Climate Risks Have Been Underestimated for the Last 20 Years
Across two decades and thousands of pages of reports, the world's most authoritative voice on climate science has consistently understated the rate and intensity of climate change and the danger those impacts represent, say a growing number of studies on the topic.
As the latest round of United Nations climate talks in Doha wrap up this week, climate experts warn that the IPCC's failure to adequately project the threats that rising global carbon emissions represent has serious consequences: The IPCC’s overly conservative reading of the science, they say, means governments and the public could be blindsided by the rapid onset of the flooding, extreme storms, drought, and other impacts associated with catastrophic global warming.This conservative bias, say some scientists, could have significant political implications, as reports from the group – the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – influence policy and planning decisions worldwide, from national governments down to local town councils.
The drastic decline of summer Arctic sea ice is one recent example: In the 2007 report, the IPCC concluded the Arctic would not lose its summer ice before 2070 at the earliest. But the ice pack has shrunk far faster than any scenario scientists felt policymakers should consider; now researchers say the region could see ice-free summers within 20 years.
Sea-level rise is another. In its 2001 report, the IPCC predicted an annual sea-level rise of less than 2 millimeters per year. But from 1993 through 2006, the oceans actually rose 3.3 millimeters per year, more than 50 percent above that projection.
Oh great. So what was going to be happening to our children and grandchildren is now going to be happening to us. And there's no end in sight. The government is held hostage by a relatively small band of conservatives who don't believe in science, and not only do they do everything they can to obstruct legislation on the issue, but they and their ilk outside government also spend millions to confuse the population. That is, we do nothing while things continue to deteriorate.
We're fucked. We're really fucked.
I don't know just how bad it's going to get, but I do know it will be bad, worse than anything in living memory. The economic collapse alone, as hurricanes and droughts and other ills increase in intensity and frequency, will be worse than the Great Depression. Civilization may not collapse, but people are going to hurt. And civilization may, indeed, collapse. I just don't know. But I do know that, for most, our relatively cushy way of life is coming to an end. There's just no way we can maintain our level of economic prosperity and comfort under circumstances which we are already beginning to suffer. It's over. And we did it to ourselves. And the ruling establishment is so into itself and its own power that it is just incapable of doing what's needed to stem the tide.
So live for the now. Fall in love. Write a novel. Learn to cook. Play the guitar. Call your parents. Listen to the Beatles. Watch The Godfather. Go to Paris. Shoot some pool. Drink some wine. Star gaze. Read poetry. We might not be able to do all this in twenty years. We might not even be alive.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Climate Risks Have Been Underestimated for the Last 20 Years
Posted by Ron at 1:52 AM
Friday, December 28, 2012
As America Mourned a Shooting Tragedy, Cynical Christian
Right Leaders Tried to Cash in by Blaming Atheism
From AlterNet, my favorite recovering Protestant fundamentalist, Frank Schaeffer, once again calls out his former fellow travelers on their total bullshit:
Bryan Fischer of the American family Association said the victims at Sandy Hook had lost God’s protection because prayer has been prohibited from schools. “The question is going to come up, where was God?,” Fischer said. “I thought God cared about the little children. God protects the little children. Where was God when all this went down. Here's the bottom line, God is not going to go where he is not wanted... Now we have spent since 1962 -- we're 50 years into this now--we have spent 50 years telling God to get lost, telling God we do not want you in our schools, we don't want to pray to you in our schools, we do not want to pray to your before football games, we don't want to pray to you at graduations, we don't want anybody talking about you in a graduation speech... In 1962 we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963 we kicked God's word out of ours schools. In 1980 we kicked the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We've kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, 'Hey, I'll be glad to protect your children, but you've got to invite me back into your world first. I'm not going to go where I'm not wanted. I am a gentlemen.”
I'm getting sick of this crap, so I'll cut to the chase. If this is how God actually operates, using psychopaths to extract the Lord's vengeance on groups of totally innocent individuals, by way of mass murder, or even via natural disasters, or whatever, then one must necessarily conclude that Yahweh was hard at work during the Holocaust, punishing the Jews for...what...not embracing Jesus? Being too cosmopolitan or international? Not moving quickly enough to re-establish Israel so we can get our Apocalypse on? Whatever.
