Preaching to a Bear

A Priest, a Pentecostal Preacher and a Rabbi…. …someone made the comment that preaching to people isn’t really all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear…. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it.


Progressive Rock / Progressive Thought – Part 10

Here’s an excerpt from Part 10 of Mark S. Tucker‘s essays on Progressive Rock with observations of Jimi Hendrix’ explosive emergence in 1967.

Source: Progressive Rock / Progressive Thought – Part 10

…one of the most landmark rock LPs of all time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced?, featuring rock music’s #1 eternal mainman, the inimitable Hendrix. Having been a much-suppressed sideman for ensembles fronted by Curtis Knight, Little Richard, and others, Hendrix burst onto the late 60s scene like an atomic bomb.

In that maiden effort, Hendrix hit every archetype in the still-young rock canon, twisting them to suit his voracious appetite for innovation….“Purple Haze” and “Are You Experienced?” were hedonistic penseés on the pleasures of drug consumption (in which he still stands as the guy to top, lo!, these several decades later), particularly LSD. “Manic Depression” explored that notorious mental state without reverting to the sort of Kasenetz-Katz sugary avoidances so common then. “I Don’t Live Today” was an existentialist expostulation, but, all reading material to the side, what hit everyone between the ears was the guitarist’s ultra-spacy approach, best codified in “Third Stone from the Sun”.

This tune demonstrated most vividly the new mindset. Throughout the disc, Hendrix had been embroidering bars and measures with florid exotica, throwing in instrumental asides and extrapolations, pointing to a rich new mindset for pushing back convention and expanding territory. It was as much an impulsive urge as a disciplined one. Jimi was one of those fanatics who lived for his instrument, practicing constantly, injecting his experiences – magnified by a vivid imagination – into gifted fingers.

…It was obvious, no matter how you cut it, that he was not your average workaday humanoid, transcending norms in more ways than one. That pronounced sense of otherworldliness came pouring out in “Third Stone”, ineradicably putting the stamp of approval on forthcoming space and jam styles. Improv, variations, and extensions had been around, though not prolifically, but Hendrix set the mold all others had been reaching for and now people like Clapton and a legion of admirative players would jump in with wild abandon.

Ethanol and MTBE

President Bush wants to roll back the deadline for switching from MTBE to ethanol as a gasoline additive. Unfortunately, MTBE is potentially dangerous, especially to those of us who drink well water.

Link: The Ethanol Factor |

Ethanol, a kind of alcohol often derived from fermenting grain or corn, is often blended with gasoline to reduce the carbon-monoxide emissions that are generated while driving. Many states mandate the use of some chemical in gasoline to do just that.

As recently as 2003, most reformulated gasoline was blended with an artificial chemical called methyl tert-butyl ether, or MTBE, instead of ethanol. That option became less popular when MTBE was shown to be accumulating in drinking water supplies (At best, the substance causes a peculiar smell; at worst, it may be carcinogenic.) Moreover, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 doesn’t shield the makers of MTBE from lawsuits alleging contamination of the water supply; that was all the energy companies needed to get on board the ethanol train. (As added motivation to make the switch, MTBE has been banned or legally restricted in at least 17 states, including New York and California, which accounted for 39.2% of the country’s MTBE consumption, according to the Department of Energy.)

The U.S. consumes about nine million barrels of gasoline a day, roughly three million of which is reformulated to burn cleaner. Today, two million of those reformulated barrels contain ethanol, while the remaining million barrels still contain MTBE, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. But that’s changing. In fact, most states along the Northeast corridor — from Virginia up to New Hampshire — are making that transition now (with the exception of Connecticut and New York, which banned MTBE in October 2003 and January 2004, respectively). It’s not going smoothly.

One of the downsides of ethanol is that it’s extremely difficult to transport across great distances because it can’t be moved through a pipeline. Since the vast majority of ethanol production is concentrated in the Midwest, ethanol must be shipped via barge, railway or truck to blending facilities around the country.

Now, at the same time that energy companies are figuring out how best to transport ethanol from the Midwest to those hard-to-reach states making the switch, the entire country is shifting from a winter blend of gasoline to a summer blend, which is less likely to evaporate harmful chemicals during the warmer months. Each of those transitions can require that energy companies put extra trucks on the road (some hauling ethanol; others hauling summer-blended gas), but energy companies only have so many trucks. As a result, there were gas shortages earlier this month in places like Dallas and Norfolk, Va., which are transitioning to ethanol from making the MTBE.

