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Previous Week

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

This is a snapshot of a recent Maine sunset by sister in law Carol up on Porpoise Point, I think, and it has all the qualities I like of that school of British painting in the 18th and early 19th century.  It's a mood and sensual feeling of place, and that it actually exists, it's exquisite.  No horses, no duck pond, no adorable children in chiffon and lace, just a slice of a vision of sky and sea.  I've tried a gabillion times and never catch these shots right, and have a collection of the world's most boring photos that still remind me of what was there and I failed to capture.  But, I remember.

And, frankly, it's a mood I need now that the Democrats took it in the slats yesterday.  Here's Ed Kilgore on what happened.

There was talk going into the election that another key Obama demographic, under-30 voters, was suddenly tilting Republican, at least among the segment willing to vote in a midterm. But in the end under-30 voters preferred Democrats 54/43--again, very similar to the splits in 2010 and down six points from the 60/37 pro-Democratic ratio of 2012.

So despite talk of millennial “disappointment” with Obama, the best evidence is that their enthusiasm for him as manifested in 2008 and 2012 is not transferable to other Democrats — or is not exhibited in the mix of millennials willing to vote in a midterm. And the same may be true of the minority voters discussed above.

What are the implications, then, for the election cycle we have just entered? Some of the Republican advantage can be expected to melt away instantly due to the age and race/ethnicity differential for a presidential cycle. That shift will apply to downballot races as well. So a more favorable-to-Democrats electorate will vote on a Senate landscape as difficult for Republicans as this year’s was difficult for Democrats. The GOP will need all those wins from yesterday to survive Election Night in 2016 with a majority intact.

This makes sense, and since my commentary written this morning, everyone is now saying Hickenlooper won, but Beauprez only just conceded in time for the 1700 hour news cycle.  But elsewhere, it seems the Democrats defeated two gun nuts and have kept the state Senate and Legislature in their hands.  That's pretty good, given what we know.  Colorado made a huge error in birther, Tea Party, and liar Cory Gardner, but all in all is still moving Blue.

More from the Fix.

What remains upsetting is that the young and the Latinos did not vote as expected, by which is meant at all, and that has to piss us off.  College loans, abortion, all back on the table because of that.  Should have been put to bed/sleep decades back.

I'm also still appalled that Obama is not given the immense credit he is due, that Democrats didn't rally around him, and that nobody is ashamed at the grotesque ignorance they display when dashing him on the rocks.  The cartoon graphic below is accurate, but admittedly does not chat up the torture issues and the drone strikes for which he is responsible as he said he would be.  But, for the moment, just absorb all this:

I'm reluctantly willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt regarding Guantanomo and torture, given that you cannot just change complicated mechanisms designed to deal with complicated issues.  And we have to grasp and realize Stare Decisis - precedent rules - and would automatically stopping some things and doing others open up numerous cans of legal worms.  And all of this in the days of FoxNews, Twitter, and redefinitions of treason, security, and torture.  It IS complicated, but I worry a few easy roads were taken when we should have done something else.  

Regardless, Obama has been an excellent President to my mind, and I admire him for putting up with that god awful job.  If nothing else, just being elected and serving two terms gave African Americans a new vision of their native land, and that is a huge thing.  Huge, right there.  Not 'some day.'  It happened.  Twice.  Whites voted for him.  As they ought to have, but more should have joined in.

This terrific photo was taken by a Chinese satellite recently, and demonstrates how far China has come. I certainly understand the fears of such a huge population, but I'm happy they are welcomed and applauded for their accomplishments.  They hope to have a man on the moon within, I read, ten years, and that will be both unnerving and yet somewhat terrific.  They have serious environmental and food issues and not a few annoyed subservient people's in their borders.  And they're not, oh, Belguim in civics or law.  But they are bringing their people up and along about as well as could be hoped, and given the billions at issue, that's no small thing.  They have both socialism and capitalism working together which seems poison to many Americans except we do as well.  The most successful and largest socialist project ever has been the US Armed Forces, socialist because it has to be to work.

I remain optimistic.

The final graphic today is of the Windsors walking amidst a dry moat of artificial poppies, the flower that became the symbol of the Great War, which we reference as WWI.  It started a century ago last August.  Hundreds of thousands of British citizens of denizens of the Empire died in that horror, and for each death they devoted one fake poppy.  It's a beautiful and sorrowful image.  Philip's great uncle, Lord Louis, was forced to resign from the Royal Navy of which he was First Lord because he had German family, as did all the Windsors, who automatically and immediately changed the House name to Windsor.  He and the Queen grew up with many vets of the trenches and the battle of Jutland.  A century doesn't seem so long at my age......  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

There's an election on Tuesday in Boulder as everywhere, and not enough Republicans to be election judges.  A list of 95 Republicans was provided by the GOP, but only five accepted the role. The GOP is claiming that Democrats are posing as Republicans  and so the election is fixed.  This all emerged at a rally for Republican Senatorial candidate Corey Gardner in Boulder last night, and about 120 people showed up.  Granted, Boulder is pretty much home turf for Gardner's opponent, Senator Mark Udall, and Boulder has long been a liberal Democratic stronghold, but the expected small turnout for Gardner melds nicely with the fact there are few Republicans about in Boulder County and those that exist couldn't be bothered.

Nonetheless the GOP County Chairwoman, Ellyn Hilliard, made the accusation that those fake Republican election judges are how Democrats supposedly steal elections. And granted, a Deputy to current Secretary of State Scott Gessler confirmed that state election officials visited the Boulder clerk's office and found some troubling inconsistencies with some election judges. Gessler is a Republican who has tried to scam voters to cover his political travels that aren't part of his job, and the guy who has made numerous absurd accusations about voter fraud and never found any. Gessler's dubious legalities and clear partisan motivations are among the reasons he doesn't dare run again.

Wayne Williams, the GOP Clerk and Recorder of El Paso County, is campaigning to replace Gessler. Now, all mail in ballots must be signed by the voter to make them valid in Colorado, which is then covered by the envelope flap. But to save money, Williams' county doesn't provide that minimal amount of paper on the envelope to cover the signature.  So now, anyone can see the signature and check to see party affiliation that voter holds and whatever happens, happens. That's an open invitation to voter fraud right there.

In the sixties during the pinnacle of the Civil Rights movement, Democrats got nailed justifiably as Limousine Liberals, rich enough to afford that mode of transport and to adopt minority group children to be raised by the help but never leaving them alone at home because minority kids will steal, as everyone in their lunch crowd knew. Restrained enlightenment or grotesque hypocrisy?  Gee, hard to say, but as Nixon flensed out the Dixiecrats to the Republican banner, the issues became clearer.

Still, Republicans are late to that transition in world view, and while they sorta kinda court minorities they don't really trust them and hope to limit their votes because the ethnics aren't primarily white and have the gall to think their citizenship as valuable as a Republican white, Protestant, male.  One of the problems in Colorado is that they still think and act as if Hispanics are a minority, when they're a major plurality if not a majority in much of Colorado and the southwest in general. A congressional race south of Boulder is about to feature the first political debate in Spanish between Mike Coffman and Andrew Romanoff, which should be a bigger deal that the media has allowed.

During the most recent Bush administration, the hubbub about voter fraud began and has become a supposed 'fact' to the doddering Boomer generation and any remnants of the Greatest above them. It isn't true.  Detailed investigations into more than a decade of elections provided exactly 86 cases of voter fraud, a statistical zero.  But the one unifying factor to the various bitter, resentful, and uninformed GOP is stone cold racism, made easier with a black President.  They have to believe that all blacks, Hispanics, and other groups cheat on elections.  How else could they win? After all, Republicans don't know anyone who doesn't vote the same as they do.

The election, insofar as polls go, will be close, although the usual pollsters who only call land lines and not cell phones and whose results always change dramatically in the week before an election, don't really hold much water anymore. It will also be ugly, as I sense Republicans don't really believe they can win without removing tons of lower income voters, and they seem to be on it nationally. Colorado's biggest newspaper, the Denver Post, has divided their tongue bath between Hickenlooper, a Democrat and sitting Governor, and Corey Gardner, the GOP Senate candidate who has been caught lying by reporters and at televised debates. I have nothing good to say about Gardner, and feel him undeserving of support from the Hygiene Auto Shopper, much less the Post. So, Tuesday is going to be interesting.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014

As you get older, Autumn still refutes its reality and fails to call attention to death, decay, eventual rebirth.  It's just too damned pretty to keep you depressed for too long, even in Colorado, where "the leaves" aren't as spectacular as they are back East with a deeper selection of deciduous trees.  I first came to Colorado in November of 1971, forty three years ago.  Can't quite say it seems like yesterday, but it doesn't quite feel like half a century either, but it's closing in.

And, autumn is a joy people around the world in the same latitudes can share, and we here have this in common with Russia and Japan and Europe more than, say, Florida, although they too blush and drop.  Obviously, I'm getting too contented and easily soothed after Boulder's year of lots of rain, snow, deep green summer and now a particularly bright and good Fall, the result of all that water. So, when National Geo sends out their more frequent and still stunning collections of photos, the wealth has been spread.

Photo above is in Japan, looking like upstate New York or England with the tightly packed trees and the smooth, wrinkleless pond with no wind.  It is such a contrast to imagine tourists snapping away their photos of that scene with one in south central Honshu, the big island, where equally innocent folks were hiking about Mt. Ontake when, without any of the expected warnings, the damn thing erupted.  So far, only 47 dead, but absent the quick response - and fearless- of the Army (yes, I know, 'Self Defense Force'......but really: Army) and forest ranger equivalent, many more toasted and gone.  There is a photo of a long line of these hardy souls climbing the damned thing to rescue the hordes still up there, and you can't deny it's less impressive than the NYFD and police during 9-11.  Climbing up into even odds of volcanic oblivion.  And with either smiles or that look of grim determination Japan has mastered over the centuries, on ancient vases and prints and the mugs of the young folks staring at the birth of a new caldara all around them.

Across the lake (if the Atlantic is 'the Pond') on the west coast of the United States, some rather more fortunate Japanese tourists on Mt. Hood were able to take this remarkable photo of the mountain at night complete with, I guess, a meteor and stars without end.  Hood, of course, is a volcano as well, and the entire western coast seems rather fragile to me as it has to others. Japan gets clobbered with some regularity, yet the US theater of operations for the Pacific Ring of Fire is so dormant it's rather creepy, since it suggests that when something goes over here it will be a lulu.  

Of course, that always leads to discussion of Yellowstone, because that is the largest functioning volcanic activity center in the Hemisphere, and we're with a century or two of being due for its explosion and the loss of the nation's breadbasket.  Millennia later, we'll have incredibly rich land again, but we have to survive to get there.  I'll be gone, so no need for anyone to be upset.  Only other people will vaporize and I save on cremation.

To be hoped, when it's all over and done, California will still produce spring meadows like the one above. Blue flowers must be rare, since it's always sort of shocking to see such beauty in unexpected hues.  Gack. Tone it down, knucklehead.  I'm sounding too twee.  This'll crop that......

Above is a photo few will recognize, but it's the Custer battlefield at the Little Bighorn, looking from what is called Last Stand Hill south towards Weir Pt.  It gives a pretty good idea of what ghastly ground it was for cavalry and why I don't think Custer was on the offensive or in any control when he ended up at the monument.  It's the newish theory that he was always on the offensive till the end, which serves literary Miniver Cheevys' inner needs more than fact.

Oddly, the battlefield is absolutely lovely, a great example of the Big Sky in Montana state.  From where Custer breathed his last, you can see the Rockies to the west, the Bighorns to the South, about 45 million acres of rolling field, and the Little Bighorn itself, reptilian river flowing north past where Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and Gall and Lame White Man camped, and where now is a gambling casino, a cemetery, and eerie silence just about always.

