Later On

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

Archive for November 17th, 2008

Gulf-War Syndrome real and serious

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From Cox News Service:

At least one in four U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffers from a multi-symptom illness caused by exposure to toxic chemicals during the conflict, a congressionally mandated report being released Monday found.

For much of the past 17 years, government officials have maintained that these veterans — more than 175,000 out of about 697,000 deployed — are merely suffering the effects of wartime stress, even as more have come forward recently with severe ailments.

“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that ’Gulf War illness’ is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time,” said the report, being released Monday by a panel of scientists and veterans. A copy was obtained by Cox Newspapers.

Gulf War illness is typically characterized by a combination of memory and concentration problems, persistent headaches, unexplained fatigue and widespread pain. It may also include chronic digestive problems, respiratory symptoms and skin rashes.

Two things the military provided to troops in large quantities to protect them — pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide (PB), aimed at thwarting the effects of nerve gas — are the most likely culprits, the panel found.

The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, created by Congress in 2002, presented its 450-page report to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake on Monday. It said its report is the first to review the hundreds of U.S. and international studies on Gulf War vets since that have been conducted the mid-1990s.

In a 2004 draft report to Congress, the panel said that many Gulf veterans were suffering from neurological damage caused by exposure to toxic chemicals.

The new report goes further by pinpointing known causes and it criticizes past U.S. studies, which have cost more than $340 million, as “overly simplistic and compartmentalized.”

It recommends that the Department of Veterans Affairs order a re-do of past Gulf War and Health reports, calling them “skewed” because they did not include evaluations of toxic exposure studies in lab animals, as Congress had requested.

The panel examined such tests and noted that recent ones — unethical to carry out on humans – have identified biological effects from Gulf War exposures that were previously unknown.

While it called some new VA and DOD programs promising, it noted that overall federal funding for Gulf War research has dropped sharply in recent years. Those studies that have been funded, it said, “have little or no relevance to the health of Gulf War veterans, and for research on stress and psychiatric illness.”

“Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War had the distinction of serving their country in a military operation that was a tremendous success, achieved in short order. But many had the misfortune of developing lasting health consequences that were poorly understood and, for too long, denied or trivialized,” the committee’s report says.

The report also faults the Pentagon,  …

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The Reuters report is here.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 1:23 pm

Cool idea: Cyberlock

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The US loves pin-tumbler locks, though Europe is not so infatuated. The fact is that pin-tumbler locks are quite easy to open with an automated pick, and for real security something more is required. Take a look at Cyberlock: very cool idea.

CyberLock®—an innovative electronic cylinder that easily converts existing mechanical locks into an access control system.

With electronic lock cylinders, programmable CyberKeys®, and CyberAudit® software, you can create a powerful system to track and control access to every lock in your facility.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Depression-era tip

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The Eldest recommended the book Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Far during the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. It just arrived, and I opened it at random to read (on page 87):

We wouldn’t think of washing a skillet that had been used to fry chicken, pork chops, hamburgers, or steak without first putting a quarter cup of water into the drippings, scraping the browned goodies from the bottom of the pan, and pouring the tasty liquid into a jar, where it was kept until we needed it to add to gravies, or to make a dressing for potatoes, green beans, or lettuce.

And, of course, it would be a great addition to many soups. I earlier blogged a similar tip, but the idea of deglazing the pan and saving the liquid is new to me—and a good thing to try.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

A Detroit bailout: good? or bad?

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Jonathan Cohn has some thoughts. His article begins:

General Motors has come to Washington, begging for a $25 billion bailout to keep it and its ailing Detroit counterparts going next year. But nobody seems too thrilled about the prospect. Liberals dwell on the companies’ gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. Conservatives obsess over all the well-paid union members with gold-plated benefits. And people of all ideological backgrounds remember how they used to buy domestic cars, years ago, but stopped because the cars were so damn lousy. “The downfall of the American auto industry is indeed a tragedy,” the Washington Post editorial board sermonized recently, “but the automakers and the United Auto Workers have only themselves to blame for much of it.” And, if they have only themselves to blame, the argument goes, why do they deserve taxpayer help? Let them fail and file for bankruptcy. In the long run, the economy will be stronger and the workers better off. It’d be worth?the short-term pain, which might not even be so severe.

