Archive for September, 2008

Maybe I can still become pope

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I’ve always thought my chance of becoming pope is fairly small, given that I’m a married, liberal and a protestant, but perhaps there’s still “hope!”

I mean, surely I have as good a chance of becoming pope as Newt Gingrich has of being elected president. But that’s not stopping him from dreaming.

In McCain’s defense: who looks a scurvy little spider in the eyes?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The media asks: “So why didn’t John McCain look Barack Obama in the eyes during the debate?” and “Why is our hero, John McCain, running such a scurrilous campaign?”

Allow me to offer an answer:

It’s been sad — heartbreaking, really — watching John McCain’s self-described base, the elite media, mourn the passing of what they perceive to be McCain’s innocence. Traumatized by their hero’s lost honor, they’ve been almost overcome with grief. Here’s McCain, the man they’ve idolized for all of these years for his courage in war, his back of the campaign bus accessibility and, of course, for all the free booze he used to give them. Now, suddenly, he’s acting like an unprincipled hack.

They watch helplessly as he runs groundless attack ads, lies every time he opens his mouth and changes policy positions almost as often as he and his wife buy a new home or an extra car. They shake their heads in aghast as he makes an incredibly reckless selection for Vice President. And in what’s probably been his greatest sin of all — in the view of his former journalistic groupies — he’s now largely cut off the press corps from access (and maybe also the booze).

But, in truth, the media need not fret for the well-being of John McCain’s soul. If they will simply take the time to see things from his perspective — to walk in his ($520) shoes for awhile — they’ll soon realize that honor is still very much alive in the McCain worldview.

He simply has a very narcissistic understanding of the word’s meaning.

And, yes, here I’ll admit to the sin of purporting to read someone else’s mind, an undertaking always fraught with error. But what the hell: in the case of John McCain, this isn’t exactly rocket science.

And here’s the bottom line: to John McCain’s mind, honor demands that he be elected president. It’s that simple. And this being true, anything he does in pursuing that goal is, by definition, honorable. And anything anyone else does to obstruct his path is, also by definition, dishonorable.

McCain believes with all his heart that he deserves the presidency — that it’s owed to him. He served with great honor in Vietnam. He’s since served 26 years in Congress (four in the House the rest in the Senate). McCain believes his own press clippings — that he’s been a fearless maverick and a crusader against corruption. That the reality of his public life has often been somewhat different than this rose-colored rendition is merely one of those little inconveniences that most of us find it relatively easy to, at least to some degree, expel from our minds when constructing our own self-image.

And now, when at long last the brass ring he’s always longed for (and which, in his view, he richly deserves) is within reach, along comes a nobody from the Land of Lincoln with a silver-tongue and an enthusiastic young following threatening to take it all away. And to John McCain that’s just wrong; it’s an affront to him and even more, it’s a stain against the nation’s honor.

Have you ever wondered what McCain really thinks of Barack Obama? My guess is that if he were free to speak directly from the heart he would quote George Bailey’s words, spoken to Mr. Potter, in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life:

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your (pretty words). Well, it doesn’t, Mr. (Obama). In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

Now, seriously, who looks a scurvy little spider in the eyes?

Market’s up — but don’t get too happy

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

After an almost 800 point fall yesterday some bargain hunting was inevitable. Besides, the smart money says they’ll still be a bailout: if that proves wrong, hang on to your hat. The real show, in terms of the impact on Main Street, is in the credit market and it’s still looking seriously suckish.

Support a bailout or don’t support a bailout: it’s an arguable point. But no one should fool him/herself into thinking this isn’t a crisis.

Personal note: God, I’m going to be glad when I can get back to bashing McCain fulltime, as opposed to having to try to defend (on pragmatic grounds) a morally indefensible bailout. 

The daily doom, yikes edition

Monday, September 29th, 2008

To repeat myself, yet again: Does a day ever go by anymore without another terrifying revelation about global warming?

(Washington Post) Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted

The rise in global carbon dioxide emissions last year outpaced international researchers’ most dire projections, according to figures being released today, as human-generated greenhouse gases continued to build up in the atmosphere despite international agreements and national policies aimed at curbing climate change.

The article goes on to state that carbon released from the use of fossil fuels and cement manufacturing increased 2.9 percent in 2007 as compared to 2006.

Instead of fighting global warming, we seem to be embracing it with open arms.

The risky safe vote

Monday, September 29th, 2008

In the days leading up to today’s vote, polls indicated that the vast majority of Americans were opposed to the proposed financial bailout. And in response, no doubt, the House of Representatives just voted it down.

Some members voted that way out of ideology.

Some did so because they disliked the specifics of the bill.

Mostly, however, they voted against it because they’re chicken shits and that seemed like the safest thing to do.

If so, they may live to regret it. Here’s a little truth to remember: voters never blame themselves — never. Over the coming hours, as people begin to realize what has just happened to their 401(k)s, I predict you’ll start to see a shift in public opinion on this issue. If things continue to get worse, the shift will become more pronounced.

And if the economy really does head into the toilet, people will start looking around for fall guys.

Maybe, God willing, everything will be okay. Maybe Congress will get its act together when it meets again on Thursday and produce a better bill. But, if not, you can count on this: voting against the bailout will prove to have been one of the politically riskiest “safe” votes ever taken by a member of Congress.

Sometimes you have to actually govern

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Do you know the difference between a blogger and a pit bull?

Pit bulls are less condescending as they rip you to shreds.

God knows I don’t like the Wall Street bailout plan (although the Democrats have improved it tremendously). As I wrote in full hissy fit mode six days ago:

But it turns out that all of this was merely the warm-up act: enter now the feature presentation — the bailout of all bailouts (and the rip-off of all rip-offs). Its simplicity is a thing of beauty. Just take 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money (and probably a lot more), much of it coming from working stiffs, and give it with few if any strings attached to a group of huge financial corporations. We accomplish this by having our government take over their worthless assets, giving them good money in return.

As I’ve said before, now that’s socialism even a robber baron could love.

I really, really do hate this bailout. Even if things eventually work out well — even if the government ultimately ends up making a profit on the deal (very unlikely) — it still stinks. Whatever happens down the road, in the meanwhile it will starve the government of resources for years, making it nearly impossible to pursue needed progressive reforms.

I’ll say it again: this thing stinks. It stinks to high heaven.

But here’s the thing: another Great Depression would probably stink a little worse. And that’s my problem here. I’d love to be one of the magnificent dissenters to this proposal: just think of how much more fun it would be to rail against the man — to decry another giveaway to the rich — rather than the alternative of holding my nose and accepting the ugly necessity of taking action. 

And as a blogger, I guess I’m free to do that. I’m free to discard the nearly universal sentiment among economists — even liberal ones — that something needs to be done. Now, to be clear, many economists hate this plan, believing there to be better ways to proceed. But almost no one says that inaction is an acceptable alternative.

But, hey, I’m a blogger, right? I’m not bound by the limitations of my own expertise or even the physical bounds of reality. Mine is the universe of pure and unfettered opinion — a universe without limits, unrestricted even by natural laws of science.

As I put it in a little less “uppity” way some time back:

The Blogger Man Song

Blogger Man!
(To the lyrics of Candy Man from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)

Who can be an expert
Though he doesn’t have a clue
Cover any subject
In a hundred words or two?

The blogger man
The blogger man can
The blogger man can cause he’s got no editor to say his words ain’t true.

Who can take a question
Complex as can be
Answer it in seven words
And do it all of free?

The blogger man
The blogger man can
The blogger man can cause he’s got no editor to say his words ain’t true.

I see a little of this at play in Kos’s persistent attacks against the bailout. Sure, my heart’s with him all the way on this. But my head has to ask: just who the hell is Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga to be telling us what to do when the economy is rocking on the edge of a cliff? Sure, Markos is not just a brilliant guy: he’s also someone who’s done a tremendous service for the progressive cause.


If there’s a depression, the GOP will own it

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

John McCain and House Republicans may have thought they were being oh so clever in the underhanded way they scuttled the bailout package. But they better hope Paulson and company are wrong. If the economy goes to hell now, all of the dueling press conferences in the world won’t hide who’s responsible.

I’m far from sold on the bailout myself (although the proposed House GOP alternative sounds nothing short of idiotic), but if there’s a depression, God forbid, the GOP owns it. 

Read all about it.

Are we approaching the end of time?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

I have a vague memory of a very old (and very awful) movie in which a celestial tribunal was empanelled to try humanity. If the judgment was against us, the planet would be destroyed (and no doubt replaced with some sort of heavenly parking structure or something else useful).

Anyway, at the end of the film, the judges decided that the history of the earth had been equally divided between good and evil — the beauty of Leonardo, the ugliness of war, and so forth.

Instead of entering judgment, therefore, they decided to recess the tribunal with the intention of reopening its deliberations in the very near future after additional observation of us, at which point final judgment would be entered.

My personal theory is that these judges are right now carefully monitoring this election unfold: and if the electorate votes in McCain/Palin, they will immediately conclude that the human race is hopeless and destroy the world.

Just a little something to keep in mind when you go into the voting booth.

In the there’re no original thoughts left department

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

If you’re a blogger thinking it would be funny to follow John McCain’s lead by announcing that you’re suspending your blogging so you can concentrate of the economic crisis, don’t bother: it’s been done and done and done.

Careful, Barack, they’re messin’ with ya

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

One thing about having been a trial lawyer for 30 years — yup, I really am that old — is you develop a pretty good sense of when someone’s messin’ with ya.

So be on notice Barack Obama — John McCain’s campaign is messin’ with you right now. They’re trying to get into your head. They’re trying to throw you off your game.

Here’s how it works in the law. Most lawyers are gentlemen (or ladies) — tough adversaries, but good for their word. Unfortunately, there are always some out there you can’t trust as far as you can throw a dead moose (recently killed by Sarah Palin, of course).

But I’m not talking principally here about overt lying: this is about game playing.

When you’re a busy trial lawyer, especially one with a few decades of experience under your belt, your tolerance for mind games tends to be pretty much gone: “Can we please just get the work done without all of this f*cking crap?” is how you feel, if not what you say, when faced with such tactics.

But the truth is that with some lawyers, the crap — the game playing — is part of the package: so you have to deal with it. And mostly you have to make sure they don’t get away with throwing you off your game.

When you’re getting ready for trial (and when you’re in trial), for example, the rest of the world fades away: America could go to war during this time and you wouldn’t notice. Your spouse could leave you and it might be three days before you noticed the note he or she left behind telling you that he or she was going.

The last thing you need during this time is any unnecessary distraction.

And here, of course, is where the “game players” come in. Maybe it’s a letter from the opposing lawyer a few days before trial suggesting that a continuance will be needed, when one really isn’t being contemplated at all. Or perhaps a sudden expression of interest in settlement, when, in fact, no new offer is ever forthcoming. You may suddenly receive a letter containing groundless threats — accusations that you’ve committed some sort of wrongdoing.

Whatever the method, the goal is always the same: to mess with you, to get inside your head and hopefully throw you off your game.

In my experience, the vast majority of lawyers are ethical and honorable and do not engage in such tactics, and I mean that: but such tactics are out there and if you try enough cases you’ll run into them eventually.

And you can’t let them throw you off your game.

This brings us to John McCain’s sudden threat to cancel the first presidential debate if no agreement is reached on the bailout package. Yes, of course, it’s a political stunt. And, yes, of course, they appear to be trying to push back (or totally avoid) the Palin/Biden debate. But I’ll bet you all of the darkness in Karl Rove’s soul that there’s something else at play here too.

McCain’s campaign is messin’ with ya, Barack. They’re trying to get inside your head.

There you were, comfortably ensconced in the heart of the old Confederacy, ready for three days of debate prep. And what does McCain do? He throws a huge wrench into the works. He messes with you. Suddenly, you don’t know whether there’s going to be a debate or not. Will you end up appearing alone with an empty seat? If so, should you go on at all? Will the deal be done on the bailout in time to meet McCain’s “deadline?” And if it isn’t, will he throw you a curve and show up anyway?

Obama’s job, of course, is to put all of this out of his mind. He needs to keep focused on getting ready for the debate. That’s what matters. The rest is just background noise.

And yes, that’s a hell of a lot easier said than done. But for whatever it’s worth, I’m betting that Barack Obama, the original Mr. Cool, has what it takes to get the job done.

I guess we’ll know soon enough.