Radio Silence Observe Radio Silence

I avoid using phones if at all possible. It’s not that I have some tinfoil hat theory or think they’re giving me cancer. Nope: on the phone, I might be just plain stupid. Pete, who spends more time with me than anyone I didn’t gestate myself has, calls me every day at my desk.

Pete: I just called to hear the sound of your voice!
Tata: [Insert sound of post-pre-verbal stage person trying to remember what words are.]

I’m pretty useless on the phone; so much so that when the internet phone service message center became suddenly and explosively incompatible with my laptop, I didn’t even miss much. I can see who called but can’t hear the messages, which is fine by me because I don’t check them for many, many weeks and can’t muster the strength to hold grudges.

You’d think then a person who returns calls on a more or less monthly basis wouldn’t have a fishnetted leg to stand on where return phone calls were at issue but no. Everyone knows I’m either sitting at my desk or sitting on my couch or haunting a grocery store or weeding my garden or gift-wrapping for the populace. My whereabouts are seldom mysterious, and when I want to talk I want to talk RIGHT NOW. I’m waiting for a woman to email me back. She checks her email every two or three days. What’s the matter with her? Doesn’t she know I’m waiting?

The Sun Shine In

Via Firedoglake, we see the New York Times couldn’t be more ambivalent about the Bureau of Land Management’s two-year freeze and study of – get this – the environmental impact of large-scale solar power projects on public land. Look at the distancing language not at all in action here:

DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, does this make sense?

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”

Hey, did you know our executive branch is full of oil men? You do now!

Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.

The Bureau owns vast swaths of sun-drenched desert it could lease to fledgling solar power companies, which would make money for the taxpayers, but it would prefer to wait. And study. And wait. Study what? you ask. Good question.

The manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact study, Linda Resseguie, said that many factors must be considered when deciding whether to allow solar projects on the scale being proposed, among them the impact of construction and transmission lines on native vegetation and wildlife. In California, for example, solar developers often hire environmental experts to assess the effects of construction on the desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel.

Water use can be a factor as well, especially in the parched areas where virtually all of the proposed plants would be built. Concentrating solar plants may require water to condense the steam used to power the turbine.

“Reclamation is another big issue,” Ms. Resseguie said. “These plants potentially have a 20- to 30-year life span. How to restore that land is a big question for us.”

Because after the sun burns out, we’ll have to go back to coal.

Another benefit of the study will be a single set of environmental criteria to weigh future solar proposals, which will ultimately speed the application process, said the assistant Interior Department secretary for land and minerals management, C. Stephen Allred. The land agency’s manager of energy policy, Ray Brady, said the moratorium on new applications was necessary to “ensure that we are doing an adequate level of analysis of the impacts.”

Studying water in the desert, and studying their ability to study! Studying after those studious do-gooder capitalists pay professional studiers. That, friends, is truly the doublespeak of a public relations master. My gardening hat is off to Misters Allred and Brady. Nothing abashed about those uses of language! FDL:

Cameron Scott, a blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes that he appreciates the government’s caution, noting that such ecological prudence would have been useful before the country jumped into the ethanol business, but that he sees something of a double standard:

[T]he government rarely proceeds with caution when it comes to public lands. In the last couple years, the Bush administration has proposed allowing commerce, roads, off-road vehicles, and concealed weapons on public lands, and has eagerly embraced drilling for oil and natural gas. If fossil fuels warrant endangering these lands, then surely solar power does, too.

Is the Bush administration really so set against decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels that it would fabricate concern for the environment in order to block alternative energy projects? It would appear so.

The Economist notes that the solar industry is now facing a double-whammy, thanks to Congress’s failure to renew a solar tax-credit:

Congress has been dithering over extending a valuable investment tax credit for solar-energy projects, which solar advocates say is critical to the future of their industry but which is due to expire at the end of the year. The latest attempt failed in the Senate earlier this month: prospects for a deal before November’s presidential and congressional elections now look dim. Uncertainty has led some investors to delay or abandon projects in the past few months. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said if the tax credits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, “it will result in the loss of billions of dollars in new investments in solar.”

At this rate, I’m SO going to be on a “Morning, Sam” “Morning, Ralph”-basis with my Congresspersons. Feel free to contact yours.

Broken link correction courtesy of Politics.Answers.com Thanks for contacting me, Stuart Hultgren. I have no connection to this service.

Want To Be She May Be

This commercial warms my icy heart, combining as it improbably does my loves beee-YOO-teeful mermaids and totally spotless bathrooms.

Bless my buttons, so old am I I only saw color TV at Grandma’s house until I was in high school. Imagine (or remember) what Adam West looked like in gray tights! Black and white left a little too much to the imagination. Even so, every graytone commercial for Weeki Wachee looked like a lightning bolt from the blue.

In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries, and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.

The spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared out and Newt experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped onto the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus. An 18-seat theater was built into the limestone, submerged six feet below the surface of the spring, so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.

Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He put a sign out on U.S. 19: WEEKI WACHEE.

The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947 – the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.

In those days, cars were few. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, I was probably two or three when I realized the most glamorous human beings on earth were wearing spangled costumes and sucking oxygen out of tubes 19 feet below the surface! The only way they could possibly be more miraculously fantaaaaaastic would be if they spent their days off waterskiing in tiara’d pyramids, like these ladies from Los Angeles, who are so glamorous you could just pet them all day. Some of us probably have.

Alas, my bathroom could be cleaner.

Not All the Prayers In the World Could Save Us

Oh, Jesus Christ:

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

What the fuck is wrong with these people that they can’t even act in the best interest of their own goddamn LUNGS?

The derailment of the original E.P.A. report was first made known in March by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The refusal to open the e-mail has not been made public.

Funny thing about that: the cat’s out of the bag. That ship’s sailed. That frown turned upside down. Or whatever – get this:

In early December, the E.P.A.’s draft finding that greenhouse gases endanger the environment used Energy Department data from 2007 to conclude that it would be cost effective to require the nation’s motor vehicle fleet to average 37.7 miles per gallon in 2018, according to government officials familiar with the document.

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The day the law was signed, the E.P.A. administrator rejected the unanimous recommendation of his staff and denied California a waiver needed to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, saying the new law’s approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

California’s regulations would have imposed tougher standards.

The Transportation Department made its own fuel-economy proposals public almost two months ago; they were based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030, and set a maximum average standard of 35 miles per gallon in 2020.

Someone asked me yesterday if I thought we’d see $5 by the end of this year. With every bit of common sense left to me I blurted, “Of course! Does the Pope shit in the woods?” which is not nearly as profane as this gem:

In a speech in April, Mr. Bush called for an end to the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025 — a timetable slower than many scientists say is required. His chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, said a “train wreck” would result if regulations to control greenhouse gases were authorized piecemeal under laws like the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

I pray for the day we can scrape this bullshit off our collective shoe, but in the meantime, we’re stuck with this piquant goo:

White House pressure to ignore or edit the E.P.A.’s climate-change findings led to the resignation of one agency official earlier this month: Jason Burnett, the associate deputy administrator. Mr. Burnett, a political appointee with broad authority over climate-change regulations, said in an interview that he had resigned because “no more constructive work could be done” on the agency’s response to the Supreme Court.

He added, “The next administration will have to face what this one did not.”

In that case, let’s spend a little quality time with the Colbert Report and John McCain.

Off-shore drilling: it’s the new black – for beaches, fish and wildlife.

Just An Old War, Not Even A Cold War

This is a real New York Times article dug up from the archives. Someone who is not me did the digging, though this article is on microfilm less than thirty feet from my desk at work. Two days ago, a commenter on Shakesville thought she was tearing me to pieces by saying my personal hindsight was not 20/20 vision. I laughed out loud in my living room. Because I’ve written my every stray thought since 1971, I know what I foresaw because I can re-read it. For instance, I predicted everything from institutionalized war crimes to Abu Gharaib, messy war expansion and a failing VA. I predicted the out of control administration would make the lives of its constituents worse and our returning soldiers would have a really hard time adjusting to civilian life, if they could at all. I predicted these things not because I’m clairvoyant, need a turban and should wear all-seeing fruit on my head. Nope. These things all happened before and because we as a society forgot, they were certain to happen again.

Last night, Pete made the simplest, most fantastic dinner of a few seared scallops resting in bowls of fresh gazpacho, whole wheat baguette with dipping oil and mixed greens. It was so light and delicious I predict we will eat that way all summer when we can. Further, when we can’t, we will pine for it, because immediately after dinner, we made another pilgrimmage to Sears and Home Depot without feeling weighed down. I now possess a Brian Griffin Peanut Butter Jelly Time t-shirt, which may have been predictable but the $4.95 price tag sure wasn’t. Unexpected Joy!

