*

*
Swami's view through car window

Friday, October 31, 2008

Drill Baby, Drill!



I know, I know, only selfish elitist individuals still like to hike and enjoy the untouched wilderness. Real Americans ride snowmobiles and ATV's...The pollution at the Grand Canyon is already horrible - lets decimate the entire southwest, leave nothing standing and pristine for your grandchildren, or any species that is lucky enough to survive us.

This from today's Washington Post:

Bureau Proposes Opening Up Utah Wilderness to Drilling













The Bureau of Land Management has proposed selling oil and gas leases in wilderness areas of Utah, including this rock outcropping, Hatch Point, out side Canyonlands National Park in the southeastern part of the state. (Photo by Kevin Walker -- Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Via Associated Press)

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008

The Federal Bureau of Land Management is reviving plans to sell oil and gas leases in pristine wilderness areas in eastern Utah that have long been protected from development, according to a notice posted this week on the agency's Web site.

The proposed sale, which includes famous areas in the Nine Mile Canyon region, would take place Dec. 19, a month before President Bush leaves office. The targeted areas include parts of Desolation Canyon, White River, Diamond Mountain and Bourdette Draw.

The bureau has sought to open these public lands to energy exploration since 2003, though it had earlier classified them as having "wilderness character." But the agency has been repeatedly blocked by federal court and administrative rulings.

"Previous administrations proved that there can be a balance between wilderness protection and oil and gas development," said former bureau director Jim Baca, who served under former President Clinton, in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has worked tirelessly to appease the oil and gas industry no matter the cost to our national heritage of wild and untamed places."

Terry Catlin, the bureau's energy team leader for Utah, said it has not finalized the list of lease sites but bases them on "industry nominations" and provides a 30-day comment period before the sale.

"At the end of the 30-day protest period, we look at the protests and make our final decision at this point," Catlin said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There isn't anything unusual about this timing. We do a lease sale every three months."

The agency will publish the list of lease sites Tuesday. In a notice being published today in the Federal Register, the bureau says it is finalizing five resource management plans applying to about 9.5 million acres, a required step for parts of the sale to go forward.

One of the areas set to be auctioned off is Upper Desolation Canyon, which was named by explorer John Wesley Powell in 1869 while he traveled down the Green River, which traverses the canyon, to the Grand Canyon.

In a 1999 assessment, bureau officials wrote that Desolation Canyon "is a place where a visitor can experience true solitude -- where the forces of nature continue to shape the colorful, rugged landscape," and heralded the area's "cultural, scenic, geologic, botanical, and wildlife values."

"What makes this action by the Interior Department so deplorable is that BLM itself determined these areas to be wilderness-quality lands," said Stephen Bloch, conservation director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an advocacy group, in a statement. "Nonetheless, BLM is condemning these lands to a future of oil rigs and gas pipelines and almost certain disqualification from future wilderness designation."

The bureau first proposed opening up energy exploration in part of the area in the fall of 2003, after former interior secretary Gayle Norton reached an agreement with then-Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt not to declare any new wilderness areas in the state. Environmental advocates fought the leasing proposal in federal court, which ruled in 2006 that the plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Interior's own Board of Land Appeals also issued an administrative ruling backing the leasing prohibition.

In recent weeks, GOP presidential nominee John McCain (Ariz.) and running mate Sarah Palin (Alaska), along with other politicians, have repeatedly called for greater domestic energy exploration -- leading chants of "Drill, baby, drill" on a daily basis. In a speech on energy policy Wednesday, Palin said the United States needs to pursue oil and gas at home rather than relying on imports.

"In a McCain administration, we will authorize and support new exploration and production of America's own oil and gas reserves, because we cannot outsource the solution to America's energy problem," Palin told an audience in Toledo.

But environmentalists questioned why the administration is pushing for the lease of ecologically sensitive areas when Utah has more acres leased for oil and gas development than are being drilled. At the end of fiscal year 2006, there were about 4.6 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah under lease, with just over 1 million acres in production.

This from the Salt Lake Tribune:


By Patty Henetz
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 10/31/2008 11:43:52 AM MDT

The Bush administration is in its final push to open millions of acres in Utah and the West to energy development and along the way, critics warn, possibly destroy prospects for wilderness designation for thousands of acres of redrock desert.
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will release five of six long-range management plans that will open 80 percent of 11 million acres in southern and eastern Utah to oil and gas drilling and designate 20,000 miles of motorized recreation routes.
The actions of the lame-duck administration outrage conservationists, especially since the BLM's plans would have the force of statute for at least 10 years and would be difficult to alter.
"These [plans] are a very obvious attempt of the Bush administration to cement its legacy in Utah," said Steve Bloch, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "[They] are a road map to ruin for Utah's magnificent public lands."
And on Election Day, when citizens most likely will be focused elsewhere, the BLM will announce an oil- and gas-lease sale involving large swaths of public land considered worthy of wilderness status - including artifact-rich Nine Mile Canyon, Desolation Canyon and areas around Dinosaur National Monument.
The actual sale will be held the Friday before Christmas - "the bow atop the massive gift to the oil and gas industry we've seen for the last eight years," said Suzanne Jones, regional director of The Wilderness Society's Central Rockies office.


All photos © 2008 Robert Sommers

Johnny Cash talks about politics through the magic of LEGO

Little Blue Schoolhouse



In the interests of education I introduce the Blue Heron Topical Dictionary this morning.

Janjaweed - (Arabic: جنجويد; variously transliterated Janjawid, Janjawed or Jingaweit etc.– thought to mean "devil on horseback", or "a man with a gun on a horse") Sudanese sponsored Arab militias that systematically murder black african peasants in Darfur and surrounding regions. They have routinely starved refugees under their control. Use rape as weapon in ethnic cleansing. Although getting reliable mortality figures is difficult because of the governments stonewalling, they are estimated to have killed over 450,000 people.

Educate and donate at Save Darfur.







Janjaweed Militia

Sudan: New Darfur Attacks Show Civilians Still at Risk
Fighting Underscores Lack of Protection for Civilians

(New York, October 24, 2008) – Sudanese forces and government-backed militias attacked more than a dozen villages in operations against rebel forces near Muhajariya, South Darfur, between October 5 and 17, 2008, Human Rights Watch said today. The fighting, in which more than 40 civilians were killed, shows that the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) still lacks the capacity to protect vulnerable civilians.

During the same period, President Omar al-Bashir told the media that life was “very normal in Darfur,” and announced a new peace initiative with much fanfare in North Darfur.

“Once again, civilians are bearing the brunt of fighting in Darfur, and the peacekeepers cannot protect them,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Life in Darfur is far from ‘normal.’”

According to local sources, government-backed “Janjaweed” militias attacked more than 13 villages and settlements around Muhajariya, 80 kilometers east of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, killing more than 40 civilians, burning homes, and stealing livestock. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that armed Janjaweed on horses and camels surrounded villages and were followed by government forces in vehicles mounted with weapons.

Muhajariya has long been a stronghold for the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and has been attacked many times over the course of the Darfur conflict.

Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine whether government forces clashed with rebels during these attacks. On October 5 and 7, government forces and Janjaweed attacked Sineit village, 16 kilometers southeast of Muhajariya, killing nine civilians. On October 6, Janjaweed attacked Brangal village, 12 kilometers northeast of Muhajariya, resulting in seven civilian deaths. On October 8, they attacked Kilekile and villages in the Mijelit area, northwest of Sineit, resulting in an unconfirmed number of deaths. Rebels from Unity faction of the SLA reported that they clashed with government and Janjaweed forces only after the initial attacks, between October 13 and 17.

As a result of the attacks, thousands of villagers fled to the towns of Muhajariya and Shearia, and have yet to return home. Reliable sources reported more than 40 casualties from the attacks and fighting. However, the full extent and circumstances of civilian casualties remain largely unknown. After gunmen shot at a UNAMID convoy on October 14, UNAMID forces have not tried to enter the area. In recent months, UNAMID has increasingly become the target of attacks and banditry, including in South Darfur. The mission has deployed less than half of the 26,000 military and police mandated by UN Security Council Resolution on July 31, 2007, and is still missing critical equipment, including attack helicopters.

On July 14, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant for President al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. Since then, Sudan has repeatedly tried to persuade other countries that the security situation on the ground in Darfur is improving, with the aim of securing a suspension of the case against al-Bashir by the UN Security Council.

“President Bashir’s claims about the situation in Darfur should convince no one,” said Gagnon. “But whether or not the fighting continues, the victims of past atrocities deserve to see those responsible prosecuted.”

Human Rights Watch called on UNAMID to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into the Muhajariya attacks and urged all parties to the conflict to take all feasible measures to avoid loss of civilian life and property and to ensure that the civilian population has access to humanitarian assistance.






Ganja weed - Cannabis, also known as marijuana or marihuana, hemp, rope, pot, boo, stick, tea, reefer, number, green, chronic, mary jane, grass, wacky tobaccy, buds or ganja (from Hindi/Sanskrit: गांजा gānjā, hemp),is a psychoactive product of the plant Cannabis sativa, or more often, Cannabis sativa subsp. indica. The herbal form of the drug consists of dried mature flowers and subtending leaves of pistillate (female) plants. The resinous form, known as hashish, consists primarily of glandular trichomes collected from the same plant material. The major biologically active chemical compound in cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), commonly referred to as THC.














The English Queen Elizabeth I issued a decree commanding that landowners holding 60 acres or more must grow hemp or pay a fine. Commerce in hemp, which was primarily valued for the strength and versatility of its fibers, was profitable and thriving. Hemp ropes and sails were crossing the sea to North America with the explorers. By 1621, the British were growing cannabis in Virginia where cultivation of hemp was mandatory. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper. Both President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson were advocates of hemp as a valuable cash crop. Jefferson urged farmers to grow the crop in lieu of tobacco. By the 1850s, hemp had become the third largest agricultural crop grown in North America. The U. S. Census of that year recorded 8,327 hemp plantations, each with 2,000 or more acres in cultivation.

There are currently approximately 45,000 prisoners languishing in State and Federal Prisons in America for the innocuous crime of choosing to use this substance for their personal pleasure and to relieve the side effects from illness. Over 11 million Americans have been arrested since 1965. There were 786,545 arrests in 2005 alone. Marijuana has enjoyed wide and safe responsible usage around the world for millennia. Help end draconian laws against pot through Norml, The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. Contact Americans for Safe Access, which promotes the use of marijuana for medical patients.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One hundred blogs and counting...

Wow, a hundred blog month. New record, and not just your standard garden variety blog, these babies had teeth! With no additives, transfats or cholesterol. If it's not the most compelling meal you've ever had in cyberspace, we offer a money back guarantee.

I don't talk about work too much on this website but I recently purchased a pretty amazing collection of posters by the Swiss artist, Eric Nitsche,(1908-1998) who did a lot of work for General Dynamics in the 50's. A mid century icon of cool, he also did some very tasteful jazz album covers and pioneered some new lithographic techniques. His artistic roots extend much earlier, and all the work is incredible!  My nine posters, which I just had linen backed, are part of the large (and valuable) "Atoms for Peace" series. I will probably take them to Miami in January. Here is a Flickr site devoted to his work.
















I consider myself pretty hip on artists and illustrators from the 20th Century but must admit not being aware of this guy. I know my thirties and my sixties but the middle tends to fall away. Knew Gene Deitch's work which has similarities in terms of Kool quotient. I think that many mid-century artists are still waiting to be appreciated and discovered. I found some very cool Esherick etchings from the Song of Solomon publication last year that I am still waiting for the time to be right to spring. If you get a chance check out the Nitsche stuff. Google Nitsche, Image.

Thus spake Roberthustra.


Ralph Towner -- Green and Golden

The Race is On



"If the hispanics and the blacks get together, ladies and gentlemen, we'll do what we're told...don't come cryin to me when you get your tails beat and have to say "Yessuh, Mr. Obama."

Alabama State Sen. Charles Bishop (R- Jasper) speaking 6/21/08 to the Council of Concerned Citizens.


John McCain made a statement yesterday that race will not be a factor in this election. While I salute his conduct in this election in regards to race, I respectfully disagree. One only has to look at the comments, e-mails and actions of our fellow citizens to realize that the underlying subtext for this election is definitely the color of one's skin. 


I think that we can fairly point the fingers at
conservatives for bringing this issue to the fore. In the last eight years, the bogeyman in this country for the right has been "multiculturalism." This negative attitude is a learned behavior - go to a kindergarten and watch kids play together, skin color never factors in.  They get their hatred from ugly older people.


"It's probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama."

Hugh Hewitt 6/25/08



Many of my own friends have uttered statements that have floored me, even friends that read the blog. "I don't like blacks." "When I was a kid they wouldn't even let them ride the bus. There was nothing wrong with the old days." "We aren't ready for a black president."



