October 1, 2007

hair scrunchies: set of five, 79 cents

10/1/07

Can you truly recall the feeling of being nauseous? How about a severe headache, like a migraine? Can you put yourself in the emotional position of being hopelessly depressed? To do so, or at least to understand these Exceptionally Bad experiences, has been a fascination of my latter-day rehabilitation.

Nausea is nature's dealbreaker: when you constantly feel like barfing, there is little else you can do. Migraines, depression, deep-set hunger and cold can actually drive you temporarily crazy; you can say things you don't actually mean, you can watch your body doing things you didn't ask of it. You have effectively drowned in your situation and have no means of thinking outside it.

I mention this because I went to one of the most depressing stores in America today - the Walmart in Hudson, NY - and was overcome with snobbery and derision. These shoppers, these unthinkably obese, racist goons buying power-steering fluid by the case, are going to be lifelong obstacles towards electing people who will change this country for the better. They will vote for Hillary when somebody kills them, lops off their hand, and makes the dead hand pull the lever in the voting booth.

This judgment races through my brain within 5 milliseconds of being around these other Americans, and yet it shows an incredible lack of empathy, supposedly the benchmark of being progressive or liberal. These people could be living lives I once had but now cannot fathom: being one radiator leak away from no car and no job, chancing five years without health care, working all week without seeing their family. They could be caring for an elderly aunt who no longer recognizes them, worried about a son who won't stop coughing, driving through the rich neighborhoods of Greenport and Claverack and wondering why life is so patently unfair.

They make decisions because they can't see out of their particular situation, but what gives me any stranglehold on perspective? I went to prep school, graduated from a Public Ivy, hobnobbed in Manhattan in the literary elite, then moved to California to invent stories. I'm held together by a strong family, but owe vast swaths of functionality to an antidepressant and speed.

I'm trying to keep my side of the street clean. The drugs and therapy were implemented to erase misery, and now I'm trying a Buddhist perspective to actually attain well-being - but I also know my financial position allows for such introspection.

It's amazing: you try to see things from other people's point of view, but more often than not, you forget that YOU'RE the one with the flawed glass. It is you that has the migraine, driven slightly crazy by vague nausea, and while your feelings run strong and you're utterly convinced that you've attained the moral high ground, your perspective ends mere millimeters from the tips of your fingers.

Posted by Ian Williams at October 1, 2007 10:26 PM
Comments
Posted by: LFMD at October 2, 2007 4:54 AM

Don't they have a Target in Columbia County? Seeing the average American buy an Isaac Mizrahi dress or Todd Oldham dorm furniture might make you feel better. Ha!

Posted by: flaco at October 2, 2007 4:59 AM

Dude, stay out of walmarts period! I don't care if you need some consumable cheap and now, find it elsewhere. I know you have to winterize and all, but there has to be somewhere else to shop. Introspection is good, but not there!

Wife wanted to stop by walmart before Carrboro music festival Sunday, I refused straightaway. I'm not going to subject my mind to that. Can't do it. The bulk of Sunday USA might be walmart/nfl/nascar but dammit give me the minority of good music, hooping, and enlightenment. I will gladly compartmentalize and mask out the bad, evil, stupid masses for at least another day... or at least until the warm glow of TV opiates begin to flow.

Posted by: kent at October 2, 2007 5:27 AM

I was in a Walmart last week -- because it was the only place you could buy a drop cord at 9PM on Sunday night in Iowa. It is easy to be judgemental there, depending on your mood, but I have a mantra for such occasions: There is no 'those people' you are 'those people.'

What I notice in Iowa City at Walmart is that there are a lot of hispanic and black people there in formerly lily-white Iowa. As a privileged white guy with mostly white friends and colleagues it rings a little false to say that I am those people, but sometimes I feel more comfortable with them than I do with all the tightass doctors and faculty at the University. I'm there because Target is closed, and they're there because saving $30 on a week's groceries means their lights stay on.

Working at the hospital -- the hospital that provides care for the indigent for the whole state -- also changes your perspective. I see those Walmart folks when they're sick and scared and overwhelmed by an environment as foreign to them as Walmart is to me.

If you can look past the fat from cheap bad food and lack of 'taste' what you see is people who had none of the choices you do, and cope with a life and world that treats them like prey and cannon fodder. There but for the grace of god ...

