The U.S. Postal Service announced a quarterly loss of $5.2 billion today. The agency blamed the mounting costs for future retiree health benefits, which account for $3.1 billion of the loss. This crippling cost did not exist before 2006, when the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to prefund its pension benefits for 75 years through a $5.5 billion yearly payment. The agency has pushed Congress to act on postal reform legislation, but so far the crisis has only been met with 60 bills to rename post offices. Last week, the post office defaulted on a $5 billion payment for the first time in its history, and is on track to miss its next payment of $5.6 billion next month.
Typically, at moderate sizes, power generated by dams and reservoirs is considered “green.” However, a new study from Washington State University has found that during times of drawdown — a period in which the water level behind a dam is rapidly lowered — temperate reservoirs can produce up 20 times more methane than normal.
Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100-year period, and is a hundred times more potent over 20 years. It is produced naturally in reservoirs thanks to biological activity.
“Bridget Deemer, a doctoral student at Washington State University-Vancouver, measured dissolved gases in the water column of Lacamas Lake in Clark County and found methane emissions jumped 20-fold when the water level was drawn down. A fellow WSU-Vancouver student, Maria Glavin, sampled bubbles rising from the lake mud and measured a 36-fold increase in methane during a drawdown.”
Though researchers have long known that methane levels spike in reservoirs during drawdown, this study was the first to show the relationship and put a number on the actual methane emissions.
A 2011 study published in the science journal Science found that the “ability of terrestrial ecosystems to act as carbon sinks,” which contain greenhouse gasses and keep them out of the atmosphere, could be up to one quarter less than previously thought when the greenhouse gas release from reservoirs is taken into consideration.
Clearly, the problem is not negligible — particularly when we consider the number of mega-dams being constructed around the world. International Rivers explains:
“Drawdown emissions have been studied and modeled in the tropical context (see Fearnside, 2009 and 2005) and to a limited extent at the Three Gorges Dam(see Chen, H. et al., 2009). In the case of Three Gorges, for instance, one-third of the reservoir is a drawdown region and given its massive size (its surface area is the size of Hong Kong), that is no insignificant source of methane. While dam reservoirs cover a small portion of the earth’s surface, as Harrison notes, they harbor biological activity that can produce large amounts of greenhouse gases. When you think of the number of large dams in the world ? more than 54,000 that are over 15 meters ? and the countless others that are being proposed or are under construction, continuing to overlook reservoirs as a carbon source and treating dams as a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source is no longer a viable option.”
The immediate effects of the WSU study may be a change in the way dams are operated, with an eye toward minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, summer months — when warm temperatures and low oxygen levels are perfect for the microbes that produce methane — might be the worst time for a drawdown:
“‘We have the ability to manage the timing, magnitude and speed of reservoir drawdowns, which all could play a role in how much methane gets released to the atmosphere,’ Harrison says.
Managers can also consider the optimal time to take out a dam, Deemer says. While a dam removal may lead to some greenhouse gas emissions initially, she says it will be a one-time occurrence, while emissions can recur with regular drawdowns. The ability of soils and plants to store greenhouse gases could also make reservoir decommissioning a net sink, she says, but researchers ‘simply don’t know at this point.’”
Over the longer term, the research could help establish a tracking mechanism to inventory natural greenhouse gas emissions internationally in order to better understand the magnitude of the problem.
– Max Frankel
A California state legislator railed against a proposed $10 “texting and driving” fine increase in an appropriations committee hearing Wednesday, arguing that “policing ourselves” is “what the founders intended.” If passed, the bill would increase the base fine for texting and driving from $20 to $30, with the $10 increase to be used for a public awareness program. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-59), however, warned that such an increase would cause George Washington to roll over in his grave:
DONNELLY: And I think the fact that you might cause a death, someone else?s death or your own, is such a powerful prohibiter of that, that we really don?t need to be increasing the fine. And I don?t think we need to have the cops pulling people over and giving them texting tickets. I see the cops driving down the street texting. So when a cop is driving down the street texting, and then he?s going to give me a ticket for texting, I think it?s wrong. And I think ultimately, there?s a great consequence to that kind of behavior. And as intelligent, rational human beings who live in a free society, is it too much to ask that we just police ourselves? It just seems that?s what the founders intended. And I feel like this is just more of a nanny state government that costs us a lot of money, and ultimately abridges more and more liberties to the point that ? is the government going to tell me where I can go next? Or how many miles I can drive?
