government

UC-Berkeley professor Michael O'Hare writes a letter to his students about how they've been swindled by the previous generation.

For the most part, I think he's dead-on.  The Baby Boom generation completely shirked their responsibility to provide a better world for their children -- and a lot of that owes to pure selfishness.  However, I think he's wrong when he refers to it as a "swindle."  I think it's more of a fundamental misunderstanding of social and fiscal policy on the part of the Republican party.

Back in the 90s, Grover Norquist said, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."  Well, that never happened.  And why didn't it happen?  Because people like the government! 

Yes, that's right, I said it.  People like the government.  I mean, no, they'll never say it out loud.  And it's rare to find somebody who will wax poetic about the various bureaucracies that make up the US Government.  But people like the stuff that government gives them.  For example, Medicaid and Medicare were derided as Socialism by some when they were first introduced.  So was social security.  Although nowhere near as expensive as our addiction to fancy new military toys, these are some of the most expensive government programs ever.  And guess what?  They're not going anywhere! 

For all her loud blather, do you really think Sarah Palin, she of "Death Panels" fame, would really advocate eliminating Medicare?  Of course not!  And even in the darkest days of the Bush Administration, when he had a full congressional mandate and could make the whole country jump by shouting "terrorism" in a crowded theater, how far exactly did he get with his plan to eliminate social security?  Not very far.  Not far at all.  It was a joke.

And of course, as O'Hare mentions, there's education.  Oh how the conservatives love to beat up on education.  But for all their talk, just how many Republicans have pulled their kids out of public schools and forbidden them from enrolling in state universities?  Very few, I would imagine.  Many Republicans are working-class people who can't afford such measures.  So that means they and their children also benefited from the educational system that they so love to deride.

So yes, Grover never drowned the government, and he never will.  But he and his ilk certainly know how to cut taxes.  Because, like government services, people relish the idea of having more money.  Who wouldn't?  Of course, it takes a powerfully short-sighted electorate not to make the connection between the two, but all throughout the 90s and even today, you have people like Norquist saying that you can have your cake and eat it, too.  This is an unreasonable expectation.  It's either one or the other, and we must pick.

The situation is untenable.  Although it took an astoundingly well-fed and well-cared-for 1990s electorate to propel Norquist to national prominence and decide not to fund the programs that made them so prosperous, this has been going on in California since 1978.  A little thing called Proposition 13 passed, requiring all new property tax increases to pass a 2/3 legislative majority.  Of course, it takes basically nothing to pass something that spends money.  Literally nothing.  Remember how, a few years back, they replaced the Governor with the (now hated) Schwarzenegger? Well, that's pretty much how all government works in California.  It's incredibly broken and stupid.  And look where it's gotten us : the school system's going broke, infrastructure is crumbling, social services are being eliminated, and public transportation is being cut.  This is the future of America.

So I think what we need here is a little bit of maturity.  Norquist and his cat-murdering metaphors aside, NOBODY IS GOING TO DROWN THE GOVERNMENT.  We need the stuff that government gives us.  The golden "a-ha" moment that Norquist et al were hoping for will never happen, where Americans would say, "Our government is broke and in debt, and we're totally hurting.  I know, let's get rid of the government programs that educate our children and keep old people alive!" 

So we need to suck it up like mature adults and pay our goddamn taxes.  And we need to increase taxes in some cases.  The American people don't have the stomach to drown the beast -- nor should we.  The beast is us.

buds

Apparently, hearing loss among teens has risen dramatically -- something like a 30% increase in a 10 year period.  Some are blaming earbuds, others, not so much.  Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if earbuds were the culprit.  For the last 7 years, I've used public transportation as my sole means of getting around.  All the time, I have to stand next to kids with really loud earbuds.  Like, to where I can hear exactly what they're listening to, and even sorta make out the lyrics.  For the longest time, I've wondered if their music really was THAT loud, or if maybe they just had really leaky earbuds.  Turns out?  Their music really was THAT loud.

I've never been able to deal with earbuds, personally.  The standard kind -- the kind that come with an iPhone -- always fall out of my ear.  The in-ear types sounded amazing, but hurt my ears something fierce.  Like, after I'd take them out, I felt this 'ticklish' sensation in my ears, which I later found out was a sign that I was hurting them.  Weird thing was that I don't remember turning up my music particularly loud.  Ohwell, anecdote anecdote anecdote.

