.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Present Situation

I am now nearly two-thirds finished with my firewood cutting. This year, due to the problems with my feet, which continue, my good wife Esther has stepped in to help greatly with the hauling. I cut, split, and haul the wood down the slope to the creek. She has worked out a system to use our two garden carts plus our little firewood cart (depending on which ones don't have flat tires) to haul the wood up the other slope to the woodpile under our front deck. She does this by herself by making multiple trips with light loads, and she seems almost voracious in wanting to do this. It gives her what she considers to be much needed exercise.

At the same time I've also gotten some important work done on my big 6 by 7-foot stained glass "Iris Window." This involves first creating a pattern on a large, gessoed masonite panel that otherwise I would be using for a painting. Since the window is really a composite of nine separate, good-sized panes, and since the composite as a whole is one-third larger than the masonite panel, this involves scaling the pattern upward -- a difficult extra step requiring the use of grids. Plus I still have not finished working out the design. But in recent days I've been closing in on doing that.

Meanwhile I still read things online, but the spigot for writing my own posts keeps turning itself off. But that's okay, because the world will continue its merry sail into Hell in a handbasket no matter what I write or when. It's just great that I can do my firewood and my stained glass at the same time. Till now I had had a lot of trouble doing more than one thing at a time.

But I'm starting to get a little worried about my right foot. It was healing till a few days ago, when I reinjured it. There are too many little stobs and rocks sticking up in the woods and steps to be missed at the house in the dark.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Down Under Goes Under

Yesterday one of the news services -- I think it was the Bloomberg people -- ran an item whose headline read something like, "Nuclear Winter in Sydney Australia." (I'm not giving the link because it refused to lead to anything on my computer, and I had to go to another source to find out what could have induced a headline writer to forsake truth in writing, in favor of such gross sensationalism.)

'Hmm,' I thought. 'Nuclear winter is a very serious business, and so dire that no one should ever think of using that term loosely.' And I hadn't heard of any nuclear bombs being exploded anywhere near Australia recently. I had the feeling that the French tests in nearby Polynesia were long over, and anyway, how could there ever be a good reason to drop a nuclear bomb on Australia? Notwithstanding that it has contributed more than its share of interesting movie actresses and a fair number of worthwhile, whimsical little films as well, Australia otherwise is just a gigantic desert that features an incredible array of the world's most poisonous snakes, and with a narrow rim of beaches where everyone lives and beyond which are nothing but oceans filled with poisonous jellyfish.

It turned out to be just another instance of how Australia seems to be coming under the hammer of climate change sooner than most places, and on top of fires that have already ravaged parts of that subcontinent hogged by only one country, there's been a bad drought in New South Wales. So the "nuclear winter" was really a dust storm of the type that hits the planet Mars all the time, and what little topsoil there is in the deserts nearby has been picked up by the winds, carried to Sydney, and dropped there wholesale, turning everything not white but tan and orange and red, and instead of a winter that lasts for years, it's been more like a volcano has blown its top and is making the simple and absolutely essential task of breathing hard for the unlucky people in that part of big, gritty Australia.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Iran as Pariah?

Below is a comment that today I had the unmitigated gall to send to the well-known site, Informed Comment, run by Juan Cole, a confirmed expert on all things Middle East. Though his stands are normally exemplary, I thought he went off the deep end in a recent post in which he said that Iran was becoming a pariah state, because of its recent elections, and because of Iran thumbing its nose at those who want to impose tight limits on its nuclear programs, and because of Ahmadinejad's recent statements about the Holocaust. I thought that, if anything, Iran's attackers deserved parian status at least as much if not more, because of the "sticks and stones" proposition, and most of the several other comments made to that post said pretty much the same.

I have never posted to that site before, and especially not to such a bigtime one. I don't know if Cole has approved it yet to appear in the comments. But I liked what I said because it involved a matter that has always puzzled me, and I have yet to hear any explanation that would hold much water.

I agree with those who have said that you've slipped off the track on this "Iran as a Pariah" kick, Mr. Cole.

To the best of my knowledge, the Iran leaders have not yet threatened to bomb Israel. But Israeli figures regularly threaten to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, if they can't push the U.S. into doing it for them.

What do you think would hurt worse, Mr. Cole? Being bombed, and in a nuclear place, or having to hear invective that is nothing that the Israelis haven't heard before, from the Iranian President and others. I think most people would much prefer being hit by harsh words, if they have to be hit by anything at all

And anyway, what is it about the Iranians that they are forbidden to waste good time, effort, money, and brainwork on developing nuclear weapons, should they so desire, when their record for bellicosity is much better historically than any of the nations that have nukes, especially the U.S. and Israel? No one ever seems able to give a good answer to that question.

Bad Day in Belleville, Illinois

From an article about how the hate radio people are seizing on an incident in Belleville, Illinois, because of an incident there on a school bus, in which some Rainbow kids were at first reported as having beaten up a Euro kid on racial grounds, though that charge was later disavowed by the local police, here is an excerpt that especially interested me.

Belleville has had a long history of racial turmoil, with a past that includes police harassment of black motorists, cross burnings and discrimination in city hiring.

The divide began a century ago, in 1903, when a black man was lynched by a mob of 5,000 people in the town square, set on fire and dismembered.

I know a little something about Belleville, Illinois from personal experience.

Early in 1952, after completing basic training in the Air Force, I was sent to Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois, , to be trained as an airborne radio mechanic. A day or two after arriving there, three or four of us who had been in the same flight during basic training in the Finger Lakes region of New York state put on our little blue uniforms, which we hadn't had much occasion to wear so far, as basic involved wearing mainly the baggy olive drab coveralls called "fatigues," and we took a bus into the nearest town to see what was what. That town was Belleville. I was the only Rainbow in the group. The others were that something universally and erroneously called "white." None of us had ever heard the slightest thing about Belleville, and we assumed that because it was so close to a big Air Force base, it had to be all right. But it seems that the widespread American admiration for our military "brave boys" is sometimes only skin deep.

We went into an establishment that seemed to be a combination drugstore and restaurant, took our seats, and waited to be served. That started to take a while. My friends were all from New England states, and, thinking nothing of the delay, they just kept on engaging in their usual repartee. However along with my pigmentation went a certain alertness to various situations that was necessary for self-preservation in those days of Jim Crow, and I kept studying what appeared to be a conference in the back of the restaurant between a waitress and one or two older men, and it was easy to sense what was about to happen.

Sure enough the waitress, sufficiently instructed, came to our table and asked to speak with one of the guys that she took to be our leader. They went off a little distance, and had a short conversation, after which this guy -- his name was Greenwood -- returned and said, "Let's go."

We left and outside the others started grilling Greenwood about what was up. He said, "They didn't have what we want to eat."

I quickly decided to lift from him the onus of protecting me, if that was what he was doing, and I said, "Come on, Greenwood. I know what that was about. They don't serve Negroes in there. It's segregated."

(Back then, "Negro" was still much to be preferred over being called "black.")

And we went back to the base, where we knew we would all be served. By then it had been five years since Harry Truman, a Democrat, had desegregated the Armed Services.

