Archive for October 2007
This was good: Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with apple-pie spice and with lemon pepper (like McCormick’s, which includes salt). Bake in 350 or 375 degree oven until soft. Cool and then refrigerate. I like to eat it with yogurt on top. I eat the skin, too. The spice with the lemon-pepper give it a savory spice taste.
“Current military” includes Dept. of Defense ($585 billion), the military portion from other departments ($122 billion), and an unbudgetted estimate of supplemental appropriations ($20 billion). “Past military” represents veterans’ benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt.*
These figures are from an analysis of detailed tables in the “Analytical Perspectives” book of the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2008. The figures are federal funds, which do not include trust funds — such as Social Security — that are raised and spent separately from income taxes. What you pay (or don’t pay) by April 17, 2007, goes to the federal funds portion of the budget. The government practice of combining trust and federal funds began during the Vietnam War, thus making the human needs portion of the budget seem larger and the military portion smaller.
*Analysts differ on how much of the debt stems from the military; other groups estimate 50% to 60%. We use 80% because we believe if there had been no military spending most (if not all) of the national debt would have been eliminated. For further explanation, please see box at bottom of page.
Source:Washington Post , Feb. 6, 2007,
As presidential candidates largely ignore the issue, looming fiscal challenges threaten to swamp the U.S. economy and erode America’s superpower status, several of the nation’s foremost experts on the federal budget warned Wednesday.
“We have been diagnosed with fiscal cancer,” said David Walker, the nation’s comptroller general, or chief auditor, testifying before the Senate Budget Committee.
The committee called the hearing to spotlight legislation that would create a bipartisan panel charged with recommending how to tackle promised spending on federal retirement programs [they might take a look at military spending, earmarks, and the notorious taxcuts for the rich (which greatly reduced revenue), too - LG] that threaten to bankrupt the U.S. government.
“In the very least, it ought to be the framework that a new Congress and new president put in place,” said Leon Panetta, co-chairman of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Clinton-era budget director.
Really. They should bring in John McCain and Bill Kristol and the guys to tell the diplomats how very safe it is. “Like a farmer’s market in Indiana,”I believe was the description. AP reports:
Several hundred U.S. diplomats vented anger and frustration Wednesday about the State Department’s decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq, with some likening it to a “potential death sentence.”
In a contentious hour-long “town hall meeting” called to explain the step, these workers peppered the official who signed the order with often hostile complaints about the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam. Announced last week, it will require some diplomats – under threat of dismissal – to serve at the embassy in Baghdad and in so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams in outlying provinces.
Many expressed serious concern about the ethics of sending diplomats against their will to serve in a war zone, where the embassy staff is largely confined to the so-called “Green Zone,” and the safety outside the area is uncertain while a review of the department’s use of private security contractors to protect its staff is under way.
“Incoming is coming in every day, rockets are hitting the Green Zone,” said Jack Crotty, a senior foreign service officer who once worked as a political adviser with NATO forces.
Employees directly confronted Foreign Service Director General Harry Thomas, who approved the move to so-called “directed assignments” late last Friday to make up for a lack of volunteers to go to Iraq.
“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment,” Crotty said. “I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?”
“You know that at any other (country) in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point,” Crotty said to loud and sustained applause from the about 300 diplomats who attended the meeting in a large State Department auditorium.
Thomas responded by saying the comments were “filled with inaccuracies” but did not elaborate until challenged by the head of the diplomats’ union, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), who like Crotty and others, demanded to know why many learned of the decision from news reports.
Thomas took full responsibility for the late notification but objected when AFSA President John Naland said that a recent survey found that only 12 percent of the union’s membership believed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was “fighting for them.”
“That’s their right but they’re wrong,” Thomas said, prompting a testy exchange.
“Sometimes if it’s 88 to 12, maybe the 88 percent are correct,” Naland said.
More at the link.
Quite a few surprises in this article. For example:
Activity Fatalities per million hours activity Skydiving 128.7 On-road motorcycling 8.8 Scuba diving 2.0 Living (all causes of death) 1.5 Snowmobiling 0.9 Passenger cars 0.5 Water skiing 0.3 Bicycling 0.3 Flying (scheduled domestic airlines) 0.2 Passenger car post-collision fire 0.0 From Charles R. Murray, “The Real Story: Overdesign Prevents Cars from Exploding,” Design News, October 4, 1993.
