A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Trying to make sense of what I see of life of life in America on TV news these days, I sometimes turn to the arts, in this case to poetry.  Helps me to see more clearly, inwardly...as well as outwardly. Sharpens my feelings of guilt, my pain over what I and my white countrymen have done, are doing--and have allowed to be done--intentionally and unthinkingly.  I am particularly enlightened by Hughes, but feel no relief. "I, too, am America."

Poems by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

    By what sends
    the white kids
    I ain't sent:
    I know I can't
    be President.What don't bug
    them white kids
    sure bugs me:
    We know everybody
    ain't free.
    Lies written down
    for white folks
    ain't for us a-tall:
    Liberty And Justice —
    Huh! For All?
    My old man's a white old man
    And my old mother's black.
    If ever I cursed my white old man
    I take my curses back.
    If ever I cursed my black old mother
    And wished she were in hell,
    I'm sorry for that evil wish
    And now I wish her well
    My old man died in a fine big house.
    My ma died in a shack.
    I wonder were I'm going to die,
    Being neither white nor black?
    Comes the Colored Hour:
    Martin Luther King is Governor of Georgia,
    Dr. Rufus Clement his Chief Adviser,
    A. Philip Randolph the High Grand Worthy.
    In white pillared mansions
    Sitting on their wide verandas,
    Wealthy Negroes have white servants,
    White sharecroppers work the black plantations,
    And colored children have white mammies:
    Mammy Faubus
    Mammy Eastland
    Mammy Wallace
    Dear, dear darling old white mammies--
    Sometimes even buried with our family.
    Dear old
    Mammy Faubus!
    Culture, they say, is a two-way street:
    Hand me my mint julep, mammny.
    Hurry up!
    Make haste!
    Hold fast to dreams
    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.Hold fast to dreams
    For when dreams go
    Life is a barren field
    Frozen with snow.
    I, too, sing America.I am the darker brother.
    They send me to eat in the kitchen
    When company comes,
    But I laugh,
    And eat well,
    And grow strong.
    I'll be at the table
    When company comes.
    Nobody'll dare
    Say to me,
    "Eat in the kitchen,"
    They'll see how beautiful I am
    And be ashamed--
    I, too, am America.
    Let America be America again.
    Let it be the dream it used to be.
    Let it be the pioneer on the plain
    Seeking a home where he himself is free.(America never was America to me.)
    Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed —
    Let it be that great strong land of love
    Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
    That any man be crushed by one above.
    (It never was America to me.)
    O, let my land be a land where Liberty
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
    But opportunity is real, and life is free,
    Equality is in the air we breathe.
    (There's never been equality for me,
    Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
    Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
    And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
    I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
    I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
    I am the red man driven from the land,
    I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek —
    And finding only the same old stupid plan
    Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
    I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
    Tangled in that ancient endless chain
    Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
    Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
    Of work the men! Of take the pay!
    Of owning everything for one's own greed!
    I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
    I am the worker sold to the machine.
    I am the Negro, servant to you all.
    I am the people, humble, hungry, mean —
    Hungry yet today despite the dream.
    Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
    I am the man who never got ahead,
    The poorest worker bartered through the years.
    Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
    In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
    Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
    That even yet its mighty daring sings
    In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
    That's made America the land it has become.
    O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
    In search of what I meant to be my home —
    For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
    And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
    And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
    To build a "homeland of the free."
    The free?
    Who said the free? Not me?
    Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
    The millions shot down when we strike?
    The millions who have nothing for our pay?
    For all the dreams we've dreamed
    And all the songs we've sung
    And all the hopes we've held
    And all the flags we've hung,
    The millions who have nothing for our pay —
    Except the dream that's almost dead today.
    O, let America be America again —
    The land that never has been yet —
    And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
    The land that's mine — the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME —
    Who made America,
    Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
    Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
    Must bring back our mighty dream again.
    Sure, call me any ugly name you choose —
    The steel of freedom does not stain.
    From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
    We must take back our land again,
    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath —
    America will be!
    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
    We, the people, must redeem
    The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
    The mountains and the endless plain —
    All, all the stretch of these great green states —
    And make America again!
    Where is the Jim Crow section
    On this merry-go-round,
    Mister, cause I want to ride?
    Down South where I come from
    White and colored
    Can't sit side by side.
    Down South on the train
    There's a Jim Crow car.
    On the bus we're put in the back —
    But there ain't no back
    To a merry-go-round!
    Where's the horse
    For a kid that's
    Sweet and docile,
    Meek, humble and kind:
    Beware the day
    They change their mind!Wind
    In the cotton fields,
    Gentle Breeze:
    Beware the hour
    It uproots trees!
    What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore--
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over--
    like a syrupy sweet?
    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.
    Or does it explode?
    Too many years
    Beatin' at the door —
    I done beat my
    both fists sore.Too many years
    Tryin' to get up there —
    Done broke my ankles down,
    Got nowhere.
    Too many years
    Climbin' that hill,
    'Bout out of breath.
    I got my fill.
    I'm gonna plant my feet
    On solid ground.
    If you want to see me,
    Come down.
Copyright © Langston Hughes.

