August 10th, 2008

alan's beach photo

Good Morning!



I am in a place of enchantment this morning.  When I rose, the fog was doing something new with the sun.  The fog has been especially entertaining this year.  We have been here thirty years now, and we both agree we have never seen anything like the way it is coming over the hill this year, and today, it allowed this circle of light, almost like a sun in the west as the sun rose in the east.

I am being powerfully influenced by Joan, my Live Journal friend, who is setting up a pattern of organization and focus.  I am also astonished to learn of a new country this morning, several in fact.   She brings up Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, where there was a mudslide that killed 31 people.  This country gained independence from France in 1960.  It is a semi-presidential republic, and the current president is Blaise Compaore.

The current name was chosen on August 4, 1984 by President Thomas Sankara and the name means "the land of upright people," in More and Dioula, the major native languages of the country.   "The land of upright people."   I like it.

I have always thought of plants as delicate, but a few weeks ago, the asphalt in our driveway started rising, and out in the center, far from any plants arose a bamboo shoot.   Then, yesterday, I noticed a sprig of Rosemary growing up through rocks and concrete.  The concrete is split, and the most beautiful offering of green rises.

It is amazing how strong we can be, how strong we are, when we continue to reach and grow.

Cheers today for the small country, Burkina Faso, and prayers for those who died and those who survive.  

The world is rich in change, in the malleable ball of pain.  I see more and more how pain allows the cracks, that, as Leonard Cohen says, let in the light.

A Sunday of blessings for us all.






Book Cover

The New World -


So, the McCain campaign tried to disparage Barack Obama by comparing him to celebrity status and Paris Hilton, came back with her own ad, which is, actually pretty good, and certainly brings a smile, which none of the others do.

I don't think anyone could have predicted Paris Hilton as a possible presidential candidate, and who knows. Look at the governor of California.
alice springs

reality -



This is from an editorial in the NY Times today.  I agree that common sense and realistic solutions are what we should be demanding of our candidates.


"Here is the underlying reality: A nation that uses one-quarter of the world’s oil while possessing less than 3 percent of its reserves cannot drill its way to happiness at the pump, much less self-sufficiency. The only plausible strategy is to cut consumption while embarking on a serious program of alternative fuels and energy sources. This is a point the honest candidate should be making at every turn."




alan's beach photo

narcissism -



I really wanted to avoid mention of Edwards, a guy who appeared slimy to me with his fake smile, whitened teeth,  and words that never fit his lips, but Maureen Dowd skewers him so perfectly, I have to place her here.



Op-Ed Columnist

Keeping It Rielle


Published: August 9, 2008

WASHINGTON

John Edwards’s confession was a little bit breathtaking.

Not the sex stuff. That happens here all the time.

And certainly not covering up the sex stuff. That happens here all the time, too. First people uncover; then they cover up. Nobody’s ever had sex with that woman until, suddenly, they have.

The stunning admission Edwards made to ABC’s Bob Woodruff, and in a written statement from Chapel Hill on Friday afternoon, was that he’s a narcissist.

He admitted that wallowing in “self-focus” out on the trail and thinking you’re “special” can result in a solipsism that “leads you to believe you can do whatever you want, you’re invincible and there’ll be no consequences.”

Auto-psychoanalysis by the perp. That’s really rich. When Bill Clinton acknowledged an affair, after equally adamant denials, he simply went into an old-fashioned spiral of penitence, his allegedly long, dark night of his alleged soul.

Even in confessing to preening, Edwards was preening. His diagnosis of narcissism was weirdly narcissistic, or was it self-narcissistic? Given his diagnosis, I’m sure his H.M.O. would pay.

The creepiest part of his creepy confession was when he stressed to Woodruff that he cheated on Elizabeth in 2006 when her cancer was in remission. His infidelity was oncologically correct.

So narcissist walks into a New York bar and meets a legendarily wacky former Gotham party girl — whose ’80s exploits were chronicled in a novel by her former boyfriend Jay McInerney because the behavior of her and her friends “intrigued and appalled me.” When you appall Jay McInerney, you know you’re in trouble.

The president manqué gives Rielle Hunter, formerly Lisa Druck, more than $114,000 to shoot vain little videos for his Web site (even though she’s a neophyte), one of which is scored with the song “True Reflections” about the Narcissus pool, which goes: “When you look into a mirror, do you like what’s looking at you? Now that you’ve seen your true reflections, what on earth are you gonna do?”

