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Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon

Thursday, February 24, 2011

34 Americans each day

From Mayors Against Illegal Guns:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced new legislation to get all records of criminals, drug abusers, and the mentally ill, who are already prohibited by law from buying guns, into the background check system, and also to require background checks for every gun sale. The new bill is modeled on a proposal issued by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The announcement featured a video focusing on the 34 people who are killed with guns every day in the United States. The coalition’s Fix Gun Checks Truck Tour is currently in Columbus, OH, where a new statewide poll finds that the majority of Ohioans, including gun owners, strongly support a sensible approach to gun laws that protects the Second Amendment rights of law abiding gun owners while also keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals.

Jeff Cox: Sometimes 'satire' isn't 'satire'

The media has been filled with unfolding events in the Middle East and Africa of peaceful protesters who seek what we already have: A Constitution and A Bill of Rights, the right to self-determination, justice, to be free from torture and the right of assembly, such as this:

First Amendment – .... Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition

Congress shall make no law .... or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In the wake of the Arizona shootings, Jeff Cox's comments were inappropriate, to say the least. Kudus to the Indiana Attorney General's Office for taking quick action and adding Mr. Cox to the unemployment rolls:

Indiana deputy attorney general out of job after live ammo tweet
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana deputy attorney general "is no longer employed" by the state after Mother Jones magazine reported he tweeted that police should to use live ammunition against Wisconsin labor protesters, the attorney general's office said Wednesday.

The magazine reported Wednesday that Jeffrey Cox responded "Use live ammunition" to a Saturday night posting on its Twitter account that said riot police could sweep protesters out of the Wisconsin capitol, where thousands have been protesting a bill that would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.

Cox also referred to the protesters as "thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor" and said "You're damn right I advocate deadly force," according to the magazine. He later told an Indianapolis television station the comments were intended to be satirical.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Hidden Cost of Dirty Coal

Interesting article about the hidden cost of dirty energy below (from Jetson Green). It is unclear if the potential costs of coal ash spills have been included or whether the environmental destruction of mountaintop removal has been addressed. --

Coal's hidden costs top $345 billion in U.S.-study

* Health, environmental damage could triple cost of power

* "Public cost greater than cost of coal itself"-author

By Scott Malone
BOSTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - The United States' reliance on coal to generate almost half of its electricity, costs the economy about $345 billion a year in hidden expenses not borne by miners or utilities, including health problems in mining communities and pollution around power plants, a study found.

Those costs would effectively triple the price of electricity produced by coal-fired plants, which are prevalent in part due to the their low cost of operation, the study led by a Harvard University researcher found.

"This is not borne by the coal industry, this is borne by us, in our taxes," said Paul Epstein, a Harvard Medical School instructor and the associate director of its Center for Health and the Global Environment, the study's lead author.

"The public cost is far greater than the cost of the coal itself. The impacts of this industry go way beyond just lighting our lights."

Coal-fired plants currently supply about 45 percent of the nation's electricity, according to U.S. Energy Department data. Accounting for all the ancillary costs associated with burning coal would add about 18 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of electricity from coal-fired plants, shifting it from one of the cheapest sources of electricity to one of the most expensive.

In the year that ended in November, the average retail price of electricity in the United States was about 10 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the Energy Department.

Advocates of coal power have argued that it is among the cheapest of fuel sources available in the United States, allowing for lower-cost power than that provided by the developing wind and solar industries.

"The Epstein article ignores the substantial benefits of coal in maintaining lower energy prices for American families and businesses," said Lisa Camooso Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group. "Lower energy prices are linked to a higher standard of living and better health."


The estimate of hidden costs takes into account a variety of side-effects of coal production and use. Among them are the cost of treading elevated rates of cancer and other illnesses in coal-mining areas, environmental damage and lost tourism opportunities in coal regions where mountaintop removal is practiced and climate change resulting from elevated emissions of carbon dioxide from burning the coal.

Coal releases more carbon dioxide when burned than does natural gas or oil.

The $345 billion annual cost figure was the study's best estimate of the costs associated with burning coal. The study said the costs could be as low as $175 billion or as high as $523 billion.

"This is effectively a subsidy borne by asthmatic children and rain-polluted lakes and the climate is another way of looking at it," said Kert Davies, research director with the environmental activist group Greenpeace. "It's a tax by the industry on us that we are not seeing in our bills but we are bearing the costs."

The estimates came in the paper "Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal," to be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Epstein discussed his findings on the Arctic Sunrise, a 164-foot-long (50 metre long) icebreaker operated by Greenpeace, and moored in Boston Harbor.

Leading users of coal in the United States include utilities American Electric Power Co Inc (AEP.N) and Duke Energy Corp (DUK.N). The top producers include miners Arch Coal Inc (ACI.N), Consol Energy Inc (CNX.N), Peabody Energy Corp (BTU.N) and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR.N). (Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Maureen Bavdek)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Conflict of Interest?

From Common Cause:

If you missed The Colbert Report from Thursday, here's your chance to catch up on the conflict of interest controversy swirling around Justice Clarence Thomas. Common Cause has been leading the charge for a Department of Justice investigation into Justices Thomas' and Scalia's ties to Koch Industries, and has launched a campaign to strengthen ethical standards for Supreme Court justices.

Common Cause has been leading the charge for a Department of Justice investigation into Justices Thomas' and Scalia's ties to Koch Industries, and has launched a campaign to strengthen ethical standards for Supreme Court justices.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dirty tricks against activists

Interesting article. Isn't it strange how everything produces the Koch name and Dirty Coal?

SPECIAL REPORT - Well-connected law firm involved in dirty tricks against activists, journalists

By Sue Sturgis

After whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks announced back in 2009 that it was planning to dump internal Bank of America documents to the web, the financial giant turned to the U.S. Department of Justice for advice, according to recently leaked e-mails.

The DOJ reportedly referred the bank to Hunton & Williams, an international corporate law and lobbying firm with deep roots and management offices in Richmond, Va. Hunton & Williams in turn reached out to the Maryland firm HBGary Federal, inquiring last October about "a complete intelligence solution," according to a
Wired report.

