Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Megadeth, "Black Friday."

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my family and friends. I love you guys!

Here's today's soundtrack.

In Philadelphia, radio icon Pierre Robert plays the entire song every Thanksgiving Day. Click here to listen to Pierre live or just watch the video.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


found in baby formula sold in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it had discovered the toxic chemical melamine in infant formula made by an American manufacturer, raising the possibility that the problem was more extensive in the United States than previously thought.

While few details were available late Tuesday, agency officials said they had discovered melamine at trace levels in a single sample of infant formula. It was also discovered in several samples of dietary supplements that are made by some of the same manufacturers who make formula.

F.D.A. officials insisted that the levels of melamine were so low that they did not pose a health threat.

“There’s no cause for concern or no risk from these levels,” said Judy Leon, an agency spokeswoman. Ms. Leon said the contamination was most likely the result of food contact with something like a can liner, or from some other manufacturing problems, but not from deliberate adulteration.

She declined to name the company that made the tainted infant formula.
Who is the FDA protecting by not naming the company? Not the American public. Not parents who might be unwittingly feeding their newborns tainted formula. Not the babies drinking possibly tainted formula.

But the FDA's abdication of its responsibilities goes beyond not telling the public the name of the company that produced tainted baby formula. The FDA has actually altered its position on melamine in baby formula. Note in the excerpt above that FDA officials said in the levels of melamine in the baby formula were so low that they did not pose a health threat. However, in a press release dated Oct. 3, 2008, the FDA said (emphasis mine):

FDA is currently unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns.

In large part, this is because of gaps in our scientific knowledge about the toxicity of melamine and its analogues in infants, including:

a. the consequences of the continuous use of infant formulas as the sole source of nutrition;
b. the uncertainties associated with the possible presence and co-ingestion of more than one melamine analogue; and
c. for premature infants with immature kidney function, the possibility that they may be fed these formulas as the sole source of nutrition and thus on a body weight basis experience greater levels of intake for a longer time than is experienced by term infants.

There is too much uncertainty to set a level in infant formula and rule out any public health concern. However, it is important to understand that this does not mean that any exposure to any detectable level of melamine and melamine–related compounds in formula will result in harm to infants.
It is also important to understand that it does not mean that any exposure to any detectable level of melamine and melamine–related compounds in formula WON’T result in harm to infants. What the FDA was saying is that, as of Oct. 3, 2008, it didn't know.

But now, less than two months after it issued that statement, the FDA apparently has identified a level of melamine in baby formula that does not raise public health concerns. And all it took was for melamine to show up in baby formula sold in the United States. A company (that the FDA declines to identify) produces baby formula with some melamine in it and voilà! there's suddenly a safe level of melamine in baby formula.

By the way, they're feeding this shit to livestock, too. For more, click here.

This post very easily could have been added to the post below, because eroding agencies established to protect public health and safety is just another part of the foul legacy of George W. Bush and, by extension, the foul legacy of the failed philosphy of conservatism.

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Life under the Bush administration and, therefore, life under conservative rule.

Fueled by rising unemployment and food prices, the number of Americans on food stamps is poised to exceed 30 million for the first time this month, surpassing the historic high set in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

The figures will put the spotlight on hunger when Congress begins deliberations on a new economic stimulus package, said legislators and anti-hunger advocates, predicting that any stimulus bill will include a boost in food stamp benefits. Advocates are also optimistic that President-elect Barack Obama, who made campaign promises to end childhood hunger and whose mother once briefly received food stamps, will make the issue a priority next year.

"We soon will have the most food stamps recipients in the history of our country," said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, a D.C.-based anti-hunger policy organization. "If the economic forecasts come true, we're likely to see the most hunger that we've seen since the 1981 recession and maybe since the 1960s, when these programs were established."
The conservative/GOP solution? Cut capital gains taxes.

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Time's Up

(click image to enlarge)

It's a long time until the next presidential election, and I doubt that Sarah Palin will be able to maintain the fallacy that she's relevant for that long. But let's hope so -- what better insurance could there be for a second Obama term than "Palin 2012?"

Frankly, I'd vote for Michael Palin before Sarah Palin. He seems to have a better understanding of government.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Inside the Republican heart

Know them by the company they keep, and the company they don't.

