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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Grisham Under Fire

New Mexico's 1st district congresswoman Michelle Grisham is coming under harsh criticism for a Facebook post about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before congress yesterday, in which she perpetuates the myth that Iran poses a nuclear threat to Israel and the world that isn't even taken seriously in Israel, where elections are underway and Netahyahu's speech was seen merely as a ploy to boost the Likkud Party's election chances and likely damaging to Israel's security. New Mexico political operative and commentator Jim Baca has posted a succinct, biting analysis of Grisham's comments on his Only In New Mexico blog that reads in part:

This is without a doubt the biggest bullshit statement I have ever....ever seen come out of a Congressional member who pretends to be a democrat but shows no inclination to act like one.  Never will I support her again.  Lujan is pandering for donations from pro Israeli PACs, the defense industry, and anti peace operatives.  It is nauseating.

Grisham's mealy-mouthed post attracted dozens of critical comments on her Facebook page. Usually what you read there are adoring comments from uninformed admirers who know nothing about Grisham except the self-promotional propaganda she puts out, but many people visited today to express their disgust at her not boycotting the speech as did NM senator Martin Heinrich. You might have to page down a little as it appears she's furiously posting things to try to bury her  Netahyahu post.

Grisham attended the speech with an Albuquerque rabbi in tow, heightening the aura of blatant pandering she's created.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


This a screen shot I took of my cell phone as I was passing the New Mexico Port of Entry, or weigh station, in Gallup last night when I was coming back from Holbrook.

I've signed up for a bypass system that can run on a cell phone, tablet or dash mounted monitor. I downloaded their "app" last week and entered my US Dot number and truck license plate and even a photo of my truck into the system of a company called Drivewyze. They are hooked into the state DOT computers of whatever states they've made arrangements with so far. It doesn't work in Arizona, for example. I go past an Arizona weigh station every night, although by the time I get there it's almost always closed. All of New Mexico weigh stations are always open. We are very unusual in that regard. Florida does it, and there's a Virginia weigh station on I-95 south of Washington, DC that's always open, but in most states they close most of the weigh stations at night, opening up various ones on sporadic nights to keep truck drivers honest.

For 15 or 20 years there's been another bypass system, Prepass, which uses transponders mounted on truck windshields. These are private companies that have made arrangements with each state. Prepass covers pretty much the entire country. I started seeing articles and ads about this new one, Drivewyze, maybe six months ago. It has arrangements with about 40 states, I think. It uses the cellular network and GPS positioning. I get a warning sound and screen two miles before I get to the weigh station, then about a quarter mile before the off ramp to the weigh station I get either the bypass signal or get an indication to pull in.

Each state sets it's own "bypass rate." Around 90 or 95 percent of trucks that are using the system are usually given a bypass signal. Most of the big trucking companies use Prepass, and I had a Prepass transponder in my truck at most of the big companies I worked for. States can flag companies and give them a lower bypass rate if they've been having safety problems, which I suppose means the've had a lot of wrecks and undergone a safety audit.

And a state can flag individual trucks for more frequent pull ins. I got on California's shit list once and was getting the red light at every single open weigh station I came to. California is hard on truckers. They still have the 55 mph truck speed limit and for example I got two tickets out there in one year, around 2009, and they sent me and my copany a nasty letter saying if I got one more ticket I was kicked out of California. The company just stopped giving me California loads.

When I was on their weigh station shit list I'd get a red light, pull in and stop on the scales, them I'd sit there a minute or so, while they were looking things up on the computer, I suppose, perhaps calculating how long I'd been driving by seeing where I'd gone though the last weigh station, then they'd flash the sign on for me to pull around in back and bring in all my paperwork. I'd be given some level of inspection, I, II, or III, either a check of my log book and registration, or that plus a cursory truck inspection, or I'd get the 'you're going to be here awhile while we go over everything' level. That includes all the paperwork, the logbook, your safety equipment like triangles and fire extinguisher, and a thorough truck inspection where they get under the truck on a creeper or have you pull into a garage with a pit, if they have one, and check all your brake adjustments and look over the brake shoes and check the hubs for grooves and check all the brake lines and air chambers for leaks and all of it. They almost always find one or two or a few things to write you up for.

I was driving an old Freightliner and I wasn't paying much attention to it's mechanical condition, mainly because of Prepass. I was with Arrow out of Tulsa, a flat bed company, which is kind of a more laid back kind of trucking anyway, more informal, and I was driving lots of miles and kind of enjoying trucking. I had a refrigerator and knew of food co-ops and organic groceries all over the country, and I was jogging every other day and I'd discovered podcasts and audio books and I was just driving and listening to podcasts and books and staying out on the road all the time. I used to joke, "Why should I inspect my truck? DOT will inspect it for me and let me know what's wrong with it, then I'll call the company and they'll send someone out to fix it and I'll take a nap."

But when California caught up with me it wasn't fun being delayed and given the 3rd, 2nd or 1st degree at every open weigh station. I was doing a lot of back and forth between Los Angeles and Portland or Seattle at the time and it's probable that you're going to pass two or three open weigh stations as you come out of Los Angeles and drive up through the Central Valley.

I was on California's shit list for six months or so and only got off it because the time came for the company to trade that old truck in. They gave me a load going to Tulsa where I was moved into a brand new Kenworth and could go back to bypasing scales. It's the truck, and the company, they track; it's usually the same driver in the same truck all the time, although the tracking of individual drivers is probably coming, or may be here, with all the camera technology they're using now and with the facial recognition technology they have now.

It's of course much to my benefit now to maintain as good of a safety record as I can. My log book is always up to date and I take somewhat meticulous care of my 2007 International and spare 2006 Freightliner, which makes good economic sense, too, and it helps calm my nerves. I do pre and post inspections, take care of little things right away, and get the trucks serviced frequently.

But it will be nice if I get a lot of bypass signals. For one thing, it will save me several minutes, and I'm on tight time schedule. And it's just nice to not have to go into a weigh station. When you roll over the scales they're watching you, looking your truck over, calling your record up on the computer. Nothing good can happen at a weigh station, I've been known to say, only bad things. But god bless all the handsome, virile, charitable, good Christian DOT officers who are keeping our country safe, and just doing their jobs.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Michelle Grisham Betrays Democrats Again

While our senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall were holding fast last week to filibuster Republican efforts to use Department of Homeland Security funding to block President Obama's immigration reforms, Michelle Grisham was over in the House voting with Republicans against them.

Michelle Grisham
Someone has posted a link to her Facebook page to a Daily Kos story that describes her treasonous vote. It tells how Grisham was one of 12 Democrats who abandoned their party, their constituents, their president, and went against their leadership's directive, to vote with Republicans.

And the thing is, their votes weren't even necessary. The bill had already been decided. Grisham and the other 11 just cast them to have it on record that they had sided with with the Republicans, knowing, in Grisham's case at least, that she would pay no political cost for it back home in New Mexico where she's free to create her own image because things like this aren't reported and people don't pay much attention to what their legislators are doing.

This is the latest and most egregious example of a pattern Grisham established as soon as she went to Washington, of taking very visible Liberal positions on a few social issues and voting with Republicans on economic issues.

What it amounts to is that she's a Republican who's in favor of abortion and gay marriage, but who cynically runs as a Democrat because it helps her chances of holding public office.

Grisham's net worth has more than doubled in the short time she's been in office to almost a million dollars, last time I checked, according to official forms federal officeholders must file, that are leftovers from a more enlightened, more Liberal era. It will be interesting to discover if there's any link between her conservative voting habits and her mushrooming wealth.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Heinrich To Boycott Israel PM Speech

New Mexico's Democratic senator Martin Heinrich will join the small list of senators and congress members who will boycott the upcoming speech before a joint session of congress by Benajmin Netanyahu, which some see as an attempt by supporters of Israel and Republicans to derail the Obama Administration's ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

Martin Heinrich
Both US and Israeli internal political realities require that politicians be able to conjure up in the public's imagination various bogeymen countries they can use to stoke fear among the public and periodically wage war against in order to deflect criticism of government policies and justify huge military expenditures that have everything to do with Imperial Capitalism and nothing to do with self defense. Think of the Soviet Union. Think of Gaza. Obama's attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Iran threaten to damage Iran's bogeyman value.

Although Heinrich's stated reasons for boycotting the Netanyahu speech are carefully worded to minimize the danger of invoking the ire of Israel's powerful US lobby against him, the fact that he has announced he will boycott the speech demonstrates considerable courage, and its implications in terms of what it says about his degree of support for Israel's murderous Zionist colonization of Palestinian land can't be ignored.

As an article in today's Albuquerque Journal shows, the rest of New Mexico federal legislators, who will all be attending the speech -- Democrats Tom Udall, Michelle Grisham and Ben Lujan (Republican Steve Pearce will show up early and eagerly) -- are providing us with some very uncouragous justifications. They try to have it both ways. They express reservations about the speech but can't quite come up with the guts not to go.

Thanks, Senator Heinrich.

Two Names Is Enough

Going way back, women, especially in the South, with famous, i.e. important, maiden names, used three names as a way of making themselves seem more important. Ostensibly it was to keep alive or bring attention to their prominent family, but in practice it was a way to do what psychologists would call furthering our ideal image of ourselves -- making us seem more important.

There was a substantial increase in the use of three names particularly by academics and working class feminists  in the 1960s and 70s who were objecting to the symbolism, and onorous practical aspects, of renaming themselves using their husband's last name. It's one very obvious hallmark of our patriarchal society. (Although as my ex pointed out to me once, her "maiden" name is still a man's last name.)

The use of three names has now mushroomed out of control, in my view, and no longer has much feminist symbolism. Go on Facebook sometime and find a Southern, Republican woman, especially a Texan, who uses three names and you can spend the rest of the day clicking on friends and associates of hers who use three names. They are obviously women who would not identify themselves as feminists or at best as "first wave" feminists, which is Republican Christianity code for saying women should have the right to vote but should still submit to their husbands.

I think these women use three names primarily as a way to increase their own sense of their own importance. When we're deciding what to call ourselves we try different names out and settle on one way for a variety of reasons. How it sounds. How we imagine people think it sounds. How it makes us feel. For a feminist I would assume that the political statement they are making goes into that mental accounting. I admire their courage. Having only ever been a white male I've only ever had white male privilege. That may amount to more of an absence of barriers than a proactive advantage and I probably would never be consciously aware of either but I imagine people who don't have it are made aware they don't sometimes.

But as I say, the symbolic aspect of three names has been corrupted by self important Republican women, and I think if three name women were honest with themselves they'd admit that their decision to use three names had more to do with self promotion than feminist ideology.

I don't expect anyone who hasn't thought about it to agree with my take on feminism as it's played out in the public sphere, but to me, feminism isn't about equality but about women's empowerment. Those are not the same thing. I understand the argument, that women need to increase their power so they have as much as men do. But equality isn't really the goal of feminism.

"Women's empowerment' is an often heard phrase. Look at the kinds of memes people who identify as feminists post on social media and you'll find that they have more to do with the will to power than the concept of equality. The lines that appeal to the will to power are the ones that elicit the throaty roars from the crowd and the repostings.

This kind of feminism seeks to address a valid wrong, but not by creating a more equal world, one where you don't need power to get what you need. It simply seeks to rearrange the power hierarchy. It's the approach all advocacy groups take, in my assessment, and it's the wrong one. It will put you higher up on the power totem pole but it will just mean someone else has to go lower.

So let us all agree to be equal in all ways. Take two names you like and go with those.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Great Snow And Ice Storm Of February 27, 2015

What a disaster. Not the snow and ice storm but my apartment, which after tax season looks like it was raided by IRS agents. I should be straightening it up or setting a match to it but instead I'm posting some pictures I took yesterday morning while waiting 4 1/2 hours to get into Albuquerque.

I'd headed for Holbrook at 8 p.m. just as the snow was hitting the Albuquerque area. By the time I got to Grants it was pretty severe, but then it stopped and I was hoping for an uneventful retiurn trip. The Phoenix relay truck got to Holbrook early, which for me means a leisurely, fuel saving cruise back to Albuquerque. At 4 a.m., which is generally about the time I get to Continental Divide,  I send a text message to a couple supervisors at DMC, the distribution company that delivers what I haul. I texted I'd be there at 6:00, and added, maybe even a little earlier if they have the roads cleared.

Heroic New Mexico Department of Transportation union employees to the rescue

Of course they'd only gotten worse, and I got back at 10:30. In fact soon after I sent the text the roads started getting bad. The ice started on the Laguna reservation at around the To'hajiilee exit, 25 miles from downtown Albuquerque, where I-40 starts going over a series of rolling hills. That stretch of road is also where I lose my wonderful AT&T (union company) cell phone signal for about 15 miles.

That's where the traffic backups began. Some lightly loaded semis couldn't make it up the hills and there were groups of vehicles parked on the road here and there. My loads are always very light and I had trouble getting going as I was stopped on an uphill slope. If cases like that you have to sit there and let the tires spin until they get warm and literally melt the ice underneath. You can creep forward a little at a time. Spin and melt, ease off the pedal to let them grab, spin and melt, repeat. Eventually you get a little speed up and then you're moving.

I got past a couple bunches of stopped or stuck trucks but stopped on top of a hill where I had an emergency signal so if I'd happened to be late I could let someone know. A lot of people arrive at DMC when I get there to unload the truck and sort out the pharmaceutical supplies according to which of the clinics, doctor's offices, vet's offices, hospitals, etc., around New Mexico they get delivered to. It's overnight stuff they can order up until 7:00 p.m. and be guaranteed delivery by 10:00 a.m. barring truck breakdowns and ice storms.

As I sat there in the right hand lane, a truck would creep past once in awhile and head down the hill only to learn there was no stopping. They'd slowly slide to a halt on the right hand shoulder, sit there a few minutes, then continue slowly down hill, where they all congregated. The vehicles on the other side or the creek down there never moved. It looked like there a truck stuck sideways across the highway with the front tires over the inside edge of the roadway. When I came past an hour later it had been moved. I got past some others that were broke down or couldn't get traction.

 Semis have a transfer case in the driveline that can put the eight drive wheels into all wheel drive, but if you engage it while you're moving it can blow the transfer case to bits and that could be what happened to some of the trucks I passed. It can get scary when a truck starts going sideways on ice, or the tractor's going one way and the trailer another, or you start sliding backwards as the wheels are spinning, and there's a great temptation to reach for the transfer case lever.

My International - McKinney is a trailer rental company

 I didn't get too far and sat for the bulk of the 4 1/2 hours I was late just short of the last hill going down to the Laguna Tribe's big Route 66 Casino complex. Where I sat I had no phone signal and couldn't see over the crest of the hill, and at one point got bored and started walking ahead to see if I could get a signal and see what was going on down in the valley, but I turned around before I got far enough to see anything because I was about lose sight on my truck. My contract states that I can't leave it unattended while it's loaded.

The car just ahead of me was two truck drivers, a team, who had blown an engine in California. Their company had rented them a car and wanted them to pick up a different truck in Indianapolis, the passenger explained to me. "We're not making any money sittin' here," he said.

Further ahead a woman jumped out of the rear seat of a big pickup truck and edged close to me as she bemoaned the fact that they they hadn't "stayed put" where they'd been. "They say it's like this all the way across Texas," she said. She wore the crazed expression of someone who's gone a long time without sleep, or someone who's crazy, I couldn't say which.

Even wreckers break down - call a wrecker

Traffic started rolling at 9:50 a.m. The hill going down into the Rio Puerco Valley and the one coming up the other side had been well sanded. It was bumpy from the ice underneath but traction was no problem. Nine mile hill coming down into Albuquerque was clear sailing in the left lane, and by the time I passed Coors Boulevard all lanes were all but clear.

Home Sweet Home

 I got unloaded and back up to Airport Drive, where I park the trucks a block from where I live at the soon to be fashionable Tierre Pointe Apartments, a little after 11:00, at which point I was an hour over the legal "on duty" limit of 14 hours, although there's an exception for emergencies like today. Either that or you can put down whatever you want in your log book, which of course I never do and never have done if any handsome young DOT officers ever happen onto this.

Note: Creative logging, as some call it, is probably ending, as the federal DOT is going to require "electronic logs" in all commercial vehicles that create a time record of when your truck is moving.

The looming requirement is already hastening the exodus of experienced drivers from trucking that's been caused by a series of non-sensible logging rules imposed over the past ten years, most dangerously the change to the "14 hour rule," which I've written about.

I mentioned, above, that I'd left Albuquerque at 8 p.m. That means I have 14 hours from 8 p.m. to be on duty -- driving, loading, fueling etc. So I have to go off duty at 10 a.m.

Before the rule was changed, you could stop the 14 hour clock by going "off duty" in your log book. So if you needed a nap, you could take a nap, wake up, and continue to your destination.

In its effort to get all truck drivers on a daytime "24-hour circadian cycle," the DOT has changed the logging rule so that if you take that nap, your 14 hour clock keeps ticking, so you can't really take the nap. You have to keep driving, even if you're tired, in order to get all your driving done within 14 hours.

What the federal DOT doesn't realize is that Capitalism isn't on a 24 hour circadian cycle and trucking has to pick up and deliver loads when Capitalism wants it to, so a driver's schedule is constantly changing. Drivers who stay in trucking eventually adapt to it. It might not be as good as being on a 9-5 schedule as far as being alert, but it's a lot safer than driving when you're tired. Believe me.

The federal DOT has really created a problem in trucking. Accident rates for trucks have been steadily increasing for five years now. Every night it's more and more like a clown circus out there.

I'd explain it all in letters to my congress people but I'm afraid they'd take it seriously.  They often take interest in "constituent issues" like this. They assign staff, they get things done, then they promote themselves with it. To me though it's just another excuse not to be working on the issues that matter most -- the increasing income inequality in the US, the declining living standards of American workers, the constant assaults on Social Security, Medicare and other New Deal programs, which Democrats are now going along with. The trucking industry needs to take care of itself, which it sometimes shows signs of being able to do. So much of the economy, almost 100 percent, depends on trucking that the trucking industry, united, could control the country. Truckers could do it, too, if they organized, but if you ever want to hear a lot of Rush Limbaugh implanted right wing blather just read the comments section of an article in a trucking industry publication.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Coming Republican Attack On Social Security

It's coming. They have the congress.

Will there be enough Democrats to stop it?

No. Ours have already voted to cut it, and when they had to justify that vote said that the Social Security benefits they cut didn't affect any New Mexicans, and we vote for these sorry bastards.

New Mexico's Democrats have bought into Reaganomics, and that means cutting and eventually privatizing Social Security. Don't count on them. It's up to us.

It's Over

College students were asked a few basic questions about the United States.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Structural Imbalances

From an article about a strike of oil workers in the US on the World Socialist Web Site.

A report issued by Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors last week boasted that the US economy has recovered from the global financial crisis faster than other countries because it had dealt with “structural imbalances.” This includes reducing government spending on public education and other social services at the fastest rate since World War II and sharply lowering expenditures on health care. Real wages, the report noted, have fallen by 0.3 percent since 2010. The number of salaried workers afforded overtime protection had fallen from 45 to 39 percent.

The picture of the future painted by the Obama administration was even more chilling. Stable jobs and employer-paid health care and pensions would be replaced by greater “labor market fluidity,” reducing workers to the status of desperate migrant laborers without the slightest job protection.

Structural imbalances = deficit spending

Democrat = Republican

Edward Snowden Wins The Oscar

Apparently there was some kind of awards ceremony last night for movies.

Filmmaker Laura Poitras, one of the people who helped Edward Snowden leak his documents and escape to Russia, won an Academy Award at the ceremony for best documentary film for a movie about Snowden's escape.

Pictured below are Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the constitutional lawyer turned journalist who also helped Snowden escape and who has been publishing the leaked documents in his online magazine The Intercept.

Yesterday's blog post was about the latest revelations in The Intercept.