If We Don’t Do Something About This Imbalance, Our Lives Are Going To Get Worse

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The View From My Porch

In the 80s, as a child, I lived in a small Appalachian town. Small as it was it had a fairly sturdy downtown economy with local clothes and shoe stores, some higher end, some low. You could buy a serviceable suit that was made no more than three hours away by people you could actually call on the phone and speak with. There were also factories in that town that produced inexpensive goods, one made pencils. While it wasn’t wealthy by any means it had things going on and you could get work. If you worked hard and were willing to cultivate skills you could even build something for yourself with only a high school diploma.

That might seem quaint. It might also seem romanticized which, if you step back and consider it, is odd. Why would what I just described above be considered “romantic” or “quaint?” It was, after all, the case. It is true and it wasn’t quaint. Now, however, it is not the case. Now the downtown has no stores at all save East End Pawnshop. It’s a good pawn shop though, I’ll give it that much. Now there are no pencils produced there. There is still a packing plant. There is no tannery. There is no Ford dealership. There is really barely anything. Why not? Everything that could be made more cheaply elsewhere is now made elsewhere. Now those goods from this cheaper “elsewhere” pour into the town through one major vendor called Wal-Mart (this is not a Wal-Mart article) and these goods are then distributed for small amounts of money among the poor and getting poorer by the day residents of this small town. And, as they get poorer every day, and they do, the goods must get cheaper every day which means that the “elsewhere” will eventually have to be moved to a cheaper venue in order to create these extremely inexpensive goods.

Everyone’s familiar with Wal-Mart and I won’t dwell on it. What I want to talk about is the out of balance life our country is living every day but first I’m going to present you with a graph. It starts in 1996 and ends in 2012. I imagine that many of TC’s readers were small children in 1996. I’d just graduated high school. I am, as my 27 year old girlfriend would lovingly say, “old as fuck.”

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If you’re the average Though Catalog reader then you’re likely either college educated already or you’re currently being college educated. Your family, at the least, likely makes okay money. You may or may not have student loans. Regardless, you likely would not have worked in a pencil factory or a tannery or selling Fords. You certainly will not be a coal miner. So, you’re asking yourself, “why do I care about the loss of pencil factories and the like? This does not effect me whatsoever.”

Oh, but it does. It effects you profoundly. It takes what you might have had in different circumstances and reduces it immensely. It guarantees your options are limited and that your wages will not keep up with inflation. It cheats you. How? Outsourcing to poor countries results in entire industries and the expertise required to run those industries leaving the country. Want an example? Okay, I’ll pick a prominent one, Solyndra.

The Big Cheat

Republicans made a big stink about when the President funneled a bunch of federal support to Solyndra, a solar power company that had a unique design and wanted to fabricate the panels and equipment in California and sell them in the US and around the world. You probably just remember the scandal which was found to be groundless in October of last year but which wasn’t reported on very much at all. Solyndra employed about 1,100 people at its peak and it was basically still a startup at that point. What’s more, it would have likely been viable had the Chinese not chosen that exact time period, 2009, to dump (yes, it’s called dumping) an incredible supply of cheaply made conventional solar panels on the US market thus pushing Solyndra’s product out of competitiveness. Now the free marketeer in you may say “but China was able to compete and produce a viable product for less money. They deserved to win.” But, they didn’t. Here’s why.

China’s government subsidies their growth industries directly to the point that their products are artificially less expensive than any other product in the world. The Chinese government busy entire sectors in this way and when no one in the US can compete against China on cost anymore then the entire fabrication process and knowledge of that sector leaves US shores. At that point, it’s over. China also sets the value of their own currency and they have a set formula for its value that is determined by the value of the dollar. If the value of the dollar drops then the value of the Yuan drops. If the value of the dollar rises then the value of the Yuan rises. You know what other countries do things like that? Oh, that’s right, none. China’s entire economic plan is to underbid US industry through government subsidy and artificially make sure the exchange rate between the US is always at an exactly predictable level. And while there is some evidence that the Chinese have allowed the value of the Yuan to raise a bit, it’s nowhere near where it should be.

And so the Chinese eat US industries and no one says boo. Even better, when the US complains as it did when China dumped all those Chinese solar panels, the Chinese appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the WTO says “well, China isn’t a market economy (they’re a totalitarian state) so they don’t have to play by the same rules as the US….so, they’re free to do whatever they want. Eat it, US and Europe.”

Complaint by China.

On 31 July 2009, China requested consultations with the European Communities concerning Article 9(5) of Council Regulation (EC) No. 384/96 (the EC’s Basic Anti‑Dumping Regulation) which provides that in case of imports from non-market economy countries, the duty shall be specified for the supplying country concerned and not for each supplier and that an individual duty will only be specified for exporters that demonstrate that they fulfil the criteria listed in that provision.

What the above means is that,in this case, the EU can set a duty (tariff/tax) on a country but not on the country’s products which means that China is free to dump all the goods, in this case steel, it wants on Europe and there’s nothing that can be done about it even if it drives Europe’s entire steel industry out of business. Sound fair?

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Remember one thing, China is a Communist nation and the Chinese government therefore, in actual fact, has complete authority over every Chinese industry in the nation. They have a planned economy. The US has a free market with fairly minimal, by comparison, planning of the economy. When China eats US industries that creates poor people. When you have more poor people they require more government services to keep them from starving. When the government has to spend more money to keep people from starving it has to raise taxes or do things like lower spending in other areas like, oh, say, education which disproportionately affects those same poor people. Or, the government lowers taxes which, for the very poor has exactly zero effect at all in any real way and in the case of the Middle Class, keeps revenue out of the hands of the government…which means less internal investment. And since a cycle like this just keeps creating more poor people it drives up US debt and drives down, again, US internal investment.