He has an affair with Hunter, while he’s honing his speech on the imperative to “live in a moral, honest, just America.” A married former aide says he’s the father when she gets pregnant, even though she’s telling people Edwards is the dad. And one of his campaign donors pays off Hunter to get her resettled with the baby out of North Carolina.

But the Breck Girl wants a gold star for the fact that he sent his marriage into remission when his wife was in remission. That’s special.

In his statement, he bleats: “You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare.” Isn’t stripping bare how he got into this mess?

It isn’t like we didn’t know that the son of a millworker was a little enraptured by himself, radiating self-love from his smile and his man-in-a-hurry airs and the notorious $800 bill for a pair of haircuts and his two-minute YouTube hair primping to the tune of “I Feel Pretty.”

Certain men assume that power confers sexual privilege. And in American politics, there is an eternal disjunction between character and achievement. Sinners do good things, saints do bad things.

Still, it’s bizarre the way these pols spend millions getting their faces plastered everywhere and then think they can do something in secret. “Yeah, I didn’t think anyone would ever know about it, I didn’t,” Edwards said.

In one of the Web films Hunter directed, he actually flirts with the blonde, laughingly telling her that his address on morality is “a great speech” and complaining, “Why don’t you hear me give it live?”

For some reason, super-strivers have a need to sell what is secretly weakest about themselves, as if they yearn for unmasking. Edwards’s decency and concern for the weak in society — except for his own wife. Bill Clinton’s intellect and love of community — except for his stupidity and destructiveness about Monica. Bush the Younger’s jocular, I’m-in-charge self-confidence — except for turning over his presidency, as no president ever has, to his Veep. Eliot Spitzer’s crusade for truth, justice and the American way — except at home.

In the Hunter video titled “Plane Truths,” Edwards is relaxing on his plane, telling the out-of-frame director: “I’ve come to the personal conclusion that I actually want the country to see who I am, who I really am, but I don’t know what the result of that will be. But for me personally, I’d rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll that you put up in front of audiences.” Ken couldn’t have said it better.

Back in 2002, Edwards sent me a Ken doll dressed in bathing trunks, Rio de Janeiro Ken, with a teasing note, because he didn’t like my reference to him as a Ken doll in a column.

In retrospect, the comparison was not fair — to Ken.

alan - lilies in the shade

Energy Solutions -



Op-Ed Columnist

Flush With Energy


Published: August 9, 2008

Copenhagen

The Arctic Hotel in Ilulissat, Greenland, is a charming little place on the West Coast, but no one would ever confuse it for a Four Seasons — maybe a One Seasons. But when my wife and I walked back to our room after dinner the other night and turned down our dim hallway, the hall light went on. It was triggered by an energy-saving motion detector. Our toilet even had two different flushing powers depending on — how do I say this delicately — what exactly you’re flushing. A two-gear toilet! I’ve never found any of this at an American hotel. Oh, if only we could be as energy efficient as Greenland!

A day later, I flew back to Denmark. After appointments here in Copenhagen, I was riding in a car back to my hotel at the 6 p.m. rush hour. And boy, you knew it was rush hour because 50 percent of the traffic in every intersection was bicycles. That is roughly the percentage of Danes who use two-wheelers to go to and from work or school every day here. If I lived in a city that had dedicated bike lanes everywhere, including one to the airport, I’d go to work that way, too. It means less traffic, less pollution and less obesity.

What was most impressive about this day, though, was that it was raining. No matter. The Danes simply donned rain jackets and pants for biking. If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark!

Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)

What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.

And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy: “No.” It just forced them to innovate more — like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills here.)

There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had “a positive impact on job creation,” added Hedegaard. “For example, the wind industry — it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark.” In the last 10 years, Denmark’s exports of energy efficiency products have tripled. Energy technology exports rose 8 percent in 2007 to more than $10.5 billion in 2006, compared with a 2 percent rise in 2007 for Danish exports as a whole.

“It is one of our fastest-growing export areas,” said Hedegaard. It is one reason that unemployment in Denmark today is 1.6 percent. In 1973, said Hedegaard, “we got 99 percent of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.”

Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.

“I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up,” Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income — so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy.”

Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.

Why should you care?

“We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,” said Engel, “and not one out of the U.S.”