The Friends of California Libre...

20 February 2008

Time and Tide Wait for No Man

Greetings, friends,
The Year of the Rat continues apace, as people with plans put them into action, for good or for ill.  Notice a few more shootings, and now Fidel Castro is taking the opportunity to make his move:
Fidel Castro Announces Retirement
BBC News

As for your friend the librarian, I am starting my new job at the Burbank Public Library tomorrow, and making a special effort to see the lunar eclipse tonight (20 February) both to honor the Rat and the Moon, which won't make another full dive into the Earth's shadow for 2 years.  If you are in California (and get this screed in time!), the Moon will come up already partially eclipsed; expect totality from about 7 to 8 PM.  My European friends will have to stay up until 4 AM to see the eclipse, but I've seen you go without sleep for a lot less.

I've had two remarkable trips across the state recently that I'd like to share with you.  Last month I drove up to San Francisco and spent a few days to remember why I'd moved there way back in 1983.  I took keen notice of how much and how little everything had changed.  It was a great trip.

I drove back to LA along Interstate 5, the long straight path edging the Central Valley.  I couldn't tell you how many times I've made that run since I turned 17, racing through an aromatic night or a hot day past the almond trees, the ranches and the oil fields, but there used to be a Christian coffee shop at the Grapevine and the most distant suburbs in the Bay Area were popping up around Livermore.  Now there are large truck stops every thirty miles or less, and the suburbs of the Central Valley are within sight most of the way.  I've done it three or four times a year, at least, because we Californians aren't civilized enough for a bullet train; maybe a hundred times up and down the state, more if you throw in the 101, the 1, the 99, and the buses, trains and airplanes.

In all those trips I've never seen the Sierra Nevada Mountains across the Central Valley, almost a hundred miles, until this night drive.  As soon as I turned south on the 580 at Tracy, I knew it would be a special trip...Modesto was clearly visible in front of me, and the lights of the other towns went over the horizon, where Fresno (which just topped 1 million in population) blazed.  I've never seen it so clear...I was able to see the string of cars climbing the Grapevine an hour before I reached it, and I could easily discern a blue glow in the sky marking the ridge of the Sierras, which I'd never seen before even in daylight from the 5!  The drive was so nice that I cut away from the 5 just south of the Grapevine at one AM, taking a long detour into the Mojave to see if it was likewise clear, and sure enough, I could see all the way across the yellow lights of Lancaster and Palmdale to Victorville on the horizon.

Last Friday I flew up to San Francisco for the day, driving to LAX at five AM, which is actually a pretty good time to drive to the airport.  After I shuffled inside with the hundreds of others flying out on the earlybirds, I saw another amazing sight from the gate...the first pink-orange stripe of sunrise clearly demarcating the dark ridge of the San Gabriel Mountains.  I could pick out each mountain; Mount Lowe where the Victorian built their resorts; Mount Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak; the flat mesa of Mount Wilson where we get our television signals, and where both the Big Bang and the speed of light were discovered; Mount Baden-Powell, which you can never see from most of LA because Mount Wilson is in the way; and the highest peak in the range, Mount Baldy (or Mount San Antonio), with Ontario and Cucamonga Peaks to the right.  This isn't so unusual; even on hazy days I can often catch a flicker of light from the snow atop Baldy even from my own porch.  But past Mount Baldy I could also see the San Bernardino Mountains just as clearly, and beyond them, Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto at the Cabazon Pass, over 90 miles away.  I've never seen those mountains from LA before...and it's one of the only times I can remember seeing something that demonstrated the curvature of the Earth from the ground.  Truly amazing.

By the way, if you look at satellite images of Southern California, you can easily see how Mount Baldy and Mount San Gorgonio are two halves of a truly enormous mountain, a shield volcano like Mount Shasta or Mount Ranier up north, formed when California was still a subduction zone and later ripped apart by the San Andreas Fault.  Speaking of the fault, I got a good look at it zooming out of SFO later that day.  I haven't flown into SFO in over a decade and I was pretty surprised...I knew the BART came into the terminal, but not that whole new terminals and one of those cute automated people movers had been installed.  Anyway, when you curve over the City, the Fault and San Andreas Lake (which the Fault was named after, not the other way round) are sparkling and twisting away below.   Across the Bay I could easily see Mount Diablo, and beyond to the Sierra Nevada again.  None of these mountains are volcanic; they were once islands in the Pacific Ocean, like our Channel Islands, which ran into the coast as North America moved west over the Pacific Plate.  Indeed, even the San Andreas is moving.  You sometimes hear that Los Angeles and San Francisco will be neighbors someday, but this isn't true; as North America pushes west, the Fault stays in place (and so moves to the east.)   In the Bay Area it's already started to move, cracking the East Bay around the Hayward Fault, which will eventually replace the San Andreas as the boundary between the North American and Pacific Plates (just as the San Andreas replaced the older Elsinore Fault in Orange County.)  So someday, whether we like it or not, Los Angeles and San Francisco will be on the same side.  But long before then, by millions of years, we will have decided our own fate and created our own Armageddon:
"Has Earth entered a new epoch? What geologists think."
Byline:  Robert C. Cowen Columnist
Date: 02/07/2008
(c) Copyright 2008 The Christian Science Monitor.  All rights reserved.

I've also joked that someday, our petty problems aside, Los Angeles will subduct under Alaska in a few hundred million years and that'll be the end of it.  That's not quite North America moves west, eventually the San Andreas will stop moving, and the whole coast will once again be a subduction zone, with huge volcanoes bubbling inland instead.  And maybe someday all the wreckage of Hollywood will be atop a mountain when we run headlong into Japan.

You can read more about this kind of fun here:

Well, enough of that.  Take a break and enjoy this video of Jacqueline du Pré, one of the great cellists of the 20th century, being conducted by her husband Daniel Barenboim in the late 1960s.  I love the awestruck glances she gets from the other musicians.  She's playing her signature piece, Sir Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto.  Elgar wrote this piece in a hospital in 1919, his last great composition, and he poured into it the anguish of World War I, the terminal illness of his wife, and his own failing health.
First Movement:
Second Movement:
Third Movement:
Fourth Movement:
(Part 1)
(Part 2)

I'd like to point out that I have recently come into a DVD set of Fassbinder's "Berlin Alexanderplatz".  I am one of the few people (one of the others might be reading this) to have watched this entire 15½ hour masterwork in one sitting (the way I suspect Fassbinder intended it to be seen.)  While I wouldn't push that upon anyone else, if you can think of a local venue in Los Angeles that might like to screen it, perhap over three or four nights, I'd like to show it.  It's worth seeing again...unlike "Twin Peaks", I don't think I want to watch all of this alone in my apartment!

On another note, does anyone want to befriend my old pal Ralph Dickinson?  Seriously, check out his MySpace page:

Hmm...just looking at Ralph make me feel like "passing a screed".  I have some bad news for the Serbs out there in the audience:
Kosovo Declares Independence From Serbia
By Nebi Qena and William J. Kole
The Associated Press

But I know their response; it will sound a lot like this nice letter that some of my Ukrainian neighbors wrote to the Turkish Sultan in the 17th century (thanks, Sin):

In more civil news, our friend Mr. Obama seems to be gaining traction on the stiff body of his opponents:
The SEIU Picks Obama
Mother Jones
Black Leader, a Clinton Ally, Tilts to Obama
By Jeff Zeleny and Patrick Healy
The New York Times

I don't know why we haven't heard the negative rumors about Hillary Clinton being a closeted lesbian.  I know I will get into trouble for this, probably not least from my aunt Nona, but hell, I might even vote for Hillary Clinton if she broke down and revealed the truth.

