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Federally subsidized solar-energy firm builds giant bird-incinerator in the Nevada desert

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Avian Death Star: Birds, be very afraid

“Unfortunately, about two hours into the test, engineers and biologists on site started noticing “streamers” – trails of smoke and steam caused by birds flying directly into the field of solar radiation. What moisture was on them instantly vaporized, and some instantly burst into flames – at least, until they began to frantically flap away. An estimated 130 birds were injured or killed during the test.


“The plant in question, which was expected to come at least partially online [in March], runs on 17,500 heliostat mirrors – each the size of your average garage door – that concentrate and reflect thermal solar energy at a tall center tower. This tower uniquely contains molten salt, of all things, which is circulated to produce steam and generate electricity. Excess heat is stored in the salt and can be used to generate power for up to 10 hours, including during the evening hours and when direct sunlight is not available.


“Unfortunately, the redirected sunlight causes such a wide sphere of superheated radiation that the plant sees one streamer every two minutes, according to investigator estimates.

“Officials behind the project have refuted that claim, saying that most of the streamers are floating trash or wayward insects, but federal wildlife officials have begun calling these ‘eco-friendly’ power towers ‘mega traps’ for wildlife.”

Interestingly, the developer of the project, SolarReserve, is one of nine corporations that, according to the Washington Free Beacon have donated to a green nonprofit called the Clean Energy Project, set up in 2008 and run by former staffers of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

The Nevada Democrat persuaded the Department of Energy to expedite permit approval for several of the donors, including SolarReserve, for projects in his home state, according to the Beacon. Reid “pushed DOE in 2010 to speed approval of a $737 million loan guarantee for the company’s Nevada manufacturing facility,” Beacon reporter Lachlan Markey writes. SolarReserve started construction on the Crescent Dunes project in 2011.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Elisa Albert explains that there’s nothing in the whole wide world so awful as having a baby

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Author Albert: The horror! The horror!

What’s the most awfullest, horriblest, worstest thing that can happen to a woman?

Why, having a baby, of course!

That’s the theme of After Birth (yes, it’s a pun), the new novel about motherhood by Elisa Albert that the critics are falling all over themselves to heap praise upon like whipped cream on a hot fudge sundae. After Birth has everything book-club-chic you can think of crammed between its covers: Brooklyn (where the heroine, Ari, hails from, natch), a sensitive professor-husband, a witty, transgressive gal-pal, depression spells, women’s studies (Ari’s own academic field), and most prominently of all, the sheer dreadfulness of being a new mother.

Ari had her baby by caesarian section, you see—and you’d think she was the very first woman in the entire world to be forced to endure that nightmare. She describes it:

“They cut me in half, pulled the baby from my numb, gaping cauterized center. Merciless hospital lights, curtain in front of my face. Effective disembodiment. Smell of burning flesh. Sewn back up again by a team of people I didn’t know, none of whom bothered to look me in the eye, not even once of them, not even once. Severed from hip to hip, iced, brutalized, catheterized, tethered to a bed, the tiny birdy’s heartfelt shrieks as they carted him off somewhere hell itself.”


Posted by Charlotte Allen

50-year-old woman wonders why 50-year-old men stare at 25-year-old chicks instead of her

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:Man with two women in bikinis

Blame the patriarchy for the above

My favorite reason for reading the U.K. Guardian: schadenfreude:

“What does it mean to us, as women, to be told that we’re worth less than we used to be? No man I know has ever been told that his powers, his allure, his charm have faded, and that he has to face up to that redundancy. Many women I know in their 50s talk about their invisibility in public places. I’m sure a case could be made for invisibility as a liberating force in a woman’s life, but I am not the woman to make it, not this week at least, when I’ve been dissed or else flatly ignored by all the men I’ve said hello to.

“It’s making me a bit rebellious, I admit. It’s making me want to look 50, and talk about 50, and stand firm with a whole movement of women, rejecting the pressure to try to look 35 for ever, throwing away our foundation garments and hair dye. I get these impulses and then I buy another stupid snake-oil anti-ageing cream.

“It’s true that men don’t see me any more. It’s sobering to walk down the street observing how the 50-year-old men behave, paying attention to what they’re looking at as they stroll along. They are not looking in shop windows. They are not looking at me. They are looking at women half their age.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Pity parties & plaintiff-mocking: the Obamacare-loving press’s Supreme Court lobbying blitz

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

It’s all about getting this man’s vote

This has the Obamacare-loving press in a quandary: how to persuade the Supreme Court–or actually how to persuade Chief Justice John Roberts, who cast the deciding vote to uphold the individual mandate in the National Federation case–to ignore the plain language of the text of a federal law passed by Congress, thus allowing the Obama administration essentially to write its own law. So there are a variety of journalistic strategies simultaneously at work.

One is the pity party: focus on the millions of people who wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance without the subsidies, as Mary Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, does in the webpages of the Huffington Post. Never mind that the reason these subsidies were necessary in the first place was Obamacare’s heinous premium increases.

Or you can belittle the entire court case as stupid, as USA Today‘s Robert Schlessinger does in an op-ed titled “The Silliest ObamaCare Challenge Yet.” There, Schlessinger tosses around words such as “absurd” and “ridiculous,” apparently hoping if he says them often enough, Chief Justice Roberts will get the idea that he’s supposed to sneer, too.

Or you can say that Congress just goofed in its rush to push the law through and avoid the filibuster-enabling monkey wrench that then-Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown, a sworn Obamacare opponent, threw into the machine in his special election in 2009. That’s the approach of Vox’s Sarah Kliff. Kliff seems to think that it is the job of the Supreme Court to clean up after a sloppy Congress.

Or, finally, as the Washington Post‘s Robert Barnes does, you can warn Roberts that if he votes to interpret the law the way it’s written, he’ll be injecting “partisan” politics into Supreme Court rulings. Also, he’ll turn into a “conservative activist” like that mean old Justice Antonin Scalia.

Good luck with the lobbying, press. In Roberts’s majority opinion in that 2012 National Federation case, he wrote, “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” I predict that  he is going to write something similar this time around.
Posted by Charlotte Allen

What could go wrong? Move to bar colleges from asking if applicants have felony convictions

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

  • Mount McGregor Correctional Facility Wednesday July 23, 2014, in Wilton, NY.  (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 00027767A
  • From medium-security prison to no-security college dorm

Advocates for requiring colleges to open their doors to convicted felons trot out the sad tale of Adrien Cadwallader, rejected by both the State University of New York and a local community college on account of his felony record:

“He fought tears as he tried to explain why he, a 33-year-old former cocaine dealer with violent impulses, deserved to sit in a college classroom.

“‘I told them how difficult it is to live with the guilt for the things that I have done,’ says Mr. Cadwallader, recounting his admissions interview at the State University of New York at New Paltz, a working-class town in the middle of horse country, about 80 miles north of Manhattan.

“He had taken classes while behind bars in the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and hoped upon his release that a college degree would get him off the path that had taken him in and out of prisons for eight years.


“‘They kept asking me about my rap sheet,” he says. ‘It doesn’t tell my full story. Those things were done by a person that is no longer me. I felt like I was being set up to fail.’


“Mr. Cadwallader has abandoned his college aspirations and is living on welfare.”

And by the way, the recently closed Mt. McGregor, in Wilton, N.Y., wasn’t the county honor farm for goof-offs who got onto the wrong side of the law. It was a medium-security facility for serious offenders.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Obesity activist: Supermarkets make you fat–because they sell so darned much food

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

In Soviet Union, no obesity!
Cohen believes that the reason we have an obesity problem in the U.S. is that those darned supermarkets give shoppers so many choices in what food to buy. Their brains collapse from “decision fatigue”—so they just reach for the nearest two-pound bag of Cheetos and head for the checkout counter.

“Even people who want to resist grabbing these low-nutrient items sometimes fail to do so because they suffer from decision fatigue, most prominent at the end of a shopping trip. After making so many decisions about what to buy and what not to, people’s cognitive capacity becomes overwhelmed, and subsequent decisions are often made impulsively and emotionally without consideration of the long-term consequences. *** “One solution is to develop standards that identify which products should not be displayed in these prominent locations. Moving candy, chips, sodas, cookies, and other junk food away from special displays, cash registers, and easily accessible vending machines would be a good start. Relocating foods that increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases to less conspicuous places would still allow those who want such foods to get them, but the decision to buy would be deliberate rather than impulsive.” ***

“Cohen’s first policy recommendation is the standardization of portion sizes. With alcohol, whether you order a beer, a glass of wine or a shot, you know that a drink is a drink. She thinks restaurants should serve food in single-portion units. Second, the government should limit ‘impulse marketing’ by banning food from stores that aren’t dedicated to food, restricting combo meals at restaurants and keeping drive-thru windows closed outside meal times. Third, she wants to run counter-advertising that makes the downsides of fattening food more salient, the way one ad depicts body fat being poured from a soda bottle.”

I’ve got an even better idea: Get private enterprise out of the food business entirely. The government could slash food-production overnight just by setting up agricultural entities that I’d call “collective farms.” Then, no more supermarkets—just drab, unappetizing-looking government-run stores where people would line up outside for hours to buy whatever happened to be on the nearly empty shelves. It’s been tried–and did it ever work!—in this country called the Soviet Union. No “decision fatigue” there. And no obesity problem either.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Slate feminist distressed that “American Sniper” was about Chris Kyle instead of his wife

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Why doesn’t the movie have her divorce him and run off like Thelma and Louise?

“We’ve seen a flood of supporting roles designed to be played by high-profile actresses in high-profile films, written to suggest that the characters possess depth and a vaguely feminist sense of liberation—qualities that never seem to interfere with the character’s ability to neatly slide into the same old ‘concerned girlfriend/wife/confidante’ role….. But the reactress isn’t engineered as a kind of male fantasy. She’s a Hollywood fantasy: a character designed to fit squarely into the age-old prestige drama formula while giving the impression that she’s somehow new.

There’s an obvious problem with this analysis, of course.

It’s that in real life the two women actually were the “concerned” wives, girlfriends, and confidantes of the larger-than-life men they spent their time with. Both American Sniper and Imitation Game are biopics, which means that they have to stick reasonably close to the actual bios of the men they purport to be about. What—was American Sniper supposed to make Taya divorce Chris when the going got rough and then drive across the country with a feisty gal-pal as in Thelma and Louise

What Moss is really complaining about–and what Columbia professors Sharon Marcus and Anne Skomorowsky were really complaining about with respect to Boyhood—is that all three movies are movies about men. They focus on their male heroes because men and what they do are the center of all three stories. Clarke was helpful, but it was Turing in the end who cracked the Enigma code. It was Chris Kyle, not Taya Kyle, who returned again and again to harm’s way to try to save his fellow servicemen in a brutal war they all scarcely understood. Those are the stories.

Moss essentially wants Hollywood to have made completely different movies that would focus on women and their problems, presumably with a feminist message about strength and independence. Hollywood does make some of those movies, but there’s a snag: men don’t really enjoy watching movies about women and their problems, and Hollywood wants men to buy tickets to its product.

Posted by Charlotte Allen


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