Link: Get serious about MTBE cleanup –

The big oil companies like to say that federal regulators made them use MTBE to oxygenate gas and make it burn cleaner. Not true. The feds required an oxygenation agent, but it was the oil companies that chose MTBE, because it was cheaper than other alternatives. But it turned out to be dangerous, and New York and other states banned it.

Last year, as the Senate considered a huge energy bill, Schumer did a good job of killing language that would have protected oil companies from liability in MTBE lawsuits. Now, he wants to get some help for homeowners who still use water from private wells….

Schumer has asked the federal EPA to start a broad effort to identify MTBE spills and work with owners of private wells. He points out that a 1999 panel recommended steps that the EPA should take, but the agency hasn’t delivered.

Former NSA Director Odom Questions Iraq Strategy

Does Odom have a grudge against the Bush administration, or, does he have keen insight into Middle East situation? Below are excerpts from Odom’s speech, from Michael Hammerschlag’s summary at


Former National Security Agency Director Lt. General William Odom, director of the sprawling NSA from 1985-88 under Reagan, spoke at Brown University for the Watson Institute:

The Iraq War may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history.

The invasion wasn’t in our interests, it was in Iran’s interest, Al Qaida’s interest. Seeing America invade must have made Iranian leaders ecstatic. Iran’s hostility to Saddam was hard to exaggerate.. Iraq is now open to Al Qaida, which it never was before- it’s easier for terrorists to kill Americans there than in the US..  Neither our leaders or the mainstream media recognize the perversity of key US policies now begetting outcomes they were designed to prevent… 3 years later the US is bogged down in Iraq, pretending a Constitution has been put in place, while the civil war rages, Iran meddles, and Al Qaida swells its ranks with new recruits..  We have lost our capacity to lead and are in a state of crisis- diplomatic and military.

Terrorism cannot be defeated because it’s not an enemy, it’s a tactic. A war against Al Qaida is sensible and supportable, but a war against a tactic is ludicrous and hurtful.

Holding elections is easy, creating stable constitutional orders is difficult….Spreading illiberal democracy without Constitutionalism is a very bad idea, if we care about civil liberties. We are getting that lesson again in Hamas.

Iran has told the Shiites, ‘don’t fight, do what the Americans tell you – the electoral process will put you in power, meanwhile we’re arming you and building up your militias. The Sunni insurgency is trying to provoke the civil war while we’re still there so they’re not left to face these militias after we’ve leave. The Kurds will get as much autonomy as they can and back out of the system. An independent Kurdistan is likely, but the two factions of Peshmerga might fight. Al Qaida can’t operate up there, so that will be a stable little island.” But Kurdish independence “won’t please Iran, Syria, or Turkey- a NATO ally.

How did we get in the (Vietnam) war? Phony intelligence over the Tonkin Gulf affair. Once we got in, it was not legitimate to go back and talk about strategic purpose, we were only allowed to talk about how we were doing – the tactics. We would not go back and ask whether this was in our interests.

via Dave Pollard

Obstacles to Greener Living – the White House

The White House marches to the needs of Big Oil on global warming. Who is surprised?

Source: Decoder – January/February 2006 – Sierra Magazine – Sierra Club

Given the strong consensus among the world’s scientists and an ever-lengthening list of hurricanes, heat waves, melting ice caps, and other climatological disasters, how does the Bush administration still deny the seriousness of global warming? It’s easy—it just deletes the evidence.

Excerpted below are two 2002 draft reports by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which is responsible for coordinating research on global warming from 13 federal agencies. The reports passed review by government scientists and were released—but not before Philip A. Cooney, then chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, had a go at them with his pencil, making hundreds of substantive changes. Cooney is a former lobbyist and "climate team leader" for the American Petroleum Institute, big oil’s main lobbying arm in Washington, D.C.

Introduce uncertainty where there is none.
The proposition that human activity contributes to global warming has not been in serious scientific dispute for many years. Yet the longer the oil industry and its friends in the administration can manage to change "is" to "may be," the longer they can avoid tough restrictions on the burning of fossil fuel—by far the largest source of greenhouse gases.

