Sunday, December 2, 2007

JUST WHEN YOU THINK

you've heard everything something like this comes up. I mean, I know the man has no shame, but really. Poor Prezzie, the big, bad Dems forced him to go to war to soon. Obviously, the candidates running for the Republican nomination are out to win, even if they have to portray the Shrub as even more incompetent than he's already perceived to be.

No lie is to big or too brazen if it gets the candidate elected. I'm thinking of cuss words that haven't even been invented yet

Thursday, November 29, 2007

SIGNS ON THE ROAD

I’ve been reading a fair bit of history the last few weeks. Being down with a bug and a flair up the “irritation where you don’t want to be irritated” over the holiday weekend meant for good chunks of time with my nose stuck in any of two or three books. Spent most of my time in Will Durant’s volume on the Reformation. And found some things jumping out at me.

 

I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s noticed that the truth in any form should be at the top of the endangered species list. It’s been bad and it’s getting worse.

 

During the bad old days of the religious wars and great persecutions, both sides believed that it was no sin to lie to a heretic. And I suspect that there are radicals living in the Middle East, Pakistan or Afghanistan who would argue that it’s no sin to lie to an infidel, either. Once you’ve started down that slippery slope; well be careful that the bridge isn’t out at the bottom of the hill. Lies, bribes, anonymous informants and torture are the unholy signs on so many roads leading to that “Greater Good” of political, religious or economic unity just glowing just over the horizon. Most of us get there and expect to find Disneyland and end up with swamp gas.

 

If you accept that certain elected and appointed individuals believe that they had a mandate not only from the voters but from the almighty to assert American power and to “make their own reality” the lies fall into place. If you believe that those who disagree with you are deluded at best and heretics at worst lying to achieve your goals is just another tool to create a greater good. Your view of the greater good, no matter how few others share it.

 

Using the word heresy to describe political opponents may sound like overkill, but religious unity as a means to impose political unity has been used for centuries. The current occupant is the latest in a long line that includes Isabella of Spain, Henry VIII and Cromwell for England, Richeleau and Louis XIV for France, among others. Luckily for us the Shrub is about as successful at that as he was at running a baseball team. Some luck, I keep hearing "We're knee deep in the Big Muddy" jangling in the background.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

BLACK FRIDAY

The kids saw five minor accidents on the way down from Portland Thursday. Nothing really major, but the feeling that people just weren't paying attention.

 

And then we came to Black Friday. A good description for the shopping day after Thanksgiving. Got a kick out of some of the news stories about the early morning shopping on Friday. Waiting in line for hours to get in the mall at two in the morning. And some of the big retailers opened in the afternoon Thanksgiving. One quote was basically “they’ve had dinner, it’s time to go shopping.” Heaven forbid there should be two or three days out of the 365 days of the year when we can’t worship at the cash register alters. Or want to spend a little time with our friends and families. Can’t have that, there’s no money to be made out of it.

 

Things went a bit badly at one mall in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho. One of the doors didn’t open properly and the crowds were more unruly than usual. Folks, nobody held a gun to your head and made you stand in line for several hours so you’d have a shot at one of five hundred free gift bags. It was chaotic and they’re lucky nobody got hurt.

 

Reminded me of one of the scariest work days I ever had. I been trained to bake after I started working at Chatel. The first time I opened and handled most of the baking the day after Thanksgiving I was more than a little nervous. You look at what was baked the year before, pan up and hope for the best. And the mall was opening at seven that day, not four in the blessed am like Penney’s did this year. Free Disney snow globes. Oh joy! What did we do? Stayed home in our nice warm living room, petted cats, and processed leftovers. Leftover turkey and veggies make for a great soup.

 

And no we don’t have our Christmas shopping done yet. It’ll get done. I’d be happy just to get the whole family in one place at one time. Even if we have to bungee cord some of us from the ceiling. Mom, me, two sisters, their husbands, five nephews over six feet tall and three cats. Happily crowded. LOL

SCHOOL SPIRIT

This entry will have some links to web pages to give some background about a very interesting article in the Portland Oregonian last Wednesday. I think your patience will be rewarded.

 

There's a decent Wikipedia article about Jefferson High School here. And another Wikipedia article about a dance ceremony performed by the Maori of New Zealand can be found here. And what happened when some exchange students from Tonga helped teach it to the kids at Jefferson and their football team started doing it before their games can be found in the Oregonian article here. Apologies for all the ads in the Oregonian article.

 

I don’t know why some of the other coaches and the Oregon sports association has been so anal about this. I haven’t really dug deep enough to find out how successful Jefferson’s football program has been in the past. But, if the enthusiasm and spirit focused on the haka have caused a turn around in team success I guess I can understand their frustration. If Jefferson used to be a push over and is no longer an easy win, then whoops I guess we’ll have to work for it now.

 

A predominately black school. They’re doing something different. It must be gang related.  God/dess save us, if we can be saved. I really wonder sometimes. Frankly, for all our blue state rep in the national elections, Oregon has a history of racism that has never really been faced. And it's a mystery sometimes when I try to understand how my folks managed to raise a fairly liberal free thinker except that dad never let anybody tell him what to think or believe and neither did granddad.

 

I think it’s fantastic that kids from a place like Tonga want to come to school in Oregon. I think it’s even better that they’re going to a school like Jefferson, making it their home, and enriching it with their culture. Oh, and the Tongan students aren't just going to Jeffereson and we're getting students from other Pacific nations too.

 

My nephews go to David Douglas High school. It isn’t part of the same league so their team doesn’t play Jefferson. But, the kids and my sister have seen film of the Jefferson players doing the haka and they all think it’s great.

 

Just a side note, the extended version of Return of the King has several how we did it documentaries. One pretty much ends with members of the stunt crew giving the actors who played the two kings a very impressive haka. And the stunt guys looked so proud while they were doing it.

 

My personal opinion? Hey, teach us too, and we’ll do it together. Or we'll do ours and you do yours and then we'll get on with the game. But, that’s just me.  

Thursday, November 22, 2007

GETTING WHAT YOU PAY FOR

I found the core of this in a "journal ideas e-mail" to myself.  It still didn't come out quite the way I saw it in the first place, but what the heck.

 

Back in the seventies PBS had a series out the UK called Connections, hosted by James Burke. He’d take a subject such as the discovery of how a touchstone works and follow how being able to easily determine the purity of gold led to easier trade which led to other changes. At the end of the series he walked us through several scenarios of how people might react if they were told that no matter how hard they work, they can only have so much. A scenario that we’re facing more and more as we face increasing limits. Increasing population numbers versus availability of water, space, or the diversion of food crops into other uses such as ethanol production as oil prices rise.

 

And we can see how this plays out when what is “good” is defined as how many “things” you can squeeze into your living space. When what you have must be replaced by the newest version of what you may already have only to be po’d when the price comes down sooner than you expected. A price you were willing to pay because you just had to be the first one on the block to have the newest widget.

 

Remember the uproar a few months ago when Apple came out with a new cell phone? The price  came down really fast and the first buyers were up in arms. I couldn’t help thinking “Hey, you wanted it bad enough to pay the intro price so you could claim bragging rights for whatever reason.” As if the charisma of owning the latest gadget would somehow rub off on you. You got what you paid for. You were the first. The price you paid not only covered the phone, but the bragging rights.

