California oil spill

A pipeline breaks and oil spills on Santa Barbara coast line. I lived in Santa Barbara during the much larger spill in 1969. The current spill is tragic but not unique. The Santa Barbara Channel offshore is a fracture zone with more or less constant leakage from the local oil deposits. An essential part of the beach experience there is a bottle of baby oil to remove tar deposits from one’s hands and feet. I used to frequent the parking lot near City Hall and I noticed that for years after the 1969 spill, the mayor and council members had reserved slots in the city lot adjacent to City Hall. It was my position then that if the residents of Santa Barbara were serious about less oil drilling offshore, the mayor and council members would have their names on reserved slots in a bicycle rack, not on spaces for cars.

Veterans Administration

In their latest efforts to downsize government, cut costs and eliminate waste, the GOP want to privatize the Veterans Administration (VA). If they succeed, I suggest that the next step should be to privatize the biggest money waster in government, the Department of Defense (DOD). Then the next time we want to go to war, the government can solicit competitive bids from Blackwater, Halliburton et al. No more cost-plus contracts for defense contractors.

Two Lives

Two Lives by Vikram Seth. Seth is an award-winning author and poet of several books including The Golden Gate, a novel about California written in sonnet verse. Two Lives is about his Indian uncle who was a dentist in England and his aunt, a German Jew during the period before, during and after WW2. In discussing the results of Germany’s role in both WW1 and WW2, Seth has this to say about the current world situation:

“The formation, situation and policy of Israel have had profound effects on opinion and action in different parts of what can loosely be called the Islamic world, a fifth of humankind; this has continued for fifty years, and is not likely to cease of its own accord. Unless something happens to create a more just dispensation than now exists, no wall or fence will protect Israel and no homeland security measures, however draconian, will protect a world seen as acquiescing in or promoting continued injustice.”

Seth is an excellent writer and I am currently reading his magnum opus, A Suitable Boy, set in India in the 1950s, shortly after India regained its independence from Britain. I recommend starting with a shorter Seth book.

Saudi Arabia versus Yemen

As the Saudi Air Force pounds Yemen with US made weaponry, from the map of the Arabian Peninsula, it appears a David and Goliath confrontation. Saudi Arabia occupies most of the boot-shaped peninsula while Yemen is the heel of the boot. That is misleading because most of Saudi Arabia is desert and empty of  people. The Saudi population is about 20 million with an additional 7 million foreigners living and working there. On the other hand, Yemen has a population of about 24 million who are estimated to be the most heavily armed people in the world. The bin Laden family emigrated from Yemen to Saudi Arabia before Osama bin Laden was born, and I suspect that many of Yemeni ancestry now live in Saudi Arabia. In addition, Saudi Arabia has a large minority population of the Shiite faith and the current Saudi military action is directed against Shiites in Yemen.

Reportedly the Saudi government is negotiating to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan. If successful, the Saudis will be able to intimidate their neighbors. However, nuclear weapons will not offer any protection from minorities living within or next door to Saudi Arabia.  I think that the rulers of Saudi Arabia are going to live to regret attacking Yemen.

Senator Condoleezza Rice?

Some on the Right want to draft Condoleezza Rice to run for the open US Senate seat from California in 2016. She is not qualified for that position as she was not qualified to be George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor. When Colin Powell resigned, Bush promoted her to Secretary of State, for which position she was not qualified either. The probable Democratic candidate in the race is Kamala Harris, currently California state Attorney General. Rice has a snowball’s chance in a Death Valley summer of winning. Perhaps the GOP want a black woman in the race to oppose Harris who is of mixed ancestry.