Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Statement of UC Santa Cruz Occupation

I found this on the Econospeak blog:

"Let’s be frank: the promise of a financially secure life at the end of a university education is fast becoming an illusion. The jobs we are working toward will be no better than the jobs we already have to pay our way through school. Close to three-quarters of students work, many full-time. Even with these jobs, student loan volume rose 800 percent from 1977 to 2003. There is a direct connection between these deteriorating conditions and those impacting workers and families throughout California. Two million people are now unemployed across the state. 1.5 million more are underemployed out of a workforce of twenty million. As formerly secure, middle-class workers lose their homes to foreclosure, Depression-era shantytowns are cropping up across the state. The crisis is severe and widespread, yet the proposed solutions – the governor and state assembly organizing a bake sale to close the budget gap – are completely absurd.

"We must face the fact that the time for pointless negotiations is over. Appeals to the UC administration and Sacramento are futile; instead, we appeal to each other, to the people with whom we are struggling, and not to those whom we struggle against. A single day of action at the university is not enough because we cannot afford to return to business as usual. We seek to form a unified movement with the people of California. Time and again, factional demands are turned against us by our leaders and used to divide social workers against teachers, nurses against students, librarians against park rangers, in a competition for resources they tell us are increasingly scarce. This crisis is general, and the revolt must be generalized. Escalation is absolutely necessary. We have no other option.

"Occupation is a tactic for escalating struggles, a tactic recently used at the Chicago Windows and Doors factory and at the New School in New York City. It can happen throughout California too. As undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff, we call on everyone at the UC to support this occupation by continuing the walkouts and strikes into tomorrow, the next day, and for the indefinite future. We call on the people of California to occupy and escalate."

I have been thinking about the Teabag demonstrations and Glenn Beck. The Teabaggers remind me of the Klan demonstrations in the 1920s, and Beck reminds me of Father Coughlin in the 1930s. In both cases, the people demonstrating or listening were facing hard times. The 1920s were not good for farmers and workers. They were scared and angry. But they picked -- or were guided to -- the wrong targets, not the dominant financial and political institutions, which had failed them, but other ordinary people.

I suppose I could say the progressives on the Internet and TV comedians such as Stephen Colbert are a counter-balance to Glenn Beck.

But where, I have been wondering, are the counter-balancing demonstrations: the modern equivalent of the sitdown strikes in Michigan in the 1930s?

Maybe in Santa Cruz.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another Photo, Just Because It's Cute

The Mississippi in St. Paul is Still Industrial

per Patrick, who sent this photo:

This is the far side of the river from the walking path and the plantings. Not all the far side looks like this. There is Harriet Island, which is a park, and Raspberry Island, which has a boat house and a band shell.

Life During Unemployment

I went to the Farmers Market with a friend on Saturday. It's full of late summer foods: heaps of tomatoes, peppers, squashes, melons, apples. I couldn't find any cucumbers and the cauliflower looked moth eaten. But I did get some chard, which I really like.

On Sunday I went to Mary Poppins with another friend. It's a Broadway musical. I can't remember when I last saw one, and I'm not sure I have ever seen one on stage. The music was okay, though not up to opera. The production and the dancing was amazing. The male lead -- Gavin Lee -- was wonderful. He was so good that my eyes went to him when he was doing nothing except leaning against a wall.

At one point, he walked up one side of the proscenium, across the top of the proscenium upside down and then down the other side. There were ropes, of course, barely visible for just one moment.

Stunning, and he moved as if walking, rather than as if hanging from ropes.

Worth going to, although expensive. I really do need a job, so I can afford things like this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I went to the main library in downtown St. Paul today. It was closed for (a sign on the door said) a customer service day. I then thought briefly of going to the Science Museum, which is right next door. But it was closed also. I don't know why.

Finally I went to a coffee shop down by the river and wrote. I especially like this shop because it has foot stools in the shape of bears. I like to settle down in an easy chair, rest my feet on a bear, drink coffee and read or write.

I'm working on several things right now. But today I worked on a new Lydia Duluth story. I think it may be okay.

I wrote for an hour, pencil on paper, with my Pink Pearl eraser next to me. Then I took a walk along the river. It used to be industrial, but has been redone. There's a bike path and a walking path, fountains and several metal sculptures of birds. I could not identify the birds. Maybe they are Platonic ideals of birds, rather than specific species, though one looked kind of like an eagle and another was maybe a pelican.

The walk has plantings: small trees and bushes, flowers in flowerbeds and hanging pots. A railing goes along the river and keeps you from falling in. Feral sunflowers grow on the other side of the railing, on the slope going down toward the river.

