Saturday, June 17, 2006

Luna by Magritte Posted by Picasa

Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"…the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday, June 16, 2006

by Max Ernst Posted by Picasa

Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery."

Happy Bloomsday from
James Joyce

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Orion by IRAS infrared astronomical satellite Posted by Picasa
What Americans Want From Their Government

Daniel Yankelovich (a review of his new book linked below) has issued the latest report of his survey organization, Public Agenda.

The first survey, conducted in June of last year, found that only the war in Iraq had reached the "tipping point" -- the moment at which a large portion of the public begins to demand that the government address its concerns. According to this follow-on survey, conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 American adults in mid-January 2006, a second issue has reached that status. The U.S. public has grown impatient with U.S. dependence on foreign countries for oil, and its impatience could soon translate into a powerful demand that Washington change its policies. "

Note that this survey was completed well before the latest spike in gasoline prices. The survey also shows broad rejection of the Bushite foreign policy. Rejection of the Iraq war still leads and is even stronger:

"One reason for the downward trend is skepticism about how truthful Washington has been about the reasons for invading Iraq. Fifty percent of respondents said they feel that they were misled -- the highest level of mistrust measured in the survey. Another source of skepticism may be more troublesome for the government: only 22 percent of Americans surveyed said they feel that their government has the ability to create a democracy in Iraq. "

What kind of foreign policy do Americans support?

"The U.S. public holds a strikingly clear view of what Washington's foreign policy priorities should be. The goals the public highlights range widely. Those that receive the most public support are helping other nations when they are struck by natural disasters (71 percent), cooperating with other countries on problems such as the environment and disease control (70 percent), and supporting UN peacekeeping (69 percent). A surprisingly high level of support shows up for goals that represent the United States' humanitarian (as distinct from its political) ideals, such as improving the treatment of women in other countries (57 percent), helping people in poor countries get an education (51 percent), and helping countries move out of poverty (40 percent). Receiving less support are goals such as encouraging U.S. businesses to invest in poor countries (22 percent). And receiving the least support is "actively creating democracies in other countries" (20 percent). "

This report should be required reading for Democrats looking for successful candidates in 2006 and 2008.
Two for the Ages

This spring, Yale University Press has published summary works by two distinguished Americans in different fields that address attitudes and actions forming our common world : the famed psychologist and writer Jerome Kagan, and the veteran expert on public opinion and social values research, Daniel Yankelovich. Both books are of special interest to their disciplines but in this era of boundlessly bounded expertise, both are of immense value to a wider readership. This relevance reflects the careers and lifelong concerns of both authors to relate their work to the general welfare, and to the major public dialogues of their times.

More at Books in Heat

Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor in the BBC series,
Doctor Who. Posted by Picasa
Who's First

The first season of the revived BBC series Doctor Who recently concluded in the U.S. How was it? And did it show us the next Captain Kirk?

Read on, at Soul of Star Trek...

The Daily Babble

Versions of the Dr. Strangelove/ Sanity Clause piece linked below have been frontpaged at Booman Tribune and E Pluribus Media, and listed at the top of the Daily Kos "Diary Rescue" feature as particularly worthy of attention.

The full version with photos remains at 60's Now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

kala chakra. Posted by Picasa
The No Rove Blues

Karl Rove's lawyer dashed visions of Karl Rove frog-marched into prison when he announced that he'd received a letter from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stating that there were no plans to indict Rove.

The responses on the lefty sites were varied. Some questioned whether Rove was "cooperating," maybe to get Cheney. Some dissed those who had reported that Rove would be indicted, and those who believed them. An Associated Press report suggested that while Rove was lying to the press and public, he was telling the truth to the FBI: The decision not to charge Karl Rove shows there often are no consequences for misleading the public.

And some went after Fitzgerald, previously an unquestioned hero. Though Fitzgerald's office refused to confirm it had sent this letter, some of those who accepted his lawyer's veracity said Fitzgerald's decision didn't make sense. "Those of us who have dealt with Fitzgerald in Chicago know that he has been a political pawn of the Bush Administration since he was appointed," wrote Sheldon Drobny. He suggests the White House gave Libby up to limit the damage.

Frank Dwyer suggested the only reason so many believed Fitzgerald is an incorruptible hero who would bring Rove and others to justice was because they needed to believe somebody was going to save the country: I suspect if you put your faith in Fitzgerald, you did it for the same reasons I did: because you wanted to, because you needed to.

The point here (here and everywhere) is that no institutions in a democracy are safe if the party that holds power is ruthlessly determined to corrupt and subvert those institutions to keep that power, especially when the rest of us are too disorganized or demoralized or lazy or stupid or afraid to stop them.

Our situation is very serious. This country is in very great danger, more danger than it faced in 1861. (Even if it had split apart on Lincoln's watch, one part would still have been, potentially, honorable, good, just, faithful to the idea of the Constitution.)

He calls for focus:We need to decide very specifically what we want and who can best lead us in achieving it; and then we need to fight as hard as we can one more time to persuade enough Americans to vote with us--against greed, meanness, and corruption; for the Constitution and the idea of democracy.

His hope, like that of others, is desperate. The only person he sees out there who can do this is Al Gore, and so far Gore is not running for anything. We really shouldn't argue too much with each other: we need to unite and move quickly, boldly, the way we would if we were being attacked by an enemy from another planet--because, in a very real sense, we are.

Make no mistake: it will be hard, even now, to defeat a party that believes it has a special dispensation from God to lie and cheat because God wants it to keep power. Losing to this party again is unthinkable--but it can't be. We have to think it, and let the thought of the meaning and consequences of that defeat inspire our greatest efforts. Otherwise, all we will be left with is a slim doomsday consolation: my apologies to the penguins and the polar bears, but an electorate so stupid as to be taken in again by these terminally greedy aliens among us will get what it deserves and deserve exactly what it gets.

The worst thing about Rove not being indicted is that he'll be out there for the next election. He's already pumping up the Republican troops with his usual character assassination and bullshit rhetoric.

But maybe it's good to realize just how hard it is going to be to reverse this flow, even with Bush bottoming out at 33% or so, and Democrats irrationally exuberant over their chances to retake Congress in November. Recent press treatment of moderate Democrats, let alone progressives, reverted to Clinton era form. They never gave Clinton a break, they hated Gore (and still do) and disdained Kerry. Here's Jonathan Schwartz on what we can expect from the trad media:

Of all the things that drive me crazy about my progressive compatriots, it’s this belief that you can change the corporate media with accurate criticism of it. They believe at some point the people within the media will realize they’re wrong, and their behavior will improve.

This is insane. The corporate media is the way it is because it exists to make as much money as possible. It doesn’t exist to give people an accurate picture of the world. It doesn’t exist to provide jobs for honest journalists. On rare occasions it will do both. But mostly it won’t, because the need to make as much money as possible usually conflicts with everything good.

Waiting for this to change is like waiting for Santa Claus to bring us presents. But Santa Claus won’t ever bring us presents, because THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS.

While we look for some space in that "usually," we also feel obligated to add AND NO SANITY CLAUSE EITHER.

George C. Scott in "Dr. Strangelove." Posted by Picasa
Nuclear Lessons: The Sanity Clause

There were many influential figures in the history of nuclear weapons, but perhaps the most important didn’t actually exist: his name was Doctor Strangelove.

Strangelove came to symbolize the essential madness of nuclear war. In a previous essay, I wrote about how nuclear war was averted through a common global sense that it was suicidal and immoral. But there was another element to the consensus: that nuclear war was evidence of insanity. Not just madness in the loose sense, but in the sense of mental derangement. The view that came to prevail was that only a species that had gone mad would engage in a war that would destroy itself.

This was one of the psychological aspects of the Cold War nuclear stand-off—probably the healthiest, in that it was a factor in preventing nuclear war. But there were other psychological aspects that were less amusing or healthy, like helpless fear and anxiety, and dangerous projections and denial that threatened to provoke rather than restrain nuclear war. Now, in facing the prospect of a different kind of nuclear war or even the other potential catastrophes of our time, we are still haunted by these psychological spectres.

Continued at 60's Now

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

RCW38--young stars (just 2 million years old...) Posted by Picasa
2004 Not Dead in Ohio?