After that Belleville, Illinois just became an ugly little place that it was necessary to pass through on the way to the nearest big city, St. Louis, which was just across the Mississippi. Other points of interest in that area were Alton, Illinois, which had produced the great jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, and East St. Louis, Illinois, which later became one of those starved majority Rainbow towns, along with the likes of Newark, N.J., Gary, Ind, Detroit, Mich, and my own hometown, the Nation's Capital. East St. Louis, however, is notable because it is the site of Cahokia, one of the largest of the earthen mounds built by the original inhabitants of this continent. But I only visited St. Louis, because it had the all-important virtue of harboring a chess club, from which I was not barred as I had been from the big club in D.C., where for all I knew I was still also barred from all the department stores except one and also from -- wouldn't you know it -- all the restaurants without exception.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


The strain of my firewood cutting and hauling seven days a week keeps leaving me with an assortment of small pains and periods of exhaustion, and added to that is the stress of having to remember where I am and what I'm doing every second while I'm in the woods, especially whenever I'm holding a running chainsaw. And two weeks ago my wife caught me violating my own hard and fast rule of never operating a chainsaw on Sundays. I don't think I had ever done that before, but that day I had simply forgotten, and I stopped as soon as she yelled through the woods. I've never heard that rule stated as such, but I formulated and adopted it after having noticed that I never heard the locals running chainsaws on that day. Once in a great while I would hear a gunshot, usually only one, but never a saw.

Noting how those stresses and strains were leaving me feeling shaky and feeble most of the time, yesterday I got to thinking. Not many men born in 1931 or even years later are doing this kind of thing. So what right do I have to think I should be feeling just as I did thirty or forty years ago? Worse still, even then I wasn't the robust type, having always been underweight, maybe even severely so, never -- until about 20 years ago --weighing more than 135 pounds while standing just short of six feet tall. What right indeed! And that thought made me feel better, though I am not quite sure that it is the realization that I ought to be nursing.

Where is Riverbend?

As you can see from clicking the following hot link, Baghdad Burning, in just one more month it will be two painful years since a woman who called herself "Riverbend" made her last post on her weblog.

Starting from the time that I first read her work, which must've been in 2003, "Baghdad Burning" was and still is my favorite weblog. In it she vividly portrayed what it was like to be an Iraqi after the GWBush administration sent an overpowering number of troops into her country and quickly made of it a shambles, from which Iraq still shows few signs of recovering, as far as I can see. She painted unforgettable word pictures not only of herself but also of her family members and of Iraqis in general as they coped with the steady descent into sheer catastrophe brought on by the invasion. Eventually the various personal outrages that she shared with the other Iraqis were even marked by what became a popular crime in Iraq, kidnapping. Some people grabbed one of her cousins, and he was returned only after her family had seriously strained itself financially by paying a big ransom.

I was also constantly struck by her determination and courage in sticking things out, when so many other Iraqis were choosing to leave by any means possible. But finally, after four years of the chaos, they decided that they had to leave, and they went to neighboring Syria, from which the October 22, 1007 was the last post she made, at a time when whether they would be able to stay there, too, was still very much up in the air.

The mention in the news today that something called Eid, which comes after the end of the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, is about to start. I remembered that Riverbend had made ofa big thing of Eid, a name that appealed to me and which I had never heard of and still don't recall what it was about, except that it was important.

I guess part of the mystique that bound me so closely to the idea of this woman was the mystique of her mystery that she kept wrapped so tightly and thickly around her, despite the way that she assaulted male Muslim attitudes by dressing in jeans and other revealing garb while against the tent-covered way in which they thought she should be dressed. Who was Riverbend? What was her real name? What did she look like? Her mastery of the American idiom was such that she must've spent a lot of time in the U.S., yet she never let loose one inkling as to whether or not she had, and whenever she mentioned the U.S., it was usually with scorn. What happened in Syria? Where is she now? Most importantly, is she still alive and well? I have yet to read any answers to all these questions.

I always thought that if Riverbend were to come to the U.S. she would end up being quite well off. She had a large number of admirers here, and for one thing a great movie could be made of her story, though in other places she also had detractors. Some thought she didn't exist but was just someone's extremely clever creation. Others also called her a Ba'athist, because she clearly preferred the world of the highly criminal Saddam Hussein to that of the equally crimiinal George W. Bush -- where Iraq was concerned. But that was only to be expected when you consider that as long as Saddam was around, at least things as basic as electricity, running water, and law and order were available all the time, instead of just the few hours a day after the bringing of "democracy."

I know that weblogging is an activity easily to be dropped and never to be resumed again, or at least only after a long interval, and I seriously hope that that is all it is, in Riverbend's case.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Weblogs and the Bear

Years ago there was a miniseries on TV that I remember mostly because of a single line. It went, "Some days you eat the bear . . .and some days the bear eats you." I think that writing a non-bigtime weblog is like that. At least I can see it happening in the three most personal weblogs that I follow the closest -- LeftLeaningLady's My Musings, Rook's Rook's Rant, and Steve Bates' Yellow Doggerel. For various reasons they take "sabbaticals" that last for various lengths of time, in between periods when they post regularly. Similarly I go through periods when the posts pour out of my head and even into this weblog profusely -- or at least profusely for me. But then I have other intervals when one day of neglecting to put something in here leads too comfortably to a second day of the same and then another, and another, etc.

I know the causes of this most recent gap. I don't want to go into them for the vary same reasons that I indulge in the gap in the first place -- except to say that the things that I read about what's happening elsewhere in the world have a lot to do with it.

People seem to have no idea of what an enormous privilege it is merely to be on this planet, if only for a relatively short time.

Things were better back in the ages of the dinosaurs, before that asteroid struck -- except of course for the beings that the raptors ran down and ate. That's the first era I think of wanting to visit, whenever time travel comes to mind. Following the first Indians on their trek from the Bering down to the Magellan Strait down through all three of the Americas comes in a very close second.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Consequences of Stupid

In Afghanistan recently a NATO commander from Germany unwisely called in an air strike to demolish two filled fuel trucks that had been hijacked from a NATO convoy by the Taliban. The trucks had been spotted mired down in a place called Kunduz, but Intelligence had not also informed the Colonel that the people swarming around it were not Taliban fighters but were instead local villagers who had been told by the Taliban to come get all the fuel that they could drain, free. As a result, when the rockets hit and blew up the trucks, a large number of civilians died.

But that wasn't the only tragic after-effect of the Tale of the Two Trucks.

A British journalist named Farrell thought it was worth the gamble to go into that Taliban-controlled area to check out things, despite the fact that he was quite definitely warned not to, not only by the western military but also by the local village elders. Just as predicted, he and his interpreter, a man named Muradi, were promptly grabbed. Negotiations followed and seemed to be going well, but then NATO special forces thought it was worth the risk to try a rescue. And they did rescue Farrell, but at the too high cost of four fatalities, including Muradi, whose body had to be left behind, plus a British paratrooper and two others who presumably were Taliban because they were not named in the news report.

Now in Britain indignant voices are being raised about the wisdom of the operation, and in defence one NATO source said, "Being stupid does not give you a death sentence."

But in a place like Afghanistan it very definitely does. And not only that but also it was questionable for GWBush to go in there in the first place, and just as B. Obama is running the strong risk of being accused of acting in the same way if he fails to hit on an excuse to get out of there with some dispatch, after B. Clinton had much more prudently satisfied himself with zinging in a few Tomahawk shots and then leaving well enough alone, and just as historically it's been incredibly stupid for the British to go into Afghanistan time and time again over several centuries, only to be evicted each time, usually at a high expenditure of lives.

And then there were the Russians.

That was why the Russians, the victors in the greatest and most sweeping military campaign ever fought, in their expulsion of the Nazis from their land in the Second World War, found it so expedient to get out of what should've been much easier Afghanistan after having mounted expeditions there for about eight years. The Russians finally saw that the place was giving their forces far too many opportunities to act stupidly.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rain Here

Following a long dry spell, this morning it is raining here, lightly. Though I can't be sure of it, maybe it will rain long enough to stop me from going up on the hill across the creek to continue my wood-cutting and hauling..

