Thursday, February 28, 2013

Skid Row Diary 9

July 23   2003   Wednesday   Day 11

"Values are relative." - Wile E. Coyote

   The rats were out last night. I don't mean to alarm you, but they were. Mama rats. Papa rats. Little rats. Whole families of rats, rat families if you will.
   John Manzano and I saw them scurrying about in the underbrush, or else running from one hole in the sidewalk to another.
   One medium sized rat came up out of the darkness while we were watching the play and made off with my backpack.
   I woke at 3:00AM to watch Part 2 of the "Voyager Crew and Captain Become Assimilated by the Borg to Further a Plan That Has No Clear Objective," episode. As if assimilation and regeneration were as easy as changing your shorts once a week! Well I'm here to tell that it's not, by God! It took Captain Picard a whole season's hiatus to recover, let alone one night.
   I was tired so I returned to sleep. I dreamt I was walking through Hell with Lois Ayers, the beautiful and talented star of "Sin City," and many other fine films. Her sister, Sandra Stillman joined us, and they escorted me to the exit.
   "I didn't know Hell had an exit," I told them. "Sartre didn't think so."
   They smiled. Lois said, "He thought hell was other people."
   "How silly," Sandra exclaimed. "Hell is where your heart is."
   "We don't usually show men the way out," continued Lois, "but we know you'll be back."
   "See you soon," they both cried, then kissed me on the cheek.
   And I woke up. It was 7:30, waaaay past my waking up time, which may explain the surly mood I would find myself in all day.
   "Damn those girls," I muttered.
   I showered, then dressed. In that order.
   Chicken omelets for breakfast.
   I stayed in the building and wrote while listening to Mark and Brian. Mark was mean to Kelly, behavior I cannot tolerate. I may have to go down to La Cienega and bitch slap the both of them.
   Mark was cranky because listeners kept calling to tell him he was an ass for saying Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones was a lousy drummer.
   It's good to keep some opinions to yourself, a lessen I should take to heart myself occasionally.
      Giselle was back to pants today. Labren was not. She's been showing off those legs all week now.
   Very good.
   I used the computer in the day room to update some files. The lovely Academy Award winning actresses, Anna Paquin, was on "Good Morning America."
   She was wearing pants.
   I left the building at 10:15 and walked back to the HOP office and asked them for a dental referral. The lady at the front desk told me I could call the Buddhist Clinic myself to make an appointment since I was an established client. I got the number and left.
   I'd come back another time when the real receptionist was there and have them call.
   I walked over to the shops on Boyle and Winston Streets to find someone who sold umbrella hats. 12 for $10. Perhaps I could get a better deal if I bought in bulk. Like 24 hats.
   I can make $50 on 12 hats if I can sell them for $5 a piece. A good return.
   Since I was in the neighborhood I stopped in the Skid Row Housing Trust office and signed in, then went to check my mail. The DPSS had mailed another letter to me. I would wait until I got back to my room to open it so I could use my new 99 Cent Store letter opener to open it.
   It told me I had an appointment with my caseworker on July 31st at 10:30, to discuss my GR cash benefit appeal. The letter demanded that I show up, as if the agency still had some measure of power over me. What would they do if I didn't show up... take my money away? They're already doing that!
   But I'll go. I like my DPSS caseworker. She's cute, and I may need to do business with her again.
   Next, to the One Stop. On the way there a car pulled up next to me and the driver, a pretty Iranian lady, asked me how to get to Wilshire. I tried to be helpful, being a nice guy and all, but unwittingly gave her incomplete directions, which I realized after she had left. I felt bad about it for about 2 1/2 minutes.
   I used the computer at One Stop to refine my resume on Cal-Jobs. I also sent a copy to the Paralyzed Veterans of America ("What would you be doing for them," John Manzano asked me later. "Go around, find veterans and beat them until they couldn't move,"  I answered. "You're a sick man, Rick," he replied).
   A Mr. Porter had left a message on my voice mail system twice, wanting me to call him back to discuss my food stamp appeal. I also had two messages from staffing agencies.
   I called Porter back and discussed the situation. He said he would look into the rules governing food stamps issued to a board and care facility rather than an individual. I was to call him back tomorrow.
   I left the One Stop a bit after 2:00, and walked back to the Weingart. I stopped into the indoor mall at 6th and Los Angeles, and bought two more of the purple Buddhas and a VHS copy of the film "Pollock," from the little girl I had bought "Brother, Where Art Thou?" Her mother wasn't around at the moment, and I crouched down to look at the available $5 videos.
   "Can I help you," this pretty little 8 year old asked me.
   "Well let me see," I answered. "I'm going to look at these and see if I want to buy one. Is that alright?"
   She nodded that that was okay.
   I'd seen "Pollock," there before and picked it up to take a look at it. There was only one copy and I instantly became afraid that if I didn't buy it some one else would and it wouldn't be there the next time I came back. I discovered that Jennifer Connelly was in it, which I had not known. Well that sealed it. I'd buy a two minute commercial on how to remove frog warts if Jennifer Connelly was in it. That makes three of her movies I personally own. Now all I need is a VCR machine to be able to watch them.
   I need more Jennifer Connelly movies.
   I bought the day's paper. Saddam Hussein's sons had been killed by U.S. forces in a firefight on Northern Iraq. They had been hiding. They were both human monsters and mass murderers, rapists, and torturers. My only regret concerning their deaths was that they came too quickly. At least for the 6 hours that the fight lasted they both could contemplate their own demise.
   I exercised in my room and wrote until 7:30. At 8:00 I watched an informative National Geographic special on PBS concerning the FBI. Thank God for what they do. Just don't give them leave to ignore the Constitution.
   I had been given a flute of jalapeno bread  at the HOP office. They give bread away to the homeless people when they have it. I made myself a big hot dog sandwich utilizing the bread. It was very good. I used two smoked sausages. Chewy.
   John Manzano came by and wanted to borrow a cigarette lighter from me. I gave him one. He would be lost if I weren't around to feed him and give him guidance.
   I turned the television off at 9:00 and finished reading the paper. At 10:30 I put it down, turned out the lights and went to sleep.
   I dreamt of Cyndi Woods, Playmate of the Year for 1974. In my dream she was the Columbia Pictures Lady who's holding that big torch.
   How odd.

July 24    Thursday   Day 12

   John Manzano came to my room at 6:50AM. I was busy cutting out stories from the paper that I wanted to keep and when I opened the door and he saw what I was doing he began asking all of these questions which I just didn't feel like answering. I'm afraid I was a bit terse with him, not a particularly bright move when dealing with an ex-strong arm bandit.
   "What!" I exclaimed as I opened the door. He stood there and I motioned for him to come in.
   "Hey... you cutting out newspaper stories?" he asked.
   "Just because."
   "Is it history?"
   "Yeah. It's just stories I want to keep," I explained. "You want the rest of the paper? You can have it."
   "Gee thanks," he said sarcastically. "There's nothing left of it."
   "You ready?"
   "Don't you want to see what she's wearing?" he asked.
   "I'll come back," I told him.
   We went to breakfast. Chunks of ham and potatoes. John seemed unusually silent.
   "You want this banana?" he asked.
   "I've already got one."
   "I didn't ask you if you had one already. Do you want this one?"
   "No thanks. I've got this one."
   We rode the elevator back upstairs. John got out on the forth floor without saying anything. I returned to my room and listened to Mark and Brian talk about English chrysanthemums and  what Neil Armstrong said when he walked on the moon.
   Giselle was back to pants.
   I ran out of things to do at 9:30, and began getting depressed. I felt bad about John somehow and was vaguely disturbed about it. I started thinking about my life, and how many friends I had, which further depressed me.
   It was at this point that I relapsed and decided to smoke and act out. Just for today. Only today. That would relieve my feelings of depression, anxiety, and unease. I couldn't do it immediately. I had a 10:00 appointment with a new job developer at the Levy Center next door. I thought about skipping the appointment, but then thought I better keep it.
   I began reading Arthur C Clark's "Rama Revealed," the last in the Rama series he co-wrote with the engineer, Gentry Lee. None of the books Clark wrote with Lee are as spectacular as the first "Rendezvous with Rama," written solely by Dr. Clark, but they are all interesting, and they helped take my mind far away, which is exactly that which I desired.
   Just before 10:00 I walked next door to the Levy Center. I was directed to office 26, where I met Larry Denman Sr., a job developer. Black, roughly my age and size, he seemed rather harried. I introduced myself and gave him two versions of my resume. He looked them over.
   "Customer service? Would you be interested in applying for a..."
   At this point someone came to the door interrupting us. There was a veteran's employment meeting in a class room right next door which Larry was involved with.
   Larry left me for a moment, then returned.
   "You're going to the meeting, aren't you?" he asked me.
   "Yeah, I guess."
   "It'll be alright, Richard. Don't worry." he was putting me at ease for some reason which was fine. I think he sensed I didn't want to be there. "Come back to my office right after the meeting."
   We walked next door. Two other vets and a black man dressed in a suit were already there. The suit introduced himself to me as Richard Comes, the Veteran's Project Manager, my caseworker's boss. Labren's boss. He was new. I'd never met him before.
   A few more vets, some of those who seem to live in the day room, straggled in. Just after 10:00, Richard started the meeting.
   Mr. Comes had at one time been a head hunter for a high end employment agency before coming to the Weingart. He started out by explaining that a job interview's basic function was to exclude those found not suitable for a particular job, not to hire. As an example, he asked how does one weed out potential job candidates out of a group of 100, lets say, applicants?
   "Well," he said. "If I were an interviewer here today, I would dismiss all of those who didn't show up on time. Only three of you did. That's the three I would spend my time with. The rest of you (at this point about 20 vets had shown up, with others still arriving) I wouldn't have to worry about."
   He went on about how the Weingart was a transitional facility, and that all of us should get off GR and get a job. We were going to have weekly meetings from now on toward that end. We were all going to learn how to look for work.
   All very well and good. I'd already gone through the HRVP program at the Harbor Light, and knew how to look for work.
   No one had given me an interview yet, so any help this guy provided was fine with me.
   After the very long meeting I returned to Larry's office, and he made an appointment for me to come back and see him Monday morning at 10:00.
   I took a bus to 5th and Broadway and purchased some tax free cigarettes from the street venders who illegally sell them for $2.50 a pack.
   I returned to my room, isolated, smoked and acted out for the rest of the day. 
  I didn't go out to eat. I didn't see John Manzano, nor did he come to my room. The only time I did leave was to use the toilet, or to get more water for my coffee pot.
   I watched "Married with Children," at 8:00, watched the movie "Fear," starring Reese Witherspoon, Alyssa Milano, and the very understated actor, William Peterson. This movie confirmed the disquieting feelings I had always had for the actor Mark Wahlberg. I never did trust that son of a bitch!
   I went to sleep after the 11:00 news, and dreamt I was on the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland with Anna Paquin, who was celebrating her 21st birthday. Then we went to Fantasyland and frolicked all over the place.  

July 25     Friday       Day 13

   With the hope of cleansing myself of depression I took a trip to Universal City for a day at the movies. I was thoroughly disgusted with myself and wanted to get out of me for a little while at least, and hopefully pick up the pieces and yet start once again tomorrow morning.
   I can change certain things, certain types of behavior, I can't regulate basic fundamental personal traits. I might as well try to hold my breath for an hour.
   I didn't have  a particular movie in mind when I reached the City Walk hilltop. I remembered the new Tomb Raider film was out now and thought I might see that. That movie would certainly preclude the need for thought.
   When I reached the theater I was happy to see that "Seabiscuit," was on the bill. I had 30 minutes before the show started, and was hungry. I bought a chile dog (no pickles) from Tommys and ate it while watching Jimi Hendrix play "Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire," on the huge outdoor television screen that they have here, that is one of the hallmarks of this place. I'm fairly unfamiliar with this musician. He died before I began to appreciate the Rock genre. I was heartened by watching him. He was doing what he was meant to do after the first moment he picked up a guitar.
   He made a serious mistake though. He allowed himself to die.
   He may have wanted to die, in which case he made another mistake.
   "Seabiscuit," is a fine film. Brilliantly acted and directed, based on the true story of a small, high spirited horse that could run faster than any other back in the 1930s. I thought attempts to humanize the horse, trying to depict emotions and gestures that are comparable to ours, was as a sad distraction, but I understand why it was done. Today's audiences tend to demand that sort of thing. Chris Cooper should receive another Academy Award nomination for his performance. I enjoyed the film, but couldn't buy into the idea that Seabiscuit was the "hope of our nation," or the films efforts to tie into what was happening in the country. It was a horse for Christ's sake! And although I like horses, and admire and respect all forms of animal and plant life (except jellyfish), I tend to doubt that this horse's actions had a great effect upon the national events of the time. The films premise that it did, attempts to elevate the story line toward more than it is, a good, well, made, entertaining, horse race movie (i.e. "National Velvet").
   But who knows. I wasn't there. Maybe the nation's future, for which I am a part, depended on Seabiscuit. Maybe I owe my very existence to that horse. Maybe we all do.
   Thank you Seabiscuit.
   As soon as the film ended I fell through an inter-dimensional time warp and was transported to theater 16 Just as "Johnny English," a comedy starring Natalie Imbruglia, who is Australian, began. Amazing. She was playing a British secret agent. The movie did have it's moments, similar to the Inspector Clouseau films, but without the formidable talents of Blake Edwards, Herbert Lom, and the genius of Peter Sellers.
   When I attempted to leave the giant movie theater I was pushed into theater 4, which "Tomb Raider, the Cradle of Life," was at the half way point. It was better than the first Tomb Raider, but that's not saying a great deal.
   I returned to the Weingart in time to enjoy some under cooked meat loaf for dinner. There was absolutely nothing on Television, even UHF, and I didn't feel like doing anything remotely constructive, so was forced to view 2 episodes of "Reba," and 1 apiece of "What I Like About You," and "Grounded For Life."
   I read from the Rama book until late into to the night, until I tired and slept.
   I had a dream wherein Natalie Imbruglia and I had been chased into the desert of the southwestern United States by the international criminal mastermind, Pascal Sauvage, where we came across Reba Mcentire, who was being chased by giant earthworms.
   We spent the night sitting on a big rock while the worms circled us under ground.

Monday, February 25, 2013

85th Academy Awards

Red Carpet

Picture Legend
1. Dolby Theater
2. Christoph Waltz
3. Anne Hathaway 
4. Quentin Tarantino
5. Ang Lee
6. Jennifer Lawrence
7. Daniel Day-Lewis
8. First Lady
9. Argo. The Winners

   Joyce's Take has a long history of reporting on the Academy Awards. As a matter of fact our second post, way back on 2/23/2009, concerned the 2009 Academy Awards and was mis-titled "2008 Academy Awards," and can be found right here:
   That post featured the lovely Ms Anne Hathaway, which is a little bit coincidental as she won for Best Supporting Actress last night for her performance in the musical "Les Miserables." Congratulations to her!
   Personally I can not bring myself to see the film as I can't stand musicals (except for Bob Fosse movies). For instance you rarely see folks walking down the street who break out into song and choreographed dance numbers (except down here on Skid Row). It just bugs the hell out of me. I don't know why.
   All and all I thought the show was a good one, although I don't really watch it to be entertained. I'm more interested in seeing who won. The show lasted 3 hours and 35 minutes, which is about average for these things, although the host, "Family Guy," creator Seth Woodbury MacFarlane made several comments on its length. This was Hollywood's night though, so let them party.
   The show was held at the new Dolby Theater, which was the old Kodak Theater located near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in West Hollywood. When Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy in early 2012 it ended its naming rights deal. On May 1, 2012, it was announced that the theater will be renamed the Dolby Theater after Dolby Laboratories signed a 20-year naming rights contract.
   I personally don't care to watch what is termed the Red Carpet march of celebrities arriving. I don't really care what they are wearing either. Accordingly I have a short clip of this above.
   I mean really, Anne Hathaway would look good dressed in a burlap sack as far as I'm concerned... as a matter of fact again, I wouldn't mind seeing her... never mind, I'm sick and need help.
   Women on the other hand judge each other so harshly on this issue it's amazing. If they don't like what someone is wearing they fall on that poor lady like vultures on a fresh carcass. No one seems to care at all what the men wear. Tatum Channing could show up wearing a burlap sack and the ladies would still swoon.
   I don't see why. He has big floppy ears.
   Anyway, let's take a look at what happened inside.
   Seth started the show welcoming everyone to the 85th Academy Awards, or "an attempt to get Tommy Lee Jones to laugh."
   It worked. He did laugh.
   He soon launched into the "We Saw Your Boobs," song, a tribute, if you will, for those actresses who have disrobed in the performance of their profession.
   I thought it kind of weird at first, and it must have been mortifying for those actresses named in it, especially Kate Winslet, whose multiple naked appearances on the screen was emphasized (she wasn't present), yet this morning Stephanie Miller of the Stephanie Miller Show couldn't get enough of it, and now I'm thinking about downloading it myself.
   By the way, Baby Face MacFarlane proved himself to be a very good singer... and dancer.
   After, a screen dropped down with Capt. Kirk telling Seth how his performance would be remembered. I didn't really work, but did allow a couple of nice dance numbers, the first with Tatum and Charlize Theron, the second with MacFarlane, Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
   After the opening ceremony finished the first major award was presented for Best Supporting Actor.
   The nominees were:
   Alan Arkin for "Argo," Robert De Niro for "Silver Linings Playbook," Philip Seymour Hoffman for "The Master," the Austrian-German actor Christoph Waltz for "Django Unchained," and the aforementioned Tommy Lee Jones for "Lincoln."
   I didn't see "The Master," so I don't have an opinion on Hoffman's performance.
   The rest I did see. De Niro was considered the favorite, and the film he was nominated for is now one of my favorite's ("Silver Linings Playbook," was unique this year as it received nominations for all four acting categories), yet I thought Christoph Waltz's performance in  "Django Unchained," was the freshest, funniest, and most interesting of them all.
   And the winner:
   Octavia Spencer of "The Help," fame presented Christoph Waltz with the award. He's been nominated for this award twice (the first time for "Inglourious Basterds," another Quentin Tarantino vehicle) and has won twice.
   This being the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, a tribute was presented. Originally it had been planned to have all six actors who portrayed the character (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig) appear on stage together, but that fell through, and musical tribute was presented instead, with Dame Shirley  Bassey singing "Goldfinger," from the film of the same name.
   There was a lot of music presented, with a Celebration of Musicals of the Last Decade. Catherine Zeta-Jones sang "All That Jazz," from the movie "Chicago," the same song she sang in the film, Jennifer Hudson sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," from "Dreamgirls," Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, and the lovely Amanda Seyfried all sang "Suddenly" and "One Day More" from Les Misérables. Very good.
   The "In Memoriam" segment was presented by George Clooney, concluding with Barbara Streisand singing "The Way We Were" in tribute to the song's musical composer, the deceased Marvin Hamlisch. The segment included Joyce's Take friend Ernest Borgnine, who passed away July 8th of last year of kidney failure, which saddens me very much. As you may recall dear readers, I met Mr. Borgnine when I was a kid, when he was working on "Mchale's Navy," and he took the time to give this young man his autograph. Others were Jack Klugman of "The Odd Couple," fame, science fiction author Ray Bradbury (who I've also met), Michael Clarke Duncan, and producer Richard D. Zanuck.
   Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress against Amy Adams for "The Master," Sally Field for "Lincoln," Helen Hunt for "The Sessions," and Jacki Weaver for "Silver Linings Playbook." The award was presented by Christopher Plummer.
   The lovely Jennifer Lawrence introduced the lovely Adele, who sang "Skyfall," from the Bond film of the same name.
   Best Actress nominees included the still lovely Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver "Hey!" Linings Playbook," Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty," Emmanuelle Riva for "Amour," 9 year old Quvenzhané Wallis for "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and Naomi Watts for "The Impossible."   
   I saw all of these films except for "Amour," which I can't seem to muster enough interest to watch (old people) and although I was very impressed with all of the performances, Lawrence was my favorite for without her "Silver Linings Playbook," probably wouldn't have worked as well as it did.
   And the winner was:
   Jean Dujardin who won Best Actor for "The Artist," last year presented the award to 22 year old Jennifer Lawrence.
   Jennifer stumbled face down on her way to the podium (those damn long dresses) and I feel sorry for her as she'll remember that for the rest of her life although no on else will.
   Best Actor nominees were Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook," Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," Hugh Jackman for "Les Misérables," Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master," and good old Denzel Hayes Washington for "Flight."
   Again, I didn't see "The Master," but I did the others and my favorite was Bradley Cooper for his animated performance in "Silver Linings Playbook," because it was well... animated, and the chemistry between him and Lawrence really clicked, making the film. But everyone favored Daniel Day-Lewis, who indeed won. The award was presented by last years winner for Best Actress Meryl Streep. Mr. Lewis is the only actor to have won 3 Best Actor Awards (the other two being "My Left Foot," (1989) and "There Will Be Blood." (2007)).
   He made a couple of jokes upon accepting his award, one being that he had originally been cast to play the part of Margaret Thatcher, which of course Ms Streep, who was standing nearby, had played, and which got her the Best Actress Award.
   Quentin Tarantino won for Best Original Screenplay for his "Django Unchained." The award was presented to him by Dustin Hoffman and Quentin's neighbor, Charlize Theron.
   There was a bit of a surprise, the biggest of the evening as far as I'm concerned, when it came to Best Director. The nominees were Michael Haneke for "Amour," Ang Lee for "Life of Pi," David O. Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook," some guy named Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln," and Benh Zeitlin for "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
   Everyone thought the award would go to Spielberg. Every time Spielberg's nominated everyone thinks it will go to him. If it were up to me I would have given it to David O. Russell, because of the movies nominated his is my favorite (he spent 5 years working on the script). Yet Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda (who worked together in "The China Syndrome") gave the award to Ang Lee for "Life of Pi."   
   9 Best Picture nominees, each had been introduced to the audience throughout the night.
   "Life of Pi," "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Les Misérables," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," and "Zero Dark Thirty."
   The favorite was "Lincoln." At one time "Zero Dark Thirty," had been the front runner. I liked "Silver Linings Playbook."
   Pudgy Jack Nicholson came out to present the award. As a bit of a surprise he deferred to a dark screen that suddenly appeared and introduced the nation's First Lady, Michelle Obama, who was in the White House with a bunch of strange people standing behind her. She made a little speech about how great movies were and all, then gave it back to Jack who presented the nominated films, then back to Michelle who gave the award to... "Argo," which had also been mentioned as a possible winner. Well, it won! Even though the film's director, Ben Afflick, had been snubbed and not nominated for Best Director.
   The film's producers took to the stage. One guy who no one knew stood between George Clooney (apparently one of the producers) and Afflick, started talking and would not shut up! Time is limited when accepting these awards and this guy wouldn't shut his big yap! Finally Afflick got to say a few words, and that was that.
   MacFarlane and the lovely Kristin Chenoweth did a little song for all of "the losers," which may or may not have been in good taste, and the show was over.
   All in all I thought it was a good show, and

