Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drill, Baby, Dr--- Oops!

So, let's dig for more "clean" coal.

Oh, darn. Dead miners. That'll scotch that up. Oh, yeah, and the Christmas disaster of 2008. Whatever happened there?

So let's drill for oil off the coast of Florida.

Dangit. Oil well blew up in the Gulf. A billion dollars to clean it up.

Let's build more nuclear reactors.

The Chernobyl death toll has now roamed from less than fifty actual deaths up to a quarter million projected deaths from cancer. And the GAO has said that the likelihood of a nuclear plant defaulting on its investors in around fifty percent. So, kills people, and can't pay for itself. The old Catskills joke: "The food here is terrible." "Yes, and such small portions." And the Pres has decided not to use Yucca Mountain as a spent fuel repository due to the earthquake fault-line that someone finally (oops) discovered was right underneath it.

Find natural gas through fracturing!

Really interesting concept - you pump water down into stratified slate deep underground and find pockets of natural gas, which you then capture as it tries to come up out of the ground. Most of it, anyway. The stuff you don't capture somehow ends up in the groundwater, and folks have been lighting their tap water on fire - in their bathrooms and kitchens. Neat!

How about other technologies?

The good people of Hyannis Port, Mass., have been fighting against a huge windfarm that some commie-loving power company wants to install off the coast of Massachusetts (due to the high winds one tends to get on open ocean, vs. the not-so-high winds one gets inland), and they lost. Windfarm is going up, and everyone in this nice, little quiet seaport of multimillionaires is going to have to look at windmills instead of, well, the weather, I guess. 130 turbines on 24 acres of big huge windmills. I understand that the windmuills one can build out at sea are larger than the ones you can build on land.

The fights are over the view, the impact on the ocean floor (why do we never worry about such things when it's a monster oil rig, or a sunken ship? how do fish deal with a massive, sunken ship? do they get lost inside?), and that seabirds might not see the spinning tubines and get chopped into fish bait. This was the same argument used in Livermore, CA when they put up a huge linear windfarm on the hills to the east. Birds managed to fly around, with the occasional far-sighted bird getting mulched into a flying Seagull McNugget.

There are proposals to turn huge swaths of various desert-y areas into solar collection stations (big solar panels or big steam-driven plants using focused solar energy to heat the water - big mirrors sure are cool looking), and all anyone is worried about is whether this will unfairly impact gila monsters, endangered varieties of toads and plants - and off-road vehicles, which, of course, have no effect on gila monsters, toads, or plants.

There's also a cool-looking system that is essentially a buoy that uses waves to generate power. A piston moves up and down inside the buoy and generates electricity, which then must be carried back to shore via some system they've pretty much worked out, but I'm not smart enough to explain.

Plenty of alternatives, but is the political will there to push them forward? Ted Kennedy opposed the windfarm in Hyannis Port, even though he was considered something of a commie by the opposition. If a hardline Democrat can be opposed to something on the basis of ruining someone's view (not even his own view), how long will we be waiting to begin to fix this problem? When it becomes a necessity, and we can't adapt fast enough?

Great. Looking forward to Waterworld...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tea Party Platform?

I'm asking a simple question of my own hometown newspaper this week, and I would have thought I could have gotten an answer sooner. So here it is:

"Is there a Tea Party Platform? Where is it, and how can I get a look at it?"

I get lots of hits when I look 'em up on the web, but they're all over the map - some are simply pro-gun; others are anti-abortion; some are both; others are inexplicable. I'm trying to find a definitive one.

Since all of the comments on Letters to the Editor in the Seattle Times have a little "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" symbol, I get a lot of thumbs down. Not too many responses, but plenty of "NO."

Which, to my mind, is the biggest problem currently facing the Tea Party: they're the Party of "We don't like this!"

As for what they're for, I'm only certain of the "low taxes, small government" nonsense they keep spouting. But platitudes do not a political philosophy make. (unless you're Rush Limbaugh)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party to Supporters: Stay Away!!!

It's fairly simple, really - if the Tea Party, um, Party wants to be taken seriously, they have to put a lid on the folks who were immediately drawn to the original messages. A lot of bombast about "death panels", "socialism", "government takeover of health care" and so on, dragged in a bunch of folks who were essentially believing any conspiracy theory about the Obama administration that folks like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin could come up with. The more the Obama administration would deny this stuff, the deeper they dug in their heels. Once you got past that bunch, then there's the "lower taxes, smaller government" group. Which, I suppose, didn't notice that their taxes were lower this year.