 

And the media is carefully structured to keep us believing that we can only be happy if we keepbehaving this way. That having time to read, learn an instrument, carve, paint, make cat’s cradles, spend time with your family, or singing (even if you do sound like Agent Scully singing Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog in the episode Detour) is somehow “unproductive.” Unproductive for who? Well, for the businesses that want to sell you these things ready made. But, maybe not for the rest of us who value family time, cat’s cradles, or singing. Even if some our best tunes are sung in the shower.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

T SHIRT COMMENTARY

 

Detail from a screen capture of a T shirt worn by David Duchovny in the movie the TV Set. This was the best of several shots. If you can't quite make it out, it says Four More Years. Somehow I don't think he voted for Bush, ya think? And since they let him wear the shirt, I suspect nobody in the production voted for the Current Occupant.

The film is hilarious, in an over the top way. It's the subtle as a sledge hammer story of a guy trying to get a pilot made. And the inch by inch compromises that turn the story into the total opposite of what he started with.

Friday, November 9, 2007

INTERFERENCE?

Well, measure 49 passed Tuesday. Measure 49 tweaks 2004’s measure 37, which tweaked 2000’s measure 7 which attempted to tweak the landmark land use laws passed in the seventies. Back when Governor Tom McCall told out of staters “we really appreciate your visit” with the emphasis on visit.

It doesn’t solve all the problems but it’s a start. It green lights the small projects and forces the owners of large tracts to at least submit appraisals to back up their claims for compensation if they aren't allowed to develop their property the way they want to. The largest contributor on the anti side was a lumber company whose development claims reportedly totalled nearly 50,000 acres. The largest contributor on the pro side was a vineyard owner who has been doing very nicely in the post seventies era, thank you and would like to continue to do so.

One nice advantage to investing in our own entertainment is that I at least didn’t have to listen to the pro and con ads for it. Even though I supported it. I laugh, because it beats crying, when I listen to complaints about government interference in property rights. Hell, one level or other of the government hired help has been “interfering” from day one.

It’s a bit late in the day to go “well you stole it fair and square and I eventually bought it, so now I can do what I want or be compensated for government interference.”  ??????????? Frankly this whole extreme property rights movement that bubbled up in the eighties (another thing we can thank Reagan and company for) makes me just a little sick. Make that a lot sick. I wish I could find a copy of the old Jack Ohman cartoon featuring Reagan’s secretary of the Interior, James Watt, He’s standing in a landscape of endless stumps and calling it a forest. Government “interference” made the land available for homesteading and logging in the first place.

The US either took the land of tribes wiped out by disease or hunted around until they found a “chief” that would sign a treaty giving up land that wasn’t theirs to sign away in the first place. If that didn’t work, eventually the tribes would fight back and find the survivors herded onto reservations. Even then the hired help didn’t abide by the treaties that were signed.

The elected and appointed hired help, whether on the local, county, state or federal level has interfered from the get go. The feds took the land and passed the Homestead Act. The feds looked the other way while the rail road king pins decided which little town would live or die and charged rip gut freight charges to the ones that were left.

 Federal taxes and support created the Interstate Highway system. Miles and miles of straight line asphalt and concrete that bypassed all the little towns and left them to dry out like raisins on a dying grape vine. Miles of freeway so you could get to someplace that started to look just like what you left behind. And get there as quickly as possible.

 And what did we get in return? Fast food, fast shopping and “cities” in the southwest with no civic center. If you plunked an ancient Athenian or even a Spartan  down in the middle of one of these, they’d probably argue it wasn’t a city at all. Not marketplace or central place where the citizens could gather and make the laws in sight. No temples to the Gods or Goddesses. I forgot, the temples are there. I just doubt that any Athenian would recognize a strip mall as a temple, though. We’re left with a collection of people whose only tie to each other is the freeway that brought them there.

The Bonneville Power Administration built dams that turned on the lights in the Pacific Northwest and made it possible ship goods by water from Idaho to the Pacific Rim. The dams also drowned the fishing grounds at Celilo Falls and put several nails in the coffin of the Northwest salmon runs that supported the most complex non agricultural communities of Native Americans in this hemisphere. In the fifties the feds decertified some of the remaining tribes, parceled out some of the land too "former" tribal members and took what was left. No land, no fish, no game, a remnants of a people, dying languages and endless casinos catering to the people who took the land in the first place. Interference, what interference?

You may have figured out by now that I have very little patience for big anybody prattling about rights for the little guy in a thinly veiled attempt to get even more, leaving the rest of us with less. Especially when the only real right we seem to have left is the right to buy what they want to sell us. It's interesting that this measure passed by the same percentage as Measure 37, about 65 percent for, 35 percent against. Yes, the urban counties around Portland and Eugene led the way. But it passed further up the valley, over on the coast and in the grain and orchard country east of the Cascades.

But, in an era when oil is flirting with $100.00 a barrel and gas is over $3.00 a gallon, the last thing we need is more sprawl. Oregon, Washington and Idaho help the balance of payments in this country with our unsurpassed apples, peaches, pears, strawberries and other produce. We raise and export wheat and other grains. Heck, we have closer ties to the other side of the Pacific Rim than we do with the east coast. Our vineyards are producing wines as good as and sometimes better than the imports from Europe. We can't give the land back to the Native Americans but we can save it for their children and ours.

 

Monday, November 5, 2007

I GUESS I CAN UNDERSTAND

why politicians court these blocks of voters. If they think alike hopefully they'll vote alike, too. It's a bit like the money boys and girls who want nominees decided as soon as possible so they'll know which horse to back in hopes of a better return on their investment.

Easier to court a block than to try to court us prickly, square pegs. They have to court us one.......at.......a.......time. Which leaves the prickly square pegs saying to ourselves and to them "tell me again why doing it this way is a good thing." Because I'm having a really hard time seeing it right now.

TELL 'EM TO #$%^ OFF!

I was watching one of my Cousteau documentaries last night. This set was on the work his organization did on the Danube River in the early nineties. There is a sequence where he describes the geological changes that led to the current geology in the area. Immense salt mines and limestone formations left over from the receding of the ancient Tethys Sea. He discussed geologic time the way we talk about the weather. And it got me to thinking about other things.

I doubt is there is any first world country where the age of the earth is debated more fiercely than the US, and I think it’s a symptom of what’s killing us. Pope Benedict recently called on the people of Europe to remember their Christian heritage. As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict ran the organization that took the place of the Holy Inquisition. Yes, your holiness, let us remember the Christian heritage of Europe.

Let me see, forced conversions and crusades preached not only to “free” the Holy Land but against fellow Europeans. By all means let us remember the heresy hunts that allowed torture and anonymous accusations with the unnamed accusers sharing in the property seized from the accused. And I must be honest. The church didn’t kill anyone. They just condemned them and turned the accused over to the secular government for execution. Usually by the most brutal means possible.

