19 October 2005

Blogging v. Logging

Cyberland is a rarefied environment. Here we can bitch and moan about anything that comes to mind without being called on it. (Imagine trying to get away with that at work or in society.) Sometimes we even kid ourselves that what we type on here matters--that our method of venting serves some greater information dissemination purpose. We pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we've at least gotten the word out. Cyberpundits and deskchair activists make the media go 'round.

I like to think I'm a little more self-aware than that; my readership is probably 20 on average. If I were a newspaper columnist, I'd've been bankrupt before my fourth editorial. But this time I'm hoping for the best this medium has to offer, because I'm reporting on one of the worst events for our national and local environment. I'm willing to put in the time to connect the dots. Please think about them and, if they move you at all, act on that impulse.

Energy Policy Act of 2005 was introduced in the House by Joe Barton (R-TX), and co-sponsored by my favorite whipping boy, Richard Pombo (R-CA) in April. It was passed to the Senate in June, where Pete Domenici (R-NM) did the honors of pushing it through until it was signed by Bush on August 8 and became Public Law No. 109-58.

There are a lot of things wrong with Public Law No. 109-58, and not much right. Let me enumerate:
  • Titles 3, 4 & 8 give new and improved incentives for burning coal, oil and gas and dramatically increase air pollution, all of which will increase the rate of global warming. Virginia is a coal state. Mountaintop removal and strip-mining will increase, and what little air and water quality we have, most of which comes from the formerly-protected Nat'l Forest regions in the western portion, will diminish. Do I have to use Hurricane Katrina to remind you that global warming is a Bad Thing? It appears that the Republicrats learned that global warming rate estimates had seen a slight decrease, and decided to spend this as quickly as Bush is spending his alleged "political capital" since November 2004.

  • Title 2, sec. 231-234 does not restrict the definition of "biomass" to wood waste or renewable resources. This means federal, public and Indian lands are up for grabs should the newly empowered Secretary of the Interior wish to grant a company license to them. Equally damning, there are no designations that protect roadless areas, endangered forests, or critical habitats within the definitions given in this law. This means that a logger who wishes to pave a road into the heart of the once-protected George Washington National Forest in order to cut down rare native and old-growth trees for "biomass fuel" can apply to the Dep't of the Interior and receive permission to do so.

  • Title 3, sec. 321 creates unprecedented authority for the Department of Interior to permit new energy projects in the Outer Continental Shelf without adequate oversight or standards. That means that the fragile and embattled Chesapeake Bay can be drilled and pipelined by a Texas-owned company with a permit from the Bush administration. To back this up, Title 3, sec. 387 limits any say that Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and DC might have in that process by weakening states' abilities to monitor and appeal such projects, as was previously given to them in the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The list could go on. For more details, I urge you to read the law in full. A copy of the Senate version passed on to Bush is still available online at Thomas at the LOC. Go to http://thomas.loc.gov, enter S.10 into the search engine, and make sure to check the 'Enter bill number' radio box below the search query before clicking on the button.

If you live in Virginia, I hope you have been convinced to get active on the state level to make up for this horrendous federal rape of our collectively-held land.

08 October 2005

Public Land Enemies #1 & #2

Attention All Environmentalists!!

It is long past time we recgonized we are beseiged. We are at war. And the opposing general's name is Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA-11th Dist.). His primary field commander is Joseph Gibbons (R-NV-2d Dist.). Take note of these names and suspect everything they introduce or sponsored in the House of Representatives.

Better yet, get yourselves informed. Do a Thomas engine search on the Library of Congress website under their names at http://thomas.loc.gov. Look up the bills they've proposed. Read them. Then fight them. This is the clearest primary directive I can give the environmental community. Do it before they sell our public lands out from under us.

07 October 2005


We pause for this announcement from my Personal Broadcasting Company. A-rotation (in my head or on the computer or on the stereo) for the past 2 weeks consists of:

Radiohead: The Bends
The Killers: Hot Fuss
Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand + the single "Do You Want To"
Jane's Addiction: Ritual De Lo Habitual
Sisters of Mercy: Floodland
Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense
Nirvana: In Utero
Martin Gore: Counterfeit
David Bowie: Heathen

For those of you who know my moods, you know what this means. For those of you who don't, take a guess.

Representing Whom?

I am disturbed. Virgil Goode, my Representative in the House, has co-sponsored the following bill (found on Thomas [http://thomas.loc.gov]):

HR 1070 IH

"Sec. 1260. Matters not reviewable

`Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.'."

The way I read that section is that the Supreme Court is not allowed to review or accept any appeal to that court on any matters of separation of Church and State in which a branch of government (e.g., public schools teaching creationism instead of evolution, courts like Moore's in AL which post the 10 commandments, public bodies like Chesterfield Cty. which are sued for prayer discrimination, etc.) is the named defendant.

Does this man have no sense? He represents one of the geographically largest regions in the state and he is sponsoring an unconstitutional law? Has he nothing better that he can do for his constituency? I can think of a number of things he should be putting his time and energy into that have nothing to do with violating the Constution in the name of "restoring" it. Fortunately this law, like all others, will also have to come under review and it will get struck down, even if House, Senate, and Bush all pass it. BTW, there's a similar bill that was introduced in the Senate (S.520), but which is not, fortunately, co-sponsored by John Warner or George Allen. They are obviously much smarter than Virgil Goode, even if they are also Republicans.

03 October 2005

Miers' Thrifty Acres

It's usually a Bad Sign when a narrowly-elected President suffering an all-time popular low, a man who is already in the hot seat for perceived cronyism, nominates his very own favorite White House Counsel to SCOTUS.

Yahoo!: Bush nominates crony insider to Supreme Court

20 September 2005

Yellow Dogs Unite!

Finally! A leading Democrat finds his balls!

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid announced his opposition to Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts on Tuesday, voicing doubts about Roberts' commitment to civil rights and accusing the Bush administration of stonewalling requests for documents that might shed light on his views."

