Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prosperous Capitalist Living

In one of the most charitable gestures since George Armstrong Custer offered to accept the surrender of the Lakota and the Northern Cheyenne at Little Big Horn, Rob Bradley of the Institute for Energy Research is giving climate scientists an opportunity to admit that they're wrong and he's right.

In a column headed "if warming is not a burning issue, let's say so," he points out that "dire predictions about the future of prosperous capitalist living remain trendy." For a lifestyle that's supposedly threatened by everything from Islamofascist terror, to the machinations of Hillary Clinton, to new commuter rail lines, "prosperous capitalist living" seems remarkably resilient; you can almost picture it going on forever...growth begetting wealth and wealth begetting growth, world without end, amen.

If you can picture that, give yourself a pat on the back for being a realist. The alternative, after all, is to embrace Alarmism, the shabby pedigree of which Bradley conscientiously sets forth:

Alarmism as an intellectual movement began in 1798 when Thomas Malthus predicted that food supply would fail to keep up with population growth, resulting in human misery and subsistence living.
Malthus was entirely wrong, of course. The food supply did keep up with population growth, from that day to this, and human misery and subsistence living remained rare as hens' teeth (except among those incorrigible types who sought it out and wallowed in it). Today, the only conceivable threat of mass starvation comes from central planning and organic farming.
That was followed in the 1860s by the "coal panic" in England, brought on by an economist who forecast the imminent decline of the British coal industry. But coal, like agriculture, proved far more abundant than expected, and the alarms faded away.
Bradley's referring to William Stanley Jevons' The Coal Question. Whatever else you want to say about Jevons, his forecast was not "imminent"; what he argued was that the supply of coal is not infinite, and that its price would increase as it became harder to extract:
In every kind of enterprise we shall no doubt meet a natural limit of convenience, or commercial practicability, as we do in the cultivation of the land. I do not mean a fixed and impassible limit, but as it were an elastic obstacle, which we may ever push against a little further, but ever with increasing difficulty.
These are gloomy words indeed, and it's not surprising that they shocked a society whose cornucopian assumptions were more or less identical to Bradley's. (I should mention, in passing, that the famous Tower Colliery closed in January 2008, 13 years after its reopening, because "the coal [had] effectively run out." Perhaps Jevons was on to something.)

Next, the history of alarmism takes a great leap forward to Paul Erlich and the Club of Rome. The latter argued that the world would someday run out of mineral resources...but it turns out that the "shortage dates for various minerals" were exaggerated (all you meth freaks can stop stealing copper wire now).

Even if Bradley's account of alarmism were strictly correct, and the premise that natural resources aren't infinite turned out to be wrong (e.g., because it failed to take magic ponies into account), that wouldn't disprove climate change, any more than the boy who cried wolf disproved wolves or politically motivated terror alerts disprove terrorism. But Bradley knows his audience, and he knows that their appetite for logical fallacies is as boundless as their appetite for cheap gas.

Which is not to say that Bradley ignores facts altogether. He correctly observes that if future events were to contradict James Hansen, then James Hansen would be wrong. And that "scientists are deeply divided about whether global warming increases or decreases either the frequency or intensity of hurricanes." I have no quarrel with any of this.

I'm not at all happy with his solution, though:
It is high time for an open debate over the human influence on climate given that the federal government — after nearly 20 years of debate — is still considering whether to enact mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Marvelous, isn't it? The lack of progress we've seen after a 20-year "debate" in which industry-fronted hacks like Bradley were allowed to slander honest scientists, and to confuse the public with irrelevant psychobabble about the Club of Rome, is offered here as evidence that more debate - i.e., more industry-funded slander, red-baiting, and psychobabble - is needful if we hope to get at the Truth.

Also, please note that failure to heed Bradley's advice will lead to human misery and subsistence living, and may pose a serious threat to the future of capitalist prosperity.

Don't worry about where this train's headed; the important thing is not to pull the emergency brake.

(Photo: "Stranded Rowboat, Salton Sea" by Richard Misrach, 1983.)

Sunday Music Blogging

Respectfully dedicated to an exceedingly sweet young woman in Canada.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dim Bulbs

James Lileks is in one of his mischievous moods, and you know what that means: oxen will be gored, and sacred cows made into hamburgers, and the politically correct will wail and gnash their teeth.

Rep. Michele Bachmann has proposed a bill that would repeal the ban on normal light bulbs. They're scheduled to be phased out by 2012 AD, replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs, which are either Godless Death Coils or Sensible Joy Spirals, depending on your opinion. Those of us who prefer incandescently salute the attempt. Oh, I wish I liked fluorescents - they bring your electricity bill down to $1.95 per year, you get to shake a fist at OPEC, and those curly pig-tail tubes look cool. But I detest the light.
If you can overlook Lileks' grueling attempt at jauntiness, which recalls nothing so much as a man trying to tapdance in lead boots, you'll notice that he comes dangerously close to accuracy here: CFLs do use a lot less electricity, and this could have certain political...implications.

So far, so good. The question is, how does he get from there to here?
It's an aesthetic preference, and so there isn't a correct position. It's OK to prefer incandescent. It's OK to prefer CFLs. But some curious form of moral authority has been applied to CFLs....
I certainly can't fault Lileks for forgetting his sentences as soon as he writes them; if I were a theologian I might even see it as evidence of a merciful God. But logically speaking, if you really believe that CFLs reduce your electricity usage, and that this in turn reduces your country's vulnerability to Islamopetrofascism, it's pretty obvious that something more than aesthetics is at stake.

Michelle Bachman (R-Bedlam) calls her bill the "Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act," in honor of her belief that everyone should be able to choose lightbulbs calmly and rationally, without being made to feel like they're destroying the earth (especially since CFLs are full of deadly mercury that will kill us all).

This has given conservatarians the freedom to choose between praising Bachmann's commitment to consumer liberty and sound science, and attacking her as a chemophobic alarmist and an adherent of the Precautionary Principle. I'm guessing that Lileks' exceptional incoherence in this column has something to do with the discomfort of straddling this fence.

Lileks isn't actually scared of mercury, natch, 'cause it's perfectly harmless. Which is to say that he knows it isn't harmless, but is being cute by pretending not to know it, while overstating its hazards for humorous effect, in order to reinforce the idea that it actually is kinda dangerous, without having to be so uncool and "eco-correct" as to admit it, or to admit that generating electricity for his beloved incandescents releases lots more mercury than CFLs. This, you understand, is both zany and irreverent.
Then there's the mercury issue. Supposedly each bulb contains actual Alien blood that eats through the floor if you break the bulb, but that doesn't worry me. Heck, we played with mercury when I was a kid. We gargled mercury. We'd rub it in our pants so we could go down the slide twice as fast. Mom made us mercury omelettes, in fact. Dad used to sit down at night with his pipe and smoke up some mercury.
Also, they used to put mercury on your ice cream sundae at the corner drugstore. Nowadays those little silvery balls are made of sugar, but back then they were mercury. And not only that, but we fed the dog on mercury. He was leaving illegible silver streaks on public property long before inner-city teens thought of it. The only bad thing about it was that Mom used to take my temperature by putting his dick in my mouth!

The perils of mercury notwithstanding, Lileks decides to give CFLs a second chance. Unless you've visited a few third-rate casinos and heard struggling comedians make jokes about the difficulty of programming VCRs, you'll never guess what happens next. He tries the CFLs out at home, and wouldn't ya know it...he finds that they're either too bright, or not bright enough, except for the one he kinda likes, which doesn't fit in any of his sconces or lamps (which begs the question of what he was using to test it).

Also, you can't use a dimmer with CFLs. He tries it anyway, though, and the bulb stops working. So much for its nine-year guarantee, ha ha! In summation: he'll switch to CFLs once they work as well as incandescents, and not one minute before! You can buy them, though, if you want; that's OK by Lileks as long as you don't look at him like he eats veal or something (even though he probably does eat veal, in order to show the hippies that they're not the boss of him).

As for Bachmann, she considers the CFL phase-out to be downright tyrannical.
“I was just outraged that Congress would want to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the American people,” she said. “It struck me as a massive Big Brother intrusion into our homes and our lives.”
Which explains why she supports warrantless wiretapping and opposes gay rights.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

violet, emerald, azure,
the black, pink, rose,
oyster white, the orange...
this is the orange measurement of the lines
as I design them.
The joys of Ceratosoma bicolor are fates that command us.

(Photo by Jun Imamoto.)

Friday Hope Blogging

A nonprofit group called Homes for Our Troops builds free homes that are specially adapted for injured vets:

Sgt. Brian Fountaine was recovering in Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he got an unexpected visitor who offered to build him a house – free of charge. The visitor was John Gonsalves, founder of Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit group that builds houses for severely injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sergeant Fountaine, who lost both legs below the knees in Iraq, turned to his father after Mr. Gonsalves left and asked: "Is this guy for real?"

He is. This past weekend, Fountaine moved into a three-bedroom ranch here in Plymouth, Mass., completed with the help of hundreds of volunteers and donated building supplies and land.
Click here to donate, or to get involved.

A woman who was sentenced to be stoned to death has been released from an Iranian prison:
In mid-October 2007, the Head of the Judiciary sent Mokarrameh Ebrahimi's case to the Amnesty and Clemency Commission, who have now ordered her release. She is believed to have been pardoned by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Shadi Sadr, leader of the "Stop Stoning Forever" campaign, said, "It was a rare ruling… I cannot tell how the commission came up with this decision… But you cannot deny the role of public opinion and domestic and international pressures."
In China, meanwhile, 200,000 women will get a free screening for cervical cancer.
The "Prevention of Cervical Cancer" (PCC) program, approved by China's health ministry, will invest 200 million yuan (28.3 million U.S. dollars) in cash and equipment into promoting standard treatments of cervical diseases and setting up screening and treatment centers in the country.

If it goes ahead this will be the second stage of the program, and women from remote western regions will especially benefit from the project, according to the co-organizers, the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, the TCT Medical Company and the China Women Development Foundation.
A Wisconsin appeals court has upheld the punishment of a pharmacist who not only refused to fill a women’s contraceptive prescription, but also refused to transfer it to another pharmacy:
"Noesen abandoned even the steps necessary to perform in a minimally competent manner under any standard of care," the three-judge panel said. The decision upheld a ruling by Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler.
And Colorado’s senate has passed a bill that would prevent anti-abortion protesters from camping out in front of people's houses:
It would require that protesters have to keep walking along a route about 300 feet long. They wouldn't be able to camp out in front of a house and wouldn't be able to carry signs larger than 6 square feet.
The Kentucky legislature has killed a bill that would've blocked state agencies from providing health insurance to domestic partners. In related news, 54 percent of Vermont residents support same-sex marriage, which is an eight-percent increase over last year.

Yet another study indicates that organic crops are comparable in yield to conventional ones, despite the alarmist claims of conservatarian Chicken Littles:
In this research they found that: organic forage crops yielded as much or more dry matter as their conventional counterparts with quality sufficient to produce as much milk as the conventional systems; and organic grain crops: corn, soybean, and winter wheat produced 90% as well as their conventionally managed counterparts. In spite of some climatic differences and a large difference in soil drainage between the two sites, the relatively small difference in the way the cropping systems performed suggested that these results are widely applicable across prairie-derived soils in the U.S. upper Midwest.
Wal-Mart claims that it has decided to sell hormone-free milk exclusively:
The retailer said Thursday that its change was prompted by consumer demands. "Many Wal-Mart customers have expressed a desire for milk choices," the company's release said. The change means Wal-Mart's Great Value store brand milk will be rBST-free, as will milk offered at the company's Sam's Club warehouse locations.
Доверяй, но проверяй, as the saying is.

Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed a truly noxious pro-coal bill:
The bill, approved by the Republican-dominated Kansas legislature, would have allowed Sunflower Electric Power Corp to add two 700-megawatt units at a facility in western Kansas.

Under the bill, lawmakers sought to strip the authority of the Kansas health and environment secretary, who turned down the $3.6 billion project last year because it would have produced more carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.
A new type of window glass has remarkable insulating power:
[T]his new vacuum glass is as insulative as a thick insulated wall. Using the same principle as a vacuum thermos bottle, these glass panels essentially negate two principal modes of heat transfer, paving the way towards windows that actually supply thermal energy instead of leaking it.
A wolverine was spotted in Tahoe National Forest for the first time since 1922:
It’s important to researchers because the nearest population of wolverines is 900 miles away in Central Washington. That means the animal either migrated across an enormous distance or it’s part of a small group of native wolverines that somehow evaded detection for the better part of a century.
Nepal’s Indian rhinoceros population is increasing:
A healthier sex ratio as well as gradual improvements in habitat management have helped boost rhino numbers….Officials say the rhino rebound is also due to new anti-poaching measures implemented in the aftermath of the country's decade-long Maoist insurgency.

And bee populations are faring well in Ohio:
As many as 85 percent of the honey bees across the state survived the winter, experts estimate. That's a big change from this time last year, when beekeepers opened their hives to find that a cold snap and a mysterious disease had killed off 72 percent of Ohio bees.
Four Legs Good took considerable pains to inform me that a massive reforestation project is underway in Texas:
The project involves taking highly disturbed areas — places where trees were cleared to convert land for grazing and agricultural purposes — and returning them to how they looked hundreds of years ago. In all, officials expect to plant 55,000 loblolly pine trees on 118 acres this year, and then repeat the process in another part of the park next year.
A far more ambitious project in Costa Rica seems to have some hope of succeeding:
Does the experiment's success mean that rainforests will one day flourish again? Fully rescuing a rainforest may take hundreds of years, if it can be done at all.

"The potential for the forest being able to come back is debatable," Leopold says, but the results are promising.

"I'm surprised," he said. "We're getting an impressive growth of new forest species." After only ten years, plots that began with a few species are now lush forests of hundreds. Who knows what the next few decades - or centuries - might bring?
Progress is also being made in Tanzania:
Degraded land in western Tanzania is gradually being reclaimed — two decades after work began to rehabilitate the declining ecosystems....

The most successful of these has been the use of the Ngitili system. Ngitili requires large areas of land to be left fallow, leaving vegetation to be nurtured over the rainy season. This ensures that there is adequate feed available for the animals during the drier months.

