Why I Still Identify as a Democrat

For me it’s a matter of economics.

While one could make the case that the Democratic party has taken the economic side of its platform for granted and tried to get the “ideological” vote, the Republican Party has not changed its stripes. And those stripes are:

  1. The corporatization of rights; i.e. rights will be held by corporations; individuals will not have rights as individuals.
  2. Limitation of rights to economic; all other rights don’t matter.
  3. Rights measured by wealth. More money, more rights, less money, less rights.
  4. Unions will be illegal, as workers will be unable to unite to protect their interests.
  5. All protections that are aimed towards people will disappear. Watch the smokestacks turn black with pollution (at least we’ll be able to combat Global Warming) and food become poisonous. Watch health care places suddenly put a bar on who can be welcomed in, based on ability to pay, of course.
  6. “Intellectual Property Rights” will be used to overturn the 13th Amendment (you know, the one banning private slavery). Laws will, of course, “bar” color-based enslavement activity, not that the laws will have any effect…

Note that I said nothing about Abortion. I think Abortion is just a distraction, and I believe that if the Democrats were to decide to stand with the Right in banning Abortion itself you’d see the Republicans reduced to a rump party unable to get a majority even in the South.

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The 60 Minutes Report on “Plan B”

Heard the 60 minutes report on “Plan B,” the pill that prevents pregnancies by stopping ovulation and making the womb unable to accept a fertilized egg. Not the best of reports.

Probably the worst part of the report was their attempt to portray the radical right (those against the pill) as having no idea of why they stand the way they stand. While they got to the “This would result in an abortion” concept, they made a point of going no further to the belief that stands behind this.

And that belief is this: Life begins upon conception, and anything that keeps the egg from becoming a human being is an abortificant.

Too many liberals don’t understand this, and other related items about the radical right’s reactions to sex and sexual pleasure (they tend not to understand a lot of things). The radical right could care less about freedom, and with to see sex linked to pain, suffering and the DUTY of reproduction. Hence, amongst other things, they oppose the Hepatitis B vaccine as one less source of suffering from sex, one less reason to view sex as evil.

Mass Transit in South Chicago, Indiana (Vol. 1)

1: The Problem:

The Metra Electric does a good job at bringing people in from the south side, and it does double duty for the South Shore Line.

However, the line also does service for a couple of branches which could use greater service, but which are stuck with once-an-hour travel (if that much) because of the fact that they’re branches of Metra and not the CTA. Not only that, but the mainline itself has a bunch of stations within Chicago itself that are desperately underserved.

Not only that, but Metra has no reason to increase service for locals along the Electric. It’s main service is commuter and longer-distance travel between city and suburb (and maybe suburb to suburb if the “STAR Line” gets some legs); indeed with the turf wars going on between the CTA and Metra, such service wouldn’t make sense. Hence the multitude of Express bus lines along where the Metra Electric runs.

Not only that, but there’s now an active prospect of increased service in Indiana. Where that is going to be able to fit in is anyone’s guess; right now NICTD is only allowed three trains per hour during Rush Hour and there’s no more room for more. There’s studies on how to overcome the bottleneck south of Kesington, but docking and storage of the trains is another question.

2: One Man’s Solution:

Mike Payne has come up with an intriguing idea (and probably the one that would be accepted in today’s tight-wad world) called the Gray Line. His idea boils down to this:

  1. Retrofit some of the Electric cars with CTA decals, put CTA turnstiles in many of the underused stations
  2. Lease usage of the lines to CTA
  3. Run the Local Mainline tracks, the South Chicago branch and the Blue Island branch as the CTA Gray Line

A good idea. He claims it would be the cheapest line the CTA would get (as we’re talking about a retooling of what’s already there), plus service would be increased in places where it’s most needed.

I do see a couple problems with this service, however:

  1. No integration with the rest of the CTA rail lines. The Gray Line would stay in its own area, with no real way (outside of buses or walking) to connect with the rest of the CTA network.
  2. No space for the South Shore trains to fit in. With the Electric trains now doing more runs, the Kensington bottleneck becomes more of a bottleneck, plus docking space becomes more of a premium (storage may be better, as now there’d be a few fewer cars at the Metra yard).In short, the Gray Line blocks out Indiana for growth; indeed even for access. And while I’m sure there’s plenty in NW Indiana who would like to see the South Shore Line disappear (“Just think what we could do with that extra $9.33 a year! A weekend’s worth of cheap beer by the 24-pack!”), many others would like the convenience, ease and comfort a train into downtown Chicago or South Bend (or Valpo or Lowell) would give them.
  3. Why would we need the equivalent of six CTA cars running over an area that would actually be better served by a two-car train during certain times of the day or night? Think of it: Five hundred seats running four-six times over the period of an hour when a smaller train would give better, more comfortable service over that time — while at the same time giving a more flexible connection that the present service could provide.

