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Entries in oil (4)

Saturday
Feb272010

Critical Mass!

critical mass storms fashion valley on bikes on black friday!Critical Mass storms Fashion Valley Mall on Buy Nothing DayLast night I went on the Critical Mass ride, the fourth such ride I've taken part in. Each has been a lot of fun, with the opening part, leaving Balboa Park and maneuvering through Hillcrest or Downtown being an adventure, never knowing for sure where things are going. Last night's ride was an adventure and while some of it was a review of some of the things we've done already in the three previous rides, the one new adventure for me was that finally I was swept up into riding Texas St. out of Mission Valley and into University Heights. Yup, rode up Texas St.! Texas St. was near the end of the 25 mile path the Mass took around town. But I've been working up to it for a while now, riding hills extensively in my various commutes. I fancy it a job well done because with just my fixed gear Globe bike, I was passing all the geared-bike riders who chickened out after exploiting their granny gears for a while and then resorting to walking up the hill, and a few other fixed gear riders who had to do the same because they brought their 52x14 geared race bikes. Oh, they look impressive going DOWN hills that way but a versatile gear it is not. (I'm sort of glad I didn't take the Torelli bike with its steeper gear (46x18), else I would have walked too. Usually that bike is my go-to bike for this type of ride.) I just chugged along at my low 38x16 ratio and then took Texas in one shot! I ROCK!!! It was quite a heavy breather though.

Also, a few weeks ago, I was doing a trackstand at a stop light on the way to work (before 6 am, in the dark, fortunately) and with my shoes still clipped into the still-newish SPD clipless pedals on the Globe bike, I finally fell to the ground from a standstill! D'oh! Fortunately it was not a crowded intersection at that hour and I didn't make too much of a scene. I was told this would happen. I just took five months since I got that type of pedal. I have since relaxed the spring tension as far as it would go so I can get in and out easily! With Critical Mass rides there are enough times when there is a good need to not be clipped in, or to evasively unclip, hence not wanting to ride this bike to such events, lest some stupid topple incident happens in the midst of it all. And I saw several of those last night!

critical mass in the driveway/entry to fashion valley, with a cop. shot from the upper level.CM in Fashion Valley Mall with copsBelow are a few shots of some totally delightfully scandalous moments during the four Critical Mass rides I have taken part in in recent months. These aren't even as outrageous as they come. (The most notorious ride was last summer when the Mass was headed by a few who decided to ride the Coronado Bridge. These are a bit tame by comparison but a lot of fun.)

Halloween Critical Mass at Mission Beach, just before everyone lifts up their bikes with revolutionary fervor. Halloween 2008 is when I heard about the Mass but it wasn't until 2009 that I finally took part. Kelli and our friend Nancy were originally the voices to say 'no, don't ever do that' because they experienced it the wrong way first: in their cars without even knowing what it was, and I think it scared them shitless. Okay, it's 1500 bikes that go for a ride all at once in more or less the same direction for about 30 miles around town. The whole thing fills the streets, and some people do really idiotic things, but many hold firm to the mass and it all chugs along (maybe taking up a mile of roadway at once, I just don't know how long it stretches on for) as if one big vehicle with no driver but for the most fervent riders who get up front and pull it where they want to go.

critical mass bombs the target store in mission valleyCM cuts THROUGH the Target storeFebruary Critical Mass bombs through the Target store in Mission Valley! Yes, we rode through the Target store. The customers were less welcoming than in the rest of the mall. Hmmm. I hope we do Wal Mart someday.

Last November Critical Mass rampaged past the security goons at Mission Valley Mall on the high holy days of the consumer economy: Black Friday! I couldn't resist this shot of a lone goon (on a bike no less) being utterly helpless in the face of all this, just outside their little security office outpost. He'd have more fun if he joined in. Heck, the SDPD rides in the mass too, but more so they can get a feel for the flow of things and radio for patrol car support if needed as the Mass does its winding path through town, often down one way streets and through malls and hotel or airport driveways and such.

The cops have typically functioned as escorts of the Mass but once in a while, the Mass takes them over too! I've been in two Mass rides that have hit Fashion Valley and Mission Valley straight through the heart. Culturejamming and biking are fun when mixed together! I think you have to be there to believe it. Pictures don't do this stuff justice because it all becomes a circus with people yelling and hooting and honking their horns or whatever noisemakers they have. Most of the Mass is still on the upper level with me, not on the ground yet. Others are storming down via the parking garage driveways. I was thinking it might be like the Goths storming Rome.

