TOPIC: Dept. of Defense

Great Lakes invasion threat

Asian carp gets all the press, but there are 40 other species swimming in the Chicago River that could spring an unwanted invasion into the Great Lakes. So says a new report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as relayed by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dan Egan. At issue is whether the Army Corps should build an electric barrier to separate the Chicago River from Lake Michigan. Many environmentalists say the barrier should be built now, but the Army Corp is still in studying/evaluation mode.

Chicago goes to Washington

Paul Merrion of Crain’s Chicago Business breaks down which Chicago companies did the most lobbying in Washington, D.C. during the second quarter. Defense contracting behemoth Boeing unsurprisingly did the most, spending about $4.4 million on lobbying efforts. The Exelon Corp. energy company was second, with $1.6 million.

What the numbers show is that while major companies have a full staff of lobbyists, lobbying expenditures wax and wane depending on whether the company has specific business in Washington. Boeing, for example, spent a lot more on lobbying while trying to procure a $35 billion tanker deal from the Air Force.


Carp nearing the Great Lakes

Here is somewhat alarming news involving Asian carp, which threaten to disrupt the ecology of Lake Michigan. “With no fanfare,” reports Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted on its website this week news that nine water samples taken above the barrier in recent weeks have tested positive for the giant, jumping fish.” Seven of these samples were taken from Chicago’s Lake Calumet, which lies just a few miles away from Lake Michigan. What was discovered was not fish themselves but strands of DNA. Perhaps it got there, reports Egan, “through sewage discharges or contaminated bilge water from barges.”

When debt goes away, a new world for the American consumer [citizen]

In an illuminating piece in the New York Times, David Leonhardt says that the consumer-driven economy is history.  He says the “consumer bust” is here, and in essence,  using debt to buy things is over.  People aren’t buying new cars as often, they’re not buying stoves or refrigerators as often, and consumer lenders are battening the hatches.  The money (revolving credit, which is really revolving debt) is just not going to be there anymore.   It is a helpful and succinct look at the end of a stage of American history.  But Leonhardt offers some new paths forward as well. (more…)

Five feet high and rising (the ocean, that is) at Hampton Roads

Darryl Fears reports on a realistic approach to climate change in a great Washington Post snapshot of the area around Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Including the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, this part of the country is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels because the land itself is sinking due to long-term geological processes. In a few generations, Virginia Beach could be left without a beach, and the Norfolk Naval Station could be more underwater than even the Navy likes to be. (more…)

Mayors against war spending

With President Obama speaking tonight on the timing of American withdrawals from Afghanistan, the war’s political focus has turned to its cost. The U.S. Conference of Mayors wrote a resolution this weekend that (kind of tepidly) called for the “speeding up” of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and also Iraq. The mayors, of course, would like to see the $126 billion spent each year on the wars go toward cities.

One practical problem that the $1.3 trillion the U.S. has spent total on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is borrowed. (more…)

Army Corps v. California trees

Six years and thousands of miles away from the poorly designed flood walls and levees whose post-Katrina failure inundated New Orleans, environmental groups in California have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent what they contend is an unproven, costly and potentially damaging flood protection strategy ordered by US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps, under scrutiny after a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe, decreed in 2007 that local levee districts would in the future lose guarantees of federal aid and loans unless all trees and shrubs were removed from levees under its nominal jurisdiction around the nation. (more…)

In the High Sierra, it never rains but it pours

Sacramento river levee

Massive federal irrigation pumps, sucking up a bounty of water after an abundant California rainy season, are wreaking  havoc on already-stressed fish species, while state and federal officials fret that sudden and sustained heat in the High Sierra could cause devastating flooding. (more…)

Modest progress on Asian carp

Asian Carp

The White House, seven federal agencies, and eight Great Lakes states have agreed upon an updated plan to get Asian carp out of Chicago area waterways that lead to Lake Michigan, reports the Northwest Indiana Times’ Bowdeya Tweh.

The effort calls for continuing to search for Asian carp DNA in water samples past an electric barrier system, using electronic transmitters to track movement of certain fish and using commercial fishermen to reduce the Asian carp population downstream of the barrier system. Underwater cameras and hydroguns to kill fish in certain areas also were discussed as technologies that could be employed.

There’s not much new here. While seven federal agencies are part of the effort, the real legwork comes from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (more…)

Big budget — and possibly a big scandal — considering there’s No Such Agency

Is Jane Mayer the next Seymour Hersh?  Mayer’s got an illuminating look at the national security state in the New Yorker, and provides evidence for what appears to be ongoing domestic electronic surveillance on a mass scale, or at least the clear potential for it. Mayer also presents evidence of waste and mismanagement at the National Security Agency, which initially rejected a robust in-house NSA data surveillance product in favor of a $1.2 billion boondoggle system built by outside contractors.  The in-house system, known as “Thin Thread,” had built-in anonymizing tools to protect communications from U.S. citizens, but it didn’t have all the bells and whistles that the outside contractors promised.  It did work, however, which couldn’t be said for the “Trailblazer” system contractors tried to build for the NSA (the program was scuttled in 2006). (more…)