horses and saddles sold cheap and other metaphors

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Credit Crunch
For those who have been using credit cards to pay for day-to-day living expenses--I racked up an $11,000 debt during a time when I had temporarily lost my income--this increase in the minimum payment is a mixed bag at best. The OCC's policy forces the one out of seven customers who routinely make minimum-only payments to actively reduce their debt and actually pay less over the life of their debt. At the same time, this "tough love," as some have called it, throws many cash-strapped consumers, especially those tied to punitively high interest rates, into a short-term crisis. Those families that have been just barely getting by may be forced to default on their credit card debt. Right after Bank of America began to raise the minimum payment, charge-offs on bad loans increased by 63 percent.

Asked whether Ford or GM would receive government bailouts (as with Chrysler in the 1980's) President Bush responded, "We live in a world in which a Ford or GM has got to compete with other manufacturers that are able to deal with costs in a different way than they are, as well as coming up with product that is relevant."

He didn't explain what relevant meant in terms of cars and trucks but went on to say, "As these automobile manufacturers compete for market share and use technology to try to get consumers to buy their product, they also will be helping America become less dependent on foreign sources of oil."

So relevant may mean vehicles that get better fuel economy. This was an odd comment from a President who has been pushing for increasing the supply of domestic oil rather than pursuing energy conservation.

Beyond the White House elsewhere in Washington gasoline conservation was making the news.

The Plug-in Partners campaign was launched as a continuing grassroots effort to build public, industry and government support for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). PHEVs would be able to operate in a recharged-from-the-grid, all-electric mode for the first 25-35 miles of driving each day. Average gasoline fuel economy of 80 miles per gallon, or more, would be expected.

The founding members of the Plug-in Partners Coalition include 10 major cities, 5 local or county governments, 35 organizations and nearly 120 public power utilities. In a press release they note that:

They don't have a permalink for this article so you may have to search their archieves to find it.

The Cartoonish State of the Media
When it comes to matters of free speech and sound journalism, it's getting increasingly difficult to determine who is worse: the present rulers of the United States or the Islamo-fascists they're now at war with. When they're not busy attacking one another, each side in the current conflict keeps busy attacking journalists (more already dead in Iraq than in the entire Vietnam era), journalism and the very concept of freedom of the press.

In the midst of the ongoing controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, and the pusillanimous reaction by scared outlets such as CNN and France Soir (of which more later), it was particularly sad to see U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lobbing yet another round of verbal grenades at the media last week.

Claiming that press criticism has made "our people … chilled and reticent and uncomfortable," Rumsfeld resurrected the silly, shopworn shibboleth that the media will be to blame if the United States "loses" the global war on terrorism.

Since Rumsfeld and Bush never seem to take responsibility for anything why not drag out that old whipping boy the big bad "media".

Energy policy begins with us, we can do something. Heck if we wait for politicians to get off their duffs the Arctic will be warmer then Savannah in May...Save Fuel Now
1. Be kind to your car
....keep your tires properly inflated, and change the oil as directed. These simple, relatively inexpensive steps can increase your car's fuel efficiency by as much as 10 percent.

2. Buy fuel-efficient replacement tires

3. Drive less and drive smarter
If you drive to work alone, consider switching to public transit, carpooling, biking or walking -- not necessarily every day, but once a week or when you can.
( there's nothing real radical here. Spring's around the corner. Why not walk to work if possible, take a bus once a week- ya might meet someone and make a new friend. This simple stuff adds up over a year)

Efficient Appliances Save Energy -- and Money
The major appliances in your home -- refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers -- account for a big chunk of your monthly utility bill. And if your refrigerator or washing machine is more than a decade old, you're spending a lot more on energy than you need to.

