theferrett: (Meazel)

There’s been a lot of talk about “the Republican Bubble” lately, and rightfully so.  But a lot of my liberal pals have been discussing the Republicans high-handedly, as though liberals have a one-to-one correlation with thoughts and reality.

I sort of mentioned this yesterday, when I said, “One of the problems that liberals have is that they often think that businesses are magic money-making machines.”  To flesh that thought out further, while conservatives generally think of the market as a continual force for good, liberals think of the market as an unkillable Golden Goose.  Doesn’t matter how many regulations you force companies to jump through, or how many taxes you lay on them – they’re business!  They’ll be all right.  What matters is the people who work for those businesses!

But every new regulation has a very real cost.  Every new tax puts some poor bastard out of business because he can’t compete any more.  Every new nice thing that businesses are forced to do via legislation for their employees means that someone can’t afford to hire a new worker – or may have to lay people off to make his quotas.

And these are not evil.  Because the other liberal bias is to think that any decision based on cash is evil.  Any layoff, any cut in benefits, any restructuring is just a greedy jerk trying to stick his nose in the trough.  But there are also good businessmen, people who care, people who get fucking ulcers because they’ve looked at their books and they can’t afford to keep ten people on-board any more, they have to let two go.

There are hard limits in business.  And whenever you make it harder for someone to do business, you’re hurting someone’s livelihood. And that’s not cool.  A guy’s sunk his entire life into making his own business, investing his life savings to try to make it in America… and suddenly thanks to a flurry of paperwork and incremental taxes nibbling him to death like ducks, he has to go to my wife and declare bankruptcy.

That’s a bad situation for anyone to be in.

Which is not to say that regulation is bad.  You need it to keep businesses in check, because otherwise we’re back to child labor and sawdust in our bread.

But liberals, think of regulation and taxes as surgery – you’re going to be doing some initial damage, and risking doing more permanent injury, in order to rectify a problem.  It’s something that may do more harm than good, if you’re not careful.  A poorly written law can bury someone in useless paperwork, increasing costs across the board and not actually fixing what you wanted to.

With every new law you’re affecting people’s lives just as surely as you are cutting welfare benefits or cutting back on libraries – you’re making it harder for these businesses to get by.  And they will not automatically just get by.  Some of them may go under.  Some people may lose their jobs.  Some people may be heartbroken.

I’m not saying not to do it.  I’m saying not to do it lightly.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So someone on my Twitter feed posted this most excellent link: “The Tea Party Will Win In The End.”  And by God, he’s right.  The money quote:

Such is the power of denial that we [liberals] simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all.

The thing that’s always struck me about liberals is how blitheringly stupid they are in writing off an entire half of the goddamned country.  We’re so utterly convinced that we’re morally justified that we actually forget that opposition exists.  And so the history of me being liberal(ish) is watching people go, “What?  Bush won?  California passed Prop 8?  Tea Parties are winning elections?  How did that happen?”  And every time it’s like someone ripped off a Band-Aid, and there’s this sense of terror that the world has gone terribly wrong.

No.  It didn’t go wrong.  You just forgot to fight.

Dude, conservative rhetoric is here to stay, and no matter how laughable you may find their ideas, many people believe it and it does not cease to exist because you can’t take it seriously.  Stop being shocked that hey, they’re still here after every victory you accomplish.  You let down your guard, they come surging back.

Many of the liberals I speak to seem morally outraged that they even have to discuss their ideals, as though they’re as natural as water and it’s sheer stupidity of anyone to need to know about how noble you are.  Cut that shit out.  You gotta stay in there punching, man, because the conservatives sure aren’t, and they’ve never ever stopped taking us seriously.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

As an Ohio resident, Jezebel’s headline makes me wince: “Ohio Republican Party: GOP Chairman Made Racist Remarks Because He Thought He Was Speaking Off the Record.”

Doug Priesse’s racist remark was this: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.” Which is the whole reason why they’re attempting to shut down early voting sites.

Now, let us be uncannily kind and assume that maybe, he’s not racist at all.  It is vaguely possible that he is not trying to shut down the “urban” voter-turnout machines because they’re black, but is merely noting that the early-voting policies disproportionately reward black voters.  And he’s not against the early voting policies because they are black, but because it’s not fair that voting procedures are twisted so much to accommodate any one single group – be they black, white, marbled, or pointillated.

Guess what?  That still makes him a fucking dick.

Because the whole point of voting, to any honest and objective person, should be to get as many legitimate voters as you can out to voteAny policy that makes it easier for anyone to vote in the single most important thing you can do for our democracy should be lauded, as long as it doesn’t lead to widespread vote fraud (like, say, online voting almost inevitably would).  As a liberal-leaning centrist, I support every Republican effort to get out their vote, because frankly the votes of my opposition should still be counted.

This isn’t just my fucking election.  It is the combined will of the people.  It is larger than just what I want – it’s a temperature taken of the population as a whole, and for this to be more than a dictatorship under my control, this needs to have as many people as we can get invested in the process.

So.  Early voting hours for blacks and fundamentalist Christians alike?  For it.  Mail-in ballots for the military and the civilians?  For it.  Better methods to make it easier to get involved, even if those methods disproportionately favor Tea Party members?

Fucking. For. It.

So what Priesse is saying here is that we should make voting a difficult thing.  Even in absentia of the concern that he’s purposely trying to punish black people for voting Democrat – which is almost certainly the case – it still makes him the kind of guy who wants to turn voting into an elitist machine where only the kinds of people who can jump through certain hoops can do it.

Fuck that.  The Republicans’ efforts to quash voter turnout via ludicrous measurements designed to shut down a voter fraud that even they have to admit doesn’t exist is shameful.  This is shameful.  And if you support them, you should be shamed that your support is, in part, covering this.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

To the Republicans, the rich are basically superheroes: having been endowed with a superhuman work ethic and the smarts to run the world, the wealthy do nothing but good in this world by creating jobs for slovenly poor people everywhere!  Having clawed their way to the top, fighting for every dollar, don’t the rich deserve a break from the predations of those awful people who would yank the money from their well-manicured hands?  Haven’t the rich proven their worth already by being smart and cunning and persistent enough to amass all that wealth?  Haven’t the rich proven their worth already by, well, being fucking rich?

I might even believe that, had I not grown up in Connecticut.

I grew up in Fairfield County, one of the 40 wealthiest counties in all of America.   Paul Newman and Martha Stewart lived there.  Not everyone in Fairfield was rich, but it was impossible to grow up there without bumping into the wealthy on a regular basis – they bought their coffee with you, their kids went to activities with you, they went to the same movies.

Now, it’s important to notice that these folks usually weren’t the super-rich, the people even rich people envied.  They had a mansion, and maybe a yacht for a hobby if they were particularly well-off, but most of them didn’t own their own private jets.  They didn’t have a chauffeur, because it was usually easier and cheaper to drive your own car, and they’d take the train to New York where they often worked.  Their kids went to public school because the public school system in Fairfield is pretty top-notch, as you’d expect from the income level, but when it came time for college you bet your ass that Yale or Harvard were getting mentioned.

They were the 1%, which in today’s day and age means they had about $300,000 a year on their hands.  They didn’t have to worry.

And here’s the thing: their kids were often douches.

As a teenager, you could tell a rich kid not because of his clothes, but because of a certain recklessness that emanated from them.  They didn’t really understand consequences all that well, because whatever they did, it would get cleaned up.  If a rich kid’s grades were bad, they got tutors, the teachers got spoken to about helping poor Jack to his potential, there was much moaning about the need for Jack to do better, and the parents would ride saddle on Jack until he did his fucking homework.  If a rich kid drank too much, well, that wasn’t a problem – the cops overlooked the rich kid drunk teenagers, letting them have their places where people didn’t go much, and if you were dressed right they’d usually just tell you to move elsewhere.  (I once witnessed a millionaire heiress wave off a cop in her local town by telling him, “Do you know who I am?”  He did.  He knew who donated to the policeman’s ball, and moved on.)  And if a rich kid did get into trouble with the cops, usually via fighting, well, he’d be bailed out and the parents would have a talking to him, but mostly the emphasis was “You’re screwing up your future potential!  How do you expect to get into college with this record?” and not “You could go to jail.”

They lived in a different world.  If you got on drugs, well, you had a problem.  If they got caught with cocaine repeatedly, we all knew about the local detox centers they got sent to.  They’d talk about these places like it was such a burden to have to go. I remember being in more than one conversation where two rich kids commiserated about the terrible food at these places, and how you couldn’t even call any of your friends, it was so lonely there.

Here’s the thing: none of these kids had really done a damn thing to earn all of this wealth and privilege.  They just sort of had it.  And it oozed out of them, a slacker mentality that things would be all right, and they could keep fucking up until things worked out, because hey, no pressure, we’ve got the time.

Now, not all rich kids were like this.  Some of them were razor-sharp, the kind the Republicans are proud to talk about.  They studied hard, they got good grades, because they had a future they were determined to be prepared for, and they did all of the extra-curricular stuff because they already had their favorite college targeted.  You often couldn’t tell those kids from the poor kids, because they didn’t mention their wealth.  I envied and feared those kids, because I wasn’t able to be them on any level, and yet I couldn’t really bitch about them, either.

But the other rich kids, the drifters who roamed through Westport in their preppie outfits?  Well, they had a lot of money, and a lot of potential, and didn’t do shit with it.  And some of them are still rich, just because of an accident of wealth.

Some of them are me.  Hell, I drifted through college for nine years, attending endless semesters of college that I dropped out or flunked out from – and who do you think paid the bill?  Hint, dear readers: it wasn’t me.  I turned out all right, because after a decade’s worth of slacking I finally got my shit together… but I’m excruciatingly aware every day that I had the luxury to find myself.  And it was a luxury.  My parents bailed me out, and now I’m not rich, but I’m way better off than I would be if I’d had to start working at the grocery store to pay my rent.

Which is not to say that there aren’t good rich people.  My boss used to sleep in the back seat of a car, driving from town to town to sell comics out of his trunk because there was a buck in it.  He never sleeps.  His relentless work ethic has created a good company that I am proud to work for, and he’s the kind of wealthy I’d like to reward in America: a guy who, with nothing more than dedication and cunning and an insane work ethic, has built his own wealth. And created jobs for people like me.

But the Republicans’ repeated fellating of the rich, as if “being rich” was automatically the same as “being super-hard working” or “being smart,” just doesn’t add up if you knew enough rich folks.  Sure, the rich will tell you that, but why not?  It’s in their best interests to create their own monolith story, the same way that poets turnthe reclusive and horrid-paying world of poetry into a romantic, mysterious world of adventure.

Yet I think that the poor buy into it because it seems right.  I mean, if someone’s that much better off than you, then they must have done something spectacular to deserve it, right?  They can’t be that wealthy just at random.  But a significant portion are – hell, the Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican bill is – and a lot of the things people have done, nobly enough, to protect their children means that a lot of the kids who have tons of money are just as stupid and slothful and ignorant as the worst of the welfare mothers, except they’re rich enough to bail themselves out. In some cases, that richness is big enough that it’s self-perpetuating, which is to say that as long as these dimwits hire the right accountants and don’t buy a life-sized gold Ronald Reagan statue every week, they’ll be dumb and rich forever.

Yet this illusion permeates the debate in America.  The poor all see themselves as, as Steinbeck famously said, “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”  And they think that if they just did the right things, they’d all be rich themselves.

Except it’s not simple.  Some people do all the right things to get out of poverty, and can’t manage it anyway.  Some people do all the wrong things, but wind up okay because they’re wealthy.  Life is messy, and full of should’ves and shouldn’t'ofs, and any philosophy that claims a 100% correlation between an activity and a success is selling you something fetid.  And rich, I hate to say, are like us – some of them smart, some dumb, and the only difference is all that lucre they’re floating on.

When you talk about taxing the rich, realize that they’re not all superheroes.  Not all of them necessarily deserve that cash.  And maybe you should think about ways to tax to encourage the kind of wealth you want to see in the world.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In the wake of the Batman shootings, the AMC theater chain passed a ban: no patrons would be allowed to attend in costumes that obscured their face.  In addition, no fake weapons would be allowed into the theater.

A moment’s thought would make you realize how foolish this is.

For one thing, “covering his face” wasn’t the problem: afterwards, he went and waited for the cops to come and get him.  If guns don’t kill people, face paint certainly doesn’t.  There’s the slight danger of maybe it’d take the cops longer to find the shooter if he’d worn a mask, but chances are that they’d have tracked him down anyway. And any good bank robber knows that if concealing your identity is a concern, you can just stuff a ski mask into your pocket and put it on before opening fire.

Then there’s the weapons ban, which is completely useless.  The actual shooter, so it’s said, entered through a propped-open exit door.  Even before the ban, the shooter realized that hauling in an armory on his back would have raised questions, so he sidestepped the existing personnel.  Post-ban, it means nothing, as I highly doubt the rent-a-cop security guards at the theater would be a serious deterrent to a murderous terrorist.

So why have these bans at all?  They won’t stop any prospective shooters, and they punish enthusiastic fans who like cosplay.

The answer is easy enough: because those things would make customers nervous. But those people are stupid.  Yes, these bans will make them feel better, but in reality they’re not one iota safer due to the stoppages.  I mean, if AMC had said, “We’re having all of our theaters hire emergency security to police our doorways,” then that would be an effective security procedure… But they didn’t do that.

