Those of us in the UC system have been known to shake our heads in bewilderment at the existence of the newest campus: UC Merced. First off, we don't know where it is. Last year I remember a group of three history grads speculating that it must be somewhere in the wasteland east of LA, possibly in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Further, we can't imagine what it must be like to work there, with the predictable dearth of facilities and the rest of the system looking down its collective nose at you.* Finally, it's one of those issues that doesn't have an easy answer: the state system guarantees that its top 10% of high school graduates can enter the UC, but it lacks the facilities. It had to build somewhere.

It turns out that Merced is due east of San Jose, not LA. It's out in the central valley a few hours from the south bay. Back in August, the NY Times ran this brilliant article about how Merced is also on the short list of worst-hit American cities in the housing bust. There's a lot of compelling stuff in the article, but here's the most important paragraph, IMHO: "He was selling houses for $300,000. That means a buyer would have needed a household income of about $100,000 to comfortably make the payments. But Merced’s per capita income of $23,864 ranks among the lowest for metropolitan areas in the country. “None of us paid much attention,” Mr. Glieberman says."

To me, this is the essence of what has happened and is happening as the world market goes bananas, the inevitable endpoint of the "free market." So long as there's a short-term profit to be made, the fact that it's predicated on absolutely nothing doesn't bother anyone. I'm not even going to throw an anti-capitalism hissy fit here; I'm just mad from my family's solid centrist Democrat perspective that the last four presidents (yes, Clinton too) did everything they could to unleash speculators, the blood-suckers of commerce, from any and all regulation.

And now even the mainstream media is starting to come up with "that was a bad idea" op-ed pieces. I just wonder what's going to happen next. Is it possible to move away from the model of constant growth toward something approaching stability, or is that just absurd naiveté on my part based on reading far too many European lefty theorists over the last few years?**

Personal notes for the day: Almost got run over by a bus on this morning's hike out to the Observatoire de Paris. There's a park there I wanted to sit in and read, but it's closed for some reason. Lunch tomorrow with the other grads in my program...I'm bringin' the wine. My stress was alleviated somewhat earlier today when I discovered that I actually can get the journals Gorz wrote in, all of them, back in the states. That means if they laugh me out of the BNF on Tuesday, I can still write a dissertation. Still very lonely and bored most of the time, but I'm hanging in there.

* Which I am doing right now. I am now part of the system.
** Don't answer that question.

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