Tuesday, October 30, 2007


October 29th, 2007 New York Times
5:31 am

I sense a longing in Prof. Fish’s current lament about Sinatra and Williams. There is a familiarity inasmsuch as the passage of time for old farts such as us tend to look back and grasp for events early in our lives that shaped and motivated us to become what we have become. As a youngster I skipped school one early spring morning and waited outside the ballpark to obtain the autograph of Al Kaline right out of high school playing his first game as a Detroit Tiger. Kaline served for a long time as a model for me and countless other kids as to how to conduct oneself both on and off athletics fields. What Fish and I long for and lament is the absence of heroes, larger than life examples for the current generation of kids to emulate, heroics unsullied by drug usage. But there is hope. Go Curtis Granderson! Go Manny Ramirez!

— Posted by Tom Bleakley

Monday, October 22, 2007

Desalination and My Grandchildren

I am sitting here at my desk this morning after having read two of the most thought-provoking and disturbing stories in a long time. The topic in both articles was water. According to one story the water level in the Great Lakes is near an all-time low causing such problems as requiring freighters to reduce the size of the cargoes so that they won't run aground. A five year $17 million dollar study to be completed in 2012 will apparently tell us whether this problem is due to nature's cyclical effect or global warming. (A combination of both I would surmise. Where do I send the bill?) The second story was about the looming catastrophe for those (nine states) who are dependent on the Colorado River for their water supply. Farmers, cities, manufacturers and others have apportioned (after much legal wrangling) the current supply among themselves to the last drop. The supply is dwindling, but the need as a result of continued population growth will increase greatly over the next twenty to thirty years. I tried a case in Salt Lake City about ten years back and the federal judge on the case told me during a break that fifty percent of all the litigation heard by federal courts in the western United States involved battles over rights to Colorado River water. That was before the subject of global warming became a topic of dinner table discussion. Common sense and my basic, but inconsiderable math skills, tell me that if the water source that is available now is all there is ever going to be, something must be done to meet the demand. The rest of this diatribe is a message for my grandchildren akin to the advice offered in The Graduate; one word career advice- "Plastics". My career advice is "Desalination". With nearly 70% of the earth's surface taken up by salt water, there has to be a way to economically remove the salt and make the water available to meet the rising demand. Without delving into the topic, I suspect that a method, or methods, have already been devised to do so. I would imagine that a combination of scientific background coupled with the ability to manage people, ideas and negotiate at the national level with an altruistic eye on the ultimate goal to be achieved would be sufficient background for one, or all, of my eight grandchildren to receive the Nobel Prize in 2034.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What Do We Really Know About Our Presidential Candidates?

David Brooks, the conservative op-ed writer for the New York Times, had a piece in the paper today (October 19, 2007) about one of the so-called second tier Republican candidates for the presidency, Mike Huckabee. It was a thoughtful article and caused me to think about the factors that go into our individual and collective choices about who should become the next president of these United States. Question; who really knows anything about the various candidates other than what they, or their campaign insiders want you to know? On both sides of the aisle to this point in the too-long campaign , everyone seems a little plastic, molded into bits and pieces of positions to curry favor with this and that groups. Example, does anyone really think that Romney would be taking the position he now espouses on abortion if it were not for his recognition that he doesn't stand a chance in the Republican primaries without so doing? His lame explanation that his study of stem cell research has caused him to flip flop (my words, not his) on this issue underscores my point. It is a made up reason for a decision that needed to be made for political survival. But that is not what this bit is about. It is about how little we know, really know, about the candidates. In Brooks' column, he tells us something about Huckabee that I find I really like. He is a human being with warm human qualities who apparently has the courage of his convictions in deviating from the party line when his beliefs and opinions don't mesh with traditional Republican thought. To me, Bill Richardson for the Democrats seems to be the same kind of candidate. Bright, articulate, competent and intelligent. Both of these guys; whew, that's a combination that hasn't been seen in Washington the last few years. The media has been thoroughly criticized the last few years for slanting news according to political dictates. In reading about Huckabee, I realize that the criticism is justified when it comes to presenting information about the various presidential candidates. First, the candidates themselves (or their overseers) divulge what little about themselves they want us to know (not, for example the fact that someone wakes up with morning breath. We all do that.), then the reporter/journalist filters that information more and present information about a candidate that is virtually meaningless in terms of who the person really is. Example, there must be hundreds of thousands of articles written about Clinton, but I am still uncertain who she is and what she really stands for. I am not one of the significant percentage of American voters who hate her, but I really want to know her before I can in good conscience vote for her. To me the really one positive thing that can be said about her is that she is definitely not George W. Bush. Is the next president of the United States going to be the person who has a) the most money campaign-wise and b) the most potent aniti-Bush message? Unfortunately, that will probably be the case. I prefer someone with competence and the courage of their convictions, even if I disagree with some of them. Richardson versus Huckabee in the presidential election. Go team!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Time Out for Hate-Filled Rhetoric

Why do people hate Hillary Clinton? Probably no part of my day occupies more meaningless effort than briefly reviewing and deleting hateful, unfunny, demagogic e mails about Hillary Clinton. Her name provokes what is apparently a knee jerk reaction of sarcastic derision toward anything and everything about this person. From what I observe, the hate is rapidly becoming the central rallying cry for presidential hopefuls, if not an outright mandatory precondition of calling oneself a Republican. On rare occasion I will listen to Rush Limbaugh, generally because I am driving a long distance somewhere and his is the only voice on otherwise rap music-dominated radio stations. This occasional exposure gives me, I think, the advantage of a longitudinal overview of what the man is about and it always surprises me to hear a grown man sputter, yes sputter, like an indignant teenage girl about some imagined or overblown event in a truly hateful way. It amazes me that he was able to maintain his bluster throughout the Republican years of power in Washington as though so-called liberals (curiously he never defines the term, but I assume he means someone who disagrees with him on anyone of the many topics he considers himself an expert. I wonder if my disgust at his illegal pill-popping antics maakes me a liberal) were responsible for the failure of the Iraq war, the mountain of deficit that our children and grandchildren face and the approximate deaths of 100,000 from handguns since September 11th. I hear his hate, I feel his hate, and it continues to amaze me that despite all the man's obvious imperfections and shortcomings, his message of hate attracts such a following. The guy is smart, I give him that. It is and remains beyond my comprehension how the Bush and Cheney Republicans can have screwed up so much of what is/was (depends on the meaning of is) America is all about and, yet, Limbaugh can muster enough rage and hate about Democrats to sustain his role as the chief puppeteer of Republican belief and thoughts. Chief among his targets is, of course, Hillary. I notice that somehwere along the way, the pet phrase 'ditto-head' has been dropped by Limbaugh and the flock that follows him, presumably because it was because of the logical inference that many were allowing the man to do their thinking for them. Hate filled messages do injustice to our first amendment rights just as surely as warrantless wiretaps. Of course people are free to believe and say what they believe in. The danger is in accepting such talk as gospel and shutting one's mind, collectively and individually, to others who just might have something positive to add to the mix. Dialogue is what makes this country great. Limbaugh's stock in trade is belittlement, bullying and verbal abuse, and given the sorry state of affairs that Republican dogma coupled by sheer incompetency has caused, it's time to give the lady a break.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Sense of Despair

I am tearfully sad this morning. No my cat or dog did not die. I don't have a cat or dog. I am sad because the great weight of what our country has done to itself over the past few years is becoming painfully obvious. Like an alcoholic in deep denial about a self destructive pattern of behavior, the abandonment of basic principles of human dignity which comprises the very foundation of our way of life coupled with a self-righteous stubborn justification for a cascading series of acts performed in direct contravention of our U.S. Constitution has reached the breaking point. Frank Rich in this morning New York Times painfully points out what has need to have been said for a long time. Our society, our beloved country which so prides itself on its sense of humanity in all things, is behaving currently exactly like the German people during the conduct of World War II. The powers-that-be have seized control and conducted a loathsome operation fueled by fear mongering and secrecy that mocks the rule of law and institutional safeguards that have evolved over more than two hundred years since the founding of our nation. The 'end justifies the means' has replaced our lofty ideals as the apparent standard by which we conduct our affairs of state. Like an alcoholic who blames the wife, work, the boss, anything but himself for creating conditions that cause his problem, it is them (the terrorists) that is the problem and not us. Anyone who dares criticise what is done under the guise of protecting the American public is derided as unpatriotic. Those who by their silence give comfort and support to our leaders are like the German public during the Great War who claimed lack of awareness of what was going on around them. What makes me so sad is the realization that maybe, just maybe, as a people, we are not worthy or capable of accepting the major responsibility our forefathers entrusted to us.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pseudocon versus Neocon

Permit me a short diatribe on the word "neocon". The term is used most often in the context of the underlying philosphy of the current administration. While I am uncertain as to what the term is supposed to imply (enlightenment perhaps) it is clear that the conduct of the "neocons" more closely resembles that of addiction-level gamblers in Vegas casinos. The addiction here is to power and all of the trappings that come with it. Safety now comes before freedom because the stage-managed battle for more and more power requires the continuous sounding of alarms to inculcate fear in the hearts of citizens. (Remember the orange and red alerts which nobody understood of increasing frequency during the last presidential election?) The word "neocon" in the context of the Iraq war serves, perhaps to distinguish "them" versus "us", the enlightened masses who now realize the war as conducted and stage managed by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield is morally wrong. However, this neocon philosophy extends far beyond the war. It extends virtually to all aspects of American life. The sheer hypocrisy of the movement is belied by how they have conducted themselves when coming into power. Consider the small government versus large government issue. Running a bigger government requires more money, and lots of it. The current neocon administration has spent money like drunken sailors and run up a deficit that puts future generations at risk for economic survival. I propose that the label of "neocon" be changed to reflect this false conservative movement. "Pseudocon" more accurately depicts what is really happening.