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August 2008

Iraq Veterans Against War Expose War Crimes

In spring 2008, inspired by the Vietnam-era Winter Soldier hearings, Iraq Veterans Against the War gathered veterans to expose war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. By sharing their personal experiences, they showed well-publicized incidents of American brutality such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha. These are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples," as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. Unfortunately, the proceedings were roundly ignored by the mainstream media. Project Censored declared it one of the ten most under-reported stories in 2008. Please make a small donation today to bring their courageous voices to National Public Radio. Click on this link to learn more and make a donation: AARON GLANTZ

The good news is that San Francisco's NPR affiliate KALW has agreed to clear time for a five-part documentary, "Winter Soldier: Witnesses to Occupation," to air this November. After its initial broadcast, KALW will syndicate the massive project to other NPR stations, bringing the true stories of the human costs of war to millions of listeners across the United States. The bad news is that although KALW is committed to broadcasting this project, it has not agreed to fund it, leaving me and producer Esther Manilla to raise the $10,000 necessary to produce the series. Please donate what you can to make this historic broadcast happen. Help us bring the true face of war to the American audience.


Polar Bears Struggle to Survive in Melting North


Polar bears are top carnivores but are helpless in the face of loss of their habitat. Because of global warming, ice floes that polar bears live on are melting, leaving nowhere for the bears to sustain themselves.



What can we do to help save polar bears? REDUCE, RECYCLE, REUSE. Use less gas and carbon fuel, plant a tree, grow a vegetable garden, transfer from a gas-burning car to a car that uses electricity or some other non-carbon source of energy. Don't purchase items in nonrecyclable packaging, and let the manufacturer know that you would purchase items that are sustainably produced and packaged. Support environmental organizations that work to protect species and habitat, and work to stop the effects of global warming:









Become a Sea Lion Docent at Pier 39 or the Marine Mammal Center in Marin

If you love the ocean, are curious about marine mammals, and enjoy talking with people from around the world, then sign up today to become a Sea Lion Docent with The Marine Mammal Center! Sea Lion Docents talk with the public about Pier 39's California Sea Lions, the work of TMMC, and how each of us can help protect our ocean resources!. To learn more, call TMMC's Education Department at 415-289-7361 or email

Blazed & Confused: Why Calif. Coastal Hills Burn

Blazed and Confused
November 3, 2007
(Los Angeles) In the last century, a greater proportion of Southern California has burned than that of any other part of the country. Chaparral shrublands — not forest — cover much of our landscape and account for the vast majority of what burns. The United States Forest Service, which devotes more than half of its budget to fire-related activities, spends most of that money to protect residences built in these shrublands. Yet we have just seen, for the second time in less than a decade, wind-driven fires causing at least $1 billion in damage. The magnitude of these events makes it clear that it is time to re-evaluate the wildfire problem and how we deal with it as a matter of public policy. There is much confusion over the causes and behavior of these fires. Some people contend that fire suppression is itself responsible for the catastrophic events, because it has allowed for an unnatural accumulation of flammable vegetation. But while it’s true that fire suppression has affected fire behavior and intensity in many forests, it is not true of the chaparral that constitutes much of Southern California’s undeveloped land, and more than 95 percent of what burned last week. Fire suppression over the past century has failed to eliminate fire on these landscapes. In fact, recent estimates from the Forest Service suggest that most of the area has burned more often in the past hundred years than in the centuries before that. So it’s not as if we have allowed more flammable vegetation to accumulate than when nature alone was in charge. In any case, fires pushed by strong Santa Ana winds are only weakly affected by the amount of fuel in their path. This is evident from last week’s fires, which consumed more than 60,000 acres of the same landscape in San Diego County that burned in the 2003 inferno. In other words, even the extensive burning just four years ago did little to stop the recent fires. In addition to being inaccurate, the theory that fire suppression is responsible for large destructive wildfires is outright dangerous. It casts blame on firefighters and even suggests that we stop suppressing fires on these shrublands, even though they are home to a large population. And it shifts our focus away from real solutions, which are tied to local land planning and development patterns. Large, high-intensity wildfires are a natural feature of the Southern California landscape, and we have limited ability to stop those that begin during the autumn Santa Ana winds. The best we can do is alter our behavior in ways that limit our vulnerability. There is no one simple way to reduce fire risk, but we can learn many strategies by examining not only where houses have burned but also where they did not. It makes sense to begin by restricting the location and design of new housing developments, requiring the use of fire-resistant building materials and maintaining “defensible” space around houses. Greater use of parks and other open recreational areas on the periphery of neighborhoods that abut undeveloped lands can also contribute greatly to protecting communities from fire. Downed power lines are responsible for igniting some of the recent large fires as well as previous catastrophic ones. Running power lines underground is expensive, but would be a worthwhile investment given the high cost of fighting fires and the billions of dollars in losses that fires cause. Most fires in Southern California begin on roads, often when car fires ignite vegetation or when cigarettes are carelessly discarded. Low cinderblock walls built along fire-prone stretches of highways — similar to those that are used along freeways as sound barriers in cities — would greatly limit the spread of fire. And given that many fires result from sparks produced by construction equipment like welders, chain saws, mowers and chippers, it would be useful to limit these activities during the Santa Ana winds. Trying to eradicate all chaparral wildfires in Southern California will continue to be futile. With the population expected to double in the next 40 years, we can expect fires to only increase. We should think of them as we think of earthquakes: we can’t stop them, so we must accept them as a natural hazard and figure out how to withstand them.