They encouraged the ostrich route: Can’t see any people in masks?  Then you’re safe!  And yes, that makes people more likely to pony up at the box office, but it’s security theater: if a maniac wants to kill them, that maniac will not be significantly deterred.

So how do you fix that?  In a sense, it’s not the theater’s problem, because you know, hey, this is what the people want.  But what do you do when what the people want is stupid and shallow and not a real solution at all?  How do you train people that no, this thing that terrifies you isn’t what will harm you, and this thing that you could give two shits about would actually keep you safe, if you dared to actually do it?

Because I guarantee you, AMC did the “smart” thing.  They could have hired a ton of extra security, for a negligible risk of copycat killers, and still had people freak out over the guy in the Joker costume.  The extra security would be mostly non-visible, and the guy in the costume would have caused some people to ask for their money back.  So that’s the smart money, doing the thing that does nothing at all.

Yet in the end, feeding those stupid instincts gets us hollow exercises like the TSA – look at how incompetent they are! – where we figure, “Hey, we’re inconvenienced sufficiently, this must be good stuff!”  Meanwhile, we’re always one threat behind, searching shoes and making travel so hellish that people don’t want to do it unless they have to.

So how, if ever, can you educate people as to what a real threat?  Can you?  Or are we forever going to be stopping Batman and letting the Joker slip in through the back door?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

If I was a kid listening to the news, I’d think OBAMACARE was some troll that lived under a bridge and ate people’s hearts.  The word gets tossed around like a football – and I mean that literally.  Have the Democrats fumbled OBAMACARE?  No, wait, the Republicans have got their hands on it!  No, wait, the Supreme Court saved OBAMACARE!  Who’s winning in the great OBAMACARE game?

And I’m pissed at Obama, because for a legislative package that’s literally got his name on it, he doesn’t seem to care that anyone understands what it does.

Look, I voted for Obama on the strength of one book: The Audacity of Hope made me think, “Man, this is a guy who knows how to communicate complicated ideas.  This is who I want in office, pushing my Democratic agenda.”

Instead, what I got was a genius politician.  Seriously.  For all of the Republican smear campaigns crying, “Why, he’s as inexperienced as a child!  He’ll paw like a confused kitten at the levers of government if elected!”, they forgot that Obama got his start in backroom-dominated Chicago, and wouldn’t have gotten as far as he had if he didn’t understand the rules of the game.  So he snuck through Obamacare in what was a magnificent act of legislative juggling, making all the right concessions to do something no other President has ever been able to do.

The problem is, he was so busy getting shit done in the halls of Congress that he forgot to speak to the streets.  And FOX News and company dominated the conversation, talking about OBAMACARE as though it was a dirty bomb someone had smuggled into a church.  Did the man on the street know what OBAMACARE did?  Fuck no.  But he DID know that Obama had pulled off kind of a sneaky trick to pass it, and Obama certainly hadn’t stumped for it in the same way he’d run for election, and he decided that OBAMACARE didn’t pass the sniff test.

So America dislikes it.  And they STILL don’t fucking know what it does.  The number of times I saw this “Explain Obamacare to me like I’m five” link passed around Twitter by people expressing surprise (“Oh, it does THAT?”) by progressives was amazing.  Here’s Twitter, where people are usually a little more politically involved, and here’s liberals, who should have a good grasp on the overall picture, and they’re still like, “What?”  To this day, when I’ve seen people polled on the individual things that Obamacare provides, and the results appear to be, “Yeah, I like that.  And I like that.  And that’s good.  But I despise OBAMACARE like it was the love child of Hitler and Sauron!”

I do not think, as many conservatives would have me believe, that the man on the street has done a complex analysis of the many contributing factors of the insurance companies and the overall economic picture and the long-term effects and come on the downside.

I believe, rather, that Obama’s done such an astonishingly shitty job of touting his plan that people don’t actually know what benefits it provides.

So now that it’s officially here to stay, why isn’t Obama taking ads out in every state talking about what OBAMACARE does?  Why aren’t there thirty-second commercials saying, “My child got cancer, and when I switched jobs the insurance company told me they wouldn’t insure him because, well, he had cancer.  Thanks to Obamacare, they can no longer deny children for pre-existing conditions.”  Or “My insurance company turned me down for treatment for my emphysema.  No reason.  They didn’t have to tell me why, and if I didn’t like it all I could do was hire a lawyer.  Now, thanks to Obamacare, there’s an appeals process I can go to without having to spend $2,000 to retain an attorney.”

Why is Obama so concerned with passing laws and so little concerned with changing hearts?  There’s a lot that people like in this bill, and he’s inextricably associated with it.  If people think better of it, they’ll think better of him.  So why is OBAMACARE still treated like a ticking time bomb that Jack Bauer needs to defuse, its innards mysterious?

That’s fucktastic long-term politics.  Yes, Obama, you passed the law and the Supreme Court, by luck more than skill, upheld it.  (I don’t think anyone saw Roberts coming down on your side, son.)  But because America’s still treating OBAMACARE like it’s a tumor in the genitals, but if they understood it, then at least they’d see that there are tradeoffs.

Obama needs to start using some of the Audacity of Hope on America, explaining the healthcare bill’s strengths in a bombardment.  Otherwise, it’ll remain so hated that legislators will have voter support in getting rid of it, without the voters even really understanding what they’re doing.

(And yes, he’ll get pushback from the Republicans on it, but at this point Obama literally can’t talk about pushups without Republicans bitching about it.  Blowback is not an excuse for inaction, because frankly there are enough stupid-crazy conservatives who feel Obama’s doing too much by drawing breath.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can’t.

“But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president’s control.”

I’m an honest Democrat, so I’m gonna tell you the truth: There’s not that much the President can fucking do about gas prices. So stop blaming him whether he’s Democratic or Republican or Libertarian or Green or Martian. Basically, we need this much gas to survive. Other, outside influences determine the cost of that gas, and there isn’t much we can do short-term to drop our collective usage. On a month-to-month basis, about the only thing the President can do is decide whether to open the strategic gas reserves, and even that’s a pretty stupid idea.

However, the President can influence the price of gas long-term by funding initiatives that reduce our reliance on gas. Oh, yes, I know Mr. Obama has taken a lot of heat from conservatives for investing in poor technologies like solar power, but those self-same conservative politicians back the funding of corn ethanol, which basically is like solar power except we spend infinitely more effort extracting the energy from corn farmers.

The truth is that America loves cars, and the only viable long-term strategy to reduce the effective cost of a limited resource that every other country in the world wants is to reduce our reliance on it. Sure, we can drill, baby, drill, but eventually oil’s going to get scarce enough that we’re going to regret having the transportation infrastructure of our entire country dependent on it.

