Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arlington Falling Down On Snow Removal

Over the past few years, we were beginning to think that Arlington was getting the hang of decent snow removal. Well, think again!
Above are photos of our street--just four blocks from Arlington's government complex at Courthouse Plaza--a full three days after the storm finished.

It's not for lack of effort--we know that Arlington's road crews have been working 12-hour shifts since the snow began Friday night. Part of the problem, however, is a shortsighted approach to plowing streets during and immediatley after a major storm that then leads to bigger problems down the road.

The basic approach to plowing in Arlington is to create a single lane down the middle of a road, rather than plowing curb to curb. Of course, in many areas it is impossible to plow curb-to-curb because Arlington has no snow emergency regulations that keep cars out of curb lanes. But even where there are now parked cars, the plowing is usually confined to a single lane.

This approach, of course, means that snow is piled up IN THE ROAD on the days after the storm, where it often gets a hard freeze, making later removal much more difficult.

Arlington needs to get serious about snow removal, especially this year. There's an excellent chance that this won't be the last major winter snowstorm of the season--indeed, the Capital Weather Gang blog at the Washington Post had an excellent discussion of the factors that created this blizzard and the likelihood that those conditions will persist for much of the rest of this winter. If that happens, we're going to need a much better response.

Needless to say, there are many cities in the northeastern and midwestern U.S. that are larger and more complex than Arlington, and that are able to deal with snow of this magnitude without closing down for several days.

As for Arlington schools, winter has just begun and they've already eaten up three snow days. It easily could've been more--if the storm had started last Sunday night, instead of on a Friday night, they would have lost an entire week. The schools don't have much of a plan in place either--they could easily assign alternate bus routes that stick to major roads, but they insist on a lowest common denominator approach--if there is one hilly street with ice on it, then it's too dangerous to send the kids to school. A couple more storms like this one and the kids will still be in school come July!
Anyway, it will be nice--we guess--to have a white Christmas. Happy Holidays everyone!!

Imperfect Health Care Bill Is Still Progress

There is little question but that the health care bill about to be passed by Congress is far from perfect. Nonetheless, it is a giant step in the right direction, and will eventually be looked back upon as a significant achievement.

Most human progress occurs incrementally. People are conservative by nature, accepting change in small bites (or, increasingly, bytes). Indeed, it would be impossible to re-make the health care system all at once, and it would be impossible to pass a "perfect" health care bill.

The Democratic party will probably even pay a steep price at the polls in the mid-term elections for the health bill, but it will be worth it as it's the right thing to do.

Over the coming years, Congress will have to tinker further with health care reform as the effects of change and reform become evident and we learn of things that did, or didn't, work out.

As is the case with most legislation that gets this emotional, the opponents of the health bill will soon realize that the roof hasn't caved in--that their health care really hasn't changed that much; likewise, the proponents will discover that many of the changes they had hoped for didn't materialize the way they wanted. But for several million Americans, life will improve significantly as they find themselves with access to adequate medical care. And that's progress.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Great December Blizzard of 2009

The Curmudgeon home and car, buried in record-breaking DC snowstorm!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


We loved this photo, which a friend sent us. Her sister's friend hung a dummy from the roof. She had to take it down after two days for fear of causing a traffic accident and because a few people tried to effect "rescues" (and weren't too happy to learn it was a fake)!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Curmudgeon on Author BUZZ Radio Show

Next week the Curmudgeon will be a guest on Deidre Hughey's Author BUZZ internet radio show, based in Raleigh, NC to discuss Landstrike. The show will run live from 2-3 pm, and the podcast will be available after that. Join us if you can!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pessimistic About Copenhagen

Today, a vital week of talks begin in Copehagen on the future of the planet. We're not too optimistic, for several reasons.

First, absent dramatic progress in reducing greenhouse emissions, it is probably already too late to stop significant additional warming throughout the rest of this century. The changes necessary to achieve those reductions are likely far greater than the world is willing to agree to.

Second, political support for reigning in carbon emissions has been eroding due to a well-financed campaign to create doubt about the existence and causes of global climate change. The campaign has, of course, been championed by the fossil fuel industry, and lately has been heartily embraced by the political right wing. If the U.S.--the biggest energy hog in the world--doesn't commit to significant changes in its ways, why would anyone else?