In case this is some big surprise to you, it was most recently flailed in public by Michael Musto, the catty columnist for the Voice who also brought us Downtown:,musto,77465,15.html

What convinced me, however, was this account from Gennifer Flowers, who tried to break the bad news to Bill Clinton that his wife might be gay.  His reaction, I must say, is pure Bill Clinton and I doubt she could have made this up:

I want to add again that I am not "gay-baiting" anyone, but like I said, if this is true and she came out with it, I would like her better.  But of course, her career in this country would be finished.  Last screed I came up with a lot of women in high political places.  But if pressed for gays and lesbians, the most powerful one I could think of would be Klaus Wowereit, the Mayor of Berlin who has a shot at the chancellorship.

Anyway, I have a suspicion that the Democratic election might be reliant on a nice Christian white boy from Carolina:
The Edwards Primary
By John Nichols
The Nation

It really shouldn't be too hard to put a gay Martian in the White House, but you know how the Democrats screw things up:
Hagel:  Bush Administration Is "Incompetent" and He Would Consider Joining a Dem Ticket
By Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence

More and more, as the war in Iraq fades into the back of the news, just as it did in the 1970s, I am reminded of Thucydides, who wrote the sardonic history of the war between Athens and Sparta in the 4th century BCE.  What truly surprised me about this book was the circularity of the events; in the dry, cynical tone of Thucydides and in the decades-long give and take from Sicily to Turkey, I read not a dry text but a perfect parallel to the 1960s.  And now, only twenty years later, I see the same parallels again.  It is a strange life we lead.

The more recent movie about Charlie Wilson, who helped provoke our involvement in the Soviet Union's downfall in Afghanistan (and indirectly, maybe ours), is more fluff than substance:
Imperialist Propaganda: Second Thoughts on Charlie Wilson's War
By Chalmers Johnson

A man who did a lot to prevent war, and paid the price, recently died in exile:
CIA Whistle-Blower Philip Agee Dies in Cuba
By Anthony Boadle

Nowadays he, and anybody else who raises arms against the United States in defense of their own country or some cause, is in danger of being tortured or imprisoned:
Waterboarding Is Legal, White House Says
By Greg Miller
The Los Angeles Times
Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime
By Evan Wallach
The Washington Post
The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007
By Matt Renner
t r u t h o u t | Report

At least some of the damage is being corrected simply by Congressional inaction:
House Leaves Surveillance Law to Expire
By Carl Hulse
The New York Times

We don't need any help to torture and kill each other; why should any foreigner expect better treatment? (thanks, Dorothy):
Ha, you should add this to your next Hillbilly screed.

But death by our own technology, that's old news here in America, eh?

Grim Reaper

A spectator at a football game was killed by a flying model lawnmower.

We might me angrier if we were dying of dysentery:
Faeces Change the Face of Gaza
By Mohammed Omer
Inter Press Service

Or of bullet wounds:
The Kurdish Imbroglio
By Serge Truffaut
Le Devoir
US Pleads for Calm After Turkish Troops Pursuing PKK Enter Iraq
By Ian Black
The Guardian UK I feel a SCREED coming on...we can't do anything about geology, but how about humanity?  Rather than committing mass murder, as we like to?  You probably thought, in the back of your mind, "Well, the war sucks, but at least we're winning now...right?"
2007 Is Deadliest Year for US in Iraq
By Lauren Frayer
The Associated Press

And unless we have radical change, the United States will be completely broke; even Ronald Reagan couldn't spend money this fast:
National Debt Grows $1 Million a Minute
The Associated Press
Pentagon Seeks Record Level in 2009 Budget
By Thom Shanker
The New York Times
$471 Billion, "War on Terror" Not Included
By Maya Schenwar
t r u t h o u t | Report
Democrats Forecast $3.5 Trillion in War Costs
$3,500 Billion!
By Mario Roy
La Presse

But all the money's going to good use, right?
$1 Billion In Military Equipment Missing In Iraq
By Laura Strickler
CBS News
Empire's Architecture
By Allen McDuffee
In These Times

Meanwhile, if we ever need our military for a legitimate cause, forget it:
Members Warn of "National Crisis" in Military Readiness
By Roxana Tiron
The Hill
War Demands Strain US Military Readiness
The Associated Press