Rest of story at CNN: "Top Senate Democract opposes Roberts

Shades of Reconstruction

A Razzie should go out to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who recently said,
"If there is a silver lining in this tragic situation, it may be that our country understands how fragile our energy sector is. ... We can't just get our oil and gas from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. We need to diversify our domestic oil resources."

Grist.org, "Katrina prompts new energy proposals".

It just goes to show that not all carpetbaggers are from the North.

16 September 2005

Second Harvest

Scientists Collect Fish To Assess Environmental Damage from Katrina

September 16, 2005 — By Garry Mitchell, Associated Press
ABOARD THE NANCY FOSTER — Scientists harvested fish off the Mississippi coast as part of the latest effort to assess environmental damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina's monstrous storm surge and toxic floodwaters.

Researchers hope to determine whether the hurricane caused any contamination from chemical spills, sewer overflows or other poisons that washed into the Gulf of Mexico....

Continue article on ENN at http://www.enn.com/today.html?id=8817

We need a scientific study to prove whether our seafood supply was harmed by 7 million gallons of oil being dumped into the Gulf? I'm no scientist, but I think it's safe to say this is not the best time to be hitting the "all you can eat" shrimp buffet at Red Lobster.

14 September 2005

Policy Maker

Ah, the joy, you've bought your first home, you've started to remodel it, the mortgage is 1/3 paid off. And then Katrina hits, and something no one could have predicted happens -- areas that never were marked as flood plains become submerged and homes are ruined. No, we're not talking New Orleans. We're talking large sections of southern Mississippi.

So what do you do when you return to your fallen castle? You call your insurance company. Who promptly informs you that, while you are covered for hurricane damage, your crumbling walls aren't covered because.... the damage was caused by flood, not hurricane.


For every policy, there's a loophole. Guaranteed. American nationals will open their homes and wallets to help our ravaged southern brethren, but not Nationwide.

08 September 2005

The Caste System of Environmental Disaster

In Race To The Bottom, Lisa Featherstone makes a strong case for the Katrina disaster as proof of environmental inequality. It's worth a read for those of you who may be wondering why all the people we see on the news in the form of bloated corpses, wailing wives, and rooftop rescues are dark in pigment. In a metro area of approximately 800,000-1 million people, over 35% are African-American (over 60% in the inner city). For decades New Orleans seems to have been a model of integration in a way that much of the south has not been. Every aspect of NO culture has been infused with African-American energy and spirit. And yet these are the people whose neighborhoods are built on toxic Superfund dumps, whose homes are closest to Cancer Alley, and whose lack of ready transportation is not accounted for in the standard evacuation plans.

What is frightening to consider is that this kind of environmental segregation is not new, nor is it uncommon. Black farmers do not get the relief that white farmers do when the government subsidizes losses. Poor neighborhoods are the last to be evacuated in any emergency, regardless of distance or convenience. Earlier in this blog, in a prime example of environmental injustice, I discussed a situation in So. Cal where the property owners at the top of the hill wanted an ordinance in place which would chop down all the eucalyptus trees on the properties at the bottom of the hill because they "blocked the view." Those trees are the only vegetation holding the soil from complete erosion and, thus, preventing the cliff-top homes from tumbling down. No points for guessing who won that battle anyway-- the rich folk who wanted their unobstructed view. In a Machiavellian maneuver, one major city chose to give permit for a dump transfer station to be built in the middle of a poor, mostly black neighborhood already ragged and riddled by deterioration. The permit required the company to clean up and restructure the city block it was mowing down and provide public green space. How public green space can make up for the smell of rotting refuse wafting from next door because your government doesn't give a damn about your quality of life?

Given any 10 miles of coastline, it is guaranteed that the high ground will go to those who have and the low to those who have not. Given any 30 miles of riverbed, the upstream will belong to the rich and the downstream to the poor. When cities "revitalize" their neighborhoods, it is always with a higher price tag and tax assessment levied so that the poor end up forced to move out.

The "other side of the tracks" still exists in some form in every community. What Katrina has done on a large scale is expose this inequity. If anything good can come of a disaster, I hope that it will be a wake-up call to the we in which use the environment to act out our prejudices. For more information on environmental justice, visit The Environmental Justice Resource Center of Clark University.

Montezuma Moves North

First EPA Tests Confirm New Orleans Floodwater Risky Even for Skin Contact

September 08, 2005 — By Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Floodwaters in New Orleans contain levels of sewage-related bacteria that are at least 10 times higher than acceptable safety limits, endangering rescue workers and remaining residents who even walk in it, federal officials said Wednesday.

Results of the first round of testing by the Environmental Protection Agency were no surprise, but reinforced warnings that everyone still in the city take precautions to avoid getting the water on their skin -- especially into cuts or other open wounds -- much less in their mouths.

"Human contact with the floodwater should be avoided as much as possible," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

Health hazards from that water make it imperative that remaining residents comply with evacuation orders, added Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If you haven't left the city yet, you must do so," she said.

Story continued....

06 September 2005

RockStar: In Excess

Ok, I've only had a cumulative 40-odd years of experience on the stage & in music, so what do I know about the talent on the hoof in the hit CBS "reality" show RockStar INXS?

Here's what I see: 3 men & 2 women trying their damnedest to stretch 15 minutes of fame to 15 years. Obviously they are using the Thomas Friedman ebb-and-flow calculus to achieve it. It's too bad that some of them are talented, because reality TV has absolutely nothing to do with talent.

05 September 2005

Come Back, Sandra Day!

The high water came, and now so has hell. Bush the Younger has proposed Roberts for the Chief Justice seat on the Supreme Court. Article at http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/09/05/roberts.nomination/index.html. And, huzzah!, he gets to nominate someone else in place of SDO'C as well. All hail the new age of legal feudalism!

