Archive for March 2010

Drilling for Oil

Another stupid step backward. Clearly developing some of our oil reserves might be a good idea if, and only if, it is part of a transition plan to alternate energy. Is this another give away before the negotiating even begins? I have to wonder about this President and his capability to understand the hardball he is not clearly not playing. If you don’t make the point that this will not solve any problems and is only a short term measure in our transition to alternate energy, you have done nothing but legitimize the drill baby drill moronic logic.  Once a state gets hooked on oil income, there is no longer a rational discussion of our energy future.  They will do anything to keep those bucks rolling in if they don’t have to tax their citizens, even if it destroys our future.  See previous blog.   President Obama is such a disappointment.

Kicking the Can Down the Road

America, I think, has become the country that cannot face reality.  We like to pride ourselves as those practical Yankees who can tackle any problem, but the reality is that at least in the last 60 years or so we have avoided dealing with festering issues.  You can find this attitude almost everywhere, but I found it this morning in an article about how the fish being served down in one Florida resort community wasn’t exactly local, unless you considered local as coming from the local distributor, but not the local waters (In Florida, the Seafood becomes Less Local).  “Reeling from a record, fish-killing cold snap and tougher federal limits on what can be caught, commercial fishermen and charter-boat captains are struggling. Distributors and restaurants are relying more and more on imported seafood — some of it clearly labeled, a lot of it not.

But the failure to face reality comes in terms of, “For a fisherman that works 12 months a year, you’ve just taken a third of his livelihood,” said Tom Hill, whose family has owned Key Largo Fisheries since 1972. “You’ve also taken away the ability of someone who comes here to enjoy a local piece of fish.” See it is that big bad “govment” hurting the little guy and taking away our rights.  Or we are over fishing our waters and in order to establish a healthy ocean and fishing industry, steps need to be taken to restore the fish colonies.  My bet is on the latter since I actually have a rational mind who thinks inconvenient truths won’t just go away.  But when it impacts somebody’s pocket book, then all bets with that rational thought stuff are off.

And that in a nutshell is how we approach almost every problem; we look for the free ride.  I think our new motto is, “If there is pain, gain isn’t worth it.”  Almost every political issue we have can be framed in this construct.  Take alternate energy.  We know (except for those like the fisherman who ignore inconvenient truths) that dumping carbon into our environment is destructive.  We know our continued independence on foreign oil hurts our economy and funds our enemies.  Yet if we institute a carbon tax to invigorate and make alternate energy cost effective now, we just can’t do it.  It is a tax on all of us.  It is big government trying to control our lives.  So we ignore the future problem and continue riding on a guaranteed train wreck.  Health care can seen in the same light as well as immigration policy, education policy, you name it.

Sadly the party that used to be for self-discipline and prudent conservative choices is now the party of do nothing.  Like the grasshopper who fiddled away the summer and was unprepared for winter, the Republicans have sold the American people on doing nothing, that somehow the market place will satisfy all their needs and they need to make no sacrifices.  If anything is clear, the market place satisfies its own needs for creating wealth for the few, but does not address the nation’s long-term needs.  Look at the fear of big government and it is nothing more than an excuse to do nothing.  I think if anything is really apparent today, it is that the past is past and the world is rapidly changing.  We used to lead that change, and now we are a people who is trying to hold on to a past that is gone.  As we do this, we fall further and further behind real progress and prosperity.

As I look around this country and I see what obviously needs to be done, it is so sad to see a country who can’t even control their waist lines.  I ride the highways and in bumper to bumper traffic there is always the gal/guy who has to pass you on the right and then cut in front of you.  They are the America of today.  “I am special and the rules are for fools.  Well, the rules, when it comes to the economy and our ecology are immutable, and if we don’t start understanding that we all are responsible for our future, we won’t have one.  America, the land of the slacker.

Mountain Grapes

Don’t tell me we don’t get winter up here or that these are not “Mountain Grapes”.  This is this morning (3/31/2010) and about 4″ of new snow.  Power is out and I am using my new generator I got when I hurt my knee (ruptured patella tendon) in the vineyard.  Nice to have power even if PG&E doesn’t have any.  I will get back to political ranting shortly.

3/31/2010 - Snow on the Vines (again).

