Now that the killing in Iraq has become so pervasive and unquenchable, with Sunnis and Shiites avenging every death with more death, the US and the world are seeing how the self-destructive forces in a society sometimes are the most powerful. Pundits are saying that the US is stuck, that if we pull out we are damned and if we stay we will be caught up in a civil war.
Political reality has yet to catch up with the fog of war. There is no ally in Iraq to support, and we cannot count on Sunni Arabia or Shiite Iran to lend us a hand. In the Arab world, only tribalism, humiliation and honor count. Defeat does not mean “we win” it means “you lose”. Syria and Iran, temporary friends, want the US to fail. But they paradoxically don’t want Iraq to go down in flames. They just want the experiment in democracy, and the long arm of the US, to get out.
We don’t really care about civil rights and freedom. Those are just words, like gift wrap on a missile, to justify interference in the government of a sovereign nation. If we truly were embarking on a Jeffersonian project in the Muslim world, we would not support Saudi Arabia, Libya and Pakistan.
We turn a blind eye to the double dealings of Musharif, yet we condemn the so called, Axis of Evil.
We need the Axis of Evil. We need everyone. We have to persuade and reach out to all the nations of the world, because we have MORE POWER that way. Our morality is only evident to ourselves. The rest of the world sees us as the fallen angel who has taken up arms to advance the word of Bush.
And we all know how well Bush speaks…….
I happened to drive past these “Zapcars” on display at Venice and Abott Kinney yesterday afternoon. I stopped by to have a look. The cars are three wheeled and powered by batteries. They come in various colors and are priced at around $9,000.
These are being marketed for the “local” Venice Beach person who does local errands and works nearby. I’m not certain how many of these potential consumers exist or even if there is a factual, statistical number for how many people might want to drive these. They certainly don’t look like they would be suitable driving next to a 2 ton SUV on Ventura Boulevard or driving on the 405 at 2am.
Beyond the promise of electric cars (no air pollution, no money for Arab terrorists), what would the effect of a complete switchover to battery powered autos be? I can imagine that sprawl, which is a byproduct of the auto, would get even worse. The roads would still be insanely crowded in a nation of Zapcars.
But for one lovely, sunny afternoon in Venice Beach yesterday, the utopian ideal seemed real.
You’re sitting on the spanking new gorgeous Orange Line bus, the one that travels along the beautifully landscaped, fully dedicated Busway. It’s a sunny day, the bus is uncrowded, you decide to open the LA Times and catch up with the news on your way to North Hollywood.
As the bus gains speed, you suddenly are aware of an annoying intrusion of robotic sounding voices. It is called Transit TV and it broadcasts loudly into every Orange Line bus. There are advertisements for trade schools, banal weather and sports casters whose voice is automatically designed to increase in volume as the bus goes faster. You can no longer read your newspaper in peace or enjoy this brief moment of aloneness. You are a captive of TransitTV.
There is something insidious, rude and completely disrespectful in allowing a private company to install televisions in a bus. It is the polar opposite of an ipod because you cannot escape the drivel, you must endure it. It would be like Metro installing open bags of foul smelling dog doo in every bus. You would try and hold your nose, but the smell would get worse until the bus ride ended and then you would jump out and thank the Lord.
That is what Transit TV is: an assault on the senses.
Kevin Roderick’s LA Observed has an excerpt from a recent article in Der Spiegel which discusses how some European traffic planners are REMOVING signs and lines to force drivers to self-regulate and therefore be more obedient and courteous to each other.
“European traffic planners are dreaming of streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, as brethren — by means of friendly gestures, nods of the head and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs….”
It seems that most of the signs are ignored anyway. When was the last time you saw a car drive on the freeway under 65 mph? If California eliminated the double yellow line in the middle of the road, would the self-absorbed SUV driver slow down and pay attention?
It’s an interesting idea, getting rid of regulations and signs and allowing the driver to navigate a road more carefully, a road that has no directions other than common sense and courtesy.
Republicans would probably like the reduction in rules and government regulation and increase in individual responsibility.
I started working in Hollywood, so I have been taking the Orange Bus to the Red Line in my morning commute.
For the most part I like it. I get to experience the city as a city should be experienced: with other people and by walking. The Orange Line is an extraordinarily nice public amenity in my opinion, with its landscaped median and up to date design and self-service tickets.
The buses are comfortable, and speedy, and the only thing that really annoys me is Transit TV, an obvious way for Metro to make money by beaming insipid weather reports and advertisements to the captive bus riders. As the bus speeds up, the volume increases, so we get to hear over and over again “that rain is expected in Akron today.”
People seem mostly courteous. This morning, we had two riders in wheelchairs that got on at Van Nuys Blvd. The driver asked the standing riders to all “move back”. But people didn’t really make way. So one busty, trashy blond, sitting and talking on her mobile phone, spoke loudly. “Out here nobody listens. Not even the white people, the real Americans.” This got a black dude with a sideways baseball cap and enormous jeans to roll his eyes.
The bus moved again and so did the loud mouth of the mobile phone talker. “Travis got busted D.U.I. I don’t know what’s in his mind. Hey, did ya know I went to see Jay Leno last night and he pointed at me…..I want my kids to move out here from Kentucky, but they don’t give no mind to me….I’m on MySpace. Just look for Little Kitty videos! It’s real cool.”
When I got to my office I opened the MySpace that she had referred to. Sure enough, there she was in the flesh. I’m not going to tell you her real name by revealing her website, but she was not young and pretty in person as she looked in her retouched and botoxed images.
I can’t wait to get back on the bus this coming Monday for more adventures in LA commuting!
(CBS) LOS ANGELES Bureau of Sanitation crews will pick up abandoned shopping carts in the Van Nuys area within 48 hours of a complaint, under a six-month pilot program approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council.
Councilman Tony Cardenas initiated the $55,000 program as part of an effort to clean up neighborhoods in the 6th District he serves.
“We are wheeling out the blight in the Valley,” Cardenas said in a statement. “By giving Valley residents the power to pick up the phone and see a 48-hour turnaround on these junky, abandoned shopping carts, we are giving them cleaner environments and a deeper sense of community pride.”
Those living within District 6, which includes the communities of Van Nuys, Arleta, Sylmar and Sun Valley, should call 311 to report abandoned shopping carts.
Mattresses, gang tags, illegal dumping, streetwalkers, illegal workers and Ori B. Fogel’s slum mall on Kester and Victory will have to wait for their own pilot program.
WASHINGTON — President Bush gave Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld an unequivocal vote of confidence Wednesday, saying he would remain in the job until the end of Bush’s presidency, a pointed response to Democrats — and Republicans — who have called for Rumsfeld’s resignation.
Bush made the comment during an interview in which he also said Vice President Dick Cheney, whose name has been tossed about in the discussion of possible 2008 Republican presidential contenders, will remain on the job through the end of Bush’s second four-year term in January 2009. Cheney has repeatedly said he will not be a candidate in 2008.
“Both men are doing fantastic in their jobs,” Bush told reporters.
-Fox News Wednesday, Novemeber 1, 2006
NBC GIVES FULL SEASON ORDER TO CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED NEW DRAMA ‘STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP’ FOR 2006-07
BURBANK – November 9, 2006 – NBC has renewed its critically acclaimed, first-year drama “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (Mondays, 10-11 p.m. ET) for the remainder of the 2006-07 season, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment.
“I am pleased to show our support for this outstanding and ambitious effort from executive producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme,” said Reilly. “From the start, they have delivered the superb show that we wanted. The critical support has been rock-solid and there is a passionate core audience. We can’t wait for what’s going to come in the remainder of the season.”
-NBC Press Release Thursday, November 9, 2006
It seems that the squeaker win of the Democrat(ic) Party in the Senate has made it more, not less, likely that both parties will fight to the death next year to pursue their clashing agendas.
On withdrawl from Iraq, which some are calling “redeployment”, if the US pulls out the troops immediately, expect civil war, a complete breakdown of law and order and the resurgance of terror around the world. Whoops! That’s already happened.
Domestically, the “San Francisco Agenda” might push such terrifyingly liberal legislation as a higher minimum wage and cheaper prescription drugs. Stem cell research and a new fight against global warming may also radically endanger our pro-life religious values.
Bush acted flippant and boyish at his press conference yesterday morning. He admitted “misleading” America about his plans to keep Rumsfeld to the end of term. He “joked” about finding future House Leader Nancy Pelosi a Republican decorator. Because ya know she’s a lady and that’s what ladies do, decorate and talk about hair styles and stuff. Ever the insecure and inarticulate bully, Bush cannot make anyone laugh, so he has to belittle both opponents and friends.
The fact that Democrats won Senate seats in such bastions of red as Virginia and Montana shows how badly Bush has screwed up, not how clearly the Democrat(ic) Party has conveyed their plans for the future. The Repubelican Party will no doubt find some new make believe enemy to rally up their constituents and the hapless Democrats will once again lose real power to imaginary evils.
I went to vote at my local welfare motel this morning on Sepulveda. It is wonderful how clueless I am when I get inside. There are three or four tables with election workers. The tables have ten digit numbers on them, which pertains to what section of the city you live in. You have to go back out into the hall to find your number on a black and white map. I did that.
I went back inside, grabbed a ballot and inserted the flimsy and hard to see paper with the little tiny dots into the place holder. Then I took out my LA Times voter guide and followed it exactly. I have to admit I know nothing about the various propositions and even if I did think something sounded nice, perhaps it would do more harm than good.
