Trying to avoid politics & idiots because I'm barely able to control my raging anger & can not type anything w/o cheap (but sincere, if any of these clowns ever cross my path) threats of criminal violenceslapping the smug morons (political & otherwise) surrounding me; how about some nice pictures instead, so Thers doesn't get in trouble when I wax nihilistic?
(Later, pictures demonstrating that we live in a world of shit & pain that is visually polluted by advertising that we can't fucking escape.)
I haven't read/watched The Hunger Games until tonight, when we watched the fillum because the 46-Year-Old wanted to. The 13YO wandered down to see the Thrilling Conclusion. Afterwards the 13YO offered this Interesting Experiment:
If you could pick 24 Compelling Characters from History or Fiction who would provide a Riveting Spectacle if they were sent to the woods and forced to struggle to the death in the manner depicted in the Hunger Games, whom would you select?
Because why not, here are my 24.
1. John Kerry
2. Indira Gandhi
3. Paul Stanley
4. Clara Peller
5. Leopold Bloom
7. Plankton (from SpongeBob)
8. Marisa Tomei
9. Larry Csonka
10. Paula Poundstone
11. George "The Animal" Steele
12. Grace O'Malley
13. Pope Pius XII/Bill Buckner
15. Emo Philips
17. The Good Fairy
18. Lucy (of the poems where's she's dead, usually, not the precocious young Ms. Van Pelt)
19. Cato the Younger
20. Karen (the Computer Wife of Plankton)
21. Mookie Wilson
23. Lord Rochester
24. Dorothy Parker
Mookie Wilson wins, of course, no matter how you go on #13.
And the Plankton/Shelob sex scene always achieves Enduring Internet Success.
After all, there's lots of people and tourists in Manhattan. If you really want to dump public funds into a tourist attraction right across from it, making it as easy as possible to get there sure would be a big economic shot in the arm.
I don't know where the money for such an infrastructure project might come from, though. Probably public empoyee unions already stole it.
2009 looms, less than two hours away. And I thought I'd take this opportunity to express my thanks and tell you my hopes for the future.
First, I'm thankful for Thers, the other half of my brain, who defines, more than anyone else, my day-to-day experience.
An actual conversation, more or less:
Me: Please consider paint colors for the kitchen renovation. Thers: There is a difference between you and I Me: What is that? Thers: You like to do stuff. I do not. Me: (laughs) Thers: No, seriously You see a vacation, you say: project! You see a tax refund, you say: kitchen. I see a vacation, I say: sleep! I see a tax refund, I say: party! Me: Well, I guess that's accurate.
Seriously, dood. You rock.
Thanks too to our cobloggers: Thers's jebby co-survivor VA; the wiseman/wiseass of the midwest Rip; the woman with the shit on the Left Coast, flory; and my lifelong friend and confrere Jake T. Snake (who, I confess at this juncture, is my cousin).
Thanks to the monsters of Liberal Mountain, only shards of whose adventures make it to your fine eyes.
I hope our new president, once he's in office, stops stroking people and starts kicking ass.
I hope our new president listens to Paul Krugman.
I hope our new president lives up to the things people swore to me about him.
I hope we can restore the economy and the climate at the same time.
What are you thankful for? What do you hope for? Have a wonderful New Year!
Well, we're back on Lovely Liberal Mountain and ready to buckle down and finish our summer writing projects, as Thers noted. And yet I find myself reflecting on the same worries I had before my bemusing week in Louisville (note to self: if you ever think it's a good idea to read 1100 essays on the same topic again, please seek professional help. kthnxbai.): what will be the role of populism in the campaign, and how will that populism be defined?
We're all panicking about the economy these days: from gas prices to food prices (which stand, in the wake of the midwest flooding, to push even higher) to loss of equity in our homes to a fucking insane presidential candidate whose campaign slogan, as Thers has noted, is "Everybody Dies!" but also seems to have adopted a new mantra: "What Economic Problems?" Personally, I think we should all solve our economic problems by marrying pill-popping beer heiresses and calling them trollops and cunts in public: though I admit, the pool of people willing to share their bank accounts in exchange for such behavior may not be quite enough to bail out the whole country. Plus, some people are already married. But since we've essentially decriminalized polygamy, I don't think that will be much of a problem.
Anyway, back to the economy. In my College Writing class, I do a unit on the economy because I've found that the students I get--the traditional ones, anyway, who were generally born during Bush 1 at this point--have no tools whatsoever to dig apart the current economic ideology, even as they face it down and consider its effects in their own lives. I try to explain to them The Great Compression and what it meant in terms of the development of American civil society, and they're routinely blown away by the things their parents had which they never knew. (e.g. municipal garbage collection, which now seems weird and archaic, like one of those Little House stories about people making their own bullets). I'm no economist--just ask my credit union, who mourn my lack of numerical skills even as they rack up huge fees from my cluelessness--which is why I trust grownups like Krugman and Atrios to let me know how all this works. But I know what I see, and it's pretty grim.
And my students aren't stupid. They know what they see, too, but it has just never occurred to them to see it in any way other than a Norquistian Wet Dream. Taxes are bad, regulations are bad, globalization is good, corporate America has your best interests at heart. It's an essentially adolescent worldview, embraced by those who get to Ron Paul by way of Ayn Rand and haven't really figured out that they're supposed to outgrow that kind of selfishness at a certain point. (I'm totally rooting for a Ron Paul independent run, BTW. That would give Obama 49 states, rather than the 47 I've been confidently predicting. Go, Ron!) College students think they're Libertarians because they want to get high and make sure they have access to birth control. Oh, and they don't want to die in stupid wars. But they haven't thought much past that.
And so I try to reframe the economics debate via this concept I've been working on, and was delighted to see in the Washington Post this morning: taxes are the entrance fee into civil society. And you can't cut taxes too far without having that civil society break down.
Let's imagine an alternate universe. The U.S. government is running a
large and growing deficit. Not far down the road it faces huge
increases in Social Security and Medicare
costs. Naturally, the candidates for president want to remedy this by
raising revenue. They don't want us to bequeath bigger deficits to our
children or stake our future on foreigners' willingness to keep lending
But have you heard this speech? "My fellow Americans, I have a plan
to raise taxes so that the budget will be closer to balance and future
Americans won't have to worry about their retirement security." Neither
Somebody, though, should be giving it.
It's Roger Lowenstein, the "Exuberance Is Rational!" guy, and I think that's pretty compelling evidence in itself that we are poised at the edge of a sea change in economic policy and indeed, in the basic sense of what it means to be American. Lowenstein offers five points of argument, as follows:
1. End preferential treatment for private equity fund managers. (They pay 15%? Jesus fuck!)
2. Raise the cap on the payroll tax.
3. Reinstate a meaningful inheritance tax.
4. End unfair deductions.
5. (Best for last): Repeal the Bush cuts in income and capital gains taxes.
Is this what the New Populism is going to look like? If so, I guess it's a start. The fact is, taxes pay for things we need, like, oh, I dunno, food inspections. Personally, I'm swearing off tomatoes until my own are ripe--and they're still just little guys.
It's a sane and comprehensible response to be skeptical of taxation when your government allows shit like this to slide. As in noted wanker P.J. O'Rourke's famous aphorism, "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it." But Dems generally believe that government can do good, even though, in the same line, O'Rourke defines this as saying that "government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn." Well, I'm not aware of the party's position on lawncare, but progressive taxation and sane education policy would be objectively good for most people, in my opinion. And good childhood nutrition does tend to make people taller, so there's that. And that's worth some taxes, I think.
People are scared, and not without reason. But I think we can do something about it.
The underlying debate in my last post, it seems to me, is a completely fair question: will the economy displace the war by the time of the election? I genuinely don't know, but like global warming, the damage seems to be increasing not linearly (thanks, MH!), but rather exponentially. And I think there's a good solid chance that for most people, the war will be eclipsed by November as the issue most on voters' minds.
Which is why, when the primaries conclude this week, it is imperative that Obama grab that populist banner and hold it high in the air. What I saw in my last post was a comprehensible response: I opposed the war, she didn't, I don't support her. Fair enough. (Or not, given that she's promised to pull out troops toute suite.) I support universal health care, he doesn't (UPDATE: at least not in any way that will work, actuarially speaking), I alloted my support accordingly. Maybe Obama's friend Edwards will change his mind. We can always hope.
But the lives of thousands of Americans and potentially a million or more Iraqis might seem less important to someone who is homeless, or someone who can't feed their kids, or someone whose job just went to Malaysia. And you know what? No, lots of those people didn't go to college, but somehow they have the vote anyway. Go figure. I'm not saying the lives and money lost don't matter, or that they shouldn't--I'm saying that for some people that might not be the top issue. I understand from my commenters that this makes such people ignorant bigots.
And no, I'm not arguing that race played no role in the West Virginia and Kentucky races. But as I noted in one of my responses below, I think that's been blown out of proportion by people who can't believe that any rational person would support Senator Clinton for any reason except their own ignorance. Forgive me, but that in itself is a pretty ignorant position. (You know there are even black people in West Virginia! True story! One is my brother-in-law! And he comes from Beckley, which is practically Kentucky!) Try thinking outside the ideological box, people, and marvel that this population is supporting a Democrat--any Democrat--at all.
The level of engagement we've seen in this primary season is impressive by any rational standard. But that's because the primary has been so fraught, not in spite of it. I did not intend, in my last post, to convey any sense that I would not support the eventual nominee. Of course I will. All I'm saying is that after 6 months of being trashed openly and by implication, I'd like to see some gesture that yes, this is my party too. Or, as Digby has it:
I think the thing that has most exacerbated the fervent Clinton
supporters' frustration, and frankly astonished me a bit, has been this
endless drumbeat since February for her to drop out even though she was
still winning primaries. Nobody should expect a politician who is still
winning to quit. It makes no sense. It's not in their DNA. Certainly,
in a race this close it made no sense whatsoever. I don't think that
line has helped Obama (and I think it's why the campaign itself has
been so careful not to publicly flog it.)
In 84 and 88,
Jackson was seen as a potential party wrecker too and in 88 he took his
historic campaign, in which he won 11 contests, all the way to the
convention. He made a very famous speech which he ended with the chant
"Keep Hope Alive," which could have easily been construed as wishing
for Dukakis to fail so he could get another bite at the apple
(something that people are accusing Clinton of already.) But it wasn't.
And that's because while Jackson went to the convention trailing by 1200
delegates, he was holding a very important card, which everyone
recognized and respected. You can rest assured that people were worried
that his constituency, many of them first time voters who he had
registered, would stay home in the fall, and so Democrats treated him
and his campaign (publicly at least) with respect and deference, and
rightly so. He represented the dreams and aspirations of millions of
Democratic voters, after all.
To many African Americans, a
constant clamor for Jackson (or Obama if it had gone that way) to drop
out of the race would have been seen as a call to go to the back of the
bus. Likewise, for many of Clinton's supporters, it's been seen as a
call to sit down and shut up (or "stifle" as Archie Bunker used to say
to Edith.) I'm not saying it's entirely rational, but then these things
rarely are. The extreme closeness of this race makes it even more
frustrating and emotional for a lot of people.
And that's all I'm saying. Oh, for Digby's grace with words.....
Yesterday was the first day of The Great Bus Experiment. The first means to be tested was the rural route bus.
I got up early, weirdly excited to be commuting by public transportation. I used to do this in Miami when I temped, walking five or so blocks to the train, then riding into downtown and taking the MetroMover for various jobs and back again in the afternoon.
This was much easier. My scheduled pick up time was 7:30 am, but the site said to be ready 15 minutes before. The bus, really a jitney, arrived at about 7:25. I got on and paid my $2. There were twelve seats, in pairs of six, but there was one person in each one, so I had to share. No biggie. I was the last morning pick up, and then we headed straight for the city.
Most of my co-riders seemed to be people who couldn't drive for various reasons: mostly MR adults on this particular run, going to assisted workplaces. I was told by the dispatcher that the later pick-up time (tennish) was mostly senior citizens going to day programs. This tells us something about the reliance on cars in our culture, but I'm not sure what.
We dropped off a few folks at one site, than another person at another, then drove a good 20 minutes over backroads to my part of town. There's another of those assisted workplaces near my campus, so we went there first, arriving at my stop about 8:10.
Going home was even easier. I got picked up on my campus at 3:25 (scheduled time: 3:15). Thers had been in, and had brought our three year old to campus with him; she decided to stay and ride the bus home with me. (I called to check on this: it was fine, though I gathered on fuller runs I'd need to tell them in advance of any kids accompanying me.) This was a much straighter shot: aside from dropping off one person who had been on the bus in the morning, it was absolutely door-to-door, and precisely the route I would have taken had I driven. We arrived home about 4.
I asked the driver if I could use the bus to commute regularly, and she seemed surprised by the question, but said sure. You can book as little as one day and up to two weeks in advance. It would run me $20 a week, $40 if I can talk Thers into it. Still much less than we're paying to drive.
Pros: Cheaper than driving. Curb-to-curb service. Work time. Seatbelts. Kids ride free. Cons: Seatmates. Stigma. Limited hours. Needs to be booked in advance. I am skeptical of my ability to convince Thers to do this too. Also, had to go out when I got home--though significantly closer to home--to run errands I could have done on the way to or from school.
But still, a success. I could definitely commit to this for at least one or two days a week, especially if the kids ride free. Certainly, it eliminates the need for more than one car on campus.
(The first in an experimental series in which Molly Ivors attempts to suss out the potential of public transportation to and from Liberal Mountain.)
The cold, hard, facts: A monthly bus pass costs less than a tank of gas.
Here on Liberal Mountain, we have two cars. One is a minivan which assures us it's a low-emission vehicle, but gets crappy gas mileage (about 20 mpg). It has a 26 gallon tank which, at current prices, costs us just over $100 to fill. We generally do so once or twice a week. The other is a small economy car which mostly belongs to the teen now. That gets slightly better mileage (about 30 mpg, on average), but also has a smaller tank. We generally spend about $50 filling that one weekly.
A bus pass for one adult for one month, entitled to bring up to three children free, is $35.
Of course, we live together and work together, and so can often travel together. According to Mapquest, the trip from the ocelot-infested wilds of Liberal Mountain is 15.68 miles. That's just over 30 miles roundtrip, so one gallon in the small car, one and one-half in the large one. $4-$6 dollars a day = $20-$30 a week = $89-$126 per month. That gets us to and from work, but it doesn't get lunch or shopping or anything else done. And as I noted, our monthly gas bill for the van is about $450, and for the small car about $225.
Another problem: the bus doesn't actually come here. We have two choices, then. We can either (a) call the rural route bus, which is like a jitney and runs $2 per adult, or (b) drive to a place where the bus will meet us, preferably a parking lot where we can leave the car all day, maybe at a shopping center or similar. There are two places I can think of off the top of my head: one, a strip mall with Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and Barnes & Noble and stuff like that; the other the local library. The strip mall is 9.15 miles from Liberal Mountain, the library is 8.3 miles. So getting to either of those would mean driving more than half the distance to work anyway.
The next county over also runs a bus to our campus, though on a much more limited schedule. It is 5.86 miles to that stop, but there's nowhere safe to park the car.
This summer, I will be conducting a series of experiments on the financial and environmental impact of these options. I'll also calculate in what one might call the PITA index, that is, how much of a pain in the ass this whole process is. I expect this to be pretty high: any of these routes means 2 transfers, one at the local university, and one downtown.
In doing so, I hope to bring to light some of the problems with our current public transportation system.