Posted by: LFMD at October 2, 2007 5:50 AM

I love everything that Kent said. He is so right.


Posted by: jason savage at October 2, 2007 6:20 AM

There but for the grace of God, indeed. You get some of the same perspective by living in Brooklyn. We are in Boerum Hill, with an unbelievably New Yorker-fied coffee shop at the end of the block and plenty of white collar buffers surrounding us. But if we walk one and a half blocks to the Hoyt/Schemerrhorn subway station, we are smacked in the face by how rarified and fortunate our existence is. To be born white and to be offered a good education are things that, unfortunately, still give you miles and miles and miles of a head start in this country.

Posted by: Anne at October 2, 2007 6:23 AM

Applause for both Ian and Kent. One of the hardest challenges of my humanity and my faith is the instruction to accept "the least of these" as my equal and as my brother or sister... I'm talking about people I find repellent physically, morally, intellectually, or any other way. It's something I work on daily and pray for often.

We recently moved from an Ivy "college town" to a blue-collar, honky-tonk beach community in a nearby suburb. I love it there. I went to mass in the little local church for the first time this Sunday and was floored by people's simple appreciation of one another. Socioeconomically, the population is all over the place, from one-parent families in Chapter 8 low-income housing, to truck drivers (one keeps her huge rig at the end of our street), to professional white-collar types who, like us, love the waterfront and the low-key atmosphere. Talk about your slice of American life. My loquacious neighbor down the street, a single mom who lives with her custodian boyfriend, is in between jobs (as an electrician) at the moment, says "she don't got no..." etc. (to me! the anal-retentive editor!), and smokes like a chimney and wants to drive race cars. I thoroughly enjoy our front=porch gab sessions.

When you step outside the rarefied air of the wealthy and the highly educated .01 percent of this country's population, you get a lesson in difference. If you're lucky, you begin not only to tolerate but to appreciate people as individuals with value systems you might not personally embrace, but at least can comprehend and maybe even respect on some level.

Posted by: Sharon at October 2, 2007 6:49 AM

To go from the personal to the political, the question for the Democrats is how we find candidates who are not only smart enough to fix the mess we're in, but have the innate compassion and charisma to convince the "great unwashed" out there that the government can make their lives better. Part of it has to be the respect for the role of religion in the lives of many Americans - black, white and Hispanic. I think the Democrats are falling all over themselves trying to demonstrate their religiosity, but I don't know if its working. And by nominating someone like Hillary, are we just further exacerbating these divisions? I think Hillary is a brillant person, but I'm unsure if she can reach out to the independents and other voters she'll need to win the general election. Since my preference - Sen. Obama -- seems to be sliding, someone please convince me that we're not about to see a Kerry-like folly of a candidate who is clearly the most qualified but can't make the connection with voters. BTW - I grew up in rural NC in a town too small for a WalMart. But for my father's ability to play basketball and earn a college scholarship, I'd be there working at the mill and having a #3 flag on my house along with my numerous cousins & relations.

Posted by: Claudia at October 2, 2007 7:16 AM

Good post. I find the comments fascinating, as well--particularly Anne's and Sharon's. I'm always struck by how little genuine compassion exists in the world, and I'm as guilty of lacking it as the next person. It's all too easy to get caught up in one's own head and forget that other peoples' lives, for bizarre and random reasons, may be very different than our own.

Posted by: Lee at October 2, 2007 8:11 AM

I am totally with you on this- it's something I think about a lot. But why is it that people drowning in their own misery at Walmart always seem to find the energy to hate gay people? For me, it's been one of my most difficult meditations...to find compassion for people who are victims of wrong thinking. At least I think they are wrong!

Posted by: Claverack Weekender at October 2, 2007 8:58 AM

I think the problem is more than a lack of compassion or empathy--it's a major disconnect between the definitions of "success" and "quality of life" in Coastopia vs. the rest of America.

Some of the people from Greene and Columbia Counties who frequent Fairview Avenue might actually be happy, right?

I'm not so sure the "success" model I signed up for (and have achieved) is really that much better than the blue collar town I left behind.

