On last month's Fix;
the answer to last month's Fix,
"Should we prop up Mexico's failing economy?"is
Today (Jan. 31), Clinton realized that his chances of getting Congress to pass an aid package were slim, so he used Executive Privelage to divert $20 billion of a slush fund to Mexico. Will it matter? Apparently Newt (the evil) Gingrich thinks so. Personally, I'm not as sanguine about the deal. If a govt. insists on devaluing its own currency by printing more of it, what good are loan guarantees?
On a New Look;
By now you've noticed a lot of things enclosed in <>. This is because
the News is now written for two audiences. Those of you who are used to
seeing this rag in regular email or on paper will see the control codes
which format the issue for use on a World Wide Web server. The format
codes make up what is called the HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language). I
know that this is a bit annoying for those of you who are not reading
this document with a Web reader like Mosaic or NetScape, but maintaining
two equal but different versions of the News would be awfully confusing
and time consuming for yours truly. For those of you so inclined, you
can read the Web version of the News at
For those of you condemned to paper or regular email use, I beg your forbearance on the additional clutter. I promise that eventually, you'll learn to ignore the format codes.
On a New ftp site;
As long as we're introducing new stuff, this seems the proper time to announce that I've created an anonymous ftp archive at
This site contains mainly networking tools for MS-Windows, Mac, and Linux environments. As I have not personally used everything, I cannot guarantee complete functionality, but the people I scrounged from seem reliable. If memory serves, it currently contains:
On the Price of Privacy;
At this moment I hold in my hands further evidence (as if any was needed) of what privacy means to a govt. What is this damning artifact you ask? _Performance Products_, a catalog that specializes in parts for sports cars and 4 wheel drive vehicles. I have the Toyota 4Runner edition. Now, how did I come to get this catalog? I didn't ask for it. It came totally unbidden in the mail. The answer, of course, is the all pervasive mailing list. Ahh, but whose mailing list? Only 3 entities know that I have this vehicle; the guy who sold it to me, the insurance agent, and the State of Minnesota. I called _Performance Products_ and asked how they got my name and address.
"From the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation," the lady said.
"How much did you have to pay for this?", I asked.
"It was free", she said.
I seem to recall that privacy was fairly important to the Founders. Amazing how that which was bought with blood and bullets can be lost by bumbling beaurocrats.
On an Amusing Editorial;
This past weekend (Feb 4-5) I went up to Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival and had occasion to read one of the local papers. I believe this one was called _Peninsula News_. One of the letters to the editor was titled "NPR vs. Rush Limbaugh" or something similar. The writer, predictably, decided that NPR was better for reliable news since they bring in "experts" to speak on topics while Limbaugh just pontificates. However, the writer went on to explain that while NPR plays mostly classical music, Limbaugh plays contemporary jazz and funk. In fact, the writer's exact words were,
"... at least Mr. Limbaugh does not insult our multi-cultural sensitivities by only playing music written by dead white guys."
I just had to share that.
On Blazing Chips;
Ooh that 90 MHz 586!! The Cray Killer. But wait. Does anyone recall the hubbub that surrounded the introduction of the 66 MHz 486? It was claimed, and I think it made some sense, that the 50 MHz 486 was actually the faster overall chip. "Huh?", you say. Well, it works like this.
Suppose you have a 50 MHz chip. That means that the chip executes some operation every 1/50,000,000 of a second. That's 2*10E-8 or 20 ns. Now it turns out that 20ns is the speed of most cache RAM and most ISA motherboards have 128-256 KB of cache. So far, so good. But a 66 MHz chip can execute a memory request every 15 ns. This is faster than the RAM can respond, so the chip has to wait around for a second clock cycle to elapse to get the info. it requested from the cache. This is called adding a "wait state." This has the effect of making the 66 MHz 486 run at 1/2 speed (33 MHz) much of the time. Hence, the 50 MHz chip was actually faster.