And the Lutherans and the Calvinists went at each other as enthusiastically as the Roman Church went after them. After reading the bios of some of the leaders of both sides, I’ve come to this conclusion. If any of them were alive now they’d as likely be in a psych ward as standing in a pulpit. Don’t even get me started on the likes of John Calvin. Reading Will Durant's description of life in Calvin's Geneva was eye opening to say the least. No dancing, theaters, card playing and mandatory church attendance was the least of it. Having the elders show up at your door at least once a year to quiz the members of the household on the state of their souls, well I know how that would go over now. Shades of the neighborhood committees in communist China under Mao.  

Let us not forget the seventeenth century witch trials that targeted the old, the infirm, the scolds, the cantankerous and those who just didn’t fit in. What could Benedict possibly say to the more than seven million Germans who perished in the Thirty Years War? What can anyone say to the more than 600,000 Irish who died from siege, famine and disease in Cromwell’s “pacification” of Ireland during the period between the death of Charles I and the restoration of his son. And this out of population of little more than one and a half million. And I've seen the same atrocity wood cut used to damn Catholics and Protestants.

After watching the Anglicans who’d been persecuted by the Puritans and Presbyterians during the commonwealth definitely not turn the other cheek when they were back in power, Charles II was quoted along the lines of “Presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman and Anglicanism was no religion for a Christian.” Charles himself was a skeptic who may or may not have received last rites in the Catholic Church before his death.

I find a great deal of good in what is reported of the teachings of the rabbi who may have come from Nazareth. I say reported because I suspect that as much was left out as was included when the leaders of the new church got their hands on it two or three centuries later. I find very little good in what the power hungry have done with those teachings. And even less in the gyrations those who claim that every word and punctuation mark in scripture is inerrant and infallible.

Curiosity led me to some web searching which led me tothis very interesting site. So if perhaps one third of Americans (at best) attend any type of worship service in any given week, what the heck is going on here? Watching presidential hopefuls twist themselves in knots trying to placate the minority within a minority of the religious right is painful and embarrassing. When did we become so afraid of being seen as not nice or not fair that we lost the power to tell the modern Know Nothings to take a running jump at themselves or to at least MYOB.

Or at the very least, "I believe I can get elected without you." And then make it happen.

(In case nobody has noticed from earlier entries, this is something that really ticks me off. I loved science when I was in school. I have a degree in Anthropology. I've never had a problem separating the how and the why. I just found myself in total, jaw dropping,  awe of the whole damn thing. Put me in front of a picture of galaxies dancing and I won't come up for air for the rest of the evening. Rueful shrug

And I do appreciate more than anyone can imagine the individual churches who try to practice what that rabbi taught. Very often in opposition or in spite of the ruling bodies of their denominations.

It's about power and control folks. Who has it, who doesn't, and what they'll do to get it and keep it. It's enough to send you screaming into the night, isn't it?)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A MIGHTY LABOR, FOR WHAT?

There’s a scene in the movie 1776 where John Dickenson has gone through a recitation of battles, statesmen, and great leaders from English history. He turns to John Adams and basically asks “if we’re giving up these things, what are we getting in return? You?” Adams didn’t have the greatest rep in the continental congress. Even he admitted he was “obnoxious and disliked.”

Rereading my last entry, I have to wonder. Our English ancestors went through the turmoil and upheaval of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At a time when governments were becoming more absolutist, they hung onto their hard won rights and liberties (even if they would have defined some of those rights and liberties in ways different from our definitions). At times they hung on by the skin of their teeth. They did these things so that their children (us) could bring forth…….W? Cheney? The rest of the useless crew that’s good enough to get elected and not much else?

Has a lion labored mightily only to bring forth…….. a mouse?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

GROWING PAINS

Here’s another entry that grew and took on a life of its own.

 

Back in 1969 Masterpiece Theater premiered with the costume drama, The First Churchill’s. It was good then, and still impressive after more than thirty years. It was released on DVD a couple of years ago and I finally broke down and bought the set. The twelve part series chronicles the rise of John Churchill through the ranks of the army and the courts of four Stuart monarchs. Churchill was recognized as a military genius and was created Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne.

 

The scripts do a fantastic job of telling not only the people stories but the political stories. I’m not sure if scary is the word I would use, but it’s more than interesting to hear problems we have now, being discussed more than three hundred years ago. Religious freedom, the right to face your accusers, the right to be brought to trial or released, the right to bail and the rise of party government. And perhaps the most important, is the ruler subject to the law or above the law? Listening to James II claim in council to be “above the law” had an oddly familiar ring to it.

 

Rewatching this series only reinforces my belief that teaching US history has to include English history. American history always has an arbitrary feel to it, at least at the beginning. And I’m being arbitrary starting with Henry VIII. But you have to draw the line somewhere or you end up going all the way back to Roman Britain.

 

Bluff King Hal and his six wives, interesting enough, but how the king’s government worked through the resulting problems is the real story. Despite his reputation, Henry was not really a tyrant. Capricious, mercurial, temperamental, somewhat spoiled, and increasingly cruel he may have been, but all the changes made during his rule were made through Parliament. Of course England’s sixteenth century parliaments were nothing like American representative government.

 

 But, at a time in history when power was increasingly concentrated in monarch and a few ministers with almost no input from the governed, the English somehow managed to keep some semblance of representative government.  It took a revolution or two, they beheaded a king to do it, and it took at least two centuries to work it out but they did it. Kind of makes me think our job isn’t done yet.

 

Henry’s position as head of the English church, the break with Rome and the succession were all handled through parliament. The King in parliament, not the king and parliament. When his daughter Mary tried to undo the changes made by her father and her brother Edward, she again acted through parliament. Elizabeth may have been at logger heads with her parliaments over her marriage and taxes but she couldn’t ignore it. James I may have believed in the rights of an absolute monarchy but he knew when to bend when he had to. His son Charles never learned to bend and paid for it with his head.

 

Incidentally, Charles was a prime of example of the ruler who believes that he has the divine right to rule. Faced with opposition, any means may be used to support that power including lying and deliberate deception. Sound familiar?

 

I’ll skip the commonwealth and Cromwell for now, but when Charles II was restored to the throne it was at the invitation of his people through parliament. His parliaments’ remembered his father and kept him short of cash. Charles had more than a dozen children by his mistresses, but none by his queen. Louis XIV of France supported his cousin with secret stipends and kept the pot boiling in England with bribes to members of Charles’ parliament. England had their own version of the McCarthy era with a fear of the pope and a catholic heir to the throne instead of the Red menace. Things really never do change, do they?

 

But, the Habeas Corpus Act was passed during Charles time, and we’re fighting over it still. The act put into written law something that had existed for nearly three centuries. And the complaint of Charles’ successor, his catholic brother James, that the act allowed traitors to go free on bail to plot more treason has a strangely modern ring. Hmmm, I wonder what word we could substitute for traitor in that sentence? And the time between the first uses of writs of Habeas Corpus and the act is longer than the time between our revolution and the present day. Perhaps we should show it a little more respect.

 

Anyway, England was willing to support James as long as his Protestant daughters were his potential successors. Faced with potential Catholic successor when he finally had a son, the gentry and lords invited James’ daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to come over.