Thus began the plotting of a plan that -- thanks to those leaked e-mails -- has grabbed widespread media attention and raises troubling questions about corporate ethics.

As the Tech Herald first
reported earlier this month, Hunton & Williams representatives held a meeting with officials from Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America on Dec. 3. That report was based on a tip from, which in turn was working with e-mails that had been hacked from the e-mail account of Aaron Barr, CEO of technology security firm HBGary Federal, after Barr said the company was working on ways to exploit social media to spy on hackers.

To address the WikiLeaks threat to Bank of America, Hunton & Williams began working with HBGary Federal along with two other high-tech security firms -- Berico Technologies of Arlington, Va. and Palantir Technologies of Palo Alto, Calif. All three companies were formed during the
security industry boom in the years following the 9/11 attacks. As Tech Herald reported:

"They basically want to sue them to put an injunction on releasing any data," an email between the three data intelligence firms said. "They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak."

Hunton and Williams would act as outside counsel on retainer, while Palantir would take care of network and insider threat investigations. For their part, Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal would analyze WikiLeaks.

"Apparently if they can show that WikiLeaks is hosting data in certain countries it will make prosecution easier," the email added.

At the same time, Hunton & Williams was also helping the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
deal with its own challenges from activists. The law firm decided to get HBGary Federal, Berico and Palantir -- operating as a unit called "Team Themis" after the ancient Greek deity embodying divine law -- involved with that effort as well.

The security firms assembled a
PowerPoint presentation that called for disrupting WikiLeaks supporters. "Feed the fuel between feuding groups," it said. "Disinformation. Create messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization. Submit fake documents and then call out the error."

They also proposed
targeting Salon reporter Glenn Greenwald, a former civil rights litigator who has written sympathetically about WikiLeaks. The PowerPoint presentation said that Greenwald's support for the organization "needs to be disrupted."

"These are established professionals that have a liberal bent," the document said, "but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals."

Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce have denied any involvement in the proposed dirty tricks, while Berico and Palantir Technologies have issued statements saying they had nothing to do with the proposals and ending their relationship with HBGary Federal, though
new reports seem to contradict those denials of involvement.

So far, though, Hunton & Williams has declined to comment on the controversy. That's not altogether surprising, given what's at stake for the well-connected firm.

A political player

Founded in 1901 in Richmond, Va. as Munford, Hunton, Williams & Anderson, the law firm now known as Hunton & Williams has evolved into an international force, with offices across the U.S. and in Bangkok, Beijing, Brussels and London. The Chamber is among the firm's long-time clients, with the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell Jr. advising the business group when he was a Hunton & Williams partner.

Since Hunton & Williams took its first electric company as a client in 1904, energy has become a major area of its focus. The firm has represented the West Virginia Coal Association in its
fight to continue mountaintop removal mining, Georgia Power in its effort to fend off a race discrimination suit brought by former employees, and the Tennessee Valley Authority in its battle to avoid installing costing pollution controls at its coal-fired power plants.

Hunton & Williams is also a political player, both in terms of campaign contributions and lobbying.

The firm itself has donated directly to the
campaigns of numerous members of Congress in the past decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2010 alone, it contributed to congressional candidates -- all Republicans -- including Reps. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

Hunton & William is also a major lobbying force, with
lobbying income of more than $2.8 million in 2010. Among its biggest lobbying clients are energy firms: Energy Future Holdings Corp. (formerly TXU Corp.), Southern Co., Gas Processors Association, FirstEnergy, and Kansas-based Koch Industries, a diversified oil company whose owners are major funders of conservative causes.

Also among the firm's lobbying clients are North Carolina-based Duke Energy and Progress Energy, which recently announced merger plans, and
Americans for Affordable Climate Policy, a group formed by Duke Energy and other coal-dependent utilities to ensure that any carbon cap-and-trade system established by Congress includes free pollution credits for industry.

With a prestigious client list like that, why would Hunton & Williams risk it all by engaging in ethically questionable and potentially reputation-damaging behavior like spying on and setting up activists and journalists?

One possible answer might be found by following the money.

Hunton & Williams apparently saw an opportunity to get a cut of an estimated $2 million a month for six months in subcontractor payments as part of the plan to discredit the corporate critics. The Blog of Legal Times
reports on a leaked e-mail written by a Palantir employee the day after a meeting last November in Hunton & Williams' Washington office:

"They still think that this team (H&W, Themis) has potential for huge gains in this market especially since 'the results of the election made some people angry,'" wrote the employee, Matthew Steckman. He added, "god I love these guys."

If you live in Massachusetts, a Coal Ash Dump is near you

Attempts to regulate, control, impound or prevent a disaster have been met with well-funded lobbyists and congressional opposition bought and paid for by the Dirty Coal Industry.

If you live in Massachusetts, you're near a
Coal Ash Dump.

Maybe if House Speaker DeLeo weren't so single-mindedly obsessed with meeting behind closed doors with the Gambling Industry and rewarding wealthy investors, he might have time to protect Massachusetts residents against the TVA disaster experienced by residents of Harriman, Tennessee.

It's clear from the intent of Congress, explained below, to protect Big Dirty Polluters, we can't count on the feds:

Southern Republicans launch sneak attack on coal ash regulation through budget bill

The House is expected to vote as early as today on amendments to a budget bill that would take away the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate toxic coal ash as a hazardous waste.

Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) have offered amendments to a continuing resolution on the budget that would prohibit any funding of an EPA rulemaking on coal ash under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which regulates hazardous waste.

Last year the EPA released a long-awaited draft rule that proposed regulating coal ash -- the toxic waste produced by coal-burning power plants -- under either RCRA Subtitle C or Subtitle D, which applies to ordinary household waste.

The Subtitle C rules would set federally enforceable minimum standards for coal ash disposal and require the closure of dangerous coal ash ponds like the one that failed catastrophically at a TVA plant in eastern Tennessee back in 2008. However, electric utilities oppose the Subtitle C regulations, citing their expense. They want the EPA to regulate coal ash less strictly under RCRA Subtitle D, which would leave oversight up to the states and allow polluters to continue to dump coal ash in unlined ponds and landfills.

