Monday, April 04, 2016

An Observation

Mock Paper Scissors has a good take on Booman's thoughts about a NYT opinion piece about why Donald Trump will not break the Republican Party.  All are worth reading.

Booman concludes, "It’s simply not true that the Republicans can hold together indefinitely under this kind of pressure. I believe the proof of this is what we’re all witnessing right now."

We can hope.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter 2016

Easter 1916


I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.


That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.


Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter, seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute change.
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim;
And a horse plashes within it
Where long-legged moor-hens dive
And hens to moor-cocks call.
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.


Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death.
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

To Caucus We Go

Today is caucus day in Washington. Not only do I get to participate but I need only walk across the street to do so. Can’t get much more democratic and local than that. And yet we will be declaring our choices for President of the US. Right in our own neighborhood.

I will go to support Bernie Sanders whom I have admired since I first learned of him as the socialist mayor of Burlington and followed his career as Vermont’s sole representative in the House of Representatives and US Senator. I liked him last summer when he declared to run for president as a Democrat. To me that is Bernie using the opportunity available to take his ideas to a wider audience. At that point, all I expected was a valiant attempt to include human values into a what has become corporate party. The resulting campaign has achieved that far beyond what I expected. 

Win or lose the nomination, Sanders has demonstrated strong support—over 40 percent of chosen (not super) delegates—for his ideas and has stirred the political consciousness of a new generation of voters, those who will live to see the future consequences of the decisions we make today. If Clinton comes to the convention with the enough delegates to secure the party’s nomination, she and the Democratic establishment would be wise not to ignore Sanders’ delegates and ideas.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Soldier's Tale

Listening to Folk Alley this morning I heard Tim O'Brien's version of "Mick Ryan's Lament", an account of one of the American dead at Little Bighorn.  I had not heard the song before.  The tune is a familiar one--a traditional Irish drinking song -that was adopted as the marching song by various British and American military units, most notably George Custer's 7th Cavalry.  I also recognized the tune's name--"Garryowen".  Garryown was the official tune of the 1st Cavalry Division in which I served in Vietnam.  The division adopted the tune when it was created to consolidate Army cavalry units in 1921.  When the Division left Vietnam in March 1971 it left a separate brigade in Vietnam.  The brigade included one battalion of the 7th Cavalry regiment along with one battalion each from the 5th, 8th (mine) and 12 Cavalry regiments.  The brigade was called the Garryowen Task Force and I saw that name used in various descriptions.

At the time I did not know that "Garryowen" was an official division tune so I thought it unfair to just bundle the other cavalry regiments under the rubric of the 7th Cavalry which incorporated Garryowen into its insignia.  Of course, that was a minor irritation in a war zone and my concern was fleeting.  It did, however, imprint "Garryowen" on my brain so I was all ears when I heard the melody this morning.

"Mick Ryan's Lament" is especially moving for me because the lyrics reflect my own experience in Vietnam.  Like Mick Ryan I was fighting people who were fighting for their homeland.  Like him I "turned into something I hated."  Unlike Ryan I was not killed and carry that memory.  I did not need the song to recall the memory but when the song recalled it, the memory hit hard.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Suppression and Information in the Digital Age

Upon learning that courts authorized government seizure of Zaman, Turkey's largest circulation newspaper, editor in chief Abdulhamit Bilici said, "I believe that free media will continue even if we have to write on the walls.  I don't think it is possible to silence media in the digital age."

His statement reflects the reality of the digital age, that people will be able to get information regardless of the attempts by authorities to suppress information they find inconvenient.  On the one hand, we will have access to the raw material of events.  The one element that is lost, however, with the demise or suppression of traditional journalism is the context for that raw material that helps us understand what it means.

Of course,  traditional journalism has often been used to manipulate readers.  There's rarely been a shortage of media that want us to think one way or another but even so, the variety of diverse journalistic sources has allowed those who want to inquire more deeply into a subject to access different takes on events.  At least that's the theory.  With newsrooms shutting down or laying off staff and the concentration of media under a few corporate owners, those diverse sources are disappearing or greatly diminished.  In their place much of what passes for information on-line is simply opinion or superficially sourced, if at all.  

So I admire Mr. Bilici's defiance and wish him much success in whatever form his next efforts take.  But in the meantime, Turks will have one less perspective on their government.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finding My Way on the Big Island

A week on the Big Island of Hawai’i sounds like a lot of time but it hardly scratches the surface.  If you thoroughly research the possibilities and schedule your time carefully, you might leave with the satisfaction of having done all that you planned.  For those who, like me, show up on the island with only vague ideas about what to do the week goes by quickly with many options quickly considered but not fulfilled. 

My trip to the Big Island was more of a windfall than a plan.  Friends rented a house in Kona and invited others to join them.  The dates were about one month into my retirement so Maggie and I quickly accepted the invitation.  She was interested in snorkeling.  I had my sights set on visiting the Mauna Kea Observatory.  Anything else was left to chance, interest and the dynamics of the group with whom we were sharing the house.

In the end our activities were a combination of group and individual efforts.  At the house we talked, laughed and enjoyed the leisure of comfortable and pleasant accommodations.  We ate at the Ba Le Vietnamese Sandwich Shop and Bakery in the strip mall next to the grocery store that we frequented and also lunched at the Kona Brewery.  My first attempt at snorkeling was part of a group excursion to Kalalu’u Bay, probably the most accessible public beach in the Kona-Kailua area. It did not go well.  I had a mask and snorkel from the rental house but it did not seal well over to my mustache.  The equipment rental place on the beach gave me some petroleum jelly but that was only limited help.  Surf was rough and the area crowded.  I got a small glimpse of snorkeling’s attractions—I saw tropical fish and coral—but I was mostly concerned with keeping water out of my mask and not sucking it in through my snorkel.  I did not last long in the water.  Once out of the water, I wanted out of the mid-day sun.  We retreated to the Vietnamese restaurant for lunch.

Later that day, four of us took off for Mauna Kea Observatory.  Once we were north of Kailua, we had the Mamaloha Highway largely to ourselves on a clear afternoon.  The white observatory domes were visible along Mauna Kea’s ridge not long after leaving town. The Saddle Road leading across the island was equally uncrowded and nicely paved.  The saddle between the island’s two great volcanos, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, was covered by a cloud bank that turned the clear day into overcast and occasional drizzle.  We turned off the Saddle Road on John A. Burns Way, a narrow, curvy two lane and climbed out of the cloud bank up to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center which sits at 9,200 feet.  We did not attempt the far more primitive road to the peak at 14,000 feet.  We arrived around 5:30 which gave us a time to hike to a nearby saddle to view the sunset before the stargazing party began around 7:00 pm. 

The evening was clear but with a waxing gibbous moon much of the visible star field was washed out.  Still, plenty of stars were visible.  Volunteers set up a variety of telescopes.  The party began with volunteers describing the night sky above—what we could see and what we could not see and other items of astronomical interest.  They had pointer lights that beamed into the sky to point out stars and constellations.  After their talk, we could look through the telescopes where a volunteer would explain the image and make any needed adjustment to the instrument.   Most of the scopes were barrel-like Cassegrain reflecting scopes but one was a refractor.  I got a nice view of a binary star (a larger yellow star paired with a smaller but much hotter blue star), saw the star-forming nebula in Orion, viewed Jupiter and three of its moons, and had a dramatic close-up view of the moon.  My binoculars also gave me some nice views, especially of the Pleiades which were otherwise small to my eye.  The night was cold and brought back memories of many winter nights looking through my cheap refractor.   The ride back to Kailua was very dark.

