Saturday, March 26, 2011


Well, not really.  It's true that the US spends a stupendous amount of its wealth on the military, far exceeding the combined total of the next 15 or so countries. 

The US is also the number 1 economy in the world, but according to forecasting of the Pardee Center for International Futures,  China will become the largest economy in the world within the next few decades, only to then be overtaken by India, relegating the US to third place.

So, how does the US compare worldwide in other categories?  Here are some very interesting data re where the country ranks in comparison to other countries [March 14 2011 issue of Time Magazine and other sources]:

1       Obesity
1       Guns
1       Crime [Developed Countries]
1       National Debt
1       Number of Universities in Top 10 Worldwide
6       Higher Education Enrollment
10     Prosperity Index [down from Number 1 in 2007]
11     Spending on Research and Development
12     College Graduation [Developed Countries]
15     Math Skills of 15-year-olds
17     Science Skills of 15-year-olds
27     Life Expectancy
27     Years of Secondary Education per Worker
31     Adequate Food and Shelter
47     Infant Mortality - 46 Countries Have Lower Rates
79     Elementary School Enrollment
84     Domestic Savings Rate

We are also likely numero uno in things like expenditures on professional sports and sports facilities, political campaign expenditures, wealth gap, and a host of other less-than-edifying endeavors.  Does this all mean that the US is in decline?  Fox News - no.  Most everyone else - yes, ncluding Bob Herbert in this commentary entitled Losing Our Way:
So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.
ps - once again, Nuggets Win - Knicks Lose, and this time I am gloating a bit!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


There are probably some folks out there that are gloating about this, but let's just say that yesterday's game outcomes warmed the cockles of my heart.  ESPN carried the double header of the Magic visiting the Knicks and the Spurs visiting the Nuggets, and watching both games was great fun.  The early game saw the Magic and Knicks stay neck-and-neck until crunch time, and the Knicks folded while Dwight Howard continued to shine.  Chauncey showed his age, and neither Melo or Stoudemire could hit anything.  Magic 111, Knicks 99.  In the second game, the Tim-Duncan-less Spurs shot the lights out for three quarters and led by as many as 14.  However the Nuggets pulled it back to even in the fourth quarter, and when crunch time came, the Nuggets kept hustling and working together and the Spurs shots started to miss the mark. Lawson and Felton continued to fly down the court, and Al Harrington was numb - 27 points with 5 three-pointers. Nuggets 115, Spurs 112.

The Knicks are now below .500 at 35 and 36, which amazingly keeps them in 7th place in the East.  That record would put them in 12th place in the West.  Denver's record of 42 and 29 places them in 5th in the West.  The Knicks have lost 7 of their last 8, and are not doing so great after the trade whilst the Nuggets are 11 and 4.  Among the many interesting things about the big trade and the ensuing success of the Nuggets are the perspectives of the New York press and ESPN commentators.  Last night, one of the ESPN guys went out of his way to put a positive spin on what's going on, and there is much talk back east about how it takes quite a bit of time for new players to adjust to each other, blah, blah, blah.  Well, that is indeed true when the new players are selfish me-ballers.  Just look at the Nuggets - it took them exactly one game to "adjust to each other."

I realize that it is still just a short time post-trade and that things could change dramatically.  However, at them moment, it is fun to do exactly what one Newsday sports writer said would be happening given the current results - "I can hear the voices in the Rocky Mountains saying 'I told you so'."  Indeed we did.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Alberto Granado, Argentine biochemist, research scientist, medical school professor and author passed away on March 5, 2011.  Alberto was probably best known as Ernesto "Che" "Fuser" Guevara's friend and companion in the Motorcycle Diaries.

Che & Alberto with La Poderosa II

I first learned of Alberto while reading Jon Lee Anderson's extensive biography of Guevara, Che Guevara:  A Revolutionary Life and observed the movie version of Alberto in The Motorcycle Diaries that was based on the diaries that both Granado and Guevara kept on their 5000 mile trip across South America.  Alberto and Fuser choose different paths toward revolution - Che said that there could be no revolution without guns, and Alberto did not accept his friend's strategy.  For anyone interested in understanding how two priviledged youth, a physician and a scientist, an asthmatic and his companion, could travel such different paths, I highly recommend Anderson's book.  It helps in understanding how Che at 39, was executed in Bolivia, and Alberto, at 88 died of natural causes in Cuba.

