Monday, September 29, 2008

i know why john mccain won't look at barack obama. obama is his enemy, and, as he has made abundantly clear in his remarks about meeting with foreign leaders (even the prime minister of spain), john mccain does not meet with his enemies, not even with his eyes. he doesn't talk to them, doesn't acknowledge their existence, because his mammalian empathetic brain structures might remind him that they are as human as he is.

he is a weak man. he may not have always been, but he is now. the campaign has eroded almost all that was good in him. too bad.

Friday, September 26, 2008

john mccain wants to 'win' in iraq because we 'lost' in vietnam. barack obama understands that we have to cut our losses there because it's not as important as other things we have to deal with.

john mccain is a dick, and will kick you in the nuts if you get in a fight with him. barack obama is tough enough to get kicked in the nuts and still fight fair.

john mccain isn't man enough to look a man in the eyes when he sticks the knife, or tries to.
this is one of the funniest fucking things i've read in a long time.

reminds me of the one time i went to a 'drinking liberally' meeting. there were at least five people making the argument that if the democrats could only toss out the people who were not batshit-crazy radical leftists then they could totally win on the national level. with straight faces. i wanted to pat them on their cute little heads.
bartending haiku #1

it doesn't make you
a bad person not to tip
you already are
what you say: what do you have on tap?

what the bartender hears: i'm an idiot.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

i saw a sea change today. chris matthews appeared as a guest on rachel maddow's show. he looked slightly uncomfortable not being the guy whose show it was, but i think it was good for him as a talking head; it made him focus and say more cogent and well-thought-out things.

i heard he's thinking of running for the senate in pennsylvania. i think i like that idea, but i have to think about it some more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When the vast majority of the public and a sizeable number of members of Congress balk at the bailout, they are told that there is no alternative and they simply must accept the deal, so how could it be that the financial institutions who stand to benefit from the bailout might reject it? We are supposed to be on the verge of catastrophe, and presumably no one would be more aware of how close we are than these very institutions, but the government has to sweeten the pot enough to get the institutions to participate in the rescue? Supporters of the bailout insist that we need to throw a lifeline to drowning banks, lest they pull all of us under with them, but we still have to give the banks enough of an incentive to grab on to the lifeline? One might think that being offered rescue would be enough incentive. If the consequences of rejecting the plan are as bad as the administration says, why would the plan’s primary beneficiaries not jump at the chance to have the government purchase these toxic assets? If they wouldn’t jump at the chance, doesn’t that suggest that things may not be quite as bleak as we are being told? Isn’t it then reasonable to ask why Congress and the public should be railroaded into accepting a deeply flawed plan?
daniel larison, over at amconmag

tony fratto kind of gave this away at a presser earlier this week, and it made me wonder then (as it makes me wonder now) just how insanely urgent this whole catastrophe really is. if the drowning man turns down the life preserver because it means he has to swim in a cheaper swimsuit the next time he dives in, he's probably not really drowning.

i do think there's a need for some bailout money, but i don't think it should be aimed at wall street. those guys should all have known what they were getting into, and if they didn't, or did and didn't care, then they should suffer the consequences.

myself i think any government intervention has to start with individual mortgage holders, people who might be able to stay in their houses if they could renegotiate their predatory loans. for one thing, it actually helps people that need help. for another, presumably such an action would help to stabilize the securities market because it would make it easier for banks and rating agencies to accurately value these incredibly abstruse investment vehicles, which presumably would help unclog the credit markets, which are chock-full of money (where the hell else is the government going to get that $700bn, anyway?) but are scared to lend it because nobody knows what's on anybody's balance sheet.

if the government wants to buy into these companies at fair prices for an equity stake, and advocate for good governance of them, that might be one thing, but to give the former chairman/ceo of goldman sachs a giant bag of money to hand out to all his buddies that helped him screw the whole thing up is just stupid.

the parasite class has sickened the body politic enough. time for a robust immune response, even if we have to go through a little fever sweat and puking.

Monday, September 22, 2008

i should be working on my novel right now, but my friend jay set me to reading today about the collapse of the economy and the beginning of the whole what-are-we-gonna-do-about-it conversation. i'm still planning on disappearing into imaginationland for a while in a minute, but first i'm gonna do a little spitting about the world and the crazy shit going on in it right now.

first off, hank paulson can suck a great big cock, preferably one with some active herpes lesions on it. anyone who can say, with a straight face, that the government and, by extension, the taxpayer ought to foot the bill for this mess and just buy up all that bad paper so that the people that did all these shady deals and made all these mistakes can turn around and do it some more, collecting tens of millions of dollars in severance packages while the people that work for them default on their own mortgages because they don't have jobs anymore should be extrtaordinarily rendered and dropped in downtown sadr city wearing nothing but a pair of american flag boxer shorts and a hijab with a target on the back of the head so they know where to donkey punch his ass.

seriously, what a jerk.

"hey mom and dad, i wrecked that car you gave me for my birthday. can i have a nicer one?" then again, in the circles these guys run in, that kind of thing is probably pretty common. seriously, why are we asking the former head of an investment bank (even if it's one that hasn't gone under. yet) to solve a problem that people like him basically created? are we to suppose that, now that he's cashed in, he can afford to engage in morality and ethics?

i will say this, though: i never in my life expected to hear a republican advocate state-sponsored socialism, which is pretty much what the paulson plan amounts to. company failing? we'll nationalize it. make some bad bets and now your loan shark is at the door with a baseball bat? here, we'll pay him off, and hey, here's a little extra for your suffering and mental anguish, i hear the ponies are racing again tonight.

there is, of course, plenty of blame to go around, and everyone deserves some small share, even you and me. after the tech bubble popped, we should all have realized that what goes up must come down and that double-digit increases in housing prices couldn't possibly go on forever. i mean, even i was able to do a cash-out refi on a property i inherited from my grandparents, and i tend bar for a living, which means i can't prove my income since so much of it is in cash. i almost giggled when the guy asked me what i made each year and then did absolutely nothing to confirm that what i said was true. now i'm just glad i didn't take more out. that condo has lost at least half its perceived value in the last eighteen months.

i even realized that something had to give, slightly before everyone came to their senses, but i was foolish, and i let people talk me out of selling when i could've actually made some money on it. ah well, live and learn. but seriously, it was obvious to anyone with open eyes that it couldn't last, that the whole system was built on magical thinking that had little or no basis in reality.

all of which does nothing to excuse the real perpetrators, the guys whose idea it was to buy up all this questionable paper and bundle it together, fooling the ratings agencies into giving it the ol' triple-a when it was at best a gentleman's c. what really grinds my gears is that a few hundred people went from obnoxiously to obscenely rich, and in doing so left us with the bill when the man behind the curtain showed his ass.

and now they want a blank check, with no strings attached, to fix their mistakes without suffering any of the consequences of their own bad judgement, and that shit stinks.

Friday, September 19, 2008

addictions are nature's antidepressants.

(note to self: expand on that sometime.)
"i don't love you."

she whispered the words in my ear, the last thing i heard before i woke up this morning. she wasn't there, just a voice in my head really, but i knew the voice, knew it was her, even if the words she spoke were mine and not hers.

two nights before, i asked her if she could love me. we were drunk, and i don't remember what she said in response, but i think it was something like yes-with-a-but, which was good enough at the time. later, she asked me the same question, and i said yes.

i always have been kind of a sucker, though. well, maybe not a sucker, but my heart has never been one to dip a toe in the pool to see if the water is warm enough to jump in.

we were naked that night, naked and drunk and each of us at the mercy of our bodies and hearts, but mostly bodies. no matter what mammalian sheen of emotion and feeling coruscates on the surface, it's the deeper animal that drives the likes of we, the simple necessity of eating and sleeping and most of all fucking. but it's never that simple, and life gets in the way, and sometimes in the morning you have to rewrite the story in your head to keep yourself from going crazy.

morning wasn't so bad, small kisses and oxytocin smiles, cooking breakfast and talking about the night before, such a lovely time (and it was). i'm used to sleeping alone, and my back hurt in strange and painful ways from melding my body to hers, but i was still smiling, marveling at the tactile delight of running my fingers over smooth curvaceous skin when i woke in the night and by the light of early morning, at the surprising warmth and welcomeness of her body cuddled close up next to mine, at the way my heart burbled giddily when she flashed that crooked smile my way, love in her eyes.

for most of that day, after she left (off to the arms of another man, which i knew going in) none of it mattered. i was still smiling, still riding the wave of warmth and well-being i get when a girl i like smiles at me that way.

it couldn't last, though, and didn't.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

back when i was in college, my area of concentration was something i called critical studies, which revolved, mostly, around the application of post-structuralist semiotics to the meta-narratives of western culture and history, broadly conceived. what that involved, mostly, was taking apart ideas and narrative structures as if they were machines, breaking them down into their component parts and seeing how those parts fit together, and also conceiving new ways of fitting those parts together in order to construct new idea-machines.

this may explain why i take my lattes with soy milk. well, that and the fact that cow's milk makes me sick and gassy. but i digress.

the point i'm trying to make is that it was heady stuff, the kind of stuff that, presumably, makes you a wine-track, latte-sipping coastal elite, aka the opposite of a real american, at least as conceived by the movement-conservative election-time noise machine. and, to some extent, it's true, as i learned when, after college, i moved to the colorado rockies and worked on a roofing crew for a while.

one of the reasons that i made that move, away from academia and towards the real world, was precisely that headiness. i realized at some point, or maybe i knew all along, that what i was doing was just a game, that, taken to its logical conclusion, one could only conclude that nothing was real, that everything only existed in relation to everything else, morally and ideologically, and that, in the end, there were only just competing power structures and differences in opinion.

sound familiar?

it should. back in the day, conservatives and republicans used to excoriate the left for precisely that. moral relativism, they called it, and it stood for everything wrong with the limp-wristed eggheads that wanted to take over washington and make everybody gay-marry aborted fetuses while bending over for our enemies at home and abroad. if nothing was true, everything was permitted, and all kinds of unsavory characters would do what they wilt as a result. it was the duty of all red-blooded, two-fisted, right-thinking americans to oppose such insidious undermining of all that was right and true and just and good.

but i guess that doesn't focus-group so well these days. or, rather, it does, but the bad guys know that not enough people have the time or inclination to do more than scratch the surface. we've all got lives to lead, after all.

when i read about john mccain's presidential campaign, i'm struck, over and over, by not only the sheer mendacity and the bald-faced lies, but more importantly by the mindset behind it all, which is the very same moral and ideological relativism that once upon a time stood for everything they stood against. obviously the media plays its role as well, with its pathological addiction to 'balance,' but what blows me away is the sheer cynicism and hypocrisy of it all, the win-at-any-cost mentality that allows people to convince themselves that they can knowingly do evil in the service of what they call good without irreversibly soiling both their souls and that which they hold dear.

i don't know. maybe it's just hard-wired into some people. i read of a study once that concluded that moralistic people (not moral people, who look to themselves and their own actions and try and do right, but moralistic people, who are more concerned with what other people do and think), who spend their time and energy seeking to monitor and police the actions of others, are more likely as a group to allow themselves some wiggle room, morally speaking. they're more likely to steal, more likely to cheat on their spouses, more likely to abuse any authority they manage to obtain. i suppose they tell themselves that they've earned it, that since they do so much to make other people conform to their own personal morality that they don't have to themselves. so maybe there are some people in whom hypocrisy is hard-wired, and for them, lying and cheating and stealing can be done with a clean conscience, since they serve some greater good (or at least conceive themselves of doing so).

me, i can't understand how anybody could be that way. guess i'm just wired differently.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

what i would do if i were barack obama:

unless you live under a rock, or are a member of about half the american electorate, you probably already know about the mccain-palin campaign's ad about barack obama's education policy history in illinois. you know, the one that falsely states that obama sponsored and 'fought for' a bill in the state senate that would supposedly teach sex-ed to kindergartners. it's a lie, and not even a good one. the actual content of the bill, at least vis-a-vis kindergartners, is to help them understand and avoid inappropriate touching between children and adults, which is something we can presumably all get behind, even john mccain and sarah palin.

and yes, it is part of a larger pattern of abuse of the truth in a cynical ploy to muddy the waters and assassinate barack obama's character, since that is the only way the republicans can possibly win the november election. to expect them to do otherwise, given the situation they're in, would be foolish, and the hand-wringing worrywort wing of the democratic party is already in full faint over the indignity of it all.

i say fuck that. let's take it to them, face to face, mano a mano, like men do.

i think barack obama ought to take time out of his schedule and track down john mccain (it shouldn't be hard, his schedule is a matter of public record), find him wherever he is, and confront him on this, in front of the press and the cameras, not only as a candidate, but as a father of two young girls and a man whose moral character should be above such allegations. he should offer john mccain a chance to repeat his charges face to face, man to man, and stop cowering behind sarah palin's skirts. my bet is that mccain won't know how to handle it, and will dither and dissemble and crumble in the face of a righteous man's righteous indignation. or who knows? maybe he'll get pissed off, and we can see a little of that famous temper, unscripted and on-camera. either way, it's a win for obama.

coastal elites aside (and i count myself one of them, even drink my latte with soy milk), americans do not like and will not vote for wussies. our culture and history are way too violent for that. and while it may be a nice idea to try and move that way as a people on a historical level, we is where we is. liberals and progressives tend to abjure violence, which is laudable and the correct approach to most problems. but some things are not acceptable, and one of those things is such a blatant and knowingly false attack on a man's character.

don't get me wrong. i am not suggesting that obama challenge mccain to a fistfight (though i would pay good money to see that). but the heart of america knows that any man who allows something like to stand isn't fit to be called a man, and can't be trusted to stand up to the thugs and the hard men that rule the rest of the world. that's why republicans keep winning the presidency. and they'll keep doing it until somebody stands up to them in a way they can understand.

Monday, September 08, 2008

unbunch your panties, everyone.
As always, there seem to be people who prefer losing high-mindedly and with great ideological purity to winning. I have to question how seriously committed they are to serving the causes they profess. We can all go off after the election and practice moral self-flattery to our hearts' content. Now is the time for business. And "business." for the next sixty days, means appealing to voters who may not share all of our values or opinions.
mark kleiman, over at the reality-based community

i run into this problem a lot with some of my more liberal/progressive friends, and while i applaud integrity in all its forms, and am a firm believer in winning fair and square, the idealism that i share with such people is tempered by the realization that actions have consequences and elections do matter. there may or may not be as much daylight between the republican and the democratic parties as my more radical friends might desire or demand, and neither is likely (or even able) to live up to the truly liberal person's dreams and desires (a thing which may or may not be possible, predicated as it is on a presumption of universality, i.e. it would work, but only if the whole rest of the world was liberal in exactly the same way).

but, for those that lean to the left, and mean it, to say that there isn't enough difference between the republican and democratic parties is quite frankly ridiculous. in response, i invite the reader to engage in a little thought experiment and ask yourself what eight years of a gore presidency might've been like. do you think we'd be at war in iraq? would the multitrillion dollar budget surplus we had coming into this century have become a multitrillion dollar national debt? would we have doubled down on a petroleum-based economy just as world oil production was hitting its peak and the developing world was beginning to demand as much oil as we do?

perhaps the case might be made that the answer to any or all of those questions would be yes, but i can't think of any compelling arguments.

the truth of the matter is that all action is morally hazardous, because the world as we live in it is not black and white (nor is is shades of gray, either; the real spectrum between black and white is the rainbow spread of glorious full color, but that's a point for later contemplation). choices have to be made, and while you always have to choose (and refusing to choose is also a choice), you don't get to choose what the choices are. there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and even if it is not the greatest good, it is, by definition, the greater.

besides, does anybody really think it's going to be easier to get progressive legislation passed with john mccain or (gulp) sarah palin in the white house? seriously? after all, whoever gets elected is everybody's president, even if you didn't vote for him. barack obama may be imperfect, but on every issue that counts, he's closer to what i believe in than the other side is, and while he may not match me up as exactly as i would like him to, he's gonna get my support, my money, and my vote, and if you're a self-described liberal or progressive or whatever other sub-category on the left, he should get yours, too.