Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Prelude to Apocalypse, Sign of American Weakness or Realpolitik?

I first became aware that we’d made a deal with Iran when someone posted a comment on Facebook about New York City being nuked.

This wasn’t an isolated sentiment.

Others compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain or expressed concern about negotiating with a country that just held a massive anti-American protest. (If we ignored all the countries with anti-American protests, we’d be mighty lonely – and we would have bombed the shit out of the French years ago.) And of course just about every conservative commentator and Republican presidential candidate jumped on it as sign of American weakness. (“Thanks Obama!”)

In short, the Apocalypse is coming. Or the sky is falling. Choose your metaphor.

But what's the reality?

Let me get one thing out of the way: no, I don't want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Frankly I'd be happy if no one had them, but that ship has sailed and we need to do everything we can to keep anyone else from acquiring them, particularly theocracies with a strong eschatological bent. As it is, there are already two countries with nuclear weapons that scare the bejeezus out of me:
  • North Korea, often referred to as a "rogue nation," a term that barely seems adequate: "Oh that Kim Jong-un is such a rogue." It's not a rogue nation; it's a bat-shit crazy nation. And they've got not only atomic bombs but ballistic missiles to deliver them.
  • Pakistan, our "ally" against the Taliban (with friends like this…): unstable governments, a history of military coups, Islamic extremist groups supported by its own spy agency (particularly when that activity is a directed against archenemy India), etc., etc. I sure as hell hope our special forces have a plan to go in and secure the bombs if there's ever an extremist takeover.
While I certainly don't want to Iran added to this list, the idea that if they get nuclear weapons they're going to start lobbing them at New York City or Tel Aviv is ludicrous. They may be crazy, but they're not insane. Ask yourself: what happens if Iran somehow manages to overcome the myriad technical issues, obtain long-range ballistic missiles, and somehow manages to land one or more nuclear weapons on the U.S., Israel or, for that matter, Europe?

Iran would be obliterated. It would cease to exist. The size and dispersal of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, not to mention immense second-strike capability from submarines, would ensure Iran's destruction, and therefore make it unlikely in the extreme that the regime would ever be so profoundly stupid. And while Israel is extremely secretive about its nuclear capabilities, there is little doubt that they would be able to respond as well. In other words, it’s mutually assured destruction.

The scenario that is more worrying (and I suspect what most people fear) is a regime like Iran providing nuclear weapons to terrorists who somehow smuggle them into New York, London, or any other western city, or figure out some other way of delivering their payloads. Again the ayatollahs aren’t totally crazy. These weapons have signatures. Their origin would be determined. And result would be the same, if somewhat delayed by the investigation: Buh bye, Iran.

That brings us to the agreement. I haven't read all 120 pages, which I’m quite certain puts me in the company of the vast majority. I’m no expert in diplomacy or nuclear weaponry. I rely on the fact that we have very smart people looking after our interests, and I trust them to make the best deal. I don’t believe John Kerry or Barack Obama would make an agreement if they thought it would put us in danger. And unlike many Americans, I put stock in the European perspective: they have the most to fear since Iran already has missiles that can reach Europe. So the fact that the Europeans support it while Iranian hardliners oppose it all point to it being a reasonable deal.

That's not to say it's all sunshine and roses. There are legitimate policy concerns (some of which have been raised by the very few opponents who approach this from a thoughtful, fact-based perspective). The three-week waiting period if we want to inspect an Iranian military base, for example, is a legitimate concern, as is Iran’s overall record of evasion and obfuscation.

But that’s not what this debate is about. Much of the opposition is driven by inchoate hatred and distrust of Obama, not by the specifics of the deal. There’s no point in trying to convince the “Obama is a socialist,” and the “Obama is a Muslim or not American” crowds of anything (and the outright racists – I’ve personally seen three instances of pure, unrepentant racism about Obama and I live a pretty sheltered life – are obviously beyond hope). But there’s another big group who suggest this deal highlights American weakness. This I just don't get.

The question of whether America is weaker now that it was when Obama became president is one for another time (although let's note for the record that since Obama assumed office, we pulled out of a huge recession and managed to withdraw from the bloody mess in Iraq) but I fail to see how negotiation, even with a regime as odious as Iran, suggests that we’re weak. This is what big, grown-up countries do. I realize that the average American likes things simple, and black and white. Foreign policy is rarely simple. I believe Obama recognizes this, but has done a piss poor job of explaining this to the American people, not that we particularly want to hear it.