From the movie - review here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today's blog is by Ken Willems, and is the first of what I hope will be a regular occurrence, namely guest contributions.  Ken has been a long time fan of Bob Dylan, and I asked him if he would be willing to document his admiration for a legend that keeps growing.  Thanks Ken for sharing this story.

Some time in 1962, during study hall, my attention was seized by an article in the music section of Newsweek magazine. I was probably 16 years old at the time and a sophomore in high school. The article was about a young folksinger named Bob Dylan. It described his early life in Hibbing, Minnesota, his migration to New York City, his adoration for Woody Guthrie, the release of his first album, and of course, his music. All of that was very interesting to me since I had been interested in folk, early country, and old gospel music for some time. But what really got my attention was the closing paragraph. The writer observed that Dylan and his music caused middle class kids to want to leave home and take to the open road.

Several months later I bought my first guitar, my dad showed me three chords (that was all he knew) and I began playing. Not long after, I acquired a harmonica and a rack. I didn’t really know how to play, but I knew I wanted to. I also bought Dylan’s first album, BOB DYLAN. I listened to the old gospel songs such as “Gospel Plow” and “Fixin’ To Die”, and an old Jimmy Rogers song called “Freight Train Blues.” Dylan’s voice and the way he sang really resonated with me. But the song that got to me most was “Song To Woody.” Dylan had written it himself. That was a new idea for me at the time. I guess I had never thought much about where songs came from.

One day soon after I bought the record, a music teacher friend of my parents visited our house. Dad had me play some Dylan music for him. He listened, then said, “His guitar is out of tune, his harmonica is not even in key, and he can’t sing. He’ll never make another record.” I remember my Dad smiling at that!

Less that a year later Dylan released his second album called THE FREEWHEELIN’ BOB DYLAN. I bought this record too. He also began a nationwide concert tour. The songs on this record had almost all been written by Dylan. And they weren’t just songs. They had a point to them, a message. The words were very important in these songs which was very different than the popular music of the day.

I can’t recall where I heard it, but one day during my junior year of high school I learned that Bob Dylan was going to perform at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. A friend and I decided that we were going. He had his driver’s license and, more importantly, a car. After considerable pleading (and probably other strategies too) we got permission to go to the concert.

It was December 27, 1963, and it was cold, but the weather and roads must have been good. We arrived at Orchestra Hall quite early and sat in our seats waiting for over an hour. The stage was set for the concert. On the stage there were two bar stools and one microphone stand with two microphones, one for the vocals and one at guitar level. On one of the bar stools there was a collection of harmonicas, probably five or six. The audience arrived, mostly after us, took their seats. I remember the hall being very quiet, as if a dignitary was going to deliver a very important speech.

Dylan was introduced with exactly the same words as he has been each of the other times I’ve seen him in concert. Simply, “Ladies and gentlemen, Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan.” He walked on stage carrying his guitar. Without a word, he launched into the first song of the evening. He sang them all, “Blowin’ In the Wind,” “Hard Rain,” “Masters of War,” “Girl From the North Country,” and all the others on the FREEWHEELIN’ album plus some others I had never heard. The applause for each song was powerful and deep. The audience’s appreciation for the music was expressed in a manner that bordered on reverence. After about two hours of non-stop playing, Dylan said “Thank you,” and left the stage. He played an encore or two, said “Thank you,” again, then left. The lights came up and the concert was over.

I was on the way to play pick-up basketball at an outdoor park sometime in 1965 when I first heard “Like a Rolling Stone.” I felt betrayed. I couldn’t understand why Dylan would want to play an electric guitar and make popular music. He was far more than that! I liked the song but I simply could not come to grips with why this was happening. Some years later I was given an album of a live performance by Dylan. Every song he played was vastly different than the way it “should have been.” His greatest and most meaningful songs had new chords and different rhythms. I kind of liked it, but it just was not right!

It took me a few years, but over time I began to understand. “Rolling Stone” was equal in depth to anything else Dylan had done. The songs on subsequent albums and the new arrangements of old songs were also extraordinary. Dylan was staying ahead of himself. He was continually moving on to something new. Exploration seemed to be far more important than anything else. Throughout Dylan’s different “reinventions of himself” he has constantly been moving forward, never stagnating with a successful formula as many musicians seem to do.

