The Friends of California Libre...

21 June 2008

Why the Goddess Is Going to Burn Your Screed to Bits

Greetings, friends,
The morning sun is about to align with all those rocks and spirals and doorways our ancestors left to remind us that the longest day of the year is here.  Not atypically for 21st century Los Angeles, we're having a heat wave, though not one so bad it kept me from my daily journey along the river...until the chain on my bike snapped.  Too bad, and a nice walk past the rather stagnant but always impressive band of life snaking through the industrial wasteland of western Glendale.

This solstice comes during a year where the passage of time is much on my mind.  Thanks to Facebook, I'm having the past stagger back to life, and thanks to the heedless waste of that same era, the future is flickering with an improbable number of possibilities, many of them profoundly negative.  In this kind of mood, we all need to share the dawn today...and enjoy the sunset.  Only 4 1/2 years left until the end of the world, right?  21 December 2012, the winter solstice, and the end of the Mayan calendar.

I want all of you to be my disciples in this cause, to debunk any remark about 2012 made between now and then to you.  The idea that the end of the world is booked already denigrates this magnificent mathematical accomplishment of the Mayans.  The sun sweeps through the sky every year, but because of the wobble of our axis, alignments like the solstices and equinoxes precess, so every year on the same day, the sun appears  to have moved back in the sky a tiny bit.  The Mayans selected the point in the sky where the sun crosses the Milky Way (the galactic equator) for the end of their Long Count, chosing the year when the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) would intersect that point.  The entire cycle takes almost 26000 years, so this is no easy calculation; every ancient culture was aware of the cycle, but it was not calculated in the West with such precision until Pierre Laplace early in the 19th century.

Even the Mayans were not perfect, and the sun actually began crossing the galactic equator on the Winter Solstice in the late 1980s, reached the center of the sun in 1997, and will cross completely off the galactic equator around 2015.  If you don't believe me watch the animation on this page:

Of course, some of you might reply that the End Times really got going in the late Eighties, so the Mayans nailed it.  Well, I won't argue that, but please tell your friends that the sun crosses the galactic equator twice a year, and I doubt 21 December 2012 will be any different.  As I recently reminded Robert, the great Frank Zappa once said, "It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice.  There are two other possibilities:  one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia."

The first time I heard about this 2012 crap was in the Seventies, in a flying-saucer movie narrated by Rod Serling called "The Outer Space Connection".  This was during the era of movies about the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, "Chariots of the Gods", etc., so I was not surprised to be told that the Mayan calendar "ends" this movie...24 December 2011.  This was before even the calendar could even be READ with accuracy.

Some people will make money off this delusion nevertheless:

The fragility of our civilization is no joking matter.  When we were kids, I remember the mystery about the Minoans and how they suddenly disappeared.  There was speculation that the violent eruption of Thera (Santorini) took them down, but there was no significant ashfall on Crete.  Now it seems the riddle is answered; the volcano popped out a tsunami even bigger than the one that devastated the Indian Ocean a few years back.  And goodbye Minoans:

These were advanced people, related to the Persians, who built up a massive shipping empire from Crete, but once decimated by this tsunami, the Greeks made quick work of them.

If a disaster ever takes hold of the entire planet, it is depressing, but also somewhat satisfying, to discover how quickly our civilization (and the damage it caused) will disappear:

Ah, when people predicted doom in the Seventies, it seemed so far off, so easy to contain.  If you love the Seventies as much as I do, enjoy this (the flash animation itself a slightly nostalgic remnant of a few years ago) while you contemplate our downfall:
Immigrant Song

Like the Viking kittens and the Immigrant Song, we're reeling in the past behind us and casting the hooks at the future.  I'm not one for fishing, but I'm mesmerized by Barack Obama lately.  Not even Ronald Reagan and the threat of nuclear annihilation back in the Eighties describes the level of anxiety, perhaps, that makes me seek solace in his words.  If you don't know what the hell I mean, take a half-hour out of your solstice and watch this entire speech he made in North Carolina:

Yeah, I know I'm distributing propaganda.  Why not.  It seems like fate is just slathering me in the past lately, and redistributing propaganda has always been part of it.  Next up on the nostalgia trip was RIP, Jim McKay, who introduced a geek like me to the "Wide World of Sports":

And we lost Mr. Harvey Korman a few weeks back.  Here he is losing his cool, as usual, to Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett Show:

Also sending out his troops in "Blazing Saddles":

Which reminds me, indirectly, of Madeline Kahn, who died far too young almost a decade ago.  Here she is in "Blazing Saddles", uttering the immortal line, "I've been with thousands of men, again and again, they sing the same tune; they start with Byron and Shelley and jump on your belly, and bust your balloon!

I've also recently seen "Rollerball", the incredibly crappy remake of 2002 only reminding us that in some ways, the Seventies will never be topped..."JONATHAN!  JONATHAN!  JONATHAN!"

I'm still expecting this movie to come true someday.  I was nine when I first saw this film, and the party scene, where the corporate executives get together to crow over the sports stars, take little blue pills and do this ecstasy-like groping, completely blew me away...I'm still waiting to walk into this party someday (even if it's dubbed in Italian):

And then to go out in the dawn and do something so un-PC, only the Seventies could have voiced it:

Okay, enough movies.  Looking at the full moon coming up, knowing that somewhere in the world my crazy cousins are lighting the bonfires, my sense of doom fades a bit.  Put on the B.T. Express and enjoy the SCREED:

First I want to introduce a section that I intend to blanket every screed with...that whatever you think of Mr. Obama, John McCain is a FUCKING MADMAN, no matter how "cool" you might think he is:
McCain Too Denounces Pastor
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today rejected the endorsement of megachurch pastor and ardent Zionist John Hagee after learning of a sermon in which Hagee posited that Nazism was God's will.
Click here to read more on our site
Liberals Work to Change McCain's Image
A small knot of counterdemonstrators will greet Sen. John McCain when he arrives in Stockton today for a day of Northern California campaigning and fundraising. But the real anti-McCain action is happening in the media, where labor and liberal activists are starting to get the national press to do what the still-feuding Democratic candidates can't: Focus on the Republican nominee.
Click here to read more on our site
Who Is John McCain?
Free Ride: John McCain and the Media
by David Brock and Paul Waldman
Anchor, 218 pp., $13.95 (paper)
The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him - and Why Independents Shouldn't
by Cliff Schecter
PoliPoint, 186 pp., $14.95 (paper)
McCain: The Myth of a Maverick
by Matt Welch
Click here to read more on our site
Mini-League of Nations Would Cause Only Division
John McCain wants to create a new alliance to circumvent the UN. We mustn't let this idea gain consensus in Washington.
Click here to read more on our site
McCain (Mis)Speaks
How the Senator won the war of words in Iraq (again and again and again).
Click here to read more on our site

Now, a practical matter; I was recently asked about "wet" cleaners (rather than dry cleaners), which use a sophisticated new technology to clean "dry clean only" garments with ordinary water.  Your clothes are cleaner and they smell better.  If you live in Southern California, you can use this website to find the closed to you.  I recommend Sunny Brite (just north of the huge ugly Public Storage, on the corner of Avenue 40 and Eagle Rock Boulevard.)  It's more expensive but you won't regret it:

And with that, I hope you know that, Mayan predictions or not, our own Long Count is coming to an end.  Let's recount, just to kill time, all the ways the Earth is preparing to shed our species:
March the Warmest on Record Over World's Land Surfaces
By Randolph E. Schmid
The Associated Press
The End of the World as You Know It ... and the Rise of the New Energy World Order
By Michael T. Klare
Stern Admits Report "Badly Underestimated" Climate Change Risks
By James Murray
The World at 350: A Last Chance for Civilization
By Bill McKibben
Timeline for Irreversible Climate Change
By James Hansen
YaleGlobal Online
Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Dioxide and Methane, Rise Sharply in 2007
World Carbon Dioxide Levels Highest for 650,000 Years, Says US Report
By David Adam
The Guardian UK

We are continuing to see the poles and glaciers of the world melt away, raising the oceans and eliminating fresh water for millions:
Climate Change Hitting Arctic Faster, Harder
Environmental News Network
Massive Chunk of Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapses
By Seth Borenstein
The Associated Press
Melting Mountains Called a Water "Time Bomb"
Colorado River to Drop to 500-Year Low as World Warms
By Jim Efstathiou Jr.
Warming Trends Rise in Large Ocean Areas: Study
By Grant McCool
Is Water Becoming the New Oil?
Population, pollution, and climate put the squeeze on potable supplies - and private companies smell a profit. Others ask: Should water be a human right?
Click here to read more on our site

If you're interested in New Orleans, one of the first cities we'll probably lose for good, enjoy this local comic about Katrina and how life has changed there:

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

This Webcomic is a "is a true story told in 12 parts about six different people ... who escape and survive Hurricane Katrina." Includes the chapters (which run from January through December 2007), material about artist Josh Neufeld, and related video, audio, news, and background material about the Webcomic and Hurricane Katrina. From Smith Magazine.

Even that most basic of California gardener's tomes, the Sunset Western Garden Book, is falling out of date:
Warming Shifts Gardeners' Maps
By Elizabeth Weise
USA Today

But changing your flowers is nothing compared to what could happen:
Melting Methane
By Volker Mrasek
Der Spiegel

I don't want to scare you, but the last time methane bubbled out of the tundra and the bottom of the ocean was during the Permian/Triassic Extinction 250 million years ago.  The temperature of the planet rose 10 degrees at the equator and twice that at the poles, killing almost 80% of land-based life and because of anoxia (oxygen deprivation) in the ocean, some 95% of marine creatures:

By comparison, the asteroid impact in the Yucatan 65 million years ago, which killed off the dinosaurs in the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction, only killed off half as many creatures:

These areas of anoxia are rapidly expanding:
Oxygen-Poor Ocean Zones Are Growing
By Kenneth R. Weiss
The Los Angeles Times

The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

Overview of this "area of hypoxic [low-oxygen] ... waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The zone occurs between the inner and mid-continental shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico, beginning at the Mississippi River delta and extending westward to the upper Texas coast." Discusses causes, effects on marine life and fishing industry, and related topics. Includes link collections for general reading, professionals, and educators. From the Science Education Resource Center (SERC), Carleton College.

Another kind of ocean pollution is the vast swirl of discarded plastic, which as some of you may have heard, is collected by the currents into huge "garbage islands"; the one in the Eastern Pacific is reportedly the size of Texas.  I highly recommend you set aside some time and watch this documentary about some kids who recently sailed to "Garbage Island"; the whole thing is just over an hour, but if you want to skip the actual voyage, jump to part 10:

But again, the tiniest ray of hope:
Pollution Levels Have Dropped in US Coastal Waters
By Renee Schoof
McClatchy Newspapers

Our whale cousins are still teetering on the brink:
Navy Sonar Blamed for Death of Beaked Whales Found Washed Up in the Hebrides
By Michael McCarthy
The Independent UK
Mysterious Arctic Whale Under Threat From Changing Habitat
By Edward Helmore
The Guardian UK
White House Blocked Rule Issued to Shield Whales
By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post

Ironic revenge:

Faroe Islands: Message From the Sea

Companion website to a 2007 PBS Frontline World program about a "landmark 20-year study of Faroese children [that] has found that high levels of methyl mercury and other contaminants in the whale meat are harmful to a child's neurological development." Provides background about the Faroe Islands (a "self-governing protectorate of Denmark") and its history of whale hunting, whaling policy, mercury, and related topics. Also includes a photo essay and sound clips of Faroese music.

Those of you who remember Brendan Cummings will be glad to see he is using his degree to the best possible ends (and getting into Vanity Fair) by saving the polar bears, a difficult task indeed:
US Enacts Law to Protect Polar Bears, but Only From Hunting
By Leonard Doyle
The Independent UK
Alaska Legislature Wants Polar Bear Study
By Tom Kizzia
Anchorage Daily News

What's next to go?  How about the toothy walrus?
Group announces intent to sue over walrus petition
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A conservation group gave notice Tuesday that it will sue to force federal action on a petition to list the Pacific walrus as a threatened species because of threats from global warming and offshore petroleum development.
* Read the full article at:

In fact, creatures are disappearing more rapidly than at any time since that asteroid smashed into us millions of years ago.  Pick your state and see what you might not get to see any more:
Endangered Species Interactive Map
Link to full page:

We've got to declare war on global warming NOW:
For Carbon Emissions, a Goal of Less Than Zero
By Matthew L. Wald
The New York Times
Carbon Emissions: Catch Them if You Can
By Rachel Oliver
Climate Target Is Not Radical Enough - Study
By Ed Pilkington
The Guardian UK
Earth Day Preachin'
By Ken Ward

We have unique solutions available to us, and in California we hopefully will make the most of it:
Soils Enriched With Calcium to Trap Carbon Gas
Three mounds of soil, covered in wild grasses in an abandoned corner of the quarry. Apparently, nothing could be more ordinary. Unless you are David Manning, professor of geology at Newcastle University (United Kingdom), for whom they were the source of a very big surprise. These tumuli concretize an experiment that the scientist has been conducting since 2002 in this quarry for road works materials.
Click here to read more on our site

But we also have a long way to go:
The Seven Myths of Energy Independence
By Paul Roberts
Mother Jones

We've put off the inevitable, unlike most of the world:
Why gas in the U.S. is so cheap - May. 1, 2008*

By raising the price of corn to make ethanol, and indirectly raising the costs of every other food, we've brought an even bigger disaster down on our heads:
The Clean Energy Scam
By Michael Grunwald
Time Magazine
Grains Gone Wild
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Emptying the Breadbasket
By Dan Morgan
The Washington Post
Siphoning Off Corn to Fuel Our Cars
By Steven Mufson
The Washington Post
Shops Ration Sales of Rice as US Buyers Panic
By Andrew Clark, Rory Carroll, and Julian Borger
The Guardian UK
Food Riots Erupt Worldwide
By Anuradha Mittal
Food Riots : Desperate Calls for World Action
You can access it at the following URL:
Food Price Rises Threaten Global Security - UN
By David Adam
The Guardian UK
UN Taskforce to Tackle Global Food Crisis
By Allegra Stratton
The Guardian UK
The New Economics of Hunger
By Anthony Faiola
The Washington Post
Why Costs Are Climbing
By Eric Reguly
The Globe and Mail
Finance Ministers Emphasize Food Crisis Over Credit Crisis
By Steven R. Weisman
The New York Times
Our Global Warming Rage Lets Global Hunger Grow
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph UK
Biofuel: The Burning Question
By Cahal Milmo
The Independent UK

It makes this parody of the market of tomorrow seem ill-timed:
Supermarket 2.0

But again, we mustn't lose humor...or hope:
Change in Farming Can Feed World - Report
By John Vidal
The Guardian UK

And we can do it without dangerous genetic modifications:
GMO: Europe Says Yes; Member States Don't Follow
By Ophélie Neiman

Our crops and forests are among the most resilient of species:
Save the Climate by Saving the Forests
By Fred Pearce
The New Scientist
Million Acres of Guyanese Rainforest to Be Saved in Groundbreaking Deal
By Daniel Howden
The Independent UK
Rainforest Seeds Revive Lost Paradise
By Juliette Jowit
The Observer UK

Meanwhile, here in California we've seen an unprecedented collapse of our salmon fisheries:
Salmon Fishing Closes on Central Valley Rivers
By Dan Bacher
t r u t h o u t | Report
Fishery Council Closes Salmon Fishing Off Oregon and California
By Dan Bacher
t r u t h o u t | Report
California Salmon Closure May Lead to Estimated $250 Million Loss
New fishing ban may force action on salmon collapse.
Click here to read more on our site

If you want to prevent such catastrophes, here's one website that can help you:

FishWatch: U.S. Seafood Facts

This site "can help you make informed decisions about the seafood you eat by providing you with the most accurate and timely information available on the sustainability of U.S. seafood fisheries." Features news, background about seafood and your health, and details about selected types of fish. Also includes data on U.S. seafood imports and exports, a glossary, and descriptions of how some commonly used fishing vessels work. From NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

Some companies just don't get it:
Shell Warns Europe on Emissions Permits
The Times AU

But the Dutch don't realize that, once no one can afford it, oil is done, for better or worse:
Oil Strikes New Record Near $120 on Supply Fears
By Fayen Wong
$130 Oil: Is That a Tipping Point?
After years of increases, some fear a tipping point has finally been reached.
Washington - Only a few weeks ago, prominent policymakers and economists were cheerfully asserting that the U.S. economy would dodge recession and keep chugging forward despite a housing bust, a credit crunch and continuing job losses.
Click here to read more on our site
Oil Crisis Rage Spreads
London - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Wednesday that the world faced an era-defining oil "shock" that required urgent action, as European leaders argued how best to contain protests over soaring fuel prices.
Click here to read more on our site
Oil: Power Has Changed Sides
In the beginning of the 1970s, when a barrel of black gold cost less than $2, no one imagined that one day an American president would be reduced to begging the king of Saudi Arabia for an increase in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC's) production to bring down prices. Yet the West has reached that point. After an initial rebuff in mid-January, George W. Bush was at it again on Friday, May 16, during his meeting with King Abdullah in Riyadh. With no more success than the first time, unless one counts a limited and temporary increase.
Click here to read more on our site
New Fears on Long-Term Global Oil Supplies
Worries that world oil demand will outstrip global supplies intensified on Thursday, sending ripples through the global economy as oil prices leaped above $135, a new record high.
Click here to read more on our site

To our north, I see the Canadians, now that they could become wealthier than Saudi Arabia, sending out mixed signals:
Canada Logging May Ignite "Carbon Bomb": Greenpeace
The Intent of the Carbon Tax Is to Make Us Feel the Pain
By Craig McInnes
The Vancouver Sun

But for most Americans, that won't be much of a decision: - U.S. issues climate assessment forced by court order
US Consumers Rank Last in World Survey of Green Habits
By Queenie Wong
McClatchy Newspapers
Bush Opens Back Door for Logging National Forests
By Dan Shapley
The Daily Green
US Firm Lays Claim to "Potentially Vast" Arctic Oil Resources
By Randy Boswell
The Ottawa Citizen

The answers are coming locally, not nationally:
Massachusetts Leads Bid to Limit Greenhouse Emissions
By Beth Daley and Stephanie Ebbert
The Boston Globe
Bush Fuel Economy Rules Swipe at California
By Zachary Coile
The San Francisco Chronicle
Senate Panel Votes to Overturn EPA on California Waiver
Washington - A Senate panel voted narrowly Wednesday to overturn EPA's decision blocking California and more than a dozen other states from limiting greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.  The bill by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, passed her committee 10 to 9.
Click here to read more on our site
Millions of Jobs of a Different Collar
By Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times
Harnessing the Sun: Future of Green Jobs
By Suemedha Sood
The Washington Independent
Renewable Energy Hedges
By Roy Morrison
Policy Innovations
California Utility Signs $3 Billion Solar Power Deal
By Matt Nauman
The San Jose Mercury News
Big Oil to Big Wind: Texas Veteran Sets Up $10 Billion Clean Energy Project
By Ed Pilkington
The Guardian UK
Wind Can Supply 20 Percent of US Electricity, Report Says
By Steven Mufson
The Washington Post

And they work:
New Record: Wind Powers 40 Percent of Spain

That's the punch line of this joke, friends.  Vive le screed!

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