Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Year's Resolution: Resist the Lists

I don't know about you, but whenever I see a headline with the words Best Of, Worst Of, Most Shocking Moments of 2013, Best Tweets of the Year, etc., etc. I do an immediate Gump, and run Forrest run.

In this last week of the best of all possible worst years ever, we are being inundated by a veritable plague of lists. Have you noticed that Duck Dynasty seems to be on every single one of them? A cartoonish Methuselah homophobe racist is only the latest wedge issue in the culture wars that define the divide-and-conquer politics of the ruling class. The timing of Phil Robertson's First Amendment rights at the tail end of Aught-Thirteen virtually guarantees his placement in the List of Lists.

Before making my own New Years Resolution to avoid lists and rankings like the plague, I did happen to catch Think Progress's list of the Best Movies of the Year. (This is the official blog of the Center for American Progress, a front group for the White House and the Democratic Party. Though characterizing itself as a grassroots organization for the hoi polloi, it was recently forced to reveal its corporate backers, which run the gamut from too big to fail/jail banks, the military industrial complex, and Walmart. Oops.)

So, it should come as no surprise that TP's most beloved movies mesh perfectly with the policies and propaganda of the Obama administration and the self-serving interests of its corporate overlords. The reviewer, Alyssa Rosenberg, admits that she has not seen all the movies of 2013, but compiled her list anyway. These films may or may not be great... I have not seen them. It's the reasons why TP thinks they are great that are quite revealing -- and predictable. Here are how movie reviews are written within the smog of neoliberal thought:

12 Years A Slave: "A great movie about slavery in America that derives much of its greatness from focusing on how black Americans learned to accommodate themselves to the strangenesses of white privilege, rather than on how good white people rise above the unfair advantages granted them by the violence of white supremacy."

Rosenberg echoes centrist thought in her celebration of the latest entry in the Slavery Nostalgia genre: black Americans can only triumph by assimilating themselves into the white system. When movies can portray them doing this willingly, rather than having their rights bestowed upon them by white people, it is cause for celebration. So what a triumph for white people, huh?

 Personally, my favorite slavery nostalgia flic is Django Unchained, a piece of revisionist history in which the slaves triumphed by setting plantations on fire and killing their masters. Needless to say, the corporate media hated it. Probably because the cruelly corrupt house slave played by Samuel L. Jackson bears an uncanny resemblance to the current White House occupant. Plus, it uses the N word.

After Tiller: "A look at the few remaining doctors in the United States who provide late-term abortions, After Tiller is a remarkable and deeply compassionate look at what it’s like to provide a medical service that makes you a target of violence and hatred. And it’s a kind and clear-eyed look at the circumstances under which women and their partners seek these procedures, cutting through ugly rhetoric to emphasize that no one wants a late-term abortion."

Since abortion is one of the major cultural wedge issues distinguishing the two right wings of the Money Party, this film was obviously a shoo-in for TP's list.

Fruitvale Station: "Ryan Coogler’s strikingly assured debut feature makes the death of Oscar Grant a tragedy by providing a riotous, sexy, often extremely funny celebration of the last day of his life. And it’s not as if we needed even more proof that Michael B. Jordan should be an enormous star, but he filed yet another brief on his own merits in taking on what could have been a stiffly noble role, and instead is a gorgeously human one."

Unarmed black guy gets shot in extra-judicial assassination-by-cop. Another wedge issue to make white liberals feel vicariously victimized at the same time its film treatment makes them chuckle, and more prone to donate to millionaire Wall Street Democrats righteously proclaiming themselves oppressed by those bigoted Republicans in Congress.

(Another film, Dirty Wars, featuring extra-judicial assassination-by-president, is mysteriously absent from TP's best-of list -- despite the fact that it has been shortlisted as an Oscar nominee for best documentary of 2013.)

Her: "My review of Spike Jonze’s innovative romantic comedy is embargoed until next week. But his exploration of a blooming relationship between Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system, named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson, liberated from her body, to great effect) is also a story about humanity as a whole getting attached to a new kind of technology. It’s funny, charming, very sad movie that pulls of something relatively rare–it’s fair and clear-eyed about all of the participants, as well as wise and moderate in its vision of the near future."

