Friday, October 29, 2010
Keeping Fear Alive... When a Candidate's Religion Matters... and Why Vampires Ruled
I am supporting Stephen Colbert's Rally for Fear, for several reasons. First, my career lies in scaring people via vivid science fiction novels. (Sure, they also contain science, reason and confidence in a bold future... still, what would a plot be without pulse-pounding peril? Keep fear alive!!)
Second, I'm fuming with rage at Jon Stewart for blatantly stealing the title of my novel EARTH, for his merely-hilarious guidebook for aliens visiting this planet. Heck, I won't even tell you want it's called, so you can't order it, right away, and laugh yourself sick.
(Mind you, one of my novels was a finalist for the Stephen Colbert Award for Literary Excellence! But I would never allow that to sway my judgment! (Guess which novel?))
All right, I admit that I kinda like "sanity" and share Stewart's overall worry about the plague of sanctimonious, self-righteous indignation that aging-sourpuss baby boomers are inflicting on this great land, from every political extreme. (I've even written about the scientific/biological aspects of this epidemic, and spoken about it at the National Institutes on Drugs and Addiction.) I'm glad the rallies on Saturday will be about restoring the calm spirit of negotiation that was the hallmark of the Greatest Generation... and that might return, after the bilious Boomers fade and our smarter kids take over!
Hence I'm pleased that (despite some overlap) this won't be a rally for the Democratic Party. Certainly, the left has some indignation jockeys of its own, who give Glen Beck a run for it. Oh, they aren't in the same league, when it comes to outright puppeteer-lying! But Keith Olbermann certainly matches Beck when it comes to choleric-polemic pyrotechnics!
Hence, I seldom link to Olbermann, even when I agree with him! We should all be tired of proof-by-loudly-delivered-anecdote... and his latest screed serves one gigantic helping of separate and questionably-linked anecdotes, about the truly "eccentric" gang of Tea Party candidates who are spearheading the Fox Crusade To Distract Populist Wrath Away From The Oligarchy And Instead Toward All the People Who Know Stuff.
Again, I find anecdotes less persuasive than sanity and facts. Still you have really got to watch this Olbermann rant! Endure the first few minutes for the sake of what follows -- a lengthy and scary list of maniacal quotations from the new Know Nothing Party that seeks to "march this nation as far backward as it can get... an attempted use of democracy to end this democracy..."
While I have you, here are items to show that "ostrich conservative" of yours, who dislikes the Bushites but who has so far convinced himself that "the alternative is marginally worse." Or who actually believes that his movement has not been hijacked by crazies. (There are millions of these poor, abandoned, Nice Conservatives. Help them!
A pair of older pieces I wrote in 2004, before things got THIS crazy...
War in the 21st Century: Maturity vs. Neocon Panic and the True Role of Pax Americana
Neoconservatism, Islam and Ideology: The Real Culture War
And for your libertarian theoretician friend or brother - the under-achieving MENSA-member who goes on and on about Left, Right, and MODELS of government systems and Adam Smith and what keeps getting in the way of freedom and markets send him here for a wake-up.
Oh, Back to Jon Stewart... here's a chilling parallel! Stephan Richter writes “Jon Stewart is a powerful one-man version of all the Weimar cabarets. If the underlying causes of his rise were in any way a reflection of what ailed the Weimar Republic, that would be bad news indeed — not just for the US, but also the world as a whole.” I love it when someone makes me stop and go "huh!" Even when I'm not sure what his point is!
... And now our feature thought of the week...
=== When is it appropriate to contemplate a politician’s religious beliefs? ===
Good question. We have grown up during an era when - progressively - a candidate’s private faith has become ever-less relevant in American political life (a trend even more pronounced in Europe and Australia.) Moreover, most of us see that as progress, akin to the putting of racism and sexism and corruption into disrepute (though their remnants are still vile and remain with us.)
Indeed, the modern reflex is to cringe back from anyone who says that we should scrutinize the private beliefs of a public person. And yet, are there exceptions? Are there times when it would be negligent - even stupid - not to take those beliefs into account? I suggest that such articles of faith have real - even profound - relevance, when they reflect upon a politician’s general view regarding the world, the value of his or her fellow citizens, and the prospect of applying those articles to guide actions in the temporal world. For example, specific dogmas are highly relevant:
1. When those beliefs cast Judgment (with a capital "J") on the fundamental worth and goodness of a majority of Americans. Or, indeed, any large and non-criminal minority of them.
2. When those beliefs implicitly or explicitly declare it acceptable, even glorious, that a majority (or large minority) of his or her fellow citizens are... or should be... consigned to eternal torment (in Hell) for holding differing beliefs.
3. When a candidate prays openly to hasten the day when her nation will end and democracy vanish, I have to assert that is pertinent to whether voters might want to democratically elect her to lead that nation.
4. Further, when he or she yearns openly for events to unfold that will purportedly “rain fire from the sky,” is that pertinent to our decision whether to assign such a person control over our nuclear tipped missiles?
I find these questions - entailing the potential survival of my children - to be entirely germane to making political choices as to whom I should entrust with our nation’s military, political and practical power. Moreover anyone who sneers that I am bigoted, merely for asking them, is no friend of the republic, of human civilization, or of me.
...and finally... I'll finish with a large except from a recent and powerful article about the roots of the financial crisis. I'll post the fist few paragraphs here... and then some more down below, under "Comments." It makes very clear to whom we owe the recent near-depression, that was spawned in an era when the Federal government's sole reason to exist seemed to be enabling vampires to run wild. And that is still the agenda of the party that got us into the mess.
Get out the vote.
=== The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America and Spawned a Global Crisis ===
by Michael W. Hudson
A few weeks after he started working at Ameriquest Mortgage, Mark Glover looked up from his cubicle and saw a coworker do something odd. The guy stood at his desk on the twenty-third floor of downtown Los Angeles's Union Bank Building. He placed two sheets of paper against the window. Then he used the light streaming through the window to trace something from one piece of paper to another. Somebody's signature.
Glover was new to the mortgage business. He was twenty-nine and hadn't held a steady job in years. But he wasn't stupid. He knew about financial sleight of hand—at that time, he had a check-fraud charge hanging over his head in the L.A. courthouse a few blocks away. Watching his coworker, Glover's first thought was: How can I get away with that? As a loan officer at Ameriquest, Glover worked on commission. He knew the only way to earn the six-figure income Ameriquest had promised him was to come up with tricks for pushing deals through the mortgage-financing pipeline that began with Ameriquest and extended through Wall Street's most respected investment houses.
Glover and the other twentysomethings who filled the sales force at the downtown L.A. branch worked the phones hour after hour, calling strangers and trying to talk them into refinancing their homes with high-priced "subprime" mortgages. It was 2003, subprime was on the rise, and Ameriquest was leading the way. The company's owner, Roland Arnall, had in many ways been the founding father of subprime, the business of lending money to home owners with modest incomes or blemished credit histories. He had pioneered this risky segment of the mortgage market amid the wreckage of the savings and loan disaster and helped transform his company's headquarters, Orange County, California, into the capital of the subprime industry. Now, with the housing market booming and Wall Street clamoring to invest in subprime, Ameriquest was growing with startling velocity.
Up and down the line, from loan officers to regional managers and vice presidents, Ameriquest's employees scrambled at the end of each month to push through as many loans as possible, to pad their monthly production numbers, boost their commissions, and meet Roland Arnall's expectations.
(...continued below, under Comments...)