Update on South Shore Line Expansion

It’s been a while since I posted on the possibility of South Shore Expansion – mainly because it ended up being a nonissue (Valparaiso didn’t want any commuter trains coming to them to begin with, and in the end it seemed that the expansion was looked at out of duty instead of actual desire and forward planning), my enthusiasm for the project nonwithstanding. However, there are plans afoot and it looks like they’re serious for once.

To start with, though, we’re talking about a smaller footprint – nearly a Stub line in many ways, as the plan only goes so far as the Dyer-Munster city limits. I would have thought they would have wanted to at least go as far as to the Dyer Amtrak station and turn that into a true stop instead of what has to be seen now as a glorified Amshack (it is nice, but since there’s no ticketing and the station is used but twice a day…), but it appears that future plans for the West Lake line involve a station closer to US 30 in Dyer itself, and a station at the present Dyer Amtrak station would probably cause problems – especially once commuter-based development starts near the station, wherever it may be placed. Maybe they could move the Dyer Amtrak station where the South Shore Station is when the South Shore is finally extended south from the Dyer-Munster border.

How serious is this? Well, they’ve started drilling holes along the bicycle trail in Munster, checking out the soil conditions for the expansion. Now this shouldn’t be an issue simply because The Monon Line was laid and used between 1880 and 1980, however the land was originally a swamp and a flood plain before a system of ditches drained the area and turned Munster into the Suburban Paradise that they prides themselves as being. While one could make the case that the land along the old rail line should be stable, it doesn’t hurt to check,as there have been lines built over old swampland that have ended up doing some mean leaning over the years.

There’s also plans for development towards the north end of the new line. It’s contingent on the Hammond Alternative being built (look towards the bottom of the PDF for the details), but if both the Hammond Alternative and the development get built it would make for one hell of a revival in the central part of Hammond and probably extend things south towards the downtown area (where there’s a station planned, may I add).

Finally: It looks like there’s finally some activity going on with expanding the South Shore Line. I wish they could have maybe done something along these lines back in the mid-nineties, when the track was still halfway decent, there was no rail trail bridge across the Little Calumet River and the EJ&E still independent and quiet enough to cross at grade (I’m sure the added cost of building a bridge across the now-extremely-busy branch of Canadian National helped convince them to end the new rail line at the Munster/Dyer city limits, had the line already extended to Lowell as has long been planned they could have gotten CN to help them build a bridge over their new property), but even if I die before the line gets fully built it will be worth it.

A Conspiracy Theory – From the Economic Side

While I don’t make a point of embracing Conspiracy Theories, I’m not about to say Conspiracies do not exist. After all, even if you limit the structure to units of three (one leader, two followers who lead their own unit of three down to the level of direct action – an idea taken from Heinlien in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress”) you can cover a lot of ground with organization and structure (with the action twenty levels down, you have one supreme leader leading a ground “army” of 524,288 with actions that can aid the whole, be tailor-made to the specific locale where the actions happen and give plenty of cover to the middle levels. Expand the number of followers who lead their own group in the model, and you get greater reach with fewer levels, plus the ability to act and react quickly – units of eight would bring about 823,543 foot soldiers at the eighth level of organization, giving the on-ground units the strength and ability to react on the fly and still giving cover of sorts to the middle levels.). All you need is one guy who knows what he wants to do, people in sympathy with his wishes in the two levels below him and the ability to insure that actions are taken on at the lowest levels without the ability to link to the top.

So, having bored you with that aside, let me put forth a Conspiracy theory that seems, to me, to make more sense than many others I’ve heard:

1) A few corporations have decided to take control of the nation. Just take over the government and starve it to the point where it could be drowned in a bathtub (note that I didn’t say they WOULD do it, just that they COULD do it). Even given the best of intentions, the worst can be assumed since what they’re going for is total power, and thus total corruption.

