Sunday, December 31, 2006

End of 2006: Don't Even Kiss It Goodbye

A cooper's hawk was wheeling above Pine Tree Park this morning when I walked the dogs. It would take three or four long wing flaps, gliding between each one, and then shoot along the face of a wind shear, wings extended, tail straight out, or it would catch a thermal and wheel around the cloudless sky. Seeing a raptor riding thermals always lifts my spirits. I can't rightly say why. It's not something I analyze, although I suspect that it is a glimpse into the sublime. A jolt of excitement accompanies each sighting, as if I were seeing a bird soar and glide through the sky for the first time, yet, paradoxically, it is also the thrill one gets on coming across an old friend at an unexpected time and place. Beyond that, the bird's mastery overawes me. Here is a performance artist of the first rank, literally creating in air a work of enduring beauty--endures, that is, as pure essence, in the mind of the beholder.

I'm a fatalist who believes omens exist only to be misread, but I'd rather see a hawk, especially a relatively rare one, on the cusp of the new year than not because I feel in my bones that 2007 will be better than 2006. It's been a wretched year to be sure, defined on the personal level by my fractured femur on Palm Sunday, attendant surgery and recovery--physical and mental--while also adapting, or not, to the vagaries of Parkinson's Disease. Late summer blew in metaphorically but not literally--we were spared hurricanes this year--bearing the word that a developer planned to plop an 128,000 square foot architectural monstrosity on a parking lot a block from our house. The old anarcho-syndicalist in me merged with the homeowner intent on protecting his primary investment to sound the alarm and organize the resistance, including a blog where readers who want to learn more can do so. In keeping with the nature of the blog as a sounding board for the neighborhood, I let anyone on who requests it. with occasionally curious results that show why editors were invented--self-invented probably. That said, I think of the Save Mid-Beach blog as an electronic wall set aside for graffiti and public announcements, in other words to let people sound off.

At year's end, an impasse exists. The neighborhood and city have told the developer that he must make substantive changes to his seven story design--that's a three-story parking garage surrounded by 7 three-story townhouses, with at latest count 35 condos in 4 stories perched atop, along with a pool---the whole resembling a mutant, top-heavy ferry boat. I'm not even going to count the broken air conditioner or the woeful state of health insurance or the scores of other subcrises that defined the year, I'm sure some people have prospered, and I say, Bravo! But nearly everyone I know is ready to push this one out the door.

Looming over everything, of course, like a toxic cloud befouling every aspect of our lives, is the horror of Iraq. I won't repeat my previous posts except to reiterate that the Bushies have stained the name and spirit of this country, have in their endorsement of torture brought the United States fully into the league of rogue states, and the Senate and House of Representatives are fully complicit, especially the Senate, for the members there could have filibustered the torture bill but did not. Barack Obama was one of those Senators who showed anything but courage. Anyone who believes that he is a different kind of politician, should recall that on the signal issue facing him in his Senate career to date, an issue requiring moral fortitude and political courage, Obama, like all of his colleagues, was AWOL. He voted against, to be sure, but he lacked the basic humanity to stand up in that chamber and say, 'This bill is so vile that it must not pass.' Senate Democrats now have no excuse for not working night and day to repeal that abomination and bring the Bushies to justice. I won't hold my breath. This country can't even pass universal health care for its own citizens, after all.

But the turn of the year provides at least the illusion of a new beginning, and that's enough to say good riddance '06.

Friday, December 29, 2006

If Cloned Food Is So Safe.

The FDA has issued an opinion that meat, milk, and milk products from cloned livestock are safe to eat. The opinion or finding will become final after a 90-period for public comment, and then the door will be open to putting those products into the food supply. Food producers would not have to label their clonal meat, milk, butter, or cheeses, according to reports in the New York Times [link above] and the Washington Post, ostensibly because they would be indistinguishable from their non-clonal counterparts.

I don't know whether cloned food is "safe," and I'm fairly confident that no one else--including the FDA science panel and the cloning companies--knows either. Experts can surmise and predict, but they lack proof and will continue to do so until the carnivorous populace is turned into guinea pigs in a grand, deceitful blind taste test. Remember, many experts saw nothing wrong with feeding animal parts to herbivores until Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease started rotting brains away.

But even if they are safe, cloned meat and dairy products flunk my smell test, which says, "When in doubt, chuck it out.' I wouldn't knowingly but it. In fact, we already stick to organics in order to avoid mass-produced meat and dairy products. I would want to know what came from cloned livestock, just as I would like to know what fruits and vegetables are genetically engineered--so I can avoid them. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn't propose requiring labels on cloned food any more than it--or any other agency--mandates labels on genetically engineered produce. The agency's deny it, but they know that if those foods were labeled, consumers would walk on by; the way they eschewed irradiated strawberries.

That's the point, though. If cloned food is so safe and good, put a label on it--a big, bold label. The stamp can come from the Agriculture Department, since the FDA is clearly spineless on this issue: "USDA Prime Clone," for example. The people can then decide for themselves.

Lost in these discussions of safety is concern for the genetic integrity and diversity of livestock. Breeding practices are already such that popular breeds, like Holstein cattle, are losing their genetic variability. That's primarily because of over reliance on a small number of related bulls for breeding--largely through artificial insemination. Cloning will move that problem to another level and increase reliance on drugs or genetic engineering to correct problems that are bound to arise from a thoroughly 'inbred' population.

Monday, December 18, 2006

When Is Stubborn Insane?

The dog has been MIA while fighting 'condo imperialism' a block from home and being reminded daily why people take to the barricades. While the invasion is unwelcome, the local struggle has served to unite a neighborhood and educate many of us in the nature of local politics, if only to learn why people don't get involved, but more on that later. It has also served as something of a distraction from the tragedy that is Iraq. But I've been thinking and writing for some time that the Bushy has gone off the deep end, and the press, so intent on reporting that he is in denial over the situation in Iraq, is itself ignoring the evidence--as is the Congress--that this man is insane, as also is his vice president, and both should be impeached for the good of the country and the world.

It's been known for some time that the Bushy doesn't live in a reality based world; he lives in fantasy land. That's delusional.

The Bushy is incapable of calling things by their proper names. That's delusional derangement.

The disconnect between the Bushy's words and his body language is so extremely and extremely unnerving--the man appears unhinged--that it begs for serious analysis. Instead, Peter Baker tells us in Sunday's Washington Post that the Bushy is singularly stalwart. Baker's analysis illustrates the mainstream media's refusal to question the Bushy's behavior--that is to analyze him psychologically. The failure certainly underscores the extreme deference, verging toward obsequiousness shown people high up the political power tower by those lower down--politicians included. But more significantly, it points to a powerful, unspoken, unexamined taboo against even questioning, much less examining a political leader's mental health, regardless of the harm they are doing.

As to Cheney, I suppose the main question is whether going over to the dark side is criminally insane or merely criminal.