Crisis on N Earths (N=2): The 1992 US Presidential Election

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Crisis on N Earths is a recurring series in which I address events or works outside of the DC Animated Universe and its characters, but both contemporary and significant to the period under discussion.
It’s November 3, 1992, the day before “Beware the Gray Ghost,” so see that post for the movie and music charts.
The big news story today is the election of Bill Clinton to be the next President of the United States, a job he will hold for eight years. It’s not particularly relevant to what’s going in Batman the Animated Series at this precise moment, but it is emblematic of changes that will matter later in this project, so let’s discuss briefly how this–the last time a sitting President lost reelection–happened.
First, we can largely dismiss Ross Perot as a factor. Yes, he did better than any third-party candidate in decades, and oftentimes that can result in a “spoiler” effect where people are split between a candidate who otherwise would have won and a third-party candidate who can’t win, resulting in the person who would otherwise have come in second winning. However, for Bush (the elder, father of the Bush who would succeed Clinton) to have won, the overwhelming majority of Perot’s voters would have had to vote for him, and Perot’s voters appear to have been roughly evenly split between Bush and Clinton as their second choice.
No, as was famously said internally in the Clinton campaign, “[it’s] the economy, stupid.” As I described in the post on “The Forgotten,” the deregulation of the Reagan and Bush years led to a banking crisis and recession in 1992, which caused Bush’s popularity–high in the aftermath of the first Gulf War–to plummet. It didn’t help Bush that the Republicans–who had largely defined themselves as being the anti-communist party–had trouble maintaining cohesion after the end of the Cold War, and Bush had alienated the more conservative wing of his party by breaking a promise not to raise taxes.
Clinton, meanwhile, had just come from chairing the Democratic Leadership Council, a non-profit organization founded in response to Reagan’s landslide 1984 victory that advocated for a “Third Way,” pushing the Democratic party to abandon the leftward turn it had taken in the 1960s and 70s (which turn, keep in mind, consisted primarily of civil rights and social welfare programs). They supported welfare “reforms” designed to punish people for not trying hard enough to find jobs, supported continued (albeit less) deregulation of business and industry, opposed single-payer health care, and “opposed class warfare”–not in the actual sense of trying to protect the poor from the predations of the privileged, but in the sense of trying to placate business owners and corporations in the hopes of getting donations.
In short, the DLC saw Republicans winning elections, and decided that the best way for Democrats to start winning was for them to become Republicans. While Bush tried to shift right to recapture the fiscal conservatives he’d alienated, Clinton played ads that emphasized Bush’s broken tax promise and attacked rapper Sister Soulja’s lyrics to court those same conservatives, while also promising support for affirmative action to court African-Americans and anyone else who might see a racist element in those attacks. Clinton supported abortion rights, which the left liked, but also the death penalty, which the right liked. Wherever he could, he split the difference, trying to be all things to all people.
As an election strategy, it worked. Fully 10 states which had gone for Bush in 1988 not only flipped to Clinton in 1992, but went to the Democrat in every election since. The entire country realigned, firmly cementing the Democrats as the party of the Northeast, the West Coast, and the Great Lakes. But in the process, the Democrats ceded their populist economic principles, meaning that both major political parties now represented the economic interests of corporations and the wealthy, not workers or the poor. In subsequent elections, the Republicans were able to take advantage of the rising power of the Christian right, with which Reagan had been closely allied, to position themselves as champions of a new kind of populism–instead of farmers and workers against big business, now it would be white Christian men against gay rights, abortion, and science. In the process, they cemented their hold on the flyover states.
In short, the 1992 election represented the establishment of what we now think of as the “red state/blue state divide,” the abandonment of liberal and socialist policy goals by the Democrats in favor of becoming Republicans Light, and the real start of the culture wars. Very shortly, the Republicans–who as mentioned were having trouble maintaining party cohesion without the nebulous shared enemy of communism–would discover a new shared enemy, liberalism, which they defined as anything that wasn’t identical to Republican policy plus anything which was identical to Republican policy but said by a Democrat. And, perhaps most critically of all, it represented the final, full abandonment of the liberal ideals of the 60s as politically viable positions in the U.S.
It’ll be a while before we get anything to replace them. Let’s go back to talking about cartoons for a bit.