Third, the economics of fossil fuels are, unfortunately, such as to make it highly unlikely that the world as a whole will rapidly substitute renewable energy sources. Each time the price of oil and other fossil fuels increases, the incentive to find those resources in less accessible parts of the globe grows. As a result, we are not likely to reach a point of "peak oil"--the point at which overall production begins to decline, anytime soon.

Further, if developed nations reach agreements to limit the use of fossil fuels, that will just make them less expensive (because there will be a greater supply) to the less developed world. As long as there is an abundant supply of inexpensive fossil fuels, it is likely that someone will "cheat" on any accord and continue to use them.

Fourth, as the world population grows, and as the middle class portion of that population grows even faster, the new demand for energy grows at a huge rate. We might be able to satisfy the new demand with renewable sources--although we aren't now--but just keeping up is difficult.

That doesn't mean the world shouldn't try. We're in favor of the Copenhagen meetings and an aggressive plan to reduce emissions. And we're still personally committed to reducing our own carbon footprint, if for no other reason than to tell our grandchildren we tried.

More than likely, however, the world is going to have to get used to the effects of global warming. We doubt they're quite as bad as some alarmists would have us believe (albeit they're trying to effect behavior change, so some alarmism is in order); by the same token, the skeptics who say "no problem" are wrong--there will be significant, adverse changes, many already taking place.

We just hope we don't get so far past the point of no return that the effects really are catastrophic, something we probably wouldn't see until around 2100. Catastrophic would be significant melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps, and attendant other changes.

We suspect that in another 20 years, the skeptics will finally have lost the battle--the trend will be clear, but it may really be too late.

One aside: recently, hackers broke into computers of climate researchers in England and released a large number of emails that skeptics have used to create doubt and confusion about climate science. Based on news reports that other climate researchers have been the subject of computer hacker attempts and outright physical break-ins, there's little doubt that this was part of an orchestrated campaign, probably funded by segments of the fossil fuel industry, to throw mud on the climate science.

Some day, we'll be exposed to the emails from the other side--those seeking to manufacture doubt about the science--and it won't be a pretty sight. It will probably occur in the context of litigation, and perhaps some whistle-blowers, just as it did with the tobacco industry. When that finally happens we'll see who's really manipulating the science--and public opinion.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Seeing Red In Georgia

It's hard to find a redder state than Georgia. (True, Utah is bright red, but Georgia has more rednecks, so it has the upper hand.)

In Georgia, Republicans control the state House and Senate, the governorship, most statewide constitutional offices, both U.S. Senate seats and a majority of the congressional delegation. And these aren't "moderate" Republicans, either--they're mostly from the hard-core social conservative side of the party.

Now Georgia's Republicans are facing yet another sex scandal like those in other states. This time, it's the Speaker of the House, Glenn Richardson (why are so many conservatives named Glenn?), who is resigning in the wake of allegations of a "full-out" affair (his wife's description) with a lobbyist.

Richardson, of course, has been an aggressive "family-values" conservative, so he deserves to fall hard. For some reason, however, he isn't resigning immediately, but rather on Jan. 1. (We think that any politician who vocally espouses "family values" and then gets caught with his or her pants down deserves the media ridicule; in contrast, the frenzy over Tiger Woods is hardly justified.)

Apart from the sex scandal, however, let's look at how Georgia has fared under Republican rule. Surely, with all that freedom, capitalism and patriotism, the state must be doing well relative to less red states.

Well, let's see: Georgia accounts for one out of six bank failures in the U.S. (25 out of 150) in 2008-09. It has the 8th highest new foreclosure rate in the nation. Unemployment was 10.2% there last month, just above the national average. Not exactly a beacon of economic prosperity.

(And Georgia's politicos have been lobbying Washington for additional TARP bailout funds for smaller banks in Georgia--how ironic.)

So much for being "in the Red."

Salacious Salahi

Sorry, but we just can't get enough of Tariq and Michaele Salahi, the White House party crashers.

It seems that Michaele in particular is a Zelig-like figure, appearing with the rich and famous, all who are wondering "who is this brazen blonde, anyway?"

Courtesy of the Washington Post's fine investigative team, we now know this, in addition to the couple's prior fabrications: Michaele showed up--with a television crew in tow, evidently as part of her audition for Bravo's upcoming "Real Housewives of Washington, D.C." series--at a Redskins cheerleader alumni event and even managed to dance (badly, we're told) with them at halftime of a Redskins game. The other cheerleaders all wondered who she was, especially after she couldn't even perform the squad's signature dance for after the 'Skins score a touchdown (a dance not seen too much this season).

Michaele also sent a polo magazine a photo of her with a couple of state beauty pageant queens, indicating that she (Michaele) was, herself, a former Miss America. Of course, there's no such record, unless she meant a former Miss Fraud America.

More stories have emerged of the Salahis penchant for stiffing vendors. One, a company that supplies performers and impersonators for parties, is getting even: they've added a look-alike couple you can hire to "crash your party". (Our bet is that they are a big hit!)

The Salahis have also hired new legal counsel, the NY law firm of Dewey and Lebeouf, to fend off all the lawsuits and other legal entanglements of the faux celebrity couple. We sure hope the lawyers at Dewey got a big upfront retainer, because these are clearly the kind of folks who don't pay their bills!

Sadly, while we still hope Michaele ends up in prison orange, the more likely outcome is that she cashes in with a book deal, TV appearances, a Lifetime movie, and the other tawdry accoutrements of American scandal celebs.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Salahi Sleeze

As the facts trickle out, we're learning a lot more--none of it all too surprising--about Tariq and Michaele Salahi, the so-called White House party crashers.

Based on the emails they've released (which may be selective) they probably didn't quite just brazenly "crash" the party. But they certainly aren't honest, and apparently haven't been for some time.

To say they were "invited" is clearly incorrect. It's quite apparent that the Salahis crave publicity and attention, and desperately wanted into President Obama's first state dinner. Hey, they don't call them "Desperate Housewives" for nothing!

The Salahis sought access through a connection they made with a Pentagon staffer--who evidently had a connection with the Salahis lawyer. After a day of frantic emailing, the staffer left Michaele a phone message saying she was unsuccessful. The Salahis say they didn't get the message, but their credibility on such matters is highly suspect. (They decided just to "drop by" the White House to see if they had made the guest list, as if it was a neighbor's glitzy holiday party.)

So what was this all about, anyway? Just like the "balloon boy" stunt in Arizona, this was all about getting on unreality television. Michaele has been auditioning for Bravo Network's upcoming series, the Desperate Housewives of Washington, D.C. What better way to burnish her credentials than to get into Obama's first state dinner.

Unfortunately for Michaele, the harsh glare of the media spotlight is now revealing a woman whose whole lifestyle is based largely on deception. The Salahis apparently need a high profile lawyer because they've had quite a history of stiffing people. Today's Washington Post has a juicy piece detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid claims the Salahis have left in the wake of their celebrity polo "charity" event, which, of course, is much more about them than about any charitable undertaking. Other reports have the Salahis being escorted out of a recent Congressional Black Caucus dinner because they weren't invited to that one either (guess they just dropped by).

The best one we heard, on the radio the other morning (granted, radio is about the most unreliable source of anything factual) was that after spending seven hours in the beauty salon getting ready for her shot at White House stardom, Michaele walked out without so much as a tip for anyone at the salon. Now that's how to treat the little people!

For its part, Bravo will probably drop Michaele from its Housewives series. But it SHOULDN'T do so. There is nothing more Washington, D.C. than someone getting caught up in a scandal, and then running around with lawyers and publicists trying to "manage" the story. So here's Bravo's chance to follow the action in a "real-life" (but kind of make-believe) situation of the sort that has made Washington famous. If only the story would end up with Michaele in standard issue orange prison garb, to give viewers the happy ending we so desperately crave.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How Any Douchebag Can Get A Gun, No Questions Asked

Here's a pretty shocking video from the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, which was put together by one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre. He shows you how easy it is for any douchebag in the world to legally purchase a gun--for example, an assault rifle--for cash, with no background check and "no paperwork," at one of the hundreds of gun shows that tour around the country every year.

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin would be proud!!

Breathing Easy!

Hooray--as of today, Virginia's restaurants are smoke-free!