For the record, drivers distracted by their cellphones killed an estimated 16,000 people from 2001 to 2007. So this law has nothing to do with some kind of “nanny state” effort to protect people from themselves, and everything to do with eliminating a dangerous activity that kills thousands of innocents every year.
Donnelly is right in one respect, however. There can be no doubt that the founders did not foresee liberty-squashing texting and driving laws, for the same reason their vision of American government says nothing about the Internet, space shuttles, automatic dishwashers, the Industrial Revolution, iPads or the short-lived professional baseball career of Michael Jordan.
Assemblyman Donnelly, for his part, has not yet explained how he thinks Thomas Jefferson would have regulated the nuclear power industry.
FX has officially picked up The Americans, the spy show it announced it was developing last fall that stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as KGB agents whose cover involves living as a married couple with two children in the suburbs of Washington, DC in the early 1980s. I wrote last winter that I was excited for the prospect of a show that was about tradecraft, given that the main characters, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, would be practicing it both at home and in the real world. And the more I think about this, the better idea I think the show is.
Most Washington movies are very into the Halls of Power, which makes for soaring visuals that convey the immediate sense that the characters are Very Important People. But they ignore the potential of the relatively mundane suburbs, the prospect of scary people playing with power in the non-descript ranch houses and ring suburb parks far away from the National Mall. Breach, the tremendously underrated Billy Ray movie about Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who turned out to be spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, did a fantastic job of turning Hanssen’s house (he was played by Chris Cooper), his church, his indescribably bland office, and the park where he made drops horror movie locations. One of the tensest scenes in recent movies involves Ryan Phillipe, playing Eric O’Neill, the agent who was assigned to work with Hanssen and report on him, trying to sneak a Blackberry back into Hanssen’s briefcase without getting caught. The utter ordinariness of Hanssen’s settings became repugnant over the course of the movie because of the profound lie it represented.
Homeland‘s done something similar with returned prisoner of war Nicholas Brody’s family home. It’s a modest, light-flooded dwelling, a symbol of tranquil suburban domesticity that turns out to be full of secrets, privy only to Carrie Mathison, the CIA agent who’s conducting an unauthorized operation to spy on him, and to us. Brody and his wife struggle to resurrect their sex life on his return, he prays clandestinely in the garage, and he’s hidden a suicide vest in the closet. Instead of a familiar family dynamic, Brody’s return means his family home is suddenly full of secrets, something that show continues to explore in its second season.
It sounds like The Americans may have some levity to ease the tension?Phillip and Elizabeth are fake married, but one of the show’s conceits is that they’re falling in love for real. But FX would be smart to look to both Breach and to Homeland for their sense of how to play out quiet, hugely high-stakes dramas in suburban Washington.
A Salon profile on the diabetes epidemic in America highlights the disease’s discrepancies across different regions and economic classes. Nationwide, diabetes affects about 15 percent of all Americans, but across the Appalachian region, a full third of the population is believed to be diabetic — and some estimates predict that 50 percent of the mountain population will be diabetic in 25 years. One health worker pointed out that expanding access to assistance programs could help encourage at-risk patients to seek preventative care, since drugs for pre-diabetic or borderline patients can cost up to $100 for those who aren?t covered by Medicaid or Medicare. Under Obamacare, states have the option of expanding the Medicaid program to cover additional low-income people who weren’t eligible for coverage before the health reform law. Some governors, including Kentucky’s, have not yet decided whether to accept the Medicaid expansion; some Republican governors have already stated their intention to reject it.
First in a series examining how anti-LGBT Senate candidates have worked to hurt the cause of equality.
With his primary win this week, sixth-term Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) will be the Republican nominee against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Unlike the incumbent, who has had a solid record in support of equality, Akin has amassed one of the most anti-LGBT voting records of any member of Congress.
