Saturday, December 17, 2005

Arctic summer warmer, less ice(here) in Greenland. AP photo. Posted by Picasa
Lag Time Is Over

from AP report:

In the high Arctic, deep in the Atlantic, on Africa's sunbaked plains, climate scientists are seeing change unfold before their eyes. In the global councils of power, however, change in climate policy is coming only slowly.

In New York, NASA' s Goddard Institute projected that 2005 will surpass 1998 to end as the hottest year globally in the 125 years since reliable records have been kept. It said warming has accelerated and is now boosting the mercury every decade by more than 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The observed rapid warming thus gives urgency to discussions about how to slow greenhouse gas emissions," the NASA researchers said.

Five days earlier in Montreal, however, the annual 189-nation U.N. climate conference ended two weeks of such discussions by failing once again to win U.S. commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions — as almost all other industrialized nations are committed to do by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol.

The atmosphere now holds more than one-third more carbon dioxide than it did before the Industrial Revolution. In fact, European scientists reported last month that analysis of ice cores from Antarctica shows that today's level is 27 percent higher than any previous peak looking back 650,000 years.

A U.N.-organized network of scientists warns of shifting climate zones, ocean levels rising via heat expansion and glacial melting, and more extreme weather events if emissions are not reined in and average temperatures continue to rise.

Among fresh reports of warming's impact:

_The WMO said Thursday that in the Arctic Sea, where average winter temperatures have risen as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit over 50 years, the ice cap this summer was 20 percent smaller than the 1979-2004 average.

_British oceanographers reported this month that Atlantic currents carrying warm water toward northern Europe have slowed. Freshwater from melting northern ice caps and glaciers is believed interfering with saltwater currents. Ultimately such a change could cool the European climate.

_In southern Africa, beset by four years of drought, average temperatures during the 12-month period ending last July were the warmest on record, British scientists said. The mercury stood more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit above a recent 40-year average.

_In Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific, rising seas are forcing hundreds of islanders to abandon vulnerable coastal homes for higher ground, according to U.N. and news reports.

A small, vocal minority of climate skeptics, who long theorized manmade emissions weren't influencing the climate, has grown quieter as evidence of global warming and its effects has mounted.

"In a sense, the burden of proof has shifted from the people who are saying there's a risk, to the skeptics now," Michel Jarraud, WMO secretary-general, said in an interview.

In Montreal, Bush administration envoys, who once cited scientific uncertainty in rejecting the Kyoto pact, focused instead on the argument that emissions controls would damage the U.S. economy.

Largely isolated, the Americans agreed only to joining a nonbinding, exploratory global "dialogue" on future steps to combat warming.

Those who ratified Kyoto, meanwhile, decided a working group should develop proposals for emissions reductions by 35 industrialized nations after the current pact expires in 2012. They didn't agree on a deadline for that work, however, and made little headway on how to draw China, India and other newly industrializing countries into the emissions-control regime.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hong Zhengyong, Tibet. c Nature Conservancy. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"My father was concerned about the time length of my melancholy state and while we fished I was asking him about the odors in the air from the flora along the shore where clouds of redwing blackbirds were noisily floating over the cattails. He had an uncanny ability to identify weeds, flowers, bushes by smell, and he suddenly said that curiosity will get you through hard times when nothing else will."

Jim Harrison
Gaming the Unpatriot Act

In a week in which more evidence was revealed that the Bush administration has violated civil liberties and encouraged secret spying on thousands of Americans, Republicans tried to push through an extension of the Patriot Act which extended or made permanent anti-privacy and anti-First Amendment provisions, by threatening to let the entire act run out unless Democrats and others opposed to some provisions ceased trying to change it. Their bluff was called, and so far they've lost.

(Reuters) - A group of U.S. senators, demanding increased protection of civil liberties, defied President Bush on Friday by blocking renewal of the USA Patriot Act, a centerpiece of his war on terrorism.

A procedural move to cut off debate and call a vote on the issue fell eight votes short of the 60 votes needed, with a handful of Republicans joining most Democrats to oppose it. The vote was 52-47.

Fifty Republicans and two Democrats voted to end debate on the renewal legislation; five Republicans, one independent and 41 Democrats blocked it with a procedural hurdle.
Approved earlier this week by the House of Representatives, the legislation would make permanent 14 anti-terrorism provisions set to expire on December 31, and extend for four years three others.

But with complaints by some conservatives as well as liberals, House and Senate negotiators agreed in a recent conference report to increase the protection of the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said, "In my view, and in the view of many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the conference report still does not contain enough checks on the expanded powers."

Picnic in the 1930s Posted by Picasa
Holiday Gift Books from 2005: Social Studies

Brother, Can You Spare Me Some Time

THE MARCH OF SPARE TIME: The Problem and Promise
of Leisure in the Great Depression
by Susan Currell
University of Pennsylvania Press

I highly recommend this absorbing and revelatory book. Though her subject seems narrow, Currell traces the relationships of prevailing thought that shaped a wide range of policies affecting all of us to this day.

It also seems an odd if not frivolous subject—leisure in the Great Depression? We are used to a different emphasis in books on the 1930s, as in Malcolm Cowley’s sharp and steady memoir, The Dream of the Golden Mountains, which I’ve recently read. The spectre of vast unemployment, drought, malnutrition, incipient revolution and half a million men a year riding boxcars, would seem to make the issue of leisure irrelevant, or even perverse.

But beginning in the late 1920s it was a concern, and not applied to the rich or leisure classes, but to the working class.


You can search for new and used books with the Powells box on this page. If you order anything after linking from here, this site gets a cut. Thanks.

click to enlarge, or see it full size at San Francisco Chronicle Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Captain Future's Log

Couch Politicos

I was thinking about what Harold Pinter said in his Nobel speech about Bush being clever in refusing to sign international treaties that could hold Americans accountable for war crimes. It was pretty much an announcement that Americans fully intended to commit war crimes, and they have, though whether they would fulfill the definitions of those treaties is unknown and (since they did not sign them) irrelevant. The rising child malnuitrition in Iraq is evidence enough. You don't even have to reference Guantanamo and other torture.

The defining moment for the current political regime was the fall of the Soviet Union. Then the neocons and remnants of the militarist establishment decided they could do damn well what they wanted in the world and nobody could stop them. And nobody has.

Still, they needed an enemy in order to control the American electorate and they're busy creating a really good one. Not being very bright, they've done it way too well.

But when we get around to their reaction to Clinton, the Impeachment and the rest, or even this weird bonding of the neocons and the fanatical religious right, the rubrics of politics, historical analysis and economic analysis all fail to give a complete picture. We need psychology, and we don't have any.

While the right runs rampant with their projections and other raging emenations from their unconscious out there in broad daylight, the "reality based" left can't agree on how to approach the reality of the psyche, especially as it gets expressed in political behavior. Apparently, what psychology means to the reality based is a mechanistic dependence on drugs to manipulate behavior.

I keep coming back to Carl Jung's statement in an interview in the 50s, that humanity hangs by a thin thread, that thread is the psyche, but we know nothing about it. And in nodes of political discussion on the Internet, we don't want to know. We actually seem to think it's irrelevant.

Right now, with no American elections to obsess over, the left blogosphere is considering its own future influence. These days there's a lot of dialogue that is unconscious stuff masquerading as rational argument, but that's fairly normal. Not recognizing that possibility is perhaps normal, but dangerous.

For one thing, it means missing the point and going off on wild sidetracks. Someone should do a statistical study of posts on these community blogs, to calculate the number of comments that actually focus on the topic. Maybe that kid on Numbers can come up with a formula.

Which means to me that the big political blogs will provide certain services: rallying money and participation in campaigns, exposing information available on the Internet pertaining to a lie or policy or whatever; and with a few noble exceptions, it will be less effective in honing a message or focusing on an agenda. Thats not to say these wide-ranging discussions arent valid and valuable. Just that I don't seem them fulfilling that function. I could be wrong.
Pope Ahnold?

