Friday, May 26, 2006

Bay Checkerspot Butterfly

(Left): Caption from Washington Post: Traffic-induced habitat changes are threatening the breeding grounds of the bay checkerspot. (Courtesy Jon Christensen)

There is an article in today's Sacramento Bee, written by Juliet Eilperin from the Washington Post, discussing the rare Bay Checkerspot Butterfly, which lives on endangered habitat in the Serpentine Hills immediately adjacent to San Jose, and on Coyote Ridge, south of town.

Recently, a biologist named Stuart Weiss determined that cattle grazing is an essential element in keeping the Checkerspot's favored shrubby habitat from being overrun by nitrogen-loving grasses. Nitrogen deposition (nitrogen-bearing air-pollutant compounds like nitric acid and ammonia settling out on the land) has greatly increased in recent decades as the area became urbanized. Nitrogen deposition tilts the biological playing field towards grasses and away from shrubs. Grass-eating cows tilt the playing field back in the other direction, back towards butterfly-friendly shrubs.
But on Coyote Ridge's northern edge, their numbers crashed in the early 1990s as Silicon Valley's high-tech boom spurred a wave of development. The species, with its brilliant orange-and-red-flecked wings, first crashed between Palo Alto and San Francisco in the 1980s, prompting federal officials to list it as threatened with extinction. Then in the early '90s its numbers dropped on the southern edge of San Jose, around the suburban subdivisions that abut Coyote Ridge.

The cause was a mystery until conservation biologist Stuart Weiss figured out that the butterfly's woes stemmed from a combination of pollution from the freeway below and, surprisingly, a cutback in local cattle grazing.

The fate of the bay checkerspot -- despite its problems, the butterfly still hatches in mid-April -- highlights the complexity of ecological relationships. As development surged, the stress of vehicular and power plant pollution devastated a population cycle that had existed for centuries.

Over years of research, Weiss -- who has worked for utility and waste management companies as well as conservation groups and government agencies -- documented how the nitrogen oxide emissions from cars commuting to Silicon Valley enriched the nutrient-poor serpentine-rock soil that sustains the native grasslands on Coyote Ridge. This soil enrichment allowed invasive grasses -- which flourish in more nitrogen-rich soil -- to out-compete the native plants on which the checkerspot depends. When local ranchers stopped grazing their cows on one side of the ridge, it made things worse, because grazing helped keep invasive grasses in check.

"The grazed side is great butterfly habitat, the ungrazed side is lousy," Weiss said. "You end grazing in the areas and it's bye-bye butterflies."

While Weiss may appear an unlikely champion for ranchers -- the amiable Stanford-trained scientist brings along a thermos of green tea and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate on his field trips -- he says that, in this case, cows play a vital role in preventing what he calls a "drive-by extinction." Cattle seek out the most nutritious grasses, he explained, and so they consume the grasses that threaten the dwarf plantain (Plantago erecta), critical to the checkerspot caterpillars.

There is no question that exhaust from cars cruising below Coyote Ridge is depositing nitrogen in the ridge's soil. About 110,000 vehicles a day traverse Highway 101 and, along with other urban sources, annually deposit 15 to 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre on the ridge, according to Weiss's monitoring equipment. Some of the nitrogen is absorbed by living plants, while small particles of the pollutant stick to plants and the ground and are washed into the soil by rain. By contrast, pollution from power plants and vehicles each year deposits just four to five pounds of nitrogen per acre on Jasper Ridge, a Stanford University biological reserve half an hour away.

By the mid-1990s, the checkerspot's numbers on Coyote Ridge's northern end had dropped from about 50,000 to near extinction. But in areas that have been grazed and well maintained, the population hovers in the low hundreds of thousands.
As part of the state permitting process for construction of the recently-built and nitrogen-generating Metcalf power plant, Calpine Corporation agreed to set up an endowment to ensure that cattle grazing can be implemented in perpetuity on these hills, whatever the cattle market might be, in order to offset the extra nitrogen deposition from the power plant, plus the far-larger nitrogen deposition wafting in from automobile emissions.
Unlike some conservation sagas, however, in this case local businesses and elected officials listened to Weiss, and it has made a difference, not only on Coyote Ridge. When Calpine Corp. decided to build a 600-megawatt power plant that would emit 120 tons of nitrogen oxide a year, Weiss lobbied the firm to create a 131-acre butterfly and plant reserve on nearby Tulare Hill as mitigation.

