Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Fine Epitaph

From Jacob Weisberg at Slate:
Once the country is rid of Bush, perhaps we can start developing a more nuanced understanding of how his presidency went astray. His was no ordinary failure, and he leaves not just an unholy mess but also some genuine mysteries.

"Rid of Bush" has such a fine sound to it even if the truth is that his ghastly legacy will remain. America and the world will be awhile cleaning out this "unholy mess."

Good riddance. May fate reward you in proportion to the harm you caused.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

04 January 1972

As the sun rose on the east coast this morning, I returned from Vietnam, landing at Dulles Airport. I had been in transit for about 30 hours, leaving Bien Hoa Air Base around mid evening (local time) on the 2nd and arriving in San Francisco about two hours later (local time) after a 14 to 16 hour flight. By noon on the 3rd, I was discharged from the Army and headed to SFO, still wearing a uniform to qualify for reduced airfare. My flight east wasn't scheduled to late in the evening so I killed time drinking with a guys from my unit who returned on the same Freedom Bird.

By the time I boarded my flight I was pretty spaced out from travel, time change, alcohol and ennui. If I slept at all, it was fitful. I recall spending part of the flight in the back of the plane talking with an staff sergeant in military intelligence although none of the conversation comes back to me.

After landing at Dulles, I took the charter bus to National Airport. On the way, I couldn't help but notice that everything seemed so normal, like the war didn't even exist. Everyone was going about their business, their daily commute just like everyday with no thought to rocket attacks, ambushes or claymore mines. I wanted to scream at them all but mostly, I sat silent. Everything changed when I met my girl friend at National. She had taken the day off to meet me.

I was home. Vietnam was behind me. Back then, I didn't give much thought to the fact that Vietnam would never leave me. On that day, I tasted the sweetest victory I had ever known. I was alive and whole.

Thirty seven years later, that day is still very real to me. The victory is tarnished by years of anger, shame and remorse not to mention all the subsequent wars my country has fought since. I call it the price of survival.


Government Ownership is Dangerous

Russia's embargo on gas shipments through Ukraine demonstrate the danger of a state-owned enterprise, namely that the enterprise will be used to further a national rather than business interest. No sane private business would disrupt its customers over a dispute with one of them. A private business would be extremely reluctant to cut off its revenues in that way. A state-owned business has the luxury, especially when the business involves a vital energy resource, of forgoing receipts in favor of state interests.

Russia is playing a very good hand in an energy scarce era as a way of recapturing its previous glory, not just the Soviet Union but also the Empire of Czarist Russia. Russians have always had a high opinion of their nation and culture; it's no surprise to me that they seek recognition of that fact. If their gas monopoly loses revenue because of the embargo, the sacrifice is tolerable and for a good cause. Don't expect Russians to behave as capitalists, expect them to behave as Russians.

Private owners are unwilling to take those losses unless they have no other choice. These days globalization has weakened the leverage national governments can exercise over private capital. Certainly that's the case in the US of A where government regulation of or influence over enterprise is anathema. Unlike government-owned enterprise, market forces and profit will prevent private enterprise from slavishly serving state interests or posing any threat to society.


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First Ride

The bicycle and weather gods smiled upon me yesterday and gave me the first ride of 2009. I used the opportunity to push a few more miles south on the Chehalis Western Trail. The route from my place is virtually all dedicated, paved former railroad right of way completely separated from vehicle traffic. It's sweet and easy riding with no steep climbs.

Yesterday's trail showed many signs of the past weeks' hard weather: fallen trees,broken branches and tracks of maintenance vehicles in the still remaining snowy spots. Any maintenance must have been done in the past seven days; I rode to the trail on last Sunday's mostly clear main streets and found it still deep in snow and ice. Only a few patches and piles of snow remained yesterday.

The southern portion of the trail had more snow on pavement than I expected. the snow was often a light dusting. It looked fresh. Otherwise it was mostly slush, no more than an inch deep and no big deal once I got used to it. The weather was overcast and cold. The forecast said rain but the skies said no; the sun occasionally broke trough the clouds but the day was mostly subdued. Every now and then I felt a drop of water on my face but the predicted precipitation did not arrive until long after my ride was done.

The new section of trail took me through the Deschutes River wetlands and along the river itself, maybe a mile or so. At one point the trail parallels a bend in the river. Swollen run-off from the Great Snow twists around sandbars and islands. Lowlands all around are wet and marshy. I'm going upriver from town, which means gaining elevation, and I've been riding into the wind the entire route. I'm looking forward to the return.

My return was back the way I came. Not something I typically do but it was hard to give up that dedicated right-of-way with no vehicle traffic. Not much traffic of any sort, for that matter. It was fun to see this familiar route from a completely different direction.

I wore two a capilene base top under a polypro zip turtleneck shirt and a rain jacket for my body core and on my legs I wore black cycling tights under loose fitting cycling shorts (gotta have those pockets). Wool hiking socks with liners for my feet and a fleece earband under my helmet. The temperature was around 35 the entire time with about a 9 mph wind and I was comfortable for most of the ride. My feet were noticeably cold on the return.

The fenders were most welcome yesterday.


CheneyBush Generic Eppitaph

By his acts you will know him.
The Bush administration appears poised to push through a change in U.S. Forest Service agreements that would make it far easier for mountain forests to be converted to housing subdivisions.

Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who heads the Forest Service, last week signaled his intent to formalize the controversial change before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.