This is a nice site for kids and adults about energy conservation..Professor Questor on Saving Energy
Fight the Light!
Don't Leave Things Turned On
It's a Matter of Degrees!
Americans use twice as much energy as necessary to heat their homes. That accounts for a lot of wasted energy!

and to beat one of my favorite drums, we need a major program to to rebuild our cities,spruce up the closest suburbs, and start moving toward renewable energy. Imagine the jobs that would be created by reengineering the way are cities are structered, manufacturing solar panels or wind turbines. We seem to be stuck in the 21st century version of the horse and buggy era with political powers firmly backing the horse and buggy as tyhe status quo when its time to move on.


“Bush’s pre-1776 mentality”
I’ve seen some strange things in my life, but I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, listening to the President assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?
The President and his administration continue their spin and media blitz in attempts to defend the fact that they broke, and continue to break, the law. Their weak and shifting justifications for doing so continue. The latest from the President seems to be that basically the FISA law, passed in 1978, is out of date. His decision that he can apparently disregard “old law” fits the pattern with the President and his administration. He’s decided to disregard a statute (FISA) and the Constitution (the 4th Amendment) by continuing to wiretap Americans’ phone calls and emails without the required warrant, while at the same time claiming powers of the presidency that do not exist. (Perhaps he feels the Constitution is too “old,” as well.)

Russ is right. Just like conservatives were supposed to be the party of fiscal disipline, they were supposed to be the party of the original intent. How in the world can Bush claim king like powers in the light of the claim to be a "conservative". 200 years ago they were called loyalists, people that prefered the monarhy over the rule of government by and for the people.

Same gang has wanted more power... for decades

An intense debate erupted during the Ford administration over the president's powers to eavesdrop without warrants to gather foreign intelligence, according to newly disclosed government documents.

These guys are like a dog with an old moldy bone and they won't let go. If they don't like the rule of law I'll be happy to chip in for their plane fare to Saudi Arabia, they torture people there and treat women like property so Cheney and Bush should like it just fine.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Some US troops question Woodruff coverage
Here is an incomplete list of American service members who were killed by hostile fire in Iraq that same week that Woodruff and Vogt were hit. The Pentagon does not release the names of the injured.

Spc. Brian J. Schoff, 22, of Manchester, Tenn., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 28, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV.

Sgt. David L. Herrera, 26, of Oceanside, Calif., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 28, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations.

Lance Cpl. Billy D. Brixey Jr., 21, of Ferriday, La., died Jan. 27 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, from wounds received as a result of an improvised explosive device while traveling in a convoy in Afghanistan on Jan. 25.

Lance Cpl. Hugo R. Lopez, 20, of La Habra, Calif., died Jan. 27 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Rawah, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2005.

Staff Sgt. Jerry M. Durbin Jr., 26, of Spring, Texas, died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 25, when an improvised explosive device exploded near his dismounted patrol during combat operations.

Sgt. Joshua A. Johnson, 24, of Richford, Vt., died in Ramadi, Iraq, on Jan. 25, when a rocket propelled grenade struck his vehicle during combat operations.

Staff Sgt. Lance M. Chase, 32, of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Pfc. Peter D. Wagler, 18, of Partridge, Kan., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 23, of wounds sustained that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near their M1A2 Abrams tank during patrol operations.

Sgt. Sean H. Miles, 28, of Midlothian, Va., was killed in action Jan. 24 from small arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Karmah, Iraq.

Sgt. Matthew D. Hunter, 31, of Valley Grove, W.Va., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 23, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol during combat operations.

Sgt. Sean H. Miles, 28, of Midlothian, Va., was killed in action Jan. 24 from small arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Karmah, Iraq.

Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Norton, 32, of Miami, Okla. and Staff Sgt. Brian McElroy, 28, of San Antonio, Texas, were killed Jan. 22, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while conducting convoy escort duties in the vicinity of Taji, Iraq.

Supporting the troops means not supporting the policy and the continuing Whitehouse incompetence that gets the troops killed.

Talking Points memo now has a sought of clearing house on the CCC-Conservative Culture of Corruption
I did find a Dem on there, wearing the best looking tie of the bunch.

It didn't even take the administration 24 hrs to claim they didn't mean what they said........Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.

He's been saying this for four years, so most people know he was just flapping his jaws anyway. We could be ushering in a new era of clean energy, a great legacy for our grandchildren, but we have president status quo instead.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Why Bush needs a new lawyer
The courts have traditionally been reluctant to intervene when the president's constitutional powers and Congress directly collide. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson's famous opinion in the Steel Seizure case remains the governing framework. In that case, in reasoning that President Truman exceeded his powers by seizing steel mills as part of his Korean War effort, Jackson wrote that although the president has some inherent powers, those powers are at their ''lowest ebb" when the Constitution also vests Congress with authority. For example, the Constitution gives Congress the power to prescribe rules for the regulation of the armed and naval forces, and so if a statute prohibits the military from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, the president must follow that dictate. (Constitutionally, the president must ''faithfully execute the laws.")

Its difficult to understand that a grown man in any sought of of profession would take that playground attitude of you-can't-make- me into adult life much less the president. When most people think of what a great president is, a great statesman is, this childish and dangerous behavior from BushCo is not what they have in mind. At least I hope it isn't.

Small Things With Grave Consequences
Some damage is harder to see than others -- and I offer two cases of suppression. First, there's a congressionally mandated report on outsourcing high-tech jobs. It was supposed to be released before the '04 election but wasn't, because it was politically embarrassing. More than a year later, they are still stonewalling, ignoring the federal law that ordered the study done and be released before November 2004.

Second case: According to the Project on Government Oversight, the Congressional Research Service has warned a senior analyst to avoid describing his research findings. The analyst, whose job it is to describe research findings of the nonpartisan service, specializes in separation-of-power issues, but was criticized over a report and comments he made concerning the plight of national security whistleblowers.

I can't find the quote right now, but I think it was a former Supreme Court justice that said freedom doesn't disappear overnight, but is taken away in pieces. These "little" reports are what sound decisions and policies are supposed to be based on and they have consequences that may not be immediately apparent, they have a tendency to show up as big problems later. Conservatives seem to think if they close their eyes and ignore what they don't like the problems will dissappear. When has that ever been the case.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Not related to the post, just thought it was funny.
The modular housing industry can play a role in rebuilding our cities, while New Orleans and the cronyism involved in rewarding some of the contracts doesn't provide the best example. It does show how quickly that can have an impact on notching up the quality of life for low and middle income residents. new Orleans is particular because it was a residential oriented city compared to the cities dwarfed with a small forests of high rises.

Thinking Outside the Box for Urban and Sustainable Housing Solutions
One of the primary challenges facing urban and suburban governments today is the growing need for quality, affordable housing that is compatible with local architectural and aesthetic standards. Compounding this challenge is a federal government unable to fully meet its commitment to housing, while state governments are cutting back on services in order to balance budgets. The result is sharp cuts in subsidies and other forms of financial assistance to local governments’ housing initiatives and a growing housing crisis across the nation.

With few exceptions, HUD-Code manufactured homes have traditionally been excluded from many urban and suburban markets, primarily through outdated and prejudicial stereotypes codified into zoning and land-use restrictions. These barriers ignore the basic fact that today’s manufactured homes are dramatically different from the “mobile homes” and “trailers” that most people associate with factory-built housing. Today’s manufactured homes can deliver the quality, energy-efficiency, flexible living spaces, and amenities that people want at prices people can afford, while also being aesthetically compatible with existing urban and suburban neighborhoods.

When the city of Cincinnati, Ohio decided to revitalize the neighborhood known as Carthage by relocating an old industrial plant, it chose to redevelop the site with new affordable housing. However, like countless other cities across the nation, local home builders were either unwilling or unable to build homes on the site that met the pricing and architectural guidelines established by neighborhood residents and city officials.

They're losing the battle, but its still nice to know that there are a few conservatives out there that care about the rule of law. Palace Revolt
These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.

