Archive for February 2nd, 2011

On banning free plastic bags

| February 2, 2011 | 3 Replies
On banning free plastic bags

I just don’t get it. Just look at the damage being done by allowing free plastic bags and ask yourself why we can’t motivate ourselves to ban free plastic bags.

If we, as a country, can’t make this obviously necessary move, are we capable of anything at all? If some Middle Eastern terrorist dumped this amount of crap all over our country (and world), we’d declare war to seek revenge. But we’re doing this to ourselves, so it’s OK.

And what about bottled water? The ends simply don’t justify the means.

We are being poisoned by free market fundamentalism.

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Left Behind by Snowmageddon

| February 2, 2011 | 1 Reply
Left Behind by Snowmageddon

There was recently a big winter storm across the Central and North Eastern U.S. In my local town, it had the potential of exceeding the record one-day snowfall set 29 years ago. All the local news stations talked about the major storm approaching. Thunder snow, a rare occurrence here, was predicted. Stores were stripped of snow shovels, salt, water softener (salt), milk and bread.The governor called in the National Guard, and all the utility and road crews were on high alert.

When the freezing rain started on Monday, the media warned people to stay home for the next day or two as the storm passed over. I grew excited. The little kid in me was hoping for a big snow. But our town was right on the freezing line. Just south of us, there is rain. North of us, snow. The band from rain through freezing rain, sleet, snow, up to full blizzard is only a hundred miles wide. As Tuesday dawned, we had a glaze of ice, and sleet was falling. I woke early and spent a couple of hours learning how to hack my new super-zoom camera to force it to take a time lapse picture series. I hoped to make a nice video of the yard disappearing under a foot or more of snow.

So I set up my camera and started it early in the morning, when there was still just a glaze of ice on the path and plants. The day wore on. At noon I it was still just sleeting. I changed the batteries in the camera. By sunset, there was just a couple of inches of sleet. It was fun to walk on top of what looks like snow. But the yard is still visible. Had the freeze line been a couple of dozen miles farther south, that thin layer of sleet would have been about a foot of snow. What a gyp! So I let the camera run overnight, in hopes that we’d get some snow on the few inches of ice.

But as Wednesday dawned, Groundhog Day, there was only a little more snow. Sure, the roads are all iced over, and icicles hang from everything. But this is a far cry from what the hue and cry of the media had us expecting. Granted, the next county over (and half the state) is snowed in. Interstate 70 is closed between the Saint Louis metro area and Kansas. And the temperature will drop below zero (-18°C) tonight.

But how did we get Left Behind from the transcendental fairyland, a heaven of deep snow? Obviously we hadn’t prayed hard enough to the God of the clean white snowy world above to deliver us from mundane weather. Or we didn’t believe sincerely enough in the snowy salvation offered by his half-breed son, Jack Frost. Maybe some around us are heretical worshipers of the Daily Commute, and counteracted our prayers.

So we beseech those who were called up to the snowy realm to share with us their good fortune. Show us unworthy shovelers of sleet what the True Light of real snow is like. Maybe it’s not too late.

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One million pages

| February 2, 2011 | 5 Replies
One million pages

Dangerous Intersection is almost five years old, and we’ve hit a milestone in terms of traffic. In January, 2011, we served out one million pages (1,040,351, to be exact). January was our biggest traffic month so far. We had 230,724 visitors, and 134,695 of those visitors were unique visitors. We averaged 139,404 hits per day and 7,400 visitors per day. Amazing that all of this traffic does not quite pay for our hosting (through the ads), but none of the authors at this site ever expected to make money at DI (we haven’t yet made a penny).

Anyway, if you were one of our many new visitors last month, welcome. Please understand that we welcome your comments, especially if you disagree with us.

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The mission of The Nation

| February 2, 2011 | Reply
The mission of The Nation

For consistently high quality commentary on national issues, I read The Nation. In the January 24, 2011 issue, Editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel examines the magazine’s mission.

We’ve helped build a society that is more socially tolerant than it was a quarter century ago, but when it comes to public policy, economic outcomes and control of government, the story is different. The broad movement of American politics in recent decades has been toward greater inequality, the discrediting of public institutions in a near idolatry of private markets at the expense of corporate accountability.

I believe this is a pivotal moment for The Nation. Launched in the days after the Civil War, in July 1865, this magazine is one of the few long-standing media institutions that have worked to bring about lasting social and political change. In the time ahead we will need to rededicate ourselves to our mission by confronting and countering misinformation, bigotry and greed with tough, intelligent and principled journalism while sewing new and alternative-often heretical-ideas.… In some ways, this work will necessarily be defensive or oppositional.… The late Studs Terkel, a true friend of The Nation, believed that hope was not simply optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good and worth working for.

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The Rich

| February 2, 2011 | 1 Reply
The Rich

In the February 2011 edition of Harper’s Magazine (in an article titled “Easy Chair: Servile Disobedience“), Thomas Frank offers a sharp challenge for The Rich. Now he’s not talking about all those who are rich. I assume he’s focusing on The Rich who proudly own and control Congress. There’s something different about those rich people…

One 2009 study in Psychological Science found that, in conversations with strangers, higher-status people tend to do more doodling and fidgeting and also to use fewer “engagement cues”-looking at the other person, laughing, and nodding their heads. A 2010 paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “lower-class individuals” turned out to be better performers on measures of such a “prosocial” virtues as generosity, charity, and helpfulness. A third study found that those of higher status were noticeably worse in assessing the emotions of others or figuring out what facial expressions meant. All of which is to say, The Rich are different from you and me. They are ruder and less generous. They don’t get what others are thinking. And apparently they don’t really care. If you stop and think about it for a second, you understand that all of this makes sense. People don’t craft poisoned collateralized debt obligations by calling on what they learned in Sunday school.…

[T]he billionaires with the strongest sense of class solidarity have another plan for the disposable income: activating their lobbyists in Washington, building grassroots movements to march on their behalf, and using their media properties to run experiments on human credulity. Even their giving is a form of taking. For example, Charles Koch, of Wichita oil fame, recently circulated to his “network of business and philanthropic leaders” an invitation to a meeting at which-if their last meeting’s agenda is any indication-they will discuss strategies for beating back environmentalism and the “threat” of financial regulation. This is a kind of philanthropy that pays dividends.…

Americans are born to serve and assist the wealthy; it is our inalienable duty.… We cater to the wealthy in our work lives and we glorify them in our leisure.… We take up collections for the public schools because we feel the fortunes of the rich ought to go unencumbered by that burden.

Frank’s article should be read out loud, word by word to be fully appreciated. It paints a somber picture of America’s class struggle, but the first step toward change is forcing one to open one’s eyes. I only hope that we are in the midst of a mere class struggle and not at the end of a great experiment that culminated with Citizen’s United. I can just imagine many wealthy politically active people protesting, “The fact that I am rich didn’t make anyone else poor.” That argument still works for me for those people who are not showering Washington DC with big money in return for special privileges that siphon off my tax dollars and impinge on my civil rights. Who can any longer contest with a serious face that The Rich, including big corporate interests (telecoms, health insurers, military contractors and bankers), can get whatever they want from Congress. Where is this lesson in grade school government textbooks?

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