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Sunday Open Thread

Blarg, sorry this is late. I ended up making many decisions last night which I regret, mostly to do with how late I stayed up, how much STO I played, and whether to eat an entire goddamn bag of Reese’s, and thus overslept.
But I finished the latest round of edits on the book last night, and sent them off! It is theoretically possible that it will therefore be done on time!
So… question or prompt. Hmm. Tell me a story about a time you overslept, and the consequences thereof.
This is an open thread. The prompt above is just a suggestion; feel free to talk about anything you like. Share things you’ve made or that you want people to support, link to interesting articles, talk about what’s going on with you, or just shoot the breeze, it’s up to you. Please abide by the Comments Policy (linked at the top of every page), however.

Yurikuma Arashi 3 and Mawaru Penguindrum 4 Liveblog Chat Thingy! (Take 2)

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Yurikuma and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST. We will then be watching Mawaru Penguindrum at 2:30.

I will try to make it this time, but I’m at the library and Internet there can be spotty. If I don’t, someone please comment with the chatlog, and I’ll update with my own once I’ve had the chance?
ETA: Chatlog in comments, my own comments below the cut!
Continue reading

Book Update!

My Little Po-Mo vol. 3 is shaping up nicely. It’s been more challenging to edit than most because the Derivative Works posts were written over such a long period of time, but it’s very nearly complete. Should have it back to the editors for final proofing this weekend, and then it’s just formatting and waiting on cover design. 
So, on track for release in late September, and then I am taking a nice long break from editing books–won’t be working on another until I finish the first draft of the Eva book in January. 

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 37

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants. Covering a bit more than usual this week because of the move from Tuesdays to Thursdays.

  • Temporal Ambassador Redux: Alternate past Morwen, Tasha Yar, and the crew of the Enterprise-C struggle to return the ship to the past and restore the timestream.
  • Ceron System Patrol: The Klingon renegades have blockaded a planet and are destroying civilian ships trying to escape.
  • Gamma Eridon System Patrol: The Phoenix responds to a distress call from Romulans under attack by Gorn loyal to the renegades.
  • Beta Thoridor System Patrol: The Phoenix helps Romulan forces repel a “small Klingon battle group.”
  • Japori System Patrol: The Phoenix helps defend the Romulan colony on Japori II from an incursion by Nausicaan privateers hired by the renegades.
  • Daise System Patrol: The Romanov investigates why Romulan listening posts have been failing.
  • Eriksson System Patrol: Lelar, the Ferengi captain of the Kaname, leads a group of ship’s from the 531st to destroy a Klingon advance force before they can fortify their new position.
  • Objects at Rest: The Starfleet Academy Graduating Class of 2410 get a second chance at a graduation cruise on the Pizza, and find themselves trapped in the middle of a Klingon fleet massing to strike at the heart of the Federation! [Original]
  • Remain at Rest: Morwen leads the Starfleet forces as the final battle with K’tin’s renegades begins. [Original]
  • Tribble in Paradise: The crews of the Phoenix and Van Houten take some much-needed shore leave on Risa, while Morwen worries that every time she tries to go on vacation, something goes terribly wrong. [Original]

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
The “System Patrol” missions in this block continue my experiment’s final act: I continued doing System Patrol missions with no foreknowledge of what would happen in them, weaving them into the ongoing story as I went. That story then reaches its climax with the two-part finale “Objects at Rest”/”Remain at Rest,” followed by an epilogue of sorts in “Tribble in Paradise.” The two parter was pretty much entirely made up by me; “Tribble in Paradise” was originally original, but then I revised it to (very, very loosely) incorporate some elements of the game’s summer event on Risa.
As I said last week, Temporal Ambassador Redux is a bit different; I’m using the fact that my Delta Recruit alt (who is gameplay source for the “past self” Morwen keeps communicating with on behalf of Temporal Investigations) got an assignment to retrieve information from the alternate timeline in her run of “Temporal Ambassador” to finally get to cover that mission (one of my favorites) on the blog, which I couldn’t do when I played it because Morwen shouldn’t actually remember any of it.
This is probably the only time I’ll try this experiment, as I believe between it, the Alpha Quadrant system patrol missions I tied into the game’s Cardassian plot arc, and the fact that the game itself includes the Delta Quadrant system patrol missions in the plot, I have now covered all the system patrol missions in the game. Unless of course they add some new ones in future release, but I’m actually hoping based on the trailers and news for Season 11 so far that they’re planning to bring back procedurally generated exploration missions instead–an element the game used to include, but eliminated before I started playing.

