Archive for March 2011

Fat People Got No Reason

Disclosure:  I may harbor prejudice against fat people.  I know them well.  I am/was one depending on the time of year.

Sorry Randy Newman.There was a troubling article in the NYT called, Fat Stigma Spreads Around the Globe. Now the gist of the article was that, and to quote from  Tara Parker-Hope’s article:

“Of all the things we could be exporting to help people around the world, really negative body image and low self-esteem are not what we hope is going out with public health messaging,”

“The findings were troubling, suggesting that negative perceptions about people who are overweight may soon become the cultural norm in some countries, including places where plumper, larger bodies traditionally have been viewed as attractive, according to a new report in the journal Current Anthropology.”

Hmmm.  This bad feeling is being exacerbated by all the attempts to get people to eat healthier and live healthier life styles (read exercise).  Is this just politically correct thinking?  Why shouldn’t you resent the person who is flowing over into your seat on the bus or airplane?  They are taking up their space and yours.  Flapping extra flesh is just not attractive.  What went through my mind as I read this was, is there any evidence for health benefits for any particular segment of our society for being obese (weight is 20% more than their normal body weight)?  The article, sadly, did not address this.

Are Samoans healthier because they pack on the weight?  Are Eskimos healthier in their climate because they are fat?  Note in the article in the case of Samoan women who are well educated, the preference is for “slimmer silhouettes”.  Are there people who just can’t lose weight and that is their normal state?  Are fat kids better off by not being made fun of than losing weight?  Since I have no data, I am going to take a leap here.  The answer, except in very few exceptions, is no.

My guess is they die younger, suffer from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other weight related health problems. Maybe when we all ate natural foods in the wild, extra poundage was a benefit, but most of it today comes from highly processed food, and that we know is not healthy.  As for not being able to lose weight, I never saw one overweight person in the death camps from WWII.  Not exactly a healthy way to lose weight, but demonstrates that calories in count.  My own anecdotal experience, which means nothing in the vast human spectrum, is that when I lose weight, my blood pressure drops, as does my cholesterol, to healthy ranges, and I feel like I am 10 years younger with lots of energy.  This is bad?

Well it might be for the markets.  Let’s assume that all fat people began healthy life styles.  Who would eat the Coco Puffs?  Say goodbye to the Colonel (Sanders).  Pizza would take a hit, not to mention most fast food hamburger joints.  Big and Tall would loose about 3/4 of their customers.  And what about all those medical supply stores that sell back supports for people whose back problems result from supporting an ample stomach?  And just what would they do with all that corn syrup?  Of course investing in a gym might be a wise investment and if we cut our calories in half there would be more for the rest of the world and food prices might drop.

So my bottom line is this may not be a bad thing as the world perceives fat people negatively.  Maybe it is a normal social adjustment to our new (last 100 years) eating styles and the effect on our health and welfare.  Maybe it is societies way of getting back in balance to maintain the species.  My Dad always said, “Do you eat to live, or live to eat.”  Well it depends….

 

 

Presidential Misdirection

Well once again our President called for an energy policy, but no specifics. That’s like calling for more motherhood and apple pie. But worse he indicated a goal of reducing our use of foreign oil down to 30%, but then his plan did not make any sense. He is issuing permits to start drilling in the Gulf again and just where does he think that oil goes? To the world market and then we buy it. The problem is that demand is increasing (China, India, and other developing countries) so pumping more will not solve those problems. If he doesn’t get it, then we really are in trouble.

Of course he is not as misinformed as Eric Cantor, Republican House Majority Leader.  He actually made a statement demonstrating his total lack of understanding about how a bill becomes law.  He said in a News Conference that if the Senate won’t negotiate on the budget, then their House Bill HR1, with draconian cuts, will become law.  No Eric, both house of Congress must approve it.

Does it scare you that on both sides of the aisle (or maybe isle since Washington seems to have facts that are all their own) they don’t seem to understand the facts?  We are not electing the sharpest tools in the shed and it is no wonder things are so screwed up.

