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Monday, November 28, 2011

Failure Is The Plan The Plan Is Death

As it turns out, failure was an option after all.

And, in point of fact, it turns out that failure was the only option.

Failure, it seems, was hardwired into the plan right from the very start.

Try to imagine my surprise.

Back in the early 70’s, writing under the penname James Tiptree Jr., the haunted writer Alice Bradley Sheldon penned a sad and chilling story.

It was intended, this story, as a cautionary tale, a terrible example of instinct and biology over reason and intelligence.

Now, there is nothing particularly unusual about that per se, given that Dr. Sheldon wrote many subtly chilling stories in the 70’s, arguably some of the most chilling and subtle tales ever put down on paper (seriously, read The Screwfly Solution sometime, that goddamned thing still gives me the willies, especially when you realize what Sheldon was really getting at).  Sheldon herself was a deeply troubled and tragic figure whose life ended in a manner right out of one of her dark and terrible nightmares, but in spite of – or maybe because of –  her demons she was also a complex and fascinating storyteller and an absolute master of disturbing cautionary tales – unsurprising given that her docorate was in psychology and that she had been many things in her strange life, from a wealthy Hyde Park socialite on safari in darkest Africa to WWII soldier to Cold War CIA spook to chicken farmer to award winning writer and finally to cunning murderer and a suicide (the noun, not the verb).

In Love Is The Plan The Plan Is Death, Sheldon told the story of a spider-like creature doomed by inexorable biology to first a gradual loss of its intelligence and self awareness, and then ultimately to violent death – squint your eyes and think Alzheimer’s victim crossed with a praying mantis’ sex life dropped into the middle of a war zone and you’re in something resembling roughly the right ballpark. Imagine how terrible a life-cycle that would be for any sentient being. Self destruction is hardwired into the creature’s genes.  In the story, the pitiful protagonist is fully aware of what is happening and struggles heroically against its fate, having come to believe that love can indeed conquer all – even genes.

Sheldon wasn’t a happy person and her stories rarely, if ever, had a happy ending.  At the end of Plan, the poor creature succumbs to the mindless unthinking individual tragedy of its species’ fate – for in Sheldon’s world brutal biology cannot be denied, even by love (and here there is a truly horrible parallel to Alice Sheldon’s own fate, but I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader*).

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Love Is The Plan The Plan Is Death last week when the so-called Congressional Super-Committee emerged at last from its spider hole and announced triumphantly that they had succeeded in failing – exactly as planned.

Like most Americans, I suspect, I was disgusted but not surprised.

As I wrote in the previous post, the committee’s failure to reach any kind of agreement on debt reduction is a surprise to absolutely nobody, except perhaps the aforementioned lovesick spider. 

The committee itself was born of failure on the part of Congress – failure to do the job that Congress was elected to do in the first place, failure to keep their oath so help me God, failure to place their duty to country above their personal agendas and politics, failure to listen to all of their constituents and not just the ones with the open checkbooks, failure to perform their Constitutionally and legally mandated function, failure of leadership, failure of reason and intellect, failure of democratic government, and a complete and utter failure of moral courage. 

The Super-Committee was designed to fail  by a Congress that is itself an utter failure.  It was stocked with men and women who swore to fail – how different would our situation be today if only these same disingenuous sons of bitches had fought as steadfastly for their oath to the people and the country and the Constitution as they do for their non-binding promise of allegiance to a rich lobbyist?

Sadly, the creation and ultimate inevitable failure of the super-committee is itself not the disease, it’s a symptom of a much deeper malady.

Because, see, ultimately the mere existence of such a congressional super-committee is an expression of abject failure on the part of Americans to maintain and operate their democracy in any but the most mindless and instinctual manner. 

Failure, it would seem, was hardwired into the committee’s genes right from the day of its birth.

I’ve written about the inexorability of fate before. 

But here’s the thing: as I said in The Inexorable White Whale, the simple truth of the matter is that I don’t, in fact, believe in fate or destiny or pre-ordination. You can change your fate. You can. There are a thousand places, more, where we can change the course of our history. 

We know what has to be done.

We are not Sheldon’s alien spider.

Failure is not hardwired into our genes.

The super-committee didn’t have to fail.  It could have worked. It could have worked if its members had placed the nation above their own childish politics.  It could have worked if those who formed the committee and selected its members actually wanted it to succeed. It could have worked if Americans demanded that it succeed and held its members responsible for failure.

But of course, the very same thing could be said of Congress itself – and should be. Every single day.

The super-committee is an admission by Congress that they, both the House and Senate, are unable and unwilling to avoid descent into mindless savagery. 

Every single member of congress knows what has to be done.   We must cut spending.  We must raise taxes.  We must do both. It’s like losing weight, the only way to take it off and keep it off is diet and exercise.  There is no other solution.  Everything else is just window dressing.  You know it. I know it. And every single member of the government knows it.  The solution is painful, just as losing weight is painful and difficult and hard, but ultimately if you don’t do it, it will kill you. 

Unlike Sheldon’s poor alien, Congress has a choice.

And they choose this path. The path of moral cowardice. The path of failure.

As I have said on numerous occasions, I spent my entire life in the military and despite now being retired from active service I continue to hold my oath to the county and Constitution dear. I am opposed to violent revolution. I am opposed to smashing windows and lighting the country on fire. I’ve been to war, I know what it looks like and I don’t think it’s necessary here. Yet. I believe that the system is damaged, bent and battered and sore used, but I still have faith in the country and the system our forefathers designed. 

I believe in America.

I believe that unlike Sheldon’s unhappy alien spiders our fate can be changed. 

I don’t believe that we must be victims of our political biology.

But I will say this: while I would neither condone nor encourage it, and would likely actively fight against it, if the members of Congress are ultimately dragged from their ivory towers and hung from the nearest lampposts I’ll be neither surprised nor will I shed a tear for their fate – for they have well and truly earned it.

Hopefully such won’t be necessary to change our destiny.

I read with sour amusement political analyst Charlie Cook’s comment this morning,

“Voters hardly seem inclined to reward either party, instead, we may well see many incumbents – those wearing blue Democratic jerseys as well as those wearing red Republican ones – thrown out the window, not so much because of their uniforms but because of their proximity to windows…”

I certainly hope so.

 

 


* If you want to learn more about the fascinating and tragic life of Dr. Alice Bradley Sheldon, AKA James Tiptree Jr., AKA Racoona Sheldon, an excellent place to start is Julie Phillips’ meticulously researched and gripping James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon.  Highly recommended, even if you’re not a fan of science fiction and have never heard of Tiptree before.  Printed versions are available from the usual sources, and it’s now apparently available on the web.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Childish Labors

 

Update: Gingrich released a clarification of his child labor comment from yesterday, and I thought oh God damn it, I spent an hour writing this snark and he torpedoed me.  Turns out I needn’t have worried, his clarification is just as stupid as his original comment.  Thanks, Newt, you’re a piker.


 

It’s been an entertaining week, hasn’t it?

And by entertaining I mean entertaining like getting tazed in the onions, sure there’s dancing and wild hooting involved but you’re going to be sore as hell the next morning.

A bunch of drunken rednecks booed the first lady on national TV in an outstanding show of classy Southern sportsmanship while she was at a NASCAR race to promote jobs for veterans returning from war. In defense of these mouth breathers, corpulent swollen carbuncle in the sweaty ass-crack of humanity, Rush Limbaugh, called the nation’s first African American First Lady “uppity” and then tried to pretend as if that statement wasn’t blatantly racist. Here’s a question for you, if “uppity” isn’t racist then how come you’ve never heard anybody, ever, refer to a rich white man as uppity? There’s a word that always follows “uppity,” whether it’s spoken out loud or not, it starts with an N. Ten points if you can figure it out, Good Ole Boys help the Yankees.  Rush fans claim his words were taken out of context. Heh. Maybe they should be taken that way, because taken in context it’s abundantly clear that he was defending the hecklers specifically because an educated black woman had the unmitigated gall to suggest that their overweight diabetic chicken-fried butter eatin’ and soda swilling kids should maybe have a salad or two and, you know, exercise.

Probably a good thing she didn’t suggest that they read a book or stop doing drugs, Limbaugh might have had to organize a good old fashioned non-racist lynching.

Students at UC Davis got a painful lesson in the abuse of power. Creepily cadaverous Anne Coulter, without a shred of self-conscious shame publically suggested that the campus police should have just shot a few of the student protesters instead of hosing them down with military-grade pepper-spray.  Apparently the mere sight of young Americans exercising their constitutional right to assembly and speech was so gut wrenchingly offense to Coulter that summary executions for sitting on a sidewalk are in order. She should move to Alaska, Lurch and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan could rub hot sauce on each other and be best friends forever. Here’s another question for you, how come a great American patriot like Anne Coulter, who talks endlessly about freedom and liberty and the Constitution, suggests that the correct response to unarmed peaceful protesters is the same one employed by the Communists at Tiananmen Square? When did it become morally acceptable in America to shoot people as an example to others?

Here’s something I’d like cleared up: how come it’s terrorism if a guy named Muhammad suggests shooting Americans, but it’s not terrorism if you’re a conservative?

The Congressional Super Committee deadlocked.  Afterward, certain members of the committee admitted that they never actually intended to reach an agreement anyway. In fact, for the last month they mostly watched football and tossed off to pictures of Grover Norquist. This was a surprise to absolutely nobody, since the conservative side of the table was manned by people who think that “compromise” is defined as: give us what we want or we’ll start shooting the hostages. You can not reason with people who are not reasonable people, it’s really just that simple. These are folks who hold their oath to the Constitution and the United States secondary to a promise they made to a self-serving lobbyist who was never elected to any position by any American citizen. These are the kind of people who shoot hostages just to make a political statement and then don’t have to live with the consequences. Besides, it’s important to note that this congressional failure is somehow apparently the President’s fault. Question: Where you work, if you were assigned a critical task, nay, strike that, you volunteered for the task, and you not only failed to complete it in a timely fashion you actually took the job under false pretenses never intending to finish it at all and in fact actively prevented anybody else from completing that task while goofing off on company time, should you still get paid? Or should you be terminated immediately and escorted to the door by security even if you blamed the CEO?

Another question, what should happen to the supervisor who is such a lousy manager and poor judge of character that he assigned a self-serving disingenuous scumbag like you to a critical task?

