Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why I Still Identify as a Democrat

For me it's a matter of economics.

While one could make the case that the Democratic party has taken the economic side of its platform for granted and tried to get the "ideological" vote, the Republican Party has not changed its stripes. And those stripes are:
  1. The corporatization of rights; i.e. rights will be held by corporations; individuals will not have rights as indviduals.
  2. Limitation of rights to economic; all other rights don't matter.
  3. Rights measured by wealth. More money, more rights, less money, less rights.
  4. Unions will be illegal, as workers will be unable to unite to protect their interests.
  5. All protections that are aimed towards people will disappear. Watch the smokestacks turn black with pollution (at least we'll be able to combat Global Warming) and food become poisonous. Watch health care places suddenly put a bar on who can be welcomed in -- based on ability to pay, of course.
  6. "Intellectual Property Rights" will be used to overturn the 13th Amendment (you know, the one banning private slavery). Laws will, of course, "bar" color-based enslavement activity, not that the laws will have any effect...

Note that I said nothing about Abortion. I think Abortion is just a distraction, and I believe that if the Democrats were to decide to stand with the Right in banning Abortion itself you'd see the Republicans reduced to a rump party unable to get a majority even in the South.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The 60 Minutes Report on "Plan B"

Heard the 60 minutes report on "Plan B," the pill that prevents pregnancies by stopping ovulation and making the womb unable to accept a fertilized egg. Not the best of reports.

Probably the worst part of the report was their attempt to portray the radical right (those against the pill) as having no idea of why they stand the way they stand. While they got to the "This would result in an abortion" concept, they made a point of going no further to the belief that stands behind this.

And that belief is this: Life begins upon conception, and anything that keeps the egg from becoming a human being is an abortificant.

Too many liberals don't understand this, and other related items about the radical right's reactions to sex and sexual pleasure (they tend not to understand a lot of things). The radical right could care less about freedom, and with to see sex linked to pain, suffering and the DUTY of reproduction. Hence, amongst other things, their opposition to the Hepititas B vaccine -- one less source of suffering from sex, one less reason to view sex as evil.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mass Transit in South Chicago, Indiana (Vol. 1)

1: The Problem:

The Metra Electric does a good job at bringing people in from the south side, and it does double duty for the South Shore Line.

However, the line also does service for a couple of branches which could use greater service, but which are stuck with once-an-hour travel (if that much) because of the fact that they're branches of Metra and not the CTA. Not only that, but the mainline itself has a bunch of stations within Chicago itself that are desperately underserved.

Not only that, but Metra has no reason to increase service for locals along the Electric. It's main service is commuter and longer-distance travel between city and suburb (and maybe suburb to suburb if the "STAR Line" gets some legs); indeed with the turf wars going on between the CTA and Metra, such service wouldn't make sense. Hence the multitude of Express bus lines along where the Metra Electric runs.

Not only that, but there's now an active prospect of increased service in Indiana. Where that is going to be able to fit in is anyone's guess; right now NICTD is only allowed three trains per hour during Rush Hour and there's no more room for more. There's studies on how to overcome the bottleneck south of Kesington, but docking and storage of the trains is another question.

2: One Man's Solution:

Mike Payne has come up with an intriguing idea (and probably the one that would be accepted in today's tight-wad world) called the Gray Line. His idea boils down to this:
  1. Retrofit some of the Electric cars with CTA decals, put CTA turnstiles in many of the underused stations
  2. Lease usage of the lines to CTA
  3. Run the Local Mainline tracks, the South Chicago branch and the Blue Island branch as the CTA Gray Line

A good idea. He claims it would be the cheapest line the CTA would get (as we're talking about a retooling of what's already there), plus service would be increased in places where it's most needed.

I do see a couple problems with this service, however:

  1. No integration with the rest of the CTA rail lines. The Gray Line would stay in its own area, with no real way (outside of buses or walking) to connect with the rest of the CTA network.

  2. No space for the South Shore trains to fit in. With the Electric trains now doing more runs, the Kensington bottleneck becomes more of a bottleneck, plus docking space becomes more of a premium (storage may be better, as now there'd be a few fewer cars at the Metra yard).

    In short, the Gray Line blocks out Indiana for growth; indeed even for access. And while I'm sure there's plenty in NW Indiana who would like to see the South Shore Line disappear ("Just think what we could do with that extra $9.33 a year! A weekend's worth of cheap beer by the 24-pack!"), many others would like the convenience, ease and comfort a train into downtown Chicago or South Bend (or Valpo or Lowell) would give them.

