Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Peak Oil makes an appearance on C-Span

My jaw dropped this morning, as I turned on C-Span during my morning exercise session; lo and behold, a Republican guest on Washington Journal, Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland) was talking about peak oil and repeating much of Jim Kunstler's premise regarding the end of cheap oil, found in The Long Emergency.

Here's a link to Bartlett's interview (starts at the 2:04:00 mark) on the C-Span website; I've posted it here, because it's worth watching by anyone who cares to know about the issues facing our nation concerning our lack of a sustainable energy policy. I don't know much about Bartlett, but it's rare to hear any politician speak so honestly, intelligently and from the heart.

On the flipside, our own state's tourism director, Dann Lewis, is bitching about President Bush's request for American's to drive less, in order to conserve gas. Typical of the short-sighted response to any request for shared sacrifice, this state bureaucrat is quoted as saying that "it makes sense for Americans to cut back on unnecessary travel, but that discretionary driving for vacations is different." What? How is discretionary driving different? I rarely if ever find myself in agreement with President Bush; however, on this issue, I agree and hope he's serious in his call to conserve.

All of us can do our part to cut back on our car usage. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I'm stuck driving an older car that isn't the most energy efficient. It's not terrible on gas mileage, but with a large engine and bulky weight, a Toyota Prius it is not. Yesterday, while traveling to Farmington to deliver books and make other visits in the area for my part-time job, I made a conscious effort to obey speed limits (basically, drive 55 mph, which in itself helps to save energy). I also parked in the center of town and walked as much as I could, sometimes up to 1/2 mile away. At the end of the day, I'd saved some gas, and I felt better, having gotten some exercise and imbibed some mountain air.

Possibly, one way that Lewis could get on board, is to partner with travel options like the Maine Eastern Railroad, as an alternative way to bring tourists into the state. Other options might be bus tours, business-sponsored passenger van tours of various foliage loops, which would allow tourists to park their cars, conserve gas (save money, which they might decide to spend locally and help local economies). I'm sure L.L. Bean, Delorme, MBNA, BIW and other large Maine businesses would be happy to hop on board. Of course, that might mean some creativity on his part and if he's like most members of state bureaucracies, that's never one of their strongpoints.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Killing creativity in the Ivory Tower

As everyone knows, those four years of college can be a time that resembles very little of what real life dishes out. What’s worse, the modern college experience appears to be less about learning to think critically about the world and more about being a good little worker bee. Even at the more prestigious schools, it appears that the dumbing-down of the curriculum and maintaining a veneer of political correctness is more important than allowing students an opportunity to reach their greatest potential. Perpetuating consumer chic is more important than peeling back the façade that undergirds much of American culture. As a result, each graduating class marches out into the world, less and less likely to be leaders and people that might make a difference and god forbid—change their world! The production of pod people seems to be the end result of much of what passes for higher education today.

Take for instance the case of my son, now in his senior year, at Wheaton College. Apparently, he’s decided he’d like to do some writing of his own. He’s obviously been quite interested in the entire process of how my book, When Towns Had Teams has come to be. Over the summer, he expressed quite an interest in the nuts and bolts of writing.

When he went back to school and informed my wife and I that he was going to write for the [wire], the official campus media organ for Wheaton College, I won’t deny that I was pleased. Both of us are happy that he is trying to get as much out of his college experience as possible.

As a writer, I think Mark has a lot of potential. He has a wry wit and has written some very interesting and at times, provocative material. He’s not one to shy away from issues, but he also is able to use humor to cut to the core of the matter.

I must say that Wheaton has been much less politically charged and quite a bit more conservative than I thought it would be. The administration appears to want to be as non-controversial as possible—basically, they are good liberals—saying all the right things, maintaining the most politically correct of facades—all the while, making sure that their students don’t upset any of the locals or other arbiters, or those rich benefactors bankrolling their endeavors that play at education. Obviously, keeping those $40,000 checks coming in each year is what matters most, at Wheaton, and most other college campuses.

Mark’s first feature for the [wire] (don’t you just love how “cute” these young journalists think they are with their quirky little name?) was on nightlife in Norton. Titled “A wild Tuesday night”, it was a tongue-in-cheek poking of fun at Norton’s lack of anything that remotely resembles nightlife. This college town tucked into the nondescript corridor of similar towns near Foxborough (home of the New England Patriots) and about 45 minutes southwest of Boston, is a sleepy village of some 18,000 residents. The college (1,600 students), at one time, a women’s seminary, obviously had hoped to cultivate the quiet, pristine environment so important to academia some 150 years ago.

