Dear Democrats

You whiney cry babies. How many of you voted? How many of you DID NOT vote? Because if you did not vote, you have YOURSELF to blame. Yes, you, you lazy-ass, do-nothing whiner.

Piss and moan all you want, but inaction made the difference in this election. Couldn’t be bothered to take a few minutes to register to vote? Or maybe you registered but couldn’t be bothered enough to take a few minutes out of your oh-so-hectic schedule to vote? Really?

I inconvenienced myself for, oh, maybe 15 minutes on Election Day. Could have spent a half-hour in line voting early at the Board of Elections. Point is, I went to all that trouble to make myself heard where it counts. Facebook doesn’t count. Bumper stickers don’t count. Votes count.

How about you?

Chances are the ones I want to reach with this shame will never see this because you’re far too busy doing whatever you waste your time with.

Point lost on the pointless.

Well, what government we get we deserve.

Thanks a lot.

Ass hole.

What if Scotland splits?

One of the more famous lines from Braveheart  comes when the nefarious King Edward the Longshanks quips, “The trouble with Scotland is it’s full of Scots.”

Which could explain why after 300 years of a United Kingdom, Scotland’s voters stand on the brink of voting to leave the union. I make no claim to being an expert on what goes on in the UK, but the desire among Scots to stand on their own has waxed and waned over the centuries and in recent years reached a bit of a fever pitch. Call it the Braveheart Syndrome. Of course, the movie embellishes just a bit on what actually happened, but the events depicted in the movie are “based on a true story.”

Image of McAdams tartan shamelessly lifted from the Interwebz.

Image of McAdams tartan shamelessly lifted from the Interwebz.

 

I have a bit of Scottish lineage, although I can’t say that tomorrow’s vote is likely to have a profound effect on my life. It could change things dramatically across the pond. Check out the NYT Q&A.

That image to the left is supposedly of the McAdams clan tartan. Apparently most clans have more than one tartan, each serving various purposes. I’ve never seen an actual family heirloom, which probably no longer exists, at least not one from my ancestors. And, truthfully, I’m about as Scottish as Montgomery Scott. Beam me up!

Still, it’s interesting to wonder if I were a lad from Glasgow or Edinburgh, what would I think of all this? Would I be all puffed up with nationalist pride, or would I be more worried about being isolated from the larger UK and the potential economic perils? What if Scotland is forced to stop using the Pound as its official currency?

Going off on a side note, I still get a chuckle thinking about Mike Myers’ SNL skits set in a shop of All Things Scottish. “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” And perhaps my favorite is when he gets irate at a tourist’s ignorance, confusing Scotland and Ireland. “There’s Ireland, there’s Scotland, there’s the bloody sea. They’re bloody different!”

“Now get out!”

So what’s my point here? Eh, maybe I don’t have one.

 

 

Fracking suspected as cause of Texas earthquakes

A group of residents of a small Texas community traveled to the state capital to protest hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” in their community that is being blamed for about 30 earthquakes since November.

frackingThis follows reports of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio, last year that were linked to fracking wells, which led the usually business-friendly Gov. John Kasich to order the operation to shut down.

If Texas quakes are like the Ohio seismic activity, the problem could be the injection of fracking wastewater into the ground near a fault line. Geologists say the liquid can create “slippage” in faults, which triggers the quakes.

The fact that fracking has helped dramatically reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and natural gas makes shutting down fracking operations highly unpopular in some circles. But when the earth is shaking under your feet, you gotta take it seriously.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this.

 

About MLK

I hesitate to say anything about Martin Luther King on the national holiday made in his name because, I dunno, it seems kind of gratuitous. You know, yadda yadda great civil rights leader, blah blah, all that. How his dream is (or not) realized is the subject of much editorial content today.

So here goes anyway.

Yes, we’ve witnessed some pretty dramatic change in America, some for the better, some not so much. Racial inequality still exists, but it has been kicked somewhat toward the fringes of society. I grew up in a nearly lily-white neighborhood, went to almost entirely white schools (until I got to Ohio State).

My kids, though, have benefited from going to integrated schools in Akron. My son told me about a time he was at a McDonald’s with some buds and he was the only white kid in the room. His friends joked about “living the dream,” and in some small way they were.

A couple of years ago I was driving behind a school bus around Macedonia or Twinsburg. The bus stopped and two kids got off: one white, one black. They casually strolled toward home, just two kids who were growing up in the same neighborhood, no big deal. Which is kind of a big deal. That probably would not have happened much 30 years ago, let alone 50 years ago.

In Columbus, where I grew up, the city schools started busing to force integration 30-some years ago. At the time, nobody liked it. Busing was an imperfect solution to a big societal problem. And it accelerated white flight, which further exacerbated the whole segregation problem.

