feuervogel: (hold me)
All I have to say about a goddamn con man with no experience or skills who is a fucking fascist being elected president over a woman with all the qualifications is this: fuck you, America.

I'm done staying and fighting. I can't anymore. A week ago, I would have considered a PhD program in the US, if I decide to continue my education, but now I won't. The only options for me for the future are in Europe.

Not that anywhere is safe if that irrational, unstable monster has the nuclear codes.

What this election shows me is that America hates people who aren't straight, white, Christian men. America hates immigrants, LGBT people, POCs, the disabled, women. I know that I'm not wanted here, so why bother?
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
I read this link on twitter the other day about class and "identitarianism," which rings true in parts but not in others, and I'm not sure I can explain it well.

I've been incoherently pondering it the last few days, but maybe some of you smart people can discuss and help me figure things out.

(Warning: sh*tt*rly in comments)
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
If you post overblown hyperbolic things like "Legalize 23andMe!" because it needs to be saved from the FDA's predatory regulations, yes, I'm going to be sarcastic at you.

ETA: This essay discusses an essay by a conservative columnist in which he engages in hyperbole about what liberals believe/want. Hyperbole (and straw-man argumentation) is pretty common among conservative columnists.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Driving home yesterday from writing group, I listened to this segment on NPR. They were discussing the pending legislation about banning sex-selective abortions in NC.

Tami Fitzgerald, head of some anti-choice org, said that "we don't have a problem with that right now, but we need to prevent it from becoming one in the future" and then denied any aspects of anti-immigrant racism when called on it by the head of NARAL NC, Suzanne Buckley.

What you non-NC-residents may not know is that we have a large and growing Indian immigrant community (largely in Cary/RTP, but throughout the state, as well). What I hear in the phrase "we need to prevent sex-selective abortion from becoming a problem in the future" is "people are coming from India and they abort girl fetuses there and there are more and more of them and we have to STOP them from doing that." (See also: the bill introduced in the state house banning sharia law.) I could be wrong, but I'm probably not.

Fitzgerald harped again and again about "we are protecting women's rights while they are still in the womb" while Buckley kept calling her on it, saying "we should work for things that will actually help living women, like equal pay and contraceptive access and education and things like that."

Then they brought an OB-GYN on, who said how unclearly the bill is written, which Fitzgerald told her was silly to think and just fear. The host, Frank Stasio, pressed her on it, asking if patients wouldn't just lie about it anyway. She danced around the topic. (Some stats: there are no sex-selective abortions known to have occurred in NC, and most abortions occur before the sex of the fetus is even known.)

The anti-choice movement grasps at straws and tells disingenuous lies. They won't admit to their racism.
feuervogel: (trains)
This isn't news. I've discussed this before.

But now someone with GIS mapping tools created a visualization of population density, Amtrak routes, and Amtrak ridership. Unsurprisingly, ridership is highest where service is most extensive, ie the Northeast Corridor.

Did you know you can't take a train directly between Houston and Dallas? Don't you think that's pretty ridiculous? Did you know that there's only one train a day between San Francisco and LA? And that it usually takes longer than driving between the two cities?

While there are reasonable discussions to be had over the merits of train service to the sparsely inhabited middle regions of the country, there are few good arguments against having increased train service between population centers. The NE Corridor has multiple trains per day--once an hour or so from DC to Boston--and the ridership to match. The Carolinian/Piedmont routes, from NC to DC, are used far less--because there's only one in either direction every day, and it's invariably several hours delayed. Amtrak expanded Raleigh to Charlotte service to three times a day and increased ridership on that route.

Expanding service on the I-85/95 corridor, Atlanta to Charlotte to Raleigh to Richmond to DC would reduce traffic on I-95, save fuel, decrease CO2 emissions, and make travel much easier. Think of how much you could get done in 5-6 hours of riding a train rather than driving! (I get motion sick, so I can't do anything in a bus beyond stare out the window. And anyway, busses get stuck in traffic.) Riding a train is much less stressful than driving, unless you're stuck waiting 45 minutes outside a station because there's a freight train stopped there, and since you're outside the NorthEast Corridor, the freight companies own the tracks, so you get to yield. Then it gets stressful because you're meeting someone when you get in.

But no, we can't do that because communism and central planning and we can't make taxpayers fund trains (but we can subsidize the shit out of oil companies and roads!).

This country has its collective head up its ass on the issue of transportation. There's not much we can do to fix it, either, because the fetish for Rugged Individualism is disgustingly deep seated.
feuervogel: (hetalia germany with beer)
Uh, hmm. I split and transplanted some phlox the other day, and in the process I got easily 2 dozen bug bites of some variety (possibly ants or spiders, because there were a bunch of them disturbed in the process). My gardenias are flowering, and I cut a few branches and stuck them in water, and my living room smells really good. My azaleas never really flowered properly this year, which is kind of sad. I'll have to remember to feed them this fall and early next spring.

I got the box of Hertha fanstuff my Goethe-classmate Joey picked up for me while he was back there last month (he put it in his suitcase and mailed it once he got back, much more economical that way! Seriously, do you know how much DHL charges to ship shit overseas?) I got 2 shirts, a little keychain of the away jersey, a mug with the signatures on it, a little flag they gave out at the match he went to (Augsburg! Lucky bastard), the program book from the match, and photo cards of the players. The program book is 150 pages, and I've only made it through about 3/4 of it. Oh, and a sheet of stickers. And a plastic bag from the store (which I made the mistake of thinking would be safe on the table overnight and Claire chewed a hole in the bottom of. So if I feel like living dangerously, I could attempt to fix it by holding it near my iron and melting it. Or I could just fold it up and be sad that I can't use it.) So yay, I now have football gear that I can wear while shouting at the pirated feed on my computer.

I'd watch it legally if there were a way that didn't involve adding $30 to my cable bill to get ESPN so I can get ESPN3 on my computer, not that ESPN3 even shows any Bundesliga matches that don't involve FC Hollywood, or spending a ton more to get digital cable or satellite for hundreds of channels we never use. Seriously, we watch one show a week, and I'm not interested in it anymore (House). We dropped extended cable a few years ago because we didn't watch but one of the 70 channels we got, and that only rarely. Digital cable would easily double our bill from what it is right now.

Despite American "libertarians'" fetish for competition and the market, cable companies and ISPs are effective monopolies. Only one company runs cable to my neighborhood, and they're also the internet people. Our phone company offers "high-speed" internet (at 800 Kbps), but Time Warner's broadband has them beat.

See also the NC law just passed disallowing municipalities to offer broadband internet as a quasi-utility and act as ISPs to offer competition with Time Warner (which is pretty much the only player in this game). The Republicans brought it up and passed it, and Bev Perdue refused to veto it.

Republicans and the libertarians who vote for them really just want to suck big business cock, not advocate "principles" like competition and prevent monopolies. For some reason, they believe that they'll be the corporate lords and masters in this neo-feudal society, when really they'll be shoveling shit with the rest of us serfs.
feuervogel: (trains)
Comments on a friend's annual tax day rant led to her explaining her definition of central planning to include anything the government does to incentivize one technology/industry over another (for example, tax incentives for citizens buying more energy efficient appliances, or for companies to invest in alternative energy research).

Are the massive tax breaks to oil companies and the seriously messed-up formulas that govern road money (from fuel taxes) distribution also central planning, or does that not count?

From the Economist article linked in my previous post:
The federal government is responsible for only a quarter of total transport spending, but the way it allocates funding shapes the way things are done at the state and local levels. Unfortunately, it tends not to reward the prudent, thanks to formulas that govern over 70% of federal investment. Petrol-tax revenues, for instance, are returned to the states according to the miles of highway they contain, the distances their residents drive, and the fuel they burn. The system is awash with perverse incentives. A state using road-pricing to limit travel and congestion would be punished for its efforts with reduced funding, whereas one that built highways it could not afford to maintain would receive a larger allocation.


Also, In 2006 German road fees brought in 2.6 times the money spent building and maintaining roads. American road taxes collected at the federal, state and local level covered just 72% of the money spent on highways that year, according to the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. So, yes, kids, roads and driving are heavily subsidized, moreso than Amtrak, even. Other things that are subsidized: airlines.
feuervogel: (trains)
I'm aware of various reasons, like automakers in the early 20th century actively eliminating railways in the name of profit (thank you, capitalism), and preferential funding for highways over trains, as well as anti-state arguments that trains are too heavily subsidized by the government and Amtrak should be forced to compete on the open market (while conveniently ignoring the fact that gas taxes aren't the entire source of highway funds, or the massive subsidies on gas and cars (by tax breaks to carmakers)).

Notable conservative pundit George Will is against trains because they take away our individualism and are the first step to socialism. (I wish I were making that up.) Factor in a bit of projection (ie, liberals say they want trains because X, but really COMMUNISM) and a bit of hypocrisy, and you have the face of modern movement conservatism. (Note: if you don't know the difference between being conservative and movement conservatism, spend a few minutes with google before yelling at me.)

A nice piece on CNN fact checks a lot of these myths, and an operations engineer asks why so riled about rail?

Seriously, why do Americans flip their collective shit at the thought of TRAINS? Trains are awesome. Amtrak kind of sucks, but that's not completely Amtrak's fault. It's in large part due to the inevitable shit-flipping from Americans at the thought of building train tracks and having the government fund something that will let people get from point A to point B without putting 500,000 one-person-SUVs on I-95.

I'm going to Boston this July, and because I object to security theater, the war on liquids, and the option of submitting myself to probably-unsafe radiation levels/naked scanner or a pat-down that borders on sexual assault, I'm taking the train. It's a good 800 miles by train between here and there, and I can go direct, leaving here at 10 am and arriving in Boston at 8 am, or I can take the train to DC and stay with my sister overnight, then catch one of the regular morning trains to Boston, and repeat the process in reverse. Not a big deal, sort of inconvenient, but I'm the person who took an overnight train from Berlin to Vienna because that only cost 49 Euro and about 12 hours. (There were fancier trains with actual sleeping compartments (EuroCityNight), but they were a lot more expensive.)

Ben's going to Atlanta in a couple weeks for a concert, and he wondered if it would be possible to take the train down. Short answer: no. The train to Atlanta leaves from Greensboro at 12:30 am (midnight) and gets to ATL at 8:30 am. Annoying, sure, and I don't know many people who'd want to be in GSO at midnight because it's kind of dangerous. If he went to GSO by train, he'd have to leave Durham around 5:30 and wait in GSO for 6 hours. WONDERFUL, yes. Coming back, he'd leave ATL at 8:30 pm and get to GSO at 4 am. Which is also extremely convenient.

Now, if you were going from NYC to New Orleans, you'd have great departure and arrival times, and that 1400 miles only takes about 30 hours, assuming you don't have to wait for CTX trains to pass, since CTX owns the tracks and Amtrak only leases them, so CTX has the right of way.

Here are two people who would rather take the train, rather than be yet another one-occupant vehicle on the road, but American individual-über-alles culture and its worship of cars with the policy decisions that go along with this car-idolatry has made it inconvenient to impossible.

It's not possible to take the train from Raleigh, NC, to Memphis, TN. It's marginally possible to take the train from Raleigh to Detroit (which I looked into because there's a Gold Cup match between the US men and...Canada maybe? this summer).
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
A. There's a paper that says so, even, using New Jersey as a case study.
This paper examines the migration response to a millionaire tax in New Jersey, which raised the tax rate on top earners by 2.6 percentage points, becoming one of the highest rates in the country. Drawing on complete NJ state tax micro-data, we estimate the migration response of millionaires using a difference-in-difference strategy. The results indicate little responsiveness, with semi-elasticities mostly below 0.1. Tax-induced migration is higher among people of retirement age, people living off investments rather than wages, and potentially those who work (and pay tax) entirely in-state. The tax is estimated to raise $1 billion per year and modestly reduce income inequality.

Unsurprisingly, they don't move for the same exact reason that libertarian ideology breaks down when it comes to "if you don't like the laws where you live, move somewhere else." People are tied to their home area, because of friends, family, jobs, schools, everything, and it's not so simple to uproot your life to go somewhere more amenable to your inclination.

B. When will the Democrats understand that Republicans aren't playing by the same rules and that their main goal is to take America back to 1880?

Notes

27 Jan 2011 02:47 pm
feuervogel: (enemy birds)
I may have something to say about this poor middle class girl's problems at some point. Just putting it here so I can find it again later.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
I make no secret of my far-leftward (at least in the US) leanings, nor of my distaste for privileged assholes living in a thought experiment which, unleashed upon the world, would result in the deaths of millions, and corporate feudalism.

It is an immoral "philosophy" because their dogma, applied to the existing society, would result in "unintended" consequences, and for people whose battle cry is "laws have unintended consequences, therefore laws are stupid and should be abolished," the hypocrisy is, well, not charming or funny, just typically appalling. Allowing GM to fail, for example, wouldn't "punish" just GM's board for their bad decisions, but the thousands of workers who would lose their jobs at GM factories, those workers' families, the various store owners and employees in the town where the GM employees, now laid off and spending less money, live and shop, and even further reaching consequences, such as the suppliers of parts for the now-closed factory, their employees, their employees' families, and the various store owners and employees in the towns where GM's suppliers live and work.

Ignoring the real-world consequences because they're inconvenient for your theory is not only immoral, but monstrous and disgusting.

Their naïvete is inextricable from the enormous socioeconomic privilege that Libertarians have. They pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, attached to the finest hand-tooled leather boots their parents' money could buy.

A common Libertarian argument is that if people don't like the conditions at job X, people can negotiate better conditions, or they can leave and find a new job. They also apply this to their perfect, free-market "minarchist" society, where each city/state/corporatofeudal region has its own system of laws and rights, so for example in Libertarian Utopia America, San Francisco would be able to have its own set of LGBT-friendly laws, while Alabama could have its own set of racist, homophobic laws, and the Holy Invisible Hand of the Perfect Free Market would sort everything out, because people who want gay-friendly places to live and work could move to SFO, and bigots could move to Alabama.

(Sorry, non-bigoted Alabamans. I know there are some out there. Just your state came to mind because of the Christofascism evinced by an elected official recently, in which he said that only Christians are his brothers.)

In a perfect world, where packing up and moving 2000+ miles is inexpensive and risk-free, SURE. But people aren't robots without ties to places, like friends or family. There are a lot of reasons that moving is difficult, like the cost of hauling all your things, or even some of your things, 2000+ miles, wondering whether you'll make friends there, giving up free or low-cost child care if you're leaving your family behind.

Only someone who's never had to worry about making this month's rent could so blithely say, "Well, you can just move."

Only someone who's never had to worry about being fired for missing work to take their sick kid to the doctor could so blithely say In the USA, we have the freedom to negotiate whatever vacation we want. The idea that it’s generous to force employers to give holidays is just populism for suckers. I get 5 weeks holiday per year, because the free market works just fine. Some people have other interests.

Disgusting.

There are other reasons, like their privatization fetish and ludicrous belief that corporations are people, but other people have discussed those elsewhere.
feuervogel: Alex on the bridge, deciding a course of action (sad)
When I see my country, which for generations was characterized by freedom and "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," turning into a playground for hard-right ideologues, and their opposition isn't leftist but center-right, I want to cry. Speaking out and getting involved won't fix a fucking thing; any leftish position will be pilloried and forced into "compromise," which means bending over backwards to accommodate the hard-right neofascists and their ilk while abandoning basic principles.

It's all fucking useless. We may as well give up this idealistic dream of an America as the land of opportunity. It's the land of "Me First" and "Yes, My Lord Capitalist" and "Keep your grubby lower-class paws off the money I worked so hard to inherit."

Thanks so much, conservatives. And that includes you, libertarians.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor

feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
[personal profile] smarriveurr: And it's funny that people will say that if your taxes go up at $200k you've no incentive to earn more near there... but taking away benefits at or below the poverty line is all hunky-dory.

[personal profile] feuervogel: That's how you can tell their principles boil down to "fuck the poor people."
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
In answer to a reader's question ("Why is it that the people freaking out the most about taxes on the rich are the ones who don’t seem to know how the tax code works?")

I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes is theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Things I love about America: I can criticize the president and not go to jail; I can be an atheist and not go to jail.

Things I don't love about America: my friend is blind because she couldn't afford the surgery to reattach her retina.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
One of my classmates at the Goethe Institut remarked frequently how completely un-American I am (he was Swiss/English). I guess this was based on the type of American people see on the teevee or in the movies or on the news, or on vacation I guess, where they're like "USA! USA! #1! #1!" and commence flag-waving at the drop of a hat. And I'm mostly like, "yeah, there's a whole lot of fucked up shit in the States." It's a true statement, and it doesn't mean that I hate America, no matter what the Limbaughs and Becks and their ilk were saying during the Bush years.

Pretty much every European I talked to was horrified, appalled even, that people can't afford basic medical treatment or go bankrupt after a medical emergency. Because in their countries, health care is cheaper and/or subsidized through taxes. They're also gobsmacked at how much university tuition costs, since a year's tuition at the average European public university is on the order of hundreds of Euros*, and UNC Chapel Hill is up to $9000 or so for in-state students. And that's one of the cheapest state schools in the country. (Out of state students pay almost double that.)

*In 1996/97, when I was a student at Philipps-Universität Marburg (Germany), a semester's tuition was DM180 ($100 at the time), and it included a semester pass for all local and regional public transportation services, which meant city buses, regional buses, and regional trains. I could take the train to Frankfurt/Main for free. (Blah blah paid for; a single-ride ticket on the city bus was DM2. You do the math.) From Frankfurt, I could go anywhere in the world (seriously; Frankfurt Airport is the largest on the continent). (ETA: And German students get interest-free loans (BAföG) to cover things like room & board & books.)

So the American ideal of rugged individualism, which leads way too easily into "fuck you, I got mine," is one I don't identify with or understand on a gut level. People should cooperate and work together, not stomp on each other and kick the guy you're climbing over in the teeth while trying to succeed.

I don't like games predicated on dicking your buddy (Illuminati! and Cosmic Encounter are the two that come to mind first). I don't like "humor" that's based on putting other people down, even if it's "just in fun." All too often, it's not used "just in fun," rather to actually insult or belittle the recipient; there's a reason it's called being the butt of the joke. (I don't enjoy "roasts," either.)

It's a mindset I don't understand on a fundamental level.
feuervogel: (food)
I've been trying to reduce my consumption and general materialism for a while. This is fairly difficult, to be honest, because I don't generally buy a lot of stuff, or really *want* to buy a lot of stuff. Books and DVDs are the main things I buy, and mostly it's books.

One problem with the consumer goods market in the US is that we're being told that we can put our dollars where our mouths are, to encourage our corporate masters to do responsible blah blah. Hence even Walmart sells organically-grown produce now. But it's still mass consumerism, just with a shiny label on it.

You gotta eat, though, so you can't just say fuck it, I won't buy food. Subsistence farming is damned hard work. Even growing veggies in your back yard/on your windowsill takes a lot of skill. (I'm still sad that my yellow pepper plants only produced 2 peppers all last summer. I can grow rosemary, but you can't make dinner out of rosemary.) So you have to pay people for your food.

Sustainable farming practices and humane treatment of animals are important to me. I buy as many veggies as I can, and all my eggs, from the farmers market. I chat with the people who grew the food I'm going to cook, or raise the chickens who laid the eggs. I pay $4.50/dozen for amazing eggs, with gorgeous orange yolks and thick brown shells, laid by chickens who walk around in a field and eat grass and bugs.

(Whereas a dozen eggs laid by chickens crammed a dozen into a cat-carrier-sized cage and de-beaked so they won't peck each other to death cost $2.50 for Eggland's Best; less presumably for store brand.)

When I can't get something at the farmers market, which is fairly regular; sometimes I need a veggie out of local season, I buy at the co-op. They get organically-grown produce, with a preference for local and regional farmers, when possible. (We don't exactly get mangoes in NC...)

It costs more, probably. I pay more for my food than someone who shops at Food Lion or Walmart. Until you think about the true costs of food. Hidden in the cheap food is the cost to the animals confined in CAFOs, the cost to the environment of hog lagoons, the cost to human and animal health, the cost of antibiotic resistance... If these costs were added up, "cheap" food would cost more than sustainable food.

(The problem is, though, that people without the means to purchase sustainable food, those who live in food deserts, those who don't but don't earn enough to pay the premium for sustainable food, those for whom Walmart is the only game in town, are already at a disadvantage as far as nutritious food goes, and making food even more expensive without having some sort of offset, like, I don't know, wage increases, hurts them far more than it hurts me.)
feuervogel: (wtf?)
Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) calls for investigation into anti-American activity in the US Congress, starting with Barack Obama and the people he associates with.

ATTENTION PEOPLE PLANNING TO VOTE REPUBLICAN: This is the shit you're voting for. This shit is the new defining characteristic of your party. It's not the party of economic conservatism, Barry Goldwater, and small government; it's the party of racism, threats, and American Talibanism. A vote for John McCain is a vote for this shit, and his choice of Palin as running mate is pretty good evidence of that. new: McCain admits his choice was based on cold calculation and to act as a counterpoint to the "liberal feminist agenda" for America. Senator McCain, why do you hate women?

I'm not saying the Democrats are perfect; there are certainly wacky fringe elements out there. But (contrary to some people's beliefs) Democrats and other assorted social liberals don't want to put you in jail for saying there's something wrong with America.

10/23/08: Anonymous comments must be signed and relevant, or they will not be unscreened. Comments that have no relationship to this post will remain screened. Attacks on people will also not be unscreened, nor will unsourced bullshit.

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