Basically, the entire feature was just Mark out and about town on a Tuesday night, poking fun at Norton’s propensity to “roll up the sidewalks” with the setting of the sun.

Take for example, the following;

“To my surprise, I found something was actually going on. A men’s dart league. I had stumbled across the world’s largest steel tipped dart league (Minute Man Dart League). Jay, one of the players competing that night, had traveled all the way from Rockland, MA to join his team from East Bridgewater in their match against Norton’s dart slingers. Now Bridgewater may not seem that far away to travel, but any distance beyond a two minute walk to the bar seems like a long journey when you’re talking about sticking a few darts in the wall. For a player like Jay to travel from Rockland is like if Ichiro Suzuki still lived in Japan and made the trip across the Pacific Ocean to play baseball. Then again, darts may be one of the few pure sports left in America. Even though Jay’s buddy, Jim, accused him of being “juiced up,” I find it hard to believe you can gain an edge in darts by using performance enhancing drugs.”

Obviously my son is having some fun at the expense of the local dart league, but the article is off to a good start and had me LMAO when I read it—so far, so good.

What caused problems for my budding journalist of a son, is when he departed from poking fun at the working class and decided to move on to the sacred cow of public education, the bright yellow school bus.

The feature continues;

“At 10:22 pm, I found myself sitting inside a bus in the Norton High School parking lot. My goal had been to go into as many busses as I could and start them up, but none of the busses had keys left in the ignitions so that plan was foiled. So, if you are ever really bored, you could always walk down to Norton High School and smoke some weed in a bus or better yet you could bring a person of the opposite sex and have a crazy one night stand aboard a big yellow.”

I would think that anyone reading this article could see the sport and sarcasm dripping from each sentence. Mark, the straight-edge fan of hard-core music, with its very strong anti-drug message, was poking some fun at college life and the propensity of many students who spend much of their four years in a drug and alcohol-fueled haze. Rather than maximizing their four years and taking advantage of the academic opportunities, unencumbered by the cares of life, too many spend their time trying to find the best party, or local bar with the best happy hours.

Instead of this innocuous piece in a rather lame college newspaper, going unnoticed, it got Mark an appointment with both the assistant dean of college life (or something to that effect) and the head of campus safety. Apparently, they took issue with Mark’s boarding of the unlocked school busses (which btw, he had snapped a self portrait of himself at the wheel, with his digital camera—the evidence did him in) and read him the riot act. And of course, rather than the [wire], the high-flying bastion of college journalistic integrity going to bat for one of their writers, they basically caved and left Mark to twist in the wind.

To my son’s credit, he drove down to Norton High School and met with the principal and basically ironed out any issues or hard feelings—he did this on his own, prior to his meeting with the white-bread purveyors of campus morality—i.e., the academic thought and behavior police.

This isn’t the first issue with Mark having to meet with some two-bit censor of creative license. There was another earlier issue involving free expression that got my son in trouble, last year.

Lest you think I’m one of those parents who think that their child can do no wrong, then you obviously don’t know me. Mark and I have banged heads on a number of issues, but when he’s doing what a college student should be given the freedom to do—figure out who he is and what exactly he wants to do—and utilizing a newspaper that is fairly bereft of content of any substance—then I say, “more power to you.”

When we had our Sunday afternoon phone chat, as is our habit, I was a bit perturbed to find out about Mark’s being given the third degree by these pencil-pushers and humorless academic bureaucrats. It’s always my inclination to drive three hours and show up at the Dean’s office on Monday morning and give them a good going-over about their academic house of cards. But, of course, my son’s cooler disposition and level head talks me down off the ledge of my feigned indignance and I realize that he’s learning to navigate his way around the landmines of censorship, status quo and poseurs that he’ll come up against in life, just like I have. And he’ll probably do a hell of a lot better job at it too.

If you’ve read this far, I want to close by saying this. My son has gotten a lot out of his four years at Wheaton. He’s developed into a key member of a very good baseball team, he’s made the Dean’s List, and I’ve seen him mature tremendously over that time. He’s become a fine young man. However, I think it has more to do with his character and integrity, than with any of the so-called prestige that overwrought bastions of academia can impart. Possibly, the contacts Mark’s made might help him, but I think he’s someone that is going to make his own way, regardless.

While Wheaton has been generous in financial aid to make sure that a hard-working (and very deserving) member of the working class can attend this WASPY den of higher learning, I sometimes wish that my son had been given the opportunity to sample a bit more diversity and a more urban experience over the past four years. However, I’m confident that he’s the type of person that will probably seek that out after he’s left the ivy-covered cocoon and found his way in the world.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pray for power (steering)

With folks like these praying, it makes me glad I've forsaken the path of righteousness.

While I'd never want to impugn the motives of anyone's faith, knowing there are many good, and sincere believers in petitioning a higher power, the hypocrisy of many pictured on the pages of TPPT stretches my capacity towards graciousness.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Headed for a reckoning

Following on the heels of Katrina, the latest smack down from Mother Nature, Hurricane Rita, has once again exposed the soft, white underbelly of the American way of life. Built upon a model of transportation emphasizing the automobile, at the expense of any other forms of more efficient and less costly models of public transit, the citizens of Houston are sitting in traffic lines stretching for 100 miles, trying to evacuate the fourth largest urban area in the U.S.

Rather than whisking people out from the path of Rita’s fury by a system of infrastructure common in most areas of Europe, Americans time-and-time-again are forced to jump into their hulks of metal (actually, there is very little metal in today’s modern polymer-laden autos) and sit for hours in a veritable parking lot, formerly used as an interstate.

Not only is the evacuation Houston further evidence of our lack of preparedness in dealing with disasters of both a natural cause and heaven help us, one that might be precipitated by terrorism, but it shows the level of absolute incompetence present at all levels of government—local, state, and federal. Our institutions are broken and in desperate need of major reform—hell, we’d be better off to dismantle it entirely and rebuild from the foundations.

On top of this obvious problem with any form of preparedness for events like hurricanes, the amount of debt our nation continues to take on to rebuild the broken lives and devastated communities has ominous implications for the future. The massive amounts of debt required as a result of our failed fiscal policy and continued waging of an empty and futile war in Iraq leaves our nation vulnerable. This debt, financed and underwritten by foreign investors, particularly nations such as China and Japan, continues to destabilize our economy and puts us on the path to economic ruin.

Currently, there doesn’t appear to be a fiscal policy—it’s debt, debt, and even more debt—compounded by our current administration’s tax cuts for the rich and unabated spending associated with war and natural disasters.

As Allan Sloan, the Wall Street editor for Newsweek spoke about this morning on C-Span, we are poised for an economic meltdown. We cannot continue to embrace our current practices of fiscal irresponsibility, without plunging off the cliff at some point. Markets by nature are emotional, and Sloan spoke of some event in the not-too-distant future “spooking” the credit markets. Simply put, “the shit is going to hit the fan—the only question is what (event) triggers it, when it will happen, and the severity of the pain associated with it.”

Many folks (including Sloan) recognize the solution requires fiscal discipline and austerity, but the actuality of that happening is slim to none. Americans want their cake and also want to devour it—decades of affluenza has made us incapable of making the hard choices required at this juncture.

We are in for a tough slog. The winter in places like the northeast will test our mettle; how and even if we can come out the other side unscathed, remains to be seen. Experts aren’t predicting an easy time, particularly with projections regarding gas prices, as well as looming natural gas shortages.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In search of King Coffee

I’m an early riser—that’s not a bad thing, but it can be an inconvenience for both me and the one’s I love.

This morning’s early start began at 3:45 am, with my domicile being the beloved Ramada Inn in Bangor. Actually, this was a good thing for my long-suffering better half, in that she didn’t face her usual disturbance of slumber caused by my rustling out of bed and creaking down the stairs to the computer that she regularly faces.

For me, my inconvenience stemmed from the unavailability of coffee in my room, or nearby. In the world of sleep-deprivation that I regularly inhabit, caffeine is the drug of choice and even necessity. While I know those health-experts and holistic types will certainly poo-poo my addiction, I don’t know any way around it. If I greet the day at an ungodly pre-dawn hour, inevitably, I’ll need some java within an hour or two of rising.

Interestingly, my choices here in the outer reaches of the city-planning clusterfuck that is Bangor proper, Odlin Road is truly an example of the modern, car-centric style of urban design. Within view of my hotel was the bright orange Dunkin’ Donuts sign, illuminated in neon regalia. In the other direction, was a convenience store owned by those Canadian interlopers, the Irving family. Preferring the corporate black gold of Dunkin’ Donuts to the truck stop sludge of the convenience store variety, I ventured out in search of a jolt of java to quite my pre-dawn jonesing. Of course, there are no sidewalks on Odlin Road, because the planners who visited this nightmare of road layout and design, didn’t take into account that in 2005, there are still a few individuals that will forego a ¼ mile trip in their car, in order to get the blood pumping and stretch their legs.