2) People start and keep volunteering for President. Whether it’s Ross Perot (successful businessman doing actual service to the economy), Mitt Romney (Successful at strip-mining the nation) or Donald Trump (Successful at marketing his name and strip-mining those who wish to believe); it’s a businessman. And the idea is NOT necessarily to succeed immediately (certainly NOT with Trump) but to get enough people to the point where they would accept a businessman as the Political Leader of the Country (President of the USA).

3) Once success hits, have the others ready. Put your plans, and if you’re right about corporations being strong enough to run things, you will gain everything your wish and more.

The good thing about this plan is, you don’t even have to assume evil or greedy intent – you can even assume good will and the limits of his circle. Donald Trump’s cabinet position nods are basically the people who’ve known him and stood by him during the election, he knows these people and has an idea of where they go. What they do afterwards is not necessarily his problem (meaning he ain’t going to necessarily manage them), and since they are in sympathy with his wishes (or orders) their actions are multiplied.

And since Trump is in actually working for the corporations (just like the present leader of Sears/Kmart is actually working for Wal-Mart and is happily destroying the two corporations for his masters in Bentonville, Arkansas), the corporations get their wish of directly controlling the government. They can shrink the government as much as they like (or, more likely, dare – after all, you need a way of enforcing corporate will while keeping corporate hands clean…), as the idea of starving the beast is to make it bend to your will and keep it operating solely to serve its commands, NOT necessarily to kill it (hence the COULD drown in the bathtub idea).

(That, of course, doesn’t mean the government will keep that way forever. If a government is made weak enough to drown in a bathtub, it WILL be drowned in a bathtub at some point – and not necessarily by the group that created the situation for their own good….)

What DO People Want?

To start, my version of a joke I remember reading in the late seventies (The story made more universal is posted here, as this was written specifically in service to the point made in this posting):

There was a Soviet Era farmer who lived on one of the Soviet farms, and he was farming on his personal plot of land (this was the time when the Soviet Union decided to allow their farmers a plot of land for their own use) when his plow uprooted an Old Persian Oil Lamp, so he picked it up, brought it to his Soviet era cement block and got a cloth to wipe it down. After a few rubs with the cloth he loooked up and saw that there was a stranger eminating from the lamp where the fire would have been lit.

“I am the Genie Of The Lamp. You have freed me, so I shall give you three wishes. What is your first wish?”

“My first wish is that I get a better, newer hut. This hut is sturdy but old, and I wish for something sturdier and newer.” The Soviet farmer said.

“Your wish is my command.” The genie said.

And the Soviet farmer found himself in a familiar looking hut, only with an extra bedroom and better construction complete with wood used where the wood would be more useful, or as a beautifier. The Soviet farmer looked over his new hut and deemed it good – better, even, than he would have wished for.

“What is your second wish?” the Genie asked.

After a second’s thought, the Soviet farmer replied “I wish for me a wife to help out with the chores and make this house a home.”

“Your wish is my command.” The genie said.

And before his eyes the Soviet farmer saw a woman standing before him. She was nice to look at, stocky enough for the chores she would have to do, a ready helpmeet for the day’s work – and, with a pleasure that surprised even him, he surmised that she was as eager to comfort him during the nights as she was ready to help during the day. The Soviet farmer looked over his new wife and deemed her good – better, even, than he would have wished for.

“And what is your third wish?” The genie asked.

The Soviet farmer paused for a bit, thinking over what he might want. His eyes then went over to his neighbor’s plot of land, and how, instead of one cow and one bull, he had three cows and one bull – enough to actually create a surplus of milk and calves for the neighbor to sell. And a smile came to the Soviet farmer’s eyes.

“You have your third wish?” The genie asked.

“Yes. Remove two of the neighbor’s three cows. Leave him one cow and one bull, but the other two must disappear.” The Soviet farmer said.

The idea, of course, that that the normal person would want for other people to benefit from their labors and (good, productive) plans and that it took a destructive political system to make people wish instead for the impoverishment and destruction of others. Thus, we laugh at the system that would cause the farmer to wish ill on the neighbor instead of at the farmer (Although there’s some laughter aimed at the farmer, as well – why not laugh AT him, since he chose to damn his neighbor instead of raise himself up?).

Yeah, I know – to explain the joke is to ruin it. Stick with me on this.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Now focus on the election of Donald Trump for the Presidential office, and while Hillary Clinton received 2.5 million plus more votes Donald Trump won the Electoral college by turning the once-prosperous and once Democratic rust belt into a newly-reddened Republican outpost. A trend that started in West Virginia in 2000 (where a state that was once an island of Blue in 1988 (Yes, Bentson was a Democrat) turned into a Red Spear aimed at Pennsylvania, DC, and New England) spread into Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and affected Michigan enough to turn the state Red, and while one could say that more people wanted Hillary than were willing to pick Trump (Nearly 1 in 5 Trump voters felt he was unqualified to become President but voted for him anyway, hence “were willing to pick” instead of “wanted”) enough people voted for Trump in enough states that Trump was able to pull off the victory.

The result? Not enough activity along the lines of the Tea Party in 2008 yet (organizing, preparing to take over from the ground up. Yes, Corporations United helped, but if you’re going to be the party for the poor you need to activate the poor as a replacement for money. The Democrats used to understand that, when the Republicans have always paid their workers the Democrats used to rely on volunteers.), although many see it as necessary (thank God). So far I’ve read oodles of posts stating that everyone who voted for Trump was Racist or – WORSE YET – willing to accept racism, that robots and AI automation would make Trump’s promises IMPOSSIBLE for him to deliver on (never mind outsourcing to Mexico or “Moving headquarters to Europe”, stuff that Trump seems to have had an immediate effect on even before making it to office), that Trump played the working class for fools, and that the left was getting ready to LAUGH at the white (yes, let me put THAT word out there) working class for abandoning the party that had, in the past, protected them and made their dreams possible. In short, they mocked those workers and former workers instead of considered how to win them back (heck, they even have plans of turning to Arizona and Texas to replace Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania for future wins).

Well, here’s the thing: When you run on the idea of “It was my turn eight years ago, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for finally realizing it,” go out of your way to dismiss the serious challenges to you that rise up from your base, and run on the idea that you’re owed the votes from 69% of the population (everyone EXCEPT non-hispanic white males – and that’s not including gay men or the transgendered posing as male out of a wish to survive through the hell that is non-urban life), don’t be surprised if your wish gets frustrated.

But enough on that. This post is focusing on the nearly one in five Trump voters who, deeming Trump unqualified, still voted for him. People who, having watched their neighborhoods, cities and services gutted for the sake of WalMart, China, Manhattan, San Francisco, the DC area and their state Capitols (although many of the State Capitols look ragged once you walk a few blocks from their Capitol Domes or their professional suburbs), having seen trade treaties trump their efforts to improve their towns, having seen the party many of them once turned to diss on them and seek out the favor of those who wished them harm, having observed the concentration of medical services into the larger cities to the point of knowing that “emergency service” for their town has been redefined as taking them to the hospital to put an official time to their death by something that would have been a minor occurrence in the big city, having seen education go from something which could help to something used to hold you down (through the incessant testing requirements and the loans what will tag you as unemployable even as they drain you without remorse or recourse), with even the decent sized cities (with jobs that pay enough to help you live) being made too costly for you to move to, had decided (while putting it in their own words) that Lenin was right – that any cook should be able to run the country, and that while Trump would probably make only peppery dishes (note that Lenin originally warned the others about Stalin, saying that “Stalin will make only peppery dishes.” You know how that turned out….) that they would rather see a patently unqualified Mr. Trump take office over the supposedly overqualified Mme. Clinton.

And, having seen all the above, they aren’t necessarily looking for benefits to themselves and their way of life – they only wish for what may harm those who seem to wish to harm you. A person who no longer cares most highly for improvements in your own life will instead wish for the debasement of the lives of people whom they feel has hurt them, whether harmed directly, indirectly or not at all.

Imagine the following issues, with the specific desires attached to them:

In short, it’s a wishlist of things NOT meant to benefit those who voted for Trump but a wishlist of harm to be done to those who wouldn’t have voted for Trump this election.

And these folks who voted for Trump against their own better judgement, who voted to get back at their “liberal,” citified folks and their minority-self-identifying allies (again, let’s call it what it is – I can’t and won’t say Racism had absolutely no part in this, just that I don’t believe it is the only thing that matters), they’ve already had their votes validated by the unremitting panic of the left. All the effort towards turning Republican Electors into betrayers (never mind being made “unfaithful”) was to laugh, and if one knew how to cut through the news one finds out that Clinton could NEVER have made 270 even with the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania if the electors in quite a few States had had the Freedom of Conscience intended by the Founding Fathers.

Again, this wouldn’t be an issue if Mme. Clinton had a record of supporting the Working Class against the Rich and Scheming – indeed, her election would have properly been seen as an inevitability. However, as has been well and often written, Hillary was a partner (and NOT just by being married) of Bill during his time as President, and many of the bills that Bill passed that have harmed the poor and working class – NAFTA, GATT, China’s “Most Favored Nation” Status, Three Strikes, Mid-nineties Welfare Reform, The Telecommunications act of 1996, the ending of Glass-Steagall – all were done with her working behind the scenes, helping and guiding her husband with the stuff. So, in short, the woman has a record (along with her Husband) and it’s not good (yes, hindsight is 20-20. Hindsight is ALSO the form of judgement that lasts, as it has the advantage of allowing people to see the results of the choices).

Harm someone enough and you may find that person wanting your harm, even if they are more deeply harmed by the harm you receive. They will gain their consolations from the harm you receive and your empuzzlement at your schadenfreude.

Hence 2016. Hence Trump and the nearly 1,000 elected seats – both in the states and nationwide – that have shifted from Democratic to Republican hands.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Of course, the story of the (Soviet) farmer usually ends at the point of the third wish, as if all we needed to know was that he had learned to hate his neighbor farmer for having more than he. However, I had always wondered how the story ended, and here’s what I ended up writing:

“As you wish.” The genie said.

And suddenly the Soviet farmer’s hut was back to the way it was before he had the wishes, and slightly more worn to boot. The wife was also gone. So was the Old Persian Oil Lamp which had housed the Genie.

The farmer looked over to his neighbor’s yard and found that the neighbor had but one cow and one bull – and was weeping for the loss of the two other cows.

And the Soviet farmer was glad, as he had gotten what he had truly wanted with the third wish even as the memory of what he had had after the first two wishes was fading into the realm of unattainable fantasy – no longer even something to wish for, which it had been before he had found the Old Persian Oil Lamp.

And at that point I end the story. The point has been made.

On 2016

Yeah, I know about the deaths, the votes that point to much smaller worlds under the rule of corporations, the signs that we have passed peak cellphone (exploding Samsung S7s, iPhones (and all things Apple) with fewer holes than necessary), the troubles my friends have suffered (from wildfires in Tennessee to financial issues that take their sweet time to tighten the screws), and the fact that These United States are actually two nations, each nation dreaming of subjugating the other (If I was a betting man my money would be on the Rednecks, as they have the guns and know how to use them. The Urban Elites only use Proxies, and proxies can always turncoat without remorse.).

Probably the worst thing about 2016, as long as you kept things on the Macro level, was that it seemed that there were dark forces that have been hell-bent on breaking things up. Quite a few of the deaths were of people who’s life work was the bringing together of various peoples for fun or serious business. The two major elections (Brexit and Trump/Clinton) split their respective nations in two, quickly degenerated into bitter fights, and were decided in ways that seemed to aim towards the atomization of the non-corporate world. And while everything seemed to be atomizing in the public sphere, Corporations were combining (and very likely consolidating their powers in various ways) while the Armed branches of the Governments were gaining unity. And while the left seemed desperate to find fantasies to hang their hopes on (to the point that what they were agitating for threatened to make their own candidate PATENTLY unelectable), the fantasies of the various versions of the right seemed to be being made real before the world’s eyes.

(And I shall only mention the Muslim refugee issue here to note that people forced to run have no real reason to give up their beliefs or even to moderate them – they were happy enough with those beliefs where they were and didn’t exactly choose their present living place, unlike the immigrants of years past who came for economic opportunity and thus had good reasons to make peace and moderate themselves into society.)

Makes one wish to have stayed in 2016, however painful it may look. After all, if the world is about to drop into the abyss, better to be frozen before the drop than to go over and deal with the impact below.

Going to the micro level is a bit different. For me, it was actually a year of finishing some unfinished business. Baggage that I had held onto for too long was taken care of (not all by me, but I did my part), priorities were adjusted to fit into my new situation, and hard decisions were actually made. For the first time in my nearly 52 years (outside of certain isolated moments) I can honestly say that I’m an adult.

Now if you’re expecting a speech on how things are improving, you’ve come to the wrong place. 52 (or soon to be 52) is not 25, and the more-than-doubling of my years has left my body in a worse place than before. Twenty-plus years of sitting down on the job (taxi driving/transport) hasn’t helped, nor has carrying 100+ pounds of excess weight for eighteen plus years, nor gaining it like mad before then (I hope to lose SOME of it in the next couple years…).

Another thing that an extra 27 years does is to give a bit of perspective; perspective that people who readily quote Nietzche don’t yet understand. “Whatever doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger” is nice to quote when you’re twenty-five and trying to justify all the evil in the world done to others by others, but grow old enough and you learn that not everything that harms you necessarily kills you. I could easily point to HIV (When the person dies, it’s from some infection or disease that would have been stopped but runs rampant because of the lack of T-helper cells), but there’s plenty of stuff out there that doesn’t kill but weakens, even if you take care of it – stuff that, even in the coccooned times of recent, people learned as they grew older; and stuff which I believe younger people will more and more learn at a younger age as the years go on. I learned this from my Pneumonia fit in 1996 (and have had refreshers since then), all the Universities and Colleges nursing their investments and gutting education also understand this in their own way (Why not protect and grow your unspent funds while you can if you fear there’s a time coming when you’ll have to spend them to survive?).

And finally, there’s the issue of choices. Not every choice is going to be between something bad and something good, or something good and something better – sometimes we’re talking about two or three bad choices, and those are the best choices out there. Sometimes life is like that, and sometimes it doesn’t even give you a choice – “take this reduction in your life, and nobody will care if you’ll like it (or, in this corporacratic world, know that SOMEONE is taking pleasures from your decline; pray that it’s an INDIRECT pleasure…).”

My fear (and expectation) is that, more and more, we’re going to get stuck with these choices – and would have gotten to this point no matter how certain things went this year. Probably the biggest thing the 2016 Presidential election decided was who would get the pleasure of watching the other side take the biggest psychological hits during the rest of 2016, and the Brexit vote merely proved that the “political left” (now the side with nothing to gain and everything to lose with change, hence the quotation marks – they should probably have been called “New Conservatives” at some point in the past twenty years…) had nothing to state positively for their case, a problem that Mme. Clinton shared with the Remainers in the Brexit vote and Mr. Trump exploited (Yes, Sanders had a vision. He may have been made unable to try to fix the nation, but at least he’s trying to fix the Democratic Party at the moment, thank God…).

That’s why I don’t plan on EVER saying “Good Riddance to 2016” the way I did to 2009. I could see things getting better in 2010; I’m not sure that could have ever been said about 2017.

Still, I must go on. There is an alternative to dealing with the future – even a bad future – but it is a choice that is often endowed with lots of radical benefits for it to be even allowed into conversation.

And here’s to hoping that 2017 is a better year – however BLIND that hope is.