   Annie, you can still victory sign me any day.     

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oklahoma and the Crusades

The American Taliban

A religious war (Latin: bellum sacrum) is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to spread its faith by violence, or to suppress another group because of its religious beliefs or practices. The Muslim conquests, the Crusades, the Reconquista, and the French Wars of Religion are frequently cited historical examples.

   I woke this morning at around 1:30. I don't know why. I haven't been sleeping very well lately. I don't know why.
   I began my normal morning routine. Let Herkimer, my invisible cat out. 800 push ups. 972 sit ups. Three 147 count burpees. Meditation. Shower. Looking forward to the Academy Awards today at five o'clock. Herkimer came back. I knew pretty much how my day was going to pan out, what I would write about today. Then I checked my Email.
   I don't get a huge amount of Email on the weekends, and most of it's crap I can quickly delete, however I do usually read those that come from Care2 on a daily basis. They contain about 5 or 6 stories on various subjects that are remarkably concise and easy to get through, and I can send nice Ecards to my friends on holidays from their website.
   Anyway, this mornings Email had two stories concerning the Sooner State, Oklahoma.
   My dear mother actually drove me and my dear sister through Oklahoma once, as fast as possible, on the way to Kansas City.
   The first story concerned how two guys were trying to deny affordable birth control for nearly two million women who live in the state.
   Oklahoma already prevents women from using their insurance plans to help cover abortion services, but that's not enough for these guys.
   State Sen. Clark Jolley ((R) of course) has introduced a measure that would do for contraceptives what they've already done for abortion services.
   "Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees."
   Jolley said the inspiration for the measure came from just one constituent, a Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who says he is morally against contraception and abortion. He said he had to give up his small group health plan because the only plans available in the state required coverage for contraception and sterilization.
   Why did he have this coverage in the first place, I ask myself, if he was so morally opposed to contraception? Did he not know what he was buying? Now he's making a big stink about it?!
   Here's his explanation:   
   He was forced to buy it because all small group plans cover it. Now he's going to have to find more expensive insurance.
   Poor baby. He's a freaking cardiologist for Christ's sake! He can't afford to pay a bit more if he's so morally opposed?
   I guess not. He'd rather have the entire state ban contraceptive care on all health insurance plans.
   Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.
   "Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother," Pedulla said. "They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn't bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies."
   Jesus H Christ and his mother Alice!
   So this guy knows what a woman's place in society is... shouldn't be anything except a nice complacent mom. And a man's role I guess is to provide guidance to all of these ladies who just don't know any better, or what's good for them.
   And all of the women in Oklahoma are being asked to poison their bodies? Who's asking them to do that? Poison? The Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral birth control pill in 1960, and that type of contraception is so safe that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends making it available without a prescription.
   I say if he's so worried about poisoned bodies why doesn't he have his pal Jolley introduce a measure banning cigarettes and booze?
   But public health is not their goal. Again, it's ideology, theirs, that they want to force it on everyone else.
   It sickens me.
   Another Oklahoma City doctor, Eli Reshef, medical director of the Bennett Fertility Institute, noted that depriving women of contraception increases the likelihood of abortion.
   "If one does not have access to contraceptives, unintended pregnancies can occur," and "with unintended pregnancies, abortions will increase," Reshef said. "Half of all unintended pregnancies will end up as an abortion."
   But that doesn't seem to concern these two morons. The measure, Senate Bill 452  passed the Senate Business and Commerce Committee by a vote of 9-0 with no debate and now heads to the full Senate. I wonder what will happen there.
   Lovely women of Oklahoma, migrate to California like in "The Grapes of Wrath." We will love and cherish you.
   The second story concerned education, or rather, the denial thereof.
   Let's say your a high school science teacher in Tulsa, OK, and you ask your students to turn in a paper concerning the age of the Earth. That's a simple enough assignment. The age of this planet is well known to be approximately 4.54 billion years old, determined by evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples. Half of your class turn in papers with the correct answer. Accordingly you grade these papers with a A. The other half turn in papers stating the age of the Earth is around 6,000 years old, based on counting backwards people found in the Bible, back to the Garden of Eden. By Oklahoma law, you are required to give these students an A as well. You cannot do otherwise. Last Tuesday a bill mandating this practice was approved by the Oklahoma Common Education committee by a 9-8 vote. Issues concerning climate change and evolution are included as well. Of course they are.
   From Mother Jones:
   "Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. "I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks," says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. "A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."
      WTF? "students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks."
That's the whole point of having textbooks, to have a standard of accepted knowledge of which there is little debate. Otherwise a student can spew out any dribble they want... about anything!
   If students disagree with what's being taught for obvious religious reasons, then this is cause for discussion within the classroom, but to allow students to go through their education without applying accepted standards is doing them a huge disservice as you are allowing them to enter a real world for which they will be totally unprepared for. You are essentially equating opinion with fact. 
   This is just another attempt to get creationism into schools, 25 years after the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that mandated religious instruction in science classes, and certainly has nothing to do with "scientific exploration."
   Judy Mulland, who wrote the article, reports "Just a few weeks into the 2013 legislative session, there are already anti-evolution bills circulating in Missouri, Montana, Colorado, Indiana, in addition to Oklahoma. And in some cases, like this one, climate change has taken a prominent place, along with evolution, as a target for creationists."
   Yet there's more sinister movements afoot.
   Wikipedia tells us:
   "School choice is a term or label given to a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to publicly provided schools, to which students are generally assigned by the location of their family residence. In the United States, the most common option offered by 'school choice' programs are educational voucher programs. These programs offer a given student and their family the option to take a subsidy from public educational funds and put that money towards tuition in private schools. This subsidy may also be accomplished through tax-credit programs. Other 'school choice' options include open enrollment laws that allow students to attend other public schools and charter schools, and homeschooling."
   K.C. Boyd reports from Altenet:
   "With the money of wealth funders like Richard and Betsy DeVos (sister of Blackwater scion Eric Prince and daughter of Elsa and Edgar Prince of the Amway fortune) and the Walton, Koch and Scaife Foundations, simpatico politicians are hard at work bringing  Dominionist ideals quietly into the forefront of American education policy. While much of the country argues about budgets, deficits, and guns, a cleverly camouflaged package of School Choice and ”Bible-driven curricula“ make their way up the ladder.    
   On the surface, School Choice is purportedly about increasing opportunities for inner city and rural youth. The all-important subtext, however, is that School Choice is really about freeing up dollars for Christian-based education. An important arrow that energizes today’s religious quiver is the intentional misuse of language in changing the debate by referring to public schools as “government schools” and public education as a “government school monopoly,” thus instantly and directly speaking to Tea Partiers and Libertarians.
   To still relatively scant notice, the call for “School Choice” or Vouchers continues to play out in state capitols across the nation in an effort to increase Biblically based education through a redirection of tax dollars from public to private religious schools. In order to accomplish the end goal of Christianizing all students, stealth remains largely the rule of the day."
   This is a stealth program, a patient program, a well funded program to change the fundamental way our educational system works, to slowly transition it from one that is secular in nature to one that teaches Christian fundamentalism.  
   Rachel Tabachnick of Talk to Action reports:
   "'We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities," Dick DeVos warned in a December 2002 speech at the Heritage Foundation. DeVos was introduced by former Secretary of Education William Bennett and then proposed a stealth strategy for promoting school vouchers in state legislatures.  DeVos and his wife Betsy had already spent millions promoting voucher initiatives that were soundly rejected by voters.  Pro-privatization think tanks had concluded that vouchers were the most politically viable way to "dismantle" public schools; the DeVoses persevered.  Dick DeVos introduced his 2002 Heritage Foundation audience to a covert strategy to provide "rewards or consequences" to state legislators, learning from the activities of the Great Lake Education Project (GLEP) initiated by Betsy DeVos. Vouchers should be promoted by local "grass roots" entities and could not be "viewed as only a conservative idea."  DeVos added, "This has got to be the battle.  It will not be as visible."   
   Ten years later, the DeVos stealth strategy has been implemented and is winning the voucher war in several states.  As recommended to the Heritage Foundation in 2002, the public face of the movement is bipartisan and grass roots, and millions of dollars are poured into media firms to reinforce that image. However, behind the scenes the movement continues to be led by the DeVoses, and the funding used to provide "rewards or consequences" for state legislators continues to be raised from a small group of mega-donors."  
   The Crusades that lasted between 1095 and 1291, used violence to achieve it's goals. People like Richard and Betsy DeVoses employ other methods appropriate for our times, yet it's no less a war. Those who share their beliefs would turn this country into one as religiously fundamental as that in Afghanistan and the first step in combating this movement is to be aware that it exists.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Drought, California

2012 Drought

   When I checked my computer a few Saturdays ago for the latest weather conditions here in Los Angeles it didn't say anything about it raining.
   Yet when I was on the westbound leg of my daily journey across the 6th Street Bridge I espied dark and heavy rain clouds to the south. Actually they weren't rain clouds per-say, but raining clouds, dumping vast quantities of water as they headed north.
   North?! That is where I was!
   I finished my walk and got home nice and dry. Not like what happened a couple of months ago when for the second time in my life I got caught walking at the very middle of a long bridge when water began to pour out of the sky.
   You know what happens when you get caught in the middle of a long bridge when water begins to pour out of the sky? You can turn around and go back where you came from, or you can continue on your way. It doesn't matter, the distance to the end of the bridge is the same.
   You get freaking soaked, that's what happens, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
   It provokes a certain sense of eternal helplessness.
   Albert Hammond was quite wrong when he wrote "It never rains in Southern California."
   Southern California, at least, is essentially a big desert. The Mojave Desert lies directly to the east of Los Angeles. I mean it's so close I could walk there in about... two months. At 25,000 square miles it stretches from California into southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and eastern Arizona.
   My sister lives in the Mojave desert, as Bullhead City resides within it's boundaries. So does Las Vegas for that matter.
   The Mojave Desert contains Death Valley, which is the lowest place in North America (300 feet below sea level), and sometimes the hottest  (the temperature surpassing 130 °F in the lower elevations at times (as does Bullhead)).
   California also contains the Colorado Desert... yeah, I know, it should probably be called the California Desert since it's in California and all, but it's actually part of the larger Sonoran Desert, which shares a border with the Colorado Plateau. The Colorado Desert lies in the southern border of the Mojave Desert in California and stretches down south into Mexico, which makes all of the southeastern part of California a desert.
   We have another one! The Great Basin Desert, which lies on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where I've camped out on occasion. It contains Mount Whitney, which is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States (14,505 ft and 3 inches), which are all of the states except Hawaii and Alaska.
   The Great Basin Desert is part of the larger Great Basin, which stretches all across Nevada, into Utah, up into Idaho and Wyoming, and north into Oregon.
   It is the only cold desert in the U.S., because most of the rain that falls within it is snow, which is cold usually. The "rainshadow effect" makes it that way. Winds from the Pacific Ocean rise over those Sierra Nevada Mountains, which cools them because the mountains are high. The cooling makes the air lose its water in the form of rain. By the time the winds cross over the mountains and sweep down the far side, they are very dry and absorb moisture from the surrounding area. This drying effect is responsible for creating the Great Basin Desert.
   According to Wikipedia the Great Basin Desert has no history, which I find rather odd.
   Anyway, my point is there is a lot of desert in California. A lot more then say... New Jersey.
   Since Los Angeles is on the border of a big desert we don't have a lot of water here. We've  even gone to war over water when William Mulholland, of "Chinatown" and Mulholland Drive fame, built the Los Angeles aqueduct in 1913 and stole a lot of water from the Owens Valley, which is actually within the Great Basin Desert in eastern California. The farmers there didn't like getting their water stolen because they wanted their water to grow crops, and Mulholland was stealing it from them, along with the mayor of L.A., Frederick Eaton, who used a whole bunch of dirty, underhanded tricks to get their water rights. By 1928, Los Angeles owned 90 percent of the water in Owens Valley and agriculture interests in the region were effectively dead.
   To add insult to injury, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) built a second aqueduct in 1970 to suck up all of the groundwater in the Owens Valley.
   We also steal water from the Colorado River, even though the Colorado River is around 300 miles east of L.A., and never enters California at all (it runs along the states southeast border).
   We suck it up near where my sister lives, near Lake Havasu, on the border of California and Arizona, and it goes to the city of Riverside, which shares it with Los Angeles.
   Other cities like San Diego and Phoenix steal water from it as well. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.
   This is all well and good (unless you live in Owens Valley), when there's lots of rain to keep the water flowing. But my state, like 80% of contiguous United States, have and are facing severe drought conditions.
   We've had droughts in the past. In 1976-1977 a drought caused surface water supplies in some parts of the state to dwindle sharply, and large quantities of groundwater were extracted to make up the shortage. The drought did the most damage to California's agriculture and livestock industry. A drought lasting from 1987 to 1992 is considered the most severe drought in California's recorded history. It seems droughts periodically transpire on a somewhat regular basis... in California, and the rest of the country.
   But what happens when you factor in a new set of circumstances that effect an old problem, such as global warming on our country's penchant to dry up.
   California experienced drought conditions in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Then it became wet again, for a little while, and now we're experiencing another drought.
   As of last February the precipitation in the state had only hit 60 percent of the average. Our snowpack water supplies are low as well.
   Drought conditions effect the number of wildfires that annually plague Southern California. The drier the conditions, the easier it is for fires to start and spread.
   According to the analysis of the drought's impacts by the Pacific Institute, a Northern California think tank that focuses on water issues, in an average year hydropower produces 15% of the electricity for the state.
   Citing data from the California Energy Commission, the authors found that figure dropped to 8%-10% with falling runoff levels during the 2007-09 drought. Utilities made up for the loss by burning more natural gas and buying more power from out of state, driving up production costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The authors calculated that the switch to other power sources resulted in an additional 13 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
   According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (who keep sending me Emails all of the time... I don't know why):
   Warmer global temperatures are expected to cause an intensification of the hydrologic cycle, with increased evaporation over both land and water. The higher evaporation rates will lead to greater drying of soils and vegetation, especially during the warm season. Climate models also project changes in the distribution and timing of rainfall. The combination of a decrease in summer rainfall and increased evaporation will lead to more severe and longer-lasting droughts in some areas. Increasing drought frequency has the potential to affect land-based natural and managed ecosystems, coastal systems, and both freshwater quality and quantity. Increasing drought frequency also has the potential to increase the likelihood of wildfires.   
   To sum up, California has experienced severe drought conditions on a periodic basis. Drought effects the amount of water available for use by humans for various purposes. For instance, the city of Los Angeles uses 200 billion gallons of water a year for personal, industrial, and agricultural (including the production of livestock foods) use, Los Angeles depends on water to provide for the production of energy as well. The effect drought has on the available water supply is to lessen it, which means other sources of water needs to be utilized (The prospect of increased demand coupled with reduced supply from the Mono and Owens basins is causing the LADWP to look into a number of new water sources, including a new direct connection to the California Aqueduct, increased use of recycled water, use of stormwater capture and reuse, and increased conservation ( )). Global warming, or climate change, whichever term you prefer, will increasingly tend to exacerbate the drought conditions we're already experiencing (as well as increase the amount of wildfires which are prevalent in the area. It will also effect insect propagation (A new study made at University of Washington suggests that global warming seems to lead in fact to more insects. Warmer climates seem to increase their reproductive rate and population growth, with widespread effects on agriculture, public health and conservation).
   So this is a big problem that we're currently ignoring, at least on a national policy basis. Since the government is reluctant to take the necessary steps required to curb the oil and gas industry's continued tendency to increase the amount of greenhouse gases pouring into the atmosphere, I'm wondering when other economic interests, such as the aforementioned agricultural and  hydropower interests, and other industries such as insurance companies for instance that are increasingly being adversely effected by warmer temperatures, will finally wake up and take steps of their own to begin to do something about this very real problem.
   Maybe a war between Archer Daniels Midland and Exxon will force the government into action.
   Just maybe.

