April 4th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

The fog is in and the birds are singing.   The day is a long branch of peace and ease with scampering squirrels and trees that speak.

My one redwood that rises as two looks like two people in my yard.   Through the fog, the light is hitting it just right.  I see my friends with outspread arms. 

Molly Ivins says:

"Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce."

        --Molly Ivins

Remember her fondly today!   She was quite a force and now she dances in other forms.  It's up to us to take up the slack.

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Critical Mass bike ride -

Years ago when the ride and my bike were new I rode my bicycle in the Critical Mass bike ride.  I rode my bike to the ferry and took the ferry over to where we gathered and then rode along through the city and back home along the Golden Gate bridge.  It was lovely, civilized, supported, known.  We rode through red lights as the police held back the cars and waved us on through.  We bicyclists had priority over cars and pedestrians for a period of time one Friday a month.

Now, I read of an amazing altercation at Friday night's Critical Mass bike ride where a car is damaged to the tune of $5300.00, a rear window broken and children in the car terrorized and I have to wonder.  It is like someone hitting another person with a peace sign.  The idea is to be green and to have fun doing it.   This action may jeopardize the ride, a ride that has been going on since the early 90's.  I will say it happened at 9:00.  My recollection is that the ride started at 6, so this is a group who may have already begun to party, but when you represent a group, it is important to remember that you do.

What a sad statement about something that began as a way to make an important point.  Of course, I wish it meant we now had easier bicycling through the city and more bike paths.  As I attend meetings about too much traffic and see elaborate, expensive plans unveiled, I wonder why it is so hard to give us valid bike paths along the roads we travel.  The bike path from the junction near my house is almost unusable.  It is hardly safe to walk.  What if that were paved and expanded all the way to the beach?    What a concept that would be!!

Today I speak for peace and more walking and bike paths and less anger between groups.    There is surely room for all of us, walkers, bicyclists, horse people, and cars, too.
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Blood pressure rising -

Jon Carroll

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

One of the stranger things to happen in recent political discourse -- and this is a crowded field -- is the morphing of global warming into a left-wing plot, a conspiracy by godless scientists to ... well, it's not clear what benefit the scientists get from spreading lies about global warming. Maybe they just want research money to study this nonexistent warming thing.

I have a pretty good idea where that meme started. If you believe that global warming is man-made, then you believe that greenhouse gases are a bad thing. If you believe they're a bad thing, you believe they should be reduced. And reducing greenhouse gases would mean using less petroleum, in all its myriad forms. And since the current administration is dedicated to the protection of petroleum companies, it is only natural that it would try to convince its base that somehow global warming is being promoted by the same people who approve of gay marriage, abortion and secular schools.

The idea that global warming is a liberal plot is a lunatic notion, but it's surprising how closely it maps with public opinion. It's an extremely successful con job, and it's bought the oil companies at least a decade of profits and indolence. It's not clear why evangelical Christians -- or that portion of them that are die-hard supporters of George Bush -- should be so interested in the financial well-being of oil companies. It's not as if they're getting anything out of it.

So the president, who is nothing if not consistent, is trying to stick it to environmentalists again. Last year, he nominated three people for top-level jobs at posts that affect the environment. All three nominations were blocked, and thank you, Barbara Boxer. But now the president is thinking of making recess appointments of the same three people. He thinks it's a game of chicken. He thinks he has to win.

Is politics the art of compromise? Not anymore. Politics is the art of slandering your enemies and rewarding your campaign contributors.

Who are these winners? Fortunately, Judy Pasternak of the Los Angeles Times has done the research so you don't have to. First there's William Wehrum, nominated as head of the air quality division of the EPA -- which is the post he currently holds, thanks to a temporary promotion. Wehrum is a lawyer who formerly represented the chemical, utility and auto industries.

His specialty is mercury and lead emissions. He thinks the EPA standards are far too strict. He has taken steps to loosen the rules because, really, how much harm can microscopic amounts of natural substances do? (Scientists say: plenty, but you know scientists. They're the ones behind the global warming hoax.) So Bush wants a guy in charge of clean air who is in fact in favor of dirty air.

Next we have Alex Beehler, a former Pentagon official and a former executive with Koch Industries, a private oil and chemical company in Kansas. Beehler is slated to be the new head of the EPA inspector general's office, which monitors how well the EPA is enforcing its own regulations. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Inspector: "How's the river quality around here? And do you like your current job?" Employee: "I love my job and I love this river." Inspector: "Carry on."

When Beehler worked for the Pentagon, he was involved in an effort to influence to EPA standard on perchlorate, a substance that interferes with iodide uptake by the thyroid gland. (Not enough iodine leads to goiter.) It's also been shown to impair fetal brain function. It exists in rivers in at least 25 states. Since most of the perchlorate in the water comes from rocket and missile fuel, the Air Force might have had to undertake expensive cleanup activities if the EPA's rules were enforced.

So Beehler: clean water, unless it costs money.

Finally there's Susan Dudley, who would head a section of the White House Office of Management and Budget that reviews all proposed government rules. She used to work for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a think tank partially supported by (wait for it) Koch Industries. She is already on record as believing that the EPA rules are too strict.

In her writings while at the center, she argued that the government should keep its big nose out of areas like smog, air bags and energy regulation. (Yes, the return of the free market to the energy sector certainly benefited the people of California.) She's also big on arsenic in drinking water -- she doesn't mind it so much. She wrote that the EPA should not value the lives of older people as highly as the lives of younger people when making arsenic calculations.

Oh: She's now a special adviser to the White House on regulations, meaning that all Americans already have the benefit of her wisdom, even older, disease-ridden citizens. Such a comfort. I have to go lie down now.

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Conscience -

As long as my blood pressure is already up, I read The Nation.  There is an article by Joshua Kors on how soldiers who are injured in Iraq are then said to have pre-existing conditions, though why they were admitted to the army with "personality disorders," no one knows or answers.  They are refused absolutely needed benefits based on the supposed pre-existing conditions. 

One man, Jon Town, a man who was honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, is now unable to work because he was flung through the air by a fireball.  The military says he has a pre-existing "personality disorder," so they don't have to pay the disability and benefits he is owed and has earned.  In addition, unable to work, he is supposed to pay back part of his "bonus," so actually, by their accounting, he owes the army money.  This is unfathomable.  Bush talks about supporting the troops and then to save money won't pay to take care of these men and women injured in his defense.  "A completely disabled soldier receives about $44,000 a year."   You shouldn't start a war if you can't support those who are injured doing it.  

Also, soldiers are barred from suing army doctors for negligance.  There is no accountability here, other than to know that our tax dollars could be going to pay back soldiers what they are owed, rather than paying for more and more weapons and money for the already-rich.  The gap between the rich and poor continues to widen.  How long do they really think people will be willing to go to war, especially when those who love to fight can be hired by Blackwater and be better paid?
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Mammograms -

This evening at 6:45 I have a mammogram on my left breast.  "We" have been putting it off since I experience some pain even when not being squeezed in a machine and it is time, though I'm not sure what my response will be if the results are anything less than wonderful.

In Marin we have a machine that takes digital pictures and is in high demand as it is less dangerous than using x-rays.  That is why my appointment is at such an unusual time, and others will follow me.  What a world!

We have all this health care for some and so little for others.

Take care, and eat a carrot today.  It's almost Bunny Time!!
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When you need comfort -

Are you missing someone who is gone?   Consider these words from The Little Prince, one of my all-time favorite books.

In one of the stars
I shall be living
In one of them
I shall be laughing
And so it will be
as if all the stars
were laughing
when you look
at the sky at night.

from The Little Prince
    Antoine de Saint-Exupery