A.P. - Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday. Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”




Last night the second effigy of Obama was found hanging from a tree at the University of Kentucky. Two white supremacists schmucks were caught on their way to assassinate Obama this week.  It is a popular thing for McCain supporters to slowly drawl out Obama's middle name Hussein at their rallies. This xenophobic hatred is base and dangerous.


Much of the stupidity apears to come from strange references in the bible and of course, the reappearance of Barack the antichrist.

As Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter from Mobile, Alabama, told a New York Times reporter, "He's neither-nor. He's other. It's in the Bible. Come as one. Don't create other breeds."


The son of the former KKK Grand Wizard, Donald Black, Derek Black was elected in August to the post of Republican Party Committeeman in Florida's District 29. He created the children's page for Stormfront, a white supremacist website. "I want to sway my party to do something about the immigration burden. Everyone in this country has the right to protect his group's interests. White people will soon be a minority."


These attitudes and there are literally thousands more examples, are prevalent, and frankly very dangerous.  It is not the America I love and it is getting worse.

During the primaries, a large minority of polled voters in Pennsylvania and Virginia candidly admitted that they could not vote for a black man.



"Obama will be a clear signal for millions of our people...come November millions of European Americans will inevitably react with new awareness of their heritage and the need to define and advance it."


David Duke






















I look at Libby Dole's new campaign video and the Willie Horton thing and realize that some people will say anything to get elected, there is nothing too base or crass.  I get so angry with Log Cabin Republicans and black Republicans who don't realize that they support a party whose beliefs are inimically opposed to their own existence. I don't know if it's self hatred or self serving, but they don't help themselves. America is not a country for European Americans , it is a country for all Americans.  Have you seen all the black and brown faces at the McCain rallies? Me neither. Kind of pasty actually.


I read an article in the WSJ last night where the Repubs laid out a plausible (but not probable) campaign strategy for winning this thing. And it's definitely not over.  And it will all be about race.



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lefty Frizzell - Cigarettes and Coffee Blues


I got off the phone with my buddy and guitar maker Andy Powers a few minutes ago. He met with Vince Gill before his concert in Escondido yesterday. He picked up the archtop guitar he made for me last year to show Vince. Vince played it and I guess fell in love with it (but it's not for sale). Andy has done stuff for Elvis Costello, Nickel Creek, Peter Sprague and Jason Mraz. He is an unbelievable player himself and one of the greatest luthiers on the planet. Nice to have Gill check it out - hope a little of his talent rubs off. Sam Maloof gave us the maple for the back and sides from 50 year old stock in his wood shed. Port Orford Cedar top. Sweet. Check out Andy's website on my links - he does incredible inlay as well. Here's a closeup of the fretboard on my other Andy Powers flat top Indian Rosewood "Creation" guitar.

A pirate looks at fifty one.



















The dry santa ana winds are blowing in from the east, as they do every October. Last year they brought fire, this year it's a little colder and we are thankfully spared.

I got a shock from my fence when I opened the gate this morning.  Sinus's are dried out and bloody throughout the county and signs of fall are finally appearing.

My ranch is in a river canyon and I see that some jackoffs have dumped several loads of debris and old couches off the road into the river basin as I drive out this morning. I don't understand the consciences of people like this - let someone else pick up after me, but I can see my wife now - I should talk. Dump fees are probably too high for some people right now so the temptation is just too strong.

My friend Bruce the locksmith got called in to open a house the day before yesterday by the sheriff.  A marine had battered his wife and then hung himself in the garage.  Bruce discovered him dead, left two autistic kids.  Little old Fallbrook.

This year will be an endurance test for everybody and some are already stretched to the limit. Snap. I thought about checking out once, but a writer can't do himself in until his first book is published. De Rigueur.  Anyway I have way too much intellectual curiosity to see what happens next.

I turn 51 next wednesday, I think.  I will be in San Francisco setting up for an antique show. After 50, it's an incline (decline?) anyway. Crisis to crisis and watch your family and friends drop.  Thank god I don't have kids.

The blog made it to some interesting lands this week, Istanbul, Kuala Lampur, Taipei, Cayman Islands.  I'm big in Kuala Lampur for christ sakes. Maybe I quit the stupid thing when I get to 500 posts which ain't far off.  As my friend Bill Cooper told me recently, who gives a shit what you think anyway. Exactly.

I might pull back on my muckraking as well.  Don't want to piss off any mean nasty corporation and have to spend money defending myself or worse.  Besides, I know that I can be a downer. Why not write about happy things?


People work, sleep, watch television, feed their families, and basically try to get through it all.  A friend called last night and invited me out for a drink.  I said make it tomorrow and let's have several drinks.  Plan to get drunk this afternoon.

I appreciate the readers domestically and internationally that tune into or even stumble upon this blog.  Blog - what an unattractive word. This fat ass bloviation.  Many of you are buffeted with lots of these things and it's a freaking chore, to be sure.  

I need to write a novel and blast off. Find a new planet where people still think. Let me know if you've got any ideas.

Rob




Fritz - Moose Lodge #1992

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Extra territorium jus dicenti impune non paretur" *






















One of the most enduring and painful effects of the "Bush Years" will be the result of his great success at stacking the Federal Appeals Court with arch conservatives. According to a New York Times article by Charles Savage published today, fully one third of all Federal Appeals Court Justices, a lifetime tenured position, will have been anointed and appointed by W.. These largely Federalist Society jurists now make up 61% of the judiciary. They control ten of the thirteen Federal Appeals Courts. One of the judges quoted in the article makes the laughable claim that they are bringing a neutral application of the law to the judiciary. The neutrality of Roberts and Alito is quite evident. Let's hope that they all have a short and happy life.


* The judgment of one who is exceeding his jurisdiction is disobeyed with impunity.

Red Meat for my Republican Friends


I was sent this clip by a misanthropic gentleman from Santa Fe who shall go nameless. I don't think it is particularly well done or clever but it gives you red-staters a chance to cuss and vent your anger. And boy do you sound angry. I never thought Penn was very funny but he sure is loud. I am amused by all the talk of Obama's socialistic tendencies. The same week G.M. asks the government for 10b with their hand out and every other financial institution in the country is on the public dole. Kind of interesting that Bush is now the bad guy, the villain, yet you who elected him and the six years of Republican majority Congress, refuse to take any ownership for his or their policies and their effect. Don't tell us about big spending programs, all right? So I kind of hate to put this piece of shit clip up but want to impress you with my overwhelming sense of fairness and objectivity.

