Take Five (Who Has Seen the Windbag edition)

ONE: Spin v. Spin

The ongoing battle between proponents of Scotland’s mooted European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre and walking wind farm Donald Trump, who insists the project will ruin his nearby golf resort, took a wonkish turn this week as the media temporarily forsook its frenzied pursuit of yet another loquacious Trumpian tantrum in favor of some, you know, information and stuff. The information, such as it was, was offered up by Vattenfall, the government-owned Swedish utility hoping to build the renewable energy project.

For very good reasons, Vattenfall is not too popular with environmental groups. Its business practices and fondness for ecological window dressing have drawn justified scorn from Greenpeace, for example. Vattenfall was even “honored” with a Climate Greenwash Award in 2009:

Vattenfall plans to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, capturing CO2 and storing it underground, to clean up its coal-fired power stations… Vattenfall uses coal in 20 power plants across Europe and wants to build more. According to the International Energy Agency (a champion of CCS) the technology is unlikely to be commercially viable until after 2020 – too late to prevent dangerous climate change.

Vattenfall has successfully lobbied for political and financial support for CCS in Europe and the company is also actively lobbying for nuclear power – despite leaks at its generators in Germany and Sweden.

One of Vattenfall’s strategies to decrease emissions is to burn coal with biomass, mainly from wood pellets and straw, continuing demand for coal and increasing pressure on forest resources. Vattenfall also burns peat causing huge environmental damage. Vattenfall claims it will be “climate neutral” by 2050 but emitted 82.5 million tonnes of CO2 in 2008 – more than its home country which emitted 67 million tonnes (2005).

Safe to say, then, that Vattenfall is by no means necessarily the hero here, but since Take Five previously featured some of bullet-headed microphone hog Donald Trump’s exorbitantly self-interested views on all this, let’s just hear what Vattenfall had to say:

Jason Ormiston, a senior executive with the firm, told Holyrood’s energy committee yesterday that schemes such as the planned 11-turbine test site in the North Sea could help turn Scotland into a “world leader” in the renewable energy sector…

Mr Ormiston, Vattenfall’s head of public and regulatory affairs, said that projects such as the wind farm off the Aberdeen coast were “urgently required” to meet the UK’s renewable energy targets.

He said: “They could see gross value added to the UK economy of £7bn and a cumulative cost-reduction impact of £45bn for the whole offshore wind sector in UK waters by 2050.”

Mr Ormiston went on to say that the scheme would also help the Scottish Government meet its flagship renewable energy target of creating all of Scotland’s electricity from green sources by 2020.

To the extent that any of that turns out to be true, that’s great, but reaction from The Donald’s camp was swift and hostile. Trump second-in-command George Sorial angrily alleged that the project would result in higher consumer prices for electricity, a predictably off-the-rack criticism of wind power and one that generally fails to stand up to much scrutiny. He also claimed that any economic benefits obtained would accrue only to the Swedes, although he was at least polite enough to refrain from calling them “bloodthirsty Viking breeze-thieves.”

Of course, Sorial doesn’t really give a damn about how much Scots pay for their power, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Trump were to announce tomorrow that he’s going to build a luxury golf resort near Uppsala. What this really comes down to is a rich clod who’s irrationally upset about the idea of 11 wind turbines two and a half miles out to sea from his golf course. Despite the potential loss of caddying jobs if Trump makes good on his threats to pull the plug on his resort, I suspect Scotland will do the right thing here and – assuming the wind is right – tell him to go fly a kite.

TWO: Another Pleasant Valley Wednesday

Back in 1935, Manchester, Connecticut took to describing itself as the “city of village charm” but young Eric Didio learned last week that Manchester has its wrong side of the tracks, and he has the misfortune to work there:

Didio, 23, an employee of Boston Market restaurant, was cavorting in his bright yellow [chicken] costume, waving a small American flag to passersby on Pleasant Valley Road, when a brazen thief interrupted his chicken-hawking.

“He was standing out here, doing his little chicken dance, and a guy hopped out of a car stopped at the light, ran over here, grabbed the flag and took off,” restaurant general manager Nathan Atwood said.

Shortly after the theft, reported at about 12:30 p.m., Atwood stood next to Didio, providing security for his “chicken dude.” Atwood said a customer who witnessed the theft called police.

The emergency dispatcher could not relay the entire call, twice breaking into laughter while trying to say, “chicken suit.”

Terrorist? Political activist? Flag fetishist? Poultry-phobe? Hard to say, but let’s hope the “city of village charm” devotes all necessary crime-fighting resources to finding the dumb cluck who did this and bringing him to justice.

THREE: Brother, Can You Spare a Camel?

Yes, it’s a cliché, but times really are tough all over.

NASA, for example, which last year sucked up a whopping half a percent of the federal budget, is now facing severe cutbacks:

It has come to this: planetary scientists across the United States hawked baked goods to the public on Saturday in an effort to drum up awareness of their field’s dwindling financial support. They were protesting plans in US President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request to cut 21% from NASA’s planetary-science budget, and 38% from its Mars projects.

The planetary scientists weren’t hoping to fill their coffers with the revenue from the sale; instead, they offered free sweets in return for signatures on letters beseeching Congress to reverse the cuts…

Elsewhere, planetary scientists showed that they would do anything to raise awareness. In Boulder, they polished shoes. In Houston, Texas, scientists from the Lunar and Planetary Institute joined forces with the dark side, colluding with costumed Star Wars stormtroopers to attract supporters.

