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Archive for January, 2006

2 Ways To Skin A Precedent

[ 0 ] January 10, 2006 |

For those of you who don’t read the long, boring articles, let me briefly summarize why Alito’s elevation to the court will be extremely bad for reproductive rights, with links to some more detailed arguments. There are two viable possibilities, and both lead to exactly the same place. And for both outcomes, it is important to remember this fact, which is too often forgotten: abortion bans are always enforced in a grossly arbitrary and inequitable manner (cf. not only the pre-Roe period but the sky-high abortion rates in Latin America.) Affluent women, who have the resources to travel and the connections to know which doctors perform grey market abortions, will have access to safe abortions irrespective of the legal regime. The question is whether this access will be given to all women, or whether some classes of women will have to resort to illegal abortions. Once we understand this, the implications of Alito’s elevation are clear:

  • Overturning Roe directly. Alito could very well join Justices Scalia and Thomas and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade directly, which would be consistent with his explicit claims that the Constitution does not protect reproductive rights. The effects of this would be abortion bans in 15-30 states, 17 of which would go into effect automatically and immediately. (Amanda has a handy chart demonstrating the effects.) It would also make abortion a major federal issue. Arguments to the contrary tend to focus on the fact that abortion bans are generally unpopular, which might be relevant if the United States were governed by initiatives with full turnout. But in the system of government we actually have, the state has considerable autonomy from public opinion, and the fact that abortion bans matter most to the women with the least political power tends to skew legislative outcomes in a heavily anti-choice direction. (And this can be easily seen by that fact that on the day Roe was decided abortion was criminalized in 46 states although public opinion on abortion was virtually identical.)

In other words, whether or not Alito would actually vote to overturn Roe per se is fundamentally beside the point. The effects of what we know he will do–allow states to make access to abortion very difficult while simultaneously making it much more difficult to challenge these regulations in court–and overturning Roe are virtually identical. In either outcome, safe legal abortions will become the almost exclusive privilege of affluent women, while women who need them the most will be largely denied access. Particularly since Alito is replacing O’Connor–who was the fifth vote for giving the “undue burden” standard any teeth at all–the importance for women’s reproductive freedom of keeping him off the Court can scarcely be overstated.

Make sure to check out all the great Blog For Choice posts.

Whither NATO?

[ 0 ] January 10, 2006 |

Every session at this conference revolves around the question of what NATO’s future should look like. One speaker pointed out that this is not a new question; it has been asked in one way or another since the earlier 1950s. Concerns about the relevance of NATO have arisen in response to the re-arming of Germany, the withdrawal of France, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the establishment of Ostpolitik, and, of course, the end of the Cold War. Remarkably, NATO hasn’t really “re-invented” itself in response to any of these, with the exception perhaps of the last, and even that did not produce a significant structural change.

In my view, NATO is and ought to be a collective security organization of limited regional scope, one that is committed to defending the values and physical security of the North Atlantic community on a regional basis. This mission should include the establishment of stable democracies within and on the borders of the NATO alliance. I do not hold to the view, put forth by Jose Maria Aznar, that NATO ought to dramatically expand its geographic scope. The proposal doesn’t really make much sense to me; adding Japan, Brazil, India, and other major democracies would certainly emphasize the values of aspect of NATO’s mission, but at a cost of giving up its regional focus. Moreover, the administrative structure of NATO would make no sense in the context of adding these large democracies; why would Japan be interested in seriously investing resources in an organization where it held no more official power than Belgium or Portugal? This is not to say that some formal organization including the world’s major democracies is undesirable. It is to say that such an organization ought not start with the NATO framework.

Within the narrow focus that I suggest, NATO can still do good work. For all of its problems, the Kosovo operation was a success. Critics rightly point to the difficulties of coalition warfare, but in my view there is no Kosovo War without NATO; critiques of execution are beside the point. NATO played a critical role in convincing the major players that a problem existed, and in maintaining consensus for the duration of the operation. A NATO that maintains its regional focus can carry out other, similar projects along its borders, as well as maintaining and encouraging stability in developing democracies. For operations outside this purview, other options will always exist; simply because NATO will not be involved does not mean that an operation cannot be undertaken.

