Friday, August 29, 2008

A Wetter and Windier Future?

Tropical Storm Fay, from my window on 8/18

Just as TS Fay sputters out over the gulf coast, having pounded the Florida peninsula with high winds and over a foot of rain last week, two new major tropical storm systems are developing in the Caribbean, raising the specter once again of punishing weather conditions in the gulf region. Violent weather is in no way foreign to the people of Florida and the gulf coast; indeed, people here have been dealing with powerful hurricanes ever since the area was settled. But is the increasing frequency of Atlantic hurricanes - and deadly storms worldwide, for that matter - simply a matter of chance, as some claim? As we brace for another battering down here while the GOP prepares to party in Minnesota next week, this is an important question to discuss.

The claim that hurricanes and related natural disasters are random and human-caused climate change has nothing to do with it is patently false. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the frequency and power of Atlantic hurricanes has increased dramatically over the past thirty years, with the middle of our present decade producing some of the most damaging disasters on record. During 2004 alone, for example, Florida was struck by 4 of the 10 most costly hurricanes in US history; in the same season, Japan was hit by 10 typhoons totaling $10 billion in loses. (For a thorough account of the damages brought about by recent hurricanes, read Lester Brown's eye-opening Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.) The vastness of the Katrina tragedy in 2005 is too well documented to warrant reiteration here. Due to the increasing risk of living along the gulf and in Florida, insurance premiums in the last three years have doubled, tripled, and in some particularly storm-prone areas even increased 10-fold, making it increasingly difficult to afford living and doing business here. In a recent survey, Florida ranked #1 in America for percentage of individuals considering leaving the state (1 in 5).

Yet, even as all credible climatic models suggest an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and their devastating economic toll, the administration and large parts of the Republican party continue to bury their proverbial heads in the sand. John McCain's recent fervent embrace of offshore drilling underscores this gross negligence. (More on this can be found in Ruxton's recent post on McCain's energy policies.) To slow this sort of extreme weather, we don't need more oil - we need radical new solutions. Obama's pledged $150 billion in energy initiatives certainly makes the possibility of a total energy overhaul more realistic.

The political dimensions of climate change and its role in heating the surface temperatures of oceans are highlighted by our present predicament with Gustav. Inconveniently for the GOP, the landfall of Gustav is predicted to coincide both with the three-year anniversary of Katrina and with the Republican convention in St. Paul. Just as the party faithfuls gather to salute their man (and his new running mate, the pro-Anwar-drilling Sarah Palin), residents of the same areas that were devastated by Katrina may very well be sitting in shelters listening in on the radio and trying to keep the ghosts of 2005 at bay (if they are lucky enough to be evacuated to shelters, that is). Hopefully, the irony of the moment will not be lost on them.

One wag recently said: "Today, we talk about weather when there is no other news; in the future, the weather will be the news." Unless our criminal neglect of climate change is addressed and real solutions are forged, I fear that this may be a prophetic warning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Food Tastes Good

The aisles of my local beautifully disorganized used bookstore disgorged something truly fabulous and strange into my waiting hands a week ago. It's perhaps the oddest, and certainly the most amusing cookbook I've ever set my food-writing-loving eyes on. What is this culinary wonder, you ask? Well, my friends, it just so happens to be a collection of recipes sollicited from prominent indie rockers.

It's called (ahem) I LIKE FOOD, FOOD TASTES GOOD

It's fascinating to see what some of these bands cook and eat ... or don't. The highly predictable (Pork Loin with Poblano Chiles from the oh-so-Portland-trendy Decemberists or They Might Be Giants' "Countrypolitan," which involves pomegranate juice) trades twos with the "... what??"-inducing. Death Cab for Cutie's "Peanut Butter and Veggie Sausage Sandwiches" spring to mind. ("Shouldn't be tasty, but it is," says their singer.) And who on earth would have predicted that the Violent Femmes, in all their rough-around-the-edges glory, would be cooking wild boar ragĂș?

The dishes themselves are amusing enough, but the recipe instructions are frequently (though not always - it's like a treasure hunt) written in a sort of odd email vernacular that's half recipe, half manifesto, half insight into what famous-ish musicians do when they're not on stage. "the honey will not want to mate with the lime at first, but it will." "Make some jasmine rice, why don't you?" "When the lentils are officially finished cooking, put on side 1 of the Beatles' Revolver LP."