A Nation and Its People Who Has Lost Their Way

Oh we have so lost our way.  We have become small, think little thoughts, fearful, hording what we have at the expense of others, and failing to invest in our future.  It is all so counterproductive and mindless, yet we ignore the very facts in front of us.  How can we be in such denial?  Here are some examples:

  • We faced a financial meltdown due to policies of no regulation and greed.  We instituted the TARP bill to revive our banking system and then failed totally to reorganize this system to prevent “too big to fail”.  Banks are not lending, they are making higher profits than ever, they have restored their “bonus” system, have not tried to help the mortgage crisis, and as noted, have become even bigger.  See Where the Bailout Went Wrong by Neil M. Barofsky, who was the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program from 2008 until today.  And we do nothing.
  • We lived through this financial meltdown during a Republican era of no regulation and relentless cutting of taxes for the wealthy and corporations that emptied our Treasury.  Then two years later we put the same fools back in office, only more radical.  They claim that our corporate tax rate is too high at 35%, but fail to mention that two-thirds of large corporations in the United States pay no taxes.  GE, the largest, not only did not pay taxes in 2009 on record profits (we don’t have the 2010 data yet), but got a $3 billion tax rebate.  And we do nothing.
  • We are watching as world oil prices go up affecting all of us and further hurting our nascent economic recovery (if there is one), and we have no energy policy.  We are horrified at the disaster in Fukushima, yet we fail to compare the threat of nuclear power to our primary source of power, coal, that shortens the lives of over 14,000 people each year, and that does not include black lung disease and mining disasters.  Dylan Ratigan, a journalist for MSNBC is the only one honestly looking at this issue (Is Coal Still Good for America).  And we do nothing.
  • We are horrified that our schools are falling behind the rest of the world’s schools, especially in math and science, yet we are in the biggest layoff and cutting of education this country has ever seen.  Once again the morons from the Republican party have held sway in our state governments and they are wiping out our education system.  Kids going to college are now taking on the largest debt load in our history to pay for their education with no promise of jobs because we refuse to invest in our future.  And we do nothing.
  • We have seen the largest transfer of wealth in our history to the top 2% of our country, with a declining ability of the middle class to have the buying power to sustain a recovery, and we think further cuts and the private sector is somehow going to save us?  Let’s kill the rights of the middle class through the destruction of unions and collective bargaining so they will never have a living wage.  We have Democrats letting the Republicans set the agenda and the debate in Congress and in our state governments, and it is all about cuts, cuts, cuts.  Nowhere is there a discussion about how the failure of investing in our future is what will build our economy and help payoff the deficit.  What we are doing right now is emptying our Treasury and making our economy smaller so the deficit will only get worse and our infrastructure will crumble.  And we do nothing.

How is this possible?  Why did not anyone in the mainstream foresee ENRON, the Libby Mine disaster,  the financial meltdown and the mortgage crisis, the Challenger disaster, the failures at Fukushima, the explosion and blowout of BP’s oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the disaster during Katrina, the sex abuse in the Catholic Church, the lies behind the WMD in Iraq, and how cutting is going to solve our systemic problems?  The answer is that there are people who raise the appropriate alarms, and they get slapped down and ignored.  Margaret Heffernan, in a most important and relevant book, Willful Blindness:  Why we Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, calls them Casandra’s.  In Greek mythology, Casandra was a daughter of Priam, the king of Troy, endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated by Apollo never to be believed.

This book, which I think is one of the most important and revealing books of our times, tells us why we are failing to deal with reality.  It starts with the troubling insight into how incest happens and is not acknowledged or recognized by those so close to it until after it is exposed.  It then goes on to examine why in all the events listed above, some people saw the problems, raised the alarms, and in many cases were ignored, and why the majority ignored them.

My point is that America is on a mindless path, raping and pillaging our government, and we need to wake up soon before we destroy America.  But I fear I am also a Casanadra.  I can see it.  I can point it out, but no one is listening.  Or as my good friend, Will Shakespeare penned in King Lear:

King Lear:  Kent, on thy life, no more

Kent:  My life I never held but as a pawn to wage against thine enemies; not fear to lose it.  Thy safety being motive.