Posted by: kjf at October 2, 2007 9:06 AM

and these same people found enough energy to go vote for gwb. and i dont buy the "there but for the grace of the (great spaghetti monster)" argument because that implies some sort of pity for these folks - a pity that they would reject.

and please ian no more walmart....if just for the fact that they systemically discriminate against female and minority employees.

Posted by: Grumphreys at October 2, 2007 9:11 AM

I think you're touching on an achilles heel of modern day liberalism. Many poor and middle class folks don't have the luxury of shopping at whole foods, going biodiesel etc. - they are living at sustenance level. To be admonished for their "choices" while they tread water to stay afloat must be galling to say the least.

Also, many of these americans' opinion of government is influenced by their yearly mind-numbing interaction with the IRS, DMV, and other three letter bureaucracies. Its easy to take for granted the things that gov't does well... its also easy to see why resentment toward gov't bureaucracy fuels anti-govt sentiment among poor and middle class voters. The Repubs have been mining this sentiment at the ballot box for decades.

Liberals then scratch their heads and wonder why many poor and middle class folks vote against their own best interests. Part of being progressive is recognizing what needs changing... sometimes within your own ideology. We need to be flexible. I like Edwards because i think he's got the best, most progressive ideas of the Democratic candidates.

Posted by: salem's little sister at October 2, 2007 10:07 AM

I want to live on Anne's front porch.

Posted by: DFB's&T's at October 2, 2007 11:05 AM

Interesting post . .

I think it is folly to believe that folks from the middle class are somehow pissed about the unfairness of life. That's a pretty self-centered view. Do you watch TV and bemoan the unfairness that other people have more money and resources than you? Then what makes anyone believe that Cooter down at Wal-Mart look at you and harps on such idiocy?

Grumphreys: In all seriousness, please tell me what the government does well? I grant you that there are many programs that have fabulous ambitions and goals, but those programs are often filled with such fraud and abuse that I fear it often defeats the ideals. For example, all the programs to help uninsured kids are so full of abuse that the whole program ought to be shelved and re-engineered. I suppose the USPS works OK until you compare its budget + prices to private carriers. I suppose most states' Transit Authority works ok if you remove the mafia and kickbacks. I suppose the military works OK if you remove the $500 hammers and the torture of innocents. I suppose Public Works is OK until you give more than 2 seconds of thought to the Big Dig in Boston.

Do you start to see why most hard-working, over-taxed people harbor a general distruct of government and politicians who espouse more and more entitlements -- both Repubs and Dems!? Hell, Bush has increased spending by zillions of buttloads and now Hillary wants to give $5000 to each baby born in USA!

By the way, I often shop at Wal-Mart because it is so convenient and it is cheaper. I am not middle class or even low class (financially), but I prefer Wal-Mart or Target to most other stores. Hell, for all of you that have read the book Millionaire Next Door (?), you know that most wealthy people get wealthy and maintain their wealth by being frugal and penny-wise, not super-talented or super-lucky. Sure, if my wife and I have a hankering for a special meal, we'll grab some items from Fresh Market. But, believe it or not, the Chiquita bananas at Wal-Mart taste just as good as the bananas at Fresh Market (for 80% of the price).

This food for thought was provided to you w/o the abuse of illegal immigrants or Asian children.

Posted by: Ian at October 2, 2007 11:19 AM

DFB&T, you're only highlighting a few glaring weaknesses of government - but what about the 1.3 trillion miles of paved roads, the excellent public school system of places like Iowa, the constant availability of excellent, pure water to 99% of America, and towns that pick up trash like clockwork. You're complaining about .0001% of the government's real work.

Also, this idea that millionaires become millionaires because they save their pocket money is a canard that needs to be shot. I'll save it for tomorrow.

Posted by: DFB's&T's at October 2, 2007 11:39 AM

Ian -- some good points. Yes, it is great that we have paved roads, just like it is great that Boston has the Big Dig. Do you opine that the roads were built efficiently, etc.? I always remember the example of how some of the major highways were re-built in the SF Bay area after their earthquake (remember . . during the World Series) in record time b/c govt got out of the way and allowed private enterprise to take over.

Great schools in Iowa. You are SO right. America's public schools are a shining beacon of hope to all other developed (and undeveloped countries). In fact, the public schools in Washington, DC are the best schools ever!

Clean water and trash -- touche. You may have gotten me on that one, but even The Sopranos knows that trash removal is rife with corruption.