Since vampires and now officially as scary as Casper and Ichabod Crane, the Halloween holiday needs to draw upon new horrors of the subconscious for costumes and tale.  The insect world humbly steps forward with these two entries for our consideration, both praying mantis and both beautiful and more scary the longer you behold them.  Upping their size to yours and their gaze upon you, I believe the desired effect is achieved.

Of course, there are somewhat less terrifying entries, including this of a butterfly so lovely it looks painted, with the faces of eagles on its wing tips.  It's these creatures, along with birds of paradise and baby mammals not excluding our own that probably first suggested that the powerful gods first imagined had bowler hats and neck ties somewhere in the closet, because they certainly had good taste when given the time to create.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

As the world grimaces and honors the dead and exploits of the Great War, now a century old, old arguments about its cause and ending and any actual point to the four years of horror are renewed, but with clearer heads and near all documentation now open to the public, a general consensus has emerged and is taught much the same in all nations.  This is progress, but slow.    

Here in Boulder, a much smaller ceremony concerning accuracy in history transpired this week.  It seems that in the first Gulf War in 1991, Kurdish rebels in Iraq fighting Saddam Hussein obtained a cache of documents from Iraqi secret police. This documents purportedly are clear evidence, says the Boulder Daily Camera, of Saddam's sadistic war against the Kurds, "describing torture, disappearances and the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi secret police force against the Kurdish people." Five million documents on a computer disk. Somehow, the documents were housed at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

"There will be only a future for societies and countries if the societies come to terms with their own history, and reconcile their past," said a member of the Kurdish delegation. Coincidentally, the delegation mentioned that the Islamic State, the terror group de jour, is destroying Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. Yet Kurds, we are told, control their semiautonomous area defended by a Kurdish military force known as the peshmerga. These militiamen were among those who panicked and fled before the Islamic State forces, dooming Iraq and Syria to another era of rule by religious fanatics absent action by the West, which may only delay the inevitable. Yet, since the bombing started, the IS is retreating as Iraq military and Kurdish forces gird their loins and press them.  The situation in Syria is too convoluted, as government forces, whom we oppose, are faced with numerous rebel units, near all of whom hate each other, of which IS is just one.  Or two.  In any case, they all suck in Syria. Nobody seems to have a grasp on it, and it may be impossible.

Kurdistan, a notional geographic entity with not much support, also includes part of Turkey and part of Syria, this depending upon whose map your gaze falls upon. Kurds desperately want their own nation, but Turkey doesn't want to grant them any of their land, nor does Iraq, nor does Syria, unsurprisingly enough, even though the portions claimed are jam packed primarily with Kurds.  So, on the surface, it would seem the Kurds are deserving of regard and hope and maybe pressure for their own homeland, ruled by Kurds.

With that in mind, let us revisit that Kumbaya phrase utilized by the Kurdish delegation: "There will be only a future for societies and countries if the societies come to terms with their own history, and reconcile their past."  That seems to drip with Mandela's brush, calling for confessions and forgiveness and moving on. Mature and responsible.

But, one of the results of the Great War, entirely unintended, was the first of the modern near genocides, and this of the Armenians, another ethnic group jammed into the area between the Near and Middle East.  Primarily Orthodox Christian, something beloved by all orthodox Muslims and the Thugs Who Love Them, the Armenians were also rather fond of getting a homeland for much the same reason the Kurds were, inspiring a focused response by the Turks bordering on genocide in the actual sense and comfortably residing within its metaphorical and hyperbolic concepts. I prefer mass murder and Grand Theft Land, but whatever. As they arose from the Ottoman yoke and perfume show, the Turks utilized Kurds in the various slaughters against the Armenians, and the Kurds are not recalled having huge objections. Just one of the many delightful aspects of that section of the world.