  3. Why would we need the equivalent of six CTA cars running over an area that would actually be better served by a two-car train during certain times of the day or night? Think of it: Five hundred seats running four-six times over the period of an hour when a smaller train would give better, more comfortable service over that time -- while at the same time giving a more flexible connection that the present service could provide.

I think we can do better. I think we can integrate the Electric (even if just by a transfer point) into the CTA rail system. I think we can give better service without getting in the way of Metra's goal of Commuter/Travel service. And I think we can improve service without overusing trains meant for heavy loads and long hauls over short periods.

Next Entry: My Plan for transforming the Metra Electric into a true mass transit line

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mass Transit in South Chicago, Indiana (Vol. 2)

I've had a plan in my head for a while (inspired by the Gray Line idea) on improving service along the Metra Electric. However, my service would seek to integrate the Electric local lines with the CTA lines. More expensive, I agree, but worth it (in my mind, anyway):

1: Extend the south Chicago Green Line (Dark Green) down the Metra Electric's South Shore branch (via Light Green Line).

The Metra Electric's South Shore Branch gets three trains an hour during rush hours, one train an hour otherwise. Hooking up the South Shore Line with the Green Line would allow for an increase in service at least to three-four trains per hour during regular times, up to eight trains during rush hour, improving and integrating that area into the CTA rail system. Plus the additioin of the transfer station between the new green line and the Metra Electric allows for further integration of the system in a way that actually improves access on the south side. Plus you get three new docking spaces for South Shore service.

2: Extend the Red Line (dark red line) down the Metra Electric Main Line Local and Blue Island Line (via Light Red Line).

For this, I would rebuild the west two tracks of the Metra Electric into CTA tracks, complete with separate entrances and paying mechanisms. You'd also have to fill in space from the 111th street station to where the Blue Island Line turns off and build a transfer station system either at the 111th or 115th street station. However, such a system would improve Mass Transit Access to the Pullman areas and other areas south AND add three more lines for South Shore Service, should it be needed.

and finally:

3: Rebuild the rest of the Metra Electric for separate local and express service, with the locals run by CTA equipment (the Gray Line -- which continues north past this map towards downtown).

While there are questions which will need answering for the North End of this service, the portion from 95th Street north can be shifted over to CTA-type service. While I'd prefer the locals shifted over to the west tracks and the express kept of the east 2 tracks, the present alignment can be used as long as one can create a way to keep people from jumping services without paying. The express tracks can be made one-way boarding and unboarding (like King Drive on the Green Line's East 63rd Street branch). And unless the Gray Line ends (or continues through) the "Millenium Station" (formerly Randolph/Water Street), even more docking and parking spaces will be created for both the South Shore and Electric Lines to use.

Next Posting: Drawbacks, Problems and other Considerations

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mass Transit in South Chicago, Indiana (Vol. 3)

Drawbacks, Problems and other Considerations

First drawback for this plan is the sheer amount of money it's bound to cost. From adusting the rails (and adding in third rails) so that the CTA El vehicles would be able to make it down rail lines made for Metra Superliner vehiclies to the rebuilding of a number of stops to make them ADA compliant (among other laws), the cost would be high, maybe prohibative. Even the mere extension of the Green Line down the South Chicago Branch would include the following charges:
  • adjusting rails, including third rail
  • removal of cantinary for entire length
  • placing overpasses in places where road traffic is heavy (Stoney Island is one that comes to mind)
  • connecting Green Line with the South Shore Branch
  • a Transfer station between the Green line and the Metra Electric
  • dealing with the now-useless connection between the Main Line and the South Chicago Branch
  • dealing with the two present southern endpoints of the Green Line

And, of course, there's the problem of whether Metra would give up the South Chicago branch, and for how much.

All this, in an era where the keyword is not so much expansion but maximization. You have a system who plans a route based not so much on usability or expansion of service but instead on using what they have. Ergo, the Circle Line, an idea feasible only because of the maximum punch for the minimum amount of money or disturbance.

Second Drawback: Everything I've proposed is on land owned by Metra. Right now, there is precious little cooperation between Metra and the CTA, and I doubt that Metra would want to give up land and responsibility to another. Shared responsibility (Main Line, part of the Red Line extension) would be another can of worms entierely.

