Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

31 December, 2005

How high's the water, mama?

Looking out my window, I can see the rain has finally stopped, after soaking us all morning. Pat Welch's river page shows that pretty much every significant watershed in Oregon is spiking at or above flood stage. You can see how fast the water's risen over the past couple of days here (click on image for better view):
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The following pictures were taken of the Willamette River in Eugene (north of the Greenway footbridge) this morning, around 11 AM. This stretch of river is about 1/8 of a mile from our house. We're not in any danger from the river - to reach us, the river would have to rise another 8 or 9 feet within a basin that averages between 1/8 to 1/4 mile wide. If it rains that much, I'm thinking we'll be having other problems to worry about.
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There's a large island here that usually divides the current, with the main flow on the far side of the island. All you can see now are the trees.
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The forecast is calling for rain until Wednesday, slacking off after that to showers.

I've been desperately wanting to go boating for some time, but I looooooooove my new kayak too much to risk an unplanned swim as my boat floats to Portland:
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Talk about the weather

When I first moved to Eugene in 1996, I had heard about the famous Pacific Northwest rains, but was unprepared when, in mid-November, the skies opened in a downpour that lasted (I shit you not) three whole days. For the rest of the year, the Willamette Valley was under a sheet of water - or mud, up in the hills.

Well, we're at it again. We went from barely a drop in the creeks to flood in a matter of a couple days -and me, with a brand spankin' new Kristmas Kayak waiting for a good soak, not even getting a chance to contemplate boating, it went to flood that fast. And it's still raining.

I'll be checking the Willamette in the morning (it's about 1/8 mile from my house) and will post some pictures (along with the vacation pics I promised earlier). Until then, I hope this post finds you both high and dry!

30 December, 2005

Bits & Pieces

We had a lovely visit to Newport over the last few days. I have to say, I love the Oregon Coast more in the winter than the summer. The moody skies, the frothing surf, the smells of sea and evergreen... the true magic of our fair stretch of ocean almost requires the calm curtains of gray and sun breaks that punctuate the storms that tear in from the Pacific.

No whales to be seen, though. Dramatic weather obscures flukes and blowspouts. We did get to go the aquarium, where we discovered that Eamon has a great appreciation for aquatic mammals like sea lions, seals, and sea otters. He doesn't see to be too impressed by the fish. I'll post some pictures a little later.

Here's a few odds and ends:
  • susanhu at Booman Tribune has this infuriating story about energy politics between D.C., the Chicago Transit Authority, and Venezuela's state-run oil industry, Citgo. Citgo is offering to sell the CTA diesel fuel for its transit fleet at 40-50% savings, so long as the savings are passed on in the way of free or reduced-price fare for low-income transit riders. The CTA scotched the deal and opted to raise their fares after receiving $89 million in federal monies from D.C. Another of consequence of Bush's "get tough" policies against increasingly leftist governments in South American. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  • kos has this to say on new revelations on the methods used in the Global War on Terror. Turning a blind eye to the torture of children is the epitome of evil.

  • The General's take on our "ally" in the GWOT, Uzbekistan, with links to the story breaking in the UK press:

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27 December, 2005


So I'm going to be taking a little break for a few days. The fam and I are heading over to Newport for a few days. We're renting a little apartment overlooking Nye Beach, so we'll be watching the gray whales migrate as the storms roll off the Pacific. It'll also be Eamon's first trip to the Aquarium - where I imagine I'll be hearing him practice saying "fish" a lot. He's gonna love it.

I'm sure Soviet Blogistan will be fine without me. I'll talk to you Thursday.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

cross-posted from the Big Orange Site

I just finished reading COBear's excellent piece connecting the dots concerning the New York Times' shocking inability to report news vital to the healthy functioning of our democracy. In the comments, sara seattle chimes in with this comment decrying the influence of corporations on both or governmental and media institutions. Her comment got the hamster on the wheel in my head.

University of California - Santa Cruz sociologist Bill Domhoff writes of "corporate interlock" in his book Who Rules America? (a must read for any Kossack looking for a critical examination of the rich and powerful in the United States). Simply put, a cursory examination of the Times Board of Directors reveals the entry point into a web of networks that provide the context for the newspaper's editorial decisions.

Presented below is the bio info for 9 of the 14 people who comprise the Board of Directors for the New York Times - note the other institutions with which these directors are affiliated (warning: this is a long list - there is more analysis after the quoted material):
  • John F. Akers
    Mr. Akers served as chairman of the board and CEO of International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) from 1986 until his retirement in 1993, completing a 33-year career at the company.

    Mr. Akers also serves on the boards of W.R. Grace & Co., Hallmark Cards, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.

  • Brenda C. Barnes
    Ms. Barnes has served as president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Corp. since February 2005, and a director since July 2004, when she joined Sara Lee Corp. as president and chief operating officer.