Economists estimate that more than 800 villages in western Tanzania are now using variations of the Ngitili system and, consequently, a positive impact on local incomes has been seen.
I was intrigued by this story about a Brazilian car wash that uses no water:
This company began using a native Brazilian wax to clean cars spotless without the use of water. The benefits? They create "live" capital by insisting on operating under the law, ther system has saved

millions of gallons of water, and their impressive sales have encouraged them to expand overseas and into other services.
Rumor has it that copper surfaces can reduce hospital infections:
Copper reduces the lifespan of infection-causing organisms, which can linger on hospital doorknobs and bed rails for days, to a mere couple hours. While scientists aren't sure how the metal works, they are taking note.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved five copper alloy products as "anti-microbial," which will be fabricated into numerous products, including intravenous poles, hand rails and shower heads.
Somalia is officially polio-free:
Somalia has not reported a case since 25 March 2007, a landmark moment in the intensified eradication effort launched last year to wipe out the disease in the remaining few strongholds.
The century-old Detroit Electric will be manufactured anew:
This 100 year-old antique electric car will be available in early 2009 from ZAP and China Youngman Automotive Group, proving once and for all that there is no such thing as a new idea. The Detroit Electric is considered to be the most popular electric car in history — and was produced by the Anderson Electric Car Company in 1907 (production ran from 1907 to 1939). This cute little EV could go fo 130 miles on one charge, and had a top speed of about 32km/h. Famous Detroit Electric owners included Thomas Edison, Charles Proteus Steinmetz and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Speaking of Edison, it turns out that he was not the first person to record sound:
The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.
Click here to listen to this 148-year-old performance.

A British artist has installed a number of pianos in public places, with charming results:
The piano in the Erdington suburb of Birmingham is one of 15 which have just appeared, unguarded, across the city. There is one in the Rag Market, and one outside Cadbury World. There is another at Colmore junior school, where a teacher was persuaded into an impromptu recital dressed in white gown with veil fluttering in the icy wind. She had been on her way to her wedding.
There are glad tidings from The Bioscope:
The Scottish Screen Archive has released some 1,000 film clips on its impressively-redesigned site....look out for Lord and Lady Overtoun’s Visit to Mcindoe’s Show (1906), a rare early film of the outside of a fairground bioscope show; Dr Macintyre’s X-Ray Film (1896/1909), examples of the X-ray cinematography of Dr John Macintyre....
Click through to get the links.

Coconino World has plenty of heart-quickening graphics from Die Muskete, circa 1909.

You may want to turn out your lights tomorrow. Today, you can ponder Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. And The Othmer Library of Chemical History. And Christian Houge's Isolation and Arctic Technology.

You never know when The Registry of Mushrooms in Works of Art might come in handy, so please do make a note of it. But don't let it distract you from more pressing concerns, like this enormous and staggeringly beautiful collection of cigarette cards, sorted by subject matter:

Or the eerie pollen photomicrographs at Heliotown.

Last, a brief demonstration of fluid mechanics.

(Photo at top: "Blackbird Aviary" by Olivia Parker.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Wave of Arrogance

Jim Kunder of USAID has cheery news from Afghanistan:

"The U.S. government is on track to provide the aid to Afghanistan that it pledged," Kunder said in a telephone interview from Washington.
Which makes petty carping like this all the more irksome:
About 70 percent of Afghans do not have access to safe drinking water, a government minister said Tuesday at the opening of the first of a chain of hydrological stations to monitor water supply.
An optimist would point out that this means 30% of Afghans do have safe water, and add that 8% have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Kind of puts matters in a different light, doesn't it?

Granted, mistakes have been made. But it's also true that America is not irrevocably bound to a tragic past.

Or to a tragic present, for that matter. The fact that we're concerned at all with something so esoteric as Afghanistan's sewers says much, much more about our essential nature than our alleged failures do. Who can deny that our eye is on the sparrow?

To argue otherwise would be to promote a static vision of America, in which military and economic and racial violence carry more spiritual weight than the ideals of our forefathers and the innocence of our children, and what we have done casts a shadow of doubt over what we might do. Make no mistake: We can do better, and be better, as long as we don't allow the bleatings of the professionally aggrieved to shake our faith in ourselves.

To her credit, Georgie Anne Geyer understands this perfectly. She's currently annoyed by the idea that Muslim women are asking for private access to one of Harvard's gyms (she's been to the Middle East, you see, and has "never seen young women in most of those countries hungering for athletics and workouts").

It's not just the nightmare illogic of Muslim women working out that troubles Geyer's honest heart. She also views this as further evidence that these...these....people don't have the proper respect for what America's all about:
What we are seeing is a wave of arrogance sweeping into America with the wave of Muslim immigrants and students. One searches in vain for an individual or organized Muslim voice showing real respect or even a minimal liking for America or American customs.
How many of these insufferable auslanders have left Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iran, or Syria, or some other officially designated cesspool of ethnic menace, I have no idea. How many of them have been singled out for cavity searches, or threatened and abused in our streets and shopping malls, is an utter mystery to me. But I do know this: Even if they hopped here on one goddamn leg after stepping on one of our landmines, and even if they're pelted with rotting garbage every time they step outside, they need to get off their high horses and respect our feelings, which are good and true and fine.

That we're a patient and generous nation, God knows as well as He knows anything. But at some point, we're going to decide that we've had enough of being the world's doormat:
Until America and Europe regain their voices and their self-respect, this problem, exemplified by such a small (but revealing) situation at Harvard, will only continue to grow.
Heh infuckingdeed, with knobs on. I don't know when we'll regain our self-respect, and let our voice once again ring throughout this darkling world, given our masochistic agreement with the gloomy rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright and his ilk. But it'll happen. And when it does, I know of some ingrates who'll have a hell of a lot more to worry about than dirty water.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Twenty Aught Eight and Beyond

Emanuel A. Winston says that we're in a War of Civilizations:

When bombs go off in Spain, England, Scotland, Algeria, Iraq, Israel it is because it is an ancient War of Civilizations - brought forward to twenty-aught-eight (2008) and beyond.
Basically, the way to win a war of this sort is to kill everyone who looks like a Muslim, or has the poor sense to live among them. But lest this be mistaken for garden-variety bloodlust, let’s remember that we’re not just fighting for our own survival; we’re also fighting for the fearlessly probing intellectual tradition that gives rise to insights like this:
History of the past can be instructive.
What the history of the past teaches us is that “America did not enslave Germany or Japan after World War II.” Der Ewige Muselmann, by contrast, not only enslaves his victims but subjects them to “oppressive taxes.” If you can't understand this, you're obviously stuck in a twenty-aught-aught mindset (or you've been reading Deuteronomy 20:11).

Perhaps you think George W. Bush is up to the challenge of defending civilization. If so, think again:
We observe President George W. Bush backing away, seemingly willing to replace the fields of stars on the American flag with the crescent moon symbol and the single star of Islam. This president might be acting like a loser.
I know it's rather dilettantish to criticize the grammar in a high-circulation call for genocide, but I can’t help myself. Get a load of this:
If the Free West’s adversaries get away with defeating and demolishing Israel, then any of the other Free West’s countries will be next, consecutive or coincidental. So, it is in everyone’s best interest (if they are not Muslims) to protect the tiny Jewish State - in their own best interests.
If I've got this straight, what Winston’s saying here is that acting in our own best interests would be in our best interests, which is why we need to kill all the ragheads - consecutive or coincidental - at our earliest convenience:
Our choice is accepting the blowing up of our families or the blowing up of theirs. A bad choice but, if you didn’t start Armageddon, why die with your pride intact, following rules of acceptable national suicide?
Here, at least, Winston has managed to be marvelously eloquent, while maintaining a perfect transparency...he's a veritable Visible Head of eliminationism.