King Lear:  Out of my sight!

Kent:  See better, Lear!

I fear I am a Kent, beseeching America to wake up to their blind path of destruction, to “see better”, and America continues to push me out of its sight as it continues down its road to destruction just as Leer did.  Shakespeare pretty much covered everything.

Note:  This wonderful quote I found in Margaret Heffernan’s amazing and well researched book.  Read it at your own peril and then I challenge you to look in the mirror.

Say What? Wall Street will decide our Energy Future?

I was watching MSNBC and they were discussing the future of nuclear power, once again without a cost/benefit analysis of other sources of power, and the claim was made that there was no future because Wall Street would not lend the capital to build the new generation of reactors.

I find this highly interesting and once again mindless. Somehow the great Wall Street that never saw the financial crisis coming is now the great arbitrator of the future. These people think in a rut and short term. Whether the next generation of nuclear power outweighs the risks needs a rational hearing, but depending on Wall Street to plan our future is a guaranteed way to fail.

One other thought about the big bad government.  It is becoming more and more apparent that some of the problems at Fukushima were due to short cuts and worrying about the bottom line instead of doing what was right.  But we don’t need no stinking regulators and government oversight because the profit motive is always the best motivator, right?

Libya Part II

I listened to the President’s speech last night on Libya and I have several thoughts.  First the second guessing and criticism that for the most part has been, as I described before, small, bordering on micromanagement, and politically motivated.  In a word, inane.  If you take the Republican criticism, they were for it before they were against it.  Maybe they think we are so dumb we don’t watch the video tape of them calling for action and then whining about the action taken.  Then there are the endless pundits who are micromanaging the effort.  What all of this criticism has in common is what has become the linchpin of Americanism:  Take no risks.  Be afraid to be bold.

If you listen to many Americans what you hear is that they want to be independent, but when shit happens, they want the government to step in and make the world safe.  It’s the same phenomenon here.  We don’t want to take any risks whatsoever.  No pain, no gain?  But the world is a risky place and no matter how much you try to ameliorate risks, you still have to take risks if you want to move forward.  We have no idea how events in Libya will play out, so it is a big risk (or is it?) to support the rebels and defend their aspirations for more freedom.  But failing to be bold in the face of opportunities is the very definition of failure.

Then there are the criticisms that give me pause.  Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul come to mind.  They feel that the President has exceeded his War Powers authority and is setting a dangerous precedent for using our armed forces without the consent of Congress.  Clearly he is walking a fine line.  But here I look at our moribund Congress and think that if we even limit minor policing actions to Congressional approval, nothing will ever happen.  At this juncture they are worse than how the Republicans like to characterize the UN.  As noted, the Republicans are not interested in doing the right thing for the country, only bringing down the President.  With this kind of opposition and the micromanaging of the press and other Congressmen/Women, we would have no ability to respond to anything.  There has to be some flexibility for the President to act when circumstances present opportunities.

I think the President laid out a good argument why Libya.  Because it is consistent with our values, there was a world coalition, and we could.  Is it in our national interests?  The President made the argument that had Gadhafi been successful, there would have been mass murder, and destabilizing refugees in both Tunisia and Egypt, destabilizing their fledgling reform movements.

But there is a more strategic interest that President Obama did not touch on directly.  Change is happening in the Middle East.  It will probably be a long bloody road with many hills and valleys.  But it is inevitable.  So which side of history do you want to be on?  Do you want the tyrants of these countries as cheer leaders for the U.S., or the people of these countries?  Think Al Qaeda. One reason they hate us is because we have propped up their countries corrupt leaders.   Sure it is a risk.  There is no guarantee that the rebels will succeed, or if they do, another tribe leader will not just simply take power and crack down.  But we tried.  And that will be remember throughout the Arab world.

