Here, watch Night of the Living Dead.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
But as Oprah Winfrey would be the first to tell you, this isn't about Barneys. Earlier this year, while shopping in Switzerland, she wasrebuffed from buying a super pricey bag. This summer, two former "perfumistas" at Bond No. 9, a luxury perfume shop in Manhattan, sued the retailer for racial discrimination against employees and customers. Whenever African Americans entered the store, the suit alleges, employees were instructed to go on alert and use this key phrase: "the light bulbs need changing".
When I first heard of this phenomenon, "shopping while black," back in the mid 90s, it was a VERY rude awakening for me.
I was already thinking of myself as a liberal at that point, someone who consciously rejected racism, who understood that there was entrenched racism in our society, both culturally and institutionally. I had already voted for both Anne Richards and Bill Clinton. I was not a racist. Then I read something somewhere about "shopping while black" and caught myself doing it one afternoon when I was the only waiter holding down the fort before the dinner shift crew arrived at Chez Fred in Austin. A black guy came in and I was, like, "What's HE doing here?" And I watched him suspiciously for a moment or two before it dawned on me what I was doing.
I was, of course, really angry with myself for that, but it got me thinking: I was doing this all the time. In certain situations, I was irrationally afraid that black people were going to do something bad. I didn't want to be like this. But it was undeniable. And I seemed to have no conscious control over it. It made me realize for the first time that unraveling the social conditioning that deeply permeates our minds is not as easy as simply declaring that I am not a racist. Indeed, it's far, far, far more complicated than simply snapping your fingers. You have to wrangle with thoughts and ideas you don't even know you have.
This is why I'm dubious of any individual who describes himself as being totally non-racist or color blind. If you grew up in the United States, you've been socially conditioned to have, at the very least, racial attitudes, from almost the day you were born. And stuff that gets into your head when you're a baby, a toddler, a young child, that stuff gets lodged in there FOREVER. Like a language. It becomes part of your synaptic pathways, part of both your conscious and subconscious intellectual structures. It's there. And you can't erase it. All you can do is be aware that it exists, and then try to be vigilant.
That is, you're never going to disassociate the n-word from black people. Ever. You're never going to get entirely past your first conceptualization of the "other," and if it's a negative conceptualization, it's an albatross for life. Whether you like it or not. I mean, okay, I do just fine, generally, myself, but every now and then I get thoughts I don't like popping into my head. At this point, since I figured it out, I'm pretty good at heading these thoughts off at the pass, as it were, but I have to be honest, have to admit what's going on.
Anyway, there are a few conclusions we can all take from this.
1. Much of our public discourse on race is founded on the assumption that racial attitudes can be turned on or off as a matter of conscious choice, but this is only partially true.
2. Many white Americans, especially conservatives, but also a lot of liberals, will insist until they are blue in the face that they don't have a racist bone in their bodies. This cannot possibly be true. If you are an American, and have lived in this country your whole life, you've been exposed to an extraordinarily large number of racist concepts and ideas. They are in your brain. Consequently, you do, in fact, have at least one racist bone in your body.
3. Racism cannot end in our lifetime. Not until we're all dead. Not until the insidious social conditioning to which we are all subjected is finally put to rest.
4. Numerous events, institutions, ideas, etc., which are ostensibly not racist, may very well have a racist component of which we are not consciously aware.
5. Some white people who have used the n-word in a hurtful manner are probably good people who slipped up in a moment of weakness and allowed their subconscious conditioning to come to the surface. By the same token, some white people who never use the n-word at all may very well harbor some pretty deep antipathy toward black people.
6. The issue of racism in the US is clearly a thousand times more complicated than most people will let themselves understand.
This is all kind of depressing, I know. But we'll never put an end to the scourge of racism if we don't acknowledge the truth. As the twelve-steppers like to say, acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it. So, in a sense, it's also kind of uplifting, too.
Posted by Ron at 3:20 AM
Monday, October 28, 2013
What went down in D.C. over the past month – has it told us anything about the Republican Party that we didn’t know?
I suppose the obvious answer is that the party is so far off to the right that it can’t even come to grips with reality in America today. Now, that’s the easy answer because it’s clear that the Republicans, through their most extreme members, are showing that tendency. But I think the time has come to focus the blame where it belongs, and that’s with the American people.
You cannot have a government where 46 percent vote for president, about 35 percent vote for Senate, about 25 percent for congressmen. When you get to those total local percentages, that means that any dedicated group within the percentage can have an enormous weight, way beyond their numbers, on policy.
Why do you think it is that the conservatives you’re talking about have been able to wield that outsize influence?
Let’s say out of the 35 percent of Americans that are voting for senator, there’s 5 percent that are dedicated even, and that’s it … As the conservatives stick together, then they can go ahead and outvote everyone else …
The Republican Party started to purge its moderates … starting in about ‘86. I was part of that purge in ‘88 when I lost as senator. Now you’re left with the religious right and the rural votes — and that’s it.
What do you think caused that purge?
A bunch of dedicated conservatives. I mean, don’t forget you had back in the ‘80s William F. Buckley and his conservative movement, and they decided to — rather than be an independent party, they figured that they would go ahead and worm their way into the main Republican Party. And they did that very effectively.
While I do agree that voting behavior definitely plays a role in all this, I think there's a LOT more going on here than simply people not showing up at the polls in off-year elections. Indeed, one of the reasons people don't vote is because, these days, they're offered a truly crappy set of choices, and I'm not just talking about the candidates. The conservative purge of Republican moderates to which Governor Weicker refers has affected the entire political establishment.
For the Democratic Party to be as far to the left as the Republican Party has become to the right, it would have to be pushing federal control of certain major industries like health care, energy, and transportation, a 90% tax rate for the highest income bracket, confiscation of all personally owned firearms, condom distribution to elementary school children, war crimes trials for Bush, Cheney, and Obama, fraud trials for key leaders in the banking industry, massive reparations to the African-American community for slavery and to the Native American population for genocide, removal of "in God we trust" from all US currency, a multi-billion dollar increase in arts funding, state created jobs for the unemployed, and so on.
As much as I'd like to see the so-called "liberal" party embrace a lot of this stuff, being the leftist that I am, I'd be crazy to pretend that's what they're about. I mean, they're not even close. The Democrats are a moderate party, center-right, really, especially on economics. That is, while the conservatives were kicking moderates out of the GOP, the Democratic response was to kick liberals out of their party. And that means the political dynamic in this country isn't left versus right, but rather center-right versus far-right, creating a false "middle" that's pretty darned conservative.
Who gets your vote when nobody represents your views?
So let's not kid ourselves. Liberals don't have anything to do with anything in this country. But I can't help but think that if the left had a real seat at the table, those heinous tinfoil hat wearing secessionist nihilists in the Tea Party wouldn't have hijacked the nation's affairs as easily as they have.
I mean, at least there would be somebody there to call "bullshit" a lot earlier than they do now.
Posted by Ron at 10:24 PM
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Reed never approached the commercial success of such superstars as the Beatles and Bob Dylan, but no songwriter to emerge after Dylan so radically expanded the territory of rock lyrics. And no band did more than the Velvet Underground to open rock music to the avant-garde — to experimental theater, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed's early patron.
Indie rock essentially begins in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets; the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, '80s and '90s were all indebted to Reed, whose songs were covered by R.E.M., Nirvana, Patti Smith and countless others.
"The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years," Brian Eno, who produced albums by Roxy Music and Talking Heads among others, once said. "I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!"
Okay, I have to admit that I've never been much of a Lou Reed fan. I mean, sure yeah, I definitely like some of his stuff. I just never did like it enough to get my own copies of anything. He never did it for me like Dylan, or the Beatles, or even Steely Dan, for that matter. So why do I value him enough to observe his passing here? That's easy. To me, Reed was the epitome of white cool--this comes with the assumption that "cool" was invented by black people, and that, consequently, black people tend to do "cool" better than white people. So Reed was just about as good as it gets among white Americans.
I loved his anti-hippie attitude. I love how he represented so well my concept of the filthy 70s New York hipster. I loved his chronic disdain. I loved his sunglasses. I love that he took art seriously. I loved his almost uncaring, chant-style approach to singing. I loved the sleazy images in his lyrics. He was just one of those people whose existence I deeply appreciated.
Farewell, Lou Reed. You were the coolest white guy ever.
Posted by Ron at 1:41 AM
Sunday, October 27, 2013
From Daily Kos:
It was merely the election of a President from a Party that endorsed Abolition, even if that President at the time DID NOT make accomplishing that party of his platform or an agenda item of his administration - that drove the South in a complete overreaction to losing an Election to begin to dismantle the nation State by State.
And now today we see more and more Tea Partiers - while also overreacting to an election they lost - slowly endorsing the legitimacy of a new secession and further - of ABSOLUTE rights of the BUSINESS OWNER over their EMPLOYEES (as well as CLIENTS) in everything from denying them a living wage and working conditions to Dictating Whether they can have access to Preventive Services in their HealthCare, impose llfetime caps, and openly discriminate against those who had the temerity to previously GET SICK.
Apparently Modern Confederate Tea Partiers think the cruelty of that system is just "Fine".
A buddy of mine posted that link on my facebook page. Here's the comment I left in response.
It's a good essay, to be sure.'Nuff said.
As you know, I've been trying to find a way to articulate this idea, which seems so obvious and clear to me, but is dead on arrival with conservatives and moderates. I forget the guy's name, but a guest on Moyers a few weeks back said something to the effect that the Republican takeover of the South ended up being a Southern takeover of the GOP. So we're fighting the Civil War all over again, in a cultural and political sense, but most of the country appears to be completely unaware.
It seems to me that if we, as Americans, had a handle on what's actually happening, if we had some historical perspective, a dispassionate view of the cultural forces at work here, we'd have a much better chance of sorting things out.
Culture is like the air we breathe. It's all around us, but invisible, affecting our thoughts, feelings, actions, values, and behavior in ways we often don't understand. Contemporary white Southern culture, incubated in a womb of guilt over slavery, and fear of black retribution, then born into and reared within a bubble of paranoid resentment toward African-Americans and the North alike, has embedded within it all the crazy shit that modern conservatives now embrace. But to so many Southern whites, it all seems so normal--the Civil War was a long time ago; what does it have to do with lazy welfare moochers and "socialism" and liberals who want to take away their guns and property? No, to Southern white conservatives, their politics are just good sense, having nothing to do with the pathetic, elitist, violent, racist regime which their ancestors embraced.
White Southern conservatives are just as captive to these ideas, handed down from parent to child for over a century, as the Republican Party is to them, and as the nation is to the Republican Party. I like the Baudelaire paraphrase from that movie The Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." That's as good of a description of the situation we're in today as any I can imagine. An entire conceptual framework of dangerous and discredited ideas was allowed for generations to fester and then finally flourish once nobody could remember where it came from in the first place.
Slavery, and every institution and philosophical system supporting it, was a deadly cancer on this nation which we believe to have been cut out in a bloody and deeply traumatic surgical procedure. But we never followed up with chemo and radiation. The cancer hid within our national body and mutated. And it has now returned in full force, threatening, once again, to destroy us all.
And very few of us seem to realize how sick we really are.
Posted by Ron at 12:20 AM
Friday, October 25, 2013
A true tale of how capitalism, and its relentless, supporting propaganda system, functions in the real world.
Capitalism, as a philosophy, does not care at all about morality, or compassion, or love. It does not care about human dignity or human potential. Human suffering, pain, death, misery, all these things have absolutely no meaning within the capitalist philosophical system. There is one value and only one value within capitalism: profit.
If your product kills hundreds, it's not a question of right and wrong. Rather, it's a question of whether a product recall would cost more or less than fighting it out in court. If your employment practices hurt or kill your employees, morality is simply a project you send to the PR department, a case you send to your lawyers, a denial you make to the media. What really concerns you is how this will all affect the bottom line.
And when you work within such a philosophical system, your very livelihood depends on you making such values your own. But don't worry too much about it. The mass media, which is simply another manifestation of capitalism, does a marvelous job of making the unthinkable seem ordinary and mundane. A woman getting third degree burns from a product that's supposed to be hot but not scalding is made to look as though her victimization is her own fault, just as the poor and unemployed are turned into moochers and parasites who want to be poor and unemployed. Just another bunch of professional victims. You're not doing evil; they are.
No guilt. No shame. No remorse. Just good vibes because profit is better than morality. That's the nation in which we live.
Posted by Ron at 3:55 AM
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A Republican Judge from San Antonio, Texas, has announced he is quitting the GOP and will seek re-election as a Democrat, saying that he can no longer be part of political party whose identity is based on hate, bigotry and destrying people’s lives.
The first hint I had when I was a teenager that there was something major afoot with the GOP in Texas was when Phil Gramm changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. From that point on, it was just a steady rise for the party of Reagan, in Texas, and in the rest of the country.
Is this the same thing, but in reverse? Oh god, please.
Posted by Ron at 2:53 AM
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
From the Attytood blog at Philly.com, courtesy of Eschaton:
We invaded Iraq....to, ahem, kick ass. This according to a new book by a stellar journalist, Peter Baker of The New York Times:
"A senior official from former President George W. Bush's administration is quoted in 'Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House' saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.
'The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy,' the anonymous official said, according to Politico."
You know, the thing that really bugs me about this isn't the war itself, which, does, in fact, still bug me. I mean, I HATE that we invaded an essentially defenseless nation under false pretenses in a disgustingly cynical manipulation of righteous outrage and sorrow over 9/11. And I hate that we then horrifically botched the occupation. Perhaps the worst thing this nation has done in my lifetime. But at least majority opinion eventually came around on that, and most Americans now fully understand that the Iraq invasion was an extraordinarily bad idea.
No, what bugs me about such an admission is that, if you take Iraq out of the equation, most Americans probably still support the concept of ass-kicking as an acceptable tactic when it comes to international relations. I mean, in the abstract. If something another nation does really pisses off the American public enough, I'm quite certain that we'll once again have a large crowd of Americans screaming for blood, somebody's blood, anybody's blood. Syria just didn't do it, which is a good thing, but, rest assured, somebody else will. It's inevitable. And that's when we'll start grabbing our crotches again and making Hitler comparisons to make it all moral and etc. Sure, whatever warmongering administration is in the White House at that point will definitely be in PR warp drive in order to whip up such a frenzy, but Americans will willingly walk into it. Run into it, even.
We're a bloodthirsty, arrogant people. And it's just awful.
Posted by Ron at 4:08 AM
Monday, October 21, 2013
From Occupy Democrats, courtesy of somebody on facebook:
"Think Progress reports that as of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesn’t affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free.
As of November 5, a birth certificate is not enough. Women voters will have to show legal proof of a name change: a marriage license, a divorce decree, or court ordered change; and they have to be the original documents. No photocopies allowed. This means thousands of women face the hassle of figuring out what they need and how to get it. Then they face at least a $20 fee, more if a woman doesn’t have the time to stand in line and wants it mailed. As a result, many women who are eligible to vote, won’t."
I don't think the article is clear about whether this is a brand spanking new provision of recently passed Texas voter ID laws, or whether people have only just now figured out how it's going to affect women voters in Texas. Either way, though, it's an atrocity. Over a third of eligible women voters in Texas are disenfranchised in one fell swoop. That's just plain wrong.
You know, I'm totally disgusted with always having to explain how this Republican voter ID obsession is total bullshit. But their ostensible justification, stopping "voter fraud," seems reasonable if you don't know much about it. So explain again I will. Bottom line: there is no "voter fraud." It is so rare, and on such a small scale, that it is literally statistically insignificant, which is to say that it never affects election outcomes. For that matter, as the article observes, the effort and organizing needed to pull off such a stunt successfully pretty much guarantees failure. That is, you have to have hundreds of people going from precinct to precinct on election day, all of them pretending to be someone else each time, in order to have any discernible effect on an election outcome. And they've all got to stay quiet about it. Forever. I don't even know if the Mafia could have succeeded with this in their heyday. I mean, somebody's bound to catch on. Success, then, is doomed to ultimate failure. It's a virtually impossible scenario.
In short, "voter fraud" is so rare as to be non-existent. And it's so difficult to actually do in a meaningful way that all these voter ID laws are just bogus. No way around that. Republican voter ID law supporters must be either totally stupid or total liars. Probably a mix of both.
Clearly, voter ID laws have nothing to do with the non-problem of "voter fraud." But they are really effective with something else. They make it a lot more difficult, impossible, even, in many cases, for poor people, black people, old people, Hispanic people, and now apparently female people to vote. We have these damnable laws to stop a problem that doesn't exist, which at the same time disenfranchise millions nationwide, millions who the Republicans think are likely Democratic voters. Consequently, voter ID laws must necessarily be about Republicans stealing elections.
And the GOP doesn't give two shits if we have to return to the nineteenth century, when blacks and women alike couldn't vote, in order to do it. Racist and sexist at the same time. Don't even TRY to tell me I'm wrong about that--you take away the vote from black people and women, you're racist and sexist.
Anybody who supports these infernal voter ID laws needs to be behind bars for treason.
Posted by Ron at 3:17 AM
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Throughout the conference, speakers seemed to be competing to find yet more dire examples of Christian persecution. In a panel called “Standing Up to the Assaults on Our Faith,” Rick Scarborough, a radical pastor who stridently opposes same-sex marriage—and contends that AIDS is God’s judgment for immoral behavior—decried President Obama’s “war on Christians,” saying that that “believers are being persecuted in larger numbers than ever before.” The tone was decidedly apocalyptic; later in the session, Janet Porter, the founder of a militant pro-life group called Faith2Action, darkly noted that “the last time men were given in marriage to men and women in marriage to women” was in the days of Noah. Gazing ominously at the hundred or so people assembled in the low-ceilinged room where the panel was being held, she added, “And we all know what happened then.”
But the rhetoric kept coming back to one place: The need to crusade against Obama, a president hell-bent on destroying the nation. It was hard to find an attendee who didn’t applaud Tea Party Republicans’ intransigence or buy wholeheartedly into the notion that negotiation with Obama was futile. “I think the shutdown is awesome,” says Kylie Unell, a sophomore at New York University who attended the conference. “To be honest, I think Obama is a sociopath. He tries to get revenge against anyone who disagrees with him or opposes him.”
Back in the days when I was a Southern Baptist, I kind of bought into the whole Christians-are-persecuted thing. I mean, okay, I believed it because people at church talked about it all the time. It just infused the very air: they're out to get us because they hate us. I took it as a fact, and even started seeing it because I expected to see it. So an English teacher I had got her theology slightly wrong when describing salvation as something you get for being good, rather than as a gift from God, free of charge. It struck me as evidence that Christians in America are being persecuted. But, of course, it was just a teacher trying to lead a discussion that had wandered into some religious territory, doing her best to make the whole thing honest and educational. In no way could it be described as persecution.
Since then, I've come to see that virtually all claims of Christian persecution in the US are along the same lines. Somebody says or does something that some Christians don't like, and it's elevated to persecution. I mean, sure, there are some jerks out there who do, in fact, hate Christianity, but nothing on a scale that even comes close to the notion of persecution. In fact, the reverse is true. Christians enjoy a level of cultural domination in the US that no other religion, or secular philosophy, enjoys. There is a de facto requirement, in spite of the Constitution officially forbidding it, that all presidential candidates must profess their belief in Christianity. Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter, are some of the biggest events throughout the nation, with government offices closing down, and numerous other workers getting those days off, whether they're Christian or not. The Pledge of Allegiance recitals in public schools every day require students to declare that we are a nation "under God," with the understanding that this God is the Father of Jesus. Our currency proudly states "in God we trust." Christian ministers are well respected in their communities, by believers and non-believers alike. And on and on. Christians simply aren't not persecuted, but rather the main game in town as far as religion goes, and it's the game most Americans are playing.
All that is lost on the persecution fetishists. Their dominance evaporates into the air the moment they hear merchants saying, in order to attract as many consumers as possible, "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas." Such a business move means that "America persecutes Christians." So what we're really dealing with here is entrenched and culturally specific paranoia. The persecution fetishists, against all evidence and reason, firmly believe that everyone is out to get them. And these fetishists are politically powerful within one of the two major political parties in the land.
What happens when a bunch of totally paranoid people are calling the shots in the halls of Congress? Well, I'm sure you have an idea of what I think, but I will say that, under these circumstances, the up-against-the-wall behavior coming out of the House GOP caucus during the recent shutdown comes as absolutely no surprise.
Posted by Ron at 4:15 AM
Friday, October 18, 2013
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Vulgar and tasteless 'Book of Mormon' opens Broadway series at Saenger
The long-awaited return of a hit Broadway musical to the venerable arts palace should be cause for celebration. Instead, however, it begs a simple question: Just where is the line? At what point in the overwhelming coarsening of our culture do we finally say, “Enough”?
Despite the anticipation and the hype, and despite the multiple Tony Awards and its blockbuster status, “The Book of Mormon” is little more than degrading, offensive trash.
Okay, I haven't yet seen The Book of Mormon, and probably won't anytime soon because, you know, big time theater is for the rich. But some day, yeah, for sure. I just need to get a better gig. But I digress. I think that, given the content of Mahne's review, I can comment fairly, in spite of the fact that I haven't seen the show. That is, I'm a huge South Park fan, and have a pretty decent understanding of what Parker and Stone do with their humor, which, according to the review, is the case in point.
So I'll just cut to the chase.
Yes, South Park is extraordinarily vulgar, as is, I'm sure, The Book of Mormon. And a lot of that vulgarity has humorous value in itself. Yeah, sure, I like fart jokes. Get over it; lots of us do. But the true value and creativity coming from all this vulgar humor is that there is a sort of meta-consciousness about it. Parker and Stone are well aware that a percentage of the population is totally turned off by this stuff. And that's the point. They WANT some people to be offended by their work. Not for its own sake, well, maybe for its own sake, but also as cultural criticism.
That is, when laughing at Parker and Stone's fart jokes you are also laughing at the abstract group of uptight, moralizing, finger-wagging, shaming, conventional, clueless, establishment-embracing pussies who have been annoying you since you were in kindergarten. You know, the kind of people who dismiss South Park, and The Book of Mormon, as trash. And the two South Park creators are really good at it, too, finding subtle ways to shift their targets of criticism from week to week and from topic to topic. I mean, it's pretty amazing how they manage to get so much mileage out of shit humor and the like.
Remember the episode of South Park when it was revealed that U2's lead singer Bono is in reality simply a walking, talking, sentient piece of feces? That's brilliant in and of itself, but, for my money, the episode's best moment is when Randy sits on the toilet for an extended period, grunting and groaning, while the phrase "Emmy Award Winning Series" flashes on the screen. Now, if you can't understand that there's a lot more going on here than just a guy taking a shit, then you're part of that group I described above, which means you're the one being ridiculed. And you deserve it, too.
Clearly, Times-Picayune theater critic Theodore Mahne falls into this group, as well. Actually, I shouldn't be so harsh: of course you're not going to think it's funny if you're the butt of the joke. But still. He obviously just doesn't get it. And that renders his qualifications for this job somewhat problematic, to say the least. I mean, it's okay to not like this or that show, but a critic ought to understand what he's criticizing, or he's a total failure as a critic.
The way he spins it, you'd think he'd gone to see an Adam Sandler movie. And I'm quite certain The Book of Mormon is NOT an Adam Sandler movie.
Posted by Ron at 2:02 AM
Thursday, October 17, 2013
From Gawker, a really weird event in Congress during the vote to end the shutdown:
“He [God] will not be mocked,” the stenographer, apparently named Molly, yelled into the microphone as she was dragged off by security. “The greatest deception here is that this is not one nation under God. It never was. It would not have been. The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons. They go against God. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God. Praise be to Jesus.”
More here, with video, and a separate audio track.
At first glance, this isn't much of a surprise. We already know that there are lots of nuts in Congress, as if the recent and bizarre failed GOP national extortion maneuver didn't make that completely clear. But at second glance, it's VERY surprising. And more than a bit disturbing, too. This was the floor of the House of Representatives. And it was a Congressional employee. Not a politician. Not a speech. Not a political stunt, as with the faux "filibuster" Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently performed in the Senate to kick off the shutdown, or the "You lie" shouted by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) disrupting Obama's speech to Congress in September of 2009.
This was real life. An unhinged right-winger rattled House proceedings Wednesday by loudly spewing tinfoil hat nonsense about the Freemasons versus Jesus. Because the shutdown was ending. It appears this devastating Republican failure is just too much for some conservatives to take. Will the next outburst involve the usage of second amendment rights?
Just how crazy are these Tea Party people?
Posted by Ron at 1:25 AM
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Steinem Speaks Out About Miley Cyrus
"I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed ... But given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is in all of its states ... the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States. If a contest based only on appearance was the single greatest source of scholarship money for men, we would be saying, 'This is why China wins.' You know? It’s ridiculous. But that’s the way the culture is. I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists."
I posted this on facebook this afternoon, and, sure enough, Gloria Steinem made us think.
Kris Hmm. Is Miss America the single largest source of scholarships for women? Only if you don't count every single scholarship that isn't gender specific. Sorry Gloria...you are being sexist by promoting the idea that women have to be beauty queens to get scholarships. Of course, if she didn't perpetuate that perception, nobody would listen to her anymore.Excelsior!
As for Miley...how is her marketing ploy any different from Madonna's in the 80s? Remember her book of nude shots? Or her MTV performance of Like a Virgin? Sex sells. Isn't the control of your body for your own benefit the ultimate goal of feminism? Welcome to the feminist conundrum ...
Ronald She'd never admit it, I don't think, but Steinem's point of view here is coming very close to what Camille Paglia has been saying for decades. Except for the changing the culture part. Paglia seems okay with sexist exploitation.
Kris Sexual expression and sexist exploitation are not the same thing.
Ronald A distinction I've had difficulty finding in Paglia's writings.
Kris Yes, but I do see the distinction with Miley. I read her interview in Rolling Stone. She is not being exploited. She knows exactly what she's doing. Has she been forced by the present culture to make those choices? If that were the case, all successful female artists would be doing it or they wouldn't be successful.
Ronald Okay, true, but this particular field, pop music, big time pop music, essentially requires women to display their sexuality in ways that are not required of men. I mean, sure, there are female musical performers who don't do this, but they're playing to niche markets. While I've been out of the pop music consumer game for some years, myself, I can't think of a single female performer in this capacity who isn't sexualized. So, in that sense, if this is the field in which Miley wants to work, she doesn't really have a choice. Otherwise, she's Norah Jones or Jewel, who no longer has superstar status.
Kris Taylor Swift. Pink, Demi Lovato, Adele...
Ronald I would call Pink sexualized. Taylor Swift, well, it remains to be seen about her. Britney and Christina started out like her, but turned toward the exploitative. Adele and Lovato I don't really know. But, okay, there are obviously exceptions.
Kris I would call Pink empowered. And pop music isn't my forte, either.
Chris And as far as the "Don't hate the player. Hate the game." idea goes... I do hate the game. And though I realize the player didn't invent the game, I don't think it's wrong to resent her for playing it.
Kris You know, Ron, I could say that you, as a male, have no right to have an opinion on women's issues. There are many feminists who would pull that card. But I'm not that kind of girl.
Chris That makes as much sense as "I'm black. I can't be racist" As a father of four daughters, I have EVERY right to an opinion on women's rights. And having been raised by a single mom, my opinion is relatively qualified.
Kris Exactly, Chris. That's why feminists like Gloria Steinem and her ilk shouldn't be taken seriously. That's how they think.
Ronald Actually, I haven't offered an opinion on Steinem's statement one way or the other. What I did say is that there does, indeed, appear to be a great deal of pressure on big time pop celebrity women to make themselves into sexual objects, which, I think, is a fairly non-controversial thought.
But I will now offer an opinion on Steinem's point of view, which I can do, as a man, because, like all women, I have agency as a human being.
I'm sympathetic to her opinion to an extent. I've been trying to get work these last few years as a professional actor, which is, in itself, a massive exercise in frustration, but that's another story. What's important here is that I've had to make what I feel are some moral choices in terms of whether or not to audition for a given project.
For example, about six months ago, I got a callback for a Re/Max commercial. Pretty cool, right? Well yes and no. While real estate brokers didn't cause the toxic mortgage bubble that nearly brought down the economy a few years ago, they were in on it, at the fringes, profiting from the whole thing. So I don't feel particularly good about aiding that industry, about renting out my image and acting ability to these people, in any way. Fortunately, I didn't get the job, so it was a moot point.
But I had an even worse potential moral quandary when I auditioned for one of those restaurant reality shows. That's right. When the actual people on the show aren't doing quite what the producers want, they bring in ringers, hired actors, to grease the narrative's wheels a bit and get some more drama out of the situation. The actual people are unaware that they might be working with actors, and the audience is not told this, either. I even had to sign a non-disclosure agreement when I auditioned to keep the whole thing secret. And the producer was really cynical about it, too: "C'mon everybody KNOWS it's totally fake, but some people have a problem with this, anyway, so if you'd like to leave," he told us, "you can do so now." One actor did split immediately, but I was, like, what the hell, I'm here anyway.
I didn't get that part, either, which is just as well because I don't think I would have liked doing it. But the point to all this is that actors and entertainers are essentially hired guns, artistic mercenaries, who don't get to decide what war they're fighting or which side they're on. And that's just how the business works. If you want to succeed, you've got to make ethical and moral compromises. No way around it. And, really, I totally hate that because, like I said, I have agency as a human being, and I don't like this awful and crappy "my way or the highway" aspect to it all. But this is what I'm trying to do, so I've been willing to make some compromises.
On the other hand, like I said, I'm only sympathetic to Steinem's assertion, and only to an extent.
Miley Cyrus isn't trying to break into the business. She's not even trying to advance her career. She's a superstar already, a pop culture institution on her own. She's definitely a major player. And this means she has a lot more choices about how her image is going to be used in the mass media. That is, she doesn't HAVE to do it this way. Maybe doing it this way will make her more money, but she can obviously be successful without objectifying herself. Actually, I would even go so far as to say that she, like Britney, Christina, Beyoncé, and even Madonna, has a moral responsibility, given her position and power, to try to dismantle this system that so routinely objectifies and diminishes women. Needless to say, she has not lived up to that responsibility.
On the third hand, she's really still just a kid, and when I was her age, as smart as I was, this kind of thinking just wasn't even on my radar. It's all pretty complicated.
SJ The way I feel about it, the "kid" aspect is the biggest factor here. If I was her age and that many people craved my attention, and so many adults didn't have the guts to tell me no, I can imagine doing the exact same things, or worse.
The biggest difference between her and a regular teenager is the amount of exposure she can get.
By the way, haven't read Steinem's piece yet.
Ronald It's short.
SJ Yeah, I just finished reading it. I don't know what I think of it yet, because the comment implicates a great deal of content. For now, though, I think at the very least, she's offered a new perspective on it, and that's always a good thing.
Ronald She certainly got me running my mouth. So, whether she's right or wrong, she's making people think about the issues involved.
Posted by Ron at 1:08 AM
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
It is unlikely that his terminology had adverse ramifications for the local indigenous peoples, but the language of colonists has long had a tragic part to play in the destruction of tribal peoples across the world. For centuries, tribal lands have been referred to as ‘empty’ in order to justify their theft for commercial, military or conservation reasons. After all, if a region is uninhabited, so the expedient thinking goes, there are by definition no human rights to address. Similarly, racist prejudices – the labeling of tribal peoples as ‘backward’, ‘uncivilized’ or ‘savage’ – have inculcated a popular attitude of disrespect and fear, so underpinning (and even justifying, in the perpetrator’s mind), the appalling treatment to which tribal peoples have been subjected.
I posted a link to this essay on facebook earlier today with the sort of ironic and joking statement "Happy Columbus Day!" A nice discussion with a guy who was with me in the theater department at LSU ensued.
Chris I feel like when you say Columbus didn't "discover" America because there were people already there when he got there misses a point somewhere. I don't feel like "discovery" is about being the absolute first person to reach something as it is finding something *you* didn't know was there. Columbus "discovered" the Americas for Europe, just as Leif Erickson had done for the Vikings, and just like the Native American tribes that trekked across the continental divide had done before him. None of them knew of the explorers before them, and all of them found something no one in their respective civilizations knew existed.Excelsior!
I feel like if you get *that* semantic with discovery, you might as well say America was "discovered" by the tetrapods that first crawled out of the ocean.
That said, I think there ARE plenty of reasons to re-think our celebration of Christopher Columbus, but this is a silly one to me.
Ronald Chris, the point isn't to quibble over the word "discovery," but rather to criticize the entrenched Eurocentrism of history as understood in the West. History, is, after all, the narrative establishing who we are collectively, what's important to us, and why. So when we recount history to children that makes indigenous people invisible, we necessarily minimize the massive crimes of our civilization, thereby enabling the continuation of these crimes today. That is, I wonder what American imperialism would look like if Americans fully understood the blood price Native Americans paid for our comfort. I mean, there might not be any American imperialism, might not be any racism. We definitely need some contrition, and poking holes in the wildly popular, but woefully incomplete, Columbus narrative is a good start.
On the other hand, it would be a bad idea to consign Columbus to the proverbial dustbin of history: he did some horrible things, but he also did some great things, and it would be foolish to ignore his accomplishments. Really, we just need to have some honest history, as opposed to history-as-propaganda.
Chris But is there someone telling a story about how Columbus showed up on an empty shore, "discovered" no indigenous tribes, built a house, and thus. America was born? I agree that we shouldn't whitewash over the conflicts between the explorers and the natives, and we should absolutely poke holes in every happy-thanksgiving story about how awesome Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims were, but I don't see how stripping him of the word "discovery" does that.
I totally agree with the idea that we need an honest history, and we should absolutely be talking about the bad things people did along with the good, but the article seems to make a very clear argument that if anyone ever once knew about the thing you found, even if you or anyone you had ever known or read of didn't know it was there, you did not "discover" it. That somehow, using the mere word "discover" effectively erases the history of anyone who came before, and I don't buy that.
Ronald But Chris, like I said, the word "discovery" is simply a quibble. Columbus did, in fact, discover America, but only from the viewpoint of Europe, which means that the declaration "Columbus discovered America" is particularly problematic, especially if you're one of the people whose ancestors were discovered and then immediately exploited by him, Spain, and then Europe more generally--actually, if you were an Arawak, the first native group he encountered when he made landfall at Hispaniola, now Haiti/Dominican Republic, you have no descendants living today because the Arawaks were extinct by the early 1540s. But I digress. I didn't get that thrust out of the essay. To me, the whole discussion about the word "discovery" was completely in the context of Eurocentrism, but that might just be because of the reading I've already done on the subject.
Adding: I think it's totally fine to say that Columbus discovered America, but the person saying it ought to also include a word or two about how he immediately enslaved and killed Indians and ushered in a 500 year reign of European exploitation and domination of non-white peoples. He's a mythical hero, yes, but, like Oedipus and others, a tragic and deeply flawed hero, too.
Chris I do get what you're saying about the eurocentric tendencies of the historical narrative, and i'm totally with you there. I just got distracted by what I felt was an unfairly strict interpretation of the word "discover." haha
Ronald Dude, I hear you. The whole, for lack of a better name, anti-Columbus movement has been going on for some twenty years now, and the arguments and protests have taken on a real black-and-white tone, which is unfortunate because it's a totally nuanced dynamic we're talking about here. I mean, from the perspective of that movement, Columbus is a villain, and only a villain, and if you don't join them in Columbus-hatred, you're a total dick. But that's just wrong and ill serves the study of history, and therefore understanding who we are. Indeed, it's just as wrong to do that as it is to paint Columbus as being without flaws. Personally, I think we need to find a way to have heroes and national mythological figures that we understand to be flawed human beings, just like all of us, without diminishing the importance of their accomplishments.
Shit man, even the Bible recognizes this, with King David the adulterous murderer, and Noah the drunken and incestuous freak. Maybe this can be a philosophical wedge for Americans who want their heroes to be pure: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
Posted by Ron at 1:21 AM
Monday, October 14, 2013
Saturday, October 12, 2013
I actually agree with much of this analysis, written by a conservative, and posted on a far-right site, of the shutdown situation.
Yes, this is not illegal. I mean, I wouldn't characterize it as a "right" of Congress, as the essay does, because there's a lot of distance between "not illegal" and a "right," but these Bozos in the House are definitely not breaking any laws. Yes, the House did, indeed, offer a budget. They've offered to fund the entire federal government. Everything except for Obamacare. No denying that. And yes, this does mean that the Democrats could keep the government running, if only they had decided to pass that House budget without funding for the ACA.
Of course, there are also a few assertions the writer makes that are just downright squirrelly.
For instance, even though the US, in theory, may very well be able to continue paying interest on loans during a debt ceiling standoff, thus, in theory, avoiding the threats associated with default, that isn't how it worked in the real world last time. How can we possibly forget that only a few brief years ago the US lost its triple A bond rating with one of the agencies SIMPLY BECAUSE there was a debt ceiling standoff? Sorry, but it's insulting to ask me or anyone to accept such an "argument." Classic case of peeing on you and telling you it's rain. No way.
But it gets worse, and this is the key element these maniacs refuse to understand or accept.
The writer shrugs off both Obamacare and "legislation by appropriation" as "a matter of opinion." I guess that's true enough in itself. The ACA is a big and historic piece of legislation; there's bound to be lots of differing opinion on it. And because "legislation by appropriation" is allowed only by the letter of the law, and one party is using it to thwart the other party, there are definitely going to be differing views about it, as well. But that's the point.
Obamacare isn't just some law liberals like but conservatives don't. It's HUGE. It's the Democrats' biggest accomplishment in fifty years. It's Obama's signature piece of legislation, his place in history. It took hell and high water to get it passed. There is just no way they weren't going to go all Alamo and Masada in order to protect it. And using an extraordinarily rare parliamentary maneuver, one which essentially amounts to extortion, to allow a legislative minority to reverse this signature piece of legislation just makes it all the more intolerable. That is, sure, these are "matter(s) of opinion." But they're BIG matters of opinion. Vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big matters of opinion being existentially threatened by an ethically questionable and socially destructive political tactic, coming from what is clearly a minority of the electorate.
It is as though the Democrats, if their roles were reversed, were demanding that the Republicans provide free, tax payer funded abortions to any and all who want them. That's how big these "matter(s) of opinion" are in this budget standoff.
And that's what Republicans won't allow themselves to understand. You can go too far. You can bully too much. Other people have strong opinions, too. Some things are worth fighting for. And just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. We live in a democratic republic, which means that sometimes you're not going to get what you want, no matter how right you think you are. That's how it works. To reject this is to reject the philosophical principles on which the notion of democracy is based.
That is, anybody who supports this Republican extortion gambit is anti-American, and has no business running, or offering opinions about how to run, the country. Just go home and let the grownups get back to work.
Posted by Ron at 11:13 PM
Friday, October 11, 2013
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Our nation easily creates enough wealth to pay for everything we need. The only problem is that an extraordinarily small percentage of the population has rigged the system in order to take the vast majority of that wealth for itself. Possessing a cultural love for "the market" as well as the naive belief that someday you, too, will be rich, everybody behaves as though this massive wealth imbalance is somehow the natural state of affairs.
But it's not.
That is, we don't have a deficit problem, don't have a debt problem. We certainly don't have a spending problem, unless you think we're not spending enough. We have a tax problem. We don't make the wealthy pay their fair share.
Instead, we argue over which programs to cut. It just doesn't have to be this way.
Posted by Ron at 11:57 PM
From Talking Points Memo:
"How does this short-circuit the system?" Will said. "I hear Democrats say, 'The Affordable Care Act is the law,' as though we're supposed to genuflect at that sunburst of insight and move on. Well, the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them."
Will's been little more than a hack for his entire career. He finds ways to convert the bombast of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk into soft-spoken five dollar words, all delivered in a nerd suit, complete with coke bottle glasses and bow tie. And it's been obvious for just as long: the guy's a sophisticated moron. Very sadly, his mummer's farce has worked pretty well, at least for his job prospects. He works for one of the elite newspapers, and has a permanent Sunday morning throne on the gab fests. He's as awful as any right-wing demagogue you can name.
But still. I don't like Obamacare either, but it's not THAT bad.
Posted by Ron at 1:34 AM
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
From Rolling Stone:
New York is in danger of losing what remains of its creative soul as the wealthiest one percent usurp the cultural resources that once made the city "a repository of ideas and information," David Byrne writes in an op-ed piece for Creative Time Reports.
The singer, songwriter and former Talking Heads frontman describes New York as a body and a mind. While he applauds improvements to the body – a historic reduction in crime, along with initiatives including bike lanes, parks and upgraded public transportation – he's less optimistic about the overall health of the organism, writing, "The cultural part of the city – the mind – has been usurped by the top one percent."
My take on what Byrne describes happening in New York is that this is essentially a template for what's happening nationwide: corporate capitalism's winner-take-all nature is crushing grass-roots art and culture EVERYWHERE. Never mind the fact that it's almost impossible to afford a theater space. It is becoming increasingly difficult for artists and culture-makers simply to survive. How can you create art when you have to work three jobs just to pay the bills?
I guess this is what economists would call an "externality."
Posted by Ron at 1:27 AM
Monday, October 07, 2013
My old pal Kevin has turned me onto Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States. Three episodes into the series and I'm hooked. It's an extraordinarily well done documentary show with tons of really cool old footage, and it starts with World War II. Hard to go wrong with WWII.
Stone is, of course, coming from a decidedly left-wing point of view, but he argues persuasively, and makes some rather astonishing but well supported assertions.
One is that Harry Truman was essentially a racist simpleton from the sticks who had virtually no appreciation of the nuances of international diplomacy, and that he trusted advisors from FDR's administration who were of the same "my way or the highway" mindset, while distancing himself from advisors who appeared to understand that Stalin and the Russians had no desire to take over the world.
When the bewildered new President first met the Soviet ambassador to the US, the corn-fed yokel of a chief executive dressed him down like a seventh grade football player who can't cover his gap. Thus began the Cold War. Even though it may very well not have happened at all had FDR lived, or had Henry Wallace remained VP.
Another assertion Stone makes is that using the bomb on Japan was ENTIRELY unnecessary. The US had already been unleashing the same kind of devastation on Japanese cities for some time at that point, albeit using conventional weapons, lots of planes and bombs, instead of simply using one plane and one bomb. So Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just another couple of devastated cities among several. Not enough to surrender unconditionally.
Instead, it was the Soviet invasion of Japanese occupied Manchuria, which happened at the same time we dropped the bomb, that truly freaked out the Japanese high command. Without Manchuria, Japan had no resources, and without resources, there was no way to continue fighting. So they surrendered.
Which means the US killed millions of Japanese civilians that it did not need to kill. On the other hand, like I said, we had already been killing millions of Japanese civilians, anyway, so maybe that makes dropping the bomb a relatively moral act.
Okay, I'm just kidding about the morality: if Stone is right, dropping the bomb ranks up there with slavery and the genocide against the Native American population as major American crimes against humanity. Anyway, fascinating stuff.
Watch the first three episodes for free here.
Posted by Ron at 8:55 PM
My girlfriend's pissed off, and with good reason. She posted on facebook:
People who say that using a campaign slogan talking about Hilary Clinton's imperfect body is the same as someone "attacking" Ann Coulter. I've never heard Hillary Clinton say anything even remotely like this:Coulter, in the week after 9/11, also said that we ought to invade all Muslim nations, kill their leaders, and convert their people to Christianity. But who's counting Coulter's psychotic musings at this point? There are too many to count.
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." - Ann Coulter.
I had relatives killed by Timothy McVeigh you nasty, horrible pond scum.
Jennifer continued in the comment thread:
Basically, those campaign buttons comparing Hillary Clinton to a bucket of chicken (2 large thighs, 2 small breasts), people have said "Well, you liberals attack Ann Coulter, too." Well, she's a nasty, hate-spewing demon. That's not the same as not being attractive enough for you, and what the hell does that have to do with being a politician in the first place? It doesn't matter if the men are attractive. Most of them look like trolls in suits. I'm so sick of women being put down for not looking "right" to a bunch of nasty old men.And
I've been seeing those nasty republican campaign buttons talking about Hillary's "big thighs" and I've seen people say "Well, its no different than you liberals attacking Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter." Yes, it is!!! One of them spews out ignorant nonsense like a cartoon bimbo, and the other one is a hateful racist that wishes death on people who don't agree with her. Reacting badly to someone's actions is not the same as dehumanizing a woman for not being a barbie doll.Amen, sister.
I don't get into politics as deeply as some people, but when it is this particular issue, I will fight. I am a woman, and you have to treat me and other women as legitimate human beings, or you can go to hell.
Only one or two people dared to disagree with her. Nonetheless, it's always difficult for me to keep my mouth shut on such issues, so I offered some support. Even though she didn't really need it.
I agree with Jennifer on the false equivalency between these blatantly sexist attacks on HRC and liberal rhetoric toward Palin and Coulter. Yes, there have been a relative few pieces of mudslinging toward Coulter coming from liberals concerning her gender, but it's pretty rare, relatively speaking, because Coulter so consistently says outrageous batshit crazy bullshit that she's always giving liberals something to talk about--there's really no need to resort to ad hominem attacks toward her; she impeaches herself every time she opens her mouth.The sexist attacks on Hillary are only going to get worse as we near 2016. It's definitely a good thing to start some shit about it right now. I have the greatest girlfriend in the world.
And calling her a drag queen is trans-phobic, for that matter, not sexist. As if conservatives give a shit about offending the transgendered community. I mean, I guess one could craft an argument asserting that the idea behind calling her a drag queen is that she shouldn't be taken seriously because she's not conforming to traditional notions of femininity, but really, calling her a drag queen is just about being mean to a totally vile individual who definitely has it coming, not about shaming her into being more womanly. But like I said, this is relatively rare, and especially so when compared to the sexist rhetoric toward Hillary going on twenty years now.
Remember the freak out over her leading her husband's task force on health care, in spite of the fact that she was totally qualified to do it? She's a lesbian. She's a witch. She's a harpy. She wears the pants. She's cold and emotionless. And on and on. This has been a full court press for almost as long as I've known of her existence. Her unashamed foray into the boys club of politics has always DEEPLY offended conservatives, and it has ALWAYS brought their traditional sexism to the surface. To compare sexist attacks on Hillary to liberal attacks on Coulter is like comparing the banking sector's massive fraudulent behavior to a hungry man who steals a loaf of bread to feed his family. That is, there is no comparison.
As far as Sarah Palin goes, I don't know of any out-of-line liberal attacks on her. Is calling a politician an unqualified dumbshit sexist? I don't think so.
Posted by Ron at 3:12 AM
Saturday, October 05, 2013
From No More Mr. Nice Blog courtesy of Eschaton:
Why are Federal Workers a special case and a problem for Republicans? In the case of Federal Workers I'd argue that its not merely that they are workers (who are always despised) its because they are workers who for the most part don't conform to Republican ideas of the right boundaries for workers. The right boundaries for workers are that they know their place, that they can be fired capriciously, and that they exist primarily to make the employer feel good about himself and, further, that like waiters in a restaurant and prostitutes with their johns their job is also to make the employer believe that he is receiving an extra good form of treatment not accorded to others diners or johns.*
Federal workers violate those central principles because they can't be fired directly by "the employer" because the individual Republican tax payer isn't the direct employer. They also can't be humiliated and made to feel vulnerable because of civil service protections and unionization. And in the matter of interactions, one on one, the taxpayer can't command good treatment by offering money (bribes) and thus often feels vulnerable and weak because there is no way to play the "do you know who I am" card which (like tipping) is an attempt to force a generic servant to give non generic attention and service to one class of people. So Federal Employees create an extra level of status anxiety for Republicans when they come in contact with these "employees" who can't be fired or rewarded and therefore are not obligated to be extra nice to the individual Republican.
"I pay you, so you work for me!"
That's what you're supposed to say to uppity government workers, or, at least, that's what I've been hearing you're supposed to say for nearly all my life. Of course, as neat as it might be to believe such a notion is true, especially when a cop's got you pulled over for speeding or running a red light, it's a total fiction. The reality is that we pay taxes to the state, and the state uses some of that money to pay employees who perform the state's business. So government workers work for the government, not each and every individual citizen who pays taxes. I mean, obvious, right? They're not YOUR employees; they're the state's employees, and whatever input you have into how they do their jobs is by way of the ballot box and other aspects of the political process. You certainly can't fire them or withhold their wages. Pretty simple concept.
So why do so many Republicans not seem to understand this? Never mind the massive irony that the GOP is entirely responsible for the current state of affairs in Washington. Remember, conservatives don't do irony, anyway, so that doesn't really matter. But, apparently, the federal government shutdown has inspired more than a few Republicans to be total dicks to federal employees, who, like everybody else, are just trying to live their lives. What's up with that?
The linked essay does a really nice job, by way of a meditation on the psychology of tipping restaurant servers, of providing some insight into this weird phenomenon. The author's take is that lots of conservatives are very much into the notion that money, and the spending of money, create status, and the perceived recipients of that money damned well better fall all over themselves to kiss that status's ass. If that doesn't happen, they're getting robbed, and pissed off feelings ensue. No, it's not rational, but it's as good an explanation as any. Actually, it's the only explanation I've heard, and it's something that really does need some explaining. Because, you know, it makes no sense at all to go off on federal workers just for doing their jobs.
More widely, this ought to concern anybody who thinks of himself as a good American. "All men are created equal." That's one of our sacred national values. It's pretty clear and non-negotiable. You're not better than me and I'm not better than you. I mean, sure, I do some things better than you and you do some things better than me, but nobody needs to kiss anybody's ass in America. We're all citizens, not subjects. And money cannot change this. Strangely, a not insignificant number of Republicans seem to believe that spending some money does an end run around this principle, that all men really aren't created equal. And that makes these total dicks bad Americans.
Needless to say, it's a really bad idea to let bad Americans run the country.
Posted by Ron at 11:13 PM