    Previously, Ms. Barnes was a consultant and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and North Central College.

    She is also a director on the board of Staples, Inc. In addition, Ms. Barnes serves as a chairman of the board of trustees of Augustana College and is on the advisory board and steering committee for the Center for Executive Women, Northwestern University.

    Ms. Barnes served as president and chief executive officer of Pepsi-Cola North America from 1996 until she retired in 1997. During her more than 22 years with Pepsi-Cola and its parent company, PepsiCo, she held a wide range of senior executive positions in general management, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and corporate operations.

    She began her career with PepsiCo as a business manager for Wilson Sporting Goods in 1976; became vice president, marketing for Frito-Lay in 1981; group vice president, marketing for Pepsi-Cola in 1984; president of Pepsi-Cola South/West in the early 90s; chief operating officer of Pepsi-Cola North America in 1993, and chief executive officer in 1996.

    From November 1999 until March 2000, Ms. Barnes was Interim President and Chief Operating Officer of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

  • Raul E. Cesan
    Mr. Cesan is the founder and has served as the managing partner of the investment firm, Commercial Worldwide LLC since 2001.

    Previously, Mr. Cesan served as president and chief operating officer of the Schering-Plough Corporation from 1998 until 2001, culminating a 24-year career at the company.

    He joined Schering-Plough, which is engaged in the discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical and health care products worldwide, in 1977 as director of finance and administration for the company's Latin American region. He subsequently held positions of increasing responsibility, including president of operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and was appointed president of Schering-Plough International in 1988. In 1992, he became president of Schering Laboratories, the U.S. pharmaceutical marketing arm, and in 1994, became president of Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals.

    Mr. Cesan also serves on the board of Flamel Technologies S.A., a French company.

  • William E. Kennard
    Mr. Kennard joined The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, in May 2001 as a managing director in the global telecommunications and media group. Before joining The Carlyle Group, Mr. Kennard served as Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from November 1997 to January 2001.

    Mr. Kennard served as the FCC's general counsel from December 1993 to November 1997. Before serving in the government, Mr. Kennard was a partner and a member of the board of directors of the law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand.

    Mr. Kennard is also a member of the board of directors of Nextel Communications, Inc. and Dex Media, Inc.

  • James M. Kilts
    Mr. Kilts has served as president of The Gillette Company since 2003 and as chairman and chief executive officer since 2001.

    He is also a director on the boards of The May Department Store and MetLife, Inc. In addition, Mr. Kilts serves on the International Advisory Board of Citigroup.

    Previously, he served as president and chief executive officer of Nabisco Holdings Corporation from 1998 until 2000.

    Mr. Kilts served as Executive Vice President, Worldwide Food from 1995 until to 1997 and President of Kraft USA, Oscar Mayer from 1989 until 1995, culminating a 23-year career at Philip Morris Companies. During his tenure with Philip Morris, he held a wide range of executive positions in business development, consumer products and strategy development.

  • David E. Liddle
    Since 2000, Dr. Liddle has been a partner at U.S. Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Between 1992 and 1999, he served as president of Interval Research Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based laboratory and incubator for new businesses focusing on broadband, consumer devices, interaction design and advanced technologies.

    Previously, Dr. Liddle founded Metaphor Computer Systems in 1982 and served as its president and CEO. He has also held executive positions at Xerox Corporation and IBM.

  • Ellen R. Marram
    Ms. Marram has served as a managing director of North Castle Partners, LLC. since 2000.

    From 1999 until 2000, Ms. Marram was president and chief executive officer of efdex Inc. (the Electronic Food & Drink Exchange), an Internet-based commodities exchange for the food and beverage industry.

    Ms. Marram, who left the Tropicana Beverage Group in 1998 after it was sold by The Seagram Company Ltd., had served as its president and chief executive officer from 1997 to 1998. She joined the company in 1993 as group president. Previously, she served as president and chief executive officer of the Nabisco Biscuit Company, the largest operating unit of Nabisco, Inc. Prior to joining Standard Brands Incorporated in 1977, which later merged with Nabisco, she worked with Johnson & Johnson and Lever Brothers.

    Ms. Marram also serves on the board of directors of the Ford Motor Company and Eli Lilly and Company.

  • Henry B. Schacht
    Mr. Schacht has been a managing director and senior advisor at Warburg Pincus LLC since 1999 (on unpaid leave from 2000 to 2004).

    Previously, Mr. Schacht served as senior advisor of Lucent Technologies Inc. He was the first chairman and CEO of Lucent when it was spun-off from the AT&T Corporation in 1996 until his retirement from Lucent in 1998. He returned to Lucent in October 2000 and served as chairman until February 2003 and senior advisor unil 2004.

