Saturday, June 26, 2010

Music Streaming In

Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkins are singing "Company of Friends" right now with Esther Golton playing flute at a Whole Wheat Radio house concert in Talkeetna,Alaska. It's a moving song to friendship and belief and wonderfully done. If you catch this post in the next hour or so, check it out at Whole Wheat Radio.


When I die, let them judge me by my company of friends
Let them know me as the footprints that I left upon the sand
Let them laugh for all the laughter
Let them cry for laughter’s end
But when I die, let them judge me by my company of friends

When I die, let them toast to all the things that I believe
Let them raise a glass to consciousness
And not spill a drop for grief
Let the bubbles rise at midnight
Let their tongues get light as thieves
And when I die, let them toast to all the things that I believe

I believe in restless hunger
I believe in red balloons
I believe in private thunder
In the end I do believe

I believe in inspiration
I believe in lightning bugs
I believe in slow creation
In the end I do believe

I believe in ink on paper
I believe in lips on ears
I believe what's shared is savored
In the end I do believe

I believe in work on Sundays
I believe in raising barns
I believe in wasting Mondays
In the end I do believe

I believe in intuition
I believe in being wrong
I believe in contradiction
In the end I do believe

I believe in living smitten
I believe all hearts will mend
I believe our book is written
By our company of friends

Copyright 2007. Words and music by Danny Schmidt.


Realilty Check

For all those who worship at the altar of the capitalist free market, the reality of America's economy these days should test their most deeply held beliefs. (*) Far from creating the rising tide of wealth that lifts all boats, the past three decades in America have been a time of increasing concentration of wealth for the few and immiseration for all the rest. And now, the nation faces the difficult task of picking up the tab for years of excess by business and the wealthy, paying for a party from which most were excluded.

But the public gets the bill for it all. Simply look at the financial bail-outs, loan guarantees and (virtually) free credit and tell me that those so-called private investment decisions did not come at the public expense. Yet, when it came to taxes to provide for know, "general Welfare" (it's in the Constitution with a capital W), the rich bankers and all the rest of the monied elite were well sheltered by tax cuts, exemptions an financial shelters.

The bankers are hardly alone. Listen to the platitudes of big business as its spokesman asserts that government remain on the sidelines of the national economy as the pile up profits while workers lose jobs, homes and savings. Here too, the concentration of wealth ably assisted by 30 years of no-tax, no-government ideology has wreaked the lives of many to the advantage of a few. Speaking of Ivan Seidenber, Business Rountable chair and chief executive of Verizon Communications, Steven Pearlstein writes in the Washington Post
...[W]e now have plenty of experience to indicate that even when taxes and regulatory costs are cut, companies are just as apt to use the money to increase compensation for top executives, or pay out higher dividends to investors, or mindlessly bid up the price of other financial assets, as they are to invest in genuine growth-enhancing new products and processes. Nobody should understand that better than Seidenberg, whose industry managed to vaporize hundreds of billions of dollars of other people's money during the telecom bubble of the 1990s.

Readers here should not be surprised that I side with the public, acting through elected government, to regulate and control business and finance. Few activities are as central to a healthy society. A just and fair economy is a matter that is appropriately the interest of many, not just the few. The nature of any economy is that at any given time, some will have an advantage in resources and influence over others and, like all human beings, they will have every reason, save for their own conscience and moral code, to use that advantage and influence to their own ends. History has taught me not to trust in others' conscience, so I look to my government to provide a check on human nature.

It's a risky choice, I know. But the alternative--relying on good will and good intentions of he corporate-monied class--is even worse.

(*) Okay, I know it won't. The nature of ideology is that it will always find a convenient explanation whenever reality fails to validate their promises.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Hey, Buddy! Looking for a Sweet Deal on Some Weapons?

The Washington Post today carries an article about the rash of defense contractor advertising that has become common in the DC media. The mass of commuters who pass ads in Metro stations aren't exactly in the market for a new littoral combat ship or jet fighter. Nonetheless, defense contractors think it's worthwhile to make the effort.

Of course, the whole point is visibility with the expectation that the ads will provide some margin of favor for their sponsors. In reality, most of the people who are exposed to the ads have neither interest in nor influence over the contracts to be awarded. But that's okay as far as the contractors are concerned. They have plenty of money. Ads for combat systems in subway stations make combat part of everyday life.
But even if you don't sit on a House or Senate subcommittee, the ads may still be working on you in subtle ways. Repeated exposure to an advertising message has a cumulative effect, slowly shaping attitudes over time, says Angela Lee, a professor of marketing at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "The more you're exposed to it in your environment, the more you're internalizing the message," she says. "You start to take it for granted that this is normal."

In other words, heroic images of the latest firepower may contribute to a generally positive climate for military contractors and Pentagon spending in Washington -- a point that isn't lost on antiwar activists. "This absolutely isn't a fair fight," says Dennis Lane, executive director of Veterans for Peace, an organization that promotes alternatives to militarism. "The defense industry has the money to shout louder than anyone, and it just keeps pushing for more. It's a self-perpetuating cycle. It just keeps going and going."

Ah yes, the business of war, without which the United States would have little else to export. We no longer manufacture much of anything and our economy is in shambles. But America does seem to have plenty of money when it comes to weapons. Just look at the numbers discussed in the article and then look to see if anyone is complaining about deficits when it comes to weaponry. You won't hear much beyond the objections of groups like Veterans For Peace. Frankly, I'm surprised that an establishment organ like the Post even included the quote from VFP. Usually such voices are roundly ignored in those circles.

The article actually describes the real purpose of these weapons: killing. The ads, on the other hand, are more discrete.
Defense ads also are striking in the way they resort to euphemism when discussing the principal attribute of most kinds of military equipment -- their efficiency in killing people. Code words like "dominance," "powerful" and "strength" crop up frequently, which makes them sound like copy for a sports drink. Moreover, it's never clear who's supposed to be on the receiving end of these impressive instruments of warfare. Some ads speak darkly of "emerging threats," but the enemies are never named.

Back in political science school, I learned about the Iron Triangle of special interests, Congressional committees and bureaucracy. These ads tell me that nothing has change in the past half century.

War. It's good for business.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kinda Sorta Velo News

This is a challenging weekend for cycling here in Olympia--mostly overcast with showers. I took a chance yesterday between showers and got out for about a 15 mile ride (complete with a stop at the California Taco truck for a post-ride burrito). Riding on a gray, wet day has its charms. The light is very subdued and not many people are out. In all, it would have been a fairly uneventful ride.

Except for the aircraft. This weekend is the Olympic Air Show at the airport just south of town so the skies were abuzz with the sound of military aircraft. My place is under the flight path for the airport; many of the aircraft flew overhead as they approached for landing. It's not everyday I see a C-17 low in the sky over my balcony.

Even more noticeable was the sound of aircraft, especially the fighter jets. I rarely saw the them but I kept stopping to look for them as I rode. The engine noise made it sound like they were just overhead when in fact they were some distance. What surprised me was how attuned I am to those sounds. If it had been the rotor slap of a helicopter, that would not surprise me. But it seems if my brain is simply wired to look for aircraft, regardless of make, model or purpose.

So far today is quiet. Maybe everyone's in church.