Sunday, September 28, 2008
and felt worse. She's apparently getting shit online from people jealous of her success. What the hell is wrong with humanity? If one of us makes good, the rest of us have to pick her apart so we can feel better about ourselves. Low low low. Little brains.
Then there's my personal fallout from the first presidential debate. Nice of John McCain to show up. I watched it all. I watched the little 'mood meter' running as each candidate spoke. The independents (green) made nice new colors when their reactions blended with the red or the blue lines. And I realized that our debate system is dirt stupid, and nothing that was said that night is likely to change anyone's mind.
Obama, if you like him, held his own. He was in control, he knew his stuff, he didn't attack but he didn't sit back and leave attacks unanswered. McCain, if you like him, played the "I've been around longer than you" card nicely, frequently pointing out that Senator Obama, as he consistently called him, "didn't understand."
There was one moment that made my night. Remember when McCain tossed out a comment that Obama didn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy? I watch people closely. And if you watched Obama, his eyes flashed. This, apparently, is where Obama draws the line: don't question his intelligence. He didn't lose control, but he caught fire and I was glad to see it. We need someone at the helm who can get angry but keep his head. Obama is often far too even tempered. I don't want him to get nasty, but I want him to be passionate.
That said, I have come to mistrust both of them. These candidates were chosen by the machine that decides who we can vote for. We shoot down independents, or we ignore them until they go away. We'll be voting for the lesser of two evils again this year.
And how about those vice-presidential candidates? I dread their upcoming debate: it has the makings of an historic train wreck. I may have to scream until my throat explodes if Joe Biden manages to somehow give the advantage to a woman I have truly come to dislike. Sarah Palin has no more business in Washington than I do. But she's got the cute, feisty thing down solid. I've met her kind too many times and I don't trust them...they like power and they get it by winning people over. If Palin gets into power, it will legitimize views that I firmly believe will send this country back to the Dark Ages.
Then there's our bailout of Wall Street. There are stories no one is telling. I know a woman who was part of a march on Wall Street last week protesting the bailout. Above her, she said, brokers leaned out of windows, threw dollar bills at the marchers and yelled "Get a job!"
A lovely attitude for people who are begging for nearly a trillion dollars in free money to save their jobs. They are "us" and the people who will give them money are "them." It begins to feel like we're going to go without so that Wall Streeters can save their lofts, their vacation homes and their luxury cars. I am most definitely one of 'them.' I'm trying to figure out how to pay my bills, keep my home, pay for heat this winter. Perhaps I can keep warm by the light of the thank you letters I'm sure to receive from investment advisers and stock brokers.
So I'm painting my living room. If we lose the house, at least it'll look good. And we can enjoy it as long as we have it. The physical activity gives me an outlet for my growing anger. Did Thomas Jefferson really say he thought it would be healthy if we have a revolution every two decades? We are long, long overdue.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I'm against the $85,000 000 bailout of AIG.
Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend.
To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+.
Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman
and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..
So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon that equals $425,000.00.
My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a
We Deserve It Dividend.
Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let's assume a tax rate of 30%.
Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes.
That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam.
But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500..00 in their pocket.
A husband and wife has $595,000.00.
What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?
Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.
Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads
Put away money for college – it'll be there
Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
Buy a new car – create jobs
Invest in the market – capital drives growth
Pay for your parent's medical insurance – health care improves
Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean – or else
Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks
who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company
that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.
If we're going to re-distribute wealth let's really do it...instead of trickling out
a puny $1000.00 "vote buy" economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our candidates for President.
If we're going to do an $85 billion bailout, let's bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!
As for AIG – liquidate it.
Sell off its parts. Let American General go back to being American General.
Sell off the real estate.
Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.
Here's my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn't.
Sure it's a crazy idea that can "never work."
But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party!
How do you spell Economic Boom?
I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion
We Deserve It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC .
And remember, The Birk plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5 Billion is returned
instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.
Ahhh...I feel so much better getting that off my chest.
T. J. Birkenmeier, A Creative Guy & Citizen of the Republic
And what about this woman? Why isn't she being chased down by the media and given a soapbox? Marcy Kaptur is my hero of the moment.
Have you heard the reports that troops are being recalled from Iraq to train in "crowd control"?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
TRENDS RESEARCH INSTITUTE SUPPORTS MODIFIED
RHINEBECK NY 24 September 2008 -- The $700 billion bailout plan now before
Congress could re-invigorate the economy, asserts Gerald Celente,
Director of TheTrends Research Institute. But he warned that success
will require certain revisions.
The Trends Research Institute has thoroughly analyzed the exhaustive
3 1/2 page document presented to Congress for approval.
"We read every word of it!" said Celente.
"While we don't agree with bailouts in general, if Congress decides to spend $700 billion of taxpayer money, it must be done efficiently. The revisions we are
suggesting, though minor, are crucial to implementing the plan successfully,"
"The bailout plan being debated before Congress,
'The Troubled Asset Relief Program' (TARP) is fraught with uncertainties
and unanswerable questions," said Celente. "On the other hand,
The Trends Research Institute's revised plan is guaranteed to stimulate
economic growth, reduce unemployment, lower taxes, eliminate consumer debt and balance the budget," Celente predicts.
Under TARP, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is granted sole authority
to dispense $700 billion as he sees fit. Paulson said the money would be
used to mainly cover losses incurred by failing financial firms, brokerages,
investment banks, leveraged buyout firms, insurance agencies, and any
other financial entity deemed "too big to fail."
Under the alternative Trends Research Institute Program (TRIP),
$700 billion would not be dispensed at the sole discretion of
the Economic Czar. Rather, under TRIP the $700 billion would be
distributed equally among the 200,000,000 taxpayers who put the money up.
"Unlike TARP, which is doomed to fail, our plan provides immediate relief.
With TARP all the money goes to a handful of failing institutions with
the hope that some trickles down to the working public.
"With TRIP, each taxpayer will directly receive a $3.5 million stimulus check.
This will instantly generate economic growth, end the housing crisis,
reduce unemployment, eliminate consumer debt and balance the budget.
"There is no time to debate TRIP," warned Celente. "Immediate action
must be taken. Inaction or delay risks an economic Armageddon. While
Congress is wrangling over how much to pay overpaid CEO's under TARP,
TRIP could be instantly written into law, solving the economic woes of our nation."
Trendpost: Once you receive your TRIP check, try to refrain from
buying more than one Ferrari. Invest wisely. Consider putting your
money in a Trends Research Investment Plan (TRIP 2). While not
yet government sanctioned, we expect swift approval once TRIP becomes
law. "If Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley can become banks
overnight by government decree, why not us?" asked Celente.
Call to Action: If you want your fair share of the $700 billion,
call your Congressman and Senators. Tell them you want TRIP not TARP.
Now that you're excited (I sure was!) I must add the post script. This notice was followed by a disclaimer. Apparently it was meant to be satirical...and worse yet, the actual number each taxpayer would get if the 700 billion was divvied up was 35 hundred...not 3.5 million. I don't think 3500 will do much to help most people faced with no job or the loss of their homes.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
America is a very odd place. We love creative people - we admire them, we idolize them when they're famous, we envy them even when they're not. But we sure don't make it easy for them to be creative.
That starving artist in a garret is so romantic. It's one of the reasons we took "Rent" to our hearts...the bohemian rebels who would rather die than conform are the people we wish we could be. Until we get hungry, of course.
I've learned a lot from living with a man who has too much talent, too many ideas and will never have enough time to share all the music he hears in his head. It's a constant inner battle - does he choose security or does he choose to be true to the gift he's been given? Every CD is an open-handed offering of something intensely personal, something true, something beautiful, to the world. And every sale is not only a few dollars to help pay the bills, but a confirmation that those sounds in his head are as unique and worthwhile as he hopes they are.
Why does our country put our artists on a pedestal, but not support them as they do the work we admire? Where is the program that offers creativity the security that allows it to continue?
It's not just musicians. Painters, writers, poets, sculptors, artists of all kinds are forced every day to choose between doing what they know they are here to do and doing what they have to do to eat and pay the rent.
Go ahead - tell me it builds character. I don't buy it. If a child is gifted in math or science, we are thrilled, knowing those studies will lead to jobs that will give them comfortable lives. If a child is a gifted artist we worry.
"How will you make a living?" we ask.
And many, many of them give up the one thing that they truly love to do because it just can't be done in our nine to five world. The world is poorer because of it.
I recently interviewed the author of Furious Improvisation
It's a book about Hallie Flanagan and the WPA's theatre project during the Depression.
It got me thinking. A make-work project for artists launched the careers of Orson Welles, John Houseman and many others. The plays they put on were cutting edge; sometimes so cutting edge that they were considered subversive. They pushed at society's rules, integrating the casts, giving minorities lead roles, dramatizing the social and economic problems of the times. Eventually, the project was abandoned as the country's fear of communism built toward the blacklisting that would eventually rip through the performing arts and leave many careers ruined along the way.
The Depression (and will it still be capitalized once the new depression is upon us?) showed us the best and worst we could do for artists. The government put actors and playwrites to work at a desperate time. And the country's fear and narrow mindedness tried to restrict what those artists could do...finally shutting them down.
I want to live in a country that values creativity as highly as it values money. Does such a place exist?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This is it, kids. It doesn't get much more interesting than this.
Lehmann is kaputski. The USA is now in charge of the alphabet gang...AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. It's propping up Bear Stearns. And Bank of America is taking over the planet, since it's one of the few institutions left that can afford to.
I wonder where the federal government's getting all this bailout money. We're already trillions in debt. We're spending billions every month on a war that doesn't show any signs of concluding. Common sense tells you you can't keep spending what you don't have.
Gerald Celente is an economic forecaster who works out of a quaint old building that used to be my dad's favorite grocery store. He's been called a hack, a quack and a doom and gloomer...and now he's being called a genius. How come? He predicted this. I spoke with him months ago and he assured me we were in for the worst economic time this country's seen since the so-called Great Depression. (What was great about it I couldn't say.) He was vilified by some in the press for his extreme views. The acid dripping off the newsprint sounded suspiciously like it was written by someone who was very afraid of hearing something they didn't want to hear. Now Oprah wants to hear what he has to say. Celente's website is a bit over the top, but what he has to say has the uncomfortable ring of unwelcome fact. Read for yourself.
In case you want to paint Celente as some kind of alarmist renegade, meet Nouriel Roubini. He's a professor at NYU who, until this week, was known as Dr. Doom. Now he's known as a pundit.
United Socialist State Republic of America. Oh my.
I mentioned Roubini to Celente. Celente's not one to give compliments lightly.
"Oh, him," he said. "I like him."
So two economic forecasters who were considered sensationalist Chicken Littles are now being hailed as economic Edgar Cayce's. Funny place, funny race, as HSO often says.
But if we're now going to credit these guys with some smarts, what do they say is next?
Celente pulls no punches.
"This is no recession. It's a depression. And it's going to get a lot worse."
What does he suggest? Cut back. Economize. Stay close to home. Buy local. Work close to home.
"Support your community. The only way we're going to get through this is by building our communities and supporting each other."
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I'm amazed by the media coverage of Hurricane Ike.
I sat, eyes glued to the television, and watched reporters being pummeled by high winds and roaring surf as satellite connections blinked out and they told us about the danger to people who hadn't evacuated Galveston yet.
One thought kept going through my mind, and after an hour or so I was actually yelling at the reporters.
Geraldo Rivera, bless him, had the most dramatic moments that I'm aware of. Of course he did. Geraldo has made a career of dramatic moments, starting back when he was a cub reporter in NYC breaking into Willowbrook to show the world how the poor patients there were being neglected.
Today the Internet is full of video of Geraldo getting knocked on his keister by Hurricane Ike. I tuned in later in the evening, but he was still getting blown sideways and soaked as the anchors back in the warm, cozy studio asked him for the latest conditions.
"The nearby hotel," I heard him say, "has already taken a hit from Ike. Bricks have blown off the building."
Bricks blowing off buildings should be a pretty clear indication that it's time to get indoors and find shelter. But no, the American public needs to know what's going on. We need to see the hurricane as it happens. It's gripping video. And that gets ratings.
This is what the media has come to. A natural disaster can be covered as it happens, reporters who want to make a name for themselves can risk their lives to be in the thick of it, and we can all sit at home and tut-tut over the tragedy. And some can laugh as they watch Geraldo blow over again and again.
I saw the movie "Twister." What I watched felt a lot like that, only it was real. So the line between news and entertainment has grown that much blurrier.
Have we become a nation, perhaps even a world, of voyeurs? Do we need to be able to see everything as it happens because it gives us a visceral punch, makes us feel like we've experienced something?
The news has become our pimp...they give us our fix, keep us revved up with scandal, controversy, adrenaline-pumping danger. And we sit back and watch and demand more.
The news will perform a service after the disaster. It will make us aware of people in need, make the aftermath immediate enough that many of us will be moved to help. But what I saw last night was just another disaster movie. I think I'd have been far more impressed if Geraldo had gotten in out of the weather and encouraged everyone else there to do the same.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Experts tell me that people exposed to the toxic plume resulting from the towers' collapse are seeing their health problems multiply at an alarming rate. They are not only the survivors of the attack, but the rescuers and even people who were there and tried to help.
What they breathed in, usually without any masks, was a potent, lethal combination of carcinogens and poisons that are causing asthma, tumors, and cancers that are usually considered quite rare.
And they're fighting to prove that they're sick because of the 9-11 attacks.
Politicians are beginning to get louder on the issue, calling for more programs to help them, more counseling, more money for medical aid. But so far that call isn't being answered quickly enough to help all the people who need it.
I spoke with Jim LePena...an electrician from the Hudson Valley. He jumped in his car and drove to Manhattan on 9-11, just to do what he could to help. He's able to work now, but barely. He has asthma. He's had benign tumors removed from his brain. He says he has to fight to prove his health problems began after he worked digging through the rubble from the towers.
Tumors grow faster in people exposed to the plume. Their immune systems are compromised.
And federal aid earmarked for responders and survivors who live outside of New York isn't getting to them. An advocate told me Tommy Thompson and Logistics Health, the private contractors hired to administer the money, have swallowed up the money and it hasn't been seen since.
The Red Cross had millions of dollars for programs to help 9-11 victims. There were hundreds of programs. Seven years later, that money has run out. And those programs are shutting down.
And that's what's happening seven years after the Twin Towers were destroyed.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This is just too amazing. HSO came home today and informed me that someone he knows had this to say about the election:
"How can you not vote for a prisoner of war?"
No. Really? This is as far as people's thinking goes? Not "what's his position on the environment, war, the economy, our relationship with the rest of the world"...none of that? Just vote for the guy who caught a bad break during a war and endured?
This is a supposedly intelligent person. But this is how they're choosing the next president.
Oh...and let's not forget this other nugget from the same source.
"Black people really have come a long way."
I agree it's just adorable how Barack Obama has managed to hold his own on the national scene. I'm so proud.
I think those scientists in Sweden had better hurry up with that black hole. We're overdue. I don't think we're smart enough to survive here much longer.
Monday, September 8, 2008
First, I read the email written by a woman Palin supposedly 'hates' for standing in the way of the then-mayor's attempt to fire the local librarian. Ann Kilkenny's getting a lot of attention for a letter she says she never intended to be public. She says she was just answering questions posed by friends outside of Alaska. I don't doubt it. The first thing I did when Palin was tapped for VP was to write a note to my friend in Anchorage asking what she knew.
You can read Kilkenny's letter here:
Gloria Steinem has come out swinging as some try to label Palin the feminists' alternative to Hillary Clinton. "The only thing Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have in common is a chromosome," she wrote.
I interviewed a woman today who's been covering Palin for years. Shannyn Moore is a progressive journalist, so it's a safe bet that she's not going to be a cheerleader.
"What are your issues with her?" I asked her.
"She's far more like George Bush than John McCain," she told me. "She's secretive, she surrounds herself with people who will not disagree with her, and she's a fundamentalist Christian. But I think she's a far more authentic fundamentalist than Bush is. She's hard core. And that's actually scarier to me."
I asked her what she knew about the librarian fracas from Palin's mayoral days. Moore said that, as far as she knows, Palin never specifically named books she wanted banned...but she felt out the librarian on the possibility of banning books. When the librarian said absolutely not, Palin tried to fire her. She only withdrew the termination when opponents made enough noise that it became politically prudent to do so.
Moore points out that Palin's city is the crystal meth capital of Alaska. "If she wanted to put books on how to make crystal meth on a special shelf behind the desk and make people register to take them out, I wouldn't have had a problem with that. But as far as I know, that wasn't what she was thinking about."
Moore points to Palin's delivery of her youngest child. She says Palin finished a speech in Texas, got on a plane, transferred flights and continued flying home although labor had begun. She says continuing to travel while in labor with what she knew was a high risk pregnancy is a sign of poor judgement. It's not about whose baby is whose...it's about placing herself and her own desires before her child's, her family's and her fellow passengers on those flights.
Moore says Palin has a very public record of sacrificing the environment in favor of oil and gas drilling and building. Polar bears and beluga whales? Don't be silly.
"Why," I asked her, "hasn't Palin been speaking to the press since her nomination?"
"Because they're still telling her what she thinks," was her simple answer. "She'll say whatever they want."
And as for the bright and shiny opportunity to get a woman within spitting distance of the Oval Office? Moore says she may be a woman, but she's no feminist. She's against abortion, even in the event of incest or rape. Moore said her favorite anecdote just happened recently. She and a friend were sitting in a tavern discussing Palin. The friend asked if Palin could be considered a feminist.
"Down by the bar, a big, burly guy in a flannel shirt, Carharts and boots was sitting nursing a beer. He looked across his beer at us, wiped the foam off his beard and said, 'I'm more of a feminist than Sarah Palin is.' And he was right!"
Palin's views may not be extreme in Alaska, but they're sure extreme in the rest of the country. She wants creationism taught in schools. She offered to cooperate with an investigation into the attempt to fire her ex-brother-in-law...but once evidence began to indicate there may be wrongdoing, her staff has clammed up. She is suing the government to keep polar bears from being listed as endangered. She is taking credit for accomplishments that further examination is showing were not hers.
Moore's getting phone calls from news organizations around the world. But they're not asking about Palin's positions on the issues.
"All they want to know about is Bristol's baby."
Saturday, September 6, 2008
At first glance, it might seem remarkable that the Republicans are the ones that have a woman on the ticket this year. But look at how they're marketing her: "The Hottest Governor from the Coolest State." I feel a little sick.
I'll admit it - the political scene is suddenly riveting. The Republicans are infatuated with their new VP candidate and the word is out that the Democrats are enlisting Hillary Clinton to take her on.
If I wasn't a believer that women have truly been an oppressed group before, this does it. Think about it: it may have taken decades to get a major party to endorse a black candidate for president...but once he's in the running the race question can, for the most part, be skirted. Yes, there was the whole Jeremiah Wright thing and once in a while someone tosses out a yellow flag on 'The Race Issue'...but except for one mind-bogglingly stupid Georgia legislator who referred to the Obamas as "uppity", Barack Obama and John McCain can debate as two legislators running for president.
But despite Sarah Palin's nasty, dismissive attacks on her opponents, they have to be very, very careful how they respond to her. Because she's a woman.
There's plenty of ammo, to be sure. She jeered at the notion of public service. She exaggerated her own accomplishments as governor, misstated facts to make herself sound more important. She refers to her daughter's decision to have her baby as a "choice" while advocating denying that choice to millions of others. She's got some scary secessionist ties and a record of dismissing environmental concerns as she entreats us to "pray for more oil drilling." This woman is an extremist with very little experience - and the McCain campaign brought her on board knowing that she could become president by default. That political decision speaks volumes about the McCain campaign's concern for this country's future. It's clearly a game and what matters is winning.
But the Obama campaign will have to tread carefully as it pushes back. They know all too well how easily a statement can be turned into a sexist dig...and the media is not only looking for it, but practicing it. I was not a fan of the Hillary Clinton candidacy, but I certainly felt for her when newspeople made cracks made about her clothes, about her emotion (or lack of it) , complained that she was a whiner or had an annoying voice. These are the kinds of remarks that never, ever get made about a male candidate. But Clinton had to slog through that minefield.
If Joe Biden comes down too hard on Palin, he'll be seen as picking on her. Any rebuttals will be examined for sexist language. So it's going to take a woman to do the Democrats' dirty work. And they're calling on Clinton.
She's more than capable. But the fact that she's needed is an eye-opener. The Republicans don't need to find a powerful black Republican to attack Barack Obama. The language allows them to do it without playing the race card. The Democrats have a much more difficult time of it...our language is full of terms that could be seen as sexist. Just about anything we say that refers to someone weaker or less powerful, anything dismissive or condescending...it usually can be interpreted to be sexist - whether we mean it to be or not. And that's indicative of how women are seen in our culture. So it's going to take Hillary Clinton and other strong Democratic women to say what needs to be said about Sarah Palin. Because whenever a man criticizes a woman, whether the criticism is justified or not, chances are the language is going to be a mine field.
"The Hottest Governor from the Coolest State?" Spare me. How about campaigning on smarts? How about campaigning on issues? How about a thoughtful debate on how to stop this country's slide into a deepening recession? What do we have to do to get this country to focus on what's important...campaign with bags over our heads?
I have fallen deeply in love with The Daily Show during these few days. Yes, they're partisan and I like their point of view. But it's not that. No one else is ignoring the stupidity and actually looking at the facts...digging up old interviews that clearly show how candidates and party leaders are contradicting themselves. And when they asked GOP delegates to describe just what those hallowed "Small Town Values" they espouse are, all they could come up with was that it meant no same sex marriages. That's it?
Ask the hard questions. Force yourself to think. Mindless following of anyone, no matter how charismatic they may be, is a waste of a vote. Decide what you truly believe in, then find the candidate who reflects that. Or get ready for a very bumpy ride.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
What she didn't do was explain how her strong family values reconcile with her refusal to put environmental concerns anywhere near the importance she places on energy exploration. She didn't talk about her lawsuit to keep the government from putting polar bears on the endangered list or identify a unique species of whale in an area where she supports oil drilling.
That's to be expected. She's preaching to the choir, as Democrats did just a week ago. She's standing on the pedestal of right, of conviction, of virtue.
Barack Obama's had that podium pretty much to himself up until now. And now both sides will do their best to knock the other off it. Whoever is King (or Queen) of the Hill at the end of election day wins.
It was interesting to watch Rudy Guiliani play head cheerleader for a man he did his best to bury on the campaign trail a few months ago. But again, that's politics. If you don't win, you'd better get behind the one who does and cheer him on.
But I find myself growing tired of it all. Thousands of rabid Republicans chanting for more drilling, angry activists mugging GOP delegates, Democrats taking swipes at their opponents and hoping some of the blows connect - this is a strange way to run a railroad, as my mom would have said.
American politics seems to have come down to a simple question: "Who do you dislike less on election day?"
What if the answer is - "I'm sick of all of you?"