Over time, though, kids started making friends with kids who didn’t look like them. Fast-forward 30 years. Our lives are entwined in a much more diverse  community, although segregation certainly still exists. But not at my kids’ schools.  I didn’t really experience much diversity until I got to college and then in newsrooms, which were way ahead of the curve in terms of cultivating diversity at the workplace.

About 20 years ago, a couple of years before I worked there, the Akron Beacon Journal produced a Pulitzer Prize-winning series about race relations. They drilled deep, revealing some pretty raw emotions. It was an honest exploration that sometimes went to very uncomfortable places.

And I suppose that’s necessary before we can move on to a “post-racial” society that some (prematurely) hailed when Barack Obama was elected president. I’ve seen and heard plenty of hateful and clearly racist comments about him and Michelle Obama. Clearly, we ain’t there yet.

What’s TPP?

No, TPP doesn’t stand for Toilet Paper Power.

It’s the Trans Pacific Partnership, until recently a nearly unheard-off super-secret deal in the works between the United States and other countries situated around the Pacific Ocean.

This little-known “partnership” could have profound effects on our economy and environment if the most-worrisome aspects of it come to fruition.

Wikileaks uncorked the genie this week on some of the details this week with a leaked copy of the environment chapter, part of a reportedly 1,000-page document. Late last year the Washington Post published a primer on TPP, but it doesn’t seem to focus on what has environmentalists and unions alarmed: Namely loosening of environmental laws and consumer protection and more loss of American jobs to overseas entities.

Negotiations have largely gone on behind closed doors and Congress is expected to vote on whether to give the Obama administration “fast-track” authority to finish negotiations and send the agreement to Congress for a yea or nay vote without any chance to change or amend anything in it. Take it or leave it but you better take it, seems to be the message.

I have talked to nearly a dozen people about this, and they almost universally think this is a bad idea. So do I.

The plan is reportedly being formulated in consultation with a few hundred corporate big wigs, but small business and consumer and workers’ advocates apparently weren’t invited to the party.

If the Partnership deal is not done properly, we could see more lead-tainted toys from overseas, more imported foods contaminated with e. Coli or salmonella, more inferior products made in sweat shops that pay pitiful wages to exploited workers, maybe even have our environmental and consumer safety laws challenged by foreign entities who don’t have our best interests in mind.

I’ll have more on this in a day or so.

Stay tuned.

How rock ‘n’ roll helped free Nelson Mandela

Before the 1980s, I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was. But being a child of the ’70s in America, that should come as no surprise.

Nelson Mandela had been rotting in a South African prison for two decades when The Special AKA released a peppy tune with a serious message: “Free Nelson Mandela.” I was a sophomore or so in college when the album came out, and expecting something like the band’s predecessor The Specials, I picked it up. Classic vinyl. I was a poor college student who couldn’t afford one of them newfangled CD players. That same album included “Racist Friend” and “Alcohol,” which was particularly haunting.

Anyway.

“Free Nelson Mandela” featured a lively horn section, the kind of stuff you’d expect from a ska band. And while the tune was upbeat, what The Special AKA had to say was politically charged.

That song made me aware of Nelson Mandela, although I had been somewhat aware of apartheid and its cruelty before. It seemed far away, just another corrupt government in Africa.

Mandela died Dec. 5, in case you’ve been hiding in a cave recently.

That song energized a movement that was driven in no small part by rock music (include ska and hip-hop in the overall pop/rock category). The anti-apartheid struggle had been going on for decades, but it didn’t get widespread attention in the West until the 1980s.

Pretty soon you heard a rising chorus of “divest from South Africa” and demands for more sanctions and boycotts against the officially racist South African regime to pressure South Africa ending apartheid, a policy reminiscent of Jim Crow in the United States.

Soweto, de Klerk, Botha, Mandela were names that became increasingly prominent in the news, especially for budding journalistas such as your humble akrondave blogger.

Then along came Sun City in 1985. Led by Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band and The Sopranos fame, an all-star group calling itself Artists United Against Apartheid took direct aim at a swanky South African resort known as Sun City, urging artists not to perform there until South Africa put and end to apartheid. The chorus said it all: “I ain’t gonna play Sun City.”

The list of artists who participated was long and diverse: Bono, Keith Richards, Miles Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Joey Ramone, Lou Reed, Run-DMC, George Clinton, Pete Townshend, Peter Wolf, and so on.

The album featured powerful tracks including the title track and Revolutionary    Situation, but the one that blew me away was a last-minute addition that didn’t make the album cover or sleeve material: Silver and Gold. A sticker was slapped on the cover: “Added bonus song.” Bono, the lead singer of U2, collaborated with Keith Richards and Ron Wood (do I have to say of the Rolling Stones?), inspired after meeting several other artists who had volunteered for the project.

