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A review a day: The Adventures of Unemployed Man

It’s propaganda! Yay, propaganda!

The Adventures of Unemployed Man, which I received in the mail, will set you back $14.99 if you choose to buy it. Little, Brown and Company published it, and it was written by Erich Origen and Gan Golan, who got some good talent to draw the book. Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch, Michael Netzer, Benton Jew, Thomas Yeates, Shawn Martinbrough, Terry Beatty, Joe Rubinstein, Thomas Mauer, Clem Robins, and Tom Orzechowski are the pencilers, inker, and letterers involved in the project. The artists tend to keep their styles similar, so the book has a unified look, but you can still see some differences in the artwork. The styles mesh because it’s a very retro kind of project, so I’m sure the artists tried hard to make sure it looked like a Golden/Silver Age book, and in that, they succeeded.

I don’t really want to write about the art, even though it’s by far the best part of the book. I don’t even really want to review this, because it’s one of the most offensive comic I’ve ever read (and I’ve read Faust!), and I’m on the authors’ “side,” as much as I can be. You see, Origen and Golan are pretty dyed-in-the-wool leftists, and this book is a screed against everyone and everything that they believe caused the financial meltdown in the United States. We begin with Bruce Paine, a millionaire through inheritance and secret identity of “motivational vigilante” the Ultimatum, who drives around the city in a Hummer telling citizens that they need to stop blaming others for their problems and start taking some responsibilty. He discovers that one of his companies is not paying high enough wages for people to live on, but when he proposes doing something about it to the board (capping executive pay), he gets fired. Of course, he can’t find a job anywhere, and he eventually meets up with a bunch of other heroes of the downtrodden. They fight against the Invisible Hand and its allies, including the forces of evil capitalism – the Just Us League – and other nefarious baddies. In the end, the heroes and the people just need to unite to defeat the bad guys, fix the social safety net, provide universal health care, and make everything better. Isn’t that swell?

Origen and Golan have a few – very few – clever satirical touches in their comic, but otherwise, this is as ham-fisted an examination of the financial crisis as you’re going to see. On a purely theoretical level, I agree with most of what Golan and Origen say, especially when it comes to healthcare. The fact that we treat health insurance as a business is one of the most idiotic things in our society, and I worked in health insurance, so I know how cutthroat it can be and how asinine that is. And yes, the way banks gambled with money over the past 15-30 years is obscene and should be stopped. But Origan and Golan are so blinded by their ideology that they fail to recognize that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t as simple as “conservatives = evil; liberals = good.” Whenever we hear about the financial meltdown, no one – NO ONE – ever blames the consumer. Oh, the poor consumers – they were just led astray by evil banks!!!! My wife has worked in mortgages for a decade, dealing mostly with fraud. Fraud on the part of the borrowers, mind you. People lie all the time on their mortgage applications. They lie about income, they lie about what they’re going to use the property for, they lie about other property they own. Sure, the banks shouldn’t be so cavalier about giving out loans, but if the borrowers lie and then default on the loans, how is that the fault of the “evil banks”? So many people want to buy a 5-bedroom, 4000-sq. ft. house their first time out, and they take out exorbitant mortgages that they know they can’t afford, assuming that they will make more money in the future and be able to pay it off. Everyone wants everything NOW, and while evil corporations might take advantage of that, if you tell me that the consumer is so weak-willed that they can’t resist that kind of advertising, I’ll say they deserve to go bankrupt. Throughout this financial meltdown, my wife and I haven’t had that many difficulties. Why? Because we don’t live beyond our means. We live in a house that we can afford, and even though it’s too small for us now that the kids are older, we make it work because we can’t afford to buy a new one. We don’t just mortgage our future because we “need” a new house. That’s ridiculous. We bought our cars (we didn’t lease them, which is almost the dumbest thing you can do, financially), paid them off, and didn’t immediately go out and upgrade – our cars are fine, so why would need new ones? We have a high credit card balance, unfortunately, but we’ve been paying it off steadily and don’t charge lots of junk. I know we’ve been lucky in that my wife didn’t lose her job, but other than that, we’ve made it through because we didn’t spend like idiots before the bad times came, so we were better prepared when the bad times did come.

It’s great that Origen and Golan think the solution is good old-fashioned Americans working together, but as always with anything that society needs, they don’t really wonder who’s going to pay for it. Well, of course the rich have to pay for it, right? I’m for a graduated tax code with no loopholes as much as anyone, but how much is too much? If you raise the taxes on the rich too much, does the incentive to make more money go away? I’ve mentioned Mia’s physical therapist before, because he’s a conservative with a lot of interesting ideas and I like to talk to him about politics. He runs two small businesses, so he knows how Obama’s tax policies are affecting him. I haven’t spoken sufficiently to him about it to find out whether they’re onerous or not, but he has alluded to the convoluted restrictions that the Obama presidency has placed on small businesses. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but if it is, why would you start a small business if you’re just going to be taxed into oblivion? Golan and Origen imply that jobs get oursourced solely because the evil companies want to maximize their profits, and while I believe that’s pretty crucial, they don’t get into the fact that unions have become almost as adversarial toward the “common people” as evil corporations, and their intransigence “forced” the companies to seek employees elsewhere. It’s implied that education funding gets axed almost randomly, but that’s not totally true, either, and once again, unions must share some of the blame with the heartless conservative legislative bastards. They blame illegal immigration on NAFTA, which is fine, but ignore the fact that Mexico is pretty much a failed state at this point. There’s so much in the book like this, and it bugs me – this is a comic about a ridiculously complex issue with many different permutations and threads, and Origen and Golan simplify it so much as to make whatever commentary they come up absolutely meaningless. This is a comic for someone who has already decided that everything that’s wrong in the country is due to Republicans and enjoy the fact that Golan and Origen just back them up and don’t challenge that pre-fabricated opinion. As much as I blame Republicans for what has happened in the country, I blame Democrats as well, and I also blame the salt-of-the-earth Americans that Origen and Golan love so much. Many commentators on the financial meltdown seem to have a much higher opinion of the common people than the common people deserve. The common people, remember, make stuff like Dancing With the Stars and The Da Vinci Code huge hits.

