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Saturday, July 31, 2010
Top Kill

They finally got that giant Petroleum spewing hole at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico plugged. Good show and only after three months. Those BP people they are a credit to their profession. I don't really have any more to add here. I have to get home and bolt the barn door and then go and round up all those horses.

Addendum to a thin post. Two things on NPR, related to last Diane Rehm did a segment on the new and frankly preposterous claim that the millions of gallons of oil spilled is all just quietly and politely going away on its own. What's happened to the Oil in the gulf | Diane Rehm Do they really think we are all that stupid? I guess so.

Second and related to a previous post. This whole week NPR's morning edition has done a terrific set of shows on the Mexican drug gang violence and the effect the Mexican government declaring war on all of it called "Mexico: The War Within."

  1. As Drug War Turns Into Quagmire, Fear Rules Mexico : NPR
  2. Mexico's Drug Cartels Use Force To Silence Media : NPR
  3. Amid Mexico's Drug War, A Rush For Bulletproof Cars : NPR
  4. Mexico's Vacation Paradise Marred By Drug Carnage : NPR
  5. As The Drug War Rages On, Will Mexico Surrender? : NPR

8:42:21 AM    ;;

Thursday, July 29, 2010

  Weather can be entertaining. Weathering is what things do. In line with this a pictuesque thunderstorm came through the DC area last Sunday afternoon An inside view of Sunday's severe weather - Capital Weather Gang. First there was an abrupt darkening, then plenty of wind but no rain immediately.The wind kept increasing steadily Then rain started seemingly late to the game but hard and driven.

 The wind already in full thunderstorm strength, suddenly picks up into another entire level of intensity. It was like nothing I could recall. Branches and entire trees elongating and straightening out. Reminding me absurdly of nothing so much as those elastic rubber bands bracelets that are shaped like sharks, gorillas (or trees) when relaxed but pull out into a line when streatched. I realized that the winds must be topping out at 60 mph or more. This wind drove into a savage sustained whistleing gust, the sky suddenly filled with debris. Trees began to visiblbly shed parts. The heavy rain drops were ripped apart into clouds of chaotic spray. It did not seem like the wind was blowing as much as that thre was a giant vacuum somewhere sucking everything into it.  When it finally let go the rain fell straight down for a moment. Then it picked up again, less strongly. Noticibly the wind was now blowing the rain in the opposite direction. The idea of a tornado briefly went through my thoughts, but thunderstorms have a strong central down-draft from which the winds splay out which would also account for this Thunderstorm - Wikipedia.

  A short but lively thunder and lightning portion to the storm followed this, somewhat of an anticlimax and reduntant as well. A quick look around confirmed that the power had gone out during the wind earlier, and for nearly 400,000 other people as well. It stayed out for the next thirty-nine hours. Longer than that for my sister Susan's family over in Montgomery county.       


  This meant two nights in the dark with no tv, no internet Just a couple of books and a transister radio.  It begs the question of how many candles does it take to read comfortably by, and what makes a good power outage candle.

 The first night was Sunday and providentially this is the day of the week when Ed Walker veteran Washington DJ issues a collection of radio serials from the thirties, forties and fifties The Big Broadcast on WAMU 88.5. The line-up Sunday 25 July 2010, included five half hour crime dramas, a Gunsmoke, all culminating in an Orson Welles production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" from 1939. The story telling was a little rough around the edges, but the form and gimmicks were recognizible, it was perfectly entertaining. Television is only a incremental advance on radio.

 Monday: no radio serials, only WTOP news time. I light up the candles when it gets dark. Cruelly this was after being at work and having power and internet all day. I have two camping type candle lanterns. It had been apparent from the day before that reading is more than a two candle-power endeavor. I rig two more, exhausting my supply of candles. The next problem is the book, Norman Cantor's Antiquity [Antiquity : from the birth of Sumerian civilization to the fall of the Roman Empire] The previous chapter on Rome had been engaging, even fun. He had now turned to St. Augustine's, employing a dialogue technique to keep it moving along. Nothing really renders Augustine into light reading though. I eventually turn to some narrative fiction "City of Glass" for a while before calling it an early evening.


