Saturday, April 01, 2006
Friday, March 31, 2006
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer Tuesday declared all high schools in the district on "lockdown," which a newspaper (the NewStandard) pointed out is "a term originating in and usually limited to the prison industry."
Nevertheless, over 8,500 students walked out in Los Angeles County alone - thousands more joined walk outs in neighboring Riverside, Orange and San Diego Counties. Thousands of other students in the Bay area, as well as Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas have also left school in protest. When the lockdown proved more effective in LA high schools, grade school students started walking out in protest.
These were among the growing protests against the Republican immigration bills in Congress. All demonstrations, including the largest ever seen in Los Angeles, have been peaceful. But students report being roughed up in their own high schools by police in riot gear.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security is putting the finishing touches on its immigrant detention centers on U.S. soil, where entire families may be sent, for the first time since foreign nationals, immigrants and native-born Americans of Japanese and Italian extraction were imprisoned in North America during World War II.
This is the future according to Bush and his corporate dictatorship.
Protest demonstrations are planned in other U.S. cities in the coming days and weeks.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Can the North Coast laugh at itself? Or are we all up our own tree?
Six years ago, Dave Silverbrand was the news director, anchor and star reporter on the TV station with Humboldt County’s largest TV news staff. They generated 22 hours of local news a week---news at 6 a.m., news at 5 p.m., news at 6 and 6:30 and 11 pm, on KVIQ (Channel 6.) The Ackerley Group, owner of Channel 6, poured a million dollars into staff and equipment. Even when they lured away the anchor of rival KAEF (Channel 23,) Silverbrand remained the genial face of Channel 6 news, second in the ratings to KIEM (Channel 3.)
Then it was over. Ackerley sold out to the broadcasting behemoth, Clear Channel Communications (which reportedly was most interested in Ackerley’s billboard business). As a result of the sale, the Channel 6 local newscasts were closed down completely.
A different version of this story appears this week in the North Coast Journal.
On the heels of TIME's poll on the climate crisis, a new poll of priorities shows that Americans are almost as worried about U.S. dependence on foreign oil as they are about the war in Iraq.
According to a Reuters report: Almost half of the 1,000 Americans surveyed for the Public Agenda Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index gave U.S. policymakers a failing grade in weaning the country from foreign oil. Nearly 90 percent said the lack of energy independence jeopardizes national security.
But perhaps more interesting than the numbers is the interpretation of the legendary pollster, Daniel Yankelovich:
Daniel Yankelovich, chairman of Public Agenda, said the public reaches a "tipping point" when it is gravely worried about an issue and believes the government has the ability to change matters. When the index was first published in August 2005, only the Iraq war triggered a similar response, he said.
"This time we find that a second issue has reached a tipping point, which is energy independence, and you have a very strong increase in the number of Americans who are intensely worried about the problem," Yankelovich said in a conference call.
"Now with this issue having reached the tipping point in the public I think that that means the political complexion of that issue is about to change considerably," he added.
If energy is about to become a major issue, it needs to be more than a national security issue. It needs to be linked to the Climate Crisis, and to another issue which yet another poll places at the top of the list of U.S. voters' concerns: health care. Worry about getting adequate health care was stronger than worry about a terrorist attack.
The link between energy and the Climate Crisis in its long-term aspects is obvious. But health care is also related, partly due to the anticipated public health challenges as the Climate Crisis worsens, partly in a more basic way, as addressing comprehensive needs in a comprehensive and public way. Privatization of everything has failed. It has gone way too far into the public realm, where public solutions make much more sense, even if they don't make as many dollars for the already filfthy rich. And I do mean filthy.
They all three are problems that are going to worsen dramatically in the future. The Climate Crisis is guaranteed to worsen. Peak Oil is probably upon us, and the politics of the Middle East are worsening. Iraq is a tragedy of death and chaos. Iran is in turmoil, and now (one news story insists) Saudi Arabia may be joining Iran in trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Health care worsens as the costs increase and become a greater burden on businesses(all businesses, from Ford and Starbucks to small companies) and families. And the demographic bulge once known as the Baby Boomers will require the kind of healthcare which once described the initiative that became Medicare: medical care for the aged.
All of these challenges are better addressed sooner rather than later, when solutions will cost more in money and pain. People who are interested in government taking the minimum in taxes should be at the forefront in advocating for addressing these problems now. People who are interested in minimizing the suffering of human beings and the waste of precious resources should also be demanding leadership and action now. For in the now, Americans are worried about their health care, energy and the Climate Crisis. It's time for our brave leaders to step in front of the people and lead to solutions, instead of into cynical and self-serving fantasies.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Our either-or mindset and species arrogance has shaped much of our so-called science. The objectivity of science is marred by observations never made, because they don't fit into the reigning dogmas, as enforced by the reigning and usually very defensive dogmatists.
Some assertions are open to question on the basis of definitions that are either too restrictive or too global. Consciousness, for instance, and which live forms have it. How much of consciousness is operational, how much is metaphorical? Hard to say. But science must open up to the questions.
Other assertions can be countered by new observations, even though they are observations of creatures that have been around longer than science, and ostensibly well-observed. But a science based on a gene-centered or individual-centered interpretation of evolution and natural selection tended to discourage observations of subtle relationship behavior, and behavior that tends to benefit the group as a whole. Scientists in the field are now beginning to notice what was in front of them all the time, as well as using new circumstances, approaches and technologies to study animals in more natural circumstances---that is, natural to the animals, not to the lab rat scientists.
So it shouldn't be too surprising that new findings are still being made, such as the recent studies showing altruistic behavior is natural, in human infants and in other primates.
Of course, observing altruism in human infants is something most mothers have done, without benefit of grants or closed-circuit TV. It's just that the theory didn't allow for it, or didn't admit of the possibility that behavior can be selfish sometimes, and sometimes unselfish, without such behavior being taught in either case.
But the primate studies are more consequential because they suggest "altruism may have evolved six million years ago in the common ancestor of chimps and humans." (Even this, I suspect, is too limiting, in terms of species with instincts to share.) They also found that chimps and human infants will cooperate in their unselfish behavior.
It is astonishing that we need bickering scientists to tell us what we observe all the time, and especially in extreme events like natural disasters or ethnic cleansings: some people behave violently and viciously, some merely selfishly, some with heroic altruism, and a lot with a mixture of several of these behaviors, depending on various factors, including leadership. But we are so determined to have our behavior determined by One Thing--be it a god or a gene--that provides us only with an off/on, either/or, us/them switch---that we don't allow ourselves to accept what we already know. We've got it all inside us as well as all around us. We choose, one way or another.
Not recognizing this leads paradoxically to a society that devalues the individual, consciousness and choice. The idea that each of us is dominated by our selfish genes means we are irresponsible and driven, and must be controlled by authority for the good of the state. The idea that we have kindness in us might turn us into bleeding hearts, who want the means of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness available to every individual and family, insofar as we together are able to provide it. Which at this stage of the game, we are. Though thanks to our leaders and controllers of dominant ideas, we don't.
Finally, it's worth remarking that our ethnocentrism likely extends further and farther than we comfortably recognize. What we see as "natural" much of the time is likely shaped by our 10 thousand or so years of Big Agriculture, urbanizing classes and kingdoms---which we euphemistically call civilization--and which we merely assume has always been this way, except in more primitive form (sometimes brutal, sometimes comic, but always simpler.) But it wasn't necessarily so, and there are scholars who believe it decidely was not so.
This unacknowledged context also colors not only the story we tell ourselves about the past, but what we see in the the present. Including in the monarchy of science, which in these centuries has been geared much more to how to do things rather than how to understand. And in science as elsewhere, it is difficult (though not impossible) to see what you are not looking for.
Monday, March 27, 2006
It's taken this long to get through the Monday from hell to the good stuff: last night's The West Wing.
A last week of the campaign-ride plus the reappearance of Toby was the story. Taken together with the previews, here's what I figure we can expect in the next-- and final-- 3 episodes: next week is election day, and Matt Santos either wins outright or there's a year 2000 vote count problem (this possibility set up last night.) And it looks like Leo dies, but my guess is after the election. That would make it "making history," in that an elected v.p. would have to be replaced before being sworn in. What's the Constitutional mechanism for that? Would the outgoing President appoint him, with consent of the Senate?
And pretty obviously, That Couple (Josh and Donna) wind up in the sack after all these years.
