Wednesday, September 28, 2011

WHEN I WAS A BOY



THEN:

When I was a little boy, I lived with my family in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, a town on the Orinoco River.  At times we would drive to the capitol city of Caracas, or to Maracaibo, where, as I recall, we would take a Grace Line boat back to the United States.  Both drives are quite long, even longer with the poor roads and the car tires of the years ca. 1946-50; rarely did we make the over 600 km. drive without at least two tire changes.

However, my strongest recollection of the trip was driving through the oil fields somewhere outside of Caracas and, most definitely outside of Maracaibo, which has some of the largest oil fields in the world.  Because of the length of these trips, we always entered Caracas or Maracaibo in the evening, and my most powerful memory was of gas flare-offs illuminating the distant night sky.  Bright tongues of fire, rising for what seemed to me like hundreds of feet, dotted the landscape beyond the relative safety of our road.  

Gas Flare-off from an oil rig

To me, these flare-offs were like threatening, prehistoric beasts, and I would feel uneasy until our car would leave them behind.  I was somewhere between the ages of seven and ten during these Venezuelan years, a fairly innocent young lad.  Still, I questioned my father about those flare-offs.  I would ask:  “Isn’t it a waste of perfectly good gas?”   “Why can’t they find some way to pipe and contain it?”   “Can’t they turn it to use for the people living in the region?”

I don’t recall many specifics from my father’s answers to my questions, but, essentially, he said this is the way oil extraction work is done, that the burn-off of gas is also done as a safety precaution,  and, anyway, there is no easy way to bottle or contain the gas.  Now, this latter statement, coming from a man who had taught me, early on, “never to say never,” did not sit well with me.  I thought:   “So what if it may not be easy?”   “There must be a way to contain that flare gas, and we should find that way to avoid such a waste of resources!”

But as the oil fields disappeared from view, I would drop the subject and accept my father’s explanations.  After all, my father was a highly-educated geologist and the head of iron ore exploration in Venezuela for US Steel.  Still, to this day, in my mind, the flame-off is a metaphor for thoughtless corporate greed, lazy technology, and inadequate science.  It reeks of complacency and sloppiness.

Now, keep in mind, these were the thoughts of a young boy under the age of ten.  The environmental movement which had its beginnings in the nineteenth century had waned by this time;  DDT was still the pesticide of choice; and Rachel Carson had yet to awaken the world with her wonderfully popularizing books, The Sea Around Us (1951) and The Silent Spring (1962).  Not that this particular boy, in 1951, would have ever read The Sea Around Us; reading, back then, was far from his favored activities, such as combining tree branches, strips of rubber cut from Mack truck inner-tubes, and leather patches to make slingshots, climbing mango trees, and taking pot shots at iguanas. 

All I was doing with my questioning was simply giving free rein to my common sense.  It hardly takes a grown-up or a college education to distinguish activities that are destructive from those that are constructive.  Common sense, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary constitutes “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way.”

To me, those gas field flare-offs were neither reasonable nor safe.  And today, we have the data to prove this to be true.  Canadian researchers have measured more than sixty air pollutants carried downwind from natural gas flares, and among the air pollutants released, according to a California study of 2001, are: benzene, formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, including naphthalene, acetaldehyde, acrolein, propylene, toluene, xylenes, ethyl benzene and hexane. [for more on oil industry harmful pollutants, see my blogpost “Our Water & Fracking, Sunday, February 6, 2011]

Moreover, these pollutants are merely the icing on this destructive “cake.” The cake itself is the tons of carbon dioxide and methane that are major contributors to global warming and to the (very likely) eventual destruction of life on earth.




NOW:


But that was then, you may say. This is now. We have learned better. The environmental movement grew once more after the publication of Carlson’s Silent Spring (1962), and today’s world can even boast of green parties that promote sustainable societies based on environmentalism, social liberalism and grassroots democracy.

And yet, oil field flare-offs still exist. The worst examples are in Russia, Nigeria and Iran, but they can be found anywhere where oil is being extracted from the ground. In the past decade, Nigeria has received the most press, and rightly so. Shell Oil’s operations in the Niger Delta have polluted the region for decades, destroyed the lives and livelihood of the native tribes, most notably the Ogoni, and threaten the health of our global environment. Those operations also led to the murder of the now legendary and internationally-recognized activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa.



Boy walking past gas flare-off near Port Harcourt, Nigeria

In an article written in 2010 on Nigerian oil production, Daniel Howden refers to the “destructive and wasteful practice of gas flaring” and notes ironically that “the gas flares, some of which have been burning constantly since the 1960s, are visible from space. In a country where more than 60 per cent of the people have no reliable electricity supply, the satellite images show the flares burning more brightly than the lights of Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos.”



Howden goes on to observe that the Nigerian flare-off, “If put through a modern, combined-cycle power station...could fuel about a quarter of Britain's power needs. It is equivalent to more than one third of the natural gas produced in the UK's North Sea oil and gas fields and would meet the entire energy requirements of German industry.” So, while our global oil corporations pretend to be the champions of western (and global) energy needs, they also disregard those needs and continue to squander potentially vast energy sources because they don’t want to spend any extra money to harness them.


Since Russia leads all countries in regard to the volume of flare-off, its pollution is even worse, although it most likely causes less deleterious effects on the local populations than in the Niger Delta.



Russia, natural gas flare-offs

But what of our country, the United States? My childhood memories in Venezuela were awakened by recent events in America: specifically, in yesterday’s New York Times. There, Clifford Kraus wrote an article titled, “In North Dakota, Flames of Wasted Natural Gas Light the Prairie.” I could hardly believe my eyes.

North Dakota, natural gas flare-off

Kraus writes that, in North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields, on a daily basis, “more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared this way - enough energy to heat half a million homes for a day.”  He goes on to observe that, “all told, 30 percent of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned as waste. No other major domestic oil field currently flares close to that much, though the practice is still common in countries like Russia, Nigeria and Iran.”

How could this be happening in the United States of America?  Don’t we have regulations?  Even Nigeria has regulations:  flare-offs have been illegal there since 1984, only Shell and those in power whom it pays off simply ignore the laws. 


Of course, with our democratic system of checks and balances, our lawmakers can’t be bought off.  Well, at least not in the way of Nigeria, which is simply to turn a blind eye to illegal activity.  In America, our lawmakers have to work for their bribes.  They have to draft and then pass new bills that weaken governmental regulations, thus enabling the large corporations to do as they please with our land and its resources.  It’s all quite legal.

Our lawmakers, Republicans in particular, just let the major energy corporations help them write new legislation.  Dick Cheney’s task force, charged with developing America’s energy policy, held secret meetings and relied on the recommendations of Big Oil:  Exxon, Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil, BP America and Chevron.  Moreover, during the Bush/Cheney years in the White House, “the oil and gas industry has spent $393.2 million on lobbying the federal government.”  [on our politicians appeasing large corporations, see my blog post “America’s Corporate Dragon,” Saturday, April 2, 2011]

Most of this money went to Republican members of Congress.  For example, in the 2006 election cycle, oil and gas companies contributed over $19 million to political campaigns (82% to Republicans); in 2004 it was over $25 million (80% to Republicans), and in 2000 it was over $34 million (78% to Republicans).  Some of this money surely purchased the weakening of regulations on flare-offs, and there’s not much that we can do about it except to vote in many more environmentally-conscious politicians.  The situation in America today is as dire as ever.  As Dan Froomkin has written, “Now that the House is controlled by the GOP, Obama's proposal [to repeal the enormous subsidies to the oil and gas industries] is deader than an oil-soaked pelican. Over the last decade in particular, the Republican Party's anti-tax policies and pro-drilling campaign rhetoric have become nearly indistinguishable from those of Big Oil.”

Thus, at North Dakota’s Bakken shale field, as Clifford Krauss notes, “the widespread flaring is a step backward for a domestic energy industry. Most oil and gas fields in the United States have well-developed facilities to gather and process gas. But the recent rise of shale drilling has changed the economic calculus....[and] in the Bakken, drillers have found it more profitable to just grab the oil and burn the gas.


