Friday, September 23, 2005

new orleans reconstruction - ethnic cleansing?

the billions pouring into the Katrina relief effort (and doubtless billions more to follow for the Rita aftermath) have left me feeling uneasy for the big easy. here is a picture-perfect opportunity for the unscrupulous monied interests in the region (and opportunists from far and wide) to rebuild new orleans in their own image: clean, tourist-friendly, white.

playing devil's advocate with myself (as I often do), I counter, "But who's going to tell the Red Cross how to spend their donated capital?" the answer, of course, is the local experts to whom they will turn for advice in such matters: the local and regional officials whose fingers are already stained green with money. surely not all of them are corrupt, but can you imagine that the poor, now-homeless, economically disenfranchised, or other "undesirables" are well-represented in their ranks?

Naomi Klein, writing in The Nation today, offers a hopeful and compelling, if sketchy, analysis of how the former poor residents of the beleaguered city can be included in its repopulation and reconstruction. according to her study of census figures, the big easy was already in a slump, with high vacancy rates in many neighborhoods (parishes). one forward-thinking idea, ironically enough, seems to have come from the unlikeliest of places: new orleans's top corporate lobbyist, Mark Drennen, president and ceo of greater new orleans inc. His analysis of the situation, according to Klein, leads to this suggestion:

As for the hundreds of thousands of residents whose low-lying homes and housing projects were destroyed by the flood, Drennen points out that many of those neighborhoods were dysfunctional to begin with. He says the city now has an opportunity for "twenty-first-century thinking": Rather than rebuild ghettos, New Orleans should be resettled with "mixed income" housing, with rich and poor, black and white living side by side. [from the article]

one significant problem, of course, is that this must all happen very quickly. There are perhaps 200,000 homeless residents waiting to return to their city. another problem: the diaspora of the evacuation sent many of them thousands of miles away; travel back to "the big swampy" may be financially impossible for them, often the poorest of the poor. (for conspiracy theorists: chew on the details of the evacuation--- why were the poor bussed so far from home? any chance this wide distribution was not merely chance?)

I hope the powers-that-be in new orleans are not all corrupt, monied real-estate speculators. port of entry for my irish forebears, god be with you now!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

let's go back to the moon! c'mon, guys!

just read a brief article in the online edition of the UK paper, The Independent, about NASA's plans to return to the moon.


I dunno. as a kid, I loved the whole space thang: I was six when Armstrong hopped onto the lunar dust (okay, this is assuming, of course, that it wasn't all faked!) and I owned a copy of The Space Shuttle Operator's Manual (may still have it buried away somewhere...), but I must confess that the thought of sending up moon and mars missions makes me feel... well, a little ill.

not that I wouldn't love to go into space someday, not that I think it's not great to have a national project that floats america's can-do spirit boat---- but I've been looking around at our situation here, lately, and, uh, it kinda looks, uh..... bad, I guess you'd say, and, uh, I kinda think we shouldn't be toying with colonizing the cosmos with our neanderthal ways.

you know?

perhaps it wouldn't be too far off the mark to say that I think we should earn the right to stretch out beyond our little blue gravity well here. (besides, who would want to leave this paradise anyway? what a freakin' great planet this is!)

I have been reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (comprising three books, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars). really engaging sci-fi tale about the near-future colonization of mars. fabulously complex, multidisciplinary in approach, a gripping story that unfolds over 1800-odd pages. highly recommended to science enthusiasts, esp. those who love to dabble in many areas.

anyway, what're we doing with our brilliant minds? having them design a mission to send some more guys up to the moon. great. just seems to me like there's something more useful for them to do.....

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Good News from NoBo

(North of the Border, don'tchaknow ...)

A Canadian man has apparently built, and is preparing to market, a zero-emissions add-on device for standard gasoline engines. This according to an article in the Montreal Gazette, which sadly is now unavailable without a subscription. You can read about the gist of the story here.

As I understand it, the device produces hydrogen on the fly, and by injecting it into the fuel burning chamber of a standard gasoline engine, causes the fuel to burn hotter -- and therefore cleaner. He also claims that it can dramatically increase gas mileage.

(Can't you just see all the SUV drivers breathing a sigh of relief ...?)


... For some healthy skepticism, check this Peak Oil messageboard: Peak Oil News and Message Board

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Genuine Relief Effort

If you're overwhelmed by Katrina's aftermath and want to help, but don't want to send money to big establishment charities that might use some of it to pay their own salaries, you might want to pay a visit to Cindy Sheehan's recent post on Michael Moore's website.

If you're not overwhelmed yet, you need to read this.



At the risk of seeming a complete geek in these perilous times, tonight I find myself bothering to blog about ... Google.

Yet somehow it seems to me worth a comment about the fact that they've launched a personalized home page option -- competing directly with search rivals like Yahoo!, MSN, and, and putting aside -- at least, optionally -- the very simplicity that once made Google ... Google.

That said, once I clicked on the new Personalized link in the upper-right hand corner of the good-old Google interface, I found myself intrigued by the options, the clean layout (some things have not, apparently, gone by the wayside), and (thank Heaven) the complete lack of those wretched AdWords.

Then I remembered signing up for a Google group once upon a time (which incidentally added to my spam quotient immensely, thankee) and realized that I wouldn't have to register all over again, just recall my former password. And, as Ray Romano might say, wa-la. I now have a personalized Google home page. And ... I like it.

No, I'm not running out to sign up for gmail -- I'm not comfortable with having my email messages scanned for "relevant" advertising purposes or any other. But I think I may actually switch to the personalized home page as my initial landing spot when I connect to the Internets.

