Sunday, September 28, 2008

Be a Man: Burst Your Own Bubble

The politicians have it wrong, and purposely so. They tell us it is the bank executives and the Wall Street hotshots who have created this financial mess. Of course, these high-end muckety-mucks are complicit in this sordid affair. But the biggest culprit is the average consumer, and his utter determination to get something for nothing.

Even now, the politicians are setting the stage for more of the same. They are about to create a "magic bank" wherein much of our bad debt will fit. What will be left, theoretically, is good debt - debt that represents the true value, not only of our actual transactions, but interestingly, of what we can afford.

Yes, what we cannot afford goes into the "magic bank." No penalty for our sins? Well, yes, there will be a penalty - we hear about it all of the time - "the taxpayer will pay." Okay. But what does that mean? It means money each of us has paid in taxes will be used to sop up that bad debt. Funny, how ambivalent it all feels - we believe them, and we resent the notion that "the taxpayer (me) will pay," but we don't feel it - not really. It doesn't hurt.

In fact, we are released, as it were, from our sins, and then are told to get out there and sin some more - i.e., spend, spend, spend - as though nothing has happened; all in order to perpetuate the illusion of prosperity. People will be encouraged to buy more homes, more cars, more furs and diamonds, and more plane tickets to anywhere, simply because that is what makes us rich - spending. What?

Stop it! This is not simply a mortgage mess; it is a credit mess. We have bought too much of what we do not need and cannot afford. Buying things we cannot afford - even holding a credit card - gives us the illusion of success. "Success" is really what we all want. Many of us, failing at financial success," settle for the illusion of success, which is credit.

The politicians and other so called "leaders" need to be telling us, "If you don't need to go to Chicago, don't go. If you can't afford dinner at Andre's, go to Popeye's; better yet, cook. If you don't have it don't spend it!"

Why won't they tell us this? They don't have the hearts to burst our pretty little bubbles. So I say to you what I say to my beloved sons and daughters; Burst your own bubble. You're man enough; you're woman enough. Burst it. You will not die. You will simply begin to live like real men and women.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bound for Alaska

The number one rule of Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power" is: Never outshine the Master. John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, has already broken it. At a campaign rally in Ohio, just the other day, when Palin gave up the podium to McCain, people began to leave the room.

Here is the disconnect between the McCain campaign and the people who would vote for him: They like McCain just barely; they like Palin a lot. But, alas, she is only to be his vice-president. Many people seem to think there is more in store for her than for the others - those who have disappeared, many not so mysteriously, into the night. But no, there is less. If you thought other VP's were invisible, you haven't see anything until you see Palin get "bunkerized."

If McCain wins, Palin just as well move back to Alaska. People will not see her, not hear her, except on ceremonial occasions, and on the occasional Sunday morning talk show. McCain is playing time with a fiddle, hoping that he can keep the wool pulled down over the people's eyes - dangling the bait, as it is - long enough to get in. If he is elected, Palin goes back in the box.

"Enough is enough," he shall declare. (He will be talking about Palin hogging the light.)

John McCain thinks he is a rock star - he has always considered himself to be a rock star, and always will, no matter how decrepit he gets. The truth: there are only two rock stars in this election: Obama and Palin. Hilary used to be a rock star, but those days are gone. Haven't you noticed? Even her hair has fallen.

Now they are asking Hillary to campaign for Obama. Sorry, folks, it won't work. Hillary is a tragic figure now; it pains the very people she would convince to even look her way.

Back to Palin: Get your looks in now. Win or lose, she is on her way back to Alaska.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Boys of Walkerville

Barack Obama doesn't quite get it. The voter he has the hardest time reaching is the white man in the blue-collar. Now, I see why.

On the third night of the Republican National Convention, Romney, Guiliani, - and especially Sarah Palin - gave Obama a good old fashioned political lashing. At a campaign stop in Pennsylvania the following day, a man stood up and asked Obama how he would respond. Basically, Obama told the guy, "I won't." The man appeared disappointed.

Over the next 50 days, Barack Obama will be campaigning in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, and yes, Pennsylvania again, looking to connect with that same breed of man - the one who asked, "What are you going to do about it?" That man is blue collar America. He doesn't care about college degrees and bestsellers. He wants to know, "Are you going to hit them back?"