There’s really nothing to recommend this book as far as the writing or the story goes. It’s a fun book to look at, and the artists really do some tremendous work, with some very nice double-page spreads, grand splash pages, good layouts, and even some subtlety, which is jarring when you consider how absolutely unsubtle the writing is. If you absolutely, honestly believe that only Republican capitalists are to blame for every single one of America’s problems, you might enjoy this book, because it will simply affirm what you already believe. If you want to read a challenging and complex tract about America’s financial meltdown, I don’t know where you would start, but it certainly wouldn’t be here. The Adventures of Unemployed Man is dull, obvious, pedantic, simplistic, one-sided, and boring. Oh well.

Tomorrow: Curing a serial killer? Unpossible!

59 Comments

The title and the artists involved had me interested in this. I can read leftist stuff it’s at least well-argued and nuanced, but this makes Judd Winick seem as balanced and nuanced as Jonathan Hickman. Pass. Good review.

Uhoh, the comments on this post could get rather ugly.

;^)

Here is a photo that I took at APE of the costumed guy:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/secretbean/5130796565/in/set-72157625278455682/
I took it mostly because I’d never seen a costume with an exposed top-of-the-head hole showing no hair.

YES!!! This was my favorite part of your book review…

“I also blame the salt-of-the-earth Americans that Origen and Golan love so much. Many commentators on the financial meltdown seem to have a much higher opinion of the common people than the common people deserve.”

You got THAT right! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Sincerely,
The Thumb

Does the book mention the involvement of Ivy League economics professors by recommending against regulation of dividends and such? When I watched Charle’s Ferguson’s documentary “Inside Job” that fact that economics professors were being funded (bribed?) by the financial sector was infuriating.

I recommend Ferguson’s documentary if you want a well detailed and well researched look at the financial crisis. Even though there were a lot of stupid decisions made by your average consumers, there were plenty of perfectly responsible citizens that were completely blindsided when the bank they had been using for decades lost all of their money.

This was a great review of your personal biases against perceiving the book for what it actually is.

MEANWHILE…

—– THE REVIEWS ARE IN —–

TOP PICK – HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
(New York Times)

“Exposes, with LAUGH OUT LOUD AND SOPHISTICATED WIT, the desperate situation many Americans find themselves in today.”
(USA Today)

“ABSURDLY FUNNY and VERY SMART.”
(San Francisco Chronicle)

“BUY TWO COPIES: one for yourself and one for someone you know who’s having a rough time making ends meet — they can use a PICK ME UP like this.”
(Kleefield On Comics)

“Crammed with clever puns, INGENIOUSLY ILLUSTRATED and garnished with TRENCHANT social commentary, this is surely the funniest economic primer ever written.”
(Salon)

Appeared in “The REAL Future of Comics” by Scott McCoud

More reviews are here: http://www.unemployedman.com/reviews.html

Sonia: That’s a cool picture – you’re right, the bald head with the open top is odd.

Dan: No, it doesn’t mention that. I’d like to see “Inside Job” because I’ve heard lots of good things about it. And, of course, I’m not blaming consumers exclusively, because many people were blindsided – my parents lost something like 30% of their savings right when my dad was retiring, which was a pain for them. There’s plenty of blame to go around, however, and to focus exclusively on “right-wing” villains ignores that there are lots of other villains as well. That’s why this book bugs me so much.

Yes, Dan, there is a character in the book called The Deregulator. I think you’ll enjoy that section, it’s called “Attack of the Toxic Debt Blob.”

I didn’t claim this was a fair review. I saw all the reviews at the web site, and that’s great that others like it. What I read was a completely one-sided, unsubtle and ham-fisted attempt to blame every single financial problem in the country on one group of evil capitalists. That’s idiotic. I know plenty of people who spent far beyond their means even though they didn’t have enough money to pay for the crap they were buying because they just assumed they’d keep making money. I saw liberal politicians who claim they’re on the side of the “little people” and then sell out. Sure, I saw George Bush give tax breaks like crazy and then increase government spending without thinking about how he could pay for it, but that’s one part of it. To imply that the only people who ruined the country are big businessmen and right-wing politicians is stupid. That’s great that so many other smarter people (all of whom, it seems, write for liberal newspapers) think this is great social commentary. I don’t. If that makes me an idiot, so be it. I’m not going to write a review based on what other people say. I’m going to write one based on what I read in the actual book. Like I wrote, I should be on this book’s side, and in theory I am – we needed better regulation of the financial markets and we needed politicians who weren’t taking bribes to ignore laws – but the ridiculous way this is presented makes me angry. Sorry I didn’t follow the other reviewers and instead made my own decision!