But that's where this kind of bullshit thinking must necessarily lead: if God is necessarily calling the shots for every major evil or tragic event suffered by humanity, then God caused the Holocaust, for reasons his modern day prophets, butthole fundamentalist ministers, have yet to explain.
And that's what these guys are, self-anointed prophets, people who insist that they literally know the mind of God. Sure, they can point to this verse or that, can say that they're just preaching the Scriptures, but, in the end, they can't possibly know what God is doing at any moment or why. That is, they're totally full of shit, draping themselves with multiple lies: firstly, that they know how God thinks, secondly, that they aren't self-proclaimed prophets, even while, thirdly, they claim to speak for God. Never mind how such violence-glorifying runs utterly counter to the New Testament's message of love and forgiveness; this kind of behavior is downright cult-like, approaching the sinister antics of Jim Jones or Charles Manson.
I don't understand how anybody who calls himself Christian can avoid howling rebukes toward these people 24/7, let alone believe what these evil men preach. What's the point in following Jesus if you don't denounce the Devil in your midst?
Posted by Ron at 1:43 AM
Saturday, December 22, 2012
As usual, I'm taking my Christmas hiatus starting tomorrow--I don't blog when I'm on the road. And I'm busy packing tonight. But I will leave you with the 1935 British film Scrooge. I haven't seen it in years, but I remember it being pretty good. Enjoy.
Posted by Ron at 10:58 PM
Friday, December 21, 2012
Discovery Says Ted Nugent Won't Appear On Channel Again
From Media Matters for America:
Following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the cable network Discovery told Fox News that it has canceled its reality series American Guns. In October, Discovery aired a one-hour special called Ted Nugent's Gun Country starring NRA board member and Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent, despite his history of inflammatory rhetoric.
While Discovery has described Ted Nugent's Gun Country as a "one-hour special," Nugent claimed that Discovery "want[s] to do it as a regular feature." Nugent has also said the show would help him advance his view in the "culture war."
The episode of Ted Nugent's Gun Country that aired in October showed Nugent shooting a scimitar-horned oryx, an animal extinct in the wild, and using a .50-caliber Browning armor-piercing machine gun to blow holes in a steel door used by a team of "preppers" to protect their armory.
Silver lining, albeit given the loss of life, a small one.
Ted Nugent is a scumbag. He is only a minor entry in the classic rock cannon, and one of his best known songs, "Cat Scratch Fever," is a thinly veiled ripoff of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." At this point in history, what small amount of talent he once had has dried up, and he uses his celebrity status to do nothing but piss off liberals, which means the right wing has found him to be a useful tool.
How could such a narcissistic fascist asshole have ever been thought of as cool?
At any rate, this is some good news. Nugent's psycho right-wing stardom may be drawing to a close. While he never really contributed much to the public discourse, he did influence working class types to embrace their own inner conservative assholes and get in your face about it. And he was exceedingly good at pissing off liberals.
Really, this development is much better than the time he was banned from that music venue in the Woodlands for being a racist.
Posted by Ron at 3:02 AM
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Behind the Connecticut Massacre
Each time there is an outbreak of homicidal mania, whether Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Adam Lanza’s slaughter of twenty eight innocents in Connecticut, the media directs us to stories about gun control and the need for better policing of individuals with mental illnesses.
The larger context—that America is a society brimming over with violence—is entirely lost in the discussion.
The shooting at Newtown reminded me of Columbine. Not the Columbine shooting itself so much as my reaction to it. It was my first year teaching in a high school not too terribly different from the one Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot up in 1998. At first, it was another news story to me, horrible and tragic, to be sure, but just another story of incomprehensible violence among many. Then, as the ominous security crackdown and accompanying oppression of goths and other black-wearing misfits became apparent, it started to piss me off, at both the killers and America's moronic reaction to it.
A couple of days later, however, it hit me.
I was listening to an NPR piece late that afternoon after getting home from school. The reporter simply read a list of the names of all the dead, with maybe a bit of bio included--I don't really remember. But it hit me hard, and I started crying. I had to stop what I was doing and just sit for a few minutes. These kids were just like my kids, instantly and horribly snuffed out in a protracted instance of senseless violence. As I listened to the names, I saw my students' faces in my mind. It was just horrible. And I kept crying.
Little did I realize that it was just the warmup act for 9/11 only a few years later.
