Monday, February 28, 2011

NYC Demonstrations Sunday

Sunday saw two demonstrations in downtown NYC, one in support of Wisconsin public unions, the other in support of Planned Parenthood.  I post a few photographs from them:

Sign on back reads: "Support Union Rights--United We Bargain, Divided We Beg"

Sign on right reads:  "My Vagina Is Mad As Hell, and She's Not Going To Take It Anymore"

Sign in background reads:  "There would be fewer abortions if Congress stopped Screwing Us"

Sign in center midground reads:  "Why are Republicans such Dicks?"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Thoughts in brief

I'll be brief, as I must wake up in 5 hours to play tennis, so two questions on tonight's Oscar Ceremony.

1).  Who put out the word (and so effectively) that there should be no silly or ugly women's dresses?  One dress after the next tonight was elegant and tasteful.  Amazing, and quite wonderful.

2).  The Oscars are a big, annual event, as is the Superbowl.  Every year, corporations put out TV ads made especially for Superbowl night; most of those ads are puerile and almost all of the beer ads seem to have been brainstormed by College sophomores late on a Friday night from their fraternity keg room.  These are almost always a let-down, especially after all the hype.

Now for my question:  Why don't we have special ads for Oscar night?  Why not give the nation's more sensible, adult ad writers a chance to strut their stuff?  All the Oscar ads tonight were in good taste, but we also have seen them all before.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

May the Force Be in Wisconsin

Just sent this message to the protesting citizens in Wisconsin, and others may wish to as well:  if so, go to:

Don’t miss your opportunity to tell the workers of Wisconsin that you support them. (AmericansUnited)

You citizens of Wisconsin are the proverbial finger in the Dike.  

You are holding back the floods of a right-wing-driven, anti-democratic, America-destroying  Oligarchy.

I am 70 years old, and until now I never have been afraid for my country.  Now I am scared stiff; this may be the year in which America becomes something (much) less than a Democracy.

You are fighting for all of us and, to paraphrase Star Wars, may the force be with you.

Thank you, for every sane and thoughtful citizen of our country.

Tyko Kihlstedt

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wisconsin and the Fate of American Democracy

Had Democratic legislators not fled the state yesterday to deny a quorum in the House, a GOP sponsored bill would have stripped Wisconsin’s public unions of their collective bargaining rights as well as have asked them to pay a greater amount for their pension and health care costs.  Besides losing their bargaining rights, state employees also would be required to hold annual elections in order to keep their organizations intact and could no longer have their union dues deducted from state paychecks. Talk about government meddling, something Republicans normally rail against!
These new regulations would apply to all state workers except for the police, firefighters and state troopers. If there is a difference between all the other public union employees (such as teachers) and those in public safety (such as police), it is that the latter can retire at age 50 and often pad their work hours in the last year before retirement in order to retire on 120% of their usual income.  Teachers and other public employees do not have such lucrative opportunities. 
So, why is the Republican Governor Scott Walker and the majority Republican House of Wisconsin exempting the public safety employees from their onerous legislation?  Because the police (and state troopers and firemen) tend to vote Republican while the teachers (and most other public servants) are more likely to vote Democratic.
This is a very small piece of a large, carefully orchestrated (and nation-wide) Republican operation to totally destroy the Democratic Party and to create what Karl Rove boasted about a decade ago:  A Permanent Republican Majority.
Keep in mind that, in our last two elections, seven of the ten largest contributors were in support of Republican and right wing causes.  The only three to support Democratic causes were unions:  SEIU, AFSCME, and NEA.  If Republican governors and politicians can disembowel these unions, they will be well on the way to achieving Karl Rove’s goal.  What is happening in Wisconsin is only the most visible of several similar attempts to destroy public service unions over the last few weeks.
If Americans remain committed to living in a real democracy, I urge them to march, write letters and become active in other ways in the politics of this country, local and national.  

Today, we have a Republican Party, beholden to large corporations which now can fund elections with impunity (thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen United v. Federal Election Committee), and a Democratic Party that could soon lose its main counterbalancing financial support if toady governors like Scott Walker have their way.  Folks, this is serious.  Our democracy is in jeopardy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Our Water & Fracking

Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) has become a big issue this past year, at least for New Yorkers, and we all ought to be happy that now-ex-Governor Patterson banned high-volume fracking in the state at least until July, 2011.  After all, the Marcellus Shale, which indeed contains gas, also holds much of our drinking water, and New Yorkers have always been blessed with some of the best tasting water straight from the taps.  Almost everybody I know who patronizes the City’s restaurants asks for tap water rather than bottled when the waiter first comes around.

