Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adult Videos

I've always found it strange that pornographic films are often euhponised as "Adult Films" or "Adult Videos". Don't worry, I'm not here to judge anyone or second guess the natural instincts of men when thrown through a perversion, I just find it strange that "adult" can reference both maturity and immaturity.

In any case, welcome to Adult Videos here at TLATL. Sometimes (often), I get sick of reading and it's nice to be able to watch and listen. In fact I often find myself challenging people who seem to live in books or who hold the act of reading even above the act of living itself. Why aren't videos a good way to learn?

First off, to get your juices going, here is a video of a freely elected Congressman from the 4th district of Georgia, expressing his concern that some military decision to shift troops around might run the risk of capsizing the island of Guam.

Fear not, dear Viewer, we are not all equally paying a share of this man's $174,000 salary. Some are paying more of it than others.

Hilarity and insanity aside, far more "normal" Congressmen say slightly less dumb but far more harmful things all the time, and we vote for them too. But not every person in Congress is saying dumb things. Some are saying truly interesting things that not everyone agrees with and that certainly not every Congressman will go for, in spite of its possible necessity or even moral righteousness. Congressman Ron Paul dishes out some harshes through an Elmer Fudd facade to make sure that our folks on Capitol Hill don't get too congratulatory for their job well done. This little ditty was given in support of a bill that temporarily suspends the automatic annual payraises given to our friends (like our friend, Rep Hank Johnson, above) in Congress. You'd think not giving yourself a raise would be a slam dunk, feel good in Congress, if for nothing else the political symbolism.

Dude, quit harshing my mellow.

Finally, make some popcorn. Here comes a real Adult Video. This woman's name is Elizabeth Warren. You may have heard of her already, she's an Obama darling. She is currently the Czar of something in our country (the Congressional Oversight Panel) and is a very smart cookie. Rolling Stone did a decent number on her a couple weeks ago. This video is of her presentation some time ago at Berkely about the statistics describing the disappearance of the middle class. It's a long Adult Video, nearly an hour. I recommend skipping to minute 6, unless you like introductions and fluff. Sorry for the pun.

Three things strike me from this video. 1) It's a very interesting story, though it appears to be a story of symptoms rather than causes. 2) She appeals to her audience at the end to justify her work by linking it to the plight of poverty in our country, as if the disappearance of the middle class wasn't an alarming enough thing to arouse the elite academics in the room. 3) Would regulations, even well-guided ones, really prevent stuff like this from happening again? As she points out in her RS interview, and as I certainly believe, the only way anything will carry any weight is to sever the tie between Private Risks and Public Insurance.

Happy watching, dear Viewers.


G. Smith said...

This is the first adult video that I've ever watched from beginning to end.

Dr. Warren is indeed a smart cookie, and it's a good thing that she's in a position to have some influence. Particularly around the consumer fraud protection agency.

To your points, Ryan, it sounds like you're dismissing her data by suggesting she is only looking at symptoms. I thought she clearly laid out her thoughts on what were some of the causes - health care costs, housing costs, transportation, education, modern families subjected to greater risk. Do you have other thoughts about causes?

I'm glad she mentioned poverty - in the rush to explain things from the perspective of the middle class so that people (voters) will care about it, sometimes the struggles of poor people get left out. She could have gone more in depth at how poor families have fared much worse in recent decades as well. My organization does similar studies of family budgets, and compares them over time. We're mostly looking at lower-income families, but our data shows the same thing. Families are squeezing the "optional" expenditures like healthy food, new clothes, savings, retirement etc. in order to pay health bills (although this is usually first to go), housing bills, car payments, and credit card debt.

What she doesn't mention at all, which is surprising, is how ridiculously well the people on the other end of the spectrum have been doing in the last 30 years. A report here:

shows that in terms of income disparities, we've been living in the 1920s - with the top 1 percent absorbing a majority of the country's economic growth. Leaves me hoping one day I at least get invited to a Gatsby party.