Third Drawback: What to do with the two southern ends of the Green Line? It may be possible to extend to the South Chicago branch via 63rd, either via a quick turnoff or directly to the Electric Mainline and down the present access. Whatever way you do the connection presents problems (down 63rd would bring down the wrath of churches and other groups grousing over "the darkness an EL line would bring;" other connections have thier problems.).

The west branch is another problem. Do we do another "stub line" like the lines which had dotted the El line for years? Many of them drained the systems for years, others worked only to be abandoned by the customers in the end. No matter what, the stub lines ended being a drain and a curse on the Chicago system of Els, and their disappearance (outside of the Skokie Swift, built as an express line for commuters) has pretty much been unmourned except by railfans. While it would be nice to extend it, the question remains: where to? And why? Plus you can't tear it down, the CTA would have to repay the Federal Government millions of dollars of money if they were to tear down that stretch of rail.

A consideration:

I could easily see a combination of the first phase of my plan combined with an activation of the Gray Line, concept down the mainline and the Blue Island branch. The transfer station would allow for movement from the Electric to the Green Line and the rest of the El System, and while the South Chicago line would be costly the rest of the service could be implemented as cheaply as possible.

It's also probably the best I can hope for, increasing service to the south so that the South Shore System will have space at "Millenium" station.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Women Having Sex With Boys, And the Men Who Envy Them

Debra LaFave is Free, according to the web site

Once again, a female "Sex Offender" was on the news. And once again, some male talking head (who will remain nameless here) was whining about how she got away with her crime. And once again, the guy's jealousy spews forth (since chances are he had once wanted to have sex with his female teachers while in high school, and now wants to have sex with as many adolescent girls as he can get away with).

And always the complaint: "Why do women 'sex offenders' get lighter sentances than men 'sex offenders'?"

Well, I have a few answer to those questions:
  1. The boys are usually eager to get seduced by the women, whereas most of the time the girls get themselves forced on by the men. There is a difference. After all, a girl has to deal with something inside her, plus the threat of pregnancy and shame.

  2. In relation to the above point, since it's the older woman who's taking the risk, it must be assumed there is some willingness on both sides. No need to coerce, especially extra-horny male teens (fourteen and already their sexual powers can only go down).

  3. Usually it's just one or two boys who are taken by the women, whereas there's usually a trail of girls taken by the men. This translates to a possibility of rehabilitation for the woman, versus a need for speed in getting rid of the man. The correlation to this is that you should see more severe penalties laid on repeat offenders -- like, say, Mary Kay LaTourneau, or the Mom who hosted parties so she could seduce teenaged boys.

  4. The women are rarely in a position of adequate control, whereas the men usually are in positions of control.

    Think about it: A teacher usually deals with tens of students in a class, hundreds of students every day. The student wanting intimate time with the teacher will have to show enough initiative so that a willing teacher can start the seduction. Now, a coach or religious leader has a stick which he can coerce the other, as the child (can be male or female) FEELS A NEED to please the other (usually a man). Take away enough scruples, and you can guess the outcome.

  5. Girls are more likely to keep silent than boys. Especially the type of boys who are likely to be seduced by teachers. We're talking alpha-males-in-training; why should they keep quiet about their overaged conquest?
If you're wondering about the difference, consider this: Mary Kay LaTourneau seduced ONE (count them -- one) man, and stuck with him through that whole time. One story I heard had a male high school coach being so brazen as to have a girl show up clothed with only a towel at an appointed time, and at that time the coach would come out fo the shower with the girl he had taken five minutes ago. And this guy had twelve girls under him, and for quite a few years. A changing roster of girls, may I add.

One vs hundreds.

No comparison, really. And full reason for the lack of severity for first time female 'offenders' (compared to their male counterparts).

Monday, November 21, 2005

Prayer In School: What Gives?

I remember when I was younger and a True Believer in the Fundamentalist view of Christianity (what I'd probably be if I were a believer today is a topic for later...) and probably the biggest thing I always heard about was Prayer In School. It was always "The Supreme Court took away Prayer In School, then came pot and drugs and disobedience and crime and the evil known as liberalism (with their evil minions known as liberals). Return prayer in school, and the nation turns out right.

Now, I find it strange. First off, why would God take revenge on a ruling by a body of nine august men (and women) on the rest of the nation is beyond me.

