'/> Uncommon Hours: May 2009
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sen. Pat Roberts and a gaggle of Leavenworth residents: NIMBY!

One of the key enablers of the Bush administration, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), toured Ft. Leavenworth yesterday, apparently there to stoke up fear and throw red meat to the salivating, hardcore, dittohead base.

“Don’t send the Gitmo inmates here!” was the message from Roberts and a town-hall gathering of Leavenworth residents.

Never mind that Fort L, even Roberts concedes, is well-equipped to accommodate the detainees. The latest fear-mongering tactic is to claim that the town’s 5,000 residents will become targets for terrorism.

Dire warnings also came this past weekend in the form of an editorial in The Kansas City Star by Leavenworth’s Assistant to the City Manager (we didn’t even hear from the Manager!) and Public Information Officer, Megan Gilliland.

Gilliland’s version of the consequences of bringing the Gitmo detainees to Leavenworth is economic Armageddon. Her reasoning is so fantastical only a quote will suffice:

“If the detainees are put at Fort Leavenworth, there is a very good chance the rail line would close, affecting commerce and transportation throughout the Midwest.”

And don’t forget Ft. L’s Sherman Army Airfield!

“Its closure would terminate both business and aviation opportunities.”

How all that might come about is pretty sketchy.

But Gilliland is good at hyperbole:

Gitmo detainees at Ft. L “would have a profound effect on international military relations,” she claims.

Is that it? Stuff you make up?!

Whatever happened to all that flag-waving, teary-eyed-“God-Bless-America”-singing, yellow-ribbon-magnet-on-your-car displaying bluster of the past eight years? Isn’t this supposed to be a military town?


[Addendum: Here's one "strategic analyst's" solution to the problem, from where else, our friends at FOX. Click here.]

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bush’s delusional “mission from God”

Biblical bogeymen Gog and Magog

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea." Revelation 20:7–8

In 2003, Bush gave French President Jacques Chirac a bizarre (and Chirac thought, disturbing) explanation for invading Iraq:

“This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins."

Bush’s “crusade” in Iraq turns out to be just that.

The Leader, according to Chirac, described the importance of defeating Biblical phantasms Gog and Magog who, he had it on Good Authority, were at work in the Middle East trying to destroy Israel.

In a new book by French journalist Jean Claude Maurice, Chirac explains that he “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs."

According Yale professor Clive Hamilton, who describes the incident in an article for Counterpunch:

“There can be little doubt now that President Bush’s reason for launching the war in Iraq was, for him, fundamentally religious. He was driven by his belief that the attack on Saddam’s Iraq was the fulfillment of a Biblical prophesy in which he had been chosen to serve as the instrument of the Lord.”

Read more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kucinich: Cheney should testify under oath

During an interview with ABC News' Top Line, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) called for former Vice President Dick Cheney to testimony before Congress.

"I think that Mr. Cheney should be brought before the Congress, made to raise his right hand, and have to testify about the statements he made that took us into a war, that created an increased national security problem for the United States," Kucinich said.

Text and video from ABC News.http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/42921

Friday, May 22, 2009

Six Seconds!!

All it took for conservative radio host Erich "Mancow" Muller to cry uncle -- or throw his rubber ducky, which was his safe sign -- after the torture began.

Apparently waterboarding seems less like "enhanced interrogation" and more like torture when you're the waterboardee.

"Wide-eyed" said it best in a comment on this item from Rawstory: "What is it about these people that they can't put two and two together and have to actually experience a disaster (e.g., global warming, the horrors of war, economic collapse, and yes...waterboarding) before they take it seriously?"

Next up, Sean Hannity??

Read more.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Krugman: Obama’s compromises water down policies

Assessing the merits of the new climate legislation proposed by Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, Paul Krugman pinpoints a disturbing trend in the Obama administration’s policy making:

“In a way, it was easy to take stands during the Bush years: the Bushies and their allies in Congress were so determined to move the nation in the wrong direction that one could, with a clear conscience, oppose all the administration’s initiatives.

