Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Then we went to the St. Lawrence Marketplace, a cavernous building which was filled with flowers, fruit and fowl. Leslie bought caviar. I found a ukrainian deli with homeade cabbage rolls. Really great time and wonderful to be up here with my brother and his family along with my father. We bought truffle salt and garlic kielbasa. My niece and nephews have really matured and are now adults that are fun to hang out with. We went out for beers last night at a pub in the fashion district.
The people in Canada are exceedingly friendly. They let each other make turns in traffic, an offense that might get people killed in New York. It is a multicultural, multiethnic city that seems to be relatively caste free. Lots of shades of color. The trees are turning and the parks are beautiful. Biggest weeping willow I've ever seen at the cemetery.
Tomorrow I plan on driving up to Algonquin National Park where the maples are turning and things will be truly gorgeous. This is a nice city but my heart is in the country.
My pop is slightly losing it, which is still ok because he is sweet. He wanted to know what my brother and I did for a living and thought that we left from San Francisco instead of Los Angeles. In a way it is an honor to be able to take care of him since he spent so much time caring for me. We will have the first Rosh Hashana together as a family this week in many years. We try Niagara Falls in a couple days.
We have had the television on today and its been interesting to see all the gamesmanship going on. The gop infighting has to bring warmth to your cockles. McCain wants to hang back and not take any stand at all and has appeared to scuttle the deal between the moderate republicans and the dems. Pelosi rightly takes the stand that the gop is going to have to do the heavy lifting or carry the water. Why should they be on the hook with the public when Bush has basically allowed this whole mess to occur with his deregulation and inattention. So now we are going to elect another deregulator, McCain, right, just what we need. They all believe in deregulation until the shit hits the fan. Then just shift the burden to the stupid taxpayer. But enough politics, I'm on vacation.
Take care, all!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Please support local restaurants
Issue 38, Volume 12.
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Monday, September 22, 2008
With all of the economic problems on the homefront, isn't it comforting to know that we can afford to act with such largesse around the globe?
This from today's Washington Post:
Ex-Official: $9 Billion in Iraq Reconstruction Funds Lost to Fraud
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 2008; 5:11 PM
A former top Iraqi official told U.S. senators today that roughly $9 billion in American money meant for reconstruction projects was involved in waste, fraud and abuse.
Salom Adhoob, a former chief investigator at Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity -- which is considered the equivalent of the FBI in the United States -- said at a hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee today that he and his agency had done investigations showing the money was misused in fraud and abuse. In one case, he said the Iraqi Ministry of Defense helped create front companies to funnel the money.
Adhoob said that at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, some Iraqi officials got kickbacks in contracts to buy such things as bulletproof vests and Humvees. Some of the deals, he said, involved U.S. contractors, and the equipment often didn't arrive or was damaged.
In other instances, U.S. reconstruction projects "never existed" or were poorly built or incomplete. He said in one case $24.4 million was spent on an electricity project that "existed only on paper."
Adhoob also said that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blocked corruption investigations into kickbacks that benefited Iraqi officials and that U.S. officials in Iraq "turned a blind eye" when told of the problems with U.S. funds.
I found a great blog for pointy headed intellectuals through Froomkin's site on the Washington Post. Jack Balkin is a Law Professor at Yale. Insomniacs might want to check it out as well...
Some very interesting stuff today re: the economic collapse/bail out. Multisyllabic finger pointing.
You can't beat the old combination of sex and guns and cheap domestic beer to get a red blooded 'merican's ticker to beating. Hey Todd, lets go down to that there white house and bag us a few liberals...
Fake photo - Donald was right - here is the original...damn!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Congressman Charles Rangel got a hand slap. Republicans have a valid point. He should lose his post.
We need more Nuclear power plants. It is the cleanest available resource.
We need to permit Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste facility. Radioactive waste is building up everywhere and it is the only viable option at this point.
Republicans will have conniptions if a future Democratic Vice President acts in a manner similar to Dick Cheney. His secrecy and weird notion that the VP is not part of the executive branch and Bush's cavalier use of Executive Privilege makes a mockery of any notion of open government.
Obama is chickenshit not to recognize gay marriage.
Chuck Hagel is awesome!
Pakistan's armed forces start shooting at border crossing American soldiers and the whole deal blows up.
Israelis are masters at gaming the system. They will continue to stoke the anti-iranian flames because it is in their self interest to do so. They should take care of matters themselves when the time comes.
My generation has the worst record of parenting skills ever. Many have divested themselves of responsibility and handed it off to their own parents. This is tragic. Methamphetamine use is often at the bottom of the problem.
Schwartzenegger is doing a great job in Sacramento, Republican or not.
Illegals taking taxis to emergency rooms to take advantage of free health care are pissing off hard working americans who often can't afford insurance themselves. Same goes for coming to America to have your baby and then whining because you don't want to be separated from your relative, the U.S. citizen. Having over 6 children when you are not able to take care of them is passe as well. Mix in a little birth control.
Frazer sent these words to ponder from up north:
I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....
If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'
Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.
If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.
Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.
If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress (and left your disfigured wife who faithfully waited for you while you were in prison for 5 years) and then married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.
If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.
If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
If your husband is nicknamed 'First Dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.
OK, much clearer now.
...A cynic does not read bitter lessons from the past; he is prematurely disappointed in the future...
Friday, September 19, 2008
This from today's Los Angeles Times:
Are you a born conservative (or liberal)?
A new study suggests that your political attitudes are wired in from the beginning.
Die-hard liberals and conservatives aren't made; they're born. It's literally in their DNA.
That's the implication of a study by a group of researchers who wanted to see if there was a biological basis for people's political attitudes.
They found to their surprise that opinions on such contentious subjects as gun control, pacifism and capital punishment are strongly associated with physiological traits that are probably present at birth.
The key is the differing levels of fear that people naturally feel.
