Friday, March 25, 2005

A Song About Humanity

The Boxer, Paul Simon, 1968

I am just a poor boy,
Though my story’s seldom told,
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises.
All lies and jest.
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

When I left my home
And my family,
I was no more than a boy
in the company of strangers,
in the quiet of a railway station,
Running scared.
Laying low,
Seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go.
Looking for the places
Only they would know.
Lie-la-lie . . .

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job,
But I get no offers.
Just a come-on from the whores
On Seventh Avenue.
I do declare,
There were times
when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there.
Lie-la-lie . . .

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone,
Going home.
Where the New York City winters
Aren’t bleeding me,
Leading me,
Going home.

In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the remainders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.
Lie-la-lie . . .

---

Something about cold, raining afternoons wherever I might be, whenever the time, whatever the age. The humanity of it. The up and the down. This always grabs me.

Is Cheney an Omelette Man? Does W Like 'Em Fried?

Since it is Good Friday and Easter is approaching, today is a good time to talk about Christ. But I'm tired of talking about big, important topics. At least for today. Go to AJM's site if you'd like two posts (1, 2) on Christ's suffering and Easter.

If you stay here, you get this instead--and this might be more palatable to you folks out there who are more private about their faith or don't profess to adhere to any particular brand of faith but like rabbits.

I want to talk about the White House Easter Eggs. Notice I capitalized "Easter Eggs". Evidently, since 1994, the White House has graciously accepted and displayed, with the coordinating assistance of the American Egg Council, a 50-states Easter-egg collection. Every year a new set of 50 is sent to the White House. You can find this year's here.

My question is what happens to the eggs after Easter. My mother once kept a red Easter egg in one of the specialized egg-cup stations in our refrigerator door. For 8 years. I counted.

I picked it up once in awhile and shook it. As the years went by, it started to rattle.

Finally, in high school, when my mother was away and my friend and I were feeling especially daring, I cracked it open. Inside, I found that the entire contents of the egg--yolk and albumin--had collapsed into an incredibly hard, small, black-yellow sphere.

So my friend and played with it for awhile. Rolled it around. Threw it. Scratched it with a knife. Then got bored and tossed it in the trash.

So what happens to the White House Eggs? Shall we assume that each one from years past (at least the ones that aren't hollowed out in the artistic process) has a solid core bobbling around? Or, are the fresh ones eaten on Mondays that follow Easter by hungry staffers? Are any of them fresh after such artistic application? Or, are they preserved like Han Solo in perpetuity in a special closet off the hallway to the Situation Room?

I can see W with fried-egg sunny-side-up yolk running down his chin. Cheney must eat Egg Beaters, though, right? The heart thing and all that.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

More on Being Reasonable

I write this as a response to a thoughtful comment on althippo. Bill Coughlan wrote (and I paraphrase, hopefully with accuracy) that it was tough for him to be patient and reasonable and anything but "negative" when so much invective, "intolerant" Right-wing rhetoric is out there, in blogs, in the media, and in the culture.

(As an aside, I think there's as much trash talk on the liberal side, at least in blogland.)

He paraphrased Andrew Sullivan on Real Time with Bill Maher saying that one cannot convert red-staters by calling them morons. I remember Sullivan on Real Time. He made a number of good points that night, especially that one.

But I think it's less about "converting" than finding common ground and mutual respect. That's where convincing other people that your ideas have merit starts. With listening to them. Listening honestly and being open to what they're saying. And you might find out that their ideas have merit.

I think it's fair to say that if there are problems with the government, culture, whatever, then what may be perceived as "negative" responses to those problems are really--or at least should be--catches, "gotchas," or otherwise constructively forceful watchdog comments. In that way they are positive, not negative.

The negativity comes from the folks who see everything in black-and-white and are too insecure to leave their comfortable fraternities and hornet nests full of "commentators" (If you can actually call them that. It seems like more often they are more concerned with putting down anyone who doesn't sound as clever as they do), cynics, and group-thinkers.

