Friday, February 17, 2006
Although there's expectation that good bloggers post every day on topics of the moment, to feed their readers, this doesn't turn out to be how people use blogs, at least not exclusively.
Or not mine anyway. Although a discouraging number of hits come from people who seem to be surfing the most recent entries in the blogosphere at that moment, and judging from the blogs they've just come from, don't stay around to read much more than a line or two, there are also people who arrive with a purpose. And because they've shown up as the result of a search on some specific topic, they are often directed to the archives. The posts of past days, weeks or months.
Sometimes they've been directed errantly (Somebody asked "what does dreaming of a funeral mean?" and got sent here. ) But often enough they've come to the right place, even if all they're looking for is the true history of the Terrible Towel (archived on Blue Voice.)
It's true I don't get many comments, but (as Spencer Tracy said of Katharine Hepburn's anatomy in "Pat and Mike") what's there is cherse (choice.) Like a Bush's brain joke from Portugal. But I also get comments on old posts, including (for instance) a correction on a character's name in a Jane Austen movie. Or even on a post more than a year old, concerning the celebration marking Eureka's return of some land to the Wiyot.
So I try not to feel guilty when I'm not really in the mood to post yet another depressing proof of global heating--and today's is deeply frightening--or even when I berate myself for spending the time I do on writing that's maybe read by such a small number of daily visitors. Because what I've put out there in cyberspace is out there, and when people want it, they'll find it.
Now I feel like I have to say why that story is so depressing. Greenland's glaciers are melting far faster than predicted, which seems to indicate that heating is happening faster and the estimates of the future temperature rise are way low. It also means, as the story says, that sea levels are rising faster, which will add to storm damage on the coasts, and since the seas are hotter, the storms themselves will be more severe.
But that's not all. What the story doesn't dwell on is that the earth's supply of fresh water is rapidly diminishing, because a whole lot of it is in those glaciers. In 1996, the amount of water produced by melting ice in Greenland was about 90 times the amount consumed by Los Angeles in a year. Last year, the melted ice amounted to 225 times the volume of water that city uses annually.
Nobody knows how the climate crisis will play out in terms of the rain cycles, but it seems a safe bet that diminishing the fresh water supply is a very bad thing, not just for now but for a long time. And for all the vaunted advances of sciences, you can take all the gene technology and neuroscience and quantum computers combined, and it won't mean a thing because science has no idea of how to make H2O. Except of course by adding water.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
The American facility is back in the news. After recent weeks of increasing charges of cruel and unusual punishment, of the majority of prisoners never charged and many captured in random sweeps:
Today, the AP : The United States must close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay because it is effectively a torture camp where prisoners have no access to justice, a U.N. report released Thursday concluded.
The 54-page report summarizing an investigation by five U.N. experts accused the United States of practices that "amount to torture" and demanded detainees be allowed a fair trial or freed. The investigators did not visit the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"Those people should be released or brought before an independent court," Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator for torture, told The Associated Press. "That should not be done in Guantanamo Bay, but before ordinary U.S. courts, or courts in their countries of origin or perhaps an international tribunal."
The U.N. investigators said photographic evidence — corroborated by testimony of former prisoners — showed detainees shackled, chained and hooded. Prisoners were beaten, stripped and shaved if they resisted, they said.
The White House rejected the recommendation.
The American shame is not only Guantanamo Bay Prison but the fact that Americans have allowed it to continue. Where was the outcry saying precisely what the UN does, but years ago, before all this suffering? Even if Guantanamo were to be closed tomorrow, that Americans permitted it to exist has brought us closer to the possibility of a totalitarian police state for all of us in our near future.
What does "this place" really mean, in real life?
It can mean lots of things. A couple of them were suggested to me by two letters to the editor, on the very same page of the North Coast Journal a couple of weeks ago.
Continued here at This North Coast Place.
The latest health news:a study found that calcium pills and Vitamin D don't help to prevent broken bones in women over 50, nor do they help prevent cancers. This study, released by the federal Women's Initiative, the same outfit that earlier announced that low fat diets don't do anything to prevent colon cancer or heart disease.
In between there was yet another study saying that saw palmetto doesn't help prevent older men from needing to relieve themselves so often in the middle of the night.
So what gives? Are we entering the era when Woody Allen's Sleeper future comes true, and the road to health is paved with chunks of fat and heavy smoking?
Well, as usual the studies don't entirely support the conclusions in the headlines, and some nitpickers maintain they are flawed. But there is another possibility, which one might intuit by quoting one of the doctors quoted by the Times in their story on calcium:
As a therapy to protect against osteoporosis, Dr. Finkelstein said, supplements are "pretty weak." Women who have the condition should consider taking one of the seven prescription drugs on the market that have been shown in rigorous clinical trials and approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent fractures, he advised. Six of the drugs inhibit bone breakdown and one spurs the growth of new bone.
