Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Children of the Wind

















We spent the New Year in Mexico this year.  It was the first time we had been to our home in Real de Catorce in 3 1/2 years.  On New Years Eve, we ate dinner up the hill from our house with a grand view of the well lit Pueblo some 9,000 feet in the Sierra Catorce mountains.  For the first time since I talked the local priest into letting me light the church a decade ago, the 200 year old cathedral that silver built was lit up for the holidays.

The town was ablaze.

After dinner, when we returned to our home on the zocolo below, we could see the stage where the evening's festivities were just getting into the spirit of the coming New Year.  The bands were loud, but actually pretty good which is not always the case. A few friends joined us and we welcomed the New Year in relative peace and warmth.

On New Year's day, we got up early and started the jalepeno frijoles that have become a tradition replacing the black eyed peas of the Southern portion of Mexico's bully brother to the north.  Although we had intended in staying almost 2 weeks in this magical high mountain pueblo, we decided to head south to San Miguel and the slightly lower elevations of the Mexican highlands.

I used to look at San Miguel with some disdain.  Mostly because there were so many redneck Texans there who not only had no intention of learning Spanish, they held the locals responsible for understanding their mangled Spanish.  That has changed in the last decade.  Many of those types have returned to Texas and have instead been replaced with Mexicans from D F.  Those Americans that are replacing the Texans are from high tech centers in the Bay Area.  It's a much better environment, and we now go to San Miguel to see our lawyer, artists, and business friends that we know there. The food is good and although expensive, the accommodations are first rate.

We rented a nice home just west of the Cathedral on  Los Arboles street just off of Canal. It was private and quiet and nice.  We have another place that we like a lot  just yards away from the very center of town. It's called Cinco Flores and with its location on the upper side of Aldama, its a gem.

We spent the last 2 days in Mexico in San Luis Potosi which is probably the biggest city in Mexico that you've never heard about.  It's now about 1.5 million inhabitants, and the southwest side of town is beginning to have a very developed look of mid rise structures than grow out of the low sloped mountain that runs to the south.  San Luis is an old city and was part of the early highland culture that fought the Spanish Conquistadores to a stand off over 70 years in the 1500's.

So, here is the history of a war you never heard of.  This from Wikipedia

The Chichimecas were nomadic and semi-nomadic people who occupied the large desert basin stretching from present day Saltillo and Durango in the north to Querétaro and Guadalajara in the south. Within this area of about 160,000 square kilometres (62,000 sq mi), the Chichimecas lived primarily by hunting and gathering, especially mesquite beans, the edible parts of the agave plants, and the fruit (tunas) and leaves of cactus. In favored areas some of the Chichimeca grew corn and other crops. 

Chichimeca population is hard to estimate, although based on the average density of nomadic cultures they probably numbered 30,000 to 60,000.[5] The Chichimecas lived in rancherias of crude shelters or natural shelters such as caves, frequently moving from one area to another to take advantage of seasonal foods and hunting. The Chichimeca referred to themselves as "Children of the Wind", living religiously from the natural land. 

The characteristics most noted about them by the Spanish was that both women and men wore little clothing, grew their hair long, and painted and tattooed their bodies. They were often accused of cannibalism, although this accusation has been disputed, due to the Spanish attempt to smear natives as savages in order to justify forced conversion to Catholicism by Spain during the Mexican Inquisition.[6]

The Chichimecas Confederation consisted of four main nations: Guachichiles, Pames, Guamares, and Zacatecos. These nations had decentralized governments, and were more of independent states.[7] Due to decentralized political unity, their territories overlapped and other Chichimecs joined one or another in raids.

The Guachichiles' territory centered on the area around what would become the city of San Luis Potosí. They seem to have been the most numerous of the four ethnic groups and the de facto leaders of the Chichimecas. Their name meant "Red Colored Hair" from a pigment that they also applied to their skin and clothing. Living in close proximity to the silver road between Querétaro and Zacatecas, they were the most feared of the native raiders.

The nomadic culture of the Chichimecas made it difficult for the Spanish to defeat them. The bow was their principal weapon and one experienced observer said the Zacatecos were "the best archers in the world." Their bows were short, usually less than four feet long, their arrows were long and thin and made of reed and tipped with obsidian, volcanic rock sharper than a modern-day razor. Despite the fragility of the obsidian arrows they had excellent penetrating qualities, even against Spanish armor which was de rigueur for soldiers fighting the Chichimeca. 

As the war continued unabated, it became clear that the Spanish policy of a war of fire and blood had failed. The royal treasury was being emptied by the demands of the war. Churchmen and others who had initially supported the war of fire and blood now questioned the policy. 

In 1574, the Dominicans, contrary to the Augustinians and Franciscans, declared that the Chichimeca War was unjust and caused by Spanish aggression.[15] Thus, to end the conflict, the Spanish began to change public policy to purchase peace from the Chichimeca and assimilate with them.  

The Children of the Wind were not defeated and their spirit in the Mexican Highlands lives on today.

And now I know what a true Zacatero is. 















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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Fusion Confusion


Who didn't hear or read about the big fusion development this December when scientists studying fusion energy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced on Dec 5th that they had crossed a long-awaited milestone in reproducing the power of the sun in a laboratory?

It made the news for several days and lots of news outlets gave the breakthrough the legs that would turn most PR flacks green with envy.  

“This is such a wonderful example of a possibility realized, a scientific milestone achieved, and a road ahead to the possibilities for clean energy,” Arati Prabhakar, the White House science adviser, said during a news conference on Tuesday morning at the Department of Energy’s headquarters in Washington, D.C."

"If fusion can be deployed on a large scale, it would offer an energy source devoid of the pollution and greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the dangerous long-lived radioactive waste created by current nuclear power plants, which use the splitting of uranium to produce energy."

Well actually, fusion is deployed on a large scale right now and it's called the Sun.

And the energy from our own fusion reactor 93 million miles away arrives everyday bathing the planet with enough energy so that Albert Einstein's Nobel Prize winning idea that photons can excite a crystal latticework and produce usable electrons that can power our world.

And solar plants are going up all over the World right now producing electricity that is affordable and reliable.  Last year photovoltaic plants produced 112 gigawatts of usable power in the United States. And with wind and its other renewable cousins, renewables produce about 20% of all power. Here in Texas, that number is closer to 1/3. And that number is growing like a Chia pet.

And moving to a world run on our own fusion reactor a safe 8 minutes away at light speed is not just here, it's being manifested at prodigious speed across the resource rich landscapes of our land.

But according to the NYTs and other corporate soothsayers, the fusion of the future is not 93 miles away but right here on earth.

"Within the sun and stars, fusion continually combines hydrogen atoms into helium, producing sunlight and warmth that bathes the planets. In experimental reactors and laser labs on Earth, fusion lives up to its reputation as a very clean energy source.

There was always a nagging caveat, however. In all of the efforts by scientists to control the unruly power of fusion, their experiments consumed more energy than the fusion reactions generated.

That changed at 1:03 a.m. on Dec. 5 when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond.

The laser beams entered at the top and bottom of the cylinder, vaporizing it. That generated an inward onslaught of X-rays that compresses a BB-size fuel pellet of deuterium and tritium, the heavier forms of hydrogen.

In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried about 3 megajoules of energy, a factor of 1.5 in energy gain."

Now if you are writing this story, you can use a big bangy metaphor like a pound of TNT, but if you just look it up, you'll see that 1 megajoule is 0.277KWh.  So, the gain is about a quarter of a KWh or about 3 cents worth of energy.  And that's not counting all the other parasitic costs and expense of building a  power plant that can house a Sun on Earth.

The New York Times goes on:

"The main purpose of the National Ignition Facility is to conduct experiments to help the United States maintain its nuclear weapons. That makes the immediate implications for producing energy tentative.

Fusion would be essentially an emissions-free source of power, and it would help reduce the need for power plants burning coal and natural gas, which pump billions of tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

But it will take quite a while before fusion becomes available on a widespread, practical scale, if ever.