In normal times, with another company, that might be correct. But these are not normal times, just as GM is not any old company. Nor is the simple economic morality tale everybody repeats about the auto industry accurate. Detroit has come a long way since the days of wide lapels and disco. GM, Ford, and Chrysler are taking precisely the sorts of steps everybody says are necessary–or, at least, they were taking those steps until an unexpected trifecta of high gas prices, vanishing credit, and a deep recession hit. Rescuing the auto industry is not, as so many people suppose, a question of giving Detroit one extra shot at transformation. It’s a question of giving Detroit a chance to finish a transformation that was already underway.

One reason for the casual support for letting GM fail is the assumption that bankruptcy would be no big deal: As USA Today editorialized recently, “Bankruptcy need not mean that the company disappears.” But, while it’s worked out that way for the airlines, among others, it’s unlikely a GM business failure would play out in the same fashion. In order to seek so-called Chapter 11 status, a distressed company must find some way to operate while the bankruptcy court keeps creditors at bay. But GM can’t build cars without parts, and it can’t get parts without credit. Chapter 11 companies typically get that sort of credit from something called Debtor-in-Possession (DIP) loans. But the same Wall Street meltdown that has dragged down the economy and GM sales has also dried up the DIP money GM would need to operate.

That’s why many analysts and scholars believe GM would likely end up in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would entail total liquidation. The company would close its doors, immediately throwing more than 100,000 people out of work. And, according to experts, the damage would spread quickly. Automobile parts suppliers in the United States rely disproportionately on GM’s business to stay afloat. If GM shut down, many if not all of the suppliers would soon follow. Without parts, Chrysler, Ford, and eventually foreign-owned factories in the United States would have to cease operations. From Toledo to Tuscaloosa, the nation’s?assembly lines could go silent, sending a chill through their local economies as the idled workers stopped spending money.

Restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, and then cities, counties, and states–all of them would feel pressure on their bottom lines. A study just published by the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research (CAR) predicted that three million people would lose their jobs in the first year after such a Big Three meltdown, …

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 12:23 pm

A smarter approach to cannabis

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Paul Armentano, of NORML, writes:

According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control, fewer Americans are smoking cigarettes than at any time in modern history. “The number of U.S. adults who smoke has dropped below 20 percent for the first time on record,” Reuters reported. This is less than half the percentage (42 percent) of Americans who smoked cigarettes during the 1960s.

Imagine that. In the past 40 years, tens of millions of Americans have voluntarily quit smoking a legal, yet highly addictive intoxicant. Many others have refused to initiate the habit. And they’ve all made this decision without ever once being threatened with criminal prosecution and arrest, imprisonment, probation, and drug testing.

By contrast, during this same period of time, state and local police have arrested some 20 million Americans for pot law violations — primarily for violations no greater than simple possession. And yet marijuana use among the public has skyrocketed.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, of course. Tobacco, though harmful to health, is a legally regulated commodity. Sellers are licensed and held accountable by federal and state laws. Users are restricted by age. Advertising and access is limited by state and federal governments. And health warnings regarding the drug’s use are based upon credible science.

By contrast, marijuana remains an unregulated black market commodity. Sellers are typically criminal entrepreneurs who, for the most part, operate undetected from law enforcement and are free to sell their product to any person of any person. Unlike tobacco, marijuana’s packaging carries no warning label, and government ‘education’ campaign’s regarding pot’s use are based almost explicitly upon hyperbole, propaganda, and laughable stereotypes.

Is it any wonder why use of one drug is going down at the same time that use of the other is rising?

If federal lawmakers truly wished to address marijuana use, they would take a page from their successful campaign to reduce the use of cigarettes. This would include taxing and regulating cannabis — with the drug’s sale and use restricted to specific markets and consumers.

While such an alternative may not entirely eliminate the black market demand for pot, it would certainly be preferable to today’s blanket, though thoroughly ineffective, expensive and impotent criminal prohibition.

Go here to read the comments.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Community hospitals support spread of deadly disease

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The Free Market probably will eventually fix this—just be patient. The story by Michael Berens and Ken Armstrong in the Seattle Times:

Year after year, the number of victims climbed. But even as casualties mounted — as the germ grew stronger and spread inside hospitals — the toll remained hidden from the public, and hospitals ignored simple steps to control the threat.

