June 2005


Water Tower, SOHO, NYC

I’ve often wondered why many buildings in NYC have these ancient, wooden water towers on top.

But why should you wonder when you have Google?

From How Stuff Works:

In a city, tall buildings often need to solve their own water pressure problems. Because the buildings are so tall, they often exceed the height that the city’s water pressure can handle. Therefore, a tall building will have its own pumps and its own water towers. In the following picture, taken from the Empire State Building in New York City, there are at least 30 small water towers visible on the tops of these buildings!

Another interesting fact about water towers — they can affect your insurance rates! During a fire, the water demand increases significantly and may greatly exceed the capacity of the pumps at the water plant. A water tower guarantees that there will be enough pressure to keep water flowing through the fire hydrants. Fire insurance rates are normally lower in a community in which the water system has water towers.

What are our favorite theofascist terror-supporters up to now?

Joseph Braude, writing for TNR, says that our Saudi allies have been blackmailing oil-poor Middle Eastern nations into allowing Wahhabis to spread their message of hate. He suggests that we should diminish their influence in the Middle East by promoting alternate energy sources in oil-poor nations like Jordan and Egypt.

Gee, maybe we should do the same thing for ourselves.


Trent Trelenko at Winds of Change believes that the Saudis may have hit peak oil. He quotes from this article, Saudi oil bombshell, by Michael T. Klare:

For those oil enthusiasts who believe that petroleum will remain abundant for decades to come – among them President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and their many friends in the oil industry – any talk of an imminent “peak” in global oil production and an ensuing decline can be easily countered with a simple mantra: “Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia…

…But now, from an unexpected source, comes a devastating challenge to this powerful dogma: in a newly released book, investment banker Matthew R Simmons convincingly demonstrates that, far from being capable of increasing its output, Saudi Arabia is about to face the exhaustion of its giant fields and, in the relatively near future, will probably experience a sharp decline in output. “There is only a small probability that Saudi Arabia will ever deliver the quantities of petroleum that are assigned to it in all the major forecasts of world oil production and consumption,” Simmons writes in Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. “Saudi Arabian production,” he adds, italicizing his claims to drive home his point, “is at or very near its peak sustainable volume … and it is likely to go into decline in the very foreseeable future.”

The problem is, our govenment’s mantra, “Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia” is, like most mantras, a mystical incantation, a comforting reptition based on faith, not reality. As a result, reality and facts are unlikely to affect it.

The Guardian’s Mark Lawson has his panties in a bunch about the “galloping spiritual inflation” in the American “theocracy”.

The open religiosity of US society has always been a shock for European visitors, but it feels as if the rhetoric is intensifying monthly in a sort of galloping spiritual inflation. Last week an 11-year-old boy from Utah disappeared during a scout camp. After four days in the wilderness, the child was found, thirsty but perky. It’s true that even British phone-ins in these circumstances would have freely invoked a “miracle”, but the public comments of the boy’s relatives and family friends resembled scenes from Iran of the ayatollahs unexpectedly dubbed into American..

I can see what he means – in New York last Sunday, shocking religiosity was all over the place. Coincidentally or not, the Billy Graham brigade was in town during Gay Pride week. Here’s a photo of the resulting clashes between religious leaders/Ayatollahs and gays.


Catholic gay rights supporters

Open religiosity was judging the parade!

Some of our all-American mutaween were there.

This blatant rainbow-hued theocratic parade included the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, NYC Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gay Men, Inc. (PFLAG), the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center,
an assortment of gogo boys and girls from clubs throughout the city and Republican Mayor Bloomberg.

The Guardian’s Lawson concludes :

So perhaps, as Billy Graham sits at his special lectern, calling on New Yorkers to come forward for Jesus, he will wonder whether an America which seems to be the answer to his prayers has in fact sold its soul to the devil.

So, whose side is Lawson on?

An insightful analysis of radicalism: From Norm Geras’ Writer’s choice 4: Linda Grant

[Linda Grant, novelist and journalist, discusses Vivian Gornick’s The Romance of American Communism.]

The men and women who gathered in the evenings at the Gornick house were all immigrants, arguing in Yiddish about Marxism, class history and the single overriding question addressed to every topic: ‘Is it good for the workers?’ Vivian would point to the people round the table and ask, ‘Who is this one? Who is that one?’ And her mother would whisper, ‘He is a writer. She is a poet. He is a thinker.’ Of course, the writer drove a bakery truck, the poet was a sewing machine operator and the thinker stood pressing dresses all day long in a sweat shop, but because they were in the Communist Party they were no longer nameless drones, without rights; they were linked up to something really big which extended to every part of the world, the revolution round the corner. A better world…

Gornick pierces the soul of radicalism. She sees it as born of an innate need to defeat isolation, the struggle of us all to humanize ourselves and what that leads to, engagement. But engagement itself can lead to violence, and violence leads to the very isolation that radicalism seeks to overcome. Political emotions are as much a part of the political experience as the actions that are a consequence of them. The Romance of American Communism has been the text that has been the hook on my own soul, that inability to let go of the passion for a better world, and the distrust I feel for the dogma that socialism always hardens into, moved far beyond that originating light. For what Gornick exposes is the cruelty of the communist movement, how the leadership always hardens into hierarchy. One former member confides:

I had been a devout Christian and now I was a devout Communist. I have always responded to structured authority in this way, once the idea behind the authority seemed absolutely right to me.

The Party denounced, humiliated, spat out its members. They landed, dazed, bewildered and wounded back in Eisenhower America, and suffered for the rest of their lives the pain of that loss.

Gornick writes of the ‘eternally frustrated pursuit of the ideal’.

Apple Blueberry Crisp

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 can of blueberries or 1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oats, rolled (raw)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup butter

Put apples & blueberries in shell baking dish and sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine dry ingredients, add melted butter and mix until crumbly.

Do not sample the sugar/oats/cinnamon mixture. it is the most heavenly stuff in the world, and you’ll eat the whole thing, leaving nothing for the crisp. Resist.

Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

..I first tried this recipe in Britain, and there are many yummy variations. You can use apricots, peaches, pears, just about any fruit that you fancy. To make it properly English, top it off with Bird’s Custard.

If there’s no Bird’s available, Cool Whip or Whipped Cream are fine. If you want to be a total Yank, top it off with ice cream.

Makes six servings

The kind and insightful neo-neocon tagged me a while ago. Although this took more time than it should have, I’m glad to be tagged. I’ve gotten into a fairly deep rut lately, writing about politics and little else. I majored in English literature, but most of what I read lately is online. Not a good habit.

Total number of books owned

We’ve lived in many places. Every time we move we have many heavy boxes filled with books. Judging from our complaints and the complaints of friends and moving men who dealt with those boxes, the total number should probably be measured in tons.

Last book I bought

Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-‘Arabiyya: A Textbook for Beginning Arabic, Part One – for my Arabic Class

The last book I read

Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip by Jim Rogers.
Financier Rogers travelled around the world with his fiancee and a few web geeks in 1999. He decided to use a Mercedes because most third-world mechanics know how to fix them. Foreign NGO’s and their attempts to stop “poverty” have given random dictators plenty of money to throw around. His evaluations of Iran as an investment opportunity (he thought it was a good idea until he found out how much influence the Mullahs have), his optimism about China and his very accurate descriptions about the ups and downs of a road trip made the book a lot of fun.

Five books that mean a lot to me

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Markham grew up in Africa and was basically unsupervised by her father. She grew up with the native kids, worked as a racehorse trainer and found ultimate freedom as a pilot. She was the first pilot to successfully cross the Atlantic from east to west, against the headwinds. (Not the first female pilot, the first pilot). As a person who led the kind of life I fantasized about since I was a kid, her story is a favorite.

Holidays in Hell by P.J. O’Rourke
The funniest and most honest travel guide ever. I bought this when it first came out, back in the ’80’s, and it was my first break away from the grim prison of being politcially correct. Everyone I knew said “how could you buy this book? He’s a Republican”. I’d say “Read it, it’s funny and it’s true”. None did. Shades of things to come.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen W. Hawking
Hawking does his best to explain the most far-out theories of Quantum Physics in terms that the non-physicist can understand. It’s a great reference book for anyone who is wondering when we’re going to get transporters, warp drive and time machines. I mean, it’s the 21st century already. What’s taking so long?

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
A wonderfully cynical portrayal of the mind-numbingly dull life of a London-based political activist. Conrad portrays him and his Comrades as what they are, bitter, destructive losers.

The Stand by Stephen King
Yes, the movie blew chunks, but the book is a masterpiece of character development, entertainment, apocalyptic good vs. evil fiction and plot. Some of King’s later books were a lot bigger than they should have been, but this huge book was just right.

Books I’ve given away

In general, I exchange political books with my husband, classic literature with my daughter, aviation-related books with my son & husband, comics with my father and mysteries with my mom. Again, too many to count.

Passing it on – if you’re reading this and if you’re inspired to comment or post, feel free.

Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

“I am charged with doing what’s best for the 26,000 people that live in New London. That to me was enacting the eminent domain process designed to revitalize a city … with nowhere to go.”
Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, supporter of the use of Eminent Domain to seize private property for private use.

“L’Etat, c’est moi”
17th century French monarch, Louis X1V (1638-1715), in opposition to those who wanted to maintain a separation of powers with its guarantees for the respect of representative national institutions

“It’s a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country,” “I won’t be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word.”
New London resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would keep fighting the bulldozers in his working-class neighborhood.

From Eminent Domain: Being Abused?, on CBS, 2004.

..to legally invoke eminent domain, the city had to certify that this scenic park area is, really, “blighted.”

