Blame the greedy, blame the idiots, blame “The Decider”

Yeah, the buck stops at the top and the self-styled “Decider” had all the wrong ideas at all the wrong times for all the wrong reasons. Here’s how the NYT explains it in a beautiful analysis today:

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal. And the regulator Mr. Bush chose to oversee them — an old prep school buddy — pronounced the companies sound even as they headed toward insolvency.

bush_homeHow could one affable, good ol’ boy from Texas screw up so many things so quickly? Good question. But he didn’t do it alone. He had a whole host of enablers who elected him to office twice without ever looking at his resume. If they had, they would have seen that what George Bush did as president is exactly what he has done all his life: Time and again he was elevated to a position he didn’t deserve by his father’s influence and money, screwed things up royally, then turned to his father’s buddies – including the bin Laden family – to bail him out. Only difference this time, is we’re the folks doing the bailing!

Hey – let’s look what else Texas has given us – I mean,  how about them Cowboys!? America’s team playing it’s last game in hole-in-the-roof stadium. (Yeah, so god can watch his team!)  Yeah – and in the last quarter they give up  back-to-back touchdown scampers of 77 and 82 yards from scrimmage?

Hey, how about them Lions?! Wonder if the Big Three Idiots fly in to watch their team? Does nothing good come out of Texas these days? Or Detroit? As the NFL teams go, so goes their states? Hmmmm . . . Maybe we need to root harder for the Pats.

See why I seek solace in the night sky, coming back to “reality” only  once in a while to look at a football game? Every time I look at the “real” news, I see something like the preceding. Yeah, I saw a lot of this coming. But there’s little comfort in knowing that the nightmares you had in 2000 were an accurate preview of the country in 2008!

Believe me – I hope that the Miracle Man can perform miracles. But he’s the ultimate version of the kid who is given a barn full of manure for Christmas and immediately grabs shovel and with a smile says – “There must be a pony here somewhere!”

Arghhhhhhh . . . and speaking of shovelling crap, I’m guessing his new chief of staff didn’t emerge from the Chicago sewer system without some of the smelly governor’s slime sticking to him. Damn!

ooops –  I forgot – major mood shift time Merry Christmas . . .

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I know, I know . . . some folks don't like snow. Sorry. I love it! Gives the world a major do over! Hmmm. . . maybe that's the derivation of "snow job?" Ah what the heck - grin and bear it 😉

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BLAGOJEVICH – a criminal we can laugh at, but . . .

Boy is Frank Rich on target this morning! After pointing out what a sick clown Blagojevich is, he brings us back to reality.

What’s really laughable is how bipartisan the Chicago criminals are. Blagojevich is a Democrat and Democrats should take their lumps for his criminal idiocy and hubris. But he campaigned on a “restore honor” policy, much as George Bush did, and both did as much damage to the office they sought as their predecessor – and in the case of Bush, far, far more. But you have to laugh at the absurdity of a Democratic governor being prosecuted for corruption while his predecessor, a Republican, watches the procedings from his jail cell.

The scary note in all this for me is Barach Obama. I love the guy, but if he waded through this cesspool and stayed clean he really does start to look like the Messiah. Walking on water is one thing – walking on crap and staying clean is quite another! But I digress. Back to the basic point of Frank Rich and the entertaining sideshow Blagojevich is providing:

But the entertainment is escapist only up to a point. What went down in the Land of Lincoln is just the reductio ad absurdum of an American era where both entitlement and corruption have been the calling cards of power. Blagojevich’s alleged crimes pale next to the larger scandals of Washington and Wall Street. Yet those who promoted and condoned the twin national catastrophes of reckless war in Iraq and reckless gambling in our markets have largely escaped the accountability that now seems to await the Chicago punk nabbed by the United States attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Read the rest here.

Hey Joe & Palin, my dog has written a book too – but then, she’s cute and knows English!

OMG!

Here’s Palin’s response, after Matt Lauer asked her when she knew the election was lost:

“I had great faith that, you know, perhaps when that voter entered that voting booth and closed that curtain that what would kick in for them was, perhaps, a bold step that would have to be taken in casting a vote for us, but having to put a lot of faith in that commitment we tried to articulate that we were the true change agent that would progress this nation.”

