Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The banking crisis: My Theory

It seems to me what happened is a bunch of well-connected fellas were handed the keys to the kingdom by the government agencies tasked with overseeing them – and hired to staff same – and they did what people handed power always do. They abused it. They fucked around and took big risks because A) it made their dicks hard and B) they knew they were in no-lose positions. Worst-case scenario and the gig goes tits up, the government bails their organizations out, plus they’re already rich and usually have “golden parachutes” to cushion the blow of being demoted to civilian billionaire from banking titan.

That sounds a hell of a lot like a Socialist architecture to me. The bail-out was built-in. Why would these guys act responsibly – any more than the schmucks who took the suspiciously no-strings loans – when there as no incentive for them to, and all the incentive in the world for them to be cowboys? Risk-takers and heart-breakers. Yee-haw.

I have no idea if the bail-out is a good thing or a bad thing. Oh, it came out of Washington. That makes it most likely a bad thing, huh?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In defense of Sarah Palin

I know what you’re thinking… must be a typo. I must have meant to type “indefense” not “In Defense.” But watch the clip above and then ask yourself, wouldn’t it have been better for everyone if our current Vice President had had his witches and demons cast out before he was placed in a position to have them wreak havoc (and let slip the dogs of war) upon the world?

(Thanks to whomever I snitched the photo art from, below.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flash: McCain Bails on Prez. Debate!

Holy shit! Every political maneuver in McCain’s playbook these days is a Hail Mary pass! Bailing on the debate to go back to where he helped give birth to the current banking/mortgage/housing crisis, and presumably preside over its speedy resolution is either a stroke of genius or the act of a desperate, flailing and failing politician. In an election where facts don’t have to make sense, this strategy has an almost existential symmetry to it.

It’s definitely a better political play than going ahead with a debate where he’s guaranteed to get clobbered for decades of votes to deregulate all the industries that are now falling like dominoes and wreaking said dire economic havoc.

While I write this, the people in my TV set are telling me that Obama is leaning away from McCain’s proposal to delay the debate. I have no idea what I’d do if I was him. McCain’s desperate ploy has put him in a pretty pickle. McCain’s suggestion sounds great on its face – one for all, all for one and all – but once you factor the political aspect into it, it’s an obvious cheap dodge from a guy who, I don’t know, maybe his debate prep-work wasn’t going so well?

No matter what Obama decides, it can be spun into a political gold by his opponents, who will disseminate talking points to the mainstream media that they will happily repeat without context or comment for the next week.

On the other hand, to further “help” McCain’s chances, the widely-loathed still-President Bush is going to take up valuable network airtime tonight to remind Americans that he and John McCain are of one mind on this issue.

This has really got my heart pumping. They’ll have to carry my laptop out with me.

First Responder: Do you know your name, sir?

Me: …wireless…

First Responder: What?

Me: Does your fucking ambulance have wireless?!

Oh, so much fun. This campaign has been like two years of slow-motion soap opera that is now speeding up to climax after climax like a really good novel by a great writer like Vonnegut, or that guy who wrote “Doc Savage.” And when I say Vonnegut, I’m thinking of Al Franken’s senatorial run in Minnesota. It could happen. This was the state that elected Jesse Ventura. The Last Boy Scout is apoplectic and I always take that as a good sign in matters political. When the other guys are blinded by their rage, that’s all the advantage a clever fellow like Franken should need. How cool would it be to have the Sunday morning news shows brightened up occasionally by Franken’s irreverent presence?

And hey, what the fuck is up with all this unprecedented need for speed in DC? Is it because we’re facing such a dire, extinction-level threat (like Galactus, for example) that it must be resolved now, instantaneously, or is it perhaps because congress’ recess starts at the end of this week? No matter what comes of the new debate debate, these congressional cocksuckers ought to be required, forced if necessary, to stay on the job until the legislation is passed. If I’m walking out the door on vacation and the computers go down, wiping out all of next week’s newspaper, do I shut off the lights and get in my car or call the wife and tell her I’ll have to meet at the cabin in a couple days? Damn right I stay.

For Christ’s sake, the nation’s legislators ought to at least be held to the same devotion to duty as an over-the-hill hack who produces life-support systems for legal advertising… shouldn’t they?

Ooh, it’s Barack-time! Let’s listen … Oh god, he’s rambling, just a little. And by ‘ramble,’ I mean speaking full sentences that contain actual ideas. I hope he gets to the sound bytes soon. Something pithy, and if it can rhyme, that would be awesome.

