Month 3, Day 31: Fire at Will!

It’s sad that “good news” on climate change is simply the information that the by-now-to-be-expected bad news is acknowledged to be true. Phil Jones and the rest of the East Anglia Climate Research Group have of course been exonerated completely by the British House Of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee.

There were any number of things I could have done with this news. As it happened, I decided to send a paronomasiac screed to the Washington Post, which has provided a forum for the odious George Will, a man of disproportionate influence whose glib mendacity has gravely damaged our planet’s chances of survival. The chance the Post will print this letter is probably slimmer than my winning the lottery (I never buy tickets), but it sure felt good. Especially calling Will a calumnist.

Now that the British House of Commons has exonerated Dr. Phil Jones and the rest of his Climate Research Team from charges of scientific malpractice, may we expect more from the Washington Post than a solitary Associated Press article? By printing effluvia like “Climate Tantrums” (February 21) the Washington Post has become complicit in an egregious misrepresentation of science. I hope I may be forgiven the obvious pun: the deception is indeed Willful. George Will, the Post’s glibly erudite house denialist, should be required to apologize for his mendacious pedantry. A single mea culpa, however, is insufficient: like many a juvenile offender against the common good, the Post’s errant calumnist should spend a year in “community service,” working as an unpaid assistant to one of the climatologists whose work he has so freely disparaged.

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 30: Time Quotes Inhofe. WTF?

Here’s an article at Time Magazine about yet another relatively trivial error in the IPCC report. Naturally, in an effort for “balance,” the author includes statements from James Inhofe.

The faux controversy over relatively minor errors and inept analogies in the IPCC report serves only to confuse members of the public who aren’t paying attention. The overwhelming consensus of scientists is that global warming is real and that it’s largely caused by human beings. When print and broadcast media routinely issue daily corrections over far more egregious misstatements of fact, the notion that a 3,000 page scientific report has mistakes in it should be unsurprising. Scientists are human, and they make mistakes; science itself, however, is a method of addressing error and misconception. Our media routinely treat scientific statements as somehow equivalent to statements of opinion, as witness Abend’s readiness to include statements by James Inhofe in her article. The Oklahoma Senator knows nothing of science, basing his arguments on things he wishes were true (AGW is a fraud, the Rapture is imminent, etc.) rather than on verifiable facts. For those of us who can comprehend the warnings of the scientific community, Inhofe is absurd at best and malevolent at worst. He has no business in a serious discussion of the most important existential threat humanity has ever faced.

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 29: Who Cares About Some Hapless Toad?

I read an article at the GOS which noted a new piece in Scientific American outlining a whole mess of different problems we’ll be facing in years to come if we want to keep the planet habitable for humans and other life. The whole list is pretty depressing (what a surprise!). I selected one area on which to base a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Dear Secretary Salazar,

In a newly published article in Scientific American, environmental scientist Jonathan Foley describes nine separate thresholds below which different environmental systems must remain if we are to maintain the health of our planet. Among these is the crucial area of biodiversity loss.

The scientific community notes that the current rate at which we are depleting the diversity of the Earth’s flora and fauna is at least 100 times the historic average, and easily ten times what could be considered a safe measure.

Biodiversity is critical for the planet’s long-term survivability, because it is through a wide spectrum of life-forms that ecological resilience is maintained. Monocultures are more prone to disease, predation and the devastating effects of ecological shifts. If a population depends primarily on a single food source, a crop failure can devastate an entire population inside a season — the lesson of the Irish potato famine.

It is crucial that the Department of the Interior make efforts to educate Americans about the importance of biodiversity in maintaining our country’s natural resources for future generations. It is increasingly apparent that the rich web of life upon which we all depend is far more fragile than has been assumed. Our collective behavior needs to change if we are to survive as a culture and as a species.

It’s equally important that the DOI be more proactive with regulatory initiatives to protect threatened species and habitats. There is no room left for giveaways to corporate special interest groups. While so-called “charismatic megafauna” may have their own constituencies, many of the life-forms facing extinction are obscure and seemingly insignificant. But ecological science has demonstrated time and time again how even the smallest creatures have crucial roles in the functioning of our environment.