I had to negotiate the 4-way intersection at Odlinn Road and the I-395 spur, having to cross four lanes of traffic, much of it of the 18-wheel variety. Upon arriving at my favorite donut shop of the corporate variety, after once again negotiating four lanes of traffic, I was greeted by a locked door—this despite the interior being well-lit and seemingly in the throes of commerce. I of course unleashed a salty stream of profanity at my displeasure of being greeted by a locked coffee shop door at the late hour of 5:20 in the morning!

Back in the other direction, I trudged, ½ mile to my second (and only) choice for caffeine—the Irving Qwik-stop (who comes up with these spellings?). Their coffee was being brewed as I walked in and they had a coffee roll that would have made Bill Clinton proud (before his pre-coronary difficulties, of course).

I’m pleased that I have my coffee for now and my sugar-laden treat to enjoy later; I’m not so pleased at the lack of pedestrian-friendly options available to most business travelers. This isn’t my first early morning fiasco while traveling and it won’t be my last. Most hotels of the variety I can currently afford are usually located in similar industrial cul-de-sacs, whether I’m in Bangor, Maine, or Youngstown, Ohio. Designed during an era that proves the vacuity of a college degree and illustrates how useless most higher education truly has become, these areas scattered across the American landscape are an ode to cheap gasoline and consumptive excess.

In the coming days, it will be interesting to see what happens to areas like these and whether they’ll continue to be sustainable, particularly in light of $4.00/gallon gasoline. At that point, the question will be moot for me, as I won’t be able to afford to travel, even if it’s to schlep my books to distant parts of the state.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The great divide(r)

The president who said he would be a “uniter” continues to sow discord and division across our land. Rather than bringing people together, he causes enmity and strife between long-time friends, family members, all to accomplish what?

Once again, anti-war protestors are mobilizing for another march to protest our involvement in Iraq, this one organized by United for Peace and Justice. This one will take place this weekend in Washington, DC and is expected to attract upwards of 100,000 people. I don’t mean to burst any bubbles of hope, but significantly larger anti-war events have had little effect on Mr. Bush, who prides himself in his ability to ignore the will of the people.

I read in my local daily that an Army veteran and retiree from Poland, Bob Chapman, is planning to march against the war. He’s also calling for the impeachment of the president, because of the blatant lies used to justify going to war.

The article in the Lewiston Sun Journal mentioned a counterdemonstration, sponsored by a group called Move America Forward—apparently unnecessary carnage under the guise of lies and obfuscation means progress for these folks. The photos on their website show people amazingly white (and probably privileged). Per usual, those willing to support this administration regardless of the horrible acts and death that they sponsor, continues to maintain a core constituency.

For me, it defies logic, but then again, many in Nazi Germany were able to bury their heads in the sand and maintain denial of the holocaust taking place right before their eyes. I’m not sure why it's so important to ignore the obvious in order to maintain an ideology, but then again, I’ve been burned enough by those purporting to have the corner on truth, to know better at this stage of the game.

Post-Katrina clean-up riddled with corruption and cronyism-

Keeping with the theme of the Bush administration's absolute lack of concern for the wishes and well-being of all but their richest friends and cronies, we have this:

Sept. 14—Some of the first large-scale Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery contracts awarded by the Bush administration were awarded on a no-bid basis to corporations with strong ties to the administration and the Republican Party, according to news stories in The Wall Street Journal and other media. At the same time, the administration is using the catastrophe to push a reactionary anti-worker agenda, gutting federal regulations that protect worker safety and ensure quality work and living wages.

The no-bid deals include $100 million contracts to the Fluor Corp., a major donor to the GOP, and the Shaw Group, which is client of Joe M. Allbaugh, President George W. Bush’s campaign manager in 2000 and the former director the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Meanwhile Halliburton Co., subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root Services received a $29.8 million clean-up contract, while Halliburton, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, is doing repair work at three Navy facilities in Mississippi under an existing contract. The company also has been awarded billions of dollars of federal contracts for work in Iraq and that work and the Bush administration’s Iraq procurement policies have been heavily criticized in recent years.

Amazing, but only if you haven't been paying attention the last six years. What I find unconcionable is the fact that people who've literally had everything ripped from them, must now face the impossible specter of rebuilding their lives, while this administration strips them of their livelihoods and jobs paying a living wage.

