Wednesday, February 03, 2016

You never hear the carcinogen that gets you...

A friend of mine posted a link to an article in one of our newsweeklies about a teensy little problem in Southeast Portland:
"Within days, state officials are slated to release the alarming results of a monitoring program of airborne heavy metals, including arsenic, conducted this past October in inner Southeast Portland, the Mercury has learned. The state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority plan to announce that DEQ data indicate a monthly average of 49 times the state air-safety benchmark level for the neurotoxin and carcinogen cadmium, and 159 times DEQ's air-safety goal for the carcinogen arsenic...most immediately at risk are two Portland schools — Cleveland High School and Winterhaven K-8 — and a 100-child, private day care facility on the nearby Fred Meyer corporate campus that serves children as young as six weeks old."
Unsurprisingly, this young woman was horrified; "Yowza. This should NOT be a loophole!" she observed.
The thing is, I've worked on more than a few DEQ projects and I put it to her that the real problem was that this wasn't a "loophole" in the sense that the facility in question - a specialty glassmaker - was slipping through a flaw in the rules.

Oregon DEQ's rules are contained in the Oregon Adminstrative Rules, or OARs, and the regulation involved here is OAR 340 and its various divisions. If you go read the rules defining regulated pollutants it's pretty chastening how much airborne contaminants are permissible.

And that's critical. The term used in the regs is "PSEL": Permissible Site Emission Limit". Note that the linked Merc article says this:
"...DEQ data indicate a monthly average of 49 times the state air-safety BENCHMARK LEVEL for the neurotoxin and carcinogen cadmium, and 159 times DEQ's AIR-SAFETY GOAL for the carcinogen arsenic..." (emphasis mine).
Notice what's NOT there?

Yep.

There's no indication that the glass plant has exceeded its PSEL. Meaning that if it hasn't, there's no grounds for enforcement. DEQ can't bust 'em if their emissions are high...but within their PSEL. The PSELs aren't written to account for the surrounding of the emitter, in most cases, so here the proximity of schools and day-care centers doesn't factor in, either.
So the real problem is reducing the PSEL...and that's kind of a nightmare.

Just to give an example, the federal EPA sets what are known as "PEL" - permissible exposure limits" for hazardous materials. The Nation Institute of Occupational Safety and Health - NIOSH - sets something call a "Recommended Exposure Limit", or REL. Typically RELs are lower - sometimes MUCH lower - than PELs. Why?

Here's a great explanation from the blog Chemdaq:
"NIOSH RELs are supposed to be based on the best available science (using human or animal health effects data). "OSHA PELs, on the other hand, are subject to the rulemaking and political process, meaning that the interests of all parties involved are taken into consideration. Thus, OSHA does not have the luxury of relying strictly on science. Establishing PELs sometimes even come down to court rulings.

To be frank, the OSHA PEL is not the safe limit below which harm cannot occur. Rather it is the legal limit (i.e. what is “permissible”), below which serious harm should not occur to most people. Thus, while the OSHA PEL represents the legal exposure limit, it does not necessarily represent the desired exposure level. To that extent, the NIOSH REL is the more appropriate number."
So we're happily poisoning ourselves - just a little, just a bit, just a smidgen at a time, perhaps...oer perhaps not - because to reduce those poisons to a level where "serious harm should not happen to ALL people" would cause other people not to make money or to lose their jobs.
Or, as Donald Trump would say; "PEL? PSEL? Schmel! A little cadmium never hurt anybody! Regulations just cripple our job creators' ability to make YUUGE wealth creation for wealthy, job-creating winners who win!"

Is there an easy answer here?

No.

But I can tell you what's the wrong goddamn answer. And that's the one that you hear all the time from "conservatives" and "job creators" and which I put into the Libidinous Visitor's big, fat, mouth.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Pre-Trumpialites Erwache!

Before our recent return to domestic comb-over authoritarian blowhard populist demagogues in the form of a certain thick-fingered-vulgarian-who-shall-not-be-named the last serious attempt by white people outside Louisiana to create a Pure and True Aryan Nation took place in, of all places, southern California at a place called Murphy's Ranch.
This thing was, supposedly, going to be the SoCal Berghof for the American Leaders of the Aryan race back in the day. Maybe. The story isn't exactly clear:
"...(LA) county records say a Jessie M. Murphy purchased the property in 1933...(however) there is no other record of her, and no one in the area ever saw her. The name Murphy Ranch, however, stuck.

Norman Stephens was an engineer with silver mining interests in Colorado, and apparently financed the operation. His wife, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, had a strong belief in metaphysical phenomena, and apparently fell under the spell of
(a mysterious but persuasive German named Herr) Schmidt, who claimed to have supernatural powers.

Schmidt convinced the Stephenses that once Europe collapsed and Germany emerged victorious in the war, anarchy would break out across the country, and law and order would break down. His plan was to create a command center in which the National Socialist community would wait out the war. They could then emerge from their mountain retreat and impose order on society."
Needless to say, this plan had...ummmm...a few flaws.


But pieces of this California Alpenfestung remain, and you can wander through them today. It sounds like a fairly surreal experience, even for southern California.

In Oregon, I'm afraid, our homegrown fascists are both less imaginative and a lot less photogenic.

Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Poney

You won't understand unless you have a child ensnared in the wiles of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Trust me, though; it's freaking brilliant.


From the rather awe-inspiring pen of Amy Mebberson (whose Pocket Princesses I have raved about before at this joint...). Run, don't walk, down to your local comic store and buy her Disney Princesses, coming out in February. I would say more, but there are not enough words. She is simply a comic goddess whose Sharpie I am not worthy to uncap.

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Just walk away, Cletus..."

Dear remaining traitors in arms.

No. Not just no, but fuck no.

The only place you get to be a heroic rebel and then use your awesome Jedi mind powers to force the Evil Stormtroopers that you're not the rebellious fucksticks they're looking for is in George Lucas' head.


So when you say:
"We are willing to leave peacefully...if the FBI will let us leave without arrest or forcing us through the checkpoint, we will all go home."
you're talking complete nonsense. It don't work that way, Cletus.

And CNN? When traitors in arms tell you that they will either walk away without facing the consequences of their armed sedition or they will make the earth and sky red with blood? That's not "saying they're ready to leave peacefully". That's demanding that they escape the consequences of their armed sedition and giving the rest of us peaceful citizens the big ol' rebel-in-arms finger.

Figure it out, goddamn.

But you...you're going to get a wonderful choice, my dear traitors.

You are going to get to surrender without being hung out of hand as has been the traditional fate of traitors in arms. You will get an expensive and public trial in which you are very likely to be given a ridiculously vast amount of privilege to spout your idiotic, treasonous nonsense and justify your greedy and selfish seizure of our public patrimony. And, even if you are convicted of the crimes you have so self-evidently committed, you will have careful and relatively benign jailers who will ensure that you are released unharmed to resume your deluded and delusional defiance of both republican government and common sense which I know you will because...well, you're you and can no more stop being you than a howler monkey can stop flinging its poop.

In short, you are some seriously lucky sonsofbitches and you need to accept that and go quietly to the lawmen and surrender.

Before your fellow traitors find out why the snacks were gone.
Because, looking at you?

It's not that hard to guess where all the Cheetos went, genius, and no matter how slow your pals are they'll figure it out eventually and then who's gonna save you when they go all Second Amendment Solution on your porky ass?

Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

L'Art de l'Affaire

You know my love affair with the women's soccer game and our Portland Thorns in particular, right?
This winter the Thorns are supposedly negotiating with one of France's top players, Amandine Henry. The news was announced nearly a month ago. But...no deal so far, and nobody seems to know why.

Here's my suspicion: I think the Henry, who has been playing for one of Europe's wealthiest clubs, can't believe the teensy-weensy little salary she's being offered by the salary-capped NWSL. Not sure what the maximum for a non-allocated (that is, a player whose salary isn't payed by one of the national soccer organizations) will be this year, but last season it was only about $37,000.

