Friday, June 23, 2006

Avalokita, whose head split apart in his
distress at the debasement of humankind. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"No snowflake falls in the wrong place."

Zen saying

The Climate Crisis

World War III

Ron Dembro writes that real leaders of the recent past, like FDR and Churchill who responded to the threat of their time, would see the Climate Crisis for what it is today, our equivalent of World War III. And they would act accordingly.

It's true that what is now required is leadership, and the marshalling of forces. It requires leaders capable of explaining the nature of the crisis, what needs to be done and why, as FDR and Churchill did. It is more of a challenge in that regard because it's a new kind of crisis, and requires ways of thinking that the public is certainly capable of, but is beyond the masked oversimplifications they're used to in recent public discourse.

It requires political courage we haven't seen since Jimmy Carter took on the energy crisis of the late 1970s. Carter got the 55 mph speed limit enacted, which if it were in force today would save the U.S. more than a billion barrels of oil per year, more than the country imports from the Persian Gulf (according to Francis Slakey in the New Scientist.) Carter also mandated fuel efficiency standards in cars, whch account for the modest increase we have today, though without higher mandates in the quarter century since then, manufacturers have done little or nothing more, though the technology already exists to markedly increase fuel efficiency.

Carter called for energy efficiency and conservation, and corporations and the public responded. And it is a little known fact that in the years following, U.S. production of greenhouse gases fell.

But Carter was defeated for reelection, and the idea that his response to the energy crisis was responsible became part of the paralyzing myth of our time. Now leaders are frightened to death to ask voters to change their consumption or be in any way inconvenienced, even when faced with the inconvenient truth of the Climate Crisis. Yet when Californians were asked to conserve energy during the Enron power crisis, they did so with a speed and effectiveness that stunned professional observers.

Leadership or none, the Climate Crisis is not going away. In the past week, the National Center for Atmospheric Research issued a report finding that the number and feroicity of the hurricanes last year was overwhelmingly due to global heating of the oceans caused by greenhouse gases, and not chiefly the result of natural variations.

The National Academy of Sciences issued their Congressionally-mandated report, concluding that the planet is warmer now than for the past 400 years and probably much more, and that other factors--natural variations, volcano activity, etc. cannot account for the rise: only human activity. How many more such studies are necessary?

The effects of heating we're seeing today--the melting of glaciers, icepacks and permafrost; the storms, droughts and bizarre weather, the increase in the range of disease-bearing insects--is likely the result of greenhouse gases built up from the industrial past. As the effect of more recent emissions manifests, things will get worse. Not may, will. While we've been dithering, the buildup has accelerated. China and India are industrializing, but we're not exactly leading by example. Another study issued this week shows that in 28 of our United States, greenhouse gas emissions doubled from 1961 to 2001.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

nebula rcw49 from Spitzer space telescope Posted by Picasa
Another Harvest of Shame

Nobody I voted for had anything to do with this. Yet I feel shamed just by the fact that these people are running the government of my country. Each day renews the reasons for that feeling, but some days it just goes to another level. Like Wednesday, when the Republican majority of the U.S. Senate prevented a bill from coming to the floor that proposed raising the minimum wage.

The minimum wage in the U.S. has been $5.15 an hour for almost ten years. If the minimum wage of 1968 were simply adjusted for inflation, it would be over $9 an hour now. The proposal was to raise it to seven bucks and change.

Recent studies show that right now a full time job at minimum wage will not pay the rent on a one bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.So you can work a forty hour week and be homeless. What's that about? You tell me what that wage is the minimum of. It's clearly not a minimum living wage.

The Republicans didn't want this bill to even be debated, because they would have to say why they opposed it. Doubtless they would have trotted out the argument they've used every time since at least 1961, when they said it to oppose President Kennedy raising the wage to $1.25 an hour: it will drive businesses out of business, and ruin the economy. It passed in 1961, and America had one of its most prosperous decades. It was bullshit then and it's bullshit now.

Instead, on this day, the House of Representative's leadership--Republican leadership--met to make sure they gave urgent priority to further tax cuts for the super-wealthy, in the form of estate tax cuts. Democrats back a bill to lessen such taxes on amounts of $7 million, but that's not enough for the Republicans. They want to cut the taxes of multimillionaires and billionaires, costing the U.S. Treasury billions. Though they claim this is all about helping small businesses and farmers, it's lies and (to employ a farmyard expression again) bullshit.

