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Protecting coal ash

Coal ash, the residue left by coal-powered power plants, is some nasty stuff. Thank God we have ALEC trying to prevent the feds from regulating it:

At least 49 coal-fired power plants have acknowledged that one or more of their ash ponds or landfills have exceeded either Safe Drinking Water Act “Maximum Contaminant Limits” or state groundwater protection standards. The information was provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to an information collection request, and obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The data indicates that multiple contaminants at 116 coal ash disposal units at the 49 plants exceed federal or state standards, including arsenic (a potent carcinogen) reported at no fewer than 22 sites; manganese (a metal that can damage the nervous system in high concentrations) at 22; boron (a pollutant that can cause damage to the
stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, and brain when ingested in large amounts) at 12; selenium (a toxic pollutant that causes adverse health effects at high exposures) at 13; and cadmium (a toxic pollutant that can damage the kidneys, lungs, and bones) at 10.

The problem is, there’s no uniform standard for measuring or reporting these contaminants. The EPA is trying to regulate coal ash, but our old friends at ALEC are trying to prevent any attempt to regulate it.

That’s where Rep. David McKinley (WV-1) comes in. He’s a member of the Tea Party caucus, the chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, and also sits on the House Energy and Commerce committee.

McKinley, who’s running against Democrat Sue Thorn, has raised $1.5 million so far in his reelection campaign, the largest single category of contributions come from mining interests. McKinley introduced a bill to that prevents the federal government from regulating coal ash – and coincidentally, I’m sure, the bill also mirrors a coal ash resolution passed by ALEC.

He claims the responsible thing is to recycle the ash as building materials. (Of course! What could possibly go wrong?)

The Department of Homeland Security under Bush refused to release the dump locations, supposedly because an enemy could use the information to contaminate a large area. (Or they were afraid the locals would freak out after a 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill turned into a massive environmental disaster.)

Anyway, if you live in McKinley’s district, Sue Thorn looks like a much better alternative – and certainly better for your health.

From the Wall Street Journal, columnist Justin Lahart takes a look at how state and local job losses drove up the unemployment rate. Let’s remember that the states run by Republican governors insisted on paying for tax cuts by laying over government workers, and that the Republicans in Congress and their Blue Dog enablers who blocked government spending to the states did their part, too. (Remember “jobs, jobs, jobs”? Thanks, Grand Old Piranas!)

One reason the unemployment rate may have remained persistently high: The sharp cuts in state and local government spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the layoffs those cuts wrought.

The Labor Department’s establishment survey of employers — the jobs count that it bases its payroll figures on — shows that the government has been steadily shedding workers since the crisis struck, with 586,000 fewer jobs than in December 2008. Friday’s employment report showed the cuts continued in April, with 15,000 government jobs lost.

But the survey of households that the unemployment rate is based on suggests the government job cuts have been much, much worse.

In April the household survey showed that that there were 442,000 fewer people working in government than in March. The household survey has a much smaller sample size than the establishment survey, and so is prone to volatility, but the magnitude of the drop is striking: It marks the largest decline on both an absolute and a percentage basis on record going back to 1948. Moreover, the household survey has consistently showed bigger drops in government employment than the establishment survey has.

The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn’t been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.

Ceteris is rarely paribus, of course: If there were more government jobs now, for example, it’s likely that not as many people would have left the labor force, and so the actual unemployment rate would be north of 7.1.

Economist Jared Bernstein adds:

A few additional points, if I may:

  • these are real jobs by real people of the type you see everyday when you drop your kid off at school, get a speeding ticket (whoops…bad e.g., but you know what I mean), or pass a firehouse. You see their work when you go to a soccer game at a public field that’s in decent shape or stroll in a public park.
  • there’s a significant multiplier to state and local spending, both in terms of contracting out work to private entities and spending by public workers in their communities (Zandi puts it at 1.4–for a dollar of state fiscal relief, GDP grows $1.4).

Planning a race war

Just another reason Orlando is home to the Happiest Place On Earth!

(Reuters) – Ten alleged members of a white supremacist group training near Orlando and Disney World for a “race war” have been rounded up in a series of arrests in central Florida, authorities said on Tuesday.

The arrests were based on evidence from a confidential informant who infiltrated the neo-Nazi organization known as the American Front 17 months ago, according to an arrest affidavit.

“The American Front (AF) is a military-styled, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, skinhead organization and is known as a domestic terrorist organization,” the affidavit said.

It said the group’s alleged local ringleader, Marcus Faella, 39, had been “planning and preparing the AF for what he believes to be an inevitable race war” and had stated “his intent … to kill Jews, immigrants and other minorities.”

Faella operated a heavily fortified paramilitary training center for the AF on his isolated property in St. Cloud, Florida, 11 miles from the Walt Disney World theme parks, according to the affidavit.

It said he recently had been plotting a disturbance at Orlando City Hall and a confrontation against a rival skinhead group in coastal Melbourne in a bid to garner media attention, but had also been experimenting with the potential manufacture of the biological toxin ricin.

Ed to Obama: Man up on marriage equality

I have to agree with Ed Rendell on this one: Obama’s not going to lose any votes he already has if he comes out in support of marriage equality:

During an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday morning, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) — who supported marriage equality while in office — called on President Obama to back the cause and lead on the issue. “I think he should do exactly what [former RNC chairman] Michael Steele said he should do. He should man up and say, this is what I believe. And I think he doesn’t lose any African-American votes,” he said.

“The people who vote solely on this issue, single issue voter, gay marriage, none of them are voting for Barack Obama now and they’re not going to vote for him whether he says he’s against it.”

Absolutely true. I’d be surprised if anyone decided not to vote for Rendell on this issue — and we live in Pennsyltucky!

As to Obama’s perceived risk in offending black church members, there’s a glimmer of truth – but only a glimmer:

Since the passage of Proposition 8, much has been said about the supposed dramatic opposition to marriage equality among African Americans, fueled by National Election Pool (NEP) figures based on sampling in only a few precincts that erroneously indicated 70 percent of California’s African Americans supported Proposition 8. The study found that when religious service attendance was factored out, however, there was no significant difference between African Americans and other groups.

In other words, people of all races and ethnicities who worship at least once a week overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8, with support among white, Asian and Latino frequent churchgoers actually being greater than among African Americans.

“We clearly need to redouble our work with people of faith to overcome the notion that civil marriage for same-sex couples somehow threatens religious liberties and to convince them that protecting all families equally is the just and moral thing to do,” said the Rev. Mark Wilson, coordinator of African-American minister outreach for And Marriage for All.

Moreover, the study found that the level of support for Proposition 8 among African Americans was nowhere close to the NEP exit poll 70 percent figure. The study looked at pre- and post-election polls and conducted a sophisticated analysis of precinct-level voting data from five California counties with the highest African-American populations (Alameda (Oakland), Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco).* Based on this, it concludes that the level of African-American support for Proposition 8 was in the range of 57-59 percent. Its precinct-level analysis also found that many precincts with few black voters supported Proposition 8 at levels just as high or higher than those with many black voters.

As discussed earlier, the 57-59 percent figure — while higher than white and Asian-American voters — is largely explained by the higher rates of African-American religious service attendance: 57 percent of African Americans attend religious services at least once a week, compared to 42 percent of whites and 40 percent of Asian Americans.

“This study debunks the myth that African Americans overwhelmingly and disproportionately supported Proposition 8. But we clearly have work to do with, within and for African-American communities, particularly the black church,” said Andrea Shorter, director of And Marriage for All.

Besides, pulling the lever to support Prop 8 is still very, very different than pulling the lever for Republican Mitt Romney. I think Rendell’s right: Obama doesn’t have much to lose on this one, and he may gain some votes among those who are disaffected by his waffling on the issue.

Parting words

Go read what Dick Lugar said about his party’s extremists.

About why it was so necessary to stop gay marriage:

Arghh

The fucking hosting company wants screenshots of the error messages you get when you try to access the site. They “can’t help” unless we send them.

Back to the frying pan

He’s no gem, but he’s not Scott Walker:

Shrugging off millions of dollars spent by labor groups to defeat him, Tom Barrett walked to victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary and set up a more taxing sprint toward June 5 – a historic recall that will be a rematch of his unsuccessful 2010 race against Gov. Scott Walker.

In the recall primary, The Associated Press called the race for the Milwaukee mayor over former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, showing that more than $4 million doesn’t necessarily buy a close race.

Even as Barrett was campaigning to the primary win Tuesday, Walker was barnstorming the state, showing the fight he will bring to what is expected to be a tight, brutal month of campaigning for one of the most important elections to state office in Wisconsin history. A poll last week showed Walker and Barrett in a dead heat.

Walker has been preparing for months for the election that is just four weeks away, raising a record $25 million, while Barrett must now pivot toward this race with far fewer resources.

“We cannot fix Wisconsin with Walker as governor,” Barrett said in a statement. “This election is not about fighting past battles, it is about moving forward together to create jobs and get our economy moving again. Wisconsin cannot afford to continue to suffer through Walker’s ideological civil war.”

 

 

 

You were right

All of you who were suspicious of that CIA al-Qaeda plot.

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