Monotheism Begets Terrorism

I wondered if it ever occurred to anyone that monotheism, the belief in the one true god, was the path to cruelty, murder, and mayhem?  Oh, I know, Jesus preached love thy neighbor, but if you have really read the bible, all kinds of mayhem goes on in the name of or at the request of God, and let’s not forget that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet promising a reckoning in his time.  Today he would be just one more nutcase in cameo.  What brings this to my mind is two unrelated events, the arrest of the nine Christian militia members in Michigan and the Sci-Fi Channels Caprica.

In the futuristic (is it, it could be in our past?) Caprica, the society is polytheist, but the people seem lost.  Whom to follow, whom to believe?  Then along comes the society of the one true God.  You don’t have to be confused anymore, as he/she will show you the way.  Of course the one true God is all powerful and knowledgeable, so check your brains at the door and just follow his chosen prophets.  And then let the terrorism begin all in the name of the one true God as we protect our belief from “evil”.  When they had competing gods, one had to try to sort out who was right and who was wrong, but with one true God, the path is clear, or at least it is a one-way street.

Now we would like to say that Muslim extremism and the resulting terrorism is just an aberration of their true core beliefs, but actually it is simply an extension of them.  Let’s face it, Muhammad was the leader of a bunch of thieves and cutthroats who made their living stealing from others, but once you have god on your side, then it is a righteous endeavor.  But we are seeing our own homegrown bunch of religious nuts in the religious militia groups that are quite common now.  It is the same logical extension of religion.  If you believe in the one true god, you are his chosen people, and there is going to be a reckoning, well then anything is justifiable.

I am sure we would all like to make the logical leap that these extremist Christian militia members are just some isolated nut group.   But they are not. They are simply a logical extension of their religious beliefs and points out what we so like to ignore about religion, the danger it poses through irrational thought.  If you are like me you look at most religious people as nut groups.  The whole belief system is full of holes and illogical beliefs that do not stand the test of reality.  Mainstream Catholicism is being challenged because their infallible Pope abetted child molesters.  Maybe the whole infallible leader is just hooey.  You think?  I could not even start with the Mormon faith since it is so chuck full of absolute fantasies to justify sex with minors.  One could go on and on, but the point here is that if you can suspend your disbelief here, then it is one very slippery slope to the anti-Christ and defending the one true religion from evil.  All of a sudden we are all created not so equal and let man’s inhumanity to man begin.

People are an interesting animal.  We need to know why, ergo, God.  We are one of the few creatures who is aware of and can contemplate our demise.  So then the obvious question is why.  For many people, “because” is just not good enough.  So there must be a plan, and there must be a part for them in that plan, and then it is all worthwhile.  Bad things happen, but it can’t just be chaos, it must be part of the plan.  Further unlike the other animals we have this ego thing that says we must be important, ergo, we are an important part of the plan.  So if there is a plan, there must be a planner and because we need to feel like we are not adrift, he has taken us into his plan.

Here my friends is the basis of all religion and our need to believe in it.  And here also is the root of all evil, in that there is a planner that is infallible otherwise why would I put my trust in him.  Then comes the truly evil variations:  Some people are not part of the plan.  Some people believe in other gods and they cannot be tolerated.  There is only one path to enlightenment.  And the inhumanity to man begins.  It is subtle.  Gays are evil.  Women should be obedient and second-class citizens.  We are a Christian nation.  I am a good Christian as though you can only be truly good if you are a Christian.  History should only be told through our religious interpretation.  Only men can be prophets. There is evil all around us.  Get out the guns and defend the righteous.  It is truly a slippery slope.

People need religion because they don’t want to feel alone.  They need to feel that in this turbulent world, there is meaning and they have a role in that meaning.  But suspending their disbelief to accept dogma that leads down a path to evil and inhumanity is a poor bargain.  I am sorry, but religion is mostly nonsense.  There is another path through rational thought, moral and ethical philosophy, even spirituality and a belief in each other and our common humanity.  It is too bad most people need some fairy godfather to get there because with that belief comes the evil that is part of the human experience.  Without an all powerful and knowing God, there is nobody to give us the permission to be cruel to our fellow man.  Then who could we blame for our inhumanity?  I wonder when we will ever grow up?