So, I wonder how hard the Kurds are working to admit they participated in what many people, and certainly the Armenians, consider genocide.  The sad and awful thing is that near everyone over there has a history of mutual slaughter for the vengeful joy of it, and they'll all have to shut up, admit it, glower at each other, and eventually move forward. Not everyone will get a homeland politically separate from any other, but they certainly could have peaceful enclaves if there was commitment to it.  But until the Kurds, among all the others, want to own up to their own transgressions and just amass evidence of the transgressions against themselves, I'm going to refrain from tearful applause.  As St. Patrick is the first to note slavery is bad whomever the slave, whomever the slaver, we all with the Kurds need to admit that History demands everyone come clean, and no crime justifies another.
Friday, September 12, 2014

So, Obama is increasing the bombing and putting the legendary "advisors" back into Iraq.  He's taken a lot of heat from every side over his calculated and calm moves, which I greatly admire.  First, because he shows no sign of being bullied into some idiocy or other by the right wing, a relic from the FDR, Truman years.  Nobody dared suggest Ike was soft, but they really hammered JFK and Johnson, as the office tapes proved.  MacArthur was kept solely because of his being GOP for a united front.  Oswald had tried to kill General Walker not long before he shot Kennedy, although the connection isn't clear to us as it likely wasn't clear to Oswald.  Democrats have had this image of being stupid enough to get us into war and not brave/strong/competent enough to win them.  It's horse hockey, but to the half educated who know what side the white supremacists are on, it works.

Obama continually seems to operate in his own sphere unaffected (well, mostly) by the kinetic energies of the hysterics around him in both parties. There is no right answer or comprehensive settlement possible in the Middle East and that for rarely stated realities.  The Muslim World is nothing without western dependence upon oil.  It's their only source of major income.  The world is dead progressively absent those who move to the west and enjoy upward mobility based on individual competence and smarts.

That world is also at each other's throats with the rabid hatred unseen in major Christian wars for centuries.  They need Israel as a common hatred to unite them.  They have nothing else.

Understand, the supposed Caliphate that the hatchet thugs IS now announce is a segment of Islam that operates out of Baghdad, as it did back in the days of Aladdin.  The Ottaman tradition is in Turkey, and that was the last large Islamic Empire that dissolved in effeminate hysteria in the Great War. There is no love between them.  Then, there is Egypt, the most powerful Arab nation and an Ottoman veteran but so old and revered it never entirely becomes subjugated to the sequential conquests that flow over her.  

Then, Sunni and Shia, a major bloodbath in waiting.  Then, the women's movement, decades late in arriving but there now and dangerous to any power.  Neda.  As Latin American homes, poor and rich, had photos of JFK in places of honor with inflated mythologies in the last half century, the Irania teenager, a secular, bright, fun, and brave young woman shot by militia, resides in the heart of anyone who saw her bleed out in that horrific video. I think of her often, and in those her age I know they recall, remember, and honor her.  Her revenge is coming, as Islam's numerous selfish, delusional patriarchies are going to fall, some violently, and she will be remembered ever, and that as a placeholder for the thousands of Islamic women who have suffered from the cowardice, the cruelty, the stupidity of the men in charge.  

Forbes Magazine, something less than a Red flag waving entity, pops another Reagan bathtub bubble with the revelation that Obama's recovery from his recession is going much better than Reagan's did.  And Reagan had a Democratic Congress who did, actually, want to work to make things better, rather than the current GOP's decision to just try and nullify the people's choice in 98 and make Obama a disaster.

The headline? "Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing."  Gotta hurt the plantlife.  

That he hasn't been anything like that, and that Obamacare - despite everything the GOP could do to misinform and kill it - is taking off, cutting expenses, and doing better than anyone thought possible, is great credit to the man and the nation.  He doesn't posture as a tough guy like Bush, quoting 1950's WB western theme songs.  He doesn't threaten.  He explains what will happen if things occur and when they do, he jumps on it. Throughout his first run for President, he said if he had good intel OBL was in Pakistan, an ally, he'd act immediately.  He did.

There will come a day in the next decade when the GOP will publicly flog itself for not working with Obama, the Democrat who could bring his party and the nation behind him to pass and create needed and constructive legislation conservatives could sometimes love and always live with and would allow both Congress and the Executive to share credit.  Morons.

They have mapped the universe, by which I mean the Milky Way and everything else now known.  Some day, it might look as ridiculous as the early maps of the Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese explorers, but today it looks positively intimidating.

