John Boehner’s deficit position is as phony as his color

May 7th, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, House Speaker John Boehner warned that the U.S. government must balance its budget. After all, he said:

We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There’s no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can’t do this.

It’s hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years. If our fiscal practices haven’t caught up to us after 60 years, when will they? Or does Boehner take a David Stockman-like position that the last several decades of American advancement have in fact been a ghastly failure?

Of course, budget deficits work because the government is different from a household. A government does not have a life cycle, does not ever expect to stop generating income to support itself, and, therefore, does not ever have to retire its debt. It must keep its debts at a manageable size relative to the economy, which the U.S. has done over that 60 year period. If the economy is growing over the long term, that means the government can run a deficit and grow the debt every year — sustainably…

Boehner’s position on short-term debt is confused, too. If the recent expansion of the public debt is a matter of overriding economic concern, why is Boehner so resolutely opposed to tax increases to pay it down? America’s economy has thrived under a variety of tax policies, including much higher top marginal tax rates than are in effect today. Shouldn’t Boehner be willing to accept tax increases, or perhaps even be eager for them, in order to fight the debt menace he cites?

Boehner doesn’t really care about the public debt, as he made clear when he repeatedly supported debt-expanding measures under a Republican president. What Boehner and House Republicans really want are excuses to cut federal spending, particularly on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that support low-income Americans. But those cuts are unpopular, so Republicans frame fiscal debate to make such cuts appear necessary to avoid disaster. If you can’t borrow or tax more, and can’t cut old-age entitlements or the military, which command the majority of federal spending, you’re not left with many options but to soak the poor.

Soaking the poor is a policy option. It is not, as Boehner would have it, a policy necessity dictated by the inability of the federal government to borrow or tax sustainably. But if the debate instead becomes about tax and spending priorities — is it more important to provide universal health care or keep tax rates low on high earners — it shifts to turf unfavorable to Republicans. So they pretend.

Households often borrow for decades against large enough purchases. They’re called mortgages. But, like the room full of millionaire lawyers that is Congress – Boehner has never been especially concerned with anything he’s not been personally challenged with. Like the expenses of healthcare.

Koch Brothers make a market in the dirtiest fuel on Earth


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Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom…And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.

The coke comes from a refinery alongside the river owned by Marathon Petroleum, which has been there since 1930. But it began refining exports from the Canadian oil sands — and producing the waste that is sold to Koch — only in November…

An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.

Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here…

Residents on both sides of the Detroit River are concerned that the coke mountain is both an environmental threat and an eyesore…

Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum…While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.

It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.“It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce…”

The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States. But D. Mark Routt, a staff energy consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston, said that overseas companies saw it as a cheap alternative to low-grade coal. In China, it is used to generate electricity, adding to that country’s air-quality problems. There is also strong demand from India and Latin America for American petroleum coke, where it mainly fuels cement-making kilns.

“I’m not making a value statement, but it comes down to emission controls,” Mr. Routt said. “Other people don’t seem to have a problem, which is why it is going to Mexico, which is why it is going to China.”

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” he said. One of the world’s largest dealers of petroleum coke is the Oxbow Corporation, which sells about 11 million tons of fuel-grade coke a year. It is owned by William I. Koch, a brother of David and Charles.

The people who deal in this deadly waste, who care less than any other clique in American capitalism about the lives, lifestyle and lifespan of ordinary American citizens – stockpile this crap alongside a metropolitan river. After turning an extra profit from a dirty byproduct of the dirtiest fuel source on Earth – they couldn’t care less about the air and water they befoul where they store this petro-coke before shipping it off to be burned. Then, in turn, the Koch Bros. profit from fouling the air of the whole planet.

World’s silliest new smartphone

The phrase “the phones are running hot” has the potential for a double meaning in the smartphone age, with increasingly processor-intensive apps being used on mobile devices. Desktop computers make use of water cooling to keep their CPUs from overheating, so why can’t smartphones? Why not, indeed. NEC has done just that with the Medias X N-06E, the world’s first water-cooled smartphone.

At the heart of the Medias X N-06E is a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro running at 1.7 GHz that has its heat drawn away to the sides of the phone by a water-filled heatpipe. Of course, this chip can be found in a range of devices, including the LG Optimus G Pro and HTC One, neither of which seem to be experiencing overheating issues.

While the chip supports clocking up to 1.9 GHz, NEC is sticking to 1.7 GHz for the water-cooled phone, so it’s unlikely users will see any real performance boost. The only real benefits we can see would be the potential to possibly extend the life of the chip or keep the phone cooler in your hot little hand…

The phone comes running Android 4.2 and also features a 4.7-inch 720 x 1,280 OLED display, 13.1-megapixel shooter, 2,300 mAh battery and waterproof and dustproof casing (IPX5, 8/IP5X) – which also gives users the option of dunking the phone in a pool of water if they want some other form of water cooling.

Oh, it comes in pinkish or white and has lots of sparkly-warkly accessories, too.

How imprisoning a Gitmo inmate costs taxpayers $900,000 a year

It’s been dubbed the most expensive prison on Earth and President Barack Obama cited the cost this week as one of many reasons to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which burns through some $900,000 per prisoner annually.

The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects.

With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.

By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say.

And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.

The high cost was just one reason Obama cited when he returned this week to an unfulfilled promise to close the prison and said he would try again.

Obama…said that the prison, set up under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and long the target of criticism by rights groups and foreign governments, is a stain on the reputation of the United States.

‘It’s extremely inefficient,’ said Ken Gude, chief of staff and vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, who has followed developments at Guantanamo Bay since 2005.

‘That … may be what finally gets us to actually close the prison. I mean the costs are astronomical, when you compare them to what it would cost to detain somebody in the United States,’ Gude said…

Obama pledged to close the prison within a year after first taking office in January 2009 but his efforts ran aground, partly because of congressional opposition, from both Republicans and some in his own Democratic Party, to transferring prisoners to the United States.

Inmates started a hunger strike in February that has swelled to some 100 prisoners and has led to force-feeding of 23 of the prisoners.

With the camp back under a critical spotlight, Obama told a news conference on Tuesday he would renew efforts to shut it down. He has an array of options, some of which would be more achievable than others…

Above the annual operating cost, capital spending on the prison could rise again if the Pentagon receives the funding it says it needs to renovate the place.

General John Kelly, the head of Southern Command, which is responsible for Guantanamo, told a House of Representatives panel in March that he needed some $170 million to improve the facilities for troops stationed at the base as part of detention operations.

Kelly said the living conditions were ‘pretty questionable’ and told the panel, ‘We need to take care of our troops.’

Or we could act like we have functional brains – put the convicted into mainland supermax prisons, send the unconvictable, unindicted back to their home countries or a helpful surrogate country and go back to at least a pretense of being a law-abiding civilized nation. Close down Gitmo and give the land back to the Cubans.