Devandra Barnhart, though, is the one who takes the cake ... or the fried bananas, as it were. His ingredients list for "my favorite recipe for AFRICANITAS RICAS you shall require!" includes "many bananas! two eggggs!! SOUR CREAM!!! HONEY!" And this instructions passage cracks me up:

"STIRRRR!!!!!! leave the bowl alone and go get another bowl, crush the graham crackers into a fine fine powder! like sand!
OF ARABIA!!!!!!!
put it in bowl number two!"

Not to be outdone, from Jonathan Richardson of the Early Day Miners (who, I'll admit, I've never heard of), a cocktail comprised of ice, sake, and root beer. Says its creator, "it's about half and half as far as drinkability." He calls it the Karate Kid, and I'm planning on taking his word for it (shudder), but if anyone else wants to take the challenge ...

Look out, Julia Child. The rockers are a-comin' for your tiara.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The face value of a John McCain energy policy

Yeah, right.

John McCain understands that, in this post-An Inconvenient Truth era, the environment and energy production must be addressed and used to win over as many voters as possible. Personally, I don't buy it. I used to work for a company that moved its headquarters to Arizona due to Arizona's light regulations on air pollutants, making it easier for the company to get their highly-inefficient vehicles fleet licensing for the lowest possible cost. Arizona is a state notorious for relaxing its environmental standards in effort to attract high-polluting businesses. A primary example is Arizona's shining contributions to the health of the Colorado River.

Take it for what you will, but John McCain has been an Arizona senator since 1982, almost the entire duration of my life. If he cared one iota about the environment he has had plenty of time to do something about it.

If you care about the environment, climate change, or sustainability, please research responsibly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Middle Kingdom at Middle Distance

My old friend Leon and I had come to Beijing on a pilgrimage: I was determined to stand on the Great Wall on my birthday. But while exploring this caught- between- past- and- future country, I found myself caught between other extremes. My own divide was between distance and detail, a problem of perspective that assaults me in any new place.

If I looked too closely, the sheer number of faces and smells and textures and motions and details, each worth exploring more fully, was overwhelming. My brain started to fizzle, watching a stream of people on bicycles passing and wondering about each one's family and ambitions and destination and history.

But if I mentally backed up too far, the thickness of all those layers of meaning made it hard to see individual humanity clearly. The people on bicycles became merely obstacles to dodge while attempting to cross the street, all the while wondering how many well-meaning tourists had met their demise that way.

I did make it to the Great Wall as promised. Two days early, in fact. After all that talk and thought, it was a bit strange to be there at last. We hear so much about the Great Wall of China—that famous thing about being able to see it from space, and the tales of its construction and defense all those centuries ago. (The part we visited was so impossibly steep that I couldn't help but wonder how many unfortunate Chinese soldiers had broken their legs or backs running around on it in the dark.) With the weight of all these stories surrounding it, the actual physical fact of the wall is a hard thing to get your mind around. From far off, the long pale line of it snaking over those dry, empty hills seemed too delicate a thing to have withstood all those years and all that history weighing down. Up close, it was merely stone and angles, strong and pedantic and weathered.

The importance of the place seemed to live in the middle distance, somewhere between its legend and the swarms of sneaker-clad tourists scrambling along it on that particular dusty, windy afternoon. For me, standing there was an acknowledgment of a dream realized, and one more entry for my list of traveler's bragging-rights. But it was also a symbolic place, where the lesson that China taught me was made suddenly clear.

Finding that observational middle distance is always a challenge for a traveler, and never more so than in the Middle Kingdom. Attempts at objectivity fail, and rightly so. All we can really do is compare the place we're discovering to the places we know, and discover something about both of them in the process. Carrying home the space between, that elusive middle distance, is as a good reason to go traveling as any I know.

I stood still for a long moment with those famous stones under my feet, watching a small dark-eyed girl and her brother playing tag between the lookout towers and feeling the wind move through my hair. Then Leon said, "Let's go get some dumplings." So we turned, and started the long climb back down.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beijing Sights

To follow up on Blue-eyed Wonder's great Beijing "time peg" idea, I thought I'd put a few photos up from my trip to the city in June of 2005. Unfortunately I'm not going to have the time to write until after our Olympic time peg transpires, so I hope these images tell a story or two in my stead.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Dilemma With Posting on Mirth & Matter

I hope that all you blog readers won’t hate me for this posting, but the fact is that I don’t think I will ever be able to post anything on this site unless I get this confession off my chest first. So you can call me a little old-fashioned, but I’ve been struggling with this “Mirth & Matter” blog concept.