Maybe they can pray for more guns and money:
Military Evangelism Deeper, Wider Than First Thought
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
House Passes, Considers Evangelical Resolutions
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Which reminds me, the Pledge of Allegience has nothing to do with God.  It was started as a gimmick to sell flags to schools:

Expect to see a lot of nonsense about God and victory, and very little about the men and women doing the fighting.  Expect to see them, as we did in the 1970s, living on the street:
New Generation of Homeless Vets Emerges
By Erin McClam
The Associated Press
Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans
By Erik Eckholm
The New York Times

Or locked up:
Veterans Not Entitled to Mental Health Care, US Lawyers Argue
By Bob Egelko
The San Francisco Chronicle

Or dead:
The Veteran Suicide Epidemic
CBS News

Or in jail:
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles
By Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez
The New York Times

Our puppet state in Iraq is not above making a few concessions to their God:
Iraqi Policewomen Are Told to Surrender Their Weapons
By Tina Susman
The Los Angeles Times

But even the Arabs are willing to stand up to us:
Iraqi Government to UN: 'Don't Extend Mandate for Bush's Occupation'
By Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar
New Law May Spell End to Iraq Contractors
By David Martin
CBS News
Gulf Challenges US on Iran, Israel
By Sebastian Abbot
The Associated Press

So let's pick a fight with the Persians, right?  That was the new strategy.  First they tried to fake an incident in the narrow Straits of Hormuz, and Iranians almost jumped right into it:
Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel
By Gareth Porter
Inter Press Service
"Filipino Monkey" May Be Behind Radio Threats, Ship Drivers Say
By Andrew Scutro and David Brown
The Navy Times
US Concedes Voices on Recording May Not Have Been From Iranian Speedboats
By Martha Raddatz and Jonathan Karl
ABC News
Legal Mist Stokes US-Iran Tensions in Strait
By Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
Asia Times

The Persians have a smarter way to hit back; they hit in the wallet:
Greenback's days in Iran numbered

Even branches of our government say there is no military danger from Iran:
US Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work
By Mark Mazzetti
The New York Times
Experts:  No Evidence of Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program
By Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

That means nothing to a fool with a mandate from God and ten months left in charge of the United States:
Inexorable March Toward War With Iran?
By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers
Bush May Still Bomb Iran, Despite NIE
By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive

We can hope for the best; time and tide won't wait for George W. Bush, and they won't wait for the Persians either.  Iran is not some simple dictatorship, but a complex country with real politics, going through the same upheaval that we are:
Iran's Inner and Outer Circles of Influence and Power
By Borzou Daragahi
The Los Angeles Times
Iran:  Khatami Prepares Reformers' Comeback
By Delphine Minoui
Le Temps

And finally, let me blow this screed up with a nice little ditty written just after the Civil hard feelings, eh?
Oh, I'm a good old rebel 
Now that's just what I am
And for this Yankee nation
I do not give a damn.

I'm glad I fought against her
I only wish we'd won
I ain't asked any pardon
For anything I've done.

I hates the Yankee nation
And everything they do
I hates the Declaration
Of Independence too.

I hates the glorious union
'Tis dripping with our blood
I hates the striped banner
And fought it all I could.

I rode with Robert E. Lee
For three years there about
Got wounded in four places
And I starved at Point Lookout.

I caught the rheumatism
Campin' in the snow
But I killed a chance of Yankees
And I'd like to kill some more.

Three hundred thousand Yankees
Is stiff in Southern dust
We got three hundred thousand
Before they conquered us.

They died of Southern fever
And Southern steel and shot
I wish they was three million
Instead of what we got.

I can't take up my musket
And fight 'em down no more
But I ain't a-goin' to love them
Now that is certain sure.

And I don't want no pardon
For what I was and am
I won't be reconstructed
And I do not give a damn.

Oh, I'm a good old rebel
Now that's just what I am
And for this Yankee nation
I do not give a damn.

I'm glad I fought against her
I only wish we'd won
I ain't asked any pardon
For anything I've done.

I ain't asked any pardon
For anything I've done...
No wonder we lost the war!  Vive le screed!

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