Polling May

There are not many of you.
You’re precious. Thank you.

My effort every day is to care deeply.
You might say this has been done before.
I say mankind walks.
Oh, how can I say it?
We walk because we each bring courage.
Isn’t this deep in our nation, neighborhood, and life?
Go ahead, Let yourself,
Bring yourself journey and, thud, thud, thud, simple destiny.
Our fathers felt no strength but brought today.
It’s a horrid thing when only battle these days. Loss confuses us.
But also, our nation yearns a little, hopes a bit, and truly wants.
Oh, maybe we are good hope that will replace cheap old men.
Trust yourself. Tomorrow might be what you want.
Courage changes this world, like feet step. Our journey is the world.

I’ll tire easily and be forgotten, but I want every breath written in love and freedom.

Number One Iraq War Injury

Half of the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan exposed to explosive devices suffer from tinnitus. The major cause is exposure to loud noises, which can damage and destroy hair cells of the inner ear.

Nearly 400,000 troops collected disability for service-related tinnitus in 2006, which cost $539 million in 2006. The number climbs nearly 20 percent each year. It could hit $1 billion by 2011, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

It’s the number one war-related disability. [more at Science blog]

McCain too

Matt Haughey gathered up what we already know.

Contributions from Oil & Gas industry to Bush 2000 campaign: $1,889,206
Contributions from Oil & Gas industry to Bush 2004 campaign: $2,596,725

Price of a barrel of crude oil at the beginning of 2001: about $23
Price of a barrel of crude oil at the end of April, 2008: nearly $120

Maybe we didn’t know there’s $1 trillion profits to OPEC predicted for 2008.

Spies R Us

What happens when we build an infrastructure of local armies and security technology to watch and monitor our cities, neighborhoods and infrastructure?

To give us an answer, there’s a head start in Britain where tens of thousands of cameras are installed as well as greater numbers of communication taps.

After several years installing a surveillance society, here’s the first reports of what we can expect too:

Surveillance powers designed to track terrorists are being deployed by councils to crack down on littering, dog fouling and planning law breaches, a survey reveals.

Its findings expose the vast scale of Big Brother spying by town halls and brought urgent demands for “root and branch” reforms to curb the fast-growing snooping culture.

Some councils have used the sweeping powers granted by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) more than 100 times in the last year to follow and watch residents or monitor their calls – often while dealing with the most minor of suspected offences.

… hundreds of local authorities and other agencies, permit checking private phone or internet records, secretly recording meetings inside suspects’ homes and recruiting “spies” to watch their neighbours.

Officials in Derby, Bolton, Gateshead and Hartlepool admitted using covert spying techniques to deal with dog fouling, while Bolton spied on suspected litter louts.

Wyre council in Lancashire confirmed it was using plain clothes investigators posing as dog walkers – and equipped with hidden cameras to gather evidence – to watch genuine dog walkers in parks.

And officials in Kensington and Chelsea said they had used Ripa powers to spy on a resident suspected of misusing a disabled parking badge.

Conwy council in Wales said it spied on an employee who was working while off sick, while Liverpool officials investigated a false claim for damages against the council.

[story]

As killing survives

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black CanoeThere is no census data on bear population, no quota attached to the bear-hunting licenses: the more hunting parties an outfitter can organize, the more bears he can ‘harvest’.

“A lot of our customers are seasoned bear hunters and they’re coming here for a real trophy. It’s a world class area — you get a chance of killing a real exceptional old animal.”

[Rich Shootists, Bad Hunting]

Merchandising tricks

Native Americans have the Coyote to explain deception. Coyote is the Trickster. The master of ploy, sometimes just for its own sake. One story tells how Coyote imitated the Mountain Lion.

‘Coyote was going along and he saw a rock rolling down the hill. It rolled down toward some deer and they jumped. Coyote wondered who was rolling stones and looked up at the top of the hill. Another stone came rolling down past Coyote toward the deer and the deer jumped again. Then a third stone came down and the deer jumped only a little. They knew it was only a stone.’

‘The next moment another stone came by Coyote. But this was a soft rock. It was Mountain Lion who had rolled himself up like a rock and was rolling down the hill.’

‘”What a funny rock,” thought Coyote. “It doesn’t make any noise when it rolls.”‘

‘Mountain Lion rolled right up to the deer who were not suspicious of the rolling rocks by this time. Then Coyote saw Mountain Lion get up, jump up on a big deer and kill it. Mountain Lion picked up the deer and carried it up to a cliff where he could eat it and see the country all around. The rest of the deer ran off around the hill.’

‘Coyote thought this would be a good way to get deer.’

‘He rolled a stone down the hill to where the deer were and they jumped. He rolled another stone and they did not jump as far. When he rolled the third stone they only looked around to see that it was just another stone. Then Coyote rolled himself up in a ball like Mountain Lion and rolled down the hill. When e got there he jumped up and tried to get a deer but he couldn’t. He was too dizzy. He just fell over and the deer ran away.’

From Josie, who reminds, “Greed… ruins everything.”

Like Coyote some people try to copy the successful people they see….the Mountain Lions. They try to be big-shots so they can gain the big game. Coyote could have stuck to catching rabbits, mice, and field birds, but he wanted to be a big game hunter….He wasn’t satisfied just being himself.

(‘Giving Birth To Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter — Coyote Builds North America’ by Barry Holstun Lopez)

Self sufficiency declines

Who’s next?