Friday, February 22, 2013


President pushes for sequestration resolution

Picture Legend
1. Some building in D.C.
2. Paul Krugman
3. Chris Good  

   As I've mentioned before I have Facebook friends I've never met who live in the Eastern part of the country, a couple from the South. Not surprisingly our political views often differ, and sometimes when they post comments that are so patently false and outrageous I get into it with them, battling with facts rather than what I would like the world to be like as they do, and we go back and forth, and nothing ever comes of it. I shouldn't do this. I know I'll never change their world view from which they must take a great deal of comfort. However, I never start these things (I do repost items of a political nature that I agree with, and I shouldn't even do that), and if I find their comments so disturbing I feel a need to challenge them.
   I'm getting better at ignoring them though, I really am.
   However I found one comment from a friend yesterday that I responded to. I apparently share 8 mutual friends with this person, including my dear sister.
   I probably did this because he was commenting on the up coming sequestration federal budget cuts that are due to go into effect a week from now, with which this post is concerned with.
   This is what he wrote verbatim:
can you ecplain to me why obama is blaming the republicans, for the sequestration coming next week when it was the white houses idea,last year,gdp is at 0.1%,unemployment is up,and everyone knows where gas prices are at and going up,and this president is still pointing his finger,and of corse the main strean media,still has no hard line questions for this guy,with obama its always someone elses fault,a good leader takes responsabilty,this man has never taken any,then why is his approval rate so high
   I have no idea what he's talking about for the country's GDP which is not counted as a percentage and is currently stands at 15.09 trillion dollars and growing. Unemployment is at 7.8% and heading downward, not up, and gas prices are high, but the President has no control over that, yet I imagine his comment is trying to blame Obama for this.
   This was my reply to him:
I guess it's because the President can't implement policies, only Congress can. Oh yeah, and all of the House Republicans voted for it, and now say it's a bad thing, but won't stop it from occuring when it's completely in their power to do so. That may be the reason
   And low and behold, even though these comments appear on his Timeline, I received no reply. None whatsoever. This is the first time this has ever happened.
   Now we've had these battles before and remained friends, and I do understand that people are entitled to their own opinions, but as Ambassador Daniel Moynihan has stated, not their own facts.
   Well lets take a look at the facts of sequestration, as well as I can present them.
   What is sequestration? Funny you should ask.
   The word sequestration seems to mean a lot of things.
   Since the time of Rome the word meant the act of removing, separating, or seizing anything from the possession of its owner under process of law for the benefit of creditors or the state, which sucks if your the owner, and seems completely bent toward the benefit of the creditor or state... kind of like the law of eminent domain, where the state can just seize your property anytime it wants (that actually happened to me once, but that's a whole other story).
   There's jury sequestration, which is the isolation of a jury to avoid accidental or deliberate tainting, and which is similar to protective sequestration, which refers to isolating, by force, a section of people to protect them from an epidemic (or the public being protected from them (see the fine film "Outbreak," staring Dustin Hoffman)).
   In science there is carbon sequestration which is the process of the capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which we should be doing a heck of a lot more these days to stop global warming. Just suck up all of that CO2 and shoot it over to Texas where it belongs.
   There is a Canadian heavy metal band called Sequester.
   There's also bile acid sequestrants, pulmonary sequestration, and pyrrolizidine alkaloid sequestration, which is something bugs do.
   And of course the 4th or 5th century, Roman geographer, Vibius Sequester.
   But we're not talking about any of those, and I don't even know why I mentioned them.
   Silly me.
   What we are talking about is budget sequestration, which, in short, refers to a U.S. legal procedure in which automatic spending cuts are triggered, specifically in the Budget Control Act of 2011.
   Okay, this is how we got to where we are today:
   As you may remember dear readers, after the rise of the Tea Baggers  as a political power, they won a significant amount of seats in the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections and of course started their anti-government campaign almost immediately... well, let me rephrase that... they immediately started their anti-government campaign. In August of 2011 a vote was needed to raise the governments debt ceiling so the government could continue to pay the debts  it already owed, debts incurred by Congress itself, and a vote that had automatically been passed every time it had come up. The Tea Baggers didn't want to do this. They were perfectly willing to let the government go into default for the first time in our nation's history.
   Here, I'll let Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it in his usual succinct manner:
   "Republicans engaged in unprecedented hostage-taking, threatening to push America into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to a grand bargain on their terms. Mr. Obama, alas, didn’t stand firm; instead, he tried to buy time. And, somehow, both sides decided that the way to buy time was to create a fiscal doomsday machine that would inflict gratuitous damage on the nation through spending cuts unless a grand bargain was reached. Sure enough, there is no bargain, and the doomsday machine will go off at the end of next week."
