Archive | August, 2013
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Say No 2 War (from the Iraq era, but it’s good now and always)

30 Aug

NO2WAR

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Obama Needs to Think SERIOUSLY Before Committing Us to an Unwinnable War in Syria

28 Aug
Questions for President Obama — Before He Pulls the Trigger on Syria (via Moyers & Company)

Let us posit that the Syrian government did, in fact, order last week’s chemical attack that killed hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women, children and others who had not taken up arms against the Assad regime. In Washington, the eagerness…

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Liberty State Park, a Photo Essay

27 Aug

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If you are familiar with Liberty State Park in Jersey City, then you will probably recognize the scene in the above photograph. It’s the walk way along Audrey Zapp Drive leading into the park. If you aren’t familiar with the park, then that photograph gives you an idea of what you might see when you visit that part of the park.

What of this scene?

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Yes, I DID take that photo when I was in the park. But I don’t remember where I was standing when I took that photo and have no more than a vague idea of how to get back there. That photograph is so very specific as to exact time and place that there is almost no change that that scene could be duplicated in another photograph. One could surely photograph another scene more o less like it in the park. But one could also take a similar photograph in any of thousands of other places. And yet that is a photograph of Liberty State Park.

So, what does it make to take a photograph of Liberty State Park? One photo can be used to jog one’s memory of the place, or to set expectations of what you’ll set when you get there. The other is very specific, and it evokes a mood, a feeling, one you can find IN the park. But is it typical? Does that matter?

The next photo is like the first in that it shows a recognizable feature of the park, the Liberty Science Center:

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And this one is like the second; it was taken in the park, but could have been taken any one of many places:

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And then we have this photo: Continue reading

What Really Ails Detroit – NYTimes.com

16 Aug

American manufacturing has been in trouble even since its heyday, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the United States was the global economic powerhouse and American assembly-line workers earned very decent middle-class wages.

That era of prosperity was not, as is so often claimed, the manifestation of the American dream. Rather, it was, or should have been, a warning sign that America was riding a fleeting wave of progress. Almost nobody was looking hard enough to the future and asking what it would take to sustain success.

The reason so many manufacturing-sector workers in the United States received such high pay at that time was not that they had exceptional skills or had received superior training; it was that the corporations for which they worked were unsurpassed in their dominance and generated huge revenues.

But that dominance was, to a considerable degree, a momentary quirk of history: the absence, in the wake of World War II, of any real competition from other nations.

via What Really Ails Detroit – NYTimes.com.

Breaking Bad: Breaking Men from the Inside

15 Aug

By now zillions of atoms have be scattered on the internet to the end of explicating Breaking Bad. I’ve read some of that, but not much. Breaking Bad‘s Moral Lesson to Civilians, by Alex Horton, is the best that I’ve read.

While I’ve found the show compelling, sometimes more, sometimes less, I couldn’t make sense of it. Yeah, it’s one of those new-fangled high-quality TV series, like The Sopranos, that’s, you know, dark. The other “dark” shows that I’ve seen (say, Deadwood or The Wire) nonetheless managed to make sense to me. Breaking Bad, compelling, but why?

Horton offers a compelling reason:

Walter, along with several of the Breaking Bad characters, exhibits a term many of us in the military and veterans community have come to understand as a moral injury, and the show profoundly explores the concept in a way previously unseen in film and television. Of course, virtually no troops or veterans have much in common with the criminals in the show, but the reaction to traumatic events is universal, be it in war or a fictional universe.

To be clear, a moral injury is not a psychiatric diagnosis. Rather, it’s an existential disintegration of how the world should or is expected to work—a compromise of the conscience when one is butted against an action (or inaction) that violates an internalized moral code. It’s different from post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of which occur as a result of traumatic events. When a soldier at a checkpoint shoots at a car that doesn’t stop and kills innocents, or when Walter White allows Jesse’s troublesome addict girlfriend to die of an overdose to win him back as a partner, longstanding moral beliefs are disrupted, and an injury on the conscience occurs.

As he chokes the life from Krazy-8 with a bike lock [early in the first season], Walter enters a distorted moral universe where killing and death become the currency of his trade.

That I can understand. It makes sense. Continue reading

How to Really End Mass Incarceration – NYTimes.com

15 Aug

This is a start, but let’s wait and see.

Starting in the 1970s, a domestic “war on crime” dominated by antidrug policies and racial profiling fueled a prison-building binge that is morally — and now financially — bankrupt. Both political parties embraced draconian policies like mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes laws and wide disparities in sentences for possession of crack versus powder cocaine. The result: by 2003, the United States had 4.6 percent of the world’s population but 22.4 percent of its prison population — even though violent crime started dropping in the 1990s. Prospects for reform looked bleak.

So I was elated when Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Monday that the government would commit to reducing the bloated prison population. This is without precedent: the nation’s top law enforcement official directed all federal prosecutors to exercise their discretion toward ending the relentless warehousing of inmates — the vast majority of whom are minorities — in federal prison for low-level drug crimes.

via How to Really End Mass Incarceration – NYTimes.com.

The Wrong Lesson From Detroit’s Bankruptcy – NYTimes.com

12 Aug

When I was growing up in Gary, Ind., nearly a quarter of American workers were employed in the manufacturing sector. There were plenty of jobs at the time that paid well enough for a single breadwinner, working one job, to fulfill the American dream for his family of four. He could earn a living on the sweat of his brow, afford to send his children to college and even see them rise to the professional class.

This is important, very important. It SHOULD NOT take 80 hours of work per week (a full-time job for each parent) to support a family. Families need more nurturing, and, frankly, most jobs destroy the soul.

via The Wrong Lesson From Detroit’s Bankruptcy – NYTimes.com.

Jersey City, a Photo Essay

1 Aug

If you had to portray Jersey City in only a dozen photographs, what photos would you choose? I took a crack at that this morning and failed. It took me sixteen photos. Here they are, with light commentary.

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I think of that as a Chamber of Commerce shot, or a postcard shot. It’s slick, bright, and cheery. But it’s also real. That’s the Jersey City that’s been getting all the attention, the Jersey City of Big Money high-rise buildings on the waterfront.

This is Jersey City from the other side:

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When you drive into downtown Jersey City heading to New York City by way of the Holland Tunnel, that blither of signs is what greets and guides you. For tens and hundreds of thousands of commuters and travelers, that’s all there is to Jersey City.

And this Jersey City is hidden to most, but it’s near to my heart:

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The graffiti is first class and, like almost all graffiti, it’s transient (as are we). Some homeless men got embroiled in a conflict several months later and set fire to one another’s stuff (see it there in front of the wall?). These pieces were badly burned and are now underneath several more layers of paint. Continue reading