Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fresh Blood or Fresh Meat?

Obama has approached Hillary Clinton to be his Sec. of State. Ex-Sen. Tom Daschle as the Health Care Czar (whatever that is). Rahm Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff. Eric Holder as AG. Everyone's referring to these folks as Clintonistas. While the urge to give yourself the most experienced team in the universe (mostly because they've all been there before) is understandable, this particular team carries a taint: William Jefferson Clinton, ex-Pres. He wasn't all bad, but when he was bad, he was very, very bad, indeed.

Obama needs to be about boldness, and he's picking folks out of the middle of the "darn good" pile. Hilary. As centrist as you can get, and somewhat a bit to the right. Daschle is well-known for being mealy-mouthed and far too trusting for his own good, and his wife lobbies for health care companies. While Emanuel has a reputation of being a bit of a wolf in wolf's clothing, he was one fellow who pushed hard for NAFTA, which has been a disaster for America's and Mexico's economies. And Holder was involved in the Marc Rich pardon scandal.

The first ray of light has been the choice of Ariz. Gov. Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security Chief. By targeting the business owners that hire illegals, and the criminals that supply them with fake IDs, she's going about the illegal immigration problem the right way - make it tough on those who are exploiting the needs of the border crossers, rather than going after the folks who are coming here because our treaties have screwed up their economy.

Obama really needs to move his Cabinet and his policies to the left as quickly as possible. Working across the aisle is commendable, and while I don't want to be in the "so THERE" camp, and f^&k over the Repugs as much as they f^&ked us over, what Obama really should be wanting to do right now is run with the wave of good will he currently has, and persuade us to do better as a nation. I think he can do that. But if he follows it up with a "living in the 90s" style of administration, he (and we) will be in big trouble. All of Clinton's years led to the collapse of the Dot-Com bubble, followed (in the Shrub years) by the housing bubble, followed by the banking and Wall Street bubble. Bubbles do not make good economies.

Obama talks about change, and the change we really need is to get away from this mindset of growth, growth, growth. If it was happening to you, it would be a bad thing. Constant expansion is either a weight problem or cancer. Perhaps what we need is to have an economy that simply works, creates jobs where they're needed, balances human capital against the other kind, and interlinks with the rest of the world. Stability usually means peace, boring as that is. When someone is suffering somewhere, conflict isn't far behind.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bailing Out the Titanic with a Walrus

Exactly what is this whole bailout thing? American Express becomes a bank so they can get money from taxpayers? I thought AmEx was the strongest, best-run credit card co. in the world? I thought they were pretty draconian in their quest for only signing up sure things.

Well... except I have one, which really doesn't speak well for them.

And the Big Three automakers are begging for our spare change as well. As the Rivethead once said, maybe they shouldn't have been marketing rhinos when the world really needed a lot of gerbils. Now we have a year's backlog of Hummers just waiting to be purchased by the next wave of Rap moguls to sweep the country. Or Boy Bands. Or perhaps Hannah Montana needs to give her entourage and her fan base a free car each, just to keep them showing up as she passes through a drug- and alcohol-fueled pooberty (remember Drew Barrymore? remember?).

While the Big Three stare down the barrel of the Big Sleep, Americans must ask themselves, if Toyota can do it, why not us? Japan had one of the uglier recessions of the last fifty years, and Toyota didn't go under, neither did Honda, Subaru, Isuzu, or even (gasp!) Suzuki. While American car manufacturers do occasionally create an interesting car, most of them are indistinguishable piles of cheap plastic toy knockoffs of each other's bad designs. The PT Cruiser (gag!) morphs into the Magnum (huk!) flattens out into the 300 (only without the homoerotic, beardy, bloody fight scenes).

Where is the American Prius?

(author's disclaimer - I drive one, and it f%^&*$g rocks!)

Sure, there's the Saturn Vue, or maybe the Chevy Volt (next year, next year, next year - why is it always next year?). But these are odd exceptions. Otherwise, you get these crappy cars that look a lot like their Japanese or Korean counterparts, only with cheaper materials and sleazier salesmen.

So, my solution? Let 'em all drown in debt. Someone will come along, buy up their assets and do a better job of it. And if the UAW needs to take a pay cut, well, the rest of us did - so there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It Actually Happened

We elected the Black Guy.

How did that happen? Better yet - why?

While I will try to keep the cynical snark to a minimum, it's important to remember a salient point - most Americans aren't that smart. Stimulus in the form of rewards of food or whacks on the head seems to be what we respond to best. Just look at California and Prop 8, the "Yes on No Gay Marriage Act." People voted for it because there were ads saying Barack Obama's for it. Which, given his stated opposition to the concept of gay marriage comes as no surprise; however, he might not have been for this particular initiative, simply because the Supreme Court of the State of California had ruled in favor of gay marriage, and Obama's big into Constitutional law. All of that aside, people were voting for this initiative because they saw ads saying someone they thought was cool was for it, too. They thought "Yes on 8" meant yes on gay marriage, when, in fact, it meant precisely the opposite.

"Yes" is such a positive word, though, isn't it? "Yes," good. "No," bad.

Except when it isn't. Or they aren't. Or something.

In other, shorter words: READ THE FINE PRINT, YOU F%&*ING IDIOTS!


But that's the whole problem, isn't it? We like our politicians to give us sound bites we can believe in. We want to put our country first, but first we have to figure out where they put our country. We're undereducated, overworked, and desperate for good news (or at least less bad news), but a good slogan fills the gaps nicely. "Work makes you free," and all that.

Someone who tracks such things measured the minimum required educational level of the Presidential debates through the years. They apparently started with Lincoln-Douglas (11th-12th grade), moved on to Kennedy-Nixon (11th-10th), Bush-Gore (6th-7th), and Obama-McCain (6th-5th). We are Devo.

Isn't this the fundamental problem? We don't read, we have the attention spans of fruit flies, and we find people who are smarter than us to be "nerdy," "wonky," or "elitist." I keep arguing this point, and maybe the American public finally caught on, too, but shouldn't the guy running the country be smarter than everyone else? Sarah Vowell described the Bush-Gore debate as being between the dumb jock and the snorting nerd. Yet we voted for the dumb jock. Twice.

(and yes, I know there are still issues with whether Shrub actually won, but that's a different column or two)

So one thing I hope to see is a better educational system in this country. Educate the people for free up through college, put money into early childhood education (most specifically, make early childhood something you have to have a degree to teach), and really make us the best-educated populace on the face of the earth.

Be more erudite. Or we'll be the country India outsources their cheap car parts from.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Today


Still confounds me every time I read stuff like this, but that someone could get up on their hind legs and crow about how they won't vote for Obama, because they "don't like black people" - holy s&*t! To quote my favorite dead journalist hero, Molly Ivins, "dumber'n a bag of hair."

This is the American Presidential Election of the year 2008, 143 years after the end of the Civil War, and forty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and someone still has the stones to use that as as an excuse for not voting their own party. How absolutely Neanderthal! I totally get the "he doesn't represent my values" crowd, because at least they have specious reason that he doesn't go to their church, or he's "too young" - like Bush - or they believe that wealthy people need to be more wealthy - hey, even I understand someone believing that the rich deserve more money than God. But not to vote for someone because he's the wrong color?

(well... OK... I wouldn't vote for the dark purple one myself, but still...)

There's a neat audioblog where people can record via phone why they voted for whoever they voted for, or why they aren't going to vote at all. A direct quote - "I voted for John McCain, because I'm an ass."

I'm now convinced that I am a racist, too, somehow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Tomorrow

Tuesday is the day when we finally say good-bye to all that, and hopefully for a really long time. And of course, Wednesday is when we find out if we actually won.

The Know-Nothing party has been in charge too long, and have begun to grab a greater and greater share of eyeballs, because so many people are willing to be stupid. Over at Common Dreams, there is a terrifying video of Idiots on Parade, people who believe the worst lies about Obama, very probably because they want to. While that may sound dismissive and condescending, if you can't make the effort to look this stuff up on your own, you deserve the worst president you can vote for.

Because, in my opinion, Bush ain't it. He's tried really hard to be the worst, but it's still possible to run down that rabbit hole even deeper. 

We still have some sort of freedom of the press, though the press has taken that freedom and used it mainly to increase their ratings, and the truth be damned. As many better writers have pointed out, it's so sad when the "mainstream" media constantly refers to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report with a certain amount of envy as the cutting edge of political commentary.

We still have (mostly) habeas corpus. And that's because we haven't quite replaced all those "liberal" Supremes (John Paul Stevens and David Souter) with those strict constructivists (or Federalists), like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And the problem with the Federalists is that they're the only ones who believe the founding fathers ever wanted us to maintain the Constitution in its present form. Jefferson believed that the Constitution should be re-written every twenty years or so, to reflect changes in technology or changes in society. Such a radical, that Jefferson.

We still have (mostly) all of those liberal departments instituted by folks like Nixon and Johnson and Eisenhower, like the EPA and the FDA and FEMA. Not that they work that well, but they're still around.

We still have (mostly) a separation of Church and State. All of those "faith-based" initiatives notwithstanding, we still don't have someone in power who can make the "Constitution more in line with the word of God," to quote Mr. Huckabee. Obama apparently thinks that the whole faith-based thing is still a good... thing, but I'm not sure why. He's a constitutional scholar after all, and I would think he'd have read Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists, but hey, what do I know? I'm just an Atheist for Jehovah.

And lastly, we still think of the President as Commander-in-Chief. Which is really stupid, because they're only supposed to be that way when we're at war. And only the Congress is supposed to be able to declare war. And we haven't declared war. We're just having a war. For, you know, the fun of it. So we can have wars, we just don't declare them. But he's still Commander-in-Chief. 

Kind of a chickenhawk and egg problem, really.

And it's tomorrow...