I don't know if you want to call the NaNo cops on me or something, but I've changed my initial plan to 'anything I write for immediate or eventual consumption by others counts' because that's how I write in the first place, and because there's really no way I'll succeed otherwise, I don't think. So I'll end up with two NaNo counts by the end of the month - the King of Limbs story and the Total. I still sit down every day and try to at least write a grand, but I have to step up my game without a doubt. So there's that. 

I did pretty well in an interview for employment with Teavana. That's pretty exclusively December holiday hire, possible permanent since their barista's leaving for greener pastures. Possible employment at Weekend's Only in the warehouse, but I haven't gotten an interview scheduled, so. Doing some unenthusiastic fast food drops, submitting my resume to some better positions possibly related to writing for dolla dolla bills. I dunno, really. 

Okay, this is long. It's under a cut. 

This is that cut. You know what to do. )
Ok, it's December and that means it's the start of the Christmas season. For one reason or another, I frequently rue this time of year. If it's not because I'm working retail, it's because I've got no gig at all. I'll go on the record and say that my last two years were the best I've had in about a decade, but I'm back in the slump again. It's a tough month to not be able to afford presents and it kind of sucks to be in that situation and hoping for Christmas money from relatives because it'll go to making sure they don't cart my automobile away. 

Don't worry, though. I'm not in hysterics about the situation like I was last time. This is the more pragmatic look at the situation, but it's the same for me as it is for thousands of Americans throughout the country. I was a guy who, even if he wasn't always excited about it, went to work every day and took pride in doing a good job for a passable wage. The corporation who made that happened in the first place took a large number of solid-but-unremarkable jobs and turned them into below-living-wage jobs. Dell, basically, gets to pocket the remainder, so that's your microcosm for why the economy looks like it does. 

Anyway, that was actually not what I was coming here for. There was something else that I keep meaning to go on about and never got around to it. In this period of economic downturn, it frequently gets relegated to a 'future issue' that's tangential and in the effort of keeping shit focused around here (which I clearly already do a poor job of), it gets left out. But. Ahem.

First of all, realize that I read the article a while ago and don't even know who hosted it. I don't have a citation, so you'll have to take my word for it. You don't have to if you don't want to, but if you're the kind of person who wouldn't, I'll point out that you're reading a political post on LiveJournal. Not quite the hallmark of robust journalism and punditry, this. What I had read was a paleo-conservatives take on OWS; a man right out of the Nixon-to-Regan era talking about the protesters and how it's no surprise that they're unhappy.

However, he went on to say, they're treating wealth like a zero-sum game and it's not. We can always, he went on, produce more things. All the things. As much as anyone could ever want. All we have to do is make that happen. We don't have to take from the rich, and it doesn't matter if there's a huge wealth discrepancy as long as everyone has plenty of stuff. 

There, that's what we're talking about, today. And it's a very reasoned and solid talking point from a reasonable fellow. It's also totally and completely a) wrong and b) missing the point. 

The wealth discrepancy exists and anyone who tries to tell you differently is either terribly mislead (if it's on the street) or in someones pocket (if it's on television). There are a million charts and graphs that will tell you this, and most of them are right. The problem isn't that the 99% don't have enough stuff. It's that they can't afford what they need. Pro-One Percenter's will tell you that we're practically overflowing with things, which is probably true. But a television, smart phone, or game station is cheap. They're the circuses that go along with our McBread. It's gas, cars, houses, and groceries. Saying everyone has a cell phone is obfuscation. We don't want cell phones. We don't want stuff. We don't have security.

More then that, though, the truth is that we actually can't make a never ending stream of useless crap. There's a limited amount of oil for gas and plastics, there's a decaying infrastructure that we're ignoring, and there's the fact that Americans are gobbling up the production of an entire planet. But these are things that can and will run out.

I love 'process' as much as the next guy. It's a fun myth that makes us feel pretty good about ourselves and how we live in the 'future'. And I'll be honest and say that the things we can do amaze me, excite me, and make me feel positive about a hypothetical future. That said, we've intentionally developed an economy that we insist needs to keep growing. It's a consumer economy and that's what capitalism is based on. If we had a never ending supply of material to go with a never ending growth rate of new consumers, that'd be fine. We don't. And that's it.


Our stuff is designed to break because that means we buy more stuff when we don't have to. The lessons we're taught about being frugal and buying things to last all tank our economy and our economy is a construct to facilitate the wealth of our nation. But if you want to know the end lesson of our economic goals, let me tell you that we're already doing it right. This is the end result. This is the economy working as intended. It's basically slave labor and shit that breaks in a closed cycle. And if you think that's a bad thing, you have to re-think capitalism, because we can't afford it. Eventually scarcity is going to be a thing. And peak oil is already here. You can see it from the end of your driveway.

We must become accustomed to the idea that we have limited resources. It only seems like we don't because we've been taking from everyone else. If you want the absolute truth, I've been told that if we spread around the wealth into a number where everyone's got the same number of resources, they'd be scant indeed. I don't know what the number is, to be honest with you, but the argument was against a perceived idea of 'fairness'. They were saying, 'look, if you really wanted to be fair, this is what you'd have. now shut up and go back to your first world problems, because you're the global 1%.' All that tells me is that we're still doing it wrong.
atolnon: (Default)
( Nov. 17th, 2011 02:42 pm)
I'm getting some shit together because I've volunteered to be moral support on, like, a 20 hour road trip to the east coast and back for animal rescue. On one hand I feel like, "Shit. I feel like I need to do this, so I'm gonna." and on the other hand it's, "ROAD TRIP WHOOOO." Once we're an hour in, both are going to change to "Ho hum.", so anyway, that's what's on my plate right this moment.

In that vein, I've got some stuff I need to attend to. I've done some, and then I looked at the clock and thought "2:30 PM? What. That is ridiculous nonsense." because I don't have all day. I need to be somewhere at 6:30 to play a game then it's back to Belleville to sleep so I can rooooaaaaad trip.

Yesterday, Katie and I were talking about how ridiculously overwhelming shit has become. Much of the stuff we thought we could blow off as hippy shit or just ignore outright seems to be biting us in the ass. Basic shit like temperature and weather change and the beginnings of what appears to be a legitimate energy/gas crises on one side and the feeling that not only have we been fucked politically and economically, but we can actually see the brand and tread of the boot that's stepping on our face forever. It's gotten to the point that it doesn't just matter if we're working, because we can pretty clearly see what's changed. Someone made a mistake and the change was a bit too rapid, and now you've got thousands of people on American streets for months at a time calling that particular bluff.

There's a sense that everything's kind of screwed up and the people protesting arn't doing it because it's fun, though it might be exciting in the sense that someone might feel like they're actually doing something, no matter how small, to make their voice heard and to meet up with like minded people. No, it's being done because we're desperate and there's a definite sense that voting hasn't and won't make a difference. It doesn't matter how mad you are or how much it's reported if the people sent to be voted on all opt to screw you.

You can argue that some people are more gentle about it, but you're still pretty unhappy about the end result.
atolnon: (Default)
( Nov. 11th, 2011 01:20 pm)
There's never enough time even if you're extremely diligent and on the ball so I guess it's easy to imagine how I would be looking at my short term to-do list and still notice that I'm going to come up lacking something by the end of the day. I mean, I feel like that every day. I'm just saying there's a good reason for it.

I did end up finishing Dragon Age II. It's better then Dragon Age : Origins, which was a fine game in its own right, but it's not without its own quirks, problems, and attendant issues. I'd prefer to talk about that tomorrow in its own separate post.

Obviously, you're still seeing the Occupy stuff on the news, the internet, or really anywhere you opt to look. Step one, if you'd have asked me, is to get your voice hear. Occupy the media, if you will. You can't really even begin to start speaking until you get someones attention. As far as that goes, I think there has already been a lot of people speaking to the accusations that the Occupy groups are unclear or simply have nothing substantial to say, but other rebukes to that aside, you're really not going to get thousands of people across the nation, not to mention the globe, without having - if not one specific issue - a broad base of issues that fall under a general heading of 'inequality'. I don't know if I have a lot to say about it specifically, anymore, except to continue to voice my support, but I'll let you know if something concrete comes up.

Briefly, our Exalted game continues to run. Unlike Occupy, I have a lot to say about this, but I'm trying to determine if any of it is actually new and if any of it is actually useful. One thing I can say in definite terms is that one of the problems I've mentioned in the past, which I've mentally dubbed 'The Tyranny of an Agenda' continues to dominate the game. We're in such a rush to get 'through the game' that a lot of the individual bits are actually just washed out.

By way of example, there was a zombie uprising in a town spread by illness. We actually saved villagers in a montage of all the fucking things and didn't roll any dice at all in order to do it. I rolled to pilot our airship and actually had our ST turn to look at me and go, "What are you doing?"
"Rolling to see how well you pilot the airship."
"There's no need." and then he told us what we did to rescue the few survivors who we unceremoniously dumped into an adjacent field. The only attention they received was the coin I insisted I give them - an act that was not just ignored by the ST, but by our entire group. We then went to a show down with a characters old mentor where nothing happened but us receiving a part of a prophecy that showed us something our old characters had done several years ago in a plot point that had yet to occur in this game.

Result of a 5 hour game? Nothing happened at all. There was one dice roll that had any effect. Let me tell you that this was not a fun game. It wasn't a game at all. The end.

There, looks like you got a rant anyhow. I apologize, but I guess I needed to get that frustration off my chest. I literally could have not showed up and asked for a recap when we were done and had exactly as much of an effect on the proceedings. It feels like I'm playing the character in a JRPG who gets left on the airship while the others players do stuff and my guess is I feel like that because it is literally what happens every single game.
atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 12th, 2011 02:22 pm)
We had an Exalted game on Monday, and I had a few things I wanted to talk about in terms of gaming, but lately I've gotten so frustrated trying to explain the Occupy movement to people making wrong or outright disingenuous statements that I'm almost sick to my stomach. So my nerves are raw, my last day is Friday, and I can't really get it all out of my system.

The Occupy movement has never been about free money. First of all, that doesn't make any real sense, except that we know that we've seen huge financial establishments fuck up big time and get a free pass. I know that if someone offered to forgive me my student loans, I wouldn't say no, but that's never been the point.

