Selling out the Endangered Species Act

Ron Wyden "good guy"
I'm appalled at the last-minute rule changes the Bush administration is pushing through. Most of them are aimed at weakening existing environmental and safety legislation.

On the other hand Oregon has a senator who's trying to make them accountable, and maintain the safety and quality of our lives I'd like to thank Ron Wyden for following up on the impact of the bad decisions at the Dept of Interior:
Significant harm to the integrity of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the morale and reputation of the Fish and Wildlife Service as well as potential harm to individual species,” and the “untold waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars” are just some of the consequences of what the Interior Department’s Inspector General Earl Devaney terms one former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald’s “zeal to advance her agenda.” General Devaney released these findings in a 141 page report detailing his office’s year-long investigation, initiated at the request of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who believed that 18 ESA decisions may have been tainted by Ms. MacDonald
As he says in his report:
“Why my office needed to request an Inspector General’s investigation to get this information is beyond me; but as usual, General Devaney’s work is not only beyond reproach, it gives Congress what is needed to take action,” said Wyden. “I believe that General Devaney’s exemplary service during what is unquestionably one of the darkest periods in the Interior Department’s history more than merits his being kept on in the Obama Administration to continue prosecuting the case.”
Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to weaken the ESA by directive, since they couldn't get enough support politically. The Pew charitable trust reports that one attack on the ESA will transfer responsibility for environmental impact reviews from federal employees (which requires public input) to advisory groups that represent regional fishing interests.
Here's the proposed rule change which was sent to the OMB on Nov 4th.

As the Washington Post points out:
For example, take the Minerals Management Service whose mission is to "manage the ocean energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and Federal and Indian mineral revenues to enhance public and trust benefits, promote responsible use, and realize fair value." If an official is considering a project that would yield huge energy benefits and please MMS higher-ups but would also decimate one or more endangered species and violate the law, what's a bureaucrat to do?
Another rule change is a similar case of the fox watching the hen house. RegWatch reports on a change that allows government agencies to make their own environmental assessments, rather than requiring independent scientific reviews. This would be as if we spread the "blind eye" attitude of Secretary McDonald horizontally across all regulatory agencies.

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Good news, everybody...

Dick Cheney & George W. BushImage by prettywar-stl via FlickrAccording to the New York Times the Bush administration is "abandoning its pursuit of two proposed regulations relaxing air-pollution standards for power plants, surprising both industry and environmentalists by ending its pursuit of one of the last remaining goals set out by Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force in 2001."

Why? Because they're too busy with all the other rule changes they're working to enact before Bush leaves office.

Jonathan Shradar, an agency spokesman, said Wednesday evening that the agency made the decision despite weeks of frantic work trying to complete the rules. The White House said months ago that no new rules should be imposed in the administration’s last days.

“We didn’t want to be faced with putting a midnight regulation in place,” Mr. Shradar said. “It was better to leave those incomplete rather than force something through.”

I guess when they say "last days" that really does mean... days. The plan was that all rules would be finalized before mid-November, but it appears things are still being juggled.

On the other hand, the Department of the Interior announced earlier this week that it was lifting the 25-year-old ban on carrying loaded weapons in national parks. So, when you go to Crater Lake, you may find the air cleaner, but it's not necessarily safer...

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Forrest J Ackerman passes away at 92

Forrest Ackerman, the world's #1 science fiction fan died today. He's probably best known for his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, although I first heard about him through Starlog when they talked about the making of the War of The Worlds. Ackerman was a huge collector of sci-fi memorabilia, and owned at least one of the spaceship models from the 1953 movie. Unfortunately, quite a bit of his collection was destroyed in a fire.

He recently said: "I aim at hitting 100 and becoming the George Burns of science fiction". His MySpace page is still going, however.

