It’s like the French Revolution, but in reverse

    Instead of following my heart tonight and writing about the colossally fucked-up narcissist John Edwards, I’ve decided to share a link to a BBC piece about why we Americans so often vote against our own best interests. (I love watching the relatively level-headed Brits trying to understand the Tea Partification of their former colonies.) The best part of the article is the contribution by Thomas Frank, the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Here’s a highlight:

    ….Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America’s poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.

    Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

    “You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining… It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.”

    As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

    And here, according to the author of the article, is the big takeaway message from all of this… “If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them. They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best. There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots. As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing. And that makes anything as complex or as messy as healthcare reform a very hard sell.”

    So, I guess, with that in mind, the next time we Democrats select a candidate, we should look for some affable, moderately attractive, football-loving, beer-drinking regular guy who can speak vaguely about good and evil, the importance of family, and how we Americans are the best people God ever put upon the face of the earth, without ever proposing legislation to address the serious structural problems that our country is facing, or, for that matter, even letting us know that such issues exist. (And it probably wouldn’t hurt if he was white.) Because, as we know, Americans don’t want to be told such things. Or, here’s another thought. It might take a little longer, but we could instead focus on educating our population so they’re not such a mouth-breathing mass of gibberish-spouting morons, throwing around words like Socialist, Communist and Fascist as though they’re interchangeable, and raving about “death panels.” Seriously, the only way to change the course we’re on is to focus on education. The Republicans are brilliant in that respect. By defunding public schools, and fighting for voucher programs so that kids can attend religious schools, where they can be taught that men rode around on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago, they’re creating a nation of easily exploitable morons. It not only makes the public less able to think critically, though. It also makes the teachers’ union, one of their most significant adversaries, considerably weaker… We need to start thinking strategically too.

    I thought that I’d be less depressed if I wrote about this, instead of John Edwards, but I was wrong.

    Good night, my invisible friends.

    Posted in Observations, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

    Severed heads across the border

    17552_460946230121_712105121_11079479_8374023_nA girl in Ontario did the unthinkable a few days ago. She had herself permanently disfigured in order to curry favor with an online cult, and gain a 2% discount on all future purchases from their gift shop.

    Speaking of severed unicorn heads, there must be something in the water these days. After a long period of relative quiet, the site’s getting traffic again. In fact, I have to make a painting for a guy in Nebraska tonight. He’s leaving the design up to me, but requests that the severed head have fangs, and be bleeding mercury. He also wants it to say, “I won’t be tamed.” It should be cool.

    Posted in Art and Culture, Special Projects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

      Bye, Murph

      murph_main1For his years of loyal service to this great City of ours, I’d like to thank city planner Richard Murphy for a job well done. For those of you that might not have heard the news, Murph yesterday accepted a position working for Conan Smith, doing transportation/transit and transit-oriented development policy research and regional advocacy at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. Having known Murph since he was a grad student at the University of Michigan, I know that this is the kind of thing that he’s always wanted to do, and I’m very happy for him. Although it’s with some regret that I make this announcement, I’m happy that our community will have him at the Suburbs Alliance, pushing for things like regional train service.

      And before any of you assholes out there start criticizing his performance here, as you invariably do when anyone leaves City government, and making with your “rats off a sinking ship” quips, I’d ask you to remember that Murph is planning to continue living here in Ypsi, and that, if we’re lucky, we might be able, once he’s established in his new position, to convince him to volunteer in some capacity. Regardless of whether the City has the money to bring in a new full-time City Planner, I think that we’re going to need Murph and his experience going forward. So, before you go shooting your mouth off about Water Street, which was fucked long before he joined the administration, I’d ask you to keep that in mind.

      He hasn’t responded yet, but I’ve asked Murph to submit to a public exit interview here on the site. In hopes that he agrees, please feel free to leave your questions here.

      [The photo above, taken of Murph at Waster Street, was from a piece about him on Concentrate. The photo was taken by photographer Dave Lewinski. My hope is that they don't mind my using it here.]

      Posted in Rail, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

      J.D. Salinger and Howard Zinn run off that crazy cliff

      “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

      STsalingerI loved J.D. Salinger, and he died today. I’ve been out drinking among the phonies in his honor. First Vonnegut, and now Salinger. I don’t know how much more I can take. I hate being an adult. I hate seeing people I care about die. It’s especially painful when there’s no one worth a damn to take their places.

      I fear that, now that Salinger is dead, there will be a Catcher in the Rye movie – something which, up until now, he’d been dead set against. I think it’s probably just a matter of time. In fact, I bet that producers have already started working on it. I ran the idea by my friend Jeff, and he suggested that Michael Cera would probably play Holden. I think he’s probably right. I’d thought that it would be someone younger, like one of the kids from Disney’s The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, or perhaps one of the Jonas Brothers, but, Jeff’s right, it’ll go to Michael Cera.

      Whoever it is, it’ll suck.

      The only good thing about Salinger dying… and I know that sounds terrible… is that we might now get to read some more of his work. Rumor had it that he’d been writing for these past 45 years, non-stop, and warehousing the stories in the rafters of his home in Cornish, New Hampshire. I can’t even begin to fathom what there might be, waiting to be published. Of course, he could have destroyed it all before he died. I wouldn’t put it past him. He was, from what I hear, a man with massive issues and a violent temper.

      I was listening to hate radio tonight, driving home from work. Michael Savage was on. And he, in between insane rants, said something that I found interesting. He didn’t elaborate, but he suggested that Holden Caufield, the young protagonist in Catcher in the Rye, was a modern imagining of Huckleberry Finn. I liked that idea. I liked imaging an invisible line connecting two of the best books ever written in the English language. And it made me wonder who, if anyone, might come along to give us the third installment.

      But, it isn’t just Salinger who died today. Progressive historian, and hero of the left, Howard Zinn died too.

      And, in honor of Professor Zinn, I’d like to leave you with this lecture on the so-called “good” wars of America. If you’ve never had the opportunity to read A People’s History of the United States or any of his other books, it’s a great way to get to know the man and what he stood for.

      If you didn’t watch it, you should. It’s enlightening. He talks about George Washington calling for the execution of mutineers in New Jersey, and other things we didn’t hear about in grade school. I’d love to go on, and tell you some more of the things that he mentions, but I’m tired. And I need to sleep. I will tell you this, though… I think it’s clear that he feels that we Americans have a predilection for violence. We’re short tempered, and impatient. He mentions that the Canadians, for instance, gained independence from England without bloodshed, and that every other country in the western hemisphere was able to rid itself of slavery without resorting to civil war. And, somewhere toward the end, he confesses to having dropped bombs on innocent Germans during World War II. It’s ugly and fascinating stuff – American history presented as a series of decisions meant to consolidate power among a ruling elite and demonstrate overwhelming power.

      Goodbye my friends.

      Posted in Art and Culture, History, Observations, Other | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

      Like the Watergate burglars, only dumber

      DSC02024.jpgRemember James O’Keefe, the guy who, about six months ago, made a name for himself by dressing like what a well-off, white suburban kid thinks that a pimp looks like, and telling ACORN workers that he wanted to open brothels in their neighborhoods? Well, he’s back in the news today. It seems as though he and some buddies ( Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan) tried to recreate that magic moment in Conservative history that was the Watergate burglary, and got busted in the process. They were apparently in New Orleans, dressed like phone company employees, trying to tap the phones of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.

      As one of the men arrested (Robert Flanagan) is the son of William J. Flanagan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, I’m guessing that this wasn’t simply a prank, as some are trying to position it in the media. Someone brought O’Keefe, the master operative, to New Orleans. And someone put this crack team of dumb-asses together. It’ll be interesting to see what the FBI find when they search their homes and waterboard their friends. Right now, it’s looking like Republican activist and media mogul Andrew Breitbart may have been the man in charge, but it’s still too early to tell.

      Anyway, what O’Keefe did was commit a felony on federal property, and he’ll most likely be going to prison for it. One can only hope that, when he gets there, he meets new friends who share his enthusiasm for racist buffoonery.

      So, there you go, Republicans, you’ve got yourselves another martyr – another G. Gordon Liddy for the Twitter generation.

      Posted in Media, Politics, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

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