The Sad Demise of a Once Honorable Man

Food for thought for the weekend:  I watched the spectacle of Sarah Palin at John McCain’s rally for his re-election today.  It was oh so sad.  Here was a man that once upon a time garnered respect from many people in this country regardless of political party.  Here was a man that once was seen as a maverick that would do what was right regardless of the political consequences.  And today he was pandering to the extreme right. All the things he stood for are sold out to extremist votes. He  said that his party would not be the party of no, but hell no.  Then he scoffed at the threats and acts of violence and could see no fault in the Republican Party or their demagoguery.  Once he seemed so large and now he seems so old and small.  It is a lesson for all of us about what some will sell for power.  The sad thing is, he sold what made him who he was.  Now he is just another bitter old fool.  It is so sad.

Vine/Wine Friday

Upper Vineyard Syrah, Long Pruned, and the Effects of Spraying Out the Rows

Vine: Well an interesting week in the vineyard.  I finished the spraying of the rows.  The picture on the left shows the “long pruning” with the pruning debris cleaned up (removed to the bottom of my hill for burning).  Long pruning just means cutting the shoots down to about 8″ to 10″.  This is going to be a late year and once the cover crop (grass and clover) get to a certain height, it is very hard to rake the stuff up and remove it, hence long pruning to get a head start.  Eventually (in a couple of weeks) when the buds just start to break pushing out new leaves, we will final prune to two buds.  More on that when we do it so I can show you the pruning techniques we use up here.  I have to tell you that I over did it this last week.  I had no idea how much my injury from last year would effect me and my ability to work in vineyard and it was major.  I would get done spraying and drag myself into the house and my legs would just be dead.  One evening I was siting in my favorite chair and when I got up my legs just buckled.  It is going to take some time to get full strength back, but I have help so this year will get done.  The second picture shows the spraying effect in the lower vineyard under the Mourvedre and Grenache which is not yet taken full effect.  Yes, I moved every shoot before I sprayed and if there was any over spray that got on a shoot, I cut it off.  It is suppose to rain and maybe a little snow next week so I will try (with help) to get all the lower vineyard Syrah long pruned and out of the vineyard.  Then all that will be left is the Mourvedre and Grenache pruning debris when we finally prune that.

Lower Vineyard Grenache Showing Initial Effects of Spraying Out the Rows, Awaiting Pruning

Wine: Well, last week we threw a party for a few of our friends who we were in debt to for their hospitality.  One was my favorite French Chef and his wife who have served some of the finest meals I have ever had, so I wanted this to be good.  I had two legs of lamb, grass fed that I was going to cook on the grill.  We usually marinate them overnight in olive oil, red wine, lots of garlic and rosemary.  I have found the best way to cook them is to get a pile of coals in one end of the grill and let the smoke and heat be drawn across the grill with the meat not over the coals.  It takes about two hours and gives you lots of time to socialize.  For hors d’oeuvres there was a nice dried cheese (blue moon), sausages, tapenade, and stuffed mushrooms.  The stuffed mushrooms I prepared earlier in the day so all you had to do was pop them in the oven.  It was button mushrooms stuffed with a mix of hot Italian sausage cooked with shallots and garlic and the stems diced up and reduced in white wine and then added to Parmesan cheese and cream cheese.  Dinner was first a spinach salad with fresh tangerines, olive bread, and then the main course, sliced leg of lamb, roasted red potatoes, and sauteed green beans (boiled for about 5 minutes to make them tender, but still crisp)  with shallots, garlic, and zest of lemon.  Dessert was sliced strawberries on vanilla coconut milk ice cream.  We went through 10 bottles of wine, from a wonderful pinot, to a Chateauneuf de Pape from 1996 that Christian brought.  It was a lovely evening.  Tomorrow it is off to San Francisco for the Rhone Rangers tasting on Sunday to see what the Rhone growers and vintners have done this last year.  Carpe Diem

Republican Denial

David Frum was forced out of the American Enterprise Institute yesterday for speaking truth to power. David is a conservative whom I heartily disagree with most of the time, but he made rational arguments that brought balance to our national dialogue as opposed to the hysteria and lies which are now in vogue from the Republican Party. His offending truths were that the Republicans may have met their own Waterloo with their just say no strategy to the health care reform bill and more poignantly, that we used to think Fox News worked for us, and now we work for Fox News. He was trying to wake the Republican Party up to the failure and danger of their extremism. What he got for it was the heave hoe. My guess is that this will help his career as a more moderate spokesperson for conservative ideology.  Well he won’t be moderate in my eyes, but at least he won’t be screaming death panels and Armageddon in order to pander to the fat white racists out there known as the Tea Party.