Earthjustice attorney and coal ash expert Lisa Evans writes about the sneak attack on coal ash regulation at her organization's blog:

There is no doubt that these amendments will totally derail the EPA's ability to move forward with the coal ash rulemaking. The amendments will render it impossible for the agency to consider the best science on the toxicity of coal ash.

Evans calls the effort by Stearns and McKinley "a compromise of our health on a grand scale." She is urging citizens to contact their congressional representatives and tell them to leave regulation of coal ash up to EPA.

By Sue Sturgis

The truth about the Gulf's beaches (video)

The truth about the Gulf's beaches (video)

Incensed over BP ads claiming that the spilled oil is gone and the Gulf's beaches are clean, Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen of Alabama set out to document the truth.

He's released a six-minute video of footage shot along the Fort Morgan Peninsula on Feb. 9, 2011: a familiar brown stain along the tide line, tiny balls of oil scattered throughout the sand as far as one can see, ocean water with a pinkish-orange tinge, a strange lack of birds.

"These are no longer the sugar-white beaches of Alabama," says Wathen. "They have been replaced by a dirty brown mess with a path cut through the middle of it by BP's equipment."

Watch the video here:

(Photo by Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen from his BP Slick blog.)

Houston, Texas

Caution: Graphic Footage

Call on the Justice Department to stop Houston's brutal police culture

The above video which was released last week shows four Houston police officers brutally beating a 15-year old burglary suspect, without cause, while at least eight other officers looked on and did nothing. And the officers are facing only misdemeanors.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Houston, which has a history of police misconduct and a lack of accountability. Please join us in demanding real accountability by calling on the Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Chad Holley’s brutal beating, and the culture that led to it.

Please sign the petition here:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The environmental problems with Sovereignty

Traveling through the Four Corners region, the pollution from the Four Corners Power Plant is visible for miles. The long overdue proposal described below is a step in the right direction for residents of the region:

Arizona Haze and NOx
From: Andy Soos, ENN

Four Corners Power Plant is one of the largest coal-fired generating stations in the United States. The plant is located on Navajo land in Fruitland, New Mexico, about 25 miles west of Farmington. It is located to the west of the Grand Canyon and many other national parks. It was the first mine-mouth generation station to take advantage of the large deposits of sub-bituminous coal in the Four Corners region. The plant’s five units currently generate 2,040 megawatts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a supplemental proposal to reduce emissions from the Four Corners Power Plant. The new proposal will reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from approximately 45,000 tons per year to 5,800 tons per year, 3,200 tons less than EPA’s initial proposal. The proposal will also work to protect public health in the area by ensuring residents have cleaner air with fewer harmful pollutants. It will also reduce atmospheric haze and promote viability.

Other pertinent articles are included below [click on links for full articles]:
Policy Debate: Power Plants on Navajo Land
From: Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — In a region quickly becoming known as another "Cancer Alley," the Navajo Nation is gaining air emissions control over two power plants on tribal land.

After years of litigation and negotiations, the power plants, in New Mexico and Arizona, have agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation and its right to control air emissions.

The mercury and noxious gas emissions from power plants, combined with the dust from coal mines and oil company spills in the San Juan River, creates a toxic soup for Navajo Nation residents.

Oil discharges into the San Juan River flowing through the Navajo Nation are common, according to the U.S. EPA.

It All Sounds Familiar

Outsiders Target Indian Land for Risky Business
Developers Skirt State and Local Laws by Building on Indian Land

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Comic Relief: Sarah Palin on Egypt

The unfolding events in Egypt allow us a front row seat of history in the making, an undoing of failed US policy that backed and supported a tyrant who oppressed, imprisoned and tortured his people, while the US held the purse strings and remained silent. And, most importantly, the impact of the cell phones, electronic communications: the internet and social media.

Much like our overthrow of Mosaddegh, maybe we weren't right and maybe we weren't supporting democracy.

The implications of the events in Egypt remain to be written by the people of Egypt, one can only hope without CIA intervention to install another brute.

The implications are complex, as is the history, not easily reduced to sound bytes.

But reading and listening to the comments of Airhead Palin, now really folks!

Presidential material? I shudder!

Comic Relief: Sarah Palin on Egypt

Sarah Palin, in her first comments on Egypt, managed to make no sense at all. None. I especially liked her “not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done [in DC].” Here’s the full quote, which sounds like it was written by Miss South Carolina, speaking for all “US Americans”:

“And nobody yet has, nobody yet has explained to the American public what they know, and surely they know more than the rest of us know who it is who will be taking the place of Mubarak and no, not, not real enthused about what it is that that’s being done on a national level and from DC in regards to understanding all the situation there in Egypt. And, in these areas that are so volatile right now, because obviously it’s not just Egypt but the other countries too where we are seeing uprisings, we know that now more than ever, we need strength and sound mind there in the White House. We need to know what it is that America stands for so we know who it is that America will stand with. And, we do not have all that information yet.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

25% of energy use

From USA Today:
Some consumers resist 'green' light bulbs

Under a 2007 energy law, manufacturers must start phasing out incandescent bulbs in favor of more-efficient bulbs such as compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.

While CFLs use at least 75% less energy, some consumers complain....

"Unless you prefer paying higher electricity bills, there's no reason to hoard old incandescent bulbs," [Natural Resources Defense Council's Noah] Horowitz says.

Nationwide, about 25% of our energy use is for lighting, so energy savings are significant.

JetsonGreen offers How to Give Up Incandescent Bulbs

Some of the newer CFLs have been re-designed, offer better lighting instantly with a wider spectrum and greater flexibility.

LEDs offer some exciting potential and are being aggressively engineered and designed, so keep an eye out for new products coming on the market that continue to improve quality and efficiency.

Sean Bielat

Sean Bielat's glossy brochures [not recyclable, BTW] filled our mailbox, sometimes several each day.

The glossy brochures included inflammatory rhetoric, little based on substantive issues.

