A blog . . . in spite of how pathetic blogging actually is.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Flying Turkeys in Cincinnati

Special thanks to Steve for finding and providing this classic.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Even if We Win . . . . We Lose?

Even though he started his career as a moderate Republican, it would appear that Timothy Geithner’s main pedigree is his un-Wall-Street-ness. Public sector finance wonkishness is hip. It's 'Revenge of the Nerds' without the frat houses.

Your first sign of hope in our endeavor to become a post-partisan nation will be around the start of baseball season. That’ll be deep enough into the Obama-Democrat-Dominance era to know how grown up everyone’s going to be when we start seeing classical government welfare (corporate and otherwise) as something that people take for granted. It won’t be long. In fact, it may already have gotten boring. I was more surprised by this morning’s snow than I was Citi’s fleet of lifeboats, courtesy of the Bush Administration. [If you want a taste of just how undeserving Citi is, read this, if you can stomach it.]

Don’t get me wrong. As nauseating as they are, I fully support the President’s economic policies in this financial-apocalyptic America, even if maybe we could all use a psychological jolt in the form of a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Bush people are doing the right thing. Doing nothing would be doing something; namely, letting a bank with $800,000,000,000 in assets fail. Happy Thanksgiving? I don’t think so.

Early April will be the time when, if they go old school, the GOP mega-minority can start making things look and sound like all of Hank Paulson’s ideas were actually Barack Obama’s ideas. This would assume, of course, that Hank Paulson’s ideas end up being silly. So what do we cheer for? If this trend toward socializing Wall Street works, then Obama’s people are certainly deft enough to own it all as their own. That could mean even more marginalization for the GOP (which took a huge beating the last time our economy was in this type of shape some 75 years ago). As much as we all should want to see the next President succeed are we also [perhaps unwittingly] sanctioning an outcome that would allow the Democratic Party to become a Superpower? How ironic would it be if a trend toward socialism made the GOP’s downfall similar to the USSR’s dissolution in 1991? Is the real cost of this economic crisis (if we get out of it in a reasonable amount of time) the existence of our bona fide two party system?

It’s a pickle. Any rational person would want to see all this market tinkering actually work, no matter who gets credit in the end. But that success could bring a major body blow to an already rib-crushed Republican Party which would leave an increasingly unchecked political infrastructure in Washington.

Don’t look to me for answers. We do our second Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday instead of Friday this year. I’ve decided to take advantage of my newly found free time and go out on Friday morning to see if there are any shoppers waiting in line to enter any building that houses anything remotely similar to a retail establishment. If I find some dutiful consumers huddled out in the cold hoping for the chance to actually spend money . . . I’m going to thank them.

But then I’ll probably tease them. I’m no Tim Geithner.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell-izing Obama

If President elect Obama can actually manage to introduce the post-partisan era to America then surely a good number of her citizens will feel like their day has finally arrived. The past sixteen years have had us tied up in a political culture seemingly more comfortable at the edges than the much more believable middle. Impeachment was supposed to be the worst of it, but then the ubiquity of talk radio and a multi-portal, perpetual news cycle drew more and more of us into believing that a political identity could actually be crafted like a watercolor painting.

Keith Olbermann said something. If I'm on the left, I need to believe it.

Bill O'Reilly said something. If I'm on the left, I shouldn't believe it.

Pretty easy stuff. Doesn't require a lot of thinking. Identity politics never does. I've long been wary of people who say they're conservative or liberal because, well, how would they know? Have they addressed every issue out there and come up on one side every time? Really? I'm supposed to believe a "Yes" on that one?

Karl Rove may like to call Barack Obama "the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate," but that's the kind of language you never use on a true-false question (when writing the test) because it'll always be false. It's too extreme. You're serious, Karl? Bernie Sanders? Russ Feingold? Any Republican who voted for the bailout? The President elect (now a former Senator, actually) beats them all?

The truth is, Barack Obama wouldn't have been able to win the way he won (or at all, for that matter) had he truly worn colors of the definitive left. And George W. Bush (just in case we forgot) won in 2000 with a reputation of being a Governor who was quite adept at bringing bipartisan production value to government. His Texas record suggests there's some truth to the reputation (which makes the past eight years only that much more of a mindfogger).

I like Mr. Obama. He strikes me as being incredibly smart, and this is a time for incredibly smart people. Incredible smartness isn't a guaranteed solution (See the Hoover and Carter Administrations), but it at least gives you a chance (See the Lincoln and FDR Administrations). The country appears ready to find an off ramp. We've been on this anti-intellectual highway for too long . . . which, incidentally, reminds me of a thought I had the other evening: Will the new GOP be rebranding itself in a manner that's more embracing of intellectualism? of curiousity? of the left-associated tendency to acknowledge complexity in the world? I believe they will. Listen to Bobby Jindal speak when you get a chance. The old (aka, pre-2008) GOP will either react with alienation or get on the train. Only one option leaves hope for the party's future. Above and and beyond all else, the lesson of 2008 will be, simply, that Americans don't want middling IQ's . . . or even the appearance of middling IQ's. If Barack Obama could find an appropriate way to send a thank you card to the 'just folks' hockey mom illuminati (who likely repelled more Republican votes than they gained), he should (but only after sending an even bigger one to the standing President).

The world is a complicated place. For a number of years, Republicans did well for themselves by making fun of Democrats whenever Democrats tried to point out that the world was a complicated place. Democrats reacted like 7th graders at a school sponsored dance by trying to pretend like they also thought the world wasn't a complicated place. Then a bunch of stuff happened (Iraqis in Baghdad not acting like the French did in Paris, the realities of rampant market deregulation, Vladimir Putin's judo video, etc.) which demonstrated, pretty clearly, that the world actually was a complicated place.

And Barack Obama was who he was . . . and was at where he was at . . . when the light bulb went on.

Al Gore and John Kerry respectively lost to the same guy for lots of reasons, but part of the problem was their perceived nerdiness. Both were actually told, on various occasions, to dumb down their rhetoric so they'd have a better chance of beating the Texas Governor/standing President. Even though it didn't work, the advice might not have been all that bad. The same advice (dumb down your rhetoric so you can get ahead of that Obama guy) fell flat on its face November 4th.

Americans don't like their politicians to be too intellectual. This is an assumption we've grown comfortable with to the point of accepting it as truth. But is it . . . true?

'Buying a house is a good investment', 'Windows Vista is a bad operating system', natural ability is the main influence on whether or not you'll be a success in life: These are just a few more examples of assumptions we make . . . that just might be flat-out wrong.

I teach in a fairly left leaning community, so I'll get into a little hot water for suggesting this: But Barack Obama is one hell of a (smart, collected) lucky guy. His obvious talent, while important, may have only been a dash of spice in an otherwise highly complex recipe that had more in common with the fable of stone soup than any entree at Jules Verne Restaurant. All skill sets put aside for the sake of argument, the overwhelming reality is this: He had the great fortune of coming around when, all of a sudden, the traditionally big liability in electoral politics (being an intellectual) suddenly became the big advantage.

Go do this. I've tried it twice. Grab a clipboard and hit the streets. Stop ten people randomly and tell them you have a one question survey: In your opinion, could Barack Obama have won the Presidency in 2004? You'll be lucky (I predict) to get more than three "yes" answers; furthermore, it doesn't matter where you're at. Start in the President elect's version of Crawford, Texas (otherwise known as Chicago's south side). You might be lucky to get one there. He is, indeed, an amazingly capable guy; but please don't leave out his unique upbringing, meeting Michelle, the planet aligning randomness of his chance to speak at the 2004 convention, and, at the risk of sounding angry, the wholly disasterous results of America's decision to go with the guy who'd be the best beer drinking buddy for the past eight years.

This country's bad breakup after a torrid yet dysfunctional love affair with anti-intellectualism made nerdiness so hip that we forgot about populism. The rules of engagement changed overnight. If you want to give Barack Obama credit for any of this, you're in denial because he had about as much influence over it as sun spot activity did on the Cubs playoff performance last October. But, again, he's really smart, and the state of the union is NOT strong, so you might want to become a Democrat of convenience if nothing else (at least for the time being) because a partisan America is now, in a flash, soooooo pre-11/4/08. I don't care what your politics are, you should want to see the President elect take the ball and drive the lane . . . fearless, playing by a new set of rules, shaking things up. If he actually can manage to introduce the post-partisan era to America then Malcolm Gladwell might conclude that America itself was ultimately in the right place at the right time . . . lucky as a day is long . . . to cross paths with the Barack Obama outlier.

Let's hope so.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Timothy Geithner's hat size just went from 7 and a half to 13

He and he alone has the ultimate untrumpable line with the ladies this weekend, "Yeah, Barack Obama dropped my name on Friday and then the stock market went up by 550 points. Wanna dance?"

This man is significantly more cool than you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The NRA and the coming heterosexual marriage boom

It's on.

I just thank my lucky stars that she . . .

. . . said yes thirteen years ago. Who knows what might have happened had we waited until the Democratic Party tidal wave of 2008.

Any reasonable person would rightly conclude that it'll be only a matter of time before the restrictions kick in. That's why Wisconsinites loaded up with weapons last week even though there was no campaigning (from either party) to restrict future sales of firearms. Wisconsinites know better. I mean, come on people! Look at what isn't right in front of you! Not saying anything about taking your guns was clearly a tactic designed to make you feel comfortable and lull you into a false sense of security. Your present understanding of the 2nd Amendment is juuuuuuuuuuust fine. Go take a nap.

What are you doing reading this? Get your un(der?)armed self to the gunshop, poste haste!

Democrats are prone to think in deceptive terms. We all remember the dummy lockbox from the second Bush-Gore debate in 2000. If you're someone who wants guns, you need to think like the coolheaded next President of the United States (Your nemesis is a man who was able to get through the early stages of the financial crisis without suspending his campaign even once. That's who you're up against. He won't flinch.). You need to hedge and buy now so you can keep and bear later. If you're a Republican with ties to the SEC, you're already hedging by giving yourself a bargaining chip to be used against the President Elect in his own city. Even Barack Obama has bias (and it should be exploited).

If we're talking about taking guns from various cold dead hands then don't think for a minute that pitting Cubs fans against the far better armed, Obama-backed Sox fans is out of bounds. This is hardball.

All of it taken together is why I predict a record year for traditional, man and woman ("husband" and "wife" being just two additional examples of the left's sneaky, loopholey ways) heterosexual marriages. If they're coming for your Glocks then they're coming for your institutions. Time to start thinking on a whole new level. This is chess, not checkers. So, to review:

1--Get to the gun store and strap up.

2--If you're single and straight, get to a justice of the peace (preferably right after you leave the gun shop).

3--This one's more of a personal favor and not technically review: I know the stakes are high. The 2nd Amendment and the venerability of procreative-efforted marriage are not joking matters. But is there any way we could leave Mark Cuban out of this? I'm a Cubs fan. It's been (literally) one hundred years. The one genuine Maverick out there has a huge ego which he transfers into the success of his sports franchises (and possibly his ability to make money on the stock market). I'm a man married to a woman who also happens to be a member of the NRA. In your coming battle, my devotion to the Cubs makes me an innocent bystander. Look in your heart. Find that which makes you decent. Know mercy. Let my Cuban go.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sorry Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I owe you an apology. I tried. I really did. My tail's between my legs. I'm back.

It sort of helped when the hard drive on my old Dell died [thus denying me access to the internet for a month]. But then I got a new computer with all its fancy updated crack-esque magnetism. Like John McCain, history will surely judge that I didn't stand a chance. The slick new Inspiron in my lap right now is Barack Obama and mortgage backed securities all wrapped up into one "Defeat is imminent" bundle.

My love for you is stronger than ever, though. Your piece changed me. It got me off my butt and propelled me into a good stretch of intensive (offline) writing. I even have something copyrighted (although unsold) to show for it. So thanks a lot. And by the way, that's a tough business out there, the real world of writing. Who knew? The people don't actually care to read what you've labored to produce. In fact, they're kind of snobby about it. I suspect it's because most of them aren't family members or friends.

In the fake world of writing (aka, blogging) you can just put a link to your blog in the signature of your email account and then . . . send people (mostly family and friends) lots of emails, ostensibly about things other than your blog, so that, when asked, you can just go 'Oh yeah. I guess I did have that linked down there. Just something I do for fun, I guess.' The feigned aww shucks part is critical. You absolutely have to pretend as if you don't care, as if the link in the signature of your email account was possibly done accidentally and you've been too busy to remove it. I tried not caring in the real world of writing. Again, the fact that these people aren't my relatives or friends proved to be an enormous problem. Not only did they not care about my work, but they also didn't care about my appearance of not caring about whether or not they read my work.

My plan is to max out like an overrated NBA player and take this whole "I don't care" thing as far as everyone's willing to let me. The name of the blog helps. It's reverse psychology but with a little dash of Jedi mind trick. If I'm self deprecating right from the point of your reading the blog title, then you know I don't care, right? So you go ahead and read.

But even if you see through this and come to (accurately) realize that all I'm doing is trying to get you to read by pretending to not care, the fact that I wasn't even remotely subtle (see blog title again) makes it so that you're intrigued enough to read anyway.

We'll see how things go. It's not like I'm going to check the hit count or anything.

I promise to make this my methodone clinic. Real life is the real world of writing, this I understand. I know what I have to do, and, even though your advice is to the contrary, I'm going to try and do it anyway. If America can elect a guy with Hussein as his middle name then, by gosh, I can try to be a real world writer who also (just mentioning this in passing) maintains a blog. I'll drop in here for a hit every now and then which will hopefully keep me off the mean streets of Timesuckageville. I don't want to end up like Bubbles. The days will be devoted primarily to producing work that snobby people will never read, I promise.

Wish me luck.

John Jacobson