Archive for July 2008
A judge has ruled that Sprint’s early-termination fees are illegal in California. More here.
Billmon was long one of the most thoughtful and interesting bloggers around—his blog, Whiskey Bar, included a line from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Brecht and Weil) as its epigraph and the posts there were always worth reading. However, Whiskey Bar has long been shuttered. But now Billmon appears anew—at least for one post. Click and read.
As you might guess, I use Google Reader to track quite a few sites. Some sites I always enjoy viewing, though I don’t always link to. But if you’re using a reader, let me recommend that you add The Dynasty of Dr. Lao to the sites you check. He always seems to have something of interest.
The NRSC put together a commercial that’s supposed to scare the bejesus out of everyone at the thought of EFCA (the Employee Free Choice Act) passing under an Obama administration, but I couldn’t have made a better one myself. The prospect should be exciting for everyone who considers themselves a progressive.
Click the link to see the commercial and to read more.
Presumably in payment for reversing his position on off-shore drilling. Take a look at this post, especially the graph. Money talks. Or at least it buys talk.
Here is recent article about beavers in the UK newspaper – The Guardian. This is a classic example of how a lack of appreciation for ecological history leads to ignorance. The journalist tries to compare the ecological consequences of North American beaver that have been introduced to southern South America some 50 years ago with the reintroduction plans of European beaver to the UK – where they were present just a couple of hundred years ago! Beavers were an important ecosystem driver in Europe for millennia; we should be reintroducing them when and where we can. North American beaver are invasive to South America and are an ecological disaster. Take home message: history informs our conservation strategies.
An efficient and inexpensive way to store energy for use when the sun isn’t shining:
In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn’t shine. Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.
Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.”
Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.
African elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory at a pace unseen since an international ban on the ivory trade took effect in 1989. But the public outcry that resulted in that ban is absent today, and a University of Washington conservation biologist contends it is because the public seems to be unaware of the giant mammals’ plight. The elephant death rate from poaching throughout Africa is about 8 percent a year based on recent studies, which is actually higher than the 7.4 percent annual death rate that led to the international ivory trade ban nearly 20 years ago, said Samuel Wasser, a UW biology professor.
But the poaching death rate in the late 1980s was based on a population that numbered more than 1 million. Today the total African elephant population is less than 470,000.
“If the trend continues, there won’t be any elephants except in fenced areas with a lot of enforcement to protect them,” said Wasser.
He is lead author of a paper in the August issue of Conservation Biology that contends elephants are on a course that could mean most remaining large groups will be extinct by 2020 unless renewed public pressure brings about heightened enforcement.
Co-authors are William Clark of the Interpol Working Group on Wildlife Crime and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Ofir Drori of the Last Great Ape Organization in Cameroon, Emily Kisamo of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force in Kenya, Celia Mailand of the UW, Benezeth Mutayoba of Sokoine University in Tanzania and Matthew Stephens of the University of Chicago.
Wasser’s laboratory has developed DNA tools that can determine which elephant population ivory came from. That is important because often poachers attack elephants in one country but ship the contraband ivory from an adjacent nation to throw off law enforcement.
For instance, 6.5 tons of ivory seized in Singapore in 2002 were shipped from Malawi, but DNA tracking showed the ivory came originally from an area centered on Zambia. Similarly, a 2006 shipment of 3.9 tons seized in Hong Kong had been sent from Cameroon, but DNA forensics showed it came from an area centered on Gabon.
Dana Milbank should be ashamed, except that he’s probably beyond shame. Robert Parry accurately skewers him:
At this pivotal moment in American history, the major U.S. news media is back to its old game of drawing sweeping character judgments about a presidential candidate based on misleading “quotes,” a sickening replay of other recent elections.
The latest example of this wearisome gamesmanship was a column by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who distorted a reported quote from Sen. Barack Obama at a closed Democratic caucus and used it to prove Obama was a “presumptuous nominee.”
Milbank’s colleague from the Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page, Jonathan Capehart, then took the point a step further on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, citing the misleading quote to establish that Obama is an “uppity” black man.
Yet, the true meaning of the Obama quote at the core of Milbank’s snarky column appears to have been almost the opposite of how Milbank used it.
Milbank wrote: “Inside [the caucus], according to a witness, [Obama] told the House members, ‘This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for,’ adding: ‘I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.’”
However, other people who attended the caucus complained that Milbank had yanked the words out of context to support his “presumptuous” thesis, not to reflect what Obama actually was saying.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, said Obama’s comment was “in response to what one of the [House] members prefaced the question by,” a reference to the crowd of 200,000 that turned out to hear Obama speak last week in Berlin.
According to Clyburn, Obama “said, ‘I wish I could take credit for that, but I can’t. Because it’s not about me. It’s about America. It’s about the people of Germany and the people of Europe looking for a new hope, new relationships, as we go forward in the world.’ So, he expressly said that it’s not about me.”
Extremely good article and well worth reading. It begins:
Most Americans have a rough idea what the term “military-industrial complex” means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea … We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions … We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications … We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Although Eisenhower’s reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its “unwarranted influence” has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our constitutional structure of checks and balances.
