The Blue Raccoon

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Burdens of Being a Burgher In Richmond: Assorted points to ponder and the gruesome march of purblind doomsters

The Burghers of Calais, completed in 1888 by Auguste Rodin, via

"I have not shown them grouped in a triumphant apotheosis, such a glorification of their heroism would not have corresponded to anything real. On the contrary, I have, as it were, threaded them one behind the other, because in the indecision of that last inner combat which ensues between their cause and their fear of dying, each of them is isolated in front of his conscience. They are still questioning themselves to know if they have the strength to accomplish the supreme sacrifice — their soul pushes them onward, but their feet refuse to walk. They drag themselves along painfully, as much because of the feebleness to which famine has reduced them as because of the terrifying nature of the sacrifice … If I have succeeded in showing how much the body, weakened by the most cruel sufferings, still holds on to life, how much power it still has over the spirit that is consumed with bravery, I congratulate myself on not having remained beneath the noble theme I have dealt with." --Rodin

No, nobody in the city's government is headed for execution--legal injunction, maybe--but random citizens sitting on their front porch are getting shot and killed. Such is life here right here in River City.


• Why does the Richmond City School Board pay rent, whatever it is, whether $10 [what City Council preferred] or $580,000 [at City Hall] or $605,000 [purported, for 3600 W. Broad St.] a year? This bears some looking into, especially since the Richmond Times-Dispatch pointed out that in neighboring regional localities, this is not the case. How common is this arrangement? The education departments are, after all, functions of civic administration. Taxes are paid to support them--why is Richmond's paying moneys back to the city for its own offices? How is this handled in other cities and states?

• In a previous entry, the statements of Richmond School Board member Carol Wolf: "Go ahead and arrest me," and that of citizen Sababu Sanyika, "Who’s going to uphold the constitution and the rule of law in this city?” were singled out beause it is doubtful any more memorable public utterances will be made here until the end of 2007. One should've anticipated Councilman Marty Jewell, though, a putative supporter of the Governor-Mayor, who in his characteristic unvarnished manner desribed the events of Friday: "It was just butt-ugly."

• The mayor at-large is not a bad idea. The system works if the person who heads it is rational and broad-minded and possessive of wit and clarity of reason.

• Ikia M. Goodman, 25, was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting while sitting on the front porch of her mother's Tifton Court, South Richmond house. How many systems of society and culture failed to lead to his tragic occurrence -- and one that is repeated in Richmond until the steady drone of death makes no impression upon us?

• On August 29-30, six nuclear missiles were loaded onto a bomber and flown from the Air Force Base in Minot, N.D, across the country to Barksdale, La., and for 36 hours were outside of command-and-control. That is, nobody in the Air Force knew the exact whereabouts of these bombs. A friend during a party on Saturday night mentioned this incident to me, and I kind of dismissed the notion, as he's fond of Interweb rumors and consiracies. I said, probably frowning, "How's this sourced?" Well. Sunday morning, the story occupied prime real estate on the front page of the Washington Post. If you haven't already, you can read about this real and strange and scary situation here and here.

The unfunny part about this is that the Post reported that Air Force officials kept the story buried, though one document stated, "No press interest ancticipated."

I pair this up with recent reports--Ron Rosenbaum mentioned it in an August 31 Slate article--of the resumption of strategic bomber flights by Russia. What this means isn't clear; or whether those bombers are even carrying warheads. It could be just an expensive ploy Putin is playing to prove his willingness to expore brinkmanship is bigger than everybody else's.

Rosenbaum further says -- as if this alone isn't enough to have you peering with a squinted eyes into the sky at the sound of low-flying jets - that during the 1980s the Soviets activated a kind of Dr. Strangelove-esque doomsday arrangement of bombs, "And there is no evidence Putin's Russia has deactivated the system."

"The details of this top-secret Soviet system were first revealed in 1993 by Bruce G. Blair, a former American ICBM launch control officer, now one of the country's foremost experts on Russian arms. Fearing that a sneak attack by American submarine-launched missiles might take Moscow out in 13 minutes, the Soviet leadership had authorized the construction of an automated communication network, reinforced to withstand a nuclear strike. At its heart was a computer system similar to the one in Dr. Strangelove. Its code name was Perimetr. It went fully operational in January 1985. It is still in place."

There's more on this story on Rosenbaum's blog, here.

Meanwhile, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed Columbia University's Department of History, after much to-ing and fro-ing about whether he should be allowed. Last time I looked, this is a democracy, and any idiot can say whatever he damn well pleases and is protected by law to make a fool out of himself. You can read the whole thing here.

I am so tired of religious zealots appealing to the base fears of people in order to promote themselves into positions of power. The world is too complicated and dangerous a place to allow these people to continue and set up the circumstances of global extinction that they want to hurry us into.

That said, don't see this as appeasement, but what makes the U.S. a exception among nations in terms of personal expression; that is, if you overlook illegal wiretapping and extraordinary rendition.

Finally, we should all take a look at the Burmese Buddhist monks who've been marching for days, bare-foot and unarmed to protest government policies there. Compare this image to Rodin's burghers above, "
the indecision of that last inner combat which ensues between their cause and their fear of dying...their soul pushes them onward, but their feet refuse to walk." Here are men of faith who are trying to accomplish a transition of power without firing a shot or giving a speech or loading up a nuke.

Via --Asia.

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At 7:51 AM, Anonymous soppy raccoon said...

WOW! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

At 7:56 AM, Blogger HEK said...


Thanks for visiting and the comment! We get a little lonely over here.


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