Tomorrow's topic. If you are going to shoot a canard (is it already canard season?), I look forward to seeing the buckshot (or is it bullsh-t?) fly. I read the Millionaire Next Door. I can not quote you all the facts/figures, but it was fairly replete with stats showing that there are more of us quiet rich folks than there are the loud ones. OK . . I grant you that I may be richer than I am quiet, but you know what I mean.

Posted by: LFMD at October 2, 2007 11:42 AM

This post keeps drawing me in.

You know, I shop at Walmart every week. I don't get nauseous. I don't make assumptions that everyone I see is a racist who won't vote Democrat. I like saving money. And, like DFB&T says, the bananas are just as good.

I will tell you where I go on a daily basis that sends me into a panick attack sometimes. . . my daughter's private school. I love the school and she is getting a great education. BUT, I get sick every time I drive up to a mansion for a classmate's birthday party. I get sick every time one of the Day Lady Moms who don't have to work ask me why I can't volunteer during the day. I get sick every time my daughter tells me about all of the trips to Europe, Hawaii and Disney World that her classmates take on a regular basis.

I am afraid of the people associated with the private school because THEY are the ones who I assume are racist, uncaring, and unsympathetic to the rest of US at Walmart (me included). You seem to assume that people of a comfortable financial situation are enlightened and progressive. Why? I consider people of comfortable means to be extremely detached from the daily struggles of the rest of us.

I am beginning to think that I am too plebeian to read this blog.

Posted by: LFMD at October 2, 2007 11:46 AM

Ian, what is wrong with the Millionaire Next Door? I love that book. Please explain your issues with it, because I am having a hard time accepting criticism of that book from someone whose wife has a trust fund.

I did not want to go there, but I did. Don't be mad. I saw Tessa's movie! I know about the trust fund!

Posted by: Grumphreys at October 2, 2007 12:52 PM

DFB n' T, Re: government - What Ian said. roads, schools, water, public parks and spaces, the medicaid safety net, responsible international diplomacy, and yes, environmental stewardship. Not arguing that gov't is doing a great job at all of those, but who else can fill that role? Its our responsiblity to put the best people we can in charge of these things and hold them accountable.

if you're arguing that big business is just this efficient well-oiled machine that is much less prone to fraud and abuse than government, i disagree. i think that all large institutions are vulnerable to weaknesses of human nature (read: self-interest). i'd point to CEO salaries, rampant consolidation, controlled markets, and the current use/abuse of illegal immigrants and asian children as our international corporate workforce as good examples of this weakness in the private sector.

hell, before child labor laws were enacted, you had american 10 year olds working 16 hour days in coal mines. now inequities like this have moved beyond our radar, but they still exist.

Re: USPS - are you talkin' sh*t about ben franklin? just kiddin'

Posted by: Neva at October 2, 2007 12:55 PM

This is a really interesting post Ian and one that I can relate to in many ways. I keep thinking back to that old saying about not judging someone until you walk a mile in their shoes.

Like Sharon, those are my people you saw at Walmart. Sometimes I disagree highly with some of their views but my down home relatives from rural NC would be the first to help anyone when they were down, bake a mean banana pudding for a stranger's funeral, babysit at the drop of a hat and care deeply and truly for each other. My brother and father are both in this camp. Yes, many of them voted Republican, but for reasons I can't possibly understand because I do not walk in their shoes. I do wish I knew a way to help bring the over to my way of thinking without offending them though.

Anyway, to Dean, I would suggest that the govt, believe it or not, does health care reasonably well too. Medicare's admin costs are less than private insurers and as a doctor I actually would rather deal with Medicare or Medicaid than some of these for profit companies. Yes, they pay a little less but at least they do pay me and I know what to expect from them. I never know from one day to the next what will be denied by Cigna, Blue Cross, etc. etc. I believe that if we didn't have fifteen million different insurance companies to work with we wouldn't need so many billing and insurance people at each practice and we would all be better off. Right now we employ 2 full time billing people and an full time office manager at a practice of 3 docs just to manage this mess - and we still get denials 50% of the time from private insurers. Give me government any day!

