Thursday, January 12, 2006

Conserv-ation

When I was in graduate school, a fellow student accused me of being a conservative (funny, huh?). I’ve never particularly liked labels like that because I think they make communication more difficult than it needs to be. People argue with what they assume other people believe based on “liberal” and “conservative” archetypes instead of just listening without prejudice.

Nevertheless, I argued with my accuser, saying that, for instance conservation is very important to me. He joked that that just proved that I was a conservative because look... I was in favor of conserving something...

It strikes me as kind of funny that, in fact, environmental conservation is considered a priority for “liberals” more than for “conservatives”. It seems to me that on this score, the major difference between the two archetypal positions is that liberals want to conserve things for the long term. A liberal sees that current practices can’t continue because if they do, we’re going to run out of stuff we’re exploiting. So liberals state that we ought to make changes in order to come as close as we can to continuing what we want to do. A conservative will say that the future is uncertain, and the farther to the future you look, the less certain are your predictions, so... don’t worry about anything more than a year or so down the line. The future will somehow take care of itself, probably through means we can’t yet see. Choosing today’s actions based on predictions of what the earth will be like in twenty years will definitely cause hardship -- potentially unnnecessary hardship -- to some people today. Why choose certain hardship today to prevent possible hardship decades away?

Dr. Seuss saw the error in the conservative viewpoint and published The Lorax in 1971. You can find the text of the story here, but I would encourage everyone to find a copy of the book.

For a more ancient source of inspiration, Aesop’s fable, “The Grasshopper and the Ants” also seems germane. There are different ways the story could be interpreted -- ironically I just found a site where the story is re-told with Democrats playing the part of the bad guys. But one way to interpret it is that you can either prepare for a future that isn’t currently obvious but can still be predictable (what the ants do), or you can fritter away your life in times of plenty, hoping that if things get worse, you’ll find a way to muddle through (as the grasshopper did... at least in versions of the story where the ants gave him food instead of leaving him to die).

I would like to think that we are learning from history. That there are so many grasshoppers and Once-lers around us suggests to me that we’re not learning as quickly as we need to be. But I can hope...

--Mickey P. Rowe (mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Can we expect peace this year?

I’ve been staying away from all of the latest Bush scandals, but I can’t do that forever. It wouldn’t be in my nature...

I predict that this is going to be a very ugly year for this country. My rationale has been spelled out by many such as Howard Fineman in his recent column, The 'I' Word.

People in power generally have to find ways to fend off threats to that power. Few have been as ruthless as the current occupants of the White House. A major trick they’ve used to co-opt others in their own defense has been to suggest that any dissent against them is the same as dissent against the United States. It’s not going to keep working for them. Too many people are noticing that what’s good for George Bush is not the same thing as what’s good for America.

Blatant Misleading

Over the holidays I had the good fortune to spend time with my father... who likes Fox News. Two things in particular caught my attention as being particularly disingenuous. The first was from Mr. Bush himself.

He was defending his NSA directive to eavesdrop on international phone conversations with U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. He argued quite forcefully that he should be allowed to monitor these conversations. He is attempting to direct public opinion away from the real reason for outrage. By arguing that the government should be allowed to eavesdrop, he is sidestepping the issue that is actually upsetting people... the claim that agents working on his behalf can conduct these wiretaps without any judicial oversight.

If the case can be made that these conversations should be monitored, then the case should be made. Little things like “due process”, “innocent until proven guilty”, and “unnecessary search and seizure” are important to this country. If Mr. Bush doesn’t understand that this is what the uproar is about then I hope someone can burst his bubble. By arguing about the eavesdropping instead of its oversight, I suspect he is misleading on purpose.

Which brings me to my second example of misleading... On New Year’s Day, Fox News kept running a story about how 2005 had been hard for Mr. Bush. Most people seem to agree with that. However, in their reporting, they asked the question, “how will Bush prevail in 2006”. The quote may not be exact, but they definitely used the word “prevail”. It frames the reporting in a way that suggests that all of the scandals and outrage in Washington are things that have victimized Mr. Bush. The question becomes, “what will he do to overcome his difficulties?” A fair and balanced presentation might have framed the question, “will Americans assign guilt to Mr. Bush for any of the various entanglements in which he’s participated?”

