Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Satire – The Revolution Will Be Digitized

This Time: Three Douches To Watch Out For

It sounds like the lede of another breathless Dot-Com Bubble 3.0 puff piece by David Carr.

Three douchebags hook up at a café-cum-gallery-cum-hacketeria in a section of Brooklyn so hip that hipsters can’t find it on an app. Eight minutes later, they’ve banged out a business plan. What for, they can’t say. All they know is, it’ll be wicked awesome sweet. They send out a few emails; before you can type 140 characters they’ve lined up $28 million in seed capital. (There’s also out-of-school chatter about off-the-book rubles. Whatever.)

Now everyone’s talking about Douchenet.

Not you. You’re not talking about Douchenet. No one you know is talking about Douchenet.

By “everybody,” we don’t mean “everybody.” We don’t even mean “a large number of people.” We mean “everyone who matters.” Which most assuredly doesn’t include you. Or, really, hardly anyone at all.

So.

What exactly is Douchenet? Who knows? Who cares? The point of a piece like this one isn’t to tell you what’s going on. The point is to blow some free publicity the way of well-connected 26-year-old friends of people who matter to people who matter. (Not. You.) Twenty-six-year-olds whose business ideas are obviously utter horsecrap, are clearly doomed to failure, but not before they walk away with even more cash, raised from unwashed small-time rube wannabe playas. That’s the point of a piece like this.

That, and to make you feel miserable.

You poor, stupid, underemployed schmuck. A schmuck who will never, ever come anywhere near millions and millions of dollars. No matter how hard or long you toil.

Id.

iot.

At first (and OK, 17th) glance, last week’s Facebook IPO looks like a fiasco. Federal investigators are looking into charges that Morgan Stanley knowingly set the share price too high in order to inflate its underwriting fees, leaving unsophisticated stock buyers holding the bag for an 18 percent plunge of a $16 billion offering. But that’s only half the picture.

Sure, millions of people lost their hard-earned savings. But three douchebags are rocking out.

Which is what matters.

Mark Miron, 26, got paid in Facebook shares for watching Mark Zuckerberg’s cat one summer. As of last week, he was worth $200 million. But he’s more than just another smug, Silicon Valley wanker with rich parents, who likes to wear blue shirts with white collars, and is smart enough not to let his friend’s friend’s cat die. I mean, he is that. But there’s other stuff too. Like, he made a name for himself at Google when he agreed with some other entitled kids-of-Boomers that having illustrators design the search engine’s front page for free (i.e. “exposure”) was a cool idea. (By “cool,” we mean cheap, cynical and exploitative.) Can you say moxie?

Marc Parker, 26, started out at Facebook.co.uk, where he came up with the idea to model the British version of the site after its American parent, down to using the same language. “I love the blue hyperlinks. The white background. So American. And yet so British.” Eager to be promoted from a prat or a git to a full-fledged douchebag, Parker moved to Palo Alto, California in order to relinquish first his British, then his American citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes on the £200 million he earned from the IPO.

Jeff Mark, 26, drifted from PayPal to Facebook to MySpace to Compuserve to Netscape back to Compuserve. (Though closed, he somehow managed to collect €200 million from the latter.)

The three men became inseparable—and insufferable—after a chance encounter at Bi-Nary, a macrobiotic air bar that caters to sexually indiscriminate coders on the edge of the foothills near the section of the Google campus where they test attack drones for corporations.

It was during a sex tour of the Bushwick section of Brooklyn that the three douches conceived Douchenet. “We were talking about how, even though douches run just about everything in multimedia, until recently there weren’t the authoring tools and the bandwidth and/or the tablet platform for douches to hook up to do douchey things,” said Miron.

“Yeah,” agreed Parker and Mark.

I reached out to (that’s e-talk for “called”) Margot Jefferson, an analyst at D-Freak, a firm that tracks douchebaggery. “Douches account for 33 percent of start-ups, which account for 82 percent of investor fleecing, which amounts to 126 percent of economic activity in the United States,” points out Jefferson. “So the ability to connect douches across digital platforms using digital things is a game changer,” she confirms.

Given the power and the track record of these remarkable entrepreneurs, Douchenet is a story about power, wealth, journalism—and yes, wealth and power—worth watching. Marc Miron, for example, wrote that article that appeared in Wired that time. And Parker’s dad is just ridiculously rich, so we know he’s smart. Douchenet brings to mind Wingnutnet, a website you’ve never heard of because it doesn’t exist, yet which I’ve been writing about forever, by which I mean 2011.

Sometime this summer, Android will release a free version of Douchenet, so people who sign up can begin registering their personal financial information for distribution to trusted sites in Belarus. Using the so-called “freemium” model, Douchenet will charge fees for actual features, like the ability to create an “avatar” that could be sold by Farmville, which would pay a fraction of a fractile of a percent back to the original user, i.e. Douchenet.

In a live Tweetathon, Mark said he was drawn to Douchenet less by the idea than by the people who came up with it. “When you make an investment, you are betting on the team more than the idea,” he said. “If the idea is wrong, but the team is right, they will figure it out.”

“Who knows where this will end up?” he added between tokes on a clove bong.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 29. His website is tedrall.com.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Quit Whining About Student Loans

Time for #OWS to Broaden Its Appeal

It has been 30 days since Occupy Wall Street began. The movement hasn’t shaken the world à la John Reed—not yet—but at one thousand occupations and counting, it can’t be ignored.

OWS has become so impressive, so fast, that it’s easy to forget its half-assed origin. No matter. The fact that the French Revolution was partly set off by the drunken ravings of the Marquis de Sade hardly reduces its importance.

Soon the Occupiers will have to face down a number of practical challenges. Like weather. Winter is coming. Unless they move indoors, campers at Occupy Minneapolis and Occupy Chicago will suffer attrition. But indoor space is private property. So confrontation with the police seems inevitable.

As I saw at STM/Occupy DC, there is an ideological split between revolutionaries and reformists. Typical of the reformists: This week OWSers urged sympathizers to close their accounts with big banks like Citibank and Bank of America and move their savings to credit unions and local savings and loans. If revolutionaries get their way, there will be no banks. Or one, owned by the people.

There is no immediate rush, nor should there be, to issue demands. The horizontal democracy format of the Occupy movement’s General Assemblies is less about getting things done than giving voices to the voiceless. For most citizens, who have been shut out of politics by the fake two-party democracy and the corporate media, simply talking and being heard is an act of liberation. At some point down the road, however, the movement will come to a big ideological fork: do they try to fix the system? Or tear it down?

The Occupiers don’t have to choose between reformism and revolution right away—but they can’t wait too long. You can’t make coherent demands until you can frame them into a consistent narrative. What you ultimately want determines what you ask for in the time being—and how you ask for it.

Trotsky argued for the issuance of “transitional demands” in order to expose the uncompromising, unjust and oppressive nature of the regime. Once again, an “epoch of progressive capitalism” (reformism, the New Deal, Great Society, etc.) has ended in the United States and the West. Thus “every serious demand of the proletariat” de facto goes further than what the capitalist class and its bourgeois state can concede. Transitional demands would be a logical starting point for an Occupy movement with a long-term revolutionary strategy.

Both routes entail risk. If the Occupiers choose the bold path of revolution, they will alienate moderates and liberals. The state will become more repressive.

On the other hand, reformism is naïve. The system is plainly broken beyond repair. Trying to push for legislation and working with establishment progressives will inevitably lead to cooption, absorption by big-money Democrats and their liberal allies, and irrelevance. (Just like what happened to the Tea Party, a populist movement subsumed into the GOP.)

Revolution means violence in the streets. Reform means failure, and the continued, slow-grinding violence by the corporate state: poverty, repression, injustice.

At this point, job one for the movement is to grow.