Calpine assented, setting aside the habitat six years ago and providing a $1.3 million endowment to manage the land. "It was increasingly clear there was some concern about sensitive hillside habitat, and this seemed to be the best means to address this," said Kent Robertson, Calpine's director of public relations. Local chapters of the Sierra Club and American Lung Association welcomed the move, he said.

That established a precedent, so when the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority moved to expand Highway 101 below Coyote Ridge from four lanes to eight, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instructed the agency to preserve 548 acres of habitat as compensation. Fish and Wildlife determined that the pollution from the increased traffic posed a threat not only to the butterfly but to four federally listed endangered plants as well: the Santa Clara Valley dudleya, Metcalf Canyon jewelflower, coyote ceanothus and Tiberon paintbrush.

"Obviously, when you are expanding a highway or doing a major construction project, there are going to be environmental impacts," said transportation agency spokeswoman Jayme Kunz, adding that the June 2005 land purchase cost $55.3 million. "We felt mitigation was a critical part of doing any kind of construction that would expand our highway."
In any event, as part of my job here at Sierra Research, I did the air quality modeling regarding nitrogen deposition on these hills, on behalf of Calpine Corporation.

Long live the Checkerspot Butterfly!
John Hancock Update

More this morning from MikeMac:
John is doing very well. Late last night, he squeezed both Lauren's and mine hands. The nurse says he's off main sedation, meaning he's no longer being kept under, but since his kidneys aren't filtering the chemicals out so well, they're still keeping him down. I hope (and the nurse concurs) that dialysis today will put out a lot of the chemicals and we'll see more response from him. However, he is scheduled for some surgeries today around noon; the doctors are hoping to take care of his pelvic fracture, right upper arm fracture, and take a look at his left (I think) ankle to see if there's anything to be done other than keeping it in one place like they're doing now. It's probable that this anesthesia will add to the other drugs in his system and set him back on the "wake-up" timetable. However, with his kidneys starting back up, we may not have long to wait anyways.

The doctor came in last night to check on him a bit, and asked John to open his eyes, and he did! This is a Very Very Good Thing, since it means John is capable of hearing us and respond to commands. We're all very excited about it!

He's almost breathing on his own. The respiratory technician said that John was initiating the breathing pretty much entirely by himself, but the respirator was still supplying "high backup pressure", which is taken to mean the machine is pushing air into his lungs, but is waiting for John to start the breath, so his lungs are starting to come back. If you go in there and look at the screen, there's a green line with a few purple streaks in it... the purple is apparently his lungs sucking on the respirator vent.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Drunk Driving Record

Shouldn't even be alive!:
Lithuanian police were so astonished by a breath test that registered 18 times the legal alcohol limit, they thought their device must be broken. It wasn't.

Police said Tuesday 41-year-old Vidmantas Sungaila registered 7.27 grams per liter of alcohol in his blood repeatedly on different devices after he was pulled over Saturday for driving his truck down the center of a two-lane highway 60 miles from the capital, Vilnius.

Lithuania's legal limit is 0.4 grams per liter.

"This guy should have been lying dead, but he was still driving. It must be an unofficial national record," Saulius Skvernelis, director of the national police traffic control service, told the AP. "He was of high spirits and grinning the whole time he was questioned."
Church Vs. Madonna

First time (Like A Prayer) as tragedy, second time as farce? Or is second time tragedy too? Or was it always farce? In any event, the Church of England is annoyed:
But church authorities were not impressed when she appeared on a 6m-high mirrored cross to sing the ballad Live to Tell, while video screens showed images of world poverty.

"Is Madonna prepared to take on everything else that goes with wearing a crown of thorns?" asked a Church of England spokesman.

"And why would someone with so much talent seem to feel the need to promote herself by offending so many people?"

