Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

It's that time of year again, like it or not. Round these parts, this piece by Cactus Ed has become a Christmas tradition.


Merry Christmas, Pigs! 
By Edward Abbey
from Abbey's Road

Scrooge was right. What I like best about Christmas in the desert is the conspicuous absence of Christmas. By late December the cone-nosed humbugs are gone and all the horny elf toads retired into their burrows for the season. When somebody asks me what I think of Christmas (nobody ever does), I reply, "Not much." Easy to avoid it out here in the rocks.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bobby Riggs, the twin patron saints of us middle-aged cryptoliberals. Cryptoliberal? Well, sure, why not? I have been called other names even worse. Misanthrope. Sexist. Elitist. Crank. Barbarian. Anarcho-syndicalist. Wild conservative. And my favorite, from a Maoist lady in New York--she called me a creeping Fascist hyena. Quite true, so far as it goes (you can't please everybody), but they forget to add that I am a pig lover too.

The pig I'm talking about is the one known also as a peccary or javelina, the wild pig of the Arizona desert; not a true pig exactly, according to zoologists, but a good approximation--a close relation. Close enough for me, and the javelina, commonly defined as a "wild pig-like animal," is the best kind of pig. Though that definition, come to think of it, is a shade too broad. Some of my best friends qualify as wild pig-like animals without half trying. But that's another issue. The fault of the permissive social atmosphere, the Bill of Rights, the general weakening of moral fibers everywhere you look.

Back to my topic: Christmas and pigs. Have you ever stood alone under the full moon in the prickly cholla-mesquite desert on the night before Christmas and found yourself surrounded by a herd of hungry, snuffling, anxiety-ridden javelinas? I have, and it's a problematic situation: some of those little fifty pound beasts carry tusks and have been known to charge a full-grown man right up the hairy trunk of a saguaro cactus. That's the story I've been told by old-timers around here.

In any case, this part is true: I was surrounded by javelinas while O'Ryan [sic] chased the Seven Sisters around the Big Bear and the moon looked kindly down. To say that I was nervous would have been an overexaggeration. Though unarmed and on foot, I was happy, at ease, and comfortably drunk.

The herd of javelinas was aware of my presence. The mind of a wild pig is unpredictable. These couldn't make up their minds whether to run or stay. After a while, since I made no move, they stayed. I could see them plain in the bright moonshine: parody pigs with oversized heads and undersized hams; each one bristly as a wire brush. They trotted from bush to bush and cactus to cactus, anxious restive fellows, all fits and starts, busy, busy, busy. I was accepted, but not welcome; they hoped I wouldn't stay. As I watched, I heard the sound of their vigorous jaws at work--a crunching of jojoba nuts, the munching of prickly pear. In all nature there's no sound more pleasing than a hungry animal at its feed. Ask any cattleman or farmboy.

Down by Aravaipa Creek I heard the barking of a fox. An owl called. Everybody out shopping for supper.

There was a good strong odor in the air, the rank and racy musk of half-alarmed javelinas. I like that smell, just as I enjoy the smell (at a comfortable distance) of skunk out looking for trouble. Associations: the wild tang of skunk brings back October nights, raccoons and baying hounds, the big woods and foggy hills of Old Pennsylvania. That smell means Arizona too; a border wolf, a desert bighorn, a mountain lion crouched on a ledge above the deer path in the chapparal. Good smells, good things, important, hard to find on Speedway in Tucson or Central Avenue up in Phoenix.

Now and then one of the larger javelinas, suffering from curiosity, would come close to me, sniff, advance, and retreat, trying to figure out exactly what this thing is that stands there like a bush that breathes but smells like Jim Beam, moves a little. Suspicious; from time to time, a ripple of panic passed through the herd like a wave through water. They knew something was wrong, but didn't know what. One minute they're on the point of exploding in all directions, pig fashion. A minute later they forget the danger, start feeding again.

Then what happened? An angel came down from the stars in a long white robe to give us a lecture on the meaning of Christmas? No. I'll admit I have a weakness for simple fact, even if it spoils the story. Maybe that's the main difference between a serious literary artist like me and one of your ordinary sports columnists, say, who writes for the newspaper. But I don't want to make any harsh judgments here; this is supposed to be the season of goodwill toward people. Sports columnists too. And wild pigs.

As my hero Ebeneezer says, if the spirit of Christmas is more than humbug then we're obliged to extend it to all creatures great and small including men, women, children, foreigners, Mexicans, coyotes, scorpions Gila monsters, snakes, centipedes, millipedes, termites and the wild pigs of the Arizona desert. That's the reason the Arizona Game and Fish Department puts off javelina season until January. Out of a decent respect for that annual outburst of love and goodwill we call Christmas.

