Sunday, September 6, 2009

The First Black President

A quote from today's Chicago Tribune: "New surveys show steep declines in Obama's approval ratings among whites--including Democrats and independents--who were crucial elements of the diverse coalition that helped elect the country's first black president."

"The country's first black president"? For some time now, this concept has disturbed me. First of all, BHO is only half "black", apparently. Mainstream society no longer utilizes the antebellum nomenclature of "mulatto", "octaroon", and so on, so at what point of diminishing ethnic content would an individual cease to be "black" or Irish or Greek or whatever? In point of fact, BHO is just as much white as he is black, from a genetic standpoint. Secondly, BHO does not in any way fit the definition of an African American as it's generally understood. He isn't descended from Africans brought to the US in chains and eventually liberated by the Union army. He wasn't raised by or among blacks. He hasn't really participated in the "black experience". The idea that the American black community could not only accept him as one of their own but practically unanimously vote for his presidency on the basis of his superficial appearance is racism in high heels and fishnet stockings.

Certainly, the idea, of course, is not that he is the "first black president". I must have slept through the love fest during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The election success of BHO is just as much a product of left wing class warfare as racial solidarity and good ideas for governance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


137 Years Later

"It’s hard to believe that the 1872 mining law is still with us. Signed by Ulysses S. Grant four years before the invention of the telephone, the law sets the rules for mining hardrock minerals like gold and copper. Useful in the days of westward expansion, it is a disaster now. It demands no royalties from the mining companies and provides minimal environmental protections.

Its legacy, if it can be called that, is a battered landscape of abandoned mines and poisoned streams.

Republican and Democratic presidents alike have urged Congress to reform the law. Yet it survives, thanks largely to Congressional inertia and friends in high places. At the moment, that friend is Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who resists reform because mining is big business in his home state of Nevada.

Still there is hope for change. In 2007, the House passed a good bill that would require mining companies to pay royalties, just like oil and coal producers do. The money would help pay for cleanups of abandoned mines. The bill would also strengthen environmental safeguards and allow the secretary of the interior to block mines that pose a clear danger to the environment.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a comparable bill in April. This is the first comprehensive reform bill the Senate has seen in years. But what really encourages those who seek a better law is the Obama administration’s ardent and public support.

Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told Mr. Bingaman’s committee last week that he saw mining law reform as a “top-tier issue” that he hoped would not be buried under other Congressional priorities. And this week, using his emergency authority under another law, Mr. Salazar placed a temporary hold on any new mines on about one million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon. These are enormously encouraging gestures from a department that resisted reform during the Bush years.

It bears repeating that these reforms do no more than subject the mining industry to practices that oil and gas operators, coal miners and other intensive users of the public lands — including ski areas — have operated under without strain for decades. Our hope is that Mr. Bingaman’s leadership and Mr. Salazar’s enthusiasm for change will command the attention of Mr. Reid and, in time, force a vote on the Senate floor. One can live in the 19th century for only so long."

This New York Times editorial demonstrates the lack of understanding about the Mining Act of 1872 by the effete east and even the less aware segments of the rest of the country. First of all, as the masthead of the California Mining Journal says, "Without mining, there is no civilization". The development of mining and metallurgy is what made the leap from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age possible. Without the products of mining we would even now be living in that Stone Age. In the 19th century, common sense dictated that the mineral resources of the country be developed. This logic is still legitimate. The act itself allows a company or individual to stake public lands and perform assessment work in the development of mineral exploration and extraction at no cost to the government or taxpayers. When the prescribed amount of assessment is done, the claim becomes the property of the stake holder, provided exploitable mineral resources are found. No royalties are involved. The reality is that the Mining Act of 1872 is one of the very few ways that an individual can, with a minimum investment and a lot of hard work, make something out of nothing. Naturally, the east coast, big government folks can't stand that. The NYT not only doesn't understand the situation, they feel compelled to lie about it as well. Land claimed under the Mining Act is subject to the same environmental regulations as any other property. And the comment that "intensive users . . . have operated under without strain for decades" would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic. And the lament that a law passed before the invention of the telephone should now be considered antiquated reflects poorly on much of the US code. The NYT just doesn't know what it's talking about.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The WiFi coffee shop