Humanity’s rapid expansion and exploitation of the Earth’s resources has turned out to be a mixed blessing, providing luxurious lifestyles for some while triggering potentially catastrophic effects on our climate and biosphere. I urge the Department of the Interior to be even more proactive in educating Americans about the dangers we face — and to act vigorously to protect “the least among us.”

Thank you,

Warren Senders

Thomas Quasthoff Sings Schubert

These performances are absolutely extraordinary. Leaving aside the technical qualities of his singing (watch his lips as he handles the different vowels!) and the exquisitely sensitive accompaniment by Daniel Barenboim, what is most striking is the emotional truth of Quasthoff’s rendering.

These are some of the finest pieces of artsong I’ve ever heard.

Month 3, Day 28: Keeping the Pressure On

This goes off to John Kerry. Now I’m just anxious that the Senate will actually DO some climate legislation…and that it won’t be just another industry giveaway.

Dear Senator Kerry,

Now that health care legislation has been passed (and congratulations and thanks for your advocacy on this landmark achievement!) it’s time for the next chapters of the Democratic agenda. I understand that next on the legislative menu will be financial reform, which I think is an excellent choice. The misbehavior of the big banks and investment firms is all too obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention. The only worry we have is that the bill will contain too many loopholes and giveaways to the fiduciary miscreants who got us into this mess in the first place.

Interestingly enough, that’s the same worry I have with the climate legislation you are developing with Senators Graham and Lieberman. Will the worst polluters in the world be given concessions that allow them to continue their environmentally destructive behavior in the years to come? Make no mistake, to allow this (in the name of “maintaining a positive relationship with the business community” or some similar phrasing) will be to doom any efforts to address climate change responsibly. We need to get atmospheric CO2 down to 350 ppm or less; we need to take immediate action to deal with the two unresolved dilemmas of the climate crisis — oceanic acidification and polar methane.

This is as grave a crisis as humanity has ever faced. Regardless of what we do, it’s a given that the lives of our grandchildren will be unimaginably different. If we take the right action now, their lives may be different in a positive way: sustainable, frugal, globally responsible. If we fail, their lives may be something we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. The short-sighted and irresponsible behavior of big oil and big coal (and of the US Chamber of Commerce, among others) should ensure that these parties no longer deserve a seat at the negotiating table. Their contributions to climate change legislation are guaranteed to weaken its effect and impede its implementation.

It is time to put planet over profit. No more concessions to the Carbon Lobby!

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 27: Another Saturday POTUS

The first post-healthcare letter to the President. Congratulations where congratulations are due, and all that.

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on the passage of health care legislation. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid have done yeoman service to America in bringing the bill forward and creating the circumstances for a “yes” vote. I have every hope that you will continue to advance your agenda over the next few months. Let’s keep the momentum going.

I understand that the next big legislative package will be on financial reform; this is sorely needed, and if the legislation is not unnecessarily diluted with too many giveaways to the financial criminals who broke the system in the first place, it will have an immediate and powerful effect on the country’s confidence in its economic system. And after financial reform, what?

This letter is to urge you to make the upcoming climate bill the next item on your agenda. We need meaningful legislation to be passed before the next round of climate talks. It is absolutely crucial that this bill be free of egregious concessions to major polluters. Big oil and big coal have no interest in making this bill better; their interest is in their own short-term bottom lines. In fact, strong climate legislation is analogous to strong financial reform. In both cases, the government needs to ensure that the people’s resources are not wasted and destroyed for the sake of a corporate profit margin — and that we as a society learn to live responsibly and within our means.

If a climate bill is passed soon, the fickle components of the electorate will have had ample time to forget it before November — while the environmentally aware Democratic base will be energized.

I know I will. Pass strong legislation on climate change and I’ll donate and volunteer double what I did in 2008. This is the most important thing we’ll ever do.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 26: I’m Just Semi-Wild About Harry

As promised, a reprise of my note to Nancy Pelosi. Harry Reid has finally roused himself from his stupor of timidity and now appears to be showing a modest amount of spine. Perhaps we should all encourage him.

Dear Senator Reid,

Congratulations on the final passage of the health care bill. It has been a pleasure to see you standing up to the egregious misbehavior of the Senate Republican Caucus. Don’t back down; they deserve a far harsher scolding than you have thus far given them!

