Archive for 2016 March

Americans too smart to fall for Trump (right?)

From the great Self-Styled Siren, who I have not yet had the wisdom to quote previously in this blog’s twelve or so years, meaning that I have been greatly remiss. If you like movies, you should read the somewhat mysterious but all-knowing Siren, and maybe learn something, especially about thirties movies.


Here’s a post from Self-Styled Siren, imported wholesale without shame, and credited fully from February 25, 2016.

Perhaps I should add that the Siren all but never writes about politics, giving this post of hers extra energy:

What I Think About When They Say Donald Trump Cannot Possibly Become President

… From The Past Is Myself, the memoir of an Englishwoman named Christabel Bielenberg. In the early 1930s she fell in love with a German law student named Peter Bielenberg, married him in 1934, and stayed with him in Germany throughout the war, even as he was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck for involvement in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler.

The year is 1932, and Christabel is trying to understand German politics.

Hitler was himself was to speak to an open-air rally, and the venue was — not inappropriately as Peter did not fail to point out — Hagenbeck’s Zoo. A huge area had been cordoned off, and rows of burly Storm-troopers wedged the milling crows into orderly rectangles. Peter survived the community singing, the rolling of the drums, the National and the Party anthems, but his reaction to the usual reverberating start was unequivocal. My ears were hardly attuned to the Leader’s Austrian accent, before I found myself being marched out of the enclosure. Up against the giraffe house, well within earshot of and successfully silencing some Party stalwarts in brown pillbox hats who were rattling collection boxes under the noses of luckless late-comers, Peter delivered himself of one of his rare political pronouncements.
“You may think that Germans are political idiots, Chris,” he said very loudly and very firmly, “and you may be right, but of one thing I can assure you, they won’t be so stupid as to fall for that clown.”

(More about Christabel here.)

One of the commentators on her site adds a quote from comedian Gilbert Gottfried:
“Trump is just like Hitler — without the warmth.”

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A country Nirvana song via Sturgill Simpson

NPR and Rolling Stone today both note the arrival of new country star Sturgill Simpson’s version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” The second song on the epochal Nevermind album, universally agreed to be the band’s masterpiece, and as well Country Love’s fave song on the record, Sturgill completely upends it. Sez me.

The Nirvana version is as hard as rock can be; with massively crunchy guitars, Cobain at full yowl, and an abiding sense of discovery and self-loathing — or so it seemed to me. Of course I found out the song was an ode to a close friend of Cobain’s who loved to shoot guns but didn’t seem to understand what that could mean, which in retrospect makes the song darker than its prideful roar might indicate. Perhaps Cobain envied his oblivious friend.

To Sturgill, who was in middle school when the song came out, it sounded much different, as he discussed with Rolling Stone:

The Kentucky singer-songwriter penned every track on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth except one — a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” off Nevermind. The tortured Kurt Cobain, and that seminal 1991 grunge album in particular, were an inspiration to the junior-high Simpson.

“I remember in seventh or eighth grade when that album dropped, it was like a bomb went off in my bedroom. For me, that song has always summed up what it means to be a teenager, and I think it tells a young boy that he can be sensitive and compassionate — he doesn’t have to be tough or cold to be a man,” explains Simpson. “I wanted to make a very beautiful and pure homage to Kurt.”

I love what Simpson has done with this song, even though to me it’s as different as it can be. Adding “love” to the chorus changes everything. Or does it? Love the gentleness, the sorrow, the deep understanding.

Must confess I don’t get the video at all, but oh well — I rarely do understand music videos these days.

More Sturgill? Sure — how about a Tiny Desk Concert? Man can that guy pick a guitar. Jeez.


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Rockefeller charity calls Exxon “morally reprehensible,” disinvests

Today a fifty-year-old charity founded by the descendants of John Rockefeller, of Standard Oil wealth, disinvested their funds from Exxon Mobil and accused the company of misleading the public to enable the company to damage the climate. In a statement the Rockefeller Family Fund called the company morally reprehensible and said:

“Evidence appears to suggest that the company worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change’s march, while simultaneously spending millions to fortify its own infrastructure against climate change’s destructive consequences and track new exploration opportunities as the Arctic’s ice receded,” the Rockefeller family wrote.