Despite the still parlous state of both my feet, especially the right one, I've had a good week with the firewood. All summer, while partially dreading the prospects, I vowed that this year I would start work on it promptly, on Sept 1, and I did. Last year I waited till October, which meant that the heating season was soon upon me, and for a long time I was in the uncomfortable position of seeing my wood being used as fast as I could stack it up -- a big no-no, because one of the joys of cutting one's own wood is watching the pile get noticeably larger every day. Some wood that my good friend up the road, G., gave me, greatly helped me to get through that situation.

So far I've only cut down one trunk of a tall, double-trunked, green, white oak tree, and because I left standing the other trunk, which was growing straighter up, it means that so far this year I have yet to cut down a complete tree. Both trunks were over a foot through at the butt.

Yesterday I fnished sawing up that trunk, and, because of the pain in my feet, I had to take it slow and easy, as I have to do everything else these days. Now I have a lot of splitting to do, which I do by hand with wedges and a splitting maul. And maybe if the rain doesn't last, I'll at least be able to get some of that done today.. I have to split the wood right now instead of waiting till freezing weather when it is much easier to do. The unsplit rounds are too heavy for me to lift into my big garden carts, which I also have to use because something motorized would be too expensive to get and to maintain, plus it would be too dangerous to use on the steep, rough slope where most of our woodlot is located. Loaded garden carts pose their dangers, too, though mainly on to the ankles, when they could cause me to lose my footing on the rough and sometimes slippery ground.

Still I have to keep in mind that I am doing this at an age when most people are either too incapacitated or they are long gone or they are too sensible to have anything to do with something like going into the woods and cutting and carrying and wheeling away firewood. In fact there are very few who do it even among the much younger people on this road. I could, I guess, come up with enough money to get it delivered, all cut and maybe even split, but I still see too many advantages in doing it myself. One advantage is the exercise. Another is being in the woods themselves. Few experiences that I can think of compare with it, especially in a season as beautiful and temperate as the Fall always is here, and we haven't gotten to the best part of it yet.

So I'm highly grateful that it looks as if I just might be able to pull it off for at least another year. I am already about one-sixth of the way through.

Topless in Central Park

An article that I found on the Alternet tells of a brave young woman who recently decided to walk around in New York City's Central Park while bare to the waist. I guess she wanted to check out the limits of toleration.

Quite logically and understandably, all the men she encountered took the sight of her in stride, without a disparaging word, and without much staring or any leers either. The only thing she heard from them was when a couple of guys, protective of her, warned her that she would probably get into trouble, though there didn't seem to be any known laws against it.

The women she saw were a different cup of tea entirely, and she ended up being somewhat distressed and puzzled about all the unfavorable remarks that they flung in her direction, in and out of her hearing.

What is the explanation?

Whenever I hear about something like this, especially when it comes to puritanical religious women, I wonder what they think whenever they take a bath or a shower. Do they really believe that, unclothed, they suddenly become objects of utter disgust?

I would think that they would rise in support instead of such a courageous challenge to a popular bias.

I was all the more impressed with what this woman did because, though a male and with no attractions for anybody, I would never step outside my house without being fully clothed, even in these woods where only an occasional deer is ever present to witness anything.

I know an exceptionally in-your-face, mature woman who, though she has three daughters (or maybe because of them!) does not care for the company of other women, and generally she prefers to associate with men, or so she told me.

I don't remember exactly why. The reasons behind that attitude might throw some light on the above question. And it would also be interesting to know if she still feels that way.

I wish E. was still living close to here so that I could ask her about this. Her views, even on subjects that otherwise were totally off her radarscope, were always worth hearing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Hero's Welcome

Speaking of vengeance, consider, then , the current furore over the man accused and therefore convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing of 1988. After eight years of his incarceration, the Scots have released him and he has returned to Libya, there to live out the little that remains of his life because of prostate cancer. The Scots say they did this out of compassion, but some scream that it was done so as to facilitate British oil firms getting the concession on untapped Libyan oil and gas fields.

