Déardaoin, Lúnasa 27, 2009

I Really Was Expecting Ted Kennedy to Make 150

As a white Catholic three generations removed from the days when the subdivisions among white people meant something, I had some trouble shaking the urge to refer to the Kennedy brothers collectively as "our Obama." But in spite of the genetic penchant we "White ethnics" have for negative romance; melodrama, martyrdom, and general caterwauling, I have to accept that it just doesn't fit, at all. It goes without saying that anti-Catholic bigotry in the U.S., while real, is small fish compared to what Blacks and Native Americans have suffered through. Mainly though the "our Obama" phrase is just 'USA Today'-headline level stupid. I've been sleeping in irregular two-hour snatches lately and that's the only excuse I have for even thinking it up.

Still I pour my 40 for Ted Kennedy. I pour it with pride and without qualification. The little brothers contributions to civil rights, workers rights, health care, and education have indisputably left the country better off than it would have been without him. There have been times when Kennedy was almost single-handidly keeping the federal government functioning as something more than a Monopoly money factory for the Pentagon. In those days when the State was in the hands of those who viewed government as a necessary evil, existing chiefly so that the people would have some form of central authority to worship, Ted Kennedy did what he could to make government actually do its damned job.

Yes I know about Chappaquiddick, and so does everyone else. Yes I know that baby brother Kennedy was able to get away with an epic amount of shit for being a Kennedy, so does everyone else. Still Ted Kennedy is slightly more admired than reviled, and rightly so.

This is not now and never has been a liberal media conspiracy to downplay Chappaquiddick, Chappaquiddick is loud and clear, and it was unforgivable. There are those who demand that Ted Kennedy be known for Chappaquiddick and only Chappaquiddick, who would accuse me and anyone else who admires the man for being amoral partisan hacks or mindless Kennedy-oglers in considering anything but Chappaquiddick in judging the man. Sorry but no, In spite of self-help slogans to the contary life is not defined by any individual moment; neither the bright shining kind nor the dark and despicable kind. Life is the summation of moments, choices, and actions. Ted Kennedy caused a great deal of pain and suffering in his personal life, the good he has done for the country outweighs that.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the idea that government should help people gradually came to be seen as a radical one. The sorry fact is that a family of spoiled vagiholic monarchists gave the concept of activist government the celebrity appeal it needed to stay viable during the long post-civil rights-era Thermidor. The fact that we needed these rakes is our fault, not theirs. What would you do if you had society at your feet like they did? And hell, I know I'm not alone in finding it very hard not to like these guys. Have you ever worked in a bar as a teenager, and have some pie-eyed banker or lawyer start telling you about the time he did acid with a bunch of Mexicans and ask you what it's like to be fuck the sixteen-year-old waitress with a rose tattoo on her ankle? The Kennedy's are like that. While the Bushes drink their near-beer, produce barely enough children to replace themselves, and refuse themselves any attempt at emotional release outside of their Abercrombiefied excuse for churches, the Kennedy's do aristocracy as its meant to be done; baroque, decadent, obscene insatiable, Catholic. Tonight the sons of Joseph are abusing barmaids together in eternity.

Dé Céadaoin, Lúnasa 26, 2009

Who The Fuck is Bob Collier?

Collier, the man featured in a front page article in tuesday's New York Times, is someone who has "built himself a quiet life of family and church (and hunting and fishing) in his rural hometown in southwest Georgia." Collier and his wife Susan are both ardent conservatives, "They receive much of their information from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh's radio program, and Matt Drudge*'s web site." but Bob has apparently never been especially politically active. He skipped the antiwar protests of his college years. It was not until the looming specter of health care reform raised its menacing head that Mr. Collier summoned the courage to drive a whole hour to Albany, Ga,(The market town for his region and so presumably a trip he makes quite frequently)to speak out against the plan to his congressman, Sanford D. Bishop**

* Drudge? Seriously? That's old school as fuck. I wonder if they still have Hotmail like I do.
** Sanford D. Bishop dares you to deliver a shipment of Coors in twenty eight hours.

So, that's who Bob Collier is. But we still left with the question of who the fuck Bob Collier is and why he's on the front page of the New York Times. I freely admit to being a little jealous of the man. I hope that my jealousy doesn't cloud my assessment of the man, but I am jealous, and there's no reason why I shouldn't be. I'm some guy. I have opinions on things. Some things make me happy and some things make me sad. Some things make me angry and some things make me glad. In making front page news out of what Bob Collier thinks of health care reform the Times has officially declared that anyone with a brain that responds to external stimuli has every right to expect the same treatment.

They were looking for an everyman's opinion, that was the hook, and of course in looking for an everyman they theoretically could have ended up featuring any man. But of course not just anyone can be anyone. In the age of a Black urban president, with the river of human settlement flowing from country to city just as it always has, no less of a publication than the secular/Marxist/liberal/traitor/ New York Times still considers the standard of American normality to be the conservative rural White guy.

Collier, for his part, is perfectly convinced that his position on reform is suitably Olympian for the Times. "This is about the future of our country as we know it, and may mean the end or our country as we know it." His lack of lifelong political activism is presented by the Times as somehow legitimizing. "The cameras may linger on those at the extremes, but it is the parade of respectful questioners, those expressing discomforting fears and legitimate concerns, that may ultimately have more impact."

It is of course a good and fine thing to speak respectfully. But just as the level of passion one has for ones' opinion does not determine its truth, so the tone of ones' voice in expressing a concern does not make it legitimate. A vagrant once spoke to me with perfect serenity about his plan to join the army and become a suicide bomber for the US government. Which isn't to say that Collier is a raving loon. He seems like a decent man, and compared to the town-haller who accused a Jew of being a Nazi he seems downright admirable.

The fact is that the health care reform now on the table does not call for any more government in the market than any other social policy proposal put forth by a Democratic government since the New Deal. (In fact a good deal less than what would have been boilerplate thirty years ago.) If you think that's still too much, fine. But if you honestly believe that the health care industry, with its tow-truck style captive customer base, is the virgin pillar of Capitalism, and that to sully it in the slightest way would bring the whole structure down, well that's just nutty, in whatever tone of voice. It betrays a strong-father complex that can allow itself to relate to the larger society only as protective ubermensch, never allowing itself to accept its dependence upon the larger society, the innate vulnerability of being a mortal creature.

It is, to put it another way, an aristocratic complex. To the very end the nobility of Europe clung to the belief that they were the essence of their nations, never mind that the serfs had long moved away and that the general public was becoming as well or better educated than they. They were the standard of normality for reasons that lay beyond physical reality. The history of American stupidity is largely one of rural White men who have been suckered into believing that they are aristocracy. A strong-father complex is understandable in a man who has gone through life on a diet of Fox, Limbaugh, and Drudge, telling him that he and all other great defenders like him are under siege from those who seek to take away their unchanging national essence that exists beyond the realm of physical reality.

And now this poisonous old myth is repeated again by, the New York Times?

Dé Máirt, Lúnasa 25, 2009

Oh Nature

I napped in a small bit of park space accross the street from the Washington Libary. The sun burned me and the bugs had any part of my ankles that they wanted. So decadent; the Earth is our enemy and we should rightfully hate the dirt on our knees and the breeze on our skin. If I could get the woman with the dog to lie down next to me she would be at ease. She would have no objections to whatever.

I abhore nature, as much as I ever did. The thought of a universal human nature disgusts me as much as it ever did. I still belive that if there is such a thing, then it is a tyranny imposed upon us; driving us against all reason to create more damned and pathetic slaves of genocidal biology.

Still she's cute though.

I've Been Going on About Myself Way too God Damned Much Lately

Oh well. Hopefully the readership is confined to those who either already know me or read about my latest doings without having any interest or impression of me.

I've been thinking of Bill Withers lately; "Lean on Me", "Use Me Up", "Ain't no Sunshine" just about everyone knows and loves his songs but they often don't know the man. I've been forming a revisionist interpretation on "Use me Up" lately. I think he's actually trying to pawn off a difficult woman to some gullible friend, Tom Sawyer style. If that is indeed the correct interpretation of the song it would be just about the most brillent piece of music of the past hundred years.

