The Critical Mass

I read the Sunday New York Times, so you don’t have to: Jan. 31:

This morning’s coffee: Kenyan. First music of the day: Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Happy Trails, kind of a Bo Diddley beat prog rock.

1, Here’s an alarming headline: “China Leading Race to Make Clean Energy.” Now travel the Time Machine back a decade. Remember George W. Bush vs. Al Gore, and how Gore was preaching green energy, not only to head off global warming, but as a way to create jobs in our country, jobs that would stay in our country (Saudi Arabia doesn’t have cheaper, or more, wind and sunshine). Well, we threw that decade of progress away. Reporting from China, reporter Keith Bradsher writes, “Renewable energy industries here are adding jobs rapidly, reaching 1.12 million in 2008 and climbing by 100,000 a year, according to the government-backed Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.” That should have been us. I have a suspicion that, had Gore won, we would have also not gotten involved in Iraq and the deregulation festival that lead to the worldwide economic disaster. On yeah, the intelligent, always curious Gore would have read that Daily Presidential Briefing in August of 2001, the one entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” and he would have asked, “What’s this? How do we stop this?”

2, The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in downtown Portland, Ore., is described by The Times as “18 stories of concrete, glass and minimal inspiration.” Now a plan is afoot to drape the west facade of the 1975 building with a vertical trellis, 200 feet high, that would change with the seasons, blooming in the spring and summer to offer shade, the leaves dropping off in the fall to allow sunlight to heat the building.  It’s estimated the building would use from 60 to 65 percent less energy than similar structures. Rainwater, and perhaps waste water from the building, would be used to irrigate the trellis. “It will be one of the more energy efficient high rises in America, possibly the world,” said the architect in charge of the project. It’s an expensive proposition, but that’s the kind of innovative thinking we need. Of course, innovation isn’t a concept easily grasped by some of our intractable politicians. Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, The Times writes, “ranked it second on a list of what they called the 100 worst stimulus-financed projects.”

3, “From Hi Jinks to Handcuffs” is a portrait of 24-year-old James O’Keefe, arrested last week with three other men and charged with a federal felony, attempting to tamper with the office telephone system of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. O’Keefe is the fellow who became a conservative hero last year when he dressed up like a pimp, had a friend doll up in hooker boutique, and took a hidden video camera into a handful of the offices of ACORN, a federally funded group that helps minorities and poor people buy houses and register to vote. The Times calls such actions “a kind of gonzo journalism or conservative version of Candid Camera,” being practiced by conservative groups on college campuses. As The Times notes, these conservative college activists “held ‘affirmative action’ bake sales with prices set based on the age and race of the buyer, posed as donors to Planned Parenthood seeking to contribute to the abortion of African-American fetuses only, and held a mock ‘Love Thy Prisoner’ campaign to find American homes for Guantanamo inmates.” O’Keefe calls such activities “Satire.” However, it is not satire to pick on the weak. It is, in fact, a complete lack of compassion.

4, Ernie Anastos uttered perhaps the most infamous line in the history of news-anchor banter last year, when, during the 10 o’clock news on New York City’s WNYW, he said to the station’s weatherman, “Keep plucking that chicken.” As The Times noted, “The verb sounded sounded an awful lot like an obscenity.” Anastos has just signed a three-year contract with the station worth about $1 million a year. Let’s hope WNYW gets a lot of bang for that fuck. Um, buck.

5, In the Travel section, “Ramen, once a throwback, is now considered cool.”

6, The title of fastest gust of wind ever recorded has gone from 231 miles per hour on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington to 253 miles an hour, during a cyclone last week on Barrow Island, off the coast of Australia. However, Washington, D.C., still holds the record for gusts of hot air.

7, The Times editorial page comes down against what appears to be a fear-based decision to move the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of 9/11, out of New York City. “This is where the attack occurred, and New Yorkers should have been proud to see justice done here.”

8, Columnist Frank Rich on Obama’s State of the Union speech: “Obama should turn up the heat on both the GOP’s record of fiscal recklessness and its mad-dog obstructionism.” Likewise, Maureen Dowd admiring Obama’s smackdown of the Republicans two days later at a GOP retreat two days later, writes “the president offered a quick math lesson on what Republicans never admit: that it was W. and the Republican Congress who ran up much of our $12 trillion-dollar debt and left us pawning our family jewels to the Chinese.”

9, Just Kids, Patti Smith’s autobiography of her days with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, gets a smashing review for its depiction of the New York City arts scene of the ’70s. “Among the most charming vignettes is her attempted pickup at an automat (‘A real Tex Avery  eatery’) by Allen Ginsberg, who buys the impoverished Smith a sandwich under the impression she’s an unusually striking boy.”

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