I like writing and philosophical/ interesting conversations. I enjoy blogging and making various website-postings, so my friends and family can read about my life at their own convenience. Zach has been as inclusive as any blog could be- we all experience tons of “mirth & matter” daily. Additionally he’s been patient and so kindly encouraging- “if the urge ever strikes you to write...”

I’ve been wondering where my hesitations about posting on this blog are coming from? I really feel a little squeamish and guilty at the same time. I’m sure nobody else has noticed my feelings, but the fact is that I have been thinking about posting something for months. I can’t even get myself to COMMENT, let alone post my own writing. What is my problem?!

I think my problem is that I have never met most of the writers who contribute. At least in creating my own websites, I have the illusion that only people I know will visit them, so I don’t feel like I am sharing with complete strangers. I like to know who my audience will be. I feel a little strange about online interactions with people who I’ve never met face-to-face, and I get that creepy “online-stalker feeling.” I’m very visual and I like to picture people’s faces in my head when I communicate with them. Virtual people don’t have faces in my head. It freaks me out a little bit (although I’m sure you all have nice faces). I wonder, “Doesn’t anybody else feel this way?!”

Apparently not because my husband posts thoughtful things on this blog without any internal struggle what-so-ever. He doesn’t feel compelled to meet everybody on the contributor list, and I don’t think he has met anybody except two people- Zach and Chris.

What’s changed this time? Well first of all, I got Google Reader. This is a wonderful little program that allows me to read all my friends’ blog updates in one place. It looks like e-mail with new postings appearing in an “inbox” of sorts. I don’t feel like I am constantly catching up on blog entries because I’m notified whenever I check my e-mail if something new has been posted. So, I’ve acquired a new sense of empowerment.

Second, I decided that this blog needs my perspective. For example, there are only a few female contributors, so it’s a pretty “manly” blog right now- that’s definitely not an insult, and it’s a bit sexist of me to say. But just look at that list- 45 posts about politics and 1 about food (ZERO about chocolate)! And only a few posts in my main areas of interest- 3 about health, and 1 about religion. I like all the other topics too, but maybe I have something different to offer that would be good for the variety of mirth & matter.

Finally, I am pretending that I know you right now. The last few posts have been made by people I really do know. And I discovered that I can see little photos of many of you when I click on your names (AHA!) and read two sentences about who you are (and would the rest of you PLEASE post your photo and show me who you are because the empty box is so disturbing). I’m trying to convince myself that the world is small so maybe someday I’ll meet you and you won’t be virtual people anymore. And besides, you all know Zach somehow, right? So you must be nice people.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Corporate Tax Rate?

A new report from the GAO finds that two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005.

Also from, John McCain's response to this question:

TAXES: Should Bush's tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 be eliminated?

Wants to keep Bush's tax cuts. Would kill the alternative minimmum tax and lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%.

Kind of begs the question: what does it matter what the corporate tax rate is if U.S. corporations never pay it?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lilya 4-Ever Review

It’s really rare to find a film that attempts to speak for millions of people who have no real voice of their own. It’s even rarer to find a film that does an excellent job telling their story. But I think director Lukas Moodysson generally succeeds in his film, Lilya-4 Ever. He is a fairly new Swedish director, and I haven’t seen any of his other films, so I’m not sure how good they are, but I was impressed by the simplicity and realism of Lilya 4-Ever.

I should say that this film is not for everyone. It is very depressing and even disheartening, and it is definitely one of the saddest movies I’ve ever watched. But it was also eye-opening and refreshing, and didn’t have a trace of sappiness. I think this is the kind of film that more people should see because it’s not about a massive tragedy that everyone already knows about, and it doesn’t blow the story up to epic proportions. It’s just sad because the circumstances depicted are close to the truth for far too many people.

Most of the movie takes place in Estonia, probably sometime in the 1990’s. In the beginning, it depicts the life of a fairly typical sixteen year old girl living with her mother and step father in an apartment in a poor suburb. Her mother is desperate to get out of the country and make a better living, as a great many people are and were in Eastern Europe after the fall of the USSR. So, she finds a way to travel to America for work. Lilya is left behind with her aunt, but without any family members willing to take good care of her, her life quickly falls apart. She drops out of school and befriends a young street boy. Left with few options, she tries her best to scrape out a living, but ends up working in the sex trade.