A section of my commute across the river has become dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. I’ve written three letters this morning, notifying people with of this public peril. A director’s assistant here at the unnamed university called and was surprised when I wasn’t deterred by “I’ll relay your concerns.” I’ll keep writing. I predict nobody will do anything and by the end of the day, I’ll be the pin-up crackpot at the Department of Transportation, and all of this is completely foreseeable if you’re paying attention – to me, at least. But if I were going to really predict the future, I’d say you should stop what you’re doing today, get to a garden store, buy some fruit and vegetable plants, and plan to grow your own food. Think I’m way off-base? Have you been watching the weather maps and the financial news?

The chaos that erupted outside Milwaukee County’s main welfare office Monday over disaster-related food aid had more to do with a weak economy and crushing poverty in parts of this community than the devastating floods that swept through the state earlier this month, local government and food relief officials said.

About 3,000 people turned out for the assistance beginning at 3 a.m. Monday, creating a line that stretched several blocks around the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center at 1220 W. Vliet St. At least one woman said she was trampled when a crowd rushed the doors as they opened around 7:30 a.m., and dozens of Milwaukee police officers and sheriff’s deputies were called to quell the scene.

“The food crisis in Milwaukee and throughout the United States is worse than many of us have realized,” said Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines, who with other elected officials called on the community to support local food pantries.

“We expect long lines for free food in Third World countries,” Hines said. “We don’t expect a line of 2,500 people waiting for food vouchers” in Milwaukee. No one was seriously injured, and there were no arrests Monday, but those in line described the scene as chaotic. Many thought they would receive vouchers immediately, and frustration mounted when some learned that was not the case.

Perhaps you yourself are financially solvent. Good for you! Perhaps you’re not. Ah, well. Neither is especially important to this particular bit of prognostication. Food banks are having trouble stocking their shelves. This phenomenon has meaning. The mortgage crisis means more people are moving out of homes and into rental properties. This has meaning. The midwest has been under water and crops have failed. This will resonate throughout the economy and the food supply. The average gas price nationally exceeds $4 per gallon, which will drive up the price of absolutely everything, including food. So: without getting excited or anxious, I predict that you will be much, much happier if you plant tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, mint and basil – vegetables you need and love – everywhere you can find a sunny pile of dirt.

Real Time Inverted Along A Faultline

Addendum to obituaries of George Carlin: it is still impossible to have an honest conversation about the wars in which our country is engaged. Most people have something to protect, and it isn’t always what it might seem. Case in point: in the days following Hurricane Katrina, my co-worker Ellen asked if I thought the rescue missions were taking a bit long to launch. This interested me because her son is an Air Force pilot who has been involved in rescue missions all over the globe; he advised patience. Generally, I don’t discuss politics in my office unless someone else raises a topic, but then I’ll blurt what’s on my mind.

Tata: They’re letting people drown in the streets of a major American city because they’re poor.

Ellen was a flight attendant in the sixties and has traveled the globe. Her eyes are open to a great many sights you and I will never lay eyes on.

Ellen: That can’t be. I don’t believe that.
Tata: We’ll see.

And we did. Most of us now act as if it never happened because it is simply too monstrous to imagine that the United States did not mobilize Heaven and Earth to save its people, and we watched it on television. Remember how we used to hear that an astounding percentage of the populace believed everything on TV was real? I’m betting Katrina finally laid that problem to rest, along with 1836 real people who got voted off the Bayou. As the days passed, Ellen looked more shaken but said little, and gradually, we’ve found other, safer things to discuss. So I was surprised when she raised the topic of my cousin Tony, who shipped out to Iraq a couple of weeks ago.

Tata: I don’t want to talk about it.
Ellen: You don’t? My niece is going in November.
Tata: No, I don’t want to talk about it. My family’s lost its mind.
Ellen: It’s 120 degrees and the wind is terrible. The conditions aren’t good but the people want peace there.
Tata: What? There’s a civil war going on there we know very little about, and we’re eternally one pronouncement by Sadr away from total war on our people who, I’m sorry, don’t stand a chance.
Ellen: The Iraqis – the people, they don’t want –
Tata: If someone invaded your country, you’d be out in the streets throwing bombs, so why should you expect anything different because we did the invading?
Ellen: No, I wouldn’t throw bombs. We wouldn’t do that. The people –
Tata: Ellen, if someone invaded where you live, you would do something. You wouldn’t just take it, would you?
Ellen: No, no. We aren’t –
Tata: You’re from Boston. Do the words THE BRITISH ARE COMING! ring a bell?

There you have it. Good people are paralyzed and mumbling; people who ought to know better want to believe we fight on the side of the angels, and that our cause is just. The trouble is that if we focus on the troops we lose sight of the generals, and the instigators behind them, who risk nothing, who will lose nothing, not even a night’s sleep. For them, business is good, and, in post-Carlin America, it’s still rude to talk about money.