This argument was actually used in _Byte_ and other magazines to discourage the purchase of the faster chips. Now we have a 90 MHz chip, that's an 8 ns clock cycle, and it's still usually connected to 20 ns cache RAM. That means that the 586 has three wait states and is effectively running at 30 MHz.
So is the 90-586 is slower than a 50-486? Well, not quite. Intel will tell you that the 586 has more parallel execution units so that some part is still busy while another is waiting for the RAM data. And there is 8 KB of on-chip cache that runs at chip speed. So what is the bottom line? If you are running code that is very compact, maybe a calculating loop that can entirely fit in the 8 KB on-chip cache, you will see a terrific boost in speed with the 90-586. If the code is less local and has to make many calls to the external cache, the advantage will not be as obvious. And if you are working with code and data that takes up many MB's (i.e. image processing) such that the chip has to go to 70-80 ns main RAM, don't expect a doubling of performance over the 50-486.
But hey, it's your money.
Yes, it's that wonderful time of year when we all compute how big an allowance Daddy IRS will give us this time. Since I've lived in two states this year, I was looking at the State of Michigan tax form tonight. One phrase on the front cover caught my attention.
"If you own stocks, bonds or land contracts, you may be required to pay intangibles tax. This tax is levied on ownership of intangible personal property ..."
Ah. So let me get this straight. I buy a stock, hold it while it (hopefully) goes up, and sell it. I get taxed on the sale price as if it was income, plus I get taxed on the "capital gain." But now, I don't even have to sell the stock and make a profit to be taxed. No no no. I can be taxed for holding the stock because it has intangible value. So does motherhood, art and education. God help the single mother who gets a PhD and decorates her home with her own paintings.
Internal Revenue Service to get Scarier
Detroit Free Press, Jan. 20, 1995
by Frank Greve
In an effort to catch more tax cheats, the IRS plans to vastly expand the secret database it keeps on virtually all Americans. Likely to be included are credit reports, news stories, informant tips, motor vehicle and child support records, as well as financial/bank data.
"Any person who has business or financial activities" can expect upgraded agency computers to make that info. available to the IRS auditors, a recent IRS notice said. Although agency officials concede that some of the data collected will be in error, taxpayers will not be allowed to see or correct it. Only when being audited will taxpayers be able to rebut system inaccuracies, and even then they will not see the raw data. Phil Brand, the IRS' chief compliance officer, said database aided auditors will be more productive.
"If you have someone claiming $20K in income, yet you're seeing real estate and cars worth way more, you'll know there has to be more income or a gift," he said. "You used to have to trot over to the Courthouse and make a call to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Now you'll have the records online."
Just what records is unclear. In California, where automated record keeping is quite sophisticated, the IRS will likely collect more data, Brand said. That could include state and local taxes info, motor vehicle and real estate records, child support, building permits, and professional licenses. Also, federal records of crop subsidies, boat and plane ownership, currency trading, wages, stock transfers, foreign corporations and criminal investigations. And the IRS plans to get info. from news reports, credit bureaus and other unspecified databases. By law, consumer credit figures are off limits to the IRS, but names, addresses and account numbers can be used to identify non-filers.
The purpose of the system, according to chief of the IRS' Privacy and Education Branch Phyllis DePiazza, is to shrink the $100 billion anuual gap between IRS estimates of taxes due and revenues actually collected. Specifically, the system will help identify patterns of evasion and identify better targets for audits. Ultimately, the IRS may obtain enough info. to prepare people's return for them, said Coleta Bruek, the agency's top document processing official.
" If I know what your income and withholding are, and your spending patterns, I should be able to generate your return and come to you and say, 'I think this is what you owe, if you agree don't bother sending us the paper.' " Privacy advocates are outraged.
"They're creating dossiers on everyone in America," said Avid banisar of the Electronic Privacy Info Center. "Suppose they get a list of Cadillacs owners and decide to target all of them for audits," said Pete Seep of the National Taxpayers Union. Basically, the IS intends to match tax returns with consumer info held in federal, state, local and private sector databases.
"You might even go to the state licensing agency for commercial fishing and take a look at their crabbing and oyster catch reports to detect if fisherman are under-reporting their income," dipiazza said. The mail order industry has been resisting the IS.
