Sunday, February 27, 2011

Funny? or NotFunny?

A unionized public employee, a Pee-Tartyist, and a Kochodile are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The Kochodile reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the Pee-tartyist and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."
hijacked from David J. Otness on FB

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If neurotoxicants in the environment were making us less smart, would we notice?

Mind Games
by Sandra Steingraber
If neurotoxicants in the environment were making us less smart, would we notice? And if we did, would we stop putting them on our food and in our air? http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6162

Monday, February 21, 2011

Laika and Manolita Conner have been skijoring together for five years

Laika and Manolita Conner of East Missoula have been skijoring together for five years, http://missoulian.com/lifestyles/recreation/article_b9766906-3a30-11e0-b829-001cc4c03286.html. Their dog-plus-human traveling style moves staid skinny-skiing into the rocket age.
021711 skijoring 2
  • 021711 skijoring 1
  • 021711 skijoring 3
  • 021711 skijoring 4
EAST MISSOULA - "Laika" was the name of the first dog in space. It's also the name of a 30-pound Alaskan husky who looks capable of flinging her owner into space.

"We're expecting 100 to 200 this year, with 25 to 50 competitors.

“Something is happening here,” Bob Dylan sang in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “but you don’t know what it is. Do you Mr. Jones?”

Huffington’s Plunder

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/huffingtons_plunder_20110221/

Posted on Feb 21, 2011

By Chris Hedges
I was in New York City on Thursday night at the Brecht Forum to discuss with the photographer Eugene Richards his powerful new book “War Is Personal” when I was approached for an interview by a blogger for The Huffington Post. I had just finished speaking with another blogger who had recently graduated from UC Berkeley.
These encounters, which are frequent at public events, break my heart. I see myself in the older bloggers, many of whom worked for newspapers until they took buyouts or were laid off, as well as in the aspiring reporters. These men and women love the trade. They want to make a difference. They have the integrity not to sell themselves to public relations firms or corporate-funded propaganda outlets. And they keep at it, the way true artists, musicians or actors do, although there are dimmer and dimmer hopes of compensation. They are victims of a dying culture, one that no longer values the talents that would keep it healthy and humane. The corporate state remunerates corporate management and public relations. It lavishes money on the celebrities who provide the fodder for our national mini-dramas. But those who deal with the bedrock virtues of truth, justice and beauty, who seek not to entertain but to transform, are discarded. They must struggle on their own.
The sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million, and the tidy profit of reportedly at least several million dollars made by principal owner and founder Arianna Huffington, who was already rich, is emblematic of this new paradigm of American journalism. The Huffington Post, as Stephen Colbert pointed out when he stole the entire content of The Huffington Post and rechristened it The Colbuffington Re-post, produces little itself. The highly successful site, like most Internet sites, is largely pirated from other sources, especially traditional news organizations, or is the product of unpaid writers who are rechristened “citizen journalists.” It is driven by the celebrity gossip that dominates cheap tabloids, with one or two stories that come from The New York Times or one of the wire services to give it a veneer of journalistic integrity. Hollywood celebrities, or at least their publicists, write windy and vapid commentaries. And this, I fear, is what news is going to look like in the future. The daily reporting and monitoring of city halls, courts, neighborhoods and government, along with investigations into corporate fraud and abuse, will be replaced by sensational garbage and Web packages that are made to look like news but contain little real news.
The terminal decline of newspapers has destroyed thousands of jobs that once were dedicated to reporting, verifying fact and giving a voice to those who without these news organizations would not be heard. Newspapers, although they were too embedded among the power elite and blunted their effectiveness in the name of a faux objectivity, at least stopped things from getting worse. This last and imperfect bulwark has been removed. It has been replaced by Internet creations that mimic journalism. Good reporters, like good copy editors or good photographers, who must be paid and trained for years while they learn the trade, are becoming as rare as blacksmiths. Stories on popular sites are judged not by the traditional standards of journalism but by how many hits they receive, how much Internet traffic they generate, and how much advertising they can attract. News is irrelevant. Facts mean little. Reporting is largely nonexistent. No one seems to have heard of the common good. Our television screens are filled with these new chattering celebrity journalists. They pop up one day as government spokespeople and appear the next as hosts on morning news shows. They deal in the currency of emotion, not truth. They speak in empty clich├ęs, not ideas. They hyperventilate, with a spin from the left or the right, over every bit of gossip. And their corporate sponsors make these court jesters millionaires. We are entertained by these clowns as corporate predators ruthlessly strip us of our capacity to sustain a living, kill our ecosystem because of greed, gut civil liberties and turn us into serfs.
Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the lifeblood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.
“Something is happening here,” Bob Dylan sang in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “but you don’t know what it is. Do you Mr. Jones?”
This latest form of “liberal” exploitation exposes yet again the liberal class for who they really are—opportunists whose operating methods are as callous as those used in running the textile mills in southern China. Is it any wonder that working men and women, who have been abandoned and betrayed by these self-identified liberals, hate the liberal class and its transparent hypocrisy? Is it any wonder that the some 40 million Americans who live in poverty are invisible to the wider culture? Is it any wonder that the tea party and all the lunatics on the fringe of our political spectrum put their cross hairs on the liberal class and its purported values? Let’s not forget the title of Huffington’s latest book: “Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.”
Liberals like these deserve the rage they engender.
The argument made to defend this exploitation is that the writers had a choice. It is an argument I also heard made by the managers of sweatshops in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the coal companies in West Virginia or Kentucky and huge poultry farms in Maine. It is the argument made by the comfortable, by those who do not know what it is to be hard up, desperate or driven by a passion to express one’s self and the world through journalism or art. It is the argument the wealthy elite, who have cemented in place an oligarchic system under which there are no real choices, use to justify their oppression.
Who would not want to be able to carry out his or her trade and make enough to pay the bills? What worker would decline the possibility of job protection, health care and a pension? Why do these people think tens of millions of Americans endure substandard employment?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

For your reading enjoyment -- and grit your teeth if you live in Montana or if you see it coming to your state.

For your reading pleasure, here are some of the major pieces of legislation that have been put forward by the Tea Party Republicans who are now in control of the legislature.  This is not a joke. These are real bills, and they are currently taking priority in the Montana legislature.  Enjoy.