Which is why we need a President who’s going to work towards other options – yes, I know, you conservatives, you have all the negative reactions towards “Let’s build trains” that most people do to kicking a baby, since it’s taking our freedom to drive wherever the fuck we want away from us! But the truth is that the paradigm of “everyone has a big ol’ expensive car” isn’t going to last forever, and we need to be prepared for the day that doesn’t work. Which will involve car regulation to mandate gas efficiency, the supporting of other technologies to at least the subsidy level and tax breaks we give to the oil companies, and – yes – an investment in public transportation that will not initially be profitable.  Just like all of those long-term military projects you never seem to mind funding.

I remember Borders, king of the bookstore world, going, “We’ll just let everyone make their mistakes in online bookselling, and then we’ll rush right in! We can make up that ground overnight!” And right now, conservative America’s going, “We’ll just let everyone else make their mistakes in creating efficient, non-gasoline-powered forms of energy, and then we’ll rush right in when we need to!” That didn’t work out so well for Borders, and it probably won’t work out so well for us. Especially since if gas hits seven bucks a gallon, which eventually it will barring the creation of biofuels, we’ll have a lot of poor people with no way to get to their jobs.

If you want someone who’s going to lower the price of gas long-term, then you gotta find a guy who believes that gas isn’t something America should rely upon. If you want someone who’s going to lower the price of gas next week, well, stop thinking that the President is a superhero who can break the laws of physics.  Whatever  party he belongs to.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The good news is, I’ve talked to Republicans, and it turns out none of them are racist.

Now, you might think many are racist, given the harsh reaction they’ve had to Obama, a black president – getting vitriolically angry at him for doing many things that they had little vocal complaint about when Bush was doing the exact same things.

But when I talk to conservatives, what it turns out is that every single complaint they have against Obama is entirely justified by Obama’s damaging policies.  They can talk for hours about how what they’re against is Obama’s actions – which, given that they’re Republicans, it seems pretty reasonable that they’d oppose a Democratic President.  And since their complaints are based entirely on the laws that Obama’s trying to pass, as are the complaints of all their friends, they assure me confidently there’s no racial component.

Certainly they’re rationalist Republicans.  After all, they’re debating me in my rather liberal journal – clearly not a comfort zone for them – and they have many long, thoughtful screeds on why Obama’s proposed laws and policies would do harm.

Therefore, all Republicans are like them.

Oh, sure, there may be a couple of racist mails passed back and forth, and a few embarrassing signs, but those aren’t representative of the true conservative party.  Most of the conservatives oppose Obama based on nothing more than sheer disdain for his policies – a sane, rationalist approach.

Which is good news.  Because what I was thinking in my foolishness was that yes, the conservatives almost certainly had some valid complaints against Obama.  But could it not also be that for many – and not necessarily those who comment here, but not necessarily not – their legitimate complaints are aggravated because of hidden racial sentiment in a way where they wouldn’t freak the fuck out if it was an old white guy in charge like Bush?  That it’s easier for them to complain about a black guy?

I thought it likely, given the consistent pattern of alienation and repetition – Obama is not a real American, he’s a Muslim, he hates the flag – that for many, these legitimate complaints are inflamed by an undercurrent that many of them aren’t even willing to look at, turning everyday gripes about the current leader into OMG HE’S RUINING AMERICA.  That there’s some ugly stuff there that might be deserved to look at, even though much of what they say is true.

But as it turns out, there’s one of two sides: either they’re all redneck racists and as such none of their complaints is worth a damn thing, or they’re all very rational people who’ve been inflamed by a particularly confrontational President.  You have to choose one.

It can’t be so complex as to that they can have both legitimate complaints and racism.

Now.  For “Obama,” read “Twilight.”  For “racism,” read “misogyny.”

Some people sailed magnificently past my comments that Twilight had some really difficult issues involved to settle, rather dimly, on the interpretation that “Ferrett thinks Twilight deserves a pass on its female issues.”  Which is distinctly not true.

Yes, I’m sure you have some good reasons to hate Twilight.  It’s eminently hateable.  It’s got some really fucked-up issues with regards to female empowerment (or lack thereof) and the prose is amazingly bad, and Edward’s stalkery creepdom.  Yes, all those are manifestly clear.  Yes, I’m sure you and all of your friends have thought it through very thoroughly, and that each of you have considered it carefully.

Yet forgive me for remaining unconvinced that the reason that everyone so easily dumps on Twilight is because of its terrible prose, and that there’s not a scrap of “teenaged girls have terrible taste and should be scorned” in there somewhere.  Because as I said, it’s not just Twilight, but Justin Bieber and Titanic and Sex in the City and a long score of feminine media, where if you tell people you really enjoy such silly things, you have to justify these silly pleasures on some level.

Because they’re girl things.

What I’m suggesting is that maybe, in addition to Twilight being deeply flawed so that you intelligent people can pick on it, there’s something inherent in our culture that allows us to see teenaged girl things as disposable.  (As witness this comment here about how the shrieking girl fans of the Beatles are presented as not really appeciating them.)  Which does not mean that Twilight is immune to valid criticism, it just means it’s more okay to kick girlish things like Twilight around because we subliminally accept it.

It’s been suggested that my liking of Batman is only acceptable in nerd cultures, and I’m just hanging around my nerdy unwashed friends too much, since any reasonably grown man would never admit to liking anything comic-booky in public.  Yes.  That could be.  It could also be clear that my reclusive nerdy culture doesn’t get out much, and the fact that five out of the the last ten years of box office annual #1s include a Spider-Man movie, another Spider-Man movie, a Batman movie, a Lord of the Rings movie, and a Star Wars movie certainly doesn’t mean that my boyhood favorites haven’t achieved, you know, global domination or anything.  Or that male power fantasy videogames like Halo and Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto haven’t outperformed even those stalwarts at the box office.

Clearly, the fact that these nerd fantasies are all massive money-makers means that every one of the millions of people who saw Dark Knight Returns never discussed it in public, clutching their purchases shamefully to their chest and never mentioning it among genteel society.  It’s certainly not a sign that my silly boyhood weirdo fantasies have actually infiltrated the mainstream culture to a large extent.

(As opposed to, say, Japan, where I hear tell the videogame development industry is suffering because men who play videogames past the teenaged years are considered childishly foolish and soon walk away.  Then again, I haven’t been there, so I can’t say.)

My point is that yeah, there are valid complaints to be had with these sorts of teenaged girl’s affections – mostly, the worrying message that a man bringing dizzying love is the only thing you need to complete you, a message hammered home again by Bieber and Twilight and Titanic and tons of rom-coms.  That’s a very legitimate complaint.

Still. A lot of women legitimately and unironically love these things.  So what then?  Do we train society that if women aren’t toeing the line of “Liking empowering things,” that it’s okay for society to make fun of them, dismissing the things they carry close to their chest?  A dismissal that further encourages teenaged boys to consider their teenaged girls as alien creatures, both mysterious and trivial?