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Like many others, I have focused my dislike of fracking on the process itself:  the waste  of water, the disruption and violation of earth's geologic structure when waste products are pumped into the ground, the potential degradation of drinking water and poisoning of land, and the perpetuation  of the illusion that fossil fuels are a bottomless source for American's apparently endless need for more and more energy.

Radford's article pointed out another consideration that I had not thought of--namely, land use: what is not being produced on the land that is now employed by the whole enterprise of extraction by fracking. And what might be the implications of that?

The immediate success of fracking--dramatically increasing the production of oil and gas and reducing America's current dependence on imported petrochemicals--has  postponed the inevitable. Rather than conserve and put our efforts into developing alternative energy sources, we're simply enjoying the largesse of an unexpected technological development and partying like there's no tomorrow.

Which political party is even addressing this issue? We are only deferring another national emergency.

Well Drilling Has Deep Impact on Health of Great Plains

Posted on Apr 27, 2015
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network

    A farmer and his sons struggle through a dust storm in 1930s Oklahoma. (U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr)
This Creative Commons-licensed piece first appeared at Climate News Network.
LONDON—Oil wells and natural gas may have made individual Americans rich, but they have impoverished the great plains of North America, according to new research.
Fossil fuel prospectors have sunk 50,000 new wells a year since 2000 in three Canadian provinces and 11 U.S. states, and have damaged the foundation of all economic growth: net primary production—otherwise known as biomass, or vegetation.
Brady Allred, assistant professor of rangeland ecology at the University of Montana’sCollege of Forestry and Conservation, and colleagues write in the journalScience that they combined years of high-resolution satellite data with information from industry and public records to track the impact of oil drilling on natural and crop growth.
They conclude that the vegetation lost or removed by the expansion of the oil and gas business between 2000 and 2012 added up to 10 million tonnes of dry vegetation, or 4.5 million tonnes of carbon that otherwise would have been removed from the atmosphere.

Loss of fodder

Put another way, this loss amounted to the equivalent of fodder for five million cattle for one month from the rangelands, and 120 million bushels of wheat from the croplands. This wheat equivalent, they point out, adds up to the equivalent of 13% of the wheat exported by the U.S. in 2013.
Net primary production—the biomass that plants make from photosynthesis every day, all over the world—is the basis of all wealth and food security. It underwrites all other human and animal activity.
Human wealth depends ultimately on what grows in the ground, or what can be dug from the ground, and most of the latter—such as coal, oil and peat—was once stuff that grew in the ground.
The same net primary production is the basis of what economists sometimes call ecosystem services on which all civilisation depends: the natural replenishment of the water supply, the pollination of crops, the provision of natural nitrogen fertilisers, and the renewal of natural habitat for wild things.

“It took catastrophic disruption of livelihoods and economies [in the 1930s] to trigger policy reforms that addressed environmental and social risks of land-use change.”

