We Are All Pods Now

Were we Podded in Our Sleep?

I think I went to sleep about a year ago, just woke up, and realized that either I or the world has been changed, snatched as it were. [1]

Once upon a time, cars were just cars.

Like most Americans on the West Coast I began buying Japanese cars after a host of mishaps with American brands — chronic alternator failures on a Chevy S-10 pickup; a Chevy Malibu whose brakes lasted about 10,000 miles, and whose air conditioner went out every six months; a Dodge Dakota whose electrical system failed three times, twice on mountain roads — once in a rain storm, the other at night ... and so on. Like millions of others, I reluctantly started buying either Hondas or Toyotas. But suddenly in this new pod world, I am noticing cars are now becoming political statements — and buying them a political act. Toyota has been demonized over what empirically seems to be an isolated accelerator problem. The subtext, however, is that the now number one automaker threatens U.S. union jobs and the now federal GM brand. Indeed, buying a GM product is becoming patriotic, at least more so than Ford, which did not participate in the federal bailout. Indeed, the evil GM Corporation of Michael Moore’s fantasies within a year has transmogrified into something akin to Social Security or Medicare. What will Palo Altoans or Carmelites do with those Priuses? A year ago, they were signatures of environmental caring, replete with Obama bumper stickers and fading  “No blood for oil” slogans. Now, however, are not they anti-American, anti-union, anti-Obama administration, anti-consumer, pro-corporate greed fetishes?

Borrowing from Uncle Sam

Student loans will never be the same again.  Apparently unnoticed in the health care fight was that the Obama administration simply absorbed the multibillion-dollar student loan program. Students will be delighted to see their interest rates, in a low interest market, perhaps go down a point or so — unconcerned that the resulting waste and inefficiency will in the long term devolve into something like Freddie and Fannie (e.g., the minister of student loans will now become a plum sinecure for retiring apparatchik politicians in the manner of Franklin Raines; yes, maybe the retiring NEA or NEH or Education head will accept a Student Loan czardom for the duration?)

An Empty Mailbox

Suddenly there are to be no more Saturday mail deliveries. The Postal Service is broke; unquestioned is any substantive move to freeze union salaries or lay off large numbers of employees. I doubt FedEx cancels Saturday service. The cynical public wonders whether, with 1/6th less service to the public, we can expect either a budget 1/6th smaller or a work force comparably reduced? No, of course not; it would be lunatic to think that. Did we all just sleep through no more private student loans and no more Saturday service?

The Evil Private Health Care Insurer

I expect both my Blue Cross and Health Net medical HMOs  very soon to send me some sort of letter, either advising me about new tax exposure, advising me about new rate hikes, or advising me about reduced coverage. And in time I imagine the number of private physician groups will shrink, and the number of public clinics will expand. I’ve used both, and can attest in the former people are happy and competent, and in the latter more likely to be demoralized and going through the motions. In one a doctor wants to build a practice by expert care; in the other a doctor knows that whatever he does, he is still paid the same — survival, not competence, being the formula for promotion and pay raises. (And soon suing a GS-15-Step 10 Dr. for malpractice is no John Edwards picnic)

And just as California DMV employees now wear to work purple SEIU T-Shirts with “solidarity!” emblazoned on one side and “organize!” on the other, so too I expect that expression of progressivism with millions of new health care bureaucrats and loan officers. The only mystery is whether, when the bodysnatching process is over, the new alien health care plan’s outward stationary, cards, and logos will still look and sound like Blue Cross and Health Net?

The New Rules of Racial Tolerance

There is a new racial tension not present a year ago, one having nothing to do with the election of the nation’s first President of partial African ancestry. Instead, never in my experience have officials of the federal government, both in the campaign leading up to their governance and once in office, so deliberately chosen to polarize the country along racial lines.