I am Sorry, But…..

Ask any woman if a man apologizes with a, “I am sorry, but…” and she will tell you that that was no apology. Well watch the Republicans say that violence is bad, but…., and you understand how far they need to go before they even begin to understand how they have damaged and continue to damaged this country.

A Tip for the Media

I watched Contessa Brewer and then Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC interview Republicans on the violence issue and they got buried in talking points about what is wrong with the health care reform bill, mostly false.  So here is a tip for the media if they are ever going to do their jobs.  Have a team, after the first interview, fact check the talking points so that when the second Republican tries to bury the talking heads with the same talking points they can respond back with the facts instead of just lending them their megaphone.  It might just educate the viewer.  Would that be too much to ask of “News”?

The Party of the Status Quo

I wonder what people are thinking when they support Republicans.  Do they like the economic mess we are in?  Do they like the party that says they will fight any attempt at financial regulation?  Do they think that the path the United States is on is sustainable?  Do they think the world stands still?  More importantly please lay out for me what the Republican plan is for all our problems and ills.  Do they have one, and more importantly, does it stand the test of credibility?

What I see from the Republicans is the party that protects the status quo.  They think the system is fine and those that have their piece of the pie are going to be protected.  Now this is part of the conservative philosophy that in the past was not all bad.  Making large changes in anything was risky and a conservative wisely wanted to move slowly to prevent unintended consequences.  But the conservatives of today think glaciers are moving at lightning speed and want no change in anything.  They have become the protectors of the status quo.  With the world evolving around us, we may become extinct if we don’t evolve with it.

I know something about change, as I watched moribund institutions try to reinvent themselves in a more vibrant model to address the changing world around them.  In my case I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers that was trying to implement a professional project management approach to design and construction instead of the age old stove pipe way of doing business.  To make a long story short, the people in charge, who had the power, fought the change every step of the way because they perceived that a new way of doing business was also a realignment of power within the organization.  They were right, but in fighting change they were just holding back their own organization to protect their own piece of the pie.  That same lesson applies directly to our country. If we pass a carbon tax that changes the market place to favor green energy to reduce our carbon footprint and to reduce our flow of income to the Middle East, the oil and gas industries feel threatened.  And who do you suppose represents most of these interests in Congress?

If you pass financial regulations that limit the risk banks can expose themselves to, then you are overturning the bankers money cart and once again who do you think represents these interests in Congress?  When, as in the health bill, you actually manage to make change in a moribund system, what is the cry you hear from Republicans?  State’s Rights.  Just like back in the days when civil rights was on the march, the Republicans were claiming State’s Rights to try to prevent any change.  Bottom line here is that they are protecting the existing power centers (power=money), by preventing any change.

You take any issue and you will find the Republicans have only one answer:  Lower taxes, smaller government.  Sadly many Republican supporters don’t understand that this is just protecting the rich and further disadvantaging the middle class and poor.  I listened to a small business owner say she didn’t know if health care would help, but less government would.  Oh really?  Let’s do away with the small business administration and all the loans it provides you, or the protection the government provides you from larger business that could undercut your prices and your competition.  Let’s do away with all the ways the government subsidizes your business that you take for granted. If you look at almost all of their rhetoric, it is about really changing nothing and blaming the victims for their problems.  “Get a job and then you would have health care”, was one refrain I heard over and over.  Now they want to repeal health care reform instead of waiting to see if it would actually help.  This is the epitome of stifling any change.  The world around us is changing at lightning speed and so far the only answer the Republicans have for us is to try to return us to a past we can never get to. Sadly today there was even more evidence of their inability to adjust to change.  They are trying to shut down the government by stopping all committee meetings after 2 pm.  It is just a childish reaction to not getting their way.

Worse, confronted by the violence they have instigated in some of their more demented followers, they blame the other side for the violence because the majority did not do what the minority demanded.  Once again they are blaming the victim.  The latest is from Eric Cantor who claims the Democrats are politicizing the threats of violence.  Just let the police handle it.  Sure the perpetrators of these acts should be prosecuted, but so should the instigators.  That would be the Republicans who have egged on these demented folks.  There is no hope for the Republican Party and if you want to bring them back into power get ready for more sliding into the abyss.