What really rubs me the wrong way isn't disagreement on principles, but just the blatant mis-characterization of what's happening. Like these 53% bozos who hold up signs saying that they've worked three jobs at minimum wage to get by like that's something that should be happening. Or like the people that tell us to get a job flipping burgers like that's going to fix our money issues.

You know what I say to someone telling me to get a McJob like that's the solution to my problems? Fuck you. Because all my life I've heard, "If you don't do well, you'll end up saying 'do you want fries with that?', so you'd better go to college and study hard." So I did, and I'm seeing this line and thinking, "You know what, fine. We'll all go down to the fucking McDonalds and apply. I guess it was this easy all along! Hey McDonalds, do you have room for all the unemployed in America? Well, do you?"

But fuck it. Because it's a simple answer to a complex problem, ain't it? And I guess every time you see a commenter on the news talking about how not enough new jobs are being made to even keep up with the birthrate, that must be the unemployed's fault, too. But hey, all that tells me is that there are a bunch of smarmy people who think that we should just switch to a McEconomy.

There's a growing economic disparity. We're seeing quality of employment drop while payouts for the top tiers become geometrically larger. The average income, when accounting for inflation has declined. I don't know why anyone but the top tier would ever fight for this, but I'm not exactly seeing people who stand against OWS speak to it.

Jobs are difficult to get. The quality of jobs that are available has declined. Fewer jobs are stable, and the economic situation for many people has become precarious. Saying 'get a job, protesters' is missing the point. We want jobs. I'm not sure why wanting a good job with fair compensation has suddenly become something to be mocked for.

And rage aside, I keep hearing, "Live at or below your means, and you wouldn't be in this situation." The point is that a few years ago, people in stable jobs suddenly had their means drop drastically. Two stable jobs became one tenuous job, or no jobs at all. Values on property plummeted. People were left holding debts they struggled to pay off. It's not a few people - it was scores of them. Hundreds of thousands. People that shouldn't have probably bought homes. People that had their homes for years and suddenly found themselves unemployed. Regular Americans, trying to live a dream we've been told we should live.

"Get a job at McDonalds." How do you feed a family like that? Or pay for even a small home? Moreover, even when it's possible, why is this the highest we aspire to in America? In the richest, most prosperous country in the world? Is this what we've become?

It's embarrassing. And we're not even broke as a nation. We can make it work. We're trying to work in the system. For accountability and transparency. And I don't know why you'd fight against that.
To be 100% clear, myself and one other person went to the Occupy St Louis location downtown for only about three hours. We brought several gallons of water, a store case of pop tarts, a dozen hard-boiled eggs, and a roll of heavy duty garbage bags. I've still got one more week of work and Katie's recently been employed, so there's no question about us being able to even stay late, but it seemed disingenuous to both of us to support the movement but not do anything at all to further it.

It wasn't a lot, but it's the amount we were able to contribute.

Occupy STL was small. Much smaller then I'd prefer to see it. Around 125 or so when it's more populous and about 50 or so during periods when people leave to run errands, go to work, ect, et al. The group seems to enjoy support from a lot of people who can't really 'occupy' as much as 'turn up' - kind of like myself.

The larger the group, the messier it gets. Occupy St Louis was exceptionally clean, though. There were some complaints by protesters (as opposed to the city or police) that they weren't keeping the place as clean as was possible but when we ran a sweep, there wasn't much to pick up but old cigarette butts.

Votes and agenda where achieved through consensus, and was really very orderly. Health, safety, and politeness were the top issues along with education. Bystanders were largely supportive or silent. I think there were a total of maybe two people who yelled at us to go home or get jobs through the windows of passing cars, and everyone seemed to be aware that it would really only take one particularly bad act to spoil a generally good thing.

I'll probably be talking about this a lot more in the near future.
atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 7th, 2011 12:45 pm)
So, I'm moving this month. There are profound ways to talk about moving and there are snappy, amusing ways to do it. I feel it's a little of both, but I'm not getting anything good down from my attempts to write on it, so screw it. It's basically gonna happen, it's going to happen before it strictly needs to, and I'm basically doing it so that I'm not waiting to do it. Change is fine, but I don't care for anticipation.

And I guess that's that.

It's a pretty clear demarcation of a period in my life. That's what's profound. Not that the era was really impressive, but that it's so unusual to be able to see a time, clear as a chapter break, pass over me. When you say a new page is turned, how often can you feel the paper between your fingers?

Ok. So. This Occupy movement. I didn't really think it was that complicated, but it's already been easily mischaracterized. The popular right-wing concept is of a bunch of privileged people sitting outside demanding free money, and I'm already sick to death of trying to break the concept down into something easily understood.

Put extremely simply, there's a titanic gulf in economic disparity. Work is hard to find, and when it's found, it's often underpaying. A systemic issue is turned into a moral one. It's not. The very top tier of our population is comfortably entrenched, and the system works exceptionally well for them, but it doesn't work very well for the vast majority of us.

It's fundamentally a reform movement asking for increased accountability.

I've got a dog in this race. I'm biased. But what I'm not trying to do is take the bread out of people's mouths. What I'm saying, though, is that bread has already been taken out of people's mouths, and that's bread that was there 20 years ago. I don't think it's ridiculous that we attempt to address that as a nation. Our policy makers won't have any incentive unless we make it so. I'll try to add my voice to the people this weekend.
Obama to GOP : Pass this Bill

So, the above link doesn't tell us anything new, but it does highlight something we've come to understand; regarding spending bills, we're incredibly torn on the left. For someone like me, it's a little like watching someone repeatedly bang their head against a wall while the well-meaning neighbor looks on in morbid, horrified amusement.

Contrast : Obama's Plan Isn't Enough

What's amusing with this isn't that the article that complains about the proposed bill being too modest isn't right, because it is. It's that the bill is pretty large, but it's modest compared to the scope of the problem, but the top article is still correct - it's not going to get passed.

Let's distill this issue to the roots, because it's not quite as simple as Republican House Majority Wins (RHMW), though it's pretty close.

RHMW gives them the votes, and they've got remarkable party cohesion in the very short term. This, like the lockstep majority of the Bush II administration is something of a gamble, but it's a gamble that gives them the ability to block Obama. The goal's to make him a one term president.

The article kind of highlights that, but I think what it's missing is that not only is Obama not really going to get the votes on this, but that he doesn't have a reasonable chance of getting the votes on anything that isn't already 100% GOP. The House simply isn't operating in good faith. They're literally operating under a no-compromise agenda.

It's pretty bad, everyone. I mean, it's pretty difficult even to satirize at this point.

Contrast The Onion with : Rick Perry Cuts Firefighting, Requests Federal Aid

If you stripped The Onion's name off the first article, I'd believe it was the real thing.

I remember when G.W. was president, and the Boondock's would pretty much just draw Huey listening to Bush on television with an actual quote. Considering that we've just gotten crazier since then, it's hard to know what to write, or if we can just get our humor from FOX News and pretend it's satire.

Ahem. I've gone off on a tangent. Anyhow, given the situation, Obama doesn't have a whole lot to lose by proposing something akin to real legislation before it gets shot down and the Republicans counter with whatever programs they intend to cut in order to do whatever it is they pretend their proposal will do. Save jobs or liquidate the poor or something. I don't even know.

RHMW is, like I said, a gamble. The Bush administration decided to get realpolitick and between eight years of that and McCain selecting Palin as his running mate, Obama got elected with a solid majority. The radicals got the nod, and the Tea Party got funded, and instead of moving to the middle, the Right decided to double down on the crazy. I guess we'll see how people feel about that later.

I've had a lot on my mind, recently, and every time I sit down to type something I end up getting frustrated and quitting. I'm going to try a different strategy, and we'll see if it works. I'm just going to hit one topic at a time, and start with what I can really stop thinking about in the first place - my weird fucking work situation.

I've been out of work for almost two weeks. I'm going back to work on Monday. On exactly the same contract that let me go on July 28th. So, what the hell happened here?

It's actually pretty straightforward, if somewhat unlikely. Simply put, the company that was put on the contract bungled things so badly that the team that was running the contract previously was asked to bring upwards of fifty people back on to it. The company I was a part of lost the contract mainly for cost reasons, and because the hiring company is convinced that things will work better if they move towards an industry standard. The industry standard for customer service troubleshooting is cheap.

It's also awful.

Someone's got egg on their face, right now.

So that's my situation. I, and 49 others, are back on the job for an undefined amount of time and someone who sits in a nice office somewhere has a decision to make before the people they're bringing back for a temporary tech support job jump ship, because we've got no job security. Personally, I think it's hilarious, but I'm probably biased. It also kind of vindicates my previous smug sense of superiority which, I'm not going to lie, was the only thing salving my intense insecurity at suddenly being out of work in one of the worst economies in living memory.

But let's talk about money.
In Bellevue, WA, which is a city on the outskirts of Seattle, I started by making 15 dollars an hour and recieved a 2 dollar an hour bonus for hours worked at the end of the quarter. 17 dollars an hour isn't bad. It paid for : the ground floor of a house shared with one other person, a car, groceries, and the ability to take a plane to visit relatives when I had a seasonal vacation. If you'd like, you can book mark this three month time period as being the best off financially I've ever been.

I then lose my bonus. I'm down to 15 per hour. I'm told that raises are frozen indefinitely. This pays for a 700 a month, one bedroom apartment, utilities, food, and going out to a nice place on the weekends. I'm still able to save a little money and make car payments. I live frugally. This is pretty much the bare minimum standard of living. Washington's minimum wage is 8.55 in 2009. It's a flush 8.67 right now. That is not a living wage. In fact, the minimum wage is not a living wage. If you're living with someone else, you're squeaking by again, but that's usually enough. I'll save that tangent for another time.

I move back to St Louis, and receive a pay cut of a dollar due to 'standard of living'. I now make 14 dollars an hour. The pay cut doesn't much effect my life. I live in a 550 a month, two bedroom apartment on the second floor with my friend and roommate. I'm able to go out once or twice a week, or save money. I'm able to buy groceries and some luxuries. It's actually a comfortable life, if not one with abundant thrills. I could probably take a nice vacation if I wanted, but it probably wouldn't be very wise. If something bad happens to me, it could still ruin me financially. I eventually get a dollar raise. I'm living flush.

Before taxes, assuming no bonuses (ha!) or unpaid time off, I make about 29,000 a year at 14 an hour. If I was able to work for a year at 15, it's more like 31,000 pre-tax. That's not too bad, right?

The new workers live in either Kansas City or OKC. They make about 8.50 an hour. That's not a living wage. You can not live by yourself on that. Many of them are part time. You immediately become dependent on some one else to survive. If you make 8.50 a year, before taxes, you make roughly 17,600. That's far below poverty level, in that you cannot live on it. Median level of income in MO is 45,149. For the US, it's 50,221.* 14.3% of people are below poverty level in the US.

So, what's happened is that the hiring company has taken hundreds of jobs that were above poverty level and made them poverty level jobs.

Sure I'm happy I'm going back to work at my old rate. But the idea that someone thought this was a responsible decision in the first place is incredibly frustrating. Moreover, what did they think they'd get for that kind of money? It's embarrassing, is what. What you really get, if you ask any menial wage flunky, is someone who doesn't give a shit. When you hire someone without work, they're incredibly grateful for the income, but when you treat them badly and don't pay them enough to live, that euphoria turns to frustration, then to resentment. At some point, they say 'Fuck it.' because  the worst you can do is fire them and that means nothing.

If you didn't know for sure, then you already had a hunch it was like this. Things like this are part of why our economy sucks. Tell your friends.

* U.S. Census Bureau
Blah blah, debt ceiling.

Yesterday, I casually posted this to my Facebook feed. And now this morning, I read this.

What are these? First of all, go ahead and read 'em, if you're not familiar with 'em. The first link is something like a Russian Doll of additional links explaining the proposition floated by McConnell of Tribe Republican, which might be best explained as a proposal to let Obama lift the debt ceiling without involving Republican votes.

My first impulse was to think that there are still Republicans that are still fueled by a sense of rational self-interest. That is, they've got something to lose if businesses go under, because that's the teat that they're milking. Defaulting pretty much helps tank an already struggling economy. Even if I think they're all wrong on tax cuts for the very wealthy, this is one of those easy consensus votes.

"McConnell is drawing praise for being a grownup, and that's fair, but only in the sense that it's mature for a child to punt to her parents."* Well, I don't know who's calling him 'grownup', but I'll take Rauch at his word. I'm sure it's out there somewhere. I'm not sure if I agree with even this kind of back-handed almost-compliment, though because if the House Republicans weren't so utterly insane, I'd say that it was the most craven kind of politics - the kind of politics where you're willing to risk lighting the city afire so that you get your fiddle practice in.

Tough to say though. I mean, it's tough in that it's difficult to tell if the House Republicans are actually insane or just indifferent to the fate of the country as long as they 'win'. I'm not really sure what's worse, if it's simply a combination of not knowing, having never cared, and the taste of fame and adulation. Freshman House Republicans like Joe Walsh and Michele Bachmann are outright accusing the President of lying to Senate members and the American people**, which is hardly necessary, because Democrats know it, many Republicans know it, businesses know it, other countries know it; like I said before, this isn't the complicated calculus.

The rift between senior Republicans and younger Republicans continues to grow.

This is a natural extension of the direction taken by the Bush administration, exemplified by a quote now attributed to Karl Rove. To whit, "..And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''***

As much as I disliked the Bush administration, this new crop is even worse. Now, the Tea Party people have always been there. They're the people with a fear of a national census that still want the government to stay away from... the government entitlements that they're actively using. They're the group that believes that privilege and rights are a zero-sum game. They're also the group that has so little to worry about that they're actively worried about someone richer's taxes going up.

They'd be a farce if you only looked at their understanding of policy, but they're very loud and they're very active. They hijacked enough local elections to get a bunch of new people into the House who are either True Believers or they're willing to pretend to be in order to grab Discord's golden apple.

Unlike during the Bush administration, where the greatest strength of the Republicans was that they could act in total lockstep, during the Obama administration, they're undergoing almost apocalyptic fallout from the repercussions of that. Now the writing is on the wall - the Republicans created a tiger in Fox News, riled it up with fear and loathing, then grabbed its tail, assuming that they could let it eat the Democrats, it'd get full and sleepy, and they'd be able to let go only to discover that the tiger'll eat anything it can grab. Now, we're hoping that they're just new to realpolitik, but what we hoped isn't true. These people literally want everything to go sideways. They're nihilists. They're willing to burn our economy to ashes because their team will literally cheer while it goes up because they think that's good.

 I said that the Republicans could punt the tiger and take the momentary hit, or they can let it eat us. They are lunatics and conspiracy theorists. They're more then happy to eat you alive.

* It May Be Desperate, But At Least It's Juvenile - Rauch
** Debt-Ceiling Deal? 'Hell, No Caucas' Stands Firm - Welna
*** The panning of 'the reality-based community' is well known by now, but the article is originally from 2004. Faith, Certainty, and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Suskind. It's still worth reading as a historical article at this point. Study that reality; judiciously, as you will.
Plenty of stuff to talk about these days. I skip the politics because everything I wrote sounded kind of sanctimonious, but it boils down to not being terribly surprised that the Democrats took a bit of a beating in the 2010. Yada yada political discourse, but really, in 2008, everyone was pissed and angry about the economy. They said that they didn't care how the economy was fixed, as long as it was, but that came with two large, unspoken caveats - 1, people feel that not everything is fixed, so everything is terrible and 2, when people said that they didn't care, what they meant is that they were not paying all that much attention. Because not everything is fixed, the problem is obviously the leftist agenda or something, not the fact that problems take time to fix.

Liberals really wanted to believe that the whole country had seen what we consider to be the errors of their ways, or something. Which, if it was gonna happen, isn't going to occur in these two years. Similarly, the GOP is claiming to be speaking the will of the American people. Seriously, everyone, that's about as true as saying the whole country has turned liberal. Surprisingly, it's not that simple. In fact, it turns out that there's a huge swath of political ideologies out there ranging from outright insane to very reasonable. I know. Weird.

So, that's it. My revised political rant. Tired of the media playing this and everything in the direction that it is being played. Media, baby, please. We are trying to have a civilization here.

Um, I am pretty sure I had something else going on in my life.

I'm gonna do this NaNo thing, and probably going to fail because I have a lot going on at the moment. I will go ahead and give it a shot, though, and if you count the total number of words I blog, maybe I'll come out on top. Does that mean I should blog less and spend that time writing. Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe I'll just frigging compile these entries and say it's a compendium. Victory.

I'm stuck in Persona, right at the last boss. I had kind of bungled the final approach and my groups Personas have weaknesses which the boss exploits pretty reliable (or just Mental Charges and busts out Megidolaon like it's made outta Spell Points). I have a character which summoned Satan himself to boss around like a chump and I am being taken out by the Goddess of Difficult Morning Driving (aka fog, which is probably metaphorical or whatever).

This is somewhat frustrating.

I hate grinding. I feel that time grinding takes away from the pacing of the game, and the final fight against the boss should be a kind of dramatic, fast-paced endeavor slightly different then the attrition-oriented meat-grinder that embodies walking through countless hallways and double-checking enemy weaknesses. However, I am not a proud man. My new plan is to walk around easier areas and just build up a ton of cash and use it to summon and re-summon Personas until I have something approaching ridiculous levels, a ton of mundane items, and something approaching an optimal spell list. If I am above cheating in a game, it is only barely.
I didn't watch the whole address. It was 70 minutes long, and I had to get up to refill my drink from time to time; that's how it goes.
For the record, I thought it was a fine speech. I enjoyed it, and taken by itself, it's probably really inspirational. My reservations are severe though. Obama has a, if we're being charitable, lackluster record for GLBT rights. He can't seem to energize his side of the aisle in Congress despite having had a supermajority. It's depressing.

I expected the Republicans to dig their feet in. The Democrats swept the House and Senate, and everyone left are from states so Red that planes stop in mid-air over them waiting for favorably traffic signals. The only thing I can assume, and I understand that assumptions can cause problems, is that Democrats feel they have something to gain by not pushing bills through.

The reasons are varied but not unusual. Pathetic, but not weird. It's not entirely a matter of corruption, or anything like that, though we are kinda, sorta in the pocked of our mighty corporate and banking overlords; it's more an issue of a typically low turnover rate in Congress. Instead of being civil servants, Congress-critters are career politicians. In a year where there were record turnovers, Democrats don't want to lose their seats by shaking the boat. This seems counter-intuitive, since a desire for change sent record Democrats to their seats in the first place, but politicians are nothing if not reactionary.

I guess the other issue are the Blue Dogs and the Liebermans. This is an example of people who feel they have something to gain by waffling on their vote. They're playing politics because they know that the Democratic majority will do almost anything to ensure that they're on board. They get to look moderate and bipartisan while hitting the Dems up for everything they've got. They have a disproportionate degree of pull in national matters because of it, and it doesn't matter that we can't really get anything done. 

So, here's a small part of the problem as I see it. The Democrats had a super majority and wouldn't act on it. They lost a single seat to a Republican in Mass. and decided that it wasn't going to be possible to push legistlation through because they won't act in concert. One seat short of unprecendented, and they throw in the towel. There's got to be a reason for that, but it's a spineless and craven one.
Hey everyone! 2009 is a good year for mortality! I think in the future, there's going to be a class on the early 21st century, and when someone is asked when a person died, they will just guess 2009 and probably be right.

Or at least they might if American history classes could ever even get to the Vietnam War, which they never will. The entirety of our national historic consciousness will permanently be cemented in the days leading up to WW1, with a day focused on WW2 to remind everybody who Hitler was and that we won by dropping two massive bombs on Japan and that this was not a war crime.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not really begin this entry with an agenda, so maybe it's gets a little scattered.

I'm informed Ted Kennedy is dead. He was a kind of infamous dude, but since I'm over here on the left, he was my infamous dude. The Right (cap. 'r') has a cause to celebrate and the Left has cause to mourn. Of course! Everyone on both sides of the media went to tears of Robert fucking Novak, and he was primarily just the goon who brought us our diseased national rhetoric, full of Glenn Becks and Rush 'head of the GOP' Limbaugh. Still, Novak wasn't the worst by a long stretch, and when nobody was looking I got the impression that he intended to be honest. I'll accept that, and call it a day.

Ted Kennedy is big news, and now he won't be anymore.

In the past, you wanted him on your side. He was credible, he had pedigree, and he was good at his job. These days, the Democrats spend most of their time wringing their hands, have no decent media control, and even though they've got the large majority, can't push a health care bill through Congress even when we were sold - as a nation - on a war nobody needed on grounds that weren't true for an amount that will continue to haunt us. It's not about going into national debt so much as it is making that money do something for us after we invested it. The debt incurred in Iraq is not doing anything for us and I think it's fairly dubious how much it's done for Iraq.

Actually, how is Iraq doing these days? I don't hear anything on the news. I assume stuff continues to explode, but our numbers are gone from the television. Hell, Obama didn't get us out of there yet, but he's managed to get it off TV, and in America that's even better. As a nation, after all, we're against anything we're paying attention to but like a computer virus that we don't see, anything in the background doesn't matter. If it doesn't intrude on The Price is Right reruns or, fuck, what do the kids watch today, So You Think You Can Dance, we don't give a goddamn.

And that means that after this wailing and gnashing of teeth, we won't care about you either, Ted Kennedy. But I'll miss you. Sure, why not? A little shrine to Ted Kennedy right on top of my CRT television. I'll offer it mini bottles of booze and sticks of incense.

...on my training left over, so I'll go into this thing that I've been thinking briefly, because everyone is talking about the stimulus package and the unsurprisingly Republican response to it. By now, I'm sure everyone has taken their sides and are working with that shovel to entrench themselves before the other sides bullets mow us over, so I'll just go in for the political situation.

Matt already talked about this, but he just lurks, and he's not going to present a post on LJ about it. He mentioned it on his blog mattschmidt.blogspot.com, and he draws a link to an earlier post. We talked about this when I was back in Fairview, and he's right, but I'm surprised more people didn't see it coming. The Republicans are going fight any compromise, and they're going to try to sink every bill. It's starting here, but it certainly won't end here, and nobody should claim to be surprised.

I appreciated the overtures of bi-partisenship that the Obama administration was making and, indeed, you can play political hardball without being rude about it. After all, it's all in how you vote. But to be clear, the Republicans will take anything the Democrats give them, and they'll never conceed in inch, no matter how civil the administration is. As long as the red team doesn't conceed a single senator, they can stonewall and even if they don't, they can make life exceedingly difficult.

And they're going to.

I thought this was interesting: www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/01/08/damage/index.html
and you might have to deal with an ad, but you don't need to be registered to read it. Once again, I find the dollar values affixed to things to be interesting, even fascinating in their momentus nature. I can't lay this at the feet of G.W., but I can lay a large amount of it at the feet of the Bush administration and, to a fair degree, to the mindset that allowed this to happen. It was and remains a national mindset that we can blow these things off without really worrying, but many of the issues raised in the article are nuts-and-bolts issues.

Part of it is, I believe, the terrifying religious faction that is the dominant strain in the White House - an apocalytic brand of Christianity that really oughtant call itself by the religion it splintered from, in that they can't even get preperation for the end of the world right.

The other is, I suspect, a totally out of proportion look at cost-to-result ratios. The writer mentions 12 billion dollars a month in Iraq. I'll wait while you try to wrap your mind around 1 billion, then realize that 12 of those a month are falling down the hole that is our Iraq policy. (Meanwhile, our soldiers make a little over 100 bucks a day, while contrators make over 600 so I guess you can be the judge of if you approve of that.) The Admin proposed that we go to war with the assumption of 60 billion total, which is still considered a pretty high* price.

Now, New Orleans is still in bad, bad shape. It costs 1 billion to rebuild levies, and they haven't been raised yet. Not a priority, I guess. Costs too much?

Our administration was either stupid or corrupt (or both) and the rest of our government was complicit. This is going to take a long, long time to fix. History is just going to bury its head in its hands and ask how any group of people could be so dense, but I think we can do better.

*lawl, 60 billion is 'pretty high'.

atolnon: (Default)
( Dec. 17th, 2008 07:10 am)
I'm shocked that the bank bailouts haven't been more successful in providing an atmosphere where consumers are confident and banks will give loans again. In a move nobody could really predict, it turns out that much of the money has just vanished, that the small entry-level sum of 350 billion dollars has become difficult to account for, and that banks have not really changed their highly-successful MO.

I'm not really sure what the cause of this is, because the attitude and culture of our financial institutions are particularly healthy and their spending habits are historically transparent and free of fraud. I'm sure that once they get into the next 350 billion, things will surely turn around, and I'm hoping that the Bush administration gets the permission to dispense that early. Everyone, we can't stop now, otherwise the starter funds will be a waste. We'll need to funnel that full amount in there as soon as possible, and possibly lobby for additional funds to be spent on the faltering financial complex.

I understand the hesitancy of banks to provide loans to the American public at this time, because the long-term prospects just arn't what we need at this time, but I'm hoping that the institutions will find it in their hearts to use some of this tax money they've received for the good of the public, even though I don't feel they've got any particular obligation to do so. After all, they've already poured so much money into financing the American political process over the years out of humble charity that they've surely paid their debt several times over. In addition, I realize that the initial 350 billion dollars is kind of a small sum. It's difficult to shore anything up with a number like that, and I understand that many government institutions would wither on the vine with that kind of marginal bailout. The education system, for example would scoff at the mention of 700 billion dollars, not to mention a paltry half-sum like 350. It's basically pocket change, but it's the number the government could spare without causing long-term financial issues for the nation at large. We can at least rest assured that this isn't something that's going to hurt us in the long run.
I've heard some crabbing online about the future Obama administration already, which doesn't surprise me. Right-wing media and politicos* really have a hard time not taking any advantage to snipe, no matter how tenuous or contradictory to previously held positions while the left is forever biting its own foot off to escape from an imaginery bear trap. I speculate this is because the right is always feeling defensive and the left is always feeling the effects of self-loathing - the desire to be true to the cause (whichever cause) while feeling like as soon as someone has made it big (or just been elected), they're already subsumed into the greater mess that compromises integrity.

