Chasing Shadows…

Just finished reading this book.

Author Ken Hughes persuasively argues that the Watergate burglary was part of an effort ordered by Nixon to locate and destroy evidence that he’d secretly communicated with the South Vietnamese government prior to the 1968 election, prevailing upon it to refuse to participate in the peace negotiations that LBJ’s administration was attempting to broker at that time.  Nixon allegedly convinced the South through Anna Chennault that such a refusal would make the Democrats look even worse to the American public than they already did at the time, and that it would be better for the South if he were to prevail over Humphrey in the election.

I think such a maneuver would’ve been consistent with Nixon’s character as subsequently revealed in the White House tapes.  I also think it would’ve been illegal under the Logan Act of 1799.  However, I further think Hughes exaggerates the possibility of such a prosecution if Nixon’s alleged subterfuge had been discovered, and also engages in a bit of hyperbole about the Logan Act itself.

In the fifth chapter of his book (location 949 in the Kindle edition), Hughes says, “The Logan Act of 1799 prohibits as treasonous activity any interference by American citizens with the negotiations of the US government.”  That’s only true in the loosest sense of the term “treason,” which had been specifically and separately defined as a more serious offense in Article III of the US Constitution at the time Logan was enacted.

Furthermore, given Nixon’s legal education and foreign policy experience, he’d certainly have known at the time that in the nearly two centuries since the enactment of Logan, there had only been one indictment and no convictions of anyone under that law.  Various other people had sometimes been threatened with it, usually for political reasons, but no more than that.  If the Watergate break-in was indeed motivated by Nixon’s desire to conceal what he’d done four years previously, I think that says more about his paranoia and obsession with appearing squeaky clean in all respects than it does about any fear he might’ve had of being legally prosecuted under Logan.

Ironically enough, only about a month after the break-in, while this nation was engaged in yet another round of Vietnam peace negotiations, the photo at right was taken.

Hanoi Jane” has never been prosecuted under the Logan Act either, much less for treason.

Just to be clear, although I think Fonda’s posing for that photo was morally reprehensible and clearly illegal, I also think the Vietnam conflict was one of the most misguided military adventures in which this nation has ever involved itself.  It’s clear enough to me in historical retrospect that Ho Chi Minh and most of his followers were motivated by nationalism much more than by ideology, that we were intervening in a local civil war much more than in a necessary effort to stop the global advance of Communism, and I think it took our nation’s leaders much too long to figure that out.  I suspect Nixon realized it sooner than most of them, possibly even as early as 1968.  If so, as I see it, prolonging our involvement in that conflict despite that realization was probably the worst thing that could ever be laid at his door, much worse (at least in a moral sense) than what Fonda or any other anti-war activist did.

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Joe Bethancourt 1946-2014

 Joe Bethancourt often sang about the bygone frontier, but his vast repertoire also included possible future frontiers. Last March at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts he performed one of my favorites, “Big Ty’s Ride” from his “That Great Big Way Out There” CD. It’s the story of an asteroid miner gone far astray, heading for the stars with the help of a couple of salvaged ramscoops. I doubt I’ll ever look at the night sky again without thinking about Joe, and wondering if he’s out there.

Click here for Joe’s obituary in “The Arizona Republic.”

Here for a video of his 2013 induction into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.

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The Heart of Herakles

Bought a telescope the other day at a yard sale. Only $20, a smoking deal! Was going to look at Mars and Jupiter tonight, but the skies are cloudy. Set it up anyway and took a picture of it. Played with the picture a bit to go along with one of my favorite poems, “The Heart of Herakles,” by Kenneth Rexroth.  It’s also in one of the sidebars on the right of this page, so maybe it’s actually my #1 favorite poem.

 

Info about the poet here.

Info about the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules here.

 

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1/6000th

I see it’s been a year since I last posted in this blog.  Tsk, tsk.  Tempus fugidaboutit.

Since a year is approximately 1/6000th of the time since God allegedly created the universe, today I’m going to post something about that controversy in commemoration of both time intervals.

During the course of many temporal fractions, my thoughts on the issue have settled into these three areas:

1. It seems to me that in most arguments between creationists and evolutionists, the actual main point of disagreement (though it sometimes isn’t stated outright) isn’t whether we’re the products of evolution by natural selection, but whether an omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal Creator exists.

2. It further seems to me that even if we are the products of evolution, that doesn’t necessarily mean a Creator doesn’t exist. Why couldn’t evolution be among the methods used by a Creator to Create? It would certainly be within the capabilities of such a Being, by definition. Some people may find the Book of Genesis to be convincing evidence that it wasn’t among the methods used, but I’m not among them.

3. Finally, it seems to me that even if we’re not the products of evolution as conventionally put forth, but rather of “intelligent design,” that doesn’t necessarily mean a Creator does exist. Why assume a supernaturally transcendent Designer? Why couldn’t we have been designed by very powerful (yet still natural) beings from some other star system or space/time dimension? To quote Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of how such beings might’ve developed, but it’s a very big universe, scientists generally agree it’s been around a very long time, and I imagine there will be lots of unanswered questions about it for a very long time to come. Whether a transcendent Creator actually exists is only one of those questions, albeit the one I believe least likely to be answered conclusively in this mortal plane of existence.

Image source here.

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Florida Girl

When I posted a still image on Facebook from this performance at the Mesa Spark! Festival a couple of months ago, Jeordie Schekeryk said it looked like she and bass player Chad MacDonald were underwater. I wasn’t all that happy with the video at the time (mostly for audio-related reasons), so I didn’t post any of it then. But I remembered her comment, and several days ago, looking at the aqua backdrop and coral-like cacti again, I decided to have a little fun with it.

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Moonlit Riverbed

A video I put together for a studio version of one of the instrumental pieces Baja Snake recently performed live at Lawn Gnome Publishing.

The Grand Canyon segments were originally broad daylight photos from Wikipedia, moonlit and Ken-Burnsed with Photoshop. I shot the owl and lizard clips at South Mountain Park and Papago Park in Phoenix, AZ.

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9:41


 
At the 9:41 mark in the above video of Baja Snake’s recent live performance at Lawn Gnome Publishing in central Phoenix, a dog barks. Or maybe howls. Whichever. For a moment, though I’ve often heard coyotes and they don’t usually sound much like that, I thought it was one of those. If you listen to the preceding nine minutes and 40 seconds of the video, you might understand why I had that thought.

On Baja Snake’s website, BT Franklin and Nicholas DiBiase describe their sound as “ambient instrumental desert music.” I think that’s accurate. They’ve also previously referred to it elsewhere as “Neo-age desert wallpaper music.” I think that’s also accurate, though I’d have a hard time explaining exactly how music can function in much the same way as wallpaper. I enjoy listening to Baja Snake as a background for other activities — e.g., writing, drawing, driving — when I want something that’s neither monotonous nor too distracting. Also, I often like to be musically reminded of where I live. This is a large metropolitan area, but the Sonoran Desert still surrounds us, and large parts of it still flourish within the area as well. Not long ago we saw a coyote running along the sidewalk in our suburban neighborhood in full daylight. We’ve briefed our household cats. ;)

As for the “Neo-age” part of Baja Snake’s previous description, I think that’s also apt because their music is as much Neolithic as New Age. I also hear Asian and Native American influences in it. Music about the desert here and now, but also about other places and times.

The duo was accompanied in the above performance by local artist Tony Deschiney. A nice video featuring his thoughts about creating art may be found at this link, and his Facebook page is at this other link. Here’s the painting he created during Baja Snake’s performance:
 

"Succulent"

For those not familiar with that plant term, according to this Wikipedia article, “A practical, but unscientific, horticultural definition is ‘a succulent plant is any desert plant that a succulent plant collector wishes to grow.’”

But if you live around here, you probably already knew that. Even if you, like me, can occasionally mistake a dog’s bark/howl for a coyote’s.

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Pixiebeast

I’ve heard/seen Jeordie Schekeryk on stage dozens of times, and I’ve never known her to give any performance less than everything she’s got. “My Arizona” is the 12th track on her newly released and aptly named “Pixiebeast” album. Aptly named, I say, because there’s a lot of musical power in that little body of hers!

The man in the background is Glen Saggus, one of the other entertainers featured at the “In the Spotlight” event at the Tempe Center for the Arts on 4-13-13. Wonderful lighting and acoustics in that venue — the audio here is a little hollow, but my little camcorder has its limitations.

Jeordie’s website: http://www.jeordie.com/

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Rollin’ the Dice

Saturday Feb 16:  We pre-ordered a copy of Jim Pipkin‘s new CD and it arrived in the mail yesterday.  I’m sitting here listening to it again, an experience which goes far toward compensating for the fact I’ve either had a flu relapse or caught a new strain of it. Some of the new songs we’ve heard Jim perform solo, but he’s never recorded them before. Three of the others have been on his earlier albums, but their new incarnations (as well as the other songs) greatly benefit from the accompaniments by Joe Bethancourt, Nick Gasmeña, Eric Gilboe, William Gobus (Billy Kneebone), Jeremy Graham, Laney Greynolds, Mike Hatta, Deb Hilton, Austin Mack, Billy Parker, Jesse Pruitt, John Rickard, Lee Robert (LeeLee), Andy Varner, and Duane Woods. We’ve heard about half these people perform live, but nearly always separately, and hearing them play together on this album is sublime.

I’ll probably have more to say about this album later, but for now I think I’ll go crawl back into bed.

Today:  Mostly over the bug this morning, and I’m glad to see that “Rollin’ the Dice” made it to #1 on the AirPlay Direct playchart yesterday.  You can go to this link to listen to samples and/or download tracks. I think they’re all great, but I’ve settled on a favorite: “Forever With You.” Jim’s resonant voice and eloquent lyrics are wonderfully complemented by traditional instruments that seem to reach eternally back through the ages, as well as forward. Jim has recorded this song before (on his “Spirits” album), but I think I understand now why he wanted to do it again.

Later Today:  I should’ve known better than to say I’ve settled on a favorite song from the new album. Listening at the moment to “Silver in the Leaves,” featuring backup harmonies by Laney Greynolds of JC & Laney, and now it’s my favorite. “Feels Like Home” (co-written with Kevin Sharp) is also very good, and “Green Tornado Sky” (with Jeremy Graham of Sour Diesel Trainwreck).  And how could I have forgotten “Brushy Bill,” camped out in the desert, staring up at the lights of a passing mail plane early in the 20 century, decades after his supposed demise as Billy the Kid? I guess I’m just fickle, and should probably give up the idea of finding a favorite song on this album!

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The View from the Butt


 
Way back when I was in the USAF, I knew a young guy who’d previously been an ICBM control officer.  He told me he’d been taken out of the silo and reassigned to another career field due to psychological instability.  I asked how that instability had manifested itself.  He said he wasn’t entirely sure, but he thought it was probably because he’d told the unit’s Human Reliability Program proctor about his desire to someday visit the Pentagon and go to the room where they keep the Big Picture.
 
“That was it?”  I asked.  “They took you off missile duty just for that?”
 
He shrugged.  “Well, maybe it was the way I said it.  Maybe my eyes were too wide.  Maybe my body language was shaky.  Who knows?  Anyway, I was glad to get out of there.  Now if World War III starts, it’ll be without my active participation.  You don’t really get much in the way of choices down in those holes, you know.  Even less in the way of geopolitical information upon which to base those choices.  Thus my desire to see the Big Picture, if my hand might someday be turning one of the keys.”
 
Nowadays that particular cold war is over, and it’s possible humankind might survive long enough to form a world government.  A lot of people seem to believe such a government would be a good thing.  I certainly wouldn’t argue that mass annihilation would be preferable, IF those are really the only two choices.
 
However, having been employed by one government or another for nearly 40 years, I’m far from sure the quality of life for most of us would be enhanced by being “under” one world government.  In my experience, governments in general are similar to dinosaurs — big butts and tiny brains.  And the bigger the government, the bigger the butt/brain ratio.
 
Please understand, I’m not saying the leaders of any government are as stupid as dinosaurs were.  I’m sure at least some of them are smarter than I am, as individuals.  But  when it comes to controlling a large government, maybe nobody’s smart enough.  And the more concentrated the control becomes at the upper levels, the more the shortfall of intelligence becomes apparent.
 
I think about the possibility of totalitarianism a lot, including what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism“.  This isn’t so much because I believe top-down governments are inherently evil, as because they’re inherently stupid.  A world-spanning totalitarian government, inverted or otherwise, would have the highest butt/brain ratio of all.
 
Who knows how long it might last?  The dinosaurs lasted millions of years.
 
But they were still only dinosaurs.

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