Vlog Review: Gravity Falls S1E5

Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos (including Korra, Steven Universe, and now Gravity Falls and Star vs. the Forces of Darkness, plus my panels on anime and the apocalypse, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and postmodern anime) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!
Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to to watch.

A thing I want to happen in the next STO mission

You have a suitably Trek-y way to defeat/mollify/seal away the Iconians, but you need to reach them to use it, and all of T’Ket and L’Miren’s Heralds are in the way. On your side you have the largest fleet ever assembled by the Alliance or anyone in it. EVERYONE is here, ships from every member of the Delta Alliance and Iconian resistance–the three player factions of course, plus Cardassians, Ferengi, Krenim, even Borg Cooperative ships.
And you’re still outnumbered 10-to-1 and losing badly.
Then Sela warps in with a small group of Romulan ships, all that she could scrounge up of the Imperial fleet. “My friends and I came to help save our galaxy,” she says.
You thank her, with overtures of “but this isn’t enough to give us the edge.”
“And here come my friends now,” Sela says, as tens of thousands of Jem’Hadar warships warp in to help you.

Decided to become a supervillain (Mad as a Hatter)

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It’s October 12, 1992. The top song is, as seemingly always, Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” with Patty Smyth, House of Pain, Bobby Brown, and TLC also charting. The top movie is Steven Seagal vehicle Under Siege, with Last of the Mohicans and The Mighty Ducks at the number two and three spots, respectively. In the news, yesterday was the first of three debates between U.S. Presidential candidates George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot; today, an earthquake in Cairo kill over 500 people and injures over 6,500; and on the 17th, the shooting of Japanese exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori in Baton Rouge, Louisana occurs; the acquittal of his killer on self-defense grounds will prompt international protests calling for tighter gun control in the U.S.
On TV, we have “Mad as a Hatter,” a badly underrated episode that picks its way carefully through a potential minefield of issues. Structurally, this episode mimics the “sympathetic villain origin story” that are frequently among BTAS’ best episodes, such as “Heart of Ice,” “Two-Face,” and “Clayface.” Thus we follow an unusual, but hardly monstrous, individual as the pressures of what amount to more or less “normal” life issues–the loss of a loved one, mental illness compounded by a serious physical injury, drug addiction–lead the person into a grotesque path, resulting in the creation of a monster from what was once a man.
In this case, the pressure on Jervis Tetch is unrequited infatuation with his coworker Alice, and his attempts to deal with his emotions lead him down a darker and darker path until he becomes the Mad Hatter, gets defeated by Batman, and at last we see a mournful final shot that speaks to the sorrow of his fall.
Except for one thing: until that final shot, the episode is never sympathetic to Tetch, and rightly so, because he has more in common with Scarecrow than Mr. Freeze: he is as corrupt at the start of the episode as at the end. The only change necessary to transform Tetch into the Mad Hatter is for him to recognize that he has power, at which point he does what he has wanted to do from the start. This is not corruption, but self-indulgence.
Consider the first we see of him: using his mind-control technology to make rats do his bidding, crowing happily that his technology will allow him to control anything. A few minutes later, however, he is claiming to Marcia Cate and Bruce Wayne–his bosses–that his prototype “isn’t ready.” And small wonder–Wayne describes Tetch’s topic of research as enhancing the human mind, but what Tetch is actually developing is a means of controlling the human mind. He is lying to his bosses about what he’s developing, because he knows that no ethics board on the planet would approve mind control research. He must know that he will be found out eventually; the only plausible explanation is that he is planning on going into supervillainry from the start.
And consider how the episode treats his infatuation with Alice. When he sees her sobbing in the break room, tearfully explaining to Cate about her problems with her boyfriend, the jubilant music highlights the contrast between her pain and Tetch’s happiness. He is ecstatic that she is suffering, because this gives him an opportunity to–in his own words–“win.” In other words, despite his overtly friendly behavior toward Alice, he doesn’t care at all about her feelings; he sees her purely as a possession, a prize to win in a competition of power and status.
When he takes her out, his duplicity is blatant; he claims to be trying to cheer her up, but really he’s repeatedly seeking to demonstrate his power. Using his mind control technology, he drives off the two muggers–nearly killing them both, it should be noted–to demonstrate his power to “protect” Alice, then at the restaurant he uses his control over seemingly the entire staff to demonstrate his power to “provide for” her. Throughout, she is clearly uncomfortable with his romantic gestures, such as when he takes her hand in the restaurant or invites her to dance in the park. He is oblivious to her discomfort, however, just as he was oblivious to her crying before; all that matters to him is the demonstration of power.
