Monday, November 24, 2008

Bike Safety vs. Safety Officers

Which is safer? A) A bicycle parade that stops at every red light, thereby breaking up into smaller and smaller segments, leaving open spaces for cars to get stuck in between? Or b) a bicycle parade that stays together by temporarily blocking an intersection and moves past as quickly as possible? Give up? Here’s a hint, if you answered a, you’re most likely a cop or a traffic light. If you answered b, you’re most likely a reasonable and intelligent person.

Such are my thoughts after Sunday’s People Power and Greenways sponsored King Street Bike Parade. Organized in response to the spate of bicycle deaths on Mission Street, the parade was a wonderful and worthwhile event - From the families decked out in a multitude of colors that would make a Mormon faint, to People Power’s Micah Posner ox-hauling the Santa Cruz high ukulele club on a bike trailer float as they belted out Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” and of course, the message of creating a safe corridor for bicyclists riding near Mission Street. It was almost the perfect group ride, that is, if it weren't for the presence of police officers intimidating riders and inhibiting public safety.

(Parade organizers trying to communicate with policebot)

How else can one describe the actions of Santa Cruz’s PD, who among other things, went out of their way to constantly photograph the 100% peaceful ride and interfere with “corking” safety efforts by parade volunteers? Anyone familiar with group bike rides knows that the best interests of drivers and bicyclists are served when the bicyclists move past whatever intersection they’re using as quickly as possible. “Corking” - the process where a bicyclist pulls up in front of cars and holds the space until all the bicyclists have passed accomplishes just that.

The utter silliness of the PD’s insistence that bicyclists blindly obey the two traffic lights the parade passed through came to a head as riders entered the intersection of Bay and King. As instructed by the organizers in an effort to comply with the policeman, the 100-plus strong bike parade stopped for each time the light turned red. The problem was of course, the parade being big and slow, had to stop 4 times, and each time bike volunteers had to block access to King St anyway lest a car get sandwiched in between the parade. In other words, rather than take the initiative to block one green light on Bay so as to allow a group of bicyclists to pass as one, the officer-on-a-motorcycle remained idle as volunteers ended up having to hold the space through four green lights, redirecting cars onto Escalona, and dragging the entire process out an extra 10 minutes. This only served to break up the ride into smaller and smaller segments, thereby endangering the slower riders and causing more car traffic congestion.

As the ride continued south towards Walnut, officer-on-a-motorcycle sped around to various volunteer corkers, instructing them to not block traffic if there were no cars present, and to not block traffic if there were cars present. When asked if he could do it for us, he replied, “This isn’t a permitted parade.”

Let me get this straight – Because the parade organizers did not go through the hassle of asking the city for permission to ride half a mile, down a residential street, for maybe a half hour, on a Sunday, officer-on-a-motorcycle was not only unwilling to ensure the safety of the families riding (and there were a lot of children in the parade) by temporarily stopping car traffic, but was in the same breath more than willing to stop those of us who were.

You know, a cynical person might get to thinking that perhaps the Police Department is less concerned about public safety and more concerned about maintaining a monopoly of power. After all, if average citizens started organizing in order to take responsibility for their own safety (at least for benign things like bicycle parades), police departments might be put out of business.

And that’s the crux of the issue – the state insisting we need permission to be free. Had the parade organizers not shown such good intentions by approaching the watchful cops at the beginning of the parade, it’s debatable whether the latter would have started issuing tickets and arresting people once we reached the intersection in question. This is not to argue that walking up to the PD and saying, “We’re gonna blow throw these red lights whether you like it or not” would have been any better but rather, to say that perhaps it’s best to leave well enough alone and ignore the cops unless they approach you. After all, it is only by our acknowledgment of their control over us do they derive their authority; if we do not acknowledge them, then they’re just as likely to leave us alone and not assert control over us. And that’s an idea I don’t need permission to express.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fun Rides Coming Up...

Upcoming Santa Cruz Rides:

Tonight, Friday, Nov.21st
Lost Boyz Vampire Ride
Tour the Historic Bite of Santa Cruz Vampire Geography. Wear Black and Red. Bring Blood in a Bottle (two buck chuck), Meet at 5:30, Fly at 6:00. in front of Oneills at Cooper and Pacific.
All vampires welcome traditional or hipster. Capes and costumes welcome, watch out for the wheels! Lead by Juan. Pick up flyers at Bike Church or new leaf.