The Bush administration also is using the disaster to attack federal standards ensuring quality work and worker safety. Last week, the administration announced it was eliminating the high-quality work standards set by the federal Davis-Bacon law for hurricane reconstruction contracts work, allowing contractors to pay substandard wages to construction workers in the affected areas, and the administration also is lifting many affirmative action rules for reconstruction contracts.

Bush now wants to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone as it did for construction workers on federal contracts last week, according to
The Washington Post.

The administration also has suspended regulations limiting the number of hours truckers can drive when transporting fuel. In addition, Bush has weakened restrictions giving contracting preferences to small and minority-owned businesses and has suspended the Jones Act, which requires transport of petroleum, gasoline and other petroleum products on U.S.-flagged ships while operating in U.S. coastal waters.

The no-bid contracts “guarantee profits regardless of how much those companies spend or waste,” says
AFT President Edward J. McElroy. “This is happening at the same time that the local hires of these firms will, in many cases, not earn a living wage. It is unconscionable that our national government would act to hurt those most in need while delivering a windfall to wealthy contractors. These decisions must be reversed.”

This is a blatent declaration of war on the working class and poor by an administration that received votes from many of these same people. There is no representation any longer for anyone but those on the top runs of the socio-economic ladder. Everyone else is being pissed on below!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

An honest assessment

The level of arrogance exhibited by most Americans continually amazes me. In all honesty, I am part of that culture of arrogance and privilege that is uniquely American. Growing up during an era of limitless cheap oil and an economy that allowed a high school graduate to support a family on living wages from the local mill, it was natural to assume that America’s limitless growth would continue.

Interestingly, over the 25 years that have elapsed since I graduated from high school, I’ve come to understand a few things that go against my capitalist socialization from the 1960’s and 1970’s. During the end of my high school years in the late 1970’s, I witnessed gas lines that resulted from the oil embargo of that period. For the first time, a red flag was raised concerning the myth of a limitless supply of cheap petroleum. Even our president at the time, Jimmy Carter, spoke of the need to alter our way of life—i.e., we could no longer consume energy (namely in the form of oil and gas) at the rates that we were currently gorging ourselves with. As Carter quickly learned, you can’t tell arrogant Americans that they can’t have what they think they are entitled to—gasoline and cheap oil were non-negotiable pillars of our American way of life. Hence, Carter lost to Reagan and of course, it was a “new day in America.”

We recently witnessed gas prices spike steadily skyward, with prices in this area nearing the $3.50 mark in some places. While the price has fallen back below $3.00/gallon , the specter of a difficult winter for many in the northeast and other colder climates of the U.S looms before us.

Yet, in spite of these clear signposts indicating serious concerns about maintaining perpetual growth and consumption of finite natural resourses, there seems to be little if any conservation being done, let alone talked about. If we had begun building rail and public transportation options into the U.S. infrastructure back in the 1970’s, as well as mandating enactment of conservation programs and had aggressively developed alternatives to cheap oil, then we might be in a different and far more secure place today. Many experts think it’s too late, as we near the peak of global oil production and begin heading down the slope of diminished supplies.

Two articles came across my desk that make me think back to those optimistic days of my youth, when I thought that I’d get a college degree and be set for life. How naïve (and yes, arrogant) I was. Do people in Europe have a sense that things will get progressively better? Certainly, if I was born in parts of the third world, my life would have been dramatically different.

Economically, the opportunities that were available to many in the 1960’s and even the 1970’s have disappeared. Globalization (and the off shoring of good-paying American jobs) has seen to it that earning a living has gotten more and more difficult with each passing year. Many don’t understand why that is. I say a lot of it has to do with the tax shift that began around 1970, when the burden was moved from those in the wealthiest brackets, over to the middle class and many working poor.

In addition to taxes shifting from the wealthy, to the less wealthy Americans (namely the working classes and poor), we’ve also seen how we’ve embraced technology and cheap oil as the panacea to all of our problems. Wendell Berry’s latest article in Orion, has some interesting things to say about this.

While I’m not purposefully trying to be dour, I’m one that prefers to deal in reality and not fantasy. Leadership in our nation calls for some tough and honest discussions about these types of issues.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Turning back the clock in America

This morning, I had C-Span on for the first time in quite awhile. They had Wade Henderson from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights as a guest, discussing the John Roberts confirmation hearings, for Supreme Court justice.

Mr. Henderson, an articulate and measured African-American, had some interesting and somewhat disturbing things to say about Roberts and his possible confirmation. Rather than posturing and adding ideological fuel to the debate, Henderson was a breathe of fresh air, while all the while, indicating to me that Roberts' confirmation would set the clock back in our country on civil rights, women's issues, privacy and all manner of other things many of us take for granted.

My concern about an appointment of John Roberts as Chief Justice is that he would protect the rights and freedoms of those in the ruling class, at the expense of those of us in the working classes and other Americans who are not part of the privileged caste.

Per usual, some of the right-wing trolls managed to call in and castigate Henderson, engaging in some veiled racist rhetoric that is part of their schtick. What I found particularly galling, is the ruse used by so many of the right-wing noise crowd, having the audacity to mention Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision for a society free of class, race and gender. Many, if not most, who dwell on the right side of the political spectrum, couldn't care less about what King waxed poetic about. His last days on earth were taken up with the cause and concern of trying to create a society where economic justice was paramount. I concur that the biggest threat posed by King--and ultimately what led to his murder--was his courage to broach the issue of class and economic justice and his willlingness to champion the cause of the poor and downtrodden.

Because he was able to pull together all members of the underclasses, irrespective of race, he posed a tremendous threat to the ruling class and the propertied gentry in America. As has been common throughout our history, those who are capable of waking the slumbering masses must be exterminated in order to maintain the propaganda of power in our land.

I find it particularly galling that once again, the Roberts' confirmation process once more rubs our noses in the detritus of lies that this administration leaves in its wake. Claiming a moral superiority that is nothing but rampant hypocrisy, the Bush administration continually insults the 50 percent in our country that recognizes them for what they are--elitists, patricians and sociopathic liars who would have been tossed out into the street, or worse, in a different time. Instead, our apathetic lives of affluence leave us to chatter like magpies, but do little else to reclaim our country to which we are rightful heirs.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hitting the road

Well, my first day on the road, schlepping When Towns Had Teams went very well. By-and-large, most of the independent bookstores I stopped at were very interested--I did have a couple this morning that didn't seem particularly thrilled about my book, with one them agreeing to take just one book!

By the end of the day, I had visited 10 bookstores/retail establisments and had dropped off 40 books. One pleasant surprise was the Mostly Maine store on Route 1 in Edgecomb. I happened to notice it on while passing north and stopped on my way back south. The owner, Ed Hannan, was very enthusiastic and agreed to take three and thought I'd do well in the spring when the tourists return.

Gary Lawless at Gulf of Maine in Brunswick was very encouraging. I enjoy his store immensely. Not only does he have a wide array of some of the most interesting books you'll find in any bookstore north of Boston, but he is a publisher himself, on his own Blackberry Press imprint. Additionally, Donna Williams in Falmouth at The Book Review and Chris Bowe at Longfellow Books in Portland were excited to receive copies.

Apparently, The Book Review has already received two special orders for When Towns Had Teams, which is very cool. Longfellow Books will be hosting a book signing for me on October 5th at 7pm, so I'm pleased with that.

All in all, a very good day and with this morning's large shipment of pre-ordered books, numerous copies of When Towns Had Teams are making their way out into the bookbuying public.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Watch out below!

This is not original, but it does contain truth, elements of profundity, and most importantly, it made me laugh (as in, you 'gotta laugh, to keep from cryin').

Posted in the Clusterfuck Nation comment section was this;

"Whenever I hear the phrase 'trickle down economics' I think of being pissed on."

For many of us, we are certainly being "pissed on" by the culprits in charge.

Capturing it in song

I know my musical posts (grounded in obscurity) tend to leave many in the dust, but I'll run the risk of putting up another primarily because of Mark Edward's lyrics from the title track of his soon-to-be-released disc.

If you've been reading, Edwards is a veritable one man band who goes under the moniker of My Dad is Dead. The lyrics of his title track are as follows. If you dig songwriting, he's even posted his own line-by-line commentary at his blog.

Having just spent a week writing about socio-economic and class issues, the following lyrics spoke volumes to me and capture where we are at:

A Divided House

Yesterday's issue was all about the money.
I heard a joke but it really wasn't funny.
I found something but it can't be what I'm after.
It's just a bunch of lies hiding in some laughter.

Seems some people are living out their dream nowat the expense of the 90th percentile.
Seeing life through a rose colored looking glass.
Do your part to perpetuate a lower class.

We didn't hire you to mess up our society.
We don't care about appearances of piety.
Your religious is the practice of deception.
Worship manipulation of perception.