But this letter is not about that. I’m writing to urge you to bring similar passion and strength to the passage of meaningful climate legislation in the coming years. The bill that Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham are working on is only a start, and it looks like it’s going to get watered down with extensive giveaways to the world’s biggest polluters. We are going to need much stronger and more robust approaches to the climate crisis in the next few years, or the consequences to our nation and our planet will be unimaginable.

This is a harder sell, I know. Persuading members of an elected body to support legislation that addresses problems which are only beginning to happen is contrary to the usual practice of American politics, which is to wait until things are at crisis point until doing anything. Unfortunately, that won’t work with the Earth’s climate, which doesn’t care about the exigencies of American politics. By the time things are at a crisis point, it will be too late.

For a century we’ve heard from timid politicians and pundits that “it’s not the right time to fix health care.” They’ve been proved wrong by a newly resolute and determined Democratic Party.

We’ve also been hearing that it’s not the right time to address climate change, for there are so many other priorities that occupy our political attention. But it will never be “the right time” to address climate change, because the lag between climate action and climate response is greater than the electoral cycle of a U.S. Senator.

While it may not be “the right time” to tackle the climate crisis — it’s the only time we’ve got. This problem can’t be kicked down the road for a future Congress to handle.

Thank you for all that you have done for our nation.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 25: Uh, Oh! Somebody’s Having A Meltdown

The Boston Globe had an editorial on Tuesday pointing out the difficulties that lie ahead for any Democratic policy initiative. As editorials go, it was nothing special…but it provided me with a hook for today’s letter, a rehash of yesterday’s shot off the Herald’s bow.

As the Senate moves to voting on the reconciliation fix for health care legislation, the GOP has fixed on a political strategy of total non-cooperation. What does this mean for future policy-making? Well, Lindsey Graham has been working on climate legislation with Senators Kerry and Lieberman, but it seems likely he’s going to take his ball and go home, because his pique at a Democratic success outweighs any sense of obligation to the long-term health of the planet.

That our governance is immobilized by the GOP’s grade-school tantrums is deplorable. That climate legislation may be held hostage by their passive-aggressive tactics is inexcusable.

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 24: Straight to Fishwrap

Not much to say here. This one’s barely about climate at all…just a nod to Lindsey Graham at the end of the first graf. I sent it to the Boston Herald, because maybe they’ll print it, since it’s angry and barely coherent.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Hard on the heels of the triumphant Democratic passage of health-care legislation, Republican lawmakers are demonstrating the passive-aggressive behavior typical of seven-year-olds. Vowing “no more cooperation,” Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Senate Republicans are now refusing even such ordinary courtesies as unanimous consent resolutions to allow Senate hearings to continue in the afternoon. Lindsey Graham, who claims to “get” the importance of global climate change, has been working on climate legislation with Senators Kerry and Lieberman, but his pique at a Democratic success outweighs any sense of obligation he may feel to the long-term health of the planet. The rest of the GOP caucus, of course, knows that climate change is a hoax, since Senator Inhofe tells them so.

That our government is held hostage by these buffoons is intolerable. The Republican Party is no longer a viable political entity, but a gang of irresponsible hooligans.

Warren Senders

The Half-Speed Switcheroo: Rhythmic Cycle Practice in Exhaustive Detail

Let’s go back into the problems of working within rhythmic cycles (too many climate-change letters makes a dull blog, I know).

One of the most productive strategies for practicing rhythmic awareness is the half-speed switcheroo (note: I am not a nomenclatural traditionalist, so if you need paramparik lingo you’ll be disappointed). In this type of practice, a composed line is moved in and out of half-speed, first at the most important points of the taal (in tintal, that would of course be sam and khali), then at secondary, tertiary and quaternary points.

Let me demonstrate.

We’ll continue working with the simple sargam composition in Bhoopali:

The melody begins at khali, so the first shift into half speed will happen there, too. I’m just going to notate the transform using the first line; you can do the second line yourself (or make your students do it). Paper notation is useful but not really necessary; it’s a very good exercise to go through every aspect of this without writing anything down, keeping it all in your head, ears, voice and hands.

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