Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

The Free Market: Costlier Every Day

Conservatives don't want us to take control of banks
as that would involve the gov in the free market
...a market that led to toxic assets & zombie banks.

"Let the market do it's job," they shout --
a market that created outsized compensation,
excessive severance for failed CEOs
& bonuses for businesses that didn't make a dime.

Deregulation led to a massive meltdown,
and now trillions of taxpayer dollars are being spent
to keep the "free" market alive and well.

Seems like the free market is getting costlier every day.

Then again, these guys run an economy into the ground,
then get bailed out, keep their jobs, & still get paid?
Maybe they're pretty business-savvy after all...

There may be no free market, and no free lunch,
but there's free thinking & cheap drinks
as you share liberal libations & lively talk
at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

The "Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous" Tour of AIG Executive Homes

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth

We wrote earlier this month about how the Working Families Party is doing some of the best work out there in creating an accessible narrative for progressives in the economic crisis, the most recent example being their use of Monty Burns in fighting for Fair Share Tax Reform. Well, in the aftermath of the AIG bonuses debacle, the WFP in Connecticut is doing some wonderful narrative-building of their own - drawing attention for their "Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous" tour of AIG Financial Products Division executive homes - a story in today's New York Times, after some perfunctory "it's so hard to be an Executive when people are angry at you" tearjerking, highlights the effort:

The Connecticut Working Families party, which has support from organized labor, is planning a bus tour of A.I.G. executives’ homes on Saturday, with a stop at the company’s Wilton office.

“We’re going to be peaceful and lawful in everything we do,” said Jon Green, the director of Connecticut Working Families. “I know there’s a lot of anger and a lot of rage about what’s happened. We’re not looking to foment that unnecessarily, but what we want to do is give folks in Bridgeport and Hartford and other parts of Connecticut who are struggling and losing their homes and their jobs and their health insurance an opportunity to see what kinds of lifestyle billions of dollars in credit-default swaps can buy.”

What the article doesn't mention is the letter that Connecticut progressives will be handing to AIG CEOs. If you're in the Hartford area (or know someone who is), here's the information for those of you interested in taking some time out of your day tomorrow to let them know how you feel - and if not, you might want to make sure to add your signature to the letter.

Laid Off, Paid Off & Madoff

American workers lose jobs & savings
while GOP leaders turn-down stimulus funds
that could create jobs & savings.

Those whose companies collapsed
get big bonuses from bailout bucks.

And while we belatedly caught Bernie Madoff,
every day another greedy scheme
festers on the surface of the American dream.

America's laid off, they're getting paid off's with our funds, & trust, they've made off.

Who still thinks we should run America "like a business"?

Come where the drinks are cheap & talk is rich,
where you lay off your worries & lift up a glass
at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

On Our Own With Sunshine Cleaning

Screening Liberally Big Picture
By Josh Bolotsky

Sunshine Cleaning, the new film by Christine Jeffs and Megan Holley, has been done a great disservice, and that’s as good a place to begin as anywhere. A deeply moving, fiercely intelligent film about a working-class family struggling to stay afloat has been falsely presented, in an act of marketing malpractice, as a cutesy, oh-so-mischievous parade of twee and cleverness. Every trailer, poster and billboard, with their booming promise/threat of “From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine” and predictable heaping of quasi-indie-ready quirk, is a betrayal. Sunshine Cleaning is a portrait, worthy of pre-sappy James L. Brooks or post-sardonic John Sayles, of an American family suffering the worst of Bush’s ownership society, and still managing to cohere via some fragment of a belief in the basic goodness of people.

Oh, and it’s funny too.

There’s so much to appreciate about this simple, honest film, and so little space in which to express it. Let’s begin with the basic plotline: Rose, who isn’t played so much as embodied by Amy Adams in a bravura performance, is a single working mother in Albuquerque, New Mexico, living with her elementary-school-age son, Oscar (Jason Spevack), who gives some of the signals of high-functioning Aspergers Syndrome, her younger, twenty-something sister, Norah (Emily Blunt), who takes underachiever pride in staying at home and losing a variety of jobs, and her emotionally distant, deteriorating father, Joe (Alan Arkin). This is one of those long-forgotten families, forgotten by American movies at least, straddling the line between working class and working poor, their terror at the lack of a social safety net beneath them “should something happen” coloring almost every decision they make, doing their best to keep the basic family budget up and running. (When’s the last major-studio, national-release film you remember with such a backdrop? North Country? Erin Brockovich? Norma Rae?)

Obama's Opposition Party: The Senate Dems

President Obama wants to grow our economy
by ending subsidies to agri-business giants,
but high-ranking Senate Dems aren't so sure.

The pro-worker Employee Free Choice Act
has a majority of support in the Senate
but the Dem Leader isn't willing to fight it out.

As progressives Dems tried to re-write bankruptcy laws
to defend working families & their homes,
they met opposition...from conservative Democrats.

It's never easy for a Prez to deal with an opposition party.
Obama just didn't expect that party to be his own.

...and they're doing a better job of opposing
than they did in Bush's first term...

Shake your head at the Dems as we raise a glass together
sharing the news & booze, discussion & drinks
at our local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Who Watches The Watchmen's Political Message?

When I went to see Watchmen on opening night, I was on the lookout: not just for political allegory, but for any conservative bias on Snyder’s part. Why the apprehension? Prior to Watchmen, Zack Snyder directed 300, another graphic novel adaptation bursting with both action and political themes. And while 300 is a well-constructed and entertaining story, I was (and still am) disgusted by its insidious Bush-like, overly simplistic praise of violence in the name of democracy.

My initial overall reaction to Watchmen as the first credits rolled was pretty positive. I found the film’s structure less tight than 300, but was willing to forgive: from what I understood, the film had a lot of complicated story to condense. In particular, I welcomed the temporal jumps so roundly criticized in Patrick Lee’s review on SciFi Wire.