As for the herd of javelinas snorting around me, the truth is, nothing much of anything happened. In fact, I got bored first, tired of simulating a saguaro cactus. I picked up a couple of rocks, in case one of those husky beasts with the tusks came at me, and tiptoed off through the prickly pear. I did not wish to disturb my friends, but they took alarm anyway, erupting in various directions. Would take them an hour to reassemble. None charged me. Despite many meetings with javelinas, I have yet to come eyeball to eyeball with one. Even though I've charged them a few times, out of meanness, just to see them run.

If I were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina? Yes. I'd roast its head in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains. I have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God's creatures in order to feed his women and children and old folks. Nothing could be more right and honorable, when the need is really there. I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That's when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn't it farming made a murderer of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery.

Sermons aside, the javelinas and I parted company that moonlight night with no hard feelings, I hope, on either part. They had the whole east slope of Brandenburg Mountain to ramble over, and I had my cabin to crawl back into, where I keep my bearskin and this neurotic typewriter with a mind of its own. Christmas or no Christmas, it does my chilly Calvinist heart a lot of good to know those javelinas are still out there in the brush, pursuing happiness in their ancient piglike manner. What would Arizona be without a Game and Fish Department? Without a Sportsmen's Association? Hard to say. I wonder. But what would Arizona be without wild pigs? Why, no wonder at all. Arizona would be another poor, puny, poverty-struck antheap like California, not fit for man or his dog.

Happy Christmas, brother and sister. Long live the weeds and the wilderness. Merry New Year, pigs!

Friday, November 15, 2013

So Long Arana Gulch!

The most egregious example of local bureaucratic cock-ups came to a head today with the ceremonial groundbreaking for the deservedly delayed and much opposed $6 million Broadway-Brommer Bike Road.

Long opposed by real environmentalists, the Broadway-Brommer project has suffered a spotty history over the last twenty years. Originally conceived as a street for cars connecting Broadway in the City to Brommer Street in Live Oak, the project was axed by Santa Cruz City officials in response to environmental opposition. Later, as a paved bike road, the project was again laid to rest by a subsequent City Council.

Nevertheless, City Public Works staff, reluctant to lose out on one-and-a-half million dollars of "free"federal money, revived the moribund project. Over the years, the B-B morphed from a car road, to a Class One Bicycle Commuter route with an enormous bridge spanning Arana Creek, to a curving, up and down bike road with bridges over Hagemann Creek and Arana Creek. Finally, donning funny nose and glasses, B-B was disguised as a "multi-use interpretive trail," as the overwhelmingly dominant component of the yet to be implemented Arana Gulch Master Plan.

The B-B project follows the historical government tradition of "destroying the village to save it." Since all of Arana Gulch is declared Critical Habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant, Public Works staff struggled to find some way to justify building a paved road through the fragile species' only home. City officials had to find some way to make the project "resource dependent" to satisfy California Coastal Commission regulations for development in Sensitive Habitat Areas, such as Arana Gulch.

Thus was born the "interpretive trail." No, it's not a different route. Yes, it still paves over critical habitat of an endangered species. But now the project has interpretive signs that will describe what was lost when this Natural Area was drawn and quartered, north to south and east to west, by an 8 foot wide asphalt paved road with two feet of graded shoulder on either side, where nothing will grow.

The Boondoggle took it's first wee steps this week, kicked into a mockery of life with the traditional celebratory groundbreaking. Scores of brightly bedecked bicyclists joined toothy City Fathers... and one Mother, in the bright noon sun. A massive diesel backhoe supplied the necessary technology, mysteriously idling for no apparent reason, adding it's diesel fumes to the rapidly accumulating hot air.

To "Balance" this display of bureaucratic excess, Friends of Arana Gulch, a stalwart group of caring environmentalists who have consistently opposed the Broadway-Brommer project lo these many years, arrived in funereal black to mourn the demise of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt. Bearing signs saying, "Good-bye to the Greenbelt," "Shame," "Less trees, less grass, less wildflowers, less wildlife," "Is Broadway-Brommer really needed?" and "Save it, don't pave it," the Friends stood in silent vigil for the animals, plants and insects who have no say in the future of their home in Arana Gulch.

The assembled officials donned unfamiliar hardhats, grabbed golden-painted shovels, and, after instructions on which end to point at the ground, posed for the obligatory photographs. They scraped meager scratches into the hard packed earth, gratefully returned the shovels to those who know how to use them, and decanted into the crowd for obsequious self-congratulations. 

Thus the fate of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt was signed, sealed and delivered. No longer a Natural Area, now an incipient Park for human recreation, and a paved shortcut for bicyclists in a hurry, Arana Gulch passes into history along with its sensitive species, unique habitat, its quiet, its open space, its true value. 

