Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Mad Middle: Putting politics in its place

   If conservatives had their Tea Party and liberals had their Occupy movement, it's time for people in the middle to get mad and make their voice heard. 
     First, moderates need to demand that elected officials actually govern.  Enough with the constant political stances; enough with the concern about “ideological purity.”  I have complete scorn for a politician who has no ability to cooperate with people who have a different point-of-view.  If you’re elected to govern, then go ahead and govern. Reach across the aisle, act like a grown-up, and make things work.
    Second, as voters we need to stop acting so Democratic and so Republican. I have seen exactly two yards in this city (mine and my dad’s) that have signs supporting candidates from more than one political party.  And we wonder why politicians never appeal to the middle?  If we, as voters, start crossing party lines to elect reasonable people from the other side, we can create an incentive for politicians to steal moderate voters and we can turn the tide of extremism.
     Most moderates are normal people, many with families, who can’t afford a month in their RV following Sarah Palin or a month in a tent harassing bankers.  But we can make time to vote; and when we do we need to reject the yahoos that appeal to the fringes on either side and start rebuilding political bodies with a healthy respect for compromise.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

T.S. Isaac may be diverted by last minute change in Republican platform

 God's wrath may be unleashed if changes aren't made to farm bill

     As one headline recently put it Tropical Storm Isaac is likely to "attack" the upcoming Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, but some last minute changes in the Republican platform might help to push the storm off to the west.  In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, religious conservative Pat Robertson identified the cause of the storm correctly: God did, in fact, direct that storm at New Orleans to punish America for its poor conduct during the nomination of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. Specifically, God was moved to punish America by a Democratic senator who asked Justice Roberts whether he would ban abortions if he were placed in the Supreme Court. "That question just pushed me over the edge," God said.     
    More recently, God has been displeased with the Republican party and His displeasure is clearly visible in the brooding tropical storm which is threatening the party's convention.  Luckily, though, it turns out that the issue is "not so serious" this time. God is really just displeased with a bill that was introduced in the House Agriculture Committee by Chairman Frank Lucas that would boost insurance coverage for farmers following this summer's drought. "Those guys are all rich as hell," God said. "I sent the drought on them to send a message about planting more different kinds of crops - don't just do corn and soybeans and a little wheat. 'Where'd all my old favorite crops go," I was trying to say. And now they're off crying for more money."
     If Congressman Lucas revises his proposal and asks for 15% less reimbursement for farmers, God said that he'd likely direct the storm away from Tampa and maybe just let it fizzle out in the Gulf of Mexico entirely.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Capitalism as a Religion

Capitalism has become a religion. It is not just a good idea that people follow for rational reasons. It is now defended as a religion, by people who feel personally shocked and offended by the suggestion that Capitalism could ever be questioned.  One who feels compelled to criticize Capitalism, either in its principles or in its consequences, is regarded suspiciously and distastefully by the Capitalist believer.

Just as a good Soviet would have wanted to excommunicate anyone who thought too hard about the principles of Communism, so a good American Capitalist would wish to deport anyone who casts doubt on the sanctity of the Free market.  The religiously-tinged faith of the Soviet and the faith of the Capitalist are consistent in their irrationality and equally dangerous in their zeal.

For the American Capitalist anything that can be brought under the heading of "Free Enterprise" is categorically good, even if the it goes against common sense and tradition.  "Greed is good" according to Gordon Gekko's eloquent homily in Wall Street.  Every day on the floor of Congress, someone is standing up and espousing the glory of the Free Market and the beauty of the Capitalist Spirit, often in order to defend some proposal that they are making. And (for the most part) I do not question the sincerity of their belief.

But then I think of the actual system that we live in and its actual consequences and I wonder if we might benefit by considering a less dogmatic, less hard-line attitude toward capitalism (with a small c).  Back in the 80's it was easy to appreciate Gorbachev's large-minded reconsideration of Soviet Communism from American soil.  He greatly helped his country by prying it away from its slavish devotion to Communist principles.  But what American politician would be brave enough to question the sacrosanct Free Market Principles in this way?

All of this I say, only because it was brought to mind by reading Lewis Mumford, a cities scholar who described American life in this way:

"Life for the everyday American, under a compulsive economy of expansion, is essentially a gadget-ridden, goods-stuffed emptiness, puffed up for profit." 
                                                                       - Lewis Mumford, The City in History, p. 226

... which reminded me of a similar quote by Thomas Merton, a modern American monk who anticipated Mumford in 1948 when he wrote...

"We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest... There is no evil that is not fostered and encouraged for the sake of making money." 
                                                                         - Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, p. 133

I close by considering the obese, video-gaming kid of today (constantly plugged in, constantly eating something, constantly asking for this-or-that cereal, this-or-that snack). The ultimate product of unbridled capitalism.  That kid makes me think about how parasitic capitalism can be in practice and how seriously we should question its principles, even if our questions may be viewed as heresy or sin by the Joseph McCarthys of the 21st century.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A perfect description from Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay"

If I'd been trying to write the scene below I probably would have said "There was an old lady in the corner who didn't make eye contact with anyone."  That is why I never get anything published.  Michael Chabon takes what could be an irrelevant body in the corner of a room and makes her a fascinating study both physically and psychologically.  

Sammy had never felt himself to be anything more, in Bubbie's eyes, than a kind of vaguely beloved shadow from which the familiar features of dozens of earlier children and grandchildren, some of them dead sixty years, peered out.  She was a large boneless woman who draped herself like an old blanket over the chairs of the apartment, staring for hours with her gray eyes at ghosts, figments, recollections, and dust caught in oblique sunbeams, her arms streaked and pocked like relief maps of vast planets, her massive calves stuffed like forcemeat into lung-colored support hose.  She was quixotically vain about her appearance and spent an hour each morning making up her face (72).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bruno Schulz: Wisdom from "The Street of Crocodiles"

     I recently found a book called "The Street of Crocodiles" by an author named Bruno Schulz, who was shot dead by Nazis on a sidewalk of the Polish village where he grew up.  Shulz's book tells the story of life in this village and describes what it was like growing up with a crazy father (a man who imported rare bird eggs and hatched them in his attic) and other odd characters like a half-wit girl Touya who slept on a mattress in some bushes at the edge of the village.  Before he goes on to describe these people and this place Schulz reflects on what makes certain memories stand out.  It's one of the best explanations I've ever read about why certain memories stick with us so strongly, while others just seem to disappear.  His insights go much deeper but I can't attempt to do them justice so I'll let him speak for himself.  

"I do not know just how in childhood we arrive at certain images, images of crucial significance to us.  They are like filaments in a solution around which the sense of the world crystalizes for us. They are meanings that seem predestined for us, ready and waiting at the very entrance of our life...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scandal: A Sequence of Eight Parking Arrangements

This story will appear in the forthcoming issue of Thunderclap.
Setting: A driveway.

1. His and hers side by side
2. Hers alone, to the side
3. Hers blocking middle of driveway
4. Hers blocking driveway, his diagonal in grass
5. Hers blocking driveway, his two houses down
6. Hers alone, to the side
7. His snuck past hers
8. Hers parked behind his

Thursday, May 19, 2011

HOLY SHIT, I forgot the world was going to end this weekend - could somebody grab me some bottled water?

I was just watching the news and was reminded about the Rapture this weekend. I remember when they said this would happen back in '89 -  at that time a small explosion happened in the chemistry lab at my high school but it caused only limited damage.  The prophets were wrong then, but they seem sure this time.

Problem is, my schedule tomorrow is super busy.  I'm not sure when the Rapture's supposed to happen Saturday. I might be able to get a bunch of survival stuff before noon, but if it's going to be in the middle of the night or something I'd sure appreciate it somebody could drop me off some water at least.