Again, the same thing, albeit magnified beyond anything I could have imagined at that point. Senseless violence, followed by a militant response from the public and government institutions, complete with oppression and bullying of people who simply looked like the killers. All paving the way for our own acts of unspeakable violence which would dwarf the actual terrorist attack itself many times over. And in the middle of it all were thousands of dead innocents who didn't have to die. And we're still killing in the name of 9/11 even as I write these words.
My sadness about Columbine, 9/11 and our response to it, and Newtown, and so many other deadly national failures can't simply be grief about people dying. After all, as Butthole Surfers once sang, strangers die everyday. For me, and maybe for you, too, it's about something else. I think I grieve for our sick society. I think I'm sad because we don't really value life in the US. I mean, okay, you can say it's a violent world, and you'd be right about that, but it seems that all too often we, as a people, as Americans, run toward the darkness, embracing it, expanding it, celebrating it, rather than doing everything we can to minimize it. That is, there's a difference between the darker aspects of human nature and an overall culture that celebrates those aspects.
And we do celebrate the darkness. On television. In sports. In music. In church. Our national anthem is a hymn to war. Our economic prosperity is based on brutal African slavery and genocide of the Native American population. We torture now, as official US policy, and a majority of us approve. In this context, it's amazing there aren't more Columbines and Newtowns. Actually, increasingly, there are more. And a lot of us want to take shots at the killers, ourselves, to satisfy our lust for vengeance. Or just because we like violence and want suitable victims who won't trouble our consciences. For what they are.
I think this now seemingly endless stream of massacres makes me sad for America. Because, apparently, this is what we're about. This is what we've always been about.
Posted by Ron at 2:31 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
From the public radio show This American Life:
Carlton Pearson's church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell.
Listen to the entire show here.
I haven't listened to the entire show yet, myself, but I did manage to catch most of it Sunday afternoon when I was getting ready for work. But I'm definitely going to be finishing it. This is pretty amazing to me.
If you're a longtime Real Art reader, then you know that my central most objection to Christianity is the belief in Hell. I cannot accept a just God sending people to Hell. Because Hell is not just. Hell is eternal torture. It cannot possibly be just. And if you believe, in fact, that the nature of reality is that Hell exists, and that God thinks it is grand and wonderful to send souls there, then your understanding of humanity and justice and compassion must necessarily reflect that notion: you must also believe that torture, in the abstract, is acceptable, desirable even, that people deserve it, and that humanity has no value; you must also believe that torture is justice.
So Hell leaves Christianity forever insufferable to me, a closed option, a philosophical notion that cannot be true, one that automatically contradicts itself. But here we have a Pentecostal minister having what amounts to a revelation: Hell does not exist. What happens when Christianity sheds its most damning attribute? I don't know for sure, but it automatically makes the religion far more appealing, a religion that focuses on love and forgiveness, without coercion, without threat, one that can truly fulfill the promise of Christ, which is not salvation, but rather compassion for the suffering--it comes out of the Bronze Age and into the twenty first century.
I'm amazed that someone coming out of Oral Roberts University could even consider throwing Hell out the window, let alone deciding that's the right thing to do. I had to turn my back on the religion in which I was raised in order to do so. This guy did it as a Christian. Clearly, a guy who understands that there is no reconciling the Old Testament's wrathful God with the New Testament's Prince of Peace. He's brave, for sure. But also wise.
Something to think about this Christmas.
Posted by Ron at 2:28 AM
Monday, December 17, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis
Last Friday's Krugman:
Posted by Ron at 11:31 PM
As Republicans ponder 2012 defeat, party’s philosophy hangs in the balance
From the Washington Post:
Not quite six weeks after Republicans lost a presidential contest that many of them thought was in the bag, the shock has begun to wear off. The recriminations, on the other hand, are likely to go on for quite some time.
And the tough work — figuring out what needs fixing — has only just begun.
Some Republicans still argue that nothing is fundamentally wrong with the party. Or nothing that a better get-out-the-vote operation, a field of more appealing candidates, and more outreach to Hispanics and women wouldn’t repair.
But others are coming to the conclusion that the problem goes deeper than that, to the party’s philosophy and policies, which are getting further out of step with the nation.
“Republicans have lost a majority of the popular vote in five out of the last six elections,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “There’s a message there. The Republicans need a new business model, and a new product for the new century. It’s not just a problem of one candidate or one campaign.”
