Crackpot conspiracy theory

“Crackpot conspiracy theory” is not a redundancy. Granted, we have been exposed to a lot of crackpot conspiracy theories lately, but that does not mean that all conspiracy theories are crackpot.

It is clear that COINTELPRO was a conspiracy to undermine and discredit the left in general and African-American movements in particular. It is no mere theory that the FBI and the Chicago police, at the very least, conspired to murder Fred Hampton in December of 1968.

The recent spate of right-wing conspiracy theories is egregiously crackpot on its face. By definition the ruling class is conservative. Conserving its power and preserving the status quo are what it does. As Mayor Richard Dailey famously told us in 1968: “The police aren’t here to create disorder; the police are here to preserve disorder.” To think there is a Deep State conspiracy to foment radical change is nonsensical. (I also find it humorous that the “Deep State” players seem to be the dedicated public servants who work long-term in government jobs for worse wages than in the private sector. Those opposed to the “Deep State” are the opportunist political appointees who take short-term jobs in order to consolidate their power and return or advance to lucrative private-sector positions.)

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this crackpot conspiracy theory. Since the appearance of COVID-19, among the first drastic actions was to close down a lot of small, locally owned businesses – those with the least accumulated capital and the least ability to weather an economic storm. Business moved from Main Street to the internet even more than it already had. Now, even some internet businesses are shutting down (Sierra Trading Post among them), citing the need for deep cleaning of their warehouses and fear of spreading the disease among their workers. Who is still open for business? Amazon.

Where is one of the largest accumulations of capital in the world? Amazon. Who has been in the forefront of automating warehouse operations? Amazon. What if COVID-19 were a covert plan to consolidate business even further and to move toward full warehouse automation? Amazon can afford the capital expenditure for full automation. It could eliminate jobs under the guise of protecting warehouse workers and saving the economy from collapse. What about delivery? What if we were to fast-track approval of autonomous delivery vehicles? Amazon could bypass the normal shipping chain, with its unionized workforce, and deliver via self-driving vehicles and drones -again to save the economy from collapse. We would be left with a company owned by a multi-billionaire, the largest retailer (and one of the largest companies, period) in the world, employing almost no one after driving out of business countless other companies employing many.

I just made this all up on a bike ride. The trouble with crackpot conspiracy theories is when they sound believable.

Heigh Ho

Ironically, I have been called back to work on the same day that the Governor issued a stay-at-home (“safer at home”) order. I shocked everyone at work by showing up in scrubs. I had to field more questions about that than about the fact that I was out sick for >2 weeks for the first time ever. I have never before worn scrubs to work. After wearing a uniform as a plumber, I wanted to wear my own clothes for this career. That just changed. I will have a “clean” and a “dirty” zip close plastic bag to carry clothes to and from work. I’ll change there every day and have a separate laundry load for work clothes – just like the old days! We all look like space creatures with face shields over masks. To preserve masks (which can’t be cleaned) we cover them with a plastic face shield (which can).

Our pharmacy is now making and packaging hand sanitizer due to the shortage of the commercial product. A local distillery is selling a special 140 proof vodka as a hand sanitizer. More businesses closed today. The good news is that, among essential allowed activities, is outdoor exercise. (Photo by Jason Rice/WMTV)

Words to live by

From Dane County (WI) Executive Joe Parisi: “(A)s long as we’re looking out for one another, we will all have someone looking out for us.”

From Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts: “the GOP is a hate group – and Trump its Grand Wizard.”

And, of course, this exchange (in case the previous statement needed clarifying):
Peter Alexander, White House correspondent at NBC News: “What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”
Donald Trump: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.”
He could have appeared as the calm father figure, here to reassure us. He could have said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He could have lied and told us he had the situation well in hand. (There are many video compilations of his various statements over the past two months to make that falsehood obvious.) But no, true to form, he lashed out and attacked the questioner. He attacked the question itself, and he chose not to answer.