"Our concern is that our files may be used by the IS to investigate people, " said John Clear, VP for govt. affairs at donnely Marketing, a leading mailing list provider. "Another problem," says Donnely, "is that they may want our info for a precise task when it isn't precise: if we say the average income for a certain group is $70K, the range could be $40-100K."
IRS spokesperson Steve Pyrek says the IRS isn't sure how it would use private sector databases, it just wants to collect them.
Tigerton -- The government overstepped its authority when law enforcement officers burned eight buildings, including mobile homes and sheds, at a settlement established by members of the Posse Comitatus, a spokesman for the group said Sunday.
Scorched earth and smoldering rubble were all that remained at the compound in Tigerton Dells that was torched by police executing an eviction order against the Posse, an anti-government group that opposes taxation.
"This was another Waco, Texas," said Jason Hall, a Posse spokesman, describing the raid Friday by 50 law enforcement officials on eight buildings in a wooded section of Shawano County.
"The government has definitely overstepped its authority and destroyed people's property. The only difference here was there were no charred bodies of women and children."
In Waco two years ago, 86 people, including women and children, were killed when federal authorities raided a farm occupied by members of a religious cult that had stockpiled large caches of weapons.
Shawano County Sheriff William Aschenbrener and officials of the Shawano County district attorney's office did not return calls seeking comment Saturday.
Delbert Larson, 72, a retired bricklayer from Milwaukee, said fires set by law enforcement officials at Tigerton had left him homeless.
"I've got nothing but the clothes I'm wearing," he said. "They hauled away all my stuff, but they won't tell me where they took it."
Larson said he did not belong to the Posse but sympathized with its beliefs. He lived rent-free on the property because he was poor and had no place else to go, he said.
Larson spent Saturday night sleeping at a friend's apartment. He said he tried to remove his belongings from the compound before the fire, but officials denied him access to the building he had lived in for two years.
Burned books, kitchen appliances and food dumped from a refrigerator could be seen in the smoldering remains of his home.
"They did this because they don't like the way we think," Larson said. "We will not bow down to their stinkin' god they call government... because it's all run by criminals."
Forest County Judge Robert Kennedy, a substitute for the local judge, ordered the eviction at 11:30 a.m. Friday. It was carried out at 4:45 p.m.
The structures remained on the property after a similar raid in 1985. During that raid, mobile homes were removed from the site, but additions to the trailers were left standing.
The compound is part of a 580-acre farm that Hall said belonged partly to JoAnn Redman, of Mosinee, a sister of Donald Minniecheske, former leader of the Wisconsin branch of the Posse. Minniecheske is at a correctional facility at Oregon, serving a nine-year prison sentence for theft of two tractors in 1981.
Hall contends the eviction should not have taken place because Redman was not properly served legal papers to appear at a hearing.
But Shawano County said it acquired Redman's land because she had not paid taxes. The county then gave the land to the Village of Tigerton on quit-claim deed.
Hall said the transaction was illegal because Redman still owned the land. A 20-minute videotape recorded by Hall showed the eviction being carried out by some officers wearing black hoods over their heads. At least one official could be seen carrying an assault rifle.
Rodney Johnson, 30, who lived in a school bus at the compound, said officers towed away his home. The vehicle has since been stripped of all amenities that made it livable, he said.
* * * End Story * * *
[Photograph by JACK REICHERT on page 9A showing the rubble of the buildings amid the trees has the following caption: "Compound destroyed: Concrete slabs, which were once the path leading to the front door of one of the mobile homes at the Posse Comitatus compound near Tigerton, lead to smoldering ruins. The trailer and seven other buildings were burned in a raid by law enforcement officers after a judge signed a court order to have the buildings razed." ]
2. Beaumont Bruce writes
>From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Feb 9 16:57:24 1995
The National Institute on Drug Abuse just posted a new RFA "Evaluation of Compounds for Abuse Potential in Baboons" (RFP N01DA-5-7050). I can see it now. Strung out baboons terrorizing the inner cities with simian built assault weapons looking for a fix of the latest wonder drug. Where will it end? Nubile young chimps selling themselves on street corners? Lemur gangs doing drive by scent markings? I sure hope the 'Crime Bill' addresses these important issues.