That gloomy assessment is shared even by some of the GOP’s most ardent ideological warriors.
So obviously, it's the GOP message, the core of their beliefs, that's the problem. Xenophobia, racism, castigation of the poor, hollowing out the middle class in order to enrich the already rich, all that stuff's been played out. The demographics are against them over the long term, and I think the most hardcore of the Conservative Movement understand this deep down, which is probably why their conscious reaction is to become more strident in their psychosis. But, in the end, they'll lose on that which is most important to them.
That's why the GOP establishment is becoming braver, as the above linked article explains, in their admonishment of the Tea Party influence. What the Republican elite may not understand, however, is just how strong the monster they created has become. How on earth will they convince these people, who have intertwined these losing propositions with their very identities, to back down? To do so, for them, is psychic death.
That is, the crazy Republican rank-and-file activist base will literally have to change who they are in order for the party to moderate itself. Is that even possible? Pass the popcorn; this is going to become very interesting.
Posted by Ron at 2:18 AM
Friday, December 14, 2012
The NYU Student Tweeting Every Reported US Drone Strike Has Revealed A Disturbing Trend
From Business Insider courtesy of a facebook friend:
NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime.
Known as the "double tap," the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.
A 2007 report by the Homeland Security Institute called double taps a "favorite tactic of Hamas" and the FBI considers it a tactic employed by terrorists.
Of course, it's only terrorism when they do it.
This is some serious fucked up shit, as if using drones for the assassinations sinisterly euphemized as "targeted killings" weren't bad enough in and of themselves. I mean, imagine Al Qaeda hijacking a fifth plane and flying it into Ground Zero on the afternoon of 9/11 for the express purpose of killing fire fighters and EMTs. That's essentially what we're doing, something arguably worse than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But nobody's calling it what it actually is: terrorism.
Like most liberals, I am very pleased that the psychotic conservative party was defeated last month by the mentally stable conservative party. That means things aren't going to get much worse. For a while. But things are bad now. Really bad. Our "liberal" president consciously and proudly performs terrorism as official policy. That is, like his predecessor, Barack Obama is a war criminal. And the fact that he's a Democrat can't wash the blood off his hands. Or our hands, for that matter, as a nation.
How did we ever come to this?
Posted by Ron at 2:44 AM
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Bill O'Reilly Attacks Christians Who Aren't Freaking Out About Non-Existent War on Christmas
An unlikely enemy in the War on Christmas emerged last night when four-star general Bill O’Reilly expanded the battleground into new territory: the churches of the “wimpy” pastors who haven’t stepped up to defend the holy holiday.
Posted by Ron at 2:26 AM
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Delusions of Wisdom
From Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman's blog:
What I find remarkable about this piece is that after everything that has happened these past five years or so, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen still take it for granted that these people actually know what they’re talking about; the whole premise of the article is that the insiders really do have the key, not just to good policy, but to achieving a dramatic rise in the growth rate.
Now, they don’t tell us everyone they talked to; but I think we can safely assume that, with few exceptions, the insiders in question:
- Believed that financial deregulation was a great idea, because bankers had really learned to manage risk
- Did not believe that there was a housing bubble
- Insisted that budget deficits, even in a depressed economy, would send interest rates soaring any day now
- Insisted that austerity measures would promote recovery, not hurt it, because of the confidence fairy
And on and on.
Financial deregulation is what allowed the massive financial crisis of '07-'08, a crisis whose fallout we continue to suffer, to happen. The housing bubble was driven by financial deregulation, and was the catalyst for the crisis. Interest rates have hovered around zero for almost five years now, in spite of the budget deficit. And austerity removes masses of money from the consumer economy, which both causes and worsens recession.
These are facts, not opinions.
But to the "insiders" who run our economy and political system, they are understood as opinions, wrong opinions. And they behave accordingly. There is only one conclusion that can be made from this: for whatever reasons, the people in charge of everything have absolutely no idea what they're doing. And it is very likely that they're going to screw things up very badly.
Bend over and strap in, everybody. This ain't over yet.