In this way, the left constantly turns on itself in order to keep its own credibility. I doubt it has much to do with being fair as much as it has to do with identification issues.

Obama is taking a centrist approach to cabinet picks, and my speculation is two-fold. One, he has never advertised that he was going to be a dramatically leftist president. Two, he is attempting to quickly build mainstream political goodwill and build a base to operate off of. Liberman gets his slap on the wrist and Clinton gets to opt on Sec. of State, since she didn't get Pres. or VP. The first is a nod to working across the isle and is a 'the devil you know' approach. The second is a nod to keep both Bill and Hillary happy. Hillary needs something after that fall she took, and a nod in Obama's speeches isn't going to do it. 

I think the importance of this is two-fold. First, I hear grumbling from leftists, and I share those sentiments somewhat, being something of a radical myself. But I'm pragmatic when it comes to where our government is coming from - what I assumed is that Obama, no matter how far to the left he might feel that he is personally, is holding his ideas as a citizen to be different then his actions as a President. This is the same thing that I would do, and I can already imagine the dissapointment and surprise it might generate. Our political system is somewhat in shambles, so it needs to be handled with care. I imagine that the first impulse is to see Obama running as something of a centrist and then veer sharply to the left, punishing neo-cons and generally acting like the hand of a left that had spent 8 years disenfranchised. The left prayed for it, and the right feared it, but it's not coming to pass in the way they expected.

Second, i don't think Obama ever planned on veering into the relm of severe left-wing rhetoric. He's planning on operating as a centrist, but his policies are going to in a large part be things designed to mitigate the damage done over 8 years and that's a slow process. No matter what you do, you'll probably need to start from the center and pull because that's where we're at, now. In the long run, I don't think the Republicans will back Obama. I think they'll take what he gives them with a smile, and then whenever he tries to do something, they'll still dig their heels in. It's media capital I think he's expecting to get, so we'll see if his approach yeilds results.

I took a bit of a break from the news, so I might check back in soon with how I feel about what he's actually doing. Everything is second hand right about now to me.

* not 'people', or citizens, or whatever. I am talking media and political machinery in both cases.

atolnon: (Default)
( Nov. 7th, 2008 07:39 am)
I don't think that anybody who knows me has any suspicion how I feel about the infamous Prop. 8, but this is the internet where everyone gets to have a say and I also believe that the more people that speak up and make their feelings known, the better. When it comes to local politics, I don't quite know where to turn, since I'm not sure what makes me a citizen of Washington or Illinois, I just know that I've got a mailing address here but I'm not registered to vote, and I am in IL. I think that means that I send a letter to Springfield, but anyhow.

Prop. 8 is a California thing, but it makes national news because it's a loaded topic that's on the nation's mind. There are a lot of people that supported the measure, and it got a lot of fairly dubious funding. Regardless of the interests that funded it, people still got the vote out in support of it, which means that the citizens of the state voted in favor of it, if barely. California's laws are different from most other states in that it only takes a simple majority of voters as opposed to a clear majority to pass, and that's actually good news from where I'm sitting.

No, not good news overall. Good news would have seen the proposition crushed under a locomotive. I will have to take what I can get.

California passed a measure to allow gay men and women to marry, and now a proposition is passed that they cannot. This is indicative of a larger struggle in the national mindset where this issue has become something people will talk about and vote over. That is went through the first time is a landmark, albeit a small one. That a proposition needed to be massively funded and barely passed demonstrates, to me, that this last ditch effort to stymie the tide of progressiveness.

It won't work. It's out of the bag now. This right, once given voice on the national stage, will never allow itself to be put back in the box. It will take some time, but we really must dedicate ourselves to sticking by our rights, as fellow humans, to create a better world for ourselves and others. Bills may be passed, but it is keeping the ideal in our minds and living it on a day to day level that eventually changes things and we're not about to go away.
atolnon: (Default)
( Nov. 4th, 2008 09:20 pm)
Celebration drinks are vodka and water.

What? I'm out of everything else. It's not what you drink, it's how you drink it.

Let's be clear, though. I follow politics heavily, and both 8 and 4 years ago, I ate bitter crow. The presidential elections are the one thing that I've consistently gotten wrong even while I nailed everything else.*

I'm not a moderate. I'm a radical . It's difficult to be farther left then I am, and that's something I recognize. But tomorrow, we witness a world where the earth and sky don't recognize our political difference. These are things that we've constructed as convenient abstractions of fantastically complicated systems. We're all in this together, so let's act like it.

* I didn't always. I'm pretty good at this, but not perfect at all.
This is politics, not of a particularly mean sort, but you know how it goes.

Read more... )



atolnon: (Default)


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