Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

Cloud over Arcata. BK photo.
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Climate Crisis in Court

Update: On Sunday the New York Times took editorial notice of this decision and opined: The ruling comes at an important moment. Congress is beginning to consider global warming legislation, the E.P.A. is fashioning a response to the Supreme Court, the State Department is preparing for a new round of global climate talks in Bali, and everyone is worried about the cost of oil. The California decision should help persuade all these players that the time for delay and denial is long past.

Before the UN climate crisis report released today overwhelms the topic, there's this from Friday's news:

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a federal transportation agency on Thursday to rewrite its fuel economy standards for many SUVs, minivans and light trucks, arguing that the new rules are inadequate in part because they fail to properly assess the risk of global warming.

The decision is a huge win for several environmental groups and 11 states, including California, that argued that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's new fuel economy standards ignored the effects of carbon dioxide emissions.

The decision was the most recent example of growing pressure on the Bush administration to require automobile makers to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Thursday's "court decision is a rebuke to the Bush administration and its refusal to make meaningful steps to reduce global warming pollution from our automobiles," said Pat Gallagher, director of environmental law at the Sierra Club. "The decision tells the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it can't monkey the numbers when it sets fuel economy standards by ignoring the cost of carbon emissions."

Debate Drama and the Climate Crisis

A few additions and clarifications to yesterday's comment...I am well aware that the candidates have their own motives and strategies for what they say and how they say it at the debates, but that's the only aspect of the debates that gets reported and analyzed ad nasueam.

What I find significant is that the candidates are out there campaigning, not only talking but listening to concerns expressed in Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere, particularly in today's campaigning style that emphasizing town meetings and other forums where citizens ask questions and even engage the candidates one on one. So they hear what voters are concerned about. But who do the TV "journalists" listen to, who are asking the questions and otherwise making the rules of these debates? It seems to me they listen mostly to each other, and of course their bosses.

There's a real and growing disconnect between what's important to the voters and what's important to cable and network TV. The candidates respond to this--partly because of what they hear from voters, and partly because they know about and even care about these issues. Say what you want about Bill Richardson's image, style and poll numbers--he clearly cares about health care, education, immigration, energy and environmental issues. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd may be afterthoughts to the hosts and handicappers, but they know a lot about what to do and how to do it in America's relationship to the world, and to not benefit from their knowledge but to instead indulge these low wattage media "stars" in their blather is criminal.

And Dennis Kucinich--before the media bobbleheads got their single story together so they could shout it at each other all day today--that for instance the crowd was on Hillary's side at the debate in "Vegas"--some observers remarked that the person the crowd responded to the most was Dennis the K, especially when he uttered the word "impeachment."

That the people in that room, whoever they were, did not approve of John Edwards going after Hillary so relentlessly, or Obama lumping her in with Romney and Rudy, and at the same time, cheered Dennis most of the time, seems to comport with my image of the Democratic electorate this year. They want substance, and they want boldness; they are civil and they are angry.

As for the issues that voters care about but the media finds too boring to talk about, one of the biggies these days is the climate crisis. After being dazed and confused by the subject for a number of years, it is now a matter of widespread public concern. If you needed any evidence of that, listen to how the candidates are trying to cram in their positions and plans on the subject whenever they're asked anything remotely relevant.

And the climate crisis is going to become much more relevant to this campaign in a formal way, later today in Los Angeles at a candidate's forum and in particular at a bipartisan presidential forum on energy and climate change in New Hampshire next month, weeks before the primary. Both Democratic and Republican candidates will participate, and each "team" will have a "captain": Ahnold for the Repubs, and for the Dems, Al Gore.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Debate Drama

For me the central drama of the Democratic candidate debates is the conflict between candidates trying to address serious issues versus TV "journalists" asking simpleminded and irrelevant questions designed to create soundbites and basically to up their ratings with manufactured conflict.

To show even more clearly that these are engineered as shows, CNN--which ran last night's debate-- has been exposed as selecting questions posed from the audience as well as their own questioning which dominated the debate-- in one case, preventing a student from asking the serious question she wanted to ask, about nuclear waste storage, and insisting she ask Hillary Clinton whether she preferred diamonds or pearls.

This comes after a week of bushwah over the Clinton campaign suggesting to a student in Iowa that she ask Hillary a question about global warming. I am no fan of the main figures in the Clinton staff or how they operate. But all campaigns do this all of the time, and if it takes planting a question to get the Climate Crisis discussed, I'm for it.

What disgusts me is this bloodlust for ratings that goes through all kinds of contortions to turn the campaign into a prize fight, in the place of the kind of debate the nation and the world needs and deserves over the future.

The Heaviest Warning

In what sounds to be its heaviest warning yet--and despite efforts by the U.S. to soften its language--the BBC is reporting that the final summary report to be released tomorrow by the Nobel Peace Prize winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is going to be harsh and unequivocal, with a new warning of possible "abrupt and irreversible" climate change.

According to the BBC, "Among its top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost. "

The report now being completed "strengthens the language of those earlier reports with a warning that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts. Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions."

"Climate change is here, it's impacting our lives and our economies, and we need to do something about it," commented Hans Verolme, director of the climate change programme with the environmental group WWF. "After this report, there are no politicians left who can argue they don't know what climate change is or they don't know what to do about it."

The summary is expected to be released Saturday, and will accompany a full report, in addition to the three reports on aspects of the Climate Crisis already issued this past year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

click for additional awesomeness. from
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Dreaming Up Solutions

This blog is supposed to be about dreaming up a future even if it seems the world is downward bound. Unfortunately most of the babble here is about the downward bound part.

But there was a piece in Monday's SF Chronicle called "Inviting Everyone to the Party to change the world" by Ellen Freeman Roth, about innovative ideas and actual accomplishments discussed at the annual Pop! Tech forum, its purpose being "to fuel positive social change through innovation and technology."

Some approaches were "outer world" and technical :

Victoria Hale described how she created this country's first not-for-profit pharmaceutical company, OneWorld Health, whose drug to treat the parasitic disease Leishmaniasis could save thousands of lives annually. Marine ecologist Enric Sala discussed the devastating human impact on the oceans and the potential to reverse the damage. (Consumers can start by limiting fish purchases to those certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.)

Other approaches were "inner world" attitudes: Carl Honore, author of "In Praise of Slowness," said we're so connected electronically that we're disconnected emotionally from each other. "We need to create new cultural norms around technology," he said, touting the spiritual and creative benefits of slowing down. "I, for one, have rediscovered my inner tortoise."

Nina Jablonski, evolutionary biologist and head of anthropology at Penn State University, warned that in this abstract electronic age we must remember we have bodies, and touch is important. We're still primates. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind suggested that in addition to logical thinking, we're going to need imagination, empathy and synthesis. (Which you might say is the Holy Trinity of this site.)

The piece ended with some ideas for homemade carbon offsets. You can read the whole thing here and there are podcasts with more ideas and inspiration from that conference at the Pop!Tech site. Yeah, some of it may make you squirm with suburban NewAgey cooties, but on the "inner" stuff, we never did learn the real lessons of the 60s before it all got distorted, and there's been considerably more info and refined ideas since on integrating body and mind, feelings and spirit: the constituents of soul.

And it's hard to argue with many of the "outer" innovations--including heartbreakingly cheap solutions to terrible problems in the vast areas of the earth where people are poor and sick, for want of a few simple medications, and a pair of cheap reading glasses. Some of these were discussed in the latest in the Charlie Rose Show Science series (Episode 10 on Global Health.) It may be a bit hard to get past the Pfizer sponsorship, or for quite a few Mac and indie computer people to accept what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is accomplishing, but let's face it, some much needed money and attention is going to dreaming up and trying solutions to some of the worst health problems on the planet, that plague the poorest. Not to mention what the Gates Foundation and the millionaires involved in Bill Clinton's projects are doing for the natural environment essential for the future. Criticism is part of the process, but so is doing what needs to be done for real.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

"Guitarra" by Picasso
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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“It’s such an odd notion, particularly in this technological society, of whether your life is justified by being a novelist. And the nice thing about getting older is that I no longer worry about that. I’ve come to the simple recognition that would have saved me much woe 30 or 40 or 50 years ago — that one’s eventual reputation has very little to do with one’s talent. History determines it, not the order of your words.”

Norman Mailer
in 2007


Norman Mailer, who died
Saturday at the age of 84.
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R.I.P. Norman Mailer

For much of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Norman Mailer was everywhere. In a period in which public intellectuals, from anthropologist Margaret Mead to journalist-philosopher Walter Lippmann, used the full range of public media--popular magazines and daily newspapers as well as specialized journals, television talk shows as well as university speeches--to offer insight and the play of intelligence, no one was more intelligent or playful than Norman Mailer.

He was an original, pugnacious in defiance and pushing his championing of ideas to their edge, and sometimes over it. He was infuriating to many. He risked being ridiculous, and he often enough was. But he had his moments--like his chaotic confrontation with Gore Vidal on the Dick Cavett Show, which ended with his moving, naked statement of the heights of writing to which he aspired.

He was perhaps the last great champion of the American novel, though his achievements now, especially in those years are measured in his polemics and nonfiction. Still, I can remember being riveted reading his now mostly forgotten late 60s novel, Why Are We in Vietnam?, a titanic riff on the American soul, as I recall it.

He was one of the clearest voices articulating the postwar change in America--he noted that a characteristic of plastic, and this society made of plastic, is that it shows no wear until it just breaks. I remember to this day something I heard him say on TV, and then read in one of his earlier books (he was stealing his own material): "Totalitarianism is the interruption of mood."

He remained a provocative, complex and subtle intelligence to the last, even as he mellowed and grew wiser. Life overcame his single dedication--life and his own energies and interests. He said and did a lot of crazy things, but for several decades at least, no one was more alive to the times.

For the last few decades his interests haven't much been mine, and I have read little of his later books. What I most learned from him in those earlier formative years was the courage to think large, and to care deeply about what few others care about in this society that fascinated him: the exact journey of words, the shape of sentences. His image to others may be of ego, violence and odd notions on sex, morality and the nature of reality, but to me he was one of the last to offer writing--especially the novel--- as a hard and holy occupation.

His New York Times obit is here, and an essay by Michiko Kakutani.