McDonald’s spoke out in favor of new proposed federal legislation mandating paid sick leave during the pandemic. Interestingly, the bill applies only to those who employ between 50 and 500 people. Yes, your neighborhood restaurant might be required to provide paid sick leave, but McDonald’s will not. WordPress is acting up tonight and the embedded YouTube video above may or may not work. (It was working yesterday). If it is flashing and making you dizzy (as it is as I do this final edit), try this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oPbpE5EIgc&t=13s

“After food and shelter, there is no greater need or necessity than the ability to protect oneself and one’s loved ones,” the Keystone Shooting Center wrote. Gun stores are being allowed to remain open in several states that have ordered all “non-essential” businesses to close. It seems that being able to guard one’s stash of toilet paper is essential. My source is not the Onion, but the Washington Examiner and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Adopt-a-Highway

It was a slow start for the first few hundred meters, with nothing much but cigarette butts. Business started to pick up and Bud Light made a strong initial showing before being overtaken by Busch Light to hold on to its overall championship. To be fair, both are Anheuser-Busch products, so they retain the title of the most popular brand among litterbugs. Hard seltzer products made a strong showing. Tobacco products showed gains, with snuff tins, empty cigarette packs, and a vaping device in addition to the numerous butts.

Folks made a strong effort to sully a roadside stream, with an unprecedented number of beer cans clearing the guardrails on both sides and reaching the stream banks. The day set records for weight and volume, with a lot of cardboard in the mix. We picked up 25 pounds of trash, filling two large bags to overflowing. Radical social distancing, walking alone on a rural highway with almost no traffic. We saw one family out for a walk and one person shooting hoops in his driveway.

Paying your way

I often see the argument that bicyclists use the streets for free, while motorists pay for them. The Department of Transportation of Madison, WI just published a report with a few pertinent facts.

Perception that “bicyclists don’t pay their way”

  • Most bicycling takes place on local streets and roads that are primarily paid for through property taxes and other general local taxes. [ed note: i.e. not gasoline taxes]
  • Bicycling inflicts virtually no damage on roads and streets compared with automobiles and trucks.
  • A 200-pound bicyclist with a 50-pound bike will impose approximately 1/65,000th the roadway damage of a 4,000 pound car.
    * Information from “Who Pays for Roads?” Published by U.S. PIRG Education Fund (2015)
  • Motor vehicle use imposes costs on the environment and public health in the form of air pollution, noise, injuries and damage from crashes, and a host of other rarely quantified costs. These costs are borne by all of society. [Ed note: One of those non-quantified costs could be the public health cost of chronic conditions exacerbated by a lack of exercise.]
  • A 2009 analysis by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute estimated that the external cost of a mile of bicycling was less than a penny, while the cost imposed by a mile of walking was 0.2 cents—compared with external costs of driving of more than 29 cents per mile.
    * Entire bulleted list from https://madison.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=8153596&GUID=D5225649-E313-4285-B94F-85E1D72066D3

I’ve also seen the justification that, since many bicyclists also drive cars, we are already paying our way by paying gas taxes when we drive. I guess one could argue that every mile we ride is “stealing” because we aren’t paying gas tax for those miles. One could argue that, but one would be wrong. See the list above.

What I haven’t seen in print before is an examination of toll roads. The state to the south of here has many highways on which vehicle tolls are collected. Here there has been fierce opposition to the notion of toll roads. I have not seen fierce opposition to the bike trails that require a toll, either in the form of a day use fee or an annual permit. Around here, some of those are trails used heavily for commuting, not just recreation. Are those not toll roads? Are toll roads okay for bikes but not for cars and trucks?

Speaking of paying your way…

Where does your money go? Do you pay annual dues to AAA? Do you think of it as a form of insurance for emergency road service? It may be that, but it also pays for advocacy on behalf of cars and drivers. If you ride a bike, you may want to match that/offset that with a membership to the League of American Bicyclists. If you have a state organization, like the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, toss a little more their way. Do you ride with a local club but don’t bother to pay dues because you don’t think you ride with them enough? Pay your dues. You may have a local or regional advocacy organization, or one that advocates for the kind of riding you do. If you want to advocate for bicycling, spend at least as much money there as you spend for cars.

You can also help pay your way via Adopt-a-Highway programs, in which you clean up roadside trash tossed there by other vehicle users. When spring arrives, we’ll be announcing our next cleanup near Brigham Park. Other bike groups also have programs (including the folks behind the Horribly Hilly Hundreds and the Death Ride). You can probably find (or start) one near you.

McCoy Tyner 1938-2020

I can’t end this post without a shoutout to one of the greats – pianist MyCoy Tyner, who played in the seminal early 1960s quartet of John Coltrane (during the time he recorded “A Love Supreme” and “My Favorite Things”), fronted his own bands, and worked with many of the other greats of the last 60 years. When looking for one of his solo works from the early 70s, I came across this instead:

Tyner died on March 6, 2020.

Epic Ride

I missed a turn at Uranus and ended up in Deep Space. To get to Deep Space, I think I went down four levels of escalators. Worse yet, I also went Through the Looking Glass.

