Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 20th, 2010

Better late than never: Ruining the environment edition

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EPA orders BP to use less-toxic dispersant on spill. People who trust businesses and want the government to stop regulating them so closely: Explain, please, why BP did not make the switch on its own, without being forced to.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 5:41 pm

Yet another lesson on whether you can trust businesses

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Good sign, I think

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Top U.S. intelligence official Dennis Blair says he’ll resign. But only if Obama will finally appoint someone both competent and ethical to clean house.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 5:37 pm

Aha! The reason BP won’t release the videos

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Or let the scientists look at the high-res feed and all the data. Marisa Taylor, Renee Schoof, and Erika Bolstad for McClatchy:

The disputed official estimate that only 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking daily from a runaway well in the Gulf of Mexico could save BP millions of dollars in damages when the financial impact of the spill is resolved in court, legal experts say.

One month after a surge of gas from the undersea well engulfed the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in flames and triggered the massive leak that now threatens sea life, fisheries and tourist centers in five Gulf coast states, neither BP nor the federal government has yet to measure at the source the amount of crude pouring into the water.

BP and the Obama administration have said they did not want to take the measurements for fear of interfering with efforts to stanch the leaks.

That decision, however, runs counter to BP’s own regional plan for dealing with offshore leaks. "In the event of a significant release of oil," the 583-page plan says on Page 2, "an accurate estimation of the spill’s total volume . . . is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations."

Legal experts say there’s another benefit for BP of not having a credible official estimate of the leak’s size: the amount of oil spilled is certain to be key evidence in the court battles likely to result from the disaster. The size of the Exxon Valdez spill, for example, was a significant factor that the jury considered when it assessed damages against Exxon.

“If they put off measuring, then it’s going to be a battle of dueling experts after the fact trying to extrapolate how much spilled after it has all sunk or has been carried away,” said Lloyd Benton Miller, one of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Exxon Valdez spill litigation. ”The ability to measure how much oil was released will be impossible.”

“It’s always a bottom-line issue,” said Marilyn Heiman, a former Clinton administration Interior Department official who now heads the Arctic Program for the Pew Environment Group. “Any company wouldn’t have an interest in having this kind of measurement if they can help it.”

The question of the size of the spill has become a high stakes political controversy that’s put the Obama administration and the oil company on the defensive. In congressional testimony Wednesday, an engineering professor from Perdue University said that based on videos released Tuesday he believed the wells was spewing at 95,000 barrels of a day into the Gulf.

On Thursday, the Obama administration demanded that BP publicly release all information related to the disaster.

BP officials had pledged in congressional testimony to keep the public and government officials informed, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward.

“Those efforts, to date, have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness,” they wrote.

That letter came after members of Congress made similar demands of BP, leading to the release Tuesday of the new videos. One showed oil still billowing from one underwater pipe, despite an insertion tube BP now says is capturing 5,000 barrels of crude a day. The other showed a previously unseen leak spewing clouds of crude from just above the well’s dysfunctional blowout preventer.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday ordered BP to switch to a less toxic version of the chemical mix it’s using to disperse the oil. The EPA also for the first time posted on its Web site BP’s test data of the dispersant’s use in deep water. Those orders came days after members of Congress made a similar demand.

Scientists and environmentalists praised the government for demanding that more information be made public.

“This is exactly the role the government needs to be playing — they need to be overseeing BP’s actions to assure that health and natural resources are protected, as much as possible, and that information is available to the public,” said Gina Solomon, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

John Curry, a BP spokesman, said he hadn’t seen the letter from Napolitano and Jackson and couldn’t comment specifically, but added: “We’re just trying to provide the information people are asking for at the same time we are trying to position a lot more resources to stop the flow of oil.” …

Continue reading, really. The sleaze/dishonest index for BP is off the charts.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 5:34 pm

Some kvetching

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The last couple of days have had more event than I’m used to. Among the events:

