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Thursday, 30 November 2006
Autumnal thoughts
Topic: urban issues

The other war is almost over.

I mean the little but very dirty War on Deciduousness.

All over town, battalions of fighters have been deployed in defense of the precious American lawn, which for weeks has been under assault by falling leaves.

The leaves, you see, hate everything we stand for – our way of life.

They think nothing of doing violence to all that Chemlawn hath wrought. Every gently tumbling leaf is actually an attempt to smother the pure, deep monocultures that surround our homes, dominate our campuses and office parks, embellish our Big Box shoppotopias, and pour “non-point” pollution into our waterways. And so the leaves, though they're a key feature of varied ecosystems at this latitude, must go.

And in fossil-fool America, they, like everything else, must go with maximum noise. All spring and summer, crews of laborers, long ago pushed out of the factories into this new “green,” low-paid job sector, drove the powermowers and spraying rigs and handled the weed-whackers seemingly to drive you out of your mind. But they, or at least their employers, were on a mission - to the golf-course aesthetic to Everyman and Everywoman. (Not to mention Everychild, who will carry the burden of chemical residues far into his or her medical future.

Then the trucks and payloaders and leaf-blowers, along with the occasional leaf vacuum big as a hay baler, became an occupying force. But now as fall winds down, the machine brigades are almost done – they've removed almost all the maple, linden, oak, and sycamore leaves to a Better Place (dump), where someday a neighbor may retrieve a tiny portion of the compost and truck it back to apply to a lawn or garden.

And thus, with another heaping helping of fuel, the biological material will make another costly trip, this time back to its roots, ultimately to do what should come naturally: decompose and enrich the soil.

The next time you hear somebody say “urban forest” - after you get done laughing - consider how odd is our transformation of a highly localized bio-cycle into a deafening microcosm of global trade. I mean, couldn’t the leaves and twigs be composted where they fall, or pretty close to it?

Which is another way of asking: Couldn’t we ditch our lawns and make our urban environment a lot more like the sustainable woodlands we have largely destroyed?

I know that sounds un-American. But considering the nation's recent accomplishments, maybe that's what we must be. 

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 02:22 EST
Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006 12:21 EST
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Saturday, 18 November 2006
After all, what are we, barbarians?
Topic: politics

I’ve always thought Condi Rice was the worst possible advertisement for piano playing since H-bomb-father Edward Teller. They both have made the instrument sing with hypocrisy – making all too obvious the vast moral distance between art and their devoted but lethal “public service.” But at least Teller, when he wasn’t at the keyboard, told it like it was, to his diabolical mind. Condi is just a liar.

Recently, for example, our Secretary of State was criticizing China for its ongoing military build-up. Not that militarization is ever pretty. But according to, China’s 2004 expenditures came to $65 billion, while US expenditures that year (Pentagon spending only) totaled $466 billion. And the US population is about a third of China’s.

Meanwhile, US Senator Harry Reid, giving us a taste of the Democratic Party “reform” to come, has been talking about spending $75 billion to upgrade our military readiness. However this proposal may turn out, the message is yet another shot heard round the world: under the “doves,” we’ll end up being as militaristic as ever, or more so.

Forget the Red Army. We have met the barbarians at the gate, and they are us.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 14:35 EST
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Wednesday, 8 November 2006
Post-election blues and reds
Topic: politics

Here it is, the morning after, and I’m happy to stand corrected.

For weeks I’ve been telling people the Democrats would blow it at the end, that they would fall a few cards short of a full deck in the House. I felt they were foolishly banking on voter revulsion with the obviously revolting Republican Party when they should have been pushing a real program - some kind of new New Deal for this critical time.

As of this writing, however, the Dems have garnered around nine more seats than the 15 they needed to take power in the House - in other words, a dozen more seats than I thought they’d win. Good for them, and for the country, which benefits every time the door slams on another Rick Santorum.

But in the real vanguard for change, things could have been better. I was hoping Malachy McCourt would get the 50,000 votes in the NY gubernatorial race and thus get ballot status for the Greens. As it was, according to unofficial totals in this morning’s New York Times, McCourt got only a bit over 40,000 (and absentee ballots, etc., won’t make up the difference). On the brighter side, Green US senatorial candidate Howie Hawkins got more than 51,000 votes; this indicates a significant antiwar response to the winner, Hillary Clinton.

Too bad insurgent candidates Eric Massa, Jack Davis, and Dan Maffei didn’t whip rightwingers Randy Kuhl, Tom Reynolds, and Jim Walsh, respectively. But Massa, Davis, and Maffei each lost to the incumbent by only 2-4 percent, and this was in what are always touted as “dependably Republican” Congressional districts.

I wonder what would have happened if Massa, a strong and photogenic campaigner, had been running against the politically-weakened Reynolds. Probably Massa would have squeaked out a victory. You’d think the Dems could have found a Massa clone somewhere in the district. Instead, they followed the money in just the wrong way: going with the wealthy, self-funded Davis, a One-Dimensional Man who stood little chance until the Foley scandal eroded Reynolds’ support.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 11:42 EST
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Friday, 3 November 2006
Vote Green - early, often, and conscientiously
Topic: politics

So you want to change the world? Or at least a large part of the Lower Great Lakes Bioregion? Well, next Tuesday you can help leverage grassroots democracy by voting Green.

It’s likely voters will go to the polls without ever having seen or heard the following names – thank you very much, local media – but here are the candidates I’m going for:

NY governor: Malachy McCourt.

Lt. Gov.: Alison Duncan. (Actually, David Paterson would be a decent choice, too, much preferable politically to his Dem running mate, Eliot Spitzer. But if you go for Paterson, do it on the Working Families line.)

Comptroller: Julia Willebrand. (See, you don’t have to flip a coin for public-teat sucking specialist Alan Hevesi or, much worse, the Republican.)

State Attorney General: Rachel Treichler.

US Senator: Howie Hawkins. (Beware the Working Families line here: they’ve cross-endorsed Hillary Clinton, enemy of peace and universal health care, etc.)

Last, a related matter of principle: never vote for anyone who’s accepted the Conservative Party endorsement. At the Public Market a couple weeks ago, I talked with a judge seeking re-election who tried to explain why she jumped on this joke party’s bandwagon. She didn’t try too hard. Judges always beg off discussing the issues – by invoking a code of ethics designed as much to shield them from questions as to preserve their neutrality.

But excuse me. Signing on with a party means accepting the party platform. And signing on with the Conservatives means tacit endorsement of an arch-reactionary agenda: limiting abortion rights into non-existence, stopping further restrictions on guns, unleashing a Texas-style judicial crime-wave of executions, and thrusting religion (specifically the “Judeo-Christian moral code”) deeper into public life.

I judge this insanity.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 15:11 EST
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Sunday, 29 October 2006
Housekeeping item

Dear readers:

My blog seems to be attracting more and more readers, and I'm grateful for this. But I just realized I was behind on posting your responses. So I've cleaned up my act. Now you can check out the feedback - and of course, your own responses, positive or negative or in-between, will always be welcome.

I'll be posting more entries this week, during the last big push before election day. It seems to me that today, more than any time since the early 1970s, we need a radical anaylsis and action plan to fight the Right. And I hope to make at least a small contribution to that effort.   

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 11:25 EDT
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