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Lion and sparrow

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

#601


jellydance©2008 Robert Sommers

I decided to vacuum my shop yesterday, bent down to move a stool, and immediately seized up into a pretzel like shape. I stretched as best I could and then went and got a massage this morning, paid for by my spousal unit, but still feel pretty locked up. I told my bud Lena this morning that I was certainly no domestic goddess. It serves me right.

My massage lady Shanda, a Georgia queen of the south, is moving her tiny shop, downsizing once again. She raised four decent kids and a grandchild, husband a Memphis musician who made his exit long ago. Hasn't had it easy. We started talking about the economy and she said "Hey, welcome to where I live", a sentiment echoed by many these past few months. A lot of poor folk don't have a lot of sympathy for the newly arrived destitute but they don't seem to exactly hold a grudge either.

I see that Kevin Bacon lost money in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Doesn't that mean that invoking the Kevin Bacon rule of 6, every person in the known galaxy has actually lost money in the scheme?

The Escondido police are targeting illegal aliens without driver's licenses for big tickets. Human rights organizations are up in arms and a cited driver was quoted in the local this morning as "wiping away a tear, and just seeking her legal rights." What legal rights? You are here illegally.

I know about that "anything west of the Hudson Myopia" but sheesh, Stan, I see this play out all the time. My wife got hit by an illegal alien two years ago - no license, no insurance - and the cops just let him go - don't bother with it they said. In my town, I must say that the illegals drive like shit. And they do get access to medical care that the native population doesn't enjoy. My buddy Tom Garcia was lucky enough to have $120,000.00 written off his hospital bill for his busted gut by virtue of his surname. Hoorah for Tommy but this stirs resentment for many. And the illegals absolutely take cabs and ambulances to the ER - I have sat there and watched it. You may feel comfortable sacrificing for the downtrodden but the basic Hillary supporter (white, no college) does not.

My grandfather paved and paid his own way, as did all my relatives, as did the vietnamese, italians, irish and other ethnic groups - but they did it legally. There's a difference. Sell your cameras and give them to the poor, I think it's a crime that you should have something that they don't. I grew up the poorest guy in every neighborhood we lived - worked from the age of 12, never got an allowance, cleaned sewer pipes, made it all the way to the top and then spectacularly crashed and lived on spare change - but built my way back from the dungheap without help from a single soul except my wife. Should I feel guilty? I shave the guy who is to blame/pat on the back every morning or so.

I sound like such a mean old prick and it's New Years Eve to boot. Our kitten is having Grand Mal seizures and I just brought her back from the vet - looks like kitty is about to get a little Phenobarbital monkey on her back.

I saw today where some Israelis are suggesting that they will have to institute a dangerous ground assault in Gaza because Hamas has located so many missile sites, vital communication and strategic centers next to high risk civilian targets and the Israelis don't want to risk further world opprobrium by attacking them from the air and causing more civilian casualties. Talk about evil disregard, how's Hamas for cynical manipulation. I wrote a very nasty letter to Daoud Kuttab last night after his ridiculous Washington Post article yesterday but they refused to print it.

I studied taoism and buddhism as a kid and always was interested in the concept of duality. Raised a strong suspicion that those most vehemently opposed to some idea, thing or situation, were ofttimes still caught in it's clutches. Like when I caught my militant vegetarian roommate going off and tearing into a raw steak in the seventies. And I feel the same way about money and things - I am a caretaker and I send it and them down the road but I'm not too attached to them. Like to have enough to pay the bills but like most of us, there's never enough cash. Relatively. And I'm not poormouthing - there are plenty in worse shape. But I don't think that I serve them or myself by eating sawdust with them. Hopefully won't happen soon. There's a biblical question here somewhere - Am I my brother's keeper and if so what are the bounds of my personal responsibility? Let me know.

Take care.

Let's do the Time Warp again - 2009

Happy New Year! Have a blast!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

599 blogs and counting


Well we are counting down quickly to the start of the Gregorian New Year and also nearing the always magic 600 blog mark on the blog. Or is it more properly 600 posts, what the hell is a blog anyway? The whole enchilada or the individual kernels?   Whew. Anyway, apparently I just can't or  won't shut up.  Can I keep it going? We'll see. 

You know, I want to thank those of you who read faithfully and all those steady commenters - Grumpy, NYStan, PWTT, Segue, Ricardo, Mike Reardon, WAP when I'm lucky and the always lovable Millard Fillmore. Thanks again, sincerely. 

I know it's an acquired taste. Some of my friends like John Morris speak of the blog with a sort of Scarsdalian acrid disdain, many have stopped opening it, my friend Bill L. says he can lose an hour of his life if he opens it, which I definitely take as a compliment. Keith looks forward to it as he did the new issue of Mad Magazine when he was a kid, another big compliment.  I appreciate that so many of my conservative friends will check it out and still speak to me or at least respectfully disagree.

Even my Pentecostal minister friend Roger reads it as do several of my more open minded Christian friends.  My international traffic is unfortunately heavily weighted to those who think it's a porn site, owing to my unfortunate titling of an early post Grannies Gone Bad, a monicker that has apparently titillated half of the near asian world.  Hot poodles getting spanked is another one of my titles that should go down in history as another sign of my heretofore unrecognized brilliance.

Anyway, this has been an excellent way for me to communicate, to show off my mad photographic skills and also to get into the habit and discipline of writing nearly every day. I am never short of an opinion, no matter how fundamentally wrongheaded and misguided.  Some people can make music, I spiel.

Many do tell me that they check out the blog for the music, which makes me feel good, there are so many gems out there.  Finding lots of great old blues lately, thankfully I'm off the bad seventies kitsch.  The Carpenters thing just about sent me running to the pharmacy.  Dark and Evil.  Thought about Conway Twitty tonight and passed.

I think its cool that my brother in Spokane reads me, he who bared his soul after his layoff so eloquently and also my brilliant sister in Virginia, who misdirected me into the pinko vermin I eventually became but has not deigned the time yet right to actually contribute to this screed. A unix priestess and real genius who was a pioneer in this computer stuff when most of us were dragging our knuckles on the floors of our caves.  Who helped instill my early love for science fiction and psychedelic rock.  To my sister in Florida who won't read because it's not about her, but has kept my family together through thick and thin, emotionally and financially.  To my great brother in Toronto who we had such a warm Rosh Hoshana with.  

Kerry in Arizona has been my greatest supporter, he wants me to put ads up on the site and go commercial and get real credibility.  I thought I wanted to be discovered by Harpers but started reading it and realized it's too intellectual for me, you have to be able to casually throw around words like epistemological and sesquipedalian like you're George Will. It's just not me.  Some of you already tell me that you read the blog at night with your spouses and a dictionary. By the way, the smart ones aren't the ones with the dexisyllabic  vocabulary, they're the scrabble players who have memorized all 30,00 of the 2 and 3 letter words in the entire dictionary.  

I hope that you all stay well and gainfully employed and that everything gets turned around and we stop this indefinite war and get our civil liberties and our respect for the same back. That Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Roberts decide to give up their day gigs and join the circus.

I thank god for my wonderful wife for sticking with me.  And wish you all the best.  Hopefully we'll get skinnier and smarter and nicer and be free of cavities.  Stay in touch. Tell those that you love that you love them at every opportunity - you don't want to miss a chance.

Peace,

Oil and Water don't mix.

Interesting read in the Los Angeles Times about the enormous water resources that will be needed to implement the massive proposed oil shale projects. We have no way of knowing how much water will be necessary since the extraction technology is largely unproven.  Can we afford to jeopardize our scant supply? Link to it here .

Helen Humes - The Blues aint' nothin' but a woman

Today's editorial - Salt Lake Tribune


soaring©2008 Robert Sommers

Taking a stand

Bidder's act wrong, intent honorable

Tribune Editorial
Posted: 12/29/2008 01:44:01 PM MST

"I think a lot of people are going to become very angry and they're going to resort to illegal methods to try to slow down the destruction of our national resources, our wilderness, our forests, mountains, deserts. What that will lead to I hate to think."
-- Edward Abbey, author and conservationist, in a TV interview, December 1982

We're not going to call Tim DeChristopher a hero.
When the 27-year-old University of Utah student disrupted a Bureau of Land Management sale of drilling leases on 149,000 acres of public land in Utah, he probably was acting outside the law, or at least outside federal rules governing such sales. We don't condone illegal actions.
Still, we understand DeChristopher's frustration with the way the lease sale was planned and conducted. We share his outrage over the promises made by President George W. Bush to open nearly all public lands -- including parcels in sight of national parks, in wildlife habitat, in fragile deserts, archaeological sites and wilderness-quality forests -- to thumper trucks, drilling rigs, bulldozers and constant truck traffic.
We've been critical of the BLM's rush to put these parcels on the auction block without giving the public adequate opportunity to comment or time for those comments to be thoroughly considered. DeChristopher said he took the only effective action that seemed open to him in the brief time left before the BLM sold off the drilling rights.
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It's easy to say that he should have taken his complaints to court, but right up until time for the sale the BLM was revising the list, creating a moving target.
What DeChristopher did in winning bogus bids on land leases and driving up the prices on other parcels may have been illegal. But civil disobedience, based on a principled stand against suspect laws and public processes, sometimes involves taking inappropriate or illegal action in the full knowledge that punishment will follow. DeChristopher said he was willing to go to jail for what he did.
President Bush will be remembered for eight years of disregard for the environment and disdain for hard science on the catastrophic effects of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. DeChristopher will be remembered for trying to save his heritage from a government bent on taking it from him -- and from all of us.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fortunate Son

Creedence Clearwater Revival - 1969

The Cyberfökking of Main Street

              wegotchips©2008 Robert Sommers

As a brick and mortar retailer, literally on Main Avenue, married to another brick and mortar retailer, I look to the future with a certain amount of trepidation, as do most sane americans.
Prognosticators are issuing dire warnings about the potential gloomy skies ahead for retailers in our country. I read earlier this week that as many as 25% of our country's small businesses could be heading for the skids. As a natural pessimist, I know that if the whole thing is actually going to shit, as Jim Morrison used to say, no one gets out of here alive.  As secure and protected as the apex dwellers think they are, the vacuum is too strong and that loud sucking sound will be the entire economy swirling down the cosmic abyss.
I have had a good holiday season, quarter and year, thanks to extremely loyal and sweet clients, a fact for which I am exceedingly grateful.  The question for all of us is what happens three or six months down the line?  I am squaring my jaw with the attitude that life must move on and continue, knowing full well that my blind faith might be misplaced, but what are you going to do?
One of the causes for our retail meltdown just might be the internet.  A few years ago, Main St. got hit hard by the big box vendors of the world, Target and Walmart. Notorious for squeezing vendors down to the bone, these megamonsters can price cut until they are making pennies, and there is no way for ma and pa at the corner to compete so they end up failing.  The store next to my own has been vacant for about a year, the good longtime neighbors across the street leaving in a couple more days. I own my business property - what will happen to the value of my investment?
Now turnabout being fair play, we are seeing the big boxers start to crash, Mervyn's, Linens, Circuit City... Because of the new terrors, Amazon, Ebay stores and the like. Who will go to the corner, or the mall for that matter, for a camera when you can get one online from B&H at cost, with no tax and usually free shipping? Are shops becoming a twenty first century anachronism?
I remember a great Star Trek episode where people are reduced to brains in jars on the table in the future and wonder if it is really so off the mark.  My god, I spend enough time on the computer. When's the last time you saw kids throwing a ball around?  And sitting at a terminal is a way to protect yourself from people's germs and contagions, excluding the occasional computer virus.  Probably don't need all of these vestigial fingers either, typing being readily accomplished with one or three.
I am married to a bargain shopper, descended from a family of bargain shoppers.  They can get on the phone and discuss the market rate of celery for hours on end and drive an interminable distance for a small savings.  I tend to just go buy the stuff where it is convenient, thinking that my time is more valuable than the endless hunt. But viva la difference.
I do think that unless you want your retail area of your town to resemble Williamsburg or some Amish community where we dress up and perform for you like happy retailers, you better come down and support us, because maybe soon there will be nothing left. 


Sunday, December 28, 2008

birds eye view










Our friend Jim took us up today in his Cessna. Jim is a longtime pilot, commercial turned corporate. This is one of his fun planes. It was a great time and a clear day. You can see our ranch in the middle of the shot with the fringe of the Santa Margarita River in the bottom corner, look closely and you see two tall redwoods sticking up. The last rains really helped green everything up. Snow on all the surrounding peaks. Amazing how many ponds and lakes are around that you never see from the ground. Thanks to all who made last night's party a success. I got to bed around 3:30 and now it's clean up time. Thanks, Jim!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The world I live in...

These are really low rez shots of some of the faces in the world of antiques and flea markets in Southern California and the southwest. One day I will get a grip on the technology and figure this stuff out.
This is the first year in over a decade that I have not spent the holiday season in Santa Fe with my comrades. I will miss the plaza, luminarias, trout hash at Pasquales, the sopapillas at Tiny's and the many people that I love.
I am just learning the imovie technology so hope that you can charitably accept this initial effort. These are faces from the life that I inhabit. Many are friends. Life is temporary. Enjoy it!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Donald Baughman R.I.P.




It is with great sadness that we share the news that Don Baughman of Somers, Montana has passed away. They found Don slumped over his desk, I believe on Christmas Eve. Don owned the Flathead Gallery and was one of the nicest people that you would ever want to meet anywhere and an expert in the Native American antiquities field. Don was very happy to share information with the uneducated and was a true brother. I first met Don in Highbridge Park in Spokane in 1974. We met again in adulthood through John Morris's Antiquities Shows in Santa Fe. Would often reminisce about the old days.

He has helped me more times than I can remember and was a friend to all. He raised two great sons, Trask and Jesse. It won't be the same without his aquiline profile, tall presence and broad smile.

God bless you, Don. Many of us loved you and we all mourn your passing. Hope to see you in the sweet bye and bye.

Robert Sommers

Something nice to say about President Bush


I take a lot of shots at Bush and was astounded today to read about something really nice that he has accomplished during his presidency. This might be a one time event for the Blast but let's give credit where it is due. He has apparently doubled the number of community health clinics in medically underserved locales during his time in office.  Link to the story here in the New York Times. Bravo. Who knew?



(I wonder if they give out contraceptives or abortion advice?)


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Son House - Death Letter

Kinky Friedman - If I Were A Carpenter


Merry Christmas! Today as guests of the BHB we got Tel Aviv, Turkey, Norway, Canada, Thailand, Australia, Canada, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Hong Kong, Paraguay, Singapore, Albania, Malta, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Cleveland, Ghana, Brazil, England, Italy, Germany, Riga, Elbasan, Finland, places that I frankly haven't heard of before and there's more...I can't have tricked all of you into thinking it was a porn site and I salute you! Journeying into the new frontier together, one megabite at a time...


Peace to all people's of the world - what do you say we get our shit together for once?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Tennessee Valley Authority Players


Arsenic is making a big comeback this week. An A.P. story the other day about arsenic levels in an area about 150 miles from Los Angeles that are approximately 460,000 times the federally accepted safe levels. Link to the story here.

"But while the poison can cause cancer in people and harm wildlife, little has been done to remove the costly waste here or similar hazardous waste at thousands of other abandoned mines around the nation.
"Worst case scenario, we'll have to clean up everything, which could do more environmental damage than leaving it and monitoring it," said Richard Forester, who oversees the Rand Mining District cleanup for the Bureau of Land Management.
Forester and others worry that particles of arsenic scattered by the area's stiff wind could be slowly poisoning the estimated 300 residents of Randsburg, Johannesburg and Red Mountain."


Now, news of the enormous toxic ash spill courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The residue of millions of tons of coal burning at Kingston Fossil power plant in the Watts Bar Reservoir in Tennessee burst the bounds of the pond in which it was contained, burying as many as 400 acres of land in up to six feet of sludge. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which owns the coal-fired power plant—first operated in 1955—announced that 15 homes were buried and no injuries were reported.

A combination of rains and accumulating sludge likely contributed to the disaster—one of two major ash pond collapses in the past decade. All told, about 2.6 million cubic yards of so-called coal ash slurry escaped, the TVA says. The collapsed pond is one of three on the site.

A link to the
United Mountain Defense site.


From a Scientific American story on the breech: "We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide," said Tom Kilgore, TVA president and CEO in an official statement today.


Such slurry worries environmentalists and public health activists because it is the residue of coal burning. The burning concentrates the impurities in the coal, including arsenic, lead and mercury, among many other potentially toxic contaminants. Coal ash is also radioactive.


But dealing with the 129 million tons of coal ash produced in the U.S. every year is not easy. Some 25 million tons of it is dumped in old coal mines, and some companies incorporate it into cement. The rest is typically dumped in landfills or stored in large coal-ash ponds like the one that collapsed. But many environmentalists argue for only disposing of it in lined landfills, to prevent contaminants from leaching out.


"A risk assessment released by the U.S. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] revealed that coal ash poses extremely serious threats to human health and the environment when disposed in waste ponds and landfills," says Lisa Graves Marcucci, a founding member of the Jefferson Action Group, a Pennsylvania environmental group that is among 38 environmental organizations calling for the incoming Obama administration to review coal ash disposal rules. "Significant pollution from mine disposal has been documented in New Mexico, West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, as well as Pennsylvania."

A YouTube video of the enormous spill here .

Civil Disobedience courtesy of blogger - nice work - check it out!

Environmentalists and TVA argue about hazards while government does nothing. Here.

Do Nothing Awards


Christopher Cox, the embattled chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission bristles at the enormous criticism that is being leveled at him during the current economic meltdown.  "Hey, the public should be patting us on the back right now.  While others have been running around willy nilly looking for solutions, we have stoically sat back and done nothing.  It takes real courage to sit on your haunches and look serious and actually be doing nothing.  Anyone can take the easy "activist" route.  Instead, we cut our enforcement staff back to one guy and tried to even encourage him to take a little time off.  You know, markets will police themselves."

Not to be outdone, his counterpart at Treasury, Henry Paulson, spoke up. "Hey wait a minute - we created a $700 billion no strings attached bailout for the banks and they haven't loaned one thin dime to the American taxpayer. Don't lecture us about indolence. With any luck we'll give our next holiday gift to the commercial lenders. They don't have any union members, do they?"

Ben Bernanke at the Fed is a celebrated academic whose expertise and ssholarship is in economic meltdowns. "Yeah, the ship is sinking, but this is gonna look swell in my next book!"

It's nice to be on the receiving end of the kind of leadership we are seeing out of Washington. Bush and Co. are setting a high mark for lazy ineptitude that may never be eclipsed. Muck things up really bad for the Schvartse, we will just rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Americans are so stupid, in four years,  simply rewrite the historical narrative and blame it on the democrats.

Brilliant!

What Cox actually said yesterday - "What we have done in this current turmoil is stay calm, which has been our greatest contribution -- not being impulsive, not changing the rules willy-nilly, but going through a very professional and orderly process that takes into account unintended consequences and gives ample notice to market participants," Cox said. This caution, he added, "has really been a signal achievement for the SEC."

Taking a swipe at the shifting response of the Treasury and Fed in addressing the financial crisis, he said: "When these gale-force winds hit our markets, there were panicked cries to change any and every rule of the marketplace: 'Let's try this. Let's try that.' What was needed was a steady hand."

Many do not view his role so charitably - From the Washington Post:

Although Cox speaks of staying calm in the face of financial turmoil, lawmakers across the political spectrum counter that this is actually another way of saying that his agency remained passive during the worst global financial crisis in decades. And they say that Cox's stewardship before this year -- focusing on deregulation as the agency's staff shrank -- laid the groundwork for the meltdown.

"The commission in recent years has handcuffed the inspection and enforcement division," said Arthur Levitt, SEC chairman during the Clinton administration. "The environment was not conducive to proactive enforcement activity."

But former officials said enforcement has suffered during his tenure. A pilot program begun last year required enforcement staff to meet with the commissioners before beginning settlement talks in certain cases involving non-financial firms. Some former officials said the change was just one example of new bureaucratic impediments that slowed enforcement work. The commissioners also made clear that they thought staff members were being too aggressive in some cases, the officials said.

"I think there has been a sentiment communicated to rank-and-file staff, lawyers and accountants that you don't go after the establishment," said Ross Albert, a former special counsel in the enforcement division.

Another staffing shift was underway at the Office of Risk Assessment, formed by Cox's predecessor, William H. Donaldson, to spot emerging problems in the financial markets. But under Cox, the office, which once had slots for seven people, eventually dwindled to just one. "That office withered away," said Bruce Carton, a former SEC enforcement lawyer. "It died on the vine under Cox."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper

Super Session

Cheney admitted to greater leak role in Plamegate


Murray Waas has an interesting piece on his website today - link to it here.

...Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a still-highly confidential FBI report, admitted to federal investigators that he rewrote talking points for the press in July 2003 that made it much more likely that the role of then-covert CIA-officer Valerie Plame in sending her husband on a CIA-sponsored mission to Africa would come to light.

Cheney conceded during his interview with federal investigators that in drawing attention to Plame’s role in arranging her husband’s Africa trip reporters might also unmask her role as CIA officer.

Cheney denied to the investigators, however, that he had done anything on purpose that would lead to the outing of Plame as a covert CIA operative. But the investigators came away from their interview with Cheney believing that he had not given them a plausible explanation as to how he could focus attention on Plame’s role in arranging her husband’s trip without her CIA status also possibly publicly exposed. At the time, Plame was a covert CIA officer involved in preventing Iran from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and Cheney’s office played a central role in exposing her and nullifying much of her work.

Cheney revised the talking points on July 8, 2003– the very same day that his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller and told Miller that Plame was a CIA officer and that Plame had also played a central role in sending her husband on his CIA sponsored trip to the African nation of Niger...

Janis Joplin - To love somebody

Has any one else ever sang with this much heart and power?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Check out this website for a more accurate read on the Utah land heist.

More on the Utah land rape


I have been reading up on the gas lease controversy in Utah and frankly getting more and more pissed off. I read several of the field station reports and they want to open up 95% of the Kanab field station area to off road vehicles. Are you kidding? Similar last minute sodomy is occuring in Nevada and Idaho. The Department of the Interior website is so one sided and self serving that it would be downright laughable if not so tragic. Here is one of my favorite passages where drillers are encouraged to paint their equipment to blend in with the scenery. Painting drilling equipment on the boundaries of National Parks is going to fix everything.

Finally, BLM encourages energy developers to use best management practices where appropriate. These best management practices reduce, prevent or avoid adverse environmental or social impacts. Some best management practices include the use of paint colors that help oil and natural gas equipment to “blend” and camouflage with the surrounding areas, using low profile tanks and drilling multiple wells on one well pad to minimize surface disturbance.


I include the following DOI propaganda sheet for your reading displeasure. It seeks to minimize internecine warfare between the DOI and the National Parks Service. I will try to delve further into this in the next few days and show you more accurate information from different sources that is more truthful than the Department's farcical broadside.

Myth vs. Reality - December 2008 Quarterly Oil and Gas Lease
Myth: The Bureau of Land Management Utah December 19, 2008, quarterly oil and gas lease sale is an unnecessary ‘fire sale’ of public lands to energy developers.

Fact: This is an incorrect characterization of the quarterly oil and gas lease sale. The BLM is required by law to conduct lease sales on at least a quarterly basis.

The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, which authorizes oil and gas leasing on BLM lands, mandates that each BLM state office hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales based on industry-nominated land parcels.

Moreover, the upcoming sale is not a last minute effort to allow for oil and gas development on public lands prior to an administration change. Quarterly oil and gas lease sales are never thrown together. Preparing for a lease sale requires a significant amount of time and extensive analysis and evaluation. It requires a lengthy process to prepare for lease sales.

Myth: There will be oil rigs and gas wells practically under the Delicate Arch, clearly within view of Arches National Park, Canyonlands and Dinosaur National Park, and in Utah’s wilderness.

Fact: Lands in the vicinity of national parks and monuments which could be leased for oil and gas development have strict leasing stipulations to prevent energy development from negatively impacting views from key observation points within national parks and monuments.

Federally designated wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) formally protect wilderness values by being unavailable to oil and gas leasing. BLM does not issue oil and gas leases in federally designated wilderness or WSAs.

Designated Wilderness: A congressionally designated area of undeveloped federal land retaining its primitive character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation that is protected and managed to preserve its natural conditions.

Wilderness Study Area: A roadless area or island of undeveloped federal land that has been inventoried and found to possess wilderness characteristics described under Title VI, Section 603 of FLPMA and Section 2C of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Additionally, BLM Utah, through its land use planning process, has selected certain lands to protect, preserve and maintain their wilderness characteristics. BLM Utah’s completed RMPs for six field offices provide administrative protection to some of these lands—few of which are available for leasing with major constraints such as no surface occupancy and no surface disturbance stipulations, and others are unavailable for leasing.

Non-WSA lands with wilderness characteristics: This is a BLM Utah-specific term referring to an inventory of lands, not a special management designation. Following the 2008 signing of the approved RMPs, BLM selected some of these lands to be managed for their wilderness characteristics. These protected lands are referred to as BLM natural areas.

Examples of major constraints placed on leasing in natural areas: Where natural areas are available for leasing, these parcels have “no surface occupancy” (NSO) stipulations to protect recreation, wildlife, scenery and wilderness characteristics. No surface occupancy is a fluid minerals leasing constraint that prohibits occupancy or disturbance on all or part of the lease surface to protect special values, resources or uses. Lessees may develop the fluid mineral resources under the leases restricted by this constraint through use of directional drilling from locations outside the area.

Numerous parcels have stipulations to protect the habitat of special status species like sage-grouse and Threatened and Endangered Species (T&E) including the golden eagle and Mexican spotted owl. These parcels may also include NSO stipulations within a half mile of the nests.

Leases in natural areas also include stipulations for visual resource management class II and semi-primitive recreation areas. Visual resource management classes are categories assigned to public lands based on scenic quality, sensitivity level, and distance zones and each class has an objective which prescribes the amount of change allowed in the characteristic landscape. The objective for visual resource management class II is to retain the existing character of the landscape. The level of change to the characteristic landscape should be low. Management activities may be seen, but should not attract the attention of the casual observer. Any changes must repeat the basic elements of form, line, color, and texture found in the predominant natural features of the characteristic landscape.

Finally, BLM encourages energy developers to use best management practices where appropriate. These best management practices reduce, prevent or avoid adverse environmental or social impacts. Some best management practices include the use of paint colors that help oil and natural gas equipment to “blend” and camouflage with the surrounding areas, using low profile tanks and drilling multiple wells on one well pad to minimize surface disturbance.

Myth: BLM refused to work with the National Park Service.

Fact: Quite to the contrary, BLM and the Park Service routinely work together on land management issues. The media has mischaracterized the process initially suggested for resolving issues and concerns. When concerns were raised, BLM invited National Park Service managers to sit down together and look at each parcel and its environmental protections. These discussions led to BLM satisfactorily addressing NPS concerns by demonstrating environmental stewardship principles, clarifying protective stipulations and adding lease notices where appropriate. Where National Park Service requested additional time for analysis of other parcels, BLM agreed to defer leasing on those parcels.

The NPS presented their issues in three categories. In two of the three categories, Park Service requested BLM provide certain assurances before agreeing to allow parcels to go forward into the lease sale. Concerns included “exception, modification, and waiver” language in lease stipulations, and ensuring light, sound and view stipulations were stringent enough to protect the experience for Park visitors. Assurances included local Park and BLM managers working together to develop a process of collaboration to address these issues, and a commitment by BLM to add lease notices requiring sound muffling and restricting night lighting where appropriate. BLM provided assurances and NPS agreed that parcels in the first two categories should go forward in the lease sale.

In the third category, NPS requested additional time to review these parcels and conduct further analysis, which could include National Park viewsheds, light and noise, wildlife, water concerns, wilderness recommendations on Arches National Park and groundwater protection. BLM and NPS reached consensus to defer these parcels from the December lease sale. In total, BLM deferred 23 parcels and portions of three other parcels on just less than 38,000 acres at the request of the National Park Service.

Myth: The Bureau of Land Management has refused to remove parcels from the December quarterly oil and gas lease sale.

Fact: In fact, the Bureau of Land Management is required to adhere to an established screening process when considering parcels to be included in a quarterly oil and gas lease sale.

When lands are nominated, a screening process determines parcels’ availability for lease. Nominated parcels are evaluated to ensure land use plan consistency and compliance with laws and regulations. Prior to the public’s review of parcels proposed for the December 2008 quarterly oil and gas lease sale, this step removed 47,045 acres of land from further consideration for leasing.

Next, a list of proposed parcels is released, initiating a 30-day public review period. At the end of this period, BLM conducts a preliminary review of received comments and may remove additional parcels from the sale list. A final list of parcels is released approximately seven days before the sale.

After the sale is held, the BLM does not issue any leases until all protests on those parcels have been satisfactorily resolved. In some cases, protests will be granted and bid money will be returned.

Myth: The BLM arbitrarily and capriciously chooses lands for oil and gas leasing without any regard to significant resources that may be located on those lands or affected by energy development.

Fact: Prior to any quarterly oil and gas lease sale, the BLM first determines which of the nominated lands may be offered for lease. This determination is based upon whether making these lands available for lease is: 1) Consistent with the current resource management plan, 2) Compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act, 3) Compliant with the Endangered Species Act and 4) Compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act.

Through the land use and resource management planning process, BLM lands are placed into one of four oil and gas leasing categories:

Open to oil and gas leasing with standard stipulations
Open to oil and gas leasing with minor constraints
Open to oil and gas leasing with major constraints
Closed to oil and gas leasing
The process of analysis includes:

Nominated lands are closely reviewed to determine if they are eligible and available for oil and gas leasing, consistent with the existing Resource Management Plan (RMP) and in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Land is then delineated into lease parcels not to exceed the maximum allowable acreage of 2,560 acres each. The acreage is computed and special protective stipulations are incorporated based on the existing RMP. A preliminary list of lands is created for internal review.
Field offices review this list to further ensure the lands offered are consistent with the land use plan and in compliance with the NEPA and other resource protection acts such as the National Historic Preservation Act and the Endangered Species Act.
After this internal review, field offices make recommendations to the state office on which parcels to offer for lease. In some cases, they may even recommend withdrawing all or part of a parcel or placing additional stipulations on a lease to protect certain resources. For example, parcels offered for lease near White River include stringent, no surface occupancy stipulations to protect the area’s significant visual, plant, wildlife and recreation resources.
Based on these field office recommendations, the state office prepares and posts a list of proposed lands available for oil and gas lease which initiates a 30-day public protest period.
Prior to the lease sale, a preliminary review of any protests received determines which parcels will be offered for sale.
The competitive lease sale is held.
Protests are formally resolved and,
Leases are issued, or
Received bid money is returned if the protest is granted
Myth: The oil and gas leasing process does not allow for input from or notification of sister agencies such as the National Park Service.

Fact: BLM’s sister agencies are very much involved in the oil and gas leasing process—providing input throughout the land use planning process. In fact, this input is an important part of oil and gas leasing because it allows the agencies to review lands that may be made available for leasing.

Six new Resource Management Plans recently went into effect after many years of development and review—during which time sister agencies reviewed lands near parks and monuments that could be made available for lease and provided extensive input regarding these lands.

The land use planning process ensures that cooperating and any other interested agencies provide input in the determination of availability to oil and gas leasing for lands in the vicinity of national parks and monuments.

For example, BLM Utah traditionally deferred lands adjacent to and near park boundaries, awaiting the finalization of the new Resource Management Plans. During planning, the NPS provided extensive input regarding lands available for leasing in these areas; BLM absorbed the input by modifying or improving environmental constraints as appropriate. Based on NPS input, BLM Utah placed stricter environmental requirements and leasing constraints on public lands in the vicinity of national parks and monuments.

I humbly request that those of you who have got a little religion to pray to the deity of your choice that the next administration will nullify this last minute giveaway of our most pristine natural resources.

Blogger's Choice?

I just ran across the Bloggers Choice website at www.bloggerschoiceawards.com and was really piqued. Nary a single mention of the Blast, the obvious best read on the freaking net. I won't pander, if this is the gratitude I deserve, fine, I can dish out guilt with the best jewish mother you ever met. See if you ever need anything from me again. p-f-f-f-t.

Actually I am not sure how legit this site is - does it smell right to you?  Do I want more notoriety? More readers to kick around?  Should I start pushing this thing? Are my narcissistic, competitive juices starting to flow?  You bet they are...Vote early and often.

Alice Cooper - Scotbot

I woke up humming the song Generation Landslide and went searching on youtube - found this really, really well done video by Scotbot. Alice was an underrated band, excellent musicians.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just because we're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get us...


DJ sent this interesting blurb about the Bush IT man who was going to write a tell all book and died in a mysterious plane crash - supposedly threatened by Rove. Read about it here.

Ursid Meteor Shower


Toni Inman has alerted me that the Ursid Meteor Shower, which comes flying out of the little dipper, peaks tomorrow night, the 22nd. It can be fairly tame at 8 to 10 meteors an hour but has been known to pick up steam at times like in 2006. Read about it at the interesting www.spaceweather.com where you can tune into the live Air Force Space Surveillance Feed of the shower if you are lucky enough to be one of the first 1000 listeners.

Also check out the cool video on the site of the owl landing on the astronomer's telescope in remote New Mexico.

Thanks, Toni!

Fly like an eagle

Don Perry sent this over - I have done something similar in my dreams but not at this speed! Ultimate thrills.

Trippy Commercial



Millard sent this over from Santa Fe.

Time to get sensible?


"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." ‑ 1 Corinthians 13:11

When we were young and immortal, life came in the shades of black and white.   We sexed, drugged and rock and rolled, all with the conviction that the universe had blessed our way with some sort of good housekeeping seal of cosmic approval.  As we got older (and our livers got older) many of us throttled down or twelve stepped our way to a less bumpy life.

My generation was maybe the most self righteous of them all, the boomers.  We had to stop them, whoever they were. Our parents never discussed sex, politics or religion.  Our sacred cows were a different breed of cattle.  And one thing we were assured of was that nuclear power was bad.  Lately I have been cautiously sounding out others of my ilk and wayward temperament and I am astounded that many of us want to give it a second look.

I read an article today about the environmental pressure that the energy drilling industry is putting on the Colorado River. Link to it here.  One out of 12 americans depend on it for their drinking water and it is in jeopardy.  Now uranium mining is as potentially catastrophic as oil or gas, but much less raw material is required and perhaps the negative effects can be more carefully contained.

We all have a footprint, like it or not - maybe there are a handful of Berkeley students living in trees off the grid, but we all contribute to the mess we have made.  And we must find the best way out.  Didn't a wise man once say that you shouldn't let the perfect become the enemy of the good?  No one wants another Chernobyl, and there is a terrible waste disposal question but Nuclear Power looks like the best solution we currently have. Certainly better than drilling in our national parks and wiping out our drinking water. Solar and Wind are not going to take care of our massive need for energy by themselves.  I wonder how many decades it would take to permit a new plant?

I am not a scientist and certainly no expert, but I know that the French have done some very innovative things with encapsulating spent nuke fuel in glass.  We haven't built a new plant in decades.  We need to seriously consider it again and not be afraid to start a national dialogue.  Take responsibility and let's find a solution.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Free Tim DeChristopher!






Interesting AP story about a young guy from Utah who disrupted the oil lease auction this week. A patriot who performed a mission akin to pouring good british tea into Boston Harbor. Yes, it was probably illegal but Bush should have the decency to let the incoming administration make environmental policy and not jam all of these last minute edicts and sweetheart gifts to his buddies in the energy business down our throats.
I have hiked all through the national parks in southern Utah and there is something sick about the Bush Administration's plans to drill in these unspoiled areas that border our national parks. There is a strange tendency for employees of the BLM and EPA for that matter, to act like they work for private industry rather than the american taxpayer. Since when is it the province of the BLM to concern themselves with providing jobs to local economies as Ms. Sierra from BLM has recently stated? I hope that we have a thorough housecleaning and soon.

Activist accused of tainting drilling lease sale

By PAUL FOY – 1 day ago

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An environmental activist tainted an auction of oil and gas drilling leases Friday by bidding up parcels of land by hundreds of thousands of dollars without any intention of paying for them, a federal official said.

The process was thrown into chaos and the bidding halted for a time before the auction was closed, with 116 parcels totaling 148,598 acres having sold for $7.2 million plus fees.

"He's tainted the entire auction," said Kent Hoffman, deputy state director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Utah.

Hoffman said buyers will have 10 days to reconsider and withdraw their bids if they think they paid too much.

Tim DeChristopher, a 27-year-old University of Utah economics student, said his plan was to disrupt the auction and he feels he accomplished his goal.

DeChristopher won the bidding on 13 parcels, auction records show, and drove up the price of several other pieces of land.

"I thought I could be effective by making bids, driving up prices for others and winning some bids myself," the Salt Lake City man said.

Some bidders said they were forced to bid thousands of dollars more for their parcels, while others fumed that they lost their bids.

"We were hosed," said Jason Blake of Park City, a consulting geologist who was outbid on a 320-acre parcel. "It's very frustrating. I hope the guy is prosecuted."

Several bidders said they hadn't decided whether they would withdraw their bids. Some said they may reluctantly hold on to their leases — despite the higher cost — out of concern that the parcels might not go up for auction again under President-elect Barack Obama's administration.

BLM criminal investigators questioned DeChristopher, who says he expects to be charged. He was released and the case was referred to federal prosecutors for possible fraud charges, said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

"I'm willing to deal with that," DeChristopher said.

Other bidders at the auction had complained about DeChristopher as unfamiliar and bidding in an unconventional fashion, which raised suspicions, said Terry Catlin, leader of the BLM's Utah Energy Team.

DeChristopher snapped up 22,500 acres of land around Arches and Canyonlands parks but said he could afford to pay for only a few of those acres. He owes $1.7 million on all of his leases.

The sale of the leases has drawn complaints from environmental groups and scathing criticism from actor Robert Redford.

Activists said the sale would threaten Utah's wild lands and spoil the view from some of the state's spectacular national parks with drilling rigs.

"If we're going to sacrifice public lands, let's do it with some deliberation, not in a hasty way," said Joseph Flower, a University of Utah biology student who was among about 100 protesters outside the auction.

The bureau already had pulled some parcels from the sale in response to complaints from the National Park Service and others. Ultimately, the agency dropped more than half the 359,000 acres first proposed for auction.

Selma Sierra, who heads the BLM in Utah, said only 6 percent of lease parcels would ever see drilling because of the "costly and speculative" nature of the business. The federal government also typically imposes environmental safeguards on drilling parcels, Sierra said.

"Facts of the lease sale have been mischaracterized in the public forum, sowing confusion and misunderstanding," Sierra said.

Conservation groups sued Wednesday challenging 80 of the 132 lease parcels set to go up for bid, but the groups reached an agreement with the BLM one day later allowing the auction to go forward, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

The agreement filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., stipulated that the government wouldn't issue leases on the 80 parcels for 30 days, giving a federal judge time to consider whether to block the leases.

This one will be interesting to watch. The leases go into effect two days before Obama goes into office.

Thomas Dolby - Valley of the Mind's Eye

An e-mail that's going around...



WHO DO YOU WISH YOU WERE MORE LIKE ???

Try it without looking at choices . . . .

1) Pick your Favorite number between 1-9

2) Multiply by 3, then

3) Add 3, then again Multiply by 3 (I'll wait while you
get the calculator....)

4) You'll get a 2 or 3 digit number....

5) Add the digits together

Now Scroll down ..............





















Now with your secret number, see who your ROLE MODEL is from the list below :

1. Einstein

2. Jesus Christ

3. Hillary

4. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

5. Gandhi

6. Bill Gates

7. Jerry Garcia

8. George Bush

9. Robert Sommers

10. Barack Obama

I know....I just have that effect on people. Believe it!

P.S. No use picking different numbers. I am your idol.

But please know that I am humbled...


Excuse me while I kiss the sky.



Let's be clear. The host and staff at the Blue Heron Blast do not encourage the use of nor extoll the virtues of any illegal drugs, including mind-numbing hallucinogens. That is, unless you are in a controlled psychiatric hospital setting, surrounded by a team of Harvard trained ethnobotanists/psychotherapists and several swarthy attendants in white lab coats, with large syringes of potent animal tranquilizer at the ready.

But we must tip our cap at yesterday's passing of a baseball legend, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Dock Ellis (Ellis, D.), who managed to throw a no-hitter against San Diego in 1970 while under the influence of LSD. The control that this must have required is literally mind boggling, most people in similar circumstances being content to just lay down in the grass and do minute inspections for tiny flowers and insects somewhere in center field.

This Ruthian achievement will rank up there with the Babe's called shot and Dimmagio's streak and we wish him a hearty happy trails in the great hereafter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Joe Ely

"If You Were a Blue Bird" - Joe Ely is one of the greatest performers I have ever seen.

Tails waggin the dog


©2008 Robert Sommers

I got a letter from the People for the American Way today complaining about Obama's choice of Rick Warren for some invocation because of his supposedly intolerant views on Gays. Every day some liberal special interest group is weighing in with a critical blow by blow on his choice for appointees. Bitch, Bitch, Bitch. You voted for him, he's not your property. Hopefully, if you give him a chance, he will help correct some of the ills of Washington. In a remarkably post-partisan way. But he will do it his way and he owes you nothing.

Back off and let the guy work. Rick Warren is about the least noxious pastor you could find. He has a view you don't share. It's an invocation - Obama's not naming him the American Pope. Let it go. Stop tilting at every bogeyman you think you see in every windmill. It is quite apparent that liberals can be just as tendentious and obnoxious as their conservative counterparts. The President-elect can't make the mistake his predecessor did and govern from the western edge. We truly need everyone pulling the oars at the same time. This means you won't get everything you want. Get over it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abu Ghraib

Graphic - caution... might not be your cup of tea but very comprehensive. If I was a detainee I would probably rather have been shot than undergo this systemic abuse.

Rainy days and wednesdays


It was one of those awful days - blackberry was on the fritz all week, email quit as well this morning and I got a useless punjabi at tech support who may even know less than I do about her vocation.  Then a guy called who had been double charged by my credit card company so I have to send him a fat refund check.  Somebody apparently tried to fix my taillight lens improperly somewhere along my way and their hatchet job cost me a few bucks.  I stared at a big pile of bills but couldn't bring myself to actually grab a pen and write.  Leslie discovered that the snotty european woman a few doors down from our shop has been leaving candles burning all night in the old tinderbox building and I am going to have to go into legal mode to stem the potential conflagration.  My heater is on life support at home and it's freezing.  I cut a new filter but can't find a reset button. But hey, at least my mother's not coming to visit...

***

I read an article in the Weekly Standard by a guy named Kirchik who says that Bush should go liberate Zimbabwe in his last few weeks in office. They have so few few troops and will probably throw flowers at our feet. Let's see, where have we heard that before?  Dick Cheney says that Waterboarding isn't torture even though his interrogators themselves are on record saying it is. Positively Orwellian.  I am not naive enough to think that I wouldn't cut a guys ball's off if he or she were poised to wreak some devastating blow to the motherland.  However the way that the torture got institutionalized and systematized is very chilling.  Too many guys getting smothered and accidently dying of heart attacks.  Terrorists must have really bad cardiac health the way they are dropping.  But if Waterboarding does fall short of torture as conceived of in the Geneva Convention, Cheney should submit to the process on national television.  Probably a walk in the park and it would draw a wide audience, I'm sure.  I actually admire Cheney's ability to never take a step back, even in the face of the truth.  Pretty dogged guy - but he looks like hell these days.  Bush says that he's no Herbert Hoover - uh, ya, Hoover was an accomplished  and talented engineer while you were an ex drunk flyboy with no apparent talent or brains to do much of anything except maybe run a  country into the ground...
You can't tell an idiot that they are not really that smart because they have no frame of reference or cognitive ability to know what smart really is.  What did the Wizard of Id say, the king is a fink? Or was it a fraud?  Bush sounds positively desperate and pathetic in his final days in his quest to frame his epitaph in some Lakoffian way as a savior of the western world and a man who put high principles over popularity. Just a smite too much collateral damage to the U.S. and the rest of the world to pull off an eleventh hour P.R. coup methinks. Maybe we could invade Zimbabwe?  Today we got a new clearance to target Somali pirates. Yippee. Shiver me timbers.

***

I wonder if the underlying narrative to the change in administrations isn't really some Ivy League war being played out on a grand scale.  Harvard vs. Yale.  This is the first time the skull and bonesers have been out of the driver's seat in a long time.  Speaking of Yalie's, George Tenet has a website up where he denies railing at the "jews in the administration" in Prince Bandar's pool. Nixonian.  He says that you can ask Bandar.  A guy in Easton, PA is upset because of the outcry in naming his kids after Adolf Hitler and the Aryan Nations.  Seems like a swell family, but I'm guessing it could lead to a few skuffles on the playground. Although what did congressman what's his name say about the bigots in Pennsylvania?  Maybe the kids would get along fine.

***

Speaking of swell families, Bernard Madoff's sons turned him in for his 50 billion large ponzi scheme.  I would guess that the mood at the shabbos dinner might get a little chilly in the future but you have to admire them to turn on pops. Not that they invested their money with him. Maybe Tenet is on to something? Useless slug Christopher Cox at the SEC promises a full investigation as to why reports on Bernie's shenanigans surfaced as far back as 1999 but were never investigated.

***

Anyone want to post, either email me or just post if you are an author.  Just because we have had one excommunication doesn't mean that I am going to go off again like some pissy pope.

Blagoblog




My friend Bill (who tilts a little bit to the right and is a very smart guy) sent this over today.






Gov. Blagojevich is an unwrapped gift to us all!

Isn’t he a manifestation of how our government of “career politicians” really works? Not as forthright perhaps but indirectly the same. Our government has not worked for the best interest of the people for a long time because it works for special interests. While not so blatant as the good Governor, our so called legitimate Govt. is still packaged influence for sale.

Businesses such as UAW, GM, Citi Group, Freddie Mac …..all contribute to a campaign because they are investing in influence. Citizens contribute large amounts and become Ambassadors or receive great appointments to other jobs for which they qualified primarily as a function of their contribution, influence, etc.

Blagojevich just laid it out in plain sight. Our legislatures are effectively based on the premise that you get what you pay for but because of the way it’s packaged, you aren’t quite able to see it. And we are acting as if we have been betrayed by this monster from Ill. I think not. He has merely unwrapped the way the Legislature and much of our Govt. functions indirectly.

Aren’t we in need of a fresh look at our system and can thank the Governor for forcing us to recognize the elephant in the room? Term limits and no lobbying would be a beginning.


I don't know if term limits are the answer - remember the russian judge in the olympics a few decades ago who gave his athletes the top three scores in gymnastics when everyone else had them starting at like number 64? He knew he had the sweet dacha deal for life...If the payoff is big enough people will manage to screw things up really good in a single term. And it takes so long to get the lay of the land in government. Lugar, Leahy, Hamilton, Rudman - do we really want to shed Congress of all the experience? But I have to agree that the lobbying laws are a joke.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dark Energy Stunts Galaxy's Growth

This from today's New York Times - and if any of you are responsible, I want you to cut it out right now! You know who you are...



NASA/CXC/SAO/A.Vikhlinin et al
A composite image of the galaxy cluster Abell 85, located about 740 million light years from Earth. Observations of it helped astronomers trace how dark energy has stifled the growth of galaxies over the last seven billion years.


By DENNIS OVERBYE
Published: December 16, 2008
The same mystery force that is speeding up the expansion of the universe is also stunting the growth of the objects inside it, astronomers said on Tuesday.

After bulking up rapidly in the first 10 billion years of cosmic time, clusters of galaxies, the cloudlike swarms that are the largest conglomerations of matter in the universe, have grown anemically or not at all during the last five billion years, like sullen teenagers who suddenly refuse to eat.

“This result could be explained as arrested development of the universe,” said Alexey Vikhlinin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led a multinational team using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to weigh galaxy clusters from far across space. The group reported the results in two papers that will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.

The culprit, he said, appears to be an antigravitational force that astronomers have labeled “dark energy.” It was discovered 10 years ago by astronomers who were using exploding stars called supernovas as distance markers to chart the expansion of the universe. In a puzzle that is still reverberating, they found that instead of slowing down because of cosmic gravity, as common sense would suggest, the expansion of the universe was actually speeding up, with galaxies zooming apart faster and faster.

Dr. Vikhlinin’s results dovetail eerily with the supernova results, suggesting that dark energy emerged as a dominant force in the universe about seven billion to five billion years ago. Clusters grow by gravity, according to cosmological theory, starting as small dimples in the heat and fizz of the Big Bang and then drawing in surrounding material over the eons. Dark energy would work against gravity and try to push the matter falling in back out, stalling growth.

Together with earlier observations of supernovas and other effects, Dr. Vikhlinin said, the new data strengthen the suspicion — but do not prove — that dark energy is the result of a weird antigravity called the cosmological constant that was hypothesized and then abandoned by Albert Einstein as a “blunder” almost a century ago.

Many other theories are still in contention, but some that involve modifying Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which has been the last work on gravity for almost a century, might be on the verge of extinction, astronomers said.

“If this was a fox hunt and dark energy was the fox, I think they have closed off another escape route. But there is still a lot of terrain left for the fox, and we’ve seen little more than a glimmer of fur,” said Adam Riess, of Johns Hopkins and the Space Telescope Science Institute, and one of the original discoverers of dark energy.

Other astronomers hailed the work as opening a new avenue in the investigation of what is happening and will happen to the cosmos.

“To date, only one technique — supernovae — has detected dark energy without folding in other observations,” said Michael Turner of the University of Chicago. “This would be the second, stand-alone, detection of dark energy and the validation of an important technique for probing dark energy.”

To explain why the universe was stable and did not collapse under the collective gravity of its contents, Einstein speculated that empty space, what physicists call the vacuum, was imbued with an antigravitational energy — his cosmological constant. Einstein’s constant did not even work mathematically, and later it was discovered that the universe was not stable — it was expanding.

Modern quantum mechanics predicts that empty space should indeed be imbued with this strange energy, but the possibility that the dark energy might actually be Einstein’s cosmological constant has thrown physics into philosophical turmoil. “The discovery of dark energy has greatly changed how we think about the laws of nature,” Edward Witten, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., said recently.

According to the calculations, the cosmological constant should be 1060 times bigger than what astronomers have measured; in such a universe, stars, planets and of course ourselves could not exist. The only way out, some physicists and cosmologists have argued, is to presume that our own universe is only one of as many as 10500 parallel universes, in which the laws of physics happen to be conducive to our existence. But many others bitterly disagree.

As a result, many astronomers and physicists are desperate for evidence of another explanation. Dr. Riess said of the cosmological constant, “The biggest thing we could learn is by ruling that out.”

Last month, NASA and the Department of Energy signed a memorandum of agreement to build a dark energy observatory satellite that would be launched in the next decade.

Clusters of galaxies are the largest conglomerations of matter in the universe, and so, next to the universe itself, they are a perfect laboratory for studying gravity and its enemy, dark energy, on a grand scale. They are also easy to find. They are filled with gas so scorchingly hot that it emits X-rays, which can be seen by satellite observatories like Chandra and Rosat, which was built in Germany and launched by NASA, from billions of light-years away.

Starting in 2005, Dr. Vikhlinin and his colleagues used Chandra to observe 86 clusters that had previously been found in a survey by Rosat. One was a set of 37 about five billion light-years away, while 49 others were about half a billion light-years or closer. Their masses, determined from the extent of the X-ray images and their spectra, ranged from 100 trillion Suns to a quintillion Suns.

The span between the two sets amounts to about a third of the age of the universe. Dr. Vikhlinin and his colleagues used theoretical models to calculate how the numbers of clusters with different masses would change during that span under different conditions, including no dark energy.

The models without dark energy would not fit, they concluded. The most massive clusters, they found, are only about a fifth as plentiful today as they would be in a universe without dark energy, Dr. Vikhlinin said. The clusters, he said, “are still growing, but very slowly.”