Even for a women professional getting paid significantly less than a man (and, while this isn't really fair, the women's game also makes far, far less than the men's, so you can see how a team would justify that) this is a pittance by European standards, where a good player can command at least twice that. Henry is said to have made about $70,000 last season playing for the big club Paris St. Germain.

So my guess is that Henry, or her agent, or both, are gobsmacked and unwilling to get over the whole "league maximum" thing and that this is making negotiations...difficult.
Here's how this is playing out in my head:

Henry: "C’est impossible! I cannot believe this, me. Les Thorns d’Portland, home of ten t’ousand seeinging fans and ze maniac Reeveters, smoke bombs bursting in ze air…and zees is EET? Ze boot-polishaire at PSG ees making more than thees!"

Merritt Paulson (owner of the Thorns): "This is it, really. I’m not kidding. This is all we can offer given the hard cap. I wish…but, no. This is really it."

Henry: "Ridicule! Zees ees America! There is always a way aroun’ ze rules, hein? Here, I tell you what; I see in le pissoir you ’ave special pieces of paper for to covair ze seat (which is imbecile, but, whatevair…). You tell ze league zat I am tres délicat and have l'grand fantods de horreur at ze nasty pissoirs ’ere in Portland, so you must stock $120,000 worth of zees papairs! Zen you don not buy ze papairs and geev ze money to me. Corrigé!

Paulson: "Ummm…I…let me see what my general manager has to say. Gavin! Little help here!

This part of the US soccer year is the equivalent of what in England is called the "silly season" (because there's no soccer and everyone gets to trot out their silly speculations). Consider this my bit to keep it as silly as possible...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dreaming in Mid-winter

An Archaeology of Snow Forts

There’s not much left to be said
Some well-washed stone hasn't heard before.

History is composed of broken walls and bad neighbors:
Just ask these chips from Berlin, the Parthenon and Cathay
Or these cool magma hands of Pompeii, dark and grey.

If you listen carefully in the right place
On University Avenue, you will learn
There is a minor wall near the Yalu River
Dancing on the hills of Qin for the moon,

Who knows exactly what I mean
In every tongue worth mention.

She’s moonlighting as a curved garden serpent
Coiling around old Laocoon,
The Suspicious One with his astute eye,
Crooning with a sly wink,

"Come, touch true history."

And how the moon must laugh when she spies
The tiniest hill in Minnetonka,
Where the small hands of the earth have erected

A magnificent white wall,
A snowy miniature Maginot
Raised some scant hours before,
Already melting into a hungry, roiling river
Who is not yet finished eating Louisiana for brunch.

~ Bryan Thao Worra

No particular reason. Just loved this poem, and the thought of a minor wall in the mountains above the Yalu dancing in the moonlit snow.

Irritating Blogger Tricks

Yes, I know; it's free, and if you're not paying for a product YOU'RE the product, yadda, yadda...

Still.

I'd been noticing this for a while; since late in 2015 or early this year and I hadn't really paid attention to it until now, but...

Used to be that when you pulled up an older post Blogger would give you a link to all the posts you put up in that month in the archive gadget. So, for example, if I looked up a post from May, 2008, I could see in the "Calls for Fire" sidebar all the other posts from May, 2008.

Now?

Nothing. The posts for 2016 are shown by month. But for all the earlier years? Nothing; just the year and the number of posts. Doesn't matter what the date of the post you're looking at.

And that's goddamn irritating because I often string together a series of posts in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way; one provokes another which nudges loose a third. So it's nice to see the month's posts surrounding whatever I looked up just to see what the hell I had been thinking about. Now I have to scroll all the way back through pages and pages of posts if I awnt to do that, and that's not worth a damn.

Who the hell thought that was a good idea, Blogger? Your IT guys? Corporate? Or some marketing genius? Sheesh.

It's like the irritating-as-hell thing that Facebook has decided to do where it shows me every fucking thing my friends "like". WTF? I need that, Facebook? Seriously? Who the hell thought that was a good idea?

