Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The President and the Auto Industry

The news today was cram full of stories about the President's Auto Industry Commission report on what the government expects GM and Chrysler to do if they want to receive any more bailout funds. Straight talk apparently equals government interference according to the Repubs. It was to be expected. The Republicans are looking for any way shape or form that will help them get back the power that the Bush years cost them.

But I think that President Obama and his commission are right on course in this case. The facts stand out. GM and Chrysler are perfect examples of how the power of a monopoly of ideas (free market expansionism and profit first) can be distorted into a disaster. If we had time or were in another place, this situation might be something that could be managed by just letting the hand play out. But, to my mind that just lets the situation, like a bamboo plant, have another chance to do the same thing all over again.

It is time that we all grew up. Teenagers want fast cars. Macho men need Hummers to pose their image. Well-to-do Matrons and their clones have to have fear safe SUVs. But what an adult and intelligent person needs is sensible, affordable transportation. The auto industry has spent years and billions of dollars selling us on the idea that a car is an expression of our personality. Only a kid would believe that. Only a mercenary industry would think that such a morally reprehensible position was right and justified under the free market bannerism of "Caveat Emptor!"

But that is just my opinion. What do you think America, are you ready to give up your toys and grow up?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Politics as usual

I listened with great interest to Mr. Obama's question and answer session last night. I watched it on C Span. I have to say he showed why he can be trusted to think through this ongoing series of events even though I did not always agree with how he answered. I did like, do like, his persistence and the way he used it as the element of his campaign to become president which brought him victory suggests it will serve him well here.

Meanwhile, the clamor of voices trying to be heard about all the very important issues to be resolved does make it difficult to trust that politics as usual isn't hard at work. A politician by nature must please the ones who put it in office first and those general community of voters second. Otherwise, goes the traditional wisdom, the politician won't stay in office long enough to accomplish any work. So along with the "Earmarks" attached to the bills that congress passes, we also should expect the vocal earmarking that allows the politician to broadcast where his or her loyalties lie.

They say in real estate that its location, location, location and in business that there's no such thing as bad pub. Well, the same thing appears to be the play in politics. Which brings me back to Mr. Obama.

Every time he chose to use the code words, healthcare, energy, and education, I found myself questioning his answer. What I find difficult to hear when somone uses code is what their real motive is. Just like when a questioner asked him about China by including the phrase, a communist government, and I immediately wondered about the motive behind the question.

So this brings me back to this question, was this Q & A just politics as usual?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goodbye Galactica, Hello Earth . . .

Do you believe in second chances? Does starting over appeal? This question posed supposes the weariness of human kind with the struggle, with the constant wars over who's the right, with the weight of all of our accomplishments and, with the answer still somewhere out there in our stars.

So, was it a trick ending? A St. Elsewhere snow globe in a child's hand? Who knows? Have we been here or somewhere else like this before? God's plan - we start in a garden and end with ruins. The Statue of Liberty lying in the sand.

You know there is some truth to the weariness thing. I know I am tired of our failure to reason out a way for us all to live with just enough and no more. Tired to the death with the constant tearing down, the constant obstinacy of politics.

Battlestar Galactica not hope just dreams.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Barry Eisler

Is well-known for his John Rain novels, but he has come up with a new novel and a new take on the thriller/spy game novel in his most recent book, Fault Line. It is a quick and still fairly deep read into the minds of those who play the patriot game in our country. And as the title implies, it an enjoyable walk along the fault line between good and evil, moral and immoral, and brother and brother. Alex Treven is a lawyer working his way up the corporate chain, his brother Ben is a mercenary working for a shadowy government agency fighting in the current war on terror. An encryption program working it's way through the patent process provides the tremor that reveals the cracks in both sides of these brother's lives. Sarah Hosseini, an Iranian-American lawyer working with Alex and Ben's boss, Hort, add the complexity to the plot that brings us quickly into the story.

If you are used to John Rain's inner search for meaning even as he plots his next assassination then Ben will be no puzzle to you. Alex, however, is a bird with different feathers. His voice is the one we all need to hear. The one that speaks to our puzzlement at how the war against terrorists has turned into a war against the very freedoms we hold so dear.

For example, the decision of the Supreme Court, split 5-4, to allow private citizens to abide by the constitution’s authorization to own guns for self-defense via the 2nd Amendment is echoing through the corridors of power like a tommy-gun gone berserk. Gun nuts are delirious even though they had probably already broken existing laws and owned guns. Anti-abortionists, many of them gun owners and ready to shoot first and wonder what about god’s plan later, were ecstatic because Roe vs Wade could only be next. I guess it’s lucky for Pro-Choicers that there isn’t an Amendment that directly applies. Meanwhile, Charlton Heston doesn’t have to turn over in his grave, and of course, school children are now much safer in Utah where their parents can now pack quick draw sidearms openly.

Still, with all the amusement that this decision provides me, I am personally ambivalent towards this issue. I don’t live in a neighborhood where armed thugs drive the streets. I don’t spend time in the post office or at local colleges or at the Mall where people apparently most like to go berserk. Will I feel safer knowing that most likely my neighbors now have guns to go along with their security cameras and purses filled with mace? I don’t think so. Will I buy a gun myself? Not yet.

