Friday, April 22, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote: Earth Day Edition

photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ron Garan

"All around us, aspects of the modern world - diet, exercise, medicine, art, work, family, philosophy, economics, ecology, psychology - have begun a long circle back toward their former coherence. Whether they can arrive before the natural world is damaged beyond repair and madness destroys humanity, we cannot tell."

Paul Shepard, The Others (1996)

"If nature is not a prison and earth a shoddy way-station, we must find the faith and force to affirm its metabolism as our own---or rather, our own as part of it. To do so means nothing less than a shift in our whole frame of reference and our attitude toward life itself, a wider perception of the landscape as a creative, harmonious being where relationships of things are as real as the things. Without losing our sense of a great human destiny and without intellectual surrender, we must affirm that the world is a being, a part of our own body."

Paul Shepard, "Ecology and Man-A Viewpoint" in The Subversive Science (1969)--a foundation document of the first Earth Day in 1970.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If in getting rid of Keith Olbermann, MSNBC thought it was eliminating the inconvenience of having someone who might look straight into the camera and state his "controversial" views with direct eloquence, they should not have given Olbermann's spot to Lawrence O'Donnell.  O'Donnell can be very witty, as the other night when he said, "If you were a collector of politically brave letters written by United States senators, you would not need much storage space.  A shoe box would do, and still leave room for at least one shoe."  But after accumulating and demonstrating the evidence, he can make that eloquence serve very direct and pointed and important statements.  I include this segment here as my evidence for this assertion, and because he is saying from the heart of the beast what I have observed from out here in the hinterlands.  And I add today (Thursday) the further evidence of another poll that nearly half of self-identified GOPers refuse to believe President Obama was born in the U.S., and two-thirds overall at least have doubts.  Here's O'Donnell's conclusion:

"The millions out there who seethe with the madness that Donald Trump stokes watch him and say hey, it‘s not just me who thinks this; Donald Trump thinks this. And he‘s a smarter guy than me, and I know he‘s a smarter guy than me, because he says he‘s smarter than me. He‘s made a lot more money than me. And that proves he‘s smarter than me.

Those people who agree with what Trump is saying about the president‘s birth aren‘t going to be bothered by his grammatical mistakes. There are just going to feel validated in every bit of the hatred they feel for Barack Obama.

There are viewers of this program that wish I would never mention the name Donald Trump. They‘ve had enough. So have I. I wish May 16th was coming tomorrow. But as long as Trump continues to try to influence our thinking about American politics and the presidency, I believe his lies must be fought.
 Because Trump‘s position in our culture now is sadly no longer simply a television entertainer who lies about nothing more important than how much money he has. When Donald Trump said, quote, “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I‘ve always had a great relationship with the blacks,” end quote, a black friend of mine e-mailed me saying, “one clue that you might not have a great relationship with the blacks is that you call them the blacks.”

No, Trump is not just an entertainer any more. He is now a very dangerous man who must be stopped from doing the damage to this country he may or may not know that he‘s doing. Donald Trump has become America‘s front man for the legitimizing of hatred and racism."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Nobel Nominee

Right about now, the Nobel Prize folks are getting down to their dozen or so alternatives for this spring's Nobel Prize in Literature.  I have no idea who is actually on their list, but I know who should be.  I've suggested her before but this year I sense that her time is coming.  Margaret Atwood is my nominee for the next Nobel Prize in Literature given to a writer in the English language, and this year is not too early to give it.

Margaret Atwood qualifies for quality and influence, as a writer and as a writer-citizen of the world.  She has published more than forty books: novels, stories, poetry (15 volumes), children's stories, and non-fiction in a number of areas.  She's a distinguished literary editor of Canadian literature specifically and of literature more generally.  I especially admire her book on writers and writing, Negotiations with the Dead, and I'm currently reading her latest collection of essays and reviews, Writing with Intent, as well as her latest novel, The Year of the Flood.  But she's written on politics and economics as well (Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth is particularly relevant at the moment.)  She's written for television and radio,  done recordings and even accompanied her latest book tour with a dramatization of The Year of the Flood that used local actors wherever she was, and which has ended up as a movie.  Her moral as well as literary concerns make her a particularly apt Nobel candidate.

  She's an innovator and an activist, especially for environmental causes, with a special interest in birds. With an impressive website, she is engaged with her time.  In March she attended a literary conference in Dubai and a Global Greenbelt conference in Toronto; she lectured at Cornell and in Chickasa, Oklahoma.  In a few days she's off to Mockton, New Brunswick for the Frye Festival---a big time festival in honor of a great (and Canadian) literary critic, one whose work I deeply value, Northrup Frye.  (I learned her itinerary from her website.  I don't know her personally.)

It's time for Margaret Atwood, and it's time for Canada.  Nobel judges, I hope you agree.  But right now it cheers me up just thinking of it.   

Something Missing?

Welcome, reader.  Say, what's wrong?  Oh, right.  You're ducking your head because any second now you expect some flying avatar to jump in front of the print, some survey or advertisement that follows you wherever your cursor goes.  Or a video ad with loud sound that starts up without warning, or a big ad that blocks the entire screen, all of them requiring you to figure out how to turn them off (it won't be easy) before you can get back to reading what you wanted to read.

Well, put that itchy trigger finger back in your holster.  None of that around here.  Not while I'm marshal of this site.  Oh, there's that slowly moving kiosk of books further down, but that's easy to ignore.  This may be one of the last remaining sites on the Internet where you can just read to your hearts content, without batting away sudden impositions or being battered by unignorable distractions.  Rest easy, friend.  Enjoy it while you can.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"We have to fight, finally, without any guarantee that we are going to win. We have waited late to get started and our adversaries are strong and we do not know how this is going to come out. If you were a betting person, you might bet we were going to lose because so far that’s what happened, but that’s not a bet you’re allowed to make. The only thing that a morally awake person to do when the worst thing that’s ever happened is happening is try to change those odds....No guarantee that we will win, but we will fight side by side, as long as we’ve got."

Bill McKibben
from his address to the Power Shift 2011 conference--of some 10,000 mostly young people gathered to organize for action to confront the Climate Crisis-- in Washington this week.  Leaders met with President Obama, and thousands demonstrated at the White House and in front of the Chamber of Commerce.  On a day when Tea Party rallies across the nation fell flat with a tenth of the numbers they got last year, the media did not bother to cover the 10 to 15 thousand participants in these rallies. 

Privatizing Public Corruption

I've said before that the GOPer privatizing agenda now going gung ho in states that elected Rabid Right governors is happening hand in hand with corruption.  Here are but two recent examples.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida is unabashedly and unashamedly pushing for a state law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug tests at their own expense. Scott has already mandated drug testing for state employees.  Governor Rick Scott is the co-founder of a company that's business is chiefly drug testing.

In Michigan, the law that allows the governor to appoint someone to manage any town in the state and ignore elected officials has been applied to the town represented by the GOPer legislator who sponsored this bill, and who "was" prominently involved in an effort to develop public and private land in this largely black and quite poor, former industrial town, for a high-end residential project surrounding a golf course.  He was unable to persuade the elected officials of this town to go along with it.  Now he won't have to. (Rachel Maddow reported this on Monday.)    

Government and Crisis

"Freakish" severe weather has become so common this year that little of it makes the news, unless it is the kind of weather news outlets are accustomed to associate with deaths and destruction.  So the three day spate of tornados in some 15 states resulting in over 40 deaths was noticed.  In North Carolina especially, the activity was unusual--a tornado (or more than one--that's still being sorted out) spent a lot of time close to the ground, destroying homes and killing people.  That usually doesn't happen in North Carolina.

According to Dr. Jeff Masters, this was one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.  And there may be more violent weather in the area today.

There are two messages in this: each violent or extreme event or set of events gets covered alone, and there are always variabilities that cause experts to caution that this in itself is not evidence of the Climate Crisis.  But add them together (drought and unprecedented wind and wildfires in Texas, deep April snows in the midwest, 100 degrees in Los Angeles...) and match them with the predictions of climate scientists, and it's at the very least a warning.

But even more important, people do add them together, consciously or not, and it makes them afraid.  No wonder they are receptive to the misinformation campaign that says the Climate Crisis is all an illusion, a fraud concocted by greedy scientists and ambitious politicians eager to bring Prius communism to America.

But here's the second point, made on Monday in a photo montage by Lawrence O'Donnell: while GOPers in Congress and in the states further their agenda of destroying government, it is the local and the federal government that is expected to respond and help people heal their lives and their communities when disasters like this hit.  Government needs the capacities, the expertise and the public trust to do this effectively. 

Guess what?  With the onrushing Climate Crisis that's going to happen more and more, and that aspect of government is going to be more needed than ever.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

Runaway Star Zeta Ophiuchi at
  "Modern science has imposed on humanity the necessity for wandering. Its progressive thought and technology make the transition through time from generation to generation, a true migration into uncharted seas of adventure. The very benefit of wandering is that it is dangerous and needs skills to avert evils. We must expect, therefore, that the future will disclose dangers. It is the business of the future to be dangerous;and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.”

Alfred North Whitehead, quoted in a 1975 speech
to the World Future Society by Senator Ted Kennedy

Day of Delusion

So today--not Friday the 15th for some reason nearly as complicated as a tax form--is the day federal taxes are due.  You'd think there's nothing more black and white and rational than numbers, but then those numbers are about money, and there's little that's rational about that.

Taxes are even crazier.  The Tea Party started as a tax revolt (Taxed Enough Already--tea, get it?) despite the FACT that taxes in America are at an historic LOW.  Even when rising state and local taxes are figured in.

 It's not clear why middle class demonstrators get so exercised about the sanctity of cutting taxes for the insanely wealthy, but President Obama had to temporarily swallow those tax cuts in order to get another cut for the middle class.  And of course, these people are rapturously grateful to him for that extra money in their pockets.

But even though the taxes paid by the rich and their corporations are scandalously low, in general the tax burden folks are suffering from is also low--in federal taxes, close to 9%.  And except for the anxiety about the forms, Tax Day is not exactly a universal day of pain, especially when more than half of taxpayers get a federal refund.

But it is ostensibly our crushing tax burden that is the reason that revenues can't be raised to pay for government, even from people so wealthy that their dinner parties could pay for college,  though even old Republicans know it's necessary.  That's why they want people to shop for the best private health insurance right at the time they're best suited to do so, when they're old and sick.  That's why the government is "broke."  Deficits matter, suddenly, with GW out of the White House.  It's suddenly vital to cut off government spending money to fix things, help people who've contributed their lives, take care of commitments and invest in the future--which all have the well-known bonus of stimulating the economy in a shaky recovery--even with the current example of the UK reeling from its budget-bludgeoning.

And while the Secretary of the Treasury is valiantly trying to assure those nervous nellies who control the fate of the financial universe that the GOPers aren't serious about holding world civilization hostage to their political delusions, they insist that they are too.   I think it's time to move Tax Day to April 1.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is Nothing Sacred?

Every day my inbox is stuffed with outrage.  Somebody is trying to slaughter endangered wolves, dolphins and even frogs.  People continue to slaughter each other, in the Sudan for instance. As awful as it all is at least I'm used to the depressing but familiar villains like oil and coal companies and even McDonalds ( for generations of clearing rain forests for their cattle to graze in the brief time before they are slaughtered as well.)

But please.  The Girl Scouts?

Yes, the Girl Scouts, and even worse, Girl Scout Cookies.

It seems that the U.S. cookies are all made with palm oil, which says "is commonly harvested through the clearing and burning of irreplaceable tropical rainforests."

So there goes another indulgence with a guiltfree excuse.  And that much more faith lost in Americana.

On the Other Hand...

It seems Rocky is safer