Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Last Call

I'll take things I don't want to see back in the news for $1600, Alex.

Emulsified oil, oil mousse and tar balls from an unknown source were washing up on beaches from Grand Isle to West Timbalier Island along the Gulf of Mexico, a stretch of about 30 miles, and it was still heading west Monday afternoon, a Louisiana official said. The state is testing the material to see if it matches oil from last April's BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Oil spill response workers under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard and state officials were scrambling to block more of the material from coming ashore. ES&H Corp. has been hired to oversee the cleanup.

"We are working with our state and local partners to mitigate any further environmental impact while continuing to facilitate the safe movement of marine traffic to the fullest extent possible," Capt. Jonathan Burton, the federal on-scene coordinator for the response, said in a news release late Monday.

"To avoid delays in resource availability and delivery, we have taken a forward leaning approach and authorized ES&H to procure whatever additional boom and resources they need," Burton said.

Yeah at this point, nobody seems to know where the oil is coming from.  But if it's coming from Deepwater Horizon, that would pretty much be the icing on the Giant Crap Cake for the month of March.  Even worse, we may never know where the oil is coming from.  There are thousands of oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico.  You'd think somebody might notice the pressure drop, but hey...if I'm the oil industry, I keep my mouth shut.

You think the government has time to prove anything, or that Republicans and Gulf state Dems are going to push for an investigation right now with a war on, Japan in the soup, and Europe about to follow?

Yeah, neither did I.  As always, the best coverage on this comes from MoJo's excellent field reporter Mac McClelland, who's back in Louisiana asking a lot of questions.

For the last several days, oil from a 30-mile slick has been washing up in the highly appetizing forms of "emulsified oil, oil mousse, and tar balls" on beaches in southeastern Louisiana including Grand Isle, where I spent last summer covering the BP oil spill. Local officials and the Coast Guard are investigating the source. Meanwhile, yesterday the government approved the first deepwater exploration plan since BP's massive blowout last year. Earlier this month, it also approved the first deepwater drilling permit since the post-Deepwater moratorium. Both permits are for an area where there's already so much oil-production activity that when a 30-mile oil spill appears, no one can tell where it came from.

I'll be keeping an eye on this one.  Don't expect the rest of the Village to follow.

Run Rand Run!

Oh, somebody upstairs loves me, and wants me to have even more Rand Paul to ruthlessly mock, as ol' Randy is in South Carolina with belief that some 30 plus days as a Senator means he should be President.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., visited Charleston Monday to talk about his possible presidential bid, how to rein in the national debt and the current military action in Libya.

Paul, a tea party favorite who won his Senate seat last fall, is visiting several early presidential voting states independently of his father, 2008 presidential contender and current U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
"The only decision I've made is I won't run against my dad," Rand Paul said.

He has upcoming trips planned to Iowa and New Hampshire, in part, he said, because "I want the tea party to have an influence over who the nominee is in 2012."

Paul said he favors a balanced budget amendment and restructuring Social Security and Medicare to increase the age when future benefits will kick in and to limit benefits to those who have relatively more income. Paul said he is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Social Security reform. 

Oh please run.  Please, please, please.  Let a real opposition research team get a hold of your statements just since you got elected

Not enough popcorn in Kentucky for this event.  Bring it.

Greek Fire, Part 28

Hey kids, the European debt crisis isn't over any more than our own is, and it looks very likely that like Ireland before it, Portugal's Prime minister is going to be run out of town when drastic austerity measures are defeated by lawmakers and the no-confidence votes start in earnest.

Portugal's parliament will vote on the government's latest austerity measures on Wednesday, setting the stage for a potential collapse of the minority Socialist administration a day before a European summit. Prime Minister Jose Socrates has threatened to resign if the opposition fails to approve the measures. The main opposition Social Democrats (PSD) are refusing to back them and have begun to talk about snap elections, complicating the country's efforts to avoid following Greece and Ireland in taking a bailout.

"Tomorrow the resolution on the measures will be voted," lawmaker Heloisa Apolonia of the Green Party said after a meeting of parliamentary leaders on Tuesday. "Tomorrow the plenary will give answers to the country."
The government had hoped to obtain support for its plan before a European Union summit gathers on Thursday to approve a beefed-up euro zone rescue fund.

Francisco Assis, parliament bench leader for the Socialists, said there was still time for a compromise, while failure to pass the measures would throw the country "into an abyss".

Socrates, who announced a deal on Tuesday with employers and some unions to cut redundancy pay in an effort to boost competitiveness, said: "Our country needs agreements, it needs understanding and it needs dialogue." He did not answer journalists' questions about Wednesday's vote.