Arana Gulch is now just another anonymous feature in the urban development that has inundated the landscape from Moore Creek to Valencia Creek, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

So long Arana Gulch! 
It was good to have known you.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Simple - Enforce the Leash Law

In a long running debate, a group of dog owners lobbying for exemption from Santa Cruz County leash laws loudly proclaim they are going to continue to let their dogs off leash no matter the law, and that enforcement of the leash law doesn’t work because there are still dogs off-leash on County beaches. This is a circular argument (that is, “I still break the law, so enforcement doesn’t work”) that is used as an excuse to demand that law breakers be exempted from the law.

"Enforcement" does not mean 100% compliance. No law ever achieves total compliance, no matter how stringently it is enforced. There are always individuals who decide to flout the law and take the risk of getting tickets or being arrested. 
Fortunately, we live in a society where the majority of the people obey most of the laws, and there is no need for an overweening police state to maintain public safety and order. It is only when the illegal acts of a minority group infringe on the rights of the majority that legal pressure must increasingly be brought to bear to protect public health and safety and maintain order in the community.
Such is the case with off leash dogs on County beaches. A small group of dog owners has decided that their desire to allow their dogs to run off leash on local beaches should take precedence over the desires of the rest of beach users for a beach experience unmarred by dogs running uncontrolled. The dog owners have organized to avoid getting tickets from Animal Services officers’ attempts to enforce County leash laws, as they let their dogs loose daily on local beaches.
Meanwhile, the dog owners who admit to breaking the leash laws have the audacity to lobby County government to not only overlook their illegal actions, but to suspend County Leash Laws on the beach in order to allow them to continue to run their dogs off leash. Leash laws were written and are enforced to protect public health and safety, the health and safety of other dogs, and to protect sensitive wildlife and habitats. These off leash dog owners claim their desires trump public health and safety, their own animals’ safety and County, state, federal and international wildlife regulations.
It’s time to put a stop to this egregious “off leash dog gang” behavior. There are 12 off leash dog parks in the County where dog owners legally can let their dogs run off-leash for exercise and socialization, without putting other park users at risk. 
If dog owners continue to blatantly ignore existing off-leash dog areas and continue to illegally allow their dogs to run off-leash in shared pubic space, they should be ticketed and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. No “half-price” sales, but full and escalating fines for these repeat offenders. Let them take responsibility for their disregard for the law and stop asking for a free ride from County government.
It’s hard and it’s fair.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dear Mr. President: Hands Off Syria!

Dear Mr. President:

Do not, under any circumstances, attack Syria.

Your message sent out as an email following your speech on Syria contains several misstatements of fact:

1) “...we have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force.” This statement is the heighth of hypocrisy. The American CIA has armed and trained opposition soldiers in Jordan and sent them into Syria to fight against the Assad government. This is unauthorized military action akin to President Reagan’s illegal arming of the Contras in Nicaragua.

2) Your administration has failed to provide any evidence to back up the claim that the Assad government launched chemical weapons against opposition forces. Furthermore, you have ignored evidence that the chemical weapons incident was initiated by opposition forces funded and supplied by Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud.

3) Syria provides no more threat to the security of the United States than does Israel, which possesses chemical and nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them throughout the Middle East. We send billions of dollars of “aid” (read, military arms) to Israel in response to intensive lobbying by pro-Israeli organizations in the United States. The true intent of American involvement is to destabilize Syria in order to isolate and threaten Iran, the last in the chain of anti-Israeli countries in the Middle East.

Mr. President, democracy does not consist of “Americans stand[ing] together as one people.” Democracy is rule by the people, not by a President who takes the powers of war-making away from them.

Stop the war propaganda. Stop the saber rattling. Withdraw from the eastern Mediterranean and start working, as a statesman rather than a tyrant, to bring peace to the Middle East.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ask Your President These Questions:

Top 10 Unproven Claims for War Against Syria | Alternet

1) What is the evidence that a chemical weapon was used in Syria?

2) What is the evidence the the Assad administration used chemicals weapons and not one of the opposition groups?

3) What is the evidence that chemicals weapons were used by the Assad administration because conventional weapons were inadequate?

4) What is the evidence that Assad administration was observed mixing chemical weapons?

5) What is the evidence that Assad's brother ordered the chemical attack?

6) What is the evidence that chemical agents were released in a rocket attack?

7) What is the evidence that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical attack?

8) When, where and by whom were the videos taken of the aftermath of the chemical attack?

9) Make the original, untranslated transcript of intercepts available showing Assad administration involvement in chemical attack.

10) What is the evidence for shelling of the area of the chemical attack to cover up evidence of sarin use?

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Emperor's New Outfit

Now that the Oval One II has politely asked Congress for permission to turn loose his Navy on Syria (prepositioned in the eastern Med before the alleged chemical weapons attack), it's time for his handlers to unleash the next militaristic adventure: the propaganda war against the American people.

Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman wrote a book called Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of Mass Media, in which they detailed how national and international news is structured, controlled and packaged by elite economic and political players in favor of their preferred outcomes.

In "The Grand Narrative for War: Manufacturing Consent on Syria," Anthony DiMaggio updates Chomsky and Herman's work, bringing it into the headlines of the Obama administration's salivating desire to bomb the hell out of yet another small nation that obstreperously refuses to bow down to the American Empire (TM). CNN leads the charge with ("How Bashar al-Assad took Syria to the brink -- and beyond"), pounding the drums of war in a race to be the first to bow before the Emperor and kiss his unshod feet.

Even though each and every national poll reveals that the American people, and most of the rest of the world, are overwhelmingly opposed to a unilateral military attack on Syria by the United States government, the Powers That Be (PTB) manufacturing the Emperor's New Outfit are spinning their cloth made up of the warp of disinformation and the woof of lies. PTB designers are busy crafting the new look, PTB word-weavers are spinning their threads and shaping their cloths of headlines, sound bites and peurile pundit prevarications.

Soon the full suit of clothes of the New Look will be revealed as the Oval One II parades down the media runway, to the pliant applause of the terminally entrenched. Critics will acclaim the New Look. The punditocracy will adopt the New Style. Congress will adopt and defend the Emperor's taste in haberdashery. 

Maybe, if we're very lucky, despite the glare of the stage lights and the blare of the band, those with eyes to see and ears to hear, if there be any left, will note the true transparency of the new garments. 

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Lies and Disinformation in Old al-Sham

From this article:
Syria “Wag the Dog”. Towards a Major Mideast War? | Global Research
we learn:

1) "According to Israeli on-line intel news Debkafile, several days before the chemical attack in Damascus hundreds of armed rebels crossed over into Syria from a newly established CIA base in Jordan. The rebels were led by US commanders." They were trained and armed by the US CIA

2) "Centcom, the US military command for the Middle East, has established a new underground war room near Amman, Jordan, for the purpose of commanding Syrian operations. Recently, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, visited Amman to inaugurate the new forward command center."

 This is the second step in the decades-old Neocon plan for a ring of "regime-changed" countries around Israel, protecting the US Empire's forward bastion in the Middle East and monopolizing access to Mideast oil.

Don't be fooled by the Oval One II, any "limited" attack on Syria will be only the first step in a protracted imperialist war by the United States in the Middle east. The plan is to sear Syria seriously, kick Assad aside, erase Iran and consolidate Middle East oil resources for the United States and its favored minion states.

This could well represent the beginning of the ultimate end of the US Empire, as the US government overextends its military in the Middle east quagmire. "Shock and Awe" only works once, if it works at all. Ultimately the US government must commit money, men and materiel to subdue and maintain its imperium. Meanwhile, economic and social conditions will continue to deteriorate at home, requiring ever more surveillance,  oppression, restrictions on civil rights, ignoring and shredding the Constitution of the Unted States of America, if there is anything left after the Patriot Act.

Oligarchs and tyrants have never been much on history. While history doesn't repeat itself, it often rhymes. The Arabic name for the area now occupied by Syria is "al-Sham."  One may as well call it "Roobi-kahn."

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Syrian rebels armed and trained by CIA 'on way to battlefield'

First Syria rebels armed and trained by CIA 'on way to battlefield' - Telegraph

Wait a minute! Since when did we start training and arming one side in a civil war in a sovereign nation, and send them into battle from another country?

Oh wait. Contras, Nicaragua, Ronald Reagan. Iran/Contra.

Oh yeah, I forgot.

Ronald Reagan got into trouble while he slept through the Iran/Contra affair, supplying arms and training to the Contras.

So this is all right now? This is official United States government policy?

I wondered what all that shredded parchment was on the Oval Office floor.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Future is Less, not More

Wendell Berry has a knack for quietly, succinctly and effectively getting to the core of any subject. In the September The Progressive, Berry's article "Less Energy, More Life" takes on our dependence on fossil fuels and misguided attempts to replace fossil fuels with clean  "renewable" energy courses.

Berry sums it up neatly in one paragraph:
"We must understand that fossil fuel energy must be replaced, not just by "clean" energy, but also by less energy. The unlimited use of any energy would be destructive as unlimited economic growth or any unlimited force."
 As we have said for decades, the future is less, not more. Unlimited growth is impossible, and ultimately destructive, in a world of finite resources. The glimmering dream of a clean energy future, in which we live as we do now, is not only misguided, it leads us in the same direction we are already headed, that is over the cliff of unlimited growth.

Scientists have long wondered why, in the vastness of the Universe, we've never heard from any other "civilizations" on any of the billions of planets that must be suitable for life as we would recognize it. I've long thought that the reason we don't is because there is a finite limit to resources on any planet. Exploitative species such as ours cannot develop to the point of extra-terrestrial migration, a la Star Trek before running into resource limitation, or before destroying themselves through over exploitation of resources.
R. Crumb

Let's face it. This is it, and this is all there will ever be. We're over the edge of the energy curve
starting down the steep slope to a stable, truly renewable energy society.

Hang on tight, it's a rocky ride before it gets smoother!

Monday, August 26, 2013

U.S. Beats the Drums of War Against Syria

Pop Quiz!!

Raise your hands if you know that the United States government is planning a unilateral attack on Syria, allegedly because Syria used poison gas weapons against Al-Qaeda supported rebels.

Yes, you read that correctly, the United States is supporting Al-Qaeda.

Read it here:  U.S. moves closer to military action against Syria

and here: Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War

Read it and weep... for the dying empire.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oiling the War Machinery

Norman Solomon makes a persuasive case for awarding Bradley Manning the Nobel peace prize in Oiling the War Machinery.
As a nation at peace becomes a fading memory, so does privacy. Commitments to idealism -- seeking real alternatives to war and upholding democratic values -- are under constant assault from the peaks of power. 
Normalizing endless war and shameless surveillance, Uncle Sam and Big Brother are no longer just close. They’re the same, with a vast global reach.

American "Democracy" is not broken. This is the way it is constructed.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Santa Cruz County beaches are thriving natural habitat for numerous species of wildlife and plants. It is not a sacrifice zone to be thoughtlessly discarded in favor of human recreation and amusement.

It is sad to note that such habitat is rare in Santa Cruz County, so much so that shore bird numbers have declined precipitously as their feeding, resting and breeding areas have been destroyed by development and dominated by human activity.

Recently, local dog owners have pressured Santa Cruz County officials to allow dogs to run off-leash on Santa Cruz County beaches, in the very spot where this egret is feeding.

Shore birds perceive dogs as predators, especially off-leash dogs roaming free across the beach and uplands. The birds take flight, interrupting their feeding, resting and nesting behaviors, reducing their viability in their home habitat.

It is important to protect and preserve the remaining natural habitat on Santa Cruz beaches, which are a critical part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Dogs must be kept on-leash and County leash laws must be strictly enforced.
"Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Aldo Leopold

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Plover killed by off-leash dog

Wardens look into death of endangered plover

An off-leash dog killed a nearly fledged endangered piping plover on a beach in south Maine. The beach has off-leash hours from sunrise to 9 AM, and areas where dogs are required to be kept 150 feet from plover habitat.

In a follow-up story, Dog's owner steps forward in killing of protected Maine bird, officials explain that the dog owner has come froward and that the owner may not be fined.

The video and text exhibit a remarkable complacency about dogs on the beach and their devastating effects on wildlife. The incident also shows clearly that off-leash hours on the beach place wildlife at risk, no matter how many signs and exclosures are put up to protect sensitive species and habitat.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Forest Service or People Service?

I find it interesting that this press release from the Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Durham, New Hampshire, draws common-sense conclusions about the relationship between tree growth and atmospheric CO2 concentration.
"Our analysis suggests that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is having a direct and unexpectedly strong influence on ecosystem processes and biosphere-atmosphere interactions in temperate and boreal forests," 
 Who'd a thunk it?

And yet, the author(s) of the press release, not content with such a simple and accurate conclusion, continue on into the land of speculation and hyperbole by adding:
"reduced evapotranspiration resulting from higher water-use efficiency could lead to higher air temperatures, decreased humidity, and decreased recycling of continental precipitation. This could cause increased continental freshwater runoff, along with drought in parts of the world that rely on water transpired in other regions." (Emphasis added)
thus, joining the cadres of global warming and anthropogenic climate change proponents who turn their backs on science for political and economic gain.

After all,
"The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations."
"The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery."
Just as I suspected: The Forest Service is all about people and very little about forests. It is, after all, under the Department of Agriculture.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Never Forget Kent State

It's important to remember that Kent State was not an isolated incident. It was part of a pattern of history of our country, a pattern that continues today.

We've been watching "The Kennedys," a Canadian mini-series about the iconic Kennedy dynasty. It was controversial when it was first aired, partly due to some inaccuracies, but mostly because it challenges the popular image of the young, idealistic President and his family. The truth is sordid, grey, mundane human emotions and aspirations, just like everyday life. Grasping for power and influence. Opportunistic alliances among organized crime, government officials and the security establishment. All of which led to the Kennedy assassinations and the abomination of US hegemony that came after.

The startling public events of the 60s and 70s, assassinations, blatant quelling of dissent, militaristic confrontation, have given way to steady, day-to-day oppression, media control, covert intervention and overt invasion and occupation. The principles on which the United States was allegedly founded are ignored and rank expediency has taken their place. Government no longer serves the people, nor even cares what the people think, even those who do think, and act. The art of control has been honed to such a fine state that it blends invisibly with popular culture.

Kent State must never be forgotten. It was the warning shot across the bow, that, alas, has been forgotten or outgrown. It was the end of the beginning of the end of democracy.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Real Limits of the Earth

Scientific American Blogs presents Part 1 of a disappointing two-part post on limits to growth: The Limits of the Earth, Part 1: Problems.

Part 1 begins with an explanation of human innovation, by the author of a book, of course, about how human innovation can overcome limits to growth.

"Ramez Naam is a computer scientist and award-winning author. He believes innovation can save the planet and lift billions into prosperity, but only if we make the right choices to embrace it. His next non-fiction book, The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, lays out the path to harnessing innovation to maximize our odds of overcoming climate change, finite fossil fuels, and the host of other environmental and natural resource challenges that face us."

The remainder of Part 1 is a laundry list of some of the problems facing humans due to resource limitations.

I can see where this is going. This is yet another unscientific, anthropocentric paean to technology, human economics and the mythology of perpetual growth in a finite world. This is another young man who has yet to feel his mortality, who thinks that humans with computers can overcome all obstacles, and who is largely ignorant of basic biology, ecology, earth sciences and natural history.

There really are limits to human growth, hard limits that cannot be fantasized away with unreasoning belief in human innovation. We can't invent our way into a rosy Star Trek future with unlimited energy and natural resources. We can't turn the world into computer-managed agro-business to feed 10 billion people. We can't convert all natural habitat into solar and wind farms for human energy demands.

Like it or not, humans are but one species of life on this planet. Humans must relearn how to live in
cooperation with, not at the expense of, all other species. We can do this. We just put away the toys of youth and start acting like responsible adult residents of the planet that sustains us.

And discontinue our subscriptions to the pseudo-science rag formerly known as Scientific American.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Myth of Economic Growth

I've written about the myth of economic growth quite a lot on Hayduke Blogs. Us the search bar in the lower right for a sampling. I've held for many years that growth is not the solution to our economic, social and environmental woes, growth is the problem.

Today I found an interview on Truthout: Power Shift Away From Green Illusions, with Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism.

They're not really secrets, of course. We've known for a long time that alternative energy sources are dependent on fossil fuel energy sources, that our present level of energy use, consumption and economic growth cannot be sustained in a world of finite resources. We've even known that solar and wind power are not amenable to centralized collection and distribution and there is no way we can sustain our present society on renewable energy alone.

The future is not more. The future is less.

Less energy. Less growth. Fewer people. Less consumption.

It's inevitable. That which cannot go on forever, won't.

It's good to read a book (a free chapter is available on Zehner's web site), that lays this all out very logically, in a readable and entertaining volume. He also makes the case for a rational, science-based approach to moving toward a steady state economy based on a smaller population and reduced per capita consumption.

My wife and I lowered our standard of living and increased our quality of life over ten years ago.

The Myth of Economic Growth stops right here at home.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Report: Global warming didn't cause big US drought

Report: Global warming didn't cause big US drought | Business & Technology

"Last year's huge drought was a freak of nature that wasn't caused by man-made global warming, a new federal science study finds."

"This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event."

"Other scientists have linked recent changes in the jet stream to shrinking Arctic sea ice, but Hoerling and study co-author Richard Seager of Columbia University said those global warming connections are not valid."

And one more time, with four-part harmony and feeling:

"Hoerling noted that in the past 20 years, the world is seeing more La Ninas, the occasional cooling of the central Pacific Ocean that is the flip side of El Nino. Hoerling said that factor, not part of global warming but part of a natural cycle, increases the chances of such droughts."



Thursday, April 04, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Children, and Adults, Should Be Allowed to Get Bored

A recent article on the BBC, Children Should Be Allowed to Get Bored, pointed out that children, and adults for that matter, should be allowed to get bored to develop creative abilities and self-reliance, and that constant stimulation limits the use of their imagination.

I can't say anything about raising children, other than having been a children raised by my parents. I have only my experience (and a thankfully brief stint as an adoptive parent) to judge by.

Fear of the Outdoors
Two things come to mind. Most children in our developed world are largely indoor children, kept in isolation by fearful parents and school administrators, fed by daily doses of lurid headlines, violent TeeVee and movies, and a steady diet of cacophonic computer input. Compared to the snug safety of the confines of home, the unstructured, untrammeled out of doors has little appeal, other than as a venue for organized sports and the regrettable necessity of walking from the house to the car.

The Necessity of Technology

One thing I learned in college, studying something called "Instructional Technology," is that technology creates its own necessity. Technological applications are invented for problems that don't yet exist. Technology is developed, marketed, sold, and consumed without thought for, or even the ability to contemplate, the unintended consequences of its adoption and ubiquitous presence in society. Who'd have thunk that the 80 pound "car phones" in the doctors' cars in the 70s would morph into the tiny pink plastic devices glued to the ears of every nubile young girl in malls across America?