"What is revolutionary about this paper is that it shows the path from genes to physiology to behavior," said James H. Fowler, a political science professor at UC San Diego who was not involved in the research.
The researchers, whose findings were published today in the journal Science, looked at 46 people who fell into two camps -- liberals who supported foreign aid, immigration, pacifism and gun control; and conservatives who advocated defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq war.
In an initial experiment, subjects were shown a series of images that included a bloody face, maggots in a wound and a spider on a frightened face. A device measured the electrical conductance of their skin, a physiological reaction that indicates fear.
In a second experiment, researchers measured eye blinks -- another indicator of fear -- as subjects responded to sudden blasts of noise.
People with strongly conservative views were three times more fearful than staunch liberals after the effects of gender, age, income and education were factored out.
Kevin B. Smith, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a study author, said conservatives were more vigilant to environmental threats, and he speculated that this innate tendency led them to support policies that protect the social order.
Fowler said the study added to the growing research suggesting that over millions of years, humans have developed two cognitive styles -- conservative and liberal. Cautious conservatives prevented societies from taking undue risks, while more flexible liberals fostered cooperation.
"For the species to survive, you need both," he said.
But Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University, said it was impossible to draw any conclusions from a study with so few people, all from a small Midwestern town. What's more, he said, it's just too squishy interpreting people's reactions.
"I don't believe any of this," he said. "The people who are most scared are less in favor of gun control. Why wouldn't they be more in favor? Because they need guns to fight the bad guys? You can make up a story in either direction."
The study is the latest to challenge the long-standing dogma that upbringing and environmental factors determine political attitudes. Recent studies have found that identical twins -- who share the same genetic inheritance -- think alike on political issues more often than other siblings.
Last year, researchers reported that the brains of conservatives and liberals process information differently.
None of this, however, suggests that people are slaves to their biology, researchers agree.
The latest study "does not mean that people can't sit down and think about the issues and come to some logical compromise," Smith said. "What it does mean is that it is going to be hard work."
Of course, looking back far enough, Europe had the Black Plague or Black Death that started in about 1340. In the 1930's America experienced the Great Crash, in the 40's of course they had Kristallnacht in the Deutschland and in the 80's we had the Bubble Bursting in Japan and the Silicon Valley.
I heard "the collapse" mentioned this morning and while effective, I don't feel that it quite captures the stunning magnitude of the moment. Please forward your suggestions for review and approval.
I listened to the Prez's economic speech this morning and was struck by a few things. First, as is often the case with G.W., he was obviously reading someone else's words. He had all the passion of a banana peel and sounded like the aural equivalent of a deer blinded by the headlights.
What made me laugh was when he suggested that we "persecute" the scofflaw short sellers. Now I can humbly admit that I am an expert on persecution and wouldn't want to totally rule it out but we just might want to prosecute a few of these guys as well?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Albrecht Durer - Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
September 17, 2008
Writing to you, as you are a “landsman” (tr. Yiddish: “kindred soul”; “countryman”; “fellow member of the ‘shtetl’”).
I just did a quick, blurry-eyed “tote-up” this morning on the immediate high points of what unregulated “free market, low government regulation, two-fisted ‘entrepreneurship’ worship” has done to the national economy.
Bailout of Bear Stearns (shotgun marriage to JP Morgan Chase & Co) $ 29.1 billion
Bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac $ 400 billion (approximate; possibly more)
(De Facto Nationalization)
Failure to bail out Lehman Brothers;
Shotgun marriage of Merrill Lynch to
Bank of America Private sector ‘takes the hit,’ in contrast to
Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Bailout of AIG
(Government Purchase of 79.9% of
equity warrants for AIG stock) $85 billion (in a return to the pattern of Bear, Stearns,
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)
Cost of 1 month (September) operations of wars $ 6.0 billion (ignoring supplemental funding bills)
in Afghanistan and Iraq
(1.5 billion per week = 6 billion per month =
72 billion per year)
DEBT ADDED ONLY IN MONTH OF SEPTEMBER $520.1 billion (put straight onto the taxpayers)
CRUDE “TOTE-UP” FOR JUST THE MONTH OF $ 520.1 billion for private-sector bailouts
SEPTEMBER, PLUS (SEPARATELY) FIVE ½ YEAR’S
OPERATIONS OF WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ $ 386.0 billion for 5 ½ years of wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq (again, ignoring supplemental funding bills)
TOTAL NEW DEBT ADDED ONLY IN MONTH OF SEPTEMBER
PLUS 5 ½ YEARS OF WAR OPERATIONS IN
AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ $ 906.1 billion (again, put straight onto the taxpayers)
This, from the “cloth-coat” wearing, “small town values” party of “fiscal responsibility.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
(Referring to the request on Tuesday night by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson
and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke for Congressional
agreement for the government to bail-out/invest in AIG):
“Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the Chairman of the
House Financial Services Committee, said [Treasury
Secretary] Paulson had not requested at Tuesday
night’s meeting, and did not appear to need, any new
legislative authority for the bailout.
“The Secretary and the Chairman of the Fed, two Bush
appointees, came down here and said, ‘ We’re from
the government, we’re [Congress is] here to help them,’ “
Frank said. “I mean, this is one more affirmation
that the lack of regulation has caused serious
problems. That the private market screwed itself up
and they need the government to come help them
The North County Times
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Page A-4, Column 1
(Consistent story ran in The Financial Times of London
of same date.)
Thought that you would like this. (But I also always knew that you were a cancerous subversive agent, Robert.)
As they would say out in the American “small town” heartland: “You sound like you must have some o’ them ‘Socialistical” values.”
Jewish, to boot.
“Have a nice day.”
All right folks, lets take a deep breath. There, you did it. Now stretch your fingertips high over your head. Close your eyes and think that special happy thought for a few seconds. Lower your hands into your lap now and smile. Feel Better?