Mr. Bielat's interviews were filled with the same: little substantive information.

We attended the rally in Taunton at which President Clinton and others spoke, endorsing Barney Frank.

Bielat's few supporters were downright rude! Yelling nonsense, disrupting, and creating a menacing presence that was offensive and discomforting.

Bielat himself remained on the Taunton Green with, was it 6 supporters?

The article in the Boston Globe [excerpts below] comes as little surprise.

Should Mr. Bielat consider a future run, it would be hoped that he gains some maturity and substance.

Law change helped House candidate pay himself
Bielat took $10,000 salary from campaign in loss to Frank
Sean Bielat, whose spirited challenge to US Representative Barney Frank last year drew national attention, paid himself $10,000 in salary drawn from his campaign account, but waited to disclose the move until after the November election.

Bielat, who said he has not ruled out another run for Congress after giving Frank his sharpest challenge since 1982, sharply rejected the notion that he had deceived voters by intentionally hiding the salary until after the election or by listing a second payment he intended to give himself as debt, instead of as a salary.

“I did not cover it up,’’ Bielat said. “Your zeroing in on this now is indicative of why I wanted to avoid any salary. But it got to the point in the campaign when we had to have some income.’’

Bielat quit his job at the iRobot Corp. a year before the election, giving up a $162,754 salary.

“My wife and I are not wealthy,’’ he said, noting that during the campaign they had a child and were burdened by expenses such as student loans.

But in the months leading up to the election, Bielat was sharply critical of Frank for a lack of transparency and promised to be more open.

Tell Congress: Don't pull the plug on NPR and PBS!

In a budget proposal made public on Wednesday, House Republicans announced
plans to zero out all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
(CPB), the nonprofit responsible for funding public media including NPR,
PBS, Pacifica and more.

If the Republicans are successful, it would be a tremendous blow to the
entire public interest media sector.

We cannot allow Republicans to destroy public media.

I just signed a petition telling Congress to fully fund NPR and defend
public service media. You should too. Click below to take action.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Successful propaganda

Noam Chomsky offers a frightening perspective on the propoaganda being perpetuated by the few about Global Warming:

The 2010 elections could be interpreted as a “death knell for the species” because most of the new Republicans in Congress are global warming deniers. “If this was happening in some small country," Chomsky concludes, "it wouldn’t matter much. But when it’s happening in the richest, most powerful country in the world, it’s a danger to the survival of the species.”

In this sixth video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, linguist, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky talks about the Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and other business lobbies enthusiastically carrying out campaigns “to try and convince the population that global warming is a liberal hoax.” According to Chomsky, this massive public relations campaign has succeeded in leading a good portion of the population into doubting the human causes of global warming.

Known for his criticism of the media, Chomsky doesn't hold back in this clip, laying blame on mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times, which will run frontpage articles on what meteorologists think about global warming. “Meteorologists are pretty faces reading scripts telling you whether it’s going to rain tomorrow," Chomsky says. "What do they have to say any more than your barber?” All this is part of the media’s pursuit of “fabled objectivity.”

Of particular concern for Chomsky is the atmosphere of anger, fear and hostility that currently reigns in America. The public’s hatred of Democrats, Republicans, big business and banks and the public’s distrust of scientists all lead to general disregard for the findings of “pointy-headed elitists.” The 2010 elections could be interpreted as a “death knell for the species” because most of the new Republicans in Congress are global warming deniers. “If this was happening in some small country," Chomsky concludes, "it wouldn’t matter much. But when it’s happening in the richest, most powerful country in the world, it’s a danger to the survival of the species.”

Go here to learn more about "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate," and to see the other videos in the series.

Buying a judgeship for $39,775?

In the wake of the Probation Dept. scandal and much else in Massachusetts politics that simply reeks with unqualified appointments and corruption, one might expect conduct to be beyond reproach. Not so when this issue raises questions about an unqualified candidate achieving a lifetime appointment.

The arrogance of Beacon Hill clearly needs some humility.

Hingham lawmaker’s wife gets judgeship

By Nancy Reardon Stewart
Patriot Ledger State House Bureau

BOSTON — Heather Marie Stone Bradley will be a Plymouth County judge, but half of the Governor’s Council says she’s unqualified and doesn’t deserve the job.

Heather Bradley, the wife of state Rep. Garrett Bradley, D-Hingham, narrowly won approval this afternoon from the eight-member council, which confirms all of the governor’s judicial nominees.

The council had a tie vote, so Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, who serves as chair and is usually a non-voting member, cast a rare vote to break the tie.

Heather Bradley’s nomination has been controversial after The Patriot Ledger reported that her husband has donated heavily to Gov. Deval Patrick, Murray and the state Democratic Party. Several Governor’s Council members also expressed concern over the political contributions at Heather Bradley’s nomination hearing last month.

She first applied for a judgeship in East Boston in 2008. She applied for the current Plymouth County position in May 2009.

Since that first application three years ago, Rep. Bradley and his campaign have made $39,775 in political donations. More than half of that – or $20,575 – went to Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and the state Democratic Party.

Councilor Kelly Timilty received $100 from Rep. Bradley in September and was asked to recuse herself from voting, but she refused.

When asked to refrain, Timilty said, “I will not.”

Timilty voted to approve Heather Bradley’s nomination.

Three of the four dissenting members rose to explain their vote.

Heather Bradley most recently has led the forfeiture unit of the Plymouth County District Attorney’s office.

Councilor Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney said she researched the job and found that over the last five years, the office has seen only 99 forfeiture cases.

“Only one forfeiture case has gone to trial in the past five years, lasting one hour,” she said.

Councilor Jennie Caissie said she believes Heather Bradley lacks exposure to many areas of law and had concerned over her lack of civil experience.

She also said that the political contributions “create the appearance this judgeship was bought and paid for.”

Councilor Charles Cipollini, who said she is “grossly unqualified,” said he plans to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission over the possible tie between the political donations and her nomination.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We've allowed this to happen because of lack of leadership

Why should anyone be surprised by the WikiLeaks' revelations when Peak Saudi production was widely written about several years prior to T. Boone Pickens' comments?

