It seems human beings always need an enemy – let's love each other and unite against the Martians instead #uniteagainstMartians
— Julius Galacki (@JuliusGalacki) December 8, 2015
So, I recently wrote a little paean about the totally artificial snack cake that brought the word Twinkie into the lexicon. But quasi-good things often have a dark heart alas.
The corporate main stream media has been presenting the Hostess bankruptcy as being precipitated by a union strike in reaction to management demands for wage and pension give-backs amongst other things, essentially parroting the headline from Hostess’ own website: “HOSTESS BRANDS TO WIND DOWN COMPANY AFTER BCTGM UNION STRIKE CRIPPLES OPERATIONS”. And it’s not just Fox News leading the story with this spin.
This is the Google search headline for CNN: “Hostess Brands closing for good due to bakers strike – Nov. 16, 2012 money.cnn.com/2012/11/16/news/companies/hostess-closing/ 2 days ago – Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Ding Dongs, says strike by bakers forcing its closing. … Hostess filed for bankruptcy in January, its second trip to bankruptcy court since 2004. …. 2012 Cable News Network.” In fairness, once you click on the link, the actually story doesn’t use that headline but nonetheless, the first paragraph of the story is similarly worded.
Likewise, NBC has a story with this headline: “Twinkies Maker Hostess Going Out of Business, CEO Blames Union Strike “It’s over. This is it,” Gregory Rayburn tells “Today.”
Sunday, Nov 18, 2012 | Updated 4:21 PM CST”
I should note that I’m fairly passionate about the vilification of work and unions as opposed to the so called great good of the “job creators” and capital of the corporate kind. (I think small business people generally practice capitalism in a different manner than corporations so this rant is not about them – after all, they usually work side by side with the people they hire, and small business people don’t get golden parachutes whether or not they make good business decisions – their capital is actually at risk.)
So, I love reading correctives to our corporate mainstream media when I found out the inconvenient truth that Hostess had raised 4 of its top four executives compensation by up to 80% just a few months ago, even though the company had already filed for bankruptcy prior to that pay raise. Granted after that public relations gaffe, the then CEO left (with a nice package) and the 4 top officers took both a real and highly symbolic pay cut to $1, but they also guaranteed themselves a return to their full 6 or 7 figure salaries by January 1st.
So M.S.M., it’s all the fault of the guys making $20 bucks an hour for not believing that the company didn’t have enough money to honor the contracts they had previously negotiated with the union??? I WONDER WHY these baker and drivers were so distrustful of management? I f’ing hate hypocrisy and greed…that means the media as much as Hostess exec’s.
Here are 2 links (one of which cross links to an earlier CNN story for those that don’t trust non-traditional journalists) that back up my assertions here: http://americablog.com/2012/11/hostess-twinkie-ceo-salary.html and http://www.examiner.com/article/the-real-reasons-hostess-went-bankrupt
Saw the latest Bond movie, a really superior popcorn movie with great stunts. Solid performances, creative staging by director Sam Mendes to re-invent the familiar, exotic locations, high quality tech elements and a well written, intelligent script are some of the reasons for this creative success.
It puts one foot in the Bond past (e.g. the Aston Martin gets a big cameo amongst many nods to previous iconic Bond tropes and gadgets), while modernizing technology, attitudes toward woman (a bit) and even “stooping” so screenplay 101 to do a little character development… the only quibble was that the wit was not as pervasive as some previous 007 entries instead replaced with a melancholia about getting old and changing times. “Skyfall” actually threatened to be deep on occasion but fortunately something goofily over-the-top intruded and brought the film back into the realm of escapist fun.
But here’s an odd reaction I had during the opening action scene where civilian health and life are treated in a typically cavalier manner as the British agents chase the bad guy: I kept thinking about Popeye. When I was a kid, I watched Popeye cartoons on TV just because that’s what was on – but I disliked Popeye. I have a distinct memory of Popeye rescuing Olive Oil, who was tied to some train tracks, by punching the train, causing it to crunch into itself. I didn’t say to myself, “Thank god, Olive Oil was rescued.” No, I said, “There were people on that train and Popeye just killed them.” That was how my brain already worked at 5 years old.