So the economy is in the pooper. We've faced worse. That crazy government in Washington got us into a war far across the ocean that might go on forever. A travel opportunity for our fine servicemen. Uncle Jimmy just lost his job down at the plant. He'll find another. We're Americans, dammit. God wants us to win, and don't you forget it.
Seriously, the mainstream media has been pounding McCain pretty hard about his saying that market fundamentals remain strong. And I think that honestly, I basically agree with him. Have things really changed that much fundamentally from a year ago?
An economist from the American Enterprise Foundation wrote an editorial in the WSJ yesterday that mentioned how fast markets move. And I think that's correct. With a change in market and public perception, things can get back on track really quickly.
I think that whoever wins in November, we will see better times ahead. The present administration has been totally reactive by and large. Am I being wildly optimistic? Perhaps.
Things weren't as good as they seemed during the uptick and aren't as poopy as they seem today. Main Street is slow but this is a traditionally bad month.
AIG has now been resuscitated, the wound has been cauterized and hopefully the patient will recover. So lets not get paralyzed with worry.
Listen to Jack.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I know that there is a lot of blood in the street and it is a very painful time for many who have taken big hits recently in the market. Many of my smart friends cashed out and I hope stayed out. Hope we don't see flying lessons any time soon. With Richard Grasso's 187 million dollar pay package from the NYSE fresh on my mind, I started looking up some of the executive pay packages of the CEO's who have been in the middle of the current crisis - according to the AFL-CIO website. These are 2007 figures:
Richard Fuld - CEO Lehmen Brothers Holdings Inc.
Martin J. Sullivan - CEO AIG, Inc.
E. Stanley Neal - CEO Merrill Lynch
Daniel Mudd - Fannie Mae
Richard Syron - Freddie Mac
Although I am sure that these fine gents were worth every penny of compensation, I am reminded of the old adage that the easiest way to rob a bank is to own one.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Happy Trails, Rick...
toxic©2008 Robert Sommers
This from the Huntington Post today:
AP IMPACT: Tons of drugs dumped into wastewater
JEFF DONN, MARTHA MENDOZA and JUSTIN PRITCHARD | September 14, 2008 02:18 PM EST | AP
U.S. hospitals and long-term care facilities annually flush millions of pounds of unused pharmaceuticals down the drain, pumping contaminants into America's drinking water, according to an ongoing Associated Press investigation.
These discarded medications are expired, spoiled, over-prescribed or unneeded. Some are simply unused because patients refuse to take them, can't tolerate them or die with nearly full 90-day supplies of multiple prescriptions on their nightstands.
Few of the country's 5,700 hospitals and 45,000 long-term care homes keep data on the pharmaceutical waste they generate. Based on a small sample, though, the AP was able to project an annual national estimate of at least 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging, with no way to separate out the drug volume.
One thing is clear: The massive amount of pharmaceuticals being flushed by the health services industry is aggravating an emerging problem documented by a series of AP investigative stories _ the commonplace presence of minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the nation's drinking water supplies, affecting at least 46 million Americans.
Researchers are finding evidence that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species in the wild. Also, researchers report that human cells fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs.
The original AP series in March prompted federal and local legislative hearings, brought about calls for mandatory testing and disclosure, and led officials in more than two dozen additional metropolitan areas to analyze their drinking water.
And while most pharmaceutical waste is unmetabolized medicine that is flushed into sewers and waterways through human excretion, the AP examined institutional drug disposal and its dangers because unused drugs add another substantial dimension to the problem.
"Obviously, we're flushing them _ which is not ideal," acknowledges Mary Ludlow at White Oak Pharmacy, a Spartanburg, S.C., firm that serves 15 nursing homes and assisted-living residences in the Carolinas.
Such facilities, along with hospitals and hospices, pose distinct challenges because they handle large quantities of powerful and toxic drugs _ often more powerful and more toxic than the medications people use at home. Tests of sewage from several hospitals in Paris and Oslo uncovered hormones, antibiotics, heart and skin medicines and pain relievers.
Hospital waste is particularly laden with both germs and antibiotics, says microbiologist Thomas Schwartz at Karlsruhe Research Center in Germany.
The mix is a scary one.
In tests of wastewater retrieved near other European hospitals and one in Davis County, Utah, scientists were able to link drug dumping to virulent antibiotic-resistant germs and genetic mutations that may promote cancers, according to scientific studies reviewed by the AP.
Researchers have focused on cell-poisoning anticancer drugs and fluoroquinolone class antibiotics, like anthrax fighter ciprofloxacin.
At the University of Rouen Medical Center in France, 31 of 38 wastewater samples showed the ability to mutate genes. A Swiss study of hospital wastewater suggested that fluoroquinolone antibiotics also can disfigure bacterial DNA, raising the question of whether such drug concoctions can heighten the risk of cancer in humans.
Pharmacist Boris Jolibois, one of the French researchers at Compiegne Medical Center, believes hospitals should act quickly, even before the effects are well understood. "Something should be done now," he said. "It's just common sense."
Some contaminated packaging and drug waste are incinerated; more is sent to landfills. But it is believed that most unused pharmaceuticals from health care facilities are dumped down sinks or toilets, usually without violating state or federal regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency told assembled water experts last year that it believes nursing homes and other long-term care facilities use sewer systems to dispose of most of their unused drugs. A water utility surveyed 45 long-term care facilities in 2006 and calculated that two-thirds of their unused drugs were scrapped this way, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
An internal EPA memo last year included pharmaceuticals on a list of "major pollutants of concern" at health care businesses. Still, few medical centers keep comprehensive records of drugs they cast down toilets or into landfills. When data are kept, drugs and tainted packaging are combined in the same totals.