I think we can do better. I think we can integrate the Electric (even if just by a transfer point) into the CTA rail system. I think we can give better service without getting in the way of Metra’s goal of Commuter/Travel service. And I think we can improve service without overusing trains meant for heavy loads and long hauls over short periods.

Next Entry: My Plan for transforming the Metra Electric into a true mass transit line

Mass Transit in South Chicago, Indiana (Vol. 2)

I’ve had a plan in my head for a while (inspired by the Gray Line idea) on improving service along the Metra Electric. However, my service would seek to integrate the Electric local lines with the CTA lines. More expensive, I agree, but worth it (in my mind, anyway):

south11: Extend the south Chicago Green Line (Dark Green) down the Metra Electric’s South Shore branch (via Light Green Line).

The Metra Electric’s South Shore Branch gets three trains an hour during rush hours, one train an hour otherwise. Hooking up the South Shore Line with the Green Line would allow for an increase in service at least to three-four trains per hour during regular times, up to eight trains during rush hour, improving and integrating that area into the CTA rail system. Plus the addition of the transfer station between the new green line and the Metra Electric allows for further integration of the system in a way that actually improves access on the south side. Plus you get three new docking spaces for South Shore service.

2: Extend the Red Line (dark red line) down the Metra Electric Main Line Local and Blue Island Line (via Light Red Line).

For this, I would rebuild the west two tracks of the Metra Electric into CTA tracks, complete with separate entrances and paying mechanisms. You’d also have to fill in space from the 111th street station to where the Blue Island Line turns off and build a transfer station system either at the 111th or 115th street station. However, such a system would improve Mass Transit Access to the Pullman areas and other areas south AND add three more lines for South Shore Service, should it be needed.

and finally:

3: Rebuild the rest of the Metra Electric for separate local and express service, with the locals run by CTA equipment (the Gray Line — which continues north past this map towards downtown).

While there are questions which will need answering for the North End of this service, the portion from 95th Street north can be shifted over to CTA-type service. While I’d prefer the locals shifted over to the west tracks and the express kept of the east 2 tracks, the present alignment can be used as long as one can create a way to keep people from jumping services without paying. The express tracks can be made one-way embarking and disembarking (like King Drive on the Green Line’s East 63rd Street branch). And unless the Gray Line ends (or continues through) the “Millennium Station” (formerly Randolph/Water Street), even more docking and parking spaces will be created for both the South Shore and Electric Lines to use.

Next Posting: Drawbacks, Problems and other Considerations

Mass Transit in South Chicago, Indiana (Vol. 3)

Drawbacks, Problems and other Considerations

First drawback for this plan is the sheer amount of money it’s bound to cost. From adusting the rails (and adding in third rails) so that the CTA El vehicles would be able to make it down rail lines made for Metra Superliner vehiclies to the rebuilding of a number of stops to make them ADA compliant (among other laws), the cost would be high, maybe prohibative. Even the mere extension of the Green Line down the South Chicago Branch would include the following charges:

  • adjusting rails, including third rail
  • removal of cantinary for entire length
  • placing overpasses in places where road traffic is heavy (Stoney Island is one that comes to mind)
  • connecting Green Line with the South Shore Branch
  • a Transfer station between the Green line and the Metra Electric
  • dealing with the now-useless connection between the Main Line and the South Chicago Branch
  • dealing with the two present southern endpoints of the Green Line

And, of course, there’s the problem of whether Metra would give up the South Chicago branch, and for how much.

All this, in an era where the keyword is not so much expansion but maximization. You have a system who plans a route based not so much on usability or expansion of service but instead on using what they have. Ergo, the Circle Line, an idea feasible only because of the maximum punch for the minimum amount of money or disturbance.

Second Drawback: Everything I’ve proposed is on land owned by Metra. Right now, there is precious little cooperation between Metra and the CTA, and I doubt that Metra would want to give up land and responsibility to another. Shared responsibility (Main Line, part of the Red Line extension) would be another can of worms entierely.

Third Drawback: What to do with the two southern ends of the Green Line? It may be possible to extend to the South Chicago branch via 63rd, either via a quick turnoff or directly to the Electric Mainline and down the present access. Whatever way you do the connection presents problems (down 63rd would bring down the wrath of churches and other groups grousing over “the darkness an EL line would bring;” other connections have thier problems.).

The west branch is another problem. Do we do another “stub line” like the lines which had dotted the El line for years? Many of them drained the systems for years, others worked only to be abandoned by the customers in the end. No matter what, the stub lines ended being a drain and a curse on the Chicago system of Els, and their disappearance (outside of the Skokie Swift, built as an express line for commuters) has pretty much been unmourned except by railfans. While it would be nice to extend it, the question remains: where to? And why? Plus you can’t tear it down, the CTA would have to repay the Federal Government millions of dollars of money if they were to tear down that stretch of rail.

A consideration:

I could easily see a combination of the first phase of my plan combined with an activation of the Gray Line, concept down the mainline and the Blue Island branch. The transfer station would allow for movement from the Electric to the Green Line and the rest of the El System, and while the South Chicago line would be costly the rest of the service could be implemented as cheaply as possible.

It’s also probably the best I can hope for, increasing service to the south so that the South Shore System will have space at “Millenium” station.

Women Having Sex With Boys, And the Men Who Envy Them

Debra LaFave is Free, according to the web site

Once again, a female “Sex Offender” was on the news. And once again, some male talking head (who will remain nameless here) was whining about how she got away with her crime. And once again, the guy’s jealousy spews forth (since chances are he had once wanted to have sex with his female teachers while in high school, and now wants to have sex with as many adolescent girls as he can get away with).

And always the complaint: “Why do women ‘sex offenders’ get lighter sentences than men ‘sex offenders’?”

Well, I have a few answer to those questions:

  1. The boys are usually eager to get seduced by the women, whereas most of the time the girls get themselves forced on by the men. There is a difference. After all, a girl has to deal with something inside her, plus the threat of pregnancy and shame.
  2. In relation to the above point, since it’s the older woman who’s taking the risk, it must be assumed there is some willingness on both sides. No need to coerce, especially extra-horny male teens (fourteen and already their sexual powers can only go down).
  3. Usually it’s just one or two boys who are taken by the women, whereas there’s usually a trail of girls taken by the men. This translates to a possibility of rehabilitation for the woman, versus a need for speed in getting rid of the man. The correlation to this is that you should see more severe penalties laid on repeat offenders — like, say, Mary Kay LaTourneau, or the Mom who hosted parties so she could seduce teenage boys.
  4. The women are rarely in a position of adequate control, whereas the men usually are in positions of control.Think about it: A teacher usually deals with tens of students in a class, hundreds of students every day. The student wanting intimate time with the teacher will have to show enough initiative so that a willing teacher can start the seduction. Now, a coach or religious leader has a stick which he can coerce the other, as the child (can be male or female) FEELS A NEED to please the other (usually a man). Take away enough scruples, and you can guess the outcome.
  5. Girls are more likely to keep silent than boys. Especially the type of boys who are likely to be seduced by teachers. We’re talking alpha-males-in-training; why should they keep quiet about their overaged conquest?

If you’re wondering about the difference, consider this: Mary Kay LaTourneau seduced ONE (count them: one) teenage boy, and stuck with him through that whole time. One story I heard had a male high school coach being so brazen as to have a girl show up clothed with only a towel at an appointed time, and at that time the coach would come out fo the shower with the girl he had taken five minutes ago. And this guy had twelve girls under him, and for quite a few years. A changing roster of girls, may I add.

One vs hundreds.

No comparison, really. And full reason for the lack of severity for first time female ‘offenders’ (compared to their male counterparts).

Prayer In School: What Gives?

I remember when I was younger and a True Believer in the Fundamentalist view of Christianity (what I’d probably be if I were a believer today is a topic for later…) and probably the biggest thing I always heard about was Prayer In School. It was always “The Supreme Court took away Prayer In School, then came pot and drugs and disobedience and crime and the evil known as liberalism (with their evil minions known as liberals). Return prayer in school, and the nation turns out right.

Now, I find it strange. First off, why would God take revenge on a ruling by a body of nine august men (and women) on the rest of the nation is beyond me.

Second, what is the mechanism behind Prayer In School ™ making things right in schools. Surely things weren’t so perfect in America before 1962 because of School Prayer. Nor could things have been so proper in the rest of society because teachers in school were busy making kids bow down their heads for fifteen seconds before hand. And most certainly the blacks in their “Separate-But-Equal” schools were getting educated because they too had to bow their heads down for fifteen seconds every day.

The only thing I can think of to make sense of things is “Social Control.” When kids prayed, they were made aware that behind that old crusty woman at the head of the class stood their parents, their friends’s parents, the neighborhood adults, their pastor/priest, and the police. Plus possibly the armies of angels, saints and God himself.

Now the schools are gleefully dissed by society. Neighborhoods are dissolved, with privacy rights paramount. Neighbors don’t really know each other, and too many of them are two-check families, meaning there’s no army of mothers watching over everyone.

And I doubt that “Prayer In Public Schools” (not that the Christian right wants it back, having decided to abandon public schools and pray for their dissolution) would make the world better. I just can’t see it.

Today in Big Ten Play

Today I’m playing “Big Ten Patriot.” For those wondering what it means, it’s this: My team (Michigan State Spartans) is bad enough that I have to root for the good teams in the conference my team is in. In other words, my conference patriotism is a refuge from the disaster of a season this has become for the Spartans (no bowl, no second half appearances, and no respect deserved).

So what’s up? Well, the following:

Ohio State beat Michigan. Good because the higher-ranked team beat a lower-ranked team, and tOSU has a better chance of making it to a BCS bowl as an at-large team. That Michigan lost is a bonus, but were Michigan ranked higher I would have rooted for them to win.

Penn State beat Michigan State. Hurts, but Penn State is a possibility for the Championship game (now with them #3 in the BCS after Miami losing). Sure they’ll probably lose to the Longhorns, but I’d rather have the chance — if they were to play and win that game, who knows? Joe Pa would truly become untouchable.

Michigan/Ohio State: My Fondest Memory

While not necessarily the biggest game now, definitely one that has held onto its marquee for a long time. Those of you in your late forties and up probably remember the 1968 game which put Michigan back on the map (by taking a “gift trip to the Rose Bowl” and making it an earned trip); I remember the missed field goal, the vote and Woody punching out the camera man. After that, I was an MSU fan so the game receded from memory.

Then came 1996.

Michigan was aiming for its first end-of-year #1 ranking in almost fifty years, and Ohio State was in the middle of its near-domination of the Big Ten (just couldn’t get Michigan out of its hair…). I was following along, especially after MSU did its usual nose-dive by losing to both Michigan and Ohio State.

The week before the game I called Radio Talking Book at WKAR to see if I could volunteer to read. I lucked out — they had the Saturday Morning reading of the Detroit News/Free Press open. I jumped on it.

Saturday comes, I ride the bus to campus and walk in to read. Sadly, the regular reader has the sports section to read. Happily, it’s an old woman and she begs off the Sports to me.

As I look through the paper, I not only notice the Michigan and Ohio state articles (both big and front-page) but also articles for the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Spartan Football. I break up the fifteen minute reading into three sections — The first section covers the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Spartan Football, the middle section is dedicated to Michigan, and the final section is for Ohio State.

My sports time comes, I sit behind the mike.

The first five minutes pass by. I butcher my usual number of words (not the names of the Russians playing for the Red Wings, thank goodness), moving an eye on the time clock to make sure I’m not taking too much time on these unimportant items.

Then I move on to the Michigan article. As I read it, I find myself getting keyed up as I try to gauge equal time between this and the Ohio State Article. Three minutes, then four, then five minutes finally pass by.

I move on to the Ohio State article.

Now I’m reading with one eye on the article and the other on the clock. Time ticks steadily as I work my way through the Ohio State Article. A pattern to the paragraphs, noticed in the Michigan article, ingrains itself throughout the Ohio State Article: One paragraph discussion, one paragraph supporting quote, repeat until the end.

Again, the time runs out. I’m sure I’ve given equal time, and I know I’ve done justice to everything — both the important game and the rest of the sports news. I feel good.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now, I’m sure I’d have done it differently. I’d have done the first seven minutes to Michigan, the next seven minutes to Ohio State, and passed on headlines and other stuff in the last minute. Even the MSU game (they would win their game that day and get slaughtered in the bowl game they played — Thank You For That Slaughter, Nick Saban). It would have been a nerve-racking effort, but worth it for that day as #1 was fighting a worthy opponent.

Don’t You Just Love Modern-Day Planning…

…with its inability to plan ahead for growth?

The key for me is the bottom article, with its focus on the South Shore:

The problem is, according to Parsons, the number of riders during rush hour is near capacity, about 97 percent of the NICTD fleet is in use every day, and the time frame for purchasing new equipment is two years.”We really don’t have much room to handle additional people and provide everyone a seat,” Parsons said. “(The Skyway construction) is just going to exacerbate our capacity problems.”

In other words, they have no space to add on cars or trains.

Isn’t Metra Electric Getting some new cars? With potties? Why don’t they loan us a couple of trains while we go through this problem?

Heck, I can see an addition to a couple of CTA lines which would free up plenty of space on the Electric for South Shore Service.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a resident, I don’t know enough to be an expert…