the far center

Bill Clinton biographer Joe Conason begins a recent article with this sentence:

In certain precincts on the American left — and especially in some places where the far left blurs into the far right — it is considered clever to dismiss the Russia investigation as a relic of the Cold War, an opportunistic Clintonite ploy, or both.

Yes, Joe, that's the "far center," where reality blurs into reality. Dismissal of the New Red Scare isn't half as clever as the scare itself, concocted by Clintonites to distract from their incompetent campaign, where they insisted the US was in great shape after eight years of Obama. The scare isn't so much a Cold War relic, though, as McCarthyism 2.0 -- an attempt to use foreign enemies to distract from corruption at home, while justifying an ongoing military buildup.

greyhound shakedown, texas style

As previously noted, have been doing some Kerouac-Lite traveling by bus lately. Many friends and family think it's normal to drive, use Ubers, and fly through the air in a sealed spam can belching hydrocarbons but there's gotta be a better way to live on this planet.
Greyhound keeps better timetables than airlines, I've learned. The only downside I've experienced is something I'd never have guessed, which is that certain less-than-scrupulous Texas sheriffs can rifle through the bus without probable cause. A letter to Greyhound suggesting it schedule stops in some county other than these perpetrators' is below. What a country the US is turning into.
(The name of the city/county is in my letter but omitted here -- more harassment from these perps isn't needed.)

Greyhound Lines, Inc.

RE: Police raids on buses in ________ County, TX

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have ridden Greyhound from [New York area] to [Texas] twice in the last year and found the service satisfactory. The buses are on time and the drivers very professional.
I'm writing to make a suggestion regarding your travel routes. In the future I hope you'll consider not scheduling any bus stops in __________, TX. I will certainly avoid any route that includes this stop. The sheriff's department is conducting what I believe are illegal and unconstitutional raids on buses, causing much hassle and threat to bus riders.
On my last trip... such a raid was conducted by officers in ______ County Sheriff's Dept vehicles, parked and waiting at Greyhound's regular bus stop [in that county]. The officers forced all passengers to leave the bus, randomly searched bags, and removed luggage from the bus's lower compartment. A german shepherd dog sniffed through the evacuated bus and in the lower baggage areas.
The officers questioned several passengers with bags that tested “positive” according to the dog – falsely, as it turned out.
The main officer conducting the raid was rude and sarcastic to bus riders. He made a small boy empty his pack for inspection in front of his horrified father and other passengers. Questions regarding the purpose of the raid were met with flippant replies about searching for “drugs, weapons, and murderers.” The raid did not appear to have any probable cause or constitutional basis. In my opinion, it was a simple “shakedown” of travelers to find contraband or “drug money” that could be seized by the county to enhance its fiscal bottom line. (As noted, none was found in this case.)
I asked the Greyhound driver if these raids had happened before. He said yes, always in [this county] and in no other cities on his routes. He agreed the raids had no purpose except a coercive shakedown.
I hope you will consider sparing your passengers these humiliations in the future, by not scheduling any bus stops at this location.

Sincerely, Tom Moody

minor edits after posting

Update, April 2018: No reply has come to my letter; it probably went immediately into the wastebin. According to this HuffPo story, Greyhound rolls over for border patrol raids; likely the company wouldn't be any less opposed to small town sheriffs raising revenue by asking its customers to empty their luggage.

not-so-sure post

Up until recently UPS somewhat arrogantly refused to deliver to PO Boxes maintained by USPS.
Since many merchants use UPS, those businesses also refuse to ship to PO Boxes, blaming UPS (not always apologetically).
Lately it's gotten easier, with something called "SurePost," that hands off packages from UPS to USPS.
But not always easier:


travel writing

from "My Trip on Greyhound," an email to friends, in progress:

FirstGroup plc, a Brit company that owns bus companies in the UK, US and Canada, bought Greyhound in 2007 and runs it pretty smoothly. Buses have wi-fi and electrical outlets. The old network of bus stations (some of which appear to date back to the '40s) still exists; most stations had food and were kept reasonably clean (only a few nightmare toilets).

Drivers adhere to timetables and exert calm leadership. In addition to scheduled stops, they pull over at gas stations occasionally and allow people to get off the buses for smokes, stretches, and food.

I like seeing America from a bus window. When you fly you have no sense of the scale, and the changes happening in "bus-over country." Diverse bioregions gradually shift before your eyes (mountains to forest to prairie to cityscapes). Suburban sprawl is everywhere but area franchises such as Buc-ee's come and go among the ubiquitous Dollar Generals. The infrastructure of electronic control is increasingly obvious: it's one thing to see a few cell towers in your town, it's another to see hundreds of them spread throughout cities, exurbs, and farmland.

In keeping with that mechanized hell, almost everyone on the bus had a "device" and spent their time buried in it. Some played games with obnoxious noises; some watched movies and TV; but mostly it was that inevitable Facebook scroll-down through horizontal bands of messages or posts or whatever.