Saturday, August 27, 2011

One People

Our President asks us to remember those dear dead days after 9/11:

We were united, and the outpouring of generosity and compassion reminded us that in times of challenge, we Americans move forward together, as one people.
This is dangerous nonsense. I lived in NYC before, during and after 9/11, and I can definitively state that "we" were not united. I rode the 9 train downtown a week after the attacks; there was palpable fear and suspicion of any remotely "Islamic"-looking person who boarded, from Sikhs to Peruvians. I ate in normally crowded Middle Eastern restaurants on Atlantic Avenue, which were empty despite the windows full of American flags. I heard elaborate conspiracies about the Jews (they all called in sick that day! they were dancing and cheering as the towers fell!), and I heard racial epithets hurled at Pakistani families in Jersey City.

Soon after the attacks, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed feminists, fags and the ACLU. Orrin Hatch and Dana Rohrabacher blamed Clinton. So did Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. John Leo called the NYC firefighters' response to 9/11 "a display of heroism by multiculturalism's villain class, white males," without pausing to wonder why most of the firefighters in a hugely diverse city were white.

When Bill Maher pointed out that "lobbing cruise missiles from two thousand miles away" was not necessarily brave, Ari Fleischer famously responded that "Americans...need to watch what they say, watch what they do." In some towns, people who didn't look like "us" paid for their effrontery with beatings, or with their lives.

Things were typical, in other words: A bunch of scared, angry people spouting ignorant opinions, stifling dissent, bellowing threats and beating up on darkies. America: Open for Business!

The small grain of truth in Obama's claim is that many people who had intelligent things to say about the reasons for the attack, or legitimate concerns about our response, felt compelled to keep their mouths shut. This was a matter of decorum and patriotism, to an extent, but some people also felt intimidated by an officially recognized outburst of "national unity," the main purpose of which was to steel people for the hard work of stamping out difference and dissent.

As usual, "we" were united only inasmuch as we hated "them." And an awful lot of Americans were "them" after 9/11. To the extent that we're less united now than we were then, it's largely because the post-9/11 media and blogosphere worked overtime to mainstream racism, xenophobia and violent political rhetoric, and did so precisely in the name of "unity."

The President himself is the natural heir to a lot of this abuse, so it's not exactly edifying to see him paying pious lip service to the abstractions and lies that inform the current attacks on him. The fact is, much of the national unity after 9/11 was national unity against people like Obama: people who look different, and have funny names, dubious worldviews and questionable allegiances. That's why the right views it as a Golden Age.

I'm not sure what's worse: the idea that he doesn't realize this, or the idea that he does.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Hope Alinsky Blogging

This week, the Alinskyites redoubled their efforts to force America under the yoke of Alinskyism. The most frightening approach taken by these fanatics is a seeming indifference to Alinsky's thought, or worse yet, a total ignorance of it. Needless to say, the Alinskyistas who favor these Alinskyist tactics are the most dangerous Alinskyites of all. That's why we must educate ourselves, here and now. Forewarned is four-armed!

Alinsky once said that "the enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength." It's probably just a "coincidence" that the DHS is working hand-in-jackboot with the ACLU:

The ACLU just scored a big win for freedom of speech from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). More than 2 years ago we filed a complaint with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) concerning an effort to collect and distribute information about lawful demonstrations. Earlier this month, we received a letter from OCRCL letting us know that they have resolved our complaint, and are adopting our recommendations!
It's the Chicago Way!

Undermining parental authority is central to the Alinsky program:
Hovering helicopter parents who restrict their kids' unstructured play may actually harm, rather than help, children according to the latest issue of the American Journal of Play, a scholarly journal which has gathered a distinguished group of experts to probe the near-extinction of free play and its effects on children and society.
As is the worship of Gaia:
Zoologists have discovered that a freshwater species of zooplankton will eat a fungal pathogen which is devastating amphibian populations around the world. It could provide a desperately needed tool for biological control of this deadly fungus.
And rewarding underachievers for failure:
A new administration in Peru is moving toward granting indigenous people long-sought legal rights, reports Survival International. Yesterday, the Peruvian congress approved new legislation that gives indigenous people free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for any project on their land. If signed into law and enforced, the legislation would provide indigenous groups considerable clout in keeping industry off their lands if they choose.
"Community organizers" in Peru have created a new bird sanctuary:
San Marcos Private Conservation Area consists of 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of Polylepis forest, a high-elevation habitat that supports a wealth of bird species, including the Royal Cinclodes, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant. Five new plant species and two new frog species have already been discovered within the borders of the San Marcos Private Conservation Area.
While these Alinsky-fanciers distract us with the gaudy spectacle of "Tit-Tyrants," we remain blind to the deadly plague of grand-abortion...just as Alinsky would've intended if he'd lived to hear about it:

Grand-abortions...are the babies who were never conceived in the first place because the humans who would have been their parents were killed before they were allowed to be born.

The human toll of great-grand-abortion is almost too terrible to contemplate.

While wallowing metaphorically in the figurative blood of theoretically slaughtered innocents, Alinsky noted that "any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people." Could it happen here? My sources say yes:

A celebration was held Thursday to mark the restoration of a river in the Tongass National Forest that was once renowned for producing salmon and trout but was damaged decades ago by the effects of clear-cut logging.

The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service were partners in the multi-year project to repair damage done to the Harris River and its tributaries on Prince of Wales Island. Salmon are now swimming in pools engineered by restoration experts.

Thanks to some ruthless Alinskyesque jujitsu on the part of an overentitled underclass, a stretch of the LA River is now open to kayakers, Marxists, illegal immigrants and other terrorists:
For the first time in decades the Los Angeles River, once polluted and ridiculed, is open to kayakers and canoeists this summer under a federally authorized two-month program.
If this weren't a horrifying real-life example of Alinskyite practice, it would be a terrifying metaphor for Alinskyite theory:
A train could someday make a journey from New York City to London if a plan to build a 65-mile tunnel between North America and Asia comes to pass.
"Asia," of course, is a euphemism for Stalinist Russia, which Alinsky has often praised by means of condemnation, in a textbook example of Alinskyan Правда, or "opposite-speak."

In related news, Alinsky!
California pesticide regulators discriminated against Latino schoolchildren when they annually approved methyl bromide, a powerful pesticide used near their schools, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

Officials said the settlement is historic, because it's the first time the agency has issued a finding of adverse and disparate impact on a community in a civil rights case.

The National Science Foundation has closed its investigation into Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann after finding no evidence of scientific misconduct related to his research.

It is the latest in a string of investigations to exonerate scientists involved in the so-called "Climategate" email scandal.
An innovative concept of using solar panels as both sails and photovoltaic energy producers on ships is moving forward to the "detailed design" phase, according to developer Eco Marine Power. The Fukuoka, Japan-based company is promoting its concept as a way for shipping lines to green up their operations.
Judy Flanagan's phone rang Tuesday with a call the Arizona immigration attorney wasn't expecting. A federal prosecutor suggested one of her clients -- a 22-year-old university student with no criminal record -- should ask to have her deportation case dismissed.

"That's never happened before," Flanagan said.

Immigration lawyers around the country hope those types of calls from federal officials will become more common under new deportation guidelines the Obama administration detailed a week ago.

To the man of action, the first criterion in determining which means to employ is to assess what means are available: A river beneath the Amazon River. Belgian crypts. Vertical panoramas. USSR in construction. The Infrasound Zoo. Expositions where the modern technology of the times was exhibited. Camel trains galore. National parks from space. And Dramatic Museum Realia:

"The age of guessing is passed away." Stereo scenes from the Goyder Expedition. Pictures of music. Old astronomy texts. The Periodic Table Printmaking Project (h/t: Cheryl). Books and prints by Albrecht Dürer. And photographs from the Meiji and Taisho eras.

That's it for this week. Best wishes to readers on the East Coast. Stay safe!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

The best news I've heard this week is that most poor Americans have refrigerators. This means that if they can afford to buy food, they can keep it from spoiling, provided they're able to pay their electric bill. Compare this to the situation in Socialist Europe, where even the "wealthy" are obliged to drink warm beer, and you'll see that American exceptionalism is no joke.

Given that America's poor people underachievers enjoy advantages that would be well-nigh unimaginable to most 18th-century Baltic peasants, it's only fair to ask them to pull their ever-increasing weight. This site has also pointed out, more than once, that the tears of the poor could be a valuable source of microhydropower, to say nothing of water for processing tar sands. Not only does this make good economic sense, but it's also Biblically sound. For as Matthew 25:29 says, "unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away."

Besides, it's not like we have a choice. The only alternative would be to tax the wealthy a little more. Or failing that, to haul these insufferably arrogant economic vampires before a People's Tribunal, seize all their assets and maroon them on Howland Island.

In other news, Democrats did pretty well in the Wisconsin recall elections:

Two Wisconsin Democratic state senators beat back Republican challengers on Tuesday in the last of a series of recall elections triggered by a fight over collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

Both Democrats and Republicans were claiming victory on Tuesday in a series of nine summer recall votes in which Democrats unseated two incumbent Republicans but fell short of winning control of the state legislature.

A professor quoted in the article refers to these results as "a draw," because what the hell else would you call booting two corrupt GOP bullies out of office, without losing any seats yourself?

The Florida Supreme Court has dared to suggest that there are legal limits on Rick Scott's power:
The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Gov. Rick Scott "overstepped his constitutional authority and violated the separation of powers" with an executive order freezing all pending rules until he could approve them.

In a 5-2 opinion, the court concluded that rulemaking authority belongs to the Legislature, not the governor.

The Virginia Department of Corrections will no longer shackle pregnant inmates during labor and recovery:
The new DOC regulations are sound public health policy. Restraining a pregnant woman can pose undue health risks to the woman and her pregnancy. Unrestrained movement is especially critical during labor, delivery, and the postpartum recovery. Women often need to move around during labor and recovery, including moving their legs as part of the birthing process, and restraining a pregnant woman can interfere with the medical staff’s ability to appropriately assist in childbirth.
The UK is taking steps to revitalize its canal system:
Britain's canal systems were once viewed as a throwback to a bygone age of freight transport, sidelined or abandoned in favor of faster road and rail links.

But as one major waterway undergoes a renaissance, shipping huge quantities of wine and other goods through two of the country's major trading hubs, the network could be poised to reclaim its original role and at the same time help cut pollution levels.

Urban crime rates have fallen in U.S. cities almost as sharply as they've increased in the imagination of hard-right "racial realists":
The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its 2010 crime statistics, known as the Uniform Crime Report, which showed that despite the tough recession, the number of violent and property crimes committed dropped for the fourth year in a row. Those cities with 1 million or more residents saw violent crime drop 5.1 percent; cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million experienced a 5.6 percent drop; and those between 250,000 and 499,999 saw the biggest drop in violent crime, 6.9 percent.
In related news, U.S. states are increasingly reducing prison sentences:

“In Texas for the last few years we’ve been driving down both the crime rate and the incarceration rate,” said Marc Levin, the director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which helped draft the state’s corrections overhaul. “And it’s not just Texas. South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas and Ohio in the past year or so have done major reforms. These are certainly not liberal states. That is significant.”

See also here.

The ESA appears to have saved the Lake Erie water snake:

“Recovery of the Lake Erie water snake is cause for celebration both for this species and for the Endangered Species Act’s long record of success,” said Collette Adkins Giese, the Center for Biological Diversity’s herpetofauna attorney. “Before its listing under the Act, the snake faced intense human persecution and habitat destruction. Through the reasonable efforts of state and federal agencies and the public, the survival of this once-imperiled species is now assured.”

Things are also looking up for England's river otters:

During 2009-10 more than 3,300 sites were surveyed. Sites showing evidence of otters have increased from 5.8 per cent in the first survey of 1977-79, to an outstanding 58.8 per cent in this survey.

The Obama administration will adjust U.S. deportation policies:

The new policy is expected to help thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as young children, graduated from high school and want to go on to college or serve in the armed forces.

And Chicago's O'Hare airport is home to a large apiary:
In May, the Chicago Department of Aviation partnered with a community group to start a 2,400 square foot apiary on-site. Now 23 beehives are up and running and are scheduled to yield 575 pounds of honey this year.

The project offers a creative, sustainable, and productive way to use otherwise wasted open space at mega-airports like O'Hare. The bees' new home on the east side of the airport campus had long stood vacant, so it was a natural spot for the bee program to begin. And if that's not enough benefit, the beehives provide employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated adults (similar to other projects that teach prisoners beekeeping).

Et cetera: Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary. Tokens of revolution. Town and country in miniature. (Related: Paper models of Prague, via things.) 100 objects. Fear of a black planet. Sounds of meteors. Tornado vs. rainbow. And photos by Sidney D. Gamble:

The Cambridge Illuminations. European maps of Australia. A bat billboard. Gay marriage among finches: a shocking exposé. Arkiva Tropica. Scenes from a peaceable kingdom. And photos by Pentti Sammallahti:

Still having YouTube problems, so that'll have to do it for this week.

(Image at top: "Laternenumzug" by Anna Sofie Petersen,ca. 1890.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

A federal appeals court has ruled against a Wisconsin law that denied medical treatments to transgender prisoners:

The 2005 Wisconsin law at the heart of this case was called the "Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act," and barred prison doctors from prescribing hormone therapy or surgery to transgender prisoners. The ACLU, in partnership with Lambda Legal, sued and got a preliminary ruling that any prisoners already on hormone therapy could continue their treatments. Last spring, the federal trial court struck down the law in its entirety, and last Friday, the federal appeals court agreed.

Next stop: mandatory sex change operations for all non-gay-married white males.

The socialist and/or corporatist dictator Obama will spend $100 million of our worthless fiat currency on Everglades restoration...probably so that it will be easier for Castro's forces, or perhaps FreedomWorks, to conquer Florida City via airboat.

The Obama administration will announce today that it's spending $100 million buying development rights from Central Florida ranchers and farmers to aid wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres in the Northern Everglades.

By purchasing the rights, the government prevents the ranchers from paving over the land — and also clears the way for restoring the wetlands that once carpeted the landscape.

This is the worst attack on American constitutional principles since that dream I had last night.

There's talk of turning foreclosed homes into rental properties:
Today the Obama administration will formally ask the public for ideas to help clear out the nation's stock of foreclosed homes and fix the housing market. The most prominent idea in the mix: turning foreclosed homes into rental properties.
Wishful thinking. If we really want to solve this problem, we need to 1) slash corporate tax rates; 2) gut entitlements; and 3) destroy civilization and ourselves in a crimson orgy of cocaine-fueled Sadeian ultraviolence.

Iowa claims to be getting 20 percent of its power from wind, even though this is impossible due to the First through Fourth Laws of Thermodynamics (and also the Chandelier Principle):
Iowa now ranks as the top state to receive the greatest percentage of its power from wind. According to the Des Moines Register is reporting, wind generation hit the 20% the second quarter of this year, and it looks like the state is working hard to increase this number even further.
Alright, enough of that. American cities are renovating rail lines:
The High Line park, built on an elevated railway trestle in Manhattan, has become both a symbol and a catalyst for an explosion of growth in the meatpacking district and the Chelsea neighborhood.

Now cities around the country, including Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, are working up plans to renovate their aging railroad trestles, tracks and railways for parkland. Cities with little public space are realizing they badly need more parks, and the High Line has taught that renovating an old railway can be the spark that helps improve a neighborhood and attract development.

Six birds will gain ESA protections, finally:
In response to decades-old listing petitions and a series of lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated six foreign bird species as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: the Cantabrian capercaillie, Marquesan imperial pigeon, Eiao Marquesas reed warbler, greater adjutant, Jerdon’s courser and slender-billed curlew.
OMG sand kittenz!!!1eleventeen:
The Israeli sand cat is extinct in the wild, so its only hope is breeding programs in captivity. The birth of this stupifyingly cute fuzzball at Safari Zoo in Tel Aviv is therefore really good news -- it could help put the species on the path to recovery and reintroduction.

Frogs, also:
Ten new species of frog have been discovered in India's Western Ghats according to two new papers in Biosystematica. Although human populations have farmed in the Western Ghats for centuries, the new discoveries prove that the rainforest still holds many surprises.
And blue iguanas:
The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve.
Guess what?

Pathogen populations fall as soon as farmers stop feeding prophylactic doses of antibiotics to poultry.


Karl Marx had it right. At some point, capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That's what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They're not working. The individual can be rational. The firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else's income and consumption. That's why it's a self-destructive process

Last, regarding the riots in London, I'd just like to point out that if they continued for six months, and each rioter were equipped with an autogyro and a flamethrower, they couldn't do as much damage to civilization as the despicable fucking media hacks who are reporting on them. If these "journalists" want to point fingers at looters, perhaps they should start with their boardrooms, and the majority of their advertisers and guests.

