It’s a big news day, many things with which to keep up, what with all the Oscar speeches and all.
But some events are not so fantastically immediate – or their impacts and causes are more indirect, slow moving and perhaps irreversible within the time frames we now perceive everything.
Take, for example, this green versus green pseudo argument, which is no doubt real, though perhaps over-articulated:
The legal tussle over putting large solar power plants in often-fragile desert landscapes underscores the difficulty of pushing forward projects crucial to fighting climate change and meeting California’s ambitious renewable energy mandates.
The five lawsuits currently pending against five solar thermal projects licensed by the state and approved for construction on federal land represent a multiplicity of interests.
Now, I might ask whether any landscape could be less often-fragile than a desert, but the fact is that big solar projects are dropping like final-consonant g’s in a Republican prime time Deebate. The same massive solar projects that desperately need to break ground because they take years to build instead spend their first couple of years of existence as a case in a court docket, doing no one any good except for those who don’t want solar projects or much of anything else to change and I’ll stop right there. Any aspersions cast are your own.In other, perhaps related news, Juan Cole has the latest updates on the rapidly churning oilpacoplypse.
If politicians care almost exclusively about the concerns of the rich, it makes sense that over the past decades they’ve enacted policies that have ended up benefiting the rich. And if you’re not rich yourself, this is a problem. First and foremost, it’s an economic problem because it’s siphoned vast sums of money from the pockets of most Americans into those of the ultrawealthy. At the same time, relentless concentration of wealth and power among the rich is deeply corrosive in a democracy, and this makes it a profoundly political problem as well.
Leaving it on the table, that is. A chart from the Economist, via Yglesias. Interactive even.
Everyone who doesn’t watch Fox News knows that gas prices in the U.S. are the lowest in the 1st world; what might be less appreciated is how little we tax this precious little commodity. Like R.A. says in the original, the ultra low prices fuel the dependency – we can’t get off the stuff. And then we have to castigate any ideas for getting onto trains or sidewalks. And vociferously defend… the obscene oil company profits that are a result. It’s a thoroughly embarassing state of affairs.
Except we’re not embarrassed. Power of Pride, I guess.
But hey… pssst: gas is getting more and more expense anyway. And as it does, we’re still not diverting any of the money to other services or incentivising better habits or planning for the $5 $7 gas that is as sure of a thing as the drink in my hand right now.
Bumper sticker idea of the day: More expensive lessons, please.
Whether it’s the right to pollute or the right to exploit workers, our modern oligarchs want it. And they want it for free. Do your kids’ teachers have the right to collective bargaining? Your firefighters? Here’s a map.
Okay… it’s Friday. Time for your medicine, all you busy people.
This is from that studied misanthrope, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit, somewhere about page 170. Translation by Ralph Mannheim (New York: New Directions, 1983)
What horrified me most was all of that Elevated Railway. On the other side of the court, which was more like a well shaft, the wall began to light up, first one, then two rooms, then dozens. I could see what was going on in some of them. Couples going to bed. These Americans seemed as worn out as our own people after their vertical hours. The women had very full, very pale thighs, at least the ones I was able to get a good look at. Before going to bed, most of the men shaved without taking the cigars out of their mouths.
In bed they first took off their glasses, then put their false teeth in a glass of water, which they left in evidence. Same as in the street, the sexes didn’t seem to talk to each other. They impressed me as fat, docile animals, used to being bored. In all, I only saw two couples engaging, with the light on, in the kind of thing I’d expected, and not at all violently. The other women ate chocolates in bed, while waiting for their husbands to finish shaving. And then they all put their lights out.
There’s something sad about people going to bed. You can see they don’t give a damn whether they’re getting what they want out of life or not, you can see they don’t even try to understand what we’re here for. They just don’t care. Americans or not, they sleep no matter what, they’re bloated mollusks, no sensibility, no trouble with their conscience.
I’d seen too many puzzling things to be easy in my mind. I knew too much and not enough. I’d better go out, I said to myself, I’d better go out again. Maybe I’ll meet Robinson. Naturally that was an idiotic idea, but I dreamed it up as an excuse for going out again, because no matter how much I tossed and turned on my narrow bed, I couldn’t snatch the tiniest scrap of sleep. Even masturbation, at times like that, provides neither comfort nor entertainment. Then you’re really in despair.
The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows.
The $64 million Research Support building opened last year as a kind of physical assertion by the Energy Department, the lab’s parent agency, that office space can be driven down to zero net energy use through a combination of on-site energy production (rooftop solar) and fanatical attention to detail everywhere else in how the building saves and sips energy as a workplace for 800 engineers, managers and support staff members.
The resulting mix is meant to inspire builders and architects around the idea that net zero energy use is not only attainable but also affordable and even elegant. And that presents a new palette for architectural criticism.
How, for example, should one assess what seems at first to be an interesting sculpture in the building’s courtyard that in fact turns out to be a cleverly disguised fresh-air intake device for natural cooling of the basement data center? Extra points for form, or for function?
It’s getting to be a really weird thing to see vast new buildings, with square footage north of 100K, that leave these efficiencies on the table. They might use passive solar or have a giant cistern buried on site, but still have enormous shingled roofs that just sit there for decades without doing anything. It’s this expectation that needs ramping up. Instead the fossil dead-enders are looking to let the carrots rot and burn the sticks so as to finance for tax relief for the prosperous. We need to be asking more of architecture than just being structural remedies for various activities; double- and triple-purposing is the order of 2001… so you can, see we’re behind. And I would wager that architects generally would be willing and able… especially if hyper-efficiency came with built-in permission for the ugly buildings many seem to adore. Could be a decent trade (that we’re already making in exchange for bupkis).