Posted by: John Schultz at October 2, 2007 12:58 PM

Great blog today Ian. Funny- I shopped at WalMart yesterday so I could maximize the value proposition- because that's what Walmart is about. Until Americans care more about each other than value- WalMart will continue to kick ass and take names...but I digress.

"These shoppers, these unthinkably obese, racist goons buying power-steering fluid by the case, are going to be lifelong obstacles towards electing people who will change this country for the better."

I think the other side could just as easily have said the same. The truth is that no one is representing real America anymore. While the right is stirring up the "folks" in WalMart, the left is doing the same in the inner cities and union meetings. No one is less guilty or innocent than the other. I'm glad to see that we can step back and "Keep It Real" from time to time.

As to government- are we talking national or local? Not to get on my high horse but roads, schools, trash and water are implemented and administered locally (with some federal funding at times). Regarding federal government I give you:

The Good- The US Treasury
The Bad- The IRS
The Ugly- FEMA, GSA

Tell me your three..

And I have read both The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind. Both are kind of hokie- but the basic premise is not that millionaires are penny pinchers. It is that they don't live in the lap of luxury and are fairly ordinary people. No second homes, no fancy cars, etc. It is more a commentary on consumption than anything.


Posted by: Neva at October 2, 2007 1:02 PM

Also, like LFMD, I'm more bothered by the big money Republicans (especially the "Christian" ones) than the poorer Bush supporting folks. I think we have more chance to "convert" the poorer ones to Democrats by using the Populist arguments (ie Edwards' agenda) and address the immorality of having extreme poverty in this country. I've lost hope for the richer ones who seem to have brainwashed themselves into thinking that being selfish is somehow more "moral".

Posted by: tregen at October 2, 2007 2:52 PM

It's all perspective....

http://m3.picsdown.com/piles/?s=walmartdress

Posted by: mec at October 2, 2007 3:10 PM

Great post. I much, much prefer this to flushing Genesis down the bowl.

Posted by: Amy at October 2, 2007 4:59 PM

Hasn't anybody seen "Wal-mart: The High Cost of Low Prices"? Please. See it.

Posted by: T.J. at October 2, 2007 6:40 PM

I think it's hilarious that you liberals (no, I'm not a conservative; I despise Bush far more than I despised Clinton) are crowing about our public roads. You do realize that governmental subsidies (that is, our tax dollars) built those roads in the face of overwhelming market barriers, resulting in several "bad" things: air pollution, large carbon footprints in most everything we buy, outsourcing of jobs to countries that employ child labor and the huge growth of multi-national corporations (including the terrible Wal-Mart).

Why? Since interstates were built by subsidy and condemnation come Hell or high water, it's now cheaper and easier than it would otherwise be to ship stuff from China across the U.S. to the East Coast. For all we know, if the government hadn't spent our money on six lanes of blacktop all over America, we might have flying cars and flourishing local grocery stores.

There's lots of private garbage carriers.

There's no reason, other than government granting itself a monopoly, that private companies couldn't deliver clean water more efficiently at a lower price.

Public schools are a joke. Bush throws more and more money at them while acknowledging that our kids are falling further and further behind the rest of world despite the federalization of education and all the federal taxpayer money thrown at the problem. Give people (and companies, who would love the good PR of helping out poor families) a 100% tax credit for school expenses and complete school choice and you'd have schools actually paying attention to the consumers (the parents and the students) instead of the politicians that give them their budgets. This would include some schools allowing prayer, others not, and freedom of textbook choice and curriculum (a known bugaboo for our man Ian).

Public health is a joke, too. Before Medicaid and Medicare, people could actually see a doctor in their own homes for a reasonable price. Give individuals freedom to choose their own medical providers (on an equal footing with employers by giving them a 100% tax credit for health insurance and medical costs). Then insurance companies would pay attention to the consumer rather than the employers and the various governmental agencies they convince to twist the market to their advantage.

Social Security is a ponzi scheme doomed to failure. I can manage that 15% of my paycheck much better than some bureaucrats sitting in Washington. And if I waste it, I won't have done any worse than the feds and their SS IOUs.

The largest polluter in the U.S.? The federal government, and EPA can't touch it. And if someone pollutes your property, you can't sue. You have to wait for some agency to decide if they'll pursue it. If the polluter has political capital, you'll be out of luck.

