A Different Reality

A 267mph Train!
December 31, 2002

While testing the links for the entry below, this story was stumbled upon. If only the Americans would focus their technological know-how in this direction, we could go from Boston to LA by train in ten hours. But right now, it takes German engineering and cheap Chinese labor to show us the future.

"Growth" can't go on Forever
December 31, 2002

This article is a great example of why The Guardian is our favorite newspaper in the English-speaking world. George Monbiot (who seems to be on a roll lately) points out a key flaw in our economic system: its dependency on growth. Such growth is unsustainable given that our planet has finite resources.

Here's a great bit of math to emphasize that fact:
Even the repayment of debt, the pre-requisite of capitalism, is mathematically possible only in the short-term. As Heinrich Haussmann has shown, a single pfennig invested at 5% compounded interest in the year AD 0 would, by 1990, have reaped a volume of gold 134bn times the weight of the planet.

He goes on to describe the present dillema and how we got into it. He spells out the disparity between our demand for resources and their availability, and discusses our economy's roots in the colonial exploitation of the seemingly infinite resources found in other parts of the world.
The frontier of exploitation seemed, to the early colonists, infinitely expandable. Now that geographical expansion has reached its limits, capitalism has moved its frontier from space to time: seizing resources from an infinite future.

He does offer solutions, but knows that they're regarded by most of the establishment as heresey.
We need to reverse not only the fundamental presumptions of political and economic life, but also the polarity of our moral compass. ... It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that so many deny the problem with such religious zeal. But to live in these times without striving to change them is like watching, with serenity, the oncoming truck in your path.

Read the article.

Christmas at the Movies
December 25, 2002

At long last, we got to see Bowling For Columbine - the latest movie by Michael Moore. We talk a little bit about the movie after ranting about the movie-going experience and a tasteless commercial. Read all about it here.

What the Nature Shows Don't Show
December 17, 2002

Today we read a great piece by George Monbiot in The Guardian. He talks about how wildlife documentaries in general - and David Attenborough in particular - perpetuate an illusion of wildlife living in a pristine and natural world free from human influence. But the most revealing stuff came when he linked nature tourism with colonialism and ethnic cleansing. Some tidbits:

After the second world war, Bernhard Grzimek, "the father of conservation" in east Africa, announced that he would turn the Serengeti in northern Tanzania into a vast national park. This land, which is possibly the longest-inhabited place on earth, was, he declared, a "primordial wilderness".
Though there was no evidence that local people threatened the wildlife, Grzimek decided that "no men, not even native ones, should live inside its borders". His approach was gleefully embraced by the British. Thousands of square miles of savannah in Kenya and Tanzania were annexed, and its inhabitants expelled. Only the whites could afford the entrance fees to the reserves, so only they were permitted to enter the new, primordial wilderness...

Today, conservation officials in Kenya often concede that traditional grazing could be permitted in the parks and reserves without driving out the wildlife. But the local people must continue to be excluded because the tourists "don't expect to see them there". The tourists don't expect to see them there largely because the television shows them that healthy wildlife habitats are places without people.

Crosswalks elsewhere
December 15, 2002

Interesting feedback from a reader on the crosswalk issue, which is in line with our experiences elsewhere in the country.

[A friend] walked up to the street in the middle of the block [in Minneapolis] to prove a point to me. Mind you it was morning rush hour on a 4 lane main street, and the cars all stopped for her to cross the road and she was not in a crosswalk either and they still stopped for her.

I have started my own experiment in other major cities and have found it to be true at least at the crosswalk that people will often stop for pedestrians to cross, even in Boston. I always felt that drivers in LaCrosse do not respect pedestrians and bicyclists and am not too surprised that bigger cities hold a higher code of honor and respect.

On a side note I also find that people in LaCrosse do not understand the rules of the road anyway because I see things that infuriate me every day.

In our extensive travels, we have found no place IN THE WORLD (with the possible exception of Paris and downtown New Orleans) where pedestrians and bicyclists are treated more rudely than they are in La Crosse. (Granted, there may be other exceptions in places we have yet to visit.) In Los Angeles, at a time when drivers were shooting each other for cutting each other off in traffic, they would slam on the brakes for a pedestrian approaching (not necessarily in) a crosswalk. Perhaps these laws are more rigorously enforced elsewhere?

