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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 02:31 PM
Number of posts: 53,475

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My sister's reminder to keep things in perspective

Wisconsin: Tom Tiffany’s lump of coal Christmas (Gogebic mine issue)


GOP State Senator Tom Tiffany, alleged author and prime mover of Wisconsin’s new ferrous mining law, had a pretty bad Christmas. First it was the news that Gogebic Taconite president Bill Williams may be facing trial in Spain on charges of criminal damage to the environment. It seems that the same technology Williams claimed would safeguard the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior failed to protect an aquifer near Seville, Spain, from arsenic contamination resulting from a copper mine Williams oversaw. It also seems that Williams likely knew his ass could end up in a Spanish sling even as he was touting the new technology to northern Wisconsin residents. Ouch!

And now the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received a letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers stating that the Corps has declined to work with the WDNR on a joint environmental impact statement regarding the proposed open pit mine in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills. Former DNR secretary George Meyer, currently Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, says the discrepancies between Wisconsin’s timeline and the Corps’ requirements could add up to five years or more to the permitting process and could result in more lengthy litigation, which would no doubt push the project back even further. Double ouch, Tommy!

Williams legal troubles alone were enough to prompt Ashland County board chair Pete Russo and board supervisor Charles Ortman to pen an op-ed for the Ashland Daily Press calling for a repeal of the ferrous mining law, arguing that if the public had known that Williams was not telling the truth about the efficacy of new engineering technology in protecting water quality the bill wouldn’t have passed. They’re probably right.

To top it off, a recent survey conducted by researchers from UW Superior showed that most respondents in Ashland and Iron Counties are opposed to open pit mining in the Penokee Hills, as are Wisconsin’s northern Ojibwe tribes, who have written a joint letter to President Obama asking him to instruct the Department of the Interior to prepare litigation to stop the mine. Ouch, ouch and ouch again.

The 24 Most Valuable Christmas Lessons From Calvin And Hobbes


24. The holidays are a time for personal reflection.


17. The Christmas list is both strategic and an art.

16. A first draft will get the juices flowing.


5. After all, consumerism isn’t all bad.

Retired cops, activist pensioners, and the economic blowback over Snowden


Retired cops, activist pensioners, and the economic blowback over Snowden

ON DECEMBER 23, 2013

Certainly, an image of aging lawmen from the Dixie south probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind. And yet, it was none other than the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension Fund – aka retired Bayou State cops – that last week jumped to the front of the throng that’s been criticizing tech companies’ all-too-close relationship with the NSA. Of course, many of the headlines surrounding the sheriffs’ shareholder lawsuit against IBM overstated what the suit is really all about. Yes, their case is generally about the tech sector’s work with the NSA, but no it is not necessarily criticizing that work unto itself.

Instead, the lawsuit more narrowly focuses on the company’s longtime association with the NSA and its lead role publicly lobbying for a federal law that would likely expand data sharing between tech companies and the spy agency. Citing that as background, the suit claims that IBM management knew Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s international spying would almost certainly damage the company’s technology business in China – a country that is already paranoid about corporate-shrouded NSA infiltration. Yet, as the lawsuit alleges, IBM management nonetheless kept issuing positive pronouncements about its business prospects in China even as the Snowden revelations coincided with both a decline in its Chinese revenues and a Chinese government investigation into the company.

As summed up by the pension fund’s legal team in an interview with Pando, the Louisiana sheriffs argue that the company’s positive pronouncements were deliberately misleading and that therefore the fund and other IBM shareholders were defrauded.

For its part, IBM management deemed the lawsuit “a wild conspiracy theory.” But no matter the resolution of this particular case, it spotlights how the NSA controversies are not just about civil liberties and privacy, nor do the controversies only create predictable political coalitions. Snowden’s revelations are also about legal exposure, shareholder rights, and the esoteric politics of investor activism in the brave new world of economic blowback.

Gee, the NSA spying "blowback" causing the US tech sector to lose as much as $180 billion is ruffling feathers. No one could have predicted that.

NSA Employee of the Month

There'll be no going back ...

Great article about Green Bay Packer fan George Halas


"Believe me, Coach Halas loved to beat the Packers," said Mike Ditka, former Bears tight end and head coach. "I had no clue about the rivalry, but I quickly found out. Every year, we had to play them twice, and those were the most important games of the year to him." But Halas also had a soft spot for the league's smallest franchise. "Coach Halas had tremendous respect for Vince Lombardi," Ditka said. "There may not have been any (love lost with Curly Lambeau), but he had great respect for Lombardi and the Packers organization."