Tetch’s history is implied rather than shown, but the implications are strong enough to be fairly easy to read. He’s a short, unattractive, socially awkward scientist with a consuming passion for a children’s fantasy story; it’s hard to imagine a more textbook example of the stock nerd character. Further, he pretends to be Alice’s friend, while actually not caring about her at all as a person, because he is infatuated with her. (And just in case we missed that, the episode kindly spells it out for us: when he finally resorts to outright kidnapping, his henchman are dressed as the Walrus and the Carpenter, who, in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, pretended to be friends to the oysters so that they could devour them.) He is, in other words, a clear example of Nice Guy Syndrome, fully a decade before it was first named, though long after its first depiction, the “Nice Guy” being a staple of romantic comedies since at least Cyrano de Bergerac.
Like the classic “Nice Guy,” and in stark contrast to actually nice guys, Tetch pretends to be nice toward the object of his infatuation while actually viewing her as a thing to be tricked into becoming his possession. His mind control is simply a metaphor for that manipulation, a complete removal of the agency of the people around him so that they can be reduced to simple systems whose buttons he can press.
It is small wonder that he spends most of the episode toying with the idea of using his technology on Alice. His entire goal is to possess her, and he demonstrates repeatedly he doesn’t care about her feelings, only about “winning.” He desires her as evidence that he has power, not as a partner with her own agency–he quite clearly cares nothing for the agency of others, as throughout the episode he uses his cards to override that agency whenever someone gets in his way. So, of course, once he encounters an obstacle in claiming Alice, he overrides hers as well–and by the time we see her again, she’s wearing different clothes.
Tetch’s path, in other words, is not from a more or less upstanding member of society to a monster, but from already pretty monstrous person to likely rapist. Put aside his fantastical technology, and he is just another entitled, self-centered misogynist who saw an opportunity to assert power and took it. Notably, at no point does Batman express the slightest bit of compassion toward him, the way he did toward all the other sympathetic villains in their episodes; the only emotion we see Batman express toward Tetch is contained, but clearly visible, rage when he realizes to whom the mind control technology belongs, not too different from his reaction to the Sewer King.
But if Tetch’s story is not a fall from grace, but simply a revelation of his true colors, what are we to make of the final shot of the Mock Turtle statue weeping for him? That requires us to have read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and recall who the Mock Turtle is. He claims to be crying because once he was a real turtle, but was transformed into his current state–yet his meandering story about his youth is never concluded, and according to the Gryphon, “It’s all his fancy, that: he hasn’t got no sorrow, you know.”
In other words, the Mock Turtle’s tears of self-pity are based on delusions about who and what he is. Tetch’s self-pity and his entitlement go hand-in-hand, and so that final shot is revealed–like the happy music when he sees Alice crying–to be a depiction of his own emotional state in contrast to what has really occurred. Just as Tetch is happy in a sad moment because he thinks he is about to get what he wants, he is upset at the defeat of one of the most horrifying villains in the series so far because, as that villain, it means he’s definitely not getting what he wants.
This is an episode ahead of its time. At a time when the most visible fictional instance of an entitled, white male techno-wizard nerd on television was Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fan-hated wunderkind Wesley Crusher, in Tetch we have a vision of the entitled white male nerds of the future. In Tetch’s cards we see the Gamergaters, MRAs, and PUAs yet to come. The Mock Turtle thinks he weeps for himself; in truth he weeps for what he will become.

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Sunday Open Thread

I have so many projects I will probably never finish. That Xenosaga fanfic I posted bits of on Fiction Fridays and will quite possibly never actually write any more of (I got close to running out of already written bits to post here, but didn’t quite get there). The idea I had years ago for an open-ended Star Trek fanfic involving picking up some time in the 25th or 26th century and following an expedition to another, entirely unexplored, galaxy. Right now I don’t think The Dragons of Industry will end up one of those, but on the other hand I haven’t worked on it in a year.
What about you folks? What are some of the projects, or ideas for projects, that you doubt you’ll ever finish? Or even ones you doubt you’ll ever start? What ideas have you abandoned?
This is an open thread. The prompt above is just a suggestion; feel free to talk about anything you like. Share things you’ve made or that you want people to support, link to interesting articles, talk about what’s going on with you, or just shoot the breeze, it’s up to you. Please abide by the Comments Policy (linked at the top of every page), however.