C. J. Fotheringham is a doctoral candidate, Jon E. Keeley is an adjunct professor and Philip W. Rundel is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Flat-Panel TV May Be Bad for the Environment

Watching television may be bad for the kids; making televisions, it seems, may be bad for the climate. To produce flat-panel displays, manufacturers rely on nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a potent greenhouse gas that was not covered by the emissions-regulating Kyoto Protocol when it was drafted in 1997, because so little of it was used then. Now exploding sales of flat-panel TVs and other digital devices, coupled with incomplete recapture of the chemical during manufacture, could spell trouble, warn (researchers at UC Irvine). 

Atmospheric lifetime of NF3: 550 years
Greenhouse potency factor as compared with CO2, of:
    Methane: 25
    NF3: 17,200
Estimated number of tons of NF3 to be produced in 2008: 4,000
Equivalent amount of CO2, in tons: 67 million
Percent of NF3 not recaptured during manufacturing: 2 to 3
CO2 emissions in 2005, in tons: 15,128 million

From Scientific American September 2008

Jon Stewart Rips Fake News Media


Wednesday, August 27, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
Comic rips media's false sense of urgency
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
(08-27) 04:00 PDT Denver - --
   It is a telling media milepost as political convention TV coverage unfolds
over the next two weeks: Jon Stewart is now the dean of commercial network
political convention anchors. The old guard is either retired, deceased or
   Like everything on Stewart's Comedy Central network, the line about his
status as an anchor is uttered with mock gravitas and a raised eyebrow by
the cable network's publicists and show staffers. But behind Stewart's
wink is a serious passion about holding government accountable and the
need for aggressive reporting that he rarely shows publicly. This week he
   Before "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" aired the first of its four shows
produced from the city where Democratic National Convention is being held,
Stewart gathered a couple of dozen national political print reporters for
breakfast, riffed a few funny lines, then read them the media riot act. He
did so in a pointed yet gentle way. But he wasn't joking.
   His message: Stop letting the 24-hour cable networks set the nation's
political agenda.
   "We've fallen into this false sense of urgency that they create," Stewart
said. "That idea that everything is breaking news and that if you're not
watching us, you're going to miss this thing.
   "But nothing they're saying is of any import because nobody filters it.
(Print reporters) are able to step back for a moment and think. They're
not. They're just pointing a camera and saying, 'What do you think that
is? I don't know. Let's go to 'The Situation Room.' "
   "It's about earning your authority back. That gravitas," Stewart told the
print journalists. "It's showing an expertise. It's the whole reason you
guys are in the business. You're not on anyone's team. You're on our team.
And that's what's stopped."
   Case in point: the recent sniping between the presidential campaigns after
presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain couldn't remember how many houses
he owned. As Stewart watched the campaigns trade attack ads over the
comment, he said he thought of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a
patrician New Yorker who led the nation through the Great Depression and
is considered one of its greatest presidents.
   "That guy's not a regular American," Stewart said. "Nobody wanted to have
a beer with him. He would have been a terrible president. He's an elitist.
Can he bowl? Somebody could have bowled him. I just find it stunning as to
where this election is going to be decided. Or where we allow it to be
   He railed on the political media's poll-based coverage.
   "What do you mean, polls are out?" Stewart, unshaven and wearing a gray
T-shirt, said to the room full of suit-wearers. "You call 20,000 people,
900 were home. You ask them some ridiculous questions. And this is the
core of your coverage? 'Is Obama arrogant?' Is that a question you can
answer? That's not even a metric you can measure. 'Is McCain too old?' "
   Stewart has called out the nonfake media before, most famously in 2004
when he appeared on the since-canceled CNN show "Crossfire" and told the
hosts to "stop hurting America" through their form of dumbed-down partisan
bickering. Over the years, he's privately had similar, though genial,
