Another day, more Ramen, more reflection. I’m reusing the fork from yesterday to lighten the massive load of dishes I need to do before I move out of my apartment. My December rent is only partially paid. The remaining balance will be left with my keys when I leave on Saturday, the day my landlord and I agreed would be my last. My security deposit will remain in his company’s account.

I’m packing most of the rest of my belongings into black trash bags (Irish luggage) between sentences. There’s an Arctic cold front coming through in a few days. My electric bill (which also pays for my heat) is some where in the mid-hundreds; hopefully I’ll be out of here before they cut me off.

My heat doesn’t work as it is: the vent (placed near the ceiling, for maximum efficiency) just blows room temperature air. It’s been running at full blast for three days and the temperature has risen only a few degrees, if at all. It’s hard to tell. I’m in and out so much I don’t remember just where the little clear plastic stick on my temperature gauge was when I checked it last. Somewhere close to sixty. It’s somewhere close to sixty right now, but hope makes me think it’s a bit higher than yesterday. 

Why all the cataloging of the horrors and the kvetching and this worrying, oh, the worrying, and for what? Well, mostly because all we’ve been hearing for weeks is how no one knows what’s going to happen with the economy, but everyone’s scared. Rich people are scared, companies are scared, auto workers who make double or triple my salary are scared they might start making only half again or twice as much as me– what happens to folks like me working 40 hours a week like everyone else, taking home between $150-250 a week? Are we ahead of the game? Will our class of jobs simply get larger? Or will our jobs disappear? Will they be taken by some of the newly underemployed?

When things are at what you believe to be their worst, you tend to tell yourself that they can only get better. Things are pretty rough right now for people like me. Belts are tightened, hands wrung out, brows permanently furrowed. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. And I don’t want handouts, I don’t expect immediate prosperity, I don’t want something I haven’t worked for– but is it too much to ask that things are at least prevented from getting any worse?

Of course it isn’t. Problem is, no one has a clue how to make that happen. Barack Obama was elected president in November and the nation felt a wave of hope. For a little while. One of the unmentioned (at least from what I’ve seen) effects of the Bush hangover will be a tremendous cynicism, worse than post-Watergate, and one that certainly won’t be salved by Reaganesque smiles and speeches that prod our ego.

Amid all the converging catastrophes we’ve heard about so often lately, even if Obama can figure out what to do with his time in office, how will he get any of us to actually believe he’s capable of it? How will he prevent infighting and cynical politics from derailing his plans? How will he do all that while keeping the original spirit of his actions intact? 

These aren’t new questions, but as the chill descends and Buffalo prepares for another hellish week of trial-by-ice, hope and answers seem harder to come by, like that extra $50 late charge for the rent or the few degrees between chilly and cold.

Stay warm.

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According to the SF Gate, three State Department employees improperly accessed Barack Obama’s passport information. The employees actually work in the private sector; their companies were contracted to process passport applications.

Check out the article here.

Here are the notes I made while watching the Dem debate on CNN.

6:52 p.m. Jack Cafferty’s reading a letter from Prosperity, South Carolina. There’s a lot of letter-reading on these cable news-man shows. The content is never addressed, just recited like it was fourth grade English class.

6:54 p.m. First “Clean Coal” commercial. AARP card commercial; same old dude playing golf, hiking, going to the theater, the beach, all with his AARP card in hand.

6:57 p.m. CNN bit on bad versions of the “Star-Spangled Banner” from the campaign trail. Not even the campaign anymore, now it’s like she youtubed some funny videos from hockey games and is just running it to flesh out the fact that there are only two actual videos from the campaign trail: one of Hillary singing off-key and one of a little girl getting the words wrong. Wait, that is shat she’s doing. What the fuck?

Shh. Lou Dobbs. Talking about Bill Clinton as Hillary’s “attack dog.” Clip of Clyburn saying Clinton “needs to chill.” Some ten-second clips from Obama’s Hilary’s, and Edwards’s MLK comments. Hillary saying “get it done.” Obama sounding boring and rhetorical. Edwards sounding like a whiner.

7:07 p.m. Bill Snyder: “Hillary is the ‘where’s the beef’ Democrat. Obama is the ‘new menu’ Democrat.” What?

Lou Dobbs just congratulated white people because some of them voted for Obama. Seriously.

7:11 p.m. Lou Dobbs is talking to some fat woman with red hair (Candy Crowley) who keeps talking about conference calls she gets from the campaigns. This woman’s insane. Edwards is the “counter-programming campaign.” Awkward misunderstanding between correspondent and Dobbs. “All things are possible in politics, Lou.” Lou’s hair’s looking pretty sweet these days. Crawl: “Former President Clinton and GOP…” Fuck! I missed it.

7:15 p.m. Obama commercial. Lawrence Tribe. Claire McCaskill. Clips from the 2004 DNC speech that got us all into bed with him in the first place.

7:16 p.m. Cisco “Human Network” commercial with that kid who’s in the Peace Corps or something? Cleaning up Katrina? Who knows. They have HD-TV and Cisco Telepresence, wherever it is.

7:17 p.m. Lou Dobbs. Drug smuggling violence from Mexico. Same old song. Crawl: Hillary endorsed by Calvin Butts. Crawl: New Zealanders mourn Sir Edmund Hillary. Crawl: Sunday bombings in Bhutan after they announced first ever general elections. Dobbs still talking about Mexican border agents. An agent was killed attempting to stop a Hummer that was rushing the border. Crawl: Zambia loses power across nation for the 2nd time in 3 days.

7:41 p.m. Dobbs on the coming recession. GW says we’ll be “just fine” if something something happens.

John King from FL. Giuliani’s tour bus on the track at Daytona. Giuliani is getting really deep into his defensive crouch: McCain does this, I don’t. Romney did this, I did it better. None of the other candidates’ tax plans are as visionary as mine. He looks like a low-level schoolyard goon who’s suddenly lost the big boys at his shoulders. Hey, I was a big deal once, I talked to important people, about important things. NYC-abandonment issues. He’s out there in some dopey town in Florida running against a bunch of geriatrics, Sunday school teachers, and copy toner salesmen, and all he can think about is a time when he still felt the power between his legs. Most New Yorkers are probably embarrassed by the connection these days.

Not upstate, though. In Saratoga Springs, NY, the wealthy horse-racing enclave just north of Albany, Giuliani has raised $72,000, according to the Washington Post. (The next closest candidate is Obama, with about $6K.)

8:02 p.m. Wolf Blitzer introducing the candidates. (Hillary’s shorter than Blitzer!) The front-runners—Obama, Edwards, and Clinton—are out on stage, and…they’ve stopped introducing anyone. They’re just out there, waving at the crowd and being greeted by VIPs. (I think they’re VIPs; CNN is just rolling on with the commentary.) Where the fuck is everyone else? No Kucinich or Gravel. I’m probably late on this train; I haven’t been watching the debates. But Kucinich and Gravel are definitely still in it. Good thing CNN had that youtube debate; the uneducated observer might be inclined to think they’re out of touch.

8:08 p.m. Hillary: “We have to stimulate the economy.” Moratorium on home foreclosures. Interest rate freeze for 5 years (?!). “Green collar jobs” based around environmentally-friendly development. Good idea but she didn’t really do anything more than mention it.

Obama: March on Washington was “for jobs as well as justice.” Ragging on Bush…why do that? Why run against President Bush? It doesn’t make any sense. Where were you in 2005?

Clinton thinks $650 is a good amount for a tax rebate. Blitzer seems to think it’s pretty cool. These first anwers seem to be MLK show-and-tell time. Clinton brought up his birthday, then Obama went into the March, now Edwards whips out his knowledge that the campaign MLK was working on when he died “was—it was for garbage workers, actually, in Memphis.”

8:18 p.m. The format is actually better than it has been in previous years. It seems like there’s more opportunity for response, more chance to call “bullshit.” Even on the ridiculous VMA set CNN has set up, even with all the commercials and crawls and distractions, there’s a structure there that could do some good in the right hands.

Clinton, in reaction to Obama asserting that she had wrongly criticized his record of support on the war, keeps saying “our criticism was actually about this,” “our criticism was related to your actions and…” You’d think she’d want to distance herself from her husband a bit more, but she’s all about it.

8:28 p.m. Obama and Clinton are scrumming. Edwards looks a little lame on the side of all this. It seems interesting on the surface. They keep bringing up all this shit from each other’s past about Hillary on the board of Wal-Mart, Obama representing slumlords, etc. Edwards benefits from a lot of it. Weird.

8:33 p.m. So Joe Johns asks the questions, then Blitzer manages the responses. But after the first response, he asks his own questions. Who’s moderating? Who’s guiding the debate? Blitzer or Johns?

9:00 p.m.Clinton’s going to the mat for health care and she doesn’t want to put band-aids on our problems. It’s sort of Edwards-Clinton v. Obama. Or, more likely, Clinton-Edwards. Getting kind of old.

9:04 p.m. Question: In light of recent progress in Iraq, would your goal be to merely end the war or win it? Question: John McCain said the surge is working. Why do you think McCain is wrong?

9:10 p.m. Candidate smoke break. More clean coal bullshit.

9:15 p.m. Setting up for the “no rules” portion. Set starting to resemble “LoveLine.”

9:34 p.m. Clinton: I’m reminded of one of my heroes, Frederick Douglass…who printed in his newspaper, The North Star, in upstate NY…Why doesn’t she say Rochester? Why doesn’t Clinton talk about poverty in Buffalo and tell stories of her own personal experiences fighting poverty in her “home” state like Obama and Edwards? It’s because she doesn’t have any.

9:48 p.m. Edwards just referred to Clinton and Obama as “these two guys.” Asserted that he could compete against a John McCain candidacy more effectively than Clinton or Obama. Didn’t entirely fail to dissuade the notion that it was because he’s a white dude.

10:01 p.m. Well, they danced around this horse shit all night, but here it is: the MLK endorsement. “If Dr. King were alive today, why do you think he’d endorse you?”

Gimme a break.