2/29/08

Ousted Rep. Pombo's Aides Set Up Shop as "Responsible Resources"

Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) represented California's 11th congressional district from 1993 to 2007, and lost a re-election bid after concerted opposition from national environmental groups, amid allegations of corruption, misuse of official resources, nepotism, and questionable campaign contributions.

While in Congress, Pombo served as Chairman of the House Resources Committee and proposed legislation to sell roughly a quarter of the land managed by the National Park Service. He advocated for allowed mining companies to buy federal lands and favored oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. He proposed weakening the Endangered Species Act in concert with the front group Save Our Species Alliance.

The League of Conservation Voters assigned a lifetime average rating of 7 on a scale of 0 to 100 and released an ad October 31, 2005on, citing Pombo's acceptance of $120,000 from oil companies and his ties to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Now, according to a February 26, 2008 article by Alex Kaplun in Greenwire, "Former Pombo staffers launch advocacy group," ex-House Resource Committee aides Brian Kennedy, Lisa Wallace, Dan Kish and Rob Gordon have launched Responsible Resources with an ad campaign asserting that taxes on energy companies are a threat to affordable and reliable energy.

The House had just passed a bill that would repeal a manufacturing tax credit to large, integrated oil companies and other credits targeted at the oil industry and redirect the money to continue tax credits for the development of renewable energy resources like wind and solar power, as well as energy efficiency, which were slated to end this year.

Kennedy, had most recently served as a spokesman to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). He would not disclose the group's budget, but said it would not take corporate donations and described it as an educational resource principally for members of Congress and their aides with the ultimate goal of growing large enough to influence the debate beyond the Beltway. The group plans to publish a desk reference on energy resources in the United States including how much energy is needed to power the country in the future and how much of that energy could come from the United States.

Wallace is a former chief financial officer to the Resources Committee. Gordon, president of the new group, is the founder and president of the National Wilderness Institute, which has challenged the Endangered Species Act. Kish retired as a senior adviser to the committee after serving as the committee’s chief of staff in the 1990s.

See also: Jim Snyder, "Former GOP Aides Form New Energy Group," The Hill, 2/27/08.

While Kennedy claims the group is non-partisan, a look at the group's site reveals it to appear to be a pr effort to counteract environmental arguments and policies espoused by Democrats and some moderate Republicans. For instance, in talking about reducing CO2 emmissions, the site says,

Although the policies would be extremely expensive, consume resources that could be directed to immediate and profound problems, and have limited potential to affect climate, many contend that there is an urgent need to implement some sort of policy. Many potenital factors can contribute to and exacerbate the sense that policies are urgently needed.
These factors identified include "sensational journalism" to justify higher advertising rates, corporations seeking a competitive advantage, researchers in academia and government who want more funding, and foreign countries who want to impose costs on the U.S. economy.

If this is indeed a non-profit group, it will soon enough have to file IRS forms. Until then, it's hard to know who is actually funding this effort. Here's the contact information for the group:

PO Box 320247
Alexandria, VA 22320
Phone: (703) 535-3004
Fax: (703) 647-6259
Email: info@resres.org

2/28/08

Pew Center: More than One in a Hundred in Prison

The Pew Center reports today that the United States now incarcerates 2.3 million people, more than any other country in both the number and percentage. That's more than one in 100 adults in the United States in jail or prison, an all-time high that costs state governments nearly $50 billion a year and the federal government another $5 billion.

*
Got to hear folklorist Charles Briggs from UC Berkeley speak this evening at Virginia Tech on the narrative of violence and then went to a pot luck at Jason's at the old Yellow Springs resort.

2/27/08

House would replace oil tax breaks with ones for renewables

The Washington Post today notes that,


The House of Representatives brushed aside threats of a White House
veto today and voted 236 to 182 in favor of an $18 billion tax package that
would rescind a tax break for the five biggest oil giants and use the revenue to
boost incentives for wind and solar energy and energy efficiency.

Rangel's Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008 (H.R. 5351), a February 12 resubmission of last year's legislation was reported out of the rules Committee yesterday on a motion limiting debates and amendments.

2/26/08

Republican Renzi to run again in Arizona despite indictment

As long ago as April 29, 2007, the conservative East Valley Tribune was calling for Rick Renzi's resignation:

Renzi will be hounded by political opportunists looking to further
undermine his status, and his constituents will receive less than they deserve
while he rallies to protect himself.


The better choice, the honorable choice, would be for Renzi to step aside and let someone else come forward to represent his district and our state in Congress.



Although initially indicating that he might do so and he was indicted February 23 on 35 counts, Ben Pershing of The Washington Post reported that Renzi's office announced yesterday that he intended to run for re-election, although no press release showed up on his website, as of today.

*

Today, I attended a luncheon and panel discussion at the National Press Club on the unitary executive sponsored by the Constitution Project. See my post of February 18 for the details. I had the opportunity to talk to Charlie Savage and Louis Fisher, two men whose writing and research I admire greatly.

2/25/08

New Yorker on Carbon Footprints

Photograph by Horacio Salinas illustrating the article "Big Foot" by Michael Specter.

I'm off to DC for a few days. Here's something to read while I'm gone, in case I don't get to post.:

2/24/08

Aviation Biofuels?

Richard Branson holds up a vial of biofuel.

What we are using today isn't going to be the fuel that we are using when we come to commercial use.

Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group was talking about the use of so-called second generation biofuels, such as algae in his quotation cited by Tim Cornwell of The Scotsman, in his 2/25/08 story, "It's Coconut Airways" about a test flight of a Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet flown between London's Heathrow and Amsterdam using fuel derived in part from a mixture of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts.

The flilght stemmed from the September 2006 annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, where Branson pledged that Virgin's air and rail profits would go to combat climate change with investment in alternative energy through Virgin Fuels. But when Virgin ran it's test flight yesterday, some environmental groups would quick to savage him, with the lengthliest quotes in a story in Rudolph Murdoch's Daily Telegraph of Australia.

One has to wonder just how green Murdoch is compared to Branson, how often he otherwise covers the groups and how much sand the same groups are kicking up over initiatives like coal-to-liquid aviation fuel.

2/23/08

British Columbia leading the way with a carbon tax

Columbus, Ohio chemist-turned-cartoonist Drew's (website, blog, email) Toothpaste for Dinner cartoon of January 9, 2008, "Climate Change: A Libertarian View."


