July 22nd, 2008

alice springs

The Road

A good friend and amazing reader told me that Cormac McCarthy's book The Road is the best book she has read.  I was shocked, thinking of Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch, and, last night, I decided to enter the book, and I stopped to sleep and then woke up and finished the book this morning at seven.  I recommend the book. 

I give the last paragraph which I don't think does anything to diminish or give away the ending.  It stands on its own.  As to the best book, it is a book of our times, just as the above two books gave us their times.  We are each here to carry the fire and we do.  May this continue so. 

"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow.  They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional.  On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming.  Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

And maybe that is all we need to know today and everyday. 

It is our place to "carry the fire," and live with compassion and to love with thorough and unwavering pulse and trust in the goodness we are and continue to be.

alan's beach photo

Plum trees -

My plum trees are full of red and golden plums.   Terry said on Saturday how the yellow ones hold and broadcast the light.

Beneath the cherry trees

in blossom, no one's

a stranger.     (Issa)


I believe the same is true of standing under trees full of fragrant and falling plums.

blue jellyfish

Wisdom -

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials."

Lin Yutang

Book Cover

solutions -

I have been surprised that investors have not looked more vigorously into solutions to the "energy crisis." 

If T. Boone Pickens gets even richer because he takes a chance and leads the way, I have no problem with that. 

Editorial from the NY Times:

T. Boone Pickens Rides the Wind

Published: July 22, 2008

T. Boone Pickens, the legendary wildcatter and corporate raider, has decided that drilling for more oil is not the answer to the nation’s energy problems. President Bush should listen to his fellow Texan and longtime political ally.

The 80-year-old Mr. Pickens does not oppose drilling. He’s been doing it for most of his life. Nor has he become a born-again eco-warrior (a conservative, he helped underwrite and made no apologies for the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry). But he knows something that his friends in the White House won’t acknowledge: that a nation holding less than 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves while guzzling 20 percent of the world’s production will never be able to drill its way out of its dependency on foreign oil.

He also considers it absolute madness — financially and in terms of national security — to be spending $700 billion every year on imported oil produced in volatile and in some cases hostile countries.

His answer is to develop wind power in states with steady, forceful winds (like Texas) and use it instead of natural gas to produce electricity (natural gas now generates about one-fifth of the power in the United States). He would then use the natural gas saved to fuel cars and trucks. He predicts that oil imports would drop by 40 percent and the country would save $300 billion a year.

There are, he concedes, obstacles. The country would need to rebuild the power grid to transmit wind energy from the Great Plains to consumers in the big population centers. It would need lots of service stations capable of selling natural gas. And automakers would need to produce cars that run on natural gas. There are about 8 million such vehicles in the world, but only 142,000 in the United States.

Mr. Pickens is putting his money where his ideas are, and in Texas he has begun assembling the pieces of a huge wind farm. He estimates the cost at $6 billion to $10 billion (his Mesa Power is the lead investor but his personal stake is unknown). He confidently forecasts that this wind farm and others like it will not only reduce the demand for oil but create thousands of construction and operating jobs.

Mr. Pickens concedes that people may suspect that his sudden enthusiasm for alternative energy is just another way “to make Boone Pickens rich.” But with at least $3 billion in the bank, he really doesn’t need the money anywhere near as much as the country needs alternative energy and new ideas.

alan - purple flowers

Accountability -

As more and more comes out, why aren't these people in jail?

Op-Ed Columnist

Madness and Shame

Published: July 22, 2008

You want a scary thought? Imagine a fanatic in the mold of Dick Cheney but without the vice president’s sense of humor.

In her important new book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals,” Jane Mayer of The New Yorker devotes a great deal of space to David Addington, Dick Cheney’s main man and the lead architect of the Bush administration’s legal strategy for the so-called war on terror.

She quotes a colleague as saying of Mr. Addington: “No one stood to his right.” Colin Powell, a veteran of many bruising battles with Mr. Cheney, was reported to have summed up Mr. Addington as follows: “He doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”

Very few voters are aware of Mr. Addington’s existence, much less what he stands for. But he was the legal linchpin of the administration’s Marquis de Sade approach to battling terrorism. In the view of Mr. Addington and his acolytes, anything and everything that the president authorized in the fight against terror — regardless of what the Constitution or Congress or the Geneva Conventions might say — was all right. That included torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, you name it.

This is the mind-set that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the C.I.A.’s secret prisons, known as “black sites.”

Ms. Mayer wrote: “The legal doctrine that Addington espoused — that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it — rested on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars shared.”

When the constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end up with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded.

To get a sense of the heights of madness scaled in this anything-goes atmosphere, consider a brainstorming meeting held by military officials at Guantánamo. Ms. Mayer said the meeting was called to come up with ways to crack through the resistance of detainees.

“One source of ideas,” she wrote, “was the popular television show ‘24.’ On that show as Ms. Mayer noted, “torture always worked. It saved America on a weekly basis.”

I felt as if I was in Never-Never Land as I read: “In conversation with British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, the top military lawyer in Guantánamo, Diane Beaver, said quite earnestly that Jack Bauer ‘gave people lots of ideas’ as they sought for interrogation models.”

Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees at Guantánamo as “the worst of the worst.” A more sober assessment has since been reached by many respected observers. Ms. Mayer mentioned a study conducted by attorneys and law students at the Seton Hall University Law School.

“After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth,” she said, “they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.”

The U.S. shamed itself on George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s watch, and David Addington and others like him were willing to manipulate the law like Silly Putty to give them the legal cover they desired. Ms. Mayer noted that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late historian, believed that “the Bush administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.”

After reflecting on major breakdowns of law that occurred in prior administrations, including the Watergate disaster, Mr. Schlesinger told Ms. Mayer: “No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world — ever.”

Americans still have not come to grips with this disastrous stain on the nation’s soul. It’s important that the whole truth eventually come out, and as many of the wrongs as possible be rectified.

Ms. Mayer, as much as anyone, is doing her part to pull back the curtain on the awful reality. “The Dark Side” is essential reading for those who think they can stand the truth.

alan's marigolds

The Road!

I know you are all now signed up at the library to be next on the list for The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I have a few more things to say.

I took a walk today and I was seeing differently.  I spoke to my friend who recommended it and she said the same thing.  There is something about the grayness in the book that brings the colors we all share even more alive.  I noticed the plants by the bay differently, more distinctly and felt drawn into the rhythm and play of the water and waves.  It is hard to explain.  I also noticed strollers carrying more stuff than they usually had in their shopping cart in the book,  and that is how the book begins, so I give nothing away.

My friend said, too, how the book endows somehow with new awareness.  I felt a different rhythm in my step, knowing I had fuel for my body, and even if I didn't, it is amazing what I can do.  The book is inspiring somehow.   My friend said she appreciated the book, rather than enjoyed it, and I think that is a fair distinction.  The language is a treat, and somehow it affects the eyes and how we live, breathe, and see.