Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment.

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Palin's First Year as Mayor: Off With Their Heads!

| Sun Sep. 7, 2008 1:31 AM EDT

The Seattle Times has unearthed three boxes of archived documents on Palin's first year as the mayor of Wasilla. The year is 1996, and Palin can't seem to decide whether she wants to be Karl Rove or the Queen of Hearts. Elections in this town of 5,000 are officially nonpartisan, but Palin and her supporters turn the race into a senseless proxy war for national issues: they tar her opponent as "pro-abortion" and question his marital status, trumpet her endorsement by the NRA, and roll out the slogan, "Conservative, More Efficient Government." Her backers include an only-in-Alaska coalition of the religious right and bar owners who want to make sure they can keep serving until 5 a.m.

After she's elected, she gets drunk on power and goes on a firing binge. We already knew she pink slipped the anti-book-banning librarian, but here we learn more: she fires the police chief, who'd recently been named Wasilla's employee of the year, and, in a sort of Lord of the Flies scenario, asks the three employees of the town museum to decide among themselves who will get the ax (all three decide to quit). The same year, she's stopped by the city attorney after she tries to stack the city council. The local paper, the Frontiersman, condemns her in blistering editorials and citizens talk of a recall.

Despite all of this, of course, she's reelected in 1999. She's a smoother politician by then. But given the way she later wields the axe as governor (see Troopergate), maybe the editors of the Frontiersman were onto something when they wrote that Palin's philosophy was "that either we are with her or against her." Sounds a lot like king what's-his-name


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Carbon Offsets: Laughing off Climate Change?

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 2:41 PM EDT

From the Wall Street Journal, here's the Kyoto Treaty's latest carbon offset scandal:

Rhodia SA manufactures hundreds of tons a day of adipic acid, an ingredient in nylon, at its factory [in Korea]. But the real money is in what it doesn't make. The payday, which could amount to more than $1 billion over seven years, comes from destroying nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, an unwanted byproduct and potent greenhouse gas. It's Rhodia's single most profitable business world-wide. Last year, destroying nitrous oxide here and at a similar plant in Brazil generated €189 million ($300.5 million) in sales of pollution "credits." . . .The [French-owned] Rhodia factory is slated to bring in more money, under the U.N.-administered program, than all the clean-air projects currently registered on the continent of Africa.

This story should lay to rest any doubts that carbon offsets must be treated with the utmost skepticism by lawmakers. It reprises a similar debacle I reported here, involving refrigerant manufactures who were "paid" under Kyoto to create more greenhouse gases so that they could destroy them and call it a carbon offset. The Rhodia case is all the more troubling because the culprit is a French company that should be running green anyway and because Kyoto's regulators were supposed to have learned how to prevent this by now. In short, buyer beware as the United States shops for its own legislative solution to climate change.
So why are these glaring cases of profiteering being glossed over in Washington? As I note in our July/August issue, the biggest carbon offset companies have partnered with some of the world's biggest polluters in an attempt to sculpt the details of a U.S. climate bill. (Lieberman-Warner would have allowed companies to meet up to 30 percent of their emission reductions with offsets). Hardly anybody is talking about this. The offset lobby still enjoys the kind of positive PR that its industrial partners can only dream of. It's a joke, but they're the ones who'll laugh to the bank.
 

Now on the San Francisco Ballot: The George W. Bush Sewage Plant

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 3:54 PM EDT

It's the mother lode of all potty jokes: In November, San Francisco voters will decide whether to rechristen the city's Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant as the George. W Bush Sewage Plant.

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So great is the pun potential--Cleaning up Bush's mess! Memorializing the president of the affluent with effluent!--that Keith Olberman covered the issue with the help of a comedian and newspapers are dropping stinkers too (LA Times: "San Franciscans' Planned 'Tribute' to Bush Stirs Some Muck"). The website of the initiative's sponsor, the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco, says, "No other president in American history has accomplished so much in such a short time." So much, well, you know.

In the spring the members of the Presidential Memorial Commission began circulating a petition in support of the measure, often in city parks, while wearing Uncle Sam outfits and blaring patriotic music from a boom box. Yesterday the San Francisco Department of Elections certified that they'd turned in enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, opening a new chapter in the time-honored tradition of wacky San Francisco ballot measures.

Not everybody in the city supports the idea. Officials at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission say the plant is an award winning facility. (A more fitting memorial would be the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin, which in February spilled 2.7 million gallons of poop water into San Francisco Bay). San Francisco, after all, cleans up its own shit just fine.

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