Tuesday, December 30, 2008

this was a comment I received from a friend to an earlier post--

Ironically, although gas prices are down, propane prices haven't dropped significantly - at least not in Wisconsin that I've noticed. So, although you can take that trip to Grandma's house in your new SUV out here, she could be freezing if she doesn't have any alternative to propane, because she can't afford to turn the thermostat up.

I wish someone was giving more thought to vehicles for farmers. Out here, trucks are tools and every farmer needs them or something like them to haul stuff. It seems to me that no one is serious about designing fuel efficient, much less alternative fuel vehicles for rural use. We have practical transportation problems in winter rural climates that make 4WD a necessity, for clearance as well as traction. We used to own a Toyota Tercel Hatchback that got excellent mileage and had to put it on blocks from November until April because it was totally useless on snowy back country roads. If we owned something like the little Smart Car we saw buzzing around in Milwaukee yesterday we'd have to do the same thing - store it until it was practical again. Let's hope Obama and Co. wake up where rural transportation is concerned.

How true is this? I was involved in a job where I was driving in the mountains in very rural areas every day and I drove a 4-wheel drive pickup every day. It was a necessary tool. I had to have a bed haul weight of 1,000 pounds so that put me over small pickups. I know, I tried a 4 cylinder ranger. Not an option for what I did.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Car Stuff

On one of my favorite subjects, I see in a report in the USA Today Business section on Friday that now that gas prices are down, Americans have quit buying compact and economic cars (down 63% from when gas prices peaked) and are now looking at larger cars and I am guessing trucks. If nothing else the American consumer is amazingly stupid. Again, my opinion. I am not saying all consumers need small cars or should not drive trucks. But how often I see one person in a vehicle, I wonder how big, how fast or how uneconomical they need to be. In terms of national security, the less foreign oil we use the better. Maybe there is a market for upscale smaller cars.

Cars of quality--I rent many cars as I travel and some are underpowered, some are tinny, some are solid and some have neat little extras like really, really nice seats with adjustable bolsters and automatic headlights. Some are old rear-wheel drive dinosaurs (used when driving around three or more people and you don't want an SUV.) It is just hard for the American psyche, where cars are part of identity and not only tools. There are many good reasons for higher corporate fuel economy standards. I can remember the first time CAFE standards and emission standards were introduced, cars really became large, underpowered objects. In the last ten years more powerful cars with better controls and comfort were the norm. Try driving a '63 Bug to see how far amenities have come with the same gas mileage. Better handling, more quiet, more power and much safer. and in some cases, more fun. I think, regardless of what auto makers say, that if the CAFE standards were raised again, they would rise to the occasion and make better cars. I know deisel truck drivers feel that soot traps and emission standards will put them out of business. Probably not, the market will adapt and the roads and the air will be cleaner.

As an aside, I am always amazed at how many big SUVs and pick-up trucks proudly have "Support Our Troops" stickers on them, or America Proud (aka love it or leave it) on them. So let me get this straight--you want to own a vehicle that burns more fuel, keeps us on foreign oil, embroiled in conflicts to keep the pipelines open to America and then want to Support Our Troops?! Doesn't this begin to seem incongruous?

On another note, GMAC is now being recognized as a financial institution by TARP and will be eligible for bail out funds if they broaden their business to include banking. You know they will and GM will have less control over it. They have already sold 51% to Cerberus (the holding firm that owns most of Chrysler.)Time to pack.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Political Expediency and Obama

From my best friend's blog--

This is the best statement I have seen about Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural.

"A couple of boys were calling my best friend a faggot one unhappy day at summer camp. Courses of action seemed slim to my adolescent mind. I could stand up for Jack branding myself a fag as well and insuring myself a miserable summer, or I could join in with the name callers, lose my closest friend, but assure my standing with the majority. I sacrificed my friend on the altar of popularity.

I don't think I need to tell you that political expediency was a terrific short-term solution but a long-term nightmare. My summer concluded uneventfully but none of those boys became my friend or did me any favors. And forty years later I still feel the loss of Jack along with a piece of my self respect that I can never win back. Mine was an act of cowardice and betrayal."

It seems Obama is now maneuvering through the summer camp of his political adolescence and is about to make the same bad choice as I. He can call the placing of a hate monger like Rick Warren on the world dais political healing or inclusiveness or any other nicety he'd like, but I call it pandering to the lowest instinct of the worst kind of politics."President Elect Obama, your victory was made possible in no small part to the votes and wallets of the gay and lesbian community along with our supporters. Turning your back on us does not make you more mainstream American. It just makes you a coward." -- Harvey Fierstein

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Heartbreak in the Christmas Season

In Richmond, CA a woman has been brutally gang-raped because she was a identified as a lesbian. I cannot tell you how glad I am that the Mormons, Catholics and other legitimized homophobia. Nothing like religion and God to back up hate. Happy Yule season.

At least Richmond is recognizing this as a hate crime. Not so good for this man. The last line is a classic--
"Shreveport police say they are investigating and the FBI may also get involved to determine if this is a hate crime."

Let me get this straight in my head: black man wearing Obama shirt is beaten by someone who was acting like a redneck and saying "F Obama" and calling him the n-word. I don't know, could it be a hate crime? d'oh. The FBI should be on this with no questions.

There are times I am so sad for humanity, and wonder if we are really human.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Place This Plug Where the Sun Don't Shine

Great, now health-care givers with a conscience can refuse service to those who they feel are doing unethical things. You know, like abortion. Tony Perkins is probably having a party in his pants as I type! and federal funding can be cut off if a worker is not allowed their rule of conscience.

let's face it. This rule is a mysogynistic attempt by a group of true believers not to have to do what they feel is SIN. Well, I am loosely a Christian (in the gnostic sense). I am also defined by my profession as a health service provider. As a water operator, I am regulated by the same state body that regulates nurses in CA. Does this mean I have the right to refuse judgmental Christians (judge not, lest ye be judged) water and wastewater services. You know, go buy bottled water and use this plug to help until you get out of my district. I mean they are sinning.

If I see bumber stickers on a ginormous SUV or pickup stating I support the war, can I just shut off their war as they are murderers by association.

Let the games begin.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

I See Germany, I see France, I See Conspiracies In People's Underpants

Karl Rove's internet guru died in a plane crash in Ohio. Sad. Seeing human life extinguished anywhere is somewhat sad.

But here we have a guy who was going to testify in a voter fraud case concerning voter fraud in Ohio. His firm ran many GOP servers. Much of the missing email traffic concerning the contested firing of Attorneys General ran through his firm, instead of the White House server (I didn't mean to get rid of the backup, I just lost the tapes). The vote-counting in Ohio in 2004, which gave Bush the Presidency for another 4 years, was diverted from Ohio to a site in Tennessee, which just so happened to house the GOP server too. So the crucial votes in Ohio were tallied in Tennessee by the same site that houses the GOP server. And only for a few hours. And this is what he was going to testify about.

His plane crashed as he was flying from Ohio to Washington DC. He ran out of gas around Akron. Excuse me, but if I am flying from Ohio to Washington DC, I would check the gas level before I left. Maybe fill the tank. So he did not even make out of the state of his departure when the gas ran out. Right before he was to testify. How convenient.

I wonder if he knows Ken Lay. He committed suicide before he could testify.


The Sunday Morning Edition

Yes, today is Sunday, where I get a chance to relax, read the paper and do Sudoku. Ahhhhhh!

So I have gentler rants of things seen in the paper.

1) Honda had to pull out of Formula 1 because of the economy. They were getting little return on an annual investment of maybe $100,000,000 per year. Audi likewise pulled out of American Le Mans series (where they had won everything in site for over 10 years.) Reminds of the joke we used to tell in our old auto shop (we ran two Pro Rally cars out of the shop). "How do you make a little money racing cars?" Start with a lot of money.

2) Canada is bailing out US auto manufacturers in Canada to keep them there. There economy would be hurt worse than the American economy if the Big Three went down.

3) Great article in the NY Times about how companies are cutting out 101k matching contributions as credit has dried up. Pensions have basically disappeared as American workers were told that "the company will match the 401k contribution and you can live on your investments." I am so glad that Social Security was not put into Wall Street, even though I am betting the plan was to put Social Security into Wall Street to cover how bad it really was. The next president would have found that there was a time bomb there and would have had the recession named after them. Things fell apart before the hot potato could be passed.

Anyhow, the point being that there was great quotation in the article which I will paraphrase- "The last thirty has been a grand experiment of workers making their own investments for their own retirement and it has failed."

4) The Bush Administration did not know how big the housing bubble was. They were unaware as late as early this year. How long ago did Atrios nickname this the Big Shitpile?

5) Lost in all the verbiage over the health of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River delta and all the new regulations is one point that is very important to me. Background-I have wastewater treatment licenses in a mess of states and helped write the new Water Environment Foundation Wastewater Plant Operation Manual. For as large and environmentally progressive California is supposed to be, what I have seen is a stranglehold of regulations, three wastewater agencies that don't work and play well together, tons of reporting and mandatory fines unlike any other state. Yet, the discharge standards in this state are the most lenient I have seen in years. For example, I ran a small wastewater plant the mountains of Colorado. The discharge limit for ammonia there was < 1.3 mg/L ammonia because of fish toxicity. Here in CA, fish are dying, especially salmonoids, and no one talks about the lack of ammonia limits. Sacramento alone puts 14 TONS of ammonia into the river annually. The excuse from the State is the flows are so high, there will not be a toxicity problem. That is right--The Solution to Pollution is Dilution!!!!! This was an old refrain from engineers that few reasonable people use any more. Heck, San Diego places primary treated sewage (meaning let 50-75% of the solids settle and we'll let the rest of the shit and water combination be discharged to the ocean. It can be diluted there. Makes you want jump right out there and swim on the beaches, doesn't it. BTW, Anchorage does the same thing because the area around Anchorage is basically dead because of glacial till so their not really hurting wildlife (in their opinion). Ever here of tides, idiots??!!

Also, California has this great thing called economic benefit. Meaning it would cost cities too much to actually treat the sewage to the level acceptable around the country. Wow. I know other areas have that clause in their laws too. But CA pulls that one out a lot. And oddly enough, smaller towns and polluters have to clean up sewage more than big cities do (keep in mind, I do not know how well LA cleans up their sewage). Just like Denver in CO has lower effluent limits than small towns. Why, because of costs.

You would think the reason to have BIG central sewage plants would be that the economy of scale would mean better treatment than a whole bunch of little plants, but that is seldom the case. The smaller plants get hammered because they can afford less lawyers and have less political pull than big cities (aka polluters).

Given that large centralized wastewater plants in areas of low flow and water diversions like in CO, or other arid areas can actually move water from its normal runoff point in a stream to a more centralized location somewhere else downstream, you would think that state environmental protection departments would want more smaller plants discharging at various locations and not disrupting the historical flows in streams, so water right diversions would not lower river and stream flows to the point where wildlife would be affected. Sadly, that is not the case. Ride your bike down the Platte River trail in Denver when there is a drought and see that the river can almost be dry until you get to the Denver Metro Wastewater Plant and all the effluent from the Denver area gets back into the river flow.

The diversion of the Arvada WWTP similarly affects the flows on Ralston Creek. The lack of North Lakewood and Wheat Ridge WWTP effluent can let Clear Creek run almost dry as their flows go to Denver now.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Many things to opine about today--

Sunday's can be fun, when you actually have time to think...

1) and I finally watched Iron Man two nights ago, got tired and shut it off at the credits. Today, I watched one of my favorite movies (hey, it combines good music, good food, pretty women and a romance. All its missing is American football and death and destruction and makes me realize I still can't make a good mole), Tortilla Soup, and saw in a later show a scene of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. I guess his scene in Iron Man came after the credits and I missed it. Well, time to rent it again, just to see that scene. And I am glad that Marvel is now working on their own movies. I can justify being a geeky kid who bought Marvel comics since they were 10 cents an issue. Quite unlike the $2.99 I paid yesterday for Wolverine, the Geriatric (or something like that. hey, it is definitely amusing and fun to read). Makes me wish I still had my 20,000 comics. Now I can be an informed geek, look cool in my intellectual knowledge of Thanos and Pipp the Troll. Or does that make just me an AARP nerd? At least I don't use pocket protectors anymore.

2) Government report out today showing that the government, when it could not prove how splendiforous things were in Iraq (aka Biggest Foreign Policy Blunder Ever That May Make America a Second-Class Debtor Country for At Least a Century), pulled shit out of its ass to make everything look great. Nice to know some people never get past being high school seniors. One Highlight--

The document has former secretary of state Colin Powell complaining that after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department "kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces -- the number would jump 20,000 a week! We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.'"


Not Even $1 Billion For Iraq's Reconstruction?

To oversee post-war relief efforts, the Pentagon created the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, a brand-new agency put in charge only two months before the war began. While ORHA's troubles have long been known, the inspector general's report provides new details on the depth of disagreements between the Pentagon and ORHA's director, retired general Jay Garner.

Garner also approached Rumsfeld for reconstruction funding, but the Secretary similarly was not persuaded by Garner's list. Garner presented Rumsfeld with four rebuilding scenarios, from "do what absolutely needs to be done and no more" to "redo the whole country of Iraq."

"What do you think that'll cost?" Rumsfeld asked, regarding the fourth scenario.

"I think it's going to cost billions of dollars," Garner said.

"My friend," Rumsfeld replied, "if you think we're going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken."

In the five years following that remark, the United States appropriated nearly $50 billion for Iraq's relief and reconstruction."

Maybe this is the CEO Presidency after all. And to get rid of The Shrub, maybe all we need to do is offer him a legacy and a bonus. We can dream, can't we?

3) Sarah Palin's church is burnt by arson. You know, I don't care how little I think of fundamentalist churches, that just isn't right. Would i like it if a Wiccan or Buddhist or Muslim place of worship were destroyed? No, No, No.

4) Bosnia and Hezegovina are poised to erupt again because of economic hard times. Nothing like a little hard times and lack of food and shelter for people to start blaming again. see number 3.

5) great little article in the Sacramento Bee (the best paper I have subscribed to in years!!! more news that both Denver papers put together) about how right-wing talk show hosts are scared that the fairness doctrine, if it is reenacted, may put them out of business. What happens if progressive voices had as much air time as regressive? They now control over 90% of the air time.

6) another good article in the paper today about Green Industry. Best Quotation:

"Smart companies, investors and policymakers know that this is hardly so. Consider this: Several studies verify that equivalent investments in renewable energy sources generate jobs at a 4-1 or even 6-1 ratio if compared with those created by industries exploiting fossil fuels such as natural gas."

because most green jobs are labor and the money stays in the State or local region as opposed to buying coal or gas or fuel oil, where it goes to another state or another country.

7) Finally, a great 8-page article on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and future plans there. Keep in mind, without water exports to the Central Valley there would be little food for America and people in SoCal would be without water, but if it is managed the same way it is now, it is probable many fisheries will die. period. Now, what to do? For background, it would be wonderful to read Cadillac Desert, as the ramifications of western water policy are laid bare and they are not pretty, but the question always remains, now what do we do? You can't undo what has been done and LA and San Diego need the water. Do you want to tell 6,000,000 people to move to the Midwest? There is more water law in Colorado than there is civil or criminal law. What to do rationally?

8) and you have to love the auto industry one more time. honest. Congress screws you over, turn to god.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cars and Chemistry!

I see today that VP Lutz of GM is saying okay to the car czar. Tacit approval to have an overseer. How bizarre has this story become? We piss away money at banks and insurance companies, they continue to get bonuses for failing and auto makers have to walk over hot coals on their knees to get a loan. And southern states are pissed (Thanks, Senator Shelby of Alabama) because their non-union auto workers for foreign companies must be protected. In the 60s and 70s the mandate (no Jeffrey Gannon jokes, honest) to buy American was a conservative dictum. Nowadays, not so much. I think we have proven that fiscal conservatism really is not about free market economy, but free money for the upper class. The bailout has proved that. A real free marketer would say let the banks and economy go down! But get a chance to bust the unions and the chops of the car companies, just to show you can't push around money men and power brokers, and they will grind down those industries. Makes no sense. Except if you look at it as a power play. and it avoids the real issue of health care adding to the expense of every car. It will be resolved when a real President takes over. Will everyone like the resolution? Probably not, but at least some Adult will make a decision! The elephant in the room is health care costs borne by every employer, but no one wants to say it yet. The auto industry is asking for a LOAN for pity's sake. and are willing to accept strings. But that is not obsequeious enough for right-wingers who want to bust the UAW. Or for Democrats who feel the industry must be punished for piss-poor vision. Time to get over our petty squabbles and realize we need the industrial base.

On another subject completely--

The fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta/San Francisco estuary are disappearing. So much so that salmon fishing had to be stopped this year in hopes of possibly repopulating the salmon run, which dropped from hundreds of thousand salmon to less than 40,000 fish.

Surprise, surprise. Pollution is a cause, as is the continual diversion of water to Southern CA, where it used for drinking water and crop irrigation (take away the water and America goes hungry, period). Heck, the canals are larger than any river in CO and WY, except the Colorado River. In the long run, the water is getting so salty, eventually it will kill the land in the long run (my dire prediction, no references and this is based on salinity results I see at water and wastewater plants extrapolated over 100 years). Of note in an article in today's Sacramento Bee:

"If the fish living in this water are not healthy and are passing contaminants to their young, what is happening to the people who use the water, are exposed to the same chemicals or eat the fish," Ostrach said in a news release Monday.

These contaminants are PCBs, which have been outlawed for 30+ years and are still influencing the food chain, pesticides (which are continually being aerial sprayed over fields in CA--can't imagine aerial sprayers ever missing the crops and getting it in the water, not from flooded rice fields next to the rivers, or that pilots may overspray just to charge more. I am sure they are major environmentalists who just make their living spraying poison.) and fire retardants! Yes, those chemicals we use to keep babies clothes and furniture from burning are now in the food chain. and in such large numbers that it is showing up in breast milk routinely in SF. Better living through chemistry, eh!

The complete article is very interestig and can be found here.


Monday, December 01, 2008

These ads are running on TV now in CA. Thankfully!

Maybe someone will listen. If there was more diligence when it came to tracking down the criminals of Iran-Contra, instead of concerning ourselves with looking forward and healing--this administration would not have had a free pass. Or at least hired the same dudes. They would have been disgraced and behind bars.