In a stupefying bit of irony, Michele Bachmann accused NBC of sexism after Jimmy Fallon’s band played Fishbone’s Lyin’ Ass Bitch during her appearance on the show. Granted it wasn’t the classist move Fallon could have made but sexism? Please.  Bachmann should be thrilled that they finally found a band other than Ted Nugent who isn’t offended to have their music associated with the Tea Party. Besides, it’s Jimmy Fallon on late night NBC, honestly who besides his mom actually watches the show? Question for all the folks outraged over this: why isn’t it sexism when Michele Bachmann says that God wants women to be subservient to their husbands? How come Jesus gets a pass on misogyny?

And why the hell isn’t it sexism when Rush Limbaugh calls a black woman uppity? No really, since he didn’t mean it in the usual racist fashion, he must have meant it because she was a women, right?  What? I’m just asking is all.

I could probably have written full post mortems on any of those things, because honestly, when Rick Santorum is the second Tea Party candidate to call Africa a “country” in less than two months and Mittens Romney claims that the only way to prevent Iran from getting nukes is to elect him president, the jokes pretty much write themselves (see the previous post on Rick Perry, talk about taking candy from babies, or rather millions from lobbyists to use a more apt metaphor).

Yep, I could have written about those things, but then Newt Gingrich rolled out his jobs plan and it was like a pure divine white light from Heaven split the clouds and illuminated the landscape to a holy chorus of hot naked angels singing I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

I tell you, if nothing else I’m grateful this Thanksgiving for politicians like Newt, because he makes political humor fun

Apparently, according to Newt, America’s current economic woes stem from two sources: greedy middle school janitors and unemployed children.

Newt’s solution? Fire the janitors, hire the kids. 

Like chocolate and peanut butter, or feeding the homeless to the hungry, kids and janitorial work naturally go together.  It’s just so, so obvious when Newt points it out, isn’t it?

Fire the janitors, hire the kids.

Brilliant.

First we recoup billions in janitor salaries.

Those goddamned janitors and their outrageous salaries. Who can forget those greedy maintenance men commuting to school each morning? Their private helicopters landing on the roof of the gymnasium, flying in from the Hamptons after a weekend of booze, blow and hookers? Their chauffer driven limos blocking the school bus loading zones?  Oh yes, let us never forget who caused this financial disaster, them with their 24K gold handled mops and gilded toilet plungers while our children could barely afford to chew gum and stick it to the bathroom mirrors? I tell you, nothing chaps my ass more than when those key-twirling broom jockeys took billions in taxpayer bailouts and then gave themselves millions in bonuses. Personally I think it’s a Goddamned outrage that they get taxpayer funded lifetime pensions and golden parachutes even after being found guilty of ethics violations and forced to resign from their jobs. Honest to God, folks, how many more countries could we have invaded if these jumpsuit wearing sons of bitches weren’t bleeding us dry? How many more faith based programs could we have funded? How many high school girls had to graduate because those damned janitors stole money for abstinence only birth control classes? How many aircraft carriers could we have built?  Ask yourself this, how many more tenured history professors could we have hired if we hadn’t had to pay those stinkin’ greedy Janitors? Hell, we could have filet mignon and caviar in the Congressional lunchroom three meals per day instead of, well, ok bad example, but I think I’ve made my point here.

Next, says Newt, we put kids to work.

Nothing says First World Superpower like child labor, boy howdy. Think of the valuable lesson those kids will be learning – say like how even if you work really hard in a thankless job for shitty wages and do your best, some rich greedy asshole in a Brooks Brothers suit and a thousand dollar tie will inevitably dream up yet another shiny business model which somehow always seems to involve outsourcing your job to a labor pool that consists primarily of children.  The lesson being, steal whatever cleaning supplies you can now and sell them on Craigslist, because it’s every man for himself.  Learn that lesson well, kids, and you too can be a former Speaker of the House some day.

Now, at first blush, Newt’s idea to throw school janitors under the bus appears to be self-serving election year bullshit that solves a problem that simply doesn’t exit, instead of actually addressing, you know, the actual problems faced by actual Americans in the actual real world.  But let’s not dismiss Newt out of hand, frankly, there are a lot of advantages to putting kids to work.  Like say if they were working after school they wouldn’t be under foot all of the time. So, and I’m just spitballing here, there would be more time for getting to know their MILFy moms – say if you were looking for a fourth wife or something. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Think about it, if the little parasites started paying into Social Security and Medicare in, say, tenth – or maybe even second grade depending on how patriotic their parents are –  that would go a long way towards making a down payment on the next war. 

Here’s something I bet you liberals didn’t think of: kids in the workforce could commute on the school bus, freeing up valuable space on the highway and saving gasoline. Why that’s downright Green. Put that in your Prius, Al Gore, you tofu smoking hippy.

Now, if the whole janitorial pilot program works out, I’ve got some ideas for other places kids could start filling in:

Flight Crew:  Airlines could eliminate unionized employees in favor of children.  Sure. They’re small, they could squeeze around the drink cart a lot easer than a full sized Stewardess. Plus they could sleep in the overhead bins during layovers and subsist on a bag or two of peanuts, saving the airlines money on hotel and lodging fees.  They can get in tight spaces easier than adults and they’re fascinated by shiny parts, airline ground maintenance seems like a natural fit.

Likewise, companies should hire kids as business travellers. Think about it. They’re small, you could get two of them into a business class airline seat, or maybe they could even ride for free on the laps of other travellers. Huh? Huh? Seriously, airlines could attract business travellers by calculating business fares based on weight. This in turn would drive the next business trend towards smaller and smaller businesskids.  Leading in turn to little tiny business hotels and smaller conference rooms.  Everybody wins.

Computer Programming:  Programmers are paranoid anti-social types with poor hygiene who think the way to meet members of the opposite sex is to sit around dark basements in pajamas drinking Mountain Dew and talking about Star Trek. Anybody who has a teenager knows what I’m talking about here.  It’s a natural.  Trust me on this, I’ve got a degree or two in computer science, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, computer programming is really mostly just gibberish anyway.

Sex Workers:  I know, I know, but bear with me on this. Child sex workers can learn a valuable skill which would then allow them to move directly into paying internships with collegiate sports, the clergy, or conservative congressmen.

Child Soldiers:  Once you wrap your head around the sex worker thing, sending kids into battle is easy.  Plus, we wouldn’t want to say that a third world country like Africa has us beat in the number of miniature Marines would we?  It’s the missile gap all over again!  Plus, kids are small and hyperactive, they’ll be harder to hit than full sized soldiers and they’ve been playing Gears of War since the womb, we won’t even have to send them to boot camp.  Hand them a BFG and drop them out the back of a C-17 into the warzone.  Hell, once the Republicans outlaw abortion we’ll have an unlimited supply.

Whoa, here’s an idea! How about Congress?  It’s a perfect fit! Kids are good at arguing, avoiding responsibility, making a big mess, blaming somebody else, spending money, and they think they know everything. Take the Super Committee, they sat on their asses for a month and couldn’t agree to anything. Mostly all they did was lay around playing video games, watching TV, and eating junk food. Hello!

 

What? Ok, just think about it, that’s all I’m asking.

 

Of course, there’s a downside – I mean besides the whole eventual Logan’s Run thing where the kids kill off everybody over twenty-one and take over the world.

Sooner or later, kids will take over all jobs, putting Newt Gingrich out of work.

Maybe he can find a job sweeping up.

In fact, maybe if Newt spent some time as a high school janitor he’d learn a little humility and then maybe he’d be a little less uppity.

Then again, maybe not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Ballad Of Rick Perry

Ever heard of Irving?

You know, Irving. The Kosher Kid? The Jewish gunfighter? Big fat Irving? Ranked 142nd among professional pistoleers? Faced down Bad Max and the James Boys? Famous for his bovine art and impeccable table settings? You know, Irving.

Not ringing a bell, eh? Really? Well, obviously your education in American history is sadly lacking. Sigh.  You never studied, did you? I pity you and your poor wastrel childhood, I do.

The Doctor would be so disappointed.

What do you mean, what doctor? No not that doctor, not that prissy Englishman and his silly call-box. I’m talking about a true American and the most brilliant doctor of them all, Dr. Demento, of course.

Since you haven’t done your homework, here, listen to Frank Gallop.  Go on, I’ll wait. Hell, partner, tell you what, I’ll listen with you, I love me some heroic western storytellin’:

 

 

I was reminded of poor old bumbling Irving this week. To be honest I spent pretty much the whole day caught in between fits of giggling interspersed by singing various stanzas from the Ballad of Irving.

Why?

Rick Perry challenged Nancy Pelosi to pistols at twenty paces.

He was mean and nasty right clear though, which was kind of weird because he was yellow too!

Perry is like one of those dudes from “back east,” the kind of sarsaparilla cowboy that the real cowpunchers used to make fun of in the old Wild West.  He fancies himself a steely-eyed gunfighter and he was King Shit back in whatever little cow town he’s from.  He’s got himself a fancy rig: big horse and a genuine silver trimmed western saddle (made in China), chrome plated spurs, shiny belt buckle and an embroidered Brooks Brothers fringe-sleeved shirt. He’s got the biggest hat he could afford with a fancy leather band, and he spends his nights twisting the brim into the perfect Cowboy curl. He practices his patented Man With No Name squint in the mirror every morning and he’s got that pointy-toed gunslinger swagger down pat.  There’s one of Colonel Colt’s equalizers slung low on his hip with the sere filed down and the trigger wired back and he spends a lot of time practicing slappin’ leather and fanning the hammer in front of a life-sized pasteboard cutout of Ronald Reagan as Farrell in Cattle Queen of Montana.

Just one problem, ol’ Hair Trigger Perry can’t shoot for shit.

Every time he goes into the saloon, the other cowboys knock his hat off and tape a kick me sign on his back and he can’t seem to get a shot off.

They’re out there, the wild bunch, the notorious Norquist Gang, in the street, waiting for him right now.

