Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Meander

34 comments:

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/19/science/earth/19enviro.html

    (Oh, those historians -- always trying to put things into perspective even when it's a tragedy.)

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  2. Interesting piece, and certainly places the Deepwater Horizon explosion in context. But, it will be years, if not decades before a full accounting of this spill can be determined. In that way it is kind of like the "Dust Bowl," and may have a similar impact on offshore oil drilling.

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  3. Yes, it's interesting to think of it in terms of the big picture, and in terms of "man-made" disasters.

    I'm most familiar with the demise of the bison and the near demise of the nation's forests, but in both of those cases, the impact was turned around by progressive policies.

    The Dust Bowl is a hard one to compare with. It, too, was initiated by man and displaced thousands of people. But I'm not sure of the long-term environmental impact. (Worster's book on this, by the way, is excellent.)

    I think the comment about the biggest environmental disaster being the one you are experiencing has some truth to it.

    But I agree with you that it will take years or decades to fully understand the impact of this one. My guess it will be huge, given the long-term impact on human, other animal, and plant life.

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  4. Interesting look at Worster's book on the Dust Bowl:

    http://www.kevincmurphy.com/worster.html

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  5. I should add that I'm a Worster groupie. I think I've read everything he has written and once followed him around at a book conference to get his autograph.

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  6. Just lost my post. Had written more detail, but mainly wanted to say that I'm reading Legacy of Secrecy by Lamar Waldron with Thom Hartmann, about assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Mafia connection and the White House plan to take Castro out, which was going to be December 1, 1963.

    Will look up Worster book on the Dust Bowl.

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  7. Just got a sample of Worster book for Kindle. Interesting description in the Kevin C. Murphy website.

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  8. Marti, I think you will really enjoy the Worster book on the dust bowl. I was amazed by it.

    Can you join us for the book on Henrietta Lacks later this summer? From what NY has written, it sounds fascinating.

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  9. Happy Father's Day to everyone!

    Here's a special that Tony Judt submitted to the NYTimes (I guess I'm becoming a Tony Judt groupie, too):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/opinion/20judt.html

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  10. I am interested in the Henrietta Lacks book, so yes, I would like to join you. Have seen it mentioned several times in ebook forums from people who read it and found it interesting. I heard some radio interviews with the author when the book came out a few months ago.

    I haven't bought it yet but it's on my list. Thanks for asking me.

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  11. I just heard about the tornado that went through Billings, Montana. How far is this from you, Avrds?

    I just bought Skloot's book Henrietta Lacks.

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  12. avrds: So what did you like about the Op/Ed by Tony Judt and his son? I thought the father/son angle was interesting conceptually, but it didn't really go anywhere.

    The BP disaster, like hurricane Katrina and the meltdown on Wall Street, all show that there is no political will, either in Washington or Peoria, to join together irrespective of political affiliation and do what's best for the country. But that isn't exactly news. Both son and father seemed miffed that the hope they (or mostly the son) placed in Obama hasn't been rewarded. In that they are not alone. Lots of people seem to want to blame Obama for not accomplishing more.

    I see the (continuing) fight over health care reform as indicative of how mindlessly partisan the American electorate has become. Part of that is fueled by our self-serving politicians, but not all. Most Americans have no understanding of the "common good," or they only understand it as some kind of veiled reference to socialism. I can't blame Obama for that.

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  13. "Coming together to elect someone is not enough, if you then go back to texting and Twittering. You have to stay together, know what you want and fight for it. It won’t work the first time and it won’t work perfectly, but you can’t give up. That, too, is politics.

    You are wrong to think that I have lost faith in government. Big government built this country. Without it there would have been no transcontinental railroad. Land-grant colleges — the glory of American public education — were the work of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The nation invested substantial sums of money for the public good: remember the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill and the Interstate highways, without which our postwar economy could never have boomed as it did. And don’t forget the Civil Rights Act: a hugely controversial moral revolution that took great political courage.

    I have not lost faith in government — but I worry about whether today’s politicians are up to the challenge....."

    I agree there's not much substance in the exchange -- disillusioned youth speaking to his worldly father. But the quote above really resonates with me, and one that I think we all need to hear from time to time. There's more to politics than just electing a great politician.

    And no, I don't blame Obama (almost wrote it "O'Bama" there for a second) for the oil spill. Hendrick Hertzberg has a good mini piece on Obama's reaction. Did he handle it right from a p.r. perspective? Probably not. Is he handling it well from an administrative perspective? Probably yes, particularly given the political world we live in.

    Gail Collins made a similar point in one of her columns. Obama, the great orator and educator, has become Obama the great albeit silent achiever. Personally I'd like to see him use these situations for a little more education and oratory, but as I said earlier, that's because I believe in the power of education. This country may, as you note, be beyond that now, particularly with Fox News, the great uneducator.

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  14. That's great Marti!

    We're not really in tornado country here. Billings is on the other side of the state, but we're experiencing the same weather front here, with predictions of more heavy rain and hail.

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  15. That quoted passage resonated with me as well. It's just that I think the problem is driven by the American electorate more than it is by today's politicians.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to start defending politicians. Having been in close contact with many of the same on the state level, as a group they are not inspiring. But we continue to elect these people; we often re-elect them simply because they claim to be members of our political party of choice.