(I wish I could find an essay someone linked to on Twitter the other day, but there was a creative writing teacher saying that when they asked students to write about what it would be like to be the opposite sex, the girls wrote long, involved essays that showed they’d clearly given it a lot of thought.  Whereas half the boys flat-out refused to do the assignment, considering it beneath them, and the remaining half made it clear that trying to think what they’d be like as a girl would be a waste of time.)

So.  Do we honestly think that everyone who’s bagging on Twilight is doing it with the same thoughtfulness that you’ve put into it…  or is it possible that the moral equivalent of Redneck Randal is riding your coattails, complaining for entirely different reasons?

I don’t have an easy answer.  But I think it’s more complex than “Everyone knows Twilight is bad because it’s disempowering.”  I think there’s something entwined in there that bears greater consideration.  (As is the concept that “changing the world,” as Katniss and Buffy do, is invariably a noble thing, and something as simple as trying to find the love of your life is not really a worthy story to tell.  I like world-changers  I just don’t think they should be everything.)

Which is why, in the end, I will – and have! – complain about Twilight.  I just won’t make Twilight the automatic punchline when it comes to choosing “the worst book in the world.”  Because some of those people laughing might not be doing it for reasons that I support.  There’s a difference between that and “refusing to criticize,” and if you can’t see that distinction, well, maybe you should write me off with Twilight.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“You know how crazy the right wing is?” my friends said.  “It’s gotten so bad, they think the Muppets are liberal propaganda!”

As evidence, they provided a video (from FOX news, of course) wherein a couple of talking heads discussed the sad, sad state of The Muppets targeting kids with crazy liberal messages.  “It’s amazing how far the left will go to manipulate your kids and give them the anti-corporate message,” they said, noting Tex Richman’s characterization as an evil businessman.  “I just wish the liberals could leave little kids alone.”

But here’s the thing: They’re absolutely right.

The Muppets are propaganda.

They’ve always been propaganda.

It’s just a propaganda you agree with.

The Muppets have always dropped pretty heavy-handed lessons about The Way You Should Live Life: Wealth or fame aren’t important – friends are.  Follow your dreams, kids, no matter what anyone tells you.  (Or, in the case of Fozzie and Gonzo, no matter what arguable talent you may have.)  Freaks are not only okay, but really cool.  Dignity is for the birds – no, seriously, just look at Sam The Eagle.

The Muppets are, to quote the old conservative paradigm, “subversive.”  Because there’s this idea that “propaganda” can’t possibly be entertaining – yet the truth is that the best propaganda is actually wonderfully fun to watch, yet has this underlying core of ideas that slip into your head.  And in between songs, the Muppets are constantly reinforcing their idea of The Way Life Should Be.

And I agree with them!  Holy God, I wish we lived in a more Muppet-like world, one where Gonzo and Rowlf and Professor Bunsen Honeydew – disparate personalities all – could all live side-by-side.  I wish our culture didn’t value wealth as an inherent sign of goodness.

Yet the Muppets are, amidst the explosions, constantly putting ideas into your head.  There are precisely three people in The Muppets who are rich – Gonzo, Miss Piggy, and Tex Richman, and two of them are explicitly made miserable and sour by their businesses, while Miss Piggy is presented at least partially as working to compensate for a lost love.  The Muppets’ poor business practices are, in fact, a point of pride in the movie (as Shortpacked! notably mocked here).  There is no Muppet who has corporate aspirations, aside from arguably Scooter.  They’re all artists and dreamers.

What’s that say about the average businessman?  It’s a quiet message, but it’s there: This suit is what you do not want to be.

None of that is bad.  But it does get bad when you get huffy and go, “Well, that’s not a message!  That’s just the way things should be!”  Which is exactly the same goddamned thing fundamentalist Christian parents say when they flood their kids with Veggie Tales and Davey and Goliath.  They’re not trying to give their kids a message, they’re just showing them how the world works.  Right?

The error here is thinking that your most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational way of thinking is “just entertainment” because you agree with the messages it provides.  The Muppets is a liberal show, made by liberal people, and it’s got some damn good liberal messages… And yes, it’s aimed at kids, who are more likely to have some of those messages absorbed into their system.

Does that make the Muppets bad?  Hell no.  Do I think Jim Henson sat down in his Evil Subversion Lab and said, “Let us make a series that will sway kids towards COMMUNISM!” and then cackled evilly?  Hell no.  I think Jim was a guy who had a lot of personal feelings about life that emerged, organically, in his art – which is the way it often works.

But don’t deny that there’s a barb inside this furry fabric, one that hooks kids towards a world where you’re encouraged to look beyond people’s exteriors and to become a little more tolerant and a little less concerned with money.  That’s a wonderful message, as far as I’m concerned.  But it’s still something that is being taught, fairly overtly, and you ignore that truth at your peril.

Because you know what?  Liberal values are important to teach.  And to think of the liberal message as something inherent in the world is to forget that we are not necessarily born loving and kind and sharing – check any of the fights on the playground – and that really, this sort of teaching lessons is a part of responsible parenting.

I’m not saying we should brainwash our kids, but we should monitor what kinds of lessons we do teach them, and analyze what’s being presented in the media.  Because these sorts of behaviors are taught, quietly, through parents and teachers and the shows we allow them to watch, and it’s correct to sift through those voices for what they’re actually saying.  For many parents, what the Muppets want to teach is abhorrent – and while I disagree with them, to deny the Muppets carry a message is incorrect.

It sounds strange, but as a liberal, the Muppets are a voice for what we believe in.  To dismiss that is to forget that these lessons need to be taught.  And they do.  Which is why we need Kermit telling us what’s right in this damn world.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There are days where I don’t want to vomit rage all over you.  Today isn’t one of those days.  But I think it would be hypocritical of me to let the day pass without mentioning the passing, and subsequent failing to veto of, the National Defense Authorization act.

Fucking leprous shit-eating motherfucker.

Obama’s record on personal liberty has been pretty abysmal – I mean, I still blame Bush for starting the Guantanamo detention camps, but Obama’s kept them going.  And at this point, what I’m seeing as Obama’s legacy is two things:

1)  A complicated boondoggle to fund the insurance companies that he shoved through Congress without actually explaining to anybody, which may or may not work and which may or may not be dismantled in the courts;

2)  Destroying habeas corpus.

Basically, by not vetoing the bill, Obama’s said, “You know what?  If I think you’re guilty of something, I can jail you for as long as I want.  Do I need evidence?  Nah.  A trial?  Nah.  If you fucking annoy me, I can fucking get rid of you.”

Which, as has been noted here, is not really a surprise – the NDAA merely codifies what Obama and Bush have been doing all along, a great big ol’ reacharound Presidential land grab of authority.  And you know, maybe I do trust Obama not to lock up civil enemies without warning, barely, but this isn’t about just Obama.  This is about every fucking President from now on being able to do this.  This is handing a loaded gun to every dickwad wanna-be tyrant who walks into office.

And Obama knows this.

As I’ve said time and time again, the problem with just side-stepping the law is twofold: one, if the laws aren’t sufficient to catch criminals, reform the fucking laws.  Without laws, you have abuse.  And while it’s tempting to just tell the cops, “Yeah, it’s hard to play by the rules, so we’ll look away while you go beat up the guilty,” in reality what happens is the cops pick on whoever they don’t like instead of actually carrying out justice.  If the current tools aren’t good enough, refashion the fucking tools, you leaking diarrhetic fuckfaces.

Two, as Irving Berlin once said, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” which is to say that every time the United States says, “Hey, we don’t need to actually follow rules or encourage freedom locally,” some shit-pot of a tyrannical dictatorship looks to us and goes, “Well, if the country of freedom can’t be bothered, we certainly don’t need to be.”

If America’s going to advertise itself as “The land of the free,” then it needs to be an example of what freedom is to other fucking countries.  And freedom is not full of shortcuts.  Freedom’s a hard thing where sometimes the terrorists are smarter than your laws, and sometimes you know someone’s guilty, but you let them free because it’s not about your gut feeling, it’s about proving it to other people with evidence.  Because the alternative is just fucking grabbing whoever looks guilty, and feeding into that feeling that the system is rigged, which eventually leads to a never-ending series of overthrows as people come to realize that if they’re not the guy on top, they’re going to be fucked over.

Obama’s a scholar.  He knows that.  He’s studied what happens, and still he threw it away in a cynical, personal power grab.  So fuck him and fuck his idea of freedom.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

My conservative friends have sniffed at Occupy Wall Street, saying that if they were acting like criminals, they’d hope someone would shut their occupation down just like #OWS is.  Which I guess would be true… if they were as equally upset about the illegal actions of cops covering up their badges to not be identified, shooting rubber bullets at protestors who were merely filming them, and beating people far outside the need of any realistic crowd control.

The lists of Occupy Wall Street troubles are comparatively minor, for a group this size staying as long as they have.  And I take the odd view that while we should expect perfection of any group, and certainly punish individuals who stray from that mentality, dissassembling the entire group because of a handful of bad apples is probably a bad idea.

(If you disagree, then certainly you’ll also agree that foreign countries have not only the right, but the moral privilege, to expel American military bases, which are well-known for bringing increased incidents of sexual assault to their area.)

Now, this is not an essay telling you that we should dismantle anyone.  I think the cops should stay employed.  I think the military bases should stay where we need them.  I think Occupy Wall Street should be allowed to stay where it is, so long as it remains overly peaceful….

…with the caveat that “peaceful” goes both ways.  If the cops harass Occupy Wall Street until Occupy Wall Street reacts, well, I’m not going to condone the activity, but I will understand it – in much the same way I once watched two cops beat up a friend of mine and didn’t blame them at all.  I’m seeing a fair amount of cop-dickishness coming from the protests, but I also do note that the protestors are the ones allowed to put up YouTube videos of their day.

The point I’m making is that the real reason my conservative friends believe that Occupy Wall Street should be shut down is because they see Occupy Wall Street as a threat who should probably be dispatched.  After all, the Tea Party are well-groomed individuals who’ve never harmed a fly, despite the fact that the Tea Party wasn’t required to spend a week standing in one place before they started to get serious national media attention.

I know my conservative buddies will be heartbroken to hear me say this, but if the Tea Party had needed to hang around for two months to make a point, there’d be some random assaults and violence happening.  You put that many humans in one place, someone’s bound to be a dick.  In much the same way that while I don’t condone police brutality in any way, I do understand that cops are human and going to snap, and if a liberal said, “Well, a cop was mean, so we should disband the NYPD,” I’d call him an idiot, too.

Because here’s the deal: I know full well that even if I compiled a database of Occupy-related crimes compared to Occupy-related police department illegal activities, and it turned out that the police were being more dickish, my conservative buddies wouldn’t say, “Well, we should get rid of those police.”  They’d talk about arresting the cops who committed the crimes, and changing the structure to make sure better structures were in place, but they’d never go, “Well, they just shouldn’t be there!”

It’s the way I feel about Occupy Wall Street.  Yeah, I’m sure a significant percentage of them are dicks who deserve to be hauled off.  I’m not convinced that the entire band needs to be broken up.  And I’m honest enough to say it’s because they’re a cause I believe in, and not hide behind some screed like, “Well, they’re not well behaved like my guys.”  (Because the truth is, my conservative associates are really operating off of the idea that one bad apple means Occupy are mostly bad apples who should be tossed out, but one bad cop-apple is just human error and in general the cops are great.)

My guys are kinda dickish.  Based on Sean’s entry, there were probably some things they could have done better to comply with fire codes.  But that doesn’t mean they should go away entirely.

(EDIT: And my favorite quote of the day comes via Twitter: “If only they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Brad Hicks’ discussion on how St. Louis utterly demolished the Occupy movement in their town is worth reading. Really a chilling example of how you handle liberal protest effectively.  And it’s not what you think.

Bart Calendar compares Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party, and finds one critical difference.  An extremely good point about the enforceability of free speech.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

You know what doesn’t seem suspicious at all?  Showing up at one in the morning after you’ve barred the press, and clearing out a group of protestors because you need to, uh, clean the park.

Occupy Wall Street had turned into a semi-permanent encampment that was threatening to “shut down Wall Street” on Thursday, so you know, that shit had to go.

Regardless of your take on the Occupy Wall Street thing, I would like to note that this is just sketchy behavior.  If they’d said, “Okay, guys, on Tuesday at noon we’re going to let the sanitation crews in to clear it of fire hazards, and anyone who tries to stop us is going to get thrown in jail,” then fine.  That’d be a tactic clearly designed to break up the protest, but defensible.

However, a surprise sweep at ass o’clock in the morning?  That is “We’re going to break this thing in half.”  And you know, maybe you don’t like Occupy Wall Street, but remember that in politics, any gun you use eventually gets into the hands of your enemies.  I wouldn’t be thrilled if a long-standing, peaceful Tea Party protest was broken up the same way.

As Gini says, “When this happens in China, we decry it, but when it happens here, we say it’s necessary.”

But here’s the thing about Occupy Wall Street: this isn’t the end.  And that’s a change.

The last time I discussed Occupy Wall Street, I noted in the comments that I was pretty tired of having to look back to Martin Luther King, because it had been forty-plus years since the last effective liberal protests.  In the entirety of my lifetime, liberal protests have looked like this:

Liberals: What do we want? Change!  When do we want it? Now!