Human progress apparently skipped a groove. We have gone from coffee shops that simply served coffee and pastries to those that wished to sit around in public without getting drunk to coffee shops with wireless internet service so customers can geek the internet or maybe work without getting drunk. But what happened to the intermediate step? Maybe I missed the era when coffee drinkers pulled small portable TVs out of their backpacks and messenger bags and watched Seinfeld and Simpson's re-runs while they caffeinated. Must have happened somewhere, probably California.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Pat Murphy was helping me. What we were doing was not fun. It consisted of cutting up a 16' boiler and the ancillary piping and accessories and removing them from the building. Heavy work, uncomfortable, maybe a little dangerous. There was insulation on some of the piping. Maybe it was asbestos, maybe not. It made Pat nervous. He didn't wish to be exposed to a dangerous substance. I could sympathize with that feeling. But what I couldn't understand was Pat's attitude to the rigging and lifting of the heavier items. That really is dangerous. If a lift is rigged wrong or a mistake is made, if the operation is performed carelessly, something can be broken or SOMEONE CAN BE KILLED! INSTANTLY! Pat didn't seem to realize that the immediate results of an exposure to asbestos or a similar substance is nil, there may or may not be an ill effect and it may well take decades for it to make an appearance, if it ever does. The immediate result of a foul-up in a lift, however, could well be DEATH or DISMEMBERMENT! RIGHT NOW! No waiting around for the onset of a chronic disability and regular trips to the clinic. Just a standard autopsy, viewing at the funeral home and a gravesite ceremony. That's what can happen if you don't understand a potentially dangerous activity.

This attitude is evident all around us all the time. People who drive like maniacs, chattering on their mobiles, dog loose on the front seat, woozy from lack of sleep or too much drink, are worried about CO2 in the atmosphere and radon in their basement. Or mercury in the fish they catch. Or the amalgam in their fillings. Or some other substance that can only be detected by atomic absorption testing. But truly dangerous conditions that are all around them, especially on the highway, but in other scenarios as well, are accepted as a matter of course. It's the government's fault.

Easter Dinner with the World

My daughter and I went to a Chinese buffet for Easter dinner. We've been there before. I'm not sure that all-you-can-eat buffets are the best for one's health but this one has very good food and a lot of different sea food dishes. Filling my plate with shrimp diablo, braised baby octopus, and poached salmon, I sat down and after looking around, realized that I was the only Caucasian in the establishment.

Evidently, many others were enjoying an Easter feast and the majority of them appeared to be from a different land. There were blacks obviously from Africa, the men dressed in natty suits and the ladies in satin and lace dresses and head pieces that made them appear like giant orchids. There were Asians of various groups, Viet Namese, Hmong, and Chinese, Maybe others as well. And there was a Latin presence that could have originated anywhere from across the street to Tierra del Fuego. These were just the ones that I could identify by their appearance or language. The place had to be similar to a UN cafeteria.

My second plate piled with more seafood, I couldn't help but wonder at a world and a time where all these people from so many distant places had arrived at the same location, thousands of miles from their birth place, eating Chinese food in a Midwestern strip mall on a Christian holiday. Imagine a large globe with a red line from each of the diner's original homes to this spot. Perhaps several hundred red lines from all over the world converging on one address in Minnesota. Why? Because, at least up until now, life in the US has been much better than it's been in the places these people came from. They were happy to be there, sharing a great meal with their families, in a place where economic opportunity and an improvement in their life was a real possibility, rather than a hopeless dream.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Planzefreund View

