Endangered Blogging
Jan 29th, 2012 by robert

In the last ten days, three of the blogs I have followed – and kept listed at the bottom of the left column on my other site – have been crippled or deleted by service providers. There seems to be a sudden, worldwide effort to implement dramatic suppression of internet freedom. It appears that the impetus may originate with the U$ FBI, which may be acting to enforce stymied SOPA/PIPA legislation. In effect, enforcement is happening because corporations have pulled the strings of their politician servants, who so far have not been able to legislate internet repression because of public outrage.

What we witness is a battle over intellectual property rights. It is prudent, for our sanity, to understand that we live in a capitalist system where property rights trump all other rights. In an era when corporations are deemed to be humans, where that particular race of humans has unlimited access to and control over the politicians that rule our lives, how could it be otherwise? Until and unless the system itself is changed so that human rights are the basis for society, there will be endless battles between people like us – the 99% – and the privileged few cloaked in corporate power.

I have been scrupulous to avoid copyright violations when posting to my other Rhythm Connection site, and totally open to remove posts if someone who owns the intellectual property right to a recording requests I delete it. Yet realistically, considering the obscurity of copyright tendrils that may exist among corporations – and most likely do not connect to musicians, by the way – I may inadvertently violate rights, when I intend only to help preserve for humanity valuable works of art. So there is the possibility that my blog may be eliminated by corporate action, as the battle for a free internet broadens.

I may try to mirror that blog or move it here, but I’ll attempt to carry on there until Google bows to its master.

Through The Bering Strait
Aug 27th, 2010 by robert

The Alaskan Enterprise sits broadside to the modest wind, sunshine pouring in through the windows of the bridge. We are off the coast of Kotzebue, making an unscheduled stop to pick up crucial sampling equipment that was shipped overnight from Seattle, to replace a faulty, fundamental component of the research effort. A semi-rigid dinghy was dropped into the whitecaps, and three women scientists dressed in bright orange Mustang suits climbed in and sped off towards town, 15 miles away. As we drift waiting for their return, many of the thirteen people remaining onboard are spread around the boat looking for the best cell connection. Strangely, nine miles out in the Chukchi Sea, there is cell phone coverage, and people have the unexpected ability to call loved ones.

This is not the first equipment-related delay for this cruise. We spent two extra days in Nome while two enormous winches were welded to the deck. My time hotel-bound led me to one of the darkest American experiences: watching television. On the edge of the Bering Sea, I had access to hundreds of the same stations that afflict people throughout the country. In a nearly futile effort to find news or better news (The Daily Show), I had to scroll through dozens of stations offering unbelievably trivial, mindless and mind-numbing garbage. If what people watch is a reflection of who we are as a nation, no wonder we are in trouble.

The Alaskan Enterprise is a 151-foot ship constructed in 1978 for the Bering Sea crab fishery, but for the last few years it has been chartered by various scientific endeavors. Our cruise has two main scientific threads, staffed mostly by NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency) staff scientists. All the equipment delays have been caused by the problems besetting the oceanography team that wants to measure physical and biological parameters of this northern sea. There is a great rush to investigate the ecology of this region because of the enormous push to open it to offshore oil exploration and production.

The largest team on this cruise is a group of marine mammal biologists looking for whales, especially right whales. Several of the team visually survey for whales and other mammals, using enormous, pedestal-mounted binoculars they call Big Eyes, which allow them to identify whales at the horizon, six miles away.

I’m free to use a second set of Eyes for birding, but have yet to try them. The rest of this team deploys acoustic buoys and constantly monitors sounds to pick out whale songs and calls from miles away. So far many more whales have been heard than seen, including blue and fin whales, and orcas.

And then there is me. I’ve been added as a token bird surveyor to gather data on seabird distribution in these northern waters, for an ongoing Fish and Wildlife Service project. When the boat is moving, I do transect surveys using a set protocol. So far the density of birds has been low, and I have gone hours without recording a single bird on a transect. Yet there are occasional patches of birds that provide good fun. Yesterday there were many pomarine jaegers, often seen hassling black-legged kittiwakes to make them drop the minnows they had just caught. Both tufted and horned puffins are seen regularly, and there have been quite a few parakeet auklets and red-necked phalaropes floating in the middle of the sea.

