May 19, 2007

Poker Night at the White House

Scene: Conference room off the Oval Office. Around a walnut table topped with green baize are seated Texas W, his sidekick Dubai Dick, Utah Karl, and two new players, Harry Mumbles and Frisco Nancy.

W: One more hand? I gotta get a pot to break even, or there'll be hell to pay with Laurie. I'm down 90 bucks, I think. (He takes a swig of single malt Scotch from a 12-ounce glass and puffs away on a half-chewed stogie.)

Dubai Dick (sitting behind an immense pile of chips): That's cause you keep folding your hands. Still 5 card draw?

W: I like Texas Hold 'em better, but we got home field advantage as it is.

Utah Karl deals, mostly from the top of the deck.

W: (to Dubai Dick, gesturing at his chips): Where'd you get that stake, anyhow?

Dubai Dick: (out of the corner of his mouth) That's confidential.

W: I bet. Everbody ante?

Frisco Nancy and Harry Mumbles stare down at their cards, which are face up on the table in front of them. They each throw a chip into the pot, then look up. W, Dubai Dick and Utah Karl look for awhile at their own hands, then over at the cards lying on the table in front of the other two. W throws twenty bucks into the pot. Dubai and Utah do likewise.

Harry Mumbles: See your twenty, raise you ten.

Frisco Nancy (matching Harry's bet): Right back atcha.

W: Whoa! You must really have a hand. (He stares some more at their cards, in fact.) We're at $120, thirty more than I need!

Utah Karl: Cards?

Frisco Nancy (tapping her cards, which consist of a jack, eight, two fours, and a deuce): I'm good.

Harry Mumbles (who holds a six, three, queen, and two fives): Me too.

W: Play 'em like they lay, then.

Dubai Dick (flipping his cards to the center): I'm out.

Utah Karl: Me too.

With a flourish, W spreads his hand face-up on the table, three eights, a king and a ten.

W: Read 'em and weep. (He pulls all the chips toward him.) And to think, Nancy, you coulda knocked me outta the game before it got started!

Frisco Nancy: I've said from the beginning that option was off the table.

W: So you did. So we'll meet, say, again in a year?

Frisco Nancy: That sounds fine.

Harry Mumbles: (mumbles inaudibly.)

May 15, 2007

George Bush and the problem of climate change

George W. Bush is a tricky and sneaky guy, and routinely overrates his ability to get away with various evasions and shortcuts which have characterized his private and public life. When faced with a challenge, his first instinct is to find some way not to meet it. For example, when summoned to jury duty for a drunk driving case (in 1996 in Texas), he thought it was a better approach to beg off his civic responsibility with a specious objection that he might be called on to "pardon" or "commute" the sentence of the defendant in his role as governor. This laughable "conflict of interest" gave him a way to avoid disclosing his own conviction for drunk driving twenty years before. When he engaged in insider trading at Harken Energy, he omitted the SEC's required disclosure forms. When caught and exposed, he explained that he thought his "lawyer took care of that."

So it goes. As proof the tiger does not change its stripes (or, maybe more appropriate, the ass his donkey ears), Bush has blown the dust off his "20 in 10" idea to deal with global warming. This is his "radical" proposal to reduce the use of gasoline by 20% by 2017, as measured against the sum of current use + projected growth by such date. Catchy. Since even his handpicked weirdoes at the Supreme Court could not bail him out, Bush and the EPA are under High Court order to comply with the Clean Air Act, which has determined that CO2 is a pollutant under Nixon's landmark legislation. You see how far we've fallen: Nixon was a comparative progressive. Nothing can be done, the Smirking Chimp contends, until the end of 2008. In other words, the end of his term. Thus and always, Bush does everything he can to ensure disaster. There is simply no bottom to the evil this man does.

I'm beginning to think it's very late in the game to deal with global warming anyway. As I've posted before, my first thought when it became apparent Bush would be appointed to the presidency in 2000 was that his idiotic obstructionism came at exactly the wrong time in human history. We had to get going on this problem of climate change, and America had to take the lead. Instead - we got him. What does that mean? Maybe the gaia-as-organism people are on to something, satirists like the late great Kurt Vonnegut. Mother Earth herself gave us Bush simply to finish us off. I recall too the haunting words of Inez Fung, researcher and climate scientist extraordinaire at last year's China-U.S. Climate Change conference at Berkeley. The first thing she wanted us to know, as she stood at the podium in a plenary session at Wheeler Auditorium, was that the scientists who studied this matter closely, as their life's work, "were very, very scared." I think it's remarkable that so many of the manifestations of global warming have already arrived. The accelerating loss of the Arctic polar ice pack, the vortex winds in Antarctica and the six-year drought in Australia, the melting of 75% of the world's glaciers, the extreme weather events, the unprecedented off-season wildfires. I would surmise that these events were within the horizon of probability of scientists like Inez Fung and Steven Chu at Berkeley, and James Hansen at NASA. Yet because they have constantly been pushed to the wall by the "skeptics" and their corrupt political accomplices, such as Bush and Joe Barton, the execrable Republican from Texas, and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Grand Dragon of Apocalyptic Obscurantism, they have been forced to couch their scientific forecasts in moderate terms, conceding minor points and ranges of "error," so as not to lose their credibility. Or their funding. And thus diluting the full impact of the predictions they would really like to make, as intimated by Inez Fung's opening comment.

But as for me, and as for nearly everyone else -- I'm not a scientist, and I'm not seeking funding. I'm a member of homo sapiens with a sensory apparatus who looks around at the world, and I realize that as tricky and devious as Bush tries to be, he is not going to be able to fool the troposphere or the oceans. The ecosphere is not the SEC or the Texas court system, or the compliant Washington press. The atmosphere moves and changes according to its own chemical and physical laws. It is not impressed by numbers games, by the idea that 2017's CO2 concentrations could have been worse. CO2 levels rise, the troposphere traps infrared radiation from the Earth, the oceans acidify, the world warms up. And all hell breaks loose, as an incomprehensibly complicated interplay of weather patterns, albedo loss and solar absorption, pest migration and infestation, torrential rain and nonending drought, descend upon human life. Shuck and jive all you want, Mr. Bush. Yours won't be the last smirk.