Sunday, December 21, 2014

Something to Think About

When you want to think about the stranglehold corporations have on the US economy and her government, ponder this chain of events:

1) In 1896, Henry Ford develops his first automobile engine, the quadricycle, designed to run primarily on ethanol.

1) In 1897, Rudolph Diesel wins a patent in Germany (he was not the first, but he appears to have been the fastest to the office) for the eponymous Diesel engine, designed to run on peanut and other biologic oils. He demonstrated this engine at the 1900 Paris Exposition, winning a prize for the most important innovation at that fair.

2) In 1898, a Russian firm, Branobel, secures a patent to produce a diesel engine that will run on unrefined crude oil.

3) In 1899, Krupp and Sulzer acquire the license to manufacture Diesel's engines, and begin introducing transport vehicles from cargo ships and submarines, to trains and trucks via sublicensees.

4) In 1908, Henry Ford introduces the Model T. It originally used an advanced quadricycle engine.

5) In 1913, Rudolph Diesel dies under very mysterious circumstances while sailing across the English Channel. His body is recovered days later by fishermen. He exhibited, according to witnesses, no signs of undue stress or depression, altho the last entry in his diary was a drawing of a cross.

6) One year later, Standard Oil unveils a petroleum-based diesel fuel and begins immediately mass producing it in response to demand created by World War I and the enormous vehicles that had to be moved around. That same year, the "Free Alcohol" bill, passed by Congress in 1906, is amended, encouraging the development of ethanol-based engines.

7) From 1893 forward, John D Rockefeller, the head honcho of Standard Oil, donates $350,000 to the Anti-Saloon League to help get Prohibition passed, thus prevented the manufacture of ethanol. The first Diesel-type engines were designed in 1892 (remember, Rudy was not the first, just the fastest to the patent office). Standard Oil, breaking with industry tradition, does not dump gasoline into rivers after refining crude oil. He uses it to power his machinery. He understands that it's almost pure profit.

8) The Volstead Act is passed by Congress, along with what will be the Eighteenth Amendment creating Prohibition, on October 28, 1919. Prohibition is ratified on January 16, 1920, an astoundingly quick turnaround. All mass production of alcohol, including the non-potable ethanol, ceases in the United States.

9) Henry Ford removes the ethanol (and kerosene) components from his car engines in the 1932 model year by introducing the V8 Flathead engine. 

10) Prohibition is repealed on December 5, 1933. The Eighteenth Amendment is the only Amendment repealed entirely in the Constitution.

What two names leap off the page at you, time and again? Would you call this a timeline of fuel or of a feud?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quick Update

I realize it's been a while...a very lonnnng while...since I've written an actual piece for this blog. I've been distracted with a project that I'm working on that requires a lot more attention than I thought it would. Please accept my apologies, but once things are in place, it should be a very exciting time for us all.

I hate coding HTML...

Friday, December 05, 2014


As you may know, one of the responses on social media like Twitter and Facebook to the tragic grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as to the countless stories of police abuse of power specifically against black men and boys, is for white people to contrast the treatment by cops.

The theme is for a white person to post their worst crime that they got away with, then attach the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.

For blacks, a similar trope of #AliveWhileBlack calls for a person to post the most dangerous encounter with either the cops or a white person that they survived.

It seems sophomoric, particularly as most of the white folks end up posting things like shoplifting or driving while drunk, even getting pulled over by the cops and being sent on their way with just a ticket or worse, a warning.

As I was writing mine up (which was a little harder to figure out. I ended up settling on smuggling Cuban cigars into the States, altho there was all that public sex,) the realization of the power of this hashtag meme hit me:

See, I could smoke a joint in public. I could walk around stoned or drunk out of my gourd. I could steal a Playboy from a newsstand, or smuggle a cigar in my coat, or duck down an alley because I really had to pee, and I could do all this in front of the cops and you know what? I'd never be suspected of committing any kind of crime, and moreover, never even be subject to arrest much less a potential date with death.

My brothers and sisters of colors can't say that, they don't have that guarantee that even if they "behave themselves" -- which I'm betting they hear as "Be good little darkies," because how patronizing is it for white folks to tell black folks how to live? -- that even if they are model citizens and speak slowly and carefully and in modulated tones to a cop, they won't be arrested. They won't be thrown into a chokehold.

There's no guarantee they won't be shot. If the African American or Latino version of me ducks down an alley and a cop sees him, the cop isn't thinking that the guy just needs to pee really badly, and he's going to follow that Carl, and bad things are going to happen.

If a cop sees me standing there, back to the street, legs wide, he's going to assume I'm taking a leak and turn away, because the devil you don't know. If he sees the darker version of me, he's going to look down and see if there's something worth investigating, and even if he decides there's nothing more than an urgent call of nature, he may still decide to primp his statistics and arrest the guy.

If I'm driving too fast, the cop will pull me over and while he won't be completely relaxed until he's reached my car and ascertained I'm just a moron -- and yes, I've had cops yell at me to remain in my vehicle or keep my hands in view -- if this happens to the minority Me, he's not even going to relax once he's got my license and registration in hand.

It's a stunning realization once you start to put it in perspective, this imbalance in treatment by law enforcement officers. And here's the thing that I really want to stress: these are not random cops who are deciding to let me go while harassing a black man or Latino. In some instances, they really are all but KKK members (I know, I've dealt with a few NYPD brass who with a straight face will call black and Latinos "thugs and gang-bangers.") In most instances, these are the good guys who swear they aren't racist but who have had an institutional racism drummed into their heads from day one that a dark skinned man is scary and even subhuman.

The worst part is, they're right, they aren't really racist until they are out on the streets "To protect and serve". They forget the second part of that and are overzealous in the first. And that has to stop. And that's going to take all of us to read those hashtags and realize we have to link arms and stand up.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Bernie Sanders Speaks Truth. Sort Of.

I love Bernie Sanders. I want to have his babby. 

However, I think he needs to step back from this. His agenda is too easily co-opted by moderates and conservatives. It's a nice counterculture statement of values, to be sure, but in the current environment completely unworkable. 

I've been thinking about Ferguson and the rioting and protests across the country.  

And then I found this quote from MLK, Jr: 

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride towards freedom is not the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than justice

When people riot for politics, when people organize for politics, they inevitably have either been subdued (Occupy) or placated (the Rodney King outrage) by some sop tossed towards them to make it a little less painful to be subdued.  

And then I remember that the Boston Tea Party was not regarded highly by colonial Americans. Indeed, until we achieved independence, the entire Revolution dangled on a thread in terms of public support. But it succeeded because it was outrageous to think it would.  

I love Bernie Sanders. I don't think he's right on this, at least with this current nation.