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Archive for September 5th, 2021

Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire

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Daniel Bogusaw reports in The Intercept:

In the early hours of August 11, the Senate voted to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that would mark the nation’s most significant investment in the fight against climate change ever undertaken in the United States. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., cast the tie-breaking vote.

The resolution’s approval kicked off a legislative process likely to last months, all of it hinging on Manchin’s continued support. Not long after casting his vote, he issued a public statement warning the bill’s backers not to take him for granted.

“Adding trillions of dollars more to nearly $29 trillion of national debt, without any consideration of the negative effects on our children and grandchildren, is one of those decisions that has become far too easy in Washington,” Manchin said. The month prior, he had specified that some of the climate-related provisions were “very, very disturbing.”

“If you’re sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking that’s going to clean up the global climate, it won’t clean it up all,” Manchin told CNN after a private meeting with President Joe Biden and his fellow Senate Democrats. “If anything, it would be worse.”

Manchin’s claim that climate pollution would be worsened by the elimination of fossil fuels — or by the resolution’s actual, more incremental climate provisions — is highly dubious, if not outright false. What would unquestionably be impacted, however, is Manchin’s own personal wealth.

Though Manchin’s motivations are often ascribed to the conservative, coal-friendly politics of West Virginia, it is also the case that the state’s senior senator is heavily invested in the industry — and owes much of his considerable fortune to it.

For decades, Manchin has profited from a series of coal companies that he founded during the 1980s. His son, Joe Manchin IV, has since assumed leadership roles in the firms, and the senator says his ownership is held in a blind trust. Yet between the time he joined the Senate and today, Manchin has personally grossed more than $4.5 million from those firms, according to financial disclosures. He also holds stock options in Enersystems Inc., the larger of the two firms, valued between $1 and $5 million.

Those two companies are Enersystems Inc. and Farmington Resources Inc., the latter of which was created by the rapid merging of two other firms, Manchin’s Transcon and Farmington Energy in 2005. Enersystems purchases low-quality waste coal from mines and resells it to power plants as fuel, while Farmington Resources provides “support activities for mining” and holds coal reserves in the Fairmont area. Over the decades, whether feeding tens of thousands of tons of dirty waste coal into the power plants in northern West Virginia or subjecting workers to unsafe conditions, Manchin’s family coal business has almost entirely avoided public scrutiny.

Manchin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In 1987, the man who is now the senior senator from West Virginia chose his hometown as the fulcrum for his enterprise. He and his brothers centered their business dealings near Farmington, where their grandfather served as mayor, and established headquarters for Enersystems and Farmington Resources in the nearby city of Fairmont, on the banks of the Monongahela River. Manchin’s brokerage firm has failed to attract the same attention as the scalped mountains and blackened tap water in the southeast region of the state, where mountaintop removal mining has radically altered the once pristine landscape. But in the northern political enclave of Marion County, Manchin’s businesses are fueling environmental degradation and impacting public health with severe consequences.

Farmington is surrounded by some of West Virginia’s oldest mines, dirtiest power plants, and sprawling coal ash dumping grounds. Through these operations Manchin receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue every year.

For the first time, a Type Investigations and Intercept analysis of public records reveals the impact of Manchin’s coal firms. For decades, they have relied on mines and refuse piles cited for dozens of Mine Safety and Health Agency violations, multiple deaths, and wastewater discharging that has poisoned tributaries feeding into the Monongahela River, as hundreds of thousands of tons of carcinogenic coal ash are dumped across Marion County.

While Manchin does not own the mines, refuse piles, and power plants that have polluted Marion County, he continues to reap their financial rewards. In tracing the life cycle of Manchin’s coal, from its origin at refuse sites, to the looming plants it powers, down into the water and soil of northern West Virginia, the steep and complex cost of Manchin’s empire begins to take shape.

Deadly Work

Outside Fairmont in Barrackville, West Virginia, the Barrackville mine lies buried in the ridge rising over an outcropping of abandoned buildings in what was once the town’s bustling mining camp. In 1925, 33 miners lost their lives to a gas explosion in a mine that once supplied coal to the forges of Bethlehem Steel. As of 2019, when the latest comprehensive data was released by the Energy Information Administration, the refuse piles of low-quality coal those miners left behind serve as the second-largest coal source for Manchin’s Enersystems. (The firm moves less coal than the giants of the industry but still sold well over half a million tons from the site between 2008 and 2019.) The dangers of the Barrackville mine didn’t end with the 1925 explosion. Since 2000, the Barrackville site has been cited for five accidents and one death, when a heavy machinery operator was crushed by a bulldozer.

Over the past two decades, the Barrackville refuse pile was cited and fined for more than 30 safety violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. The charges include unsafe equipment, unsafe material storage, dangerous lack of lighting, unsafe brakes, failure to adequately inspect electrical equipment, failure to maintain automatic warning devices, unsafe vehicle storage, failure to complete daily safety inspections, failure to mark hazardous chemicals, failure to maintain miner training records, and failure to adequately train miners.

North of Barrackville, on the banks of the Monongahela River, is Enersystems’ largest supplier of waste coal as of 2019, the Humphrey No.7 mine, where over 40 safety violations have been recorded with the MSHA since 2000. These include  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 4:29 pm

Soup with Lacinato kale, white bean, and Calabrian pepper paste

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I’m making this soup again, but this time I’ll use regular shallots (as called for in the original recipe), but instead of ‘nduja, I’ll use Calabrian pepper paste. Calabrian peppers are what give ‘nduja its color and taste, so it should work fine as a substitute. I’ll update this post along the way. I’m following more closely the original recipe, except I did add some marjoram and basil, as much for the antioxidant value as the taste. No tomatoes, though I did include 1 cup cooked oat groats.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 2:13 pm

Cultured Carrot Cake in a jar

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Right after all added to jar.