Posted by Ron at 2:23 AM
Monday, December 10, 2012
Posted by Ron at 10:43 PM
STUDENT PLAGIARISM AND SOCIAL DECAY:
THE WHOLE FREAKING ESTABLISHMENT IS TOTALLY CORRUPT
My new girlfriend, a brilliant, talented, totally gorgeous woman, teaches English at a community college in Houston. Lately, she's made a few posts on facebook about what a drag it is to deal with students who literally copy and paste parts of articles they find on the internet into the papers they turn in to her. Her most recent post on the topic decries a student doing it again right after she had just been caught doing so on an earlier assignment. A good discussion ensued, with people expressing sympathy, frustration, and urging her to be resolved in doing her job, you know, fail the fucker. A few commenters got a bit meta on the subject and mentioned "the self-esteem generation," a favorite whipping boy of the right wing.
I chimed in after some fifty comments had already been posted:
My world history teacher sophomore year in high school would often say "I don't fail you; you fail yourself." That's exactly what's going on with this student of yours, Jennifer. She's failed herself. All you're doing is making the notation. I mean, it's a drag that you have to be involved at all, but this isn't you doing something mean.Indeed, why not? I mean, seriously, this stuff is all over the headlines, and the message couldn't be clearer: people at the top get there by breaking all the rules and fucking people over. "Self-esteem generation," my ass. The right wing has been pushing this hardball shit for decades, and the philosophy, if you want to call it that, is now triumphant. It was only a matter of time before this kind of asshole-narcissism filtered down into the rest of society.
Also, regarding the notion of the "self-esteem generation": there may very well be something to that, but I think the much more tangible signs of social decay these days come from the very top. We had George W. Bush's brother LITERALLY stealing the election for him in Florida back in 2000. We had Kenny Boy Lay and Jeff Skilling selling off their Enron stock while a hold was placed on their employees doing the same thing while its value plummeted. Then World Com and others right up to the toxic mortgage scandal that brought down the entire financial sector and threatened another great depression and fucked over hundreds of millions worldwide and we're still not even past that one yet. We have Walmart lying about using subcontractors who burn their employees alive. We have the oil industry funding bogus research intended to debunk actual science about global warming. And on and on. The whole freaking establishment is totally corrupt.
Is it any wonder that kids cheat? That's exactly what their leaders do, exactly what the people we ostensibly respect do. Why not?
I only expect things to get worse.
Posted by Ron at 2:01 AM
Sunday, December 09, 2012
Rod Stewart Dispels Gay Stomach Pump Rumors On 'Katie'
From the Huffington Post:
During an appearance on "Katie," Stewart told host Katie Couric that he is "as heterosexual as they come," in response to a question about a rumor the rock legend once had to have his stomach pumped after a wild night with sailors in San Diego, Greg in Hollywood and The Advocate are reporting.
According to Stewart, the myth was actually the work of a vengeful representative: "I used to have this guy work for me, he was a gay publicist. He’s dead now so he might be watching. I had to fire him because he did something terrible, which I won’t go into."
More here, with video!
Well, this clears up a thirty year mystery. And throws a little cold water on the most salacious rumor I ever believed.
Here's what I heard back in the spring of 1979 when I was in fifth grade, the age the South Park kids have been for the last few years. A female friend was crying one day and I asked a mutual male friend what the deal was. "She's crying because Rod Stewart," who was at that point one of the biggest pop stars on the charts, "had to go to the hospital to have twenty three ounces of semen removed from his stomach."
I was, like, "What?!?"
"Yeah," he said, "apparently, in order to be in his band, you have to let him suck your cock, and it seems like he got carried away."
"Well, okay, but what does that have to do with her?"
"She's his illegitimate daughter," he told me.
"Oh. Really weird."
Of course, the entire story was and continues to be preposterous. But my friend was crying, and another friend told me this story. And I believed it for a while--gimme a break; I was eleven years old. Of course, after a year or two, I ruled out the illegitimate daughter angle simply because everybody else seemed to know the story. It was clear that I had my leg well pulled. But the "Rod Stewart swallowed so much semen that he ended up in the hospital" story stayed with me for a while. I'm not quite sure when I decided that it had to be bullshit, but by the time I saw the above linked article, I'm sure it had been many years. I mean, who gets semen pumped out of their stomach? Since when has semen ingesting become life-threatening? Yeah, total bullshit.
But it is nice that the creepy virgin-fucker finally weighed in on the story. Three decades later.
Posted by Ron at 2:46 AM
Friday, December 07, 2012
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!
Posted by Ron at 2:27 PM
There is NO Hell– God Just Couldn’t Be Meaner Than We Are
From Patheos, former fundamentalist theologian Frank Schaeffer muses on the irrationality of Hell:
Why does our view of Hell matter? Because believers in Hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.
For a profound exploration of the madness caused by embracing the “justice” of “godly” revenge and retribution, watch the film “Hellbound?”
The film shows how the “Hell” of revenge thinking, and the resulting unhinging of some people’s brains through their denial of human empathy, leads them to relish the violent future of suffering that they predict awaits the “lost” in Hell.
Do we really want to go back to a time of literal religion. Wasn’t 9/11 enough of an argument against retributive religion?
We need a concept of “Hell” like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood.
Okay, now I really want to see this documentary Schaeffer mentions. Because, really, at this point in my life, this is why I continue to reject Christianity, and will very likely do so for the rest of my days: as Bertrand Russell once observed, eternal punishment is inhumane; no just God would ever condemn souls to hell.
To me, it seems that any entity insisting that it is the creator of the universe and is therefore deserving of my worship must necessarily demonstrate that it is, in fact, God. A very simple test is omnibenevolence; is this "God," in fact, all good? Given how very murky and ambiguous the notions of good and evil are, it strikes me that the behavior of the creature described in the Bible as God, Yahweh, automatically rules Him out as worthy of the description omnibenevolent. He commits genocide; he commands his elite chosen "children" to commit genocide. He condemns people who do now bow down before him to be tortured for eternity. This is not good. Indeed, by every definition I understand, Yahweh is, in fact, evil. He may very well be the creator. He may very well possess vast unimaginable power. But because so many of his actions are unarguably evil, he cannot possibly be God.
It is almost funny that Christians cannot use this simple test. To them, the only morality is that which comes from Yahweh; therefore, anything Yahweh does is, by definition, good. They are necessarily blind to their own consciences, totally unable to see that they worship a heartless, predatory, serial mass murderer. Because His morality is adopted as their own morality. Or rather, immorality. You have to kill the most important part of yourself to become a Christian. You have to believe that the greatest thing that can happen is that non-believers suffer forever. Sick and twisted shit.
And it has cast a sickening and immoral shadow over Western civilization for two thousand years.
You know, I like Jesus. A lot. But it cannot be denied that the book that contains the Gospels, his story, is the same book that portrays his "Father" behaving in ways that would make Adolph Hitler and Jeffery Dahmer blush. A split personality religion, and the Mr. Hyde aspect rules the day more often than not. We're just about love, they like to say. But they never admit that it is a love that allows and encourages primitive brutal behavior. Love as an afterthought at best.
Yeah, I really need to watch that movie.
Posted by Ron at 2:25 AM
Thursday, December 06, 2012
FAREWELL DAVE BRUBECK
From the Washington Post:
Dave Brubeck, worldwide ambassador of jazz, dies at 91
Dave Brubeck, a jazz pianist who had unparalleled commercial success, expanding musical boundaries with his daring compositions and carrying jazz throughout the world on tours sponsored by the State Department, died Dec. 5 at a hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He died one day before his 92nd birthday.
His manager, Russell Gloyd, said Mr. Brubeck was on his way to a regular medical checkup when his heart gave out.
In a seven-decade career, Mr. Brubeck wrote hundreds of tunes, including the oft-recorded “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “The Duke.” His quartet, featuring alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, was one of the most popular jazz groups in history and in 1959 recorded the million-selling instrumental hit “Take Five.”
Mr. Brubeck composed ambitious classical and choral works, released nearly 100 albums and remained a charismatic and indefatigable performer into old age. In December 2010, the month Mr. Brubeck turned 90, his quartet won the readers’ poll of DownBeat magazine as the best group in jazz — 57 years after he first won the poll.
Brubeck was one of the first jazz musicians I loved. I knew his immortal "Take Five" from my childhood in the early 1970s--indeed, the song was so popular that it was still around in the popular consciousness by the time I was on the scene a decade after its release; it's still popular today, with people half my age grooving on it. It's worth noting how early in my life I developed a taste for Brubeck because I didn't become the bigtime jazz fan I am today until I took a jazz appreciation class my first year at the University of Texas. The stuff I was into before that, for the most part, I quickly outgrew. Spyro Gyra, Dave Grusin, some others, I never listen to that shit anymore. But Brubeck continued with me. He was tested when I learned about Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, and I quickly realized that he ought to be mentioned in the same breath, always, as the absolute greatest in the field. He really was that great.