Fun.

Thursday
Aug262004

Why We Are In Iraq

I just figured it out. Remember how we are out to "win the hearts and minds" of the Iraqis? I know why we must win the hearts and minds of these people.

There is an acute shortage of hearts and brains in Washington, and possibly most of America. Maybe it's less heart in Washington, and less brains in America. Ergo, we need all we can get.

We need all the oil we can get, too. That is why we are in Iraq.

Sunday
Aug012004

Beacon of Democracy

I was just watching Dateline or something like that. The show was about the US policy of specifying the details of how long Cuban Americans could visit their homeland, and also the restrictions on exactly who they would be allowed to see while there (parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, no more), and all this was topped with the regulation that only one of these trips could be made every THREE years.

The talking head/idiot politician who was defending this was saying that letting Americans go over there is a form of propping up a corrupt regime (because they would spend money that ends up in the hands of corrupt politicians. Sounds like the tax Americans pay to their government...), and is unfair to the people who have to live under that regime. We are doing the natives a favor, apparently, and they should thank us. It's good to know that our government thinks oppressive dictatorships are bad, and that they know people suffer under them.

Let's BOMB CUBA!

It worked in Iraq, right? Just think how people are free and safe in Iraq now. Bombing does a lot of good in places like these. It thins out the population in such a way that all fears are allayed and good will is established among the liberators and the liberated. It also gives the people a good chance to build their cities and home anew to modern specs and zoning laws. Dictatorships are bad and must be stopped because they make life hard for peace loving citizens. Good cause for bombing. People everywhere need freedom and peace. But you gotta bomb them first. People need to be in charge of their own affairs. But you gotta bomb them first and set up a government made up of American businessment and idealogues. People suffer from economic sanctions and that is unfair. Bombing will help because then the government won't be there to play the game that got sanctions imposed on them in the first place. But you gotta bomb them first. Truth, justice, and the American Way are sure to brighten the days of the hitherto oppressed. But... aw, nevermind.

So why don't we bomb Cuba? They aint gotz no oil. That's why. There are too many other wars we will have to fight. No sense in squandering men, machines, and money on a place that won't give us more of what we need to rule the world and keep our SUVs going. No sir, we have the central part of Asia to conquer. We used to worry about Cuba because they might let the Soviets waltz on into to our back yard. Now, all we have to do is play little games with them. We have bigger fish to fry now. The Soviet threat is dead, replaced by the uncertainty of who can secure the dying oil reserves in the world, predominately in the central Asian area. The US doesn't really stand opposed to injustice and human cruelty unless there is something in it for us. We didn't give a rat's ass about the freedom and sovereignty of the Kuwaitis in 1900, we just had to stop the neighborhood bully from jockeying for a massive 40% of the world's oil reserves. Even the world community knew that would be a bad thing. No surprise we got the help that time. Maybe we would help Cuba out a little, but you can't run autos on cigars (lit cigars in particular). Well, Castro is just a minor nuisance not worth our time.

But seriously. The US is now in the business of telling its citizens where to go, and when, and who to see? Did I miss something somewhere? I understand the part about telling people they can't come here, but not the part about telling them they can't leave here.

I don't know, is this the America we read about in the history books?

On a related note, I am so glad Bush and his cronies are committed to democracy in Iraq. Would it be too much to ask that he cuts us a sliver? And another one: isn't it a little odd that he is all for free and democratic elections there but stole one here?

Wednesday
May262004

Art Project

For my art class, I presented this huge matting board with three of my anti-war and anti-blood for oil posters, the letter to the army recruiter, and a bunch of artifacts of my grandfather’s—the flag from his memorial, seven spent bullet casings from the honor guard salute, pictures and stuff. It went over well. I had printed out the essay below for people to glue the elements together somewhat. My display was pretty huge. There were about two others that were this big. This caught some attention, and people I didn’t even know came up and complimented it. My essay attached to the display was as such:

My grandfather Norman was a chief on the USS Yorktown (CV-5) aircraft carrier when it was sunk in the battle of Midway in June 1942. He escaped to safety and was looked after in Hawaii in the immediate aftermath. He stayed in the Navy for 20 years and retired, ultimately settling in San Diego in 1952. The Navy made his life possible, being the ticket out of a farm in Ohio. Norman was a patriotic man. I’m sure before he went into the service he was proud, and he never stopped being proud of his service and of his country.

