I Agree With Sarah Palin (Not Really)

But sort of, and only in a manner that gives me an excuse to rage against pollution in general and then specifically against the way the Magilla from Wasilla emits pollution like a garbage truck in need of a ring job.

Sarah says global warming is real, but we can’t necessarily pin it on man-made causes. I agree. The fact is, we cannot know. The earth is a big, old place and it has had ice-ages and Devonian heat-waves in its own seemingly whimsical Can’t-Fool-Mother-Nature way for about four billion years. If the temperature generally rises 3 degrees and causes the ice caps to melt, it may be a disaster for us but for the Earth (or Gaia if you must), it’s not much more than the feeling you’d get if you broke a sweat trying to catch the bus.

That said, I see no connection whatever between the argument that the earth is/is not warming because of us, and the real outrage that ought to be inspired by the multi-stage environmental disasters we know we are causing, and which are at best depressing and often enough mind-blowing in their rank awfulness.

Sure, Gaia doesn’t care whether the Siberian Tiger makes it to the year 2050. But I do. And I know we are causing it to die off because we keep cutting down its forested habitat. Of course we can’t know if Antarctica is turning into a palm-fronded paradise because of us. But we do know that the Amazon is getting burned down, and that sludge in the water is killing children there, and that wonderful new species of plants and animals are being discovered there only as they are being destroyed in a sickening quest for cheaper burger-beef (even though I love The King of BK fame).

It may be true that Al Gore is Chicken Little. I never thought he was brilliant (he never seemed bright compared to Clinton, anyway), nor that he really had made a convincing case just because he knew how to use scary pictures in a pedantic manner. But to me, Global Warming isn’t the point. The genuine tragedy is the destruction of habitat and species that we KNOW is our fault.

Make no mistake: of course we need to survive as a species–we claim that right and I support it and even support species bigotry because that’s as natural as a lion’s quest for breakfast. But I don’t support wanton destruction of beautiful, complex natural habitats only to replace them with crude dwellings and cheap crap amusements and dimwitted, potbellied nincompoops complaining the Liberals are out to get them and that Sarah Palin’s their six-pack-totin’ gal. No.

And in a further note on this woman’s eternal gift for glaring tackiness, let us briefly review the crude manner in which she blotted out the name of the Man Who Made Her Queen on the silly sun visor she was wearing at the beach in the State That Had Too Many Hawaiians while wearing a vapid, vituperative shirt that said “If You Don’t Love America, Why Don’t You Get the Hell Out”?

To which I would answer: Sarah, you are not America. You actually don’t love the real America–the multi-racial, multi-cultural one that exists today. So why don’t you get the hell out? Alaska would be far enough, and keep your stupid mouth shut while you’re at it

One Hundred Years Ago. . .

. . .your great grandparents were in their prime (do you know who their parents were? and isn’t it bone-chilling to realize you may not, and that your own full, passionate life may be subject to the same oblivion but a hundred years hence?).

Please read on, fellow mortal.

Your great grandparents, probably without understanding exactly why, were standing at the portals of a momentous period we have come to call “The American Century”. That century has come to an end. The 21st got started with awful news from Dade County (Bush) and then worse news from the corner of Liberty and Church in Lower Manhattan, followed by even worse news a couple of blocks south at the corner of Wall and Broad just across from where a certain American General was sworn in as the nation’s first Commander in Chief. Obama may be President today, but he’s inherited a deflated-balloon of a nation hissing out its remaining air in a way that sounds an awful lot like the mindless drone of tea-baggers and other ill-tempered opponents to common-sense.

But hope cannot be lost if we look back on what was going on a hundred years ago, when the prospects for the nation loomed great, but when the United States, culturally at least, was unsound and notably laggard–perhaps much as it is today.

Here are a few examples of what made the papers (ref: “America’s Taste 1859 -1959, NYT Books):

1908: New York Camera Club Ousts Alfred Steiglitz
They accused him of malfeasance but he said the reason was they just objected to his realism. They called him and his followers “the Mop and Pail crew”, mocking their penchant for photographing the city’s streets and its people. For quite some time, cubism’s forward-looking works on canvas could be seen only at Steiglitz’ New York Studio. Incidentally, Picasso’s earth-shaking “Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon” with its distorted monstrous nude ladies with African masks was revealed to a generally horrified public in 1906.

