succumbing to peer pressure

Monday, January 31, 2005

Sameera is back! And there was much rejoicing. He made the best entrance too - no one knew for sure even if he was returning, much less when. Then this afternoon the elevator doors slide open, and there he is! Fantastic.

Musings on loneliness - Ok, being lonely isn't something I often admit to, but this afternoon during our marathon homework session three of my classmates got confessional about their anxiety levels regarding our weekly homework assignments. And in one way, it was reassuring, because they all admitted to feeling nearly identically to what I was describing a few days ago. On the other hand, it reminded me of Ahalya's thoughts on wanting a wife (whom I would link to appropriately but doesn't seem to have perma-links set up). But more than someone to cook and clean for me, I want the emotional support of a partner. All three of my classmates (two marrieds, one long-term relationship) told their stories in the context of freaking out to their significant other. Well, bully for them. When I dissolve into a puddle and throw my notebooks across the apartment the cat is the best I can hope for for comfort. And, while I have just about the best friends a gal could ever imagine, much less deserve, it's not the same.

All right, on to other topics. Carrie (and any other New Yorkers) - is this for real? Good grief!

The point here is that neither the city nor the state has a dime to spare. Subway lines are falling apart because 19th-century signal systems have been neither upgraded nor protected. Plans for critically needed school construction are being deferred. After-school programs, which are literally lifelines for many youngsters, have to be shut down because they are not "affordable."

And yet. Ah, yes. If there's one thing in this unhappy fiscal environment that Mayor Bloomberg will absolutely go to the mat for (carrying along the governor and any other powerful figures he can muster), it's that football stadium for his fellow billionaire, Robert Wood Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets.

At $1.4 billion, this playground for the richest among us would be the most expensive sports stadium in the history of the world. The city and the state, which can't afford toilet paper for the public schools, would put up a minimum of $600 million and undoubtedly much more. The smart money says the public will take at least a billion-dollar hit on this project so Woody Johnson can hold court amid a sea of luxury boxes hard by the Hudson on the Far West Side of Manhattan.

How foolish is this project? They're planning to build a 75,000-seat stadium without any parking facilities to go along with it. Can you imagine what the West Side will look like on a game day? (The mayor's people got into a snit last October when officials in New Jersey wouldn't let Hizzoner land his helicopter at the Jets' current home in the New Jersey Meadowlands. He wanted to arrive too close to game time, the officials said. They suggested he come by bus.)

And in a lovely Margaret Mead moment ("Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, dedicated citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.") - There's this guy, Eric Reeves, private citizen, professor at Smith College. During the Clinton administration he was so incensed over the situation in Sudan that he did his research, then proceeded to e-mail policymakers and members of the press, denouncing the American policy there (or lack thereof). And these days the current senior state department official on Sudan reads everything Reeves sends him. At least, according to the article,

Reeves's campaign five years ago had a clear effect. His writings encouraged more and harsher press attention to Sudan; activists and church groups were energized; Western oil companies cut off their links with the country, and Albright's tone toughened. When the Bush administration took office the next year, evangelicals persuaded it to make Sudan a top Africa priority. Four years of high-level U.S. attention have driven Sudan's government to sign a peace deal with the south, signaling a victory for the moralist view of foreign policy.
Again, Reeves has made some progress. Last February, before journalists had woken up to the slaughter in Darfur, Reeves wrote an op-ed in The Post titled "Unnoticed Genocide." At the time, talk of "genocide" was frowned upon as loose, but Reeves knew the language of the U.N. genocide convention as well as he knew what was happening on the ground, and by the summer Congress and then later the Bush administration and the European Union parliament had adopted his terminology.

Of course, things are far from rosy in Sudan. But how tremendously inspiring that one individual, one non-politician, has left his undeniable imprint on this country's foreign policy?

And in much more discouraging (or motivating?) news:

I've been talking to Peter Edelman, a Georgetown University law professor who is thoughtful, liberal, incredibly decent -- and alarmed over the national budget President Bush will shortly propose.

"For virtually all of my adulthood," he said, "America has had a bipartisan agreement that we ought to provide some basic framework of programs and policies that provide a safety net, not just for the poor but for a large portion of the American people who need help to manage.

"There've been exceptions -- the first Reagan term with David Stockman, the brief ascendancy of Newt Gingrich -- but while we've argued about the specifics, the basic framework has been there.

"With this budget, the basic framework is being dismantled."

Before you dismiss it as partisan hyperbole, hear Edelman's specifics: The basic structure of Social Security is under attack (on the grounds that the program is in crisis, though most respected economists say it isn't). Pell Grants for college tuition are on the cutting block. So are Section 8 housing vouchers (which started under Richard Nixon) and food stamps. Programs that have offered some protection for people in the lower third of the economy are under threat of evisceration.
"The federal budget is not just an accounting tool. It is a statement about our priorities and our values as a nation. But because of decisions this president made to benefit an elite few -- at the expense of the rest of us -- we're now facing a set of budget choices that are unsupportable, immoral and dangerous."

(emphasis mine)

I can't take it anymore. I try to be tolerant and open-minded and accept that yes, of course, people will view things differently and have different opinions regarding the best way to spend (or not spend) government dollars and I keep paying lip service to the concession that yes, many conservatives don't want to spend money on social programs, and hey, that's their opinion and maybe they're right. But I just can't do it anymore. I'm sorry. It's just wrong and I can't pretend that I think otherwise. Look, I'm glad that you and your family and every ancester back three hundred years pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and didn't need any charity from anyone, thankyouverymuch. But you know what? Sometimes shit happens. And sometimes shit isn't your fault. And sometimes you can't do it yourself. And it's just cold and mean and small to deny that fact. And yeah, sure, there will always be people taking advantage of a system like that, there will always be people accepting food stamps or cashing a welfare check or living in subsidized housing who are just taking advantage of the system and aren't really deserving of the help. But you know what? If that's the price I pay for putting a roof over the head of some teenager who got kicked out of the house when he came out of the closet, I'm ok with that. If that's the price I pay for putting milk in a baby's stomach who's mother just lost her job because she had to stay home from work for one day to take the kid to a doctor's appointment, I'm ok with that. Go ahead. Call me a bleeding heart liberal. I'll wear it with pride.


Blogger amelia said...

i SO sympathize on the single thing. although i must say: my cats can be pretty comforting. [also, why am i still at work at 11.52? gah!]

8:52 PM  
Blogger Flash!topian said...

Yes, Bloomberg, who is usually known for an absurdly visionary kind of practicality -- as in the smoking ban. At first, we all thought he was nuts. But it worked. We all quit smoking, pretty much, and the bars are quite pleasant.
The stadium shit is another thing. There are THREE current stadium projects, each of which is slated to run in the 1-2 billion range. (And one of which will be about a mile from my house. Icky, icky, icky.) All of them will, in the short term, benefit a few powermad wackos (Bruce Ratner, Jay-Z). In the long term, Bloomberg imagines they will help NYC win the bid for the 2012 Olympics.
Why the FUCK do we need the Olympics? The Olympics are great for cities like Atlanta, where the event can call attention to the place as being fun to visit, modern, etc. -- which they did, in Atlanta. NYC is already too crowded, touristed to the maximum, safe as kittens -- we don't need to prove to the world that we can also host major sporting events!
Subway needs new lines and fixes badly, and the schools are in dire need of help, and firehouses all over are closing and the city is basically a timebomb for any major disaster.
You know what we need?
Pro Fuckin Football.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey now... friends are pretty fabulous. Not to knock the value of a spouse, but there isnt a whole lot more they offer over a good friend. I mean, I know I can pick up the phone any time of day or night and call Sara, for example, and rant and rave and vent. And vice versa. We do it pretty often, and I can't imagine a S.O. could really do all that much more.

As for the value of social programs.... I guess the issue is, that poor 1/3 of America doesnt think they *want* your help. A pretty big swell of votes for Bush came from that segment, so maybe its time to let them learn their lessons. It'll end up hurting everyone, but maybe its time to let them make their own mistakes... and when they come to their senses, I imagine there'll be people like you ready with plans to pick up the pieces. The best analogy I can come up with is that of a willfull teenager... they think they're ready to go it on their own? Well, let them, and leave a light on for when they learn better.

I dunno. It's a cynical morning. Neo-anarchy seems much more reasonable early in the week.


11:20 AM  

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