The community of philosophers itself seems to have forgotten the contributions of nineteenth century German iconoclast Siegfried Schwachkopf, so it's no surprise that his ideas should be unfamiliar to the average American. Yet he and his disciples at the University of Tubingen created and elaborated a school of thought that has emerged from the dumpster of history and is making a rapid revival among a receptive following in the developed world. Schwachkopf's ideas are presented in Der Nichtkampfer feststend, generally regarded as "the bible" of his Pflanzefreund movement. The Pflanzefreunds believe that the great turning point in world history was the formation of the animal kingdom. Prior to animals, the vegetable and mineral kingdoms lived in relatively symbiotic harmony and peace. As time passed, however, a dramatic change occurred; mobile, hungry animals entered the scene. While plants continued to evolve, they were unable to keep up with the incredible pace of animal development. Plants had been able to exploit with varying degrees of success almost the entire surface of the planet but couldn't defend themselves from exploitation by increasingly rapacious animals. And animals, of course, not only attacked the plant kingdom but other animals as well. Strife and violent competition, once unknown on earth, had become endemic.

The most dedicated Pflanzefreunds visualize a world ruled by stately redwoods and majestic sequoias, pointing out that these trees can flourish for centuries, a lifespan that's inconceivable for any animal. Many realize, though, that a return to a time without animals is unlikely in the near future. These enthusiasts do what they can to alleviate the past and current animal outrages and attempt to alert the public about the future consequences of animal behavior. They point out disturbing examples: giant herds of caribou gobbling up innocent and rare arctic lichen and then defecating on the survivors; woodpeckers hammering holes in defenceless hickory trees; beaver gnawing aspen and birch to obtain the materials to build dams that create ponds that drown more plants. Even mainstream scientists acknowledge that commercial cattle operations produce enormous amounts of methane that are a major cause of global warming. Some Pflanzefreunds compare animals on earth, for instance, to cancer in an animal body, which can eventually metastasize, killing the entire organism. They predict such a possible denouement for the earth itself.

Individuals who live according to certain philosophical principles act in ways that reflect those principles. Vegetarians, for example, do not eat meat. The Pflanzefreunds have dietary restrictions as well. Orthodox Pflanzefreunds eat no vegetable matter and the flesh of no carnivorous animals. The original followers created something of a stir in conservative Germany by dressing in green leather vests and lederhosen and living in skin tents similar to the teepees of American plains Indians. Today they are sometimes mistaken for Goths, wearing long green leather overcoats. They have created a national program to return unused bicycle paths and parking lots to native prairie and woodland.

While the Pflanzefreund agenda and beliefs may be controversial in some circles, it would appear that their contention that animals are a significant source of earthly problems is beyond dispute. More open to argument is the likelihood that they may be able to solve these problems.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Resuming a Relationship

I wasn't getting along with the Rocky Mountain Blizzard. Some people think that it might be the greatest steel hard-tail mountain bike frame ever. It's been in continuous production since 1984 and is a very high quality item, unlike most frames today, made in Canada rather than Taiwan. But I just couldn't seem to make it go as fast as my other bikes.

Other bike #1: IRO Mia, disc only steel mountain bike hard-tail frame, rigid fork, 29er, SRAM front and back, 27 speed, moustache bars, Brooks B-17 saddle. Bought the frame and fork, the last one Tony had, spec'd and ordered all the components and put it all together and it's been running like crazy for over two years. It drives soooo easy and the geometry is perfect for me. I love this bike and ride it almost every day.

Other bike #2: Takara, lugged steel frame found in junk pile, probably '80s vintage, set up with a custom-made (by me) disc fork, hand-built 700c wheels, moustache bars, and a Shimano 3-speed rear hub. This is my winter, bad weather, slog through the slush bike, but at the same time it's a very comfortable bike, fairly fast, responsive, maybe a little twitchy, a little toe interference, but all-in-all a neat bike that's one of a kind. You can't buy one like it.

