I can define my own sense of poverty. It's not the right word, poverty, because poverty is the lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts. I have comforts. I still have electric and cable, still have this here machine a-whirrin'. There's still enough dinners for us until the kids get picked up for the weekend. There's no gas in the car, but, well, there's never any gas. I am waiting for the time when we can pour piss and shovel nail clippings to get to the mall.

But whatever it is, here it is: I am looking at a small pile of translucent ovals. They could almost be the inside linings of delicate shells, if they had a luminescence, a sheen. One side is shiny, whiter at the flat end than the rounded or jagged end, and the other side is rough, sandpaper, like the inside of a coconut after you've discarded the meat because it doesn't taste like the flaky stuff you get at Cold Stone Creamery. They're light, but still have weight to them, almost the hue of pale sweet corn, complete with what could be the teardrop of a kernal at one end. When you pile them up and drop them, they sound like so much uncooked rice, an almost comforting tinkle of beans. These little slivers are what is left of my artificial nails.

They look so much like real nails that they don't look unreal until they're no longer attached to my fingers. When I am fortunate enough to get all 10 off in single solid pieces, I play with them before I throw them out. I try them on as tooth veneers, being of similar shape and color (even with the smallest rusty line of dirt I may have missed in my cleanings, they are far whiter than my teeth). It's not like I don't know where they've been. I run the now soft and revealed pads of my fingertip along the insides of them to feel the ridges of nail that came away when the fake ones were removed, leaving me with all these white stripes of not-yet-dead-no-longer-living tissue that I promptly sand down in an effort to hide the fact again: I can not afford to get them filled and one by one, air is getting under them and they're chipping, and by god, they make my hands feel ugly and cheap.

Now, I could just as easily pay the dolt that put them on to take them off, but the process is pretty much the same: you find a thinner weaker section of the nail (the sides of each nail are usually tapered to be so, in an effort to look like a normal nail) or a place already cracked or showing real nail meat, shoving something long, thin, and metal (since that's what all nail accessories seem to be) and prying it off the living nail. The pressure created is amazing. I mean, they put this powder, acrylic, I think, mix it with acetone, dab it on your finger (which has had merely an elongated tip super-glued on), and roll it around until it hardens on your newly sanded and primed fingernail. They weren't made to come off, ever. I have gotten pretty good at it, though. The trick is to mental yourself through the thickest part of the nail, the center, because that's where the pain reaches its crest. Then, if you're lucky, you will not pull so much of your own nail off on the downstroke that it bleeds and you have this tear in your finger that, while healing really fast, hurts every time you touch something.

Don't get me wrong; the guy at the "salon" would have done the same thing, inflicted the same damage and pain. He may have used a nail tip to free the fake nail with less pain, as they are slimmer than any nail file, but I would have had to *pay* him, hence the reason I had to rip them off in the first place.

Part of it is that I have fake nails because I am a chronic bite-them-until-there's-nothing-left, then-nibble-on-the-entrails sort of nail biter, and it's the only way my fingers will ever look delicate, womanly. Considering the craft they create, one would think achieving the affect would be enough, but NO, I must have them perfect. When I have the money, I get them filled religiously. When I paint them, I do it flawlessly, or leave them naked. I still put them in my mouth and touch teeth to them, exhilarated to have cheated the training of my mind and fitted myself with nails that don't really break. Much.

That is, until I tear into them with a voracity of an animal knawing itself out of becoming the boullion in someone else's stewpot. I think it's responsible for at least one chipped tooth. Still, I can't seem to leave them alone if it means several weeks between me and the ability to remedy the problem.

It's weird, being able to touch thing with naked fingers. I can't pop pimples, which unnerves me, nor can I massage my own scalp. I have rendered myself utterly defenseless, and I couldn't even grow my own claws.

Back to the poverty part. Well, I won't go too far with that. I am applying for unemployment, my part time job can't get me hours because the kids need me to get them to and from camp, the electric bill is past due and it's $300, the kids have nosebleeds from the A/C, I'm going to have to ask him for even more money if the kids expect to go to the pool tomorrow, my checking account reels deeper and deeper into the red digits. This will all go away after the fall, when I go back to teaching where I belong, not this world. Next summer, this won't happen, because my income will defer over the summer. But this, this royally sucks.

I chewed off my nails, I guess, to remind me of one less thing I can't do right now.

Why I'm (still) a liberal

In Why I'm not conservative; why I'm not liberal, the perspicacious artman2003 praises my reality-based community writeup, and even contrasts me with Rush Limbaugh. Little old me, on par with a notorious bloviator? Mercy.

Artman2003 criticizes, however, my contention that the "real" reason our leaders went to war in Iraq was for oil. He suggests this is the kind of stupid thing liberals say. As a liberal and Christian I'm opposed to any war, but given the imminent arrival of peak oil, if we are going to have a war over anything, oil seems like a good reason to me.

Perhaps artman2003 means to suggest our leaders had no rational basis whatsoever for the War on Iraq. To me that way lies madness. I have to believe the war was waged for oil or to justify or conceal other nefarious activities. It's simply insane to think that our leaders would torture, kill and destroy for no good reason. On most days I can't make my thoughts go that way. Today, however, I read that Newt Gingrich is talking up "World War III" (as if it were a good thing) and apparently what he means is some sort of Middle East Armageddon against Iran, Syria and maybe North Korea (?). It's hard to believe that this idiot used to be Speaker of the House.

I didn't sit down to write this daylog, however, to argue with artman2003 about Iraq, but rather to say more about what "liberal" means, or used to mean. I come from a long line of clever peasants who manage to rise above the rabble to positions of minor distinction. In Marxist "class" terminology, we are the petit bourgeoisie. What the petit bourgeoisise wants more than anything is to be seen as the same as our "betters" in the upper class. (If not by the upper class itself, then at least by those "beneath" us). In Europe, this class could be counted on to be reactionary in politics. In Germany, they were the kind of people who rallied around Hitler and formed the backbone of the Nazi Party. In the United States, however, we rallied around FDR and the Democrats. In the United States, or at least the Northeastern part which used to dominate the country, our "old money", patrician, WASP establishment is liberal. The Irish-Catholic nouveau riche Kennedy family, for example, which joined this class, is liberal as well. There is a different dynamic in other parts of the country, the South in particular, but I grew up in the Northeast and went to a snobbish private college, and so I naturally aspire to liberalism.

Anyway, all that is pretty much irrelevant today. A classic patrician liberal like Ted Kennedy can't get elected President today, and I would be hard pressed to identify a classic conservative, like Eisenhower, among politicans today. They just don't make 'em like they used to. The younger Bush seems to have partied his way through the Ivy League and then absorbed the Western States approach to life and business, where status doesn't mean shit and failure is just a part of business. You drill a well: sometimes it comes up dry, sometimes it's a gusher. Either way, you dust yourself off, leave a huge mess behind, and go out and drill another one. It's a high risk, high reward economy supported by a great deal of pure malarkey, bullshit and bravado. It's also completely unsustainable in the long term.

As I think artman2003 and I agree, however, neo-conservative "social issues" are also unsustainable. Some day everyone will realize that sexual promiscuity is a "moral" issue, but not homosexuality, and that society needs to promote marriage and family for everyone who is willing, even if they are gay. Eventually pragmatism wins the day in America. This is the sort of thing I meant by calling neo-conservatism "idealism": a dogmatic, rigid, authoritarian idealism. To be sure, the word "idealism" can also apply to utopian yearnings for world peace and universal social justice, but I had in mind a form of self-deception in which the representation of the thing has obscured the thing itself. The Christian term is "idolatry". Lacking a theologically-freighted word for the same thing in politics, I call it idealism.

When Newt talks about "World War III" --and keep in mind he claims to be a historian-- does this make any sense at all to anyone? I mean, no matter how evil you think Iran and North Korea are, they can't be taken seriously as a world domination threat. I guess the objective of this talking point is to try and link the current violence between Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah to the Republican "idea" (idol, if you will) of the "Global War on Terror", and further suggest it is a Good and Just War, like World War II.

If any problems looming on the horizon deserve this historical analogy, it would be peak oil and global warming. Things can't go on like this without a combined global economic and environmental catastrophe, something like the Great Depression. I'd like to believe we could work through these problems, but we seem to be as clueless as we were in the late 1920s. Right as the shit was about to hit the fan, the people of the United States elected Herbert Hoover. Hoover was a good choice in some ways. In terms of character and qualifications, he probably represented the best that corporate America had to offer: a competent engineer, uncorruptible (compared to Harding and his cronies) a skilled manager and someone who could get behind a humanitarian relief effort (Belgium, during World War I) and make it work. Unfortunately, as massive problems loomed, he applied the same old Republican bullshit policies: cut taxes and subsidize corporate America (then: tariffs, today: tax breaks). Which turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to do.

Today we don't face a crisis of overproduction; we seem to have that consumption thing down. We have a long way to go, however, before we have a mature, efficient, sustainable industrial society that can serve as a model for the rest of the globe. I believe that America has everything it needs to win the War on Fossil Fuels. Mostly what we need is skilled, ingenious people, and we have them. All that potential is going to waste, however, as when people were unemployed and impoverished by the Great Depression, but today the underutilization of talent is more subtle.

Engineers are busy filling out forms to implement crazed business models wherein managers delegate management to the workers, and then declare projects completed which haven't even been started. Lawyers have to do stupid shit like fight attempts to teach "intelligent design" in schools. Billions of man-hours are wasted supporting Microsoft's shitty excuse for an operating system. Name your favorite atrocity: we are fat, lazy and stupid, and sometimes it looks like it's going to take something like World War II to get us off our fat asses and get to work.

Is it really going to take an economic crisis on the scale of the Great Depression to make the American people elect some adults who know we have more serious problems to worry about than "gay marriage"? Does South Florida have to disappear under the waves?

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