The area is still partly industrial. There is a railroad line running parallel to the walk. Three engines passed me, all linked together and painted maroon and gold: the Twin Cities and Western Railroad, wearing the U of M colors.

Four tow boats were docked at Lambert's Landing. These are are big guys that push rafts of barges up and down the Mississippi.

It's the first time this summer I have seen big tows. I assume traffic is slow on the river, as it is on the Great Lakes and the world's oceans.

Anyway, a pleasant walk, though a bit too warm.

Health Care

I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday. During it I mentioned that I'd spent the summer obsessed with the health care bills going through Congress. My doc said, "It seems pretty certain we are going to get some kind of health care reform, but the details change every day. So maybe it's not a good idea of focus on it so closely."

I think this is good advice. I have written my Congress people and the White House with my opinions. Maybe it's time to ease back and enjoy the autumn. It's still too warm, highs in the 80s. But the trees are definitely turning.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ships at Anchor

From an article in the Daily Mail, quoted by Yves Smith in her Naked Capitalism blog.

Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers - all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.

They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia’s rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.

It is so far off the beaten track that nobody ever really comes close, which is why these ships are here. The world’s ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world’s economies.

So they have been quietly retired to this equatorial backwater, to be maintained only by a handful of bored sailors. The skeleton crews are left alone to fend off the ever-present threats of piracy and collisions in the congested waters as the hulls gather rust and seaweed at what should be their busiest time of year.

Local fisherman Ah Wat, 42, who for more than 20 years has made a living fishing for prawns from his home in Sungai Rengit, says: ‘Before, there was nothing out there - just sea. Then the big ships just suddenly came one day, and every day there are more of them.

‘Some of them stay for a few weeks and then go away. But most of them just stay. You used to look Christmas from here straight over to Indonesia and see nothing but a few passing boats. Now you can no longer see the horizon.’

The size of the idle fleet becomes more palpable when the ships’ lights are switched on after sunset. From the small fishing villages that dot the coastline, a seemingly endless blaze of light stretches from one end of the horizon to another. Standing in the darkness among the palm trees and bamboo huts, as calls to prayer ring out from mosques further inland, is a surreal and strangely disorientating experience. It makes you feel as if you are adrift on a dark sea, staring at a city of light.

Ah Wat says: ‘We don’t understand why they are here. There are so many ships but no one seems to be on board. When we sail past them in our fishing boats we never see anyone. They are like real ghost ships and some people are scared of them. They believe they may bring a curse with them and that there may be bad spirits on the ships.’…

Do not tell these men and women about green shoots of recovery. As Briton Tim Huxley, one of Asia’s leading ship brokers, says, if the world is really pulling itself out of recession, then all these idle ships should be back on the move.


The weather is still summery, too warm as far as I'm concerned. But the trees are starting to turn color; and the late summer/early autumn flowers -- goldenrod and sunflowers -- are blooming along the highways.

I think sunflowers are my favorite flower, but I also like goldenrod.

Like the unemployed people described in the previous post, I have been feeling depressed. Late July and August sort of vanished. I have no idea what I did: looked for jobs that didn't seem to exist, got a little writing done.

August is a dead time for most nonprofits, maybe because it isn't a big revenue month for most: foundation grants aren't coming in, and other sources of revenue -- fund raising events and appeal drives -- don't happen when many people with money are out of town. I'm hoping more jobs will appear in the autumn.

I've been unemployed for four and half months now, and collecting unemployment for three and a half months. The usual period for benefits is 26 weeks, but there is an extension of 33 weeks right now, since unemployment is so high. If I get that I will be okay through spring of next year.

I'd rather have a job before then.
From Bob Herbert's column in today's New York Times:

A national survey of jobless workers by a pair of professors at Rutgers University shows just how traumatized the work force has become in this downturn. Two-thirds of respondents said that they had become depressed. More than half said it was the first time they had ever lost a job, and 80 percent said there was little or no chance that they would be able to get their jobs back when the economy improves.

The 1,200 respondents were jobless at some point over the past year, and most — 894 — are still unemployed. More than half said that they had been forced to borrow money from friends or relatives, and a quarter have missed their mortgage or rent payments.

The survey found that affluent, well-educated workers, who had traditionally been able to withstand a downturn in reasonably good shape, were being hit hard this time around.

The professors, Carl Van Horn and Cliff Zukin, described that phenomenon as “a metric of the recession’s seismic impact.” Of the workers who found themselves unemployed for the first time, more than one in four had been earning $75,000 or more annually.

“This is not your ordinary dip in the business cycle,” said Mr. Van Horn. “Americans believe that this is the Katrina of recessions. Folks are on their rooftops without a boat.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Comment Posted at New York Times 9-14-09

Reproduced with some small changes in punctuation, grammar and spelling.