Anyway, years ago I took a ride on a Rocky Mountain at the LBS and jeez, I really wanted one but the frame alone on that thing is $850. When they were selling the entire bike, back in the day, it was going for around $2500, way too rich for my blood. But I got a good deal on this frame (hope it wasn't stolen) and stripped a Kona Dew Deluxe I had for a lot of the components and put the whole thing together. It's set up as a 69er, 26" wheel in back, 29" in front but for some reason it just never fit me as well as either of the other two. I couldn't make it go as fast. So it got hung up in the basement, alone and ignored for months. Maybe it got lonely. Yesterday, I decided to take it for a ride, let it out for awhile. And you know, it moved right along. It must have been so happy to be out on the street that it decided to impress me. I'm not as disappointed with it anymore. But it's the IRO and me going to the post office this afternoon.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stupor Bowl XII

That's right, Stupor Bowl, the annual alleycat bike race around Minneapolis on the day before the less well-known "Super Bowl", some kind of a TV ball game usually held in a warm place. This years' Stupor Bowl was held in rather congenial weather, maybe +35F, with a total of 23 stops, mostly at bars, where your paper manifest had to receive an ink stamp to authenticate your arrival. The winner made all the stops, a distance of about 25 miles or so in 2 1/2 hours. There were roughly 400 contestants, men and women. Reliable numbers aren't easy to come by because the bike social scene just isn't very, well, reliable. Imagine releasing a herd of hung-over bicyclists simultaneously from one location in a fairly good-sized city. And then they scatter in every direction, going down the middle of two-way streets, the wrong way on one-ways, through red lights, virtually everything you wish you could do with a car. The after race party and awards ceremony was held at the Nomad on Cedar Ave. I left as soon as it started because I didn't wish to get caught up in the tatoo exhibition and really wished to avoid the "Charles Manson look-alike contest. At least it looked like they were going to have one.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Single Mom

Ann Coulter always has something to shriek about and the latest object of her wrath is the "single mom". Well, I don't think that it's the single mom as much as it is the utopian government social engineering that produces the single mom. And she's very much right.

In the fabulous '50's, when a young single woman or girl became pregnant, she was often spirited off to some charity establishment, a relative's home some distance away or another option of which I'm not aware. After a passage of time she returned and life went on. There were few single moms as we know them today, except for widows and the rare divorcee. An unmarried woman with a child had a tough life ahead of her.

At the same time, sexual promiscuity, a term seldom heard these days, wasn't nearly as common as it is now. Single men with good jobs were a hot commodity, co-workers introduced their sisters to guys with a good paycheck. And they tried to make sure that their sister wasn't compromised by some cad.

Not any more. The post-sixties government decided that a system that had worked for at least several millenia wasn't getting the job done. There really couldn't be anything wrong with casual sex, after all everybody did it, and these single mothers couldn't provide for the child on their own, the situation isn't the child's fault, it's all about the children. So, two things happened. Social welfare programs were set up to provide for these fatherless children and legal mechanisms were instituted to capture support payments from the fathers. Everything's O.K. now, right?

Well, maybe not. There are almost half a million children involved in child support payments in Minnesota. A big city full of fatherless children. How come? Because you get what you pay for. There's no impetus for a woman with children, married or single, to stay with a man when she get a state mandated income by leaving him. When a mother shows up at the welfare office to initiate child support, there isn't any, "Look, you and Floyd had a little argument, go home and talk it over, " by the case worker. It's " Sign here, sign here." And the future is determined. Now these "sex without marriage" women are heroes. Subsidized by the government.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Hall of Fame for Bert. . . .maybe ever.

Another winter sludges by with the same results, the baseball scribes ignore the sterling career of the one and only Bert Blyleven and neglect to select the curveballer for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Big deal. They (the writers) don't seem to understand that if Bert isn't in the Hall (and Jim Kaat, as well, for that matter) then the Hall just doesn't mean all that much. The Dutchman can console himself with the fact that of all the players that have competed at the major league level, he's the best of those not in the Hall of Fame.

Consider: W-L 287-250
ERA 3.31
Career strikeouts 3701
Career starts 692
Shutouts 60
No hitter 1
American League Rookie of the Year 1970
Comeback Player of the Year 1989
World Series Championships 2
Major League Seasons 22

A very interesting feature of Blyleven's career is the fact that he was the opening day pitcher on eleven different occasions for five different teams.