Get to the point, Barack. He thinks he’s building suspense, but he’s burying the lead. … He didn’t even get to it, he waited for the first questioner to pose the question about continuing with the debate. … Finally! The debates. … all right. Shit’s on. That makes it really interesting! He’s rambling again. A transcript would be one long paragraph made up of words, commas and semi-colons. Breathe, man, breathe!

Second question: Is Obama going back to DC? Answer: No, unless his presence is required. Again, he suggests presidents ought to be able to multi-task. Outrageous!

More details… snooze. If I’m writing, he must be blathering… Oh I know – let’s have a laugh at Fox’s pullquotes… “…McCain and I had cordial conversation…” Yay for Fox News! They’re unitificators, not divisionators!

Barack looks good between two flags. He looks right. I could easily watch him age 10 years in the next four years.

What the hell is McCain’s move now? What does the media do if only one candidate turns up for a debate? Invite in the number three guy, maybe the Green Party candidate? Ron Paul? Stay home?

I’m on the edge of my seat — I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Addendum 1:30AM: Wow, Letterman was brutal tonight!

McCain was booked to be on the show but bailed out late in the day, and Dave was clearly outraged at the last-minute cancellation. It was one of those things that stuck in his craw, and he returned to it constantly the whole show. It’s like he couldn’t help himself, like he was caught in the throes of a compulsion of escalating bad behavior. That’s why I’ll always take a trainwreck of a Letterman show over a smoothly-polished Jay Leno production any night. Jay can be counted on to stay on message, whereas Letterman is just plain fucking nuts when his dander is up.

Even while reiterating that he understood McCain’s feeling compelled to head immediately back to DC to work on the country’s financial meltdown, steam still poured from Dave’s ears all night. He kept repeating, “You don’t suspend your campaign…” and variations of “This just stinks.”

He also kept wondering in faux confusion why McCain wouldn’t offer his very-worthy vice-presidential candidate in his stead. She’s ready to lead, she successfully posed in a series of photos with world leaders earlier that very day – even met Bono! – she should certainly be able to navigate a simple late night TV interview, shouldn’t she? Where oh where was Sarah Palin?

At about the half-way point in the show, during fill-in guest Keith Olbermann’s spot, Letterman learned that, contrary to McCain’s personal assertions to him about returning immediately to DC, he was at the moment of Dave’s taping doing an interview with Letterman’s own network’s Katie Couric, just down the street. He did a live cutaway to the interview-in-progress and heckled his image on the monitor bitterly.

It was vintage Letterman – this episode is destined to become a classic – and it was the latest version of vintage McCain, like a memo that had been Xeroxed from Xeroxes for so many generations it could barely be read anymore.

I don’t see McCain winning the propaganda war on this one. I only see it reinforcing the storyline that he’s too old and fragile to deal with more than one responsibility at a time (when in fact I believe it was pure political calculation). Either way, his bluff’s been called but good. He took a calculated risk suspending his campaign to ‘roll up his sleeves and get to work,’ but when he crossed Letterman, he crossed a line.

Clay Aiken is gay??

That’s a game-changer...

(That Lindsay Lohan apparently is too is a somewhat more surprising revelation, although one I personally find easier to grapple with...)

“I am shocked, shocked to learn there is gambling taking place in this establishment...!”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief...

Rock Star!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain/Palin: GOP Lawmakers and Lawbreakers

First it was that awful Palin woman, a sitting governor, who refused to cooperate with a legally-sanctioned state investigation into allegations she abused the power of her office, now they’re trying to keep her staff from putting her on the hot seat, too.

Oh my gawd, they’re not even in office yet and they’re already flouting the law as if they were Jr. and Cheney themselves. And they only have to dick the law around for another six weeks or so before an election victory could give them the opportunity to ignore it altogether for at least another four years. Then pardon themselves on their way out the door should worst come to worst.

This is the “democracy” in action we’re trying to shove down the world’s throat at gun-point?

And this is the “change” these fuckers are threatening to bring to Washington? Who-knows-how-many more years of dodging subpoenas about “investigations under way,” instructing their subordinates to do the same, then refusing to comment on their lawbreaking because it’s “an investigation under way.” Which they’re not complying with. Regular people, the kind they’re peddling their political snake oil to in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, go to jail when they ignore subpoenas, Republicans go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Oh, and speaking of change, have you heard about John McCain’s response to the banking crisis? He wants a “9/11-type investigation” into what happened to this country’s financial institutions, institutions he has repeatedly voted to de-regulate. So he’s calling for an investigation of the crisis his actions helped facilitate at the same time as his running mate refuses to cooperate in a lawful investigation in which her wrongdoing in office might be revealed.