Police: GTFO.

Liberals: …okay.

I’ve pretty much gotten used to being part of the paper tiger army, where we yell a lot and feel good and then someone makes it hard and we slink away.  That hasn’t happened. So a part of me’s been wondering how long this Occupy shit can last.

Right now?  Two months.  And I’m pretty sure from the reactions on Twitter from the Occupy Wall Street folks in New York that they’re going to go back twice as hard now, because this was shitty and yes, a lot of people got arrested, but this is something people feel strongly enough about that a little tear gas ain’t going to clear them off.

And, you know, what else do they have to do?  It’s not like they have jobs.  Oh, wait – most of them actually are employed, they just feel pretty damn strongly about how Wall Street needs a leash to be an effective economic leader.

It’s not just hippies this time, though that’s the media spin.  It’s a lot of working stiffs and old hippies and young kids coming together and going, “Hey, America?  This is fucked up.  And I approve.”

In the meantime, what has Old Man Ferrett done?  Thrown a few bucks to donation requests, but between work trips and World Fantasy and pressing projects and, yes, romance, he has yet to actually make it down to Occupy Cleveland.  In other words, dick-all.  But that’s going to change, soon, as one of my pre-New Year’s resolutions.  Because this is something that is history-making, at least for me, and I don’t want to say, “Yeah, I remember watching the Twitter when the Occupy protests hit.”

Regardless.  The government’s reacting the way it’s supposed to when people get angry and refuse to move: police actions, tear gas, motions on technicalities followed by flagrant disregard for the laws they’re supposed to enforce.  But the protestors aren’t reacting according to their script, which is that they go home and feel like they did something, then go back to playing Nintendo.

Good job, guys.  Good fucking job.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Despite appearances, this essay’s about #OccupyWallSt.

Now.  I’m in a bad mood because my work day has been yet another tangle of “This documentation tells me this will work, but it doesn’t” and people changing their minds willy-nilly, causing me to have to reprogram entire modules because they can’t decide how things should function.

Furthermore, I’m working in the kind of code where I have to concentrate.  And Gini’s the sort of person who, despite years of getting better about it, still sees me on the couch, thinks “Couch is not work,” and will jar me out of programmer-space me without so much as a by-your-leave to tell me about some internet meme.

So when Gini barges into my concentration for the third time today to ask me if I’ve seen so-and-so’s post on cheesemaking, I:


b)  Snap, “Working.  Now.  See?” and point at the computer to let her know just what an idiot she is.

c)  Shake off the rage, which isn’t really her fault, and quietly point out that I am working, sweetie, and you’ve interrupted me twice today, and if you don’t stop that I’m probably going to eventually snap at you in a way I’ll regret.  Please respect my space.

The correct answer, of course, is C…. But it’s also the least satisfying.  I don’t get to have the Tower of Righteous Rage, I don’t get to make her feel as crappy as I do, I don’t get the satisfaction of the dramatic apology I might (miiiight) get if I made a much bigger deal of this.

On the other hand, I don’t have to apologize later, and I don’t make her feel as crappy as I do, and she doesn’t pack her bags and leave after I pull that shit enough times.  So there’s that.

The lesson here, children, is one of those big fundaments of life: The right move is not necessarily the satisfying move.  It’s said that in diplomacy, a good compromise often makes both parties feel as though they didn’t get what they wanted.  And they didn’t.  But they got more than if they’d went to war, and probably lost.

The reason I bring this up is because I just got a comment that read:

So I’m doing a little teeth-grinding here, Ferrett.

Because at what point is something going to count as doing something?

You’ve previously posted, grouchy about people who make Tweets or posts or whatever in solidarity with something because they weren’t out doing anything.

Well? Now people are out doing something, and you STILL are saying they aren’t doing anything. At what point will it count? What has to be done for it to count as “doing something?” People are doing what they can; why isn’t it enough? Why can’t you/we not recognize that you don’t go from nothing to everything in a snap?

That’s an incorrect summary of my position.

I wasn’t grouchy because they weren’t out doing anything.

I was grouchy because they weren’t doing anything effective.

Too much of activism is about what feels satisfying, and not what’s actually effective.  One of the reasons I laud MLK is that he said, “Hey, you know what, we could yell a lot and be ignored, but frankly, these people are going to go out of business if we stop patronizing them.  Let’s be respectful enough that we always look meek and noble in the press, and behind the scenes we fucking squeeze their throats until they choke.”

That wasn’t satisfying, I’m sure, taking the upper hand as much of the time.  I’m sure rioting is a lot more satisfying.  But it would have just gotten everyone jailed.

Now, at this point, I’m glad that #OccupyWallSt is raising big questions; that’s great.  Whether they’re actually going to be effective in the long term in achieving their goals is another matter.  And I’m concerned that it’s going to turn into some big ball of everyone getting their satisfaction on by making a big stink and hanging around in crowds and waving signs, and in the end getting actually no legislation passed. (And hey, they’re not rioting and causing bad press.  Good job!)

I can recognize that we don’t go from nothing to everything in a snap.  But I can also recognize, for I have seen, protest groups dwindle into irrelevance because they’re more concerned about feeling good than doing what’s effective.

As such, for me to ask, “Hey, is this actually working?” is not only a question you shouldn’t be grinding your teeth over, but one that should be foremost in your fucking mind when you’re looking at it.  I’ve seen groups whose sole goal’s been to get the word out, and they got plenty of that word out, and nobody fucking cared.  I don’t deny they’re doing something.  But what are they actually doing?

As I said, I want to be proven wrong.  Maybe this evolves into something more significant than a bunch of people getting together, feeling good, and walking away with exactly the same legislation and power structure that was here when they got here.  Maybe the questions take root and make real change.  I am, at least, heartened to see consistent nationwide protests about this sort of thing, which is more than has been done in recent memory for any non-war-related activity that I can imagine.

But what I see from here is an awful lot of satisfaction in the form of “YEAH WE’RE HERE YOU SHOULD BE TOO, IT’S AWESOME” and comparatively little effectiveness in the form of “THIS IS WHAT WE THINK WOULD FIX THINGS, GO DO THAT.”

As such, I’m never going to stop asking, “Well, is this working?”  And neither should you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Here’s the thing about Occupy Wall Street: I want to like it. I’m sympathetic towards its causes.

I just don’t know if it’s really doing anything.

I mean, right now it’s doing something, and that “something” appears to be the purpose of Dennis Kucinich showing up at the Democratic Presidential Debates: raising a lot of questions that nobody really wants to answer. In particular, the responses to Occupy Wall Street have produced a lot of good videos and op-eds in response to “Why would all of these people just hang around waving signs?”

