Daily Archive: March 15, 2013

Sad Tidings

Recently I’ve managed to find some stories with better news among the usual fare of crap that many transpeople face.  

I knew it couldn’t keep going like that.

So tonight we have hard news out of California and Maryland.

The toll?  One dead, two injured, and a state’s transgender population worth of others left endangered.

On the bright side today is payday…and unlike many other transpeople, I actually have one.

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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Join ek hornbeck later tonight for the start of the 2013 Formula One season with the qualifying rounds of the Australian Grand Prix and tomorrow morning at 11 AM EDT for the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Live Blog.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette

What’s Cooking for St. Patrick’s Day

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day but Saturday is the big parade in NYC. The tradition on the day is corned beef and cabbage with potatoes, so what to eat on parade day. The easy answer is go traditional with a stew. This beef stew made with Guiness Stout and topped with a Stilton laced pastry crust takes a little work but it is well worth the work.

Beef and Stout Pie with Stilton Crust

Ingredients:

   * 7 Tbs. olive oil

   * 1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered

   * 2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed

   * Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

   * 3 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

   * 1 cup all-purpose flour

   * 3 garlic cloves, minced

   * 2 Tbs. tomato paste

   * 2 1/2 cups Irish stout

   * 1 cup beef broth

   * 1 lb. carrots, cut into chunks

   * 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks

   * 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme

   * One 16-inch round Stilton pastry (recipe below)

   * 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

Directions:

In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. In the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup water to the pot, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl. Repeat the process 2 more times, using 2 Tbs. oil to brown each batch of beef and deglazing the pot with 1/2 cup water after each batch.

Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, stout, broth and reserved liquid, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 3 hours.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Stilton Pastry

Ingredients:

   * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

   * 2 tsp. salt

   * 1 Tbs. sugar

   * 16 Tbs. (2 sticks/250g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

   * 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

   * 4 oz. Stilton cheese, crumbled

Directions:

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse until blended, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and roll out into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese over half of the dough, then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll out the dough into a 16 1/2-inch square. Using a paring knife, trim the dough into a 16-inch round.

Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 10 minutes, then lay the dough on top of the beef and stout pie and bake as directed in that recipe. Makes enough dough for a 16-inch round.

Brush the rim of the pot with water. Lay the pastry round on top, allowing it to droop onto the filling. Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and crimp to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, then cut 4 slits in the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the potpie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

Erin Go Bragh!

Shell Shocked

Well, maybe not them but I certainly am.  The U.S. Government is finally showing signs of regulating Arctic drilling.  In a blistering report Secretary of the Interior Salazar has forced Shell to resubmit plans for Arctic Ocean oil exploration before they’re allowed to start again, further putting into question the profits to a company that has had to cancel the 2013 season already due to catastrophic equipment failure.

When last I wrote 2 of their 4 main pieces of equipment were on a slow boat to South Korea and one had been crushed like a bug.

In recent developments-

Shell barred from returning to drill for oil in Arctic without overhaul

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Thursday 14 March 2013 20.13 EDT

Shell “screwed up” drilling for oil in Arctic waters and will not be allowed back without a comprehensive overhaul of its plans, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

A government review found the oil company was not prepared for the extreme conditions in the Arctic, which resulted in a series of blunders and accidents culminating in the New Year’s Eve grounding of its drill rig.

Shell announced a “pause” in Arctic drilling last month. But Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told a reporters’ conference call that the company will not be allowed to return without producing a much more detailed plan, one tailored specifically to the harsh Arctic conditions.

“Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place,” said Salazar, in one of his last acts before standing down as interior secretary. “It’s that plain and simple.”

The findings of the review could mean further costs and delays for Shell, which has spent years and $4.5bn securing permits to drill in Arctic waters.

Salazar on Arctic drilling: ‘Shell screwed up in 2012’

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

March 14, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

“Shell screwed up in 2012, and we’re not going to let them screw up whenever they [resume] … unless they have these systems in place,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said after a new report found that Shell’s contractors were repeatedly ill-prepared to meet the demands of operating in the harsh Arctic environment.

“Before Shell is allowed to move forward, they’re going to have to show to the Department of Interior that they have met the standards that have been required,” Salazar said.

Although Shell has spent nearly $5 billion preparing to drill in the oil and gas-rich Chukchi and Beaufort seas – the most promising oil reserves in the U.S., outside the Gulf of Mexico – the company was unable to fully drill a single well during its initial season.



Salazar said the company would be required to submit a comprehensive plan describing each phase of its operations, from preparations through demobilization. The department will also require a full, third-party management system audit to ensure the company’s systems are “appropriately tailored for Arctic conditions.”

Report says Shell unprepared for Arctic drilling

AP

Posted on March 14, 2013

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the 30-page report, calling it insufficient despite recognizing Shell’s failings as unacceptable. The groups also knocked the Interior Department for failing to take responsibility for letting a company that was not ready for the challenges it met proceed in the first place.

“By and large, the review told us two things we already knew: Companies are woefully unprepared for the remote and unforgiving Alaskan waters, and our government improperly awarded Shell approvals to operate there,” Susan Murray, Oceana’s Pacific deputy vice president, said in a statement. “The Arctic Ocean is unique and important. Americans deserve better care and stewardship than oil companies or the government have provided.”



Shell spent $2.1 billion on petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea in 2008 and estimates that it has spent $5 billion on Arctic drilling. The company contends that it can drill safely. Its two drill ships completed top-hole drilling on two wells last year, but the company was bedeviled by problems.

The company’s spill response plan required that a response barge arrive on site before drill bits dug into petroleum-bearing zones. That never happened. A containment dome, a key piece of equipment, was damaged in testing off the Washington coast.

Seasonal ice in the Chukchi Sea delayed Shell vessels from moving north. When Chukchi drilling began in September, a major ice floe forced Shell’s drill ship off a prospect less than 24 hours later.

When the drilling season ended, the Coast Guard announced that it had found 16 safety violations on the Noble Discoverer, which drilled in the Chukchi, when it docked in Seward, Alaska. The Coast Guard has turned over its investigation of the vessel to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The problems crested in late December when the drill vessel Kulluk, a circular barge with a diameter as long as nearly three basketball courts, broke away from its towing vessel on its way to a shipyard in Washington state.

It ran aground off a remote Alaska Island near Kodiak Island and requires repairs.

Interior Dept. Warns Shell on Arctic Drilling

By JOHN M. BRODER, The New York Times

Published: March 14, 2013

The Interior Department conducted an urgent review of Shell’s operations after a disastrous 2012 drilling season notable for ship groundings, environmental and safety violations, the failure of a spill-containment system, weather delays and other mishaps.

The review, completed last week, concluded that Shell had failed in a wide range of basic operational tasks, like supervision of contractors that performed critical work, including towing one of the company’s two drilling rigs. That rig, the Kulluk, ran aground on Sitkalidak Island in Alaska on New Year’s Eve and is now headed to Asia for extensive repairs. No oil was spilled and there were no serious injuries.

The report was harshly critical of Shell management, which has acknowledged that it was unprepared for the problems it encountered operating in the unforgiving Arctic environment. The report did not single out individual managers.

The 32-page study also faulted government agencies, including the Interior Department and the Coast Guard, for failing to anticipate some of the problems Shell faced, including accidents involving both drilling rigs as they traveled to and from drill sites in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

“Government still has a lot to learn,” said Mr. Salazar, who will soon step down and is expected to be replaced by President Obama’s nominee, Sally Jewell, chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc. in Seattle. “The Arctic is a very difficult environment to operate in. Shell is one of the most resource-capable companies in the world and it still encountered a whole host of problems trying to operate up there.”

“It doesn’t mean that exploration cannot continue,” Mr. Salazar said. “But I think the cardinal lesson is that moving forward on any Arctic exploration needs the comprehensive integration we attempted to bring to last summer and will attempt to do an even better job of in the future.”

Cartnoon

On This Day In History March 15

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 15 is the 74th day of the year (75th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 291 days remaining until the end of the year.

In the Roman calendar, March 15 was known as the Ides of March.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.

Using the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from African-American leaders struggling for equal rights, Johnson declared that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.” Johnson reminded the nation that the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War, gave all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color. But states had defied the Constitution and erected barriers. Discrimination had taken the form of literacy, knowledge or character tests administered solely to African-Americans to keep them from registering to vote.

“Their cause must be our cause too,” Johnson said. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

The speech was delivered eight days after racial violence erupted in Selma, Alabama. Civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King and over 500 supporters were attacked while planning a march to Montgomery to register African-Americans to vote. The police violence that erupted resulted in the death of a King supporter, a white Unitarian Minister from Boston named James J. Reeb. Television news coverage of the event galvanized voting rights supporters in Congress.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973 – 1973aa-6 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.

Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African-Americans from exercising the franchise The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.

The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called “covered jurisdictions”) could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance. These enforcement provisions applied to states and political subdivisions (mostly in the South) that had used a “device” to limit voting and in which less than 50 percent of the population was registered to vote in 1964. The Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.

The Act is widely considered a landmark in civil-rights legislation, though some of its provisions have sparked political controversy. During the debate over the 2006 extension, some Republican members of Congress objected to renewing the preclearance requirement (the Act’s primary enforcement provision), arguing that it represents an overreach of federal power and places unwarranted bureaucratic demands on Southern states that have long since abandoned the discriminatory practices the Act was meant to eradicate. Conservative legislators also opposed requiring states with large Spanish-speaking populations to provide bilingual ballots. Congress nonetheless voted to extend the Act for twenty-five years with its original enforcement provisions left intact.

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Triple 24

Late Night Karaoke

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Ain’t Reformed

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Here we are again, talking about filibuster reform. Despite the insistence of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it ain’t fixed by any stretch of your imagination. It wasn’t Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his 13 hour filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination that set this off but the blocking of a qualified appointments by using the same cloture tactic that has been applied to stop nearly everything productive out of the Senate. The Democratic leadership has no one to blame but themselves and now they are scrambling to fix this disaster.

Top Democrats Badly Blew It on the Filibuster

by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Huffington Post

Supposedly, the saving grace in all this is that in 2014 and beyond, Democrats might lose their majority in the Senate to the GOP and then they’ll need the filibuster as their weapon to hold the GOP in check from riding roughshod over the Obama administration in getting its legislative initiatives through. But this is all guesswork and sophistry in trying to predict the future. The reality is that in the two years that the Democrats hold their Senate majority until January 2015 there will be countless numbers of presidential nominations that need to be approved, and crucial legislation from budget bills to immigration reform proposals that the Obama administration and Democrats will be pushing. And even if the GOP does take majority control of the Senate in January 2015, there’s absolutely no guarantee that it won’t simply rewrite the rules to do what Reid didn’t do, and that’s sharply limit how and when the filibuster can be used. The loser would still be the Democrats, because that’s who the GOP would target. [..]

In the meantime, the filibuster with all of its terrifying potential to delay or style effective legislation and the confirmation of Obama nominees that have been trapped in limbo for months, even years, remains in full play. Here’s a final stat to drive home just how terrifying and damaging it has been. Since 2007, according to the Senate Historical Office, Democrats have had to end Republican filibusters more than 360 times. That is a record. With Obama in the White House for three more years, the GOP, thanks to the failure of top Democrat’s to do something about it, may even break that record.

Senate Dems Weigh Consequences For GOP Filibusters Of Key Nominees

by Brain Beutler, Talking Points Memo

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed. [..]

The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session. But they are occurring in the wake of a series of GOP filibusters of top nominees, including a cabinet secretary (Chuck Hagel), the CIA director (John Brennan), and a federal judicial nominee (Caitlin Halligan) whom Republicans have effectively blocked from confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for years.

Elizabeth Warren Slams Republicans For Filibustering Consumer Protection Agency Chief

by Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo

“From the way I see how other agencies are treated, I see nothing here but a filibuster threat against Director Cordray as an attempt to weaken the consumer agency,” she said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the CFPB nomination. “I think the delay in getting him confirmed is bad for consumers, it’s bad for small banks, it’s bad for credit unions, it’s bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.

“The American people,” Warren said, “deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on credit records.” [..]

“What I want to know is why, since the 1800s, have there been agencies all over Washington with a single director, including the OCC, but unlike the consumer agency, no one in the U.S. Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that the agency be redesigned,” Warren said.

“What I want to know is why every banking regulator since the Civil War has been funded outside the appropriations process but unlike the consumer agency no one in the United States Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that that agency or those agencies be redesigned.”

Now the president decides to get involved.

Obama To Senate Dems: We Need Solution To GOP’s Confirmation Filibusters

by Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo

n a closed door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, President Obama expressed his frustration with Republican slow-walking and filibustering of key nominees, and urged them to address the issue, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. [.]

The White House official said Obama “made it clear that it was a priority – particularly with judges and asked for more help identifying nominees and getting them passed.”

Though some of his supporters complain the administration has been slow to name people to fill judicial vacancies, Republicans have blocked or slow-walked the confirmation many of the people he has nominated.

Pres. Obama may may have another motivation to push for filibuster reform with the threats from Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to filibuster any cuts to entitlements.