There’s Herman The Harasser Cain, who sprays hot lead in all directions and about half the time accidently guns down members of his own posse. There’s Crazy Horse Bachmann, she wears a faded saddle blanket like a poncho and holds her huge heavy pistol in a splayed legged two fisted grip, she screws her eyes shut and spastically jerks the trigger … and fires randomly into the crowd.  Slick Mittens Romney, the grifter who runs the local poker game and kills men with a concealed Derringer he hides in his sleeve next to the spare aces.  John The Ambassador, he’s an enigma, he doesn’t talk much, he just slouches in the back cradling his shotgun and stroking the trigger like it was a woman.  There’s the Santorum Kid, he’s just an cowhand who was done wrong and fell in with a bad crowd, he rode with Quantrill’s Raiders during the war and now his soul is owned by the Devil. Doc Paul, pale and wizened, tubercular, a dangerous unpredictable loner, the ranch hands say he’s killed a hundred men (mostly uninsured renegade illegal Mexicans).  And, of course there’s The Newt, disgraced prewar Congressman, now he’s a fast talking snake-oil salesman and proprietor of The Salamander Medicine Show, wanted by the Pinkertons in ten states and the Indian territories for horse thievery, robbing the stage, and serial buggery, rumor has it that he came out west after he got caught diddling a powerful Senator’s wife, he’s dying of the Pox and it makes him mean.

And there’s Rick Perry, looking for all the world like Marty McFly in Back To The Future III.

That’s what Perry’s fellow Texicans call All Hat, No Cattle.

Rock bottom in the polls. Mocked by bloggers (hello!) and late night comedians everywhere including foreign non-English speaking countries without cable TV.  Contributions suddenly nonexistent, funding drying up.  Campaign workers sneaking out the back door for other candidates.  Every time Perry pulls out his piece he either shoots himself in the foot or it turns out that he forgot to load the damned thing.

Like Clint Eastwood-McFly hiding improvised body armor under his shirt, Perry needs a gimmick to keep from getting killed.

So he cooked up an idea to create a part-time Congress and hire Kelly Services temps to work the Supreme Court. On Perry’s Big U.S. Spread, the President will  be the undisputed Cattle King. The Rail Tycoons are already rubbing their hands in glee and eying the homesteaders’ paltry few acres. The prices are up in the General Store and likely to stay that way and they’ve dammed up the river. Perry’s suddenly shaking hands and making the rounds of the bars and brothels shopping his plan. Apparently the logic being that since he just completely sucks giant fuzzy donkey balls at real live debating and can’t even hold his own against the likes of Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain (see? Thus the giggling) let alone Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney – and since he obviously has no chance whatsoever against the very eloquent Doc Brown Obama – he’s decided to go looking for somebody smaller and weaker that he can beat up.

He walked into Sol’s Saloon like a man insane! And ordered three fingers of two-cents plain…

Unfortunately for Perry, he picked on the town school marm – and just never mind the fact that she’s not even running for President.

Pelosi’s response? Her public response? On Twitter? Read by millions so far? Priceless: “Re: Gov. Perry – Monday I’ll be in Portland. Later visiting labs in CA. That’s 2. I can’t remember the third thing…”

He was sittin’ there twirlin’ his gun around, and butterfingers Irving gunned himself down…

Believe me when I say that I am not a fan of Nancy Pelosi. But, dude! She not only owned Perry in a 140 character double-tap, she saddled him and drove him around the internet like a little pastel pony-shaped squeaky toy. The only way Perry could have pantsed himself any worse would be if Pelosi did agree to the debate and then showed up wearing chaps and spurs and rode him around the stage waving her giant hat and slapping Perry on his bare pink shaved bottom. Gittyup! Little Perry!

Honestly, what was he thinking?

That Pelosi would be an easy mark? That debating her would have some relevancy to his sagging presidential campaign? Because conservatives hate her? Because Perry’s Texan base hates her? Because she’s a girl? He can’t hit in the big leagues so he figured he’d go down to the batting cage and knock out a home run there – and instead got himself beaned by the pitching machine. What? What was the reasoning here?

A hundred and forty-one could draw faster than he, but Irving was looking for one forty-three…

Who’s Perry going to challenge next? A ham sandwich? Seriously, if he can’t beat Pelosi, who I remind you again isn’t even running for the office and isn’t exactly the wittiest cowgirl at the dance, in a twitter dust-up of all things then who can he beat?

I saw a comment suggesting that he take on that talking baby from the E-trade commercials. I dunno, that kid was day trading at nine months, it’s a good bet the little curtain-climber can count to three. Seems like an awful risk for Perry. I’ve seen that kid on TV with a smartphone, he’s probably got a twitter account. What? I’m just saying that’s a sarcastic little drooler is all.

Bad Max said draw and draw right now! And Irving drew, drew a picture of a cow…

The problem is that Perry chokes in the clutch. Look, the bar girls down at the town saloon don’t call him Powder Burns for nothing.

What he needs to do is start small and work his way up to progressively harder debates.

Think Karate Kid. What I’m saying is that Perry needs to walk before he can stagger home from the bar.  He needs to work on basic skills:

Establish a Clear Message: You can’t be a good debater if people don’t understand what you’re saying.  Perry gets flustered when he has to deal with contrary people face to face, so he should start out by getting a little emotional separation from the other side of the debate. He needs to depersonalize it.  He should start by debating a drive-thru speaker (takes a minute to start, be patient, it’s worth it. Thank you again, Dr. D). Start with something simple, say a happy meal and a juice box. Next, a special order like extra onions on the burger or no pubic hair in the Lo-Cal sandwich wrap. Once he can order for the entire campaign bus - from memory – at three different drive-thrus on the same food run and get everything he asked for correctly including the weird PR chick’s small hot water and extra ketchup packs, he’s ready for the next exercise, i.e. actual face time in a live training environment. Say like getting coffee for everybody at Starbucks. Simultaneously dealing with the baristas’ scornful contempt and the hostile remarks from those standing in line behind him while they wait impatiently for his huge order to be filled will be excellent practice for a real debate.

Understanding The QuestionSociopaths NeoConservatives Texans Politicians have a hard time with empathy. They just aren’t good at listening to anything other than their own oversized throbbing ego. Perry needs to learn how to listen to constituents.  He can practice by debating  Rusty The Talking Dog .  This is a timed exercise, if Perry can’t figure out what Rusty wants within a limited amount of time he’s going to need a roll of paper towels and a steam cleaner.  Either way, he’ll learn a useful skill and if his presidential aspirations don’t pan out he can always find a job cleaning up the local park.  Once Perry can walk the dog, he’s ready for the real skill challenge: Cats in tanks.

Dominate the Stage:  In order for Perry to stand out in a presidential debate, he has to rise head and shoulders above some pretty big egos. He needs to learn how to boldly seize the moment and hang on unashamedly. Blatant self promotion is just another arrow in the political quiver and if Perry doesn’t stand up for himself, who will?  For practice, Perry should debate Kanye West.  When he can keep control of the microphone for more than thirty seconds, he’s ready to stiff-arm that candy-assed Wolf Blitzer and take control of the debate agenda like a boss.

Dress for Success:  Since Perry isn’t very good at talking under pressure, he needs to appeal on a non-verbal level to the diverse bunch of folks who make up the core conservative base (the innovative entrepreneurs, the college educated, and Wall Street Executives).  Perry should practice by debating as a street mime.

Wax on, wax off.

Once Perry has mastered the basics, like a gunfighter in a Dodge City saloon he needs to focus on his individual opponents. He needs to practice against the unique strengths and weaknesses of each member of Biff Norquist’s outlaw gang.  The followed training scenarios should help:

Ron Paul  (in this simulation, Paul is the one on the left)

Herman Cain  (in this simulation, Herman is the one who says, “Well, of course I’m on drugs.”)

Michele Bachmann (not safe for small children, people with heart conditions, or those susceptible to cults)

Newt Gingrich (This simulation is not safe for work,but then neither is Newt. Newt is the blond)

Rick Santorum (Go on, push the button. I saved the best for last)*

 

 

The Ballad of Rick Perry, The Hundred and Forty-Second Best Debater in the West

- With apologies to the late great Frank Gallop

 

He was tall and tan and came out the west

With open pit BBQ smoke on his breath

He was smooth and slick right clear though

Which was kinda weird, ‘cause he was a douchebag too.

 

They called him Rick

Slick Rick

Slick Botoxed Rick

Slick one percent Rick

The hundred and forty second best debater in the West

 

He came from the old Bush Family Spread

With a ten-million dollar campaign contribution under his bed

He always followed the evangelical’s wishes

Keeping the queers from getting married was just plain delicious

 

Rick

Big Rick

Big Bigot Rick

Big Gay Rick

The hundred and forty second best debater in the West.

 

A hundred and forty-one could debate better than he

Tongue tied Rick couldn’t even count to three.

Challenged Pelosi to a fight and said winner take it all

Got his ass kicked on Twitter and went home with only one ball

 

Rick

Big Rick

Big Stupid Rick

Big Girl Rick

The hundred and forty-second best debater in the west

 

One day drought happened in the town

It was so bad it threatened to bring all of Texas down

The people said we need relief oh can’t you see?

Perry prayed to Jesus … and then blamed D.C.

 

Rick

Big Rick

Big Christian Rick

Big fat hypocrite Rick

The hundred and forty-second best debater in the west.

 

A financial crisis was coming because of what Wall Street had done

The townsfolk were hurting, they lost their homes and mutual funds

Make me the president, I can fix it Perry coo’d

The first thing we’ll do is cancel unemployment insurance because, fuck you

 

Rick

Big Rick

Big Oil Perry

Big Rick the Dick

The Hundred and forty-second best debater in the west

 

Well finally Perry took three slugs in the belly

it was just outside the Tea Party rally

MIlitia man had an AR-15 and was foolin’ around

Second Amendment solutions, that’s what went down

 

Rick

Big Rick

Big Target Rick

Big he’ll live, he just won’t hold water Rick

The Hundred and Forty Second fastest Master Debater in the west.

 

Thank you and good night.

 

 

 

 


* What? Rick Santorum? Rick Perry? Don’t act like you didn’t see the Rick Roll coming.  There’s a joker in every deck.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NPR, Ayn Rand, And The Zombies From Outer Space

Who is John Galt?

That was the bumper sticker on the truck in front of me this morning. 

Coincidence? Perhaps. Given that this week NPR has been running a three part special on influential economists, which I’ve been listening to on the way into Anchorage each morning.

Today’s segment was about John Keynes.

Yesterday it was about Fredrick Hayek.

And Monday, it was about, wait, what? Ayn Rand?

One of these things is not like the other.

Not at all.

John Maynard Keynes was a brilliant British economist and mathematician.  In fact, he was the son of another brilliant British economist and his intellect was backed up by an impeccable education, credentials, and a lifetime of experience.  Keynes spent his entire life working in the field of macroeconomics, teaching macroeconomics, reading about macroeconomics, writing about macroeconomics, and developing what is now one of the major modern theories of macroeconomics.  Along the way he was: an editor and contributor to numerous prestigious economic journals and publications, an officer of the Royal Treasury specializing in international wartime credit, specifically called by the Crown to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British version of the government’s comptroller), financial representative for the British government to the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of WWI, an internationally known and respected financial consultant, the impetus behind Britain’s abandonment of the gold standard, the guy that invented modern (Keynesian!) macroeconomics with the publication of his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, served on the Court of Directors for the Bank of England during WWII, designed a way for England to pay for her WWII war debt without collapsing into depression after the war was over,  created a post war global economic system designed to prevent the exact financial crises we find ourselves in right now (it wasn’t adopted because England was overruled by the United States, but Keynes’ ideas did contribute to the creation of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and, later, the European Union). Keynes’ theories continue to have a direct influence on nearly every government and financial system in the modern world.  Agree with his theories or not, you can’t argue that Keynes didn’t know something about economics (well, you can, if you’re a C-student governor from Texas who nearly flunked economics, but I digress). 

Likewise, Friedrich Hayek was a brilliant economist with massive influence on modern economies.  His education, credentials, and experience were also impeccable. He held two doctorate degrees, one in law and one in political science, and also formally studied philosophy, psychology, and economics. He was a polymath of extraordinary ability. He is considered to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the last century.  He was a protégé of the famed Ludwig von Mises and one of the principle designers of the Austrian School (Theory) of Economics – and he won the Nobel Prize in 1974 for it.  During his lifetime he: founded the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, taught at the London School of Economics, taught at the University of Chicago, taught at the University of Freiburg and then at the University of California, trained some of the most notable economists in recent history – along with a number of notable industrialists and world renown scientists – and wrote extensively about a variety of topics centered on economic theory.  His seminal work, The Road to Serfdom, continues to influence liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike, from European kings to American presidents and congressmen to Glenn Beck.  Like Keynes, you don’t have to agree with him, but you do have to admit that Friedrich Hayek knew more than a little about economics.

Then there’s Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand? Novelist. Playwright. Screenwriter.

Ayn Rand.

Seriously?

On the same economic plane as John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek? 

You’re kidding, NPR, right?

That’s like comparing Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and L. Ron Hubbard – or maybe Jesus, Mohammed, and L. Ron Hubbard. Or maybe Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard.  Okay, anybody and L. Ron Hubbard.

Seriously, NPR, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Sure I’m being mostly snarky with the L. Ron comparison, but I didn’t come by that comparison accidentally.  Like Hubbard, Rand was basically a mediocre science fiction writer who started to believe in her own press releases and ended up founding an anti-religion composed of garrulous glassy-eyed fanatics.

According to the lead-in by NPR correspondent Andrea Seabrook, Rand was given equal time with actual economists because a number of folks seem to think that Atlas Shrugged is somehow on an equal footing with the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money and The Road to Serfdom instead of the depressingly painful piece of schlock science fiction that it really is. Sure she sold a lot of books, so? So did L. Ron Hubbard.  What folks take Rand’s crap seriously?  Folks like Congressman Paul Ryan and Texas Governor Rick Perry, Speaker of the House John Boehner, not to mention certain Tea Party types who repeatedly paraphrase Rand’s silly nonsense about taxes being the same as a government mugging citizens at gunpoint – not that most said Tea Party types have actually read John Galt’s endless excruciating sixty page long monologue on the virtue of being a self-centered bastard flavored bastard with bastard filling and little bastard sprinkles on top at the end of Atlas Shrugged (How do I know they haven’t read it? Simple, they haven’t jammed knitting needles through their eyes).

Before we go any further, please understand something: I’m not saying your can’t, or shouldn’t, read and even enjoy Ayn Rand if that’s your thing. Hell some people actually like tofu, Justin Bieber, and the Ewok Christmas Special.  Me? Given a choice I’d rather be forced to sit with a hemorrhoidal badger in my lap through every single George W. Bush and/or Al Gore speech ever recorded than to have to read either Atlas Shrugged, or please God no Anthem, ever again.  If you like reading Rand as entertainment, as science fiction, as something that makes you think, well good on you. However, and this is my point, while you might enjoy reading an Alan Dean Foster knock off Star Wars novel, you probably don’t think we ought to run the country by the Jedi Code.  At least I hope not.

I can, at first blush, understand why right-wing and libertarian extremists love Ayn Rand – she was a bitter self-centered paranoid Bourgeois egotist who was desperately afraid every single day of her unhappy life that the commies and/or the dirty unwashed rabble were going to come in the middle of the night to kick down her door and take all of her stuff.  She might even have had a legitimate reason to feel that way given her escape from the Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet Russia, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to live with that fear gnawing wormlike at our brains. Rand thought service to your fellow man was a sucker’s game, charity was for saps, and that society should be based on every man for himself.  She was terrified of socialism in any form, including things like Unemployment Insurance, and her entire economic philosophy can best be summed up as “I got mine, fuck you” or maybe “Get a job, Hippies!”

Rand’s  Objectivism is little more than angry sullen masturbation.

So, yeah, you can certainly see why, on the surface, she would appeal to the likes of Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and the (various) governors of Texas. 

Now here’s the really ironic part, Rand’s biggest fans in government are, without exception, full frontal whole hog Jesus freaks. 

Of course, that’s not particularly surprising given that Creationists by definition peek out through their blinders to selectively cherry pick little bits and pieces in order to support their fantasy while ignoring anything that inconveniently contradicts their worldview.  Like say the fact that Ayn Rand was an atheist to a degree that makes PZ Myers and the folks over at Pharyngula look like born again snake handling Pentecostals. Somehow, despite the fact that these same people are so obsessed with the supposed godlessness of the immoral Left, not to mention the supposed question of Obama’s Christianity, they don’t have a problem with Rand’s loudly outspoken scorn of all things faith based.  Rand was also loudly outspoken when it came to a woman’s right to an abortion, funny how the Right doesn’t embrace that philosophy, eh?  Rand intensely disliked homosexuality, but said repeatedly that all laws denying gay people full and equal rights should be repealed.   She was also a speed freak, not the kind that goes bang bang fast, the kind that pops amphetamines like Milk Duds and turns into an exhausted emaciated paranoid.  She was against war in any form and one wonders what she would have made of the current conflict and her loyal adherents’ condemnation of Obama ending it (the same observation could be made about Jesus, I mean as long as we’re on the subject and all).  Of course, she did support Israel and had a habit of picking losing Republican candidates for president so maybe that’s why so many conservatives love her.  In the end, after she’d driven away all her rich egotist friends with her obnoxious selfishness and after the Objectivists had abandoned her and as she lay destitute and sick she accepted Medicare and Social Security and other such socialist safety nets in order for the taxpayers to treat her lung cancer – which she brought on herself through decades of chain smoking – instead of accepting the consequences of her own actions by simply dying a painful death as she and her libertarian followers enjoin everybody else to do.   Funny how Paul Ryan never seems to mention that bit of hypocrisy.  Do as I say, not as I do.

Oh yes, you can certainly see why the folks in bed with Wall Street bankers think Ayn Rand is just the most spiffy cupcake ever.

The simple truth of the matter is that Rand’s economic theories are brilliant because Rand wrote the story that way.  Just like Jerry Pournelle’s ultra right wing military strategy is always successful in the Falkenberg series or his laissez-faire libertarianism and ad hoc free market worked perfectly for the Rimrats in Birth of Fire. Just like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Eco-economics worked so elegantly and successfully in Blue Mars. And both Robinson and Pournelle spent a hell of a lot more time and effort designing their respective economies than Rand ever did.  When you control the story, of course your economic system works brilliantly.  However, the real world tends not to be so simple, unlike Pournelle’s John Christian Falkenberg you can’t just shoot all the liberals and then fly away into space – well I suppose you could, but it’s bound to get you talked about (note that Dr. Pournelle has an extensive background in matters military, political, and economic. He has advised more than one president and when he talks you should probably listen even if you don’t agree with him, plus he’s a hell of a writer and not just of military science fiction. Also, I love the Falkenberg’s Legion series).

Here’s the thing: learning macroeconomics from reading Atlas Shrugged is like learning psychology from Battlefield Earth.

But, hey, as long as we’re on the subject of running the country based on a second rate science fiction novel, why not L. Ron Hubbard? No really, at least the Church of Scientology knows how to make boat loads of money.  Sure we’ll all end up wired to the electronic version of a mood ring waiting for Xenu to suck out our engrams or intestines or whatever those goofy bastards believe, but no debt so we’ll have that going for us.  Just saying. Plus, free screenings of Mission Impossible IV: Tom Cruise, Still Crazier Than A Shithouse Rat.   Also, I think John Travolta has to bake you a fruitcake or give you a non-homoerotic baby oil neck rub or something when you sign up.

Of course, you know it doesn’t have to be shitty half-assed pulp fiction. I mean if we’re going to base our economy on a scifi novel why not the good stuff?

I’ve already mentioned Pournelle and Robinson, so how about Frank Herbert? We could run the government like they did in Dune.  Techno neofeuldalism, mystic drug addicts predict the future, giant sandworms. The spice must flow. Sting in a big man-diaper*. What’s not to like?

What, Herbert is too monarchist for you?

Ok how about something more libertarian? Say like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers?  Hey, it doesn’t get any more non-socialist than that. You have to earn the right to vote and hold office through voluntary military service – oops looks like that rules out about 99% of Washington on both sides of the aisle. Yeah, we’d better skip the Heinlein.

Or maybe not.

Hang on here a minute. Just hang on, not so fast.  Heinlein was a vet, a conservative libertarian, a staunch advocate of gun rights, small government, and individualism. And he was an avowed nudist, so there’s something in there for both conservatives and liberals. He wasn’t big on taxes or free medical treatment either. Maybe one of his other works? Unlike Rand’s two and a half novels, Heinlein wrote eighty something books, there’s got to be one we can use.

Let’s see, Farmer in the Sky? No.

Between Worlds? Podkayne of Mars? No.

Citizen of the Galaxy? Oh yeah, the anti-UN types would have a field day with that one.

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress? No, but we’d probably better keep that one away from the Occupy crowd, I’m just saying. Don’t need them dropping rocks on us from lunar orbit. Scratch that, maybe Moon is exactly what OWS needs, I know I’d like to drop an asteroid on the Berkeley PD right about now.

Space Cadet? Probably not, even though it would be almost worth it just to watch the New World Order conspiracy nuts dance around screaming like cannibals infected with the Mad Cow.  Ditto The Puppet Masters.

Farnham’s Freehold?  Closer. It sure doesn’t get much more laissez-faire than the end of Freehold. Can’t say I’m a big fan of shacking up with my dead daughter’s best friend in the middle of a minefield and raising mutant babies in the midst of a post-nuclear war wasteland though.

Ah ha! I’ve got it: Stranger in a Strange Land.  Woohoo! Free love for everybody. Booze! Gambling! We’ll all be eternally saved. Can you grok it, man?

What’s that?

Now I’m just being silly?

Well sure.  But it’s not my fault, NPR started it.

 

 


*Yes, if you must know, I did write this entire thing just so I could use the phrase: Sting in a big diaper. You’re welcome.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Colors

You didn’t get a blog post yesterday because I spent Veterans Day in Hatchers Pass.

Hatchers Pass is one of our favorite places, we spend a lot of time up there.

Hatchers Pass, for those of you not familiar with Alaska, is a BLM area near Wasilla.  It’s on the old gold rush and supply trail that once snaked its way from Seward to Fairbanks.  Before the modern Glenn Highway the pass was the quickest way north from Anchorage.  Nowadays, the road over the top and through the actual pass itself is closed in the winter, buried under yards of snow and used only by hearty souls on snow machines and skis.

In the summer the pass is a great place for hiking, gold panning, and exploring. 

In the winter, it’s a popular place for snowboarders and skiers.

For years, developers have been trying to get their grubby hands on the place, so they can charge us to do what we now do for free.  There’s a certain mindset that just cannot stand the fact that people are enjoying themselves without having to pay for it.  So far, any attempt at development has been unsuccessful and that suits us just fine.

I don’t snowboard. I’m in enough pain most of the time without tempting fate any further.  My son does the downhill stuff, I mostly just take pictures. 

 

The skiers, sledders, shredders, and boarders all start at the bottom of the pass.  Since there’s no lift, they hitch rides up the mountain from passing vehicles.  They line up like brightly colored birds along the guardrail and wait for a ride. Nobody ever has to wait for long. Since we didn’t bring the dog this time, we gave rides to as many kids as we could pack into the back of the truck.

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It’s several miles to the top.  There are a number of trails down the mountain, but most of the snowboarders like to start at the very top, mile 16 on the pass road.

They gear up and head off down the mountain.  This is a shot of my son strapping on his helmet (this picture was actually taken last weekend and was posted on my Facebook page. But I like it, so I’m reposting it here).

image

 

Here’s a panorama taken from the 16 Mile parking area.  This is seven shots stitched together using Corel’s Paintshop Photo Pro.  Clicking on the image will take you to a bigger version in my public Picasa album. If you look really carefully, you can see my house down there on the flats. It’s that little dot.

 

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Once you drop off your passengers, you drive on back down the mountain to pick them up and do it all over again. After a day of this, you have one very tired kid, so, you know, it’s totally worth the half tank of gas.

I hiked up the trail at the bottom of the run and snapped a few pictures while trying to avoid getting run over.  I thought the colors made a great contrast against the white snow. And that dog was having a blast, chasing its owner down the mountain and barking like mad. The dog was plenty smart and experienced enough to avoid getting run over.  In typical Alaskan fashion there are actually a lot of dogs on the slope, all having fun (and we counted at least two moose).  Just another reason to avoid development, can you imagine your local ski lodge allowing dogs on the slope? 

image

 

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I thought to myself as I took the pictures, man, I sure wish I could do that. But then I realized that to board Hatchers Pass you need skill, experience, and an athlete's physique.  I would have thought about it more, but at that very moment, I had to leap out of the way of a little pink blur which whooshed past me in an icy spray of mocking girlish laughter.  She waved and grinned like a tiny maniac as she whistled past, ponytails flying.

I figure she was about eight.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

 

To all of my brothers and sisters in arms, those of you who have stood the watch and patrolled the dark and dangerous corners of the world:

Be proud of who you are and the uniform you wear.

Hold your head high, hold your honor dear, be true to your oath.

Stand steadfast by your duty even when there is no one to see.

Follow those who lead, and lead those who will follow.

Leave no one behind.

Remember the fallen. Always.

Thank you for your service and your sacrifice on this day, and every other.

//Jim Wright, Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (Retired).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Memorial

I belong to a small online circle of friends.

We call ourselves collectively The UCF. 

We are a diverse group of folks scattered across North America. Many of us have met in the real world.  We come together to share the pain and the joy and the humor of our lives. Most of us are bloggers, and you can find the other UCF blogs listed down on the right hand side of this page. 

This last weekend one of our non-blogging members passed away unexpectedly.

She often commented here on Stonekettle Station as Wendy_B09. Her wit and great humor will be sorely missed.

If you happen to see a Viking longboat afire off the coast, raise a glass and think of our friend.

Fair winds, following seas, Wendy, we’ll see you again in Valhalla.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Stonekettle Station, The Follow Up

Niven’s Law: The Universe doesn’t care if you’re having fun

Well, as expected, I managed to thoroughly piss off a number of you with the previous Occupy Wall Street post.

As a result, some readers won’t be back.

Sorry about that.

Don’t get me wrong here, it does bother me to lose regular readers, however if we all agreed on everything all the time, well, we wouldn’t be the people we are, would we?

Now, because I would like to keep most of you around,  at least those of you without personal hygiene issues, I’m faced with a decision every time I push the publish button, to wit: I can either keep doing what I’m doing, or start writing fluffy cotton candy bunny posts solely in order to blow rainbow flavored smoke up your ass.

I hate losing you, but you should know right up front that I’m unlikely to choose the later opinion. 

See, while I do care what you think, I write for myself first.

I’d write Stonekettle Station exactly the way I do now even if ShopKat and I were the only ones reading it.  If I was writing for you, I’d charge you more.  If I wrote to attract readers and sell page counts, well, I’d write porn.

That doesn’t mean that I go out of my way to offend you. 

For what it’s worth, it wasn’t intentional. 

And I did warn you first. 

It’s too bad you’re leaving, we were just going to open a bottle of 1608 and go out on the patio to soak in the hot tub with the naked cast of … ah, never mind, you’re not interested in that. If you gotta go, you gotta go. I understand.

For those that do choose to stick around however, a couple of things:

First, thank you, Pissed Off Regular Readers. Thanks for being reasonably polite in your comments and correspondence despite being unhappy with the post. I’ve been accused of cultivating sycophants in the comments section, thank you for loudly disagreeing with me. (Hah! Sycophants? In your face! And you know who you are. pthffffft!)

Second, thank you, Shiny New People, for actually reading the commenting rules.  And in fact you’ve managed to drive this week’s hit count on the rules page to an all time high.  It would have been cool if that huge green spike on the page load graph had been on, you know, an actual article and not the crummy old rules page, but, hey, hit count is hit count. Now if I could just get somebody to pay me for it.

Third, thank you, Warty Skinned Troll People, for continuing to send me finely crafted hate mail.  It’s cold here in Alaska, and your burning dislike warms the cockles of my flinty black heart.  In return, and as long as you already think I’m a condescending prick, allow me to offer this helpful tip: You can choose not to be offended.  You can. Or not.  But deciding not to be offended does wonders for clarity of thought – not to mention your blood pressure and spelling ability. Just saying.

That said, some clarification to the previous post is obviously in order:

- I never said that Occupiers are stupid or should go home.You may have read it that way, but that’s not what I said. In fact I said just the opposite. Here’s the quote (note the underlined part):

So what am I saying?  Occupy Wall Street is stupid and futile and everybody should just go home? No, not at all.

 

- I never intended to insult Occupiers by comparing them to Tea Partiers, that was an unexpected bonus.  If it’s any consolation, the Tea Partiers who wrote to me were massively insulted by being compared to you.  Not to be a dick or anything, but that’s something else you both have in common.

 

- I’m not going to apologize for being a capitalist.  I’ve already explained why and, really, at this point I should be charging you for it.

 

- Yes, I understand that there may, may, be reason to believe there are agents provocateur inciting the OWS crowd to violence. Then again, there may not be. So what?  When the agitator says, hey let’s go light some shit on fire – you have the option of saying no. Hell no.  You also have the option of sitting on the son of a bitch until the police show up. 

Here’s the thing: since you can’t see my email, look at the comments under the Occupy post. Take them as a whole.   Now, go read the comments on the various Occupy websites, and the ones under the numerous news articles. And the ones on the Twitter feeds. And the ones on Facebook. Read them objectively, without emotion. Look at them as an intelligence analyst would. Look at them as data.

Taken in the aggregate, what do you see?

Tell you what I see:

1) The violence, it wasn’t us.  It was caused by a) a few bad apples, or b) agents provocateur.

2) besides, you have to light shit on fire and break some windows to get the Man’s attention.

See it? 

See the logical fallacy?

You don’t have to look very hard to see those two reoccurring themes  - often they appear in the same comment, sometimes in the same sentence.  If you agree with the violence, then the agitator isn’t really an agent provocateur is he?  He’s actually one of you.

Either you endorse violence, or you don’t.  Make up your damned mind.

 

- Now, a number of you, including my most excellent friend, the sissy pacifist socialist liberal, Eric, do seem to believe that in certain cases violence against the machine is a justifiable method of getting the Man’s attention. Albeit reluctantly.  A number of you pointed out where that exact method worked to force change.   You are correct.

Eric did an eloquent job of describing precisely why I’m wrong to deplore violent protest over on his own blog, Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets (and on a related note, if you’re not reading Giant Midgets, you’re missing out. Seriously. Go there right now. You can thank me later). 

Would it surprise you that I agree? 

I do think that there is a time and place for violent protest, and even violent revolution.  I do think that in some cases, violent protest is the only option left to a people – and I’ve written sympathetically about some of those violent revolutions right here on Stonekettle Station, as recently as last week.

I can even see the conditions that would drive me to join in. 

We. Are. Not. Anywhere. Close. To. That.

You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that lighting shit on fire, smashing out bank windows, and breaking into buildings is in any way justified at the moment.  You’re welcome to try.  Give me a list of all the alternatives short of violence you have actually tried and an objective and reasoned justification for the violence and vandalism that has occurred so far. Please try to avoid the logical fallacy described in the previous paragraph and/or the street gang logic of “They dissed us, now we’re gonna bust some heads.”

Some of you took exception to being compared to the Tea Party. You’re the same folks who deplored the Tea Party’s talk of armed overthrow and secession and  revolution.  You’re not seriously going to try and tell me that your talk of revolution and their talk of revolution are different just because they talk about Second Amendment solutions and you talk about throwing Molotov cocktails, are you? 

Then again, not to be a dick or anything, there’s yet another thing certain extreme members of both sides seem to have in common. Just saying.

 

-  I do think that protest has its place in the daily maintenance of democracy. Peaceful protest. 

There’s an old adage about training a dog that goes something like: It is never, ever, necessary to hit a dog – but sometimes you’ve got to rap that bone-headed son of a bitch across the nose to get its attention.  That’s exactly why the Framers put the right to peacefully assemble into the Constitution.

End government corruption.  End runaway greed. Those are the basic messages of OWS, yes?

Those are things that every single American can get behind. End government corruption, end corporate greed (or at least put some limits on it). We can all agree to those basic ideals (well all of us except for corrupt politicians and greedy bankers but that’s just a quibble).  Left, right, conservative, liberal, OWS, Tea Party, black, white, brown, red, yellow, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, East Coast, Left Coast, Mid Westerner, meat eaters and Tofu twiddlers – we, all of us, can agree to that.  End government corruption, end the greed that tanked our economy and screwed us all.

So how come we don’t all agree?

Look, let me give you another example: Be kind to animals. Most of us can agree to that, yes?  Be kind to animals. Hell, even folks who eat meat and hunt can agree, in principle, to that, be kind to animals even if we don’t agree on exactly what “kind” means.

Here’s another example: Don’t shit in your food supply.  Anybody object to that idea?  Don’t shit in your food supply.

So why, when some Green Peace Nazi calls me a murderer and screams her bean sprout scented breath in my face to give up my gas guzzling truck, do I have the overpowering urge to go home and fill my gas tank with the rendered fat of little fluffy harp seals and eat a steak carved from the tenderloin of an endangered baby polar bear?

Ask yourself this, why do so many people just goddamned hate those PETA people? Or the folks from Green Peace?  After all, most of us agree with their basic ideals, be kind to animals, don’t shit in the food supply.

Answer that question, and then do something about it, and Occupy Wall Street will actually change things.

You light shit on fire, you smash windows, you throw rocks at the cops and get yourself arrested and you’re not the 99%.  Because 98.9% of us don’t agree with your methods – including the unionized cops who might be on your side if you’d rethink your strategy.

If you really were 99% of the country, you wouldn’t need to light shit on fire to change things.

So, figure out how to get 99% of your fellow citizens on your side. Hint, lighting their property on fire isn’t it.

 

- Finally I asked you to do some research.  Up above I asked you to go read the comments on the previous post.  I asked you to read the comments on the OWS sites and under the OWS news articles.  I asked you to check social media sites. I asked you to look at that information objectively, without emotion, as data

I asked you to filter it for commonalities.

What did you find?

What is the one single unifying thread that ties it all together (and incidentally, is also yet another point of congruency with the Tea Party)?

Did you see it?

I liked @andrewwnygard’s comment best:

Seriously? Go out and vote?

A stunning majority of you seem to have an astounding level of contempt for the basic institution of democracy.

An overwhelming majority of you seem to feel that, for various reasons, your vote doesn’t matter, that voting will not and cannot change anything.

You’re wrong.

Niven’s law: No technique works if it’s not used.

You cannot say that voting doesn’t work if you don’t vote.

You cannot say that the system is broken if you don’t use the system.

A lot of you said that you do vote and I’ll take you at your word, but it’s a good bet that some of you are fibbing because the simple truth of the matter is that a lot of Americans don’t.

In no election since 1944, have more than 65% of eligible Americans actually voted in presidential elections, and more often than not it’s closer to 45% – though 100% bitch about the results – and it’s even more dismal in the primaries where the actual candidates are chosen.  Want to know who the worst ones are? Young people, liberals, the very same people out in the street with OWS smashing windows right now.  They’ll rally and they’ll sing and they’ll shout, but they won’t go vote

It was the same thing in the 60’s.  The raggedy assed hippies would hold love-in’s and sit-in’s and anti-war rallies, they’d shout and sing Kumbaya and hand out flowers – and then on election day they’d all go get stoned, tune-in, and drop out.  I’m not saying they didn’t effect certain changes in our society, but Nixon was the president and nobody remembers McGovern and we’re sure as hell not living in the Age of Aquarius now are we? And the really, really ironic part is that an overwhelming  majority of those hippies are now conservatives. Why? Because if you really want to effect change, you have to be part of the system.

One hell of a lot of you have allowed yourselves to fall into voter apathy. One hell of a lot of you have declared that you won’t vote in the upcoming presidential election – for whatever reason.

No technique works if it isn’t used.

If you really are the 99% and you all vote, then it won’t matter if some of your votes aren’t counted and some of your chads dangle– you’ll still win. You damned well did in 2008 despite one hell of a stiff opposition.  And don’t give me the standard canard about the Koch Brothers either, you’ve got billionaire movers and shakers of your own, stop lighting their shit on fire and maybe they’ll help you out.

I keep coming back to the Tea Party for a reason – in the last election they got themselves organized, they knocked on doors, they made phone calls, hell, they bought themselves a robo-dialer and they used that sucker, they handed out flyers and petitions and buttons and email. They used social networking and the internet – and some of those tri-corner hat wearing blue haired old geezers had never sent an email before in their lives, but they damned well learned how and spammed every inbox they could reach. They were in front of every Wal-Mart and Target and in the malls and their front yards were full of campaign signs.  They lost a few, but they won the House and the Congressional Tea Party caucus is shaking up the halls of power right now.  They are half the Republican presidential candidate line-up and you can damned well see even old Mitt Romney kissing their wrinkly gray asses. I don’t agree with most of what they’re doing, but there they are nonetheless. And they’re there because they got more votes than you did. And they got more votes than you did because you stayed the fuck home.

No technique works if it isn’t used.

Your franchise, your vote, is the very foundation of our republic

Your vote is the core, the very heart, of the country and the people that are the United States of America. 

Your vote is the very source of freedom, of liberty, and of democracy. 

It’s not guns, it’s not the right of assembly, it’s not freedom of speech, it’s not religion or lack there of – those things only ensure the right to vote. That’s why those things came later, in the Bill of Rights and the other amendments that gave the right to vote to all Americans.  The right to vote itself was enshrined in the Constitution from the beginning.  

The only thing, the only thing, that makes this a country of the people, by the people, and for the people is your vote

That’s the one right that must be protected at all costs – or America is no longer America.

Now here’s the thing, so pay attention:  If you really, really, believe that the system is broken, if you really think that your vote has been stolen, then why isn’t that Occupy Wall Street’s number one message?

Instead of “Death to Capitalism” and “End the Fed” why isn’t “My Vote Goddamned Well Matters!” on those banners in Oakland? Why do you have this bullshit about ending the Fed or dumping the free market on your banners?Those things aren't what you're mad about. Fix the voting system, get people to exercise their franchise and actually elect candidates who are beholden to the people and not corporate interests  and those things will fix themselves. Ending the Fed isn't going to give you a voice in your government. And for Goddamned certain dumping capitalism for fucking Marxism sure as hell won't.

If you truly believe that the voting system is broken, then that should be the number one item on the OWS agenda. That should be the clear and unambiguous message of the movement.

You need an agenda that 99% of America can get behind? Start there.

Everything else follows.

And have some faith in the United States of America.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Lessons From The Tea Party, and Niven’s Law

Never throw shit at an armed man

Over the years, I have found that to be excellent advice.

A lot of you have written wondering why I haven’t yet said something about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In fact, this is probably the single largest amount of correspondence on any single subject I’ve yet received – excluding, of course, the steady and reliable trickle of misspelled bitter hate mail generated by the America posts, that’s a gift that just keeps on giving.

Some of you expressed surprise that I haven’t yet commented on this subject. Others wondered if I would ever comment on this subject, and if so, when?  Some writers expressed disappointment that I haven’t either a) enthusiastically embraced power to the people or b) forcefully rejected these torch and pitchfork waving rabble – the former being from folks who only know me online and the later being from folks who know me in real life.  Some of you who don’t know me very well at all expressed extreme disappointment that I haven’t pitched a tent on the Alaskan muskeg and joined the protest.  Some of you sent me polite invites to OWS events, others of you continue to flood my inbox with a continued deluge of missives both for and against the protests and have made sure that I’m aware of every outrage, both pro and con, Australia to Zucotti – and thanks for that because you helped make it easier to research this post.  One person shat all over my Facebook account with fanatical verbal diarrhea, outraged that I dared make a smart Alec remark perceived as critical of certain OWS supporters – and after I blocked her nonsense, she continued to spam my email until she was blocked from that as well.  She was far from the only one to email me in outrage – and the funny thing about that were the emails from people, again both for and against the protesters, who were outraged about the inflammatory articles I’ve posted here on Stonekettle Station regarding OWS (Astute readers will note that I haven’t actually written or posted any such articles, not that that technicality appears to matter. I could have and that’s what counts).

I don’t expect that this post will do much to stem the tide, and in fact I suspect that the volume of “you’re so wrong wrong wrong, you’re wrong” email to increase. I have started this post now every day for a week, and then erased it and started over – in hindsight, given the events in Oakland last night, I’m glad I waited. 

I’ve exchanged correspondence with a number of you over the last few weeks as OWS took form and I know that a lot of Stonekettle Station’s regular readers are enthusiastic supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  As such, this is a difficult post for me to write and I fully expect to lose a number of readers over it.

So be it.

I’m not in the habit of pulling punches or tempering my words and I don’t intend to start now. 

Niven’s Law: Anarchy is the least stable of social structures, it falls apart at a touch

I haven’t commented on the Occupy Wall Street movement for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’ve been waiting to see how things shaped up. I wanted to see what message eventually emerged, if any. 

I had certain expectations and I wanted to see if I was right.

And I was – we’ll come back to that in a minute.

I like to know who I’m getting in bed with, one way or the other.

The first and foremost reason I haven’t written about, or joined, OWS is this: I don’t like mobs.

In point of fact, I have a deep-seated aversion to large groups of angry people waving signs. 

I remember the race and anti-establishment riots in the 60’s.  I’ve personally been in the midst of Cold War anti-NATO riots in Europe, some violent, some just overly enthusiastic. I’ve been on the receiving end of anti-war protests here in the United States because I wore a uniform and have a military haircut. I’ve had shit thrown at me by animal rights protesters because I happened to be wearing leather boots and I received death threats from crazed PETA fanatics after I wrote a couple of articles they found offensive. I get daily hate mail from incensed Tea Party types and the religious loonies (or is that redundant?), mostly as a result of things I’ve written, such as the aforementioned America series. And I spent a lot of time in the Middle East and Africa where violent angry mobs are a daily event, very dangerous violent angry mobs.

I don’t like mobs and so far OWS has done little to convince me that the movement is anything more than just that, a large unruly mob.

I spent almost all of my adult life in the field of Intelligence. I’m a highly experienced expert in Information Warfare, which includes among other things the study of group perception and group think, mob psychology, group dynamics, information evolution in stressed populations, and especially the deliberate and/or unintentional manipulation of perceived reality both in individuals and groups.

Almost inevitably, groups tend to create their own reality, especially those that are driven by strong emotions instead of being led by clearly defined goals and strong clearly visible unified leaders.  This happens with trained personnel who are supposed to be alert to the dangers of group think, such as the decision makers who convinced themselves to declare war based on a false reality that they themselves created.  It happens with trained military personnel, such as those in jail for the things that happened at Abu Garrib and those currently on trial for thrill killing and head hunting in the war zone. And it is almost inevitable in large groups of emotional people without such training or leadership – especially in this age when false, corrupted, fragmentary, and manufactured information can propagate like a blast wave though the mob at the speed of social networks and cellular communications.

In many cases, joining a mob is the same as taking a mind altering drug.

The reality that exists within the mob is an altered state, and too often that state is volatile and highly unstable.  Depending on a number of factors, the likelihood of a bad trip increases exponentially with the size of the mob.  Large groups of emotional people without stable controls can disintegrate into violence and chaos with the slightest of triggers.  Humans in groups operate far differently from individuals.  Like intoxication, group-think often removes social inhibitions – add mob mentality to actual intoxication and all bets are off.

It is far too easy for large groups of angry people waving signs to turn into large groups of angry people waving sticks and throwing rocks and lighting shit on fire – as last night’s riot in Oakland demonstrates.

What?

Oh, yes, that, i.e. the angry people waving sticks and throwing rocks and lighting shit on fire, not to mention vandalizing banks and businesses and barricading public streets and attempting to annex private property, don’t represent OWS. 

Wrong.

Folks,  unfortunately for a large majority of the watching world that violence and mob mentality does represent OWS – and it’s exactly what a lot of people were expecting, including me. Like it or not, that violence is now the public face of the Occupy movement, those are the images on every news channel from Oakland to London to Sydney to Moscow.  And you don’t get to blame the media for publicizing those pictures, you light shit on fire and behave like common hoodlums and you have no right whatsoever to expect the media not to make your jackassery public. OWS is going to have to own those people and the consequences of their actions, just the same as the Tea Party gets to own the beer bellied bigots and the rednecked curbstompers waving AR-15s and misspelled signs at their rallies. If the Tea Party has to own its racists, the Occupiers have to own their anti-Semites.

Niven’s Law: No cause is so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads

I fully expected OWS to devolve into rioting at some point, I think it was inevitable and I think it will likely get worse.

At its core, OWS is about the Haves verses the Have-Nots.

Fundamentally this conflict, the one between the Haves and the Have-Nots, is the very heart of every violent revolution throughout history.  From our own American Revolution to the French Revolution to the Bolshevik and Communist Revolutions to the Arab Spring.  The greater the perceived disparity between the Haves and the Have-Nots, the greater the probability of violence – and that gap, the one between privileged and poor in America, widens further daily.

Now it can be argued that at least some of the Have-Nots are really Haves.  I don’t know if I buy that argument completely and I think the source is certainly questionable, but even if true the conclusion misses the reason why those Haves are down in the street with the Have-Nots.  It’s because they’ve read the writing on the wall and fear that they too will become the disenfranchised.  Revolutions are always full of these people, they often become the leaders. 

This is the fundamental difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.  OWS is opposed to unfettered business, the Tea Party opposes unfettered government.  The Occupiers want business out of government, the Tea Partiers want government out of business. These things may appear similar but they are in reality Yin and Yang.  The only workable way for OWS to achieve its stated goal of reining in capitalism is through more government.  The only way for the Tea Party to achieve its stated goal is less government.  Both groups feel disenfranchised from the so-called American Dream, and both consider themselves the Have-Nots – the difference being that the Tea Partiers still think they’re going to become the Haves someday if somebody doesn’t take the opportunity away from them, the Occupiers believe that opportunity is already gone. 

Ultimately that’s why the Tea Partiers aren’t rioting in the streets, they aren’t part of the power structure but they want to be.  The Occupiers don’t, they want a new system, one that automatically includes them. The Tea Partiers believe that any American can become a Have, if only government would get out of the way. They believe that those who don’t become Haves must be lazy – even if many of them never seem to rise above the level of Have-Not, otherwise they wouldn’t be members of the Tea Party in the first place.  The Occupiers believe that the system is rigged and that the Haves will ensure that they always remain Have-Nots. 

The Tea Party blames other Have-Nots for the state of the country.

The Occupiers blame the Haves.

Same coin, different sides.

What’s that?  Yes, certainly some Occupiers are communists – in the most fundamental sense of “commune.”  They don’t want more government, or more business. They want everybody to live together without such things, making group decisions and cheerfully sharing the chores of civilization.  Heh.  This only works in Science Fiction stories (and usually not even then, otherwise it would be a damned boring story).  People have been trying this since the Garden of Eden. You would have to alter the fundamental nature of human beings beyond recognition. Utopia is not for men. The cracks are already showing in Zuccotti Park, increasingly there are those that take without giving and there are jobs nobody will do.  Note that up above I said that that the only workable way for the Occupiers to achieve their stated core goal of limiting capitalism is more government, whatever form that government takes – even if an unfortunate number of them don’t seem to realize the ultimate consequences of what they are demanding.

When the conflict is about the Haves verses the Have-Nots, violence is very likely and it doesn’t take much to set it off.

The Tea Partiers, for the most part, have been scrupulous about obeying the law. They’ve gotten permits and observed curfews and, usually, cleaned up after themselves.  If they brings guns, it’s in accordance with ordinance and the law – even if they adamantly don’t agree with those restrictions.  Again, likely this is because Tea Partiers see themselves as part of the system, they’re older, they’re conservatives, they see themselves as good law abiding citizens exercising their patriotic rights.   The Occupiers want to kick over the apple cart. They don’t want to obey the laws of what they see as an unfair and unjust system that exists to keep the Haves in power at the expense of the Have-Nots.  Occupiers regard breaking the rules as not only acceptable, but desirable

They regard being arrested as a badge of honor.  

Niven’s Law: Never throw shit at an armed man. Corollary: Never stand next to someone throwing shit at an armed man

The problem with this is that it makes violence and riot inevitable.

When Occupiers refuse to follow the law they put authorities in an untenable position – especially those whose job it is to enforce the law.

People wrote to me outraged when Washington DC police cracked down on Occupiers.  What they failed to mention was that the Occupiers were attempting to enter the National Air And Space Museum. It should be obvious why that is unacceptable.  More, the Occupiers cut off and threatened a security guard who attempted to block their entrance into the building – and that’s where they jumped the shark.

In New York, protesters blocked public roads. One Occupier defecated on the hood of a police car.  A group of veterans in uniform attempted to block access to the New York Stock Exchange.

In Oakland last night, protesters blocked the port in an attempt to shut it down. Shouting protesters broke into the former Travelers Aid building in order to “reclaim the building for the people.”  They blocked off public streets with barricades made of dumpsters and wood and trash – and eventually they lit those barricades on fire.

Now honestly, what did you think was going to happen?

There is no way that the government, any government, can stand by and allow that to happen. Period.  The protesters were asked to cease and desist.  They refused. Tear-gas and rubber bullets are inevitable at that point.  And sooner or later, there are going to be real bullets – because once you start throwing shit at armed men, once you start breaking into buildings and blocking roads and lighting things on fire, you are no longer exercising your right to free speech. At that point you are a riot and you’ve given the authorities no options whatsoever.  Remember, it’s not just your rights they must protect.  When you smash the windows at the Oakland Wells Fargo Bank or block access to it, when you attempt to force your way into national landmarks, or block public roads,  then you put the cops and the military in the position of defending the people you dislike.  And they will, even if they agree in principle with you, because that’s their job – just as they will defend you when you burn the American Flag on the courthouse steps.   They’re already facing the mob, they’re already having to do things they don’t want to do, they’re scared and pissed off, and if you throw burning shit at them they will bust your fucking head, or worse, because you’ve made it about us and them.

Yes, in a number of cases the police did use unreasonable force for no apparent reason – we’ve all seen those pictures of the woman being pepper sprayed in New York. And, if the reports are accurate, the cops were absolutely wrong, but smashing windows and arson are not the correct response – that leads to a cycle of escalating violence that will have only one outcome, see the previous paragraph.

And on that note: many folks wrote to me about Scott Olsen, the veteran who got hit in the head with a gas canister and ended up in the hospital with his brains scrambled.  I might sympathize with his injuries and wish him a speedy recovery, but again, what the hell did you think was going to happen?  You start a riot, people get hurt. That’s how it goes. If you’re worried about people getting hurt, then obey the damned police when they tell you to disperse or reap the whirlwind. I mean, shit, haven’t you been paying attention these last ten years?  And if you don’t want to knuckle under to the cops, then don’t start whining when somebody gets their head busted – even if it is a vet – that’s the cost, you made the bed, lay in it.  Speaking as a veteran of the same war as Scott Olsen, I just don’t see what the hell his military service has to do with anything.  Does it make it more egregious because he was a vet? Shouldn’t you be just as outraged if a limp-wristed peacenik got his skull cracked?  A number of those cops were likely veterans too, do you have any sympathy for them?

Ask Scott Olsen this, as a grunt on patrol in the dangerous streets of Mosul, what would he have done if faced with an unruly mob who refused to obey orders to disperse?  He’d have fired tear-gas, or worse, you goddamned right he would have. So let’s just save the hypocrisy, shall we?

Niven’s Law: No technique works if it isn’t used

So what am I saying?  Occupy Wall Street is stupid and futile and everybody should just go home?

No, not at all.

First and foremost, movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are indicators of the same problem, the same issues, the same malaise.  The movements may be opposite sides of the same coin, but they are the same coin and it’s important to remember that.  Those occupying the gilded seats of power in Washington and Wall Street should be scared shitless right now, the savvy ones. Because what comes next are those people getting dragged from their ivory towers and hanged from the nearest lamppost. 

What’s that? That would never happen here?  Yeah, that’s what Gadhafi said.

The gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots is increasing, dramatically so. 

For many, both here in America and elsewhere, times are tough (of course, tough times are relative, there are many, many, many people in the world who would look upon the most miserable American with unbridled envy. But that’s a different post entirely).

Increasingly our dreams of something better are receding.

People are angry. They feel disenfranchised. They feel that their leaders have let them down. They feel that government is corrupt and doesn’t listen. They feel that Wall Street is stealing their future and growing fat on their sweat. 

Are they wrong?  Are they wrong to want something better? Or to want things the way they used to be (even if things never were really that way)?

No, of course not.

At its core, the basic beliefs of the Occupiers are something I can get behind.  End corruption.  Reform Wall Street.  Remove excessive influence by big business.  Government of the people, by the people, for the people.  Everybody gets the same opportunity for life, liberty, and happiness. Ironically, near as I can figure those are the basic tenets of the Tea Party movement as well.

It’s the methodology that I can’t abide.

I asked several dozen people associated with the Occupy Wall Street protest what is it that they want.  Their answers, and the actions of their comrades last night in Oakland convinced me that I want no part of this movement. Here’s why:

Capitalism: Yesterday the Occupiers in Oakland were waving a banner that said “Down With Capitalism!”  A lot of Occupiers seem to share this view point.  Including those that responded to me.

OWS lost me right there.

I’ve seen dictatorships and communism and socialism up close. I believe strongly in the Free Market.  However, I’ve said here and elsewhere many times that I believe, and I think history is on my side here, that capitalism must be regulated, otherwise a handful of Haves end up owning everything and the Have-Nots get to pay them for the privilege of living on the scraps. Because I’ve seen unbridled capitalism too, and it isn’t pretty.  Without government regulation of capitalism there would be no middle class. Period. Don’t believe me? Go read up on the America of the Rail Tycoons and the Timber and Steel Barons, the Trusts, JP Morgan and the Rockefellers and get back to me.  Take a look at our own history and see what happens to the average Have-Not when government stays out of the way of business.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a full-fledged flaming capitalist at heart.  I believe in an America that can produce a Bill Gates and a Steve Jobs.  I think America works best when there is a balance between government and business and while I think there’s certainly room for improvement in our current system, if you think I’m going to go throw Molotov cocktails in the street with the Marxists, well you don’t know me at all.  You’ll see me at a Tea Party rally before that happens.

End the Fed: I find it ironic as all hell that Occupiers are waving signs that read “End the Fed.”  I initially wondered if they borrowed the signs from their Tea Party neighbors, but then I saw that the signs were all spelled correctly (Heh heh, sorry).  End the Fed? Seriously?  The Federal Reserve exists for a number of very good reasons – not the least of which is the fact without it this recession might very well have become another Great Depression.  But never mind that, if there was no Fed, then the United States would have to keep its money in regular banks, say like Bank of America or Wells Fargo – you know, the same banks the Occupiers are pissed off at.  You think Wall Street is powerful now? Imagine if they really were the actual bank of America and without accountability to the citizens.  Honestly, are you goofy? 

Now, does that mean that I don’t think the system needs closer scrutiny? Better oversight? Tighter regulation? Much greater accountability to the citizens of the United States? I think there’s plenty of room for improvement.  I’ve risked my life in the combat zone and I’ve been known to tilt at windmills, However I’ll tell you what I’m not willing to do, I’m not willing to take a round in the forehead for improved banking laws or Wall Street overhaul. I think there are much better ways to achieve that goal, ways that don’t involve a stay in intensive care or eating pudding through a straw for the rest of my life.

The answers I got from the OWS folks are many and varied:

They (the banks) took bailout money paid for by our tax dollars. We’re hurting, they’re paying their executives million dollar bonuses. We lost our houses, they took our money and now they’re living in the lap of luxury in the Hamptons. We lost our jobs, they took our money and outsourced our jobs to Asia. They get the best healthcare money can buy, we’d better not get sick. They get richer, we get poorer. They gave business the same rights as people, now people have no rights. They took away our right to bargain collectively, then threaten to send our jobs overseas if we don’t give up benefits and pay. They demand tax breaks in order to create jobs, then they create jobs overseas.  They want to increase what we pay for Social Security and Medicare, yet they pay no taxes. They hold students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education but then refuse to hire us so we can pay off those debts. They control the courts, and government is in their pocket. They have sold our privacy as a commodity. They control the media.  They wage war for profit.

There’s more, but those should give you the basic gist.

Maybe I agree with some of those things. Maybe I think OWS has a point when it comes to certain complaints. Maybe I think the Tea Party does too.

But here’s my question: how does lighting shit on fire fix any of that?

How does sleeping in tents on the sidewalk change anything?  How does getting yourself arrested over and over help you find a job?  How does shitting on the hood of a police car increase the accountability of Wall Street bankers? How does shutting down the Port of Oakland in any way whatsoever help the situation – other than to foul up shipping schedules and increase costs for already strapped consumers and deprive port workers of a night’s wages? How?

Here’s the thing: those assholes? The ones that caused this? The John Thanes. The Bernie Madoffs.  The Stan O’Neals. Ken Lewis. Rex Tillerson. The 1%. They don’t care.  You can chant and dance and sing and protest and throw rocks from now until the sun burns out and they will not give a shit. You can burn down Oakland and Detroit and Central Park. They live in gated communities and work fifty stories above the street and they can’t even hear you.  These are people who stole billions.  These are people who took the life savings of widows and orphans and foreclosed on crippled veterans without a shred of remorse. And they did it for decades. These are people who lost trillions of dollars and then held out their hands to the taxpayer for more. These are people who took government subsidies and and cleared $41 Billion in profit in three months, and then charged you $4.50 a gallon at the pump.  These are people who took $25 Billion in taxpayer bailouts, and then tried to charge people $5 dollars a month to use their own money. 

If these people had any shame whatsoever, if they could be influenced in any way by the wailing of the little people, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  

They don’t give a fuck what happens to you.

They don’t care how loud you cry. Or how much you suffer.

So then what? Is there no recourse? Can we do nothing? Why then not riot in the streets? Yes, why the hell not burn it all down?

Because we are Americans, Goddamn it.

We have better ways to change things than rioting in the street like third world rabble.  Your ancestors died to give you that.

You want to change things? Really change things? Then get off your ass and do something that actually matters. 

You’ll turn out to chant and wave signs, you’ll turn out to throw rocks and burn dumpsters full of trash, you’ll spent a month sleeping in a tent in on a sidewalk, you’ll sing folk songs and hold hands – but you won’t turn out to vote.

People keep electing the same assholes over and over – my own state of Alaska is a perfect example.  Biggest vote of the year, our boy Don Young goes fishing.  No worries, he’ll get reelected until he dies and maybe even then. 

Look at the last midterm elections.  You wonder why you have a gridlocked Congress? 

In Wisconsin, people were outraged at the government. Outraged that the governor took away collective bargaining rights.  They were so outraged they demanded a recall election.  They could have changed things, instead far too many folks stayed home, I guess they weren’t that outraged after all.

How many of you have said, well, you know, I probably won’t even vote this time around. I’ve lost faith in Obama. I don’t like the Republicans.  I’m staying home.  Or maybe I’ll write in Bozo The Clown, it’s like getting arrested, it makes a statement. What statement? Nobody give a shit if you get arrested and nobody gives a shit if you write in Bozo the Clown.

Niven’s Law: Not responsible for advice not taken

You want to do something?

Use the Occupy rallies to educate people instead of lighting shit on fire.  Stop getting people arrested and educate them on the issues. Make sure they’re registered to vote. Demand a voter registration card as the price of admission.  Encourage them to vote. Encourage them to encourage their friends to vote. Encourage them to encourage their families to vote. Over and over. 

Clearly define your goals. If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’ll never win.  If you don’t have leaders, if you don’t have goals, then you’ll never be anything more than a mob.

Obey the law and make damned sure everybody else does too. If you don’t like the law then elect people who will change it to be more the way you want. 

It’s not enough to decry the violence. You have to stop it. Now. Period.  You want people like me to join your cause? Not likely, not while you’re lighting shit on fire.  I spent my whole life protecting this country, I’m not going to let you burn it down.

You want to get the banks’ attention, you want to make them notice you? You can withdraw your money, sure, and put it in a credit union. But it won’t make a damned bit of difference.  Banks lose that much money in ten minutes, they don’t care.  You want to make a real dent in Chase’s bottom line? Get business to close their accounts.  Only you won’t win over many businesses if you’re smashing out their fucking windows and blocking their driveways or blockading the port through which they move their products.

You want to make a difference? Then stop trying to tear down the system and use it the way it was designed to be used.

You want to know why the Tea Party won the last election? Because that’s exactly what they did – and it worked.

It worked exactly the way the people who founded this country designed it to work.

You want to make a difference?

Then have some faith in the United States of America.

 

 

Update: Follow up post is here: Occupy Stonekettle Station, The Follow Up

 


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