Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's not really about the bikes. Or the parklets.

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Parklet on 24th Street, Noe Valley

A small item in the New York Times' local city coverage caught my eye the other day. Apparently a cafe operated by new residents in a Brooklyn neighborhood thought it would be a boon to their street if they jumped the city's regulatory hoops and installed a bike corral. The new facility removed one parking space. The "improvement" proved controversial:

… the bike corral set off backlash among many longtime residents and merchants in Crown Heights, who say that they were not consulted and that their parking needs were disregarded….“We did this thinking that we are contributing something to the neighborhood to make it more accessible to some people,” said Ms. Blumm, who is also the communications manager at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

… But far from being a welcome addition, the corral has led to a petition seeking its removal, a counter-petition in support, heated community-board discussions and acrimonious debates on local blogs. How a 24-foot-by-7 foot rectangle of public outdoor space has provoked such controversy is a question that has many in the neighborhood puzzled.

… Chuck Platt, a graduate student and cyclist who has lived in the neighborhood for one year, says he supports the “subtle ways” the city is making it more difficult for cars. “When you put in more bike-friendly access, it increases traffic to an area for the better,” he said.

But Roger Malcolm, who has lived in Crown Heights for 12 years and is also a cyclist, scoffs at the idea of locking either of his two bicycles at the corral. Mr. Malcolm believes the bike corral, while it is public property, sends an implicit signal that it is only for patrons of Little Zelda. It is an example, he said, of how newcomers are “changing the neighborhood.”

Mr. Malcolm was expressing similar sentiments to those I've heard from an old-time Noe Valley merchant-friend about the "parklets" developed on 24th Street. This person has worked in the area for years, has seen many of her customers move away when their children were grown and they needed less space, and fears the loss of even a few parking spaces will keep them from making occasional visits to shop in the old neighborhood. But mostly it is the attitude of the newcomers promoting the parklets that gets to her:

"They just don't listen. They hate cars and they think everyone can ride a bike."

When I listen, what I really hear is that she is mourning a time when the neighborhood had a wider range of ages -- children, their parents, old people who had been in their homes for years. What she sees now is that younger people with good jobs, usually in tech, are buying into the neighborhood. Most merchants adapt to their tastes; after all, they are the ones with the money. To the old timers, the neighborhood and especially the commercial strip is becoming foreign.

I have to wonder -- is the neighborhood's current hipster-oriented monoculture likely to change with time? Will the current batch raise children here and begin to want more practical stores than bars and boutiques? Will some of them age here? Or will urban life and rising property values force this stratum out in their turn?
I have one other irreverent thought about the parklets: we're lucky in this city if we get 30 warm sunny days when it's not blowing a gale. These are spread out randomly over the year. We've had a nice week of them this February, but it would be no shock if we didn't get a single one in the month of July. Outdoor seating is just not one of the amenities much called for in our climate. The photo above this post was taken on a typical San Francisco day -- no one was lingering outside. Too cold.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Warming Wednesdays: San Francisco schools' solar panels

If you are reading David Roberts at Grist -- and if you are trying to think about abrupt climate change you should -- you would have recently been challenged with this:
The metametatrend in energy is, for lack of a better term, decentralization. Systems that were once composed of a few big technologies and a few big companies — along with thousands or millions of passive consumers — are beginning to be replaced by recombinant swarms of small producers and consumers engaging in millions of peer-to-peer transactions with a wild and woolly mix of small-scale technologies.

It’s going to be awesome! We have lived through a revolution like this before: the information revolution. I’m old enough to remember a time when it was vastly easier to consume information than to produce and distribute it. Even the internet started as what amounted to a large library, from which individuals downloaded info. But the spread of cheap processing power and bandwidth now means that anyone can produce information — a song, a video, an app, a funny cat picture — and get it in front of millions of people, instantly and virtually effortlessly, for dirt cheap.

… utilities used to be in the business of generating power at big power plants and then sending it to consumers over one-way lines for a set price. That basic “hub and spoke” model is rapidly becoming obsolete. There are more and more small-scale power generators and power storage nodes on the network, sending power back and forth in massively parallel fashion. Utilities cannot hope to centrally manage all those transactions. They will be forced, whether they like it or not, to move to what’s known among nerds as a more “transactive” model, in which their main job is to manage power markets, to dynamically price (value) power so that the market can react accordingly. …Another way of looking at this is, utilities are going to have to get used to power markets behaving more like actual markets.
Roberts' shout out to the quiet proliferation of decentralized energy sources grabbed my attention because of what I'd noticed while walking around San Francisco: every school yard I pass seems to contain a free standing solar panel installation, even in poor, rundown neighborhoods.

Curiously, it proved not easy to find information about what program or programs had brought about these installations. Whatever the school district is doing, they are not talking about it much for public consumption. They are proud that John O'Connell High School is teaching solar engineering. They are proud that a sustainability initiative has reduced energy use at seven schools by 30 percent.

Meanwhile, apparently, the solar panels proliferate and form just part of what every child finds in their school yard.

Maybe that's what the trends Roberts calls out will mean: the arrival new forms of energy acquisition and distribution that seem so ordinary we won't notice them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Update from the foreclosure trenches

Time for some good news: thanks to a little help from her friends and a lot of help from the collective action of many Californians, the Rev. Gloria Del Castillo is going to keep her home. Rather than put it up for auction on December 31, Citibank has negotiated a new mortgage at an affordable rate.

Del Castillo is not alone in finding a big bank more reasonable in the new year. The LA Times reports a 60 percent decline in the number of housing default notices issued in January compared with December. California lenders are now bound by a tough new Homeowners Bill of Rights passed last year thanks to the efforts of community housing organizers.

The California Labor Federation describes some provisions:

  • Prohibiting banks from foreclosing until they give fair consideration to a loan modification.
  • Requiring banks to give homeowners seeking a loan modification a single point of contact to make sure they don't get the run-around.
  • Increasing penalties for filing false mortgage documents.

The new law doesn't solve all the inequities that happen when big banks have aspiring home buyers over a barrel, but it is a significant first step, won by aroused homeowners and their communities.

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's not the drones, dammit!

This is bit of a rant about how the peace movement and liberals more generally are tying ourselves in knots by failing to speak and think clearly about the administration's drone war. Don't get me wrong; I think most everyone who is appalled by what is being done in our names understands most of what I am going say here -- but that hasn't kept us from using short hand that fails to clarify and may sometimes lead us off in useless directions.
  • Drones are just a newfangled weapon. What's wrong with them is their use, not the things themselves.
    This should be obvious, but it hasn't always been. I get there is something video-game spooky about the idea that some guy (or girl?) is sitting in Nevada shooting people on the other side of the world. The physical distance may -- or may not -- lead to new forms of post-traumatic stress for the soldiers; the targets, on the other hand, are simply dead.

    But drones are just a fancy weapon for trying to maintain an empire on the cheap. Since the citizens on the home front are resistant to suffering casualties during military adventures, the drones look like an answer to our rulers' constraints. If the wars are wrong, the drones are just another weapon in the arsenal of dumb, immoral wars.
  • We shouldn't be arguing about whether a president can legally use drone strikes to kill US citizens without a court order; we should be discussing whether we want a president ordering targeted killings of any person all over the globe.
    That's a no-brainer for me: all I have to do is ask how I'd feel if some foreign government were knocking off their enemies here. It's not like the US has a monopoly on the technology; every moderately developed country can have these things if they want them (or we sell them to them.) The Israelis are using drones vigorously over the Palestinian territories.

    There are international criminals who are hard to catch (or who enjoy the protection of rogue governments) but creating the context for apprehending, trying and incapacitating them is the opposite of unilateral targeted assassinations in random countries. This real problem requires that we work patiently for international extension of the rule of law, not that we demonstrate our technological prowess.

    A lawyer who uses the name Armando recently took a swing at laying out a framework for such an effort -- just a beginning, but a worthwhile project. Since the neocons took the US off the rails with élan in the terrorized aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, we've stopped even trying to figure out how to operate as anything but a pariah rogue state that destroys at will. We won't return to the family of civilized nations until we get over it.
  • The real problem of which drones are the symbol is the ubiquity of technical means of surveillance now available -- to governments, spooks, and who knows what other entities.
    Privacy and anonymity are ancient history, over. Is it possible to have a participatory, reasonably egalitarian, relatively happy democracy without them? We are going to find out. The means exist to track us pretty much all the time.Only a strengthened regime of respect for legal constraints on what can be done with available information can protect us in this world we are making. Are we building those constraints? Not that I see.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Some warriors will come home ...

My partner teaches college students about the intersection of ethics with service in the community. Every once in awhile she has newly discharged vets in her class; they often discuss war (she has experience of one). One Iraq vet with whom she developed a friendship urged her to understand:
"If anyone comes back from Iraq or Afghanistan and tells you they are undamaged, don't believe them."
I think Karl Marlantes would agree.

If you are a US combat veteran, or you love one, or you worry about what war after war is doing to the people who fight those wars and to the ethos of your country, you should read Karl Marlantes' What It Is Like to Go to War. Yes, that is as unequivocal a recommendation as I ever make. The book has flaws -- one of them personally upsetting to me -- but this is one of the most clearly-argued, heart-felt, intelligent volumes I've ever read.

Marlantes is a Vietnam-era Marine Corps combat vet who brings to his subject the agonizing of a lifetime. Although the Marine Corps proudly let him take up a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford in 1968 instead of calling him up after he completed the college education they had paid for, he volunteered to join his peers in the jungle. He came back with a chest full of medals, little sense of accomplishment, and a lot of anger. Soon thereafter, he remembers being spat upon by a civilian woman when traveling in uniform on a stateside passenger train. (He says such incidents, which have iconic status for the US right, were actually quite rare.) Though he apparently successfully resumed civilian life for a couple of decades, he eventually blew up and was diagnosed with PTSD. This book is his prescription for what recovery might mean for damaged soldiers.

Our wars go on, yet they are remote for most of us. We need to be reminded of some truths about sending soldiers to fight:
Warriors deal with death. They take life away from others. This is normally the role of God. Asking young warriors to take on that role without adequate psychological and spiritual preparation can lead to damaging consequences. It can also lead to killing and the infliction of pain in excess of what is required to accomplish the mission. … the more blurred the boundary is between the world where they are acting in the role of God and the world where they are acting in an ordinary societal role, the more problematical the reintegration becomes.
Perhaps in other times and in other places, fighters might have an easier time negotiating the transition between the devastating horrors we ask of them and the civilian moral order. But little about US life helps them. Hidden behind our two oceans and cushioned by our collective wealth, by and large we haven't a clue about what we put combat veterans through. Marlantes shares an anecdote about the sort of help he needed and didn't get from early in his tour as a platoon leader. He had survived his first fire fights in northwestern Vietnam, near the DMZ, where Marines fought the North Vietnamese Army over rugged hills and vertical valleys. He had seen his men wounded and some had been killed.
Two days before Christmas the fog lifted just enough to allow a single chopper to work its way up to us, a dangerous journey, squeezing beneath the cloud ceiling just a few feet above the jungle-covered ridges. Along with food, water, mail, and ammunition came the battalion chaplain. He had brought with him several bottles of Southern Comfort and some new dirty jokes. I accepted the Southern Comfort, thanked him, laughed at the jokes, and had a drink with him. Merry Christmas.

Inside I was seething. I thought I'd gone a little nuts. How could I be angry with a guy who had just put his life at risk to cheer me up? And didn't the Southern Comfort feel good on that rain raked mountaintop? Years later I understood. I was engaged in killing and maybe being killed. I felt responsible for the lives and deaths of my companions. I was struggling with a situation approaching the sacred in its terror and contact with the infinite, and he was trying to numb me to it. I needed help with the existential terror of my own death and responsibility for the death of others, enemies and friends, not Southern Comfort.

… I had no framework or guidance to help me put combat's terror, exhilaration, horror, guilt, and pain into some larger framework that would have helped me find some meaning in them later. Maybe if the right person had shown up for me that Christmas in Vietnam, he might have started me on an inner journey that could have saved me and my family a lot of grief.
Marlantes believes that today's combatants are in some ways worse off than his generation of soldiers. In World War II, units came home together, usually by ship, and the process took a month. They had some chance to work their experiences through together. In Vietnam, individual soldiers flew home, often hours after leaving firefights. Today, Marlantes worries that frontline fighters never get separation from home at all.
I am not against hot turkey at Thanksgiving. I would have loved some. … Today a soldier can go out on patrol and kill someone or have one of his friends killed and call his girlfriend on his cell phone that night and probably talk about anything except what just happened. And if society itself tries to blur it as much as possible, by conscious well-intended efforts to provide "all the comforts of home" and modern transportation and communication, what chance does your average eighteen-year-old have of not becoming confused? … When it comes time to leave the world of combat behind for the world of "ordinary life," it is going to be more difficult to do the more we blur the two worlds together. How can you return home if you've never left?
This author also breaks one of the veteran clan's great taboos -- he tries to explain to us, the home folks, what killing means to the combat soldier who does it.
When people come up to me and say, "You must have felt horrible when you killed somebody," I have a very hard time giving the simplistic response they'd like to hear. When I was fighting -- and by fighting I mean a situation where my life and the lives of those for whom I was responsible were at stake, a situation very different from launching a cruise missile -- either I felt nothing at all or I felt exhilaration akin to scoring the winning touchdown. … it makes me angry when people lay on me what I ought to have felt. More important, it obscures the truth. What I feel now, forty years later, is sadness.

… it is unlikely young soldiers will feel about killing in war the way I felt, decades older… it just goes against the nature and level of development of the mostly young people who will do our nation's killing.

..So ask the now twenty-year-old combat veteran at the gas station how he felt about killing someone. His probable angry answer, if he's honest: "Not a fucking thing." Ask him when he's sixty, and if he's not too drunk to answer, it might come out very differently, but only by luck of circumstance -- who was there to help him with the feelings during those four long decades after he came home from war. It is critical for young people who return from combat that someone is there to help them, before they turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. We cannot expect normal eighteen-year-olds to kill someone and contain it in a healthy way. They must be helped to sort out what will be healthy grief about taking a life because it is part of the sorrow of war. …
In addition to urging that all returning combat vets need counseling, Marlantes also has a very concrete picture of how the civilian society that sent them might help them make the transition.
There is a correct way to welcome your warriors back. Returning veterans don't need ticker-tape parades or yellow ribbons stretching clear across Texas. … There should be parades, but they should be solemn processionals, rifles upside down, symbol of the sword sheathed once again. They should be conducted with all the dignity of a military funeral, mourning for those lost on both sides, giving thanks for those returned. Afterward, at home or in small groups, let the champagne flow and celebrate life and even victory if you were so lucky -- afterward.
It is not the soldiers that keep us from adopting this sort of respectful welcome for our returning combatants; it is our fantastical attachment to the illusion of effortless world dominance.
About that painful flaw in this book that I mentioned at the outset: Marlantes found his route to healing through adopting a Jungian understanding of existence. I have no quarrel with that, but the Jungian paradigm includes what I think is junk essentialism about men and women, our inexorably different roles and potentials. That stuff, I just can't stomach. Gender is more complex than this paradigm in ways we only begin to understand. When women take full part in combat, we will probably learn more about this -- for good and ill.

But read the book.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Freedom to travel?

The New York Times points to an outrage:
BEIJING — Flush with cash and eager to see the world, millions of middle-class Chinese spent the 10-day Lunar New Year holiday that ended on Monday in places like Paris, Bangkok and New York. Last year, Chinese made a record 83 million trips abroad, 20 percent more than in 2011 and a fivefold increase from a decade earlier.

Sun Wenguang, a retired economics professor from Shandong Province, was not among those venturing overseas, however. And not by choice. An author whose books offer a critical assessment of Communist Party rule, Mr. Sun, 79, has been repeatedly denied a passport without explanation.

“I’d love to visit my daughter in America and my 90-year-old brother in Taiwan, but the authorities have other ideas,” he said. “I feel like I’m living in a cage.”

Mr. Sun is among the legions of Chinese who have been barred from traveling abroad by a government that is increasingly using decisions on passports as a cudgel against perceived enemies — or as a carrot to encourage academics whose writings have at times strayed from the party line to return to the fold.
What a terrible practice, preventing citizens from traveling. The United States would never do such a thing.

Except to its Muslim citizens.

The graphic is from this site where there's a good summary of one of the many legal challenges to the government habit of using the no-fly list arbitrarily, especially against Muslims.

Saturday scenes and scenery: a little neighborhood tiff

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The residents of this Mission District dwelling didn't appreciate the restaurant that occupies the ground floor. They put up a sign.

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Several years later, they STILL have a beef.

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Across the street, some commentary. These folks too live over a restaurant.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sequster poll

I was polled on the sequester last night by someone claiming to be from Princeton Research Associates which seems to be a Massachusetts company. Odd they'd be calling San Francisco.

Their survey didn't offer the option of mentioning that the solution to the deficit is to raise taxes on the rich -- or even to raise taxes at all. But I did get to indicate that I wasn't much scared by the deficit and this BS will cause some level of economic havoc. Also that it all is the Republicans' fault. Not bad for one phone call.

I also probably won't get many future calls as I indicated that I use my cell phone more than my land line (where this came in.)

Friday critter blogging

Jojo clearly enjoys a degree of security that we might all envy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Calling all football fans -- prison company sponsors stadium

Go ahead. Sign the petition. Let Florida Atlantic University (a fixture among the East Armpit Bowls) know that they should seek a less tarnished sponsor.

Messages from 2012 marriage equality campaigns

The front page of The Public Eye, the newsletter of Political Research Associates shouts: "WHY MARRIAGE WON -- the Right's marriage messages and the 2012 elections." David Dodge has investigated media strategies used by opponents of marriage equality as well as by winning LGBT-led campaigns in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state. The full report is online here.

Last November's elections were a breakthrough for same-sex marriage at the ballot box; after 37 straight losses, we won affirmative marriage laws in three states and defeated an anti-marriage equality state constitutional amendment in Minnesota. Dodge points out several differences in the media strategies from previous campaigns. Two particularly struck me:
  • Anti-LGBT forces chose to rely more heavily on "victim" messages than in the past.
    Previously, particularly in their winning campaign for Prop. 8 in California in 2008, anti-marriage equality campaigns had leaned heavily on warnings that gay marriage would somehow hurt kids. Maybe they'd be taught in school that two mommies or two daddies could live together! All the polling research shows that this is deeply unsettling to undecided voters, especially to younger parents with kids.

    But this time around, the antis emphasized "victim" messages in about half their ads. Dodge explains

    N[ational] O[rganization for] M[arriage] hoped to co-opt and neutralize pro-LGBTQ charges that anti-LGBTQ positions are homophobic or discriminatory. …The Right paints those who hold anti-same-sex marriage views as "victims" of religious persecution, contending that churches would be required to conduct same-sex marriages were the practice to become legal. This language has expanded to include faith-based non-profits in the last few years, and grown wider in scope so that now the Right warns that individuals' beliefs regarding sexual orientation -- as with contraception -- are the target of state-based religious persecution.

    This seems completely unsurprising to me, given that the Roman Catholic Church was funding and vigorously supporting the anti-gay campaigns. Anti-marriage campaigns were on message with their friends the Catholic Bishops, even though this dragged them away from messages that might have been more effective for their cause. I wonder if those Catholic Bishops have become reticent about pretending they are the protectors of children?

    Moreover, it is not entirely surprising that "victim" messages were so prominent. People who oppose gay marriage probably do feel as if they are being bowled over by a tsunami of changing social attitudes. State after state has adopted gay marriage; the 2012 electorate was younger, browner and more cosmopolitan than previous US voter pools. Opposing gay marriage is a losing game -- feelings of being victimized come right after denial.
  • In these winning campaigns, pro-marriage equality messages stressed "pro-LBGTQ" messages instead of "rights" messages.
    According to Dodge, past campaigns have tended to focus on the some 1400 legal rights not available to gay people when we cannot marry: matters of child custody, inheritance, health insurance, etc. He reports that such messages have "worked" -- in Oregon, in 2010, 42 percent of voters said that gay people want to get married in order to have rights. But when these straight voters were asked, 72 percent of them said they got married for love, not "rights."

    … LGBTQ advocates have been communicating to voters that LGBTQ couples get married for different reasons than their heterosexual peers.

    This year pro-marriage equality messages focussed on the emotional content of gay relationships, saying in effect: see, these people love each other; why shouldn't they be able to marry?

    I see this shift as a sign of the increasing self-confidence of the gay community. Saying to the world this is about love makes us more emotionally vulnerable than complaining it's only fair … Given the experience of rejection many of us have suffered, it is not surprising that our first recourse is demand our common humanity rather than to show our feelings in public. But as gay lives and partnerships have come to be seen as unexceptional in more and more places, it has become safer to risk going to the emotional heart of the matter. Hence more emotional messages, though often delivered by straight family members or neighbors.
Actually, I think gay people will get married -- when we can -- for the same mixed bag of reasons that other people do: love, health insurance, romance, custom, companionship, etc. But we're getting to the point that the social response has become, why not? instead of incomprehension or revulsion. Good for all of us.

Here is a campaign ad from last year in the new vein:

They are sweet, aren't they?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Warming Wednesdays: 400,000 and counting

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This sign brought me up short at the San Francisco iteration of the Forward on Climate and NO to the Keystone XL pipeline rally on Sunday. Is abrupt global warming really already killing 400,000 humans a year? It behooves us to know.

According to climate journalist Mark Hertsgaard the figure derives from a study, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor [PDF] prepared at the instigation of governments of some of the nations most vulnerable to harm from climate change such as Bangladesh. It asserts

...nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change…

Climate change also is costing the world economy $1.2 trillion a year, the equivalent of 1.6 percent of economic output …

Most of the 400,000 annual deaths are “due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries …"

Floods, contaminated water, heat waves, droughts, new pests and new diseases kill those most vulnerable -- poor children in poor countries. It was ever thus -- and without seeing these consequences of our carbon-based energy society, it is naturally hard to hold on to conscious awareness that this is happening.

The same report concludes that the death toll will be 700,000, still mostly children, annually, by 2030. This Wikipedia entry on carrying capacity comes to mind.
So yes, I attended Forward on Climate. I came away thoughtful.

A friend wrote:

Haven't been around that many old white people in years.

I concur with the observation, especially along the edges of the crowd. In the center crush there were more younger people, also largely white. The organizers seems to have worked for a more diverse presentation. If you'd just wandered up to the San Francisco rally and listened to the people on the loudspeakers, you might have thought this was a Native American gathering. I hear tell that African American enviro activist Van Jones brought down the house in DC. Still, this seemed a white folks show.

Meanwhile, as I've just highlighted, it is not us who are doing the dying -- at least usually, at least yet.

This wasn't the first time I've felt uneasy about a climate change rally. These events do not yet have the forceful focus of movements that I've seen that win material victories. They slip into asking individuals to make tiny incremental changes in the ways we promote carbon emissions -- take the bus, turn off the lights, recycle -- good practices, but piddling given what we face. Even our asks from the government seem piddling -- suppose we stop the Keystone XL pipeline, won't the oil companies only turn their greedy eyes elsewhere? We need to change our entire social system or die -- how to get a handle on this for purposes of citizen agitation?

I'm grateful to the folks who are trying to find ways in which we can make our desire for a different climate path heard. It's a big project and worth trying multiple approaches. I believe in the human species' intelligence and our will to live, so I'm actually hopeful we'll find a way.

And meanwhile, 400,000 humans, mostly children, are dying. Every year.

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Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- reminders of an inconvenient truth.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Minimum wage values and politics

Ten years ago San Francisco voters faced the opportunity to vote to raise the city's minimum wage (to $8.50) and index it so that it would rise annually with inflation. The previous summer a leader of one of the community groups who had pushed to have the measure on the ballot asked for a consultation with me about how to campaign for the new law. This was their chief campaign goal for the year; what should they do?

I've seldom had such a happy consultation: I could assure them that, having got the measure on the ballot, they were going to win. Winning higher minimums through legislative bodies is hard (employers are hard to brush off), but winning among the voters is pretty easy.

This is not because very low wage workers turn out to vote themselves a raise. Very low wage workers tend to be young, of color, and not people who can imagine voting. Even the chance to increase their own pay is not likely to turn them out. But fortunately, people who do vote -- more affluent, more established in society -- will usually vote to raise the minimum wage. This sum is not something they are aware of day to day. But when an election measure pushes the current amount into their consciousness (it was $6.85 or $13,200 for a full time worker that year), they recoil: NOBODY can live on that! Very few of these regular voters are restaurant owners or hotel operators, so they pass the increase (by 60 percent on that occasion.)

By proposing a higher, inflation-indexed, minimum wage in the State of the Union address, the President is putting the Republicans in just this bind. The issue is a political winner for Democrats. Even in our polarized context, about three quarters of us support giving low wage workers a raise. NOBODY can live on that! Most of us don't believe Republicans when they say increasing the minimum will keep employers from hiring. We doubt that argument instinctively -- it sounds like special pleading -- and besides, we know NOBODY can live on that!

Republicans seem to have a hard time taking this in, but the Great Recession certainly has reminded a majority of us that what a job should mean is enough money. Paul Krugman sums it up:
… the main effect of a rise in minimum wages is a rise in the incomes of hard-working but low-paid Americans …
That's hard to oppose. Raising the minimum wage puts Republicans in the position of having to denigrate the values they claim to stand for: diligence, effort, responsibility.

Most people want to work. When they work, they should get paid. Good going, Mr. President. NOBODY can live on that!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bring on the sequester!

Sometimes dumb politics has positive byproducts,
The Navy late last month circulated an internal memo saying that sequestration would mean slashing all funds for the Blue Angels, the nation’s oldest aerobatic flying team, in the second half of this year.

That would mean grounding the fleet for 30 scheduled shows, including San Francisco’s – that October spectacle that delights and wows some and causes others to gripe about militaristic braggadocio or just the ear-drum bursting noise.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Frederick Douglass' admonitions to a President's step-children

In honor of this President's Day, here are some excerpts from a speech by Black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass on the occasion of the dedication of the Freedmen's Monument pictured here. The African American citizens of the capitol were proud of their statue. This 19th century statue is not easy to look at from a modern perspective. We don't do kneeling homage nor do we believe in benevolent "liberators."

It's not as if Douglass was a fawning character. Quite the contrary. An escaped slave, before emancipation he campaigned tirelessly for his people's freedom and continued on, after the Civil War, to champion equality for all, including the then-ridiculed cause of votes for women.

His speech here is a lesson to those of us who have such a hard time dealing with the very mixed blessing that is Obama administration. We want and need so much; the President seems always only to stand for inadequate half measures. But if we're serious, we need to find the good where we can and then never give up on pushing for something better. Sometimes great good comes.

Here's Douglass:
…we, the colored people, newly emancipated and rejoicing in our blood-bought freedom, near the close of the first century in the life of this Republic, have now and here unveiled, set apart, and dedicated a figure of which the men of this generation may read, and those of after-coming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.

…Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places, and it is never more proper and beautiful in any case than when speaking of a great public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity. It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.

…He was preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave states. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government.

The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration. Knowing this, I concede to you, my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence in this worship at once full and supreme. First, midst, and last, you and yours were the objects of his deepest affection and his most earnest solicitude. You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity….

… we were able to take a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln, and to make reasonable allowance for the circumstances of his position. We saw him, measured him, and estimated him; not by stray utterances to injudicious and tedious delegations, who often tried his patience; not by isolated facts torn from their connection; not by any partial and imperfect glimpses, caught at inopportune moments; but by a broad survey, in the light of the stern logic of great events, and in view of that divinity which shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will, we came to the conclusion that the hour and the man of our redemption had somehow met in the person of Abraham Lincoln. …

…I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

… the assassination of Abraham Lincoln... was a new crime, a pure act of malice. No purpose of the rebellion was to be served by it. It was the simple gratification of a hell-black spirit of revenge. But it has done good after all. It has filled the country with a deeper abhorrence of slavery and a deeper love for the great liberator.
Yes -- President Obama is not our man, not a man of the peace movement, or of civil libertarians, or of the left. He's a product of a "meritocracy" that provides the ideological support for the nation's increasing inequality, for the domination of the one percent. He's the anointed custodian of this waning empire and behaves accordingly. When we consider the urgency of the threat of climate change, he seems "tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent."