Sing it with me, to the tune of "Sandra Dee" from Grease:

Come back to us, please, Sandra Day
Don't let the swing vote fade away
If Bush has two picks
Of conservative pricks
Our rights will be passe


The feeling of not belonging, of not being entirely worthy, of being sometimes hostage to your own sensibilities. Those things speak to me very personally.
-- Anthony Minghella, writer, producer, director

The calculated callousness of the Administration's response to Katrina troubles me. I have a problem with "the disconnect" anyway, as one friend observed many months ago. The "disconnect" he was referring to had nothing to do with Bush or the government, but he is correct and my problem with it is systemic. It seems to me that the greatest challenge modern society faces, regardless of locality or nationality, is isolationism -- on both the microcosmic and macrocosmic level. We are losing our sense of belonging. Some argue that it's already lost. The more advanced our communications technology has become, the more distanced we are from each other. Some ironies I enjoy. This one I do not.

Several years before birth, advertise for a couple of parents belonging to long-lived families.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, author & physician (not his son, the S.Ct. Justice)

As witty as Holmes's quote is on the surface, it highlights the undeniable trend of the past century of the broken home.

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
-- Aldo Leopold, conservationist, ecologist, philosopher

This sums up everything I feel is wrong with free-market capitalism in a nutshell. When everything can be reduced to a dollar amount, then everyone is devalued.

04 September 2005

Blog Hell

I'm having a few problems with the template for this blog. Unfortunately, it does not respond well to blithwhapping.

02 September 2005

Brownie's Merit Badge

From Michael Brown, chief of FEMA:
"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."

Compared to what? Wholesale slaughter in the streets? Oh, that's right, we have that.

Chris Lawrence, for CNN:
"From here and from talking to the police officers, they're losing control of the city. We're now standing on the roof of one of the police stations. The police officers came by and told us in very, very strong terms it wasn't safe to be out on the street."

"The officer hitched a ride to Baton Rouge on Friday morning, after working 60 hours straight in the flooded city. He has not decided whether he will return.

"He broke down in tears when he described the deaths of his fellow officers, saying many had drowned doing their jobs. Other officers have turned in their badges, he said.

"In one incident, the sergeant said he saw bodies riddled with bullet holes, and the top of one man's head shot off."

Obviously, Brown and Lawrence are talking about two different cities. Where is Brown anyway? Baton Rouge? It's a little like finding Waldo.... I suppose his hide is too precious to stray any closer to the actual disaster site.
"Nevertheless, [Brown] said he could 'empathize with those in miserable conditions.'"

On Jim Lehrer he even went so far as to sympathize with the New Orleans director for disaster relief, saying,
"...what the American public needs to know is that we have brought to bear the full resources of the federal government."

If what we have seen thus far has truly been the "full resources" we can bring to bear on the situation, then, as a country, we are in much worse condition than even my most pessimistic estimations ascertained. This is the kind of high-level disconnect that the Bush administration does best. Feed us pablum so we will sooner forget all about Crisis X, content to go along our meaningless lives, letting entire segments of the world population shift for themselves when we could be doing something constructive to assist them.

May we get something straight here? Pretty please, with Splenda on top?

This pap is not what the American public wants or needs to hear. Even those of us thousands of miles away have friends and relatives down there. Memories and emotions invested in that region. We actually give a shit and deserve to know the score. This is no time to be soothing America's jangled nerves. This is exactly the time to use our emotional connections to motivate us to help, and to keep helping. It's been many years since we lacked adequate resources. What we lack is good reason to part with them. This is good reason.

But I'm sure that "Brownie" will earn his Communications Merit Badge from the White House for feeding the public what the Administration wants it to hear. After all, his grossly understated attitude is in party line with Bush's own. Our grating and vainglorious leader believes
"we've got a lot of work to do, and [he] understand[s] it seems dark right now."

Bully for you, Mr. President. Next time, try emoting with a teleprompter, please.

Late-Breaking Broadcast

I was just in the corner store where they were playing the news on TV. The item featured a guy shooting in the streets of New Orleans and the voice-over said "And the president is flying over now..."

I always knew this was a drive-by presidency, but now I have my proof.

Would anyone want to lay money on whether Bush is (1) very concerned about the welfare of the citizens evacuating the Superdome, or (2) even more extremely concerned about the oil refineries and whether any of oil rigs which disappeared off the Gulf map were a part of the family portfolio. And would anyone bet against the Bushes and their colleagues using Katrina as the perfect reason to remove the center of US gas & oil shipping to the Gret Stet of Texas?

01 September 2005

Wine Haze

Over dinner last night while we drank our local brew, a good friend said "I never met a bottle I didn't like." It looks as though the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District doesn't agree with that statement.

The San Joaquin valley, home to Gallo and Delicato (among other mass-produced California wines), has a serious smog problem, which may be partially due to the ethanol, methanol and other natural compounds released during the fermentation process. For the article, go to http://news.findlaw.com/ap/f/66/08-31-2005/4e560035770a137b.html

Just another good reason to Buy Local. Virginia wines RULE!

31 August 2005

Earth Week Slogans

Ok, here's a line up of potential flyers and bumper stickers for Earth Week Charlottesville 2006:

Variety--no theme

1. When did "If I Had a Hammer" become "If I Had a Hummer"?
2. Earth Week. It's not just for trees anymore.
3. Free the cows! (Drink soy)
4. Start a career in Resource Management. Become an Environmentalist.
5. [small print] America consumes 1/3 of the world's resources, so [large print] Conspicuously Consume [opt: Local] Organic Produce
6. [picture of T-shirt & pants] Hemp: It's not just for smoking anymore
7. [mutant chicken in a Tyson's truck] Genetically modified food, already at a grocer near you
8. Support fossil fuel consumption, buy polyester.
9. [Wal-mart, Exxon & Dow logos]Petroleum. It's everywhere you don't want to be.[pic of Iraq]

Lorax Series
1. Who took my barbalute suit?
2. I didn't elect the Onceler
3. The Lorax for President
4. Swami Swans Unite!
5. Keep your axes off my truffula trees

Lick that Bong!