From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his “arsenal of democracy,” down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations — often termed a “partnership” — between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.
In the formative years of the military-industrial complex, the public still deeply distrusted privately owned industrial firms because of the way they had contributed to the Great Depression. Thus, the leading role in the newly emerging relationship was played by the official governmental sector. A deeply popular, charismatic president, FDR sponsored these public-private relationships. They gained further legitimacy because their purpose was to rearm the country, as well as allied nations around the world, against the gathering forces of fascism. The private sector was eager to go along with this largely as a way to regain public trust and disguise its wartime profit-making. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Roosevelt’s use of public-private “partnerships” to build up the munitions industry, and thereby finally overcome the Great Depression, did not go entirely unchallenged. Although he was himself an implacable enemy of fascism, a few people thought that the president nonetheless was coming close to copying some of its key institutions. The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called “corporatism” because it was a merger of state and corporate power.
Some critics were alarmed early on by the growing symbiotic relationship between government and corporate officials because each simultaneously sheltered and empowered the other, while greatly confusing the separation of powers. Since the activities of a corporation are less amenable to public or congressional scrutiny than those of a public institution, public-private collaborative relationships afford the private sector an added measure of security from such scrutiny. These concerns were ultimately swamped by enthusiasm for the war effort and the postwar era of prosperity that the war produced.
Congressional staffers and members of the press packed a hearing room on Capitol Hill Wednesday for Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA) announcement of the first federal marijuana decriminalization bill in decades.
The bill, H.R. 5843, would remove federal criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, so that federal law enforcement agencies can concentrate on violent offenders and major drug traffickers.
Three members of Congress spoke at the press conference in support of the bill. Frank spoke of the misuse of resources represented by current marijuana enforcement practices, while Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) condemned the drug war’s disproportionate impact on people of color.
Bill Piper, DPA’s director of national affairs, highlighted the collateral consequences of marijuana arrests. Piper explained that people convicted of a marijuana charge often lose their jobs and are denied school loans and other forms of public assistance.
Last year alone, the police made almost 830,000 arrests for marijuana law offenses in the United States. Nearly 90 percent of those arrests were for posssession for personal use.
DPA supporters have been advocating for H.R. 5843 since it was introduced this spring. If you have not yet taken action, urge your member of Congress to support the bill.
Yet another Delta incident: $300 in fees on a $306 ticket—and in phone calls before flight, Delta said that there would be no fees. The fees were imposed as the customer tried to board. Read the whole sorry incident.
He must be just running with flop sweat. Read this post by David Kiley on a blog at BusinessWeek. From the post:
… Obama’s cancellation of a visit in Germany to visit wounded U.S. troops has been adequately explained: that his campaign was advised by the Pentagon that since Obama was on a campaign trip and spending campaign resources, it would be viewed as using the wounded as props whether cameras were allowed in the hospital or not.
This ad asserts a McCain campaign talking-point that Obama wouldn’t make time for wounded troops unless cameras were allowed to follow him, but did make time to work out at a gym. This, of course, is a lie. It’s a blatant lie. Steve Schmidt, a disciple of Karl Rove’s who worked on George W. Bush’s 2004 ad/communications effort, though, is playing the Rovian playbook that says that it doesn’t matter if it’s true as long as your target audience (non-college educated white working class voters) won’t bother to find out the actual truth, and believe that it “sounds like it might be a true.”
For the second time in a week the non-partisan www.factcheck.org takes McCain to task for a false ad [false, btw, is another word for lie].
And USA Today wrote an editorial about last week’s ad scam from McCain, blaming Obama for higher gas prices. The paper wrote: “Even by the elastic standards of political ads, this is more than a stretch. It’s baloney. It’s also a marker on the path toward the kind of simplistic, counterproductive demonizing that many expect will poison the fall campaign.”
What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was…wait for it…using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie. …
Read the entire thing. Very good.
Nancy Pelosi is a cruel disappointment. Read this post at Crooks & Liars and wince in pain. From the post:
JOY BEHAR: You’ve ruled against impeaching George Bush and Dick Cheney, and now Kucinich is trying to pass that. Why do you insist on not impeaching these people, so that the world and America can really see the crimes that they’ve committed?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, I think that it—I think it was important, when I became Speaker—and it’s, by the way, a very important position—President, Vice President, Speaker of the House—I saw it as my responsibility to try to bring a much divided country together to the extent that we could. I thought that impeachment would be divisive for the country.
In terms of what we wanted—set out to do, we wanted to raise the minimum wage, give the biggest increase in veterans benefits to veterans in the seventy-seven-year history, then pass research for stem cell research, all of that. This week, we’re going to pass equal pay for equal work. It has been a long time in coming—pay equity. We’re going to pass legislations for product safety, for toys that children put in their—there’s an agenda that you have to get done. You have to try to do it in a bipartisan way. The President has to sign it.
If somebody had a crime that the President had committed, that would be a different story.
Much more at the link.
To awaken to the sizzle and smell of bacon in the morning… Ah. Take a look.
This has been another in a series of bacon posts..