Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Mashup (2/14/11)

  • Oh, and by the way, before people start losing their minds over stories like this, read this and pay particular attention to the paths of the red and blue lines in the chart over the rest of this decade, OK?

    Yes, Obama knows about the bloody debt already (and for the two trillionth time, it’s about jobs anyway as opposed to everything else). Can we all just get a grip and try acting like adults?

  • Also, I thought ProPublica had a good interview here with former PA DEP Secretary John Hanger, who served under former Governor Ed Rendell – what follows are some excerpts…

    Q: One of the recurring issues around the growth of gas drilling is that, even if laws are in place, they need to be enforced. Does Pennsylvania have enough inspectors to oversee the industry as it continues to grow?

    It does as of this moment, but I've been saying for two years that's a question that has to be asked and answered every year. As the industry grows, the answer I think will be no, if we stay with the current staffing. We hired in 2009. We hired in 2010. And if we were still in charge of the department, we would probably end up hiring again in 2011, depending on what's going on with the industry.

    Q: Can that realistically be done?

    Of course it can be done. If needed, and I'm not prepared to say today that it's needed, the state or a governor needs to make this a top priority and then it can happen. That's what we did. We raised the fee. ...You could raise the fee, you could restructure the fee, and you could tax the industry, how about that idea?

    [Former Governor Ed Rendell and Hanger tried unsuccessfully to persuade the state legislature to levy a tax on natural gas extraction.] It's absolutely vital that this industry pay a reasonable drilling tax. That's why every other state has assessed a drilling tax. It's because there are actually winners and losers.
    Are you feeling all warm and fuzzy about ripping the Marcellus Shale wide open after reading that last sentence? Neither am I...

    Q: Does Pennsylvania have the laws it needs to make sure the drilling industry takes (the path of developing a “culture of safety”)?

    I think there are a couple of areas where further work needs to be done, at a minimum. One is the bonding law [which requires that drillers post bonds to cover the cost of plugging and reclaiming wells that are no longer producing]. The bonding rate in Pennsylvania is scandalously low: It's ridiculous.

    [Also], it would make good environmental and economic sense to have a spacing and pooling rule on the books. The details need to get worked out, but essentially, what it would do is say that wells cannot be closer than X. I've thrown out somewhere between one and two miles apart... And that gas can in fact be pooled as long as any gas used from an unwilling mineral owner is compensated for it at certainly the fair market value. [Because a single well can often drain gas from several properties, “pooling” laws sometimes allow drillers to extract that gas over the objection of some of the landowners.] Most other states have some provision like that.
    So basically, the short answer to the "culture of safety" question is no. I also felt that Hanger dodged the question of who should be responsible for ensuring the environmental safety of fracking chemicals, assuming it is possible to provide that assurance (and I kept telling myself as I read this that Hanger was someone who I honestly believe was in our corner on a lot of this stuff, though at times I wondered).

    Hanger’s successor at the PA Department of Environmental Protection in the Tom Corbett administration is Judge Michael Krancer; as noted here, he has been a judge on the PA environmental hearing board for the past ten years. At this point, I would say that Judge Krancer is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in his new role, and of course we wish him luck (he’ll need it, as will we all).

  • Update 3/3/11: Here comes that sinking feeling again (here - h/t Atrios).

  • Next, I think this is an appropriate time to revisit a certain Repug PA-08 U.S. House rep on the issue of jobs; as noted here from a few months ago, “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick opposed tax cuts for supposed job creation in 2005, but made noises like he supported them last year (oh, and if you read through all of the post from last October, try not to laugh too hard when you read Mikey complain about how his predecessor attended a Nancy Pelosi fundraiser, given Mikey’s own issues with such activities last month before he was sworn in…oh, excuse me, I mean to say that Mikey hosted a “reception” with a suggested dollar contribution on the invitation).

    Well, given Mikey’s supposed commitment to job creation, you would think his plate would be full of meetings with leaders of startup businesses, groundbreaking ceremonies, announcements of seed funding, other related public works projects, etc.

    Well, you would think that would be the case. However, you would be wrong.

    As noted here under the heading of “Economy and Jobs” from Fitzpatrick’s congressional web site, there is a clip story of a meeting in which he announces “a small business advisory panel.”

    And that’s it (and this gives you an idea of what Fitzpatrick has to exceed, given that his predecessor brought approximately 3,000 jobs to Bucks County).

    This is typical for the galling inaction thus far from the Repugs on this topic, though; as noted here, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said that President Obama was “paying lip service to job creation,” when in fact, as noted here (telling you how much Barbour actually cares about the jobless...not!), he rejected $50 million in unemployment funds for his state through the stimulus, a boneheaded move that was overridden by that state’s legislature.

  • Finally, Peter Baker of the New York Times interviewed former Bushco Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the latter’s book, as noted here (you would think someone as despicable as Rummy would take the hint, but of course his mirror, if you will, reflects everyone but himself – MoDo actually had a great takedown on him yesterday here).