Halas and Lambeau, two competitive and impatient men with large egos, went head-to-head from 1921-'49, setting the tone for one of the greatest rivalries in professional sports. But Halas also greatly valued the survival of struggling franchises to ensure the NFL grew and prospered.


Green Bay became an official professional franchise of the American Professional Football Association in 1921 (renamed the NFL in 1922), but lost the franchise after the first season due to illegal use of college players in a 20-0 loss to the Chicago Staleys (now Bears) on Nov. 27, 1921. Green Bay was expelled from the league during its winter meeting in January 1922. While it was Halas who was instrumental in bringing the infractions to the league's attention, he also fought to reinstate the Packers.


Green Bay returned the favor in 1932, when the Chicago franchise was struggling. According to the Packers media guide and the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Halas accepted a $1,500 loan from the Packers to meet his payroll.

Much more at the link.

The United States uses 39% of the energy it produces, wastes 61%


This graph produced by the Lawrence Livermore National Lab is no doubt one of my favorites (others are this graph that shows the rapidly falling cost of solar, and this one that shows all solar PV efficiency records since 1975). It gets updated yearly and shows all of the main energy sources in the U.S., what they are used for, and how much of that energy goes to useful work ("Energy services" and how much is wasted ("Rejected energy".

It can seem a bit depressing at first to learn that more than half of the energy in the U.S. is being wasted, but we have to remember that the laws of physics will always prevent us from reaching 100% efficiency. But even taking that into account, there's still a huge low-hanging fruit to be harvested with measures that boost energy efficiency and cut waste. For the environment, it's often better to cut 1 watt of demand (1 negawatt) than to add 1 watt of renewable energy supply, and it often costs less too...

One thing to note is just how inefficient the transportation sector's use of petroleum is. By going electric, massive gains could be made in efficiency, but it would also allow transportation to run on cleaner sources of power as we add more renewable sources to the power grid (and even dirty sources would be used more efficiently than with the internal combustion engine).

Wisconsin: Dems in legislature to introduce bill to restore collective bargaining for public employ

Real Democrats that support real Democratic ideals do indeed exist ...


MADISON – State Representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison), Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) and Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) announced today they will introduce a bill to reinstate the collective bargaining rights Governor Walker and legislative Republicans stripped from public workers last legislative session.

“I helped implement collective bargaining in the 1959 legislative session and it worked, resulting in over 50 years of labor peace in Wisconsin,” said Risser. “What Republicans did was unprecedented, spiteful and contrary to our Wisconsin values.”

The Workers’ Rights Restoration Act would repeal the anti-union provisions of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which essentially eliminated public employee unions and their right to their collective voices. The bill includes provisions detailing union certification, the collection of union dues and the ability to collectively bargain for working conditions.

“The wage gap between the rich and hard-working middle income families has never been greater,” said Taylor. “With middle-income wages stagnating, this bill benefits all workers in helping establish family supporting wages and benefits.” The bill takes into account concessions public workers publicly made with regards to paying into their health care and pensions. While the concessions were made publicly, they were not part of a negotiation with Walker, as he refused to come to the negotiating table with labor.

While this bill will never get through the Republican legislature, it will generate public discussion and help motivate Democratic voters in 2014.

Wisconsin: Gogebic Mine reeling from sucker punch

This warms my heart on a very cold morning ...


It's not like the Gogebic mine is down for the count, but a recent development has left it reeling and heading for a neutral corner. From a story today from Wisconsin Public Radio, the Army Corps of Engineers has sent the state DNR a letter saying that they will not be able to work with the DNR on some of the mine permitting process. There has always been speculation that this would be the outcome of the "streamlined" permitting process that was instituted by the state legislature.

The gist of this is that the Army Corps doesn't believe they can work with the state on developing an environmental impact statement due to the new artiificial time constraints imposed by the state mining bill. Therefore, there will be two different EIS's - one for the state, one for the federal government.

Former DNR secretary George Meyer is quoted in the story as saying "“From a practical standpoint, it puts the federal government in control of the regulatory process and makes the state process much more meaningless,” says Meyer. “It probably also will lead to more complicated and lengthy litigation.”

More litigation, more conflict with the federal government, and stalling things moving forward by trying to hurry them up. This is a familiar and repeating story from our current legislature, which apparently would not know good laws if they were socked in the eye with them. I suspect the final outcome of this will be that the permitting process for the mine will now be slower than it would have been had the state not decided to change the rules to benefit Gogebic. I would say this is ironic, but clearly irony is lost on our current legislators, who will continue to move legislation solely to support their ideology, while giving no thought to the long-term effects. Meyer speculates in this story that the permitting process could be delayed by at least five years by this development. So much for streamlining.
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