EPA Against Limiting Rocket Fuel Ingredient in Tap Water


The EPA has issued a draft regulation ruling that states it will not limit perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket fuel, in drinking water:
[The EPA] will not set a drinking-water safety standard for perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and young children across the nation.

According to a near-final document obtained by The Washington Post, the EPA's "preliminary regulatory determination" -- which was extensively edited by White House officials -- marks the final step in a six-year-old battle between career EPA scientists who advocate regulating the chemical and White House and Pentagon officials who oppose it. The document estimates that up to 16.6 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe; independent researchers, using federal and state data, put the number at 20 million to 40 million.

The conclusion has drawn fire from both Congress and environmental organizations who cite perchlorate's interference with thyroid function and implications in developmental disabilities in infants and unborn children.

"This is a widespread contamination problem, and to see the Bush EPA just walk away is shocking," Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated in response to the decision.

The EPA's draft states that paying for a cleanup would not present "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems."

"They have distorted the science to such an extent that they can justify not regulating" the chemical, said Robert Zoeller, a University of Massachusetts professor who specializes in thyroid hormone and brain development and has a copy of the EPA proposal. "Infants and children will continue to be damaged, and that damage is significant."

Zoeller said scientific studies have shown that a small reduction in thyroid function in infants can translate into a loss of IQ and an increase in behavioral and perception problems. "It's absolutely irreversible," he said. "Even small changes in thyroid functions early on have impacts on functioning through high school and even into people's 20s."

A reference to those studies in the EPA's proposal was deleted by OMB officials.

Environmental groups accuse the EPA of succumbing to Pentagon pressure in an effort to both reduce costs and limit the Pentagon's liability exposure... Continued...

In the Hands of Adolescents


Cross-posted on The Huffington Post

There is a scene in Herman Wouk's book, War and Remembrance: a writer leaves a stockade following a beating to find the guards who'd brought him there engaged in an impromptu game of soccer.

The writer's epiphany comes in this assessment: "We're in the hands of adolescents."

I am not comparing anyone in today's government to those guards (or to the writer or Wouk, for that matter). I bring up the epiphany as parallel to one I felt as I watched today's self-serving rhetoric, the House Republicans' finger pointing, the White House WITHOUT A PLAN B, the overall failure of responsibility and leadership, the willingness to put individual electoral status before country, the
whining, John McCain's through-the-looking glass attempts at twisting the truth and projecting his own failure upon his opponent after the bailout bill went down in flames amidst precipitous market drops (the Dow closed down 777.68) and the corresponding failures of banks in Europe that do not bear similar responsibility to Wall Street for this failure.

And the credit market which took its own hit today and which each of us will feel in ways we could never have imagined.

While no one mentions that hedge funds are due to reset soon, allowing investors to pull their billions out should they decide America is not where they want their money anymore.

One had to wonder about Congressional Republicans' maturity as they tried the excuse that a speech by Nancy Pelosi (one we can argue whether she should have made or not) had caused the exact number of their membership needed to pass the vote to walk because they had been offended.


I'm offended that we're in the hands of adolescents and have been since late 2000, when Republican staffers went into the White House to find the w keys removed from their computers and, instead of laughing about the practical joke (if it even happened), as was the transition tradition from one party to another since time immemorial, they held press conferences to WHINE about their unfair treatment at the hands of the big bad Democrats that had proceeded them.

What the Republicans in Congress proved today (after Iraq, Katrina and, now, this fiscal failure) is that they haven't grown up since.

The Democrats in Congress are not faring much better. Was Pelosi's speech ill-advised? Given the Republican's need to point fingers, perhaps. But, as they pointed out, if all it takes is bruised feelings for them to fall short of the exact 12 votes they needed to meet their promised obligation, is it possible they didn't have the votes in the first place and were looking for an excuse???

And what an excuse! Pelosi was mean!!!! Whaaaa!!!!

Barney Frank: "I am appalled; frankly that's an accusation against my Republican colleagues I would never thought of making. Here's the story: There's a terrible crisis affecting the American economy. We have come together on a bill to alleviate the crisis. And because somebody hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country. Give me those twelve people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are if they'll now think about the country."

Did Pelosi have the votes or not? It's hard to believe she would have brought the vote if she had not been assured that she had them. Did the Republicans lie about it? Or are they that immature, that a speech blaming the Bush Administration (who they're all trying to distance themselves from anyway) for the crisis would cause TWELVE votes, again, that EXACT number needed, to walk away.

McCain's message in all this? It's Obama's fault!!! (whaaaaaaaaaaa!!!).

Barack Obama's message? "It's important for the American public and for the markets to stay calm because things are never smooth in Congress and to understand that it will get done."

I don't presume to know the best course for our economy but I do know, that after eight years of being in the hands of adolescents, I'M EXHAUSTED.

I want a grown-up government. I want representatives who take responsibility for their actions, even if it means losing their seat. And I want the finger pointing and projection to stop (John McCain).

Barack Obama may have his detractors, but I know he's the only one in this whole mess that makes the pit in the bottom of my stomach ease in that: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" way when he speaks about this financial mess.

Unlike his opponent.

I want a grown up in charge for a change. What we've seen now with Iraq, Katrina, Wall Street, is only the beginning if he fail to effect a change in leadership. The next crisis: a climate out of control.

Who do you want handling that?


In Defense of the Kingsnorth Six


Good news from the UK: the Kingsnorth Six were acquitted by a Crown Court jury. They were members of a group of 23 Greenpeace volunteers who had attempted to shut down the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant, specifically the six were the ones painting the smokestack with "Gordon Bin It" when interrupted by the police. Their defense was 'lawful excuse', that they were protecting property of greater value (the Earth!) from the impact of climate change. We will need our Mercedes-driving lawyer friends to tell us if the verdict has greater significance -- but the jurors were common people, not politicians. It was an impressive show -- judge and lawyers with their white wigs -- hopefully it has an impact.

Written testimony that I submitted for the case, at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080910_Kingsnorth.pdf, is a bit long. The "Summary Facts" are below. The main point, that the government, the utility, and the fossil fuel industry, were aware of the facts but continued to ignore them are more generally valid worldwide. It raises the question of whether the right people are on trial.

Summary Facts

These summary facts were known by the UK government, by the utility EON, by the fossil fuel industry, and by the defendants at the time of their actions in 2007:

(1) Tipping Points: the climate system is dangerously close to tipping points that could have disastrous consequences for young people, life and property, and general well-being on the planet that will be inherited from today's elders.

(2) Coal's Dominant Role: Coal is the fossil fuel most responsible for excess CO2 in the air today, and coal reserves contain much more potential CO2 than do oil or gas. Coal is the fossil fuel that is most susceptible to either (a) having the CO2 captured and sequestered if coal is used in power plants, or (b) leaving the coal in the ground, instead emphasizing use of cleaner fuels and energy efficiency.

(3) Recognized Responsibilities: The UK is one of the nations most responsible for human-made CO2 in the air today, indeed, on a per capita basis it is the most responsible of all nations that are major emitters of CO2. This fact is recognized by developing countries, making it implausible that they would consider altering their plans for coal use if the UK plans to continue to rely on coal-fired power. Continued...

2010 Scenarios - Which country do you want first?


Have you thought about what America will be like two years into the next administration?

Here are four scenarios:

First scenario - McCain:

It is 2010. President McCain has fired the head of the SEC, FEC, FCC, SIPC (note spelling)... and has formed the M.F.I. Commission to study the collapsed economy under Treasury Secretary Phil Gramm, while Saudi Arabia and Dubai (where Dick Cheney is living out his retirement) have matched China, India and Iraq in owning our over thirty-three trillion dollar national debt.

We're in proxy wars with Russia and in a bomb, bomb, bomb war with Iran.

Out-of-work parents say goodbye to their enlisted sons and daughters.

President McCain adds more cars to the thirteen(?) he currently owns.

Ditto on the houses.

A safe education is available only for the home-schooled or vouchered.

Health care becomes more out of reach to those who can't afford it.

Drilling is everywhere but ANWR and, yet, oil is over $200 a barrel.

Alternative fuels legislation receives lip-service but little effective support.

There are no salmon.

Tucker Bounds becomes Press Secretary. Doug Holtz-Eakin is the new CEO of Blackberry.

Questions about policies are met with blame and obfuscation.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps.

But what if it's not?

Second scenario - McCain:

It is 2010. President John McCain defies his right wing and lobbyist backers and tries to do the right thing, but receives no support from a partisan congress or from the right wingers and lobbyists he's betrayed.

See above for the rest.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps.

But what if it's not?

Third scenario - Palin:

It is 2010. Out-of-work parents say goodbye to their sons and daughters on their way to the trenches of Iran and Russia, while President Palin (sworn into office in 2009 after President McCain's untimely demise) and President Ahmedinejab rave about their respective end-times.

Social Security and Medicare are discontinued. Health care is unattainable.

Tent cities spring up in city parks. National parks are buzzed by aerial hunters.

Hurricanes wipe out the Gulf coast, the oceans have become one big dead zone with only lionfish and jellyfish, America's beaches are covered with garbage; the Midwest is a permanent flood zone (between tornadoes), cities, chokingly polluted, are filled with paranoid citizens with gun permits, new prisons are the only new home construction, twenty-five percent of endangered species have passed the tipping point to extinction, though not on any government list, and Saudi Arabia and Dubai (where Dick Cheney is living out his retirement) have matched China, India and Iraq in owning our over thirty-three trillion dollar national debt.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps.

But what if it's not?

Fouth scenario - Obama:

It is 2010. President Barack Obama has formed a coalition with our (once again) allies to put pressure on Iran to belly up to the diplomacy bar. Joe Biden and Bill Clinton are dispatched to speak with world leaders who respect them.

A worldwide coalition has formed to combat the root causes of terrorism and shore up failing states.

Bipartisan government programs, pushed through by a Democratic majority in both houses, are instituted to forestall foreclosures while forcing corporate responsibility. Wall Street and Main Street (slowly) recover.

The homeless, rather than being beaten up by unattended teens, are ushered into community programs, as are unattended teens.

53,000 Chinese children sickened by tainted milk


by The Environmentalist Staff

China's Health Ministry announced Sunday that 53,000 children, many of them infants, have been sickened by melamine tainted milk powder. This report, which quadruples the previous estimate also warns of the possibility that the tainted milk may move beyond China:
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The number of children sickened by suspected melamine-tainted milk products in China has more than doubled and apparently spread beyond mainland China -- raising fears that the impact of the tainted products could be more widespread that initially thought.
Melamine, which produces multiple kidney stones in infants and which was previously implicated in the mass poisoning of pet food from China, was added to the milk in an effort to skew the analyzed protien content -- the same causal relationship to the tainted pet products in 2006-2007 that resulted in so many animal deaths -- again through acute failure of the kidneys.

In September 2008 Sanlu Milk recalled all powdered milk in the north-west China's Gansu province where melamine was reported to have been used in 22 brands of infant formula, making more than 12,800 infants ill. Melamine has also been found in products produced by Yili Industrial Group Co, and Mengniu Dairy Co. As of 18 September 2008 there had been four confirmed infant deaths from the contamination of powdered milk with melamine with a number of survivors diagnosed with acute kidney failure.

Melamine may have been added to fool government quality tests after water was added to fraudulently increase the milk's volume. The adulterant melamine was added to the milk to allow the company to dilute the milk with water and circumvent government regulations, since melamine will cause a false increase in the measurement of protein by increasing the nitrogen levels in the milk. Officials estimate that about 20 percent of the dairy companies tested in China sell products tainted with melamine.

Again, this is the same contamination that occured with pet food last year. If the Chinese government knew about the history of their manufacturers adding melamine to game the protein analysis count -- with such public and disastrous consequences, how could they have allowed their manufacturers to then try the same trick with the most vulnerable human population -- the powered milk used in infant formulas? Continued...


FDR - First Inaugural Address


An ongoing history series; the following is the first inaugural address by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in which we find parallels to our situation today:

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.

Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.

Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

There are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all parts of the United States--a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor--the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others-- the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems. Continued...


John McCain's Big Lies


Published on Reuters, Chicago Sun-Times, The Huffington Post, Palm Beach Post

The disregard for the truth by the McCain campaign has produced lies so big that even those that support Senator McCain are hard-pressed to deny that they're lies.

So why the recent flood of such big lies?

While they may be meant to reach undecided voters (they'd be happy to pick them up), it seems rather a tactic to engender an angry response from Senator Obama that they can then point to and say -- see, he's angry, ergo, ipso facto, he's dangerous, different, not like you and me.

Senator Obama seems unlikely to fall into that trap. He knows how to be angry and cool at the same time and both are needed now (along with more passion, please). Not that he doesn't have a right to be angry and hot, and not just for himself, but for all of us. Because, make no mistake, it is the American people upon which this tactical fraud is being perpetrated.

And not just tactical fraud. Orwellian fraud. A hallmark of the Bush years (see: Clear Skies Act). Strong is good, weak is bad (four legs bad, two legs good...); pull up your bootstraps (unless, as Senator Obama correctly points out, you don't have boots).

An example of where Obama has condensed his message, those missing boots, because the simple and direct thought is something the American people in this world of television, Internet(s) and immediate gratification seem to require. It is a message he will have to reinforce along with finding a way to relay the passion he feels for our country to those who yearn to support him.

But that's a different and far more honorable path than McCain's choice to plow the lowest road of big lies. Which makes me question what kind of country this would be with John McCain in charge, considering those running his campaign, should he win, would likely be the same people running the government.

And yet, we are told, John McCain is a maverick.

The distortions coming from the campaign make it impossible to determine who John McCain is beyond the noise, the distractions, the decision of his campaign to present him as the alpha male in the hope that fear and uncertainty will lead a majority to identify with the aggressor rather than one they try to make out as a victim or, if he fights back, as the outsider who cannot be trusted.

Psychology. Not truth.

History can be helpful in understanding the dangers of propaganda in a time of uncertainty, war, bank failures, foreclosures, stagflation, propaganda... What would be equally helpful is the moment of reflection that every American should allow themselves, in lieu of propaganda, to ask this question:

What will my life be like four years from now?

Chris Matthews addressed that question in a recent comment:
"Suppose the energy crunch has grown to cripple the economy, we're moving products, twenty years from now, on old railroads and gas guzzling trucks. The air becomes clogged with pollution again from fossil fuels because they're all we have. India, China, Russia and Brazil are, by then, grabbing and outbidding us for resources. Our failed education system has cost us our innovative edge. We can't compete. We might even have fallen back to a second rate power, we Americans. And the young people twenty years from now and the older folks who can remember it, will look back on the fall election of 2008 that set the course for this century and see videotapes of us arguing about lipstick...lipstick.

This game that's being played is not an insult to a candidate, it's an insult to the intelligence of our democracy, which is really all we have, each of us, to decide and build a future. Our only escape from all this is to force ourselves, against all the distractions, to think through the hearts and minds of those young people who will have to live in the world we are now deciding who's to build, who's to lead us to." Continued...


NOAA makes it official: Extreme weather due to climate change


In a report issued by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a joint effort of more than a dozen government agencies which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the conclusion is that the extreme weather we've been experiencing will become both more extreme and is due to climate change.
WASHINGTON - Droughts will get drier, storms will get stormier and floods will get deeper with a warming climate across North America, U.S. government experts said in a report billed as the first continental assessment of extreme events.

Events that have seemed relatively rare will become commonplace, said the latest report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a joint effort of more than a dozen government agencies.
This report has raised questions by those who point to this year's cooler temperatures in many parts of the world. That issue was addressed by the British Met Office's 2008 temperature prediction which cited an increased 2008
La Niña event; a cooling of a Pacific current - a periodic anomaly that was covered in this report: What's with the Weather? The La Niña-Tornado Connection.

Specific project
ions from the Climate Sciences report include:

* Abnormally hot d
ays and nights, along with heat waves, are very likely to become more common.
* Cold nights are very likely to bec
ome less common.
* Sea ice extent is expected to continue to decrease and may even disappear in the Arctic Ocean in summer in coming decades.

* Precipitatio
n, on average, is likely to be less frequent but more intense.
* Droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe in some regions.
* Hurricanes will likely have increased precipitation and wind.

* The strongest
cold-season storms in the Atlantic and Pacific are likely to produce stronger winds and higher extreme wave heights... Continued...


Hurricane Ike: Worse Case Scenario Forecasted


Officials have warned that Hurricane Ike, with its expected imminent landfall along the Galveston-Houston, Texas coast, may present the feared worse-case-scenario, which includes the ominous prediction of "certain death" for those who ignore mandatory evacuation.
Residents living in single-family homes in some parts of coastal Texas face "certain death" if they do not heed orders to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ike's arrival, the National Weather Service said Thursday night.

The unusually strong wording came in a weather advisory regarding storm surge along the shoreline of Galveston Bay, which could see maximum water levels of 15 to 22 feet, the agency said.

"All neighborhoods ... and possibly entire coastal communities ... will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide," the advisory said. "Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single-family one- or two-story homes will face certain death."

There are concerns about people ignoring the mandatory evacuation order due to "hurricane fatigue." This 700 mile-wide storm may not be the event upon which to take that chance.

Here are some facts:

  • Ike is receiving the same surge warnings as Katrina. This was the surge that wiped out parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In Ike's case, the likeliest surge landfall is in Texas.

  • Tidal surges could exceed 20 feet; greater than Katrina.

  • The cone is narrowing toward Galveston and Houston, but it is a very large storm.

  • The entire storm is building up and blowing water toward Galveston Bay - that is the reason for the dire warnings about a high surge.

  • Because of the wide area for the storm surge, mandatory evacuation zones extend to a wide area of the Gulf Coast with Galveston Bay being the center of the surge's focus.

  • Everywhere there is a mandatory warning, it is estimated that the surge could be up and or exceed 20 feet.

  • Hurricane Ike has already proven to be a storm surge generator in the Caribbean, where tidal surges pounded into shore above five story buildings.

  • The Barrier Islands are too low to stop this surge.

Weather service warnings do not often include the words "Certain death." This will be a flooding storm. If it turns out to cause less damage than predicted, that means property not expected to survive might.

If it turns out to be as predicted, anyone in its path that cannot get above 22 feet of fast moving water will be washed away. Continued...


It’s Tough Being A Teenaged Parent


by Sandra Cuneo

Statistics on the fate of teen mothers and the futures of children born to mothers aged 18 and under continue to be disappointing. Few teen mothers have a an adequate, structured support system to help them and their children – including an intact family or paternal assistance and love for their children -- and the negative consequences for these mothers and for their children are disturbing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, by 12th grade, over 60 percent of teens have had sex. Moreover, improvements in contraceptive use have leveled off and that the teen birth rate is on the rise for the first time in 15 years. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, one in three teenage girls becomes pregnant before the age of 20, 8 out of 10 of these pregnancies are unintended, and 80 percent of teen births are out-of wedlock. The teenage birth rate in the U.S. is the highest in the developed world.

The consequences for teen parents are stark: having a child before age 19 significantly reduces the probability of a teen girl’s finishing high school or going to college, and increases the probability of her reliance on public assistance programs such as TANF, food stamps and housing assistance. Teen fathers of teen mothers’ children earn less than adult fathers.

The consequences for the children of young teen mothers are also distressing: an Illinois study showed that teen mothers were 2.2 times more likely to have a child placed in foster care during the first five years after a birth. They were also twice as likely to have a reported case of abuse or neglect— almost one in ten children of young teen mothers were reported for abuse or neglect.

Children of teen mothers are also more likely to drop out of high school. Sons of adolescent mothers are 2.2 times more likely to spend time in prison -- nearly 14 percent of the sons of adolescent mothers have been in prison by their late-30s, compared to six percent of the sons of mothers aged 20-21. Daughters of adolescent mothers are more likely to become teen mothers themselves.

Teen childbearing in the United States costs taxpayers at least $9.1 billion, according to a 2006 report by Saul Hoffman, Ph.D. and published by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Most of these costs are the result of the negative consequences for the children of teen mothers, including increased costs for health care, foster care, and incarceration.

While fathers of children born to teen mothers need to provide support and love to their children, teen marriages are generally not the solution to teen pregnancy: they are particularly unstable and result in a significantly higher divorce rate than that of couples who marry when they are out of their teens. Girls who marry between conception and birth are less likely to return to school than those who don’t marry. Young relationships also involve high levels of violence. Teen marriages often result in a rapid second birth and worse economic and educational outcomes for the mother and her child. However, marrying before the birth of a child may also lead to greater paternal support, a residential father, and even if the couple divorces, greater financial support and greater paternal access to the child. Continued...

The Debate the American People Deserve


Barack Obama addressed the controversies generated by the McCain campaign in what he called their "catnip for the media" through
the purposeful false Republican outrage and swiftboating, and decried what the campaign has not been about: the debate the American people deserve.

It Ain't Politics--It's Show Biz. What Obama Has to Do Now


Progressives are tying themselves into knots, angling to insert facts into the Sarah Palin story, while the theatre, action and lights surrounding the ingénue-turned-faux-world-leader spin their magic and deliver star-struck voters.

We've seen this movie before: Steve Schmidt, who I'll call the Director, aka McCain's Karl Rove-trained campaign manager, previously served as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign manager. In both cases, the Director introduces his stunningly unprepared, but chisel-chinned actors, onto the campaign trail with only weeks until the election, and refuses to permit the media to ask hard questions, allowing the movie trailers and surrogates to unveil the plot.

Back in 2002, women sporting t-shirts declaring, "I'd rather be groped by the Terminator than Screwed By Davis," Davis being California Governor Gray Davis, the unwitting subject of California's historic recall election, were strategically positioned at every scripted media event to diminish the potential impact of sexual harassment allegations levied against Arnold Schwarzenegger. The props worked. The Terminator won. (Postscipt: 6 years later, Governor Schwarzenegger's poll numbers are back in the 30's as he grapples with a historic budget deficit exceeding $17 billion (yes, that's billion, with a 'b'), and partisan gridlock is worse than the conditions used to kick Democratic Governor Davis out of office.)

Meanwhile, progressives are busy blogging about the books Palin tried to ban. Did she really bill the state of Alaska for the nights she spent in her own home? Did she really hire a lobbyist to secure money for the infamous 'bridge to nowhere?' Is she really against abortion even in cases of rape and incest? Does she really want creationism taught in our schools? Yes! Yes! And Double Yes!!! And all the while, women aged 18 to 44, who are supposed to care about such things, are busy buying Sarah dolls, and librarian-style eyeglasses.

The facts aren't resonating here, folks.

Schmidt delivered the infamous 'celebrity' punch after Obama amassed a couple hundred thousand Europeans in Germany this summer to deliver a smart talk on foreign policy. But that isn't keeping Schmidt and Co. from hyping their own celebrity to win this election for McCain and his band of lobbyists, I mean, executive producers.

Obama, and the progressives gnashing their teeth, need to understand that, as with Gore in 2000, and Kerry in 2004, facts aren't going to sway our American Idol electorate, and that includes the most frustrating fact of all: That the majority of the people voting for the McCain/Palin ticket will continue to be worse off economically if the GOP wins. It'll take another Katrina, horribly botched, or, God forbid, another war, entered into for all the wrong reasons, to wipe the star dust from these voters' eyes in say, about 5 years or so.

In the meantime, what's an Obama to do? Continued...

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John McCain: Campaign Lobbyist in Chief


Cross-posted on The Huffington Post

John McCain's attempted co-opt of the Obama campaign's change message avoids the fact that McCain has surrounded himself with a campaign staff of top Washington Republican lobbyists:
When McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways. Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.
And this from the Washington Post :
Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic. The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.
A look at McCain past and present campaign advisers/lobbyists' (partial) client lists:

Charlie Black
, chief campaign advisor who stated that another terrorist attack on U.S. soil "certainly it would be a big advantage to him [McCain];" lobbied for Occidental Petroleum, Chevron Texaco, Philip Morris, Thales Group, Yukos Oil, Lockheed Martin, Blackwater, Ferdinand Marcos, Zaire dictator, Mobuto Sese Seko, Angola Rebel, Jonas Savimbi and Iraqi, Ahmad Chalabi.