This is actually a huge industry the world over, even though most Americans pay little attention to it, as it is not particularly common here. It barely resembles prostitution. Even sex workers in America have some control over their lives and who their clients are, but trading people into virtual slavery is what can happen to many women and girls in poor areas of the world who get inadvertently involved in human trafficking. Having lived in Ukraine for two years, I was particularly impressed with how realistic the characters and movie in general were. Of course, the circumstances of the characters in the movie were exceptionally bad and certainly not the norm, but I thought the general environment felt surprisingly real, and with the exception of a few scenes with particularly uncaring people, it was very realistic.

The sad reality is that probably hundreds of thousands of women from Eastern Europe alone have undergone at least a milder version of what Lilya went through. With little or no money, living in a crumbling society, and no legal way of getting out of the country, many women in developing countries are tempted to take jobs abroad as a “cleaner” or “factory worker” that they are promised by men who offer to smuggle them out of the country in exchange for what little money they have. Unfortunately, when they find themselves in a foreign country with no friends, no papers, no money, and no rights, they are in no position to challenge the people who have brought them there all along to work in another industry entirely. I didn’t know any locals in Ukraine who would talk specifically about these subjects, but they certainly acknowledged them. Having lived in a town of 7,000 people in 2006 that had a population of 16,000 at the fall of the USSR, in a country in where the total population has actually fallen by some six million in this time period, it is self evident to me that at least a few of the people who moved abroad had not found good homes in places like America or Great Britain. I can only hope they didn’t end up like Lilya.

False Flags

I hate to venture down conspiracy theory lane, but the revelations regarding Ivins and the anthrax scare have really raised a red flag with me. To reiterate what Zach just posted:
The anthrax had nothing to do with Iraq; instead, a government agency was responsible for 1) sending the anthrax in the first place, framing Iraq, and 2) claiming that only the Iraqis could have done such a thing. This story, then, is much bigger than just that of a psychopathic renegade scientist committing suicide. We're bogged down in Iraq today because of the long campaign of government misinformation and fear-mongering in which the anthrax scare played a key role. Greenwald's post documents the pundits who encouraged the administration to invade Iraq based primarily on Saddam's ties to anthrax. This was a big piece in the puzzle, and to think that the threat was generated by none other than the US government? The implications are jaw-dropping.
The implications are jaw-dropping, but perhaps not entirely surprising. This administration has had a history of contemplating/executing false flag operations. I count three to date.

1. First, we have Bush's proposal to paint an American surveillance plane in U.N. colors in an attempt to draw fire from Iraq, thus starting a war.

2. Next, we have Cheney with a "dozen" ideas on how to start a war with Iran, including disguising some ships as Iranian PT boats, load them with armed U.S. soldiers disguised as Iranians, and starting a fire fight between those boats and our Navy in the Strait of Hormuz.

3. Finally, we have Suskind's recent revelations that Bush order the CIA to forge a letter linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda.

Throw in the Niger yellowcake uranium forgeries, and you potentially have four. Ivins and anthrax make five.

Yes, you say, but these allegations are both denied by the administration and unproven. True, but look at where the information is coming from. Enterprising investigative journalists have such as Suskind and Hersh have had to do all of the work on these issues, because they are the only people (besides bloggers) who have been following these revelations. As Zach pointed out, the rest of the media has taken a pass on any form of comprehensive coverage.

Congress can and should thoroughly investigate what went wrong in the run-up to the Iraq war, and how a war was started on false intelligence. They have both the power and the duty to answer that question. The trouble is, both Congress and the media were negligent in the run-up to the Iraq war, and any behavior that implicates the administration in a way implicates themselves.

Someday we may know the full story. The fact that we have to ask how our country got duped into an aggressive war of choice shows how far our country has fallen.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Grass is Always Greener.....

Latley, my co-workers and I have created a list of jobs we would WANT to do if we weren't in the business of writing technical manuals. Included on this list are jobs such as dog walker, photographer, lawyer (yes we dream big) and rare book finder. We even have a list, hidden from HR, of course, titled "Plan B." What is it that keeps us from pursuing these ventures? Well let's see: job security, medical/dental insurance, free office supplies, of course (kidding), and the camaraderie of complaining about your job to your co-workers.

Does one ever really stop their job search? It seems that lately, everyone I know is exploring their options, searching for jobs on career sites or coming up with their own business ideas, even if they aren't 100% serious about changing their career or job. They would have to be dissatisfied at some level however to at least look at other options.

So which is better, job security or loving what you do? The answer should be obvious, so why do we allow ourselves to stay in the workplace rut? So if anyone needs a dogwalker/photographer/lawyer/rare book finder, give me a call.

To China, With Love

Journalists like to talk about "time pegs," by which we mean periods during which the general public might suddenly be interested in a particular subject. Anniversaries are good ones, as are seasons, festivals, and big cultural events. Like, oh, the Olympics, for example. I'd like to throw down the gauntlet and solicit stories of, or reflections on, China (or Chinatown, perhaps?) from my fellow M&M writers. Let's all exploit this time peg.

The short woman in the passenger seat of the green minivan kept talking as we narrowly avoided colliding with a VW taxi. The traffic rushing past on the Beijing highway was, oddly, an ideal accompaniment to the barrage that was coming out of her mouth. For the uninitiated (like myself), Mandarin sounds like a four-car-pileup of syllables, rather than a language. Nonplussed by either her verbal onslaught or the motorcycle that had almost taken a chunk out of our bumper, the tall, balding man behind the wheel just grunted, and drove faster. Outside, neon signs advertising everything from canned tuna to digital cameras lit the night sky.

Leon, my British traveling buddy, looked over at me and remarked, "You know, Beijing is the same size as Belgium." A statement which did very little to reduce my sense of panicky awe at the whole situation, even though later research revealed he was wrong: Beijing is smaller and has more residents.

And this was only the ride from the airport to the hotel. This was only the beginning.

Way back in 2005, I told someone that I wanted to stand on the Great Wall of China on my birthday. It was an offhand statement, without much thought behind it save the grand An Affair to Remember romance of the idea. But the idea lodged in my brain and sat there gathering steam for months until I took a week's vacation from my job teaching English in rural Japan and boarded a plane to Beijing with a tourist visa and a three-word Mandarin vocabulary (none of which I could pronounce correctly).

This week, as the world turns its gaze to the Olympic-rings bedecked Middle Kingdom, I find myself thinking often of my own Chinese odyssey three years ago. My time in Japan, I remember, formed a strange, clever little buffer zone between life in the U.S. and travel in Asia. Japan, in many ways, is Diet China. Without my experiences there, things like illiteracy and squalid squat toilets and the wide range of animals available for dinner would have been unimaginably foreign.

But I was ready: I can talk with my hands, I carry my own toilet paper, and Leon, could be counted on to eat anything I found too utterly repulsive. Still, full-calorie original China exceeded my expectations. It raised the "I can deal with anything big-city Asia can dish out" bar to new and dizzying heights. Our attempts at Mandarin resulted in nothing a cabdriver could even recognize as language, the menus offered swallow gizzards and carp heads, and you really don't even want to know about the toilets.

A Chinese proverb says, "The past must depart in order for the future to arrive." But Beijing seems to be balancing between the two, caught up somewhere between pride in its history and the dream of a shiny capitalist future. The man selling Chairman Mao-bedecked watches beneath the huge countdown-to-the-Olympics billboard hung outside the National Art Gallery made that much clear.

Yet only ten minutes' walk away from all that well-swept civic grandeur, an old woman was squatting in the doorway of her dirt-floored house and chatting with a strawberry vendor, who was peddling his pale-red wares up and down the narrow street from a wooden cart that looked as if it had been in daily use long before the Cultural Revolution. It seems that the future is arriving in China, but the past has yet to depart.

Like the good cultural tourists that we are, Leon and I took in the quintessential sights of Beijing: the Summer Palace, an evening of Chinese opera, and Tiennamen Square (largest city square in the world, though of course that's not why anyone remembers it). There was a much-anticipated plate of Peking Duck, and a tour of the Forbidden City with Roger Moore murmuring facts and historical tidbits into our ears—definitely the best audio guide narrator ever.

"Look at this ceiling," 007 instructed me at one point. "Isn't it fabulous?"

"Oh Roger," I gushed. "Tell me Moore."

(Leon groaned, and walked faster.)

What I remember about the city, however, are things that Roger Moore and Lonely Planet don’t mention. There is always a rush of acute observation that accompanies any new place or situation. It's something that fades with time and experience as we begin to know what to expect, and soon only take note when those expectations are challenged. But during those first few days in a new place—and as a traveler, it seems you are always just arriving or just departing—the richness of detail swallows me up. Nowhere is this more true than in China, where there is always something, and usually too much all at once, going on.