Here's part of a good profile of Forry from 2002 from the Daily Mirror (via the LA Times Weekly):
Born and raised in Hollywood, Forrie is the ultimate fan. He is still an eager 12-year-old boy trapped in a gangly, 86-year-old man's body. He delights in bad puns and very silly jokes. He points to a casket covered in embroidered pillows in the front of his living room. "That's my coffin table," he says with a wink. "Room for one more ... "
He is well-spoken and a master storyteller. He has an encyclopedic mind that holds data like a computer. He can rattle off obscure movie titles, forgotten movie stars, esoteric movie lore. His stories are what make his objects, much of which look like junk in an adolescent's bedroom, come alive.
There is Bela Lugosi's cape in the corner, from the 1932 stage performance of "Dracula" in San Francisco. And there, over the dining room doorway, are the seven great faces of horror cinema in life-size 3-D molds: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Tor Johnson, Glenn Strange, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.
Where others display china, Forrie displays models of dinosaurs, monster heads and a skull holding a serving bowl. Where others might hang paintings, Ackerman hangs a wall-size comic strip of Vampirella, which he created in 1958.

One item I didn't realize was that Ackerman is responsible for "discovering" Ray Bradbury. I'm reading "October Country" by Bradbury right now.

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Finished NaNoWriMo 2008

I finished my third effort at NaNoWriMo early yesterday morning -- the last day of November. NaNoWriMo is an event that asks you to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November (thus: National Novel Writing Month). As Piers Anthony, author of 137 novels to date, says in one of NaNoWriMo's soi-disant Pep Talks (they are actual weekly emails):
You're a fool. You know that, don't you? Because only a fool would try a stunt as crazy as this. You want to write a 50,000 word novel in one month?! Do you have sawdust in your skull? When there are so many other more useful things you could be doing, like cleaning up the house and yard, taking a correspondence course in Chinese, or contributing your time and effort to a charitable cause? Whatever is possessing you?
and then continues a bit later...
So maybe you won't be a successful novelist, or even a good one. At least you are trying. T hat, would you believe, puts you in a rarefied one percent of our kind. Maybe less than that. You aspire to something better than the normal rat race. You may not accomplish much, but it's the attitude that counts. As with mutations: 99% of them are bad and don't survive, but the 1% that are better are responsible for the evolution of species to a more fit state. You know the odds are against you, but who knows? If you don't try, you'll never be sure whether you might, just maybe, possibly, have done it. So you do have to make the effort, or be forever condemned in your own bleary eyes.

My novel, called "The Zythophile", is about a young man and his quest to brew the perfect beer, and have someone recognize him for that effort. He goes to the World Beer Cup, which is held in Portland (in the novel) and gives it a shot, despite troubles with a terrorist chasing him, and the fact that the beer is alive.

You can read the first 8,000 words here.
Ok, don't read the excerpt. That's good not to read it because it's really just a dump of my brain onto paper. Even I haven't read it, except for the previous couple of paragraphs each time I started to write. This is just a lump of granite. As Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia said in her Pep Talk:
I live in Barre, Vermont which calls itself the "Granite Capital of the World." Outside our town are enormous quarries, so when I speak in local schools every child has a mental picture of a granite quarry. "You know how hard it is to get granite out of the quarry," I say. "You have to carefully score the rock and put the explosive in to make the great granite block break loose from the face of the stone. Then you have to attach the block to the chains so that the cranes can lift it slowly out of the hole a nd put it on the waiting truck. That’s the first draft. It’s hard, dangerous work, and when you’ve finished, all you’ve really got is a block of stone. But now you have something now to work on. Now you can take your block down to the shed to carve and polish it and turn it into something of beauty. That’s revision."

Now I have to ask, is there a NaNoRevMo?

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Crafty Linda

Linda has started a blog of her craft projects. Here's part of her first entry:

The other day I went to Twisted on Broadway to take a class in Amigurumi, the art of crocheting super cute characters. (Also the name of the book we used). The instructions in our book were in Japanese, but the patterns were so visually oriented that it was easy to figure out what to do. Great for those who absorb information in that way.Linda Candello, Crafty Linda, Nov 2008

If you use RSS you can subscribe to her blog, or just check it out craftlinda.blogspot.com.

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