Second, what is the mechanism behind Prayer In School (tm) making things right in schools. Surely things weren't so perfect in America before 1962 because of School Prayer. Nor could things have been so proper in the rest of society because teachers in school were busy making kids bow down their heads for fifteen seconds before hand. And most certainly the blacks in their "Seperate-But-Equal" schools were getting educated because they too had to bow their heads down for fifteen seconds every day.

The only thing I can think of to make sense of things is "Social Control." When kids prayed, they were made aware that behind that old crusty woman at the head of the class stood their parents, their friends's parents, the neighborhood adults, their pastor/priest, and the police. Plus possibly the armies of angels, saints and God himself.

Now the schools are gleefully dissed by society. Neighborhoods are dissolved, with privacy rights paramount. Neighbors don't really know each other, and too many of them are two-check families, meaning there's no army of mothers watching over everyone.

And I doubt that "Prayer In Public Schools" (not that the Christian right wants it back, having decided to abandon public schools and pray for their dessolution) would make the world better. I just can't see it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Today in Big Ten Play

Today I'm playing "Big Ten Patriot." For those wondering what it means, it's this: My team (Michigan State Spartans) is bad enough that I have to root for the good teams in the conference my team is in. In other words, my conference patriotism is a refuge from the disaster of a season this has become for the Spartans (no bowl, no second half appearances, and no respect deserved).

So what's up? Well, the following:

Ohio State beat Michigan. Good because the higher-ranked team beat a lower-ranked team, and tOSU has a better chance of making it to a BCS bowl as an at-large team. That Michigan lost is a bonus, but were Michigan ranked higher I would have rooted for them to win.

Penn State beat Michigan State. Hurts, but Penn State is a possibility for the Championship game (now with them #3 in the BCS after Miami losing). Sure they'll probably lose to the Longhorns, but I'd rather have the chance -- if they were to play and win that game, who knows? Joe Pa would truly become untouchable.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Michigan/Ohio State: My Fondest Memory

While not necessarily the biggest game now, definitely one that has held onto its marquee for a long time. Those of you in your late forties and up probably remember the 1968 game which put Michigan back on the map (by taking a "gift trip to the Rose Bowl" and making it an earned trip); I remember the missed field goal, the vote and Woody punching out the camera man. After that, I was an MSU fan so the game receeded from memory.

Then came 1996.

Michigan was aiming for its first end-of-year #1 ranking in almost fifty years, and Ohio State was in the middle of its near-domination of the Big Ten (just couldn't get Michigan out of its hair...). I was following along, especially after MSU did its usual nose-dive by losing to both Michigan and Ohio State.

The week before the game I called Radio Talking Book at WKAR to see if I could volunteer to read. I lucked out -- they had the Saturday Morning reading of the Detroit News/Free Press open. I jumped on it.

Saturday comes, I ride the bus to campus and walk in to read. Sadly, the regular reader has the sports section to read. Happily, it's an old woman and she begs off the Sports to me.

As I look through the paper, I not only notice the Michigan and Ohio state articles (both big and front-page) but also articles for the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Spartan Football. I break up the fifteen minute reading into three sections -- The first section covers the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Spartan Football, the middle section is dedicated to Michigan, and the final section is for Ohio State.

My sports time comes, I sit behind the mike.

The first five minutes pass by. I butcher my usual number of words (not the names of the Russians playing for the Red Wings, thank goodness), moving an eye on the time clock to make sure I'm not taking too much time on these unimportant items.

Then I move on to the Michigan article. As I read it, I find myself getting keyed up as I try to guage equal time between this and the Ohio State Article. Three minutes, then four, then five minutes finally pass by.

I move on to the Ohio State article.

Now I'm reading with one eye on the article and the other on the clock. Time ticks slowly, but steadily, as I work my way through the Ohio State Article. A pattern to the paragraphs, noticed in the Michigan article, ingrains itself throughout the Ohio State Article: One paragraph discussion, one paragraph supporting quote, repeat until the end.

Again, the time runs out. I'm sure I've given equal time, and I know I've done justice to everything -- both the important game and the rest of the sports news. I feel good.

Now, I'm sure I'd have done it differently. I'd have done the first seven minutes to Michigan, the next seven minutes to Ohio State, and passed on headlines and other stuff in the last minute. Even the MSU game (they would win their game that day and get slaughtered in the bowl game they played -- Thank You For That Slaughter, Nick Saban). It would have been a nerve-racking effort, but worth it for that day as #1 was fighting a worthy opponent.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Don't You Just Love Modern-Day Planning...

...with its inability to plan ahead for growth?

The key for me is the bottom article, with its focus on the South Shore:
The problem is, according to Parsons, the number of riders during rush hour is near capacity, about 97 percent of the NICTD fleet is in use every day, and the time frame for purchasing new equipment is two years.

"We really don't have much room to handle additional people and provide everyone a seat," Parsons said. "(The Skyway construction) is just going to exacerbate our capacity problems."

In other words, they have no space to add on cars or trains.

Isn't Metra Electric Getting some new cars? With potties? Why don't they loan us a couple of trains while we go through this problem?

Heck, I can see an addition to a couple of CTA lines which would free up plenty of space on the Electric for South Shore Service.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just a resident, I don't know enough to be an expert...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Anti-Semitism Returns to America

Listening to the Mike North Show on WSCR, I heard two people comment on the firing of an employee. Normally I would just notice nothing, especially if it's the usual "we'll miss him/her" type of comments.

Sadly, these two callers called in to complain, and each complaint hit on the immediate supervisor for being Jewish!

Now I don't know why the firing took place. I know North defended the man immediately above him, saying the action came from further above. But it's sad that the one thing that separated the United States from most of the rest of the world was its opposition to Anti-Semitism.

Of course, the hatred never died out. You usually found it buried in some off-space readily dismissed and looked down upon, or a website which busied itself with conspiracy theories upon conspiracy theories. And, of course, some oddball would get on the subject of races and expound on the Jews. But they were usually silenced by the stares of others, or had to hide their beliefs under the rubric of Dislocated Palestinians.

But now, they've started getting into the open. Peeking out as callers in a sports show, no less.

Now I've read of plenty of websites which dissect the American Christian wish for Jews to establish themselves in Palestine as a way to bring Christ to the world (and remove themselves from it in time to watch it go to hell). This view recasts historical anti-Semitism into a "Move Away From Us And Die" movement, with the idea that when the Jews (unwittingly) fulfill their part in the grand scheme of things, the Christians disappear from the earth (and presumably watch "innocently" from afar as the rest of the world takes care of the Jews.

If that is true, then maybe this anti-semitism is the stick behind this movement, with the Carrot being support for them moving to Palestine and clearing the area of Arabs? If nothing else, it's an intriguing way to rid the United States of Jews: "We Love you, go to your land, we'll support you even."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

An Open Letter to Pat Robertson

Okay, so I know you have to damn people sometimes, in times where unrepentent sin pops its ugly head.

I know you had to do it in Orlando, Florida, when they welcomed Faggots instead of using them to kindle their fires. Even though the hurricanes that came through ended up making the rest of the state suffer more than Orlando.

I know you had to take heart in what happened in New Orleans when Ellen DeGeneres hosted a gala in Hollywood. Even though an earthquake forcing the building where the gala was at to collapse would have been a better punishment than a ton of water aimed at people who had no way of escaping what was going on all around them.

And I understand that you had to damn the people in Dover, Pennsylvania, for revolting against a bunch of people who wanted Intelligent Design taught as Revealed Truth shown as Scientific Fact (instead of the Belief that it more properly is).

Now, if I may ask a more radical concept of you: how about some healing power to people?

I live with a woman whose left leg and arm have never recovered from the stroke she suffered seven years ago. Not only that, but her left hipbone broke recently; causing more trouble in her left side. Maybe you should pray for the total healing of her left leg and left arm.

Okay, want to give a blessing to a believer? How about this one: A woman I know who suffers from umpteen unknown diseases that once made her grossly fat. She's able to control her weight, but with numerous pills and not really as well as she needs to. Maybe you should ask God to heal her from the diseases that make her both sick and strongly obsessive-compulsive to the degree that she is.

There's two people there who could use God's healling power; instead of a Damning God looking for people to punish. I'm sure you could find more, but these are the two I can imagine at the moment.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What I Dislike About Wal-Mart:

What I dislike about Wal-Mart:
They targeted the downtowns of many small towns and gutted them.
Now while the people shopping there are the reason the downtowns closed down, I don't blame the shoppers. After all, we city dwellers have always had K-Marts and Meijers and Hudson's and many other stores; small towns had pretty much had to depend on the Sears Catalog or the occasional trip to the big city to get stuff. Now, we got this big box in some rural setting that offered everything you could ever want, and they worked like the devil to keep the prices low (so it seemed). Is it any wonder the local five-and dime descendant store couldn't survive?

