30 April 2015

Because I Love You...

Here's two and a half minutes of pure power pop perfection from Unlikely Friends' "Solid Gold Cowboys." Terrific album from the Seattle combo—think Teenage Fanclub + Guided by Voices + Beat Happening (aka Calvin Johnson). Seriously, do yourselves a favor.

"I've been making my mind up...I've been making my mind up...twice."

24 April 2015

This Week in Water

A quick thanks and tip of the cap to BDR and Thunder for contributing links to this belated TWIW!

A severe lack of clean water is killing indigenous children in Colombia.

Residents near Duke Energy's ash ponds have been warned not to use their well water.

Yes. It's been confirmed. Hydraulic fracking has been causing all those earthquakes in Oklahoma. But readers of WoW's 'This Week in Water' knew that already, didn't we!

Don't kid yourself: U.S. politics plays an important role in water regulation and distribution.

Sanitation workers in Rio de Janeiro have cleared 32 tons of dead fish from the lagoon where Olympic rowing events are scheduled to take place next year.

Scientists at Ohio State University have developed a mesh with enormous potential for cleaning up oil spills. It captures oil while allowing water to pass through.

Brazil, which has been experiencing severe drought, wants to build a 350MW floating solar power plant.

Mining concerns want to build floating nuclear power plants in the Arctic Ocean to power the developing mining industries there. Eh? What could go wrong?

With all the melting ice, giant waves have been observed forming in open Arctic waters for the first time.

Will oceans continue to rise? Will this rise become exponential in the near future? Some think so.

Evidence strongly indicates that the Gulf of Maine is warming.

The Gulf Stream which, among other things keeps Britain from freezing over, is slowing down faster than ever. This is due, in part, to melting ice cap in Greenland.

A Monster Kelvin Wave, a warming of sub-surface temperatures stretching along equatorial Pacific waters, is raising concerns about a potential Super El Nino.

A rare Easter typhoon struck the Philippines. Flooding in Chile killed 107.

A mysterious blob of warm water, 2000 km wide and 100 meters deep stretching from Juneau, Alaska, to the Baja Peninsula, has changed water circulation patterns and weather patterns and is contributing to California's lingering drought.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a mandatory 25% reduction in consumer water usage.

Due to drought, entire cities in California are sinking as the underground aquifers dry up.

To deal with the on-going historic drought, Los Angeles and other cities in California are developing technologies for capturing rainwater runoff, restoring the L.A. River, and curbing excess demand.

William Shatner wants to build a $30 billion pipeline to bring water to Southern California from Washington State and plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the cash. Better that than tar sands oil from Canada.

The four-year-old California drought is only a symptom in a larger, global water crisis.

Here's a survey of the primary obstacles to desalination of seawater.

Much of this country's fruits and vegetables are grown in California. But, due to its arid nature, the U.S. West may not be the most propitious place to concentrate the country's agricultural food production. The South, e.g., which has a surplus of rainfall traditionally, could convert a portion of its cotton-growing land.

17 April 2015

Jon Stewart Outs Cheney as an Iranian Double Agent and War Criminal

This is why Jon Stewart deserves a Peabody Award for journalistic excellence and why I, for one, am going to miss him when he leaves 'The Daily Show':

On Thursday night (04/16/2014), Stewart demonstrated why the Beltway Press should never lend credence to anything former Vice President Dick Cheney says, particularly about Iraq or Iran.

Here's my own transcribed transcript of the segment.

Cheney (on Iran):  "This is a totally radical regime; that is the premier sponsor of state terrorism in the world, and Obama's about to give them nuclear weapons. It's a...I can't think of a more terrible burden to leave the next president than what Obama's creating here."

Stewart:  "Really? You can't think of an administration that left a more terrible burden? Think hard. [Pictures of George W. Bush and Cheney on the screen] No wait. Think, if I can ask you, harder. Maybe you need a visual aid. Can you think of an administration that left?...can you?...all right.

"But that wasn't the worst thing he had to say."

Cheney:  "...if you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world...reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies, and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama is doing."

Stewart: [mocking Cheney in a Burgess Meredith as 'The Penguin' voice from the old "Batman" TV series]: "Wah, wah. Is Barack Obama a traitor? Wah. I don't... Wah. I don't know if he's a traitor but...Wah...but he does a great impression of a traitor. Wah.

"But basically the vice president's point appears to be this: Anyone who strengthens the strategic position of Iran is, by definition, working to weaken the United States of America. So, I guess the formulation would be whoever strengthened Iran more would be the greater threat to America.

"Using Dick Cheney's own metric as our baseline can we uncover a greater threat to America than even Barack Obama? Well, we find out in tonight's installment of: 'The Jon Stewart Mysteries Presents The Case of the Iranian Agent!'

"Thank you for joining me in the library Mr. Vice President, represented here by a balloon with a frowny face painted on it.

"Vice President Cheney, you leveled some serious charges that Barack Obama has strengthened Iran. Is there anything else you can think of over the last, say, I don't know, 12 years and 28 days that could also be seen as fundamentally strengthening Iran's position in that region?

[Video clip of Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary]: "One of the consequences of that invasion of Iraq was ultimately to strengthen Iran's role and influence in the region."

Stewart [in Sherlock Holmes-style deer-stalker hat with Meerschaum pipe]: "Well, and who, sir, was responsible for that invasion? Who, sir? Here, let me look it up in my history books. [mumbles] ... By gum, it was you! [pointing at the Cheney balloon] It was you!"

"I take your reddened face as embarrassment. And if invading Iraq not only removed Iran's closest foe but complicated America's ability to actively countervail Iran's nuclear program [headline from 08/10/2005 Philadelphia Inquirer "...the Iraq quagmire has deprived the United States of the option of bombing their nuclear facilities."], well, in fact, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, by the end of your administration, Vice President Cheney, Iran had 20 times the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges as when you came into office. And that...could that not be considered handing Iran a nuclear weapon, sir? A conclusion so damning it could only be spoken through two different oral affectations.

"I see the smile and lines and topography has gone from your face.

"Yes, Dick Cheney, you took out Iran's enemies while giving Iran time to build up their nuclear program. But surely you could course correct this by just installing in Iraq another strong anti-Iranian government to take Saddam Hussein's place. As any America-loving vice president would do. What was your move, sir?"

[News footage from 07/29/2014 "Frontline"]: "In Baghdad, with violence growing, the Bush team began urgently looking for an Iraqi leader to unite the country and stop the fighting. A CIA officer at the embassy had a suggestion: a relatively unknown Shiite member of Parliament, Nouri Kamil al-Maliki."

Stewart [in Sam Spade-style fedora]: "And that's when Maliki walked in, and I decided to shift genres. Maliki, he was a heart-stopping dame—actually, a middle-aged Iraqi man—who called himself al-Maliki. He had a pair of get-away sticks that went all the way up from the floor to his pelvic region like a normal adult. Who was this brave future enemy of Iran?"

[clip from 06/25/2014 "The Lead with Jake Tapper", with Fareed Zakaria]: "For 25 years, this guy's been a hard-line Shiite sectarian politician. When he was in exile from Saddam Hussein's regime, he lived in Iran. He was funded by the Iranians."

Stewart: "For an American administration to replace Saddam Hussein with a man emboldened and indebted to our greatest regional enemy, according to Dick Cheney's own logic, anyone who trusted Maliki would have to be naive or deliberately trying to weaken America."

[07/29/2007 clip of Cheney on CNN's "The Situation Room"]: Wolf Blitzer: "Do you trust Nouri al-Maliki?" Cheney: "I do. At this point I don't have any reason not to trust him."

Stewart: "Do you? Well, it seems you're getting sweat on your brow. [misting balloon] It seems you're getting a little hot in here isn't it, Mr. Vice President. Strange! I find the temperature quite mild.

"Still not gonna' confess your disingenuous, utterly lacking in self-examination, ironic attack on the Obama administration? Well, I guess I'll have to give up. Guess I'll just have to go back and report to my superiors that I couldn't crack the case. Eh, what're you gonna' do?

[Stewart now doing a "Columbo" impression]: "I got just one more thing. One more thing, Mr. Vice President. I just can't get it out of my mind. You mentioned earlier there's a reason why you would never want an American president to deal with Iran, and you've thought so for quite some time. Isn't that true?"

[03/07/2006 C-SPAN clip of Cheney]: "Iranians have endured a generation of repression at the hands of a fanatical regime. That regime is one of the primary state sponsors of terror."

Stewart: "Wah. State sponsors of terrorism? So, you yourself would never do something or engage with a regime such as that for their benefit or perhaps yours even when, let's say, in 1998, you were CEO of a giant oil services company. What was the name again? Ah, wah, Halliburton was what it was called. Halliburton."

[06/23/1998 clip of Cheney with subtitles]: "We find ourselves these days, American firms, cut out of the action, in terms of anything that develops with respect to Iran. ... Unfortunately, as has been point out repeatedly in recent weeks, our government has become 'sanctions happy.'"

Stewart: "Wah. Very interesting. You, sir, were arguing for the United States to life sanctions on Iran so your company, Halliburton, could get contracts with this radical regime. Contracts worth millions of dollars. And pardon me if I'm impugning your character—I hate to do it—but what would you make of a man whose final act in the business world before joining the American government as vice president would be to enter into contracts with the number one state sponsor of terror just before leaving to become Bush's running mate. [on-screen screenshot of 10/09/2004 newspaper: "...before Cheney left Halliburton to become Bush's running mate...Halliburton Products & Services...opened a Tehran office in early 2000..."] Contracts that were only legal because you did them through a foreign subsidiary, Mr. Cheney.

"And then once you were in office, in gratitude for Iran's money, you hand Iran the greatest prize of all...Iraq.

"Isn't it you, sir, who is the double agent determined to bring America down? Isn't it you...[balloon releases]...He's getting away!...Damn you, Dick Cheney!"

This, my friends, is utter brilliance. Satire of a like that would make Juvenal or Swift proud. There's no one else (now that Steven Colbert's gone and excepting, perhaps, John Oliver) out there that can do this with such authority and humor. It's funny! And, frankly, it puts the Beltway media's journalism, which report Cheney's critical words about Obama but do little to put them in proper context, to shame.

And, yes, it sounds like a war crime!

I did the transcript for my own future benefit and for those of you who would rather read than watch a video. All its flaws are mine. For the rest of you, here's the full 10 minute clip. It's worth a watch.