No joy connecting with http://ppsa.lanl.gov/ is it actually online? WBH is still in rare form. In a brilliant financial move, there will no longer be deliveries of soda to any of the WBH out-buildings. I can feel my health care costs decreasing already, can you? ;-)
Phone installations are on hold for two months while the communication people switch all the hospital HDS terminals to PC's. This is an improvement?
In answer to your question du jour. We have no _responsibility_ to bail anyone out except ourselves. The fiscal policies of our own government are hardly a shining example to the rest of the world. Without our very large economic base and ability to print money at a rate approaching the spending rate, we might be asking Mexico for help. It just goes to show, wasteful spending is the government spending my income the way I want it spent, but wise spending (read investment) is the government spending my income the way it wants.
Granted, the current plan _only_ involves loan guarantees, but since no country (in recent memory) has repaid its U.S. loans, this is functionally indistinguishable from other forms of foreign aid. The question then becomes, how long will it be before the administration forgives the debt and starts writing checks if (read when) Mexico defaults? It will once again be exercise time for the American tax payer...one and two and grab your ankles.
Maybe Mexico should sell something, to raise the money it needs. Cancun is nice this time of year. Hey, it worked for us in the early nineteenth century.
Bruce W. Steinert, Ph.D.
Department of Urology
ED Note: Well, ppsa.lanl.gov worked as of Feb. 10, but I have not tried it recently. What say you JJ? Another hard drive upgrade?
3. Arizona Matt has an announcement
>From email@example.com Fri Feb 17 23:24:21 1995
Received: by dagobah.primenet.com
Subject: new birkholz on the loose
Who: Erica Ann
What: cutest baby girl you ever did see
weight: 8lbs 9.4oz
head : 13inches
chest : 13.25inches
When: Wed Feb 8 01:53 MST 1995
Why: Just moving to AZ and starting new jobs wasn't challenge enough. How: Caesarean Section Sorry, no pictures; we weren't expecting major surgery. Unfortunately, several danger signs (marconium in the amniotic fluid and an elevated fetal heart rate) made it necessary. Everyone's fine now, of course.
4. From across the pond, David Gay pens
>From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Feb 21 17:20:13 1995
It has been a while since I've had the timing right for making a contribution for your newsletter. As for your question, "Is it our duty to bail out Mexico's economy? If so, how?"
I am not too clear on what has happened the coverage on the BBC and in the Economist is a bit sketchy. I assume that Mexico has just defaulted on its loans to the US banks. If I am not mistaken this has happened before. Didn't one of Mexico's former presidents acquire a substantial personal fortune from the state owned oil company? I'm not sure whether we should bail them out or not, but a few possible for this are mechanisms are available:
* Loaning them more money at a higher interest rate since they are a obviously a bad risk!
* Repay Mexico's load to Citibank, and tell the guys at Citibank how wonderful they are. Or let Citibank charge more credit cards so to pay off Mexico's debt.
* Let Citibank go bust! (I suppose this is being a bit unrealistic.)
* Invading and then rebuilding their economy (note: Germany and Japan, unfortunately this has not worked for Vietnam yet).
* Import all the Mexican's to work in our gardens and babysit our children and make them send back their wages to pay off the debt. (I think they are trying this in California already, so it probably doesn't work.)
* Force the Japanese to buy only Mexican products.
* Or simply sell Mexico to Japan.
Dave Gay (London)
5. And former Florida Doug, now in Minnesota writes
>From email@example.com Fri Feb 24 11:52:38 1995
Send stuff to firstname.lastname@example.org since my Florida acct just got cleared out. (The bastards).
"Should we bail out Mexico's economy?"
You mean give them *another* transfusion even though they absolutely, totally and uncompromisingly refuse to change their unhealthy lifestyle? We might as well accept out Excedrin headache #9 right now and get it over with.