The problem with the Tea Party movement is not it's underlying ideology (which I'm still trying to discover, by the way - anyone know where to look?), so much as the disparate groups it attracts. All of these "live free or die" folks probably wouldn't want to work in the coal mines owned by Massey Energy, even though that company does "live free or die" as pretty much its mantra. Unfortunately, it has also attracted a lot of "birthers" who look more and more like closeted (or slightly less than closeted) racists every day, gun rights advocates who don't just talk about having guns, they bring 'em, and the folks who think Obama somehow "stole" the election by getting a lot of people to "vote" for him, as if that's not how it works to begin with.

If you think Tea Partiers are being treated badly, remember that anti-war protesters were herded into "free speech zones" during the last administration (by the police, no less), so that none of the folks they were protesting would have their pretty little ears hurt by having to listen to people saying that what they were doing was wrong.

Also, does it bother anyone that any Senator or Congresscritter that appears at these events is getting there on taxpayer money?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Of Two Minds

Jason Levin is working to undo the Tea Party from the inside out, by making them appear crazier than they are.

I'm not sure that's possible, but I think it would be fun to find out. Perhaps one needs to dress and act like a Tea Party person, and carry a video camera with one all the time, just to find out what they're really like.

Anyway, Mr. Levin has created a group called Crash The Tea Party, and says he has 66 affiliated groups around the country, ready to do battle, simply by exaggeration. Join them, show up at meetings, and become more insane than the folks who are protesting. He suggested in an interview that if you see someone in a Nazi uniform with a misspelled sign, that might be one of his. If they're throwing a rock, that won't be one of his. The message board has already been taken over by a bunch of right-wing angry folks, and Mr. Levin has received threats. So, a minor success.

This reminds me of the famous "Ladies Against Women", a protest group that would show up at Phyllis Schlafly rallies in the 80s, and scream things like "You're no one until you're Mrs. Someone." Or "Procreation, not recreation." The best part is, the other folks at these rallies agreed with them.

So, can we use humor against the humorless? Or at least the humor impaired? It apparently worked against Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist ministry (the "God Hates Fags" group - brilliantly parodied on this little website). Someone essentially showed up to one of these protests and waved placards that had more ridiculous rhetoric ("I Have A Sign" on a big pink placard), and the real folks dried up and blew away. I think to be truly effective you have to be able to do this wherever these nutjobs show up, and that might be logistically difficult. And why would Westboro Baptist protest "Fiddler on the Roof"?

While I think this has the potential for all kinds of wonderfulness, I also wonder about giving them more airtime than they currently deserve. It's not as if there isn't enough evidence that these folks come off as a bit unhinged, but by doing these little counter-protests (and worse still, telling everyone you're doing it) gives them the ammo to say, "well, look the Liberal Elite thinks we're stupid, and is plotting our downfall." I mean, what a recruitment pitch. "We were the underdogs, but now they're coming after us, we're actually persecuted!" Not sure that will decrease their ranks.
On the other hand, I'd love to see the kind of signs that might sprout up.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where We're All Jose Padilla

John McCain, in his dotage, has proffered a bill that should have either a laugh track or horror movie music attached to it. It's called: ‘‘Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010’’.

And it's a doozy. A good, old-fashioned, lock-you-up-and-throw-away-the-key kind of law.

Essentially, if the President determines that someone is, or may be a, or might help some terrorists, the military gets to take them into custody, no Miranda provided, no habeus corpus, no lawyer, and no need for a trial. A whole new category of un-person is designed with this bill, an "Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent." Our thanks go out to Jose Padilla, who beta-tested this program back in 2002.

While there is a lot of high-minded nonsense, with the inclusion of Al Qaeda as the primary boogeyman, what it boils down to is that if the President so chooses, bang, you're busted by the military, sent off to a place like Gitmo, interrogated by a specific interrogation team created by this new law, imprisoned for potentially the rest of your life, and no one can utter a peep against the system. It specifically denies the Federal Courts any jurisdiction over these poor bastards, and denies funding to the Justice Department to do any prosecution. So no matter what, you will never enter the Federal judicial system once this label has been applied, and the only person who can legally let you go is the President.

Yeah. Right.

I really, really hope that Obama is not the kind of President who would sign a bill like this. But I'm not sure any more. If Congress and the Senate pass this thing, and Obama signs it, it might be time to move away from The United States of Detentionland.