T. Boone Pickens, who made his first billions in oil, said this in 2008:

WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices
US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that reserves of world's biggest oil exporter have been overstated by nearly 40%

By John Vidal, environment editor

The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.

The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their Opec cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.

However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.

According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil".

Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.

One cable said: "According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray."

It went on: "In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.

"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached … a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output."

The US consul then told Washington: "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist. His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered."

Seven months later, the US embassy in Riyadh went further in two more cables. "Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period."

A fourth cable, in October 2009, claimed that escalating electricity demand by Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports. "Demand [for electricity] is expected to grow 10% a year over the next decade as a result of population and economic growth. As a result it will need to double its generation capacity to 68,000MW in 2018," it said.

It also reported major project delays and accidents as "evidence that the Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place – to replace the decline in existing production." While fears of premature "peak oil" and Saudi production problems had been expressed before, no US official has come close to saying this in public.

In the last two years, other senior energy analysts have backed Husseini. Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian last year that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.

Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."

The cost of Global Warming

Paul Krugman offered this interesting commentary on Global Warming:

Droughts, Floods and Food
We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs.

The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all, the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes in the Middle East isn’t so much why they’re happening as why they’re happening now. And there’s little question that sky-high food prices have been an important trigger for popular rage.

So what’s behind the price spike? American right-wingers (and the Chinese) blame easy-money policies at the Federal Reserve, with at least one commentator declaring that there is “blood on Bernanke’s hands.” Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France blames speculators, accusing them of “extortion and pillaging.”

But the evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.

Now, to some extent soaring food prices are part of a general commodity boom: the prices of many raw materials, running the gamut from aluminum to zinc, have been rising rapidly since early 2009, mainly thanks to rapid industrial growth in emerging markets.

But the link between industrial growth and demand is a lot clearer for, say, copper than it is for food. Except in very poor countries, rising incomes don’t have much effect on how much people eat.

It’s true that growth in emerging nations like China leads to rising meat consumption, and hence rising demand for animal feed. It’s also true that agricultural raw materials, especially cotton, compete for land and other resources with food crops — as does the subsidized production of ethanol, which consumes a lot of corn. So both economic growth and bad energy policy have played some role in the food price surge.

Still, food prices lagged behind the prices of other commodities until last summer. Then the weather struck.

Consider the case of wheat, whose price has almost doubled since the summer. The immediate cause of the wheat price spike is obvious: world production is down sharply. The bulk of that production decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, reflects a sharp plunge in the former Soviet Union. And we know what that’s about: a record heat wave and drought, which pushed Moscow temperatures above 100 degrees for the first time ever.

The Russian heat wave was only one of many recent extreme weather events, from dry weather in Brazil to biblical-proportion flooding in Australia, that have damaged world food production.

The question then becomes, what’s behind all this extreme weather?

To some extent we’re seeing the results of a natural phenomenon, La Niña — a periodic event in which water in the equatorial Pacific becomes cooler than normal. And La Niña events have historically been associated with global food crises, including the crisis of 2007-8.

But that’s not the whole story. Don’t let the snow fool you: globally, 2010 was tied with 2005 for warmest year on record, even though we were at a solar minimum and La Niña was a cooling factor in the second half of the year. Temperature records were set not just in Russia but in no fewer than 19 countries, covering a fifth of the world’s land area. And both droughts and floods are natural consequences of a warming world: droughts because it’s hotter, floods because warm oceans release more water vapor.

As always, you can’t attribute any one weather event to greenhouse gases. But the pattern we’re seeing, with extreme highs and extreme weather in general becoming much more common, is just what you’d expect from climate change.

The usual suspects will, of course, go wild over suggestions that global warming has something to do with the food crisis; those who insist that Ben Bernanke has blood on his hands tend to be more or less the same people who insist that the scientific consensus on climate reflects a vast leftist conspiracy.

But the evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on February 7, 2011, on page A23 of the New York edition..

Are You Getting Screwed on Your Property Taxes?

Unfair Property Taxes from WGBY on Vimeo.

Are you being over-assessed on your property taxes?

WGBY's Connecting Point interviews Patricia Quintilian, author of “Are You Getting Screwed on Your Property Taxes?”

How many people are paying too much? Quintilian says, "I would venture a guess.. that close to 7 out of 10 homes are over-assessed."

Watch the video above to hear her explanation why.

Connecting Point airs weeknights at 7:30 PM on WGBY.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ah...ever faithful Eric!

The Boston Globe presented an interesting comparison, not particularly meaningful, about paroles under recent Governors.

What is striking about the 'Fehrstrom' quote is the fantasy it creates, ignoring that Governor Romney began campaigning for President as soon as he became Governor, was always 'out of town' when catastrophe struck and was forced to return to pretend he was governing.

Also ignored is that he gutted the state lab, creating a scandal in the early days of the Patrick Administration. How many crimes were never prosecuted because the statute of limitations ran out on the evidence testing? How many cases were overturned?

On a personal note, it's always curious that 'pro-life' folks are pro-death penalty and see no contradiction.

Parole records under Romney, Patrick similar
Data on releases reveal little about politics

Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, defended his boss’s record...Romney... tried to bring back the death penalty. And he noted that Cinelli first came up for parole in 2005, when Romney was governor, and the board rejected him.

“Mitt Romney was a law-and-order governor who time and again demonstrated his commitment to keeping the public safe from violent criminals,’’ Fehrnstrom said in a statement last week. Romney, he said, tried to appoint board members with law enforcement backgrounds but met resistance from council members and legislators.

Finally! Koch owns Congress!

The U.S. has long lacked a sensible energy policy and been held hostage by corporate interests while the rest of the world moves on.

The article below is worth reading in its entirety and clearly displays the short-sightedness of the wealthy Koch brothers. Bear in mind that they have aggressively opposed Cape Wind.

As we gradually destroy the world and its environment, making it uninhabitable for humans, they must believe they're immune.

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power
The billionaire brothers' influence is most visible in the makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where members have vowed to undo restrictions on greenhouse gases.
By Tom Hamburger, Kathleen Hennessey and Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington's political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee's 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.

