On Earth Day, the environmental movement needs repairs

Bill McKibben says – “Forty years in, we’re losing”.

This weekend, when speakers at Earth Day gatherings across the country hearken back to the first celebration in 1970, they’ll recall great victories: above all, cleaner air and cleaner water for Americans.

But for 20 years now, global warming has been the most important environmental issue — arguably the most important issue the planet has ever faced. And there we can boast an unblemished bipartisan record of accomplishing absolutely nothing.

To mark Earth Day this year, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) were supposed to introduce their long-awaited rewrite of the House’s climate legislation. Now that’s been delayed for at least a few days, which is probably just as well, since, as Graham points out, it’s no longer really an environmental bill…

Worse, the bill might specifically remove the strongest tool the environmentalists won in the wake of Earth Day 1: the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to use the Clean Air Act to bring the fossil fuel industries to heel. Enforcement may be preempted under the new law. Even the right of states to pioneer new legislation, such as California’s landmark global warming bill, apparently could disappear with the new legislation…

That weakness has many sources, including the corrosive power of money in politics (and human beings have never found a greater source of money than fossil fuels). But at least part of the problem lies within environmentalism, which no longer does enough real organizing to build the pressure that could result in real change…

I remember interviewing Pete McCloskey, the California House member recruited by Gaylord Nelson to be the Republican sponsor of the original Earth Day…But just as important was what happened next: “About two weeks after Earth Day,” McCloskey said, “there was an article on the sixth or seventh page of the Washington Star — some of the Earth Day kids had labeled 12 members of Congress the Dirty Dozen and vowed to defeat them. Nobody paid much attention.

On the first Wednesday in June, though, everyone in Washington opened the paper to find that the two Democrats on that list — one a powerful committee chairman, the other a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee — had lost primary fights by fewer than a thousand votes. Within 24 hours, seven of the 10 Republicans on the list had come to me, even though I was despised, being against the war and all. ‘What’s this about water pollution, about air pollution? What can you tell us?’ ” For the next few sessions, anything tinged green passed Congress with ease: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act.

The Golden Rule for American politicians is – “Get re-elected!” Nothing else really matters.

Get up on your hind legs and register folks to vote. Do it as a Green activist. Scare some Democrat or Republican into pretending they have a conscience and an understanding of science beyond Howdy Doody.

GM loans repaid – launching Volt in October

I think he hand-delivered the check
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

GM CEO Ed Whitacre announced that GM paid back its bankruptcy bailout loans of $5.4 billion to the US Treasury Department, and $1.1 billion to the Canadian government. This payback is five years ahead of schedule and completes repayment of $7.8 billion in total loans.

The government also paid GM $50 billion in exchange for 60% ownership stake in the company. Whitacre later stated he also believes US taxpayers will be made whole too after GM issues an IPO possibly later this year.

“I think the stock could be worth a lot and the taxpayers could get all their money, plus,” Whitacre told reporters. “I’m an optimistic guy.”

We are encouraged that GM has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement.

Whitacre made the announcement at a Kansas GM plant where he also announced GM would be putting an additional $120 million investment into the Detroit-Hamtramck plant where the Volt will be built.

Ostensibly, the new money will go into expanding that plant’s production capacity so that GM could use it to build additional Chevrolet Malibus. Though in theory, the increased production capacity could be used to build more Volts if demand is greater than predicted, or more Malibus if its less than expected.

Buried in Whitacre’s discussion was an additional nugget. He appeared to verified previous comments he made to GM-Volt that Volt would roll out early. He specifically stated the car will be released one month early, in October.

Looking forward to real world figures on Volt use/performance. The extended-range concept has grown new supporters since GM adopted it. Notably Honda.

Naps boost memory, but only if you dream

Sleep has long been known to improve performance on memory tests. Now, a new study suggests that an afternoon power nap may boost your ability to process and store information tenfold — but only if you dream while you’re asleep.

“When you dream, your brain is trying to look at connections that you might not think of or notice when [you’re] awake,” says the lead author of the study, Robert Stickgold, the director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, Massachusetts. “In the dream…the brain tries to figure out what’s important and what it should keep or dump because it’s of no value…”

The sleeping brain seems to be processing information on one level, but on a higher level it helps evolve your memory network if the information is relevant or helpful in your life experience,” adds Breus, who is also the author of “Beauty Sleep.”