In the early ‘80’s, following the break-up of his marriage, Dylan wrote and recorded what I consider to be his finest music with the exception of THE FREEWHEELIN’ BOB DYLAN.  BLOOD ON THE TRACKS is filled with emotional and interesting songs. “Tangled up In Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Idiot Wind,” “Shelter From the Storm,” and others capture your attention and hold it. These songs do not seem to age.

I had only gone to a handful of Dylan concerts before getting married and starting a family. For quite a period of time, I had no money for concerts and I was still unsure of Dylan’s inclination to change before I caught up. In the late ‘80’s, however, I began to buy Dylan music again and went to a few concerts. In the ‘90’s there were more concerts. At this writing I’ve probably seen Dylan in concert around 25 times and own much of his music. I’ve seen him all acoustic, half acoustic and half electric, and all electric. It’s all great, but if I could talk to him, I’d still tell him to play acoustic.

On October 10, 2010, I saw Dylan in concert again. The introduction was the same as always. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan.” The audience was split between college kids and old fogies. The college kids whooped and hollered and the old fogies just sat there smiling. He walked on to the stage with his band and began playing. The songs were all different than I had ever heard them before. But they were all great. He played the entire concert, just about two hours, without speaking. He did two encore songs. Between them he introduced his band. After the second encore, even though the audience remained standing and cheering, he left. Moments later the lights came up and it was over. At age 67 he still plays great music!

Personally Dylan remains one of the final links to my youth. That alone makes him important. The interest in his music that he generated within me gave me a lifetime hobby; making my own music. That also makes him important. But, as I look back over the many years I have been a Dylan fan, perhaps the most important result of this long and non-personal relationship is that I learned from his example to do things my own way and never base my decisions on what others might expect. That philosophy has served me well in many different situations over the years.

I recall telling someone once that I thought Dylan was going to be remembered as one of the most influential people of the 20th century. I still think that is the case. When this mystical man finally leaves the stage, he will have left a huge footprint on not only the musical, but also the political and social landscapes of our world. Many, like myself, have also had their own personal lives influenced by Dylan’s work, attitudes, and examples. Not bad for a guy who can’t sing, and plays an off-key harmonica and an out-of-tune guitar.

And here is a great music video that shows Dylan through the years.

Friday, March 11, 2011


*  The Nuggets win again, defeating the Suns 116-97, ending a losing streak in Phoenix that dates back seven years for the Nuggets and back to 1997 for Nuggets' coach George Karl.  As the Denver Post pointed out:

The Nuggets, dropped by TNT on Thursday night for a lack of star power, are methodically proving team power can be just as scintillating. They are a raw reincarnation of the 2003-04 Pistons, a bunch that is a fast-breaking, breathtaking sum of its parts. It's a team that is not only making believers out of fans and purists who thought basketball couldn't be played like this with any consistency and win, but by the scouts who cover them.  At one point during the game, one gasped: "These guys are really good, man."  "I've never seen these guys play like this before," said another, obviously familiar with the iso, pick-and-roll Nuggets. "A really different team."

*After yet another Knicks loss, the New York Times notes:

The Dallas owner Mark Cuban said he was not necessarily happy that Carmelo Anthony is out of the Western Conference because he said the Nuggets improved themselves in the deal. “I think they hit a home run,” Cuban said. In the deal, the Nuggets received Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov from the Knicks. Denver is 6-2 since the trade.

*  The CU Buffs are likely to make it into the 68 team NCAA tournament.  They beat Kansas State for the third time this season, and will face Kansas next in the Big 12 Tournament.  Kansas beat CU twice this season, but the Buffs were close to the upset in both games.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


As previously noted, kd lang is a favorite, and this is a fine tune.  For anyone with a sharp eye for trivia, yes, that is John 5 in the background, playing guitar and shaking his head.  I am particularly fond of the opening featuring the concertina.

Even through the darkest phase
Be it thick or thin
Always someone marches brave
Here beneath my skin
And constant craving
Has always been

Maybe a great magnet pulls
All souls towards truth
Or maybe it is life itself
Feeds wisdom
To its youth

Constant craving
Has always been
Ah ha

Monday, March 07, 2011


I believe that there are several cities that have such a tag line - Austin and Portland come to mind.  However, Boulder was probably the first to have a website dedicated to the proposition.  Today's Daily Camera has a special article with Davide Andrea lamenting the fact that Boulder is losing its weirdness, with the loss of such events as the Naked Bike Ride and the Naked Pumpkin Run.  Andrea says "I see that Boulder is getting more non-controversial and middle of the road."  However, if you visit the Keep Boulder Weird website, you will see that there are still plenty of examples of Planet Boulder.