It is not like he is a bystander. And it is not like it is beyond question that he has done some things that are unethical and possibly illegal. The reporting should be framed such that his guilt or innocence are open questions. How will he prevail... I suspect most Fox viewers didn’t even notice they were being manipulated. But it was so blatant... “How” even goes so far as to frame your thinking into a question of the way it will happen, not even whether or not it will happen. How different the report would have sounded if the question were should he prevail?

If you saw the report, I hope you now recognize that you were, in fact, being manipulated... Fair and balanced my afterburners...

Mickey P. Rowe (mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

How To Have Fun With Fido

by Karen Lee Stevens.
This originally appeared in the South Coast Beacon.

There's no doubt about it--I'm a party animal. So, when I opened my mail the other day and found an invitation to Santa Barbara Pug Rescue's annual Pug Party, I yipped in excitement. A party with dogs and a cake? It just doesn't get any better than that. But, I can tell you right now, you're not going to find me making small talk and nibbling on the broccoli and celery sticks for long. I'm going to be right in the middle of the action with a digital camera in one hand and a notebook in the other. Karen Lee Stevens, Cub Reporter.

From the moment I stepped through the gates of Connie Phillip's County English estate on the Riviera, I was surrounded by a plethora of pampered pugs. There was nary a bark nor a bite among these squishy-faced, curly-tailed cuties. There were pugs puckering up in hopes of winning the Best Kisser contest, while others preened about in lavish attire in anticipation of taking home the blue ribbon for Best Costume. Those too pooped to party could be found cooling their paws in a shaded play pen.

My favorite pug though had to be four-year-old Molly, a paraplegic pug who belongs to Mandy Evans of Santa Barbara. Molly doesn't let her handicap slow her down. This sweet and friendly four-year-old pug propels herself around with her very own custom-made set of wheels. Evans frequently takes Molly into local schools to talk about what it's like to love and care for a dog with special needs.

The pawpularity of pooch parties are increasing exponentially, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. The findings showed that, in 2004, nine percent of dog lovers held birthday parties for their canines, a six-fold increase over the previous year.

No one knows how to party with panache better than Arden Moore, author of Dog Parties: How to Party with Your Pup. She says, "Wouldn't you rather attend a dog party than a snobby wine-tasting affair, a pricey candle party, or a put-you-to-sleep Monopoly marathon? People parties are passé--dog parties rule!"

I couldn't agree more. My recent foray into dog party-dom was absolutely pugalicious and I can't wait for another one. Pawty on!
Karen Lee Stevens is the pet columnist for the Montecito Journal, published biweekly in Montecito, and is the founder and Executive Director of AllforAnimals.com.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dust in the Wind

When I was four years old, I started building plastic model kits. Over the course of the next fifteen years I built hundreds of them. At one point I had over 75 airplanes and a few space ships hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom. As an adult I’d like to keep up the hobby, but like many people in my generation, the best I’ve been able to do is squirrel away several kits because I just can’t find the time to build them.

I continue to squirrel kits away because I can see that the hobby is almost dead; if I hope to build models after I retire, I need to get them now... I was in Long’s drug store in Lompoc last night... It had been the one holdout in town. Walmart has a supply that waxes and wanes a bit, but Long’s was dependable. Right now it looks like they’ve given up too. Just a few remaining kits tucked away at the end of the aisle.

As a kid I didn’t give a lot of thought to the history of polystyrene model building. It was so easy to find such a variety of inexpensive kits it just seemed like the hobby had been around forever. But I came on the scene not too long after polystyrene kits largely displaced kits built from balsa wood, paper, and dope. And I wonder how many people a generation or two before mine watched wistfully as plastic pushed out wood. Just as I watch electronic games, pre-fabricated toys, and Legos push away the model kit industry.

Things Come and Go

I see the rise and fall of plastic model kits as a metaphor for most of the things people take for granted. Like Christmas. Watching blowhards like Bill O’Reilly foam at the mouth about the “war on Christmas” would be funny if it weren’t so counterproductive and historically ignorant. Bill’s time would be better spent building toy models.

