Sunday, June 26, 2011

bouquet & brickbat

If I knew her name and address I would send a bouquet to the property owner who hired Seattle muralist David Heck to decorate the oft-graffiti'd blank wall of this vacant building she owns at 105th and Aurora, on the border between my neighborhood and those to the east.

Her thinking is that even spray-paint vandals and would-be street artists will respect competent artistry enough to bypass this location, and she's probably about 90 percent right.

The mural, still a work in progress, takes us on a nostalgic drive down old Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue) as it was during the golden age of our car-centric society, when the automobile was an object of veneration and symbol of liberation rather than an odious impediment to progress, as it is more accurately viewed today. Heck included some still-existing landmarks such as the elephant, eye-catching enough to have survived over a storefront through many changes in ownership and function, and the Klose-Inn Motel, which still offers rooms although it has seen better days.

Most of what you see here, however, is long gone; the beloved Twin Teepees Restaurant is just a memory, the Chubby and Tubby hardware store is a now a used furniture, junk mart, and eyesore called "Stupid Prices," and Playland, the amusement park which stood on the shore of Bitter Lake, was demolished many years ago.

I have mixed feelings about celebrating the advent of something as incredibly destructive of the natural environment, the urban landscape, and social relationships as the car has proved to be, but I suppose it's best viewed as a celebration of innocence. Forty years ago we sat in our gas guzzlers gulping down burgers and fries without the slightest apprehension of what we were doing to ourselves or others. In those days, the answer to too many cars was seen as more of the same -- more and bigger roads, and everybody believed the tremendous traffic jams along Aurora/99 would be solved by building Interstate 5 through town. They were right in a way; Aurora is now a pleasant if somewhat scenically ugly drive most of the time, while I-5 is the largest parking lot in the state.

If I knew the name and address of the owner of this blight on the neighborhood at 107th and Greenwood, I would throw a brickbat at his car, which I strongly suspect is a Cadillac Escalade. I don't know how long this pestiferous blot has stood in its present condition; it was abandoned and trashed when I moved here over a year and a half ago. Why the city has failed to condemn and seize this property as a public hazard and eyesore is beyond me. The "For Sale" sign is still on it, along with a public notice that hearings to assess the environmental impact of erecting a four-storey apartment complex with shops on the ground floor have recently concluded. So there's hope, but the wheels of civic improvement grind extraordinarily slowly.

And it's the automobile (again) that's responsible for this affront to the community festering for years. People driving by it at 40-plus miles an hour don't notice it enough to care. How long do you think such an insult to civic pride would be allowed to stand if all those drivers had to walk past it every day?

Photos by Catboxer. Click on them for larger views; click a second time for even greater embiggening.


Monday, June 20, 2011


June 20, 2011

Dear AARP:

I've been an AARP member for 17 years, but am now resigning from the organization effective immediately.

This was not an easy decision, but considering the AARP's recent announcement that its leadership is now considering cooperating with bipartisan (but chiefly Republican) plans to reduce Social Security benefits to future recipients by raising the full retirement age, I feel I have no choice.

In the wake of the June 17 Wall Street Journal story which announced the AARP's change of position, a spokeswoman for the organization declared that "our position has not changed," when it clearly had. All subsequent AARP pronouncements on this matter have been vague and nebulous, rather than expressed in the language of what was once a vigorous and committed advocacy group for older Americans.

It seems to me that AARP should now be signaling total opposition to this bipartisan sellout, agitating for a restoration of the full retirement age to 65, and turning up the heat on Congress to pass a much-needed cost-of-living increase for 2011, one which would be retroactive to include 2010.

Paying lip service to politicians' attempts to short-change and eventually gut the most successful social program in the country's history indicates the AARP's new willingness to play along with the economic falsehoods we're subjected to daily, courtesy of the corporate-owned mass media. It gives credence to the notion that the need to reduce the debt is the country's most pressing problem (it's not; mass unemployment is), that "austerity" is the way out of recession (it isn't; spending on jobs is), and most ludicrous of all, that Social Security is in trouble, when even an oligarch like Alan Simpson will admit under pressure that the trouble is 26 years away.

For the last 30 years, our bribed-and-paid-for political establishment has been vigorously engaged in attempting to funnel all this country's wealth from the working classes upward, into the hands and pockets of a corporate plutocracy in whose service they labor, and with great success if the income distribution numbers are to be believed. Any advocacy organization for older and retired, working-class Americans must take a clear and uncompromising stand against this trend and its proponents. Searching for "common ground" with fat cats and Republican ideologues sends exactly the wrong message.

We had a saying back in the sixties: You're either part of the problem or part of the solution. The AARP's leadership urgently needs to do some deep soul searching.

David T Brice
Former Member #--- --- --- -

cc: Editor, Seattle Times

Photo: President Roosevelt signs Social Security into law in August of 1935.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

high water everywhere

Lord, the whole round country,
Lord, river has overflowed;
Lord, the whole round country,
man, is overflowed;

(You know I can't stay here,
I'll go where it's high, boy)

I would go to the hilly country,
but, they got me barred.

--Charlie Patton
High Water Everywhere, Part I

Charlie was singing about the great flood of '27, and probably never imagined there could be a worse one, like the flood of 2011.

One of the differences is the historically record-setting high level of the Missouri River as well as the Mississippi. Another is that the flood of 1927 drew massive newspaper and radio coverage, while today's disaster has so far been covered minimally, if it all.

This begs the bigger question of why the most significant and worthy stories are frequently buried by the corporate media, which instead of reporting them emphasizes shiny objects with personal-interest value, such as Tony Weiner's Excellent Adventure. Jim Kunstler says the national media is being held hostage by Little Caylee.

The biggest story of all is the national media itself, now owned and tightly controlled by the same corporatist influences which have total control over everything that happens in "the village" (Washington, D.C.). So even though the Times ran a story about the Missouri River flood, it was buried in the Greenwire blog of the Business Section, nowhere near page one. And it's not a very good story because it concentrates mainly on the Corps of Engineers response to the flood and politicians' criticisms of the
Corps, rather than the magnitude and significance of the disaster itself.

There's probably some decent reporting on it in the localities where the disaster is occurring (I'll check some of those out today) as well as unofficial places such as blogs and Facebook pages maintained by residents in the affected areas. I've seen some pictures from local sources, and they're scary as hell.

The corporate media is making every effort to downplay and suppress news of the Great Flood of 2011, since reporting it would clearly inform people that global warming is now a life-and-death situation for us, and broadcasting the news would cause unrest. People would start to put two and two together and recognize the situation we're in, and maybe begin to wish they had the terrorists back again as their main worry. Better they should be distracted by Tony's weiner, Kim's wedding, and the trial of Little Caylee's mom.

The Missouri River at Omaha. AP/Sioux City Journal photo by Jim Lee.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

the monolith

Here is the monolith, the beating heart of our contemporary civilization, if we can call it that.

All the organs of government and order but one are housed here. The two top floors are occupied by the Ministry of Truth (Minitru), and are where the templates from which the contents of all mass media -- television, movies, print, and cyberspace -- are hammered out then disseminated. These templates are the raw material of what is commonly called "the Matrix."

The two middle floors include all the operations of the Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty), and encompass departments as diverse as the Full Employment Wing and the Abundant Retirement Administration.

The ground floor and basements are taken up by the Ministry of Love (Miniluv), where you will find the notorious Room 101 in the deepest sub-basement, hidden away from the eyes of the world due to the overwhelming amount of love constantly dispensed there.

The blank facade of the monolith has shoved aside and rendered obsolete the human face of the old paternalistic social order, with its feudal hierarchies and quaint, polytheistic Christianity, replacing them with the uncompromising monotheism of total devotion to Moloch, whose name is Profit.

Only one ministry, Minipax, is housed outside the monolith, in its own five-sided building. So vast is the domain of Minipax that it constitutes almost a separate nation on its own, for there is much peace to dispense, both domestically and throughout the world. The foundation and global reach of this colossal and remarkable institution will be the topic of another essay.


Saturday, June 04, 2011

defending your rights

The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right "to be secure in their persons, papers, and houses." Unfortunately, it doesn't confer a right for us to be secure in our electronic transmissions, since those things didn't exist at the time the Bill of Rights was embedded in our law.

"What does it mean" asks the social agitator and journalist Naomi Wolf, "to live in a society in which surveillance is omnipresent?"

It means, she continues, A concerted effort is underway in the US – and in the United Kingdom – to “brand” surveillance as positive. New York City subway passengers are now advised that they might experience random searches of their bags. Activists in America are now accustomed to assuming that their emails are being read and their phone calls monitored. Indeed, the telecom companies Verizon and AT&T have established areas on their premises for eavesdropping activity by the National Security Agency.

The paranoia of a government which conducts blanket surveillance of its citizens is obvious, and it's the reason why a pacifist/anarchist like Scott Crow of Austin, Texas ends up on the FBI's "domestic terrorism" watch list.

Besides monitoring all his phone calls and e-mails, government agencies closely watch Crow's house for any potential acts of terrorism that may be committed by his housemate, his pair of backyard goats, his flock of chickens, his turkey or his vegetables, or possibly enacted through some nefarious use of the solar panels on his roof.

In an article in the May 23, 2011 New Yorker, the award-winning political journalist Jane Mayer details the emergence of a vast new security bureaucracy, in which at least two and a half million people hold confidential, secret, or top-secret clearances; huge expenditures on electronic monitoring, along with a reinterpretation of the law in order to sanction it; and corporate partnerships with the government that have transformed the counterterrorism industry into a powerful lobbying force.

Considering the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, it becomes obvious that the Bill of Rights notwithstanding, the only rights we truly possess are those we're capable of defending.

With this in mind, I've recently cut back my presence on the internet by about 75 percent. I post here once a week and check my e-mails, but I no longer visit Facebook or post on the discussion boards at BeliefNet, since those places, besides being subject to government snooping, are under constant surveillance by armies of advertisers, con men, and scheissters.

At a time like the present, I would encourage fellow-citizens to reconsider the virtues of the United States Postal Service, which is also subject to surveillance, but of a much less comprehensive type due to physical limitations, and to re-visit the habit of letter writing. Also, printed newspapers, published anonymously, may enjoy a renaissance in the near future, since they would provide a much more secure medium for spreading revolutionary information and sentiment than blogs.

One thing is certain: we have a right to privacy, and cannot possibly continue living under the tyranny of a surveillance state, since its existence is incompatible with a free society.