The Transition

Pictured: Cass Sunstein & Samantha Power, married Obama appointees

It's time for the quadrennial transition, when the appointees of the outgoing administration are flushed from the corner offices of power and replaced by the sycophants of the new guy. Who are these people? Well, some of them are "careerist appointees", those who have done time with previous adminstations (Leon Panetta), failed incumbents (Tom Daschle), and power mad would-be kings (or queens, Hillary Clinton). Others are academicians whose ideas get an enthusiastic reception by the new guy and his disciples. Regardless of which of these or other categories the new appointees occupy, they almost all have one thing in common: they are attorneys.

And this is what the U.S. has become, a country that, for reasons that make no real sense, is run by and for the legal professional. This is actually the result of a plan that was advocated by no less the the man on the ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton. Historian Paul Johnson calls Hamilton's vision a "nomiocracy". And so it is.

For most of human existence, when a person got up in the morning, his primary concern for the rest of the day was to remain on convivial terms with the reigning deity and his local representative, the priest. This is the case even now across much of the world. The local superstition has complicated rules that govern every form of human behavior and social interaction. However, the secular society of America has taken a more modern tack. Rather than obey the commands of an invisible master and his corporeal agents, Americans have put themselves at the mercy of the graduates of legal diploma mills. These new priests make the rules by their presence in legislative bodies and interpret them in the courtrooms. They are involved in virtually every aspect of our existence and exact a tax on the same by their activity. No other country on earth attempts to support a similar group of drones.

Additionally, we supposedly are all wanting a national health care system. And why? Because a serious health issue can not only be expensive, it can bankrupt a family. Exactly the same is true of legal problems. Why not national legal insurance?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Clothes People Wear

It first occurred to me outside of Ft. Lauderdale. Sitting in "La Carretera", having a fabulous Cuban lunch, I noticed a burly fellow walk in the door. He was wearing what appeared to be a regular Miami Dolphins game jersey with I think the number "54" and the name "Thomas" on the back. If memory serves, that would be the shirt worn during games by celebrated linebacker Zack Thomas. However, the person wearing that shirt could be almost any person on earth, except the person who would be wearing it during a game later that day. I just find that real weird.

Anyway, when riding my bike I usually wear knickers with some kind of garish knee socks. My kids think I'm "goofy". If I stop at the market, which, when you travel only by bike, you must do quite often, I notice some odd looks from passers-by. Why should that be? I'm not wearing a football or hockey uniform out on the street. With someone else's name on it. I display no tatoos or skin penetrations by odd pieces of metal. I'm not wearing trainers with odd stripes and colors. So what's so strange about plus fours, which have been a normal part of male attire for hundreds of years, just not right now?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

She's Stupid!

A family conversation over Christmas reinforced one of the most common features of the American political landscape, the denigration of the intelligence of conservatives. Utopians routinely describe individuals with whom they disagree as "stupid". In this particular case, that individual was Sarah Palin. Now, I don't really know Sarah Palin. Never met her, never talked to her, don't have a T.V. so my exposure to her verbal shenanigans is limited. I really don't have a basis on which to evaluate her brain. My relatives apparently do, though. None of them have met her or talked to her, either, but each of them seemed to feel that she was "stupid". This is of a piece with the same things that were broadcast about the "amiable dunce" Reagan, Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush as well. Evidently, the supposedly rational population of this democracy is able to form an opinion on the intelligence of a candidate on the basis of heavily edited television interviews, scripted speeches and media commentary. Maybe that's how we should determine the I.Q. of everyone. Interviews broadcast on You Tube could be used for job applications or, for that matter, employment evaluations. Do you suppose school teachers would accept a job evaluation based on an edited, televised interview with an adverserial moderator?

Another aspect of the "stupid" claim for Palin is the ranking of educational experience. Obama is part of the supposed "intellectual elite" of the Ivy League and Harvard. Mentally challenged Palin went to school in Idaho so she can't possibly be smart enough to figure in national politics. The idea that a small circle of institutions in the Northeast nurture the most intelligent people in the country is beyond preposterous and an insult to 99% of Americans, whether they realize it or not. In fact, that is one of the most pernicious thoughts in the U.S. today. The graduates of these hallowed halls naturally buy in to the fable, but why should everyone else?