So if the vote fails, Jose Socrates is done and so is Portugal's economy, meaning yet another nation will be at the Eurozone bailout trough and that the Greek Fire will have claimed yet another country.  The new 700 billion euro bailout fund that EU ministers unveiled this week (and not a moment too soon) is going to get tapped out pretty quickly, and Portugal's expected to be the fund's first customer, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

Oh, and turmoil along the Mediterranean's southern coast isn't exactly helping Europe right now, either.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 14

The power is back on at Fukushima Daiichi, but how damaged are the pumps and cooling systems?

Work to restore electricity and crucial cooling systems at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant resumed Tuesday, a day after workers were forced to evacuate when unidentified smoke spewed from reactors No. 2 and No. 3.

Firefighters sprayed a massive amount of water onto the spent nuclear fuel pool at the No. 3 reactor, while restarting similar efforts at the No. 4 reactor, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Although white smoke — possibly steam — billowed continuously from the buildings housing the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, Tepco said work could proceed as radiation levels didn't surge at the site.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said he believes the smoke rising from the No. 2 reactor was vapor given off by the water that has been sprayed, while the blackish smoke briefly detected Tuesday at the No. 3 reactor was likely rubble that caught fire following a rise in temperature.

Work to restore electricity resumed at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

With power restored to the No. 3 reactor, all of the plant's six reactors have now been hooked up so that key equipment can be restarted, including ventilation systems to filter radioactive substances from the air and gauges in the control room.

Workers still need to check the condition of each piece of equipment before feeding the power in, the nuclear safety agency said.

Tepco hopes to restore power to key equipment, including data measuring devices, and functions by Wednesday for the No. 1 and 2 reactors and by Thursday for the No. 3 and 4 reactors, Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said.

All that of course depends on how damaged the equipment is.  Seawater and heavy duty power equipment do not mix very well, and if they miss anything, turning on the juice may seriously damage or destroy the equipment that's left. Meanwhile, radiation levels near the plant continue to remain elevated in the ocean.

Hideo Morimoto, director at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, said the radiation in the sea-water would dissipate and other coastal nations were not at risk. "At current levels of radiation, it's impossible for it to reach oceans worldwide," he told Reuters, noting it would not add in any way to the natural radiation already in sea-water.

"It's at levels where we can carry out daily lives," he said.

There was no immediate word whether the elevated radiation levels could be transmitted by seafood from these waters, but the local fishing industry has been wrecked by the quake and tsunami.

"There are no fish coming from the regions that were hit, so no fish (being sold) are contaminated," said Rika Tatsuki of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations.

Still, that's a good thing to an extent, there's no fishing around the plant, so there's no fish to be sold that may be tainted...for now.

Two Stars Caught On Film, Becoming One

Scientists have directly observed for the first time the merger of two closely orbiting stars. Experts have suggested for decades that such stars — which whirl so close to each other that their outer layers actually touch — should ultimately commingle. The new work, by Romuald Tylenda of the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in ToruĊ„, Poland and collaborators, catches the stars in the act.

The researchers’ claim of catching the stars in the act is “not just plausible; it's compelling,” says Robert Williams of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. The results, to appear in an upcoming Astronomy & Astrophysics, add to previous work by Williams and colleagues to understand the nature of the star pair, called V1309 Scorpii.
It's pretty awesome, I am curious about what we will learn about this process, including how many times it has happened.

Oh Baby, What A Mess

For more than four decades, the federal government has subsidized family planning programs that provide contraceptive and related health and family services to millions of low-income women and men.

So, why have Republican House members set their sights on the $327 million that would fund the program this year?

The answer, largely, is Planned Parenthood and politics.

NPR goes into depth and explains how women's health rights are in danger.  Women who are insured or can afford healthcare won't be affected by this.  Women of lesser means may find no help available if this funding is redirected.  Richard Nixon signed this into effect and said that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition."  He was right.

I don't feel like being polite, so bear with me.  No bunch of controlling, overbearing and largely uninformed bunch of yokels have the right to prevent healthcare and options to women who cannot afford birth control.  Realizing you don't have the means to support a family and taking steps to prevent pregnancy is responsible.  This is where we need to redirect our funds to prevent abortions.  This stupidity cannot be tolerated.

Exciting New Horizons In Obama Derangement Syndrome

The Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick should win some sort of award for Best Use Of Multilateralism As Obama Hate with this one.

BEFORE CONSIDERING the deleterious impact this descent into strategic dementia has had on US interests, it is necessary to consider the motivations of the various sides to the foreign policy debate in the US today.

All of the sides have contributed to the fact that US Middle East policy is now firmly submerged in a morass of strategic insanity.

The first side in the debate is the anti-imperialist camp, represented by President Barack Obama himself. Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the US as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end US global hegemony.

Obama looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the US superpower. He views US allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as US allies, they are complicit with US imperialism.

