Monday, 30 April 2007

Moyers Interviews Stewart

So John Stewart is just a comedian. Yeah, but he's a pretty smart one!

Interview with Bill Moyers. By the way, I have had the pleasure of checking in Mr. Moyers to my hotel, and he is a very gracious and lovely gentleman. This is a fantastic interview, and there are some splendid questions asked.

Stewart: "It's hard to feel the difficulties our military families face – sometimes you have to put yourself in somebody's shoes to get a sense of that. One of the things I think government counts on is that people are busy. It's very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it's over a really crucial, foundational issue that forces a kind of tipping point.

Moyers: "Like the war?"

Stewart: "It really hasn't affected us here in the way that you would imagine a five year war. Here's the disconnect, and I've always had a problem with the rationality of it. The President says we're in the fight for our way of life. This is the greatest battle of our generation and the generations to come. Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and children's children all suffer. So what I'm going to do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad. So there's the disconnect between saying this is the fight of our generation, and increasing troop strength by ten percent. I'm sure what he (the President) would like to do is send 400 thousand more troops, but that would mean instating the draft, and the minute you do that, suddenly the country is not so damn busy anymore. And then the public really fights back and the whole thing falls apart. So the government has a very delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we're doing and really examine the way they've been waging this."

My comment on the above: We're not at war. The only real war being waged here is a class war, and what is left of the middle class is getting the shaft. We are an occupational force, period. The occupation of Iraq must indeed go on as long as our economic interests lie therein. We have no plan on "winning" the "war", because once we do the Iraqis may start to question what we are doing there – at least after they stop fighting amongst themselves. And then we'll have a real war as long as we insist upon running their country and controlling their biggest national resource, petroleum. Indeed, the President is right when he states that our way of life depends upon the invasion and occupation of another sovereign nation. What the current American regime (most Democrats included) does not offer is anything visionary or creative in regards to building an even more equitable, and democratic future for the world. And that is their biggest sin; thinking only for momentary profit and gain at the expense of human life, which they hold little regard for unless it is their own. Eventually we are going to be forced to 'fess up, and deal with the problems we've created – the only question is how long we're going to put it off.

8,000 Gallons of Gas Melts Overpass

Click the picture for a link to the SF Gate article.

Over $30,000 worth of unleaded fuel does over $10,000,000 worth of damage and ties up traffic for months. Now that's a bad day at the office, eh? Or in this case, behind the wheel of your tractor-trailer. Solely the driver sustained injuries, which is incredible. Had this happened during rush hour it would have been absolute carnage.

I wonder why these big rigs are even allowed on such roads. Freight rail surely would be better. I don't wish to place the blame here, since mistakes are made and tragedies occur regardless of whether or not the best plans are laid out. However, this should just go to show how very tenuous conditions are. All it takes is one sleepy driver. Actually, I am constantly amazed that the world seems to work most of the time considering how we seldom bother to do our homework.

Our Governator's answer: Free rides on public transit tomorrow. That's a great idea. Why don't we make public transit free? The fares that are collected only pay a fraction fo what it actually costs to run, and the entire fare collection process and bureaucracy behind it just serve to slow down service and penalise or hinder ridership.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Petition: Halt the Blue Angels

Sign the petition:

Welcome to the Monkeysphere

Yous can click on the picture to be redirected to the article.

Interesting article and amusingly written. Any and all comments are welcome, as always.

Cheers! My little monkeys.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Save Our Chocolate

I realise this is not the most pressing issue in the world. However, for those of us who love chocoalte and do not fancy consuming an altogether different confection made with vegetable oil and god knows what other chemical additives, we would at least appreciate the manufacturer be honest enough not to call it "chocolate". Thank you FDA! Ya think this might be slightly deceptive to the consumer? Deception under the Bush regime? – nah!

Cliquéa la foto

Friday, 27 April 2007

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Carfree Scenes

Strøget, Denmark

Freiburg, Germany

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Fascism in 10 Easy Steps

It should be fairly obvious to any conscious person of average intelligence who has read history and is relatively well informed of current events that during the past six years of the Bush regime, we have all but lost any semblance of democracy in the United States of America. This has nothing to do with cars, but nonetheless I commend it to you all. The Guardian.

Let's Ground the Blue Angels

Should we continue to allow the Blue Angles to perform aerial acrobatics over our densely populated urban center?

Add your two cents here.

Fellow blogger SFMike has an intriguing piece on the subject, as well as his admirable exercises of civic duty.

You can read my comments on SFGate, but I'll sum up my points succinctly here.