1.  Legalize hunting with hand-thrown spear (Senate Bill 112)
2.  Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)
3.  Allow legislators to carry weapons in the Capitol (Senate Bill 279)
4.  Create an 11 person panel with authority to nullify all federal laws (House Bill 382)
5   Allow guns in schools (House Bill 558)
6.  Eliminate educational requirements for persons seeking job of State Superintendent of Schools (HB 154)
7.  Lift nuclear ban for purpose of building a nuclear reactor in the Flathead Valley (House Bill 326)
8.  Withdraw the United States of America from the United Nations (Senate Joint Resolution 2)
9.  Eliminate all state incentives for developing wind power (House Bill 244)
10. Omit Barak Obama’s name from the 2012, ballot because his father was born outside of America (House Bill 205) (this guy was on CNN this week)
11. Compulsory marriage counseling for people seeking a divorce (House Bill 438)
12. Give sheriffs authority over the federal government in terror investigations (Senate Bill 114)
13. Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)
14. Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches and banks (House Bill 384)
15. Eliminate law that requires landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors (House Bill 354)
16. Require the federal government to prove in court that the National Parks were lawfully acquired. (House Bill 506)
17. Officially designate the “Code of the West” as the “Code of Montana” (Senate Bill 216)
18.  Declare that global warming is good. (House Bill 549)

Friday, February 18, 2011

"We're giving the elk room over the winter."

Mount Jumbo elk herd nearly doubles thanks to conservation efforts


Elk gather on Mount Jumbo earlier this winter. According to biologists, the number of elk has increased to more than 90 at last count. Courtesy of Eric Edlund
  • 021611 elk mount jumbo 2
The elk aren't just showing up more often around the summit of Mount Jumbo lately - there are more of them.
A good snow year has made Missoula's resident elk herd much easier to spot this winter. And recent surveys confirm the herd has nearly doubled from just a few years ago. While about 50 elk once used Mount Jumbo as winter range, biologists now count more than 90 animals.
"People have been really excited to see the elk this year," said Morgan Valliant, the city's conservation lands manager. "That wouldn't be possible without the closure."
Mount Jumbo's popular hiking trails are closed to the public from Dec. 1 until March 15 for the main mountain, with a longer closure until May 1 for the northern saddle. That gives the elk privacy to graze on the open grasslands along the mountaintop. They've been taking regular advantage of the opportunity, coming out of the trees around sunrise for morning feeding and often again in late afternoon.
In addition to lowering stress on pregnant cows, the closure has had benefits for Missoula's human residents, Valliant said.
"The Grant Creek herd is different from Jumbo's," he said. "It's totally acclimated to people. Those elk are not afraid of dogs. They're in people's yards. Jumbo has been managed more as a wild herd, and they will flee from people."
The Grant Creek herd has been overgrazing its winter range and staying on it longer than normal, according to Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Vickie Edwards.
"That's always a red flag for us," Edwards said. "We want to keep those elk migratory and wild. But it's true the grass is greener on the other side of the fence."
Predation does not appear to be a factor, Edwards said, because Missoula's elk numbers have been growing since the extremely heavy snows of 1996-97, before wolves were an issue in the area. The only active wolf pack near northern Missoula didn't show up until 2010. It tends to roam the Arlee area and hasn't been reported hunting in the Rattlesnake Wilderness.
"It appears the habitat is working," Edwards said. "Having an undisturbed area for them to spend the winter is extremely important for productivity. And what's really nice about Jumbo is the connectivity of public land. It's a peninsula of public land that's safe, compared to the North Hills and Grant Creek where the important winter range is in developed areas."
The city's effort to reduce noxious weeds and reseed native grasses and wildlflowers also plays a part. Valliant said crews have improved between 150 and 300 acres a year around the hilltop for the past five years. In addition, summer sheep grazing has cut back the leafy spurge infestation. Elk don't eat spurge, but it crowds out the grasses they do like.
"The area the elk hang out in is some of the nicest native vegetation up there," Valliant said. "I'd like to think perhaps we're seeing this increase in the elk herd because the mountain was purchased back in the '90s and preserved for winter range. It's a closure Missoula has embraced and respected. We're giving the elk
room over the winter."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From seed to livestock feed in just six days -- grown year-round

Blackfeet Nation men master hydroponic technology growth


From seed to livestock feed in just six days—and it can also grow vegetables fit for human consumption. (Sun Road Farmory)
Ron Doore and Jerry Boggs have mastered the art of growing and their business has come right along with them.
The partners who started Sun Road Farmory on the Blackfeet Nation in northwestern Montana are seeing success in the hydroponic technology they’ve developed. Their system allows owners to grow livestock feed in six days, year-round, regardless of weather.
Sun Road’s “alternative feed systems” are housed in special units sold to customers. The units provide a controlled environment the seed is grown in. Farmers in several parts of Montana have tested and approved the system.
    The units are available in sizes as small as a refrigerator for small farmers, or as large as an airplane hangar for big commercial farms and ranches. Costs range from $14,000 to $45,000 or more for a custom-designed system. They are easy to ship and easy to use, according to Doore. “The amount of water, lighting, heating and cooling are all pretty much dialed in for the customer, so they just have to plug their alternative feed system into a 110-volt outlet, hook up their water, put the seed in the trays and away they go.” The units include a water tank, shelving and trays, and lighting and irrigation systems controlled by a patent-pending computer technology that controls the variables for all those elements—what they call the “brain box.” (Sun Roads hopes to patent its designs.) The user puts seeds into the trays, turns on the system, and around six days later harvests lush green “biscuits” that are four- to six-inches high, look like sod grown for lawns, and are packed with nutrition. “Animals consume all of the biscuit—the roots and the green roughage—so it minimizes waste on feed. You have a highly nutritional feed that’s high in moisture, so there’s a better hydration rate and better nutritional absorption into the blood stream,” Doore said. “It’s easier for the animals to digest.”
The team hopes to venture into growing bio-fuels and growing food humans can eat next.
Jenna Cederberg

"If they had opposable thumbs, we'd be in so much trouble,"



A 650-pound Alaskan brown bear named Kobuk, known around the Yellowstone Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone as Kobuk the Destroyer, spent almost an hour last week attempting to crack into a new trash can “holster” design. The can’s exoskeleton, fabricated by a welding class at the Anaconda Job Corps, passed the Kobuk test.
  • A 650-pound Alaskan brown bear named Kobuk
  • Anaconda Job Corps welders
  • Items used to tempt bears
  • Visitors to the Grizzly Bear Discovery Center 

VIDEO: Grizzlies go for the garbage
VIDEO: Grizzlies go for the garbage
Grizzly bears attempt to bust a bear-resistant trash can in West Yellowstone
WEST YELLOWSTONE - A few months ago, welding students at the Anaconda Job Corps Center had the ultimate excuse for blowing a test: A bear ate their homework.
Last week, however, they passed. Their homework beat the bears.
And not just any bears. We're talking Kobuk the Destroyer, the most devious and persistent can-cracker at the West Yellowstone Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. And his buddy Sam, the 1,000-pound Alaskan brown bear whose CPR compression technique has caused heart failure in bear-resistant container makers.

Wanting to hear more from Roger Ebert?

Here's his trove of tough, thoughtful reviews and essays.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"‘Ebert Presents’ needs more of Roger"

Engaging new critics show up at "At the Movies" successor show. But we miss Roger's steady voice.

I was concerned about homelessness in my town, so I hooked up with a group with a plan.

I went to an organizing meeting for Family Promise of Missoula, and was heartened by the progress the group has made locally. They have a good national website with lots of links to local news of organizing and operating chapters all around the U.S. I found that the most telling section was called "What Would You Do?", an exercise that puts you in 'Annie''s shoes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rescue efforts at Niarada ranch are finally concluded

All 800 animals removed from defunct Niarada sanctuary; camels last to go

NIARADA - What's been described as the largest rescue at an animal sanctuary in history is over.
Karyn Moltzen, founder of AniMeals in Missoula, confirmed Monday that the very last of more than 800 animals living at the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary in this remote area north of Hot Springs and west of Elmo were trucked off the 400-acre ranch on Jan. 31, ending a rescue operation that spanned 42 days.
Many animals remain in the care of rescue groups and still need new homes, Moltzen said, but all critters - from camels to llamas, and horses to pot-bellied pigs - have left the sanctuary.
The operation began on Dec. 21 after the people operating the sanctuary contacted the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, saying they were out of money and nearly out of food for their menagerie.
In the weeks since, several of the rescue groups involved have decried the condition in which they found many of the animals - llamas that were starving, they said, cows that were seriously overweight, and burros whose hooves had not been trimmed in so long they resembled miniature skis.
Moltzen said they lost four to five animals a day during the first two weeks rescuers were on the scene - some expiring naturally because of poor health, and others that were put down for humane reasons.
One of the sanctuary's employees who stayed on told Moltzen another 60 to 70 animals had died in the three months before help was sought.
"So many awesome people came together and helped us get the job done," said Moltzen, whose group moved into the sanctuary for all 42 days of the rescue effort. "One of the other things I witnessed - the hardest part that made the nightmare almost unbearable - was the dark side of human nature."
That, Moltzen said, involved the "armchair quarterbacks who made judgments based on inaccurate information or no information at all. We were trying to do something I felt was a noble cause, but I had to defend myself to these naysayers."
***
Patty Finch, executive director of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries in Washington, D.C., said the Niarada rescue is believed to be the largest ever undertaken at a sanctuary.
She said Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, wrote that "he thought it was the largest ever in terms of numbers, and I've been in the field a long time and don't remember a larger one. It was certainly large enough."
Truckload after truckload of everything from cows to parrots and emus were hauled out of the sanctuary over the six weeks, bound for New York, Texas, California "and all points in between," Moltzen said.
AniMeals said it documented 810 animals at the sanctuary. The majority - 590 - were llamas.
"A lot of the animals, and especially the llamas, went to rescue groups because they'll have to get healthy before they can be adopted out," Moltzen said. The healthiest went farthest and earliest; the sickest were transported last and the shortest distances.
Two camels named Danny and Muhane, adopted by a breeder in Fairfield, were among the most difficult to move.
"You should have seen it," Moltzen said. "Their corral was an ice rink and Danny was in rut and madder than a hornet. He was slinging slobber and actually growling.
"Muhane had had about enough of all the years of Danny's bullying and chose this day to start biting Danny," she went on. "Danny went ballistic, and actually grabbed the arm of one of our volunteers and chomped down - I can't believe it didn't break his arm."
Then, she said, Danny knocked over the piece of corral the volunteer was holding and fell on top of it, pinning the man to the ground.
"Camel Al" Deutsch, the Fairfield breeder who took the camels - he can't use animals from a sanctuary in his breeding operation - reported that once he had them at their new home east of the Continental Divide, he opened up the trailer and it took two days for the wary camels to venture out.
"But ‘Camel Al' has Danny eating peanuts out of his hand now," Moltzen said.
***
Moltzen, whose organization is normally a regional food bank for feral and sheltered cats and dogs, said AniMeals spent $40,000 of donated funds during the rescue operation, where it initially took four tons of hay a day to feed the animals.
"It spread my team so thin, and it was hard on everyone," Moltzen said.
She and her crew dealt not only with animals dying at the sanctuary, but others being born.
"We had animals dying every day, and babies being born every other day for two weeks," Moltzen said. "I talked to a vet who told me it takes two weeks for them to really start using the nutrition they were finally getting to get better. What's really wild is after two weeks they stopped dying, and they stopped having babies, too. I mean, boom, it just stopped."
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries helped coordinate the rescue effort, even though the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary had never gone through its accreditation process, nor applied to it.
"If they had, we would have seen things that would have jumped out at us, even from a distance," Finch said.
She listed the small number of people working at the sanctuary compared to the number of animals in its care, the lack of barns, and that it was a small private foundation relying on one donor, as red flags.
"When you have one main donor, you want a minimum of a year's operating expenses held in reserve," Finch said, "in case the donor is suddenly unable or unwilling to donate, as was the case here."
Finch said her organization investigates animal care, governing policies, staffing, safety and security measures and veterinary practices as well as funding before accrediting sanctuaries.
The Montana Large Animal Sanctuary was run by a divorced couple, Brian Warrington and Kathryn Warrington, and largely funded by a woman in Texas named Susan Rawlings.
The three were the only people on the 15-year-old sanctuary's board of directors, and Moltzen said the Warringtons are no longer members of the board.
The Warringtons have denied that the animals were not properly cared for, and blamed Kathryn's deteriorating health - she has multiple sclerosis - for things getting out of hand at the end.
Rawlings has said a move to a lower-paying job ended her ability to pay the sanctuary's bills, which Brian Warrington in 2008 estimated were about $400,000 annually.
Moltzen said the ranch, which includes a newer large main home, a second home that was already on the property when the sanctuary opened, and several outbuildings that include an indoor swimming pool that was also added, is being prepared to be put on the market.
Finch said that as the nonprofit is dissolved, any monies made through the sale of the property must, by law, be given to other nonprofit organizations - either all at once, or distributed at a rate of at least 5 percent per year.
She said Rawlings has indicated she intends to divvy any profits up among the groups that took on the task of rescuing the sanctuary's animals.
"We're counting on her to do the right thing," Finch said, "and I believe she will."

