Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Otherwise, hot and dusty."

That was how meteorologist Dow Sherry used to sign off his weather forecasts in San Antonio during the 1970s. The same phrase would well describe what has happened in the western portion of the US over the last few years. We are getting hotter and drier than ever before.

The graphic I nicked from io9 (h/t Madman in the Marketplace).

If you look at the interactive graphic that graces the NRDC's web page, you'll notice that my little corner of plains is about right on par with what's going on in New Mexico. As I noted last November, none of this really caught me by surprise. Just looking at the most recent seasonal summary, I noticed that my region had its fifth driest fall season on record this last year, and was a bit warmer than average (a good couple degrees). That might not seem like much, but we definitely notice the difference in terms of later first freezes, and so on. We've also had to contend with periodic burn bans in the area, and the NWS has issued quite a few alerts regarding wildfire dangers due to dry conditions, unusually warm temperatures, and our usual high winds. We're right on the eastern edge of the western US, and appear to be feeling some of the same effects that our neighbors to the west are experiencing.

If one traveled to the Amarillo area, one would notice that Amarillo's main source of water, Lake Meredith, is at its lowest levels in recent memory. Suffice it to say, the topic of water conservation is pretty darned salient these days. To think the warm-up has only begun.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Some good news

All sorts of folks are lighting up the darkness. Check it:

Were you aware that...?

A coffee cooperative in Minnesota makes money by creating fair trade and cutting out corporate middlemen.

Family farmers in Vermont survive and prosper by going organic and cooperative.

Health clinics in rural New Mexico are community supported and succeed in ways corporate health care and insurance cannot.

A taxi cab cooperative in Madison, Wisc., run by the cabbies, brings in $6 million per year.

A pharmacist in Austin, Texas, works less and accomplishes more since he quit working for a chain and set up a pharmacy that ignores insurance companies and sells the least expensive generic medicine.

Strippers in San Francisco have unionized.

A community bank in Chicago has $5 million in annual profits and has invested more than $2.9 billion in underserved communities.

The rest.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ah, memories

Greg Mitchell reprises his thoughts on the early days of the Iraq War.

Today's Quiz Show

Baghdad Bob?


Baghdad John?

"No, I am not scared, and neither should you be."

"Be assured: Baghdad is safe, protected."

"We are in control, they are not in control of anything, they don't even control themselves!"

"They mock me for how I speak."

"I have detailed information about the situation. … They are achieving nothing; they are suffering from casualties. Those casualties are increasing, not decreasing."

"They think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win."

"I blame al-Jazeera."

"I would like to clarify a simple fact here: How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now?"

"We're giving them a real lesson today. 'Heavy' doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted."

"Those are not Iraqis at all. Where did they bring them from?"

"The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies, and more lies!"

"Search for the truth. I tell you things and I always ask you to verify what I say."

"This is unbiased: They are retreating on all fronts. Their effort is a subject of laughter throughout the world."

"The force that was near the airport, this force was destroyed."

"Our estimates are that none of them will come out alive unless they surrender to us quickly."

"They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion."

"Once again, I blame al-Jazeera. Please, make sure of what you say and do not play such a role."

"These cowards have no morals. They have no shame about lying."

"You can go and visit those places. Everything is okay. They are not in Najaf. They are nowhere. They are on the moon."

"God made us victorious."

"Rumsfeld, he needed to be hit on the head."


"I can't go to work with hate in my heart."

Wright's preaching, which mixes theology with the often-troubled history of race relations in America, is in the "prophetic" tradition, one of many that have evolved in black pulpits.

Shocking words like "God damn America" lie at the core of prophetic preaching, said Rev. Bernard Richardson, dean of the chapel at Howard University. "The prophets in Scripture . . . their language wasn't pleasing to hear, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that," he said.


But while the rhetoric may come across as harsh, experts say its goal is to convince bitter skeptics that reconciliation is indeed possible.

"The anger comes from compassion," Richardson said. "It can feel hard. It can sound hard. It's cutting. It cuts to make you whole and bruises to heal you."


But the most provocative passages often don't convey the entire point.

For example, on the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Wright preached for the first time in three decades on the "brutally honest" last verses of Psalm 137, which he said "spotlight the insanity of the cycle of violence."

The sound bite taken from the sermon is something Wright on that day termed a "faith footnote," in which he used the phrase "chickens are coming home to roost" to sum up what U.S. diplomat Edward Peck had said in a TV interview. Malcolm X expressed the same sentiment after the John F. Kennedy assassination. But critique of foreign policy was not Wright's central topic.

Nerdified link
"Love is fundamental to art. I can't go to work with hate in my heart. I go to work with love in my heart. But love can express itself in bitterness and rage. That's only an aspect of love."

Archie Shepp, from the liner notes to Live in San Francisco
As the faux controversy (at least as I see it) regarding Rev. Wright flared up over the last few weeks, that particular quote by Archie Shepp has made itself much more salient to me than ever. Archie Shepp is a jazzer whom I would, within the context of his music, place in a prophetic tradition. Shepp's collaborations with poet LeRoi Jones (who later changed his name to Amiri Baraka), musical tributes to Malcom X, and musical portrayals of lynchings (see the tune, "Rufus" for example) certainly would have turned off many who expected the music to provide pleasant background ambiance. The title of one of his albums, Fire Music, aptly captures the essence of Shepp's 1960s and 1970s output. And yet the music spoke and still speaks great truths still relevant to this day. I'd say the same of Bob Marley, among others. So it goes.

I grow weary of the equating of strident anger with hate (which I have seen all too many pundits and bloggers do, including, nay, especially the avowed "progressives"). I can well imagine that had these same detractors been alive in Jerusalem around the time that Jesus was preaching his radical message and engaging in his famous direct action in the temple, they would have accused him as well of being full of hate, and of going "beyond the pale." I suspect that pronouncements attributed to him in Luke 12:49 ("I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire. ") and Luke 12:51 ("Do you think I came to bring peace to earth? No, indeed! I came to make people choose sides.") would merely confirm their biases. Then again, if you read through the four gospels (as well as accounts appearing in the Gnostic gospels unearthed a few decades ago), it should be pretty clear that his was hardly a mere feel-good message. I could easily imagine Jesus saying in the wake of 9-11 that the "chickens had come home to roost." It would not have been the PC thing to say, nor would it have made most recipients of the message "feel good"; and yet when considered in the light of the organizational and structural violence that the US and corporate conglomerates have wrought, so right on the damned money. The cycle of violence we witness to day is truly insanity. What I see Wright doing is speaking truth as he sees it as well as he can, realizing that it will "set fire to the earth." Sure enough, Wright's most famous parishioner has chosen sides as of late, saying in effect "I don't know him, I don't know him, I don't know him" on whatever talk shows he happens to appear. Where's the hate? Hint: The source isn't Wright.

Just some food for thought this morning.