So in my mind there really is little risk.  We are using our power to give people a chance.  What better use is there for it?  We won’t fight their battles for them other than level the playing field.  It will be up to them and that in itself is worth taking this risk.  For once, “where we could” we have stood up for what we believe.  It will pay large dividends in the future whether Libya succeeds or not.  And most importantly, it sends a powerful message to leaders in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.  They are on the wrong side of history and the world community is watching.

If only our President could stand up for basic values at home, we would be on a roll.

Republican Tyranny

It is becoming more and more evident that the “defenders of the Constitution” and “real Americans” hate democracy and will do what they can to not honor their side of the bargain in majority rule.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Here in California, our Governor, Jerry Brown, is wrestling with how to close the budget gap.  He has already made massive cuts to education and services which next year will really take effect, and you can almost here the squealing from the voters who had no idea. But that is only half the battle.  Now he wants to raise some taxes (really continue some sales taxes that are about to expire), and the Republicans (hear them squeal?) want to prevent a ballot measure to let the voters decide.  Their ideology trumps democracy. They are only interested in the democratic process if it favors their stupid dogma.
  2. Once again here in California, in order to take the politics out of redistricting (and the Republicans heartily supported it because California always has a Democratic majority in the legislature), a 14-member citizens panel was created by ballot initiative.  Now the Republicans are alleging bias from the firm that was hired (competitive bidding) to come up with the selection process for citizen members of the panel.  It just goes on and on.  If its fair, the state is going to start leaning away from failed Republican politics.  Let the squealing begin. This minority is controlling our fate because of the super majority requirement for budget resolution.  It was the dumbest thing Californians every agreed to.
  3. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his op-ed piece this Monday morning in the NYT (American Thought Police), the Republicans try to extinguish any discourse that does not view them favorably.  “The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear.” They really don’t like free speech unless it allows them to spew false claims without the fear of criticism and fact checking.  Let us not forget how they have tried to censor the science on global warming.
  4. Apparently government is not the problem when it comes to inserting it into your free choice if it does not agree with their religious values.  Make no mistake, the Republican Party is conservative Christian.  Hence the attack on abortion rights, gays, Muslims, etc.  Have no illusions here.  They are not interested in diversity or tolerance, and unless tolerance is defined as their narrow view of social issues they will legislate your free will away.
  5. Then there is the Republican hold on nominations and the abuse of the filibuster in the Senate to block anything and everything.  While the pundits like to say the Democrats had control of both houses, the truth is that the agenda was totally controlled by the minority Republicans in the Senate who set the agenda.  Shortly we will see a shut down of government as the Republican present their demands which will truly dismantle America.  They have no interest in compromise unless the compromise gives them totally what they want.

So there it is.  The Republicans in deeds and actions have shown us who they are.  They are not interested in the will of the people, the implicit contract of majority rules in democracy, free speech if it counters their beliefs, small government because it takes big government to enforce their conservative Christian views, tolerance, compromise, or the Constitution and the operation of our government.  They are only interested in the tyranny of their ideas and if those ideas are left unchallenged, they will dismantle America.  If you have a friend who is a Republican, don’t let him vote without pointing out how his vote is helping dismantle America.

Who Said it Last Best

Today is Bob Herbert’s last column in the New York Times.  I am deeply saddened since he was one of the few voices of reason left in America fighting for the common man.  Of course those of us who still use our brains for anything other than clinging to old ideas that have utterly failed us are probably the only ones who read him, so it is like singing to the choir.  I think what really tells you everything you need to know about America and the depths of its stupidity is looking at the Republican crop of Presidential hopefuls and who they are pandering to.  If you are pandering to the know-nothings with failed ideas about dismantling our country, ideas that make us worse than a Banana Republic, we know your leadership skills are non-existent.  To think people really listen to Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, or the pandering of Mitt Romney is just incomprehensible to those who actually think.

But enough of my blathering.  Here are some exerts of the obvious truths in Bob’s last column.  The whole thing can be read at Losing Our Way:

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.”

I am sorry, but you have to be a moron to tolerate most of the Republican nonsense today.  It’s selfish small thinking and apparently we are becoming just that.  Sadly our President and many Democrats have bought into this rubbish as they look at ways to slash and burn (“lite”) instead of investing in tomorrow.  But we still have Paul Krugman, but even then I fear that only the faithful are paying attention.

 

Ashland Day Two – Ashland Restored

The theater complex from the entrance to Lithia Park

Day two in Ashland started off ominously with clouds and rain threatening and turned sunny.  So did the rest of the day.  The agenda was to drive to a local market (Market Choice), that rivals Whole Foods, and get a couple of great muffins, incidentals and wine.  This place has a great wine section at great prices.  I was looking for some excellent Oregon pinots and was not disappointed.  Then shopping to get my guitar, lunch, then the play, Measure for Measure, in the afternoon, and then dinner at Amuse.  As you will remember that yesterday ended after only a good play and no wine, so I wasn’t about to get caught without rations.

First the guitar buying experience.  I had a guitar and I was a least beyond beginner when I gave it to my son when he went to college since I was ignoring it.  May it rest in peace.  So now I am retired and I have many quality hours in front of me sitting on my front porch, and reading with these old eyes is getting harder late in the day, not to mention listening to news drives me crazy.  So I thought why not spend you time learning a few blues licks?  Goes really good with a complex Syrah.  So I am in the hunt for a good guitar..

There is a music store in Ashland called Cripple Creek Music.  So I went in there and spilled my guts.  I am old, can’t play a lick any more but want to start up again, what would you recommend?  Now you have to understand Ashland.  Almost everyone here can sing, dance, and play a musical instrument.  Mark, my tour guide (and a damn good one), took me on a tour of guitars in my price range (think a stimulus package large enough to really help the economy).  The man could play a few licks and we narrowed it down to three guitars.  Then I asked him what he would take and he gave me the musician’s answer, which sounds best to you.  I had him play the same lick on all three and made my choice.  He wanted to get me into local groups (you only need to know three cords and you don’t lie).  Sadly I could not do that from Camino, but it was a wonderful experience and I have a wonderful guitar.

I won’t bore you with lunch other than it was at Lark in Ashland Springs Hotel (used to be Mark Anthony) and it was wonderful.  I intend to really bore you about dinner.  What I really want to talk about is the play, the reason we came here.  In a word, fabulous.  Now you need to understand some things about this play.  First it is one of Shakespeare’s problem plays.  “The problem plays are characterized by their complex and ambiguous tone.”  You know, the real human condition.  In Measure for Measure, the problem is justice and how it is achieved.  The phrase measure for measure comes from the Bible and was really a way to limit retribution.  You know, lets not take out a whole village because one person from that village committed some crime.  Eye for an eye so to speak.  But we actually believe in this in terms of a “a government of laws, not men”, yet as Shakespeare points out in this play, a strict application of the law doesn’t bring us justice, just the allusion of it.  Further this play is about virtue, and when does virtue become vice (Isabella comes to mind) and the corruption of power “(This well seeming Angelo”).  Everything we know as good is really a double edged sword.

Ashland Theater Complex. Elizbethan (outdoor) on left and Angus Bowmer on right, Greens stage in the foreground.

Okay it is a complex play buried in the prose and blank verse of 16th century English society.  So how to make it both relevant and understandable in the 21st century and celebrate the genius of Shakespeare (the goal of the Oregon Shakespeare Theater in Ashland). Well it was already relevant, but how to make it understandable and yet celebrate the wonderful music of Shakespeare prose.  The answer was enter the creative genius of this wonderful directing and acting community here in Ashland and why I keep coming up here now for 22 years..

When plays are done in the Angus Bowmer Theater, they are done in non-traditional venues.  In this case Measure for Measure was done modern/Hispanic.  It was muscial, funny, bawdy, relevant, and done with in Spanish flair.  The three Hispanic musicians, played violin, guitar, and base guitar and their flair accented the play.  All of the actors were wonderfully cast and played their roles with flair and excitement.  It was a stunning surprise and the audience, including myself ate it up.  The play left you with many  questions swirling in your head about virtue, vice, power, justice, but also left you surfeit and happy with the quality of the play.  It is why I come to Ashland.

After the play, we went for a little snack at Chateaulin (little French bistro) of wine and cheese, where we engaged our fellow imbibers in their thoughts on the play.  Dinner that evening was at Amuse, another great little French restaurant where I had a bottle of Chateauneuf de Pape and a game hen cooked in truffles.  All’s well that ends well in Ashland.  I am sad to leave this morning.

 

Ashland and the Economy

Our hotel in Ashland. Just a block from the theaters.

Arrived in Ashland (Oregon) yesterday afternoon after a delightful drive up the valley (340 miles) from Camino (Sacramento).  Its was delightful because there was a break in the storms and I had a wonderful book on tape to listen to instead of news of the same old thing over and over again.  The book was so good, I am looking forward to the trip home just to finish it (Firewall by Henning Mankell (Kurt Wallander Mystery)).

If you have never driven this route, the valley can be dreary (kind of like I-5 to LA), except this time of year everything is green and all the fruit trees are blossoming.  Then you hit Redding and you start the climb over magnificent mountains until you reach Mount Shasta.  Then you hit an almost arid desert stretch at 3000′ until you reach Yreka, the last town in California on this route.  Perchance, we decided to stop in Yreka at the local Raley’s because they always have Pete’s coffee.  Now for those of you not of Northern California blood, Raley’s is a local grocery store that actually started in Placerville and then branched out, upgrading to try to compete with the high end groceries like Whole Foods.

So we pull into this little town of Yreka and their Raley’s and it made the store in Placerville (which is a bigger town) look small.  The other observation was that everyone was so damn polite.  I mean nice.  This was a store where the clerks stocking the shelves did not try to run over you like you were an ugly bug in their way, and instead stopped to get out of your way or offer help.  No, this wasn’t just a single clerk, this was store wide.  It must be the little town of Yreka because people didn’t even glare at you when you used the cross walk.  Definitely going to stop there on the way home and get breakfast in their deli.

Downtown Ashland, the Asland Springs Hotel on left, looking North twoard the theaters

Sorry, I got sidetracked.  Anyway, when we arrived and after we checked in (Plaza Inn & Suites, which I highly recommend and is in easy walking distance from the town and the theaters), we perused the stores and restaurants on main street to see what had changed.  Most of the familiar places were still here, but it was obvious things were tight.  Probably the real indication of that was after the play that evening (more on that below).  Our favorite habits is to go to Chateaulin ( a little French Restaurant) and have a glass of wine or two, maybe a cheese and bread plate, and discuss the play, because there are always questions.  It was closed.  Maybe it is always closed on Tuesdays, but with a sellout theater, you would think there was money to be made.  The other indication was that I stopped at the local wine store to pick up a nice bottle of Oregon Pinot just before 5 pm and it was closed.  Nobody buying wine?  This really is a bad economy.

Okay, on to the play.  The first one we saw last night was “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  It is a sold out performance most of the year, but because I am a member up here, I had great seats (3 rows from the stage, center).  Both my wife and I had our doubts about them doing this play because the book is so powerful and would be hard to translate to the stage, and the movie with Gregory Peck set an extremely high bar.  Our expectations were accurate.  The play was good, but not great.  Except for Aticus Finch and his daughter Scout, the cast seem to lack the intensity that I have seen before in so many plays up here.

I felt like I was watching a Cliff Notes version of the rich and powerful book.  I guess if you had never seen it before, it would be powerful, but given the wonderful book, it was a let down.  There were many young teenagers (school groups) in the audience and I hope this is not what they do instead of reading the book.  If this is all they remember of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, then we really are dumbing them down.  The other thing I find about great plays, books, movies, is that I am always left with questions afterward, hence the several glasses of wine to think and discuss these troubling quirks of the human condition.  In this case nothing new was added.  I enjoyed it, but it left me without those great questions bubbling about in my brain.

Today, we will explore more of Ashland, I will probably buy a guitar (don’t ask, somebody has to stimulate the economy), and then we will see a matinee performance of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”.  I am looking forward to this and have done my homework which if you are an engineering type requires reading a plot synopsis, Isaac Asimov’s summary of the history and meaning of the play, and several critical analyses of the play.  That way you can have some insight into the language and poetry of the play and watch to see if the actors can bring it to life.  16th Century blank verse and prose takes some getting use to, but once you get it, the beauty of the language and its meaning unfolds in front of you.  It is nice to have an ex-English teacher as your girl friend, pal, and lover (not to mention wife), to help you through it.  So on to the play, then dinner at Amuse.

 

Libya and Nuclear Power

So is Libya a good idea?  I haven’t a clue.  There is a ton of criticism out there and most of it is inane.  In this one President Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t if you listen to the criticism.  The stated purpose of this action is to prevent a genocide.  Well what about Somalia?  There have been many genocides in the last 50 years (should we forget Cambodia?) and we took no action.  So one good questions being thrown around is what is the criteria for entering into and stopping a potential genocide?  Lots of oil and the people who aren’t black?  I’m sorry.  I’m being cynical.

I guess my initial impulse is that we should do something about a madman like Qaddafi and his potential attempt to massacre his people.  With the world community condemning him and joining in, maybe this is the way to go for the future.  Once we have stopped his onslaught, I am not sure what comes next.  The real problem is that there is no real democratic institutions to pick up the pieces and it is hard to see this group of rebels actually establishing one.

This one is very different from Egypt where the government was not propped up by oil revenues.  These oil revenues allow an unpopular leader fund his tyranny and buy off his military.  But at least one could consider this standing up for our beliefs and in the long run, could be crucial to our ability to work with some of these evolving governments.  That will be true if after safely satisfying our goal of separating the parties and restoring the boundaries achieved by the rebels, we then let the Libyans decide where they want to go next.

I guess what bothers me is listening to an attack of 100 tomahawk missiles at $250K a missile.  That money could have been used here to help our own people.  I guess the other thing that bothers me is when the President finally decided to intercede, he went all in.  Why can’t he muster the strength to do that with domestic policies.  Anyway, lets see how this plays out, and see if we actually get a definition of policy that makes sense, and that uphold our stated values.

On nuclear power, the hysteria is running amuck. Either you are terrified of nuclear power or you aren’t, and if you are terrified, rational discussion is not going to have much impact.  I have yet to hear a sane argument against it except be afraid, see what can happen?  The discussion is lacking context.  That context should not be what 40 year old technology can do to us, but should include the following:

  1. What does current and future nuclear technology offer and how do they address the problems we are seeing at Fukushima (Hmmm? Fuk-u-shima?  Should we have anticipated this event?)?
  2. What  is a reasonable risk to design for and what are the worst case outcomes?
  3. How does this compare with the kill and harm rate of burning coal and other fossil fuels (14K/year in early deaths)
  4. Will solar or wind be a realistic option for many parts of our country?  Can they produce enough power to be meaningful?
  5. For other important uses of nuclear energy, electricity production for desalination plants for the ever increasing scarcity of water, and production of hydrogen as a replacement fuel for our vehicles, are there really any other options?

Until we look at all of this and do a full and thoughtful analysis, all the rest is hysterics.  My fear is that the hysterics will kill the debate, and in about 40 years we will be buying safe and small reactors from China or France to power both hydrogen production for our cars and to provide a stable supply of water from the ocean.  Meanwhile the unemployment rate will still be hovering around 10-12%.

Note:  I am off to Ashland, Oregon for a few plays (To Kill a Mockingbird, and Measure for Measure) and hopefully a few days away from the snow.  Maybe I will pick up something to talk about besides politics.  Measure for Measure is an interesting look at law, justice, and the human condition.  But what else would you expect from Shakespeare?