Related Stories

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This might be fun for a Fun Monday roundup of folks' accents.

Why do we say something is out of whack?    What is a whack?

Kit over at Gizzard’s and Calf Fries did this little video (A Wife Speaks) meme concerning the way we pronounce words or what kind of an accent we have so I thought I’d give it a shot seeing as I have a webcam now.  Feel free to participate and let me know how funny I DO look and sound.  I know my words and mouth don’t work at he same time and it wouldn’t upload the whole thing.
Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

video:

Entertaining informative posts about tech. gadgets -- with fine YouTube video

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/latest-gadgets/

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Slow going and delays for the megaloads in the mountains

Snowy roads, traffic delay violations stall ConocoPhillips megaloads
   By KIM BRIGGEMAN of the Missoulian  RavalliRepublic.com   Saturday, February 5, 2011



Big trouble for a big rig in Idaho: There's snow on Lolo Pass and non-moving violations below.
Inclement midwinter weather stalled ConocoPhillips' first megaload of refinery equipment in Kooskia, Idaho, on Friday for the second night.
Meanwhile, Conoco's moving company, Emmert International, was scrambling to come up with a new plan for a particularly winding stretch of U.S. Highway 12 on which traffic was held up 10 times for more than 15 minutes - the maximum delay allowed - earlier this week.
The weather delay means the 226-foot-long transporter won't reach Lolo Pass and Montana until Monday morning at the earliest, and the weekend weather forecast isn't promising.
The traffic delays may be a bigger problem. Adam Rush of the Idaho Transportation Department said traffic was stopped five times for 29 minutes or more - once for almost an hour - on the Wednesday night-Thursday morning haul from Orofino to Kooskia.
Emmert used all but 10 minutes of its 7 1/2-hour window to travel the 35 miles. It'll have to do better next time, when the second of four shipments comes crawling sometime next week or later.
"We are requiring Emmert to resubmit that portion of the plan and let us know how they're going to go about staying within those traffic delay (limits)," Rush said.
In issuing permits, ITD stipulated that traffic can be held up for no more than 10 minutes in most stretches of the 175-mile haul, and no more than 15 minutes on a dozen targeted stretches.
Rush said priority No. 1 for his agency and the movers is safety.
"They had some corners they wanted to make sure they could safely navigate, and they took some extra time to get around those corners," he said. "But we also care very much about the efficiency for other motorists and being able to use Highway 12 in a timely fashion."
Rush said he had not heard that any emergency vehicles were impeded during blockages, including five that lasted 29, 39, 42, 42 and 59 minutes.
The last and longest delay ended at about 4:30 a.m. It occurred between mile markers 61 and 65 just north of Kamiah, where the highway squirms its way between rock cliffs and the Clearwater River. Marker 65 is the site of Long Camp, or Camp Choppunish, where Lewis and Clark camped for 28 days in May and June 1806 waiting for the snow to melt in the Bitterroots.
Revisions in the travel plan are "absolutely doable," said ConocoPhillips spokesman John Roper, who was working from home in Houston on Friday because an ice storm there shut down Conoco offices.
"We are working with the Idaho Transportation Department and Emmert to adjust our procedures in order to minimize traffic delays while continuing to ensure safe transport of our coke drum shipments to Billings," Roper said in a statement.
***
The 100 miles of Highway 12 yet to be traveled in Idaho are known for hairpin turns and slow going - from Kooskia up the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers to Lolo Pass. Rush said Emmert's transport plan takes those conditions into account.
"They've looked at the future portions of U.S. 12 and don't anticipate any more delays because of sharp corners and curves," he said.
Thursday night's move was called off because of freezing rain in the area. The decision to stay put again Friday was made early in the afternoon, as snow on the road to Lolo Pass began to accumulate.
The National Weather Service in Missoula was calling for 2-4 inches of snow Friday night at Lolo Pass (elevation 5,233 feet) and another 2-4 inches on Saturday.
"Things aren't going to improve after that," said Ray Nickless, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Missoula. "It looks like there'll be snow accumulation Saturday night, down to the lower elevations even. Then it just switches back and forth between rain and snow (on Sunday and Monday)."
Precipitation should start tapering off later Monday as temperatures drop again, Nickless said.
Still, movers remained hopeful that the 300-ton load could move again at 10 p.m. on Saturday. It's the first of four headed for Conoco's refinery in Billings. Once it reaches Montana, it will sit by the roadside a mile or so east of Lolo Hot Springs while the next load moves up from Lewiston.
Together, they'll travel down to Missoula, up the Clark Fork Valley to Garrison, over MacDonald Pass and through Helena, and along a circuitous route through central Montana to Billings.
The other drums will make the trip in late March or April.
A toll-free number, 1-866-535-0138  gives daily updates on the loads.
==

