19
May
09

Highway Child

Originally created 2/24/2008

Airport Official: Go up to room 915 and ask for form 1790.

Marge: We’ve already been up to room 915, we’ve already filled out form 1790.

Homer: It was an application to open a Cinnabun stand.

Marge: Look, can you please just tell us why you changed the flight paths.

Airport Official: Look, they were changed because it disturbed local wildlife and their mating rituals.

(meanwhile, in Ye Olde Off-Ramp Inn with Miss Springfield)

Mayor Quimby: Vote Quimby!  Vote Quimby!  Vote Quimby!  VOTE QUIMBY!  AHHHHhhhhh…without all those noisy jets, I can finally hear my kitten purr.
Miss Springfield: (in loud, screechy voice) Thanks a million, Joe! You’re the swellest!
Quimby: (shocked) That’s your voice?! Now I regret building you that opera house! [In reference to Citizen Kane, where Kane builds his screechy-voiced younger mistress an opera house in the desperate hope to transform her into an opera star]

Marge: There must be some kind of solution that pleases everyone. From ducks and trees, to you’s and me’s…
Airport official: Are you threatening a government official?
Marge: No.
Airport official: Good. Because we’re the government. We make the laws, we print the money, and we breed the supersoldiers. So go home, learn to live with it, pay your taxes, and remember: you didn’t hear anything about supersoldiers.

Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington

That’s from one of my favorite Simpsons’ episodes of all time, in which flight paths were rerouted over the Simpsons’ house.  It has everything: numerous shots at the federal government (not just Congress but the FCC), rips on the Republican party and Fox News (“your voice for evil”), a slam of Brazil in response to a previous episode to which the Brazilian government took offense (it depicted Homer getting kidnapped there), Homer mocking the Constitution (for all the anarchists out there—probably somewhere in Alabama), Homer getting attacked by cops, and even a dig on Grover Cleveland.  Marge’s quote, to the effect that there must be a solution amenable to all parties comes into play quite often in governmental affairs.

Not so far from a couple Springfields in the quiet burg of St. Louis, one of the bigger issues of recent months was the closing of highway 40/64.  The narrow and twisted highway was one of the four major conduits into the city: highway 70 to the north, 40 and 44 for the west, 55 from the south (to the east lay the Mississippi River forming one of the borders of the city proper – it has a couple bridges that are well known for traffic but not affected by this issue).  I referred to 40 as the HOLE for the “Highway of Love”.  I used to drive it twice a day, five days a week and would easily personally witness the results or actually happening accidents, particularly near one set of onramps near Brentwood.  Now granted, people driving on highways are generally morons who tail too close while yammering into their cellphone about how awesome American Idol was the night before and trying to rock out to Avril Lavigne.  Anyway, StL city is known for its decay for much of the last few decades, climaxing in the abandoned Union Station being used as a prominent set in a scene from Escape from New York, (St. Louis after a destructive fire was used for much of the film), and for its current high crime rate.  This naturally caused widespread suburban sprawl with the metropolitan area extending thirty or more miles outside the city and even over another river (the Missouri).  Thus, for many who work, but care not to live in, the city, the highways are the primary mode of transport to reach their places of business.

Snake Plissken: isn’t he dead?

So when it was announced that a large section of one of these highways was going to be closed for years on end due to reconstruction, particularly in regard to the outdated and downright dangerous onramps, it caused much consternation amongst the yuppie class.  Yet this was how the transportation authority was supposed to function: a centrally planned decision that tried to take into account the various benefits and costs of all the parties involved (as our friend Marge mentioned), a no-doubt thankless and Sisyphean task.  One of the solutions was to take highway 44 and add another lane—not by actually expanding the highway itself but by basically taking away the shoulder, repainting the lines and making the lanes smaller.  Many were predicting a monstrous chaos would result from these drastic and fairly unprecedented changes, also because there was scarcely another option for any county dwellers, such as a metro system; buses were available but slow and prone to similar circuitous routes as a result of the closure.

And yet something on par with what happened on “Wake Up and Smile” after the teleprompter went down never arose.  Anecdotally, many reported that travel times were actually shorter due to people readjusting their drive times in an attempt to avoid the anticipated traffic.  Undoubtedly, many individuals were inclined to avoid the city altogether (rescheduled doctor’s appointments from rather good city hospitals to those in the county, for example), thereby lessening the crowd as well.  However, if my own place of work is any example, many businesses and individuals simply modified their drive times.  Interestingly, I don’t know of a mandate by the government to force businesses or individuals into regulated schedules or to allow workers flexible times.  This appeared to happen all on its own.  With a grudging credit to the highway authorities to well publicizing the closures, people autonomously reacted and reallocated their time and schedules in light of this obstacle.

