Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Exposed! (to plastic)

soaking into the rocks,
the cicada's cries.


The whole moon and sky come to rest in a single dewdrop on a blade of grass.


Men cannot see their reflection in running water, but only in still water.


I remember my first plastic straw vividly. You know, a straw: what you put in your glass and suck and the beverage comes up through it and into your mouth. It's sort of a toy too; you can blow bubbles into it and make weird noises when the drink is gone down at the bottom. Sometimes they come in wild shapes that you have to suck harder on to get the liquid all through the roller coaster ride and down your throat. You could find them in a container on the soda fountain counter but quickly they came individually wrapped in paper. We'd tear off one end, dip the other into our milk shake, and blow the wrapper up to the ceiling where it would stick...much to the manager's consternation.

Before the plastic straw they were made of paper. And they'd get soggy eventually...and you'd have to ask for another one, and they just weren't pleasant. The plastic straw could endure the rigors of the milk shake of the 1940s and 50s. It wasn't a real milk shake if the straw didn't stand straight up in the middle of it. You wouldn't even go in a place again that didn't make shakes that thick. So the plastic straw filled a need for which the American civilization cried out.

The soda fountain was the center of social activity back then. Kids went there after school. The soda fountain had other concoctions and drinks there besides milk shakes. In fact it was the dairy bar that came along later that really specialized in the milk shake. If you go from a fountain to a bar, obviously you're getting more serious. The dairy bar was outside town and you needed the family car to get there. In fact, our family used to go to Jenkins Dairy after supper as a special treat...usually to sit at the bar and have milk shakes. But sometimes when we were feeling particularly flagrant and sinful, Mom would order a hot fudge pecan sundae...with whipped cream and a cherry.

A bit later, probably after I'd gone off to college and got filled with strange ideas, I began to think about those plastic straws. I thought during the process of manufacture, teeny tiny particles of plastic must have been left on the inside...so that when you sucked on them, those particles would come up through with the beverage and go down into you somewhere. What would become of those particles? Wouldn't they eventually form a glob of some kind...like when somebody dumps a shopping cart into a creek, the sand and stuff builds up all around it? Couldn't that be like a tumor...and maybe be involved in the cancer suddenly everybody seemed to be getting? Mom, a registered nurse, said I was crazy.

I remembered how, when I became a teenager, I was a profuse perspirer. In fact all my excretions seemed to be profuse. They had antiperspirant then. It was new. It stopped you from sweating. Where did the sweat go? Well, I didn't ask that then. I was just relieved my T-shirts weren't going to be soaked anymore. I'm not sure how it worked. Maybe there were little aluminum particles that went into your skin and clogged your pores. Or maybe it was a plastic coating. I just wanted it fixed and I trusted the ads and I used it. Mennen. I didn't like the smell, but I couldn't stand it if the girls saw me sweat. But apparently it didn't stop my sweating completely...or else I put too much on...because eventually something began to happen to the armpits of my T-shirts. They changed to a sort of yellowish color...and then...and then...the armpit sections actually became brittle, like the pages of an old book, and actually broke apart. And I got a painful rash in my pits. I switched to deodorant. What's in your cosmetics, girls?

By the 1960s plastic was everywhere. It was an essential industry. Progress through chemistry! No one forgets the guy in The Graduate who tells Dustin Hoffman to concentrate on that one single word: plastic. There was the micronite filter for smokers. There was new convenient packaging in the stores. Kraft sliced your cheese for you and put each one in a plastic wrapper. You just had to peel if off and eat your cheese. There was saran wrap that covered your dishes right out of the oven. Increasingly your sound equipment had plastic parts inside...and eventually your car too---and then the whole product was encased in plastic. You couldn't even get in there to fix something. You just threw it away and bought a new one.

I noticed a problem with my earphones, my headsets. They didn't last. For my comfort they had plastic, foamy cushion things for my ears, and sometimes up onto my head too. After a few years, that foam stuff turned to a black-gray goo...or fell apart into powder. You couldn't tell that had happened until you put the earphones on and the goo got all over your ears and hair and stuff. It was even worse for the 8-track tape industry. Every 8-track cartridge had little levers with that foam on them, and it's how it attached into your machine. If you left your cartridges in the car, the transformation into goo happened even quicker...and so you'd pop it into the player, and nothing would happen except your player was ruined. The countryside became littered with cartridges people threw out their car windows in fury. The entire industry collapsed. (There were other reasons, but they involved the graphite coating on the tape...which also became a mess.)

I always thought plastic was some kind of inert creation. After all, they said it never biodegrades...and the quadrillions of plastic baby diapers everybody buys go in the landfill where they'll be forever. But the plastic I kept running into seemed to change and come apart over time. Think of the dashboard in your car. It's soft and pliable when you buy the vehicle, but eventually it gets brittle and even cracks. What's going on there? The sun, heat? But what's with the composition of the chemical that lets it do that? Why do plastic toys for babies and children do the same thing? Is rubber ducky really safe for baby in the bathtub...and baby's mouth?

And so it was I became aware last evening of a new book. It's called Exposed, and it's about the actual chemicals that go into the manufacture of plastic, many of which have been proven toxic and which change composition over time and exposure to the atmosphere. Terry Gross interviewed the author on Fresh Air yesterday, and it sounded as though she came away as shocked as I am. The man spent much of his research time in Brussels, which is the capitol of the European Union, a group of countries that is legislating more everyday to ban chemicals found in many American products. Most of the research on these products is being done in this country, he says, but no one here will pay attention. American companies now are producing 2 sets of their products: one that meets the lack of standards here, and one for sale in Europe and to other countries that are catching on. He said China, which produces 85% of baby toys, is considering doing the same.

Terry wanted to know why this is. Is there a different attitude in Europe than here? He said there is. In Europe there is an outlook that the government is there to protect the population from something that might become dangerous. In the United States, we prefer to continue on our way until a disaster actually happens. Then we'll analyze that and figure out who's fault it was...and maybe try over a period of years to prove it in court. Afterwards we might change something. Hmmm, seems about right. We're expecting our new granddaughter in a couple of weeks. I guess I'd better print this out for my son to read. Terry's interview with Mark Schapiro, Exposing a Toxic US Policy, can be streamed here~~~

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Mournful Thanksgiving

The painting by John Schutler is Home to Thanksgiving, published 1867 by Currier and Ives.

Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess'd at, What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass, What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed, And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.

---Walt Whitman

Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.

---Simone Weil

There is no end to the opening up that is possible for a human being.

---Charlotte Joko Beck

I'm sure Americans gathered around their tables on Thursday, grateful for companionship and family...but uncertain how far the "commonwealth" spreads anymore. What we still can hold in common, even the values, seems up for grabs from all sides. Conservatives talk about compassion, but the world they live in resembles the cave and Hobbesian misery.

At more than a few Thanksgiving dinners, probably the name Scott McClellan was mentioned. He was the cute press link to the Oval Office for 3 years, dancing around questions daily. Much of what he had to do was keep things secret. We're at war and only Commander Decider can know...or the case is in litigation and it wouldn't be proper to comment...or Congress is investigating and we'll see what they find out. On April 21st next year a book by McClellan will be published, entitled WHAT HAPPENED: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington. Probably nobody would have noticed this coming event had not its distinguished publisher, PublicAffairs Books, put an excerpt bombshell on its website:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. "There was one problem. It was not true."I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself."


The item really hit the news the day before Thanksgiving, and so there were whispers and hushed tones midst the dressing and drumsticks Thursday. What will happen? Will anything happen? Why do we feel like conspirators with such talk? Is this East Germany before the Wall came down..or is this the Free World? Why does the war machine roll on, looting the Treasury, robbing us blind? In a column on July 6, 2007, Joe Galloway asked why the Bush administration "looks remarkably more like an organized crime ring than one of the arms of the American government?" It must be fear that silences the nation. Cat's got our tongue.

Galloway published on the McClellan excerpt right away, and I hope you read it. During the Vietnam War, he served three tours in Vietnam for UPI, beginning in early 1965. Decorated for rescuing wounded American soldiers under heavy enemy fire during the battle at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, he was the only civilian awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. Army during that war. In 2000 he voted for Bush who promised to give a government "whose appointees would be honest, upright, fair and moral." Now he devotes himself to asking What happened?