And on Sunday, Nov. 23rd

Saturday, Dec.6th @ 3pm
CAKE Ride meet @ Bike Church
Involves riding steep hills and eating cake

Friday, Dec.12th
Solstadas Full Moon Mystery Ride
meet @ corner of Pacific/Cooper 5:30pm

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Defense of Somali Oil Pirates

Perhaps I have an overdeveloped sense of irony but I find this Somali oil pirate shit deeply amusing. I mean, American hipsters have for a couple of years now adopted the pirate theme (along with ninjas and vampires) as a soup "du jour" of sorts for parties, fashion, and jokes. Shit, I've been to at least 3 pirate themed events in the past 4 years.

But enter the modern Somali pirate (or the Puntland Navy as they'd refer to themselves) - Seizing big ugly ass oil tankers or commercial fishing ships with nothing more than a few speed boats and a ton of chutzpah, taking the crew hostage, demanding payment from the rich countries who's corporations are dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast with impunity. Some of this waste is apparently even nuclear.

In any other universe, this would be a simple case of Robbin Hood on the high seas. Justice and restitution for the poor, who let's face it, are always getting screwed. According to a couple of pieces I've read on Al Jazeera, many of these so-called "pirates" are former fishermen who've been put out of work by illegal big time fishing operations from Europe and Asia. And really, does that sound like such a far fetched claim?

To add insult to injury, the Western press is accusing the Somali city of Puntland of being a hub for organized "pirate" crime while ignoring the involvement of Italian mobs who have been negotiating toxic disposal deals with a Somali government of dubious legitimacy. (This is the U.S. and Ethiopian military backed government mind you, not the Muslim one that probably has the support of the population).

Either way, the basic premise behind all this Somali pirate brouhaha is that when it comes to oil, piracy is no laughing matter. It's not news to us if our corporations take a big dump on your country, but if you so much as touch our oil, well now you're taking it too far. One could cynically predict that it's only a matter of time before the U.S. Navy, on behalf of Saudi Arabia, starts shelling Puntland, just to remind them who they're dealing with - But then again, the United States has been sporadically attacking Somalia for the past 5 years.

Here's some of the Al Jazeera reporting...

Maybe next Halloween, the hipsters will be dressing up like dead Somali pirates...I mean, that would be so unironic, it would almost be funny.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Automakers Stumbling, take cover!


When forests, rivers, or mountains are destroyed to make way for mining, logging, or hydroelectricity, it's not news - it's called production.

When the big three U.S. automakers show signs of having a malignant tumor, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, that's news - and it's called a recession.

You know, if I had to explain to a child how our system works, I'd say, "What's good for industrial economies, is bad for Earth; what's good for Earth, is bad for industrialized economies."

The kicker is of course, given the choice between working a crappy factory job and saving our home (Earth), most Westernized people will pick the former option. I mean, it's really not even up for discussion. But, over time, as the Earth fights back against industrialization, it makes life that much harder for us humans anyway.

Quiet a predicament isn't it? I mean, you could make a very good case that that's precisely the point we are at now - Flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, landslides, tumors, these are all signs of a system trying to fight off another one. And that's not even counting the general social strife that comes with all class-based, industrial societies - i.e. poverty, murder, prisons, depression, domination.

What I find incredibly ironic about all this is that while human beings will probably never reach a consensus that makes us give up our teevees and cars in exchange for a green and wild earth, industrialization actually does provide for a soiled earth AND a soiled soul. Or to put it another way, as if 8-10 hours in a factory assembling cars wasn't horrible enough, you also, as an added bonus, get to live in a run-down (or at best deteriorating middle class) neighborhood with trace amounts of the very pollutants you've been working with. Industrialization is a cancer that just keeps on giving.

My thoughts after reading this article...,0,3945857.story?page=1&track=ntothtml

Monday, November 10, 2008

UC Davis Bike Co-op In Trouble

A press release i got forwarded from some friends...

The Davis Bike Church is a volunteer-run bicycle cooperative and
toolshare that has served our community for the past five years by
keeping people on their bicycles and out of their cars. We believe in
bicycling as a primary form of transportation, and repair and reuse of
materials. Through sharing bicycle parts, tools, and knowledge, we
have become an integral part of Davis.

