General: August 2007 Archives


A piece of amber 15 to 20 million years old, found in the Dominican Republic, contains a perfectly-preserved bee within it. The news seems to be all about the fossilized orchid pollen on the insect's back, and how it demonstrates that orchids were around during the age of the dinosour, but for me the wonder begins with the integrity and beauty of the carcass of this incredibly ancient worker bee; it would look as good had it been alive until a few minutes ago. It's also interesting to think about how much better this gal is doing than any of those Pharohs who were buried, what, a couple seconds ago?

For the science geeks, the biologists tell us that although the pollen and its carrier are only 15 to 20 million years old, they were able to use their examination of the pollen and a molecular-clock analysis to estimate the age of the orchid family, which they date to about 80 million years ago, some 15 million years before the extinction of the dinosaurs. Okay, that's pretty cool too.

No wiggle room for the creationists there.

CORRECTION: I've been reminded [see comment] that worker bees are in fact female; I have accordingly corrected a noun used in the text above. My apologies and my respects to a very long line of exquisite creatures.

[image of Santiago Ramirez from Reuters via the Globe and Mail]

ruins of public toilet in ancient port of Ostia

Okay, even if no one has asked, does anyone want to know my take on the Senator Craig homosex arrest story? Well, it was actually my second thought, the less-than-honorable gentleman being a Republican, but it became paramount a few seconds after I began to read the arresting officer's account of the incident in Roll Call, the capitol Hill newspaper.

I think it's called "entrapment" when it happens to the people we think of as the good guys.

Isn't anyone else out there concerned about the fact that police officers in Minneapolis are being paid to sit inside airport bathroom stalls to trap guys interested in getting off?

[image from darkcreek]

our shame and ignominy abstracted as a color which has become familiar to the entire world

This post is part of a series begun on May 21, 2007, which will continue until the U.S. concentration camps at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world have been razed.

And from Iraq, a related story:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The number of detainees held by the American-led military forces in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing to 24,500 today from 16,000 in February, according to American military officers in Iraq.

. . . .

“Interestingly, we’ve found that the vast majority are not inspired by jihad or hate for the coalition or Iraqi government — the vast majority are inspired by money,” said Capt. John Fleming of the Navy, a spokesman for the multinational forces’ detainee operations. The men are paid by insurgent leaders. “The primary motivator is economic — they’re angry men because they don’t have jobs,” he said. “The detainee population is overwhelmingly illiterate and unemployed. Extremists have been very successful at spreading their ideology to economically strapped Iraqis with little to no formal education."

Spreading the blessings of the American corrections system to needy people everywhere.


[fabric color swatch, otherwise unrelated to Guantanamo, from froggtoggs; second image by Benjamin Lowy via the NYTimes]


It seems that the tangled story at which I could only hint in my Tuesday post, "Ayn Rand linked to Deutsche Bank skyscraper tragedy?", has caused some serious bustle around the city desk at the NYTimes.

The lead story on the front page reports that the firm whose creators picked the Ayn Rand hero John Galt for its corporate name was a paper corporation with no employees. It had been assembled to insulate or hide its "integrity"-challenged owners and officers from the view of its clients, the people and officers of the New York community. This is the company which was given the lucrative contract to perform one of the most hazardous and certainly one of the most visible jobs in the city if not in the entire country.

Two firefighters died fighting a fire inside the building last Saturday, probably as the result of criminal negligence.

Meanwhile, inside the same section of the paper we learn in another story that the New York Fire Department hadn't inspected the Deutsche Bank building's standpipe or sprinkler system since 1996, in spite of the fact that twice-monthly inspections were mandatory for buildings under demolition. It seems the department was also aware that the sprinkler system was not working. Some have argued that the FDNY was unwilling or unequipped to enter a building permeated with the toxins that had necessitated its condemnation, but since demolition began firefighters had been in the building on at least two occasions for reasons unrelated to the standpipe or the sprinkler system.

[image of the two firefighters from NYFD via Gothamist]

skyscrapers have very complex lives

I've just read that the name of the sub-contracting company in charge of the demolition at the Deutsche Bank building is the John Galt Corporation. Who is John Galt? I immediately recognized the intriguing literary/political reference within the firm's name, and, regardless of what we eventually learn about the ultimate responsibility for the death of two firemen this week, the connection is likely to continue the fictional character's complex association with corporate greed and laissez-faire capitalism .

ADDENDA: I've turned up these few bits on the John Galt Corporation by searching Google and its cached links:

The firm is located at 3900 Webster Avenue in The Bronx [718-654-5300]; its principals are former executives of the Safeway Environmental Corp., a firm with its own history of problems; Galt's work at the Deutsche Bank site was already causing injury and incurring fines before this week; and finally, World Trade Center-area neighbors had expressed serious concerns about the firm's qualifications since early last year.

[image from wikipedia]


Guantanamo. Again.

But this time I'm encouraged by the appearance of a new site devoted specifically to the subject. Amnesty International has just gone public with a new site,, dedicated to solely shutting down permanently the most notorious of the U.S. concentration camps.


I had purchased the domain they're using sometime last year with the intention of devoting it to a totally different form of protest, one which would not have addressed such fundamental issues of humanity. When Barry and I were approached by Amnesty's people I was happy to see it depart for higher purpose.

Bon voyage!

[all images from Amnesty]


Bloggy explains why he and so many of us have abandoned American electoral politics. My own take on it: A people which liked to describe its system as "democratic" has finally been occupied by what our last real "republican" President called "the military-industrial complex".

After a graceful segue into the subject of war crimes and collective guilt, Bloggy reminds us why these things matter as much today as they did in 1945.

[Tom Tomorrow image from Salon]




Kenneth Walker did these beautiful drawings on mylar, seen at the SVA Open Studios last Thursday. They had a three-dimensional, sculptural quality but suggested weightlessness at the same time.

This page is an archive of entries in the General category from August 2007.

previous archive: General: May 2007

next archiveGeneral: September 2007