Can't we stop acting like kids fighting all the time?

Choosing up sides until there's no one in the middle.
Politicians lost in a maze of the hypocritical.
Selling common sense on the street for a nickel.
Couldn't find a buyer for my hammer and sickel.

Lots of little Hitlers running on the loose everywhere.
Final solutions are a dime a dozen if you care.
History doesn't matter 'cause we'll all be dead anyway.
If we speed the rapture maybe they will all fly away.

We didn't hire you to mess up our society.
We don't care about appearances of piety.Your religion is the practice of deception.
Worship manipulation of perception.

Can't we stop acting like kids fighting all the time?

Right or wrong it won't matter long,
A divided house cannot be strong.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bridging the gap

A small band of activists and advocates for the poor sought to bring the issue of poverty and wages to the people of Portland.

I've posted over at JBIWFY.

The arrogance of the rich and greedy

Every so often, you get to see what the privileged in our country really think about the poor and marginalized.

On last evening's Marketplace program, on NPR, Barbara Bush revealed where her son got his amazing compassion from.

Said Ms. Bush, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Yes indeed, you rich old bag, things are working out so well for these folks!

As the Bible says, "You shall know them by their fruits." (my paraphrase)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Local baseball in other places

Having just completed a major undertaking, publishing When Towns Had Teams, I fully understand the nature of what’s involved in piecing together the past in creating a cohesive manuscript and a book that’s worth reading.

Curious about other aspects of town team baseball that might be available in the United States, I stumbled across this project by two gentlemen in Minnesota. They are writing a book about amateur baseball and town league ball in Minnesota from 1945-1960.

Doing a Yahoo search for “town team baseball”, I found the website of the Shakopee Indians town team in Shakopee, Minnesota. It appears that the league they play in, the Carver Central League, is a league similar to our local Twilight League. The Shakopee team has a mix of players similar to the Roberts 88’er teams that I grew up with in Lisbon Falls. From the Shakopee site, I found the Minnesota Baseball Association site, where I then was able to access the site for Minnesota Glory Days and the project of Armand Peterson and Tom Tomashek.

I was aware of similar forms of baseball similar to what was being played in Maine in other regions of the United States. I know that the South had mill ball teams and the Midwest had industrial leagues. It appears that Minnesota had a very vibrant network of town team baseball and it appears quite healthy today, at least evidenced by their statewide tournaments.

While local baseball hangs by a thread here in Maine, there are still places like Minnesota, where it appears somewhat more healthy and vibrant.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The gap continues to grow

OK—so Bush hit the Gulf Coast ahead of the Labor Day holiday. I mentioned that I was willing to wager he wouldn’t. Admitting my error, I still contend that yesterday’s visit by our failure for a leader was nothing more than a carefully crafted photo op, replete with the usual military props (helicopters and personnel better utilized helping to alleviate suffereing).

I’m really too angry and yes, even stunned by the suffering and misery I’m still seeing plastered across my TV screen. Being angry isn’t enough, however. I need to take action and what is there to do and where do I focus my fury?

First, let me direct you to a couple of websites to get a handle on what we are witnessing—a total colossal failure of leadership of grand proportions. Steve Gilliard weighs in, as do many of the folks posting comments. Chris Floyd’s Empire Burlesque should give you more than enough fuel for some good old-fashioned, righteous indignation. If you aren’t shocked, horrified, and willing to do something to make some necessary changes, then there really is no hope for you.

This isn’t political with me. It’s rooted in my belief that our country has been hijacked and I want it back! I’m a proud member of the working class and I identify with others who might be living in the classes situated below me on the socio-economic totem poll.

If you need anymore evidence that our current system of government is broken beyond repair, then you are a lost cause. It’s time to put away the ideology and get to work. Both major parties have failed us. It’s time to get back to the grassroots and build some local systems that might sustain us, as we move forward into the future.

I got an email from my good friend and sister in solidarity, Jesse Leah Vear. Jesse is the energetic and impassioned leader of a group in Portland called P.O.W.E.R. (Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights). I’m a proud member of this group, but have been on a leave of absence. Her email made me realize I need to get back to the barricades.

P.O.W.E.R., along with other advocates for the poor and working classes across the nation, have issued a call to "Bridge the Economic Gap"; Portland's action with be on the Casco Bay Bridge from 4:30-6pm. People are asked to make some signs and show up in numbers, to call for a universal living wage and economic rights for all. I'm planning on being there, and I hope many others will, also.