Friday, March 04, 2011


We are at 3rd and Spruce and this is probably the fellow that was also seen on the trail next to our place.  Here is the story from the Boulder Daily Camera:

"He's huge."
That's how JoOnna Silberman describes the six-point bull elk that's been grazing near Spruce and Fourth streets in Boulder since last week.

"I'd say (he's) the size of a 17-hand horse," she said.

Silberman and her neighbors have sighted the animal walking down to Spruce Street from the mountains around 9 p.m. for the past several evenings. They assume that it wanders back up into the foothills sometime in the early morning because it hasn't been seen during the day.

Officials from the Colorado Department of Wildlife acknowledge that the city of Boulder is near an elk-friendly habitat.

Seeing one "would not be unheard of," said DOW spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill. "They move around quite a bit."

Former University of Colorado ecology and biology professor Dave Armstrong said the animals don't fear coming into neighborhoods.

"They're not adverse to traffic, and they're not adverse to people, but they're not too smart," he said.

Weighing 450 to 900 pounds, elk are the largest species of deer in Colorado. They primarily eat grasses, but may also eat bark and the twigs of trees and shrubs during the winter, when grass is more difficult to find, according to DOW.

Despite the devastating effects of last September's Fourmile Fire, Boulder
County wildlife biologist Dave Hoerath does not believe the elk are just seeking greener pastures.

"There are plenty of elk in the county; they're just not very public," he said, listing a herd

A bull elk pays a visit to Fifth and Spruce streets in Boulder on a recent night around 11:45 p.m. Neighbors have sighted the animal walking down to Spruce Street from the mountains for the past several evenings. ( Jim Robb )of more than 200 that likes the expanse north of Boulder between Lyons and Lefthand Canyon Drive and another that winters in the region near Sugarloaf Road.

Hoerath assumes that the bull spotted on Spruce Street is a member of the latter herd.

Though elk are not carnivores, Churchill warns against getting too close.

"Obviously with their size, we don't want anyone approaching elk," she said, recommending that people keep their distance and for those who want photos to use an extended lens. "Your cell phone isn't going to get you that National Geographic photo."

Taking pictures may seem harmless, but if an animal changes behavior -- looks around or stops eating, for example -- while it's being observed, then the onlooker is too close, Churchill said.

So far, no plans have been made to remove the animal from the location, Churchill said. Public safety is of primary importance, she said, but the DOW will not make any moves until there appears to be a threat.

"If we can avoid having to move them or put our hands on them, then we choose that," she said. "The best option is to let them move on."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

120 - 80

Nuggets win by 40.  Admittedly, the Bobcats are not the Spurs, but last night's performance was probably the finest display of team-ball that I have ever seen at the professional level.  They played defense, they ran the ball, seven players in double figures, and most importantly, they shared the ball most unselfishly, with a season high of 30+ assists.  Here's what Cub Martin had to say about the game, and he sums it up pretty well, with some bold added by me:

The “titanic” clash between two new look teams went down in Denver on Wednesday night. The revamped Nuggets were entering their fifth game with the new cast and their visitors from Charlotte sported a different look, as well. In addition to the Silas effect which took place around the holidays (hiring both Paul as Head and Steve as an assistant), the Bobcats came in with some new faces, no Gerald Wallace and a happy Stephen Jackson, now at home on the wing.

Owners of a 17-14 record since Larry Brown was replaced by Silas, the Bobcats seem to play with a new freedom and one that the assistant Silas noted was initially tricky for some of the players to adjust to. After playing in the structured world of Larry Brown’s Universe, the Bobcats now have the creative license and “freedom to fail,” which players all crave.

The younger Silas even painted a pre-game picture of some of DJ Augustin’s first games with the new staff. Out of habit, the guard was prone to look over to the bench at crunch time for a play call. Those visual requests are now met with a “go ahead; you call the play” reaction from the staff.

Again, a major change.

Of course, the transformation is even more drastic on the other bench as the “Go-Go Nuggets” have adopted a quicker pace and a new-found, team-wide attention to the defensive end of the court. In their first four games (obviously a limited sample size), the Nuggets are giving up 10 less points per game on average. While the “local jury” would probably prefer another month of wins before they return in droves (attendance has been down), there is a new “air of basketball” in the Post-Melo world. A deep team that shares the ball; has no true No. 1 option, but nine or 10 guys who can score 20 on any night. In a sense, the current Nuggets roster is a “Frankenstein” project for the rest of the League. As the big-market teams go “star heavy,” this one is going with a totally different approach.

To the action on the court!

In front of a library-esque crowd of just over 14,000, the Nuggets led from start to finish en route to a lopsided 120-80 win. The victory was their fourth in five games since the trade that sent Melo and Chauncey Billups to Gotham. Like Monday’s win over Atlanta, a new style of play was more than evident and spurred the home team’s impressive performance. The balance was in full effect, again with Wilson Chandler leading the way with 16 points, but seven guys scored in double figures (for the fifth straight), including Ty Lawson’s double-double of 14 and 10 assists. With a mixture of strong perimeter defense and crisp interior passing, the Nuggets jumped to an early lead and enjoyed a strong third-quarter run to turn a 10-point game into a 25-point one.

It was the first half, however, was where the home team set the tone and took complete control. Normally ‘round these parts, this style of winning is achieved by simply trying to outscore their opponent. On this night, the early scoring differential (that held solid through out the night) was a product of a strong detail to perimeter defense. Possession after possession, the Bobcats were forced into settling for long-range jump shots and if not for Matt Carroll’s torrid first-half, the game might have gotten out of hand much earlier. The presence of Wilson Chandler on the wing is the most glaring defensive difference. The newly acquired wing was able to push Jackson deeper on the wing and force him into tough shots. On the offensive end, the home team implemented a quick-swinging passing attack that led to many easy shots and a 63 percent first half shooting percentage. This combination of focus on both sides of the ball allowed the Nuggets to enjoy 62-46 halftime advantage.

For a fan base that has grown accustomed to watching the ball go continually through the hands of Carmelo Anthony, the team’s propensity for sharing the ball was clearly visible. Halftime buzz in the press room centered around the passing and the unselfish nature of this new Nugget incarnation. Those observations were cemented by the six Nugget players who had at least 8 halftime points.

With the win in the books, the Nuggets make the quick trip over the Continental Divide to Utah for a divisional game with equally revamped Jazz. The win puts the Nuggets at 36-26 (only the second time they have been 10-plus over .500 and just 2.5 games behind the Northwest Division leading OKC Thunder. It also puts the Nuggets securely into the fifth spot in the Western Conference Playoff push.

It is all smiles and cheers for now in Denver, but with seven of the next eight on the road against the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami, we’ll all know a little more about this team very soon.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


There aren't too many music videos that come out of Goshen, IN, but here is one.  Personally, I don't think it's a great tune, but to those of you who know Goshen, you will recognize the college, the dam, the race, etc.

Untitled from Jacob Landis-Eigsti on Vimeo.

**Added note:  Apparently this video is now not available - not sure why.  Even my Vimeo password does not work.....sheesh.
Here is the Goshen College blurb about the video:

GOSHEN, Ind. -- Goshen College junior Jacob Landis-Eigsti, a communication and theater double major from Lakewood, Colo., is a master at making videos that people love.  And one of his recentprojects caught the attention of national judges.  Landis-Eigsti's music video "Beautiful" won second place in the 2011   Broadcast Education Association (BEA) National Competition. The video features independent Nashville musician Phoebe Sharp, was filmed on the Goshen College campus and around town, and includes dancing by Goshen College senior Brett Bridges.

Landis-Eigsti told the Goshen College Record that the song is about "trying to find beauty in everyday life," and that the video "shows beauty in people, beauty in nature around us ... like the stuff that we walk by that we don't really notice."  Landis-Eigsti will accept his award at this year's BEA National Festival of Media Arts in April in Las Vegas, Nev. More than 1,600 professors, students and media professionals are currently individual members of BEA and approximately 275 college and university departments and schools are institutional members.

"This is a great continuation of Jacob's success after he won first place for a different music video in a state competition last year, contributing to Goshen College being named 2010 Television School of the Year," said Seth Conley, assistant professor of communication."BEA is the premiere radio and television education organization i the United States and the competition is highly competitive. His award is a great accomplishment."