Saturday, May 23, 2015


I just returned from my annual pre-Memorial Day pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park.  Spending time in this incredible miracle of nature never fails to inspire.

I find it hard to grasp geologic time.  It’s tough to get my head around processes that take millions and billions of years.  But there they are, massive granite cliffs that we call El Capitan and Half Dome, waterfalls that cascade down thousands of feet, rivers and trees and flowers and wildlife that surround us and never grow stale.

Ken Burns called his series on our national parks “America’s Best Idea,” and he was right.  Honoring and preserving our natural heritage is an ennobling undertaking.  It is evidence that we can rise above our day-to-day pettiness and focus on what’s really important.  I spend time in these postings bitching and ranting about what is wrong.  It’s all too easy to do.  Yosemite gives me a chance to step back and appraise a fuller view – one that we all to often fail to do.

Monday, May 18, 2015

State-Sponsored Murder

Kind, gentle-natured Americans are shocked, appalled and horrified every time the Caliphate slices off a hostage’s head.  It is a barbaric act that must be condemned.

But these same kind, gentle-natured Americans can sit on a jury to decide whether the death penalty should be applied and vote to sanction state-sponsored murder.

It won’t be a grisly beheading.  It will be a kinder, gentler act.  We’ll just put the person to sleep – forever.  And yes, in this case the person is guilty of committing a heinous crime.  He’s not an innocent as was the Caliphate’s hostage.  But as for the result, in the end is there a difference?  The state, rightly or wrongly, is committing murder.

I am one of those people who are instinctively repulsed by the notion that it is OK to deliberately kill another person.  The guise that it is an appropriate and legitimate act because our justice system (or the bible) allows it carries no weight with me.  Our proud history of frontier justice notwithstanding, there is no justification for state-sponsored murder.  It is not an act that has a deterrent effect on bad people.  It is an act of vengeance or revenge that diminishes us as human beings.

Monday, May 11, 2015


We don’t have to look far to see jerks automatically flexing their knees:

Union leaders who assume that increased trade will take jobs away from their workers (whose dues, of course, pay their salaries) have a kneejerk negative reaction to international trade agreements.  Economic arguments to the contrary are reflexively dismissed.

New Englanders knee jerkedly dismiss the notion that their hero, Tom Brady, could be guilty of cheating.  To be fair, the rest of the country, who don’t like the Patriots, jerk their knees too – in the opposite direction.

Hillary and Obama haters have daily knee jerks that bolster their preconceived assumptions.  And on the other side, liberals who see conservative conspiracies around every corner are also compulsive jerkers – usually it is the left knee that moves.

Populating the Israeli-Palestinian divide are predictable KneeJerks who have been repeating themselves for decades.  I’m right and you’re wrong trumps common sense – and nothing changes.

Do the KneeJerks always win?  No, sometimes the pattern is broken.

It happened in South Africa with the end of apartheid.
It happened in Ireland when the killing stopped.
It happened in the U.S. when equality in education and voting rights became a reality.
It happened in baseball when Jackie Robinson came to the big leagues.

But the KneeJerks don’t go quietly and vigilance is required to maintain a new status quo.  Don’t assume “one and done” is enough.  Like it or not, KneeJerk-ism is part of the human condition.  Where does it live?  Take a look in the mirror.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Out of the Woodwork!

Republican candidates for President are coming out of the woodwork.  Looks like a combination of ego and “destiny demands I save the country” is at work here.  Common sense is certainly not the driving force.

So this week, joining Cruz, Rubio and Rand Paul, we get Fiorina, Huckabee and Ben Carson.

If I recall correctly, Carly Fiorina is the same Carly Fiorina who drove HP into near bankruptcy (called the worst tech CEO ever) and then lost a Senate race to Barbara Boxer.  Great credentials.

No need to worry about Mike Huckabee.  He’s got Jesus on his side.

And Ben Carson’s main claim to fame is that he’s not a politician.

Coming along soon will be Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and probably Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and the two Ricks – Perry and Santorum.  They say the field could grow to 20 or more before they’re finished.  What we really need to make the circus complete is Donald Trump.  Come on, Donald, go for it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Democracy in Action!

Two recent elections demonstrate how democracy gives free choice to the people:

In Sudan, Omar al-Bashir was reelected.  He received 94% of the vote.
In Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev was reelected.  He received 98% of the vote.

Such popularity is indeed impressive!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Big One!

The earthquake in Nepal is our latest reminder that the Big One could hit here at any moment.  There is no escape.  The surface of the earth is composed of moving tectonic plates.  When they move the surface shakes and breaks.  When two plates jam up against each other, as they do in the Indian subcontinent, the shaking and breaking is particularly strong.

In South Asia the Indian Plate is up against the Eurasian Plate and moving faster (two inches a year), so collisions are inevitable, which is what happened in Nepal this weekend.  We can’t stop it.  We can’t predict when it will happen.  All we know for sure is that the plates are moving and will keep moving.  They’ve been doing it for hundreds of millions of years.

In earlier times the collision of these two plates created the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains.  As the Indian plate moves north it is like sediment being bunched up like earth before a plow, except on a gigantic scale, so the Plateau keeps rising and the mountains keep getting higher.

Earthquake resistant construction helps.  We benefit from modern methods that mitigate the damage.  Not so in Nepal, where old structures and flimsily-built new buildings offer no protection.  But no matter what we do, when a really Big Big One hits, we won’t be protected.

In the meantime – have a nice day.