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Agent Orange's Unending War

Connie Schultz By Connie Schultz

vietnam agent orange.jpg
A U.S. Air Force C-123 flies low along a South Vietnamese highway in May 1966 while spraying defoliants on dense jungle growth to eliminate ambush sites for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. 
---- 
After a year of research and reporting about the legacy of Agent Orange, I feel certain of one thing: We don't yet know the full extent of dioxin's harm. It appears to be a story with no ending in sight.
On Sunday, The Plain Dealer ran a special report titled "Unfinished Business." It detailed how the U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of the herbicide containing dioxin to defoliate the triple-canopy jungles that hid Ho Chi Minh's northern forces during the Vietnam War.
We reported that at least 4.5 million Vietnamese and the 2.5 million Americans who served there may have been exposed, linked to more than a dozen illnesses in adults and possibly to numerous birth defects in subsequent generations.
Thirty-five years after the war ended, 28 dioxin hot spots continue to contaminate Vietnam's food supply and imperil the health of millions of adults and children.
The Vietnamese aren't asking for contrition, or a confession.
They just want a future free of the poison we left behind. I have added my voice to the growing chorus of scientists, policymakers and experts who insist we should clean up our mess.
Even as our story about Agent Orange was going to press last week, dioxin's legacy continued to leach into the lives of more U.S. veterans, this time reaching into the ranks of those who served in Korea during the Vietnam War.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that any veteran who served between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971, "in a unit determined . . . to have operated in an area in or near the Korean DMZ in an area in which herbicides were applied" is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.
To quote the VA news release, "This 'presumption' simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits and ensures that veterans receive the benefits they deserve."
Missing in that announcement was anything close to an apology for making those particular Vietnam era veterans wait more than 40 years for any acknowledgment that they had been exposed to Agent Orange and denied crucial medical coverage.
Not that you'll hear any complaints from them. When it comes to expectations, Vietnam veterans have learned to set the bar low.
So, what have we learned from all this? That's the question we're supposed to ask, right?
Last fall, I turned to Edwin A. Martini, an associate professor of history at Western Michigan University and author of "Invisible Enemies: The American War on Vietnam, 1975-2000." He is working on a book about the history of Agent Orange and was quick to point out that, while Vietnam veterans' health concerns were dismissed for far too long, no one could have anticipated the sweeping changes that are helping them now.
"We're at a point nobody would have predicted 30 years ago," he said. "Back then, it would have been considered absurd to suggest that exposure to Agent Orange could cause Type 2 diabetes, for example. If you had asked me even 10 years ago if diabetes would have been on the presumptive list, I would have said no."
The companies responsible for manufacturing and distributing Agent Orange will never own their responsibility.
"The chemical companies continue to say, 'Studies fail to link . . .,' " Martini said. "But the list [of covered illnesses] is going to get longer. And we should place the burden of proof on those who say there is no connection."
What worries me now is what we haven't learned from history. At the height of the Vietnam War, people did not know about Agent Orange.
It begs the question: What don't we know about the hazards facing U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan? What long-term dangers lurk for them, and the citizens of those countries?
"That's the question, isn't it?" Martini said.
"It's what we don't know that keeps me up at night."

ExxonMobil's plan to transport 207 oversized loads of mining equipment to the Alberta tar sands. It's hard to imagine these loads, but it's even harder to imagine where they're going.

"How much are we willing to pay environmentally, socially and economically for oil?" 
http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/article_4b4ec7f2-306c-11e0-9475-001cc4c03286.html

Miller-McCune.com harnesses current academic research with real-time reporting to address pressing social concerns.

http://www.miller-mccune.com/
Here are some samples:

  1. Science Leaches Out of Science Class

  2. Sexy News Anchors Distract Male Viewers

  3. Thoreau Was Right: Nature Hones the Mind

  4. Is It Hot in Here? Or Is the Climate Changing?

  5. Texas Children: Canaries in the Coal Mine

  6. Local TV News Spreads Cancer Fatalism

  7. Classical Music Linked to High Intelligence

  8. I Gave It a Nudge But It Won’t Budge

  9. CSI: Pompeii

  10. Thinner Wife, Happier Marriage


Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Lede: New York Times summaries of news from Egypt

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/

The Lede continues to supplement coverage of street protests in Egypt from our colleagues in Cairo with updates on new developments and reports from bloggers and journalists posted on other Web sites.

Fast and delicious microwave Indian recipes

The Ballad of Molly B.

Cow that escaped slaughterhouse has new adventure


This Jan. 9, 2006 photo shows Famous bovine Molly B.  at Mickey's Packing Plant after escaping the slaughter house and leading authorities on a chase  
This Jan. 9, 2006 photo shows famous bovine Molly B. at Mickey's Packing Plant after escaping the slaughter …
BILLINGS, Mont. – Five years after a cow dubbed the "Unsinkable Molly B" leapt a slaughterhouse gate and swam across the Missouri River in an escape that drew international attention, the heifer has again eluded fate, surviving the collapse of the animal sanctuary where she was meant to retire.
Molly B was among an estimated 1,200 animals removed from the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue in recent weeks as part of a massive effort to bail out its overwhelmed owners.
Animal welfare groups said they were forced to euthanize dozens of starving and ill cattle, horses and llamas found on the 400-acre sanctuary in rural Sanders County.
The bovine celebrity herself - an overweight black Angus breed said to be sore in the hoof but otherwise relatively healthy - was removed to a nearby ranch and is headed this week to a smaller farm sanctuary.
"Molly B made it OK. She's a tough old broad," said Jerry Finch with Habitat for Horses of Hitchcock, Texas, who participated in the rescue effort. "She had bad feet, but she was not anywhere near as bad as some of the others."
Molly B's relocation to a 20-acre ranchette known as the New Dawn MT Sanctuary has proven an adventure in its own right. Local media stories had trumpeted her arrival at the Stevensville facility last week, including photos said to be of Molly B and new friend "Misty."
Yet when New Dawn owner Susan Eakins watched one of the reports on the nightly news, video of the cow climbing a hill revealed the sanctuary had gotten the wrong animal - a male steer named "Big Mike." A mix-up left Molly B behind on another ranch.
Her home since 2006, near the small town of Hot Springs, in recent years had grown into a sort of Noah's Ark-gone-wild - more than 600 llamas; at least 100 horses, donkeys and cattle; and a motley assortment of bison, camels, exotic rodents and other furry and feathered beasts.
Many of the animals were breeding. Rescuers said that allowed the sanctuary population to multiply unchecked, setting the stage for conditions to deteriorate rapidly after one of the facility's two full-time employees fell ill last year. As the situation worsened, word circulated among animal rescue groups across the country.
Patty Finch with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries said by the time she called the Montana facility in late November to offer help, many of its animals were sick, dying or struggling to survive in increasingly cramped quarters.
"Molly is a good representative of what a betrayal it was to each of these animals. The sanctuary should be a line in the sand that means never again should you suffer," said Patty Finch, who said she has no relation to Jerry Finch.
Molly B's second retirement will start another chapter in an unlikely story that began January 2006, when a yet-to-be-named 1,200 pound heifer skipped her date with doom by leaping a 5-foot-5-inch fence at Mickey's Packing Plant in Great Falls.
The cow raced through town with police and animal control on her heels, reportedly running into a conflict with a German Shepherd, dodging an SUV and negotiating through a rail yard. She swam across the Missouri River and later took three tranquilizer darts before eventually getting corralled.
Mickey's Packing Plant employees christened the spirited cow Molly B and voted 10-1 to spare her from slaughter.
A less formal vote on Molly B's fate came out in her favor this weekend. New Dawn owner Eakins said after a heart-to-heart with her husband over whether they could afford to take another cow into their 50-animal operation, the couple decided to make it work. "We made a commitment to her," Eakins said.

