Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rat-Pack Rat Pack-Rat

An interesting, but somewhat obscure, news item from Petaluma, California, just north of San Francisco: Roger Dier was cited for misdemeanor animal cruelty for keeping more than 1,000 pet rats in his one-bedroom house. Dier has had previous brushes with the law, though, including prison for armed robbery. More notably, in 1963 Dier's home in southern California was the hideout for Barry Keenan, Joe Amsler, and John Irwin — the kidnapers of Frank Sinatra, Jr., in the saga that became the movie Stealing Sinatra. I thus think it appropriate we dub Roger Dier "The Rat-Pack Rat Pack-Rat."

There's more to the story, of course. Animal services officials in Petaluma euthanized the majority of the rats, noting that many were missing eyeballs, had teeth growing into the opposite jaw, had huge abscesses and open wounds, or were starving. Beyond that, the adult rats were almost completely unsocialized, and thus not suitable pets. The sad truth is that euthanizing these creatures was the kindest action possible.

Nevertheless, rat lovers who had been organizing an adoption effort for the animals were furious. I had rats (the variety known as "hooters" — because of the noise they make, not any anatomical attribute) as pets when I was a child, and they were delightful, other than the smell if you didn't change the litter six times a day. However, I would not dream of taking on one of these rats in the condition they were in. The city of Petaluma did the right thing in rescuing as many of the younger rats as possible, but also in euthanizing the adults.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Film Festival

The Frameline30 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival has begun! That means, among other things, that posts here on The Third Path will continue to be sparse for the next week and a half as I devote most of my energy to my festival blog, Film Queen Reviews. See you in a few days....

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Angelides campaign rally

Phil Angelides, candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of California, appeared at a campaign rally in San Francisco this morning.

He didn't introduce any major new themes with only two days before the primary election, but I wouldn't expect him to. The most notable aspect of the rally was the impressive show of support by elected officials: both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Representative Barbara Lee, and State Assembly member Mark Leno all stood on the podium to endorse Angelides.

The message the Angelides campaign seemed most intent on putting forth is that — contrary to claims in Steve Westly's ads — Phil Angelides is a committed environmentalist. The Lake Tahoe land deal that Westly has highlighted was in fact a 10% stake in a condominium project. Angelides carries the endorsements of the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Vote the Coast, Clean Water Action, and a long list of individual environmentalist leaders.

Angelides also seemed quite comfortable on the podium. When someone in the crowd shouted that Angelides should "kick [Arnold Schwarzenegger's] butt," Angelides said, "Well, there are some things that, as a candidate, you can't say." He also said that to see the difference between himself and Governor Schwarzenegger, you only have to look at them, because his own body is all natural, the way it was meant to be. Angelides also spoke with genuine conviction about issues from education to health care to global warming to economic security. In particular, he differentiated himself quite well from former Governor Gray Davis, who has almost as much personal warmth as Al Gore. To reinforce his claim to "the common touch," Angelides spoke about his immigrant grandparents and his immigrant mother: "In my family, there was never any doubt that we would do whatever it takes to see that the next generation has more opportunities than the generation before."

It is my general policy not to endorse a candidate immediately after a campaign rally, since a rally is by its very nature a one-sided view of the race. However, I heard a lot of good stuff and nothing I found troubling. This primary race has been a rollercoaster, with Angelides in the early lead, overtaken by Westly's early campaign ads, but with Angelides making a strong comeback. Today I saw a candidate who looks poised to take on the governor. Barring some significant last-minute surprise from Westly, I think I'll probably be voting for Angelides.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Movie Review: An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore's documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, opened today. The Onion describes it as "disturbingly realistic" and "unwatchably factual." Fox News, of course, paints the film as alarmist nonsense, but global warming is very real.

The science is difficult to argue with: atmospheric carbon dioxide never exceeded 300 parts per million (ppm) in the last 650,000 years — until the last half-century, when it climbed to 380 ppm and rising. In more than a century of weather records, the #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, and #10 hottest years are all within the last 15 years, and 2005 was the hottest ever, edging out 1998. In 2002, a chunk of ice covering several thousand square miles broke off from Antarctica into the Southern Ocean over a period of only a few weeks. The TV ads for Inconvenient Truth show the photos of Mount Kilimanjaro (with its famous snows on the brink of disappearing) and of the receding glaciers of Patagonia (South America). The ice in the Arctic Ocean, in and around Antarctica, and in Greenland, is receding dramatically.

Certainly there are scientists who doubt that global warming is happening, or who doubt that humans are causing it, but they are a tiny minority. While not quite unanimous, the scientific consensus is overwhelming that human activity is causing global warming. It isn't just the burning of fossil fuels, though, although that is certainly a significant part of it. In many parts of the world, it is a common practice to burn down large areas of forests to clear the land for farming. In the Yucat√°n, the locals will burn down the trees on a few hectares, farm it until the soil is exhausted — perhaps five years, if they're lucky — and then abandon it and move on to the next bit of land. Burning down the trees is a double blow: it releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while at the same time reducing the reabsorbtion of CO2. Simply put, trees breate in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. A single tree can absorb a ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

An Inconvenient Truth is the film version of the slide show that Al Gore has been presenting for several years. In the film, we see a side of Gore that was woefully difficult to find in the 2000 campaign: he is articulate and comfortable, he shows a sense of humor, and he comes across as much more approachable as a human being than he did during the Presidential campaign. Indeed, much though the litany of global warming facts makes an indelible impression, one of the first things I said coming out of the theatre was, "Why the hell didn't we see this Al Gore six years ago?"

There are a few other points from the film that bear mention: U.S. automakers can't compete effectively in China — the largest potential market of the 21st century — because American cars don't meet Chinese environmental standards. So much for the caricature of the developing world as less "green" than the more advanced nations. In fact, California's emission requirements — far tougher than U.S. federal standards — would take 11 years to reach parity with China today, and yet U.S. car companies are suing to block implementation of the California regulations.

Global warming doesn't mean you get to go to the beach in February. It means stronger hurricanes, worse tornadoes, more floods, more droughts, and even more blizzards. As perverse as the notion might sound, global warming could even precipitate an ice age. A warmer earth isn't a more temperate place to live, it is a world with greater volatility in its weather. Global warming also isn't an issue that we can afford to ignore. You owe it to yourself, and especially to the next generation, to go see An Inconvenient Truth.

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