“Now, however, a somewhat uneasy coalition of progressives and centrists rules Washington, and staking out a position has become much trickier. Policy tends to move things in a desirable direction, yet to fall short of what you’d hoped to see. And the question becomes how many compromises, how much watering down, one is willing to accept.”

Read more.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Saving the Planet One Lawn at a Time

By Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

(Note: A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of Planet Kansas. As the lawnmower brigades are now out in force, it seemed like a good time to re-print it.)

The driver pulled over and rolled down his window, laughing.

“I haven’t seen one of those in years!” he exclaimed.

He pointed to my lawn mower, a Scott’s Classic reel mower, a lightweight reproduction of the clunky wood and steel beast I wearily powered through heavy rye grass in our upstate New York yard as a boy.

The driver joked that maybe he'd make his kids use a mower like mine. Two boys sat in the back, humorless and worried, as he drove away.

A few neighbors thought I had a screw loose when I began using my reel mower regularly over seven years ago. Maybe they thought my lawn would go to seed and drag the neighborhood into economic decline. My next door neighbor needles me about the racket, but I can hear him clearly over the gentle whirring of the blades, and after we chat for a few minutes, my mower starts right up again without a pull, and without me swearing at it, though sometimes it needs priming with a few gulps of Gatorade.

I haven’t completely given up my power mower. During the spring, when the right combination of rain and sunshine thickens the lawn and the height gets away from me, I may resort to it, but that amounted to a couple of times last summer, and I went the entire previous year without starting it up once.

The environmental benefits of giving up a gas-powered mower are significant. My reel mower keeps about 80 pounds of new carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year.

According to the EPA, gasoline yard tools contribute 5 percent of the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides that make up smog in many cities.

Running a gas-powered mower for one hour is about the same as driving a new car for eleven hours! And we’re so clumsy at gassing up our yard tools that we spill 17 million gallons of fuel every year—more than the Exxon Valdez dumped into Prince William Sound!

Plus, the neighborhood sounds like an airport on summer weekends.

I wondered if others had gotten the bug to try powering their own mowers, so I called Smitty’s Lawn & Garden Equipment in Olathe, where Jim Honeycutt told me that he gets some inquiries but few takers. He said most buyers are put off by the $140 price-tag on the Husqvarna model he sells.

That surprised me because I realized that, while I only spent about $100 for my mower, even a higher-priced model is still a good deal considering the years of service and low maintenance these machines require. Mine is seven years old and only needs sharpening every other year or so (which I do myself). I used to spend $50 or more on preseason servicing for my power mower. Honeycutt also pointed out that most reel mowers are pretty basic and similar in operation, and that any brand name will offer a quality product.

It’s not harder to mow the lawn.

I can lift the mower with one hand and maneuver it easily through areas that are a pain with the power mower. Also, walking behind it and pushing it is pleasant. It’s not very loud, doesn’t smell, and you quickly find yourself at the kind of brisk pace you’d enjoy on a hiking path. I do a lot of criss-crossing to catch stray blades.

Some yards may be too large for this type of mower. Mine is a suburban quarter acre, and we’ve added ground cover and two berms to reduce the amount of grass—and the amount of chemicals we need.

A reel mower may not be right for everyone, but if everyone who could use one made the change, imagine how much cleaner our air would be--and how much quieter our neighborhoods.

And we’d get lots of exercise too.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill
By Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

Less is more: a maxim that may apply nowhere better in the world of Celtic music than to Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill.

They gave a mesmerizing performance last evening at the Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City, sponsored by the Missouri Valley Folklife Society and 90.1 FM KKFI.

There is a classical, even symphonic quality to their approach to Celtic music. Their sets are long, often combining five or six or more tunes in a single set, where most Celtic groups will use three. You find yourself taking a journey with them in each set, discovering a syntax in the combination of tunes that is more intricate than the relationship of rhythm or key that might tie the pieces together. Also, while reels and jigs certainly have a prominent place in their sets, they typically begin with a slower piece, a single melodic line, that asks you to listen rather than tap. Simplicity and directness are without doubt themes of Martin Hayes’s approach to fiddling.