In an attempt to quantify the problem, the AP examined records in Minnesota, where state regulators have pushed hospital administrators to keep closer track than elsewhere. Fourteen facilities were surveyed, in a range of settings from rural to urban. The AP projected those annual totals onto the national patient population for hospitals and adjusted for the relatively lower pharmaceutical use of Minnesotans. Since long-term care facilities generate more drug waste than hospitals, the AP conservatively doubled the number.
That calculation produced an estimate of at least 250 million pounds of annual drug waste from hospitals and long-term care centers, further complicated by the fact experts say drugs might account for only up to half of pharmaceutical waste, while the rest is packaging.
The AP estimate excludes many other sources of health industry drug waste, from doctors' to veterinary offices. Smaller medical offices typically dispose of expired samples and unwanted drugs like ordinary consumers _ with little forethought.
Alan Davidner, president of Vestara of Irvine, Calif., which sells systems to manage drug waste, says his limited sampling suggests the health care industry's contribution could even be higher.
Plus, untold amounts of pills and tablets are being thrown away each year at federal and state correctional institutions.
At a state prison in Oak Park Heights, Minn., nurse Linda Peterson says the hospital unit serving inmates statewide has been throwing away up to 12,000 pills a year. She says some heart medicines and antibiotics are simply chucked into the trash. Tightly regulated narcotics susceptible to abuse go down the toilet.
"We flush it and flush it and flush it _ until we can't see any more pills," she says.
She notes the presence of nursing homes, a hospital and another prison in the same area. "So what are all these facilities doing, if we're throwing away about 700 to 1,000 pills a month?"
The EPA is considering whether to impose the first national standard for how much drug waste may be released into waterways by the medical services industry, but Ben Grumbles, the EPA's top water administrator, says a decision won't be made until next year, at the earliest.
So far, regulators have done little more than politely ask the medical care industry to stop pouring drugs into the wastewater system. "Treating the toilet as a trash can isn't a good option," says Grumbles.
Some think it's time to do more than ask. "It's strange that we have rules about the oil from your car; you're not allowed to simply flush it down the sewer," says U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa. "So why do we let these drugs, without any kind of regulation, continue to be flushed away in the water supply?"
Landfills are one alternative. At least they don't empty directly, and immediately, into waterways like some sewage.
Marjorie E. Powell, a lawyer for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, says landfills are "more environmentally friendly," while EPA spokeswoman Roxanne Smith contends that landfilling of hazardous pharmaceutical waste "poses little threat to the public."
Still, Grumbles acknowledges that landfills, while safer, are not a permanent solution. That's because pharmaceuticals can eventually reach waterways from landfills through leaks or intentional releases of treated seepage known as leachate.
An agency staffer wrote in a memo last year: "EPA recognizes that residuals in the leachate could contaminate groundwater supplies and ultimately reach water treatment plants, but disposal into the trash is currently considered a BMP" _ or best management practice.
Already, researchers have detected trace concentrations of drugs _ including the pain reliever ibuprofen and seizure medicine carbamazepine _ in seepage or groundwater near landfills.
Environmental professionals outside government are reaching a consensus that incinerators are the best disposal method.
"That's the best practice for today because we don't really know what the hell to do with the stuff," says industrial engineer Laura Brannen, an executive at Waste Management Healthcare Solutions, of Houston. She says burning destroys more drug waste than all other methods, though some contaminants may escape in smoke and ash.
On a recent day at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Mary Kuch was getting ready to squirt leftovers from a syringe of hydromorphone, a powerful morphine derivative, into a sink. When she started out in nursing 18 years ago, "I took it for granted, because I was a young nurse, and that's what other nurses did," she says. "But I did find it strange."
These days, only four gallons _ drugs with high potential for abuse _ go down the hospital's drains each year. Nearly all leftover medicine and contaminated packaging are instead tossed into black bins and rolled to a hospital storage room crammed with scores of 55-gallon drums.
There, waste-company employee Bryant Sears _ dressed in a Teflon suit, rubber gloves and goggles _ conducts a sorting operation. Pills, blister packs and liquid medicines collected in vials, along with syringes and IV bags, are separated out according to differing disposal standards and methods. Occasionally, he glances at a wall-sized placard with details on which drug goes where _ hazardous waste in one barrel, nonhazardous in another. A roll of "hazardous waste" stickers hangs from a pole on the wall.
Sears points to some epinephrine, a heart drug, saying, "Now that it's past its expiration date, it's waste."
These leftovers and discards ultimately will be incinerated.
EPA's Smith says even municipal burners unapproved for hazardous waste "will destroy all but a minute fraction" of organic compounds _ the kind found in pharmaceuticals.
But Stephen DiZio, a manager with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, says not so fast. "I don't think we're encouraging incineration of anything. The public outcry would be so great."
The push for incineration hides an irony. Several decades ago, drug waste was routinely chucked into the trash and burned in hospital or city incinerators.
Then came a national campaign against air pollution. Most hospitals shut down their burners, and city incinerator managers became pickier about what they'd accept. With options restricted, hospitals began shipping more drug waste to landfills _ and dumping more into toilets and sinks.
A few choices are expanding. Some states have passed laws to make it easier to contribute unused drugs to charity pharmacies that supply low-income patients.
Also, a small share of unused drugs is shipped back to manufacturers for credit _ and incineration, waste consultants say. But the drugs are supposed to be sent back in original packaging _ sometimes impractical because the packaging is discarded or damaged.
Several long-term care residences want to deploy automatic drug-dispensing machines that suppliers would refill often to reduce waste.
While not yet practical, there are several experimental technologies, such as destroying trace drugs with an electrical arc, microwaves, or caustic chemicals.
Increasingly, some bureaucrats and health professionals are suggesting that drug makers help pay costs of managing drug waste. But the pharmaceutical industry says there's insufficient evidence of environmental harm to warrant the expense.