conversations with various editors and national journalists.
   Some journalists listen because poll after poll suggests that "The Daily
Show" is a window to the news world - in some cases the only portal - for
a generation of younger viewers who couldn't care who the (real) network
news anchors are and consume news in an online buffet from a variety of
sources. Ask McCain about Stewart's influence; he's made more than a dozen
appearances on "The Daily Show." Stewart said he doesn't know whom he will
vote for in November.
   Monday's breakfast meeting at the University of Denver, where the show is
filming this week, revealed a side of Stewart rarely seen. Beneath his
on-camera mugging and the show's dark satire (stories about the Iraq war
are grouped under the heading "Mess O'Potamia" and thinly veiled attacks
on Sen. Barack Obama are collected under the banner "Baracknophobia") is
Stewart's passion to have a more aggressive national press.
   He's frustrated that the cable networks don't have the attention span to
explore stories - particularly about the run-up to the Iraq war - that
aren't easily digestible for TV. Stewart said he loves newspapers, and
reading them makes him feel like they're writing about a different world
from the one he sees on television.
   But too often they're forced to follow the story-of-the-moment on cable,
he said. Instead, Stewart wished that print editors would "give cover" to
their reporters to dig into an in-depth story that challenged elected
leaders. And he urged the reporters in the room - representing some of the
nation's largest print publications - to not become so cozy with their
sources that they can't report critically on them.
   Perhaps only a satirist - who is also the dean of convention anchors -
could make such a point.
   "He is passionate about politics and journalism, and he really cares,"
said Time magazine Managing Editor Rick Hegel, who attended the breakfast
and agreed with much that he said. "The thing is, Jon turns his anger into
   After each show, Stewart gathers his cast and crew together to discuss
that night's successes and directly points out what could have gone
better. That's when his cast mates sometimes see the serious underpinning
of his comedy.
   "Jon's very focused on what he wants the show to be," said Larry Wilmore,
who was the Emmy-award winning creator of "The Bernie Mac Show" and who is
billed as the "senior black correspondent" on "The Daily Show." But he
"usually tries to pick out what's funny about the situation."
   Stewart's frustration with the 24-hour networks is a double-edged sword.
They provide him with an overwhelming amount of mockable material. But,
because they are on almost constantly in his office during the day, it
drives him crazy.
   He said journalists sometimes tell him, " 'Hey, man, we're just doing what
the audience wants to see.' Well, I think my audience would like to see a
naked woman smoke crack. But we have to draw a line somewhere. Now's the
time to draw the line. We're getting our asses kicked here."

Sands of Time: Are Our Beaches Disappearing?

Parts of Manor beach seem to be disappearing. You used to be able to walk all the way to Mussel Rock. The normal pattern is that the sand washes out during the year, then gets piled high during storm season. This year much more than the normal amount of sand has washed out (six to ten feet). Just go look at the bottom of the steps from Land's End to see what I mean. Those were on the level of the beach, not above it as they are now. No, it's not global warming. The water, as shown by the offshore rocks, is where it always has been. So what is it? Are we due for an El Nino year? I am waiting to see what this winter's storm season will bring.


Planetwalker: Walking in Silence


John Francis, Ph.D., is known the world over as the Planetwalker. In 1971, he witnessed an oil spill in San Francisco Bay. The effects of the spill compelled him to stop using motorized vehicles. Several months later, he took a vow of silence. His non-motorized lifestyle lasted 22 years, and his silence 17. During that time Dr. Francis walked across the United States, earning a B.A., an M.S. and a Ph.D. He later sailed and walked through the Caribbean and then walked the length of South America. During this time he was appointed United Nations Environment Goodwill Ambassador and recently was a speaker at the prestigious 2008 TED conference in Monterey. He is the author of Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence. 22 Years of Walking.