While calcium supplements and saw palmetto are part of a multi-billion dollar business supported by advertsing, they're nothing compared to the profits possible with prescription drugs, particular patented ones. You can't patent calcium.
Does this have anything to do with this assault on cheaper and more natural contributions to health, especially for those over 50, an age group which now includes the leading edge of the enormous baby boom generation? Perish the thought.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The New York Times has one of those insider gossip reports on tensions between the staffs of the president (The Big Smirk) and vice-president (Dead-Eye Dickhead.) Those tensions always exist between staffs, and a situation like this one--with Dead-Eye's negligent shooting and serious wounding of a 78 year old man under still unknown circumstances at a shooting"birds in a barrel" hunting emporium--always brings it out.
But this is the supposed vice-president, who has no constitutional duties other than presiding over the Senate (which he hardly ever performs) and letting people know where he is in case the president dies. His staff should be about as powerful as the First Lady's.
Of course that's not the case in this White House. Amidst all the grumbling and rumbing in the piece about how Smirk's staff would have been more forthcoming sooner, there's the money paragraph:
Several White House officials said no one among the White House staff, including the chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., felt empowered to dictate how news of the accident would be handled.
The Smirk's COS can't impinge on the power of the v.p.'s staff. Not that Cheney being the real prez is any big revelation---he's the guy who worked with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and all the architects of the current bloody policy to create booty for their corporate fellow trough feeders. And nobody much believes the Smirk can do much more than walk and clear brush at the same time.
But now it's pretty obvious to everyone, isn't it? That must drive the Smirk's staff nuts, as well as turning them even redder, this time with embarassment.
--a new slogan perhaps for climateprediction.net which uses distributed computing to test models of climate change against real climate changes. According to World Changing, they're about to get a big boost from the BBC in their latest effort.
But the big news is for you. Just download their software and you get your very own Earth! You run a climate model and you can see the results: What makes this version of the software particularly fun is that the "screensaver" mode shows your current Earth model in action, and has shortcuts for looking at current temperatures, cloud cover, and rainfall, among other bits of info. Since the software runs in the background, that's the extent of the interactivity -- but still, you do get to see "your" planet evolve.
So get your Smokey the Computer into earth-saving mode, go to World Changing and download the future.
In another positive development, there's more evidence of increasing investment energy going into alternative sustainable energy systems. The New York Times has noticed that wind power is catching more than a breeze of interest. This article also indicates that General Electric is about to kick all its sustainable energy programs into higher gear.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
inside each night
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.
We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
(Thanks to Karin; Happy V-Day to Margaret and all my Dear Readers...)
It turns out that the man Cheney shot has pellets near his heart, and suffered a heart attack this morning. Doctors told AP that they had always known of the pellets, which means the seriousness of this 78 year old man's wounds were not accurately reported, even after a day's delay.
It's one thing for comedians and commentators to joke about this incident when they believed the man's wounds weren't serious. It's quite another for the White House and The Big Smirk to joke about it---as they have been doing today--when they have or should have access to the full medical report. And minimizing the condition of Cheney's shotgun victim goes beyond the bounds of spin, to despicable lying.
UPDATE: According to Think Progress, the White House had learned of the victims heart attack hours before Press Secretary McClellan's noon briefing--but he not only didn't mention it, he denied that there was anything "new" to report.
A roundup of some of the journalistic commentary on Dead-Eye Dickhead Cheney's madman + shotgun malfunction...
[thanks to fbihop at dkos for the TV stuff, and to Crooks & Liars which has the Jon Stewart video:]
Jon Stewart pointed out that Whittington was the first man since Alexander Hamliton to be shot by a sitting Vice President. "Hamilton, of course, shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington? Mistaken for a bird."
In a public service mood, Stewart cautioned parents :"Don't let your kids go hunting with the Vice President. I don't care what kind of lucrative contracts they're trying to land , or energy regulations they're trying to get lifted. He'll shoot them in the face."
Stewart in turn solicited analysis from Rob Corddry, his vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst:
Tonight, the Vice President is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Whittington. Now, according to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush. And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year old man, even knowing that today, Mr Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr Whittington in the face.[...]He believes the world is a beter place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Whittington's face.
In a post-9/11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak.
David Letterman's best pot-shots:
Good news, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction - it's Dick Cheney.
We couldn't get bin Laden, but we nailed a 78 year old attorney!
And the inevitable Top Ten List:
Top Ten Dick Cheney Excuses
10.Heart palpitation caused trigger finger to spasm.
