Saturday, October 24, 2009

American Values

One of America's national myths is that our can-do attitude combined with practical innovation will solve any problem. The reality is somewhat different. In many ways we are afraid of change and will do just about anything to avoid it. Look how much money corporations spend influencing anything that affects profits and you will see exactly what what I mean.

Meanwhile China finds opportunity in meeting the challenges of climate change.
...China has also begun to see energy efficiency and renewable energy as ingredients for the type of modern economy it wants to build, in part because it would make the nation's energy sources more secure.

"We think this is a new business for us, not a burden,"

Americans once thought this way. Our myth may not have been an actual universal truth but there was something to it. These days American enterprise is less willing to take risks, to explore new technologies. All that may not produce a good earnings report next quarter. The stockholders will not be pleased.

Future generations will not be pleased when they see the world we leave them with our resistance to alternate energy technologies. Maybe the Chinese, who have a lot at risk, will change that. It would be a good use of all that money they are piling up.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Modern Economics 101

In a nutshell:
The United States, of course, long ago captured first prize in the global arms race. It now spends as much as the next 14 countries combined, even as the spending of our rogue enemies and former enemies -- Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria -- much in the headlines for their prospective armaments, makes up a mere 1% of the world military budget. Still, when you're a military superpower focused on big-picture thinking, there's no time to dawdle on the details.
One principle has, by now, come to dominate our American world, even if nobody seems to notice: do whatever it takes to keep federal dollars flowing for weapons systems (and the wars that go with them). And don't count on the Pentagon to lend a hand by having a bake sale any time soon; don't expect it to voluntarily cut back on major weapons systems without finding others to take their place. If, as a result, our children are less likely to earn high school and college diplomas than we were, that's what prisons and the Marines are for.

War without end. There. Here. Everywhere.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Velo News

Yesterday was wet and rainy with occasional heavy showers into the afternoon. I took a chance on a forecast for less activity later in the day to head out for a ride. The choice was a good one. I rode for a couple hours with nary a drop. My route was south on the Chehalis Western Trail to the Deschutes River and back with a side trip to the California Taco truck for a gut-bomb end of ride burrito. Oh yeah, I rode my 1,000th mile (plus 10 more) on my bike for this year, a personal best and my goal for 2009. A few lingering (sometimes heavy) showers fell after I got home.

More than anything, the light was GOOD throughout my ride. By that I mean the changing sky and sunlight filtering through the trees and foliage, reflecting off wet surfaces everywhere, the fall colors, a landscape alternating from brilliantly lit to soberly dark and all variations in between. At one point the trail stretched ahead of me under overarching fall foliage lit gold by the late afternoon sun and into a dark tunnel ahead. At the Deschutes River, the water sparkled in the sunlight. Above, when I could see the sky through the trees, masses of clouds swept overhead pushed by a stiff wind from the southwest and revealing patches of blue sky. The wind was a fine return trip tailwind. As weekend city rides go, it was a pretty cosmic one.

Along the way I used discretion and good judgment with respect to traffic laws. I am not above using pedestrian signals to my advantage.

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God and Crumb

R. Crumb illustrates the Book of Genesis but it's still a grim tale.

Crumb himself has written: "I am constantly disgusted by reality, horrified and afraid. I cling desperately to the few things that give me some solace, that make me feel good. For me to be human is, for the most part, to hate what I am. When I suddenly realize I am one of them, I want to scream in horror."

Not unlike the God of Genesis beholding the depravity of his children, even his greatest servants. Abraham pimps his wife, Sarah, Jacob cheats his brother, Esau. How very Old Testament. Faults are very few in the heroes of the New Testament. And an angry, smiting Jehovah is transformed by the Christians into a god of love. There are times when Genesis reads like a tell-all, one of those enraged bits of revisionist history that tell us George Washington was actually a drug-addict or Emily Dickinson was into sadomasochism. Except nobody revised Jewish history to make it the way it is in Genesis. And it has remained not as a guide to transcendence into heavenly realms, but as a description of life as we see it every day in our neighborhoods and newspapers.

Genesis doesn't need an R. Crumb to provide perversity and failure. It's got enough all by itself. This is one reason that Crumb could play it straight with his art, no cloacal Snoid comedy, no gratuitous sex. Yes, there is sex -- men and women are shown discreetly coupling. But no irony, no joking around here. Just one pen-and-ink panel after another until Joseph -- he of the coat of many colors -- dies and the book ends.

How strange it all is, how ordinary. How biblical, how Crumb.