YES! You have to love the ingenuity of necessity. Finally, a plastic has been made from something other than dinosaur platelets.

Hemp Plastics

I see the future, and it's got edible bongs....

Shameless Promo #1

Earth Week Charlottesville now has an official web site: http://www.earthweek.org

It ain't much yet, but it will become something over the next few months.

And if you haven't bought it yet, pick up "Green Living," the handbook for living lightly on the earth put out by E, the Environmental Magazine. The best "short course" in how to take personal steps to improve your environment I've ever seen. Available at emagazine.com, Amazon.com, and B&N.

14 August 2005

The Green Life

A week ago last Thursday, I was at the Conference on Homelessness, where I had a great 20 minute chat before the keynote speech with one of our Councilors, and he mentioned that he'd like to speak with me about some ideas he had. He said he thought it was time for a task force or council to be formed that dealt with umbrella environmental concerns in our area. Friday we met at the monthly Dem happy hour at Rapture, and the canvassing began.

Out of the 34-40 Dems who showed up and were talked with, all were in favor (to varying degrees) of the concept, with the stipulation that the council would advise both City Council and the Albemarle County BoS. General consensus was that Charlottesville wouldn't get very far on it's initiatives without Albemarle. The top concerns seemed to be property rights & values and watershed issues, with pollution and traffic tying for third.

So the question becomes (1) how to form environmental legislation that appeals to both Dems (predominantly Charlottesville) and Reps (predominantly Albemarle), and (2) how to tie those environmental initiatives to the issues that concern people most, which are much more personal (e.g., taxes) and directly effect their daily lives.

Well, over the weekend it occurred to me that there were a number of things the residents of C-A could do to improve the environment if they could be encouraged to act. And the easiest way to encourage anyone to act is to effect their pocketbook.

Property values in C'ville, as those of you who have heard me rant know, are overinflated. That means tax assessments are very serious business around here. So I came up with a way to tie green living with a property tax break. I've cheekily called it the Natural Lawn & Garden Act of 2005.

Gardening seems to be the #1 hobby in these parts. Anyone with a scrap of lawn has planted something in it, and our Historic Garden Week would even impress the British. However, modern gardening, with its emphasis on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers, dumps tons of Round-Up and similar toxins into the soil and water of our environment, and our water quality is showing the effects. Add to that a Weed Ordinance that has gas-powered lawn mowers dumping emissions into the air nearly daily. Did you know that older lawn mowers emit as much noxious fumes in 1 hour as the average car does in driving 18.7 miles? And a Trash Ordinance that forbids organic composting by outlawing any visible refuse on your property--it specifically mentions organic matter as refuse too.

So, why not create a variance designed to encourage organic gardening practices by giving residents who apply for a "natural lawn and garden certificate" a property tax break?

It helps the watershed quality and conservation (a percentage of native plants, which are required in the proposal I wrote, require less special treatments and less watering), it propagates native flora and fauna, improves soil quality, and lessens trash removal (which is now being shipped out of C-A at a hefty cost to local government). It also provides a monetary kickback for those who want to use their property to improve our environment and reduce the City's costs.

The idea isn't new. In fact, it has also been tried several times. Lonnie proposed a version in 2002, I proposed another version in 2003 and neither of us was First. I haven't figured out why we can't get it passed. Perhaps we're just that unremarkable. Nowadays, it takes a gimmick to hold anyone's attention for more than 30 seconds.

So... Where did my barbalute suit get to and can it be dry cleaned in time for the next Council session?

03 August 2005

My Times

On rare occasions an event happens in your personal life which forces you through a "wondernous of earth," a personal earthquake which rattles your structural bones and leaves you with your foundations bare and your rubble to be cleared away.

My father's massive heart attack in 1998 was such a time. With a dozen balls in the air, I abandoned my job and my house to sit in his hospital room for the better part of two months, waiting for some sign that he would recover his life, watching his bodily systems shut down one at a time. In the process, I lost quite a bit of mine. I threw myself fully into his life, making his decisions, trying to think as he would if he could, trying always to act on his behalf, fully conscious that, in the end, it would probably make no difference to the outcome. When I returned to pick up the pieces of my life in Virginia, I found there were virtually none that were intact, because the Tatyanna who returned to that life was entirely different from the Tatyanna who had left it.

He made a miraculous recovery by heart attack standards, though he never did regain full function and, when he finally did die in 2002, he was ready to go. I said goodbye to him in 1998, in those early summer weeks when, daily, we had to remake the decision to keep on life support. I knew I'd never see him alive again, and I was right in a way. I did not make it back to Michigan throughout the remainder of his life. I don't know that I regret that. I know that I feel I should regret it. But I also know that I had no remaining resources after 1998 with which to support a closer relationship in the following years.

And now it has come again, another wondernous of earth, this time occasioned by Mary's situation. And again, I pulled back from everything else to focus on her needs and help her through this time. And again, I find that, upon being returned rather rudely to the land of Uncrisis, my character has changed and I no longer recognize large chunks of the landscape that I had so recently inhabited with ease.

How will my priorities sort themselves out? When will I gain a sense for the new balance? What resources do I have to reweave the threads of my life and what pattern will that tapestry now take? These are the questions that spin through my brain. These are my times.

08 July 2005

It's a Shore Thing

By 2100, a mere 95 years from now, the United States will lose more than half of its over 33 million denizens through climate change unless we rethink the use of our land space. 23 of the top 25 most populous counties are coastal. Why do we insist on overbuilding these strips of sand which represent a mere 17% of our total national territory? Don't believe my statistics, then try the government's. The population trend report is at http://marineeconomics.noaa.gov/socioeconomics/Assesment/population/pdf/Coastal%20Population%20Report.pdf

In case no one has been watching lately, what with Jacko and Cruise making so many headlines, our weather has been steadily changing. That too has been marked by the government. http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/nationalassessment/overview.htm and http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/nationalassessment/overviewcoastal.htm

Now, maybe a rise of 19 inches of sea water doesn't seem like a lot to you. But each inch of sea level equates to 9 inches of flood level. Think of it this way: 19 inches above current sea level effectively wipes out all of Florida and Louisiana, large chunks of Texas, and New Jersey and New York. You think the fall of the Twin Towers was bad? Wait long enough and you'll see all of Manhatten disappear.