Who will benefit from this bit of legislation? According to Rep. Louise Slaughter, Bush, Cheney and his cabinet will personally benefit to the tune of between $91 million and $344 million if the estate tax is permanently repealed.

Yes, there is a class war in this country, and it's been openly waged for these ten years. It is the Republican sponsored war of the wealthy against everybody else. It's disgusting, it's demeaning, it's immoral, and it's yet another harvest of shame for this country.
The Projection Project: Object Lesson

Here's a perfect little lesson in applying concepts like projection and denial to the political realm. Republicans shouting "class war" at anyone who deigns to question their class war should have been Wednesday's example, but there's another good one.

Norman Solomon has written about a perfect example, although he doesn't call it projection. In political and journalistic parlance, it's a double standard, or evidence of hypocrisy. He's writing about the response to the torture and brutal murder of two young American soldiers in Iraq:

"The story really takes us back into the 8th century, a truly barbaric world," John Burns said. He was speaking Tuesday night on the PBS "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," describing what happened to two US soldiers whose bodies had just been found. Evidently they were victims of atrocities, and no one should doubt in the slightest that the words of horror used by Burns to describe the "barbaric murders" were totally appropriate.

The problem is that Burns and his mass-media colleagues don't talk that way when the cruelties are inflicted by the US military - as if dropping bombs on civilians from thousands of feet in the air were a civilized way to terrorize and kill.

Solomon makes the appropriate points about double standard in journalism:
Based on the available evidence from Abu Ghraib to Afghanistan to Guantanamo, anyone who claims that US foreign policy does not include torture is disingenuous or deluded. Reporters for the New York Times and other big US media outlets would not dream of publicly describing what American firepower does to Iraqi civilians as "barbaric."

But here we've also got an example of both projection and denial, and how they reinforce each other.

In this case, projection works like this: As Americans and therefore the Good Guys, the violence we do is justified and moral. Because we stand for good, we have no evil in us. But the Others are against us, they stand for evil, and they therefore are totally evil.

Therefore, they are brutal and we are not. Killing people by beheading them is shocking and evil, but killing people by blowing them apart with bombs is justified as an instrument of good, and therfore not brutal. They torture, but what we do is aggressive interrogation, and other acts justified by the ends, or because we know these people are evil.

It comes down to this, though no one will consciously admit it: we are Good, therefore EVERYTHING we do is justified, is Good. They are Evil, therefore EVERYTHING they do or say is Evil. Every reason we have for fighting them is correct. Every reason they propose for why they are fighting us is incorrect and further evidence of their Evil.

By projecting any evil within us onto our enemy, we turn them into hateful symbols, which increases our fear and hatred of them. This has all kinds of consequences, from blinding us to operational realities, to making some sort of settlement--which inevitably must occur--more difficult and farther off in time. Time that is paid for by more blood and suffering of Our people and Theirs.

The endless cycle of attack, outrage, calls for revenge, reprisal, outrage, reprisal that has become the history of the Middle East for our lifetimes is a predictable outcome. It's not the whole story, but it's part of the story.

In the Cold War, projection created an image of the Soviet Union--an evil and powerful monolith--that yearly became more detached from reality, so we were totally unprepared for the Evil Empire suddenly showing itself to be a house of cards. Even though, as Daniel Patrick Moynahan once said, any cab driver in Moscow could have told you what was coming.

By projecting outward onto somebody else this evil that's in us, we blind ourselves to its presence within us. Therefore we cannot possibly believe we do anything bad. Not us individually, not our soldiers and not our leaders, for they are all extensions of ourselves.
So anyone who questions our actions must be on the side of the evildoers. This serves the interests of some, but delusions never serve the whole for very long. Opportunities for settling differences are lost, and the longer conflict continues, the more we morally corrupt ourselves because we can't correct anything if we can't admit to doing anything wrong.

This leads to denial--we deny that we torture, we deny that we're doing such enormous violence to the people, the society and the ecosystem of Iraq. Even if this war was justified, it is unhealthy and unrealistic to deny the realities of this violence.

All of this comes from the unconscious, and because it does, we resist admitting to it. So nobody is going to admit to motivations that are so irrational. They will find ways to rationalize it.

This is where it gets tricky. Refusing to admit that your motivations are unconscious is not proof that they are unconscious, or that your reasons aren't conscious and valid. The trick is to ask yourself the question, is this reason I'm giving really the source? Especially if there is a lot of emotion. Knowing the characteristics of projection or denial helps you make that self-analysis. It helps you explore the answer to the question. It helps you be real. And it can help our political culture and society be truly "reality-based."

