September Miscellanies

1. As the Points Spread

Just heard NPR’s sports commentator, the only person I will listen to on that subject, inveighing on corruption in professional tennis, which is apparently rife but totally closeted. For some reason, this short-circuited my brain into what my dear friend Tim Preston, may he rest in peace, would have called an apostrophe. What is really going on in the presidential campaigns, and probably has for the last two or three elections at least, is that the opinion polls are rigged. This is a lot easier, and cheaper, than rigging the entire electoral system of the US. Pollsters work for private organizations, most of them publicly traded corporations responsible only to their shareholders. Certainly not to the people of the United States.

Somebody out there is betting on the point spread, and wants it as narrow as possible. So, right after the Democratic convention, the pollsters told us that Obama was way out ahead. Now, they tell us, just as in 2004, and 2000, the candidates are neck and neck. And the reason the hustlers want the point spread as narrow as possible is that a close election is easy to steal, with minimum expenditure of cash and energy. Repeat after me: nobody steals a landslide. If the voters keep being told that they are more or less evenly divided, they will come to believe it. And their voting patterns will then turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that close division will then turn the election into a victory for whoever is the most competent thief.

Red Emma

2.  Community and the Free Market

    A public housing project in Chicago is running into some interesting times. It’s called LeClaire Courts, and its legal structure is unusually complex. Half of it is plain old vanilla public housing, run by the Chicago Housing Authority. But the other half is a Section 8 project, funded by federal vouchers directed to the individual resident households. Regardless of legal structure, its physical structure is a mess, and CHA (which administers both halves) says it has no money for repairs and rehab. Instead, they want to close down both halves. This would entail moving the public housing residents into the admittedly shrinking number of other public housing projects in the city. Most of the residents involved are okay with this, hoping that wherever they end up will be in better shape than LeClaire Courts, or at any rate, no worse.

    The real problem is with the Section 8 half of the project. CHA is proposing to simply give the Section 8 residents their own vouchers and turn them loose in the private housing market like most other Section 8 voucher holders. And this is a problem for those residents, because many of them want to move into another Section 8 project together. That is to say, they have actually managed, under seriously adverse circumstances, to create a community in their project, and they want to preserve it.

    This is a problem, first of all, from the purely practical point of view, because the private housing market into which these residents are being thrown doesn’t support communities of people who want to move together. Indeed, it has problems even supporting extended families or unusually large nuclear families. There are very few affordable apartments in the private market with three or more bedrooms, which is what most child welfare agencies require as a bare minimum for families with more than two children of different sexes (one for the boys, one for the girls, and one for the parent/s.) Trying to locate an entire building in which multiple families can live together (no idea how many, the local news sources don’t say) is just plain impossible. The private housing market presumes that people move into and out of one apartment at a time, and the possibility of an entire building’s worth of apartments falling vacant at once is just plain unimaginable (unless of course the whole building is such a mess that nobody at all would want to live in it, in any kind of grouping.)

    But, from the social point of view (I think the official word these days would be “societal,” but I refuse to use an unnecessarily manufactured word when we already have a perfectly good one) there is also a question of whether we should encourage these particular people to maintain their community at all, wherever they may have to relocate it. We tend to presume that, if there is such a thing as a community in public housing these days, it is a pathological and criminal one, and should be broken up as quickly as possible, or at least allowed to break itself up under the pressure of market forces. The news stories on LeClaire Courts don’t talk about this at all. From what I personally have seen of public housing during my years at Juvenile Court, I don’t necessarily boggle at a community of decent people living in Section 8 project housing and wanting to stay together. I do not see public housing residents as a bunch of criminal ne’er-do-wells. But on the other hand, a lot of them do have family members connected with gangs, and maybe that kind of conglomeration should be broken up. This deserves more thought.

    Jane Grey

    3.  Cosmetics and Livestock

      Nobody listens to what people say any more. I once threw a roomful of intelligent, educated people into a tizzy by telling them that 2+2 was less than five. What Obama actually meant when he made his famous remark about putting lipstick on a pig, which would nonetheless still be a pig, was of course that the lipstick wouldn’t make it a sow. He was denouncing cross-dressing, a position with which McCain shouldn’t have any problem at all. Geeze, pay attention, John.

      Red Emma


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