Those people *do* consider all Bush supporters "evil," or all liberals "evil," and if you disagree, then you are "troll," too. (I was called a member of the "left-of-center fascist thought police" this morning by someone with too much time on his hands and not enough ideas. All for trying to intelligently make the point I'm making here.)

Well, I'll have none of it.

One of my good friends, AJM, is a Conservative Evangelical Orthodox Christian Republican. In months of in-depth, strip-down-all-the-assumptions conversations we realized we had a lot in common other than hair color. The main thing is that we both care more about Truth than anything else when it comes to Big Issues/politics. It takes work to find common ground. Though he and I don't agree on everything, we have a great amount of respect for each other. And, frankly, I've learned a heck of a lot about "Evangelicals" and Republicans that is NOTHING like many of the "liberal" portrayals of them out there.

So, I'm not seeing things in terms of red or blue. Just what makes sense. If we can start from there, we can be a whole lot more constructive.

Bill mentioned his disdain for those who he called "willfully ignorant." Here's my take on them. Have mercy on them. Consider them lost and try to help them find their way. Try to educate and listen and be patient.

That is, until they keep talking trash and their intractability makes you so nuts that you have to beat them down intellectually. Then just run circles around them until you can't stand it anymore.

I know it sounds harsh. But anyone who offers their opinions without any support, ignores evidence, brushes aside good logic and reason, adheres to zero social graces, and expects less than that shouldn't have opened his mouth anyway.

And the "willfully ignorant" don't exist only in one political party either. They're everywhere. Red, blue, and purple.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Give Me Something Real

Today, althippo "rounded up" some left-of-center blogs, and made some comments.

I especially like this comment, which is dead-on:

"There's an old saying: avoid negative people. That goes for bloggers, too, both left and right. What I'm saying is that this may be a good time to ask yourself whether your message is entirely negative (Bush is evil, Delay is corrupt, Cheney is Quasimodo's sadistic twin brother, etc.) without a redemptive positive message. 'Nuf said."

Although I tend to be left-of-center by some degree politically, it's totally issue-specific for me. I have Democratic-leaning friends and Republican-leaning friends. When I brush away the political detritus, I'm left with one thing: people whose opinions I respect, and people whose opinions I don't respect. And "a redemptive positive message" goes a long way.

The easiest way to lose the respect of others is to hitch yourself to someone else's star and ride the party line without questioning the basic assumptions on which you stand. It's especially bad when all you have to offer is the same worn-out, flimsy critiques, caricutures, and straw-man arguments.

Give me something substantial, bereft of pure political color, and worth contemplating seriously.

I always try to question my basic assumptions, because doing so strengthens the foundations for my arguments. Analyzing one's basic assumptions can lead to incredibly powerful insights and new perspectives on what is true versus what "sounds good".

More "Lefty" bloggers could stand to exercise a little more discipline and rethink their rationales. The same goes for many bloggers from the Right, no doubt.

USGS and ANWR

As readers of The Accipiter know, I have often quoted or otherwise referred to the alternative hippopotamus, whose comprehensive take on ANWR is inspired and, I think, crucial to the issue. He also lends his cyber-pen to a number of other topics worth discussing. So read him if you get a chance. He's done me the favor of posting a link to The Accipiter from his new stand-alone page, and I appreciate it.

More on ANWR, now that votes have been cast.

Althippo cites to a 2002 USGS report:

On March 29 [2002], the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press reported that a 75-page report released by the U.S. Geological Survey "concludes significant harm could result from drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” According to the report, caribou and other wildlife are vulnerable and may face substantial risk if oil is developed.

Althippo then asks whether "the Bush administration put pressure on the USGS to suppress their findings[.] Let's just say that a) the USGS could have weighed in on the issue when it first came up in 2001, but chose not to, and b) the finding certainly undercuts the Bush argument that drilling will have minimal impact."

Having some familiarity with the USGS myself, I decided to go to their website and find ANWR research that's been publicized. There's a lot of it. And, to me, it looks like a lot of good, objective science.

