Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pie in the the Sky Island

There's another laughable, elitist, self-absorbed, solipsistic piece of Marxist excrement by Chuck Pezeshki in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
It’s interesting spending a week in a big, European city, especially after Pullman, with its sky island feel. I’m in Vienna this week, setting up collaborations for our students in engineering, with the intention of giving them the necessary experience to succeed in the global marketplace. This means that I have to succeed in the global marketplace — something that is not as easy as it used to be.

Vienna is an interesting city, in that it is relatively large — more than 1 million people live in and around Vienna — but feels small. The Viennese want their living spaces to be livable, and they have laws here that, while they would never make it in the United States, work together to make a city that is manageable on all levels. You can reach literally everywhere on the U-bahn, the subway system, and the trams. One ticket bought for a week costs only $15. The Viennese understand that if you want public transit to work, it has to be frequent, affordable and convenient. And because of this, buses and trains are always filled. You can even find parking downtown most of the time if you choose to take your car. Contrast this with our own situation, where we do nothing but cut back on the availability of public transit, and then wonder why it doesn’t work.

Because space is tight, stores are small. Grocery stores have a reasonable variety of items. The local Billa chain has everything you need, and it is of high quality. But there is only one way into the store, leading you past all the items, and only one way out. Beer is cheaper than soda pop. And because the stores are relatively small, there are lots of them—all within walking distance from somewhere. They’re not the only chain in the world to use the idea of walking availability to make a buck. Walgreen’s in the United States uses the same principle with their drug stores, so the notion of having hyper-sized stores to stay profitable in the U.S. market just isn’t supported by the evidence.

Even where space is available, super-sized stores don’t exist. We visited the small town of Murzzuschlag, two hours outside of Vienna, with Jutta, the young woman who arranged our business meetings. Murzzuschlag has 40,000 people, and by our standards is able to support multiple Wal-Marts. But they don’t exist. The largest store is a garden store — about one-quarter the size of our big-box stores. Zoning as we know it also doesn’t exist, and the steel plant sits on the edge of the business district. It is clean, because the citizens won’t tolerate living in a degraded environment. Surrounding the valley are neat, small, very alpen-style homes. I asked Jutta where the poor people lived. “We don’t really have poor people like you do in the States,” she replied. “If someone loses their job, they are supported by the government until they find another one.” She seemed not to show any judgment toward those people, giving me the impression that Austrians like themselves as a nation a whole lot more than we do.

Looking back at our own local battles across the sea, it’s clear that Austrians have some sense of what they want their future to be. They’re aware that change is coming, and they are planning for it. They know that automobiles aren’t going to be around forever, and while they use them, they don’t plan their cities around them. They know that parts of their cities should work together — and in order for that to happen, things have to exist in an appropriate scale. It’s impossible to imagine a fight over Wal-Mart here, because such a thing as a Wal-Mart doesn’t exist. Austrians aren’t extravagant spenders, and they’ve decided that living in the space that they have, and using it wisely is a better choice than the end alternative of running out of space — war.

As we Americans scale up everything that we do, with bigger freeways, bigger big-box stores, and bigger houses, we might stop and ask ourselves where the trajectory is really leading. Or where it has already led us. And we might ask, as our own wars drag out, if any of this is really worth the price.
I'm going to resist the temptation to rebut Pezeshki's ridiculous contentions of how "Sky Island" Pullman should be like a European city, or bring up the fact that for much of the time since WWII, Austria has been dominated by a socialist government, or the even more vile assertion that somehow American's love of Wal-Mart and big-box stores leads to war (it was an Austrian, by the way, that took the world into war over lebensraum, or living space: Adolf Hitler.)

No, I'm much too busy with more important things to do that. Instead, I'm going to quote yet again from Gregory Hand's superb column "Snobbish tendencies:"
Where do these people come from? Visit a college campus today and see what is going on there (not most of the professors, who tend to be culture snobs, to be discussed next.) No, the faux intellectual snobs, while including some professors and graduate students, are the teenage and early twenty something undergraduate students. These are the ones who are so brilliant as to be enlightened (indoctrinated) by the liberal orthodoxy taught at most schools today, but ironically not intelligent enough to realize that with all these rights that are demanded come corresponding responsibilities.

Look at the hooligans who just rioted at the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. It is true that many Europeans participated in the mêlée that ensued. The poor unfortunate chap who was shot dead thinking the Italian police would allow him to hurl a large fire extinguisher at them unchallenged was Spanish. But there were also large contingents of Americans as well, completing their parentally funded summer tours of Europe with a little bit of last minute rioting before heading back to the yacht club. I supposed it is something to tell their unfortunate colleagues at the posh private schools in the fall who didn't get to hang out in Europe on mommy and daddy's credit card. Isn't it just amazing the number of rich white kids who travel the globe lamenting the capitalism that allows them their nice homes, their fancy cars, and the extensive travel that they enjoy so much? Are they that ignorant?

To answer the question, yes, they are; and they are because of this supposed superior intellect that has given them an enlightenment that most dolts like you and I don't have, protesting for a variety of inane causes (Free Mumia! Save the suckerfish! Stop global warming!). It is unfortunate, but their grasp of the issues, despite their strenuous arguments to the contrary, is rudimentary at best. They have no realistic idea, beyond their utopian pipe dreams, of the ramifications of the policies that they advocate. It is difficult to rationalize with them, because they immediately snobbishly dismiss any opposing arguments as inferior ones coming from intellectually substandard people.

The most rapidly rising class of snobs are the cultural/society snobs. These are people who go to symphonies, operas, wine tastings, foreign films, coffee houses and various other stylish venues not because they necessarily enjoy it, but because they like to be seen at such events, and they enjoy bragging about going to those who did not attend. On the flip side they also get pained looks on their faces when discussing amusement parks, NASCAR, public beaches, Wal-mart, chain restaurants and any other place where Grubman's 'white trash' might be hanging out. How déclassé.

They tend to congregate either in San Francisco or LA on the West Coast or New York, DC or Boston on the East Coast, as anywhere not attached to an ocean is 'flyover country.' They love the words 'diversity' and 'culture,' and often praise both lovingly just because it makes them look more sophisticated to be discussing such things.

Like the intellectual snobs, the cultural snobs are part of the 'hate America' crowd, albeit for different reasons. The intellectual snobs hate America because they are all socialists and communists looking to create some naïve workers paradise and destroy capitalism. Cultural snobs, on the other hand, hate America only because it looks better when they travel to Europe to put down other Americans, and to lament to anyone who will listen that France is better then America because it is more 'diverse' and has better 'culture.' Besides, who are snobbier, and therefore can appreciate the attitude, than the French?
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Truth said...

Its interesting, the article written by Chuck Pezeshki actually does very little in the way of attacking people until perhaps the last paragraph, which at best asks people to think critically about American policies. Most of the article you will note, states some of the differences between America and Vienna, and lets people know that their are differnt options out there. For example when discussing public transportation he describes how it is done effectivly in Vienna and how by and large it is not done well in the US (Pullman thankfully does a fairly decent job in terms of the bus system, at least for college students).

Why, in response to such a mild article, you feel the need to post something which attacks those who don't share his view as "hooligans" "intellectual snobs", and trust fund babies. He goes on to imply that all American students who participated in the G-8 summit protests were there purelly on their parents money, and clearly had 1) in now way supported themselves or their own trip there and 2) obviously had no idea what they were there for and only went to impress their buddies at the yacht club. I admit, I don't know what the prostests were about, and I'm not supporting either side there. What I am saying is that making such obvious generalizations and stereotypes (not just in that section but throughout the entire article) seems to betray that the author is unwilling to actually debate any of the issues and instead is perfectly willing to engage in his own bit of snobbery by declaring that all people who believe in global warming, were at the G-8 protests, enjoy coffe houses, and don't like NASCAR, and so on are not only America-hating liberals by his standars, but also bad people (both claims which he fails to back up by the way).

Why then, would you use such a column, whose sole purpose is to attack a group which probably constitutes a majority of American (as a majority of Americans want to stop global warming to name one point, source below), as a response to Chuck Pezeshki's article? It seems to me that Chuck was offering some food for thought and encouraging people to think about how things are done and how they could be done better. America is a great country but that does not mean it has nothing to learn from other people in other countries.

hector314 said...

On reading Pezeshki's piece, one of my thoughts was uh-oh...Forbes's not going to like this. Thank you Tom for rendering clear to me that the column to is obviously a "laughable, elitist, self-absorbed, solipistic (sic) piece of Marxist excrement."

It seems to have touched a nerve.

Pie in the sky is right, but the other epithets you are hurling are wide of the mark. Specifically, I don't see any references in the work that would qualify as self-absorbed. Perhaps you are projecting? Elitist? Perhaps by the standards of Hand's simplistic credo. But we should be long-past the buzzwords of the '94 Republican Revolution. Generally, elites look down upon others, their ideas, culture, etc. Hardly Pezeshki's tone as he touts the wonderful and seemingly seamless teamwork between government and commerce. (Vienna, a city of shopkeepers, capitalism is not in full retreat, it is in outright capitulation.) The elitist's condescending, disdainful sneer characterizing another's efforts as excrement seem absent.

He does raise issues and questions about how WE do things on Sky Island. Why not share with us what he has seen abroad? Are we to be threatened by it?

April E. Coggins said...

Oh, heavens. This knuckledragger can hardly wade through the pompous responses. I am sure you both mean well, but you need a mirror. No one is impressed with the length, number or sophistication of your words. A clear, understandable message is more important.

Truth said...

Then I suppose here would be a clear and very concise message.

The response article does nothing more than attack a stereotype created by the author. It is not relevent to any of the points Chuck Pezeshki brought up save for the fact that they both mention Wal-Mart. Perhaps an actual rebuttel of the points Pezeshi brings up rather than a dismissal because they imply America can improve somehow is more in order.

It would seem to me however that elaborating on ideas, rather than presenting them in soundbite format, is far more useful for an in-depth, issue-focused, and meaningful discussion.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Chuck's piece contains the one element that I always look for when someone of his ilk pens something of this sort, the one trait that defines the naiveté of such people...

Chuck: "You can reach literally everywhere on the U-bahn, the subway system, and the trams. One ticket bought for a week costs only $15."

Yes, of course, because we all know that the cost of something is only what we pay out-of-pocket as individuals! There's nothing else going on like taxation of folks who might not use the "cheap" service we are enjoying, or the theft of services of those who produce the commodity in question, who might otherwise get a higher price for their skills in a truly competitive, non-government monopolized free market.

And as an added bonus, Chuck even threw in this gem:

Chuck: "The Viennese want their living spaces to be livable, and they have laws here that, while they would never make it in the United States, work together to make a city that is manageable on all levels."

I'm sure Chuck talked to every Viennese about this. How else would he know that they all want the status quo that exists in their country? I’m sure there are plenty who don’t like things the way they are, sort of like the French voters who have recently appointed Sarkozy to fix their socialist utopia.

Perhaps the reason that these differences exists between the U.S. and Austria is that we are free (mostly, still) to a degree that they are not, and the reason the Viennese laws Chuck raves about would not work here have to do with our respect for the inherent rights of individuals.

But forget all that. Clearly, we must pay greater heed to a traveler's account of some paradise he has visited briefly while forming the policies that govern our society!

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Oops... left out one other thing -

Chuck: "The Viennese want their living spaces to be livable..."

As opposed to the rest of us, who - since we do things differently - apparently do not. Yes, we want our communities to be un-livable, because we enjoy pain, discomfort, misery, etc.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to start campaigning that much harder for a 24/7, 365 day per year tire fire in every Pullman yard! (We get a day off in leap years.)

April E. Coggins said...

America is big country. Vienna is very small. Isn't Chuck (and you) just as guilty of stereotyping as you claim Tom to be? At least Tom was addressing one individual. ALL of America and ALL of Austria is a broad stereotype. Elitist hypocrites are fairly easy to spot.

Truth said...

Of course I'm guilt of stereotyping, everybody is when talking about issues greater than what effect them everyday. There is no possible way to trully talk with every single person an issue affects. However I never accused Tom of making generalizations, and instead questioned his use of Hand's column as a rebuttel when he (Hand) almost exclusivly sticks to vast and vauge generalizations which he fails to back up with facts.

And Paul, thank you for pointing out the few lines which Chuck Pezeshki wrote that can be twisted. I think you know as well as I do that he wasn't implying Americans don't want spaces to be livable, but rather was using that to lead into his point that while the US and Vienna both want liveable space, in his opinion Vienna has taken greater steps towards ensuring this is a reality. I'm not entirelly sure why the bulk of your response focused around this poorly worded phrase instead of ways of perhaps public transportation and such, but it doesn't really seem productive. And yes, that does mean listening to some traveler's account of a place he visited, its something people having been doing for centuries and its how new ideas and new practices are spread throughout the world. Were the European traders who travelled to the Middle East during the Dark Ages and the Reneaissance "elitist hypocrites" or "self-absorbed" because the noted that certain things were done better in other parts of the world and for suggesting that Europe adopt some of those changes?

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...


I didn't twist Chuck's words. Those quotes are exactly what he said. You, on the other hand, have:

"Truth:" "I think you know as well as I do that he wasn't implying Americans don't want spaces to be livable, but rather was using that to lead into his point that while the US and Vienna both want liveable space, in his opinion Vienna has taken greater steps towards ensuring this is a reality."

Read his article again. Nowhere does he say, "in my opinion," leaving room for any notion other than the Viennese do it right and we simply do not because we're not doing things like them.

Hey, Chuck, why don't ya just stay over there? Solved!

Truth said...

Ah yes, how foolishof me, he never says in my opinion. Of course that the entire article is his opinion should be overlooked. Regardless of that however he does say "giving me the impression that...", which I would imagine both you and I can take as a synonym for "in my opinion".

And once again I am left wondering why our debate is not centered around better public transportation rather than the precise wording of certain sentences (funny, he's elitist but you won't accept points which aren't properly worded).

To begin discussion public transportation, as I believe should have been a reaction to this article, it definetly seems to me that we have something to learn from either Vienna or Mexico. With our current system something implemented which resembles what is in Vienna, where a slightly higher tax is paid for a much more readily available public transportation service, would be closer to what we have already (this is in many senses what is already in Pullman as all students pay a small mandatory fee to ride the bus anytime anywhere, and in return the buses are frequent and convineient). Another possibility for the US however would be to fully privitize public transportation, as I believe is done in Mexico. There I know they have a few competing bus routes which means that buses are cheap and you never have to wait long for one. Either system would work well in the US, but I think it would definetly be an easier change to move towards one which more closely resembles what is found in Vienna. Thoughts?