Déardaoin, Lúnasa 20, 2009

My Uncle Tom

I spent last Friday with him and his Philipine wife and in-laws. He is the most succesful member of my moms generation; ex-marine, world traveller, mid-level executive for Sprint, inveterate fratboy but a good guy all the same. Fully convinced of the superiority of the suburban life; semi-conciously derisive of the small town and the inner city, but warm enough. He is perfectly convinced that I tyoo shall scorn the city once I settle down, since it's self-evident that the city is only for young partiers and the sorry bastards in the ghettos too poor to leave. To be agreeible I told him that if/when I have a family I could very well live in a place like Evanston, an inner ring-suburb with enough space for free parking and medium-sized yards, and of course the presence of Northwestern gives it a very Lincoln feel. I doubt that I will ever see the ways in which a large city is inadequate for raising a family that strike him as so obvious. My children will read Wittgenstien and cower under the monkeybars at recess. Still I wasn't exactly lying. I like Evanston truly enough, that place is cute as a puppy in a schoolgirl's raincoat. Fuck yeah Evanston.

Tom picked me up on Friday afternoon in Lakeview and we meandered are way to the spot on near north Milwaukee where I had seen a couple Polish cafes once but I've forgotten exactly where they were and there was no place to park. We ended up eating at some gulag hot dog place on Milwaukee and Lake where he had a Chicago dog and I had a weak Philly steak. After lunch we made our way to the Eisenhower and rode the freeways to his in-laws place in Glendale Heights; somewhere between O'Hare and Elgin. The thirty mile drive took three hours. I was resisting the urge to weep while Tom was nonplussed. He's from D.C. which according to him has the worst traffic in the world. I told him that our Circle Interchange was the worst in America. He was still nonplussed.

We kept the conversation light and impersonal. Seventies rock and Husker football mostly. He asked where Nicole was and I said at work. He said she was free to come out if she wanted to. She texted me that evening and said she was gambling in Hammond and I texted that that and please stay there.

That evening his relatives had a barbeque of grilled chicken and lamb with hot sauces and egg roles and a shitload of rice with flan and cheesecake for desert. Aunt Elsa, Tom's wife, criticized my dress and dirtiness. She is the twin sister of Kahn from 'King of The Hill' and I had been out drinking vodka with Nicole the night before and had'nt showered. The relatives didn't mind. They spoke a tongue called Visayan to each other and I noticed it had quite a lot of Spanish in it. I asked Tom about it and he basically repeated what I had already noticed. He went on to say that the Phillipines has hundreds of different languages and dialects and that there was a good deal of dispute over what made a proper language or just a dialect.

I could smell how tirethe grass was in the daylight. I could feel my ears straining to catch the hum of cars and grinding metal they've become used to and you hear locusts and see stars at night.

The Visiyans (I didn't ask them if they were the cats who had themselves crucified on Good Friday.) are very open about homosexuality. The gay cousins ate at table in full drag. They looked like broads living out of a cheap motel room. Nicky is a broad in a cheap hotel room but she has thrift store style.

My Uncle was very eager to take me to the backyard after I was finished eating. He said it was customery at family gatherings in the Phillipines for men and women to segregate and hang with their own kind. Well alright. This is in fact what ends up happening at most gatherings everywhere. Some cultures make an official more out of it and think they're special, and that's alright. There was an impromptu singing group with an acoustic guitar playing love songs by Marvin Gaye and the Beatles and The Eagles and Journey. My uncle explained that this was traditional as well. Why thanks Tom. The only foreign culture here is suburbs, and your ways are strange indeed. There was an brother of the family who kept feeding me Bud Lights. The in-laws were terribly kind to me the whole time. I took some barbecue home and ate it with a 40 of Mickey's and it was delicious.

Déardaoin, Lúnasa 13, 2009

Oh The Cheap Irony of the Red Line

"Redlining" is a socioeconomic term that refers to the practice of financial and real estate institutions working in formal or informal collusion with local governments to more or less create racial ghettos. The 'wrong kind of people' (Blacks being the most famous and typical example in this country, though there are other groups who who have suffered the same nonsense both here and just about everywhere else.) are herded into the same substandard housing in neighborhoods that are astutely ignored by civil services. Banks will not loan them the money to move out. Real estate companies will not give you a house even if you do somehow get the money. Businesses which offer jobs that pay enough to move out won't offer them to the wrong people, which hardly matters since they would never be able to get to these jobs anyway by attempting to navigate the abysmal local infrastructure.

