Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Peter the Prescient

Politics is loaded with people who love power for its own sake. They're the reason change is often so slow and hard. Sadly, longevity in politics is more about playing things safe than taking brave stands. So when a politician puts their career-building aside to stand for something that matters, it's something to celebrate.

Peter Steinbrueck, who has been on Seattle's City Council for a decade, could clock year after year doing good things at City Hall without ever drawing a serious opponent until he eventually becomes Mayor. And being that rare politician who really is motivated by principle, that would be OK. A little boring maybe, but OK.

Instead, he's opted out of re-election this year to focus on transportation policy. “At this time," he says, "I believe it is more important to fight against a new era of auto-dependence than to spend this time on my own re-election campaign.” At this time in Seattle that means opposing both the tunnel and viaduct rebuild options in favor of the surface transit alternative. Living up to his father's legacy to Seattle is a challenge Peter has always worn with grace, and I believe that this is absolutely the fight that needs his leadership at this time in our city's history.

It's nearly impossible to fathom the centrality of denial to our culture. Oil is a non-renewable resource, and most of the world's oil fields have already peaked. This means that they have reached the point at which more than 50% is gone, and what's left can only be extracted at greater expense for declining output. US fields in the lower 48 peaked in 1970. Alaska peaked in 1988. Canada and Mexico have also peaked. Much of the world's remaining oil is located where we must kill for access. Iraq's oil reserves are the largest in the world, and remain mostly untapped.

As oil grows more expensive and scarce, ways of living that assume cheap and plentiful energy will change. It is by no means an exaggeration to say that world peace and environmental sustainability both hinge on naming and confronting our addiction to oil.

I am amazed that tunnel proponents and viaduct rebuild advocates who all claim to be looking out for future generations don't see the writing on the wall. Car culture is doomed. Mass transportation and a more sustainable organization of home, work, and the production of necessities is the future.

Across the street from where I live in Shoreline is a baseball diamond that hosts little league games thoughout the spring and summer. Parents of kids from Queen Anne to North Bothell and Woodinville line our street with cars. The majority of these are always SUVs, or huge trucks that no one needs unless, perhaps, they are employed in the building trades.

Around late summer, The SUV migration ends, and we start seeing the ultimate frisbee folks. They arrive in their little subcompacts, run around the field for awhile, and then go. Some of them even arrive on bikes or by bus. They leave a very light footprint. They are the future. Peter sees that. So should we all.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Rachael's taking piano lessons."

Of the four Change Perspective public service announcements that Wongdoody made for Real Change in 2004, this one has always been my favorite. The misery of the cold rainy day on which this was filmed, the weight of the script, and the rawness of the emotions make this a truly uncomfortable 30 seconds.

In the other PSA's, the participants are kind of playing at their lines. This one, however, feels dead serious. Our volunteer professional seems to be struggling, while the volunteer Real Change vendor seems angry but emotionally flat, like she's too tired to care. I don't know what they were feeling. I never asked and it was a long time ago. But whatever it was, this one, to me, is more unsettling than the others.

These PSA's were recently updated with our current logo and brought out of retirement. You can view the others at multimedia page of the Real Change wiki.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Dangerous Asshole

I can't bring myself to write the President's name. Not even in the diminutive form. "Dubya" inspires tedium prior to one's arrival at the second syllable. Even the late, great Molly Ivans' "shrub" has grown trite through sheer overuse. He, like Yahweh, is so overwhelmingly awe-ful, that His name should remain unpronounced for all time.
This is why, whenever this blog refers to the President of the United State, I will refer to his Himness as 4DH. This is shorthand for "Fourth Degree Hemorrhoid," or, clinically speaking, a hemorrhoid that is always outside the anus and cannot be pushed into the anal canal.
This may not be perfect, but it's the best I can do at the moment.
Here's the simple truth that no one in Congress can or will say. 4DH and the oil interests that he and his cronies represent cannot, will not, and won't retreat in Iraq, no matter what. There's too much at stake.
If the US doesn't control oil in the region, someone else will, and chances are, they'll hate us. Unacceptable. If that happens, these enemies are unlikely to continue to buttress the US economy by trading oil in dollars. "Euros, yen, yuan, whatever," they'll say. "Anything but the dollar." This would devalue our over-extended currency, sending the economy into a serious skid. Unacceptable. We'd be forced to rethink the logic of our dying empire and come to terms with the limits of force. Unacceptable. Unthinkable. Over 4DH's dead body. And even that wouldn't help much.
So, what will 4DH do? Escalate. Deepen. Embroil. Get us so entrenched in a regional conflict that the only way out is through.
While Democrats prattle on disingenuously about "Iraqis standing up as we stand down," 4DH and his gang of thugs are playing for keeps, and they have a paradigm that actually makes sense in the real world.
Until we all get blown up, anyway.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Daddy's Girl is a Rocker

Twin B and Dad, jamming out on some acoustic death metal.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Build-a-Bear: The Horror

One of the hazards of parenting is the black hole of kiddie consumption. When Baby Einstein founder Judy Aigner-Clark says she loves "making babies smile," what she really means is that exploiting the bottomless well of American class insecurity is a great way to become fantastically rich.

My twin three-year-olds will never enjoy Gymboree's confidence-building competitive edge. They are mired in self-hatred and will never work at Microsoft. I am to blame.

Normally, I keep these things far, far away. But, Christmas was two months ago, gift certificates must be used, and today was a rainy Saturday. So off to Build-a-Bear we went.

As we joined the long slow line of parents and toddlers therein, I came to understand how evil teddy bears can be.

Imagine a teddy bear store that maximizes profit by combining the efficiencies of the modern factory with the allure of limitless personal choice, as experienced by a toddler.

As one enters, you are immediately confronted with a bewildering array of bears. You choose a model, pull your limp bear-shell from the bin below, and then wait in line to get the thing stuffed at a machine that blows polyester filling. For $3-8 extra, you can stick a voice box wherever you like. Then, with actual bear in hand, you head to the "workshop," where various accessories (hats, pants, shirts, guitars, purses, etc) run from $3-12. "My bear needs shoes!" wailed little Twin B. These were plastic pieces of crap that cost $7. Since when do teddy bears need clothes anyway?

During the 45 minutes in line, Twin A rearranged every item in the store while Twin B grew hysterical at the idea of her bear being stuffed. She had a point. The whole thing was fucking weird.

But we were there, and we had a job to do. I took Twin A out to romp among the balloons in an off-limits display area until mall security made us stop. Upon our return, I cleverly distracted Twin B while Carolyn and Twin A did the deed.

We skipped the freaky computerized product registration that would have given the bears "birth certificates" and fled. Two bears, no accessories, and one surreal hour in hell: All for just$49.

Shave Your Balls for Jesus

More proof that the best stuff on YouTube is not necessarily the most popular.

First Post

"Apes-ma, Apes-ma ... your cage is too dirty Apes-ma.
Remember when you were young Apes-ma, and you used to break out of your cage?
Well you know that you're not strong enough to do that anymore now.
And Apes-ma, the little girl that named you years ago is dying now.
And you're older Apes-ma. Remember when she named you and it was in the paper Apes-ma?
Apes-ma? Apes-ma you're eating too much, and you're going to the bathroom too much.
And Apes-ma. Your cage isn't getting any bigger Apes-ma."
Captain Beefheart, Shiny Beast