Why die with your pride intact? This question, amazingly, is asked by a man who frets over Islam’s alleged challenge to the “Judeo-Christian ethos.” Apparently, he has never heard that "we are unsubstantial dreams, impalpable visions, like the flight of a passing bird, like a ship leaving no track upon the sea, a speck of dust, a vapor, an early dew, a flower that quickly blooms, and quickly fades."

Note, too, that he’s not even sneering at some unyielding Tolstoyan pacifism that prefers death to resisting evil by force…he’s talking about honoring the fucking Geneva Conventions (or as he calls them, the “so-called rules of civilized engagement of warfare").

Civilization itself is at stake, you see…so we have to throw not just its ideals out the window, but also the feeble, myopic attempts we’ve made at living up to them.
We must absolutely (as it were) sink to their level - or die.
I'm not so sure about that. I think that if we embrace Winston's ideology, we can manage both.

(Illustration: From Danse Macabre by Frans Masereel, 1941.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Glossodoris cincta glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
Like stars upon some gloomy grove,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is dress'd,
After the sun's remove.

(Photo by Marco Giuliano.)

Friday Hope Blogging

Scooter Libby has been disbarred for “moral turpitude”:

“When a member of the Bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, disbarment is mandatory,” the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion, which is posted on its Web site.
Israel has legally recognized a gay couple as the parents of a five-year-old child.
The Shadiv-Shavits are the first gay male couple to go to court seeking joint parenthood through adoption. A family court in Tel Aviv ruled for the Shadiv-Shavits and the government agreed to amend the forms.
The Oklahoma House has narrowly rejected a bill that would've required parental consent for sex education in schools:
Opponents of the bill said the measure would make it more difficult for children to receive sex education in the state, which has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. Oklahoma also has the 12th highest percentage for repeat births to teenage mothers in the country, according to a study conducted by the research organization Child Trends.
In California, a woefully stupid development plan has been withdrawn:
Coyote Valley is safe from premature development for at least another decade.

That sigh of relief you hear is not just from farmland and open space activists but also from existing neighborhoods in San Jose. They would have paid the price while home builders profited from paving over the rural valley. With a surprise announcement Tuesday, developers in the Coyote Housing Group abandoned further financing of consultants and a task force to plan, in essence, a new city the size of Mountain View at San Jose's southern edge.
The USPS will offer free postage for recycling:
Postage is paid for by Clover Technologies Group, a nationally recognized company that recycles, remanufactures and remarkets inkjet cartridges, laser cartridges and small electronics. If the electronic item or cartridges cannot be refurbished and resold, its component parts are reused to refurbish other items, or the parts are broken down further and the materials are recycled. Clover Technologies Group has a “zero waste to landfill” policy: it does everything it can to avoid contributing any materials to the nation’s landfills.
WorldChanging discusses wind-powered desalinization:
This particular combination may or may not prove itself in the field, but it's a great example of what ought to become more and more possible, which is a form of hybrid appropriate technology, combining easily maintained simple tools (like windmills) with select advanced parts (like RO filters) to produce something inexpensive, rugged and useful.
Inhabitat reports on a somewhat more grandiose Korean tidal-power project:
A collaboration between Lunar Energy and Korean Midland Power Co (KOMIPO), and would create a colossal 300-turbine field in the Wando Hoenggan Water Way off the South Korean coast by 2015, providing 300MW of renewable energy, enough to power 200,000 homes!
There's also talk of using osmotic forces to generate energy:
Only up to powering light bulbs so far, "salt power" is a tantalising if distant prospect as high oil prices make alternative energy sources look more economical.

Two tiny projects to mix sea and river water - one by the fjord south of Oslo, the other at a Dutch seaside lake - are due on stream this year and may point to a new source of clean energy in estuaries from the Mississippi to the Yangtze.
Make of that what you will.

A new bird has been discovered in Indonesia:
The new species is called the Togian white-eye, or Zosterops somadikartai…Its nearest relatives have a band of white feathers around their eyes but this energetic little bird, which travels in small groups, is less showy, the researchers said.

Giant sea creatures have been discovered off Antarctica:
In total, the RV Tangaroa voyage collected some 30,000 specimen, hundreds of which may be new to science.

Among the creature "recovered and identified" include 88 fish, 8 squid and 18 octopus species.
And a rare frog has been found in Colombia:
A brilliantly-colored frog has been rediscovered 14 years after its last sighting in a remote mountainous region in Colombia.

The critically endangered Carrikeri Harlequin frog (Atelopus carrikeri), a member of a family of amphibians that has been decimated by the outbreak of a deadly fungal disease, measures about 2 inches (5 cm) in length and lives at an altitude of 13,000 feet (4,000 m).

"By discovering that the endangered frog still exists, we hope it will show how important conservation is," said Luis Alberto Rueda, scientist for the Project Atelopus team who led the expedition.

In related news, a new paper presents evidence that conservation efforts in the Philippines are paying off:
The authors present four examples of successful conservation initiatives for endangered species. The Philippine Cockatoo, considered critically endangered, has seen population growth since various programs have worked together incorporating strategies like education, protection of nests, captive breeding, and research. In 1997 a sanctuary was step up to protect a particular population of the species. The critically endangered Visayan Wrinkled Hornbill is another success story: with the help of The Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project (PESCP) the bird raised 502 successful broods in 2006. The Philippine Crocodile, also considered critically endangered, has benefited from educational programs to change negative perceptions of the animal. Finally, the Philippine Eagle, the national bird and considered one of the world's most endangered, has recently had good news. Research on the bird's population has discovered that there may be more eagles than thought and recent conservation methods have increased protection of its threatened habitat….

Dr. Posa, who is an instructor at the Institute of Biology at the University of the Philippines stated that she believed the paper would draw more attention "to the positive developments and little-known success stories that we can learn from and build upon. To dismiss the country as a lost cause for conservation would merely create a self-fulfilling prophecy that dooms biodiversity where there are still opportunities for effective action."
In Rwanda, meanwhile, conservationists have launched an ambitious reforestation program:
Backers of the Rwanda National Conservation Park say the project will help restore biodiversity and ecosystem services including improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, flooding, and landslides and increasing carbon sequestration. The initiative is expected to generate income for Rwandans through ecotourism, investment opportunity and local employment.
A pygmy hippo has been spotted in Liberia:
The black-and-white image of a pygmy hippopotamus half-facing the camera is the first ever of a pygmy hippopotamus in Liberia. Perhaps even more astonishing EDGE, the organization that accomplished the photo, believes the image to be only the second photographic evidence of the animal in the wild (the first was taken in 2006 in Sierra Leone).

France’s State Council has upheld the government’s ban on GM maize:
France issued decrees banning the use of MON 810 maize seeds in February after a government-appointed committee said it unearthed new evidence of damage GM products could inflict on the environment.