And what worries the conservation scientists is that this loss of net primary production is likely to be “long-lasting and potentially permanent, as recovery or reclamation of previously drilled land has not kept pace with accelerated drilling.”
“This is not surprising because current reclamation practices vary by land ownership and governing body, target only limited portions of the energy landscape, require substantial funding and implementation commitments, and are often not initiated until the end life of a well.”
They say that the land actually taken up by wells, roads and storage facilities just between 2000 and 2012 is about 3 million hectares. This is the land area equivalent to three Yellowstone National Parks.
The hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” used to extract oil and gas is between 8,000 cubic metres and 50,000 cubic metres per well, which means that the total quantity of water squirted into the ground at high pressure during the 12 years to 2012 could exceed 33,900 million cubic metres. At least half of this was used in areas already defined as “water-stressed.”

New wells

The researchers considered the drilling of new wells in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada, and in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming in the U.S.
Although there is legislation, it is limited to lands subject to federal jurisdiction, and 90% of all drilling infrastructure is now on privately owned land—at least, in the U.S.

Tim Evanson via Wikimedia Commons
The study’s authors want decision-makers to confront the challenges of this kind of ecological disruption. There are lessons from history in all this, they warn.
“In the early 20th century, rapid agricultural expansion and widespread displacement of native vegetation reduced the resilience of the region to drought, ultimately contributing to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” they write.
“It took catastrophic disruption of livelihoods and economies to trigger policy reforms that addressed environmental and social risks of land-use change.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Well now, here's an interesting twist to the issues of campaign financing and strategy. Seems the Bush advisors feel that a Super Pac should be running his not-yet-announced campaign for President. Super Pacs, of course, can raise unlimited amounts of money from unnamed sources, so influence peddling is finally legitimized and "out of the closet." And American Democracy continues its morph into a plutocratic, corporate, self-serving oligarchy. It's legal, according to the Court, but is it right? Appropriate? Best for all Americans, not just the very rich?

Looks to me like there will be 'no holds barred' in the upcoming campaign. Personally, I just can't wait for an endless array of negative political TV ads (funded by the Super Pacs) to interrupt already offensive and vapid network programming!!

Meanwhile, as hundreds of millions of dollars flow in from an "anonymous somewhere" to get candidates elected, the leaders of political parties and the politicians in government seem to ignore the problems/"challenges" we face: the American educational system is a mess, thousands are homeless, millions are living at or below the poverty level, the environment continues to be degraded at an alarming rate, the vital components of our infrastructure are rapidly deteriorating, racism continues to rear its ugly head in a variety of venues (not the least of which is police-blackcommunity relations), veterans are left without adequate medical/mental health care, and on and on.

Clearly the current way of doing "governance" in our country is not working.  And if we expect our elected representatives, themselves products of this increasingly skewed system, to self-correct, we are  victims of a delusion or we're partaking of too much of Colorado's state flower.

As conscientious citizens, dedicated to improving the common weal, we need to think very seriously about what road this country "needs to travel by" in the future.  And to think about what's next for me as an individual voter, for my family and friends, for the guy sleeping on the grate downtown?  About what my options really are?
Apr 21, 9:29 AM EDT


