Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ethanol Will Cure Us!

Here's an interesting graph from the latest issue of the Economist. Republican states, as of the 2004 elections, consumed more electricity then Democratic states. And California consumed the least per person.

Speaking of the environment, one of the many encouraging, throw up your hands and dare to hope again phenomenons to happen when the Senate shifted to the Dems favor was Barbara Boxer taking over the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works from James Inhofe. Inhofe, as you probably already know, believes global warming to be "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." So-called environmentalists, according to Inhofe, are nothing but a bunch of extremists who eschew science in favor of a kind of religious fervor and fear mongering. Unfortunately, evidence accumulated by "serious scientists committed to the principles of sound science," according to Inhofe, is being suppressed or ignored due to the considerable racket being made by the extremists and their radical Hollywood agenda. Just look, for example, at how Dr. Michael Crichton's pulpy book, State of Fear, a work of fiction with copious non-fiction footnotes that sought to prove the scientific delusion behind global warming, was treated. Had it garnered more positive reviews and had our liberal media gatekeepers permitted it a seat at the table of our national debate on global warming, well, you better believe we'd have been stunned by how "environmental organizations are more focused on raising money, principally by scaring potential contributors with bogus scientific claims and predictions of global apocalypse than with 'saving the environment.'" Indeed. But is Michael Crichton really the best he can offer? It's like making Erik Estrada a police officer in Muncie, Indiana based on his experience on CHIP's.

This is the (Imhofe, not Estrada!) man who promises to filibuster any attempt by the Senate to pass a bill involving mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. And he will do it. Just today his office posted the following press release: New ACNielsen Poll: 50% of Those Polled Don't Believe Global Warming Caused by Human Activity. But Nielsen also reveals that over 30 million of us tune in to watch American Idol each Tuesday and Wednesday night.

The subtext to all of this, as Inhofe's opening statement to the Committee's hearing today titled "Senator's Perspectives on Global Warming" is unfettered capitalism and an ideological aversion to regulating industry.

While I look forward to a vigorous debate this Congress I also look forward to vigorously pointing out the lack of scientific consensus, the real economic impact, and the effects of unilateral disarmament of our economy if we enact mandatory carbon reductions in the U.S., while the rest of the world is failing to meet their goals.

Lastly, how long are folks like Inhofe going to get away with the "lack of scientific consensus" argument? I know about the folks out there who decry this idea that there's consensus on the human cause of global warming, but you usually only find them on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal or on the payroll of Exxon or BP.

Iran In Ascendance

From Anthony Shadid’s article today in the Washington Post on the ascendance of Iran, some key quotes:

"The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. "There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It's more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region."

Added Eyal Zisser, head of the Middle Eastern and African Studies Department at Tel Aviv University in Israel: "After the whole investment in democracy in the region, the West is losing, and Iran is winning."

And this:

Iran has found itself strengthened almost by default, first with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to Iran's east, which ousted the Taliban rulers against whom it almost went to war in the 1990s, and then to its west, with the American ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, against whom it fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.

And this:

"It's very bleak and it's very dangerous," said Dakhil, the Saudi writer. "We have a sectarian civil war in Iraq now and this is drawing sectarian lines through the region. This is the most important, the most dangerous ramification of the American war in Iraq."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Finding A Better Solution

Sometimes I think I’ve got to stay away from articles like this one. Like anybody with an ounce of empathy, the reality of situations like this are incredibly troubling but since becoming a Dad I'm so sensitive to it that this kind of stuff literally tears me up.

In the largely unregulated world of international adoptions, these programs often lead to happily-ever-after, but sometimes end painfully. Ukraine and Russia place formidable obstacles in the path of parents, among them inaccurate information about children’s availability and health status. Multiple families can wind up competing for the same child. And children themselves know they are auditioning for what the industry calls their “forever families.” Then there is an entrenched system of favors — requests for cash or gifts from facilitators, translators, judges and others who handle the mechanics of adoption overseas.

Conditions in both countries have grown so unsettled, some agencies have suspended hosting programs, and the debate is growing about the ratio of risk to reward. Do the many success stories for older orphans make up for the heartbreak when adoption is thwarted?

The Prozzos had been deceived before by an intermediary who showed them a photograph of an adorable child they later learned was not available. So their guard was up before Alona’s visit in December.

“We won’t let this child call us ‘mama’ or ‘papa’ because we aren’t,” Mr. Prozzo said. But Alona’s visit had barely begun when she jumped into his outstretched arms and called him “papa.”

“Now what?” Mr. Prozzo said, melting. “Now what?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Prejudice Probably

I’m pretty sure the latest film adaptation of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice didn’t really have all the magic it seemed to cast on me when I watched it a few nights ago- more likely that I was, for whatever reason, nicely primed to receive its goods, no matter how warmed over. Definitely, having Donald Sutherland as the doting, misty-eyed Bennet patriarch was perfect. And I’m more then happy to admit to being smitten by the flakes of occasional thespian-like radiance Kiera Knightly has been sprinkling around since Bend it Like Beckham, but I ‘dunno. There was the occasional glide of the camera. The opening ball-sequence especially, where Bennets meet Bingley and where Elizabeth first meets Darcy. For most of this roughly 10-minute sequence the camera is completely inconspicuous, dutifully framing the narrative without fuss. But then, the narrative tensions nicely coaxed into motion, it cuts loose with a great montage of blooming allegorical swoons and striking angles blatant enough to draw you out of the picture and into its technique before the camera catches itself and shuffles back into hiding behind the story. At least that’s how it felt seeing it the first time and I doubt I’ll feel compelled to check it out again. But its funny how these little moments, especially one so early on, can wake you up to a films possibilities. Additionally, Deborah Moggach’s screenplay offers numerous bouquets of finely tuned and turned phrases that gain the additional advantage of being spoken with English accents, at least two of which (Sutherlands and Jena Malone) are faked. So there's a lot to like about the film, for sure. What I can't untangle is whether it's my prejudice or my pride that's keeping me from entirely giving myself over to the warm gush of its charms.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Birthday Cupcake

This is as obligatory as it is necessary.

Happy New Year!