I hate to admit it but I have a soft spot for Twinkies.
When I first went to New York City to study theatre at NYU, I regularly went to a mediocre deli on Broadway and Waverly Place, where I often would buy some very bad coffee to go. Now it must be understood that while there were some fine Italian pastry shops that served good cappuccino in the Village, this was B.S.E. (i.e. Before the great Starbucks Expansion and the ensuing decent to very good coffee boom of it and its rivals). Thus this java had the taste of what one would imagine what edible gasoline and milk would taste like. This was true New York deli coffee served in those famous blue and white coffee cups with ancient Greek icons encircling the cup. If there were sizes to order, they were small, medium or large, not grande or venti… a “regular coffee” was milk with sugar; a “dark coffee” was a little bit of milk. I ordered a “light coffee, no sugar.” It was immensely important to specify the “no sugar” – otherwise the default was 2 heaping, overflowing teaspoons of sucrose. I have never been one to add sugar to hide the bitterness of the bean, but instead crave something sweet to contrast that bitterness.
That sweetness was Twinkies.
Obviously, if I could get a good pastry or a decent bagel, I would, but at this deli nothing surpassed the packaged yellow sponge cake filled with “creme” in taste bud goodness.
I heard on the radio (KPCC) that of the 36 ingredients only two are plant or animal based: there is only a smidgen of flour and 1/500th of an egg per Twinkie. So, they may get hard but they will never rot. I’m very tempted to buy one and save it for a future time when I’m in the need for hygenerated nostalgia.
Not surprisingly, I can be very sensitive to language, and how language can manipulate. This is most nakedly apparently in our political advertising a.k.a. propaganda a.k.a. the way politicians speak every day. That may sound rather cynical but it’s really quite a fact that conservative think tanks issue Talking Points daily and just a superficial gander at any one day’s quotes from the Republican noise machine is just how choral that noise is, i.e. they all say the same thing. Democrats are more likely to show some surface independence but also try their damnedest to be as “effective” in communicating as the Republicans. Note that President Obama’s office recently created a kerfuffle by telling reporters that quotes would only be given to those that agree to verification of those quotes, i.e. editing of those quotes.
So, one of my biggest peeves is how Republicans, usually, take advantage of the word “reform”. Typically they use the word “reform” in conjunction with ending something by privatizing it. Ideologically, this fulfills their dictum that private companies always do things better than government (whether it matches facts or not) and secondarily results in contributions to their political war chests from the companies that would benefit / profit from such a privatization.
Privatization as a word, however, is not automatically popular with people who hold pragmatic ideas about particular government programs. That’s why, Bush – at the very height of his power – suffered his first major setback when he tried to privatize Social Security because average people suddenly became motivated to protect something they depend on. (On a tangential note: the administrative costs for Social Security are the lowest, thus the most efficient, of any investment fund including index funds… so much for government inefficiency.)
Thus, we hear the word “reform” used over and over again by Republican marketing. Social Security reform. Medicare reform. And so on.
Since they’re trying to sell something, I’m may be annoyed by the incorrect use of the word, but I accept it from a free speech point of view. BUT I become completely infuriated by the press, rather lazily accepting and repeating propagandistic language instead of challenging its premises. Obviously this is symptomatic of the modern corporate press overall failure of its adversarial, watch dog role that was actually enshrined in our Constitution but it’s exactly in these details, that one can press the Press to be more Press-like, i.e. actually adhere to the standards of true objectivity (not he said she said type of false equivalencies).
I wrote the following letter on NPR’s website after New Yorker political reporter Ryan Lizza was interviewed by Teri Gross on Fresh Air regarding his article on the power and background of Rep. Paul Ryan (and Lizza is one of the better journalists in the business yet even he gets sloppy and falls into lazy reporter verbal group-think… in the actual article, he was much more precise and accurate):
“While Mr. Lizza seems to be a careful journalist, I do have to take serious issue of language – in fact something that infuriates me – with how he began the interview regarding Rep. Ryan’s proposals on what Lizza called “Medicare reform”. The incorrect use of the word “reform”, a word commonly used as a propaganda strategy, which the press blithely goes along with either out of group think or actual ideological sympathy. (In this case, I’m guessing it’s more group think.) Reform by definition predicates that something is broken and needs fixing. And secondly, reform carries an automatic positive connotation. Reform brings benefits. Reform is good. So of course, it makes sense Rep. Ryan and other Republicans would label something as “reform” that actually ends Medicare. As to the first aspect of the word reform, it is also highly arguable that Medicare is broken. It’s expensive. But it mostly works very well at getting seniors medical care. So Lizza, so as not to be a party to propaganda and adhere to the journalistic idea of objectivity should have used the neutral word “change” or “re-structuring”. Language matters and has immense power. Mr. Lizza is a good writer; he should know that and correct himself for the future.”
