Category Archives: Writings & Musings

A Fool Gets a Shrine

Former President Bush's library officially opened last week in Texas.

Former President Bush’s library officially opened last week in Texas.

Last week saw the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum – the 21st such structure erected to the memory of a former president in this country. While the act of erecting what amounts to a shrine to one’s legacy is something one might expect to be relegated to historical dictatorships in Ancient Egypt, at least former Presidents aren’t looked to as gods in their own right – even if some politics find themselves deified for decades to come.

As one would expect, the library is not merely dedicated to Mr. Bush and the events of his eight years in office, but they are conveniently whitewashed for the sake of future generations – the only thing helping Mr. Bush’s poll numbers these days being the actual distance in time between him and January of 2009. You will find plenty of exploitation of the September 11th terrorist attacks, but you’ll also find that since that time Mr. Bush kept the country safe so net-net, that’s a good thing. You’ll find a large painting of he and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – his #1 ally on the international scene when it came time for the Iraq invasion. Mr. Blair can probably not even count on similar admiration back home, the monarchy at least providing the one good service of preventing chief executives being anything more than the mere politicians they should be.

There is no wing of the library dedicated to his opposition for a woman’s right to choose. There’s no shrine to squeezing as much bigotry and hatred toward same-sex couples as he could from the countryside, riding that national tide of religious-based ignorance to a victory in 2004. Speaking of victories, there’s also nary a peep of the circumstances under which Mr. Bush first assumed office – complete with the legally mystifying ”this counts today and then it’ll never count again” ruling by the Supreme Court in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.

There is a war room though!

Read more »

The Creeping Recovery, Continued

Job figures for the month of march will be released at the end of this week. The consensus is that job growth will continue at its slow, creeping pace – likely under 200,000 for the month just ended. For the time being, the United States remains a somewhat remarkable positive economic story in a world that is filled with continuous streams of troubling news from the European Union through Japan.

Visually, the continued improvement looks as follows:

Monthly Job Data Since The Great Recession

Monthly Job Data Since The Great Recession

Of course, there’s still a very long road to go until a full recovery.

Read more »

Glowing North Dakota

In 2012 NASA created a new version of the famous “Blue Marble” snapped by Apollo 17 in 1972. Using much more sensitive equipment than what was available in cameras in the 1970s, the 2012 Blue Marble offers a striking view of what our planet looks like from space. So sensitive and good were the cameras that NASA used on this project, they were also able to create for the first time the “Black Marble” – what our planet actually looks like at night. Spoiler alert: we glow.

The nighttime satellite view traces the economical and technological output of humanity across the planet. Many of the world’s coastlines are clearly outlined thanks to the bright lights of cities. Road networks and inland metropolises show up clearly, as do large-scale economic activities. Fishing fleets can be seen off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, and even larger ones dotting the western Pacific Rim. One of the odder sightings, however, came from the middle of the North American continent. When comparing with nighttime photos from ten years ago, new and vast stretches of light were suddenly visible over otherwise uninhabited stretches of prairie lands.

The oil boom in North Dakota is clearly visible by night.

The oil boom in North Dakota is clearly visible by night.

Centered on the state of North Dakota, we see a stretch of light that rivals much larger cities to the south and east like Minneapolis and Chicago. What we have here isn’t a new megaopolis that grew from the grassland in the last ten years. Instead, we have clear evidence of the explosive growth of the oil industry in its 21st century form – dirty, deep under ground, full of fracking, and profitable.

Read more »

Rays of Tangible Hope

The lingering questions: will there be lessons learned. Will there be change?

The lingering questions: will there be lessons learned. Will there be change?

It’s far too early into the aftermath of the Newtown shootings to sit back and honestly believe that real tangible good things will come from this – things beyond well wishes, prayers, donations, hugs, and hope. Proclamations of this being a matter of chance and therefore unpreventable notwithstanding, it is possible to lower the chance and frequency of not just major acts of unspeakable violence but of the everyday substandards that we as a society either accept or feel powerless to stop.

Societal change isn’t nearly as scary, draconian, or dystopian as it can sound if left to the voices of the afraid and ill-informed. A crime as horrific as a mass shooting – whether the number of causalities numbers 2, 27, or 100, is still the end-result of a long game of cause and effect. It would be foolish to suggest that the government – or anyone, really – could possibly control every aspect of every cause to completely prevent the deranged from becoming so, but there are areas that can be positively influenced.

Read more »

For Whom There Are Never Enough Bullets

Mourners lay flowers at the site of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Mourners lay flowers at the site of the Sandy Hook shooting.

If there has been one saving grace in terms of the normally toxic political discourse emanating from Washington, it is that during this latest mass shooting tragedy the loud and obnoxious debate was not taken directly to the Sunday morning talk show circuit. Not the one this past weekend, anyhow – there are plenty of Sundays in the future to resume plowing through the mud.

There is reasoning for a lack of obnoxious debate at the has-a-job-as-a-for-real-politician level. Sadly it does not rest on as high of a moral ground as wanting to be above the fray, or preventing a fray from occurring in the first place. It was because – surprisingly enough – no one from the lets-have-more-guns side really wanted to talk about it.

Don’t worry though, the unprofessional are here to save the day.

Read more »

Calling All Adults to the Room

Pictured, a Bushmaster M4A3 rifle. The XM-15 variant was used to carry out the Newtown school shooting. The weapon is typically used by police & military in some 60 countries.