 

I suspect the intention was to use William and Mary as levers force James to honor the promises he made when he succeeded his brother and raise his son as a Protestant. When he fled England for sanctuary in the court of his cousin Louis parliament settled the crown on William and Mary. And brought more succession problems. Neither the Stuarts or the Tudors had much luck when it came to legitimate heirs. And the Mary and her husband were first cousins, so I guess they were hit with a double dose of ill luck. Dutch William had no particular love for the English, or they for him. Forcing James from the throne gained English resources for the opponents of French ambitions on the continent and added protection for the Dutch states.

 

When Mary’s sister Anne also failed to produce a living heir, the succession was settled again by parliament, this time on the Hanoverian descendants of one of James I daughters. Poor Anne, more than a dozen children and most of them didn’t survive more than a year or two. Her grandfather James had married into the Danish royal house, as did Anne. So her husband was probably a cousin too.

 

Parliaments and congresses are just as capable of acting capriciously and unfairly as monarchs and presidents. But, more knowledge of how we got where we are might help us deal with the problems we have now.

 

Lines on a map don’t make a nation. A nation is made up of its people whether they all live withing those little lines or not. And a nation comes into being the same way people do. It takes time, patience, and perhaps more than a little pain. Unlike child birth, it has to be done without the benefits of painkillers. And while we can’t do it without human costs, we owe it to each other to keep those costs as low as possible.

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

INVISIBILITY

There have been several accidents and at least a couple of fatalities in the Portland area involving bicycles. The two fatalities involved riders in the blind spot of a truck preparing to make a legal right turn. Amid the calls for new laws I have a few observations gleaned from three decades of commuting, the last eight involving twenty miles both ways sharing the road with trucks and very large pickups and SUV’s.

Assume that you are invisible to every other driver on the road. You may be driving a neon yellow hummer with Oregon colored cheerleader pom poms, but drive as if no one will notice you. The big rigs with the sign on the back that says “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” are there for a reason.

Never assume that the driver behind you will stop for a yellow light. Remember you are invisible and he or she may be not paying attention. Or may be paying attention, and still be an idiot. Actually, if they are riding your bumper, don’t assume they’re going to stop for a red light either. Try and leave yourself with someplace to go, just in case. Go through the intersection or change lanes.

You may have the right of way, but never assume that any other driver is going to honor that. Remember you might as well be invisible to the other drivers. And if they are driving a jacked up pick up, you might just be invisible. I’ve dealt with so many of those drivers who never seem to look down, Or to the side, now that I think about it.

I know the rules of the road favor the bike riders. I also know that they don’t have to have a license to be on the road. They were written when there were fewer trucks, huge pickups and SUV's on the road too. And any suggestion that licensing bike riders might be a good idea, at least in this neck of the woods, provokes an outpouring that boils down to “we don’t need them we're doing you a favor by not using any gasoline.” OoooooKaaaaaay, no license.  Personally, I think if you're going to share the road with me, you should have a license too, but that's just personal opinion. But, how about proof you’ve taken a safety course? One of the first lessons when I took driver’s ed was a physics lesson. A vehicle of x weight, traveling y speed, needs z number of feet to stop. Simple and scary. Especially when you are smaller than almost anything else on the road and virtually unprotected. In a contest with anything that has a motor, the person on the bike is going to come up the loser.

And frankly if you’re going to wear dark clothes, have no lights, and ride a bike at dusk or after dark, you don’t need to pretend you’re invisible. You are invisible.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

THAT GAGGING NOISE

Apparently some of our home grown conservatives are having a hard time even uttering Al Gore's name in the same sentence as Nobel Prize. If the subject is mentioned at all it's to make a list of all the people or groups they think should have gotten the prize instead of the former senator and vice president.

Suddenly folks who were willing to undercut the experts working for government agencies claim that Al Gore doesn't know what he's talking about because he's a journalist by training and a politician by profession. Heck, he's doing what journalists do. He's researching the story and reporting it as he sees it.

And we've been seeing the results of conflict over scarce resources for decades. It's only going to get worse.

Lines drawn on maps don't matter to people who don't have opportuhnities at home and see them over the horizon. Can any of you think of a country that's having a real problem dealing with undocumented immigration right now? And can you think of a country with a relatively small population that may see good land opening up as the climate warms while its more populous neighbor to the south sees increasing problems with drought and soil loss?

WHAT IF?

This is one of those “this has been bouncing around the old brain pan for awhile so here goes” entries. I guess this is my answer to the folks that claim that a genetic answer to at least some folks being gay doesn't make any sense. Actually it makes perfect sense to me. And I guess it's coming up right now because the Oregon legislature finally, finally, passed a law okaying civil unions and an anti discrimination measure this year. The signature gathering campaign to keep the laws from going into effect in 2008 and put them to a state wide vote came up short. Although I'm sure they'll keep trying. Goddess, don't these people have anything better to do with their time? At least time is on the side of the angels.

Even though I don’t use it, at least to earn a paycheck, I have a BS in Physical Anthropology. I tend to look at some things from a certain point of view. From a sort of why would this make sense as a good adaptation to help a species survive point of view.

It’s really too bad that we have such a hard time teaching evolution in this country because the misconceptions about Darwin’s theory are legion. Evolution doesn’t really work on individuals, it works on populations. My sisters carry the same genes I do. Even if I don’t have children, if my actions allow them to be more successful in raising their children, I’ve succeeded in passing my genes on to the next generation.

There is increasing evidence that our sexual behavior is part hardwired, part socialization. There seems to be a fairly steady percentage of folks attracted to same sex partnerships in most populations. At least that’s what I’ve read in the press over the past few years. So, why have these genes survived?

Things haven’t changed since our ancestors whacked two rocks together and discovered that a sharp rock or six could make up for a lack of fangs and claws. We still have to grow it, catch it, gather it, or make something to trade with somebody who has an extra basket of turnips to trade. Actually this could include making the basket or pot to put the turnips in.

At a time when extra hunters, farmers, craftsmen (and women), and eyesto keep track of the kids were a valuable resource, relatives who didn’t have kids but were willing to support their relatives’ children, could give your family group an adaptive advantage. Modern culture has more layers between the producers and consumers, but somebody still has to raise it, package it, move it and make things to trade for it.

But, our families are fragmented and that adaptive edge has been lost. Or has it. There are plenty of same sex couples willing to act as foster parents or adoptive parents when they get the chance. They’re still helping the family survive, it’s just a bigger family. And I honestly believe that we hurt ourselves when we try to shut out a part of our larger family for whatever reason.

Now that I think about it, insuring that teaching evolution remains controversial has its uses for the powers that be. If enough children learned to view what we do as a nation from an adaptive point of view, they’d begin to understand just how screwed up most of our business and political policies really are.

Many of the conservative faith groups and intelligent design folks talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. If we are all the unique creation of some higher being (I lean towards the divine boot in the ass theory of creation myself) they sure don’t act like it. Oh, I forgot. For some folks, it’s their group that’s part of the divine creation. The rest of us are just one level above pond scum.

Monday, October 15, 2007

RASPBERRIES FOR LUNCH :-p

A short raspberry entry. (as in blowing a raspberry or a Bronx Cheer) An outfit called Garden Harvest has come out with a line of chips that advertises “a half serving of fruit or vegetables (depending on the variety) in every serving.” A one ounce serving is 120 calories.

Uh, guys, I can have full serving of green beans with garlic, tomatoes and onions for about half the calories, and it’ll taste better. Or an apple, a whole apple. Or my baggie of fresh veggies and home-made cheese spread. Of a few pieces of dried fruit. And the complexity of the flavors of something that hasn’t been spindled, folded and mutilated is surprising and welcome.

Someone brought in a bag of the apple cinnamon ones to work. And frankly they’re pretty bad. They don’t really taste like apples or cinnamon and I find it hard to believe that there are real apples in the mix, but the label says that there is. Sorry, guys, I’m eating my lunchtime apple and those chips don’t taste anything like this. Actually the chips taste kind of like Applejacks cereal, only not as sweet.

Heck, for that calorie count I can have half a square of Lindt super dark chocolate and three or four small figs. Or some combination like that. Thumbs down all the way.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

AN INCOVENIENT TRUTH

We got out copy of An Inconvenient Truth this week. We sat down and watched it yesterday evening and didn’t get around to fixing dinner until almost seven thirty. And since the cats take their cue from us, they ate dinner late too. Basically fifteen minutes or so after the silver ware quits clattering they start showing up and starting the “I’m hungry, feed me, dance.”

 

I found the film interesting and compelling. But, then I read Earth in the Balance when it came out several years ago. And it scared the heck out of me then. And that was about ten years ago.

 

 I get a kick out of reading about this DVD and this one. I had even more fun researching the backgrounds of the folks who made them. I’m not quite sure what qualifies Phyllis Schlafly as an expert on climate change. And two of the scientists named in the description are on the faculty of the same Alabama university. And while I might understand their fears about America losing some of it’s sovereignty to help fight global warming, I question how they don’t seem to be worried about threats to our sovereignty from multi national corporations. Oh, I forgot, most of the big multinationals are headquartered in the US and it’s the rest of the world that needs to be worried.

 

I can hear the complaints fifty years from now if the ice sheet on Greenland don’t fully melt and the oceans don’t rise up to twenty feet, “he was wrong, neener, neener, neener.” What at least some of these folks don’t realize is that a five foot rise would devastate most coastal areas. Most of Oregon’s beaches would be gone. And I’m not sure what would happen to our coastal artery, Highway 101. Some of the highway runs right along the coast, no further than fifty yards from the ocean in some places. Other parts of the road run along the cliffs. Undercut the cliff and bye bye  highway.

 

And the CO2 doesn’t have to warm the climate to play havoc with the planet. The increased CO2 being absorbed the oceans is slowly increasing their acidity. Increased acidity may interfere with the life cycles of animals that need to form shells to survive. And many of those animals are a big part of the ocean food chain. An already stressed food chain.

 

We’re already facing water shortages from depleted aquifers here in Oregon, and two thirds of the state is high plateau and desert. He didn’t name the islands that have been evacuated already since they were only a few yards above sea level in the first place. Some critics fasten on studies that indicate that the glaciers on Kilimanjaro are disappearing more from lack of precipitation that warming. But why have the snows gone away? And they ignore the other glaciers that are disappearing too. In a few decades a certain national park will be the park Formerly Known as Glacier. It’s happening in Europe and South America too. And almost forty percent of the people on the planet are at least partially dependent on water melting from glaciers feeding the rivers they live on.

 

I’m one of those who tend to be err on the side of caution. I’d rather find out that we’d been too cautios and can ease up, rather than the other way around. And I believe that we have the ingenuity to come up with ways to solve the problem. The most fascinating graph is actually the one where he shows how we can lower CO2 levels using technology we already have. Trouble is, I think some of that technology isn’t in the hands of the folks who stand to lose the most money in the short run. Of course if it turns out that ol’ Al is even half right we all stand to lose in the short run and the long run.

 

So, I’d say, get the DVD, see it for yourself and make up your own mind. Nice thing about the net,it makes the research easier.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ROCKET FUEL

There are several things that prompted the last two entries. One is watching our sister city of Eugene deal with trying to revive the core downtown area. Back in the early seventies when the downtown pedestrian mall concept was at its peak Eugene decided they had to have one too. They tore up the streets, got rid of the parking, put in some benches, a few food kiosks and a really ugly fountain and they were off to the races.

The planners made two big mistakes. They forgot or disregarded the fact that for at least six months out of the year it is chilly, foggy, rainy or snowy here. Especially during the peak shopping season around Christmas. The most successful downtown, unenclosed malls are either in the south or in cities that may get cold but don’t get rained on. Second, they green lighted the construction of Valley River Center. A nice enclosed shopping mall with lots of entrances, lots of stores, and plenty of parking. And let's not forget the warm and dry part.

This was followed by a giant sucking sound as the lights in down town Eugene blinked out. They tried, oh they tried to keep it going. Slowly sections of the mall were taken over by kids with too little to do and the down and out with nowhere to go.

Location, location, location was never truer than it is down here. We’re part college town, part lumber town and I doubt you can scrape up just over 200,000 people for the whole area. The next largest population hub is Corvallis/Albany. It’s just over thirty miles from here and we don’t have much of anything that they don’t have at home. The U of O has tried hosting a few rock concerts over the years. But, it’s funny how folks who don’t have a problem with all day tail gate parties with unlimited booze frown on drugged up rockers. Never mind that the cops would rather deal with stoned Dead Heads over boozed up football fans.

The Hult center is a nice little theater complex but it’s hardly a large scale destination site. Outside football, basketball and large scale track meets, there is very little to attract outsiders to the area for entertainment.

Over the years the down town limped along as local developers bought up sections of property. A business or two that had managed to keep going saw its quarters sold and the doors shut. The property bull dozed or shuttered. Most of the ones that managed survive owned their own property. It’s an eclectic mix, but not really the type of shops that high end developers want around.

Starting a couple of years ago the biggest property owners tried to muscle the others out and force a multi block, all at one go concept redevelopment of downtown Eugene. Surprise, surprise, the other kids didn’t want to play nice. The businesses that had stuck it out either didn’t want to sell or wanted prices comparable to the values the big boys were getting. The screams weren’t exactly deafening but they were there. The city council flirted briefly with using eminent domain but that idea fell faster than a cooling soufflĂ©. Seems folks in this neck of woods aren’t any fonder of the idea of forcing the sale of private property to sell it other private parties than folks in other parts of the country are these days.

The high end organic supermarket, Whole Foods, was going to be one of the anchors. In spite of the fact that we have a very nice locally owned, similar chain right here in town called Market of Choice. The big boys discovered that a lot of folks are tired of seeing their tax dollars used to lure outside businesses that compete with our own local shops and stores. Whole Foods has since backed out, partly over who was going to build the needed parking structure.

The tug of war just ticks me off. There is nothing stopping the folks that own large chunks of downtown from developing the property they own except their own ambition and greed with a little encouragement from the minority on the city council. The business owners who have kept going through the bad years see no reason to let their property or businesses go for less than other guys want, and I can’t say that I blame them. And frankly those of us who live in Springfield, Santa Clara, and the suburbs need a damn good reason to anywhere near down town Eugene in the first place. Down to Earth is on 5th street and the Mac store is on 8th street. Those are my two reasons to go anywhere near down town Eugene. There is a thriving Saturday Market during a good part of the year but it’s in the park blocks, not down town.

Short of nuking the local shopping malls this is not going to change. Get in some good high density housing and I believe the rest will take care of itself. Quit trying to copy what other cities have done and find a uniquely Oregon way of solving the problem. Make the downtown the place to live, work and shop and maybe the rest of us will come by to catch a piece of the action.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

IT'S NOT FAIR, PART 2

The second case of the grumps isn’t confined to Oregonians, it’s the pervasive complaint that “I succeeded on my own, with no help from anybody, so it’s not fair for me to ask me, tax me whatever to support anyone else.” Oh puhleeze, give me a freakin’ break.

 

Let’s start with your parents, who probably should have their asses kicked for bringing such a whiny excuse for a human being into the world in the first place. Two people got together and brought you into the world, Creator/ress alone, knows why. And their parents and their parents, back to the first piece protoplasm that managed to copy itself. And “thought” it was such a good idea, it did it again, and again, until the universe was not only graced with daisies and blue whales, it was stuck with us.

 

The universe must have really smiled on your parents. They must have been able to afford everything from soup to nuts to insurance from the get go. They were probably filled with hopes and dreams and lucky for you, it worked out. I’ve lost count of the letters to the editor on the theme of people shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford them.

As I said, you’re young, you’re full of hope, things work out for a lot of years and then things go wrong. They did for my family. Dad was disabled in his mid fifties and mom had to go to work. With a lot of luck, help from friends and family and a lot of hard work we managed to make it. But, a lot of things didn’t work out like they’d planned when they first started our family. And it’s not like you can return a kid once it’s born and things get tough.

 

Maybe there’s a good reason we haven’t received any visitor’s from among the stars. Any intelligent space faring nation would have planted a swarm of warningbeacons around our system all broadcasting some variation on “enter at your own risk. The natives on that little blue ball are armed and dangerous. If you do plan on visiting, please leave the relevant information on the monitor beacon so we can notify your next of kin, pod brother, clone,” however they handle things out there.

 

So show a little humility for cryin’ out loud. You didn’t come into the world on your own, you probably won’t go out on your own and in between just about anything you’ve managed to “create” is standing on so many shoulders that if it was a pyramid it would probably reach the sun.

 

And before I go any further, let’s talk about certain taxes and tax breaks. It’s a constant litany from the development lobbies. We’ve got this great idea for whatever, but we need a break on getting the property together. Tell you what, you buy it with a bond levy or something and sell it us at a good price.  We need a break on the property taxes. We need a break on building roads, sewer lines…..whatever. I think I see a pattern here. When you need help, it’s an investment. When somebody else needs help, it’s a hand out.

 

Oh my, things kind of got sidetracked. Anyway every greatnew idea that someone comes up with is built on generations of work done by countless generations. Agriculture has an eleven thousand year or so history. Pottery and baskets to store the harvest in, almost as old. Plows and other tools to work the land are almost as old. Weaving and spinning several thousand years at least. And I’d love to know what went through somebody’s mind that allowed them to make the connections for weaving, spinning, looms and spinning wheels.

 

Smelting and working metals? Probably three to four thousand years of history. And how did someone come up with the idea of mixing two metals together to create a metal stronger than either one. Knocking rocks together? Hundreds of thousands of years. But, the fine stone work, a few thousand years. Metals good enough to build the machines that powered the industrial revolution come from the seventeen hundreds. The earliest calculators that led to computers came in the mid to late eighteen hundreds.

 

So, no matter what great new widget you claim that you came up with “all by yourself” show a little respect. Isaac Newton said something along the lines of “If I’ve seen further it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.”  If someone manages to go further and better it’s because someone else has done ninety percent of the work.

Monday, October 8, 2007

IT'S NOT FAIR, PART ONE

This entry is a bit along the lines of Lisa’s last entry, but a little different. In my case it’s disgust over a couple of fairly widespread ideas that some folks hold that really bug the hell out of me. I may have done entries on this earlier, I know I’ve thought about it. If I’m repeating myself, sorry. And my description of the hullabaloo of the attempts to tweak Oregon's land use laws is not exhaustive by any means. It would probably take an entire book to do it justice.

Number one. Back in the mid seventies Oregon put in place some fairly strict land use regulations. The idea was to protect farm and forest land from uncontrolled development. We didn’t want to end up as LA north. It was basically a one size fits all set of rules, and the way they weren’t handled wasn’t always fair. But, hey as we’re told from the age of five on, life isn’t always fair.

Having said that, Oregon is not an easy state to build in. Except for Astoria, on the mouth of the Columbia and Bend, just east of the Cascades, all the large cities, and I mean ALL of them are in the Willamette Valley. And most of them are between Salem and Portland. One set of rules for valley area and another for the rest of the state probably would have been a good idea. Heck seventy five percent of the state doesn’t have to worry about sprawl because it’s too dry, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and too far from anywhere else for almost anyone to want to live there. It’s the other twenty five percent that’s causing the problems.

And I have to agree that some of the irritation could have been averted if a way had been found to handle “set asides.” After the owner buys a house or a business the local city or county decides that some kind of easement is needed. Forflood control, or greenway, or something, that in the opinion of the elected or appointed hired help, that is needed to protect a flood prone area, help wild life, etc. Basically the land owner is told, it’s still your land but you can only do certain things with it and we aren’t going to pay for the use of it. Some of these situations could have been handled with a little more tact and probably would have gone a long way to defusing some of the irritation.  

The problem, as it was sold to voters when the land use laws were amended three or four years ago, was that people who bought property (speculated really) before the laws were passed couldn’t do what they intended to do when they bought the land. So, measure 37 was put on the ballot to correct this. The wording the ballot measure was basically let me use the land the way the law said I could use it when I bought it or pay me for the “lost value” due to land use restrictions. Never mind that there are twice as many people living in Oregon now as there were in the fifties and sixties. Never mind that most of the new growth is in the Willamette Valley. (because it’s the only part of the state that’s anywhere near level or has any water to speak of) Never mind that other people have built houses, farms, and vineyards since the land use laws were passed, had certain expectations based on the law, and would see their land values impacted, too. Repeat after me, “once you open a can of worms…….” Many of them are also saying “it’s not fair” too.

And I have to admit that this has impacted people in my own family. My great grandfather moved his family to Oregon in the late 1800’s. He bought property in the Newburg area. When he died the farm was subdivided between three sons. My granddad lost his farm in the twenties. The last of three pieces was sold recently after cousin Ernie passed away several years ago. The remaining section was too small to subdivide under the rules and too large for any single remaining member of the family to buy the others out. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I suspect that if any one of them had wanted to farm the place something could have been worked out with the others. Heck, Ernie hadn’t farmed the place for years. He’d leased the land to somebody else to work.