Natural gas flare-off, Bakken shale field, North Dakota

We have better solutions to managing natural gas emissions. One can reinject it back underground. One can convert it into liquid fuel (although this is an expensive option). And one can convert it into jet fuel (a much more affordable process). But these solutions require a strong will, and such a will needs to be backed by strong regulations, which we no longer have.

Corporations do not willingly spend money on the common good. Instead, they spend money on television ads like the one making the rounds today in which Exxon geologist Erik Oswald assures us that fracking is harmless, that “technology has made it possible to safely unlock this cleaner burning natural gas...[that] these deposits can provide us with fuel for a hundred years...[and provide us with] energy security.” Oswald is photogenic and handsome; he looks at us and speaks so earnestly; it’s hard not to believe him. However, he is lying to us. One cannot “safely unlock” this gas any more than one can claim that the flare-offs are necessary or are safe.

I don’t know what we ordinary citizens can do. We don’t have the money to buy back our politicians (both the 80% who are Republicans and the 20% who are Democrats). We can’t afford to hire four lobbyists for every member of Congress, as Big Oil does. We certainly can’t rely on Congress to do what’s right for America and our earth, especially when half of these supposedly educated people find it convenient to deny the findings of hard science.

However, we are in danger of destroying our planet in the very near future, and the activities of the oil corporations are playing a major role in this destruction. Within the next twenty years, we are likely to reach the tipping point when nothing we can do will reverse the process set in motion by our irresponsible and greedy activities. Kevin Schaefer of the US Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO states in regard to global warming: “Our research shows that the release of carbon from permafrost will result in an irreversible climate tipping point in only 20 years... Once the frozen carbon thaws out and decays, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost.”

What are we to do?  A blog post like this won't reach many people (and what if it did?).  Anyway, it's too long for most readers (my apologies).  Maybe what we need are more naive, eight-year-old boys in charge of the world's oil corporations--or at least eight-year-old boys as young sons of the presidents of those corporations, exercising their common sense by asking their dads some tough questions about what they are doing to insure the future of our world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wall Street, September 17: Notes & Observations


At noon on Saturday, as one url headline announced, “Thousands to protest on Wall Street for US Day of Rage September 17, 2011.” There certainly were hundreds (and Bloomberg News estimated about a thousand), but hardly “thousands,” who made their way down to lower Manhattan. Since the event had been part of a floating discussion on the internet for some time, "New York’s Finest" had sufficient warning and were out in force, blocking access to Wall Street for all but those with legitimate reason for entry.

The activist group Adbusters had begun discussions of this event in early July and, harboring visions of an American Tahrir Square, had hoped that 20,000 people would “flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.” No wonder the police were ready with barricades. In Tahrir Square, that many people might seem a drop-in-the-bucket; in the narrow confines of Wall Street, they would be sleeping three-deep on top of each other!

But the issue was moot, as one can see from the three photos below.




An Empty, Barricaded, Wall Street (seen from Broadway)

Wall Street with Police Redirecting People

Exchange Place, also Barricaded and Inaccessible

Once thwarted from entering Wall Street, everyone naturally gravitated south to the bottom of Broadway. However, one group seemed content to confine itself to the few blocks of Broadway around Wall Street, stopping to unfurl its banner promoting the Glass-Steagall Act and, on cue from its choral director, breaking into patriotic song.

As I focused my camera, I began to sing the Star Spangled Banner with them. Then my eye caught the identifier at the bottom of their banner, “larouchepac.com.” My accompaniment stopped abruptly.  I had been seduced, through song and sentiment, into joining an activity of an organization I otherwise distrust, if not detest!



LaRouche Choral Group

Still, I was with the LaRouchers, not only in the momentary act of singing, but also in their stated purpose: The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 had established the FDIC and regulated bank speculation. Unfortunately, sixty-six years later, this Act was repealed through the machinations of three Republicans, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act effectively removed those protections that had separated investment banks and commercial banks. In so doing, this new act opened the door to our present financial crisis.  So yes, in this instance, I joined the LaRouchers, or at least held out hope for some new version of Glass-Steagall.

