February 2006 Archives
Greenland is melting, hurricanes are intensifying, and the the scientific community has reached a consensus on global warming. So who does Our Leader turn to for advice?:
In his new book about Mr. Bush, "Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush," Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, "State of Fear," suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.
Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as "a dissenter on the theory of global warming," writes that the president "avidly read" the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement."
"The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more," he adds.
And so it has, fueling a common perception among environmental groups that Mr. Crichton's dismissal of global warming, coupled with his popularity as a novelist and screenwriter, has undermined efforts to pass legislation intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that leading scientists say causes climate change.
Mr. Crichton, whose views in "State of Fear" helped him win the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual journalism award this month, has been a leading doubter of global warming and last September appeared before a Senate committee to argue that the supporting science was mixed, at best.
"This shows the president is more interested in science fiction than science," Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said after learning of the White House meeting. Mr. O'Donnell's group monitors environmental policy.
Recently after a flight in Australia, seminal punk rock pioneer and spoken word artist Henry Rollins received a letter from a bureaucrat who had been reviewing citizen's reports from the "National Security Hotline to report terrorists" informing him that a fellow passenger "nominated (him) as a possible threat", because Rollins was seen reading Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, published by Yale University Press.
Rollins, true to himself responded to the letter:
I was reading a book called Jihad by Ahmed Rashid which is a history of Central Asia. I didn't speak to the man next to me past how do you do. I think Ahmed Rashid is published by Yale University Press. Bush's alma mater. Please tell your government and everyone in your office to go fuck themselves. Tell them twice. If your boss is looking for something to do, you can tell him I suggest he go fuck himself. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy. You have a nice night.
This incident recalled this passage from Orwell's 1984:
The quacking voice from the next table, temporarily silenced during the Ministry's announcement, had started up again, as loud as ever. For some reason Winston found himself thinking of Mrs. Parsons, with her wispy hair and the dust in the creases in her face. Within two years those children would be reporting her to the Thought Police. Mrs. Parsons would be vaporized.
Just a reminder everyone ... watch your step. Our "leaders" are training the populace well.
A new blog has appeared over the past few months, written by constitutional attorney Glenn Greenwald, called Unclaimed Territory. Recently he has been focusing on the NSA surveillance scandal, and his posts are comprehensive, rigorous and enlightening. Being an attorney (and believe me I've known my share of them) Mr. Greenwald is frequently quite verbose but never superfluous. This is not meant so much as a criticism, but as a caveat to my recommendation to his blog which requires the reader to be prepared in engage in reading his fully reasoned posts.
A good example of his posts is The Long Hard Slog which reasons that the challenge to BushCo's abuses of power will not be resolved and corrected easily but that the fight must go on or it will fail.:
There are lots of people who appear to be morbidly depressed -- to the point of conceding defeat -- as a result of yesterday’s unilateral obstruction by the incomparable White House shill Sen. Pat Roberts of the long-planned and long-promised investigation into the operational aspects of the NSA program by the Senate Intelligence Committee. That defeatist reaction and the borderline-self-pitying sentiments which accompany it are, for literally countless reasons, completely unwarranted.
There is enormous potential for this scandal to grow, but that will only happen if people who believe that Presidential law-breaking is a serious threat remain resolute about making it grow and believe that they can contribute to its growth. Dick Cheney lobbied so hard to prevent the Intelligence Committee from investigating precisely because they want to create the appearance that this scandal is dying. That will happen only if people allow it to die, only if Bush opponents internalize the notion that they will inevitably lose because everything is against them and there is no way to change that.
This is blogging at its best. I've included Unclaimed Territory in my list of links for your easy reference.
What happens when a religion gets the rug pulled out from under it?
From the LA Times Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted:
From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago. "We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."
A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East. "I've gone through stages," he said. "Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness." For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.
The Church responds:
Officially, the Mormon Church says that nothing in the Mormon scriptures is incompatible with DNA evidence, and that the genetic studies are being twisted to attack the church.
"We would hope that church members would not simply buy into the latest DNA arguments being promulgated by those who oppose the church for some reason or other," said Michael Otterson, a Salt Lake City-based spokesman for the Mormon church.
As with all of the major faiths that rely on the literalism of their text, Mormonism has always been a suspect, as if they all aren't, but the Book of Mormon is particularly galling. From the article:
The book's narrative focuses on a tribe of Jews who sailed from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 BC and split into two main warring factions.
The God-fearing Nephites were "pure" (the word was officially changed from "white" in 1981) and "delightsome." The idol-worshiping Lamanites received the "curse of blackness," turning their skin dark.
According to the Book of Mormon, by 385 AD the dark-skinned Lamanites had wiped out other Hebrews. The Mormon church called the victors "the principal ancestors of the American Indians." If the Lamanites returned to the church, their skin could once again become white.
Lovely folks, huh?
