Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Elizabeth Says

Senator Elizabeth Warren has an op-ed piece in the Washington Post today that lays out a strong case against the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement now being negotiated, largely in secret, by the US and Asian trading partners. 

Warren sums up the whole thing nicely:

Replacing the U.S. legal system with a complex and unnecessary alternative — on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong — seems like a really bad idea.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Half Past Winter Velo News

Along with the usual wet, foggy weather Olympia gets this time of year, we've had some very nice sunny days for cycling.  Today was one.  It started with a morning fog and clouds but all that was gone by the time I got out at one.  The air was a bit chilly to start but I warmed up pretty quickly.  I rode south on the Chehalis Western Trail, across SE Olympia and North Tumwater. out to The Evergreen State College and back through NW Olympia and downtown.  was never at all cold. The wind was blowing hard from the northeast so a few of my climbs were more challenging than normal.  Total miles today: 25.8.

Friday was even warmer.  I got out for a short 10 mile ride in the afternoon.  I rode in shorts and without my fleece earband.  I don't believe I've ever dressed so lightly for a February ride.  Last week was mostly rainy but Sunday offered some clear weather early on so I was out by 9:00.  Mist was rising from many places as the early morning began burning off the the previous days' moisture.

So far I've ridden every week in 2015 and have a total of 184 miles on the year.  That puts me two weeks ahead of schedule toward my annual goal of 1040 miles.  2015 will be the year that I break 10,000 miles on my bike computer although probably broke 10,000 on the bike a year or two ago.  My previous computer died at 1,500 or 2,500 miles so I can't say for sure.

Last year's cycling totaled 1,046 miles.  I eked out my annual goal with about 6 miles to spare despite missing 8 weeks after my hip surgery.  I ride with no joint pain in my hip these days.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 13, 2015

We Never Do Learn

Today's BBC front page juxtaposes the commemoration of the American-British firebombing raid on Dresden in 1945 and news of continued fighting in Ukraine even after world leaders announced a truce.  A visitor to Dresden says it all:
"I can't believe that we learn nothing from all this. Ukraine, the Balkans. The world learns nothing."

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Reading accounts of the diplomacy--all the shuttling, meeting, back-and-forthing--surrounding the separatist rebellion in Ukraine reminds me of the run-up to World War I.  Merkel and Hollande have gone to Moscow.  Ministers, Secretaries and even US Senators meet in Munich.  Unlike WWI, though, the guns are already firing in Ukraine.  The fight is on. 

I would like to think that today's diplomats and world leaders can do better than their 20th century counterparts.  On big difference from then is the addition of a woman to the discussion.  Angela Merkel's statements are a change of pace from the usual military solutions and reality.

The BBC has the best quote: 
Mrs Merkel said she could not "imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily".
An accompanying analysis added that in her remarks to the Munich Security Conference she insisted that more arms would lead to more victims.  The analysis notes that there was "...significant applause at these remarks, though noticeably neither US Vice-President Joe Biden or the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko were clapping."

The Washington Post expands on the debate.
In one exchange, Sen. Corker (R-Tenn.), who is among more than a dozen members of Congress at the conference, challenged Merkel about German reluctance to agree to provide Ukraine lethal, defensive weapons.

She answered the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee bluntly: “Well you see, I am firmly convinced that this conflict cannot be solved by military means.” If weapons were provided, she said, Putin would likely up the ante, providing far more superior weapons to separatists. “I understand your viewpoint and also the discussion that is going on, but the progress that Ukraine needs cannot be achieved by more weapons,” she said.
I don't know if or how much Merkel's gender affects her thinking.  She understands that war has victims, which is the first step toward ending war.  I just hope that she's sufficiently skilled to turn her views into effective policy soon.  The American dogs of war are barking, Ukraine understandably feels threatened, and Russia under Putin is paranoid and expansionist.  It's a toxic mix.

And while all this talking is going on the guns continue to fire.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, 1929-1968

The speech every American should hear on MLK day.  Decades later, his words still ring true.

Text available here.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 09, 2015

Je Suis Charlie, Indeed

If you don't understand, go here and here.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best Books of 2014

For the purposes of this blog "best" is defined as my favorites among the books I read in 2014.  My fiction choices reflect my interest in history.  Both Leonardo Padura and Fannie Flagg weave unique, compelling and very different stories from actual events.  History also figures prominently in my non-fiction favorites.  I knew little about Red Cloud before reading the Drury-Calvin biography and enjoyed reading about a Native American leader who stood fast against the US.  World War One I knew plenty about but not in the detail I learned from Christopher Clark.

All that said, here are my choices for 2014 :


The Man Who Loved Dogs, Leonardo Padura (2009, translation 2014)
Cuban writer Leonardo Padura recreates the assassination of Leon Trotsky with a deft tale of intrigue set in the context of Joseph Stalin’s quest for absolute power in the Soviet Union and the pre-war climate of the 1930’s.  Leon Trotsky’s exile is a well-told story which Padura leavens with some introspection and regrets on Trotsky’s part.  Alongside Trotsky’s odyssey, the reader is introduced to Ramon Mercader, a Spanish Republican plucked from the defeat of the his cause by the KGB and trained as an assassin.  All of this is narrated by a Cuban writer who encounters a mysterious man and his two Russian Wolfhounds at a beach.  As the mysterious man confides in him, the narrator begins to suspect that he is talking to the assassin himself.  Each subplot brings its own set of contradictions, erratic behavior and, ultimately, understanding.   The early chapters read much like a history of the era but as each subplot evolves the reader is drawn into the details of each man’s thoughts and actions.  Although Trotsky’s assassination is a foregone conclusion, Padura invests the story with mystery and suspense.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, Fanny Flagg (2013)

A tale well-told about discovery and history.  Sarah Jane Poole, “Sookie” to everyone in Point Clear, Alabama, approaches her 60th birthday to learn that she is an adopted child.  Her birth certificate showing the woman Sookie has known all her life as mother is a forgery.  Her real birth certificate lists a Polish mother and unknown father.  The discovery changes her life.  How Sookie’s life changes gradually reveals itself along with the story of Fritzi Jurdabralinski, the name listed on the birth certificate as mother.  Fanny Flagg tells the story in a lively, often funny narrative that captures the feel of small-town South, the barnstorming days of early aviation and tells the story of the remarkable women who flew military aircraft during WWII

 The Heart of Everything That Is:  the Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend, Bob Drury & Tom Clavin (2013)
Excellent history of the Indian leader Red Cloud, whose multi-year campaign against white expansion forced the US government to sue for peace.  Authors Drury and Clavin are clearly sympathetic to the Indian point-of-view; in their telling, Red Cloud’s resistance makes perfect sense.  What makes the story compelling is the detail about Indian culture and strategy.  Red Cloud’s achievement was unifying fractious and independent Sioux bands in a strategic campaign against the US Army whose institutional racism did not credit Indians with strategic ability.  This history debunks the image created in film and TV of the cavalry coming to the rescue.  Not only were the troops not cavalry—they were mounted infantry—but their horses were often worn-out, ammunition in short supply, and officers prone to fall for the bait in one of Red Cloud’s ambushes.  Add the Sioux’s mobility and knowledge of the terrain and you have the bluecoats at a disadvantage.  The authors don’t spare the Army leadership, a collection of officers whose ambition and prejudices often worked to Red Cloud’s advantage.

The Sleepwalkers:  How Europe Went to War in 1914, Christopher Clark (2012)
A detailed, intricate history of the interests, intrigues, rivalries that led the great powers of Europe to create a series of alliances with, as Christopher Clark writes, “a trigger set in the most volatile region of Europe.”  The story  is long and involved—562 pages of text, 100 pages of notes—but Clark carefully and systematically lays out all of the threads to present a comprehensive history of how that trigger exploded with an assassination in Sarajevo in 1914.