AP Photo
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Jeb Bush is preparing to embark on an experiment in presidential politics: delegating many of the nuts-and-bolts tasks of seeking the White House to a separate political organization that can raise unlimited amounts of campaign cash.
The concept, in development for months as the former Florida governor has raised tens of millions of dollars for his Right to Rise super PAC, would endow that organization not just with advertising on Bush's behalf, but with many of the duties typically conducted by a campaign.
Should Bush move ahead as his team intends, it is possible that for the first time a super PAC created to support a single candidate would spend more than the candidate's campaign itself - at least through the primaries. Some of Bush's donors believe that to be more than likely.
The architects of the plan believe the super PAC's ability to legally raise unlimited amounts of money outweighs its primary disadvantage, that it cannot legally coordinate its actions with Bush or his would-be campaign staff.
"Nothing like this has been done before," said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes limits on campaign finance donations. "It will take a high level of discipline to do it."
The exact design of the strategy remains fluid as Bush approaches an announcement of his intention to run for the Republican nomination in 2016. But at its center is the idea of placing Right to Rise in charge of the brunt of the biggest expense of electing Bush: television advertising and direct mail.
Right to Rise could also break into new areas for a candidate-specific super PAC, such as data gathering, highly individualized online advertising and running phone banks. Also on the table is tasking the super PAC with crucial campaign endgame strategies: the operation to get out the vote and efforts to maximize absentee and early voting on Bush's behalf.
The campaign itself would still handle those things that require Bush's direct involvement, such as candidate travel. It also would still pay for advertising, conduct polling and collect voter data. But the goal is for the campaign to be a streamlined operation that frees Bush to spend less time than in past campaigns raising money, and as much time as possible meeting voters.
Bush's plans were described to The Associated Press by two Republicans and several Bush donors familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the former Florida governor has not yet announced his candidacy.
"This isn't the product of some genius thinking," said a Republican familiar with the strategy. "This is the natural progression of the rules as they are set out by the FEC."
Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said: "Any speculation on how a potential campaign would be structured, if he were to move forward, is premature at this time."
The strategy aims to take maximum advantage of the new world of campaign finance created by a pair of 2010 Supreme Court decisions and counts on the Federal Election Commission to remain a passive regulator with little willingness to confront those pushing the envelope of the law.
One reason Bush's aides are comfortable with the strategy is because Mike Murphy, Bush's longtime political confidant, would probably run the super PAC once Bush enters the race. Meanwhile, David Kochel, a former top adviser to Mitt Romney's campaigns and an ally of Bush senior adviser Sally Bradshaw, would probably be the pick to lead Bush's official campaign.
"Every campaign is going to carefully listen to the lawyers as to what is the best way to allocate their resources and how to maximize them," said Al Cardenas, former chairman of the American Conservative Union and a Bush adviser. "Nobody wants to relinquish any advantage."
For Bush, the potential benefits are enormous. Campaigns can raise only $2,700 per donor for the primary and $2,700 for the general election. But super PACs are able to raise unlimited cash from individuals, corporations and groups such as labor unions.
In theory, that means a small group of wealthy Bush supporters could pay for much of the work of electing him by writing massive checks to the super PAC. Bush would begin a White House bid with confidence that he will have the money behind him to make a deep run into the primaries, even if he should stumble early and spook small-dollar donors, starving his own campaign of the money it needs to carry on.
Presidential candidates in recent elections have also spent several hours each day privately courting donors. This approach would not eliminate that burden for Bush, but would reduce it.
"The idea of a super PAC doing more ... means the candidate has to spend less time raising money and can spend more time campaigning," said longtime Mitt Romney adviser Ron Kaufman, who supports Bush.
The main limitation on super PACs is that they cannot coordinate their activities with a campaign. The risk for Bush is that his super PAC will not have access to the candidate and his senior strategists to make pivotal decisions about how to spend the massive amount of money it will take to win the Republican nomination and, if successful, secure the 270 electoral votes he will need to follow his father and brother into the White House.
"The one thing you give away when you do that is control," Kaufman said.
Bush will also be dogged by advocates of campaign finance regulation. The Campaign Legal Center, which supports aggressive regulation of money and politics, has already complained to the FEC that Bush is currently flouting the law by raising money for his super PAC while acting like a candidate for president. Others are on guard, too.
"In our view, we are headed for an epic national scandal," said Fred Wertheimer, president of the pro-regulation group Democracy 21. "We intend to carefully and closely monitor all the candidates and their super PACs, because they will eventually provide numerous examples of violations."
All of the major candidates for president will have the backing of a super PAC in 2016. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz already has the support of four. After spending $65 million to boost President Barack Obama's re-election bid in 2012, a super PAC named Priorities USA is ready to help Hillary Rodham Clinton win the Democratic nomination.
But the approach Bush is charting would mark a rapid evolution of the super PAC's role, which got started in presidential politics when former Romney aides set one up to support him at the outset of the 2012 campaign.
The group raised and spent more than $142 million, largely on television advertising promoting Romney and attacking his opponents. By comparison, Romney's campaign raised $446 million.
In hindsight, Romney campaign lawyer Charlie Spies and others in his inner circle saw that super PACs, with their ability to raise unlimited money, could have done more. Spies is now legal counsel in Bush's political operation.
"Super PACs will play a bigger role in the 2016 presidential campaigns than they did in 2012," said Beth Myers, a senior aide to Romney, speaking generally and not specifically about Bush's intentions.
"The smart campaigns will restructure and adapt," she said.
The primary complication is the ban on coordination. For example, if the campaign decided to change its focus from one issue to another, it could not share that decision with the super PAC.
But there are ways around the restriction. The super PAC could take its cues from Bush's public statements, or an inexpensive video posted online by the campaign for all to see. Something as simple as a tweet could be a driving directive.
One way Bush is already addressing the coordination ban is by frontloading his efforts inside Right to Rise. Because he is not yet a candidate, he can now spend time raising money for the super PAC and take part in strategic campaign planning under its auspices.
Bush makes clear at every public event, as well as his private fundraisers, that he is not yet a candidate. Asked last week in New Hampshire about the allegations he's already breaking the rules, Bush said, "We're living within the law, for sure."
Another means of dealing with the coordination ban would be to put Murphy in charge of the super PAC, as is expected. He has been deeply involved in Bush's steps, courting donors, selecting staff and developing strategy. The idea is that once Bush breaks away to form a campaign, Murphy, Bradshaw and Kochel will have spent enough time working together so that the two groups will move in sync.
Critics also believe that coordination can take place surreptitiously, and such illegal activity isn't punished by an FEC comprised of three Democratic and three Republican members unable to agree on almost anything. Last year, the FEC found only 16 violations of campaign finance law and leveled just $200,000 in fines - a record low for recent years.
"It's up to only the Justice Department, because the FEC for all practical purposes ... will not enforce the law," Wertheimer said.
But former FEC commissioner Scott Thomas, a Democrat, doubts the Justice Department would ever look at such a case because the FEC, despite being considered ineffectual by critics, has been so precise in detailing what is allowed and what is not.
"You'd have to show a true smoking gun, showing the candidate controlling the campaign and the super PAC," said Thomas, a lawyer now in private practice in Washington. He can't see campaign operatives being that clumsy: "It would have to be a smoking gun left by someone who had the intelligence of an advanced fern."
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott and Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Washington. Jill Colvin contributed from New Hampshire.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