Yesterday we passed through the Bering Strait, passing close to the Diomedes islands. Looking at Russia across the water, I thought of a just outcome for Sarah Palin. Once her glamor fades and that vacuous politics collapses, she should be given a house to live in on Little Diomede, so she could contemplate Russia from her front door for the rest of her empty life.

The skiff is returning to the ship, and we shall see if they succeeded in getting the parts needed to repair the oceanographic device. If so, we head back to sea on a zigzag track towards Barrow. Perhaps there I will see some interesting high-arctic gulls!

Oil Spills and Climate Change: Unintended Consequences
Jun 29th, 2010 by robert

As oil continues to gush from the wounded earth’s crust under the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve begun thinking about how the tragic oil spill reflects a more general truth. Pundits and the public try to assign blame for the catastrophe,  while nobody acknowledges that the problem is simply too big and pervasive for humans to contain it. Read the rest of this entry »

tripping home
May 1st, 2010 by robert

I wake light rising house sparrows jabbering in the verdant shadows like mexican abuelitas comparing travesties of past husbands and walk seven blocks past sleepy store openings and snorting buses and past a flatbed truck unloading its gristly pile of half-cows already swarming with flies into the market I cross to a chocolate factory for first and last chocolate con leche walk back to eat breakfast alone before colectivo arrives to carry me away too early to airport check pack no charge and take binoculars wander outside expecting grackles but finding plenty plus a lifer pass security with shoes on and full water bottle mount plane via stairs with last breath of oaxaca air to enter sterile time capsule that disconnects people from one reality and dumps them into another having endured various levels of abuse this time into mexico mexico chaos after three point five hours of nonstop animated chatter about make-up and lovers and qualquiera cosa between the two señoras seated next to me sounding like magpies or grackles or self-same sparrows not knowing I hablo español grounded again I eat last tacos al pastor check pack to alaska gratis again pass security with shoes and water to gate where boarding every person is patted down including frail old lady dressed in lime chiffon and carry-ons scrutinized by stern tsa sorts until ensued delay had them rush last fifty passengers including me without even checking boarding passes for long boring flight to L A where the full national paranoia blossoms in obtuse procedures interminable lines and pointless demeaning ignomities a man drops his windoze laptop on my shoeless foot before the xray machine which hurts like hell but the man is relieved my toes broke the fall of his dell then they pat me down once through portal despite green light and again with pen and wallet now in hand he finds ipod headphones in cargo pocket insists I go back and put them in a tray through the xray still holding up the long long cueue my shoes and pack hanging abandoned and cleared they pat me down yet again even though they cannot see the zapatista tshirt I wear underneath fuming I don shoes amidst others humiliated wondering is this how life should be until without further incident we fly to seattle and are disgorged post midnight into a shuttered airport with zombies walking aimlessly or lying prone on seats or floor but it all is familiar now and after four hours of mock sleep I buy a bagel with cream cheese and lox like usual and a triple shot short cappuccino to greet the day and know I am almost home.

Apr 28th, 2010 by robert

San Cristobal is a hub of political activity in southern Mexico. Many non-profits are based in the town, working for all kinds of causes. The Zapatista rebellion of 1994 was directly felt in San Cristobal and the surrounding region spreading eastwards to the Lacondon forests. Although the Zapatista army is demobilized, it has catalyzed a vibrant political movement called La Otra Compaña. Spreading throughout Mexico, especially in indigenous communities, is the simple concept that the current government is bad government (mal gobierno), a government that is structured to support the interests of business and the wealthy. This is a worldwide concept. Its logical conclusion is that the political system does not work in the interests of the poor, and that an entirely new system needs to be built.

I decided to dig a little deeper, Read the rest of this entry »

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