Patterico's Pontifications


NRC: Obama Can’t Close Yucca Mountain

Filed under: Environment,Government,Obama — DRJ @ 4:26 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A 3-judge Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel has ruled the Obama Administration can’t unilaterally close the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository site:

“Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the (Yucca repository) application. DOE’s motion must therefore be denied,” the judges wrote, adding that the DOE had weakened its arguments by “conceding that the application is not flawed nor the (Yucca) site unsafe.”

I doubt this will help Senator Harry Reid’s re-election chances unless the appeal lasts past November.



Tar Balls Wash Ashore in Texas (Updated)

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 3:09 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A Texas official says tar balls from the BP oil spill have washed ashore near Galveston.

The Texas oil spill response plan for the Galveston Bay area is here and the master Gulf plan is here (NOTE: Both are .pdf links). As Commissioner Patterson states, Texas officials consistently forecast that any oil in Texas would be in the form of tar balls:

“Any oil reaching Texas shores is expected to be in the form of weathered tar balls, which cannot be prevented by boom deployment and would necessitate aggressive physical removal. Texas’ General Land Office (GLO) has five coastal offices equipped with boats, 4×4 trucks, trailers, ATVs, and skimmers available for response activities. Silt curtains could be deployed to protect washouts.

“The Texas GLO’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program is well equipped and well trained,” Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said. “We know this could have happened off the Texas coast, so we’re ready on any given day for a spill.”

Meanwhile, initial tests of the A Whale skimmer were inconclusive because of rough seas:

“After an initial 48-hour testing period, results remain inconclusive in light of the rough sea state we are encountering,” said Bob Grantham, spokesman for the company. “Over this same period, very few other skimmers have even been deployed. Therefore, working in close coordination with the US Coast Guard, we will be undertaking an additional testing period to make operational and technological adjustments aimed at improving skimming effectiveness given the actual conditions we are encountering in the Gulf.”

Anyone get the feeling this testing period may last until the well is capped? On the other hand, the government has made one firm decision: The Obama Administration will take over control of Gulf oil spill central information website.


UPDATED 7/10/2010: For a change, there’s good news for BP. Lab tests show most of the Texas tar balls weren’t from the BP oil spill after all.


Redefining NASA

Filed under: Government,Obama — DRJ @ 7:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

There was a time when the mission of NASA — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — was “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” Not anymore:

“In the video below, Charles Bolden, head of NASA, tells Al Jazeera that the “foremost” task President Obama has given him is “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” Thus, NASA’s primary mission is no longer to enhance American science and engineering or to explore space, but to boost the self-esteem of “predominantly Muslim nations.”

Exploring space didn’t even make the top three things Obama wants Bolden to accomplish. The other two are “re-inspire children to want to get into science and math” and “expand our international relationships.”

Imagine the possibilities when little things like agency mission statements no longer apply.



Narco-Sub Found in Ecuador

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 6:31 pm

[Guest by DRJ]

Ecuadorian authorities have captured the first verified narco-sub:

“Long the stuff of drug-trafficking legend, federal authorities announced Saturday that they have seized the first known and fully operational submarine built by drug traffickers to smuggle tons of cocaine from South America toward the United States.”

Authorities wonder how many more subs like this are out there, and whether Customs officials should add a submarine hunting mission. Looks like that’s an affirmative.


Additions to Last Night’s Funding Bill

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 12:39 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The War Funding bill that passed the House last night had several additions such as the “Deemed as Passed” budget provision, FEMA funds for disaster assistance, and money to settle pending lawsuits with African-American farmers and Indians. It sounds like the funding for the Indian settlement wasn’t in question as much as funding for their lawyers. Was this a bonanza for some trial lawyers?

Meanwhile, in his Weekly Address, President Obama says the GOP is playing the “same old Washington games.” The Democrats have perfected the game.



America’s ‘Deem as Passed’ Budget (Updated)

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 9:31 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The House has deemed as passed a $1.12 Trillion budget:

“Last night, as part of a procedural vote on the emergency war supplemental bill, House Democrats attached a document that “deemed as passed” a non-existent $1.12 trillion budget. The execution of the “deeming” document allows Democrats to start spending money for Fiscal Year 2011 without the pesky constraints of a budget.

The procedural vote passed 215-210 with no Republicans voting in favor and 38 Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against deeming the faux budget resolution passed.

Never before — since the creation of the Congressional budget process — has the House failed to pass a budget, failed to propose a budget then deemed the non-existent budget as passed as a means to avoid a direct, recorded vote on a budget, but still allow Congress to spend taxpayer money.”

Rep. Paul Ryan’s response is at the link. He’s much calmer than I would have been so it’s fortunate he’s the one speaking for the GOP.

H/T Dustin.


UPDATE — More from The Hill:

“House Democrats passed a budget document Thursday that sets discretionary spending at levels below those proposed by President Barack Obama but doesn’t address how Congress should cut deficits.

The “budget enforcement resolution” Democrats are substituting for a traditional budget resolution sets discretionary spending for 2011 at $1.12 trillion, about $7 billion less than Obama’s proposal and $3 billion less than a Senate Democratic plan. It also sets a goal of cutting deficits to the point where revenues equal all spending except for interest payments on the debt.

But unlike traditional budget resolutions, this year’s version doesn’t detail how Congress should reach that goal, leaving those tough decisions to Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission.”

Article I of the United States Constitution sets forth the powers of Congress, and Section 9 Clause 7 provides that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” Can a bipartisan fiscal commission created by the Executive exercise power for Congress? Further, as Steven Den Beste raises in the comments, who has standing to object?

Anderson Cooper to the Government: “We Are Not the Enemy”

Filed under: Government,Obama — DRJ @ 8:20 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Anderson Cooper responds to the Obama Administration’s blanket rule that levies criminal sanctions against anyone, including the media, who fails to stay 65 feet away from booms or response vessels in the Gulf:

ANDERSON COOPER: “So keeping prying eyes out of marshes, away from booms, off the beaches is now government policy. *** If we can’t show what’s happening, warts and all, no one will see what’s happening and that makes it very easy to hide failure and hide incompetence.”


White House Work

Filed under: Government,Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 7:53 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The White House has released its list of employees and their annual pay:

** 469 employees at $38,796,307.00 per year **

Other than the President, the top pay is $172,200.00 per year for a range of employees including David Axlerod, Rahm Emanuel, speechwriter Jon Favreau, Robert Gibbs, and others. It’s not really that much for the hours they work but typically the power, fame, perks, and/or lucrative post-job opportunities make up for it.

Ironically (to me), former Attorney General and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales did not benefit from his White House service, even though most of his policies have been continued by the Obama Administration. In some ways he was a victim of the times and his willingness to take the heat for President Bush; in other ways he has only himself to blame. But Gonzales strikes me as the forgotten man from the Bush years, and that’s a shame given his [pre-Bush] accomplishments.


Day 74: Waiting on the A-Whale

Filed under: Environment,Government,Obama — DRJ @ 1:32 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Day 74 after the Oil Spill and the A-Whale is still waiting in the Gulf for the Coast Guard to give it permission to start skimming oil:

My partial transcript (emphasis supplied):

“Right now the crew of this ship is waiting on final permission from the Unified Command to start skimming oil in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a couple of issues that are being looked at right now. First of all, one of them is a safety issue. A ship this big out on the Gulf of Mexico needs about a half mile radius all the way around to operate safely, so they are trying to figure out if that’s possible.

There’s also some environmental concerns. Part of the way this ship works is that it brings in oil and water. It separates that and the water gets thrown back out into the Gulf of Mexico and they keep the oil. They’re also looking into whether or not that water that’s going to be discharged, what are the environmental impact of that. So that’s one of the things slowing it down.

But everyone aboard here thinks that it’s just a matter of time before this vessel is put in to fight the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the crew told us that they were being dispatched out into the Gulf of Mexico last night. They are waiting to see if they can at least do some tests for the Coast Guard to show them what that ship can do. Admiral Thad Allen said that he’s not quite ready to put this into play, that there are still some more questions that they want to look into. But he says he is hopeful that this will be a valuable tool in the fight to clean up this oil.”

This is beyond ridiculous. That the ship may be too big to easily turn or that it may not get 100% of the oil are clearly frivolous reasons to prevent it from deploying. The Obama Administration may be Hopeful things will Change but it isn’t doing much to make that happen.

Meanwhile, the newest models say there is a high chance oil will reach South Florida.


UPDATE: The U.S. also missed its June 30th 90% containment goal. Also, the skimmers returned to the Gulf after a 48-hour downtime for Hurricane Alex. Will the A Whale return with them?


Outsourcing Government in California

Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 9:06 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

When Maywood, California, couldn’t get insurance, it opted to lay off all its employees and outsource its functions. Instead, it will turn to the private sector, a move that is expected to save money without sacrificing services.

If this works, maybe other communities will get on board. Who knows? Maybe it would also work for health care.


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