Saturday, June 20, 2009


For a veteran of the 60s, who was a happy witness to Solidarity in Poland, the Velvet Revolution, South Africa, all the liberation movements in Eastern Europe as the Wall fell, the Iranian revolutionaries--because after today, that's what they are--exert a powerful and emotional pull. Their choice of the peace sign itself is powerful and irresistible. My barely informed impression is that this is very much a youth movement as well, and most particularly, a movement of women. This photo and others like it collected by Al Rodgers at Kos (who admittedly has an eye for the ladies) make a definite impression, but other reporting support this notion. Roger Cohen in the New York Times--one of the few professionals reporting, along with the citizen reporters on YouTube and Twitter, etc.--makes this point as well: "I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”
This revolution by women and the young comes as a revelation to the rest of the world, and a shock to our simplistic media cliches, but it obviously has been building for quite awhile. It's also noteworthy that Iranians now living in cities in the U.S. and all over the world were quick to take to the streets in support of those marching in Tehran.
Exactly what happened in Iran on Saturday is not yet fully known, except the significance of defying the nation's official spiritual as well as political leader. As Andrew Sullivan wrote on his blog: "Whatever happens, the Iranian people have already shown the world what a love of freedom means. Their spirituality, tenacity, wit, and compassion have shone through every moment. Whatever happens, they have proven a heroic nation for the 21st Century. We should honor them for this moment. And stay with them in the days ahead."

Update on Hate

Bob Herbert has a column on the growing extremism and violence of the rabid right (apropos a previous post here), and links it to guns and the need for gun control--one issue that unfortunately the Obama administration is avoiding.

Meanwhile, a front page post at Kos catalogues the latest ugly and incendiary rhetoric from Republicans--officials within the party organization and/or public officials--including more examples of overt racism regarding President Obama.

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may well be another profound truth."
Niels Bohr

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Two Crises

While the world watches the unfolding Iran crisis--and monitors tweets in what may become the first social networking political revolution--a combined report by 13 U.S. government agencies warns of the slowly unfolding Climate Crisis, which is likely to be even more consequential, but lacks the visible drama that media connects to the cause, which is global heating.

According to the New York Times story: " Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies, transportation and human health."

Dealing with the inevitable effects of climate change is going to cost money and demand attention in increasing quantities. This is the other Climate Crisis that no one is talking about. Among the many conceptual challenges posed by the Climate Crisis is the time lag between cause and effect. The effects we are feeling--even if we don't acknowledge the causes--and the effects we will feel increasingly in the coming decade, according to this report and many other indicators, were caused by greenhouse gases emitted in the past.

But the truly devastating changes that are likely in the farther future are being caused by today's emissions, and tomorrow's. So we have to deal with two crises at the same time, one of which is invisible, and the other at the moment is not widely understood as consequences of greenhouse gas pollution. Our challenge will be--our challenge now is--to deal with both causes and effects simultaneously. It's probably the greatest challenge humanity will face for the forseeable future.

Additional perspectives on this report from the SF Chronicle, and more details with link on effects in specific parts of the U.S. in CS Monitor.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stop Coddling These Extremists

I'm currently still out here on the fringe of the City of Champions, Pittsburgh, PA, and because of circumstances too boring to relate, my Internet access and blogtime have been spotty. But if I had blogged here last week, it would have looked a lot like Frank Rich's column in the NY Times on Sunday, about the atmosphere of hate being exploited and inflated by Rabid Right politicians and media bloviators.

As Rich points out, even a FOX News anchor is warning of the extreme and violent email he is seeing, particularly aimed at President Obama. I would add a few thoughts to Rich's links and commentary:

First, the racism that I call recessive racism is usually repressed because it is societally taboo. But when established, highly paid megaphones legitimize it, it can come out with frenzied force. There is nothing rational about it at that point.

Second, the motivation for enabling violent extremism may seem like something else to those doing it, or the reasons may seem principled, but clearly a great deal of it is about cynical politics, about ego and power and especially it is about money and power. This is especially true for the media mouths who incite it. The commercial culture as well as the political culture has some responsibility to place limits of legitimacy, because the bottom line in society is not corporate profit or personal greed.

The additional temptation is that in this noisy, attention-deficit atmosphere, the extreme and borderline violent commands attention. But other societies have learned to their great sorrow just how dangerous it is to let things get so extreme that the violent unhinged feel justified in behavior they can't understand or control.

When an attempt is made on the President's life, it will be too late to be sorry that this is going on, and that this society enables the enablers, particularly by admiring anything anybody does that results in riches and celebrity.

Whenever there is a hate crime in a given neighborhood or city, the marchers come out to show that the community won't stand for it. I don't know if that's the approach that has to happen on a larger scale, but something has to more effectively communicate the larger society's belief that this hate and violence is unacceptable, repugnant and to be condemned, and those that engage it in, encourage and enable it, are to be condemned and cast outside legitimate societal roles, not given international media forums, huge contracts, or public office. It's time for zero tolerance for media and political incitement of perhaps the most momentous hate crime imaginable.