The country he supported then was different than it is now. The war he was in was different than the war we fight now. The war he fought in was the most brutal that humankind has ever known. There was nothing to be cheery about. There was however, a perception of who was definitely right, and who was definitely wrong. The Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were forces that needed to be stopped in that war. More specifically, let me say the underlying ideologies needed to be stopped. Anyhow, my impression of the national position on the war was that there was unity in purpose, because there was a clear enemy to face off against. Ah, the good old days. Now who knows the enemy we face? Is it the Taliban? Is it Iraq? Is it the Muslim world at large?

Or is it that which we never stop to think about—the reliance we have on resources to sustain our way of life? Our population is about 300 million in a world of over six billion. Yet our consumption of resources is outrageously out of proportion. Our tentacles reach all around the world, and seemingly any resources are ours if we can legislate, litigate, or now, launch a war to get what we want. Oil is obviously the hot topic now, but we use too much of almost any resource available. What we have is an unsustainable way of life. And worse.

We have gotten a long way from where we were when my grandfather was young. His farm life, something that his ancestors had lived, was modest but sustainable. People could go on living that life as long as history itself, just like they already had. The war in which he fought turned the world upside down, and left this country in a position of power, which went to its head, apparently. The postwar boom gave us the prototypes of much of what we see and experience as life today, from suburbs to fast food to automobiles for everyone. In good times, such as we experienced, no one thought the need to be sensible about consumption. As long as we ordered something and it came to us, this would be the case. Automatic this and a pre-made that made a lot of people happy, but over two generations has left a lot of us unable to imagine a world without all the accoutrements we know now. It has also led us to an unconscionable amount of hubris, which has provoked the ire of the people who need to give up their ways of life so that we may live ours.

poster with gas octane stickers indicating the effect of gas use: some soldiers lose an arm, a leg, or a life.September 11, Afghanistan, and Iraq didn’t just happen. They may or may not be related in the details, but are related in the big picture. Our national thirst for oil has led our government to act on our behalf, and as we all know now, sometimes rather foolishly. The capital the government has at its disposal is great, but the moral case for going to war is weak. Stripped of pretense, this war is being fought for oil. It is being fought so that some people (remember, only a 5% portion of the world’s population) can live large, at the expense and frustration of everyone not invited to that party. Blaming the government is fun, but remember, they are going to bat for us after all. Our reliance on oil is driving their foreign policy, and their foreign policy is having a disastrous effect. We have had many opportunities and developments that could reduce that dependence, but no one talks too loudly about actually just using less. That is a personal decision. It is a personal decision to carpool, ride a bike, take the bus, or walk. It is a personal decision to make fewer trips, or to buy fuel-efficient cars. It is a personal decision to (as that bumper sticker says) “live simply so that others may simply live.” The president may be dumb as a doorknob, but his industry is great because we have decided to use their product, and, as you can see, the oil men will literally go out of their way to supply us with their product.

This war in Iraq is utterly unconscionable. It is founded on bad evidence, conspiracy and greed. The democracy we supposedly were to bring is only to ensure a certain stability in the region so that we might be able to have freer access to the oil. Democracy, as an ideology, doesn’t take root in a country because it was delivered at the end of a gun barrel. It develops because the people choose it. There may be Iraqis who want democracy, but they want it on their terms, at the pace they can be comfortable with. Our war is not going to be an instrument of that. This is the first aggressive war we have fought, and this, on a sovereign nation that only tangentially had anything that might threaten us. Pearl Harbor was a threat. Saddam Hussein was not.

My grandfather fought on the side of a nation that believed in freedom, justice, and all that great stuff we read about in government class. He served proudly, the same as our men and women in uniform serve even today. But what are these new soldiers defending? If my grandfather’s generation fought to defend their farms and communities, what are we defending? If my grandfather’s generation fought to keep the world safe from aggressors, what do we defend, now that we are the aggressors? If my grandfather’s generation fought so that forces of good could unite against evil, then what does it say when the USA unilaterally acts without conscience against the more sober and considered judgment of the United Nations?

The United States, though never innocent of much, did have a reputation in the world for being the peacemaker or the fairer judge, based on our founding principles of equality and justice. Few nations in the world have what we have—respect for at least attempting to do the right thing. This war in Iraq was not the right thing. This has run up a karmic debt so high our grandchildren won’t be able to pay it off.

Norman died on July 4th, 1996 at the age of 83. It was an appropriate day for a man like him. Independence day. It was something he believed in, something he fought for, and something he ultimately gave us.

Please don’t squander the gift.