Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Next Breath

Since I began blogging I've encountered some who seem to think maybe I've taken enough breaths of the world's air. That's significant because I know I have had very few readers in the years I have blogged. But so far I continue to breathe minute after minute, day after day, year after year. The end of my 60th year is rapidly approaching.
When I was young, the Maine highlands where I grew up was known for its clean air. Although the memory is fading, I still remember looking out the two large east-facing windows of my family home which looked out over Wilson Pond and the mountains east of Greenville. There's a saying in Maine that if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute. It will change. I remember watching many of those changes from the hillside that was my home.
It wasn't until I was a teenager and started roaming south, even just south of Maine's capital Augusta, that I was aware of air pollution. Even now I remember the stark contrast between Greenville's clean air and the smoggy haze that hung low over southern Maine. That was the 1960s.
In the 1970s we New Englanders began noticing the effects of what was termed "acid rain" which had an especially significant effect on the mountain tops of northwestern New England. One of the many legacies of the 1980s was our increasing amnesia of acid rain and virtually all other forms of pollution. We replaced our desire for clean air with our desire for lots and lots of cheap energy.
By the late 1990s I was beginning to become aware of what I viewed as an alarming condition in the atmosphere. Still living in my home town of Greenville, I began taking notice of a blanket of dirty air that was often visible at sunset. It appeared as a layer of burnt-amber colored air a few thousand feet thick, seemingly just a little thicker than the mountains around here are high. This wasn't just an occasional condition. It was frequently visible on otherwise clear days at sunset.
Not only that, but gone were the haze-free summer days when the mountain views were as clear as crystal. It was as though those days only existed in my imagination, as though they had never even existed. Amnesia is a powerful thing. My wife and I and our youngest son drove to Oregon early in the summer of 1998. We took a route through southern Canada and the northern U.S. states. It was on that drive that I first realized that this layer of pollution covered the entire face of North America.
Soon after that I started noticing that this blanket of amber-colored air was in sunset pictures from Maine, from New Jersey, and even from Southeast Asia. The hazy and sooty air of Beijing, host this year of the 2008 Summer Olympics, is well documented. Industrialized Asia is a source of much of the world's air pollution and this pollution is driven not just by Asian industrialists but by western corporations who invest in Asian production to avoid environmental regulation.
Now, in complete amnesia, we focus on carbon dioxide emissions as though they are the only serious threat to the air we breathe. Many in our society point out that we exhale more carbon dioxide than we inhale and poo poo the whole debate about clean air.
A year or two back I watched a Nova show on Public Broadcasting which discussed how particulate air pollution (smoke and smog) was causing the formation of clouds which were actually reflecting sunlight and thus heat energy from the sun back out into space. Air pollution was actually producing a cooling effect that was counteracting the heating of the carbon dioxide "greenhouse gas" effect. Some scientists speculated that if we were to clean up our emissions and thus reduced this cloud formation, the warming effects of greenhouse gases would increase.
I saw a picture the other day taken by an airline passenger near Austin Texas showing storm cloud formations. Above the layer of storm clouds is air as clear and blue as anything I can remember from my youth. Below that, though, at what must be tens of thousands of feet above ground level is that burnt-orange toxic-looking air breeding these storms. Just imagine the content of rain if this picture shows what it seems to be showing. Imagine the contents of our rain if it comes from such heavily polluted air high in our atmosphere.
I just finished reading Ismael for the second time. My first reading was one of my inspirations for blogging in the first place. It's fair to say that this Daniel Quinn book changed my life. After my second reading - and it will take more than two readings to do this book justice - I am acutely aware that I am as responsible as anybody for this pollution problem. Even though I have tried since first reaching adulthood to conserve energy, I still use far far more than the average person on earth uses. And the average person on earth uses far more than was typical a century ago. And there are far more of us around than there ever used to be.
It isn't just that guy I saw in town yesterday in the big black throbbing extended cab Dodge Ram full-sized pickup with the dual chrome exhausts vertically mounted behind the cab spewing out twin clouds of intensely black smoke reminiscent of the black Mack log trucks that Don Tompkins used to run a couple decades ago. It isn't just the passenger-laden jets pouring out of the world's major airports. It isn't just the exhaust tunnels that are our nation's highways. It's all of us every day. It's those neatly trimmed lawns surrounding those air conditioned suburban homes, those plastic toys and housewares stocking the shelves in WalMart, those lights we burn to keep us safe from the dark, those irrigation pipes beating back the heat in the fields that grow our food. It's the way all of us have chosen to live our lives. That's what's doing this to us.
So I leave you with a speech Al Gore gave this week challenging us to change how we do the things we do. It is becoming increasingly clear to all but the most blind and forgetful among us that the time for change has come. Listen to what former Vice President Al Gore has to say to us.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Alternate Reality

The New Yorker magazine, July 21, 2008 edition, features a cartoonist image of Barak and Michelle Obama on its front cover. I am choosing a Fox News link as a reference for two very good reasons. One is that it displays a large, clear image of this New Yorker cover so you get a good look at the cartoon. My other reason is a bit more complex.
Yesterday when I first saw this magazine cover in Americablog, I thought, oh no, this is all the right needs to confirm their fears, an image to back up all those nasty claims they have been making about Obama. Indeed, if you read the comments to the Fox News blog that I linked to above, it's clear that this cartoon's appearance on the cover of The New Yorker does exactly that. For those on the political right here in America, this confirms their suspicions.
But this morning I realized why this cartoon was featured so prominently. What this picture shows is the alternate reality that exists in the minds of far too many Americans who have been influenced by the rumors being spread by the right. This cartoon shows the reality that exists in the minds of Americans who have given themselves over to the politics of fear.
That same politics gave us a Saddam Hussein swimming in a massive pool of "weapons of mass murder" ready to share that arsenal with "radical Islamo-Fascist terrorists." It is the same politics of fear that gives us an Iran intent on using nukes to "wipe Israel off the face of the earth." It is an alternate world reality in which the only way we can be safe is to trust our future and our security to the Republican Party which in turn trusts American security to the Neo-Conservatives and Israeli interests.
When will we ever realize that?
Fox News is as responsible for this false reality as any conservative voice in America. So for the sake of irony I give you the Fox News blog referenced above to ponder.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Presidential War Strategies