Regardless, I never got into the music player thing.  Don't get me wrong, when I'm at home or at work or at the gym, I'm pretty much always listening to music.  But when I'm out walking around the city, I really really really don't like feeling cut off from my surroundings.  Part of it is that I'm just a spacey person in general, and I don't always pay attention to what's going on around me; the last thing I need is something that makes me even more oblivious.  But another factor is that I just hate feeling like I'm not a part of my environment.  Having headphones on in public makes me feel like I'm in a movie or something.  If I'm out and among people, I want to be part of something bigger.  I don't want to feel alone on a crowded street.

verdict

After some time and much deliberation, I've come to a final verdict.  The main perpetrators of this recession?  Immoral mortgage brokers.  They sold people mortgages that they knew full well couldn't afford them.  They knew the people would wind up in foreclosure, and they didn't care.  They committed fraud.  We've been distracted all this time, with confusing alphabetsouptalk of CDS and MBS and CDO and all this other shit.  People like to blame complexity, because they don't understand it.  And they like to blame Wall Street, because they think financiers are smarter than they --  and besides, derivatives have a vaguely Jewish air about them, anyway.  But that is all a red herring.  Blame the mortgage brokers.  They failed in their duty, and they failed on purpose.  They were the human face of the mortgage-industrial complex, and they failed to be human.  May fate eat their lunch.

Stuff Nobody Likes : People With Open Facebook Profiles

First off, let me make one thing clear : I have absolutely no control over what I do on the internet.  Nobody does.  Why else do you think "can Jesus microwave a burrito," "can vampires get AIDS," and "my nipples smell like sauerkraut" return thousands of results on google? Do you honestly think that whoever searched for "how do koalas get chlamydia" was really prepared for what was on the other end of their search?  No, of course not.  Like me, the possibility of an unlimited amount of information inspires everybody to search for some stupid, inane shit.  To a previous generation of idiots, any passing thought that bounced around their heads typically ended at their skull.  For us, it ends at our fingertips.  And nowhere is this more apparent than everybody’s favorite social networking site, Facebook.

People With Open Facebook Profiles, I really don’t want to know about you.  I don’t want to know about your life.  I don’t want to know that you got married.  I don’t want to know about your stupid kids.  (by the way, your kids are ugly)

People With Open Facebook Profiles, I searched for you because I was bored and farting around the internet.  There you go.  There’s my dirty little secret.  Like everyone else I know, when I’m bored, alone, and surfing around the internet, I’ll search for whatever damn fool thing comes into my mind.  And sometimes that happens to be you. So please have the decency to hide your profile, okay?

Sadly, you probably don’t even know who you are.  You’re probably unburdened with any sort of knowledge of Facebook’s privacy settings. You’re just happy-assholing around the internet, completely unaware of the information slugtrail that you leave behind.  Do you really want me to know the ephemera of your life?  Every dumb thing that somebody posted on your wall?  Every stupid party picture that you’ve been tagged in?  Every random person that you’ve "friended?"  No?  Then hide your fucking profile already.

And remember, if I can see it, so can your boss, so can your most annoying relatives, so can any goddamn person who’s ever even heard your name.  Your shit is PUBLIC.

So hide your profile, okay?  The better part of privacy is protecting those around you from TMI.

SO GO TO FACEBOOK.  HOVER OVER "SETTINGS."  CLICK ON "PRIVACY SETTINGS."  See that, Aladdin?  It’s a whole new fucking world.  Now have fun thinking about all the people dumber than me who know the intimate details of your last 5 years. Hide your damn profile. YOU’RE WELCOME.

why I won't be quitting Facebook on Quit Facebook Day

written : 05/30/2010

Oh Facebook,
what you give me.
People who I knew,
but couldn't recognize
and social anxieties I never even knew
existed.
Oh Facebook,
how just the other day i logged on
and saw that somebody i didn't know
liked my comment on another friend's status
and my immediate reflex
was to check my security settings
to make sure nothing had changed.
Oh Facebook,
how I apparently know now
that all those people I knew in highschool
are still alive and doing things
when in fact I thought they had all
disappeared.
Oh Facebook,
how you have invented entirely new forms of narcissism
although among online communities,
you are hardly alone.
Oh Facebook,
how free you are,
and in many ways
that I wish you weren't.

poem for my ex

written : 09/05/2009

connections and disconnections
connections broken to be re-disconected
When the emotional bills come due,
they don’t send no debt collector
they send a guilt collector
hector the collector
will break your heart soft
and you’ll spray those bills all over the pavement
the emotional carnage
but usually they have a payment plan
the statements arrive in an email box
you are being called out into the court of anything goes
this is where we are nasty and critical
in the email dogpit of couplefighting championships
every man and woman in for himself,
everyone’s a michael vick
we break each others' necks with words,
come away bloody with tears and ire

nothing hurts unless it makes a “thwump” and nothing is scary or exciting or depressing if it doesn’t make a “thwump”

lets muck around with words, it lets us take part in the oldest drama of the human race. You can see us race to put on our masks, play out our roles. We are all so comfortable with them. SO wounded and ultimately socomfortable and dangerous with words.

awful

It wasn't until I left Metafilter that I realized exactly how much of my day was spent ranting.  It's chilling, really.

hawaii story

How I learned to stop worrying and love The Steve Miller Band
(written : some time in 2006)

The truck pulls up, the dog barks, and I run. I say something to the effect of, "time to go," but nobody hears me. Grabbing the plastic bag that contains all of my belongings, I run through the coffeehouse. The barista says something, but I am running too quickly to understand. Out the back door to the makeshift courtyard where the town drunks and junkies while away the time. A frantic attempt at explanation. More running. In the jungle now, and things get a little tough. The undergrowth is thick, and there is no path. This is a problem. He is catching up with me. I can still hear the engines, so I can't be too far from the street. Not far enough. I have nothing on me that I can defend myself with, and probably not even the mental faculties to do so, anyway.

I look down and see a path where before I saw none. It is a ragged tunnel through the undergrowth, about the diameter of a medium-sized dog. A boar trail. In the time that I've been on the Big Island, I've been warned about the boars' ferocity numerous times. However, following this trail may be the only chance I have. I get on my knees, hold my bag close, and proceed to scramble down the trail. I feel safer, but can still hear the engines out on the street. Not far enough away, I keep moving.

Finally, I rest. Putting my bag aside, I hug the ground. I am tripping on mushrooms. I am on the run from somebody who I have inadvertently wronged. I am 6,000 miles away from anybody who I have known for more than five weeks. I am hugging the ground. It seems like the right thing to do- I actually feel protected by the Earth.

After a while, I realize that I have to leave my belongings here. I need to be agile. I need to find a way out. I am getting in touch with a primitive part of my brain, one that has remained unchanged for tens of thousands of years. I make a decision because I have to. I will leave the island.

The question of whether or not to leave the island has been on my mind for weeks, ever since I had an allergic reaction to some psychedelic mushrooms that I picked. Before that, leaving was not an option. Winding up in a strange hospital, out of my mind on mushrooms, with parts of my body swelled to three times their normal size, I began to reconsider. Since then, I had caught scabies, lost all my camping gear, and earned a reputation in town as sort of a worthless freeloader. I had tried to stick it out, but now it is time to leave.

I make my way out of the jungle, following the sounds of the street. I emerge back into the courtyard. The drunks and junkies are concerned. A ride into Hilo is offered and accepted. Gladly.

My trip into Hilo is mostly a blur. Notably absent are questions about my sudden departure. Really, that's no surprise - everybody has seen this before. I had heard the stories, but never thought they would apply to me.

**The Next Day**

It is my last morning in Hawaii. I check out of the hotel and climb into a cab. I have a ticket back to Missouri waiting for me at a counter in the airport. Of course it was arranged by my parents- you didn't actually expect me to come out of this with my dignity intact, did you?

It is in the cab, halfway to the airport, when I have my defining moment.

You see, the thing about defining moments is that, no matter how valuable they are in retrospect, you really don't want to have them at the time. You kind of stumble into them, and once you're there, it's too late to leave. My defining moment hits when The Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner" comes on the cab's stereo.

"Leavin' home
Out on the road
I've been down before
Ridin' along in this big ol' jet plane
I've been thinkin' about my home
But my love light seems so far away
And I feel like it's all been done
Somebody's tryin' to make me stay
You know I've got to be movin' on"

I have never thought too much about the song before. I like it in that easy-going, pot-smoking, cruising-down-the-highway-listening-to-KSHE-95 sort of way that I like all classic rock.

"Goodbye to all my friends at home
Goodbye to people I've trusted
I've got to go out and make my way
I might get rich you know I might get busted
But my heart keeps calling me backwards
As I get on the 707
Ridin' high I got tears in my eyes
You know you got to go through hell
Before you get to heaven"

At that point, I see into the future, and it is uncanny how prescient my vision is. I see myself returning to Missouri and admitting defeat. Going to live in a midwestern college town, where life will be cushy and unsurprising. Going back to college. Returning to Babylon. Doing everything that I have refused to do during the five months that I have been on the road.

"Touchin' down in New England town
Feel the heat comin' down
I've got to keep on keepin' on
You know the big wheel keeps us spinnin' around
And I'm goin' with some hesitation
You know that I can surely see
That I don't want to get caught up in any of that
Funky kicks goin' down in the city"

And really, it has to happen. Everything about these months - the Rainbow Gatherings, the peyote sweatlodges, the DMT sessions, and finally Hawaii. It all boils down to this one moment in time. I have gone as far as I can in one direction, and have to choose another.

"Big ol' jet airliner
Don't carry me too far away
Oh, big ol' jet airliner
Cause it's here that I've got to stay
Oh, big ol' jet airliner
Don't carry me too far away
Oh, big ol' jet airliner
'Cause it's here that I've got to stay"

And thus I am dragged, kicking and screaming, into adulthood.