In particular, I rather like this four-minute-long video that explains everything that’s gone wrong with deregulation:

And wow, does former Representative Grayson absolutely school P.J. O’Rourke in this video (who resembles nothing more than a slightly more hysterical Harlan Ellison here, interrupting and capering):

And Paul Krugman’s Panic of the Plutocrats is succinct and well-written.

But that’s the problem I have. The responses are being inspired by Occupy Wall Street, not coming directly from Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street seems like that shy, emotionally incoherent girl in eighth grade who everyone told you dude, she’s totally into you, but whenever you talked to her you just got damp hands folded in skirts and low mutterings you couldn’t quite hear.

In a sense, that’s its strength: Occupy Wall Street isn’t like The Tea Party, which was bankrolled by corporate interests from the get-go, and had its soul pretty much gripped in the tight fists of spin doctors from Day One. No, Occupy Wall Street is a genuine grass-roots movement, and like grass, the roots go every which way.

That’s good. It’s hard to co-opt a movement like that. But it’s also hard for a movement like that to go anywhere. What we have is a seething mass of people who feel strongly about things and can’t quite seem to form a coherent shout that tells us what they want.

And people say that it’s the media who’s doing this, the media is following their traditional methodology of “Ignore, then overblow,” but I’ve been reading a fair number of the blogs and videos and Tweets from the whole thing – not all of them, but certainly enough that I feel reasonably confident that if there was a consistent solution that all of them were seeking, I would have stumbled across it by now.

It feels like they’re just sort of, you know, angry about the 1% in power (and they are in power) and the way so many conservatives have fetishized being rich as being equivalent to smart and qualified to lead, and they want people to, you know, do stuff about it. And I don’t know how that’s going to work out.

Steven Gould, that notable children’s author, told me that if I was on the ground I’d know. It’s clear there. And that’s fine, but he’s in New York and I gotta work. I hope to make it to one of the Cleveland groups, but really, from here it’s a bunch of echoed watermelon-cantelope-watermelon-cantelope noises.

Keep in mind, I agree with them. So if it’s not necessarily clear to me, how’s it playing in Peoria?

Occupy Wall Street is useful for now, because the question of “What do they want?” is circulating through the media, forcing debates on things that Fox would prefer not to discuss, holding Democrats’ feet to the fire so at least some of them are stating the truth of “Yes, this is class warfare, it’s always been class warfare, and we’ve been losing for three straight decades now.”

But what happens next? Brad Hicks makes a cogent analysis (as he usually does) about the likely consequences of Occupy Wall Street, and what he says about “Hey, when it gets cold and freezy, how many people are likely to keep showing up for hours at a time?” seem particularly relevant.

Then again, Occupy Wall Street is a peaceful movement. Say what you will about violent revolution, but it gets results one way or the other: either you smash or get smashed. The fail state of a peaceful movement is incoherent stasis – I remember seeing a protestor group in 1994 standing in New Haven green, passing out fliers to “Stop The Gulf War.”

For the record, this was four years after the first Gulf War had ended.

But they were still upset about the changes that had been wrought, and took the not-entirely-indefensible-but-certainly-unclear position that the ongoing damage and fallout still counted as a current war. They were handing fliers to baffled citizenry who you could see muttering to each other: “Did another war start up when we weren’t looking?”

The danger of Occupy Wall Street is that they become the Kucinich – the guy who raises some damn fine questions, then hangs around for too long after it becomes clear that the people in charge have zero interest in answering them and he doesn’t have any power to compel them.  The Tea Party was effective because even if you hated them, you had to admit they all lined up nicely to be voter-aimed in a specific direction.

Is Occupy Wall Street the new core of a revived Democratic Party the way that the Tea Party has become the chocolate center of conservative power, with old-school Republicanism rapidly becoming a thin, crunchy shell?  I don’t think so.  Would I want it to?  I think so, because we’d have some real fire at last.  People would be stating what the Democrats really want, making a case for socialism and regulation and government aid, instead of muttering it quickly like a sniggering teenager says “adouchesayswhat?”  We’d have to stumble for a while, given that you know, every major politician has been agreeing with most of the main Republican tenets (LOW TAXES BUSINESS GOOD REGULATION BAD) for years… But you know, the Republicans spent the better part of a decade in the wilderness before finally finding culmination in a Reagan who stood on the podium to express sentiments that would have been unthinkable in the 1960s: “Yes, greed is good.”

I dunno. I want this to work. I want to be heartened. Instead, I just find myself with the same sort of hold-your-breath feelings I had when Dubya invaded Iraq: I can’t see this working, but let’s hope.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The good news is that after a tense negotiation that felt more like cops trying to talk a hostage out of a cheap motel than, you know, government workings, we finally got the debt ceiling raised to prevent financial meltdown!  That’s good, right?

Well, as it turns out, Standard and Poor still downgraded America’s credit.  What did they say?

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.

I’ve heard a lot of liberals saying, “That’s it.  This lays the problems with America’s finances, as seen by one of the top financial companies in the world, at the Tea Party’s feet.  Now they have to own it!”

Not so fast, folks.  I will now put on my Amazing Kreskin hat and tell you what the conservatives will say!

  • The problem is that we didn’t cut enough.  This only shaved about $2 trillion off a projected $28-trillion deficit (or whatever the actual numbers are)!  If we had managed to reduce our spending to the bone, we’d get America’s house in order!
  • Besides, Standard and Poor is just one financial company out of three.  The other two didn’t downgrade America.  So what’s wrong with Standard and Poor, huh?  Why do they hate America?  Let’s look at their history and find out all their scandals!
  • They’ll hammer on this quote: the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability. Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with a ‘AAA’ rating.

You kidding? An approach that involves cutting spending and raising takes on the super-wealthy?  That’s crazy.  They’ve got so much spin, you’d think they were a washing machine.

In other news, I agree wholeheartedly with this article, “The Real Confidence Crisis,” which includes the following money quote:

The real confidence crisis doesn’t lie with corporate America. It belongs to the Democrats. They are the party of government, and they should face it, and boldly advocate to use government to solve our problems. Instead, ever since the chaos of the ’60s and ’70s they’ve tried to insist they don’t like government any more than the Republicans do — and no one believes them. Maybe the dishonesty about their core values contributes to Americans’ lack of trust.

Democrats have helped Americans live in a dream world where their success is their own: Real Americans don’t get government help. This is a lie. The activities of government, going back to the days when it “purchased” North American land from other European powers and/or cleared it of its original inhabitants, created the conditions for American prosperity. In our own time, the invisible hand of government created the great middle class. The government has made all kinds of things possible through the tax code: the home mortgage deduction, for instance, isn’t in the Constitution, and only two other countries have it. Our supposedly “private” system of healthcare, pensions and 401Ks was likewise created by government, again allowing companies and individuals to avoid paying taxes on those employer “benefits.”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.


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