I wrote a review of Sun City as a tryout for my collej paper, the Lantern at Ohio State, and it won me a gig as cub music beat writer. Although the album earned praise from critics, it was only a minor commercial success. But the mark had been made on public consciousness.

In 1989, Lethal Weapon 2 featured the apartheid regime as the villain. Funniest moment: Danny Glover’s character Murtaugh at the South African embassy telling the official he wants to return to his “homeland.” The official says, “But you’re blek.” Levity aside, the movie further pushed the issue of apartheid into public awareness.

By 1991, it became clear that apartheid’s days were numbered and in 1994 Nelson Mandela, who had been jailed for 27 years and branded as a terrorist by critics, was elected president.

But rather than conduct a campaign of revenge against his former oppressors, Mandela sought reconciliation and compromise. He prevented what could have become a blood bath, which many white South Africans feared. After all, the white minority colonists had oppressed the natives for decades.

The pressure to end apartheid came from many corners, but make no doubt, pop/rock music was a major player.

When the military-industrial complex bubble pops

There’s a reason why they call it complex.

In the aftermath of Lockheed Martin’s announcement of massive layoffs, there has been a ton of hand-wringing, gnashing of teeth and finger-pointing. It’s starting to resemble a circular firing squad in some ways.

lockheed02cut

Most of Lockheed Martin’s operations in Akron are scheduled to be shut down by 2015. Some work will continue at the Airdock (that big domey thing in the foreground). Source: Google/Ohio.com.

In one corner: Peaceniks and (some) fiscal conservatives who believe we’re spending entirely too much money on the U.S. military, lining the pockets of billionaire fat cats and wasting money on $600 hammers, funding unnecessary wars in far-away places that many Americans (still!) can’t find on a map.

In another corner: Conservatives who refuse to budge on Capitol Hill regarding the sequester, which slashed funding to many sacred cows, including the Pentagon. They blame Democrats for not budging on the budget.

In another corner: Liberals who refuse to budge on Capital Hill regarding the sequester. They blame Republicans, particularly the Tea Party, for not budging on the budget. (See a pattern here?)

In another corner: The military-industrial complex itself, which has a lot at stake when military funding gets chopped. Especially vulnerable is Lockheed Martin, a vast military contractor, much of it in aerospace, which expanded dramatically in the 1990s. A lot of people, including its own employees, say the company simply got too big to be sustainable.

The bubble popped.

In yet another corner: Roughly 4,000 workers, including about 500 in Akron, whose jobs are on the chopping block. These include machinists, welders, assembly workers, software engineers and more. Them’re some good paying jobs, hard to replace in an era of crap service industry jobs. This is not the first time Lockheed Martin has experienced major reductions. Since 2008, it has cut its workforce by 30,000.

Still another factor is the slow scaling back of the Great War Machine of the past decade. We’re all but out of Iraq, and Afghanistan is not far behind. Barring some misadventure in Iran or Syria (or God forbid, both), there’s not a great deal of urgency to gear up for another costly (yet profitable for contractors) war or two. After two bloody and (eventually) unpopular wars, they’re all on their own. Unless Israel picks a fight with Iran, or vice versa, but that’s another matter altogether.

So, what to make of this?  Where do we go from here?

Akron officials are looking for a silver lining in all this (See Akron link above). A lot of prime real estate is suddenly available, and local bigs say there are potential suitors lining up to grab it. But replacing 500 jobs (not to mention 4,000 nationwide) won’t be easy, especially jobs of that caliber.

There are precedents of other communities rebounding from traumatic losses of military entities. Akron has bounced back before.

And I experienced first-hand the closing of the air force base in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in the early ’90s as part of a widespread reduction in military base operations. Yes, the initial impact was devastating. On the flip side, I was able to buy a house on the cheap. But by 1995 the local economy experienced a phenomenal boom fueled in part by the availability of cheap land (this was far from the only factor; Myrtle Beach has long been a boom-and-bust town). But I turned around and sold the house in 1996 at a tidy profit. This was before “flip that house” was a common concept, and selling was really precipitated by my move to the Akron area, which is neither here nor there, to quote a former colleague.

I digress.

So, again, what to make of all this?

As much as I resent some of the excesses of the M-I complex, simply shutting it down or cutting back drastically has far-reaching consequences.

Jobs are lost. Suppliers and subcontractors and their employees take a big hit. Local real estate also takes a hit. The local tax base takes a big hit. Hundreds if not thousands of families are hurt.

Lots of national pundits have had their say about the standoffs in Congress over the last few years.

But as the old chestnut goes, all politics is local. Nowhere is that more true than here and now.