David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance, a London-based charitable organisation, said: "It is downright offensive. Madonna's use of Christian imagery is an abuse and it is dangerous.

"The Christian reaction to this sort of thing tends to be tempered, but if the same thing was done with the imagery or iconography of other faiths the reaction would be very different," he told London's Evening Standard newspaper.

In 1989, the Vatican attacked Madonna's accompanying video for the song Like a Prayer as blasphemous. It featured burning crosses and a black Jesus.
As an agnostic, I basically don't care. I see the Church's point. I'm not sure what Madonna's point is. Anyway, I plan to be completely offended Tuesday evening, when I journey to San Jose to see all this blasphemy in-person.
John Hancock Update

Portions of MikeMac's morning E-Mail:
So I talked to Juan today, around 8:30 or so. He says John got a glowing report from the nurses last night. He seems to be steadily, if slowly, improving. The physician says ... that the next few days should be "rest days" from the surgeries. On Saturday, the physician expects all of John's traumatized systems to begin working on their own again, including the kidneys and his lungs (I believe). There is still no ETA on consciousness.

...As Marc noted, they were showing pictures of the wrecked BMW. It's a miracle of German engineering that John is alive. The driver's seat was pushed all the way back, almost in the back seat, but the steering wheel and column were crushed into the front dash, probably still a comfortable arm's length from the seat. The Buick crashed it's midsection into John's corner of the car. R. said the Buick had a "Vee-shaped" dent in the front. There are several scratches and dents on the hood where they assume the BMW slid on the ground, although the police reconstruction & diagram says they flipped anywhere from 1 to 4 times. The pictures are probably not for the squeamish; they're kind of scary to think of John inside it.

...Juan will be performing in "Take Me Out" tonight, but I believe it's sold out to a group which always buys a large block of tickets to Lambda Players shows. It might be a good idea to go see John tonight, if possible, since it's unknown just how many people will be at the hospital or at "Take Me Out", but we should try to see it sometime in the next couple weeks.
Yesterday afternoon, when several people were passing around photos of the car, someone else also remarked on how the front seat was pushed into the back seat. From my perspective, the opposite observation seemed more notable, how there was still space between the front seat and the back seat. It showed how, excepting around the driver's feet, the eggshell-like passenger compartment held together, despite the intense impact.
Defanging Right Wing Hate Crusades

So much to blog about: so little time!

J. shared a Chain E-Mail making the rounds attacking Cindy Sheehan. Here is my take....
Last year, the Congress increased the 'death gratuity' from $12,420 to $100,000, with another $150,000 to $300,000 available through life insurance - that explains the $250,000 mentioned by the Chain E-Mail writer. The 'death gratuity' was made retroactive to Sept. 11th, 2001, but I suspect the life insurance wasn't (I don't know how life insurance works if you can retroactively enroll the dead). So, the $250,000 figure is likely an exaggeration.

What's with the character assassination stuff? Presumably, opponents of Cindy Sheehan feel they are highlighting her hypocrisies, but I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that her current work is a far better monument to her son's life than some carved stone. There's an eternity of time for a slab of marble, but the current work is far more urgent.

The mothers of fallen soldiers deserve respect - they have earned it.
C., who is also a veteran, replies:
Regardless of whether American agree or disagree with Cindy Sheehan, it is her right as an American to protest as she may. Most importantly she is a "Gold Star Mother" (Mother's who lost their son's in time of war) and has earned the right to protest regardless of what others may have to say. On a personal note, because I feel she is being manipulated I do not agree with a lot of what she has to say.
Myself, I note that Cindy Sheehan began her protest with no help. I doubt she is being manipulated beyond any point she feels comfortable with.

And that Chain E-Mail? Here it is....
Tells you something about that old gal !!!!!!!!!!!


What Is This Picture? Read Below

Obviously, it's a picture in a cemetery. What cemetery and whose grave?

Sadly, it's the grave of Casey Sheehan. After two years, and a DoD payment of $250,000 to the "Peace Mom", Cindy Sheehan has not had the time or bothered to have a headstone placed on this young hero's grave. And, she doesn't even have to pay for one, the DoD will provide one:
"The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a government headstone or marker for the grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world. For all deaths occurring before September 11, 2001, the VA may provide a headstone or marker only for graves that are not marked with a private headstone.

Flat markers in granite, marble, and bronze and upright headstones in granite and marble are available. The style chosen must be consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains."
Apparently she can find time to protest on at least 3 continents, get arrested various times, go on vacation in Hawaii, have photo ops with the Marxists in Venezuela, but can't seem to find the time to properly mark her son's grave.

Ever wonder what the expression "stuck on stupid" meant? Well here is an example:

The grinning idiot clinging to Je$$e Jack$on is Cindy Sheehan... the sob sister protesting the war at Bush's ranch, who lost her son in the war, the same son she gave up in her divorce when he was 7 years old.

And by the way if you wonder why she has so much free time ... she is going through another divorce right now and guess what? She is giving up custody of another son.

As Forest Gump once wisely proclaimed, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Please DO pass this one along.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

First Visit To UCD Med Center

Left: Bronze (1991) by Lisa Reinertson, UCD Medical Center, Sacramento.

Made my first visit late this afternoon to UCD Med Center to see John Hancock. John was unconscious, following surgery this morning.

Juan Ramos wasn't there (hopefully getting some desperately-needed rest), but other friends and family of John were present. Family members in the waiting room passed around shocking photos of the ruined BMW, taken in the auto shop where they had towed the ruined car. The integrity of the German-engineered, solidly-built passenger compartment was barely maintained following the head-on collision. The driver's area was practically pulverized. The other car must have been moving very fast (someone said maybe 80 mph, although those speeds would be very difficult to reach on Riverside Blvd.)

A physician came out to the waiting room to explain what the surgery that morning had entailed. In general, it sounded pretty good, considering. John stayed warm and his blood pressure remained stable, and there were no complications.

The abdomen had been cleaned and a piece of intestine had been removed. Starting tomorrow, feeding down a feeding tube can start.

The orthopedic surgeons were able to clean and dress the right calf. Both ankles had been broken in the accident, but in the left ankle, the bones had been dislocated as well. The surgeons reduced the amount of dislocation in the left ankle, in anticipation of the time when the bones can be further relocated and set.

John is on continuous dialysis. The hemorrhagic shock caused by accident is causing fluid retention and preventing the kidneys from functioning. The physician anticipates that it will be 5 to 7 days before the swelling has gone down enough to allow kidney function to return.

I'm feeling awfully vulnerable about driving around these days! Seeing all those desperately hurt people in the ICU is enough to make you get religion about all sorts of things, like speed limits and seat belts and drunk driving laws!

Afterwards, I mulled over what I'd seen. Even though it's not quite apropos in this instance, since this collision is more like a crime than an accident, I keep coming back to one of the best books to ever have come out of the decade of the Counterculture 1960's, a book which went through numerous revisions, entitled: "The Idiot's Compleat Guide to Volkswagen Repair," a book which I found most useful when I had my VW Bug (1977 - 1990). There was a quote which I remember, all these years later, and which I paraphrase:
We would all drive a lot more safely if we were strapped like Aztec sacrifices on our front bumpers.
Unarguably true, but maybe beside the point. Maybe most people would drive more safely, but what about the others, the reckless speed demons? There are times when you need every ounce of German ingenuity, and BMW engineering, not the more-fragile VW sort, just to survive!
Bonding With Robots

Quite understandable - they do what we wouldn't dare!
U.S. soldiers in Iraq are giving nicknames and forming emotional bonds with bomb-defusing robots they have come to regard as teammates, according to the founder of the company that invented the machines.

IRobot Chief Executive Colin Angle said one group of soldiers even named its robot “Scooby Doo” and grieved when it was blown up after completing 35 successful missions defusing improvised explosive devices.

“Please fix Scooby Doo because he saved my life,” a soldier told repair technicians, according to Angle’s account at last week’s Future in Review technology conference.
Two... Three Things We Can Do

The first impulse everyone in the Sacramento Musical Theater community felt upon hearing of John and Juan's car crash was 'what can I do to help?' We have sufficient nerve to wave magic wands, like a Congress of Glindas, and try to make things better, but alas, we are amateurs, not surgeons, and not even as skilled as Celtic Druid shamans, and thus our magic only goes so far.

There are two things we can do as a community, however. The first is to support Lambda Players and see "Take Me Out." Juan will be back onstage this weekend. Our understanding is that Stage Manager Noemi Rios found a replacement for John, and let's do what we can to support him: the stage can be scary place for an understudy.

The second thing was suggested by Ben Wormeli:
I was trying to think of something I could do to help this morning, and I realized one thing I do for DMTC might help here. If any of you wonderful singers would like to serenade John with a lullabye as he recovers, or something more upbeat when he's conscious and feeling better, I would be happy to accompany you on the guitar. It's not a piano, but it's very portable. It's probably not something we can do in the ICU, but perhaps once he's out. Let me know. I would be happy to do this, day or night.

I can start bringing my guitar and my musicals "fake" book to work here in Sacramento everyday so I'm always ready when you are. Please pass this on to anyone else you think might be interested in doing this.
MikeMac thinks it's a great idea:
I love it! It's also something he could join in on when he's feeling better, and might help his diaphragm recover from all the surgeries he's had/is going to need. It might also be a good idea to bring him tapes of shows he's missing, along with live commentary from visiting cast members. Anyone interested in this should contact Ben.
I can pass along any messages to Ben - E-Mail Marc Valdez at

Plus, Ryan Adame is gathering signatures on the matte surrounding a framed photograph of John. The photograph is available at DMTC's Theater in Davis:
I had a picture of John blown up (20" x 30") (double-fisting some drinks at Mike & Lauren's bachelor/bachelorette party -- in true John style!) yesterday, with a tons and tons of room on the mat for people to sign. The picture will be at the theatre through Sunday. I sent Steve an e-mail to send to the entire DMTC list, so look for that too, but please come by as you are able and leave a note, etc. for John.

(As summarized from MikeMac's E-Mails):

This morning, John is in surgery. The orthopedists are making their first efforts on John's legs. They've been impatiently waiting until his condition stabilized enough to start work. Surgeons are also doing abdominal work. Apparently, guest visits will be suspended for a short time immediately following surgery. According to MikeMac:
Juan & Co. will be waiting off on seeing him after the surgery, preferring to make sure he has enough time to recuperate before surrounding him again.
Nevertheless, people are still encouraged to come visit John:
He's still in Tower 2 of the UCD Medical Center, SICU1 on level 2 (Google Maps). The parking structure is on the right as you turn off of Stockton towards the Medical Center. An information desk is directly inside the hospital to the east (right on the map) of the parking structure, and they can direct you to "SI1".
Continuing quoting MikeMac:

Apparently, when a nurse was flushing out his mouth early this morning, he opened his eyes! This is not to say he was fully aware of where he was, but it is a Very Good Thing.

We saw John extensively last night, and he looks considerably better than the previous day. The dialysis seems to be working, and he doesn't appear as swollen as before. He's still unconcious, but the nurses feel he's reaching a point where they can ask him if he can open his eyes. His hand seems to tighten a little sometimes around people's hands, and when I tell him an off-color joke, the spasms seem sort of like laughter. Juan says the best thing is for people to just be there, holding his hand, touching his head and talking to him.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SacBee on John Hancock

Left: John Hancock, looking serious, at DMTC's Adult Acting Workshop, July 23, 2005, portraying the disdainful Mr. Potter in "It's A Wonderful Life."

I was wondering when the Sacramento Bee would have something - John has far too many friends for this news not to stir concern far and wide in Sacramento:
At about 6:30 p.m., Hancock and Ramos were on their way to the theater in a 1997 silver BMW 328i for an evening performance, eastbound on Riverside Boulevard. Near Shoreside Drive, a man driving a 1989 Buick west on Riverside crossed over the dividing line, hitting the BMW head-on, Sacramento Police Sgt. Terrell Marshall said.

The driver of the Buick got out of his car and ran. Firefighters had to extricate Hancock from his car, a 1997 silver BMW. He was life-flighted to UC Davis Medical Center.
A Bit More Info Regarding John Hancock

Here's what I know, based upon E-Mail traffic. I need to visit myself, perhaps tomorrow...

Several people have gone to see him in the hospital (Steve, MikeMac, Lauren), and a few more will go today (Jan). Steve had first heard about the accident from Bob Olson, who, perhaps because he works for a television station (or maybe just because he was watching television), may have been in a good position to hear first. They were driving to their show Saturday night, about 7:10 p.m., and were hit head-on by a vehicle going the wrong direction. The other driver ran off.

John's condition is critical, but stable. He is in Special ICU 1 (SI1), Tower 2, UCD Med Center (phone number is 916-734-2848). The main desk is at 916-734-2011. He is unconscious. According to Mike Mac:
He's in a neck brace and a respirator, and just about every square inch of his body is covered by plaster, tubes or the sheets, except for his head above the mouth and parts of his arms and hands. He looks pretty roughed up.
More Trouble in River City

The Reclamation Board will meet to reconsider its vote:
The state Reclamation Board plans to reconsider an April vote that moved toward allowing luxury homes to be built on top of levees on a Delta island.

Board President Ben Carter announced his intention to reconsider the vote at the board's meeting Friday (May 19) in Merced. He cited concerns that the decision violated state open-meetings law. That concern was expressed at the time by the board's own attorney, but ignored by the board.
It's not clear what's really going on here, but it should be closely watched.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Really Bad Auto Accident

John Hancock and Juan Ramos were hit, head-on, on Riverside Boulevard, Saturday night, on the way to Lambda Player's "Take Me Out." Juan was badly bruised, but is nevertheless doing much better than John, whose limbs were shattered (particularly his ankles), and suffered a lacerated liver plus other internal injuries, etc., etc. Apparently they had to use the jaws-of-life and a life flight helicopter to get him out of there.

John is at UCD Med Center, Tower 2. Call Juan at 734-2011 to arrange visits. They are encouraging visits, although be advised that John isn't out of the woods yet, and is seriously sedated.
Bonehead Beinart's Book

So, I see Peter Beinart's book, "The Good Fight" is finally out, the one he's been working on for two years (after reportedly getting a $600,000 advance). Beinart is former Editor at The New Republic (TNR), and basically drove me away from that once-fine magazine. Peter Beinart is the evil Mr. Hyde to the august Walter Lippmann's (the founder of TNR) good Dr. Jekyll.

Beinart believes that liberals, and liberals only - no freakin' hippies or 'progressives' or union people or populists or anyone without an Ivy League credential - will set things aright. Walter Lippmann believed something of the same sort in the years following World War I. Trouble is, Beinart draws the liberal circle so tight that not many people can squeeze into his circle of the Elect. I consider myself to be a liberal's liberal, not the least bit interested in identity politics, but it's clear that even I'm too damned progressive for his company. The trouble is, politics is made up of grand coalitions, so who exactly is going to implement his vision of the future, if just about everyone is excluded? Lippmann, to my knowledge, never was so picky.

There was a time, in the fifties and sixties, when no good liberal in New York even knew what to think unless they had read Walter Lippmann's newspaper column first. That wonderful authority will elude Mr. Beinart: he has proven wrong on so many counts that he can't possibly recover.