In “The Baffler”, Steve Almond wrote a long, critique of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert… he makes a lot of good points, but instead of staying on track, he meanders. Almond should hope for at best to influence Stewart to be a little more hard-hitting (let’s face it, why would Jon mess too much with success???), and especially to make Jon’s audience more aware of Jon’s failings as a cultural/media/political comic. Jon will change if his audience changes. (His critique of Colbert is so wrongheaded and so completely lacks an understanding of the power of irony that it forms another black hole in his argument.)
This is the letter I wrote to the editor about this essay:
This essay shoots itself in the foot over and over. It bemoans the fact the Daily Show and Colbert are mostly entertainment and wants them to be different. To be a massively rated Lenny Bruce hour or something. Because? Why? Is there something inherent in either man that is aching to rip-off their Clark Kent populism for a more rarified comic Super Man (i.e. in the eyes of the essayist, the brave, confronting, angry male comic.)
Does one bemoan an orange for not being an apple? Or to be fruitful in the metaphor, does one bemoan an orange for not being a cherimoya? One is common and fairly cheap. One is rare and expensive. There is reason why people eat oranges every day.
The essayist misses the point that first and foremost that they – but Stewart in particular – are replacements for the mild political humor of the Tonight Show and its progeny (Letterman, etc.). It’s all the same audience that used to watch Carson which then split off into Leno/Letterman camps and has no now splintered further in the Cable / Internet age.
If you add up all of the people watching one of these incarnations of the Tonight Show, it would roughly be that same number of people. Instead of lamenting what Stewart and Colbert aren’t, he should be lamenting that population ism’t like the essayist: smart, angry and uncompromising about those in power.
Even though I actually seem to agree with Almond’s politics, I’m being harsh with him because he deserves it. He’s like the son who’s angry with his father for not being the man he thought his father was. It’s Almond’s expectations that are at fault here, not the father for being human.
That’s not to say that the media critic / humorist Jon Stewart doesn’t deserve to critiqued as well. And here Almond is correct to point out Stewart plays false equivalencies between the right and left… he commits the same sin of “balance” in the name of civility that the main stream media does in the name of “fairness”. After all, many times, facts dictate that one doesn’t have to be fair, e.g. Creationism should not be given equal time with evolutionary theory because is one is religious thought and one is well-tested scientific thought. So taking Stewart to task for this and being a shill for whoever his guest is, are all well and good.
But Almond goes off the rails when it becomes a daddy plea of why are you what I want you to be. The critique of Stewart’s failing should always be directed to his audience. That the audience must always look at Jon with the same jaundiced eye that Jon looks at Fox News pundits. Jon is not god, but a fallible entertainer.
Almond further weakens his critique by seeming to miss just how much of a satirist that Colbert is… that irony is a potent critical weapon… that one doesn’t have to directly confront power to confront power… in other words, the essayist just doesn’t get Colbert. It’s utterly unsurprising that he ignores Colbert’s very Super Pac potent theatrics. It was quite simply the best critique and criticism of the effects of the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling on the political system yet leveled.
Again this is Almond’s own failing as a critic. He seems to (A) only appreciate direct, in your face, comedy, and (B) not realize that other forms of humor are both funny, viable (beyond their initial satirical role models) and an effective means of puncturing those in power.
Furthermore, Almond’s examples of the opposite of Stewart/Colbert were very weak. He was right on when he cited a deceased comic that I frankly have never heard of but from the quotes seems to have been a very funny man with a very strong, confrontational political critique of the political system. But note, that mean remained an outsider and never gained a mass following.