Since Robert Kennedy, Jr. published his story in Rolling Stone challenging the results of the 2004 presidential election (and after attempted debunking in Salon and elsewhere, and debunking of the debunking), two pretty noteworthy statements in the trad media.

The latest and loudest appeared in the New York Times, by columnist Bob Herbert (as excerpted here; the rest is behind the pay-per-view wall.):Republicans, and even a surprising number of Democrats, have been anxious to leave the 2004 Ohio election debacle behind. But Kennedy, in his long, heavily footnoted article ("Was the 2004 Election Stolen?"), leaves no doubt that the democratic process was trampled and left for dead in the Buckeye State. Kerry almost certainly would have won Ohio if all of his votes had been counted, and if all of the eligible voters who tried to vote for him had been allowed to cast their ballots.

No one has been able to prove that the election in Ohio was hijacked. But whenever it is closely scrutinized, the range of problems and dirty tricks that come to light is shocking. What's not shocking, of course, is that every glitch and every foul-up in Ohio, every arbitrary new rule and regulation, somehow favored Bush.

This follows an oped in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Kenneth F. Bunting, an associate publisher of that newspaper, outing the trad media for its response to the RFK jr. article: the silence in America's establishment media has been deafening. But Bunting concludes: Singling out Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell for much of the blame, Kennedy writes persuasively that enough was awry in that state alone to raise serious questions as to whether Bush really defeated John Kerry in 2004.

Herbert's column especially is likely to intensify debate over this article and its conclusions, but will it be enough to prevent such perversion of the very basis of our government and political rights? Not in Ohio--not if Ken Blackwell has anything to say about it, and guess what, he still does.

Though he is running for governor, he is still Secretary of State, able this time to manipulate the rules governing his own election. According to a New York Times editorial he recently
has put in place "emergency" regulations that could hit voter registration workers with criminal penalties for perfectly legitimate registration practices. The rules are so draconian they could shut down registration drives in Ohio.

Similiar rules have been put in place by Katherine Harris' Republican successor and the Republican legislature in that other bastion of democracy, Florida, resulting (the Times ed says) in a law that is so harsh that the Florida League of Women Voters announced that it was stopping all voter registration efforts for the first time in 67 years.

It's obvious how suppressing votes in black neighborhoods, disenfranchising blacks and Democrats, rigging machines to register votes for Bush when the voter voted for Kerry, etc. could give the election to Bush. But what about suppressing voter registration, which Blackwell and others also did in 2004? Partly it's targeted to likely or actual Democrat registrations. Partly it was in recognition that more people were angry at Bush and registering so they could vote against him. But it's also part of the electoral philosophy of Rove and other Republicans, as expressed by a GOPer operative recently convicted of an illegal phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire to disrupt Democratic registration efforts.

According to Political Wire, he said the scheme reflects a broader culture in the Republican Party that is focused on dividing voters to win primaries and general elections. He said examples range from some recent efforts to use border-security concerns to foster anger toward immigrants to his own role arranging phone calls designed to polarize primary voters over abortion in a 2002 New Jersey Senate race."Said Raymond: "A lot of people look at politics and see it as the guy who wins is the guy who unifies the most people. I would disagree. I would say the candidate who wins is the candidate who polarizes the right bloc of voters."

Keeping everyone from participating but those you are sure are yours to command is a key part of this strategy. There is no ethic, principle or value that is greater, or is allowed to interfere with domination by the Bushite Republicans and their minions. Until the trad media and the public at large comes to grips with this almost unthinkable situation, they will continue to manipulate "elections" and consolidate their power without compunction or conscience, and certainly without democracy.

It can also be the key to your fortune, on scales both large and small. There is an incredible story unfolding in Florida, involving manipulated elections in support of big ticket development enriching some of the locals, and the arrest of the man trying to expose it all. It's like some Rod Serling deep south story updated to 2006--complete with a city manager who is also the police chief, Jeb Bush appointees and Wal-Mart. Yet for all its absurdities, it's also a portrait in miniature of what may well be going on elsewhere, including Washington DC.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nepal Posted by Picasa

The China Syndrome

Researchers in California, Oregon and Washington noticed specks of sulfur compounds, carbon and other byproducts of coal combustion coating the silvery surfaces of their mountaintop detectors. These microscopic particles can work their way deep into the lungs, contributing to respiratory damage, heart disease and cancer., says the New York Times. Filters near Lake Tahoe in the mountains of eastern California "are the darkest that we've seen" outside smoggy urban areas, said Steven S. Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of CA at Davis.

Where is this pollution coming from? Not LA, not this time. It's from China.

Byproducts of coal burning cause even more serious health problems in China itself, and beyond toxicity the exports include adding mightily to global heating. China released about 22.5 million tons of sulfur in 2004, more than twice the amount released in the United States, and a Chinese regulator publicly estimated last autumn that emissions would reach 26 million tons for 2005, although no official figures have been released yet. Acid rain now falls on 30 percent of China.

Still the direct effect on this part of the US is increasing. Unless Chinese regulators become much more aggressive over the next few years, considerably more emissions could reach the United States. Chinese pollution is already starting to make it harder and more expensive for West Coast cities to meet stringent air quality standards, said Professor Cliff of the University of California, slowing four decades of progress toward cleaner air.

China is still growing in terms of energy use, and India is not far behind. The scope of the problem is immense. And another insidious effect: the coal smoke is blocking sunlight, masking the effects of global heating, but only temporarily. So if China cuts emissions, the Climate Crisis will get worse, before it gets better. But the emissions continue, things might not look as bad as they are, until they get much worse. It's almost a classic example of a phenomenon someone told me years ago is a feature of complex systems, revealed by computer models in systems dynamics.

What else does it tell us? If we're going to cope with the Climate Crisis, we will need to get smarter faster, and absorb ways of thinking, like this one, revealed by systems dynamics, chaos theory, etc. As well as rediscovering the wisdoms of our species, obscured by five thousand years of authoritarian mind and soul management, with its attendant necessity of making us smarter slaves but more ignorant beings, and an ignorant thinking species.

What else does it tell us? We're all in this together.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Raven (gives birth to humanity), sculpture by Bill Reid (Haida). Posted by Picasa
Bad Faith

Faux News again fills the airwaves with its cynical foolishness, its bombastic projection, as in the commentator who continues to compare Al Gore on the Climate Crisis to Hitler blaming Germany's problems on the Jews. By now, the turnabout metaphor pretty much applies: Climate Crisis deniers are manifesting the same combination of befuddled, deranged and cynical profiles as Holocaust deniers, with the same immoral result.

Some of the befuddled mumble to each other about how science can sometimes be wrong, as if this is a news flash. They point to deceptively framed charts and numbers that remain inaccurate no matter how many times they are erroneously repeated. They remind us that scientists once predicted a future Ice Age, as if this was an equivalent to the current scientific certainty and demonstrable fact of global heating. Based pretty much entirely on the typically sensationalist magazine oversimplifications of research, they ignore time frames and causes, as well as the major fact that such a theory of an imminent freeze was never held by practically every climatologist on the planet, as is the reality of the Climate Crisis. The fact is that the possibility of the Greenhouse Effect has been explored since the 1960s.

Nor can they apparently penetrate the message that however counter-intuitive it may be, global heating can set in motion the forces that could quickly create an Ice Age in the world's northern population centers.

But if the Climate Crisis deniers are taking their cue from the Bush administration, they need to understand how entirely corrupt, underhanded and effectively immoral the Bushites are acting on this matter. As many, many people have pointed out, the responsible position of a government charged with safeguarding its people is to accept that there is as close to a scientific consensus on the reality of the Climate Crisis as there is on anything, including on things that have already happened. And the prudent course is to keep learning more, and take action that might forestall a very grim future and mitigate the possible and probable effects in the near future.

The Bushite position has been to fight off any action, but verbally support "more research." Except that they are undercutting even that--crucial research and monitoring that is prudent regardless of opinions on the Climate Crisis--its extent, its origins, even its reality--but that is essential to the ongoing effort to plan for the future.

Here is the latest, reported in the Boston Globe:

NASA is canceling or delaying a number of satellites designed to give scientists critical information on the earth's changing climate and environment. The space agency has shelved a $200 million satellite mission headed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that was designed to measure soil moisture -- a key factor in helping scientists understand the impact of global warming and predict droughts and floods. The Deep Space Climate Observatory, intended to observe climate factors such as solar radiation, ozone, clouds, and water vapor more comprehensively than existing satellites, also has been canceled.

And in its 2007 budget, NASA proposes significant delays in a global precipitation measuring mission to help with weather predictions, as well as the launch of a satellite designed to increase the timeliness and accuracy of severe weather forecasts and improve climate models.

How important are these satellites and programs?

``Today, when the need for information about the planet is more important than ever, this process of building understanding through increasingly powerful observations . . . is at risk of collapse," said Berrien Moore III, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire.

The story says that scientists interviewed didn't believe the cutbacks were a deliberate political attempt to shortcircuit research on the Climate Crisis. I believe this is precisely what these cutbacks represent. They may at minimum be only as a reflection of Bushite priorities, a way of pleasing the boss. Or a failure of leadership. But they may also be part of a concerted effort by Bushites in government and the usual industries to allow them to continue their "no convincing evidence" theme on the Climate Crisis by eliminating the research itself. This is a cynical effort, an effort that practically defines bad faith, to maximize the short term monetary profits of a few at the expense of the entire planet and every living creature, present and future. How's that for immorality?
Paths to a Better Future

Catching up with a story from last week concerning the visit of Danish Crown Prince Joachim to Stanford University:

Prince Joachim and his delegation toured Stanford University, meeting with scientists working on ways to solve the world's daunting energy needs in the next century. Those scientists, affiliated with the university's Global Climate and Energy Project, spent the morning tutoring the prince, 36, on ways society might someday warm the home, power the TV and ward off global warming.

It was a dazzling display of American ingenuity: Nanoprobe arrays that pluck off the extra electron or two cells generate during photosynthesis, advance membrane reactions to produce carbon-free hydrogen, genetically engineered cellulose to increase biomass yield.

There are some hitches, however. None of that works on a commercial scale. And Denmark did not use any of it en route to energy independence.

Which isn't to say these new technologies won't work or won't help. But Denmark hasn't waited for them:

In 1979, when Three Mile Island almost lost its nuclear core and much of the world turned from nuclear power, Denmark turned to wind, said Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen, who accompanied the prince.

Today Denmark is a global leader in wind turbines. But big breakthroughs did not turn Denmark into an energy exporter, Petersen said. "You want that big breakthrough. That's wonderful if it succeeds," he said. "But sometimes lots of small steps need to be taken."

Denmark's approach, the story says, was: Sacrifice, save and sweat the small stuff.

Today the country is the only exporter of energy in Europe, producing 55 percent more power than it needs. Renewable fuels — wind, solar, waste — generate 15 percent of that, and the country is almost completely "energy independent."

Denmark is a small country, and it is still largely dependent on homegrown natural gas. But there is something to learn from Joachim's remark: "America has always been a leader," the prince said. "Now we're reaching a point where comfort has allowed America to not develop. But need and competition has brought change to Europe."

What can we learn from Denmark? Lynn Orr, director of Stanford's climate and energy project, brooks no qualm over wind power. Or conservation. Americans certainly have plenty to conserve and can even make money doing so, he said. Yet when you look globally, when you follow trend lines out 50 years, Orr said, you quickly realize the numbers are far too huge for any one approach. .."There's no silver bullet here," Orr said of the high-tech solutions his group is exploring. "We need all of these things plus probably 20 more."

But Denmark had a simple and consistent approach: develop wind power as an energy source and an exportable industry, and do what can be done as a matter of public policy with little or no new technology: most of which involves conservation.

Rather, said Danish officials accompanying the prince, such freedom came from small things: toilets with two buttons — one for a big flush, one for a little; highly insulated houses; a switch years ago to compact fluorescent bulbs; high energy taxes; wind.

What Denmark tells us basically is what a number of other countries tell us: energy independence and positive steps to combat future global heating begins with public policy leadership vigorously applied to encourage and enpower partnerships among central government, big industries, science and technology, local communities and institutions, and incentives for small industries and individual innovation. But you first have to get the country on the same page, and committed enthusiastically as a matter of national identity, to the cause of real independence, real interdependence and real freedom. To an energetic present and a better future.