Mori Point Projects Wrap Up for the Year



Greetings, Mori Point Friends:

We’re happy to report that we’ve officially concluded this summer’s large-scale restoration work at Mori!  This year’s trail work has been completed and several restoration sites have been regraded back to a more natural state.  The chain link fences around our staging sites have been removed; now more rustic and subtle recycled redwood fences have replaced the orange plastic fences to protect the healing land.  Several volunteer groups helped install these attractive fences, including an Americorp program from Saint Louis, the GGNRA Trail Keepers, the LINC high school program, and Site Stewardship volunteers. All of the new trails are officially open for your enjoyment!   

The final stages of this project included adding a drainage swale along Old Mori Road (to help keep the road drier during the winter) and completing the Pollywog Path, including replacing the bridge that connects the Park to Fairway Drive. The new bridge is flatter than the old one, making it easier for stroller-pushing parents, bikers, and other park users passing by.  The bridge is also reinforced to support groups of nature enthusiasts who stop by the area to watch the California red-legged frogs in the water below the bridge.  Fairway neighbors have told us they’ve really been enjoying these improvements over the past few weeks.

In addition to planting native plants near the trails and along the restored areas, the next steps at Mori Point are: (1) adding a few benches in key spots along the enhanced trails, (2) adding a trash can at 2 additional entrances of the park, and (3) installing “way-finding” signs that provide trail names and distances to key destinations. If you’re interested in contributing a memorial bench at Mori Point, please contact me for more information. 

We have more exciting news to report on the San Francisco garter snake sighting front! During a routine tadpole survey, we saw a San Francisco garter snake hunting in one of the new ponds created last year!  If you’re interested in reading more about the Mori’s rare species and the park enhancement project please read the article about Mori Point featured in the last issue of the Coast and Ocean, a magazine put out by the California Coastal Conservancy. You can access the article at COAST AND OCEAN

On behalf of all the temporary staff down at Mori, I want to thank you and all the other park friends we’ve met during this year’s project! It’s been a true pleasure working down at Mori and we’ll all miss it now that we’re moving on! I’ll keep you posted about next year’s plans as they are firmed up over the next few months. In the meantime, we hope you continue to enjoy this very special park—and maybe even come volunteer with the Site Stewardship Program, who will continue to take care of Mori Point for years to come!

Susie Bennett
Mori Point Project Coordinator
[And the Mori Point Planning Team: Kate Bickert, Christina Crooker, Sharon Farrell, Darren Fong, Sue Gardner, Jen Greene, Steve Griswold, and Mary Petrilli]

PHOTOS ABOVE: Biomonitor Dan assists LINC participants in proper post-setting techniques. Daniel and I help spread straw for erosion control and weed suppression. PHOTO BELOW: San Francisco garter snake.


They Know Which Side Their Bread Is Buttered On

Total National Assn of Home Builders Contributions to Federal Candidates

Cycle    To Republicans  To Democrats
----    --------------   ----------
2008    $703,500        $574,500   
2006    $2,126,500      $765,000   
2004    $1,482,500      $716,500   
2002    $1,194,500      $730,000   
2000    $1,184,199      $657,900   
1998    $1,289,250      $517,990   



Opinion: Vets for Obama Post Goes Up; Vets Against McCain Post Comes Down


Last week, Steve Patton, a Pacifican who served with honor in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, asked us to post a Web site from a group called Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain. We could not verify the information therein but trusted the sender and the source. But after receiving voluminous emails about this post, we removed the text from this post and just left up the link to the site, pending further word from Steve Patton. We stated a fair warning that the sender and the source were responsible for their own allegations.

(To see more on this whole issue, please read the Recent Comments on our top-left sidebar. We always welcome comments on Riptide content; just click the Comments link at the bottom of each post. Also, you can communicate directly with us by clicking "Email Me" on our top-left sidebar.)

In the meantime, Steve has asked us to take down the McCain post and substitute the above link to a group called Vets for Obama. We hope this resolves the matter to everyone's satisfaction, and we apologize to anyone who was offended. As an all-volunteer, unpaid operation, we do the best we can to post information of interest to all in the community on issues of relevance to our readers, who are citizens of this city but also of this county, this state, this nation, and this world.

Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes our judgment isn't perfect, but we will always try to get it right eventually, with your help. We always respond to corrections and complaints. It's even nice once in a while to get positive feedback, but we seem to learn the most from your outrage. So we will take this as a lesson learned, and move on. Keep hitting that Send button.