Yes, that’s me in costume in that picture. I thought I looked totally bad ass. I had no idea my bald head was sticking out for all the world to see. I guess the joke is on me! Similarly, I had no idea what was happening in this book until you illuminated it for me. Man, do I feel like a fool.

Greg, you should probably take a closer look at the book (especially if you only give yourself a day to examine something and write a review).

Specifically, look for…

– The mention of NINJA loans in the scene at the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae Residence. (This addresses the issue that you mentioned, but without mentioning the size of your house specifically.)
– All the consumer stuff within the Toxic Debt Blob
– The style of the neighborhoods in which the Blob erupts. (The 4000 sq. foot houses you mentioned.)
– The fact that an elephant and a donkey both appear in the casino room, not just an elephant.
– The way we handle Obama, which is not one-sided or an endorsement of him by any means, but very nuanced critique.

There are a million other details in the book (both in the writing and art) that very clearly demonstrate that the book is by no means one-sided and is in fact “wise” as many others have said.

Ah, yes, I forgot about the Toxic Debt Blob. That, I do apologize for that.

Erich and others: I’ve dealt with passive-aggressive people here before, so don’t think I’m going to get bent out of shape by it. It’s great that you wrote this, got all these really good artists to draw it, and got a well-respected publisher to pick it up. That’s certainly more than I’ve accomplished, and I’m sincere when I offer you my congratulations. That being said, if you don’t want negative reviews, give the book only to your relatives, because if you offer it to the public, some people aren’t going to like it, and some people (like me, I suppose), will be irrational about it. I always try to be even-handed when I review something, and if you read my other reviews, you’ll see that I am. This book made me very angry, though, because the Ultimatum telling people to take some responsibility seems to be a point of mockery in the book, and while some things are definitely out of regular folk’s hands, being responsible with their money in their everyday life certainly isn’t, and that’s something that commentators NEVER talk about. I’m not kidding about the massive fraud among borrowers – regular folk lie all the time on their mortgage applications, and then bitch and moan when they get caught. You have a book that claims that the big corporations take no responsibility for their actions, but that attitude is widespread in society today, and if regular folk weren’t dodging responsibility, perhaps the corporations and politicians wouldn’t have, either.

And hey, if you hate what I have to say, ignore me. I’m just a schmuck on a comic book blog – I’m not a newspaper reviewer with a huge audience, and I’m definitely not Scott McCloud (who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to creating comics, and no I’m not being facetious). If you think I’m an idiot, that’s cool. I think you can handle a bad review, though, even if it’s poorly done.

Erich: I don’t write these in a day. I read and re-read the books in question and take a few days to write them. I wrote this about a month ago after reading the book about three times. If you say all that stuff is in there, I’ll believe you. I didn’t see it that way. I saw a very few attempts to include Democrats as part of the blame, but I also saw a simplistic take on the problem. Maybe I’m really wrong. It’s certainly possible – I’ve been wrong before. What I read, though, and what I kept seeing when I re-read it, is basically what I wrote in the rant above. You can tell me it’s in there, and I believe you, but if I read it and didn’t see it, that’s either my fault for being dumb or your fault for not doing a good job. If I have time over the next few days, I’ll read it again. I promise. And I’ll see if I’ve changed my mind. Sound fair?

I’m just disappointed Librarion is a spinster old lady with glasses and hair in a bun. That stereotype is dying out, you know! I mean, I don’t wear my hair in a bun.

“Golan and Origen imply that jobs get oursourced solely because the evil companies want to maximize their profits, and while I believe that’s pretty crucial, they don’t get into the fact that unions have become almost as adversarial toward the “common people” as evil corporations, and their intransigence “forced” the companies to seek employees elsewhere.”

I used to work in a white collar, non-unionized job for a international financial company. Guess what? The department I worked for was outsourced to another country. Unions had nothing to do with it, as no members of the department were not members of any union. It didn’t matter. And no one forces corporations to do anything (corporations are responsible for their actions – if they want to be recognized as a legal individual by U.S. law, they damn well should be). It’s much tougher to argue the anti-union stance toward outsourcing when non-unionized, middle class American jobs are now being outsourced.

(On the positive side, I landed a job that actually pays more than the one that was outsourced. I don’t know if some of my co-workers had the same luck).

Greg, I enjoyed the points you made about the economy within the review. I’m actually getting ready to build a home for my family right now, and it’s been tempting to include supplementary income in the loan discussion, instead of just our more secure base income.

I think we all need a little wake-up call like that every now and then. Thanks.

This is a very subtle book containing many extremely nuanced depictions of real world issues. One such depiction occurs when the Invisible Hand uses the “budget axe” to eviscerate child-hero development. This scene can be interpretted in many ways and constitutes an example of what FOX news calls “fair and balanced” story telling.

Greg, after reading the many insightful comments by Unemployed Man and Erich Origen, I have concluded that you need to shut the fuck up. Neither the New York Times nor the San Francisco Chronicle agree with you, so why did you even bother to write this? In fact, I read one review recently (I can’t remember where though) that praised Unemployed Man for its “millions of details” which make it multi-faceted and “in fact, wise.” I’m not surprised you missed those details and wisdom, Greg, because the review makes it very clear that you’re an idiot.

I consider myself a liberal, but liberal open-mindedness can only extend so far. Once you disagree with the Times, you’ve crossed a line from which there’s no going back.

So, putting my 40 years of capes-and-tights reading to use, I should infer that Unemployed Man’s superpower is the ability to be … unemployed?

Gerber is probably spinning in his grave. Milligan might have been able to make it work in X-FORCE, providing the guy was killed same issue.

And “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … the adventures of Unemployed Man” makes no sense.

Burgas, would you mind expanding on your statements about unions that appear in the article, with some examples, if you have time, to clarify your argument?

TOP PICK – HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
(New York Times)

“Exposes, with LAUGH OUT LOUD AND SOPHISTICATED WIT, the desperate situation many Americans find themselves in today.”
(USA Today)

“ABSURDLY FUNNY and VERY SMART.”
(San Francisco Chronicle)

“BUY TWO COPIES: one for yourself and one for someone you know who’s having a rough time making ends meet — they can use a PICK ME UP like this.”
(Kleefield On Comics)

“Crammed with clever puns, INGENIOUSLY ILLUSTRATED and garnished with TRENCHANT social commentary, this is surely the funniest economic primer ever written.”
(Salon)

Positive reviews by the NY Times and other liberal news sources are really not a great way to refute the idea that this book is too biased. May as well throw in an Olbermann positive review while you’re at it.

Jonny Kiehlmann

December 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Greg, as someone from the UK, two things

One, why is Mexico “pretty much a failed state at this point?” Honest question.

Two: None of your arguments really blame non-right-wing politicians, in the way that all US politicians are, on a global scale, very right-wing. Certainly, consumers are partialy to blame, but it’s not at all hard to argue that the banks massively encouraged consumers to behave irresponsibly.

I’ve not read this, have no affiliation to this book or any political party and honestly, from reading this review, I genuinely am confused as to what your problem with it is.

sgt pepper: Well, I have only Obama’s attempts to improve teaching and the forced resignation of the head of the Washington schools, but when I was teaching, I spoke to several teachers who once taught in public schools (I only taught in charter schools) and lousy teachers were untouchable because the union wouldn’t allow them to be fired. I don’t think it’s as widespread as some people make it out to be, but it’s true that unions do not let crappy teachers be fired, which of course is one of the problems with school improvement. It’s just part of the bigger problem with education, but it is a problem.

Jonny: In Mexico, journalists who write against drug cartels are gunned down in the street. Government officials who atttempt to rein in the cartels are kidnapped or killed. A few years ago the Mexican government published a pamphlet telling their own citizens how to cross the border illegally and blend into the immigrant population in the States. It really does seem like it’s a failed state at this point.

I’m not sure what you mean about “non-right-wing politicians.” I get that politicians in the States, even so-called liberals, are far to the right of leftist politicians worldwide, so that it’s easy to blame right-wing politicians in the U.S. because they’re all right-wing. My argument is more that it’s not just right-wing politicians’ fault – left-wing attempts to tax people can be just as misguided, because while right-wing politicians think the solution is to tax nobody, left-wing politicians think the solution is to tax everyone. In my original draft, I wrote a bit about the socialist utopias in Europe that seem to be running out of money (you can correct me on this if I’m wrong, but I’ve read a few brief news stories about it), so maybe taxing the heck out of everyone isn’t the answer either. The authors imply that if just tax the rich enough, all our problems will be over (well, that’s not all they imply, but it’s one of the things they imply). While as a non-rich person, I wish that were true, it’s just not.

I don’t argue that the banks didn’t encourage people to behave irresponsibly, because they certainly did. But it’s like sending money to a Nigerian expatriate in the hopes you’ll get millions back – yes, the spammer is evil, but shouldn’t people realize that maybe they won’t see a big return on their investment?

Anytime a creator responds to a negative review with “You just didn’t get it!”, it speaks pretty poorly of the piece in question.

How dare you have opinions, Greg?!

I’m pretty sure you’ve fallen for the propaganda in the whole Michelle Rhee thing, Greg (and the hysterical, overblown attack on teachers unions in general), but I’m wondering more about how you went from talking about “greedy” corporations to criticizing teachers unions. It’s a strange transition in your article and I don’t understand the jump. Those seem like two unrelated topics to me.

“I don’t think it’s as widespread as some people make it out to be, but it’s true that unions do not let crappy teachers be fired, which of course is one of the problems with school improvement.”

It’s been a big problem in L.A., where the LAUSD budget is so totally screwed that they’ve laid off over 5,000 teachers. The first to go were the newest, of course, rather than applying any sort of meritorious system based on ability.

I’m sore about this in particular, since it screwed my girlfriend out of a job that she had invested so much money in a master’s program for. Thanks to her total inability to find a job teaching in L.A., she’s now working in South Korea and she’ll be there for another 6 months. Thanks to the unilateral defensiveness of the union and many other factors, a woman who borrowed thousands of dollars for the express purpose of being able to help underprivileged kids is rejected wholesale.

As someone who’s family and loved ones have been involved in teacher’s unions for decades, I can promise you that it’s not all propaganda. There are, of course, unjustified attacks made on the unions by school districts, but there are many, many cases of teacher’s unions sticking to the mantra of “don’t fire teachers”, regardless of the context.

Wow, that’s an embarrassing typo.