I haven't seen the movie, but since major Obama donor Scarlett Johannson plays the part of the sexy computer, this was bound to make the "progressive" list. Any movie showing us how to love our compromised-by-the-NSA operating system is a must-recommend for the Obama Spy State. If you can't love Big Brother, love Big Lover.

As an alternative, I recommend Ghost in the Machine, from Season One of The X-Files. Made in 1993, it presaged the post-9/11 surveillance state most eerily, and even villainized the NSA. There are plenty of films and books in the robot-as-love object genre, including dozens of old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits entries. The difference between these and Her is that Her (She?) is billed as a romantic comedy rather than cautionary dystopian sci-fi. So feel the neoliberal love, people!

Loves Her Gun: "I’m not sure Loves Her Gun has found distribution, which is too bad, because this chronicle of an accidental shooting foretold is a powerful brief on women, violence, and guns that makes the most of its Austin setting."

A triple-whammy of Democratic wedge issues for the price of one. The war on women. violence, and guns. Plus Austin, the one liberal bastion in the Lone Star State.

Pain and Gain: "Some of my fellow critics think Michael Bay isn’t self-aware enough to have fully pulled off this adaptation of a true story about three Miami bodybuilders who kidnapped, tortured, and extorted a local businessman for his assets. But, by God did I enjoy watching Mark Wahlberg, Dwanye Johnson, and Anthony Mackie rampage through Pain and Gain, a glorious, ridiculous exploration of the compelling power of American dumbness. 'Jesus Christ himself has blessed me with many gifts,' Johnson’s Paul reflects at one point. 'One of them is knocking people the fuck out.' Whatever you need to tell yourself."

Mocking stupid white rednecks is bread and butter for the smugly superior professional liberal veal pen. It is a cottage industry and the whole raison d'etre of MSNBC, for example. It is just another way for corporate Democrats to differentiate themselves from corporate Republicans. And what a gift this movie must be to them: stupid white rednecks stupidly attack capitalism. What delicious horror. Two phony left thumbs up, yo.

Short Term 12: "Based on director Destin Cretton’s experiences working in a group home for teenagers who’d been removed from their families, Short Term 12 stars Brie Larson and John Gallagher, Jr., giving tremendous performances as staffers at a similar facility who are terrific at their jobs because of past traumas they share with their charges. It’s a rare movie that can detonate and clear the ground on a genre–in this case, Troubled Children Saved By Dedicated Adults–that’s become a horrific, insulting cliche and then build something gorgeous and funny on the old foundations. Short Term 12 pulls that off, while also offering a resounding brief for the power of niceness."

If you can make an insulting cliché gorgeous and funny, then all is well. The "power of niceness" shall keep the Wall Street Democrats safe from the mob.

We Steal Secrets: "Alex Gibney’s documentary about Julian Assange has an unsettling structure that almost lead me to walk out of the theater when it seemed like the film wasn’t taking the sexual assault allegations against Assange seriously. But Gibney, in a moment in his career when he seems dedicated to fiercely interrogating his own assumptions and first reactions, delivers a sharp interrogation of Assange’s personality and how a transparency movement has been undermined by Assange’s sense that he deserves a deference he wouldn’t extend to anyone else."

If you thought a flack for Obama's think tank was going to praise Julian Assange, you should think again. So, thank God that this hit job of a movie did not disappoint Rosenberg. If it wasn't going to emphasize his personal weirdness issues over his exposure of war crimes, graft and corruption, then she never could have written her review. And we all would have been losers.

And last but least in the Obama Think Tank's best movies list: 

Zero Dark Thirty: "Kathryn Bigelow’s striking, gorgeously shot, volcanically acted chronicle of the search for and execution of Osama bin Laden technically opened wide early in 2013. And while the furor over it has largely faded in the excitement of a new Oscar season, it’s still one of the most important, complicating chronicles of our time, especially in a year where other cultural explorations of the War on Terror have ebbed in power and insight."

Is comment even necessary? Is Alyssa Rosenberg obsessed with the word "gorgeous?" This movie was scripted with the direct help of the CIA, and glorifies ("gorgeously shot") torture. And irony of ironies: the Obama administration is not punishing former CIA Director Leon Panetta, now exposed as the source for the filmmakers. They are going after the leakers who exposed Panetta as the leaker. That has got to be one of the most important, complicated chronicles of our time. But not one that Think Progress is ever likely to review.