Ecologists and ordinary consumers hailed the ruling, but seedmakers, including MON 810 creator Monsanto, and maize farmers lodged an emergency injunction in an attempt to overturn the ban.
Pruned surveys military gardens:
We wanted to include the gardens tended to by detainees at Camp Iguana in Guantanamo Bay — yes, even those in limbo have gardens; with seeds saved from their meals, they were able to grow small plants like watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe and even a lemon tree about two inches tall — but unfortunately, there are no photos to be found.
Effect Measure discusses a promising new vaccine-delivery patch for H5N1, with the usual caveats:
The patch is applied to a the subject's skin after it has been lightly abraded with a sandpaper like material. The patch itself has 50 micrograms of some material (not identified in the news reports) and was tested with an egg-based vaccine, but the company says they believe it could be used with other vaccines after suitable testing. They also claim the patch has a 2-year shelf life (and so could be stockpiled) and "treavels" well. These are essential characteristics for practical distribution and use in a crisis.
A black swan that had previously fallen in love with a swan-shaped paddle boat has found a more suitable companion; perhaps there's hope for the rest of us!
Petra met a live swan this winter. Zoo director Joerg Adler says she and her new mate — a white swan — are building a nest together.

Onwards and upwards! AfriGadget has a nice gallery of handmade African toys. And Dark Roasted Blend has an incredible survey of the Armenian landscape:

I was pleased to hear that a lost silent film has been discovered in Korea:
The Korean Film Archive has announced the discovery of a print of the 1934 silent film Crossroads Of Youth, making the film the oldest Korean movie with a still existing print.

The film's original nitrate negative was discovered by the son of a former theater owner, who handed it over to the archive. Eight of the film's nine reels were found to be in at least viewable condition and were sent to a Japanese film lab for restoration.

If that’s the sort of news that brings the roses to your cheeks, you’ll also want to browse the Ross Verlag Movie Star Postcards Checklist, and visit The Bioscope, an early-cinema blog wisely recommended by things.

Apropos of restoration, The Old Machine is a blog dedicated to the discovery and restoration of “American-made, cast-iron vintage woodworking machinery.” currently, you can follow the restoration of a No. 25 Hollow Chisel Mortising Machine from 1920. Lovely, informative, and oddly soothing.

Next up, we have historical photos from New York’s Chinatown and its environs, accompanied by a 1917 cookbook “containing more than one hundred recipes for everyday food prepared in the wholesome Chinese way.”

Also via things, a gorgeous vintage science photoset. It's nearly too nice to talk about.

All this amounts to very little, however, when compared to this animated version of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods” from 1924.

(Illustration: "City Ornament" by Andrea Dezsö.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flailing About

In The Nation, of all places, William Deresiewicz scans the MLA job listings for a clue to what ails the teaching of literature. This is an acceptable form of intellectual inquiry these days, particularly among the kulturkampfers, though I have to say it doesn't seem much more rigorous than the areas of study it's usually intended to attack.

His first complaint is that there's an overemphasis on minority literature, which means that people who haven't studied it are going to have a hard time finding honest work.

[Y]ou can be a brilliant young scholar, from a top program, but if you're an expert in Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald, or Malamud, Bellow and Roth, or Gaddis, Pynchon and DeLillo, or all of them plus Dreiser, Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Steinbeck, Thomas Wolfe, Mailer, Salinger, Capote, Kerouac, Burroughs, Updike, Chandler, Cheever, Heller, Gore Vidal, Cormac McCarthy and God's own novelist himself, Vladimir Nabokov, plus Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Cynthia Ozick, Flannery O'Connor and Joyce Carol Oates, but not in African-American or ethnic American fiction, then there are a lot of jobs you just aren't going to get.
To which one is tempted to reply, "Boo fucking hoo." There was a time - a long, long time, which overlaps to a great extent with our own - when the idea of "minority literature" was virtually a contradiction in terms; we have quite a ways to go before we're in any danger of overcompensating. More to the point, there's no harm in having a wider frame of reference for what constitutes literature, and for how literature is produced and recognized (or not recognized) as such, whether you're a teacher or a writer. And obviously, courses dedicated to American literature ought by definition to highlight minority writers (Burroughs and Barnes spring to mind, for some weird reason). These are really not difficult concepts.

Deresiewicz goes on to wonder whether these schools might actually be looking to fill gaps in their curriculum, rather than to shoehorn more nigger-lovers into a staff already glutted with them. It's a good question; instead of answering it, he proceeds immediately to safer ground: hatin' on "the purely rhetorical realms of deconstruction":
More revealing in this connection than the familiar identity-groups laundry list, which at least has intellectual coherence, is the whatever-works grab bag: "Asian American literature, cultural theory, or visual/performance studies"; "literature of the immigrant experience, environmental writing/ecocriticism, literature and technology, and material culture"; "visual culture; cultural studies and theory; writing and writing across the curriculum; ethnicity, gender and sexuality studies." The items on these lists are not just different things--apples and oranges--they're different kinds of things, incommensurate categories flailing about in unrelated directions--apples, machine parts, sadness, the square root of two....There are postings here for positions in science fiction, in fantasy literature, in children's literature, even in something called "digital humanities."
I hear you, man; things are tough all over. Hell, just the other day, I saw this book on nuptial arithmetic. I mean, seriously....WTF is that all about?

As a critique of education, this is about as compelling as Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher." I have no doubt that there are problems with American academia, but it's not possible to demonstrate them simply by naming fields you don't understand, or don't care about, and heaping scorn on their terms of art. The subjects listed here are reasonable things to study, in and of themselves, and if evidence really exists that they're "incommensurate" or "flailing about in unrelated directions," Deresiewicz can't be bothered to present it. Instead, he assumes that the average reader will be befuddled enough by the concept of "material culture" to assume that it couldn't possibly have anything to do with literature and technology. Of course, they'd probably be just as confused if you peppered them with concepts out of Plato and Kant and Alfred North Whitehead, the conceptual relations between whom aren't exactly obvious either, and are much less pertinent to everyday life.

The idea that one can sneer at science fiction as some backwater of literature, and offer courses about it as proof that "the profession's intellectual agenda is being set by teenagers," is pretty fucking astonishing too, in this day and age, especially given some of the people who appear on Deresiewicz's list of "important" writers.

Still, it's fairly typical axe-grinding, so far. Here's where the going gets very tricky indeed:
[N]o major theoretical school has emerged in the eighteen years since Judith Butler's Gender Trouble revolutionized gender studies. As Harvard professor Louis Menand said three years ago, our graduate students are writing the same dissertations, with the same tools, as they were in 1990. Nor has any major new star--a Butler, an Edward Said, a Harold Bloom--emerged since then to provide intellectual leadership, or even a sense of intellectual adventure.
In order to believe this, we'd have to ignore Franco Moretti's literary mapping, and the growth of border studies, and the booming popularity of Donna Haraway and her transhuman ilk, just for starters. Worse, we'd have to ignore the fact that the Internet, with all its intellectual lures and snares, is a post-1990 development and can therefore be said to have given graduate students a new tool, as well as something new to theorize about (digital humanities, for instance).

Also, we'd also have to overlook the fact that any "major new star" might well address issues relating to visual culture, or science fiction, or who knows what non-canonical nonsense. Which means that when a new school does arrive, we'll probably know it mainly because commentators like Deresiewicz will treat the names of courses dedicated to it as proof of our intellectual decline.

Not a bad little racket, all in all.