Now, having spammed this blog entry with, oh, something like a half-dozen instances of the G word, I wonder whether SharedYes will suddenly start having more hits ...


common dreams

what a great clearinghouse for progressive-cause info! do yourself a favor and make a bookmark for

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

bushco showing desperation

it was briefly stunning to hear the words "I take responsibility" from he-who-occupies-the-white-house; then I realized how powerful an indicator it is of bushco's desperation. for his handlers to insist (doubtless against his personal inclination!) that he acknowledge his responsibility for anything is a capitulation to buschco's dismal showing in the polls, and one step short of miraculous.

we see now what a world of hurt his administration is in. but a time for complacency this is not; the right-wing efforts to stuff the congress further with line-toeing republicans are well under way for the coming mid-term elections. even bushco's abyssal poll slide can't counter that machine. let the progressives turn up the heat to match.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

the threat from the radical right

Another spot-on article by journalist Bill Moyers, posted at the Common Dreams website (see the link at right).

I gotta say, whenever I read his prognostications about the so-called Christian right's invasion of American politics, I feel a decidedly creepy, hair-raising-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling.

How can the (I hope) majority of Americans--- those who support the separation of church and state and don't use their faith as a weapon against others--- compete against religious zealotry? We can't outreason them because faith, by definition, is unreachable by reason (though any rational Christian will allow that reason, as a God-given faculty, can and should be used to support one's faith).

Stir up the religious zealotry in an unhappy populace and you're in for a rough ride. Add into the mix a little us-against-them religious rivlary, and you've got the makings of an incendiary situation.

What irks me most is that most people here (religious or not) are reasonable, rational people; their faith is being used by right-wing powermongers like Karl Rove and religious wackos like Pat Robertson as a leash to lead them to the polls to enact those freaks' political agendas. Why are Americans so easily duped? is my question. I used to think we were a generally skeptical, show-me lot; but I find in fact that we're readily manipulated, especially when charlatans appeal to our emotions--- and so many people here confuse faith with emotion. Maybe that's true of people everywhere....


Monday, September 05, 2005

regime change begins in your home

using the supposedly random-selection feature of the "next blog" button at upper right, today I happened upon the liberal doomsayer. very satisfying blog. check it out.

(simultaneously, it is a guilty pleasure to have such feelings of righteous justification [that someone agrees with me] that reading such a blog elicits. I've stated previously that I'm highly disturbed by the politics of division, of either/or, of left/right, red/blue--- name your dichotomy. I'm convinced [by what more than my own moral or perhaps merely psychoemotional sensibilities, I cannot say] that there is a better way for people to carry out discourse, to manage a democracy--- indeed, to live. I retain the hope that a politics (if that's the right word) of consensus will eventually become viable in this nation; I suspect it will take some generations before it can be practicable on a national scale.)

mr. doomsayer offered a link to a washington post article about Sen. Clinton's response to oil industry profiteering in the wake of the Katrina diaster. despite the (to my limited knowledge) unanswered question of exactly who is raising the gas prices (the local station operators or their wholesaler/suppliers; of course, they all are, but who started it and why?), she's right on, of course, and it infuriates me that the discussion of oil company profiteering is only now getting even this limited amount of attention. but I remind myself that the power, as always, rests in the hands of the people who send the fun chips up the economic ladder in the first place: us. because he who holds the pursestrings wins.

yes, I realize that many people's lives are structured such that dependence on fossil fuel consumption appears anything but optional. I understand that many people have backed themselves into lifestyle corners that make them slaves to the Great Petroleum God. and I suppose that some of their situations are indeed as they claim. yet as the price of gas continues to rise (don't look for a post-diaster restoration to pre-Katrina prices, folks), I think more folks will reconsider the way they've organized their lives around gas and cars.

I'm the first to admit that, despite all my rantings and ravings (and my folk 'n' friends will tell you that's a lot of ranting and raving!), I still tend to make the easy choice and drive somewhere when I don't really have to or when it suits my convenience rather than, say, sharing a ride with someone else even though it's less convenient to do so. part of that laziness can be attributed to the fact that I can walk to work presently and that my car (a 20-year-old Honda) still gets close to 40 MPG. even so, I have slowly changed my own habits over the years. lately I've taken to asking around among my workmates if anyone needs me to pick up or drop off anything if I'm going to make a trip somewhere. I live in a very small town in a rural area and there are frequent occasions that all us of find ourselves in need (or want) of something that cannot be obtained locally. I always feel not only helpful but also like a good conservationist whenever I am able to run an errand for a friend or co-worker at the same time that I'm taking care of my own business.

it is small changes in habit such as these that will help us move toward a new consciousness (and vice versa as well)--- a consciousness of interrelationship and interdependence that has as a byproduct (or fundamental principle?) awareness of and adherence to the precept of conservation not as a reactive response to dire conditions but as a normative condition of existence.

and if you like toppling giants (and I have to admit that I do!) such a consciousness, nationally applied in the overlapping arenas of fossil fuel use and personal transportation, will bring the oil companies to their knees. clearly the principle of normative conservation is of a higher calling than laying low the mighty--- but I, for one, will be cheering the loudest when Exxon-Mobil's stock value tanks and their CEO and flotilla of VPs are pounding the pavement looking for work (psst! here's a hint for you folks: get into renewable energy).

this is an exciting time, make no mistake. we have it in our power (as we always have--- it just seems all the more imminent now!) to change this cockamamy system. and we must not wait for our government to initiate the changes we need. we must begin the work ourselves. we must stand up and do the work.

conserve because it is the right thing to do.