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Friday, 15 September 2006
Tasini wins on principle
Topic: politics

This summer more than a few people took a ride with Jonathan Tasini as he bicycled across New York State to galvanize his primary race against Hillary Clinton. Now the totals are in; Tasini got almost 14 percent of the Monroe County vote for the Dem nomination, and he reportedly got around 17 percent statewide. (The state elections board hasn’t yet posted the certified results.) Not too shabby for someone without instant name recognition or the “power of incumbency.” And oh yeah, Clinton outspent him something like a billion to one.

But the media did their usual part in keeping a principled insurgent in his place. Even a New York Times columnist remarked that “some may even believe that his first name is Little-known, given that he is sometimes referred to as Little-known Jonathan Tasini.” Some, indeed. A few weeks after Haberman made his point, the Times itself called Tasini “Mrs. Clinton’s little-known opponent.” And on primary morning, I heard a WXXI newsman call the shots: Clinton, he said, “is expected to trounce little-known candidate Jonathan Tasini.” I wonder how many iterations of this noxious phrase popped out of newsreaders’ and pundits’ mouths over the months as they systematically withheld the coverage that would have made Tasini well-known to the electorate.

Mindless repetition wasn’t the media’s only, or most grievous sin. In the Democrat and Chronicle, Joseph Spector and Jay Gallagher followed up a perfectly reasonable comment (“Tasini was hoping to pull off an upset modeled on Ned Lamont's surprising victory over Sen. Joseph Lieberman in last month's Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut”) with a bunch of crap, to wit: “But [Tasini] never gained any leverage as he attacked Clinton for not vehemently opposing the war in Iraq.” The crap part is the implication that Clinton opposes the war to some slight degree, and that Tasini would have been satisfied only if she made the rafters ring with demands for withdrawal. But the point is: as a senator, Clinton has been a strong supporter of the war, first by voting for the resolution that started the whole mess, and since then by refusing to repudiate her vote or join with actual anti-war people in Congress. (And don’t forget that Clinton was implicated by more than marriage in the sanctions regime that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the 1990s.)

The local “alternative” joined this media race to the bottom, as well. I couldn’t recall anything much about Tasini in City Newspaper, so I checked the paper’s online archive. The search turned up three items, one of which is a letter-to-the-editor, and another of which is a glancing reference to Tasini in a long article by Krestia DeGeorge on Spitzer nemesis Tom Suozzi. City’s only substantive coverage of the Tasini campaign appeared way back in March, when DeGeorge gave Tasini the equivalent of one decent paragraph in a long piece about a Democratic Party rural conference.

Whatever the vote tally – and Tasini’s 117,000-vote statewide total is no drop in the bucket – the New York peace insurgency aimed at taking back the Senate was well worth the effort. Tasini got voters talking and thinking about the war and Hillary Clinton’s hypocrisies. His platform also called for single-payer health insurance, another sane measure that Hillary Clinton has worked hard to derail. He ran to promote action against global warming, too. From top to bottom, in fact, his positions read like a progressive dream. No wonder he lost. He was just too good to lie or carry water for the folks that make a killing on war and misery.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 22:09 EDT
Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006 18:39 EDT
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Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Small business isn't always beautifying
Topic: urban issues
Every so often something happens to show how "small is beautiful" doesn't necessarily apply to the business sector - that is, to remind us that the fabled Mom and Pop ops have more in common with the WalMarts than we're led to believe.
Consider an act of small-scale "urban removal" that a highly successful downtown Rochester restaurant committed recently, prompting me to send the message below (as yet unanswered):
"Dear 2 Vine management:
"Today, after returning from a few weeks out of town, I saw that the Queen Anne house next to the restaurant has been demolished. I know the house was on the market for several months - after, according to news reports, city officials persuaded you not to tear the building down precipitously - and I assume no buyers stepped forward to rehab it, at least not any buyers who met your conditions.
"Of course, I also assume that your treatment of the house, most significantly your failure to put even a temporary roof or barrier on the structure to keep the weather from doing further damage, made the house that much less attractive to potential buyers. But maybe that was your plan: to let the house deteriorate to the point that demolition was the only option left.
"I don't doubt that the house was seriously damaged before you acquired it (though the exterior looked remarkably good). But many such buildings - indeed, some with much greater damage - have been resurrected. There should be no disagreement that the Queen Anne had architectural significance, and possibly historical significance, for its neighborhood. It deserved preservation efforts well beyond anything you, the city, or other parties saw fit to do.
"The whole episode seems odd, especially in light of the Landmark Society and AIA honors that you trumpet on the your website. Please explain. I know you've done some good things for downtown - but this latest development, or rather anti-development, leaves me disappointed, to say the least." 

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 20:36 EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006 20:58 EDT
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Saturday, 2 September 2006
Hitting the pavement for "fareness"

My August bike trip to the Adirondacks brought no end of pleasures: hearing the loons’ early morning call over a pond near Inlet, NY, as I coasted down a steady grade; watching the shadows gather and shift through the hemlock-beech-maple forest late in the day near Big Moose Lake; feeling an incomparable rush while descending a three-mile hill near Camden, NY; feeling another sort of rush when topping the “last hill” that turns out to be the first of many… But there were other transportation experiences, too, while “sharing the road” with vehicles seemingly designed to express post-adolescent male rage. The muffler-impaired motorcycles were standouts, of course; their riders claim that noise makes for safety, i.e. alerts other motorists of their presence.