Today's the day that more than a million people are being officially condemned to poverty by the two sides of the Money Party. At the very most, the Democrats are considering a measly three-month extension of benefits, as though the de facto 25 percent unemployment rate will magically correct itself when the green shoots of spring start popping up all over this exceptional land of ours.
In a column called "The Fear Economy," Paul Krugman bemoaned the political apathy and pointed out the inconvenient truth that even employed people are stuck in a rut. Because, obviously, what's bad for ordinary people is very, very good for CEOs. My New York Times comment:
Maybe the tipping point is near... when millions of us losing our unemployment benefits and millions more struggling under the yoke of wage stagnation, pension loss, and intolerable working conditions see the light, realize how badly the political system has failed us, and collectively assert our human rights.
It happened in the last great Depression when the Bonus Army camped in Washington to demand cash back for their reimbursement certificates. It happened when throngs of jobless people got wise to the propaganda that poverty is caused by laziness, stopped blaming themselves, and demanded relief from the politicians through the mass Unemployed Workers Movement.
The jobless joined the wage slaves in their sit-down strikes, endangering the bottom lines of the robber barons.
Once upon a time, the fear was transferred from the working class to the ruling class. And the New Deal was born. And ever since, the right wing and the plutocrats have been trying mightily to dismantle it.
So until enough of us can harness that soul-destroying fear and shove it right back at the miscreants who are causing this whole economic mess, nothing is going to change. We need to band together and collectively perform the ending of that other famous working class film, "9 to 5."
And then we need to go to the polls and throw the bums out who refuse to expand Social Security, restore SNAP cuts and extend unemployment insurance. And maybe convince Bernie Sanders to run for president.
The other 1100-plus reader comments were similarly outraged. It gives me hope that more and more people, even erstwhile Obamabots, are no longer limiting their ire to the Republicans. They are On to the Con. There is anger out there. And that is a healthy thing.

One of the readers responding to my comment said it sounded great until I mentioned Bernie Sanders, who apparently was among those  senators voting for the horrendous budget that rewarded the rich and the war-mongers and punished the poor even more than they've already been punished. If I had known about his vote, I probably would not have given him a plug.

Still, despite his unfortunate bout of "pragmatism," he may serve the purpose of at least verbally challenging neoliberalism in the upcoming rigged presidential horserace. For one thing, I doubt that the Establishment could ever get away with bodily removing him from presidential debates as they did with Jill Stein of the Green Party.


fahrenheit451 said...

I had exactly the same reaction you did to the readers of Krugman's column, and to your own comment. They both tapped the anger that is out there. Sanders has an edge, an indignation bordering on anger, that always seems just around the corner, if not right there, in your (their) face. So how do you feel about a Sanders-Warren ticket?

Karen Garcia said...

Dear Fahreheit451,

Elizabeth Warren has thus far adamantly shot down a possible candidacy. I think she will be effective as the continuing conscience of the D wing of the D party in the Senate. If she is constantly on the campaign trail, she will have less opportunity to confront the Wall Street thugs in Senate hearings. As a matter of fact, she will be forced to hobnob with the rich and famous for dollars.

Sanders, on the other hand, could run an effective shoestring campaign with the message the goal instead of the final tally -- but who knows, he might even win by default if both Hillary and Christie crash and burn. I think he should run as an independent, obviously. I was impressed with his recent tour of Deep South states, where voters identify as Republicans but like socialist programs as much as the rest of us. Sanders is more into ridiculing Wall Street than he is the Tea Party -- which let's face it, got started as a populist movement before it was co-opted by the Kochs.

Of course, he is not perfect. I always cringe when he prefaces criticism of Obama with "I support this president, but...".

I think the battle is half won when we can expose the dichotomy as not being between two corporate parties, but between the ruling class and the working class. It would be great if the duopoly could be extinguished and replaced by a multi-party parliamentarian system with the national leadership subject to a "no confidence" vote for ouster at any given moment.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

In today's NYTimes:

These academic whores for Wall Street are yet another sign of the decline of the American university. Unfortunately, unlike more honest "ordinary" whores, these academic whores have an influence that extends far beyond the two parties to the transaction. Which is exactly what their funders expect them to have.