The twenty-eight hour workweek.
Believe it or not, this was an idea brought about by the Great Depression (1929-1942) as an attempt to get more people hired. The idea was that workers would be eligible for overtime once they worked thirty hours in a week. The bill actually passed the senate back in the 1930's.

Now here's Wal-Mart, with their spin: 28 hours is all you work if you're starting, and you have a family to support we'll give you food stamp applications for you to fill out. That's right, friends: Wal-Mart, instead of hiring a few workers who can afford food from their jobs, makes it a point to have its employees leach off the Government.

Now: a forty hour week isn't too much for a company. It should be able to have its employees able to afford to live off whatever wage it pays their employees, even if that wage is as close to Minimum as they can get away with. And Wal-Mart makes a point of avoiding that (remember the Hispanic cleaners they lock in their stores?).

Dependance on China for their products.
When Mr. Sam Walton was alive, Wal-Mart may have been a bully to American small town business, but you knew the stuff was built where it was bought. He even made them fill out forms saying so. But when Sam died, the siblings turned around and said "To Hell with the US worker, Chinese workers are cheaper." So they shifted their purchasing office to Beijing and bought boats to import the stuff.

Sure, they buy stuff from farms. They ain't figured out how to import Quik chocolate Milk and Quisp Cereal yet.

The Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla Effect
Remember when the Government would tell a corporation "You're too big, time to split into six different parts?" Not anymore, nowadays it's "You're not big enough, grow or die."

And while it's nice to know that the people who have a choice are making a point of ignoring Wal-Mart and its noise machine, the fact that that noise machine deafens by mere dint of its low-level hum of silence bigs me.

Think of it -- why else would country music become the most popular music in the country except that there were suddenly thousands and thousands of outlets in country-listening parts of the United States? While record stores in Collegetowns all over were closing up, Wal-Marts were opening up all over, bringing Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, and Patty Loveless to places where they were listened to but not really bought in mass before. So now, while Athens and Minneapolis and Tin Pan Alley begs for new blood, Nashville kicks people out because there's too many people begging for a spot at the base of the Country Music Pyramid.

Like I said, the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla Effect...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Does the Right Wing WANT Roe v Wade Overturned - or Changed?

The Roe Effect (and how it benefits the Republican Party)

Think of it: If I were a Republican:
  1. I would not want Roe v Wade overturned and left to the states. This would mean states would be subject to the populace, most of whom want SOME access to abortion. They'd have to admit to their "God" base that they don't want to put together a total ban.
  2. Nor would I want Roe v Wade reinterpreted to mean the courts could BAN abortion (it is a possibility -- after all, the precedent is that the courts decided the issue, not that abortion was now a right). That would turn the Democrats -- presently the conservative party on this (as in "we must conserve the right to abortion") into the radical party with the overweaning support.

No, if I were the GOP, I would do nothing to let the "God" group out of my sight. After all, it wouldn't be the first time Businessmen rode on the coattails of another group to political power, and it wouldn't be the first time the second group was taken for granted.

And's not like moderates are wanted anymore. When a proposal to remove redistricting from the hands of people already in power in the districts gets voted down by the people, it becomes obvious what people want: Extreme Change, and a prayer that they don't get made illegal by the changes not matter what they are.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

In Insightful Times, The Cato Institute Could Learn from America

In Scandalous Times, Bush Could Learn from Clinton

And so the Cato Institute (and Fox News) bemoans the fact that their chosen champion hasn't continued his popularity despite the troubles he's going through with various things. They're especially bemoaning the fact that Clinton didn't get hung (literally) back when Monica Lewinsky was the big news.

Now they're making a point of linking the Clinton Halo to economics. As if President Bush Jr. was having bad luck because the economy wasn't appearing to go gangbusters. Kind of amazing when you think of it -- an army of voters trained to ignore what the economy is doing in lieu of commands from the pulpit carries the president to victory, yet this group magically disappears when there's a need to complain about why America doesn't genuflect in front of Bush and his Cronys.

Of course, they're busy trying to make us forget was that Clinton's "scandal" was about sex with an unpaid employee -- criminal to be sure, but let's not forget this WAS consentual during most of the affair. Bush's troubles seem to stem from a deep-seated incompetence for the office (and appearance of malfeance against enemies, both active and inactive). Merely consummating one's lusts (again, consentually -- had he been shown as an active rapist in office, there wouldn't have been a need for an impeachment as there would have been a lynching, a resignation and actual jail time) is hardly equal to using the government to actively oppress opponents real or imagined, nor is it similar to cynical profiteering masquerading as incompetence coasting through a play job.