Everyone on this side of the Atlantic professes to be enraged. The words here are devoid of all mercy. Instead the thinking is that the man, named al-Megrahi, was found guilty and therefore should have been left to rot in jail, to his last seconds, with no further questions asked or needed. He was convicted and that's all that matters. Case closed. Fini.

But it's not that easy, and never brought up in all this sound and fury are the merits of the case itself.

The case against al-Megrahi was purely circumstantial, and that's not surprising. How much evidence can you get from a bomb that exploded thousands of feet up in the air and that rained down thousands of small pieces scattered over a wide area? Though it seems barely possible, parts of the suitcase that contained the bomb were supposedly found, and it was deduced that this sutitcase also contained some old clothes and an umbrella. And it was further charged that al-Megrahi was the one who sent off this suitcase, with the bomb inside, though among other things, it's not certain that he was even in Malta on the day the suitcase was dispatched. Flight 103 didn't go near Malta, and the suitcase found its way aboard the plane at Heathrow, in England, instead.

All in all this evidence sounds sketchy even for circumstantial evidence, and some believe that al-Megrahi and another man, who was acquitted, were merely sacrificial lambs that Qaddafi threw to the British and the Americans to get them off his back, because of course someone had to pay for the horrific toll of the explosion -- 270 people dead, including 189 American. Someone had to pay.

When the other accused defendant returned to Libya a free man, he received a hero's welcome. And so when al-Megrahi was similarly hailed on his return, it increased the outrage felt over his release, though I don't know how anything else could've been expected, because there something else important was also ignored, and that was the often demonstrated principle of how one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, policy sacrifice, or innocent victim. It's all in the eye of the nation or the group, and that always trumps questions of guilt vs. innocence.

Nothing illustrates that better than what has been happening meanwhile with a former U.S. Army lieutenant named William Calley. He is happily almost forgotten now, but during the Vietnam War he was a household name.

One news report that I saw said something about al-Megrahi much like, "the man who murdered the 270 people on Flight 103." This makes it sound as if he and he alone walked up and down the aisles of the plane at his leisure while firing bullets into the heads of every person aboard.

Back in 1971 Calley and the troops with him did just that. They committed the famous "My Lai Massacre," in which they lined up and shot to death over 500 Vietnamese men, women, and children. For this huge taking of human life, which amounted to nearly double the number of deaths incurred in the Lockerbie Bombing, Calley was sentenced to what, after he admitted to taking part in the murders? Three years of house arrest. House arrest!

In a case not anywhere near as tight as the charges against Calley, al-Megrahi served eight years in a Scottish prison before he was released. And close to the same time that al-Megrahi arrived in Libya with cancer sitting hard on him, a healthy and smiling William Calley was getting a standing ovation, a hero's welcome, at a Kiwanis club in Georgia.

It's been shown over and over again that 100 foreign lives are not regarded as being equal even to just 5 American ones (of European extraction). But still. . . .

And speaking of heroes, it should not be forgotten either that just six months previous to the Lockerbie Bombing, the U.S. Navy misread its instruments and shot down Iranian airliner Flight 655 over the Hormuz Strait, killing all 290 people aboard, including 66 children.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Like its sibling, Anger, the Desire for Vengeance is an intensely damaging longing for people to find necessary to carry around in their hearts and minds. It just makes the situation worse. That's why the responses to 9/11 -- the Patriot Act, Gitmo, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the dispatching of sniper teams and abductors over large parts of the globe, the "renditions," the secret prisons, the torture, the politically motivated terror alerts -- did nothing to ennoble the U.S., even in its own eyes, and the effect has been the opposite instead.

Having experienced the definite confirmation of it myself, the sudden, unexpected, and far too early deaths of loved ones (though not through murder), I found that there is one aspect of such an experience that rears high over all other considerations, and that is the absolute finality of it. You are hit hard by the cold, overwhelming fact that no case of mistaken identity, no miracle of medicine or science, or even prayers can ever bring that person back to the bubbling, vivid state in which you always saw him or her.

It hardly matters, then, what actually killed that loved one, nor do the surrounding circumstances. All that matters is the utter impossiblity of getting that person back, alive and whole. And after those first wrenching moments of being told, that's what one grieves in all the years to come, every time something comes up that causes you to feel a great need to consult that person.

And if any of those occasions had been cases of murder, I strongly doubt that I would have given much thought as to who did it and why. That's because I lump the misdeeds of men (and the several vicious harridans) in with natural disasters, as being all a part of the many dangers of living, and also I'm extremely fortunate in that vengeance is an almost non-existent part of my mental apparatus. I don't worry much about what's been done to me. I don't feel responsible for that. But I do worry a lot about things I've done.

That's why I have no understanding of why the families of murder victims are often so interested in attending the executions of the murderers. What do they get out of that? Doesn't that make them almost as bad as the murderers themselves? And it doesn't bring back the victim, which would be the only thing that would interest me.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

With Little Doubt

Did Texas execute an innocent man?

There's not much doubt that it did. But they will never ever admit it, there or anywhere else.

That's the Law.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Burps and Thirsts

While the gurgling and the splatter goes on at full steam when it comes to national and international human affairs, there's a cleansing effect of sorts in noting that meanwhile nature's overriding burps and thirsts haven't disappeared even though they are so roundly ignored by homo sapiens. Instead those situations are steadily growing ever more active and threatening. By this I mean things like the methane escaping from the Arctic deeps and the subsoils to join the carbon dioxide up in the atmosphere, and also the growing shortage of water, with special reference to the western United States.

This means that in these disasters at least, the massed Nasties and the Mean-Spirited of the world can't win -- though on second thought, it might instead mean that they win after all, since catastrophe is their thing, and they do all they can to bring it about, through short-sighted expedience, ignorance, and negligence as much as through any other means.

The following passage from the above-linked article on the dwindling supplies of fresh water illustrates that point.

A recent study by the Nature Conservancy (http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/features/art29432.html?src=news) predicts that temperatures across the country will increase from 3 to 10 degrees by 2100 due to climate change. Hardest hit will be Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, which depend on the Ogallala Aquifer and make this region the "breadbasket of America." Nevertheless, some senators in those states refuse to sign legislation to address this problem after having supported the "No Climate Tax Pledge" being pushed by the group, Americans for Prosperity (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/27/small-midwestern-states-t_n_270540.html).

The article on the methane escape indicates that more and more of it is seeping from the tundra and from under water where it has been safely locked down for eons. Methane is nothing to mess with. It is, after all, by far the major component of natural gas, and that says something about its flammability. But also if enough of it collects in what I am calling its "wild state," with nothing added to it to make it readily smellable, as with kitchen stove gas, it can take lives on on a large scale. Consider what its "little brother," carbon dioxide, which frozen is the familiar and generally harmless dry ice, did in Africa in 1986. A landslide into a lake in Cameroon aroused the carbon dioxide and other gases put there by magma from the Earth's mantle and that till then had been resting quietly under the water, and after bubbling upward and then outward, it suddenly and silently it snuffed out the lives of 1,700 people in the adjoining area.

That tragedy could easily be a forerunner of things that the climate scientists tell us are soon to come.

Iin the process of making large parts of the Earth unbearably hot that has been started by industries and vehicles sending up too much carbon dioxide to thicken the gaseous blanket over the planet, the addition of methane is going to be an ultimate killer, because. as a greenhouse gas, it beats carbon dioxide by a factor of about 20.

Meanwhile, in the article on the increasing shortage of water, its author tells us how artificial arrays of people in places such as Las Vegas are trying to keep up the illusion that they are actually located in the green East instead of in a giant desert out west , by setting afoot plans to pipe more and more water from other places that actually won't themselves have that much extra of it, including from as far east as the Mississippi River!