“We’re not blighted. This is an area that we absolutely love. This is a close-knit, beautiful neighborhood. It’s what America’s all about,” says Jim Saleet…

“The term ‘blighted’ is a statutory word,” says Mayor Cain. “It is, it really doesn’t have a lot to do with whether or not your home is painted. …A statutory term is used to describe an area. The question is whether or not that area can be used for a higher and better use.”

But what’s higher and better than a home? “The term ‘blight’ is used to describe whether or not the structures generally in an area meet today’s standards,” says Cain.

And it’s the city that sets those standards, so Lakewood set a standard for blight that would include most of the homes in the neighborhood. A home could be considered blighted, says Jim Saleet, if it doesn’t have the following: three bedrooms, two baths, an attached two-car garage and central air…

..The Saleets may live in a cute little neighborhood, but without those new condos, the area won’t produce enough property taxes to satisfy the mayor and city council.

“That’s no excuse for taking my home. My home is not for sale. And if my home isn’t safe, nobody’s home is safe, in the whole country,” says Jim Saleet. “Not only Ohio. But this is rampant all over the country. It’s like a plague.”
Dana Berliner and Scott Bullock are attorneys at a libertarian non-profit group called The Institute for Justice, which has filed suit on behalf of the Saleets against the City of Lakewood. They claim that taking private property this way is unconstitutional.

Not any more. Fox News said this about the recent Kelo et al v. City of New London decision by the Supreme Court:

Cities may bulldoze people’s homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, a divided Supreme Court (search) ruled Thursday, giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said the decision bowed to the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.

MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson debated this issue with Wesley Horton, the lawyer who won the Supreme Court Case in favor of eviction.

HORTON: ..The question is whether there is a difference between a road and other things that are just as much in a public interest. If a city is dying, as the state of Connecticut has said that New London is an economically-depressed city, it seems to me that it’s certainly in the public interest to do something about an economically-depressed city to bring it back and put it on the map.

CARLSON: And that may be right. I guess, Mr. Horton, what I’m looking for is an acknowledgement that real people, individuals, are being hurt in this.


Today, the Star Ledger described the plight of some of the real people who were being hurt in this * – people like Josephine and Carmen Vendetti, whose neat & modest ranch home was bulit in 1960 with bricks Carmine carried from their winter home in Newark. Or Frances DeLuca’s pink bungalow, which has been in his family since 1918. Or Lee and Denise Hoagland, who, like their neighbors, say that the issue isn’t money, but an “irreplacable way of life”.

According to the city, that way of life is called “low end ratables”, and it needs to be leveled to make way for townhouses.

Personally, I’m in favor of progress and development, and nothing bugs me more than NIMBY types who claim to support better housing, green energy sources, etc., who then turn around and oppose those things in their own communities.

But progress and development is good when individuals support it. When the state decides that it has the right to make the decisions for, and oppose the will, of the people, the state is acting in direct opposition to the constitution.

The framers of the constitution made it clear that the purpose of the government is to follow the will of the people. That’s their job, it’s why we pay their salaries. Government employees are, essentially, middlemen. Who do these middlemen think they are, kicking retirees out of their homes for the good of a “state” that consists of individuals who strongly object to this process?

Obviously, there’s a glitch in the checks-and-balances system that needs to be fixed. But until it’s fixed, what can people in NJ do to stop this? According to the New Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog:**

In far too many instances, such as Long Branch and Asbury Park, the blight declarations go back ten years or more. This is an unconscionable burden to the property owners within the affected area. They cannot sell, except at a discount; they are reluctant to invest in their properties because of the fear of Eminent Domain; and many municipalities neglect to enforce their building codes once the areas have been determined to be blighted. This only exacerbates the impacts on the property owners.
We’ve had many inquiries today concerning what the property owner can do. The only answer is for the property owner to be vigilant regarding proposed municipal action and to participate in and contest the blight studies when they are presented to the municipal Planning Board. If the property owner sits on their rights and does not do this, they will have a very difficult time filing a Prerogative Writ suit contesting the municipal action.

The law requires an appeal of the municipal action within 45 days of the adoption of the ordinance authorizing blight or “an area in need of redevelopment.” This is the first step toward condemning the properties. Many owners come to us well after the municipal action was undertaken. Often, they were not even aware of the municipal action and received no notice of the proposed ordinance.
Absent a viable Prerogative Writ suit on the blight declaration, property owners will be left with what they have in every condemnation case: A contest over what amount of money constitutes just compensation, and payment of relocation assistance to owner/occupants dislocated by the public project.

In her dissent, Justice O’Connor said:

“Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded, i.e. given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public – in the process.”

Flashback to February and the oral argument, when Justice O’Connor asked: “Motel 6 and the city thinks, well, if we had a Ritz-Carlton, we would have higher taxes. Now is that okay?”

The simple answer, according to five Supreme Court justices, is yes.

But, we’ll leave the light on for ya.

* link coming later – the Star Ledger Article isn’t online yet

** Link thanks to Fausta’s Bad Hair Blog

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