The ubiquitous presence of cell phones quickly led to smart phones, tablets and other mini-computers, iPods and who knows what other electronic distractions that have become the norm rather than a remarkable exception. Plugged-in is the preferred state of the human being in this day and age, child or adult.

Compared to this onslaught of electronic stimulation, soon to be upgraded with "virtual reality glasses," the natural world bears little appeal. Why even go to a natural area when you can "see" and "hear" it from the comfort and safety of the home or mall? Why care about the preservation of natural areas, when we can "experience" them electronically without muddy feet, bug bites and danger from homeless people in the bushes?

Everything is Entertainment
As a museum curator, I witnessed the transition of museum management from conservation, preservation and presentation to entertainment. Every new  technology had to be employed to entertain the children and relieve the children's parents from their responsibilities to the charges, if just for a brief few moments of respite. Museums are becoming theme parks, where visitors are plugged in to canned tour guides and explanations, rarely encouraged to explore and discover on their own, experiencing a mediated version of the already limited museum experience. A simulacrum of a simulacrum.

And so life has become a mediated experience of a world bounded by fear, ignorance and superstition. The Dark Ages have returned in the full glare of media exposure.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Has Global warming stopped or paused to catch its breath?

Continuing reports of a “global standstill” in average surface temperatures compare the flat temperature trend since 1998 with the continuing linear increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, reducing the correlation between them and arguing that increasing CO2 does not cause increasing global average surface temperature. (http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/719139main_2012_GISTEMP_summary.pdf)

It has also been pointed out, sometimes in the same articles, that paleoclimate proxy records indicate that increasing global average surface temperature precedes increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration by 200 to 800 years, indicating, therefore, that increased temperature causes increased CO2 concentration, not the other way round. Oceanic temperature lag is proposed as the mechanism for this lag in ocean CO2 absorption/emission.

If both the above are true, that would mean that the observed rise in CO2 concentration is caused by global average temperature increases that occurred 200 to 800 years ago, not by the presently observed temperature increase. That would place the temperature increase that caused the present CO2 rise from ~1200 to ~1800 AD.

This would mean, then,  that the present increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is the result of the continuing rebound from Little Ice Age temperatures at the end of the 16th Century, as global average surface temperature returns to the long-term normal average surface temperature of 15 degrees C. As average temperature approaches the long-term “normal,” we would expect a flattening of the rate of increase until a plateau is reached, all other influences remaining equal.

Natural Climate Variation
Holocene temperature fluctuations are the result of combinations of natural insolation cycles, overlain by much shorter cycles of multi-decadal oscillations and periods of varying volcanic activity. (See Akasofu, S., 2010, On the recovery from the Little Ice Age, Natural Science, Vol.2, No.11, 1211-1224)

This does not mean that anthropogenic CO2 does not affect climate variation, but it cannot be supported as the sole cause of observed climate variation in the historical record. Until we understand and quantify natural climate variation and its proximate causes, we cannot fully quantify the effects of anthropogenic CO2. However, if the above proposition is true, the contribution of anthropogenic CO2 to the atmosphere can have only a minimal effect on global average surface temperature, in the range of .5C per century or less. (Akasofu 2010)

This understanding of the causes of atmospheric CO2 increase undercuts the IPCC policy position on anthropogenic global warming, as well as the political and economic arguments for lowering anthropogenic CO2 emissions as a means of influencing observed climate variation. Under this scenario, reduction of fossil fuel use and the revival of a nuclear energy program will not reduce observed increases in global average surface temperature to any significant degree.

The Decline of Environmentalism
This growing realization of the nature of observed climate variation is already finding expression in popular press and is changing the rhetoric of the global warming debate. Unfortunately, the contentious debate between “deniers” and “alarmists” has poisoned the well of environmental activism and popular appreciation and understanding of science in general. It will be an uphill struggle to reestablish a public appreciation for the necessity of continuing work in pollution reduction, habitat preservation, energy conservation and renewable energy production. 

Ironically, it may well turn out that the recent unwarranted concentration on “global warming” has set back the cause and the course of working toward resilient societies that are better able to accommodate to a naturally variable climate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Three Cheers for the Porcupine!

I've always admired the porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, a prickly critter, with a prickly personality. They don't care much for the barbs and jabs of other critters, as they are so well supplied with their own. Mostly, they keep their quills to themselves, losing a few here and there to mark their path back to their favorite piney lunch tree. They make their slow plodding way through the forest, climbing a favorite meal when hungry. It's a pleasant life; admirable, puzzling in the sex department, but they manage somehow known mostly to themselves.

Unfortunately, porcupines are a frequent target of dogs, bears and truculent children who throw rocks and poke them with sticks just to see them squirm. Their slow waddling pace, myopic eyes and single-minded determination give a false impression of stupidity, but who else knows how to make a living by hoarding bacteria to digest cellulose.