According to Wikipedia ( "Currently the university receives only 16.4% of its budget from state tax dollars compared to 20 years ago when it received 44.5% of its budget from state tax dollars. Gifts, grants, and contracts to the university comprise 19% of the annual budget."

So let's remember, fellow Sardonickyans, reform is needed not only in campaign finance but also in educational finance, if universities are to provide objective analysis that can inform policy-making.

The top-voted comment to the article, by a Liz Dickson in Virginia, simply quoted Upton Sinclair's famous statement, as appropriate now as when it was first made, that "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

By the way, note in the NYT photo the functionally-useless grandiosity of the atrium space of the University of Illinois business school, still nominally a public institution, and which, like most other U.S. public universities, has probably greatly hiked student tuition in recent years. I'm not an expert in architecture, but to me --- and especially considering its departmental association --- it evokes an impression of neo-fascism.

Finally, I close with this bit from Wikipedia, perhaps not surprising:

"A series of investigative reports by the Chicago Tribune noted that between 2005 and 2009 university trustees, president, chancellor, and other administrators pressured admissions officials into admitting under-qualified but politically well-connected applicants into the university".

D12345 said...

Great comment Fred...but maybe for 2014, it is time to reconsider "whore" as a term of ultimate derision and condemnation.

While there may be something very wrong about a system that accentuates the need for women to become sex workers...certainly the idea that selling sex is some unspeakable ethical outrage or moral turpitude is very wrong.

Or else let's save the term for these academics and ban the word for women (or men) who generally are quite above board and forthright about what they are doing.

Best wishes to all for the new year.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Good comments all around - While I would love to see a Warren/Sanders ticket, I believe Karen is right, Warren would have to raise money by getting into bed with the same people she is trying to fight. I DO hope Bernie decides to take over where Ralph Nader has left off. He has no chance of winning in our smart-phone mesmerized society but he might kick up enough of a fuss to bring some important issues to light.

Meanwhile, back in January 2014 we have to keep our eye on the most dangerous ball of all, the Transpacific Partnership. My best friend from childhood, an avowed Obama supporter due to being able to get health care through Obama Care, stated that the New York Times hadn't covered it at all - implying that if the Times didn't cover it, it wasn't worth knowing about. Very scary how something that is going to effect how our government is able to govern, particularly concerning regulation, should be so effectively hidden from the American public.

All I can say is my New Year's Resolution is to raise as much awareness one the issue as I possibly can.

Who knows, I might just get my ducks in a row to a sufficient extent as to write a guest essay on Sardonicky!


fahrenheit451 said...

Some non-verbal inspiration for the coming year, and the mood of the times: are the associations too distant, too remote from American culture? How do these two pieces strike the modern cultural commentator at this site?

I suppose it is impossible to separate the cultural and historical baggage that the 200th anniversary of "the event" inspired, the inspiration which led to these compositions? Are they of any use to the American mood?

Noodge said...

Fred: You hit the nail on the head.

The state university where I work receives only 10% of its funding through tax dollars. The rest comes from tuition, fees, and money the faculty raise through donations and funded research. Fully 40% of any money faculty raise in donations goes straight to university administration.

As a result, university administration places a great deal of pressure on faculty to raise money; it has even become part of the tenure and promotion process. The quality of your research is not nearly as important as the size of the grant that funded it, because nearly half that grant isn't spent on research at all.

So the impact of those privately-raised research dollars goes far beyond merely influencing the outcome of the research; it influences the way the entire university is run, as administration is just as dependent on those dollars as the faculty.

The other impact this has is to devalue liberal arts education. No corporation is going to fund writing centers or the study of history or politics. Far better that students get educated about politics in the economics class that, thanks to the ability to raise corporate research dollars, is now being taught by a disciple of Ludwig von Mies.

One of the truly distressing outcomes in all this has been that students see education as only a means to an end. They only care about what sort of job their degree will get them; the idea that an education could have value in and of itself has been lost. We need to get public education back to being truly public, and public higher education should be free, just as it is for el-hi.

Zee said...

@Fred and @Noodge--

Fred, as I recollect, you and I both entered the University of California at about the same time, 1968. At that time, UC was essentially free, per Noodge's suggestion.

From this old UCLA Catalog, the various registration fees totaled $322.50; adding room & board (the biggie at $1,059/year), books & supplies and “miscellaneous,” the annual estimated cost for a fine education at what may have been the “flagship” state university system of that time totaled $2031.50, or $13,316 in 2012 dollars.

Had I chosen to live at home and commuted to Cal instead of going to UC Davis, my father's annual cost would have been $973, with Dad expecting me to contribute something back for room, board and commuting costs from the summer jobs that I held, which I did anyway.

Today, the estimated annual cost of attending UC—living on campus—is $32,400!

Now, it's no secret why the cost of attending a state university has increased at almost 2.5 times the rate of inflation: (1) declining support from state tax revenues, (2) burgeoning—and increasingly costly—administrative staff, and (3) a strong feeling by said administrators that their university just has to compete with every other university for “best campus quality of life” award, leading to the construction of “recreation” and other expensive facilities that have little to do with getting a quality education.

(UCD erected its first lavish “rec hall” during my later years in grad school, but before that I seemed to get plenty of exercise playing tennis at city parks and just walking or biking everywhere I went.)

Not to mention (4), the students keep on taking out loans and “ponying up” anyway, so why bother to worry about controlling costs in the first place?

What with the outrageous cost for even a state university education today—and the indebtedness that follows— of course a college education becomes an investment instead of an illuminating experience. Gotta pay off those college loans somehow, and a major in English Lit just won't do that as well as a degree in some branch or other of Engineering.

To be continued...

Zee said...

The cost of higher ed (cont'd)

Even with soaring college costs, state universities keep begging for funds. Every issue of “UC Davis Magazine” contains lavish praise for new donors and pleas for ever more private donations. Not to mention the regular harassment of UCD alumni for contributions via 'phone and junk mail solicitations. I've even had donation requests to help refurbish and dedicate a “memorial conference room” for the one faculty member in my old Department whom I loathed! (I think I've mentioned him before: he was the rabid progressive who used to interrupt my lunch-time discussions with like-minded faculty and students about firearms and shooting, asking us if we were still talking about our “penis-extenders.” No donation there!)

If state universities want to get their costs under control, they should take a long hard look at their “quality of life” expenditures, and at the numbers and salaries of their administrators. For example, except for its medical and law schools, the University of New Mexico is pretty much a second-tier university. Yet it has seventeen vice-presidents, average salaries for which ($271,474) are more than three times the average salary of the faculty ( $83,444). (Really. Does UNM need two VPs for “diversity? And why should the Athletic Director for UNM's losing teams be elevated to the status of VP, anyway? I guess we know the answer to that last question.)

As justification for this discrepancy, “University Near Mom” argues that (1) faculty are only paid for nine months while adminstrators are paid for twelve, and, (2) the average discrepancy between Albuquerque Public School's faculty and administrators was also more than a factor of three. That proves the “rightness” of the ratio: See, the other guys do it, too!

To me, these ratios seem pretty preposterous, just as I find the CEO-to-worker ratios preposterous. University administrators are not the “rock stars” they seem to think they are, with no due respect whatsoever intended towards the likes of Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano.

So, I assert that state universities should take a long, hard look at their administrations, and start cutting costs there, too.

Second, states like California should reconsider spending $68-$100B on a “bullet train from nowhere to nowhere” in order to make Barack Obama and the enviros feel all warm and fuzzy:

Especially when the bullet train will have to “share track with slower commuter and freight trains in some areas,” making it more a “snail” than a “bullet:”

So why am I ranting on about the costs for a higher public education and the inability of our state and federal governments to establish realistic priorities?

Zee said...

Well, because both Mrs. Zee and I, from K through MA and PhD, respectively, are entirely products of California public education. Yes, we both had good “launches” afforded by our caring parents, but it was UC and the Cal State University system that got us into successful orbit without bankrupting us or our parents.

My father, probably first to graduate from high school amongst his immediate family, was also a product of public education, and, though receiving his BS from a private university, got his MS from a public institution which, at the time, would have permitted him to teach at many other universities had he so chosen. And that MS gave his wife and four children very good lives, indeed.

Moreover, most of my past colleagues—now friends, too—who comprised the world-class group within which I worked for so many years, were also graduates of public universities.

The rest of America deserve this same opportunity.

So, yes, I'm rabid about the ridiculous cost of higher public ed, and agree entirely with Noodge that it should be “free,” i.e., taxpayer-subsidized just like K-12, something that both taxpayers and politicians should realize. It is, after all, the future of our country.

What dismays me beyond words is the inability of both our populace and our politicians to understand this, and to instead pander with dollars to every pathetic little special interest that comes down the 'pike.

Equal opportunity to a good education should be at the core of our society, and instead it has become a luxury that only the few can afford, because neither we nor the fools that we elect to represent us will take a long, hard look at the entirety of what we spend our public dollars on, strip the list down to the bare basics, and then decide, item by item, what really matters, and what, like “bullet trains from nowhere to nowhere” have no place in our strapped budgets.

Zee said...

Speaking of CEOs and university administrators wanting to see themselves as "rock stars," well, I guess no one is immune:

What a follow-on Sotomayor will make to Miley Cyrus's act! I can hardly wait!

"The first Supreme Court justice chosen for the honor is scheduled to be in the global glare a few minutes after provocative pop star Miley Cyrus finishes a performance."

Will we see any "twerking" in a black robe?

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@D12345: point noted.


With regard to any inspiration to be derived from the French revolution anniversary-related film clips, I'd just say that the biggest problem in a democracy (and certainly in the highly-manipulated pseudo-democracies we have in most western nations) and the most insidious one in any system, whether truly democratic or fully totalitarian, is the degree to which public opposition to oppression and injustice can be co-opted, or even outright hijacked. The powers-that-be co-opt/hijack, and often so do their replacements. Post-"revolution", whether a "revolution" was effected by force or completely-nonviolent means, co-optation/hijacking seems to be the most common state of affairs, much more frequent than counter-revolution. As The Who sang long ago: "Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss".

What may be needed more than anything else for a true transformation to occur and endure is for a permanent rebellious state of mind to become adequately widespread among the populace. Of course, that runs diametrically counter to what the replacement bosses want.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Noodge and @Zee:

You've both done fine elaborations on my short criticisms of the present funding of higher education and its implications. I agree completely. And yes, @Zee, I do recall UC prices from that time. (Thanks for the UCLA online catalog link. I myself looked for an old UCSC catalog online, but on their website, they only have digitizations for the past ten years). As I recall, though, it wasn't long after 1968-69 that the UC Regents, with Ronald Reagan (Ray-Gun) as governor and ex-officio head of the Regents, added a $300 per year "educational fee", nearly doubling the basic cost for in-state students. And then things went downhill from there, at an accelerating pace in recent years.

Zee, I think your four-point breakdown of the reasons for rising costs is spot-on. And it is particularly-galling that society seems not to understand the need to invest in higher education, and make it affordable to all irrespective of their financial background. (My late father got an engineering degree thanks to the G.I. bill, but it shouldn't be necessary to serve in the military to get access to affordable education).

Despite my support for higher education, I have no problem agreeing that a proper eye towards cost controls is necessary; it's not unreasonable for the public to expect some reasonable measure of efficiency in any service delivered by government. But certain fields (and sub-fields) of study do not — cannot — have a benefits payoff quantifiable solely in terms of dollars or tangible products, yet may be instrumental in establishing/sustaining the educated populace necessary for a democratic, moral nation. As we "devalue liberal arts education", as @Noodge puts it, we are undermining the very foundations needed for a decent society.

Finally, I think that the universities have failed in ways beyond the funding reductions and tuition increases, beyond the administrative bloat and edifice complex, beyond the devaluation of the liberal arts. Just as the left has failed to adequately "make its case" to the public with respect to political ideology, I think that universities have often failed to make the case for their importance — to the public, the ultimate support for spending — in ways unrelated to fielding winning athletic teams. And I don't mean making the case by means of PR, plenty of which can be seen. The broad public should consider public universities as an essential part of the community — because those universities should themselves try to serve as a broad essential resource, beyond the academic research and student education function. That resource function is declining, and to many, universities seem more and more remote and irrelevant.

(To give just one local example, the University of Arizona Libraries used to be free to community users. Now, they have not only levied high prices on community borrowers, they have greatly restricted access hours to all public users (no access to any of them after 9 p.m.), and greatly restricted computer use by any public user who hasn't ponied-up $250 or more per year as a "friend of the library".)