Apart from the application, the concepts themselves aren't that difficult, but the whole process seems well beyond the major dialogue of our society, even a century or more after these concepts became available.

But if young people begin to absorb these ideas, use them, and learn these and other skills of peace, a better world is possible.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

red panda of Nepal, from Posted by Picasa
Save Sacred Sites on this Solstice

June 21 is the summer solstice, a sacred day in Native American cultures, often observed with ceremonies. This is the fourth year it is also the occasion for prayer vigils in support of endangered Native sacred sites throughout America.

According to the Sacred Land Project, Vigils will be held at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, CO, and across the country. Among the endangered places being desecrated are Mount Graham and the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, Bear Butte in South Dakota, the Medicine Lake Highlands in northern California, Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia, the Petroglyphs in New Mexico, Snoqualmie Falls in Washington, the Haskell-Baker Wetlands in Kansas, and the Missouri River in the Northern Plains.

From the Morning Star Institute: "Native and non-Native people nationwide are gathering to honor sacred places, with special emphasis on those that are endangered by actions that can be avoided," said Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Muscogee), President of the Morning Star Institute, organizer of this national prayer day.

"Many Native American sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them," said Ms. Harjo. "All other people in the United States have the First Amendment to protect their churches. Only traditional Native Americans cannot get into the courthouse through the Freedom of Religion Clauses. That simply must change as a matter of fairness and equity."

In 1988, the Supreme Court told Congress it had to enact a statutory right of action, if it wanted to protect Native sacred places. "Eighteen years have passed without Congress creating that door to the courthouse for Native Americans," said Ms. Harjo, "and some of these places cannot withstand many more years of legal and physical onslaughts.

"Native and non-Native people are gathering, again, to call on anyone who will listen to help protect these national treasures and to do something about this national disgrace that threatens them."

For details on times and places of vigils to protect Native sacred sites, go here.

A Native sacred site:Mt. Shasta, pictured at sunset in
February. Bloomingrose Posted by Picasa
On Trial: Democracy in America

The system we call representative democracy is seriously threatened in many ways, and if it is finally destroyed, it will happen (a) through apathy, decadence and neglect, and (b) in silence, invisibly.

Because, short of alien invasion, for it to happen requires that nobody notices or believes it's happening. It requires the near total cooperation of government, business and major media, and at least for awhile--perhaps even still--the electorate.

Fear and decadence (expressed in distraction and cynicism as well as bland faith) blinds people to the consequences of the Bushites usurpation of power from the other branches and its violations of Constitutional obligations and Constitutionally guaranteed rights, as well as checks and balances. But where democracy is most obviously threatened is at the ballot box.

Several new book adds more fuel to the gathering fire over the last two stolen presidential elections, from the triumph of gerrymandering that guarantees safe districts for incumbents, and the strategy of voter suppression which is growing in sophistication and size, to theft by other means. But as Joel Bleifuss, the author of one of these books points out, even if electronic voting machines weren't being used to steal votes, we're all but inviting somebody to try by not taking the idea seriously:

Sixty-four percent of Americans voted on direct recorded electronic (DRE) voting machines or optical-scan systems, both of which are, to different degrees, vulnerable to interference through hacking or programming fraud. In most cases Americans are being asked, in effect, to place our absolute trust in voting-machine corporations that have failed to meet minimal expectations of impartiality, honesty, freedom from conflict of interest and transparency. Why haven't the companies that produce electronic voting machines made them so that they provide an audit trail (which is easily achieved through paper records)? And why haven't they allowed government regulators to inspect their software? The answer to both these questions is that no one has effectively demanded that they do so.

Don't be a sap, don't be a patsy. Demand that your state guaranteed safe voting and fair elections.

Posted by Picasa

Boomer Hall of Fame

Creature from the Depths of the 50s

Orson Welles hosted a dinner party sometime in the 40s—maybe during the making of Citizen Kane. Present were his then-girlfriend, actor Delores Del Rio; Gabriel Figueroa, the Mexican cinematographer who shot Night of the Iguana and Bunuel’s Mexican films; and William Alland, member of Welles’ Mercury Theatre and participant in the famed radio “panic broadcast” of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. Figueroa told what he said was a true story about a half-man, half-fish who lived outside a village in the Amazon. The Creature left the villagers alone except for once a year, when he took one of the village maidens. When others laughed at him, he became indignant, claiming he’d even seen a photograph.