 The power outage also kept me off the internet, even though my phone worked and the laptop has a five hour battery, the dsl box needs electricity. This interferred with identifing and repairing a problem with the weblog where it rewrote a controlling XML file back to an unusable default. Even though I had solved this problem several months ago, Somehow I had neglected to write down or make a back-up of how this file ought to look. It took having the power back on and an evening of trial and era before I got it right. Now once again the electrons flow out to the sea like the waters of the mighty Potomac.

10:01:10 AM    ;;

Friday, July 9, 2010
Five Myths

  A few months ago the Washington Post debuted a new column for its Sunday Outlook section, the crown jewel of their journalistic acumen.  A conventional wisdom column called Five myths: 5 Myths: A challenge to everything you think you know. The column features guest columnists and guest myths. A conventional wisdom column is a category of thing that has one of two ways to go. It can either be a compendium of home truths -- ala Bonhomme Richard. Or it can stand lonely heroically against the things fools believe. The Post goes with the populist non conformity angle here. Iconoclasm as high office.

  Truth; however, is never as simple as smashing what is. It is not a tasty cookie you pull from the shards of the jar after you've cracked it open. Wisdom is not as easily come by as conventional thought stood on its head. An appealing - enduring line of thought that seeks truth through opposites. A sympathetic magic approach that delivers a tincture of true cold for the "hot what ails ye." Granted the conventional line of thought held by the many may never be the whole truth and deepest understanding, but it is rarely wholly without truth.  The veil of this world does not fall between men and their natures. One can always follow the passions and appetites of people to find what they are after. Even when they appear not to know themselves. I say nothing of the discomfort at achieving desire. There the curtain drops.

This type of column also deliberately trades in confusing conventional wisdom,  which is presented as a jalopy of second hand opinion, with common knowledge -- those things experience has proved coldly to each of us. 

 The Post has run around around twenty-five or so of these columns out the door so far. I just want to point out two examples from fairly early on that convinced me to take this lot with several grains of salt. 

 There was a column about green alternative energy that suspiciously claimed it was all very impractical  and mistaken 5 Myths about green energy (By Robert Bryce, April 25, 2010) . This against the sensible approach of drilling for oil and carving the tops of mountains off. A glance at at the foot of the column as solar and wind power were summarily waved aside revealed the piece was written by individuals from the Manhattan Institute [Manhattan Institute for Policy Research - Wikipedia].  This is absurd and insulting. The entire concept of green is an anathema to them. They just want to push it away from them (and you) with a stick. Would everyone reading that piece get that? Damn the global warming and environmental torpedos. Light the hydrocarbon fires Set the controls for the heart of the sun. Let's put this economy on interstellar overdrive.

 Another piece a month earlier was spectacular in its a-conception. This was on the subject that Mexico's drug war and violence are not pushing that country towards being a failed or compromised state 5 Myths about Mexico's drug war (Post, March 28, 2010) . Each of their assertions was not only not entirely correct and of less than complete use in nudging myth off its pedestal, but utterly wrong. Contradicted by ordinary facts. Wrong in its particularities, wrong in its generalities.  [ General background:  World bank on Mexico Mexico - Country Brief.  State Dept. Mexico:USDoS]

The Myths in this case were

  1. Mexico is descending into widespread and indiscriminate violence.
  2. The Mexican Government lacks the resources to fight the Cartels
  3. Endemic corruption allows the cartels to flourish
  4. Mexican Violence is spilling over into the US
  5. Drug violence is a Mexican problem not a US one.

With 122,000 people killed in 6-10 years of smuggling and gang bickering  22,700 killed in drug violence in Mexico since '06 | World news |  Any incident involving a street of people or a party, and also Kalishnikovs is indiscriminate violence. Any incident involving the murder of relatives of someone in the trade, or law enforcement  (as happened after Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed late last year) fighting the trade, is indiscriminate. Shooting singers for singing the wrong ballads is indiscriminate violence. It is a real war being fought across the border and the nature of war, its essential logic, is indiscriminate killing. The enforcement division of the cartels in some estimates is upwards of a 100, 000 armed men Mexico - Wikipedia. Which is roundly comparable to the manpower of the military and police forces arrayed against it.   An attorney general, Chief of the federal police, Ex-chief of the organized crime division, and 284 federal Police commanders -- from all 31 federal districts have been implicated in anti corruption campaigns for ties to the cartels. The La Zetas are apparently almost entirely made up of ex police and army special forces FACTBOX-Main flashpoints in Mexico's drug war | Reuters:.  A permanent destabilization of the Mexican state to preserve a level of lawlessness and localism (ineffective federalism) is undoubtedly a long term goal of the cartels. They don't need to run things,  just the anarchy of things being run poorly Mexican Drug War - Wikipedia.

 While fear of more effective US law enforcement and the fact that it is principally a struggle between Mexican gangs and smuggling routes has kept the murders on the Mexican side of the border, There is nothing inherently special about the border. If one of the cartels decides to move its operations north of the border the war will follow. Already the cartels have moved into distribution well into the American interior.

 I have seen someone beat within inches of his life in the stairwell of my own apartment building a few years ago.  Working backwards from this singualr and ugly incident to the constant hurried exchanges at the door to the apartment across from mine. The truck and delivery van drivers who would rain knocks on their door starting at 0530 every morning. The lines extending up the staircase down the sidewalk and out to the street on weekends. The young women I knew who were in that apartment, but never went out. In hindsight it was likely they were selling girls and meth (and who knows what all else) from that apartment. The entire year and a half they lived there I knew they were very aware of me. I removed my name from the hall mailbox.  It was just Langely Park, giving off that borderland vibe when it can.

 The last point (fourth in the orginal list) is the only one I will concede. It is a myth that drug violence is just  a Mexican problem The business of drug traffic in Mexico: Economic blessing or course. not a US one. The money which drives all of this all the violence is our money Cash From Marijuana Fuels Mexico's Drug War : NPR . Money we use to buy a truly amazingly large amount of drugs Experts Say US and Mexico Must Work Together to Battle Mexican Drug Cartels | Americas | English. On this lading slip our legacy is written: lamp of the multitude , brave stoner nation! Over all, as a triumph of the contrary view this piece by writers from the Wilson Center [Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars - Wikipedia] was an absolute fail.  For those who see this violence as the inevitable result of deliberate policy to prosecute a Drug War this whitewash is especially dubious The Nature of the U.S.-Mexico Drug War | Scoop News.

 The real danger of a column like this and particularly the way the Post is handling it, Is that it delivers subjects to those most possessed in writing about them. It operates for those with a vested interest in what people believe. Often at a juncture where they are inclined not to believe something. It is a vehicle for the status quo and  interests of the powerful, allowing them the representation as outsider opinion,  underdog interest.  Intrinsic wisdom of the voice that tells you what you you think you know is wrong. If not turning things completely on their head setting up straw men to lazily knock aside, at best taking a situation with two sides to its story and positing your side as the new and emergent truth.

 The problem usually assiduously guarded against in book reviews -- not to hand a work off to an authors ideological critics or petty rivals, seems almost the point to this column. I cannot believe that this endeavor was intended this way. Perhaps it is simply a case of confused or lackadaisical management. Or more likely a case of a provided resource being co-opted as yet another piece of property by the powerful. If the regular run of this column is going to produce more pieces such as these I would advise the post to pull the plug and let these groups pay for their own PR.

9:53:21 PM    ;;

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