Maybe, maybe not. But I can say the high-decibel blasts and farts do nothing for bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety. The highly distracting noise-assault makes it much harder for human-powered folks to get the sensory information they need to avoid all sorts of road hazards. But what the hell, the point is that the roads are for the powerful – places for the testosterone-soaked to play out their fantasies of the wolf pack on wheels. (Interesting tidbit: Animal behaviorists now say our inherited ideas about “alpha males” and other aspects of wolf psychology are wrong: the pack is usually a multi-generational family unit, essentially a cooperative, not a “free market” of unrelated individuals ruled by the gnashing of teeth.)


Now I’m back in Rochester for the duration, and one thing on the horizon particularly grabs my attention. The Coalition for Bus Fareness has formed to counter the new fare structure imposed last spring by the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. On one side the fare structure is a gift: You can ride anywhere on the system, including to far-flung destinations like Lyons and Avon for $1.25. The Rochester-to-Lyons trip, which I frequently took, used to cost $3.10. So RGRTA has been most kind to suburban/rural commuters. But the flip side is not so good: Since the plan has eliminated transfers, which used to cost 15 cents, urban riders that need to make connections often end up paying more. For example, a commuter from northeast Rochester who paid cash (i.e. did not buy a special pass) to get to and from the Marketplace mall area used to pay $2.80 daily (two fares at $1.25 each, plus two 15-cent transfers). Now that same commute costs $5 upfront (four $1.25 fares), unless the commuter buys a so-called Freedom Pass for $3 (which will go up to $3.50 in October).


So what we have here is a minor but not insignificant transfer of wealth: The suburbanite park-and-rider gets a substantial break, while many low-income urbanites pay a bit more essentially to subsidize other riders. Truly a sign of the times – like the ear-shattering motorcycle.


A fightback is brewing, though, with the new coalition in the lead. Check out the notice below, which is making the rounds on local listserves:


Public Forum on Bus Fare Changes

Thursday, September 14

4:30- 6 pm

Gleason Auditorium, Bausch & Lomb Library, downtown


How have these changes affected you?:

·                                 Lift Line increase

·                                 Transfers and routes eliminated

·                                 Fare increase (did you know that the fare is increasing again on October 1st?)

 Forum Sponsors include, Ibero American Action League, 19th Ward Community Association, Spiritus Christi Mental Health Center and Prison Outreach, Rochester Poor People's Coalition, Grace of God Recovery House, Homeless Services Network, Poor People United, GPOMC, Liberty Research Group, Metro Justice


Please contact the Bus Fareness Committee for more info- 325-2560.


Thank you,


-Jon Greenbaum, Metro Justice Organizer


Posted by jackbradiganspula at 12:19 EDT
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Monday, 21 August 2006
On the road again

I'm listening to a Bush news conference as I write this; don't ask me why. Maybe I like the way some white noise in the background stimulates my inner curmudgeon. In any case, my outer curmudgeon is headed up to the Adirondacks by bike, on a recumbent that I'm just breaking in, or that's breaking me in. Those of you who've got emails from me know my signature includes a great quote from Chilean Senator Viera-Gallo (I got the quote from Ivan Illich's essential work, Energy and Equity): "You can get to socialism only by bicycle." I plan to ride with that in the back of my mind.

On a more mundane level, I'll be thinking about how to address some transportation issues when I get home. There's much more to say about the fast ferry debacle. For example, beneath all the scandals and failures is the basic arithmetic that doomed the service from the start: Any vehicle that burns almost 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel for a 200-mile round trip is bound to sink financially, even at the fuel prices of two years ago. And the environmental implications of such fuel consumption (recall the ferry uses more fuel than all the motor vehicles it carries would use if going by land) are pretty grim, too.

Of course, the logical alternative to such wasteful, harmful transport is the one that consistently gets the shaft: intercity rail. Here's a signpost that tells what's happening on that front: Amtrak is now posting notices that warn of delays of up to 90 minutes on all trains between our region and Albany. The delays result from track work that CSX Corporation is doing - work that's undoubtedly been slowed and delayed by today's retrograde politics of rail.