-- Anon. but someone who is concerned that MS's plans to bundle Internet transaction SW with all copies of DOS will lead to MS getting a royalty on every bill that is paid electronically
1. St. Paul, Feb. 2: Yesterday, the state printed the names of over 300 "deadbeat dads" in the area newspapers where the alledeged miscreants live. Today, the state is being sued by at least 33 who claim that, contrary to the letter of the law, they were not notified prior to the printing of those papers that their names would be in them. Futhermore, they argue that they are making payments as per court order and are thus not "deadbeats". The class action deformation of character suit promises to turn what state Reps. thought was their greatest legislative victory (to date) into an expensive debacle.
2. St. Paul, Feb 21: The state House has determined that non-use of seat belts is now a primary offense that can be used to pull over and ticket a driver. The Senate and Govnr. are expected to quickly act to put the bill into law.
3. Byron, Feb 27: In a little town 8 miles west of Rochester, a 15 year old girl is being held for 1'st degree assault because she held the barrel of a .44 revolver against the head of an 18 year old boy who had repeatedly threatened her. The police report mentions that she will be prosecuted under a new, stricter law which applies in cases of assault using a military style assault weapon.
1. Jackson, Feb 20: A forty-five year old Vietnam vet was outfitted with an inflatable penile implant to aid him in his erectile disfunction. What is rather odd about this procedure is that the VA hospital felt compelled to perform it on a person who is serving time for sexual molestation of five and seven year old girls.
1. Wayne County, Feb 5: A medical doctor was acquitted today nn the charge that he murdered his own son. The boy, who was born 3 months premature, was taken off life support by his father who feared that the infant would never have full mental development. The Vatican greeted the verdict with the statement that America is becoming a culture dominated by thoughts of death.
1. Berkeley, ABC World News, Feb 15: The Univ. of California System is actually considering banning Affirmative Action programs that promote increased minority enrollments. The reason? You'll never guess. The Regents believe that Affirmative Action may be discriminating against qualified Asians and WHITE MALES.
ED Note: Really, this is just too much to believe.
1. Feb. 1: A rare thing came out of a Senate committee today - truth. The _Bipartisan Committee on Entitlement and Tax Reform_, headed by senators Bob Kerry (D, Nebraska) and John Danforth (R, Missouri), announced the following;
- the govt. has promised too much and it can't pay for it
- entitlements are nevertheless guaranteed to be paid
- in 1973, 38% of the Federal budget was entitlements, now 48%
- in 12 years (2012), entitlements will consume the entire projected budget
Nothing will be left for the military. science and research, highway projects, national parks, nothing. And the 2012 estimate is based on the assumption that we don't get involved in any major wars or national disasters that would chew up money faster. The committee failed to provide any suggestions on how to avoid this yawning chasm.
ED Note: That Caribbean country is looking better all the time.
2. Feb. 13: At a press conference today, Clinton ranted that the Rep. Congress, who have condemned the President's budget for not cutting the deficit enough, should put their money where their mouth is. Clinton continued,
"If it had not been for the deficits run up from 1981 to 1993, we'd have a balanced budget right now."
ED Note: Ah, pssss, Bill. The guy in the White House only submits the
first draft of the budget. The House ultimately says what gets
spent. Luckily, all of my readers are aware that Reagan, at least,
always submitted balanced budgets. But Speaker Wright and later
Tip O'Neil always said, "This budget is DOA." By the time their
budgets left the House, the deficits ranged from $180-270 billion.
Nice try though Bill.
3. ABC World News Tonight, Feb 15: While reporting on a presidential golf
game that took place today in Palm Springs between Bush, Ford and Clinton,
anchor Peter Jennings said, and I quote,
"Former President Ford hit his first shot into the crowd, we all expected that. President Bush hooked right and hit a women in the nose, breaking her glasses. President Clinton tried to stay more in the center."
ED Note: Now you all read that and tell me that the media is neutral.