These fucking people make me want to puke. They make me miss the simple eloquence of evasions-under-oath like, “It depends on what your definition of is, is.” Clinton may have danced on the head of the pin when it came his time to participate in legally-sanctioned investigations into his ‘affairs’ in office, but at least he had the decency to participate. He had enough respect for the law to think that it applied to elected representatives, too, himself included.

...Not feeling as sorry for John McCain as I was yesterday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Man, I feel sorry for John McCain

He’s like some tragic fallen hero out of literature. After years and years pursuing his once-noble goal, he finally has it within his grasp – by selling out, one piece at a time, everything he once believed in – only to be eclipsed by some nobody, know-nothing V.P. pick some genius in his organization pulled out of their hat. He’ll make it into office, a man’s man on a woman’s skirt, and his entire term will become a “How many days till Sarah Palin is our first woman President” dead pool. I mean really, I think it won’t be long before he’s roaming the White House at night like Marley’s Ghost, shaking his chains in rage and embarrassment, bemoaning the presidency that might have been. The presidency that might have been if he had won back in 2000, when he still had some vestige left of his integrity, when he was at least somewhat of a maverick in Washington.

President McCain circa 2001 sure as hell wouldn’t have surrounded himself with a bunch of neocon dumbfucks, and if they were forced on him as a condition of being granted the nomination, he would have had the stones to tell the to go fuck themselves once in office.

Now he’s just this ghoulish, sad shadow of his former self. Flinging his POW-time yarn around to deflect completely unrelated questions (usually about his apparently too-many homes, but that’s another column) like an animatronic robomatron on power-saver mode. All the policy switches in the last few years, kissing Jerry Falwell’s ass in public after rightly refuting him only a few years before – in the 2000 election. His actions look faker than Abe Lincoln’s in Disney’s Hall of Presidents.

If John McCain of 2000 could see John McCain of 2008, I think he’d want to kick him in the ass.

I referred to it as arrogance last night to The Missus, and she took some umbrage. I was referring to Barack Obama. He’s making all the same mistakes McCain did in 2000. He’s too “good” to climb down off of his high horse and risk his precious decency. What arrogance! To have the country within your grasp, but blow it because you didn’t want to risk your reputation as a nice guy?

Intoxicated by the sound of my own voice, I continued to wonder aloud if Obama would come back in 12 years and win the White House at the cost of his soul. Is that always the price? I think one’s soul has to go before one can become a politically viable candidate. Look at Bill Clinton’s recent shameless race-baiting and alleged gender-bias prevaricating. Look at Lyndon Johnson; pompous asshole when elected, broken man when he retired. Another war president. Bush was an anomaly, the same as Sarah Palin is.

That of course is the genius of Palin. They’ve managed to recreate the Bush persona in a sunny, easy-on-the-eyes next-door type not tied in any way to the last 8 years worth of unbelievable bullshit from Bush and his crowd. She’s insulated by the fact of her very inconsequentiality. They test-drove this idea with Dan Quayle way back when, but their mistake that time was picking a thin-skinned east-coast-looking preppie-type for the gig - and they still won before Bill Clinton came on the scene. They needed down-home and next door, like Bill Clinton, and they got it right next chance they got, with Bush Jr. And now with Sarah Palin.

With all the horrific financial shit in the news, Palin refusing, on the most patently specious of grounds, to cooperate with investigations about possible abuse of power while she was in office as governor, John McCain saying until yesterday, Monday morning that America’s economic house of cards was in ship-shape… oh my god, it’s all so sad! I’d hate to see what would happen if his teleprompter said, “[waves hands around and throws feces like a monkey]”.

And to watch Obama repeat McCain-2000’s mistakes this time around, when we need so desperately to win! If only he could skip directly into that inevitable cynical, compromised sell-out that wins elections in time to win this one. Joe Biden’s doctors discover a “brain cloud” which treatment requires his full attention, Obama sucks it up and invites Hillary onto the ticket in time for the vice-presidential debate, we finally win one for a change, again with a morally-flawed standard-bearer, and the Supreme Court doesn’t get to Roger the Constitution in the pooper for the next umpteen years.

