Keeping at it

Columnists, on most occasions when they talk TARP will courteously (or condescendingly) identify it as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But when they get deep in debate, they call the assets ‘toxic’.

So let’s do the semantics: after all,  troubled is  lightweight  compared to toxic. Troubled has an inherent innocence, a condition calling for our patience and wisdom;  troubled could be a soul in agony, in need of compassion.  Troubled shouldn’t be left out in the cold. What, are we monsters?  But toxic is poison. In a financial world, toxic is man-made poison, like chemical seepage into our water sources, the negative effect of irresponsible, often  misanthropic intent.

If we rename this then,  Toxic Asset Relief Program we might be more willing and able to confront these financial institutions with the intellectual curiosity they so richly deserve.

Hope As Infection

Oh, baby, oh…

Behold the path to Righteouness, in Her name’s sake.

Hat tip: Mother Nature, Andrew Sullivan’s blog

Intercompatible Living

One reason I love the New York Review or TNR’s and the Atlantic’s back-of-the-book, or the TLS is that I know that I’ll never get around to reading E.O. Wilson’s new tome, “The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies.” So I get to read Tim Flannery’s summary/review. It is indeed hard not to infer all sorts of human lessons from the way ants live and organize themselves; and if you ever need a break from human narcissism, a simple look at a leafcutter nest will do the trick. Here’s one of Flannery’s more fanciful – but also stimulating – passages:

In their native land fire ants form discrete colonies, with just one or a few queen ants at the Leafcutter_ants_transporting_leaves center of each. This is how most ants live, but something very strange happened to the fire ants soon after they reached the United States. They gave up founding colonies by the traditional method of sending off flights of virgin queens, and instead began producing many small queens, which spread the colony rather in the way an amoeba spreads, by establishing extensions of the original body. Astonishingly, at the same time the ants ceased to defend colony boundaries against other fire ants. As Hölldobler and Wilson put it, “With territorial boundaries erased, local populations now coalesce into a single sheet of intercompatible ants spread across the inhabited landscape.” This remarkable shift was caused by a change in the frequency of a single gene.

Is it possible, The Superorganism left me wondering, that the invention of the Internet is leading to a similar social evolution of our own species?

Try the truth for a change

The only business enterprise holding its bottom line in this current economic  global infection is the manufacture and sale of weapons.

We really gotta ask ourselves: if there were no firearms or combustible creations available, could the human race continue to perpetuate aggression and conflict?  A knife or club requires proximity, possibly  a face-to-face encounter. It’s clumsy, corporeal and immediately recognizable as cruel.

So please, Secretary Rice, tell the truth:  the only effort that seems to be “doable and sustainable” is war.

Then again, upon reflection

My mother died.

This is an event that all like myself, slipping into our 6th decade of life on earth, cannot escape. But for me there opened a vunerability I had been fearing since the rest of my family was already gone, my two brothers and father.  Mother Nature, I have concluded, rules in random: the Reaper, I just don’t know.

She was born back in 1920, Chicago, Illinois, to a couple with an age gap of 19 years. Her father was a member of the dapper-dandy crowd, high-collared suits and spats, her mother still officially a teenager, and they lived comfortably until the ’29 crash when my grandfather’s socio-economic backdrop simply vanished. A move to an upstairs apartment in a racially-mixed neighborhood came down hard on my mother’s assumptions. With just two bedrooms for a family of four, the times set the rules and my mother was forced to bed with her own. Oral details were always sparse, (“Oh, I don’t want to talk of sad memories. Give me just the happy, happy.) but something has led me to believe that her single goal from those days forward was to get out.

She had her fair share of suitors but her choice was a University of Michigan graduate in Engineering who happened to have one eye made of glass since a teenage accident and came from, literally and figuratively, ‘the other side of town.’ That grandfather built his own business and its success and subsequent sale carried the patricial side of my family comfortably to its end. My father’s mother lived to 106, my mother’s mother, however, slipped into a final coma after a stroke at the age of 77.  Comparisons, sociologists now tell us,  are pointless.

Because my father’s career often involved transfers, he moved his family to a small town in central New York state and small towns, I have since decided,  will  never evolve to anything more than small towns: everyone knows a little too much about everyone else.  So it was there that I remember overhearing someone or two say that my mother was “quite the social climber.” The gossip didn’t sit well with her three children approaching young adulthood in The Age of Aquarius; I do remember she  had a mink jacket that I refused to inherit and that angered her for a time. But she had the life she knew the best to be expected, so  even the shadows cast from my father’s clinically diagnosed manic-depression and its often frightening treatment did not cancel a single scheduled dinner party. Alcohol was certainly a facilitator. Back then, “drunk” was funny.

She decided to trade the housewife routine for the working woman when I was sixteen, the last of the children still at home.  It was that move, prompted by other women in whatever club she patronized at the time, that tempered my mother’s future. She and her like built the doorframe through which the Women’s Movement subsequently passed, maybe my own mother wanting to huddle with the most aggressive, the Abzugs and Steinhems:  she quarreled with Buckley through a television screen as if she were that week’s guest.  Liberal…registered Democrat….free from real want, yet  with memories enough to empathize with those who weren’t.

My parents retired in southern California, which back in the 1970s competed with confidence against Arizona and Florida for the beneficiaries of guaranteed pensions and government insurance. What they were told they earned, they got: 20 years of sunshine, preferred only activities, and what I have come to call and simultaneously dismiss as “surface thought.”

And yet when  I was driving back from The Neptune Society’s Portland, Oregon location with my mother’s remains settling in an urn within a corrugated box,  I kept disciplining a pang of envy.  Even though the last year and a half of her life she was betrayed by illness and Medicare’s perfunctory answer to that illness, it was I who felt cheated. And now very afraid.

“Wait up, Mom. I’ve decided I want that mink jacket after all.”

Let’s get real…

We keep dancing around the fire when we need to either put it out or seize the truth of the situation and jump in. What should become law is reappraisal of the home in jeopardy, then the current loan adjusted to the debt-to-value ratio established at initial purchase.

“A mutt, like me.”

I may thank gods, angels or the unpredictable path of fairy dust, but mostly, I thank the physical laws of nature that force fluids to find equilibrium. And I must thank Senator Obama for even wanting to take the White House. I have now completed both his books and I think him a man of transcendent insight self-disciplined with humility.

What distresses me most now is that I well know this country, with its media meglomania at the helm, will continue to demean that which is truly extraordinary. Bizarre, yes, enlightened, hardly. I had hoped that the outcome of this election (bless my children and most likely, yours) would jump-start the demise of the neo-conservative movement. I have chosen to believe that such is possible because Obama won, rather than Clinton, or Edwards, or any faceless Democrat offered up victory in response to George Bush, Dick Cheney, crony-capitalism and the lot.

So I say here and now, if this man fails as president, it will be our fault, not his.

Aid and abet

Bailout proposal? Let lewd answer lewd.

So Ben Bernanke is sitting in on the board meeting of some Wall Street estab, and afterwards the CEO shuttles him off to a side room and says, “Ben, you gotta get us out of this, man. You just gotta. This is a real clusterfuck for us.”

To which Ben replies, “Calm, calm, buddy. We got it covered. The Senators will never know what hit ’em by the close of the hearing.”

TRANSLATION: “Senators, relax your sphincters. We are about to blow smoke up your ass.”

Shock and Awe again?

This is Sunday, September 21, 2008. If the U.S. Congress votes for this bailout without restrictions it will be House JR Bill 114, authorizing the Iraq war, all over again.

Are we really that stupid?

Basketball probably is a good fancy for you

‘Cause, Senator, you have to jump higher and throw more 3-pointers than any other presidential candidate in American history. And you are a minority whose toughest opponent in this election, not only in the primary but now the general, turns out to be another minority. You can see how we sharpen and polish our claws. And speak irresponsibly too often. Like Jack Nicholson said in As Good As It Gets when asked how he could posess such empathy to create his female narrators, “I think of a man. Then I take away reason and accountability.” I know Hillary Clinton did not believe a single negative word that she said about you during the primary because I know that the campaign run she thought was perfectly timed for victory turned out to be the run of her life. Personally, I grant her a pardon on any nastiness that the MSM only encouraged (shame on an otherwise likable Keith Olbermann here) and I actually regret that history watched the two of you hit the stage simultaneously.

But you won, and now you face every force void of the political integrity that is Hillary Clinton. You may lose. You could have asked her to be your running mate, and she could have turned you down. The female Republican candidate would have happened anyway, because members of the Republican Party want their redemption for choosing George Bush…twice. They are tired of licking their wounds. That’s also why they let McCain have the nomination: none of the others could have beat you.

After the last eight years and all the polls professing the people’s distaste for the last eight years, the electoral map should look like 1992. Yet you strain just to keep a lead, and I think I know why: you’re partly African-American. There…it is said. And it is my generation (baby-boomers) and my mother’s generation (Brokaw’s Greatest) leading the resistance to your election. I believe the majority of kids don’t care about your genealogy-they want to know if you can text. But they are the ones that will be forced to deal with the consequences of our inability to let go of the past just long enough for them to take an initial step towards dealing seriously with the present, let alone the future.

My anger towards these individuals and groups that still perpetuate this racial preference has led to insomnia. I struggle to comprehend how this country can let a chance like this pass us by. As Andrew Sullivan wrote: “This is a remarkable man at a vital moment. American would be crazy to throw this opportunity away. America must not throw this opportunity away.” Honest to God, since I lie awake anyway, I’d howl at the moon if I thought it would help.

But, in the end, what I must do is apologize to you for this country.

America the Beautiful…’til you turn out the light.

Oh, please…

Sarah Palin is disgusting.

Shoot wolves from the air. Teach creationism in schools. Overturn Roe v. Wade. Stop the bloviating on global warming ’cause it ain’t true. Drill in ANWAR. It’s tough to even finish Gloria Steinem’s article in the LA Times. Most pundits seem to dance around this Palin creature, careful to comment because the “Hlllary history” still lingers, but nobody seems to get it. Can that be possible: nobody gets it?

McCain picked her because Obama delivered an acceptance speech that was full of smooth thunder. Even I, a strong but financially limited supporter, was trembling with worry that Obama couldn’t give a speech that was as good as Hillary’s or Bill’s. Shame on me. This man knows what he is doing and maybe that is the problem: most of us don’t even know the behavior of a politician who knows what he is doing. Certainly McCain doesn’t. To me, the man has never been of the Republican Party: he should be an Independent, but Independents don’t win. He has performed admirably on Senate committees, took on Petraeus and Crocker before the surge and supported its success because it did decrease the violence which was, back then, astounding us all. But he votes like a man who is scared of his own instincts. And now he embraces a platform forced to extremes by Palin.

He doesn’t want a rig in ANWAR. And why would he pick up a rifle when his houses are full of animals. (Obama doesn’t even own a dog?) I personally believe that he doesn’t support the war against women’s rights. McCain, except for Ron Paul, was the only intelligent choice for the Republican Party this year–the rest (watch their speeches at the Republican Convention for yourself) were ridiculous.

All this, so obvious to me, is not even a part of the current conversation. Polls show him chasing Obama’s coattails with a possible overtake as he tosses Palin on his back. My mother, who remains to this day my political hero, insisted that her children vote, and, to this day, I have. But if McCain and Palin win in November, I am done.

I’m sure the victors won’t miss me.