And your last question confuses me, I think between Warren's testimony on Congress, and her work in the White House she makes an evidenced case that regulations are important. Ryan, it sounds like you're responding - "Well, is it REALLY going to work?"

Separating private risk from public insurance is necessary for the big banks, but does that address what she's talking about - the disappearance of the middle class over the last 30 years? The remarkable income disparities between the very rich and very poor? Maybe it does and I'm not seeing it.

Will regulation alone be able to prevent this from happening again? Likely not, but I think she's saying that smart regulations like the CFPA are key ingredients to an overall solution. I don't hear many people promoting deregulation anymore.

On our ignoble House members, I really want to think Hank Johnson was speaking metaphorically; that ecologically the island would "capsize." But, it's clear, many of our Reps are crazy (see Michele Bachmann). I think 435 is just too big a number.

Did Ron Paul ever catch that wascally wabbit?

Ryan said...

G, lots of good comments here, I can't address each of them. My comments were more general.

First off, I'm not dismissing her data, just saying it's at best descriptive, not really showing cause. So we're spending more on healthcare, but why? Is healthcare better? Is it less efficient? Why are we also spending more on autos in spite of their decrease in cost? Is that related to women working more and needing to get to work? Is it related to the slight increase in home size, which might imply suburban living, thus the greater need for cars? Why have men's wages stagnated over all this time? Etc...

It is my best guess that income disparities have been directly related to the gushing loss of manufacturing jobs, which have cut incomes off at 0 for most such workers and have squeezed those profits up the ownership chain (rarely results in fully cheaper products as has been taught to the globalization crowd). This has largely been aided by government regulation for corporations as well as a lack of it for our borders.

The reason I bring that up is because her description, although fascinating, might tempt people into thinking that if we can just manipulate those stats, we can somehow improve things (i.e., regulate healthcare or maybe even the auto industry).

The general problem I have with regulations are that they might help with an immediate problem, or prevent an instant replay of certain problems, but the won't ensure anything long term and may even increase the likelihood that we will continue to amplify the natural ups and downs of our economic lives.

What if Dr. Warren is the answer to all our problems now? What happens when the political pendulum swings and she's no longer involved?

And although I think even the staunchest GOPers are realizing that some basic regulations are in order, there is still a great deal of talk about deregulation in a massive sense. Deregulation would only work if we removed the backing of the federal government from the small clique of private companies/banks so that fear of going out of business might temper greed and its less pernicious cousin, negligence.

Dr. Paul has never gotten that wascawwy wabbit, because that rabbit fell into the sea when Guam capsized in the mind of Hank Johnson. Metaphor? What's a meta for? If a meta weighs enough, we could use it to counter balance Guam...

(I also couldn't help but notice Rep. Johnson launched into his environmental concerns, which usually reside in similarly foggy parts of people's brains.)

Ryan said...

G, to put it in another way, we had all those elected officials in place, spanning several administrations and both parties, and yet they not only prevented teh mess we're in from happening, they in a sense caused it by creating an environment to allow this storm.

Since we as an American people do not have equal access to federal law makers, it's sort of silly to assume regulations at that level will work to the benefit of Americans at large. Better to be skeptical of Federal Government efforts and keep them weak, not figure out how to get them stronger just because the "right" or the "smarter" person is temporarily in power.

Decentralization of governmental power ensures at least a more "equal" access to local government.

Roller said...

Rye, I watched the first video and... wow. It's funny in a really, really sad way.

I really like Ron Paul. Really. It's funny that you half-jokingly compare his deliver to Elmer Fudd. It's both hilarious and dead on. It begs a serious question though - do you think Paul's lack of... Clintonesque charm (for lack of a better description) will keep him from ever being a serious candidate? If not that, is it that he seems to say the things that most people don't want to hear (and I don't include myself in that group)?