Guess what? This isn't even NEWS, unless you can call a 1998 article in the CNN archives "news": http://cnnstudentnews.cnn.com/EARTH/9804/07/global.warming/

Here's a novel idea to combine sustainability with political sensibility. All you Blue staters who are predominantly on the coasts -- Move en masse into higher altitude red states. Not only will your children be able to inherit your homes, you might even change the voting demographics enough to elect a President and Congress critters who might do something to extend instead of decrease our national environmental lifespan.

Interested in more? For the attention-impaired, you can get an update at Grist's article on the subject at http://www.grist.org/comments/soapbox/2005/06/15/kay-coastal/ No independent research required.

05 July 2005

Food Fight

For those who are unaware, I recently joined both Nicozan and Weight Watchers' programs. It's been an uphill battle, changing my habits, because it wasn't something I wanted to do. Rather, it was something I was told I must do, and both programs were given to me as birthday gifts a month ago from people who have the possibly mistaken opinion that another 45 years of my company would be a Good Thing.

I knew, going into my vacation, that using my time to return to the family bosom would either be the best thing I could do or the worst for my overall health agenda. The best, because I've always felt supported by my family and there would be a surfeit of family around who would care about my health and help me through the long hours of down time that come with 10 days off work. The worst, because my mother's side of the family are farmers, which means food is an ever-present member of our social structure. The latter ruled.

I understand the psychology behind what happened. When you belong to a small, poor, rural community you share what you have with everyone. When you are farmers in that community, you share food. Thus, whenever someone is getting married, feeling poorly, has just lost a loved one, or has moved in or out of the neighborhood -- and sometimes just even because -- the appropriate expression is food. Food is celebratory, food is sympathy, food is comfort, food is love. By extension, to reject the food offered is to also reject the love. I get it. Really I do.

Now maybe my aunt and cousins can work off a high dairy (read: high fat, high cholesterol), 2,500 calorie per day diet working in the fields, gardens, and barns for hours, but I, who am chained to a computer desk job, cannot. Nor can I bring myself to go up there for 1 week every 2-4 years and reject their offerings. Probably I could if I were a part of their lives more frequently. But I know the symbolism behind the gestures and I have a really hard time rejecting it out of hand. They are telling me they love me and I am telling them I love them. Food is the language we have to use as a substitute when what we both would really like is more time together. Because it's basic, it's integral to our communal mindset, it's understood. And yes, I know that's lame and I accept my own wussiness in this matter. But, really, what would you do in that situation?

19 June 2005

Stand Up for DMB

I don't frequently do out-and-out reviews, but Dave Matthews Band's latest deserves one.

There are two kinds of DMB listeners: Those who knew or discovered them at the beginning who loved them because they were fresh and unafraid to explore the limits of their capabilities, and those who know or discovered them after radio play made them popular when they began to package their tunes for "listenability." I belong to the former category. Thus, it is a great sense of relief and joy that I cheer their latest studio CD, "Stand Up."

"Stand Up" is most like "Crash." There is no seeming beginning or end to these songs, and yet each is a stand-alone piece. I was prepared to be bored and am fortunately disappointed in that expectation. Each song caught my attention in its turn. Prepare yourself for long intros, long solos, and a different style every 5 minutes. It's a testimony to what they've recorded that I cannot ignore a single track on this CD, yet I've managed to ignore all of "Everyday" and "Busted Stuff." You can tell Dave's lyrics are off-the-cuff, written at the end of the creation period, not the beginning. Even his ever-present "mad ramblings" fit and add to the rhythms in a way that his pre-thunk lyrics never did. The point of this album doesn't seem to be so much "Listen to what I have to say," as it is "Listen to our sound." That sound is big, brash, and invigorating in a purely musical way that hasn't been heard from them on a studio album since "Before These Crowded Streets." Producer Batson has an ear for a hook AND for a line and sinker; even the most repetitive of these tracks ("Louisiana Bayou") draws you in to the diversity and talent of the individual band members. Grunge bass with funk sax? Classical violin pizzicato with R&B vocals? Piano licks with metal guitar? It's all in there, a party for the ears if you care to listen to your music instead of let it wash by you.

I predict a lot of people will hate this CD, but those people are the ones who never developed an appreciation for the individual genius of each of DMB's talented members to begin with. Let them whine. I, on the other hand, want to celebrate.
Welcome back, Dave, Boyd, LeRoi, Carter & Stefan!!

26 May 2005

My Psychosis

It's late and I'm reviewing the day with a certain sense of satisfaction. After a very emotional and difficult week, I feel equilibrium return like a welcome friend. So of course, being me, I have to program in some music to cut my brain loose and let it roam. Because of the reflective tone my life has taken of late, I chose the recordings of piano days. There aren't that many, perhaps 5 altogether, though to people who hate classical music I'm sure they would seem like an entire CD in themselves. And as I listen to myself circa 1984, I realize what large chunk of me has been missing.

Passion. Not conviction, not anger, not enjoyment, not whimsy, love, or commitment. Pure emotional passion.

The music is a testament to the fact that, once upon a time, I felt with every nerve ending in my body. And poured it out through my fingertips. I could buy a piano tomorrow, practice 5 hours every day for the next 2 decades and never produce the music I produced then. Back then, music was such a psychotic experience for me. I still transcend everything when I sing, but I don't lose touch with reality. Then, I was gone--in Neverland, in a world created by the emotion and the keyboard and the sound of notes cascading through my brain. I didn't belong to the space-time continuum. And if I close my eyes as I listen, I can still see the lushly surreal, fantasmagorical worlds I visited when I played.