Over the past decade, the number of Washington hospital patients infected with a frightening, antibiotic-resistant germ called MRSA has skyrocketed from 141 a year to 4,723.

These numbers don’t appear in public documents. Washington regulators don’t track the germ or its victims, and Washington hospitals do not have to reveal infection rates.

The Seattle Times analyzed millions of computerized hospital records, death certificates and other documents to track the swath of one of the nation’s most widespread, and preventable, epidemics.

In its investigation — the first comprehensive accounting of MRSA cases in Washington hospitals — The Times gained access to state files that revealed 672 previously undisclosed deaths attributable to the infection.

MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is spread by touch or contact. It can slip into breaks in the skin as tiny as a mosquito bite.

Six out of seven people infected with MRSA contract it at a health-care facility.

Many people first learned about the germ last fall when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set off a media frenzy with its announcement that invasive MRSA infections claim at least 18,000 lives a year, more than AIDS.

But MRSA has been quietly killing for decades. And all along, there has been a simple diagnostic test that could have saved countless lives. This quick and painless test, which costs about $20, lets hospitals know who’s infected or a carrier. Once identified, people with the germ can be isolated from other patients and treated.

Federal veterans hospitals screen all patients for MRSA, which has reduced their cases to near zero. Yet not a single community hospital in Washington screens every patient for the pathogen.

Many hospital officials say widespread screening is unnecessary and too burdensome. They say broad infection-control measures, such as washing hands and wearing protective garments, can thwart MRSA’s spread.

But Washington hospitals violate these fundamental safety measures time and again, state and federal inspection reports reveal, from the Tacoma surgeon who refused to wear a mask during surgery to a Spokane blood technician who carelessly brushed her contaminated hands against supplies destined for other patients.

At Harborview Medical Center in the early 1980s, 17 people died …

Continue reading. Here’s a sidebar (from the link) on steps to take:

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 12:14 pm

Does natural-gas drilling contaminate water supplies?

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Probably, but the companies that do the drilling are determined that you shall not know what they’re pumping into the water supply. It’s probably carcinogenic if not downright poisonous, but fortunately the Free Market will solve the problem if we just let the companies do whatever they damn well please. Here’s the story in Business Week, written by Abraham Lustgarten:

Editor’s Note: Lustgarten is a reporter with ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization in New York. For more on the controversy surrounding natural-gas drilling, go to http://www.propublica.org and to http://bx.businessweek.com/oil-and-gas.

Natural-gas operations are proliferating from Wyoming to New York. At the same time, Halliburton and other gas-service giants are fighting to keep secret the potentially hazardous chemicals they use to split thick layers of rock and release the fuel beneath.

Some regulators and many environmentalists worry that the fluids injected into many U.S. gas fields could be contaminating drinking water with benzene, methanol, and other toxic substances. The industry counters that its methods are safe. Drillers point to a 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that supports their position, as well as a key legislative exemption from federal oversight they won in 2005.

The debate is heating up as reports of water pollution near gas drill sites accumulate and the incoming Obama team considers reversing a recent Bush Administration move to permit more drilling in Utah. A close look at the EPA’s 2004 study reveals that the agency may have played down evidence of health dangers. And now some regional EPA officials say it’s time for the industry to disclose precisely what it’s pumping into the ground.

Energy companies are taking a tough stance. Last summer, Houston-based Halliburton threatened to cease natural-gas operations in Colorado if regulators there persisted in demanding the chemical recipe used in a common drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. Using this method, drillers shoot vast quantities of water, sand, and chemicals into the earth to break up rock and release gas. “A disclosure to members of the public of detailed information…would result in an unconstitutional taking of [Halliburton’s intellectual] property,” the company said in a filing to Colorado’s Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. The industry has adopted similar positions in New York, Wyoming, and New Mexico. …

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 12:09 pm

GOP spending strategy

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Very interesting article by Bernard Finel in Defense News. It begins:

Before the presidential election, reports began to circulate that the Pentagon was planning to propose a defense spending increase of roughly $450 billion over five years. That’s in addition to the increases in the base budget already laid out in the 2009 Future Years Defense Plan.