Just two musicians on stage all evening. No singing. A good sprinkling of understated humor between sets. But this was more than enough.

Martin Hayes, from County Clare and now residing in Connecticut, has received numerous awards, including six All-Ireland fiddle championships. His style is spare, but intense. His ear is extraordinary, and a collector of Irish tunes from an early age, his memory is prodigious.

Dennis Cahill is a Chicagoan whose parents are natives of County Kerry. While his guitar and mandolin playing were featured in a couple of pieces during the evening, he primarily offers accompaniment to Hayes, but in a unique and original way. A jazz-trained musician, he plays a nylon-string classical guitar with a cutaway. He picks, plucks (using fingers 3 & 4 while holding the pick), and strums in a style that I can only compare to harp playing. I closed my eyes for a good portion of the second half of the concert and felt I was as close to hearing an Irish harp as I could be without seeing one on the stage. He uses a standard tuning and plays a wide range of unique chord combinations, deftly throwing in harmonics to complete his chords. We got a taste of his picking ability in one mandolin-fiddle piece of his own composition and in one guitar-fiddle piece. His playing is exceptional by any standard, but perhaps as much for what we don’t hear as what we do.

Hayes and Cahill have developed a style and approach to this music that is at once traditional and at the same time unique.

Kudos to the Missouri Valley Folklife Society and KKFI for bringing them to Kansas City.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

“Burn, baby, burn!” – Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson’s response to global warming

By Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

If Arlen Specter’s dubious bolt to the Democratic Party last week wasn’t enough to make you wonder what being a Democrat is all about, consider Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson. The former Republican shed his elephant skin in 2006 to run for lieutenant governor with Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, now President Obama’s pick to run HHS.

Parkinson didn’t wait till her chair had cooled to get busy, meeting secretly last week with Sunflower Electric’s CEO, Earl Watkins, to forge an agreement that will allow a new coal-fired plant to be built in western Kansas—this following Sebelius’ veto of a bill that would have permitted two new coal plants here.

After a near two-year effort by environmental groups and citizens throughout the state to prevent these plants from being built, the Republican attempt to override Sebelius’ veto looked DOA just days ago.

Kansas was about to abandon for good what NASA scientist James Hansen calls “factories of death”—coal plants—when Parkinson unraveled the entire effort.

The result is a stunning reversal of Sebelius’ veto—by her own former lieutenant governor—just a week after she left!

Sierra Club spokesperson Stephanie Cole issued the following statement today:

“With the settlement Governor Parkinson offered to Sunflower Electric, Kansas has given up its place as a national leader on clean energy. Under former Governor Sebelius Kansas was well-positioned to make contributions to slow global warming. This agreement is a significant setback. The concessions made to the coal industry will greatly outweigh any so-called benefits for the state. For instance, the carbon ‘offsets’ cited in the agreement are generally questionable, unenforceable, and won't result in a reduction in global warming pollution.

“The new coal plant actually increases Kansas' contributions to global warming. Kansas didn't need to swallow the coal plant that's a part of this agreement. While the country is moving away from polluting fossil fuels, Kansas has opened the door for outdated, dirty technology other states are rejecting. The agreement appears to invite Sunflower Electric to build another coal plant in two years. This is not a compromise, but a giveaway to the coal industry Kansans have stood up against.”

The next Republican who comes knocking on the Democratic Party door should be told to take a hike.

Gov. Mark Parkinson

Friday, May 1, 2009

Torture unto others...

According to a Pew Research Center poll, you're more likely to support torturing prisoners if you attend church regularly, especially if you belong to one of the so-called "mainline" Protestant chuches, like the Episcopalians, Lutherans, or Presbyterians.

CNN reports that "[m]ore than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is 'often' or 'sometimes' justified."

Puts a new spin on the Golden Rule, doesn't it?