But he's also the best most of us are likely to see. We must try his patience (and that of his fellow pols) with "injudicious and tedious delegations..." and keep on keeping on.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday scenes and scenery: the fish are almost gone

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The little port of Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard is getting dock repairs over the winter. Come summer, small boats will pull up here to be refueled. It's a busy place then. Now it is quiet.

2fish market.JPG
Menemsha is a fishing village -- the landing for fishermen bringing in the catch. Stanley Larsen sells what they bring him in a store next to the dock. He's unique in these parts because he stays open through the tough winter.

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The market sports a tank full of lobsters, buckets of clams and oysters -- and these offerings.

A sadness hangs over Menemsha these days. The cod for which the area is named are nearly depleted. There are arguments over what killed the fisheries; regulatory miscalculations, industrial fishing, pollution, and a warming ocean are among the factors. But some combination has left the Gulf of Maine cod population at only 18 percent of what scientists say is healthy and Georges Bank, off Cape Cod, at a dismal seven percent. And without the cod, there goes a way of life. Mandated cuts in the cod catch will echo through the human ecosystem. The scientists agree that the cuts will

decimate fishing communities across the region and have a domino effect on seafood processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers who all make a living off the water.

"The impact will be severe," said John Bullard, the regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who voted in favor of the cuts.

"It wasn't easy, but it was necessary."

4fish market offerings.JPG
This winter, customers at Larsen's market come as much for the chowders as for the bulk fish. This tough New England fish monger has adapted. People do. But that doesn't do away with the sadness.

Friday, February 15, 2013

They can do this to anyone

The "no-fly list" ain't what it used to be. Back in 2002, when I had my own brush with this legal travesty, it was at least plausible that the secret designation had something to do with airline security.

These days, as civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald points out, the list has taken on a new function:
State punishment without charges and trials is now perfectly normal -- for Muslims.
According to an article in the Oklahoman, Saadiq Long served in the Air Force with distinction. For several years he has lived in Qatar with his wife and children, making a living teaching English. Last November he sought to fly home to see his sick mother -- and was told the U.S. had barred him. U.S. citizens and rights advocacy groups like CAIR kicked up enough fuss so the man was finally allowed to return to his country. On arrival he was tailed by the FBI who also told local law enforcement, falsely, that he and his sister were fleeing felons.

Knowing that someone in the government had it in for him, Long and his lawyers alerted authorities when he planned to fly back to his overseas job -- but nonetheless he was barred from boarding a plane. Why? Well, as we learned over 10 years ago now, our Heimat Security bureaucrats insist they don't have to say.
…TSA spokesman David Castelveter would only say this: "It's my understanding this individual was denied a boarding pass by the airline because he was on a no-fly list. The TSA does not confirm whether someone is or is not on the no-fly list, as that list is maintained by the FBI."
Somebody, in some FBI office or some other crevice of our surveillance bureaucracy, has decided this guy has to be punished. No charges, no process, no nothing. During the several months Long has been in Oklahoma, the government could easily have charged him with any illegal act. If they have even a ghost of case, the spooks seldom hesitate to shout about it -- justifies their budgets. But not a peep here.

Mr. Long's lawyer writes:
Saadiq hasn't been indicted, charged or convicted of any crime. And yet the FBI has claimed for itself the power to impose permanent punishment upon Saadiq: life without air travel. If FBI agents can impose this sentence on Saadiq, they can do the same to any of us.
So they can.

The Archbishop admonishes

This letter was published in the New York Times on February 12.
I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in Court to Vet Drone Strikes (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.

Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.

I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.

It's so easy, here behind two oceans and cocooned in our fabulous wealth, to lose track of how others see us. Archbishop Tutu asks us to remember and re-evaluate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A book for Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.

When I read the Rev. Kate Braestrup's memoir, Here If You Need Me: A True Story, I knew immediately that I wanted to write about it in the context of the Ash Wednesday admonition. Braestrup is a Unitarian Universalist minister who has found a vocation as chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. She is charged to bring comfort to families and the wardens themselves when the Maine wilderness claim victims, some ignorant of the hazards of the wild and some too intoxicated to use whatever brains God gave them. The job can be pretty gruesome.

But additionally, this book is about Braestrup's own trajectory from the sudden accidental death of her beloved partner, the father of her children, to seminary, and then to a new career of service. That is, it is about knowing that death is comes … and going on to live beyond death.

Her deceased husband, Drew, had wanted to go to seminary. She wrestled with whether her own choice to take up ministry was somehow an attempt to hang on to her dead partner and realized the answer was yes -- and no.
I do not dismiss the notion that I might have been trying to keep Drew with me by doing his work. Drew and I, as a long-partnered pair, did in some sense become intertwined elements of one richer whole. Together we made a family; together we chose our church and entered into the life of our faith community; and together we made our commitments to it. When we discussed his plan for the future, therefore, we had actually been discussing our plan. And I would cheerfully admit mine to be a hand-me-down calling -- I, a mere understudy for this God Gig -- were it not for an almost guilty self-awareness: I studied for the ministry because I wanted to be a minister.
Along with her children, she visited Drew's grave site, each time bringing a new stone to add to the marker. And then, eventually, she came to understand it was time to stop bringing the stones.
Drew's body went where all bodies -- my body, your body -- will eventually go. … we will all go into the dirt to become the dirt that welcomes those who come next.

…Faced with a significant loss, we might spend years piling and repiling stones, grooming the grave, contesting the will, making rooms, houses, whole lives into shrines. I suppose at some point this becomes unhealthy. It is an unnecessary waste of a human life to fling it onto a funeral pyre or to make of it a stone.

…Someday, the last stone must be placed, and we must walk away, but when? I think if I were my own minister, I would answer that question this way, and I won't pretend it isn't hard: Go ahead. Arrange and rearrange the stones on top of your beloved's grave. Keep arranging those stones for as long as it hurts to do it, then stop, Just before you really want to. Put the last stone on and walk away.

