Sunday, March 22, 2009

2007 TRI released

The latest version of the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) came out on the 19th, with RTK Net's version open a day later. This year, RTK NET's version also supplies RSEI risk screening numbers -- for the first time, an at least partial answer to the question "How important is this particular release of pollution, anyways?"

EPA continued its recent trend of downplaying the data release. I don't think that they announced they'd be releasing it far in advance -- I had to find out about it through the grapevine after it was already up. I didn't see much news about it, and the news there was was unspecific. For instance, the overall release trend was down, but PCB releases jumped 40%. Why? According to this story, for one example, "EPA said that the jump was probably due to disposal of old equipment or clean up at industrial sites." Probably? The vast majority of the increase seems to be due to one site, Chemical Waste Management in Emelle, Alabama. Why not call that facility and get the actual cause for the jump? That's one of the things that would change this from a contextless, uninvestigated number into a story that people could begin to understand.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Open Letter to the DNC's "Organizing for America"

Dear DNC:

Why should I participate in "Organizing for America?"

That isn't a rhetorical question. My spouse received an Organizing for America pitch in the mail today, and I've read it. It tells me that the organization's mission will be to advance President Obama's legislative agenda, and to continue building the grassroots organization started during the Obama campaign.

But Obama's legislative agenda appears to be on its way towards success or failure without me. Specifically, health care reform and global climate change have both had a small group of "centrist" Democratic Senators write that they are unwilling to let them be attached to vehicles that require only 50 votes, and instead wish to let them be filibustered. If so, that means that they are almost certain not to become law. Is "Organizing for America" going to be a vehicle towards enforcing party discipline on those Senators? If not, what good is it?

President Obama has often said that he wants bipartisan solutions. I am a partisan. I do not want bipartisan solutions, not when one side is still fully committed to the failed beliefs of the Bush years. Why should I participate?

Or, to put it another way, President Obama made all sorts of concessions to the right and to the center on the recent stimulus bill. These concessions weakened the bill to the point where it will probably be ineffective as stimulus, and did not succeed politically in getting any GOP votes in the House, and only three in the Senate. Would my work be wasted and go towards similarly ineffective concessions?

If so, bluntly, what's in it for the liberals and the left? The centrists and the right held up laws that would be good for the country in order to pursue their own petty interests. As a result, their concerns were not ignored. The liberals and the left went along, and were ignored. What is President Obama going to do for his base? Is he going to announce an investigation into Bush-era war crimes? Go ahead and nationalize AIG? Perhaps reverse his shameful opinion that detainees at Bagram have no right to challenge their detention? Stop allowing his deputies to try to preserve the existing, dysfunctional banking system? Support a stronger push against climate change, rather than a relatively ineffective and easily gamed market-ideology cap-and-trade scheme?

And why is the pitch so one-way in an organizational sense? The mail that I saw didn't try to pull people into any genuinely netroots-style peer-to-peer effort. There was a pro forma URL listed -- -- and a request for an Email address. The program mentioned was one of house meetings and gathering stories -- the sort of thing easily controlled centrally by the DNC. The materials repeat the false, Republican-framed claim that "Change doesn't come from Washington"': if people are supposed to take that seriously, why is this being controlled from Washington?

I invite anyone to answer. There's not much at stake: only a hundred or so dollars from me, and whatever volunteer efforts I can muster. But that's proportionally more than I've seen I've seen the DNC or the Obama administration put into this effort. Why does this deserve my support?


Rich Puchalsky
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Friday, March 13, 2009

So much for TRI's expanded Form A

As mentioned in an article here, the return of the Toxic Release Inventory's Form A to its older reporting levels -- back to 500 pounds instead of 2000 pounds of releases, if you don't want to get technical about it -- was attached to the spending bill and signed into law. It was pretty much a race between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches to see who would get this one first after Bush left.

If you do want to get technical about it, then this particular Post article, like almost all news articles that I know something about, is misleading. A sentence reads "The legislation restores the standard established by law in 1986, compelling all facilities to inform the public of any chemical releases that total 500 pounds a year or more, lowering the 2,000-pound threshold Bush had adopted." I could see not mentioning that it was actually two thresholds that were affected (one for releases and the other for waste generated). But the standard was never set by law, in 1986 or anytime else. The law leaves it up to EPA to set a reasonable standard. That's why the threshold can change in the first place. The older Form A level, which is what we're returning to, didn't even exist at all within the law as passed in 1986 -- it was added to TRI for 1995.

Pink Triangle

Listening to a classical-strings cover of Weezer's song Pink Triangle -- used as a perfect life-stages-going-by tune -- I looked back at the lyrics to the original. It's a song in which the narrator sees a girl, falls in love, imagines marrying her, and oh noes sees she has a pink triangle on. The narrator apparently isn't able to recognize that his interest in her was as an anima figure. (The guy who wrote the song mentioned, in an interview, that this actually happened to him and he found out later that she was just wearing the triangle to show support. But of course, as he didn't say in the interview, he didn't really care about her as an actual person.)

So, that's the background for what follows. The poetry group that I read to thought it was funny, anyways. This is the second recent poem in which Silliman figures as symbol of "real poetry"; reading through his link lists must be a good carrier for his aesthetics.

Pink Triangle

When I'm filled with what I've heard
I start looking around for words
Time to pay poetic rent
Maybe I'll read The New Sentence
But when I start to feel that pull
I'm just pulling off myself
My inspiration's left unsaid
Though she lives inside my head

My muse is a lesbian
Arrangements didn't go like they should
She and I are married in my mind
But poems in my mind are no good

At least we can still be friends
Though she'll sit down and pretend
Wishing she had Patti Smith
But muses don't choose who they're with
When we're feeling bad and down
Then we'll laugh and joke around
Sometimes she'll smile and touch my hand
It's all that she can really stand

My muse is a lesbian
My poetry is always third-rate
Every poem that I like is queer
Why can I only write them straight?

Knew the day was coming that
I'd get middle-aged and fat
You need youth to be emo
Going on is how it goes
I'd rather be like Bowie
Sam Pickwick's the guy I see
Since I can't be inspired
I'll do parodies until I'm tired

My muse is a lesbian
And when we have to pass on
We'll kiss and have one final sing
Of Mr. Toad's Last Little Song
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