Sunday, 3 March 2013

Muppetville

Over this past week....Sesame Street had an odd episode....that kids watched, and I'm guessing they commented on this to Mom.  Some folks must have gone back to verify what their kids watched, and they were a bit shocked.

The theme for this one show?  Telly....this guy-muppet....was playing around with dolls, when some other muppets happened to walk in on him.  The idea was....shame now existed and Telly needed to handle the fact that he was a guy-muppet and it was OK to play with dolls.

You have to imagine the script writers to Sesame Street....spending hours and hour on how to convey doll-play with guys....as OK.  So they work up the puppet skit, and then use it for the daily broadcast.

The reaction is what you'd expect.  A bunch of parents are asking stupid questions to Sesame Street and what the intention of the muppet act is and expecting an answer.  Well...they aren't getting it.

When you stand back and ponder over Sesame Street....it's an interesting mix of people.  Most of the folks that run the show.....have PhDs and various degrees in child physiology.  They drive a theme at kids and want their attention.  A dull show....wouldn't work.  But in-between....there's these little lessons....like guy-muppets playing with dolls is OK.

Would they run another theme of guy-muppets playing with pistols being OK?  I doubt it.

Would they run another theme of girl-muppets playing cops and robbers?  I doubt it.

Would they run another theme of muppets on Wall Street and helping to keep a company afloat?  No.

Would they run a theme of muppets on welfare?  Yes.

Would they run a theme of muppets helping homeless people?  Yes.

Should parents censor Sesame Street?  I hate suggesting that....but then you have stupid episodes like this to come up and you start to wonder whose idea this was and how they meant the episode to be seen by kids.  I doubt that the writer or the producer want to explain this in public.

So now?  Stand back.  The day will come when you have a bi-polar muppet, a friendly Jihad muppet, a redneck muppet, and a Obama muppet.

In-Depth

There are two interesting stories in the news.....which aren't getting much national attention, but they really have significance.

First, as most know.....Detroit is financially to the point of being bankrupt.  By Michigan law....they are reaching the point where the Governor can take over the city (something that few Americans can imagine).  The deal on the table is that Michigan will simply appoint a financial manager over the city.  He would handle the revenue, and actually run the city.  The curious things?  He won't be elected.  He won't report to the city council or mayor (who are elected).  And he won't have anyone in Detroit on his side.

It's an odd deal.  You as the Governor.....don't want or care that much about having to take over Detroit, but they've reached the point where nothing works, and Michigan law kicks in.  So you play it safe and appoint "Joe".

"Joe" shows up on day one.  He has the city council and Mayor of Detroit meet with him on hour one of day one.  He wants the financial books and be given access to all city funds.  The Detroit folks will grin and simply say that they will send things over but it may take a few weeks.  Joe responds....that's ok....he's got thirty members of his team fanning out across the city as they speak, with judge's orders on them, and will take what they need.  The feeling in the room changes a bit.

Joe opens his own city operations center (paid by state funding)....with his own security guards at the door (no city police).

By day four, Joe has a list of six city departments with serious financial issues.  He asks for the chiefs of the departments to show up.  No one shows up at the meeting.  Joe has a judge sign the next order....removal of the department heads.  They counter with an injunction.....Joe counters by cutting all their funding, cutting the heat to their office, and turning off the electricity.

Somewhere by day sixty of this mess....half of Detroit is getting pretty positive on Joe and his management style.  The city council deemed worthless by this point and they simply meet and dump on Joe for the entire meeting.  No one cares much, and the news journalists of Detroit won't even report on the city council anymore.

It might take five years to fix Detroit, but Joe will likely come to say he's had some success.  It is fixable....if you remove the politics and just do your job.

So now to the second story of significance.

Italy is also in a financial mess.  They've had elections recently.  The real winner of the election?  A sixty-four year old Italian comedian-turned-political activist....Beppe Grillo.  Beppe has created what you view as the Tea Party of Italy.  The movement.....called the Five Star Movement.....has around a dozen positions, and that's it.

Beppe really doesn't care for a massive operation where they run the country and dominate everything.  His group has aimed at some particular problems and that's all they care about.  Of course, this bothers the traditional political folks because they want to focus on three hundred things....at once.

So Beppe has this general feeling over the economy.....it's screwed up.  He's ready to dump the Euro and return to the Lira.  He's ready to declare default on the national debt and just rework the payment plan on it....making up a cheaper and easier rate to pay.

Because of the way you have to form a national government in Italy....whoever runs the government....needs Beppe and his Five Star Movement working with them.  So far, Beppe refuses to be part of any working government.  They want to be free and able to turn on a dime. Beppe can have 250k members of the party noted of a change in attitude, by a mere five-line e-mail.  There's probably another 250k Italians that would swing over and stand with the Five Star Movement.

The Five Star priorities?  This is an interesting thing.

They'd like to have the 'states' or provinces removed.  There's this whole other level of political players at each province-level.  Most Italians will agree that this has become more of a problem in recent years, and they amount to simply another level of corruption.

They'd like for all electoral refunds to be removed.  Again, corruption renders this accepted practice as a joke.

They'd like to make it mandatory that all elected members of any consequence....not only receive training on the national constitution.....but they actually have to take a test before assuming their job.

They want term limits.....no more life-time jobs for political folks.

They'd like for representatives at the national level to have only one focus while at their job.  If you have other paying jobs.....you ought to resign.

They'd like a rule where no one with a criminal record....can hold an office (something that the current Constitution allows).

Where does this lead?  My humble guess is that Italy is about to take a number of steps....leading to it dumping the Euro, and returning to the Lira.  If they do it....Greece and a couple of other countries will follow within weeks.  Does it happen in 2013?  I have my doubts....but it's a pretty good bet within the next two years.

Who would have thought....a comedian would lead a political party, and trigger one of the biggest changes in Italian history? Maybe there's some lesson here....for Americans.