Music may be the most powerful communication tool ever created. It provides a direct patch from the emotional center to the subconscious. It's visceral in a way no other medium or art form is. It requires no interpretation, no conscious or logical facility to be experienced and understood.

Kirk, if you are reading this, I love you so much for dubbing this stuff over into digital for me. I rediscover myself every time I play it.

21 May 2005


Lately, in my spare time, I've been going through my old and not-so-old writings. Much of it is poetic, so I've started a separate blog for that. Noetic Decay at http://noeticdecay.blogspot.com/

10 May 2005

In the Eye's Mind

In one of the last scenes of Waking Life, Richard Linklater states a theory that this entire journey called Life is nothing that instant of moving from the No to the Yes, from rejection to acceptance of God's love. I would change it and add this:

All of this life is series of moving from the No to the Yes. Yes, you choose to experience. Yes, you choose to participate. Yes, you choose to love. These are all action verbs which require a decision on your part. And each Yes adds up to a greater Yes -- the Yes to live fully, conscious that you are manifesting your own reality.

You cannot truly live if you fear death for without death you cannot be alive. It is all the same journey. Once you say Yes to Death, the fear of it dissipates. It becomes, as it has always been, just another rite of passage to experience. You find your priorities shift from holding on to what you can own of this earth to what you can create within it.

And with each Yes the next comes easier, until saying Yes becomes a reflexive muscle.

This does not mean we do not have to live within boundaries and limits. We exist in a physical form and that fact imposes its own limitations. I should know better than most what it means to burn yourself out saying Yes to too many things at once because I still do it too frequently for my body's full health. However, the life fully lived means risking everything you fear and everything that causes you pain.

So here's your task, should you choose to accept it. Say Yes to some action this week, and take the ride of that choice as far as you can. Expand and live.

04 May 2005

Creative Changes for Education

Imagine if your high school class was run like a D&D game. You are a 14-year-old adventurer and you walk into this unknown classroom. You know about 4 other people out of the 25 gathered there, so you and your buds slink into seats in the back of the class. The GM/Teacher looks everyone over and starts counting you off in groups of 5. You are separated from your buds and you're moving your bookbag into the desk between the pimply-faced nerd and the snooty girl with an accent that could cut diamonds. You and your team, which includes the nerd, the snoot, a jock-wannabe, and a reject from the local stoners' bar, are given your assignment: To pass 9th grade. 80% of your overall pass rate will come from your own work. But the other 20% will come from teamwork and how well the other members your group also succeed at mastering their classes.

Think of it -- 20% is not enough to flunk you if you are a generally excellent student, but it will sure make a dent or a difference to anyone attempting to get by with a "Gentleman's C."

It also fosters teamwork and a sense of community, and motivates helpfulness through use of self-interest. Could it work?

03 May 2005

Small Blessings

Among the small blessings I count in my life is a city council that has a sense of humor. They certainly needed it last night.

Kudos to Stratton Salidis, who knows how to put on a good show. My bad that I didn't bring enough popcorn. The issue at hand: Development the Meadowcreek Parkway and the eastern connector. Specifically, the $1.5 million set aside to do yet another study on how it can be accomplished. This is a road project which has been debated and rejected for 30 years. Stratton's cast of characters who spoke before Council last night included a woodchuck who moved his family into McIntire Park and would be displaced if the Parkway was built and a "developer" who wanted to spend more money on sprawl and needed the roads in order to bear the traffic of new housing and shopping center plans on his table. Most of the councilors could not keep a straight face through the procession. (Rob Schilling, the exception and the sole Republican, looked as if he thought the dignity of the council was being affronted by such tactics.)

I do not want the Parkway. I understand why it is needed, but, IMO, there's a better way to handle it.

We have made Charlottesville City a very attractive place to visit, to hang out, to shop, and to live. Unfortunately, this attractiveness has resulted in a very expensive place to live. Because of this, Albemarle County is in genuine danger of becoming overdeveloped. Certainly the road system from the County into the City that exists now barely bears the traffic required of it.

Instead of using the monies set aside for the study, or for the project itself, on paving over sections to relieve traffic congestion, why not use the money to create the kind of environment in Albemarle that Charlottesville has in abundance?

We don't need more shopping centers and residential communities, so much as we need more neighborhoods, with work and amenities within easy walking, bussing, and biking distance. Charlottesville has the Downtown area, with it's charming street mall, the University area, with its kitschy stores and trendy bars, and Barracks Road, while still a strip mall, manages to attract foot and bus traffic by the virtue of combining easy accessibility with diversity of storefronts and services.

Albemarle and Charlottesville, if they are truly concerned about traffic, should work harder to make such community settings in Albemarle territory. No one wants to go to Albemarle Square, Seminole Square, Rio Hill, or Fashion Square Mall. One needs to shop at Circuit City, Office Depot, TJ Max, or Sears. These malls are driving destinations: not a joy for window shopping, hanging out with friends, or grabbing a quick bite or drink at the local pub. They represent everything that is wrong with current development. If Albemarle had more user-friendly destinations, business, and, thus, traffic would want to develp around those neighborhoods instead of everyone driving into C'ville. What C'ville has is the ambience which makes people want to make the trip in for the day or evening. C'ville will lose that ambience unless smarter development takes place.

28 April 2005

Heavenless Hells & Homeless Homes

"unlove's the heavenless hell and homeless home

of knowledgeable shadows(quick to seize
each nothing which all soulless wraiths proclaim
substance;all heartless spectres,happiness)"

Condoleeza Rice made a statement today to the effect that it is the duty of democracies to "tell the world that tyranny is a crime of man." (See MSNBC article at http://famulus.msnbc.com/famulusintl/ap04-28-180748.asp?reg=americas&vts=42820051848.)