I don't pretend to know for certain what the exact criteria should be for a governor contemplating clemency to save the life of a man facing the death penalty, but in refusing to grant this reprieve to Stanley Tookie Williams, Governor Schwarzenegger used language I would have thought more appropriate for the man's confessor.

The sticking point was Williams' insistence that he was not guilty of the murders he had been convicted of committing. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, " Ahnold wrote, " there can be no redemption. In this case the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do."

Atonement? It could be argued that Williams did that with his life in prison. He obviously had remorse for the life he'd led. But he kept insisting he was innocent, infuriating the police and prosecutors. But what baits my hook is all the repeated use of the word redemption.

I thought the governor was being asked to commute a death sentence to life in prison. What does that have to do with redemption? Don't Christians believe that's God's role? Even the Catholics delegate the forgiveness of sin to ordained priests, not politicians. And even they aren't normally presumptuous enough to state who does and doesn't get redeemed.

Ahnold is taking his Terminator role a little too seriously. Hey, Caesar. Stick to the state. Or are you looking for higher office where they don't require American citizenship?

The intense lobbying to kill convicted murderers, whatever the evidence, on the part of police, FBI (when they're involved) and prosecutors, can perhaps be better understood by the headline of a story that appeared the same day as Ahnold's statement in the San Francisco Chronicle: No arrests made in 80% of homicides. That's just San Francisco, but the figures are probably nearly as shocking elsewhere. When they actually arrest someone and successfully make a case, they sure need it to stick.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cheetah, the fastest animal, on the verge of extinction Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Everything in the mind is in rat's country. It doesn't die. They are merely carried, these disparate memories, back and forth in the desert of a billion neurons, set down, picked up and dropped again...You will only find the bits and cry out because they were yourself."

Loren Eiseley

An Anna's Hummingbird photo: E.J. Perker Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 12, 2005

Captain Future's Log

Aliens Among Us

Another day's news of humans killing and torturing each other, with the usual elaborate justifications. Another day of their big confused brains and bigger metal hands destroying their own planet heedlessly.

I'd rather write about birds.

While we expend great energy and interest in trying to discover whether there is alien life elsewhere, we not only ignore the alien life all around us that helped make us human, we are busily destroying it, and the basis for all life on the only planet where we know for sure there is any.

What little we did learn over thousands of years of contact, we are rapidly forgetting. We make up all kinds of rules that tell us what animals can and cannot do, and then we ignore evidence that violates those supposed rules.

We don't have a clue why birds can do all they can do---fly and navigate over huge distances, bury food in hundreds of locations and remember where it is even when the landscape is covered with snow---with such little brains and little bodies.

The Guardian reviewed a book on why birds sing (the apparent conclusion is: because they can) which began with the following passage:

Starlings are great mimics, which is mainly why Meredith West and Andrew King spent a decade studying nine of them at the University of Indiana. They kept four birds in isolation, while the other five lived "in close proximity to their human caretakers, with extensive and friendly bird- human interaction". Not surprisingly, only these five learned to copy human sounds, which they reproduced "in odd ways". "'Basic research' one said. 'Basic research, it's true, I guess that's right.' One bird, which needed to have its claws treated for an infection, squirmed while held, screaming, 'I have a question!'."

I'm sure they have lots of questions.

I grew up on a hill in western Pennsylvania, with stands of trees across the road, and in a hilly lot nearby, and woods not far away. We looked out on a town of roofs parsed with rounded trees. There were rabbits and squirrels around, and when I was quite young, lots of different kinds of butterflies in the wildflowers and "weeds" nearby. And there were birds.

There were robins, cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows and crows in the spring and summer, and occasionally bluejays and bluebirds. Pheasants and even hawks. Once I was looking out during a snowstorm and saw the top of a fir tree become a huge bird with black wings. It might have been an eagle.

Later I lived in an apartment building built into a hill in Pittsburgh. I was on the second floor, and in the front it was a long way down to the sloping street, lots of trees and birds on the wires. One bird, I believe a song sparrow, came back every year, with a distinctive song. I called him Beethoven because he sang the first four notes of the 5th and ended them with a tweet and a trill.