More at the link.
Californians quite likely will install more solar power generating capacity this year than in the previous 26 years combined, according to a new report from the California Public Utilities Commission on the progress of California’s $3.3 billion California Solar Initiative. The taxpayer-funded program that rebates to homeowners, businesses and non-profits that install solar panel, says Californians are going solar at record rates.
The California Solar Initiative pays a rebate of $2.50 per watt generated by a solar array.
The program’s goal is to generate 3 gigawatts of solar electricity by the year 2016. Between January and mid-September, the CSI received 5,109 applications which, if approved, would add 160 megawatts of solar energy. ” The report says requests for the incentives are on track to exceed this year California’s total installed solar from the previous 26 years.The report says 90 percent of the applications received this year are for residential rooftop solar panels, but 87 percent of the additional solar power would actually come from the larger solar arrays that make up the other 10 percent – to be installed by business, governments and non-profits.
You can read the report here though it’s a bit boring and technical. The bottom line is this: California is a hot, hot hot market for solar arrays.
More from Glenn Greenwald:
Leading telecom advocate Fred Hiatt this morning turned over his Washington Post Op-Ed page today to leading telecom advocate Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, to explain why it is so “unfair and unwise” to allow telecoms to be sued for breaking the law. Just as all Bush followers do when they want to “justify” lawbreaking, Rockefeller’s entire defense is principally based on one argument: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Thus he melodramatically begins:
In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, the Bush administration had a choice: Aggressively pursue potential terrorists using existing laws or devise new, secret intelligence programs in uncharted legal waters. . . . Within weeks of the 2001 attacks, communications companies received written requests and directives for assistance with intelligence activities authorized by the president. These companies were assured that their cooperation was not only legal but also necessary because of their unique technical capabilities. They were also told it was their patriotic duty to help protect the country after the devastating attacks on our homeland.
Using 9/11 to “justify” telecom amnesty is not only manipulative, but also completely misleading. Telecoms did not merely break the law in the intense days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks. Had they done only that, there would almost certainly be no issue. Indeed, the lead counsel in the AT&T case, Cindy Cohn, said in the podcast interview I conducted with her last week that had telecoms enabled illegal surveillance only in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks — but then thereafter demanded that the surveillance be conducted legally — EFF almost certainly would not have sued at all. But that isn’t what happened. Both the Bush administration and the telecoms jointly broke the law for years. Even as we moved further and further away from the 9/11 attacks, neither the administration nor the telecoms bothered to comply with the law. The administration was too interested in affirming the theory that the President could exercise power without limits, and the telecoms were too busy reaping the great profits from their increasingly close relationship with the Government.
I started out favoring John Edwards, but I’m now shifting toward Chris Dodd. As John Cole writes, “Watching Dodd during the debates last night, it became clear that there are bunch of people running for President as Democrats, whereas Dodd is running to lead this country.”
I’ve blogged fairly often about Kiva.org, which makes microloans in various countries. And now there’s BusinessIdeaoftheDay.org, which accepts business ideas for developing countries. Take a look.
I was feeling pretty smug about the D2, which includes an FM radio receiver among its functions, until I read this. I wonder what happens when you put the radio down somewhere—finding it is going to be a pain.
Make way for the real nanopod and make room in the Guinness World Records. A team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley have created the first fully functional radio from a single carbon nanotube, which makes it by several orders of magnitude the smallest radio ever made.
“A single carbon nanotube molecule serves simultaneously as all essential components of a radio — antenna, tunable band-pass filter, amplifier, and demodulator,” said physicist Alex Zettl, who led the invention of the nanotube radio. “Using carrier waves in the commercially relevant 40-400 MHz range and both frequency and amplitude modulation (FM and AM), we were able to demonstrate successful music and voice reception.”
Given that the nanotube radio essentially assembles itself and can be easily tuned to a desired frequency band after fabrication, Zettl believes that nanoradios will be relatively easy to mass-produce. Potential applications, in addition to incredibly tiny radio receivers, include a new generation of wireless communication devices and monitors. Nanotube radio technology could prove especially valuable for biological and medical applications.
“The entire radio would easily fit inside a living cell, and this small size allows it to safely interact with biological systems,” Zettl said. “One can envision interfaces with brain or muscle functions, or radio-controlled devices moving through the bloodstream.”
2,500 – … [US water usage], in cubic meters per capita, according to Waterfootprint.org.