PlTTSBURGH-People in this once sooty industrial city have had their fill of clean air. Motorists balk at everything from having to use gasoline nozzles that catch excess fuel vapors to buying a new blend of gasoline that trims tailpipe emissions. They refuse to subject their cars to a new type of exhaust test, even though the testing centers have already been built. And they don't want electric cars, either.
"They're like hyperactive children," says Joseph Minott, the somewhat exasperated executive director of the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia. "They just keep shouting 'No, No, No,' no matter what's suggested."
If Pittsburgh were an isolated case, it wouldn't be a problem. But it's not. The Clean Air Act - the broad federal law that gave rise to all those things Pittsburghers hate - is under attack across the country. In Maryland, angry motorists recently marched on the statehouse, demanding a halt to that state's new emissions-testing program. Drivers in the New York area can listen to radio talk-show hosts gripe about how reformulated gasoline - the more expensive but cleaner-burning fuel now sold in the nation's smoggiest cities may be harming their engines and is generally a dumb idea dreamed up by 5 bureaucrats. "They make it sound half-baked," admits Thomas Murphy, a bond salesman who tunes in during his daily commute from New Jersey.
Business is also complaining. A push is on among corporate executives to halt a requirement that companies find ways to get more workers to join car pools. Pennsylvania has yanked Philadelphia out of that program as a result of the resistance.
Why the uproar? As long as the fight for cleaner skies focused on big smokestacks, few people cared. They figured big companies could afford to make changes. But clean-air rules are now biting into everyday life because they tackle a broader range of pollution problems, environmentalists and government officials say. Many people are worried about losing their jobs, particularly in heavy industry or small businesses that release fumes, like dry cleaning and printing shops. But the most intense backlash is over intrusions on people's driving habits. Most parts of the country have already dealt with their big, obvious polluters," says Deborah Shprentz, a clean-air expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington. "Auto emissions are the only major thing left that can be cut easily and cost-effectively; it's the lowest-hanging fruit."
It's Just Gas
Try telling that to the customers of Doug Hess. As owner of a bustling Pittsburgh Exxon station, Mr. Hess has handed out glossy brochures explaining the various new car-related rules and even tacked up signs announcing, "We're Helping Clear The Air." The response, he says, has been overwhelmingly negative.
Consider what happened last fall, when Mr. Hess geared up to sell a costlier blend of cleaner-burning gasoline. Under the Clean Air Act, only the smoggiest cities in the U.S. had to use the new fuel as of Jan. 1. Pittsburgh wasn't on the list. But other areas could "volunteer" for it, and Pennsylvanias former Gov. Robert P. Casey had signed up much of the state. When rumors swirled that the new fuel would cost drastically more, motorists balked. As the uproar spread, those regions of Pennsylvania that had been volunteered were withdrawn. In the end, the price of the fuel was only modestly higher than conventional gasoline, averaging about five cents a gallon more.
Then there was the flap over fuel hoses. Early last year, Mr. Hess put nozzles on his pumps with floppy rubber sleeves to catch excess fumes. Many parts of the country already use them, but his customers wanted no part. And since not all stations, switched to the new system at the same time, many started flocking elsewhere to fill up. Mr. Hess finally had to switch to yet another system; it still catches fumes but looks more like the original hoses.
"I don't think the government has shown that any of this stuff will make the air better," says Byron King, a Pittsburgh attorney. "At least not enough to justify this kind of intrusion in people's lives."
Much of the backlash against the Clean Air Act appears to stem from the same anti-Washington mood that swept Republicans into Congress. "Cars have emerged right up there with guns as a Constitutional right," says Elizabeth Thompson, senior policy analyst at the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia.