There is something primal about a man who regards a willingness to fight as the hole card that stands between him and eternity. It defines him like nothing else. He is secure there. For that man, fancy adds will not do.

I grew up in Woodland Park, Michigan, a small African-American enclave in Newaygo County. Woodland Park is banked on three sides by white communities; at is back, M-37. One of those communities, Walkerville, is just west of "the Park."

Most of the men of Walkerville were farmers back when I was coming up, and baseball players, and fighters. They were good men, tough men. And though it was during the 50's and the 60's, when race relations were tenuous nationwide, the men of Walkerville respected the men of Woodland Park because the men of Woodland Park would fight.

Chances are that most of the men of Walkerville are leaning toward John McCain in this election. I didn't know that for certain yesterday. But after seeing Obama turn the other cheek, I'm pretty sure today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Trash Taking Trash From Trash

There is already something empty about this latest OJ Simpson saga. We can't see the victim. The victim in a crime is most often the rallying point, the source of heat and light that inspires us, and stokes the wheels of justice. Absent a victim, we settle for the colder standard - the law itself, and for our need to see the law upheld. The legal problem with this case is that it is fueled by Simpson's cohorts' alleged possession of a gun that was neither fired nor wielded in any way that left so much as a bruise. In a society where there are estimated to be 100 million guns, our outrage much logically be muted.

That aside, what we have is all rather seedy: a gathering of thugs in a Vegas hotel room - thieves among thieves. There are no innocents here. Victim? The so-called "victims" look like rejects from a Sopranos re-run (...woke up this morning, got yourself a gun...). You almost want to say, "Hey, turn it into a made-for-television movie, then turn the channel." That may be all that it is good for. Except, a law was broken.

That O.J. is charged with eleven offenses further adds to the circus nature of these proceedings. One legal correspondent compares the charges brought against O.J. to an exercise a law professor might present to his students: "I give you a circumstance, you find as many charges as possible." In reality, what we have is trash taking trash from trash. (A memorabilia expert estimates the entire worth of the property in question to be no more than $1500). The crime is that grown men would be fighting over something so trivial.

When we are faced with a crime, we are faced with these three truths: Before us, the victim; besides us, the law; and behind us, our own pressing need for vengeance. At the end of what many are calling "O.J. III," I fear all we will be left with is the last and least of the three - and we shall all be the worse for calling it "satisfaction."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Panicked McCain Picks Palin

Back in the 60s, Motown's Martha and the Vandella's sang, "Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things." Perhaps that helps explain McCain's Palin pick: Love. Why else would he take 60 years of Republican national security bravado and stand it on its head? And we're not talking just any "love", either. No, he did this after one meeting with Palin. That qualifies as "Love at first sight."

Seriously, in one fell swoop, McCain took what he considered to be his best argument against Obama - Obama's youth and inexperience - and tossed it out the window. By picking a V.P. younger than Obama, and with less foreign policy experience, and then placing here to within a breath of the presidency, he tells America "Experience is overrated; ('cute' is far more important)." In the land of "American Idol" and MTV, he may be right.

On the last day of the Democratic National Convention, McCain watched an NFL stadium fill to the rafters, and then learned that another 40 million Americans had tuned in...just to hear Obama speak. That's when he decided, "I can't beat this man...not unless I go nuclear." He panicked.

McCain got so caught up in his own captious railings against Obama's celebrity that he convinced himself he needed a celebrity, too. So, he picked Palin who has a darling little girl, to boot. (Haven't you noticed? America loves little girls in the White House. Witness Caroline, Amy, Chelsea, the Bush twins, and on the horizon, Sasha and Malilah). McCain saw Sasha and Malilah on that stage with their father. He panicked.

Nonetheless, there are practical reasons for the Palin pick. She is to the right of McCain. That pleases the Republican base to no end, many of whom see McCain as a default choice. Strange, however, that McCain would hold Palin up as the Hillary alternate - a crass way of wooing Hillary diehards. In essence, he is saying to the feminist left, "Look what I have for you." These women, who fiercely value their right to choose, must ask McCain, "Are you serious?"

Could it be that McCain is far more shallow - and reckless - than many of us had imagined? He certainly appears to not know what he is doing from one day to the next. Fortunately, when a candidate flies his campaign by the seat of his pants, it gives America time to wonder if he would run the White House the same way.