But impatience is mounting. Even the EPA has begun to take such suggestions seriously. Grumbles says drug makers "should do more for product stewardship and meds retrieval now." He says it would be unwise to wait for all the proof.
For now, many health facilities, especially small ones, are put off by the cost of proper handling. Drugs deemed hazardous by the EPA _ about 5 percent of the market _ might cost up to $2 a pound to incinerate in a certified hazardous waste incinerator, says Vestara's Davidner. A pound might cost 35 cents to burn in a regular trash incinerator.
Tom Clark, an executive at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, wonders: "When you can flush it down the toilet for free, why would you want to pay _ unless there's some significant penalties?"
The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate (at) ap.org
Robert Hamilton has decades of executive experience in the financial services sector with Bank of America and American Express. He has been recognized for excellence in business communications, for maintaining a broad view of complex financial issues and for exercising sound business judgment. Hamilton is bilingual, fluent in Spanish, and has extensive business experience domestically as well as in South and Central America and Europe. He has lived in Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, and Spain.
Hamilton is a 1968 UCLA graduate with a BA in Political Science. A Vietnam War veteran, he served aboard US Naval Destroyer USS Brinkley Bass (DD-887) as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer and a Nuclear Weapons Officer in 1969 and 1970, with action in the Vietnamese coastal waters. Robert Hamilton and his wife Jenifer were married in 1971 and have three adult children.
He has a quick wit and a remarkable breadth of knowledge. Follow the link to a short interview with him in yesterday's San Diego Union Tribune by clicking on his name above.
Contribute to his campaign here.
Say a prayer for the author of this essay, David Foster Wallace (and his family), who was found dead at his home in Claremont last Friday (ironically, also the day of the horrendous Metrolink crash in Chatsworth).
I would not have known about this piece on Roger, my hero and my favorite tennis player, had it not been mentioned along with the news of David's death.
Previously, i'd read two other essays on tennis that David wrote, on Tracy Austin and Michael Joyce (Maria Sharapova's coach), which are available through our library system, and which are funny, insightful and stylistically brilliant, better than anything every written on our sport, by a man who had played competitive tennis in college and knew what he was talking about, not only as an observer but from the inside.
In addition to tennis, David wrote essays on literature, politics, and popular culture, and was an acclaimed novelist as well. Check him out. But now is the time for your tears....
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Don't forget our open house next Saturday. Leslie will have wine and belly dancers, I've got food from Pala Casino and some great guitar players. Twenty dollars a head and this entitles you to food and grog from five separate locations. We can play until late if it happens. Officially 5 to 7.
Expired©2008 Robert Sommers
Yesterday I had dinner with one my best friends, "J", a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican. I asked him what he thought of my recent blog, The Capitalism Racket. He had an interesting response that set me to thinking and sparked this post, which may be all over the map. Now "J" is a rather wealthy individual who deals in investments and he made his money the really old fashioned way, by working his ass off for 50 years, dealing with the obnoxious public on a daily basis.
"J" said that his broker in Chicago told him that the current Fannie/Freddie bailout mess was actually the fault of the Clinton administration who wanted to spread home ownership across traditional default lines and who appointed corrupt administrators, etc., etc. Now I remember George Bush pushing the same line of "every American owning a home" during the nascent days of his tenure so I don't know if "J's" point is necessarily fair but I don't want to get into a finger wagging exercise so I won't start the blame game.
I started thinking about how much easier it must have been in the old days. Blacks knew their place and rode in the back of the bus. A friend of mine told me that a Mexican acquaintance recounted how that they could not make eye contact with a white person on the sidewalk in my small farm town in the 1950's. Jews were restricted by deed from owning properties in many areas of San Diego including Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla until the early 1960's. The 1960's crashed a lot of parties. Many yearn for the good old days.
My sister Barbara owns a very successful accounting firm in Florida. She is married to a prominent attorney. To this day they are not allowed at the "other" country club in Palm Beach. A six month suspension for inviting a jew to the club and expulsion for the second offense.
In Phoenix last month, a country club member was expelled for having the temerity to suggest that women dine with the men in the larger dining room and making his feelings public. Big national headlines. Now I guess that a private club that does not receive federal benefits can adopt any policy it chooses, I just question these choices on a human level.
We, as Americans, show a remarkable tendency to exaggerate the span of time that has elapsed from our transgressions. I didn't own slaves. Everybody has equal opportunity. Women can vote. I never lynched anybody. Tianemen Square - very bad, Kent State, when was that? Santa Barbara Oil spill, ages ago. That Allende cat, we took care of him aeons back. Three Mile Island, ancient history. Our teflon hands eversparkle. Perhaps that was why Lynn Cheney got involved with the new education curriculum, designing new textbooks that would minimize the contributions of minorities and glorify the forgotten white american male.
I know that I digress and so will try to loop back to my original point - that the right has objections to everybody sharing at the table that heretofore was reserved for the patrician class only. That opening up home ownership and power to the lower classes was a pandora's box that is responsible for the mess that we are in today. Along with that prick Roosevelt of course.
When we point fingers at John McCain or Barack Obama, or Sarah Palin or George Bush or whomever, our ire is misplaced. Our real enemy is each other. The last 10 years or so, we have been more evenly split as an electorate than any time in my memory or study. We watch media that tends to reinforce our point of view and inculcate ourselves from opposition views. The left (myself included) tends to view the right as religious radicals that want us to subscribe to antiquated rules of living or risk the wrath of hell. The right looks at the other side as copulating heathens that wants to drain their hard earned pocketbook. There has been remarkably little middleground and I don't know if it is even possible to find common ground anymore.
The right is ecstatic about a book banning ex cheerleader who wants to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality and restart the cold war. The left wants to reinstitute the nanny welfare state.