“whose”

sgt pepper: Maybe. That’s part of the problem – the news is nothing but propaganda anymore, and I usually don’t believe anything that anyone says, because they all have agendas. Isn’t it possible you believe the propaganda? Anyway, as this is a rant, it doesn’t have to make sense! I went from greedy corporations to teachers’ unions because it’s a rant, and I veered all over the place! Actually, if you notice, I went from outsourcing jobs being, in a little way, the unions’ fault to educational problems being, in some way, the unions’ fault. It all makes sense!

But that’s the problem. Both sides come up with propaganda, and they either use broad statistics to prove their point and the other side uses anecdotes to counter it, or vice versa. It’s overwhelming, to be honest. That’s part of the problem with this comic, as I’ve pointed out – the authors take a ridiculously complex problem and reduce it to superheroes beating up bad guys. It vexes me.

“they don’t get into the fact that unions have become almost as adversarial toward the “common people” as evil corporations, and their intransigence “forced” the companies to seek employees elsewhere.”

Wow. That’s pretty hilarious. I can’t even count how many things are wrong with that statement. The average American is so brainwashed at this point that all you can do is sigh.

The only way out of this mess is to increase the amount of unionization in this country. Things will get worse and worse until that happens. This has been proven all over the world: the countries with the highest standard of living have the most unionization, and vice versa. America, once again, thinks that we’ll be the exception. We won’t.

“I went from outsourcing jobs being, in a little way, the unions’ fault to educational problems being, in some way, the unions’ fault.”

OK, that does make some sense. I don’t think that comes across as clearly as you intended in your article, but maybe I just didn’t read it carefully enough.

And there were a lot of factors at play in that Michelle Rhee thing (including a free election where the public could have voted for the candidate who supported Rhee if they wanted), so to say that the union forced her to resign is simplistic and unfair. That said, I’m sure I’ve fallen for some of the propaganda for the exact reasons you stated. But when I hear teachers in urban districts being blamed for the supposedly sad state of American education, I wonder why these same accusations aren’t being made in suburban districts, where the teachers have the exact same credentials and went through the exact same training, but somehow, miraculously are able to produce excellent test scores and globally competitive students . Aren’t teachers in urban districts actually being blamed for the poverty in America? I can hardly blame their unions for fighting like hell against that nonsense.

And to Apodaca, all of those teachers who didn’t get laid off also spent thousands of dollars to get their Masters degrees and pass their certification tests, as well as spending their time and money to take professional development classes to reup their certification every few years and they’ve got more experience, which anyone in teaching will tell you, is more valuable than any courses taken or credentials earned. Maybe your girlfriend would have been a better teacher than a few who got to keep their jobs, but generally, I think it’s fair to say that no, she wouldn’t have been. I don’t see any grand injustice in that case.

There are plenty of examples of unions becoming corrupt, because any group with power, as every single example in recorded history proves, will become corrupt. I don’t know which countries you’re talking about – I assume every country in Europe, which are all going bankrupt at the same time as the United States is even though their unions are strong. I think unions have done wonderful things in this country and on a theoretical level I agree with you, but to ignore the fact that plenty of unions ignore their workers’ plights and fill their coffers is also kind of hilarious. I suppose I could be brainwashed, but at least Americans aren’t rioting in the streets when their government tries to raise the retirement age.

sgt pepper: Of course you’re right. I don’t want to single out one group who’s at fault, because I’m not trying to look for people to blame, like it seems the authors are. I mean, we can get into the poverty aspect – Matt Bird seems to think more unionization is the solution, which might be true for all I know. It’s also true that parents have a great deal to do with it – many urban schools do much better if they demand more input from the parents. Many kids are being raised by single parents, which is less than ideal. I didn’t mean to imply that I was blaming teachers exclusively – there are plenty of teachers who work far too many hours for far too few rewards, and that’s another reason we have issues – I read once that most new teachers last only three years before they join the private sector, because it’s such a shitty career. Which, of course, gets back to unions helping the teachers get better pay so that it’s not such a shitty career. This is, again, why I object to the book so very much – as contentious as this comment section might be, it feels like the commenters are working through the issues with more thought to it than the writers of the book did.

Wow. That’s pretty hilarious. I can’t even count how many things are wrong with that statement. The average American is so brainwashed at this point that all you can do is sigh.

I hear this brainwashing argument a lot, but it seems pretty ridiculous to me, considering that most of the entities that have the capacity to brainwash (e.g. TV shows, books, newspapers, schools, etc) tend to lean on the liberal side – even churches will preach doctrine that is fiscally liberal, if morally conservative. So then, who is the brainwasher in this case?

Not that it really matters to my point, but I feel like I should make it clear that I’m not conservative or liberal or all that interested in politics to begin with. But as someone who’s been frustrated by his professors derailing classes that HE PAID MONEY FOR to rage about Republican war-mongers or greedy corporations stepping on the little guy when these have nothing to do with the content of the class, I have to imagine the “brainwashing” argument is a hangover from a few decades ago, when there might have been a bit more substance to it.

FOX News has the majority audience and they are not liberal. So, there goes the whole “liberal mainstream media” argument.

FOX News has the majority audience and they are not liberal. So, there goes the whole “liberal mainstream media” argument.

Mainstream Media According to Apodaca = 51% or more FOX News, 49% or less everything else

“And to Apodaca, all of those teachers who didn’t get laid off also spent thousands of dollars to get their Masters degrees and pass their certification tests, as well as spending their time and money to take professional development classes to reup their certification every few years and they’ve got more experience, which anyone in teaching will tell you, is more valuable than any courses taken or credentials earned. Maybe your girlfriend would have been a better teacher than a few who got to keep their jobs, but generally, I think it’s fair to say that no, she wouldn’t have been. I don’t see any grand injustice in that case.”

No, it’s not. While experience is valuable, it’s also extremely common for older teachers to be less committed to the students and generally burned out. It’s a profession where the drive of youth is very powerful in terms of creating lessons that are designed with more care and individual attention to the students. And the fact is that the majority of teachers who already have jobs are not making any attempt to put themselves in schools with the neediest kids. Established teachers want to work someplace comfortable, whereas new teachers are more willing to get involved in low-income neighborhoods with disadvantaged kids. Sure, part of it is the fact that they’re willing to take whatever’s offered, but it’s also because they have that idealism and ambition that someone who’s been teaching for 20-30 years is likely to have lost. Experience may be more valuable than schooling (though it seems painfully ironic for a teacher to express this sentiment), but conviction is more valuable than experience.

I think most of us have had those teachers who were too old to give a shit. I had a biology teacher who would drink from a giant bottle of “apple juice” all day long. What it comes down to is the fact that teachers were fired based on length of employment, not ability. And that’s grandly unjust.

By the way, the stories I’ve heard about bad teachers being protected mostly come from my mom, who’s been teaching for decades. It may be anecdotal evidence, but it’s not propaganda.

No, that’s according to recent polling and ratings that FOX touted, themselves. Once you have the majority audience, you’re part of the mainstream. I’m so sick of this right-wing victim complex.

Here’s some info from KCET and the LA Weekly. I don’t think either of them would ever be accused of being corporate (or district) apologists.

http://www.kcet.org/socal/voices/city-of-angles/firing-bad-teachers-in-la-expensive-and-hard.html

No, I’m not saying they don’t have the majority among news networks (they do, and it’s sad), I’m saying news networks are not the mainstream media in total. What you gave was a piece of evidence to the contrary of what I was saying and you presented it as if it totally invalidated my point. Like I said, I really could not give two straws about politics, but what I see routinely and what I’m complaining about is the left-wing victim complex, that they’re the little guy against “the man,” when really they are extremely well-represented in high places and have many popular and influential voices working for their causes.

Well, I guess that depends on how you define “mainstream media”. To me, the fact that the majority of people get their news from television means that TV news is the mainstream media.

Who represents gay rights? Left-wing or right-wing?
Who fights for tax cuts for the rich?
Who put the CEO of Halliburton on their presidential ticket?

“Extremely well-represented in high places” is untrue. If it wasn’t, Wall St. bankers wouldn’t be cursing the Obama administration even after getting bailed out.

You can’t compare celebrity endorsements to corporate ties. One is used to beg people to vote. The other is used to influence the laws that get voted on.

Greg, which countries are the “socialist utopias in Europe that seem to be running out of money” that you mentioned? That very much sounds like the way Fox News uses the label “socialist”, as a propagandistic, simplified and insulting way to talk about social welfare systems that have worked in many European countries for decades. And they still do! Is Germany (where I am from) to be labelled a failed socialist state because our very functional welfare system has to be partially reformed to keep going in modern times? We are doing rather well in this crisis and if you want to label the fact that I can get most medical treatment (without even having to think about the cost) as socialist, then so be it. As an insightful writer on historical topics I thought you would use the term “socialist” in a more nuanced way instead of employing it in the name of the propagandistic one-sidedness that you purport to be against.

“While experience is valuable, it’s also extremely common for older teachers to be less committed to the students and generally burned out.”

When I entered the education field, I had that exact same perception, and while there is a kernal of truth to it, in my experience it is largely a misconception. Surprisingly, the majority of experienced teachers that I know are master teachers who can sometimes accomplish in a few moments what new teachers take weeks to establish. They may seem less gung ho because they have lost the youthful spring in their step, but if you watch them work, you might be amazed at what they can do.

There’s certainly something to be said for youthful energy, but it doesn’t equal the wisdom that can only come from experience.

Anyway, say you’re right and I’m crazy, fine. What would you have done to those teachers who were once young and who dedicated years of their lives (and untold hours of unpaid afterschool time at that) to helping students? Thanks for taking on one of the toughest jobs in America, where, if you work in an urban district you are likely to have put yourself at risk of physical and psychological harm, and took on a challenge where you were practically doomed to fail but somehow made it through, but we’ve got some young turks and we’re giving them your job? How is that anything like justice?

Your girlfriend needs to wait her turn just like these experienced teachers have already done.

Bombie: Yeah, I was pretty cavalier with the word “socialist,” you’re right. I apologize. To your point about Germany, which has a pretty good social welfare system – I don’t know if it’s still true, but when I was growing up in Germany, my parents deliberately purchased health insurance because if they had a problem, they knew they could get free care, but it might take months to see a doctor. I don’t know if it’s still that way, but they didn’t like waiting in line for hours or not being able to get an appointment for months because so many people were using the system. My daughter’s PT (whom I mention above) ran into the same problems in Canada. My point, as it always has been, is that there’s a balance – the U.S. needs better health insurance, but do we want to go the route of Europe? I don’t know. I know my examples are only anecdotal (and one is decades old), but are they wrong? My point about Europe – and again, I’m sure this is propaganda – is that I’ve read in more than one place that many countries there are having similar problems that the U.S. is, and they reached them in different ways. If you tell me that no country in Europe is having financial problems, I’ll have to believe you, because you live there, but that’s just what I’ve read.