But then, one of the male singers in the second row held up a despicable banner reading “Invoke the 25th Amendment” and picturing President Obama with a Hitler mustache.



LaRouche Choral Group Revealing their True Selves

Their true, deluded nature shattered their seductive singing, as they continued to beat old, nonsensical horses: last year Lyndon LaRouche--hardly someone whom I would call mentally competent--had called for Obama’s removal from office for mental incompetency; his tool of extraction would be the never-invoked Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It’s the birthers in another guise!

One might ask why the LaRouchers were at this otherwise progressive demonstration. But then, after a look at the demonstrators and the range of their causes, one might just as easily ask, “why not?”



Code Pink Demonstrators, Broadway

Here, for example, is Code Pink, a women’s organization which promotes peace and social justice and, in particular, places its focus on ending wars and changing our militarism.




Veterans for Peace Flag, Crowd, Bowling Green

Or here, we see the flag of Veterans for Peace. One encounters their members often at local demonstrations, at least in New York City. This organization was founded in 1985, with a national office in Saint Louis, MO.  It’s objective is “to raise public awareness of the true costs and consequences of militarism and war--and to seek peaceful, effective alternatives.”




Bradley Manning Sign, Bowling Green
Then, there were several people who were championing the cause of Bradley Manning.  Manning, as many of us recall, was the Army soldier arrested in Iraq in May of 2010 on suspicion of passing restricted material to WikiLeaks.  He remains in solitary confinement in a brig in Quantico, VA. 

Among the material leaked were two videos, one of airstrikes in which US helicopters attacked a district in Iraq, killing Reuters war correspondents and innocent citizens, and another of a US airstrike in Afghanistan, known as the Granai Massacre, in which a village south of Herat was attacked (apparently in error), leading to one of the highest civilian death tolls caused by western action since the war began in 2001.



Troy Davis Signs, Broadway

Throughout the mass of demonstrators, one could see signs pleading for leniency in the case of Troy Davis.  Davis is scheduled to be executed by the State of Georgia later today (Wednesday, September 21) for the murder of a policeman, even though there are major doubts about his guilt: no physical evidence has connected him to the murder;  no murder weapon has ever been found;  seven of the original nine witnesses have recanted, and of the remaining two, one is highly suspect and the other may in fact be the murderer.


This case has spread far beyond our borders and is seen as an example of the corrupted justice system in America’s Deep South. On September 17, there were ten events in France alone protesting the execution,  and rallies began in Hong Kong and carried on in other parts of Asia, Latin America and Europe.



America Is Not Broke Sign

Here, in a veiled challenge to Republican hypocrisy regarding the economy, national debt, their refusal to raise our debt ceiling and their proposals for a balanced budget amendment, is truth in a nutshell: America ain’t broke; it’s all a ruse, a smokescreen. 

The statement apparently was taken from Michael Moore’s speech of early March, delivered to the protesters in Madison, WI.  In it, Moore pointed out that “today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.”  In other words, 400 individuals possess more money than 155 million people. This should be a national embarrassment.

The organization listed at the bottom of the sign, usuncut.org, has focused its efforts against corporate tax cheats and unfair public service cuts.



Guy Fawkes Masks

Along with Adbusters, which operates without a central planning committee or even a website, another group associated with encouraging this march on Wall Street is Anonymous. It was formed in 2003 and is dedicated to using the internet to promote civil disobedience while remaining hidden.

Anonymous is a form of international, decentralized collective that manages to operate in a coordinated way to accomplish self-agreed goals.  Many participants of Saturday's demonstration wore these Guy Fawkes masks, which I suspect is a reference to Anonymous. However, they wore them as caps on top of their heads because it is illegal for more than two people to wear masks in public.  I confess to asking these three young men to wear their masks over their faces in order to make this photograph.  Guy Fawkes, of course, was the English revolutionary who plotted to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the British throne.




View Down Broadway to Bowling Green

Police Car and Charging Bull

Charging Bull and Policemen, View North from Bowling Green

The now famous Wall Street Bull, here protected by a police cruiser from the front and several policemen from its rear, is actually titled Charging Bull.   It was designed and cast by the artist Arturo di Modica after the 1987 market crash and represents, in the artist’s words, "the strength, power and hope of the American people for the future."

Di Modica clandestinely installed it on the night of December 15, 1989 in front of the NYSE and in the middle of Broad Street. As he had no permit, the statue was impounded, but within six days, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern had it moved to its present spot at the foot of Broadway.  Stern neither consulted the Arts Commission nor the Community Board, 
as is required by law, before reinstalling the bull.  Di Modica has not been able to find a buyer for it--Merrill Lynch and Standard and Poor’s declined to purchase it for the city--so it remains on loan from the artist. This, despite the fact that art on loan to the city is limited to a year’s display time. 

In essence, the Charging Bull, now a fixture and a tourist favorite, is a perfect symbol for Wall Street and our big banks: it is an entity that gets its way and doesn’t play by the rules.




Unloading More Barriers, State Street and Bowling Green

Bowling Green, Crowd

Puppeteer: Our Economy Is Modeled On A Cancer

As a place for a demonstration, Bowling Green certainly is more pleasant than Wall Street would have been and it, too, offers symbolic meaning to political activity. In the 17th century it served as a cattle market and parade ground, but in 1733 it took its present form as a teardrop-shaped park. It contained an equestrian statue of King George III, and this was torn down in 1776 by the Sons of Liberty.

In these three photographs above, we see, first, more barriers being unloaded and erected around the outer edge of the park. Rumor spread that demonstrators best leave the park before the police “penned” them all in, but I suspect that was paranoia triggered by dusky memories of events such as the Democratic Convention in Chicago of 1968 or the Kent State shootings of 1970 (or possibly I’m just dating myself!).   The other photographs show the crowd milling just outside of the park’s fence and a puppeteer manipulating a broken, toy doll as an emblem of our economy--two of the many activities that were taking place in and around Bowling Green park.




No More Corruption in Chinese, Portugese, Norwegian

Corruption of the moneyed interests certainly was a main theme of the demonstrations, and here we get some of the event’s international flavor. As the US Day of Rage organizers stated: “Unfortunately, free and fair elections are a thing of the past in America.  Because of recent Supreme Court decisions, money is flowing freely and unaccountably into the American electoral process.  Elections will be swayed by interests opposed to those of the United States.  Corporations, even those owned by foreign shareholders, will and do use money to act as the voices of millions, while individual citizens, the legitimate voters, are silenced and demoralized by the farce of American Democracy.”



Reverend Billy, Bowling Green

Reverend Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping is always a striking presence. As more barriers were going up around Bowling Green, he called out, “Are you penning us in or penning us out?” Later, he would give a short, inspirational sermon to the crowd from the steps of the National Museum of the American Indian, culminating in shouts of “Change Alleluia.”



Need Must Trump Greed

The perceived greed that drives Wall Street as well as our large corporations and banks certainly is undermining our society and creating a world of increasing economic disparity. It also is not simply an American problem. It is global. On this same day of September 17, for example, the indignados of Spain joined with the indign├ęs of France as part of a global action against the banks.



Call for a True Democracy

What does seem to be particularly prevalent in our United States today is the undermining of our great democracy, even at the grass-roots level, as can be witnessed in the actions of Republican governors in several states, such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Maine, to name just a few.  This fellow’s sign may be simple and crude, but its message is spot on: we do need to revive a true democracy in America.



Prayer Circle, People not Profits

Vietnam Veteran, Steps of National Museum of the American Indian


Saturday’s demonstration was peaceful and completely law-abiding, as far as I could make out. Despite the appearances of the Veteran with the megaphone, the messages were reasonable, the delivery respectful. Many demonstrators referred to a group calling itself the NYC General Assembly, and they handed out a leaflet entitled “Occupy Wall Street: Legal Information.” This enabled all present to know their rights as well as to know what they could and could not do. 

This event generated an enormous amount of positive energy, maybe because it wasn’t focused on some very specific complaint. As Nathan Schneider wrote in a piece that asked who would be occupying Wall Street, it “seems to be an aesthetic more than anything, a longing to see Wall Street full of the people whose concerns its operations have been blind to, and who are ready to get their due.”

Whatever the intentions of its various organizers, this event made me proud to be an American and a New Yorker. 

The final six photographs, I hope, offer a sampling of the wonderful, anonymous citizens of our country who came from all over, intending to camp out on Wall Street.  Of course they were thwarted in that, yet they happily assumed new roles that I hope  will, each in her/his own way, work to regain that “true democracy” that we have been losing of late.



Wiljago (from Oakland, CA)
Those 39 countries Wijago lists all spend more on education that does the United States. This is beyond tragic.





Zack (from Long Island)

Zack came in part through computer alerts from the group Anonymous (although I have no idea whether I actually ever met someone from Anonymous).  His message couldn’t be any clearer.



Rheannone (from Brooklyn)

Dissent is frightening and likely to meet with righteous indignation, but it is patriotic, even if (under certain, narrower legal situations) it may be seen as wrong.



Rafael (from the Bronx)

Rafael is holding a sign against the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United Case, but I was attracted by the orange button directly above that reads, “Fight Like An Egyptian.” Very clever!



Margaret (from Baltimore)

Margaret was passing out announcements for the October 2011 Movement (see October2011.org) calling for a demonstration in Washington, D.C. on October 6, 2011.  It is in support of peace, social, economic, and environmental justice and against corporatism and militarism.



Greg (from Pittsburgh, PA)


I love this hat of Greg's. "There's no government like no government." It says it all.  How can anyone consider voting for people, like Rick Perry for example, who call for the destruction of government?    How much lunacy can we afford to support and still remain a great country and major world force?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Party Against Its Country


In today’s New York Times’ Op-Ed Section, Helene Cooper and Jennifer Steinhauer wrote an article titled, “Obama Offers Jobs Bill, and the G.O.P. Balks,” to which most of us would respond, “and so, what else is new?”

Doing what they do so well, which is to invoke the specter of fear of anything the opposition offers, one House Republican staff member sent out an email with the subject line, “Beware the Tax Man.” And then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA), always ready with a monkey wrench to toss into the works, warned that no Republicans would support Obama’s bill if it involved any tax increases and then proceeded to wrap himself (once again) in the cloak of “the American people.”

Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) quickly added that Obama’s proposal “doesn’t appear to have been offered in...bipartisan spirit.”  This bit of willful insanity, of course, disregards the fact that for the past two years Obama has bent over backwards to try to bring bipartisanship to the fore, only to be rebuffed by the opposition party every time. In fact, I imagine that the image much of the country shares in this regard is that of Charlie Brown [Obama] once more trusting Lucy [Republican, any/all] to actually continue to hold the football so he can kick a field goal. 






In a wonderful bit of irony, the Republicans--today’s version maybe being the most inflexible group of politicians our country has ever witnessed--are accusing President Obama of being too inflexible, according to Cooper and Steinhauer.

This is what we have come to expect of today’s Republicans: when presented with a reasonable solution by their opposition and unwilling to admit to its reasonableness, they project their own unjustifiable behavior onto the opposition. So now Obama, who has frustrated his base and most of his own party with what it sees as his naive belief in the merits of being flexible, is suddenly characterized by Republican leaders for being too inflexible!

But let’s allow this most recent attempt by President Obama to work with the opposition party for the good of the country to fully develop. President Obama still has to present the full version of his Jobs Bill and the Republicans still need to give us something more substantive than their normal, reflexive piss and vinegar.

Instead, let’s reflect on what this once grand Party of Lincoln has become. An epic topic this is, but I will restrict myself to a single example (for now), and let a Republican speak.

For 28 years, Mike Lofgren has been a dedicated Republican Congressional staffer, and for the past 16 years served both the House and the Senate Republicans on their Budget Committees. But he recently retired, as he has written, because “the pernicious ideas they [mainstream Republicans] represent...impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill.”