I don’t mean more Facebook pages or adding more cities. The day-to-day occupations on the ground need to get bigger, fast. The bigger the occupations, the harder they will be for the police to dislodge with violent tactics.

More than 42 percent of Americans do not work. Not even part-time. Tens of millions of people, with free time and nothing better to do, are watching the news about the Occupy movement. They aren’t yet participating. The Occupiers must convince many of these non-participants to join them.

Why aren’t more unemployed, underemployed, uninsured and generally screwed-over Americans joining the Occupy movement? The Los Angeles Times quoted Jeff Yeargain, who watched “with apparent contempt” 500 members of Occupy Orange County marching in Irvine. “They just want something for nothing,” Yeargain said.

I’m not surprised some people feel that way. Americans have a strong independent streak. We value self-reliance.

Still, there is something the protesters can and must do. They should make it clear that they aren’t just fighting for themselves. That they are fighting for EVERYONE in “the 99 percent” who aren’t represented by the two major parties and their compliant media.

OWSers must broaden their appeal.

Many of the Occupiers are in their 20s. The media often quotes them complaining about their student loans. They’re right to be angry. Young people were told they couldn’t get a job without a college degree; they were told they couldn’t get a degree without going into debt. Now there are no jobs, yet they still have to pay. They can’t even get out of them by declaring bankruptcy. They were lied to.

But it’s not about them. It’s about us.

The big point is: Education is a basic right.

Here is an example of how OWSers could broaden their appeal on one issue. Rather than complain about their own student loans, they ought to demand that everyone who ever took out and repaid a student loan get a rebate. Because it’s not just Gen Y who got hosed by America’s for-profit system of higher education. So did Gen X and the Boomers.

No one will support a movement of the selfish and self-interested.

The Freedom Riders won nobility points because they were white people willing to risk murder to fight for black people. Occupiers: stop whining about the fact that you can’t find a job. Fight for everyone’s right to earn a living.

The Occupy movement will expand when it appeals to tens of millions of ordinary people sitting in homes for which they can’t pay the rent or the mortgage. People with no jobs. Occupy needs those men and women to look at the Occupiers on TV and think to themselves: “They’re fighting for ME. Unless I join them, they might fail.”

The most pressing issues for most Americans are (the lack of) jobs, the (crappy) economy and growing income inequality. The foreclosure and eviction crisis is also huge. OWS has addressed these issues. But OWS has not yet made the case to the folks watching on TV that they’re focused like a laser.

It takes time to create jobs. But the jobless need help now. The Occupy movement should demand immediate government payments to the un- and underemployed. All foreclosures are immoral; all of them ruin neighborhoods. The Occupy movement should demand that everyone—not just victims of illegal foreclosures—be allowed back into their former homes, or given new ones.

For the first time in 40 years, we have the chance to change everything. To end gangster capitalism. To jail the corporate and political criminals who have ruined our lives. To save what’s left of our planet.

The movement must grow.

Nothing matters more.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Ah, To Be Young And In Hate

America’s New Radicals Attack a System That Ignores Them

“Enraged young people,” The New York Times worries aloud, are kicking off the dust of phony democracy, in which “the job of a citizen was limited to occasional trips to the polling places to vote” while decision-making remains in the claws of a rarified elite of overpaid corporate executives and their corrupt pet politicians.

“From South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street,” the paper continues, “these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.”

The rage of the young is real. It is justified. It is just beginning to play out.

The political class thinks it can ignore the people it purports to represent. They’re right–but not forever. A reckoning is at hand. Forty years of elections without politics will cost them.

Americans’ pent-up demand for a forum to express their disgust is so vast that they are embracing slapdash movements like Occupy Wall Street, which reverses the traditional tactic of organizing for a demonstration. People are protesting first, then organizing, then coming up with demands. They have no other choice. With no organized Left in the U.S., disaffected people are being forced to build resistance from the ground up.