But the back porch was nearly even with a glade of trees where many different kinds of birds came. A visitor remarked she hadn't seen so many different kinds of birds anywhere else in the city (excluding the Aviary, I'm sure.)

When we moved to far northern California, among the many adjustments was the absense of songbirds. We lived in a apartment not far from the community forest. It was patrolled by hawks flying high above us. Crows and gulls were common, and some robins. I saw birds I couldn't identify, but I missed the songs.

Now we live in a house a bit farther away from the forest, and Margaret has gardens in front and back, and she has selected flowers and other plants that attract songbirds. There aren't as many as in PA but there are enough to be a comforting presence.

There are many more species and kinds of birds hereabouts, with our mild coastal climate, open and wooded spaces, and our place on the migration routes. No cardinals or goldfinches, though.

Right now the birds that demands our attention are hummingbirds. This is one of the few places in America where hummingbirds are still coming to feeders in mid December. All summer they use ours to supplement the nectar from the flowers, but now with fewer of their favorites flowering, they are draining the feeder quickly. At a certain point, perhaps soon, the feeder will be untouched, and we'll know they're gone. The sun will bleach the red liquid to a transparent pink.

Migration is also partly why they consume so much now. Migrating species bulk up to perhaps twice their usual weight. There are so many species and subspecies, and so little is really know about their migrations, that its impossible to say where they go. Some fly routes from Alaska to Mexico. Some dip 500 miles or so south. Some don't leave at all.

The species most likely to be ours here are Anna's, Allen's and rufous, but there are apparently hybrids as well. I think we have two species coming to our feeder, though I can't be sure. The other day I watched one perching next to the feeder for an unusually long time. There wasn't much left in the feeder, and I refilled it. He (or she) came back, ate and flew away. Maybe that was the point.

It was either younger or a different, smaller species from the two that seem to be coming around in a pair, though they fly at each other furiously as they approach, and only one feeds at a time. Although I have seen two feeding simulaneously other years.

I read somewhere recently that hummingbirds would probably be on the endangered species list except for backyard feeders. But the reprieve is probably temporary. Humans are destroying habitat too fast for feeders to keep up.

All reprieves are temporary, but some more temporary than others. Between the time I started writing this dumb little piece and the time that I began this sentence, the state of California by official government action ended the life of a man. He may or may not have murdered people. Since then he has contributed to his fellow man. Though such contributions are hard to quantify, it's more than possible he did more good than some of the people insisting that he had to be killed.

So they killed him. I'm not going into any ethical discussions about this. I'm opposed to capital punishment. Humans should be smarter and better than that. But apparently we aren't. If we destroy ourselves, it will be too bad. If we destroy the birds and the other life beyond some bugs and microbes, it will be well beyond too bad.

We seem determined to be the loneliest species conceivable, even if we succeed in surviving. But it would only mean that we would be only one of the last species to die out. Many large animals are well on their way to extinction--the great apes, the great cats. Some birds may make it, though. The evidence grows that they are descendants of the dinosaurs. They survived the last catastrophe, somehow they may survive the one we're making.

Mountain lions are occasionally seen in the community forest. A cougar was seen this summer on this side of the freeway, not a quarter mile away.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Earth, as seen by the Rosetta spacecraft on its way to Venus. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes."


Harold Pinter Posted by Picasa


Nobel Literature Prize Speech: The Search For Truth Can Never Stop

from Nobel Prize Speech by Harold Pinter

In 1958 I wrote the following: 'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so.

But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.
Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C. It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche.

The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them.

You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?

Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'.

This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return.

At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought.

Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped.

Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.
Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

another denial Posted by Picasa
Nobel Peace Prize Address: Nukes Should Be As Repugnant As Slavery

From: Reuters By John Acher and James Kilner

The world should work to make nuclear weapons as universally condemned as slavery or genocide, UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday after receiving the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the world had 27,000 nuclear warheads and "to me, that is 27,000 warheads too many."

"The hard part is how do we create an environment in which nuclear weapons -- like slavery or genocide -- are regarded as a taboo and a historical anomaly?" ElBaradei, an Egyptian, said in his acceptance speech.

