Monthly Archives: February 2008

Out of time

There was a news item today about the American Time Use Survey, and how the Bush Administration has no time — or rather, money — for it any more. This is an annual study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that breaks down how Americans spend every bit of their time, and is considered useful for observing the effects of economic policies on ordinary people.

The 2006 survey (the most recent for which data are available) found that on an “average day,” people over the age of 15 slept about 8.6 hours, spent 5.1 hours doing leisure and sports activities, worked for 3.8 hours, and spent 1.8 hours doing household activities. The remaining 4.7 hours were spent doing a variety of other activities, including eating and drinking, attending school, and shopping… People over 75 years old averaged 1.4 hours of reading per weekend day and 12 minutes playing games or using a computer for leisure. Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of seven minutes per weekend day and spent one hour playing games or using a computer.

Frankly I’m now feeling rather deprived. I would love to sleep 8.6 hours a day! (Don’t these people have jobs?!)

Flip That Senator!

With Darrel Aubertine’s apparently comfortable win in the 48th Senate special election over Will Barclay, inquiring minds want to know: Which Republican senator will switch parties first? Wow, the phone lines in Albany have got to be smokin’ now!

While the outcome of this election is all kinds of bad news for the NYS GOP, a party that has not had any good news for many many years, I caution any Democrats against reading too much into the outcome. The major impression I get about what this election meant for the actual voters in the 48th, is best summed up by Danger Democrat of Watertown (who has to be very happy today):

Tuesday, February 26th, is a day that may alter and illuminate our times in the counties of Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence. But probably not. Change happens by individual degrees usually, not 180 of them at a clip at a singular event. But this SD 48 election is a major component of a gradual watershed alteration in the NNY political landscape. From egalitarian, paternalistic politics to a more populist version. The previously rocksolid landed gentry here is being challenged. Roots are being viewed as not necessarily permanent fixtures…

Is the Democratic Party of New York State really ready to confront and manage passionate sentiments like this?!

I think this election was a great deal about the North Country asserting its political autonomy from presumptuous establishments further south – which has to be rather exhilarating for them, but could also be a shape of things to come in state politics. This wasn’t so much a win for centralized Democratic authority over the Empire State as it was a win for (forgive the analogy) the range riders on the steppes. They may have put up the money for the win, but does the Democratic Party in New York really have control over all those independents who helped put Aubertine over the top? It’s still safe to say it’s going to take a lot of money to hold these seats — even though the Republican establishment in CNY has probably taken quite a savage whipping by proxy through young Will Barclay.

Really, for the Democrats to take ownership of the entire state legislature is a dangerous juncture for them. When you kill your enemy, make sure you know what to do with his serfs — because you’re freeing them.

48th special election

Tomorrow is the day of the big special election in the 48th. Truth be told, one part of me wants Barclay to win because that means we could have someone new, maybe someone in the majority party, in my Assembly district. But not a real big part. Aubertine is the right guy for that district, and maybe the voters will realize it.

The amount of money that has been thrown around in this race is really astonishing. A few years ago, the 49th district race (Valesky vs. Hoffman) brought out something close to $1 million, and that was considered a really big deal for an upstate Senate race. (So, if the 49th has fallen, and the 48th also falls… does that mean the 50th is next?)

Biggest laugh is this endorsement for Barclay from the New York Post – which I’m sure is a very influential publication at the breakfast table up on the dairy farms of the North Country. Wow, talk about downstate media narcissism… For real coverage, see Danger Democrat, who writes about what this election means to the politics of northern New York.

Hell on wheels

Here’s a way to wean America from its car culture: How about scaring your kids to death? This NYT story looks at how American teens are not exactly rushing to get their drivers’ licenses any more, and the reasons why — they’re too busy prepping for college, Mom drives them everywhere, and they’re too afraid of accidents. This latter reason is apparently being encouraged by parents:

One such parent is Teresa Sheffer, of Bethlehem, Ga. Her daughter, Kelsey, has had a permit for nearly two years, but is not yet fully licensed because of her mother’s safety concerns. Ms. Sheffer, a pediatric nurse, even paid a police officer to drive with Kelsey to previous accident sites and graphically explain what had happened.

Must be nice to be flush with that kind of cash… instead of paying for a chauffeur, you pay a cop to frighten your kid? Whatever. A parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do…

I can’t say that any method that keeps kids from mindlessly piling into cars for no other reason than “all their friends are doing it,” is necessarily a bad method. And maybe fear is a better motivator for giving up our culture’s love affair with cars, than high-minded exhortations about making America greener. (I am wondering if fear and poverty are going to be the real keys to the greening of America, not strategies devised by the well-fed…)

Another method of keeping your child from getting her driver’s license too quickly is the tag-team approach: (a) one parent refuses to give the kid lessons because they claim extreme nervousness, and (b) one parent insists the kid learn to drive standard right out of the box, even though it’s an onerous complication for a teen who is just trying to learn the rules of the road. Hey… it worked for MY parents!