To me this is just another sign that in America we are less safe than ever. As individuals in the country that is famous for allowing us to be independent, we are subject to search and seizure at any moment in the name of security. The newest and hottest job (see the ads on your own TV) is joining a security company. Security is an industry in a country that apparently feels so insecure it goes crazy with happiness over being allowed to bear arms. Ah yes, happiness is a warm gun.

Meanwhile back in the novel world of Barry Eisler these issues are brought into focus as betrayal follows betrayal and both brothers find themselves up against silent agencies that somehow have become the way our country is being run.

Cowboy Poetry

Home on the range, and Bob Wills' Swing and the idea that in 1985 when times were tough "a group of folklorists launched the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko," Nevada, all came together this week for me as I read my Thursday morning LA Times.

"Stock Exchange" to them is to trade a horse or cow:

their market is the Sale Barn while on Wall Street it's the

There's never been a program to bail out the livestock man;

when things get tough their motto is to "Hang on if you can!"

Yvonne Hollenbeck draws praise for her stance and applause for her words but I wonder if she appreciates the irony of her case? There are over 2 million definitions and examples for irony available through a Google search but I like this one from Wikipedia, "ironic - Both coincidental and contradictory in a humorous or poignant and extremely improbable way" because it lays out for me the simple truth behind the poems that took the day at this year's convention.

I can appreciate that when she says we are all, the independent individuals that make up the working class, heart of America, in this together, and then sets up an us versus them scenario. The question is though, who is them? For that matter, who is us?

Remember in the 80's when the markets were so low,

and interest hit an all-time high?

There was no bailout dough.

Half the farms and ranches were foreclosed on and were lost;

no bail-out plan was offered and the small towns bore the cost.

Then more were lost in '96 when blizzards swept the range

and then came several years of drought but still there was no

in attitudes in Washington, they didn't even seem to care,

I doubt they even knew there was a problem way out there.

So there's Them - the rich-don't-tax-me one percentile. The Mega-corporations that get to act and be taxed like an individual but really are made up of thousands of individuals backed by thousands more stock holders, etc., etc., . . . The "Stock Market" whatever that means. The banks, the politicos, the war-mongerers that put us into a three trillion dollar war. Both political parties who let thirty years of de-regulated "free marketeering" go on and on and on. The real estate gurus, Trump and Kiyosaki, et al, who advised everyone who would buy into their program to USE OTHER people's money (read borrow to gain leverage to the hilt).

And then Us - The more than 16 million unemployed. The single farmer/rancher/employee/independent contractor/small business owner losing dollars by the day as the economy tanks. The fifty-five percent of the voters who put Obama in office to stem the tide and change the circumstance and believe in the hope of a turn around.

Well, here's the irony in that folks. This is exactly the fertile ground in which the hate-mongerers like Limbaugh and Coulter plant and grow their seeds of distrust. Right there in the interstice between the way we feel and who we blame for it.

No one helped/helps me cries the farmer/rancher/little guys and girls/finacially crushed US.

So don't help anyone else. Leave my tax money in my hands and I'll figure out how to make it through to next year.

Yet, in cities folks buy houses that are bigger than our barns,

when they cna't make their payments, Congress says, "Well, darn!

We'll gather up some billions so they can pay their debt,

and let their dandy banker get his biggest bonus yet!"

And as true as that is, it is also false because the irony is that the farmers and rancher weren't immune to this financial bubble's lure. They too bought into the big pile of manure.

The final irony, the very reason people need help is the very reason they won't get it. 'Cause, as Bill Maher has often pointed out, we quite often have demonstrated a mind-boggling ability to vote against ourselves. The Black Swan effect to the max.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Reaching for the Moon

We are coming up on another full moon and maybe that's why this article from the LA Times last Friday caught my eye.

The first spacecraft dedicated to finding potentially habitable planets
beyond our solar system is poised to blast off from Cape
tonight in a three-year mission to probe 150,000 stars in the
most sweeping hunt for Earth-like objects ever undertaken by NASA.

The Kepler spacecraft will be positioned so it can capture the slight dimming
of stars as planets pass in front. The variation in brightness will
produce readings that can be used to calculate the planet's size and orbit and
the temperature of the star. Planets in habitable zones are most likely to
have conditions favorable for life as it is found here on Earth.

Unfortunately, for those of you unable to get the paper, the online version of the article is sans the graphics and much of the explanatory text. But that's a discussion for another space. Right now what is important is that someone in our government still has the vision to keep looking.

The Kepler mission is looking for another Earth. But we need another Earth like a hole in the head. (see Wallee) Replicating what we have created here can't be what this mission is after. We need a fresh start and a new idea. Anyone who believes that we will be able to come up with one or the other by the time this three year mission ends should stand up and get in line for the next flight. Or as project administer, Ed Weiler points out,

It's also possible that Kepler will discover how rare Earths are, "That to me is scary, because I don't want to live in a universe where we're the best there is."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Last Words on the L Word

Lay, lez, love, laugh, linger, lust, lovelorn, lay ladies lay.

Remarkable the stories and the intertwining of the unknown with the absolutely unfucking believable. From Alice's scheme of connectablity to the hidden talent of Max as a man as a woman as boy trying to find some sense of self, to the reveal of wanting to be married, to the facing up to the Don't Ask Don't Tell assholeinity of our military, to insatiable sex with
Shane, to tender confidences told through straight and gay actor alike. Who or what is rarely seen is the chance to understand through the art of story telling what this special agony is really all about.

So that's it with a special nod to Zena.

Thanks girls. A lot.