Take Five (Conduct Unbecoming edition)

ONE: Wings of Desire

The least surprising recent gun news was the shameful failure of expanded background checks legislation in the Senate. Least surprising because, after all, 42 of the 45 naysayers have been recipients of gun lobby largesse; the other three, evidently, are just dolts. A few other recent firearms stories, by contrast, were a little harder to anticipate.

If you’re ever in Memphis and thinking you could kill for some Jack Pirtle’s chicken wings, just don’t bring along an assault rifle. Antonius Hart Sr. and his creatively named son Antonius Hart Jr. made that mistake recently, and not only are they facing criminal charges, but they didn’t even get their wings.

After receiving the wrong order on their first visit to a Pirtle’s drive-thru, they returned for their wings but stubbornly insisted on getting some free chicken as compensation for being inconvenienced. When this demand was refused, Hart père allegedly brandished an AK-47. Jack Pirtle’s staff then called the cops, who arrested the Harts and confiscated the rifle and 24 rounds of ammunition.

In a gun incident with less obvious motivation, Seattle police were called to the Northgate Mall recently after security reported a man fondling a shotgun in the parking lot:

The man, who wore a cowboy hat, a white shirt and khaki pants, walked to his Ford Explorer with the shotgun and put it in the vehicle, police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. He then lingered outside the vehicle smoking a cigarette and at times handled the gun in the Explorer, police said…

“We’re now looking into whether he had a legitimate reason for having the shotgun – maybe he was transporting it,” Witt said.

Well, maybe. Or maybe it was transporting him, if you catch my drift, but it’s also possible that the man’s peculiar behavior was inspired by the Northgate Mall itself. A recent consumer review on Yelp suggests that it might be the shopping center of broken dreams:

This mall has nothing interesting, honestly. Everything seems run down and depressing which for some reason stresses me out.

So I normally have a few drinks before shopping and that helps take the edge off, but once the alcohol wears off I die…

In further malls’n'guns news, a woman waiting for a parking space on Thursday at a mall in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park had the bad fortune to cross paths with an armed jackass in a hurry:

Investigators said a woman decided to stop and wait for a person to leave a particular parking space when a man driving a car behind her grew impatient and started honking and yelling obscenities.

Authorities said the woman didn’t budge and the man in the car behind her drove up to her side of the vehicle, pulled a gun and started waving it at her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t move.

Background checks? We don’t need no stinkin’ background checks…

TWO: Say What?

Bismarck’s NBC affiliate KFYR (“Your News Leader”) proudly presented their new co-anchor the weekend before last, and then they fired him. AJ Clemente, thinking that his Evening Report debut wasn’t yet underway, uttered the words “fuckin’ shit” into a live mic. Clemente and co-anchor Van Tieu then went into this awkward back-and-forth:

TIEU: Good evening. I’m Van Tieu. You may have seen our newest – AJ on – in [inaudible] North Dakota news, and he’ll be joining the weekend news team as my co-anchor. Tell us a little bit about yourself, AJ.

CLEMENTE: Um… thanks, Van. I’m very excited. I graduated from West Virginia University, and I’m used to, um, you know, from being from the in – East Coast.

Clemente was canned the following day. Especially in view of his Cooperstown-ready surname, it’s a damn shame he doesn’t have a lifetime batting average of .286 with 403 home runs and 1,337 RBIs; he’d probably still have a job. Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who actually owns these impressive stats, had this to say to a sold-out crowd during a televised ceremony before the first ballgame at Fenway following the Marathon bombing:

We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our fucking city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.

A couple of hours later, FCC chair Julius Genachowski tweeted:

David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today’s Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston.

That and the $14.5 million Ortiz is making this season will be a great comfort to the slugger, no doubt. If you really want to see something wrong done right, leave it to Republicans. Steve Kush is the executive director and Bob Cornelius the former executive director of the Bernalillo County Republican Party in New Mexico, and they really dislike women who want to see a higher minimum wage. Cornelius and Kush attended a hearing on the topic and had some choice social media comments about a couple of female members of the activist group Working America. As one member of the group spoke, Kush tweeted:

Nice hat Working America chick but damn you are a radical bitch

Before moving on to Facebook to comment on Working America’s executive director:

Uh oh another Working America chick…nice boots…I know she makes more than min wage

Cornelius soon chimed in:

Maybe she uses those shoes to walk Central [Avenue]…even in this economy she can exchange bumper cables for boots

Kush then posted:

… she was hot enough to almost make me register democrat

After being suspended indefinitely without pay, Kush has expressed remorse for what he calls an “ill-fated attempt at humor.”

THREE: Many Crappy Returns

Ever notice how washed-up Republican politicians never seem to go away? No matter the magnitude of their defeats and disgraces, no matter the fervid desire of the general public never to hear or see them again, no matter the outrageousness or flat-out irrelevance of their opinions, they just will not go away. Exhibit A? Joe Walsh.

The former Congressman, a lazy and stupid man, made headlines in March when he informed a rally full of rapt Teabaggers that Americans are lazy and stupid. Now America’s highest-profile deadbeat dad is using the Boston Marathon bombing as a springboard to more headlines, as he calls for, essentially, a law enforcement jihad:

“We’re at war, and this country got a stark reminder last week again that we’re at war,” Walsh said to host Martin Bashir during an appearance on MSNBC. “And not only should we take a pause, Martin, when it comes to immigration, we need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: young Muslim men.”

Walsh has repeatedly hinted at another run for office, but with any luck voters will begin profiling white, middle-aged, Islamophobic scofflaw candidates and stop the little buttmunch before the sleeper cell of his political aspirations can be activated.

Todd Akin, the rank misogynist whom Walsh was quick to defend, has also been trying to get a foot back in the door of relevance. In an interview with KSDK in St. Louis, he responded ominously to a question about returning to politics:

“It’s one of those things that depends on the circumstances really.  I don’t rule anything out. I consider it a bright new future and I’m interested to see what the possibilities are.”

Personally, I’m hoping that the body politic has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Continue reading Take Five (Conduct Unbecoming edition)

Wind farm ban becomes issue in Sangamon County, Illinois board election

Proposed changes to the county wind farm ordinance have become an issue in the election for Sangamon county board seats. In August, I wrote about the county board threatening to turn away green jobs and clean energy by adopting the most extreme restrictions in Illinois.

County board members punted the issue again by extending the ban on wind farms for another six months. Ordinance changes, which may halt development of a wind farm proposed in western Sangamon County, will be considered again after the election.

The delays, hesitation, and threatened destruction of a project that would create badly needed green jobs has been raised by several candidates challenging county board incumbents. Mike Ziri was the first to contact me after my blog post. Ziri is a Springfield Democrat running in district 11. Both Ziri and Mike Crews spoke in favor of wind farm jobs at the Liberty Brew & View candidate night last month. Crews referenced his opponent’s vote for the wind farm moratorium in a campaign mailing.

The sponsor of the ordinance is Springfield County board member Tim Moore. I contacted his election opponent, Tony DelGiorno, to ask if this is an issue in his race. He speaks about it with voters while knocking on doors and it’s included on his campaign website. Tony sent me this quote: Continue reading Wind farm ban becomes issue in Sangamon County, Illinois board election

Will Sangamon County Illinois Turn Away Wind Power Jobs while Subsidizing Coal?

A proposal is currently before the Sangamon County Board that would end a project to create local green jobs and clean energy. I decided to check out rumors I’ve been hearing that the county board may kill a wind farm proposed west of Springfield and there’s definitely reason for concern.

The county has a “moratorium” on wind farms while it considers zoning rules. The current rules require turbines to be 1,000 feet from any structure and 1,200ft from a neighboring property line. That’s already the most restrictive setback requirement in Illinois. The next largest setback rule is 750ft in Peoria county.

I’m told that some Illinois wind power producers dislike the Sangamon county ordinance because it could set a new standard that’s too restrictive. Despite that, the company proposing a new local wind farm, Sangamon Wind, still agreed to the rule.

Now, there’s a proposed change that would be even more restrictive. The “perimeter setback” to the property line of the project would be increased for turbines over 400ft, like the ones proposed by Sangamon Wind. This would protect pieces of ground on neighboring property from being near a wind turbine even if there are no houses or other structures nearby. It would essentially give landowners veto power over their neighbors who do want to participate in the project.

As if that weren’t enough, two county board members offered separate floor amendments at their last meeting extending the setbacks even further to 1,850ft or 2,640ft for a 400ft turbine. Thankfully, the proposals were postponed but the issue will come back at a future meeting.

I spoke with a representative of Sangamon Wind who told me that the new guidelines would effectively ban wind farms in Sangamon County.

gobknobwindFarmers and other landowners across Illinois sound generally happy with the extra revenue they’re getting from hosting wind turbines on their property. The wind industry supported 5,000-10,000 Illinois jobs in 2010. Could Sangamon become the one county backward enough to turn down good jobs during a recession?

There was some opposition at previous public hearings on the ordinance. Residents near the project had reasonable questions. A few others brought up a long list of far-fetched objections and internet conspiracy theories about wind power generation.

Ultimately, there are some people who just don’t want any change to their scenic views of corn and soy fields, even though wind farms preserve the rural nature of the area. It would be ironic if opponents stopped the wind farm only to see the area later developed with a subdivision or mega hog farm. Continue reading Will Sangamon County Illinois Turn Away Wind Power Jobs while Subsidizing Coal?

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. Continue reading Take Five (Who Has Seen the Windbag edition)

Wind powering job growth in central Illinois coal country

It’s time to stop calling central Illinois “coal country.” Several recent articles show the path of Illinois’ new energy future.

The Bloomington Pantagraph reports that a wind turbine manufacturer in Clinton (North of Decatur) is adding new jobs and a third shift. The company president had encouraging news for the prospect of more job growth in the Illinois wind industry.

“The Midwest is really still the best market for the wind industry in the U.S.,” Cole said this week. “With all the facilities we have, the Midwest seems to be, through these economic times, holding up the best.”

The expansion was a welcome surprise Thursday for officials in DeWitt County, where Trinity is one of the five largest employers and taxpayers, and manufacturing is the No. 2 sector. The county posted a jobless rate of 8.5 percent last month, down from a year ago but still about double pre-recession levels.

gobknobwind

It’s no accident that wind power is blowing jobs our way. A Reuters article explains several factors helping to promote the industry in Illinois, including the Renewable Portfolio Standard pushed by environmental groups. It requires the state to gradually ramp up renewable energy use to 25% by 2025. Continue reading Wind powering job growth in central Illinois coal country