Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
  Dick Cheney Goes Hunting for Trouble... Again
Since we're talking about the meaning of the flags of the Confederacy in 2007, let me ask the question - When such flags are displayed in the Northern States, in no particular historical context, how should such an action be interpreted?

Let's ask Dick Cheney and the gun glub in upstate New York that recently hosted him....
Nobody got shot, but Vice President Cheney still fired up controversy Monday when he went hunting at a private club that hangs the Confederate flag.

A Daily News photographer captured the 3-by-5 foot Dixie flag affixed to a door in the garage of the Clove Valley Gun and Rod Club in upstate Union Vale, N.Y.
Now, of course I don't think that Dick Cheney had anything to do with the hanging of the flag, but why would a true blue Yankee gun club "hide" such a flag in their garage? Are they trying to prove to themselves that they are "rebels"? Is this an ode to the marksmanship of the Confederacy? Or is the most obvious answer the most likely one?

Occam's Razor seems to suggest that these folks consider themselves "good ol' boys" and when they are behind closed doors, they are quite proud of that.

But at least no one got shot in the face.........
Sunday, October 28, 2007
  Proudly Honoring His Ancestors
Adding to my occasional commentary on the flags of The Confederacy and their meaning in modern American culture, I give you Maurice Bessinger:
Bessinger's decision to hoist the Confederate flag at his restaurants in 2000 led to stories about pamphlets still available at his restaurants which said Africans were grateful for slavery because they were better off in the United States than in Africa.

The publicity led several large grocery store chains to remove Bessinger's sauce from their shelves. Bessinger unsuccessfully sued, and the golden, mustard-based sauce can now only be bought at smaller retailers, Bessinger's restaurants and online.
Read the article. Be sure to notice that Bessinger openly refused service to Black customers until the Supreme Court intervened in *1976*.

Honor? Yeah, sure, whatever you say, Maurice.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
  October 25, 2002

Five years ago tomorrow, I was cooking away at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club with the radio going in the background when the KUOW announcer came on prior to the top of the hour news to announce that Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone's plane had crashed and that there were no survivors. My knees buckled and I went down to floor in a giant sob.

There is only a scant fraction of the population who truly embody the concept of personal integrity. That fraction reduces exponentially when talking about politicians. Paul was actually one of a kind.

I did not always agree with Senator Wellstone's positions, although for the most part I did. But never, not once, did I ever question the Senator's motives. There was never any question that Paul did what his convictions demanded.

In 1995, I briefly worked for his campaign dialing the phones to rally core volunteers for the 1996 election. Shortly thereafter I left the Twin Cities to go to culinary school and never looked back.... until that tragic day in 2002.

While in Minnesota a few weeks ago, I made a pilgrimage to Lakeview Cemetery to pay my respects. I walked there with my son and found myself having a talk about wise and great individuals in our midst. My son intuitively picked up one of the pebbles that had fallen to the side the headstone and placed it back along side those left by prior visitors.

Five years after his death the Senator provided one more great teaching-moment about life, death, devotion and integrity. We need another Wellstone.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
  Proud Uncle Moment

I was listening to NPR today and they briefly chatted up a study about images of actual candidates for various offices being flashed on screen for a fraction of a second and having students predict the winner.

That sounded like the research that my nephew, Chas Ballew, did for his senior thesis two years ago at Princeton. I just checked and, indeed, Chas is the co-author of the study:

"Todorov and Charles Ballew, an undergraduate psychology major who graduated from Princeton in 2006, conducted three experiments in which several dozen participants had to make snap judgments about faces. Participants were shown a series of photos, each containing a pair of faces, and asked to choose, based purely on gut feeling, which face they felt displayed more competence. The differences among the experiments largely concerned the amounts of time an observer was allowed to view the faces -- as brief as a tenth of a second or longer -- and to pass judgment afterward.

What was unknown to the participants in the third experiment was that the image pairs were actually the photographs of the two frontrunner candidates for a major election being held somewhere in the United States during the time of the experiment in late 2006. The races were either for state governor or for a seat in the U.S. Senate. In cases where an observer recognized either of the two faces, the researchers removed the selection from the data.

Two weeks later elections were held, and the researchers compared the competency judgments with the election results. They found that the judgments predicted the winners in 72.4 percent of the senatorial races and 68.6 percent of the gubernatorial races.

"This means that with a quick look at two photos, you have a great chance of predicting who will win," Todorov said. "Voters are not that rational, after all. So maybe we have to consider that when we elect our politicians."
The study, with Chas listed as co-Author is presented in the October 22 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What none of the various articles mention about Chas (when they mention him at all) is that he is a commissioned Lieutenant in the US Army, a second year law student at the University of Michigan and teaching fellow in Michigan's Psych Dept.

Not too shabby.
  Movin' On Up
Senator Downing has earned some clout. The more the better on Beacon Hill.

I am sure that his integrity will pay off for the State and Berkshires.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
  More Officers are Breaking Ranks
12 battle hardened Captains write an Op-Ed in the Washington Post:
This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.
I can hear the slime machine cranking up. By lunchtime today these 12 will be labeled traitors and/or phonies by those who are so married to a *political* proposition that throwing a veteran under the bus is their knee-jerk response.

If I hear one more delusional sycophant confuse the pseudo-doctrine of Politico-Military Infallibility with the notion of "supporting the troops" I might just have an aneurysm.
Monday, October 15, 2007
  Proud Sibling Moment

Upon the announcement that cancer rates overall, and colorectal cancer deaths specifically, have noticeably declined, I give you the Colorectal Cancer Coalition. They are a Washington DC based patient advocacy lobby that is incredibly effective in the trenches of policy making on Capital Hill and with agencies such as the FDA.

And most importantly they are a phenomenal resource for patients and families to educate themselves about the disease and the various option open to those who get a bad diagnoses.

Currently they are in the midst of a new campaign called Cover Your Butt which asks everyone to call their congresscritters and lobby for coverage of preventative colonoscopy screening to be included in all medical insurance. It is frightening to think that such a simple procedure that can *prevent* cancer from occurring, as well as diagnose and treat the disease, is often not covered by standard healthcare policies.

My connection to this group? The Chair of the Board and founder of this organization is Nancy Roach, my sister.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
  Secret Map for Clark and Jack
This a hand-drawn map by a Minnesota political junkie that leads one from the main concourse of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport to Larry Craig's infamous stall. There was a police officer outside the door when I walked by on Thursday. I guess it has become quite the tourist attraction.

As for my secret location, my old friend Tim guessed correctly. I was in the twin cities for a conference last week. Good times. Good beer. Good friends. (And I caught a nice 17 inch bass on a free afternoon. It was a good trip.)
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
  More Than Wires
Driving around my undisclosed location I noticed some funny looking antennas hanging off of the utility poles every few hundred feet. After asking around, it turns out that this large city is installing muni-wireless internet for all of the residents. It seems that the commercially available options have been gouging consumers and the city has determined that they can do it better and cheaper.

(The photo to the left is a random image from the web that looks similar to what is being installed. It was too dark to take my own picture.)
  Michael Pollan's Worst Nightmare
Tonight I dined here:
The lunch and dinner menu features unlimited servings of 15 different delectable cuts of fire-roasted meats, a sumptuous buffet of gourmet salads and fresh-cut vegetables, and a variety of Brazilian side dishes.
Notice that word "unlimited." They ain't kidding. A dozen guys run around the floor with long swords full of various meats, carving them onto your plate until you cannot eat any more. And the salad bar is possibly the most astounding I have ever seen.

The place seats 250 and it was packed on a Tuesday night at 9 pm. Many innocent cows, pigs and lambs died for the gluttonous pleasure of me and my fellow diners. I need to go to confession because I seriously committed one of the seven deadly sins tonight. Oy!
Monday, October 08, 2007
  Non-disclosed Location Blogging

I am writing this from a distant place while I am away on business. Today I spent a little time in a small town in a region that most economists would consider economically stagnant. As I was sitting at the local sports bar eating a darn good burger for lunch, I fired up the laptop to take advantage of the venue's wi-fi. It was one of the only places in town with free access, and there were at least two tables in the restaurant on this slow-paced Monday that chose this spot for lunch because of the wi-fi. Just sayin'.

I noticed many other aspects unique to small rural towns that prior to becoming resident of one myself I never would have recognized. These two stood out:

Tonight, I am back in the big city with the common headaches of traffic, noise and too many choices for dinner. While I was born and raised a city kid, I am becoming more and more fond of the lifestyle that my family chose when we moved to North Adams.

I can't say that I miss having 10 options of where to buy a pair of socks, or peanut butter, or a cup of coffee within a mile. There is something relaxing about not being bombarded by the marketing of thousands of messages a day trying to get me to purchase something I may or may not need. I had forgotten that the hundreds of minuscule and unimportant daily decisions that one has to make just to get by in the city actually take up time and thought that could be devoted to other things. And the fact that the minutes consumed by my commute can be counted on one hand is something that I appreciate more and more every visit I make to large metropolitan areas. (It once took me 4 hours to drive between Tacoma and Seattle when two lanes of I-5 were unexpectedly shut down. Did I mention that it was only 28 miles?)

I can't wait to get home.
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

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greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

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