I would say that close to a majority of my friends are conservative and Republican.  I had a dream that god came down and told me to torture you people. Turnabout's fair play.




McFarland Community Identification Scale from an interesting blog at USC.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blinko by Ken Nordine

Etta James - At Last

Kali, Goddess of Destruction



Possibly the greatest failure of the current administration is the way it has thumbed its nose at longstanding conventions and policies as well as the international community at large. We put our finger in the eye of the U.N., refused to ratify Kyoto, tried to castrate Baradei and generally made mincemeat out of Geneva, The Constitution, etc.. If there is a Dick Cheney mantra, it's
f*ck them.

Occasionally I suppose this can be a strength but more often than not I think that our self righteous bravado sparks anger and resentment globally that makes such behavior counterproductive. Having the power of being the most powerful nation in the world must be quite intoxicating.




I mention this because you would think that an administration that is in it's twilight years would slip away quietly and gracefully into the night and not stir up any new animus that will make it hard for its successor. Bush and Co. are taking a different tack. We recently completed a nuclear deal with India that not only blows away long standing policy and the non proliferation treaty but might also spark a whole new asian arms race. India announced this morning that they will build a nuclear bomb if they feel it is in their best interest.

A background
article from the Economic Times of India. And an excellent piece in the Asian Times.

We also took the opportunity to invade Syria for the first time and give the Middle East deck a last minute shuffle. Along with our Pakistani drone strike last week, this behavior might tie the diplomatic hands of the next president and I think that it is ill advised. But what do you expect from such a classless bunch?

"...now I am become Death [Shiva], the destroyer of worlds..."

Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, Supervising Scientist of the Manhattan Project on 16 July 1945 at 0529 HRS,in the Jornada del Muerto desert near the Trinity site in the White Sands Missile Range.... quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita upon witnessing the first atomic detonation by mankind.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cuba,Si?


Jorge Mas Santos, Chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, writes an interesting editorial yesterday titled How to Win the Cuban American Vote in the Washington Post.

I quote a section of the essay:

The Cuban American National Foundation, the nation's largest Cuban exile organization, has a predominantly Republican membership. Yet our fundamental interest is not partisan politics but helping to restore freedom to our brothers and sisters on the island.

We entered the new millennium expecting U.S. policy toward Cuba to follow the effective model of the West's support for Poland's Solidarity movement and civil society across Eastern Europe. It was our hope that by seeking to empower Cuba's independent civil society through unlimited support for the brave men and women on the island opposing the Castro regime, the energy and resources of the Cuban American community would be unleashed. To this end, we have been sorely disappointed.

As a direct result of President Bush's strategic blunder in 2004 restricting contact with the island, Cuban dissidents have experienced a significant reduction in material and humanitarian assistance. They are also subject to a ban on receiving cash remittances that help them and their families survive. The isolation of these and other Cubans has increased while Fidel Castro's departure from office caught the Bush administration off guard. Together, these developments have helped Raúl Castro consolidate control over the Cuban people.

These failures in U.S. policy undermine important American interests. Just as a democratic Israel is a key U.S. friend in a critical region, a democratic Cuba would be a crucial ally in furthering democracy in Latin America. Cuba is important, also, because the dissatisfaction of its people under the Castro regime is bound to have a significant effect on Floridians and Cuban Americans nationwide. It has in the past.


I would agree with him on all of his points. However I wonder if this is not merely a politically expedient soliloquy in a changing wind. The Florida Cuban lobby has been so strident, monolithic and well totally Republican, and now they are willing to sell their wares to the other side, if certain conditions are met. Sounds like they are asking to be wooed from the title and tenor of the piece. 
Great to finally have you guys on the team, Jorge.

Parting Gifts


This has not been a good week for the environment. On the heels of the decision to roll back stricter regulation on lead emissions, the Bush Administration, in an old fashioned October Surprise, has announced several more doozies.

A proposal by the Department of the Interior would change the rules that regulate the disposal of mine waste that would make it even easier for mining companies to rip the tops off mountains in search of coal.

The proposed change would call upon companies to avoid dumping debris from large-scale excavation operations within a 100-foot buffer zone around streams. But it would allow such dumping "if avoidance is not possible," and direct companies to minimize environmental harms "to the extent possible."

Administration officials say the proposed changes are needed to eliminate confusion over what constitutes compliance with the law. The net environmental effect of the change, they add, is "slightly positive," because it would require companies to minimize the volume of rock and waste disposed of outside the mined area. Environmental groups say it promotes the coal companies' practice of shearing off mountain crests in search of coal and dumping the waste into valleys and streams.

So, the reality is that once again we are going to trust these companies to regulate themselves. It worked so well with the investment banks. To allow them to tear the top off of a mountain and fill the waterways with the offal, "if avoidance is not possible". Now call me cynical but my bet is that many coal companies are going to reach that conclusion awful quickly.


Mountaintop removal, Kayford Valley, West Virginia.

The Bush Administration is also calling for more uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. I encourage everyone to do a little research on the harm that these companies have caused on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. The sickness, the radioactive hot spots, it is truly appalling. Nothing is holy or sacrosanct to the evil minions in the beltway. And in a true flash of the dark side, comments on the proposal have to be made by Monday on this proposal, which was published October 10th.


Radioactive water on Navajo Reservation near abandoned mine.

"This administration will stop at nothing to jam through as many reckless proposals as they can before the clock runs out," says Rep. Nick Rahall (D., W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Interior Department wants to overhaul the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide on their own whether protected species would be put at risk by their projects. As it now stands, government agencies must consult the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service or other agencies to see if projects pose risks to species or the environment. According to the Administration, this change will allow them to focus more on critical conservation efforts. Read - pick and choose and the animal and environment lose. This last minute skullduggery poses tremendous harm to our land.

The administration initially set a 30-day public-comment period, half the normal period allowed for new rules. After a wave of protests from opponents, the administration extended the period by another 30 days, ending Oct. 14.

The Bush Administration is trying again to take the gray wolf of the Northern Rockies off the federal endangered species list. Having lost in court this summer in a legal battle with conservationists, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has decided to reopen for public comment a proposal to delist the wolves, currently considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act. "We think the wolves no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for Fish & Wildlife. Wildlife advocates immediately protested.

"This is the Bush Administration's last-gasp attempt to remove protections for wolves," said Louisa Wilcox, senior wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Bangs said the government will open a comment period Tuesday, lasting until Nov. 28. After that, officials could swiftly decide to remove the federal protections for the wolf in much of the Northern Rockies and turn management of the predator species over to the states. The act provides that, once an endangered species has recovered, states take control of them.

Some ranchers are eager to see the wolf delisted. "We was doing fine without 'em," says Gerry Endecott, a ranch manager south of Jackson, Wyo. "In this day and age, it just can't go back to where it was a hundred years ago. If you go back a hundred years, you have to get rid of Jackson and all the people."

Gee Gerry, you make a lot of sense. I'm glad you was doing fine.  With the relatively small numbers of livestock kills by wolves, I am in favor of paying off the ranchers to shut up.  It's a good trade, I think.

A 2007 attempt to delist the wolves led a coalition of conservation organizations to file suit in federal court. In July, US District Judge Donald W. Molloy ruled in their favor, issuing an injunction that put the wolf back under federal protection pending a final resolution of the suit.

What is wrong with these people? Do their children and grandchildren and they themselves not also have to live on this earth? Is this legacy that they are leaving something they can be proud of? I know that Bush stacked the Justice Department with a bunch of career Calvinists caterwauling for the endtimes. Has the same thing happened at Interior and the EPA? Screw the planet, this is all moot when the good lord returns...

Take the time to google Julie Macdonald, who left the Interior Department in shame, look at her record on species protection, examine the actions of Stephen Johnson at EPA. Gale Norton. Look at the government's stance on dolphins, beluga whales, perchlorate, bisphenol, lead, snowmobiles, mercury. The list gos on and on. This is the most hardened bunch of nasty monsters one could ever encounter. Maybe they spend their lunch breaks torturing cats and pulling the wings off of bugs? This administration has made a mockery of environmental protection, much of which is irreversible.

If we are lucky enough to get a more environmentally sensitive government after Nov. 4th and I don't think it could get much worse, will we have to institute some sort of palliative Maoist purge at these agencies? Like ridding the ranks of the Vichy? They have done their best to tear down about 30 years of sensible environmental regulation. I hope that people will make some noise and try to stop this crap.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Talking Heads - Slippery People

Kellogg, Brown and Root

















KBR, the American contracting company that was spun off of Dick Cheney's Halliburton, now stands accused by the Defense Contract Management Agency, the Pentagon agency in charge of supervising contractors in Iraq. It is their determination that KBR, a Houston company that provides virtually all basic services for the American military in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has been guilty of “serious contractual noncompliance” in Iraq.

Allegations have been made that at least 18 soldiers have been killed because of KBR's shoddy electrical work. According to internal documents that have found their way to the New York Times, the problem is actually more widespread than previously understood. Both the Pentagon and the Congress have been investigating the company throughout the year.

It is bad enough that these brave military personnel brave all the other dangers that they face, they should not have to fear for their safety because of KBR's negligence.

This from today's New York Times, article by James Risen:

The issue of shoddy electrical work on U.S. military bases in Iraq first emerged in the wake of the January, 2008 death of Sergeant Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret from Pennsylvania who was electrocuted while taking a shower in his barracks in Baghdad. Maseth's family went public with their questions about the circumstances surrounding his death, and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against KBR, accusing the firm of failing to adequately maintain the building's electric system.

The Maseth case ultimately sparked investigations of electrical work on U.S. bases by Congress and the Pentagon's inspector general, and ultimately prompted an order for comprehensive safety inspections of the electrical work at all U.S. military facilities in Iraq.

Officials said that the army recently reopened its investigation into Maseth's death, after obtaining new testimony and evidence in the case, including the discovery that another soldier suffered electrical shocks while assigned to the same room as Maseth.


And just to show that there's no hard feelings, this from yesterday's A.P.:

KBR gets military projects worth $197 million
Associated Press 10.24.08, 7:58 AM ET

HOUSTON -

Engineering, construction and services company KBR Inc. said late Thursday it received multiple project task orders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers totaling just over $197 million.

KBR (nyse: KBR ) will provide design, engineering, construction management and project management services. Work is expected to begin immediately.

The projects, which fall under the company's current CENTCOM multiple award task order contract, include the construction of maintenance facilities and airfields for helicopters and other aircraft, along with the construction of a dining facility, all at U.S. air bases in Iraq.

John McCain post election "things to do" list




1. Establish a definitive count of the number of properties I actually own.

2. Finally take those Anger Management classes.

3. Hire surviving members of the Bonnano Family to whack Palin. Or maybe get that nutcase Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the job.

4. Get James Garner and Jodie Foster to help me with new "Maverick" reprise.

5. Call up Ollie and Singlaub and start an "oldtimers" paramilitary group. Invade Iran.

6. Stewed Prunes.

7. Spring Renzi.

8. Establish new Think Tank with Joe the Plumber.

9. Leave Cindy for David Petraeus.


© 2008 Robert Sommers

Friday, October 24, 2008

Strange Bedfellows


















John McCain can excoriate Barack Obama for his casual acquaintance with William Ayers and yet justify a warm and friendly meeting of his own (while in the employ of the United States Senate) with a South American dictator responsible for killing thousands of teachers, students and labor leaders? Read about his pal Augustin Pinochet here. A guy whose intelligence service engaged in the sport of throwing bound political prisoners off planes into the ocean. Jean Kirkpatrick perfected the treading of the nonexistent semantical thin line between our "authoritarian dictator friends and the totalitarian dictator enemies" that I still find hard to grasp. The information that was published in Huffpo today is new to me.

Today's Huffington Post: McCain's previously undisclosed visit with Dictator Pinochet.


McCain's Private Visit With Chilean Dictator Pinochet Revealed For First Time

John McCain, who has harshly criticized the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions, appears to have done just that. In 1985, McCain traveled to Chile for a friendly meeting with Chile's military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, one of the world's most notorious violators of human rights credited with killing more than 3,000 civilians and jailing tens of thousands of others.

The private meeting between McCain and dictator Pinochet has gone previously un-reported anywhere.

According to a declassified U.S. Embassy cable secured by The Huffington Post, McCain described the meeting with Pinochet "as friendly and at times warm, but noted that Pinochet does seem obsessed with the threat of communism." McCain, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time, made no public or private statements critical of the dictatorship, nor did he meet with members of the democratic opposition in Chile, as far as could be determined from a thorough check of U.S. and Chilean newspaper records and interviews with top opposition leaders.

