A Useless Road in Austin

Double File Trail is a 1,000-foot road in the far north end of Austin, Texas, and it may be one of the most useless stretches of pavement in the state’s capital. This two-lane road forms junctions with Wells Branch Parkway in the south and with Single Trace to the northeast. A wide, tree-lined median divides the lanes of traffic along most of the road’s length, except where two lanes become three at the tail ends in order to provide dedicated left and right turns.

Double File Trail hugs 2800 Wells Branch Parkway, a vacant 83,000-square-foot office building with a large, wraparound parking lot that’s an ideal spot for student drivers or field hockey practice due to its wide open pavement and lack of vehicles. Double File Trail serves no other commercial, industrial or residential structures. It does not provide a viable shortcut for traffic between Single Trace and Wells Branch, and it does not practically relieve congestion in the area, which is already nonexistent.

Even if 2800 Wells Branch Parkway was a bustling office building with hundreds of cars entering and exiting the property daily, Double File Trail would offer little to the commuters. The northbound road may provide slightly easier entry to drivers coming west on Wells Branch Parkway, but access points along Single Trace and Wells Branch provide plenty of access for drivers coming from every other direction. The southbound lane is totally useless for anyone trying to access 2800 Wells Branch and offers a meager one or two-second shortcut for those passing by.

It’s difficult to discern the reason for constructing Double File Trail in the first place, but it’s clear now that this useless road is a blight on the community. Not only does the infrastructure look ugly and prevent more public green space, but it also costs the community a lot of money in upkeep. Winter storms in 2021, 2022 and 2023 caused significant damage to the road surface, resulting in extensive repairs that likely cost the city tens of thousands of dollars. Despite these problems, the community is unlikely to be aware or concerned. The road doesn’t have much effect on residential traffic and can mostly be ignored.

Despite the unobtrusive nature of Double Fine Trail, there is value in razing the asphalt and pavement and replacing it with natural space or a public park. The area could contain basketball and tennis courts, a dog park, a public playground, community facilities or other concepts brought forward by the public. Some kind of complement or extension to the public gardens across the street would also be beneficial. Families from the adjacent elementary school could find the space very appealing.

The first step in this process is to inform Wells Branch MUD and the City of Austin as well as the public at large. Potential excitement for the project is expected to be subdued at best, as the impact on daily quality of life may be perceived as limited. That’s why awareness efforts should be targeted at nearby apartment complexes, businesses and the elementary school. The owner of 2800 Wells Branch could be a very powerful ally, as beautifying the nearby space could attract lucrative tenants.

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Biden’s Prescription for America Is a Crutch for Capitalism

President Biden’s policy proposals, which were announced at his address before congress Wednesday, are a breath of fresh air for many Keynesian leftists. The fear-mongering of debt hawks and pearl clutching of pragmatic blue dogs has slightly subsided, and the democratic party is ready to spend the money required, and tax those who need to be taxed, in order to improve material conditions for ordinary Americans. Many of these proposals have the potential to deliver change for people who’ve heard empty promises for decades. They also stuff a sock in the mouths of perennially incorrect economists who warn that American will end up searching its couch cushions for change to pay for breakfast should these policies go through.

While the resurgence of promoting the general welfare of the population is a good step for the American government to make, it’s just a crutch for America’s seemingly unhealable broken leg: corporate capitalism. Biden’s most aggressive proposals , a family-focused $1.8 trillion plan and a more than $2 trillion plan aimed at infrastructure, both aim to solve fundamental failures of capitalism without addressing the crumbling foundation. The government will do its best to heal people wounded and left behind by corporations, but the door is still open for these companies to exploit and abuse our population over and over again.

Biden is not ignorant to these fundamental problems. In his speech, he cited the gap between CEO and worker pay and the general wealth gap separating most Americans and the top percentile. His mention of “trickle down economics”, however, reveals a perspective that views policy as the problem and not the rules of the system itself. Critiquing this shortcoming is important, but we should not ignore the legally entrenched ownership structure that causes and exacerbates these inequalities. Executives making 50 instead 300 times their workers is an improvement but not a solution.

