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Ramblings From the Ragged Crumbling Edge Of The Reality-Based Community

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Has The Onion Been Jumped By The Shark? 

...political satire may well be dead. At the very moment we are faced with the tantalizing view of a negotiation process that seems to be going just swimmingly right up until the very instant that Huggy Bear parachutes into the middle of the scene, the mere appearance of a McCain Minion like Tucker Bounds on cable news claiming that the ol' Maverick made the difference in the process is about as far as you can go with any misguided sense of reality, much less with any effort to draw humor from the situation. The staff and management of The Onion can only hang their heads and weep in despair at losing their whole gig to the handlers of a Republican candidate who have stolen their action and had the audacity to claim that it's real...

The scorecard to date:

Tucker Bounds: John McCain Saved The Country With His Awesome Leadership!

Reality: Agreement Has Collapsed. Lunch Menu For Teh Little Guy Tomorrow: Canned Cat Food.

Sadly, for The Onion,
that's the real deal, an actual expression of the way the day went. The Onion is so screwed...

Make The Perp's Own the Failure 

...it's halftime, as I write this, in the American football game between the University of Southern California Trojans and the Oregon State University Beavers and I will not do anything to jinx the Beav's chances. Instead, let's talk about political games and the playah's whot play them...

The much-discussed negotiations between Congress and the White House over the $700 gazillion bailout of the financial community has been a roller coaster today, with early promise of an agreement falling apart just about the time the grip-and-grin White House photo op wrapped up. What is rapidly emerging as the overarching theme of this controversy is the refusal of Republicans who engineered the atmosphere in which this crisis could come into being are refusing to own up to their failures of leadership both in the White House and in Congress and are trying to stampede the current Democratic Congressional leadership into being responsible for any attempt to clean up the mess that all those Republicans created. For purely political reasons having nothing to do with the ramifications of a major economic meltdown, they want Democrats to take the fall...

Not that it would ever happen, but now is the time for House and Senate Democratic leadership to play hardball. Far too often, Democrats have succumbed to varying combinations of shaky fear of political repercussions and lame, misguided egalitarianism. Now, Republicans once again see an opportunity to turn water into wine by hanging the outcome of Washington's response to this situation on Congressional Democrats...

It's time (Hello? Anybody There?) finally to say "the hell with 'em". The Republican White House wants this bailout; tell that Republican White House that they can count on no more that 27 Democratic Senate votes for whatever legislation finally emerges from the sausage factory and...oh...say...130 Democratic House votes. Let the Republicans come up with the rest and have some ownership, or let the bailout die...

The 'Man On The Street' is angry about the original Paulson proposal, because it rewards over-compensated fat cats and ignores his problems in this difficult environment. Rank-and-file Congressional Republicans are feeding off of this anger, even though they don't on a daily basis crawl out of bed thinking "what can I do to help the Man On The Street today". It's time to let them own up to their oft-stated but little-exercised principles. It's time for them to have some ownership in a situation they created and the potential ramifications of a total failure of the U.S. economy...

Republicans are the perps that caused this little drama. Let them be owners. They are the ones who cooked up the idea of 'the ownership society', after all...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trying To Be Clever, The McBush Way 

...in an otherwise twisted world, Huggy Bear's sudden announcement today that he was suspending his campaign and proposing bagging the first debate to respond to the current chaos in the financial world would look like some sort of display of leadership. In reality it was, for a few fleeting moments, a clever bit of politics:

It gave, for a brief period, the appearance of putting the needs of the nation above crass political considerations (over my shoulder right now, Keith Olbermann is drawing the roadmap on how it will probably fall apart). John McCain was going to rush back to Washington to dive into the process to bring some sort of bipartisan resolution to the pressing problems in the financial community. Seems like a good idea, except for the fact that he is neither a member of Senate leadership or a member of the committee that is dealing with the issue right now and would make him as welcome to the festivities as a rabid skunk. Of course, Gee Dub issued the invitation to tomorrow's meeting to both him and Obama, so he's got a slim bit of cover on this front...

More importantly, given his wildly erratic behavior over the last week, it gives the campaign the opportunity to 'do a Palin', hiding him in plain sight. He'll be in DC and will be visible if only because he has an entire corps of journalists chasing around behind. There will be all sorts of self-flattering photo ops of the ol' Maverick in the proximity of Senators who are actually doing the heavy lifting, but there won't be any of the strange, confusing, contradictory statements that have demonstrated over the last week that being in tight control of the message isn't worth a pile of moose manure if you don't have a message to begin with....

The latter is probably the real reason McCain decided to oddly proclaim today that he was "suspending" his campaign to rush back to lend his experience gained in Savings and Loans failures two decades ago to this current crisis. It will be all about being seen without being heard, and that seems to be all Palin/McCain 08 has goning for it these days...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill 

...having only just got back to the crib, I haven't had a chance to review the reaction of lefty blogtopiaĀ® (skippy and all that), but I would suspect that this little bit of news, if it has even penetrated the wall of sound emanating from the Wall Street bailout at all, is not making the progressive netroots happy. There is the taint of one more example of Democratic capitulation in its failure to continue the longstanding moratorium on offshore oil exploration, but this time I suspect that the Democratic leadership has probably made the right decision...

All sorts of examples can be drawn with the effort that Newt Gingrich and the Republicans made to shut down the Federal government in 1995, and - to be honest - Democratic leadership in the current Congress stands a far better chance in the current social and political climate to find itself reprising the Gingrich (or Loser) role than being featured in the Clintonian (winner) role in another bitter government shutdown...

In the spirit of full disclosure, I suppose that I must mention that, yes, Federal government shutdowns have a direct personal effect on the wellbeing of my family, but that is perhaps just an interesting factoid...

The loser in a wide federal shutdown is the entity that is portrayed as being on the wrong side of any issue for purely political reasons. The reason the Republicans "lost" the '95 shutdown was because they were seen as being wrong on insider issues at the expense of paycheck-to-paycheck federal employees and customers who were suffering real harm with the loss of supposedly 'nonessential' services. This time around, the Democratic leadership is trying to maintain a long-accepted moratorium in the face of public sentiment that is shifting toward a 'drill, baby, drill' attitude because of outrageous gas prices (where sensible talk about long lead times and meaningless "benefits" are drowned out by Republican talking points enabled by the MSM). Congressional Dem's have three opponents in this game: Republicans, the MSM that willingly carries their water (in direct contradiction to all those things I actually learned in journalism classes before I changed my major to a field that allowed me to maintain my sanity and my sense of integrity), and the understandable self-interest of us little people who are paying crushing sums of money just to get to work and the kids to school, never mind silly things like superfluous trips to the coast or the movie theater 40 miles up the road in the "Big City"...

I've been in a pretty foul mood in recent days for reasons that are unrelated to but are remarkably resemblant of the situation Congressional Democrats find themselves in these days. The attitude I'm trying to fight off is "The hell with 'em". They had much more to lose than to gain in this fight because the MSM would have made sure to broadcast the core Repub talking point that "Democrats are willing to shut down the government and deny you your access to federal services AND keep your gas priced outrageously high so coastal liberal elitists don't have to look at offshore drilling equipment out their coastal liberal elitist windows". Yeah, it's capitulation and, yeah, it sucks, but we are an entire generation removed from Santa Barbara
and the ecological damage due to oil spills resulting from recent Gulf hurricanes has been inadequately reported, so any sense of risk or proportion is a faded memory...

Humans are only egalitarian when it fits into their lifestyle. The effort by Congressional Democrats to maintain the offshore drilling moratorium doesn't fit into currently touted realities. Fighting that meme would have been a loser for the Democrats, even though the vast majority of those Americans who support offshore drilling don't ever have to face the prospects of shoveling tar balls off the front lawn and don't understand the basics of the discussion. Democrats are trapped in a 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' matrix, and the bottom line is that we will drill, baby, drill....

Monday, September 22, 2008

WOO HOO!! We're Number 2!! We're Number 2!!! 

...it's not often that you get to be right up there amongst The Best in anything, especially when you live in what a clear majority of Americans would consider to be the Middle Of FRICKIN' NOWHERE. (ahem)....As I do. But we here in Central Oregon can only stand up ramrod straight and tall with understandable pride in knowing that we are Number TWO in this entire Great Nation Of Ours...

...in the category of having the most extremely overvalued real estate prices in the entire You-Knighted-Statez. This is a quintessential 'good news/bad news' situation for we lucky few trapped out here between the east slope of the Orygun Cascade Range and the vast austere bleakness of the Great Basin that threatens us to the east.

The Good News is that home values haven't rotted away to the point that mortgage brokers and finance companies are engaging in parking lot gunplay over who has to take responsibility for the financial wreckage attendant to a collapsing housing market.

The Bad News is that the combination of overvalued local real estate and the dramatically constricting credit situation means that money lenders will be more likely to invest their available resources in meaningful opportunities like cheap whiskey and prostitutes rather than the reckless proposition of underwriting loans for home purchases in the second most overvalued real estate market in the country...

This interactive display at the Global Insight page is somewhat instructive (Bend is that red blob right in the middle of Oregon) for reasons having nothing to do with this newly identified honor of being #2; specifically, the median home value for Bend, Orygun, is now shown as $285k, which is a good $75K less than it was about a year ago. There is a strange sort of concurrence with some basic principles of wildlife biology at play here: the stern demands of the environment favor well-adapted and well-favored (as in rich) outsiders moving into the ecosystem and claiming resources at the expense of locally raised young (as in the kids we raised) who may want to begin their own nesting behavior within the home range...

The hell with them, though, I suppose. We are rapidly plunging toward a new reality that isn't going to favor - much less tolerate - the young or the less well-situated or the anxious first-timer wanna-be's as far as that whole "little house with the white picket fence" traditional American Dream is concerned. As a result, there will be a continual shift away from having a community that is a good place to live and raise children and toward some sort of strange evil world where wealth and property will define the nature of the community. That's not anything approaching social progress, but That's what being Number Two (or Number One or Number Ten, for that matter) actually means. And We're
NUMBER TWO!!!! WOO HOO!!!11!!

What A Difference A Week Makes 

...this time last week, as the financial community was emulating the immediate impact on the surrounding landscape that we saw when Mt. St. Helens erupted back in 1980, John McCain was saying, loudly and proudly to anyone within the sound of his voice, that the fundamentals of the economy were sound.

Today? Well, suddenly today the ol' Maverick says that we are in the most severe economic crisis since World War II. Given that anyone who knew even the simplest thing about what is happening around the country understood this long before last Monday, it's nice to see that Huggy Bear either had the radio tuned to something other that Limbaugh on one of his 13 cars or one of the 108-inch bigwig-only plasma screens in one of his several homes tuned to something other than FAUX news over the last few days.

Nice to know he's finally catching up to what the rest of us have known for many months...

"Being the Last One To Know."

"That's Change You Can't Believe In, But You Certainly Can Marvel At."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Passing Thoughts On Bailouts 

...I'm not an economist. I don't play one on TV, never wanted to either be or play one, and, despite the best efforts of a couple of professors at the University of Idaho, I never developed much of a love - or even a like or, at the very least, an otherwise somewhat amicable distaste - for the so-called "dark science". All I and the ghost of Will Rogers know is what we read, and what we read is pretty amazing these last few days...

What Will's ghost and I have been reading is how the same administration that back in 2005 so actively supported the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, a bit of bankruptcy reform so viciously pernicious and draconian that it made "Oliver Twist" look like some sort of progressive tract extolling the value of debtors prisons, has decided that the fate of the entire economy rests on its own assuredness that the basic principles governing capitalism and its own precious 'free market' philosophy must be overturned in order to preserve...well...something. Bushco isn't preserving the building blocks of either of those concepts with this bailout, and doesn't seem to be assuring anything other than the proposition that my teenagers' children (and probably their children) will be paying for excesses in lending practices that 'free market' Republicans like John McCain and his most valued economic advisor Phil Gramm enabled by creating the system that engendered all the problems that have come home to roost over the last few days...

The bottom line is clearly and brightly drawn: if things go south for you, the classic British example of a debtors prison would perversely be a far better option than the fate you will be facing (one that John McCain supported and Barack Obama opposed)....unless you are a financial institution that willingly entered into transactions that were reckless on their face. In that case, the cavalry is charging over yonder rise to your rescue, your corporate parachute is still golden, and all is good...

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