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Just returned from a trip to the Big Bend country in west Texas. For those not familiar with this region it is a place of mystery and profound beauty. A land of vast desert landscapes broken by mountain ranges and inhabited by reptiles, artists, folks who would rather not be found, and some of the toughest, most resilient ranchers one might encounter in this parts of the world.

I’ve been out here a number of times but never traveled as far west as I did on this trip. Highway 170 from Lajitas to Presidio hugs the Rio Grande for miles. The geology is breathtaking. The landscape is harsh and stunningly beautiful. The river that separates two nations is a short hike below. When one is here, the idea of two nations is seen for what it is, a temporary human construct. Mother nature laughs at human folly. The idea of building a wall across this land for the purpose of preventing the movement of humans is so utterly bizarre that it should be called out for what it is – sheer madness. It will never be done. And the beauty and mystery of this place will remain long after the few humans that roam these parts become part of the fossil record.


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When I was a wee lad back in 1966 a local grocery store ran a promotion where for 19 cents you could purchase a glass figurine of a president of the United States. As a budding history nerd at the tender age of seven I was intrigued and I badgered my parents to get president Kennedy for me. To my delight my mother returned from the store one day with all of the figurines from Washington through Johnson except for Kennedy, which was in high demand at the time and on back order. He was added a few weeks later.

I have carried these figurines and the cheesy styrofoam stand around the state of Texas in a Wonder Bread wrapper for the better part of the past half century. They have spent most of their existence in a box in various attics. Nothing has broken or even chipped. Lord knows what is in that paint.┬áThe plan now is to obtain a shadow box with several shelves and properly display these fellows. It’s about time they get a proper home.

Thanks to this collection I could recite all of the presidents in order in my elementary school days. I began to gather trivia on many of them, which lead to deeper reading here and there and I eventually completed a B.A in History with an emphasis on American economic history many years later, perhaps because I stared at these guys for so many hours in my youth. Who knows how these things unfold??

Then there is the fun fashion aspect of the display. First, they are all the same height. James Madison at 5’4″ only dreamed that he could have been as tall as Thomas Jefferson standing next to him. Note that long neckties begin to show up about the time of Benjamin Harrison and then become a staple in the twentieth century. Who will break that trend? F.D.R. has his dashing cape (which he wore at the Yalta conference) but there is no wheelchair and his hair is ginger, not gray. Poor Calvin Coolidge is displayed with a hat that I was never sure went with the suit and was certainly not as grand as McKinley’s top hat. At least he is not wearing spats. But then, Calvin was never one for trendy fashion. Some are standing at attention, some are gesturing. Harry Truman seems to be pleading. Must have been when his approval poll numbers were in the 20’s.

I’m glad to have rediscovered them and I look forward to getting that shadow box display up on a wall. Stay tuned.

Full Greco-Roman revival styrofoam display.


Madison, larger than life.


Coolidge and his hat with a pleading Truman in the background.


Amazing to witness the evolution of photo voltaic technology. As China flooded the market with cheap panels over the past few years, putting many American manufacturers out of business, First Solar employed robotics and new technology to undercut even the cheapest imports.

My take is that a heavy targeted investment in R&D to stay on trend with development in technology combined with targeted tax incentives and training of a new work force would be far more effective and better for the economy than the imposition of tariffs that only serve to raise the prices of soon to be obsolete panels.

But then, those measures would take money, political will, and leadership.

I’m not holding my breath.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is do you, Mr. Jones? -Bob Dylan

Germany’s political establishment doesn’t know how to react to the Pirate Party, which now has seats in two state parliaments and owns the debate on Internet issues…..

After all, one of the goals of the Pirate Party is to distance itself from the usual political rituals. While conventional politicians usually do little more than simulate participation through dialogue with citizens, the Pirates promise more around-the-clock participation in the political decision-making process.

Digital channels like Twitter, or the Liquid Feedback voting software which is closely associated with the Pirate Party, provide the party with a high potential for mobilizing people. This makes it so attractive for like-minded people — and so unpredictable for the established parties.

The entire article in Spiegel Online is well worth a read. The Pirate Party seemed to come from nowhere. It rose quickly. It caught the establishment off guard. It brushed aside the old anti-establishment party as well. And they even gained a voice in legislatures. They are not being co-opted by parties in either existing political wing because frankly, the people in those parties do not fully comprehend their concerns. But their concerns are central to the way our world will operate in the very near future. Their concerns are how some form of democracy can function in that world.

Change is happening. Maybe we can only recognize a full blown seismic shift with a bit of hindsight but my intuition tells me that we may already be there. Just like the older crowd at (Mad Men reference here) Don Draper’s 40th birthday party standing around with martinis and looking a bit perplexed as the 60’s began to opened into full bloom, something was happening but they just didn’t understand what it was did they, Mr. Jones?

Senator Jim DeMint, July, 2009: “If we are able to stop Obama on this [health care reform] it will be his Waterloo..”

(Game show buzzer here) I’m sorry, Senator DeMint, that’s not the answer we were looking for! But as a consolation prize, you get the home version of our game and this nifty little number from ABBA!: