Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Red carpet into harm’s way rolled out for Flight MH17

Between Ukraine airline officials keeping planes flying too low and the pilot diverting his plane into the vicinity of the military transport, MH17’s fate was sealed.

Flight MH17 memorial at Amsterdam Airport. (Photo: Roman Boed / Flickr)

Flight MH17 memorial at Amsterdam Airport. (Photo: Roman Boed / Flickr)

Yesterday I posted that Russian Premier Vladimir Putin may have been making some sense when he blamed Ukraine for the destruction of MH17. Putin had said that “certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.” Apparently he was referring to flawed decisions about flight path and air traffic by Ukraine aviation officials. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Ukraine intelligence officials said they knew three days before the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that rebels in the east of the country possessed sophisticated air-defense systems capable of felling a jetliner at altitudes in excess of where the Boeing 777 was flying. Continue reading

ArtSunday: Chip

Photographers know to always be ready. The best shot may be the one you aren’t expecting.

The Balloons Over Bend festival was in town this weekend. I got up early this morning and headed down to Riverbend Park to hopefully get some nice shots of hot air balloons, which I have never photographed before.

I found a spot up on the hill behind the park (the hill where my office is located, in fact), set up the tripod and waited for the festivities to commence. But apparently it was too windy, and sadly no balloons were going to fly. Which sucked – if you’re going to crawl out of bed at 5:30am on a Sunday, you don’t want it to be in vain.

But then, as I was sitting there, this happened. Continue reading

World-Cup-2018

The future of the World Cup: three burning questions

World Cup 2014 was a great one. But what does the future hold?

russia-2018Copa Mundial 2014 was a wonderful tournament, despite the bad officiating, diving and cannibalism. We saw the emergence of new stars (what do you mean it’s pronounced “Hahm-es”?), brilliant swan songs by old stars (here’s to you Miroslav Klose), dramatic overachieving (hail Ticos!), epic flame-outs (remember back in the old days when Spain was good?), spectacular individual performances in service of doomed causes (Memo Ochoa and #thingstimhowardcouldsave come to mind) and a whole lot more. Best of all, in the end the best team won.

Now we look ahead to 2018 and beyond with a series of questions on the mind of every avid football supporter. Continue reading

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Suddenly Putin blaming Ukraine for Flight 17 makes a shred of sense

The Russian prime minister may still bear much of the blame, though.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to shift the blame back to Ukraine (Photo: Remy Steinegger / Flickr)

Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had said about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17:

I want to note that this tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in south-east Ukraine. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy. Continue reading

The Arts

Pat McCrory, Art Pope, and the short unhappy career of a Poet Laureate…

The North Carolina Poet Laureate controversy isn’t about poetry, it’s about power – and probably about money, too…

Erato, Muse of Poetry (image courtesy Wikimedia)

North Carolina has been in the news a lot lately – and not for the right reasons. A Tea Party-dominated legislature doing the bidding of a billionaire ally of the Koch Brothers, a guy named Art Pope who, while having inherited a vast fortune made by his father by selling crappy stuff to the poor, has wholeheartedly embraced  the somewhat warped version of Randian philosophy of “more for me and none for you if there’s any way I can make that happen.” As is typical in such cases, Pope sees himself as a self-made man who “won life’s race.”  Well, as my colleague Sam Smith notes, winning the 100-yard dash of life is not so tough when you start at the 90-yard line and your competitors start somewhere in the Gobi Desert. Call it the Dubya Effect: congratulating yourself for being the scion of wealth and scoffing at those who didn’t wind the biological lottery.

The words you’re looking for are selfish, self-satisfied asshole. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsLiterature

There is no “Greatest Short Story of All Time…”

There is no “greatest” short story. There are only great short stories and great writers…

Stephen Crane (image courtesy Wikimedia)

It’s wonderful to know literature. It’s great to have favorite writers. It’s even enjoyable to argue about who our best writers are, what their greatest works are.  And of course, we live in a “list culture” that thrives on creating arbitrary lists of “the greatest” in about every category of human endeavor – including cat videos.