Over 12 years in Congress:
1. Akin actively pushed anti-LGBT measures. He co-sponsored at least five anti-equality measures in the current Congress — one of just seven Representatives to sign onto that many — including a constitutional amendment against marriage equality, a bill to ban the use of military facilities for any same-sex unions, and a resolution directing the Speaker of the House to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act in court.
2. Akin spearheaded efforts against allowing same-sex unions at military chapels. He boasted that he “led the effort to fight back against gay marriage on military bases” (May 2012 press release).
3. Akin adamantly opposed allowing LGBT armed services members to serve openly. He called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal “an eclipse of reason” and “the imposition of somebody’s social agenda that they want to impose on the military.”
5. Akin has claimed marriage equality will destroy traditional families. He criticized President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality as an “unquenchable desire to tear down the traditional family unit brick by brick” (May 2012 press release).
6. Akin has suggested that not being terrorized based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a “special privilege.” He strongly opposed adding sexual orientation to federal Hate Crimes laws, arguing that it would “increase hatred in America” and give a “special privilege” to bias-crime victims (April 2009 floor speech).
7. Akin has not even practiced non-discrimination personally. He refused to even adopt a non-discrimination policy against LGBT discrimination for employees in his own Congressional office.
8. Akin has proudly promoted his anti-LGBT backers. His campaign website prominently highlights the endorsements of two of the nation’s most notorious anti-gay extremists — Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schafly and Fox News Channel host and Chick-fil-A appreciator former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR). Huckabee also appeared in a TV ad backing Akin in the primary.
9. Akin has said marriages are only about procreation. He argued on the House floor that marriage is only “about a love that can bear children,” and warned that ?anybody who knows something about the history of the human race knows that there is no civilization which has condoned homosexual marriage widely and openly that has long survived? (2006 speech in favor of the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment).
Watch Akin’s 2006 speech here:
Akin’s record is not just one of opposing LGBT rights, but one of actively seeking to take them away. His election to the U.S. Senate would be a huge threat to LGBT people and families.
One of the benefits of being a winger is that you get to access a huge, well-funded network of publishing resources. There's a reason, after all, that right wing baloney books go to the top of best-seller lists. They game the system by buying up a huge chunk and then giving them away as rewards for subscribing to stupid places like WorldNetDaily, where you can reinforce your conspiracy-theory-of-the-day with even more nuttery than any human mind should have to absorb.
So brace yourself, because the latest is written by one of our favorite lunatics ever, the Wall Street Journal's erstwhile John Fund. Fund, along with his little
dog friend Hans von Spakovsky (could we even make these names up?), Bushie DOJ attorney, has written a book about that rampant abuse of our democracy known as voter fraud.
Because you know, there must be voter fraud because if there were no voter fraud then conservatives would win and those demon libruls would be banished to the outer reaches of Texas. Or something.
Right-wingers are in a tizzy over excerpts from a new book by two of the GOP?s leading voter-fraud hucksters alleging that Minnesota?s Democratic Senator Al Franken would not have won a statewide recount in 2009 were it not for ex-felons voting illegally.
They are jumping to the false conclusion that illegal felon voting in November 2008 not only tipped a recount in which Franken won by 312 votes?out of 2.4 million cast between the two men?but that tougher state voter ID laws would have changed the result. Both claims are wrong.
Of course they're wrong. It wasn't like this recount wasn't the most closely contested battle of 2008, delaying Franken's swearing-in to the Senate until July, 2009 or anything like that. It's not like every election law attorney on the planet wasn't observing the recount with eagle eyes, or challenging every last ballot, right?
Nay, nay. The right wingers are in a huge huff because, well, felons handed Franken the election. Please, don't everyone roll your eyes at once.
The problem with this assertion?from a newbook by The Wall Street Journal?s John Fund and George W. Bush Justice Department attorney Hans von Spakovsky?is that it is not just factually wrong, according to Minnesota Supreme Court records, the Minnesota prosecutor who investigated most of the cases, and some of the country?s top election scholars, but it is intended to rile a segment of the Right that thinks it is patriotic to demonize voting by non-whites and disrupt voting for everyone else.
