Bailout of the Corporate Welfare Bums

Oh my, the outrage. The government transferring hundreds of billions of dollars of the taxpayer’s money to private corporations to save them from their own poor judgment and incompetence. And a chorus of public officials cries out that it had to be done– the risk to Wall Street was too great. For the government to allow these pirates of free enterprise to endure the real consequences of their high risk ventures would be unspeakable, intolerable, inconceivable! Almost as if a financial Katrina had blasted into Manhattan. Save us!

I don’t suppose they are in the mood to hear anything about responsibility, and dependency, and “sucking at the teat of government largesse” or such. Or how government bailouts breed weakness and indolence. How the market system is so great because failure is punished and success is rewarded. I suppose not.

Socialism for the rich

Our government provides massive subsidies to numerous industries, including the very profitable oil industry. A simple man might ask himself why, if our economic system is supposed to be free enterprise, and if we as a society value individual responsibility and self-reliance, and if we are so quick to deny services and benefits to the average citizen because they would be “too costly”, would encourage dependency and sloth, and be a drag on the system, then why oh why should the government bail out the Wall Street banks?

Why Canada Did Not Need a Bailout (or what good government looks like).

Palin’s Executive Experience

The “Executive Experience” argument: Can we please stop this nonsense? Palin was an “executive” of a very small town and then, for two years, of a very small (population-wise), weird state with massive oil and gas revenues to pay the bills. Senators, like McCain and Obama and Clinton and Biden, are intimately involved in issues related to national governance, including foreign affairs, homeland security, disaster relief, justice and law enforcement, the environment, the military, and so on. The idea that Palin is more qualified to deal with these issues on a national level because she had final authority to negotiate a pipeline is silly. The idea that any of the Senators are unprepared because they only participated in national government and didn’t make final decisions by themselves is silly.

What’s even scarier: Palin has displayed a marked tendency to fire competent people in highly-placed, well-paid positions and replace them with cronies, including, in one instance, a high school friend whose primary “executive experience” consisted of managing a mailbox franchise. In that sense, I suppose, she is a true Republican– look at Bush’s attempts to put Harriet Maier on the Supreme Court. Maybe she could appoint her mother-in-law to the Supreme Court.

Palin is also a book-burner– she is lying about that little episode in her life– and she’s either a hypocrite or a liar about abortion: she suggests that her daughter made a “choice” about keeping the baby, while insisting that, if she could, she would make it illegal for anyone else to have a “choice”. In fairness, she hasn’t tried to push the social agenda as governor… but then, a governor does not appoint Supreme Court justices or the Attorney-General of the United States.

Palin and her staff occasionally used personal e-mail accounts to conduct state business so they would not–so they thought– be subject to subpoena, if anyone dared to challenge her actions. Can’t wait to see who she appoints to the office of Attorney-General. But that certainly is good preparation for someone who might inherent the constitution-bending role of Dick Cheney.

All politicians “fudge”– well, they lie– to a certain extent. Palin is a bit unusual in the zest with which she embraces this task at the Republican convention and interviews, even when there are tapes and emails showing the contrary. McCain must be hoping that this information doesn’t filter down to the bubbas and marges of U.S. politics by November. The lies pertain directly to her aura of incorruptibility– in fact, we learn quickly that Ms. Palin is immensely corruptible and corrupting, as well as unqualified for the office she aspires to.

One Breath Away: The Vice Presidents

I never ever dreamed that I would ever see a worse nomination for vice-president than Dan Quayle or Spiro Agnew — never, ever, ever.

Here’s a list of recent Vice-Presidents:

Lyndon Johnson
Hubert Humphrey
Spiro Agnew
Gerald Ford
Walter Mondale
George Bush
Dan Quayle
Al Gore
Dick Cheney

All right. There is Dick Cheney.

I’m sure some conservatives feel that liberals are just picking on Dick Cheney. They’re right: we are. Probably because he’s white. If he had been black and advocated torturing people, we’d probably cut him some slack. Yes.

Cheney understood the federal government, having worked in various capacities for several Republican Administrations, unfortunately. He understood how to get away with invading the wrong country, torture, violations of civil liberties, deregulating the financial industry. Cheney understood better than Bush himself that when the sheriff breaks the law, nobody is going to arrest the sheriff, and if you did, you would appear in court and find out that the judge was the sheriff’s mom.

Quayle was merely grossly incompetent, unprepared, petty and annoying, immature, and unsuited for office. Other than that he was okay.

And then there is Sarah Palin. Palin is right about one thing: in a statement made before she was nominated she said that any woman who accuses her critics of sexism is doing a disservice to the cause of women’s success in politics. But the Republicans were off to the races with their hysterical accusations of media bias before any bias could even have expressed itself. Thus the immortal Wolf Bitzer, perhaps the most sheep-like national reporter out there, practically sponged himself drooling over Palin’s acceptance speech: “she hit one out of the park”. And I am not a reporter: I am a guppy.

You could argue that Bitzer just meant that she was a hit with the Republican crowd at the convention.  If so, he should have said, “Palin is big hit with the Republican crowd” not “she hit one out of the park”.

Why have so many people lost their minds so quickly. Neither Palin’s critics nor her defenders knew anything about her before making brash assertions. The difference is, that the critics were correct — nobody knows enough about this woman to nominate her to be the second in line to the most powerful office in the world. And the more we are finding out about her, the more shockingly wrong she seems for the office.

The unseemly embrace of this woman by the entire panoply of right-wing commentators and the nattering nabobs of neo-conservatism, like Dobson and O’Reilly and Limbaugh, borders on the bizarre. No, it is bizarre. It’s not like they have been touting this remarkable woman for years and she finally got the recognition she deserves. It’s not like they actually knew much about her. It’s more like a desperate mob having been tossed a lifeline. An amazing lifeline. Oh, the sweetest, most remarkable, most well-qualified and pure and magical lifeline of all: a hope of winning the election and making those big tax-breaks for the rich permanent and invading Iran and sparing all those Bush Administration officials any kind of investigation — with teeth– into the carnage they have wrecked upon the constitution.

And she’s hot!


I played “Marty” in high school, in a play “cutting” that we did for drama class. I seem to remember that we put it on somewhere, for other students, for parents… I can’t remember. I remember make-up and props. It must have been some kind of talent show. I think Jane Hunse played Marty’s mother. I cannot remember who played Clara. I wish I had a video.  If your child, today, played “Marty” in a school play, you would absolutely have a video forever to remember what it looked and sounded like.

Who was Clara?

The scene we did was that of Marty’s mother urging him to go out, to the Waverly Ballroom, because her son-in-law says it’s “loaded with tomatoes”. Marty ridicules the notion. “That’s rich.” His mother keeps after him until he finally explodes, telling her that he has come to accept that whatever it is that women want in a man, he doesn’t have it, and he’s sick of having his heart torn out by thoughtless girls who don’t even do him the courtesy of returning his calls. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up only to be let down again. He won’t go.

But he finally gives in, puts on his blue suit, and goes. Sure enough, more heartbreak and disappointment. But then… he meets a girl named Clara, a school teacher, who is– to put it kindly “average looking”. But Marty likes her. She’s nice to him and easy to talk to. She likes him too. They go out. They have a good time. Marty thinks it’s promising, but his buddies think she’s a dog, so he doesn’t ask her out again.

Even worse, his mother’s friend warns her that once Marty finds a girl, he won’t have time for her anymore. She suddenly realizes that she could be replaced. She reverses herself and discourages him from asking Clara out again.

Marty gives in and doesn’t call Clara back. But after one too many nights hanging out with his friends, who seem to have no idea of what to do with themselves, Marty comes to his senses and calls Clara back and asks her out again.

“Marty” won an Oscar for best picture, proving that good guys sometimes finish first. Ernest Borgnine says it made his career– a lucky stroke– the role was intended for Martin Ritt. Ritt couldn’t take the role: he had been blacklisted.

There are thousands of films that make you feel good about cops torturing and murdering criminals, and thousands of films that will trick you into thinking you are a good person because you feel warmly towards a minority or a disadvantaged person because, in the film, they are portrayed as brave and smart or  attractive and grateful and they look like Sidney Poitier or Will Smith. A lot of films will try to convince you that Sandra Bullock doesn’t really think she is attractive and that Morgan Freeman is black and that Bruce Willis sits around and drinks beer in his spare time.

But how many films do you know of require you to identify with a short, pudgy, ugly, unattractive butcher who is lonely? How many of you out there are short, ugly, working-class schmucks yourself? I thought so.

“Marty” is written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Delbert Mann.

Surge and Purge

Contrary to general belief–can I shock you?–the “surge” is not a “success”.

It has achieved the political goal of short-term reductions in the numbers of casualties. It hasn’t moved us one iota closer to a stable Iraq.

The supposedly left-wing media swallowed this one hook, line, and sinker. What has happened, in a nutshell, is this: local U.S. commanders have negotiated a sort of power-sharing arrangement with some of the powerful Sunni militias who were leading the attacks against troops and civilians in Baghdad. In exchange for local control, road blocks, and, apparently, considerable cash– and continued possession of their weapons and territories–, they have implemented a truce. One of the reasons President Maliki would like to see U.S. troops leave is so he can go into these enclaves and rout his political opponents for good so he can consolidate real power in his Shiite government. He doesn’t have real power over these militias. Does anyone other a few diligent journalists know about this in America?

Some of the Sunni groups were fighting both Al Qaeda and the Americans. Some analysts believe they have negotiated a temporary truce of convenience in order to focus on their Iraqi opponents. The idea that this is a step towards a stable, pluralistic democracy is rather naive. It looks more like Lebanon or Egypt or Syria.

The idea that the U.S. is fighting for democracy and freedom, and for a free pluralistic society in Iraq that will resemble…. well…. who? Nobody. Because such a state cannot exist in a nation in which the majority of citizens believe that Allah should govern and infidels should be killed. The only way such a state can evolve into a progressive, liberal western-style democracy, is through progressive secularization. We need to give them high-definition TV’s and Walmarts. We need to convince them that American Idol is satisfying entertainment, and that Paris Hilton really is important, and that Cadillac’s really do cause women to have orgasms. We need to convince them that you can feel quite spiritual by being anti-abortion and opposed to sex education and homosexuals without having to sacrifice the even the smallest material comfort.

Call me crazy but I stand by something I said years ago:  Iran will be the first true Islamic democracy in the Middle East.

I found this after I had written this rant.  It’s a rarity– a media outlet that questions the claims McCain and Bush are making about the success of the surge.  Here’s another.

The Mouse Brings the Cheese

There is an interesting article here about why many poor, working-class Americans vote for the party whose policies are clearly against their own self-interest.  [Dead link– sorry.]

They vote for the party that fought the Iraq war to benefit the same companies that are now gouging them at the pumps. They vote for the party that weakens regulations that protect their health and safety. They vote for the party has steadfastly refused to shore up the one great government program that benefits them directly: social security.

I’m not sure I totally buy it but it made me realize that criticism’s about Palin’s lack of qualifications will only fall on deaf ears. To many of these voters, the idea that Palin has no experience or knowledge relevant to the job of president is a wonderful thing, because they don’t get what’s so complicated about “cleaning up Washington” of all those vaguely evil people who, for example, messed up this wonderful privatized health care system so that it actually is more expensive and less accessible than almost any other nation’s government-run systems. “I’ll be damned if I’ll vote for a health care system that makes me wait for treatments I could get right away if I actually had a decent insurance plan…”

Russians Unhappy with U.S. Involvement in Georgia

Georgia on my mind… how would the U.S. respond if Putin starting holding high-level meetings with Mexican officials to negotiate some kind of strategic alliance? Hmmm. Or if they tried again to put missiles in Cuba? Well, hell, let’s go for it. World War III– here we come.

Why do the Republicans always act as if the so-called Main Stream Media isn’t allowed to reach the conclusion that– especially this time around– is obvious to any rational person: Obama is the better candidate. The Republicans constantly howl that the media is “biased” because they know, in fact, that their outrage will frighten many journalists into giving them more favorable coverage.

What’s wrong with the media having an opinion about the issues they cover? The media are, compared to Joe Six Pack, relatively well-informed about the issues. Many of them have spent considerable time with the candidates. Why, oh why, shouldn’t they have a preference?

So it’s just possible– just possible– that Sarah Palin really is a lousy candidate.

Obama’s Sell-Out

Barack Obama supported and voted in favor of the recent wiretapping bill that grants immunity to the telephone companies who didn’t bother to ask government agents if they had a warrant to look at telephone records of individuals they were curious about. They just handed them over. You’re the government, so you can’t possibly be doing something illegal.

Republicans– who seem to believe in the ruthless application of the law in all instances– or say they do– should be screaming bloody murder. But we know all about the Republicans. But Obama?

If the government’s actions were legal, there is no need for immunity. If they were not illegal, then the Senate should initiate proceedings against the Bush administration. They should bloody well impeach him and indict the attorney-general.

We know why Obama voted in favour of the bill. He was terrified of the Republicans portraying him as “soft” on terror if he didn’t. Here’s my fantasy: Obama rails against the bill and tells Americans that he is standing up for the rule of law and for the constitution, and all those Americans who just can’t stand the thought of the federal government intruding on their sacred rights– like the right to own sub-machine guns– say Amen and vote for him.

Brief Self-Serving Acknowledgement

Told you.

I wrote in an earlier rant on Dobson that if McCain ever shows any signs of making a competitive election of it, Dobson will find some flimsy excuse to let bygones be bygones and suck up to him.

Well, Sarah Palin’s nomination as VP gave him the opening that he needed. Not that he’s alone– the rest of the agents of intolerance are all lining up behind him, lips puckered…

McCain, desperate for any kind of help in an election year in which Americans have shown clear signs of wanting a change, caved in to the Christian right and held several meetings at which he suddenly expressed his craven admiration for the likes the John Hagee and Dobson, leading Phil Burress, an organizer in Ohio for religious groups, to announce that McCain had won him over because– wait for it– he couldn’t be “pressured” into changing his position.

At least, not the other position.

Rick Warren

Rick Warren was invited to give an address to TED in February 2006. Time Magazine had recently identified Rick Warren as a veritable god of popular religion and wisdom, so I thought I’d better check it out.

Not that I hadn’t checked out “Purpose Driven Life”…. I tried. I couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t find the content. It was the kind of sustained generic common sense which, devoid of any specific application, can never be proven wrong. Be yourself. Have patience. Set goals. Plan ahead. Was there something remarkable in this book that I missed? Are there really millions of people out there who don’t have any purpose but would buy a book about it? Will any of them, really, acquire one by reading this book?

Warren makes the stunning assertion that he doesn’t know a single pastor who is “in it for the money”. That’s a stereotype, he says, but it’s not true. That’s amazing. He doesn’t think pastors draw a salary anywhere? He doesn’t believe that deep down within their presumptive souls it never occurred to most pastors that they could get paid to talk?

I leave alone for the moment the outrageousness of it all, but either he’s right and all those exposé’s about preachers living in hugely expensive mansions or driving around in limousines or wearing expensive designer clothes are false…. or he’s being incredibly disingenuous. Either “Elmer Gantry” is a fraud or Warren is. Either Jim Bakker is a shocking aberration or he just happened to get caught. Either John Hagee is just covering his expenses or he is living very, very well. Either Dobson has bodyguards or he doesn’t. Either Rick Warren himself has bodyguards or he doesn’t.

Warren traveled to Syria in 2006 and made several statements afterwards that appeared to praise Assad’s regime there as tolerant and moderate. I get that Warren believes he can personally negotiate world peace, but I also get that he, like Billy Graham, may be naïve, and may be in the process of allowing himself to be used by shrewd politicians.

What does he get out of it? Well, gosh, just read his stuff. Like Rev. James Dobson, he loves to name-drop. Even worse, when taken to task by Joseph Farah, one of the fanatics at WorldNetDaily, for his comments, Warren appeared to misrepresent himself– to put it generously. Then he accused Farah of being Satan’s proxy. Then he apologized to Farah. (Farah, by the way, is far more scary than Warren will ever be, and almost as scary as Dobson but not quite as scary–or comical–as John Hagee).

It is a little difficult to believe that any preacher presenting a message, nowadays, that is genuinely biblical, and transforming in a spiritual sense, would be invited to speak at the NBA all-star game. The organizers of the NBA all-star game are not going to invite someone to speak who seems to hold exotic values. They won’t invite someone who believes that sports are not really all that important, that success is not about winning, that trinkets and souvenirs won’t buy you happiness.

Warren claims that he wants evangelicals to stop voting for candidates based on single, “wedge” issues like abortion. He wants us to believe that he is more sophisticated and mature than that– he thinks the environment is also important, and poverty. So Warren hosts Obama and McCain this year– separately– claiming to be non-partisan, but in 2004, he issued a “toolbox” for pastors which urged them to urge their church members to consider abortion as the only non-negotiable moral value in the election.

So Warren wants to sound objective and enlightened and a little more sophisticated… but he ends up with the same position as Pat Robertson, who doesn’t drive around in a limousine, don’t you know.

A website critical of Warren posted the following, from a workshop Warren gave in 1998 at Saddleback Church::

“Now, at Saddleback Church, we are unapologetically contemporary… I passed out a three-by-five card to everybody in the church, and I said, ‘You write down the call letters of the radio station you listen to.’ I wasn’t even asking unbelievers. I was asking the people in the church, ‘What kind of music do you listen to?’ When I got it back, I didn’t have one person who said, ‘I listen to organ music.’ Not one…. So, we made a strategic decision that we are unapologetically a contemporary music church. And right after we made that decision and stopped trying to please everybody, Saddleback exploded with growth….

“I’ll be honest with you, we are loud. We are really, really loud on a weekend service…. I say, ‘We’re not gonna turn it down.’ Now the reason why is baby boomers want to feel the music, not just hear it…. God loves variety!”

Unusually democratic for a church, don’t yo think?

JIM WALLIS: You know, some of those faith-based organizations who are providing services are the very ones who are now saying we can’t keep pulling bodies out of the river and not send somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in. So they’re talking about policy questions. So this is where the old left-right thing breaks down.

I think values are a good conversation for politics. It may be the future of our discussion. But it can’t just be partisan values wedged in to divide people. But I think a broader sense of values, personal and social — personal responsibility and social responsibility together are at the heart of religion. The two together will provide a powerful political vision for the future.