The study’s findings, which appear in the journal Current Biology, underscore just how important sleep is to our memory and mental function.

RTFA. Methods seem straightforward enough. I look forward to reading the details when available to cheapskate members of the public – like me.

As someone whose sleep apnea is thoroughly moderated by CPAP sleep, I don’t dream except for a few brief moments while rousing in the morning. I hope I’m not screwing up this ancient brain. 🙂

Free Market is not a license to steal!

Death Panels waiting to deploy – again – on behalf of the Republican Party

President Obama traveled to New York City today, where he pointedly told members of the city’s financial industry to stop fighting reasonable industry reform.

“We will not always see eye to eye,” Mr. Obama said to members of the banking industry in his speech at New York’s Cooper Union, not far from Wall Street. “We will not always agree. But that does not mean we have to choose between two extremes.”

“We do not have to choose between markets that are unfettered by even modest protections against crisis, or markets that are stymied by onerous rules that suppress enterprise and innovation,” he continued. “That’s a false choice…”

But he also lamented that some on Wall Street “forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is family looking to buy a house, and pay for an education, open a business, save for retirement.”

“A free market, he said, “was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it…”

The president targeted Republicans, among them Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who have suggested the legislation is actually going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street.

“That may make for a good sound bite, but it’s not factually accurate. It is not true,” he said, to applause. He said the system as it stands is what led to bailouts.

“A vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts,” he said. “That’s the truth. End of story. And nobody should be fooled in this debate.”

I hope American voters take the time to examine the facts of what is proposed instead of relying on the Party of No to tell them what to believe.

Being gullible enough to believe in Death Panels ain’t going to solve your fears about Wall Street.

Thanks, Cinaedh, for the pic

CBO says Dodd reform bill would reduce U.S. deficit

Republican plan for hidden assets

The Democrat’s Senate financial reform bill would cut the U.S. budget deficit by $21 billion over the next 10 years, according to a cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office obtained by Reuters.

The estimated reduction in the budget deficit over the 2011-2020 period stems largely from charging the financial industry assessments for a fund to liquidate large, troubled financial firms, the office said.

The bill authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd is designed to ensure no financial firm is too big to fail and the senate may start debating it next week.

However, the idea of creating a $50 billion liquidation fund has been criticized by banks and Republicans [quelle surprise?] and is not favored by the Obama administration…

Dodd’s bill would also create a bureau to regulate consumer financial products such as mortgages, as well as new rules to regulate derivatives and hedge funds. The bill aims to rein in banks’ risky activities and revamp financial regulation in wake of the worst economic crisis in decades.

This is the bill the Republicans said contained a bailout provision – when the truth is exactly the opposite: the fund “pays for the funeral” of failures – and insures investors.

Man hid body in apartment for 10 years

A body lay undiscovered under a sofa in a sheltered flat in Bristol for nearly 10 years, an inquest has heard.

The dead man, Denis Pring, 73, had been living with a city council tenant Alan Derrick, who has learning difficulties.

The inquest heard Mr Derrick did not want to tell the authorities that Mr Pring had died because he was worried he would be evicted…

Mr Pring, a former warehouseman, is believed to have died at some point between April and June 1998…

Mr Derrick, the dead man’s friend and drinking partner, had invited him to stay there because he had nowhere else to go. But when he died suddenly, Mr Derrick panicked and worried that he might be evicted.

He covered up the body with cushions and two armchairs and carried on living in the flat in Bedminster, Bristol, for the next 10 years without reporting the death.

Neighbours complained to the council about foul smells from the flat but although council officers visited twice the body was never found.

Mr Pring’s skeleton was discovered in January 2008 when cleaners were brought in after Mr Derrick was evicted from the flat following a county court order…

The council’s deputy chief executive, Jon House, acknowledged a “more active intervention nine or 10 years ago”, and a ” healthier dose of common sense”, might have led to Mr Pring’s body being found earlier.

Aside from the dude probably being a bit more than slightly round the bend, the fact that fear of becoming homeless should prompt the bureaucrats involved to learn something about their clients.

As we all are.