Greg: The financial crisis did affect Europe gravely, I don’t dispute that and by no means did I want to imply that our healthcare system is perfect. At least on paper, though, there is not supposed to be any difference in treatment depending on the payments one is able to make (although the 10% who are privately insured do tend to get preferential treatment in some areas). Nonetheless, no one will ever incur debt because of lengthy treatment and waiting for months to get an appointment is not a frequent experience (it might have been when you lived her, though). I did not mean to present the German system as ideal, however, because, of course, no system is. There re just some elements of US politics that I find difficult to understand and the healthcare debate is among them. Always good to read your opinions on political matters, by the way, it’s one of the aspects that really make your reviews stand out (e.g. in your reviews of “The Killer”).

“he has alluded to the convoluted restrictions that the Obama presidency has placed on small businesses. I don’t know if that’s accurate”

It isn’t, but if you really cared, you’d already know that.

The great thing about this thread is everybody’s confirmation bias. That quote above perfectly reflects not one, but two. One, you’ve got the conservative guy who automatically thinks that anything interfering with his business is Obama’s fault. He ignores the facts and blames everything on Obama because he’s a conservative Republican. This is fine. There’s nothing we can do about this.

But the far worse bias is Greg’s. Greg feels that he wants to be fair and balanced and, thus, is going to give equal time to the crazy conservative guy who has, again, NO FACTS ON THE SIDE OF HIS ARGUMENT. Now, this isn’t really a big problem on a webblog like this which, no offense, has only a few hundred devoted readers, but this is also exactly how the mainstream media presents things, as if “no facts” is equal to “all the facts”. Which is why Cass’s entire point about the left-wing media ridiculous to anybody who actually pays attention. The idea that the majority of media is presenting things with a left-wing bias is patently ridiculous to anybody who can clear their head and stop listening to right-wingers complain about that bias for a little while, and look at the actual news that is presented to us and how it compares to the actual news in a more objective presentation.

Sean: Wait. You’re saying that a person you don’t know who owns small businesses is completely wrong? Do you own a small business? He’s definitely not a crazy conservative guy – he’s far more rational than many liberals I know. Or perhaps you mean that any conservative person is crazy? How is that not a bias? It’s not that I don’t care to find out, it’s that usually we discuss stuff like this when my daughter is getting physical therapy, so our focus is, well, on giving her physical therapy. I could easily sit down with him and discuss what his objections are to the tax code, but he’s busy working. You can impugn me all you want, but man – impugning a guy whose entire life is devoted to making physically challenged children’s lives better is a bit harsh, don’t you think?

That’s a bit of a reach, Burgas–his dedication in one area of his life does not necessarily transfer to his knowledge of an unrelated topic.

But the far worse bias is Greg’s. Greg feels that he wants to be fair and balanced and, thus, is going to give equal time to the crazy conservative guy who has, again, NO FACTS ON THE SIDE OF HIS ARGUMENT.

How on earth do you know he has no facts on his side of the argument? Talk about confirmation bias and operating without facts, you’re way more guilty of that in your post than the guy you’re judging is.

I’m so sick of this right-wing victim complex.

Yes, because it gets in the way of the original victim complex, the left-wing one. Left wingers want everyone else to stop whining because it stops people from paying attention to their own whining, much like a spoiled child hates having other spoiled children around, not because he hates immaturity but rather because it diverts attention from his own crying. Like that spoiled child, left wingers police everyone else’s whining because they want a monopoly on whining themselves, not because they actually dislike whining. It’s also like how a pretty attention whore hates it when another pretty attention whore enters the same room. If they did actually dislike whining, they’d try to rein in their own, which they never do.

The irony of left-wingers is they don’t realize that the precise reason right-wingers whine so much now is because the left-wing has shown how well victim complexes work, so they are now taking plays from their playbook. Boomers who had pretty cushy lives and no real problems to complain about started becoming the biggest crybabies out there and ended up getting many of their needs met, so now right-wingers with pretty cushy lives and no real problems to complain about realized the squeaky wheel gets the grease and started behaving the same.

It’s ironic, like how the left now complains about the tone of debate and dissent in this country now that the tea party is making a ruckus, but don’t realize that they set the lowered tone for this type of dissent themselves with 8 years of public tantrum rallies with Bush=Hitler signs.

sgt pepper: Maybe. But he did call the guy crazy without knowing anything about him, so I felt it was justified.

Finally, after all this talk of bias and propaganda, we get a balanced essay from T.

In case you’re too young to remember, T, the Bush=Hitler meme came after eight years of Republicans crying “impeach Clinton because he’s a pot-smoking, draft-dodging sex addict and his wife is a cold, castrating, feminazi bitch.” The GOP attacks came about because of the “culture wars” campaign launched (again) by Republicans in the early ’90s. In other words, you’re sadly mistaken about who started it.

We can argue about whether the Hitler comparison is fair, but Bush launched a preemptive war, legalized torture, opened a concentration camp, and authorized warrantless wiretapping–among other legal and moral crimes. That’s infinitely worse than anything Obama’s done to deserve a Hitler comparison.

I bash Republicans, big business, and the rich as much as anyone, but this book does sound like heavy-handed propaganda to me. I mean, “One day the Invisible Hand showed up with the Budget Axe”? If you think that’s sophisticated wit, I guess you’ll like the book. To me that’s like one of those ultra-obvious 19th-century political cartoons where wolves labeled “Corporations” attack a little lost lamb labeled “Labor.” In other words, not especially insightful or interesting.

But one point, Greg. America’s top tax rates were highest in the 1950s and 1960s. Economists rightly consider these boom years when the country as a whole prospered. So the facts contradict your supposition that higher tax rates would discourage the rich or harm the economy.

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=213

Rob: Excellent point. Let’s not forget the giant manufacturing base we had back then which has eroded. That’s not coming back, and unfortunately, our economy hasn’t been flexible enough to deal with it.

Finally, after all this talk of bias and propaganda, we get a balanced essay from T.

It may not be balanced but it was 100% correct.

In case you’re too young to remember, T, the Bush=Hitler meme came after eight years of Republicans crying “impeach Clinton because he’s a pot-smoking, draft-dodging sex addict and his wife is a cold, castrating, feminazi bitch.” The GOP attacks came about because of the “culture wars” campaign launched (again) by Republicans in the early ’90s. In other words, you’re sadly mistaken about who started it.

Let’s be intellectually honest here, even at its utmost WORST, and I mean rabid WORST, the anti-Clinton mania by Republicans had nothing on the anti-Bush hysteria. Seriously, man. Were those things said on occasion about Clinton? Sure. But where was the Fahrenheit 9/11 against Clinton? The comparisons to genocidal mass murderers? The constant nonstop hysterical rallies? You cannot honestly say Clinton got anywhere near the same amount of grief Bush did.

We can argue about whether the Hitler comparison is fair, but Bush launched a preemptive war, legalized torture, opened a concentration camp, and authorized warrantless wiretapping–among other legal and moral crimes. That’s infinitely worse than anything Obama’s done to deserve a Hitler comparison.

There you go, you proved my point. You can’t even simply HEAR the name Bush without taking the time to go into a lengthy knee-jerk slander against the man. That’s my point. When people communicate like that all the time, then people start responding in kind. Liberals take the low road all the time, yet demand others to take the high road.

And also, the thought that the Bush=Hitler meme came AFTER 8 years of Bush’s presidency means YOU’RE the one who’s too young to remember. Bush=Hitler came on the scene the instant Bush became the candidate, before he started doing anything you describe. For liberals, all you have to do to be equated to Hitler is just be Republican. Calling Republicans Hitler is like inhaling oxygen for progressive liberals, it comes that naturally. The idea that liberals waited until Bush did all those things to call him Hitler is not true in the least.

Here are two retrospectives of liberals calling Republicans in general and Bush in particular Nazis:

http://www.therightperspective.org/2010/05/01/a-short-history-of-liberals-using-the-nazi-card/

http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=612

Excellent discussion.

It’s a natural human tendency of our time to perceive good and evil as absolute opposing forces, but they’re not.. History shows that goodness in humanity overcomes the evil. Or that evil is ultimately subjugated into serving a greater good. Otherwise, there’s no explicable reason for our having survived and flourished as we have.

But it’s a long and hard learned lesson that we’re not yet able to raise to the forefront of collective consciousness. Why? Are we all so self-righteous that we need to vilify others who disagree with us? Isn’t it possible that both sides, at the populist level of a discussion such as this, have good intentions and hold a piece of the truth?

It would be more questionable if one such as Bill Gates was to appear here and boast about giving half his fortune to charity, There’s little charity in such a declaration from one of his means. Just the opposite, it’s only a fig leaf to conceal his alliance with forces that have little goodwill for humanity. These are far more the villains than anyone participating here. It’s not about right or left. Not about liberal or conservative. These are superficial labels that the powers that be are happy to see us fighting over, and forgetting who the real culprits are.

And we fall right into this trap time after time. So much so that our best friends and acquaintances become as ideological enemies. Half the world pitted against the other half. Perfect. The bad guys are taking the cake and subjugating us into economic slavery as they laugh at our bickering.

I also didn’t like the prominent labeling in the story and discussed it with Gan and Erich during production. I believe the book would sell more if the ideological labeling wasn’t so blatan, as it’s clear from this discussion that about half of the potential market has been alienated. It’s not ultimately smart to pick such a generalized fight with an ideology when people of goodwill cross both party lines.

On the other hand, the finesse with which this story brings our economic woes into light is worthy of the project. The authors have the best intentions, as do most of their populist opponents.

If we put our ideological ego aside, it’s easy to see how this book is an excellent contribution towards bringing the insight and relevance of the comics medium into popular awareness.

An excellent contribution towards helping us get along a little better in order to weather the coming storm.

Thanks for stopping by, Michael. I do apologize for not discussing your (and the rest of the) art because I was ranting so much. The art really does a nice job making these abstract concepts concrete, in a fun, wild, accessible way.

No apologies needed Greg. The story is more critical to the book than the art and what you said needs to be aired out – and you’ve done it with grace. I’m sure the writers are also happy with the discussion, regardless of how heated. Many thanks for the nice words.

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