One wonders what all the original fuss was about then.  I am not saying that any of the doomsayers should have seen this rather benign result.  But rather that in the first place, when one undertakes a central plan, it is bound to upset a significant proportion of populace.  Let us go into imagination land and assume for a moment that the highways were privately managed.  Such a plan’s costs would have to be borne by the highway managers and profit opportunities would abound for those offering alternative routes.  There would have naturally been a reaction much like was observed in actual case—individuals weighing other options and adjusting accordingly.  But the private manager would have to weigh the benefits of renovating the highway (so as not to lose out to safer or more advanced forms of transport) versus the costs of closing it.  The resulting profits or losses would determine if the decision had been prudent and in the latter case, may have forced a turnover to a different manager.  In the present situation, it is unclear whether the decision to close the highway was the most effective solution—and probably will remain unknown forever.  We have no satisfactory test—we have only the lurid descriptions of chaos that may have happened (or might happen in the future) versus what has and will actually happen.  But if we are taking a mere possibility as justification for the best course of action, then preemptive military attacks would likewise be a justifiable course of action for any government.

Secondarily, one could hardly complain against the decisions of a central power when one has willingly ceded the authority to them to make decisions based on their supposed ability to take into account the costs and benefits to all parities.  I would consider anyone who frequently used the highways to fall into this category.  They receive the benefit of having the cost of maintaining and patrolling highway dispersed amongst a wide variety of people, some of which may not use the highway often, or at all.  They received a disproportionate benefit to the costs they incurred by ceding the control of the highway to a central authority with the power to tax for maintenance and security on the road.  It seems rather hypocritical, or at least an unconvincing stance, to then grumble when the authority demands a sacrifice, supposedly for the greater long-term benefit of the populace.  Just as a king would demand sacrifice from his vassals in exchange for the long-term benefit of his protection, so too would the more democratic highway authorities require from the motorists.  One can scarcely question one’s liege, in this case a freely elected government determining the best course for its people.  After all, one can always vote them out.

Remember then the final words of that Simpsons’ episode, when taking in what may be the true account who ultimately pays for centrally planned governmental action:

Bart: “At last, those planes are flying where they belong.”

Homer: “That’s right.  Over the homes of poor people.”

(America the Beautiful plays to the fade out)

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Some may have questioned my inclusion of Billy Bob Thornton into my pantheon of heroes.  But I’ll refer to WWTDD.com which states that Angelina Jolie once upon a time may have had a lesbian affair with a production assistant, Misty Cooper, on the film Gone in Sixty Seconds, which would also accurately refer to my nutting speed if I ever witnessed such a thing: “Angelina was talking about her sex life, she told Misty that she had many girls but none of them were as good as Billy Bob Thornton. Misty responded with, ‘But you haven’t had me.'”  If Angelina Jolie ever said that I was better at sexual satisfying her than a number of women, I would have the quote etched into a gold medal that I would wear everywhere with a looped sound bite of the quote blaring on loud speakers behind me.  I mean, granted this was pre-Brad Pitt but still…

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HISTORY MOST MALLEABLE:

[Daniel] Ellsberg here is referring to U.S. support for a 1963 coup involving the Ba’athist party, for which Saddam was already a prominent enforcer – and then another coup in 1968 when the Ba’athists consolidated control, after which Saddam became the power behind the nominal president. According to one of the 1963 plotters, ‘We came to power on a CIA train.’ (Beyond providing lists of communists and leftists to be murdered, the U.S. also gave the new regime napalm to help them put down a Kurdish uprising we’d previously encouraged.) James Crichtfield, then head of the CIA in the Middle East, said, ‘We really had the t’s crossed on what was happening’ This turned out not to be quite right, since factional infighting among top Iraqis required the second plot five years later for which, explained key participant Abd al-Razzaq al-Nayyif, ‘you must [also] look to Washington.’

“Yet it appears clear on video that Kristol is genuinely startled by what Ellsberg was saying.

“Consider the significance of this. Any ordinary citizen could easily have learned about the American role in those two coups – former National Security Council staffer Roger Morris had written about it on the New York Times op-ed page just two weeks before the Kristol-Ellsberg broadcast. And [Bill] Kristol was far more than an ordinary citizen. He’d been near the apex of government as Quayle’s chief of staff during the first Gulf War in 1991. He’d been advocating the overthrow of the Saddam regime for years. He’d co-written an entire book, The War Over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission, calling for an invasion of that country.

“Nevertheless, Kristol was ignorant of basic, critical information about U.S.-Iraq history. Iraqis themselves were not. In a September 2003 article, a returning refugee explained the growing resistance to the occupation: “One of the popular sayings I repeatedly heard in Baghdad, describing the relations between the U.S. and Saddam’s regime, is ‘Rah el sani’, ija el ussta‘ – ‘Gone is the apprentice, in comes the master.'”

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A salient examination of torture not only reveals disturbing parallels between current American policy and terminology used centuries ago, but does bring light to the relatively unknown American-Filipino war that occurred a little over a century ago:

“According to the New Yorker’s Paul Kramer, here’s what A.F. Miller of the 32nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment wrote in a letter to the Omaha World-Herald in May 1900 from the Philippines about the treatment of a prisoner taken by his unit: ‘Now, this is the way we give them the water cure. Lay them on their backs, a man standing on each hand and each foot, then put a round stick in the mouth and pour a pail of water in the mouth and nose, and if they don’t give up pour in another pail. They swell up like toads. I’ll tell you it is a terrible torture.’

“One American was indeed finally brought to trial for the widespread use of ‘the water cure’ in the Philippines at the turn of the previous century as the Filipino insurgency was suppressed. Captain Edwin Glenn, a judge advocate, supervised such a torture session. For this, he was convicted and sentenced to a ‘one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine.’ He retired from the Army in 1919 as a brigadier general.”

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Massive amounts of hydrocarbons found on Saturn’s moon Titan: “Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.  The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, USA, are reported in the 29 January 2008 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters…Proven reserves of natural gas on Earth total 130 thousand million tons, enough to provide 300 times the amount of energy the entire United States uses annually for residential heating, cooling and lighting. Dozens of Titan’s lakes individually have the equivalent of at least this much energy in the form of methane and ethane. ”

This can only mean one thing: THERE WERE DINOSAURS IN OUTER SPACE.  Thank god we have shirtless warriors with Viking-helmet fetishes to defend us from this menace.  Wait, I think I just described the plot for Pathfinder:

fight+a+dinosaur

Starring Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood and Russell Means

WE ARE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS HERE, PEOPLE.

99940160_m

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This is probably more applicable for the fellas but consider someone of the opposite sex who was attractive, interesting, and cool.  And they were into you!  One thing though: their favorite sports team is your sports team’s biggest rival.  If you’re a Yankees fan, they love the Sawx; if you love the Cubs, they love the Cards, if you’re a Patriots fan, they are a fan of any other team in the NFL.  Basically, you are setting yourself up for a fight.  And given how irrational people get about sports, this could ugly; shallow grave ugly.

However, as has been pointed out by Scrubs, which is an exercise in tedium but comes on Comedy Central before they run the Daily Show at 7 CT, one can become addicted to the phenomenon of makeup sex (George Costanza also alluded to this type of sex’s mystical power; and yes, I do get all my information on this subject from television).  Question to the court: if the parties involved in this sports dilemma are not such unstable nutjobs as to take the sanctity of the “Cubs suck!” chant with the same zeal as the 15th century Spanish did with Catholicism, would the possibility of the flimsiest excuses for a makeup sex situation during a solid 4-5 months of the year be a tempting possibility?

First rule of Underground Sports-Related Makeup Sex Club: Whoever’s team loses, has to go down on the winner.  And swallow.

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JAPANESE BUG FIGHTS

I’ll admit, some people will look at this and wouldn’t be nearly as revolted as putting two ferrets into a ring (needless to say, two dogs is out of the question).  When we are merely exterminating minature monsters, we don’t get quite the uproar.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Personally I think this would work better if they used the announcer from “Ninja Warrior”.  That guy can make anything exciting.  He’s like the Japanese Gus Johnson:

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This Week’s Stephen Colbert’s Guitarmageddon Toss of the Gauntlet:

THE CLASSICS, Speaking of the 1990’s, there could hardly be a more defining sound than Pearl Jam.  They also hold the distinction for being one of the few bands to make into the next decade without someone dying or going on an equally terminal ego trip.  Thank god, Toad the Wet Sprocket didn’t make it out alive.  Unless they did.  Oh lord jesus…But in this live video of the song “Alive”, the rock out starts at about 3:30 into the song.  This is one of the more fun songs to thrash too:

Obligatory Jimi Jam – It seems like a lot of the Jimi videos I’ve used in past OBRs have been removed.  How unfortunate.  In any event, here’s Voodoo Chile, called “The Black Panthers National Anthem”, while it lasts:

Double Black Diamond: A very short clip, but nonetheless impressive.  Chris Broderick plays Rondo Alla Turca via 8 finger tapping.  Mr. Broderick appears to be stuck in a recurring The Crow nightmare:

For acoustic guitar fun: What the heck, let’s stick with Herr Broderick and go with some classical guitar:

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This If You Don’t Like This Video, I Don’t Like You:

Funtown Auto: GET OUT YOUR FUCKING CHECKBOOK!:

Got to love the Garbage Pail Kids reference:

SIGNED: MCWOP, FAIT A ST. LOUIS, 2/24/08

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