Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

At the close of a year everybody has their own look back at 2004 with their picks of best and worst. So, not to be left out here is a list sorted in a little different manner.

The Good
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park. Formerly a National Monument. It is deceptively sublime, these high dunes stacked against the knife-edged Sangre De Cristo mountains. To hike up and overlook the dunes and the San Louis valley as the sun lights them up in the morning is a joyful experience.
  • The Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, which during their preambulations on the Martian surface have found positive evidence of water. These two plucky robots are still exploring the surface of Mars.
  • Assassins, the musical play by Stephen Sondheim and revived by Roundabout Theater. This look into the tormented, crazed or insane minds of those who have killed or attempted to kill an American president is still intensely edgy fare that demands attention from the theater goer. A magnificent production. Bravo to the cast and artists from Roundabout and thank you Mr. Sondheim.
  • Whitewater canoeing. Relying on one's skill to safely navigate the beautiful, swift, rivers of America provides an intensity of experience that people partaking in any human-powered recreation recognize. Besides, it is fun.
  • Oswaldo Guayasamin and Capilla Del Hombre in Quito, Ecuador. Art that reminds us that we must support human rights is creatively relevant at any time.
The Bad
  • The reelection of George Bush. I'm truly sorry because my nation has the capacity to do better than that foolish, greedy little man.
  • A baseless war in Iraq that continues to take the lives of both young Americans and Iraqi civilians of all ages.
  • H.R. 4818 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 [The 2005 Budget]. This budget increases spending for the military and abstinence education. Meanwhile there is a decrease in the funding of Basic Scientific Research and General Education. That is one way to create a scientifically ignorant, sexually naive, belligerent populace of a nation that has lost its primacy in the application of technology.
  • Muslim fundamentalists, and, for that matter, Christian, Jewish and all religious fundamentalists. They have done so much make life mean and pointless for so many people throughout history.
The Ugly
  • The Bush Administration's shameless deception and fear mongering. While it is normal to see the active support of specific viewpoints by politicians and interest groups, never have I heard such a ceaseless campaign of alarmist fear spread by any administration in my lifetime. Let me remind you of a conversation between Hermann Goering and Gustave Gilbert during the Nuremburg war crimes trial, As Goering noted; "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a Facist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship." "There is one difference." I [Gilbert] pointed out. "In a Democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare war." "That is all well and good, but voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." I am ashamed that my countrymen are so ill educated as to forget this important bit of history.
  • A ostensibly free press that sells fear to the American public, whether it is fear for their safety or fear of being victims of the contingencies we all face during our lives. They are also responsible for creating an ignorant and fearful population.
  • Allowing the continued destruction of the still winter days in Yellowstone National park by snow-machines driven by people pathetically unconcerned of the damage they cause.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Peace In 2005?

I can only observe that we are genuinely unprepared for peace. The imposed ignorance of fundamentalism, regardless of religious leaning, creates power without conscience and invites violence against those who are demonized as unbelievers. And, those who would lead us exhibit a selfishness that looks more to the misguided security of military action than the development of national strength through the realization of genuine public good. Before considering a reflexive support of out military we all should consider these words of a patriot who knew true evil:
  • "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
I honor these words from Dwight Eisenhower in 1963 who, I believe, understood where the true strength of nations lie. He saw what a nation may accomplish when it mobilizes its civilian base of men, manufacturing and natural resources. Why do I mention this? Because a nation, strong in peace, possesses that ability to effectively mobilize its civilian base. When it loses that, several things occur. One is a fearful population willing to give up its liberties for false security. The other is an impulse to unwisely lash out against perceived enemies. History is rife with examples of states grown strong only to decline in vigor as they lose the ability to command resources when stressed. Are we at that state yet? I think so and can see no development of public strength in our near future that may command a confident peace.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Here Comes The Sun

It is easy to see why, throughout recorded history, people living in northern climes celebrate this season. After its long decline towards the southern horizon the sun is on its way north again with its promise of warmth. Celebrating our yearly cycle at Yuletide is a wonderful tradition and not exclusively secular or sacred.

I only wish that the PC, in your face, Merry Christmas bleaters, would stop trying to appropriate the Winter solstice as their own. Are you seeing this more frequently as well, rather than the quiet generosity of those who live their ethics? Whether Christian or Agnostic, Deist or Atheist, I would wish a Happy Holiday to those who's morality is based on the regard for the well being of mankind in this present life. And, to that end, let us celebrate the return of that wonderful celestial light and the renewal of life.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Well, here I am in the Galapagos. The diving was murky - about 20 feet visibility, and so the shore trips have been great. Go there before you become fossilized in body and mind and spend the extra cash to go on a small sized tour. And, by the way, go see La Capilla Del Hombre in Quito.