Tune in next week for a Great Wall adventure and Part 2 of this column.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Anthrax Attacks

We all remember the details of those awful couple of weeks. Just days after 9/11, mysterious packages of anthrax started appearing at government offices and media headquarters, turning what could have been an isolated act of terror into a full-fledged contagion of fear in the US. The culprit - complete with the damning evidence of letters praising Allah - were of course Islamic extremists, but the story ran cold after a few months and nothing definitive was thereafter announced about the origins of the deadly powder. We did, however, collectively live in fear of biological/chemical attacks over the next few months as a result of the anthrax packages. Living in New York at the time, the Times ran stories of how Al Qaida might be able to release anthrax into the subway system, and suggested that we be on the lookout for Arabic men with big packages who had recently shaven. America had been spooked, and the boogeyman, then as now, was what Thomas Friedman calls the "super-empowered angry men" - radical Muslims. That was the narrative.

Today's news comes as quite a revelation, then. The lead suspect in the anthrax attacks (we had a suspect?) is none other than Bruce Ivins, a government scientist working at Ft. Detrick, a biological warfare research facility. No beard. No Kalashnikov tossed over the shoulder. Just a civil servant. Earlier this week, Mr. Ivins committed suicide, bringing anthrax back into the news again for one more appearance.

Let's take a moment to examine what this actually means. Instead of the Enemy of Civilization assaulting America, it was most likely a scientist within our own military. A seminal event in the dark chronology of fear that overtook our leaders and citizenry in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq (the ultimate act of lashing out in panic) was falsely attributed. This is a huge story indeed.

Of course, you wouldn't guess the significance of this revelation from the mainstream media's coverage of it. It's gotten coverage today, but the story has been stripped of its explosive power and decontextualized. All we learn is that a key suspect has killed himself, end of story. Case closed. This article is perhaps the most open-and-shut about the whole affair (courtesy Chris), but even NPR's coverage didn't penetrate too deeply into what this actually means. On All Things Considered today, one the Ivin's psychotherapists talked about his "homicidal tendencies" and they essentially left it at that. Indeed, relying on only the mainstream media, one would think that Ivins was simply a "bad seed," much as the torturers at Abu Ghraib were simply a few renegades acting on their own twisted volition. The truth, however, is much more complex and much more appalling.

As is becoming all too common, the blogosphere has been far more aggressive in investigating this story than the well-paid members of the mainstream press. Glenn Greenwald's post today on Salon should be required reading for all discerning and critical Americans. In a nutshell: after Ivins sent anthrax to government and media offices, the powder was analyzed in a lab and ABC began reporting that a compound in the material was a trademark of the Iraqis. This claim dominated ABC's coverage of the anthrax attacks and quickly entered into the administration's case for why Iraq posed a clear and present danger. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush even talked about the Iraqi regime's development of anthrax.

But here's the catch: the four "well-placed and separate sources" that ABC got their information from were none other than Ft. Detrick officials and scientists. The lab from which the anthrax originated, then, was charged with determining its origin. And the claim that only the Iraqis could have inserted this extra compound was completely spurious. The anthrax had nothing to do with Iraq; instead, a government agency was responsible for 1) sending the anthrax in the first place, framing Iraq, and 2) claiming that only the Iraqis could have done such a thing. This story, then, is much bigger than just that of a psychopathic renegade scientist committing suicide. We're bogged down in Iraq today because of the long campaign of government misinformation and fear-mongering in which the anthrax scare played a key role. Greenwald's post documents the pundits who encouraged the administration to invade Iraq based primarily on Saddam's ties to anthrax. This was a big piece in the puzzle, and to think that the threat was generated by none other than the US government? The implications are jaw-dropping.

This is not conspiracy theory wackiness - it is copiously documented. But the resounding silence in the mainstream press indeed makes it feel like even bringing up the larger context for the Ivins story is engaging in something a little fringy. Congress is not investigating issues like this because congresspeople aren't being pressed by their outraged constituents to do so. And largely, people aren't outraged because they don't know. So, good M&M readers, get the word out on this story. Read the Greenwald article and forward it ahead to your friends. The only thing that can combat this sort of wool-over-the-eyes complacency is a little knowledge.

Chris and I will be following this post up with a short series on related topics. More to come.