This is why the confirmation of Alito is deeply Orwellian. Alito will just affirm that the Bush cabal's unamerican view of the constitution and Bush's role as emperor is as deep and wide as he wants it to be. Right-wing judicial activism takes the next step to judicial rape. A symbolic pat on the back to the far-right and may you reap what you sow.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Poor land Use or Population Growth: Which is Worse for Sprawl
A major controversy in the efforts to halt the rural land loss is whether land-use and consumption decisions are the primary engines of urban sprawl, or whether it is the nation's continuing population boom providing most of the power driving the expansion.

A careful analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that the two sprawl factors share equally in the blame:

(1) Population Growth: The other half of sprawl is related to the increase in the number of residents within those 100 Urbanized Areas.
(2) Per Capita Sprawl: About half the sprawl nationwide appears to be related to the land-use and consumption choices that lead to an increase in the average amount of urban land per resident.

Maybe the next question to ask is that knowing the two major factors that contribute to sprawl, which is easier to put reasonable controls on. Cities tend to resist smart planning because of the influence of contractors and the tendency to want to generate as much revenue as possible rather then being motivated promarily by quality of life issues. Despite their sometimes negative reputation, suburbs do mean to most of their residents a higher quality of life.....
Suburbs: A cliché from hell
The North American suburbs of 2006 are a world away from the imagined suburbs of Cheever or Lewis. Traditional suburbs have grown and aged. Many of the once identical houses of Levittown and other subdivisions have now been customized and renovated. As developments on the urban fringe have become increasingly independent from their urban centres, the very existence of "suburbia" in the traditional sense has been questioned.

Immigration has also made suburbia a far more diverse landscape. The population of Glendale, the town chosen by novelist James M. Cain as the setting for his 1941 novel Mildred Pierce because of its suburban blandness, is now over 50 per cent foreign-born. According to the American non-profit research organization The Brookings Institution, in the year 2000 more immigrants in metropolitan areas lived in suburbs than in cities.

Most importantly, the suburbs have become the dominant way of living. Today, more than half of America lives in suburbia, the number of Canadians living in suburbs has doubled since the 1960s, and, as supporters of the suburbs such as urban historian Tom Martinson have argued, most of them like it.

There probably is no answer per se, but cities are more efficent places to live for most people in the post industrial/tech-services-age. The idea is to make cities more livable while at the same time to have less impact on the last remaining open lands. Its not just the development that goes with the houses themselves its all the infastructure behind it- the strip malls, the roads, bridges, schools, etc. I used to commute and as I've gotten older Ive realized that I resent the time lost sitting in traffic, the money spent on gas and lost to my car's depreciiation due to mileage.

Building living cities
As vividly demonstrated in the events surrounding this week's United Nations World Environment Day, there is growing agreement among environmentalists, urban planners, architects and elected officials that our way of life is simply not sustainable. We use too much energy, create too much waste and generate too much pollution. Urban sprawl forces people into their cars and away from their families and friends, resulting in serious environmental and social degradation, both locally and globally. With only 5 percent of the world's population, the United States consumes a quarter of the world's oil and generates the most solid waste and carbon dioxide.
We cannot, and should not, preserve our present way of life, but we can change it and make it better. Rather than perceiving those ominous statistics as harbingers of a grim, unavoidable future, we should see them as signs of great opportunity to make our cities better places to live -- to rebuild them as "living cities" that support both people and the natural world upon which we all depend.

Not to mention jobs and economic opportunities and the intangible satisfaction of creating and rebuilding.

Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans
The data showing increased concentration of corporate wealth were posted last month on the Congressional Budget Office Web site. Isaac Shapiro, associate director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, spotted the information last week and wrote a report analyzing it.

Mr. Shapiro said the figures added to the center's "concerns over the increasingly regressive effects" of the reduced tax rates on capital. Continuing those rates will "exacerbate the long-term trend toward growing income inequality," he wrote.

This wouldn't bother me if the increase in wealth was related to doing more work or increaing the quality of the work produced, but its not. Its rewarding wealth with more wealth and using a screwy anti-progressive tax system to do it.

My Ecosystem Details