So today I made this recipe from Cultured Food Life:

2 cups carrots, shredded
2 whole apples, shredded – [I went for 2 cups of shredded apples, and the 2 apples I had did the job – LG]
4 whole dates, chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon Cutting Edge Cultures

Instead of the culture, I’m using about 1 cup of juice from sauerkraut from the refrigerated section (i.e., unpasteurized sauerkraut in which the culture is still living).

You can read the remaining instructions at the link, but basically you mix althat well in a bowl, and put into into a quart wide-mouth jar. A canning funnel is a big help for that. Cover the jar in a way that keeps air out but lets gas escape, and let it ferment for a few days. I’m using a canning jar and I’ll put a small weight on the lid. That will hold it down to keep air out, and as pressure builds up the jar, the gas can burp out.

UPDATE: During the night after I packed the jar full and set it on the counter to ferment, it occurred to me that the carrots and apples would likely expand, causing some overflow. I therefore put the jar in a bowl, and this morning around noon I did find liquid in the bowl. I tasted it, and it does indeed taste like carrot cake.

A process like this fermentation roughly follows an exponential curve: initially very little visible activity, but then things speed up. I expect that tomorrow (the second day of fermentation), fermentation will be visible, and certainly on the third day I will see activity. 

So far, so good. /update

UPDATE 2: It’s extremely tasty. I thought it would be sour (like sauerkraut), but it’s just somewhat tart. I’m definitely making this again, and I think I’ll try using a packaged starter culture. And I’ll also try these airlock fermentation lids. (I didn’t want to buy supplies until I knew whether I liked it.) /update

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 1:56 pm

Sports hooligans in Constantinope, 532 CE

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The ruins of the Hippodrome, Onofrio Panvino, 1580.

Sports hooliganism has an long if not illustrious history. Dan Billingham writes in Antigone:

Constantinople’s Nika Riots of 532 may seem like a dark precursor to the so-called Dark Ages of the early medieval period. A tempting assumption to make is that a bout of collective madness and lack of societal restraint caused the grumbles of chariot-racing fans to escalate to the point of laying waste to large parts of the city and thousands dying. Sixth-century Constantinople was far from a place of anarchy, however. It was one of the most sophisticated cities on the planet, with a social order underpinned by a vast legal code. The Nika Riots were, in fact, more ofa sudden social implosion fuelled by mismanagement from an earnest emperor trying to do his best but failing disastrously.

Around a century after the Nika Riots, the sport of chariot racing was in terminal decline. That was anything but inevitable. It had already enjoyed a key cultural role in the ancient world for over a millennium. Its glorious era at Rome’s Circus Maximus was transported to the hippodrome of Constantinople, where it enjoyed several more centuries in the limelight.

Chariot-racing fans were, well, fanatical. Packing the great arenas to cheer on their favourite faction (team) was just one part of it. Merchandise such as statuettes of famous charioteers were popular, and curse tablets have been discovered on which fans would implore gods to wreak all manner of injustice and havoc on an opposition faction. Idolatry was granted to the brave charioteers, along with money that is staggering even in comparison to the earnings of modern sportspeople. 

This level of enduring fanaticism makes the poet Juvenal’s infamous line that the people “anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses” totally understandable. The popularity of chariot racing was so extreme, however, that it would be wrong to think cynical emperors were merely orchestrating spectacles for an intellectually vacant populace. Emperors mostly sought to harness for their own benefit a powerful popular interest in the sport – an exercise which, as Justinian showed in 532, could go disastrously wrong too.

Violence would appear to be a natural consequence of such fanaticism. This wasn’t noted to be a major problem at Rome’s Circus Maximus. Casual violence began to become more associated with chariot racing from the fourth century, however, and continued as Constantinople assumed Rome’s mantle. By the late fifth century, gangs formed within groups of fans that resemble modern-day football ultras. Several high-profile riots occurred during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius (491–518). The toll of several of these events was significant, with around 3,000 fans of the Blue faction killed in an ambush from fans of the Green faction in 501, but still there had been nothing quite on the scale of the Nika Riots.

Their potential for organised violence made chariot-racing factions a force to be reckoned with. How this force played into Byzantine politics is subject to scholarly debate. In his 1976 work Circus Factions, Alan Cameron dismissed earlier suggestions that the factions were aligned with different social groups or followed the religious divides of the era. He saw them as a social ill akin to modern-day football hooliganism with limited political impact.

The sociopolitical identity behind and between the factions does appear to have been muddled, but perhaps this is because the factions were too big even to fit within major social or religious fault lines. Blue was blue and Green was green. How people could declare allegiance to a colour is baffling for historians used to hunting for clear social explanations, but the popularity of the sport was such that people were generally confronted with that choice. Green supporters were accused of being Jews, Samaritans and blasphemers by an envoy of Justinian in the hippodrome in the build-up to the Nika Riots. That they walked out en masse in disgust at these accusations shows they identified as none of these.

Choosing which faction to side with became a major political decision for emperors. The varied conclusions they came to supports the idea  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And see also the Wikipedia article.

Mosaic of the Reds, 3rd-century AD Rome (National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid).

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 12:30 pm

Tools for better thinking

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An excellent collection of various tools and approaches to thinking, both analytically and creatively, which you can filter by “systems thinking,” “decision making,” and “problem solving.”

And it includes a guide to help choose the right tool:

When you find yourself in front of a problem, decision or a system, you can ask yourself these prompt questions. They will point you to the right tool for you.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 10:16 am

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