1906: Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” is panned by the critics but becomes a best-seller anyway.
“I aimed for America’s heart and hit it in the stomach” said Sinclair (who also authored “Oil!” upon which the Daniel Day-Lewis vehicle “There Will Be Blood” was based). For those who don’t know, “The Jungle” is a novel about labor injustice and woefully poor hygiene in the meatpacking industry. Apparently the latter descriptions were so disgusting that the public grew outraged and soon insisted upon, and got, the US government to inspect food processing and keep it at least effectively clean enough not to sicken any noticeable percentage of those who partook. Sinclair had in addition hoped to spur similar outrage at the labor malfeasance thereat, but as any Mexican working in a chicken-parts factory knows, this part of the outrage never became as popular with a feasting American public.

1903: Carrie A. Nation is jailed.
Her axe-wielding quote: “You have taken me in as a lamb but I shall come out as a lion”. And thus was born the movement that would eventually become an ignominious chapter in our history known as Prohibition; and concomitantly we’d see the rise of a ruling class of Gangsters in America. What Carrie couldn’t understand was that you can’t stop people from ingesting what they want (see above) no matter what method with which you regale them or punish them. Carrie A. Nation, an Oklahoma girl, had in her later years decided, it seems, that Demon Alcohol was the ruin of lives and families and that alcohol-bars must be cut up with axes. She may have had a point. But it is a little known fact that she was equally and as vociferously against “fraternal orders” such as the Masons, the Odd-Fellows, and probably, if they had existed, Ralph Kramden’s Raccoon Club. One imagines these groups were far more influential then than now–or perhaps we just don’t realize what they are up to these days (Skull and Bones anyone?). I know I haven’t a clue. Having discovered this latter nugget of information, I must admit, is forcing me to give old Carrie a second look.

Finally, and this is about inflation:

1909: Holbein Portrait sells for $400,000–a scandalous sum for a painting at the time.
Now of course we would be well into the multi-millions for same. Fifty million? Maybe. But $400,000! Today you might get a weatherbeaten Manhattan co-op with a view of the air shaft for that much, provided you could convince the bank you really didn’t need the money in which case they would guardedly lend it to you (still owing all that TARP money to the government).

So, while we might still be driving the bus in the ditch, we can safely consider ourselves well ahead of our great grandparents in some ways. For instance, there is no chance they carried around supercomputers in their pockets. Nor would they have been lucky enough to be able to argue about universal health care (in an age when “dropsy” was a significant ailment).

In any case, why is everyone so excited about any of these? A hundred years from now it will all seem so quaint.

Lost in the Woods Again?

AP–(Oregon)Search on for missing Ore. Christmas tree cutters

C’mon. Really? Really?

I sure hope the diabetic tree-hunter and his non-camper wife get found soon, because they have a couple of kids who are waiting for them to come home.

But really. Is there any way we can convince people to avoid trying the very obviously stupid attractions life can offer? Like, say, carnival games? Or credit card debt at 28% interest? Or going up into the high snowy mountain wilderness hunting for a Christmas tree?

Again, my hopes are riding on those Oregon State helicopters looking for this poor couple. But for heaven’s sake, if they get found, they should also be put in stocks in the public square and forced to wear forest-green dunce-caps for at least a full day.

What sort of fatuous impetuosity propelled them to take the family Subaru and go up into the inhospitable snowy wastes of the Cascade Mountains in winter, hoping to find the type of tree associated with pagan Yule celebrations (attached inexplicably to the High Christian Holiday since the Victorian era), but especially the type of tree favored by ancient barbarian Teutons that also happens to grow only at the peaks of wilderness mountains? And especially if one of them were diabetic (one supposes the hunter of exotic trees was also a hunter of Angus Quarter Pounders)?

I cannot imagine a suitable mindset. Not for a parent. For a loner, or any unattached adult for that matter, fine: go up in the woods, get lost, die if you must, it’s your life and your fate alone. But if you’ve got a couple of kids at home, and you drive off into the wilderness looking for a very temporary living room decoration in the middle of winter, you are probably a perfect idiot. Proof? Here is the proof: last year the same couple got stuck for four hours in the Cascadian Siskiyou forest also looking for a Christmas tree. So this year they figured, why not try it again? And let’s hope for their kids’ sake they get real lucky again, with the search helicopters burning taxpayer fuel droning on and on and on. . .

On a related note, a recent story in Science News (on line) noted that snowflakes can sometimes be triangular and the microscopic photos of same were, in the true sense of the word, wonderful.

Small comfort for the frostbitten.