Friday, May 30, 2008

Back Before Babylon, Sh*t Was Coooool

Everyone knows that hippie jam bands are, like, totally the opposite of punk, or at the very least, are not easily reconciled to the harsher genre. And yet, this track by Les Savy Fav is like a rambling 30-minute Grateful Dead jam compressed and intensified by high-pressures at the center of earth.

A maddening guitar riff kicks off the song like your 6 a.m. alarm clock, goes around in circles and then abruptly disappears halfway through the track, never to return. Just as I'm feeling its absence, a deeper riff rises up and kicks the song into outer space. Like some of the best New Pornographers songs, this one seems bursting at the seams with 5 or 6 good ideas crammed in on top of each other.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Simpsons and the EPA

For obvious reasons, over the past year I have become a complete and utter nerd about anything to do with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I've had my pop-culture feelers uniquely attuned to EPA-related tidbits, and I have to say, for all the non-stop talk about the environment, the EPA is almost never the focus. Environmental stories are often about global warming (which isn't really the EPA's beat...yet), or more interested in the polluters (think Erin Brockovich) than the cleaner-uppers. The agency simply doesn't have the cultural cachet of NASA or the FBI. Not too surprising, I guess.

With one recent exception: the Simpsons Movie.

For the record, I thought TSM was hilarious and awesome, even apart from the EPA-related plotline. The movie gets a lot of comic mileage out of portraying the EPA as a ruthlessly efficient SWAT team for the environment (heh, if only) whose slick administrator, Russ Cargill, has President Schwarzenegger's ear:

Another quote:
Cargill: You know, sir, when you made me head of the EPA, you were applauded for appointing one of the most successful men in the America to the least successful agency in government. And why did I take the job? Cause I'm a rich man, and wanted to give something back. Not the money, but something. So here's our chance to kick some ass for Mother Earth!
To me, the message here is a little muddled, but no matter. The show's libertarian and skeptical (nay, anarchist!) tendencies are apparent in the plot, which involves an environmental catastrophe and the EPA's modestly proposed "solution." The disaster is visited on Springfield not by Mr. Burns (who, sadly, only merits a short scene), but by Homer's stupidity. It's an actual environmental threat, but the EPA's over-reaction might have been scripted by the Heritage Foundation. The bottom line for the Simpsons: the people in charge don't care about you! And that goes equally for politicians as for sinister nuclear plutocrats. If anyone is going to save us, it will probably be Lisa Simpson.

To peel back another layer, the DVD has an alternate deleted scene of the meeting between Cargill and the President. In this scene the EPA head is an entirely different character. This model of Cargill is a dowdy, earnest, Mr. Rogers-looking bureaucrat (perhaps a scientist?) who goes through a complicated, Al Gore-like pantomime to try to communicate the pollution problem facing Springfield:

The Simpsons Movie: Deleted Scenes

So it seems we can't quite decide if we think the EPA is meek and competent, or forceful and misguided. Maybe it's funny both ways? Sadly, in the real world, the current EPA administrator seems to combine the worst of both worlds. For example, NRDC's John Walke provides the insider details of EPA's attempt to set ozone air pollution standards and getting totally pwned by the White House.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Quinn is six months old today! Happy Half-Birthday Quinn! We love you and are amazed at how big you've grown. Six months sure does fly by. Love, Mama and Daddy

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Here. Have some R.E.M.

R.E.M.'s new album sounds pretty damn cool, I have to say. In addition to this one ("Hollow Man"), their first single ("Supernatural, Superserious") rocks pretty hard too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Days

Happy First Mother's Day, Laura Jean! We love you! love, Quinn and Tim

And Happy Mother's Day to my mom also!

and to all the other wonderful mothers in our lives!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Interference at the EPA

A few weeks ago we released the big report I've been working on for much of the past year, entitled Interference at the EPA: Science and Politics at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Based on a survey of more than 1,500 scientists who work at the EPA and a series of interviews, the report documents our investigation of political interference in the work of those who keep the American public safe from air pollution, toxic chemicals and other environmental threats. Anyway, you can download the PDF and other goodies at the link.

We got a fair bit of press, including stories by the Associated Press (which quoted me!), the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. There were also some very thoughtful blog posts including Chris Mooney writing on Science Progress, the Wonk Room and the Pump Handle.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Quote of the Day

I'm not a huge fan of the Post's Sebastian Mallaby, but this was spot on:
Excuse me, but which is it? Am I supposed to believe that Obama is a supercilious elitist or a menacing ghetto radical? Is he contemptuous of religion or too close to a religious leader?
Good question. Also: what Bill Moyers said.