Online:
New Dawn MT Sanctuary: http://newdawnmt.com/ The Ballad of Molly B: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/multimedia/mollyb/index.html

Phone calls and tweets to Egypt

Jan25 Voices
@Jan25voices
We are using phones and other means to speak with Egyptians behind the blocked internet, tweeting their words in real time. contact: Jan25voices(at)gmail.com

Tomgram: Wallace Shawn, Are You Smarter Than Thomas Jefferson? | TomDispatch

TomDispatch
Wallace Shawn, Are You Smarter Than Thomas Jefferson?
A message from the road: I’m traveling this week, having the odd adventure along the way. While I’m gone, I thought I might offer you a little adventure as well by leaving you in the capably unsettling hands of Wally Shawn. If you’re my age, you know him from the movie My Dinner with Andre; if you’re younger, you grew up with him in The Princess Bride. If you’re any age, maybe you caught him in Clueless or heard him as “Rex” in Toy Story. If you’re lucky, you’ve been unnerved by one of his provocative plays or caught off-guard and moved by one of his notoriously quirky essays. In fact, I couldn’t recommend more highly his latest book, generically entitled Essays, but -- believe me -- the least generic book around. You can get a reasonable taste of just how one-of-a-kind he is by checking out the essay below, his first to appear at TomDispatch, from the expanded paperback edition of his book. (To catch Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast video interview in which Shawn discusses the political role of the writer, among other things, click here, or download it to your iPod here.)
There will be no Sunday post this week, but TD will pick up again as usual next week with analysis of the latest Middle Eastern developments. Tom
Why I Call Myself a Socialist
Is the World Really a Stage?

By Wallace Shawn
In most reasonably large towns in the United States and Europe, you can find, on some important public square or street, a professional theater. And so, in various quiet neighborhoods in these towns, you can usually also find some rather quiet individuals, the actors who work regularly in that theater, individuals whose daily lives center around lawns and cars and cooking and shopping and occasionally the athletic events of children, but who surprisingly at night put on the robes of kings and wizards, witches and queens, and for their particular community temporarily embody the darkest needs and loftiest hopes of the human species.
The actor’s role in the community is quite unlike anyone else’s. Businessmen, for example, don’t take their clothes off or cry in front of strangers in the course of their work. Actors do.
Contrary to the popular misconception, the actor is not necessarily a specialist in imitating or portraying what he knows about other people. On the contrary, the actor may simply be a person who’s more willing than others to reveal some truths about himself. Interestingly, the actress who, in her own persona, may be gentle, shy, and socially awkward, someone whose hand trembles when pouring a cup of tea for a visiting friend, can convincingly portray an elegant, cruel aristocrat tossing off malicious epigrams in an eighteenth-century chocolate house.

On stage, her hand doesn’t shake when she pours the cup of chocolate, nor does she hesitate when passing along the vilest gossip about her closest friends. The actress’s next-door neighbors, who may not have had the chance to see her perform, might say that the person they know could never have been, under any circumstances, either elegant or cruel. But she knows the truth that in fact she could have been either or both, and when she plays her part, she’s simply showing the audience what she might have been, if she’d in fact been an aristocrat in a chocolate house in the eighteenth century.
We are not what we seem. We are more than what we seem. The actor knows that. And because the actor knows that hidden inside himself there’s a wizard and a king, he also knows that when he’s playing himself in his daily life, he’s playing a part, he’s performing, just as he’s performing when he plays a part on stage. He knows that when he’s on stage performing, he’s in a sense deceiving his friends in the audience less than he does in daily life, not more, because on stage he’s disclosing the parts of himself that in daily life he struggles to hide. He knows, in fact, that the role of himself is actually a rather small part, and that when he plays that part he must make an enormous effort to conceal the whole universe of possibilities that exists inside him.
Actors are treated as uncanny beings by non-actors because of the strange voyage into themselves that actors habitually make, traveling outside the small territory of traits that are seen by their daily acquaintances as “them.” Actors, in contrast, look at non-actors with a certain bewilderment, and secretly think: What an odd life those people lead! Doesn’t it get a bit—claustrophobic?
The Haircut Speaks
It’s commonly noted that we all come into the world naked. And at the beginning of each day, most of us find ourselves naked once again, in that strange suspended moment before we put on our clothes.
In various religions, priests put on their clothes quite solemnly, according to a ritual. Policemen, soldiers, janitors, and hotel maids get up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, go to their locker rooms, remove their clothes, and get dressed again in their respective uniforms. The actor goes to the theater, goes to his dressing room, and puts on his costume. And as he does so, he remembers the character he’s going to play -- how the character feels, how the character speaks. The actor, in costume, looks in the mirror, and it all comes back to him.
When the actor steps onto the stage to begin the play, he wants to convince the audience that what they’re seeing is not a play, but reality itself. The costume that the actor wears, and the voice, the diction, the accent, the way of speaking that begin to return to the actor when he puts on the costume, are devices designed to set in motion a capacity possessed by every member of the audience, a special human capacity whose existence as part of our genetic makeup is what makes theater possible -- that is, our capacity to believe what we want and need to believe about any person who is not ourself.
Because let’s be frank -- other people are not me, and people who are not me will always in a way be alien to me, they will always in a way be strangers to me, and I will never know with any certainty what they’re like. So yes, it’s possible to believe a fantasy about them.
Now, I’ve never met my own genes or looked at them under a microscope, but nonetheless I feel I can make some guesses about what they’re like. One thing I feel I know is that I’m amazingly responsive to visual cues about other people, and I’m prepared to guess that this is characteristic of our entire species. And this is why people who can afford it spend enormous sums of money on haircuts and clothes. And this is why films, which deal in close-ups, put an enormous amount of attention on makeup and hair. And this is why actors in plays take their costumes very, very seriously.
It’s all because people really do believe what visual cues say. A haircut dramatically changes how we see a person. A haircut can say, “I’m intelligent, disciplined, precise, and dynamic.” A different haircut can say, “I’m not very bright, I’m sort of a slob, I don’t care what happens to me, I don’t care what you think of me.” There are haircuts that can say, “I find sex an interesting subject, I’m interested in how I look, I’m rather fun, and I think life is great,” and there are haircuts that say, “I’m not interested in sex, and I think life is awful.”
Clothes work in a different way. While the shape of one’s head, as completed by one’s hair, describes personality, clothes tell us about a person’s role in society. But there’s an extraordinary similarity in the speed with which we respond to the cues from haircuts and from clothes and in the strength of our belief that what they’re telling us is true. So when the actor comes on stage in the costume of a king, I’m prepared to believe that he is a king.
The actor on stage is living in reality. He knows that there is indeed a king inside him. But he also knows very well that Fate has made him an actor and not actually a king. The audience member looking at the actor on stage steps out of reality and lives in illusion until the curtain comes down.
Are You Smarter Than Thomas Jefferson?
Our capacity to fantasize about other people and to believe our own fantasies makes it possible for us to enjoy this valuable art form, theater. But unfortunately it’s a capacity which has brought incalculable harm and suffering to human beings.
It’s well known what grief and even danger can result when we make use of this capacity in our romantic lives and eagerly ascribe to a potential partner benevolent characteristics which are based on our hopes and not on truth.
And one can hardly begin to describe the anguish caused by our habit of using our fantasizing capacity in the opposite direction, that is, using it to ascribe negative characteristics to people who, for one reason or another, we’d like to think less of. Sometimes we do this in regard to large groups of people, none of whom we’ve met. But we can even apply our remarkable capacity in relation to individuals or groups whom we know rather well, sometimes simply to make ourselves feel better about things that we happen to have done to them or are planning to do.
You couldn’t exactly say, for example, that Thomas Jefferson had no familiarity with dark-skinned people. His problem was that he couldn’t figure out how to live the life he in fact was living unless he owned these people as slaves. And as it would have been unbearable to him to see himself as so heartless, unjust, and cruel as to keep in bondage people who were just like himself, he ignored the evidence that was in front of his eyes and clung to the fantasy that people from Africa were not his equals.
Well, one could write an entire political history of the human race by simply recounting the exhausting cycle of fantasies which different groups have believed at different times about different other groups. Of course these fantasies were absurd in every case.
After a while one does grasp the pattern. Africans, Jews, Mexicans, same-sex lovers, women. Hmm, after a certain period of time somebody says: well, actually, they’re not that different from anybody else, they have the same capacities, I don’t like all of them, some of them are geniuses, etc. etc. The revelations are always in the same direction. We learn about one group or another the thing that actors quickly learn in relation to themselves when they become actors: people are more than they seem to be.
We’re all rather good at seeing through last year’s fantasies and moving on -- and rather proud of it too. “Oh yes, after voting for Barack Obama, we took a marvelous vacation in Vietnam,” “We went to a reading of the poetry of Octavio Paz with our friends the Goldsteins, and we saw Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi there -- they looked fantastic”… whatever.
It’s this year’s fantasies that present a difficulty.
Are we more brilliant than Thomas Jefferson? Hmm -- probably not. So there’s our situation: it’s delightfully easy to see through illusions held by people far away or by members of one’s own group a century ago or a decade ago or a year ago. But this doesn’t seem to help us to see through the illusions which, at any given moment, happen to be shared by the people who surround us, our friends, our family, the people we trust.
Sorting Babies on the Global Market
Around 400,000 babies are born on earth each day. Some are born irreparably damaged, casualties of the conditions in which their mothers lived -- malnutrition, polluted water, mysterious chemicals that sneak into the body and warp the genes. But the much more tragic and more horrible truth is that most of these babies are born healthy. There’s nothing wrong with them. Every one of them is ready to develop into a person whose intelligence, insight, aesthetic taste, and love of other people could help to make the world a better place. Every one of them is ready to become a person who wakes up happily in the morning because they know they’re going to spend the day doing work they find fascinating, work that they love. They’re born with all the genetic gifts they could possibly need. Wiggling beside their mothers, they have no idea what’s going to be done to them.
