Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Rock Show - One Hit Wonder Addition; A Two-fer!

This song takes me back to high school. Since we didn't get MTV in our area until 1983, I didn't see this video until I was looking it up on YouTube and I had no idea Donnie Iris cultivated a nerd look, which gives this video a comical look. I hate to admit it, but I do so love, "Ah, Leah".

While searching around for the Donnie Iris song, I came across Jay Ferguson's "Thunder Island"! Oh dear Lord, but I loved this song, God knows why. Even now.

Speaking of looks, Jay Ferguson looks like the prototype of a late-1970's pop-star, with his open shirt, his porn-star mustache, and his long hair. Did men really walk around with their shirts open like that, or was it just wannabe celebrities?

Being Wooed By An Abuser

Having mentioned The Daily Howler, I would ask that you click here and read Part 4 of his "Special Report", "An Affair to Remember". Somerby highlights an article Jonathan Alter wrote for Newsweek in 1999. Alter is honest enough to write about the ways in which the contingent of the national press corps was swooning under the spell John McCain was casting.
ALTER (11/8/99): What we all like about McCain is that he might actually govern on principle, and what a strange sight that would be, says Bruce Morton of CNN. Even if he loses, McCain could have an important impact on the Republicans. It's been 75 years since the GOP boasted any major figure who described himself as a reformer.

That reformist impulse, however atrophied from the original muckrakers of a century ago, also animates many journalists, thus further explaining their affinity for McCain. Liberal reporters may disagree with him on abortion, guns and opposition to the test-ban treaty (stands that he softens when talking to them). They know that his voting record would probably appall them if they looked too closely. But they are increasingly comfortable with his hawkish foreign policy and almost unanimously supportive of his core issue, campaign-finance reform.

What I find fascinating about this little blurb is this - it could be written by a woman falling under the spell of a predatory abuser. Such men are usually adept at romancing women; they are dapper and congenial, promising so much, giving so much, seeming to offer exactly what a woman needs. Until, of course, the courtship is over, the deal sealed, and the relationship in full flower. Only then do the anger, the trend toward dominance, and the potential for violence become more clear. Yet, since the spell of love is cast, it becomes far more hard to simply "walk away" because the woman in question is "in love".

Just like the press corps has had a decade long love for the John McCain they created in their mind.

Like serial abusers, the actual facts concerning John McCain - his adherence to right-wing shibboleths, his corruption, his ruthless opportunism, even his unpopularity with colleagues due less to his "maverick" status and more to his volatile temper and more than occasional verbal abuse - were available for them to consider. This availability is mentioned by Alter, then dismissed just as casually as the history of violence of a serial abuser is dismissed by their latest victim. All the restraining orders, the court dates and appearances by police for "domestic disturbances", even the testimony of former girlfriends to beatings and psychological torture become irrelevant because the guy seems so wonderful. Except, of course, he isn't.

While it is nice the press corps is realizing McCain's oft-stated devotion to "honor" and "principle" is nonsense, under the pressure of one of the most dishonest and trivial campaigns in recent memories (quite a feat considering the history of political campaigns over the past quarter century), it should be noted there has been abundant evidence that McCain would not run a campaign any differently than he has. He surrounds himself with Rove proteges. His campaign manager signaled, during the Republican convention, that the campaign would not be about issues, then proceeded to lie about Obama, his person, his personal history, and his record with a relentlessness and thoroughness that was breathtaking. All those folks who "liked" McCain realized he was and is nothing more than a ruthless politician guided by no principle save the continuance of his own grip on power. While Obama is, like most politicians, little different, he at least has the virtue of being honest enough not to cloak his campaign in the nonsensical drivel of "honor", "integrity", and the constant invocation of a non-existent history of "straight talk". Indeed, one of the attractions of Obama, at least for this voter, is that he is pretty transparent about his own status as a run-of-the-mill politician, with all the warts such a specimen usually has.

I do feel bad for the press corps, but only in the same way I feel bad for a woman who is emerging from the shadow of a violent abuser who has a history of such relationships. Yes, she should have known. Just as the press corps should have paid more attention to those things that might have "appalled" them had they not been so heart-struck.

Whiners And Losers

Like most such events, the Presidential debate between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain was pretty much a draw last night. Not really a surprise. With the rare exception of the single exchange between Bernie Shaw and Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen in the same election year, these things really don't produce all that much. The much-hyped Gore-sigh was a non-event until a few right-wingers noticed it and made much more of it than it was (for details, see Bob Somerby's many mentions of the invention of the myth of Sighing Al). Equally silly and false, there was the discussion of Pres. Bush looking at his watch during a 1992 appearance with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. The idea that these little tics and asides are noticed and become iconic moments is nothing more or less than the fantasizing of people trying to create drama where none really exists.