The services have been laying the groundwork for the request for several months. Earlier this year, briefing slides showing $60 billion to $80 billion per year in new expenditures started making the rounds inside the Beltway, supported by a public campaign by conservative think tanks and politicians to establish a floor on defense spending at 4 percent of GDP.

The uniformed services are trying to lock in the next administration by creating a political cost for holding the line on defense spending. Conservative groups are hoping to ramp up defense spending as a tool to limit options for a Democratic Congress and president to pass new, and potentially costly, social programs, including health care reform.

They also like the idea of creating an unrealistically high baseline of expectations for defense spending that will allow them to claim President Obama has cut defense spending.

Let us be clear: There is no indication that the president-elect intends to cut defense spending, and indeed, during his campaign he promised to increase the size of the ground forces, which makes an increase in spending almost inevitable. As with any transition, there will be some adjustments to specific programs, but cutting individual weapon systems is not and has never been synonymous with cutting spending overall.

There are so many things wrong with this emerging process that it is hard to address the issue concisely. Promoting overspending on defense in order to forestall popular social spending is undemocratic – it creates a false tension between national security and other public policy goals.

The informal alliance between the services and conservative think tanks threatens to further politicize the military. The abuse of national security arguments to win political arguments is both morally suspect and threatens the security of the nation by delinking strategic assessment from public policy.

Ultimately, the most dangerous aspect of this development is …

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 9:57 am

Interesting: Bush let Osama bin Laden escape

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I’ve read accounts of how Bush didn’t allow the military to close in on bin Laden in Afghanistan when he was surrounded, and now this from Juan Cole, via Booman Tribune. Post begins:

Afghan article says US Bin-Ladin hunt phoney

The USG Open Source Center translates an article from the Persian Afghan press alleging that French troops were at one point close to capturing Usamah Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, but that American forces stopped them from doing so. It says that a forthcoming French documentary containing interviews with the French soldiers provides proof for the allegation. The argument is that the Bush administration needed Bin Ladin to be at large in order to justify its military expansionism.

Afghan article says US Bin-Ladin hunt phoney
Hasht-e-Sobh
Friday, October 3, 2008
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

Afghan article says US Bin-Ladin hunt phoney

Text of article, “Bin-Ladin on the run? The rumour which was fact”, by Afghan independent secular daily newspaper Hasht-e Sobh on 29 September

So, the rumour was right: French soldiers trapped Usamah Bin-Ladin, but were not allowed by the Americans to arrest the apparent fugitive leader of Al-Qa`idah. A Bin-Ladin documentary just released by French documentary cinema examines this issue, an issue which has led to heated debate in the French media.

This French documentary shows how the Americans are interested in continuing the game, a bloody and expensive game whose victims are only the unprotected and local people of our dry and dusty country. It was last year that rumours spread about this report in Kabul, but it has not been taken seriously by the media. But watching this revealing French documentary changes the rumours into disturbing facts. “Bin Laden, the failings of a manhunt”, produced by Emmanuel Razavi and Eric de Lavarene, two French filmmakers and reporters, assesses and confirms the claims of French soldiers that they could have killed Usamah within two operations, but the American forces prevented them. This film has not been broadcast publicly yet and is to be broadcast by Planet, a French network.

Even though French soldiers have insisted on this in the battlefield many times, the Elysees Palace in Paris and the White House in America have rejected this, and the Afghan leadership does not have any information about it yet!

The main question that arises is the extent to which the “Bin Laden on the run” project is a problem for America and Afghanistan. Seven years of suicide bombing and explosions, blood and violence, unmanned fighter planes, and old vehicles full of explosives, all to catch a long-bearded Arab whom America apparently hates? And an Arab who worked for the CIA in the name of Allah, and who now, also in the name of that same Allah, has conducted a jihad against that same CIA?

Facing the facts in this Usamah film is a bitter and disturbing experience and will make you nervous and wish that what it is that you are watching is just a baseless rumour, or a figment of Hollywood’s imagination. But it is not. The pictures are real and you are facing a debate in documentary form. The only justification for the bloody presence of America in Afghanistan is the ambiguous existence of Usamah Bin-Ladin and the Al-Qa’idah terrorist network.