I missed that one. Discovered it in this wonderful update by Timothy Egan – Typing Without a Clue – in the NYT today on Joe the non-plumber and Sarah the PalinDrone and their publishing venture. It begins:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate.

Bravo! Well put! And there’s more, much more.

i like this, but . . .

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.

Writing is hard, even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.”

. . . well, it’s not that hard! I found writing a novel great fun. (Yeah, I know, I didn’t publish it and it probably isn’t publishable, but I did write it and I did have fun and some of my family seemed to like it. 😉 Oh yes, and for 10 years I did write every day for a living and after that I published many articles in high-circulation magazines, so I think I can call myself a writer. But I do share Egan’s frustration with how notoriety seems to be the main credential for too many non-writing “authors” today. One big exception is Obama, as he notes, and one of my other heroes, Teddy Roosevelt. (BTW – I voted for Obama because he can think – not because he is black and not because he is a liberal.)

The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.

Our next president is a writer, which may do something to elevate standards in the book industry. The last time a true writer occupied the White House was a hundred years ago, with Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote 13 books before his 40th birthday.

Oh yes – about the headline – Eliza has written a book on her experiences as a pet therapy dog and she writes very well – though she gets some help from Bren – and a few people actually asked for – and bought – copies of it. But she hasn’t gotten a big advance from a publisher yet, though Bren is still trying to give her some help on that task as well. Anyway, I get the feeling she contributes more to our society than Joe or that Alaskan mangler of the English language.

The camera lies – oh my, does it lie!

Hey – a picture is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional scene – so yes, it is its own reality only representing another reality in a loose way. And no, a picture is not worth a thousand words – except when you choose it very carefully. Problem is, while a picture can convey a lot of information, it is frequently very imprecise, meaning many different things to different people.
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Kevin knows this is near and dear to me, so he sent me this link to this wonderful NPR story examining the ethics of photo journalism. Ouch! Does this ever strip the varnish off of the press – particularly press photographers. It begins:

Every now and then, photojournalism gives rise to ethical questions. For instance, why was O.J.’s image digitally darkened on the cover of Time? Did tight shots of Saddam’s statue being toppled by Iraqis intentionally obscure the U.S. Marines’ role in the incident? Did newspapers whitewash the horror of war by suppressing images of corpses? Were famous photos from World War I and the Spanish Civil War actually reenactments?

There are clear rules that supposedly govern such situations, sometimes observed, sometimes not. But, as Bob reports, one category of mass media photography operates with hardly any rules at all.

But don’t just read this – the best way to appreciate it is to listen to it – same link – and at the same time watch this slide show of the pictures they’re discussing which are on another site. The pictur eof McCain above is the one used by the Atlantic – I think it’s quite heroic. But go to the slide show and see the photo that wasn’t used.

wchurchill_by_ykarshThis famous photo of a scowling Winston Churchill came about when photographer, Yousuf Karsh, took the cigar out of Churchill’s hand and immediately snapped this shot.

One year I taught English 101 at UMass Dartmouth and I focused a healthy segment on how words are used to slant things. But that’s easy. TV and still images can do much more and in amuch more subtle fashion. This story is one hellua a good, brief lesson on how images are used to manipulate our view of the news and newsmakers. My only caveat is please remember that while the photographer might of had a precise idea about what they were trying to convey, the end result can hit different people very differently. I learned that lesson many years ago when I planned to use the photo of a bonfire – part of a rally before a football game – on the cover of our Admissions Bulletin. It was a terrific shot and I and the photographer thought it captured a very positive spirit of campus life – but I tested it on faculty and staff first. The reactions I got included:

  • it looks like devil worship
  • it reminds me of the Watts riots
  • what a great shot – those kids are really having fun!

I used a classroom scene instead – or maybe it was the typical – seldom happens, but looks great – outdoor scene of teachers holding class under the trees on a spring day 😉

Bill Ayers speaks – and very effectively

I’m glad we won – but just reading what Bill Ayers has to say in today’s New York Times reminds me of how hate-filled, how totally anti-life, the forces were that we defeated. And yes, I know they are still out there today – ignorance isn’t going to vanish with just one election. And yes, I know there is an intelligent and legitimate opposition to my point of view, but it’s difficult to hear with the pervasive demagogery still spewing out of Alaska.

First – the essence of what Ayers has to say:

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

I was an editorial writer in those days, and I wrote editorials opposing both the War in Vietnam and the extreme actions of people such as Ayers who also opposed that war. I felt they confused the issue and appealed largely to emotion in much the same way that Sarah Palin – a symbol of all that’s sick with the conservative movement today – does. In those days it drove me crazy when radicals would shout down the opposition on college campuses. It was contrary then to the sort of respect different viewpoints deserve and it’s contrary now. The Vietnam War, like the Iraq War, was a horrible mistake. But our soldiers weren’t to blame for either of those mistakes. In both cases it was our political leaders. And I don’t believe for a minute that in either case these leaders did what they did for “evil” motives.

As with Ayers, they were doing what they thought was right for the country and the world. I believe they were wrong in what they did – and Ayers was wrong in how he expressed his opposition. But I don’t question their motives. I may ave doubts in some cases, but that is almost always a dead end street. No one can prove to me what is in another person’s heart. We need to oppose what people do, we need to oppose what they say – but we can do both without insulting their essential humanity – without villifying them. Life is not a comic book and politicians have to stop treating the American people as if all they understand is comic books.

Bill Ayers makes a very rational, calm case for a man who was dismissed over and over again as a “terrorist.” In fact, his approach is the best argument against his critics who I doubt had any real knowledge of who he was before they branded him and used him to promote themselves. It’s interesting. There were several points during the campaign where I think John McCain could have won if he had stuck to the rational arguments he occasionally mustered. But he didn’t. H e made sense one day, then dragged out Joe-the-plumber the next two. And I never saw any evidence that Sarah Palin had any plans to present to the American people. She was defined by how she opposed everything. And in the end her actions and words brought her down – a simple fact that gives me some confidence that ultimately we live in a rational and just world – that people sowing hate reap the same.

Who’s black? Who’s white? Who cares?

Bren’s been saying this all along. I’ve wondered about it from time to time. So it’s nice to see Marie Arana taking it on in the Washington Post – President-elect Obama is neither black nor white and by calling him black we’re perpetuating racism. He calls himself black, but it was interesting that in one recent public statement about the White House puppy quest he referred to himself as a “mutt.” I like that – especially when you consider that a lot of folks these days are not at all happy with the problems you can have with pure bred dogs and are either opting for mutts, or opting, as we did, for intentional cross breeding – ehh . . . intentional mutts. (Ours are cockapoos.) There is a richness in genetic diversity that we tend to play down because we’re still so damned tribal by instinct.

Anyways, Arana writes:

He is also half white.

Unless the one-drop rule still applies, our president-elect is not black.

We call him that — he calls himself that — because we use dated language and logic. After more than 300 years and much difficult history, we hew to the old racist rule: Part-black is all black. Fifty percent equals a hundred. There’s no in-between.

That was my reaction when I read these words on the front page of this newspaper the day after the election: “Obama Makes History: U.S. Decisively Elects First Black President.”

The phrase was repeated in much the same form by one media organization after another. It’s as if we have one foot in the future and another still mired in the Old South. We are racially sophisticated enough to elect a non-white president, and we are so racially backward that we insist on calling him black. Progress has outpaced vocabulary.

I could’t find the orignal WaPoarticle on their site, but it was republished by the New Bedford Standard-Times today and can be read in full here.

This is too good! Robin Williams on politicians ;-)

Don F. sent this to me with the brief notation:

Robin Williams, always good

Wow! You got that right, Don. (Interesting though. I found the beginning Obama material so-so. Is it just me? Or are even the best comedians going to struggle for the next four – let’s hope 8 – years? They must really be hoping Sarah Palin stays in the spotlight!)