A Stop Sign for Motorists
December 13, 2002

Nothing makes our blood boil more than drivers who refuse to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Unfortunately, our home town of La Crosse is overrun with these bullies. To add to our fury, someone frustrated by being inconvenienced at having to stop for pedestrians vented his frustration in a letter to the editor in the local paper. If you click on this link, his letter should be at the bottom of the page.

Our response was submitted to the paper today, but you can read it here now.

December 13, 2002

We've long been suspicious about what really happened on 9/11, and as with the Kennedy assassination, there is a lot more to this story than what we're being told, and we may never find out the truth. So when Prince George appointed Henry Kissinger to head a commission investigating 9/11, it seemed to assure that the truth would be forever kept secret.

Today it came out that, rather than release his client list (so that we could know about potential conflicts of interest), ol' Henry is declining to take the job.

December 13, 2002

This is quoted from The Motley Fool, but it's been reported all over the place today:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require SUVs and light trucks to increase fuel efficiency by a half-mile per gallon by 2005 and 1.5 miles per gallon by 2007.

Are we supposed to be impressed? 'Cause we're not.

Oh, Deer
December 11, 2002
It was a nice day today, so we took a little bike ride to a place that the deer never get shot at (except by shutterbugs like us). To put it mildly, these critters are POSERS!

Now we know where the local newspaper photographers go to get their buck pictures for hunting season.

Where are the Anti-war Voices, Racism in Venezuela, and American Strong-arming in the UN
December 10, 2002

A couple of interesting pieces appeared in this morning's Guardian.

The first was by Duncan Campbell, who talked about an event held in L.A. last weekend where activist Tom Hayden bemoaned the lack of anti-war pundits on the corporate-media talk-shows. Quoting:

But what is noticeable about the television news in the US at the moment is a lack of any of the voices to which Tom Hayden referred. The war is now covered almost as a given with whole segments devoted to scaring everyone to death with talk of smallpox or anthrax and retired military and diplomatic gents speculating endlessly at third or fourth hand.

It took Jerry Springer, of all people, to say the unsayable - that most ordinary Americans are very keen on tackling Osama bin Laden and al Qaida, but have no great interest in extending the war to Iraq. All a war would achieve, he said, would be to create a whole new generation of people who hated Americans and it was thus patriotic to oppose the war.

Read the article.

Next was a piece by Richard Gott, who has an extensive background in current Venezuelan politics. While the corporate media keeps trying to tell us that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is some sort of nasty person who has to go, we get very little telling us that he's popular among the poor majority, and despised among the rich elite. But we've heard absolutely nothing about this:

Opposition spokesmen complain that Chavez is a leftist who is leading the country to economic chaos, but underlying the fierce hatred is the terror of the country's white elite when faced with the mobilised mass of the population, who are black, Indian and mestizo. Only a racism that dates back five centuries - of the European settlers towards their African slaves and the country's indigenous inhabitants - can adequately explain the degree of hatred aroused. Chavez - who is more black and Indian than white, and makes no secret of his aim to be the president of the poor - is the focus of this racist rage.
Read the article.

Finally, we had this from AP by way of IndyMedia. The Iraqi weapons declaration got delivered to the UN Security Council last weekend. It's 12,000 pages, it's all in Arabic, and there was one copy.

Deputy Russian Ambassador Gennady Gatilov said the United States had taken the council's lone copy to Washington where it would make duplicates for distribution to the four other powerful council members.

Say what? Is there something wrong with the copy machine at the UN? Do these guys really trust this gang that's in Washington to come back with the same report that they left with? It appears that whatever the Iraqis really said is gone forever.
Read the article.

And away we go........
December 5, 2002

The "look" is as fine-tuned as we can hope for, for the time being. The stories we're willing to publish are in place. So there's not much left that's stopping us from taking this digital soap-box live.

Now, let's hope that it doesn't collapse under our weight.

Little rantlets will land in the area that you're reading now. You may want to check here on a regular basis to see what's new. Longer pieces will get posted in the column to your left, though a bit of a teaser should land here as well.

For now, a couple of recent pieces and a few old ones have been posted to get things started.


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