There was glare from the light, the room was hot and crowded and I couldn’t see the ballot very well. But when I was done I walked over to deposit it in the box and the woman said, “Rip off the top first”. So I did. But I unknowingly ripped off two of the upper parts and not just one, so she said, “No, no, no! You have to vote again.” I said I didn’t have time. So she told me to just put my dismembered ballot inside the slot and “we will take care of it”.
Was it worth it?
Voting is our civic duty. It only takes about ten minutes every couple of years. And when the votes are counted most California propositions will be defeated, and the ones that pass will ludicrously mandate that our tax dollars follow some pre-ordained route to fund programs that basically cancel each other out and turn ignoramous citizens like me into proxy legislators.
An outspoken opponent of legal gay relationships, the Reverend Ted Haggard, a 50-year-old married father of five and president of the US National Association of Evangelicals, may have bought drugs and sex from a male prostitute. This has shocked the faithful and delighted the many who despise hypocrisy.
Somehow the unveiling of the weird embryonic dark soul of the Republican religious right always ends up in some gay place. Maybe it belongs there. The G.O.P. has made private sexual behavior part of its political platform. It wants to outlaw abortion, make stem cell research illegal, forbid counseling of women about reproductive choices, and draw up a constitutional amendment proclaiming that marriage may only be defined as a union between a man and a woman.
The party of life, pro-life that is, also began a war that has so far claimed 3,000 American lives and over a half a million Iraqis. It has spent or will spend perhaps $3 trillion dollars in the most badly conceived misadventure in American foreign policy history. Domestically, 46 million Americans lack health insurance, and as the city of New Orleans demonstrated after its catastrophic hurricane, homeland security doesn’t really work. The US is now the most feared, not respected nation on Earth, and any American who travels overseas has to spend half his time explaining that he isn’t like his fellow citizens who voted for George Bush. Americans have listened to five years of fear baiting about foreign terrorists from an illiterate Texan who never visited any foreign country, other than Mexico, before he assumed the Presidency in 2001.
Next Tuesday, the Republicans deserve to lose big. But up to the very minute the polling booths close, we will hear how the big bad gay terrorists are lining up to take over the halls of Congress unless the good Christian souls of America stop them.
Photo: American Memory LOC
I found this description of an small Georgia town interesting. It comes from the pen of James Kunstler:
“I have some theories about southern culture — I’m entitled to have them, and even express them, whether you like it or not. This is a region that was miserably poor until very recently. All the material progress, the new wealth of the Sunbelt, has been acquired rapidly over the last thirty years or so, and it has been delivered in the form of corporate products: tilt-up buildings, hamburgers, Ford pickup trucks, manufactured “homes,” and cornucopia chain stores overflowing with plastic goodies. Building all this stuff and hitching employment rides with these ventures has dragged the cracker class out of the extremest poverty. Nearly universal air conditioning has also changed the picture, giving folks a reason to make an effort to do anything after the sun rises above the windowsills.
The reason their authentic down-home eateries are so bad is because for two hundred years they had a miserable diet of cornmeal, sugar, and pork fat, and a miserable concept of cuisine for presenting it. The reason the decor is so bad is because until fairly recently they lined the walls of their houses with newspapers and sat on benches. Electricity from the TVA also arrived relatively late in the game, and the finer points of interior illumination have not yet developed there. A restaurant dining room in Georgia is lighted the same way as a used car lot.
The sad fact is that the final blowout of the cheap oil age has been the foundation of the Sunbelt’s prosperity. The whole nation is afflicted with the cancer of suburban sprawl, but down there it is invested with the highest values. It is their truth and beauty. To a certain extent, their former poverty embarrasses them and they want to forget about it, not celebrate it.
They seem to have no plans for coping with a daily life that is not based on cheap oil. They even resent the suggestion that they might have to. They will keep sending a disproportionate number of their young people into the military to help with the current project of securing future oil supplies by attempting to pacify the Middle East. Sooner or later that project will come to grief and the people of Georgia will have to make other arrangements like everybody else. But the process may be extremely traumatic for a people who have not allowed themselves to imagine a future different from the present.”
A letter written by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition asserts that Zillow.com, the home valuation website, practices discrimination against Hispanic and Black homes by undervaluing them. NCRC sent this correspondance to the Federal Trade Commission complaining that Zillow puts the minorities “more at risk for discriminatory and predatory lending practices.”
Zillow said it does not use demographic data to assess home value. 3.5 million visitors a day use Zillow and it is the fifth most popular website on the net.
My own personal experience with Zillow is a disappointment. I have Zillowed an affluent neighborhood in Northern NJ where the average home is $800,000 and Zillow showed valuations in the $500,000 range. On my own street in Van Nuys, our 3 bedroom home, built in 1959, is shown to be worth $100,000 less than my neighbor’s two bedroom, constructed in 1923.
But who knows what the real price of any home is?