Archive for 2012 January

Ormond beach: the beautiful problem

My cover story this week in the Reporter, on "the broken mirror" of Ormond Beach. This is about 1500 acores along about two miles of beach in South Oxnard, astonishingly rich in shorelife, somehow trying to hold its beauty and vigor amidst monocultural agriculture and heavy industry. 


And here's a picture I took, of a young biologist named Chris Kahler, of VC Shorebirds, and his friend and fellow volunteer Walter Fuller, in his beachside office. How Walter explaind his job to me:

“I’m the gatekeeper at one spot, and the property caretaker for the area, and it’s a big property!” he laughs, referring to the roughly two-mile stretch of white sand and dunes between Port Hueneme to the north and the Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, to the south.

“It’s like I’m taking it on as my responsibility. When I’m out on the beach, I’m watching for injured birds or dead birds; and when the gate’s open I’m watching the parking lot, and if I see any break-ins I notify the appropriate authorities."


Great guys. 

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The richness of the light of these days: John Muir

Warm and bright, the valley was spanned by fibrous bows of white cloud, heated masses of air from currentless ovens of chambered and bushy rocks lifted by newborn winds and bourne whole or in fragments about the open gulf of the valley…the richness of the light of these days recalls our best mellow autumns and springs. 

John Muir, January 24-26, 1869    

(via my new Twitter stream, Muirtweets)

(image from an astounding HD video posted today on YosemiteBlog)                                                                                        

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CA Fish and Game proposes regs to save sea bass species

Here's my story from the Santa-Barbara Independent. I thought the quote below was the memorable from the hearing, from one of the agency's commissioners at the hearing, about the dangers of fishing aggregations of spawning fish. Fishing massed groups of spawning fish can mislead anglers into unwittingly devastating a fish population in real trouble, a phenomenon scientists call "hyperstability": 

Michael Sutton, one of two California state Fish and Game Commissioners at the meeting, called for a consideration of a seasonal closure during spawning season to allow the two species to repopulate. “Fishing spawning aggregations is a really dangerous practice,” he said. “If a seasonal closure would alleviate that, we need to consider that. A seasonal closure would have a significant impact on the industry, but so would a ban of fishing these species for several years.”

No one else at the hearing backed Sutton's idea, as far as I could tell, though it appears to be the idea that most likely to allow the beloved barred sand bass to repopulate. Here's a Fish and Game chart of where the barred sand bass are caught off the SoCal coast: "hotspots" (spawning grounds) in red:

Barredsandbass (1)

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Dozens of tornadoes devastate the South — in January

A rare mid-winter brace of hurricanes devastates the South; 150-mph winds recorded. Two dozen or so tornadoes sweeps through four states — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina — killing six people, injuring a hundred or more, and leaving countless others homeless. 

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Amazing more people weren't killed. Some of the survivors intend to move away from tornado country, just months after the last visited by record-setting storms, the likes of which destroyed Joplin.

In eastern Alabama, a suspected twister splintered trees and demolished mobile homes at a pair of housing parks near the Auburn University campus. Less than seven months ago, a massive tornado roared past the campus of archrival University of Alabama in the western part of the state. It was the worst bout of weather for the state since about 250 people were killed during the tornado outbreak in April. Both campuses were spared major damage this time.

Jeff Masters: The calendar says it's the coldest month of winter, but today's weather is more typical of March, as a vigorous spring-like storm system has spawned a rare and deadly January tornado outbreak

Spring tornado storm

No small storm system, that — almost looks to deserve a name. 

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Can the Romneytron 9000 elicit emotion from humans?

Bright young Brit Tim Stanley reports on the ground from South Carolina and very convincingly argues that Newt Gingrich didn't win the primary.

Willard Romney lost it. 

Newt Gingrich will deny it, but the South Carolina vote was really a referendum on Romney. He lost it because he is slipping in the area that was previously his one selling point: electability. The Bain mess and his absent tax returns were compounded by the overturning of his “victory” in Iowa. Without the illusion of being unbeatable, there is no reason for conservatives to vote for Romney. Crucially, they told exit pollers that they now believe Newt is more likely to win against Obama than Mitt in November. That’s an illusion, too. But when you hate someone as much as some sections of the Tea Party hate Romney, you don’t see them as they really are. Poor Romney has become, unfairly, a stand in for all the elitism and bad faith of the Republican establishment. He has a tough fight ahead.

What can Romney do? How can he connect with the public? Election experts agree that he remains the best-funded, least offensive, and most-likely-to-succeed candidate for the GOP.

But like Richard Nixon, no one seems to actually like the guy. He needs to show something human that people can latch on to and trust emotionally. Hell, even Richard Nixon had to do that. 

Won't be easy. The joke on Romney is that he's either just boring (SNL) or actually a robot (from RallDrum, and others).

The Romneytron 9000 as Kevin Drum put it. 

In the South Carolina debates, Gingrich successfully turned attacks on his character into attacks on the press,  and more importantly, in doing so connected with the audience. They thrilled at his fiery attack on "elites" — meaning the likes of handsome, well-paid, well-educated, intelligent questioner John King. 

(Curiously, in his looks John King is almost exactly as stolid and Ken-like as Mitt Romney.In a dramatic sense, they are worthy if slow-moving opponents, in an Megatron vs. Optimus Prime sort of way. And as mentioned below, Prime got a terrific shot in on Megatron in the last battle over Megatron's income tax returns.)

Megatron Optimus Prime














Richard Nixon had a somewhat similar problem, when he was running for Governor of California in the early 60's. People just didn't like him. After a bad loss, he lashed out at his famous "last press conference." In true bitterness he said: 

"You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentleman, this is my last press conference." 

In a practised, familiar, move, Newt Gingrich turned his negative into a positive, by blaming the press for his situation. Will Romney try something similar? 

Surely it's too late to play "me too" — Newt's all but patented that move.

Maybe he'll find a way to tug at the heartstrings, such as Richard Nixon's infamous Checkers speech?

No — no one can pity the billionaire unable to buy his wife the coat she wants.

Romney has been accused of being Nixonian — by his neighbors, in fact. According to a story in the New York Review of Books:

When I ask locals about their impressions of Mitt, I get a recurring response: Nixonian. “The overriding passion of his life seems to be to become president,” a conservative economics professor tells me. “I can’t think of a single issue over which Romney would risk reelection in order to stick to a principle.” A University of Massachusetts journalism professor puts it more positively: “He can be as cagey as Nixon, and he can be almost as smarmy, but he is also able to think strategically.”

Romney may be able to think strategically, but can he act strategically?

That appears to be his challenge. Can he pick up the mantle of Reagan — or at least, Nixon — and make some sort of emotional connection with the electorate? 

What are the chances? Hasn't managed it yet, near as I can tell.   

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Dreamed in the sunbeams: John Muir

From his unpublished journals written in his sheep-herding days, before Muir came to stay in Yosemite Valley:

Dreamed in the sunbeams, when the sheep were calm, the plan of a hermitage: walls of pure white quartz, doors and windows edged with quartz crystals, windows of thin smooth sheets of water with ruffling apparatus to answer for curtains. The door a slate falke with brown and purple and yellow lichens. And oh, could not I find furniture! My table would be a grooved and shining slab of granite from the bed of the old mountain glaciers, my stool a mossy stump or tree bracket of the big dry, stout kind, and a bed of the spicy boughs of the spruce, etc., ad infinitum

John Muir, January 21, 1869 [from John of the Mountains]

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The beautiful secret: Robinson Jeffers

From an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times:

[Robinson] Jeffers celebrated the "transhuman magnificence" of nature, the beautiful things both vast and near that can provide even a 21st century reader with solace, even if we are often a muddled, ugly species and even if all things, as they do, fade away. 

Don't often hear poets extolled on the editorial pages of a major newspaper. At the heart of the essay is a quote from a poem written late in Jeffers' life, after he had suffered many grevious losses:


Cokinos writes:

Jeffers goes on, considering what is gone (his beloved wife) and what remains (trees that herons nest in, the material universe as a kind of divinity). He still "can feel the beautiful secret/In places and stars and stones…/I wish that all human creatures might feel it./That would make joy in the world, and make men perhaps a little nobler — as a handful of wildflowers."




The beautiful secret…  


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Will Romney live up to his own father’s standards?

Though attacked for asking a personal, sexual question of Newt Gingrich at the beginning of the South Carolina debate, CNN anchor John King came back later in the debate with an even tougher question for Newt's rival Mitt Romney. He laid it out beautifully, and listened as Romney flailed to answer. 

As Romney failed to live up to his father's example, the crowd actually turned against him.  


Romney had to know the question was coming, but could not have expected that King would so artfully juxtapose Mitt's furtive secrecy against his father George Romney's open disclosure. As Andrew Sullivan said — brilliant

Willard got terrible reviews for his evasive answer from across the political spectrum, and now the Washington Post picks up the gauntlet and in an editorial repeats the reporter's question. 

THURSDAY NIGHT’S Republican presidential debate produced more equivocation from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney about when he would release his tax returns and how many he would release. He was asked by moderator John King if he would follow the standard set by his own father, George, the former Michigan governor who was the first presidential candidate to release his tax returns. He put out 12 years’ worth in November 1967, as he prepared to run for the White House in 1968 — a point also being made in a Democratic National Committee video. All Mr. Romney could muster was an awkward “Maybe.” Wait until April, he said.

More disclosure, sooner, would be better, as is already obvious even to such supporters of Mr. Romney as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Give King credit for asking a great question (and doing Newt and us all a great favor). And wonder what is in those tax returns that the Mitt-bot is so reluctant to reveal. 

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Epic win for greens on Keystone XL: Dave Roberts

The Grist editor writes

For a year now, courageous activists, Midwestern farmers, unions, and indigenous groups have rallied in an unprecedented display of public opposition to the destructive Keystone XL pipeline proposal. That grassroots movement pushed us to the brink of victory — and today, it seems, the GOP has pushed us over the line. Thanks to their belligerent insistence that the pipeline decision be made within 60 days, it appears likely the State Dept. is going to be forced to reject it.

We environmentalists would hereby extend our most heartfelt thanks to the GOP. Their tantrums are doing our work for us!

Republicans reportedly believe that forcing Obama to reject the pipeline will give them an election-year issue to demagogue. All we can say to that is: Bring it on. If they campaign as poorly as they legislate, Obama has nothing to worry about.

And he's just getting started:

Greens thought they had won a massive, historic victory by delaying the pipeline decision. Now it looks like the thing will be blocked once and for all. Unless I’m missing something, that is an epic win in the green column.

But there's a catch: Dave Roberts posted this almost a month ago, on Dec. 20. Long before the decision came down. 


Can greens stand it to win one, for crying out loud? 

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Romney 11/22/05: For and against climate pact on same day

The Internet is an astonishing thing: this evening the the entirety of the book of research into Mitt Romney's record, as compiled by the staff for his bitter GOP rival John McCain's staff in 2008, hit the intertubes.

The 200-page document included this gem of a flip-flop on climate change, as reported in the Boston Globe:

Romney Changed Positions On Regional Agreement Within Span Of One Day.

“At a clean-energyconference in Boston on Nov. 7, Romney sounded exuberant about the Northeast state [climate change] agreement, saying in his speech that it was ‘a great thing for the Commonwealth.’ ‘We can effectively create incentives to help stimulate asector of the economy and at the same time not kill jobs,’ he said.

Later that day, however, Romney outlined to reporters several fears he had about the proposed agreement.”

(Beth Daley and Scott Helman, “Romney Doubts Seen Delaying Emissions Pact,”

[The Boston Globe —  11/22/05]

Romney reminds of Charlie Brown, who used to say Why can't I change just a little bit? I'll be wishy one day and washy the next! (31 Dec 65)

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