Anyway, we were shown ads with tearful oldsters who only wanted to build an extra house or two so their kids could live near them. Or they’d planned to sell the property as a retirement nest egg.  Three guesses who paid for the ads. The timber companies, the real estate companies, and developers looking for new land to build on. After all large scale developers are in business to build things and the real estate people are in business to sell them. And the land use restrictions have been making it harder to make a buck. But, hey life isn’t always fair is it?

One of the first things that caused a lot of screaming from supporters of the measure was lack of portability. After all it was sold to the rest of us as “I want to do …….” Not I want to sell the land to somebody else to do, whatever. You’d have thought a bunch of long tailed cats had been turned loose in a crowded rocking chair factory from the caterwauling when that little detail came up.

Anyway after a couple of years of court challenges, 37 was upheld and the claims started pouring in. Incidentally, there were no provisions in the ballot measure for any kind of verification of loss of property value claimed or any funds set aside to pay these claims. And at least one claimant has admitted that they don’t really know if their land is worth what they’re asking but “hey I might as well try to get as much as I can.” And if you can get enough people bidding on a tract in certain parts of the state, the sky is pretty much the limit.

One out of state timber company that had bought out a small local company tried to put in a claim to develop nearly thirty thousand acres in the coast range. That was one of the claims that broke the camel’s back. It has beenwithdrawn, by the way. I know what the press release said, but I suspect that someone from the company came out and actually looked at the property involved. The company is headquartered back east and most of those thirty thousand acres probably looks pretty vertical to somebody not familiar with the state. Most of the coast range valleys are short, narrow, and ten or twenty miles of narrow, curve filled roads from anything that looks like a store, or much of anything else, now that I think about it. Lots of miles of roads with a drop off on one side, a mountain on the other and no, I repeat no, shoulders.

Anyway, last session the state legislature finally rediscovered it’s balls, sort of, and put a measure on the November ballot to fix some of the flaws. It green lights the small scale claims that were used to sell measure 37 in the first place. It also sets up a case by case framework for larger claims. For those the  current owner will have to prove the land is worth what they’re asking for in lieu of the right to develop, take the availability of water and the impact on roads and schools into consideration, and if there is any justice force the developer to shoulder the cost of building the infrastructure needed for the new development.

Of course we’re being hit with the “it’s mine and I should be able to do what I want with it.” God, so many Oregonians sound like a bunch of spoiled brats. Hell, the land wouldn’t even be available if we hadn’t stolen it from the Native Americans in the first place.

After all, I’ve felt for a long time that “it’s not fair” that mom and I should have to subsidize the building of roads and sewer lines so a company whose business is to build mall space or houses and hope they can sell them and make a profit on it don't have to foot the bill themselves. Or, that unlike Washington, developers aren’t charged a surcharge on each lot to help build new schools for the new families coming in, and so on, and so on, until we reach infinity. But then, (all together now) “life isn’t always fair, is it?”

Geez, this got long and it's just number one, so I'll have to say……to be continued. (don't worry there's only two or three things that have really been bugging me every time I run across them) ;-) I mean besides the war, over population, the war, the Current Occupant, the war...............

Sunday, October 7, 2007

SMALL COMPLAINT

Oregon PBS did a little companion documentary to go along with Ken Burn’s documentary on WWII. I watched about half of it and had very mixed feelings. It was a series of interviews with Oregonians who were living in Oregon during the war and either worked stateside or were in the service. That part is interesting. But, the series had an unfinished feeling to it. The stories tended to skip around from the beginning of the war to close to the end. From home front to battle field without following any kind of time line or attempt to put the story in context.

 

The production jumped from stories about Japanese Americans who found themselves interned for the duration at the beginning of the war to a soldier who found himself fighting in Luxemburg. There was no attempt to say when he was in Luxemburg or where the little duchy is. It’s sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany by the way. And I’d guess the fighting took place sometime between D Day and VE Day. I guess my inner obsessive compulsive would appreciate a little more clarity please. I haven’t watched much of the Ken Burns series for pretty much the same reason.

 

Although I did get a kick out of a story in the Oregon documentary about a nutrition expert who donned boots and stagged pants to see whether or not loggers could do their jobs eating peanut butter sandwiches instead of meat. He decided they couldn’t so the loggers were entitled to bigger meat rations. From stories I’ve heard about the depression years in Oregon I suspect that a lot of logs got cut on bean power. Or out of season venison and elk.  Dad had a few stories about that too. Most of the old game wardens would look the other way if the hunter was feeding a family and kept it on the QT.

 

And there was the storyhe told about the feed store owning member of the local draft board up in the Newburg-Swiss Home area who boasted that he’d make sure all the Catholics would be drafted. Three guesses as to the leanings of most of his customers. He wasn’t in business at the end of the war.

 

Frankly the WWII section of Peter Jenning’s series on the 20th Century, the companion documentary to Band of Brothers, or the old Thames TV/PBS series The World at War are far better, in my not so humble opinion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

HEROES IN OTHERS EYES

There were several things that prompted that last entry. It’s partly the date, partly watching the mini-series again. It’s definitely a Sunday afternoon not before bed time program. And partly something I ran across while checking the availability and price of Ken Buns new documentary series. You know how Amazon gives you suggestions to go with what you were looking for in the first place? Well one of them was a film that Clint Eastwood directed, Flags of Our Fathers. It was released earlier this year and apparently tanked at the box office.

It’s about the grinding, bloody battle for Iwo Jima and follows the men who raised that famous flag when the battle was over. And it follows them back to States for a War Bond fund raising tour. I haven’t seen the film but from the description it’s an examination of our need for heroes, who gets tagged and how some of the “heroes” think of the label.

I get a kick out of reading customer reviews, especially the one and two star ones. At least one of them definitely didn’t get it. For one thing, the bulk of the fighting in the Pacific was done by the marines, not the army. At least the service they belonged to right. Makes me wonder if the reviewer saw the film. And he complains about how these men kept “whining” that they weren’t heroes. They weren’t in their own eyes. They did a job. They were part of a team. And I wonder how it felt to safe at home making speeches to raise money while your buddies were going through the next meat grinder and the next.

Mom had a high school class mate who joined the marines. He died on a beach in the Pacific. He died on Tarawa. Just another battle in the history books. Another flag on a box.

And anyone who knows classic country music knows what happened to Ira Hayes. If you don't, do a seach for the Ballad of Ira Hays. Damn, I’m outta here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

HEROES

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the mini series Band of Brothers. It’s a hard series to watch, and not because the action in the film is about as close to real combat as most of us will ever get. These men were closer to each other than any blood brother could ever be.

 

Tomorrow is September 11, actually is on the east coast. There will be a lot of speeches about heroes tomorrow and I wonder if we really understand what a “hero” is. It’s a word that’s been tossed around a lot the past few years. Mostly by people who have an agenda to satisfy. Funny thing is, you don’t hear it much from the men and women in uniform. It’s the civilians with those agendas. Especially some individuals who never wore a uniform when they had the chance. They seem quick to provide others with the chance to earn the label they never earned for themselves.