I think that this whole split is so deeply programmed and engrained in the protons and neutrons of our innermost psyche that any hope for appeasement with the other side is unlikely. I remember being in preschool during the Nixon/Kennedy election and the room dividing up between donkeys and elephants. I was one of three of the former up against about thirty baby elephants. And I knew... Nature or nurture, the old argument. I don't think that I talked politics much as a four year old, but I knew I was a jackass. (rimshot or drumroll please.)
I guess this is an internal forensic expedition to find out where I got the big class chip on my shoulder. Joined the old blame America crowd. My father was very rich when I was young. Unfortunately, I lived with my mother, near welfare, with 7 or 8 brothers and sisters, running around the country one step ahead of the Spiegel Catalogue Company and others that were always taking us to court for our unpaid bills. A poor jew who lived on the other side of the tracks with the irish and italians. And learned to really hate the silver spoon. The entitled. I was always the second smartest kid in the class. I had a full ride scholarship to a prep school in New York and remember trying to enlist the actually smartest fellow to the cause of the downtrodden and will never forget his response: "Robert, my family has always served the ruling class". I guess one figures out which side of the power grid to walk on.
Now I just talk. And write. Assuage my liberal guilt. My contributions to charity are minimal. At least the religious are out there doing charitable things for people. There, I said something nice.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I am really thankful for the good folks at the Crooks and Liars website mentioning the Blue Heron Blast this morning. Thanks, Mike! I have had many hundreds of hits today, from far away places like Norway and the Northern Mariana Islands. Crooks and Liars is a great site that mixes in music like moi but really stays on top of things politically.
This blog is really fun for me. Thanks for those of you who loyally follow the thing around.
It is a little sadly amusing to me that General Petraeus now says that he will never declare victory in Iraq.
Q: Do you think you will ever use the word "victory"?
Petraeus: I don't know that I will. I think that all of us at different times have recognized the need for real restraint in our assessments, in our pronouncements, if you will. And we have tried to be very brutally honest and forthright in what we have provided to Congress, to the press, and to ourselves.
"This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade... it's not war with a simple slogan."
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also told House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that they are fighting a lost war against a deadly insurgency in Afghanistan and needed to revise its strategy.
McCain, Bush, Lindsay Graham, Lieberman and the rest of the hawkish flagwaving GOP have derided the Dems and Obama for months for wanting to pull out of Iraq with an achievable victory at hand.
But their own brilliant general contradicts them. Isn't this the administration that wants to leave decisions to those on the battlefield? Shouldn't they be paying closer attention to these people?
Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA 50th District) is your classic political opportunist. This carpetbagger ex-lobbyist from San Diego moved to North County to capture a district vacated by his fallen comrade Duke Cunningham and tends to change his political stances in a quite, well, mercurial way. He must get up every morning and stick his pinkie in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
Until very recently, he liked to talk real tough about energy independence, but this week he was one of two California House members not to sign the offshore drilling bill. Now I am personally against this bill, for reasons that I won't belabor this post with, and would like to think that he is showing some nad and has had a reasonable change of heart. However next week he is liable to pull another flip flop and leave me dumbfounded again.
Bilbray tries to be all things to all people. A native of Coronado he likes to pose as a surfer. The following information about Bilbray was gleaned from Wikipedia:
As mayor, Bilbray attempted to build a yacht marina in the Tijuana Estuary and to build a 1.5 mile breakwater off of the beach of Imperial Beach. Both projects were stopped by the opposition of local environmentalists and surfers. The Tijuana River Estuary is now a National Estuarine Research Reserve and California State Park. The breakwater project was halted with the help of the then fledgling Surfrider Foundation. Bilbray often took on a bureaucracy that he felt was sometimes too slow. For example, frustrated when sewage from Mexico caused closure of his city's beaches and government agencies did too little to solve the problem, Bilbray summoned the news media, hopped aboard an earthmover, and began building a dam.
From 1985 to 1995, Bilbray was a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. He was a principal architect of the calamitous trash-to-energy recycling plant in San Marcos, a debacle that, for the county, was the equal of the city of San Diego's pension disaster.
Since his loss to Congresswoman Susan Davis in 2001, Congressman Bilbray has maintained residences and properties in Imperial Beach, California, Alexandria, Virginia, and Carlsbad, California. In response to requests to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, by the local Democratic Party and neighbors of the congressman, a San Diego County grand jury was convened to investigate claims against Bilbray's declared residency for the special and general elections in 2006. The investigation was dropped in May 2007.
Bilbray was also involved with now-imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff; Bilbray benefited from congressional trips arranged by Abramoff for lobbying purposes, including the Federated States of Micronesia, a former territory of the United States.
Bilbray said he knew Abramoff through a surfing buddy, and that the relationship was “very tenuous.”
Bilbray loves to play hawk or chicken hawk. He has taken a very tough anti-immigration stance that tends to resonate with many here in San Diego County. He has also voted with George Bush 93% of the time. I hope that voters in the 50th will see through his phony attempts to appear moderate and elect Nick Leibham in the 50th District.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
One of the most tiring arguments against liberals and liberalism is the oft repeated mantra that these welfare state socialists want to raise your taxes so that they can have more illegitimate children and pillory your retirement account. I know a lot of people that are for choice, against the war, against state sponsored torture and illegal wiretapping, but will vote republican anyway because they think that Uncle Sam is going to tap their pocketbook.
Now I am not an economist but do manage to keep a tally on democratic spending versus republican spending that might open some of their eyes but that is an argument for another day. (and one that I have already made, see Deja Vu in July.) But what about corporate welfare?
There is an old ruling class maxim that says that a capitalist's dream is to privatize profit while socializing debt. The American taxpayer is now going to have to bail out Mr. Freddie Mac and Ms. Fannie Mae to the tune of a very pretty penny. (I have heard the figure of 200 Billion smackers bandied about) This, of course, on the heels of the 29 billion dollar Bear Stearns Fiasco and a host of other fallen companies that have their teeth firmly clenched on the teat of Joe Taxpayer. Lehman is now in the on deck circle with all the vultures sweeping around in slow dark orbits.