And in the final reel, John McCain has gone back to the Senate, reclaimed some of his maverick cred, voted with Obama to fund universal health care and all that good shit. It would be a Jimmy Stewart moment truly worthy of a man who would have then twice in his life refused to cave in to moral compromise in spite of overwhelming temptation to. Cue the orchestra. Drop curtain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

“Dad, it’s over.”

No question about it, the boy has started calling me “Dad” this week. From Daddy to Dad in less than seven days. I never thought of it as a demotion until it happened to me.

Just today, he started calling The Missus “Mom.” He uses both now, Dad and Daddy, but it’s startling still to hear the casual “Dad” slip out of his mouth when we’re talking. He just saw the closing credits rolling on a movie on my office TV and said, “It’s over, Dad.” Then he went into his room and put himself to bed for his nap.

Our little guy is growing up. *sniff!*

I think it’s definitely time to start having him address me as “sir.” This “Dad” crap is for the birds.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sept. 11 and 12 – Heroes Remembered and Exploited

The Missus refers to September 11 as “Republicans Day.” Not because only Republicans took casualties on that infamous morning, but because only Republicans have turned it into manna from heaven at the ballot box every other year since then. On one level, I deeply begrudge them that on matters of good taste, if nothing else. On the other hand, if the Dems had managed to successfully exploit it, I would have still condemned their tacky, disrespectful politicking, but would have been secretly grateful it hadn’t been the GOP that had managed to spin national catastrophe into electoral gold.

For instance, Sarah Palin emerged from the McCain campaign cone of silence yesterday – 9/11 – just long enough to speak at ceremonies where her son “Track” was being sent off to the Iraq meatgrinder then sit down with ABC’s Charlie Gibson to talk politics. Very artfully done, madame. Huzzah! Kudos to your handlers. It’s a shame you couldn’t answer any of the interviewer’s foreign policy questions coherently, or even demonstrate an understanding of what experts refer to as The Bush Doctrine (which you are expecting to pick up and expand upon once in office), but luckily for you, you weren’t drafted for your intellectual heft.

Otherwise, I thought she obfuscated pretty well for someone new to the national stage, but her segues from questions she couldn’t answer to stump-speech Greatest Hits need a little work. And Gibson never confronted her with any of her myriad gubernatorial scandals or the flat-out lies she and the campaign have been spreading around like loose cigarettes at an AA meeting for the last week. Somehow, Paul Krugman managed to eke out an entire column on the subject, but maybe Gibson was afraid Palin would unexpectedly wipe off her lipstick and complete her magical transmogrification from ‘hockey mom’ to bloodthirsty pit bull right there on the evening news and frighten the kiddies.

You know the kids I mean, the ones at home that she hasn’t packed off yet to go fight Bush’s born-again jihad in the Holy Land on the anniversary of 9/11 for the benefit of the television cameras.

And that’s your basic September 11 anniversary. Like The Missus pointed out, the Republicans own it. It was the biggest domestic national security catastrophe in American history, they were alerted about it ahead of time, it happened on their watch anyway and they’ve been winning elections with it for seven years now. (See my previous post on how Americans are stupid.)

I always get reflective on Sept. 11 because for me, it’s not just the anniversary of the new millenium’s first foreign attack on American soil and the right-wing’s continuing exploitation of same, but because it’s also the anniversary of the last day I shared the earth with Johnny Cash, who was called home to Glory on Sept. 12, 2003.

Two days of infamy. Two days my heart was shredded into a million tiny pieces. The only difference is, 9/11 is still as open a wound as the money pit at ground zero in New York thanks to the GOP’s weaponization of the anniversary, whereas every year I grow more sanguine about the passing of Cash. He had a good run, he sinned, got redeemed, fell in love and even enjoyed a late-career creative, critical and commercial renaissance. What more could a pop star want?

More importantly, he’d long ago made his peace with his God, and that’s something I still haven’t checked-off my To-Do List. He remains an inspiration in so many ways, and likely will until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil myself. I only hope I can do it with half the class and dignity of The Man In Black. I know for sure I’m gonna try to do it that way.

So this one’s for you, John. Rest easy, good and faithful friend. Save me a seat in the front row, center.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is the sound of one tooth gnashing?

Something like this: CLUMP-SCRAAAAPE “Ow my fucking gums are bleeding again!”

I haven’t written about politics for a while because, good lord, what is there to say? Americans are stupid, and we’re getting ready to prove it again.