Sometimes I want to slap the people who administer these applications like Moe did the other Stooges. Ya knuckleheads!

And you little bastards get the hell off my lawn, too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

18 U.S. Code § 2384 - Seditious conspiracy

It appears tonight that at least part of the armed seditionists and traitors in arms are dead or in federal custody.
Good.

Hopefully the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of the remainder will follow swiftly.

Because these people are not simply traitors. They are madmen and idiots who would invoke their insane concept of "common law" to destroy our republic for their own benefit. It is also worth noting that the shootout and arrests occurred as the traitors-in-arms were on the road to spread their treason to neighboring Grant County, Oregon, where the county sheriff is another whackadoodle seditionist and wanna-be sovereign-fucking-citizen.

My only regret is that they will not, as they should be, as their predecessor traitors typically were, speedily and publicly hung as a warning to those who are tempted to follow in their path; thus perish all traitors.

Because in order to not lose the Whiskey Rebellion, as Bill Sherman said; fear is the beginning of wisdom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Army I Knew: M*U*S*T

If you remember, last time we heard from young Doc Chief was in the winter of 1987 when I had reported to my Army Reserve unit, a combat support hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

In 1987 the 99th Combat Support Hospital (USAR) MTO&E was what was known as a "MUST" unit.


The acronym stands for "Medical Unit, Self-Contained, Transportable", and stood for the physical type of facility that was used to house the patients in the wards as well as all the medical, surgical, lab, and administration of the hospital.

The heart of these things were long rubberized half-pipes that were inflated and then supported by compressed air, sort of like ginormous kiddie pools laid out on their sides. Here's how it is described in the Wiki entry for "combat support hospital":
"MUST...contained all necessary functions to provide care for 250 beds, including 2 intensive care units, 8 medical wards, emergency room, 4 operating rooms, orthopedic room, laboratory, X-ray and pharmacy. It consisted of hard containers which housed the operating rooms, laboratory, X-ray, and pharmacy. Inflatable shelters were used to provide double wall insulated areas for the patient care areas of the hospital.

These "inflatables" required a power system called a Utility Pack (also known as a U-Pack or power station) to provide utility services. The U-Pack provided electricity, heating, air conditioning, compressed air, vacuum, and hot (and) cold (running) water. At 250 beds the hospital required 8 U-Packs. Each consumed 30 gallons of jet fuel per hour. After several years of using inflatables they were abandoned in the mid 1980s, largely due to the weight of the inflatables, and the amount of fuel required just to keep the tents from collapsing."

The other problem that this entry doesn't mention is that, just like the kiddie pool, the inflatable "buildings" would DEflate if you put a hole in them by, say, shooting rockets or mortars at them.

Can't imagine how THAT'd happen, eh?

The MUST system was more than twenty years old when I met it, and had been deployed to Vietnam with somewhat mixed results, including the whole "collapses when holed by shrapnel" thing.
(Nice little article about one of the Vietnam MUST units here at the 25th ID page, by the way, and here's a link to the 45th CSH page that provides some PDF documents by Garrett, the MUST system manufacturer...)
By the late-ish Eighties these things were almost out of the RA inventory; the DEPMEDS system of hard shelters was first fielded sometime around 1984.

What was true then (and is probably still true today ) is that the USAR was the poor, raggedy-ass, neglected-when-forgotten-and-beaten-when-remembered stepchild of the regular Army.

Without the powerful lobby that the state National Guard organizations had and have the Reserve had to make do with and mend whatever hand-me-downs they got from the regulars. The MUST system was one of these hand-me-downs and remained in place for at least as long as I served with the 99th CSH and probably much longer.

I have to say that I thought the the MUST was actually sort of ingenious, in a Sixties-Space-Age-y-Tang-and-dehydrated-meal kind of way.

The ORs, labs, and other technical facilities had their own containers that would travel and arrive ready to go. The containers had a pair of wheeled dollies that you'd shove up against the ends, lock in place, and then raise the container off the ground ready to roll, a very neat gimmick.
The ward units were, even in peacetime and stateside, something of a nightmare and that was without the whole "collapses when holed by shrapnel" thing.
Hard to move, physically demanding to set up, and once inflated a bit of a maintenance headache, but for all of that they had a couple of huge, immense, unbelievably, incredibly wonderful advantages.

They were usually warm.

And dry.

And clean; it's hard to express what an amazing feeling it was to go "to the field" and remain clean.

I had been living a bit of a pampered life as a medic in Panama, running the Evacuation Section and having a six-wheeled house to live in. The line medics lived like grunts, which means like domestic livestock only without the pampering.

But the notion of sleeping on a cot, and taking a daily shower with actual hot water? That was unspeakable luxury, and one that I'm not embarrassed to say that I took to like a Republican presidential candidate to wog-bashing, hippie-punching, and slut-shaming.

So for all their drawbacks I got okay with the MUST gimmick most quick smart.

The thing that was harder to adapt myself to were...well, the "soldiers" of the Army Reserve circa 1987.

Because at the time it was unusual for prior-service people to come out of the regular Army and want to keep serving part-time. Most guys who ETSed just wanted to be actual civilians again; it wasn't that we worried about going to war, as Reservists and Guardsmen do now. Most of us had just had our fill of playing soldier and wanted to grow our hair and beards and lie around getting fat.

There was little in the way of institutional memory from Vietnam left in the USAR by the late Eighties and there was little in the way of new-hewn experience coming in from the Regular army, so the vast, seething primordial mass of USAR soldiers of the day were, very often, "soldiers" only in the sense that they kept tree-colored clothing somewhere in their closet to wear once a month.

Don't get me wrong; they were good people. They wanted to serve, and they wanted to soldier; that alone set them apart from most Americans of the time, who could have cared less - the Army just wasn't the sort of place where an ambitious, real up-and-comer, sort of person could be found in January 1987. The ones who DID want to soldier went on into active duty.

Many of the people who made up the Reserves had gone to nothing more than the Basic and Advanced Individual training - the same I had gone through back in 1980 - and it showed. They wanted to soldier; they just just didn't know how to soldier.

The only net positive about the USAR's combat support hospital staff - for me, anyway - was that about half of them looked, and as often as not smelled, far better than my former battle buddies.

Because they were women.

The notion of serving along with female troops wasn't really a problem for me.

For one thing, I didn't expect them to look like this:

We'd had female medics in Division, and I'd had a lot of female pals in the maintenance outfit of the 210th Aviation Battalion in Panama. Good troopers, most of them.

I expected female troops to soldier and was seldom disappointed. It sure didn't hurt that they were both less-inclined to dick-wave and more-inclined to bathe and wash their uniforms regularly than the hairy-chested types I'd been serving with.

The Reserve female troops, though, had the same problems their male counterparts did; most of them had only the sketchiest idea of what actual soldiers did and how they did it.

I wasn't Sergeant Rock, exactly - I'd scampered off Active Duty just to get the fuck out of the Pearl of the Pacific, remember - but I sure as hell could tell that these people weren't exactly ready for prime time.

As an E-5 buck sergeant I had barely clambered onto the lowest branch of the NCO tree. In an infantry unit I would have been considered capable - barely - of supervising three or four privates...but under the constant supervision of my squad leader from his august dignity of E-6 staff sergeant and the benign (but ruthless) authority of my E-7 platoon sergeant.

But in the land of the blind, or the Eighties U.S. Army Reserve, the one-eyed man - or the prior-service buck sergeant - is king.

And so it was that I found myself in a very peculiar position of having the least rank but the most actual military knowledge and understanding of any of the NCOs in the 99th CSH, and in the completely unauthorized but ridiculously-badly-needed position of "Assistant to the Chief Wardmaster".

(Next; The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Untrainable, or, (seriously, no shit for-real-this-time, I promise) Lucy in the Sky With Diamond Earrings)