An avian visitor

HawkWhile we were eating lunch, outside on the deck, a Hawk landed on our backyard trellis thingy. Michele heard her – or him, I have no idea – first, thinking the cat had jumped up on the railing with a loud thump. Then she spotted her/him sitting on the top rail, a little brownish lump about 3/4s of the way down. And sitting, and sitting, and sitting. On the other side of the screen is a group of chickadees was hanging out in the Buddleia and we think the hawk may have been hunting although we finished lunch and went into the house before he/she did any hunting. HawkBTW, we think the little guy was a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) but we are not sure.

Watching Simone Biles, thinking about human deversaty

simone-biles-1-800According to our current understanding of the DNA evidence, somewhere around 50,000 to 75,000 years ago, about 600 people, out of the total human population of about 1,500 people, left Africa. The ancestors of those 600 people populated the rest of the earth. The thinking – which is being refined on an almost daily basis as we learn more from massive DNA sampling, among other things – is that they crossed the water somewhere around where the Red Sea changes into the Gulf of Aden and then slowly worked their way along the coast, to south-eastern Europe and India. From India, some humans migrated deeper into Asia. Some of those humans migrated to what we now call China and eventually, even to the Americas while others doubled back to northern Europe.

Just as the migration out of Africa involved a sub-set of the entire human population, each additional migration was a sub-set of the original migration. As a result, there is more human genetic diversity in Africa than the rest of the world put together and way more than, say, in Europe. Because of this, the chances are good that the shortest Olympian would be of African heritage just like the chances are good that the tallest Olympian, DeAndre Jordan, would be of African heritage. Interestingly enough, the chances are that the smartest Olympian is also of African heritage.

The idiots and change

On the roadAnd while you’re spot on in terms of the good she’s done for white women and children in this nation as a result of her activism, you also know the facts concerning her lobbying for the 94 crime bill and welfare reform, with the repercussions of that still reverberating today in minority communities, as well as her overt militarism that she demonstrated in her Senate seat, as well as the State Dept, as is also still witnessed today in the refugees pouring out of Libya and Syria as ISIS pours into those failed and failing states. Of course, the list goes on and on… Will Taylor on Hillary Clinton in a facebook comment.

I was listening to Barney Frank and Bill Maher talk about the guys that booed Berni, and Barney Frank. They – they being Bill and Barney – were very dismissive and we got a short lecture on government being compromise. The Bernie booers were written off as being unreasonable purists. On facebook, they are called sore losers, or simply not getting it, or just, idiots. I know I can go there, calling them idiots, not with the Bernie idiots but with the Tea Party idiots refusing to compromise. But listening to Bill and Barney’s sanctimonious chatter, I began to think of them as heroes. I realize that Bernie lost, even Bernie knows he has lost, and I want to be reasonable. I don’t want to be called an idiot of facebook. But we reasonable ones, we pragmatists, the great majority of us who say the purists are unreasonable, owe them a big debt. They are purists and extreme so we can be reasonable.

People like me who want change but agree to vote for Hillary, who fall in line, because it is the sensible thing to do, will not bring on the change we so desperately want. The people who are called idiots on facebook, are the people who actually move the political needle, not the reasonable ones like us. They are the ones that, in reality, create change.

Our Albuquerque Vacation and other roadside attractions…ah, coming soon but first politics

The RoadI’ve been trying to write about this trip for two weeks, getting nowhere. More accurately, I’ve been writing about different parts of the trip and abandoning them as I get sucked into facebook arguments. And, at night, it is hour after hour of fascinating, sometimes bewildering, always distracting reality TV, with new facebook conversations in the morning. Most surprisingly civil conversations, given the emotions. Here are a couple of things that have stuck with me three days later.

To quote, from memory, a Republican woman talking about Trump when asked about the people who weren’t supporting him, “At the end of the week, when everybody goes home, when they pack up the banners , when they fold up and put away the chairs and turn out the lights, those people better be on board or Trump will run against them. He is running against the establishment, not just the Democrats, he is running against the people who made this mess.”

