Monkey-brained Musings

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Pentagon Report on Climate Change

As reported by the London Observer the Pentagon has prepared a report indicating that climate change poses a greater threat than terrorism for global disruption over the next 15 years. Key findings in the report are that Britain is likely to have a climate like Siberia by 2020 and that competition between nations responding to the refugees and resource shortages resulting from climate change will bring on a new age of warfare.

Although this story has apparently not yet to been picked up by the press in the U.S., it portends a major shift in the debate over climate change in D.C. While the Congress and the Bush administration have largely left discussion and planning for climate change to the states and to the lower levels of federal agencies, the Pentagon report points to the broad economic and security threats that are on the horizon. The Bush Administration's do nothing approach is looking increasingly shortsighted. Also the disruptions suggested by the report need to be noted by fiscal planners.

While I have noted before the shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol, the Pentagon report highlights the need for leadership and action on climate change. A new framework needs to be developed for responding to climate change. One that is based on current science and economies. As that leadership is not going to come from the Bush Administration, it is time for Congress, the U.N., or the Democratic nominee to describe a path forward.

Update. The Pentagon Report and links to associated news stories are available here. The opening sentence of the report is a direct challenge to the White House’s position on climate change: ”There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century.”. While the report focuses on the potential impacts that may result from an abrupt climate change brought about by a disruption of warming currents in the North Atlantic, the report concludes “that, because of the potentially dire consequences, the risk of abrupt climate change, although uncertain and quite possibly small, should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern. ” This is a major shift in the public debate on climate change, and it will be interesting to see how our political leaders take it up.


Gay Marriage

I have been in San Francisco this week and have had a chance to watch events unfold from the epicenter. Last Friday, I went down to City Hall to watch the jubilant couples come down the steps past the protesters, counter-protesters, police, and media. While Mayor Newsom’s authorization of gay and lesbian weddings has unfortunately prompted President Bush to call for an amendment banning gay marriages, the mayor has influenced the national debate by providing a public forum where gay and lesbian couples can step forward and publicly declare their love and commitment to each other. These couples have stepped forward and dared the President and his supporters on the Religious Right to say what it is that they are afraid of. The President has called for his amendment, but he will need to come forward with arguments justifying his prejudices in order for the amendment to go anywhere.

One of the more interesting responses to the proposed amendment has come from, of all people, Tom Delay. Congress, apparently would prefer to leave this contentious issue to the states. (Additional comments here and here.)

I met a reporter from San Francisco’s gay press while I was at City Hall. He said that the activity over gay marriage had produced an interesting windfall for him. The conservative groups that normally never return his phone calls have now been having regular press conferences where they have to respond to his questions.

It has been interesting to see the reaction to Mayor Newsom’s initiative. Virtually all Republicans and many of the leading Democrats have questioned his actions. The initiative seems to make a lot of sense for the mayor though. He has cemented his reputation with local gays and lesbians and other progressives that were apparently lukewarm to his candidacy, and he has made a national name for himself. Howard Dean used his prominent role in the Vermont decision on civil unions to build a national constituency. It will be interesting to see where Mayor Newsom goes from here.

The President and other conservatives have been quick to argue that the issue of gay marriage has been brought forward by “activist judges.” It is the courts, though, that have been wrestling with the numerous issues arising from the withholding of marital rights from gay and lesbian couples relating to property, health care, and, in particular, child custody. The President’s No Child Left Behind policy apparently does not extend to the children in gay and lesbian households.

A critical aspect of the movement for gay and lesbian rights has been that they have sought to define and establish rights in areas where the law has been silent. The civil rights movement of the mid-20th Century was based on a response to laws and government practices limiting, inter alia, voting rights, educational opportunities, and interracial marriage. The successive milestones of the civil rights movement were marked by the challenge to and overturning of instances of de jure, legal segregation. The civil rights movement came up short in contesting incidents of de facto segregation, such as the resegregation of schools due to white flight.

Up until now, the gay rights movement has had few instances of de jure prejudice to respond to. The conservative response to gay marriage, though, has been to propose laws limiting or delineating distinct rights for gays and lesbians. If the President’s biased bay marriage amendment does not pass, conservative legislators may well provide the courts with the instances of de jure prejudice necessary for finding that gays and lesbians warrant full civil rights protection under our existing laws.

Still this comes down to another round of slam dancing with Jesus freaks. It certainly won’t be the last.


How to Write a Science Paper

Estimating the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow


I certainly didn't see this one coming. Guess I need to read the book:

You're Mrs. Dalloway!

by Virginia Woolf

Your life seems utterly bland and normal to the casual observer, but
inside you are churning with a million tensions and worries. The company you surround
yourself with may be shallow, but their effects upon your reality are tremendously deep.
To stay above water, you must try to act like nothing's wrong, but you know that the
truth is catching up with you. You're not crazy, you're just a little unwell. But no
doctor can help you now.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

This I can see:

You are Dante Hicks.

Leonardo, New Jersey's favorite Clerk and cancer

"I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

Which Kevin Smith character are you (Ultimate Version)?
brought to you by Quizilla


Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Meet & Confer

I certainly understand why the Police union yesterday suspended contract negotiations with the City, and I would even agree that, in the current climate, a brief cooling off period is probably a good idea. However, the Police union needs to recognize that they contributed to the current climate by undermining the police monitor by requiring that the union’s contract with the City provide that much of the information collected and produced by the police monitor be kept from public view. This provision clearly worked against the interests of the union and the rank and file officers last year when the City was prohibited from releasing an independent report exonerating an officer in a 2002 shooting. Once everyone has had a chance to take a breath, I hope that we can look forward to the union and the City agreeing to a new contract that strengthens the role of the police monitor.