"Responsible international diplomacy"? We have troops in almost every country around the world, building worldwide resentment against our government, and therefore us. We funded regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq then later attacked those same regimes. We got involved in Vietnam, Korea, etc. We supported fascist regime after fascist regime for decades since they opposed leftist groups. We've refused to trade with Cuba, causing the Castro regime to turn completely to the USSR/Russia have no incentive to change.

Don't you realize that when you give the government this much control because you trust your Democrats to do the right thing, they're going to misuse it just as much as the Republicans will when they get the reins of power? Government sucks.

Posted by: mec at October 2, 2007 7:29 PM

@Amy:

Gawsh, no, I haven't. Where would one find such a thing?

Posted by: grumphreys at October 2, 2007 8:08 PM

TJ - i can hardly see why your list of US foreign policy blunders is an argument against the need for "responsible international diplomacy" - if anything it just shows how badly we need it. especially now.

as for the rest of your points: no-one is crowing that gov't does a bang-up job at everything. yes, dealing with bureaucracies turns people against gov't. my main point was that govt still has an important role to play, and its our responsibility to hold our elected officals accountable at every level.

you seem to think that private enterprise as a less corruptable, more efficient alternative to gov't in all of these areas. the fact is that private enterprise has an equally spotty record or worse when it comes to corruption, waste, and short term thinking.

TJ says: "Don't you realize that when you give the government this much control because you trust your Democrats to do the right thing, they're going to misuse it just as much as the Republicans will when they get the reins of power? Government sucks."

I see the prevalence of your attitude as a big reason we have had the last 8 years of Bush and Co. Thanks for that. Can you honestly say to yourself that a Gore presidency would not have been vastly different? government sucks only to the extent that we allow it to suck!

Posted by: T.J. at October 2, 2007 9:15 PM

The best international diplomacy for our government is avoiding the excessive entanglements Washington warned about. Try getting a Republican or Democrat to do that these days.

Private enterprise would be significantly less corruptible than our government, or at least the effects of its corruption would be less significant, if we didn't have a government that felt the need to regulate every aspect of our lives and give so many advantages to certain select companies. If we had a very limited government that simply protected our rights, private enterprise couldn't do anything to us that we didn't allow it to. And if it tried we would have a remedy: law enforcement or the courts. Government can lock you up, take your property or execute you if it feels like it. It is simply blind, unthinking power.

Clinton bombed Afghanistan for no good reason. Do you think that might have angered right-wing Muslims? Clinton supported the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Gore would have done any number of things that are unconstitutional and would have infuriated me. And I already said I despise Bush more than Clinton. If your best argument is that "My man is the lesser of two evils," you're still supporting evil.

Bush, Clinton, Gore; they're all symptoms of the disease of an overly powerful government and us citizens who constantly allow it to spend our money, take our rights and kill us.

Don't blame me for Bush. I opposed the wars from the start. If more people had my attitude about government, maybe we would be able to stop Bush and his ilk. Your Dems haven't put up much of a fight, even when they've had the majority in BOTH HOUSES of Congress. They talked big about the war, then caved when they came into office. As I knew they would. And don't talk to me about filibusters and vetoes. If they had the willpower they'd keep proposing bills to get us out instead of rolling over every time.

Posted by: T.J. at October 2, 2007 9:18 PM

And even worse, rolling over and putting $20B in pork in the war funding authorization bills.

Posted by: I don't read the comments at October 2, 2007 9:41 PM

TJ,

One old example, then one new one from each of the three levels of government:

The Bill of Rights is pretty nice. Congressional Oversight Committees. Unemployment insurance is surprisingly easy to apply for, and the system to challenge fraud is both robust and fair. Fire Departments are nice.

Let's try it the other way: what is big business so great at, with no corruption or waste or the other things you decry in the public sector? Diplomacy? Hello, Dow Corning-Bhopal. War? Blackwater, how are you? Job Creation? Paging Ford Motor Company. Innovation? Mr. Gates, it's been a while. Allocation of inputs and prices? Oil Companies, how ya been? Health? Can I have a Big Mac with a side of Managed Care, please? Giving voice to citizens? When was the last time you called for customer support for anything? You can't tell me that tends to go well.

Big business is great at maximizing profits and protecting very narrow interests. But aping its methods is not such a great way to run a country, Mr. Bremer.