9. Wanted to get the Iraq mess off the front page.
8. Not enough Jim Beam.
7. Trying to stop the spread of the bird flu.
6. I love to shoot people.
5. The guy was making cracks about my lesbian daughter.
4. I thought the guy was trying to go gay cowboy on me.
3. Excuses? I hit him didn't I?
2.Until democrats approve medicare reform we have to make some tough choices for the elderly.
1. Made a Bet With Gretsky's Wife.
Earlier in the day, the print commentators fired away. There were several shooting their mouths off on the Huffington Post, for example.
"Keep going, we'll come back for him later, he's fine."
"Um. Sir. Mr. Vice President, he's kinda just laying there."
"Shhhhhh!!!! He's a lawyer. You want him to sue?...Harry? You OK? Harry? See? He's fine. This is just part of the administration's new tort reform package."
I think he's hurt sir. He's bleeding."
"You think he's hurt. Are you a doctor?"
"Yes. I'm your doctor. I travel with you all the time."
"Ah yes. The Jew. I didn't recognize you without the rib spreader."
"I think we need to call one of your ambulances."
"Aw, now why do you want to go and do something like that? If Antonin hears about this he won't come duck hunting next time there's an important case before the Supreme Court that I need him to rule on." ..." Well, do your best."
"I'm stanching the blood flow."
"No you idiot. I meant do your best to make it look self-inflicted."
And if a fellow hunter gets shot, well that's "collateral damage," just like the women and children in Iraq when Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld try to shock and awe them. The collateral damage is a side effect, it's not the intention. Bush-Cheney intend to kill the terrorists, and the quails. And if other people get shot, well you have to accept that as a necessary price since they're protecting us from terrorists. And quails.
At first I thought Cheney had been hunting Dan Quayle, in a delayed reaction to his misspelling of potato years ago. Potatoe as opposed to potato. Early reports of the incident supported this supposition, and claimed Cheney had been shouting, "No e, no e!" as he aimed his gun at his startled hunting partner Harry Wittington.
Later reports indicated that the "No e!" report was an error, and that Cheney instead has a habit of yelling "Ho, hee, ho, hee!" whenever he kills something. "It's sort of a parody of Santa Claus on a rampage," said Cindy Sheehan, Cheney's recently hired new spokesperson.
"Quails are not the only fowl Dick Cheney likes to kill," Ms. Sheehan said. "He also likes to kill owls as well as to wound his grandchildren in the kneecaps."
When you write this up, can you remind your readers that the Cheneys' daughter is a lesbian?" Ms. Sheehan added. "And that they are very proud of her and support her right to exist, though Mr. Cheney has accidentally shot their daughter's partner 7 times."
"But she, unlike the troops, has full protective armor, and so Cheney's accidental attempts to kill her have not yet succeeded."
Over the weekend, Vice President Dick Cheney shot a man in Texas. Asked why he shot the man, the Vice President said, "Just to watch him die."
You know who's doing a "there but for the grace of God go I?" Scalia.
Now, I imagine that Cheney and the President have hunted together. What would have happened if Cheney had shot the President? I think if he shot Bush this way, Bush isn't 78 and he's in pretty good shape, and he's kinda macho. I think he would've gotten up and shot Cheney back. And I think they would've started blasting each other like in a Tarrantino movie."
Monday, February 13, 2006
Yesterday there was official story of how vice-president Deadeye Dickhead Cheney shot a fellow hunter. Today the wire services, newspapers and TV reporters are swarming over questions about the story, about why it took until Sunday for a shooting that happened on Saturday to be reported (even to Bush), and just how much Cheney was at fault.
But as usual the fun is at the blogs. If you're one-stop shopping, the place to go is firedoglake. Besides detailed posts on why Cheney's account stinks, there's speculation on this incident as the occasion for a Big Goodbye.
But the other biggies have been at this from various angles for the past 24 as well. My favorite so far is from the Booman Trib: Booman quotes Howard Dean from a Sunday talk show, on the Valere Plame Game:
"President promised two years ago that he would fire the leaker. He hasn't kept his promise. Karl Rove is not only still working in the White House, but he has security clearance. Now it turns out that the vice-president of the United States may have been responsible for those leaks for political reasons. That is the kind of thing that has not been done to my knowledge since Aaron Burr was vice president." Howard Dean- Face the Nation, February 12th, 2006
Booman then adds: Aaron Burr is also the last Vice-President to shoot anyone.
Apparently Good Night and Good Luck, the George Clooney film about Edward R. Murrow, is just now opening in England, and so it is the occasion for a fascinating article in the Guardian, which I will be quoting at length.
As it happens, I've just seen this movie for the first time myself-- on a double bill with Capote, which seemed to me to be a better film but not as important and endearing. But Good Night is a good movie, terrific to look at, gritty but glowing, and good storytelling, with even an odd B story about a couple keeping secrets that counterpoints the general paranoia of the McCarthy era, yet pays off with a joke at the end that reveals another aspect of Murrow's personality.
