Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Fire This Time

Update Monday: The Yosemite fire slowed a bit but is again threatening the SF water supply.  President Obama promises federal emergency support.

The wildfire crossing the borders of Yosemite in California has tripled in size, with potential to grow more today.  Because it threatens both power and water supply for San Francisco, Governor Brown has declared a state of emergency.

Several hydroelectric plants near the fire have stopped operating, and there have been blackouts reported in San Francisco.  The fire is closing in on areas that supply 85% of San Francisco's water.  This same area supplies power to the San Francisco airport and municipal buildings.

The fire is at best 5% contained, and it is so powerful that it is creating its own weather.

This is one of 50 major fires burning in the West.  There's another north and east of here that is sending smoke down to us.  It may burn a long time yet.

Update 10 p.:  The Yosemite fire is still mostly out of control, but the area near the San Francisco power and water supply has apparently been secured, and damage is being assessed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


In previous match-ups between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants I was equally happy/sad whoever won.  Not this time.  In what even a Giants' radio announcer called "a lost season," and with the Pirates in a tight pennant race for the first time in 20 years, I'm afraid I'm no longer post-partisan.

The Pirates are in a tough fight in a very tough division with St. Louis and Cinncy, both of which won on Thursday.  So I was rooting for the Bucs, even at ATT Park, though sad to see that the Giants' bad luck just continues, with Matt Cain the latest player and pitcher to be injured.  First reports are that it isn't serious, though.

The Pirates won Thursday 10-5 to stay in first place by just one game.  There are three more games in the series.

Update Friday: First reports were optimistic--Cain is on the 15 day disabled list.  One more wound for the wounded Giants. No team deserves a season like this.  The Pirates won a high scorer on Thursday, and then a pitcher's duel on Friday, 3-1.  But St. Louis also won, so the Pirates just held their ground.  The Reds lost, though.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Snowden, Greenwald, the NSA: a Perspective

In the department of who cares what I think but I'm going to tell you anyway, here's my take on the squabble so far.

Glenn Greenwald is a an asshole.  I don't trust him as a journalist.  But the actions of British police in subjecting his partner to nine hours of interrogation at the London airport that was a transfer point was sheer thuggery, and exactly what people are justifiably afraid of when "security" gets too much power.

That the Brits overstepped their bounds is also the opinion of the U.S. White House and in fact of the Brit who helped write the terrorism law they supposedly were employing:   Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former Labour lord chancellor who was involved in introducing the anti-terror legislation used to detain Miranda, said the police had no right to detain him under the Terrorism Act 2000... Falconer, who helped introduce the act in the Lords before he became lord chancellor in 2003, told the Guardian: "I am very clear that this does not apply, either on its terms or in its spirit, to Mr Miranda."   (Yeah, ironic for USers that the guy's name is Miranda and his rights were violated.)

As for the NSA etc. there's been more heat than light.  The heat ranges from the media simply suggesting untoward intrusions to the rhetoric of Greenwald and Snowden likening it to Nazi atrocities.  While even President Obama acknowledges that Snowden's revelations got America to pay attention to the problems of ensuring privacy at the same time as the law and the country apparently wants every possible effort to track and stop terrorists, there's so far only fragmented and inconclusive information about what's really going on.

While some folks like Andrew Sullivan and John Cassidy at the New Yorker are alarmed, Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker is less concerned about the revelations than what the costs of Snowden's security breach are and will be.  Only on the basis of the arguments each has made so far, I'm more persuaded by Toobin.

It goes without saying that thuggery and similar excesses are always a danger with any kind of police, and the more power and secrecy they have, the more potential for big bad abuses.  But we're not so far talking about anything being done with any information gathered, or for that matter, any information other than the fact of someone calling someone, which like it or not (as Toobin notes) is not protected by law.  Maybe it should be but it ain't.  Also, it could be that the only people in America who are surprised by this are those who haven't seen a cop show in the past five years.

We're also not talking about censorship, about tracking what people take out from the library, or about torture, or sending people to secret prisons never to be heard from again--we're not even talking about the abuse of that stupid concoction called the no-fly list.  All of which the American public was apparently willing to allow by reelecting President Bush in 2004, who instituted them all.

And again I'll only mention that the most active intrusions and use of collected information that I know of are by corporations for their own profit and that of their clients.  Beyond that, I'd like to see more light on the subject and less self-serving heat.   Yeah, idealist.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

As Jung Once Said...

"In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.”

Memories, Dreams, Reflections
p 325
for a fuller context for this quote: Blue Voice.

painting: Le Printemps by Gino Severini