Aug. 16th, 2009

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where the line you mustn't cross is ground exceeding fine

To accuse a Virginian politician of turning his back on Martinsville, the beleagured Southside mill town whose unemployment rate hit 21.6 percent in June, is almost like a slur.

So, so close. Presumably an actual slur would be accusing a Virginian politician of turning his back on a capital gains tax cut.

See, back in '99, the Republican then-Governor, Mr. Gilmore, vetoed popular Democratic legislation with significant GOP support to extend health and unemployment benefits for folks in Virginia who lived in areas with over 10% unemployment (which is to say Martinsville, where a plant had just closed and left a lot of folks unemployed). He wanted to stimulate the economy by giving the money to businesses instead and letting it trickle down to Martinsville.

The Post feels that it's not fair to look at current Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell's vote supporting his then-Governor's plan to deny those benefits without context. To be fair to McDonnell (who's in a GOP spotlight battle this year), you need to know that when he voted to support Gilmore's stance against assistance for Martinsville, it was because he agreed that it would be expensive to cover all the unemployed people who would be covered if any place other than Martinsville was affected.

Duly noted.

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from the Times, about recovering addicts working on an organic farm in Westchester

On that sunlit July morning, a man from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was leaning over rows of red kale, looking bewildered. He had been, he said, “addicted to everything, a garbage-head.” He was also new to the farm, and did not want to talk much about his past, or reveal his name. Instead, he kept his eyes pinned on another program participant, Bernard Cole, who was cutting off wilting leaves from kale.

“Those leaves aren’t good?” the man asked, perplexed.

“No,” Mr. Cole replied gently. “But see this one, see how it’s good?”

“No, I don’t know nothing,” the man replied dolefully. “I’m a newcomer.”

Several feet away, Mr. Crafton was cleaning lettuce, and eyeing it suspiciously. He is not fond of vegetables, and as a rule, he said, doesn’t trust any food that “doesn’t already come in a bag.”

“If it ain’t on a McDonald’s menu, I ain’t eating it,” Mr. Crafton declared proudly, peering out from beneath his straw brim, a wet, dripping head of lettuce in his hand. “I always been a picky eater.”


Mr. Long was shaking water off some lettuce, and the droplets were catching the sun and spraying a few men standing nearby. He laid the heads in a box bound for the farm stand.

As often happens during the slow hours in the field, the talk drifted back to the men’s former lives.

Mr. Crafton was speaking about the old Project Renewal farm truck, which was crushed on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. DeArmas had driven it to the city that day to deliver produce to a farmers’ market near the World Trade Center, and fled on foot when the first tower fell.

“That truck was de-stroyed,” Mr. Crafton said to the others.

The group fell silent for a moment. Then: “I bet the drug dealers were having a field day that day,” Mr. Long said.

“No cops,” Mr. Crafton said.

Then another man had a thought.

“No cellphones,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” Mr. Long said.

from the Washington Post, on trying to survive on $300k/yr a few miles away

Steins grew up in the idyllic Queens suburb of Douglaston, specifically Douglas Manor, where mothers played bridge on a dock in Little Neck Bay. Her father was a savings-and-loan president who owned a summer house in the Hamptons, but Steins was grounded in the middle class in many ways, attending public school and working at McDonald's. She has lived in London and Johannesburg and has a closet full of fabulous clothes from jobs with Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein. Steins is still a black diamond skier, and she barrels down the mountain of life in much the same manner, tenacious and determined to stay upright. She is rarely wistful except for the topic of her marriage ending. "Because I grew up in divorce, I swore I would never put my kids through it," she says.

Now she sits at the head of the dining room table. Dinner is served at 6 by the nanny, but the same pandemonium and fatigue of any other house exists.


Whatever fantasies the underclass may have of the good life -- of small dogs in purses and Dolce and Gabbana -- are not on display here. The rugs are worn. Milk is spilled. A Marmaduke of a beast named Tyson hovers at the table ready to snuffle up pork tenderloin from the plate of a distracted child. "Tyson!" says Steins.

The funny part of this is that we've by this point in the story gotten a fair amount of information about how much Ms. Steins' community spends on non-essential overpriced consumer goods for their children, who think they can't live without them.

I suspect "the underclass" would probably settle for having to worry about the pork tenderloin the nanny cooked going to the dog.

Is this that irony thing people talk about? Is it more like rain on your wedding day, do you think, or a free ride when you've already paid?
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and this is the much better thing they spent the week doing.


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