*** The Situation on the Ground ***

Our nation has changed rapidly since 1980s. Look:
 1 in 8 Americans experience Food Insecurity, 48% of homeowners are or near under water, 72% of American
 adults are 3 or less paychecks away from homeless, 11% of US adults have filed or are preparing to file for personal bankruptcy, 23% of US population are negative worth individuals. Every weekday, at least 350 men call our small clinic and inquire about donating sperm for CASH, etc.

We live in a very poor nation, most cities and states are broke, and a vast majority our citizens are in deep debt, except most of us can get few credit cards and Sustain for A While; but the situation can’t last indefinitely...

We have a situation where more than one third of our population have trouble with their very
 basic needs: food, shelter etc. 
The question is not when US will start a socialist revolution, but how soon massive riots will spread around
 the country.

Look, we have 10% unemployment, over 
4 million of those will run out of their unemployment insurance. They have 2 choices: starving to death or Riot.

— Jerry Adams

You may wonder how socialism crept into this comment. The comment is in response to a discussion in the Times on what socialism means today.

I have not checked the data. It looks plausible to me. What interests me is the take on the US as a poor country, where most people are just getting by or not getting by. We tend not to see ourselves this way.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Federal Hudson at Anchor

This is a salt water vessel or salty. You can tell because it's comparatively short. Long ocean-going ships, such as oil tankers, can't get through the Seaway locks. The lake boats only have to get through the locks at Sault St. Marie and can be as much as 1,000+ feet.

Cormorant on Lamp Post

The cormorant is looking away, so its yellow/orange beak is not visible.


Patrick and I drove to Duluth yesterday. The day was sunny and warm, with a lot of haze in the air. Pat thought the haze might come from fires out west.

The trees have begun to turn colors, also the sumac, so there were flashes of red and yellow in the woods as we drove north; and goldenrod was blooming along the highway margins.

We saw two adult bald eagles soaring over Interstate 35 -- not together, but separately.

Coming into Duluth, the haze was so thick that it was difficult to see the lake as we topped the hills above the harbor. Once we were down to Canal Park, we could see the two ships at anchor outside the harbor, a laker and a salty. Patrick was able to take photos of both and of the cormorant that settled on a lamp post along the eastern side of the shipping canal.

I had noticed the cormorant shortly before -- a large, dark bird flapping like crazy as it flew over the canal. It landed and stayed long enough for a photo, before taking off again and going to float in the lake. It's been awhile since I've seen a cormorant.

Then I went to my favorite art gallery in Canal Park and did not buy anything except some Harney & Sons tea. After that, we headed back to St. Paul. Once we were home, I did a final revision of an essay. Then we had dinner and watched a movie.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

New Pen and Pencil

The carpets in our apartment were cleaned on Thursday, so Patrick and I had to spend the day away from home. We went to the Mall of America, because it's cool inside and there's lot of space for walking.

As always, we stopped at the Apple store and imagined buying new computers. Then we went on to the fancy pen store.

I bought a Faber Castell roller ball pen and a mechanical pencil. They are for children -- "zum Schreibenlernen" -- for learning to write, both made of brightly colored plastic, easy to hold and very durable looking. The pencil takes 1.4 mm leads, which are pretty thick. The pen takes ink cartridges. I have some green ink cartridges, so put one in. I now have a bright blue and red pen that writes in green ink.

I am more likely to use the pencil for editing. But I think both will encourage me to write.

Signs of the Times

A friend of mine was going in for her annual mammogram. She got an appointment really quickly and asked how this was possible.

The staff person said, "It's the economy. A lot of women have lost their health insurance and can't afford a mammogram."

My friend found this pretty disturbing.

Unemployment is 9.7% right now. That's one person in ten.


It's been a lovely summer -- on the cool side with many bright, clear days. Too little rain, though some fine thunder storms. I have mostly wasted it by obsessing about the health care bill going through Congress.

Patrick's had sciatica all summer, which has made him miserable. As a result, we haven't gotten out of town much. One of the ways I keep sane is to go on rides in the country -- up to Duluth to look at Lake Superior or south along the Mississippi to look for eagles.

So, a beautiful summer, but I could have spent it better.

Patrick has a three month job with the Wilder Foundation, working on their triennial count of people living outside in the state of Minnesota. I am still out of work and really would like to get a job. Unemployment is not enough money to live on. I have to go into my savings.

I was finding a number of interesting jobs for which I was qualified in the early part of the summer, then nothing in August. I am hoping this is because August is usually a slow time for nonprofits.

On the plus side, I am continuing to write, though not as quickly as I would like.