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Steven Slater

No, I’m not going all pop culture on you. Don’t worry, Lindsay Lohan posts will not be forthcoming.

I’m fascinated with how quickly Mr. Slater has become a national hero.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, let me give you the background. Mr. Slater was a flight attendant with JetBlue. He snapped a few days ago when a passenger was abusive toward him, after he asked her to follow FAA rules and remain in her seat until the plane stopped moving. The passenger refused to apologize for her rude behavior, so Mr. Slater did what none of us would do – he took to the PA system on the plane to curse her out, bid farewell to a 28 year long career in the airline industry, grabbed a couple of beers from the galley, deployed the emergency exit slide, and slid off the plane.

I say that none of us would do this because it wouldn’t occur to most of us. If it did occur to us, it would probably end at being a lovely, reoccurring revenge fantasy.

But what he did isn’t the interesting part to me. The interesting part is that he’s become a national hero. I’ve seen at least three Facebook groups dedicated to lionizing him. Every news story I’ve seen is full of praise for Mr. Slater. Everyone seems to be on his side. This is particularly interesting to me since, the rude public that he pushed back on is us! Let’s be honest here, we’ve all taken out a little aggression on a flight attendant or TSA officer for making us abide by some stupid arbitrary rule, haven’t we? So why are we all jumping on the “Steve Slater is a hero” bandwagon when we’re essentially the public that put him over the edge?

He’s a hero because he’s one of “us” in the battle of “us versus them”. He’s every working man, standing up against a shitty job that doesn’t pay enough to compensate for the grief that comes with that job. We’re collectively angry at corporate America for the situation that we find ourselves in. We viscerally know that our precarious job security, plummeting home value, and diminishing 401ks lay squarely on the shoulder of big business.

We’re all pro-Steve Slater because we’re as anti-corporate as we’ve ever been.

It’s just interesting to me that when politics is taken out of the equation, Americans generally agree on most issues. To be pro-Steve Slater is to be pro-labor and yet, we’ve been led to believe that Americans aren’t pro-labor because unions are evil.

Let me go off on a union tangent for a moment. 8% of American workers today are union members. Unions get their “strength” from union dues. They’re what fuel union lobbying efforts. Let’s think about this for a minute. 8% of blue collar Americans are union members. So 8% of Americans are paying some percentage of their salaries in union dues which, in turn pay for union activities (of which lobbying is a small part). Are we to believe that unions have more power than corporate interests? Really? HOW? I have yet to hear someone explain how that math creates an equation in which unions are the big, powerful interest group that has ruined everything.

But I digress. Back to Steve. He’s our hero because he stood up to “the man” in a way that most of us want to. And he doesn’t (didn’t) even work for a a company that is generally regarded as evil! He works (worked) for a company that is generally well regarded and yet, we’re elated that he stood up for himself. We’re elated because we’re vicariously standing up for ourselves through him.

Maybe we need to stop framing our issues in political terms, and start talking about what we want to change and how we want to change it.

This artificial right/left divide that has been created is designed to keep us fighting amongst ourselves so that we don’t pay attention to who is doing evil unto us. We’re told to hate the Mexicans, the gays, Obama, black racists, and everyone that isn’t like us. And a certain segment of America is happy to jump on board because they’re angry about the situation they find themselves in, and are happy to hate whomever they’re told to hate. Figuring out who’s responsible takes more work than following Glenn Beck’s chalk board scribblings.

But those people aren’t really angry at the gays, the Mexicans, the blacks, or Obama. They’re angry at the same people that those of us that pay attention are angry at.

The lionization of Steve Slater proves that.

We need to learn from this and reframe the debate and close the false divide that has been created to divert us from the real issues.

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Corporate Dumbitude

I use the word dumbitude because corporations today are dumb. And to rub salt in the wound, they’re dumb with a really smug attitude.

Since America is essentially a corporate owned entity at this point, we have been dragged down to a level of unspeakably dumb.