It is my personal opinion that Ms. Rice needs to give her Pradas to charity and walk the streets of DC more often before she has earned the right to tell the world anything about tyranny. If, by "tyranny," one means the unjust or abusive exercise of a governmental power to benefit itself at the expense of its citizenry, then the United States is no stranger to it. If, by "tyranny," one means a government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power, then there are many examples in history in which a tyrant has given much better service to his people than Condoleeza Rice and her cohorts in Washington.

She continued on to say that "freedom is the universal longing of every soul." Not in my experience. In my experience, love is the longing of every soul. As a nation, we have demonstrated just how much of a heavenless hell and a homeless home unlove can create through our actions in Iraq, our lack of economic and environmental stewardship, and our unmitigated arrogance that the rest of the world would benefit from following our selfish example. The rest of the world loves us not. Why? Because we are in the winter of our discontent, making the clouds that lower over our heads.

"lovers alone wear sunlight. The whole truth
not hid by matter;not by mind revealed....

Here(only here)is freedom:always here
no then of winter equals now of spring;
but april's day transcends november's year"

Instead of dictating to other nations how they should emulate us, I suggest that it's long past time that we show those other nations something worth emulating.

(Quoted poetry from ee cummings, "unlove's the heavenless hell and homeless home," 95 Poems (1958).)

Delay's Left-Wing Conspiracy

I'm disappointed. There's finally a social club I want to join, and no one from the vast left-wing conspiracy has called me up and asked me to. Not even a solicitation for non-deductible donations. I have to say that I'm hurt. I've been a vocal leftist for over 20 voting years and they left me out in the cold. < pout >

27 April 2005

Joie de Livre

I admit to being more than a little in love with life. I wish I could hug the universe just because being alive within it is a joyous thing to feel.

However, there isn't much modern writing which falls in the category of the simply celebratory. For those who feel the world is closing in, or that it is collapsing around their ears, take a dandelion break with any any poem by e.e. cummings. Or Google him; there are several websites dedicated to this poet and author. In cummings' world, slatterns are the subject of love sonnets and even crumbs become mysterious. If you haven't discovered the craziness in a daisy, then let your soul arise and sing with any collection of his.

26 April 2005


My classified ad:
Single white female in search of sustainable city for long-term residence. Must have neighborhoods, the kind where you can walk w/in 6 blocks to do all your shopping, and I don't mean at 7-11. (Resident butchers, bakers, and fresh produce included.) Rents low enough for a SINK and well-supported public transportation system required. Good cultural programs and a liberal-minded population are pluses. All qualified applicant cities will be considered.

The Mac & Cheese Vote

We've all seen it many times before: Given a choice between on a train or on a plane, from a cote or from a stoat, whether green eggs or green ham, Sam I Am will always choose that with which he is most familiar and comfortable.

David Toscano, all-around good Democrat and former mayor unextraordinnaire, is that familiar choice for the 57th House of Delegates seat. Everyone knows his name around town. He's a solid administrator with no major vices and, unfortunately, no major drives. He's the mac & cheese on the menu, the comfort zone choice who is expected to ride into Richmond on Mitch Van Yahres's coattails. (See http://www.toscano2005.com)

We all know that a HoD chair is like getting tenure at UVa: you have to sexually assault a student in order to be kicked out once you are in. Whoever we vote in will likely be our bump on this log ride for the next 26 years. Toscano is not Van Yahres's equal, so why is my community so hell-bent on making him Van Yahres's successor?

With apologies to Virginia Dems across the state, Charlottesville likes to consider itself the last bastion of Blue in the southern Red sea. Let's say, arguendo, that we are. Don't we owe it to ourselves to elect someone who is less of a paper tiger than Toscano? I have nothing against the man. If he gains the Dem nomination, I will vote for him. But in this, as in all things, I like to think I can do better.

WAKE UP CHARLOTTESVILLE! If you want to make a difference in the direction Virginia heads, Toscano is neither strong enough nor progressive enough to do it. He'll shortly become a party critter in a Rep-tie zoo. Just my opinion.

25 April 2005

What's in a Theory?

Global warming, like macroevolution, is just a scientific theory, right? Let's take a look at some of the CNN headlines of the past month:

One-fifth of world's reefs destroyed: http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/04/25/seychelles.coral.reut/index.html
Snow makes unexpected return in Midwest:
Earthquake shakes southern California:
University to research melting ice caps: http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/04/12/polar.ice.grant.ap/index.html
Spring blizzard slams Colorado:
Earthquake strikes near Sumatra:
Quake rattles Japan's main island:
Disaster looms in coastal, urban regions:
Australian wave warning for west:
US in "battle mode" following quake:

Global warming is happening every day, and we are doing nothing concrete to stop it. How can the Bush administration send so much relief aid to so many countries and then propose to lower emission standards and drill in the arctic. From where does this "That is them and this is us" attitude derive? Is this the world you want to live in?

Ian McEwan discusses the topic frankly on Grist at http://www.grist.org/comments/soapbox/2005/04/25/mcewan-climate/index.html It is definitely worth a read. The problem with his solution is this: International measures hold no weight in the US. We allow for no law above ourselves.

The United State of Europe

Well, finally someone has the balls to print what those who have traveled Europe already know. The EU is a fait accompli and the European self-identification is becoming normal. I do love the International Herald Tribune. See article at http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/04/26/news/enlarge2.php

While individual nations' media mouthpieces cast doubt, it has been evident since the borders opened that increased travel would make states of the nations. And, as they have had the sense to be nations for several centuries before becoming an ethnic fondue pot, I trust that Europe will, once again, show the US what our job should have been all along. I only hope we're smart enough to follow their example.

Yeah, I know, maybe I should just up and move there.

17 April 2005

The Liberal What?