1.) Aerial acrobatics performed over cities are disruptive and disturbing to the peace.

2.) Such has the potential for disaster, and puts lives of citizens in danger.

3.) Such displays are wasteful of fuel and send a pro-war message that help propagate further destruction of our planet and continued warfare that trivializes human life.

4.) There is no practical value or need for such displays.

5.) And lastly, residents of this city have the right to voice their opinion and the government is obliged to follow such opinion.

A Fellow Anglican's Opinion

Churchtimes opinion letter. This was sent to me from a good friend who happens to be one of the most inspirational people I have met in regard to living without an automobile, and in other ways as well. She has managed to live thus far without a car, and she doesn't even live in the city. As a single individual, she has done more to save this planet than most of us ever will.

Friday, 20 April 2007

High Speed Rail

High Speed Rail, three beautiful words. I just have one question, "What's taking so long?" There's some really cool computer generated animation here folks.

According to one statistic, we use 320 million gallons of gas per day in the United States. That works out to roughly a gallon of gas per person per day. Now this next bit is not scientific research, it is educated conjecture. Let's suppose for a moment that half of that fuel is used for industry and agriculture. That leaves us with half a gallon that we can assume is used mainly for personal transportation. Now let's imagine for a moment that half the current motoring population of California makes the decision to go car-free, or car-light. We now have a quart of gasoline per California resident that is being conserved. Now for the sake of argument, let's give half that away and say we have only a pint of gasoline conserved per day per resident of California.

Following me so far? The price of gas in CA is roughly $3.30 per gallon as of today. There are about 35 million residents in our lovely state. According to our rather conservative estimate of a pint of gas per resident, that gives us a figure of 4,375,000 gallons of gas conserved per day by choosing not to drive our cherished automobiles. Multiply that amount by the cost of fuel and you'll see a savings of 13 million dollars per day. After a year that is an astonishing savings of 4.79 billion dollars! In a span of seven years the savings in gasoline alone could fully fund such a multibillion dollar project such as the California High Speed Rail. If this money is redirected to such a project, that means that it could presumably be constructed with no extra cost to the residents of California and without ballot measures or bonds. If such savings would continue to be used for building of infrastructure and paying for the costs of the operation of such high speed trains, such subsidies would make such travel affordable to all citizens of the Golden State.

We have not even begun to talk about the number of high paying jobs created by such a project, and the way in which the California economy could be stimulated. We are long overdue for such visionary projects. Our bridges here in SF Bay were built seventy years ago! We cannot afford to wait for the rest of the country. Once again, California will lead the way.

Imagine taking a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours, for let's say, $40 round trip. None of this is a pipe dream. Such a scenario is completely feasible.

E-mail to a Friend

Good to hear from you! I did not design my page as a guilt-inducer, it is simply consciousness-building. I'm just trying to get people to think about things. Most of us (myself included) tend to never really stop to question why we do certain things, nor do we ask the question if it really is the best thing for us to be doing.

Living in most U.S. cities without a car is next to impossible, since everything has been designed around cars. My proposal is that we reconsider how we design cities, and how we can restore existing cities to pedestrian & cyclist friendly places. I used to be in the throes of a true love affair with the automobile. I spent a small fortune on cars. One of these days I will sit down and attempt to calculate just how much I spent on cars from the time I learned to drive (1981) until the day I gave away my last car (2000). In those two decades I bet I spent close to 150 grand. Them's plenty of bus fares! For heaven's sake, you can buy a house for that in some parts of the country.

But something happened to me. Years later, I realized just how much I no longer missed owning a car. I realized how well I was living without one. A whole new world of new-found freedom had opened up to me. Not to mention, I seemed to always have cash – something I seldom had before!

I now realize even more clearly how we are quite literally brainwashed from an early age into accepting some pretty big absurdities. I also am beginning to draw parallels between the automobile and a loss of individual autonomy, civic responsibility, and "commons", or public spaces, which in turn has led to a degradation of urban life, democratic representation and equity. I also can see the parallels to consumption and waste of natural resources (namely petroleum), Corpofascist wars in the Middle East, and degradation to our natural environment.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Automobile Ownership: Just Say No!

I decided upon the onset of this century that I would no longer require or own an automobile. My partner and I are beginning our eighth year without the many restraints of automobile ownership. We are both fortunate enough to live within a ten minute stroll to our workplace (we work in the same hotel). That is twenty minutes per day that we spend walking to and fro. We don't even have to rely upon public transit. We currently live in San Francisco – a city known for public transit, albeit far from efficient – and rather easily circumnavigated and pedestrian friendly. However, we lived in Miami for two years without cars also, and we managed to figure out a relatively easy commute on rail. It takes some creativity and planning and some personal sacrifice to live without a car, but I propose that the advantages by far outweigh any small loss of momentary freedom. Allow me to highlight the advantages of remaining outside the automobile industry loop.

