Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

First it was bees, and now it's bats In what is perhaps the worst calamity to impact bat populations in the United States, approximately 90% of the hibernating bats in caves and mines observed in New York state have died since last winter. No one knows what is killing them, but the potential for ecological chaos looms large.

File this under "use the right tool for the job, knucklehead" Authorities in Deepwater, Missouri are weighing whether or not to file charges against a man who was installing a satellite dish in their bedroom and, unable to punch through the exterior wall, fetched his handgun. He fires two shots from a .22. The second shot struck his wife in the chest, killing her. (Why does shit like this have to happen in Missouri?)

Big Shitpile, indeed (h/t Atrios) Here is a synopsis even an econ illiterate like me can understand: Everybody wanted to get in on the action and nobody was using their own money, so the debts quickly multiplied from billions to trillions. And the only thing of real value holding up the whole house of cards was the homes owned by individual buyers. If the value of those homes drops -- as it now has -- and too many of the buyers walk away, the whole structure can collapse......Now I'm no expert, but it sure looks to me like it's a bad idea to hire the foxes to guard the chicken coop. Can we have some regulation now? How much farther can consumer confidence slip? It's already lower than it's been at any time since Nixon.

How will the climate change deniers spin this? The Wilkins Ice Shelf is about to collapse. Professor David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey was dire in his prediction "Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened.....I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread - we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be."

Giving the devil his due We already know that I am no fan of Bob Gates
- but as I am not a hypocrite, the archives are full of posts where I have paid him (often grudging) respect. He has, once again, taken an action that is worthy of admiration, no matter where on the political spectrum you may fall. It is now official, mercenaries in Iraq are now subject to UCMJ. Here is the .pdf of the memo. Condi, you lose again. No mere hat-tip, but a sweeping bow to the extremely intelligent, informed and talented folks who comment at Sic Semper Tyrannis. If you want to understand foreign policy and intel, of course you have to read Pat, I mean, that's just a given. But you have to read his comments section too. The folks who comment there know the score. It was one of those extremely knowledgeable folks who let Pat know that the M$M had, once more missed the truly important story about contractors brought to heel.

Grover, you slavering jackass you, don't you never change...Grover Norquist, on the David Storm show on March 22, trashing CAFE standards: I mean 2,000 people a year die because the environmentalists think that you should be in a smaller car because it offends their sensitivities that you’re using gasoline. He is full of crap, of course. Here is the passage from the report that he seized on: “[A]ll but two members of the committee concluded that the downweighting and downsizing that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of which was due to CAFE standards, probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993.” (emphasis added) Grover conveniently ignores the time warp, just as easily as he overlooks the fact that most of those downweighted small cars from the 70's and 80's that were quite properly deemed deathtraps are off the roads. And now that I think about it, when is the last time you saw a mid-seventies Lincoln on the freeway? I've said it before, and I'll said it again - if I am ever in the position to drown either my government or Grover Norquist in a bathtub, Grover's gurgling.

"Legal" and "Just" are not synonymous, as is perfectly illustrated by the case of Deborah Shanks. Shanks is the 52 year old former Wal-Mart employee who was permanently disabled in an automobile accident. Her family won a settlement from the trucking company that owned the semi that struck her, and the family planned to use that money to pay for her care in a nursing home. Not so fast, said Wal-Mart. They sued and won, and they get the settlement. The culprit is a federal law called ERISA. Under ERISA employee sponsored health plans have a right to recover up to the full amount paid by the insurance plan, sometimes less a percentage for attorney fees, up to the full amount recovered. The attorney fee common fund doctrine has been challenged in some districts. What is shocking about this case is that insurance company and plaintiff's lawyers are all aware of the rights ERISA gives employer provided health care benefits, and won't settle unless there is a mutual agreement signed by all concerned. Wal-Mart is wrong to take her settlement, but what the hell kind of legal representation did this poor woman have? There is more wrong here than Wal-Mart greed.

Farmers in Argentina are lashing out at the government Two years of tensions have boiled over and the farmers have taken action. They have set up road blocks and withheld their product to protest a new export tax on soybeans and sunflowers that the farmers say will bankrupt small and medium farms. Traffic has been snarled on some of the countries busiest roads, and marketplaces are not being restocked. Evita 2008 is still insisting, two weeks in, that she is not going to yield.

I ♥ stupid criminal stories and this one made me laugh out loud. When two burglars were caught loading the inventory of a camera shop in Senden, Germany into their car, one of the the burglars fled on foot, but lost a shoe and sock in the process. Coming upon a pedal-powered childrens toy go-cart, and thinking it would be faster, he took advantage, hopped in and started peddling. He made his way along a canal for a bit, then abandoned the go-cart and swiped a bike. Alas, 'twas all for naught, and the intrepid thief was apprehended - but not without the help of a tip from a newpaper deliveryman and a police helicopter.

Have I mentioned lately that I
♥ science? When styrofoam cups are exposed to the water pressure of the deep, they shrink to the size of a thimble. It's a fluid pressure thing.

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