"Selling B.C.'s historic carbon tax similar to anti-smoking campaigns, say experts" in Canadian Press hosted by Google draws an interesting parallel between carbon emissions and smoking and reveals a marketing strategy for addressing the argument I've heard raised by Mr. Morris, the CEO of American Electric Power on Monday when addressing Tech students that "cap and trade" is necessary rather than a more efficacious (according to a recent study) carbon tax, because you can't pass a tax.

Obviously British Columbia, which is admittedly not the U.S., has passed such a tax, and it was supported, according to other coverage, by the business community, although the public isn't sure that it will work. The article provides some background on trends in other provinces.

Although the story provides the conservative position, it devotes only one line and doesn't really offer evidence of the pros and cons of each approach. I would have also liked to have seen information on how the initiative gained support for its passage.

*

I need to leave because I have friends due for dinner before the contra dance tonight in Giles County with Toss the Possum and Shawn Brenneman, but I will provide links tomorrow.

Hopefully, I'll also be able to catch up on the "coming soon" entries I've been doing all week, while working for NewsTrust (we've had the usual workload, plus I hosted U.S. Congress and blogged and participated in staff conference calls Monday, Thursday and Friday), while researching Fairmont LLC for BURG Sunday, helping address AEP on Monday and spending time with Jack Spadaro on Tuesday and Wednesday and conducting a lot of correspondence by email and working on organizing the poetry reading.

Thank you patient readers.

2/22/08

Sweeney Todd's at the Lyric


... There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren't worth what a pig could spit
and it goes by the name of London.
At the top of the hole sit the privileged few
Making mock of the vermin in the lonely zoo
turning beauty to filth and greed...
I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders,
for the cruelty of men is as wonderous as Peru
but there's no place like London!


There was a barber and his wife
and she was beautiful...
a foolish barber and his wife.
She was his reason for his life...
and she was beautiful, and she was virtuous.
And he was naive.
There was another man who saw
that she was beautiful...
A biased vulture of the law
who, with a gesture of his claw
removed the barber from his plate!
And there was nothing but to wait!
And she would fall!
So soft!
So young!
So lost and oh so beautiful!


lyrics to "No Place Like London," thanks to the site AllMusicals.com
So opens Sweeney Todd, which started a week's run at Blacksburg's Lyric Theatre tonight and was much more a filmed musical (or opera, one could argue) than I expected, having abstained from reading the reviews, and gorier, but in a characteristically Tim Burton computer-generated imagery kind of way--sort, of a Sweeney and the Meat Pie Factory.

In fact, there was one moment in the film, where Depp's Sweeney looks upon Bonham Carter's Mrs. Lovette with the same queasiness at human contact we saw in his embodiment of Roald Dahl's Willie Wonka, in another Burton film, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

I found the acting of everyone involved excellent and the singing by the two leads affecting, an extension of their portrayals, rather than a mere breaking into song. Other reviewers either liked he film more--or less--than I did. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Peter French of the Guardian/Observer, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, and A.O Scott in the New York Times raved. Salon.com's Stephanie Zacharek panned the effort.

So, while I'm a fan of the two protagonists, of the filmmaker and of Sondheim, and while, I'd recommend you see the flick, I still came away a bit disappointed, as I found myself interested, but not transported.

2/21/08

2/20/08

A day with Jack Spadaro plotting on behalf of Appalachia


I got to eat breakfast with Jack Spadaro this morning and then attend his seminar on environmental issues in the Appalachian coalfield  at lunch time in  Major Williams Hall. Nothing Jack  said surprised me.  We have a real problem in the region due to the power of the coal industry.

Instead, I wanted to point you to a few articles on Jack that have appeared since I wrote about his case for the New River Free Press.

"Sludge Slinging: No matter how hard it tries, the Bush administration cannot silence one of the nation's leading experts on coal mining's poisonous legacy," Ted Williams, Audubon,  May 2004

"Under Mined," Clara Bingham, Washington Monthly, January -February 2005."


BTW, Clara Bingham is the author of Women on the Hill Women:Challenging The Culture of Congress and co-author (with Laura Leedy Gansler) of Class Action: The Story of [MN iron miner] Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law. The latter inspired the film North Country. And, yes, she is from the KY Bingham family associated with the Courier-Journal.

2/19/08

Elaine Chao may have hounded Jack Spadaro out of MSHA but he's still talking about the Martin County sludge spill

Tonight Jack Spadaro was on the Virginia Tech campus showing the Appalshop film, Sludge and talking about the Martin County sludge spill.

Here's a trailer of the film.



If you missed tonight's movie and standing-room-only (well actually sitting room--we filled the aisles) you can still see him tomorrow at Major Williams at noon.

2/18/08

More on the FY2009 Budget and the Unitary Executive

Cartoon by Mark Fiore accompanied Jeff Hess's blog post of May 13, 2006.


The following updates my post of February 8 and is a draft of this month's submission to LLRX.


*

President Bush embraces the theory of the "unitary executive" which according to "Rethinking Presidential Power—The Unitary Executive and the George W. Bush Presidency" a 2005 paper by Dr. Christopher S. Kelley (email) from the Department of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, OH, has been used for unilateral action since Nixon's time when "modern presidents have had a difficult time relying upon the traditional powers of bargaining and persuading."
While Kelley wrote about the use of signing statements, executive orders, and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to advance the administration's objectives, he omitted invocation of the state secrets doctrine. And, since Kelley's article, it appears that Mr. Bush has added new tools: long term agreements in lieu of treaties such as that he signed with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki on November 26, 2007 and, now, his proposed budget which reverses two pieces of legislation he signed, one which limited privatization and another which encouraged public service through college loan forgiveness.

On February 4, when the president submitted his FY 2009 Budget for the period starting this October, the Washington Post's Stephen Barr, wrote in "Growing the Workforce but not the Payroll" that
Another item in the budget likely to stir controversy on Capitol Hill is the proposal to repeal parts of last year's consolidated appropriations bill [H.R. 2764], signed by Bush [December 26, 2007], that makes it more difficult for agencies to contract out jobs held by federal employees.

The legislation requires that private-sector bids show a savings of $10 million or 10 percent beyond the cost of keeping the work in agencies, prevents contractors from gaining an advantage by offering less generous health and retirement benefits to their workers, and extends to federal employees the same rights to appeal agency decisions as those that are available to contractors.

On February 12, Unbossed featured a post with an extensive quote from the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. regarding the rollback.

Calling for agencies to continue identifying future opportunities for "competitive sourcing," or public-private job competitions where private sector firms can bid for the right to perform functions performed by federal employees, the budget request says the administration will work with Congress to eliminate the new legislative restrictions.

Among the contracting out restrictions from the DOD bill that should be repealed, according to the budget proposal, are:

provisions requiring public-private competitions, including the formation of an agency "most efficient organization" (MEO), before the conversion of agency functions involving more than 10 federal employees;

provisions requiring contractors to show savings of at least 10 percent or $10 million;

provisions stating that contractors cannot receive a cost advantage over federal agencies by spending less on health insurance or retirement benefits than the government does for federal employees;

provisions allowing federal agencies to hold competitions to evaluate the benefits of converting work currently being performed by contractors to performance by federal employees; and

provisions allowing federal employees to designate agents authorized to protest the results of competitive sourcing decisions.

Barr also indicated that the budget would reduce eligibility for loan forgiveness for individuals with current loans who have opted to work in public service and nonprofit jobs, which had been authorized when Bush signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (H.R. 2669) September 27, 2007.

February 26, 2008 from 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm at the National Press Club, the Constitution Project will be hosting a panel featuring Louis Fisher, specialist in constitutional law for the Library of Congress, author of Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the President, as well as John P. MacKenzie, author of Absolute Power: How the Unitary Executive Theory is Undermining the Constitution and Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent for The Boston Globe, author of Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. Savage (email) won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Bush Administration's efforts to concentrate power for the executive branch and went on to write the book. I'll be interested to see if the speakers have comments on the use of the budget as a tool for the unitary executive.

*
So what's in the President's budget, and what has been the reaction?
While claiming fiscal responsibility through the eliminating or cutting of 151 programs (see table S-5), Bush has argued for making tax cuts permanent and taken war spending off the books.

The February 8 newsletter of Taxpayers for Commonsense notes, "While it's perfectly reasonable to claim that the costs of these military operations are difficult to estimate, it is ridiculous to not even estimate, given how long those operations have been in place and how much they have already cost. The 2009 budget plugs in a measly $70 billion for next year's costs, about enough for the first quarter, while just days after the release of said budget, the Secretary of Defense remarked that Iraq and Afghanistan could easily cost as much as $170 billion."

Robert Greenstein, James R. Horney, and Richard Kogan at the Center for Budget and policy priorities weighed in on February 7, saying, "The President's budget would provide more tax cuts heavily skewed to the most well-off while cutting vital services for low- and moderate-income Americans, generating large deficits, and increasing the strain on states already confronting budget problems as a result of the economic downturn. The budget reflects misguided priorities that would leave the American people more vulnerable in a number of ways."

While the Heritage Foundation supports low taxes and domestic spending cuts, Alex Adrianson complained on February 11 that projected balanced budget in 2012 "doesn't include the costs of the war on terrorism. It also includes the unrealistic assumption that Congress will allow the Alternative Minimum Tax to ensnare tens of millions of additional taxpayers in 2009."

Meanwhile, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute Kevin Hassett acknowledged in a February 11 column for Bloomberg that Bush has "outspent Clinton by a mile," even disregarding the cost of the increases in the "War on Terror" and Iraq.

Here is where you will find the rebuttal by the Republicans of the Democratats' analysis of the proposed budget. For additional information, see OMB Watch's The Bush Budget Legacy: Misleading Claims and Misguided Priorities, as well as the information pages on the budget for the Coalition for Human Needs and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

2/17/08

AEP coming to Tech to "listen"

Cartoon by Dan Wright (email) and Dave Ponce (email)


February 13, American Electric Power issued a news release announcing it would kick off its Listening Tour, "Oil, National Security, and What We Can Do: The Future of Energy" tomorrow at Virginia Tech at 2:00pm in Squires Haymarket Theater (Seats 484 people) with AEP's CEO Michael G. Morris

The format will be 90 minutes to two hours with Morris giving a "brief overview of America’s energy future" followed by Q&A with students. At the conclusion of the tour, AEP plans to compile the highlights of the insights, ideas, and concerns shared by students in a book to be published in the fall 2008, prior to the U.S. Presidential election.

AEP says,

The listening tour's purpose is to engage young people on college campuses across America to share their opinions and ideas, and to hear what it will take to ensure America's energy security while protecting the environment.
According to the Burning Book Collective (BB), the tour will more likely

give the public the impression that AEP is listening, yet really to back the public into a corner with only two options: oil/terrorism or coal/imminent climate chaos and destruction of Appalachia.

To that I'd add nukes, as AEP has invested in that realm and is considering expansion. In "AEP may decide in 2008 on whether to apply for COL,"Pam Radtke Russell wrote in the December 20, 2007 (by paid sub only) Platts Nucleonics Week, that December 11 Nicholas Akins, AEP's executive vice president of generation told attendees at the Power-Gen International conference in New Orleans that in order to lower emissions

We are very focused on nuclear as a possibility...

AEP has been tellling stockholders for months, according to the article, that it is considering new nuclear generation as part of a "portfolio" approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and might also implement energy efficiency measures and add wind power, since according to Atkins,
We don't believe you're going to get a large-capacity coal or nuclear plant built unless you convince regulators that you've done as much as you can to reduce," [greenhouse gas emissions.]
Spokesman Pat Hemlepp later told Russell,
Our CEO, Mike Morris, has said many times that we will likely add new nuclear to our fleet in coming years. We just won't be a first mover in new nuclear in the way we're a first mover for clean coal.

Blacksburg Mountain Justice (MJ) will distribute literature at the presentation tomorrow, raising basic questions regarding AEP's policies and providing the audience with general facts in the categories (links are to the BB wiki):

Within each category, MJ will formulate one overarching question for the handout, coupled with 5-10 facts and 1-3 specific questions for the utility. There are plenty of local issues to bring up, such as Giles/Glen Lyn and Virginia MTR. Organizers say,

Hopefully, by asking informed and well researched questions MJ will stimulate non-affiliated audience members to raise their own concerns.

It will be interesting to see how AEP reacts, if the company includes the MJ "insights" in its planned book and if there will be rebuttal presentations at future stops on AEP's tour, to take place at:

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville March 10; The Ohio State University in Columbus April 2; Howard University in Washington, D.C., April 7; Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., April 9; and University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., April 30.

*

Back in December 2001, Chris Stansberry wrote in Free Republic that he had contacted jouornalist Helen Thomas (email) to tell her,

Your disrespect of President Bush - yes I said President Bush disgusts me! Your tirades during White House Press Briefings are beyond belief - time to take your show elsewhere!

Here is how she replied, according to Stansberry:

Try living your own life. I'm sure you have your hands full.

Usually I wouldn't link to the site, but the vitriol expressed against Thomas in the comments shows such a lack of civility that I'll let you read them for yourself. I got to see Thomas last year at the Virginia Festival of the Book giving her fellow journalists heck for being sheep, and although we've lost Molly Ivins, Helen's still at it, this time on February 15 in "McCain foresees 100-year war," outlining how the Republican's putative candidate is giving Bush hopes for

a third term through a proxy.

2/16/08

Social Networking

Cartoon from Geek Culture's The Joy of Tech by Nitrozac and Snaggy (website, email)


Hugh Macleod, joked in a recent Twitter post:

Pretty soon we'll have "Social" prefixing everything: Social Marketing, Social Communicating, Social Cornflakes”.


Today, I was busy over at Newstrust. Here are the stories I found for today:

This last story was the pick of the day, after it was reviewed. Starting with the case of one woman in Colorado, this story looks at the reasons for the marginalization of a group of refugees who have received little attention in the press and puts it in context.

2/15/08

CBO: carbon tax: greater emission reductions at much smaller cost

Imagine the cover as blue, not red. The I-MAC version of Adobe Photoshop is having problems.


A study released February 13 by the Congressional Budget Office seems to argue against the Warner-Lieberman bill. In a blog post announcing the study's publication, the CBO's director wrote:

A tax could achieve a long-term emission reduction target at a much smaller economic cost than an inflexible cap.
He explained,
  • The advantage of a tax stems from the long-term nature of climate change (which depends on the build-up of emissions over many decades, but is not sensitive to the amount of emissions in any given year) and the uncertain and variable nature of the cost of reducing emissions (which will vary from year to year based on the weather, conditions in energy markets, and the availability of new technologies).
  • An inflexible cap-and-trade program would provide more certainty about annual emissions than would a tax; however, that certainty would come at a cost: The cap would require too many reductions when the cost of achieving them was high and would mandate too few reductions when the cost was low.
  • Flexible cap-and-trade programs could achieve some, but not all, of the efficiency-improving/cost-minimizing advantages of a tax.

2/14/08

Board of Zoning Affairs Baffled: Do Citizens Count?

Valentine artwork from the Piemont Environmental Council.

I first found that things had not gone as planned for at the Blacksburg Board of Zoning Appeals when I checked in over at Blacksburg United for Responsible Growth's Google group and found my friend Shawn had sent a letter to the BZA after attending the hearing yesterday.

Three homeowners impacted by Fairmon's South Main development had appealed the Town zoning administrator's site plan approval on the grounds that ordinance rezoning the land to commercial use had required compliance with an application which set out an idyllic vision of small shoppes and residential housing.

Here's what the ever-eloquent Shawn wrote to the BZA:

I have lived in Blacksburg off and on since 1983. This is my third time living back in Blacksburg and there are many special things about this town that draw me
back.

I attended Wednesday's hearing in which 3 citizens were scheduled to be
heard in an appeal of the Zoning Administrator's approval of Phase I of the
South Main development project and watched with interest as the Board seemed
very unclear about how to proceed in the face of the Fairmount and Llamas,
LLC lawyer's claim that these citizens didn't have a right to be heard on
this issue.

What is the appeals process for? Isn't it a vehicle for concerned citizens
to be heard on issues of zoning? Isn't it a process put in place to help
insure that zoning decisions made by the officials of the Town of Blacksburg
are in fact serving the benefit of the Town of Blacksburg? If a citizen
says they have a concern, don't they have a concern? What could possibly be
gained by not hearing the concern?

Let's consider the motivations of the three appellants (whom I do not know
personally). They are citizens of Blacksburg. Two of them have homes on
what is now a residential street but will become one of the main
thoroughfares to the proposed shopping center (originally characterized as a
mixed use small scale retail including residential). They volunteered their
time to file an appeal. Why would they use their energy in this way?

They are probably concerned about new traffic on the street in front of
their home. They may be concerned about a decrease in the value of their
home. They may be concerned about the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians,
and school children on their street.

They may be concerned about these things because the character of the
shopping area as it currently stands is significantly different from the
character of the mixed use residential proposal in the rezoning application.

How did a development so different from the one originally proposed get
approved? The Town Council made a conditional rezoning based upon a plan in
the application, and then the Zoning Administrator approved plans that were
very different from that plan, without the knowledge of the Town Council.
This process is flawed and begging for appeal.

Let's consider the motivations of those filing the objection of the right of
these citizens to be heard. The lawyer is paid hourly to act in the
interest of his clients. His clients probably can make more money with an
entirely retail development as opposed to one including residential.
Furthermore, changes to their plans now would be costly.

And what is the purpose of the BZA? Is your priority to hear citizen
concerns and insure zoning process is followed? Or is it to protect the
financial interests of developers?

I for one am grateful for the three citizens who have put their time and
energy into this matter, and I hope they will be heard with open ears in two
weeks.
According to Caleb Fleming's story, "Still stuck standing" in today's Collegiate Times (hat-tip to Shawn, who pointed me to the story when we chatted this evening), the case has been postponed for two weeks and

It was agreed that [Blacksburg attorney Jim] Cornwell would be contacted and, if available, should advise appellants. The board also agreed to allow Sprague, Rogol and Guest to submit additional supplemental material to compliment what was already presented in an effort to prove they qualify as an aggrieved party.

Meanwhile BURGers have been over at Matthew Fredmonsky's February 10 story in the Northeastern Ohio's Record Courier, "New developers on the block in Kent"

*



Today, being Valentine's Day, I got this LOVEly news from Alison Baird, Virginia Senator John Edward's legislative aide, regarding email I'd sent opposing replacememt of the current cash proffer system with limited impact fees--something for which developers have been lobbying.
Senator Edwards voted against this bill when it passed the full Senate on a vote of 21-19. Senate Bill 768 is now before the House of Delegates for consideration.
Chris Miller of the Piedmont Environmental Council sent me an email to let me know that you can write your member of the House using this webpage. Remember for the most impact, personalize your email.

Currently, Virginia's proffer system allows local governments to ask developers to help pay for growth of infrastructure necessitated by new residential projects. Midlothian Republican John C. Watkins's (email) Virginia SB768 would repeal local authority to accept voluntary cash proffers, limit authority to accept off-site non-cash proffers (which might be used as sites for schools, libraries and parks, for instance) and replace voluntary negotiated proffers with an impact fee of per house of $8000 per single family house in Northern Virginia and $5000 elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth. The Virginia Association of Counties Board of Directors, representing all 95 counties, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for defeat of SB 768.