Where did they get this idea? From what was probably the best environmental story/expose published last year, in which Inside Climate News blew the lid off Exxon’s climate distortions and destruction, fact by fact, document by document, drawn from company files donated to a university, combed through by a team of students from Columbia University. Plus interviews statements pictures follow-ups and more. It’s greatness in journalism.

This has led to multiple investigations, as detailed in an RT story:

In November of 2015, the state of New York launched an investigation into whether the largest US gas and oil company had misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change. A similar inquiry has been opened in California, the Los Angeles Times reported.


Exxon: The Road Not Taken. Read it. Please.

But here’s the twist. Before turning on Exxon, the $130 million Rockefeller Family Fund turns out to have been a funder of Inside Climate News, and apparently assisted in the investigation!

Or so Exxon alleges:

“It’s not surprising that they’re divesting,” the company told CNBC. “The Rockefeller Family Fund provided financial support to InsideClimate News and Columbia University Journalism School which produced inaccurate and deliberately misleading stories about ExxonMobil’s history of climate research.”


Story there — somewhere.


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When will we start to see ice sheet disintegration?

James Hansen has published hundreds of scientific papers in his long and distinguished career as “the father of climate change awareness,” as described in The Guardian. With a team he published another one this morning, but this one is different.

For one, although Hansen organized the effort, he is one of a team of 18 experts from around the world, signaling a global consensus around a central scientific idea.

For another, Hansen gave up his tenured post in a government-backed research post in order to lead the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to be able to stand outside the government critically.

The idea is that the little-controlled experiment that humanity is conducting on its home planet resembles a period of 120,000 years ago called the Eemian, which was much much warmer than it is today.

The Washington Post reported:

The research invokes collapsing ice sheets, violent megastorms and even the hurling of boulders by giant waves in its quest to suggest that even 2 degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels would be far too much. Hansen has called it the most important work he has ever done.

The sweeping paper, 52 pages in length and with 19 authors, draws on evidence from ancient climate change or “paleo-climatology,” as well as climate experiments using computer models and some modern observations. Calling it a “paper” really isn’t quite right — it’s actually a synthesis of a wide range of old, and new, evidence.

“I think almost everybody who’s really familiar with both paleo and modern is now very concerned that we are approaching, if we have not passed, the points at which we have locked in really big changes for young people and future generations,” Hansen said in an interview.

As reporter Chris Mooney noted, to call the warning a “paper” is not quite right. It’s scientific, but it’s also an argument. Hansen argues as he has since at least 1988 in a famous warning delivered to Congress that our present almost uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases is “highly dangerous” to civilization as we know it.

Hansen and team write in an open source European journal called Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics:

If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable. We suggest that a strategic approach relying on adaptation to such consequences is unacceptable to most of humanity, so it is important to understand this threat as soon as possible.
In the words of the New York Times:
The paper by Dr. Hansen and 18 co-authors dwells on the last time the Earth warmed naturally, about 120,000 years ago, when the temperature reached a level estimated to have been only slightly higher than today. Much of the polar ice disintegrated then, and scientists have established that the sea level rose 20 to 30 feet.
Hansen and colleagues say the world was only about 1 degree Celsius warmer then than it is now. The paper has been controversial, because it was published before undergoing the traditional mostly secret peer review process, and because it posits a mechanism that could bring catastrophic warming in decades, not centuries, which has been the usual view, even among scientists most concerned about risks such as sea level rise.
But as Chris Mooney points out for Wa-Po, the mechanism of ice sheet melting and cold water pooling described by the team of the Eemian era looks quite a bit like what NOAA just found in recent datasets:.

Indeed, shortly before the new paper’s publication, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released new recent data on the globe’s temperature that certainly bears a resemblance to what Hansen is talking about. For not only was the globe at a record warmth overall over the last three months, but it also showed anomalous cool patches in regions that Hansen suspects are being caused by ice melt – below Greenland, and also off the tip of the Antarctic peninsula.

