I'm sick of fine presidents and good presidents and mediocre presidents. I'm sick of Rutherford B. Hayes and James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore. We got Barack Obama! Barack Obama, for crying out loud!
That's Win Butler, lead singer of the Arcade Fire and a supporting character in a New York Observer piece predictably self-consciously devoid of the word "hipster." Which is to say, it's a story about my generation and how we hate ourselves but love Barack Obama despite our fears of being associated with the "naive moron vote," or something. The thing is long and reference-redolent but if you're feeling free-associative the tags are BARACK OBAMA and STYLE and BELLE AND SEBASTIAN and GWYNETH PALTROW and THE ARCADE FIRE and TWEE and I scrolled far enough to read "Keith Gessen" and "McSweeney's" when it occurred to me that if there is one thing I'm kind of over w/r/t my generation it's parsing trend stories uselessly analyzing its uselessness in the New York Observer. (Although: no I have never dropped in on a game of pickup basketball.) Look, Thomas Frank's Wall Street Journal column on income inequality is probably a more worthwhile read, because even though Thomas Frank was once associated with anachronistic typefaces I don't think he was ever called "twee," and neither has Megan, who talks sturm und earthquake and minimum wage labor with me ATJ.
MOE: Ok I guess we should start this now. I heard a commentwhore war broke out in the comments last night so uh...thanks bro, for caring enough to defend my glib assertions that West Virginia's margins have something to do with the stuff like how "Two in 10 white West Virginia voters said race was an important factor in their votes. More than 8 in 10 who said it factored in their votes backed Mrs. Clinton, according to exit polls," according to the New York Times
MOE: In other news the someone else on the McCain team has worked to burnish the image of global democracy underminers who are worse than Bush.
MEGAN: Oh, Moe, haven't you learned? There is no racism in this race, it's all just who is a better candidate. Which the 65% of people in West Virginia determined through a thorough analysis of the two candidates' positions on a variety of issues, including health care, the War in Iraq, their economic stimulus plans, their divergent opinions on the gas tax holiday and not even a little bit based on emails saying that he's a Muslim who hates this country and, oh, by the way, belongs to a church that excludes white people so that they can better plot against us.
MOE: Assuming you saw Pareene's clip re this meme.
MEGAN: Yeah, shit, Alex, dammit, we don't want them back. We already fucking carry Richmond and Hampton Roads and shit, we don't need Charleston and whatever the other towns in the state are called.
MOE: I have gotten to the point where I cannot even have this argument drunk at a bar but some black people too sense a conspiracy afoot in those overwhelming margins. Not just like, "hey, a first black president, cool," but CODE WORDS FROM MALCOLM X
MEGAN: I feel dirtier having read that, actually
MEGAN: Like, wow, viscerally dislike anyone much based on nothing more than your own personal taste?
MOE: In other news, your Day In Disaster: Burma is getting another storm and China's earthquake is
exposing a widening wealth gap. Because now that the poor are all buried under their crappy communist construction there seem to be a lot fewer people.
Incomes in rural areas, for example, averaged 4,140 yuan a person last year, or about $590 at current exchange rates. That represents an increase of 91% from a decade earlier, not adjusted for inflation. Urban disposable incomes, by comparison, rose by 150% during the same period, to an average of 13,786 yuan last year.
MEGAN: I don't like reading hate in the morning, it makes me confused and upset. It's why I don't watch Fox and Friends. But at least she doesn't make the argument that all black supporters of Obama are blinded by visceral reactions to him and his race... Oh, wait, she does. So, she viscerally disliked him the first time she saw him and still does because she thinks that when white people like him they're denigrating her so she dislikes him more and her African-American colleagues are just blinded by race and, OMG, brain starting to melt, yes, let's talk about things abroad now.
MOE: Yeah she's just a hater.
MEGAN: Ok, phew. I am confused at how Communists party aparatchiks think that people don't notice that they pay themselves better and live in nicer houses than everyone else. It's not that people don't know there's income inequality, it's that they don't care until it really fucks them over. Being a nominally Communist dictatorship means managing expectations, scaring them a little and hoping that nothing exposes more of your flaws then you are ready to admit. It's sort of like dating.
MOE: Wait, back to "I'm black and I hate Obama and the only reason black people like him is because his wife is dark-skinned and the only reason white people like him is because his mother is white but absolutely no black people believe the sort of racially divisive things Jeremiah Wright says STEREOTYPE MUCH??" — I mean, it seems more credible because she's for Clinton but like dude don't similar margins of black people vote Republican in general elections? Of course, it's also about hating the smug white privileged egghead conspiracy...dude, Clarence Thomas said it all in a much more entertaining fashion.
MEGAN: Aww, I thought we were done discussing the hater lady. I guess we're not allowed to like the same things except when we like the things she likes first and those things aren't Barack Obama? Or something? I'll bet it drives her crazy that we listen to hip-hop and rap and she might even still be mad about jazz but she's cool if we like Celine Dion.
MEGAN: Also, I literally felt like I had the creeps reading that piece. Like, next time warn me because in my head that lady was yelling and spitting a little while she tried to explain why the whole world was wrong about Barack Obama and he's just a huckster and a charlatan with the worst intentions and possibly and Manchurian candidate or something and I don't even get that going in my head when SinRoo is yelling on the comment boards.
MOE: Sorry I've been momentarily transfixed by the appearance of Teen Vogue editor Amy Astley on my TV.
