Where Your Tax Dollars are Going

October 7, 2008

ABC reports that after a difficult season wrangling money out of the government, AIG executives went on a retreat costing $440,000 at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California, where rooms run up to $1000 a night. The group should be commended for only changing $23,000 in spa fees, but after eating $200,000 worth of food in a week, they may not have been able to get to the spa.

We are quite literally paying for this with tax money in order to stabilize financial institutions.

The bailout involves us just buying worthless securities.  The banking lobby convinced Congress that it should not follow the recommendation of economists in taking stock in the financial institutions that it is propping up.  By buying the garbage generated buy these institutions instead of taking a stake in them, we as taxpayers do not only lose the right to future profit of the business but the right to curb the sort of behavior reported on by ABC News.

Palin Keeps Opening Doors McCain Does Not Want to Enter

October 6, 2008

Remember ten days ago or so when Palin mocked Biden’s age?  This of course made us wonder how much she respected her party’s nominee for president.  This weekend of course Palin accused Obama of associating with terrorists, which I hope is such a shockingly untrue accusation that there will be serious blowback. Palin’s weekend attack on Obama has two very strong negatives:  It makes her ticket look cheap and spiteful; and it again opens the door to unflattering comparisons with McCain.

Palin’s use of the media while complaining about it may have contributed to a growing impatience with her inability to address subjects substantively.  Given the many questions about her, the recent attack strategy has Republicans wondering about the campaign’s direction.  Interestingly we rarely here anything about integrity in this context.  The discussion seems to be entirely focused on efficacy of what were once thought unworthy methods.  Thankfully some media feel it is incumbent on them to at least check the truth of scurrilous accusations.

In opening the door of past associations she has exposed an area of extreme vulnerability to McCain.  McCain actually was one of the Keating Five at the heart of the financial crisis of the 1980’s.

Look at this discussion of one of McCain associations:

Palin is accusing Obama of association with a terrorist by his being on the board of directors of a nonprofit corporation when also sitting on the board was a university professor who had helped found the Weathermen twenty years earlier.  That’s it.  There was no further association.  It’s actually rather high praise for an individual if that is the closest association the person has ever had with a person who had a questionable background. Would you do better?

n contrast to Obama, McCain was in the middle of our last financial crisis, from 1988 to 1991.  He was one of the Keating Five who caused havoc with the economy and McCain was never exonerated from the charges, but never criminally charged either.  His role was investigated by the Senate and the F.B.I. which concluded that he had bad judgment but that there was not enough evidence of criminal activity on his part to sanction him.

This guilt by association accusation triggered a multimedia assault by the Obama campaign, featuring the video on this website.  Politico has a review of the this counterattack.I

As many other have pointed out Palin seems to find more to fear in Obama’s sitting near this professor at the annual meeting than her husbands membership in an American government hating secessionist group.

The Campaigns Begin to Dramatically Diverge

October 5, 2008

With a month to go the two campaigns are launched on different trajectories.

Obama is calling attention to our financial crisis and the need for the financial regulation opposed by McCain over his entire career.  His is also calling attention to McCain’s recent erratic behavior, something that has deeply troubled conservatives lately.  He is focusing on the present and on facts that we ought to be grappling with.

McCain increasingly looks like a battle weary veteran spouting obsolete policy, howling like Lear in the wind.  His voting record is the story of the deregulation that brought us this financial crisis. His health care plan is widely discussed as a boon to business and a gift of deregulation to the insurance industry, leaving consumers with health issues like stockholders in the market. Despite the fundamental problems with our economy, McCain has refused to back off his commitment to dramatically increase defense spending and to wither governmental revenue by deepening tax cuts.  Even before the current crisis experts were decrying this proposal as burying us further in national debt.

McCain is compelled to dissemble his voting record and obfuscate policy.  Like our current president McCain will stay the course on his policies but he cannot — without disastrous consequence — clearly articulate those policies.

The only course left to him is the road most traveled by his predecessors.  His camp must forage in the past for bromides used by Reagan to rally support and engage in the sleazy practice of demagoguery, fear and hate mongering.  The self described “mavericks” have leaped into perhaps the oldest political cesspool.

Sarah Palin this weekend has been shrieking that Obama associates with terrorists and is not a real American.  CNN looked into these “charges” and found them utterly without merit. It seems a bit odd to dignify such things with inquiry but I applaud CNN’s acceptance of the role of responsible medium and refusal to be a propaganda organ.

I trust that, as the McCain camp embraces its end justifying the means abandonment of integrity, that other media will follow CNN’s lead and not give demagoguery the appearance of legitimacy by merely reporting its as news.

Twyla Tharp

October 4, 2008

I attend dance performances about as frequently as I go to roller derby.  Last night I attended the Twyla Tharp performance at Pacific Northwest Ballet with some friends who truly enjoy dance and would attend dance performances as frequently as I go to Mariners games if the opportunity were here.