Knowing the Internets as we all do, I’m not sure why I let myself get exercised by James Parker’s essay published at Slate a couple of days ago proclaiming “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” the greatest short story of all time. People are constantly arguing about what literature was, is, will be, or should be. Including this guy.

But there were a couple of points that Parker attempted to make (and that I, for one, didn’t buy) that piqued my interest – and that set my crap detector to clicking.

So let us begin….

Parker’s first point had to do with what makes a great short story. His context is that, above all, a story should capture the reader/listener’s attention, should draw in the audience and hold them with its power:

It’s what fiction should be, basically, what it should be aiming at: the death-grip, the ultimate concern. The naked lunch.

Continue reading

Energy

What rough beast slouches toward Yellowstone?

Pop quiz: where is just about the last place you would like to punch a deep hole in the earth’s crust?

Drat. The headline gave it away, didn’t it? Well, yes. I would think Yellowstone would come readily to mind. As it turns out, if we’re worried about triggering the eruption of a supervolcano, we’re probably worried too much. For that matter, it seems there must be plenty of places to drill that don’t even involve the Sisyphusian futility of trying to drill through earth so hot it just seals the well, else this wouldn’t even be an issue. Oil giants don’t get to hoard obscene wealth by squandering it stupidly. It’s the environment they squander, and that, rapaciously. Continue reading

Fear mongering for sex traffick? Surely that’s not what the GOP is about, is it?

I’d like to think even the GOP has limits, but sometimes I have my doubts

Lately the right-wing fear-mongering machine has been making much of news that 16 teen members of MS-13 have been identified in an Arizona border processing center. Let’s assume for a moment that this claim is 100% true. Further, let the curious reader check the Google search results for themselves to see if this is news peculiar to one side of our partisan divide here in the U.S.

There will be bad actors in every sufficiently large crowd. In this case, that’s 3 bad actors (hell, even especially bad) per 10,000 or 0.03% if we go by the commonly reported 52,000 child immigrants between October 2013 and June (less than a year). Continue reading

CATEGORY: TunesDay

Born to be Wild: Steppenwolf’s first album still fresh, 46 years on

Amazingly, Steppenwolf’s classic, bluesy debut still holds up.

by Patrick Vecchio

I’ve got my iTunes on shuffle, and a couple of minutes ago the song “The Pusher,” from the first Steppenwolf album, came up. It’s a Hoyt Axton song, but nonetheless, it’s a reminder that Steppenwolf’s debut album is a rock classic.

I might be partial because the album’s single, the still-rockin’ “Born to be Wild,” was the song that turned me on to rock ‘n’ roll—1968, it was, when I was 14. Before then, I spent my LP money on Bill Cosby comedy discs. My idea of good music was albums by Mason Williams—blame it on “Classical Gas.” And because I’m obsessive-compulsive, I had to have every Cosby disc and every Williams disc. I haven’t listened to Cosby since Steppenwolf grabbed my ears and launched me into the rock galaxy, but the Williams music I’ve revisited—once—is cringeworthy. The Steppenwolf album, though: That’s another story. Continue reading

CATEGORY: BusinessFinance

If revoking corporate charter is capital punishment, this might be genocide

And I’m okay with that

Last Thursday, John Nichols, writing for the Nation, reported on some stellar news. It sounds like, for once, something major, some positive, actually got traction in the Senate and might be moving forward. “What’s that?” one might ask. That would be an amendment that will (or at least should) reverse the damaged caused by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling, among others. Naturally, there’s more to it, but that should certainly pique one’s curiosity enough to click through and see what Mr. Nichols had to say on the matter. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive? – Renewable Journal for 7/14/2014

Electric motors provide instant torque. So yes, the Leaf is one hell of a lot of fun to drive.

leaf-dash-display-610.jpgFor more posts in this series, please click here.

