Friday, August 17, 2012

In Russia the State Punks You

So here is the Pussy Riot video that led to the kerfuffle:

It is insane that the band got 2 years in jail for insulting Putin; the Dixie Chicks only had to go on tv and apologize. U S A U S A  

Two Ways of Thinking About Streets

Last night a motorist try to run me down. A couple of preliminary points. I use quite a few lights, to front lights, which is all that matters here as the motorist could only "see" the front of the bike. I was in a real neighborhood; one in which people jog,  walk dogs, wander to the grocery, and related etc. It was dusk and not pitch black and, because of the multiuser nature of the streets in this quiet area, motorist ought, but don't, drive the speed limit and pay attention.

I was coming up a hill riding toward the center of the lane, when I saw a car backing out of a street without paying attention, by which I mean the motorist clearly hadn't seen me. I rang the bell and slammed on the breaks. Well after the point at which the motorist would have knocked me down had I not been riding responsibly. The dolt saw me.

Like most motorists, the dolt seemed to think that saying "I didn't see you" was exculpatory instead of a condemnation of the dolt's inattentiveness. I said "I could tell."  The dolt responded "I was trying to be nice." To which I asked "How? By trying to hit me."

From my perspective some streets and roads are multiuser from the motorist's perspective all streets are belong to them, as they kids would say. This attitude, as Peter Norton points out, this attitude is the result of going on 100 years of lobbying, opinion buying, and other corrupt practices by the automobile industry. The dolt's implicit claim of motorists' ownership of the roads and idea that I need to get out of motorists' way isn't a natural condition but rather a sing and seal of how money shapes cultural assumptions.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A More Just World

When the issue of economic inequality comes up, this Anatole France quote usually turns up:
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
And a good laugh is had all around. Did you know that in other parts of the world the law actually punishes some crimes on the basis of the perpetrator's wealth? In Switzerland and Finland at least if you are rich and speed your fine is determined by "the severity of the offense and the offender's income level."

One rich driving like a mad man was fine 290k in Switzerland, while the chairman of Nokia faced a 100 odd thousand dollar fine, and one particularly insane rich faces a fine that falls 40,000 dollars short of a million.

So lets do that with, say, property crimes. Poor and shoplift a pair of pants? 60 dollar fine; rich and shop lift a the same kind of pants, 10% of pre-tax income. Rich and embezzle?  50% of total wealth and 10 years in jail.  Poor and steal a neighbors digital camera? Give the camera back or replace and a week in jail.  And so on.

The idea is basically to make the punishment fit the advantages gained by any individual from being  a member of society.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whose Streets?

I just finished Peter Norton's Fighting Traffic. It is a really fine book that works through in great detail how the Automobile industry and its supporters managed to transform streets for essential public spaces in to expensive and always more crowded preserves of the motorized vehicle.

What struck me about his analysis and narrative was the extent to which the Automobile industry's strategy is the prevalent model for groups dedicated to destroying the vestiges of the welfare state in these United States and abroad. In general the idea is to buy off expert opinion and use leverage with the state to trample popular desires and, as result, create a new culture that is immeasurably less humane than what went before.

It is, however, possible to move back toward a more humanistic vision of your cities, towns, and burgs. As result of the Automobile industry's purchase of the opinions of key traffic engineers in the 1920s in the US streets are designed to maximize "floor space" for automobiles. This take over by private enterprise of the creation and maintenance of a public good without having to pay for meant and means that each year the American tax payer subsidizes the Automobile industry, trucking, and etc. Getting back to a livable city means returning to the older understanding of streets as multiuse public spheres in which cars, as they are least efficient and most dangerous modes of transportation, are relegated to the lower rungs in the ladder of importance.

One way to accomplish this it to insist, as the Dutch do, that streets are "area[s] where people want or need to be."  This formulation reminds us the purpose of cities, towns, streets, and, more generally, humanity in a social situation isn't profit and industrial expansion.

In other words, the neoliberals are wrong about everything because they have both  bought into and promote the economization of all modes of discourse. Bastards.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ryan as Rorschah

Last night a relative whose name may or may not begin with b insisted that low information voters love Paul Ryan. Other with whom I have spoken repeated the line about how Ryan, who look like a stick figure insect howdy doody fellow, is a sexy beast of a serious wonk, have insisted that the Ryan pick was inspired need to deal with the fact that his policy preferences are hated by most American who refused to believe the Romney would destroy the tattered remains of the safety net in the service o giving people like Romney more money.

In short, in the plutocracy's long held desire to recreate the 19th century, most Americans say no way. This is another data   point that proves that Conservative ideas are not only unpopular but deeply bug shit crazy. It is, furthermore, evidence that both the top and the bottom of the Republican ticket are horrid little men who think that the answer to life's misery is yet  even more misery.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Running Mates

Romney picked Ryan because he is the only other  politician who is running as hard as Romney from his record.