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May 17th, 2009:

Weekend link dump for May 17

Clearly, I miss out by not reading “Slylock Fox” every Sunday.

While I’m somewhat relieved to learn that John Edwards’ staffers had a plan to scuttle his nomination in the event it was needed, I’m thinking that maybe they should have taken action anyway.

Rock stars, nerd style.

Cheney picks Limbaugh over Powell on GOP future. So does every Democrat in America.

Define baseball in 150 words. Let me know when they try it for 140 characters. Via Chad.

Ever wonder what the deal is with Jughead’s hat? Well, now you know.

The Bloggess: Sexier than the Dalai Lama.

Have I mentioned that Pete Sessions is an idiot? I guess it really can’t be said often enough. Remember a few years ago when folks like Pete Sessions likened disagreement with the President to treason? Boy, those were the days.

Where have you gone, Dom DiMaggio?

Zombie fire ants. George Romero, please pick up the white courtesy phone…

RIP, Wayman Tisdale.

Evil rides a Segway.

Woo hoo! “Dollhouse” gets renewed!

Here are some inspiring college graduation stories, including a cool one from my alma mater.

No, this is not copyright infringement. It is hilarious, however. Kudos to Hair Balls for being first on the scene.

More on Gene Green and climate change

Here’s a followup story on the eventually successful negotiations among members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the cap-and-trade bill.

Climate change legislation moving through Congress would give refiners free permits to emit greenhouse gases under a compromise engineered by a Texas Democrat whose Houston district includes many petrochemical plants.

Rep. Gene Green led the push for refiners along with Democratic Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, who represents San Antonio — home to the corporate headquarters of refiners Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp.

The two lawmakers got the deal added to a climate change bill agreed to by most Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and backed by the measure’s two sponsors, Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Green and Gonzalez also scored a major concession sought by oil companies when committee leaders scrapped a proposal that would impose steadily stiffer limits on transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions — and make the industry pay for allowances to cover the excess pollutants released when their fuel is burned.

Half a loaf is better than none. Half a loaf is better than none. Half a loaf…you get the idea. I think if I say it a few dozen more times, I’ll be able to say it with conviction.

The Waxman-Markey bill, which the Energy and Commerce Committee is slated to consider next week, would cap carbon dioxide emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other operations could exceed the limits by buying and exchanging emissions allowances on a new carbon-trading market.

To defray costs for some polluting industries, Waxman and Markey agreed to give away more than half of those allowances in the early years of the so-called “cap-and-trade” plan, with the bulk of them — 35 percent — going to local electricity distributors.

An additional 15 percent would be donated to trade-sensitive industries, and 3 percent would be given to automakers.

Eventually, companies would be weaned off the free allowances and would then have to buy the permits from the federal government at auction.

Under the deal with Green and Gonzalez, refiners would get 2 percent of the free allowances starting in 2014 and ending in 2026.

On Friday, that agreement was being attacked by both oil industry leaders, who said it wouldn’t offer enough economic protection, and environmentalists, who complained it was an unnecessary giveaway.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said the 2 percent free allowances is “inequitable” because it falls short of the roughly 4.3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions estimated to come from refiners.

The result, he said, will be “greater costs on consumers and producers of oil and gas.”

Yeah, dire warnings by a to-be-regulated industry about passing the cost along to the consumer is pretty much the last refuge of the scoundrel. The consumer is already bearing the costs of the pollution, in the form of adverse health effects and the eventual catastrophe that global warming will bring if it’s not checked now. It’s just that those costs are indirect, and they provide no incentive to ameliorate the underlying causes of those costs, which if dealt with would serve to lower them. So with all due respect to Mr. Gerard, I consider his words on this to have as much credibility as a Wall Street financier’s words arguing against tighter regulation of that industry on the grounds that it could damage the economy. A statement from the organizers of Friday’s rally about that event is beneath the fold.


Threatened by opera

I don’t normally think of opera as being particularly controversial or threatening, at least not in this day and age, but apparently it can be.

The organizers of the second annual Opera Vista Festival suspected one of their featured operas would draw controversy. But when an anonymous letter threatening the founders of the Nova Arts Project arrived at founding director Amy Hopper’s doorstep, she realized the show had potential to ignite a firestorm.

“We received this letter that was all about ignorance and hate, and that’s the whole point of this opera — to confront ignorance and hate. It makes it even more important to tell the story,” Hopper said.

The opera is “Edalat Square,” one of two works that won Opera Vista’s inaugural festival competition in 2007 (think “American Idol” for opera composers). Written by Atlanta-based composer R. Timothy Brady, the opera recounts the true story of Mahmoud Asgari, 17, and Ayaz Marhoni, 16, who were hanged in Iran in 2005 for the crime of lavaat, or sex between two men. Brady was inspired by the story to craft a poetic work that offers an unblinking look at bigotry, but is also prayerful and mystical, said Viswa Subbaraman, artistic director and co-founder of Opera Vista.


On May 5, Amy Hopper found out the show was already pushing buttons here in Houston. She opened her mailbox to discover a hand-stenciled, anonymous letter that said: “You are pigs to mix Islam with gays. You must stop! We will not let you do it.”

The festival’s organizers actually are glad the opera could spark debate or criticism. That’s part of the purpose of the performing arts — to provoke discussion and ignite the emotions, they said.

Well, they did succeed at that. Click the link above to see a photo of the letter, and consider supporting Opera Vista, which makes me glad to know that there’s still a lot of life in that art form. You can learn more about the 2009 Opera Vista Festival, and buy tickets for any of the shows, here. Thanks to Joe White for the tip.

Grading the Houston Mayoral campaign websites

David Ortez casts a critical eye at the campaign websites of the Mayoral hopefuls, and grades them out on things like design, content, and social networking. It’s an interesting exercise, and one for which an aesthetic imbecile such as myself is wholly unqualified, so I appreciate the effort. Check it out.