There is a cruel irony in the fact that these huge bailouts barely raise an eyebrow but feed a hungry school kid a carton of milk on the taxpayer's dime and all hell breaks loose. Oh, we can't let the big boys fall! Heavens... The supply siders have crowed the same bleating lie for years - free us from government oversight, from environmental regulation, and watch the marvelous results. This started with Reagan, remember he deregulated the S&L's, only to see the industry collapse. Now the large financial giants are teetering and guess who gets to pick up the bill? Compassionate conservatism in action. But the same thing happens to John Q. Public who is about to lose his house and they can only talk about tough love.
Now we see that the Federal Mining department was cavorting around with the companies they were supposed to regulate, using the old party favors - money, $ex and cocaine and writing sweetheart deals for the industry.
It would be too much to hope that our Attorney General Mukasey would actually prosecute any of these scofflaws and true to form allowed the Department heads to go gently into the night. This guy is so worthless. Can you show me one administration figure he has actually tried to prosecute?
So like the KBR overbilling fiasco or the no bid contracts in Iraq with all of the attendant corruption, lost money, government waste and lack of accountability, we americans turn a blind eye. Now it turns out that those supposed oil contracts involving the five oil companies in Iraq that the government said it had no knowledge of, were actually drafted by government lawyers.
Hey, this administration has been a great friend to big business. It's my ass that's hurting.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Robert Sommers owns the Blue Heron Gallery in Fallbrook. (Renee Haines - For the North County Times)
Main Street, North County: Fallbrook capitalizes on the quaint.
By RENEE HAINES - For the North County Times | Monday, September 8, 2008 8:10 PM PDT ∞
Editor's Note: In this four-part series on North County main streets, downtown business owners share their strategies for survival in a tough economy.
FALLBROOK ---- At the downtown Swirlz Candy & Party Emporium, owner Maribel Moran has created a colorful circus room inside her old-fashioned candy store.
She's now at work on an in-store fun house.
"Remember carnival fun houses, with their curtains and their warning signs not to enter?" she asked, pointing to a curtained back room with an unfinished mannequin that will become a gypsy fortune-teller.
When it comes to creating a Main Street business that will attract more customers in a tough economy, "you have to think entertainment," Moran said.
Every North County community is feeling the effects of a national economic downturn that is causing job losses, mounting foreclosures and a decline in consumer spending. Downtowns that have survived suburban shopping mall developments, past recessions and the Internet-fed era of 24/7 competition are suffering new hard times exacerbated by high gasoline prices, steeper rents and tight credit.
"Everyone is struggling in different ways," Moran said about her Main Street neighbors.
Yet, many downtown business owners such as Moran are adopting innovative strategies to keep their doors open and preserve the heart of their community, attract a wider base of customers and preserve the heart of their community.
"If you don't want to make it bleak on Main Street, you're going to have to use every tool in your arsenal," said veteran downtown Fallbrook business owner Robert Sommers, who owns the Blue Heron Gallery. Sommers says he has a built-in cushion against local economic downturns ---- he exhibits his fine arts and antiques eight to 10 times a year at locations throughout the country.
His strategy also involves keeping inventory affordable enough for his "passionate" clients to augment his high-end sales to the consumer demographic least affected by this sour economy.
"The really rich people, they're fatter than ever," Sommers said.
Arts and development
Downtown Fallbrook promotes its numerous art galleries, art center, theaters and Art in Public Places initiatives as retail, tourism and business development calling cards.
This unincorporated community of farmlands and rolling hillsides between North County's beaches to the west and inland Interstate 15 to the east boasts an intentionally quaint central business district also capitalizing on its late 19th-century roots.
What Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Robert Leonard calls "customized zoning" allows the downtown district to preserve historical buildings, allows a few "faux" fronts to even out the historical look and stays flexible for future development.
Fallbrook also does its homework, adopting components of other cities' Main Street strategies. A la Carmel-by-the-Sea, chains such as Denny's are asked to discreetly inset their signage to keep Fallbrook's village look, and a "community by consensus" approach ensures that incoming businesses "fit," Leonard said.
A small bridge over a creek adjacent to downtown streets "someday might look like what San Luis Obispo has," Leonard said, referring to the central coast city's downtown "creek walk" of bridges, landscaped walkways, sculptures and fountains.
Remaining unincorporated has its advantages in not forcing Fallbrook to follow the lead of other cities in need of higher sales tax revenues to court big-box stores and sprawling residential developments to support them, Leonard said.
The community of some 44,000 people doesn't rise as high as other economies, but it doesn't fall as hard, either, he said.
That doesn't make Fallbrook immune. An August report from the San Diego Workforce Partnership on unemployment rates within San Diego County shows Fallbrook as having the highest estimated unemployment rate (7.4 percent in July) among 12 North County cities on the list.
Downtown Fallbrook's outside arts initiative took a beating this year with the theft of three outdoor bronze sculptures.
Like other cities across the country where outside art recently has gone missing, Fallbrook leaders suspect the pieces were being sold as scrap metal.
The thefts in Fallbrook led community leaders this summer to remove other sculptures adorning downtown's Village Park Square and other locations to safeguard them "until better times," Leonard said.
Downtown by donation
Still, downtown revitalization, which Leonard calls "a 15-year work in progress," continues to add new features to Main Street.
Main Street businesses have been key contributors to Fallbrook's downtown-by-donation approach.
The names of businesses, business owners and community residents adorn small plaques beside trees planted along downtown walkways, on park benches and at Village Park Square. Names of contributors also are engraved on Hollywood Boulevard-style stars embedded in concrete outside a renovated downtown theater.
Leonard said an extra bonus is that business owners and residents tend to pay special attention to the care and tending of their Main Street namesakes.
This year, 40 oversize pots containing flowering plants were donated to further "green up" downtown streets.
It was into this setting that Stefeni Engebritson of Oceanside arrived this spring, scouting locations for a Victorian-style tea shop similar to one she had operated in Carlsbad for seven years.
"I wasn't thinking recession. I was looking for a place I could make a destination," said Engebritson, who in May opened Ticky-Boo Tea Shoppe in Jackson Square, a collection of small shops clustered below street level on Main Street.
Her inspiration was Canterbury Gardens & Gifts in Escondido, she said, because its appeal as a stand-alone destination for shopping and special holiday events made it worth the drive from Oceanside for Engebritson and her friends.
Now that she has opened her shop, Engebritson is readying a second location in the little plaza that will feature Victorian-era fashions and accessories. She also is working on plans to create a Dickens-style Christmas village in the downtown plaza, complete with strolling carolers in Victoria-era garb.
"Have a theme," is her advice for other downtown retailers. "In this day and age, you have to have a theme ---- a reason for people to come."
Consumers as stakeholders
Lori Cook, the third-generation owner of her family's Village Copy Center in downtown Fallbrook, said strong local support remains crucial to preserving the heart of any community.
"The issues are always the same ---- getting people to become more aware of their own town," Cook said. "There are so many people who live in Fallbrook who don't know where downtown is ---- and they live here."
Cook said a community's residents must become personal stakeholders in preserving the history and future of their own downtowns. Thus, her business strategy involves giving residents a way to literally take ownership of at least a small piece of the city's history. The walls of Cook's copying and printing business are decorated with framed photographs depicting Fallbrook's history, and she sells specially made postcards depicting Fallbrook.
She also has created a special section in her store to sell crafts such as collectible boxes made from original fruit and vegetable crates reflecting the long agricultural roots of a community that calls itself the Avocado Capital of California.
"There is a lot of history here, a rich history, and people who live here should be aware of it," Cook said.
Well the particles have been smashed and we've survived. Yippee! I was kind of hoping for the quick exit into the deathstar quantum void but there's no accounting for taste...
I put a hit counter on the blog yesterday to gauge traffic and was a little surprised. 100 visitors, fine. The thing that shocked me was that the counter let me tune in on the last 10 visitors and 4 out of 10 were international - Romania, Sweden(2), Israel. One came through the link on the Dylan page expecting rain.
(By the way - 82% of you are on macs - and 80% of the PC users are using Netscape Navigator 7. You are dinosaurs, Firefox, Baby - get with the program)
I guess I am going to have to be sensitive to my narrow, parochial, jingoistic American worldview and try to reach out to my alien brethren. Wilkomenn! Bienvenidos!
I can see that giving you all the keys to the car might not work, a few signees but the thing could go woefully awry. I have a couple options - mebbe go dark or take the blog private. Then I can ease my guilt about my constant cajoling of you with my pesty verbosity. Purely voluntary, you know?
However then I might miss out on all this swinging international action. Stay tuned. If you wish.
And you Swedish girls, how about sending along a picture?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
So, I must love the guy, or at least like him much-ly (which I do). We spend hours discussing art, silver, women, porn (or at least the spitting in porn). We eat well, used to drink well (before he decided to finally clean up his act so he can torture us for many more years into posting more on the Blue Heron Blast) and laugh as much as possible for two pretty rigid old hippie types.
Robert, you are a great experience in my life. I appreciate our friendship, I love you, I love Leslie and I hope that you will allow me to bow out of this circle jerk for a bit.
old house, northern New Mexico © 2008 Robert Sommers
Well, I just hit the three hundredth blog milestone. Big Whoop. I'm thinking, people are probably getting a little tired of my rants, maybe it's time to shake things up? Melanie told me today that my blog was so depressing Xanex wouldn't help. Screw the blog, think of it as a communal online magazine - something that hasn't been done before, with smart people contributing from all points of the political, ethnic and other divergent spots on the human bandwidth. I would like to offer exalted writing status to several of you that are excellent writers and entertaining and to anyone really that wants to contribute. There are many features of this blog machine that I have frankly not even touched, due to laziness and incompetence, really. I would like to maybe not write as much but administrate. I hate bad spelling - so spellcheck is a must but I hope that you all will take me up on blowing this thing up. E-mail me if you wish to participate.
Shawn could be our correspondent from Thailand, he is always finding excellent material to post. Kerry and Stan are professional photographers, BigDave is the ex gadget editor for Wired Magazine, maybe he could do a tech column, Vlad Smythe is an ex Adman genius, Emily XYZ a noted brilliant performance artist (check her out on Youtube), we have other great writers on board. JDillon is the smartest, funniest writer I know although according to some, he has problems with human speech. There are many more of you. Please email me if you wish to become a contributor and turn this in to something truly special.
I only ask that you sign your posts so that you can take responsibility for your lunacy and keep it somewhat entertaining and not too mean or pornographic. I have strived to not use this blog to push my narrow commercial interest and hope that you will do the same. Charity is fine. Post music, articles, photos, rant, rave, write - let's see where it goes.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Don Haskins, the grumpy bear of a basketball coach from Utep, has passed away. Don was a special coach for me because I lived in El Paso in 1966 when lowly Texas Western rose up and won the NCAA championship, in a single elimination tournament from Adolph Rupp's Kentucky team.
A nine year old kid, I watched every improbable game of the tournament, culminating in the first all black team ever assembled ultimately going on to win the championship.
Big Daddy David Lattin at center, Willie Cager, Orstin Artis and the great guard Bobbie Joe Hill put it together, rising from obscurity to beat Rupp, whose team featured Pat Riley and Louie Dampier.
Haskins was old school, didn't believe in the bounce pass and stressed fundamentals. David rose up and slew Goliath and that's a story one never gets tired of.
Fight on, Miners!