At the time of the meeting, in the late afternoon of December 30, the U.S. Justice Department was seeking the extradition of two close Pinochet associates for an act of terrorism in Washington DC, the 1976 assassination of former ambassador to the U.S. and former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. The car bombing on Sheridan Circle in the U.S. capital was widely described at the time as the most egregious act of international terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil by a foreign power.

At the time of McCain's meeting with Pinochet, Chile's democratic opposition was desperately seeking support from democratic leaders around the world in an attempt to pressure Pinochet to allow a return to democracy and force a peaceful end to the dictatorship, already in its 12th year. Other U.S. congressional leaders who visited Chile made public statements against the dictatorship and in support of a return to democracy, at times becoming the target of violent pro-Pinochet demonstrations.

Senator Edward Kennedy arrived only 12 days after McCain in a highly public show of support for democracy. Demonstrators pelted his entourage with eggs and blocked the road from the airport, so that the Senator had to be transported by helicopter to the city, where he met with Catholic church and human rights leaders and large groups of opposition activists.

Mark Schneider, a foreign policy aide and former State Department human rights official who organized Kennedy's trip, said he had no idea McCain had been there only days before. "It would be very surprising and disappointing if Senator McCain went to Chile to meet with a dictator and did not forcefully demand a return to democracy and then to publicly call for a return to democracy," Schneider said.

McCain's visit with Pinochet took place at a moment when the Chilean strongman held virtually unrestricted dictatorial power and those involved in public, democratic opposition were exposed to great risk.

McCain's presence in Chile was apparently kept as quiet as possible. He and his wife Cindy arrived December 27 and traveled immediately to the scenic Puyehue area of southern Chile to spend several days as the guest of a prominent Pinochet backer, Marco Cariola, who later was elected senator for the conservative UDI party.

The trip was arranged by Chile's ambassador to the United States, Hernan Felipe Errazuriz. According to a contemporary government document obtained from Chile, Errazuriz arranged for a special government liaison to help McCain while in Chile for the "strictly private" visit, and described him as "one of the conservative congressmen who is closest to our embassy."

Errazuriz also arranged the invitation for the McCains to stay at the farm of his wealthy friend, Marco Cariola, according to Cariola, who did not know McCain previously. The McCains spent the three and a half days fishing for salmon and trout and riding horses. The area is one of Chile's most beautiful tourist attractions, with dozens of crystal clear lakes and rivers surrounded by luxurious estates such as the Cariola farm where the McCains were staying.

On December 30, McCain traveled back to Santiago for a 5 pm meeting with dictator Pinochet, followed by a meeting with Admiral Jose Toribio Merino, a member of the country's ruling military junta.

McCain's meeting with Pinochet in 1985 are described in a U.S. embassy cable, based on McCain's debriefing with embassy officials:

"Most of his 30-minute meeting with the president, at which foreign minister [Jaime] Del Valle and a ministry staff member were present, was spent in discussing the dangers of communism, a subject about which the president seems obsessed. The President described Chile's recent history in the fight against communism and displayed considerable pride in the fact that the communist menace had been defeated in Chile. The President stressed that Chile had stood alone in this battle, and complained that United States Foreign Policy had left them stranded. The congressman added that talking to Pinochet was somewhat similar to talking with the head of the John Birch Society."

Other than to describe the warmth of the encounter, the cable does not contain any account of what McCain said to Pinochet. There is no indication that the subject of human rights or return to democracy was raised with Pinochet. At this time in history, Pinochet was overtly ostracized by most world democratic leaders because of his refusal to move toward a restoration of democratic, civilian rule.

A second declassified U.S. diplomatic cable refers to a letter from then-U.S. Ambassador Harry Barnes giving further detail of McCain's meeting with Pinochet.

From his meeting with junta member Merino, however, McCain passed on an tidbit of political intelligence that the embassy found useful. "The most interesting part of the conversation, according to the congressman, was Merino's statement that he and other members of the Junta had recently told Pinochet that he should not expect any support from the junta if he should decide to be a candidate for president in 1989."

In fact, three years later Pinochet was defeated in a plebiscite in which he was the only candidate, and free elections a year later restored democratic government. A healthy list of U.S. congressmen traveled to Chile in support of the transition to democracy, including Republican Senator Richard Lugar. McCain, by then a first term senator, did not return to Chile.
In addition to the Chilean document and the U.S. cable cited above, at least four other declassified documents refer to McCain's meeting with Pinochet and his interest in Chile.

McCain campaign press office said no one was available to comment on the story.

Former ambassador Errazuriz, reached by phone, said repeatedly "it is not true" that McCain met with Pinochet, that he would have known about it if it had, and that the state Department cable was possibly a fabrication.

On September 11, 1973, Army General Pinochet led a bloody coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende. The four-man military junta that seized power bombed the presidential palace, padlocked the congress, outlawed all political activity and actively persecuted its opponents. Pinochet remained in power until 1990 and in 2006 he was charged with 36 counts of kidnapping, 23 counts of torture and one count of murder. He was spared a trial for health reasons and died at age 91 in December 2006.

October 24, 2008: The Day in 100 Seconds

From the incredible folks at TPMTV!

The Jew Thing


Contrary to popular opinion, Jewish American's are big time in the Obama camp.  I am comforted to know that the Lieberman's, Kristols and Black Hats of this world make up a minority voice in my tribe.  - From today's Haaretz:

A new poll released by the Gallup organization on Thursday shows Jewish voters favor Barack Obama over John McCain by more than 3 to 1, with 74% saying they will vote for Obama over 22% for McCain.

The poll, which has interviewed over 650 Jewish registered voters each month since June, shows American Jews growing increasingly comfortable with Obama since July, when the Illinois Senator tied up the Democratic Party nomination. The poll shows support for McCain among Jews stood at a high of 34% in June, before beginning its downward turn in July after Obama's nomination.

The highest level of support for Obama according to the poll is among Jews over the age of 55, 74% of which have said they're voting for Obama over 67% of Jews 18 to 34. The Gallup organization says the disparity could be based on a greater inclination among Jews 18 to 34 to call themselves Conservative, but says a similar inclination isn't apparent among Jews aged 35 to 54, 68% of which polled by Gallup have said they're voting Obama.

The poll's findings show that in spite of a certain measure of trepidation among some Jewish voters towards Obama early in his campaign, he is set to receive the same percentage of the Jewish vote (74%) as John Kerry in 2004, and only slightly less than the 80% of the Jewish vote that Al Gore received in 2000 when he had a Jewish running mate in Joe Lieberman.