Wilton Park Conference

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

I’m currently at a Wilton Park conference on the future of NATO. The Wilton Park conference series began in the late 1940s, and focused on fostering a democratic culture among German POWs. As far as I can tell, there are no German POWs here now… This conference is being held at Wiston House, a lovely old English country home that is creepy in a The Others sort of way. Pictures tomorrow…

Sessions thus far have been good. The first was on the role of technology in stability operations. The Pentagon has added stability operations to its main portfolio of missions, yet retains a commitment to a technologically advanced fighting force. I have two main concerns about this. First, I’m unconvinced that technology can really provide an answer to counter-insurgency. Second, I’m inclined to think that advancing US military technology is going to produce real interoperability problems with NATO allies, not to mention less advanced military organizations.

These questions weren’t answered today, but they were discussed in a serious fashion by serious, knowledgeable people. The rest of the conference should be fun.

Imperial War Museum

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

Visited the Imperial War Museum yesterday, before almost passing out. If you like war, imperialism, and museums, accept no substitute.

This is the entrance of the IWM. The left gun is from HMS Ramillies, and the right from HMS Resolution. The British 15″ was one of the finest weapons ever installed on a battleship, and it’s pretty nifty to see a pair of them together, in turret style. The gun on the right was also installed on the monitor HMS Roberts, which provided shore bombardment on D-Day.

The main hall on the first floor of the IWM contains artifacts from various 20th century British wars. They have about half a dozen tanks, plus armored cars, artillery pieces, and aircraft. The weapon come from both British and foreign stocks. This is a T-34/85, probably the finest all-around tank of World War II. The 85mm gun was big enough to kill even the heaviest German tanks, assuming you could hit them in the right place. The T-34 was the best tank not because it was the fastest, or the best armored, or the hardest hitting. Rather, it had good tank qualities, good survivability, was very easy to mass produce, and very easy to repair. The Soviets realized early on that a tank with a battlefield life expectancy of 3 weeks did not require an engine that could last for 5 years. They also realized that tanks that could move from battlefield to battlefield on their own power, rather than on railcars, were valuable. The T-34 could also take a hit, which differentiated it from the American Shermans.

The Lawrence of Arabia exhibit cost extra, and I didn’t have a lot of time, so I missed it. The best of the other exhibits was the extensive reproduction of a World War I British trench system. The WWI and WWII exhibits were quite extensive, although a bit more general than I had hoped. It was nice to see a lot of kids there, though. There are also some exhibits dedicated to post-WWII conflicts, including Suez, the Falklands, and Gulf War I. I suppose that there will someday be an exhibit devoted to Gulf War II.

The IWM also maintains the HMS Belfast, a WWII light cruiser. Belfast carried 12 6″ guns, making her a light cruiser in name, if not in fact. After Japan and the United States exhausted their quota of heavy cruisers in the interwar period, they began to compete in light cruiser construction. Heavy cruisers carried 8″ guns; legally, anything carrying lighter guns was, by definition, a light cruiser. The Japanese and Americans responded to this legal environment by building ships that were as large as heavy cruisers, but carried 15(!) 6″ guns. The Belfast and her sisters were the British response, and were generally more balanced ships. Belfast participated in the sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst on December 26, 1943. The Tower Bridge is in the background.

Incidentally, the last of the big American light cruisers was the General Belgrano, transferred to Argentina after World War II. General Belgrano was sunk by a British submarine in the Falklands War.

When they kick at your front door how you gonna come?

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

To elaborate on a point I made in passing below, I’m frankly puzzled about why Matt has switched sides on the merits of filibustering Alito, which remains the obviously correct option. I think both of the arguments he seems to be making are incorrect:

  • The heart of Matt’s argument seems to be a claim that everyone Bush appoints will be equally bad. But that’s simply not true. I made the argument repeatedly with respect to Harriet Miers; it is possible that Bush will appoint somebody considerably less certain to be on the far right of the court across the board. Even with Roberts, there’s considerable uncertainty, and the Dems were right not to filibuster him. Alito, conversely, leaves no significant doubt. From a left-liberal (as opposed to left-communitarian, but I know Matt is with me in the former camp) perspective Alito is almost certainly worse than Scalia or Thomas, let alone O’Connor. If we’re not going to filibuster him, we might as well take the option off the table for Supreme Court nominees; I’m not sure what Matt is waiting for.
  • On the question of political damage, judicial nominations have a vanishingly small effect on votes for the Senate, and ordinary people simply don’t care about legislative process issues. Moreover, to the extent that the issues matter it’s far from clear that a filibuster would be a net negative for Democrats. Alito is not terribly popular, and on the most important issue associated with the courts the Republican position is exceptionally unpopular.

Now, on the overall issue Matt is completely correct: we will have very bad judicial appointments until the Dems recapture the White House and the Senate. But aside from whatever remaining Naderite dead-enders are still out there, I don’t think this is in any dispute. Irrespective of that, you have to get the best outcome you can get within the available constraints, and especially with lifetime appointments to the nation’s highest court getting a less-bad option matters a lot.

…more from Atrios.

The Alito Hearings: Spin-Point Immunization

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

I thought about coming up with my own questions for the Alito hearings, but to be frank the hearings are unlikely to produce any valuable information, and so we should judge Alito on his (exceptionally conservative) record. (Conservatives are right about one thing: calling him “Scalito” is unfair. To Scalia.) As we begin the hearings, a few things to note as you watch his apologists try to pretend that he’s not the staunch Federalist Society reactionary everyone thought he was before he was nominated to the Supreme Court:

  • Claims that he will giver “serious weight” to precedents or whatever are evidently meaningless, since all of the interest is derived from what the exceptions will be.
  • More importantly, in most cases whether he will vote to overturn precedents or simply gut them from the inside makes very little difference. With respect to abortion, an incremental dismantling would actually be worse. The outcome–abortion-on-demand for affluent women, highly restricted access and largely illegal abortions for poor women–would be the same, and the Republicans wouldn’t pay the political price of overturning the very popular Roe. And there’s simply no serious question that, at the minimum, Alito would uphold virtually any regulation that stops short of a ban, and would also make it very difficult to challenge these regulatory obstacle courses in the courts.
  • Evaluating justices is a question of probabilities, not certainties. Keep in mind that information–such as the fact that he was so reactionary as to be staunchly opposed to Baker v. Carr in 1985–is important for reasons that go beyond the narrow issue at stake. The Supreme Court is not going to overrule Baker, so it’s true that what he thinks about the case today isn’t terribly important. But what it indicates is that he’s generally hostile to civil rights and voting rights. And on civil rights, this is reflected in his remarkable hostility to claims brought under anti-discrimination laws, up to and including his attempt to deny anti-discrimination claims by using reasoning so radical and illogical it was rejected 10-1 by a 3CA en banc and 9-0 by the Supreme Court. This is parallel to the Republican abortion strategy; don’t overturn civil rights laws, just make it extremely difficult to actually enforce them.
  • Finally, you will note that by far the most popular line of defense will be the Alito kabuki, conservatives who claim that they support Alito despite having no idea if he will agree with them on the most important legal issues. (Arlen Specter has already started by comparing David Souter–who had no record whatsoever with respect to abortion–to Alito–who is on the record as saying that Roe should be overturned.) What’s important about this line of defense is what it says about the political context. The fact that conservatives are not openly touting Alito’s conservative jurisprudence but rather trying to claim that his record doesn’t mean what it obviously means tells you that conservatives themselves don’t think that overturning Roe and many of the other long-held goals of conservatives are supported by the public. Democrats should not be running scared, and there is no reason to believe–pace Matt–that there is any kind of significant political downside if they strongly oppose Alito, which they clearly should on the merits.

And the Kabuki Starts…

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

Orrin Hatch: we should vote to confirm Alito because…he’s a baseball fan. (I admit that it’s his best feature.) But you know who else was a big baseball fan? Harry Blackmun! (Although I’d like to think that a list of greats compiled by Alito would include Henry Aaron instead of, say, Harry Hooper.) So I guess Hatch must think that Roe v. Wade was a solid judicial opinion after all…

"Too bad you couldn’t do *that* for a living… You’d be very successful at it. You could sell out Madison Square Garden."

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

Joe Klein, on the other hand, does do it for a living. Klein, discussing the NSA program, rolls out his usual “let me project my increasingly reactionary politics on the American public so I can pretend the Dems are losing because they disagree with me” shtick:

In fact, liberal Democrats are about as far from the American mainstream on these issues as Republicans were when they invaded the privacy of Terri Schiavo’s family in the right-to-die case last year.

The actual data:

56 percent of respondents in an AP-Ipsos poll said the government should be required to first get a court warrant to eavesdrop on the overseas calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when those communications are believed to be tied to terrorism.

Whoops! (Conversely, upwards of 80% of the public opposed the Republican position in the Schiavo case.) Klein’s explanation:

I suspect that a strong majority would favor the NSA program as well, if its details were declassified and made known.

I see. So in spite of the fact that by definition we can have no way have knowing how this arbitrary, unchecked presidential power has been exercised, and the fact that the President’s belief that we couldn’t pass even the perfunctory FISA warrant process makes it utterly illogical to believe that he was simply eavesdropping on terrorists, if the public knew what Joe Klein doesn’t know I’m sure they would agree with Joe Klein! Just like I’m sure they’d agree with Joe Klein about social security if they only knew that the loss of private sector benefits means that we should use public policy to exacerbate economic insecurity–it’s a new economic age!

What a maroon.

Ezra gets this right:

And that’s what makes Klein’s column so ugly. Beneath the artfully chosen language and “even-a-liberal-like-me” pretense, his base contention is this: the president has an unlimited array of powers that require neither statutory authority nor independent oversight, and Democrats would be wise, on pain of electoral loss, to leave this state of affairs unquestioned. Of course, this advice, if followed, would surely not prevent Klein from writing a column in late November of 2006, crucifying the cowed, beaten Democrats for lacking the courage of their convictions and losing the election because they stood for nothing. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and Klein has no need for such constraints.

This is exactly right. You can never sell out enough for the Kleins of the world, and the sooner Dems realize this the better.

Capote

[ 0 ] January 9, 2006 |

For some reason, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about seeing Capote. I sort of thought it was my duty to see it, but it was mostly based on seeing Hoffman, who I try not to miss if he’s starring in pictures not directed by Joel Schumacher. This was largely due to a vague sense that Truman Capote was kind of a famous-for-being-famous star of little contemporary interest; I thought of him is a ultimately minor author inflated by being part of New York literary circles, and just didn’t really care about finding out more. About this, I was dead wrong. It’s a fascinating story, and a terrific movie.

Movies about the moral dilemmas of writers can sometimes have what I call a “Cameron Crowe” problem–that is, a tendency to inflate trivial issues to gigantic proportions because they’re close to your own life, best exemplified in having Jerry Maguire revolve around a manifesto…written by an agent…saying that they should have fewer clients…and treat them with soul…or something. (Seriously, who gives a shit?) But Capote transcends these problems. It’s important to emphasize, first of all, that it’s not a biopic; it’s focused entirely on the writing ofIn Cold Blood, and it therefore doesn’t have any of the rise-fall-redemption arc that usually acts as an anchor on even the best films in the genre. It is, rather, a quite merciless examination of the brutal price that the artist exacts to create. Capote is charming, and funny, and gifted. But also manipulative, dishonest, and remarkably self-absorbed, and without the latter characteristics In Cold Blood could never have been written. (To me, perhaps the best of the many astonishing scenes was his cruel dismissal of an earnest fan after a work-in-progress reading.) Even the biggest weakness of the film–the fact that with the exception of a no-nonsense, intelligent, and literate small-town police chief played by Chris Cooper the supporting characters are basically ciphers–can in a perverse way be justified by the fact that to Capote, they were pretty much means rather than ends. This isn’t to say that Capote was evil; he’s to committed to his work to stop his destructive behavior, but he was decent enough to be effectively destroyed by it.

I suppose at this point giving more praise to Phillip Seymour Hoffman is like sending 50 bucks to Warren Buffett, but there’s certainly no better actor working in American film, and he’s exceptional as always. Like many great actors, he has to do a lot of movies that don’t rise to his talents, and while there have been some good minor ones (I’m especially partial to Owning Mahony), this is the first truly first-rate film he’s been in since Lebowski and Boogie Nights. The marvelous Catherine Keener does valiant work with her portrayal of Harper Lee–who also never wrote another book–although the part is badly underwritten, and Cooper is always a gem. But there isn’t a weak performance in the film (I particularly liked Bob Balaban’s William Shawn, although I can no longer see him without thinking “Get a good look, Costanza?”), and it’s a quite remarkable directing debut for Bennett Miller. It’s a powerful, haunting, and very smart movie, and it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Bork Alito, Please

[ 0 ] January 8, 2006 |

A surprisingly tough NYT editorial about Alito which starts well:

Judicial nominations are not always motivated by ideology, but the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito certainly was. President Bush’s previous choice to fill Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, was hounded into withdrawing by the far right, primarily because she appeared to hold moderate views on a variety of legal issues. President Bush placated Ms. Miers’s conservative critics by nominating Judge Alito, who has long been one of their favorites.

[...]

The White House has tried to create an air of inevitability around Judge Alito’s confirmation. But the public is skeptical. In a new Harris poll, just 34 percent of those surveyed said they thought he should be confirmed, while 31 percent said he should not, and 34 percent were unsure. Nearly 70 percent said they would oppose Judge Alito’s nomination if they thought he would vote to make abortion illegal – which it appears he might well do.

Both of these points can’t be made often enough. First of all, Bush nominated Alito as opposed to many other well-qualified candidates because he is an exceptionally reactionary judge, and the Senate can take this into account just as much as the President can. And second, the public accepts this. It is only people who are conservative hacks and/or a few solipsistic law professors who think that formal qualifications are the only criterion that the Senate can take into account. Allow me to repeat what I wrote earlier about the unfair bad rap that the Bork hearings–which I’m sure are going to be brought up a lot–have gotten:

Since the term came up, a brief comment about “Borking.” One odd thing is that Bork’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court has become the definition of a bad nomination process, when in fact it was a case where the process worked as it should work. The Thomas nomination, in which legitimate questions about the substance of his judicial philosophy became eclipsed by personal issues of extremely marginal relevance to the position we was nominated for, represents a bad process. But the Bork nomination involved a substantive discussion of judicial philosophy without diversionary “character” questions. He was appointed for political reasons, of course, and rejected for political reasons, and in both cases the reaction was perfectly appropriate. It was Reagan’s right to appoint somebody who believes that the Court’s entire line of privacy cases is wrongly decided and that the federal government can legally segregate and that the 1st Amendment should be read extremely narrowly. And it was the Senate’s prerogative to reject someone with these views. The system worked as it should.

Obviously, the hearing will differ in one crucial respect: Bork, at least, had the integrity to state his views, and people could evaluate whether they accepted his jurisprudence and found his confirmation conversions credible, while Alito will just give a lot of evasive non-answers. But Alito, like Bork, is qualified judge chosen because of his very right-wing views, and like Bork he should not be confirmed by the Senate.

London Calling

[ 0 ] January 8, 2006 |

9:45am: Arrive at Gatwick. Have never suffered as much turbulence in one flight as the flight from Detroit. On the upside, won the aircraft trivia game three times.

10:00am: Deal with snarky, irritating entry agent. We saved your ass in World War II!!!

11:00am: Arrive at London Victoria.

11:10am: Give directions to clueless looking trio. Lord knows where they ended up.

11:40am: Arrive hostel. Clerk is pleasant young American woman.

12:00pm: Face imminent crash. 23 hours since last sleep.

12:10pm: Drink enormous cup of coffee. Purpose dramatically renewed.

12:30pm: Arrive at Imperial War Museum. “Kid in a candy store” does not begin to express my mood. They have a T-34/85. Will post pictures.

1:45pm: Note that London weather very much resembles Seattle weather.

2:00pm: Crash at hostel.

2:10pm: Renew struggle. Off to see the HMS Belfast, then the Tower.

2:40pm: Arrive at HMS Belfast. Study. Take pictures. London is cold and rainy.

3:30pm: Face imminent loss of all bodily function. No sleep for 27 hours. No food for 7 hours. Give up quest for Tower.

3:35pm: Pass sports betting parlour on way back to hostel. Consider putting down some money on some team in some sport that I don’t understand. Decide that my inability to determine winner would prove embarassing.

3:45pm: Clueless looking trio asks “Where is the London Bridge?” I respond by pointing in random direction.

4:00pm: Return to hostel. Note that I forgot to bring an alarm clock and an outlet converter. Pray that I’ll be able to get up in the morning.

4:05pm: Crash.

5:30pm: Arise. Food now takes precedence.

7:00pm: Eat roast beef and fried camembert. Converse with pair of Kiwi rugbiers. Grow increasingly incoherent.

In Praise Of Urban Living

[ 0 ] January 8, 2006 |

Oh, a rare and welcome thing, an article about people who actually like living in cities and actually value things other than the square footage of the house they can purchase:

But those plotting a hasty exit to the suburbs (the space! the schools! the space!) may want to consider the experience of others who went before them, only to double back within a year.

“I’m never leaving the city again; I’m terrified of leaving the city,” said Anna Hillen, 42, summing up the prevailing sentiment among the repatriates interviewed for this article.

Ms. Hillen, her husband, Gerry McConnell, 42, and their son, Duncan, who was 1 at the time, vacated their TriBeCa loft in December 2001, shortly after 9/11. They bought a 6,000-square-foot newly built McMansion on three acres in the upscale, semirural Westchester enclave of Pound Ridge, N.Y., not far from the country homes they had rented before.

“It was just a giant, echoing space,” Ms. Hillen said, adding, “It was great to have all that room, but we never used it,” except to put up extended family on holidays.

Once settled, Ms. Hillen, a stay-at-home mother, embarked on a fruitless hunt for companionship. “Out there, you have to work at being with people,” she said. “In a year, I got one play date for my kid. We joined the Newcomers Club, and the day we put our house on the market, they finally called. You’d go to the library for a reading and there would be no one there.” She added, “You’re a lonely, desperate housewife with nothing to do.”

Even the playgrounds were desolate. “And on the rare occasions there was somebody there and you struck up a conversation,” she said, “they would literally move away. And they didn’t encourage the kids to play together. We were so shocked.”

She spent every Wednesday in the city. At home, she busied herself with gardening. Still, she said, “you could only garden so many hours a day. And Duncan – I mean, you wouldn’t think at one and three-quarters they’re set in their ways but they are. He wouldn’t go outside. In the summer I would stand outside with a Popsicle and go, ‘Come on, honey, you can have a Popsicle if you come outside.’ But he would just stand at the door.”

[...]

It’s worth noting that the suburbs are populated by plenty of satisfied former city dwellers harboring few, if any, regrets. Fully expecting to join the ranks of the contented, most of the couples interviewed here said their motivation for moving out was linked to a vague understanding that it was a prerequisite for raising children – a normal transition from one phase of life to the next, and one in which they would find plenty of company.

“Everybody says when you get the baby, you leave the city,” said Ronn Torossian, 31, the president and chief executive of 5W Public Relations in Midtown Manhattan. In July, he and his wife, Zhana – who have a 1-year-old daughter – sold their large one-bedroom on West 68th Street and Broadway and moved into a 3,500-square-foot split-level house in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., near friends. With the help of Ilan Bracha, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman, who had sold their apartment on West 68th, they moved back in December to a three-bedroom rental a block south from where they started.

“It’s like death out there,” said Mr. Torossian, a fast-talking Bronx native who resisted the comparatively tempered pace, like food delivery that stops at 9 p.m. and a newspaper delivered at 7:30 a.m.

“I can’t wait 15 minutes in a bagel store to get two bagels,” he said. “I can’t have people looking at me like I’m crazy when I walk in and put a quarter on the table to get my paper and walk out. I go home and there’s, like, people doing their lawn every five minutes. They seem like normal people but they spend, like, hours working on their lawn.”

What pushed him over the edge, he said, was the “drama” of his commute by car into Midtown. At 5 a.m., when Mr. Torossian ordinarily made the trip to avoid traffic, it took as little as 17 minutes. But coming home took three or four times that (two hours or more in foul weather), partly because of the bottleneck at his Midtown garage. “Calling ahead doesn’t work because everybody leaves at the same time,” he said. “If you don’t bribe the guys there, you wait 15 to 20 minutes for your car.” He said he spent $100 a week in tips.

His miasma has evaporated since his return to the city last month. “I feel like I’m walking on water,” he said. “It’s just a whole level of stress eliminated from my life. I go out a lot more, it’s allowed me a lot more time to spend with my daughter, it’s less stressful at work. It’s phenomenal.”

The amenities and ability to walk are the biggest reason I like the city, of course, but the thing about people working on their lawns is another reason why I’ve never had the slightest discontent with urban living–if there’s one thing I have no desire to do, it’s spending the majority of the leisure time I could be using to spend reading or listening to music or watching a ballgame or meeting friends or seeing a movie etc. etc. engaging in work that’s even more boring and tedious than the worst aspects of my actual job. My parents, although they pay for landscaping and housecleaning services, still manage to generate absolutely staggering amounts of busywork for themselves around the house. I’ll pass without a second thought, thanks.

I hasten to add, of course, that 1)I don’t have and don’t particularly want kids, and 2)many people will prefer suburban life and that’s great; I don’t say that my priorities are better, just different. But I am baffled by the Glenn Reynoldses of the world who can’t imagine why everyone might not want to live in suburban Houston…

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