Monday, November 19, 2007

Iowa's Dirty Secret

Since moving to Iowa City three months ago, I've taken to jogging once in awhile along the Iowa River. There are some paths through what the city calls "parks" (I'd call it open lawn with baseball fields and a scattering of trees) briefly surrounding a dark and slow moving river.

The Iowa River is a major tributary of the mighty Mississippi. Stretching over 300 miles the river flows southeast from Belmond, IA through the towns of Iowa Falls, Steamboat Rock and down into Iowa City by the University of Iowa campus. There are two dams along the way, the larger of the two in Coralville, just a few miles north of Iowa City, and a smaller lowhead dam along downtown Iowa City.

But while Presidential Campaigns bustle about the state, a river that centuries ago flowed clear and chock full of northern pike, small and large mouth bass, crappie, walleye and flathead catfish, is now close to death. The American Rivers organization has rated the Iowa River as the #3 most endangered river in North America. Why? Because the state EPA fails to enforce the regulations that are known as the Clean Water Act. Not only does it fail to meet EPA standards (which have been regularly downgraded by the Bush administration over the past 7 years)along 40% of its length but there is no sign of action to change it.
Unfortunately, the state of Iowa trails far behind the rest of the country in implementing and enforcing the federal Clean Water Act. Unless the state wants water quality in the Iowa and other rivers to deteriorate even further, Iowa must adequately implement key provisions of the Clean Water Act and provide its Department of Natural Resources sufficient funding to enforce these regulations.

A host of ancient factories up in Cedar Rapids are also blamed for dumping tons of waste into the river. Plus, the millions of tons of agricultural waste dumped into the river every year keeps it dark and green with pollutants and toxins.

There are plenty of small community cleanup projects every year, but these are not the type of cleanup that the Iowa River needs. If Iowa wants to get serious about cleaning up its river it should think not just about what it can pull out of the river, but about what it's dumping into it.

Checkout American Rivers list of other endangered rivers. Is one of your's on the list?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer: 1923 - 2007

We lost a great American character and truly unique individual today. If the cowboy persona of John Wayne could be a writer, it'd be wrapped up in Norman Mailer. Married six times while fathering eight children he was scrappy, outspoken and one of the few American writers who looked more at home at a union hall then a desk. The SF Chronicle has a great writeup of this uniquely brilliant story-teller and writer.

Mailer once stabbed his wife with a pen-knife at a booze-filled party but no charges were ever filed. He loved boxing and bull-riding be it in a bar or in the ring. He sat with Kerouac and Ginsberg but also tore a page out of Hemingway's book assuming the classic American alpha-male characteristics being a rough-and-tumble, no stranger to the party scene fella.

I've pulled together some of my favorite Mailer quotes for your enjoyment too:

"America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind. "

"Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child. "

"I don't think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for."

"The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people."

"Culture's worth huge, huge risks. Without culture we're all totalitarian beasts."

Hillary and the Lords of Dopetown?

You gotta love former drug-lords coming out for Hillary Clinton.

Former Harlem heroin drug lords Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes both ruled the boroughs of NYC during the early 1970s, now are back in the spotlight thanks to a pair of biographical feature films. Frank scored big with a Hollywood hit, American Gangster (Denzel Washington is the lead as Frank) and Barnes' documentary Mr. Untouchable isn't too bad either. Both are solidly unique perspectives of two different drug kingpins from Harlem during the late 60's and early '70s. The interview with New York Magazine is big because, well, neither of them have spoken to each other in over 30 years. Naturally, the discussion was colorful.

In the middle of the interview, which at times seems tense in a soft geriatric kind of way, I was shocked to see them both put money down on Hillary Clinton for the '08 Presidential election, even after saying that Giuliani would be the best man for the job. Junkies for Giuliani? Drug Lords for Hillary? Not the kind of shining endorsements two not-exactly-Superfly presidential candidates can afford to really get excited about.

Mark Jacobson(NY Magazine): Rudy Giuliani chased both you guys when he was D.A. What do you think about him running for president?
Nick Barnes: Giuliani would make a good president because he’s a principled guy.
Frank Lucas: When Giuliani tells you something, he means it. But I don’t think we’re ready for an Italian president. I don’t think we’re ready for a black president. I don’t think we’re ready for a woman president, but I tell you right now: I think Hillary Clinton will win this thing hands down.
Nick Barnes: Hillary will be the next president.
Frank Lucas: No question about it.

Um...does Hillary know that she just got the endorsement of two of the most powerful street titans of the 20th century? I'm not whether she should issue a press-release distancing herself from them or hope that they both quietly fade into the sunset.

Checkout the trailer for Mr.Untouchable, the name given to Barnes by the NY Times back during his heyday. I'm thinking Lucas got a much better deal on the film break.

Btw, the Jay-Z's remix of Bobby Bland's "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" is incredible. A perfect soundtrack for these characters. I just hope Hillary isn't dumb enough to start playing it at her lame events.