Earlier in October, a poll commissioned by researchers at New York University revealed that American Jews favor Obama over McCain by a 67 - 33 percent margin.

The survey, which sampled the opinions of over 3,000 respondents - half of them being Jewish - also found that Jews as an ethnic group will support Obama by almost 30 percent more than other white, non-Hispanic voters.

The poll sought to gauge the importance Jewish voters attach to Israel as a consideration in whom they would vote for, with some surprising results. Of all the Jews surveyed who said that Israel is of "high" importance, 63 percent said they would vote for Obama. In contrast, only 42 percent of Jews who said Israel has "very high" importance said they planned to vote for Obama.

Not surprisingly, the Jewish vote swings heavily in McCain's favor among the Orthodox. According to the survey, the Arizona senator can count on support from 75 percent of Orthodox Jewish voters.



Hit a Jew Day

Oct 24, 5:18 AM (ET)

By JIM SALTER

ST. LOUIS (AP) - At least four students from a suburban St. Louis middle school face punishment for allegedly hitting Jewish classmates during what they called "Hit a Jew Day."

The incident happened last week at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield.

District officials said Thursday they believe that fewer than 10 children of the district's 35 Jewish students were struck.

District spokesman Paul Tandy said that in most cases, the students were hit on the back of their shoulders but one student was slapped in the face.

It began with an unofficial "Spirit Week" among sixth-graders that started harmlessly enough with a "Hug a Friend Day." Then there was "High Five Day."

Soon, though, the days moved from friendly to silly. Next there was "Hit a Tall Person Day" and, finally, "Hit a Jew Day."

District officials believe a handful of children were directly involved. Those who actually struck classmates could face suspension and required counseling, Tandy said. Others who weren't directly involved but taunted Jewish students or egged on classmates could face lesser penalties.

"There is a mix of sadness and outrage," Tandy said. "The concern is a lot of kids knew about it and they didn't take action or say anything."

Karen Aroesty, St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said this was more than a case of bullying. Officials from the group will meet Friday with district leaders to discuss the matter.



Austrians praise deceased Nazi admirer Haider

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN BERLIN

"He was a remarkable person" and one should "pay tribute to him," was how Social Democratic Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer described right-wing extremist politician Joerg Haider at Haider's funeral ceremony in Klagenfurt, Austria on Saturday.

While local Austrian authorities declared an inebriated Haider to have died as the result a high-speed car crash last week, Karlheinz Klement, a former member of Haider's ex-party, the Freedom Party, asserted that the Mossad had assassinated him. Klement's conspiracy thesis is circulating among Austrian neo-Nazi and right-wing internet forums.

In the mid 1990s, Haider proclaimed the Freedom Party "to be the PLO of Austria" at a party event. He split from the Freedom Party in 2005 and formed the Alliance for the Future of Austria, a hard-line, reactionary and anti-foreigner party based in the Federal State of Carinthia, where he served as governor.

Haider was notorious for his praise of Nazi employment policies and the Waffen SS, an organization devoted to exterminating European Jewry.

The Waffen SS are "decent individuals with character, who stick to their beliefs despite strong opposition and remain true to them today as well. That is a good basis, my dear friends, for us younger people to inherit," said Haider at meeting of the Veterans of the Waffen SS in Carinthia, Austria.

Haider's funeral turned into a day of national mourning and 30,000 Austrians flocked to the Carinthian capital of Klagenfurt to attend the service, which was covered live by Austria's national broadcaster, ORF.

Widow Claudia Haider, center, and her daughters walk in a procession that makes its way towards the cathedral during the funeral of Austria's late far-right politician Joerg Haider.

Given Haider's anti-Semitic and xenophobic views, and taking into account that he represents a rallying point for Europe's radical right, it was an astonishing show of political solidarity as Austria's heads of state and political parties paid tribute to him. Chancellor Gusenbauer said Haider had had "an excellent feeling for what needs to be changed" in Austrian politics.

Heinz Fischer, the Social Democratic president, said Haider's death was a "human tragedy," and that he had been a "politician with great talents."

The ex-head of the Austrian Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen, said Haider had been "an exceptional politician, highly qualified to inspire people and win [them] over."

The conservative People's Party vice chancellor Wilhelm Molterer said Haider hadn't minced his words, and therefore "deserves great respect."

The Social Democratic president of the Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer, recognized the great political and life achievements of Haider, who helped shaped Austria's political landscape over the decades.

The praise for Haider contradicts the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) statement issued to The Jerusalem Post shortly before the national election in late September. In response to the Post's question about whether Austria had a "special responsibility" toward Israel due to Austrian complicity with Germany during the Holocaust, Andreas Schieder, the SPÖ State Secretary in the Chancellery, wrote: "That is also the basis for the commitment: prevent the beginnings. Never forget - no more fascism.

"However, we are painfully aware of what the chancellor at the time, Franz Vranitzky, noted in a speech before the Knesset in 1991. Austrians were not only victims, but also perpetrators. The SPÖ will continue to fight anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and any form of National Socialist ideology."

Heribert Schiedel, an expert on right-wing extremism at the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance, a prominent think-tank in Vienna, told the Post that political statements from Austrian parties regarding Israel are "insignificant, ineffective and meaningless."

When asked about the across-party-lines praise for Haider, Schiedel told the Post that "it is an expression of an underdeveloped Democracy and political culture" in Austria that Haider helped to shape.

Haider and his party epitomized an aggressive anti-Israeli agenda, with a foreign policy supporting alliances with the Iranian Mullah regime, Iraq under the rule of former tyrant Saddam Hussein, who Haider visited several times in Baghdad, and the Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

Haider had welcomed an Iranian economic delegation to Carinthia in July 2007 at a time when both the European Union and the US sought to discourage trade with Iran due to its uranium enrichment program, which could be used to make nuclear weapons.

He demanded that the "responsible warmongers" in Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 be summoned before a war crimes tribunal, and that Austria evict the Israeli Ambassador in Vienna. Israel's right to self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks and Hizbullah terror activity played no role in Haider's foreign policy views.

He fanned the flames of Austrian anti-Semitism, blasting the head of the Austrian Jewish Community, Ariel Muzicant, as a "Zionist provocateur in the West" who wanted to silence criticism of Israel with the "club of Anti-Semitism."

Haider also criticized Muzicant for seeking to end flight connections with the Iran.