My CD collection reflects that. I've got 10+ Miles disks, 10+ Duke disks, 10+ Beatles disks, and, of course, 10+ Dave Brubeck disks. He never wears out. Always new. Always groovy and fabulous.
It's a bit weird to me to go back and forth from talking about him like the legend he was, and talking about him like I'm a pathetic fanboy. I really am a pathetic fanboy with Brubeck. It just so happens that he's in the same league as the Beatles in terms of composition and execution. To me, it's not so much that we've lost one of the definitive figures of American jazz music as much as it is that I've lost the guy who's been haunting me with "Take Five" since I was a little boy.
I hear you're mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes, I like him too
He's an artist, a pioneer
We've got to have some music on the new frontier
Farewell Dave Brubeck.
Posted by Ron at 1:58 AM
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Teacher pay threatens student achievement, expert testifies
From the Houston Chronicle:
Texas teacher salaries are not competitive, and teaching quality has declined, which threatens student achievement, a Harvard-trained economist testified Tuesday in an ongoing school funding lawsuit trial.
Duke University professor Jacob Vigdor contends that Texas does not pay its public school teachers enough and believes a decline in the competitive job market for teachers hampers the state's ability to recruit and retain highly affective ones.
"Firing the bottom 5 percent on an annual basis means recruiting 15,000 extra teachers per year to replace them. This is on top of the roughly 40,000 teachers that you need to hire just to keep up with population growth and regular attrition," Vigdor testified.
So Texas already has a teacher shortage, and is refusing to do what it needs to do in order to recruit more teachers. Meanwhile, conservatives are pushing the concept of getting rid of "bad teachers," who are determined, no doubt, by the standardized test scores of their students, which fluctuate wildly from year to year, and from social class to social class, and are dependent on countless factors that are outside teachers' influence, rendering the entire concept of "bad" highly problematic. Adding insult to injury, Texas is unwilling to attract high quality teachers by paying them like the professionals they are. Student learning necessarily suffers.
The only conclusion one can make is that Texas, along with most of the rest of the country, is simply not serious about education. Of course, anybody who's been paying attention already knew that.
Posted by Ron at 1:30 AM
Monday, December 03, 2012
From the Huffington Post:
Bob Costas Gun Control Speech
NBC broadcaster Bob Costas used his halftime segment on "Sunday Night Football" to advocate for gun control following this weekend's murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, causing an immediate debate on social media.
The online reaction to Costas' segment was swift, with many people criticizing the broadcaster for expressing his personal views on a program meant for entertainment.
More here, with video.
Judging by the internet chatter I was feeling earlier today, the reaction was predictable, with some liberal support, but with conservatives going into their typical freakout mode. This is where we are today: in America it is deep taboo of an almost religious nature to discuss gun control. We even have our own Taliban style enforcers to keep would-be dissenters in line--it is interesting to note that you don't hear this discussion at all these days in the mainstream news media, who are cowed by our Taliban; Costas, however, comes from the sports media establishment, where such anti-gun talk is unexpected, to say the least.
But why shouldn't Costas talk about this? Why should he ignore the gigantic elephant in the middle of the room? This is, after all, his beat, sports. What is so impolite about observing the obvious? For that matter, why the hell won't the news media discuss this issue? When did guns become sacred instruments?
In his 2002 documentary film, Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore makes the startling observation that gun ownership rates in Canada are similar to those in the US, but their homicide-by-gun rate is much lower. So, okay, the gun lobby has a point when they assert that "guns don't kill people; people kill people." Of course, people with guns kill people much more quickly, efficiently, and unthinkingly than people without guns, but it cannot be denied that there is something about American culture that is downright maniacal about gun ownership. And gun usage, too, on human beings, for that matter. This irrational cultural strain is what motivates the American gun Taliban. This is why Costas is being heavily criticized for talking about what we should all be talking about, the relationship between US gun laws and US gun violence.