Transportation and Land Use

Yesterday, I attended the Downtown Austin Alliance’s lunch where Norm Marshall, with Smart Mobility, spoke on The Effects of Transportation on Land Use. Mr. Marshall has worked on Envision Central Texas and similar projects in Chicago and Los Angeles. Much of what he had to say I had heard many times before: transportation and land use are interrelated, one cannot be thought of without the other, transportation problems can be addressed through land use, etc. What was new and encouraging in his presentation was the information developed in Chicago and Los Angeles that showed, as we have seen through the Envision Central Texas process here, that the status quo, business-as-usual approach to transportation and land use not only will not meet our needs and address our problems, it is also prohibitively expensive for local governments to continue to extend roads, water and wastewater, and other services out to far-flung suburbs.

The Lie Clock

Forwarded by a friend:

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front
of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall
of clocks behind him.

He asked, "What are all those clocks?"

St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on
Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on
your clock will move."

"Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?"

"That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved,
indicating that she never told a lie."

"Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that
one?" St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's
clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe
told only two lies in his entire life."

"Where's Bush's clock?" asked the man.

"Bush's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a
ceiling fan.


I have amended my Firefly post from last week.


Friday, February 06, 2004

As disappointing as the collapse of the Governor’s campaign has been, what has really distressed me has been his running through the money. It is as if he took the Internet model too close to heart and modeled the bust by spending money as fast as it came in and by focusing more on process than results. By running through all of his money before Iowa and New Hampshire, he had no reserves left for continuing his campaign. Even worse, through his profligate spending, he gave away one of his best issues: fiscal conservatism. We’ll see how Dean does in Wisconsin, but after Kerry’s dominating win in Missouri earlier this week, I think that the primary campaign is over.


Picked up from Gareth.

The Rules:
1 - Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 - I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3 - You'll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 - You'll include this explanation.
5 - You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

Gareth’s questions for me:

1. If you could live in any other city in the U.S., where would you choose and why?

Surprisingly relevant. Having recently left my job as the rising tide of Republicanism is sweeping science-based management out of state government, I have had the opportunity to consider moving out of Austin. My job prospects are much better in New York, D.C., Florida, and elsewhere than they are here. But, here is home, and I didn’t come back here in order to shy away from a fight.

The short list of cities would include Portland, New York, and D.C. I lived in Portland for eight years while in college. Oregon is a beautiful place with much to recommend it: beautiful forests, mountains, rivers, and coastline plus a great urban environment. While I spent three years in the NYC metro area, during that time I was in law school, broke, and mostly in White Plains. It would be fantastic to live someday in the City to live with all of that energy and activity. For public policy in the U.S., D.C. is where it is at. It would be great to live there and really get engaged in the game. I may wind up there one day.

2. Everyone's got a little folk wisdom in their life - something their grandmother or pa told them that's become a major tenet of their belief. What's the most important thing an elder or role model ever told you?

Coming from a Southern family of storytellers, you would think that I would have some fine bit of wisdom to share. But I don’t. What I do have to offer is a useful phrase I got from my grandmother. She used this for people who would stab you in the back and walk all over you six days out of the week and then show up singing loudly in the front pew on Sunday: Psalm singin’ SOB.

3. If you were given the budget to do any creative project at all, what would you do?

Lots of intriguing possibilities here. I could go with the pat answer and say that I would hire an A-list director, cast, and crew to film my currently untitled screenplay based on Chushingura. Or, I could go the quirk performance art route and come up with a progressive theater project that would involve going into communities and schools around the country both bringing theater to people and inviting their participation and recording their reactions. I could get the rights and put a team together to put out Bushido 3d (talk about a project that could consume an unlimited budget).

What I would really like to do, though, is fund the restoration of the Rose City Marsh. Rose City was a cypress-tupelo marsh on the east bank of the Neches River across from Beaumont. It got logged out sometime during the mid-20th Century, and you can still see the skidder marks when you fly over the area. No one has ever done cypress-tupelo restoration. The estimate is that it could take 45 years. If so, why not start now.

4. What's the one thing you most regret not doing?

That’s a tough one. I can look back and note many moments of regret. Not stopping for five minutes in the parking lot after the SAT to get a girl’s phone number. Being more assertive in many later relationships. Not learning to play the guitar sooner. Doing better academically. The big one, though, has to be my not having focused more on my creative writing earlier. No big surprise. There’s nothing better than the present, though, to make up for lost time.

5. What are your three favorite smells?

A cool, fresh breeze; a kitchen where a great meal is or has been prepared; freshly ground coffee.

Send me an e-mail, and I’ll send some questions to you.


I am still only partly through the Firefly DVD, but Monte Cook has posted an excellent analysis and tribute. I have had one surprising initial reaction to the show, though. I actually have some empathy for the Fox executives that canceled it. I can see that Fall 2002, the first anniversary after September 11th, was not the best time to air a show about rebels who lost the last war but who continue to fight the great military dictatorship from the edges of the known universe.

One of the interesting things about Firefly is its similiarities to Cowboy Bebop. The style of the ship, the interaction of the crew, the nature of their missions, the outposts they visit, all bring Bebop to mind. Firefly's mix of space travel with 19th Century dress and lifestyles, often questioned in the press, also calls to mind Fading Suns.


The scattered musings of Jeb Boyt, Austin Texas. A collection of the random bits that scamper through my monkey brain. This blog is my personal record. The opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way associated with any employer, board, commission, organization, or other entity that I may be affiliated with. So there.

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