Many Republicans, as well as conservative Democrats, want to revise the Clean Air Act, or at least take steps to make it less burdensome. One bill introduced in the Senate would postpone the centralized emissions program for two years. First passed in 1963, the law was sharply expanded during the nation's environmental awakening in 1970 and revised since then, most recently in 1990. Until now, it was always made stricter. This time, conservative legislators are eager to weaken it. The effort is sure to spark a major battle with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Republicans have also vowed to ease other environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act. But taking on the Clean Air Act may prove more difficult, since, unlike rules aimed at protecting animals, it is linked to protecting human health. Still, the Environmental Protection Agency has invited its panel of outside advisers on clean-air issues to meet in Washington this week to talk about how the Republicans' "Contract With America" may affect the air program. And just after the election, Rep. Newt Gingrich told lawmakers in his home state of Georgia to hold off on implementing a new emissions-testing program there, promising to work against that aspect of the Clean Air Act In Congress.
Sitting at a table in the One More Time bar in suburban Pittsburgh, Glen Cauley says that is fine with him. He thinks efforts to clean the air are out of hand. "Nobody's going to tell me I can't drive my truck," says the 31-year-old auto-bodyshop worker, thumping his beer on the table. He explains that his vintage 1961 Chevy pickup - which he spent six months restoring and painting "Porsche red" would probably flunk the new test. Older vehicles typically produce more pollution than newer models. Mr. Cauley says he usually goes along with the program when it comes to government rules. The shop where he works, for instance, will eventually have to switch to using different types of paint because of the air rules.
But he has decided that if his truck fails, he will just keep driving It until someone catches him. "Laws like this are meant to be broken," he says.
Not that he faces any immediate problem. Pennsylvania is part of a growing band of states from Texas to Maine where public opposition is derailing the new tailpipe tests. Pennsylvania last summer suspended the program, even though it had already built a network of testing centers and was in the midst of training hundreds of workers to run them.
The new tests were conceived during the Bush administration and included as part of the 1990 revision of the Clean Air Act. The idea was to curb auto emissions by cracking down hard on dirty cars. Most existing emissions tests use fairly simple technology and are performed by gasoline stations and garages. The EPA knows that many of these places fudge the results. So along with introducing a more advanced technology for measuring emissions, it also ordered states to set up so-called test-only centers.
But for many drivers, the controversy boils down to a simple issue. "Who wants to go sit in a line at one of these places then go someplace else to get your car fixed? asks Joe Frena, a 27-year-old Pittsburgh mechanic. "Most people I know have better things to do with their time."
They also can't see how ferreting out the relatively few smoke- belching cars will save the Earth. Especially when the skies around them look pretty clean already. "You should have seen this place when the steel mills were open," says Rodney Herrmann, general manager of a Pittsburgh printing company. "A really foggy day is unusual now. It used to be that way every morning."
Many here link the decline of heavy industry in the region with the rise of environmental controls. This makes them especially suspicious about programs designed to clear the air.
"People have it in the back of their mind that if air standards get too tight, it will kill their jobs," says Shirley Verostek, a local environmental activist who faced resistance among her neighbors to fight the nearby Clairton Coke works - owned by the U.S. Steel unit of USX Corp. The area just around the mill, which produces a material used in the steelmaking process, is the only region around Pittsburgh that regularly exceeds air- quality standards for particulates. But when Ms. Verostek handed out leaflets asking neighbors to report problems, she got a flood of nasty calls, many from workers at the plant. "I had to stop answering the phone," she says. Air quality here has soared since the local steel industry collapsed and environmental controls kicked in. But Pittsburgh shows how difficult It is to define what clean air means. Under the Clean Air Act, Pittsburgh is still considered to have moderately dirty air. While it is far better than places like Los Angeles or even Philadelphia, It is still subject to tight restrictions on things such as building new factories.
Two decades ago, residents could see the problem-dirt in the air churned out by the mills. Now it is more likely to be invisible gases, such as smog-producing ozone.
A Higher Standard
This helps explain why many people here are often confused. They keep hearing about how much cleaner the air is now than in the past and can see it - and know Pittsburgh meets federal standards for clean air, except for the area around Clairton. But to get reclassified as "clean," the city must prove it can stay that way.