Everyone now seems to be saying that McCain and Obama both are just continuing in Bush's footsteps with respect to the Iraq War. No? Have a look...
But I disagree.
The American media has been strangling itself ever since America went into Iraq in 2003. How so? Because the media served as the propaganda arm of the White House and forced itself to maintain the illusion that the troops would be coming home. On the night of the first attack, President Bush came before the media and ended his speech by promising that the troops would come home once the job was done.
This was a lie because Bush knew then and knows now that there was never any intent to withdraw from Iraq. The plan then and the plan now was to maintain a strong US military presence in Iraq and use American bases in Iraq to strike our Middle East enemies. That was the plan going in because that was the plan proposed years before by the architects of the Iraq War.
Yet the American media never reported this to us. They knew we were constructing these permanent military bases, but they didn't report on that to the American people because they were committed to maintaining the illusion that our troops were coming home. Americans supported the war but not the permanent nature of the White House's military plans for Iraq.
The result was the Bush strategy in Iraq. The Bush strategy was to go ahead and build this permanent ("enduring") military infrastructure but to mask it by maintaining the war. The war was Bush's whitewash, his cover, and it was important to maintain the fighting so the American people would maintain their support.
John McCain has another strategy. His one criticism of Bush is that Bush didn't commit enough troops to Iraq to win the war. McCain wants to "win" the war. Bush has always needed to maintain the war but McCain wants to win it. Yes McCain wants to keep the troops in Iraq, just as Bush and the neo-conservatives want, but McCain says we can do that even after we have won the war. It isn't necessary to keep the war going to maintain the support of the American taxpayer. America is prepared now to support a permanent American military in Iraq. It isn't important to Americans anymore to "bring the troops home."
Barak Obama has yet another strategy. He wants to win the war and bring the troops home. In fact, Obama is convinced that America already won the war. Obama believes that it is the presence of the American military and the unpopular Bush strategy that is causing the continuing insurgence. Obama believes that the pressure for war will ease once it becomes clear that America is withdrawing the troops.
Yet the American media cannot report these differences to the American people. The function of the American media is to create a hodgepodge of false views about the war and the candidates in order to maintain the Bush propaganda shield.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Iraq Yellowcake

In the news today is the shipment of over a million pounds of yellowcake uranium by the United States from Iraq to Canada. It seems odd to me that we hadn't heard anything about this uranium until now even though the UN, Iraq, the US government, and every other government in the world knew about it for decades!
If the UN had Iraq's uranium completely under control, then why all the panic in 2002 about Iraq's nuclear program? And if UN control wasn't all that good, as we were led to believe by the Bush administration, and if Iraq had access to that yellowcake, then why would Iraq be out trying to buy more yellowcake from Niger, as President Bush announced in his State of the Union Address in 2003?
Well in either case, isn't it great that our neighbor Canada, despite being the world's top source of export uranium, was kind enough to help with this cleanup? What a relief to know that this uranium is no longer in Iraq, now that I know it was there in the first place. Today was the first I had heard of it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hostage Rescue

I don't know....... That hostage rescue down in Colombia just doesn't add up. But the thing is, I'm so suspicious of the American government and of our "conservative" political relationship with the conservative Colombian government that maybe it's just my bias that's the problem. But John McCain just happened (despite the critics) to make a two-day visit to Colombia and was there the very same day as the "rescue." And now this:
There's this YouTube video of the rescue mission that really makes me wonder. What was that talk of a 20 million ransom? Am I just being oversensitive? And what has become of the Americans who were rescued? Why aren't they prominently in the media the way Ms Betancourt is? Does the American media suddenly have no interest in American hostages? And what is it that the Spanish-speaking hostage is saying to the cameraman when they run into technical difficulties with their equipment and edit out a segment? And what does he say later on? What's his complaint? And what does the interpreter mean when (at 5:34 in the video) he says, "We are not allowed to broadcast this" and "So the... all the equipment got disconnected. It was not on purpose"? Say what?
The complainer claims he was a member of the Colombian Army and has been a hostage for the past 10 years. When he first appears in the video his hands are not tied. The video shows the hands of the hostages getting tied while they stand waiting for the helicopter to arrive. My bias sets in when I try to figure out what that Colombian guy is trying to say and to whom he is speaking. At first I thought he was just taking advantage of being in front of a camera, just voicing some complaints. But why does the Colombian government then censor the film?
You see, what I am afraid of and what any even dim-witted conspiracy theorist like me would conclude, is that there's only one way to fit all the pieces together. Talk of a 20 million dollar ransom (23 seconds into this video) and here, and here, and here... McCain just happens to be in Colombia that same day, with his shadow even, Joe Lieberman... the hostages aren't tied up until the camera is on them... this Colombian hostage complaining as though he were speaking to a Colombian official... the American hostages nowhere in the media even two days after the rescue... You do the math and add all this up to make sense.
This, maybe?

Friday, July 04, 2008


The problem with patriotism in the George W. Bush era is that it has been used as a bludgeon to encourage submission and not as a uniting force for liberty.