Claiming an electoral mandate, Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs' core energy businesses.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mr. Speaker: Let's get it done!

Even the Boston Globe agrees that the BOTTLE BILL should be done --

Bottle bill: Fighting litter is reason enough

The best reason for Massachusetts to expand the bottle bill is that collecting a nickel deposit on containers for water and other drinks will keep them from littering roadsides, polluting waterways, and taking up space in landfills. Governor Patrick is pushing for the change partly because it would yield an extra $20 million in uncollected deposits, but the environmental payoff is reason enough.

Beer and soda containers were the original target of the three-decade old law, which has worked wonders in keeping them off roadsides. But their place has been taken by containers for water, sports drinks, fruit juices, and coffee-flavored beverages — all of which would be included in the governor’s proposal.

While Patrick would use most of the extra money to help balance the state budget, he would steer about a third of it to help communities improve their recycling rates. Even if the bottle bill expansion added nothing to state coffers, the impact on litter would still amply justify it.

3 million per day!

From Envir0nment Massachusetts:

Our ocean wildlife is seriously threatened by plastic bag pollution.

Every year, more than 1 billion marine animals worldwide are killed by plastic bags. [1] Green turtles nesting on Nantucket; right whales breeching off our coast; seabirds looking for a treat — all of these animals can suffer painful deaths because of our plastic pollution.

In Massachusetts alone, we use over 3 million plastic bags at grocery and retail stores every day, and many of these bags make their way into our ocean.[2] We use plastic bags for a few minutes, and then they last in our environment for hundreds of years.

We have a chance to win a statewide ban on plastic bags this year, but we need to act by Friday to build support on Beacon Hill.
Will you e-mail your senator and representative, and ask them to support a plastic bag ban?

Communities up and down the coast — from North Carolina, to Washington, D.C., to Connecticut — are taking action to reduce and eliminate plastic bags, cutting their pollution and protecting their marine life. It’s time for Massachusetts to get on board.

Winning a ban won't be easy — big chemical companies that make all those plastic bags hate the idea of banning them, and have put lots of resources into fighting other bans across the country.

We’re up to the challenge. In the coming months, Environment Massachusetts will be working in cities and towns across the state to get communities involved so we can show our elected officials that we’re ready to ban the bag. That’s why we need you.

Tell your senator and representative that Massachusetts is ready to ban the bag.

Massachusetts has always been a leader when it comes to protecting our environment. It's time for us to protect our marine life better by getting on board with a plastic bag ban. Stand up for our coastal life by e-mailing your senator and representative today.


Ben Wright
Environment Massachusetts Advocate

United Nations Development Program.
[2] "2009 Annual Report," Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Jan. 2010.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Phase out coal and beat back fracking

Consider lending your support to these issues --

"Phase out coal and beat back fracking."
That's the message we're asking you to send your state legislators before 4:00 p.m. Friday, February 4.

Please call or email your State Senator or Representative and ask them to co-sponsor two bills: Representative Lori Ehrlich's Act to Phase Out Coal-Burning in Massachusetts and Representative Sean Garballey's Act to Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing.

About half the electricity we generate in Massachusetts comes from natural gas, and much of that natural gas gets to the surface via a process called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) which contaminates drinking water. The Act to Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing would require power companies to certify that their natural gas meets safe drinking-water standards and force them to disclose the chemicals they used to extract the natural gas.

The Act to Phase Out Coal-Burning wold make power companies retire or repower their coal-burning plants by 2020. The bill would also set up a Community Repowering Fund to help plant-workers and surrounding communities if a company chooses to retire (i.e. close down) a facility instead of repowering it to cleaner energy.

Together these two bills would push us closer to the goal of being fossil-fuel free by 2050. Please contact your state legislators today and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors. Tell them you want Massachusetts to phase out coal and beat back fracking.

Beat Back Fracking in Massachusetts

Targeting: The MA State Senate and The MA State House
Started by: Peter Vickery
In Massachusetts, natural gas is the source of about half of our electricity. We have a responsibility to ensure that the drilling companies that extract the natural gas from underground use methods that are safe and that they publicly disclose the chemicals they use in the process.

Natural gas may be cleaner than coal, but that doesn't mean it's clean. Getting natural gas out from underground by the process called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) can pollute the air and poison people's drinking water. Drilling companies don't even have to tell us what chemicals they're injecting into the ground to force the gas out. Dangerous unregulated fracking is a public health hazard and it has to stop.

Although dangerous unregulated fracking doesn't happen in Massachusetts, there is something we can do to stop it. We can require the power companies to certify that the natural gas they use in Massachusetts complies with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act's underground injection control program requirements.

Until Congress did the industry a huge favor by creating a loophole in 2005, those federal regulations covered fracking. Closing that loophole at the federal level is essential. But we can't afford to wait for Congress. We have to get to work at the state level.

That's why it's so important for the Massachusetts Legislature to pass the Act to Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing, which would require power companies to (a) publicly disclose all the chemicals that the drillers used in obtaining the natural gas, and (b) certify that the extraction process complied with the Safe Drinking Water Act's underground injection control program requirements, the rules that used to regulate fracking before 2005.

By signing this petition we're telling Massachusetts lawmakers to ensure that the natural gas coming into the state was extracted safely and that the public knows what chemicals the drilling companies used in the process.

For the sake of clean air and safe drinking water, let's beat back fracking in Massachusetts!

The Bay State Push to Move Away From Coal

The Mount Tom coal plant in Holyoke, Massachusetts poses an interesting ethical quandary. On the one hand, it annually pumps about 1 million tons of toxic CO2 into the increasingly fragile atmosphere. On the other hand, it generates 146 kilowatts of much-needed electricity, keeps about 50 people gainfully employed, and contributes nearly $2 million to the community in taxes.

What’s the best course of action in this case? Shut down the plant and cut electricity, jobs and tax revenue? Or keep it open and contribute to global warming?