Which brings the story back to all those things the drivers here are screaming about. Under the Clean Air Act, states have to give the EPA detailed plans showing how they intend to meet various air goals and then keep it that way. And in the case of Pittsburgh, things like reformulated gasoline and tougher emissions tests were considered key to this. Most analysts now believe it will be almost impossible to push through all the controls on cars. But that leaves business in an awkward position. "The air-quality improvements have to come from somewhere," says Mr. Minott, from the Clean Air Council. "And if they don't get it from cars, they'll go back to focusing on the stationary sources, and that means hitting business."
Moreover, Pittsburgh is linked to a grouping of Northeastern states known as the Ozone Transport Commission, set up by Congress. This means Pittsburgh gets hammered by rules aimed mainly at cutting smog in places like New York. This irks many people. And there's also the question of the dirty air that blows in from nearby Ohio. The Ozone Transport Commission studies the air that tends to blow eastward from Pittsburgh and the rest of western Pennsylvania, but not from Ohio.
"It's pretty ridiculous," says Richard J. Cessar, who just retired as a state lawmaker representing a Pittsburgh district. "They act like there's this high wall along the border."
Already last year, state lawmakers ordered the governor to ask the EPA to let the state pull out of the group. Newly elected Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, has until March to decide whether to do it. The EPA will almost certainly refuse the request.
Meanwhile, Quentin Haigy is pondering what clean air has done for him lately. His face smudged with soot, he is on a short lunch break from his job at the Clairton coke mill. Standing near the counter in Gary's Fast Food, just outside the plant's main gate, he says he once went searching for work in Alaska, where they have very clean air. Now, he says, he has a Cadillac and a good job that pays union wages. "These clean-air people want everything perfect," he says, "like Alaska" - where he couldn't find as good a job.
2. From alt.politics.usa.constitution, a different way of stating an argument.
james caldwell (email@example.com) wrote:
: What is the difference between an ILLEGAL semi-automatic and an : ILLEGAL fully automatic firearm?
Mathematically, nothing, since they are both null sets. There are no illegal weapons, only weapons on which a tax has not been paid. The BATF tries to make them illegal by refusing to accept the tax from those they don't like. Clearly unconstitutional. And in Miller v. US, the SC opined that if a weapon was suitable for militia use, it was not subject to being taxed. About the only kind of weapon that is not suitable for militia use is one that doesn't work. Therefore, the only constitutional subject for BATF taxation are stage props.
Texas Militia Correspondence Committee
3. And finally, in a lighter vein
Once upon a time, there was a convention for toothbrush salesmen. When it
came time to award the prize for the most toothbrushes sold for the past year,
everyone was surprised by the salesperson who won. He was a shy, timid,
retiring type, not your typical salesman at all. Everyone was dying to know
his secret, so he shared it with them.
"I set up a booth," he says, "in the mall. I have a stack of plates, a bowl
of chips, a bowl of dip, and a bowl full of our toothbrushes.
"When people walk by, I say would you like to try some chips? And would you
like some dip with that?
"No one passes up free food, so of course, I get lots of takers. After trying
the dip, they ALWAYS say, 'This dip tastes like shit!' And I say, "It is.
Would you like to buy a toothbrush????"
Last Updated 04/14/95.© 1996 PPSA Consulting
>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Feb 22 04:16:49 1995
Subject: Humor List Digest Wed Feb 22 03:00:56 EST 1995
From: "Hegger, Louis"
Thought you might enjoy this one.
Once upon a time, there was a convention for toothbrush salesmen. When it came time to award the prize for the most toothbrushes sold for the past year, everyone was surprised by the salesperson who won. He was a shy, timid, retiring type, not your typical salesman at all. Everyone was dying to know his secret, so he shared it with them.
"I set up a booth," he says, "in the mall. I have a stack of plates, a bowl of chips, a bowl of dip, and a bowl full of our toothbrushes.
"When people walk by, I say would you like to try some chips? And would you like some dip with that?
"No one passes up free food, so of course, I get lots of takers. After trying the dip, they ALWAYS say, 'This dip tastes like shit!' And I say, "It is. Would you like to buy a toothbrush????"
Last Updated 04/14/95.© 1996 PPSA Consulting