Lofgren’s essay, publlished on September 3, 2011 and titled “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” is truly frightening as it lays out the willful disregard for Americans, our democracy and our Constitution.

I read it with the intention of selecting a few of the most revealing quotations; but I soon gave up on this because I encountered at least one such quotation in almost every paragraph. So, instead, I simply urge you to read this essay and conclude with his last paragraph.

In it, Lofgren writes that, to the extent that “Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America's status as the world's leading power.”  If you were only to read one essay on contemporary American politics, Lofgren’s is that essay.

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult” ought to be required reading for every concerned citizen of this country. God help us. The Republicans sure won’t.




Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11: A Visual Memory

In my last post, I hinted that I would not return to regular postings until after the U.S. Open.  However, in honor of tomorrow's day of remembrance, I decided to post a few of the photographs that I had taken of the World Trade Center tower and of the aftermath of that horrific event of ten years ago.


World Trade Center Towers from Liberty Park, New Jersey
In the foreground is a detail of the War Memorial by sculptor Nathan Rapoport, dedicated in 1985.  We see the legs of an American WWII soldier who is carrying a concentration camp survivor (whose hand dangles at the top right of the photo).  It is dedicated to America's role in preserving freedom and in rescuing the oppressed.



World Trade Center Tridents

A detail of the peripheral steel columns, so closely spaced as to create a structure that was defined as a rigid hollow tube.




Lost in Fog
The Towers enshrouded in fog, seen from the east with the Municipal Building by McKim, Mead, and White in the foreground.  Capping it off is the gilded statue of Civic Fame by Adolph A. Weinman.



September 23, 2001

I came to New York nearly two weeks later to find this, a still smoldering, blackened hole.  Nothing near the site was accessible.  The building with some window damage on the right background is in Battery Park City.  All the buildings in lower Manhattan were still covered with soot, which enabled them to serve as "chalkboards" on which to write words of support and sympathy. 



Visiting Ground Zero

In the photo above, we see a view several years later, once the site had been cleaned and fenced off in preparation for new construction.  It had become a pilgrimage site, and thousands of people from all over the country and the world visit it daily.


The following photos below are of the fence that encloses the yard of St. Paul's Chapel, which is the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City.  Because of St. Paul's proximity to the site of the Towers, the church became a place for recovery workers to rest and recuperate.  It's fence became a place on which flowers, banners, written words, art and all manner of memorial objects would be hung in dedication and celebration.



St. Paul's Chapel, General View of Fence

St. Paul's Chapel Fence with Boots of Fireman McLaughlin and Other Memorabilia




Message from Antrim

The hand-written letter reads:  "In loving memory of so many innocent people who lost their lives on that terrible day September 11th 2001.  God bless their families and friends....from Jonathan & Wendy Saorise McAuley, Dunloy, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland."



Mourning into Dancing
This composition encompasses three main images:  a reproduction of a Byzantine Madonna on the left, a pair of ballet toe shoes in the center, and a corner of the American flag on the right.  The owner of the shoes, one Beth Ann Maslinoff of Gainesville, Florida, wrote in ink on the right shoe a verse from Psalm 30:  "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing."



Wall of Prayers: Bellevue
The entire city became a place for impromptu memorials, not only those nearby sites in Lower Manhattan.  Underscoring the personal tragedy of 9/11, many of the more distant sites were pleas for information of loved ones.   Above, a policeman stands guard outside of Bellevue Hospital, where a quasi-official wall of missing people was put up and covered with plastic for protection.


The remainder of the images are from other parts of Manhattan from the East Village, Gramercy and Murray Hill.



Wall of the Missing


Wall of the Missing: Sunflower


Missing Kit...Please Call




Call Waiting
This phone booth was on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 26th Street--in the left background one can see the 69th Regiment Armory.



Signing On
In these last two photos, we see a long frieze-like print of the Towers and other buildings of Manhattan. Above, a man signs his name to it.  Below, a detail reveals some of the text and the several languages in which contributors wrote messages, including one in Chinese.



It Will Take All of Us, detail of Signing On