?They are talking in code to their base,? said Rutgers University?s Lori Minnite,co-author of Keeping Down The Black Vote: Race and the Demobilization of American Voters. ?My guess is that von Spakovsky and Fund know exactly what they are doing.?
?There is no basis in fact, whatsoever, in these inaccuracies propagated by the Minnesota Majority here, none,? Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Wednesday. ?After the most closely scrutinized election in Minnesota history in 2008, there were zero cases of fraud. Even the Republicans lawyers acknowledged that there was no systematic effort to defraud the election, none.?
Of course they are. It's the same thing they're doing with Voter ID laws, and efforts to disenfranchise poor voters, women, and other groups who typically don't vote Republican. In Ohio, they're limiting early voting in counties that favor Obama while expanding it in those that favor Romney. The Nation reports:
Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it?s most convenient for working people to vote. Republican election commissioners have blocked Democratic efforts to expand early voting hours in these counties, where the board of elections are split equally between Democratic and Republican members. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has broken the tie by intervening on behalf of his fellow Republicans.
?I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another, and I must also keep in mind resources available to each county,? Husted said in explaining his decision to deny expanded early voting hours in heavily Democratic counties. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends. Noted the Cincinnati Enquirer: ?The counties where Husted has joined other Republicans to deny expanded early voting strongly backed then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, while most of those where the extra hours will stand heavily supported GOP nominee John McCain.? Moreover, budget constraints have not stopped Republican legislators from passing costly voter ID laws across the map since 2010.
This is, of course, the situation that Romney lied about, claiming that the Obama campaign was seeking to disenfranchise veterans and military voters. As is evident from The Nation's report, there is definitely disenfranchisement going on, but it's not against Republicans. No, it will be working people, poor people, and single moms who will really, really have to want to vote because there just isn't enough money to expand early voting hours in those counties. Because, well...poor people. Everyone knows they don't pay enough taxes to deserve to vote, after all.
Do I sound angry? Are you? Because we all should be. As Chris Hayes says in his "Lean Forward" spot, it is profane -- yes, PROFANE -- to suppress the vote in a democracy.
The closer we get to the election, the more weight these voter suppression efforts will carry, particularly with regard to local and state races. I will be attending a webinar today to learn about ways that each one of us can stand up for everyone's right to vote, and plan to work in my local precinct on November 6th. I'll report back to all of you on what I learn and what we can do to counter this insidious effort.
Oh, and here's a bonus: Scott Brown, attacking the voting rights of poor people in Massachusetts.
National campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign Action Fund released the following statement on Senator Scott Brown?s disgusting attack on efforts to get people on welfare to vote.
?Scott Brown doesn't want low income Massachusetts residents to register to vote and exercise their right to participate in elections?apparently because they are neither sources of votes or cash for his campaign,? said David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund. ?Massachusetts voters would be right to wonder if Scott Brown wants elections of, by, and for the funders or of, by, and for the voters.?
The only felons causing elections to be tilted are felons with a distinctive right-leaning tilt. If they can't win on their ideas, they think they'll steal the election. We've already had that happen twice.
Not this time.
Marijuana legalization currently has a nine point edge in Colorado. Amendment 64, the ballot measure which would legalize and regulate marijuana, is now doing better than it was back in June.[...]
Read The Full Article:
Ohio Secretary of State Jon HustedIn Ohio, Republican-approved cutbacks in early voting will disproportionately disfranchise African American voters who live in the state's most heavily populated counties. Ari Berman at The Nation gives us the skinny.
In Cleveland's Cuyahoga County, African Americans make up 28 percent of the population but were 56 of early voters in 2008. In Columbus's Franklin County, they make up 20 percent of the population but were 34 percent of early voters.
That early voting was a product of the mess in 2004 when voting machines were distributed in such a way as to create long lines in predominately Democratic, minority precincts. Many voters simply gave up and went home. A report by the Democratic National Committee estimated that 174,000 voters left the queues. George W. Bush won in Ohio with 118,000 votes. Subsequently, Ohio added 35 early-voting days to the election calendar and 2008 went much smoother. Barack Obama won a majority of the votes in Ohio.
As a consequence, Republicans cut early voting back for the upcoming election from 35 days to 11 days, with the three days right before the election eliminated.
Now, in heavily Democratic cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo, early voting hours will be limited to 8 am until 5 pm on weekdays beginning on October 1, with no voting at night or during the weekend, when it?s most convenient for working people to vote. Republican election commissioners have blocked Democratic efforts to expand early voting hours in these counties, where the board of elections are split equally between Democratic and Republican members. Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has broken the tie by intervening on behalf of his fellow Republicans.Say what? Unequal access for the boards? It's unequal access for voters at issue, sir. But you knew that.
?I cannot create unequal access from one county board to another, and I must also keep in mind resources available to each county,? Husted said in explaining his decision to deny expanded early voting hours in heavily Democratic counties. Yet in solidly Republican counties like Warren and Butler, GOP election commissioners have approved expanded early voting hours on nights and weekends.
To repeat: Republicans in wealthier suburban districts will be able to vote at night, on weekends and other off-hours during those 11 early balloting days. Working-class Ohioans, Democrats or leaning that way, will find that early-voting hours in their counties are more likely to be available when they're on the job and can't get away. Which, of course, goes counter to the purpose of early voting.
As Abe Zaidan has noted in regard to these shenanigans:
No county will be impacted more than Cuyahoga, where Democratic officials, organized labor and some clergy are outraged by the GOP's handiwork. "It's Republicans' dirty little secret," declared county Democratic Party Chairman Stuart Garson. "What they are saying is, 'We don't want you people voting'."Husted and other Republicans can try to label this nothing more than a local affair adjudicated totally within the rules the state has set forth. Move along. Nothing to see here.
In fact, it's the new Jim Crow.
So Republicans are responding to the new Priorities USA ad featuring Bain layoff victim Joe Soptic, who lost his job and health insurance in 2001 and whose wife died of cancer in 2006, with a new web video focusing almost entirely on the question of whether or not Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter was correct when she said she didn't know exactly when Soptic's wife passed way.
But what I can understand is why they don't want to deal with the issue raised by the Priorities USA ad: Mitt Romney's lack of concern for people like Joe Soptic. Romney made millions on the deal involving Soptic's company, but Soptic was left holding the bag: out of a job and without health insurance. Within five years, his wife?who herself had lost health insurance from another job?died of cancer.
Nobody can say for sure if Soptic's life would have been saved if she'd had health insurance. But one thing we do know is that if Obamacare had been in effect when Soptic was laid off, she would have had health insurance and access to to the health care that might have saved her life. In fact, Romney's campaign tried to defend itself yesterday by saying basically the same thing, arguing that if Soptic had been in Massachusetts, Romneycare would have provided coverage.
That would have been a good argument to make, but Mitt Romney has now abandoned Romneycare. If he gets his way, Obamacare will be repealed, jeopardizing the health security of families just like Joe Soptic's. Romney once supported taking Romneycare national, but when it became politically inconvenient, he flip-flopped to save his own skin. And that's what Mitt Romney has always been about: ruthlessly putting himself first. That's why Joe Soptic got the raw end of the deal when Mitt Romney was CEO and sole owner of Bain Capital. That's why Mitt Romney made millions even when his investments went bankrupt, putting employees out of work, destroying their retirement funds, and kicking them off insurance. That's why Mitt Romney has never made a promise he wouldn't break for the right price. And that's why Mitt Romney is not what this country needs as president.
Republicans want to dismiss Soptic's story as being the equivalent of an accusation of murder. But that's not what it is. It is, however, an accusation of callousness. The central point of the ad is that Mitt Romney put his own interests ahead of others, a pattern that we see continued to this very day with Romney's abandonment of his signature policy achievement, Romneycare. The fact that Republicans refuse to defend Romney on the merits and instead try to shift the debate into hyperbole and irrelevancy speaks volumes about just how weak Romney's position is on this very point, and Democrats can't afford to walk away from this fight.