George Bush, with his “war on terror” project, has …

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 9:46 am

The GOP in action

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ThinkProgress:

On Election Day, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a Dec. 19 auction of more than 50,000 acres of oil and gas parcels alongside or within view of three national parks in Utah. Environmentalists are calling the move a Bush administration “fire sale” for the oil and gas industry, while the National Park Service’s top official in the state said it was “shocking and disturbing.”

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17 November 2008 at 9:42 am

The military mind in action

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ThinkProgress:

The U.S. military is now barring “Iraqi interpreters working with American troops in Baghdad from wearing ski masks to disguise themselves, prompting some to resign and others to bare their faces even though they fear it could get them killed.” Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military, simply responded that Iraqis dissatisfied with the policy “can seek alternative employment.”

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17 November 2008 at 9:41 am

Helping George Will understand facts

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And, relevant to that, this graph from Brad DeLong’s very, very good post on that clip:

depression

Indeed, read DeLong’s post and the comments.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 9:38 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Transcript of Obama interview

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Worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 9:24 am

Excellent column by Eliot Spitzer

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Impressive. It begins:

President-elect Barack Obama will soon face the extraordinary task of saving capitalism from its own excesses, much as Franklin D. Roosevelt had to do 76 years ago. Up until this point in the crisis, policymakers have appropriately applied the rules of triage — Band-Aids and tourniquets, then radical surgery — to keep the global financial system alive. Capital infusions, bailouts, mega-mergers, government guarantees of unimaginable proportions — all have been sought and supported by officials and corporate chief executives who had until now opposed any government participation in the marketplace. But put aside for the moment the ideological cartwheel we have seen and look at the big picture: The rules of modern capitalism have been re-written before our eyes.

The new president’s team must soon get to the root causes of the mistakes that have brought us to the economic precipice. Yes, we have all derided the explosion of leverage, the failure to regulate derivatives, the flood of subprime lending that was bound to default and the excesses of CEO compensation. But these are all mere manifestations of three deeper structural problems that require greater attention: misconceptions about what a “free market” really is, a continuing breakdown in corporate governance and an antiquated and incoherent federal financial regulatory framework.

First, we must confront head-on the pervasive misunderstanding of what constitutes a “free market.” For long stretches of the past 30 years, too many Americans fell prey to the ideology that a free market requires nearly complete deregulation of banks and other financial institutions and a government with a hands-off approach to enforcement. “We can regulate ourselves,” the mantra went.

Those of us who raised red flags about this were scoffed at for failing to understand or even believe in “the market.”

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17 November 2008 at 9:10 am

Interesting post on the Detroit crisis

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Jane Hamsher has a very interesting post on the issues surrounding the failure of the American auto companies. By all means go read it. It begins:

It’s hard to imagine that at a time when an unprecedented amount of wealth is held by the top 1% of the US population — 24% in as of 2006, a level not seen since just before the depression — that a lot of cuff-snapping over-educated David Brooks types would commence a crusade against working people.

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” says Andrew Sullivan.  With spittle-flecked rage, Charles Krauthammer writes, “hourly cost of a Big Three worker: $73; of an American worker for Toyota: $48.”

In fact, in their last contract the UAW made deep concessions that put GM wages at a par with their non-union counterparts in the US.  But this isn’t about facts, this is a religious crusade where “free-marketeers” want to impose Shock Doctrine tactics for philosophical reasons with little regard for the consequences.

Bloomberg reports that a General Motors failure would cost the federal government $200 billion.   And the Center for Automotive Research concludes that if the Big Three fail, it will mean the loss of 3 million jobs in the first year of collapse.

As Naomi Klein has written, proponents of unfettered capitalism are always looking for these “clean slates” where other people pay the price in misery for their philosophical experiments.   But as Paul Krugman noted on This Week when he ate George Will for a mid-morning snack, expecting the economy to absorb that kind of impact right now would be extraordinarily risky.

But let’s explore things from another angle.   The same people salivating to put the UAW out of business once and for all are often the ones preaching about how green fuel technology will save our economy.  Labor may be unseemly, but green?

