Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ron Paul gives his alternative to bailout

"The worst thing we can do is perpetuate the bad policies (aka the bailout--JB) that gave us this trouble in the first place..."--Ron Paul, speaking Sunday, with Wolf Blitzer/CNN

Monday, September 29, 2008

Maine's congressional representatives split

Second district Congressman, Mike Michaud, concerned about inadequate safeguards protecting taxpayers in the $700 billion scheme to bailout Wall Street, joined other fellow Democrats and Republicans in defeating the unpopular bailout bill.

Tom Allen, representing Maine's more liberal 1st District, chose to toe the party line and support the bill that retained much of the original provisions proposed by Bush treasury chief, Henry Paulson.

While some media outlets spun the vote as primarily a partisan issue of Republicans, 94 Democrats were counted among the 228 "nay" votes. That's 94 Democrats that thought siding with the sentiment of voters, rather than serving the interests of party, or Pelosi.

According to a statement released by Congressman Michaud's office,

There were other proposals that would have ensured protections for taxpayers. There were also credible plans proposed that were completely different than the bailout proposal that some financial experts believed could work better – some requiring little, if any, taxpayer exposure. And some economists suggested that directly aiding homeowners would be the best way forward, arguing that such an approach would directly help Main Street while having the additional benefit of adding value to troubled Wall Street assets. Unfortunately, we were not provided an opportunity to seriously consider these other options. Instead we kept the original White House framework and leaders attempted to add sweeteners to the bill in order to gain votes.

In the end, after a very careful review and meetings with top economists and financial experts, I concluded that the package as presented to the House for a vote did not adequately protect the taxpayer.

When it came down to the vote, Michaud remained true to his working class roots, and his constituency.

One top economist from Harvard makes the case that bankruptcy would be better than a bailout.

McCotter Rejects 700 Billion Dollar Bag of Dung

At least one member of Congress has some sense. I'm sure my own elected officials will roll over on this one like gutter drunks.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Diagnosing the diagnosis of Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman is one of a handful of younger, hip 20 and 30-something writers that I read, attempting to remain rooted to an earlier, less complicated time. Actually, stripped of nostalgia, my own 20s and early-30s were probably just as complicated—I just didn’t pay enough attention. Now, I’m reaping what I’ve sown, a complicated mess of being a 40-something, somewhat late to the game of stock portfolios, melting 401ks, and now paying too much attention to a world spinning out of control.

I had plans this weekend of scoring a copy of Infinite Jest (see David Foster Wallace) and finally plowing through the 1,000 plus pages while the remnants of another tropical storm dumped rain on New England. There’s nothing better than an anticipated book and no alternative to hours sitting, sifting through a book with some girth.

Unfortunately, the qualities of living in a remote northeastern state—lack of population density, urban development, and blight—also mean that we don’t have a fucking bookstore in the state that has a copy of IJ; so much for supporting your local, independent bookstores. I would if I could, but every time I try, they never have the book I’m looking for. The local libraries I have access to, own one copy per, and they are checked out until late fall. Futile searches for alternatives to IJ have once again come up empty, so I’m stuck with McCullough’s book on Truman, which at any other time might be worth a try, but I’m so sick of politics and thoughts of the presidency that even a gifted writer like McCullough can’t entice me back to a more palatable time, just after WWII.

Klosterman, like countless white males growing up in rural outposts similar to his native North Dakota, found respite from their boredom, in music. For young CK, his fifth grade introduction to metal (albeit the glam variety) came through a cassette that his brother brought home, while on leave from the Army, and Fort Benning, Georgia. Rather than damning young Klosterman and millions of other young boys, like Tipper Gore, and other faux-moralists predicted, Shout at the Devil, by Motley Crue changed young Chuck’s life, and gave it some meaning.

From the NY Times book section, June 3, 2001, rock critic Eric Weisbard writes about Fargo Rock City and Klosterman’s paean to metal, calling it “part memoir, part barstool rant, and it is ridiculously engaging.” I might add, engaging, if like me, you grew up with a similar penchant for the “rock of ages.”