And what are the alternatives? I have yet to see anyone offer credible options to negotiation:
  • We could and should continue the regime of economic sanctions until such time as we're satisfied the Iranians are not producing nuclear weapons or conducting work toward nuclear weapons. (This, in fact, is what the agreement calls for.) But too often sanctions punish the very people we need to engage. In the case of Iran, there is a very young and entrepreneurial population that is a natural, potential ally to the West. The leaders of the regime always have ways to stock money away somewhere and never particularly suffer.
  • Special warfare is always an option and we had some good results (apparently) from the Stuxnet virus, but how many times can we pull that rabbit out of the hat?
  • We could bomb the crap out of Iran, but from all accounts it would have almost no impact on any nuclear program: the Iranians have buried everything so deeply, and scattered facilities so widely that even our biggest bunker buster bombs would have little to no effect.
  • Invade? Iran is not Iraq. This is a real country, with a much higher degree of ethnic and religious unity than many of the other countries in the Middle East. In other words, it's not a product of French and British colonialism. This is the 18th largest country in the world – more than twice the size of Texas, and almost four times the size of Iraq. Its military is much bigger and better than anything Saddam Hussein had to offer, even if woefully behind in technology thanks to the various embargoes. An invasion (even a surgical action directed only at known nuclear facilities) would be a bloody mess with thousands of American dead, and would likely provoke a wave of terrorist attacks around the world aimed at American and other Western targets.
It may yet come to military action, but this must always be a last resort, particularly if it’s pre-emptive action. (Did we learn nothing from the titanic mistake of invading Iraq?) At least this agreement puts Iranian commitments in writing with a specific timeline and consequences. It gives the moderates in Iran a chance to come to the fore and bring their country into the community of nations. If they choose to ignore this opportunity and continue down the path toward nuclear proliferation, then they’ll remain a pariah nation – and may suffer even worse consequences.

This is the reality of the world. “Rah rah ‘Murica” chanting or “We need to make America great again” hyperbolic chestpuffing will work about as well in this situation as it does on the playground – where it belongs. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Keith's Playlists: Musical Verbosity

The other day I was trying to play "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)." As I gasped for breath and desperately tried to spit out the words (without literally spitting on the table), my mind turned to other songs that are absolutely jammed with words. Songs in which the singer sounds like he or she can barely keep up (or breathe) and may just faint. Here's what I came up with in chronological order.
Note that I didn't include hip hop since the very essence of hip hop is jamming a lot of words into a song).
Spotify playlist (minus "Sam," which isn't on Spotfiy, at
Honorable mention: "Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop)" by Scatman John - Honorable mention only because he's not singing lyrics but scat but it's just pretty cool, in a kind of dorky way!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Keith's Playlists: Rock 'n' Roll Is In the Words (aka Best "Rock 'n' Roll" Songs)

These are not the best rock ‘n’ roll songs, but the best songs with the words “rock and roll” in them somewhere. The earliest track here is from 1935 and the latest from 2013!

What else would you include? (And note there are three obvious ones I left out: “We Built This City” by Starship as it’s one of the worst songs ever written; “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News (nice guys but I can’t stand their music); “Rock and Roll” by Gary Glitter partly because its use at sporting events has killed the song for me, and partly because Glitter is a scumbag.)

  • “If It Feels Good, Do It” by Sloan 
  • “Gotta Have Rock and Roll” by Heartless Bastards 
  • “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin 
  • “Rock and Roll Music” by Chuck Berry 
  • “Get Rhythm in Your Feet (and Music In Your Soul)” by The Benny Goodman Orchestra with Helen Ward – From all the way back in 1935, one of the first big hits to use the words “rock and roll” 
  • “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?” by The Ramones 
  • “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts 
  • “We’re Gonna Rock” by Wild Bill Moore – Another oldie, from the late-1940s, a rough gem with honking saxes taking the role that electric guitar solos would later assume in rock ‘n’ music 
  • “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” by Billy Joel and “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” by Eric Church – Two very different artists from two different eras but I lump them together here as the gist of both songs is similar: the music 
  • “Rock and Roll All Nite” by KISS 
  • “Rock & Roll Band” by Boston 
  • “Rock and Roll” by The Velvet Underground 
  • “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger – My parents’ all-time favorite song! 
  • “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” by Rick Derringer – I prefer this version to the Johnny Winter original 
  • “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” by The Rolling Stones

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Short Fiction: Sovereign Citizens in Love (First Draft)

(Writer's Note: This is a rough first draft of a new story. I'm working on a new version in 3rd person. In the meantime, what do you think of this 1st person version? PDF available here.)

They ask me about Hollis all the time: “What was he like before the siege?” “Why does he hate the government so much?” “Did you ever think he’d do something like this?”
They ask because they think I know him. “Kevin and Hollis grew up together. They’re still good friends.” True enough on the growing up part. I met Hollis in first grade when we teamed up to keep Kenny Sampson at bay. I’m not so sure on the “still good friends” part. He was gone for 15 years or so, and came back a different man, no longer fat, married to that fireball Rhonda with three kids in tow and a light in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. Still, I thought I knew him. We socialized, barbecued together, drank more than a few beers on my porch. Then Rhonda got arrested, convicted and sent up the river, and this damn siege started.
Now when I Google “Hollis Donelson,” I find “anti-government extremist,” “domestic terrorist,” “tax protestor,” “violent radical,” “Sovereign Citizen,” “survivalist,” hostage-taker,” “man at center of Iowa siege.” I also see “hero,” “patriot,” “soldier,” “oathkeeper,” and (my favorite) “a truly righteous, fire-breathing, Son of Liberty, fighting Tyranny and nourishing the Tree of our Freedom with his own Sweat and Blood,” the latter on websites that prominently feature American flags, the Bible and the Constitution, plus pictures of Obama with horns or merged with pictures of Stalin or Mao.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

If you know how to drive, you know how to live

Let me be clear: I don’t like driving. If I never had to drive again, I’d be perfectly happy. It’s madness out there. But I’ve also realized that knowing how to drive is knowing how to live: if you can drive safely, you can live life to the fullest. Think I’m exaggerating? Consider this:
  1. Jim Morrison said it best: “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” You’ve got to take control. It’s your life. If you cede responsibility to someone else (an employer, a partner, a condition, a substance) and don’t maintain balance, you’re asking for trouble.
  2. Always check your blind spot. We all have weaknesses. Know yours. Don’t avoid change because of a weakness, but don’t think you can ignore it and be successful.
  3. Don't forget to look in the rearview mirror. The past matters. Don’t make the same mistakes over and over. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses.
  4. Keep the engine in tip top shape. Your body is your foundation. If you don’t maintain it, you’re screwed, no matter how well you manage other aspects of your life.
  5. Be extra alert at night. “For the night is dark and full of terrors.” We’re raised to fear the dark. It’s primordial. It’s also a good chunk of our lives (half to a third depending on one’s timezone) so there’s no way to avoid it. Embrace the dark. Embrace the known. But expect the unexpected. Stay on guard.
  6. Sometimes it's better to walk or take transit. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. March to the beat of your own drummer.
  7. Adapt to the conditions. You can’t always go a million miles an hour. Changing conditions require a more cautious approach. Track the conditions. Adapt accordingly.
  8. Know the rules. Rules can suck. They constrain. They close off options. But ignorance of the rules can cause untold trouble. Get to know the rules. That way you’ll know how to break them. 
  9. Distraction can be dangerous. It’s okay to get lost. Sometimes that’s the only way to get found. But getting distracted at the wrong moment can kill you. Know when to focus and when to give yourself a rest.
  10. Take a break. Unless you’re Superman, you can’t go go go all the time. You need a break. You need to recharge your engines. Feeling tired? Feelling unfocused? Pull the car over and have a snooze.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Updates to My Definitive List of Boulder County Craft Breweries - April 29, 2015

My Definitive List of Boulder County craft breweries is a huge hit! I created it in response to my own frustration at being unable to find a single source that 1) included all of these breweries, and 2) had all the key information I wanted (patio, dog friendliness, happy hour) so there are obviously a lot of other folks looking for the same thing! The research is tough, but someone's got to do it! :-)

Here's what's changed since I initially posted the list on April 15, 2015:

  • New Planet: Seneca at New Planet let me know that they serve not only gluten-free but also gluten-reduced and barley beers. Check them out!
  • Filled or updated details for:
    • Crystal Springs
    • Liquid Mechanics
    • Powder Keg (personal visit!)
    • Upslope
    • Very Nice
    • Vindication
  • Added three new breweries that are supposed to open this year:
    • Atom Brewing, Erie
    • Gunbarrel Brewing
    • Open Door Brewing, Boulder
I still don't have complete details for the following breweries, in spite of emailing them, so if you're at one of these locations, please help me fill in the blanks!
  • 12 Degrees
  • Avery
  • Echo in Erie
  • Grossen Bart
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Walnut

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Boulder Country Craft Breweries - The Definitive List (updated October 9, 2015)

This is a definitive list of all Boulder County craft breweries, including key details (such taproom vs. full restaurant, patios, dog friendliness, etc.) I've visited these myself and/or reached out to the brewery for details but please help keep this current! If you have any changes, let me know in the comments below.

I've posted this as an Excel spreadsheet on my Google Drive if you'd like to download your own version.

A few provisos: 
  • I have not been to all of these (yet). I haven't visited Crystal Springs, Echo, Left Hand, Vindication, and Wild Mountain, although I've had beer from Crystal Springs, Echo, Left Hand and Vindication.
  • This doesn't include BJ's Roadhouse as this is a national chain.
  • I left out cider and meaderies.

Brewery Name Location Restaurant
or Taproom
Patio? Dog Friendly?1 Happy Hour Notes
12Degree Brewing Louisville Pizzeria Yes Yes (patio) M-Th 4-6 pm $1 off pizza and pints
300 Suns Brewing Longmont Taproom Yes Yes (patio) M-W 2-6 pm
Asher Brewing Co. Gunbarrel Taproom Yes Yes (patio) No, but pints only $4-5 Organic
Atom Brewing Co. Erie Supposed to open summer 2015 but delayed
Avery Brewing Co. Gunbarrel Both Yes Yes (patio) No
Bootstrap Brewing Niwot Taproom Yes Yes (patio) All day Mon.
Boulder Beer Boulder Restaurant Yes Yes (patio) Yes but different every day CO's first craft brewery
BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats Boulder Restaurant Yes Yes (patio) 3-6 pm daily and all day Tues.
Crystal Springs Brewing Co. Louisville Taproom Yes Yes M-F 3-5pm
Echo Brewing Erie Pizzeria Yes Yes (patio) M-Th 3-6 pm $1 off pints 2nd site; other site is in Frederick
FATE Brewing Co. Boulder Restaurant Yes Next to (not on) patio only M-F 3-5:30 pm
Finkel & Garf Brewery Gunbarrel Taproom Yes Yes No
Front Range Brewing Co. Lafayette Taproom2 Yes Yes (patio) M-F 3-6pm $1 off pints
Gravity Brewing Louisville Taproom2 Yes Yes (patio) No
Grossen Bart Brewery Longmont Taproom Yes Yes
Gunbarrel Brewery Gunbarrel Opening in 2015
The Industrial Revolution Brewing Co. Erie Taproom Yes
J Wells Brewery Boulder Taproom No Yes "Slacker hour" $2 off pints 3-4pm M-F
Regular happy hour $1 off pints 4-6pm M-F
Left Hand Brewing Co. Longmont Taproom Yes No No (but free tour)
Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co. Lafayette Taproom2 Yes Yes (patio) $1 off pints M-Th 4:30-5:30pm
Mountain Sun Pubs & Breweries Mountain Sun (Pearl St. Boulder) Restaurant Yes No Yes No credit or debit cards
Southern Sun (South Boulder) Restaurant Yes No Yes
Under the Sun (South Boulder) Restaurant No No Yes
Long's Peak Pub (Longmont) Restaurant Yes No Yes
New Planet Beer Co. Boulder Taproom Yes Yes (patio) No Gluten-free, Gluten-reduced and Barley beers available
Limited hours
Odd13 Brewing Lafayette Taproom2 Yes Yes (patio) M-Th 3-5 pm All night M-Tu if you walk or bike
Open Door Brewing Boulder Opening fall 2015
Contract brewer
Oskar Blues Brewery Brewery (Longmont) Taproom Yes Yes No but pints only $4
Liquids and Solids (Longmont) Restaurant Yes No Food only
Chuburger (Longmont) Restaurant Yes No Food only
Cyclhops (Longmont) Restaurant Yes No Food only
Lyons Restaurant Yes No Food only
The Post Brewing Co. Lafayette Restaurant Yes No M-F 4-6 pm
Powder Keg Brewing Co. Niwot Taproom2 No No No
Pumphouse Brewery Longmont Restaurant Yes Yes (on patio leashed to perimeter fence and out of walkways) M-F 3-6pm & 10pm-midnight
Sanitas Brewing Co. Boulder Taproom2 Yes Yes M-F 4-6pm $1.5 off pints
$2.50 for train beers within 15 min. of train passing
Shine Brewing Co. Boulder Restaurant No No $1 off pints 3-6:30 daily
Skeye Brewing Longmont Taproom2 Yes (small) No No
Twisted Pine Brewing Co. Boulder Restaurant Yes No (although dogs can stay on grass a few feet away from patio) M-F 4-6 pm
Upslope Brewing Co. East Boulder Taproom2 Yes Yes M-F 11 am-2 pm $1 off
North Boulder Taproom Yes Yes No
Very Nice Brewing Co. Nederland Taproom2 No Yes No but flagship beers only $4
Vindication Brewing Co. Gunbarrel Taproom Not yet but planned No $1.50 off pints every Mon.
Walnut Brewery Boulder Restaurant M-F 3-6 pm & 10 pm-close
West Flanders Brewing Co. Boulder Restaurant Yes No M-F 3-6 pm
Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery Nederland Restaurant Yes No 4-6 pm daily
Wild Woods Brewery Boulder Taproom Yes Patio only All day Tues.
1 Dogs must be on leash (whether in the taproom or on the patio) in all of these establishments.
2 Although these breweries do not have restaurants, there is food available, either from an adjacent restaurant or from regularly scheduled food trucks.