Most aspects of the way that Americans currently celebrate Christmas are relatively recent inventions and co-options of the practices of non-Christians. It’s rather ironic that Christians take offense that others don’t adequately respect their holiday. Should I be mad at the Lego corporation for creating and selling kits that people now generally prefer to the glue and paint kits I prefer? Can I do that without appreciating how “my” kits pushed aside wood and paper?

The biggest irony of all is the statement that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Whatever season Jesus is the reason for, it’s not winter. For a radical view, including some of the basic reasoning (agreed with by all with even a passing understanding of history) of why Jesus could not have been born on December 25th, take a look at:

http://www.angelfire.com/la/prophet1/jesusbirth.html

In some times and places in the precursors to the United States, Christmas was outlawed partly because most aspects of its celebration are thoroughly pagan. Congress was in session on December 25th 1789, and Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until 1870. (These facts are courtesy of The History Channel.) It is quite likely that most of the things we take for granted now -- the mad rushes to buy presents for everyone, the contests to have the most or most impressive light displays, the omni-present decorations and signs saying “Merry Christmas” or, God forbid, “Happy Holidays” will be gone or unrecognizably transformed within a few generations. History suggests it may even be Christians who will be primarily responsible for these changes.

Let It Be

Most changes are greeted by at least some people with sadness and anger. If “Happy Holidays” really does displace “Merry Christmas” the same way Legos and videogames displaced model kits, those who really love “Merry Christmas” will have my sympathy. But if they get angry and attack people “responsible” for the change, they’ll get the same respect they’d give me if I were to angrily denounce Lego and Nintendo and try to rally others to anger in an effort to organize boycotts of those companies. Sounds kinda’ nuts, doesn’t it?

Mickey Rowe     (mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What we knew three years ago...

Readers will be forgiven if they think that Ron Fink and I are the same person (like Stephen Colbert debating himself as his own Formidable Opponent on “The Colbert Report”). However, I would like to assure everyone that my return coinciding closely with Mr. Fink’s is purely... coincidental. As is the fact that we are tackling similar topics. I chose my topic before I glanced at his blog...

I’m coming from a slightly different, but not diametrically opposed angle. I’m actually getting tired of hearing how badly the mainstream media failed to get people to realize that invading Iraq was a bad idea. If you followed enough media reports, it was easy to see that the Bush administration was hyping the WMD story.

When I wrote my first entry for the CC News Mission blog, I noted that I was new to blogging. But I wasn’t new to spouting off. Here are a couple of things I sent (these are unedited excerpts from my files) to the editors of The Lompoc Record, first in January of 2003:


We're told we need to attack Iraq because they have
weapons of mass destruction, and Mr. Bush and Mr.
Rumsfeld insist those weapons are there even
though to date U.N. inspectors have found none.


and then in March of 2003 (I wrote this before the invasion began, though I think it was published after “Shock and Awe”):


The vast majority of us opposed to an
unprovoked attack on Iraq love our country
and support our troops. Most of us think
the best way to defend America and its ideals
is to do all we can to prevent what we think
would be by far the worst mistake our
government has ever made.

Last summer the CIA said that if Iraq has any
weapons of mass destruction they are unlikely
to be used unless Iraq is attacked first. More
recently UN weapons inspectors have stated that
no evidence of such weapons or their production
has been found at sites searched based on
intelligence provided by the U.S. government.
The inspectors stated that the "tips" they've been
receiving have been garbage. That's not a literal
quote since I'm sure the Record would not
publish the word actually used.

There is no credible evidence that Iraq is any
threat to us now or will be in the near future. If
we attack, though, we will be inviting a new
generation of terrorists inspired by the "success"
of 9/11. I can imagine a much better future. I
protest in an effort to bring about my vision
rather than Osama bin Laden's.


Although many may have been snowed by “reporting” such as that put forth by Judith Miller at The New York Times, if you read multiple sources and gave the most credible sources the most weight as you tried to determine the Truth®, you could have anticipated much of what we would find out if we invaded Iraq.

