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Friday, July 14, 2006

Tacitus holds Bérubé guest-blogger to higher standard than he does himself

The guest-blogger that looks like Sylvia Plath, I mean.

Josh Treviño, July 13, 2006:

And what, you ask, was travel with Ashley Judd like? For starters, there were the little things:

She obsessively wiped down her little VAIO laptop with alcohol wipes. To sterilize it. As she did after. every. use. (In her Glamour confessional, she did mention this as a “control” compulsion.)

Josh Treviño, May 10, 2006:

Tonight, I see that the Heathers are guffawing amongst themselves because a man they dislike, one Jeff Goldstein, has admitted to being on anti-anxiety medication. Failed smear artist Jane Hamsher is at it. Ankle-biter Lindsay Beyerstein is at it. The otherwise utterly obscure “Thesaurus Rex” is at it. And erstwhile Hitchens-stalker Duncan Black is at it.

It’s a gutless, base, loathesome thing to do. Who mocks the ill? Who mocks the mentally ill? Didn’t that go out of style around third grade, when it dawned on most that tripping the Downs Syndrome kid at recess wasn’t actually funny?

Well. Not in the left-blog elite, it seems.

Posted by Chris Clarke on 07/14 at 03:08 PM
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Sufjan Stevens: “Casimir Pulaski Day”

I’m still trying to figure out why Sufjan Stevens’ Casmir Pulaski Day hits me like a ton of bricks every time I hear it. (Click through to watch the video.)

Here are the lyrics.

The song is about a young guy whose girlfriend died of bone cancer. Actually, it’s not clear whether the dead girl, to whom the song is addressed, was really the singer’s girlfriend, or just someone he tentatively felt up and obsessed about thereafter. As Majikthise commenters have pointed out below, it’s clear that there was a lot of mutual affection between the two of them, it’s just not clear whether exactly what kind of relationship they had.

Casimir Pulaski Day is the first Monday in March, an American regional holiday to honor a hero of the Revolutionary War known as “The Father of American Cavalry.” In today’s parlance, the revered CP would probably be described as a “foreign fighter,” but that’s almost certainly irrelevant to Sujan’s song.

Anyway, I think I like the song because it’s about someone who believes in God trying to reconcile his faith with reality. The singer is confused about why his God is taking his girlfriend away, even though he and his friends are praying for her.

There’s a complementary minor theme about the dead girl’s father freaking out about her interest in the singer ("when your father found out what we did that night"). It’s almost as if her father has, as an article of faith, the notion that his little girl is a pure, asexual being. Really as the narrator seems to makes clear, she’s a normal young woman dying of cancer who, who might well know that she doesn’t have much time. Yet this fact doesn’t make her father any more reasonable.

To me, the last four stanzas of the song are the most interesting:

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window

Oh the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes

The narrator is describing how, on the morning of his girlfriend’s death, a cardinal hits the window. In the last two stanzas, the singer is is seeing God in the bird’s blood spattered on the window, but he can’t accept that this God he sees on the spattered pane is a god of love or mercy.

[x-posted at Majikthise]

Posted by Lindsay Beyerstein on 07/14 at 11:29 AM
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The lawns of Antarctica

My legally conjoined significant other Becky and I finally got around to seeing An Inconvenient Truth before I went off to the desert, and it ain’t bad. If you, like me, have been telling yourself you don’t need to see it because you know all that stuff already, go see it anyway. I do climate for a living, more or less, and I got a few important things out of it.

One of those things is that Al Gore is as tempting a subject for hagiography as any living American politician. Watching the movie, I was tempted to forget the former Vice President’s betrayal of the families in East Liverpool, Ohio whom Gore had promised to protect from a hazardous waste incinerator, a promise broken not long after the inauguration in 1993. Or the Clinton administration’s rollover on Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards in that same year, which certainly put us further behind the climate goals spelled out in the movie. Or that administration’s unnecessarily generous subsequent compromise with the timber industry over old-growth logging, Option Nine, which helped speed the degradation of forests that could have been sequestering carbon.  And there’s always the example of Gore benefiting his family oil stock portfolio by pushing the sale of oil drilling rights on sacred land.

At one point during the Clinton-Gore years David Brower, an acquaintance of the Vice President, suggested to Gore that he ought to read his own book.

Vice Presidents in the pre-Cheney era used to be considered relatively powerless, so it might be unfair to lay all the Clinton administration’s environmental gaffes at Gore’s feet. Still, it’s possible that a fair accounting might assign Gore responsibility for a significant amount of governmentally driven damage to the Earth’s climate. Perhaps even as much as a hundredth that done by the Bush administration from 2001-2004. An honest documentary would have at least mentioned those gaffes.

But hell, it’s a campaign movie first and foremost, campaigning both to get people to wake up to the danger climate change poses (and the spuriousness of the manufactured controversy over what is, increasingly, unanimous scientific thinking) and to put pressure on the Bush administration as well. And it’s a damn good campaign movie. As an environmental journalist, I spent eight years of Clinton and Gore seething at Al, and I’d vote for him in a heartbeat so that I could seethe at him again. It would be so much nicer than my current seething arrangement.

Incidentally, we saw the movie in one of those theatres that shows commercials before the feature. There were two commercials shown before our screening. The first was an ad for Chevron. The second was an ad for General Motors. There was a little hissing.

All this came to mind again today during my daily reading of The Mercury, one of Hobart Tasmania’s finest mainstream news sources. There’s a conference of Antarctic researchers taking place right now in Hobart, it turns out, and in his keynote address to that conference, Stanford’s Robert Dunbar predicted that trees will be growing in Antarctica by the end of this century, as a result of CO2 levels rising faster than any scientists had anticipated. From The Mercury:

“The official estimate is that carbon dioxide levels will double by 2100, but it’s looking like getting there faster and then tripling,” Prof. Dunbar said.

