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Sunday, 10 December 2006
Slipping and sliding
Topic: urban issues

As tests of our transportation system go, this week’s snowfall wasn’t even a pop quiz. Yet for pedestrians, the forgotten ones who are assumed to have no place to go, the system still flunked.

I took a stroll up Mt. Hope Ave. the day after the snow, and here’s what I found. The long stretch of sidewalk at the edge of Highland Park was unshoveled – thanks to inattention from the Monroe County parks department, whose administrative offices are in the park a quarter mile east, near South Avenue. By contrast, the sidewalk on the west side of Mt. Hope, under the control of the city-owned cemetery, was nicely cleared, as were some short stretches near The Distillery sports bar and some other businesses. (The Distillery maintains an additional parking lot a few doors down Mt. Hope, so its management has an obvious interest in helping patrons get from their vehicles to the front door.)

Things got chancier south of Elmwood Ave. The University of Rochester presumably is responsible for the sidewalks by the former Towne House, which it has long owned. But the walks there were innocent of shovel or plow. Up by the parking lot where the old Wegmans used to stand (property the UR acquired when Wegmans ditched the neighborhood) I found a couple parallel tracks through the snow that must have been made by a power wheelchair. Maybe this is a sign that the UR - which I cited a few years ago for the wretched job its subdivision, the Memorial Art Gallery, did with sidewalks on University Avenue, Prince St. and Goodman St. – plans to mount blades on wheelchairs from Strong Hospital around the corner and deploy a volunteer plowing service. (N.B.: MAG did clean up its act eventually; I hope they’re still doing the walks in a timely manner.)

People often figure I have a tough time getting around in winter on my bike. Not at all. Especially since studded bike tires came on the market, winter riding has been a breeze, a pleasure, and generally easier on the body than riding in summer heat and blazing sun. (Cf. a favorite website of mine, No, it’s the pedestrians who have a tough time in winter. But that’s not because of the weather. It’s because of the privileged classes' persistent failure to treat pedestrian routes and facilities as important links in the transportation system - a failure which puts an annual freeze on the most vulnerable population’s mobility rights.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 21:33 EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 December 2006 21:39 EST
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Thursday, 7 December 2006
A butcher, a Baker...
Topic: antiwar

After months and years of Bushisms about Iraq – Stay the course, Batten the hatches, Damn the torpedoes, etc. ad nauseam – lots of people sense fresh air in the Baker, Hamilton, and Co.,  report on Iraq. But I smell a rat or two.

The report is just perfume on a policy of continued mass murder. You don’t even have to search the fine print; the headlines make it clear that even under the terms the Wise Elders have dictated, US forces would remain in Iraq in large numbers well past 2008, and whether our soldiers and Marines were explicitly ordered into combat or kept back as “advisers” and “trainers,” they’d keep killing Iraqis. Thus we could see the toll of “excess deaths” in Iraq rise to a cool million very quickly – still far from what we wrought in Southeast Asia a while ago, but certainly a number worthy of a great power.

Nothing in the Baker report or on its pundit-ridden fringes should distract us from the plain truth. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq were and are illegal and immoral, and as such must be stopped immediately. And let’s not take refuge in the passive voice: We are the ones who must end this war and call the “leaders” to account. That includes Baker - who did yeoman service with the Reagan administration and then George H.W. Bush’s dirty little war council, and thus is no rose himself.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 22:51 EST
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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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