Then light your candles to the living. Say your prayers for the living. Give your flowers to the living. Leave the stones where they are, but take your heart with you. Your heart is not a stone. True love demands that, like a bride with her bouquet, you toss your fragile glass heart into the waiting crowd of living hands and trust that they will catch it.
This book was suggested to me by a dear friend who several years ago lost his longtime spouse and admired best friend. I feel as if I'd been admitted to a window on how he has sought to come to terms with a grief whose depth I can only shy away from. Here's a little bit more from Braestrup on how she goes on:
Death alters the reality of our lives; the death of an intimate changes it completely. No part of my life, from my most ethereal notion; of God to the most mundane detail of tooth brushing, was the same after Drew died. Life consisted of one rending novelty after another, as anyone who has lost a spouse can attest. Still, as time went on, some of those novelties proved to be blessings. And, like anyone who has survived the death of an intimate, I had to learn to live with a paradox. If Drew had lived, I would not have gone to seminary, would not be ordained, would not have become the warden service chaplain. There are places that would have gone unvisited and friends I would never have met, friends I now can't imagine doing without. So while on one hand there is my darling Drew, whom I will never cease to love and never cease to long for, on the other hand, there is a wonderful life that I enjoy and am grateful for.
This seems a good starting point for the self-examination of Lent; what am I doing with the one life I have the chance to live?

Warming Wednesdays: why are we still snowed in if the planet is getting hotter?

The Union of Concerned Scientists has explained what they can confidently assert about storms like the one that buried the Northeast last week and the more general phenomenon of human-induced climate shifts. It's a lot.

What is the relationship between weather and climate?
Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.

NASA and NOAA plus research centers around the world track the global average temperature, and all conclude that Earth is warming. In fact, the past decade has been found to be the hottest since scientists started recording reliable data in the 1880s. These rising temperatures are caused primarily by an increase of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere created when we burn coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, drive our cars, and fuel our businesses.

Hotter air around the globe causes more moisture to be held in the air than in prior seasons. When storms occur, this added moisture can fuel heavier precipitation in the form of more intense rain or snow.

At the same time, because less of a region’s precipitation is falling in light storms and more of it in heavy storms, the risks of drought and wildfire are also greater. Ironically, higher air temperatures tend to produce intense drought periods punctuated by heavy floods, often in the same region.

These kinds of disasters may become a normal pattern in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise. ...

Overall, it’s warming, but we still have cold winter weather.
The seasons we experience are a result of the Earth’s tilted axis as it revolves around the Sun. During the North American winter, our hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun and its light hits us at a different angle, making temperatures lower.

While climate change won’t have any impact on Earth’s tilt, it is significantly shifting temperatures and causing spring weather to arrive earlier than it used to. Overall, spring weather arrives 10 days earlier than it used to, on average. …

Winters have generally been warming faster than other seasons in the United States and recent research indicates that climate change is disrupting the Arctic and ice around the North Pole. … It’s not clear how much impact this trend will have in the future, especially as the Arctic ice continues to lose mass. ...

It’s not too late.
The choices we make today can help determine what our climate will be like in the future. Putting a limit on heat-trapping emissions, encouraging the use of healthier, cleaner energy technologies, and increasing our energy efficiency are all ways to help us to avert the worst potential consequences of global warming, no matter what the season.

It's up to the people to make the pols make better choices.

Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- reminders of an inconvenient truth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not the change we voted for

The President's spokesman says he'd be willing to cut Social Security benefits. The Prez wants his "big deal" on the budget and deficit. And apparently he's willing to screw old people to get it.

From Monday's press briefing:

Q    What about reducing the annual cost of living increases for Social Security recipients?

     MR. CARNEY:  Again, as part of a big deal, part of a comprehensive package that reduces our deficit and achieves that $4-trillion goal that was set out by so many people in and outside of government a number of years ago, he would consider that the hard choice that includes the so-called chain CPI, in fact, he put that on the table in his proposal, but not in a cherry-picked or piecemeal way.  That’s got to be part of a comprehensive package that asks that the burden be shared; that we don’t, as some in Congress want, ask seniors to bear the burden of further deficit reduction alone, or middle-class families who are struggling to send their kids to college, or parents of children who are disabled who rely on programs to help them get through. …

     Q    But I just want to be clear what you said at the beginning of that answer, which is the President --

     MR. CARNEY:  It is not our --

     Q    -- as part of an overall balanced approach, he does not rule out effectively reducing benefits for Social Security recipients?

     MR. CARNEY:  He has put forward a technical change as part of a big deal -- and it’s on the table -- that he put forward to the Speaker of the House.  The Speaker of the House, by the way, walked away from that deal even though it met the Republicans halfway on revenues and halfway on spending cuts and included some tough decisions by the President on entitlements.  The Speaker walked away from that deal.
But as part of that deal, the technical change in the so-called CPI is possible in his own offer as part of a big deal.

What would so-called chained-CPI do?
Bold Progressives offers a picture.

Besides using "technical" obfuscation to disquise a cut to benefits, cutting Social Security is an injustice. Social Security does not add a dime to the deficit. This idea is a myth propagated by people who don't want to pay taxes for things they do like, such as wars and the Border Patrol.

The Prez is buying a crock here.

Constituional crackup

This is a talking dog book, more compelling for who is writing it than for what it says. Thomas E. Mann is a fixture at the Brookings Institution while Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. That is, these are a couple of Washington insiders who've concluded as, as they said in their title: It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. The US constitutional system of checks and balances makes it much too easy to for a cranky minority to derail majority initiatives and the Republican Party is malevolently unhinged.

Here, I'll pass it to them to say it:

… we identify two overriding sources of dysfunction. The first is the serious mismatch between the political parties, which have become as vehemently adversarial as parliamentary parties, and a governing system that, unlike a parliamentary democracy, makes it extremely difficult for majorities to act. Parliamentary-style parties in a separation-of-powers government are a formula for willful obstruction and policy irresolution.