“It’s from the burning of fossil fuels, from the production of cement and deforestation. Hopefully we will have come to our senses by then.

“To see a time when CO2 was triple, you’d have to go back 30 to 40 million years, there was no big ice sheet and there would have been trees and grasslands. Already on the Antarctic peninsula there are a lot of invasive plant species, and that’s not just because they’re being tramped in by tourists.”

The sudden temperature rises had prompted the sudden appearance of grass.

I’d heard the trees prediction before, though never uttered in such a formal setting. But grass is growing in Antarctica now? You could knock me over with a drowning polar bear. 

I offer that to you as a rhetorical tool in your next conversation with someone who thinks the whole climate issue is overblown. Grass is growing in Antarctica.

On this subject, Tom Athanasiou and Paul Baer have for some years been doing a bit of wonderful wonk work pointing out the conjunction between climate protection and global social justice. Their website, EcoEquity, is a top-notch resource for anyone who’d like to learn a bit more about climate and global politics. Check ‘em out.

In the meantime, I’m working on a list and could use your help. After we elect Gore — or whoever — and indict the Bush administration for climate crimes, we’re going to need a list of poetically Sisyphean (and non-violent) community service assignments for the convicted. I’ve already got Bush clearing brush at the South Pole, but I need some more. Chertoff bailing out the Bengali coast with a gasoline can? Naw: lacks cachet. And Cheney and Rove have got me stumped. Help me out.

Posted by Chris Clarke on 07/13 at 07:07 PM
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Scandalous details about Glenn Greenwald!

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald noted in passing that Misha the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, one of the Big Boys of the right wing blogosphere, was encouraging readers to murder Supreme Court Justices.

Quoth Misha,

“Five ropes, five robes, five trees.

Some assembly required.”

Being the charitable guy he is, Glenn argued that it would be unfair to hold the rest of the right wing blogosphere responsible for Misha’s aberrant misanthropy. We shouldn’t assume that Michelle Malkin, Captin Ed, and other top right wing bloggers who have Misha on their blogrolls are sympathetic to his weird little homicidal fantasies. They shouldn’t have to denounce him explicitly. It should just be obvious that nobody takes Misha seriously.

Nevertheless, Riehl World View was perturbed by Glenn’s mild-mannered little post, and penned a rejoiner entitled “Enough Greenwald, Already”.

It’s blistering stuff. I must say, I’ll never ogle GG in quite the same way again.

The RWV’s devastating gotchas include: As First Amendment litigator Greenwald argued that it isn’t necessarily a crime to call for the murder of judges, he doesn’t keep his law license current now that he’s not practicing law, and, wait for it...he’s verbose.

Posted by Lindsay Beyerstein on 07/12 at 04:27 PM
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A taste for the brothers who can’t be here with us today

This morning as I sat conspicuously long-haired and bearded in the Wellton Border Patrol office lobby waiting for my appointment to begin, the agents brought in one of two big trucks they’d intercepted out in the desert. The drivers had run off, consigning their cargo — about a ton and a half of fine Mexican sinsemilla — to the tender mercies of federal law enforcement.

I went out with the gang to look at the first truck they brought in, still loaded with bud. One after another, about half the agents took me aside to joke meaningfully about their college days. Wanna know what three quarters of a ton of pot looks like? It looks like a bunch of plastic-wrapped bales of something tied with packing tape. The second truck was mired and it would apparently take them a while to tow it out of the desert, whereupon the local representatives of the Drug Enforcement Agency would haul all the pot away for burning, and not in that nice way the agents recollected from their undergraduate days.

I went off to watch a couple Power Point presentations before my trip to the field, then Agent Mike Crelia, my tour guide for the day, gassed up a Border Patrol truck for us. We hopped in and headed west on Interstate 8 over the Gila Mountains to look at a few popular border crossing spots.

At the base of the freeway grade on the Gilas’ east side we passed an Arizona DOT “Adopt-A-Highway” sign: “In Memory of Jerry Garcia, 1942-1995.”

Atop the pass a mile or so onward, two large shiny pickup trucks with familiar-looking bales in their beds were pulled over on each shoulder of Interstate 8. The DEA guys had failed to secure their loads. One of the bales had tumbled out into traffic, rolled to the left shoulder and burst. Mike Crelia said “this isn’t good,” pulled us over onto the shoulder, put on his flashing lights. We stood and watched, chuckling, as the discomfited DEA agents picked through the weeds and gravel and broken glass at roadside putting several hundred spilled buds into plastic evidence bags— enough to supply a good-sized dormitory for a month.

Rest in peace, Jerry.

(Cross-posted at Creek Running North)

Posted by Chris Clarke on 07/11 at 01:40 AM
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Monday, July 10, 2006

How Zidane made me root for Italy

Despite my conflicted neighborhood loyalties, I was rooting for France in last night’s World Cup Final.  At least, I was until the team captain, Zinedine Zidane viciously headbutted Marco Materazzi. (Video)

I was personally humiliated that I’d been standing in a public place cheering for a team whose captain had committed such a brutal, thuggish, and seemingly disproportionate act of violence. I was glad when the French lost because of Zidane’s abject failure as a captain, a sportsman, and a human being.

As much as I wanted the French to win, I felt like it was a moral victory that you can’t be that much of a dick in front of one billion people and get away with it.

Zidane didn’t just have a personal lapse, he fucked up as team captain. His vicious outburst revealed a catastrophic weakness for the French side. The team deserved to lose for what he did.

Asad Raza has an excellent post on the Zidane incident.

[x-posted at Majikthise]

Posted by Lindsay Beyerstein on 07/10 at 11:40 AM
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