I left the theatre once again marveling at my good fortune in growing up when there were real models for excellence in journalism, especially on television. Murrow was one. I was very young in the years depicted in this film, but I remember his programs (including "Person to Person" in which he appeared just as bored as depicted in this movie.)
I especially recall what turned out to be one of his final CBS programs, the documentary "Harvest of Shame," when it was first broadcast. As a high school student pondering my future, I recall being especially stunned and awed by one fact: that no child of a migrant worker had ever been to college.
To think now that I expected journalism like this on television regularly! And for awhile, there was a good deal of it. CBS Reports, NBC White Papers, Howard K. Smith's half hour---and daily news from Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. Nearly every journalist I respected then was directly or indirectly a student of Edward R. Murrow.
Of course, there was a lot of sententiousness and stodginess, leading directly to the 1960s news satires like That Was The Week That Was, or even the satirical turns comics like Steve Allen did on the news in the 50s.
But thanks to George Clooney and company, Murrow has returned to at least suggest a model for a new generation. (I mean, who do we have besides Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann, who make fun of the news, and Amy Goodman, who does her radio show on TV?) That's what impressed me the most about this Guardian piece: the sense of somebody standing up and bringing this sort of commitment to today, from Murrow's generation (and, as it turns out, Clooney's father) to today's.
Excerpts from the article below, after the photo.
I've heard George Clooney say on TV that when he was young he idolized CBS producer Fred Friendly, the man he plays in this film. That was because of his father, who (in this interview) he says was a journalist who "went directly at" presidents on the most important stories.
His father also idolized Murrow. From the Guardian story:
Clooney's father is a silent presence throughout Good Night, and Good Luck, which was inspired partly by the memories Clooney has of hanging around as a child at the TV studio where he worked, in Kentucky. Clooney Snr believed, as Murrow did, that McCarthy's anti-communist hearings compromised basic civil liberties in the US, in a way that his son parallels with Bush's anti-terrorism laws. It is a very good film, shot in black and white and romantic about the golden age of TV, when everyone smoked and drank Scotch ("and died of emphysema" drawls Clooney) and a news show like Murrow's could collar a 40-million strong audience. The end of the film lifts the hairs on your neck, when Murrow addresses the annual TV industry gathering and makes what has become known as the "box and wires speech", in which he says that television has the power to enlighten but "it can do so only to the extent that humans are allowed to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box". Clooney recalls his father standing on a chair at home and reciting it.
Clooney, who co-wrote and directed the film, decided not to play Murrow himself because "the secret to Murrow is that there is a sadness to him. You always felt that he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and that's not something that you can act, it's something that you just sort of are. " He found that kind of demeanor in the character actor, David Strathairn (I'll always remember him as Molly Dodd's shy bookstore owner boyfriend), who also has a great voice for the part---not as rich and important-sounding as Murrow's, but close.
Clooney knew he couldn't pull that off--he can act a solemn demeanor, pissed-off and even cold, and he's terrific at being comically confused, but he's done best by the shades his own affable charm. His success came fairly late---he was 33 when he started "ER," the part that launched him, and now that he's a big star at 44, he's also becoming one of the more politically active Hollywood figures with the clout and intent to communicate by means of the stories he chooses to tell.
He's also become tougher about political attack, and though he says he prefers to deflect it and make his points with some humor or at least irony, he can be pretty articulate directly:
Clooney is sufficiently battle-hardened these days to shrug it off when people have a go at him. "I was at a party the other night and it was all these hardcore Republicans and these guys are like, 'Why do you hate your country?' I said, 'I love my country.' They said, 'Why, at a time of war, would you criticise it then?' And I said, 'My country right or wrong means women don't vote, black people sit in the back of buses and we're still in Vietnam. My country right or wrong means we don't have the New Deal.' I mean, what, are you crazy? My country, right or wrong? It's not your right, it's your duty. And then I said, 'Where was I wrong, schmuck?' In 2003 I was saying, where are the ties [between Iraq] and al-Qaida? Where are the ties to 9/11? I knew it; where the fuck were these Democrats who said, 'We were misled'? That's the kind of thing that drives me crazy: 'We were misled.' Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic."
Clooney doesn't only look to the best of a previous generation for heroes in general, but also for models for his own career. With Good Night and Good Luck and his other political film, Syriana, winning audience, critical acclaim and Oscar nominations, he told the Guardian that he's hoping to follow "the tradition of the great campaigning film-makers of the 1960s and 1970s - "Sidney Lumet, Alan Pakula, Hal Ashby, Kubrick." He is having the time of his life now; everything that came before was just prologue. "I've taken on my dad's battles. I'm fighting the fights that he fought. Oh, it's trouble," he grins. "Trouble big-time."