Here in Blacksburg, it's been said that the proffers accepted by Town Council will not offset the costs anticipated in the already problematic traffic study. Today, Penny Gross a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, had this to say in her column, "A Penny for Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church" in the News-Press.
Last week’s Legislative Day in Richmond, sponsored by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) and the Virginia Municipal League (VML), convened nearly a thousand local elected officials from all over the Commonwealth. The annual trek to lobby General Assembly members about legislation with local impacts often is an exercise in futility, as some delegates and senators view local governments as “just another special interest group,” as one delegate put it last year.
She sums up the impact of Watkins's bill in her locality as follows:
Fairfax County would not be able to accept land for schools, libraries, and other public facilities. Two examples of proffered land are the recently opened Oakton Library and the South County High School. Both sites were proffered by developers in rezoning negotiations. SB 768 would remove that opportunity, costing Fairfax County taxpayers millions of dollars in lost value.
She says that
a re-worked substitute bill, introduced on Monday, would allow voluntary proffers for portions of Reston and the Tyson’s area, but still does not provide the flexibility needed.
So, what about the other 94 counties, other than Fairfax? And, since a majority of Democrats took office after the last state senate election, I decided to look up the vote. I've highlighted and included emails for our local Senators and those from elsewhere who bolted their party in case you want to inquire why or commend/excoriate them. Most puzzling, given the case outlined by Penny are the Democrats defecting from NoVA and SW Virginia. With the 8 Republicans who voted Nay, this measure could have been roundly defeated, rather than passing so narrowly:

YEAS--Howell (D-Reston--email), Hurt, Lucas (D-Portmouth--email), Marsh (D-Richmond--email), Martin, McDougle, McEachin (D-Richmond--email), Miller, J.C. (D-Newport News--email), Norment, Northam (D-Norfolk--email) Puckett (D-Tazewell--email), Reynolds (D-Martinsville--email), Ruff, Saslaw (D-Springfield--email), Smith (R-Roanoke and parts of NRV--email), Stolle, Stosch, Wagner, Wampler, Watkins, Whipple (D-Arlington--email)--21.

NAYS--Barker, Blevins (R-Chesapeake--email), Colgan, Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax--email), Deeds, Edwards (D-Roanoke and parts of NRV--email), Hanger (R-Mount Solon--email), Herring, Houck, Locke, Miller, Y.B., Newman R-Forest--email), Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg--email), Petersen, Puller, Quayle (R-Suffolk--email), Stuart (R-Montross--email), Ticer, Vogel (R-Winchester--email)--19.

By way of a little history, the bill made it out of the Local Government Committee on 1/29 on a vote of 10-3-2

YEAS--Lucas, Marsh, Quayle, Martin, Hanger, Puller, Ruff, Obenshain, Smith, Stuart--10.

NAYS--Cuccinelli, Herring, Locke--3.

ABSTENTIONS--Ticer, Reynolds--2.

The Senate Finance Committee also approved the bill--its vote was 12-2-2

YEAS--Wampler, Stosch, Houck, Saslaw, Stolle, Quayle, Norment, Watkins, Marsh, Lucas, Whipple, Reynolds--12.

NAYS--Hanger, Miller, Y.B.--2.

ABSTENTIONS--Colgan, Howell--2.

To follow any piece of legislation, you can visit the
General Assembly's legislative information system. The Senate has a toll free number (888-892-6948) to express your views on any bill. A second toll-free number reaches both houses, while the General Assembly is in session: (800) 889-0229.

2/13/08

NIRS Critiques Lieberman-Warner Climate Change Bill

Earmark cartoon from Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Although there has been criticism of earmarks, there are other giveaways, especially to the energy industry. February 8, Darren Samuelsohn and Katherine Ling, reporters for Environment and Energy Daily published their story, "Senate sponsors search for nuclear solutions," about the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act of 2007 (S. 2191). They quoted an unnamed Lieberman aide as saying regarding outreach to industry and environmentalists,

We don't know yet whether either side is going to respond....We're not announcing any type of negotiation that is starting. We're collecting information to see whether there can even be a discussion.

Accompanying the story was a special report on climate change and an analysis of the outlook for the bill's passage.

Some environmental and taxpayer organizations have already decided the bill is a bad idea and are starting their own outreach to Congress, before positions become cast in stone. For instance, the Nuclear Information Resource Service referred today to the February 8 story and said of the bill,
It’s too weak on climate….
It’s too strong on nuclear….

Specifically, the group criticized the “cap-and-trade” carbon system, which

could give billions of dollars—perhaps $500 Billion (no, that’s not a typo--$500 Billion)--to “zero or low-carbon” energy technologies, including dirty energy like nuclear power.
Moreover, the bill falls far short of the carbon emissions cuts necessary to address the climate crisis: a cut of only about 60-65% by 2050. There is a better way: we need to go carbon-free and nuclear-free, and it can be done by 2050—but only if we all act to make it happen.
In addition to S. 2191, the group predicts that

To make matters worse, pro-nuclear Senators—including Lieberman and Warner themselves—are planning to introduce numerous amendments on the Senate floor to provide additional support for the nuclear industry. They’re planning on including everything from more loan guarantees and other subsidies for new reactors, to setting up an “interim” high-level waste storage site, to forcing the opening of Yucca Mountain .

Friends of the Earth released its updated analysis of S. 2191 on January 30 and a fact sheet, after sending a joint letter with Greenpeace on December 5, outlining desired improvements in the bill, saying
Corporate polluters will hit the jackpot if global warming legislation proposed by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Warner becomes law. With key amendments supported by Friends of the Earth failing in committee, the bill now on its way to the Senate floor would hand them pollution permits worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Stick with Friends of the Earth as we try to stop the giveaways again on the Senate floor.
Along with Taxpayers for Common Sense and U.S. Public Interest Research Group , FOE has launched a "Fix or Ditch It" campaign. Taxpayers' critique of energy handouts is here.

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research is offering free downloads of its 2007 book, Carbon Free And Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, by Arjun Makhijani, a joint project with the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

2/12/08

What's coming up in Congress

Today I've been getting ready to do my first blog post for Newstrust. Here's the rough draft:

February 13-17, Newstrust will be featuring coverage of the U.S. Congress. Conor Kenny, over at Congresspedia, has provided a detailed preview you can review of Congressional action through February 15. Then, please join us in a hunt for quality journalism which reflects all viewpoints on this topic.

Yesterday, the Senate passed its version of a replacement for the Protect America Act, providing immunity to telecommunications companies which acceded to the Administration’s request to conduct domestic surveillance without a warrant from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court. Since the House version withheld such immunity, there will be a conference committee. The New York Times weighed in with a story yesterday citing unnamed “officials” that “said it appeared that the House would ultimately be forced to accept some sort of legal protection for the phone carriers in negotiations between the two chambers this week.” Meanwhile Infoworld reported that the Electric Frontier Foundation and others were highly critical of the Senate version and that “The EFF will push hard to have House negotiators keep the telecom immunity provisions out of the bill that goes to Bush.´

Another important measure before Congress will be the farm bill which has raised editorial criticism of subsidies. The Environmental Working Group finds the Bush Administration’s approach more progressive than that of Congress, which has continued the subsidies sought by lobbyists.

So, whether you submit new stories or review those already recommended by another member, you can help us make Newstrust “your guide to good journalism.”

2/11/08

OH Earth First Organizer Scared It's Like for Judi Bari All Over Again

The email came from my friend Willie on on February 8 that Marie Mason, an EF! organizer in Cincinnati area had been targeted by police. According to an email I received from her friend after I asked if I could get in touch with her in order to write an entry for this blog, attorneys have advised her not to talk to the press and have issued no statements.

This made me think of the troubles suffered by another EF! organizer, the late Judi Bari who posited she was targeted by the FBI because of the growing coalitions being built for Redwood Summer. In an interview in Albion Monitor, she talked about tree spiking and how EF! came to disavow it:
as I began to work more and more with the timber workers, they brought it up; they didn't let me forget it. They didn't let me ignore it. And eventually, at their urging (and once I had got enough sway within Earth First! to have this much influence to do it) I led northern California and southern Oregon into publicly denouncing tree spiking.

Now the workers could ally with us. Even workers who supported us before, had to be very quiet about it because of tree spiking. This really opened up the alliance between us. If we could disassociate from tree spiking (even advocating other forms of monkeywrenching -- which are quite different: those are attacks on machines, as opposed to something that could target a person), it would give Earth First! a lot more opportunity to expand its base. And Redwood Summer was a very conscious and deliberate expansion of our base and a coalition action.

We'd never initiated violence, but we were too macho to call ourselves "non-violent" before that. Now we openly embraced non-violence, we openly rejected tree spiking, and now the peace movement could ally with us. Now Seeds of Peace, now what was left of the Acorn Alliance -- the long-term peace activists in our communities could now comfortably ally with Earth First! And we could call for national actions and spread this message in that way.

That was a threat to them for several reasons: for now Foreman's ideas were being spread, not only to a broader audience, but to an audience that included blue collar workers. One of the ways they limit the influence of the environmental movement is by keeping us ghettoized to professionals and privileged people, even though environmentalism is very much in the interest of blue collar workers. They're the ones who bear the brunt of the destruction of the earth. The Wise Use movement seeks to portray environmentalists as espresso-sucking pavement dwellers...

In the Indy media report Willie forwarded, at 11:30pm February 7, Mason's 16-year-old daughter discovered a plainclothes police officer
fumbling underneath the backside of her car. He showed his badge and claimed to be searching for prowlers. A short time later the same plainclothes officer--accompanied by a uniformed officer--was found attempting to enter the front door of the home without knocking. When confronted they exited the house and claimed the reason why they were looking under the car is to see if her catalytic converter was stolen. They soon left.

With memories of Judi Bari still fresh Marie and a friend went out to check under the car and discovered a GPS unit connected to the car with magnets (the device clearly said GPS on its backside). They removed the unit and were able to inspect it for a couple moments before a large pickup truck came speeding over the curb into the front yard with 4-5 plainclothes police officers who jumped out with guns drawn. They ordered Marie, her 16 year old daughter, and a male friend to the ground and took the GPS unit back by force. They then played good cop, bad cop routine for 20-30 minutes, claiming they knew what Marie was up to and generally terrorizing/interrogating the three. At one point, one of the officers called Marie's daughter by name and made the comment: "Shouldn't you be at your dad's tonight?"
The report continues that plainclothes officers

who claimed they were with the narcotics division of district 5 (4-5 plainclothes and 1 Cincinnati uniformed in a maker car) showed up shortly after. She was able to make a short call to friends before they literately wrestled the phone from her. When we arrived the police had left claiming they were going to secure a warrant after being denied consent to search the house. Shortly after we arrived the plainclothes police showed up and demonstrated some rather bizarre behavior. They were in a large pickup truck and were squealing out in front of her house stopping once to allow a passenger to jump out who ran into the back yard to places unknown. They were not seen or heard from for the rest of the night.
The story adds that for over a year the FBI has repeated requested that she
discuss Midwest ELF [Earth Liberation Front] actions. Their claim for requesting the interview is to remove her as a suspect. The general local assumption (though no confirmation or proof of this assumption has yet to be obtained) is that last night's incident was part of some Joint Terrorism Task Force.
You may have read about the FBI's Operation Backfire:

On 7 December 2005, the FBI began ‘Operation Backfire’, a multi-state sweep of environmental and animal rights activists. Fifteen people have since been indicted by Grand Jury on 65 charges in connection with Earth Liberation actions between 1996 and 2001. The arrests sent shockwaves across the activist community in the US, with the constant threat of new arrests and legislation resulting in the spread of fear and caution.

Many of those arrested recently insist on their innocence, and the FBI evidence against them is weak. A confession by a self-proclaimed arsonist and heroin addict provided the initial basis for the arrests. The accused were then encouraged to give evidence against each other, in return for the promise of reduced sentences. But confessions under duress are not always the most reliable sources of information.

In the current US political climate, it is virtually impossible for the accused to get a fair trial once the spectre of ‘terrorism’ has been raised. This became clear during the ‘SHAC 7’ case, brought against activists from the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign. They were put on trial under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which legislators dubbed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It defines as a terrorist anyone who causes financial damage to companies involved in the animal industry.
So, is Mason's case more of the same? I don't know. What I do know is that
For now, I don't have enough information to write about Marie Mason, although I had wanted to get something out to a broader public. Just as with the Climate Convergence and with BREF! my thoughts are you don't want a vacuum that allows opponents to mis-characterize EF! and other environmentalists as the proverbial eco-terrorists. Don Blankenship of Massey Energy, etc., are the eco-terrorists. Look what happened with the initial Asheville coverage on the Southeast Climate Convergence, when the Ashiville paper quoted from Norris McDonald.

As even the courts affirmed, Bari's and Cherney's rights were violated during the investigation of the blast; they were defamed by police and FBI statements that portrayed the pair as violent radicals injured by their own bomb. I don't want that to happen yet again. To get the word out,
Bari had a website, a wikipedia page, and was covered in alternative sites such as the Albion Monitor, Media.Filter.org, etc. Although Marie may not be able to talk to the press on advice of counsel, this does not preclude the kind of fact-filled news release we worked on together to send out about the coal street theater.

More later. The library closeth.

2/10/08

BURG's Fight Against Bait and Switch Zoning Changes Isn't Over

BURG held a meeting for the community to discuss going forward with an appeal of Judge Turk's decision. With time short, I'll wait until there's something from the newletter to post, rather than write an entry from scratch. Notably, Inglewood CA had regulations in place. Walmart tried to do an end run through a referendum. 60% voted against Wal-Mart, according to an LA Times story still available at the LANNE website.

The group is now part of a coalition of community, faith and labor organizations, working to insure access to healthy food, good jobs and a safe environment in the grocery
industry. I propose that I look at the members of that coalition and
see if we can find counterparts that would help us in the current
fight. Anybody want ot help. Here is the list.. as a first step,
I'll be back with research on the websites for each group:

* Action for Grassroots Empowerment and Neighborhood Development
Alternatives (AGENDA)
* Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)
* Coalition for Clean Air
* Plaza Community Center, INC.
* Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
* Coalition L.A.
* Community Health Council
* Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
* California Food and Justice Coalition
* Community Coalition
* Instituto de Popular Educación del Sur de California (IDEPSCA)
* UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education
* Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates
* L.A. Voice PICO
* Livable Places
* Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
* Iraq Veterans Against the War
* Community Services Unlimited, Inc.
* Service Employees International Union MFTS
* Northeast Democratic Club of Los Angeles
* United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770
* West Los Angeles Democratic Club
* Alliance for Democracy- L.A. chapter
* Urban and Environmental Policy Institute - Occidental College
* California Association of Professional Employees
* Community Services Unlimited, Inc.
* Service Employees International Union MFTS
* Northeast Democratic Club
* United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770

2/9/08

Here's to the Long Haul's Debut CD

I've got to meet Jim and Trina ealy, so we can go to Floyd for dinner before the dance, so come back later and I'll have something on the Valdosta, GA premier of the CD. Until then, check out the band's page at MySpace.

2/8/08

Brave New Films: McCain--More War, Less Jobs

Image coming. Blogger having trouble uploading.

My post on posted on So Where Does John McCain Stand on the Issues? has gotten a lot of hits thanks to Newstrust and Google. In that oistm I looked at McCain's statements on military intervention and abortion and linked to his page at On the Issues. That site got a lot of out-clicks on topics ranging from gun control to social security to immigration to children and family services, just to name a few.

So, I found it interesting today, when I got an email from Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, to let me know that he and his crew about two new videos posted at his blog:
Greenwald writes,
Jason, Leda, Philip and Lissette put together ...videos. And we have a major BNF strategic campaign to reach hearts and minds...

While we're using a little HUMOR in our opening effort, the war is deadly serious, the deaths to Americans and to Iraqis, a tragedy. We have seen and experienced the terrible pain and suffering. But our job right now is to reach millions of people who have erected emotional walls to any more painful news of death and destruction. So we went to the personal, the cost to each and everyone of us. And we did it by hacking the techniques of Madison Ave, a joke that gets the attention, and then makes the point...

Please post a comment on the blog with your ideas for future videos, a campaign song, a cartoon, and additional ways to get the word out... Let's keep working together to tell America about John McCain's vision for our country: I've got a hunch Joe Scarborough is going to regret ever making that joke.
Greenwald adds a link to Straight talk from Senator McCain: More wars to come:
the original clips where McCain was straight talking with an audience about the reality of his administration, and then goes on to talk about how much he will help veterans. This isn't out of context, and he didn't make a mistake. He really believes there will be more wars.
You can also view a clip on McCain's statement that we will stay 100 years in Iraq and the years in Iraq and the original Scarborough clip . Brave New Films is located at 10510 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. You can get its latest videos on email, iTunes, RSS, Facebook, and YouTube here, To donate, you can go to this page.

2/7/08

La desmemoria de los fusileros: Julio Jorge Lopez


Photo of Jorge Julio López from the 2006 missing person's report from the the Government of Buenos Aires. "The amnesia of the gunmen" is a translation of a line in the poem "Reconciliaciones" (reconciliations) by Uruguayan journalist, playwright and poet Mario Benedetti.

Jorge Julio López se encuentra desaparecido desde la madrugada del 18 de septiembre.


So says the report. López had been abducted the first time on October 21, 1976 and held for nearly three years in three of the 21 clandestine detention centers operated by Osvaldo Miguel Etchecolatz, then director of investigations for for the Buenos Aires police and right hand man of Ramón Camps.

Unlike others in the centers, López survived to tell the tale. By this time 77 and a bricklayer, he had been about to offer additional testimony about his experiences at Etchecolatz's trial. Human rights workers suspected an attempt at intimidating other witnesses. Never heard of him? I'm not surprised.

Here is what his family wrote in an open letter to the Argentines:

Nuestra angustia crece día a día, noche a noche, no podemos seguir con esta pesadilla de nunca acabar.
Our anguish grows day by day, night by night, in this nightmare with no end. Type his name in the search box of the Washington Post or the New York Times and you get nothing, although his disappearance was covered by Reuters and Amnesty International, among others. As far as I know, he's still missing. If you'd like to read about the case, I recommend Jeff Barry's blog or if you can read Spanish or abide a bad translation by Google, try the human rights blog at Villa Crespo, mi barrio.

Gotta go run see Atonement before it leaves town.


2/6/08

Intelligent Design, The Stealth Creationism

In "Legislators: Evolution should be taught as 'theory'" the
Miami Herald's Marc Caputo writes on February 6 of basic underlying semantic difference between "theory" as used in science and everyday life and interviews those on various sides of the current debate in Florida.

He raises a question in my mind, writing that

a state Department of Education worker sent out a call-to-arms e-mail to fellow Christians, noting that teaching evolution will be ``a COMPLETE contradiction of what we Teach them at home.
What were the details and were there any repercussions? This raises another question never asked nor answered: was the letter writing campaign local or was there an outside actor organizing it?

While this is a state story and mentions the PA court case and briefly alludes to separation of church and state, I would have liked some examination of how the current debate fits into a national trend and the groups and funding involved.

On one side, is Americans for Separation of Church and State, as well as the National Academies of Science and the National Science Teachers Association which issued a joint statement regarding KS curriculum that it

inappropriately singles out evolution as a controversial theory despite the strength of the scientific evidence supporting evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and its acceptance by an overwhelming majority of scientists.
On the other side, you have organizations such as Seattle's think tank, Discovery Institute, which promotes "intelligent design" through its Center for Science and Culture, and featured letters to the Tallahassee Democrat and Florida Baptist Witness from February 4 on its website.

The library is closing now, but you can be sure I'll be back to write more on this topic.

2/5/08

Mr. Unitary Executive's FY 2009 Budget Bypasses Congress




Cartoon by Daryl Cagle at the daily political cartoon section on his website.

Charlie Savage (email) of the Boston Globe won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Bush Administration's efforts to concentrate power for the executive branch and went on to write the book, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.

The president embraces the theory of the "unitary executive" which according to "Rethinking Presidential Power—The Unitary Executive and the George W. Bush Presidency" a 2005 paper by Dr. Christopher S. Kelley (email) from the Department of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, OH, has been used for unilateral action since Nixon's time when
modern presidents have had a difficult time relying upon the traditional powers of bargaining and persuading
While Kelley relied on the use of signing statements, executive orders, and the OIRA to advance the administration’s objectives, it appears that he has added a new tool: the budget.

Bush's FY 2009 Budget, which he submitted February 4 for the year starting this October is the topic of the WaPo's Stephen Barr, who in "Growing the Workforce but not the Payroll," writes,

Another item in the budget likely to stir controversy on Capitol Hill is the proposal to repeal parts of last year's consolidated appropriations bill, signed by Bush, that makes it more difficult for agencies to contract out jobs held by federal employees.

The legislation requires that private-sector bids show a savings of $10 million or 10 percent beyond the cost of keeping the work in agencies, prevents contractors from gaining an advantage by offering less generous health and retirement benefits to their workers, and extends to federal employees the same rights to appeal agency decisions as those that are available to contractors.
This is an example of solid, factual reporting citing sources on all sides of the issue. Although the hook is the lower % raises for civilians than for non-combat military and the reaction of legislators in the DC area, where a lot of federal employees reside, it contains the broader picture of how the Administration tries to reverse legislation passed by the bi-partisan agreement of Congress in trying to put limits n private-sector outsourcing and the repeal of better retirement benefits for customs and border patrol officers in the Department of homeland security, as well as reducing eligibility for loan forgiveness in last year's College Cost Reduction Act for individuals with current loans who have opted to work in public service and nonprofit jobs. At the same time as claiming fiscal responsibility, he has put war spending off the books.

I would have liked some links to the legislation in question which Bush has reversed through his budget. Also, for balance, there could have been something from the rebuttal by the Republicans of the Democratats' analysis. For additional information, see OMB Watch's The Bush Budget Legacy: Misleading Claims and Misguided Priorities.

2/4/08

The Senate's FISA Shenanigans

Okay, friends, midst all the election noise, the estimable Russ Feingold had the chance today on Newsweek's site (Who's Listening In On Your Phone Call) to explain his opposition to the Protect America Act (which I last wrote about on November 2 and will soon be transferring here along with all sorts of good links--but the library is getting ready to close.

The measure was to have expired February 1, but has been extended for another two weeks. Newsweek's online exclusive made it sound like we had two weeks to avoid telecom immunity, but actually, the Senate was jumping through all kinds of hoops today and it's anybody's guess what exactly was going on. EmptyWheel over at Firedoglake AKA attorney Marcy Wheeler, posted her guess. And my buddy Carnacki had a good background piece over at West Virginia Blue.

So, I guess it's wait until tomorrow to find out where things stand in this latest installment.

On the coal front, Wall Street Shows Skepticism Over Coal, sent to me by my Blue Ridge Earth First! friend in Harrisonburg, features the big news from the Wall Street Journal that some big banks (Bank of America is missing in action, as usual) are making it tougher to borrow money for new coal projects.

And on the work front, I "attended" my first Newstrust editorial team meeting--the quotes because with half of team in SF (David, Kaizar and Fabrice) and three of scattered in the East ( Rory in NY, Tish in MA and me in VA) it's done by phone. Anyway, you can check out my spiffy new profile announcing my change in status from volunteer reviewer and host to Community Developer.

Th-th-th-th-that's all folks.

2/3/08

Atonement


Poster via Cinema source review.

I'm off to usher at the Lyric, so check back later for a bit on the many film adaptations of Ian McEwan.

*

UPDATE: Didn't finish the Atonement entry yet, as I won't be seeing the film until Wednesday night. Jessica's birthday party took priority, once I did my volunteer stint selling the popcorn. What a yummy meal we had: natural turkey with rice dressing, salad, fruit salad, whole whete bread with assorted cheese spreads, carrot cake and red wine. Just us ladies (Victoria, Betsy, Janna, Jessica and me) with even Todd watching the Superbowl, and we dined by candlelight.

Earlier, we had had king cake for brunch, coutesy of BURG and Jessica, fittingly, got the piece with the baby.

2/2/08

BURG: "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez"


The invitation on the BURG site.

Tonight, BURG (Blacksburg United for Responsible Growth) will be celebrating Mardis Gras and raising money for its legal fund. This despite disappointment in a ruling from Circuit Court Judge Bobby Turk. Unless reversed by the Supreme Court, this ruling will allow what some have called Fairmont's "bait and switch" to proceed with constructing an apparent Wal-Mart for what was to have been a pedestrian-friendly town square-style shopping center to "re-vitalize" South Main. More on this later, as I spent today working for Newstrust, submitting and reviewing stories:

  • Countdown: Iraq And A Hard Place--MSNBC's Olbermann reporter goes behind Clinton's facile and confident defense of her Iraq war vote, contrasting what she said with the record. Also interesting is his coverage of the immigration issue...
  • John McCain's Free Ride --PERRspectives's Perr lays out the case that the media is soft on McCain who has changed positions
  • Seattle invades Yahoo's Sunnyvale--The Financial Times's interesting opinion piece that quotes from Robert Herrick: “Thus times do shift, each thing his turn does hold; New things succeed, as former things grow old..."
  • US lawmakers want 3Com investigation--The Financial Times goes beyond the Dingell news release to provide background information and links to past coverage.
  • Volker: I Endorse Obama--Wall Street Journal and no other news source has picked up this story, although it is one of the most widely read on the WSJ today. Volker, Carter's appointed, is "Mr. Hard Money's endorsement adds gravitas, but may be a double-edged sword...