Alland didn’t laugh: he remembered. As a movie producer in the early 1950s, he came up with the idea for a film that became It Came from Outer Space and passed it off to Ray Bradbury to develop, so he could concentrate on writing the story of the half-man, half-fish he called “The Sea Creature.”His treatment eventually led to three movies, made back to back and released in 1954, ‘55 and ‘56.

The first was Creature From the Black Lagoon.

Continued at the Boomer Hall of Fame...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

salmon-cedar rope by Susan Point
(Coast Salish) at Posted by Picasa

Happy Birthday

Christina Renee Ivory, and Joe Krajc.
No Nuke Needed

We all know that if we cut down on fossil fuels, we're not going to have enough energy without building new nuclear power plants. We know that because men and women in suits appear on television and say so. They don't say why, they just know.

Maybe they don't know. An actual study finds that it's not necessary after all, at least in England.

The report The Balance of Power by independent consultants ILEX shows that by increasing renewable energy and cutting energy waste the power sector could actually reduce emissions by 55 per cent by 2025.

The report was commissioned by UK's World Wildlife Fund, so caveat all you want, it's a matter of evaluating the data, and it at least suggests that the conventional wisdom is not so wise. Of course there'll be a study commissioned by the nuclear power industry, or their friends in government and the global corporation but why not take a serious look at this?

Keith Allott, Head of climate change at WWF, said: "The much talked about 'energy gap' is simply a myth which has been perpetuated to justify the resurgence of nuclear power. This report shows that a renewed focus on reducing demand for electricity and increasing the use of renewable energy and microgeneration would make new nuclear redundant. We can not only meet energy demand without resorting to new nuclear power, but with the right measures we can reduce emissions from electricity generation too."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mt. Shasta 11/04 by Vicki Brenner Posted by Picasa
Yes, We Will Have No Bananas

Bananas are all over the place now, and they're cheap. Bananas have been the hottest selling item for Wal-Mart for years. Bananas are the world's most popular fruit and fourth most important food crop. Bananas are toast.

Fruits like bananas, and other foodstuffs like maize and potatoes, come in many varieties, and Indigenous peoples bred even more varieties. But Euroamerican capitalists applied the magic of the marketplace to them: they selected one variety that was easy to mass produce, bred for that, grew it in abundance, marketed the hell out of it and destroyed the habitat of all the rest. Native people thought they were crazy, not for the first or last time.

Now the one surviving variety of banana, the Cavendish, is in deep trouble, threatened by a pandemic that could wipe it out. Genetically modifying it in the hopes of creating a resistant strain is pretty difficult and time-consuming, and those fruit company scientists may not get it done in time. Bye bye banana.

There are other banana species in India (where the Cavendish comes from) but rapid industrialization and deforestation is wiping out their habitat. And since Wal-Mart isn't interested in other species, no one else has been. By the time the magic of the marketplace gears up, it may be too late. A tale for our time.

There's a somewhat similiar situation with maize, the world's most widely grown crop. Corn is routinely interbred to keep it viable, but the stockpile of available genes is dwindling, partly because of incompetence in storing seeds, and partly by the lack of variety in the ground. The dominant breeds are getting genetically simpler, and less resistant to disease.

Maybe when bananas and other foods vanish forever, along with the varieties of fish that have already quietly disappeared, the stupidity of relying solely on the corporate marketplace for all values governing our societies--putting all our eggs, as it were, in one basket-- will finally sink in.

The Daily Babble

It's gotten so I have to remember to wear earphones when I go into a video store or I can't stay for more than a few minutes. Why do they have to play their movies or music so loud? First of all it's impossible to hear yourself think in order to make a selection when you're attacked by whatever plot line and noise is filling the store, even if it's something you'd like if you were actually watching it. My last visit it was beyond distraction--it was so loud it was physically painful.

And would it kill them to clean the DVDs once in awhile? Okay I know they're paid appallingly little, so the least they can do is with every fifteen DVDs you rent, you get a free bottle of disk cleaner. I have to use the stuff on most of the DVDs I rent.

So this isn't the usual high-minded stuff you're used to around here, but I'm not about to whine about North Korea testing a longrange missile when my unesteemed government bullies everybody who can't threaten it, and this country's leading industry, next to garbage, is arms sales. Not that the present DC regime is going to lose sleep over losing California to a North Korean nuke.

by Tom Toles Posted by Picasa