Look on the bright side.
Cooney repeatedly demands "balance" for details about the negative effects of rapidly increasing Earth’s temperature. Global warming, he suggests, should it happen, might actually turn out to be an economic opportunity.

Portray global warming as the price of progress.

Keep it theoretical.
Cooney hates references to concrete consequences for landscapes and people. Global warming’s role in the melting of mountain glaciers is well established, and a 2002 study demonstrated a 7 percent increase in the runoff of Eurasian rivers into the Arctic Ocean between 1936 and 1999. One of the "extreme hydrologic events" scientists are studying is the slowing or shutting down of the Gulf Stream. Without it, northern Europe would be uninhabitable.

Bury inconvenient research.
The "highly controversial" study alluded to here is the National Climate Assessment, an authoritative report that has been almost totally suppressed by the Bush administration. The assessment is the work of 14 leading climate-change specialists and more than 300 scientists and technical experts. It details, for example, the effects of sea-level rise, the water conflicts that will result from increased droughts and floods, and the disappearance of natural ecosystems. Rick Piltz, a senior associate at the CCSP who resigned last March to protest the program’s politicization, says that Cooney "required the CCSP to systematically delete any substantive reference or use of the multiple volumes of this major work." The mention above is as close as government scientists could come to citing the suppressed work—and even that had to be qualified by Cooney.

After documents showing Cooney’s editorial zeal were released last summer by the Government Accountability Project and reported on by the New York Times, he abruptly resigned his White House post and went to work for ExxonMobil.

The National Recording Registry adds Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced album

Link: VOA News – The National Recording Registry Grows By 50

To be considered for the National Recording Registry, recordings must be at least 10 years old. The Library of Congress has been selecting recordings of historical significance every year since 2000.

Librarian Of Congress James Billington says these recordings reflect the nation’s ever-changing cultural history. "They represent the diversity, the humanity and the history that lies in our sound heritage. They are a cascading flood of mostly joyous sounds and certainly always creative spirits that flow into the American bloodstream," he says.

Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix recorded one of the most influential rock and roll albums of all time, Are You Experienced.

Is Wal-Mart Really Getting Greener?

Ever since several small farms were transformed into a Super Wal-Mart just a half mile from our home, I’ve been on the warpath. But I must admit that the actions and words of Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott suggests a new very green strategy by the world’s largest retailer. This is a welcome contrast to the denial politics of the Bush administration.

Link: An interview with Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott | By Amanda Griscom Little | Grist Magazine | Main Dish | 12 Apr 2006.

Last week, Wal-Mart joined leading energy executives in their startling call for mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions.

The company controls so much of the retail market, and has such sway over manufacturers, that any green initiatives on its part have huge ripple effects. And it’s certainly CEO H. Lee Scott’s intention to make waves.

In October, Scott announced a preposterously ambitious goal to transform Wal-Mart into a company that runs on 100 percent renewable energy and produces zero waste. Since then, he has impressed greens with specific commitments to cut the corporation’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent over the next seven years, double the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet within 10 years, reduce solid waste from U.S. stores by 25 percent in the next three years, and double offerings of organic foods this spring, selling them at prices more affordable to the masses.

Enviros hope Wal-Mart will have the same game-changing effect on mainstreaming environmental strategies that it has had on reducing prices. "Wal-Mart’s new commitments to increase efficiency and reduce pollution and waste are important first steps for a company that has such a profound impact on our environment," Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said in a public statement. "More companies should take these positive steps toward safer and healthier communities."

China’s Pollution Problem

Jon Markman recently visited Beijing and included some observations of the dark side of the manufacturing boom in his commentary.

Source: MSN Investing: China’s reality is both boom and gloom, by Jon Markman

It’s not just the smog, which is pervasive, gray and suffocating on an epic scale. It’s not just the weather, which is unseasonably cold and windy. It’s not just the sand, which is blowing in from inner Mongolia in thick, yellow sheets. It’s not just the traffic, which is inert due to the stunning lack of major cross-town freeways. And it’s not just the vibe of the city’s residents and laborers, which is often foul and hostile amid the pollution and crowding.

It’s the sense of alienation and hopelessness that you get from so many of the kind and brilliant people who have grown up there, and who should have the greatest stake in its success.

More than three-quarters of the well-educated people that I spoke with expressed a desire to leave the country, in large part due to fears of the effects that pollution were having on their children.

What happens when the athletes arrive in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics and experience the air pollution?