From CNN: An embattled Delay rips the liberal media? I want to know where this "liberal media" which supposedly rules American public opinion is, because I haven't seen it in approximately 3.5 years. So his electorate doesn't like him. That's why we have elected officials. So we can get rid of the ones we don't like. Yeesh.


The Dark Before Earth Day

Has anyone noticed the news lately? There's a lot in there about the Clean Air Act and EPA battles all over the nation. It's almost as if the press were celebrating Earth Day.

10 states have now joined in an action against the latest amendments to the Clean Air Act instigated by the Bush administration. From yesterday's NY Times: "Deep in the energy bill that was approved by a House committee this week, under a section titled 'Miscellaneous,' is a brief provision that could have major consequences for communities struggling to clean up their dirty air."

In essence, this "miscellaneous" provision allows communities whose air pollution is wafted from hundreds of miles away to delay meeting national air quality standards until their offending neighboring states meet those standards themselves.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Imagine living in downwind Connecticut having to deal with smog from New York. One large problem: This just measure indefinitely postpones meeting emission deadlines. Emissions are the primary cause of global warming. We are already 25 years behind where we need to be on meeting the emissions standards to alleviate that problem. In my opinion, global warming should not be qualified as "miscellany."

Sometimes I think it would be easier to teach polar bears to sing "I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas" than to teach the current administration proper stewardship.

25 January 2005

Fahrenheit 434

Some basic societal operating principles I take for granted that People Know. For example, that career choices inform you as to what a person does. Teachers and professors teach; chefs and cooks work in kitchens; bankers, accountants and tax attorneys are interested in finances; painters, illustrators and photgraphers use visuals to form expression; film-makers, authors, and playwrights tell stories. It was idiocy on my part, I suppose, to presume that other intelligent people took the obvious to be just that.

In talking with a friend the Sunday night, I admit I fired the first shot in the argument that led to this post. I know he is an ardent Bush-voting Republican. I try not to hold that against him. I even succeed fairly often. But I could not resist, since the conversation was boring me, turning it toward politics. Between my friend and I, politics is always a good way to shake things up, and I had just listened to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 again. Fully expecting the vehement "No!" I asked him if he'd seen the film.

What I got was a 62 minute (yes, I counted) rant against Michael Moore. From a man who admits he has never seen a Michael Moore film. Most of it asserting that Moore's arguments were suspect, irresponsible, unsupported by the evidence, and even fictitious. I hope I don't have to point out the irony. My friend spent an egregious amount of his time trying to make the point that Moore, as a documentarian, had a responsibility to tell the Truth. I hope I don't have to point out the irony in that either.

I would like to repeat here what I said to my friend: The first rule of making any kind of movie is that it has to tell a story. That's what movies do. He tried to argue with me. I pointed out that as I was the former theater major I was considerably more of an authority than he was on the subject.

A documentary is a subcategory of the published media, e.g., a film or television program, which presents political, social, or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner, often consisting of actual news films or interviews accompanied by narration. There is absolutely nothing in that statement that implies that a documentary must be True, or even seeking Truth. The words "factual" and "informative" modify the word "manner," not the words "subject matter."

Michael Moore told the story of the Bush Administration that he wanted to tell. He's rolling the camera, so the entirety is filmed from his lens. Moore has made no secret of disliking Republicans in general and Bush in the particular. Therefore, why would any intelligent person expect his film to be unbiased or even fair? Why the vitriol?

To do Moore justice, he never once stated "The Bush family is in bed with the bin Ladens" or even "The Bush Administration deliberately went to Iraq with full knowledge there was no just cause." He just laid his trail out and asked very pointed questions. The fact that the paper trail is not evidentially precise means nothing. Moore implies much and his sarcastic narrative may lead you to draw some conclusions, but in this film he shies away from overstating his evidence. (A remarkable restraint, given his usual style.) He does an admirable job of stringing sordid possibilities together and highlighting discrepencies without actual defamation. Is it Truth? I don't think so. Is it a documentary? Unarguably. Is it a great story? Indubitably.

And finally: Do I think it's a great film? Absolutely. I like a well-told story. I do not take on faith even 1/2 of Moore's slant as viewed in Fahrenheit 9/11. But I do believe that Bush and his administration has spun their media web as skillfully as Moore has, and to greater effect. With all the Dems' ineffectiveness of the past election, it was lovely to see a real liberal land a solid punch.

08 January 2005

Sliding Down the Food Chain

Article referenced: Salon.com: Tsunami kills few animals in Sri Lanka

In all the news coverage of the tsunami disaster, only this one article has brightened my desktop. According to wildlife officials, they have yet to recover a single dead animal from the wreckage---because there appear to be no dead animals.

"'Maybe what we think is true, that animals have a sixth sense,' Wijeyeratne said."

Perhaps it isn't so much a "sixth" sense as just plain sense?

No, I'm not snarking on the countries hit by this disaster. Rather, I'm leading to something else.

In the introduction of William Cronan's "Uncommon Ground," there is a discussion about the folly of modern man's love affair with building new metropolitan Edens along the coast of California. Coastal California--an area known for its earthquakes, wildfires, floods, and mudslides (the latest report of which is today, click for the MSNBC summary), an area which features the San Andreas Fault and is popularly expected to eventually fall off into the Pacific, and every inch of which is now virtually barren of fresh water resources demanding extensive conservation and irrigation techniques to be fruitful--commands the highest land property values in the America.

Why do we value most that area which is least naturally productive and stable? Because of its beauty. The climate is perfect, the cliffs are breathtaking, and the ocean is alluring. It is as dramatic a setting as any Hollywood designer could invent.

Once upon a time, mankind had instincts which would have preserved us from most natural disasters. Now we court them with our complacency that they, too, can be controlled by our superior wit, skill, and adaptability which has invented the modern technology that has replaced instinctual knowledge. How soon will we find ourselves sliding back down the food chain because we refuse to acknowledge that there are powers greater than ourselves? Nature deserves our respect, not our arrogance.