Archive for June, 2010

The saga of Anne Sholtz and Rep. Joe Barton and a little hardware

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Texas Congressman Joe Barton, along with fellow Republican Greg Walden, last year pressured the Justice Dept. to release documents on the secretive prosecution of former high-flying, emissions-broker Anne Sholtz. Barton, a global warming skeptic and longtime champion of big oil, made news again recently for his comments that the federal mandate for BP to set aside $20 billion for cleanup of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill amounted to a “slush fund” and shakedown. Guess what? He was forced to apologize.

Washington Post story on his outburst, which was curious to say the least. Here’s the official contrition from him in an MSNBC update.

I’m just wondering when Barton will get around to explaining why he and House lawyers and investigators were chomping at the bit to learn more about Sholtz and what her air pollution-exchange scandal says about a  possible greenhouse gas cap-and-trade, when a national energy/climate bill was on the front burner, and why he’s allowed it slip from it from his political consciousness now that the bill’s propsects faded.  Could it be Barton’s entire reasoning was to slam Obama, via California, and shield the petroleum sectors? Naw, couldn’t be.

In any event, my story on Sholtz — and it’s contexualized and expanded in our book Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles – won gold in the Southern California Journalism Awards Sunday night. I dislike even mentioning this, because I am ambivalent about subjective honors, but in this case I make an exception because after all these years, there is still more heat than light about the Sholtz caper and Barton’s real motives, let alone why the Justice Dept. handled her the way it did and all that CIA stuff.

Better late than never, this orginal infra-red montage of America’s air pollution culture

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

It comes from Santa Barbara environmental activist, David Lange. Here’s his blog. David, a passionate concerned citizen, has an interesting soundtrack to it that speaks in metaphor. Very well done!

Happy Father’s Day

Thursday thicket – green catch-up mode

Thursday, June 17th, 2010


* Ensuring California’s millions of cars are as smog-free as possible has never translated into a system that’s corruption free, and never will.

From the L.A. Times: “A South Los Angeles smog check shop has been shut down by state regulators and may face criminal charges for routinely certifying pollution-belching vehicles as smog-free. Undercover surveillance by the state Bureau of Automotive Repair found that in a two-hour period, each of the 13 smog tests conducted at AM PM Smog at 6401 1/2 S. Avalon Blvd., was fraudulent … A state audit earlier this year found widespread fraud statewide, with almost one-third of older model vehicles failing surprise roadside tests even though they had earned passing grades at inspection stations …”

* Big stunner out of Washington, D.C. Politicians are politicizing the Gulf Oil spill to push for clean energy legislative, including a carbon “cap-and-trade” market. In Casa Blanca terms, I’m shocked at this dirty pandering. Restoriong gooey, tarry wetlands and petroleum-shellacked beaches and controlling the earth’s temperature are distant cousins of the green movement, or are they?

L.A. Times coverage.

* So Aghanistan actually does have natural resources that don’t include Taliban grunts with scarves and AK-47s? As if the average Afghani will get any benefit from this.

From the New York Times piece. “The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe …”

* Tell me this isn’t true, 30 years after a painful OPEC oil embargo that illuminated our need to wind down our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly from nations prone to hate and attack us, and intensity the search for clean, renewable energy. What was it George Washington proclaimed about foreign entanglements? Anyway, America’s addiction to cheap energy prices and our devotion to the status quo has done China wonders. They’re the country with the boundless solar power future.

From MSNBC. “… Solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. energy usage, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. And although many industry watchers see big potential, the giant U.S. market currently ranks fourth in solar electric capacity — behind Germany, Italy and Japan …”

* On this last note, all I can say is that it’s about time and why wasn’t the old anti-corruption unit able to competently prosecute and investigate the Anne Sholtz cap-and-trade fraud? 

L.A. Times coverage: “U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. announced Friday that he was creating a specialized unit to prosecute public corruption and civil rights cases, such as those involving politicians or police officers accused of crimes.

The move effectively restores a similar unit that was disbanded by Birotte’s predecessor, Thomas P. O’Brien, two years ago.

“My experience has taught me that oversight breeds public confidence in government, and public confidence breeds better government,” Birotte wrote in a memo circulated to his staff, a copy of which was obtained by The Times. “The public needs to be able to rely on federal law enforcement to act as a watchdog for public institutions and the individuals who hold positions of trust in those organizations …”