Who can blame young adults for rejecting the system? The political issue people care most about–jobs and the economy–prompts no real action from the political elite. Even their lip service is half-assed. Liberals know “green jobs” can’t replace 14 million lost jobs; conservatives aren’t stupid enough to think tax cuts for the rich will help them pay this month’s bills.

The politicians’ only real action is counterproductive; austerity and bank bailouts that hurt the economy. Is the government evil or incompetent? Does it matter?

Here in the United States, no one should be surprised that young adults are among the nation’s angriest and most alienated citizens. No other group has been as systematically ignored by the mainstream political class as the young. What’s shocking is that it took so long for them to take to the streets.

Every other age groups get government benefits. The elderly get a prescription drug plan. Even Republicans who want to slash Medicaid and Medicare take pains to promise seniors that their benefits will be grandfathered in. Kids get taken care of too. They get free public education. ObamaCare’s first step was to facilitate coverage for children under 18.

Young adults get debt.

The troubles of young adults get no play in Washington. Pundits don’t bother to debate issues that concerns people in their 20s and 30s. Recent college graduates, staggering under soaring student loan debt, are getting crushed by 80 percent unemployment–and no one even pretends to care. Young Americans tell pollsters that their top concerns are divorce, which leaves kids impoverished, and global warming. Like jobs, these issues aren’t on anyone’s agenda.

This pot has been boiling for decades.

In 1996 I published “Revenge of the Latchkey Kids,” a manifesto decrying the political system’s neglect and exploitation of Generation X, my age cohort, which followed the Baby Boomers.

We were in our 20s and low 30s at the time.

Un- and underemployment, the insanity of a job market that requires kids to take out mortgage-sized loans to attend college just to be considered for a low-paid entry-level gig in a cube farm, the financial and emotional toll of disintegrating families, and our fear that the natural world was being destroyed left many of my peers feeling resentful and left out–like arriving at a party after the last beer was gone.

Today the oldest Gen Xers are turning 50. Life will always be harder for us than it was for the Boomers. If I had to write “Latchkey Kids” for today’s recent college grads, it would be bleaker still. Today’s kids–demographers call them Gen Y–have it significantly worse than we did.

Like us, today’s young adults get no play from the politicians.

The debts of today’s Gen Yers are bigger ($26,000 in average student loans, up from $10,000 in 1985). Their incomes are smaller. Their sense of betrayal, having gone all in for Obama, is deeper.

Young adults turned out big for Obama in 2008, but he didn’t deliver for them. They noticed: The One’s approval rating has plunged from 75 percent among voters ages 18-29 when he took office in January 2009 to 45 percent in September.

Politicians like Obama ignore young adults, especially those with college degrees, at their–and the system’s–peril. Now, however, more is at stake than Obama and the Democrats’ 2012 election prospects. The entire economic, social and political order faces collapse; young people may choose revolution rather than accept a life of poverty in a state dedicated only to feeding the bank accounts of the superrich.

As Crane Brinton pointed out in his seminal book “The Anatomy of Revolution,” an important predictor of revolution is downward mobility among strivers, young adults whose education and ambition would traditionally have led to a brighter future.

In February Martin Wolf theorized in The Financial Times that the Arab Spring rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia owed their success to demographics; those countries have more young people than old ones. On the other hand “middle-aged and elderly rig political and economic life for their benefit in the U.K. [he could also have said the U.S.]: hence the way in which policies on housing or education finance are weighted against the young.”

Right here and right now, though, the young and the old are on the same side. Though the young are getting screwed the hardest, almost everyone else is getting screwed too. And with 80 percent unemployment, the young have a lot of free time to rise up.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

In The Year 2525

In the year 2525, as the old song goes, everyone will still be listening to endless droning on and on and on about how Woodstock and everything else Boomer was so super awesome that nothing else can or ever will approach it in its awesomeness. Which may very well be true, in which case, we REALLY don’t want to hear it anymore. For God’s sake, let us enjoy our pop culture lameness!