But the moment he approvingly named South Park and Bill Maher as corporate exceptions to the Stewart/Colbert his argument falls apart. In the first place, “South Park”, minute for minute, is essentially non-political and to praise it for the rare exceptions that it took on the powerful but also universally reviled cult /Church of Scientology is no different than when Stewart took on Republican Senators about 9/11 responders. In other words, corporate financed entertainment will have its momentary exceptions to its usual soft confrontation with power technique, but the leopard can’t drop its spots without becoming another kind of cat.
Ditto for Bill Maher. I distinctly recall how Maher became far more jingoistic immediately following his debacle with ABC corporate sponsors. The “brave” Maher” went out of his way in his next show to correct his bonafides. And let’s not forget, the man has always been a sexist. He’s learned how to protect himself… just have such a mash-up of contradictory opinions left, right and middle that you can hide under the mantle of undefinable and respected maverick . So, if you want to damn Stewart and Colbert for not being pure enough, don’t evoke someone like Maher who is even more of a corporate entertainer and a narcissistic opportunist on top of that.
Finally, Mr. Almond should remember that sometimes a cigar is a just a cigar. And enjoy the laugh. And after that, I’ll be happy to follow his example of leading the charge on the barricades… oh, I’m sorry, he isn’t a well-known liberal activist anymore than Stewart is. He’s just a cultural critic like his fallen idol.
I haven’t made a blog post in a while… saving my outrage and joy just for the 144 character Face Book status update. But here it is the last day of 2011 and I feel I must commemorate that with a longer observation on modern life.
One of the reasons I haven’t posted, besides because of the various distractions of actually living offline, is the Spam Bot’s that patrol the blog world. It leaves me with a gut of rancid bile that robs me of the motivation to blog. For, every other day, I have to clear away 1 or more spam messages from the teeth of my comment filter.
Since I set up this website primarily as a professional work site, but with occasional musings and new photograph posts as a kind of a frosting to the cake… something new or at least a bit different to round out the picture of who I am as an artist… and since I wasn’t trying to be a traditional blogger, I removed the comment box from most of my web pages (that took forever to figure out how to do) from the WordPress template.
However, that doesn’t stop one from commenting or accessing the comments if you click on such, i.e. IF I approve the comment.
Now, originally, I fully expected to never get a comment. But what’s disheartening is dealing with the spam robots who need none of those qualities to spread their guano.
I believe I have received exactly one legitimate comment, but I’ve allowed a few more to be published too, even though they are quite suspicious in their general-ness. The rest – scores of them – have gotten trashed or labeled spam. (I have yet to be faced with the moral dilemma of publishing or not publishing any vitriol regarding my opinions…)
In my pre-website creating innocence, I had no idea that these robot programs existed. I deduce that they apparently scour for any blog that exists and then deposit their droppings like so many mechanical pigeons.
There are the subtle, probable spam posts, that say something like “Great blog. I’ve been looking for something just like this” wherein the advertisement is simply getting their name and website (for exercise equipment and such things) listed after this generic comment. At first, I was snookered but then I saw the pattern where nothing specific from my blog was ever referenced. Worse is when one of these blah comments gets repeated, word for word.
I’ve also gotten a fair amount of spam in German, Italian and fractured English (this seems to be from Russia).
And then there are the grotesque paragraphs of spam advertisements for pain killers, porn, disreputable software or just junk characters that look like the bit and bite visual equivalent of a viral genetic helix
I fully expect lots of spam posts to this post about spamming.
I am tempted to actually allow them to be published to prove my point BUT that would be giving them too much power. Perhaps I will cut and paste these, removing the links and thereby foiling the Bot invasion.
One small step for Julius, one great leap for humankind!
More likely, I’ll just be too overwhelmed to bother.
And to think our ancestors were busy being devastated by things that could eat them and drag them away in the dark. Oh such petty and small complaints, huh?
Just a quick revisit to the “Blame Game” post… one that other site, another online conversation got started regarding financial regulations, Occupation Wall Street, morality and accountability.
One of the more interesting comments I got to that post (and I’m not sure if he’d want to be attributed here or not, and I stress that my paraphrasing could be inaccurate so mea culpa up front) had to do with objecting to the idea that the 1% are behaving immorally.