I was prepared to have a nice evening, but was nearly awestruck by the performance of the three Tharp pieces, two of which were world premiers and the third a familiar favorite to dance buffs.  Each piece was a highly evocative fusion of elements, some of which were even discernible by me, seamlessly blended to create in me a sense of anticipation throughout the performance.  Elegant balletic movement, folk dance, Chaplinesque  near slapstick,  ballroom dance, gymnastic athleticism, sweeping Romantic gesture, then the abject collapse of all movement.  Not only were all these dance and movement elements merged into the work but the pieces themselves seemed a blend of dance and theater, silent movies, and the images of memory and imagination.

I won’t stray too far into a territory unknown to me.  But great art awakens something in the viewer, an awareness of the richness and possibility of life.  I had that kind of aesthetic experience last night.

Of the three pieces, I was most drawn to the second, called “Afternoon Ball.”  Before I get into that I should say that the first piece was performed to a Brahms quartet, Opus 111. I was struck by the synchrony between the movement and the music, each accenting and complimenting the other.  It was easy to imagine the dancers as the imaginary figures you sometimes see when you close your eyes to listen to music.  The dark underlayment of Brahms contributed to a sense of profundity.

The music for the second piece, the one that particularly struck me, was  composed by a contemporary Russian, Vladimir Martynov, “Autumn Ball of the Elves” (1994).  The first movement was the stark minimalist sound that for me might accompany work by Beckett.   The music builds to attain in the later stages of the work almost an echo of the Brahms piece.

In a very interesting, but slow starting, interview by an overwhelmed reporter from the Stranger Tharp called the piece “existentialist theater . . . the end of the world.”  It conveys a sense of alienation and despair but at its conclusion a brief but strong sense of hope or redemption.  I think this piece resonated for me because I’ve recently been preoccupied with King Lear, the utterly nihilistic work that according to Harold Bloom marked the beginning of western consciousness.

That Stranger interview is one in which you vividly feel the interviewer’s pain and discomfort, as Tharp protects her private mental and emotional life from intrusion.  The interviewer is not prepared to discuss with her her work, so is forced to ask rather broad questions and virtually begs her to jump in and participate, which she grudgingly does.

Toward the end she comments that the decline of art critics in the published media is a very good thing.  She views critics, not as intermediaries promoting quality art to the population, but as obstacles between the artist and the audience.

She then starts interviewing the interviewer and asks him why he does it.  He responds by saying that there is something profound in art that makes it the province of philosophers, citing Aristotle, Nietzsche and Heidegger, among others.  Tharp then says that she thinks of her work as pre-Socratic.  After some brief discussion back and forth she says “turn that thing off so we can have a serious talk” and the tape is instantly over.

Tharp thinking of herself as pre-Socratic fascinates me.  (What I would give to have heard the ensuing talk.)  She likes to think of herself as coming form a time before Plato had inflicted a sense of rigid and perfect system of ideal “things,” which became the gnostic notion that the ideal, true reality, is someplace else and our lives a spent with shadows within a cave.  Aristotle of course was able to lay a rigid system of taxonomy and categorization on this dim world of shadows so that everything had a place.  Then he imposed a system of logic to enable us to trudge among the categories.  Tharp sees herself as before all that when the world was full of mystery, explained by myth and metaphor.

Unions are Getting Feisty

October 1, 2008

United Mine Workers of America in Monogaliao County West Virginia took a day off after the mine owner, Consol, apparently authorized an NRA film crew on the mining premises to film an anti-Obama piece featuring the mine workers.  The mine workers’ union had endorsed Obama without involving the workplace or the owner in anyway and objected to intrusion at work by the film crew.  This event is discussed in more detail here.

I think people often overlook the importance of unions in the political process, not to mention in the lives of the members.

It was just in May that the Longshoremen struck to show their opposition to the Iraq War, a courageous gesture made while most people were just muttering their objection to it.

It is not often mentioned that a part of the deregulation fenzy that has gripped the nation was the weakening of unions around the country.  This is certainly a good time for their resurgence.

In Key States Voters Turning From McCain

October 1, 2008

It is reported that events of the last week or so have caused Obama to forge into a lead in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.  McCain’s big gambles, i.e. his vice presidential choice and “suspending” his campaign last week, are cited as leading causes of the decline.  There is now dissatisfaction with Palin and there are questions about McCain’s ability to lead through this crisis.

It cannot be good news to McCain that the Bush administration has this week been implicated in criminal conduct associated with the firing of the U.S. Attorneys for purely political purposes and an ensuing coverup.  While there is too little information for any charges to be brought, a highly accusatory report has been published by the Justice Department Inspector General.

Why Are We Deploying Troops to the U.S.A.?

October 1, 2008

A good summary of the deployment of troops to our own country for domestic service is here.  This is certainly an odd thing to do to quell concerns about the stability of our economy, not to mention the alarming precedent it sets.  Have we ever sent our troops to our own country?