Well, that’s hip.  Quoth the selfsame Andrew Sullivan: …

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17 November 2008 at 9:07 am

Coal restrictions

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The Center for American Progress, via an email:

The brakes have been applied to the construction of new coal plants in the United States following a permit denial last week by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top rulemaking panel. The EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board ruled Thursday that the EPA had no valid reason for failing to place limits on the global warming emissions from Desert Power’s proposed 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Vernal, UT. Deseret’s Bonanza Generating Station, which would have emitted 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, is one of about 100 proposed coal plants that may now be required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. “The carbon-intensive fossil fuel provides nearly half of the United States’ electricity, and is responsible for some 30% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote Time magazine. If the proposed plants are built “without the means to capture and sequester underground the carbon they emit — and it’s far from clear that such technology will be commercially viable in the near-term  — our ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert climate change will be meaningless.”

‘BACK TO SQUARE ONE’:
In July 2007, the EPA issued a permit for the Bonanza plant, ignoring the Clean Air Act’s stipulation that new plants must include a “best-available control technology” emissions limit for each pollutant “subject to regulation under the Act.” Three months earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled that carbon dioxide is a global warming pollutant and mandated the EPA to take action. Before the Sierra Club brought suit against the Bonanza permit for ignoring the Supreme Court decision, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform opened an investigation, saying, “The Administration’s shameful decision rewards polluters, flouts the Clean Air Act, and fails the American people.” Corporate trade groups who joined the Bush administration in arguing the permit should be upheld included the American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Manufacturers.  The Environmental Appeals Board instead found for the plaintiffs, describing the Bush administration’s arguments in a 69-page decision as “weak,” “questionable,” “not sustainable,” and “not sufficient.” The decision rebuked the EPA for failing to issue CO2 regulations, repeatedly recommending an “action of nationwide scope.” The EPA board is “sending this permit — and effectively sending every other permit — back to square one,” said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club. He added, “It’s minimum a one- to two-year delay for every proposed coal-fired power plant in the United States.”

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17 November 2008 at 8:46 am

The new role of the South in national politics

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The South has always had an outsize role in US national politics, beginning with the creation of the US. Those days may be over, as Kevin Drum points out:

For many years, the Democratic Party controlled the agenda of American politics and Southerners controlled much of the Democratic Party. So the South had enormous political influence.

Later, most Southerners switched to the Republican Party, but by then it was Republicans who controlled the agenda of American politics. So the South still had enormous political influence.

As of January 20th, however, the Democratic Party will control the American political agenda once again. But Southerners are still Republicans, which means that their political influence will be nearly nonexistent.

In other words, for the first time since Reconstruction, the South will be almost completely shut out of national power. There are still a few liberal Southerners who belong to the Democratic Party, of course, but the reactionary, traditionalist South is, for the time being, nearly powerless. They will not control anything, their caucus is a discredited rump, and their influence will be negligible. There is no reason to fear them or to care what they think. Their power to filibuster, itself guttering and only barely alive following the 2008 election, will be all they have left.

This is the first time this will be true in well over a century. So say it again: The South will have essentially no influence over the course of American politics for the next eight years. We live in momentous times.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 8:24 am

Inside talk radio

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Fascinating description of what goes on behind the scenes. The account, by a former news director, begins:

I first got into journalism because I thought I could make a difference.

I wrote for the school newspaper and did “news” reports on a radio station a friend and I started at my high school in Springfield, Mo. I got my first professional job at age 20, while still in college, at a local radio station’s news department. Three years later, I became a news director, and 12 years after that, in 1995, I was recruited to move to Milwaukee to become news director at WTMJ, one of the largest and most successful news/talk radio stations in America.

That was where my real education occurred.

I worked for three years as news director, and then, in 1998, gained the additional title of assistant program director, a role I held until leaving the station in July 2006. From that position, I worked closely with our talk show hosts and became intimately familiar with how they appeal to listeners and shape their vision of the world. Let me tell you some of the lessons I learned.

To begin with, talk show hosts such as Charlie Sykes – one of the best in the business – are popular and powerful because they appeal to a segment of the population that feels disenfranchised and even victimized by the media. These people believe the media are predominantly staffed by and consistently reflect the views of social liberals. This view is by now so long-held and deep-rooted, it has evolved into part of virtually every conservative’s DNA.