And, it emphasizes what we have NOT done, in that only 5% of the ocean floor has been mapped, says the NGS.  Well, I expect more given the US Navy and others have been puttering around down there for a long time.  I still think Ballard, who worked for the Navy, had been given its location long before he announced he'd found the Titanic.  Too many cables, sonar runs, presence for that not have been found.  Still, impressive. And near 30 years in the

This photo, which could in honesty be called a little too twee, as it's only missing unicorns, is from the Boston Herald Traveler and is an actual, unphotoshopped graphic.  Not many times such would be visible together.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So, the 13th Anniversary of 9-11.  The memorials are nearly all complete and up and running, and perspective is appropriate.  Few address it.  There are a number of things we still forget, conveniently.

1. The pirates were not masterminds.  Had then extant procedures been followed, nothing would have gone wrong.

2. After decades of taking abuse from pushy, selfish, and obnoxious passengers, the underpaid and disrespected security at airports was half assed.

3. Basic common sense on board was deficient, with open doors to the cockpit.

Given the increasing revisitation to how put upon passengers are with security, it starts again. First time?  Shame on them and to hell they go.  Second?  Shame on us.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

So, it's September and enough time has passed so we can talk.  No, not about Robin Williams, nor the Ukraine, nor the miserable summer of movie crapola you shelled out money for.  It's time that everyone, twittering fans and non twittering fans alike, are held at gunpoint until they admit that True Blood, the vampire series on HBO, started out arguably okay and ended up not just badly, but pathetic and unconnected to what had gone before.  It stunk.  It was like the author had lost all interest and went to Fiji to drink, and apparently the novelist did much like that and the television series had long departed from the tweener novels, but HBO has standards and True Blood's pathetic wrap up sank below all of them.  

In the series second season, there was an episode near the seasonal end where a 2000 year old vampire got tired, got something close to insight, and decided he needed to die.  Given all other vampires within that world were selfish, cruel, and unreflective about their life and choices and existence, this was a dramatic surprise, and a Danish actor and the female lead had an exchange that was, actually, moving and sincere and elevated the whole concept and series.  I'm an atheist and I'm not gay but I am sentimental and this scene touched me, and I remember it well.  From that point on, though, the series became a sequence of couplings and unfunny side shows that continued to reduce any residual fear of vampires - which, after all, is the basis of their supposed attraction - as dead as a doornail. When even young kids think of vampires, they laugh today.

It bothered me because television series should have a fitting end.  I don't mean the shows that barely survived in the ratings that only an intense few cared about, but the long running successes demand an artistic send off.  MASH had the best, of course, Mad About You did a good job, Cheers, and Frazier, Mary Tyler Moor, and this year a show I'd never seen, How I Met Your Mother, was chatted up quite a bit for its final sequence.  A novelist has to do it, and show runners have that responsibility as well.  

But the worst show ending was for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, an Aaron Sorkin presentation on NBC that fell in a short sole season to near knock-knock joke level for the finale with none of the stars in it to save money.  It failed for some of the same reasons that beset Sorkins' continuing and more successful The Newsroom on HBO, but its second season ended with an episode including the leads' engagement and such a sweet and positive election night that it was clearly meant to serve as the series ending if that was its fate.  

But it wasn't, as Jeff Daniels won a deserved Emmy for best actor, and he and Jane Fonda were up to Emmys again, and the show was both interesting, irritating, incredibly well acted, and swung between great script writing and schtick that nobody can beat out of Sorkin, and which he revisits with the regularity that Woody Allen flicks ended in the Catskills too often. The bad parts of his show are easy to point to and nobody seems to be doing it for him and allows him to continue.  It's the conflict of tone between everything else and some twaddle involving flirting or couples.  Alison Pill and Olivia Munn owe him for giving them great scenes and he owes them for not paying for his hit by thugs over the too cute routines they sometimes had to do. He doesn't have trouble writing for women, he has trouble exorcising scenes he keeps trying to make work in series after series. When they fail, it's better than when they almost, but not quite, don't.  It's a blind spot or he's lazy.
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