I have started the 3rd video twice but haven't had the chance to watch it. I agree with you about learning from other forms of media though - you know I've preached from the podcast pulpit for a while now.

Ryan said...

Roller, I think oooollllllle Ron Paul suffers from a couple of things and oddly enough those are very much the things that have made him popular.

He has mounted an attack on a lot of ignorance in our country, not to say he is right about everything. But he has had a way of making old things seem almost new and progressive.

However, many people can't see over their bag of cheetos and have been opiated by the status quo propaganda. When you challenge the status quo, it's very hard to win. Especially in our simple minded, ideologically driven political environment today, where you are either "Left" or "Right", and that determination can be made in less than 30 seconds by any shmuck on TV.

He is old, which is a problem for mainstream voters, but which also lends him some intellectual credibility.

He does come off as whiny, which I don't think helps anything, but taht is the way a lot of people used to talk, especially from Texas, with that sort of higher pitched drain of voice. It just sounds whiny now to most folks.

Ultimately, he won't win because the GOP establishment won't throw their weight or money behind him in order to prop him up as a respectable choice. It would mean admitting far too many GOP chiefs have been wrong for far too long.

However, if the tea party people can not hang out long enough to mature and rub two thoughts together and not get sucked into voting for whatever Harvard/Yale-ey the GOP puts up next, there could be sizable enough a schism in the party to finally destroy the NeoCon side of it.

It's almost impossible to imagine a political party with real thinkers and leaders with scuples and historical understanding in it, where real, forceful debate would happen. I don't even think I know what that would look like, and I realize that much of my work in this area is a complete waste of time unless something changes among our people first.

But for most of us, and even our parents, this culture is all we've ever known.

Ryan said...

It just occurred to me that Ross Prrot was from Texas. See what I mean about an unappealing voice? I know it doesn't apply to everyone, but it is a regional dialect or affectation.

Roller said...

Good response, Rye.

When commenting yesterday, I was thinking about how Paul lacked the charm of a Reagan, (Bill) Clinton or Obama. I was wondering to myself, "Could a personality/character like Ron Paul's be a serious candidate?" And Ross Perot popped into my head.

Ryan said...

Rolls, that's funny you thought of Perot as well.

I have been thinking about something else as well. There are a couple larger things that might be more human nature, at least American nature, that prevent folks like RP from going very far. I could be proven wrong, there are some younger versions of him taking office around the county like in Connecticut and Kentucky.

But what I mean is, his solution to most things is to say No. His nickname is "Dr. No." Our culture is so simple-mindedly positive that we think every solution to a problem has to be a positive one, the doing of something rather than the undoing or not doing of it.

What would a Ron Paul presidency look like? For him to live consistently with his values (which he would), he would probably have to Veto every piece of silly legislation created by the Congress.

A guy named Gary Johnson was an exception too, he was the former governor of New Mexico (which runs 2-1 Democrat). He vetoed eery single bill, I think over 700, except for 2 in his term in office. Even, and especially the "bipartisan" ones. Even the ones he liked. LIke a bill to mandate that pet stores walk their dogs twice a day. Few disagree with being fair to dogs, but is it the governments' place to enforce that kind of law?

Interesting stuff. Amercans have an inherent "can-do" mentality and "don't do" people tend to get pushed aside or labelled in weird ways.

G. Smith said...

Ryan - the idea that a "won't do" attitude is something we want to promote in leadership is provocative. I'd like to dismiss it outright, because there's nothing more annoying than when you're working on a project with a group of people, and you've got some jerk shooting down every idea on the table and offering nothing in return.

I think you're off to suggest that people don't like that attitude because Americans are simple-mindedly positive. I think that in most people's experience, in worklife, homelife or any arena where you're faced with a challenge and need to come up with a solution, Mr. No usually gets the finger. Why do you think they make Oscar the Grouch live in a garbage can?

It does occur to me, though, that if you start with a premise that the federal government shouldn't be sitting around a table trying to fix a problem in the first place, then Mr. No makes a lot of sense.

So to me, whether or not a "can't do" attitude is helpful in government depends on what you think the role of government should be. Should the role of government be to try to solve problems, or not? Since we've been down this road before on TLATL, for now I'd like to let the tea-partiers and the socialists argue this out on their own.

I do think that smart libertarians like Ron Paul are good for government - anything that breaks the false dichotomy of two party politics improves the quality of debate, and makes people think more. I like a lot of what he has to say about legislating morality, pre-emptive strike and our over zealous military industrial machine, and government transparency.

I don't think he's electable though, but not because of his age or his mannerisms. It's because his full agenda would be calamitous to the most vulnerable people in the country in the short term, and in the long term would hand significant power over the country to corporations with no accountability.

There's another reason that the Elmer Fudd reference is so fitting to Paul, aside from his mannerisms. Somewhat like Elmer Fudd, who will never catch Bugs, Ron Paul is on a fool's errand. Ryan, I think you're right, the political establishment is going to resist folks like RP from gaining much momentum. No doubt, there are nasty political reasons for that. But in addition, I think that people realize that despite it's simplicity, the full libertarian agenda just doesn't fly in today's America, or in today's world.

Ryan said...

"Ryan - the idea that a "won't do" attitude is something we want to promote in leadership is provocative."

It's not really that provocative. Any CEO would tell you that whenever they've messed up worst in their career, it's been when they've strayed from the mission of their company. You figured it out yourself, yes, the federal government of the United States was never designed to be a general problem solving body. It's not in our charter, and it wouldn't make sense by even looking at its structure.

Most of our population has been reduced to consumers. The plot line is similar to a sitcom: Some problem is revealed in the beginning, there's some gossip and blame in the middle, then there's a solution at the end. That's the same way commercials work, but in a shorter time frame. Is there a bigger purchaser than the Federal Government?

It's always easier and more popular to simply buy another "solution" -- like Obama-Care -- rather than work on the stuff you're failing at. Our border control is STILL horrible and is one of the few things that the federal government actually should be doing.

Look how the states are taking matters into their own hands. True sign of failure.

It's unclear what you mean by a full Libertarian agenda, just as its unclear what you mean by "today's world", as if it is inhabited by people who are somehow different than yesterday's people?

I'd also be interested in hearing which of Ron Paul's proposals would be "calamitous to the most vulnerable people in the country in the short term, and in the long term would hand significant power over the country to corporations with no accountability."

He speaks very broadly and generally often times because he is also running a rear guard type education movements, but his specific policies tend to be very common sense and moderate.

For example, he's clearly against all forms of government welfare in theory, especially to the rich, but he has said that cutting poverty programs now would be the worst thing to do for obvious reasons, etc. One of the reasons I've bothered to keep listening to him is because he doesn't only live in theory and sometimes is willing to seemingly contradict himself to fit practice.

kevin said...

"the political establishment is going to resist folks like RP from gaining much momentum."

i keep waiting for someone to bring it up (ryan alluded to it), but who is more like RP than his son Rand? an eye doctor turned politician. he entered into a primary race against the republican golden child (hand picked by mitch mcconnell, the highest ranking GOP'er). i believe he started as the underdog, and he just won in a landslide.
it took mcconnell all of 3 minutes to switch camps and hop on the tea party band wagon. gawd - politicians are seriously slimy. i used to hate the 'vote against all entrenched politicians philosophy', but i'm now a believer. the tea party movement is in danger of being acquired by the republican party i fear. i cringe when i hear that palin endorsed rand paul, and now that mcconnell is singing his praises.

when'z yall gonna write up a dedicated arizona/immigration post? talk about heated. i have loosely followed the issue, but it appears that there are some seriously silly reactions coming out of it.

Coovo said...

I would really like to watch these if I didn't have that appointment to go stick my hand in a blender.