Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Position on Health Care

My wife Lori has a more reasoned essay.

I have no expectation that there will ever be a functional health care system in this country ever because we are the stupidest country in the Solar System and we are proud of it.

SallyH at Eschaton says it much better:

"If people don't think their health care is already heavily rationed, they're delusional."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Protecting Maine Atlantic Salmon

Now that Atlantic salmon in the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers have been protected as an endangered species, it is time to actually protect them. Here are some things to ponder as we do so:

1. The U.S. Endangered Species Act forbids us from giving up.

The ESA can be boiled down to the advice we give our kids: "no excuses allowed." As early as the 1830s, influential officials in Bangor and Augusta declared that the "time for salmon" was past and efforts to restore salmon to Maine's rivers were futile. The same sentiments are echoed today. The Endangered Species Act does not afford us the luxury of making a half-hearted gesture. As Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try."

2. The basic needs of Maine Atlantic salmon are simple to provide.

In the Penobscot River, Atlantic salmon need to swim from Penobscot Bay to Wassataquoik Stream in Baxter State Park, mate, spawn and swim back down to the sea. That is all they need.

But the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers have been blocked by dams since the 1820s. Many of these dams have been grandfathered from compliance with modern conservation laws, like an apartment built without fire escapes.

But unlike an apartment building, in our dammed up salmon rivers there is a fire every spring. Every spring, salmon cannot move past these dams. And every fall, those few salmon which do move past the dams are cut into pieces by their metal-bladed turbines as they try to migrate to the ocean.

The technology to allow salmon to move past dams and divert them from turbine blades is well known and used at dams all across the globe. All that needs to be done in Maine is for this technology to be installed at all of the dams on Maine's salmon rivers. This technology is not difficult or costly to install. It is as well understood as the technology that keeps human waste out of our rivers.

For the same reason we protect bald eagle nests from disturbance, we must protect the migration routes of Atlantic salmon from disturbance. As we have seen with the bald eagle, when we do this, the eagles return. If we leave the salmon unmolested to swim up our rivers and give birth, they will return.

3. The Endangered Species Act provides Maine with vital funding.

Few people know that nearly all of the funding to restore Atlantic salmon in Maine since the 1870s has come from the federal government, not the State of Maine.

This is the same as the federal Clean Water Act, authored by Maine's own Senator Edmund Muskie. Federal dollars paid for the wastewater treatment plants that now make Maine's rivers clean enough to swim and fish in. Without this federal money, Maine towns and cities would have been hardpressed to front the initial capital to build modern wastewater facilities.

The U.S. Endangered Species Act provides exactly the same funding opportunity as the U.S. Clean Water Act. The ESA is not an unfunded mandate -- it is the opposite. Most of the river restoration activities the ESA will fund on the Penobscot, Androscoggin and Kennebec Rivers have long been on the wish list of Maine fisheries agencies, but have never been done for lack of money. These river improvements will benefit Maine people, Maine wildlife and all of Maine's native fish, not just salmon.

4. Protecting Maine's endangered species works.

Ask the bald eagle. Nearly extinct in Maine and the U.S. in the 1960s, the bald eagle are a frequent sight in Maine and have now been removed from the U.S. and Maine endangered species lists.

Ask the wild turkey. Extinct from Maine for nearly a century, wild turkey are increasing by leaps and bounds.

Ask the moose. Reduced to a few hundred animals in Maine by 1900, moose are now common.

Ask the osprey, great blue heron, bluebird, wood duck and white tailed deer. All of these animals, once rare in Maine, quickly recovered once we gave them a fighting chance to come back.

The Endangered Species Act gives us the funding and collective spine to get done what needs to get done for those who will inherit this state and its rivers from us. It is an opportunity, not a liability.

Or to put it another way, I would rather explain to a child why a salmon leaps, than explain why there are no salmon leaping.

For our children and their salmon, there can be no middle course in the matter. It is time to move forward.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sun Spots Return to the Sun

And I thought that sun spots were made by Creationists throwing rocks at it.

Revolution in Iran

I think the Iranian experience, especially for young Iranians, is so fundamentally different from ours that it is best for us to watch, learn and try to understand. And all three of these actions requires us to remove our own self-editing cultural and ideological blinders. Americans are so used to having complex trends and events boiled down into sound bites that it has almost become impossible for us to observe and then learn from the observation.

I am learning a lot from observing what we can gather here from what is happening in Iran. Much of it is instructive and inspiring.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Knocked Up Palin.

So the right gets offended because David Letterman made a joke about Sarah Palin's knocked up daughter getting ... knocked up.

And let me see ... the intended reference of the joke is an 18 year old woman. According to the right, if you are 18 you are an adult, in the sense that you can be sentenced to death in a gas chamber, sent to war to die or, if you are a brown skinned furriner, you can be tortured to death in a U.S. gulag in Romania. The right believes all of this stuff is okey dokey for an 18 year old.

But if Letterman makes a joke about a knocked up 18 year old getting knocked up, she's just a child.

I have little patience for all of the panty-twisting about the sociopolitical implications of David Letterman making a toss-off joke about Palin's knocked up daughter getting knocked up by Alex Rodriguez. Not from a political party that sells t-shirts which humorously support human torture and wants to nuke entire brown people civilizations into a slag of radioactive glass.

And if Palin's daughter, Bristol, wants to be spared from the slings and arrows of being called a knocked up 18 year old by a late night comic, she probably should stop appearing on every talk show this side of Uzbekistan to discuss the wondrous benefits of being a knocked up 18 year old. Selling abstinence.

The right's pained stretch to Chelsea Clinton, like everything else they mumble, fails the fact test. Chelsea Clinton never sought out any attention and wanted none. She did not go on talk shows discussing the wonders of getting knocked up. The legal test of a public figure in libel is intent -- has the person intentionally sought the public spotlight? Bristol Palin has. Chelsea Clinton did not. You are not a public figure if you were thrust unwillingly into the public spotlight. That fits Chelsea Clinton. She only became a known person because of her parents' career decisions. Public fame was not something she sought, solicited or coveted. Nor does she today. Since her mother lost the election, Bristol Palin has aggressively and deliberately sought the public spotlight. And I haven't heard anyone on the right ever take back all the horrible stuff that was said about Chelsea Clinton, so the faux outrage and alleged parallelism here is a tad disingenuous.

And the right's attempted one-to-one correspondence with Don Imus' "nappy headed hos" comment, is for similar reasons, to no avail. Imus slagged on the black members of the Rutgers womens basketball team for genetically programmed physical features which they cannot control. Letterman slagged on Bristol Palin for behavior that she freely and willingly engaged in, despite the obvious consequences. If you make a stupid decision, but then use that same stupid decision as your ticket to public prominence and fawning attention, then it's only fair game for someone like David Letterman to point out your hypocrisy for the sake of a cheap laugh.

Don't bring a raisin to a pie fight.

Which seems a good time to revisit the words of my recently deceased artistic collaborator, Mark Kemezys: