The Smell of Pepper Spray in the Morning

As usual, Naomi Wolfe has the number on the OWS crackdown:

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

It’s not just that the OWS movement is getting all up in the face of Wallstreet and thus bringing the ire of their lapdogs in Washington. OWS is now threatening the income of our blessedly corrupt leaders. And thus, the DHS is coaching our militarized police on how to crack skulls.

Much has been made out of the now Internet-famous cop who casually pepper sprayed seated protesters. But what did you expect? You give a cop pepper spray and a baton he’s going to go looking for an excuse to use it. It now appears that excuse came from Homeland Security and with the blessings of our ruling class. OWS is a little more than 2 months old and so far, has been surprisingly peaceful (at least on their side). It will take a miracle for that to last because if history has taught us anything, it’s that those who make peaceful progress impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.

As Goes Bella, So Goes the Nation

Over at Goodreads, they’ve discovered something interesting about the readers of the Twilight books (click the link to see the infographic):

There is no more divisive book on Goodreads than Twilight. It manages to top both our Best Books Ever and Worst Books of All Time lists. And now, surprisingly, we’ve discovered that where you live can indicate whether you’re a Twi-Hard or not.

With the release of the film adaption of Breaking Dawn (well, the first half of the film adaptation), we thought it might be fun to dive into some more of the incredible trove of data we have on the Twilight Saga and its readers.

A map of what each state thinks of Twilight ends up looking a lot like a map of the most recent election results. On the map above, the readers in the red states rated the book highly (the darker the red, the higher the rating), while readers in the blue states gave it a lower rating). The Midwest and the South represent The Twilight Belt, while the coasts were decidedly less impressed with the book.

Reviews were mostly distributed according to population, with the notable exception of Utah. Utah is the 34th most populous state in the US, but it generates the 6th most reviews of Twilight. In terms of cities, Salt Lake City—the 125th largest city in the country—is second only to New York in number of Twilight reviews. Opinion on the book is split in the Beehive state, with the average rating a pedestrian 3.64.

The series’ popularity in Utah becomes more explicable when you recall that the author, Stephanie Myers, is Mormon and so are the Cullens.

Having lived in the Twilight Belt/Red States most of my life, I find this not at all surprising.  The lack of literacy in that region is a scourge upon the land and the popularity of Twilight, like the rise of yokel-bating politics, is a direct result of the fact that the locals are a proudly ignorant folk. They like their leaders to be Good Old Boys and their entertainment a slick patina of pop culture that just barely covers a misogynistic pseudo-spiritual story that just happens to reinforce hetero-normative values and white male privilege. The popularity of both Twilight and Rick Perry are part of the same problem.

Also: If you really want o make your head spin, here’s an article praising Twilight from a feminist POV, on the grounds that Bella’s objectification is something young women can relate to, unlike the ass kickery of Buffy Summers or Lisbeth Salander, who are icky masculine girls because of pants. Or something. And also that the pregnancy is realistically depicted (except for the whole vampire eating itself out of the mother’s womb).

Anyway. In the comments of that article there’s a long digressive discussion centering on Myers’ use of blank pages to represent Bella’s heartache when her vampire boyfriend leaves her (alas, temporarily). That particular passage is one of my pet peeves as a writer. The blank pages are just a gimmick to cover up Myers’ week writing skills. A good writer doesn’t shy away from delving into the murk of touchy emotional states. If anything, they relish them as a challenge. The blank pages are Myers admitting publicly she doesn’t have the emotional maturity or writerly craft to depict a lovesick teenager. Which begs the question of what she would do if a story required her to describe the savory delight of a well prepared cheesburger, let alone the ineffable quintessence of love.

On the upside, I did come upon the realization that Bella isn’t a character, she’s a McGuffin, an object to be hoarded, fought over (by men) and fetishised. Those blank pages representing Bella’s mental state when Edward isn’t around are extremely telling. Without a man to observe her, she literally has no presence in the story. She neither thinks about her predicament nor feels anything that registers as an emotion or a thought. She has about as much agency as the Maltese Falcon* (objectively worthless except for the secret thing inside her that everyone really wants).

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*I was going to say the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones, but the Ark has at least enough agency to melt some Nazis for failing to recognize its inherent inertia. The Ark will not tolerate being used crassly for the needs of men. Bella exists solely for that purpose.

Crime and Punishment

While doing some research this morning, I came across this fascinating story about Russian poet and Novelist, Boris Pasternak, and his best known work, Doctor Zhivago:

After his own novel was denied publication by the journal Novy Mir, Pasternak arranged for Doctor Zhivago to be smuggled abroad by Sir Isaiah Berlin. In 1957, the novel was printed by the multi-billionaire Italian publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. To the outrage of the Politburo, the novel became an instant sensation throughout the non-Communist world. As retaliation for his role in Doctor Zhivago’s publication, Feltrinelli was expelled in disgrace from the Italian Communist Party.

[…] The first English translation of Doctor Zhivago was hastily produced by Max Hayward and Manya Harari in order to coincide with Pasternak’s Nobel victory. It was released in August 1958, and remained the only edition available for more than fifty years.

Between 1958 and 1959, the English language edition spent 26 weeks at the top of The New York Times’ bestseller list. Although none of his Soviet critics had the chance to read the proscribed novel, several officials of the Writer’s Union publicly demanded, “kick the pig out of our kitchen-garden,” i.e., expel Pasternak from the USSR. This led to a humorous Russian saying, “I did not read Pasternak, but I condemn him”.

Meanwhile, as the novel topped international bestseller lists, the British MI6 and the American CIA commenced an operation to ensure that Doctor Zhivago was correctly submitted to the Nobel Committee. This was done because it was known that a Nobel Prize for Boris Pasternak would seriously harm the international credibility of the Soviet Union. As a result, British and American operatives intercepted and photographed a manuscript of the novel and secretly printed a small number of books in the Russian language. These were submitted to the Nobel Committee’s surprised judges just ahead of the deadline.

Spies waging a covert cultural war with literature, using the Nobel Committee as a proxy agent. I’m not sure what form it will take, but that is going into a future novel, somehow.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

Over at Gawker there’s a piece on the Democratic Party’s reaction (or lack thereof) to Occupy Wall Street:

There are several drawbacks to engaging with Occupy Wall Street, the Democratic sources said. One is the movement could blow up in everyone’s face, embarrassing all involved. Another is it fades as quickly and mostly mysteriously as it appeared, making it little more than several cable news cycles in the long run.

“I was thinking about this this morning-the local Fox affiliate had some guy from the ‘movement’ on to talk about it,” one operative said, “and his rhetoric was strongly reminiscent of the tea party, to my ear. Different goals, obviously, and the rhetoric was less, um, violent and vitriolic. But the same dissatisfaction with the current ‘system’ is there.”

“[So] this could end up being good for Dems the way the tea party was good for Republicans,” the operative said. “Or it could end up scaring the crap out of folks.”

And this is the problem with Democrats (says a life long Democrat). They’re so afraid of offending Republicans and the mythical Moderate Swing Voter that they’ve adopted this middle of the road, lukewarm porridge philosophy that is completely uninspiring. The GOP is not afraid to handle a few snakes in order to show that at least they stand for something (even if that something is racism, bigotry, greed and class warfare). What do the Democrats stand for? Tepid hedged bets, capitulation to extremism on the right and an inability to grow a pair and get in a shouting match with some lunatics.

The point of contention seems to rest n the fact that everyone in the media keeps comparing the OWS movement to the Tea Baggers. The problem with this comparison is that it’s absolutely false. The Tea Baggers are now and always have been a GOP Astroturf outfit. They’re funded buy the fucking Koch Bros. and organized from the top down by FreedomWorks, the conservative action group led by Dick Armey, a former Republican Representative form Texas. Meanwhile the OWS movement isn’t funded. By anyone. It’s actually what the Tea Party claimed to be in the early days: a grassroots movement created by citizens fed up with the current failed system.

What the Democrats should do is embrace Occupy Wall Street. Start a few shouting matches on capitol hill (calling John Bohner a dick would be nice but let’s not hold our breath). Anything that shows they actually give a fuck about this country and the direction it’s going in. Otherwise, they’ll be remembered as the party sitting in the passenger seat as the GOP drove the country off a cliff, refusing to grab the steering wheel and make a last ditch effort to steer us clear of disaster for fear of being impolite.

Obama’s Got the “Oh Shit!” Vote All Locked Up

I just received a fund raising email form the Obama campaign with the subject line: Can we meet for dinner? My first thought was, “no, because all you serve are shit sandwiches.”

My second thought was, fund raising from the unemployed is not the smartest move. And yes, it’s not like whichever lackey is sending out these emails knows that I’ve been out of a job for 2 months. (If only there were some federal or state agency that knows I’m unemployed, possibly because they’ve been sending me checks, that they could have checked their list of names against?)

I voted for Obama in ’08, happily. Hope! Change! Yeah! Little did I know the GOP had his balls in a little jar on the Speaker of the House’s desk. And yeah, I will vote for Obama again in ’12, but this time I’ll do so drunk and holding my nose, motivated by an overwhelming fear of living in a country run by one of these crazy people who believe Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs like horses and a good alternative health care reform plan involves leaches and bleeding.

So if anyone from the Obama campaign ever reads this, you can tell your boss his vote is safe here in the Kisser household, but make sure to let him know it’s out of desperation, not inspiration. For that, Obama would need to grow a pair and do something more worthwhile than just give a stirring speech. Like make me a job.

Taxes Are Too Low

For 40 years now, the American People have been told repeatedly by the GOP that Taxes are Too High and we need to Cut Taxes Now! It’s been said so often that it is now axiomatic. My own parents, Democrats for half a century, told me during the Bush decade that they hated what the man stood for, but at least he cut their taxes. My wife and I talked to them about maybe moving to Canada. Their response? “Oh but taxes are so high there!”

Americans don’t make a distinction between poor people’s taxes and rich people’s taxes. They just don’t. Whether it’s because we all hope to one day be rich people and so want rich people tax breaks in place before we get there, or because we’ve just been programmed with a knee jerk, anti-tax sentiment, the result is the same: our country is falling apart and it’s all because rich people refuse to pay their share.

That’s what the Debt Ceiling debate is all about, when you cut through the bullshit and rhetoric and get at the heart of the matter. The GOP is finally getting what they’ve always wanted: they’re dismantling the middle class. And the Democrats are helping them. I’d like to think it’s unwittingly but as the old saying goes, “any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.”

Until we can deprogram the voting population of this country and convince them that taxes are a necessary evil (yes, even for rich people!) we’re not going to recover. Pot holes will go unfilled and the electrical grid and water and sanitation systems in this country will continue to fall apart. Sure, you may get to have that cheep Plasma screen television but all that means is you’ll be able to watch the polar ice caps melt and your children drown in sewage in high definition.

I Don’t Care about Wiener’s Wiener!!!

Really. I don’t know exactly when it became conventional wisdom that our politicians should be saints among men, Bodhisattva treading lightly upon the earth, leaving roses and wafts of enlightened incense in their footprints. But it ain’t working folks. that level of expectation is just asking to be disappointed.

I’d settle for competent bureaucrats, honestly. Civil Servants who just do their fucking job. And if doing that means they have a mistress on the side or hire rent boys to spank them on Saturday nights or that they like to show pictures of their erect penises to young women for shits and giggles, well, so be it. They’re only human and have human needs and weaknesses. Whatever gets you through the night and doesn’t hurt anybody, go for it. As long as you wake up on Monday morning and get back to work making just and reasonable laws and enforcing them, have at it. With gusto.

And sure, getting caught showing pictures of your dong to some young lass on the Internets is embarrassing and ensures a long, uncomfortable talk with the wife, but that’s not really any of our business. More importantly, it’s neither illegal or even immoral. It’s kinda shady, maybe creepy, depending on context but mostly it’s just embarrassing, but not for the reason you think. Wiener should have known better, or at least had a private account for such matters, under an assumed name. He’s a politician int he 21C. He should have been more savvy. But he goofed up and now all the prudes are doing their best Church Lady impression and oh, god, it’s all so tedious, shoot me now.

Oh Please, Let Sarah Palin Run for President!

Sarah Palin, America’s favorite butt monkey, has a new movie coming out. Rumor has it, she’ll be announcing her candidacy for President soon.

Nothing says credible political force like a half term governor and failed VP candidate who fled Alaska under a cloud of ethics violations. What would be even better is if she teamed up with Newt! A man whose claim to fame is that he failed to take down Bill Clinton for receiving a blowjob. These two perennial losers with outsized egos were made for each other. And once they’ve been trounced by Obama, they’ll both finally have outlived their usefulness to the political class and be shuffled off stage, never to be heard from again. And sure, we’d have to suffer through 18 months of malapropisms, garbled backtracking and not-so-veiled racist threats but it’ll be worth it, to be rid of these two jackasses forevermore.

And: I almost forgot the best part! Her movie’s title? Undefeated.

Which makes perfect sense for a biopic about a woman who lost an election as the VP candidate, was runner up in a beauty pageant and quit the only elected office she’s ever held half way through her first term.

Cities in the Dust

At the new York review of Books, a lament for the disappearing library:

All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak.“The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

The University where I work is one of the few places in the US that still has one of the old Carnegie Libraries on campus. It’s no longer a library of course, hasn’t been in years. But it’s a reminder of a different era, when America’s wealthy still believed in the social contract. Back then, a sure fire philanthropic gesture was to spend a few bucks and open a public library. Andrew Carnegie, for all his faults, was a big advocate of libraries at the turn of the 20th century. At the time of his death in 1919, almost half the libraries in the United states had been built with grants form the Carnegie Foundation.

Imagine the Koch Bros. using their vast fortune to build libraries, or anything at all. America’s wealthy upper class doesn’t create any more. They tear down. Rend. Destroy. Before our elite fell sway to the cult of Rand, they gave at least a pitance back to the country that allowed them to become stinking rich in the first place. Some did it out of the quaint old notion of Christian Charity (imagine, charitable Christians! They’d be run out of the pews in our era of the Prosperity Gospel) while others did it out of a sense of fairness and justice.You give back to the community that helped make you. This idea is dismissed as “Socialism” now. As if calling it something that smells vaguely of Eastern Germany makes it intrinsically evil.

Funny to think that Andrew Carnegie, Steel Baron and second richest man in history, would be called a howling Commie by Republicans today, dismissed like that nefarious class traitor, George Soros. And by funny, I mean sad.

When I was little, we all thought that if the USA ever fell (as monumental an IF as there ever was), it would be due to Soviet missile strikes, an alien invasion or the heat death of the universe. But when great nations fall, they don’t always crash and burn from the machinations of jelous rivals. Sometimes they just wither away when their ruling class decides that the cost of maintaining civilization cuts too much into their own profits.

I have no doubt that America will continue to be a nation for many decades to come. Maybe even centuries. But it will not be the great beacon it once was, just another twilight power, coasting on momentum, a tarnished reputation and the fond memories of what it once was.

Link via Morgan Meis at 3QD.

Break Out The Tiny Violins

Seems the Republicans are having a tough time finding a hot date for the 2012 elections:

The political story of the day appears to be this piece from Mike Allen, noting that “top Republicans are increasingly convinced that President Barack Obama will be easily reelected if stronger GOP contenders do not emerge.” Feeling desperate, the party is turning to a “bland, wonkish” governor, Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, “for an adrenaline boost.”

I’d never even heard of Mitch Daniels. Seems no one has. And with Mittens, The Donald and Pastor Huckabee having dropped the hot potato, all they have left is Newt and the looming specter of Sarah Palin. So it’s no wonder the GOP are having a tough time getting it up.

But this is what happens when you spend decades telling people that the Government is incompetent and full of a bunch of losers: eventually your pool of potential candidates will be reduced to just a wagon load of cretins, sociopaths and fame whores. Who else would want a job where the description is to suck at what you do?

It’s so bad they’re looking over third stringer governors no one’s heard of to run against Barack “I Killed Bin Laden” Obama. Good luck with that.