A new bill introduced in Massachusetts says the answer should actually be neither. Rather than forcing the state to close the coal plant, its supporters want Mount Tom to switch to renewable energy sources or natural gas. Peter Vickery, one of the bill’s proponents, and the creator of a petition on, puts the mission simply: “Keep Mount Tom open, but minus the coal.”

This highly sensible tenet is one of many in the so-called Act to Phase-Out Coal Burning in Massachusetts, which also asks for the closure or conversion of all other Bay State coal-burning plants (there are currently two others alive and kicking, one of which is already scheduled for closure). For instance, the deadline it sets for change is 2020—giving plant owners a more-than-reasonable time frame to figure out logistics. And if a plant gets shuttered rather than converted over, it asks for a Community Repowering Fund to help laid-off employees and the local community get back on their feet.

In an op-ed, Vickery also tackles the inevitable question of will it work? He provides detailed examples of other plants that have successfully made the toxic-to-green leap, including four in Colorado, one in Minnesota, and one in Mount Tom’s backyard.

But what’s really reasonable about the legislation is its central motive: prevent coal from wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Vickery notes that coal makes up roughly one-third of the U.S.’s total CO2 output. And on her official website, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lori Ehlrich, says virtually all of the coal burned in Massachusetts is imported from other states or countries, and is often mined under dangerous conditions.

Combating this, while also keeping precious jobs in place and the fragile economy in balance, seems like an easy win-win—which is probably why more than a thousand people have already e-mailed Mount Tom’s owners, GDF Suez, asking for a conversion. It also explains why the legislation has elicited the support of groups including the Sierra Club, the clean-energy labor organization GreenWork, and Neighbor to Neighbor, a group that serves low-income communities. Even more promising? All that support has come in advance of the campaign’s official kickoff during a public meeting February 23.

Vickery, a master's degree candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst's Center for Public Policy and Administration, says the goal of the act is to spur “clean-energy innovation and job creation.” It’s nice to know there’s no reason we have to choose between the two.

Support jobs and the environment by signing Vickery's petition to support the Act to Phase Out Coal Burning in Massachusetts.

BOTTLE BILL: Dammit! It's time!

Maybe it's simply an oversight if your Senator and Representative has yet to co-sponsor this legislation.

Dammit! This is time to reduce every expense of municipalities - EVERY EXPENSE!

That includes reducing the costs of TRASH and reducing roadside trash.

Let's get this done! Please remind them to co-sponsor this.

This from:

The Updated Bottle Bill will increase recycling, reduce litter, and save cities and towns money in disposal costs.

Please take a minute to call your state representative and senator and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor by Feb. 4.

Talking points:

I hope you will add your name as a cosponsor to the Updated Bottle Bill.

The Updated Bottle Bill would add bottled water, sports drinks and other beverages to the current bottle deposit system so these containers would get recycled instead of littered or trashed.

Please contact the offices of Rep. Alice Wolf or Sen. Cynthia Creem, the bill sponsors, to add your name to the list.

If your state senator or state representative has already signed on as a cosponsor, please call and thank them for their support.

The following legislators have already signed on as cosponsors: Sen. Chang-Diaz, Sen. Creem, Sen. Clark, Sen. DiDomenico, Sen. Donnelly, Sen. Eldridge, Sen. Fargo, Sen. Jehlen, Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Petruccelli, Sen. Ross, Sen. Rush, Sen. Timilty, Sen. Wolf, Rep. Andrews, Rep. Atkins, Rep. Balser, Rep. Basile, Rep. Benson, Rep. Brodeur, Rep. Brownsberger, Rep. Calter, Rep. Canavan, Rep. Coakley-Rivera, Rep. Conroy, Rep. Coppinger, Rep. Creedon, Rep. Dykema, Re.p Ehrlich, Rep. Fox, Rep. Garballey, Rep. Hecht, Rep. Hogan, Rep. Kaufman, Rep. Khan, Rep. Kocot, Rep. Koczera, Rep. Kulik, Rep. Lewis, Rep. Linsky, Rep. Madden, Rep. Malia, Rep. Mark, Rep. Nyman , Rep. O'Connell, Rep. Peake, Rep. Peisch, Rep. Pignatelli, Rep. Provost, Rep. Ross, Rep. Rushing, Rep. Sanchez, Rep. Sannicandro, Rep. Scibak, Rep. Sciortino, Rep. Smizik, Rep. Speliotis, Rep. Speranzo, Rep. Straus, Rep. Hariett Stanley, Rep. Thomas Stanley, Rep. Toomey, Rep. Turner, Rep. Vallee, Rep. Walz, Rep. Winslow, and Rep. Wolf.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What would you do for $10,000 or $15,000 per year?

DeLeo, facing fire, tightens grip on power
2 potential rivals in House sidelined

By Michael Levenson

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, under fire for a patronage scandal at the state Probation Department and facing two ambitious deputies jostling for their own power, tightened his grip on the House yesterday, sidelining would-be successors and promoting loyalists who had helped advance his gambling agenda.

The most dramatic change was the demotion of James E. Vallee, the House majority leader, who had been quietly building a political base within the House in hopes of one day becoming speaker, when DeLeo retires. The speaker handed him a new assignment with less clout, as chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.

DeLeo also removed Charles A. Murphy, another potential candidate for speaker and a political rival of Vallee, from his position as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which helps write the state budget. DeLeo gave him a new job as the assistant majority leader, a position that has a lower profile but keeps him within the speaker’s inner circle.

Murphy and Vallee will both take a pay cut. Vallee, a Franklin Democrat, will lose $15,000 in salary. Murphy, a Burlington Democrat, will lose $10,000.

DeLeo’s shake-up adds to a palpable sense of unease in the corridors of the State House. Governor Deval Patrick has pushed out state Parole Board members, and the heads of some agencies, showing a stronger hand as he embarks on his second term. House members said privately that DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat who was first elected speaker two years ago and reelected to the post this month, was sending a message that he intends to remain in power and will not tolerate back-room jockeying for his seat.

But DeLeo, emerging from a closed-door caucus where he announced his leadership changes, denied that he was marginalizing Murphy or Vallee.