The whole thing reminds me that I'm a pacifist not because I have some gentle, saintly nature, but because I'm frightened and appalled by how easily these people bring out the worst in me; the fact that I'm burdened with a desire to see the ruling elite frog-marched to the guillotine is one of the main reasons I resent them. The remarkable thing about the rioters is not their violence, but their restraint.


Paper dogs
of Denmark. Sun Ra in Chicago. The Daily Climb (via wood s lot). First flights. Given the cultural and scientific trends in this country, it might not be a bad idea to brush up on phrenology (unless, of course, your bump of concentrativeness is insufficiently protuberant). Stationary voyages. More of the same (via Lilian Nattel). Faces of Keene. And trade union banners of UK transport workers:

Something I'd be writing about here if I had the time and willpower: "Internet-induced nostalgia and the pervasive 'fetish of the failed, forgotten and the marginal', and how it might be informed by 'a deeper sociological narrative, springing from a sense of dread or impasse with where we’ve arrived in recent years.'" Where it's all bound to end: Subsurface USA.

No movie today, partly because I'm exhausted, and partly because some friends forced me to leave the house and have lunch, but mostly because YouTube keeps crashing my browser. Next week, probably.

(Image at top: "Sea Serpent" by Hannah Hoch, 1937.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Hope Blogging

Wisconsin's recall elections are coming up on Tuesday. If your politics are to the left of Glenn Beck's, or you earn less than $500K per annum, or you don't believe the 1870s were a golden age for women, or you suspect that climatologists know more about the climate than retired mining executives, or you'd rather see 10-year-olds in a schoolroom than in a coal pit, this is your fight. Please consider donating a dollar (at least) to each of the Democratic challengers, or participating in GOTV efforts.

While we're on the topic, here's a list of companies that are funding the annual meeting of ALEC. Why a retailer like Amazon would support a group whose goal is to leave the middle class with less disposable income is beyond me, but I'm sure one of Ayn Rand's books has some six-page paragraph that explains it.

In other news, the DoJ is taking action against Alabama's anti-immigrant law:

The government has filed a suit against Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law, which it said conflicts with federal laws and makes it too easy for police to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Modeled on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 but taking it to even greater extremes, the Alabama law is considered the most pernicious of a series of state anti-immigrant laws passed this year.

Incidentally, here's what Alabama's state constitution has to say on the matter:
[I]mmigration shall be encouraged; emigration shall not be prohibited, and no citizen shall be exiled.
The APA has come out in favor of same-sex marriage:
The American Psychological Association (APA) has endorsed gay marriage ahead of its annual convention in Washington. With a unanimous 157-0 vote, the APA’s policymaking body approved the resolution on Wednesday.
As has the Suquamish Tribal Council:

"We wanted to continue our values of being accepting and tolerant and generous to the rights of our people," Leonard Forsman, the tribal chairman, told me. "We want to allow our people to be happy and free. Our tradition is to be open"....

Thomas Mabe, 68, told me of having his hair cut off by the principal at the public school, and of the relative who came home from war, riddled with scars, only to be refused service at a local tavern.

All these years later, those things still sting. As a result, the Suquamish never want anyone else to hurt that way, to be singled out, or turned away or forced to suffer for being who they are.

Apparently, we have a new national fuel standard:

Building on the Obama administration’s agreement for Model Years 2012-2016 vehicles, which will raise fuel efficiency to 35.5 mpg and begin saving families money at the pump this year, the next round of standards will require performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg or 163 grams/ mile of CO2 for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. Achieving the goals of this historic agreement will rely on innovative technologies and manufacturing that will spur economic growth and create high-quality domestic jobs in cutting edge industries across America.

Controversial new research suggests that public health spending may improve public health:

The study examined whether changes in spending by local public health agencies over a 13-year period contributed to changes in rates of community mortality from preventable causes of death, including infant mortality and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

The researchers found for every 10 percent increase in local public health spending, mortality rates from the four causes of death analyzed dropped anywhere from 1 percent to almost 7 percent.

To which the only rational response is: OMG SOCIALISM!!

Speaking of which:

Physicians in the United States spend nearly four times as much dealing with health insurers and payers compared with doctors in Canada. Most of the difference stems from the fact that Canadian physicians deal with a single payer, in contrast to the multiple payers in the United States.
More proof that freedom isn't free.

In Wyoming, ESA protections have been restored to an endangered field mouse, which demonstrates yet again that the real endangered species in this country is wealthy white males:
Effective Aug. 6, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reinstate protections for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act throughout its range. Protections had been removed for the mouse in 2007 in the Wyoming portions of its range, while it remained protected in Colorado.
In Tennessee, a rare flower has recovered from near-extinction:

In a rare, but hard-fought victory, officials announced plans to remove the Tennessee purple coneflower from the endangered species list. The flower had the unfortunate distinction of being one of the first plants placed on the list when it was added back in 1979 -- but that was just the first in series of conservation efforts that would take place over the following thirty years aimed at saving it from extinction.

Once the coneflower is officially delisted in September, it will be one of only five plants whose recovery has been so profound as to warrant a loosening of protections.

Atlantic cod seem to be on the rebound as well:

Comebacks. Sports teams and aging rockers have them. Fish rarely do. But in a bit of good news for fisheries scientists, one ecosystem devastated by overfishing off the coast of Nova Scotia is showing early signs of recovery, a new study suggests. Here, Atlantic cod and other predatory fish, whose numbers nosedived in the early 1990s, seem to be struggling back, pointing to the resilience of marine communities, researchers say.

H/t: Karin, who also passes this along:
Cash-strapped California is in the midst of a Solar Schools initiative that will help the state save over $1.5 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years. In partnership with SunPower, the California Solar Schools program helps K-12 and higher education institutions across the state take advantage of local solar subsidies that will partially fund the installation of solar panels on their buildings. In addition to helping the schools onto the clean energy boat, the initiative aims to teach kids in those schools about professions in the renewable energy sector.
Shell has admitted its responsibility for the disastrous oil spills in Nigeria:
After long denying responsibility for the massive 2008 spills, which sent 11 million gallons of crude oil into a region of the Niger Delta, Shell has finally taken responsibility for the disaster. A class action lawsuit was filed against the company, prompting them to admit that more than 275 times the amount of oil they reported was actually spilled. The U.N. has harshly criticized the oil company, and says that the region requires the world’s largest ever oil spill clean up which will take up to 30 years and cost potentially more than $1 billion.
But never mind about that. We must look ahead, not backward.

New York's city council has passed several bills that support urban gardening:

In an effort to ramp up support for the consumption and production of local food, the City Council passed a package of bills on Thursday to facilitate the building of rooftop greenhouses and free up land for urban gardens.

Under the legislation, a building’s rooftop greenhouse would not be considered an additional story by the Department of Buildings, and would be exempt from height limits, if it occupies less than one-third of the rooftop. The city would also begin compiling a database of property that it owns or leases so that it can better identify unused spaces to be turned into urban gardens.

Here's a sentence I didn't expect to be writing today: It's possible that Ukrainian bears will no longer be forced to drink vodka:
Some bars have a pool table or a dart board to entertain customers. Others might have a bunch of flat-screen TVs, or even a mechanical bull. In Ukraine, dozens of drinking establishments have a bear. A real, live bear. That gets forced to drink vodka for patrons' amusement. It's a cruel practice that the country's environment minister has vowed to bring to an end.
God's own Earth. The Cine-Tourist (could it be the greatest site ever?). A Philippa Schuyler moment. Flickr's hydraulic engineering pool. Juno's passengers. Metal on the plains of Mars. Star trails and fireflies.

Toys and souvenirs. Rockaway frolics. A tour of the stratosphere. Estonian book covers. A page devoted to "collecting blades for shaving and if to be more exact, that of labels (wrappers) from them." And posters by A.M. Cassandre:

Here's a cartoon, also:

(Image at top: "Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville" by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1865)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Dangerous World

Given the number and scale of the disasters underway in this nightmare country, I assumed that no further outrage could coax this mopey z-list blogger out of drunken semi-retirement.