Chicago, like other cities, bestows the honorary title of "Red Line" on the aorta of its train system. Symbolically linking Wrigley Field to the Cell, the Red connects the well-heeled northern lakefront with the Loop and the South. In the South, it runs along the median of the Dan Ryan expressway, an expressway which was routed where it was specifically to seal off the "Black Belt" from the old "White Ethnic" enclaves, particularly Daley Sr.'s own Bridgeport. The northern terminus of the Red Line is Howard Avenue, also the northern end of the city, with other El lines connecting to the nearest-in suburbs of Skokie and Evanston. (In fairness, the Caribbean enclave surrounding the Howard station is noticeably black and noticeably rough.) The south end of the Red Line is 95th Street, barely more than halfway between 0 block and the south city limits.

95th is the main east/west street on the South Side, dividing the far south from the merely south. The Chicago South Side is of course considered to be one of the great ghettos of the Western World. This is unfair for several reasons. To label a place as a ghetto is to attach to it the morbid fascination of a ghetto, a fascination that typically involves mocking the people that live there. This is unjust when one recognizes that the south half of Chicago is exactly what one hundred years of very deliberate planning by the forces ruling this city have made it into. Those who are poor and stuck in the bad neighborhoods of the South were designed to be. Add to this the fact that it's simply ignorant to dismiss the whole of the South Side as a uniform ghetto, ignoring the complexity of both the South and the city as a whole. There is Englewood and "Murdertown" along the Dan Ryan in the fifties, but just a block toward the lake from there is Hyde Park. The South has good neighborhoods, the North has bad neighborhoods. The Cubs have Black fans, The Sox have gay fans.

But in the Far South, past where the train ends, one does see the large realms of uniform bleakness that outsiders envision south Chicago to be. This is where the factories are. (Or used to be, for the most part.) While the city as a whole is too big and economically diverse to suffer the total meltdown felt by Detroit and Cleveland, the Far South is reeling from the same collapse of American heavy industry that's fucking up the rest of the Great Lakes.

But anyway, after years, years, years, and years of talking bout doing so, the transit authority has voted to extend the Red Line south to 130th street. Also to be extended are the Orange Line from Midway to a shopping mall nearby, and the Yellow Line (aka the 'Skokie Swift' or, if I'm hungover and feeling very evil 'the Jewish boxcar'.)to a shopping mall in that town. The total cost of these projects is around two billion dollars and is expected to take several (more) years to complete. The money is a big concern of course. If only there were someone from the South Side who had any sort of influence in Washington.

According to the Tribune residents who sit in the path of the extended Red Line are screaming for it, which is natural. Skokie residents who live in the path of the extension are complaining about it, which is also quite natural. Even in progressive metropolis such as this; where forced proximity to ethnic groups you didn't even know existed leaves people little choice but to get along, public transportation is still associated with the "wrong element" by the well-heeled. And of course Skokie does have a history of unwanted outsiders just marching through the place.

In the end I think that all of these projects are worthwhile and I'm optimistic that they will go through. The expressways are jammed and there's no room to make them any wider. While we're at it the entire El system could use an overhaul as well as an extension. Trains and tracks are both getting a little bit creaky, and if OUR president is as much as a corrupt Chicago pol as the nutcases say he is, than surely he has some idea of how we truly need a big bundle of billions in kickbacks, for both transportation and other infrastructure. It will go how it goes. I'm sure it will get ugly and stupid sometime soon, but I'm ok with that mostly. The Olympic bid got ugly and stupid very quickly but I still think that's a cool idea.

You Got a Problem Buddy?

Ben Joravsky's incessant vitriol that maligns, vilifies and demonizes Mayor Daley is bombastic and only resonates with nihilists, atheists and anarchists. Conversely, articles in National Geographic, Time magazine and Vanity Fair that have lauded Daley for being a green mayor have resonated with ecologists, environmentalists, conservationists, nature stewards, horticulturists and botanists. Being green is more constructive than venting spleen. —Brien Comerford- Letter to the Chicago Reader 6/12

Speaking as a proud nihilist, atheist, and anarchist, fuck you Brien Comerford. Fuck you, fuck the venal vindictive feudalistic racist Mick fuck running this town and fuck his bicycle.