One of my favorite things to do when I visit someplace new is to learn its history.  Guidebooks at the hous provided some history but I learned even more when Maggie and I drove south to Pu’uhone O Hoananu National Historic Park, the Place of Refuge.  This was a site reserved for royals but part of it also served as a place where one could obtain absolution for violating a taboo.  In Old Hawai’i, laws or kapu (taboos) governed every aspect of society.  The penalty for breaking these laws was certain death.  The only option was to elude your pursuers and reach the nearest puuhonua, or place of refuge.  The site has preserved or restored the great walls of dark volcanic stone, the same stone that lines this entire portion of Hawaiian coast.  The park map provides an informative self-guided tour of restored structures and cultural artifacts.  Along the way we watched a sea turtle feeding in the shallows. Away from the historic area is a very nice picnic area that faces a rocky shore where waves crash over lava formations that turn into immense waterfalls as the waves recede.  Tidepools provided a nice foreground for a dramatic sunset.  On the ride back to Kailua, we spotted a narrow, primitive looking road with a hand painted sign for the Old Hawaiian Coffee Company.  We did not take that road, opting instead to look for food which we found farther along on a side street in Kealakekua.

While we were at the Place of Refuge we saw people snorkeling in the adjacent Honaunau Bay.  It was less crowded than Kahalu’u Bay in town so we decided to try snorkeling there on the following day.  I rented a mask with less lip and would fit tighter, I hoped.  I was wrong.  I did not get a good seal.  I might have been able to manage that if my snorkel didn’t draw water when I breathed.   I traded snorkels with Maggie which took care of my problem but now she was stuck with it.

This time I was in the water longer and had a chance to look around more.  Fish were everywhere.  The bottom was coral, sand and lava rock.  I also felt uneasy in that environment.  Maybe it was my uncertain gear combined with my lack of experience in ocean water.  I was cold, too.  I pulled out, gave Maggie the good snorkel and watched from the shore as she floated out some distance.  For a while I watched a sea turtle feeding on algae in a tidal pool, bobbing about as waves surged back and forth over it.  Maggie was out for almost an hour and was the last snorkeler to come out of the water that afternoon.  She and reported seeing a wide variety of fish (and vice-versa), much coral and the drop-off into the ocean depths beyond.

We were back on the highway early enough to follow the road into the Old Hawaiian Coffee Company.  The road is paved but has been repaired so often that it looks like a patchwork of potholes.  About 100 meters from the highway we came upon a house and were met by a young man who gave us a quick tour of the place.  He showed us coffee trees that had just flowered and were now producing beans.  Inside we saw the processing and roasting equipment.  The belt-driven wooden wheels and equipment are original from 1909 when the farm was established.  The only modification is the electric motor that replaced the gasoline engine that powered the drive.

History was also on our last day’s itinerary.  We visited a heritage site on Kahalu’u Bay where a former hotel/resort complex is being removed to restore a historically significant heiau complex.  Students from the Kamehameha Schools, which owns the land and previously leased it for hotels, are restoring some of the sites as part of a long term project.  The security guard at the entrance gave us some background on the site and its history.  Most notably, a defeated chief was captured and sacrificed here.

The day ended at the Hulihe’e Palace which was a summer residence of the island governors under successive Kamehamehas during the 19th century.  As palaces go, it’s a modest affair—only six rooms—but it is well-preserved and staffed by very informative docents, members of the Daughters of Hawai’i.  The photographs and artifacts illustrate Hawaiians’ growing fascination with British manners, customs and dress.  So much so that I am surprised that Hawai’i ended up as an American territory rather than a British colony.  The Brits did manage to get their flag incorporated into the Hawaiian flag, though.

And then our week was done.  So much to see and do.  So little time.


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Informed Debate

Donald Trump "reprimands" a woman who called Ted Cruz a "pussy" by repeating the epithet.  In Orgegon the remaining holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge taunt the federal law  government by spinning donuts in federal vehicles in support of their demands.

Democracy in America 2016.