Recognizing that Klosterman’s book isn’t high art, or criticism, but him fawning about the music that mattered to him, Weisbard concludes;

The point is that Klosterman is implicated: he has no interest in writing from a place ''above'' his subject, the usual pitfall for studies of popular culture. He's at his most convincing insisting, however defensively, on the validity of everyone's pop experiences. ''I think it was Brian Eno who said, 'Only a thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but every one of them became a musician.' Well, millions of people bought 'Shout at the Devil,' and every single one of them remained a person (excluding the kids who moved on to Judas Priest and decided to shoot themselves in the face).''

Concerned about often lamented sexism and homophobia of metal, not to mention its often cited mediocrity (as if Bruce Springsteen’s rock is something much higher because he apparently is channeling Woody Guthrie, Weisbard continues:

Klosterman claims that the piggishness of these bands was so transparent that they inherently mocked sexism. And the gay baiting, though unfortunate, came about because, unlike alternative culture -- which celebrates diversity -- metal pumped up alienated teenagers with the message ''You're not different at all.'' And if style firmly ruled over substance, at least it was deliberate.

Yet hair metal wasn't just flashy: it was craven. Guns 'n' Roses aside (and Axl Rose flattened his mane early on), bands followed rigidly proscribed rules for how to sound and act, parading stereotypical white masculinity to please radio programmers and record labels in love with a cookie-cutter genre. The result was that for a decade the most innovative rockers had little chance to succeed commercially. Even contemporary metal has benefited from the lifting of these restrictions, though Klosterman has little time for it minus the cheesiness.

Not without his critics, which apparently comes with the terrain associated with the kind of success and following that Klosterman has achieved, he does more than just rock and roll. For a couple of years, post-FRC, he was juggling a trio of columns for Spin, ESPN, and Esquire, no mean feat.

Sarah Hepola’s article, just out for Salon, provides a readable profile of CK, which in my opinion is a great place to start if you're reading this and don’t know who the hell he is. Hepola comes at Klosterman as someone who has been both “overly praised” ("a young Hunter S. Thompson"), and as she writes, “pathologically reviled,” like this putdown from Mark Ames. (who is Mark Ames?) What is it that they say about critics, to which I plead “guilty as charged,” from time to time?

With age and supposed maturity also comes something else—tension, or better, the realization that the things that once got you off, no longer pack the same kick.

Klosterman is done writing his Esquire columns and had this to say (taken from the Hepola piece):

"AC/DC did the same album over and over again," he says at one point, "and I love AC/DC, but I don't want to be Angus Young. I want to be Jeff Tweedy." As every 30-something nerd-disguised-as-hipster knows, Jeff Tweedy is the much-adored frontman for Wilco, a gifted singer-songwriter who could have spent a (lucrative) career crafting perfect three-minute pop songs but decided to dissect them instead, upending (if only temporarily) his own career with the controversial and brilliant 2002 album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."

The Tweedy/Wilco reference isn’t lost on me, as a longtime fan of Uncle Tupelo, and the post-Tupe Wilco story and of Tweedy's musical journey.

Klosterman, whose books have all been nonfiction, has just penned his first novel, Downtown Owl, a book that one Canadian critic describes as “a literary postcard from a town that could exist, but does not.” (or maybe it does)

So here I am, without Infinite Jest, or even Downtown Owl to satisfy my reading jones this rainy September weekend. I will remedy that situation, however, by acquiring both for the coming reading season. Read an excerpt here.

[For fans of DFW, here is a postscript that lends some perspective to the tragic end of a great American writer, and quality human being.]

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's deja vu all over again

Apparently Senator Snowe has use of the Bush fear fogger today. She was just on WGAN-560, telling listeners that she doesn't like all of the terms of the bailout, but that Americans have no choice. Kind of like the war in Iraq blather, back in 2003, eh?

This bailout plan is so outrageous that no one in their right mind (operative word?) would support it. Wall Street millionaires and billionaires (Warren Buffett, Bill Gates) are for it, as are other feckless financiers. But does it pass the straight-face test with working people on Main Street?

Stay tuned--things are just starting to get good!

BTW, some good stuff over at LR.com like this.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bush fear fogger

God bless George Bush! No one uses the fog of fear any better than our 43rd president. Last night's performance in front of the American people was the fear fogger at his most frightening. Of course, when your approval rating is hovering around 20 percent, fear is just about all you have left in your arsenal.

"Ultimately our country could experience a long and painful recession," if the bailout package is not passed, he said."This rescue effort is not aimed at preserving any individual company or industry—it is aimed at preserving America's overall economy," Bush said.

Maybe a recession is what American need to fully grasp the utterly bankrupt condition that our worst president since Hoover has left the country in after his two terms of war manipulation, and fear-mongering--clean the pipes like a strong dose of horseradish does.

Bush, like a slimy time share salesman urges us to act quickly, or we'll miss a great opportunity.

On the other hand, we have this, from Ron Paul.

The very people who have spent the past several years assuring us that the economy is fundamentally sound, and who themselves foolishly cheered the extension of all these novel kinds of mortgages, are the ones who now claim to be the experts who will restore prosperity! Just how spectacularly wrong, how utterly without a clue, does someone have to be before his expert status is called into question?

Oh, and did you notice that the bailout is now being called a “rescue plan”? I guess “bailout” wasn’t sitting too well with the American people.

The very people who with somber faces tell us of their deep concern for the spread of democracy around the world are the ones most insistent on forcing a bill through Congress that the American people overwhelmingly oppose. The very fact that some of you seem to think you’re supposed to have a voice in all this actually seems to annoy them.

Chuck Baldwin, presidential candidate of the Constitution Party has this to say about the fleecing of the American taxpayer.

"That deer in the headlights look on the faces of Obama/Biden/McCain/Palin when discussing this crisis should tell Americans everything they need to know about these candidates. Not one of them is letting on they know what’s really happening, much less how to fix it!

In the last three years, the Federal Reserve has created over $4 trillion in new money out of absolutely nothing. As these huge new piles of phony money flood the banking system, the phony money already in circulation becomes worth even less, which leads to higher prices. We accept the vague term ‘inflation’ to describe this giant rip off, as if some immutable force of nature is the cause of our shrinking paychecks. But, make no mistake –This meltdown will ultimately spell disaster for every American.

The roller coaster ride began in earnest with the $60 billion Bear Stearns bailout, followed quickly by the $300 billion bailout of government’s big mortgage/banker buddies last month. September started with the massive Freddie/Fannie bailout that will end up costing taxpayers somewhere between $500 billion to $1 trillion. On Monday, the fed brokered the Bank of America buyout of Merrill Lynch. Then just the other night, the fed announced the $85 billion bailout of AIG insurance, an enormous global entity with over $1.1 trillion in assets.

So far, the only solution being talked about is more of the same failed monetary policies that got us into this mess in the first place – more fake money, more debt, more usury. It is time to demand a return to sound money. None of the other “Big Box” candidates is even talking about the most obvious place to begin the road to recovery, which is a return to the constitutional principal of sound money."

H.G. Wells said that civilization was in a race between education and catastrophe. Let's hope Americans turn off the bread and circuses, educate themselves about what's going on, and work for truth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Americans know little or nothing about fiat monetary system

Fiat dollars allow us to live beyond our means, but only for so long. History shows that when the destruction of monetary value becomes rampant, nearly everyone suffers and the economic and political structure becomes unstable. Spendthrift politicians may love a system that generates more and more money for their special interest projects, but the rest of us have good reason to be concerned about our monetary system and the future value of our dollars.
--Ron Paul (9/12/2003)

You can read the entire article from LewRockwell.com, published five years ago. Still very pertinent today.

Also, you can hear an interview here, with Dr. Paul, from KLAA, AM-830 from Los Angeles.

Bailout: Just another political betrayal, brought to you by the two-party system

Apparently only seven percent of Americans favor the Wall Street bailout, at least according to yesterday's post at Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty blog. A Rasmussen poll pegged support at that level, the biblical number of perfection, by the way.

Dr. Paul on the formation of his recent alliance mentions the diverse crowds he attacted to his campaign, and this seems to indicate who might be part of his longer term strategy of building a broad-based coalition for change.

Interestingly, there's one group that refuses to budge from their position, smugly claiming they're divinely right.

Ironically the most difficult group to recruit has been the evangelicals who supported McCain and his pro-war positions. They have been convinced that they are obligated to initiate preventive war in the Middle East for theological reasons. Fortunately, this is a minority of the Christian community, but our doors remain open to all despite this type of challenge. The point is, new devotees to the freedom philosophy are more likely to come from the left than from those conservatives who have been convinced that God has instructed us to militarize the Middle East.

David Bardallis has a really good article about our two-party shell game over at LewRockwell.com where he clearly articulates the poverty inherent in continuing to vote for the evil of two lessers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Surrounded by the crass and the mediocre

Why would the death of an obscure (to most) writer matter so much to those that read him, or better, knew him on some personal level? Possibly because he saw the world like few others, and uniquely captured events and people in his writing. There are fewer and fewer like him.

We live in a world where technology has put just about everything at our fingertips, and at the same time, made it far too easy for us to turn off the parts of our brains that ought to be functioning at the highest of levels. Like the din of a crowded convention center, the incessant noise of all things internet requires that we figuratively shout to be noticed—by appealing to the superficial or pushing other people’s buttons—with hate, the latest flavor of the month, pop culture icons, or relying on shock value—none of them building on a sense of community, compassion for others, or finding value in intelligent dialogue.

David Foster Wallace was someone that I could turn to as a reader that still enjoys books that make me think, consider, and ponder.

I knew his nonfiction, rather than his fiction, and found that when he wrote about tennis, and his adventures as a regionally ranked player, as a teen, in many ways, it mirrored some of my own experiences as a baseball player. This was one personal connection and quality that helped me identify with this writer, who I never got to meet in person.

Reading Wallace made me aware that he was someone that was operating on various levels, as well as a much higher plane than I was. It was obvious that he was exceptionally gifted, even though at the time, I didn’t know he had graduated from Amherst, summa cum laude, with a dual major in philosophy and English. I later found out that he had a mathematical mind, which was obvious reading “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley,” about his teenage experiences playing tennis in the wind tunnel known as the Midwest. This was one of the essays/arguments in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.

Despite his obvious intellectual gifts, and propensity to footnote, I personally found his style readable, and rarely tedious, like I find, say, Faulkner, or other literary heavyweights. Maybe that’s a lousy comparison, as Foster would have considered himself post-modern as a writer. My point is that most (not necessarily all) of his nonfiction is accessible, and I think readers would find enjoyable, albeit not the typical dumbed-down, non-intellectual visual junk food fodder that today’s readers seem to clamor for, and the shelves of the corporate bookstores are chock full of.

From the back cover of the book jacket of ASFTINDA, the NY Times Book Review blurb captures DFW’s genius well:

David Foster Wallace is a dynamic writer of extraordinary talent, one unafraid to tackle subjects large or small, ever willing to experiment, he lays his artistic self on the line with his incendiary use of language, at times seeming to rip the mundane and unusual from their moorings, then setting them down anew, freshly described.

Life goes on, and most of us, yours truly included, spends more time than we (I ) care to consider with the day-to-day mundane, firmly attached to the moorings of a world that seems to be spinning madly out of control. Even worse in my opinion, a world where writers like DFW have been devalued and pushed to the fringes.

Save your false sense of the historical, and thoughts about how our nation has always had an anti-intellectual streak, or that the “good ole’ days” weren’t so good. I’m not waxing nostalgic in my thoughts on Mr. Wallace, I’m clearly offering my own tribute to the things that were good, valuable, and even necessary about him as a writer, and according to many of the things that have been written by those who knew him, like here, as a person.

If you think that we’re living in some sort of golden age, here in the first decade of the 21st century, I’d have to say that you’re sadly mistaken and need of some intellectual stimulation. I’d suggest Wallace’s two books of essays, ASFTINDA, and ">Consider The Lobster: And Other Essays as worthwhile starting points.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

American writer, David Foster Wallace, dead at 46

[update-9.17.08, 4:41 am: Once again, up before the sun. I wanted to update last night, but my internet connection was on the fritz. I found a comment at MetaFilter by Sleepy Pete I liked, especially this part.

And that is what makes it hardest to accept, Mr. Wallace, that you wrote those stories and went through hell like those that you wrote about and still made it through with their fucked up lives however they could... and you couldn't. For that I can't be pissed off at you. For this I can't be angry. I can only try to wonder what I can do for everyone I've known in that situation and try to make it better... try to make the world a place where footnotes are life and acceptance is the only way to live.

Then there's this by Ziegler. What makes haters like Ziegler keep on spewing hate? I obviously have an answer to my own rhetorical question. I hope to reread "Host" and add some of my own thoughts. I do have this for the time being; Mr. Ziegler, your take on Mr. Wallace isn't unique at all. Also, you don't know genius, because it bit you in the ass and you were too stupid to recognize it!--JB]

[update-9.16.08, 4:27 am: Up early doing some work (before my paying gig); found this article on DFW from the Baltimore Sun. The writer, Childs Walker, captures David in a way that others haven't, using sports, and his own special way of writing about it (tennis). In fact, I've been rereading "ASFTINDA" and chapter 6 on "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Artistry...", one of my favorite chapters in the book, and one that has given me, a non-tennis player, an understanding of the sport I didn't have. I now even watch tennis, just because of that chapter.

It's early, and I'm starting to ramble, but I hope Walker's article helps others "see" David again the way we saw him prior to the news Saturday night.-JB]

[update-9.15.08, 5:23 pm: I'm going to continue to add updates to the original post as I see fit; I don't really feel like writing about any other issues, at least for a few days.

I found Bruce Weber's article in the NY Times (may require free registration) worthwhile, particularly as it had a quote from James Wallace, David's father, about his son, and some of his recent "struggles." It also had reactions from other writers who knew Wallace, including Jonathan Franzen; “He was a huge talent, our strongest rhetorical writer,” said Franzen.

Mr. Wallace (David's dad) is quoted as saying Sunday "that Mr. Wallace had been taking medication for depression for 20 years and that it had allowed his son to be productive. It was something the writer didn’t discuss, though in interviews he gave a hint of his haunting angst."

James Wallace said that last year his son had begun suffering side effects from the drugs and, at a doctor’s suggestion, had gone off the medication in June 2007. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. The elder Wallaces had seen their son in August, he said.

“He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.”

For me, Weber's article helps provide additional context to this tragedy.--JB]

[update-9.14.08, 7:13 am: Still having trouble getting my head around the death of DFW. Didn't know him in a personal way, but readers will understand how certain writers make you feel that special connection, which is what DFW did for me. I've found a few sites worth checking out if you were a fan, or just curious why others were. An interesting thread here, and this post at Cosmopolis is very good, as the writer apparently knew Wallace.--JB]


I just got a text message from my son that David Foster Wallace committed suicide.

Wallace was one of a handful of writers that rarely failed to excite, and inspire. I wrote a fairly extensive post at Write in Maine about both Wallace and fellow writer, Jonathan Franzen, both gifted writers, equally adept writing either fiction, or non-fiction.

For me, it was Wallace's non-fiction that I was most familiar with, from two books of essays, Consider the Lobster, and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which happens to sit on the headboard of my bed, and its essays are regularly reread. Only a handful of other writers are in that category with me: Neil Postman being one, and another, Wendell Berry.

Wallace has an essay in Consider the Lobster, about the author's travels as a member of the McCain press contingent during his 2000 "Straight Talk Express" tour, as McCain is stumping for the Republican presidential nomination. Wallace captures the meaningless of political campaigns like few other writers I've read. He also writes about the Maine Lobster Festival, in Rockland.

There's little else for me to write on this subject other than to say it saddens and troubles me.

The Future of Newspapers

Saturdays are the one time all week when I just do some random searching on the web for news and information. I haven't been over to old online "friend" and Postman protege Jay Rosen's site for awhile. If you don't know Rosen's work, your missing out on some great takes on the current state of journalism and coverage of the media.

Rosen had a link to Ryan Sholin's blog, Invisible Inkling. He has a post on the future of newspapers that I thought was worthwhile, particularly if you are a newspaper guy, like I am.

Sholin's original post of 10 things was penned in June of 2007, and then updated this past June.

Now, if just one newspaper in Maine would take some of these suggestions to heart.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A third way of thinking about the presidency

Back in Feb. 2006, I began writing about what I affectionately called, Horserace 2008. Not necessarily original, it’s been how I’ve pegged my various presidential posts since.

From the early days of the race, when the two major party’s rosters were clogged with a combination of frontrunners, contenders, and wannabes for whom the race was more about vanity than any hope of being president (Joe Biden?), I’ve bounced back and forth between candidates, and even parties for that matter. I guess that’s what happens when you move from ideological hardliner, to more of a political pragmatist. The former will most likely call me wishy-washy, but I no longer want to employ pretzel logic to pick my president.

In January 2008, I posted an article titled, “Is Ron Paul for Real?” detailing the Ron Paul phenomenon. I wrote, “Running on a platform that seeks an immediate end to the war in Iraq (unlike other politicians, like John McCain, who indicates we might be there for another century), reestablish fiscal sanity (tied to the gold standard) and restore lost civil liberties to the American people, Paul is the true conservative. Instead, his rock-ribbed ideals find him ridiculed by the faux conservative blowhards, from Limbaugh, to O’Reilly.”

Paul brought a new focus to ideals that he has consistently championed as a Congressman from Texas, over his 20 year career in Washington. The Constitution has long been Paul’s guide. It appears that the only reason that most of his talking points were dismissed as a presidential candidate by most voters, and predictably, most of the media, is that our politics have long ago departed from passing any kind of constitutional scrutiny.

Back in January, I accurately predicted that the Republican Party, the party affiliation he ran under, would not select him as their candidate for president, although he was inordinately more qualified to wear the mantle of conservative than any other candidate in the Republican pack, including the eventual nominee, John McCain (with, or without its lipstick wearning VP).

Many of Paul’s followers, a hardy band of folks from all walks of American life, have continued to rally around their candidate even after he left the race. Anticipation ran high, as many eagerly were waiting for an important announcement from Mr.. Paul, scheduled for Wednesday. Paul was on the docket to speak at the National Press Club, and members of Paul Nation were hoping that their candidate might announce a third-party run, even though he has consistently disavowed doing so.

Rather than announce that he was in fact running, Paul instead used the opportunity to organize an event, under the umbrella of his newly formed Campaign for Liberty, urging voters to give consideration to third-party and independent candidates for president. Attending the event with Paul were Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and independent candidate Ralph Nader. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, who was invited and expected to attend, pulled a last minute disappearing act in order to put his own political fortunes first (like the Republican that he still is at heart), rather than support the third-party solidarity of the group.

Here are Paul’s opening remarks from Wednesday:

“The coverage of the presidential election is designed to be a grand distraction. This is not new, but this year, it’s more so than ever.

Pretending that a true difference exists between the two major candidates is a charade of great proportion. Many who help to perpetuate this myth are frequently unaware of what they are doing and believe that significant differences actually do exist. Indeed, on small points there is the appearance of a difference. The real issues, however, are buried in a barrage of miscellaneous nonsense and endless pontifications by robotic pundits hired to perpetuate the myth of a campaign of substance.

The truth is that our two-party system offers no real choice. The real goal of the campaign is to distract people from considering the real issues.”

Paul is correct. The two-party choice offered every four years is symbolic at best. The issues parsed are meant to deceive voters into thinking that it matters one iota whether you pull the lever for McCain, or Obama. All voters are doing is continuing to support corporately-controlled candidates. Instead, Paul’s genius, in deciding to gather a third party coalition representing the full political spectrum, from left to right, is offer voters clear choices. None of the candidates is going to win, and it would be na├»ve to think that their minimally financed campaigns can compete with the corporate war chests of the Republicrats and Demicans. However, here is the most compelling point, in my opinion.

Once more, Paul’s own words:

"The system we have today allows a President to be elected by as little as 32 of the American people, with half of those merely voting for the “lesser of two evils”. Therefore, as little as 16% actually vote for a president. No wonder when things go wrong, anger explodes. A recent poll shows that 60 of the American people are not happy with the two major candidates this year.

This system is driven by the conviction that only a major party candidate can win. Voters become convinced that any other vote is a “wasted” vote. It’s time for that conclusion to be challenged and to recognize that the only way not to waste one’s vote is to reject the two establishment candidates and join the majority, once called silent, and allow the voices of the people to be heard."

If even half of those disenfranchised 60 percenters pulled the lever November 4, for either McKinney, Nader, or Baldwin (or wrote in Mr. Paul’s name), then we’d have something to talk about on election night, as the political pundits would be chattering away about this “strange phenomenon” happening. Imagine the lemmings diverging, and deciding to forego another dive off the cliff?

After listening to Paul, it makes perfect sense to me.

For those still open-minded enough to consider a third way, let me recommend a great book, from 2004, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, both editors at the progressive news site, Counterpunch .

I read this argument four years ago, and still pulled the lever for a corporate politician. This time, I’m saying “hell no.”

How 'bout you?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Finding ideological agreement

Rachel Maddow is now a television personality. Not bad for someone who doesn’t even own a set.

Maddow got her start in radio answering a cattle call for on-air talent at WRNX, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (Mass-a-two-setts for you Obama-ites). She was hired on the spot to co-host the station’s premiere morning show.

From Holyoke, she moved over to Northhampton’s WRSI for two years, hosting their Big Breakfast.

Next came Air America, where I first discovered Ms. Maddow. She was partnered with former Public Enemy frontman, Chuck D, and Lizz Winstead, on the sharp, snappy Unfiltered. After this gig got cancelled, two weeks later, Maddow landed her own two-hour program, The Rachel Maddow Show, flying solo.

Maddow’s grown into her on-air personality. Smart, witty, and not afraid to go toe-to-toe with her ideological opposites, Maddow should do well on MSNBC, which seems set to be cable’s flipside of Fox.

With a triumvirate of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and now, Maddow, the cable network now is where liberals find validation.

Maddow is clear about what her role will be. From the Wall Street Journal, "Ms. Maddow does bemoan what she sees as America's rightward drift. She's already taken some shots from conservative commentators about her politics and the fact that she is gay (she's also a Rhodes scholar). Noting that Ms. Maddow will take the slot of longtime MSNBC regular Dan Abrams, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, 'It's got to be humiliating to be replaced by someone who has more testosterone than you do.'"

This segmentation of journalism raises concerns for me. American politics seems to have become nothing more than finding voices that lend comfort to one’s choice of ideology. A case of, “my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

As Rem Reider, editor at American Journalism Review notes, Maddow is a good choice for the network, but it “reinforces the trend toward separate megaphones for separate audiences.”

Just another talking head, preaching to like-minded ideologues.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Reasoned discourse in the age of instant communication

Back in the day, before the internet (s), when someone had a beef with their local dog catcher, cook, or bottle washer, they took it to the editorial pages of the daily newspaper. Those were better days in my opinion, for the simple fact that before that letter to the editor even saw the darkness of the inside of a mail box, the writer had time for some self-reflection, and if they were really angry at their mayor because the trash man forgot to empty their trash receptacle, the actual time and act of composing and constructing that letter often helped dissipate some of the anger. None of this instant anger flashing across monitors, like today.

In order to get your letter to the editor, chances are you had to lug your overly heavy Underwood to the kitchen table. If you were an adequate typist, knocking it out would be no problem. An interesting component of the letter to the editor was the actual signing, and noting of your residence. There was little of this “anonymous” posting, and instant hating, going on today.

By signing your name, noting the town where you were domiciled, and in many cases, the inclusion of your phone number for verification purposes, it furnished the newspaper with a contact for follow-up purposes. That’s if, per chance, you had a clear, concise letter of 250 words, short of attacks, slander, libel, or words of defamation. In many cases, you also couldn’t send that same letter to four other newspapers in your city, as many editorial page staffers, during their process (usually a simple phone call) of due diligence, asking if you were John Doe from Anytown, USA, as you had signed your letter, and whether it was exclusive to the Finicky Times-Reader. If you passed their muster, then it might be another three or four days before your missive was read by the loyal readers in your newspaper’s circulation area.

This isn’t to say that a poorly written screed didn’t find its way to the pages of your local daily. However, when your factually incorrect letter of run-on sentences, filled with spelling errors reached its intended audience, your original intent was often nullified. Another positive effect is that angry friends of the local dogcatcher (or mayor) who wanted to rush to the defense of their local champion had to go through the same lengthy process, which tended to weed the merely angry, from the passionate and semi-literate.

The intelligent politician, or grass roots organizer often embarked on a strategy to ensure that the issue of the day, or the stellar candidate, had a rash of letters supporting it, or them. A letter would be composed, and copies passed out at a meeting, with suggested changes, so it didn’t resemble astro turf. Then, on Thursday, or Friday, a slew of letters would be printed together, praising Cyrus Dogbreath, who was running for Sheriff. His honest approach of enforcement would surely return law and order to Serenity Falls.

Even better, there was none of this current posting under pseudonyms of “honest avenger,” or “pissed off taxpayer,” making ad hominem attacks the national pastime.

On the flipside, if you wanted to write something more substantial, exceeding the 250 word limit on letters to the editor, you might try your hand at the Op Ed, which potentially could triple the words allowed.

Doing so, however, required greater skill. You had to have something more than just righteous indignation fueling your prose. There’s an art to the well-written Op Ed. There are fewer of them, they tend to be for people that hold a position of some prestige, or at least, have some critical connection to their topic. The process of getting published is also much more competitive. The nice thing is that a well-written Op Ed can make a solid case for the issue that’s important to your cause.

In framing the arguments I made against my local representative, I stated that, “to my way of thinking,” his performance had been less than stellar. This was based on the political philosophy I hold, some of my observations that come from the work I do, personal observations, and the fact that in my very own opinion, a change might be in order.

If stating my case, on my own personal blog, using my ancient personal computer (during non-work time, i.e. the wee hours of the morning, when I often do much of my writing), elicits the level of vitriol, hatred, and personal attacks against me and my reputation that I experienced at As Maine Goes, then something is seriously wrong with our instant mode of communication (or better, some of the folks using it).

In attempt to drive away any of the new readers coming over here from such an esteemed site, I’ll be doing my best the next week, or so, to inform any of the haters who happen to stop by, why I hold some of the positions that I do. Upcoming will be my take on neoliberalism, a real tempest in a teapot subject if there ever was one. Then maybe, it’s a post on anger management.
By the way, this post, which is slightly longer than the length of an Op Ed, has been put away for at least 12 hours to sit and simmer while I go off to work. I will come back to it, reread it, possibly rework it a bit, and then I’ll decide if I still want to post it. I urge others to consider this very method, if perchance, something I wrote here offended their sensibilities, or caused their blood pressure to tick up.