Maybe that's why Clinton was able to keep support for his presidency even after the majority became convinced of the Radical Right's distaste for the man. They could see he did a good job despite being unable to keep his zipper up.

In other words: Sometimes Competence Is Rewarded! Try that on for size...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bus History in Playthings

A look at how buses were viewed by their toys

Interesting how opinions end up getting passed via the toys people play with.

While the bus he saw probably was waiting for its new paint job, the paint job now on the buses is quite shadowy. I know they're trying to look striking in thier almost-invisible depiction of the Greyhound, but it almost looks like they're trying to disappear the image itself, as if they're embarassed to say they haul people around.

Maybe that would make sense, as they've been removing themselves from large parts of America. Already there's three states fully abandoned, four states mostly abandoned and probably another couple states Greyhound probably wishes they could abandon but are stuck with serving. How long before Greyhound becomes known as a Nationwide service only in reputation, a scattered service area and a couple of connections across the plains and mountains?

Two routes I remember fondly, having traveled over them -- I-80 through Pennsylvania and the DC-Cleveland-Detroit route -- no longer exist as such. There go two direct connections which probably added a number of rides over the years; and all because a company wishes to squeeze out another dime of profit from what remains before another round of cuts is needed.

How bad is it? Already some cities have decided to cast Greyhound out, knowing other companies (or their mass-transit authority) could do better service (or that no service is better than shitty service funded by them). Think I'm joking: Look at some of the notes near the bottom.

Again, I must ask: how long before Greyhound declares bankruptcy -- and to the cheers of the nation?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Another Oddity About the Human Female (From an Evolutionary Point of View)


Jennifer Love Hewitt, not nude but naked enough underneatht her top :) While looking at the picture to the left (and, just so you know, you can find the full picture of Mrs. Hewitt with some other gal here. I just decided to edit out the more plastic one and keep the (reasonably) real hottie for my blog.) I'm reminded of another reason why Humans are so odd as a species.

First off, again it's something for men to look at. Most other species would have them things on a male's body simply because the male would be the one looking for the partner. Instead, we humans have placed the onus of selection on females, with the result that they have things like the above.

Second, breasts on females are actually the perfect example of sexual selection in action. They don't really do much of anything for the female (milk production -- the reason breasts exist in the first place -- is not affected by breast size) outside of attract male eyes, they can get too big for the woman's health (Over 2,000,000 hits for "breast reduction surgery" with ther term "breast reduction" as a single item to look for) and they tend to sag as they grow older.

So why would they come to develop on females?

My guess would be that it started as an abberation in some early African savannah. A woman developed breasts, and the alpha males of the group ignored her for her flatter-chested sisters. Other men found her welcoming, soon she found herself the mother of multiple children whereas the women hanging out with the alpha males probably had one or two -- maybe three tops. If most of the breasted woman's kids were girls, chances are they were spread around neighboring groups (to ally them, or at least make peace), and other men would vie for these girls, knowing they were safe from the Alpha Males. Eventually even the alpha males would notice -- especially when it turned out the breasts became signs of a woman's ability to survive a drought (they shrink, she's less able to bear children).

As for me, while breasts of all sizes (except maybe utterly flat) are nice to peek at, I find the smaller sized items more attractive. Sagging affects them less, plus nipples tend to disappear into bigger breasts. Plus your eye moves to other aspects of the woman, insuring you get a fuller picture.

But that's just me. Me, and a bit of experience affecting my view.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Why Intercity Mass Transit is Dying in The U.S.

Greyhound service cut off list.

And people wonder why nobody rides the bus anymore.

Actually, I can tell you what's been happening.

First off, we build all these expressways and keep the taxes low on gas and stuff, then expect mass transit to pay itself. Most places subsidize transit to a greater degree than us, or keep gas prices high enough to insure most people use mass transit to at least make it to work.

The Greyhound bought out Trailways LInes of Oklahoma City, thereby destroying the competition that kept things interesting.

Then Greyhound decided that the best thing for their service was to remove many of their city stops from downtowns and stick them off to the city edge, preferrably next to an expressway so their drivers didn't have to worry about city traffic. They also decided that the best thing to do to the terminals they couldn't justify shifting to a suburban location was to shrink them down so that you couldn't help but feel clausterphobic and endangered in them.