A 2002 report, which, because of its length and comprehensive nature suggests it is the one cited, states: "Petroleum development will most likely result in restricting the location of concentrated calving areas, calving sites, and annual calving grounds [of the Porcupine caribou herd]. Expected effects that could be observed include reduced survival of calves during June, reduced weight and condition of parturient females and reduced weight of calves in late June, and, potentially, reduced weight and reduced probability of conception for parturient females in the fall."

It continues:

"In summary, 4 research-based ecological arguments indicate that the Porcupine caribou herd may be particularly sensitive to development within the 1002 portion of the calving ground: . . .
[1] Low productivity of the Porcupine caribou herd; [2] Demonstrated shift of concentrated calving areas of the Central Arctic caribou herd away from petroluem development infrastructures; [3] Lack of high-quality alternate calving habitat; and [4] Strong link between calf survival and free movement of females."

This is from "Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain Terrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries Section 3: The Porcupine Caribou Herd - Part 5," Biological Science ReportUSGS/BRD/BSR-2002-0001, found at http://www.absc.usgs.gov/1002/section3part5.htm.

Interesting, and supportive of the The Wall Street Journal's and the AP's take.

This summary of the history of USGS' ANWR work, found in the report, is more important, however. I quote it in full:

In 1980, when the U.S. Congress enacted the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), it also mandated a study of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Section 1002 of ANILCA stated that a comprehensive inventory of fish and wildlife resources would be conducted on 1.5 million acres of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain (1002 Area). Potential petroleum reserves in the 1002 Area were also to be evaluated from surface geological studies and seismic exploration surveys. Results of these studies and recommendations for future management of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain were to be prepared in a report to Congress.

In 1987, the Department of Interior published the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, Coastal Plain Resource Assessment - Report and Recommendation to the Congress of the United States and Final Environmental Impact Statement. This report to Congress identified the potential for oil and gas production (updated most recently by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2001), described the biological resources, and evaluated the potential adverse effects to fish and wildlife resources.

The 1987 report analyzed the potential environmental consequences of five management alternatives for the coastal plain, ranging from wilderness designation to opening the entire area to lease for oil and gas development. The report’s summary recommended opening the 1002 Area to an orderly oil and gas leasing program, but cautioned that adverse effects to some wildlife populations were possible.

Congress did not act on this recommendation nor any other alternative for the 1002 Area, and scientists continued studies of key wildlife species and habitats on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge and surrounding areas. This report contains updated summaries of those scientific investigations of caribou, muskoxen, predators (grizzly bears, wolves, golden eagles), polar bears, snow geese, and their wildlife habitats.


If this is to be believed--and I think we're safe believing it--the Bush Administration has always known or should have known of the potential adverse effects on the Porcupine herd that drilling would have. In fact, West Wingers from the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton Administrations should have known as well.

The question is not, then, about whether Bush knew, or put pressure on the USGS to suppress their findings. I suspect their findings--incrementally, as research has been finalized--have always been publically available.

It seems to me that the Bush Administration knew and has always known of the potential negative impacts, and either chose to consider them as "minimal," or ignore them all together. The question is whether the impacts will be "minimal". That's a subjective point, I suppose. Sadly so.

From what I read in the report, I would characterize the impacts on caribou of the Porcupine herd (which, as althippo pointed out, are on the Endangered Species List) as much more than minimal.

The point: The Bush Administration wants ANWR open to exploratory drilling. End of story. All the chatter about directional drilling and other "good" things (while it has its merits) is window dressing and palate cleansing.

I don't doubt for a minute that drilling in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, . . . is less harmful to the environment than it was in 1975, when Prudhoe Bay was rocking and rolling. But the ethics underlying the rhetoric have always been questionable. I do not doubt for a minute that what the Bush Administration has characterized as "good news" about ANWR all along has been about politics and money, not wildlife or "safer technology."

By the way--and this is getting off topic a bit--which agency will ultimately oversee drilling in ANWR? Interior by the USGS or Interior by the Fish and Wildlife Service? Maybe Homeland Security can do it!

I joke. (I think. (?))

Perhaps there is some kind of hybrid approach being contemplated. Does anyone know? Since these are executive agencies, obviously whether a pro- or anti-Wildlife Refuge administration is in power as of 2008 is key.