  • American Express mailed me a notice because some charges looked inappropriate—$30 to iTunes and another $100 to iTunes. I’ve never bought anything from iTunes. I called them, and we resolved the charges. They also found a $1 purchase from “Budshack,” from which I have purchased nothing. The AmEx guy said that credit-card criminals will often try a very small purchase just to see if the card works. Then they get serious. We went over all recent charges, and those were the only bad ones. That card has been canceled and today I should receive a new card and account number—sent out overnight mail, very nice. I appreciate the way AmEx protects me (and them). I’ve even had the experience of placing an on-line order (from a site in Portugal), have it declined, and have my phone ring immediately with AmEx on the line, asking, “Was that you?” Very heads-up protection. Still, I now have to notify all services that bill the card automatically—well, what I do is not notify any of them, and they will contact me asking for the correct number. Still, a bunch of folderol must follow.
  • My library card stopped working when I tried to put a hold on things on-line. Finally made it in today to see why: renewal time (every 5 years). No biggie.
  • The “Wings of Freedom” tour is stopping in Monterey and I drove out to do a walkthrough of a B-24 Liberator and a B-17 Flying Fortress and look at a P-51 Mustang. (I would love also to see a B-29 Superfortress.) I drove out to the Monterey Peninsula Airport to see them, based on the ad. Not in sight. Returned home, and found online that they are actually at the Monterey Jet Center (different entrance). I’ll go again tomorrow. I’m particularly interested in the B-17, the bomber used in Operation Tidal Wave. I read James Dugan & Carroll Stewart’s fascinating book [link is to the actual content of the book on Project Gutenberg] on the raid, and I’m eager to see the bomber itself. Then I’ll probably read the book again.
  • Finally walked a block downhill to check out the Prime center I just noticed. Turns out it’s a fitness center for individual (or VERY small group) instruction. Actually, exactly what I need, plus the equipment looks quite interesting. I’m particularly intrigued by the kettlebells, which I’ve never used. The links following the Wikipedia article include some videos of kettlebell routines. My first appointment is next Tuesday morning. I’ve filled out the questionnaire, and I took the medical releases to my PCP and endocrinologist, who’ll doubtless be thrilled that I’m taking some action.
  • The Wife and I decided that we need to take care of the end-of-life planning that’s so easy to postpone, so I called our tax accountant and got a couple of recommendations of estate lawyers with whom they’ve had a good working experience, then called one of them to set up an appointment in early June. The woman I talked to said that she would mail me a list of what to bring and have ready.

All that was going around in my head at the same time I was trying to figure out how to do fewer political posts and still post the stuff that most interests me. Despite lists, things kept running into each other in my mind, making it difficult to concentrate.

But now I’ve taken care of just about everything. The new AmEx card arrives tonight, and that will go smoothly—it’s not the first time I’ve gone through this. Library card is good for another 5 years, and while I was there I checked out 4 good books on botany, including one specifically on the plants of the Monterey Peninsula. I’ll see the planes tomorrow morning, and I’m looking forward to the fitness program. The questionnaire I filled out for them was very interesting—a fair amount of focus on diet, which I aced, of course. And getting that death stuff out of the way so that it’s not nagging at me in the back of my mind will be a great relief—and, I’m sure, contribute to a peaceful passing.

Glad to trim the list, feeling much better just looking at the things coming under control again. Plus I got the Avatar DVD from Netflix today. :)

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Daily life

Faces of Israel

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Andrew Sullivan:

A Palestinian woman whose house has been occupied by Jewish settlers argues with Israelis who came to celebrate Jerusalem Day on May 12, 2010 in front of her disputed house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Israel recently celebrating the anniversary of the ‘unification’ of Jerusalem, marking 43 years since it captured mainly Arab east Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war. By Ahmad Gharabli/Getty. [click photo to enlarge - LG]

That’s modern Israel for you: Thugs can simply steal your entire house if you happen to be Palestinian—and the government backs them up! No property rights for Palestinians. What a despicable country Israel has become!

UPDATE: It suddenly struck me what this picture reminds me of. Turn the clock back to around 1933-34. Instead of Palestine territory, place the situation somewhere in Austria or Germany. Which person(s) in the photo seem likely to be Jewish?

UPDATE 2: Mark Kleiman has a good comment.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 3:45 pm

Wonder what will become of Rand Paul?

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Steve Benen:

After multiple interviews in which Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul explained his opposition to the Civil Rights Act infringing on private enterprise, his campaign aides have decided to try a new tack. As of this afternoon, the new strategy is to simply pretend that the positions the candidate has already articulated are not actually the positions the candidate believes.

In other words, afraid of how explosive this may be, the Rand Paul Senate campaign is giving lying a shot.

This afternoon, a spokesman for the Paul campaign told Greg Sargent, "Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to insure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers."

Except, of course, he doesn’t. We know Paul doesn’t support this policy because he’s told us he doesn’t support this policy. Indeed, just last night, Rachel Maddow asked the Republican candidate, "Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don’t serve black people?" Paul replied, "Yes."

Worse, this has always been Paul’s position. This afternoon, Dave Weigel notes remarks the right-wing ophthalmologist made several years ago.

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul’s hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin." (Hat tip: Page One Kentucky.)

"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual’s beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn’t want noisy children? Absolutely not."

In language similar to the language he’s used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."

So, when the campaign spokesperson argues that Rand Paul "supports" government restrictions on private enterprise regarding discrimination, that’s plainly false. That, or Paul woke up this morning with a policy position entirely at odds with everything he’s said and/or thought on the subject for years.

Indeed, this new report drives the point home nicely — Paul not only thinks the Civil Rights Act was excessive, but he doesn’t even support the Fair Housing Act, for the same reason.

Far be it for me to give the Paul campaign advice, but lying about this is the wrong way to go. Paul’s only legitimate avenue is to make the philosophical argument — he finds racism offensive, but doesn’t want government to interfere with business’ choices — and hope voters buy it.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2010 at 3:24 pm

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