Meeting a childhood hero…

Apologies for dropping the ball on blogging of late… the whole flood thing earlier in the week threw me off schedule. I promise to wrap up my political rant from last week, though election day has come and gone, with precisely the outcome I was looking for (balance, not a D-win/R-lose)… but I still need to say what should be said.

Anyway, on to the CPOTD… I was walking the field of the Amelia Island Concours when the sight above appeared before my eyes. When I was a kid, my dad brought me to the Can Am races at Road America in Elkhart Lake WI. To say that I was blown away was an understatement. The rumble of those machines was sweet music to my young ears. The cars that appealed to me most were Jim Hall’s Chapparals. He was a perennial second or third behind the McLarens everytime we made the drive up to Wisconsin, but I cheered him on nonetheless. It was like meeting a childhood hero to see this car in the flesh back in 2003. Everytime nobody was looking, I touched it. I probably spent 10 minutes just looking at this machine from every angle… gleaming white in the Florida sunshine. I wouldn’t know Jim Hall if he bought me lunch, but I can recognize a Chaparral from a mile away.

Update on the floodwaters

Sue & the boys spent the night in a hotel in Arlington. I got up this morning and drove down the hill to check on the road. It still has water over it, but they are letting cars through. I called Sue and she’s coming home soon. The rains are still falling, and perhaps the snowmelt has finished in higher elevations, but the weatherman says it could still get worse. Better to be all stranded at home than scattered though, so while they can they are coming home. Arlington Schools have suspended bus service, so for all intents and purposes, this school day has been ‘rained out’.

For those that have asked me, no our home is in no danger. We live at an elevation of around 500′, and the rivers at flood stage are probably 300-400 feet lower than us. If the waters get this high, there are other things to worry about!

Update: 08:40 PST: We’re all together at home now.

Above is a view of some of my OSX dashboard widgets. It looks like the weather will let up tomorrow. The USGS river widget is lacking some useful data, like a timescale or depth measurement! But it does show that the North Fork of the Stillaguamish is really moving (the scale is cubic feet per second). They have no measure near Arlington for the South Fork, which is the one that caused the road to close.

Oh well, I have my Internet access, my IP phone, and my family here, so we’ll be OK.


Both the South and North forks of the Stillaguamish River have overflowed their banks. We live in the Cascade Foothills NE of Arlington. My kids go to school in Arlington. Those two rivers lie between our home and their schools. 🙁

I’m stranded at home. This kids are stranded at school (two different ones several miles apart) and I can’t get in touch with my wife, who is 20 miles away in Mt. Vernon.

Here are some more pictures.

Update: 15:40 PST: The rain has let up. It is still windy. Sue finally called me and is heading towards the schools. I have no idea if she’ll be able to get back tonight though. Both of the western approaches to our area, SR530 and Jordan Road up from Granite Falls are closed. The only other way is through the mountains via SR20 up the Skagit valley, then up the Suak River to Darrington and down. That however is a drive in excess of 100 miles and along two other rivers that could be flooding!

Update: 17:20 PST: Sue has the boys, and they found literally the LAST hotel room in Arlington. I am officially stranded. SR 530 is closed at milepost 22 (pictured above) and at milepost 67 between Darrington and Rockport.

There is one possible way out, via a gravel road and a steep climb up to stilly valley’s north wall and out via Lake Cavanaugh. I have no idea of the condition of the bridge over the river on the Lake Cavanaugh road though.

Update: 19:30 PST: The larger portion of the Goolsbee family are doing well, having eaten out and now watching TV in their hotel room. ME on the other hand are sitting here alone, and am forced to deal with all the family pets… the majority of which I am allergic to. 🙁

To add uncertainty to the mix it is raining again… pretty hard.

We Liked Ike (but didn’t listen to him.)

Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the American People – Google Video

What Eisenhower warned us about has come to pass. Not specifically or only the companies illustrated in that video (with the cheesy music overlaid, sorry) but “special interests” have essentially taken complete control of the two dominant political parties of this country. Ike’s last thought is the most prophetic:

“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Misplaced power, indeed.

In 2000 two interesting and truly different candidates for the US Presidency emerged. Both were excellent illustrations of their respective party’s “true philosophies.” As such, the special interests rejected them. I refer to John McCain & William Bradley. It is a shame that the party machinery denied us such a choice, because unlike the choice we were offered in November 2000 a McCain v Bradley race would have actually been a choice. Instead we got Bush v Gore, which ironically became the title of a Supreme Court case. There was no choice there, it was two pillars of mediocrity from which to pick. The populace split quite literally 50/50. (For a fascinating look at visualizing the 2004 and other {back to 1960} election results by geography and population, have a look here and here.) The Onion, that hilarious satire site prophetically wrote a “Bush quote” from the inauguration: “Our Long National Nightmare of Peace & Prosperity is Finally Over.” We all chuckled. Bush then rewarded his base by cutting the taxes of the exceedingly wealthy, and then spent the first eight months of his presidency on vacation at his “ranch” in Crawford, Tx.

Then came 9/11.

I risk the ire of every person who ever reads this as it is probably the most UN-politically correct thing anyone has said about 9/11… but I’ve said this since that day: The 9/11 attacks on the USA were a strategic failure. They had, in retrospect a very small impact on the United States. They did not materially damage our economy. They did not materially damage to our infrastructure. They did not in actuality do great physical harm. Four aircraft lost, three buildings destoyed (WTC 1, 2 & 7), one building damaged (The Pentagon), ~3,000 people dead. This in a country of vast infrastructure, hundreds of millions of buildings, and 300 million people. I’m sorry Mr. bin Laden, it is going to take more than that to materially injure this country, and a whole lot more to destroy it!

What the attacks did succeed in doing was shock us. They shocked the world. And from that shock came the sympathy and support from the vast majority of the planet. The United States of America had spent 225 years showing the world how to create the best country in human history. Carefully built over two centuries by men of courage and integrity, such as Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. We had lead by example, especially since Europe had spent the majority of the 225 years at war with each other, and the USA had become the shining beacon of peace and prosperity to the world. We were “the good guys.”

Osama bin Laden has never been captured and brought to justice. A task well within the capability of the most powerful nation on earth… especially in the aftermath of 9/11 when the world stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us. Instead we have let him go free and we’ve been chasing already captive bogeymen elsewhere in the Middle East – all the while swelling the ranks of potential and actual Islamic terrorists. We allowed the moment to pass, that could have removed the threat of future 9/11s. We had the will, the power, and the global support to do it.

Our current leadership has squandered that goodwill, within the space of five years. They have betrayed the armed forces, and to a greater extent every US citizen by giving up and never finishing the job they started in Afghanistan. They have betrayed the armed forces again by sending them into Iraq with no clear strategic goal or plan. They have betrayed their fiscal Conservative backers with rampant spending and debt. They have betrayed their social Conservative backers with no real movement beyond lip service to their causes. Worst of all: They have betrayed the very Constitution they swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend.

With the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the creation and maintenance of secret prisons, the use of torture as a legitimate act of the State… our current administration has crossed the line. They are using fear. Fear of an opponent they could have easily destroyed and brought to justice FIVE YEARS ago, to destroy instead the foundation this country was built upon, the US Constitution. The most important part of that document, the one where the founding fathers said: “to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers … and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government” has been clearly violated. It is a quick read, so here, refresh your memory.

There are two methods within the rule of law for US Citizens to change the course of the current administration. The first one is to vote. Tomorrow is an election, though not a presidential one. We are electing some portion of our members of Congress. Think about the track record of the current administration and of the current Congress when you cast your vote. A change is clearly needed. The Constitution hoped to establish balance of power within government by providing each of the three portions of government power over each other. The system is DESIGNED to be inefficient. The government’s power MUST be held in check by the designed ineffectiveness of the system. The political parties have circumvented that concentrating power in themselves instead of the branches of government, and then taking over those branches one by one. Nothing will destroy this country faster than any one party in control of all of government. If anything the American experiment has proven it is that absolute power does indeed corrupt, and imbalanced power conversely leads to peace and prosperity. Our country has been at it’s best when different political factions have been in control of the different branches of government. In fact, name any great President, and I bet you find that he had a Congress whose majority was Opposition, or he himself was a contrarian to his own party. As such, I’m sorry to say to my Republican friends and family, it is time to throw Congress to the opposition. Apparently even some hard-core conservative Republicans
share my views

I’ll explore the second method tomorrow. I’ll also explore my loathing of political parties. I hold both the Republicans and Democrats in equal disdain, and I’ll explain why. I will finally get back to Maxim Gorky, and his prophetic wisdom concerning politics, and I promise I’ll never talk politics again.

Good Guys and Bad Guys

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and witnessed the end of the Cold War as the 80s became the 90s. It was truly a great time to be alive, because the cause of the western Democracies was validated by the collapse of the eastern Communist states, especially the Soviet Union. America was the “Leader of the Free World.” We lead by example as much as action. We had a strong economy, the rule of law, and citizens imbued with guaranteed, inalienable Rights. Our government was formed upon the very idea that the power of government MUST be limited, and that the individual’s rights took precedence over governmental power. These conditions created and maintained a populace whose rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were the catalyst for progress, wealth, and over two hundred years of stability.

I remember back in my high school days, critically studying the mechanisms of American Democracy, and those of the Soviet Union. Then, in that brief time after the Berlin Wall fell and when Putin came to power, historians were able to research in the vast files of the Soviet Union. The result was a torrent of excellent reading that emerged about five years ago. I again took up some personal study when I could.

When I was a kid, I remember being struck by the fact that Russians were essentially prisoners of their own country. Their freedoms were denied at such a high level that they could not even leave if they wanted to. Their government controlled their lives to that extent. I genuinely felt for them. Here in America we had no such restriction on our freedoms. We could say what we wanted, to whom we wanted. We could travel freely, independent of governmental oversight or restriction. We had choices. Choices in everything from our daily lives, to choices in who were our leaders. If we didn’t like things, we could change them. Move to a new place, buy a new car, or “throw the bums out” of Washington DC if they didn’t meet with our approval.

Even worse than a lack of freedom, the people of the Soviet Union, and its client states lived with ever-present fear. Their governments had absolute power over their lives. They were powerless and their governments were powerful. They had no true guarantee of Rights. No judicial oversight. No ability to defend themselves against the abuse of governmental power. Even being merely suspected of some imagined crime could land them in Lubyanka Prison or the gulag. The fear was also maintained by a collection of state intelligence agencies who could arrest without warrant. Hold without hearing or bail. The main tool of the Soviet justice system was the confession, and the confession was gained thorough torture.

Not so in America. We were “the good guys”. Good guys followed the rule of law. Good guys relied on a well regulated judicial system to use facts to determine guilt or innocence. Good guys believed in innocence until factual proof of guilt. Good guys lived by the rules. Good guys didn’t resort to torture.

Best of all, we had a system of checks and balances that prevented any one part of government have too much power. The founding fathers had but one fear, tyranny. Tyranny of any one person, political party, even of a Tyranny of the majority. They succeeded in that goal through the structure of the government via the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Then, we faced a crisis.

(to be continued…)