    Previously, Mr. Schacht served as chairman and CEO of Cummins Engine Company, Inc., retiring in 1995 after 31 years.

    Mr. Schacht also serves on the boards of Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America), Johnson & Johnson and Lucent Technologies Inc.

  • Doreen A. Toben
    Ms. Toben has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, Inc. since 2002 and is responsible for its finance and strategic planning efforts. Previously, she was senior vice president and chief financial officer with responsibility for finance and strategic planning for Verizon's Telecom Group.

    Ms. Toben is a 30-year telecommunications veteran. She began her career at AT&T Corp and over the years held various of positions of increasing responsibility primarily in treasury, strategic planning and finance both there, and beginning in 1984 at Bell Atlantic Inc. Her later positions at Bell Atlantic included vice president and chief financial officer, Bell Atlantic-New Jersey in 1993; vice president, finance and controller in 1995; vice president and chief financial officer, Telecom/Network in 1997, and vice president and controller in 1999.

    Ms. Toben joined the National Advisory Board of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. on June 30, 2003. She is also a director on the boards of Citymeals-on-Wheels, Lincoln Center, and Verizon Wireless.


The Carlyle Group. Big Pharma. Insurance. Venture Capital. These people are THE rich and THE powerful. "The haves and the have-mores," as certain humble public servants would have it. Bush calls them "his base."

Returning to the work of Bill Domhoff: it's clear that the American elite - the upper-upper class, or top 1% of the population - work closely together at the top of the core economic institutions, with individuals holding positions in multiple corporate and/or governmental hierarchies. If we were to expand our examination beyond the NYT's Board of Directors and inspect their executive staff, as well as those of other corporate hierarchies, we'd soon come across familiar names. That keep re-occurring. Repeatedly. The amount of overlap in these corporate and governmental structures is truly staggering. "Corporate interlock" indeed.

Now, let me caution you against jumping to the conclusion that the NYT Board of Directors is putting direct pressure on the editorial staff to avoid stories that are detrimental to their interests. Without inside knowledge of the relationship between the boardroom and the newsroom we can make no claims, and with the exception of Arthur Sulzburger (who straddles the two worlds), I think you'd find little in the way of overt displays of power.

However, Domhoff points out that the people who sit on these elite Boards are not only business associates. They are also neighbors. They join the same yacht clubs. They sit in adjacent pews at the same church. Their kids attend the same elite prep schools. Their spouses sit together on the boards of local and national charities. They have standing tee times at the country's most exclusive golf clubs. They meet at policy boards to formulate proposals for legislation that will be beneficial for their respective industries. If we were to use Marxian language, we would say these people comprise a definite social class, a highly organized social class at that with concrete interests, and the ability to protect and maintain them.

It may be easy to dismiss this as some sort of conspiracy theory, where a small, insular part of the population is actively working to keep the rest of the population down. Let me debunk that in two ways.

First, a conspiracy implies some that it is a secret plan, that once exposed to the light of day, their nefarious plans would be foiled. The degree of interconnection between our government and corporate elites is done out in the open. It's in the list of corporate board members. Or in the NYT's society page. Or the Social Register. It's on the signature page of the pronouncements of industry policy boards. The back channels through which power in this country flows are readily visible for the looking.

Second, what Domhoff documents is a powerful synthesis between institutional and personal interests. A certain policy isn't just good for Citicorp, it's also good for Senator X's acquaintance Mr. Y, board member and large shareholder of Citicorp - their sons play football together at St. Albans.

Coming back around to COBear's original post, if you want to understand the editorial decisions of the Times, look who Sulzburger, the paper's publisher is hanging out with. Look at who's in his golfing foursome. Who is he lunching with. Whose party is he going to next week?

Chances are it'll just be with a few of his close friends - who just happen to be at the very center of power in the United States. The story concerning the Times isn't just about a plot to see Bush re-elected. It's about protecting the prerogatives of an insular class of society - the very top of the pyramid. And I think what we may now be seeing are signs that this top 1% of the population now believes that Bush may be detrimental to their prerogatives.

26 December, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes to you and yours from Medulla Noodle and our inspiration, his Noodly Diviness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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25 December, 2005


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Tools in Iraq: Rumsfeld

(Hat tip to caribmon at dkos)

From the AP wire:

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My, someone does not look happy about playing Anonymous Grateful Grunt #1 to Rummy's bleeding... er, leading man.

Got your own caption?

24 December, 2005

Crisis of Faith

A bit of blogger jealousy: I wish I could write half as well as kid oakland. After first reading him at dkos (and being thoroughly stunned by the thoughtfulness and beauty of his work), I've been a fan. And then he goes and writes this piece, a must read, which pretty much sums up my own contradictory relationship with Christianity since leaving home.
Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.

He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.

But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.

He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.