Given his view, Obama’s instincts dictate that he do nothing to advance the US’s core interests in the Middle East. Consider his policies towards Iran. The Iranian regime threatens all of the US’s core regional interests.

And yet, Obama has refused to lift a finger against the mullahs.

Glick barely holds herself back from coating her monitor with spittle over the fact that we'd go after Libya and that we allowed Mubarak to fall in Egypt, but Obama will not bomb Iran into a parking lot, and she indicts the international community along with him for refusing to do so.  She then spends another thousand plus words or so blaming Obama for Egypt and warning that the US is now led by an irrational madman who can't see that America's foreign policy aims should always match Israel's, 100%.

She stops short of saying Obama and America are now enemies of Israel, but not by much.

None of this proves that the US is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the US in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to US interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the US has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the US’s descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for US allies, but for America itself. Until the US foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the US’s core interests in the Middle East, America’s policies will threaten both its allies and itself.

Apparently our own Obama haters need some lessons, because Glick takes the medal.

Calling Out The Fox

CNN's Nic Robertson in Libya goes full tilt on the notion that Qaddafi is using foreign journalists as human shields, a story originally reported by FOX News.

"[T]his allegation is outrageous and it's absolutely hypocritical. When you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here," Robertson told Wolf Blitzer. "You don't expect it from the other journalists."

Fox claims their own correspondent, Steve Harrigan, declined to accept the invitation from the Libyans for fear of being used as a propaganda tool, and perhaps a human shield. But Robertson claims Fox did indeed send an employee on the trip -- not a regular news guy -- and that Harrigan has been asleep on the job since hostilities began.

"I see him more times at breakfast than out on trips with government officials here," Robertson said. "So for them to say and call this -- to say they didn't go and for them to call this and say this was government propaganda to hold us there as human shields when they didn't even leave the hotel ... is ridiculous."

I guess Harrigan must have dinged Robertson's car at some point in time, because Robertson has nothing but contempt for his fellow reporter.   FOX News of course has doubled down on the human shield tale as correspondent Jennifer Griffin repeated the claim last night.

Griffin did not get into the media-on-media fracas touched off by her report earlier today in which British sources told her their mission last night was cut short because of the presence of the Western journalists and several Libyan civilians.

“They felt that the civilians and journalists had effectively been used as human shields and that was frustrating to them,” said Griffin tonight. “It was a very close call. In fact one official told me that there was a Reuters crew literally on a spot where they were going to drop a missile.”

FOX News not tell the truth?  Shocking, I know.  Old habits die hard, I guess.

Raising Arizona (Nullification)

At a Tea Party rally last week, Arizona's State Senate President, Republican Russell Pearce, let the assembled know exactly what he thinks about the United States government:  that we are state citizens, not national ones.

"Most of us weren’t around when the Constitution was written," Pearce said during his speech at an Oceanside Tea Party rally. "But you remember we kind of existed before Congress, the states. We created the Congress, we created the federal government, by contract. Do you know what existed before the Congress? The states."

Members of the Arizona Legislature, led by Pearce, have introduced a bill that attempts to grant the Arizona the power to ignore federal laws it does not want to comply with.

"Do you know, you’re not a citizen of the United States," Pearce continued. "You’re a citizen of a sovereign state. The fifty sovereign states make up United States of America, we’re citizens of those sovereign states. It is not a delegated authority. It’s an inherent authority that states have over the federal government."

If passed and signed into law, Senate Bill 1433 would create a 12-member committee within the state legislature with the power to review and recommend to the full legislature laws they think are unconstitutional. The full legislature would then have the power to nullify the federal statute by a majority vote.

Clever students of history may see the similarities between Pearce's statements/Arizona's nullification law and South Carolina in 1832.  Then, Andrew Jackson didn't take kindly to the state saying the Union had no legal rights over the "sovereign state" of South Carolina, and only a Senate compromise led by Henry Clay staved off military action by Old Hickory.  On the other hand, 30 years later the fight was on anyway.

The difference this time around, the recognized Supremacy Clause in the Constitution.

The legality of the proposed legislation is questionable, as it runs counter to Article VI, Clause 2 and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which have been interpreted as making federal law trump state law.

Article VI of the Constitution, commonly known as the Supremacy Clause, states that, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

There's no way Senate Bill 1433 will pass legal muster.  So what's Pearce's game?  Is he honestly hoping that the Supreme Court will overturn Article VI somehow?  Is his real target the 14th Amendment, to add the argument that not only does the citizenship part of it need to go, but the incorporation parts as well?  Is the 14th Amendment then the new windmill for the Tea Party to tilt at endlessly?

I'm liking the latter there.  It's the new Roe v Wade.


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