The Friends of California Libre...

24 July 2009

Michael Jackson Moonwalked for Your Sins

Greetings, friends,
Those of you from Los Angeles will understand that, even though I've been in my apartment for 15 years, I don't know all of my neighborsToday I'm referring to the couple just north of my building.  I've watched as they made significant improvements to their house, aged and retired, and their kids (two boys?) grew up and moved away.  But other than putting some misdelivered mail in their box and closing my windows against the oily smoke of their barbecue, I've had no contact with them.  Until tonight...I pulled into my parking space, home from work, and the man was ten feet away at the wall, pulling hard on one of the trees that separate my apartment building from their house.  I must have had quite a look on my face, because he gave me a sheepish smile, and like Mr. Jimmy in that Stones song, he said one word to me, and that was "dead".  I nodded and went upstairs to my apartment.  That was our first, and probably last communication.  It is too late for Los Feliz to get to know me.

I have to make a point of meeting my new neighbors.  We are, after all, just a few blocks from the Newport-Inglewood Fault, where a huge chunk of Long Beach and coastal Orange County is sliding into West Los Angeles, pushing up those Baldwin Hills that you can see on the right as you fly into LAX.  Since I was born the fault's moved about 3 centimeters, though it can move faster when it wants toIn those kinds of exigencies, it's good to know your neighbors.  But people in Park Mesa, the neighborhood between the Baldwin Hills and Inglewood, are probably friendlier anyway.  We'll see because, as some of you already know, I bought a house there.  Now I can stop making fun of your complaints about how much money you owe on your own houses, right?

Good timing: - Home values seen losing over $2 trillion during 2008  
Money is all imaginary, anyway.  That's a definite; I'm glad I figured it out young.  Money doesn't buy love, or friendship, or anything really, except ways to kill time.  Money didn't do Michael Jackson any good, did itLike I've been saying, his money probably killed him in the guise of an overpriced doctor.

What a sick, sick week that was.  We finally assassinated another childhood icon, then gushed over it for the uncomprehending youth of the 21st Century.  Sick.  At least, I thought as I listened to the memorial at work, they didn't go batshit and tear up the Staples Center.  It was like every other memorial I've been to; 30 minutes too long and just thick enough to veneer the horror of being mortal.

Anyway, you should know me for such a geek that, once I found a house, one of the first things I'd do would be to peruse the geologic maps of the area.  (Warning - that link will take you to a large .pdf file, but it is beautiful.  Park Mesa is the area at the very top edge of the map, just southeast of the jumble of the Baldwin Hills, which are east of the harbor at Marina del Rey; you can follow the high ground of the mesa all the way south to Palos Verdes.)  I've really longed for a place of my own to whitewash and hang the art, to plant the cactus and grow the corn, to wallpaper with my punk rock flyers from the '80s, to put up solar panels and telescopes and weather stations and whatever the hell I want in.  I'll build a rocket, damn you, and shoot it at North Korea.

Not that I'm too worried about them...
North Korea: A Global Crisis Canary
Gas prices are above $4 a gallon; global food prices surged 39% last year; and an environmental disaster looms as carbon emissions continue to spiral upward. The global economy appears on the verge of a TKO, a triple whammy from energy, agriculture, and climate-change trends. Right now you may be grumbling about the extra bucks you're shelling out at the pump and the grocery store; but, unless policymakers begin to address all three of these trends as one major crisis, it could get a whole lot worse.
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Speaking of buildings, I watched a documentary a few days ago about one of my favorites, the magnificent Parthenon in Athens.  This building comes from a time when we were more in harmony with the world; instead of trying to remake the world, it celebrates our humanity.  The Parthenon is even more amazing than I thought.  There is hardly a straight edge or right angle in the entire structure...the restoration team needed a computer to help them calculate the angles of surfaces, and only very recently have they figured out how the ancient Greeks accomplished these measurements with only a compass, scale models and their ingenuity.  The reason for all these curves was to make the building actually look perfect; if they had built the columns and walls straight, optical illusions would make it look warped (as many modern buildings do.)  The subtle curves and perfect 4:9 proportions make it one of the most visually pleasing structures ever built.  There are also no random measures or proportions in the building, which one Greek architect described as an architectural symphony.

The craftsmanship of the Parthenon also blew my mind...the marble columns were assembled in slices, with a wood pin at the center to line them up.  The joints were so finely measured and sanded (to 1/20th of a millimeter, or less than a hair's breadth) that when the old columns were pulled apart by the restoration team, the workers could still smell the cedar wood of this central pin...and that's a 2500 year-old piece of cedar, friends.  The restoration team had to come up with new tools to make these fine adjustments, and realized by looking at the old marble that the Greeks had developed stronger and more precise tools than can even be made today...that knowledge of stone masonry and metallurgy is lost, even with computers.  Incredible.

Three years ago another favorite building of mine celebrated a mere century on Earth, my old co-op Barrington Hall.  It used to look a lot different.  Anyway, I'm driving up to Berkeley next weekend to see 100 or so of my old friends from there.  That should be interesting.

Maybe I would add something about the recent 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, but it only reminds me how my generation never got to go to the Moon, or Mars, or under the oceans like we were encouraged in the 1970s.  Well, we can go virtually, right?

Google Moon

This site provides "a mosaic of landing site images and a tour of the Apollo landings" on the moon. Click to zoom in on the landing sites for the "six missions of the Apollo Program, which lasted from 1963 to 1972." Also includes a FAQ and a relief map showing moon elevations. From Google, in partnership with scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center.

Hopefully we will go back someday.  We may have to go somewhere just to prevent a disaster that would wipe out the whole planet, not slowly, but in a hurry.  That seems a little dramatic, but we CAN prevent an asteroid impact now...not an earthquake, volcanic eruption, flood or any other natural disaster, but an asteroid without much difficulty.  You don't even need a bevy of nuclear missiles to do the job; found in advance, a celestial body can be knocked slightly off course just by flying around it.  We don't even have to land.  We'll have a good asteroid to test in a few decades, when Apophis flies by...with a 1 in 450 chance of pummeling the Earth the next time around.

That's higher than the odds of a song playing twice in a row on my iPod --  1 in 750.  No, really.  I looked it up on Google and eventually found an article about it.  No kidding.  In the meantime...maybe we should clean up Garbage Island?

I must admit, when I even think about "Garbage Island", I can't keep this Seventies song out of my head.  "I'll remember the nights in the cool sand, makin' love out on Garbage Island..."

Maybe then we can clean up the City of Garbage in Manila?

Crazy, eh?  Well, nature (and justice) move slowly yet inexorably.  Tucked away in the headlines, I was pleased to see that Royal Dutch Shell is finally going to face the music for abetting the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and several others in Nigeria.  Saro-Wiwa was an activist and successful TV producer (the early 80s show "Basi & Co.", about some bumbling schemers trying to profit off the oil boom in Lagos, was supposedly the most popular TV show ever made in Africa.)  As a native Ogoni, he rallied for his people's rights in the Niger delta, where unfortunately most of the country's oil comes from, and a number of activists were quickly tried and executed with the encouragement of Shell.  A few may remember that this atrocity sparked my very first SCREED, way back fourteen years ago when e-mail was still fresh.
Shell on trial
By Daniel Howden, Africa Correspondent
Royal Dutch Shell will revisit one of the darkest periods of its history tomorrow as a potentially groundbreaking court case opens in New York. The oil giant stands accused of complicity in the 1995 execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental activist. The world's boardrooms are watching the case, which...
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Late Nigerian Activist's Son to See Shell in Court
Oil firm faces trial amid accusations of complicity in human rights abuses.
New York - Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr. has been fighting for more than 13 years to make his late father's prediction come true.  It will happen this month when relatives of victims of the Nigerian government's violent crackdown on residents of the oil-rich region, where Royal Dutch Shell had drilling operations, will get to challenge the deaths and injuries in a U.S. court.  The trial that starts May 26 in U.S. District Court in New York stems from two lawsuits accusing Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and the former managing director of its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Transport and Trading PLC, of being complicit in decisions by Nigeria's then-military government to hang oil industry opponents, including playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.  "In a sense we already have a victory, because one of the things my father said was that Shell would one day have its day in court," Saro-Wiwa said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. "We felt they had ducked their responsibility for what happened in Nigeria, so we wanted to fulfill that prediction."
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The war between nations and the indigenous people living atop their resources is global:
Court: Brazil on the Brink of Civil War
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Deep in the northernmost reaches of the Amazon jungle, a land conflict between rice farmers and a handful of Indian tribes has turned so violent that the country's Supreme Court warns it could escalate into civil war.  The court is expected to decide in August if the government can keep evicting rice farmers from a 4.2 million acre Indian reservation decreed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2005.
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Hmmm...and I feel another screed coming on.  Why are Brasilians and Nigerians throwing themselves at their exploiters, when here in the United States we don't even care if the beautiful mountains of Appalachia are despoiled by coal tips and mountain top removal?

Well, I have the satisfaction of knowing that, no matter what, we are going to run out of this goo, and the planet will heal.
Tomgram: Michael Klare, Goodbye to Cheap Oil

The human race might not be around to see it, though...we might have snuffed ourselves out in a James Bond scenario...
OpEdNews » Scramble for World Resources: Battle for Antarctica

Person by person, the last species to go extinct in the latest "great extinction" will, natch, be us.
To see this story with its related links on the site, go to
Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, says  Kofi Annan thinktank
Climate change is greatest humanitarian challenge facing the world as heatwaves, floods and forest fires become more severe
John Vidal, environment editor
Climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300m people, according to the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming.  It projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030, making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces. - Climate change worsens disaster risks for poor-UN  
Some animals will probably disappear before us... Obama Keeps Bush-Era Polar Bear Rule
Protection was granted, but limits were set on what to do.
Washington - The Obama administration will retain a Bush-era rule for polar bears, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Friday, in a move that angered activists who noted the rule limits what can be done to protect the species from global warming.  The administration had faced a weekend deadline to decide whether it should allow government agencies to cite the federal Endangered Species Act, which protects the bear, to impose limits on greenhouse gases from power plants, factories and automobiles even if the emissions occur thousands of miles from where the polar bear lives.  "We must do all we can to help the polar bear recover, recognizing that the greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change," Salazar said in a statement.
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...while others will probably miss us with few tears.
Hint of conservation push brightens whaling stalemate

It's a pathology; a global mental illness.  Our civilization has believed, for thousands of years, that we are not of this world, but apart, and must remake it:
All Trees Near Levees Face Army Corps' Ax
Policy aimed at protecting levees draws fire from locals.
Columbia, Louisiana - The Army Corps of Engineers is on a mission to chop down every tree in the country that grows within 15 feet of a levee - including oaks and sycamores in Louisiana, willows in Oklahoma and cottonwoods in California.  The corps is concerned that the trees' roots could undermine barriers meant to protect low-lying communities from catastrophic floods like the ones caused by Hurricane Katrina.  An Associated Press survey of levee projects nationwide shows that the agency wants to eliminate all trees along more than 100,000 miles of levees. But environmentalists and some civil engineers insist the trees pose little or no risk and actually help stabilize levee soil.
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A pointless pathology, which in the long run has no positive outcomes:
Even the Mighty Mississippi's Sediment Won't Be Enough to Save Our Vanishing Coast
Even under best-case scenarios of building massive engineering projects to restore Louisiana's dying coastline, the Mississippi River cannot possibly feed enough sediment into the marshes to prevent ongoing catastrophic land loss, two Louisiana State University geologists conclude in a scientific paper being published today.  The result: The state will lose another 4,054 to 5,212 square miles of coastline by 2100, an area roughly the size of Connecticut.
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We believe that, rather than our technology getting us INTO this problem, it can still save us, like magic:
Toward Climate Geoengineering?
Preamble:  That global climate change has reached an impasse whereby the "powers-to-be" are entertaining climate geoengineering mitigation, instead of the urgent deep reduction of carbon emissions required by science, represents the ultimate moral bankruptcy of institutions and a failure of democracy.
With global atmospheric CO2 levels rising at about 2 ppm/year toward 388 ppm, or near-440 ppm CO2-e (including methane effects), John Holdren, in his first interview since being appointed as President Obama's new science adviser, revealed
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The blow is not going to fall on us individually, or nationally, but planetwide, as a species:
Climate chaos predicted by CO2 study
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The world will overshoot its long-term target on greenhouse gas emissions within two decades. A study has found that the average global temperature will rise above the threshold that could cause dangerous climate change during that time. Scientists have calculated that the world has already produced about a third of...
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Report on Warming Offers New Details

By David A. Fahrenthold
Man-made climate change could bring parching droughts to the Southwest and pounding rainstorms to Washington, put Vermont maple sugar farms out of business and Key West underwater over the next century, according to a federal report released yesterday.
'We have taken every measure we can think of to stop the desert moving closer and submerging our crops and villages'
Farmers end up as eco-refugees in a government relocation plan aimed at giving them a better life
Jonathan Watts in Minqin
When the desert winds tear up the sands outside his front door, Huang Cuikun, pictured  below in a dried- up riverbed near his home, says he is choked by dust, visibility falls to a few metres and the crops are ruined.  Dust storms hit his village in Gansu province more often than in the past. The water table is falling. Temperatures rise year by year. Yet Huang says this is an improvement. Three years ago the government relocated him from an area where the river ran dry and the well became so salinated that people who drank from it fell sick.
Global warming's toll: Glacier in Bolivia is gone
Ban exhorts nations to ramp up investment in disaster risk reduction – (17 May 2009)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to all nations to bolster efforts to curb disaster risk, stressing that decisive action taken now can be "one of the best investments countries can make."  Speaking at the launch ceremony in Bahrain of the first-ever "Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction," Mr. Ban said stepped up spending in slashing risk is "critical to saving lives and livelihoods."  Further, it is essential in reaching the aims set forth in both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, and the Hyogo Framework for Action, the 10-year programme adopted in 2005 which calls for investing heavily in disaster preparedness and strengthening the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address the risks.

Although I think the UN is starting out very small...
McClatchy Washington Bureau
U.N. environment chief urges global ban on plastic bags
By Grace Chung
WASHINGTON ­ Single-use plastic bags, a staple of American life, have got to go, the United Nations' top environmental official said Monday.
Although recycling bags is on the rise in the United States, an estimated 90 billion thin bags a year, most used to handle produce and groceries, go unrecycled. They were the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts at the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, a marine environmental group.  "Single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme. His office advises U.N. member states on environmental policies.

The good news is, regardless of what we do, when left alone the world heals very quickly...not a bleeder but a small cut.

Yale Study Finds Evidence that Damaged Ecosystems Can Recover Rapidly

Sigh...if only we had learned our lesson back in the Seventies.  Remember when small cars became hip, and we almost switched to the metric system?
Op-Ed Columnist:  Flush With Energy
America needs to learn from Denmark, which responded to the 1973 Arab oil embargo in such a way that today it is energy independent.

We're getting another chance to turn lemons into solid gold...
IPCC chief: Benefits of tackling climate change will balance cost of action
The cost of tackling climate change will be paid for by benefits that would come from better energy security, employment and health, Rajendra Pachauri says ahead of major announcement on 2013 reports
Damian Carrington
Measures needed to tackle global warming could save economies more money than they cost, the world's top climate change expert said today.  Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told the Guardian: "The cost could undoubtedly be negative overall."  This is because of the additional benefits that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could bring, beyond limiting temperature rises.
Unemployed Seek Training for Green-Collar Jobs
"I think the opportunities in this field are going to be huge."
San Jose, California - As the economy sheds jobs, community colleges across the country are reporting a surge of unemployed workers enrolling in courses that offer training for "green-collar" jobs.  Students are learning how to install solar panels, repair wind turbines, produce biofuels and do other work related to renewable energy.  "I think the opportunities in this field are going to be huge," said Rudy Gastelo, a part-time handyman who left the construction industry two years ago. "I'm not getting that 9-to-5 paycheck, so I'm looking forward to maybe getting a job within a solar company."  To meet growing demand, two-year colleges are launching or expanding green job training with money from the federal stimulus package.
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America's Green Warriors

Report: Ă¢€˜GreenĂ¢€™ jobs outpacing traditional ones |

Especially in my state, which needs all the help it can get right now:
Auto emissions deal a win for California
The state is the model for a compromise with U.S. carmakers and the federal government to curb greenhouse gases.
By Jim Tankersley and Richard Simon
Reporting from Washington -- The agreement that the Obama administration will announce today forcing dramatic reductions in vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in auto mileage marks a potentially pivotal shift in the battle over global warming -- and a vindication of California's long battle to toughen standards.
The complete article can be viewed at:,0,5567325.story
EPA gives California emissions waiver
The state can develop its own standards on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, though it agrees not to toughen the standards before 2017. Automakers agree to drop lawsuits.
By Jim Tankersley
Reporting from Washington -- The Environmental Protection Agency granted California's request to impose tough restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks -- reversing the Bush administration's position and opening the way for the state to take the lead on global-warming policy. Thirteen other states -- including Maryland -- are slated to adopt Calfornia's standards.
The complete article can be viewed at:,0,3946031.story

Sadly, California is getting ready to throw away this opportunity as well:
Schwarzenegger considers oil drilling off coast
David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Desperate to plug California's gaping budget hole, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned to an idea he has long opposed - offshore oil
drilling.  Schwarzenegger has thrown his support behind a Texas company's proposal to tap an oil field just off the coast of Santa Barbara County. Drills lowered from an existing oil platform near Vandenberg Air Force Base would bore as many as 30 wells into the seabed over the life of the project. The state could reap $1.8 billion in royalties over 14 years.  Viewed on an annual basis, that isn't much - just over $100 million a year. But with California's government facing a $24.3 billion deficit and literally running out of money, the Tranquillon Ridge drilling project would give the governor a rare new source of revenue.  To critics, that smacks of selling out California's treasured coast.

Some others just don't get it.

Democrats may make trouble for climate bill

Check out this page:
Green technology should be shared
Big business is gearing up to fight the use of green technology by developing countries seeking to reduce carbon emissions
Mark Weisbrot
The battle over intellectual property rights is likely to be one of the most important of this century. It has enormous economic, social and political implications in a wide range of areas, from medicine to the arts and culture - anything where the public interest in the widespread dissemination of knowledge runs up against those whose income derives from monopolising it.

Others, well...

Lindsay Lohan fears becoming an out-of-work actor

"Washington, Mar 1 : Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan has admitted that she fears becoming an

But don't give up hope until the end...some countries DO get it...
The Carbon Tax Has Proven Its Effectiveness in Sweden
Sweden, which has just taken over the European Union (EU) presidency for six months, is attempting to convince its European partners to follow its example by instituting a carbon tax. "A carbon tax affects many more waste products than does the system of a market trading carbon emissions quotas," asserts Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren. "But, take care," specifies Ministry spokesperson Mattias Johansson, "we're not talking about a European tax. Every country would assess its own carbon tax.
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Including, amazingly, THIS ONE:
New standards could cut tax breaks for corn-based ethanol
Rules proposed by Obama administration set the stage for a battle between Midwest grain producers and environmentalists who say the gasoline additive actually worsens global warming.
By Jim Tankersley
Reporting from Washington -- The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed renewable-fuel standards that could reduce the $3 billion a year in federal tax breaks given to producers of corn-based ethanol. The move sets the stage for a major battle between Midwest grain producers and environmentalists who say the gasoline additive actually worsens global warming.
The complete article can be viewed at:,0,2321568.story
AP NewsBreak: US wants to move on climate change
The Obama administration, in a major environmental policy shift, is leaning toward asking 195 nations that ratified the U.N. ozone treaty to enact mandatory reductions in hydrofluorocarbons, according to U.S. officials and documents obtained by The Associated Press.  "We're considering this as an option," Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Adora Andy said Wednesday, emphasizing that while a final decision has not been made it was accurate to describe this as the administration's "preferred option."  The change - the first U.S.-proposed mandatory global cut in greenhouse gases - would transform the ozone treaty into a strong tool for fighting global warming.
Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale
Washington - President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago as he seeks to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy.
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Vive le screed!

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