1.) Economic advantages:
These are many. We are a working class, blue collar household, and even though we are living without children, it takes both of our salaries to pay the basic necessities of life – namely food and shelter. We like most people in this country live from paycheck to paycheck. Home ownership in the cities is prohibitive for us, but rent tends to be more affordable, so we rent. If we were to choose life in the suburbs, undoubtedly we could rent something for less, and it would likely be larger than the one bedroom apartment we now have. Yet to do so would require that we own at least one car. Since we do not have the economic means of purchasing a new car, that would mean financing one at a high interest rate. We then would have to purchase the most costly insurance. Even if we decided to purchase a used car, then one has to factor in higher maintenance costs, and the unreliability of such transportation. There are registration and smog fees. Gas is soon to be $4 per gallon here. Even if we were not to commute by car, it is almost always necessary to drive to the train station, in which case parking is yet another expense. And we have not even discussed time lost during one's commute, which would be close to two hours per day in the best case scenario. All this said, we would be better served by ownership of two cars in such case as our shifts do not coincide, or if one need to run errands on his day off. So for the sake of argument, let's say we purchase one economical new car and one fairly used car. Let's assume we commute by rail and limit our driving to the most essential errands.

Cost of automobile #1: $15,000 financed over 60 months, or $350 per month.
Approximate cost of insurance for 2 cars: $200 per month
Gas & maintenance: $200 per month
Registration/licensing & other fees: $100 per month
Approximate commute costs: $200 per month
Time spent commuting: 80+ hours per month

Right here one can see that by a very conservative estimate, we have over $1,000 per month dedicated to automobile ownership and over 80 hours of lost time in order to either rent or purchase a home in the suburbs. Now one can work in the suburbs, but due to the nature of suburban living, a car is still pretty much a necessity. So one could save time, but the economic forecast remains. A two-bedroom apartment in the city is around $2500 per month. If one rents in the suburbs, the monthly rent could drop to $1500. Notice that the difference in rent is offset entirely by automobile ownership. And more than likely, it would indeed cost more to live outside the city, even with savings in the cost of food and household items that one generally sees in the suburbs.

2.) Psychological & Health Advantages:
Obviously living without a car is more conducive to healthy living. First of all, one tends to walk. Walking is the main activity that human beings have engaged in since before we were homo sapiens. Walking is an amazingly efficient mode of transportation. As a matter of fact, it is the most efficient means of transportation nature has designed. Humanity did one up nature with the invention of the bicycle. However, the automobile is amazingly inefficient and destructive to the environment, both in its manufacture and its operation. One of the most life threatening things we all do on a regular basis is to drive our car. Even with seat belts and airbags, driving has been shown statistically to shave off 19 minutes of one's life for every hour of interstate/freeway driving and 8 minutes for every hour of city driving (not to mention the danger to pedestrians!). Ironically, cardiovascular disease and obesity are the biggest killers, and much of that could be prevented by living a life other than the sedentary one many of us now live. Get out and walk daily. Driving is a highly stressful activity, especially when one is stuck in traffic and running late. I oftentimes wonder just how much impact this has on productivity at work and anger and rage within households. However, all this stated, most American cities and towns are not built for pedestrians. I commend a fantastic website: This is a wonderful resource. Buy the book.

3.) Environmental Advantages:
Ivan Illich published an article in "Le Monde" in 1973, entitled "Energy & Equity". It is available online.
It goes without saying that automobiles have had a tremendously negative effect upon the environment, both in their manufacture and operation. Petroleum is a natural resource that is quite literally wasted in making of fuel for automobiles. The greenhouse gasses and other noxious substances emanating from tailpipes is doing plenty to degrade our quality of life. We are now fighting "corporate wars" over petroleum in order to maintain our current paradigm. Lives are being needlessly terminated, science is ignored and underfunded, democracy itself is at stake, our environment is being plundered, we are borrowing upon our grandchildren's futures and all this for the sake of driving the latest model of S.U.V., or as I prefer to call them, S.A.V. (Suburban Assault Vehicles). Once one opts out of the current automobile paradigm, it will begin to shift. The more people that do this, the more resources we will have for alternatives. We can no longer afford to continue in the direction we've been headed. Now is the time for immediate action.

Get out of your car now. Stop helping support terrorism by walking to work.