After July 2011, that may no longer be the case if the big oil, gas and drilling companies have their way.  So, here’s what fracking does and how it does it.

Oil and gas companies drill into the shale substrate (not merely vertically, but to great distances horizontally) and then inject a toxic chemical cocktail at great pressure into the ground. The pressure creates fissures in the reservoir rock formations and the liquid also carries “propants,” solid material like sand and ceramic particulates that then keep the fissures open, enabling the gas to escape and be collected.

These fissures in themselves can cause problems, as happened in Cleburne, TX in June of 2009.  Because of fracking, the town experienced seismic tremors--2.8 on the Richter Scale--the first ever in the town’s 140-year history.  As james Northrup, a veteran of the oil and gas industry, noted in a video on fracking, once the pressurized injecting begins, fracking is like “exploding a bomb underneath the ground...[and] the explosive power is...equivalent to a really large bomb.”

Far worse, however, than the weakening of the earth’s substrate, are the polluting effects of the chemicals used in fracking, which brings us back to that delicious tap-water that we take for granted as New Yorkers.  A large number of aquifers that supply our drinking water will become contaminated by the fracking fluids, as occurred in Dimock, PA in 2009. 1

The exact recipe of fracking chemicals is kept secret by the various companies.  They claim their formulas are proprietary intellectual property.  However, in the following two paragraphs, I will name just a few of the most common of these.

Diesel fuel is used in fracking to dissolve other chemicals and hold them in suspension.  Among the components of diesel fuel are toluene, xylene, and benzene. Toluene is a water-insoluble hydrocarbon and a common solvent that smells like paint thinner; if inhaled, it can cause weakness, memory loss, loss of hearing and color vision, severe neurological harm, and at higher levels, deathXylene is a colorless hydrocarbon isomer, also used as a solvent, and is highly flammable; when inhaled, it produces intoxication, eye and skin irritation, loss of muscle coordination, liver and kidney damage, and lung problemsBenzene, also an industrial solvent, is colorless, highly flammable, and a known carcinogen.

Other commonly used chemicals are Formaldehyde, N, n-Dimethyl formamide, and Ethylene glycol.  Formaldehyde is a highly toxic and volatile organic compound often used as a disinfectant that kills most bacteria and fungi; because it is also used in the resins of construction materials, maybe we remember it as the culprit permeating the FEMA construction trailers after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and the Iowa floods of 2008, making those trailers unusable; formaldehyde can cause eye and mucous membrane irritation, headaches, asthmatic symptoms and, at higher levels, pulmonary failure N, n-Dimethyl formamide is an organic compound often used in acrylic and plastic production and has been linked to human cancer and birth defectsEthylene glycol we all know as anti-freeze and we all have heard stories of dogs and cats lapping it up from under a car and dying; because it tastes so sweet, they, and even human babies, will happily ingest large quantities it, even though it is highly toxic.

I have listed only seven chemicals.  Fracking “cocktail” formulas often mix over 600 chemicals with water.  Depending upon the size and scale of the area to be treated, the drilling companies may use between 1-7 million gallons of water.  Since the technology of fracking was first implemented by Halliburton in 1949, nearly a half-million wells have been drilled in the United States.  That’s an awful lot of water removed from human, animal, and plant consumption.  I’m sure that those in the oil and gas exploration business will call me naive for worrying about water waste, but as water becomes an ever more precious resource in today’s world, this does not sound like its best use....and then there’s that glass of tap water we ordered in the restaurant:  after July 2011, that water could become tainted by various carcinogens and neurotoxins, caused by fracking leakoff into our upstate aquifers.  I would encourage everyone to take action to prevent such a disaster.  2

1 In Dimock, PA gas migration into water aquifers caused one water well to explode and the residential water supply became smelly and foul-tasting, dishes and appliances corroded, horses and pets began losing hair, and several fish kills were reported. In Clearfield County, PA in June of 2010, to cite just one other example, a well blowout spread 35,000 gallons of fracking fluid into the air and forest, forcing the evacuation of several camping sites.

2  One of several sites to respond to on this matter is, and a url on the topic addressed to Governor Cuomo is