The Church helps hundreds of people every month. Every Wednesday and
Saturday, people come by the dozens to exchange parts and bike
know-how. Volunteers guide cyclists of all stripes through
maintenance through various procedures as intensive as building a
bike from scratch, or as simple as oiling a chain. Outside of normal
operating hours, our volunteers are serving the community in variety
of ways. We have participated in multiple 'Bike to School' days with local
schools. In conjunction with the University, we built a pedal-powered
laptop station, and have received grants from the UC Davis
Sustainability Advisory Committee to build infrastructure and obtain
solar energy to power the Church. Volunteers have started other
important bike programs in Davis such as the Davis Bicycles! advocacy
group, the Velolution radio show, and built pedal-powered ambulances
to serve communities in Africa. We support local bike shops by
keeping people on their bikes and showing them how to recognize when
they need parts and maintenance. We were voted the #1 bike shop in
Davis by the Davis Wiki in 2008. Above all, we are a collective of
volunteers dedicated to teaching the art of the wrench.

After five successful years on the property of UC Davis, University
administrators are in the process of evicting the Church from its
location at the Domes. As we are finding a solution to this issue, we need
your support.

You can show your support and solidarity simply by riding your bike,
but in this time of need, we are asking for extra help. We are
collecting letters of support to present to the University, and to
obtain support from the City of Davis should we need to move to a new
location. You can send letters to the Bike Church, c/o Tom Denton, 2
Baggin's End, Davis CA 95616, or send an email to <>. You can also
sign the online petition:
We will continue holding services Wednesday and Saturday from 12-6pm;
get information and directions at

News articles:

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Ballot, the Bullets

Less than 12 hours before the election and I'm being bombarded with emails from friends telling me to remember to vote...Specifically for Obama.


Most of the emails are forwards from the likes of groups like with links to videos extolling how wonderful Obama is, how he's gonna change this country around, and bring about a brighter future. Sure. Whatever.

On days like this, I wish there was some alternative organization against voting that would sponsor a youtube video extolling how voting is for the most part, a total waste of time, and that when it comes to the stuff that really matters, you really have NO choice. Maybe a mash up of Noam Chomsky and George Carlin, just something to shake up American's delusional belief that entering a polling booth once every 4 years is the personification of civic duty.

And yeah, I'll be a relieved when Obama deals McCain a knock out blow tomorrow - Obama's clearly an intelligent, decent human being. The problem is, he's an intelligent, decent human being taking control of a position that is inherently authoritarian and always a breath away from unleashing massive amounts of violence against helpless people (whether they be in Kabul or Oakland). To me, a black man becoming president of a historically racist and patriarchal country doesn't make the country any less racist or patriarchal, no more than hiring black police officers guarantees that black civilians will be safer from police brutality (Ask anyone in Inglewood if they believe that). It's the system that's the problem - Listening to my liberal friends talk about how wonderful an Obama presidency is gonna be, I can't help but think of peasants arguing over whether the new king is going to be a bad one or a good one when, at least to me, no king would be much better.

And just so anyone reading this doesn't think this is simply an ill-informed petty argument from an apathetic anarchist, here's a couple of things that didn't get discussed during this past election cycle, and will most likely not be discussed or addressed after tomorrow's election (and the one after that, and the one there after):

- The United States will continue to maintain over 700 military bases throughout the world.

- The political system within the United States will continue to be controlled by two-ruling parties that will conspire whenever possible to keep any other upstart political entities from gaining power.

- Corporate media, food, clothing, and culture will continue to dominate the thoughts and conversations of the average citizen via commercial television, billboards, and the internet.

- The United States will continue to have a prison population that hovers around 2 million people, by far, the largest in the industrialized world.

- Genetically modified food will remain unlabeled and widely diffused throughout the American food supply.

- The United States will continue to supply Israel with machines that can kill a lot of people very quickly, thereby perpetuating Arab nations utter hatred for Americans.

- The United States will continue to execute people.

- The destruction of wild spaces in the search of riches - be it mineral, energy, timber, whatever, will continue.

- Most people will continue to work meaningless dead-end day jobs for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (if they're even lucky enough to find employment), then go home to microwaveable dinners, and spend hours alone on the couch watching TV - A completely regimented, mechanized existence. The 20 hour work week will remain a personal fantasy...

- The energy debate will continue to revolve around whether we have enough, and how can we have more, rather than questioning whether we really need as much as we consume.

- The state, from the national, to the local level, will continue to retain the right to punish people for every minor act, whether that be walking on the grass, to sleeping in their cars.

These things just come with the territory of the presidency and the modern industrial state. They are not negotiable. And yet, the emails keep pouring in...Obama is going to change everything! Sure, whatever.