Friday, June 15, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
It all adds up
As spring turns to summer, across America millions of small engines are coming to life, cranking out power and puffing out smoke as they mow America's lawns, whack its weeds and trim its borders. Each engine by itself has little effect on the atmosphere, and most are operated only for short spells. But together they contribute a lot of air pollution, a matter on which the federal government and the states are starting to focus.
Small engines--those under 25-horsepower--are much cleaner than they were 20 years ago. But unlike cars and lorries, they are largely uncontrolled; and their carbon-dioxide emissions, combined with escaping fuel vapours and leaking oil, make them remarkably dirty machines for their size. For example, regulators in California estimate that using a chain-saw for two hours produces as much pollution as ten cars each driving 250 miles--though the outdoor-power-equipment lobby, of course, vigorously disagrees.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is the only state that can set its own regulations, although other states may adopt them. California has been phasing in regulations for small engines since 1990. For years Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, determined to protect jobs at two factories in his state, blocked an effort to apply those standards nationally. But recently a compromise, allowing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with proposed new regulations, was reached. The small-engine lobby concedes that stricter regulations were inevitable, and that a national standard would make sense.
Other tactics are being tried as well. The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which covers Los Angeles and Orange County, is offering residents a $399 electric-powered lawnmower for $100 if they trade in an old petrol-burning lawnmower.
Alternatively, America could always give up lawnmowing altogether. Las Vegas residents are encouraged to abandon the unnatural practice of growing grass in a desert and let native plants re-establish themselves. And some have done what so many sweat-drenched people pushing a lawnmower in a Midwestern heatwave long to do; they have paved over their lawns and painted the concrete green.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
We've just finished test time again in the schools of California. The mad frenzy of testing infects everyone from second grade through high school. Because of the rigors and threats of No Child Left Behind, schools are desperate to increase their scores. As the requirements become more stringent, we have completely lost sight of the children taking these tests.
For 30 years as a teacher of primary kids, I have operated on the Any Fool Can See principle. And any fool can see that the spread between what is developmentally appropriate for 7- and 8-year-old children and what is demanded of them on these tests is widening. A lot of what used to be in the first-grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten. Is your 5-year-old stressed out? Perhaps this is why.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Bob Costas: 'Inescapable Fact' That Bush Presidency 'A Tragically Failed Administration'
Some people may wonder about the [political] feelings that I've expressed, and I won't get into all the particulars. I think it is now overwhelmingly evident, if you're honest about it, even if you're a conservative Republican, if you're honest about it, this is a failed administration. And no honest conservative would say that George W. Bush was among the 500 most qualified people to be President of the United States. That's not based on political leaning. If a liberal, and I tend to be liberal, disagrees with a conservative, they can still respect that person's competence and the integrity of their point of view. This administration can be rightly criticized by a fair-minded person smack in the middle of the political spectrum on a hundred different counts, and by now they're all self-evident.
The blogger who posted this goes on to talk about how incredibly qualified Dubya is because he
1) got a degree from Harvard
2) got a degree from Yale
3) flew planes in the National Guard
4) is married and never divorced
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
The Creation Museum
Friday, June 01, 2007
From Grade the News:
Sixty more newsroom positions – almost one in four -- are to be eliminated at the San Jose Mercury News this summer after a layoff moratorium negotiated with the local Newspaper Guild expires, Grade the News has learned.
John Bowman, executive editor at the San Mateo County Times until last week, said the staff reductions were discussed at an April meeting he attended at the Mercury News along with top editors of MediaNews, which now owns every paid daily newspaper around the San Francisco Bay but the San Francisco Chronicle. The proposed cuts would affect 24% of the 250 member Mercury News staff.
Mr. Bowman said he disclosed the layoff plan and resigned as executive editor of the Times because he was fed up with MediaNews' policies of trying to run newspapers short-handed.
"They're way past the point of diminishing returns, of penny-wise, pound-foolish," Mr. Bowman said of MediaNews' operations in the Bay Area.
MediaNews' cuts at The Oakland Tribune have deprived citizens of an effective champion against city corruption and mismanagement.
"The Tribune is actually doing a pretty good job of covering things that are important to me, but there are some really important things that aren't being covered right now," (Mercury News business reporter Elise Ackerman) explained. Among those are corruption in city hall and a soaring crime rate. The FBI is investigating a "pay to play" atmosphere in city government, she said, but not the newspaper.
"The Tribune reporters are good and hardworking, but this stuff doesn't get covered in the newspapers because they don't have the staff."
"When a newspaper becomes so weak it's not an effective counterbalance to the incredible arrogance of some public officials, it can't play watchdog for the public," Ms. Ackerman added. "I'm afraid the same thing will happen in San Jose."