Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Books Worth Reading-The Jungle

Just finished rereading The Jungle. I found it far more relevant than ever.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Good News!

Good news! U2 guitarist, and environmental criminal, The Edge, has got bad news. The California Coastal Commission has recommended against his mountain top housing development in the environmentally sensitive Santa Monica Mountains.
Make no mistake. The Edge argues that because he only wants to build five mega mansions and that he intends to use green technology that somehow or another it's not like building 500 suburban tract houses in the valley. Actually, it's a lot worse. While much of Los Angeles is short on parkland, open space, and recreational areas, it's also true that the majority of L.A. is already developed, and the damage is already done. Too, we do need housing and and the mega developments in already inhabited areas provide homes for large numbers of middle class people who can't afford the sort of luxury that The Edge and his future tenants can. (I'm always open to class based arguments.) Greater benefit can justify some environmental compromises. Benefit for the chosen and wealthy few, can not.
What Edgy wants to do is to build an exclusive community, which bars those not rolling in cash, by destroying a mountain ridge with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. He wants to continue the slicing and dicing of the only Mediterranean type eco-zone in the United States. He fools himself; makes himself feel self righteous, in that he would include green building methods for his development, and that somehow that makes things alright. But, what he can't get around is the building of roads through sensitive, relatively undisturbed land, destroying something that can't only be restored through massive and expensive effort.
Of course, the fight against The Edge's desecration of the Santa Monica Mountains is far from over. Like most developers, he'll try and change plans just enough to get a go ahead on this unjustified project. Only a Santa Monica Mountains National Park, and the purchase of The Edge's land for this new park, can save it from alteration.
Also, Tejon Ranch National Park, an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Love Bikes

I love bicycles. I love riding them, I love looking at them, and I love the pro racing circuit. If you're like me this is both a good and bad time to be a bike lover. The Tour of California has just ended, the Giro d'Italia is ongoing, and the investigation of Lance Armstrong continues.
I've always been a big Armstrong fan and I keep thinking I should be depressed that so many people have come out and testified that they saw Lance using PEDs. When it was Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton I was prepared to ignore things, but George Hincappie has also claimed that Lance was a doper, and while he could also have some deep ulterior motive to lie, well, I don't think so.
This is what it gets down to for me. Team managers need to put cyclists on the podium to keep their jobs. Team sponsors want cycling success to show the corporate logos. Team owners need a steady supply of sponsors to stay in business, so they need winning riders too. Fans want to see ever harder climbs, more technical, high speed descents, and race organizers are more than willing to provide the thrills so they can stay on TV. And the silly old men of the UCI try and prove their relevance by insisting that the major teams have a presence at every important race in the world.
I'm tired of the hypocrisy of cycling. Every interest group in the business (And that's what it is, a business.) has their own little agenda, and between them they've created a system where it's almost impossible to survive without some sort of help. When I see bike racing I just assume that everyone is doing something and the only people who will be held accountable are the riders.
So, I don't care if Armstrong, Landis, Hamilton, Basso, Millar, Vino, or Alberto Contador have their little chemical helpers. That's just the way it is. It's not just a matter of winning, it's a matter of surviving the extreme demands of pro bike racing. Right now, Contador is dominating the Giro and he'll probably dominate the Tour de France as well. I can't believe that it's possible for a mortal man to do what he's doing, and I can't believe that teams managers, sponsors, and race organizers believe it either. Come up with a more reasonable system for the riders or let them dope. And if we are going after PEDs in cycling, it's time to spread the blame around. Maybe riders should be limited to one grand tour a year, or have a maximum number of days in the saddle. And maybe the UCI should be limited to overseeing the Olympics and not a pro sport.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

U2 Can Be An Environmental Criminal

Even though his about face is more symbolic than substantive, I have to say I was very disappointed that Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy chair Joe Edmiston has gone from opposing a five home development put together by U2 guitarist and environmental criminal The Edge, to one of neutrality. My oh my, what a donation of $750,000 and a few trail easements can do to a man's integrity!
In the past I've wondered about the possibility of a Santa Monica Mountains National Park that would include all of the local, state, conservancy, and federal lands within a to be determined border touching Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, to Point Magu State Park in Ventura County. And while it would very likely be impossible, and quite frankly not desirable, to include the actual beach community of Malibu, and the long established community of Fernwood in Topanga Canyon, it would be possible to stop the ever increasing march of development in the ecologically unique mountain range, by the slow, incremental acquisition of private land beyond the coast and the 101 corridor, including The Edge's ridge top monstrosity. A no vote by the California Coastal Commission on The Edge's development would be a good start.
And while I'm on the subject of things that will probably never happen, Tejon Ranch National Park, an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Few Thoughts About Osama bin Laden

I'm glad Osama bin Laden lived long enough to witness the Arab spring. Tunisia, Libya, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Yemen. The crowds clogging the streets, fighting against their governments, aren't begging for some medieval version of Islam or a theocratic dictatorship, but all the things that bin Laden professed to hate. The Arab street may not be aware of it, but they've turned to Thomas Jefferson as roll model, not bin Laden. They may not succeed in creating democratic regimes in all, or for that matter any, of the listed nations, but they're willing to put their lives on the line for a freedom that bin Laden had hoped to snuff out. Osama bin Laden became irrelevant to history. Just another cheap killer.

Obama 1, Osama 0. I've noticed that all but a handful of Republicans are trying to credit our George with killing bin Laden. Just a reminder to Repugs everywhere, Bush shut down the Osama bin Laden task force at CIA. It was Obama, belittled as the candidate not able to handle the phone call at 3 A.M., who made the decision to once again make bin Laden a major priority, and who made the call to send in Navy SEALS rather than making the far easier call of a missile strike. Had things gone wrong, president Obama would have been held responsible in the same way that Jimmy Carter was held responsible for the failed rescue attempt during the Iran hostage crises. The president deserves credit for things going right.

I'm not sure that the elected government of Pakistan was shielding Osama bin Laden, but I'd bet that the Pakistani intelligence people were.

I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I don't have any problem with the order to take Osama out. Sure, if he threw up his arms and begged to be taken alive, we should have done so, but why increase risk to American lives to keep the man alive.

Have all the Islam haters, like Terry Jones and his crew, noticed that not just American Muslims, but Muslims the world over are happy that Osama bin Laden is dead. On the news I saw the head of The Muslim Brotherhood saying what a good thing bin Laden's death was. Stanley "Tookie" Williams founded the Crips street gang. Arrested and sentenced to death for murder, after entering prison he had a change of heart and developed anti-gang programs for young people. When his last appeal was denied, local law enforcement and news commentators warned that there would be riots on the streets of Los Angeles if the governor didn't commute his sentence. I asked a black co-worker if she was worried about violence. "Are you kidding me?, she replied. "That man founded the Crips. He killed more black people than the Klan. The people I know are going to celebrate." There might be a few marginalized Islamic radicals who try to retaliate, but I am not worried. Osama bin Laden is dead, and I don't care.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Child Labor

One of the things about being under employed and over extended is that I spend way too much of my time, at home, remote in hand, taking a whirl around the world of television. And while I've become addicted to Burn Notice, Fringe, Castle and the many Stargate franchises, I do, on occasion make a side trip to PBS. So there I was, an afternoon too windy to ride the bike, when I stumbled upon a panel show about current events from a woman's point of view. I didn't catch the name of the show and I didn't recognize any of the participants, but I was fascinated by their subject; the movement to roll back child labor laws.

Like all modern shows, far too determined to be fair and balanced, (Not like Fox.) the panelists were a cross section of liberals and conservatives. The liberals were very concerned, in a civilized and thoughtful way, a sure fire recipe for defeat, that children would have to work late on school nights and fall behind in their studies. The cons, on the other hand, preached the value of hard work. Apparently they all had very Dickensian childhoods since to a person, they bragged about their long hours of teen-aged labor and how it made them self sufficient adults in no need of any sort of government aide. (And yes, I do know that that is a fantasy.)

What shocked me though, was the one very, very big point that both sides missed. If the age at which children can work is lowered, if the amount of hours they are allowed to work is increased, and if states are allowed to pass sub-minimum wages for workers under 18, why should employers hire adults? Don't think it would happen? Many years ago, before I committed the unthinkable academic crime of bouncing one too many tuition checks, I was, for awhile, a history major with an interest in American labor movements. During the progressive era, when child labor first became a political issue, children as important, or even primary, bread winners was not uncommon. Forced into labor at a young age to help support families, children had to drop out of school, and the fact that they made less money than adults, made them attractive to employers. Large numbers of child workers created labor surpluses, which lowered wages even more, which increased the need for more children to get jobs at younger and younger ages to help support ever impoverished families. The race to the bottom, (I do wish I had coined that phrase!) isn't new. It's as old as unregulated, cut throat capitalism.