   What exactly will happen if no deal is reached by next Friday and the sequestration does go into effect? Here's a short list compiled by Chris Good of ABC News:
1. Air Travel Disruption; After a $600 million Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding cut, furloughs would mean fewer air-traffic controllers and fewer flights.
2. Longer Security Lines at Airports; Even the Travel Security Administration (TSA) is not exempt from sequestration, and fewer workers would mean longer lines.
3. Slower Extreme-Weather Forecasts; Government weathermen would feel the sequester, too.
4. Greater Risk of Wildfires; Cuts to the Department of Agriculture would mean less wildfire prevention and greater risk, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned: "Increased risk to communities from wildfires with as much as 200,000 fewer acres treated for hazardous fuels" were among the consequences he listed in his letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
5. Pest-Infested Crops; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote that the sequester would mean "a reduction in assistance to States for pest and disease prevention, surveillance, and response, potentially leading to more extensive outbreaks and economic losses to farmers and ranchers."
6. Nationwide Meat and Poultry Shortage; After furloughs to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, meat and poultry plants will have to shut down, as no one will be around to inspect their products.
7. Prison Lockdowns; A furlough of nearly 36,700 Bureau of Prisons staff for an average of 12 days could "endanger the safety of staff and over 218,00 inmates," Attorney General Eric Holder wrote.
8. Slower Gun Background Checks.
9. Fewer FBI Agents; FBI would furlough personnel for up to 14 days, Attorney General Eric Holder stated. 
10. Immigration Backlog; Unable to hire immigration judges, the federal government would see immigration applications pile up.
11. Longer Waits for Passports and Foreign Visas.
12. Neglect for Mentally Ill, Homeless, and Substance Addicted; Cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services would mean fewer services for vulnerable parts of the population.
13. 125,000 Would Be at Risk of Homelessness; Housing vouchers, shelter programs, and rural rent assistance are also on the chopping block.
14. 600,000 Women and Children Thrown Off WIC.
15. 424,000 Fewer AIDS Tests, 7,400 Fewer Patients Could Get HIV Medications.
16. No Rent Assistance for 7,300 AIDS Patients.
17. 807,000 Fewer Hospital Visits for Native Americans, Hospital Closures.
18. No Child Care for 30,000 Kids, No Head Start for 70,000.
19. Longer Waits for Disability Payments.
20. $725 Million in Cuts for Low-Income and Special-Needs Students.
21. Cuts to Schools on Indian Reservations.
22. Higher Risk of Terrorism; The FBI's ability to catch terrorists and stop plots will be mitigated, according to director Robert Mueller. The cuts include personnel furloughs and stalled investigations."   
23. Classified Information Vulnerable to Foreign Spies; Counterintelligence will also face cuts, raising the risk that foreign spies will gain access to classified national-security information.
24. An Even More Porous Border; Border Patrol will face cuts, Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano wrote to the committee: "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would not be able to maintain current staffing levels of Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers as mandated by Congress."
25. Untended Nukes; Sequestration means less security at U.S. nuclear facilities.
26. U.S. Less Prepared for a 'WMD Incident' FBI Director Robert Mueller also warned that the FBI wouldn't be able to respond as quickly to a "WMD incident."
27. 1/3 Cutback in Pacific Naval Presence.
28. Reduced Army Readiness.
29. 46,000 Defense Jobs Could Be Lost, and the Pentagon would have to cut the pay for 800,000 employees by 20%
30. $1 Billion Cut from Disaster Relief
   And it goes on and on. Here's a link to Chris's story:
   Thanks Chris for allowing me to... borrow some of your fine work.
   Even Republicans as a whole disagree with what the House, led by Rep. John Boehner is doing. Only 19% of all Republicans believe sequestration is a good thing.
   But the House Republicans, pressured by the Tea Bagger contingent, seems to be stuck on stupid. They just lost the general election, then came out saying their Party needed to change it's ways to attract more of the populace, with the goal of winning elections in the future, and they continue to do dumb crap like this! It's totally amazing really. If their policies weren't so detrimental to the country it would be funny. As a matter of fact I believe that any American who would do this to their country and had the power to stop it, are simply traitorous. These people aren't Americans. They don't care about America or it's people. They're ideologues and insane. They need to go to the Funny Farm, draw nice pictures, listen to happy talk, and take lots of Olanzapine.
   So what does Krugman say we should do? Well lets ask:
   "The right policy would be to forget about the whole thing. America doesn’t face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon. Meanwhile, we have a weak economy that is recovering far too slowly from the recession that began in 2007. And, as Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently emphasized, one main reason for the sluggish recovery is that government spending has been far weaker in this business cycle than in the past. We should be spending more, not less, until we’re close to full employment; the sequester is exactly what the doctor didn’t order."
   I couldn't agree more.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's Take

