November 11, 2008 archive

Occasional Bike Blogging: Getting Ready for Winter

Cross-posted from the new, improved, Burning the Midnight Oil blog and grill.

It is now well known around the place where I work that I not only, oddly enough, bike to work, but that I do not have a car at all. And so, one of the things that brings a smile to my face when I’m at work is the worried queries how I’ll get to work when winter sets in.

I smile because last December I was biking 14 miles up to the warehouse in snow, sometimes feeling like counting my toes when I arrived to make sure they were still there. Given that, a bit under three miles to work this winter is far from daunting. But it is far from the imagination of the small town / exurban Buckeye, who view bikes primarily as fair weather recreational kinds of things.

Now, having gone through it before does not mean that I laugh, LAUGH!, in the face of the Ohio Winter, but rather that I know enough to cope with it.

We Just Marched On Veterans Day

I just got home from the big NYC Veterans Day Parade.

The “we” in the title is the crew of anti-war veterans and friends who have had a presence in the parade since the war began. Our contingent was led by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War carrying American flags. Among the others reporting for duty were at least three area chapters of Veterans For Peace (including mine, NYC’s Chapter 34), Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and a group memorializing the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (whose actual veterans are now too few and too old to join us as they had in years past).

Don’t get me wrong. Our whole contingent totaled under fifty people and we were by a considerable margin the scruffiest and least military looking one in the whole parade.

And quite possibly the best received.

We were toward the rear of the march. While the organizers didn’t, this time, slot us at the very end, they put a very loud sound truck with a deejay directly behind us and forbade us to carry any signs or posters other than organizational banners.

Nice try. They neglected to amputate the fingers with which we all made the peace sign and to remove our vocal cords. So anti-war chants, especially the cadences led by Ben Chitty, echoed in the valley of Fifth Avenue the whole way from 27th Street to 55th. Meanwhile, marchers on both sides of the contingent directed a steady stream of explanatory slogans and talk to those watching.

Now, Veterans Day doesn’t draw the crowd you’ll find at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or on the rare occasion when a New York sports team wins something, but we didn’t pass a single block that wasn’t at least half full of spectators.

And we were overwhelmingly greeted with peace signs, thumbs up, clapping and enthusiastic yells. It was striking. Even people who went out of their way to attend a Veterans Day parade, and an awful lot of them were veterans themselves, were thrilled to see and hear us voicing their own feelings:

Bring Them Home Now!

The people of this country want this war over and they want it over yesterday. It is up to us to keep the heat on those now in power–and on those who will, blessedly, take their place in 70 days–to bring this fiasco to an end. So I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to observe the Iraq Moratorium one week from this coming Friday. You can act by yourself or with others, but please do something to observe the first antiwar mobilization since the election which will be national in scope.

OPOL Relief Fund (extended)

I haven’t been on in days and days, and it absolutely fucking breaks my heart to read this.

I remember what Docudharma did for me like it was yesterday when last winter we were almost evicted for back taxes. We are still on the brink, constantly, dodged foreclosure by days again…. they keep promising to rework the lying trick they pulled when they boosted our interest to 18%, but I know we are ALL close to the same fucking boat.

Now goddamn it, OPOL before you argue, you generously helped my ass when I was down.

Do you know how generous and cool this man is? Do you all KNOW how kind he was to me? Shit, crying again.

So even if you, like me, can only donate 20 bucks, now is the time. Even 5 for every regular reader he has…..

Even if we cannot save his rental, lets help him transition.

OPOL set up a Paypal right now, ok? Right NOW, or post a PO box. Do it.

I just had company just walk in, so I’ll be back in an hour or two to finish this.

I know this community will come through, and this is going elsewhere as well.


Four at Four

  1. Chris Carey at the Bailout Sleuth writes on The rising cost of the bailout. “Although the price tag on the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program is $700 billion, the full amount that the government has invested in its rescue effort for struggling financial institutions appears to be closer to $2.5 trillion.

    Yup, $2.5 trillion borrowed and thrown into the bottomless pit of bad money.

    And Paul Keil of ProPublica reports on Bailout II: Bail Harder. By his estimate, only $60 billion of the first $350 billion authorized by Congress is still unspoken for and “the Treasury has not even begun implementing its original plan, to purchase troubled mortgage assets.” Meanwhile more and more corporations are lining up for their slice taxpayer bailout pie. So many have asked, that “Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will be forced to return to Capitol Hill for the second helping.”

    So what kind of welcome will Paulson get when he returns? Democratic leaders in Congress have been voicing three main complaints. First, both House Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have called for Treasury to require that banks receiving the government’s billions use the money for lending, as opposed to paying dividends and bonuses or funding takeovers of weaker banks. Second, the Democratic leadership has very publicly pushed Paulson to include the country’s struggling auto companies in the bailout. And third, they want immediate aid directly to homeowners.