In the old days of the Soviet Five-Year Plans, the planners tried to determine what ought to happen to the babies born under their jurisdiction. They would calculate how many managers the economy needed, how many researchers, how many factory workers. And the Soviet leaders would organize society in an attempt to channel the right number of people into each category. In most of the world today, the invisible hand of the global market performs this function.
I’ve sometimes noted that many people in my generation, born during World War II, are obsessed, as I am, by the image of the trains arriving at the railroad station at Auschwitz and the way that the S.S. officers who greeted the trains would perform on the spot what was called a “selection,” choosing a few of those getting off of each train to be slave laborers, who would get to live for as long as they were needed, while everyone else would be sent to the gas chambers almost immediately. And just as inexorable as were these “selections” are the determinations made by the global market when babies are born. The global market selects out a tiny group of privileged babies who are born in certain parts of certain towns in certain countries, and these babies are allowed to lead privileged lives. Some will be scientists, some will be bankers. Some will command, rule, and grow fantastically rich, and others will become more modestly paid intellectuals or teachers or artists. But all the members of this tiny group will have the chance to develop their minds and realize their talents.
As for all the other babies, the market sorts them and stamps labels onto them and hurls them violently into various pits, where an appropriate upbringing and preparation are waiting for them. If the market thinks that workers will be needed in electronics factories, a hundred thousand babies will be stamped with the label “factory worker” and thrown down into a certain particular pit. And when the moment comes when one of the babies is fully prepared and old enough to work, she’ll crawl out of the pit, and she’ll find herself standing at the gate of a factory in India or in China or in Mexico, and she’ll stand at her workstation for 16 hours a day, she’ll sleep in the factory’s dormitory, she won’t be allowed to speak to her fellow workers, she’ll have to ask for permission to go the bathroom, she’ll be subjected to the sexual whims of her boss, and she’ll be breathing fumes day and night that will make her ill and lead to her death at an early age. And when she has died, one will be able to say about her that she worked, like a nurse, not to benefit herself, but to benefit others. Except that a nurse works to benefit the sick, while the factory worker will have worked to benefit the owners of her factory. She will have devoted her hours, her consideration, her energy and strength to increasing their wealth. She will have lived and died for that. And it’s not that anyone sadly concluded when she was born that she lacked the talent to become, let’s say, a violinist, a conductor, or perhaps another Beethoven. The reason she was sent to the factory and not to the concert hall was not that she lacked ability but that the market wanted workers, and so she was assigned to be one.
And during the period when all the babies who are born have been sorted into their different categories and labeled, during the period when you could say that they’re being nourished in their pens until they’re ready to go to work, they’re all assigned appropriate costumes. And once they know what costume they’ll wear, each individual is given an accent, a way of speaking, some characteristic personality traits, and a matching body type, and each person’s face starts slowly to specialize in certain expressions which coordinate well with their personality, body type, and costume. And so each person comes to understand what role he will play, and so each can consistently select and reproduce, through all the decades and changes of fashion, the appropriate style and wardrobe, for the rest of his life.
The Peace of Death
Even those of us who were selected out from the general group have our role and our costume. I happen to play a semi-prosperous fortunate bohemian, not doing too badly, nor too magnificently. And as I walk out onto the street on a sunny day, dressed in my fortunate bohemian costume, I pass, for example, the burly cop on the beat, I pass the weedy professor in his rumpled jacket, distractedly ruminating as he shambles along, I see couples in elegant suits briskly rushing to their meetings, I see the art student and the law student, and in the background, sometimes looming up as they come a bit closer, those not particularly selected out -- the drug-store cashier in her oddly matched pink shirt and green slacks, the wacky street hustler with his crazy dialect and his crazy gestures, the wisecracking truck drivers with their round bellies and leering grins, the grim-faced domestic worker who’s slipped out from her employer’s house and now races into a shop to do an errand, and I see nothing, I think nothing, I have no reaction to what I’m seeing, because I believe it all.
I simply believe it. I believe the costumes. I believe the characters. And then for one instant, as the woman runs into the shop, I suddenly see what’s happening, the way a drowning man might have one last vivid glimpse of the glittering shore, and I feel like screaming out, “Stop! Stop! This isn’t real! It’s all a fantasy! It’s all a play! The people in these costumes are not what you think! The accents are fake, the expressions are fake -- Don’t you see? It’s all --”
One instant -- and then it’s gone. My mind goes blank for a moment, and then I’m back to where I was. The domestic worker runs out of the shop and hurries back toward her job, and once again I see her only as the character she plays. I see a person who works as a servant. And surely that person could never have lived, for example, the life I’ve lived, or been like me -- she’s not intelligent enough. She had to be a servant. She was born that way. The hustler surely had to be a hustler, it’s all he could do, the cashier could never have worn beautiful clothes, she could never have been someone who sought out what was beautiful, she could only ever have worn that pink shirt and those green slacks.
So, just as Thomas Jefferson lived in illusion, because he couldn’t face the truth about the slaves that he owned, I, too, put to use every second of my life, like my beating heart, this capacity to fantasize which we’ve all been granted as our dubious birthright. My belief in the performance unfolding before me allows me not to remember those dreadful moments when all of those babies were permanently maimed, and I was spared. The world hurled the infant who became the domestic worker to the bottom of a pit and crippled her for life, and I saw it happen, but I can’t remember it now. And so it seems quite wonderful to me that the world today treats the domestic worker and me with scrupulous equality.
It seems wonderfully right. If I steal a car, I go to jail, and if she steals a car, she goes to jail. If I drive on the highway, I pay a toll, and if she drives on the highway, she pays a toll. We compete on an equal basis for the things we want. If I apply for a job, I take the test, and if she applies for the job, she takes the test. And I go through my life thinking it’s all quite fair.
If we look at reality for more than an instant, if we look at the human beings passing us on the street, it’s not bearable. It’s not bearable to watch while the talents and the abilities of infants and children are crushed and destroyed. These happen to be things that I just can’t think about. And most of the time, the factory workers and domestic workers and cashiers and truck drivers can’t think about them either. Their performances as these characters are consistent and convincing, because they actually believe about themselves just what I believe about them -- that what they are now is all that they could ever have been, they could never have been anything other than what they are. Of course, that’s what we all have to believe, so that we can bear our lives and live in peace together. But it’s the peace of death.
Actors understand the infinite vastness hiding inside each human being, the characters not played, the characteristics not revealed. Schoolteachers can see every day that, given the chance, the sullen pupil in the back row can sing, dance, juggle, do mathematics, paint, and think. If the play we’re watching is an illusion, if the baby who now wears the costume of the hustler in fact had the capacity to become a biologist or a doctor, a circus performer or a poet or a scholar of ancient Greek, then the division of labor, as now practiced, is inherently immoral, and we must somehow learn a different way to share out all the work that needs to be done. The costumes are wrong. They have to be discarded. We have to start out naked again and go from there.
Wallace Shawn is an Obie Award-winning playwright and a noted stage and screen actor. He is co-author of the movie My Dinner with Andre and author of the plays Marie and Bruce, The Fever, Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Designated Mourner, and Grasses of a Thousand Colors. His nonfiction collection Essays (Haymarket Books) is out now in an expanded paperback edition featuring “Why I Call Myself a Socialist,” as well as in an audio edition. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast video interview in which Shawn discusses the political role of the writer, among other things, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
Copyright 2011 Wallace Shawn