Sunday, August 31, 2014

Preparing for War

Anne Applebaum assesses Russian actions and intent and asks if the west and its preminent superpower shouldn't be preparing for an all-out war.  The question is sobering  Too much fighting, destruction and death has already occurred in eastern Ukraine and evidence suggests that Russian forces are intervening directly in support of separatist rebels.  Applebaum quotes any number of Russian exceptionalists (yes, they have them, too) along with Vladimir Putin to support a reasonable conclusion that war is likely and the world should prepare for it.

Her logic is hard to dispute.  It's certainly consistent with my understanding of Russian history and culture.  Her conclusion has a hard reality:  if you think someone is out to harm you, it's prudent to be ready to prevent that.  All that makes sense.

But given that the threat arises from historical and geopolitical relations among ethic groups and nations, its underlying causes will not easily be resolved by war and re-aligning borders.  War may, in fact, further inflame the conflict by sowing new resentment and division among people already suspicious of one another.

For me, seeing a situation spiraling into violence means the most logical policy is to find ways to stop the spiral.  I expect my government leaders and other nations' leaders to be smart enough to figure out how to work with all parties to stop the spiral and find alternatives to war.

That is the best preparation for war.  That may seem like a hopeless dream given our bloody human history but the alternative is to accept the inevitability of war as a constant.  I am not willing to accept that.

Call me a dreamer.



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Sunday, August 24, 2014

24 August 1814

In honor of today's bicentennial,



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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Not Too Hot August Velo News

Western Washington has had the longest run of sunny, warm and occasionally hot (over 90) weather this summer.  Today is predicted to be one of the cooler days (84) but mid-day temperatures and high UV make cycling less pleasant than I care for, especially if I have an alternative.  Which I do:  mornings.   The temperature was 50 when I got out just after sunrise today, around 7:00.  That's higher than some mid-afternoon temperatures during winter, so I can deal with it easily.  Still it was chilly enough that I was comfortable wearing a jacket over a long-sleeved shirt first couple hours of the ride.

Since much of the year here does not lend itself to early morning rides, I enjoy the chance to get out early during the summer.  It's a habit I developed out of necessity riding in Phoenix.  I soon learned to enjoy the empty streets, the low light  and the quiet.  During summer in Olympia I get a chance to indulge my fancy.

This morning offered some fine highlights.  Heading east on 33rd Avenue I could see the road undulating under a green archway, the strong morning light filtering through the foliage.  The scene recalled summer mornings hiking the Appalachian Trail and reminded me how luck I am to be out on a beautiful morning like this.  Returning over Woodard Bay I stopped to watch the tide going out.  A sea otter head popped up in the water, then several more.  I saw six total and from the slightly larger size of one and the way the others followed its lead, I'm pretty sure it was a mother and six pups out foraging.

The day was beginning to warm up by the time I reached the northern end of the Chehalis Western Trail at 9:00.  Enough to shed the jacket for the final nine miles.  The air was still cool, though, since much of the trail is still shaded.  I never broke a sweat and felt strong throughout the ride:  25 miles and home by 10.  A good way to to start the weekend.

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Early Summer Velo News

...begins last week in Danville, Virginia where I spent my childhood and teenage years before leaving for college in 1966.  I went back in late June to join my brother bicycling the town.  He rode there a few years back when he stopped overnight en route farther north and mentioned that the ride offered a different perspective as an adult to a place we'd both ridden extensively as kids.  We decided to to the same together at some point.  Last week was our opportunity; my brother was driving to Danville from Atlanta for a high school reunion and he kindly brought a bike for me.

My first ride was a solo one on Friday night. I hit town around 5:00 pm and took off in 91 degree weather along the River Walk Trail which follows the north bank of the Dan River eight miles through town.  When I lived in Danville much of the north bank was occupied by Dan River Mills.  The mill and its 10,000 jobs decamped years ago; the buildings came down in the 00's.  In their place is a very nice bike trail that provides access to the river not available in years past.  I rode about five miles before turning around.  Despite the heat, I was reasonably cool; much of the trail is nicely shaded.  I crossed the river on the old railroad trestle and explored the warehouse district and downtown.  The Danville Knitting Mill building where I worked three summers during college is still standing but completely shuttered.  About half of the commercial spaces on Main Street are empty.  The old Woolworths store at Main and Union Streets is now a church.

We got a late start on Saturday.  My brother's reunion group had an event in the morning so we got out around noon.  We rode over to our old house and checked out the neighborhood.  From there we headed across the river following one of the routes we rode to school.  I am pleased to say that I did not have to walk my bike up the steep Monroe Street grade like I did when I was a kid.  It did kick my ass, though.  We visited the National Cemetery where our parents are buried and marveled at the diverse and eclectic architecture throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.  Some houses were nicely restored while a house next door is shuttered and deteriorating.  Millionaires' Row on Main Street has been largely restored--I recall seeing some of those impressive homes abandoned and shuttered in years past.  We were out for a little over two hours before the heat got to me and we bailed back to the hotel.

Sunday morning we went out early.  The morning was cool and pleasant.  We followed the River Walk Trail, retracing some of my Friday route before continuing farther east toward the airport where we encountered some hills after miles of flat trail.  By the time we made it back to the hotel, the day had warmed up considerably.

In all, the trip was what I hoped for.  Seeing Danville as an adult from the perspective of a bicycle gave me a new appreciation for the town.  The river trail takes advantage of a natural resource that was largely ignored when I lived there.  The varied architecture gave me a new appreciation for the city's heritage.  And it was way cool to do something with my brother in the town where we both grew up.  

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Political events in Virginia caught my attention this week.  Most of the nation already knows everything there is to know about Eric Cantor.  For me this was a moment of high schadenfreude.  I've never trusted Cantor and I always take heart at the difficulties of my political adversaries.  Paying attention to the county and precinct results recalled the years I lived in Richmond.  It's always a nostalgia trip to see names of  places I knew long ago.

But schadenfreude is a bitch!  The day before Cantor's demise, Republicans took control of the Virginia State Senate when a Democratic senator resigned.  The whole scenario had some smarminess to it.  Not uncertain is that the senator's resignation killed any chance of Medicaid expansion in Virginia.  His constituents could have used that program.  Instead the senator's daughter got a judgeship.

The Washington Post has a good summary and analysis of the week's foolishness in Virginia.

And speaking of nostalgia, I will be traveling to Virginia in 10 days to ride bikes with my brother in our hometown, Danville, when he drives up from Atlanta for his high school reunion.  I will also see friends in Richmond, Afton and Harrisonburg. 

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Didn't Fucking Lose Iraq

The Unholy Trio--John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte--is demanding that President Obama let loose with American weaponry in Iraq to stave off the the onrushing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which threatens Iraq's national existence.  They bark at Obama for failing to leave behind a residual force to give the Iraqi army some spine, saying that Obama has squandered the glorious victory achieved by his predecessor and Wonder General David Petraeus.

Fucking bullshit.  If Bush and Petraeus achieved anything, they managed only to tamp down the civil war unleashed by the American invasion and occupation.  It's rather like a fine piece of china that had been sitting safely in a cabinet and tossed about is now sitting on a precipice.  Definitely better than being tossed about but still much worse off than when in the cabinet.

What is especially arrogant of these so called foreign policy thought leaders is their harping on their warnings about a complete American withdrawal from Iraq when, in fact, they ignored the most fundamental warning of all:  DON'T INVADE IRAQ!  Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, John McCain and Lindsay Graham lost Iraq the minute they decided to initiate their splendid little war.

Of course, the whole idea that Iraq is America's prize to win or lose is a pretty offensive concept to me.  That suggests that Iraqis are of no consequence compared to America's interests.  I'm not at all surprised that my country deigns itself to be the arbiter of all interests--as the leading capitalist hegemon on the planet, I expect no less--but I consider this viewpoint an unfortunate national character trait.

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Sunday, June 08, 2014

Almost Summer Velo News

Saturday's ride was my first this year to begin with me wearing a t-shirt.  I've ended up in a t-shirt on on one or two rides this year but on Saturday the weather made the choice easy.  Olympia's had a run of sunny dry weather for the past week with a forecast of more to come for the next few days.  Not only would a t-shirt suffice but I didn't even carry rain gear. This is classic Olympia spring weather with mixed clouds and open sky with lots of sunlight.  We don't get this kind of weather every year so when it happens, it's a gift.

My route was a familiar one:  Olympia-Woodland Trail to the Chehalis Western Trail where headed south.  First, though, I inspected the Pacific Avenue overpass.  The most notable change these days is the steady rise of the serpentine incline that lifts the trail up to the deck of the overpass from the south.
Lots of people out on this beautiful sunny day.  I get a view of Mount Rainier, still mantled in snow, brilliantly white.  More often than not I am riding through a shaded tunnel, feeling the cool breeze. 

I turn around at the Golden Spike monument commemorating the completion of the Chehalis Western Trail and return the way I came.  I'd planned  to head west and north from the Yelm Highway but that puts me in traffic and on a laid back day like today I don't want traffic so I just re-trace my outbound route on the trail. The day ends at 26.7 miles.  That gives me 516 for the year.



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