All I can say is that these people had better be quick to get these schemes going before this can be noticed, because when the temps reach drastic heights, as they surely will with all that methane floating upward, no one elsewhere is going to be happy about sending off any of their precious H2O to places where sensible people were never meant even to set up pup tents, much less build huge, desperate, grasping cities that will declare that their mere existence gives them the divine right to claim water, and enormous amounts of it, too, from the distant territories of others.

If we think we have some strife now.....

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Short Summer, Erika, and Saddam

Usually I am especially glad to see the start of September, because it means my favorite season, the Fall, is here, and I am glad now, too. But because this past summer was so non-sweltering, compared to all the previous summers for a long while back, for a change I feel that it was much too short.

But that feeling is heavily influenced by the fact that tackling my firewood cutting is for the first time heavily on the daunting side, because the pain I feel in my right foot whenever I use it hasn't faded nearly enough.

--Like a lot of places, we need some rain, and another hurricane, Erika, is on the move, but, like the several hurricanes before it this year, this one is on a bad track that has it going north of Cuba instead of south, and that will cause Erika to bend sharply to the north before it can get close enough to the U.S. East Coast. All self-respecting hurricanes should slide into the Gulf of Mexico first, where that bowl of warm water can give them a good spin before they go on to other things.

--I've been looking at the HBO movie about the late Saddam Hussein and his family and confederates. It gives an interesting picture of how things looked from the Iraqi point of view.

But I'm a little disappointed in the actor who is playing Saddam. He doesn't look nearly enough like the dictator. And even worse, nothing is shown of Saddam's most characteristic physical aspect, which was that patented swagger, along with him holding up his open hand with his head slightly tilted.. You would think that any actor and director would have jumped at the chance to do that swagger. That should have been easy enough and impossible to exaggerate.

This film confirms what we already knew -- Saddam Hussein never saw a bad idea that he didn't like, and this shows the importance of having an opposition in every political system.

But in the case of those chronic naysayers, the Republicans, it's just that they take that concept way too far, and in so doing they constantly commit the crime of immoderation, and that is what makes them so attractive to the hate groups, in case any of them had been wondering

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Why Is Las Vegas There?

U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who is gearing up for re-election, got a few hackles up the other day. He told the advertising manager of one of the Las Vegas newspapers that he hoped that paper would go out of business.

This suggests that that paper has not been kind to him. But that's not the only thing that suggests that the paper might very well be rightist. The big tipoff was the standard self-righteous bleat that is one of the main conservative, rightist devices these days -- the demand for an apology, and stated in such a way that there can be no doubt at all about the error of the transgressor's ways. And most likely, hopelessly crippled as he is by his profession and by his position as the majority leader in the U.S. Senate, Reid has already given that apology.

Too bad.

In a sane world he would not have bothered. In fact, in a sane world he would have gone farther and would have said, "Not only that but I also hope that Las Vegas itself goes out of business -- or at least see the errors of its hideously profligate ways. Then our great state of Nevada wouldn't be such a drag on the rest of the country."

Why is that city there? What is the purpose of Las Vegas?

The answer is staggeringly simple. It's there so that people with nothing better to do can gamble, booze, and whoremonger in comfort. Period.

But of course you will never find that true statement emblazoned anywhere in its City Hall or on the many mechanisms by which the habituees of that city advertise the place. It is, like all evils, just understood.

In the centuries to come, when historians try to figure out where the U.S. went wrong, among the many great jumping-off points they will have at their disposal, Las Vegas will be right there near the top -- a giant extravagance, a loud, gaudy, enormous parasite feeding off the rest of the country in the process of pulling huge quantities of valuable resources its wasteful way, especially water, to drain off into the desert sands to no good end.

This article in Common Dreams tells the story, about the water.