As I wrote on Thursday, "The time has come for Americans to wake from their slumber. Today, it’s the people of New Orleans experiencing heartbreak and devastation; tomorrow it could be you and I!"

As P.O.W.E.R.'s slogan states, "Because until justice works for all of us, we all 'gotta work for justice!"

Friday, September 02, 2005

Printing as we speak (write)

[Signing off on the print signature and one of the first runs of When Towns Had Team's cover]

This morning, I was at my printer at 7am. My wife and I were allowed to be on the floor to observe the beginning of production of When Towns Had Teams.

I've put up more photos and a more involved post over at JBIWFY.

Books are slated to ship Thursday of next week and orders will begin being filled over the weekend.

I'm very pleased with the finished product--J.S. McCarthy weren't the cheapest printer, but they certainly are the kind of printer I want my book produced by.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Where's the cavalry?

Since Katrina came ashore on Monday and devastated the Gulf Coast region of the United States, I’ve been following the events closely. Americans (and human beings, for that matter) are able to process that which is personal and close to home, much better than things far away. I won’t spend time here analyzing why that is so, I just want it duly noted.

It defies logic, socialization and personal experience why, in America, fellow citizens are clearly seen on our television screens, in dire need, waving white flags, sending up smoke signals and crying out for help—and help seems to be somewhere else, or in most cases, arriving too late or in proportions I would deem inadequate for the needs at hand.

A major American city, one where many Americans have walked its streets and experienced its wonders, is being beamed into our living rooms and we’re asking ourselves, “what is going on?” Dead bodies are lying in the streets and no one is coming to claim them; rioting and lawlessness is breaking out; police and fire, as well as rescue personnel seem to be present in such small numbers, as to be almost of no help. Meanwhile, I want to state clearly and unequivocally, this is not driven by partisan politics. As I’ve written before, I am a registered Independent and have little use for either of the two major parties we currently have. However, when the current administration, with the blessing of my tax dollars, consistently and brazenly puts me and my fellow Americans in harm’s way, you can be sure that I’m going to say, and yes, do something to change things.

In just another example of the failed leadership at the top of our power pyramid, the disaster south of us indicates the precarious nature of our current democracy. With our president unwilling to make a personal visit, he flew over and viewed the devastation at a safe distance of 2,500 feet. Clearly, this man lacks the most basic elements of human compassion. With the greatest disaster facing our country in the last 100 years, certainly, the scope of carnage and human misery warrants an in-person visit. I don’t care if it’s nothing more than to lend some moral support, this always-on-vacation, boy-sent-to-do-a-man’s job of a president has once again shown himself woefully inadequate and unworthy of the office. His press conference yesterday was one of the worst displays of leadership I’ve ever seen. While most of us have been following the events as they’ve unfolded, he appeared in his usual Rip Van Winkle fashion, as if he’d just been awoken from a lengthy slumber.

Then, you begin to read reports like this one, which indicates to me that his administration has systematically been shifting resources from the domestic sphere, to his pet project, the war on terrah’. Here's a piece written back in May, presciently envisioning the possibility of what could happen to New Orleans if a storm like Katrina hit the area. Does anyone in our current administration do anything other than run around and campaign any more? In the aftermath of 9-11, we are still inadequately prepared on the home front in the area of emergency preparedness.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time putting up links, but if anyone cares, a little bit of research will reveal that FEMA budgets, and other funding that supports necessary infrastructure necessary to protect tax-paying Americans, has been swept away under the leadership of our miserable failure of a president.

Here’s what the New York Times has had to say about George Bush. The Times, which hasn't exactly been unkind to our fearless leader, in an Op Ed titled, Waiting For a Leader, wrote, “George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.”

I’m waiting to see when "President Perpetual Vacation" will leave Washington, DC and head to the site of what appears to be a scene from a B-grade movie from the Cold War era. I’m betting it won’t be until after the Labor Day weekend, and I’m confident it could be much longer than that.

The time has come for Americans to wake from their slumber. Today, it’s the people of New Orleans experiencing heartbreak and devastation; tomorrow it could be you and I!

Here's a photo essay/montage that sums up Bush's approach to leadership.

Addendum: In the category of giving-credit-where-credit-is-due, here at least is one politician who is trying to address issues and concerns. And if anyone thinks that the crisis in the Gulf Coast doesn't affect them, you'll be reminded every time you drive into your local fillling station and wait in line for your $3.00++ gasoline.