    So that $700 billion or $2.5 trillion, depending on who’s counting, is about to get much, much bigger. Personally, I think the bailout is a bottomless pit that will ultimately bankrupt the United States.

Four at Four continues with a brazen hijacking by the Taliban, the Maldives becoming un-islands, and Veterans Day.

From “The Homeland,” Back to the Land of the Free: Impeach!

Of all of the egregious acts committed by the Bush Administration, there is one that stands out as a symbol of every wrong turn our nation took in his blessedly ending era. The use of the word Homeland to describe the Land of the Free. The unmistakable fascistic overtones simply ring of despotism and tyranny. The mind almost inevitably hears the echoes of Hitler’s Fatherland and Stalin’s Motherland. Though of course we only flirted with that level of jingoistic totalitarian reality, the fear based propaganda that took hold after 9/11 was shocking in its depth….and in the way it was embraced…here in the greatest democracy ever established. Here in the Land of the Free. We were asked…no, we were TOLD that we were required to give up our individual Constitutional Rights for the good of the State. There are many names and terms for that requirement, for that abrigement of our hard won rights. None of them contain the word Freedom.

Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act. All direct assaults on our freedom, on what America stands for, on what our veterans fought for. The fight for the rights of the individual in opposition to all forms of tyranny. That is the founding principle of America. America IS the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, it IS The Declaration of Independence…from tyranny.

With the election of Barack Obama, we can now see the light through the trees on the road back to the Land of the Free, but we are far from out of the woods yet.

When people talk of the crimes and excesses of the Bush Administration now, they talk in the past tense. But these crimes and excesses are still here. We still live under them, we still live with them, every day. The rights that were abridged under the Patriot Act are still abridged. The para-military powers that were given to the intelligence agencies and agencies like ICE and the DEA are still in effect. The government can still search your home without a warrant and without even notifying you. They can still search your medical and financial records without you knowing as well.

YOUR Government is still spying on YOU.

And for all we know….the CIA is STILL torturing people in our name.  

Iraq veterans ask Obama to end the war and occupation

On Veterans Day, let’s pause to consider the words of Iraq Veterans Against the War, in an open letter to President-Elect Barack Obama:

We appreciate your inspiring words spoken at Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday night – words which should give all Americans hope for our future. But we also remember the hope your words gave to many Americans in an August 2007 speech – especially those serving in our military:

“Ending this war will be my first priority when I take office. There is no military solution in Iraq. Only Iraq’s leaders can settle the grievances at the heart of Iraq’s civil war.”

Much has changed in our country since that speech, and the prevailing sentiment among Americans is that our faltering economy must now be your first priority. We understand and share their concern, but we believe that our faltering economy cannot be corrected if we continue the costly occupation of Iraq – an immense financial cost which is simply unsustainable. The American people are giving billions of dollars every week to continue an occupation that is draining our wallets, our respect, our security, and the lives of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi men, women, and children.

Sing C. Chew: ecology, history, and the future

This is, in short, a book review of Sing C. Chew’s new book Ecological Futures: what history can teach us.  Chew is important because he wants to incorporate ecological data into historical discussions of the rise and fall of civilizations; his most recent book attempts to use this “ecologized” version of history to make a solid (if somewhat scary) prediction about the future of the human race.  Chew doesn’t mean to scare us, however; what’s scary are the implications of his naturalistic point of view when it comes around to analyze the disastrous course our civilization has taken in its relations to the natural world.

I will end with a short set of prognostications of my own, related to reflections in the book review.

SING C. CHEW is Associate Professor of Sociology at Humboldt State University and editor of the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations.

(crossposted at Big Orange)

Nationalizing General Motors

It looks like GM is going to be nationalized, but with a twist. Because we can’t bear to say the S-word (Socialism) in America when the taxpayers start funding a private company, the incompetent management is likely to be retained and given more money to burn. Readers of the business pages may recall that the GM CEO was given a vote of confidence by the board just a few months ago, and so this bozo expects to retain control of a company that is too distressed even to file for bankruptcy protection.

The Wile E. Coyote moment never seems to come for incompetent US top managers. They continue to defy the laws of economic gravity because their spin control is so highly perfected that it functions as a levitation mechanism. I wonder how much longer the taxpayers will be willing to provide unlimited funding to companies led by idiots? Here are some practical measures the Obama administration should consider when it takes over a private company:

1. Conduct a thorough post-mortem on the management decisions leading to the business failure.

2. Remove all managers associated with poor decisions revealed in step 1.

3. Hire replacement managers with proven records of business turnaround execution.

4. Reclaim all past bonus compensation paid to managers associated with a failed company for the last five years.

5. Restructure the business model of the failed corporation to address shifting national priorities. (E.g., GM should start making rail cars and trolleys, in addition to fuel-efficient cars).

6. Introduce a high degree of transparency into the financial records and management deliberations of the nationalized company. All key decisions and their supporting documentation should be visible on the Internet. A taxpayer-funded company should be accountable to the taxpayers.

7. Put private citizens and worker representatives, with no connections to existing management, on the board of every taxpayer-funded company.

A Look Back at the Great Books

My mother was one of those one million Americans that bought the Great Books (and let me tell you, she had to do without a lot to scrape together the $$$). I wouldn’t have survived my high school years without them; they were my friends. It’s a sad commentary on the postmodern dumbing-down of America (the entire West, for that matter) that no one can talk about the Great Books without putting those infuriating “air quotes” around the word “Great”. The fact is, they are great, and they’ll be great long after “Desperate Housewives” and Eminem (see below) have stopped being the kind of sad, degrading memories that makes you feel just a little bit soiled knowing that you ever devoted a single brain cell to thinking about them. Kant, Hume, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, and even that annoying and consistently wrong Athenian elitist named Plato, whose Great Books volume still has a place of honor on my bookshelf, where I take it down every year or two to write yet another screed attacking yet another aspect of Plato’s wrong-wrong-wronnnnnnggggggg  thought.  (my personal feeling about Plato is this: if Plato doesn’t infuriate you to the point where you stand up and kick furniture, then you really haven’t understood him …).…

  Molly Rothenberg, a student at St. John’s in Annapolis, Md., told Mr. Beam of comparing notes when she was a sophomore with  a fellow graduate of the public high school in Cambridge, Mass. St. John’s sophomores study works by such authors as Aristotle,  Tacitus and Shakespeare. Her friend was attending Bates College in Maine. “She told me they were studying Rhetoric,” Ms. Rothenberg said, “and they would be watching episodes of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and listening to Eminem. They were going to analyze it. I just laughed. What could I say?”

Real News: Obama’s Foreign Policy Challenge

Eight years of George Bush has virtually destroyed America’s clout as a diplomatic broker on the world stage, stretched the countries military might almost to the breaking point, thrown away her reputation as an honest member of the international community, and broken the back of the U.S. and the global economy, leaving the mess for a new president to clean up.

Can Barack Obama restore the heights of power of American imperialism? Should he even attempt to do so if he can or would that be counterproductive and merely postpone a day of reckoning, a day of a more realistic balance of powers in the world community?

Does Bush leave having set in motion an unstoppable series of events that when combined with the continuing collapse of the economy will finally lead to a multipolar world in which America is one country in an international community of power equals, at least diplomatically and economically?

After news of Barack Obama’s electoral victory on Tuesday night, celebrations were seen worldwide and international leaders were falling over themselves to issue statements of approval.

Eric Margolis believes that that reaction is fueled by the view that the Bush administration has created a mess that the world hopes Obama can rectify.

In the first part of our interview, former GOP supporter Margolis explains why he is “elated” by Obama’s victory and dismayed with his former party. Margolis outlines his belief that Obama’s biggest challenge will not be in confronting non-state actors like Al Qaeda, but rather in deescalating the heightening tension with Russia which the Bush Administration has created with a series of recent provocations.

Secondly, he will have to put forward a consistent position on relations with China, something that Bush has yet to do despite China’s meteoric rise in international influence during his tenure.

With respect to the economic crisis’ impact on US foreign policy, Margolis offers that US power is projected to a greater extent through its dollar, as expressed through the strategic funding of allies within foreign countries, than through its military. As such, the US will have to acclimatize itself to a reduced level of influence in the world if the economy does not recover.

November 11, 2008 – about 10 minutes

Obama’s foreign policy challenge

Eric Margolis: Bush admin has left Obama an international ‘mess’, with Russia at the top of the list

Open Thread


The most wasted of all days is one without thread.  

Honoring the vets today… starting with my family

My grandfather was in the Army for all of 3 days during WWII. He was an artilleryman at the Battle of the Bulge. After those 3 days he was given a medical discharge as he had completely lost his hearing. He came back and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yards as a tank mechanic.

My uncle served in the Navy in the 50’s before returning to work as a DoD contractor for Sperry, later Unisys, where he joined my father, eventually becoming the company’s manager in charge of all DoD contracts.

My dad, an electrical engineer, was on the original design team for the E2-C AWACS radar at Sperry in 1959. Most of his career was spent developing and testing radars and weapons guidance systems. Many of the battleships, destroyers and carriers out there have been worked on by my father. He was also involved in the development and maintenance of Polaris, Trident and Terrier missile systems while at Sperry/Unisys in Great Neck and Ronkonkoma, and later at Harris PRD/GSSD in Syosset.

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