660,430 – the equivalent in US gallons per person per year. Compare that to 700 cubic meters per year per capita (184,920 gallons) in China and 1150 cubic meters per year per capita (303,798 gallons) in Japan.
According to the site, “The water footprint of a nation shows the total volume of water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the nation. Since not all goods consumed in one particular country are produced in that country, the water footprint consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country. The water footprint includes both the water withdrawn from surface and groundwater and the use of soil water (in agricultural production).” ::Water Footprint
From that last link, and noting that a country’s use of water can include water outside the country when you consider imports consumed in the country—for example, the coffee consumed in the US requires a substantial amount of water, and this water is counted as part of the US’s water footprint:
The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water.
To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water.
The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.
The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.
If this topic interests you, here’s a very thorough report (PDF file) on the water usage of various nations.
Via Kevin Drum, this interesting post as we transition to a water-scarce Southwest (and Southeast):
Okay, first the bad news. In last week’s New York Times Magazine, Jon Gertner pointed out that the planet’s heating up, which means less snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain ranges, which means less water in the Colorado River, which means—that’s right—catastrophe for the American Southwest.
Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. “There’s a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster,” Chu said, “and that’s in the best scenario.” … A catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River—which mostly consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains—has always served as a kind of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer edge of their practical imaginations.
Some 30 million people depend on that water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States government.
In addition, a lesser Colorado River would almost certainly lead to a considerable amount of economic havoc, as the future water supplies for the West’s industries, agriculture and growing municipalities are threatened. As one prominent Western water official described the possible future to me, if some of the Southwest’s largest reservoirs empty out, the region would experience an apocalypse, “an Armageddon.”
Gertner’s piece is morbidly fascinating, especially his vignettes of the various Western water managers who have become Robert Moses-type figures with unmatched authority. Las Vegas has watched nearby Lake Mead drop to below 50 percent capacity, and Pat Mulroy, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, now has to figure out how to keep all her casinos quenched: Dig deeper? Lay multimillion-dollar pipelines out to the center of the state and search for groundwater? Ask California to trade some of its freshwater in exchange for a promise to build desalination plants on the coast? Questions, questions.
Still, what’s missing from this picture? As Gertner notes in passing, it’s farming, and not residential areas, that consumes the vast majority of water in the region (90 percent of Colorado’s water goes toward agriculture). You’d think, then, that inefficient agriculture practices would get most of the scrutiny here. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, most irrigated farmland in the area—in California, Colorado, and Wyoming—is watered via flood irrigation, the least efficient method out there. Basically, farmers dig a bunch of trenches and dump water in them. In the short run, it’s cheap and easy; in the long run, it tends to waste water and deplete topsoil.
Subsidies are part of the problem here: Large farms often qualify for taxpayer-subsidized irrigation water, paying as little as 10 percent of the full cost. That, in turn, discourages conservation: “A 1997 study by researchers at Cornell University suggests that more than 50 percent of irrigation water never reaches crops because of losses during pumping and transport.” The subsidies also encourage farmers to grow water-guzzling crops like alfalfa, a crop that sucks up about 20 percent of California’s water but comprises only a tiny part of the economy (it’s mostly used to feed cows). I’d like to see more on the subject, but this seems like a major place to focus on, no?
P.S. And the Southwest isn’t the only place suffering from dwindling water supplies. CJR has a rundown of the havoc caused by droughts in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. (Plus the fact that no one’s really been planning for any of this down there…)
I added the calendar widget at the right to make it easier to navigate the blog: click a date to jump to posts for that date.
And I’m blogging jazz musicians around 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays. Just started that recently.
Getting ready for the cleaning ladies. I used Freecycle to pass along my old Creative Nomad Zen Jukebox MP3 player, and feel quite virtuous about it. That player became infeasible for me in part because the display and its writing were too small for aged eyes.
In the meantime, I’m almost ready for the cleaning ladies.
This morning I took the G.B. Kent BK4 in hand and made a fabulous—9.5—lather from Penhaligon’s excellent Blenheim Bouquet shaving soap. I put a new Feather blade in the English open-comb Aristocrat and shaved enjoyably, finishing with Blenheim Bouquet aftershave. Entire shave: about 9.2.
It occurred to me that the English language lacks sufficient words for shaving, just as (it is said) it does for “snow”. Thus we resort to numbers.