Anyone who wants to argue with the me of three years ago should look into the CIA’s current assessments of the impact that the Iraq war has had on worldwide terrorism. There’s essentially no dispute that the invasion and subsequent occupation have been the greatest terrorist recruiting tool that Al Qaeda has ever had. The occupation has also turned Iraq into the best possible terrorist training ground. These things were predictable. Anyone who thinks they weren’t should be ashamed. And don’t blame “the media”. On issues as important as this, people should put in some effort to educate themselves.

--
Mickey P. Rowe     (mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Janet Wolf To Get A "Free Ride?"

By contributor Jon K. Williams, Santa Barbara Progressive Coalition.

The News-Press trumpets "conspiracy" since several Democratic electeds have spoken in favor of Janet Wolf’s running for county board of supervisors. Would that there were enough cohesion in the local Democratic Party to actually conspire or, as a less biased and judgmental publication might call it, "reach consensus to effect positive change."

Personally I believe, as the News-Press says it does, that our community can only benefit from hearing the views of multiple candidates on a wide range of issues. I fear, however, that the esteemed daily journal will not be able to control its own libertarian urges when it comes to commenting on the discussion that ensues.

Today, before anyone actually declared intent to run for office, we heard from the paper that Ms. Wolf is the "hand-picked successor" of outgoing supervisor Susan Rose, a woman they call "beleaguered and polarizing, one of three off-putting twisted sisters leaving behind a legacy of ineffective representation."

Now that’s starting things off with an open mind, isn’t it?

The editorial concludes, "Party bosses want to give Janet Wolf a free pass to November." I challenge the News-Press to publish an accurate and well researched article explaining who these local "party bosses" are and how they wield such nefarious power.

I'm not suggesting there's a conspiracy on the part of a certain paper and those hoping to see the 2nd district go to a conservative candidate, but "Free Debate and Fair Reporting" needs to be our battle cry and all concerned readers have to help keep the News-Press editorial board in line.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Friday Night Films Continue Tradition

There's an ongoing tradition in Santa Barbara called "Friday Night Films." You are invited to come view a timely film at Friendship Manor. The address is: 6647 El Colegio, Isla Vista, every Friday night at 7:30 pm.

Films on the schedule for this month:

December 9 -- "CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN."
John Perkins’ personal account of the events that forced him to choose between conscience and the glamorous life of power, luxury, and beautiful women.

Also playing, "NEW PATRIOTS." Five U.S. military veterans, including a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and a woman West Point graduate, speak out about terrorism, patriotism and their transformation from warriors to peace activists.

December 16 -- "EMBEDDED LIVE." Embedded Live contains a stage performance of Tim Robbins' controversial satire that pointed out the horror and the folly of the American invasion of Iraq. The story of the play concerns a group of journalists who have been embedded with troops on the ground in the fictional country of Gomorrah.

December 23 -- "SOLVING THE CRIMES OF 911." A great gathering of concerned citizens met at Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles on October 23, 2004, in an exciting and often dramatic demonstration of citizen courage and responsibility.

They drew on Common Law for precedent, elected and convened a Citizens' Grand Jury, formally rejected the legitimacy and conclusions of the Kean-Hamilton 9/11 Commission and declared the 'Official Story' "physically impossible, contradictory, implausible and fraudulent."

December 30 -- "ON THE EDGE" by Ron Dexter and Douglas Gillies, winner of the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival Award for Best Global Perspective Documentary. "A discussion by a blue ribbon panel, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Jane Goodall on options and outcomes for a sustainable world."

Friendship Manor is in the heart of Isla Vista on the corner of El Colegio and Los Carneros. The events take place upstairs in Jaimison Hall near the library and meeting room.

Parking is at the Manor Corner parking lot (the entrance is on the southeast corner of the empty lot at Camino Pescadero and El Colegio, on the east side of Friendship Manor.) The opening is nearly opposite the west end of Cervantes Road. Do not park in the underground parking structure! Better yet, walk, bus or bike to the film.

All are welcome. Suggested donation is $3 to $5 or whatever you can afford. For more information contact Art Schwartz by e-mail (art.farm at cox dot net), or call him at 968-1965.
This event is co-sponsored by Campus Greens, Hopedance, Isla Vista Co-Op and Veterans For Peace.