Well, check in again soon. And please comment on the posts, whether to soothe or antagonize the resident curmudgeon.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 10:49 EDT
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Tuesday, 15 August 2006
Nice to be back home
Topic: travel

After a couple weeks on the road, I’ve got a couple good things to report. First, the Finger Lakes Trail. My son and I spent four days backpacking on a 50-mile section of the FLT, taking the very long and scenic route between Cortland and Ithaca. The trail, which winds for close to 600 miles (875 miles, counting loops and branch trails) between Allegany State Park in Cattaraugus County and the Catskill Forest Preserve, is one of New York State’s underappreciated gems – certainly a rival to the Appalachian Trail and Vermont’s Long Trail in ambience and accessibility. Go to for information – and join the Finger Lakes Trail Conference, as I just did, to support this mostly volunteer project. Then get out on the trail; camp at the new leantos or bivouac in the many State Forests along the route; and find the sort of beauty you’ll never experience from the highway. (You can minimize your trip’s environmental impact by taking the bus to the trailhead. Ian and I found one nice loop: we took Greyhound/Trailways from Midtown Plaza to Cortland, caught a cab to the actual trail seven miles further south, and made our wandering way to Ithaca, where we caught the bus back to Rochester.)

Second, I can report that organic agriculture is more than alive and well – it’s growing and spreading. That was just one take-home message from the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s annual conference held last week in Amherst, MA. Just one piece of evidence, maybe the most significant, in fact: It seems that more and more young people are joining the movement, buying farms or leasing acreage, forming communities (including some that happily are anarcho-socialist, or the like), creating relationships and families, and otherwise carrying the banner forward in the Dark Age of Bush. I was also pleased that organic folks are working overtime to demote Big Energy and fossil fuels, and to push appropriate technology and renewables. (Several workshops and programs at the conference centered on Peak Oil, the concept that global petroleum production has already passed or will soon pass its high point, after which we’ll see prices going up and energy wars and lesser struggles breaking out. (Go to for more information – and check out the archived transcripts of talks from previous conferences, like Vandana Shiva’s 2004 keynote.)

I’ll be posting more good news gleaned on vacation – but now that I’m back in the saddle, I’m also looking at some of the news I missed while blissfully “lost” in the woods. Tops on this list is the inadequacy of local response to the Lebanon-Gaza-Israel crisis – response from the mass and “alternative” media alike, as well as from the peace movement. (Note that my name for this crisis reflects the descending order of impact on noncombatants and the ascending order of moral and political responsibility for the carnage, with the Israeli government’s culpability head and shoulders above the competition. Current totals: More than 800 civilian deaths in Lebanon, more than 130 in the often-ignored Gaza theater of conflict, and more than 50 in Israel.)

For now, you’ll find below a relevant document from one of Israel’s most progressive human rights organizations, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. ICAHD, under admirable leaders like retired Israeli academic Jeff Halper, has long resisted the policy of bulldozing homes in occupied Palestine. (The group also supports Israeli military resisters and objectors, etc.) The document does two things: it reveals yet another aspect of the Israeli peace movement that is largely hidden from US media consumers, who are led to believe that Peace Now represents the true Israeli left position; and it points to how we might adopt a more radical analysis and use the most appropriate rhetoric as we confront the worst perpetrator, our own government.



ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, condemns all attacks on civilians, whether by
Israel, the Palestinians or Hezbollah. We recognize Israel’s ever-repressive Occupation as the main source of conflict and instability in our region. Had Israel taken the many opportunities it had to secure a just peace, the peoples of the region would never have reached this point of despair and futile violence. Israel believes it can achieve “quiet” and normalcy through military power while retaining its Occupation, encouraged and protected by the US. This is the true convergence: Israel’s Occupation in return for an active Israeli role in expanding American Empire.

Israel’s disproportionate attacks on both Gaza and Lebanon on the pretext of freeing Israeli soldiers is intended to destroy any resistance to the imposition of the apartheid regime represented by Olmert’s “convergence plan.” Indeed, the democratically-elected government of Hamas which had been moving steadily towards a negotiated two-state settlement constitutes the greatest threat to the perpetuation of Israel’s Occupation, as witnessed by Israel’s delegitimization of that government and its systematic campaign to liquidate Hamas leaders. Israel’s illegal and immoral use of collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza in which 3000 houses have been demolished in recent years and its months-long campaign of starving the local population into submission continues must be condemned. ICAHD will work with the international courts to bring the military and political perpetrators of these crimes against humanity to justice.

Hezbollah, whose very existence comes by way of resistance to repeated Israeli invasions, illustrates how counter-productive are the attempts of Israel and the US to impose by force a “new order” on the Middle East whose only rationale is to serve Israeli Occupation and American Empire. Without equating the two politically or in terms of power, both Israel and Hezbollah must refrain from attacks on civilian populations.

Israel, of course, could not have reached this point without American and European complicity. Indeed, American refusal to countenance a ceasefire only affirms Israel’s role as its military surrogate in the Middle East. Their shared aim is a Pax Americana over the region for which Israel will be allowed to keep its settlements.

The war must end immediately, all attacks on civilians must cease immediately and permanently and UN resolutions must be implemented. The international community, especially a complicit and passive Europe, must intervene. America must cease to exacerbate regional conflicts for its own ends. Israel, which holds some 9000 Palestinian and Arab political prisoners, must negotiate a meaningful exchange in return for its captured soldiers. Above all, Israel must realize that there is no military solution to the conflict in our region. Relinquishing its Occupation in favor of genuine negotiations with the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese is the only guarantee of Israel’s security.


Posted by jackbradiganspula at 10:26 EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 10:49 EDT
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