 

There’s a documentary that goes with the mini series. Interviews with the men from Easy who still are still alive and willing to tell their stories for the camera. Sometimes they have to stop, after all these years the memories are still too fresh. D Day, the days after, Brecourt, Carentan, Bastogne, Market Garden, Landesberg, names the rest of us know only from history books or paintings.

 

There is a common thread that runs through all their stories. They don’t claim the label of hero for themselves. It’s always someone else. The brother that died at Monte Casino a few days before one man jumped on D Day. The men who never made it out of the planes. The soldiers who never even made it ashore. The heroes for these men were the brothers who came home under a flag or who rest under a marker somewhere in Europe.

 

At end the former company commander remembers a letter from a comrade. The writer’s grandson had asked “were you a hero in the war, grandpa?” “No, but I served with a company of heroes.”

 

So, while the word hero is being tossed around tomorrow, please take a moment to think about who your heroes are and why. We had a neighbor who served from day one to the end of WWII. He never talked about it much. He fought his way across North Africa, Italy and Southern France.

 

And while we’re at it, let’s remember those who could have earned the title and never seized the opportunity. They had better things to do with their time.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

SEPTEMBER 11

With the anniversary of September 11 two days away, I’ve run across some interesting information. I don’t know if either of these earlier September dates have been mentioned in the press.

 

I came across both of these other September 11’s in Arundhati Roy’s collection of essays, War Talk. The first is September 11, 1922 was the date Great Britain announced its mandate in the former Ottoman province of Palestine. This followed the Balfour Declaration that supported the establishment of a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people. Part of the original madate was subdivided into what is now Jordan.

 

I haven’t been able to confirm that date of the 11 for this. I have found two references that confirm that the announcement was made in 1922 and that it occurred in September. One is in the Wikipedia entry on the Palestine Mandate and the other is in the book A history of the Arab Peoples. A passable history book on Arab Islam and the history of the area into the mid twentieth century. Passable, I never managed to finish it but it’s a fair reference as long as you double check. (I like Amazon because of the reviews. The book has been out since the nineties.) Just a personal comment. Of course the author is biased. I never met one that wasn't. That's probably why the title is A history rather than The history. I've also noticed that people usually complain of bias when the author doesn't agree with them, not when he/she does.

 

The other September 11 occurred in 1990. On this date, the first president Bush announced the decision to go to war with Iraq for the first time. Interesting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

EXPERTS 2

I suspect that when Ms. Lappe was discussing experts she meant the ones who have managed to get a degree or some sort of certification that can be presented to prove that they’ve successfully passed the tests to prove that they know what earlier experts knew.

There are other kinds of experts. They don’t have degrees, they haven’t been certified. Their area of expertise may not be very wide. They know a river because they’ve fished it, worked by it, live by it, maybe took a boat down it a time or two.

Dad was a logger and he loved to tell stories about the job. During the late fifties and early sixties trained foresters went around the units telling the loggers to pull all the logs out of the rivers because it was bad for the fish and it was assumed that all the logs in the river were the result of trees being cut and allowed to fall into the streams. They pretty much ignored the guys who told them that some of those logs had been there for years and the best fishing was usually near the fallen logs.

Out came the logs, away went the fish partly because there were no shady places to hide, and no still places for insects to lay their eggs. So a few years later the forest service came back and said to put the logs back in. For the record, I don’t believe in logging next to streams, believe logging should be done very carefully, that a tree that’s allowed to fall on its own and rot is not wasted, and that clear cutting as it’s currently done is an abomination.

We had a nice little dust up last year between a forestry grad student at OSU and about half the faculty of said forestry school. The student was part of a study on recovery after a fire. Hehelped author a report that showed evidence that a forest will recover just about as fast if it’s left alone as it would if salvage logging took place. You would have thought that he was advocating drowning puppies and kittens. See, a lot of funding for the forestry school comes from the logging companies. And logging companies sell logs. That's another funny thing about the experts who get interviewed in the media or act as spokesmen for the status quo. Many were trained at schools funded by industry donations, have tenure on faculties at those schools, or work for think tanks funded by those industries.

I'll be the first to say that we need people with expert knowledge. The current administration is sad proof of what happens when party loyalty is put above needed expertise. We just need to remember that the expert opinion may come with a built in bias and that not all experts have degrees or certificates. Some of them have dirt under their fingernails and callouses on their hands. They may not dress very well and they may not even speak our language. Doesn't mean they don't know what they're talking about if they could just be heard above the din of Fox News, political pundits, and the development at any cost crowd.

And I’ve noticed that the current administration will defer to “expert” opinion only when it agrees with the programs it’s pushing.

Never mind that abstinence only programs don’t work any better than any other sex ed program. Never mind that teaching to the test is geared to turning out good little cogs for the corporate machine. Never mind that people who actually live in other countries don’t really want to shop at WalMart. Never mind that the farmers who actually farm the land in third world countries just might know what grows best on their land. Never mind that these people would just as soon grow the food they eat instead of growing crops for export cash so they can then buy imported food. The list is endless.

One of the events that helped crystallize the Mahatma’s beliefs involved a famine in the Bihar province of India. Haven’t found an exact date but probably the late teen early twenties. Most of farmers were tenant farmers and they were required to plant part of their land in indigo for the dye. It was part of their rent payments. And many of the landlords were British. When chemical dyes came on the market, the market for indigo collapsed and the landlords refused to take the indigo when the rents came due.

Instead they seized the farmers’ food crops and livestock when they didn’t have the money to pay the rent and when there were no more crops or animals to take, the farmers’ seed, tools and other possessions were taken. The situation blew up in the governments' face, Gandhi spent some more time in jail using the time to plan on how to kick the Brits out of India and an agreement was reached to allow the farmers to plant part of their land in crops that couldn’t be taken.

And curiously, India which our elected hired help never really supported because the first government’s policies were a bit too “socialist” for out tastes, is doing fairly well. Well enough to be targeted by WalMart and the big multi national ag comapanies at least. While Pakistan, the result of the partition of the sub continent, has gone from dictatorship to dictatorship usually with US support. The country also appears on the verge of blowing up in our faces. As you sow has never been truer.

From academic experts to indigo, how’d that happen? Except to say that India is the next big market the capitalist experts have in their sights and many of the peasant groups are mobilizing to help each other find another way to go. They are the ones with their sandals on the ground. They are the ones that will get ground under the wheels of the “progress” the academic, European American experts are so “expert” at.

For the record I'd like to say that if India or any other country actually wants the Wal Mart shopping experience they have the right to try it. Personally, I'd rather be smeared with honey and staked out on an anthill, but hey that's just my opinion. But, it should be an Indian company, run by her people, with the profits staying in India. Not a bunch of American carpet baggers pulling everything they can out of another country.

Monday, August 27, 2007

EXPERTS

Also starting to reread Frances Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet. She had an interesting take on experts in her introduction. The experts we find quoted in the mainstream is almost automatically a servant of the status quo. That's what he or she is an expert in. It's very hard for them to think outside the definitions they are used to. They aren't likely to look for a new way of doing things because then they wouldn't be an expert anymore. Takes a lot of guts to say "hey, I don't know everything. What can you teach me?"