He preferred their company, their stories, their lives, their environs, their plight and their faith.

And they loved him. Because he touched them. He looked them in the eye and believed in them. Because, at the end of the day, when they looked to him they saw that his commitment to them was a commitment unsullied by qualifier or clause. It was a commitment to love them, even upon pain of death. They saw in him a love that promised to love them as they were and who they were...fully, without judgment or flinching glance, or hypocritical accomodation.

This man, Jesus, was surrounded by friends and disciples whom he mentored....not by carping or enforcing rules...but by example and teaching. By the force of his actions. By his resolute commitment to the least, the smallest, the most in need.

Go ahead and read the rest of it. I'll wait...

The man that I remember learning about from the Bible was a radical. He's the man who is recorded as saying, "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24)." He's the man who threw the money-changers out of the temple. The Jesus of "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)." I cannot believe, for one minute, knowing what I've learned about this man, Jesus, that he would approve of what is being done in his name by very powerful men (and I specifically use that gender) in our governmental, economic, and cultural institutions.

This hateful, destructive self-righteousness is what drove me away from church. It's not that I stopped believing in a higher power, it's that it seemed to me that a number of people were using the sacred for some very, very profane purposes. To get rich. To grab power. To keep women as second-class citizens. To murder those who disagree with them.

I spent time examining other faiths and philosophies - Taoism, Buddhism, Wicca, Islam, Jewish mysticism, Deadhead... you get the idea. And what I discovered is that they all, including Christianity, share the core fundamental belief of honoring your faith by treating your fellow human beings and other members of Divine Creation with respect. On top of that basic rule are all sorts of idiosyncracies specific to certain cultural and historical epochs, many of which no longer make sense in the 21st Century. I strongly believe in these core values, and see the cultural baggage for what it is - an important historical narrative of a different time. I was raised a Christian, a Lutheran, to be specific, and my cultural home is there. I've never rejected other faiths and philosophies. I just feel that Christianity is my cultural upbringing. Go with what you've been given.

And that's what makes it so hard. I want to belong to a spiritual community, but then I look at people like George Bush, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, and Bill Frist, and I want nothing to do with them. I don't even want to acknowledge that even in name we're of the same faith. I cannot stand their pious air of righteousness as the spread hate, corruption, and death. It makes me ill.

I, of course, know that not all Christian communities are as hypocritical and downright mean as Bush and his cohort. I've been making the first tentative steps (I feel somewhat awkward about it) towards attending a Society of Friends (Quaker) meeting since making the acquaintances of and conversing with some Friends activists at peace events over the last almost three (has it been that long?) years. These fleeting conversations, along with reviewing some of the texts written by George Fox and other literature produced by and about the Friends have almost convinced me that this may be the spiritual community that I've yearned to be a part of for the past ten years of my life. A Christian community inspired by the pacifism and commitment to social justice of Jesus. A community that believes in creating a better world here on earth, rather than seeing worldly wealth as a sign of being a member of the Elect (ah, shades of Max Weber for those of you who are sociologically inclined).

Damn. See, know that's what a good k/o post will do to you - turn your potty-mouth blog into a confessional. And I'm thankful for it.


23 December, 2005

Merry Festivus!

A Festivus for the rest of us!

I've got a lot of problems with you people!

R.I.P. - James Dungy

No father deserves this.

My condolences to his friends and family.

Bill O'Reilly is a hypocritical sack of shit

Please, make him stop. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Bill O'Reilly is the dumbest motherfucker EVER. Bar none. From the upcoming issue of the New Yorker (big tip o' the cap to proudprogressiveCA over at dKos for digging this up!):
O’Reilly sat out Vietnam. In the war on the War on Christmas, however, he not only has been in the trenches but has gone over the top. “I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday!” he said the other day. And, “I’m going to use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that!” And, “There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together!” And, “And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me!”

O’Reilly sees the War on Christmas as part of the “secular progressive agenda,” because “if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage.”

Perhaps we should deal with this statement by statement. Says chickenhawk O'Reilly:
“I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday!”

I'm not really sure how allowing for multiple winter holidays to be celebrated in our public spaces denigrates Christmas. I don't hear pagans whining about how all the Christians "borrowed" the Yule Tree. They seem pretty content to share.

Look, I celebrate Christmas. That's how I was brought up. And I not only celebrate in the secular, gift-giving sense, but I also acknowledge the spiritual component: the celebration of the Light coming into the world. And you know what, most of the other winter holidays also celebrate Light in a time of darkness. Which is why I feel perfectly comfortable celebrating the Solstice or Hannukah in addition to Christmas. Let's celebrate together, right?

But I digress. Back to O'Lielly. Let's take these next three statements together:
“I’m going to use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that!” And, “There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together!” And, “And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me!”

