Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Today: Comic Relief

We take a break from the political routine today for a little comic relief. See especially: The Front Fell Off.

A special thanks to Mr. Thomas for bringing this to our attention.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

One Woman, She Felt Smart...

Couric, Palin and Kissinger

See Couric's interview with Palin, followed by confirmation of Palin's ignorance by ol' Henry Kissinger himself.  

I wrote recently that I would stop complaining and start writing about the positive vision for the future with Barack as president, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ojeano's bailout plan (OBP)

Here's my bailout plan: Make it so that a declaration of bankruptcy automatically siezes all assets of the claimants so they have to start over. Be nice and give 'em enough for first and last on an apartment. Disburse the rest of the funds from their assets evenly to the taxpayers - even on the top, depths to fill in the dents as necessary - lowest income gets most. The moguls can go find regular jobs and live a month to month lifestyle like most of the rest of us. A person can get a decent two bedroom apartment in a town like Reseda for about 1600 a month while learning the value of a dollar. It'll be tight, but they can eat corn and beans for the second half of each month. It's a complete protein!

Letterman: "Something's starting to smell..."

This is ten minutes long, but if you haven't seen it, please do. McCain was supposed to be on Letterman last night but called at the last minute citing a need to rush to Washington to deal with the economic crisis. Then Keith Olberman finds him over in CBS taping with Katie Couric.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Location, Location, Vocation

About the economy: Expert texpert choking smokers didn't see it, but I saw it. Five years ago, and more and less than, some very smart people were telling me it was a good time to buy a house and that I could get a loan.

One offer at a "meet the lenders community meeting" was to take my retirement money out of my pension fund and make it into a downpayment on a house. I said to the lender, "but what if something bad happens and I lose the house. Then I wouldn't have any retirement money..."

And the man reached out his arms as if to hug from a distance and said, "that could never happen! How could that happen? You're going to keep working to pay rent! Buy a house!"

"But what if there's something like another great depression?" The room fell quiet.

"This is Southern California. It won't happen. Home values are only going up." The buzz returned.

This didn't seem right. Friends with friends in real estate swore I could reduce income tax withholding from my paycheck by claiming to have a bunch of kids (I don't...) and then I would have a few hundred extra bucks a month to make payments on a loan for a little condo with a potted tree and cinderblock hardscaping. When the tax came due at the end of the year I could just, "write it off because you own a house!"

I would likely have fallen for it, but I earned just a little too little to convince myself I could pull this off. I couldn't afford to stretch beyond my rent and I didn't want the IRS knocking on my door and asking to meet my many children. So I waited.

Math isn't my strongest subject. But it just makes sense to me that you don't spend money you don't (and the key is: won't!) have, at least not on something as significant as a home. You can nickel and dime yourself up some credit card debt, but a HOUSE!? How can two bedroom house within 200 yards of two major freeways in Los Angeles be worth nearly a million dollars? Oh, wait: it's not.

I saw the crash coming. I'd started telling people in '05 I was going to wait a few years for house prices to come down - when all those people taking interest only loans started having their balloon payments come due, I'd swoop in!

What I hadn't figured on was the stories behind the doors of those houses. Driving through the valley I see at least two untended houses on every block conjuring images of Flint Michigan in the Michael Moore movie, but LA's not as green. I don't know where these people have gone - there are a lot of apartments for rent around town, too. I have felt a frequent sense over the past eight years as we've leveraged ourselves out further and further over the brink, of my parents' and grandparents' stories about the depression.

I hear my childhood lessons and when I leave a redundant light on, I hear the voice of my dad bellowing to us kids to turn off the lights when we'd leave a room, "What, do you think I own the electric company?!"

In other news:

Today we have a guest again, and a new addition to my links in the right column. Here is Jay Smooth's blog, Ill Doctrine. What HE said. See Economics and Annoying Smart Guys.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Railing Against the Rightward Careen

I have been writing a lot about politics lately, for obvious reasons, and specifically railing against the rightward careen.  Recently I told a lot of my friends to read "The Outstupiding of America" (below) and haven't gotten much response.  John from Wales had a really good response and it's posted.  I like the perspective John provides from outside the US, and the fact that he stopped by and spent enough time to say something.  He provides a healthy reminder that other countries are hoping we step up to our responsibilities as world leaders, too. 

As for my friends who haven't responded, they're all kind souls, so either they haven't read it yet or they don't like it and are being polite.  Tonight while watching The Daily Show, Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton were talking about how the left tends to demonize the right for being narrow minded.  The right apparently just gets panicky about new ideas, I can't remember the particulars of the assessment; I was too busy thinking about whether I was demonizing the right or just being reasonably critical.

But I'm going to follow my own advice now, and rather than spending energy hatin', I'm going to put energy into imagining and talking about how great things can be and how many choices we have right now, right this very day, to make the world better so the demons fly away on shriveled wings, back to their lairs.  Oops.  I slipped.

Best wishes!

Photo above courtesy mamasplace.net I've never shopped there, but they label gargoyles well.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Outstupiding of America

Keep this in mind: if the republicans can't outsmart the democrats, remember: they can outstupid us.

Outstupiding is the threat. Stealing the theme of "change" from the Obama campaign, was cagey - technically clever, but *there is a fine line between clever and stupid. The republicans crossed the line into outright stupidity by bringing in the ridiculous Palin.

But this reducto ad absurdum is why their little ploy just could work: it is so stupid it is unfathomably stupid. Suddenly we're spending tremendous time and energy trying to make sense of it.

I do believe we're in some form of shock. And we'd better snap out of it.

In the short run, it is easier for humans not to think. Blithely pretending things will magically get better on their own seems to require less effort. But it's similar to taking out a loan to buy an unaffordable house with the hope of paying it off with future riches. The short run isn't long enough to reach that future, and you lose the house. Look down the timeline over the past eight years. We have allowed this state of affairs.

Now, I didn’t do it. And you certainly didn’t do it. But we did it. It's like the Man in Black said, "a person is smart. People are stupid," and the republicans know it!

We know adhering to the principles of the conservative platform is a grandiose mistake (as in: McCain has supported Bush in over 90% of his decisions and only disassociated from him in recent months). But what about the people who are buying into the stupidity?

The way to keep the republicans from outstupiding us isn't to put our energies into discovering a way to do something more stupid than they (an irony beyond humor - to do so would require brilliance and waste time). We need to take the game back.

The US presidential election in 2008 marks a monumental opportunity for the growth and development for our culture. We're entrenched in an unjustified war in Iraq and have been throwing bombs on Pakistan. At the heart of our troubles is the fact that we're being still very much driven by the same motivations that justified slavery and the genocide against Native Americans, not to mention our covert hostilities in Central America in the 80's.

Greed kills. Now that our economy is in full tailspin, we’ve got to pull upwards with as much drive as we can muster. The motivation has to come from within us, and from each other.

This election is about what is possible if we rise to the best and smartest within ourselves - each one of us: what if we paced ourselves for the long run? What if we banked on our intelligence instead of our willingness to let someone else do the thinking for us? What if we admitted that a society is not a business?

Here's how we can twist the irony of outstupidity back into the realm of the sensible: education. Help people think. We have to appeal to what is best and smartest in us and bring hope into play again.

We own this one. Ask anybody if they would like to be smarter. It's a rhetorical question. How would we behave globally, make decisions at home if we were even 5% smarter. We can be just a little smarter today than yesterday - tomorrow, even smarter – and smarter still beyond.

They can only outstupid us if we play stupid.

*David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tuffnel in This is Spinal Tap. They said, "...fine line between stupid and clever," but context and poet's licence required I flip it.

Good in Humans

Music is the best of us.

There are many other wonderful things, but music has all of them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Like Dogs in a Parked Car in the Sun

This is a photo of two LAPD cops talking to a woman. The white SUV with the open hatch is hers, and in it, two Golden Retrievers in crates. The police officers are there because another woman, outside the frame, called them. She called them because she had been waiting beside the vehicle for, she said, 45 minutes. The SUV was closed up except for the hatch window. It was about 90 degrees today, and the car was parked in the sun.

I came upon the scene just after parking my car about five minutes before this moment. I saw the concerned woman, somewhat frantic and overheated herself, on her cellphone, talking with animal control. She asked me for water for the dogs and told me what she'd witnessed. I placed the back of my hand before of one of the dogs noses to say hello. He looked like he could use a drink. I went into Jamba Juice to get some water. When I came back with it, the owner had returned to the SUV and was calmly telling the concerned woman, "the dogs are fine." By now the concerned woman was angry and ranting slightly. I said to the owner, "you can't leave your dogs in the sun in Southern California. It's too hot."

"They're fine..." she said. She was polite, calm, cool, even. The concerned woman saw the police car coming through the parking lot, "well the police are here!" The dog owner moved efficiently to put away the things she'd bought, all the while asserting that the dogs were, "fine, they're just fine." I repeated my assertion. Then the police pulled up. I faded off to avoid becoming the focal point, giving the water to the plants.

I've been on the politics lately, in case you haven't noticed. And this woman reminded me so much of John McCain. I believed she believed she was treating her dogs well. I believe she believed they were fine. But they were too hot. They were thirsty, yet patient. It was over 100 degrees in that car to be sure. They appeared to be stressed, but not surprised. She did not see a problem.

There was one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fundamentals of the Economy Are Strong... NOT!!!

I sent this to USA Today, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post via barackobama.com

How dare John McCain declare on Black Monday - albeit with a telling stammer - that the fundamentals of the US economy are strong?

Even as the most conservative of financial institutions are closing up shop, McCain makes this claim like he means it. Maybe he doesn’t realize those are actual people walking out the doors, with lives and responsibilities, and roles in the economy (like buying groceries, for example). Yes, Senator McCain, those are Americans walking out the door of Merill Lynch. They’re carrying boxes with stuff like pictures of their families and friends - the people they live for and who live for them. Those are people who have probably felt pretty secure being employed at the most stable financial institutions this country has ever known.

This isn't the corner bicycle shop getting eaten up by Walmart (though the start of the trouble traces back to this "big business first" practice), this is Lehman Brothers being bought out by a British bank, this is us getting financing from China so we can throw more money into an unjustified war - and still McCain has the audacity to claim that the fundamentals of the economy are strong?

The man's in some serious denial. Because of his position in history, he is even more dangerous than George W. Bush, as the damage has been done and we cannot afford further commitment to this degradation.

We need to elect Barack Obama as president of the US in 2008. We had become comfortably numb, but we're not so comfortable now, are we? We've got to wake up now! We owe it to the very concept of democracy and all we have worked for to face the fact that we are losing, through ruptures in the structure of our economy, not only all our "stuff" but all our hope! Wake up everybody: Throw the bums OUT!

Barack has a plan and shares it each time he speaks. McCain says he has a plan and then just echoes slogans and distracts us with the screeching sensationalism of the ridiculous Sarah Palin. Barack has solutions that will help rebuild the middle class which is the heart of us (as in "We" the people). Barack will start by passing a middle class tax cut while enforcing a crackdown on predatory lenders. He'll get us out of Iraq and help us start helping ourselves again - not at the cost of greater debt, but by creating jobs and appealing to our sense of community strength – he speaks to us at the level of our humanitarianism, rather than the republican choice: a rigorous gluttony that - it turns out - has simply been cannibalism.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Seventy-six Trombones

My latest collaborative project: Seventy-six Trombones.

The soul of the parade: one man's domain, one woman singing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Insidious and Cynical"

I defer to the Huffington Post and Eve Ensler today.

Palin, boiled down to the personality trait she has worked hardest to refine, is simply this: Vicious.

Is that what the world needs now?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Another Reason (Among Many More Global)

My downstairs neighbor is a nice quiet woman whose TV I never have heard before.

But tonight, cutting through her ceiling,
my floor, and carpet with padding
shrill and whiny, insistent and hounding
the shriek is slicing, shattering, pounding, demanding.

Is she having a nervous breakdown?

Words muffled, it seers
faster than the speed of sound
down each ear canal
shattering cilia with a coldness
that makes the tiny hairs
fall dead and gone
like so many icebergs of late from the polar ice caps.

It is not her. It is her television. But what?

Striving to hold their own:
my eardrums, defended only with weensy hammer,
and cochlea coiled as if to spring.
Plugging ears with fingers
does nothing against the tide of it;
the waves course through my very bones!

The timbre, the resonance, the clip
the sound - vaguely familiar...
...yes new... just in the past week.

This is not the kind sweet girl
who greets me in the carport
or by the garbage bin.

Nay, this is the night of the RNC
and this shrill shill
is that odd little governor called Palin.

(Who also enjoys the gratuitous killing of animals).

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hats On; Hats Off

Many a true thing is said when one has no critical thinking skills or the ability to self edit:

From the republican convention, and in reference to Hurricane Gustav and his possible effect on New Orleans: "This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats," said Cindy McCain.

There it is. Just as I suspected. It's not about their heads, it's about their hats.