It’s a self perpetuating suck cycle.

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See that big figure on the right? That’s YOUR money.

The Myth of the Fantastic 90s

But, the early 90s were great. We were welcoming the new economy, the internet economy. We were all going to be millionaires just for starting a website that sold pet supplies. Oh, it was going to be great. We were in a sweet spot where we were coming out of a recession and we still had more money and revenue than God. NAFTA hadn’t been signed yet and so Detroit was still making cars and we were the number one industrial producer in the nation and the number one exporter. We were killing it, recession or not. Then trade agreements were reached and things started going over to China in a big way. Now, by 2016, China will have the largest economy in the world. It will be because we gave it to them. We gave it to them because we wanted cheaper goods and we were willing to trade our wages away for that, our security, our ability to self determine through traditional factory work which is how poor people have always gotten into the Middle Class. All that in just around 20 years. The 90s are remembered fondly because we were in a sweet spot where Americans still had money and pretty good jobs and also could now buy super cheap goods. Once employers figured out they didn’t have to keep paying well or that they could leave the country entirely then things started to go badly. Then 9/11, then Afghanistan, then Iraq, then the Depression of 2008….doing more and more with less.

Yeah, why not piss all that industrial capacity away. Y’know it’s interesting, Joseph Stalin understood the importance that an industrial base has for a nation so well that he was essentially willing to let millions of his own people die in order to create it. He didn’t do that just because he was an asshole. He did it because it’s that important. You can never be a first world nation without industrial capacity, ever. You know who else understood that? Mao Zedong, who killed 10s of millions in the cultural revolution. Modern China is the recipient of that brutal vision. Many of them are basically slaves killing themselves over iPhones. But, cheap stuff, ZOMG! No, I’m not okay with that. It’s exploitation.

Why the Stimulus Didn’t Do Nearly What It Should Have

Think about it. The US stimulus policy for individuals was basically to stick 20 more dollars in their paychecks every month so that they’d spend it and get money moving. One problem with that…people spent that money on things that aren’t produced in the US. That money, which was intended to be spent and then bounce around in the domestic economy for a while, hit Wal-Mart, Target, etc, and went straight overseas. It didn’t do anything because it didn’t stay here and that was your tax money and debt. Think about that.

One Last Thing

This is not so complicated an issue that it cannot be understood no matter what you hear. They need us more than we need them. There seems to be a feeling among younger people in the US that China “owns our asses” or somesuch because they own X amount of our debt. That’s not the case. Our current economic relationship with China isn’t the only road we have to travel which is why you see Obama busting his hump to try and formalize a trans-Atlantic trade agreement with Europe. China may own quite a bit of our debt but that debt also appears on their balance sheet. If the US were to default then China would lose all that money out of their economy. Additionally, the US is China’s number one customer. If we quit buying then the Chinese peasant class would be fighting soldiers in the streets by Spring time which, frankly, might not be a bad thing.

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If the US imposed hard tariffs on China (or better yet, tariffs against developing countries in general) and forcibly revalued everything they imported to make it more like US costs of production then the US economy would take a big hit from that for about one year. After that, everyone would move home and produce things locally because it would be cheaper.

Now I’m not saying we should do that. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t but the consumer has the power. This is a choice we have made as a nation and it’s a shitty one and we’re paying for it in regular 15 month periods of unemployment for many and increased food stamp costs and stopgap funding measures. It’s going to get worse. We’re not living in an exceptional time. This is the new normal if we allow it to be.

originally published at Thought Catalog

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A Response To “On Smarm” By Gawker

This is a reply/review/criticism of Tom Scocca’s article “On Smarm.”

When I started reading Tom Scocca’s article “On Smarm” I was excited. I love critical discussions of modern communication. I love criticisms of the lies we tell ourselves and others and the characters we invent for ourselves. I love reading about our collective falsehoods that become our truths. It’s why I loved Baudrillard. This is the vein, generally, that I thought Scocca was going to mine and for the first quarter of the article he did. But then he got lost in citing examples and flinging shit, deservedly, at David Eggers, and dragging out everyone he disliked and flinging shit at them too. Some might deserve it, I don’t know. Most of them aren’t on my radar but as I continued reading I started to really wonder why he was bringing up all these issues of inherent meaning, traditional meaning, lack of meaning, the defense of post modernity which, from what I can tell, exists almost solely to avoid talking about “the thing itself,” and not just go ahead and curse God and all the fathers that lived? This was a dense read by Scocca and he clearly has a lot on his mind. A lot of it was interesting but ultimately it’s ruined when he sets up the strawman known as Smarm while condemning the creation of strawmen and seeks to elevate himself and Snark by destroying it. I sincerely think that’s a damn shame.

The section on politicians and the media was fantastic, I mean it. It was spot on and just angry enough, just breathless enough. Yes, absolutely, Smarm in this case is the elite pretending that they believe in a standard, that their authority is backed by something when it’s all a ruse for the rubes. I loved that. A discussion of that and only that would have been great but Scocca broadens his topic too much, way too much, and he’s clearly trying to draw a line and set up sides. However, that can’t work because Snark and Smarm are synonyms, they aren’t antonyms, they aren’t opposites. They’re both insincerity. One is intended to deceive and the other is intended to derail and trivialize. Neither are honest. Both are lies. One is a sin of commission and the other is a sin of omission but they’re both sins. The difference is that Snark is desperately lonely because it’s in a state of permanent rebellion. Smarm knows exactly what it wants. It wants you to be fooled by it. But Snark isn’t some purveyor of truth telling. It’s lazy criticism. Smarm can be taken down easily and Scocca does so with a number of examples and he’s not explicitly Snarky about it. He makes arguments and supports them. He tells me why Smarm is bad and, at the end, I understand. So why is Snark necessary? How is it anything more than comment section reactionary stuff? How is it valid? It’s not. Again, Snark is intended to discredit and derail, never to address.