FAQ #1: Is the Nissan Leaf fun to drive?

Hell yes. In fact, it’s by far the zippiest car I’ve ever owned. Able to go 0-60 in 6.2 seconds, it is more than capable of getting out of its own way merging into traffic, unlike some cars I’ve driven and/or owned in the past.

Having a car that could accelerate into traffic was important for me. At this point there’s so much road construction on my commute every day that I wanted to be able to put my foot down and fit into traffic going at 55+ MPH even when contending with a short merge lane. I had to do that this morning, in fact, since I got stuck behind two big trucks and needed to get out and around them and then up to highway speed quickly.
Continue reading

Breitbart & Gawker, match of the century?

Wherein I try for a more evenhanded tone

ICYMI, Breitbart recently engaged in the kind of, how should I put it, less than rigorous journalism that many have come to expect of the source. In this case, the effects would be downright comical if not for the radical xenophobia espoused by their sources and the author. Naturally, with “border crisis” being the cause du jour, in between assaults on women’s rights and genuine religious liberty, this story involves the border and what was found there.

“That’s when I saw this thing laying around. And I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ We walked over there and I didn’t really want to pull at it not knowing what was on it. I poked a bit at it with a stick and noticed some of the Arabic writing and was just like, ‘Oh boy.’ I snapped a couple of photos and then went on our patrol.”

Continue reading

CATEGORY: Sports

Germany 1, Argentina 0: final thoughts on a brilliant World Cup

World Cup 2014 is in the books. Congratulations to Die Mannschaft, and also to Argentina for a fantastic effort.

Mario Götze buries the winner

It was a tournament for the ages. 11 stray observations, in no particular order.

1: While the political and economic controversies surrounding this tournament were driven by very real concerns, the tournament itself was marvelous. I’m not one who can easily compartmentalize when it comes to corruption and moral issues in sport, and I have been constantly aware of the protests against the Cup, which was in many eyes an $11B debacle. Acknowledging that, the actual competition had everything – drama, brilliant play, agony, ecstasy, epic meltdowns, upsets and more. It also had, sadly, diving, cannibalism and enough horrific officiating to last us the rest of the century. Two of those things will likely be subjects for future posts. Continue reading

If corporations are people, what about capital punishment?

Pun intended

It’s about damned time we remembered that corporations are chartered and that charters can be revoked. If they’re actually people, would that be the death penalty? On those terms, I am not opposed.

In aid of that cause, I recommend passing this absolutely brilliant idea by one Mr. Kyle Noonan along to your Congressperson at your earliest convenience. Send letters to your editors. Make a noise. There’s apparently good reasons why our current corporate sanctions don’t work, largely owing to the inability of state attorneys general to recognize the greater need of the nation as compared to their own state revenues and jobs. Continue reading

NBA free agency wrap up: LeBron, Starmelo, Bosh and the Gimp

Much respect to King James. Wade is done and he’s taking Miami down with him. Bosh lashes himself to the mast of a sinking ship. And Melo is who we thought he was. Discuss.

The major elements of this year’s NBA free agency season – LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh and Wade – are now settled, or soon will be. A few reactions:

1: LeBron made a good decision, and it may have even been for the right reasons. He articulates his thinking in that wonderful letter that you may have read by now, and while you couldn’t get me to Cleveland at gunpoint, I fully respect his desire to go home and to do what he can to boost the fortunes of the place where he grew up. And I believe that he’s sincere in his justification of the … well, I started to say “the decision,” but that would have been in bad taste, huh?

Thing is, this was also a really smart hoops move. He went to Miami because he wanted to win, and he’s smart enough now to realize that he had to leave Miami to win. The problem on South Beach is simple…

2: Dwyane Wade is finished. D-Wade is a legit first ballot Hall of Famer and his career has been spectacular. But that’s all past tense now. Some years back an ESPN columnist, I think, penned an article on why Wade wouldn’t have a long career. Continue reading