Rick Davis
, campaign manager: Verizon, SBC Communications.

Steve Schmidt
, chief campaign strategist and Karl Rove's protege, worked for Dick Cheney and: "Steve Schmidt, the new man in day-to-day charge of the McCain presidential campaign, stoutly defended his lobbying and PR firm's hiring of Tim Griffin, a former prosecutor who figured in the U.S. attorneys firing scandal."

Nancy Pfotenhauer
, campaign spokeswoman: Lobbied for Koch Industries
Koch Industries Is The Secret Dirty Energy King. With $90 billion in annual sales, Koch Industries is the largest privately owned company in the United States. Begun in 1940 as an oil refining business by Fred Koch, his company -- now controlled by sons David and Charles Koch -- has diversified into "refining and chemicals; process and pollution control equipment and technologies; minerals and fertilizer; fibers and polymers; commodity and financial trading and services; and forest and consumer products" -- a global warming pollution factory. [Forbes, 2007]
Randy Scheunemann, foreign policy adviser: Lobbied for the Republic of Georgia.
Republican presidential nominee John McCain told USA TODAY on Sunday that he has no problem with his top foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann's past lobbying work. [snip] Scheunemann and others at the think tank wrote to President Bush nine days after the 9/11 attacks, urging "a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." Scheunemann founded a group called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq during the run-up to the March 2003 invasion.
Phil Gramm, past economic adviser (thrown under the bus, then let back in...), sponsored the Enron Loophole legislation, stated: "you've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," and "We have sort of become a nation of whiners." Continued...


Sarah Palin as George Bush


In a polemic penned by George Bush's former speechwriter, Sarah Palin attempted to define Barack Obama as her equal and John McCain as above them both, while avoiding any subject of substance.

Sorry, Sarah, that husky don't hunt.

Palin's (Matthew Scully's) speech revealed a surprising parallel to George Bush -- albeit with phonetic care given to the correct pronunciation of certain words -- in her bid to become vice president to an aging politician with a history of health problems amid a pointed lack of relevance to the issues at hand and a cynical willingness to distort the truth.

The RNC talking points/heads are now questioning the media for pointing out that Palin's speech was written by Bush's former speechwriter (who'd only met her a week before).

What about the democrats, they char
ge; are you asking them who writes their speeches???

The answer, in the case of Barack Obama, at least -- since he was the focus of Scully's speech -- is that Barack Obama is the primary writer of his own speeches, a point the RNC has made many times in their attempts to denigrate his abilities as both a writer and speaker.

As for Senator Biden, no one can accuse him of not speaking his mind or of not caring about women's issues, given that he was the driving force behind the Violence Against Women Act.

What was missing from Scully's speech for Palin, aside from actual support for women's issues, was any discussion of policy, any mention of current events; no compassionate conservatism about the huge ice sheet -- the size of Manhattan -- that just broke loose in the Arctic; the approach of Hurricane Ike that has already swelled to a Category 4; the wolves she rewards her constituents for shooting; the fact that she does not believe in man-made global warming; her support for the teaching of creationism in schools; her opposition to equal pay, access to health care and those pesky books she wanted banned from libraries...
[Former Wasilla mayor] Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
Those who question Palin's policies do not receive an answer to their questions, while any concern about her qualifications as a future commander-in-chief are dismissed as sexism. That's silly, of course. Especially when the only information her speechwriter has offered constitutes identity politics and divisive attacks on community organizers, parroting a new campaign by Rush Limbaugh to define such community organizers, many of whom are ethnic in background, as "radical activists."

Are we to accuse the RNC and their media allies of racism?

Or perhaps it's conservative elitism: We don't need no stinking "radical activists" stirring up disenfranchised ethnic communities and getting them to demand a fair shake. Continued...

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