… however awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one to the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier -- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the center of American politics, it is extremely difficult to enact policies responsive to the country's most pressing challenges.

This certainly isn't a novel insight to any of us frustrated progressives -- but it is pretty strong stuff from this oh-so-Establishment source.

This volume reminded me of California Crackup, a very similar book about the Golden State that I wrote about last year: great diagnosis, lousy suggestions for a fix. Like those California writers, Mann and Ornstein seem to cling to the notion that there's an unheard, moderate, centrist majority that just needs some systemic tweaks in some legislative rules and voting procedures plus better leadership from their betters to get the ship of state back on an even keel.

California actually points to a very different solution whose working out we're still in the midst of -- an emerging majority that is sick of being obstructed by reactionary, bigoted idiocy finally rises up and simply takes back the institutions of government. Democrats were hamstrung in Sacramento for decades, but the recent election finally left the Republicans under the one-third level in the legislature, meaning that more normal politics can be resume. This won't end conflict, but it will shift the working out of policy to between people who all want the state government to succeed -- Democrats of different flavors -- even when they differ on priorities and how to get there.

It didn't look as if this could ever happen in California, but the turnaround has begun. We'll find a way to get there nationally as the Republican Party becomes more and more a nasty southern rump of whining older whites. Something will give, impossible as that looks at the moment.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blog pause

Here's a little cheerful class consciousness while I recover from flying. I'm back on the West Coast after three less-than-relaxing weeks in bucolic but wintry rural Massachusetts. Enjoy:
Regular blogging will resume tomorrow when my body figures out where I am ...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bright and clear after the storm

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The drifts and the ice will be around for awhile, but in the sun today, it is hard to remember how violent the nor'easter was 36 hours ago. That yellow object is a small car.

Massachusetts miscellany: Gay Head Lighthouse

My activist friends here in Massachusetts were thrilled by a bit of good news from the big stage in the last few weeks. Because recently-ejected former Senator Scott Brown decided not to run for the open seat left John Kerry, they are not going to have to work on another do-or-die campaign to put in a Democrat this spring. They just did that, electing Elizabeth Warren. They are not complacent (that's how they got stuck with Brown two years back) but they feel a great burden has been lifted.

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And anyway, out here in the remote beauty of Martha's Vineyard Island, politics is a series of local issues that add up to the idiosyncratic charm of the place. One of the largest (heftiest?) this season is taking form at the far western tip where the town of Aquinnah is being forced to decide what to do about the Gay Head Lighthouse. Without town action, the massive 19th century brick structure will be undermined by the eroding cliffs and slip into the sea.

2gay head lighthouse with cliffs, erosion!.JPG
For summer tourists whose dollars support many locals, even more than the red cliffs at ocean edge, the lighthouse is Gay Head. It is no longer used for navigation (superseded by GPS) and the Coast Guard would happily declare it surplus property. But simply tearing it down would rob the area of its totem. It is not particularly attractive, but it is is there, dominating the landscape. What to do?

Practice democracy, of course. The Martha's Vineyard Times reports:

On a cold, snowy night, Aquinnah voters turned out for a special town meeting Tuesday and agreed to purchase the Gay Head lighthouse and initiate the process to preserve, restore, and relocate it.

… A total of 43 voters, or just 12 percent of the town's 389 registered voters gathered … voters agreed to purchase the lighthouse and appropriate $5,000 from the town's Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to pay for a feasibility and planning study for work to save the lighthouse.

There's lots more to do. Apparently there is a company that specializes in moving massive brick lighthouses that could do the job. But where to put it? You can't just drop a multi-ton lighthouse on a bog -- and land is Aquinnah is more than expensive. Besides, the lighthouse's fans plan to fundraise for most of the costs.

But all that is down the line, to be argued out in subsequent meetings. For the moment, the town has decided. The lighthouse will live on, somewhere.
3Gay head lighthouse over heather.JPG

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The morning after the storm

View out the window. Got a 20 inch drift to shovel, but power is back on after a 12 hour outage.

frozen windows.jpg
We had sleet for several hours before the snow really hit, so this is what all the windows that have screens look like. I had to find one (a glass door actually) without a screen to take the picture above. At first light, it remained sort of gray indoors.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Liveblogging the storm

We're hunkered down here in Chilmark, Massachusetts waiting for these two weather systems to collide in what is predicted to be a massive weather event. The map is from last night.

The northeast has shut down as much as possible. That means I spent two hours on hold yesterday trying to change my flight reservations; I was supposed to depart Saturday afternoon when the storm is expected to be at its most ferocious. Ordinarily I'm a fan of JetBlue. But when their web systems overload necessitating voice contact, it is no fun to listen to blaring techno-crap muzack and a recording telling me that by using their online site, it's easy to find "one-stop shopping" for travel with "no looking for parking, no lines, and no crowds." Not quite. I know they are trying, but they could change that hold message!

Here's what conditions looked like early this morning.

And here's the same scene two hours later. Still not very threatening.

It looks like a lot of snow is falling, but really it doesn't amount to much around noon.

A little after 2:00 pm:
Thanks to Paula's tips in comments I grabbed this map from New England Weather Works. I guess this thing is coming right at the Vineyard.

At 3:30pm, this is really beginning to live up to its hype, though still not much wind.

By way of the Wunderground, here's a radar map (about 4:00pm) of the coming together of cold and warm storms that is generating all this snow.

One last video as the darkness closed in around 5pm. Though our total snowfall so far has only been around 4 inches (12 or more inches forecast), the winds suggest we are just beginning to feel the main body of the storm.

We just switched onto generator power. I expect to lose connection any time soon.

Quick, before we lose power again, here's the regional radar map:

One more video, more for the audio of the wind than the picture. [Shortly after we lost power and connection.]

I will update throughout the storm as feasible.