But I had not reckoned with Joe Fucking Lieberman:

LIEBERMAN: I want to indicate today to my colleagues that Senator Coburn and I are working again on a bipartisan proposal to secure Social Security over the long term, we hope to have that done in time. To also forward to the special committee for their consideration. So, bottom line, we can’t protect these entitlements and also have the national defense we need to protect us in a dangerous world while we’re at war with Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11 and will be for a long time to come.
So to avoid "a day of horror like no other," we must commit ourselves to days of horror like every other...days on which hundreds of Americans find out that they can't protect "entitlements" like food, shelter and medicine while they're fighting disease or disability. In doing so, we'll torture and kill more Americans than Osama bin Laden managed in his wettest dreams. But as long as the networks don't show these commonplace deaths in a slow-motion loop at dinner time, I suppose we can occupy our minds with happier the relative risk of getting beheaded by some Palestinian kid, versus a Mexican drug lord.

You know what my definition of a dangerous world is? It's a world where people routinely lose their homes because they get sick. It's a world where you wind up eating cat food so that the guy who shipped your job overseas can get a tax cut for supporting the politicians who slashed your benefits. It's a world where we starve children so that we can afford to blast foreign wedding guests into bloody shreds, while patting ourselves on the back for being "exceptional" (and therefore not subject to the pretty moral axioms we impose on other countries at gunpoint). It's a world in which a sociopathic cipher like Joe Lieberman can strut around in the borrowed plumes of theological gravitas, to polite applause from his slack-jawed media courtiers. It's a world, above all, in which a cowardly, brutal, willfully stupid, morally and spiritually bankrupt country like the United States can hold up its grotesque anti-values and its hopelessly atomized version of "freedom" as things worthy of envy, let alone emulation.

It'd be terrible if the Islamic extremists took over, wouldn't it? Granted, they might have some cultural or religious prohibition against letting the elderly die in the gutter, or some limits on what they'd be willing to do for money, but think of the downside: The state oppression of gays and women. Bans on abortion and birth control. A theocratic attack on education and science. Imperious demands for public prayer. Harebrained conspiracies presented to schoolchildren as fact. A zero-sum approach to difference that promotes endless strife between races and genders. A violent hypersensitivity to real and imagined insults. And the unedifying daily spectacle of smug, vicious, power-hungry thugs trying to pass themselves off as God's right-hand men. Let's all pray it can't happen here!

I know it won't mean much, ultimately, but it ought to be said that our political and economic betters, whose "success" is due largely to the fact that conscience rarely tells them anything they don't want to hear, are the actual dregs of society, and a burden this country doesn't need and can't afford. To call them "vultures" would imply a utility in the scheme of things -- a grace and a purpose -- that they don't actually have. They're parasitic encumbrances, fifth wheels and exorbitant sponges. They're welfare cheats in the only morally meaningful sense of the term: people who rob the poor and the helpless of comfort and dignity. They are to politics, culture, religion, science and ethics what thumbtacks are to nutrition.

Among the poor, you'll routinely find people who will resist the urge to steal small change out of a blind beggar's pencil cup, despite living under stresses that are as unimaginable as honor to people like Holy Joe Lieberman. For our Galtian Overlords, however, the primary objection to stealing a blind man's loose change is that it doesn't pay enough to justify the millisecond drudgery of emptying his cup into your pocket. Fortunately, economies of scale are available to our best and brightest; with one stroke of a solid-gold pen, it's possible to rob thousands of blind people (and sick people, and children with autism, and teachers, and firefighters) at once. Yes we can!

Having presided for years over this shell game, these chattering husks are insisting yet again that we take a "realistic" look at programs like Social Security. These programs are threatened, y'see. And who'd be in a better position to know this than the people who've been piling sticks of dynamite in the vault?

I hold this truth to be self-evident: Most of us will never find ourselves on the business end of an Islamic radical. Many of us, however, will struggle to stay housed and fed if we're too old to work, or we fall seriously ill. "National defense" that focuses on cartoon figures of ethnic menace, as opposed to the prosaic and preventable disasters that cause most of the actual suffering and death in this country, is a cruel joke, and I suspect its extremely dark humor is not entirely lost on heartless neo-feudalist chatterboxes like Lieberman and Coburn.

I suppose I should be grateful that as Anders Breivik recently noted, socialists are on the brink of world domination. Otherwise, things would be looking much worse.