I don’t often ride 35 miles for lunch, but this was a special occasion; a tour of Epic Systems and lunch with my son. Deep Space is the 11,000 seat auditorium that they use for staff meetings and trainings. It looks like a small mound in a prairie from the surface. It is deep underground.

The campus is whimsically arranged in thematic areas. One building contains a tiny room with equally tiny furniture, but a large bottle that says “Drink Me”. Another building is protected by a moat, guarded by a three-headed serpent. There are upside-down staircases, and furniture on the ceilings. As far as I could tell, none of the staircases move when you’re on them, taking you somewhere else.

Despite there being about 10,000 people working there, you see no cars. Almost all of the parking is underground. Plantings cover the parking garages. Footpaths get you around. There is a fleet of bikes if you have a long way to go. A now-closed local restaurant had a carousel out front. That carousel has been reassembled at Epic.

We saw the film The War at Home on the 40th anniversary of its world premiere (which we also saw). Co-director Glenn Silber spoke at the showing, as he did 40 years ago. He hasn’t changed a bit (though he had a baseball cap on – maybe there’s no hair under that cap). The film chronicles the effects of the Vietnam War in one US city. It has been newly restored and released on DVD. See it if you can.

Speaking of homecomings, we also saw Tracy Nelson along with Corky Siegel (formerly of the Siegel-Schwall Band), a string quartet, and a tabla player. But here she is with another Nelson (no relation, though similar in that she left San Francisco for Nashville and he left Nashville for Austin – both risky career moves). After 50 years, her voice still gives us chills.

We cleaned our adopted highway Sunday.


Total Haul: 11 pounds
Category Winner: light beers
Brand Winner: Anheuser Busch
Product Winner: Busch Light
Nostalgia Winner: Lucky Strike cigarette pack
Road kill: One deer, one pheasant (we left those behind)
Category, brand, and product were all repeat winners. If this keeps up, we may have to retire those categories. On a ride in another county the next day, we noticed a lot of Busch Light cans. This may be the favorite of litterers throughout the area.


Half-fast Fall Classic

We had our end-of-season Blue Spoon to Little Village ride today. For those of you who insist on data: breakfast was pancakes with maple syrup, two eggs over easy, and coffee. One rider was late, so we added a morning bun with a second cup of coffee so he didn’t have to eat alone. Selfless, aren’t we? Lunch was a grilled chicken sandwich (with Swiss, bacon, and Dijon mayo) with chips and pico de gallo, accompanied by an Australian Shiraz. We were too full for the bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, so had an espresso. Post-ride was a nitrogen-infused smoked Scottish Ale with a flatbread pizza (pesto, heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh mozzarella, with a Balsamic vinegar drizzle). Blue Spoon is no longer open after 3 PM, so we had to move down the road to Vintage Brewing for post-ride refreshments.

Oh yeah, we also rode. We rode fast enough to not fall over and slow enough to obey speed limits. It stayed chilly (33-50 degrees F, or 0-10 C) but the sun shone all day. Traditionally, this is our last group ride of the season. After this, it’s mostly commuting and errands until the New Year ride.

“It was a fine fall morning; early and cold and sweet as cider. It was one of the prettiest times of year at one of the  prettiest times of the day…” (Ken Kesey, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear)

One of our members is in Portugal and sent a few pictures:

I bet he’s sorry he missed the ride!

Adopt-a-Highway

Due to the lack of motorized transportation (the van brakes broke and no longer brake), the cleanup of our adopted highway is postponed to Sunday, October 13 and will honor the birthday of one of our riders who will be off to Spain and miss all the fun. Come and join us to clean one of the most beautiful miles of road in the county.

The next day will be the Half-fast Fall Ride. We’ll miss our weary traveler off in Spain but hope for another great ride, great food, and some fall color. Great camaraderie goes without saying. We’ll let you know how it went.

The reports are in and The Ride (the benefit for the Carbone Cancer Center) had its best fundraising totals yet. One might say this is remarkable since we didn’t even ride (canceled due to thunderstorms with torrential rains), but maybe that’s why it did so well – no day of ride expenses (but they must have had a lot of bananas to donate to the food pantry). Thanks to those who donated on behalf of the Half-fast Cycling Club, and all other donors.

The Ride 2019 Fundraising total

Floods are back. We usually have spring flooding here, if at all. Last year the river was out of its banks in August. It looks like tomorrow the banks will no longer hold. We know someone who had to sleep overnight in her office due to flooding last night.

Full service Hotel