Back in September, when Dawson was first quietly laying the groundwork for his RNC run, The State newspaper reported that he resigned his membership in the nearly 80-year-old Forest Lake Club. Members told the newspaper at the time that the club’s deed has a whites-only restriction and has no black members.
Look, it's not like the GOP is making a tremendous effort to hide what it is: The party of racist, money-grubbing swine who work for the rich and hate the working class.

Sure, every four years Republicans try to portray themselves as populists and explain that their efforts to eliminate estate and capital-gains taxes are just their way of advocating for the working man, but this is a party that blames the woes of Ford, Chrylser and GM on greedy unionized workers who are victimizing the poor, helpless corporate giants (the GOP isn't about to say that the Big Three's troubles have anything to do with poor leadership, poor products or -- especially -- the lack of a single-payer heath coverage in the United States, which is a huge competitive disadvantage).

But the McCain campaign showed that hate-fucking American workers for three years and offering them flowers the fourth year is a losing strategy. Why else in a country of 300 million people would a campaign have to look so hard for, and lean so heavily on, a member of the working class who supports its policies, like Joe the (not a licensed) Plumber?

Hey, I hope Dawson wins the RNC chair, and that the right keeps up its desperate bullshit meme about this being a "center-right" country. Keep marginalizing yourselves right into oblivion, keep clinging to a failed strategy and keep living in the past while the rest of us progress into the 21st century without you.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

The Stones, "Sweet Neocon."

"Let it Loose" from "Exile on Main Street."

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's the economy, stupid

It's called a recession.

The number of American workers on the unemployment rolls surged to the highest in a quarter century and a regional manufacturing gauge slumped as U.S. economic misery intensified.

The reports on Thursday were the latest in a growing body of evidence that shows the United States has probably entered one of the worst downturns in decades, while economists expect the world's leading economies to be in recession for about a year.

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped last week to their highest level in 16 years, Labor Department data showed, suggesting next month's jobs data will add to the 1.2 million jobs already eliminated this year.

"No rest for the weary," said Carl Lantz, U.S. interest rate strategist at Credit Suisse in New York.

"It looks like we'll have another ugly payroll number in December."

Worse yet, the number of workers remaining on jobless benefits, or continuing claims, were the highest since December 1982, rising to 4.012 million in the week ended November 8, the latest data available, from 3.903 million the prior week.
Jan. 20 can't get here fast enough.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Five-deferment Dick and Fredo.

A Willacy County grand jury under District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra returned multi-count indictments Monday against Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, plus several other public officials.

The indictment accuses Cheney and Gonzales of engaging in organized criminal activity. It criticizes Cheney's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees by working through the prison companies.

Gonzales is accused of using his position while in office to stop an investigation into abuses at the federal detention centers.

Another indictment charges state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. with profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from prison management companies.

Also indicted are state District Judges Janet Leal, state District Judge Migdalia Lopez, The GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corporation), former U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacher, Gus Garza and Gilberto Lozano.

They all face a stream of criminal charges including abuse of office, profiting from office, and murder.
Stay tuned, this could get much more interesting.

UPDATE: Here's more, about immunity and jursidictional issues.

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Transfer of power

Can you smell the new spirit of cooperation?

Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies -- including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions -- into senior civil service posts.

The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.

Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies. Two political hires at the Labor Department have already secured career posts there, and one at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to make the switch.

The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.
Because despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Bush administration is convinced that its positions on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits are successful and in the best interest of the country.

But seriously folks, the Bush administration doesn't give a shit about what's in the best interest of the country. Its only concern is the best interests of its sponsors.

UPDATE: The other half of the story.

Half the story has been told. On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that Bush is creating civil service positions for loyal appointees, in order to make it hard for Obama to get rid of them.

Bush has also, for some time now, been terminating large numbers of employees in the federal government, people known as whistleblowers, people suspected of disloyalty. Some of the higher profile cases are well known.

Half the story has been told. On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that Bush is creating civil service positions for loyal appointees, in order to make it hard for Obama to get rid of them.

Bush has also, for some time now, been terminating large numbers of employees in the federal government, people known as whistleblowers, people suspected of disloyalty. Some of the higher profile cases are well known.

I've spoken with Marsha Coleman-Adebayo and Renee Berry. Coleman-Adebayo called what's happening a "silent coup d'etat." The Bush administration, she said, is "embedding their foot soldiers inside the government in order to sabotage any Obama initiatives while at the same time terminating federal employees who they assume would be supportive of the new administration." She compared this process to a soviet purge.
Yet another h/t to Susie.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Afternoon Music Club

Numbers One and Two on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest singers of all time.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Life during GOP time

Here's just one part of George Bush's stinking legacy. But Bush didn't invent conservatism, he was just stupid and incurious enough to put its foolish ideas into practice. So blaming Bush only gets you partial credit. This failure belongs to the all of conservatism and its adherents.

The nation's economic troubles play out one family at a time at the New Horizons Learning Center in this struggling city two hours northwest of Chicago.

Some parents have been laid off and must pull their children out of the day care center until they can find a job. Others' employment hours have been cut, so they reduce their kids' attendance to a few days a week.

Financial strains prompt one mother to pay with a postdated check. Another chooses to work in the middle of the night — after putting her kids to bed — because of the extra dollar per hour that shift brings. And the stress shows on the faces of the children who can't understand why their friends, without explanation, stop coming.

"They act out more, cry a lot more," said Diane Kesterton, director of New Horizons, where a 38-child enrollment has been halved to 19 in just three months. "They don't know what's happening, they're confused."

Parents nationwide are telling day care providers they must scale back or abandon their services. Instead, they keep kids at home with grandparents or upend their work-life balance because gas and food prices have become prohibitive and average child care costs outpace rent and mortgage payments — even for those drawing salaries.

"I was paying more in day care than I was making in work," Meredith Hartigan, a Rockford single mother of two, said in explaining her decision to pull her 4-year-old daughter out of day care in August and switch to working nights and weekends.


Child care providers have similar fears as centers that have had waiting lists for as long as anyone can remember now find themselves scrambling for children. Many are for the first time offering part-time services or changing hours to accommodate the growing number of parents working off shifts, or struggling to make ends meet.

"It is not about people making choices to drive a second car," said Diane Stout, executive director of Circles of Learning, also in Rockford. "For many low income people it is making a choice for food."
Isn't income inequality great?

UPDATE: The surging economy will be keeping a lot of people away from their families this holiday season.

Thanksgiving won't be the same for many families across the country this year. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is expected to put a crimp in the busiest travel season of the year. Fewer people, especially college students, will be going home because of plummeting portfolios, job losses, and rising travel costs. That's moved many families in Massachusetts to open their homes to holiday orphans, and restau rants to prepare for more customers.

The trend is particularly pronounced in a college town like Boston. The city is brimming with students who generally depend on their parents to fund their holiday trips home.

Beyond the general economic downturn, high airfares will also keep many from home: Holiday fares are at five-year highs, according to Farecast, an airfare tracking website. And the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan International Airport in Boston, is predicting a 6 percent to 10 percent decline in Boston passengers during the week surrounding Thanksgiving.
h/t Susie.


Friday, November 07, 2008


I'm sure the fact that the presidential election is over has nothing to do with this.

The International Energy Agency, which advises industrialized nations on energy policy, warned on Thursday that the supply shortfalls that pushed oil prices into triple-digit territory this year are far from resolved, and could lead to a new period of high prices.

Oil has plummeted from its summer peak in recent weeks as the financial and economic slowdown reduced consumption. But many analysts believe oil could bounce back quickly once economic growth resumes. On Thursday, oil futures in New York settled at $60.77 a barrel, down $4.53, their lowest level in 19 months. Prices are now 58 percent below their peak of $145.29 a barrel in July.
So the supply shortfalls that lead to higher prices are unresolved, but the price of oil kept dropping. I guess it's just a coincidence that this warning came two days after election day.

Funny how the normal rules of the free and unfettered marketplace don't seem to apply when a Republican candidate needs a boost.

Something Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward said two years ago while prices were going higher sends chills: "They could go down very quickly. That's the Saudis' pledge." According to Woodward, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, "told President Bush that the Saudis would cut oil prices to ensure a strong economy for Election Day." This prediction has come to fruition.

U.S. oil company executives also possess the power to allow price drops for the election. They have enough room to play -- including last year's collective $100 billion in record profits and Exxon Mobil's own near record $10.6 billion profits this past quarter. Oil executives are full of fear over new leadership in a Congress that would investigate them.


An "improved" economy is a political boon to incumbent legislators. The Dow Jones high has appeared when gas prices on average dropped nearly 80 cents. It's as though the U.S. doesn't want to know why the prices are declining; we're just too happy about it to care.

The U.S. could again be frustrated when the Saudis and oil executives close the spigot after the upcoming elections. Maybe then we'll want to know why the gas prices arbitrarily fluctuate.
There's nothing arbitrary about it: People in positions of power and wealth tend to protect those positions, and oil companies are not about to sit back and let their profits hinge on an uncontrolled election. It's not an accident that the gas prices fell far and fast in the two months leading up to the election. The same thing happened ahead of the midterm elections in 2006.

This chart, from the Energy Information Administration, tracks the price of gas from May 2006 to this month. There are only two significant price drops on the chart. The first one is from September to November 2006, when prices fell from more than $3 per gallon to about $2.20 per gallon. The other significant price drop was from September to November 2008 -- the run-up to this week's election -- when prices fell from more than $3.80 to $2.40.

Note what happened to gas prices after the '06 mid-terms: As soon as the winter ended, they went way up. From February to May 2007, the price of gas went up more than a dollar a gallon, and ended up higher than their highest point in the six months before the election (the oil companies making up for the discount). If that happens again, we're looking at more than $4.20 per gallon by the middle of next year.

So don't get used to these prices. If oil companies can keep them artifically low to boost candidates they prefer, they can keep them artificially high to screw the ones they don't. So if you need gas, get it while you can still afford it.

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Friday Afternoon Music Club

Given the latest employment statistics (see post below) and the state of the economy, this song seems appropriate.

For those of you with terrible, soul-crushing jobs that you now feel lucky to have, I hope this helps get you to happy hour. For the growing number of you who no longer have a job, I hope this helps you feel a little better and realize that you're not alone. Hang in there.

The Kinks.

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How Reaganesque.

The number of U.S. residents collecting state unemployment benefits reached the highest level in 25 years, rising by 122,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.84 million in the week ending Oct. 25, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Meanwhile, the number of first-time applications for benefits fell by 4,000 to 481,000 in the week ending Nov. 1, the government agency added. Compared with the same week a year ago, new jobless claims are up about 45%, while continuing claims are up 46%.
The last time things were this good was 1983, when the unemployment rate was above 10 percent for half the year. If you aren't collecting unemployment benefits, you probably know someone who is.

UPDATE: As usual, the Friday news dump offers more good news.

Squeezed by tight credit and plunging spending power, the American economy is losing jobs at the fastest pace since 2001, and the losses could accelerate to levels not seen since the deep recession of the early 1980s.

Employers shed 240,000 more jobs in October, the government reported Friday morning, the 10th consecutive monthly decline and a clear signal that the economic slowdown is troubling households and businesses.

Since August, the economy has lost 651,000 jobs — more than three times as many as were lost from May to July. So far, 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year.


The unemployment rate climbed to 6.5 percent, the highest level since 1994 and up from 6.1 percent the month before.
It appears that we soon will be looking back fondly on the days when "only" 3.84 million Americans were collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

UPDATE 2: One week later, soon is here.

The number of U.S. workers drawing jobless benefits hit a 25-year high this month and imports suffered a record fall in September, according to reports on Thursday that underscored a rapid drop-off in the U.S. economy.

The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose by an unexpectedly steep 32,000 last week to 516,000, the highest since the weeks following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Labor Department said.

The number of workers still on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid hit 3.9 million in the week to November 1, the highest since January 1983.

"This is obviously very, very serious deterioration in the labor market, more than a lot of people had expected even a couple of months ago," said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"We are looking at the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression and the biggest economic crisis we have had in the United States since the early 1980s."


Wednesday, November 05, 2008


The latest talking point from the GOP bullshit factory.

Never mind that, as the right launches this idiotic talking point, voters overwhelmingly reject the policies and politics of the right, particularly those of the Bush administration. As Democrats take over the White House and increase their majorities in both the House and Senate, these talking shitheads are spouting nonsense about the United States being a center-right nation.

Here are last night's results, for both the White House and Congress:

Yeah, looks pretty center-right to me. Compare that with the 2004 electoral map:

Note especially all those states that were blue in 2004 that are red now, such as ... well ...

OK, so no states that went for the Democratic candidate in 2004 went for the Republican candidate in 2008. That fact, plus Democratic gains of at least five seats in the Senate and 16 seats in the House, indicate a clear shift to the left nationally.

But Republicans never let facts interfere with a good bullshit campaign, and never let reality interfere with their view of the world. If they did, they would have to admit that last night was an overwhelming repudiation of them and their worldview. They're over, but they won't go quietly into that goodnight. Instead, they will spend the next four years spewing their lies on Faux News and attempting to tear down Obama and the Democrats and hope that, by then, someone on the right emerges who is even remotely electable.

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Personnel board?

You mean the personnel board that Palin had been trying for months to get to investigate the "troopergate" matter while refusing to cooperate with the state legislature's investigation, even going so far as to file an ethics complaint against herself, thus giving her the ability to end the investigation by withdrawing the complaint or simply refusing to cooperate? That personnel board?

Big fucking deal.

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Voter fraud

For those Republicans looking for cases of voter fraud in battleground states, the chairman of the Penn Hills (Pa.) School Board believes he has found one.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's right to vote in Penn Hills has been challenged -- and election officials will not count his absentee ballot (or that of his wife) until the matter is resolved, Allegheny County Elections Department director Mark Wolosik confirmed.

Erin Vecchio, chairman of the Penn Hills School Board and chair of the Penn Hills Democratic Party, says she challenged the Santorums' right to vote in Pennsylvania this morning because they really live in Virginia.

Vecchio, who has had a long-running dispute with Santorum over his residency, says the former senator and his family live in "an undisclosed location" in northern Virginia and that his attempt to vote here is "voter fraud."
This stems from a dispute over whether the Penn Hills School District should foot the bill for Santorum's children to attend a cyber charter school while the family lived in Virginia. Read all about it, and about Ricky's efforts to mischaracterize the controversy in the run-up to the ass kicking he took in the '06 election, here.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama wins!

Virginia goes for Obama, and that plus California means Barak Obama is the president-elect.

Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber, thanks for your time but your 15 minutes are up. And someone tell what's his name at the White House to pack his shit, a new tenant is moving in.

But seriously, the crowd shots at Grant Park in Chicago are overwhelming -- thousands of people filled with the hope of a future brighter than the last eight years have been. It reminds me of when Clinton and Gore were elected in 1992.

This is a great moment in African-American history, of course, but also a great moment in American history overall. The course on which the Bush administration set this country was an unsustainable disaster, and now we can finally prepare to right a lot of wrongs.

In the meantime, celebrate!

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If you have not voted yet, stop reading and go vote. Now.

Don't know where your polling place is? Click here.

For additional voting information, click here.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sprinting to the finish

Since deregulation had such a positive impact on Wall Street, the Bush administration is pushing to weaken every regulation protecting consumers and the environment that it can on its slither out the door.

The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.


As many as 90 new regulations are in the works, and at least nine of them are considered "economically significant" because they impose costs or promote societal benefits that exceed $100 million annually. They include new rules governing employees who take family- and medical-related leaves, new standards for preventing or containing oil spills, and a simplified process for settling real estate transactions.


A rule put forward by the National Marine Fisheries Service and now under final review by the OMB would lift a requirement that environmental impact statements be prepared for certain fisheries-management decisions and would give review authority to regional councils dominated by commercial and recreational fishing interests.


Two other rules nearing completion would ease limits on pollution from power plants, a major energy industry goal for the past eight years that is strenuously opposed by Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups.

One rule, being pursued over some opposition within the Environmental Protection Agency, would allow current emissions at a power plant to match the highest levels produced by that plant, overturning a rule that more strictly limits such emission increases. According to the EPA's estimate, it would allow millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, worsening global warming.

A related regulation would ease limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants near national parks.

A third rule would allow increased emissions from oil refineries, chemical factories and other industrial plants with complex manufacturing operations.

These rules "will force Americans to choke on dirtier air for years to come, unless Congress or the new administration reverses these eleventh-hour abuses," said lawyer John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Bush administration is trying to tie the next president's hands and make things as painless as possible for their supporters during the next administration. Of course, that means making things as difficult and dangerous as possible for the rest of us, but when has that ever bothered Bushies?

The stain of the Bush administration on this country will take years, if not decades, of difficult and painful work to remove.

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