Now...they're cutting off service to as many small towns as they can get away with cutting off service to. Never mind that many of these places, with their 2-5 people per day, give the system all the people that actually ride on their buses.

And people wonder why everyone flies and drives anymore. At least you can justify the crappy service at the airports by dint of sheer numbers of passengers and archaic airport runway design in many places. And airports are SUPPOSED to be at the edges of cities; where else were you able to find enough empty space to take off in?

As for driving, if you're going to be inconvenienced by the traffic and other people, you might as well be inconvenienced in the comfort of your own space. Plus you're on your own schedule (a favorite phrase of a friend of mine, in reference to why he loved autos).

Just don't be surprised to find Greyhound declaring bankruptcy in five to ten years and threatening to close down. Also don't be surprised if you only hear the occasional cheer and the cry to destroy Amtrak as well (why not knock out everything in one blow?).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Men Talk, Women SING?

"Why Men [Can't] Listen to Women?" (FINALLY -- I HIT THIS SUBJECT!)

Yes, the quotations and question mark are my interpretation. The article says, in short:
  1. Men hear women's voices as music, not words (at least at first)
  2. Women's voices are more complex than men's voices
  3. Men's voices don't use as much of the brain to understand as women's voices

Almost sounds like sexual selection has developed in women.

In most species, it's the male that develops sexual characteristics. Whether it's the tail feathers on Pheasants or Manes on Lions or Croaking in Frogs, it's usually the male that expends the energy to attract a mate. Usually it's the female of the species that decides what's attractive, and the male works like crazy to fit in with that definition of beauty.

Not so with humans. While one can see the pendulum swinging with the terms "Metrosexual" and "Ubersexual," much of what is beautiful is still defined by men towards women, and it appears that it has taken on a genetic tinge. The female voice may have taken on a multitonality with which to catch the male, or some alpha male may have found himself entranced by some odd talk he heard, and followed his instincts.

It may also be that women's voices tend to be higher, which allows them to be heard above the background. And our ears are made to catch higher sounds a little better than lower sounds, which tend to blend into the background. Also, higher sounds can separate themselves better than lower sounds, which tend to meld into a similar-sounding sludge.

Whatever happened, women's voices today seem more and more linked to music than speaking. And men get accused of not listneing, when on occasion their minds are running overtime to figure out what's being said while fighting the tendency to interpret the sounds as music.

Like I said: Humans are strange. Only we would let the men choose what's beautiful.

(more later)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chicago? Why?

I haven't been to Chicago for anything outside of a worktime dropoff in nearly three weeks.

And righ tnow, I don't miss it.

Part of it is, of course, I have more important things to tend to right now. A friend breaks her hip, I'm not about to let her go.

But there's also the disassociation I've been having with Chicago over the past year and a half.

That started with a wedding I went to of a friends, when I commented that I was the only one I knew amongst family and friends who wasn't married. While I considered the people I knew in Chicago as friends until then, I didn't count them at that moment.

Then the poetry scene, long falling apart, started really collapsing then. Venues I had known had closed up, people I knew moved out of town, and some venues that should have shut down didn't. Worse yet, outside of Jameson/Porter, the remaining people in the scene were the crazy ones -- the saner ones left as soon as they could.

Then work interrupted. While I needed the money, I sure didn't need the loss of time. Not only that, but whatever time I had for writing was suddenly eaten up.

A couple other things happened...then the friend broke her hip...

And now, I have to ask myself whether I'd even want to return.

It's not like I'm in the middle of a creative storm. In fact, I've been unable to write for eight months or so. I'd read some old stuff, but that gets a bit old without new stuff to follow up with. And besides, constantly traveling over 40 miles each way gets tiring, especially when you're not there more than two hours.

So...when things cool down and I'm able to relax a bit, I'll have to ask a question:

Do I care about Chicago anymore?

Seriously. While Northwest Indiana isn't any place to live, I'm sure even I could make a go here. After all, I've been out here over seven years, and while I'm not necessarily what I was when I moved here, age could easily account for whatever changes happened.

And besides, I've spent 15 years writing to an audience. Maybe now it's time for me to try writing to publish. Maybe I should change my audience.

Maybe I should trust myself.

After all, what will last longer, a voice or text on a page? I've yet to hear Socrates' voice, or Virgil's, yet I've read some of their works. And in the end, they (or those who wrote for them) had to write for themselves, to trust themselves.

Think about it...