So the last two eps may be partly about the vote count, but my guess is that they will largely be about the Bartlett White House, as it slips into history and off the air. The Bartlett White House is what the series always was about, and it's appropriate to end with it.
With a line I was sure was plagarized from Dreaming Up Daily but damn I can't find it ("Be worried. Be very worried," which is in any case derived from a famous line in the 1986 film version of The Fly), TIME magazine's cover announces that the Climate Crisis is for real. This is not your grandfather Luce's magazine, but still, it's a big deal.
Except for the lead graphs, the major (or at least, very long) article itself is behind a wall of money, but the story is accompanied by a poll that is public. And its pretty interesting. Among the findings:
85% of Americans say global warming is probably happening.
- 88% believe global warming threatens the future, with 60% agreeing it threatens future generations a great deal.
- 49% say the issue of global warming is 'extremely' or 'very important' to them personally, up from 31% in 1998.
- When asked about the causes of rise in the world's temperatures, 49% feel it is a combination of the results of human activity and natural cycles.
- 68% believe their American government should do more to address global warming.
- 52% report that weather patterns in the county where they live have grown more unstable in the last three years.
- 70% thinks weather patterns globally have become more unstable in the last three years.
- 66% say The Smirk's policies did little or nothing to help the environment this years.
- 75% want Bush and Congress, along with American businesses, to take action to help the environment.
- 62% believe much can be done to curb global warming.
- 61% would support government mandates on lowering power plant emissions.
The only finding contrary to mainstream science is that 68% believe scientists disagree on global heating, which essentially they don't, except on details. But even swallowing this Bush mantra, more than two-thirds believe the government should do more to deal with the Climate Crisis, almost half say the issue is extremely important to them, and almost 90% believe that global heating is a real problem that will affect the future.
Finally, the Democrats have an issue they didn't know they had. In a 1998 poll, the percentages of Democrat, Republican and Independent voters who were sure global heating is happening were not far apart---all between 30 and 40 percent. Now 46% of Democrats and 45% of Independents are certain, while 26% of Republicans are.
TIME hits the newstands Monday. The poll was done by Time/ABC News & Stanford U., so it's likely to be leading ABC newscasts as well.
UPDATE: My commentary on this frontpaged at E Pluribus Media, and recommended at the European Tribune. And apparently ABC buried their own poll.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
All doom and gloom around here, never any good news? Well, sometimes you have to make the good news.
Half a million (by conservative police estimate) did in Los Angeles Saturday. They marched in protest to the laws Republicans are proposing on immigration, including a provision that would make it a felony for anyone to feed the hungry if they happened to be illegal immigrants. This racist law is also the latest manifestation of Republican class warfare. People have marched against it in Chicago, Phoenix and other cities, but it took the sight of at least 500,000 in Los Angeles---the largest protest in southern CA history---to get the media's attention.
An article by Kevin Zeese of Antiwar.com touts a poll showing that almost 46% of those surveyed agreed to vote only for candidates that support "a speedy end" to the Iraq war.
There are questions about that specific poll and the wording of questions, but Zeese summarizes other recent major poll results, and suggests that " the antiwar movement's potential impact on elections larger than pro-gun, anti-abortion, or anti-gay marriage voters."
Here's the rest of his evidence:
"Only 37% of Americans believe the invasion of Iraq was worth it, 54% believe we should withdraw within a year, and only 22% believe the U.S. is sure to win (down from 79% in 2003) according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. A CBS poll found 70 per cent of Americans think the result of the war with Iraq was not worth the loss of American life and other costs. More and more Americans agree the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a mistake."
The antiwar voting block poll comes on the heels of poll by Le Moyne College and Zogby of veterans showing 72 percent favor withdrawal from Iraq within a year. And, a poll by the University of Maryland on January 31 that shows Iraqis want the U.S. to leave and 67% believe they will be better off when the U.S. leaves."
Zeese is advocating for a group that seeks to organize antiwar voters: Voters for Peace. As such, this is basically p.r., but it does raise a tantalizing possibility. "Just like pro-gun groups have organized, pro-choice and pro-life groups have organized – now the antiwar constituency has been identified and the peace movement is ready to organize them," he writes. "This will ensure that the antiwar movement will no longer be one that can be ignored. "
Wouldn't that be something?