MEGAN: On Fox, I assume? MSNBC is all about China. Gosh, Burma, check this out! You can actually let reporters show your military helping out the people affected by a natural disaster not of your doing and no one will try to topple your regime! I mean, I guess the Chinese military isn't stealing all the supplies meant to help the survivors or hiding bodies to prevent a good death toll from being determined, but, you know, details.
MOE: Dude speaking of MSNBC did you check Terry McAuliffe last night? Thanks reader and American expat in Holland Melinda Manley:
"Terry McAuliffe raised some serious expectations for Hillary's speech on MSNBC.
"You're going to see a great speech tonight from Hillary Clinton. Talked about it on the way down. I saw it. It's going to be a great speech. One of the greatest speeches, Chris, ever given," he said.
"Better than the second inaugural of Lincoln, perhaps," Matthews said after he got off the air.
"Better than stuff in the Bible," said Olbermann.
MEGAN: I know, I saw that, Terry was on fire last night, totally all adrenaline if that wasn't coke. He even lost his voice and was yelling down Chris Matthews after the speech, too. Like, what does that guy do for fun besides yell?
MOE: He's yelling because our Scrappy New Generation Has Learned To Fight. I'm reading it now just to check up on my "tags say it all" radar. Here are the tags:
* Barack Obama
* Belle and Sebastian
* Gwyneth Paltrow
* The Arcade Fire
MOE: Uh dude I think this story might need its own post.
MEGAN: Well, I guess if there's one good thing about not being thin or overly cute it's that no one will ever call me "twee."
MOE: I didn't learn the word "twee" until someone accused me of it on the basis of my attachment to my ex-boyfriend's quirky independent newspaper. (You may check the fonts here. It's also important to note that the newspaper was REALLY REALLY WIDE.) I think I responded by saying "Fuck you." Related: Thomas Frank has another column in today's Wall Street Journal.
I confess that I am fascinated by the mechanics of this huge social reconfiguration - in the same sense that I am fascinated by the industrial procedures of a slaughterhouse, or by the strategies that enabled small Confederate armies to win victories for slavery over much larger Union forces...Aside from the outsourcing, offshoring, and firing-at-will that make up the best-known weapons in the corporate arsenal, Mr. Greenhouse reveals how managers extract unpaid work through an array of ingenious tricks, from eliminating bathroom breaks to electronically erasing hours from workers' records.
MEGAN: Ah, the good life.
MOE: "reveals" and "ingenious" are really poor word choices but maybe he's friends with Greenhouse?
MEGAN: I think he's being sarcastic. He later says, "It has not merely 'happened'; it has been done to us." He blames! I like blame.
It is, in other words, a political disaster, with tax cuts, trade agreements, deregulatory measures, and enforcement decisions all finely crafted to benefit one part of society and leave the rest behind. Few of the voters who gave Ronald Reagan his landslide victories, it is fair to say, intended for this to be the outcome. They wanted their country to stand tall again, certainly; they wanted the scary regulators off their backs, maybe; but I can recall no conservative who trumpeted those long-ago elections - or any of the succeeding contests, for that matter - as a referendum on plutocracy.
MEGAN: Hey, Reagan Democrats! It's your fault. You didn't like the panty-waisted Carter, you felt emasculated by the Iranian hostages, and you liked the big actor-fake-cowboy thing and so you voted for him. And, by doing so, you voted for the decline of your own jobs, and your own industries, of your towns and your cities. You voted for your kids to move away to find a job or to join an increasingly-utilized military. You voted for the ascendency of Wal-Mart and of the super-rich. And now you're mad at people for that? Look in the mirror. Then go cast your vote for McCain like you know you want to because you find Obama scary because he doesn't wear a damn flag pin and do the same thing to your kids and their kids that was done to you because who needs health care reform when we can have tax cuts.
MOE: Or go cast your vote for McCain if you are still afraid of people who name their kids "Apple."
MEGAN: But then inexplicably wear short skirts and high heels.
MOE: Srsly though the only grating thing is that, I guess, having spent some time among minimum wage earners, since they are fucking EVERYWHERE, it still mildly grates to think Thomas Frank — or Barack Obama, or whatev — needed to credit a book for teaching them about the death of the bathroom break. Dude, have you ever had a conversation with someone who worked retail? NOT INCLUDING THE APPLE STORE.
MEGAN: Yeah, dude, I made $4.35 an hour, which was 10 cents higher than minimum wage and when I took my 30 minute lunch on my 8 hour Saturday shift thanking people for coming into the B. Moss Clothing Company and clearing out dressing rooms and entering SKUs by hand because we didn't have a reader, I didn't get paid. And I didn't get another break, either. I lost weight at that job just from standing all day.
MOE: We had our bathroom breaks taken away when I worked phone sex. I'm sure it was just labor optimization software since it's not like the phone sex company was any big corporation.
MEGAN: The only time I didn't get docked pay for coming back 5 minutes late for lunch was the temp gig I did in a packaging plant back home one summer when I started my period and discovered that a factory filled with men does, in fact, not stock the tampon machine and I had to go to three other factories and then to my former Junior High School across the street and bed the principal for a tampon and she recognized me and took pity on me, and then I got back late and the boss started to yell so I said, my period started and the tampon machine was empty and the room went quiet and I didn't get docked.
MEGAN: But I made $5.25 an hour there.