Okaaaaaay. Either we're all going to love one another and get along during this season, or I'm going to Kick. Your. Ass. Who is denigrating the spirit of Christmas?

Which, of course, leads us to the money quote:
“[I]f you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage.”

Damn. So that's what all this "Happy Holidays" business is about? Is O'Reilly afraid that the man on the street who has wished him "season's greetings" is going to get his son and daughter hooked on smack, and then have sex with his son and daughter, and then make the son and daughter have sex with each other, which causes the daughter to get pregnant, so Mr. "Happy Holidays" forces her to get an abortion, which, along with heroin addiction, causes her to be depressed? Is our perturbed pundit trembling at the thought of our swarthy secular-progressive euthanizing poor O'Reilly's daughter, rather than trying to treat the depression (life's a bitch without health insurance!), then running off and marrying his son, where they live happily ever after snorting lines of coke off of each other's butt cheeks before going out to recruit young children to be the next generation of homosexuals? Because if he really believes that shit, he's insane.

Unfortunately, here's the real nub of the matter:
Just as Christmas itself evolved as a way to synthesize a variety of winter festivals, so the War on Christmas fantasy is a way of grouping together a variety of enemies, where they can all be rhetorically machine-gunned at once. But the suspicion remains that a truer explanation for Fox’s militancy may be, like so much else at Yuletide, business. Christmas is the big retail season. What Fox retails is resentment.

So not only is O'Reilly a complete buffoon who has long since had any credibility in his "no spin zone," but he's a cynical slimeball who's out to make a buck peddling hate.

He is a pervert in evey sense of the word.

22 December, 2005

MTA Strike: It's about race

From today's NYT:
When Roger Toussaint, the president of the transit workers' local, defiantly announced a strike, he proclaimed that his union was taking a proud stand against the concessions that employers had demanded nationwide.

But Mr. Toussaint has quickly discovered that engaging in an illegal walkout can leave a union with a weak hand. His union faces a $1 million fine for each day on strike, a state judge is threatening to throw him in jail and thousands of individual strikers stand to lose two days' pay for each day out.

Not only that, but the mayor, the governor and editorial writers are denouncing the union as greedy and showing contempt for the law. The front page of The New York Post screamed, "You Rats." And the transit workers' parent union has come out in opposition to the strike.

The headline may as well read "Rich White People to Colored Transit Workers: Drive Us to Work or Else!"

Here is my understanding:
  • The majority of workers for MTA are racial minorities.

  • The yearly wage of an MTA worker (IIRC) is $50,000.

  • From folks I've known who have lived in New York - for most people, $50,000 is barely making it for a family income. With another income of equal (or more likely, less) renumeration, you could live what most Americans would consider to be a middle-class lifestyle in ultra-spendy NYC.

  • MTA workers spend their workdays navigating traffic. Or underground. Or cleaning the tunnels. Or working long, boring hours at the turnstiles. Unpleasant, but critically important jobs.

  • Millions of people whose hard work makes NYC the intoxicatingly brilliant city that it is rely on MTA to get to and from work. MTA stops - so does the city.

  • MTA leaders - and presumably (but I have no firm evidence of this) their members - have endorsed a bargaining position which keeps the MTA retirement age, for which members become eligible for pensions, at 55 and refuse to accept a lessening of pay or other benefits for new employees.

  • The MTA management recently "found" $1 billion. Yup, billion.

  • Mayor Bloomberg calling striking transit workers "thuggish" and "greedy" for demanding that they be allowed to pursue the American Dream while living in one of the United States' (or, for that matter, the world's) most expensive cities smacks of out-of-touch arrogance - especially given the indispensable role of TWU workers in keeping the city humming [btw - does anyone know if Bloomberg has ever even used NYC mass transit? Seriously, I'd like to know if he has any idea of what transit workers face everyday]. Moreover, Bloomberg's tone sounds like the lord of the manor cuckolding the hired help. How dare they demand a middle class lifestyle for making sure that I can get about my day! They're public servants!

    It would be one thing if this were simply a European Marxist drama playing out on the picket lines in the city. This is the States, though, and if there's one thing that's for certain in this part of the world: race and class are inextricably linked. The Times unwittingly drives this home:
    [Robert W. Snyder, author of Transit Talk] said Mr. Quill was smart for striking when John V. Lindsay was weak - it was his first day as mayor. In contrast, Mr. Toussaint has gone on strike when the tide seems against him. Mayor Bloomberg was just resoundingly re-elected and Governor Pataki is thinking of running for president.

    "Pataki knows that if he is friendly to the unions it won't play well in the South Carolina primary," Mr. Snyder said. "And Mayor Bloomberg has no appreciation of labor unions. He is very business-minded."

    [emphasis mine]

    The bolded portion, loosely translated for Republican partisans, means that Pataki needs to look tough on uppity colored folks. Especially when you take into account how union membership among racial minorities is booming, these statements become the rhetorical equivalent of Reagan going to Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1980 and declaring "I believe in states' rights" - a thinly coded approval of discrimination aimed at racist elites and tailored to garner the votes of disaffected Southern white workers looking for a scapegoat.

    Again, my understanding of the workers' demands are that they are fighting not only for their own benefits (and let's face it, after shuttling literally millions of people around with limited breaks, irate commuters, and dangerous, high-stress work environments for years, these people deserve decent pay and to enjoy their pensions at a decent age!), but they are trying to keep MTA jobs from going the way of Wal-Mart - low pay, few benefits, no job security, and preying upon an economically depressed population. Don't these folks deserve it?

    New York City works because TWU workers do. Solidarity.
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    Coming Soon: Wednesday Night Music Review

    Stay tuned to this virtual space: in two weeks, the Wednesday Night Music Review will make its grand premiere. I'll plumb (wink, nod Gertie and Bry-an) the depths of my extensive album and live performance catalog to deliver the scoop on some truly great music that I'll hope you enjoy. Contemporary and classics, they'll be here. Starting on January 4.

    That's all the blogging you'll get from me tonight. I'm a little too drunk to keep typing [update 12/22/05 1:18 AM PST: apparently not. Drunk bloggin'! w00t!]. Happy Solstice to all! May your days continue to get brighter until, say, mid-June, when I hope they start getting darker again. Seriously. Otherwise it's safe to say that we're all fucked.

    21 December, 2005

    Just a wee little rant

    I'm sorry, but Bill O'Reilly really is the dumbest motherfucker this side of... no, he really is just the dumbest motherfucker.

    Check out this screed written on December 18 (you may have to scroll down a bit, and you'll definitely need a shower afterwards). His whole War on Christmas is asinine. Does he walk out in the real world? Has he experienced a rabid "secular-progressive" telling him to take his "Merry Christmas" and shove it up his ass?

    And he's riled up because retailers greet their customers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". As if Christians are the only ones who shop in December. And honestly, let's get down to the real travesty: isn't exploiting a high religious holy day, a day that commemorates the birth of a person who over 1 billion people believe to be the son of God, for profit the real shame? Really, what the fuck is wrong with us Americans that we celebrate all of our holidays, civic and religious, with sales? Savior's birth? Run up those credit cards! Slain civil rights leader's birth? Buy a new car with no money down!


    C&L has this Daily Show clip which skewers O'Reilly, which, frankly, is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.

    20 December, 2005

    THIS is who they've been spying on?

    From the New York Times:
    Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

    Wait a minute. Weren't our enemies nefarious Islamofascists?
    One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

    Uh oh. I have friends who are vegan. I e-mail folks every now and again at the St. John de Bosco Catholic Worker house in Eugene (and their ideology is fully anarchistic, rather than communistic, you FBI asshats!). And I like what PETA stands for, even if I find their activists to be a bit goofy. You don't think that they're... watching... me...? Ruh roh Raggy.

    Well, if they are, they are. And a note to the CIA, NSA, FBI and whatever other acronymed agency that may be reading this: FUCK YOU for spying on United States' citizens!

    [update 12/20/05 4:00 PM PST] Via AMERICAblog, I neglected to mention that apparently gay folks, especially gay law students, are also terrorist threats. Who knew the "homosexual agenda" was so maniacal?

    I. Hate. The. Dentist.

    If I didn't have to sit in that stupid chair for an hour having my mouth prodded with sharp implements, all the while having a nice stream of drool running out the corner of my mouth, I'd like my dentist and hygienist a lot more. Don't get me wrong, they're both very nice people. But they belong to the dental profession, a profession whose whole raison d'etre is to inflict pain, all under the guise of "a healthy smile."

    It bears repeating: I. Hate. The. Dentist.

    Sign-up for warrantless searches

    Given the sickening "Bush is King" talk from his sycophants (here, here, and here - among others, shower after reading), "conservatives" who support warrantless wiretaps should have no trouble signing the Rude One's contract allowing El Presidente to access their personal information whenever he has a wild hair up his ass.

    Welcome to the United Banana Republics of America.

    Another health care initiative

    We have yet to see the odometer flip, but already the 2006 ballot initiatives are beginning to trickle in. Reports out of Salem are that documents for a ballot measure coving a statewide universal health care plan have been filed.

    Sponsors of the plan left the initiative as a broad mandate, obligating the legislature to fill in the details. Politically, this seems like a pretty shrewd strategy. Opinion polls show that around 65% of Americans favor universal health care, even if that means higher taxes. What scared Oregonians off from a 2002 universal health care measure was the details. No excuses this time.

    The business community is already offering up the tired canard of "huge" tax increases to pay for a gigantic new bureaucracy. However, consider this (from Howard Waitzkin, M.D. - At the Front Lines of Medicine):

    25% of health care expenses in the United States are administrative expenses. Compare this to 18% for Germany, 16% for France, 12% for Canada, and 6% for the UK, all nations with socialized care systems. So, we're supposed to believe that it's government bureaucrats who are going to burden the sytem with inefficiencies?

    Moreover, administrators are the fastest-growing sector of the health care labor force, growing at three times the rate of physicians and other clinical personnel.

    Hmm, so let's see, health care costs are spiralling out of control, and the fastest-growing employee category in health care is paper pusher. And it's these paper pushers who are getting their undies in a knot about universal health coverage. Interesting.

    I'm down with this ballot measure, but I have to remain realistic about its chances. There will be big money oppo$ition to this, and no doubt the right-wing smear machine will be amped up to make sure that the insurance companies are allowed to continue their racket.

    From god's lips to your ears

    The internet snark is of Grade A quality tonight. Via the General:
    Image hosted by

    And there you have it.

    18 December, 2005


    Check out KatrinaSongs for the responses of musicians, poets, and artists to the devastation of Katrina.

    Enabling Co-Dependents

    Secret prisons flung across the world. Torture. An invasion premised on deliberate misinformation. A city destroyed. A whole region incapacitated months after the initial natural disaster. Warrantless wiretaps.

    This is what happens when your Congress is filled with enabling co-dependents who would rather kow-tow to imperial power than perform their constitutional functions as independent checks on executive authority. It's kind of like partying with your friend Ox, and he's been sluggin' back pitchers off the keg all night. You tell Ox it's time to go, hand him the keys to your car, and pour him one last pitcher for the road.

    Congressional Republicans have put one-party rule above good public policy for the last five years. Robert Schlesinger has more on the woeful lack of congressional oversight, including this little morsel:
    Back in the mid-1990s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, aggressively delving into alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration, logged 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether former president Bill Clinton had used the White House Christmas card list to identify potential Democratic donors.

    In the past two years, a House committee has managed to take only 12 hours of sworn testimony about the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.



    The arrogance is jawdropping:
    President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists."

    In an unusual step, Mr. Bush delivered a live weekly radio address from the White House in which he defended his action as "fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities."

    The logic in that bolded statement seems suspiciously similar to "destroying the village in order to save it." He had to subvert the Fourth Amendment in order to fulfill his constitutional duties. That's bullshit.

    From Josh Marshall:
    Here are some more details on the record of the FISA Court (the Court established in 1978 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) [adds wobblie: this would be the court which could have constitutionally issued the warrants that Bushco sought].

    According to this table compiled from DOJ statistics at the EPIC website, the FISA Court did not reject a single warrant application from its beginning in 1979 through 2002. In 2003 it rejected four applications. In 2004, the number was again zero.

    So, in a quarter century, the FISA Court has rejected four government applications for warrants.

    This court was hardly a roadblock to investigations, but Bush and his legal eagles Abu Gonzales and Harriet Miers decided that the president's executive perogative were more important than the basic constitutional safeguards against tyranny.

    I don't trust anyone in the Bush Administration. The have clearly and brazenly broken the law, not only in the case of the illegal surveillance of Americans, but on numerous other occasions. Bush and his merry band of marauders are not the people to whom we need to be ceding ever greater executive powers - and at least some members of the Senate are standing against the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and the draconian police powers it grants the federal government.

    Conducting spy operations on American citizens without a warrant is intolerable. It is illegal. It is unconstitutional. The Bush administration is quickly becoming the world's most extensive criminal enterprise.

    17 December, 2005

    Air stagnation: Nickel and Dimed by the Weather

    Okay, so this winter to date seems to have been a continuation of the last... dry and cold. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I'm accustomed to a certain amount of precipitation - nine months worth of the old liquid sunshine. But I'm not getting any of it. This is certainly a bummer from my perspective as a kayaker: we've had about 5 days of good creeking flows at a time when I should be able to choose a watershed willy-nilly and have enough liquid to float my boat (not that I've really had any time to kayak, of course).

    Of more significance, however, is that the cold, dry, unusual weather we've had for the past few years 'round these parts may be having immediate and chronic consequences on our physical and economic health. The southern Willamette Valley is currently in the throes of a cold surface air inversion, a phenomenon where high pressure and cold temperatures cause temperature-stratified layers of air to form. On the valley floor, this causes the air to stagnate, and pollutants are trapped at ground level. During a "normal" Northwest winter, the storms that roll in off the Pacific every 3-7 days typically keep the air flowing and the rains rinse the atmosphere of particulate matter. The implications for respiratory problems due to this cold air stagnation are obvious - it's unhealthy. And the air quality over the last 31 days in Eugene doesn't look so hot - 17 days of moderate to "pretty bad" air quality.

    When you look at the color-coded Air Quality Index, search around the site and notice that each color is correlated with a home wood heating advisory. The worse the air quality, the more restrictions placed on wood burning. Now, with the price of natural gas going through the roof (estimated to increase by 33-50% over last year in the NW), more and more people are relying upon wood heating devices and electrical devices to heat their homes and save money - our household being no exception. Every day that there are restrictions on home wood heating and we have to use our gas furnace costs us roughly $7. $7 a day. And it's beginning to add up. Even keeping the temperature at 68 degrees (62 degrees when we're in bed) is draining us. We'd keep the thermostat lower and put on another layer if we weren't concerned about the health of our child.

    Are our current weather patterns related to global climate change? I can't make any sort of definitive claim - but it is certainly possible. Whether it is or not, our situation here in Eugene does demonstrate how dependent upon the natural environment and the weather our economic well-being is. It's not just catastrophic storms like Katrina and Rita that wreak havoc on our health and pocketbooks. The processes of climate change are finding multiple ways to bleed us dry.

    16 December, 2005

    You've got to be fucking kidding me

    Seriously - this is the epitome of incompetence:
    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, America's most wanted man in Iraq, was arrested last year but released because his captors did not know who he was, an Iraqi government minister has claimed...
    A US official quoted by CNN said US intelligence believed the report was "plausible".

    Honestly, I can close my eyes and readily recall the face of al-Zarqawi - in a number of different hairstyles, even. And that's just from incidental contact with the media on a near-daily basis. I can't imagine how seared into my retina the image would be if I were involved in the actual manhunt.

    War is hell. I can't blame anyone for letting public enemy to the Iraqi people #1 slip through the authorities fingers. But this little disclosure reveals how horribly confused the situation actually is in Iraq.

    Spying on those you protect

    Yet another non-surprise coming from Bush administration:

    Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

    Another "I told you so" moment for those of us on the Left. I suppose the real question for us is how many more times we have to be right about BushCo before the right-wing dead-enders have the scales fall from their eyes. I'd wager more times than it takes licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

    Snark aside, SusanG, a brand new frontpager over at the Big Orange Site, nails the significance of the issue:

    This is about the very foundations of democracy: Is the government our servant or our master? And is the president, who is elected to execute our laws, allowed to suspend them?[emphasis in original]

    We are heading into an election year when every House seat will be up for grabs. It's up to us to make every race about these constitutional issues. As concerned citizens, we can urge Democratic leaders to force the argument in this direction, but there is another action we can take as individuals to make this more of a reality.

    I suggest that those of us who are represented by Republicans in the House contact our representatives and get them on record over the next few weeks on three specific questions:

    1. Does the president have unlimited power in a time of war, particularly an undeclared one?
    2. Do you believe the government has a right to spy on its citizens with no regulating oversight?
    3. Do you support a full and open Congressional investigation into the executive branch's authorization of spying on American citizens?

    These questions, depending on how they are answered, may well prove to be a gift we can give to every Democratic challenger in the year ahead. It will force GOP reps to take a stand, if as constituents we don't let them get away with obfuscating. Insist on a clear-cut answer. Demand a yes or no. And keep ready at hand the letters or emails you receive back. It's time to force this issue. It's time for all of us to do our part. It's time to re-deliver this government into the hands of the people it was elected to represent.

    If our constitutional rights aren't a bi-partisan issue, I don't know what is.

    What the hell is going on in here?

    What do I want to talk about? Me?

    Well, if you really want to know. I want to talk about why our world is so fucked up. I want to talk insider baseball. Horse races. I want to talk ad-busting. I want to talk about Great. Fucking. Art. I want to talk about why I have to see Paris Hilton every time I turn on the goddamned tv.

    I want to talk about working. Or not working. Or telling your boss to go fuck himself, you're not taking any more of his shit. I want to talk about how deceptively simple it can all be. And how impossibly complex. I want to talk about the sacred and the profane. Definitely the profane.

    I want to talk change. I want to talk democracy. I want to talk about socialism. About labor. About our environment. About our culture. I want to talk about ending one-party rule in the United States. I want to talk about ending the war. I want to talk about answers. I want to talk about solutions. I want to talk about reform. Or revolt.

    I want to talk about rock 'n roll. About jazz. About the symphony and bluegrass. I want to talk about performances that left us gasping for breath. About recordings that should be hung in the Met.

    I want to talk about the weather. The people whose paths I cross. The places I visit. I want to talk about life. I want to talk about how you, and me, and everyone we've ever known are shaping and simultaneously being shaped by the historical vistas in which we dwell.

    That's what I want to talk about. Thanks for asking, and welcome to Medulla Noodle.