Saturday, January 31, 2009
By Warner Todd Huston
Remember the days when news agencies claimed they were the fourth estate? Remember when they claimed to be "objective" and pretended at being separate from the controlling power in Washington D.C.? Apparently that whole claim has proven somewhat chimeric if the several stories we've detailed this week are any indication. And now, to add to the gathering evidence that the Old Media are actively joining Team Obama and the political left, comes CNN to hawk a new line of Obama T-Shirts. So much for being objective. So much for staying above joining a political campaign.
Judi McLeod of the Canada Free Press was alerted by one of her readers to CNN's participation in Barack Obama's permanent political campaign with its new capitalist venture. CNN's headline shirts, where CNN fans can pick from various CNN headlines and have them emblazoned on a T-Shirt for their wearing pleasure, have been a round for a little while, of course. But never before has the TV Cable Newser dedicated an entire series of such shirts to celebrate a single politician... until The One descended upon Washington.
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So, what is going on with our purported news agencies? In the past, they've tried to hide bias behind a facade of objectivity, tried to hold themselves out as an important, autonomous institution so important that without them we'd no longer, they claimed, have democracy. They've said that as "journalists" they must remain separate from government, separate even from patriotism to the point where many of them refuse to flay American flags, stand for the national anthem, or deign to wear American flag lapel pins. They assume of themselves quite an exalted role in our American system and assume of themselves the role of the cynic.
But, we've seen this week on NewsBusters that these lofty claims have become but a fond memory. Or if not just a fond memory, then a shedding of the false front held up by the Old Media to obscure the singular fact that instead of disinterested, objective observers interested in "truth," they are active players that line up behind the political left. We've just this week seen a Time Magazine photographer working for both Obama and Time Magazine and learned of the daily left-wing strategy sessions that are joined by influential members of the media and the Chief of Staff of Obama's White House. These incidents seem to reveal a media complicit with the Obama White House as opposed to a media standing outside that orbit, reporting with a cynical eye on its operations.
And now to add to the above examples we have CNN assisting Obama to continue selling paraphernalia in the form of T-Shirts. The question occurs, of course, would CNN find itself disposed to sell George W. Bush T-Shirts? How about John McCain T-Shirts? Will they be ready to help out Sarah Palin should she want to run for president?
Here are the Obama sayings you can have on your chest should you be so disposed:
This is America happening Obama's era of change arrives Obama fever goes global as hope rises 44th president is a 1st for the nation Obama's moment arrives 1st couple boogies; 2nd couple sways Obama: It's time to remake America Change comes to Washington Obama: 'We have chosen hope' Obamas juggle inaugural balls 'This is my moment too,' witness says Obama fever spreads around the world
Don't you just feel the hope-n-change in the air? Oh, and the collusion, too?
A joyful moment everywhere but the minds of anti war leftists. Code Pink would gladly deny Iraqi's freedom because it doesn't suit their agenda. You want to know why Code Pink is quiet now? It's because their lead spokeswoman Medea Benjamin is off supporting the Hamas terrorists.
The list grows: Geithner, Rangel, Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, who next. Let's not forget the questions about Caroline Kennedy. As Leona Helmsley once quipped, "taxes are for the little people." How can you have an ethical administration when going in you start with crooks?
Criminal prosecution? Only for Republicans and the little people.
Friday, January 30, 2009
North Korea Scrapping Accords With South Korea
By CHOE SANG-HUN
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea unilaterally declared on Friday that it was scrapping agreements it had signed with South Korea to ease military tension on the divided Korean Peninsula.
The announcement followed a series of recent saber-rattling gestures from North Korea that officials and analysts in Seoul have said were aimed at raising tension to gain attention from the new administration of President Barack Obama and to win concessions from President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea.
“All the agreed points concerning the issue of putting an end to the political and military confrontation between the North and the South will be nullified,” said a statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the North Korean agency in charge of relations with South Korea.
It said the accords to be nullified included a 1991 agreement on reconciliation and non-aggression, as well as North Korea’s promise, contained in the agreement’s appendix, that it would honor the western sea border claimed by South Korea. North Korea has flouted these agreements by developing nuclear weapons and sparking naval clashes on the disputed sea border in 1999 and 2002. After the 1999 clash, it unilaterally redrew the sea border.
Government analysts in Seoul scrambled on Friday to figure out the North’s intentions. For one thing, they said, it remained unclear whether the North was also nullifying the agreements its supreme leader, Kim Jong-il, signed with President Lee’s two predecessors in 2000 and 2007 during rare inter-Korean summits.
Those two agreements have been the basis of a decadelong softening of relations on the peninsula. During the "sunshine" period, billions of dollars of trade and economic aid — as well as millions of South Koreans on tour or for family reunions — crossed the heavily armed border.
North Korea has even called the oldest and primary agreement for peace — the 1953 armistice that ended the three-year Korean War — a “useless piece of paper.”
Won Tae Jae, a spokesman of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, said Friday in a news briefing that the South would respond “resolutely” if North violated its western sea border again.
“We will see more tension in western waters,” said Lee Byong-chul, senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation, a nonpartisan policy advisory body based in Seoul. “It doesn’t appear that it will just end up as empty words from the North.”
He predicted that North Korea would focus on improving ties with the Obama administration while snubbing President Lee. Driving a wedge between the allies has been a favorite tactic in North Korean diplomacy.
The North Korean committee said it was scrapping the agreements because Mr. Lee had violated them first with his “reckless confrontational rackets against our republic.”
“Relations between the North and South have worsened to the point where there is no way or hope of correcting them,” the committee’s statement said. “They have reached the extreme point where the clash of fire against fire, steel against steel, has become inevitable.”
North Korea’s oratorical attacks on the South have increased in intensity since Mr. Lee took office a year ago with a vow to take a tougher stance on North Korea, reversing 10 years of his liberal predecessors’ efforts to engage the North with substantial economic aid.
Two weeks ago, the North Korean military declared an “all-out confrontational posture” with the South.
North Korean officials also told a visiting American scholar that the country had “weaponized” enough plutonium for four or five atomic bombs.
Verbal threats from North Korea, which has at various points vowed to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire” and a “heap of ashes,” are a recurring feature of postwar relations between the two countries. They seldom raise an alarm among South Koreans.
Since the 1970s, the two Koreas have signed a series of agreements for non-aggression and cooperation, which the North has flouted repeatedly, rendering them little more than symbolic. Still, this was the first time North Korea has said that it was officially nullifying them.
“We hope the North will realize that spawning and raising tensions between South and North Korea is not appropriate for peace not only on the Korean peninsula but also in Northeast Asia and the rest of the world,” said Kim Ho-nyeon,the South Korean government’s main spokesman in inter-Korean relations.
Mr. Kim said the government was dealing with the North Korean blustering “with calm.” But some analysts said that the chances of North Korea launching a limited border skirmish to prove its points were rising.
Still, the South Korean military heightened security along the border in the recent weeks. So far, it has reported no unusual movement by the North Korean army.
Senate Once Again Passes Bill to Delay Transition to Digital TV
By Kim HartWashington Post Staff For the second time, the Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday night to delay the transition to digital television by four months in order to give consumers more time to get ready.
The Senate first passed a bill Monday to postpone the switch from Feb. 17 to June 12. But on Wednesday, House Republicans blocked the bill from getting the two-thirds majority needed to pass under the rules applied to the legislation, even though the majority of lawmakers voted in favor of the delay.
By passing the bill that failed in the House, the Senate is giving the House another chance to vote on the measure under regular rules that would allow it to pass with a simple majority vote. The House could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.
By law, all television broadcasters must shut off analog signals Feb. 17 and air only digital programming in order to free up airwaves for public safety networks and new wireless services. As a result, viewers who rely on analog TV sets and antennas to receive broadcasts will need to upgrade to a digital TV set or install a converter box to get signals.
A federal program to subsidize coupons to help consumers pay for converter boxes ran out of money this month. Many Democrats on Capitol Hill say too many viewers could lose broadcasts if the transition goes on as scheduled, and the Obama administration urged Congress to delay it. Republicans argue a delay would confuse viewers and cost TV stations millions of dollars.
In a statement, a White House spokeswoman urged the House to move quickly to pass the bill, and that the administration "will work with Congress to improve the information and assistance available to Americans as the nation moves to digital television."
Voter ID Was a Success in November
Turnout was higher in states that took a simple step to prevent fraud.
By HANS VON SPAKOVSKY
Remember the storm that arose on the political left after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's voter ID law last April? According to the left, voter ID was a dastardly Republican plot to prevent Democrats from winning elections by suppressing the votes of minorities, particularly African-Americans.
Since the election of Barack Obama, we haven't heard a word about such claims. On Jan. 14, the federal appeals court in Atlanta upheld Georgia's voter ID law.
The reasons for the silence about alleged voter suppression is plain. In the first place, numerous academic studies show that voter ID had no effect on the turnout of voters in prior elections. The plaintiffs in every unsuccessful lawsuit filed against such state requirements could not produce a single individual who didn't either already have an ID or couldn't easily get one.
Second are the figures emerging from the November election. If what liberals claimed was true, Democratic voters in states with strict photo ID requirements would presumably have had a much more difficult time voting, and their turnout dampened in comparison to other states. Well, that myth can finally be laid to rest.
The two states with the strictest voter ID requirements are Indiana and Georgia. Both require a government-issued photo ID. According to figures released by Prof. Michael McDonald of George Mason University, the overall national turnout of eligible voters was 61.6%, the highest turnout since the 1964 election.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) found that black turnout in the 2008 election was at a historic high, having increased substantially from 2004. The total share of black voters in the national vote increased from 11% to 13% according to exit polls, with 95% of blacks voting for Mr. Obama.
So what happened in Georgia where the ACLU, the NAACP and other such groups claimed the state's photo ID law was intended to depress black turnout? According to figures released by Curtis Gans at American University, Georgia had the largest turnout in its history, with nearly four million voters. The Republican turnout was up only 0.22 percentage points; the Democratic turnout was up an astonishing 6.1 percentage points, rising from 22.66% of the eligible voting population to 28.74% of the eligible population.
The overall turnout in Georgia increased 6.7 percentage points from the 2004 election -- the second highest increase in turnout of any state in the country. According to the JCPES, the black share of the statewide vote increased in Georgia from 25% in the 2004 election, when the photo ID law was not in effect, to 30% in the 2008 election, when the photo ID law was in effect.
By contrast, the Democratic turnout in the neighboring state of Mississippi -- which has no voter ID requirement but also has a large black population similar to Georgia's -- increased by only 2.35 percentage points.
In Indiana, which the Supreme Court said had the strictest voter ID law in the country, the turnout of Democratic voters in the November election increased by 8.32 percentage points. That was the largest increase in Democratic turnout of any state in the country. The increase in overall turnout in Indiana was the fifth highest in the country, but only because the turnout of Republican voters actually went down 3.57 percentage points. The nearby state of Illinois (no photo ID requirement) had an increase in Democratic turnout of only 4.4 percentage points -- nearly half Indiana's increase.
Of course, the decline in Republican turnout and huge increase in Democratic turnout in Indiana matched what happened elsewhere, and explains why Mr. Obama won. Republican turnout nationwide declined 1.3 percentage points from the 2004 election, while Democratic turnout increased 2.6 percentage points.
The JCPES predicts that when the final turnout numbers are in for the 2008 election, black turnout will probably reach a historic high of almost 67% and likely surpass white turnout for the first time. All at a time when about half of the states have passed various forms of voter ID requirements, including two states with strict photo ID laws.
The claim that Republican legislatures in Georgia and Indiana passed voter ID to depress Democratic turnout is demonstrably false. But even if it were true, they obviously failed miserably to achieve that objective given the huge increases in Democratic and minority turnout in both states.
I guess liberals will now claim that their historic increases in turnout would have been even higher if not for voter ID laws. But that would be an absurd argument, given the states' performance in comparison to other states without voter ID laws.
With every election that has occurred since states have begun to implement voter ID, the evidence is overwhelming that it does not depress the turnout of voters. Indeed, it may actually increase the public's confidence that their votes will count.
That won't stop the ACLU or the League of Women Voters from filing more frivolous lawsuits against such state laws and continuing to waste taxpayer money. But ultimately they will lose, and our ability to protect the security and integrity of our elections will be preserved.
Mr. von Spakovsky, a visiting legal scholar at The Heritage Foundation, is a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and a former Justice Department official.
The ‘Buy America' policy, proposed by the most protectionist Congress in memory, is a piece of disastrous economic folly
The talk at Davos is grimmer this year than last - grimmer, but also better focused. The causes and extent of the financial crisis are better understood, though the hunt is still on for ways to stop the rot penetrating the global economy. It helps, too, that some fancy theories have bitten the dust.
Last year's pet Davos theme, the supposed “decoupling” of China and other emerging titans from the American economy, the idea that they could thrive independently, has been badly mugged by reality. As the US went into a tailspin, so did Chinese exports. China's growth rate has halved, from more than 12 per cent in 2007 to just over 6 per cent; tens of millions have lost their jobs and China's (very nouveaux) rich have lost fortunes invested in collapsing housing and stock markets.
Making the first visit by a Chinese leader to Davos, Wen Jiabao, China's Prime Minister, insisted that his country would hit 8 per cent growth this year through “hard work”. But his main purpose was to showcase China's readiness to co-operate in a concerted rescue effort. If China's leaders ever bought that “decoupling” myth, they are by now badly rattled by the weight of evidence to the contrary. They know they need the US and Europe to recover, and fast, because China's thrifty consumers, most of whom have little disposable income, cannot begin to compensate for the slump in Western demand.
They also know that the Obama Administration will not tolerate Chinese policies “that put US workers and businesses at a disadvantage”: a conveniently elastic concept that could cover anything from foul play to cheaper wages. They have been told that the new Congress contains strong “anti-trade or anti-China constituencies”. Mr Wen arrives in London tomorrow looking for a stalwart free-trade friend at court, prepared to help Beijing to weather coming storms in the US-China trade relationship.
Mr Wen deserves a sympathetic ear - provided he accepts that alliances are mutual by nature and that China courts trouble by slipping export tax rebates to thousands of its manufacturers. If this year's Davos topic, “shaping the post-crisis world”, is not to look ludicrously optimistic a year hence, markets must be kept open even in the teeth of massive trade imbalances. But in mid-crisis, where we actually are, it is hugely tempting to pull up the drawbridge.
Growth indicators turn sourer with every week that passes. The IMF this week downgraded its 2009 global forecast - yet again - from 2.2 to 0.5 per cent. Its forecast, to cheer you up further, consigns Britain to the ninth circle of hell, with the economy contracting by 2.8 per cent this year, worse even than the eurozone's 2 per cent and far worse than the 1.6 per cent drop the IMF expects in the US. International trade, the great engine of the boom decades, will shrink this year for the first time since 1982.
Politicians are turning protectionist on the sly, slipping manufacturers discriminatory subsidies, dressing up state aid as training, raising tariff barriers and inhibiting global capital flows by encouraging the banks that they now part-own to intervene to concentrate their lending “at home”.
Trade leadership will have to come from Britain because it will not come from the America of Barack Obama. There, “economic patriotism” is the new protectionism, prettily wrapped in stars and stripes but just as damaging to the world's prospects of recovery as was the 1930s variety.
Is Mr Obama a protectionist? Instinctively, yes; he has never seen a free-trade deal he would actually vote for, and he talks about trade policy as a tool “to support good American jobs”. But as the election campaign wore on, he toned down his invective against foreign competition, and, because his economic team is basically free trade, the jury is still out.
The verdict, however, will be in very soon. At the behest of the most protectionist Congress in memory, Mr Obama may be about to repeat, at the dawn of his presidency, the same historic error that the much derided Herbert Hoover made just before quitting the White House in 1933. In the depths of the Great Depression, he signed into law the innocent-sounding Buy America Act. It required the US Government to use American suppliers in all public contracts. Less notorious than the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, “Buy America” did huge damage. It proved a disaster for US manufacturing exports and the global economy. Other governments followed suit, and it took decades to begin to reverse the closure of markets.
Now, prodded by America's mighty steel lobby, a key congressional committee has voted, 55-0, to attach a still more rigorous “Buy America” clause to President Obama's stimulus package. It bars federal funding of any public projects “unless all of the iron and steel used is produced in the United States”. The clause could be extended to asphalt, cement, heavy machinery, you name it. US dollars, the committee intones, must be used to create “American jobs in America, not Chinese jobs in China”.
Leave aside value for money. Pass over the detail that the US does not produce enough steel to meet domestic demand. Admit that, when economic activity evaporates as precipitately as it has this winter, “saving” jobs looks more important than ensuring long-term competitiveness. Admit, further, that all governments are in the hidden subsidy game right now, whether they boast about it, as in France, or deny it as stoutly as Lord Mandelson - whose “this is not a bailout” brings to mind Magritte's famous “ceci n'est pas une pipe” painting.
Agree, finally, that when you are the newly elected US President and the money you are preparing to print runs into the trillions, the queue at the trough is bound to form pretty fast. But the scale of the temptation is precisely what makes Congress's populist “Buy America” rider an irresponsible, innumerate, pernicious bit of political and economic folly.
If Mr Obama blocks this clause, he will anger the Left. If he does not, retaliation is inevitable. That will shut American workers out of “hundreds of billions of dollars of new business”. Caterpillar, to take just one example, is actively bidding for big infrastructure projects in China; it reckons that “Buy America” would kill its prospects there.
The truth politicians need to ponder is that the financial crisis has made sophisticates of us all. Most of us understand far more about how globalisation works, how the pieces hang together, than we did before everything went pear-shaped. We have made the connection between prosperity and globalisation - at the simplest level, that cheap T-shirts from Bangladesh leave us with more money for other things. We do worry about our ability to compete; we demand clear and impartial trade rules. But we can see how beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism creates more beggars - costing, not “saving”, jobs. It is time the language of politics caught up with us.
By Matthew Vadum
Marion Barry wants the world to know there isn't just one Messiah now living in Washington, D.C.
This irrepressible creature of habit seems convinced he is a living god, unencumbered by the laws of mere mortal men.
The dashiki-wearing Democratic former mayor of the District of Columbia who years ago aggressively led the capital city into insolvency, has yet again failed to file his personal tax return, the Washington Post reports.
Barry did this while on probation after being convicted in 2006 of failing to file federal and district income tax returns from 1999 through 2004.
This is just the latest incident in a lifetime of law-breaking for the liberal municipal lawmaker who now represents Ward 8 on the Washington, D.C. city council.
Barry was previously a member of the local school board and city council. He then served three terms as mayor until he was convicted and sent to prison on federal drug charges in 1990. He was videotaped by the FBI smoking crack cocaine with a woman in a hotel room and sent to prison.
After serving six months in prison he was released and, of course, ran for mayor again. Sensing his higher calling, the voters put him back in the mayor's office again, this time for a fourth term.
While there he presided over unprecedented deficit spending that put the nation's capital on the brink of total collapse. With the city's bonds rated "junk" by Wall Street, Congress intervened in 1995, seizing power from the district's elected leaders. Congress created a financial control board and gave it veto power over city affairs.
Under the leadership of then-mayor Anthony Williams, the district -- with no help from Barry -- balanced its budget four years in a row. The return to solvency caused the board to go dormant in October 2001.
In his brief stint out of office, Barry offered his services as a financial rainmaker to New York-based municipal bond firm M.R. Beal & Co. That firm disclosed in filings with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board that it paid Barry at least $50,000 in 1999 for his expertise in parting the Red Seas of public finance.
Restless, the man who started his career in politics as a civil rights crusader for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, returned to politics again.
Barry is now a member of the D.C. city council, having returned to politics in 2005 as the council member for Ward 8.
He remains a recidivist.
In October 2005, Barry pleaded guilty to failing to file federal income tax returns and failing to pay federal income taxes.
At a February 2006 sentencing hearing I covered as a daily newspaper reporter, Barry arrived in the courtroom at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse and greeted his fans. "Do I look good? Am I fresh?" he said.
Barry didn't think it was important to bother bringing documents the presiding judge demanded. These included the delinquent tax returns that were the basis of the charges against the former mayor.
Surprisingly cheerful about Barry's brazen contempt of her order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson postponed the hearing. Robinson seemed to care little that Barry had tested positive for cocaine and marijuana use in November while awaiting sentencing.
A month later Robinson sentenced Barry to three years probation, but refused to fine him. She could have fined him up to $100,000 on the federal count and $5,000 on the D.C. count.
She ordered the septuagenarian to pay $75 in court costs. She didn't even scold him.
By Van Smith
U.S. District Court magistrate judge Deborah A. Robinson normally presides over matters in her Washington, D.C., courtroom. But on Dec. 3 she sat in the gallery of a federal courtroom in Baltimore to witness her 21-year-old son, Philip Winkfield, admit to being an armed heroin dealer.
Winkfield was a Morgan State University student last April, living in Dutch Village in Northeast Baltimore, when a raid team served a warrant at his apartment and found him with five loaded guns (including an assault rifle), a bullet-proof vest, a digital scale, a drug ledger, cutting agent, and a bunch of heroin, cocaine, and pot.
Despite the broad array of evidence, on Wednesday Winkfield copped only to dealing heroin and to the fact "that one or more of the firearms was used in furtherance of the crime," according to the plea agreement. "This is not a cooperation agreement," said U.S. District Court judge J. Frederick Motz after accepting Winkfield's plea deal, which had been hammered out by prosecutor George Jarrod Hazel and Winkfield's attorneys, Gregg Bernstein and Robert Mance.
"Is this Mr. Winkfield's family?" Motz asked near the end of the hearing, referring to Judge Robinson and Winkfield's father, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs attorney John C. Winkfield. They nodded, and Motz proceeded to tell the defendant that "this has got to be a bad day for you and a bad day for them," but "your life isn't over, make this the beginning."
The case against Winkfield began with state charges filed last spring, but was bumped up to the federal level in early November. Winkfield, who has been held without bail since his arrest last spring, will remain detained until his sentencing hearing, scheduled for Jan. 23, 2009. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, up to a maximum of 40 years.
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Car owners who claimed a seatbelt installed in some 4 million cars in California was improperly tested and its buckle might open in a crash lost a $247-million lawsuit against the manufacturer.
The TK-52 seatbelt by Takata Corp. was safe and met federal standards, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said in a Jan. 16 preliminary ruling. A final ruling is expected in March.
Car owner Lupe Zavala represented owners of about 80 different auto models in the class-action suit. He accused the Tokyo-based company of violating state law by allegedly misleading consumers about testing of the seatbelts.
The suit didn't claim anyone was injured by the seatbelts but argued they might cause future problems. In addition to money, it sought to have the seatbelts recalled and retested.
"We respectfully disagree with the trial court's ruling and we plan to appeal," said Drew D. Hansen of Seattle, one of Zavala's attorneys.
The suit was ironic because Zavala said in a deposition that the seatbelt had functioned properly in an accident involving a pickup truck, according to Mark H. Berry, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented Takata at trial.
"He conceded that the seatbelt had protected his son" in the crash, Berry said.
Similar class-action lawsuits against Takata were previously dismissed in Texas, Tennessee, Arizona and New Mexico, said Ohio attorney Michael H. Carpenter, a lawyer representing the company.
The suit also named a New Jersey-based consumer testing organization, SGS U.S. Testing Co., Inc.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Since I wrote in my morning post ("It's a good thing I'm not the one responsible for strategy aimed at the right-wing obstructionists") that "if I were the one responsible for devising a counter-strategy, I would go for total annihilation," everybody has been demanding to know what exactly I would do if I did have charge of the strategy for dealing with the right-wing obstructionists. Okay, not everybody, exactly, but there is this kid in Delaware . . . but I shouldn't say any more about that, since he or she should have been in school and not wasting time reading blogs.Okay, here goes. We start with the House 188, the geniuses who voted against the stimulus package on the ground that it's "too liberal."When they and their staffs showed up for work this morning, they would have found that their security paraphernalia no longer gained them admittance to either the Capitol or the particular building that houses their offices. In fact, upon further checking they would have found that they no longer had offices. They would have found all their crap piled up on the sidewalk, with a Post-It note to identify each particular doodyhead's crap, accompanied by a note explaining that there was no particular rush about getting that crap the hell off the people's sidewalk, as long as it was gone by noon, when it would be moved to the Mall for a giant bonfire, with wienies and marshmallows provided for all spectators by their Uncle Sammy.All money, all congressional privileges and perks would have been shut off, and bills would have been sent to their local residence addresses demanding repayment of every cent allotted to them in any fashion (including the cash equivalent of all goods and services provided -- yes, including "Sunny John" Boehner's tanning-salon visits) for "service" in the 111th Congress, now that they have officially committed themselves to not providing any service in the 111th Congress.All their assets would be frozen, and all family members as well as all contributors to their 2008 campaigns would be rounded up and shipped to temporary relocation tents (or leftover FEMA trailers, where available) until their new Special Reeducation Center is ready for occupation at Guantanamo Bay, hopefully sometime in the next year. Those people would of course be ineligible to benefit in any way from any aspect of the government's efforts to combat the economic meltdown.Any of the House 188 attempting to interfere with these new arrangements would be given one warning, and then arrested for obstruction of justice. In case of further disturbance, they would be designated terrorists with "enemy combatant" status and shipped off for a grand farewell tour of the CIA "black site" prisons. In cases of noncooperation, security personnel -- ideally not the same useless bunch that failed to police the inauguration -- would have authorization to blast the bastards' thieving brains out.As for the Senate, the same treatment would apply immediately to RSCC honcho Sen. John Cornyn, who would be invited to provide a list of like-minded members who are committed to substituting their plan of nonstop obstruction above the interests of the country.Lawyers for many of those affected will no doubt argue that their clients should not be subject to such extreme penalties on account of mental retardation or other mental defect, including full-blown insanity. No thanks to those clients, we do still have laws and courts to deal with such niceties.Now do you see why it's a good thing I'm not the one in charge of dealing with these people?#UPDATE: OTHERS ARE INDEED GOING BEYOND KEN'S FANTASIESThe Hill is reporting this morning that a broad coalition of organizations representing the interests of working families across the country is spending millions of dollars on a campaign aimed at convincing five Republican senators to back the economic stimulus legislation. And that's good.
The Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery, a group of labor and political organizations, is targeting GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) with a 30-second spot. The ad includes audio excerpts from President Obama’s Jan. 8 speech at George Mason University, when he made his case for the stimulus package that could exceed $900 billion.The same publication is also reporting that Democrats are vowing revenege. OK, OK, I know the Republicans are laughing their asses off at that toothless threat.But I do want to assure readers that our ActBlue efforts will be continue to be aimed at electing progressives and targeting reactionaries. The three candidates we've endorsed so far this year-- Dan Gelber (D-FL), Tom Geoghegan (D-IL) and Doug Tudor (D-FL)-- are all guys who have and will continue to fight for American working families. If you can afford even $5 or $10 dollars, please think about helping these guys out.
Labels: economic meltdown, economic stimulus package, obstructionist Republicans, reactionary Democrats
The Texas Republican introduced a bill Wednesday to eliminate all IRS penalties and interest for paying taxes past due.
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Americans may be able to rest a little easier this April if Congressman John Carter, R-Texas gets his way.
Rep. Carter introduced a bill Wednesday to eliminate all IRS penalties and interest for paying taxes past due.
The legislation calls for the creation of what he calls the, "Rangel Rule," -- drawing attention to the recent legal issues of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., enabling citizens who fail to pay taxes on time to do so later with no additional fees.
Rangel, who writes the country's tax policies, acknowledged last fall that he failed to pay thousands in real estate taxes for rental income he earned from a property in the Dominican Republic.
As of September 2008 the Harlem Democrat reportedly paid back more than $10,000 in taxes but that did not include any IRS penalties.
"Your citizens back home should have the same rights and benefits that come to you as a member of congress. You shouldn't be treated any differently under the law than your citizens back home," Carter said.
He added that citizens should receive the "same courtesy" that the IRS is allegedly granting Rangel and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who also recently acknowledged a failure to pay taxes.
Carter penned a letter to Rangel earlier this month requesting that he either pay the IRS fees or join him in co-sponsoring the legislation establishing the rule.
"As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, I believe you set an example for all American taxpayers in your dealings with the IRS, and that you must do so in a way that enforces blind justice without regard to wealth or status," he wrote in the January 6th missive.
A spokesman for the New York Democrat would not comment on the state of the tax issue, which is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, but did respond to the Carter bill.
"This legislation is unnecessary. All taxpayers currently receive equal treatment under the law," Rangel spokesman Emile Milne said.
Carter, a former judge, said he is trying to focus in a what he believes is a double standard and add some levity to the debate.
"I am raising this issue not so much to just push the issue but to open the discussion. I don't think it's wrong for us to start having a free discussion in congress and with a certain amount of humor in it about how should people be treated in congress," he said.
Stephen Dinan (Contact) and S.A. Miller (Contact)
A top House Republican is demanding an investigation into whether the more than $2 billion for national parks in the House stimulus package is proper in light of the fact that the chief lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association is the son of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey.
NPCA is a major player in advocating for national parks funding, and its senior vice president for government affairs is Craig Obey, son of the Wisconsin Democrat who has long been his party's top Appropriations Committee member.
The money included in the stimulus bill that passed Mr. Obey's committee - $2.25 billion - was about equal to the National Park Service's total yearly budget, and would be a staggering increase and almost three times the $802 million that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved for park spending in its stimulus bill.
On Wednesday evening, the House passed the $819 billion stimulus bill by a 244-188 vote, though every Republican in the chamber and 11 Democrats voted against it.
Republicans said a bill of this size presented too many opportunities for mischief, pointing to the parks funding as one such case. Just before the vote, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called for an investigation into the parks money.
"It really does beg the question of, is this an earmark, is this a family connection and should it have been disclosed at least in the spirit of what the Democrats said they wanted, and the answer is it should have been disclosed," Mr. Issa said.
Tom Hill, legislative representative for NPCA, said the group, including the younger Mr. Obey, refrains from lobbying Mr. Obey or his office to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
"Craig certainly never lobbies his father, and takes pains to make that crystal clear. NPCA has been laying the groundwork for years about the NPS maintenance backlog which [the Government Accountability Office] says is over $8.5 billion, and the House leaders have historically been very supportive of the national parks. The Senate tends to be more conservative, particularly where public land issues are concerned," he said.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Obey said the funding for parks had nothing to do with Mr. Obey's relationship with his son and was included at the request of Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat, and that it was a popular request. Mr. Dicks is chairman of the subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies.
"There is wide support for these funds," spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said. "There are a lot of places where we can put people to work today in construction projects in national parks."
But a spokesman for the top Democrat on the Senate panel defended its far lower figure as the right amount for the job.
"Given the time frames we are working under, we are very comfortable with our numbers," said Rob Blumenthal, a spokesman for Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat.
"We believe that we are providing the National Park Service with the appropriate amount of funding that will meet the primary goals of this legislation: providing an immediate stimulative boost to the economy by creating jobs, and rebuilding our national infrastructure, of which our national parks are an integral part," Mr. Blumenthal said.
House aides and watchdog groups said it's unlikely that Mr. Obey's son lobbied his father directly on the bill because a firewall provision for family members would prevent that.
The House and Senate bills have giant disagreements in other areas, including NASA and homeland security money, where the Senate bill outbid the House version.
George Behan, a spokesman for Mr. Dicks, said the fund requests did go through the Washington Democrat's office, and that the high dollar amount is part of the congressman's long-standing commitment to dent what the interior secretary says is a $9 billion backlog of projects.
"What this stimulus bill allows us to do is make up for a lot of the backlog," Mr. Behan said, blaming the Bush administration for shortchanging parks in its budgets.
Mr. Issa, though, said the request was so large that it raised questions - not least because he doubted the Park Service could spend a fraction of the money during the next two years, when the stimulus bill is supposed to be critical.
"It gives them a slush fund they can use for all kinds of things for years to come," Mr. Issa said, adding that the big discrepancy between House and Senate funding raised the question of whether the money was a payoff of some sort.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said the total of the House spending request closely matched the NPCA's own wish list, issued late last year.
"When these numbers come close to somebody's wish list, I think it's critical to look and follow up on how this money gets spent on the other side," he said.
Mr. Issa said parks money raises the question of whether there's a political payoff for Democrats, and he said the same question should be asked about many items in the bill.
"Are there tens or hundreds of billions of dollars going out to groups that will in fact politically be helping the majority or the president in their re-election?"
He said he would like the oversight committee to look at the size of the House bill and whether it bears any relation to what the Park Service requested.
While the House Appropriations Committee approved $2.25 billion, on late Tuesday night the House Rules Committee removed $200 million of parks funding designating for refurbishing the Mall in the District after that item drew opposition. That money was not in the bill that passed the full House on Wednesday.
The removal was striking because it came only hours after President Obama personally defended the spending in a closed-door meeting with House Republicans and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended it to reporters.
"I think that you can make a very credible case - and the economic team has - that reconditioning the National Mall will create jobs, probably through spending in small businesses," Mr. Gibbs said
By Warner Todd Huston
Politico reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel holds daily chit chat sessions with several Old Media pals every morning to start his day. Apparently Emanuel has for years been involved with daily bull sessions to plan media coverage and ideological strategy with CNN's James Carville and Paul Begala, as well as ABC's George Stephanopoulos, with the occasional participation of pollster Stan Greenberg. But there is one little problem with this daily palling around with mediots these days: Emanuel now works for the White House.
As Politico's John Harris notes, "in any given news cycle, it is quite likely that Washington’s prevailing political and media interpretation -- at least on the Democratic side -- is being hatched on these calls." In light of this early morning scheming, one has to wonder where the supposed autonomy of the media is if they are being programed by the Obama White House in off the record, secret and daily conversations? Where is their objectivity if these media mavens are all assisting Emanuel mold and shape the news to further a specific ideological goal?
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Even worse, where are the people that would normally decry a chummy, personal and secretive relationship between Emanuel, a partisan government operative recently called the second most powerful man in Washington, and major members of the Old Media? Where's the outrage that the Obama administration is secretly programing media coverage?
Ed Morrissey of HotAir reminds us of the Old Media outcry that was raised when it was thought that the Pentagon held briefings for analysts that reported on military affairs.
Last April, The New York Times rebuked the Pentagon for offering information to analysts as a sort of breach of the public trust and reported the angry words of Democrat Ike Skelton (D- MO) on the matter.
Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a speech on Thursday that he and many other members of Congress were “very angry” about the issues raised by the article. “The story does not reflect well on the Pentagon, on the military analysts in question, or on the media organizations that employ them,” he said.
As Skelton said in April, the cozy relationship the TV analysts had with the Pentagon called those analyst's veracity into question. If this concept was true last April, then the same absolutely must be said of Carville, Begala and Greenberg, and even more so of ABC's George Stephanopoulos who is supposed to be a "news" man as opposed to an opinionist as Carville and Begala are.
After all, if we were expected to discount the military analysts because of their close relationship with the Pentagon, we absolutely have to view these supposed news guys with the same jaundiced eye since they are in daily, secret conversations with the President's Chief of Staff.
So, we should be expecting CNN and ABC to announce their embarrassment that their purported "news" men are being so co-opted, right? We must be ready at any time to hear people say that Stan Greenburg's work is forever compromised and untrustworthy, right? We must be on the verge of apologies by all four men for allowing their veracity to be called into question because of their cozy relationship with the Obama White House... right?
If not, then why not? Where is the proper level of outrage?
Could it be?
Could it maybe be that these "news" agencies don't care if their news men are being co-opted by the White House because it's THIS White House? One run by a Democrat. And a White House run by The One, at that?
Well, I for one, am calling for ABC and CNN to fire Carville, Begala and Stephanopoulos as well as for everyone to stop considering Greenberg's work worthy of attention. Short of firing the three TV newsers, the networks should tell their employees to cease and desist with these secret planning sessions with the White House and issue apologies to the viewers for not informing them of this secret pipeline to power.
How can we believe that Carville, Begala and especially Stephanopoulos will be informing us of what is really going on since we are now aware that they have been daily joining a powerful member of the Democratic Party in ideological strategizing? How can we believe that we are getting anything other than the Party line directly from Barack Obama instead of unbiased news when these three men speak to us from our TVs?
Fire Carville, Begal and Stephanopoulos now. They have sold out to Obama and cannot be trusted to report the news to the viewing public.
Zimbabweans will be allowed to conduct business in other currencies, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar, in an effort to stem the country's runaway inflation.
The announcement was made by acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the Zimbabwean dollar has become a laughing stock. A Z$100 trillion note was recently introduced.
Until now only licensed businesses could accept foreign currencies, although it was common practice.
Mr Chinamasa made the announcement as he delivered the budget to parliament.
"In line with the prevailing practices by the general public, government is therefore allowing the use of multiple foreign currencies for business transactions alongside the Zimbabwean dollar," he said.
Huge crowds have taken to the streets in France to protest over the handling of the economic crisis, causing disruption to rail and air services.
The head of France's biggest union said a million workers had rallied to demand action to protect jobs and wages.
But despite the show of public support, the strike appeared to be falling short of the paralysis forecast by unions.
Regional trains and those in and around Paris were hit, and a third of flights from Orly airport were cancelled.
Forty per cent of regional services were running, train operator SNCF said, and 60% of high-speed TGV services. Three-quarters of metro trains were running in Paris.
Paris's second airport was heavily hit by the strike, but flights out of the larger Charles de Gaulle hub were experiencing only short delays, AFP news agency said.
Schools, banks, hospitals, post offices and courts were also hit as workers stayed at home. Officials said just over a third of teachers and a quarter of postal and power company workers were on strike.
Overall, some 23% of the country's public sector workers are thought to have joined the action, which was called by eight major French unions.
Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT union, told AFP more than a million workers had taken part in the strike, making it impossible for French President Nicolas Sarkozy to ignore their concerns.
In Paris, police said some 65,000 protesters had joined a march from the Place de la Bastille towards the centre of the city.
Earlier, some 25,000 to 30,000 people rallied in the city of Lyon, according to organisers and police.
In Marseille, organisers and the authorities disagreed, with the former putting the number of demonstrators at 300,000 but the police estimating 20,000 had taken part.
The protests are against the worsening economic climate in France and at what people believe to be the government's poor handling of the crisis.
Opposition Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry said people were out in the streets "to express what worries them: the fact that they work and yet cannot make ends meet, retired people who just can't make it [financially], the fear of redundancies, and a president of the Republic and a government that just don't want to change policy".
According to a 25 January poll by CSA-Opinion for Le Parisien, 69% of the French public backs the strike.
"I'm tired and frozen after waiting half-an-hour on the platform," commuter Sandrine Dermont told AFP as she arrived by train in Paris.
"But I'm prepared to accept that when it's a movement to defend our spending power and jobs. I'll join the street protests during my lunch break," she said.
Many people are furious that Mr Sarkozy said there was no money left to raise wages and consumer spending power, but nonetheless managed to find billions of euros to bail out floundering French banks, says the BBC's Emma-Jane Kirby in Paris.
The walk-out has affected transport, education and postal services throughout the country, our correspondent says, and is the biggest one-day strike since Mr Sarkozy took up office.
With unemployment looking likely to reach 10% next year, she says, the protesters hope he will drop his programme of cost-cutting reforms and focus instead on protecting workers' jobs and wages.
Mr Sarkozy cannot ignore this demonstration of anger, our correspondent adds. Street protests have repeatedly brought down French leaders and Mr Sarkozy does not want his government added to that list of casualties.
"We want to show how the people are dissatisfied with the situation at the moment," Thierry Dedieu of the CFDT general workers' union told the BBC.
People had the feeling they were paying for a crisis they were not responsible for, he added.
But earlier in the week, French Finance Minister Eric Woerth condemned the strike organisers, accusing them of scare-mongering during a time of economic uncertainty.
"There are other ways to make oneself heard than striking," he said.
"Blocking a country, preventing transport from working, bothering people when they are still extraordinarily worried and fearful of the future, is adding fear on top of fear, worry on top of worry."
Since the meme among the intellectuals is that the earth cannot withstand bringing all peoples up to America's living standards, we will just have to reduce our standards to something between western Europe and China. This Bill as some have labelled "Porkulus" is a fine example of what the future holds.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Redwood Landfill expansion permit process, EIR called into question
By Paul Jones
Over a month after the California Integrated Waste Management Board approved the issuance of a permit for the expansion of the Redwood Landfill’s capacity, a coalition of environmental groups is suing Marin County. The lawsuit claims the county failed to adequately address the environmental impact of the future expansion in its EIR, violated its own countywide plan’s requirement for “zero waste,” and refused to hear an appeal of the expansion before the county's Local Enforcement Agency forwarded a draft of the permit to the waste management board.That appeal was dropped on Dec. 18, 2008 by the group, the “Green Coalition for Responsible Waste and Resource Management,” after the waste management board directed the Local Enforcement Agency to issue the approved permit to the landfill Dec. 16. The agency is headed by Phil Smith, also of the Marin Community Development Agency, Environmental Health Services division.At the time, coalition leaders indicated they would try to address their ongoing environmental concerns ��“which include claims that the structural integrity of the landfill will prove inadequate to survive a flood or earthquake, and complaints about the volume of “greenhouse” gases it produces��“ by having the county reopen its original land-use permit for the landfill so that mitigation requirements could be added, to be met by Redwood Landfill-owner Waste Management Inc.“The land-use permit (for the landfill), it’s 50 years old, single use ��- and they’re converting it to a multiple-use facility,” said coalition member Bruce Baum in December. “We have a letter from one of the top land-use attorneys in California that says you can open (the original permit).”Jessica Jones of the Redwood Landfill denied that future plans for the landfill amount to it becoming a “multiple-use” facility. The landfill, located at 8950 Redwood Highway, is currently allowed to store 19 million cubic yards of trash, a volume which Jones said will be sufficient for approximately seven more years. It is pursuing expansion of its capacity to 25 million cubic yards. However, its expansion plans also include installing a methane-powered electrical generation system.The coalition’s the new lawsuit, officially filed Jan. 16, picks up after its dropped appeal, and alleges the county should have allowed the group to be heard by the Marin County Board of Supervisors before the Local Enforcement Agency’s permit was sent to the California Integrated Waste Management Board.The lawsuit alleges that “the County and its agencies tasked with preparing and certifying an Environmental Impact Report violated the California Environmental Quality Act by ��- failing to adequately address the dump’s negative impact on (the environment) as well as (the landfill’s) seismic stability and its fragile levees,” according to a press release put out by the coalition. It also alleges that “the county approved the expansion without the Board of Supervisors hearing an appeal made by local residents or finding that the expansion was consistent with (County’s policy goal for) the zero waste.”In the release, members of the coalition were quoted as highly critical of the county’s actions. Though the Redwood Landfill is mentioned in the lawsuit, the group is not suing the business.“At the end of a long review process, the County swept the environmental risks and consequences under the rug,” said Christopher Gilkerson, Director of NoWetlands Landfill Expansion. “We tried to work with Marin County for almost five years ��- Neither the County nor WMI did enough to address our concerns, so sometimes the watchdog has to bite.”Previously, the coalition successfully pressured the Local Enforcement Agency to hold a second public hearing for its draft of the waste management board permit after a meeting Sept. 15, 2008.The Redwood Landfill is in the process of pursuing permits from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, to allow and regulate its expansion.
By Edward NiedermeyerJanuary 28, 2009
You may recall this headline. That’s because we’ve already used it: “Chrysler Ends Jobs Bank on Monday. Calls It Something Else. Will Reinstate ASAP.” In said post, we debunked the idea that the United Auto Workers (UAW) was making anything resembling a concession.Bloomberg reports that the 1,600 GM employees currently enjoying the benefits of the UAW jobs bank will be out in the cold starting February second. But not really. GM spokesman Tony Sapienza tells Bloomberg that those leaving the jobs bank will get state unemployment benefits and “some GM pay.” As Sapienza clarifies, when GM union workers are laid off from factory jobs, they receive state unemployment and GM supplemental pay equal to about 72 percent of their normal compensation. Workers joined the Job Bank only after receiving these benefits for 48 months. So GM will now only be paying folks to not work for 48 weeks, which smells prett pyhrric to me. But hey, at least it looks like concessions are being made and the bailouts can continue. “We really appreciate our union partners’ willingness to work with us as we restructure our business for long-term viability and work on terms of the bridge loans,” says Sapienza. And what of the UAW’s claim that the Jobs Bank had been “suspended” on December 3 after becoming the union’s “jet-gate?” GM workers who qualified for the jobs bank were told to stay home, and received 85 percent of their pay. Seeing a pattern here? The UAW also set Jan. 26 as the date to halt the jobs bank at Chrysler LLC, but confirmation is unavailable. Since Ford isn’t accepting federal money (yet), the Blue Oval Jobs Bank remains intact.Bloomberg »
Offshore Calif. drilling deal could be scuttled
By NOAKI SCHWARTZ Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES—An agreement paving the way for the first oil drilling off the California coast in nearly 40 years has run into unexpected opposition that may sink it altogether Thursday. The plan, which could be worth billions, was announced last year by an unusual alliance of environmentalists and a drilling company. But supporters were blindsided by sudden opposition recently after it sailed through local approval and reached the state level.
The proposal hinges on a commitment from key environmental groups to lobby for expanded drilling off Santa Barbara if Plains Exploration & Production Co. would help fund hybrid buses, set aside thousands of acres of land and—most importantly—end all its local drilling by 2022.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said attorney Linda Krop, who negotiated on behalf of three lead environmental groups. "If people really want to protect the coast from offshore oil and gas development, this is the best opportunity to do that."
State and federal lawmakers from California to Washington, D.C., are now challenging the plan, saying it could invite more offshore drilling along the California coast and undermine efforts to reinstate a federal drilling moratorium that was lifted by the Bush administration.
The three-member State Lands Commission has the power to scuttle the deal Thursday. Already the chairman, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, has said he'll vote against it. The other two members—state
controller John Chiang and state finance director Michael Genest—have not disclosed their intentions but Genest is leaning for it and Chiang against, setting up the possibility the plan could die on a 2-1 vote. Supporters, now including 25 environmental groups around the state, had thought the landmark partnership and terms of the deal would be enough to push it through the regulatory process.
The commission's staff has recommended rejection, saying there is no guarantee that the company, known as PXP, will have to eventually shut down operations. The staff's finding prompted two major environmental backers of the plan—the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League—to send a letter to the commission this week saying their support was contingent on the terms being fully enforced.
The company had no comment ahead of the vote. Previously, it has called the plan a win-win deal for oil exploration and the environment.
The vote is scheduled for the day after the 40th anniversary of a massive oil spill off Santa Barbara that coated miles of beaches with oil and killed dolphins, seals and thousands of birds. The spill helped lead to the Clean Water Act and a moratorium on offshore drilling, galvanizing the modern environmental movement.
If approved by the lands commission, the proposal would then go before the California Coastal Commission, which regulates coastal development.
Opponents see Thursday's vote as critical. Garamendi believes "very, very strongly" that if the board approves the plan, drilling proponents will use the vote to push for more exploration in the West.
"I'm not going to go there," he said. "I'm not going to allow that argument to take place."
Chiang has the same concerns but has yet to decide how he will vote, spokesman Hallye Jordan said.
Genest will be represented at the meeting by his deputy, Tom Sheehy. He sees the deal as a financial boon to the cash-strapped state—perhaps $5 billion over the life of the project—and believes the terms are specific to Santa Barbara so it won't lead to drilling elsewhere.
"There's tremendous environmental benefits to be had on this project," Sheehy said, adding: "We can't turn a blind eye to the financial benefits."
Garamendi said he has spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other members of the California congressional delegation who expressed "significant concern" that approving a drilling proposal could undercut their efforts to reintroduce a federal moratorium on the practice.
Rep. Lois Capps, a Democrat who represents Santa Barbara, supports the deal led by three groups, the Environmental Defense Center, Get Oil Out! and the Citizens Planning Association of Santa Barbara County. She warned both sides not to rush.
"I think if any decision is made on Thursday it will be to kill the deal," she said, adding that the commission could require more concessions from the company.
"Push them. See how far they'll go," Capps said.
Robert Deacon, a professor specializing in environmental economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, understands the opposing arguments but thinks it's still a good project. He wondered whether the politicians are simply concerned about being seen as pro-drilling.
"We have an oil company that's agreed to environmental mitigations that more than offset any environmental harm the project would impose," he said. "And this assessment was made by some of the most vigilant environmental watchdogs."
A 40-Year Wish List
You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill.
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."
So said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November, and Democrats in Congress are certainly taking his advice to heart. The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.
We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make "dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy." Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.
Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren't likely to help the economy immediately. As Peter Orszag, the President's new budget director, told Congress a year ago, "even those [public works] that are 'on the shelf' generally cannot be undertaken quickly enough to provide timely stimulus to the economy."
Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to . . . guess which party?
Here's another lu-lu: Congress wants to spend $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles. Congress also wants to spend $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings and facilities. The Smithsonian is targeted to receive $150 million; we love the Smithsonian, too, but this is a job creator?
Another "stimulus" secret is that some $252 billion is for income-transfer payments -- that is, not investments that arguably help everyone, but cash or benefits to individuals for doing nothing at all. There's $81 billion for Medicaid, $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits, $20 billion for food stamps, and $83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax. While some of that may be justified to help poorer Americans ride out the recession, they aren't job creators.
As for the promise of accountability, some $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits. These include the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration, the 10 federal job training programs, and many more.
Oh, and don't forget education, which would get $66 billion more. That's more than the entire Education Department spent a mere 10 years ago and is on top of the doubling under President Bush. Some $6 billion of this will subsidize university building projects. If you think the intention here is to help kids learn, the House declares on page 257 that "No recipient . . . shall use such funds to provide financial assistance to students to attend private elementary or secondary schools." Horrors: Some money might go to nonunion teachers.
The larger fiscal issue here is whether this spending bonanza will become part of the annual "budget baseline" that Congress uses as the new floor when calculating how much to increase spending the following year, and into the future. Democrats insist that it will not. But it's hard -- no, impossible -- to believe that Congress will cut spending next year on any of these programs from their new, higher levels. The likelihood is that this allegedly emergency spending will become a permanent addition to federal outlays -- increasing pressure for tax increases in the bargain. Any Blue Dog Democrat who votes for this ought to turn in his "deficit hawk" credentials.
This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living -- or dead -- Democratic interest group. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, "We won the election. We wrote the bill." So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit.
Nearly $9,000 per U.S. taxpayer
By BLAKE AUED
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, wants the federal government to cut a check for $9,000 to every taxpayer to stimulate the economy.
But one economist said Broun's plan would do far less to bring the country out of a recession than President Obama's proposed $825 billion mix of spending and tax cuts.
Under Broun's plan, every American who filed a tax return in 2008 would get a check for $8,895.75. Broun said cash payouts to taxpayers would do more to help the economy than Obama's plan, which Broun called a "pork wish list."
"My amendment gives every tax filer their fair share of President Obama's bureaucrat stimulus plan," he said Tuesday in a news release. "It's my belief that putting this money back in the pockets of hardworking taxpayers will do more to turn this economy around than spending it on 150 different federal programs, sod for the National Mall or new cars for feds."
Mailing checks to taxpayers actually will do less to improve the worst economic downturn in 70 years than Obama's stimulus plan, said Jeff Humphreys, director of the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth.
Dollars spent on infrastructure are more effective than tax cuts in creating economic growth and will be spent during a six-month to three-year period, sustaining a recovery, said Humphreys, a self-described conservative. "If you want the biggest bang for your federal buck, you spend it on infrastructure," he said.
With consumer confidence at an all-time low, taxpayers are likely to save rebate checks instead of spending them, so the money won't stimulate the economy as effectively, Humphreys said.
"I just think people are going to sit on the money," he said. "It's not going to get spent."
A blend of infrastructure spending, aid to cash-strapped states like Georgia and tax cuts to encourage productivity will work best, Humphreys said.
The House of Representatives is expected to pass Obama's plan today.
Mr. Humphrys is wrong. Of course, it makes sense if your in favor of central planning. Spending large sums over a short period of time will create a construction bubble causing the price of everything related to increase at a geometric rate. How are you going to get the needed employees? Offer higher wages, no doubt. How are you going to ramp up infrastructure construction when the anti growth environmentalist will stall ever project for years. The free market and individual choice are the best answers.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The social worker said, ‘Yeah, well . . . you started it.
(hat tip Bits and Pieces)
He now knows what "W" knew. Will he get the same bashing from the left?
The same thing will happen here under President Obama. The stimulus bill has $4.1 billion for community stabilization and when these agitators have convinced everyone to vote Democrat, the organizers will either become a political army in the mode of Hugo Chavez or busybodies like the those in the article below. In either way you lose. As I have said before a society dies in direct proportion to the growth of regulators as a percentage of the producers.
Open up, madam. We've a warrant to search your fridge
Recession, what recession? The economy may be going to hell in a handcart, but the Government still has money to burn.
On the day it was announced that what used to be called British Steel was shedding 2,500 jobs, as unemployment rockets towards three million, another raft of exciting job opportunities opened up in the public sector.
As if we’re not already overrun with thousands of five-a-day co-ordinators, nagging us to eat our greens, and legions of recycling enforcers, sifting through our dustbins for evidence of carelessly discarded potato peelings, plans were unveiled for a new standing army of food police, charged with cutting down waste.
Six councils will be taking part in a pilot scheme which will see inspectors paid £8.50 an hour, with double time on Saturdays, to visit our homes and offer ‘advice’ on what we eat and what we throw away.
If the trial is ‘successful’, it will be introduced across the country. Which means it will be introduced across the country. When did you ever hear of any council running a pilot scheme and declaring it to be a complete waste of time and money?
By the end of this year, there will be 8,000 of these food fascists hammering on every one of Britain’s 25million front doors and demanding to inspect the contents of our fridges and pedal bins, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds the country simply can’t afford.
This crazy scheme has been dreamed up by the same quango which wants to force each and every household to install a slop bucket under the sink. The justification is to bring about a reduction in the amount of food we waste.
After just one day’s training, this new breed of busybody will be given the power to turn up on our doorsteps unannounced and demand answers to an intrusive series of questions about our food consumption.
They'll also be handing out guidance on optimum portion sizes and what to do with leftovers, as well as explaining the difference between ‘best before’, ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates.
The impertinence is breathtaking. Who is to say what constitutes an acceptable portion? It’s a matter of individual choice, one of the hallmarks of a so-called ‘free’ society. Frankly, it’s none of the Government’s damn business what we eat. Or what we do with our leftovers.
In World War II, there was an official recipe for something called Woolton Pie, made out of scraps and named after the then food minister. What’s the modern austerity equivalent — Gordon Brown Windsor Soup?
How stupid do they think we are? We can read. Just a guess, but I would imagine that ‘best before’ means best eaten before the date specified. Similarly, ‘use by’ is the date said item is likely to go off and start to whiff a bit. If something in a supermarket has passed its ‘sell by’ date, don’t buy it.
This is all part of the infantilisation of Britain, the belief that we are incapable of running our own lives without government guidance, interference and regulation.
A spokesman for the health department said: ‘By hitting people at home, rather than in supermarkets, we can get inside their lives. It’s only by knocking on doors you can find out what they are having for their tea and offer some healthy suggestions.’
Listen, chum, we don’t want you getting inside our lives. Where do you get the idea that it is the job of government to ‘get inside’ our lives? What most people want is to get on with their lives, without constant official hectoring, nannying and bullying.
If I want to eat four rashers of bacon and three eggs for breakfast, that’s my heart attack. And I can assure you that if any of these inspectors comes knocking on the door of Littlejohn Towers at teatime, he’ll be sent away with his head in a slop bucket.
People want to eat bacon and eggs without nannying advice from the government
You can bet your life that this scheme won’t stop at just offering handy hints on how to make an appetising supper out of last night’s leftovers. Soon it will be backed up with fines and punishments. Under this government, ‘voluntary’ schemes have an inevitable habit of becoming compulsory.
How long before the polite knock on the door becomes a battering ram and the leaflet offering ‘advice’ turns into a warrant?
Think I’m exaggerating? Look at how ‘encouragement’ to recycle led to a vast enforcement industry, with householders being punished for leaving their dustbin lids ajar — with inspectors climbing over garden walls and using anti-terror laws to spy on those suspected of slipping plastic containers into the box marked ‘glass only’ or inadvertently dropping a used envelope into their garden waste.
As I keep telling you: once you give anyone in authority any kind of power, they will always, always, always abuse it.
‘Open the door, madam. Armed food police. We have a warrant to search your refrigerator. Anything you don’t eat may be taken away and used against you in court.’
Ministers claim that we throw away £8billion of food every year, which is one of those ludicrous round figures plucked from thin air.
In the scheme of things, with Gordon Brown blowing £100 billion and more bailing out the banks to no effect, that’s still just a drop in the ocean.
The food we put in our dustbins isn’t the problem. That’s all biodegradable and can be fed to farm animals or safely left to decompose in a landfill site. One man’s ‘waste’ is another man’s pig swill.
In future, patients may have to go without meat as part of plans to cut carbon emissionsPatients should phone their GP rather than drive in for a visit, according to National Health Service guidelines unveiled today.
Ministers want family doctors to hold more 'phone-in' surgeries to help the environment by cutting carbon emissions from cars.
They also want hospitals to achieve their green targets by reducing the amount of meat they serve to patients in wards.
Patient groups said the 'telemedicine' plans were fraught with danger because a misdiagnosis over the phone could lead to incorrect treatment and even death.
The Government says action is needed because the NHS is responsible for a quarter of all the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the public sector.
It produces 18million tons of the gas linked to global warming every a year - 3.2 per cent of the total for the whole of Britain.
The strategy commits the NHS to reducing its 2007 emissions by 10 per cent by 2015, and by 80 per cent by 2050.
NHS chief executive David Nicholson said: 'As the biggest public sector employer in the country, the NHS needs to lead by example. I want to encourage NHS staff to really get involved and do their bit to create a greener NHS.'
More...Food police come knocking on your kitchen door... to tell you what to do with your leftovers WHSmith accused of 'ripping off' vulnerable patients at hospital outlets NHS offers pregnant smokers £100 to quit Health bosses collect 10 per cent pay rise
Ministers say the option of phone consultations with GPs would make it easier for those who do not want to take time off work to see their doctor and could be an extension of the current NHS Direct service.
But Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: 'I believe this is fraught with danger, and many GPs see it as a dangerous practice.
'There are cases of patients having died after being misdiagnosed over the phone.
'Speaking to your GP over the phone can be reassuring in non-urgent cases - but how can a GP know if it's urgent or not without seeing them?
'We shouldn't be discouraging patients from seeing doctors if needed. This is about the saving of money but I'd rather talk about the saving of lives.'
Laurence Buckman, of the British Medical Association, said: 'Decisions on whether a consultation needs to be in person or by telephone should be made for clinical reasons.'
Mark Wallace, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'People will be suspicious that yet again the environment is being used as an excuse to give a worse service.'
The strategy for England also advises staff to use medical instruments that can be decontaminated and re-used rather than single-use ones, raising fears of spreading infections if they are not properly cleaned.
It also tells hospitals to reduce the amount of meat they serve to patients, replacing it with more fish, vegetables and local produce.
Critics warned that patients need the protein and iron in meat to help them regain their strength after an operation.
Monday, January 26, 2009
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz CorrespondentA new book published in the United States alleges that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an active and open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, providing the Lebanese Shi'ite militia with training for its fighters.In "The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America," authors Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan write that through his support of terror organizations and by providing safe refuge for terrorists, Chavez constitutes a real, concrete threat to the United States.Venezeula earlier this month cut ties with Israel to protest its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The move came shortly days after Chavez called the attacks on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory a "holocaust."Last August the Los Angeles Times reported that Western governments fear that Hezbollah is establishing a growing number of operational cells in the South American country. Iran is long believed to have undertaken covert activity in South America in concert with Hezbollah. The LA Times reported that the U.S. State Department believes Iranian operatives were behind two terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires - the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center building. Both attacks killed dozens of civilians and wounded scores more.
When President Bush presented his National Energy Policy in May , he concluded that "energy production and environmental protection are not competing priorities. They're dual aspects of a single purpose: to live well and wisely upon this earth." To back up this claim, the president emphasized his proposals to promote renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass (the combustion of agricultural and landfill gas and logging wastes), and geothermal power.
In doing so, the Bush administration is promoting environmentalism's Big Lie: that the production of man-made power could, under any circumstances, be compatible with its injunction against man-made alterations to the environment.
Many environmentalists claim that putting the earth first only requires man to switch his power source from one technology to another; that the only thing their ideology requires is that the production of man-made power not deplete the earth's "limited" resources.
According to John Berger, a leading advocate of "alternative" technologies, renewable energy is in "harmony" with nature because it "draws on the perpetual flow of energy income to the Earth and doesn't deplete the Earth's energy capital. It doesn't destroy the earth in the process of providing us with the ability to do work." The only reason why "non-sustainable" fossil fuels have been favored over renewable energy, according to Berger, is that free markets cause us to "make our long-term energy decisions on the basis of short-term price signals."
In reality, these claims that renewable energy can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power are a fraud. In California, moreover, environmentalists have revealed that their real attitude toward renewable energy is no less hostile than their attitude toward all other forms of man-made power. After the installation of hundreds of "alternative" energy plants in the state—in the nation's most ambitious program to build environmentally correct power plants—the greens have begun to reject one renewable power technology after another.
Amory Lovins, a MacArthur fellow who has written 27 books, is the originator of environmentalism's renewable energy campaign. Lovins has promoted the view that all large-scale electricity production facilities must be phased out before they destroy the earth with pollution, radioactive waste, and supposedly climate-changing carbon dioxide.
To save the earth, Lovins claims, the entire American power grid with its 745,000 MW of central station generating capacity must be replaced with decentralized and distributed electrical generation. He envisions photovoltaic cells on every rooftop, windmills in every backyard, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered automobiles in every garage, bio-mass generators in every barn, and ethanol crops in every field. As a "bridge" to this environmentally correct energy regime, Lovins advocates the use of natural-gas-fired power plants and co-generators, plants that use much of the low temperature heat normally rejected from conventional power plants to produce steam for heating and for certain industrial processes.
The productivity claims Lovins makes for renewable energy range from the improbable, to the extravagant, to the impossible.
In his 1978 best-seller, Soft Energy Paths, Lovins claimed that the entire American transportation system could be converted to alcohol fuel with only 10 to 14 times the current production capacity of the nation's breweries and wineries. Lovins' proposal would actually require that ten times the area of all the cropland in the United States be devoted to ethanol production.
Lovins's current and highly influential proposal is to make hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the partial combustion of natural gas at the wellhead and to re-inject the carbon dioxide effluent back into the earth. The energy stored in clean-burning hydrogen fuel would then be used for everything from heating buildings to powering hydrogen fuel cell cars that, when parked, could be plugged into the electrical grid to generate all of the electricity we currently use.
Is there enough natural gas to support Lovins's vision for a hydrogen-based economy? For the purpose of foisting his hydrogen scheme on the world, Lovins adopts the wildly speculative theory, proposed by Cornell astronomy professor Thomas Gold, that the earth's natural gas did not originate from fossilized vegetation. Because some of the other planets in our solar system are gas giants made up almost entirely of methane, Gold asserts that the earth harbors astronomical quantities of the gas. In Gold's theory, these imagined deposits of "abiogenic" methane support a vast and even more imaginative subterranean ecosystem, which he calls the "deep hot biosphere."
This wild fantasy, masquerading as a scientific hypothesis, contradicts the extensive body of geological evidence on fossil fuel deposits. Nevertheless, Lovins enjoins the great minds of science, engineering, and business to ignore the contradiction and divert their efforts and intelligence to the task of converting mankind's industrial economy to hydrogen power. Whether such a conversion is actually possible is not important—because the continued existence of industrial civilization is not the goal of Lovins's proposals.
The purpose of his renewable energy campaign is to undermine all large-scale power production. All of the most productive means of making power—coal, oil, large hydro, and nuclear—all of them got to be so productive precisely because they are large. Large-scale projects are able to take full advantage of the division of labor, creating economies of scale that allow more efficient operation than would be possible with a much greater number of small-scale projects. So in proposing that every farm, every office building, and every household produce its own energy, Lovins is attacking the division of labor economy that makes power production so economical—and which allows the production of large quantities of man-made power.
Lovins implicitly acknowledges that small-scale technologies can never produce the geometrically growing quantities of power required by man's geometrically expanding industrial economy. He is the author of the invalid concept "negawatts." "Negawatts" are supposed to be a measure of the megawatts of capacity that do not have to be built due to reductions in energy consumption, either through increased efficiency or through the pure sacrifice of "conservation." In this nihilistic view, the elimination of man-made power is economically equivalent and ecologically superior to its production.
Lovins's vision for "renewable energy"—a vision that serves only to mask environmentalism's goal of extinguishing the lights of industrial civilization—was first put into practice in California.
In 1976, under the direction of Governor Jerry Brown, Lovins developed an "alternative" energy strategy for California. Initially, state income tax credits were offered for solar panels, but by the end of the decade, a more powerful vehicle for promoting "green power" became available. In 1978, President Carter signed the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA). The act promotes unconventional power sources by compelling investor-owned utilities to purchase this power at their avoided cost—that is, the amount that the utilities would have had to spend to build, fuel, and maintain conventional power plants to produce the same amount of electricity.
Taking advantage of this federal mandate, the California Public Utilities Commission pressed utilities into signing ten-year contracts at inflated rates with PURPA-qualifying facilities. Under the terms of these contracts, utilities have paid an average of $70 per MWhr, when the price for ten-year contracts in the free market averaged about $30 per MWhr.
Under this subsidy, the capacity of PURPA-qualifying facilities mushroomed to more than 11,000 MW, one fifth of the generating capacity in the state. However, 60% of California's PURPA-qualifying electricity is generated by a "non-renewable" technology: natural gas fired co-generators. So to target "truly alternative" sources—geothermal, small hydro (dams that can produce less than 30 MW), wind, biomass, and solar power—the state of California directed distribution utilities to pay these renewable power producers an additional $15 per MWhr subsidy. The money for this subsidy came from an electricity surcharge imposed by the state's Public Utility Commission.
The state also subsidizes the construction of these "green" power plants. California's electricity "deregulation" law, AB 1890, appropriates $540 million for "alternative" energy construction subsidies. Of this sum, $162 million has already been committed to the construction of 600 MW of wind, waste gas, and geothermal capacity planned over the past four years—an average of $270 per KW for the recipients, or about one quarter of what it would cost to build natural-gas-fired capacity.
The PURPA plant contracts and renewable energy subsidies effectively burden California electricity users with a state tax of more than $2 billion per year—roughly one-third of the state's wholesale electricity spending in 1999. The result: 8.5% of the state's electricity is supplied by "alternative" energy.
But environmentalists are not celebrating.
California's mandate for "green" power technology has demonstrated for all to see that the most highly acclaimed renewable energy technologies are a sham. Worse, for environmentalists, the large quantities of electricity generated by the more productive of the renewable technologies—quantities that have made them indispensable to Californians during their current electricity crisis—have converted these types of renewable energy into a threat to the earth.
The extent to which a renewable energy technology has proved its usefulness is the exact extent to which environmentalists now oppose it. The extent to which a technology has proved unproductive is the exact extent to which environmentalists continue to embrace it.
All of America's central station solar electricity is generated in California. At maximum capacity, California's nine solar stations—with a combined total of 11 square miles of mirrors focused on steam drums that drive steam turbines—can generate 413 MW of electricity, 0.8% of the state's capacity. Because the sun sets at night and is sometimes attenuated by clouds, these plants produce only 0.3% of California's electricity. They owe their economic existence to federal solar power tax credits awarded on top of California's inflated PURPA contracts and renewable power subsidies. When these tax credits were interrupted for eleven months in 1991, the plants' operator, LUZ, immediately went bankrupt. Today SEGS, an Israeli government corporation, operates them at a loss.
The only reason why environmentalists love solar power is that there are no prospects for growth of central station solar power. After two decades of subsidized development, it remains hopelessly ineffective.
Environmentalists also love dung. California's four anaerobic digesters, which capture methane generated from decaying manure and harvest wastes, have a combined capacity of 75 MW, or 0.14% of the state's generating capacity. These digesters, commonly used to produce gas for cooking and lighting in the Third World, are acceptable to environmentalists because allowing the methane they generate to escape into the atmosphere would, supposedly, be just as bad as burning it.
Even under California's massive subsidies, manure digesters are operated at losses that exceed those of solar power. And any possibility that manure could become a productive fuel source is being foreclosed by the greens' efforts to restrict large-scale animal waste cesspools. According to the editorial board of the New York Times, "hogs raised in enormous confinement systems no longer belong to the biological cycle. Their manure is now a pollutant." Based on this view, a coalition of environmental groups is suing Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, seeking $148 billion in "damages."
Anaerobic digesters are also used to capture methane from rotting garbage. Ten digesters operated by California municipalities generate 0.06% of the state's electricity. But the desire to capture "alternative" energy subsidies is not why towns and cities have installed them. They are the product of State Assembly Bill 939, which threatens municipalities with $10,000-per-day fines if they don't divert half of their solid waste from landfills through recycling programs or other "earth friendly" means.
Some of California's landfills contain ducts to collect methane gas. They fuel 38 generating plants with a combined capacity of 257 MW. These plants are relatively productive and make 0.5% of the electricity on the state's grid. Decades ago, central city incinerators used to make steam for heating and electricity, while greatly reducing the volume of solid wastes. Environmentalists shut most of them down with exaggerated fears of heavy metal emissions. Instead, these centrally located power plants have been exchanged for giant, rural methane compost heaps that occupy tens of thousands of acres. The greens are attempting to eliminate even this source of power—through controls like California's AB 939, that force recycling on America's "throw-away society."
A similar campaign is already choking the fuel supply to California's wood burning power plants. The logging industry argued that chips, bark, sawdust, and other wood wastes shouldn't be left to rot in the forest and generate methane, when they could be burned instead. They have been burned, sometimes in combination with harvest wastes, at 32 PURPA-qualifying power plants in the state. These plants have a combined capacity of 604 MW and used to produce 1.1% of the power consumed in the state. They are producing less now, however. Environmentalists banned logging on much of the federal land near these California plants. Three wood burning power stations, including the 35 MW Wendel plant, ran out of fuel this winter and have been shut down.
For greens, this is not an accidental consequence of their opposition to logging. According to Chad Hanson, executive director of the anti-logging John Muir Project, "Biomass timber sales," he declares, "are a serious threat to the forest."
Two thirds of America's wind power capacity is located in California. The state's 1817 MW of wind farms, nominally 3.4% of in-state generating capacity, are available only when the wind blows at optimum speeds. Thus they produce only 1.2% of the electricity consumed in the state.
However, more wind generators are being built in California every year. As more generators are ordered and more owners gain experience operating wind farms, the cost of making electricity from them has been dramatically reduced. Wind power is now competitive with many older or less efficient fossil fuel plants that utilities rely on for "load following" (generating the power needed during the daily fluctuations in demand).
When it was an absurdly expensive and rare means of making electricity, environmentalists had universally championed wind power. The rapid expansion of wind power capacity is—just as rapidly—changing their attitude. More and more greens are coming out against it.
They worry, for example, about "visual blight." Environmental "philosopher" Roderick Nash observes, "If offshore rigs offend, can a much greater number of windmills be any better?" Environmentalists are beginning to complain about the erosion and dust from service roads and the fencing around the windmills. They even complain about generator oil leaks.
Above all, environmentalists are concerned about the number of rare birds killed by wind farms: red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, turkey vultures, and owls. The 625 MW Altamont Pass project killed 39 golden eagles in one year; the birds are protected by the Endangered Species Act because ecologists believe there are only 500 breeding pairs left. "It's not just the bird-blade interaction," according to Dennis White of the Columbia Gorge Audubon Society. "There are several other ways wind power impacts wildlife and birds, such as habitat fragmentation and destruction." The National Audubon Society and the Audubon Societies of Maine, Oregon, and Washington have called for a ban on new wind farm construction. Jan Beya, vice president for science policy at the National Audubon Society, warns that "wind power could face the same fate as low-head hydro."
And what is that fate?
Large-scale hydro is currently the focus of environmentalism's war on man-made power. This campaign has been codified in federal law. The Northwest Power Act requires that reservoirs be maintained at levels that assure—with an 85% probability—that they can supply optimum springtime flows for salmon spawning. The Endangered Species Act further limits water use. These two restrictions are believed to have effectively eliminated 1,400 MW, or one seventh, of the capacity of the nation's largest hydropower producer, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The slogan, "Save the salmon. Breach the dams!" is becoming national policy. If the BPA fails to increase the salmon population in the lower Snake River, four dams with a combined hydroelectric capacity of 1,200 MW may be breached.
The alternative to large hydroelectric dams is "small hydro." California's 379 small hydro stations have a nominal capacity of a little more than 2,000 MW, 4% of the state's generating capacity. However, many of these plants cannot be run simultaneously, and the plants that do run are so unproductive that they supply only 0.4% of California's electricity. Nevertheless, small hydro has been damaged by environmentalism's war on hydroelectric power. In 1985, Russell Shay of the Sierra Club told a House subcommittee that "fisheries in California and the Pacific Northwest face disastrous effects from the unprecedented numbers of small hydro projects which have been proposed for our Western waterways." In 1987, Congress disqualified hydropower from the PURPA program. Without the moral shield against environmentalism provided by PURPA qualification, small hydropower projects have little chance. In California, only 13 MW of small hydro capacity has been planned since 1996.
Three quarters of the United States' geothermal electricity is generated in California. The 47 plants are capable of producing 2,560 MW, 4.9% of the state's current generating capacity. The plants run around the clock, producing 4.8% of the electricity consumed in the state.
By itself, this quantity of man-made power would be sufficient to support the standard of living enjoyed by the billion citizens of the nation of India. This, however, is too much for environmentalists to accept.
The scale of operation of California's geothermal plants has attracted the use of force against producers, not from fanatical members of Earth First!, but from conventional government officials enforcing conventional environmental regulations. In 1995, the Northern Sonoma County Pollution Control District and the Sonoma County District Attorney sued Central California Power Agency over hydrogen sulfide emissions at the world's largest geothermal plants at The Geysers. They imposed a settlement payment of $150,000.
Two years later, an EPA repair crew rushed out to The Geysers. The emergency: caps on 41 spent geothermal wells were judged to be faulty. In terms reminiscent of the kind of hysterical fears conjured against nuclear power, Terry Brubaker, head of EPA's emergency response office in San Francisco, explained: "The hydrogen sulfide that's in these wells is about as toxic a compound as you can get. An uncontrolled release could result in a large concentration of gas that would kill everything in its path." In reality, the amount of gas released from these wells—two-foot-diameter holes drilled 1.5 miles into the earth—would be negligible. It would certainly be no greater than what is already released from the natural source after which the geothermal facility is named. Yet this "safety" effort was covered under the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program.
Capping geothermal plants has become much easier than building them. Plans to build a pair of 48 MW geothermal plants near Medicine Lake are facing the kind of obstacles environmentalists used to reserve for oil drilling. Local environmental groups claim that the project threatens the system of lava tubes and volcanic aquifers surrounding the lake and that the Shasta crayfish, an endangered species, might be affected.
In May, a group of geothermal producers went to Washington, DC, to complain to the Bush administration that the projects they've pursued on federal lands have been held up by the Department of the Interior for up to 20 years. Nearly all of the nation's geothermal resources are on federal lands.
With these kinds of obstacles, California's geothermal electricity production has declined 20% from its peak in 1992.
Felice Pace of the Klamath Forest Alliance explains the environmentalist opposition to geothermal power: "Essentially, in our minds, what it boils down to is any human act, any energy development, is going to have some impacts."
According to environmentalism, there is no moral way to produce the motive power that industrial civilization requires. Large-scale power production is incompatible with environmentalism's injunction against man-made alterations to the environment. Any form of man-made power that supports industrial civilization, regardless of how little it pollutes or how few resources it uses, is immoral because it supports industrial civilization.
The greens pretend that renewable power sources, which currently supply 2% of the nation's electricity, are a gigantic untapped resource that would be able to support American prosperity. They pretend that it is only the capitalist system that prevents us from enjoying these bountiful sources of energy—energy that would enable us to live in harmony with nature, in perpetuity.
But when California's subsidies—which guaranteed renewable energy generators three times the income of conventional power producers—increased the scale of "alternative" energy in the state, the greens dropped the pretense. They have turned against geothermal, small hydroelectric, and wood-burning generators—and they are turning against wind power producers. Their sin: these generators provide 7.5% of the state's electricity needs and promised to expand with the growing demand for power.
Environmentalists ultimately object to the amount of power produced, regardless of how it is produced. The instant that any technology promises to supply power on an industrial scale, it becomes an unpardonable evil that must be stamped out by force—either by government policy or by direct action.
If a political movement were to condemn the "factory farm" as a method that will eventually cause mass starvation; if it were to propose the elimination of all tractors and combines because they "ravage" the soil and to extol the virtues of the quarter-acre garden as the only way to sustain food production in perpetuity; if such a movement were to subsidize "sustainable" food production techniques but angrily reject replacing machines with draft animals, while praising the shovel and sickle—one would conclude that the goal of this movement is the starvation of mankind.
What are we to think about a movement that makes war on industrial-scale power generation?
In seeking to cut off the motive power of industry, environmentalism is attempting to destroy the Industrial Revolution by starving it to death. Such a reversal would begin a new Dark Age for mankind—a Dark Age in which Americans would be compelled to accept a standard of living well below that of the Third World—a Dark Age that would begin with the deaths of billions of human beings who would have become the "surplus" population that could no longer be supported in a world without industrial production.
Jack Wakeland is an engineer working in the nuclear power industry and a frequent contributor to The Intellectual Activist and TIA Daily.
Copyright© 2002 The Intellectual Activist