“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, May 27, 2006

fiction, fact, and seediness

Ah, the Bush administration, always in lockstep with the most villainous forces in America. Today’s NYT story relates a typical Bush caper, half Penguin from Batman, half Satan from Revelations. In the face of global warming, the Bushies are pushing to increase dramatically the amount of greenhouse gases Americans release into the atmosphere – by burning coal. The back to coal movement, and back to the dirtiest methods of mining it and using it, gives us some startling grafs:

“While Peabody supports some coal gasification projects, it remains skeptical about departing from traditional coal-burning methods to produce electricity.
The pulverized coal plants it wants to build, which grind coal into a dust before burning it to make electricity, currently cost about $2 billion each, or 15 percent to 20 percent less to build than the cleaner "integrated gasification combined cycle," or I.G.C.C., plants, which convert coal into a gas.

The hope among scientists is that I.G.C.C. plants could be relatively quickly fitted with systems to sequester deep underground the carbon dioxide created from making electricity. Without such controls, the new coal plants under development worldwide could pump as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over their lifetimes as all the coal burned in the last 250 years, according to Jeff Goodell, who has written on coal for several publications, including The New York Times, and is author of a new book on the coal industry.”

The leader of the coal industry is the villain in that old John Prine song, the Peabody Coal company:

"But while sooty smokestacks are no longer a big problem in modern coal-burning power plants, the increase in global warming gases is. A typical 500-megawatt coal-fired electricity plant, supplying enough power to run roughly 500,000 homes, alone produces as much in emissions annually as about 750,000 cars, according to estimates from Royal Dutch Shell.

"Coal has perhaps no stronger evangelist than Mr. Boyce, [President of Peabody] who grew up on Long Island, the son of a mining executive, and studied engineering in Arizona. He argues that a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can be found without having to switch from the existing cheaper coal-burning technology.
Much in the way that Exxon Mobil influences discussion of climate issues from the petroleum industry, Peabody is a backer of industry-supported organizations that seek to prevent mandatory reductions in global warming emissions and promote demand for coal.

Peabody's executives are also by far the coal industry's largest political contributors to federal candidates and parties, giving $641,059 in the 2004 election cycle, with 93 percent of that amount going to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent research group in Washington that tracks money in politics. “

So, to recapitulate: the Bush administration's response to global warming is to encourage, in its own modest way, putting more Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with less government regulation. The problem here, as so often in the past six years, is that the very scale and audacity of this obviously wrongheaded, vile, corrupt and anti-human attitude leaves its opponents gasping for negative superlatives, for some verbal equivalent to the punches continually given to common sense and honesty. The immediate need for an insult is not a position that allows for critical thinking. In truth, the Bush presidency isn't the most wicked or the worst to ever grace these here states -- surely that position belongs to Eisenhower, a president who repeatedly and carelessly risked nuclear war. But it is by far the seediest. Our present discontents, in which vanity projects become war and cronyism becomes an energy policy, reminds me of this passage in Marina Warner's fine essay, 'Angels and Engines' on Revelations in last Fall's Raritan:

"The wars of our time, represented in highly popular story cycles, are not easy to keep apart in the mind's eye from the wars conducted in reality and on news channels, and this is not just because The Lord ofthe Rings, Star Wars, the Chronicles of Namia,and the Harry Potter series are modern allegories. A recent poll
found that a terrifying number of people in the United Kingdom thought Hitler was a figment and that the ores' defeat at Helms Deep in The Two Towers actually took place (not to mention the headline interest of newspapers in the last episode of Friends). The reasons for this confusion lie deep: language and imagination govern ways of thinking, and from that work of cognition issue ways of doing. Brilliant techniques of illusion propel fantasies into reality. Film fictions have weirdly fiipped over and, in so doing, fulfilled aspects of apocalyptic prophecy at its most obscurantist. In some ways those informants who thought the battle of Helms Deep took place were right: it did take place—in the filming of the movie."


new york pervert said...

yes, it's always exactly the same. It makes me wonder if after the enjoyment of sadism comes something we're now seeing but that I haven't actually heard of before: the fear of not destroying, which is no longer a bad pleasure but rather a desperate defense. It's like some centrifugal force that's making the planet lose orbit or something like that--anything to ensure more misshapenness. Maybe that's just the old 'fear of success' thing I'd never been able to make sense of till I did, but also related to 'fear of not lying' which is, for the pathological liar, to continue lying as a policy even when it is no longer objectively needed, since it had once brought about realization of goals. I guess this is pretty rudimentary, but it wasn't always obvious to me.

new york pervert said...

roger--Here's the latest weirdness, Ms. Henke's hilarious idiot remarks at the end. I think the secret is realizing that this kind of thing is predictable weekly, or twice- or thrice-weekly, but that it will always seem inscrutable, no matter how it fits the pattern.


roger said...

Ah, Mr. NYP, you know my freerider theory. NYC is the cow that the yahoos are determined to milk. There was a phrase of Bernard Devoto's about the anti-government politics of the Westerns states that went something like: their perennial attitude to the federal government is leave us alone ... and give us money. Which is the alpha and omega of conservative populism, now and forever, amen.

By the way, I went looking for that Mike Davis book you recommended, and I stumbled on another book you might peruse one day - Survival City, by Tom Vanderbilt, an MIT architecture book about the "ruins of the Cold War" - it is a survey of things like underground bunkers in West Virginia for the Doctor Strangelove set. Fascinatin' stuff.

new york pervert said...

roger-NYPL has the Vanderbilt, I'll put in request once my 'in transit' items are in. Thank you. I have no idea what I'd do without them, because of huge savings on books and videos I'm able to get from all branches. Only occasionally do I have to buy something.

Good way of putting it, because yes--New York is totally hated and certainly in deep decline. I have no interest in the truthout people, because they want to make sins of omission the same thing as sins of commission, and that's stupid journalism or something like that. But if blasts don't occur here, there's definitely a sense of greater chaos just in the more or less peaceful streets than before 9/11: You have to literally be careful not to get injured. Part of it is that construction sites must have sextupled or more since then. My own block, very pretty until 2002, not only has the usual building renovations, but a site of digging up the street whose finish date keeps being postponed just digs up one part then another, then redigs up another, and then they don't work for weeks and leave everything there--like a permanent fixture now, but not clear on the 'subway ventilation system' that it's supposed to fix and the payoffs within the system must be so Byzantine it would, in fact, be thrilling if somebody would give me a chart of it. But I can't figure out anything anymore. I tried googling that thing Nietzsche or somebody wrote about the desire to kill the 'city man,' well, I know that that's definitely the hatred of New York. Except for the last remaining truly metropolitan enclaves, surviving on their history and prestige and no new ones being built, I get the impression that NY is the target of many different internal and external attackers--so that unless explosions occur again, there's digging up everything (so many more blocks and streets than 10 years ago I cannot even describe it) and also, to stay afloat with the tourists, there's a big turning of NYC into a suburb of exurbia--symptoms of this are that there is no longer any trace of a Sondheim milieu as in the 70's except in the remaining classical institutions, and cabaret is about 5% of what it was 30 years ago and 1% of what it was 40 years ago. NY is a backwater actually, with the big board being virtualized, and the place gradually turned into a temporary plaything since it's still too unwieldy to just raze outright. Rambling, but you may get the drift--the character is very hard to find any more here unless you've known where it's been historically. Way too long, sorry.

new york pervert said...

'no new ones being built'

Not 100% true, as Mr. Piano's new Morgan Library proves, but most things impossible to do here, projects always bogged down, Ground Zero impossiblenesses perfect example, sense of frozenness, sclerosis has been here for a good while.