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Asteroids & Extinctions

Asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby Feburary 15, 2013

   My three favorite novels written by the late scientist and science fiction author, Sir Arthur C Clark (who is probably most famous for working out how geosynchronous satellites would work (those that stay in the same position over the planet's surface), and his collaboration with film director Stanley Kubrick on "2001, a Space Odyssey"), are these; "The Fountains of Paradise," which concerns a elevator that reaches into space, "Childhood's End," which concerns the final evolution of mankind, and my favorite, "Rendezvous With Rama," which is about our first contact with extraterrestrials, or at least their artifacts. 
   The novel begins quite smashingly with a thousand ton meteorite crashing through the Earth's atmosphere at 31 miles per second, and hitting the planets surface, completely destroying the northern Italian cities of Padua and Verona in the year of 2077.
   According to Clark this event was totally unexpected, and resulted in the creation of SPACEGUARD, which was a program designed to track objects in the solar system, which may or may not come near our planet. And this resulted in the detection of Rama, the great 25 mile long cylindrical spacecraft which was visiting our solar system, and which concerned the remainder of the book.
   It now seems odd that mankind would not have taken such efforts so far in our future, for we now have a program that searches for Near-Earth Objects (NEO), which is also called Spaceguard, the term coined from Sir Arthur's novel, in anticipation of the very circumstance described above.
   "A 1992 US Congressional study produced a "Spaceguard Survey Report"  which led to a mandate that NASA locate 90% of near-Earth asteroids larger than 1 km within 10 years." -Wikipedia
   It seems we are more far sighted than the Earth's civilization of Clark's imagination. Or it's possible that his vision warned us to get into action. For that we would owe him a great deal.
   The solar system was literally filled with objects floating around during it's early history. Our very own Moon was formed when a Mars sized object collided into the Earth shortly after it formed about 4.57 billion years ago. If you look at it now it's easy to see the scars of impact craters. The reason the Earth doesn't look like the Moon is due to the fact that it has an atmosphere which allows the erosion process to erase the evidence of thousands (or more) of it's own impacts. Still, the Meteor Crater near Flagstaff Arizona is proof of our planet's violent history, and that it is literally a target for future collisions.
   The Spaceguard Survey met it's mandated goal, although taking a little longer than 10 years. Still it has had it's exceptions. On June 6th of 2002, an undetected meteor exploded over the Mediterranean Sea with the force of a small atomic bomb. In September of the same year it is thought that a meteorite, or comet nucleus, impacted the Earth near the Vitim River Basin in Russia (It seems that Russia has had more than it's fair share of these type of events). And so on.
   Still the Spaceguard program has been successful in identifying many NEOs, and is much better than having no Spaceguard program at all. 
   The asteroid (asteroids are small solar system bodies or dwarf planets that are not comets (of course there is no reason comets can't smash into us as well). Meteors are small bodies of matter from outer space that enters the earth's atmosphere, appearing as a streaks of light (these are what we sometimes call Shooting Stars). The term meteoroid is synonymous with meteor. A meteorite is a meteoroid that survives impact with the Earth's surface. 100,000 tons of meteorite material reach the Earth's surface every year) 2012 DA14 was detected by astronomers in Spain on February 23, 2012. It's dimensions were calculated to be approximately 98 feet in diameter, with a mass of  40,000 metric tons. Astronomers examined it's orbit and discovered that it would come within 17,200 miles from the surface of Earth on Feburary 15, 2013, and indeed it did. This is a record close approach for a known object of this size (it came closer to the planet's surface than the satellite that transmitted the broadcast signal for the last Superbowl). Had it hit the Earth it would have resulted in immense damage, releasing the energy equivalent of 2.4 metric tons of TNT and wiping out 750 square miles.
   Astonishingly, 16 hours earlier that same day, an undetected meteor exploded over the Chelyabinsk Oblast of Russia, in the Ural Mountains region, on the border of Europe and Asia. According to calculations by Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, drawing on extremely low-frequency sound waves detected by a global network used to detect atomic bomb detonations, the object is estimated to have been about 56 feet across with a mass of 7,000 to 10,000 tons when it hit the atmosphere. It exploded with a force of nearly 500 kilotons of energy. The terminal part of the explosion likely occurred almost directly over the town of Chelyabinsk, causing extensive window breakage and some structural damage. Events of this magnitude are expected once every several of tens to 100 years.
   Meteorite impacts have caused significant damage to life on Earth in the distant past. It is theorized that a giant asteroid or comet hit the Earth about 65 million years ago causing an intense, global mass extinction. An estimated 75% of animals and plants, most notably non-bird like dinosaurs, took place in a geologically short period of time. One name for this event is the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction. Why we believe this event was caused by an impact with an extraterrestrial object was the discovery of high levels of the metal iridium in the boundary clay of that period worldwide. Iridium is rare on Earth but abundant in asteroids. The identification of the 110 mile wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico provided conclusive evidence that the K-T boundary clay represented debris from an asteroid impact.
   "Such an impact would have inhibited photosynthesis by generating a dust cloud that blocked sunlight for a year or less, and by injecting sulfuric acid aerosols into the stratosphere, which would have reduced sunlight reaching the Earth's surface by 10–20%. It would take at least ten years for those aerosols to dissipate, which would account for the extinction of plants and phytoplankton, and of organisms dependent on them (including predatory animals as well as herbivores). Small creatures whose food chains were based on detritus would have a reasonable chance of survival." -Wikipedia
   Those small creatures, which we now call mammals, are our ancestors. It is fortunate for us that this event took place or the dinosaurs would probably still rule the Earth, as they had for the 135 million years previously.
   Other things have caused mass extinctions. It is believed that their have been 5 of them in the distant past, the K-T being the most recent.
   About 200 million years ago the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event took place, causing the extinction of approximately half of all life on the planet, and was caused not by an asteroid impact (no evidence has been discovered for an impact), but by either gradual climate change, sea-level fluctuations, a pulse of oceanic acidification, or massive volcanic eruptions, causing the release of carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide and aerosols, which would cause either intense global warming (from the former) or cooling (from the latter).
   As the K-T event was fortunate for us, the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event allowed the dinosaurs to flourish.
   The Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event of 252 million years ago killed off 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species. It was the largest of the extinction events, and was the  only known mass extinction of insects. The cause of this event was probably the same as the Triassic–Jurassic.
   Then of course we have the Late Devonian extinction of 374 million years ago, which caused the loss of 19% of all families and 50% of all genera (a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms). The cause?  Possibly an impact, or plant evolution (plants got bigger. The covering of the planet's continents with massive photosynthesizing land plants in the first forests may have reduced carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, reduced levels might have helped produce climate change, cooling the planet, which then adversely affected those very same plants.
   Lastly we have the first extinction event, the Ordovician–Silurian of about 445 million years ago. At the time, all known life was confined to the seas and oceans. More than 60% of marine invertebrates died. This was probably caused by massive volcanism and weathering.
   As can be seen climate change probably accounted for 4 out of 5 of these events. Our climate is changing now and we our causing it, or at least our short sighted dependence on fossil fuels is causing it, spurred on by the fossil fuel industry's short sighted infatuation with short term monetary gains is causing it, spurred on by our politician's reluctance to do anything about it, including our current president.
   As Chris Hedges article below indicates, we have no other choice other than to stop our dependence on fossil fuels and switch to clean energy. We owe it to our children and their children. To allow this to go on the epitome of irresponsibility.
   If we don't change our ways the next extinction event, this one caused by ourselves, will be unfortunate for us, and fortunate for, oh, probably cockroaches, allowing them to rule the planet  for the next few million years or so.
   How sad it would be that we, the most intelligent creatures that have ever evolved on Earth, only lasted for 100,000 years.
   That doesn't say much for intelligence as a survival mechanism, now does it?