George Will has some stern words for liberals, and predictably-enough, uses Beinart to make his points for him.
His project of curing liberalism's amnesia begins by revisiting Jan. 4, 1947, when liberal anti-totalitarians convened at the Willard to found Americans for Democratic Action. It became their instrument for rescuing the Democratic Party from Henry Wallace and his fellow traveling followers who, locating the cause of the Cold War in American faults, were precursors of Michael Moore and his ilk among today's "progressives."
Beinart conflates the followers of Henry Wallace with those of Michael Moore. First, Moore is a social critic, not a leader. is an organizational device, not a party, And there is no danger of an AlQaeda fifth column in the U.S. among native-born Americans. Beinart's analogies fall apart at the slightest examination. Nevertheless, Beinart's solution is to purge all progressives. Thanks, Peter! George Will continues:
Today's doughfaces are "progressives" who flinch from the fact that, as Beinart says, "America could not have built schools for Afghan girls had it not bombed the Taliban first."
Fine as far as it goes, which isn't far. There is no point building schools for Afghan girls if the girls suffer execution as an immediate consequence of attending those schools. They need protection. In today's Afghanistan, they don't get it.
... Since [Vietnam], Beinart argues, liberals have lacked a narrative of national greatness that links America's missions at home and abroad. It has been said that whereas the right-wing isolationists in the 1930s believed that America was too good for the world, left-wing isolationists in the 1960s believed that the world was too good for America. After Vietnam, Beinart says, liberal foreign policy was "defined more by fear of American imperialism than fear of totalitarianism."
Human rights is the liberal narrative of national greatness. Study Jimmy Carter, if you have a chance.
Beinart briskly says "I was wrong" in supporting the invasion of Iraq. Wrong about Saddam Hussein's nuclear program. Wrong in being "too quick to give up on containment." Wrong about the administration's competence to cope with the war's aftermath. ("Staffers tasked with postwar reconstruction were told to bring two suits. They would be home by the end of summer.") Denouncing conservatives for waging a "war of hubris and impatience," Beinart says that "George W. Bush has faithfully carried out the great conservative project. He has stripped away the restraints on American power, in an effort to show the world that we are not weak. And in the process, he has made American power illegitimate, which has made us weak." Because "the more proactive America wanted to be, the stronger international institutions had to become."
Why should liberals - progressives if you will - follow someone who's always so wrong like Peter Beinart?
Beinart worries that "the elections of 2006 and 2008 could resemble the elections of 1974 and 1976, when foreign policy exhaustion, and Republican scandal, propelled Democrats to big gains." If so, those gains will be "a false dawn." The country will eventually turn right because, "whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought."
This "false dawn" remains a possibility, because the Democratic party is so damned timid. Progressive muscle is needed!

The American Prospect has a better approach towards Beinart.
If we are to move forward along lines Beinart suggests, we need to know whether Beinart and other liberal hawks will recognize the difference between antitotalitarian liberalism and conservatism, neo- or otherwise, when they see it. Unfortunately, Beinart slips and slides around this question. His chapter on Iraq, which rehearses the administration’s various arguments for war, reads at first blush like a wise and disinterested account of a tragic march to folly. But he writes about this period as if he’d spent it on a mountaintop in Tibet instead of editing an influential magazine and cheering on the administration virtually every step of the way -- and accusing war critics, not all of whom (news flash: not even a majority of whom) are anti-imperialist Chomskyites, of “intellectual incoherence” and “abject pacifism,” as he so unforgettably put matters to The Washington Post in February 2003. I resented those comments at the time personally, I still do, and I know a lot of people who feel similarly.
I took Beinart's insults personally. I take this stupid book personally too. "This book should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

The hell with Peter Beinart and his ilk.
Bully Boy

Mark Salter, Arizona Senator John McCain's Chief of Staff, decides to go medieval on Jean Rohe's student ass for talking back to the Senator. Rohe responds....

Just another example of how Republicans like to dish it out, but have trouble taking it.
Making A Forecast

First tropical storm of the season, a Pacific storm, south of Acapulco, by morning of May 25th....

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Happy Couple

Disordered husband, orderly wife:
Every since childhood, Sandy says he has woken up with scratches all over his body.

“There’s blood on the pillows, scratches there,” he said.

It’s the work, he believes, of aliens who run tests on him in his sleep.

“I believe I’m being abducted by aliens, by ETs, you might say. I basically feel like a lab rat,” he said.

He knows it sounds unbelievable, which is why he took so long to tell his wife.
Material Girl

OK, I stuck my foot in it: Madonna, HP Pavilion, San Jose, Tuesday, May 30th. Seats looking from the side of the stage.
Don't put me off 'cause I'm on fire
And I can't quench my desire
Don't you know that I'm burning up for your love
You're not convinced that that is enough
I put myself in this position
And I deserve the imposition
But you don't even know I'm alive
And this pounding in my heart just won't die
I'm burning up


I'm burning up, burning up for your love
I'm burning up, burning up for your love
I'm burning up, burning up for your love
For your love