Saturday, December 13, 2003

My Mercury Control Proposal

The Bush administration is proposing to control mercury emissions by power plants through a cap-and-trade policy. By 2010, this would cut the overall emissions of mercury by thirty percent from their current level, but would allow power plants that find cutting their emissions especially expensive to buy 'pollution points' (my term) from other plants. A sort of free market in mercury, though always under a fixed total maximum amount of emissions.

Opponents of this policy argue that earlier Clinton policies would have caused the thirty percent reduction three years earlier, in 2007 rather than 2010, and that the cap-and-trade approach may cause local 'hot spots': areas where very old and inefficient power plants find it cheaper to buy pollution points than to upgrade their systems.

Mercury has been called

"...a persistent substance that affects the nervous system and is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children. Mercury concentrations in fish have prompted at least 43 states to issue fish consumption advisories. Although 40 percent of mercury emissions come from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants, those emissions have never been regulated as a pollutant."

A recent Boston Globe article notes that two other arms of the U.S. government, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are planning to launch their own mercury-control policy. This consists of telling pregnant women, nay, all women of childbearing age, to limit their intake of tuna to one 4-6 oz. portion of week, as well as to limit their total weekly consumption of fish to 12 oz.. Here we see one of the conservative values in action: take individual responsibility for your destiny, for nobody else will care.

My revolutionary and interesting proposal for mercury control is to swop these policies: limit the mercury emissions from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants to a fixed maximum amount per week, but cap the total consumption of fish by pregnant women while letting them trade each other for extra portions. "Can I buy that tuna fish off you, Cherry? You know I can't live without the stuff." "Sure, Barb, just let me get your credit card number." So what if Barb becomes a local 'hot spot'?

Postscript: Quiz question of the day: Which U.S. state emits the largest amount of mercury into the environment? Answer here.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Lingerie Bowl

Although WUSA may have folded, those who love to watch women play ball need not despair. Women's soccer couldn't find corporate backing, but women's Lingerie Bowl has no such difficulties. What's more, their main game will be televized on the very same day, February 1, 2004, as the Super Bowl! It is, however, only available on pay-per-view television during the Super Bowl half-time. To see women play American football, you need to pay.

Women have really come a long way. Not only will a women's game be televized during prime time, but the sponsors of this event include such famous names as, Yahoo!, MSNBC and Comedy Central. It's so heart-warming to see corporate America finally realize that women can play sports, too.

And how they play! The two teams (cleverly named Team Dream and Team Euphoria) consist of models and actresses, yet somehow the players have managed to learn the game so well that the producer of the event, Mitch Mortaza of Horizon Productions, Inc., could confidently state the game will

" garner tremendous worldwide viewership and appeal"

Wow! But wait, there's more: Everybody knows that American football is a contact sport with a large number of injuries every year. That's the reason for all the protective gear the players wear. The only protective gear the Teams Dream and Euphoria don are kneepads. No helmets, no shoulder pads, probably no mouthguards for these brave players. They are going to hit the field in nothing but their underwear (and the kneepads). Talk about some courage.

I'm beginning to believe that women really must be absolutely superior athletes and courageous to the brink of foolhardiness, too. No wonder that finally the mainstream sports establishment is giving them the credit they deserve. And who may we thank for this extravaganza? DODGE, that's who. The day when Dodge will rescue WUSA can't be far in the future.

Thanks to Redpower for the reference to Wood Street Inc.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Today's housekeeping question:

Do you ever look at the ceiling of your microwave? Suppose you did, and suppose that you found a very ancient, nay, archeological, tomato sauce crust up there. How would you try to remove it? With dynamite?

Today's Quote:

Long ago, there was a noble word, liberal, which derives from the word free. Now, a strange thing happened to that word. A man named Hitler made it a term of abuse, a matter of suspicion, because those who were not with him were against him, and liberals had no use for Hitler. And then another man named McCarthy cast the same opprobrium on the word....We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Tomorrow is Now (1963)

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Now, this might look like crass self-promotion, but it isn't. It's pure information. There's an interesting competition for the week's best new blog post. It's at New Blog Showcase, and anyone with a blog that's registered with the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem can vote for their favorite new blog by linking to a specific post in the showcase between Tuesday and Sunday! As long as the link is still there on Sunday night, the vote counts.

For example, if I was interested in voting for my December 4 blog Sigh, I'd first go here to register my blog (if I hadn't done that already), and then I'd link to my favorite Echidne blog by using this on my own blog. So simple, isn't it? And of course purely hypothetical.....

Monday, December 08, 2003

If The Shoe Fits...

Would you like someone to bite chunks off you? No? Neither would I. But many people, most of them female, seem to want just that. Now it's the feet that are going to be chopped smaller or padded taller. Gardiner Harris writes about this in a New York Times article titled "If Shoe Won't Fit, Fix the Foot? Popular Surgery Raises Concern".

The reason for this surgery, according to Harris, is the desire for better 'toe cleavage' (!) or the yearning to continue wearing high heels even after the feet have decisively said no to that. The article notes:
Foot fashion and function have, of course, long been in conflict. Chinese girls' feet were bound to shorten them by bending the toes backward. High heels have been fashionable in the United States for decades, even though they can cause not only serious foot problems but knee, pelvic, back, shoulder and even jaw pain.

Walking in high heels means walking on the balls of the feet, as if tiptoeing through life. Why would anybody wish to undergo surgery for that end? The answer, according to one of the orthopedists interviewed in the article is simple:
"Take your average woman and give her heels instead of flats, and she'll suddenly get whistles on the street," Dr. Levine said. "I do everything I can to get them back into their shoes."

Take a bite off here, add a bit more over there, and suddenly, voila! you are desirable.

Or maybe just socially acceptable. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also consists of taking chunks off women, or rather young girls. This practise makes them more marriageworthy in the cultures that embrace FGM, but it may cause serious lifelong health problems, not to mention a permanent reduction in the woman's ability to enjoy sex. On the other hand, some types of FGM are said to enhance the man's sexual enjoyment.

Are women born with all sorts of extraneous bits that need to be cut off? The answer isn't that simple. If it was, we wouldn't be able to explain why so many women have breast enhancement surgery. It seems that the Powers That Be have just misdesigned women, and surgery is needed to put them right. Right for what?

Twenty years ago in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions Gloria Steinem used the saying: "If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?" to argue for societal changes that would better accommodate women's everyday lives. It seems that the foot is more easily altered than the shoe, after all.

1. There are some good news on the FGM front.
2. To avert all the criticism I can see forthcoming, here is my confession: Yes, it's true that I have no feet and have never worn shoes.
3. The comments were down on 12/8/03. My apologies.
4. After I posted this, I found several good blogs on the same topic. Check out Pen-Elayne
and Ms. musings for a start.

Bored? Try these sites:

1. The lemonade game. It will train you into a good capitalist.
2. The industrious clock. Makes you feel good about not working that hard.
3. The poop counter. Keeps things in perspective
4. The guy on the ropes. You can make him do silly things or collapse. Good for release of aggressive feelings.
5. Mr. Picassohead. For the artistically inclined. Plus you can check out the gallery for my latest work of art!
Thanks to posters on the ms. site for most of these.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Great News From the Voting Front

What an exciting year 2004 will be! I am going to vote! Yes, Echidne of the snakes, a goddess of no known domicile, is going to cast her first ever vote for the president of the United States!

This will require voter fraud, but that's doable. The United States has a long history of voter fraud. A New York City election in 1844 had 135 percent of the eligible voters turn out. One additional goddess-vote is chickenfeed compared to that.

It is also chickenfeed compared to what happened in Boone County, Indiana, where the e-vote machines counted a total of 144,000 cast votes. From around 19,000 registered voters.

So what with actual human voter fraud and all the problems I can foresee with the e-vote machines that leave no paper trail behind, nobody is going to waste time or money looking for one criminal goddess.

This is how I can become a voter: I found out that illegal aliens and permanent residents in the United States sometimes do vote, because the federal law doesn't require the voters to prove their identities, and the current practise is not to inquire after the eager voter's citizenship status. I'm very excited about this. Imagine: I'm going to experience the American democracy in person, I'm going to affect world events directly!

Well, not much, of course. One vote doesn't matter very much. But it's the principle that counts here. We should all be as involved in democracy as Walden O'Dell. Not only is he a major fundraiser for the Republican party, but he is also the CEO of Diebold, a firm that produces many of the e-mail machines that will be used in the 2004 elections. Walden has gotten a lot of undeserved flack for supposedly saying that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

So what do these critics want? First they complain about the inertia of the average American who rarely bothers to step into the voting booth. Then when someone throws himself whole-heartedly into voting, they don't like that either. Sheesh.

I'm with Walden on this one.