I was going to write a tight response to this article but that’s very difficult to do because it’s written in what are essentially vinettes. There are sections separated only by a Thumper rabbit image in place of a transition. The article jumps around from example to statement to example. I don’t dislike the style but it’s difficult to directly reply to. I’ll do my best.

Towards the middle and end of the article we start to see what Scocca’s impetus is for writing this article in the first place. Old men with old standards suck, criticism of me sucks, criticism of my Snarky writer friends is somehow awful simply because I/they are being criticized. I can’t think of anything more juvenile and what really kills me, what I really dislike is that there’s no actual defense of Snark anywhere in the article. Scocca doesn’t deny the Snarkiness but he embraces it without defending it. There’s an assumption of audience agreement in the article (typical of Snark actually.) He doesn’t provide a justification for it. It’s a hit and run in regards to Snark. By tying the two topics together what you have is a derailment of the original cultural discussion of Snarkiness. It avoids “the thing itself.” That’s pretty Snarky.

As with Snark, what we need is not some imagined return to some previous state of civility, what we need is better arguments based on evidence, good writing, precise thought.

Scocca could have done both. He could have tried to defend Snarkiness while also condemning the Smarmsters but he didn’t and I think Scocca should ask himself why he didn’t because by not doing so he gave it all away. He conceded all his rhetorical territory for the simple reason that arguments against Snark, however imperfect, are real and substantive. This seemed to amount to “but look, they’re ever bigger jerks.” Please, no one’s buying that. You have to give me something here because otherwise I’m going to continue to think of Snark as basically just ressentiment.

Here’s some thoughts I wrote down as I was reading this:

Buzzfeed’s now adopted a “no negativity” business plan for reviewing books. Buzzfeed is setting up a books section like the Oprah Book Club and by that I mean they’re going to be creatively advertising books. There isn’t likely going to be heavy criticism present at all. Why use this as an example of anything? It’s not false. It’s exactly what it claims to be which is Buzzfeed reviewing books. When the NYTimes or Chicago Tribune subscribe to this “speak no evil” mantra then I’ll worry, but Buzzfeed? What’s next, pointing out how romance novels are slick with sentimentality?

As with Snark, what we need is not some imagined return to some previous state of civility, what we need is better arguments based on evidence, good writing, precise thought. That in and of itself will create civility as it acknowledges the existence and importance of civilization.

What the article ultimately does is elevate Snark above Smarm since Snark is a reaction to dishonesty. However, there’s a problem here because group identifying, choir preaching, vacancy is a primary aspect of Snark. So, when I see the demonization of Smarm and the elevation of Snark in the same argument I have to wonder if the entire argument is Snark. That may be an unanswerable question but I certainly wondered more than once if Scocca was trying to con me in which case the entire article is actually more akin to something like meta-Smarm utilizing Snark as the rhetorical device.

This article should have been an argument against the insincere powers that be while providing a solid definition of Smarm. It’s a good argument to have to be sure but the discussion of Snark and how, somehow, Snark is good or, at least, not bad, is a useless one to make. On a basic level, people know that both are simply forms of insincerity. One is used to feign virtue while the other is used to cut off discussion while pretending virtue lies elsewhere. Where? Snark doesn’t know. That’s not up to Snark to figure out for you because Snark is the half child of Post Modernity and Post Modernity has no idea what anything is or even if it “is.” It’s great for discussion but terrible for solutions, which is why only academics and artists take it seriously. Those groups aren’t looking for solutions or conclusions.

The following are some specific quotes from the article which I wanted to address directly. From the article regarding criticism of Gawker for being snarky:

“And Denby’s book on snark does, besides singling out my employer, directly disparage multiple friends or colleagues of mine. Smarm, which is always on the lookout for bias and ulterior motives, would insist on noting this. Reading Denby’s criticism of the people I like is to some extent irritating emotionally, but mostly it’s irritating because the reason these people are my friends or colleagues is that I have found their outlooks—their work—congenial. They have seen the viscous creeping of smarm, and they have said something about it.”

Directly disparaging multiple friends? How dare anyone criticize? That’s pearl clutching at its finest. It’s Smarm. Pot meet kettle. Besides, Snark is constantly looking for bias and ulterior motives as well. It’s all part of being insincere and avoiding “the thing itself.”

The entire Snark/Smarm dynamic in the article and the agreement of so many commenters seems to have more to do with its air of iconoclasm and rebellion, taking it to the old bastards once again, speaking truth to power. So, what exactly is the truth here again because I sure can’t find it? Untruth I can find. Untruth seems to be any argument or stance that isn’t perfect, that doesn’t take every variable into account with 100% accuracy, that doesn’t head off every possible misstep with hand holding. Untruth is any person that changes their mind and then tells you that you’re wrong for judging them. Yes, I’m stepping outside the direct examples in the article but I feel safe doing so. In my experience, Snark looks for cracks and circles. It’s the jackal of rhetorical devices.

Look, one doesn’t have to agree with Denby on everything to think he has a point and Gawker’s coverage of him is just weird. There’s so much of it that it’s almost like they think they’re in a war with him, a film critic that most people haven’t even heard of. I don’t get it. So a guy made an argument in a book and he had some good points and some bad ones. When has that ever not been the case?

But I’m not writing this to defend Denby. Snark is the only thing I’ve read by him and I didn’t even recall that he was a film critic until I started reading some articles in order to write this one. I’m writing because while I initially found the article brave in a lot of ways I also feel like I’m reading a lot of strawman arguments that simply aren’t needed and that’s the real enemy in all this, bad or lazy argumentation.

People want to be uplifted, and through social media people want to demonstrate to other people that they are the kind of people who appreciate being uplifted. Negativity is a bad market niche, according to no less a figure than Malcolm Gladwell—a known expert, in theory and practice, on the marketing power of popularity:

“[T]here’s very little negative stuff you can put in a book or an article before you turn most of your audience away. Negative stuff is interesting the first time, but you’ll never re-read a negative article. You’ll re-read a positive one. Part of the reason that my books have had a long shelf life is that they’re optimistic, and optimism permits that kind of longevity.”

One curious fact about this long view is that it’s quite untrue. I can’t recall ever, unless compelled by duty, rereading a Malcolm Gladwell article.

What? Scocca doesn’t re-read Gladwell and so no one else does so Gladwell’s wrong? Oh my. Look, I’ve never read Gladwell in my life but on its face I know that different people like different things and if people re-read his stuff and it’s optimistic then it’s probably because they like reading optimistic writing. Scocca seems to be trying to find a golden formula to apply. If Scocca thinks most people are intellectually lazy or stupid, which he seems to, then he should say that. He shouldn’t be insecure about it and try to prove that things are some other way so that he can say Gladwell is wrong.

Scocca goes on to say:

“What I have reread is Mencken on the Scopes Trial, Hunter Thompson on Richard Nixon, and Dorothy Parker on most things—to say nothing of Orwell on poverty and Du Bois on racism, or David Foster Wallace on the existential horror of a leisure cruise. This belief that oblivion awaits the naysayers and the snarkers shouldn’t survive a glance at the bookshelf.”

Awesome, truly, but most people don’t. Most people don’t even know who these people are. Most people aren’t very well educated and they’re trying to get by during what seem to be permanently shitty economic times because they’re perpetually depressed. That’s what they should be doing because that’s all modern dialogue demands of them. Do I wish it were otherwise? Hell yes, but I’m not going to shit on people because it’s not. Talk about things, not people.

Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. Jesus, this absolutist stuff kills me.

Again, from the original article:

“When we detach ourselves from the logic of smarm, it becomes possible instead to read Julie & Julia as a chilling portrait of sociopathy, and Black Swan as hysterical junk, and Eggers’s Wild Things as a false and creepy enactment of somebody’s idea of what childhood ought to be about. (I’m relying on the New Yorker excerpt on that last one, because God knows I’m not reading or watching the whole thing.)”

This is simple deconstruction at its most elementary level and, in the case of Eggers, all his stuff rings false to me. Yes, yes, you don’t like false sentiment, fine. You don’t like self delusion, fine. None of that has to do with Smarm being worse than Snark or Snark being some genuine and legitimate reaction false sentiment. It’s a self fueling vehicle. Culture of A begets culture of B and all of it is meaningless, repeat. The problem is that sometimes, often actually,the sentiment is not false and sometimes a false sentiment can say something true, and sometimes a person guilty of false sentiment didn’t mean to be. In those cases, Snark is an assassin and a tyrant, not a liberator, not a freedom fighter.

“Above (or beneath) it all, they are little. Eggers writes of his former critical self, “I was a complete, weaselly little prick.” He asks: “What kind of small-hearted person wants an artist to adhere to a set of rules, to stay forever within a narrow envelope which we’ve created for them?” He answers, and answers, and answers: “the lazy and small … small and embittered … narrow-hearted … the tiny voices of tiny people.”

The actual answer, and his actual fear—the fear that keeps the smarmers tossing on their bullshit-stuffed mattresses on the beds of bullshit they would have us all sleep in—is this: We are exactly the same size as you are. Everybody is.”

Well, that was hardly worth saying but I guess Scocca told them.  Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. Jesus, this absolutist stuff kills me. People change over time, they are weak and frail and make mistakes. They decide to make money instead of art because they want to afford good schools for their children. They want that car they’ve always dreamt of. They lie to themselves for years and then break out of the lie in fear and shame and beg forgiveness. Or, they die alone or not alone while willing the lie to the back of their minds. People do all kinds of things. They believe things sincerely which the insincere state believing it’s false, that only a fool would believe such a thing. The “fool” lives by that belief and it truly enriches them. It enriches those around them. What exactly is true here? What exactly isn’t? The point is the thing itself. The point is what gets done with thoughts. The point is planning and appraising problems.

And, as for the “we are exactly the same size as you are” statement, what is size in this discussion again? Wealth? Inherent value? All I’m getting from the last bit, the final paragraph of the entire article, is “you think you’re better than me?” Why does Scocca even care what Dave Eggers thinks of him or anyone?

I just can’t. Smarm is a worthy topic, absolutely, but everything else that came after in this article stinks of insecurity and impotent rage at the idea that someone, somewhere might be succeeding while not being 100% genuine. That phenomenon isn’t new. It’s as old as humankind. The rain falls on the just and unjust alike, remember? The unworthy succeed while the hard working suffer. That’s bad, but setting up a false dynamic between Snark and Smarm is possibly worse than saying nothing at all because it divorces discussion from the thing being discussed. We’re talking about discourse here and Snark and Smarm poison discourse. What’s the best way to have better discourse? Discuss the topic, whatever it is, without introducing fallacies into the mix and without seeking to falsely moralize or derail discussion with appeals to collective cultural belief.

Address the thing itself, always.

Originally published at Thought Catalog.

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Re-kicking This Off After A Long Hiatus

I’ve been mostly publishing over at Thought Catalog since Spring and I’ve essentially neglected this site completely which is a shame for me since it means I have no outlet to write about comics. So, I’ll be picking it up again here while also republishing my TC work here for all to enjoy/pick apart.

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The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, a review, Part 1

So I started writing this exactly a year ago to the day and since I’ve all but abandoned this website without meaning to I thought I’d just go ahead and publish this as is. 

Okay, there will only be one review of Part 1 but, yes, this is Part 1 of it.  But enough Part 1 jokes!

I have “The Dark Knight Returns” virtually memorized.  I read it for the first time when I was in college, my Sophomore year, I believe.  At the time, I believed it to be one of the finest pieces of fictional work in the history of the U.S. and despite the absolute horror that was “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” I continue to believe it’s top 50 objectively.  To me it remains top 20.  I can hear all my more literary friends laughing right now.  It’s okay, I’m a big boy.

But now to the question, is the new DC Animated movie any good?  Is it true to the source material?  Am I going to be angry watching this if I’ve read the book and loved it?

Yes, Mostly, not angry but let down just a bit.  More on that last part towards the end but I just want to say now that yeah, you’ll be let down a bit but you won’t mind all that much.

The Art:

It’s good, the art is very good and it manages to have its own style while also playing to Frank Miller’s.  It does not have the dirt that Miller’s had and I miss that.  If you’ve read the novel then you’ll know that the art becomes more funhouse as it goes on and the animation in this movie does not reflect that stylization although I think it certainly could have.

The above is a perfect example.  It’s off proportion.  It’s weird looking.  Batman’s arm lengths are all weird.  They look like people filled with potatoes.  It could be that Miller was just under pressure when he first drew this but it looks more to me like the world is just twisted up.  That could have been done in this animated version as well although to be fair the really crazy stuff should be happening in Part 2 anyway.  So, possibly a moot criticism but I’m betting not.

Here, DC has mainly managed to find an acceptable compromise between the absolute filth of Miller’s Gotham and the beautifully slick enormous jawed world of DC Animation.  It’s fine and I understand the reasons for their doing so although I do think that this sort of thing will be less pleasing to those less understanding who regard altering Miller’s work as heresy.  Believe me, I understand that view point too.  I actually would have preferred a deviation from the norm along the lines of “The Return of Black Adam”.

It may be hard to see what I’m saying here but the animation in “Return of Black Adam” was more fluid and borrowed heavily (in the best ways) from anime.  The bodies seemed more like bodies.  Now I wouldn’t have suggested that for Dark Knight because Miller’s artwork has a distinctive squarish aspect to it but a deviation from the DC norm would have been possible and I’m sure there would have been no lack of young artists killing their own mothers for a shot at penciling the thing.

The Voicing:

 It’s okay.  It’s not great.  There’s a distinct lack of passion in passionate moments.  The voices I’ve ascribed to Miller’s characters resonate in my head and of course they have their own tones and cadences so it’s hard to overcome that mostly because Miller’s writing was so strong.  The one way it can be overcome is by giving me strong enough voices, true to the text, that are so convincing that they replace mine.  Be honest, can you think of Gandalf sounding like anyone but Ian McKellan?  Likely you cannot.  This a result of not only good acting but good directing.  The voice casting itself is fine but I get the feeling that there was no one outside the sound booth saying “no, seriously, you need to actually act here.  You’re fighting for your life.  No need to act cool.”

As my main example there’s a scene where Batman has literally just returned.  He’s cornered a group of Two-Face’s thugs and turns to the cops who’ve just arrived and yells “These men are mine!”  This is an important moment and it sets the tone for Batman’s agenda.  It shows his level of seriousness and it shows his level of emotion and urgency about what’s going on with him in what is truly a “return” scene.  Essentially when he yells that he’s actually saying “The world has gone to shit without me.  My selfishness caused this.  I will kill these demons in human form and their Satanic God will know that righteousness once again has a champion.”  Yeah, so it’s an important moment.  In the film it comes off as an aside.  He says it to the cops as is if he hasn’t had the Batsuit in mothballs for decades.  Here’s the clip from the comic.

I think we can all agree that the man feels strongly about the issue.  The voice acting should reflect that instead of making the statement nearly innocuous.  This example is the thesis for what works and doesn’t work throughout the rest of the movie to include the incredibly poignant Two-Face scene where Harvey is unmasked.

The Music:

 It’s got an electronic 80s feel to it in places.  In other places it thinks it’s guest starring in Tim Burton’s version.  Overall I wasn’t impressed though there are some highlights that mirror some of the music in The Spectre short that DC did a few years ago.  They would have been better off going full blown Vangelis/Bladerunner.

The Writing aka ‘What’s missing’

 So, what’s missing?  In short, Batman’s voice.  Anyone who’s read Dark Knight knows that it’s largely an expository book where Batman is constantly talking to you.  He’s constantly telling you what’s going on.  DC has completely eliminated this aspect of the story and it suffers greatly for it.  As a result, the writer’s are forced to try and show what Batman’s thinking and they ARE NOT GOOD AT IT.  Towards the end of the movie, Batman is fighting the mutant leader in the big mudhole slugfest.  In the book, Batman is telling us what he’s doing.

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For Memorial Day

Shamelessly stolen from the NYT

I read a lot about how the US military is now used as essentially a mercenary army in the service of business.  I don’t disagree with that but there’s more to it.  I’ve got some thoughts on it.

These kids are trying to do the right thing and I want them to and I want them to come home and marry and have beautiful children and make America a better place. I know you do too.

You know, I had a conversation about this sort of thing a couple of years ago. He and I had both been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan to differing degrees and we’d both done our time in the sandbox for different purposes. We both felt it had all gone to shit with a very few exceptions. We talked about Iraq and our willingness to get involved even though we disagreed with the entire conflict. It was our intent to fix it, seriously. It was our intent to get in and pull a win out of the absolute failure that was the war in Iraq. Talking deeper it was about WW2. For American boys everything having to do with the military is about WW2. My grandfather was a veteran, flew bomber sorties over Europe as a Navigator. Was given the Bronze Star with a V (that’s for valor for those that don’t know). My dad volunteered at the tail end of Vietnam when he hit 18 and was trained as a Huey Pilot and was a Warrant Officer. At the end of training he fell out of the back of a truck during training and broke his foot (he was born clubfooted and so his surgically altered feet were already sensitive). That put him out of the ability to deploy and so instead he went to Congo (then Zaire) as a missionary. I was in Yonkers, NY, just north of the city on Sept 11th 2001 and, at the time, I was in school getting a Masters Degree. I sent my resume into the government a few weeks later and they hired me. I’m 34 now and I know the difference between a bildungs roman story and reality but at the time I did not, nor does any boy at 18 or 23. We’re all trying to prove that we’ve got what it takes, that we have virtue, that we’ve carried the torch and the light has not gone out. Jesus, it makes me weep to think about. We all wanted to do the best thing we possibly could so that our fathers would know and so that somehow their fathers would know. I’m aware that that’s not how it works but, for me at least, I wanted to try to be a hero in the way I thought my grandfather was and in the way I’ve always felt my father was.

It’s the old that get rich off of young blood and it’s such a terrible waste and betrayal. It’s the worst way to discover how the world works. You believe you’re getting involved to save lives and even the field so that we can make things work out but that’s not what’s happening and in the end you just have to shake your head and take your leave. I love those boys and I was one of them. I miss being with them. I miss that naive, ignorant, blessed hope.

Happy Memorial Day to all of you. So many of you were and are the best of my generation. And to the ones that came home and couldn’t stand it. I’m so goddamned sorry. I’m so, so sorry.  I’d take that shit on me if I could.  I’d have stopped you if I could have. I’d have taken you in. Howl seems more appropriate than it ever did in school.

HOWL

For Carl Solomon

I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
cohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s
floated out and sat through the stale beer after
noon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack
of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brook-
lyn Bridge,
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-
ings and migraines of China under junk-with-
drawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-
father night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telep-
athy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos in-
stinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking vis-
ionary indian angels who were visionary indian
angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Okla-
homa on the impulse of winter midnight street
light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the
brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship
to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving
behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees
and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fire
place Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the
F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist
eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incom-
prehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting
the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union
Square weeping and undressing while the sirens
of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed
down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also
wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked
and trembling before the machinery of other
skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
in policecars for committing no crime but their
own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
dragged off the roof waving genitals and manu-
scripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly
motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean
love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
gardens and the grass of public parks and
cemeteries scattering their semen freely to
whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up
with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath
when the blond & naked angel came to pierce
them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate
the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar
the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb
and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but
sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden
threads of the craftsman’s loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of
beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a can-
dle and fell off the bed, and continued along
the floor and down the hall and ended fainting
on the wall with a vision of ultimate **** and
come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling
in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning
but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun
rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked
in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad
stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy
to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’
rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely pet-
ticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in
dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and
picked themselves up out of basements hung
over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third
Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemploy-
ment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on
the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the
East River to open to a room full of steamheat
and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment
cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime
blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested
the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of
Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their
pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the
bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in
their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned
with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded
by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
incantations which in the yellow morning were
stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht
& tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable
kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for
an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot
for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks
fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccess-
fully, gave up and were forced to open antique
stores where they thought they were growing
old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
& the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinis-
ter intelligent editors, or were run down by the
drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually hap-
pened and walked away unknown and forgotten
into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of
the subway window, jumped in the filthy Pas-
saic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street,
danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed
phonograph records of nostalgic European
1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and
threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans
in their ears and the blast of colossal steam
whistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying
to each other’s hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude
watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had
a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who
came back to Denver & waited in vain, who
watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
Denver and finally went away to find out the
Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying
for each other’s salvation and light and breasts,
until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for
impossible criminals with golden heads and the
charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet
blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky
Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys
or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or
Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the
daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hyp
notism & were left with their insanity & their
hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism
and subsequently presented themselves on the
granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads
and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding in-
stantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin
Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psycho-
therapy occupational therapy pingpong &
amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic
pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of
blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible mad
man doom of the wards of the madtowns of the
East,
Pilgrim State’s Rockland’s and Greystone’s foetid
halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rock-
ing and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a night-
mare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the
moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book
flung out of the tenement window, and the last
door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone
slammed at the wall in reply and the last fur-
nished room emptied down to the last piece of
mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted
on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that
imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of
hallucination
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and
now you’re really in the total animal soup of
time
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed
with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use
of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrat-
ing plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space
through images juxtaposed, and trapped the
archangel of the soul between 2 visual images
and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun
and dash of consciousness together jumping
with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna
Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
prose and stand before you speechless and intel-
ligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet con-
fessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown,
yet putting down here what might be left to say
in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America’s naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered
out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand
years.

II

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi-
nation?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob
tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stun-
ned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a canni-
bal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking
tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose fac-
tories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in
Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave-
ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to
Heaven which exists and is everywhere about
us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole
boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions!
gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! De-
spairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides!
Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on
the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the
wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving!
carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the
street!

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Andrew Sullivan nails it square on the Apocalypse

They’ve managed to avoid it for the majority of my politically conscious lifetime which could be conveniently referred to as A.R. (yes, After Reagan) but with Santorum the sociopathically mad GOP finally has an opportunity to prove that its ideology has never been anything but deception hung up on the cross or hidden in debt producing tax cuts or wrapped in a flag they refuse to defend themselves.  Mr. Sullivan nails it.

Root for Santorum.  Give these people a shot to finally commit suicide.

http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/02/why-on-earth-am-i-sympathizing-with-santorum.html

The polls are calling a circa 6.3% advantage for Obama over Santorum.  After they start actually debating I predict that will rise to 20%.

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The Occupy Movement in Three Acts

In these doldrumy months of winter, the Occupy Movement has a lot of challenges. Cold is the most immediate hurdle, but there’s another one lurking. Foreverness. The Movement is young. But, already I see signs of mere continuance rather than a second act and then a third act in which something beyond the first act of creating awareness happens. The second act is where all the really insane, future-oriented hard work happens. In terms of focus, I haven’t seen that yet. Some of this can be attributed to the decentralized nature of the movement. That’s understandable and desirable, however, it seems to me that it has one glaring quality that, in the short term, is a strength but in the long term is a terrible weakness. The Occupy Movement is a still a ‘youth’ movement.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here. By ‘youth’ movement I don’t mean that it’s predominantly made up of young people. Although, it’s certainly the case that those college students and recent graduates now or soon entering the “marketplace of ideas” we call employment are really hurting in terms of debt and opportunity. There’s also no question that young people do make up the bulk of the movement, but they’re by no means immature. No, by ‘youth’ movement I mean that, in its current undeveloped state, the movement is highly susceptible to fashionable attitudes and peer joining tendencies that do not contribute to the movement’s development one whit in the longer term. I fear that the longer the movement exists in it’s current state, the more likely it is that, in the future, development toward a new model will be perceived as betraying the movement itself. This can be seen in any movement, of course, but I believe that the development of a kind of unreasoned ideological purity would kill Occupy quicker than can be believed.

As things stand, the movement is starting to become mired in evictions, and a lot of the things I hear, see, and read have to do with maintaining encampments and keeping the energy up. This is a direct result of public officials having already figured out how to beat them. Regrouping, reorganizing, and planting the flag anew is extremely important but it also plays into a trap.

Movements get evicted, they reorganize, they regroup, and they re-occupy. Now, how long did that take? How much energy did that take? Then, just as the movement settles in again, authorities come along and make you move again which is to say nothing of the logistical difficulties in finding temporary lodging for the movement in the meantime. This is called wearing down your opponent and, while youth has great energy, cops and public officials are getting paid for this fight. How do you beat this? You have to change the rules by which you’re engaging. While I understand that there are multiple fights happening on multiple fronts they all seem to bear the same hallmarks and share similar playbooks. They are and aspire to be protest movement tactics and that’s what I mean by young. Largely, besides voting and campaign work, protesting is the only thing that young people are truly qualified to do in a representative democracy. They’re good at it and it’s important and it brings change. However, it does not result in the kind of broad changes in the Federal and State legislatures that the movement ultimately wants and that I want. There are limits to what protesting accomplishes if those protests do not essentially transform the protesters themselves.

What I mean by protestors being transformed is that people have got to start running for office and it has to happen soon. I know that’s an extremely broad demand, but that work must become a primary focus not only from both a simple longevity, messaging, standpoint but also from a marketing standpoint. Movement members in their current incarnation can’t be the ones doing it because candidates are the ones that do these sorts of things, and protestors are not candidates. Progressives absolutely shouldn’t count on protests convincing our elected representatives that they should adopt sane, middle class centric policies. The Democratic Party, which the Occupy Movement broadly affiliates with, is just as troubled as the GOP even though it’s not crazy. The leader of the Party is basically a Ronald Reagan with a dash of Clinton thrown in, and the Party itself is very much the same taken as a whole.

We will not be able to get these people to do what we want them to do. It’s against their interests to do so. Besides, there’s no reason they should when the alternative is Santorum banning condoms or Rick Perry nuking Tehran. Voting Democrats, specifically Progressives, are disgusted with the Democratic Party and rightly so. There’s no alternative emerging either within or without the Party that has the sheer people power of Occupy. If the Occupy Movement does not start producing Progressive candidates to run for office then the worst thing for the Occupy Movement will come to be. The movement will merely continue, and continue, and continue. This would be bad for the movement, yes, but it would be terrible for the Middle Class issues it champions. The movement would become noise and it would simply linger, toothless. Its ideas will be seen as trite because it’s supporters won’t be seen as serious.

Now that the Occupy Congress action on January 17 has come and gone, local movements need to get organized for a different kind of action. Go home, pick the local and regional offices you can win or that need to be contested, have a primary via General Assembly approved candidates, and absolutely refrain from choosing protest candidates. This would be the Movement’s second act.

 

Run to win. Pick candidates with backgrounds that are conducive to winning. No 25-year-old grad students or career civil rights activists without a lot of other kinds of qualifications. No environmental candidates. No feminist candidates. No marriage equality candidates. No offense to any of these groups with which I broadly agree but if you’re going to run then you have to run to govern the majority and protest/special interest candidates are built to lose. This will be the Movement’s third act.

Let’s remember that it is not okay for a group that largely ascribes to a Progressive ideology to engage in only protest as it runs the risk of becoming a lifestyle.  The Occupy Movement aspires to real and continuing change, not a flash, however extensive, of good and decent activity. That’s why I say that it is an ideological requirement that Progressive members of the movement seek to govern. Encampments must transition to Representative Democracy. That’s what the American people need and that’s what we have to do.

 

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The Dukes of Yore

Who are the job creators of today? What does it mean to create a job? By that last question I mean where does the capitol come from to create that job? It either comes from profit or it comes from debt. If it comes from profit then ultimately it comes from the consumer who produced that profit for that company. If it comes from debt then it comes from the banks which derive the capitol from where? They derive it from consumers in the form of checking account and mortgage holders and retirement investors, etc. I’m bringing this up because I keep hearing the phrase “job creators” being thrown around with some vitriol and a certain ethereal emptiness accompanying it. So I have to wonder who these people are if they aren’t ultimately the average consumer.

Well, according to the GOP leadership and many conservative voters you’d think that the job creators were the wealthiest people and companies in America. Of course, that’s not true. It’s medium and small business that creates the majority of jobs in the U.S. in the form of hiring. Consumption of the products from these medium and small businesses drive that growth. Large corporations are driven more by things like economy of scale and monopolistic or duopolistic behavior than they are regular things like competition or innovation. In point of fact, corporations seem to profit in a more consistent way by not innovating or by innovating so slowly that it doesn’t look like innovation. Consider that in the U.S. the average broadband speed is circa 5mbps while in South Korea it’s circa 100 and this is despite Federal subsidies in the U.S. Somehow they just can’t get it done here though I think it’s more a matter of them not wanting to. It’s more profitable to drag the issue out over time and ask for more and more federal money while jacking the cost of poorer service. It’s anti-competitive at it’s core and, of course, that’s the point. It’s better for large corporations NOT to have competition or to simply have competition that doesn’t really compete but instead develops products in parallel. Thus, all phone companies come out with 4G/LTE phone speeds at basically the same time. While some of this is a technology development issue, much of it simply isn’t. But I digress.

If the GOP really believes that the wealthiest of the wealthy are the ones who create jobs then does it not stand to reason that these people essentially own the U.S. economy in terms of both the pace of innovation and the price of that innovation? If it is the case that the wealthy are the only ones that can save us through job creation (despite an absence of consumption and subsidy capitol produced locally) then does it stand to reason that we’ve really passed beyond the Plutocracy we’ve all come to know so well and entered into some sort of feudalistic system where large corporations function as nobles ruling over certain realms of the economy? I’m really not kidding here. There’s always been a drive towards authoritarian structure in the GOP and it seems to me that a sort of shift to monarchy wouldn’t be so far-fetched even if it didn’t operate under that name. The ideology behind the current Conservative movement being what it is where the wealthy basically deserve everything they can possibly take and that being evidence of their ‘hard work’ and therefore their status as the embodiment of the American Dream I really have to ask if this isn’t the final solution to American’s democracy problem. Indeed a return to feudalism where your labor is no longer something you can given to your country to build it up but where you’ll be providing it to the nearest multinational and seeing the fruits of that labor go straight overseas.  Who’s working for who here and if this is how it’s going to go then what’s the point of working at all beyond feeding yourself?  We used to think bigger as a nation.

I’ve seen the attitude changes over the years and it’s a race towards the bottom. In the town where I grew up we had a downtown that was thriving in the early 80s but then a mall was built and all those businesses died. Now in one sense it could be said that the downtown simply moved indoors at the mall except these weren’t local businesses so all the money made at the mall minus wages paid left the town and the state as well. There was no longer and reason or purpose to reinvesting that money locally. In the 90s, Wal-Mart moved in and by the end of the 90s it had essentially killed the mall as well. Wal-Mart was welcomed because it sold cheap goods and the per capita income in the area had dropped from what it had been. No one seemed to understand that so much of this was because local reinvestment by local businesses had stopped completely. That capital no longer existed and so the town had been sucked dry and still, the citizens were thankful for Wal-Mart’s presence. They were so thankful in fact that flash forward to today and they’re willing to defend Wal-Mart’s presence and the rights of every other large corporation that takes their money and capitol but provides cheap goods and low wage jobs. Make no mistake, these low wage jobs are needed but it’s a self fulfilling prophecy and a result of a kind of short-sighted consumerist greed.  Of course, the citizenry couldn’t really have know that this was the plan or that it would be the result but they also never really asked themselves what the result might be.  Totally to blame, not totally at fault.

I have an anecdote that I believe illustrates the change in psychology that we’ve seen in the last 30 years. In the mid-2000s I was having a discussion with a very close friend regarding the fact that the only local grocery store in his Southern town had been run out of business by a super Wal-Mart. I was expressing to him the notion that now the capitol that the local business had produced would leave the area and that they were getting screwed. His response? If Wal-Mart wasn’t in the area then he’d have to drive an hour to the second nearest store to do his grocery shopping. It didn’t even occur to him that if Wal-Mart wasn’t there then HE could open his own grocery store and make a million bucks. This is the worst form of corporate socialism where not only do citizens come to depend on faceless corporations but they stop believing that they can do these things for themselves. It’s the same exact problem that conservatives claim a welfare state produces except it’s real and ubiquitous.  If we depend on the King and his Dukes then we become vassals. We stop being the ultimate democratic decision makers and become helpless persons hoping for scraps from ‘ordained by God’ corporations, share croppers in our own hometowns.  Many of us simply trying to get by end up being thankful to monopolies and duopolies for their existence instead of engaging in the type of local Capitalism that’s supposed to make the U.S. great.

The problem is that we all know that the Duke never shares anything more than what it takes to keep the hounds away from his door. That doesn’t sound like a job creator to me.

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Terrifying video from Egypt

It appears that the hard slog has entered it’s second very real stage wherein the military altogether quits pretending it cares about Democracy.  This video was pretty difficult for me to watch, made me terribly angry to see 10, 15 guys beating unarmed men and women in the streets until they quit moving. 

This is what martyrdom looks like.

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Good vid from moveon.org

It’s been a nutty last couple of weeks what with the apparently unfounded claims of ‘indefinite detention’ for US persons in the NDAA, Dems beginning the caving process regarding the Keystone XL pipeline (to the dogs with you, water lovers!), and me spending 11 hours on the road, much of that lost, last Thursday.

I did see this vid with Mr. Reich though and felt it was a good summary of what I’d like to see happen if the big O is elected for a second term.

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