“Probably decades,” Kimberly S. Budil, the director of Lawrence Livermore, said during the Tuesday news conference. “Not six decades, I don’t think. I think not five decades, which is what we used to say. I think it’s moving into the foreground and probably, with concerted effort and investment, a few decades of research on the underlying technologies could put us in a position to build a power plant.”

In two decades, climate temperatures will exceed the 1.5 Degree Celsius rise that most climate scientists hope we can survive.  And, spending money on Fusion will not put a dent in our ability to reduce our carbon emissions.  

This program is a war program.

Lots of fusion confusion.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Bay of the Wise


It was a big Roevember and it's not quite over yet.  Hopefully, the D's will win the runoff in Georgia and actually pick up a seat in the Senate.  It will be quite a repudiation of the party that is out of control. Unfortunately, they did manage to eke out control of the house by a few votes.  Had it not been for Long Island and the  lower Hudson River along with  the seats that DeSantis gerrymandered, the table would have been turned. So it wasn't a wave or tsunami, it was more like a light rain.  But it will make things soggy and the House will be a mess.

But as the election began to show itself, another event in Africa was convening.  It was COP27.  And if you don't speak diplomatic acronym that's the  27th Conference of Parties for the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system", in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.[1] It was signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. Its original secretariat was in Geneva but relocated to Bonn in 1996.[2] It entered into force on 21 March 1994.[3]

As for COP 27, here is the press release:

UN Climate Change News, 20 November 2022 – The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 closed today with a breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

“This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

Set against a difficult geopolitical backdrop, COP27 resulted in countries delivering a package of decisions that reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The package also strengthened action by countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as boosting the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries.

 I had several friends who went.  One was our Mayor and the other was our County Commissioner from Travis County.  We had dinner this weekend and the results of her report are much worse than the  meeley mouthed milk toastie  official Press Release.

Here are the five main accomplishments from Reuters:


After years of resistance from rich governments, nations for the first time agreed to set up a fund to provide payouts to developing countries that suffer "loss and damage" from climate-driven storms, floods, droughts and wildfires.

Despite being the standout success of the talks, it will likely take several years to hammer out the details over how the fund will be run, including how the money will be dispersed and which countries are likely to be eligible.


The final COP27 deal drew criticism from some quarters for not doing more to rein in climate-damaging emissions, both by setting more ambitious national targets and by scaling back use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

 While the deal text called for efforts to phase down use of unabated coal power and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, some countries had pushed to phase out, or at least phase down, all fossil fuels.

But from the opening speeches to the gaveling of the final deal, the use of fossil fuels was affirmed for the near future.

President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates - host of next year's COP28 climate summit - said his country would continue to deliver oil and gas "for as long as the world is in need".

Oil company CEOs were on hand at this year's summit, after having been pushed to the margins at COP26. Natural gas chiefs were billing themselves as climate champions, despite gas companies having faced lawsuits in the United States over such claims.

Nevertheless, some electricity-poor nations in Africa argued for their right to develop their natural gas reserves, even as they face increasing climate impacts such as drought.

Other Highlights.


Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was greeted by roaring crowds as he declared "Brazil is back" in the global climate fight, and vowed to host COP30 in 2025 in the Amazon region.


A critical precursor for the climate talks' success happened far away from the Red Sea locale.

As the COP entered its second week, China's President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden met in Indonesia for the G20 where the heads of the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters agreed to restart cooperation on climate change after a months-long hiatus due to tensions over Taiwan.


The world of finance has failed to provide enough money to help countries cut their carbon emissions and adapt their economies to the changes wrought by global warming, yet the COP27 talks suggest change is coming.

Among the steps likely to free up more cash is a plan to reform leading public lenders such as the World Bank so that they can take more risk and lend more money. By doing so, countries hope more private investors will join in.

For me, the super take away is that the whole show was sponsored by Coca Cola.

My guests for dinner were alarmed at the pace of progress and they have been to at least five of these things over the years.  They didn't see how the current pace was going to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees C.  In fact neither does this group. This from last year's report:

"The world's largest-ever climate change report has been published, setting out the most up-to-date assessment of how the climate crisis will impact the world over the coming decades.

It has found that the average global temperature is likely to rise by more than 1.5°C within the next 20 years, surpassing the limit settled on in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

This warming will result in more frequent and widespread extreme weather events - including heatwaves, heavy rainfall, drought, wildfires and ocean acidification all of which have already been increasing in severity around the planet.

'Today's IPCC Report is a code red for humanity,' says António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

'The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.

'Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.'

In all predicted scenarios, we are now expected to release enough carbon emissions to cause the planet to warm by 1.5°C by 2040, although with the current trajectory of emissions this will likely be closer to 2034.

The past five years have been the hottest on record since the 1850s. The recent rate of sea-level rise is nearly triple that of 1901-1971 and human influence has caused the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s.   
It's the kind of thing that makes you want to pack up the kids and go to Sharm El Sheeikh


Which by the way, 


Bay of the Wise

We Wish.

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Monday, October 31, 2022



I remember not so many years ago when an off-year election was just that.  It wasn't that important... only all of the Congress is selected and 1/3 of the Senate, and probably the same regarding your state officials such as Governor, Lt. Governor, judges, city councils, county commissioners, and on and on.  I've voted in most of these, but surely I missed a few.  

Not that important?


And this year, the common refrain that this may be the most important election of our time is sadly perhaps true. Bill Maher, who has been coddling with the right for the last half year has suddenly come to.

This is the it can’t happen to us moment that’s happening to us right now. We just don’t feel it yet

We’re the Titanic right after the iceberg hit and honestly too many Americans just don’t care and won’t even care after it happens because they never followed politics to begin with and were never taught in school what democratic government was supposed to look like, so how sad can they be about losing something they never knew they had?

And even though Maher was right about DJT not leaving office peacefully, he is also wrong a lot. But the truth is, we are on the Titanic, but we haven't forgotten the binoculars and we still have time to avoid the proverbial iceberg.   

I'm pretty much an election nut. Back in 2016, at the Clinton Election watch party, I was the one who announced very early that we were in trouble.  It made my partner and the host angry.  Two hours later, my partner was crying and I was angry.  How could this country elect a guy who clearly was a grifter and a narcissistic psychopath?  The fact that he was defeated 4 years later was no surprise.  The fact that he has arisen from the gates of perdition to once again infect our democracy is a testament to his personality disorder and to the inability of our media institutions to accept the danger of the democracy killing virus  that issues out of his every breath and ultimately allow him to return. And clearly, after he led the rebellion to stay in office, the R's in the senate missed their opportunity to take him out when they had the chance.

So, we now have a potential sequel to our own political chain saw massacre and this election is indeed pivotal.

 If the R's actually take over the House, it will be bloody.  The Jan 6 Committee will stop in its tracks and the crimes of Jan 6 will remain only at the Justice Department.  Some of the most dangerous election deniers will be appointed to committee assignments that will make our hair stand up. To marginalize the well deserved impeachments, they will impeach the President that won election by 7 million votes. They will try to impeach the Attorney General for the temerity of indicting their leader and themselves for their assaults on our democracy and their willingness to violate their oaths to the constitution even as the Oath Keepers themselves face trial for their seditious conspiracy.

Michael Moore believes that this November will be remembered as Roevember and well it should be.  He predicts that we can still hold the House if we make this election turnout more like an on year election.  And remember, he predicted 2016 accurately to the horror of his fans.

With less than a 10 seat D majority, the path to victory is narrow, but turnout could turn the tide of tradition.

In the the 50/50 Senate, the path is more clear.  Kelly should hold in Arizona. Nevada is looking better given the early turnout and mail votes coming out of Clark County where 2/3 of all the votes will be cast. And despite the enormous support for Dr. Oz coming from out of state and out of his own pockets, Fetterman will win, especially when considering the coat-tails of Shapiro who is 11 points ahead.  That leaves us with Georgia and the abortion loving running back.  It will likely go to a run-off and with the D's already at 50, the senate will not be at stake, and Warnock should win. The most recent Marist poll shows him 4 % ahead. Many of the recent polls are crudely disguised R polls used to show movement back to the Rs and as usual, our both sider news organizations took the bate, hook, line, and sinker.

If you wonder why and how our media institutions have failed us in 2022, not unlike the way they did in 2016, remember, reporters may be progressive in their views, but their bosses, the publishers, will always have a conservative bias.  And it will take even more crime, corruption, and voter suppression before they realize that their conservative party is no longer a party of conservative tradition, but rather a rabble of power grabbing white supremacist hell bent on making freedom of religion a thing of the past in their Christian Nationalist political sect.

There are other races that are still in play. North Carolina would be a nice surprise but Budd seems to be finishing strong.  Same goes for Ohio, with Vance finishing well, thus ending a well run campaign by Ryan.

If the D's keep the senate, we can continue the record breaking pace of judicial appointments as well as not be slowed down by other presidential appointments in the executive branch.

House R's will be a pain though.  They may well hold up funding to Ukraine, thus proving that their party is truly pro-Putin.  They may hold up the increase in the debt ceiling to force reductions in social security and medicare. This can perhaps be remedied in the lame duck session in December.

And then there are the 300 plus R's that are on the ballot nationwide that deny us all of a legitimate government without any facts or proof of their belief.  I guess it's no different than their belief in the almighty.  And it's every bit as dangerous. And immune to irony, their climate change denial despite mountains of facts and daily proofs will  further endanger the whole world as they attack the IRA.

The famous baseball coach Augie Garrido always told his players that "you can't control what happens out there in the field, but you can control your response to it."

So vote, tell your friends to vote, and drive your relatives to the polls if they ask.

We should remember what Rachel Maddow says in her new podcast Ultra,

We've defeated these MAGA heads before.

As Jerry Garcia spoke back in 1988 about protecting the rain forest, (paraphrased)

"Somebody has to do something, 

and its just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us."

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Friday, September 30, 2022

Why Electric Transportation Matters






Over the last many months, I have been working with the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance on the Texas Electric Transportation Roadmap. It will be published early next year as both a book and a web site.  It's going to be called Getting There.


Here is the first part of the first chapter:


With all the hubbub about electric cars these days, it’s not surprising that some of us wonder why.  Why do we need to replace our existing infrastructure of cars, trucks, filling stations, and oil change centers? We have seen our transportation system improve and modernize over the last 100 years to become a very reliable way to get from home to office, or from home town to your favorite ocean side beach.


It's reliable, you can buy hats while you fill up with gas and you can load up with sugar and starch while you do it.  Many of us have experiences where the car heats up, or the AC breaks, or the fuel pump goes out, and in the vast amount of experiences, things work out.  We find a mechanic after asking around, we call triple A, or in the worst case, we call a wrecker and simply rent a car at a fairly reasonable price.


The system works.


But the transportation system doesn’t work with the rest of our infrastructure.  You can’t power your house with your car with this system.  And you can’t power your car with your house.  When you park 40,000 of our cars into several square miles of asphalt, they can’t power the lights at the football stadium. We can’t use our cars to power the grid when a snow storm freezes the gas fields which shuts down the power plants. 


So we have two very large systems in our advanced world and they don’t communicate or share with each other. Electric transportation solves that problem


Even though electric cars seem new to most of us, they have been around longer than our gas powered cars. Here is what the Department of Energy has to say about the early days of ET.


“It’s hard to pinpoint the invention of the electric car to one inventor or country. Instead it was a series of breakthroughs -- from the battery to the electric motor -- in the 1800s that led to the first electric vehicle on the road.


In the early part of the century, innovators in Hungary, the Netherlands and the United States -- including a blacksmith from Vermont -- began toying with the concept of a battery-powered vehicle and created some of the first small-scale electric cars. And while Robert Anderson, a British inventor, developed the first crude electric carriage around this same time, it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that French and English inventors built some of the first practical electric cars.


Here in the U.S., the first successful electric car made its debut around 1890 thanks to William Morrison, a chemist who lived in Des Moines, Iowa. His six-passenger vehicle capable of a top speed of 14 miles per hour was little more than an electrified wagon, but it helped spark interest in electric vehicles.


Over the next few years, electric vehicles from different automakers began popping up across the U.S. New York City even had a fleet of more than 60 electric taxis. By 1900, electric cars were at their heyday, accounting for around a third of all vehicles on the road. During the next 10 years, they continued to show strong sales.


To understand the popularity of electric vehicles circa 1900, it is also important to understand the development of the personal vehicle and the other options available. At the turn of the 20th century, the horse was still the primary mode of transportation.


Yet, it was Henry Ford’s mass-produced Model T that dealt a blow to the electric car. Introduced in 1908, the Model T made gasoline-powered cars widely available and affordable. By 1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster sold for $1,750. That same year, Charles Kettering introduced the electric starter, eliminating the need for the hand crank and giving rise to more gasoline-powered vehicle sales.”


In 1905, Henry Ford sold 500 cars.  In 1915, he sold 500 thousand.  Take a look at any photograph of a western city and the change in our cities is profound. In 1905, there were no cars, and in 1915, there were no horses.


So electric vehicles have been around a very long time.


But besides unifying the global energy system, why else would we supplant our existing transportation system which arguably performs well enough.


It’s the carbon.


When Drake drilled his breakthrough well in Pennsylvania in 1859, change was on the horizon.  But when Captain Lucas drilled through the overburden in East Texas in 1901 and his Lucas Geyser blew oil 150 feet into the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day, change had come.  Rock oil became plentiful and cheap.  No longer would we need to send New Englanders out to spear Whales for oil for our lamps.  We literally had oil to burn.


And it was cheap, cheap enough to drive electric vehicle technology into a 100 year slumber.


But now by burning all that carbon that was sequestered deep in our geologic inheritance and releasing the carbon dioxide that was formed in the process, our climate is changing.


And we simply have to stop doing it or our children will be harmed and our grandchildren will die.


Why do we need to transition to electric vehicles?


We simply must.


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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Light We Cannot See












We have just returned from a visit to McCall Idaho.  There is a wonderful lodge there that sits on the confluence of the southern shore of  Payette Lake and the Payette River.  The river makes its way to the south there, creating several other large lakes as well as the often rafted river gorge with its class five rapids.  The Lake is an ancient 600 feet deep glacial lake with pristine snow melt water that is clear enough to see perhaps 30 feet down.  For a week, I did little more than stare at the lake with its 8,000 foot mountains on its northern shore from our room or the sandy beach just below.

The light there is magnificent.  The bright sand, the blue water, the green pine forest, the clear aired light blue sky with all manner of clouds hanging over it all.  It's like looking at the ocean, except you are a mile high and the waves lap instead of roar.

We had friends with us who we gladly shared our time with.

One night, we talked about the Pulitzer prize winning book,  All the Light We Cannot See.  Besides being one of the great titles of all time, some reviewers opine that it is one of the best historical fictions of our time. This from its Amazon page:

Written by Anthony Doerr, the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of Cloud Cuckoo Land, All the Light We Cannot See is a beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors”
are dazzling. Ten years in the writing,  All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill”.

The book was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, and a National Book Award Finalist.  And it should soon also be available as a 4 part series on Netflix this year. 

But what does the title mean?   It's a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant to the plot of the book).

But for me, the title is more ethereal than that. 

For as I have written in Lightland and Beyond,  we literally do not see light at all.  All the light we cannot see is the creation itself.  For we only see where the light has been.  Look up into the dark night sky to see for yourself.  Space is full of light, yet we see mostly darkness with our eyes.  And this distinction is not just some semantic trick.

In the Greek creation of the Cosmos as described in the Theogony,  Hesiod asks the Muses to reveal to him which came into being first and the answer was the Void.  Out of the Void came darkness and black night. Out of Night came Light and Day.  Even in the Hebrew version of the creation... darkness is first. 

But the point is this.

Most of us do not see Light.  

We see Day.  

For light cannot be seen without matter, and as sure as matter reveals light, it also creates shadow or the Night. In Doerr's masterful work, Marie-Laure LeBlanc evacuates Paris with her father after he is entrusted with a valuable diamond named the Sea of Flames. It represents the human desire for power and control.

And in this dark night of political ignorance,

All the light we cannot see will win the day.


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Sunday, July 31, 2022

The October Surprise












Remember the ERA? It was the Equal Rights Amendment and it almost passed to become part of our Constitution more than 40 years ago.  It's pretty straightforward.

"SECTION 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

"SEC. 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

"SEC. 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification."

From the Congressional Research Service:

"The power to amend the Constitution is established in Article V. Article V empowers Congress to propose an amendment when two-thirds of both chambers deem it necessary or on the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures to call a convention for proposing an amendment.  

A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by conventions in three-fourths of the states. Following ratification by three-fourths of the states, the Archivist of the United States, pursuant to 1 U.S.C. § 106b, is to identify the ratifying states, publish the amendment, and certify that the amendment has become part of the Constitution.

By the fall of 1977, 35 states had ratified the ERA, three fewer than the 38 needed for adoption. H. J. Res. 638 was introduced in October 1977 to extend the ERAs ratification deadline until June 30, 1982. Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, the joint resolutions sponsor, indicated that the extension would provide an insurance policy to assure that the deadline will not arbitrarily end all debate on the ERA. H.J. Res. 638 passed the House and Senate in 1978, but no additional states ratified the ERA before the June 30, 1982, deadline.  

However, Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017, and Illinois ratified the amendment in 2018. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA in 2020.

After Virginia ratified the ERA, supporters of the amendment moved for its inclusion in the Constitution, as it had been ratified arguably in accordance with Article V by three-fourths of the states. The Archivist declined to certify the ERA, however, relying on an opinion by the Department of Justices Office of Legal Counsel, which concluded that the amendments original ratification deadline had expired and that the amendment was not properly before the states when approved by Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois.  

In January 2020, Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois filed a complaint in federal district court seeking relief that would have ordered the Archivist to publish and certify the ERA as part of the Constitution under 1 U.S.C. § 106b. In Virginia v. Ferriero, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the lawsuit, primarily on its conclusion that the states lacked standing to invoke the courts jurisdiction."


The Supremes decide to violate the spirit of the ERA only a year after it finally receives the ratification of the 38th state, thus qualifying it to be part of our Constitution

Apparently they did. 

But there's more:

Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada filed an appeal of Ferriero with the D.C. Circuit in May 2021. In February 2022, the court granted Virginias motion to be dismissed as a party in the case. Currently, Illinois and Nevada are continuing with the appeal, and oral argument before the D.C. Circuit has yet to be scheduled.

But there's still more:

Between 1973 and 1978, five statesIdaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennesseepassed legislation to rescind their prior ratification of the ERA.

Legislation to revive consideration of the ERA has been introduced steadily since the 1982 deadline. These measures have generally assumed two approaches. One approach involves restarting the ratification process with a new joint resolution. H. J. Res. 28, for example, proposes a new constitutional amendment relative to equal rights for men and women. If passed by the House and Senate, the amendment would be presented to the states for ratification.

A second approach contemplates the continued vitality of the 35 state ratifications completed before the ERAs original ratification deadline. H. J. Res. 17 provides that notwithstanding any time limit contained in House Joint Resolution 208, 92d Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972, the article of amendment proposed to the States in that joint resolution shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the United States Constitution whenever ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.  

Is there another third approach? 

Could the President instruct the Archivist to adopt the amendment?

Could he simply appoint an Archivist who will?

The ERA would be the first amendment added to the Constitution in nearly 30 years and the most significant since the Twenty-Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 more than a half century ago. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment, ratified in 1992, affected only the 535 members of the House and Senate, mandating that congressional salary increases not take effect until after the next election. 

The ERA, by contrast, would confer a new constitutional protection to every American citizen that, unlike current state and federal anti-discrimination laws, would not be vulnerable to the whims of whichever party wields power at a given time. 

Might make a good October surprise




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