    As I know I've mentioned before, with a nod to Thoreau, we get the government we deserve. Maybe we're just in one of those troughs of history when most of the people who run for elected office are unworthy of holding it. Then again, maybe today's American electorate simply isn't willing (or doesn't know how) to insist that they be worthy of holding office.

    A perfect example of this on the national level are the so-called presidential debates. They are entirely superficial, and yet we anticipate them and watch them and discuss them. But it's all pretend because they are utterly meaningless, at least as far as possessing any substance. But they are anything but meaningless when it comes to affecting opinion poll numbers. And that's troubling. Much the same could be said for the convention process. There's nothing much left once the facade is stripped away?

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  16. The last sentence above was a question at one point but it isn't one anymore.

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  17. My guess is there are many great public servants in Congress, and some really bad ones, too. And a lot of in betweens.

    I'm sure I've said this before but I like saying it -- I think Obama is probably the best president we'll see in our lifetime. I often disagree with him and of course I want more, more, more.... but I also see him for what he is. A really good administrator and a potentially great leader.

    So I sure would like to see his team learn to promote his strengths more. In Game Change they talk about how his consultants really managed Obama's time in ways that he resisted and often resented, but in the end it worked. I think we all might benefit from a bit more of that kind of controlled message, campaign mode in this climate.

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  18. Many great public servants in Congress? Maybe you're right, although it sure is hard to tell them from the others.

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  19. Avrds suggested I post this here so let's see if it links http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/06/bp-oil-spill-fema-camps Hard to think these folks are Out there!

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  20. They are OUT THERE alright. Imagine being afraid that busloads of retired Floridians might arrive in your town. What are they? Against old people?

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  21. Rick, I have a list of legislators I really admire -- some more than others.

    Like Lynn Woolsey, Alan Grayson (who is nuts but in a good way), Debbie Wasserman Schultz, John Conyers (although he seems to have taken a backseat to others these days), Dennis Kucinich, Barney Franks (sometimes), ditto Anthony Weiner. And Ed Markey seems to be coming through on this environmental mess we're in.

    And then there's Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold -- sometimes our senator, Jon Tester, comes through (not very often though).

    So they're out there. And I"m sure there are others if I gave it some thought.

    Granted this isn't a huge list, but it does give one some hope that all is not lost.

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  22. Thanks, avrds, for having the nerve to have hope!

    "there is no political will, either in Washington or Peoria, to join together irrespective of political affiliation and do what's best for the country"

    Well, I sort of thought the views of what's best for the country governed (so to speak) or at least preceded the political affiliation, but that's just me.

    "Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to start defending politicians."

    Defending politicians is about the last thing I would expect, but I'm glad there are those who can be admired and those who appreciate the nearly impossibility of meeting the expectations of them, which they must raise to unrealistic levels (such as in media events like debates and conventions, not measures of achievement) in order to be elected and must inevitably fail to meet because they are so unrealistic. Talk about your "art of the possible."

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  23. "Avrds suggested I post this here so let's see if it links http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/06/bp-oil-spill-fema-camps Hard to think these folks are Out there!"

    Not really, bo, there are a couple of guys posting in the Obama forum who could well fit Evenson's description.

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  24. I thought about that.Dick Vitale and Bambu for two and the guy with the Iran/Muslim phobia whose name escapes me.

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  25. Which Mother Jones article is that link to? Or is it just a generic link to Mother Jones?

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  26. I've just noticed that sometimes my moniker is "Rick" and other times it's "rd." I know why that happens, but I'll spare you all the explanation. Just don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to disguise my identity.

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  27. CNN is reporting that General McChrystal is in hot with the Commander in Chief and has been recalled to Washington. Why in the world would be agree to an interview with Rolling Stone magazine? It's like video-taping yourself having sex. Never a good idea.

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  28. What did they call that back in the NYTimes day? A RKB award? Something like that?

    But, yes, just saw that on the Times front page. What a story! The Rolling Stone comes through again.

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  29. Here's that link to Mother Jones. Well worth reading. Mother Jones is another one of those publications that can really get a good story from time to time:

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/06/bp-oil-spill-fema-camps

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  30. Maybe those are the Floridians....

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  31. Before I put up a new meander, I want to be sure to add Senator Claire McCaskill to my list. She seems to be "real." She was great during the primaries and very open about her ideas.

    The last time I was in DC I accosted her and her husband when they were out on a walk and Congress was voting on health care. Poor woman.... (although she was very nice and I think thrilled or surprised that I recognized her).

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  32. And in the small world category --

    I'm working at the Smithsonian reading room, where there are two other young women working earnestly at their desks. As I passed one of them en route to the copy machine I realized that it was an undergraduate I had encouraged in Montana not to go to graduate school in tech writing but to pursue the history of science (she was a geology major who could hold her own in a graduate history of science class -- very, very bright).

    She now has a fellowship at the Smithsonian and is already ABD at the University of Wisconsin. She's going to complete her PhD the same year as me.... Some of these young women are just amazing!

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