Posted by: connor beach at October 3, 2007 8:02 AM

Funny, As a Republican, I find myself walking around Walmart thinking "Damn Democrats"--then I remind myself that we are all created equal in the eyes of God. I guess we are all too quick 1. to pass judgment on someone and 2. to assume they are of the other political party. In my mind I think they are Democrats--voting themselves easy hand-outs so they don't have to work for a living.

Posted by: caveman at October 3, 2007 8:13 AM

I'm with stupid

Posted by: Jody at October 3, 2007 8:58 AM

Wal Mart bothers me because it generates consumption of things that are wasteful or excessive particularly on a class of people who feel like they are buying prosperity.

Everyone should pursue the best deal they can on a case of motor oil.
People who should be buying bananas for 80 cents on the dollar are actually buying Little Debbie Nutty Bars (which are exceedingly delicious, BTW).

Then you get into the excess: A giant shopping cart filled with the next cheap floor sweeper, a 'shown on TV' crappy knife that can cut through a cinder block, a spatula specially made for the Foreman Grill, a new type of green cleaner, etc. This is the kind of cheap crap that I hate to see the working class go bust on. No, I don't think they should be saving up for a Rolex, but the "cheap crap from China" mentality of many purchases makes me sad, or nauseous also.

As far as government, I work for the government, in highway design. The Feds, the state, local.

There is a bureuacratic and Kafkaesque quality to the job. When things are planned, then you have to go through an amazing process to build or widen a highway or transportation facility.

When things are unplanned, such as a Minneapolis bridge collapse or an earthquake, or in my specialty, a landslide, you are allowed to suspend normal rules and hoops. You typically do not do due process on the project. This does not mean that it is better or lesser quality. It usually means the job is cheaper or faster.
Well, no shit, you got to suspend all the rules.
I am free to suspend competitive bidding during an emergency. I am also free to say "I am giving you this project, if you overcharge, fuck up or in any way embarass the DOT, I will be sure that you do not work here again." This is assuming that I don't take kickbacks or something.

The Big Dig in Boston was a politically rammed project that was too complex for the time given. A big simple mistake from start to finish, but so was the freeway that it replaced. In my opinion, there should be more time and waste on planning for government projects. Hopefully it would kill the political rush in most cases and we could really evaluate the impact.

Oh just to push the topic a bit and get labelled with irony or as a hypocrite: Stop driving. Stop driving to Wal Mart every day or to get a video, or some smokes, or three afterschool programs or whatever the hell it is you do for five trips a day.

Posted by: ken at October 3, 2007 11:52 AM

Whoa. making fun of the great unwashed seen at a Wal Mart, isn't that like shooting dead fish in a barrel?

I've never set foot in a Wal Mart and never will. I have my reasons which is why I'm surprised you went in, Ian. It's a bad place.

And anyone who calls their college a "Public Ivy" is overcompensating for not having gone to a real Ivy. Lest you think I'm overcompensating, I too went to a so-called Public Ivy (according to Wikipedia) but have never called it that before this moment. Not that Real Ivy alums are any better, I'd be hard pressed to name a single person I know who went to a real Ivy that doesn't find a way to work it onto conversation somehow.

Posted by: jason savage at October 3, 2007 2:02 PM

Totally. When I was at Cornell, *everyone* did that.

Posted by: janet at October 3, 2007 4:21 PM

hello human being...connecting to something bigger and more wonderful and more frightening but not so frightening after all...hi..i understand you..you may judge me (my grammer and spelling is all over the place and my ability to communicate is all so franetic(nice word .....like elbow )..the thing is , this is the way i speak on computer mode.....it does not allow for anything more.......the best thing is to be there ......big hugs .....xxx

Posted by: Jody at October 3, 2007 7:46 PM

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB119135657404946747-lMyQjAxMDE3OTAxMzMwNTM2Wj.html

The video shows a strange Wal Mart vacuum around NC until 1985.

Posted by: Ian at October 3, 2007 11:41 PM

hi janet!

and ken, I was using the phrase "Public Ivy" to make a larger point, not as a status play. I'll leave that to the grads from Harvard ("the Carolina of New England").

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Posted by: Matthew C. Kriner at June 18, 2013 5:59 AM

The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it'll do even better in those areas, but for now it's a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod's strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

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