Especially when listening to the Goon Show on the new Cowon D2. Very good, and went by quickly, it seemed.
Can you believe this? Well, yes, I imagine you can. It’s another example of trying to turn the government into a shill for business and abandon all pretense of protecting the public and promoting the common weal. Here’s the story:
The nation’s top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation intended to strengthen the agency, which polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.
On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.
Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.
The measure is an effort to buttress an agency that has been under siege because of a raft of tainted and dangerous products manufactured both domestically and abroad. In the last two months alone, more than 13 million toys have been recalled after tests indicated lead levels that sometimes reached almost 200 times the safety limit.
Ms. Nord’s opposition to important elements of the legislation is consistent with the broadly deregulatory approach of the Bush administration over the last seven years. In a variety of areas, from antitrust to trucking and worker safety, officials appointed by President Bush have sought to reduce the role of regulation and government in the marketplace.
Good post by Stephen Pizzo:
Those us of a certain age have been here and done this before. And many of us wonder how we could possibly allowed ourselves to be sucked into it again. And then it dawned on me this weekend — the one critical thing we did not learn from our disastrous Vietnam experience. It’s not what we did, but what we failed to do. And that one thing is the reason for nearly everything that’s gone so terribly wrong in Iraq and our so-called “war on terror.”
Got your pen? Because we can’t afford to ever for this again. Okay, here it is:
Accountability — personal, civil, criminal and international accountability.
We forced just that on Nazi government, officials, military and collaborators after WW II. And we insisted on it for the Khmer Rouge butchers of Cambodia. We even imposed it on the leaders we deposed in Iraq who are, one by one, being tried and hung for the crimes they committed against Shiites in Iraq.
But nothing even close to that happened to the men who trumped up and executed the war in Vietnam. The only accountability they’ve faced has been easily dismissed rhetorical scoldings. Instead of facing their accusers in a court of law they were allowed to go on with their lives as if the blood of thousands wasn’t virtually dripping from their hands.
Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara and other’s in the Johnson and Nixon administrations actually went on to advise other presidents and continue to live the good life unmolested — un-prosecuted.
It’s a fact of history that undoubtedly gave considerable aid and comfort to officials of the current administration. Great comfort must have been provided by the sight of Henry Kissinger popping in and out of the Bush White House and McNamara appearing on panels with academic and other former government officials. Those two men alone are responsible for the deaths of more civilians than Saddam Hussein’s entire bloody career. Yet nearly 40 after their crime spree, they walk free, respected, included, wealthy.
You’ll recall that Mukasey doesn’t know whether waterboarding is torture or not. This may help:
George Bush’s nomination of Michael Mukasey for U.S. attorney general — once thought to be smooth sailing — is experiencing a bit of turbulence. The problem is, Mukasey can’t bring himself to say whether or not waterboarding is torture:
During his confirmation hearings earlier this month, Mukasey said he believes torture violates the Constitution, but he refused to be pinned down on whether he believes specific interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, are constitutional.
“I don’t know what’s involved in the techniques. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional,” he said.
But after World War II, the United States government was quite clear about the fact that waterboarding was torture, at least when it was done to U.S. citizens:
[In] 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.
“Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. “We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II,” he sai
Mukasey’s non-answer has raised doubts among Democrats, and even some Republicans, on the Senate Judiciary Committee:
[The] Democrats on the committee signed a joint letter to Mukasey, making sure that he knew what’s involved, and demanded an answer to the question as to whether waterboarding is torture.
Then two days later, the doubts grew louder. Two key Democrats, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT ) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) both said publicly that their votes depended on Mukasey’s answer to the waterboarding question.
Then it was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who saw an opening after Rudy Giuliani refused to call waterboarding torture (”It depends on who does it.”). Most certainly it’s torture, McCain said. When pressed, he stopped short of saying that he would oppose Mukasey’s nomination if he didn’t say the same, but he added to the chorus of those who professed to be interested in what Mukasey’s answer to follow-up questions will be.
Yesterday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said that if Mukasey “does not believe that waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts in my own mind.”
Rep. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has also thrown in his lot of doubts and concerns.
Of course, if the past is a guide, Mukasey will easily win nomination, and nearly all these senators who have expressed concern will vote for him.
Waterboarding has become an isssue because the Bush White House signed off on it as an interrogation technique — and thus moved the United States into the company of pariah states that permit torture — after the 9/11 attacks.