“This wasn’t a question of that,’’ he said. “It was just a question of where I could fit people in, to move our agenda forward.’’

Murphy insisted he was not upset that DeLeo had given him a lower-profile job with less pay, saying, “I see it as a promotion.’’

“The speaker’s the speaker,’’ Murphy said. “I serve at the pleasure of the speaker. And I’m OK with that.’’

DeLeo tapped Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat and close confidant, to succeed Vallee as majority leader, the second-ranking position in the House. DeLeo asserted that he was not punishing Vallee, an Army lawyer. “With Jim being a military guy with a long military record, I thought in veterans’ services we could use his talents there,’’ DeLeo said.

Vallee did not return calls for comment.

The speaker named Brian S. Dempsey to succeed Murphy as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a post that served as a steppingstone to the speaker’s chair for DeLeo and a prior speaker, Thomas M. Finneran. Dempsey, a Haverhill Democrat who entered the House with DeLeo in 1991, was the speaker’s top deputy on gambling in the last session, helping him drive legislation through the House that would have legalized casinos and slot machines at the racetracks. “I look forward to the challenge,’’ Dempsey said. “We all know it’s a difficult budget.’’

Republicans immediately criticized the promotion of Dempsey, who pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges in 2003, was placed on probation, and lost his license for 45 days. The GOP said it reflected the misguided values on Beacon Hill, which has been implicated in the patronage scandal at the Probation Department.

“Speaker DeLeo is doing nothing to restore the public’s faith in the House of Representatives by appointing Representative Dempsey to such a powerful position,’’ Nathan Little, executive director of the state GOP, said in a statement.

Dempsey said yesterday: “This was a terrible mistake, which I will always deeply, deeply regret, and I apologize to the community and family and constituents and have used it as a major life lesson and have moved on with my work here in the Legislature.’’

DeLeo, who has been trying to fend off questions about his role in recommending associates and supporters for jobs in the Probation Department, sought with several of his changes to send a message that he is serious about fixing the agency.

He had demoted Thomas M. Petrolati — a Ludlow Democrat accused of packing the Probation Department with supporters — from his position as speaker pro tempore, the number three leadership position in the House, which cost Petrolati $15,000 a year. Yesterday, DeLeo gave Petrolati no prominent post, making him a rank-and-file member of three committees.

To succeed Petrolati, DeLeo chose Patricia A. Haddad, a Somerset Democrat. She has been one of the speaker’s negotiators, working with the Patrick administration and the state Senate on legislation to professionalize the Probation Department.

Several other lawmakers took on new assignments. Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat, was named chairman of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee, which will put him at the center of any future debate over expanded gambling. DeLeo also elevated Kathi-Anne Reinstein of Revere, a strong proponent of legalizing casinos and slot machines at the racetracks, to a leadership position.

William M. Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat, was chosen to succeed Wagner as chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Hot Coffee!

If you've heard the stories about Stella Liebeck, maybe you haven't heard the facts.

The information presented below provides insight and information about "Tort Reform" and the misuse of the case to absolve corporations of liability.

Worth reading and listening to in their entirety.

Do You Know the Full Story Behind the Infamous McDonald’s Coffee Case and How Corporations Used it to Promote Tort Reform?

Stella Liebeck made national headlines in 1992 when she sued McDonald’s after spilling a scalding cup of hot coffee on her lap. The lawsuit had the whole country talking. But what most people do not know is that Liebeck suffered third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body and never fully recovered. And most people do not know that corporations have spent millions of dollars distorting her story to promote tort reform. Liebeck’s case is featured in the documentary Hot Coffee, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday.

"Hot Coffee" Film Explores How Corporations Are Spending Millions and Spinning the Story to Alter Our Nation’s Civil Justice System

Hot Coffee, a new documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, looks at the stories of four people whose lives were devastated when they were denied access to the courtroom after being injured. The film documents how corporations have spent millions to promote the case for tort reform.

"Hot Coffee" Exposes How Hard Caps on Malpractice Awards Shift Burden to Taxpayers

In our final segment featuring the explosive new documentary Hot Coffee, we speak with a family featured in the film. Lisa and Mike Gourley are the parents of twin sons Colin and Connor. Colin was born with cerebral palsy because of medical malpractice during childbirth. A Nebraska jury awarded Colin $5.6 million to cover his medical expenses. But a state-mandated cap reduced his award by 80 percent, to $1.2 million. We speak with the family about how taxpayers are now responsible for paying for Colin’s expensive healthcare costs and how mandated caps in malpractice lawsuits relieve the wrongdoer of responsibility for the damage they cause.

DeLeo, The Buffoon!

When you become so enamored of your reflection in the mirror, you simply don't hear.

When Representatives prostitute themselves for Chairmanships, bigger offices and larger staffs, where are you? Selling your conscience for a few gold coins?

House Speaker "Racino" DeLeo is so blinded by his own arrogance, he has ceased listening. The echoes he hears are not the voice of the people, but simply his own voice within an empty head.

I have met NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, who doesn't fully support the EXPANDED BOTTLE BILL.

Here's what DeLeo said on

DeLeo also remains cool to the governor’s proposal... to expand the bottle bill, which would add a 5-cent deposit to tea, juice and water bottles.

“The budget that will come out will not have any new taxes, no additional fees, or any other gimmicks in terms of raising additional revenue,” DeLeo said.

Patrick introduced these proposals in his budget plan in an effort raise revenue. The ... additional bottle deposit would help fund recycling programs.

Mr. Speaker:

Instead of opposing the expanded BOTTLE BILL that has languished for far too long because of vested interests, this represents solid waste disposal savings for municipalities and fund raising for groups that pick up the trash from the roadside, as a start.

The EXPANDED BOTTLE BILL is a sensible and reasonable solution.

In addition, the funds have the potential of replacing the Unclaimed Bottle Deposit Funds that now go into the General Fund and are spent for other things, like maybe the Probation Dept. ?

Those funds, in the past, went to DEP and were used for the plastic recycling bins and compost bins.

Please consider contacting your Senator and your Representative to support this long overdue legislation: