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George Monbiot, one of my favorite Guardian columnists and author of several best-selling books, equates libertarian car use with conservatism. Furthermore, he says that unfettered motoring causes conservatism.

Anybody can see that the red areas on the map are, for the most part, rural and suburban, places, or non-places, as J.H. Kunstler would say. They are where extensive motoring is mandatory. We also know that our liberal political base is largely in cities and towns where alternative transport most likely exists. But is it a stretch to infer a cause and effect relationship between driving and libertarianism, toryism, or even republicanism?

They call themselves libertarians; I think they're antisocial bastards

..... It is about the rise of the antisocial bastards who believe they should be allowed to do what they want, whenever they want, regardless of the consequences. I believe that while there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. When you drive, society becomes an obstacle. Pedestrians, bicycles, traffic calming, speed limits, the law: all become a nuisance to be wished away. The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right.

Certainly moving about in a metal and glass environmentally controlled room encourages isolation from those around us. In fact the modern luxury car that so many aspire to is simply a device still better at separating us from the world outside. With climate control, sound proofing, interior air filters, a cocoon of air bags and a concert class stereo there is darn little to connect the passenger to the outside world. But can the isolation of driving really turn Brits into, gasp, Americans?

Driving down a typical American suburban collector road during rush hour will convince anyone that most drivers do see the world as an obstacle. And sitting at a traffic light watching them pick their noses, apply makeup, or stuff egg sandwiches into their faces demonstrates the regard they have for their counterparts. These are not members of polite society. Such a civil disconnect cannot be anything but a manifestation of hyper-individualism run amok.

It is strange to see how the car has been overlooked as an agent of political change. We know that the breaking of the unions, the dismantling of the welfare state and the sale of council houses that Margaret Thatcher pioneered made us more individualistic. But the way in which the transition from individualism to the next phase of neoliberalism - libertarianism - was assisted by her transport policies has been largely ignored. She knew what she was doing. She spoke of "the great car-owning democracy", and asserted that "a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure". Her road-building programme was an exercise in both civil and social engineering. "Economics are the method," she told us, "the object is to change the soul." The slowly shifting consciousness of the millions who spend much of their day sitting in traffic makes interventionist government ever harder...

The American example is interesting. Over the past few decades, as car ownership became cheaper, public transport became scarcer, and homes were built further from cities, the populace swung to the right.

I told a conservative friend that I often rode a bicycle to the store. He said, "Around here only the destitute do that." Hmmm.

It shouldn't be hard to see how politically foolish are the current government's transport policies. The £11.4bn that it is spending on road building is an £11.4bn subsidy to the Conservative party. However much Blair seeks to accommodate the new libertarianism, he cannot consistently position himself to the right of the opposition. The longer he sustains Thatcher's programme of social engineering, the more trouble he stores up for his successors. Every branch line that is closed, every bus that is taken off the road, every new lane that is added to a motorway hastens the day when the Tories get back behind the wheel.

So there you have it, when we build new roads instead of public transportation systems we also build the opposition. When we don't raise gas taxes to cover the cost of building roads and parking lots we subsidize conservative recruitment. When the cost of the environmental damage, air and water pollution is borne by everyone rather than by those who drive the most we are contributing to the GOP.

Do you agree?

Originally posted to Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:37 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3.88)
    Front paged on European Tribune.


    Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
    Czeslaw Milosz

    by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:37:42 AM PST

    •  On a related topic (SUVs suck): (4.00)
      From yesterday's Detroit Free Press (link):

      SUVs not as safe as thought

      Advantages of their size reduced by risk of rollovers



      BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Children are no safer riding in SUVs than in passenger cars, largely because the greater risk of rollovers in SUVs cancels out the safety advantages of their size and weight, according to a study.

      Researchers said the findings dispel the bigger-equals-safer myth that has helped fuel the growing popularity of SUVs among families. SUV registrations climbed 250% in the United States between 1995 and 2002.

      "We're not saying they're worse or that they're terrible vehicles. We're challenging the conventional wisdom that everyone assumed they were better," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency physician who took part in the study, to be published today in the journal Pediatrics.

      Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
      Czeslaw Milosz

      by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:53:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ha i saw that! (none)
        i am glad someone posted it here! HA! I KNEW IT!

        And they make the roads less safe for people like me who drive little Corollas.

        I re-did my website! See how pretty is now.

        by OrangeClouds115 on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:59:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Subsidies for the Rich (4.00)
          Chris is exactly right, the highways are heavily subsidized while the railroads are left with nothing.  Transportation funding in the US is approximately this:

          90%  Highways and roads

          6%  Airports and Air traffic control

          4% for trains, light rail, bike lanes, etc- let the poor ride bicycles!

          I would gladly commute by bicycle if there were safe riding conditions, in the meantime the Prius will have to do.

      •  That's a highly misleading headline (4.00)
        (I know it's not your fault CK - you just posted it!)

        as any thinking person has long known that SUVs are not safe.

        I submit a better headline would be:

        SUVs not as safe as lobotomized Bush-voters believe them to be in their rose-colored glasses, faith-based world

        (OK, that's too long to be a "good" headline - but it's more accurate in any case)

        •  Like always, forgot the link (none)
          An oldie but a goodie, originally published in The New Yorker:

          BIG AND BAD: How the SUV ran over automotive safety

          •  Excellent Gladwell piece. (4.00)
            The killer in the piece is at the end of section 1 after the bit on designing PT Cruisers with Clotaire Rapaille and it speaks to a whole host of cultural FUBARs:
            But that's the puzzle of what has happened to the automobile world: feeling safe has become more important than actually being safe.
            Apply that to claims vs reality on FEMA, foreign policy, Clean Skies or Healthy Forests and the idea of PR Nation really takes hold. Absent authentic choices and understanding how "authentic" is perceived and pinged, off the rack and polyester will do if you beat your chest and sew that poly into stars and stripes shirts. Even the half-assed, half-beligerent side of what it means to be "American" wins absent a decent mythopoetic alternative.

            We use Rapaille's method to find the core of places and brands for clients, remarkably sticky--and seemingly counter-intutive, if you're a wonk or a finance type. (Too hard to quantify for them, not enough numbers, too R-Complex.) Speaking of too smart for their own good and misunderestimating of the shocking power of emotion in the human animal, Democrats need to talk to Rapaille, not Lakoff. He has the key.

        •  not only Bush voters, I'm afraid (none)
          My wife has several well-meaning, D-voting friends who insist that they just feel safer in SUVs, despite the evidence to the contrary. The propaganda has been effective. We have a Prius and are on the waiting list for a second Prius.
      •  But of course, others are less safe. (none)
        An occupant of a compact car hit by an SUV is 4 times as likely to be killed compared to if he is hit by another compact. With pedestrians, the chance of a fatality is a terrifying 12 times higher than with a compact.
      •  Um, this was "news" over a year ago (none)
        It's hardly news that SUVs tip over, that they're more dangerous than cars, and that the auto industry has used their power to fake the tests to let them get away with being unstable and above that, having roofs too weak to stand up to crushing when they do flip. Blogged on this a year and a half ago, when a bunch of similar studies were released in the NYT and elsewhere.

        In other breaking news, graft and cronyism is found in the Senate and there's war in Persia...

        "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

        by bellatrys on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:43:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  news (none)
          back in 2000.

          But good for others who didn't know it.

          How exciting it would be if everyone had all the same information at exactly the same time.

          If I had a nickel for every president who lied the country into war.... Oh, wait....

          by deep6 on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:11:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  It's not just the roll-overs. (none)
        It's also the crash-throughs and fly-overs of guard rails. Bridge and cliff railings are designed to keep cars on the road, but SUVs with their higher weight and higher center of gravity frequently crash right through or over, and end up in rivers and lakes and ravines. I once sat for several hours on the 520 floating bridge in Seattle because a woman in an SUV had somehow navigated over the 3-foot guard wall and into Lake Washington. She drowned.

        -4.88, -7.64 | Hey Congress, keep your hands off my Analog Hole!

        by peacemonger on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:16:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The driving experience is the product of gov't (4.00)
      Something I've long thought is that we are at heart a consumerist culture, and we justify all expenditures on what products or services we get in return. The more visible and immersive those are, the more willing we are to spend large sums.

      And what is the most visible product the gov't provides us? The driving experience. That's what we see coming from them, most of us (only a minority sees social security checkes, medicare payments, food stamps, etc.). And that's the product we can judge them on. If they don't provide us a good enough driving experience, we want a refund.

      What was the very first thing Ahnult did when he took over as governator? He abolished the new vehicle tax that the state desperately needed to pay for schooling. Of course he would do so. And Bloomberg set up a special 311 hotline marketed as the place to report potholes. Exactly.

      If we want to compete as a party in this consumerist country, showing we will improve the American driving experience is a great way to do it. Right now I think the rethugs could position "they want to take away your SUV" just like "they want to take away your guns." Ahnult, of course, drives a hummer.

      How to find an accomodation between the urban prius driver and the midwestern swing voter in a smog belching pickup is the key. This is why gas prices are so hot a political topic too. Consumers aren't particularly concerned with the future; what can they buy now to gratify them. This is also the power of pork, in the form of new roads and bridges and lanes.

      I think this diary takes those insights a lot farther and I appreciate that. Thanks Chris.

      The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

      by peeder on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:34:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  National Health Care (4.00)
        And what is the most visible product the gov't provides us? The driving experience.
        I wonder if you haven't just hit the nail on the head there for why Europe tends to be far more liberal than the US? After all, the most visible experience of government I think we get is the quality of our healthcare.
        •  Outstanding observation (none)
          And I wonder if that dynamic is why the rethugs are so threatened by the concept of national heathcare?

          Maybe it's not money for the corporate cronies. Maybe it's actually that demonstrating that gov't can be good for you, have a worthwhile product to offer, would devastate their entire ideology.

          The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

          by peeder on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:16:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Well, an interesting take... (none)
      I COMPLETELY disagree. I own a car and I'm about this || much to the right of socialism.

      To paraphrase Lincoln:

      The country will only go as far to the right as the democrats let it.

      •  I'm (4.00)
        about as liberal as they get too, and I drive to work every day.  

        But only because the growth of the city has been directed by the policies of the last 30 years such that there is no sensible urban grid with secondaries for bike riders, but rather a tangling mass of major streets that are too chaotic, dirty and potholed to ride on safely, connecting isolated neighborhoods.

        Otherwise, my workplace is a mere 8 mile ride from my house.  Imagine how healthy I'd be if I could bike that.

        Nothing is more fatal to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library. -- Robertson Davies

        by kismet on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:51:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  HAH!!! (none)
          I only live 11 miles from my place of work, however there is simply no way I can bike it, without putting life and limb in danger!!!!
          •  I rode my bike to a job for about a year (none)
            and after the 3rd time of almost getting hit by a car I gave up. We only owned 1 car and I had hoped we would not need another. Too bad it is not safe to be healthy. Some drivers are oblivious to what is going on outside of the car. Example - nose pickers, like they are invisible!
            •  I would ride a bike too... (none)
              But I live in a town that consists of about 20 miles of 8-lane, 45 mph highway, surrounded by suburban sprawl (read: strip malls) almost uninterrupted over its whole length, with heavy traffic at all but the deadest hours of night. No accomodation for bikers or pedestrians whatsoever (it's basically cross at your own risk). So I drive about 4 or 5 miles to work each day. And what do you know, I do in fact live in a red state... although my congressional district is one of three heavily gerrymandered, safely Democrat districts out of 11 in the state.

              There are plenty of bad drivers out there, but to be fair, while I was living in Boston I saw more than my share of bad bikers, too. If you ride a bike, and you want to share the road with cars, then you need to follow the same traffic laws as cars. In other words, just because you're in a car doesn't mean red lights and stop signs don't apply to you. Especially in a big city with lots of pedestrian traffic. I can't count the number of times I almost got run over while trying to cross the street on foot by bikers who ran red lights.  

              •  You are right about some bikers thinking that (none)
                traffic laws do not apply to them. I was not one of those. I rode the back streets and neighborhoods to avoid the busy streets and still I was vulnerable.
              •  PS (none)
                not suggesting you were one of these, just saying, since I have seen so many bikers lacking even a rudimentary grasp of bike safety, that if a biker finds himself in frequent near-misses with traffic or pedestrians, he should examine who is truly at fault.

                That being said, I agree it's a shame there aren't more bike-friendly paths in suburban areas with growing populations but short-sighted and poorly planned development.

          •  And you know what? (4.00)
            Every time you drive your car to work, you're putting your life and limbs in danger. Every time you drive your small car alongside those mosterous hulking SUVs that have a propencity to roll over or jump over barriers, you're putting your life in danger.

            I think this is exactly one of the points of this artical. We've spent so much time inside our mettle boxes that they've distorted our view of reality. In reality, driving is quite dangerous. But it's much easier to see how bad our roads are out on a bicycle then inside our cut off from the world little steal boxes.

            I'm not saying you should ride your bike. It's quite likely you live in an area where it's imposible to go to work without crossing/using an insterstate or freeway. But you chose to live there. I'm sure you think it's perfectly acceptable to live in a place were you must use a car. But while some people pick where they live based on a good school district for their kids, or on low polution or on proximity to a cultural center, some people chose where to live based on the fact that they don't have to be dependant on a car.

            if global warming is a moral issue, then Gore has a moral obligation to run for president

            by IAblue on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:59:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually (none)
              I picked where I live because I thought it was close enough to ride a bike, there are a few hardy souls posting on a bike discussion board who said they lived in my neighborhood and ride bikes to where I work, and I thought it would be a great set up.

              Got here and checked out the true lay of the land and decided I needed my metal shell to keep me safe after all.

              At least my neighborhood has got its greenway now so I can bike to the grocery store, the dance studio I go to, the coffee shop, and the bookstore in my little urban village.  It's a start.

              Nothing is more fatal to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library. -- Robertson Davies

              by kismet on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:34:40 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm sorry then, (none)
                that I seem to have jumped to the wrong conclusion. I'm also sorry your comute to work plan was foiled; I guess different people have different definitions of how "bikeable" an area is ...

                if global warming is a moral issue, then Gore has a moral obligation to run for president

                by IAblue on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:09:34 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Yes (none)
            My husband wants to bike or walk the mere 2 miles to his job. But with the highway and no bike paths or sidewalks, he risks death or injury if he attempts this. We have no public transportation in our area. I love my small town where I can walk to the post office, bank, stores, church, and even some schools and the college. But there are some places we are forced to drive as our small town connects to the rest of the world by an interstate highway..just a mile up the road and that is where most of the businesses are located.

            America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand-Harry S. Truman

            by wishingwell on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:32:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  thats the solution (4.00)
          make bike roads alongside car roads - make them with a divide so people CAN bike if they choose to.

          My job is 9 miles a way and suicide if I were to ride instead of drive.

          Left of center & Out of the closet.

          by leftout on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:06:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  A historical precedence (if not an ironic one) (none)
            In the golden age of cycling (~1890), in the cities of the east paved roads were put down for bicycles. As automobiles began to appear, gravel roads were built parallel to the paved bikeways for auto use.

            Oh for the good old days!

        •  Statistically (4.00)
          He's not saying all drivers are republicans (or anti-social bastards), just that driving a car is one of the things more likely to push you towards being a conservative.

          In that respect, it's just like watching cable news, or being a white male. The difference is that driving a car has bad external consequences, from pollution to oil wars, though people who don't drive aren't exactly free of blame for those. (Most of us depend on oil and trucks to transport our food, for example. Then there's flying...)

      •  Agreed (4.00)
        This is a bit over-reaching. One could easily argue that isolation is one of the biggest factors in creating conservatism. Physically isolated people often have to drive a lot more than those in tight-knit communities. Correlation is not causation - a philosphical truth, and a line from my favorite Soul Coughing song.
        •  True... (4.00)
          ...correlation is not causation, and the development of the "car culture" has mulitple causes.

          But I'm sure it has also influenced us in ways we are only dimly aware of.

          For example, imagine how rude we can be to each other when we are behind the wheel--ruder than we would ever allow ourselves to be when face-to-face.

          I also wonder if being able to control our immediate environment (temperature, noise level, musical ambience, etc.) each and every time we isolate ourselves in our "steel cocoons" for a couple of hours per day, has tended to give us both an exaggerated sense of control and a diminished desire to allow others to impact our daily experience. I often even find myself unwilling to allow a radio announcer to control what I'm hearing, and instead habitually pop in a CD to help control my mood myself, even when I can't really think of something I'd rather listen to than what's already on the radio!

          In any case, the only force that will move us back to a truly conservative (i.e., conservationist) approach to transportation is peak oil and higher energy prices. Change will be forced by the dollar, not by legislation or personal choice.

          Of course, the biggest challenge will be making our sprawling suburbs liveable when gas hits $6 to $8 per gallon. Probably some combination of mopeds, bicycles, more bus lines, lots more park & ride depots, and more mini-stores within walking distance of home?

          I sure hope such changes will bring about more sense of community, instead of more irritation and hostility...

          •  Combine carshare w/ transit (none)
            I got very interested in combining car-share programs with transit when I was in a Planning grad program last year (had to take a hiatus for a while).  I was looking specifically at an area comprised of three very small cities that are close together geographically in PA.  Linking them and the surrounding major towns by light rail might be possible if you added carsharing at the terminal ends to let people go that 'last mile' from the station to work and back.  Never got into hard numbers, but if I ever go back to finish that masters, it'd make a fun thesis.    
          •  Seems like the most important reason AND ... (4.00)
            consequence is that we are isolated from our fellow citizens.

            As a result, we are more "head in the sand" about how diverse our communities are - with implications for both the more and less well off. Common social standards as well as mutual respect are weakened. A sense of commonality among people living in the same area evaporates as we are more confined to our silos of home, car, and work.

            In addition, driving is very stressful compared to riding BART where you can read a book or the newspaper, talk with other passengers... I drive less now than before I retired, and am always struck by how stressful rush hour traffic is - something I had not noticed as much before when it was a daily event. If only public transportation were more dependable, more frequent, better synchronized, and more responsive - and it would be if there was more public support. Bus routes in our area are continually cut back and now there is no bus  - that means an easy 20 minute walk down hill to the terminal in the morning, an unpleasant 40 minute walk uphill at the end of the day.

            An interesting article...

        •  Exactly (4.00)
          Urban environments create Democrats because we interact with all sorts of people and mitigate the xenophobia, which may be an inherent human characteristic.
        •  Isolation from education (none)
          is my opinion. Check the distance from educational opportunities.

          A society of sheep must beget in time a government of wolves. Bertrand de Jouvenel

          by Little Red Hen on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:41:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes and No (none)
            If you mean distance from academic institutions, probably not a factor as some of us live in small towns with a college or in less urban University towns with quite a large Republican population.
            If you mean distance from educational experiences or cultural experiences..that is another matter, that is where you may have a point. But most of my life in PA, I have lived in some conservative or moderately conservative areas and almost all had a college in the area, if not several.

            America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand-Harry S. Truman

            by wishingwell on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:35:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Heh (4.00)
      I don't really think the thrust of Monbiot's article was that cars cause Republicanism, though it's certainly a catchy diary headline.

      I think the majority of people use cars as a matter of convenience, and really don't consider the political implications. There is definitely a correlation between those who love the idea of having large, gas-guzzling cars and Republicanism, though.

      It's a sort of hyperbolic individualism, making them feel 'manly.' It's the same reason that they like owning lots of guns - there's no real use for them, they know they're probably quite dangerous, but 'prissy' people disapprove of them, so...

      This ties into every facet of Republican thinking, even on issues like the death penalty. It's a kind of false machismo, an idiotic individualism which operates by emphasising the worse aspects of the pack.

      I guess it gives them a sense of identity.

      A conservative understands the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

      by Mephistopheles on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:52:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  SUVs make them feel more "manly" (4.00)
        Apparently this extends to the vast number of women  that drive SUVs as well.  SUV creates equality of opportunity in road bullying.
        •  Oh, I've got a choice example (none)
          There's this one shiny green SUV, always comes out of the north from the direction of Lake Norman whenever I encounter her (the driver is a large AA woman). She drives fast, dangerously aggressive -- and I've had two occasions where she's about trampled my clearly inferior sedan into the pavement.

          How do I know it's the same woman?

          She has a vanity plate. She's not terribly concerned about someone calling her in.


          On the other hand, I haven't seen her 'round in quite some time. :)

          Never let being humane get in the way of being human. And vice-versa.

          by cskendrick on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:19:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  And Nascar dads. (4.00)

          Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
          Czeslaw Milosz

          by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:50:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I guess you haven't lived in the Northeast (4.00)
      Outside of the major metropolises - and really, you only get decent public transit in Boston proper, for New England - there isn't any. Believe me, I've been carless in one of the larger cities outside Boston in the Greater Boston area, for months on end, and wore out the soles of my boots to the core, after my bike was stolen, because to find connections at the necessary times and places is harder than hens' teeth. (There's a lot of the Northeast where you can't bike, either - where it's safer to play in traffic on foot, because that's what you're doing. Particularly in winter, when the marginal road shoulder disappears.)

      Not because we wouldn't use it, but because we don't have the state funding and clout to fight the auto industry's holding of the high ground after having successfully destroyed the nation's passenger rail and conservative congresscritters having fought it tooth and claw as a mark of their "fiscal responsibility" all those decades ago.

      After brutal uphill battle, we finally got one small passenger rail spur extended running Maine-to-Boston - and it got many times the expected traffic the first year and has just keept on increasing in popularity.

      Of course, I'd have to drive 45 minutes, 1/4 of the way across the state, to get to the nearest platform...

      The fight goes on, to bring it to the larger cities, fiercely opposed by those in New England who want the money to keep going to the roads - which are a massive industry and keep the pockets lined of all sorts of folks in the construction business and political realm. Corruption and government go hand-in-hand, and we've been doing it up here in New England longer than any of the rest of you! Maybe by the end of the decade, we'll have regular rail service.

      Of course, that won't do anything about the fact that the local transit is non-existent, the bus lines run as if managed by Basil Fawlty, with no regard for nor interaction with local needs, but money thrown away on stupid, massive PR campaigns instead of fixing the systemic problems (and again, no interest in finding out what really works, because then how could you funnel money to your consultant buddies?) and moreover, that most of New England is so wooded, remote, and rural that there's no way a European-style web of rail is going to happen - even though a hundred years ago we did have it, and the old railbeds and some of the platforms are still there, camouflaged by the debris of years.

      And that's close to Boston - go up to the deep woods of Maine, or the wilds of the Berkshires - or those insane hills in Vermont! - and I don't think you even ever had that. It went from horse-and-buggy to Model T, or rather from ox-carts to pickup trucks, although there are still folks out in the mountains who use pulling hitches, for various reasons, partly that you can get draft animals up and down hills no engine will ever handle.

      Most New Englanders commute a minimum of 20 minutes, one way. And that's the average of people like me, who can walk, in a pinch, the mile to work (and I've done it in -3F, btw - and I've done 5 miles, too) as well as those who want to live in the demi-countryside, but still hold a high-paying job in the City, and commute upwards of an hour to Boston or Woburn or even the Seacoast.

      Nor are Northeasterners immune from stupidity - drive to or around Boston in a normal car these past 8-9 years, and you'll find yourself dwarfed by Explorers and Suburbans and giant F-150s, like a zebra in a herd of elephants. Some of them even drive the F-150s with afterburners or whatever they are, so they burn 2x the normal amount of gas, get less mileage than a Hummer - and you'll see a good few of those in New England, too - because it's macho and they like the horsepower - even if it's taking up a huge chunk of their paycheck - and a pressman's paycheck is hefty, far heftier than a mere typesetter or digital prepress  worker like me.

      Trying to change it is like pushing Sisyphus' rock uphill - and there's not yet the clear-and-present  motivation of gas prices equalling those of Europe, although there was a mass dumping of SUVs the weekend after Katrina, according to the local used car sales insiders - in favor of hybrids. And more and more brave souls are driving Vespa-clones on the road even in the winter, except when the weather is prohibitive - trying very hard to make them primary vehicles. But it's not happening fast, and there's tremendous obstacles from the establishment.  

      There's nothing worse than assumption-based analysis, free of facts. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is something they teach in Logic 101 - I suggest you familiarize yourself with the principles of critical thinking and then of sociological research.

      "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

      by bellatrys on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:40:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I lived in a little town in the White Mountains (4.00)
        for a couple of years and didn't have a car for much of that time. I walked to work, biked to the store, and caught a ride with friends when I wanted to go climbing.

        So I know exactly where you're coming from. It is not only possible, but wonderful to be in New England sans car. I can still hear that snow squeeking under my heels. ;<)

        Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
        Czeslaw Milosz

        by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:04:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  snow squeaking under your boots (none)
          is my third favorite sound in the whole world.

          right behind wind in the trees and waves crashing on the ocean shore.

          we auditorily inclined people are weird like that--with lists of favorite sounds.

          it's hard to be an auditory person in a visual world, but there are so many wonderful ambient sounds to enjoy!

          Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D. IMPEACH

          by TrueBlueMajority on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:32:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Vermont (none)
        Well, after living in mass-transit-able central cities for decades, I moved to Vermont. There is some mass transit here (small, free buses at least in southern Vermont to get people from town to town). But hey, we drive now. What with Vermont being the most proportionately rural state population in the nation, Vermonters drive an embarassing number of miles per capita. However, Vermonters also, despite often-icy roads, have about the lowest accident rate and cheapest car insurance in the nation.

        We're also far from being a Red state, as the world knows. Even the Republicans we have here are the decent, liberal type. So if this isn't the exception that proves the rule, the hypothesis is refuted by Vermont.

        Maybe it's driving in ugly places, on crowded roads, that leads to Republicanism? Nah, there are rural Red states with great beauty too.

    •  Why cars make us one thing or another (none)
      Do I agree?

      I think many points raised are valid. Yes, riding around in a glass box with nothing but payola driven musical drivel and right wing blather has got to hurt a person. I think that the rise of public radio shows this. Also witness the problems with automotive technologies: pollution, obsolescence, costs both personal and public. I think everybody knows about those.

      But what to do?
      Here we have a situation where automotive and broadcast technologies are being put together to bend the minds of the masses. Here are some technoligical solution to fight the power:

      1. Bluetooth (or a simple audio jack) out of your personal music player (iPod or mp3 player) into your car. Put that together with an Air America podcast from the day before, and the driver is freed of the right wing drivel.

      2. Car buses. What might be the practicality of using a train to combine passenger cars for people with passenger flatbeds for cars? What if an efficient ticketing and scheduling system could be built around it? I would so prefer to ride on a train with my car for cross country travel, with a few amenities. I've heard of such a train from the east coast to Florida. There's certainly no such thing anywhere near where I live.

      3. Shareware kit cars. Cars don't wear out at once. They wear out in pieces. Aside from normal and accidental wear and tear, parts of a car just get old and unfashionable.

      In Africa, they don't sell enough Benzes to justify a mass production facility but they still sell hundreds within a country. These cars get shipped in kits, and assembled locally. If what you pay for you care is 60% health insurance costs, why not just buy a kit car and build it yourself. Yes, I know it's beyond a great many of us, but certainly not beyond the capabilities of all our friends (if we have any). I get asked to fix people's computers all the time. I would love to order a kit car and ask other people to build my car. One good thing that happens when building your own computer or car is that you learn it's interfaces very well. This is good because you learn what kind of RAM or quarter panel it might need later.

      I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the SAE to do this. What we need is an SAE for the people. This could be a private firm who organizes information, settles standards, and does dial a car porn for shareware car builders and other nutjobs.

      4. Stay posted..... This one's so hot I'm not telling right now. (It's mine, for now.) Hopefully, it'll be worth the wait. Aren't you a little curious? Say so. I still won't tell just yet.

      I'd really hate for my 4 pt post to go without a reply. I guess I wouldn't have made it, if I didn't have issues.

    •  is it some vague 'isolationism' (none)
      or is it the correleation between car ownership and net worth?

      I believe in saving money. I believe in having a house. I believe in keeping things clean. I believe in exercising.

      by The Exalted on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:38:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is more to this story (4.00)
      Several others mention the subsidies to the auto culture, which are huge by any measure.  But when people only count actual direct money subsidies much is missed.  

      The greatest subsidy of all is the "free" allocation of space to auto use.  Of course space, particularly in cities, isn't free.  The space given over to autos has about the same rentable value as the adjoining commercial space although that rent is not directly monetized. (It is indirectly monetized into suburban land prices, as well as a few other distorted prices.)  It could be monetized directly.  If we charged drivers for their use of the streets many other taxes could be lessened.  The street use charge could be proportioned to car weight, height, and pollution grade, and time of day.  If drivers had to pay the full cost of driving we can be quite certain that people would make different transportation decisions than they do in today's subsidized environment.

      The current system of massive auto subsidy in the US is probably the greatest systematic transfer of wealth in human history.  The net flow of benefits and costs has cities paying suburbanites and poor people paying rich people.  The suburban auto infrastrucure is also probably the greatest mis-allocation of resources in history.  (The economy of the old Soviet Union is the only real competitor for worst allocation.)

      My proposed solution of charging for street space fits within a larger philosophy of charging for all privileges such as driving, the broadcast spectrum, mineral rights, land, and pollution rights.  If Democrats want a real economic agenda I suggest the following: Shift taxes from productive activites onto priviliges of all kinds.  

      Regarding the effect of cars on attitudes I offer my own personal testimony.  I live in a close in neighborhood in Austin, TX and have gone to considerable lengths to organize my life to be as car-free as possible.  I bike or walk to work, but occasionally need to drive.  My experience from going back and forth, from not driving at all for a while, and then having to drive. leads me to believe that the car-centered society is causing people to be much more anti-social and hostile than people would be otherwise.

      Perhaps the oddest experience for me was catching myself, while driving, being pissed off at a bike making me slow down on a street where I often bike myself.  Perhaps I am an oddball case, but I think the structure of our society is creating a lot of the anti-social behavior, which then finds expression in the Republican Party.  

      Geonomist - Charge for privileges; abolish taxes on production.

      by Geonomist on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:31:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As (4.00)
     a liberal, nondrving cyclist and pedestrian, I couldn't agree more.
    •  As (4.00)
      a libertarian who doesn't even own a car, I think his theory is ridiculous.
      •  One has to (none)
        Distinguish between intellectual libertarians, and 'I want to be left alone to do illegal and/or antisocial things' libertarians.

        All the same, I still think libertarians, whatever their stripe, are about as useful as chocolate soldiers. Where are you on public services - national healthcare, transport, fair wealth distribution? No where remotely helpful.


        A conservative understands the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

        by Mephistopheles on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:59:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  agreed (4.00)
        But since it provoked a relatively unique discussion I gave it a '4' anyway.

        I gave up my car too and am now a slave to public transit and the favors of others.  Fortunately, I live right outside of Boston so I have subway, commuter rail and bus line access, which makes this no-car freedom possible.

        I'd just like to point out that there is a long history of correlating driving (car ownership) with the concept of freedom.  Being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want is an amazing thing, particularly in a country this huge.  I think one of the most important developments any eco-conscious public official and citizen voter should support is the development of such a structure, using green technology.  The "car culture" as someone put it, is really about independence.  We now have families in which both parents work, which means a second car.  College is no longer the domain of the rich, and students now must work, which presses many campuses for parking space so that students can get OFF campus.  High school students are considered uncool if they ride the bus past a certain age and want the (again) freedom to get out of the house so even public school lots are being pushed to capacity to accomodate high school student parking needs.  Basic commerce - being able to go to Home Depot and bring home some lumber - or picking up a piece of furniture to bring it home requires BIG cars.  And this SUV craze is insane.  I see Hummers cruising around rural New Hampshire and wonder when we're sieging Concord.  Who knew it was such a hotbed of insurgent rebellion?  And please - where I live, winter is for REAL.  Biking in January will get you killed.

        I think we need to break the cycle of individual car ownership by showing them how REAL freedom is not being enslaved to oil and the destruction our dependency brings, not having to suck up thousands of dollars in insurance or repair costs.  Not having to choke on the emissions our cars output.

        Lots of people came up with great ideas to get mass transit going.  Raising the gas tax; contacting local and state legislators to restrict the further enlargement of highways; contacting groups like the Nature Conservancy who buy up property along highways so it can't be used for development.  How about lobbying your company's HR department to at least partially subsidize a transit pass?

        Random story - Dorchester, MA: it was proposed that the closest commuter rail line add stops in Dorchester, a poor, high-crime community.  Interestingly, many of the local poverty advocates are AGAINST adding stops in Dorchester and the surrounding area.  They say it will raise property values and force the poorest residents out of the area, essentially displacing the residents of the very community the rail was meant to help, in effect gentrifying or filtering out those persons suffering hardship.

        If I had a nickel for every president who lied the country into war.... Oh, wait....

        by deep6 on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:11:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  high school driving - whassup? (4.00)
          The student drivers in my high school were the exception.  Now the local high school expects their juniors and seniors to drive, not ride the bus and has a parking lot a little smaller than a bigbox store.

          This seems completely nuts to me, but then again I grew up in the country where you needed a car to get around, not in the 'burbs where our local elementary is a mere half mile away.  Yet my kids won't walk to school unless they install sidewalks and a traffic light.  Yet my small podunk hometown the main drag had sidewalks for miles!  Why does this seem all assbackwards to me?

          We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

          by Fabian on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:39:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  New Theory: Pollution Creates Liberals (4.00)
      Think about it... where is there a lot of pollution?  Los Angeles. Detroit. Chicago.  New York.  All liberal.  

      Even Atlanta, located in the normally Republican south, voted for Kerry AND Gore.  They are also pretty notorious for their pollution.

      Therefore, pollution causes liberals.  

      And we all know what causes pollution.  Lack of pirates.

      Therefore, I believe I have successfully shown that a decline in the numbers of pirates is responsible for the rise of liberalism.

      Miss the Scotty Show on dKos? Catch it on The KE Report!
      Laying a Smackdown on the Ass Clowns

      by karateexplosions on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:12:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent post (none)
        I only wish I could rate it higher than a 4.
      •  Peruse the actual data (4.00)
        nicely summarized by the American Lung Association and I submit that your hypthesis rapidly breaks down - there are a sample sample of solidly red areas in the "most polluted" rankings and solidly blue areas in the "cleanest" rankings (and vice versa).  I think it would take some damn clever statistical manipulation to come up with any correlations of any significance between pollution and political orientation..
        •  Whereas The Theory That Cars = Republicanism (4.00)
          Is fully supported by the data, right?  

          Miss the Scotty Show on dKos? Catch it on The KE Report!
          Laying a Smackdown on the Ass Clowns

          by karateexplosions on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:54:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  A certain amount of hyperbole must be accepted (4.00)
            in diary titles. Especially in my titles ;<)

            Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
            Czeslaw Milosz

            by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:03:14 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Your link nicely listed very large cities (none)
            whereas the diarist's theory (at least in part) dwelt on rural areas where a car was necessary to go anywhere, but which were not necessarily congested per se.  

            Consider San Fransisco,  listed as highly congested - which is true - but it's also true that a much higher percentage of San Fransiscans do not drive than their counterparts in - oh let's say - Fresno which did not make the congestion list but happens to be considerably more "red" than SF.

            Having said all that - I suspect the comparison works best for the  USA in general v. Europe (as compared to trying to tease out differences within the USA).

            •  So What You're Saying Is That Cars (4.00)
              Don't really have anything to do with Republicanism, but that Republicans are in wide open rural spaces where things are far apart, which should come as no big surprise to anyone.

              The theory could just as easily be changed to reflect that maybe Republicanism is borne from living far away from major cultural institutions.  Places like the Smithsonian or the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

              Or maybe Republicanism has to do with living far away from major education centers like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan, Cornell, or UC Berkeley.

              Miss the Scotty Show on dKos? Catch it on The KE Report!
              Laying a Smackdown on the Ass Clowns

              by karateexplosions on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:17:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Indeed, Republicans are in wide open rural spaces (none)
                BUT - and this is important - I've found they can be lurking almost anywheres - DON'T LET DOWN YOUR GUARD NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE!!
              •  Well, not wholly (none)

                I submit that I know a half-dozen Republicans who live in or around San Francisco. 100% of them own cars and commute to work in them. I know three dozen Democrats who live in the same area (well, more than that, but about three dozen that I can call to mind and know how they get to work). Slightly more than 50% of them own cars, and about 25% of them commute to work in their cars. (I know several walkers, several bikers, lots of people who ride mass transit, a couple who ride in company-sponsored vans and such, and one person who carpools.)

                This includes two Republicans who actually live IN San Francisco, and work IN San Francisco, and could get to work on one Muni line without changing trains/busses, but most often drive to work.

                So it may not be causal, but it's not the 'wide open rural spaces' thing that I can see.


                •  I'm Convinced Now (4.00)
                  So there are people in San Francisco who could take mass transit but don't.  And they're Republicans.  

                  And then all the people who you know that take mass transit are Democrats.

                  Therefore, cars = Republicans?

                  I live in a fairly large city.  There is a pretty decent mass transit system here.  I use it when I can.  I didn't realize that all the people on the bus with me are Democrats.  They would probably be surprised to know that too, especially the old lady who carries her Bible on the bus every day and rails about how kids aren't allowed to pray in school or how "Democrats want to take away the 10 Commandments".  Or the five or six people who always nod their heads in agreement with her idiotic bullshit.

                  And I will have to let my friends who drive to work know that they are really Republicans even if they voted straight Dem since JFK.  My friend who commutes to work with the "YEE HAW is not sound foreign policy" and "CHIMPEACH" and the "Support Our Troops - Bring Them Home" bumperstickers on the back of his car is going to be crushed to discover that he is actually a Republican.  

                  I'm not sure what that makes me though.  Sometimes I take mass transit.  On those days, I guess I'm Howard Dean.  Other times I drive.  I guess those days, I'm Orrin Hatch.  And when I go to visit my family a couple states away, I drive there too, which I guess makes me Rick Santorum getting blown by John Cornyn while shoving Sam Brownback up my ass.  

                  Miss the Scotty Show on dKos? Catch it on The KE Report!
                  Laying a Smackdown on the Ass Clowns

                  by karateexplosions on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:44:30 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  "A half dozen Republicans (none)
                  who live in San Francisco."

                  That means you know every registered Republican in the city! :)

              •  Cornell?? (none)
                Drive about fifteen miles outside Ithaca. Totally different world.
      •  why wouldn't pollution create liberals? (4.00)
        Stronger environmental regulations is a liberal policy, so why wouldn't the people choking on air pollution tend toward liberalism?
  •  I've wondered about it (4.00)
    A lot, in fact.

    Something I've noted over the years is that people become their cars.

    Behind the wheel, you are transformed into a deadly metal demigod, capable of striking dead anything that offends you sufficiently.

    There is literally nothing that has ever breathed air on this planet that could not be mortally wounded by a Yugo going 60 miles per hour. Not a lion, an elephant, or a whale...though I suppose some dinosaurs could take a Yugo hit. But not one from a Suburban.

    Which segues to the other point: Not only do cars encourage a sense of violent discretion, of deadly empowerment, cars have been designed to cater to this need.

    Marketing research has found that people most certainly do not drive SUVs for the safety. You market an SUV for safety, and your profits die. You market an SUV for power and a sense of control, watch your stock split, and split and split.

    Which has turned the American highway into an arms race...and a war zone.

    I remain amazed at the chances people that people take, casually and even gleefully, with other people's lives. It never occurs to them that Death can reach them inside their thin aluminum carapaces, which aren't so invulnerable after all.

    I suppose that is why the IED phenomena in Iraq is so viscerally terrifying to the home audience. The very idea that some...non-vehicle can do in a heavily-armored tank really spooks folks.

    I mean, if your commercialized Humvee can't keep you save, then what?

    I mean, really. There needs to be something even bigger and more terrifying out there, so I can keep the fuel-efficient car-driving peasants in their places. :)

    Never let being humane get in the way of being human. And vice-versa.

    by cskendrick on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:47:08 AM PST

    •  Great comment (4.00)
      I'd give you comment a ten if I could.  In particular, this hits the nail on the head:

      "Which has turned the American highway into an arms race...and a war zone."

      Car driving in the 70s and 80s was completely different than it is today.  (and I was only a passenger, LOL.) Granted there were less cars on the road, but you just couldn't drive those cars as fast as you can drive a car today.  

      I remember the green Duster my parents go much above 55 and the thing would vibrate, rattle and shake.  Cars today can go high speed and still give a smooth ride.  It takes away the perception that there is any danger to the speed you are going.

      And with Air Bags and ABS, folks are given more false sense of security.

      So aAmericans have learned to put the pedal to the metal, and god forbid any 'moron' slows down your pace.  We keeep being told time is money, LOL.

      We all need to slow the hell down....myself included!

      •  Defeating SUVs (4.00)
        I am very green and left and own a car, but almost never venture out of my small city in it. The modest scale of my vehicle makes me fear highway combat with vehicles two or three times the weight, so I take the bus, bigger and faster still: safer AND greener.

        There are settings, especially in the United States, where car ownership is necessary to survival so cars don't cause Republicans 100% of the time. Luckily. But I am willing to bet that the correlation between SUVs and Republican voting is extremely high and not just because of greater wealth. Being a Republican means having no concience whatever, if torture is OK, owning an anti-social vehicle is a moral piece of cake.

        •  I own one too. (4.00)
          And like you, I prefer to stay in slower speed zones and find the urban and suburban freeways to feel liek some kind of intense video-game. Although I have no discomfort with driving at high speed (over 60), I now feel safe doing so on isolated country roads where there is nobody else doing so. Even on city streets, I feel safer on my bicycle because it is less likely, though not unheard of, that a driver will view me as "the competition".

          On a different note:
          We were just in the Bay Area for Christmas and I am grateful that my companion did all the driving because people in CA drive even more nuts than they do here. We were tailgated, honked at and nearly driven off the road by people who were statistically not likely to be Republicans or even conservative Democrats. Perhaps they were liberals of the sort who emphasize privacy and personal freedom rather than community and social responsibility? Last summer in Toronto, I was stunned that the even the heaviest traffic parted like the Red Sea to let me in when I used my directional signal. Here in the USA, whether it's Milwaukee, Chicago, Berkeley or Vallejo, no such thing is likely to happen.

      •  In lieu of a 10 rating (4.00)
        I will gladly accepted 2.5 4's...rounded up, of course. :)

        Never let being humane get in the way of being human. And vice-versa.

        by cskendrick on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:15:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have often thought (4.00)
        that if we want safer drivers we should replace the steering wheel airbag with a large metal spike.
    •  people will do things in their car (4.00)
      that they would never do under any other circumstances.  As a long time bicycle rider, I've had plenty of occasion to observe this fact.  I've never really been able to understand it, because clearly a lot of people that behave in an antisocal or even criminal way while in their cars would never do anything like that away from a car.

      I know it doesn't have this effect on all of us, and that may be why this idea goes right over the head of some people here.

      •  On my way in to work (4.00)
        There's a place where I-85S curls into I-77S; it's a tight two-lane-turns-to-one-lane merge that then merges into high speed traffic.

        I was in the outside lane, just off the back left corner of an 18-wheeler, hoping to get the traffic ahead of me to thin out -- and do everybody behind me a favor, but mostly myself.

        Somebody in a Camry rushes up then swerves to right behind the semi-tractor trailer just when I was looking to move in on my own account.

        They then proceed to do their utmost to run me off the road, and are so willing to block me out they almost send both of us crashing into the back of the truck.

        We are probably at one point half a foot away from sideswiping one another while going at a significant velocity.

        I make a conscious decision to let go of my hate, and live to hate effing idiots another day.

        As I back off, I pull up behind the car and clap with both hands.

        Car in question slams on brakes; they are truly in a mood to make war.

        I veer over and off, and watch as the car from hell continues to tailgate right behind the tractor-trailer.

        Perhaps they were low on gas, and needed to draft.

        Either that or having risked so much for such a dangerous piece of turf, they were unwilling to part ways with it, even if it killed them.

        What you said. :)

        Never let being humane get in the way of being human. And vice-versa.

        by cskendrick on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:25:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do believe (none)
          I have driven, heart in mouth, over that very same bit of road.

          I'm always amazed, horrified even, at the idiots who will tail-gate an 18-wheeler. Those stickers on the back that say "If I Can't See You in My Mirrors I Don't Know You're There" are not on the truck as decorations. Sometimes, on open highway, I'll slipstream behind an 18-wheeler, but always with the mirrors in sight.

          The degree to which you resist injustice is the degree to which you are free. -- Utah Phillips

          by Mnemosyne on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:37:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I sometimes pick my nose in my car (none)
        I do not pick my nose on buses, trains or while riding my bike. Much better than nose picking, I've had sex in cars (yes, of a sort even while driving), but never in a bus or a train ... or certainly not on a bike. I have seen people in cars intentionally ram other cars, something professional drivers in buses are not likely to do and only a suicidal cyclist would do. I, personally, am much more alert while cycling than driving.
      •  aoeu (none)
        people get a sense of annonymity behind the wheel, it's similar to what happens on the web except that the potential for damage is much greater.
        •  You beat me to it (none)
          Cars: the original internet.  Which raises the question "does internet use cause one to become a psychotic libertarian?".  Having observed the online world since the early 90s I can say there's a definite correlation here too.  Of course, as we all know both the rise of internet and suburban/automotive libertarianism is due to the single root cause mentioned by the other poster in this thread - loss of pirates :)

          Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying, "Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy."

          by Event Horizon on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:47:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Cadillac in particular (none)
      Some car makers advertising even seems to encourage agressive behavior... Cadillac, to cite an example, has some recent advertising that seems to encourage its drivers to run other drivers off the road.  I'm referring to one where a number of BMWs are driving around a dance floor, when a Cadillac comes barreling in and runs them all off.

      This kind of attitude, plus GM's decision (with Ford in competition) to specialize in gas guzzlers at a time of rising fuel prices and shrinking supply, makes it hard for me to feel too much sympathy for their current economic difficulties (I do for their workers, but not for their corporate attitude).

      •  Re: Ford (none)
        Though it should be noted that Ford is coming into the hybrid and fuel efficiency market as well (and not just with hybrid SUV's either as I recall that the Fusion will have a hybrid version coming out next year).

        "All Politics is Local" - former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil

        by Mister Gloom on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:56:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sitting ducks (4.00)
    Drivers stuck in traffic become sitting ducks for the right's talk radio. Their frustration commingles with the heated rhetoric. A combustible mix...

    Torture. Your tax dollars at work.

    by nailmaker on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:52:24 AM PST

  •  Pretty astute... (none)
    And generally in agreement with accepted MacLuhanist principles.

    One saving grace, if you buy into the MacLuhan interpretation, is that electronic media are mitigating th affect of carsa and the like. We are actually becoming more tribal and collectivist in our thinking.


    "Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight / That dance around your head"

    by deepfish on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:13:18 AM PST

    •  Not A Good Combination (none)
      The too effects of cool and hot don't cancle each other out, because it's not really a single line, but a deep geometry of human and societal trends.

      What we are getting is people who want to be selfish jackasses and who are turning to government and other tribalist drumbeats to achieve that to a greater degree. While the worst of them figure out how to dupe the others into furthering their own most selfish schemes at the expense of those ignorant enough to give them the boost.

      9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

      by NewDirection on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:17:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Love this diary. (4.00)
    Even in rural areas. I lived in a tiny village. Two blocks to the post office, two more to the store. It is amazing how many pallid overweight people drive those two blocks on a beautiful day. Or so I thought. After winding up on the town council - don't ask - I began driving myself on occasion. To avoid people. Some answer.

    More constructed environment inhospitable to the real needs of the human organism. No sidewalks, no way to walk under the railroad overpass safely.

  •  If it really were libertarian (4.00)
    There might not be this big of a problem.  However, the situation is nowhere near libertarian as the roads that enable such sprawl are built by government bodies, usually as pork projects.  If developers building new far flung communities had to take responsibility for building and maintaining the roads to their communities themselves, living in these far out places would be more expensive, and thus perhaps discourage many from moving so far away from the urban center.

    I am an ILL State Assassin. Legalize Qualo. Those in Chicago - listen to Boers & Bernstein on 670 AM The Score 2-6 M-F. You'll be glad you did. Vote Hackett

    by Larry Horse on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:14:11 AM PST

  •  I don't necessarily disagree, but... (none)
    how then do you explain the great social liberalism of the 60's at precisely the period that American car culture was at its height?
    •  Are you seriously suggesting (4.00)
      that "car culture" was more pervasive in the 1960s than it is now? That it was ever more pervasive than it is now?

      "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

      by Geenius at Wrok on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:30:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'd argue (none)
        ..that it's not so much 'car culture' these days as 'SUV culture'...where so many people buy a lot more vehicle than they actually need.

        I suppose that in the 60s, in general, the people that bought muscle cars then are buying SUVs today.

        "There's no question that the minute I got elected, the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead." - GWB, 5/11/01

        by Stymnus on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:29:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The point ... (none)
        ... I think is that the idealism of the 50s and 60s car culture laid the ground work for the culture we experience now (which many, even SUV drivers, agree sucks). It's more pervasive now, but back then we had a time where big business could collude to destroy the commuter rail system with hardly a whimper. I know Standard Oil, Firestone and GM were convicted of a conspiracy to do so, but what did they really pay? They're all still in business in some form or another while most of our cities have completely inadequate public transportation. They won, the bastards.
    •  model criticism (none)
      I'm curious how Monbiot would respond to your question--it's an excellent one.

      Here's how I'd respond: a lot of what Monbiot is saying is rhetorical, except on the question of the environment. Or if it's not, it's kind of silly: the idea that the act of driving itself makes people anti-social assholes is a bold assertion, but pretty silly.  

      First of all, from about the 1920s through to the 1960s, driving a car wasn't anti-social. Look at the way cars are portrayed in movies from The Grapes of Wrath (where it's the family home, albeit temporarily) to American Grafitti (cars as the space for friendship). Sex too.  Plenty of social acts around cars.  Also think about picture people tinkering on their cars (that individual could fix) in garages, talking about cars, etc--none of this is anti-social stuff.  Cars were about freedom, but not necessarily in a bad way. Who knew emissions were a big deal in 1955?  

      What we know now about the environmental consequences of driving change this equation, starting with issues about clean air.  This discussion didn't get started until the 1970s really, and only much more recently has it become clear that driving can be an anti-social act--when it comes to the environment.  

      Even now, there are exceptions to this; are working class cab drivers really anti-social?  How about people who can't afford to live in urban downtown areas and -- in the absence of good mass transit systems--commute to work by car?  Anti-social?  Or just tired and overworked?  

      I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

      by markymarx on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:51:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The social liberalism of the 60's was (none)
      tightly tied to that era's sexual liberation. And there is no doubt that the automobile greatly enhanced the availability of sex. So I guess cars aren't all bad  :-)
    •  Lets try and stick to facts (none)
      or at least social research findings.

      Social isolation, as brought about by the white flight from the cities to the suburbs, and the development of the owner occupied car as the main means of transportation, had its early roots after World War II, and has grown ever since.  There was no "height of the car culture" because the use of the car has been steadily increasing and is at its highest point now.  

      Computers are now further isolating people.  Here we are, posting back and forth.  In the thirties people used to argue over beer at a pub.

  •  car as extension of self (4.00)
    it's cause people take their cars seriously. people in suburbs and rural areas, where car driving is a necessity, use their cars to do absolutely everything. hell, i've seen people climb in their cars to drive to go visit a friend who lives on the same street.

    so the car becomes such an oft-used tool, it ends up becoming part of you. rules and things that restrict your god-given ability to drive however you want become restrictions on you. they might as well be telling you that you can't walk on the sidewalk in front of your house.

    however, i'm not sure that's the only reason for such libertarian behavior on the roads, as i don't see so much of a dichotomy between the cities and rural or suburban areas. i live in new york, and before that DC. both liberal areas with a really great public transit system. and drivers are still maniacs and feel that the rules don't apply to them.

    and i'm not talking just cabbies and people who drive to work. i mean regular folk who take the subway most everywhere and only take the car out on weekends to ikea. hell, i'm as liberal as all get-out, and the turnpike turns me into a snarling beast sometimes.

    but we dance to the music, and we dance

    by chopper on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:23:57 AM PST

    •  I would've posted the same (4.00)
      sentiment if you hadn't gotten to it first...

      There's a guy I work with, mild mannered, very nice, salesman whose territory includes Manhattan.

      Did I say he was a really nice guy? Helpful, courteous, the whole pudgy 40ish jewish dude always ready to lend a helping hand.

      Until I got in the car with him, I never knew he was schizophrenic. This man became a raging lunatic. He called people that had the gall to change lanes in front of him words I will not repeat here or anywhere.

      He tailgated, he swerved, he cut other people off, he forced others to let him into traffic when they clearly didn't want to, the whole RoadRage thing in one 10 mile trip. I'm pretty sure he's a democrat, but certainly living in NYC area does something to your driving habits.

      "To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice." Confucius

      by Patriot4peace on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:34:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great Diary...couldn't agree more. (none)
  •  TV and subsidized gas price contribute. (4.00)
    The 'American way of life,' as brainwashed into us (and wherever US TV programs are broadcast) has promoted this attitude as 'normal'. The 'gotta have it now' indulgence of Americans cuts across all political persuasions. Ridiculously low price of gasoline has enabled the phenomenon of driving to the corner for one item whenever the impulse strikes.

    I think Hollywood is more to blame for the promotion of selfishness and poor impulse control that has become more a part of the American persona than bootstrapping and fortitude, as we become lazy and obese while glued to the tube. The cocooning with our preferred channel reinforces the notion that we need not consider alternative views, others' feelings, or the future itself. We're conditioned to seek to live only in the present, anaesthetizing all thought or feelings that are unpleasant.

    Our attention spans are reduced to 15 second sound-bites. No wonder we can't drive fast enough to satisfy our need for stimulation.

    The War on Terror is terrorism

    by Halcyon on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:42:48 AM PST

    •  Ever notice 3 or 4 car commercials (4.00)
      in a row on TV? Or look at the pages of car ads in the newspaper. Do you think MSM seriously wants us to question the dominant car culure, when it's probably the majority of their revenue? Politicians usually avoid the debate too since automobile ownership is seen as a "right" and they don't want to jeopartize contributions. Given a choice between a higher gas tax and higher sales tax, guess where

      I live in a typical big city auto town characterized by freeways, smog, parking lots, and not much mass transit. We used to have a good street car system but it was bought out by that auto-tire cabal (National City Lines) and run into the ground, thereby forcing more people to buy cars, but that's another story.

      Whenever I bemoan the lack of choice, someone says, "Hey, this is a car town, if you don't like it, move somewhere else." That's just not fair. Something like half the population doesn't or can't drive (too young, old, impaired, poor), but they are subsidizing freeways to the distant 'burbs through the sales taxes they pay (gas taxes pay for about half of highway constuction). Why can't the commuter to the 'burbs help pay for better buses, trolleys, bike paths? I hear, "I'll never use it. Why should I pay for it?" Hey, it's called democracy.

      It's not that cars are evil or even that cars = republicans. Cars are part of the community's ecosytem, and we need to balance car transportation with other forms. I think the diarist said in a later comment, all some people are asking for is a choice.

      "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

      by Mother Mags on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:25:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If somebody said to me (none)
        That they shouldn't pay for public transportation because they'd never use it, I'd respond that childless people shouldn't have to help pay to educate their children.

        The noive!

        "I am Joe's raging bile duct."

        by Floja Roja on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:42:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Car as Status Symbol (none)
    The whole car as status symbol thing continues to amaze me.  You don't even have to have a nice car.  You just have to have one.  Or you are a nobody.  A coworker has two cars and still takes the train to work.  Just knowing that he has the cars assures him that he is someone.  Heh.

    "We need a war to show 'em that we can do it whenever we say we need a war." -- Fischerspooner

    by bink on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:45:05 AM PST

    •  Tell me about it! (none)
      And god forbid you should need to ask other people for rides.  Working a campaign job, I sprained my ankle badly.  My commute involved a train and a bus and a quarter mile walk - impossible when I could barely limp across the house to get to the bathroom on my crutches.  I became dependent on friends to get me to work, and co-workers to get me home - but the "someone" who would drive me home invariably became "someone else"; only two or three out of an office of twenty-five or thirty were ever willing. Then they started to resent me for not finding someone else.  It was all my problem and all my fault.  They owned the cars, and I didn't - so I was nobody worth their time to help.

      How can we get over it when people died for the right to vote? -- John Lewis

      by furryjester on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:22:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I live in L.A. (none)
        and I've never had a car. And I'm getting up there age-wise. I refuse to ask my friends for any rides. During the transit strike a couple of years ago I walked 3 miles over the hill into Glendale every morning (and back every evening) and caught the Glendale bus, which wasn't on strike. Those same lovely Glendale drivers would drop me off right at my work (instead of the next block where the stop was) when I had my sprained foot.

        If I have to, I'll take taxis. Grocery stores now deliver (except Trader Joe's, damn them), so that's no longer a problem. And Christmas shopping? Ever hear of the Internets?

        People used to think I was crazy, but I tell them I pay only $26 a month for transportation (subsidized bus pass). They certainly can't top that. Between gas, insurance, and upkeep, they are paying a huge chunk of change every month for the privelege of driving.

        "I am Joe's raging bile duct."

        by Floja Roja on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:51:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mostly silly (4.00)
    This is a classic case of poetry being mistaken for argument.  Just because something sounds good doesn't mean it's true.

    At best there is correlation and "cause" could easily run in the opposite direction.

    Many of the red states have "car cultures" because their land uses require sparse living and public transit isn't economical.  You just can't live on top of each other if you want to farm.

    Just as likely, those who live in suburbs might want to have a yard or a little space.  I'm not defending suburbia.  My point is that a car might be a Side-Effect of a different value, not a cause.

    Also, some might want cars because they don't want to follow a public transit schedule.  The car is once again a response, not a cause.

    I'm not saying that it doesn't sound good or reflect a sentiment about those who drive cars.  I just don't see how this holds as an argument for it being a significant cause of conservatism.

    •  Addition (none)
      I'm not saying that it isn't meaningful as metaphor, but its weak on mechanism.

      I think this is a fair critique as the title of the diary is "Cars Cause Republicanism".

    •  farmers (4.00)
      acuity suggests:

      You just can't live on top of each other if you want to farm.

      But isn't that what is done in Europe?  My understanding is that in some European countries farmers live in small towns and travel outside the twon to their farmland.  That's different than here in the U.S., where farmers tend to live in isolation on their farms.  

      Isn't it more a traditional choice, rather than a requirement?

      Not to mention large, corporate farms, which rely on employees rather than family farmers.

      I don't know - anyone here engaged in farming in the U.S. and Europe have any thoughts on this?

      •  Somewhat true (none)
        Let's say that you live in Marshalltown, IA, and you want to get to go to a big mall.  How are you going to get to Des Moines or even Ames?  In a car.  Let's say you want to travel to Boston.  You are going to have to drive to Des Moines, then take a connecting flight on.

        Iowa also does crazy things like finance universities.  Let's say you work or study at one of these universities and want to go to Chicago or Kansas City.  How are you going to get there?

        The fact is that with our current infrastructure, those who live in sparce areas, need to drive.

        How would a farmer living in the "big city" get to his farm?  . . .

        •  Oh come on (4.00)
          That's not what I meant.  

          I didn't mean "no driving."

          I didn't mean "no daily driving."

          Of course a car would be used to get back and forth to the farm, to venture into the city, and so on.  What - you were implying that these guys walk or ride draft horses everywhere?

          Give me a break.

          What I was referring to, which was apparently poorly communicated, was that by living in a town and going to the farm, rather than living on the farm and going to the town, the number of automobile trips made by the farmer and his family to the bank, the store, the church, the grocery, the post office, to visit friends, and so on would be reduced.

          •  I saw that point (none)
            and probably should have tried to incorporate it.

            Instead I just kept on plugging on with my original point.  

            There obviously is some ratio between how much commuting would be done to the farm from the city versus how much is currently done from the farm to the city.  It might even be a positive result in most cases.

            My point was only to show how necessary that car travel is in the Midwest and to try and make an emotional appeal to people.  I wanted to show them that even good University Liberals might find themselves behind the wheel of a car.  And that car usage was a cause of conservatism.

            I didn't mean to attack your point.

    •  The title is silly, but.... (4.00)
      Okay....his title isn't perfect.  But I must admit the absurdity of that cause and effect relationship got me to read his diary.  

      I think it is fair to say the car culture has contributed to isolationist tendencies that are growing in the US and apprently elsewhere.  The 'me me me' mentality does get magnified once a person gets in their car and drives. I do feel we need to go back to building community and cooperation in order to deal with the growing economic and social probems in the US and in the world.

      •  I agree (4.00)
        that aspects of our current culture have horrible outcomes on community building, the environment, and our outlook on the world.

        I would maybe even cede that if no one had cars, we would be more dependent on one another.

        I just think that cars are mostly a technology that facilitates some people's behavior, but that the reason for the behavior hardly falls on cars.  

        Plenty of other technologies like flying, computers, telephones, the wheel, etc. also facilitate isolationism.

        Our current economy allows us to buy everything we need at supermarket or discount store from people who we don't know, and the products are made by people far away who we will never meet.

        People like to bash on cars because they harm the environment cause congestion, and some people have the luxury not to use them.

        I won't argue against the need for infrastructure change, but to attribute so much significance to the car . . . .

    •  Disagree. (4.00)
      I mean, I don't disagree that the initial argument may be a little overstated.  But I think your counter-arguments are extremely weak.

      The rise of suburbia because people might want a yard or a little space?  Small towns have had yards and space for hundreds of years, well pre-dating the rise of the car.  They've also had sidewalks and downtown areas that you can walk in - things suburbs don't have.  Suburbs are attributable to cars, as they are areas in which you actually have to have a car to do anything.

      Some might want cars because they don't want to follow a public transit schedule?  Well, I don't want to go to work this afternoon.  I still have to do it.  If we didn't have the car culture we do, "I don't want to wait 10 minutes for the bus" would not be seen as a valid reason to drive under most circumstances.  You'd sound like a whining brat!  

      So yes, at this point the things you cite are reasons people drive.  But they are attitudes that are only possible in a car culture, where the reasons one can take driving for granted as a reasonable thing to do have been extended incredibly far.  And that extension of course is based on a whole boatload of conservative policies with regard to road construction, oil wars, gas subsidies, etc.

      •  This I can't deny (4.00)
        Of course the individual points I made are weak.  They are weak for the exact same reasons why the arguments in the original post are weak: cars are used by many different people for many different reasons and don't "cause" Republicanism.

        Cars can empower people to act upon their values, as any other technology can, but I don't see a primary roll in how they "cause" Republicanism.

        I, and many of my friends, regularly drive cars.  I can tell you with certainty that this has never caused me to want to use the military instead of diplomacy, cut social programs, cut education, reduce environmental standards for industry, give corporate welfare, torture people, attack abortion, ban flag burning hate homosexuals, or make a public display of the 10 Commandments in my county courthouse.

        Selfishness and short-sightedness are probably the biggest causes of Republicanism.

        Not knowing , not caring, or trying to deceive oneself of the impact of one's actions is a cause of Republicanism.  

        I think you can find how those values underlie most of the offensive use of cars that are cited in the diary and comments.

        •  Revision (none)
          I got to thinking about the stated causes I have listed for Republicanism, and they only satisfy a certain group Republicans very well.

          The other ones simply don't understand how societies work.  When they live in their relative luxury, they don't understand that they arern't full responsible for that position.

          They also might believe that in the long run, protecting property rights really does create the maximum happiness.  They would grant that it causes some misery but are pragmatic in how that misery would compare to an alternate system.

          They also don't understand democracy.  They think that by invading a country and deposing a dictator and holding some elections that a democracy is born.  They don't understand how many institutions are necessary for a functioning democracy.

          Some of it has to do with selfishness and shortsightedness, but a lot of it has to do with a an inaccurate understanding of social organization, and at some level, how the universe works.

          I see the car as a minor player.

  •  I'm not sure (4.00)
    I think cars cause Americanism.

    I've lived in the UK. I've lived in China. Their cities were planned with public trans and bicycles in mind. In the US, it doesn't take just a Democrat to do that. It takes a very liberal Democrat. Many Dems are totally bought and sold by the corporations that want us to use more oil and more cars.

    I re-did my website! See how pretty is now.

    by OrangeClouds115 on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:58:42 AM PST

  •  What did Abe Lincoln drive? ;) (none)

    'All great change in America begins at the dinner table.' Reagan

    by PhillyGal on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:01:15 AM PST

  •  Britain is becoming more like the US by the day (none)
    This is just one facet of the Americanization of Britain (the rise of hyper-individialism, or the who-gives-a-shit generation). Not that there aren't a thousand wonderful things about US culture to import, but Britain tends to gobble up American culture wholesale, and without pause for thought. Hyper-individualism is at the root perhaps - obesity is up, gun crime is up, voter participation is down, debt is up... British kids of African descent increasingly allow African-American pop culture influences to define their "blackness". Paraphrasing UK hip-hop artist Dizzie Rascal - "What the fuck is "bling"? I'm English for fucks sake".

    As if the answer to a losing gameplan is more cheerleaders.

    by alkland on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:18:07 AM PST

  •  I just don't agree with any of this (4.00)
    and you can throw troll ratings at me, I don't care.

    What if you don't like living in cities but you still have to work? Is there something wrong with leaving the city everyday to escape to the country where you can actually hear birds sing and squirrels chatter?

    Not everyone who lives in a rural area and drives a car is a knuckledragging, neocon, neanderthal. And I think a lot of you are a bunch of stuck-up elitists.

    There I said it.

    I'm not a slacker...I'm just surrounded by overachievers!

    by arkylib on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:18:18 AM PST

    •  I'd be surprised if anyone troll rates you. (4.00)
      You are right in that there are uses for cars. I own a little one and love taking an occasional trip to the mountains. But I know folks who drive four blocks to work! That's right FOUR DAMN BLOCKS. We are talking about public policy, not individual need here.

      Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
      Czeslaw Milosz

      by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:29:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then I apoligize... (none)
        for the elitist snob remark.

        If I did live only 4 blocks from work, I would walk. When I was in college, I walked everywhere I went, sometimes 2-3 miles. No wonder I was so skinny in college.

        I'm not a slacker...I'm just surrounded by overachievers!

        by arkylib on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:33:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When I was in college... (none)
          I rode my bike everywhere.  I would even make trips to the grocery store and load up my backpack.  It didn't help at all with dating, but on the other hand kept me fit.  

          Driving 4 blocks to work is absolutely ridiculous.  But I look at it this way:  That person is so lazy... but that is their choice.  The consequences of that choice is that they're most likely overweight and unhappy.. and people will judge them for their laziness.

          Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here"... Wake the fuck up America! IT'S HAPPENING HERE!!!

          by wintersnowman on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:02:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It has deeper consequences (4.00)
            Air polution, noise polution, depletion of natural resources, etc. Those are shared by all of us. A wasteful decisions involving autos, on the mass scale they occur, affect everyone, including those who do not make those choices.

            The real heart of the problem -- and the reason it's so hard to solve -- is the decision society makes about the automobile. Society is the sum total of individual choices interacting with each other -- no one person's decision controls it. One must convince a large portion of the people to change their behavior before any progress occurs.

            Society is the collective, and we're stuck with that even if we don't like it. The health of the collective is something the right just doesn't care about (indeed, practially comes right out and admits it hates) -- except when it comes to irrational defense, of course...

            •  Exactly (4.00)
              Poor investment in public transit leads to inferior alternatives to cars, which leads to many many people sitting on highways-turned-parking lots during rush hour.  It's a public policy issue to make it not only possible, but desirable, for more people to live a more car-free life.

              How can we get over it when people died for the right to vote? -- John Lewis

              by furryjester on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:26:19 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Re: squirrels (none)
      I live in a leafy neighborhood in Baltimore. I take the bus to work everyday. It can be done. That said, I don't have any kids yet so I'm not constricted by school systems.
  •  How many in the car. (4.00)
    It is not only the car, but how many folks are in it. In America more than anywhere else it is often that huge number of ONE. Where I live (Taiwan) we can manage to get almost any number into a car, heck we can get 5 people onto one of those pidly motor scooters. Any transport is definitely a social occasion.

    The last stat I saw was 1.01 cars for every licensed to drive American (in Canada by comparison, the number is .70). So that means that a bunch of those cars don't even have anyone in them - talk about individualistic.

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should!

    by taonow on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:18:36 AM PST

    •  And for a so-called Christian nation (4.00)
      it's especially ironic that people drive alone so much when The Bible clearly makes a case for car-pooling:

      Here's a partial list of supporting verses:

      Joshua 2:9 . . they gathered themselves together . . in one Accord.

      Acts 2:20 . . . they came with one Accord. . . .

       Acts 2:1 . . . . they were all with one Accord. . . .

      By contrast, problems arose when attempts to drive alone were attempted:

      Numbers 24:13 . . . . I could not do anything of my own Accord.  . . .

      Finally, bragging about one's car seems to be a no no:

      John 12:49 . . . . I did not speak of my own Accord.  . . .

    •  I guess I'm an individualistic liberal, then. (none)
      I own two cars: the one I drive to work (and not much of anywhere else), and an old sports car that I am slowly restoring to its stock condition. I bought  the old car, and want to restore it, because it is a thing of beauty and a piece of history that should be preserved.

      Those are good enough reasons for me.

  •  When I was in grad school (4.00)
    I was slightly too old to be able to tolerate living on campus. I went to school in the South, a city of about 100K, lived about 3 miles from campus, right on a bus line. I decided that rather than go deeper in debt (or spend a moderate amount on a vehicle I'd have to keep pouring money into), I'd go without owning a car at all. Most of the time I'd walk to where I needed to be (man, I was in great shape in those days).

    People literally thought I was nuts. People would pull over to offer me a ride because obviously something must be horribly wrong for me to be traveling on foot. On a couple of occasions, the police stopped to talk to me just to see what I was up to. Just because I was walking.

    I don't know if car ownership causes Republicanism, but in my experience it sure seems to go along with suspicion and paranoia. And, in turn, I've got a feeling that suspicion and paranoia are a part of what breeds (or at least helps promulgate) Republicanism.

    Insistence on car ownership -- and insistence on willfully moving to areas where car ownership is a virtual necessity (the exurbs) -- isn't the cause.

    But generally speaking, it sure can be a symptom.

    •  I"ve almost stopped and asked a pedestrian (none)
      if they wanted a ride.  There was a person who walked from near my home 5 miles each way to Penn State.  I'd pass her every day on the way to work, as did the bus.  So apparently it was by choice.  
    •  I've gotten similar reactions (4.00)
      from people when I tell them I don't own a car - and I live a quarter mile from a subway station!

      How can we get over it when people died for the right to vote? -- John Lewis

      by furryjester on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:30:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, you must be up to no good (4.00)
      if you're so poor that you don't own a car.

      Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

      by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:56:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've had that experience! (none)
      Always in the south.  Where I live in the northeast, walking is pretty much taken for granted.  But the summers I've spent in the south, I've had SO many people pull over and offer me rides or check that I'm ok when I walked places.  And yes, once the police not only stopped me but ran my license because I looked so suspicious!
  •  I totally agree... (4.00)
    but I came at this conclusion from the other side, I think.  

    I do own a car (but rarely drive).  However, I take public transportation much more often.  I'm on the bus and the train, and I must see my neighbors.

    I see senior citizens who have to drag their groceries around.  I see minorities who are hard working people.  I see people speaking other languages who are happy and well adjusted.  I see small children whose families have come here for a chance at a better life.

    I think public transportation reminds us that we are all in the same boat.  Well, at least it does for me....

    •  I don't agree with the diary's theme... (4.00)
      ... but I have had the same experience as you have.  I own a car but rarely use it and take public transportation to work.  You must share space with others... and everyday I have the opportunity to interact with others.. whether it's getting up from my seat and letting someone old or disabled take it, or striking up conversation on the train, etc, etc.  The interaction with others makes me feel good and in the long run, I think it's healthier than being isolated for an hour or more each way in a car.  

      But from my vantage point, I don't see the use of cars as a cause of Republicanism or Conservatism.  I think it's more a symptom of the realities of the choices ALL of us have made regarding urban planning and infastructure over the course of decades.  

      The suburbanization of America is one of the biggest stories of the 20th century.  I think the gradual revival of our urban spaces will be one of the biggest stories of the 21st century.  We have made many mistakes in the way that we've built communities in America.  But I think that more and more people are waking up and turning back to cities or incorporating the positive elements of cities in the creation of communities.

      Democrats live in the exburbs too.  Many of those that commute to work... one per car... are Democrats.  Are cars turning them into Republicans???  I don't think so.  The reality in many communities is that it's cheaper to live farther out.  That is the reality where I live in the D.C. area.  I've made a conscious choice to pay more to live next to a subway station.  I would pay almost half the rent I currently pay and have a bigger living space if I moved 15 miles out.  But if you were to look down on those that are not willing make that choice, you would be an elitist.  That is their choice given the options available to them.  

      One of the top goals of Democrats should be smart design of communities, controlling and regulating sprawl, and investing less in roads and more in the infastructure of public transportation.

      Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here"... Wake the fuck up America! IT'S HAPPENING HERE!!!

      by wintersnowman on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:52:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know title is deliberately provocative (4.00)
        but I think the basic premise is correct--that the car culture enabled the suburbs, which is where people moved when they could afford to move away from the riff-raff in the city....isolating themselves.  Now they don't have to think about the poor people, poverty is an abstract concept of some "others".

        And yes, a variety of people live in the exurbs now, partly because there isn't affordable housing closer in.  And partly because the schools can be better.  But I think that's a consequence of people leaving the cities for perceived safety of suburbia, and the city schools losing much of the range of families they would have had in the past.

        •  We can sit here and pretend (none)
          That there is something "quaint" about gang violence, crack houses, and crumbling schools with under-qualified teachers, and hate on families living in the suburbs...OR we can get off our collective high-horse and start seriously addressing the plagues hanging upon our beloved urban dwellings.
          •  You think (none)
            Violence, crack houses, and bad schools don't happen in the suburbs?
          •  Suburban kids take drugs too. (4.00)
            That's why I said it was perceived safety.  And all those major school shootings have been....??

            The documentary on New York (I think it was Burns...) went into great detail on how the highways that were gashes through the hearts of cities like NY caused major disruption to the previously stable neighborhoods that were mixed income places, leaving many of the poorer residents adrift from social safety nets.

            Here in my city we are doing something about it.  We are working very hard to increase the public transportation.  We are working very hard on mixed-use development.  

            We are, in fact, trying to recreate the community the way it used to be.  Some of us are off the high horse.

  •  Oh, that's a great strategy! (3.16)
    Write off people who drive cars. That's brilliant! Do you really think that demonizing people because of where they live or whether (or what) they drive is the way to win elections?
    •  Don't be silly; no one is writing them off. (3.66)
      This is about public policy. It's about charging folks who drive a more realistic share of the cost pollution and road building. And it's also about providing choices, like public transport, to those who would rather not spend so much time stuck in traffic. In other words, it's about that thing so many Americans seem to have forgotten about, the public good.

      And I know we won't have subways in rural Kansas.

      Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
      Czeslaw Milosz

      by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:37:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good luck with that, dude. (4.00)
        You're going to alienate a lot of people if you're going to restrict their choices in the way they live their lives in order to conform to your vision of the "public good." I am all for public transportation in places where there is the population density to support it--but not many places meet that test.
        •  more places than you think nt (4.00)

          O'BRIEN: What if Jesus got this card? Would he be angry about it? He's be OK with it, wouldn't he? DONOHUE: Well, maybe he would, but I've never met him

          by PoliMorf on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:02:34 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's more about opening up options (4.00)
          rather than restricting - making it more convenient, and pleasant, and cheap, and easy, to use public transportation than to get in your car by your lonesome and sit in traffic every day.  That requires a lot more investment in pubic transit than a lot of local governments make at present.  But it would be an improvement in the quality of life for many.

          How can we get over it when people died for the right to vote? -- John Lewis

          by furryjester on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:32:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Rural/suburban bus systems (4.00)
          I live in a city with good public transportation and so am lucky enough to be able to live without a car at the moment. But I am always amazed at how relatively limited our public transportation is.  When I lived a few months in the U.K., I was thrilled that, even without a car, I could easily get to small towns and villages via the bus system.  In contrast, my parents live in a very large town (80,000 people) outside the city I live.  There is no public transportation in the town, except for the train to the city and bus to the airport.  Within the town, there are no buses.  

          This has serious consequences for many people - poor people who are forced to devote a large portion of their salaries to maintaining a car, old people who are forced into nursing homes because independent living requires the ability to drive.  

          It's not a question of restricting people's choices, but of allocating just some resources from support of the car infrastructure to support of public transportation.

        •  Restrict their choices (4.00)
          Or ask them to pay for what they consume? No one is suggesting we legislate what people can and can't own.  Chris and the article are simply pointing out yet another bad consequence of our transportationpolicy decisions of the last 50 years.  There are some questions raised by those consequences, but I don't see anyone suggesting what you're arguing about.
        •  A lot of people are going to be alienated (4.00)
          when they wake up to realize that their cheap-oil-dependent lifestyle of rural livin' is a farce based on lies about endless resources that don't exist.

          Restrict people's choices? How about the fact that I can't choose to live in a community where everyone walks and rides bikes, even though tens of thousands of people in my city would love to live that way? Who asked us about OUR preferred lifestyle choices and values? And why should I compromise MY moral values so a bunch of overweight burdens on our health care system can continue to live in a dreamland of cracker jack tract homes, soul-sucking Mal-Marts the size of Rhode Island, endless middle-east oil and encumbant wars, V6 engines and bumper-to-bumper pavement from sea to shining sea? All so we can drive endlessly, needlessly, lazily, because - hey, it's convenient?

          I am sick of having my moral values offended every stinkin' day by the American absurdist automotive obsession. And I will not apologize if my morality offends those I find to be immoral. Dude.

          I am the federal government.

          by mateosf on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:41:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  In continental Europe (4.00)
          You can typically access the most remote rural areas easily by public transportation. Because public services are seen as assets.
          The US won't even put together a national rail system.

          "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."- Franz Kafka, "Before the Law"

          by normal family on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:48:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Well then judging by all the Kerry stickers (4.00)
    a lot of conservatives voted for him.
  •  I think people are misreading this diary (4.00)
    Either reading too deeply or just scanning it and leaping to conclusions. The article isn't anti-car, it's a rant about anti-social behaviour. The subject matter being the car is (pardon the pun), just a vehicle for the rant itself. Perhaps the title is misleading because while there is almost certainly a statistical link between anti-social behaviour and republicanism, there is no assertion of cause and effect. At least, none that I can see.

    As if the answer to a losing gameplan is more cheerleaders.

    by alkland on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:32:32 AM PST

    •  really? (none)
      I think Monbiot is great, but this sure sounds a lot like a (groundless, rhetorically provocative) causal argument to me.  

      The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right.

      I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

      by markymarx on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:55:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bush-voting states and automobiles (4.00)
    Please stop with the red state-blue state nonsense.  These patterns are not immutable and do not indicate cultures, only temporary political decisions based on the absence of informed choices.

    That said, the correlation between automobiles and libertarianism in Bush-majority states is spurious.  It's there but unrelated causally.

    Older cities have transit systems because the cities subsidized them or built them outright before the automobile use became widespread.  Bush-majority states, developing large cities later, have sprawling suburbs because of automobiles subsidized by govenment spending on roads and airports and the absence of government spending on transit and railroads.  Those decisions were set in a predominantly progressive era.  They were a bias towards new technology, the society of the future, towards affluence and luxury for all.  Progressives pushed for their development.  Progressive politicians tried to make their state a "Good roads state".

    Today, cities in Bush-majority states are seeking alternatives to more and more congestion.  There are numerous new transit projects for these cities that have been blocked by Congress and the Bush administration as "too costly".  Frankly, they were blocked because they would reduce or stabilize the demand for gasoline, motor oil, and asphalt.  Guess whose industry buddies that would hurt.

    In a lot of cities in Bush-majority states, bicycle trails and walking trails are being built as part of parks and recreation budgets.  Campus-style office parks have built trails as well.  The current movement is to connect these so as to permit people to use them for shopping trips and trips to work.  Some of the biggest boosters of these efforts are rock-rib big-bucks conservative Republicans who want the prestige of trails in their neighborhoods.

    The cities with the most developed transit systems are those that built them about a hundred years ago and have progressively upgraded them.  These were the biggest cities in a time of few automobiles.  Small city transit generally is the result of the marketing of electricity in the 1920s.  Electric companies would persuade the city leadership to sign on with them by using a free electric streetcar system to promote it.  The companies would use the excess electricity they generated to run the streetcars.  In the 1950s, to remove the streetcar rails from interfering with automobiles, cities asked these electric companies to convert to diesel buses.  In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the electric companies shed these operations, which were then generally picked up by the cities themselves.

    •  Many transit systems were (none)
      private companies at first.

      The first New York City subways were private businesses.

      Washington area's Metro was a consolidation of private bus companies.

      The Shirley Highway south out Washington, DC was once a super highway in the midst of nothing.

      Over time, more and more people moved out into the suburbs or needed to buy cars to get to suburban jobs.

      By the early 1970s, private transit systems were not viable without public subsidies.

      The preferred response has been to make the private companies public.

      In New York City, private bus companies in Queens that have long been subsidized were bought out fairly recently.

    •  The First Sprawl (none)
      Were streetcar suburbs. Most of Chicago's Elevated was built out into open prairies by land speculators. Now they are high density urban corridors. Same for LA and San Franciso. Suburban development followed the interurban lines.

      Yerkes was a scam artist. But he built the  Chicago Loop and a large part of the London Underground. Insull monopolized electric rail by his control of utilities. Southern Pacific Railroad controlled the Pacific Electric empire in California. They were the dot com bubble of their time. Most of the weaker rural serving lines went under in the Depression. The larger urban based trolley and interurban systems lasted into the early sixties.

      Postwar Sprawl has become a national myth. I liken it to Westward Expansion. There is some truth in it and there is some complete bullshit.    

      "Hey buddy, do you mind putting out that cigarette?"

      by ILDem on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:03:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  those first burbs (none)
        interesting that those first suburbs are generally all considered to be in-town nowadays, and urban by today's suburban standards.

        as white (or bacon?  can't remember) theorized, cities used to grow to be about an hour or so across, and the streetcars enabled an hour to be a larger distance.  (could also be why the urban-based systems lasted longer than the rural ones--they operated outside the one-hour rule.)

        but with today's sprawl, we've entered a new concept where there is no need to re-connect to the core and there is no "time limit" on size.  the organism no longer has the same limits on its growth, and for that reason I think it's a bit disingenuous to compare the early streetcar suburbs to today's sprawl.

        •  If the Road Grid (none)
          was infinitely expandable we wouldn't be complaining about sprawl and gridlock in our large metro areas. Pouring more concrete is increasingly not an option. Infill and urban reuse will help. So will building more dedicated mass transit.

          I think cities with infrastructure in place for  higher population loads like Cleveland will have increasing cost advantages against the sprawltowns needing serious transit investment.  

          "Hey buddy, do you mind putting out that cigarette?"

          by ILDem on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:37:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  definitely (none)
            it's why I have mixed emotions about my choice of neighborhood here in atlanta.  on the one hand it's well-suited for infill and larger population and even relatively well-connected to transit.  on the other hand the total disconnect of the infrastructure ringing this entire city may eventually make it nearly impossible for us to get in and out.  a 2 or 3-hour trip to the country could easily turn into 6, and could choke down the city as the major engine of growth.
    •  Um... (4.00)
      In the 1950s, to remove the streetcar rails from interfering with automobiles, cities asked these electric companies to convert to diesel buses.

      In 1940-41, GM bought the streetcar lines in Seattle because they told the city they could run them for cheaper. They were already run at a loss, just like the roads are. They ripped them up and replaced them with buses because that was their business, not because the city "asked" them to.

      by Bensch on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:18:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is as good a theory as anything (4.00)
    Out here in the frozen desert we call Montana, our capital city area has just been classified as  a "micropolitan area" with a total population of 67,000. Of that total, about 30,000 live in town (like me) and vote overwhelmingly democratic.  The other 35,000 live in the burbs', both the suburbs and the rural wildland subdivisions, and vote overwhelmingly republican. As a result, our county tends to lean republican, even though its major town is democratic.

    As a geographer, I am amazed that this voting pattern is seen at almost all scales, whether the town is micropolitan Helena, Montana, or mega-metro Los Angeles, California.

    The lesson for progressives is; we must learn to convert the burbs politcally, or just annex the damn things into the city.

    "We will go to the moon, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". President John F. Kennedy, 1962.

    by Ed in Montana on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:07:40 AM PST

    •  Look at Portland. (4.00)
      They set up an urban growth boundary a long time ago to keep people in higher density living, and they're overwhelmingly Democrat (and Green).

      by Bensch on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:16:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very hard to change our relationship to our cars (4.00)
    I have been working hard to promote carpooling in a smallish town in MN, population 25K.  Most of my friends are of the liberal persuasion, and I found that to a surprising extent, people think carpooling is something someone else should do.

    Carpooling is not just an option for people who go to work at the same place, and leave and return at the same time.  It is an option for those special trips.  Right now the internet has programs that can allow people to offer and ask for rides. Erideshare is one I know best.  Let's say I need to go to Minneapolis for a conference, I can link with someone else who needs a ride to the airport.  Carpooling fosters an interdependent world, conversations with people we've never met before, driving together for the common good.  

    Outside of the big cities, most of middle America basically has no mass transit.  If you want to get from small town A, to small town B, you need a car.  If you are too old to drive safely, or have a poorly functioning car, too bad, you are out of luck.

    To change this situation, we need to change our relationship with our cars.  And I think it is going to be tough going, whether those we are trying to persuade are liberal or conservative.  We turned our transportation policy over too many years ago to the auto industry.  Folks in the auto industry are aware that their marketing task is to encourage the notion of the car as a vehicle for independence, self-expression, and entertainment.

    We need to find some people with excellent frameshop skills, to recast how we could/should relate to our cars.  This is a huge issue, I am happy to see this diary and the discussion in the posts.

    •  Everyone should carpool except me (4.00)
      That is NO MA'AM commandment number 6.  You know that organization NO MA'AM (National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood).  The one that Al Bundy founded.

      Here are the 10 err.. that is 9 commandments.

      1. It is OK to call hooters 'knockers' and sometimes snack trays
      2. It is wrong to be French
      3. It is OK to put all bad people in a giant meat grinder
      4. Lawyers, see rule three
      5. It is OK to drive a gas guzzler if it helps you get babes
      6. Everyone should car pool except me
      7. Bring back the word stewardesses
      8. Synchronized swimming is not a sport
      9. Mud wrestling is a sport

      As you can clearly see, I myself am obeying commandment 6 because I'm not carpooling but everyone else seems to be disobeying it by not carpooling.
  •  Ah! ... Now I understand why ... (4.00)
    ... people who own buggies become Amish.
  •  The more you drive, the less intelligent you are? (4.00)
    I never pass up an opportunity to quote Repo Man & this is the perfect opportunity.
  •  The car as a vehicle to social isolation (4.00)
    When the car isolates you socially, then the only way you get much information about society is television.  TV is in a commercial rat race for ratings, so all they serve up is sensationalism, crime, blod, guts, and gore, as well as dramatic stereotypes.  The more TV you watch the more you believe that the world is a dangerous place (an established research finding).  The more you believe that the world is a dangerous place, the more you will adopt a defensive, punitive, reactionary mindset, the same mindset that used to be called "right-wing authoritarian" in the older social research when you could pretty openly describe that mindset in negative terms without offending the right wing (which used to be called the lunatic fringe).  

    I am a victim of television myself.  Everytime I go to New York City I spend the first few days pleasently surprised at how nice, how engaging, how considerate and helpful Manhattanites are.  I am surprised because I am conditioned by television, and being out in the Dustbowl, having nothing to controvert it, I slowly incorporate the garbage that television feeds.  

    Michael Moore made that point, kind of obliquely, in one of his movies (Bowling for Columbine).  He is standing on a street corner in South Central Los Angeles, and he looks around and he muses that life seems pretty normal here, no riots, no robbers, no gangs running around.  He makes startling comparisons between the fright and the fear that Americans live with, and the casual self-confidence of residents in Canadian cities who don't lock their doors, even though they might even have been burglarized a time or two.

    School violence is a good example.  School violence has dropped dramatically in the last 100 years, yet the public feels the opposite because every incident is sensationalized on television and gives the people the feeling that school violence is an epidemic growing exponentially.

    •  I think (4.00)
      I think your point of view is the best explanation for why cars may potentially nurture conservatism. The fact is, drivers don't have to interact with anyone outside their circle of acquintances at work and their personal social circle. They are not likely to run into strangers and learn about their lives. Their local town is just a grid of streets to drive through rather than a place where they interact with all of the residents and learn about their cultures. Well, except of course, for the supermarket. That venue as well as perhaps a sports arena are the only places where a car driving suburbanite is exposed to a diverse swath of society. That's of course why the sensational stories from the media come to define his idea of the people around him rather than personal knowledge.
      •  because strangers chat on subways (none)

        I believe in saving money. I believe in having a house. I believe in keeping things clean. I believe in exercising.

        by The Exalted on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:39:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exposure (none)
          It might not be the chatting, but rather the exposure to different kinds of people, different socioeconomic strata, etc.  

          When I ride Muni or BART, I don't generally talk to the person sitting next to me. But taking one bus or cable car ride downtown gives me more exposure to a wider swath of people in 15 minutes than many people get in a year of commuting to and from work in a car.

    •  Don't blame the tube (none)
      blame the programmers. I couldn't agree with you more, and found Moore's hypothesis in "Bowling for Columbine" compelling food for thought, but keep in mind that Canadians, and indeed people all over the world, watch TV. It's more a question of what's there for them to watch, and of course this brings us back to our old pals, the SCLM, who have grown rich off the "if it bleeds, it leads" school of telejournalism.

      I never watch TV news (well, except for Jon and Keith), and it saves me from high blood pressure. Of course, reading The Times, WaPo, and checking in here tend to raise the BP, but for different reasons.

      -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

      by sidnora on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:22:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You nailed it! (none)
      There is an actual, causal correlation between living in a rural or suburban area, driving a lot, and having a view of your fellow humans which is primarily defined by the media.

      This does not lead inevitably to Republican voting, but it tends Republican because the Republican propaganda machine -- including talk radio -- is so much more powerful right now.

      Which raises a question in my mind -- is it even possible for Democrats to compete that way? Or is the Republican message inherently more suitable to propaganda tools like talk radio?

      •  How Democrats should compete (none)
        The Republican message feeds on fear and on the feeling that "our way of life is under attack."  This message contains the following elements:  fear of minorities, xenophobia, fear of complexity and legal limitations, nostalgia for the good old days, symbolism, symbolistic patriotism, punitiveness, anger, and aggression.

        The Democrats can only compete if they lay claim to at least one of these emotional domains.  In my opinion, the best option lies with nostalgia.  Nostalgia can be wrapped into an "old fashioned Yankee spirit patriotism."

        Fear mongering lends itself to talk radio, and to sloganeering.  I do not believe that the Democrats can compete in that.  Democrats need to start calling the right wing noise machine a cancer on America, an un-American phenomenon, a dividing force that goes against all American traditions and principles.  They need to put the right-wingers on the defensive, and they need to start making their own fear pitch:  these right wingers are destroying everything we fought for in World War II, they are destroying America, and we need to stop them.  Every Republican politican needs to be put on the defensive about Limbaugh's open racism and O'Reilly's open anti-semitism.

        As I have explained in an earlier diary, the defensive circle-the-wagons mindset of being under attack, sadly means that corruption will be tolerated by "us" and "folks like us" as long as they are "one of us", and as long as they help us defend our way of life against "them."  This is why Enron gained no traction and had no political impact.  I am afraid that this will limit the impact of Abramoffgate.

        Having said that, however, I also believe that indictments are very powerful, and that indictments that reach into the White House will have a catastrophic political impact on the Republicans.

  •  Highways Case Poverty (4.00)
    There has never been an inner city that benefited from the building of new highways.  Every lane of highway makes it easier for commuters to live far away from where they work.  Every bridge and on-ramp only serves to dice up neighborhoods, ruin property values, and turn the beating heart of cities into ruins.

    The first item on my "When I Run for President" platform: a ten year moratorium on the construction of any new federal highways, and no funding for new roads at the state level.  You want to build a new subdivision?  Don't do it on some little side road and count on the state to build a new four lane to the entrance.  Want to live within ten minutes of your work?  Move downtown.

    Political Cortex -- Brain food for the body politic.

    by Mark Sumner on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 06:50:54 AM PST

    •  sure (none)
      Move downtown?  Unless you are rich you can't afford to live in the nice section of a city.  Living outside the city you can afford a decent apartment in a decent neighborhood, and the trade off is you need a car.  

      absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

      by jbou on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:37:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why are there "bad" sections? (4.00)
        Because people find it all too easy to bail and get that "decent apartment" down some highway.

        Political Cortex -- Brain food for the body politic.

        by Mark Sumner on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:30:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I actually found that living in the suburbs (4.00)
        was more costly, even though the downtown home we bought was considerably more expensive. I totalled up that I save about 60 hours a month in commuting and over $100 a month in fuel. Plus my car insurance is considerably lower and I won't have to buy another car for years and years (in the suburbs I went through one every 4-5 years).

        So when you say "the trade off is you need a car," I'd encourage people to examine just how much that trade off is. You might find that you CAN afford the downtown home. Even more than the money is what getting off that 8-lane hell has done for my sanity.

        "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

        by Mother Mags on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:39:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, so a trade off... (4.00)
        Here's an example:
        A car payment: $200 a month
        Insurance: $100 a month
        Gas: $150 a month
        Maintenance: $50 a month (This is a LOW average, consider your tires, oil changes, any repairs, etc over the life of the vehicle - not to mention your time)

        $500 a month times 12 months - you're looking at $6000. Now, with a used car, your maintenance goes up and you have to replace the vehicle more often, so your "payment" goes way down, but you're still usually looking at $4000 a year or more.

        Looks an awful lot like the difference between a place in the suburbs and a place in the city to me.

        by Bensch on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:12:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Timely diary (none)
    Yesterday I picked up the Boston Globe and found their editoral page was launching a series about the impact of the auto on our country and culture. My jaw damn near dropped -- a major news outlet was actually going to talk about this, examine this, even criticize this, rather than mindlessly celebrate it?

    The first in the series:

    Requires registration (bastards...) -- there's operative passwords at

  •  ok, so... (none)
    I will have to ponder this for a while.  Very novel point of view, but I ma not sure it really explains why western cities are liberal.  People there really driving cars a lot.  San Fran?  Seattle?  LA?

    I ride my bicycle often - I commute to work through the winter.  Yes, I am often an obstacle for cars.  I stay off the busy roads.  Sometimes I see other cyclists.  Rarely are they not destitute.  

    The bus?  Well, I just got service to within a mile of my house.  I am pretty sure most buss riders are "destitute.  I will find out this afternoon.

    Thanks for this diary.  A new view to ponder.

  •  Stuck on the Bay Bridge (4.00)
    In a 12 lane traffic jam with 60,000 other liberals headed from Oakland to SF and vice versa. Could take public transit, but it would take an hour longer, even with the traffic jam.

    Bush is the first President to admit to an impeachable offense. - John Dean

    by easong on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:16:32 AM PST

    •  Where were you commuting from? (none)
      When I worked in Pleasant Hill and lived in SF, I found BART to be way faster than driving (OK, riding, I sometimes carpooled).

      "I am Joe's raging bile duct."

      by Floja Roja on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:53:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  BART is Great If You Live 10 Minutes From Station (none)
        If you have to catch a 30 minutes bus ride from home to BART, then a 30 minute transbay trip, then a 30 minute bus ride to work, you could have made a 45 minute car trip to do the same thing. Public transit is for people for whom time is not money.

        Bush is the first President to admit to an impeachable offense. - John Dean

        by easong on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:58:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'll buy it. (none)
    Of course, a lot of people need cars these days because society is so spread out.  For example, if you're a teacher most teachers are needed where most families are, which means outside the city.

    If every road subsidy creates more Republicans, then every public transportation (and probably every bike path) subsidy creates more Democrats.  It'll take decades to reverse all the warping from the 20th Century, but better to start on this sooner rather than later.

  •  seriously, i think it's the other way around (4.00)
    cars/distance don't cause Republicanism/conservatism, but having to live in close proximity with other people causes liberalism.  You have to care more about other people when you see them every day and have their needs right in your face.

    If you get tired of having to take other people's needs into consideration all the time, you move farther and farther away and/or spend more time trying to find isolation within the city (single person car use, doormen, etc.).  but if you find a place in yourself that is willing to compromise and enter into an idea of the common good, by necessity you become more liberal.  the biggest problem I see with conservatives in the last 25 years is a "my needs always come first" emphasis that treats the common good as disposable and even an object of derision.

    I don't have a link but I've read this theory elsewhere, and I think there is really something to it.  the more time you spend encountering and taking seriously the needs of people who are different from you, the more likely you are to care about whether their needs get met (even at the occasional cost of compromising your own needs), which is a pretty basic working definition of what it means to be liberal.

    Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D. IMPEACH

    by TrueBlueMajority on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:34:56 AM PST

    •  Both may be true (none)
      In fact, it would stand to be likely that if living in close proximity and learning to live in harmony caused a leftward bent, living in isolated exurbs where your neighbor is a stranger is likely to cause a rightward drift. To take one view exclusively is a tip off to ones beliefs about human nature, which in fact is complex and unknowable. Are we naturally compassionate and generous but made selfish and brutal by cars, freeways and suburban sprawl or are we naturally selfish and mean but made kinder and softer by proximity to others and forced sharing.

      Of course it's probably more complicated. There can be little doubt though, that most of us who've had varied living experinces would agree that there is some sort of correlation between housing density and willingness to compromise and work things out. When I have lived in moderately dense neighborhoods, I have found there is a greater tendency to be polite and friendly with neighbors, all pulling together to get along and get things done and voting for better sevices. When I have lived where there are greater spreads, people know each other less and vote for lower taxes.

      One glaring exception seems to occur when density gets too high (often coexisting with poverty nad disenfranchisment) a certain element who perhaps would be inclied to run away if they had resources, instead turns into a predator destroying his neighbors.

      •  Actually... (4.00)
        Once you hit urban densities, as density increases, crime decreases. Check out Christopher Alexander's book "A Pattern Language" for statistics - once you get past the point where there are too few people for crime, the more eyes you put on the street, the less crime you have.

        by Bensch on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:08:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmmm (none)
          I would not be shocked by that. In the USA, the densest municipalities (with the exception of Boston) tend to have pretty high crime rates, though the very densest neighborhoods in them do tend to be more moderate-crime neighborhoods, with the highest crime rates in the depopulated, blighted neighborhoods. Once you factor in Europe and Asia, as well as Latin America and Africa, I would not be surprised that dense cities have far less crime than the less dense suburbs and shanty towns. I'll have to take a look at A Pattern Language, it's been recommended to me by people I trust.
          •  A Pattern Language (none)
            Is filled with a lot of good ideas. And many wacky ones.

            Gotta love those new urbanists. For instance, Kunstler says horizontal windows are bad for people (make us think of death). Where do they get this stuff?  Horizontal windows make me absurdly happy.

            "I am Joe's raging bile duct."

            by Floja Roja on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:04:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't see any reason to equate the two. (none)
              Pattern Language is almost entirely backed up by studies of psychology, and is well vetted. There are wacky ideas, but they tend to work - and well - even if not for the reasons presented.


              by Bensch on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 10:58:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  I disagree with this guy's take on libertarianism (4.00)
    The one thing I admire about libertarians is their emphasis on personal freedom (and to be more specific, privacy.)  

    The societal problem here is not people demanding the freedom to do what they want without government monitoring or intervention.  No, the problem is instead the rejection of any sense of obligation to contribute to society or participate in it.  Those are different things.  A sense of civic duty is not incompatible with a desire for all of our civil liberties.


  •  the tone of this whole diary sucks (3.71)
    Yeah, calling suburbanites idiots because they don't have enough money to live in the nice section of a city, and send their kids to private school, is no way to win friends and influence people.  People drive because they want to live outside of the city so they can send their kids to decent schools, live in neighborhoods where their kids can ride their bikes, and play in a yard they can call their own.  

    absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

    by jbou on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 07:45:18 AM PST

    •  You fail to see the big picture. n/t (none)

      Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

      by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:00:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  explain to me the "big picture" (4.00)
        I know all about how the auto industry and oil industry lobbied for road building back in the 50's. I know all about how the auto industry advertises and the oil industry lobbies to make sure that they get their agenda passed.  I know all of that, but what you fail to see is that self righteous know it all language like this diary is just going to turn off your average suburbanite person who lives where they live because of the kids.  

        BTW, wtf is up with rating my comment a 1? You drop a 3 word response and then rate a run, get your shit together and actually respond to what I said, and stop being a passive aggressive baby.  

        absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

        by jbou on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:15:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your argument is entirely subjective (4.00)
          I rated you a 1 for whining that this diary "sucks" and for making a narrow-minded argument to the contrary, which actually reenforces the jist of the diary.  Sorry if my explanation was inadequate.  You are obviously defensive because you live in the suburbs and commute, and you can argue that it's for the sake of the kids until the cows come home.  I DON'T DISAGREE.  The point is NOT that it's safer and cheaper to raise children in the suburbs.  The point is that government policies often perpetuate and fail to address this consequence of BAD URBAN PLANNING and BAD ENERGY POLICY.  What we need is urban renewal and revived urban communities, not more subdivision sprawl.

          Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

          by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:28:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's okay... (4.00)
            ...I gave him a '4' cause he's right.  Living in the burbs is about self-imposed social, racial, and economic isolation.  Cars don't make people what they are, they help facilitate the isolation they want to achieve.  

            No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

            by CrazyHorse on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:35:49 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Except that it's not merely self-imposed (4.00)
              Subdivision sprawl is also imposed by preferential land use policies and economic factors.  There is no inherent reason that suburban or rural living should be safer or cheaper then urban living.  I agree with everything else you say.

              Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

              by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:43:42 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I hate the suburbs (a rant) (4.00)
                I grew up in the semi-rural suburbs of King County, and I think suburbs are actually rather terrible for kids, particularly teenagers. There are no sidewalks or bike lanes, meaning that kids who want to go anywhere either 1. Have to get mommy and daddy to drive them, or 2. Get hit by cars. So of course suburban teens grow up dreaming of the day when they can drive their own cars, it becomes a powerful symbol of adult autonomy.

                The closest thing to a public space is the local shopping mall.

                Suburban teenagers are BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS and engage in rampant vandalism, drug abuse, and stupid sex.

                A lot of people aren't actually saving money by living in the suburbs -- they're just using the cheaper real estate to buy a bigger house. So then they spend all their money filling the house with junk.

                My parents' big ol' suburban mansion has been robbed, and the interior of their car has been stripped of seats -- twice!

                There's one kind of "security" which comes from not having any people around. I submit, that security is illusory (and sometimes blatantly racist). Real security comes from having neighbors, friends, and communities.

                The much-vaunted suburban schools aren't that great either. I mean, I guess some of them look good on paper, but it always seemed to me that the rampant anti-intellectualism of suburban culture offsets the advantages of having money to invest in shiny computers.

                I don't know, maybe poor urban schools are even worse (although rich urban schools are much better). Still, if my junior high and high school is what suburbanites are talking about when they say they live out in the boonies for "good schools" then it really isn't worth all the extra gasoline.

                People always say they live in the suburbs for their kids. Popular mythology, or possibly self-delusion -- kids don't like suburbs, adults do.

                •  I agree... (none)
                  ...I hate 'em too, but I understand why people live in them.  The author of this article doesn't.

                  No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

                  by CrazyHorse on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:34:27 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I had the same experience (4.00)
                  Grew up in the far-flung suburbs, and reached the same conclusion:  boy, I wouldn't want to raise kids there.

                  It was nice and quiet, and safe within the confines of the subdivision.  We had yards to play in and lots of undeveloped spaces.  On the other hand, there was absolutely nothing to do.  Everything was in the next town over---schools, libraries, stores, theaters---and it was too far to bike (or if you tried, your parents would kill you.)

                  Heck, outside of the subdivision's perimiter, just crossing a street could be lethal.  So even now that the area is surrounded by stores that spread from nearby towns, still people drive to get to them.

                  If you want to raise kids in the suburbs, you must be prepared to be their chauffeur all the time.  If you don't like this, hope that they never develop an interest in anything except for television.

                  As for crime, that may depend some on how old the subdivision is, and on surrounding cities.  A drug dealer would be crazy to ignore the income potential of thousands of bored kids stranded in cornfields, so a nearby city with drug or gang problems are your problem.  By the time I moved away, there were stabbings in my old high school, a drive-by shooting (!!) three houses down from mine (!!) and I knew two kids I went to school with who eventually got sentenced to prison for violent crimes, one of them infanticide.

                  On the other hand, my parents could afford a house there.  I agree with the poster way up the thread about the lack of choices people have:  sometimes our values are a luxury.


                •  Rush (the band) had a song about this (none)
                  Subdivisions (from the 1982 album "Signals"):

                  Sprawling on the fringes of the city
                  In geometric order
                  An insulated border
                  In between the bright lights
                  And the far unlit unknown

                  Growing up it all seems so one-sided
                  Opinions all provided
                  The future pre-decided
                  Detached and subdivided
                  In the mass production zone

                  Nowhere is the dreamer
                  Or the misfit so alone

                  Subdivisions ---
                  In the high school halls
                  In the shopping malls
                  Conform or be cast out
                  Subdivisions ---
                  In the basement bars
                  In the backs of cars
                  Be cool or be cast out
                  Any escape might help to smooth
                  The unattractive truth
                  But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
                  The restless dreams of youth

                  Drawn like moths we drift into the city
                  The timeless old attraction
                  Cruising for the action
                  Lit up like a firefly
                  Just to feel the living night

                  Some will sell their dreams for small desires
                  Or lose the race to rats
                  Get caught in ticking traps
                  And start to dream of somewhere
                  To relax their restless flight

                  Somewhere out of a memory
                  Of lighted streets on quiet nights...

                •  what are you talking about (none)
                  what do urban kids have to do that suburban kids dont?

                  and suburban kids get tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts, and other niceties that i'm sure are hard to come by in the big city

                  I believe in saving money. I believe in having a house. I believe in keeping things clean. I believe in exercising.

                  by The Exalted on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:43:22 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Changed to a 3 (none)
          because you did make it clear that you were talking about the "tone" of the diary and not the content.  Sorry.

          Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

          by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:48:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  yup (none)
      people like big houses and nice yards and good schools

      amazing -- they should be fried as class traitors!!

      I believe in saving money. I believe in having a house. I believe in keeping things clean. I believe in exercising.

      by The Exalted on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:44:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If by big houses (none)
        You mean McMansions, then yes, they should. ;-)

        But really, nice yards? Here in SoCal, they are lot fillers with very little yard. That makes no sense to me in this near perfect climate. Not to mention the lack of anything resembling architecture.


        "I am Joe's raging bile duct."

        by Floja Roja on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:15:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am a huge supporter of railroads (none)
    Instead of constantly bailing out the airlines and building Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens Memorial roads and bridges to nowhere, we should invest in railroads.  Unfortunately neither party wants to do that.

    As to the premise that driving causes Republicanism, that's silly.  That's like saying that milking cows causes Republicanism.

  •  Social Isolation (none)
    Cars certainly contribute to our ability to isolate ourselves but why do so many of us choose to do so in the first place?

    My family finally bailed 5 yrs ago from the city neighborhood we lived in for nearly 15 years.  During that period we were burglarized 4 times (once while in the house at night), had to deal with the constant thump-thump of cars, powered by speakers, flying up and down our street at all hours, 2 crack houses (one raiding involved evacuation of the entire neighborhood) and drunk/high folks banging on our door late at night thinking they were at a friends a block over.

    Depending on who was renting the house next door it was often a given that every weekend/holiday morning we'd be in our backyard picking up cig butts and broken glass so our kids could play there.  Neighborhood walks invariably involved demands (not requests) for cigarettes and/or spare change after a homeless shelter was established a few blocks away (anyone who tells you they don't lower property values has never tried to sell with one in their midst).

    Our suburb is quiet and very walkable.  The twisty nature of the roads make it impossible to speed.  Noise ordinances are strictly enforced.  Aggressive, obnoxious behavoir guarantees you will be gossiped about and ostracized, not high-fived and have your street-cred elevated.  Hardly anyone locks their door and we have an nice mix of young families, empty nesters and elderly folks that look out for each other.  

    Yes, we decided to isolate ourselves from the bad behaviour in our particular city and yes, the private auto enabled us to do so but the larger question should be why is all this bad behaviour allowed to drive folks away in the first place?

    •  Well (4.00)
      Well this is the crux of the issue: Cities are terrible dangerous places to live in and you can't encourage people to want to live in dense urban neighborhoods unless you cut out the crime and poverty. The problem with some cities is that they are TOO dense. I think its not acceptable to pick one urban spot and dump all the poor people and criminals there. That's what the government does by situating low income housing in one specific location. They create a virtual ghetto filled with obnoxious behavior and crime that drives out every middle-class person. The only way to stop cities from turning into dumps is to spread out low-income/affordable housing instead of concentrating it in specific urban spots.
      •  Huh? (none)
        _ Cities are terrible dangerous places to live in _

        Do you live in such a place? I think you've been watching too much TV - I live in a huge city and the primary danger we worry about is that Bushco doesn't seem to want to fund antiterrorism measures adequately (prot security etc.)

        Some cities are poor, and dangerous, and they got that way because roadbuilding and housing developers  gave the urban middle class an easy alternative to improving the communtiy the lived in.

        Other cities are not poor, and they are wonderful places to live.

        -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

        by sidnora on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:05:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do talk from experience (none)
          Affordable housing - a type of housing that accomodates the mentally ill, the very poor, and the criminal - tends to oftentimes be concentrated in specific urban areas. That's why you often a see a glut of affordable housing highrises and townhouses as well as mental health facilities in the same town and a complete absence of them in most others. Most towns' and cities mayors manage to rebuff attempts to build such affordable housing, but the few places that don't get inundated with it. Is it a wonder then, after all such building occurs, that the middle class families move out and the neighborhood becomes a haven of poverty, crime, and drugs?
      •  I disagree. (none)
        Not about giving the poor the option to live outside high-density areas but that it will solve the problem.  Rather, it assumes being poor = bad behaviour and that it should just be accepted.

        We need to stop glorifying thugs and ostracize them.  People should be ashamed of bad behaviour instead proud of it.  

        We moved specifically because of the behaviour of an increasing number of our neighbors, not the density or even poverty level (which was the same as when we moved there).  At least with many suburban neighborhoods, the inherent snootiness factor does at least keep such behaviour to a minimum.  Not ideal perhaps, but effective.

    •  It's not cities vs. suburbs (none)
      the larger question should be why is all this bad behaviour allowed to drive folks away in the first place?
      In July I went to New York City for the first time. It's the citiest of all cities, and has been for more than a hundred years.

      In the 70s, it was falling apart, a widely-cited example of urban failure.

      In July 2005 it was a vibrant, functioning city where a gal on her own could walk all over (even at night), take the subway everywhere, and gawk at the fireflies in Central Park, all without ever feeling even vaguely threatened.

      It wasn't any less "city" in 2005 -- they'd just cleaned up their act.

      I don't know why other cities can't clean up even tiny pockets of lawlessness, but it seems to simply be a lack of civic will -- a DECISION for cops to not bust people for blatant things like dealing drugs on the street that magnifies outward into a general tolerance of bad behavior.

      •  You're right (none)
        When Guiliani was mayor he cracked down on everything from broken windows to squeegie people, hookers and drug dealers.  The crime rate dropped dramatically.  People will be civil if they are expected to be civil.

        We live in upstate NY and would consider moving to the City but when the kids are grown - the cost of housing having what even resembles a bedroom is ridiculous!

    •  Sounds like you (none)
      live in an older suburb. Now laws require that new winding roads be very wide (for fire engines, etc.), so they make it very easy to speed. I love old hilly neighborhoods, wherever they may be.

      "I am Joe's raging bile duct."

      by Floja Roja on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:19:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, it is an older suburb (none)
        But we live on a macaroni corner, it is literally  a 180 degree angle.  No one speeds here, otherwise you end up in my next door neighbor's living room.

        Our neighborhood is an older ring suburb but fortunately very affluent and the busybodies here uphold the standard of life i.e. they call in every possible infraction according to their standards.  But it is a good thing.  NO noise or swearing or aggressive ANYTHING is tolerated, lest it be hotlined and the police here DO confiscate offending sound systems and arrest and fine loud, obnoxious people simply for being so.

        Plus,  kids' misbehaviour here gets you ostracized.  Your younger kids are no longer included in play dates or parties.  It is just uncomfortable to be on the outs here in evil suburbia!  

  •  I agree n/t (none)
  •  I couldn't disagree more. (none)
    I realize this is anecdotal, but here goes: My husband loves to drive. Loves his car. Will only drive a stick. Even though he drives around all day, in city traffic, in the course of his work, he's more than willing to drive somewhere on the weekend for fun, and his idea of the perfect vacation would be to pick out some interesting destination a week away from home, drive there, see it, and turn around and drive home (needless to say, I refuse to allow the last). We've driven all over the country, cross-country twice, all over Canada, all over Europe, and all with him at the wheel - that's right, city gal that I am, I don't drive.

    But here's the kicker: not only is he as liberal as you could want, he's a great driver, and a very safe, responsible one. His mom, who also loved to drive, and was a great driver, wasn't just liberal, she was a socialist. Neither of them ever bought a vehicle because it made them feel macho, powerful, or armored against the rest of the world.

    Now, if only they'd make a Prius with a standard transmission, he'd buy one of those, too.

    -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

    by sidnora on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:07:33 AM PST

    •  Anecdotal and irrelevant (4.00)
      The experience and joy of driving has very little to do with the economics and demographics of energy consumption.  I love driving, too, but I don't disregard the huge burden that our oil consumption has put on the world.  Hybrids can't solve the problem.  Only a major infrastructural overhaul will suffice.

      Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

      by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:17:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought this diary (none)
        was about cars causing Republicanism, which some people here seem to equate with aggressive, irresponsible driving, as well. The diary title was not "Cars Cause Pollution", or "Cars Cause World Energy Crisis".

        -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

        by sidnora on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:56:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  my husband is also blue as they come (none)
      And he's not the "love the driving experience" type that your husband is.  He's the stereotypical drive-to-the-store-instead-of-walking-10-minutes, hates-public-transit type guy.  I swear, when we were in grad school in Berkeley, there was a bus that went from our street corner and stopped in front of his building, but he still chose to drive each day and racked up hundreds of dollars in parking tickets in the process.  And he never walks to the grocery store, which really is only 10 minutes away.

      Me, I drive too, but that's because I'm usually carting the kids around -- I prefer walking when I can.

      We're both somewhat isolated from our community (I'm just not a people person so have a hard time making connections).  But we're unquestionably blue!

      •  Maybe (none)
        you should try a different angle on him - forget the public-transportation issue and suggest walking. I will say, in my husbands's defense, that when he's not behind the wheel he genuinely enjoys walking and hiking, though not quite as much as I do - I walk miles every day, as well as using public transportation almost exclusively. This is not an unusual thing here in NYC, the most pedestrian-friendly American city I know, and I don't have kids to deal with, which makes it simpler.

        -8.25,-8.36 As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it? - William Marcy Tweed

        by sidnora on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 07:28:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Politics of Sprawl (4.00)
    Hmm.. this is an interesting point of view.  There might be some opportunities for bipartisan support on this issue.

    The Politics of Sprawl: Why Republicans are embracing the anti-sprawl agenda

    What I found out was, the cost of their services -- schools, police, fire, water, sewer if they have it -- were substantially higher than they had been. And it's because as their populations have grown, they've had to build a new fire station, a new police station, a new elementary school, and then stock it with teachers and school buses. You put this stuff all together, and the people begin to call out, `We're sick and tired of taxation.'"

    And there lies the basis of a Republican reaction against sprawl that puts the `conserve' in conservative. Building redundant infrastructure costs public money. As Krebs expresses these concerns over coffee, his Greater Ohio colleague, Pat Carey asks, "So how do you keep your Republican credentials?"

    Essential funk: 'Impeach the President' by the Honeydrippers

    by pontechango on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:07:58 AM PST

    •  "schools, police, fire, water, sewer" (none)
      In my area in Florida, school buildings are paid for through impact fees.

      "Water" and sewer come with connection fees of several thousand dollars each.

      I live in a volunteer fire district and pay $60 a year for fire service.

      The only thing tax dollars provide to me are police, bus, and library services.

      Most new subdivisions are gated because the law permits developers to build cheaper roads if the roads are private. Most new neighborhoods near me have private guard service.

      The only thing government provides for most new middle class people in my area is schooling for children.

      Since fewer people have children and the increasing tendency in places like Raleigh, NC to bus children for NCLB performance, even the last remaining major government tax supported service [education] is coming under pressure.

      Since government increasingly doesn't provide wanted services for taxes, fewer people want to pay taxes.

    •  Uh, no. (4.00)
      Republicans are embracing "the anti-sprawl agenda" because it raises the value of their houses. It is Econ 101. If the demand goes up while the supply stays the same, the price goes up. That's why anti-sprawl efforts actually cause sprawl. If one jurisdiction constrains development, prices of existing houses (and approved lots) increase. To avoid this, people commute beyond the restricted area to the next county or next state. As the saying goes, "drive until you qualify" (for a mortgage).

      For example, I'm in Montgomery County, MD, a suburb of DC. In a case of a 70s fad run amok, about 1/3 of the county is set aside as an "Agricultural Preserve." (Uh, I thought that's what Nebraska was for.) As a result of the supply-demand imbalance, it is very difficult to find a house for less than $1 Million here. That's great for current homeowners, but a disaster for people trying to break into the market. Inevitably, people respond by going to the next county, Frederick, but Frederick has its own anti-sprawl restrictions and is also becoming very expensive. Where does it lead? A recent headline in the Real Estate section of the Moonie Paper put it best: "Washington's Newest Suburb: Gettysburg, PA."

      •  Not Even Close (4.00)
        1. No new-breed Republicans are embracing any serious anti-sprawl measures, nor are any mainstream Democrats for that matter.  (The main difference between the parties at the local level, where almost all land-use decisions get made, is that the Republicans favor no growth controls while the Dems favor growth "controls" that do not limit overall growth so much as direct it onto the land of big contributors.  They both suck, and one could make an argument that an ideologically pure Republican land-use policy would be better environmentally, though that ain't never going to happen....)

        2. Localized anti-sprawl measures do not meaningfully restrict supply.  In today's America, housing demand is regional: if you are moving to "Sacramento" you are really moving to a region that includes 5-6 counties and dozens of cities and towns.  Restricting the building of new houses in one municipality is a drop in the supply bucket and does nothing to change the overall supply and demand curve.  I have plenty of numbers to back this up, if you'd like them.

        3. To say that "anti-sprawl efforts actually cause sprawl" is childish.  Sprawl is not just growth--its low-density car dependent growth that eats up a large amount of land per person housed.  You can grow at a decent clip without sprawl if you focus on infill and high-density transit-oriented development.  That some nearby backwards municipalities might ignore this imperative and continue destoying land and resources at a faster clip only argues for regional growth controls and anti-sprawl measures.

        4. An Agricultural Reserve is hardly a "70s fad run amok," you ignoramus.  Nebraska can't grow all crops, and it can't grow crops that can be as efficiently transported to DC as those grown in Montgomery.  It also can't catch runoff, filter drinking water, provide habitat for animals, allow for a diversified economic base for Maryland, or serve as a resource hedge against future uncertainty.

        5. Don't like the million dollar houses?  Who does?  Go back 10, 20, and 30 years and look at the average home prices in DC and in several concentric suburbs and exurbs.  You'll see that the price increase as a matter of percentage over that period has been roughly the same, even though the outer rings have seen the most growth on a relative basis.  In my region, the fastest-growing suburbs have also seen the fastest appreciation.  In short, there is little correlation between land-use restrictions and relative housing prices.
        •  Try Again. (none)
          I'll grant you that different states have different systems of local government. Here, the key level of local government is the county and municipal governments, if they exist at all, have limited functions. In other states, cities and towns have the key role in land use policy, and restrictions in one jurisdiction have limited impact on a metropolitan area as a whole.

          Obviously, as you say, housing demand is regional, and the region's supply--or the region itself--will expand to meet that demand. If you squeeze on a baloon in one place it will expand in another. That's why it would have been better to say, "anti-sprawl efforts actually cause leap-frog development". Restricting development closer in will cause that development to occur further out. One way or another, an equilibrium will occur.

          Your comments regarding Agricultural Reserves are asinine. I'm all for useful open space--i.e., parkland, but pretending that a major metropolitan area is rural is just plain nutty. And what would it accomplish? American agriculture produces 40% more than is used for domestic consumption; as agriculture becomes more efficient we simply don't need as much farmland as we used to. I won't even mention the pollution caused by the ag industry.

          Who likes million dollar houses? Duh! Owners of existing houses. When scarcity of any good is artificially created, prices go up. Even Republican homeowners can figure out that buildiing restrictions are in their economic self-interest, regardless of who else is hurt.

  •  An opposing trend (none)
    I don't think that driving cars directly creates the psychology suggested in your diary.  Rather, cars allow us to live farther apart, and living farther apart creates the psychology of isolationism suggested in your diary.  It's much more indirect but there is a connection there.  The rise of the suburb was enabled by the automobile.  The suburb allows us more easily to live, if we choose, without being in a community with our neighbors.  It also allows us more easily to live in very remote rural locations where we can be even more isolated than in the suburbs.

    Now, on the other hand, I believe that the rise of all forms of transportation whether public or private has also had a dramatic and world-shifting liberalizing effect as well.  The easier it is for people to travel large distances, the more we feel connected in a global community and the less we emphasize local interests to the detriment of those who live far away from us.  The automobile is a great part of this.

    Life is like love in autumn

    by kenjib on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:29:22 AM PST

  •  And Wet Streets Cause Rain (4.00)
    Did you ever think that conservatives choose to live in the sprawling suburbs for reasons other than cars?  Like maybe they're trying to isolate themselves from oh, I don't know, poor blacks and hispanics.  I can't tell you the number of fucktards I work with who move out to the suburbs around Austin so they can be with "people like us."

    Also, did anyone ever think that liberals might choose to live in urban areas because that's where all the cool, "liberal" stuff is?  The art museums, coffee shops, night clubs, and funky, diverse neighborhoods.  I grew up in the suburbs with highly conservative, racist parents.  As soon as I could I moved to the "Big City" and I've lived in a highly urbanized area since then.  Same goes for most of my friends - we're all refugees from the suburbs.

    I don't buy this bullshit at all - Red State suburban types choose that life because it allows them to get a McMansion at a decent price and live in isolated neighborhoods surrounded by people of their own race and socio-economic class.  In the South, especially, there's a stigma attached to living in the city.  "Moving out to the suburbs" is about achieving the pinnacle of Southern, white success.

    It pisses me off to no end when Europeans of any political stripe try to diagnose America's social ills wihtout any kind of fundamental understanding of the Red State psyche.

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:32:04 AM PST

    •  Actually (none)
      Actually many suburbs are nowadays diverse, at least in the northeast. Immigrants also buy into the American dream of house, lawn, driveway and eventually get their own house in the suburbs. Its hard for me to believe that Hispanics from Southern states are perpetually stuck in cities. They probably move out to the suburbs too.
    •  I'm an American, (4.00)
      and I study urban planning. You're wrong, and the Europeans are right: It's relatively easy to show causation here.

      by Bensch on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:04:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  People can surprise you (4.00)
    Here in reddest-of-the-red Utah, proposals for light rail transit were laughed at for years by the right.  A tax increase for public trnasportation was voted down.  But the Utah Transit Authority kept at it, got federal money and built a light rail system for the Salt Lake Valley.  From day one, ridership exceeded even the most optimistic projections.  The system proved essential to hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Expansions have been built, and bigger expansions are planned.  Inter-city commuter rail is coming soon.  It turns out people are happy to leave their cars at home if there is an easier way to get where they want to go.

    Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on. --Winston Churchill

    by rmwarnick on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:38:35 AM PST

  •  Great job. (nt) (none)

    BushAmerica -- Now killing 24/7/365. *Your tax dollars at work*.

    by Yellow Canary on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:43:13 AM PST

  •  You say suburbs... (4.00)
    ...I say exurbs. Historically, the suburbs sprang up along public transport routes (rail commuter lines, bus routes, tram lines or "streetcars"), and while "Suburbia" is associated in Britain with a stodgy sort of conservatism, like John Cleese's famous civil servant working in the Ministry of Silly Walks, it at least wasn't the home of raving Jeremy Clarkson anti-social bile-filled pedal-to-the-metal wingnuttery. It takes the open spaces of Exurbania where the buses and trains don't go, to nurture such souls.

    Finem respice et principiis obsta—Consider the end, and thwart the beginning

    by Del C on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 08:48:06 AM PST

    •  Streetcar Suburbs.. (4.00) a great book about how the "suburbs" of Boston developed during the latter part of the 20th century along the rail lines.  These neighborhoods are now considered urban.  And in New York City, many of the subway lines that were built into the Bronx and Queens at the start of the 20th century extended into areas that were lightly populated.  What most people ignore in discussions about 'suburbs' is that most areas of today's oldest cities were once considered 'suburbs' or even 'exurbs' a century, or even decades ago.
      •  Century Correction (none)
        Latter part of the 19th century is when the Boston streetcar suburbs developed.  
      •  People say Horror! The red states' populations (none)
        are increasing! I say Great! Watch them turn blue!

        When gasoline prices go up, I don't expect the actual population of "exurbia" to go down, instead I expect them to transform from an even-density smear across the land to a more clumpy distribution, like water on a surface gone suddenly teflon.  New towns will appear as people move to where the buses go, and buses start running where the new towns appear.

        Finem respice et principiis obsta—Consider the end, and thwart the beginning

        by Del C on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:57:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cars do turn you into an asshole (none)
    I'm a daily bike commuter (sold my car 5 years ago), but when I drive a rental in another city, I turn into a raging idiot just like all the rest of them. It's the protection of being surrounded by steel that gives you that feeling of power. It plays into America's most important social problem, alienation.

    Lower your blood pressure. Take the bus or a bike. You just might meet your neighbors.

    •  I agree (4.00)
      I try to ride my bike whenever I can, but when its storming out I will drive. And when I do I drive like a jerk, just like everyone else.

      "In her mercy, history anesthetizes those whom she intends to destroy." -Leon Trotsky

      by gjohnsit on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:52:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  not me. (none)
      I left my bike commuting days behind six years ago.  I've got kids now so it isn't likely I'll be back on two wheels anytime soon.

      What bike riding taught me:

      Don't get into an accident.
      You get to see car accidents up close.  Even fender benders are a huge PITA and anything more could leave you carless for weeks.  

      There are telltales for jerk drivers, distracted drivers or drivers-who-don't-signal.
      Stay away from these clowns since they are accidents waiting to happen.  

      Better the jerks be in front than behind.  
      Let the jerk tailgating you get in front.  At least that way you can see what they are up to.

      Almost every stoplight is timed.
      The timing may vary with time of day and day of the week, but they have predictable patterns.  Braking wastes fuel.  My husband's highway driving mpg is about 3mpg above my city driving mpg.  Just pathetic, really. (damn, I'm good!)

      We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

      by Fabian on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:16:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is an alternate theory (4.00)
    I'd like to propose:  it's not the car which created the neocon, but the real estate paradigm which has led to the Big Bad Car phenomenon.

    The car was not a neoconservative lever, it was a profoundly democratizing machine.  Women drove for the first time, and not all men approved:  look at the Saudis, they still don't let women drive.

    I bicycle routinely on the Fox River Trail and the Prairie Path in the Chicago area.  These were once trolley tracks.  These trolleys connected Chicago with the western suburbs, and outlying cities such as Elgin, Aurora and West Chicago.  I went to a high school which was built within walking distance of one such trolley stop.

    Chicago area has the METRA system of passenger rail.  I've ridden it to Chicago for many years, along with millions of other commuters.  METRA grew along the old mainline trolley tracks.

    But passenger trains had never made money, not even in their heyday.  They were loss leaders, for the prestige of the rail companies.

    The post WW2 world was wildly different;  the burbs and the notion of a bedroom community was made possible by Levittown.  The inner cities emptied out, children who had grown up in the milieu of the city or in farm towns found themselves in these cookie cutter suburbs, with broad lawns and good streets but no downtown to support.

    The car was a necessity, and it was a natural reaction to these towns without cores.  The supermarket replaced the corner store.  People put their goods in their own carts, instead of asking a clerk to pick them out from behind a counter.  The old paradigms of town and city were replaced with more efficient models, and the car became a necessity:  groceries were not delivered.  In every major city, groceries and almost every comestible can still be delivered these days, but again, with a car, things were cheaper.  Costco doesn't deliver.

    I once lived at the end of a dirt and sand road, our house literally was the end of the road, and the Sahara Desert began in earnest behind it.  Our Jeep was not an isolating thing, it was our lifeline to the world.  I remember sitting in the back of that Jeep, with my sister deathly ill with malaria.  My mother would often regale company with embarrassing stories, as parents often will, telling of when I returned to the USA, looking out a hotel window in New York City, saying "When will the cars ever stop?"

    I moved to Old Town Chicago after leaving the military.  My car became irrelevant.  For most serious city dwellers, a car is a serious problem, and renting a parking spot is a line item in any budget.  For better or worse, it's not the car that's the problem, it's the suburb which created the problem.

    People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

    by BlaiseP on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:15:25 AM PST

    •  this was not a benign development (none)
      see my other post about "Asphalt Nation" - economic interests conspired to make this happen.

      Contrary to the myths, it didn't have to be this way, it was not consumer choice (market efficiency)or democratic choice driven, nor was it in any way a natural technological evolution that occured.

      Corporate conspiracy and greed driven, reinforced by corporate driven bad government planning and policy.

      •  It was a matter of short-sighted policy (none)
        but I have always said in a corollary to Occam's Razor: never attribute to conspiracy what stupidity will adequately explain

        Eisenhower's Interstate system created much of this mess, and that was a strategic decision, based on Germany's ability to rapidly transport troops and materiel within their own country.  The blowback was horrendous, as you correctly assert.

        People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

        by BlaiseP on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:12:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I just want to point something out... (4.00)
      about passenger trains and making money. You HAVE to compare passenger trains to highways - you can't compare them to a business because they aren't. They're public infrastructure. And they produce economic development the same way - in fact, more strongly, and in higher density - than highways.

      Passenger trains in extremely high density areas (like Japan) do make money, because their passengers' other option is to pay highway tolls that we would consider outrageous. As long as we sink 100 billion or more a year into the federal highways via a non-user fee system, nothing can compete - but we know perfectly well that tolls cut down on economic development, and that's why we used railways in the first place. They're more energy efficient, they're more cost efficient, and they allow for social interaction.

      by Bensch on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:01:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Indeed they do, and I am a strong advocate (none)
        of trains.  You are entirely correct in this clarification, and thank you for your addition of these details.  

        People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

        by BlaiseP on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 05:13:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yet it is a different story in the USA (none)
        where the distances are longer, and the maintenance of high-quality track is a vastly more expensive proposition.  I lived for four years in Germany, in Bavaria, and the railway system was maintained at a loss and later privatized into the Deutsche Bahn, which has rapidly diversified over time.  It is nowhere near ready to be classified as a publicly traded firm, yet it is a standard by which our own rail system could and should be measured.

        I have been in Japan, off and on for twenty years.  Japan Rail is not considered a profitable enterprise by any stretch of the imagination:  its relationship with the government has always been incestuous at best.  Japan Rail has huge liabilities under its various and sundry corporate entities, and like the US Postal Service has been a heavily regulated entity.  I would not call JR in any of its corporate incarnations a profitable enterprise.

        All this is moot:  as you point out, there are far larger considerations at hand.  American society is best served by a working mass transit system, as it has been similarly served by highway taxes and tolls to this point.  The USA has failed to exert any national will to make the rail system a priority, and mass transit in general has been given short shrift.

        People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others.

        by BlaiseP on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:03:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're right about Japan (none)
          and density, and about JR not "really" being profitable. But the interesting thing is - rails across the country are still cheaper to maintain than roads.

          by Bensch on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 11:01:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Tsk, tsk, tsk. (none)
    She spoke of "the great car-owning democracy", and asserted that "a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure".

    And I thought the Right, especially the economic Right, opposed social engineering by powerful government figures.

    Environmentalist dinosaurs worried about the new iridium-enriched reactors. "If they blow," they said, "only the cockroaches and the mammals will survive..."

    by ColoRambler on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:22:21 AM PST

  •  I sympathize whole-heartedly (none)
    and yet I can't imagine a worse way to set ourselves up.

    What better way to pull together a solid majority than to pick an issue that puts 90% of Americans on the wrong side.

  •  Great Diary (4.00)
    Conservatives or better stated the corporate elites that designed this economy had exactly this in mind. The idea is to create a society that's made up of people who are pre-occupied by their daily needs to own specific material goods in order to feel better about themselves and ignore the plight of others around them and forgo all self development for this need to continuously consume.

    The perfect example in this country can be seen in the difference between Northern and Southern states. I have had the pleasure of seeing life in several southern states that are very car centric communities. Rich or Poor you can not get around efficiently without a car, it is done to keep people separated and closed off in their neighborhoods. These communities revolve around one thing shopping, strip malls abound with little to no public transportation.

    My girlfriend and I had a conversation with a man that is living in the Richmond VA area and works for the school system. We got into a discussion about how to revitalize the city of Richmond which for the most part is a dump. The main thing that he talked about was how they were building all these new housing developments and shops to attract young people to the city. Currently, everyone that has any monetary means lives outside of the city in the surrounding suburbs and spend the majority of their time shopping in the various malls.

    We proceeded to explain to him that if you want to attract young smart college grads that would make Richmond home and not move to say northern Virginia, D.C. or Maryland you need more than just shops. The operative word is "Culture" we explained. Young college grads that will come and stay do not want to spend their Saturdays driving from one mall to another to shop for the latest gadget so they can keep up with Jones. They want Art, Music, Theater, etc. they want to get up in the morning and know that city offers more that just the latest Bloomindales to shop in.

    The current political elites are served well by the way this society is setup. If we are to win this battle and create a society that values the individual and celebrates an inclusive community we have to speak to the misplaced priorities of the system.

    •  Your comment made me think... (none)
      In my experience, the most desirable and alive places that I've found in cities and large towns - both in and out of the US - are those places that are off-limits to automobiles.

      Closing a street or area always seems to be opposed. Until it happens, then almost everyone wants to live, work and shop in the area. And such areas almost inevitably become an oasis of culture.

  •  Red States (none)
    Red States are that color mostly because they are still reliving the Civil War; not because of cars.
  •  Peak Oil will fix that (none)
    $3 gas wasn't just for last year. We'll see it this summer again. And every summer from now on.
      And if we attack Iran we'll see $5 gas.

    "In her mercy, history anesthetizes those whom she intends to destroy." -Leon Trotsky

    by gjohnsit on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 09:50:25 AM PST

  •  one more bit of data for you... (none)
    Pollkatz' excellent graph of gas prices and Bush approval -- anyone see a correlation?
  •  Well if my (none)
    lifelong love of the automobile makes me a Republican, then I guess I'm as red as transmission fluid.
    •  I am blue (none)
      like windshield washing liquid.

      More seriously, one can make many steps to drive responsibly: buy the most efficient car that budget and household needs allow, drive consideratedly, carpool at occasion (e.g. for shopping if not practical for work), have the commuting distance and public transit in your mind when you are looking for a new home (also: be energy efficient in your home)

  •  Read "Asphalt Nation" (none)
    by Jane Holtz Kay for an excellent historical overview of how the car culture has destroyed US cities, the natural landscape, air & water quality, and any semblance of architecture, place or community.

    There's a lot more than republicans and  libertarians at play here.

    Then there's the story of the conspiracy of US rubber, tire, oil, road construction, real estate, and auto corporate interests to destroy city mass transportation systems. I think it was in teh 1920-30"s that they purchased and then bankrupted city trolley, bus, and rail lines in order to destroy any auto competition. I forgot the name of the case, but there was a conviction on conspiracy charges, with a $1 dollar fine - anyone recall this case or have links to literature on it?  

    •  Yes, it's a well-documented story. (none)
      Jane's book is wonderful, but another much slimmer volume I recommend is Stanley Hart's "The Elephant in the Bedroom." Here's a selection about the conspiracy you mention:

      Automobile manufacturers, oil, tire and related interests formed holiding companies, like National City Lines, and purchased street car systems throughout the nation. [They did it in my town, I've researched it quite a bit.] They then proceeded to junk the rail lines and vehicles and replace them with their own product - buses, tires and motor fuel. The converted firms, no buses only, were then spun off to become the orphaned charges of local governments. The conspirators were tried and finally convicted in 1976; they were fined $5.000.

      Not $1 as you mention, but still! As Hart points out, however, this conspiracy (and it's fact not theory) is a convenient scapegoat. The real villians

      are the collection of public policies which strongly favored the automobile over the streetcar resulting in the critical loss of transit patronage. The conspiracy was merely the coup de grace.

      "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

      by Mother Mags on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:58:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry, (none)
        block quote should read: "The converted firms, NOW buses only" Makes a difference.

        "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

        by Mother Mags on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:01:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  No scapegoat (none)
        Who do you think shaped and even crafted the public policies?

        The same economic interests that engaged in the conspiracy!

        I work in plannning anpublic policy, adn only put that stuff out there to counteract a complete misreading of the overall thrust of the diary.

        •  No disagreement there. (none)
          I believe what Hart is saying (and why he calls it a scapegoat - although you may disagree with the label) is that the die was cast before the buy-out, precisely because of the policies steamrolled through Congress by big oil, auto, tire, highway construction, etc. THAT is what we should be looking at, and THAT is what we should continue to focus on. I too work with communities on planning, etc., and one is always struck by the power of the transportation lobby in towns large and small. (I note your Civic Society name. Years ago I did a lot of research and writing in the history of civil society in America. Used to be a Fellow at the Kettering Foundation, if you know that group.)  

          "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

          by Mother Mags on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 09:00:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  bicyclist from a smallish town (none)
    100 k in "metro area", university town so semi-decent buses to campus from a lot of places.

    I regularly bike 4 miles one way with small hills (200 ft up each way).  Some observations:

    4 lane highways are OK, with the middle lane and wide shoulder it is very good bicycling and decent for turns.

    Windy roads without shoulder are OK because visibility is bad and drivers are very careful.

    Straight roads without shoulders are reputed to be dangerous (I have a blessing that I do not need to ride on any of those).

    We got some bike paths and the situation is slowly improving.

    The lack of shoulders on many suburban/rural roads is ridiculous.  If you have a windy road on a slope it may be hard to make shoulders and it is actually OK for bicyclists (if not for drivers), but try to tell it to a fretful mother.  One thought: with streets safe for bicycling, wouldn't be possible for kids with after-school activities to go there on bikes, saving a lot of fuel and a lot of time for their parents (even if only in good weather)?

  •  I don't vote Republican, (none)
    so why should I support them by buying gasoline from Republican oil companies, and cars from Republican car companies?

    I stopped driving when Bush took office. My life has steadily improved ever since - I moved to an actual "neighborhood" (remember those?) where I can walk everywhere, or take the train or bus, or ride my bike. My apartment is small & a little cramped, I don't have 5 acres to stare across at my leisure, but the benefits are immeasurable. And my conscience ... never cleaner.

    There used to be a bumper sticker you could put on your car that said "I'm polluting the environent." A while back, I made bumper stickers that said "I'm giving money to Republicans." Because every time you go to the gas station, that's what you're doing.

    GREAT fucking diary. And recommended.

    I am the federal government.

    by mateosf on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:29:40 AM PST

    •  cramped appartment (none)
      I lived for 14 years like that, and I found it great way to save money.  You just do not have space to accumulate junk, so you have to spend wisely (do I need it?  do I have place for it?)
      •  I'm 46 (4.00)
        and still living that way. I have a small condo in San Francisco (small by most people's standards, I'd guess). The inability to buy crap because of space considerations also frees up money for the ballet, the opera, and entry fees for ultramarathons. Same goes for not having wheels. After my car was stolen a couple years ago, I just never bothered to replace it, and I couldn't be happier. I run everywhere I need to go, and I'm in the best shape of my life.

        Of course, everybody in my family is wondering when I'm going to "outgrow" my lifestyle. I think some people view carlessness as a transitory situation, sort of like being single. It's supposedly not optimal and it should only be considered temporary. Well, I'm carless and single, and I like both!

        Obviously, in the city it's much easier not to have a car. (It's probably also easier to be single.) :P

        •  easy for married (4.00)
          too, especially if your spouse has a car.

          Which is my situation.  People should remember that this is not all or nothing question.  Able-bodied (and fearless?) folks can commute using muscle power, and stay able-bodied in the process.

          •  Major health issue (4.00)
            I mentioned it briefly in a post upthread (or downthread, I don't know now). Car culture, suburbs, exurbs, mega-meals, mega-mansions, mega-buying sprees, all contributing to an epidemic of obesity in this country.

            People need to get off their asses and get a little exercise. What works for many people because of their schedules is simply making exercise part of their normal daily routine, i.e., walking to work, biking to work, biking the 4 blocks or 2 miles or whatever to pick up a few groceries - whatever.

            I don't have kids, so I know this throws another iron into the fire. But I see people on bikes pulling their kids behind them in little kid carrier things attached to the bike. It's easy to discuss if, like me, you live in a city, don't drive, don't have kids, etc.

            We need more government level solutions to these problems, too. It's hard to devise individual solutions when so much of the entire landscape is devoted to the car culture. And when bad food, like meat and dairy, is so highly subsidized and fruits and veggies are not accesible to everybody - but that's another diary. :)

        •  Nice. (4.00)
          Can we start a "single & carless in San Francisco" support group for political wonks?

          Agreed, it is very hard to explain to the autoholics in my life that not having a car is not a fad or a stage in my life - it is a part of my core values as a human and influences every lifestyle decision I make.

          Perhaps I'll "run" into you on the trails in GG Park one of these days ...

          I am the federal government.

          by mateosf on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:39:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Drive Thru (none)
    If you want to expand the discussion a bit, go back to the 50's and 60's when muscle cars and land yachts were the rage.  Since everyone wanted to be in a car (and had no idea they would kill the planet eventually), every business wanted to adapt to that market.  Hence, the creation of the drive-thru, which in my opinion is one of the most grievous inventions of the 20th century.  The history of the drive-thru is the history of how Americans came to value convenience over anything.  If it is cheaper to make or easier to get, we want it!  Damn the consequences!

    Keep your constitution close my friends, and read it daily.

    by smokeymonkey on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 10:56:33 AM PST

    •  Crabgrass Frontier (4.00)
      There's a wonderful chapter in Ken Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier, about the surburbanization of America, called "The Drive-in Culture of Contemporary America." He discusses how the following developments have changed the landscape - natural, cultural, social, economic.
      1. Interstate highway system
      2. The Garage
      3. The Motel
      4. The Drive-in Movie
      5. The Gas Station
      6. The Shopping Center
      7. The Mobile Home
      8. Drive-in Restaurants, Banks, Churches, etc.
      9. Surburbs
      10. Office Parks

      "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner [-7.13 -6.97]

      by Mother Mags on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:15:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hiding the Hummers (4.00)
    No one is buying, and the auto industry does not want you to know.

    Great investigative report here.

  •  Bicycles are Regressive (none)
    I totally agree with a transit first policy, but I totally disagree with the idea that bicycles are the answer.

    Bicycle transportation is useful for people who:

    • are healthy
    • are young
    • don't have kids to transport

    In other words, the same people who already get all the other breaks.  That's the opposite of what I consider liberal values.  

    Instead, how about solutions that will help those who need transportation help: making busses wheelchair accessible; providing carshare cars that will fit a family; getting the elevators working (and accessible) on the subways; improving the reach and affordability of rail networks

    •  On being healthy (4.00)
      Bicycles can be helpful for getting unhealthy people back to a healthy state. I agree that there are populations of people who don't fit this description and for whom bikes would never work.  But given the obesity epidemic in this country, it would be a huge health savings for people to just get off their asses and get out of the car for short duration trips, and start getting some exercise, the physiologic benefits of which accrue over time.  I can't think of a better way than getting on a bicycle and riding that 4 or 5 miles to the store (or even 1 or 2 miles) to pick up the DVD, return the library books, or run to the post office.

      Working exercise into a daily routine would work to keep many more people in shape. Just the little stuff, like stairs instead of elevators, walk or bike to the store, etc., can help.

      I agree with the other points you made. We do need better alternatives for EVERYBODY, including those with disabilities, people with  kids, people in outliers, etc.  

    •  Bicycling is not just for the young (4.00)
      In Germany and the Netherlands, seniors make nearly 45 percent of their trips on foot and by bicycle.

      Those counties have tons of dedicated cycling infrastructure there, and laws are on the side of pedestrians and cyclists, rather than drivers.

      While in the U.S., in most places you need to be in good shape and aggressive to cycle safely. But that's not the only way it can be -- that's just the way it is now.  

      You're full of beans, and so's your old man!

      by skeptigal on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:34:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  All the breaks? (4.00)
      Funny, I don't ever recall getting a tax credit for not having any kids...

      I have no beef with your proposals, but why should the solutions be limited to just those? If all the, in your words, healthy, young, childless people are enabled by infrastructure and policy to commute by bicycle, isn't that to the benefit of all?

      And as to "healthy and young": I'm in my late forties and still cycle thousands of miles a year, and I know folks in their 70s who do the same (albeit not as fast). And of course all the exercise goes to keep one healthy and young.

  •  An interesting theory.... (none)
    but I can't agree that cars are the sole cause for Conservatism.

    In this country anyway I wonder how much time those driving cars listen to hate radio? My guess is that a number of them do perhaps it isn't their view of the world in the car that is solely responsible for changing their political affiliations...perhaps it is that combined with several other of which would most likely be hate radio (and I don't just mean Rush and his moron buddies like Hannity and O'Lielly....I mean Mancow in the morning too...that fucker has been pissing me off for years now. He's spreading conservative philosophy to high school students who listen to him in the morning...and not just that, but racism, homophobia, and sexism too...

    •  I should say that (none)
      I own a car and live in an area with virtually nil public I have to drive a lot....and I don't really look at society as an least not most of the time. But when I do get annoyed with drivers that are driving too damn slow or like morons (such as my neighbors across the street who feel the need to sit in their cars at 3 am and rev their engines so they can peel out of the driveway and down the street...I have called the police on them 4 times now btw)...I typically blame that specific driver....I don't generalize...and most of the time that idiot driver also has a Bush/Cheney sticker....or some other republican label on their car...

      I really hate my neighbors though....stupid macho idiots wasting gas and making noise in the middle of the damn night....bastards...

  •  Auto Etiquette (none)
    I think the real issue here is:  if I can't pick my nose while driving, when can I pick my nose?

    Is there an acceptable protocol for such activities?
    For example, nose picking at traffic light--misdemeanor; nose picking at high speeds--OK, as long as cell phone is in hands free mode.

  •  I don't agree -- many issues hobbed into one (4.00)
    I don't agree that cars cause Republicanism. That's a sweeping generalisation and I feel it's incorrect.

    I believe that you are hobbing two issues into one. First is the issue of the availability of public transportation and the use of alternative transportation. Second is the issue of what you describe as "libertarianism" when it comes to car ownership: the supposed "trampling" of the society by the car owners.

    Correlation does not imply causation. When you see that more rural areas tend to vote Republican, I think car ownership has little to do with it. I think the types of jobs that people have in those areas, plus the less diverse environment that they are exposed to on an everyday basis contribute much more to the "Republicanism".

    "Traffic calming" and "speed limits" are these nasty phrases that are disingeniously used by people who want to push everything in the name of safety, but ignore the science. Pardon me, though, because I am a liberal car geek who loves my science.

    The science and research, and I am just giving you tidbits here, say that when the Nationally Mandated Speed Limit was repealed, the states that increased their limits from 55 to 65 actually reduced their traffic fatality rates. Many traffic calming attempts actually lead to driver rage, worse accidents, impairs emergency vehicles, to the point where the NY DOT advises to not install STOP signs to slow down traffic, because they cause higher speeds between the intersections. Traffic calming devices such as speed humps also significantly increase emissions (city of Portland, ME saw a 48% increase in emissions from installing humps, and that's not counting the extra gas from speeding up and slowing down).

    See, to me, it's much better to do things like what San Jose (I think, it was a CA city) did: they synchronized, re-timed their traffic lights and significantly reduced traffic (I believe the figure was 30%), while saving a lot of fuel and significantly reducing emissions.

    Given a choice, most people would rather not drive, at least during their daily commute. Unfortunately, given the transportation system state in most of this country, many people have no choice but to drive. I know many many folks here in the NorthEast who would gladly ditch their car if there was a reasonable transportation alternative.

    What also we need are initiatives to further promote (and perhaps reward) carpooling, and other commuter options in places where public transportation is lacking.

    Another thing that we need is safe bikeways to promote biking. I could bike to work--but the last 6 miles of the commute are on scary (to a biker) suburban roads, where the drivers are unfamiliar with bikes on the roads.

    Most people just want to get to where they are going. Removing artifically low speed limits, optimizing traffic patterns and lights, better driver education and training are all the things that contribute to a smoother flow of traffic and general public safety. That is an issue that is unrelated to the fact that so many people HAVE to drive (not CHOOSE to drive).

    Chris, I know that you are very much against the widespread car use that is prevalent in the U.S. However, that's no reason to make such sweeping accusations as "cars cause Republicanism."

    •  traffic calming is real and needed (none)
      Of course, I think you are talking about highways.

      I'm talking about high density urban areas with too much traffic going too fast.  I sat in on community meetings talking about the problem.  Conclusions: The problem is real, not imagined.  The problem is generated locally.  The problem is not going away.

      The solution is raised intersections which are safe at 25 mph - which is the legal speed limit in Ohio's residential streets anyhow.  The biggest problem was accomodating the needs of emergency vehicles.   Suggestions of trying to restrict turns or reroute traffic physically were killed because no one wanted to be the one waiting for an extra five minutes for emergency services to negotiate a maze.

      We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

      by Fabian on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 01:27:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You should know that I love these slightly absurd (4.00)
      and over-reaching diary titles. They really get folks thinking and arguing. I don't believe that cars are the main cause of Repulicanism, but they do contribute. And if we had a more, dare I say it, European aproach to public transit and gas taxes we might not have so damn many of them.

      Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
      Czeslaw Milosz

      by Chris Kulczycki on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 02:53:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Here's some science on traffic calming (none)
      Traffic calming -- and no, I'm not talking about crappy speed bumps, those are soooo '80s -- is necessary to make people feel safe walking because the likelihood of being killed by a car increases enormously with relatively small increases in the vehicle's speed.

      If I'm hit by a car going 20 mph, odds are only 5 percent I'll be killed.

      At 30 mph, the likelihood I'll be killed jumps to 37-45 percent.

      At 40 mph, it's in the 80 percent range.

      If people are to have the option of walking anywhere rather than driving, cars need to be slowed the hell down.

      You're full of beans, and so's your old man!

      by skeptigal on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:45:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  cars cause conservatism? (none)
    Then I'm kinda scared to think what I'd be without my cars... I might just sit around chanting for world peace all day in a hippie commune in the woods somewhere.

    Seriously though, this seems like about as good an argument as Ann Coulter's claim that moving out of your parents basement and getting a "real job" will cure a person of being a liberal. I'm three times as liberal now as I was before graduating from college. And I own TWO CARS. Of course my second car is a big wacky artcar. But, dude, two cars... how gratuitous is that? The things I love about cars really have nothing to do with politics.

    conscientious objector in the battle of the sexes.

    by plymouth on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 11:57:52 AM PST

    •  And just to be clear... (4.00)
      I want higher gas taxes.
      I want higher gas prices in general.
      I want stricter emissions standards and CAFE standards.
      I want more green technologies available in vehicles.
      I want better public transportation to be more widely available.

      But, goddamnit, I DO NOT WANT TO GIVE UP MY CARS. They are my babies.

      conscientious objector in the battle of the sexes.

      by plymouth on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:00:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Amen brother (none)
        Let's be reasonable here. I'm pretty liberal on most issues, but I live in a medium-sized city with very little public transpo, and both my wife & I work about 1/2 an hour from where we live. We don't drive hybrids, but our cars aren't totally irresponsible. Cars aren't the problem. People who think the world was created a few thousand years ago are.
  •  Minnesota bike paths (none)
    When visiting my family in Rochester, MN my younger brother took me on a tour of the area bike paths and I was amazed by what I saw to say the least. Bike paths in little Rochester, MN weaved there way through a large portion of not only the urban center but miles of path connecting the outer suburban centers to the city. And its only warm enough to bike there approx 4 months out of the year!!! Guess it pays to live near the Mayo Clinic...

    I grew up in semi-rural upstate New York, and even there biking on any road that might be considered for regular traffic use required at least a 10% desire to end your own life.

    Now I live just outside of Baltimore, 8 miles from where I work, and would love nothing more than to bike there safely rather than drive, but it would be a suicide mission.

    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - JFK

    by jrieth on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:06:37 PM PST

    •  bike paths in mn are amazing (none)
      I just moved here from the SF Bay area, and the twin cities area has some extraordinary bike routes. Far beyond anything I've seen anywhere else.

      It's not true you can use them only 4 months a year, though, if it snows enough I believe some are good for cc skiing and other winter activities.

    •  temperature is not much of an issue (4.00)
      if they remove snow from the bike paths.  On flat-flattish terrain, bicycling at 20F can be quite  comfortable given proper gogles. gloves and hood over the helmet.

      (On steeper uphills, you pant and get lungfuls of frigid air, so you have to do it pretty gently).

      I would presume that Minnesota has at least 9 months above 20F.

  •  Mass rail transit (4.00)
    When I saw the headline I knew I had to read this, because it's a phenomenom I've picked up on as well. One thing that encourages me, though it's not nearly as widespread as it should be, is the grow of light rail transit in our cities. I believe that where there's mass rail transportation, people get the sense that we're all in this together, and are far less likely to vote conservative. No wonder Republicans hate Amtrak, etc. (Delay has vigorously opposed rail transit expansion in Houston).The one time I've ever applauded Bill Frist was a few months ago when he secured federal funding to finish a commuter rail system in Nashville (about the biggest area of metropolitan sprawl in the country), due to start in April with one route and with plans to expand in other directions. Rail transit systems (Americans are far, far, far more likely to use mass transit if it's rail rather than bus) are expanding around the country, from Los Angeles to Denver to northern Virginia (though unfortunately Washington Metro's expansion past Dulles airport isn't due to be finished until 2015, with the first stations to open in 2011). This should be a number one agenda for Democrats, as it's beneficial for energy savings/independence, revitalizing urban centers, preventing sprawl, improving public health/reducing stress, and more. See for more.

    Buckle your handbaskets, America.

    by Soy Lechithin on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:16:12 PM PST

  •  Only mitigated by my radio (none)
    As I drive my Toyota SUV to and from work, I listen to KPFK (Pacifica) and Air America. That's really the only place I have to listen to unabashed liberal radio.......

    So, though I'm destroying the environment and aiding the opposition, at least my mind is staying clear.

    Also, who knows the environmental cost of replacing an SUV with a more fuel efficient car? How long do you have to drive to make up for the impact of production of a whole new vehicle? The trick is not to get started with an SUV.

    BTW, If the bus ran from home to work, or the train didn't require a car at both ends, I'd be on mass transit daily.

    What do members of the Repub. leadership say when they bump into Pres. Bush? "Pardon me."

    by mungley on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:40:21 PM PST

  •  Drive it like you stole it (4.00)
    I drive quite a bit in the course of a week and I think the interaction with others on the road is fascinating and often frustrating.

    Others have touched on it here - how getting into the car changes ones personality.  I've often made the comment to my girlfriend that there's a great disparity in that I rarely meet people who I would categorize as being unpleasant yet on the road people seem to be so angry and aggressive.  I frequently defer to others on the road because I'm fairly laid back and frankly I'm not in all that much of a hurry to get to work.  And at the end of the day everyone is in such a rush to get home and "relax" - why not get a head start and chill out listening to some good music DURING the drive home?  I like to think that I consciously choose to be a fairly courteous driver so I just don't understand how the people I observe being purposefully confrontational and intimidating don't have the self awareness to see what their behavior is like (I'm certainly not without fault - I make mistakes like anyone and if someone is particularly obnoxious I will sometimes try to make things a bit more difficult for them than I might otherwise).  

    I think this spills over into other aspects of their life - experiences are reduced to racing from one point to another - they've forgotten the cliche of life being about the journey not the destination.  It just seems that so many don't seem to have any awareness of the world around them.  I go back and forth with this aspect of this issue - sometimes I think it is almost purely societal in origin - the way of life we've succumbed to - getting more and more squeezed for time and more pressured in so many aspects of our lives.  But other times I actually feel pretty sad because I think maybe the free-for-all I witness daily is a reflection of true human nature in a situation where it can be displayed without any immediate repercussions.  I certainly don't think the Republicans have a lock on this kind of behavior but I can see how there could be the interpretation of at least a casual association between the two, given this weird atmosphere of aggression, anger and disregard for the "common good" (i.e. fellow motorists) I witness on the road everyday.

  •  Cars cause the Highway Lobby (4.00)
    Most people who saw "Who's Afraid of Roger Rabbit" are unaware that the basic plot was based on a true story.  The unholy nexus of Detroit automakers, highway construction companies, and their political catspaws deliberately undermined and wrecked the public transportation systems we used to have (foremost among them Pacific Electric which served the LA area) and have actively conspired ever since the keep public transportation as marginal as possible.
    Unfortnately the Highway Lobby has as many Democratic stooges as Repugs.
  •  One solution - terrapass (none)
    I just clicked the link for the terrapass ad on the DailyKos home page.  This is a really creative solution for those who must drive but want to minimize the impact on the environment:
  •  Subarus (none)
    I've been very perplexed about the following.. Has anyone else noticed that like 90% of Subaru Foresters/etc. are owned by liberals? Not only just liberals but very vocal and demonstrative liberals(often with a lot of Pro-democrat/anti-bush stickers). I found this very strange and I now call them the HUMMER of the liberals. I'm sure many of you here own them so please tell me what the draw is :)
    •  Volvo of the millennium? (none)
      I've got 2 friends who have Subarus, both flaming liberals. A third is planning to trade in his Toyota for one. I wouldn't call these people "vocal" liberals, but they are politically liberal, yes. I had dinner recently with the guy who wants to do the trade-in, and he practically spittled all over one of those cars that he saw parked in the street. He wants to move to Seattle, and he kept saying, "Doesn't this look like a Seattle car?" Jesus, how would I know? I've practically forgotten how to drive a car. And after you go without wheels for a while, all cars start looking the same.

      For the outdoor enthusiasts who haul all the gear around, those cars are probably great. You know the ones - they  go into the country overnight and sleep on the ground (?camping). (That wouldn't be me.) :)

      •  I drive a Ford Focus Wagon. (none)
        Just bought it, traded in my Windstar because 3 of our 4 kids have their own cars now so we have no longer need the roominess.

        The Windstar, much as we loved it, was a gas hog, the Focus is a gas sipper.  Plus, it is zippy on pick up and is just plain fun to drive.  I would recomment the Focus to anyone looking for a good, economical vehicle.

  •  Urban Planner here (4.00)
    I agree.  Wish I had more time to comment now.

    Check out my lte archive at and feel free to use my ideas for your own lte's.

    by DemDachshund on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 03:02:26 PM PST

  •  Distorted statements (none)
    like these:

    Driving down a typical American suburban collector road during rush hour will convince anyone that most drivers do see the world as an obstacle. And sitting at a traffic light watching them pick their noses, apply makeup, or stuff egg sandwiches into their faces demonstrates the regard they have for their counterparts. These are not members of polite society. Such a civil disconnect cannot be anything but a manifestation of hyper-individualism run amok.

    make you wonder what type of regard the writers have for their counterparts. Okay, I'll grant that (in my personal opinion), an egg sandwich is a disgusting thing. But how many feet away do you need to be to determine that someone is stuffing his or her face with one rather than simply eating it? And how many inches away do you need to be to determine that it's an egg sandwich at all?

    So basically, Mr. Monbiot is pressing his face against car windows -- and is horrified to discover people doing things that they assume will go unnoticed except by people who peep through car windows. This is a scandal? Personally, I'd rather that he focus on the road.

    "I think that in modern America, we have far too many options for breakfast cereal and not enough options for president." - Barry Schwartz

    by AlanF on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 04:15:59 PM PST

    •  I Think You've Misinterpreted Him (none)
      Monbiot is not getting outraged over the fact that people are picking their noses or stuffing their faces with hard-boiled eggs, just noting that people do have a sense of invisibility inside their cars and a corresponding lack of sense that the road is a public place.  

      That disconnect between their behavior and the social good is a troubling sign of larger behavior patterns, but it also has a more concrete manifestation: endangering others by driving while eating, phoning, or putting on make-up.

  •  Pardon the interruption but. (none)
    Go Longhorns!!!!!
  •  not just short sighted stupidity (none)
    The interstate system may have been publicly justified and sold as a national defense transportion system, but this scam was very similar to the Iraq war justificaion as WMD and democracy. Just like oil interests and Haliburton contractors are behind the scenes benficiaries masking the real agenda, so too the interstate system.
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