Look at how BP is dealing with the oil volcano in the gulf. Dumb. They have no fucking idea how to stop the geyser from spewing millions of barrels of oil into the gulf. Six weeks into this nightmare, and they’re using the same ineffective techniques that failed forty years ago in this situation. Rachel Maddow did a great segment highlighting this a couple of nights ago. It’s not just BP. It’s the oil industry at large. It’s obvious that in the past fifty years, these assholes haven’t invested a single dime in developing ways to deal with potential disasters. Their R&D investment has been limited to figuring out innovative ways to get to oil that they were unable to get to in the past. So now we have a situation where the world is watching massive amounts of oil filling up the gulf of Mexico. We’re all watching in disgust and horror. And as our disgust brews, our appetite for offshore oil drilling is evaporating.

Dumb move, oil industry. BP isn’t the only oil company working on this in the gulf right now. They’ve all got engineers working with BP to try and plug this thing up because they know that every day that this continues, our disdain for the industry grows. Thank you Congressman Ed Markey for making sure that the public has access to a live video stream of what’s happening in the gulf. Having access to that video ensures that our vitriol won’t dissipate anytime soon.

Not spending money on safety measures or R&D to figure out effective ways to deal with oil spills is dumb because it will cut into long term profits. It’s dumb because each time one of these oil disasters happens, our appetite for alternative energy grows. We may forget this incident and keep going the way we were, but maybe the next one will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I don’t know how many more of these need to happen before we get there, but we WILL get there.

The part that really incenses me in this whole thing, is listening to the smug CEO. He honestly still believes in his own brilliance. He thinks he’s brilliant because his accounts payable department is at this very moment, cutting giant contribution checks to every single United States congressman and senator. Mary Landrieu has had to hire several new staff members, just to carry bags of cash from BP’s offices to hers. He thinks he’s brilliant because he will contribute a weeks worth of BP’s profits to politicians, who will then in turn, limit BP’s liability from hundreds of billions of dollars to hundreds of millions. It will be a smart investment on his part. He will literally be paying pennies on the dollar on what this should cost BP. That doesn’t make him brilliant. It makes him a bully. And this strategy may work this time. It may even work for the next couple of times, but the public eventually will put its foot down. And even if we never do, we will get to the point where we’ve run out of oil.

The dumbest thing about the oil industry is that they’re not putting any money into developing renewable energy. There’s no reason why their livelihoods have to depend on a finite substance. If IBM operated the way the oil industry does, they would have spent millions of dollars to convince the public that computers were dangerous, and that we need to stick with our typewriters. The oil industry is unbelievable dumb in it’s short term thinking.

They’re dumb in the same way that the financial industry is dumb. It’s all about squeezing out every nickle this quarter, with no thought whatsoever toward next year. The financial industry is going to bury this country in the next couple of years. When I say bury, I mean that 2008 will look like the good old days compared to what’s coming. They’re dumb because this pyramid scheme of funneling all of the money to a handful of people at the top has been played out over and over again by various societies. It’s always ended in a crumbling of that society. You can’t have a culture with no middle class. It’s never, ever worked and it never will. Plus, ours is a culture of self entitlement. I believe than when pushed far enough, Americans will revolt before accepting a fate of becoming wage slaves to a corporate master.

Here’s an interesting assessment by a non-partisan group, of the American Power Act that was recently proposed by Kerry and (gag) Lieberman. They basically conclude that if passed, this bill would create an average of 203,000 jobs per year. They estimate that the oil industry would lose 72,000 jobs per year, but that the US would pick up 165,000 jobs in nuclear energy, 19,000 in renewable energy jobs, 28,000 jobs in biofuels, and 96,000 jobs in clean coal.

The oil industry are fucking idiots for not taking the lead in developing new energy sources. I believe that silicon valley will eventually innovate the oil industry out of business. By the time the oil industry shifts from their bullying tactics to jumping on the bandwagon, it will be too late for them.

The corporate dumbitude that we’re experiencing may well bring the US off its superpower perch. It’s too bad, because the founding fathers actually did a pretty damned good job of creating viable democracy.

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