To quote, not from memory, Khizr Khan, a Pakistani immigrant whose son, a US Army Capitan, was killed in Iraq while protecting soldiers under his command, talking to Trump, “Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending  America, you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities, You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

To me, these were the two most iconic moments of the last two weeks. The anger and righteous confidence of the Trump supporter and the solid softness and raw pain of the Khans, the mother wearing her hijab and the father holding his well-worn copy of the Constitution. The last two, making a great case for Muslim inclusion in the new American mosaic. Intellectually, I understand that the milestone of Hillary Clinton being nominated to run for President is the big news, but it didn’t tear me up like Mr. Khan, probably because I am a guy but also because Hillary Clinton seems so connected to and entwined with the apparatus of the party, a little like Benazir Bhutto, that getting the nomination was a foregone conclusion. There was no other choice. Yes, Bernie came along, and he rocked Hillary Clinton back on her heels until the Democratic Party antibodies kicked in but, let’s face it, a 74-year-old Jewish, self-identified socialist with a Brooklyn accent was never going to be the strongest candidate. That Bernie ran so well is a testament to his obvious integrity as well as a big part of the electorate’s hunger for change, especially the young electorate who will have to live with the future. As an aside, to whine that Bernie wasn’t treated fairly is somewhat disingenuous, Bernie who wasn’t even a Democrat two years before he tried to crash their party and I think he has already reverted back to being an Independent was in no position to make, shape, or enforce the rules. End aside. But, with all that acknowledged, Hillary Clinton is the first women to be nominated to run for President who actually has a viable chance to become President of The United States and that is a very big deal. To make it more delicious, she is running against a guy who appears to think about women only in term of fuckability (to borrow a line from Amy Schumer). Add to that mix, Hillary Clinton personifies the very establishment Trump is running against like no other politician.It should be a mesmerizing contest.

Watching Bernie say, “Many here are disappointed. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am. But take pride in what we’ve accomplished.” while explaining that he thought the only rational move was to vote for Mrs. Clinton, I thought he looked tired and worn out and it occurred to me for about the hundredth time that he is 74 years old. Not only that, Trump is 70 and Clinton is 68. Where are the young people who understand today’s world, why aren’t they shaping it? And, for that matter, why is a 78-year-old Jerry Brown the governor of California? When are the young – young really meaning middle aged – people picking up the baton?

The Democratic Convention was way, way, better than the Republicans as art, as a finished production, and most importantly, as pure propaganda. That was a little bit of a shock. I figured that, with all of Trump’s showbiz experience, the Republican Convention would be a visual and propaganda triumph. It wasn’t, it was a hamfisted attempt to make Trump seem likable and reasonable and it almost worked until the actual Donald Trump himself showed up. Still, I thought Trump’s wife and kids were stellar character witnesses. Melania’s speech, especially, was heartfelt and touching, sure she copied a couple of Michele Obama’s lines, but it was out of admiration, the sincerest form of flattery, and Ivana’s speech was what every father would love to hear from his daughter. Then came Donald Trump, walking out from a tunnel of bright light that we have been conditioned to think of as coming back from death, trying to look like a savior but only looking like a petty dictator, and, in the end, making his wife and daughter look like liars. With no sense of perspective or humility, he yelled, “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” Beware of anybody who tells you they alone can fix anything. In the end, the Republican Convention just seemed tawdry, a thin layer of gold paint trying to make a shoddy structure seem substantial.

The Democrats had one major speaker after another starting with Cory Booker.  In between, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton gave pretty good speeches with Bill looking older than I expected. Bernie brought a tear to my eye when he asked the Convention to vote unanimously for Hillary  and, of course, both Obamas hit home runs. We have come to expect that but it was still thrilling to see them dazzle. Barak Obama, in particular giving a speech that was so good that the scalpel he wielded was not noticeable. But it was there, as he joined in the parade of people telling us that Trump is not stable enough, adult enough, knowledgeable enough, to be dog catcher, let alone President. Another Barak Obama speech that was hard not to admire. Chelsea Clinton more than held her own while introducing her mom (and I think she and Ivana must have the same people doing their makeup, certainly the dewy lips). The Democratic Convention crowd was as diverse as America although a more patriotic, almost jingoistic, American. Then the two weeks of constant politicking ended with Hillary Clinton, dressed in suffragette white, giving a very serviceable speech. She sounded and looked very Presidential.