a fracking ban on the ballot.  It’s atop the Barnett Shale, and “money has been pouring into Denton from oil and gas companies anxious to stop [the ban] before it spreads to other towns.”

*TX.  Another grassroots effort, this one in Mansfield, to restrict fracking by “enhanced regulation at fracking sites within city limits”, such as imposing a limit of 1500 feet from homes or schools, rather than the 600 feet currently in the city ordinance.

*TX.  Superior Crude Gathering will be paying $1.6 million for “at least 2,200 barrels from two tanks at its facility” that spilled in Ingleside  in 2010.  That’s a civil penalty; the payment will become part of the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

In Leak Prosecution, Attorneys Demand to Know if Government Has “Agreement” with Reporter James Risen

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 5:30 pm

Attorneys for former CIA officer and whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling are demanding evidence of any “understandings” or “agreements” between the United States and James Risen, a New York Times reporter, for testimony in the case.

The demand comes after Attorney General Eric Holder made comments yesterday at the Washington Ideas Forum about whistleblowers and whether the administration would be willing to put a reporter in jail if they refused to comply with a subpoena and provide compelled testimony.

Israeli Official Hits Back At US After “Chickenshit” Comment, Sweden Recognizes Palestine As State

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 4:17 pm

So much for cooler heads prevailing. In response to a story where an anonymous Obama Administration official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “chickenshit”, an Israeli official has gone on the record to trash the United States under President Obama. Moshe Feiglin, one of the Deputy Speakers of the Knesset and head of the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the ruling Likud Party, said if President Obama did not “distance himself” from the negative comment about Netanyahu the US will become a third world country.

Feiglin represents the ascendent right wing of Israeli politics that is quickly gaining power more and more power. The real threat to Netanyahu’s leadership is from his right flank.

A Week Out, Things Are Looking Bad for Democrats

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 3:01 pm

The election indicators are looking bad for Democrats. The only real solace for them is they are at least not historically bad. According to Gallup, Democrats hold only a small affiliation edge among adults, which normally translates into a big loss because the people who actually turn out to vote in a midterm election tend to be significantly more conservative than the population as a whole.

Pentagon Overpaid Supplier With Exclusive Contract by as Much As 85%

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 1:46 pm

In honor of tomorrow being Halloween here is another horror story from the black hole of Pentagon financing. According to a report by Department of Defense’s Inspector General, the Defense Logistics Agency exceeded their prices targets by as much as 85% when servicing a contract from a vendor who had exclusive rights to provide replacement aircraft parts.

The contract for replacement aircraft parts was with Ontic Engineering a unit of BBA Aviation Plc.

People-Powered Reporting In Action: Jon Walker Testifies at DC City Council, Thanks to You

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 12:30 pm

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We are grateful for your support, you keep us operating.

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Did US Government Invoke “State Secrets” in Defamation Case Because Anti-Iran Organization Is Engaged in Graymail?

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 11:04 am

Attorneys for a business owner, who claims his company, Enterprises Shipping and Trading SA, was defamed by an anti-Iran advocacy group, are imploring a federal judge to not allow the United States government to invoke the state secrets privilege without making their reasons for doing so public. They suggest to the judge that the organization may be engaged in graymail.

Wall Street Banks Already Breaking Law Again, Violating Settlements With Prosecutors

By: Thursday October 30, 2014 9:46 am

Brace yourself for an epic shock – Wall Street is breaking the law again.

After a couple of years of questionable compliance with legal settlements the banksters are now straight up violating the terms of the deals prosecutors and regulators struck as an alternative to criminal charges. Apparently, as has been argued by everyone not dim or bought, settlements do not work to stop criminal behavior. Something prosecutors seem genuinely surprised by as they are having to reopen old settlements because the banks are back to their old tricks.

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