First NASA has a press officer, now resigned under pressure, who tried to insists that the word "theory" be inserted everytime NASA mentions the big bang and now they try and suppress the idea that someday the Sun may go out.
In a different example of spinning science news last month, NASA headquarters removed a reference to the future death of the sun from a press release about the discovery of comet dust around a distant star known as a white dwarf. A white dwarf, a shrunken dense cinder about the size of earth, is how our own sun is fated to spend eternity, astronomers say, about five billion years from now, once it has burned its fuel.
"We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun," said Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was edited out of the final news release he went on to say, "I cringed when I saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future of our own planets and solar system."
An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, "NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios." Never mind that the death of the sun has been a staple of astronomy textbooks for 50 years.
From the NY Times article Someday the Sun Will Go Out and the World Will End (but Don't Tell Anyone).
From Editor & Publisher's More Questions Raised About Delay in Reporting Cheney Misfire:
The more than 18-hour delay in news emerging that the Vice President of the United States had shot a man, sending him to an intensive care unit with his wounds, grew even more curious late Sunday. E&P has learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occured and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.
The confirmation was made but there was no indication whether the Vice President's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christ Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.
Needless to say, if this was a Democratic VP, the Republicans and the media would be screaming bloody murder.
Today is the 197th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.
From the Los Angeles Times:
WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.
"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent.
"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
A former high-school biology teacher, Ham travels the nation training children as young as 5 to challenge science orthodoxy. He doesn't engage in the political and legal fights that have erupted over the teaching of evolution. His strategy is more subtle: He aims to give people who trust the biblical account of creation the confidence to defend their views — aggressively.
Last month I watch a three part Frontline documentary on PBS called Country Boys. It was a scary look into the lives of two teenage Appalachian boys struggling to grow up and survive amidst poverty. One of the most shocking things in the film were the classroom sessions where teachers blatantly expressed their religious viewpoints. It was shocking to me, but as I always have to remind myself, that the vast majority of this country accepts and promotes fundamentalism without question.
From The Progressive website:
VA Nurse Investigated for “Sedition” for Criticizing Bush
Laura Berg is a clinical nurse specialist at the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, where she has worked for 15 years.
Shortly after Katrina, she wrote a letter to the editor of the weekly paper the Alibi criticizing the Bush Administration.
After the paper published the letter in its September 15-21 issue, VA administrators seized her computer, alleged that she had written the letter on that computer, and accused her of “sedition.”
Here’s what her letter said.
“I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government,” it began. “The Katrina tragedy in the U.S. shows that the emperor has no clothes!” She mentioned that she was “a VA nurse” working with returning vets. “The public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder,” she wrote, and she worried about the hundreds of thousands of additional cases that might result from Katrina and the Iraq War.
“Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown, and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence,” she wrote. “This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil. . . . We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.
Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times.”
After her computer was seized, Berg wrote a memo to her bosses seeking information and an explanation.
Mel Hooker, chief of the human resources management service at the Albuquerque VA, wrote Berg back on November 9 and acknowledged that “your personal computer files did not contain the editorial letter written to the editor of the weekly Alibi.”
But rather than apologize, he leveled the sedition charge: “The Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition,” he said. “In your letter . . . you declared yourself ‘as a VA nurse’ and publicly declared the Government which employs you to have ‘tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence’ and advocated, ‘act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.’ ”
The ACLU in New Mexico is defending Ms. Berg.
Just one more story in the attempt of the current government to control our speech and thoughts and rule by fear.
"I come from a rather conservative Episcopal parish," Bush said. "And I haven't seen anything like this in my life."
Moira Shearer, ballerina and star of The Red Shoes died Tuesday at age 80.
For me it is meaningless to state what my "favorite movie" is; there are so many and they are so different. One of my favories is The Red Shoes which to me is the most romantic and purely innocent one I have ever seen. I still sigh when I see the scene where Shearer’s character, Victoria Page, is taking a late night carriage ride along the coast of Monte Carlo, half asleep in the arms of the young composer and her lover Julian Craster (played by Marius Goring) in which he says to Vicky:
One day when I am old I want some lovely young girl to say to me: ‘Tell me, where in your long life Mr. Craster were you most happy?’. And I shall say, ‘Well my dear, I never knew the exact place. It was somewhere on the Mediterranean. I was with Victoria Page. ‘What‘ she would say, ‘do you mean the famous dancer?’, and I will nod and say ‘Yes my dear, I do. Then she was quite young; comparatively unspoiled. We were, I remember, very much in love.’
Ahh, if life were so ...
From the obituary published in today's LA Times:
Using Technicolor photography, "The Red Shoes" (1948) was one of the most stunning films of its vintage, and its entrancing, porcelain-skinned heroine was credited with almost single-handedly popularizing ballet for millions. However, in later years she disparaged the film and its cost to her ballet career, saying, "Isn't it strange that something you've never really wanted to do turns out to be the very thing that's given you a name and identity?"