McClatchy Washington BureauPosted on Wed, Nov. 21, 2007Commentary: Good riddance to them allJoseph L. Galloway McClatchy Newspaperslast updated: November 21, 2007 06:24:25 PM

I mentioned the commonwealth in my musings, and it's not a term we use as much in the States as they do in the country to the North. Of course, the Common was central to every town in New England, and in many places still is an important gathering place for the people. When I travel in Canada, I feel a sense of community there that is more than the neighborhood block party we sometimes celebrate down here. As friendly as we get with neighbors nowdays, we don't forget that the leaves on my lawn drop off the tree that belongs to my neighbor...and so shouldn't he rake them up? Stuff like that. We were more as the Canadians have remained in the 1950s I think. There still was a sense that an uplifting of community, rather than just my private fortunes, will be good for us all.

I thought about this on Thanksgiving, and then again this morning when I read an excerpt from Thom Hartmann's new book Cracking The Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion. You probably know about Hartmann, but I was impressed with this description of him at Wikipedia:

"Hartmann is also a vocal critic of the effects of globalization on the U.S. economy, claiming that economic policies enacted since the presidency of Ronald Reagan have led, in large part, to many American industrial enterprises being acquired by multinational firms based in overseas countries, leading in many cases to manufacturing jobs - once considered a major foundation of the U.S. economy - being relocated to countries in Asia and other areas where the costs of labor are lower than in the U.S.; and the concurrent reversal of the United States' traditional role of a leading exporter of finished manufactured goods to that of a primary importer of finished manufactured goods (exemplified by massive trade deficits with countries such as China); Hartmannn argues that this phenomenon is leading to the erosion of the American middle class, whose survival Hartmann deems critical to the survival of American democracy. This argument is expressed in Hartmann's 2006 book, Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class and What We Can Do About It. (Also noted: corporate deregulation and the end of enforcement of the Sherman anti-trust act. Consequent media deregulation leading to corporate media shifting the American consensus towards the acceptance of privatization, massive corporate profits -which causes the shrinking of the middle class.)"


In the excerpt from the new book, he seems to be talking a good deal about the traditions of America and how they are rooted in the notion of what we share in common~~~

Whatever Happened to 'We the People'?By Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler PublishingPosted on November 23, 2007

Thom Hartmann's website has more excerpts~~~


Monday, November 19, 2007

Who Will Be US President In 2015?

The timpanist plays upon a living being. The stars are bursting with their messages: Turn to a child for the star's announcement.

---Robert Aitken

Greed is the basic cause of misery. Free yourself of greed, and the mountains, rivers, and earth do not block the light of your eyes.


To enter one's own self, it is necessary to go armed to the teeth.

---Paul Valery

Why 2015? That is the year, dictated by consensus of the 2500 scientists whose work created the UN report on global warming, when further growth of carbon emissions on this planet must cease. Within 35 years from that date, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric polluting gases must be reduced by 50 to 85 percent to avoid killing as many as a quarter of the species on Earth. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2007/11/18/ST2007111800216.html This was the announcement on Saturday, when the final portion of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) study was released to the public by this group that already has won the Nobel Prize.

I try to be a patient man. I waited Sunday and I waited today. I expected lead items in newspapers and broadcasts in this country. Well...let's say I hoped for them. Certainly it is the case elsewhere in the world, where concern is at the forefront. One of the good things about Google News is you can see what makes news in the various nations of the world...and what that news is. At the moment you have to type "global warming" into Search to find anything about these stark pronouncements.

We have people campaigning for President right now. The New York Times reported today that in Iowa, a sixth-grader asked Mrs. Clinton if she had any views on global warming. The paper went on to consider whether the question had been planted in the student's mind. There was no mention of what the candidate replied. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/19/a-real-question-about-global-warming/ Have we all gone mad?

Recently it has been the pattern in this country for a person elected (or otherwise achieving the office of) President to serve 2 terms or 8 years. If that continues, whoever ends up President in 2008 still may be there in 2015. Do any of these candidates have a plan for such an incredible challenge? Next month---that's NEXT month---President Bush will lead the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference on climate change in Bali. Last year around this time that man announced he was pretty sure global warming wasn't caused by anything consumers in the free market might be doing...like burning coal or oil. US News & World Report asked this morning Do we HAVE to have this guy representing us? http://www.usnews.com/blogs/erbe/2007/11/19/bush-the-wrong-guy-on-climate-change.html

I listened pretty hard to my world today to see or hear if anyone seemed concerned about the IPCC report or global warming. It's going to be in the mid to upper 60s tomorrow and probably for Thanksgiving. People did remark on that...and sorta smile and shake heads. Ten years ago Dana and I were proud to go out to the garden and kick some snow off a little kale that was left to serve our smoked oysters on for Thanksgiving dinner. The other day people were telling me the crocuses and daffodils they planted in September are coming up already. What will it take to crash through all this denial?

If you care to catch up with the weekend news, there are a couple of significant and brief summaries of the report. Thankfully one will appear tomorrow in Science Daily, and here's a look at it~~~


Another appeared in The Independent overnight, with the forboding headline A World Dying~~~


Monday, November 12, 2007

Re: happy veteran's day & Pakistan?

In the photo, former President George H.W. Bush makes his entrance to his presidential museum during a rededication ceremony with Army Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott with the Golden Knights parachute team in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/College Station Eagle, Gabriel Chmielewski)

Does one really have to fret about enlightenment? No matter what road I travel, I'm going home.


To find the universal elements enough; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring---these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

---John Burroughs

I know there is no good in my trying to explain to you why I am away from home—war doesn’t make sense even when you are grown up.

---(Lt.) Henry Fonda to his children during World War II

From: "Annie Warmke" <annie@bluerockstation.com>
To: "Richard Carlson" <JAZZOLOG@peoplepc.com>
Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2007 10:05 AMSubject: happy veteran's day
> Happy Veteran's Day!
> This morning the local NPR station played their favorite tunes for "Happy
> Veteran's Day" and each year after about 15 minutes I have to turn the radio
> off.
> The songs are full of one message - pain. Some sing about the pain of going
> to war. Others tell the story of losing a limb, or losing children. They
> all tell a story that leads me to the same conclusion each year. War is
> hell and it is not the solution.
> So today I've turned off the radio earlier than usual and begun to wonder if
> that's not what America is doing each morning when the radio offers the
> morning "war report" as I call it. I'm wondering how much longer we'll turn
> off or tune out the news of death and destruction that is happening in our
> names.
> The elections this last week remind me that nothing so far has changed. We're
> still up to our eyeballs in corruption in the government. The Democrats
> refuse to take a stand that actually changes anything on any issue - you
> pick one and you'll see what I mean.
> As I look out the window at the colorful leaves on the trees - the trees
> that ought to be naked - I am reminded that we're at war in many places on
> this earth, and it seems we're losing them all.
> Annie Warmke is an activist, writer and farmer who lives at Blue Rock
> Station with her family of humans, llamas, chickens, goats, cats and her
> French-speaking dog, Rosie.

Dear Annie,

I haven't been to a Veterans Day parade in Athens in a couple years. I guess they've been on weekends, but when kids are in class a bunch of schools march and show up or something. Usually people on the staff put the pressure on or the principal is gung ho, and whole elementary schools turn out. The last couple have been particularly patriotic in the cloying way that makes me uncomfortable. That was before there was more of a general mood of We Support The Soldiers But Not This War. Of course in the military-trained mind---and for the kind of people who run parades like this---there's no such thing as not supporting a war, because your commander has issued an order.

As a kid, it still was Armistice Day. I knew it was about the end of World War I, at 11:00 on 11/11 in some long ago year (1918) but I didn't know what any of that was about. Few others did either, and there certainly weren't a lot of festivities. I wonder if anybody today knows what World War I was about. We sent 2 million soldiers to France, and 100,000 didn't come back. I read in the New York Times this morning, only one veteran from that war remains alive in the States. Garrison Keillor said Saturday World War II was just World War I continued...and I do remember some history classes in college supported that notion. I have a friend who claims the continuous war of the Twentieth Century was about only one thing: oil.

Armistice Day became Veterans Day as Decoration Day became Memorial Day and we added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance all in the mid-1950s. A general for our president, the McCarthy Era, and the Cold War geared us up to be tough guys. Now we rattle our sabers anytime we feel like it, no one tells us what to do, and we say anything we want to the other nations. The other day Bush told the Pakistani prime minister to take off his uniform because you can't be a military commander and the president at the same time. Huh?

I hear in Baghdad they're claiming the suicide bombings have lessened considerably. That's a good thing...and I suppose we should credit the "surge." But are the inSURGEnts all dead now...or running away into the desert? Or have they been redirected? Are they massing somewhere else? If so, I wonder where that could be? Let's see, what staunch ally of the United States has nuclear weapons but is teetering into instability? Where is there Emergency Control for the next 2 months until more great democratic elections will be held to celebrate freedom? Where are suicide bombings increasing? And where is Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive? The answers to these and other questions will be revealed in forthcoming exciting episodes---or maybe later today.

The Washington Post published an amazing article yesterday about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal...and just how secure it is. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/10/AR2007111001684.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2007111001833 And don't miss Frank Rich's column yesterday that includes concerns about Pakistan. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/11/opinion/11rich.html And love him or leave him, coincidentally a real old warrior died for Veterans Day: I like this obit on Norman Mailer out of Chicago. http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-mailer_kellernov11,1,2721898.column?ctrack=1&cset=true

Love, as always, to you and the Blue Rock family,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blackwater, Blackwater Run Down Through The Land, Part 2

In the photo another American dignitary (in this case Paul Bremer) enjoys real freedom out in the world.

A cricket chirps and is silent.
The guttering lamp sinks and flairs up again.
Outside the window evening rain is heard.
It is the banana plant that speaks of it first.

---Po Chu-I

Only in solitude do we find ourselves.

---Miguel De Unamuno

It is our mind, and that alone, that chains us or sets us free.

---Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

I had thought the Blackwater story would just fade away like all the others. There didn't seem to be anything different about it than countless other news items about the degradation of the American soul in these years of Bush administration. The private security firm, with rightwing and evangelical roots and bucks, did just what the Rove textbook tells the Bushies to do when under scrutiny: loom bigger than they are! If Congress or the press wants to talk to you, blow them off fast with how important the work is you're doing for the American people...and you just don't have time for this nonsense. Out came the announcements that Blackwater not only provides a private army for your convenience...but a private CIA too. Total Intelligence Solutions---and we do mean TOTAL. http://www.totalintel.com/dsp_media.php What more can a good boy with an inherited fortune do? He's done it by the Book---both Rove's and Jesus'.

But type "Blackwater" in Google News Search right now, and see what comes up. Well over a month later the story lives on. Finally something has brought the press alive. This no-bid contract has captured it all. It's at the black heart of how things are done now. And Americans are ashamed and outraged...and the media knows it...and it's about time! Will anything actually get done? The status quo tumbles over itself to keep things humming along as if normal. Kucinich introduces impeachment of Cheney on the House floor yesterday, and it took the administrators an hour to quiet things down and shuffle the motion off to committee---where they hope it will disappear. http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-impeach7nov07,0,2784849.story?coll=la-home-headlines But it wasn't easy. People wanted to debate. People wanted to talk. No no, was the answer, Congress is too busy with really important business to become bogged down in this petty political maneuvering. But everyone knows now such remarks from the administrators are laughable and desperate. No one can keep the lid on the corruption forever.

I write and post stuff at 4 different sites on the Net...and sometimes more, and when I sent out and put up Part 1 about Blackwater, back in September, comments started to show up at 2 of the locations. And they haven't stopped. At Blogspot the people now are launched into discussion about "pure" democracy, and what a republic is, town meetings and whether the Internet can save or advance Freedom of Speech. When this happens at a blog it can be very difficult to join in. At really big ones you can find hundreds of comments, often involving give and take among a few participants that goes on for days. It's hard for a newcomer to sort out...and usually such threads just die because there's too much scrolling, you can't find that comment you wanted to reference, and nothing's ever going to get done about it anyway. But it's wonderful to me when people let loose and express themselves somewhere! So I decided this time to start a Part 2 about Blackwater...and all the topic involves. That includes torture and waterboarding, which Mukasey says he can't discuss because he hasn't been "briefed," and the President backs him up. That includes secrecy and looting the treasury. It includes everything.

If you're looking for the energy to get started on a comment or a reply, you can't do better than Keith Olbermann's talk Monday night about viewing the Presidency as Criminal Conspiracy. Not since Tom Paine, folks!


A gentle reminder jazzoLOG posts are at