Three cheers for the porcupine,
He has his quills and I have mine.
Come on Erethizon dorsatum,
Let's get up and at 'em!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

San Lorenzo Valley Water District eyes cap-and-trade program

The Santa Cruz Sentinel printed this article today, as straight news, not even in the comics section. 

BOULDER CREEK -- Surveying will begin next month on about 1,600 acres of land in Boulder Creek, Zayante and Olympia to find out how much carbon those forests contain, with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District hoping to fetch a princely sum in the state's newly launched cap-and-trade program.
Earlier this month, the district's Board of Directors approved spending $45,000 on the "carbon sequestration" project, which will be headed by the Alameda-based forestry consulting firm Buena Vista Services. Work is expected to begin within the next 30 days, and "by the fall, we'll have the inventory number locked down," said Jim Mueller, district's general manager. 
That number will be certified by an independent third party, and soon after, the district will be able to enter the cap-and-trade auctions.
During a meeting to discuss the project several months ago, Joe McGuire, a principal with Buena Vista Services, estimated the district's lands contain up to 850,000 tons of carbon, and that those credits can be sold for a total of $550,000 during the next 12 years. 
Betsy Herbert, the district's environmental analyst, said the team will take samples from trees in different sites, and that data will then be crunched to get an estimate on how quickly the forests will grow during the next 12 years, she said. The study will be updated in 2025, and every 12 years thereafter, she said.

How much more absurd can this be? The forest is standing there, growing, breathing in CO2 and breathing out O2, as it has for centuries. Now some upstart snert in the water department can make money off it by selling "carbon credits," as if the Department was responsible for making the trees do their natural thing.

The other side of the story, not included here, is that someone, whoever is buying the "carbon credits," is buying the right to pollute.

This is why economics is a fantasy discipline. It has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with human audacity. Who would have thought of such a thing but an economist?

Chaining them to the ocean floor is too good for them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Where Does Santa Cruz County End?

We all know where Santa Cruz County is. It’s all around us. Most of us live here.

The County starts somewhere north of Davenport, climbs the mountains to the northeast and wanders along Summit Drive. It crosses Highway 17 at The Summit, and skirts the edge of Loma Prieta. Fortunately, the County line is anchored in geography, not geology, so the 1989 earthquake didn’t knock it off track. The County makes a turn near Watsonville and heads back to the ocean in the main channel of the Pajaro River.

We don’t worry where the County is. We know when we are in it. There are signs on the roads that tell us when we’re leaving the County, and when we come back home.

But where is the Santa Cruz County boundary on the seaward side? At the cliffs looming over the beach? On the beach itself? The high tide line? The low tide line? Somewhere in between?

As it turns out, the boundaries of Santa Cruz County are carefully defined by the State of California, and enshrined in crisp black and white in California Government Code Section 23144.

Copyright 2003 Microsoft Corporation

According to the State of California, the County starts “at a point in the Pacific Ocean south 45 degrees W., three nautical miles from the intersection of the east line of Rancho Punta del Ano Nuevo with said ocean, forming the western corner.” At the opposite end, “westerly along said river [the Pajaro], on the northern line of San Benito and Monterey, to the Bay of Monterey, and three miles westerly into the ocean, forming the southwest corner; thence northwesterly along a course three nautical miles distant from the shore to the point of beginning.

What this means is that Santa Cruz County ends, not at the beach, nor at any particular tide line, but three miles off-shore. This also means that jurisdiction for all County departments also extends three miles off-shore, covering the entirety of all beaches in the County.

Stand on the beach with your toes in the water on a clear day and look out to the open ocean. The horizon you see is three miles away. That’s the end of Santa Cruz County, where the sky meets the sea.

Beyond that edge, dragons lie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Good economic news at last!

IMF: Global economic recovery 'weakening'

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." Ed Abbey

There is no basis for continued economic growth in a world of finite resources. We have overtopped Peak Oil, and are sliding down the back slope of oil discovery and production. There will never be as much energy available as there is today.

This is as it should be. Humans are no privileged species with peremptory rights to all resources, as the expense of all other life.

It's time to take our place in the queue and camly wait our turn.

Friday, January 11, 2013

DRONENET The next BIG thing

DRONENET The next BIG thing. - Global Guerrillas

Here's another really bad idea, brought to you by technology maniacs who think anything humans can do should be done.

Image the air filled with hundreds of these buzzing drones, madly dashing hither and yon!

There is a limit to human intelligence, but human stupidity knows no bounds.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Starting the New Year... Right?

Oil ship runs aground in Alaska

Shell oil starts out the New Year... with a ship wreck!

Not an auspicious beginning for what everyone knows and no one admits will be a disaster-ridden effort in the world's largest technology-free zone. It's a difficult place just to survive, let alone deal with millions of gallons of toxic crude.

Did we learn nothing from the Exxon Valdez?