I said at the beginning of the primaries that I liked Obama a lot, but I thought he’d benefit from some seasoning. I saw a picture in my mind’s eye of him being sworn in with more meat on his bones, some gray in his temples, after having been senator for a term or two, then governor of Illinois. That guy looked like the first black president to me.

And who knows? I may still be right.

It’s not even that Obama’s a bad candidate this time around. He’s not lightning in a jar, but he’s not John Kerry or Al Gore circa 2000, either. He gives great speech, but his great speeches are in the mold of the great speeches of old. They inspire and challenge the listener to lift him- or herself up to the standard of the speaker’s rhetoric. And as a country, we’re just not up to putting in that kind of effort anymore. These days, even when we go to war, we’re not asked to sacrifice anything - on the contrary, our leaders tell us the patriotic thing to do is go shopping. Which we can do from home, at our computers. Being a patriot used to take effort. Ask John McCain.

Garrison Keillor wrote a typically well-thought-out, well-researched piece on the subject of the nasty turn in recent polling, with this thesis: “Hello? Do you see us out here? We are not fruit flies, we are voters, we can read and write, we didn't just fall off the coal truck.”

Wrong! Yes we did. At least the so-called Independents have if the shift in polls since Gov. Palin’s convention speech is any indication. Keillor then goes on to de-bunk all the lies the campaign has been repeating about her daily, but so what? Nobody cares! All he’s doing is flinging around boring facts, he might as well be prepping us for a history mid-term. Do you honestly think John and Jane Q. Hockeymom are gonna stick around till the paragraph starting with, “When you check the actuarial tables…”?

Fuck, no. Mr. Radio-guy is just lording it over everybody how smart he is, what a snob, how elite. Christ, isn’t he on Public Radio? What else do you need to know about his “leanings?”

Back when I was doing speed, I hung out a lot of your basic truck-drivin’, gun-owning types, and one of them finally pulled me aside one day and told me I was rubbing people the wrong way with my highfalutin’ vocabulary (the result of an educational zeal that didn’t take me a single step further than the mandatory minimum 12 years). I learned real quick that Regular Folks don’t like it when they think you’re trying to show off your intelligence, because that’s not something they even have respect for in the first place. What they want to know is, Can you field-dress a moose? And while we’re having that beer together, how’sabout you flash us them titties?

Keillor's misread of the electorate reflects the same mistake the Democratic party keeps making; we keep nominating Richie Cunningham while the GOP keeps running The Fonz. Gosh Mrs. C, that’s not much of a contest, is it? Your Bill Clinton type – who is both policy wonk and affable skirt-chaser you’d like to have a beer with – only comes along once in a generation. Apparently.

The only reason the GOP at first decried Obama’s celebrity (remember their creepy “The One” commercial, where he shared screen time with Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and various giant phallic symbols?) is because they were scared of it. They’d run on it themselves and pulled off two increasingly improbable election wins in a row with it, and this time the other side had the telegenic goods in the bag instead of them.

But now that that they’ve got their own literal beauty queen on the ticket, they’re back in the pink and as a nation, we’re poised to screw the poor, hapless pooch yet once again. I don’t even think running Hillary against this Palin woman would have done the trick. Hillary’s no hockey mom, and that’s what the rubes are buying this year.

Are we really on-track to bestowing the presidency upon the Oldest Living Candidate ever who, in between multiple bouts with skin cancer, still found time to rubber-stamp most of the Bush administration’s nation-busting policies for the last 8 years?

Yes, we are.

Do we really think it’s a good idea to put a totally unknown quantity with scant executive and no legislative experience one heartbeat away from the Oldest Living Candidate ever, just because she can read a teleprompter and has a white-trash melodrama playing out in real time that the rubes in the hinterlands can relate to?

Yes, we do.

We can’t really be getting ready to keep executive power in the hands of the same party that has aggrandized and squandered it so rapaciously for most of the last decade, devastating us at home and humiliating us abroad, can we?

Yes, we can.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Duck, duck, goose, cool cat!

Seriously, it takes a mighty cool customer to wear a red hat after Labor Day, surrounded by ducks, and look this good.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obi vs The Boy (part infinity of ad infinitum)

Obi and The Boy have an interesting relationship — Obi is endlessly forgiving and The Boy is endlessly demanding. This particular wrestling match had been going on for about 10 minutes, moving from spot to spot around the house, before I came out armed with the video camera. Unfortunately, the clip cuts off just after the blind falls on them but before The Boy gulps, “Uh oh...!”