But asking architects and engineers to fight clean energy battles against the folks who get elected is, well… probably too innovative.
The moral is clear. Republicans don’t have a mandate to cut spending; they have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic.
How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets (which are by and large incomprehensible). So they rely on what they hear from seemingly authoritative figures.
And what they’ve been hearing ever since Ronald Reagan is that their hard-earned dollars are going to waste, paying for vast armies of useless bureaucrats (payroll is only 5 percent of federal spending) and welfare queens driving Cadillacs. How can we expect voters to appreciate fiscal reality when politicians consistently misrepresent that reality?
It’s all backwards, all the time; belt-tightening should happen when things are flush; spending sprees (aka stimulus) when prices are up, energy costs are high and people are out of work. The huge surplus that GW Bush inherited way back when from BC? Used to fit the narrative cut taxes immediately. Because the gov’t shouldn’t have extra money. But tell people they should save for rainy day and balance their checkbooks.
Move speedily across the plain, much faster than those in Maine. Or even between Boston and Philly.
TPM has a rather pathetic feature about the future present of High Speed Rail around the world and what several countries have been able to accomplish with some wise investment, imagination and planning. Pathetic in the sense that it makes the US look like chumps, real and actual morons for being lead by our loyalty to outmoded technology and means of transportation. But look Ma, we’ve got all these awesome tanks and bunker-busting bombs! Yes, there is shock, and more than a little awwww… but not the good kind.
Look at the pics they’ve put up and then compare them to this:
I took that right before we boarded for a trip to NYC two years ago. It was an all night trip, great experience, priced comparable to flying except for far less hassle both departing and arriving, thus exacting a far lesser human toll. But look at that train. Our National Train System. It was rickety; there was still a space in the wall of the sleeper where a monitor with VCR had been installed, then taken out. But even so, there’s still nothing like seeing the countryside passing by the window next to you. Plus the conversations you get into over twelve hours together. And the Porter was the same vintage as the train car – tons of great stories he didn’t even need to tell you, so clearly were they written into his face and wrinkled hands.
We took the Eurostar with garcon d’verte in 2000 and the TGV many times before and since – the comparison is not the point. Look at the slide show above, it’s like another planet somewhere. They’ve left us far behind and long ago. A guy in the 3rd this summer described to me how they were testing a newer, faster TGV that met some crazy speed for a mere electric train – at nearly 600 km/hour it was outrunning the current that powers it, creating a new array of problems for the engineers, problems that they will solve.
The point is how much of this future present we are deliberately denying ourselves, all for the sake of infinite hegemony for car maker and oil companies. We are powerless before their century-plus of lobbying and propaganda, the individual freedom we believe was immaculately conceived within the sacred chambers of the combustion engine, from which we must not be sundered.
Meanwhile, we munch a Gordita and listen to Beck on the Interstate while a dude in Shanghai is sleeping on the maglev, dreaming of a day or a girl or a boy or a house or a song or a cure or another train, to somewhere. Who’s future is it, again?
Climate Progress has both the skinny and the ‘gras’ on what the Koch brothers are getting for the quarter mil they dropped on members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing Wednesday to discuss blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide pollution. We can expect the same old half-truths, misstatements, and outright lies from the new majority, with an extra dose of special interest pandering.
So… they line up a slew of paid contestants people to testify that it’s all a hoax, but how does this come off? What does it look like to the average non-Fox viewer, non-Rush listener? What about the perception that they might be protesting a little too much? Do they begin attacking teh Globalwarmingisrealism as a threat to America that must be eliminated? Into the mike? You and I might think this is already happening but… this is a formal committee process where these charlatans have to speak clearly and on the record. I think it will take more than a mere refutation of the facts as construed to get the Koch brothers’ point across; they’ll feel the need to go on the attack to stop the traitorous EPA from protecting the common right of access to clean water and air. Because it won’t be enough to merely hold the line and play one side, and because that’s what they actually are paid to believe. And to do.
A friend and I have had several conversations recently about how much of our lives and livelihoods seems to be in the hands of 9 people, one in particular, and how little people seem to know or care about this august body.
On December 6, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, a federal nuisance case on appeal from the Second Circuit. Plaintiffs — eight states, the City of New York and three non-profit land trusts — seek abatement and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from defendants, who include some of the United States’ largest electric utility companies. The Second Circuit ruled that: (1) the case did not present a non-justiciable political question, (2) the plaintiffs have standing, (3) the plaintiffs stated claims under the federal common law of nuisance, (4) the plaintiffs’ claims are not displaced by the Clean Air Act (”CAA”), and, finally, (5) the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”), a quasi-governmental defendant, is not immune from the suit.
The states, plus NYC and three land trusts want to be able to sue these companies spewing carbon into the air like it’s a birthright. One lower court said, “sure.” The companies appealed.
Three leading Republicans in Congress filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Monday asking the justices to overturn a lower court ruling that allowed several states and environmental groups to sue electric utilities over their global warming emissions.
You might guess who these three are. They don’t believe in AGW and routinely put a fork (or a hold on, choose your metaphor) in any legislative efforts to address the problem. Of course their amicus brief makes the claim that the issue is simply not one for the courts, which might do something; they want to preserve this right for the legislative branch, which likely will not do anything for at least a while longer, if these three have anything to do with it.