Pictured, a Bushmaster M4A3 rifle. The XM-15 variant was used to carry out the Newtown school shooting. The weapon is typically used by police & military in some 60 countries.

“Guns don’t kill people, people do.”

In the abstract, sure. Guns are not living things. They are unable to sprout legs, stand up, walk toward someone, discharge their clip, and kill. It does require a human being to pull the trigger somewhere in there, so clearly the lifeless object in the human’s hand is free from any and all blame. It is from this point of view that our society completely free from security and laws has been birthed – since nothing causes harm to other people other than another human, we have seen our civilization flourish under a centuries-long policy of never regulating anything, ever.

It simply must be that way, because the only alternative would be to admit that firearms stand in a league of their own in how they are discussed and approached compared to most other dangerous aspects of society.

Read more »

A Familiar Wound

On Friday 26 were killed, 20 of which were children, in the latest mass shooting in the United States.

On Friday 26 were killed, 20 of which were children, in the latest mass shooting in the United States.

Back here, once again.

Words fail to fully encapsulate the depth of the emotions felt by those directly impacted by the latest mass shooting in the United States, and don’t do much of a better job at describing emotions from those indirectly effected – extending from anyone who is a parent outward to anyone who has a functioning conscience. It is disgusting, yet worth noting, that this was the seventh mass shooting in the United States in the year 2012. That’s an average of one mass shooting per every 1.7 months.

The most asked question is also the shortest and the one least fully answered: Why? Answers of any length will never go far enough to put at ease the hurt of inconsolable family members of the deceased, and hardly ever put a stunned national discourse at ease. Time and time again the headlines, sadness, and sorrow are merely swept to the side within days as the next Big Story enters the 24-hour media cycle.

Ignored with the lack of concrete answers to simple questions also lay questions surrounding remediation and prevention: how do you make the odds of such an occurrence decrease? What is the lowest frequency society can move mass shootings to? Is one-per-1.7 months really the best we can do? Is it one per year? One every few years? How much of heaven and Earth should be moved to save dozens in a country with a population over three-hundred million? Answer that last question to determine the true current health of society.

Read more »

Fiscal Cliffmageddon!

President Obama & Speaker of the House John Boehner are the key players in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.

President Obama & Speaker of the House John Boehner are the key players in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

In the summer of 2011 there was a rather productive conversation about the national debt and a previously simple Congressional procedure known as the raising of the debt ceiling. The conversation was productive in that it showed off how one of the two main political parties in the United States abjectly failed to comprehend how the United States spends money, borrows money, how debt markets work, and just what the effect of debt markets is on more tangible markets that you or I could touch via our paychecks or the unemployment line.

Whether on purpose or through their own embracing of anti-intelligence, the Tea Party wing of the Republican party managed to become the state personification of a crazed old person calling their credit card company daily and repeating “you know I’m really not sure if I feel like paying my bills anymore”. Stock markets reacted negatively. Businesses reacted by sharply curtailing spending and hiring since they really began to wonder just how far down the rabbit hole partisan politics were going to take us. Bond markets would have reacted negatively if there wasn’t even a larger continuous train wreck going on across the pond in Europe with their continued experiment of “let’s pretend to be a country up until the point we have to make a tough decision” with the Euro.

Eventually there was a deal, the debt ceiling was raised, and the Tea Party did not tank the fragile global economy. The deal, by the way, was to kick the can down to the end of 2011. Professional can kickers were anointed, known as the Super Committee. They proudly stood up and kicked the can even farther away, to the end of 2012. It is now December of 2012, and we’ve found the can.

Read more »

Increasingly Isolated: Israel, United States, a few tag-alongs, stand against Palestinian State

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made his case for statehood in front of the United Nations on November 29.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made his case for statehood in front of the United Nations on November 29.

A historic vote took place in the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 for Palestine. By a resounding 138 – 9 vote (with 41 abstaining) the General Assembly voted to give the Palestinian territories a “non-member observer state” status in that body. The last word in that line is key: state. The Holy See (Vatican City) is the only other state given a similar designation at the United Nations.

Largely symbolic, the vote was still a key test of the popularity of Israel’s policy of containment (to put it lightly) of the Palestinian people. In short, it’s not very popular these days – in spite of what the Palestinian territories contribute and have contributed to regional instability via terrorism and being an always-ready powder keg in the middle east.  The number of countries that support Israel’s position (which was anti-this move and, although never admitted publicly, closer to a one-Israel-state solution than it has ever been before to a two-state solution) in the United Nations is now down to just eight: Canada, Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama, and United States. Combined, these countries represent roughly 5% of the world’s population.

Read more »

Because Twinkies!

What is this? Where are the Twinkies? What's going on with this whole strike angle? The Twinkies are dying!

What is this? Where are the Twinkies? What’s going on with this whole strike angle? The Twinkies are dying!

Hostess Brands, an American company that traces its roots to 1930 and has in its portfolio some of the most well known food brands from the 20th century, has filed for bankruptcy in a move that will eventually lead to the loss of most of its 18,500 jobs. The bankruptcy – the second within a decade – was brought on by unsustainable debt levels and unions unwilling to budge much on pay and pensions in light of absurd pay raises by executives at the company. Already mass layoffs from the company have begun, with workers facing as uncertain of a future as the brands they used to produce and deliver.

Wait. I mean…

The Twinkies! They’re all going away!

Read more »