samedi, juin 21, 2008

Breathing room

Take your records,

Take your freedom.

Take your memories, I don't need them,

Take your space and all your reasons....but you'll think of me.

Keith Urban, You'll think of me

Boxing at Shadows?

Apparently many of his supporters are distraught that Barack Obama won't accept public money. His claim? He's going to need private financing to battle the frightening, unscrupulous attack dog (Republican) groups who will try to throw not only the kitchen sink, but all of the vermin underneath at him in the fall.

According to the Politico article by Jonathan Martin, there ain't a whole lot being cooked up right now by the guys who last brought you Swift Boat and other lowdown, mean, and questionably successful attempts to wound the Democratic candidate in the last election. I still think John Kerry's patrician, "I know better than you" air was more scary than anything the Republicans could find.

It's also possible, though not likely, that the Republican operatives have decided we've maxed out on ignorance, rumor and racism in this year's campaign.

Which leaves many wondering about Obama's claim to rise above partisan politics. His choice to accept private donations is the mark of a very canny politician, not a principled hero.

But does hero worship really have much of a place in a Presidential campaign?

If we are disillusioned, if he has been tarnished, should we blame him for blurring his principles-or us for believing he could remain faithful to them in the first place?

mardi, juin 17, 2008

Iowa. Illinois. Missouri. Wisconsin. In all of those states this week, men, women and children are racing against the clock, hoping that the levees will not surrender to the relentless tide of the powerful Mississippi. Some have been fortunate. In others, houses and walkways and convenience stores have been given over to the river, until the waters recede.

I've been pondering how the forces shaping the climate in the Midwest may affect how the rest of us eat in the United States, and in those places where folks depend on what we grow.

At a dinner tonight with three friends we were talking about Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan, who is a naturalist, and a wonderful writer (my mother would have loved his writing), traces, the origins of various meals in a way that must be distressing to anyone who values both good food and their health.

Much of our diet in the United States depends on the many incarnations businesses have found for corn-many of them quite bad for us. So much of the processed foods we eat are full of high fructose corn syrup. The floods in the Midwest are terrible for farmers who depend on sales of this commodity to buy new equipmnt or seed for the coming season. Developing nations who need our wheat are grappling with difficult times, too.

But the jury is still way out on what losing the summer corn in Iowa will mean to us when we buy our vegetables and cookies. What it means to those who produce ethanol and those who advocate alternative energy.

Possibly buying locally, and living within geographical boundaires, will no longer be a lifestyle option-it could morph into a neccesity.

dimanche, juin 15, 2008

Angel Ye

A few nights ago, my son and I were lying on my bed in the dark. The storm that had brought trees and wires down in our town was heading east, leaving us without power. As sometimes happens when he is tired, on the verge of falling asleep, C rifled through his mental Rolodex, sharing ideas on topics as different as the NBA playoff games, what was going on in the final days of this school semester, and the challenge of being a kid in a planet where the climate is warming.

Our planet is in peril , and there's not a lot us kids can do, Mom, he said. We don't drive cars.

It's not solely children who feel helpless. A lot of adults don't feel like they can do much about global warming or the war in Iraq or poverty. But they can do more than they think.

Mr. Ye in Sichuan province, is a great example of what one man can do if he is tenacious.

A fiftyish guy with a bit of a middle-aged spread, Ye looks very ordinary.

Yet this former teacher is probably responsible for saving the lives of thousands of children in his school. Impelled by his desire to keep his students safe, he pestered the authorities for money to do the things that would make the walls and balconies more secure (see link). When the earthquake brought down many schools, killing thousands of students, his school survived. No one was lost.

It must have taken a lot of time and stubborness to wring money from the provincial bureaucrats. Such an ordinary thing-how tedious to write officials and fill out forms. Sometimes it is in these ways that heroes are created.

Apparently some students call the principal "angel Ye."

I must tell Mr C about him-a common man of uncommon valor.