UPDATE: Phi Beta Cons calls Deresiewicz's grab bag of grievances "damning," and sheds crocodile tears over "the killing of criticism," which as everyone knows had no tendency towards opacity or ideological rigidity until quite recently.

(Illustration from "Skippy" by Percy Crosby.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unity and Perfection

Having been shocked by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who has said things that would be unthinkable even (or especially) if they were true, we're now well on the road to recovery, thanks to Obama's speech on racism, wherein he distances himself from Wright's "profoundly distorted view of this country," while espousing the healing doctrines of American exceptionalism and business as usual in the Middle East.

I hasten to add that I'm not being completely serious here. While there were a few grating notes in Obama's speech, it was a very impressive performance, on the whole - almost beautiful, in spots.

And needless to say, it brought out the best in American journalism. For instance, it prompted MSNBC to ask viewers this thoughtful question, and to offer them exactly two possible responses to it:

Do you think the country is ready for a black president?

Yes. Obama proved he is ready to lead and bridge the racial divide.

No. The underlying racial issues in this country have yet to be resolved.
I don't recall being asked in previous years whether the country was "ready" for yet another white president, or yet another male one for that matter. Nor do I recall Bush being elected for his ability to "bridge the racial divide."

Besides, these answers make no sense when taken together: We can choose Obama to resolve our racial issues, or we can reject him specifically because our racial issues "have yet to be resolved." Choose wisely!

Unlike MSNBC, Obama clearly understands that "the country" is not some star chamber that sits in judgment of minority aspirations, but actually comprises the very minorities who are marginalized in its name and for its sake (which is why it's so frustrating that he pays so much lip service to the dubious abstraction of "unity").

With that in mind, here's someone who's a good represenatative of "the country" in MSNBC's sense: David C. Richardson, who owns a refrigeration supply store in Providence, RI, recently demanded to see two customers' Social Security cards because they'd dared to speak Spanish in his store.
When Genao told Richardson “he did not have the right to ask all those questions,” Richardson pulled out a membership card for Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, a group that seeks curbs on illegal immigration.

Then, he lifted the phone receiver and threatened to call immigration authorities, Genao said.
I hardly have to mention that these men were, in fact, legal citizens. Or to point out that Richardson probably wouldn't have been quite so upset if two white people had been speaking German in his store.

Believe it or not, Richardson still doesn't seem to understand that he made a mistake:
Said Richardson, “I have no problem as a citizen of the United States of America to try and pursue people who are breaking laws. I was just trying to make [them] understand that people who come into this country who are illegal shouldn’t be here. I am very passionate about that....I’m trying to wake America up. I’m trying to wake him [Genao’s friend] up, and let him be aware that people who are breaking the law shouldn’t be breaking the law.”
Of course, they weren't breaking the law. But you get the point.

Actually, if anyone was breaking the law, it was Richardson himself, given that Rhode Island state law says that "no person shall require that a consumer of goods or services disclose a Social Security number incident to the sale of consumer goods or services.” Perhaps some Spanish-speaking citizens will be inspired to visit his shop and place him under citizens' arrest; the Rev. Wright might even be tempted to denounce him from the pulpit.

Is Mr. Richardson ready for a black president? Beats me. Obama reminds us that people like Richardson are victims too, and that racial anger is sometimes fueled by economic stress. All of which is certainly true. But what he overlooks is that when white victimhood lashes out, it tends to do so in the confidence that it's not only backed up by, but representative of, the highest ideals of this country and the stark power of its law. Which is usually not how people on the receiving end of these outbursts experience things, to say the least, whether those people are bilingual customers at a hardware store, or the citizens of whatever unlucky country threatens our peace of mind this week.

In my view, this brings us back inescapably to Obama's vow to combat "the hateful ideologies of radical Islam" (and to defend our staunch ally Israel, and so forth), the very possibility of which requires perpetuating the victimization and racial paranoia and economic stress that Obama say nothing of the monolithic, undeconstructible faith in our essential "goodness and greatness" that he offers as an antidote to Wright's dour fixation on the people we've killed and tortured despite our generally good intentions.

Let's get over what we've done, so we can do it again, in pursuit of a world that will redeem the bones on which it was built.

However lurid his words may've been, Rev. Wright at least reminds us how power achieves what it calls progress, and at whose expense. My worry is not that Obama will be too influenced by this view of America, but that it won't influence him enough.

My Appointed Rounds

Arms Control Wonk on government secrecy about the US-India Nuclear Deal:

Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Union of Concerned Scientists organized a panel for the 27 EU Political Counselors at the Embassy of Slovenia tomorrow....

The State Department has now uninvited PSR and UCS to their own meeting — or at least the portion about India — because they will be sharing “sensitive” information.

I’d really like to know what sort of “sensitive” information can be shared with 27 foreign nationals, but not US citizens.
CKR on polling:
[B]ecause the polls drive the campaigns, and because the polls divide the electorate in particular ways, the campaigns move toward “demographic”-driven strategies (we need a few more working-class white men, and maybe some urban Latina women). If you aim your message at working-class white men and urban Latina women, you probably will get more of those groups to vote for your candidate. But does this say more about those groups or about the campaign tactics? Further, the “demographics” are not fully separable from racism, as we are now seeing.
Sir Oolius on ecoterrorism and the housing market meltdown:
As usual, high-end real estate burns and right-wingers shout "eco-terrorism!" But they have been wrong before. What's certain is anyone could spray-paint the letters ELF on a sheet.
RMJ on war and hate:
The question of why "they" hate us, can be postponed for yet another day. I understand, too: politicians stand on the shoulders of prophets like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but they only do it a generation or so later, when the prophet is safely dead. Thus does this "more perfect union" get "perfected," in Mr. Obama's words.
Athenae on the government's bailout of Bear Stearns:
Let me ask how on earth we can take all the time it takes to think up all the ways we think up to sit in judgement on every individual case we hear about, about how that person just didn't work harder, didn't suffer enough, didn't earn "our" money, didn't deserve "our" charity, didn't bleed in front of us enough, and all the while, all the fucking while, we give it away by the millions and never ask where it goes. All the while.

Let me just ask. I'm sure somebody out there has the answer. After all, they had reasons why Katrina victims deserved to drown and die, be forced from their homes and screwed by their insurance companies and disregarded by their country. They had reasons why uninsured children didn't deserve health care, why those who died from a lack of medical attention only got what they had coming. They had reasons why the people who came to emergency rooms were just looking for drugs, they had reasons why thieves got rich and saints got shot, they had all kinds of explanations for everything that looked to everybody else like a fucking problem we needed somebody to solve. I'm sure the answers here are just as simple, just as easy.
(Illustration: "Snail tongue microphotograph by Carl Strüwe, 1929.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Final Verdict

Victor Davis Hanson shrewdly notices that the Iraq War is controversial: some people say it can be won, and others say it can't, and still others say the experiment never should've been attempted.

The public, meanwhile, is fickle and none too bright - Shakespeare taught us this, somewhere or other - and it accordingly oscillates between the clear-eyed optimism of Sean Hannity and the abject nihilism of Chris Matthews.

Naturally, this means that "it will be left to adjudicate the final verdict." And since Hanson is an historian of sorts, he figures he may as well get the ball rolling.

To the objective bystander, certain things are beyond dispute. First off, "we have not been hit since 9/11, despite the dire predictions from almost everyone of serial attacks to come."

This is elementary, once you concede that the anthrax attacks were not a "hit," and that our allies in this War for Western Civilization don't really qualify as "we," and that our soldiers and other assets in Iraq don't really count as "we" either.

You also need to assume that the financial and political costs of paranoia, racial scapegoating, and security theater are not only negligible, but beyond the powers of the Evildoers to conceive, let alone to profit from.

It's heartening to see Hanson sneer at the "dire predictions" that've been made about terrorism. We all remember how Oprah Winfrey tried to suggest that balsawood drones could fly anthrax spores from Baghdad to Topeka, and how Ben and Jerry wore out their Birkenstocks stumping for Project Bioshield, to the genial amusement of cooler heads like Mark Steyn and John Derbyshire. We may be in a struggle for our very survival, against an eternal and implacable enemy, but that's no reason to go around filling people's heads with tall tales about suitcase nukes and EMP attacks and cropdusters loaded with botulinum toxin.

Hanson goes on to anatomize what he calls the communis opinio (that's Latin, friends; see if you can guess what it means), and finds that it has failed to consider certain salient details. For instance, how many of you defeatofascist Islamicrats appreciate the fact that the war is being fought in Iraq - an ugly and alien land that is nowhere near the United States - instead of Manhattan, whose population is currently at liberty to drift dreamily from porn shops to piss clubs, without the slightest conception of the threat posed by Islamic Terror?

Also, consider the effect of the war on that collective ventriloquist's dummy, "the Muslim Street." Before and during the invasion, and for some time afterwards, it hated us enough to support suicide attacks against us. But "in the latter reflection of 2007 and 2008, it worried that such a tactic brought the United States military to its region, and guaranteed the defeat of jihadists along with any who joined them."

The sovereign remedy here was wholesale killing, which taught larval suicide bombers and other adherents of asymmetrical warfare that, by golly, going up against the USA is a good way to get yourself killed:

[W]hereas the conventional wisdom holds that we have radicalized an entire generation of young Muslims, it may turn out instead that we have convinced a generation that it is not wise after 9/11 to wage war against the United States.
In theory, further attacks would render this opinion as false as it is incoherent. But in practice, they'll simply prove that we skimped on bombs, aimed our bullets too carefully, and were more inclined to psychoanalyze Evil than to destroy it. (I blame Hollywood.)

Remember when we led a Coalition of the Willing, ranging from Great Britain to plucky little Palau? Well, that's all over now. When one looks at the war from Hanson's God's-eye perspective, it's quite clear that we won it entirely on our own, or will have, once we win it, which we will, because we might, unless we don't, which'll be someone else's fault, because Lord knows our intention has always been to succeed:
Despite all the misrepresentation and propaganda, the message has filtered through the Middle East that the United States will go after and punish jihadists — but also, alone of the Western nations, it will risk its own blood and treasure to work with Arab nations to find some alternative to the extremes of dictatorship and theocracy.
Rather than puzzling over that final weird amalgam of diplomatic and militaristic boilerplate, let's hurry to the punchline. As you recall, some people believe the war was a bad idea. But if everything went Hanson's way from here on out - and this point really can't be overemphasized - all those people would be wrong.
In 2008 there is instead a real chance that the original aims of the war — establishing a constitutional government, defeating terrorism militarily, and convincing the Arab population to reject terrorism — are at last possible.
Our "original aims" might be "at last possible"? Better late than never, I guess.

All of this amounts to the standard militarist promissory note: "in return for the lives of your loved ones, IOU one conservatarian-approved democratic government in a former cesspool of ethnic savagery."

What makes Hanson's use of this tactic especially funny - or horrific, if you're one of those dreary people who can't bring themselves to see the victims of our grubby ambitions in the Middle East as already redeemed by some sort of world-healing heilsgeschicte - is his final line:
Iraq, you see, long ago has become a mirror in which we all see only what we want.
Which is why it's so important, you'll agree, to restrict oneself to the Historical Perspective.

(Illustration: "A Study - Imperialism" from The Verdict, 1899.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

This is Chromodoris roboi. Worth the wait, I hope!

Thanks for your patience, and your kind comments and e-mails. I thought I'd be able to post occasionally while moving, but it soon became obvious how badly I'd overextended myself in the previous months, and how desperately I needed a break from...just about everything, really.

Things are still pretty hectic, but I expect that I'll be able to ease myself back into things over the next couple of weeks. Having a plausible place to live, and a fast, reliable Internet connection, will definitely help.

I feel a little more sane, for whatever that's worth, and somewhat more able to concentrate. It'll be interesting to see whether this mood can survive a sudden reimmersion in current affairs.

Thanks again.

Friday Hope Blogging

I don’t really have time for this today, but I’ll do it anyway. (I’m not just the author…I’m also a client.)

Former Israeli and Palestinian combatants are working together to end violence:

We are a group of Israeli and Palestinian individuals who were actively involved in the cycle of violence in our area. The Israelis served as combat soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinians were involved in acts of violence in the name of Palestinian liberation.

We all used weapons against one another, and looked at each other only through weapon sights; however today we cooperate and commit ourselves to the following:
  • We no longer believe that the conflict can be resolved through violence
  • We believe that the blood bath will not end unless we act together to terminate the occupation and stop all forms of violence.
  • We call for the establishment of a Palestinian State, alongside the State of Israel. The two states can exist in peace and security one by the other.
  • We will use only non violent means to achieve our goals and call for both societies to end violence.
A young Albanian woman is working towards similar goals:
She founded a multi-ethnic organization to bring together Serbs, Albanians and the various Roma communities and try to heal the wounds of war. The group even facilitated the return of some displaced Serbs to their homes in Kosovo — which led to Idrizi receiving death threats from Kosovar Albanian militants.
New York has expanded its protections for victims of domestic violence:
The Domestic Violence Civil Protection Act would allow unmarried individuals who live or have lived with an abuser, pregnant women who live with the fathers of their unborn children, and LGBT individuals who are abused by their live-in intimate partner the right to get a civil order of protection in Supreme Court without having their current or former loved one arrested.
The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that will educate parents of sixth-grade girls about the desirability of HPV vaccination:
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jolie Justus (D), also would allow the state to provide Gardasil, the only cervical cancer vaccine approved in the U.S., at no cost to girls who are uninsured and are not covered by CDC's Vaccines for Children Program. The measure would cost the state about $2.3 million to pay for an estimated 6,000 girls to be vaccinated, according to state health officials.
And Ghanian queen mothers are educating women about their legal right to abortion:
About once a month Nana Yaa Daani and a group of 20 other queen mothers from the region conduct regular public-health sessions in gatherings in towns and villages. Typical topics include the risks of teen pregnancy, safe sex practices with a special emphasis on abstinence when it comes to teens.

But lately a new topic is being added to the mix: the conditions under which women have a right to a safe and legal abortion.
A former policeman from Papua New Guinea has managed to halt illegal logging, and develop a market for sustainable timber:
After organising a series of road blocks in 2003 preventing trucks transporting illegal logs, he hired a lawyer and persuaded the PNG National Court to outlaw the logging by 2004.

Galeva did not care what happened to him while fighting big logging companies. As a Christian, he believed he would be protected because he was "fighting for righteousness. I am more than happy to spill my blood to save our forests and I am not afraid," he says….

Galeva now hopes to export his "green timber" around the world. He also wants to spread the strategy of community forestry throughout the Asia-Pacific region….A Greenpeace campaigner, Grant Rosoman, persuaded Mittagong company Woodage to buy the timber.

"This has taken us about 10 years but we have now found a market for ecologically harvested timber controlled by a local community as an alternative to large-scale destructive logging by big irresponsible companies," Rosoman says. "It works well and we hope it is a case of PNG today and tomorrow the world."
Meanwhile, Brazil is strengthening its approach to preventing deforestation:
Brazilian police forces, hundreds strong, are blockading roads, conducting aerial surveys and inspecting agricultural and logging operations. And the nation has singled out about three dozen communities for inspections of land registrations as part of a broader effort to endorse legal development and punish illicit operations by confiscating the land.
This article also reminds us why “market-based solutions” aren’t reliable:
This is the ultimate goal of those pushing to create markets for avoiding deforestation. If communities can make money without chopping down trees, they will be more inclined to protect the forest. Unfortunately, that hasn't always happened. As they accumulated a little wealth, some of the communities began investing in something more profitable: cattle.
A North Island brown kiwi has been hatched at the Smithsonian zoo:
Early Friday morning, March 7, one of the world’s most endangered species—a North Island brown kiwi—hatched at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Bird House. Keepers had been incubating the egg for five weeks, following a month long incubation by the chick’s father, carefully monitoring it for signs of pipping: the process in which the chick starts to break through the shell. The chick remained in an isolet for four days and is now in a specially designed brooding box.

Coudal alerts me to an effort to train crows to find spare change; the goal is to teach "problem" animals to perform actions that benefit humans, "instead of just bombing, shooting, or poisoning them." I have mixed emotions about this, to say the least, but it's worth a look.

A group called Lighting Africa will “award 20 grants of up to $200,000 to companies and institutions” in an effort to improve the fitness of LED lighting for African conditions.
The whole endeavor would serve several goods at once: provide affordable light to the people in Africa, try to mitigate the problems associated with disposal of mercury in CFLs, reduce the use of kerosene, which, in turn, would reduce pollution; and give social justice as Evan Mills says, “The number of people without adequate light is greater than the entire world population when Edison invented the light bulb.”
Speaking of LEDs, GE seems to have figured out how to print organic LEDs with an inkjet printer:
For years researchers have been trying to develop roll to roll printing of OLEDs, which is believed to be the cheapest process for manufacturing OLEDs. Thanks to GE, it now appears that such a process will come sooner rather than later.

GE’s OLED printing project was four years in the making. They partnered with Energy Conversion Devices, who provided the experience in making the roll-to-roll equipment, and set out to do what was considered the ultimate production line for OLEDs. Even though it took them 4 years to develop, the program’s goals were so time-constrained that oftentimes they were designing the machine to manufacture the devices without knowing how to manufacture the device itself.
“Konarka Technologies has just debuted a printable solar panel film that uses a common inkjet printing process to manufacture paper-thin photovoltaic solar cells. Using the existing and very simple technologies of your office inkjet printer, Konarka has essentially replaced ink with the solar cell material, and paper with a thin flexible sheet of plastic.”
The man who invented the Super Soaker claims to have come up with a breakthrough in solar power:
Johnson, a nuclear engineer who holds more than 100 patents, calls his invention the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System, or JTEC for short. This is not PV technology, in which semiconducting silicon converts light into electricity. And unlike a Stirling engine, in which pistons are powered by the expansion and compression of a contained gas, there are no moving parts in the JTEC. It’s sort of like a fuel cell: JTEC circulates hydrogen between two membrane-electrode assemblies (MEA). Unlike a fuel cell, however, JTEC is a closed system. No external hydrogen source. No oxygen input. No wastewater output. Other than a jolt of electricity that acts like the ignition spark in an internal-combustion engine, the only input is heat.
Triple Pundit reports on a battery that’s rechargeable via USB ports:
Plug it in to a USB port on your computer, game console, or wherever else a USB port is showing up these days, and it does the rest. According to the site it's ready to be used again in minutes, for those short of patience.
The Sietch Blog discusses the possibility of using chip-mounted Stirling engines to cool computers.
The heat from the chip causes the engine to circulate and cool a heat transfer liquid. There is no electricity used, only the natural heat caused by the chip doing it’s thing.
Also via Sietch, new wind turbines on the Galapagos “will halve the island’s diesel fuel imports and pave the way for further renewable energy development elsewhere in the archipelago.”
On a larger scale, the project is an example of multilateral collaboration for climate change mitigation and a showcase for the global promotion of small-scale renewable energy power generation and distribution systems in remote areas.
A new bill prevents wildfires from draining the Forest Service’s budget:
Conservationists applauded a bill introduced today that would establish a new fund to cover costs of federal agencies battling the largest, most expensive wildland wildfires. The funds would be separate from appropriated agency budgets and would fix the problem of “fire borrowing” from non-fire programs.

“Emergency fire costs wreak havoc on Forest Service budgets and priorities,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill fixes that problem.”
Blackwater has abandoned its controversial plans for a training facility in Potrero, California:
For a small population the volume of opposition was pretty impressive. And while this news is not exactly a direct community victory, it is surely just as satisfying for them I am sure.
The Pittsburgh City Council is taking a stand against billboards:
They'll ask the mayor for a moratorium, grant themselves approval power over signs and pile on to Councilman Patrick Dowd's legal challenge to the proposed electronic billboard at a new Downtown transportation center.
Chicago’s green rooftop program is bigger than I’d realized:
Some four million square feet (370,000 square meters) of rooftop gardens have been planted on public and private buildings in the seven years since the first plants were placed atop city hall as part of a broader effort to reduce the Windy City's carbon footprint.
An article on the fight to overturn local bans on using clotheslines makes an interesting point (which fits in nicely with the argument I made here):
In a society where most people own dryers, the idea of clotheslines seems to have retained its broad popular appeal. Tide detergent comes in a "clean breeze" scent, described as "the fresh scent of laundry line-dried in a clean breeze," and the signature creations of Yankee Candle Co. include "clean cotton," a scent that evokes "sun-dried cotton with green notes, white flowers, and a hint of lemon," according to the two companies' websites.
Unless you enjoy receiving perfume-drenched catalogs and political boilerplate, you should probably sign this petition for the Do Not Mail campaign.

Never Built Virginia “offers examples of structures that never were and poses the question, ‘What if?’ In the age of recycling, redevelopment, and reuse, it is appropriate to revisit these frustrated ventures, lost competitions, and unrealized commissions.”

Next up, Turnstile Portraits, a touching collection of Love Letters, and BibliOdyssey's survey of anthropomorphic trade cards:

You'll find an entertaining collection of cautionary fables at Photoshop Disasters (via things). Also, be sure to check out Aurora Bibliothèque. And crochet graffiti. And A Crystalline Herbal and Bestiary.

Until next time, I'll leave you with some amazing images of early Galveston from The Verkin Photo Company Collection.

(Illustration at top: "Half Clouds Half Plain, the Clouds Darker than the Plain or Blue Part, and Darker at the Top than the Bottom" by Alexander Cozens, from A New Method for Assisting the Invention in the Composition of Landscape, ca. 1785. Via Moon River.)