Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Autumn Colors

I took some photos last week of the changing trees I see on my way to work every morning. I used the "Autumn Color" setting on the Nikon D5100, and was quite pleased with the results. Remember you can see larger versions by clicking. Enjoy.

Here's the view just before I turn the corner onto the street on which my school is situated:


Now, some shots as I approach the school campus:


You can see the back windows of my classroom on the third floor to the left in the further building in the shot at top. Below is an arch under which one passes before entering the school, and below that is an arbor trellis next to the playground:


One interesting feature of the campus is this collection of large samples of rocks and minerals:


Finally, here is a picture looking out my office window:


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seoul Lantern Festival 2012

Last Thursday, I ventured forth through the cold to Cheonggyecheon to pay a visit to the Seoul Lantern Festival, and get some photos for my faithful readers. I started off quite hopeful, for the first lantern you see, at the top of the stream, was this one:


The Korean at the top means basically, Seoul Sentry Gate, guarding over the festival, I guess. The first several lanterns seemed to celebrate the career of King Sejong the Great, who oversaw the invention of hangeul, the Korean alphabet, a water clock, rain gauge, sundial, and an astrolabe, seen here:


Here are some bell-ringers and a drum-banger, both significant in palace rituals:


After that, the theme basically became images from the lives of ordinary Koreans long ago. And it got kind of samey. Two representative lanterns, a classic teacher-and-students-scene, and some construction laborers:


Large sections of one side of the stream's bank was brush-strewn, which made for interesting photography:


These flying fish lanterns provided a popular backdrop for selfpix and young couples:


And, speaking of flying, these cranes with flapping wings were nice as well:


Though the thematic element was interesting, it limited the style and grandness of the entries, so it was 80% just lanterns shaped like people. I liked it better in 2009. Anyway, tonight's the last night, so you better hurry if you want to see it!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Politics is Inevitable VII

These are the facts, and they are not in dispute. The US Presidential election of 2012 was won by Barack Obama over Willard Romney. Obama won the Electoral College by 332 to 206, and the popular vote by 3,193,263, which is a margin greater than GW Bush won re-election over John Kerry in 2004.

Elections, as so many Republicans were pleased to point out then, have consequences.

I am not about schadenfreude--well, maybe I am, but i'm going to act like I'm not for the purposes of this post. I want to investigate this: Why did Romney lose? And why was the entire American conservative movement so surprised by the outcome?

Here's what the conservative pundits have put forward:

1) Romney was never a true conservative to begin with; he held his nose as he courted the Tea Party types. True, in his heart, he may be a moderate, but the fact is we never really understood where he stands on a lot of issues, the "Etch-A-Sketch" model identified by one of his own advisers!

2) Romney was never explicit enough about his vision for the next four years. This is true, too--but mainly that's because he didn't really have one, especially after they emasculated the Ryan economic philosophy.

3) Hurricane Sandy: Romney was absent from the front pages, while Obama got to act bipartisan and appear presidential. In truth, Obama actually was bipartisan and he really was presidential.

4) Obama ran a nasty, deceitful campaign, while Romney was just too nice. Puh-leeze. It was a Romney pollster who said, "We're not going to let fact-checkers run our campaign."

5) Obama suppressed voter turnout. This was actually put forward by Karl Rove, the man who has done more than anyone since Lee Atwater to poison American political life. He had no facts, no examples, just the idea that Obama had presented such a terrible picture of Romney that people wouldn't bother to go vote for him. Actually, Republican-led drives to make voting more difficult for the poor, elderly and two-income blue-collar workers, so-called Voter ID laws, have done as much to suppress voters as anything since Jim Crow laws.

6) American voters are uninformed. At least, that's what GOP/TP Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson thinks. Of course, those voters are the same igmos that voted for him.

Why Tuttle thinks the Republicans lost big (and they did lose big, even though some Republicans refuse to admit it--which is part of why they lost big!) in increasing order of importance:

1) Unlike virtually every Presidential candidate of the modern era, Romney refused to release more than a token tax return or two. Hopefully, his repudiation by American voters will reaffirm that you simply must play honest with us.

2) Speaking of taxes, his and Ryan's magical tax-cuts-with-a-few-closed-but-unspecified-loopholes-equals-a-balanced-budget never made mathematical sense, and even kids that don't "get" algebra got that.

3) Anti-science positions on stuff like global warming, with hurricanes Isaac and Sandy front and center to remind us; abortion, with idiotic gray-faced old white men angling to control women's bodies, and one news-cycle's worth of pandering denials from the Romney crowd; FEMA should be dismantled, wait, FEMA is okay but it should co-ordinate with the states ... as is already the way it works!--what, you guys didn't even know that much?

4) The Tiny Tent. Condi Rice said that the GOP needs to have "an even bigger tent". What kind of tent she imagines is beyond me, since the only demographic won by Mitt Romney was WHITE MEN. Not that big of a tent, really. He lost white women, Hispanics, blacks, Asians, gays, Tralfamadoorians, under-thirties, etc. That wasn't an accident--they actually decided that if they could get all the white guys, they could win, so that's the demographic they went for. (Full disclosure: Tuttle is a white guy.)

5) Making rich people richer will eventually trickle down to you regular folks if you just suck their boots hard enough, wait outside the kitchen for scraps, or look sufficiently doe-eyed as they pass by in their limos. Milton Friedman's economic theory, which has held sway in the US since the Reagan years, has been thoroughly and utterly debunked, not least by our own collective experience. US economic growth was iffy throughout the Reagan-Bush I years, and only became robust under Clinton, who raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% and saw a budget surplus by the end of his term. Indeed, Obama caved to GOP pressure in 2010 and renewed the tax cut for the wealthy, yet the Republicans (who should be jubilant that the economy has improved as a result) still pointed to the poor economy as a reason to throw out Obama. Seems to me it's reason to throw out the idea that low taxes on the rich boost the economy.

But don't look at me--the Congressional Research Service, responding to a request from several GOP Congresscritters, spent ages researching this and found no evidence whatsoever that lower taxes on the wealthy improved the economy. You might not have heard of it since those same Congresscritters suppressed the paper that resulted.

6) Lies. Of course, politicians lie/distort the truth/cherry-pick facts. But more than any Presidential campaign in modern history, Romney's repeated frequently-debunked facts in ad after ad. They thought they were doing it with impunity, but the classic result was in Ohio, where the Jeep/China lie actually turned voters away. Good.

7) But here's the biggest reason, and it may be a melding of some of the ones above. But don't confuse it with lying, okay? The Romney team, many US conservatives, and the conservative punditry in general, was stunned, flabbergasted and shell-shocked that Romney did not SWEEP the electorate. No, not just that he didn't eke out a victory against the amazing Obama ground team, they seemed to truly expect a convincing W-I-N.

Now, except for the notoriously right-leaning Rasmussen, virtually every pollster group in the country had Obama leading, usually by two or three--or more--points going into Election Day. But the Republicans said, "No, we know better. You guys, you and your liberal mainstream media, you are all up Obama's ass, and you've got it wrong!"

Well, in so many words.

Only George Will made the correct call, but in REVERSE! So, that's not really correct in any significant way, is it? They were ALL wrong. Really, REALLY WRONG. It turns out, Republicans know practically nothing about Americans. If they know nothing about Americans, maybe they know nothing about America. It's as if they are living in some alternate universe. A world where only they can see Obama sitting in a chair being ranted at by Clint Eastwood. And, he's an Obama only they can see--a socialist, fascist, communist accomplishment-denigrater who got to be head of the Harvard Law Review because he's black.

American conservatives seem to live in another world--a world where the ice caps aren't melting, where rape victims who don't want to become pregnant can just wish it away, where the uncontested biological facts of evolution are in serious doubt, where the resources of the small globe on which we live are somehow infinite, where repeating the mantra 'low taxes on the rich make everyone richer' somehow make it come true.

Well, then, perhaps, we should stop listening to the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They don't know what they're talking about. At least, not in this world.