    As to the matter of Rumsfeld supposedly deferring to the military too much (which he states in the Baker interview), I think the following should be noted from here…

    Rumsfeld has the nerve to blame others for his many mistakes. "In retrospect, there may have been times when more troops could have helped." But he insists that if senior military officers had reservations about the size of the invading force, they never informed him (according to the Post review).

    In reality, Rumsfeld rejected a plan presented to him by General Tommy Franks, the head of Central Command, and his operations director, Air Force Major General Victor "Gene" Renuart, that called for more troops at the time. "Let's put together a group that can just think outside the box completely," ordered Rumsfeld then. "Certainly, we have traditional military planning, but let's take away the constraints a little bit and think about what might be a way to solve the problem."

    Outside the box turned out to be easy: Rumsfeld outsourced the dirty, dull and dangerous stuff to Halliburton and Blackwater and paid them handsome profits on the multibillion dollar contracts. His compatriots at the state department dispatched 11 "idealistic volunteers … in their twenties or early thirties [who] had no foreign service experience to run the country". At the same time, Rumsfeld failed to provide working equipment to the soldiers, who were facing an increasingly hostile population.

    Then, Iraq turned out to be a powder keg. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in a civil war that ripped the country apart. Thousands of US soldiers, too, were killed by roadside bombs. In December 2004, when Thomas Wilson, a low-ranking soldier from the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armour our vehicles?" Rumsfeld replied: "You go to war with the army you have."
    And on the question of Rumsfeld’s resignation, which eventually occurred waay too long after the fact…

    In May 2004, right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the Economist – hardly a radical rag – ran an editorial titled "Resign, Rumsfeld", adding "responsibility for errors and indiscipline needs to be taken at the top." Nor was it just the "armchair generals" who reached this conclusion. In September 2006, three retired military officers – Major General John Batiste, Major General Paul Eaton and Colonel Thomas X Hammes, all of whom served in senior positions during the invasion and occupation of Iraq, called for Rumsfeld to resign.

    What the citizens of the US, Iraq and, indeed, the world needed from this man today was an apology, at the very least. Plain and simple. In his 1995 memoir of the US war in Vietnam, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, Robert McNamara, another former US secretary of defence, admitted that he and his senior colleagues were "wrong, terribly wrong" to pursue the war as they did.

    If only Donald Rumsfeld would do the same.
    Indeed, and Peter Baker of the Times says Rummy was “unhappy at times” with former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, but everything was “handled professionally”? I guess that’s about the kind of whitewash you can expect from Rummy, who, as noted here, said Powell “did not, in my view, do a good job of managing the people under him,” and who said the following about Rice (not that I’m a rush to defend her either, I want to emphasize)…

    "She'd never served in a senior administration position," he said. "She'd been an academic. And, you know, a lot of academics like to have meetings. And they like to bridge differences and get people all to be happy."
    Oh, and I’m sure Rummy was looking for a little payback at Powell, who once referred to the operation of Douglas Feith, Rummy’s right-hand man, as “the Gestapo” (here), probably in response to Feith's characterization of the State Department under Powell as the "Department of Nice" here (hinted at a bit in Rummy's criticism).

    (And as long as we’re discussing Rummy, I couldn’t help but recall this golden oldie…”we don’t have an exit strategy, we have a victory strategy” indeed – actually, of course, they had neither, to say nothing of Rummy’s continued pleasure over the absence of Saddam Hussein to try and cover up untidy stuff like thisand on and on and on…).

    Also, Baker had this to say about Rummy’s old boss yesterday (here)…

    President Bush, after all, made “ending tyranny in our world” the centerpiece of his second inaugural address, and, although he pursued it selectively, he considers it one of his signature legacies. The very notion of democracy promotion became so associated with him, and with the war in Iraq, that Democrats believed that it was now discredited. Never mind that Republican and Democratic presidents, from Woodrow Wilson to Ronald Reagan, had championed liberty overseas; by the time Mr. Bush left office it had become a polarizing concept.
    I’ve read this paragraph multiple times, and I must tell you that I don’t know what the hell Baker is talking about.

    I mean, I know that Dubya literally talked about tyranny in his second Inaugural address; as noted here, though, he would tell an audience later that year that “God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,” and our corporate media reported that with an absolutely straight face (imagine what would happen if a Democratic president were to utter words like that).

    But as Pratap Chatterjee of the Guardian noted in his column earlier (written before Hosni Mubarak was forced out in Egypt)…

    Today, as the crowds surge forward in Cairo in a valiant attempt to topple dictators in the Middle East, they are not quoting Donald Rumsfeld, or his boss George Bush, or recalling the removal of Saddam Hussein. Rather, in their desperate plea to be heard, they are chanting slogans against both Mubarak and the US, whom they blame for the denial of democracy as well as torture in Egypt's prisons – and in Abu Ghraib.
    Saying Dubya “pursued selectively” the goal of “ending tyranny in our world” is more than a disgusting corporate media euphemism. It is an utter lie.

    And to associate him with any prior president in an attempt to validate that lie is an obscenity.
  • No comments: