Saturday, November 29, 2014

3:42 a.m.


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I copied this picture from the internet of the governor with a plate of food and a happy expression on her face. I have no comment on it. The governor is looking down at the plate of food and smiling, but to say that the governor appears to be hurrying to her table is probably going too far and I'm not saying that.

For those unfamiliar with New Mexico's governor, she is a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party after some Republicans bought her lunch, as she often tells the story. The governor hasn't disputed media accounts that soon after being elected her driver was pulled over for speeding while taking the governor to lunch.

Among the leaked emails surrounding a corruption case in which her administration was being investigated by the FBI in relation to the granting of a lucrative casino-racetrack contract were emails sent by the governor to two different clothiers that make undergarments designed to conceal the effects of eating too much, emails that could have just as well been forgotten about and not continually mentioned on the internet.





I've been getting a lot accomplished so far this weekend.


That's based on a photo by Joseph Sorrentino of farmworkers in a New Mexico chili field.


This is based on one of the more commonly reproduced images of Karl Mark and Friederich Engels.




Over the past couple weekends I've also been playing around with the header image at the top of the page, basically cleaning it up, simplifying the coloring a little bit. It's based on a photo I took through the windshield on I-40 just west of Albuquerque.

I do things on a trial and error basis, which is why I like the computer image editing programs. They make it easy to try different things and see how it looks. It doesn't make it look better you can just undo it.

I actually tried painting once, with watercolors, when my ex got a watercolor set and was trying it out. She seemed to have some potential and for awhile was enthused about it.

I tried it once when she wasn't home. It was painstaking but I gave myself the impression that I might be able to do it, after a fashion at least, and it's something I'd like to try when I retire.









Friday, November 28, 2014

Oil

When oil cartel OPEC yesterday decided not to limit production in order to stop the slide in the price of oil, oil prices immediately slid further and have kept dropping since. But what in better days would have been joyous news for consumers and American businesses instead portends ominous consequences.

Citing data from the mainstream media, the World Socialist Web Site lays out the case: OPEC's decision means that OPEC, under the direction of Saudi Arabia, has essentially declared war on the US oil industry. US shale oil production -- fracking and tar sands -- depends on high oil prices to be profitable, so as oil prices decline, US production will decline.

As one consultant told Reuters. “In other words, it should be in the interests of OPEC to live with lower prices for a little while in order to slow down development projects in the United States.” Speaking more bluntly, Russian oil tycoon Leonid Fedun said the OPEC policy would "ensure a crash" in the US shale industry.

Whether crash or slowdown, sliding oil prices will not just affect jobs in oil intensive states like New Mexico but could trigger another global economic crises.  Considering how much cash has to spent before any oil is sold, on exploration, drilling, then getting oil to where it can be sold, much of the US fracking boom has been financed, and much of that has been with junk bonds as all kinds of producers rushed to get in on the boom. This means the decline in US oil fields will lead to large defaults and potentially another banking and financial system crises.


 Note: As has been pointed out, none of this is good news for New Mexico.

Note: It's interesting that conservatives push the Keystone-XL pipeline by asserting it would mean lower gas prices for "the 'murican people." It might be more accurate to say that by delaying its approval the president has been trying to save the US oil industry from too-low prices.







Wednesday, November 26, 2014

War

Among the protesters angry about the whitewashing of the murder by a white Ferguson, MO police officer of a young Black man are many seeking to leverage the outrage, and peoples' willingness to take to the streets, into a wider uprising. People of the type I've been following on Twitter, which I've become interested in in the past several weeks, are rushing (in most cases belatedly) to show support for African Americans, who still live as third class citizens in their own country: feminists, striking Wal Mart workers, Palestinians, people associated with leaderless groups like Occupy and Anonymous, and random miscellaneous Leftists who are passionately interested in all of the above from the safety of their own living rooms, people like me, are all putting out there the idea that we're all oppressed and exploited and should stand together.

It's interesting to watch this happen. Black people so far aren't being swayed by calls for unity, that I can see. They have their plight on the front page and want to keep it there. You can't blame them. And some of them are very angry and not of a mind to cooperate with their oppressors. Most White people aren't aware of their racism or how they benefit from racism as it's manifested in the United States historically and now or of the privileges it affords them.

Neither can you blame the others for wanting to piggyback on the emotive power of the moment and try to leverage it. Among those others are people who see an opportunity to unite all working people, who, as evidenced by the existence of all these different groups, are divided and fractured in ways that dilute their power to levels the ruling class can easily manage. Agitation for unity seldom has any direct effect, but if the anger and protest evolve into a genuine uprising, it might be there in the back of peoples' minds when they look to give rational reason to the natural act of rebellion.

I don't know if these Ferguson protests will keep escalating or not. The possibility is there. The impulse to resist, to revolt, to fight back against the pain of oppression, is part of us. It's a human trait but one that manifests in certain ways because we're social animals. It's part of us and it's outside of us, too. It's between us. It acts through and upon the society at large.

It's like a flame that if it keeps flickering long enough can draw more and more people near it. This flame is seen by those who fear it as an inferno that must be fled or extinguished at all costs. It's not something we have much control over. You can only watch to see what happens, and either join, draw near, or join the other side, flee.

While all this is unfolding the ruling class is preparing for war. President's Obama's firing of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is a seen as a sign that the president wants a more hawkish defense secretary who will help the ruling elite make the case for expanding the more than decade old war that now encompasses most of the Middle East. This expansion may not be something Obama necessarily wants, but I think he sees it as necessary, in the context of the 2016 US presidential election.

Warmongering. It's about another kind of flame, or maybe the antithesis of the flame. The void. The impossible to fill emptiness. But I think the president understands it. He's not going to stand in its way and be consumed by it.

The point is that a war abroad, if it comes, might thwart the war in the streets, or it might help provoke it. War can draw peoples' attention away from the flame, or, like Vietnam did, act like gasoline.















Monday, November 24, 2014

Martin Heinrich and The Torture Report - Update

Update on the struggle by Martin Heinrich and other Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats to force the release of the committee's long ago completed 6,000 page report on Bush era CIA torture, which the Obama Administration is trying to bury. At a weekly briefing of senate Democrats by White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, a heated discussion about the report took place, according to Huffington Post, which relates Heinrich's addition to the discussion:


“I’m concerned that there’s not a whole lot of sand left in this hourglass,” said Heinrich. "Until this report is unclassified in a way that doesn't expose people's identity, but where you can understand the narrative, our work will not be done. And we're not there yet."


Heinrich, a member of the intelligence committee, compared the report to a story, arguing that it is impossible to follow without aliases or pseudonyms to guide a reader.

"If you take all the names out of a novel, it becomes very hard to understand that novel's narrative arc," he said. "We don't need people's real names, but we need to understand why decisions were made, what decisions were made and what the ramifications are."

Heinrich's "sand left in the hourglass" reference is to the widely held belief that the Obama Administration is delaying the report's release until Republicans hold the Senate majority in January, on the expectation they will not want the report released. Later in the article Heinrich is quoted dismissing a CIA spokesman's contention that releasing the report with psuedonyms would reveal peoples' identities.

I routinely criticize New Mexico's Democrats for doing very little to stand up for us on any front, but here's one example at least of one of them doing something that got in the papers. Heinrich had earlier spoken publicly about the delay in the report's release (blog posts here and here.)

Democrats are considering other ways to get the report released, Huffington Post says, including reading it into the senate record. Some of the comments Democrats make almost sound like veiled threats to leak the report or significant parts of it.

As Heinrich alludes to, the report would be a valuable and needed addition to the public debate. Republicans are frequently provided with platforms to deny that the US government has ever tortured anybody and at the same time to argue that it was necessary to protect Americans from the non existent threats the media and the political establishment are constantly conjuring up. The report's release would be a first step in the needed reckoning Americans have to make with the incredible amount of violence their government has unleashed all across the Middle East since 9/11.





Encryptian Is Coming

We can't look to government, including the courts, to protect us from NSA spying, writes Glenn Greenwald, but he says change is coming, and it's emanating from us. The recently defeated NSA reform bill was no reform at all, he writes, in an article I highly recommend and can only think of as inspiring.

I don't often use the phrase "must read." If it's that important I try to summarize what's so important, so hopefully at least someone else will be made aware of it. In this case I just don't have the time. Greenwald covers a lot of ground, in explaining what the government has been doing to prevent reform, why we can only expect more complicity with NSA spying by big companies like Google and Facebook, and in laying out how things are happening that those power centers have no control over.

What's so inspiring to me is that he affirms what I've repeated about no significant change having ever come through the ballot box, which in more ways than not is a device meant to prevent change. It's us. Change comes only from us and by us, marching, rioting, boycotting, finding other ways to get what we need. However it manifests itself, it's the power of us acting in concert. Whether we're organized or acting individually, as long as we do it in numbers, we win.



Update: 11/24/14 6:45 p.m. While waiting for the announcement of what the Missouri Grand Jury decided about charges against a white Ferguson, MO police officer who gunned down unarmed Black teen Michael Brown, this was posted to Twitter:





Sunday, November 23, 2014

I may not be perfect, but I am perfect for Washington.



Marion Shepilov Barry - 1936-2014

Washington City Paper



As Glenn Greenwald tweets this morning, the New York Times obituary of Washington DC's former mayor Marion S Barry "does a decent job of conveying how Marion Barry's life was much more complex and varied than the caricatures."

As the obit details, for his entire life Barry was involved in civil rights struggles and politics, from organizing NAACP chapters at the colleges he attended on his way to becoming a chemist, to being one of the founders and first national chairman of the legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which organized lunch counter sit-ins and voter registration drives in the Jim Crow apartheid South and helped trigger the modern Civil Rights Movement. And then being elected several times as Washington DC's mayor and later to city council seats, even after the famous 1990 misdemeanor crack cocaine arrest that made him a national laughingstock.

The obit also mentions that Barry was born with simply the initial S as a middle name but in the late 1950s took on the middle name Shepilov in honor of "Dmitri Shepilov, a purged member of the Soviet Communist Party."

Shepilov was a high ranking Communist Party member and Soviet economic theoretician who was ousted during a power struggle during the premiership of Nikita Kruschev. Although the New York Times obit doesn't go into it, Barry's taking that name points out the fact that many African Americans, North and South were, as were many Hispanics here in New Mexico, attracted to Communism and Socialism during those times because of the fact that economic justice and racial equality are part and parcel of them.

Marion S Barry was colorful, accomplished, controversial, and most of all, despite what you thought about him, persevering. But because I've always associated Barry's name with his arrest and ridicule, I often refer to Albuquerque's mayor, whose last name is Berry and who is also a mayor and has earned ridicule on his own, as Marion Barry. Guilt by association.

An apology is in order. I've slandered you, Mr Mayor. You're certainly no Richard Milhous Berry.









Saturday, November 22, 2014

Buddy Holly's Clovis Connection

(New music at Best Rock and Roll Since Moses page)



Buddy Holly left an incredible amount of great work in a few years and died young, as did Rock and Roll greats Ritchie Valens and Bobby Fuller. Of those tree, two had strong New Mexico connections.

Bobby Fuller's father worked in the oil and gas industry and moved the family from Baytown, TX, where Bobby was born, to Salt Lake City, El Paso, where Fuller first played professionally in bars and clubs, and along the way lived in Hobbs, NM, where brother Randy was born and with whom Bobby would form the Bobby Fuller Four that would hit it big with their recording of I Fought The Law. (See links to Arvhive.org music by the Bobby Fuller Four on my Greatest Rock and Roll Since Moses page in the sidebar.)

Norn and Vi Petty


Most of the music Buddy Holly left us was recorded and produced at a small recording studio in Clovis, NM. I'd never heard of Norman Petty, who although most known for recording and producing Holly and the Crickets, who were from nearby Lubbock, TX, also recorded a band that included him and his wife, Vi, that had some commercial success, especially with Mood Indigo that sold half a million copies. Petty recorded many people, some big names and many unknowns, at his Clovis home studio, which apparently is a museum you can see by appointment, according to Wikipedia.

Following are some recordings of Buddy Holly and the Crickets at Archive.org, where all the music and the wealth of other kinds of material archived there are in the public domain; the copyright has expired and you can download them for free.


Buddy Holly and the Chirping Crickets - 1958 - the complete album. The only album released before Holly's death, it contains That'll Be The Day, which the year before had reached #1 as a single and Oh Boy which reached #11 as a single. Also Maybe Baby and Not Fade Away. One mp3 file. Recorded in Clovis.

Buddy Holly Collection 1-25 - Has Think It Over, Peggy Sue, All My Love All My Kisses, Rave On, etc. This incidentally was posted by someone who goes by the name grimriper, who has posted many, many collections of music off all kinds at Archive.org, and who is one of my heroes. Individual files.

Buddy Holly The Anthology - Another collection, of 50. I see all the big hits here. Individual files. To download tunes to my computer I use the VBR mp3 files which are lined up at the bottom, below the Archive.org player. The player will automatically play all the songs if you wish.

Fool's Paradise - Single recorded in Clovis. I was looking for a picture of this record to post with an earlier blog post, which led me to the Buddy Holly and the Crickets collections at Archive.org.

 Miscellaneous Fool's Paradise Trivia: I posted a picture at the bottom of the previous post of a record made by the Cochran Brothers, Fool's Paradise. I couldn't find any information about the single, which I used as a picture because it looked like a better picture than the one of the Crickets recording of Fool's Paradise. I can't even say they're the same song. The Cochran Brothers were an early band of Eddie Cochran, who would gain fame with Summertime Blues, and Hank Cochran, who was unrelated to Eddie. They apparently broke up after 1955.

This interesting tidbit of information was at a youtube post of Fool's Paradise done by a Buddy Holly cover band:

Written by Sonny LeGlaire and Horace Linsley (and Norman Petty added his name as he frequently did) Fool's Paradise was recorded on Valentine's day Feb 14th, 1958 following Niki Sullivan's departure at Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico with Buddy , Jerry and Joe B. The Roses did backing vocals. Take Three was the one used in most releases.


Joe B refers to the Crickets bass player, Joe B Mauldin. Jerry would be drummer Jerry Allison who co-wrote with Buddy what we usually think of as Buddy Holly classics Peggy Sue and That'll Be The Day. Niki Sullivan was a Cricket who had quit the band to continue his education.

And then there's this youtube recording of "undubbed take two" of Fool's Paradise.







Bonus Track

When I was in the United States Army in Mainz, West Germany from 1975-1978, I roomed off and on with Bill Mueller from the Charlestown section of Boston, a loud, wild and crazy character who did things like shower in the quadrangle during the rain and who one night shaved a bare circle on the top of his head so it looked like he was bald. Mueller strongly identified with his mother's Irish heritage and for St Patrick's Day painted a shamrock on the bald place.

Mueller always had his stereo going and went to bed with it set to AFN, the US Army station in Frankfurt, West Germany, which annoyed me and kept me awake. I said nothing because late at night they ran a program that I loved called Old Gold Retold.

When the song's opening music came -- Let's Go was by The Routers -- Bill sometimes sang along, but he was asleep when the closing theme came around, Johnny and the Hurricanes Red River Rock, which is one of my all time favorite records. When it was over I got out of bed, switched off Bill's stereo, got back in bed and lay there thinking about all the great things I'd do when I got out of the army.

I was really surprised, flabbergasted, to see both tunes in a collection I happened upon at Archive.org, The Best Rock Instrumentals - Vol 1,  There are many well known instrumentals here -- Santo and Johnny's Sleep Walk, Dave Baby Cortez' The Happy Organ, Telstar by the Tornadoes, The Ventures' Walk Don't Run, a couple charting songs by Duane Eddy, Johnny Otis' Guitar Boogie, the list, as they say, goes on.




Podcasts, Livestreams And The Future Of The Media

On arriving in America, Columbus was surprised and somewhat annoyed by the discovery that all the banks were closed.

That's from the Jimmy Dore show, a podcast with some pretty Liberal, very politically engaged comedians I tried the other night. I'd heard Dore's name before but wasn't familiar with him. Apparently he's on comedy TV but I don't know how often. The podcast was along the lines of the Stephanie Miller show broadcast on KABQ AM 1350 in the mornings, a mix of humor, political satire and straight politics ala Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or for that matter Rush Limbaugh. I've seen polls that show that more young people rely on Colbert and Stewart for their news than on the mainstream media, and the same may go for Limbaugh and his offshoots among conservatives.

For around eight years now I've listened to podcasts to inform and educate myself, keep up Lestist political and social analysis and just pass the driving hours. I've not noticed an upwelling of podcast popularity, but they've gained a measure of respectability and clout as the media has evolved in form and in how people partake of it and as "mainstream media" gradually loses audience and influence. Alec Baldwin until just recently hosted a podcast in which he interviewed movers and shakers in the entertainment industry.

I'd only listened to a few episodes of Baldwin's podcast, which had been on for two years when it was recently suspended for lack of funding, which may say something about the future of podcasts. Many I listen to are of actual radio programs and I can't say how podcasts extends their reach, because I don't know. I listen to quite a few Pacifica Radio podcasts, a few that are internet only, and a couple from radio station WFMU, just outside of New York City in New Jersey. The host of one of those, who hosts her own show that is podcast but also goes out over the airwaves, and is a producer at a podcast that only goes out over the internet, is immersed in a world of podcasts. Many of her references are from other podcasts.

Still, it's difficult to imagine many people slowing down long enough to listen to an entire podcast. We seem to need the visual stimulation TV provides to make us sit down and stop. I don't listen to podcasts, or books, except when I'm driving.

Livestreaming

Occupy was being livestreamed as it happened, especially the nighttime meetings in Zucotti Park and the protests they held during the day. Many mainstream events are now live streamed, as was Nick Wallenda's recent tight rope walk between skyscrapers in Chicago and the Europeans' comet landing. I think this indicates that many people rely on their smart phones for most of their media intake now.

Amateur journalists can now livestream things over the internet seemingly easily. Somehow they upload video they're taking with their cell phones straight to the internet. Web sites that host livesreams seem to be run along the order of youtube. I've looked in on a few livestreamed demonstrations now. "Dream activists," children born as US citizens to illegal immigrants, began livestreaming their actions outside immigration and ICE detention centers about a year ago, and the general movement of young Chicano activists seems to have adopted livestreaming as a technique, as have the young Natives involved in actions both in the US and Canada trying to stop the Keystone Pipeline and tar sands oil extraction generally.

I followed a link to a site that was supposed to be livestreaming protests in Ferguson, MO, which have begun even before the much anticipated grand jury verdict is released about the charges that a white police officer murdered a young black man. The livestream, from a young videographer with the moniker Revolitionary_Z, who appears to be associated with the Free Thought Project, one of the main copwatch groups, was off at the time and instead he had a slide show playing that, to me, gives some insight into where young Leftist radicals are coming from now, a subject I've been thinking about since Jim Baca mentioned young people and the future of politics at his Only In New Mexico blog yesterday.

Some screen shots of Revolutionary_Z's slide show:




















Add caption




This is apparently Revolutionary_Z

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Note: If you have some time and are willing to wade through a few esoteric references to current philosophical movements, Socialist author Sharon Smith has written an article for Socialist Worker that makes the argument that only class struggle can unite the various and splintered groups and interests that people are trying to organize around. The article contains the gist of the Marxist viewpoint of class struggle and why you keep hearing language like "class struggle," which many on the Left dismiss as "boilerplate Stalinism" or with some other derogatory term and have relegated to the past.

Only as a class of workers do we have the power to confront Capitalism by shutting down the economy. We can march and carry signs about gay rights, women's rights, all kinds of rights, and while this kind of advocacy helps educate people to various kinds of oppression, it only keeps us divided in the long run. Socialism is inherently non sexist, non racist, against any form of oppression. Only it can take away the power of Capitalism to oppress.




Friday, November 21, 2014

Net Neutrality

I.e., ensuring the Internet continues as an independent news outlet and forum for resistance, instead of being sold off to the highest bidder as FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist and venture Capitalist, has been trying to do, seems more likely now, according to this blog post at AcronymTV. But after the president made his important statement recently in support of Net Neutrality, the Obama-appointed Wheeler delayed a final FCC decision on Net Neutrality so he can regroup his corporate allies.

After his statement, Obama distanced himself from the controversy by asserting that the FCC is an independent agency and he has no control over it. But he does have the authority to fire Tom Wheeler and replace him as chair with one of the less corporation friendly commissioners, AcronymTV says.


"Good" Jobs

Contrary to conventional wisdom, and to what I thought, manufacturing jobs pay less than many other kinds of jobs now. Most start at less than $10 an hour. The weakening of unions is no doubt one reason. The increasing use of temporary workers, "temps", is another, a union-commissioned study that focuses on the auto industry shows.

Temporary workers, supplied by "staffing" or "temp" agencies, are heavily used in the auto parts factories that supply the components assembled at auto plants into cars and pickups, and are increasingly being used at auto company assembly plants, especially in the South where state and local overnments have given companies huge concessions to locate, often requiring them to pay no taxes whatsoever. Temps make on average 29 percent less than a regular employee and have no benefits (workman's comp, unemployment insurance, sick days, etc) and of course no retirement of any type.

Governments' not holding employers who are given sweetheart deals accountable for coming through with the good jobs promised is a big part of the problem, the study shows.


New Mexico's legislature a couple years back voted to lower corporate income taxes. The idea was that other states had lowered theirs, so to attract jobs we must also. This scenario is sometimes called the "race to the bottom."

New Mexico is also putting a lot of money and effort into business incubator programs, such as a much ballyhooed "public-private partnership" at the University of New Mexico. These incubator programs essentially consist of giving our tax dollars away to help companies get started. But there's nothing requiring the companies to provide decent paying jobs or from hiring "temp" workers, and as we've learned the hard way, to prevent a business that gets started this way from moving out of the state once it's become profitable.

As I've railed about before, in this UNM program we're funding research that can then be patented, i.e. privatized. No other professors can learn from it or teach it to their students. If it's not shared, it can't be built upon or inspire new research. It basically puts an end to the process that has advanced civilization for centuries. The only ones who will benefit now are the stockholders of the companies we'll help get started.

The same goes for private space flight.









Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In An Octopus's Garden In The Shade

Someone put this chart on Twitter from a NY Times article back in March:






It's from Thomas Piketty's book Capital In The 21st Century, which was a strong piling planted in the swirl of news and information, still visible but getting smaller as the great Collective Unconscious chugs upstream. I often repeat the fact that wealth and income inequality are back at 1920s Gilded Age levels, so what caught my attention in the chart is that's it's worse than in 1913, which Piketty shows to be the peak of the "Gilded Age."

Sgt Pepper

A couple weeks ago while getting loaded on Chappell Street (or Chappel Street depending on the street sign) I looked up the Wikipedia article about the Beatles transformative 1967 album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band. It's a very thorough article and tells a great story of the album's conception and recording, its influence and even has some high level analysis of the music, which is higher than what I can understand. Their next album was Magical Mystery Tour and the next, Abbey Road, included the song Octopus's Garden (the only song written by Ringo Starr they ever recorded), a lyric from which I used as the title to this post.




When I just now went to look up that Wikipedia article and started to type in the name in my search box, as soon as I typed in "Sgt", the complete name of the album came up first on the list of possible suggestions, which is an indication of something's presence on the web. Same with "Magical". First item.

When I type in "Frank" my first name, it comes up with Frankie Valli. That surprised me. Frank Sinatra was down at number 3. He's a chunk of driftwood almost to the sea.


Buddy Greco, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra at Lake Tahoe

This is supposed to be one of the last photos of Marilyn Monroe, taken the weekend before she died. There are several other pictures taken that day here.




Sunday, November 16, 2014

NY Times On Democrats And The Working Class

Note: Katrina vandenHeuvel, editor of The Nation magazine, longtime mouthpiece of the Democratic Party's left wing, tweeted out this article from Friday's New York Times about whether Democrats should be a party of the working class or something else. I say "something else." Some of the people who've turned the party into what I refer to as 'Republicans who are liberal on social issues', a Wall Street friendly, free trade friendly, Reaganomics friendly party that's willing to cut social spending including Social Security and Medicare, and who want the party to keep going down that road, are quoted here, but aren't very clear about what they mean. Out of political considerations they don't want to admit what they've done, for one thing, but it's not even clear they know what they mean, as when centrist Democrat Kenneth Baer says "...the future of the coalition is among growing parts of the electorate which are neither white nor working class.” Which is an odd statement to make. It sounds like he wants to abandon the working class and cater to Wall Street and maybe well to do feminists and gays, but he still somehow expects these "neither white" voters, by which he means Latinos and Blacks, to just automatically vote Democratic.

Of course this is one article in a wide ranging debate about the Democratic Party and the nation's political system, and the discussion here is limited to political insiders, but the fact that these people are talking on the record to the New York Times about it is an acknowledgment that there's an actual debate going on over the "soul" of the party, or at least that there should be. Incidentally, the term "working class" isn't defined here. When I use it I mean the 99 percent. Us. The masses in the Marxist sense. Many people still divide the working class into the "middle class" and some undefined group of "other" people, although since at least Occupy the term is being used more in its traditional sense, partly because Occupy made people realize how much income inequality there is in this country -- that his, they raised class consciousness -- and partly because the so called middle class is disappearing as more people lose good jobs and have to take crappy ones, which has its own way of raising ones class consciousness.

The links are from the original article.

After Losses, Liberal and Centrist Democrats Square Off on Strategy

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WASHINGTON — The Democrats’ widespread losses last week have revived a debate inside the party about its fundamental identity, a long-running feud between center and left that has taken on new urgency in the aftermath of a disastrous election and in a time of deeply felt economic anxiety.

The discussion is taking place in postelection meetings, conference calls and dueling memos from liberals and moderates. But it will soon grow louder, shaping the actions of congressional Democrats in President Obama’s final two years and, more notably, defining the party’s presidential primaries in 2016.

“The debate will ultimately play out in a battle for the soul of the Clinton campaign,” said Matt Bennett, a senior official at Third Way, the centrist political group.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she run, will face tension between the business-friendly wing of the party, which was ascendant in the economic boom during her husband’s administration, and the populism of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, which has gained currency of late.

“I want her to run on a raising-wages agenda and not cater to Wall Street, but to everyday people,” Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said of his expectations for Mrs. Clinton.

Straddling the two blocs could prove difficult. Progressives have been emboldened to criticize party leaders since the Republican rout, particularly given the lack of a coherent Democratic message to address the problem of stagnant wages.

Sifting through returns showing that lower-income voters either supported Republicans or did not vote, liberals argue that without a more robust message about economic fairness, the party will continue to suffer among working-class voters, particularly in the South and Midwest.

Mr. Obama’s wide popularity among activists and his attempt to transcend the traditional moderate-versus-liberal divide have largely papered over Democratic divisions on economic policy for the last six years. The party was also brought together by the passage of the health care law. But with Mr. Obama’s popularity flagging and the economic recovery largely benefiting the affluent, Democrats are clashing anew.

Unlike in the 1980s, when heavy losses prompted moderates to plead with the party to move away from liberal interest groups and toward the middle, it is now progressives who are the most outspoken.

“Too many Democrats are too close to Wall Street,” said Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. “Too many Democrats support trade agreements that outsource jobs, and too many Democrats are too willing to cut Social Security — and that’s why we lose elections.”

Mr. Brown said he had talked to over 60 Ohio Democratic leaders and activists since they were trounced in every statewide election. “The message I heard from all of them was: The Democratic Party should fight for the little guy,” he said.

To help provide a bridge to liberals, Senate Democrats on Thursday named Ms. Warren as part of their leadership.

While in sync on the substance of cultural issues, some of the populists believe that Democrats placed too much emphasis on such matters and not enough on economic fairness, depressing voter turnout.
“Gay marriage, abortion and birth control are important,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “But people join our organization for their livelihood, and that’s what our people vote on: their economic self-interest.”

Labor is having its own struggles, with Republican-controlled states moving to limit union power. Democrats lost crucial races in part because of their candidates’ struggles in traditional union enclaves like eastern Iowa, suburban Detroit and parts of Wisconsin.

For example, in losing to the Republican they perhaps most wanted to beat, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, unions saw their members’ turnout slip. After making up 32 percent of all voters in the 2012 recall attempt against Mr. Walker, union households made up just 21 percent of the Wisconsin electorate last week.

Part of that drop was a result of Mr. Walker’s pushing through changes to collective bargaining laws that reduced the state’s union membership. But some labor leaders were upset that Mary Burke, the Democratic challenger, would not commit to undoing those changes.

Steve Rosenthal, a longtime Democratic strategist with ties to labor, said progressive organizations and unions should become more engaged in primaries and push candidates to stand for their agenda, as the right does with Republican candidates.

“I think it’s critical for folks on the left to do more of the same,” Mr. Rosenthal said.
Progressives pointed to three Democrats who ran as populists as models for success: Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator-elect Gary Peters of Michigan.

Mr. Merkley, who focused on the loss of well-paying jobs, the cost of college tuition and opposition to trade deals that he said sent jobs overseas, won by 19 percentage points. While Democrats nationally lost whites without a college degree by 30 percentage points, Mr. Merkley narrowly carried that bloc.

“We didn’t lose them here in Oregon because we talked about what they care about,” Mr. Merkley said.

But some center-left Democrats said that those races were exceptions, and that the party should give up on winning a majority of such voters.

“Slowly and steadily since 1968, culture has trumped economics with voting and the white working class,” said Kenneth S. Baer, a former Obama administration official who has written a book on modern liberalism. “It’s become the great white whale for a ship full of Democratic strategists. 

Obama proved that while we cannot get wiped out with that demographic, the future of the coalition is among growing parts of the electorate which are neither white nor working class.”

But not all agree — centrists say the party did not win enough moderate and middle-class voters — and that captures the party’s broader debate about its agenda.

“We talk about policies helping the middle class, but the ones we promote the most are ones that don’t speak to the middle class, like raising the minimum wage,” said Al From, who founded the moderate Democratic Leadership Council in the 1980s to counter the party’s move to the left.

Many liberals believe that the disconnect between the politics of the party’s grass roots and the message coming from Democratic administrations has left blue-collar voters unenthused. “We do not have to struggle for an agenda that connects with working-class voters,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut. “We have an agenda that does that, but it does not get vocalized at the top.”

Yet many say that simply pushing for an increase in the minimum wage is inadequate. Liberals want tougher restrictions on banks, more generous federal student loan aid, enhanced collective bargaining rights and a reassessment of the country’s trade policy.

Mr. Obama has made it clear that he intends to work with congressional Republicans to push for fewer restrictions on trade. Some union leaders said they planned to fight those efforts and would be looking for an ally in Mrs. Clinton.

“The next six months, we’re going to be relentless on trade,” vowed Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America. “I hope she comes to our side on this fight. The president is not starting out there.”








Saturday, November 15, 2014

Screen 1

 


 I've been playing around with my little free image editing program HeliosPaint, which runs in Java so can be used on a Mac -- not sure what all that means but it does what my old favorite editing program did that came on my first computer, a Windows machine in the late 1990s I guess it was, a big Dell that ran on coal. Heliospaint has never run exactly perfectly on any of my Apple laptops but the glitches were of the type where the program's display was a little off and didn't really affect the image you were editing. When I went to download HeliosPaint for the new laptop I just bought I found it to be a new and slightly improved version. It has fewer of of the display glitches but it has trouble loading the original image or adding images. It takes awhile to do it and then it loads several of them on top of each other so you have to work around that by using the top image and erasing the parts of the others that are showing.

Coincidentally, I made this image using a photo that I think I got from the Albuquerque Journal, of people protesting the state's plan to dam up the pristine Gila River in southwest New Mexico. The coincidence is that Jim Baca wrote about the project today at his Only In New Mexico blog. I hadn't understood what it was all about until now, only that some people who seemed to be in the environmentalist camp opposed it. I didn't know who the other side was.

That's the problem with the Journal. It skews the news to protect people it likes -- the police administration, the Republican mayor, Republicans in general, polluters -- in this case the Republican governor Susanna Martinez, who wants to dam up the river so a few farmers can irrigate with it, but I'd seen nothing about the governor's role in it in the stories I'd read about it in the Journal. The stories I'd read made it seem that it was just something that was happening, as if the project had appeared on someone's desk and was being moved along by faceless bureaucrats and was probably something that couldn't be stopped. Because government.




Everything Sucks On This End

I should know not to brag on the blog.

The minute I even mentioned lower fuel prices were saving me some money they skyrocketed. In a blog post last weekend I mentioned lower fuel prices, even put up a picture showing pump prices then and now, and in the next two days almost the whole last 18 weeks of decline evaporated. I'm looking at fuel receipts: Sunday night, still at the low point, $3.59 per gallon. Monday night $3.65. Tuesday night $3.69. By Wednesday I was afraid to start the truck up.

That's reservation prices, too. I'd mentioned that even the big chains, which for months had somehow managed to resist lowering their prices, had finally come down. Pilot, TA and Loves had inched down into the $3.70s. They jacked theirs up even more. I saw $4.01 credit price as I drove by a truck stop in Milan. Every time I approach a truck stop now I start shuddering.

Then on Wednesday when the European space ship landed on the comet I bragged about streaming two live broadcasts at once on my Century Link. Sure enough, I came home the next morning and Century Link was dead. No signal at all.

Sure, it was back on when I woke up that afternoon, but I'm not fooled. I know what's going on.

So that's it. You won't hear any more good news from here.

If there ever is any, which I seriously doubt.








Wednesday, November 12, 2014

First Comet Photos!












Rosettamania


The European Comet Landing Space Ship looks something like this maybe

On the way back from Holbrook around 4 a.m. I found a live feed of the Europeans' comet landing mission on my cell phone and suddenly got very interested in it. The BBC World Service, which I  can pick up about an hour either side of Gallup on public radio station KGLP, had announced a successful separation of the landing module from the mother ship but the landing was still five hours away. I'm home now and have two different live feeds going on my laptop, which are coming through good on Century Link. ABC has a page where you an click back and forth between these two feeds. (Note: ABC has signed off and returned to the European feed.)

One feed is from Europe and they're talking to European space scientists and on the other it's Americans and they're all very, very excited. One thing that makes me feel good is that when they talk to people who have been involved on the different experiments and aspects of the flight, they're from different universities in different European countries, not from private companies, which is unlike what US space exploration is becoming. This thrilling event is about cooperation, discovery, not profits or competition. I don't mean to sermonize at a time like this, just saying it made me feel good. They're doing what we used to do. America, what that word means, has been sold off little by little.

They're saying it's an hour and twenty away. I also have to get some sleep.


They just put up a picture of the lander as it left the mother ship. It takes 28 minutes for the data to get to Earth. It's 300 million miles away and it took ten years for the mother ship to get there.The landing legs extended OK. The comet is going 36,000 miles per hour.





Monday, November 10, 2014

Credit Where Credit Is Due




 President Obama has come out with strongly worded written and video statements urging the FCC to adopt rules that ensure net neutrality. The final decision is in the FCC's hands, and the FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, who has been pushing rules that would let big companies dominate the internet and freeze smaller and independent voices out, is a cable company lobbyist the president appointed, which I criticized the president for a couple of posts ago, but the president's strong stance might sway some commission members.




“It is time to honestly admit that Israel is sick, and it is our duty to treat this illness.”

If you follow the Palestine/Israel situation closely and see the daily reports of settlers burning Palestinians' olive orchards and fields and killing their sheep or beating Palestinian women and children, if you've seen videos of young Jews roaming the streets of Israel's cities chanting "death to the Arabs," which is what most Israelis call Palestinians so they don't have to concede there's a Palestine, if you know about the thousands of young Palestinians locked in Israeli prisons where they are tortured and beaten, or about the humiliations Palestinians go through at the many checkpoints Israel has set up in Palestinian towns that restrict their movements, if you know about the ongoing confiscations of Palestinian land and the thousands of home demolitions, if you know about the Knesset, Israel's legislative body, the apartheid laws it passes, the vulgarity with which its members openly and publicly spew their hatred of "the Arabs," if you the read the Israeli press and the comments one after another about the sub human Arabs who must be exterminated, you have for some time realized that Israel as a whole is in the grip of a kind of pathology.

Israeli nationalists attacking Israeli peace protesters
This pathology, which excuses the occupation, the periodic massacres in Gaza, and all the rest of it, has been discussed in articles and papers. Various causes have been put forth; that Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors, that any colonial project like Israel ends up that way, that the unconditional support the US has given to Israel can only have led to it.

This pathology, however, isn't part of the official discourse about Israel. No US president has talked about it nor have the members of congress who routinely voice their unanimous, unconditional support for Israel and its occupation and it massacres.

But now, Israel's recently elected president, Ruven Rivlin, is talking about it openly. The title of this post is a quote from him.
Ruven Rivlin
Rivlin is no flaming liberal peacenick. He's a member of the conservative Likud Party, former Knesset speaker, and a stanch Zionist who firmly believes in settlement building and the goal of Greater Israel -- that Israel should have all of ancient Palestine. He just thinks that Palestinians are people and have rights like Jews do.

It's with Rivlin's thoughts about Israel's mental illness that The New Yorker's editor David Remnick begins one of the most honest and straightforward assessments of the situation in Israel you'll find in the American mainstream media, or anywhere else for that matter.

Remnick's piece is really part of a discussion now being taken up by some influential Israelis about whether the "two-state solution" is dead, and what a one-state solution might look like. It's almost all from an Israeli perspective, which in some ways makes it more convincing and in some ways reveals an ulterior motive to discussions like this.

Remnick talks to well connected Israelis, some of whom have given up on the two state solution and some who have not, and some of whom, significantly, are honest about the importance played in this discussion by Zionism's original fatal flaw, which is that despite the holocaust and the discrimination and mistreatment Jews have suffered in many places and times, Zionism, starting a Jewish only state in Palestine, wasn't the remedy for that. Because the Palestinians were already there, it wasn't right to take their land, and they would never stop trying to get it back.

I recommend the article for anyone wanting a better understanding of the current situation and of the prospects for a just settlement to the problem. Remnick isn't optimistic. He ends the piece by drawing a parallel between what finally did South African apartheid in and what Israel is facing -- which is the effect isolation, disrespect, and being shunned eventually has on a country's elites. They eventually want it to end.

Here's he's referring to the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in support of Palestine and the beginning of the fraying of support for Israel in high places and more widely among the general public worldwide. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, really has some Israelis and Israel supporters worried. Some in Israel's leadership have called it the most serious threat to Israel's existence there is. It's possible that people like Remnick, and like Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman, who I consider to be "soft Zionists," are being honest about Israel and having this discussion more from a desire to save Zionism from itself than a desire for justice for the Palestinians.

If that's the case, so much the better if it prompts them to be more honest about Israel. People like that, however, who want to decide on a solution and impose it on the Palestinians, instead of letting Palestinians say what justice means to them, know in the back of the minds that although there seems to be no way out of the current situation, there's always the "status quo," that is, plugging along for another generation or more as things are, and just dealing with the problems it creates.

Even at that, the more honest these people are about Israel the better. But better still is that because world opinion might be getting away from opinionators like them, Israel's future may not be determined by them, or by the US congress, or Israel.




,

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Uprisings Here And Abroad

Venezuela

Workers have taken over a Clorox factory after its US owners abruptly abandoned it, leaving them without jobs. Venezuela's Socialist government is supporting the takeover, which is provided for in the country's constitution, which was approved by Venezuelan voters during the reign of Hugo Chavez.

“These workers are committed to assuming the responsibility to run a company based on the needs of the country,” explained Labor Minister Jesus Martinez. “They aren’t debating a pay rise nor a collective contract."


Net  Neutrality

President Obama keeps saying he's committed to net neutrality, but the proposals his FCC chairman keeps submitting don't back that up. Activists earlier forced FCC chair Tom Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist, to back down on a proposal to allow internet "fast lanes" that would allow internet providers to favor the content of companies able to pay a fee, and make it difficult to find content put up by activists, independent media, and the rest of us. Wheeler has submitted a counter proposal that allows the same things, say activists, who are gearing up to oppose it.

Impeach Obama?

Speaking of the president, super investigative reporter Matt Taibbi is out with a new article in Rolling Stone detailing how Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, helped Wall Street bank JP Morgan Chase avoid criminal prosecution and cover up the evidence of its massive fraud. Taibbi interviews former Chase lawyer Alayne Fleischmann, who would have been the government's key witness in its case against Chase and other banks, who tells how justice department underlings interviewed her repeatedly, only to have the case repeatedly quashed by higher ups.

Fleischmann details how the fraud was committed, as Chase supervisors overseeeing the packaging of mortgage loans, known to be bad, into securities that were then rated A+ and sold to investors, including credit unions and pension funds, forced Chase employees to cover up evidence of the bad loans and submit false reports.

Taibbi, through good reporting, supplies crucial details to the story, such as that a phone call by Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to Holder's office halted a pending indictment of Chase and reopened negotiations, which resulted in a hand-slap settlement that buried all the evidence and left investors, consumers and underwater homeowners holding the bag. 

President Obama has held no one accountable for big bank crimes, which are numerous and widespread. Taibbi casts the story in the "too big to fail" light, but it's also about the Democratic Party wanting to keep open its Wall Street pipeline of campaign cash. House Republicans, especially younger members who grew up in the information bubble of conservative talk radio and web sites, are said to have the votes to impeach Obama. They certainly have just cause; his decision to let off scott free the Wall Street criminals who gave the American people a multi-billion dollar fleecing.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tear Down This Wall

As Western media and politicians celebrate the "fall of the Berlin Wall" with chest thumping and revisionist history, another wall continues to go up in Palestine, the apartheid so-called "separation barrier" between Israel and what is left of Palestinians' land, which as artist Steve Bell points out his painting depicting Israel's apartheid wall, is much more of a barrier that the Berlin Wall was.


In typically dishonest Zionist fashion, the wall, which the International Court of Criminal Justice found to be part of the illegal Israeli settlement and annexation enterprise, along its entire length is built well into Palestinian territory and not on Israeli land, thereby stealing another large chunk of Palestinian land -- 46 percent of the West Bank by some accounts.





The Wall, still under construction, is grotesque, encircling entire Palestinian villages, cutting Palestinians off from their farmland -- which they can no longer even go to -- and separating Palestinians towns from each other. It creates little Palestinian bantustans that are far worse off than South Africa's were.

This is what the US political establishment, even progressive heroes like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supports when it voices its 100 percent support for Israel.

...if the wall went through London - by a UK support group


Former East German apparatchik, former East Berlin resident and now German chancellor Angela Merkel has stepped forth to pronounce that an "irrepressible yearning for freedom" brought down the Berlin Wall.

Wrong, Frau Merkel. It was Michael Gorbachev, who finally gave vent to Easterners' fantasies about the unlimited happiness they'd have if only they had the unlimited material possessions Westerners had. But it was mostly Gorbachev, who opened things up in the Soviet Union, signaled it would be OK for Soviet satellites to break away, and for the wall to come down, and when it did, held back the Soviet troops that occupied East Berlin.




Populism in Minnesota

Hubert H Humphrey
A post at the Troutbirder blog about a new wilderness area in Minnesota -- bought from a state fund created when Minnesota's taxpayers voted to raise their taxes to create a fund for such purposes -- led me on a web surfing excursion into Minnesota's history of populist and progressive politics, which include Hubert H Humphrey, by far my favorite politician when I was growing up. Humphrey's stemwinder speeches at national conventions and while campaigning had a lot to do with inspiring my lifelong passionate interest in politics.

I also came across the web site for the Progressive Populist magazine, which has clear headed analysis of American politics including of last week's election, from a traditional Liberal perspective not under the influence of Neoliberalism, i.e. Reaganomics, as is the national Democratic Party and New Mexico's Democrats. It's what Democrats used to think and should be thinking. I've added Progressive Populist to my blog roll on the right hand side.

Minnesota's politics are still influenced by the Populist wave that swept the Midwest in the late 1800s and lasted into the 1950s and 1960s, when McCarthyism and Cold War hysteria finally allowed the two mainstream parties to stamp it out and co-opt what was left of it -- a process Hubert H Humphrey had a lot to do with, I learned today. That's the worldwide web for you, a source of inspiration, enlightenment, and of disillusionment and irony.

Populism is now often used by the media and by politicians as a perjorative to demonize political opponents for 'pandering to the masses,' the ironic implication being that what's best for the country is what's best for the wealthy. As it played out in Minnesota and other parts of America, however, populism was simply the political expression of the majority who saw that government had come under the control of the railroad tycoons, bankers and Wall Street. It overlapped what was once a strong Socialist Party and socialist movement in the US, but was inspired by and dealt more with local issues. In one form or another Populism still exists in the US. You know it is when Hillary Clinton becomes wary of the people and starts dissing the very Wall Street bankers and tycoons she's in bed with. 

Populism was and is simply the expression of the interests of farmers, laborers, small business owners, skilled tradesmen, craftsmen -- working people -- and was largely fueled by values brought here by immigrants -- Italians, Germans, Spanish, Russians, Jews, etc., and in Minnesota by Swedes, Norwegians and other Scandinavians, who know full well the value of public lands.


Troutbirder and Miss Lily on newly-purchased public lands - Troutbirder blog photo



Note: Minnesota "Democrats" (like US Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar,) still run under the ballot line Democratic-Farmer-Laborer Party, D-FL, which was the 1944 merger of the progressive Farmer-Laborer Party, which had virtually ruled Minnesota for decades, with the Democratic Party, a merger brought about largely by the efforts of Hubert H Humphrey.



I Got To The Stoplight First

Whenever I drive around Albuquerque in my pickup truck it's not five minutes before I start wishing there'll be a big Biblical flood that floats about 95 percent of Albuquerque drivers down at least to Socorro. Why is everyone in such a big hurry to get nowhere?

I had to pick up my check today on Chappell Street (or Chappel Street, depending on which street sign you're looking at) and afterwards cut across Montano to Coors so I could stop at my friendly neighborhood New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union near I-40, and I was crossing the Rio Grande -- and let me say the river is just amazingly beautiful right now and it's beautiful all year around, really, I mean this is a great treasure we have here--  but I'm crossing the river and this jerk following me was forgetting to take time to look at the river and wanted me to drive like he was, like a jerk. He wanted me out of his way, not impeding progress toward the fulfillment of his goal, which as far as I could see was not being where he was but being someplace else a few feet ahead of where he was.

You encounter these damn people all day long on the streets and expressways of Albuquerque. People tied up in what they're doing and where they're going and you're just in their way. When I'd gotten in the left lane, because I was going to turn on Coors, this little pissant had been a couple blocks behind me. I'd watched him, to see if he was moving up, and he wasn't but some people take it as an affront when you pull over in front of them, at least when I do, and they speed up and get on your tail.

He quickly tired of that fruitless endeavor and blew by me on the right, got ahead of me, then slowed down to the speed I was going.

It's remarkable how often this happens here, that people pull around you, blow your doors off practically, but they aren't really in a big hurry. They just want to be ahead of you. It's an indication, really, of how the human mind works, specifically the ego. To the ego, your status isn't a designated place, it's about where you are and what you're doing relative to other people, to someone else. And it's really not where you are or what you do relative to them but where you think they think you are. It's a strange characteristic of the human ego that as long as it thinks other people see it as it wants to be seen, it's fine with that.

My friendly fellow motorist, now having proven to himself that he was ahead of me and presumably of some kind of higher motoring or manly status than me and having lingered just ahead of me so that I knew that he was no trifle, finally sped up and took off and predictably was waiting for me at the Coors traffic light, where I had the left turn green and turned left, leaving him there. I doubt he even noticed.

I had a guy the other day pass me three or four times on Juan Tabo. I had the lights timed and was rolling along and he kept getting stopped by the lights, then he'd accelerate past me and slow down and drive just ahead of me. It was senseless, but there was no mistaking it that he always got to the red light before me, and I always came in a distant second.

Another remarkable thing is that I don't think the vast majority of people notice this kind of thing is going on out there, all day long every day, or they have a way of ignoring it. If they didn't they'd spend half their time pissed off, like I do. But I don't think, either, that people consider what effect all this aggressive behavior has on the overall state of the life of the nation. Hostility, aggression, rudeness, all get spread around, just like good cheer does.

I'd guess there might be ten people in Albuquerque who see the act of driving in this town like I do, as a travail, a chore, and a tragedy of human existence.  Those ten can stay but I wish the rest would jump in a kayak and float down at least to Socorro.

Timing

By the way, FYI, tell all your friends, most of the lights in Albuquerque are timed, and pretty well timed, and the timing on many of them is even adjusted at rush hour. Also, many lights here go to "trip light" status during off-peak hours. They turn green when you approach them and drive over a sensor under the concrete.

This is all done to keep traffic moving efficiently through town, i.e., to prevent traffic jams, but the general public isn't aware that once you figure out how the lights are timed, that is, at what speed you have to drive to make every light, which isn't hard to do -- it's always within a mile or two or three of the speed limit -- you can sail from one end of town to the other without ever having to stop or brake or accelerate. Pretty much. You will eventually run into a few lights that are off time, or you'll get a red because the street you're on crosses a bigger strteet and the timing of its lights is given priority, but if you learn to go with the lights you can really ease your driving day.

I feel for local truck drivers who don't know this, and many truck drivers don't know about timed lights. Many times I've been behind beside someone who's beating himself to death shifting through all the gears after the light turns green so he can rush up to the next red light and slam on the brakes, while I'm holding back and coming up to the light just as it changes and keep on cruising while he's doing a lot of stopping and starting.

It's like this. You're not going to get through town any quicker than those lights want you to. It's about traffic control. It cuts down on traffic jams and helps the streets clear out quicker during rush hour, and it's something governments do that make our lives easier, so remember, when you're sitting in traffic, conservatives want it that way.

A traffic engineer once told me how they time the lights. This was before everything was computerized. Computers probably do it now, but then, they'd just have a big map of the city on a table top and set little wooden blocks down where all the traffic lights were and at the times they wanted the lights to change they just rotated all the blocks, then went out and set each light accordingly.

I wish the city would educate drivers about the lights being timed and about how you can drive a lot easier when they are, and I wish drivers would proceed about town in an orderly, cooperative and friendly manner, because remember, if you rush from one side of Albuquerque to the other side of Albuquerque, you're still in Albuquerque. You haven't really gone anywhere.

Peanut Butter News

After I stopped at the credit union I made a peanut butter run to my local, union, Smith's Supermarket at Coors and Central. My peanut butter supply was at the crises level. I like to say that if you are what you eat I'm half peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's not all that true but I like to say it, or write it.


This is my new pickup truck, a 2003 Chevy S-10, at Smith's.

I don't really like that tool box in the back so if you need one you can have it. I can't see the tailgate when I'm backing up and it doesn't hold all that much anyway.


This is why I had to get a new pickup.

I ran into the back of a big SUV on I-40 as you approach I-25, where traffic is often backed up in the morning. I was looking at my cell phone instead of where I was going. That was a 2006 Dodge, a nice truck I'd bought from Craigslist from a retired guy out at the end of Rio Rancho almost to US 550. When he and I got in it to test drive it he slid into the passenger seat and reached over with his key and started it. I put it in gear. He put his hand on my arm and said, "Let's wait a little while 'til the oil gets up there." Meaning get to the top of the engine from the pan. He took care of that truck. It had 107,000 miles on it when I bought it but it was still tight and I was sick when I wrecked it. He gave me a good deal, too.

It's hard to find a pickup on Craigslist that doesn't have 100,000 miles on it, and that's also in my price range. My price range is I'm not paying an arm and a leg and I'm not making a house payment for some sleazy car dealer and another one for his sleazy car salesman.

I always wanted to try one of those little pickup trucks so this time I did. This S-10 had around 69,000 on it. I bought it from a young Middle Eastern guy who, I think now, might buy and sell  vehicles on Craigslist to make a few bucks, because I noticed when I saw his title that he'd only titled it a month before I bought it, which was roughly how long it was on Craigslist.

It runs alright but has some electrical system quirks that I didn't notice when I looked it over. I did notice that the ignition lock/key is loose and works hard. It needs to be replaced but it's no big deal. But I didn't notice that when you turn the key on, the head and tail lights come on. But if you turn the dome light on and off a few times the head and tail lights go off and then they operate normally with the head and tail light switch until the next time you get in the truck and turn the key on.

I tried squirting some graphite into the ignition lock, hoping to make it last at least until I get around to having it replaced -- you need a wheel puller for that -- and since I squirted graphite in there the warning dinger dings as soon as you open the door, before you even put the key in the ignition. It stops when you close the door.

It's an automatic and I when I buy something with an automatic I usually change the fluid and filter as soon as I can. This one works pretty good but can be a bit slushy when it's hot. My old truck mechanic Adrian said he'd do all that and tune it up, and told me to get the parts and he'd be over when he was finished with what he was working on. He never showed, which is typical of Adrian and why I had to find other truck mechanics. I'm trying some guys who have a shop across from the Flying J truck stop on 98th Street. So far so good. It's also right next to my favorite taco wagon, where I get some mean steak tortas.


I decided to do the work myself, but I've been thinking that for four of five weeks and haven't go to it.




I also noticed after I bought it that it didn't have a spare tire. No rim or tire. But it has two jacks. The spare tire was priority number one for me, but as it turned out a rim for that truck is hard to find. Even within the GM family of trucks, that are based on that same basic body, there are different bolt patterns for different years, and even if the bolts line up the rim may not clear the disc brake -- it's not deep enough, there's not enough offset.

Discount Tire sold me this wheel, a new wheel -- $55 for the wheel, $25 for the tire. The kid looking it up on the computer said it was the right one but I'll be surprised if it is. I haven't got around to trying it yet.

Getting back to the peanut butter...

The world is right again, with a good peanut butter supply, and extra jelly.




Experimenting with the Jim Baca style.




Trucking News



There's a new camera at the Arizona weigh station on I-40, 20 miles into Arizona, this one in the median and looking more straight at you, not from the side like the others. This makes, by my count, three cameras at that location, at least some of which are surely hooked up to the NSA's massive PRISM domestic spying program, as I discovered cameras at all New Mexico's weigh stations are when I was writing a blog post about license plate reading cameras.










Diesel fuel, like gasoline prices, is still in decline, even, now, at the big chains which were keeping their prices up there. I usually fuel up at one of the Laguna truck stops. These pictures are from Sept 11 and Nov 7. I'm saving $20 or so a night over what fuel cost last winter, which is nice, but I can actually save $25 or $30 per night by driving with fuel economy in mind. The key is to keep the turbocharger from kicking in and not let the cruise control pull you up an incline. The cruise control boosts the turbo pressure even more than the pedal does, and boosts it more quickly which not only uses more fuel but is hard on the turbo. I also pay attention to the local wind speed and direction. My cell phone is nice for that.

Do you remember during the oil embargo, when fuel economy entered the national psyche, they would sometimes publish graphs showing an energy use curve. Energy use goes up faster than your road speed does and it's because of wind resistance. So a three mile per hour tail wind is the essentially same as driving three miles per hour slower, or, with the wind behind you you can ease the speed up and not use any more fuel.




Winds, of course, fluctuate with weather patterns. Sometimes you head west from Albuquerque into a 20 or 30 mile per hour wind. But it also fluctuates with things like time of day and geography. It seemed that during the summer I'd always leave Albuquerque in the evening heading into a good westerly breeze, which would die down after midnight, or when it was time to head back from Holbrook. Then it would often reverse itself so I had to drive back into the wind, too. I attributed that kind of wind to the heating of the earth as the sun moved from west to east. The wind lagged behind the sun, but the wind was caused by air rising as the sun went along, and then reversing that as the earth cooled. I don't know if that's right, but a "sea breeze" does work on that principal, reversing itself as day becomes night.

There are a places along my route where rows of hills, or rock cliffs, narrow into canyons, and the highway always heads for that gap. The wind picks up there because it's a narrower space. And when you crest certain rises you're met with a stiffer breeze. I think the air may also be compacted as it flows up and over the hill and has to move faster for awhile.

Since the weather has cooled off, though, the wind direction has almost been the opposite, so I find myself driving with the wind more often now. It's not only cheaper that way but quieter, and smoother and easier on the nerves. The truck and the air inside the cab don't vibrate as much when you're going along with even a slight breeze.

When it comes to weather, Albuquerque is usually on its own wavelength. Every other place else on my nightly route often has similar wind speed and direction but Albuquerque is often just the opposite of that. The balloonists who come here for the town's unique wind patterns could probably tell you why.

Also, my cell phone has two different weather readouts for Albuquerque. I get one set of conditions on the screen I set up for Albuquerque. Another set of conditions shows up on the screen that tracks the weather by your location. They must be hooked into different weather stations here in town. One is probably at the airport, and the other may be what the NSA is picking up from Jim Baca's iPhone, probably the weather at the golf course.


Ortega Road



I criticize other drivers all the time but I'm not always Mr Nice Guy out there. I've posted before about some examples of new driving behavior in the truck driving world. Such things eventually become part of the culture of truck driving.Certain practices and conventions get spread throughout the whole country, certain trucker etiquette. But more and more now, trucks that come up behind you that are going faster than you arre, will get out in the left lane and then stay out there and not pass, or they slow way down so as to pass you very gradually.

I'm not sure what this is. It could be several things. Some truckers, like some car drivers, are afraid to pass a truck, and there is sometimes good reason to be afraid. You need to watch a truck as you pass it, but it was always common courtesy not to act like you were watching. Ifthey start to drift over there are several things you can do to avoid a collision.

The drivers who hang out in the left lane and keep running just behind you could be trying to annoy you, or they may be doing it because it's easier to drive off another moving vehicle than to drive by your own reckoning. There are things like that in the trucking culture. There's courtesies, but there's also a vein of hostility, of fear and loathing, running through trucking, and always has been.

One thing that's always been there is that if you are approaching a weigh station and a truck comes up behind you, he absolutely will not pass you. Almost never. A truck driver would much rather follow another truck into a weigh station, which is a scary place where nothing good can happen, only bad things.

Sometimes you'll have a driver follow you for ten miles if he knows there's a weigh station ahead, and truckers know where the scales are after they've driven for awhile. I've had people follow me from Holbrook all the way to the New Mexico weigh station in Galliup, 85 miles, because they know the New Mexico weigh station is always open. On that one, I let them follow me. New Mexico is different than other states. At most weight stations, if they are looking to stop someone to do a random inspection or log book check, they'll just pick off the next truck that comes in.

But in New Mexico, at least at the Gallup Port of Entry, as they call weigh stations here, if two trucks come into the weigh station one after the other, it's been my experience that they always stop the second one, w might be following you out of simple nervousness, or he might over on his log book or have something wrong with his truck. The New Mexico Transportation Police in Gallup appear to operate on the principal that if the second truck is afraid of something they want to see if they can find out what it is.

Many times at that weigh station I've been waved through, and then look in my rear view mirror to see the truck behind me stopped at the booth. Sometimes the officer there just wants to take a quick look at your log book or see your registration and sometimes the other truck will just sit there awhile and then heads back out to the highway, but sometimes I'll see him heading around to the parking area in the back, which means he's in for an inspection  -- log book, permits, bills of lading, driver's license, DOT physical card -- they inspect all your paperwork there, and sometimes do a quick inspection of your truck in the parking lot, and sometimes they pull you into the garage and give your truck a going over plus the paperwork.

The Arizona weigh station is different. It's rarely open when I come through there at 11 p.m. pr so, and even if it is, they rarely do inspections. They just want to see your registration and see if your fuel tax sticker is on the side of your cab, so when someone starts following me miles from out, from that weigh station I get annoyed. There's no need for him to be back there.

On the open highway I'm pretty good at getting someone off my tail, but as I mentioned, when it's a weigh station it's almost impossible to shake someone, using the normal means, and it's a longstanding thing in trucking that people simply will not pass you if there's a weigh station ahead.

It's not just the fear of the weigh station, but of some truckers who, if you start to pass them just before the weigh station, will speed up and block you from getting back in the right lane and make you miss the weigh station, which can mean big trouble for you. I almost had that happen to me in Indiana. I had to quickly back off and pull in behind him.

But at this Arizona weigh station there's a way to get someone off your rear end. Just before the weigh station there's the Ortega Road exit. The off and on ramps are straight shots. The off ramp heads up a slight grade  to the overpass for Ortega Road. There's a stop sign at Ortega Road, but it's a pretty deserted area, and there are big floodlights on the tourist store there, so you can get a good look in all directions and be pretty sure someone isn't parked on the entrance ramp or coming up the frontage road. It's late and it's a rural area so there's never anyone around. So you take the exit ramp, let the incline slow you down a little, run the stop sign at the top, accelerate a little as you go down the on ramp, and file right in behind the guy who was just following you.And let him go past the weigh station first.

There's a risk to it, and I've only done it a few times and when I was in a certain annoyed/mischievous mood and willing to take a chance. I've never talked to any of the other drivers to find out what they thought, but I've imagined what they think, what I would think; Not only have I just gone from a feeling of relative safety to one of much scariness, not only am I headed into grave danger, alone, with no one to go before me, but it's because that guy behind me just pulled a fast one on me.

My number one rule out there is, I don't follow you, you don't follow me. That's the rule, buddy. On that one, I always get to the stoplight first.