Having said that the event was pretty much a draw and non-dramatic, I will say that I think this presents a problem for John McCain. Part of his argument has always been that he is far more experienced and knowledgeable about foreign policy matters; that his judgment, especially concerning the war in Iraq, is far superior to Sen. Obama's. Now, anyone considering the actual facts of the matter would question the basis of such a claim, but we'll let that slide for the moment. For our purposes, I would only ask folks to think about this: If McCain has such a great grasp of foreign policy, and if his judgment is far more sound that Obama's, then how could Obama hold his own? How is it possible for Barack Obama to be able to stand on the stage with McCain and not end up with egg on his face, is McCain is the expert?

This is to say that the results of a tie, at least in this case, go to Obama, at least on points.

Having said this, I don't think this matters in the immediate aftermath. Unless someone finds a video clip of Obama sighing while looking at his watch and humming Rage Against the Machine songs while putting his prayer rug down, pointing towards Mecca, I think most people will consider the debate as some kind of hermetically sealed event, cut off from the arguments both campaigns have been making, and from the events of the past couple weeks. Had Jim Lehrer been smart, savvy, or even as tricksey as Bernie Shaw twenty years ago, he might have had a good "gotcha" for each candidate, with McCain's manic weirdness from the past couple days being top of the list. He did not do so, more's the pity.

Over all, this debate didn't really do much more than allow each candidate to repeat his talking points, elaborating a bit. I think a far more interesting debate will be next Thursday's between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. I do so hope that Biden sets aside any thoughts of chivalry and deference. I think it might be funny if one question concerned her understanding of the English language, since - from the various clips circling around from her interview with Katie Couric - it seems clear she can't even construct a sentence.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Apparently, Bush will be using the Presidential Pulpit of Bull to warn of cats and dogs sleeping together should Congress not give Secretary of the Treasury $700,000,000,000 right now.


While the economy is slowly sinking, and the stock markets are "volatile", and a whole lot of banks, big and small, are still either holding bad assets, or using bad assets as collateral for other bad assets, we have hardly reached the stage where fire will reign from heaven and the top song on the Hit Parade will be "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?"

How many banks are calling in non-mortgage loans to cover runs? How many banks are having runs? In the hours running up to the March 4, 1933 inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt as President, not just banks, but whole states were giving up the ghost; Hoover had a liaison with Roosevelt's people covering phone calls from governors (Hoover and Roosevelt detested one another, Hoover thinking FDR a lightweight who didn't understand the problems, Roosevelt thinking Hoover neither courteous nor aware that he had lost the election) as they notified the federal government they had officially run out of cash. I don't see that happening.

One of the root causes of the Great Depression was the already-existing depression in the agricultural sector, with a combination of depressed prices, over-production, and the human-made catastrophe of the Dust Bowl leading to the auctioning off of farms in the hundreds of thousands of acres every week.

I don't see that, either.

The retail sector is weak, to be sure, but hardly perched on the precipice of failure.

The economy is weak, not collapsing.

One part of our financial markets, the part the is populated by those who used to be described as "social parasites" back when people thought that not working for a living was a sign not just of laziness but moral degradation, is in a mess. Does this mean the whole thing is teetering so precariously that if Wall Street doesn't get its check this week we will have a nation-wide epic fail?

I don't think so.

When George comes on the screen tonight, turn the sound down. Or better yet, change the channel to the Food Network.


Not only is John McCain hiding Sarah Palin away from the press, scared she might say something . . . less than erudite and off message or perhaps even flagrantly stupid; now, in light of the "financial crisis" (which is really only about a few investment banks betting stupid using bad loans as leverage), he wants to "suspend his campaign" and cancel Friday's debate.

Since the past two weeks have been anything but good for McCain and his campaign, does anyone smell something fowl about all this?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Get Email

As is my usual routine, I was clearing all the junk out of my email account before logging on this afternoon - all those viagra ads, you know, I'm not that old yet! - when, lo and behold, I receive the following email:
Hey Geofrrey

Go jump in the nearest body of water that is over your head.

You made comments you could not back up..

When called on them you weaseled out

So take your computer and put it where the sun does not shine.

You are a slimeball.

The sender is only noted as "Reactionary", which should be obvious. I do so love anonymous attacks like this, especially those without any references to where I might have made comments I didn't back out of, or where I weaseled out of something.

Now, if this person had left a name, a reference, a link, a quote, something to reference this very odd note, I might consider it somewhat more substantive than it is. As it is, I just publish it now so that we can all see what cowardly little children we have in contemporary conservatives. Anonymous, threatening, no details or information, a demand for death rather than debate.

Since I was a competitive swimmer, I'm really not all that afraid of water over my head, by the way. As far as being a slimeball goes, that may be true, but you can only say that if you really know me.

I think the email I got might have been notes for McCain for Friday night's debate.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the subject line: "Arrogant Leftist". So original. And, I just noticed this person spelled my name wrong, even though it's clearly spelled out all over the place.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Music Monday

In the fall of 1983, Roberta Flack performed at Alfred University, accompanied by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. It was beautiful. She happened to have a song in the top ten at the time, a duet with Peabo Bryson (whatever happened to these people?). "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" is a beautiful song about making love for the first time with someone. She sang it, although with an unknown back-up singer.

She had yet another hit duet, with Donny Hathaway, with "The Closer I Get To You". I have always liked the synthesizer backing on this; it provides a wonderful atmosphere. This is, also, another wonderful love song.

She became famous for the song, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", a piano arrangement for which my older sister had, and which I tried to teach myself, without much luck.

Crisis Mismanagement

It seems to me that the "bailout" legislation the Administration is demanding Congress pass without changes, add-ons, or even debate can be summed up in a phrase we have either used or heard in our own lives - "Of course I'll respect you in the morning." Now, this statement implies a certain amount of respect at the time it is stated, which should be, quite obviously, considered false.

Bush is demanding no oversight, no judicial review, no punitive measures, no regulatory scheme, nothing at all but the purchase of what has become known as toxic assets. Without review, without careful consideration, without delay. In the middle of a hotly contested Presidential election season. At a time when Presidential poll numbers still have not climbed above 30%. At a point when it should be abundantly clear these people should not be trusted, not only because they are criminally duplicitous, but laughably incompetent. If Congress were smart, and run by people with even a modicum of intelligence, they would simply grin politely at the Administration and say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

But . . . But . . . the Administration will sputter that something has to be done. Or else Western Civilization will end.


Indeed, a good question at this point would be, if you think government should step in now to prevent such a collapse, would you be willing to allow certain regulatory measures as would prevent such an occurrence in the first place? To reiterate - Glass-Steagall was in place for 60-odd years, and we managed to avoid the kind of financial meltdown we saw last week. In only nine year after its repeal via Gramm-Leach, we are at a point where the credit markets, for all practical purposes, have ceased to function. If Congress said now, and the Administration threw a tantrum, Congress should say, "Only if Glass-Steagall is reinstituted, punitive measures against CEOs are enforced, the are guarantees for homeowners, extended unemployment insurance, and other measures."

It is unfortunate that this had to occur in the middle of a Presidential campaign, particularly one in which one of the candidates in question has a little problem telling the truth (McCain/Palin), and an even bigger problem understanding how we arrived at this particular juncture in the first place (McCain/Palin). I say "unfortunate" because were we in a less silly, less fevered, less fabulist time, we might actually be able to accomplish something constructive. We might also be able to do something if the people in charge were honest or competent. They are neither. Nor are they to be trusted. It seems to me that we should simply let the chips fall where they may for now, and wait until after Congress reconvenes in January with new members and a new President. The world isn't going to collapse between now and then, after all.

Not a dime to these people. Not one. Shiny. Thin. Dime.

Dirty Words And Blasphemy

Over here, we see an interesting discussion on the whole issue of what constitutes blasphemy. After linking to this rant by comedian Margaret Cho, ER opens up the floor, and by some great stroke of luck, ELAshley comes around not only to scold us all for celebrating all those dirty words, but to inform us that our status before the Almighty is in question because we do so.

I will be clear. Compared to tossing around a few expletives - which I will stipulate is both shocking and could be offensive to some - claiming to know another's status before God is a far worse offense, to me at any rate. Indeed, that is the point of Cho's little rant. Her righteous anger is directed at those who deem themselves the sole arbiters of God's justice and love. It is one thing to read Cho's post, or even it's title, and click one's tongue and shake one's head. It is quite another to claim that those who read this with a certain amount of approval (and, yes, I am one of them) are on their way to hell. Personally, I would much rather face the Throne of the Almighty with this on my conscience than having to answer the following question:
So when, exactly, did you realize that you knew how We determine who goes to hell?

An even better question such individuals might face (and I want to be clear that, while ELAshley is the only person who responded this way at ER's, this represents a much broader swath of a certain perspective held by some Christians) would be:
There are children dying of diarrhea - DIARRHEA - in Third World countries because pharmaceutical companies refuse simply to send these countries the medicines necessary to help. And you're worried about some words some people think are dirty?

It's about time that something explicit (no pun intended) was said about this particular point. All the people who get the vapors over the sight or sound of foul language, insisting that such paves the way to hell, really, really, really need to get over themselves. There might be all sorts of reasons not to use such words in every sentence, but these reasons have little to do with one's ultimate status before God and more to do with social etiquette and acceptability. I realize that there are verses in the Bible that some people can point to that seem to refer to Divine Displeasure at vulgarity. If you want to read them this way, and apply them to your own life, that's OK. I don't read them that way, though, and that's alright, too.

Even more important, however, is this. Arrogating to oneself the role of arbiter of Judgment is the root cause of the rage evident in Cho's piece. I would disagree with Doc in comments, by the way, when he says there is no love evident in Cho's post. On the contrary, the reason for the rage is the love not only for God, but for other Christians, for the message of grace. When that is stolen by those who believe themselves somehow more qualified to understand that grace and love, and denies it exists for some individuals and groups, is it any wonder it inspires anger?

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