This makes no sense. Just because "guns don't kill people" is a good point doesn't mean the discussion is over. I mean, speaking of the Taliban, in most states a terrorist, an actual terrorist, can go to a gun show and buy all kinds of armament, no background check, no questions asked. But it's wrong to talk about that. And the whole Fast and Furious scandal happened because of lax gun laws in Arizona, but the Republican dominated congressional committee investigating it made talk of gun laws officially off-limits from the get-go. And on and on. There is, in fact, a lot left to discuss on the issue of gun control. But the American Taliban always shows up with sticks in hand to beat and bully anybody who wants to do their civic duty by discussing an important issue affecting our nation.
We have a problem here. A big problem. And as long as the gun nuts are allowed to control the discussion, we will never solve it. Unfortunately, I don't see that changing anytime soon: expect the senseless gun violence to continue for decades.
Posted by Ron at 10:26 PM
Gulf of Mexico clean-up makes 2010 spill 52-times more toxic
From Phys.org courtesy of BuzzFlash:
If the 4.9 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deep Water Horizon spill was a ecological disaster, the two million gallons of dispersant used to clean it up apparently made it even worse – 52-times more toxic. That's according to new research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico.
I had a bad feeling about this at the time:
When I first heard a BP spokesman on NPR a couple of weeks ago talking about how they were using dispersants in an attempt to break up the now massive oil patches in the Gulf of Mexico, I was very disturbed by how he used the phrase "just like the dish detergent you use at home" multiple times over the span of about a minute or so. It's like he was trying a bit too hard. Really, it brought to mind the kind of odd corporate propaganda that The Simpsons has satirized repeatedly over years. And now, it seems, the notion of weird-chemical-as-dish-soap has been picked up by lots of journalists. If this kind of language is, in fact, a sort of PR damage control thing, it appears to be having some success.And it now turns out I was absolutely right to have a bad feeling about this.
As far as I can tell, the toxicity is simply collateral damage from a furious BP PR effort: remove all visible evidence of the disaster ASA fucking P because this can only get worse. "Worse," of course, in terms of stock prices and consumer freak out, which is not to be confused with "worse" in terms of the environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico. That is, BP made the disaster fifty two times more damaging in order to create the appearance that it wasn't so bad.
It's like killing fifty witnesses to cover up a single murder.
And, as far as I can tell, again, it looks like the gigantic oil corporation succeeded with this gambit for the most part. The spill hasn't been in the headlines for many months. And I got the report linked above only because I cruise the lefty websites. Most Americans simply don't know about this, and a substantial percentage of those in the dark don't even believe that a company would double down on a disaster it caused simply to save face. They got away with it.
I really can't think of any other word to describe this than evil.
Posted by Ron at 2:28 AM
Sunday, December 02, 2012
IS PAT ROBERTSON REALLY DISAVOWING CREATIONISM?
From the Houston Chronicle's Sci Guy blog:
Enter Pat Robertson, who appears to have become the voice of reason. According to CNN, here’s what he said in response to a question Robertson fielded Tuesday from a viewer on his Christian Broadcasting Network show “The 700 Club.”
“You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things, and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas,” Robertson said. “They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth, and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible.”
Before answering the question, Robertson acknowledged the statement was controversial by saying, “I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this.”More here, including a link to the CNN piece.
“If you fight science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was,” Robertson concluded.
When I first read this I was wondering if it actually says what Sci Guy says it does. The comment isn't straightforward as quoted, so I clicked through to the CNN link to read some more. And it actually appears that Robertson is, in fact, suggesting that science has it right in terms of prehistory. I'm assuming the reason his statement is so circuitous is because he really does fear creating a shit storm among his viewers. And that may very well happen: intense creationism, of the five or six thousand year old earth variety, is extraordinarily widespread among the fundamentalists and evangelicals who make up his audience. It's a tribal identity thing. To fuck with that is to fuck with the structure upon which these people place their own self-value.
On the other hand, only Nixon can go to China. So this might be a big deal. I mean, Robertson doesn't own the psychotic religious right; he's just an influential figure. But that's what it would take to put any cracks into all this "young earth" nonsense these crazy creationists push, an influential figure. So I'm cautiously optimistic. I'll move onto optimistic without any qualifiers when a couple more of Robertson's ilk join in.
Here's hoping. It would be nice to stop thinking these people are nuts. A lot of them are really nice folks.
Posted by Ron at 2:46 AM