“My interpretation is that this is the beginning,” Hansen says of these cool patches in curious parts of the global ocean. “And it’s one or two decades sooner than in our model.”

Hansen has been sounding the alarm in public since l988 — but he’s been right more often than not. That’s the problem. What if the climate is changing much faster than our ability to bring down greenhouse gas emissions?

After all, it’s been 66,000,000 million years since the earth saw greenhouse gases released as rapidly as they are now — ten times faster than at any point in the planet’s history — according to the World Meteorological Organization.


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Here comes the super-hot summer of 2016

This year has been off the charts hot. Lots of graphics to that point:


The February heat anomaly this year [as charted by NOAA] is scary to me.


Already we are in the fifth year of drought, which has only slightly lessened, and not at all in central SoCal.


And now models pointed are calling for an especially hot summer on the West Coast. Oh great.

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Thinking about wildness in CA: Daniel Duane

Daniel Duane first came across my media screen last summer with a spectacular essay in the NYTimes Sunday Review — My Dark California Dream — in which he thought through some of the problems that have hit California lately, from wildfire to drought to traffic to the devastation of sea life off our shores.

But it was not a litany of horrors, nor a blaming, it was a wrestling with the issue(s), including the issue of one’s own lost paradise, one’s own inevitable self loss.

Confusing one’s own youth with the youth of the world is a common human affliction, but California has been changing so fast for so long that every new generation gets to experience both a fresh version of the California dream and, typically by late middle-age, its painful death.

Tremendous. Now Duane brings another top of the Sunday Review section essay, a long thoughtful look at what is known, in a somewhat Orwellian way, as “wildlife management.”

Duane puts it more vividly, in the opening of The Unnatural Kingdom:

If you ever have the good fortune to see a Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, the experience might go like this: On a sunny morning in Yosemite National Park, you walk through alpine meadows and then up a ridge to the summit of Mount Gibbs at 12,764 feet above sea level. You unwrap a chocolate bar amid breathtaking views of mountain and desert and then you notice movement below.

Binoculars reveal three sturdy ewes perched on a wall of rock, accompanied by two lambs and a muscular ram. The sight fills you with awe and also with gratitude for the national parks, forests and, yes, environmental regulations that keep the American dream of wilderness alive.

Unless your binoculars are unusually powerful, you are unlikely to notice that many of those sheep wear collars manufactured by Lotek Wireless of Newmarket, Ontario. You will, therefore, remain unaware that GPS and satellite communications hardware affixed to those collars allows wildlife managers in distant air-conditioned rooms to track every move made by those sheep. Like similar equipment attached to California condors, pronghorn antelope, pythons, fruit bats, African wildebeest, white-tailed eagles, growling grass frogs, feral camels and countless other creatures, those collars are the only visible elements of the backlot infrastructure that now puts and keeps so many animals in the wild.

Phenomenal. Part of a book Duane is working on about the Sierra. That’ll be good…


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a rare soupcon of spicy humor

From Kelly Conaboy at The Awl:

What does a bay leaf taste like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf smell like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf look like? A leaf. How does a bay leaf behave? It behaves as a leaf would, if you took a leaf from the tree outside of your apartment building and put it into your soup. People say, “Boil a bay leaf in some water and then taste the water if you want to know what a bay leaf tastes like.”


In search of confirmation, as well as freedom to ignore the bay leaf portion of future recipes I might encounter, I reached out to a number of chefs and asked them, “Are bay leaves bullshit?”

Chef Anna Klinger, of Park Slope’s Al Di La, said: “I like them and use quite a bit.”

Anna Klinger and I are not technically friends so I do not take this lie personally, and I appreciate the way she did not explicitly state on record that bay leaves are not bullshit. Sneaky.

And yes, it goes on that way, adamantly, and it’s pretty hilarious. If a bay leaf can be funny and not bullshit.

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Bee-loving in Ojai — for good reason

To report now and again for a small town newspaper means documenting something that happened or is happening in a small town, but sometimes what at first seems purely local turns out to be much bigger — even international in scope.

From the Ojai Valley News:

A move is under way in Ojai to loosen restrictions on keeping a backyard bee hive.

Kit Stolz, Ojai Valley News correspondent

An international organization of scientists, meeting in Malaysia last week, released a two-year study estimating that up to 40 percent of pollinators around the world — such as bees — face extinction. The report attributed this, in large part, due to the perils of living in a world of rapid change and industrial agriculture.

In Ojai, the young, but active, Ojai Valley Bee Club is taking action to save bees by encouraging city officials to consider a measure loosening regulations that prohibit backyard beekeeping. The club, which meets monthly, has approximately 60 members.

Glenn Perry, an award-winning researcher into bee products such as propulis and the use of bee sting therapy to ease arthritis, moved to Ojai in recent years. He said he was surprised to learn from Ventura County’s Department of Agriculture that Ojai and Ventura County discouraged beekeeping at home.

“Unless you have a large ranch of hundreds of acres, or live out in the boonies, it’s basically illegal,” Perry said. “Ojai has a specific law that regulates beekeeping, and in urbanized areas nearby, such as Meiners Oaks, or Oak View, or Casitas Springs, the county regulations prohibit backyard beekeeping.”

(I must confess, looking at that first ‘graph, it feels kind of stuffy, Probably could have done better than its second sentence, which is simultaneously vague and foreboding. Oh well.)

Nonetheless, as I indicated in the story, Mr. Glenn Perry is literally a world-famous expert in bees. It didn’t take more than a few minutes in his presence to realize how much he knew, and how carefully he answered questions, and how focused his efforts were, and why they had such importance.

Perry, who helped start the Bee Club, argues that local bee hives support the health of important pollinators such as bees, are not dangerous, and should be supported by growers and gardeners alike.

Curtis Skene, who helps lead the larger and older Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association, agrees.

“Absolutely backyard beekeeping helps,” he said. “Bees are under pressure and in danger from all kinds of problems and predators and pesticides. Backyard bee-keeping is very important because it helps keep stocks strong,” he said.

Perry and others from the club reached out to Ojai City Councilman William Weirick, who has expressed a willingness to look at revising regulations to encourage backyard beekeeping.

“We know that that there are pressures on the bee population that are poorly understood and we know that these important pollinating species are being put at risk,” Weirick said. “We also know that bee hives have a much higher over-wintering survival rate in urban areas than in rural areas, and, we know that honey-producing activity is much higher in urban areas than rural, and so it appears that urban beekeeping is something of a refuge for the bees, and a help in their continuing survival.”

In fact bee-keeping is on the upswing across the nation, but especially amongst the trend-setters, in places like Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and New York.

(Bee-keeping is perfectly legal in New York City in fact, as long as bee-keepers follow a few basic rules and register their hives with the city.)

It’s inspiring stuff — local folks making a difference, helping to keep the natural world alive. beekeepersbba

[bee-keeper photo from sbba]

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Drought hits city trees too (not just wild forests)

Another excellent story from the Washington Post, on a problem — the fate of urban trees — that seems not as well studied as that of wild forests.

Everywhere he goes, Anthony Ambrose sees the dead and dying.

They haunt this city’s streets, the browning yards of stylish homes, the scenic grounds of the local University of California campus and dry roadway medians. They’re urban trees, thirsty for water as the state enters the fifth year of the worst drought in its history, and thousands are keeling over.

“It’s definitely not a good thing,” said Ambrose, a researcher at the university who studies forest ecosystems. “They’re not as visual, they’re not as pretty. Along the highway you see a lot of dead redwoods. I feel sorry for the trees.”

The story expands beyond that of urban trees to numerous other side effects of the drought, including urban waste water systems that aren’t getting enough use, and the cost of rebates for lawn removal, but it circles back to the heart-tugging of urban trees — which aren’t numbered. Need to ask TreePeople about that.

In the meantime:


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