To succeed, a talk show host must …

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 8:17 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Siegelman case: worse that we suspected

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Zachary Roth provides an update on the Siegelman case:

Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman says that new revelations about his prosecution amount to “outrageous criminal conduct in the US Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice,” and are “more frightening than anything that has come before.” And he believes that his case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of politicized prosecutions by DOJ.

Siegelman was reacting in an interview with TPMmuckraker to the news, first reported this morning by Time, that the US Attorney on his case, who had recused herself because her husband was a top GOP operative who had worked closely with Karl Rove — and even run the 2002 campaign of Siegelman’s gubernatorial opponent — continued to advise prosecutors on the case.

At times while speaking to TPMmuckraker, Siegelman appeared to have trouble maintaining his composure. He called the news — which came from a whistleblower in the US Attorney’s office who passed on emails and other information to the House Judiciary Commitee — “another shocking revelation in the misconduct of the US attorneys offices and the DOJ.”

The news appears to contradict previous statements from DOJ on the matter. When Congress investigated the affair earlier this year, DOJ had said that the US Attorney, Leura Canary, had recused herself “before any significant decisions … were made.”

Siegelman continued: “If what [the whistleblower] says is true, it’s one issue. But the fact that it was never disclosed to the defense or the judge, and then was covered up by DOJ, is a crime, even if what she said wasn’t true.”

He added: “At every stage of this investigation, either by lawyers or the House Judiciary Committee, DOJ has refused to turn over documents” or otherwise cooperate.

The authenticity of the key emails provided by the whistleblower has not been questioned, according to Time.

Siegelman also said he was shocked by …

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17 November 2008 at 8:10 am

Unions and the LA Times

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Sounds like a fascinating book:

During the half-century between Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson, class warfare in the United States was always robust, usually ferocious, and often homicidal. Since the moneyed class controlled most of the heavy weapons — courts, state militias, municipal police forces, banks, newspapers, governors, senators, and often even the presidency — it won most of the battles and naturally ended up owning the lion’s share of the national wealth.

Constantly triumphant, the rich became dangerously pleased with their own excellence and ostentatiously arrogant. Frederick Townsend Martin, who wrote as a contented specimen of “the idle rich,” ascribed their success to single-minded devotion to greed: “It matters not one iota what political party is in power or what President holds the reins of office,” he wrote.

We are not politicians or public thinkers; we are the rich; we own America; we got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it if we can by throwing all the tremendous weight of our support, our influence, our money, our political connections, our purchased senators, our hungry congressmen, our public-speaking demagogues into the scale against any legislature, any political platform, any presidential campaign that threatens the integrity of our estate.

What was threatening the integrity of Harrison Gray Otis’s estate in 1910 was union labor. As owner of the Los Angeles Times, Otis had “declared war” years earlier on the printers’ union, “then on all unions,” as David Halberstam tells it in The Powers That Be, his 1979 history of four newspaper giants, including the Times. Otis had been in constant combat with the printers’ union since 1890 and had lately united the city’s business leaders in an association pledged to crush labor in Los Angeles by refusing to hire union men of any variety.

With this threat to the unions’ very survival, events moved inexorably toward violence. Strikes broke out throughout the city in a variety of trades. “From 1907 to 1910 a state of war existed in the city,” Halberstam writes. Otis “took to riding around Los Angeles in a huge touring car with a cannon mounted on it.” By 1910 he was seventy-three years old. He had fought for the Union in the Civil War, survived fifteen battles, been wounded twice, and discharged with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Now he liked people to call him Colonel.

In American Lightning, Howard Blum’s new telling of this famous tale of the class wars, he comes off as a spiteful ogre obsessed with hatred of labor unions: “A mountain of a man with a walrus mustache and a wild goatee, bristling with an instinctive aggressiveness,” Blum writes. He completes the portrait with Senator Hiram Johnson describing Otis to a labor rally:

He sits there in senile dementia, with gangrened heart and rotting brain, grimacing at every reform, chattering impotently at all things that are decent; frothing, fuming, violently gibbering, going to his grave in snarling infamy.

Understatement was not the style of the class warrior. Otis, who seemed to exult in his power to make his enemies hate him, could cry out with a fine Shakespearean howl himself when denouncing union men, socialists, and anarchists. The new century was giving him a lot to howl about.

The working classes were no longer as easy to crush as they had been when …

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2008 at 7:57 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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