Some Austrians felt that the major media in Austria had watered down their criticism of Haider and employed flimsy excuses to justify his anti-Democratic and anti-Israeli statements as well as his crude defenses of the Hitler movement.

Columnist Gudrun Harrer wrote a controversial analysis in the left-liberal daily Der Standard entitled: "Many Arabs considered Haider 'the Lion.'"

She argued that "This 'attitude,' Haider's view of the Arab and Islamic world and his sympathy for its undemocratic regimes, is complex: One might see his anti-Americanism and his recourse to political incorrectness as coming from his questionable interpretation of European history or as a reaction to his own rejection, especially by Israel, which called its ambassador back from Vienna in 2000 because of the FPO's participation in the government. In addition, Haider was probably simply also seeking a way to gain international prominence, and nobody else wanted him."

Schiedel, from the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance, considers Harrer's commentary to be "highly problematic" because it shifts the "guilt to the Israelis and Jews" for Haider's views and plays down his distorted understanding of Nazi history.

More info on the deceased leader -

Sweet Nazis

Haider is gay, says German report


* Kate Connolly in Vienna
* The Guardian,
* Friday March 24 2000

Jörg Haider, the de facto leader of the far-right Freedom party in Austria, has been "outed" by German and Austrian newspapers who claim he is a homosexual.

A report in the leftwing Berlin Tageszeitung, or Taz, headlined "Jörg simply wants a cuddle", and repeated in the Austrian daily Der Standard yesterday, says that the gay community in Austria has had evidence that Mr Haider is gay for some time.

But, say the newspapers, it has been reluctant to release the evidence, fearing an outburst of hate towards the gay community "that would overtake the hatred towards foreigners", according to the owner of one of Vienna's well-known gay bars.

Mr Haider threw Europe into turmoil after the Freedom party entered government with the conservative People's party under the leadership of Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel almost two months ago.

Political analysts have largely viewed his resignation as head of the party last month as a tactical move, but some now claim he wanted to withdraw from the limelight, fearing that his outing was imminent.

According to Taz, many members of Vienna's gay scene are ready to confirm the reports. They claim he regularly has sex with young men below the age of consent - 18 for homosexuals.

As a result, says Taz: "These days he prefers to meet with boys from nearby Slovakia" (where the age of consent is 15). The paper also refers to Mr Haider's alleged cocaine habit.

Following yesterday's reports, the Freedom party's parliamentary leader, Peter Westenthaler, said: "I refuse to comment on such absurdities and sleaze-mongering." Mr Haider has made no comment, though it is expected that he will now be forced to break his longstanding silence on the issue.

According to Taz, Haider's current partner is a youthful member of the Freedom party who has worked as his private secretary.

Hosi, or Homosexual Initiative, the biggest gay pressure group in Austria, said: "We've known about Haider's homosexuality for about 10 years. On the one hand we think it's positive that the rumours are no longer capable of ruining a political career, on the other hand an earlier outing of Haider would have been justified."

The Jews have never been ashamed of being Jews, whereas homosexuals have been stupid enough to be ashamed of their homosexuality.
Rainer W. Fassbinder



On Thursday the Pennsylvania GOP sent out an email to 75,000 Jewish voters in the state warning that electing Obama could lead to a second Holocaust, the AP reports:

"Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008," the e-mail reads. "Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let's not make a similar one this year!"
A copy of the e-mail, provided by Democratic officials, says it was "Paid for by the Republican Federal Committee of PA - Victory 2008."

It warns "Fellow Jewish Voters" of the danger of a second Holocaust due to the threats to Israel from its neighbors and touts Republican presidential candidate John McCain's qualifications over those of Obama.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Whoops, not so fast...















Last Friday I made a comment in my weekend wambling post that I was amazed that the EPA actually did the right thing and allowed tougher standards of airborne lead emissions, the first significant reduction in over thirty years. According to the EPA's own website, lead is a major environmental health hazard for young children. Research shows that blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) in young children can result in lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior. However, there currently is no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood, and adverse health effects can occur at lower concentrations.

Well gee, I guess it was too good to be true. Today it was noted that the EPA under White House pressure decided to rollback the new standards at the last minute. The story here.

The following is from OMB Watch 10/21/08:

New monitoring requirement undercut by OMB

To address concerns that EPA's system for monitoring airborne lead pollution is inadequate, the agency announced an expansion of its monitoring network. However, officials at OMB watered down a new requirement, which could allow more than 100 polluting facilities to go unmonitored.

Critics say the Bush administration has allowed the national system for detecting airborne lead to founder. Currently, state and local authorities operate 133 monitors nationwide, according to an EPA spokesperson. In 1980, 800 monitors were in operation.

EPA used its revision to the air quality standard for lead to set criteria for the placement or relocation of new monitors. EPA estimates the new criteria will require an additional 236 monitors.

One criterion that triggers the placement of monitors is the amount of lead pollution emitted by industrial facilities. The new regulation requires state and local officials to set up monitors near sources emitting one ton or more of lead pollution per year. In a public proposal EPA unveiled in May, the agency signaled its intent to set the threshold between 200 kg and 600 kg (about 0.22 tons and 0.66 tons). An OMB Watch investigation of EPA's rulemaking docket discovered documents that indicate officials from OMB pushed for the weaker threshold requirement.

A draft of the final rule attached to an Oct. 13 e-mail from EPA to OMB contains language stating the emissions threshold would be set at 0.5 tons per year. The 0.5-ton threshold would have been consistent with EPA's May proposal.

But another e-mail from EPA to OMB sent late on Oct. 14 — less than 48 hours before the final rule was publicly announced — stated, "[I]f OMB wants a 1 ton threshold, it would have to provide a rationale for that point of view." The e-mail requested "a technical rationale, and not policy views." The final rule provides no such rationale.

The e-mail indicates EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock spoke to officials at OMB, possibly Susan Dudley, the head of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA reviews and sometimes edits drafts of agency regulations.

Dudley and Peacock previously scuffled over the aforementioned ozone rulemaking in which EPA and White House officials disagreed over whether to set a separate standard to protect plant life. Dudley won that policy battle after President Bush was brought in to arbitrate.

The change from a 0.5-ton threshold to a one-ton threshold could have real consequences. EPA estimates the one-ton threshold will apply to 135 facilities. However, the 0.5-ton threshold would have applied to at least 259 facilities. The change means state and local officials will not be required to place new lead pollution monitors near at least 124 facilities that emit lead.