The space agency’s 2012 budget was $17.8 billion, an amount that would pay for less than nine weeks of the war in Afghanistan, a war that President Obama and other attendees at the recent NATO summit confirmed will continue until the end of 2014. Per ardua ad astra, as the saying goes.

Speaking of cash-strapped, Somali radicals have resorted to the barter system in their quest for “intelligence” to support whatever the hell bad stuff they’re currently up to:

Al-Shabaab has placed a bounty of 10 camels for President Barack Obama and two camels for information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

An audio statement posted on jihadist websites purportedly from Al-Shabaab jeered news that the United States is offering millions of dollars for information on seven key members of al-Shabaab through its Rewards for Justice program.

The man on the audio claimed to be Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, considered by the State Department to be Al-Shabaab’s leading fundraiser. The United States has offered $5 million for information of his whereabouts.

“Whoever brings the mujahidin information about the whereabouts of infidel Obama and the lady of Bill Clinton, the woman named Hillary Clinton, I will give a reward,” the man said.

Since Khalaf has apparently never heard of a place called “Washington, DC” it’s hard to believe he poses much of a threat, but better safe than sorry. If he ends up at Gitmo, he should at least get some special privileges for confirming that the President is not a Muslim.

Shockingly, even the Nobel Foundation has been feeling the pinch, and intends to pass the pain on to the “consumer”:

Nobel Prize winners are to receive a smaller cash sum in future, after a cut to prize winnings was announced.

The Nobel Foundation said the economic crisis was to blame for the move, which will see a 20% cut in prize money.

The foundation said the returns on its capital had not grown at the same rate as its costs, and that future winners would receive $1.1m (£700,000).

Good thing noted infidel and penny-pinching NASA-hater Barack Obama got his Peace Prize back in 2009.

FOUR: No, We Can’t All Just Get Along

What price civility? How about 20 bucks? The good people of Middleborough, Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly on Monday night to make public profanity subject to a $20 fine:

Ironically, the new ordinance actually decriminalizes public profanity: Since 1968, the town has had a bylaw on the books that makes cursing in public a crime. But considering the effort it would take to haul a curser into court, it was rarely enforced. So now, the ordinance merely fines those who use profanity in public and allows police to write tickets for it, much like a traffic stop…

The city’s officials say they’re just trying to reduce the sort of foul language used by teens in public parks. It’s not meant to outlaw casual conversations or conversing in private, they say…

At the risk of sounding very much like the hopeless old coot I vehemently deny having become, I have to say I’m fine with this. Profanity per se doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but there’s no good reason, for example, why children, nuns or anyone else need to be subjected to the kind of language I indulge in virtually every day (often in response to the latest outrage involving a Republican). And yes, if someone were to cite me for that kind of language, I expect I’d be noisily pissed off to the point of doubling my fine, but I’m still not bothered by the idea of what Middleborough is doing. Sadly, this puts me at odds with the ACLU:

Matthew Segal, the legal director of ACLU of Massachusetts, wrote on Boston.com: “Some laws are good, some are bad, and some are just @!#$! ridiculous. A new anti-swearing provision passed by the town of Middleborough falls into that last category.”

Segal, whose column was titled, “WTF, Middleborough?”, calls the ban clearly unconstitutional, citing the Supreme Court case Cohen v. California, which says that the government cannot ban public speech for profanity.

Now, maybe Segal’s simply a self-righteous prick who’s only too happy to fuck up a good idea with his goddamned Supreme Court cites and shit, but maybe, just maybe, he’s right. The bastard.

Among many other things, civility was probably on Ray Dolin’s mind on Monday. Dolin is in the process of hitchhiking across the country, an endeavor he’s commemorating with a memoir he calls “The Kindness of America.” Dolin was on US Highway 2 in Montana’s Dokken oil patch when he had a close encounter of the dangerous kind. Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier describes what happened next:

“He was sitting down to have a little lunch and this guy drives up. He thought he was going to give him a ride and as he approached the vehicle, the guy pulls out his weapon and shoots him. It’s as simple as that,” Meier said.

Dolin was shot in the arm, and will survive, though I worry that his memoir might not. Some hours after the attack, police arrested one Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, a 52-year-old Washingtonian thought to have been headed to North Dakota for an oil industry job. He was believed by the arresting officers to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition to getting Dolin’s attacker off the streets, the police probably just did the North Dakota oil industry a big favor.

FIVE: Chillaxing in Cadsden

The best thing I can think of to say about British Prime Minister David Cameron is that he’s not Tony Blair, but at least Blair managed never to strand one of his kids in a pub. As of last Sunday, Cameron, a self-described “modern compassionate conservative,” could no longer make the same claim:

HORRIFIED David Cameron got home from a Sunday lunch with family and friends — and discovered he had left his eight-year-old daughter in the pub.

He dashed back and found little Nancy with staff at the Plough Inn in Cadsden, Bucks…

The Camerons and children Nancy, Arthur, six, and 22-month-old Florence had been having Sunday lunch with two other families at the Plough Inn near the PM’s country home Chequers. Afterwards the PM went home in a car flanked by bodyguards, thinking Nancy was with Sam and their other children in a second vehicle…

Friends of the PM have recently told how he likes “chillaxing” at Chequers at the weekends.

They say he enjoys watching films on telly, napping and enjoying three or four glasses of wine with lunch.

But hey, who’s counting?