A headline article in the Washington Post today excitedly reported that yet another milestone has been reached in the seemingly inexorable creep of  democratic America toward a plutocratic and oligarchic America. The Citizens United decision has produced its expected results as millions and millions of publicly untraceable dollars continue to pour into the coffers of Presidential candidates. The candidates, of course, know from whence the money comes and will shape their policies accordingly if and when elected. The 90% who barely afford to subsist on their salaries and wages can't really get into this "buy influence" game at all. So, the minority wins--not really a guiding tenet of representative democracy.

The greatest democratic experiment in the history of the world is being sorely tested on a battlefield where dollars combined with with voter apathy and stagnant incomes will weaken or eliminate what used to be championed as "one person, one vote." A key operative principals of capitalism now seems to be: everything can be bought because everything has its price.  Apparently, the Koch brothers et. al. have discovered this truth and are exploiting it with 'no holds barred' to achieve their vision of self aggrandizing democratic rule.

To be a "premier fundraiser" qualifies a candidate for what? Winning the  "money race?"

Groups backing Ted Cruz raise $31 million in a single week
GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz vaulted to the top tier of the 2016 money race Wednesday as supporters announced that super PACs backing his bid had raised $31 million in a single week.The haul — which ranks as one of the biggest fundraising surges in modern presidential-race history — served as a sudden wake-up call for the rest of the likely Republican field, particularly Jeb Bush, who until now had enjoyed his status as the premier fundraiser in the contest’s early stage. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015


This morning, I saw a headline in the Washington Post that read:

In Indianapolis, concern that religious freedom law will harm local economy

For many, the objections to the Indiana law are all about its potential negative impact on the local economy while the human concerns of the Rainbow community are not mentioned or headlined at all.  

Another example, from my point of view, of the way money and greed are the chief drivers of American culture in 2015.

The Final Four will be settled on the court; the Final Fifth (and most important) Issue will probably have to be decided by the Court.