The American Families Plan is a perfect example as a crutch for modern capitalism. There are some provisions in this plan that are not just bandaids for capital but actual solutions to problems, such as universal pre-K education and free community college. Provisions like tax credits for child care, however, shift the burden of adequate compensation for workers to the government instead of the corporations that employ them. That’s not to ignore the enormous benefit these types of policies can have for families, but these policies also allow companies to give their executives and stockholders more money by not adequately compensating their producers.

President Biden, of course, has no will or means to restructure ownership of our economy. In fact, even the crutches being proposed have little chance of turning into law in their current state. Even if the family and infrastructure bills pass, their ability to deliver long-term change is uncertain, as a slight shift in representation can reverse even drastic changes to tax policy and government spending.

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How the Republican National Convention Outshined the Democratic One

Just a week after the depressing conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, it’s more clear than ever that the Republic Party is superior in every way when it comes to salesmanship, even if what they’re selling is rat poison dipped in chocolate sauce. With a few exceptions, Joe Biden’s 2020 introduction as the Democratic party nominee was stilted, amateurish, vapid, and worst of all, boring. Conversely, the RNC was a spectacle of machismo and nationalism creatively combined with disturbingly convincing gestures towards inclusion and unity. However hollow the RNC’s messaging was at its core, production values – and looking like you give a shit about what you’re selling – can go a long way with the public, perhaps all the way to a second term. 

Despite how fun and energetic the RNC felt at many moments, the Republicans didn’t need to do much to outshine the DNC this cycle. Each bombastic anthem in front of a sea of fan-flapped flags or emotional speech from culture-war victims drowned out the placid tone and general drudgery of the DNC. How could the Democratic party fail so horrifically at what seemed like a slam dunk? Why did countering an incompetently handled pandemic, a crashing economy and an extremely rare impeachment proceeding seem completely out of the DNC’s ability? Sadly, we’ll never know what they could have accomplished, because they didn’t even try. 

Instead of appealing to progressive strengths – 70% are in favor of Medicare for All and 63% are in favor of legalized marijuana and pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants – the DNC opted for Republican-light messaging. No popular issues were put in front of the camera in any significant fashion. The strategy was not about closing the wealth gap or ending police brutality, but rather showing moderates and so-called Never-Trump-Republicans that the DNC was now their home. “We’ve got the same politics you’ve always loved but without the shame and sticky fingers,”  seemed to be the essential message of the four-day convention. 

To highlight this point, the DNC rolled out all the old Republican fallen idols: John Kasich, Colin Powell, Meg Whitman and several other anti-orange conservatives who’s main message was “Say No to Trump.” Even the presidential candidate played a major role in this effort by appearing in an extended post-mortem fellation of John McCain. Imagine trying to make your candidate look better by showing how good of friends he was with his opponent just 12 years prior. Meanwhile, the RNC represents most democrats as near demonic figures out to destroy the very foundations of American life. 

Maybe none of these tactics would hurt the DNC if they had any sense of showmanship, but a total lack of enthusiasm for the candidate and overall platform made the convention feel more like a 2 A.M. mesothelioma class action ad than a promotion for the most powerful person on the planet. In the RNC, viewers could understand the stakes of the election even if they could see through the misdirection and smoke screens. But like any rich-flavored dessert void of nutrition, the RNC was best observed in moderation. The nausea could sneak up on you quickly. 

After three exciting nights of fun house mirrors and terrifying carnival clowns, the GOP used the final night of their convention to bring out some of their more respectable hitters. Ann Dorn, widow a murder victim, tearfully recollected the night of her husband’s killing, perhaps unaware that she was being used to set up a terrifying depiction of modern “Democratic” cities. Rudy Guliani converted the earned sympathy for this victim into hatred, describing Black Lives Matter protestors as terrorists and blaming every instance of American violence on the left. Guiliani’s depiction of New York City could have made John Carpenter envious. Between the exploitation and post-apocalypic imagery, Ben Carson claimed that abortion was the most potent form of racism in the country. Just as viewers had too much conservative red meat, Ivanka Trump came in to tie a soft bow around the bloody package. Despite some of the contradictory tones, the messaging was emphatic, a characteristic that’s all too often confused with authenticity. 

Many Democratic-leaning professionals are against using tactics even remotely similar to the RNC to attract, or scare, voters. The infamous mantra from 2016, “When they go low, we go high,” should be a warning sign, however, not a renewed battle cry. The answer to an intense and aggressive opponent lies not in pacifism or proper decorum. When you want to discredit an adversary who constantly lies, you tell the truth forcefully and with conviction. When you want to counter their fear-mongering, you provide hope and a clear path out of the darkness.  Sadly, the DNC gave people no reason to hope for a better future, just a slightly less severe trend towards the abyss that we can all feel pulling us down 

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The PTA Disbands Is an Animated Masterpiece

Social commentary was a strong component of the Simpson’s from the very beginning, but no episode skewers the roles parents, teachers, and administrators play in Springfield’s seemingly only school better than “The PTA Disbands.” The episode begins with the Springfield Elementary School bus making its way down a rural road towards a Civil War battle site. Within just a few seconds, we see a broken bumper creating sparks on the asphalt, a gaping hole threatening to swallow Millhouse and Bart alive, several cross-eyed children choking down exhaust fumes, and principal Skinner instructing the children to use their clothes as drag parachutes.


When “The PTA Disbands” first aired in 1995, it was likely exhausting to watch. The satire here is packed tightly into the 22-minute run time, leaving little room to digest a joke before the next one arrives. By the time the bus reaches Fort Springfield, the writers have already covered inadequate school funding, privatization of heritage sites, and the poor treatment of public employees. After the children are run out of the fort (R.I.P Ooter), tensions between Ms. Krabappel and Principal Skinner begin to heat up in the cafeteria – where malk and meat blended with newspapers and gym mats is being served.

The battle brewing here between the teachers and the administrators has no real antagonist or protagonist. Krabappel’s examples of the school’s lack of funding, including  a ‘banned’ book titled “The Theory of Evolution,” are persuasive, but even if Skinner agreed with her point, he doesn’t have the resources to meet her demands. The writers are concise in their commentary here: educational failures of our society are not the fault or teachers or principals. Who’s to blame? As the community tries to work together to find out how to deal with the teacher strike, the answer becomes clear.

Before the titular part of the episode arrives, chaos ensues in Springfield as the children have nothing to do during the day. Each kid, expect for Millhouse, approaches the lack of structure uniquely. Lisa soothes her anxiety by creating a mock school setting in the Simpson’s house and creating a perpetual motion machine,  Jimbo enjoys soap operas with his mother, and Bart disrupts order within the community in devilishly clever ways. His ability to create a run on the banks in just a few seconds is one of the highlights of the episode.

When Marge gets creeped out by Bart’s nighttime kite flying and Homer refuses to let Lisa disobey the laws of thermodynamics,  it’s finally decided that the PTA needs to do something about the strike.  As the meeting starts, its quickly apparent who’s to blame for this entire mess. Everyone is in favor of giving the teachers what they need to create a positive future for the children, but no one wants to pay for it. Krabappel’s and Skinner’s arguments eventually devolve into single-word sentences and hand motions as the parents chase their own tail.

Springfield’s citizens have already proven themselves too incompetent to simply raise a bit of money for their schools, so who better to entrust the education of their children than those very same citizens? The replacement teachers at Springfield Elementary include Moe, Jasper, and of course Marge, whose presence forces Bart to work against the strike for the first time. “The PTA Disbands” is at its weakest as the characters, now realizing this band aid isn’t working, try to find a solution to the strike, but there are still plenty of good jokes.


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