I was mostly pleased that the film critically explores the theme of the hero. While imperfect in crucial ways, Watchmen presents thought-provoking questions: What is a hero? What if there were more than one? What if they disagreed? How do we know who is right? Are humans worth protecting?

Watchmen asks these questions by presenting an alternate reality in which human heroes exist. In such a world, we find that the nature of heroes is contradictory: they seek justice, but they are dogmatic and uncooperative. As with the general population, each hero has different ideas of how to solve the world’s problems. And as I would expect from a hero, they are not willing to compromise. Even with each other. When the ultimate threat - extinction of the human race - comes along, their differences become even more divisive. And the high stakes help them all feel entitled to pursue their own goals. So the real battle in Watchmen is among the heroes: a battle of ideals.

Luckily, Watchmen approaches this with a dose of realism. The heroes are real humans: morally ambiguous, lonely, psychologically wounded. We are shown the violent past that creates one of our most violent heroes, Rorschach. We hear The Comedian’s thoughts on human nature. We learn the source of Dr. Manhattan’s powers and his emotional detachment. We likewise depart from the tame kisses and bloodless battles of many hero films, delving into real lovemaking and naked violence.

The political parallels are compelling and relevant. Likening the network of heroes in Watchmen to our political system, we find that we similar predicaments. Like the film’s heroes, each of our elected officials has their own political and moral opinions. They are often deeply divided on fundamental issues, and when they refuse to work together they can be consumed with internal conflict and get little done. And at their worst, they do something else the film’s heroes do: purport to act on behalf of the public while completely ignoring them.

But while I wanted to like the film, something about the story nagged me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Something felt off with Silver Spectre and Nite Owl, with the ending sequence, with the film’s narrative. I haven’t read the graphic novel, so I asked a fellow Living Liberally member, Josh Bolotsky, to compare it to the book. I was surprised to find that many of Josh’s criticisms of Snyder’s adaptation addressed my nagging feeling, and revealed a hidden bias.

Turns out that the film was a poor adaptation of the book, choosing the wrong moments to expand and condense and eventually changing the original meaning of Watchmen into something less mature and interesting; more commercial.

*Some spoilers below*

For example, a major theme of the book is the moral ambiguity of all the heroes. Snyder has instead created a narrative in which we have typical protagonists (Silver Spectre and Nite Owl) and antagonist (Ozymandias). He does this by omitting the back stories of these characters, allowing the story structure to create their identity: Silver Spectre and Nite Owl are lovers on a mission to save the world; Ozymandias an evil genius working against the other heroes in secrecy.

Making this adjustment injects a simple right/wrong morality into the story that wasn’t in the book, abandoning a mature and balanced contemplation of the nature of heroism. As a result we are essentially asked to identify with some heroes more than others, which is troubling to me because they each represent specific political and philosophical ideologies.

Rewriting the ending was also a poor decision. It allowed us to demonize Ozymandias and glorify Dr. Manhattan, and it ignored the fact explored in the book: that humans need a constant common enemy in order to work together. A single explosion and an invisible, insurmountable enemy would not do the trick. The book’s ending, by contrast, encourages us to move from thinking about the moral ambiguity of heroes to the true nature of humans.

From Rush, Steal & Swindle to Rush, Steele & Jindal

After 8 years of rushing laws through Congress
that squandered our nation's wealth & profited the few,
the GOP now joins Rush in hoping America fails,
& opposing policies to rebuild our country.

After 8 years of letting the greedy steal from the many,
through lack of regulation, no-bid contracts & incompetence,
the GOP now follows party leader Michael Steele,
who praises obstructionism & prefers problems to progress.

After the Bush administration let its cronies swindle us,
to the point that our agencies, like FEMA, were in tatters,
Jindal says too much gov action was the problem in Katrina.

For 8 years, all they did was rush, steal & swindle.
Now all they have is Rush, Steele & Jindal.

Good thing some grown-ups are cleaning up their mess.

Nobody will obstruct you for sharing a pint, or a few,
as we vent, laugh, debate, scheme, dream & enjoy
like-minded lefties at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Virtually Speaking with Jimbo Hoyer (Katie Halper's virtual reality debut)

I'll be on Virtually Speaking with Jim Hoyer Thursday at 9PM (NY) and 6PM (LA). Apparently there are other cities and towns in the regions, but I wouldn't know because I'm an elitist who spends all my time in NY, and San Francisco and Hollywood with my liberal celebrity friends.

The show consists of "live, in-depth, intelligent conversations with opinion leaders before a virtual studio audience. Simulcast on BlogTalkRadio." You can listen on BlogTalkRadio or Second Life. Fellow Neo-Luddites, fear not. It is easy to do (and free.) Guests on previous and future shows include Juan Cole, John Dean (see left), Dan Froomkin, George Lakoff, -- you know, people you would naturally associate with me. I will be wearing an avatar, which is an online disguise.

Read of the Day: Re-Reading the First Gulf War

Nora Eisenberg, whose excellent novel about veterans returning from the Gulf War, When You Come Home, will soon be reviewed on this page, has just penned a piece for Alternet on the lost lessons hidden in the way the Gulf Was has been remembered.

We highly recommend it -- as our Reading Liberally "Read of the Day" -- and will bring you more on her novel soon.

With rare exceptions, American politicians seem incapable of opposing an American war without befriending another in a different place or time.

Barack Obama, an early and ardent enemy of the Iraq War, quickly declared his affinity for a war in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan. And like so many Democratic leaders, he has commended Bush 41's Gulf War over Bush 43's, for its justifiable cause, clear goals, quick execution and admirable leadership.

Read the full article on Alternet...