He made the legitimate point that wealth isolates people and sometimes creates a sense privilege that they deserve their wealth. He made it clear he knew this was nonsense, i.e., that the accumulation of wealth may or may be a result from just desserts, but that wealthy were not inherently immoral, that many are quite engaged with, and worry about the state of the world.
I really want to give this point of view its due. There really is an oversimplification with the sloganeering: we are the 99% and that the 1% is to blame and are immoral.
Clearly there are good, moral rich people as there bad, immoral poor and middle class people. And of those in the 1-ish percent that seem to have benefited directly and greatly from the recent run up to this worldwide financial crisis, some of what seems like immorality really can be attributed to isolation or isolation / arrogance.
A good example would be those who made a massive fortune by making bets on the failure of various investments (i.e. those who bought derivatives that were betting on all those foreclosures happening. These truly clever people didn’t create the system but they recognized its inherent flaws and made the proverbial killing exploiting those flaws. It wasn’t about wishing those people any ill will. It was statistical analysis of bad investments that they thought were likely to default. I really don’t see these people as evil in any sense.
Also, QUITE a few people within the 99% have enabled some of the worst behavior of a portion of the 1%.
However, I still hold true to my belief however that those within the 1-ish percent that actively lobbied to create or maintain this very rotten system do have a moral culpability, and should be held accountable. They wanted the Glass-Steagall act junked; they wanted the rules changed to be able to see investments to one party while betting against those investments with a different party; they wanted special treatment by federal government; they wanted their investment firms re-classified as banks to receive TARP funds, etc. They then funneled this money into their personal fortunes and have done everything possible to pay lower and lower taxes on these accumulated fortunes.
These people I will continue to classify as immoral and selfish. None of these actions are criminal, though a few them had been illegal prior to the lobbying to have certain laws changed, but yes I see these things as unethical. (Now of course, people have a way of compartmentalizing their behavior so they can be highly ethical and moral in one aspect of their lives and the reverse in another… so even here, there can be complicated patterns of black, white and a multitude of grays.)
Unfortunately in our mass media age, if a message isn’t simple – in black and white with no shades of gray – the mainstream media will ignore that message and the consumers of such media will not watch / read beyond the headline.
So it’s become an unfortunate necessity that OWS is so simplistic in its messaging, though I don’t know if that was planned or just a result of the non-hierarchal aspect of the movement. But the topic has quite fortunately been raised.
But thoughtful people everywhere have a duty to deepen the conversation, now that it has been begun.
If you were to Google my name, you might come across a couple of obscure law journals which name me as the Tea Party activist in a lawsuit against a particular California election law. This would seem particularly odd, since anyone who knows me, knows I am a die-hard liberal.
In fact, some of them only half-jokingly call me a socialist. That’s utterly untrue as I accept capitalism as a necessary evil. After all, it is the best system for creating wealth. However, as capitalism also tends to concentrate wealth, and wealth entwines into politics, unregulated capitalism leads to plutocracy, oligarchy and even fascism.
So yes, I particularly believe in strong regulation of capitalism, a graduated income tax and re-distribution of wealth and certain, yes, socialist institutions like a national health care system. Very not, Tea Party positions.
But I joined a lawsuit against a California election law that I think is bad for a number of reasons – one being that it doesn’t allow write-in votes, or rather the law allows them but specifically says that they will not be counted. So I proved useful to this suit because I live in a district that was having a special election. At the behest of the lawyer bringing this case forward, I registered as a Tea Party member and then tried to vote for myself in order to show that I was harmed by this law. To repeat, it was his idea that I register as a Tea Party member because it is not one of the parties officially recognized by the state of California, as well as for other strategic reasons legally and politically which are not for me to discuss.
However, why would somebody with my leftist political views make this profound sacrifice of identification??? Below is the partial explanation, made in an online comment to the writer of one of these obscure law journals. (Note – at the lawyer’s request, I ended up deleting one clause below, the one about the Tea Party being a re-brand of the Republican base… so my comment letter was published without it. I re-insert it here on my own website.)
An Activist Yes, But Not a “Tea Party Activist”
Dear Mr. Eris,
As I am the subject of the headline of your July 20, 2011 story (“Top-Two open primary faces legal challenge from Democrat-turned-Tea Party activist”), I would have hoped that you would have contacted me directly to understand the nuance of my actions, for now it absolutely behooves me to make a correction and clarification of that headline: while I am certainly an activist, in no sense could I accurately be labeled a “Tea Party activist”, as that term is popularly understood today.
In the first place, I do not adhere at all to the current policy positions of what the media typically labels as Tea Party issues, since such have become nothing more than the issues of a re-branded right-wing Republican base.
Then you may be wondering why I tried to register as a Tea Party member, an action that could so easily be misconstrued as making me a supporter of anti-unionism and the like, which I absolutely am not.
I agreed to this action of trying to become a “Tea Party” registered voter and potential candidate, not only because it would be an efficacious means to legally challenge what I consider to be an unconstitutional and unfair law, but also because it has a moral justification, as I do agree with the original Boston Tea Party impulse.
For it is important to remember that there is another, original aspect of the amorphous modern Tea Party movement that spiritually harkens back to that revolutionary protest in the Boston Harbor.
After all, this modern protest was partially born, at least amongst some of its initial adherents, of an inchoate rage that something with wrong with the System itself. This failure of the System was exemplified by the bailout of the banks and big brokerage houses while score upon score of ordinary Americans were losing their jobs, their pensions and their homes.
The Top-Two Open Primary law was deceptively sold to the public, and moreover disenfranchises Independents and the small parties – both in the “No Party Preference” label for such candidates and even more importantly, precluding a write-in candidate (thus a version of Lisa Murkowski’s write-in Senate victory could never happen in California).
The colonial Tea Party was not a protest against taxation per se, but a protest against taxation without representation. It was the lack of representation that was the motivation and rationale for the American defiance against the Crown. It is that original Boston Tea Party ideal for true democratic representation for which I am an activist and why I became a party to this law suit.
Thus a potential correction of your original headline would be “…challenge from Democrat-turned-original ‘Tea Party’ activist” but only if an explanation of my motivations were also included within the body of the article, that I am re-appropriating a piece of American history. Right wing conservatives do not own an exclusive trademark on patriotic American symbols after all.
Below a long response (or call it a well-reasoned rant) I made in someone else’s blog. That person, who truly seems to be a thoughtful decent man as well as a successful businessman, was attempting to strike some kind of middle ground regarding Occupation Wall Street and the articulated goals of their consensus. I say “their consensus” because they operate along the line of a pure Athenian democracy, have only temporary facilitators instead of leaders, etc. So, for now, it’s clearly more of a social movement rather than a political movement like the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, and therefore, OWS has no hierarchy to present a truly articulated list of political goals.
Well, this business man wrote, to paraphrase, yes the system is broken and needs to be fixed and people have a right to be angry about that, but that it is not constructive to blame or specific people – in particular, doing such acts as marching in front of certain financial figures homes and condos as the OWS did about two weeks ago – and furthermore, people in the 99% had to accept responsibility for their own financial failures. He didn’t say this specifically but I think the implication was particularly if your home had been foreclosed, then it was your own fault.
While compared to so many who have denigrated and dismissed OWS, his civil tone and conciliatory admission of systemic fault was very welcome and should be applauded, I nonetheless immediately felt angry… I worked through that emotion and produced the following (slightly revised from the original for clarity):
“I disagree. It is absolutely essential to point the finger and actually create accountability and ramifications for their behavior that very, very nearly created a world-wide depression. The system is broken because of the greed, yes greed – no reason to play semantics, of those that benefited from the breaking of the system. Congress didn’t repeal the Glass-Steagall Act (legislation created after the Great Depression that had successfully regulated the banks for approximately 50 years), and other financial regulations for fun. It did so because wealthy contributors wanted them to do so. Then what had been illegal became legal and the floodgates were wide open for what has happened to our economy and much of the world’s.
The more than 1% deserve all of the social and moral approbation that they’re getting. And much more.
(Obviously, it’s not just the financial system that is broken – the Supreme Court’s equating of money and speech for the past 100 years, has logically created a democracy where the person with more money has more speech, and thus is “heard” more easily. Almost all politicians follow the money – nearly all Republicans overtly, and most Democrats in a combination of the overt and subvert – and are therefore in obeisance to the will of a moneyed elite. So, Republicans universally opposed re-regulating the Street, while Democrats put forward regulations that for the most part are more fig leaf than substantive.)
If there are neither financial ramifications (since the tax payers have done and will continue to do the bailing out, and in general, the financial decision makers have NOT lost their jobs or fortunes) nor any legal repercussions (since the laws were changed), a similar financial meltdown is going to happen all over again.
That is one of the great services that the OWS people are doing. Their righteous indignation – as amorphous and without nuance that it sometimes is – is creating an environment politically where it might actually lead to the politicians literally hearing those without money for a change, and actually re-instituting sane regulations on the banking and investment industries.
As for the responsibility of the 99%, certainly some home buyers were foolish in buying something well over their income level, but there was also quite of lot of deceptive practices in the real estate and mortgage industries, and/or understandable ignorance too. Plus, there are those who have gone “underwater” through no fault of their own even though they have been making payments. Or, those who were keeping up on their payments then lost their jobs (thus their homes) because of the domino effect from the worldwide financial meltdown.
In other words, real people suffered and lost everything they owned or everything they had for their retirement in totally unrelated industries because of those bankers and investment companies who profited from the inflated real estate and other investment markets, i.e. from all of the derivatives and credit default swaps and other convoluted, complicated financials instruments that finally collapsed upon themselves, precipitating a financial black hole that then led to bankruptcies and lay-offs and local, state and national government (Iceland!) defaults around the globe.
So, why shouldn’t someone who is losing their house, is being laid off through fault of their own, has lost their retirement savings, and all other losers in this glorified Ponzi scheme NOT blame the ones who both profited from this financial system, AND then were made whole by tax payer money when their financial house of cards collapsed? Yes, even Goldman Sachs could have gone under without a government bailout. So, why shouldn’t the losers say, “I didn’t cause this mess, so why not bail me too?” Or even: “Okay I messed up and made some stupid financial decisions but they did too, so why not me?”
Capitalism obviously runs on greed, but if there isn’t enough people in power to counter that greed with strong restrictions (including a sane tax policy) on that greed, in the long term capitalism will fail all but the very, very few and America will slowly corrode as a world power. It seems to me that Argentina which was of rough equivalence economically to the US at the turn of the 20th Century is a good example of what happens to a country when wealth is hyper concentrated.
You can say that greed is part of human nature, but another defining characteristic of what it means to be human, is cooperation. So, if the roughly 1% don’t acknowledge their culpability and accountability (and they certainly have not) and do things to make amends for the vast damage they have done to so many people not just in this country but the entire world, then somebody else has to create equilibrium. For that reason alone, I see the people of OWS as being great patriots.”
Of course, Fred disagreed with me. I followed up with this (and some more):
“So bringing this back to OWS and the Blame Game and personal responsibility. Blame IS a dangerous game. Throughout history, individuals and groups (usually some minority) have been blamed unfairly and incorrectly, and thus great evil has been perpetuated. BUT in the instance of the most recent worldwide financial meltdown, Wall Street is not a scapegoat but directly responsible. They can’t be prosecuted because they successfully lobbied to have the laws changed; they haven’t lost any power, influence, position or cash (except for Lehman Bros) because the TARP program was no strings attached. So there’s only one thing left, and that is, for a lot of people to say, no Lloyd Blankfein, you are not “doing God’s work”. You and the rest of the arrogant people in the financial industry are part of the problem. Social embarrassment is all that’s left to force these people to cooperate. Actual people, not a faceless “system” have to be held accountable.”
More disagreements. Dan’s comment: “And if you’re relying on “social embarrassment” to make people do the right thing, I have to ask, “Have you met these people?” As long as they’re making pantloads of money, they’re embarrassed all the way to the bank.” (I would say that I’m not relying on it but rather there just isn’t anything better. I am hoping, however, that the politicians get scared.) And Fred’s: “And maybe I am less quick to demonize those Wall Street titans because I actually know several of them and I know that they are mostly not indifferent and not immoral. Often arrogant, yes. But I don’t think that’s a hanging offense.”