Announced as laureates in October, ElBaradei and the IAEA shared the Peace Prize for their work to prevent the spread of nuclear arms and promote the safe use of atomic power in a year marking the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
ElBaradei and IAEA Board of Governors Chairman Yukiya Amano of Japan received gold medals and Nobel diplomas at a ceremony at Oslo City Hall to applause from about 1,000 guests.

ElBaradei urged a halt to proliferation of nuclear arms and disarmament by the "eight or nine" states that now have them. "We must ensure -- absolutely that no more countries acquire nuclear weapons," he said, adding: "We must see to it that nuclear weapon states take concrete steps toward nuclear disarmament."

Where the march of the penuins ends Posted by Picasa
The Deadliest Denial

From: The Psychology of Global Warming:
By Bill Blakemore ABC News

One expert warns temperatures could climb to highest level in 500,000 years.

Journalism has no precedent for a story of the scale or seriousness of global warming. The vast majority of credible climate scientists - well over 95 percent, according to specialists in assessing scientists' opinions - agree that the average temperatures of the oceans, the land surface of the planet and the lower atmosphere (anything lower than the tip of Mount Everest) have been climbing at an accelerating rate.

The same specialists say that nearly as many scientists agree that manmade greenhouse gas emissions are a significant factor - and a good many say the only significant factor - in the dangerous global warming now under way.

If 95 of the world's best, most experienced experts in child well-being were to tell you that your child was under lethal attack - and with dramatic signs already visible if you only look - would you say, "I think I'll wait until the other five experts are convinced before I do anything about it?"

It would be the other way around, and yet that is how a lot of people - and some parts of what's called "the mainstream media" - often seem to be reacting to what the vast majority of scientists are telling us.

The latest news includes a study by one of the Galileos of global warming, NASA's Dr. James Hansen, who told the 11,000 Earth systems scientists at their annual meeting that mankind has at most 10 more years within which significant emissions cuts must get well under way or else the planet's temperatures will, within the next 30 to 40 years (by the time today's toddlers are entering middle age), climb to levels higher than at any time in the last 500,000 years.

Civilization is less than 10,000 years old.

At the worldwide global warming talks in Montreal, scientists elaborated on surprising new reports that the Atlantic currents' "conveyor belt" system has already slowed down - one of the predicted effects of global warming, possibly spurred by fresh water pouring in from the melting Greenland ice cap.

These slowing currents include the Gulf Stream, which carries tropical heat up past New England and over to Britain and northwest Europe. If these currents stop completely, which a new University of Illinois study gives a 45 percent chance of happening before the end of the century, these regions would be far colder.

Alarming news from scientists has accelerated in the past few months:

Arctic summer ice has melted back 30 percent in 30 years, and may disappear in the next several decades.

Non-polar glaciers around the world are disappearing much faster than scientists thought possible.

This year now holds several extreme heat records. Half of all plant and animal species are showing impacts of the warming - in some cases by going extinct.

The World Health Organization estimates that, every year, manmade global warming, aggravating disease and direct heat impact, kills at least 150,000 people and makes 5 million sick.

Alarmist or Alarming?

Psychologists tell us that denial is an inevitable and natural first reaction to such news. We don't want to think we can actually have had such effect on the entire planet any more than a young child wants to believe it can hurt its protective and nurturing parent. Nor do we like to think about drastic change. Nor feel moved to fix the leaks in the roof when it isn't raining, especially when we have never experienced a rain storm.

And for journalists, there is a natural and initially worthy desire not to risk seeming grandiose or alarmist. "Alarmist" is defined in my American Heritage Dictionary as "One who needlessly alarms others."

Two decades ago, many people without questionable motives - and some with - called NASA's James Hansen an "alarmist" when he stood before Congress and said his calculations showed that global warming had begun and was "changing the climate now."

Then his alarm-ing descriptions - and predictions - panned out. Now, with a new set of calculations, Hansen - no longer so alone, joined now by thousands of concerned scientists - is again challenging our psychological capacities to deal with hard news.