Japan, which relies on imports for 90% of its annual wheat consumption, is no longer on the brink of a food crisis, but has fallen off the cliff.

According to one government poll, 80% of Japanese are frightened about what the future holds for their food supply.

Last week, as the prices of wheat and barley continued their relentless climb, the Japanese Government discovered it had exhausted its ¥230 billion ($2.2 billion) budget for the grains with two months remaining.

It was forced to call on an emergency reserve to ensure it could continue feeding the nation.

In the wake of the decision this week by Kazakhstan, the world’s fifth biggest wheat exporter, to join Russia, Ukraine and Argentina in stopping exports to satisfy domestic demand, the situation in Japan is expected to worsen.

Arguably Japan’s biggest concern, however, is its weakening ability to sustain its population with domestic produce. In 2006 the country’s self-sufficiency rate fell to 39%…. [story]

Saga of the Plastic Scrap Colonies

Attached to a particle of floating plastic garbage to ride the currents of the world, species are increasingly crossing habitat:

“There has always been marine debris in the form of pumice, volcanic rock, coconuts and so on [but] we are greatly increasing something that was already there. Human rubbish spreads across all the world’s seas, forming half of all the marine debris washing up in the tropics and more at higher latitudes.” [link]

David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey found that man-made rubbish in the seas, especially plastics, has almost doubled the spread of alien species in the subtropics and more than tripled it at high latitudes. Since the creation of plastics over 50 years ago, floating litter has provided mobile homes for marine organisms such as bryozoans, barnacles, polychaete worms, hydroids and molluscs, increasing opportunity for dispersal to new areas. Many seem to prefer plastics to natural matter such as volcanic rock, pumice and wood.

Link to previous post on the Garbage Island.

Link to a 12 part video series about the Pacific Ocean’s floating trash heap‘.

Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation points out:

“The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, although it has a 6 year period of rotation at the surface, is much too large to be considered a single “area” in any meaningful sense.

“It is full of diverse habitats and is already richly seeded with plant life. In fact, plastic debris has doubled the biological life at the surface in the area according to Dr. Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey.

“The writer conjures up an image more like a lake. Remember, if the gyre was a lake it would be the size of Africa, with an average habitat depth of over a mile.

The scale is the hardest thing to communicate.”

An old and proven game

“What you hear ain’t what you get,” reports Michael Fellman, a historian at Simon Fraser University.

He writes eloquently about the campaigns of Clinton, Obama and McCain. He’s exploring our politics and culture – “Racism, lite”, “Faking a blue collar”, “A nation in denial” – but first he reminds us this is “An old and proven game”.

As I am an American history professor as well as sometimes journalist, let me venture into deep background on pseudo-populism.

In the first three decades of the 19th century, the Jeffersonian party — precursor to the Democrats, broadened the suffrage to include all white males, not just property owners or taxpayers, as in the past. However, most of these men did not vote. Indeed the Jefferson Democrats had basically eliminated their aristocratic Federalist opponents, and they nominated their presidential candidates — all from Virginia as it happened — in their congressional caucus. Few voters bothered to show up at the polls, as there was no real contest.

That changed after the election of 1824, in which Andrew Jackson, a rough-hewn Tennessee slaver-holder and popular Indian-killing war hero, was denied the nomination by the caucus in favour of John Quincy Adams, son of a president and gentlemanly Massachusetts statesman. In 1828, Jackson ran against the eastern establishment, claiming to represent the little people against the effete, out-of-touch snobs. Voter participation swelled dramatically and Jackson won big. In office, he then destroyed the Bank of the United States, the symbol of aristocratic control, running against Chestnut Street (the Philadelphian predecessor to Wall Street). And he did this all in the name of the little guy.

In fact Jackson represented big slaveholders and state and local bankers who chaffed at the control of any central bank. He accomplished the first economic deregulation of the sort that modern Republicans favour, which led to wild inflation and the crash of 1837. The pseudo-populist Jacksonian rhetoric was power to the people and democratic equality. The name of the actual game was rapid wealth accumulation by the rising American economic elites displacing the old-fashioned and more restrained merchant elite.

By 1840, after three years of depression, the opposition gentlemen re-gathered, but they ran their candidate, a Virginia aristocrat named Harrison, as a man born in a log cabin and given to drinking hard cider (the boilermaker of 1840). They mimicked the pseudo-populism of the Jacksonians, thus proving it had become the dominant political discourse.

Pandering elites

American political rhetoric and ideological clarity has never recovered. Pseudo-populism has been the language of political elites ever since. If I were a really tedious political historian I would give you chapter and verse of this dreary history, but I will resist.

Pseudo-populism is dishonest because American politicians feel compelled to pretend to be just folks rather than the elite power holders they are.

While war assumes

In a Reuters poll of 52 economists across Europe, Germany’s business climate index fell below all forecasts. Business sentiment in France fell to a low level. Dutch business confidence fell in April. The head of the European Central Bank said, “”We have observed in the recent period of time sharp fluctuations and we are concerned about their possible implication for financial and economic stability.”

“More than ever, what is said by the U.S. authorities at the level of president, minister of finance and Ben Bernanke on the fact that a strong dollar is in the interest of the U.S. is very important.”

“The euro-zone economy is coming under stress, particularly the more resilient part of the euro zone,” said Matthew Sharratt, a Bank of America economist. [story]