Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When did people start attaching themselves to political parties like they do religions?

I like to think that people are thoughtful when it comes to their political affiliations. Political parties can change their core principles so it would make sense that people would switch between parties depending on the issues at hand and the candidates. A person might vote for FDR in the 1930s and Eisenhower in the 1950s and that could make perfect sense.

Lately, it seems to me that many people attach themselves to a political party as they would a religion. They proudly support McCain/Palin even though they will readily admit that the ticket doesn’t impress them and that the Bush policies have been less than stellar. I recently had an exchange with a couple of diehard Republicans that I found disheartening. I mentioned the economy, civil rights, the religious right, Palin’s complete incompetence, and their response was to just shrug and say, “I’m voting Republican.” It’s almost as if I’m asking a Christian to observe Chanukah when I suggest the idea to vote Democrat. Lest you think I am picking on Republicans alone, this behavior can be found amongst Democrats as well. (It doesn’t help that the Republicans have put forth such weak and dangerous candidates that it effectively limits this discussion to Republicans at this point.)

Not to oversimplify but I think this boils down to intellectual laziness and a need for identity. It’s become increasingly obvious to me that Americans and American women, in particular, have no common bond. We are growing more fractured and disconnected from each other. We use religion, politics, television, social networks, blogs, etc., to find connections and identities for ourselves. We accept sound bites and media portrayals without question. Critical thinking and independent thought are too time consuming and draining. It’s a bit like our dependence on processed foods. We know they are bad for us but they taste good and who has time to cook?

I hear and read stories of how Americans pulled together during World War Two – sacrificed for the good of the nation and supported each other – and wonder if Americans will ever feel that united again. To look beyond political parties and labels and connect with our shared identity…as Americans.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Well, she didn’t tank so it’s a success?

I’m not sure how people define success or maverick or feminist, for that matter, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t describe Palin’s debate performance as a success (I don’t think she’s a maverick or feminist, either). Yes, she didn’t freeze up so I guess that’s a step in the right direction but do people really think she is even remotely prepared to be Vice President? I’m still flummoxed by the continued support for McCain amongst some of my friends and family even in light of the blatantly obvious and downright scary weaknesses with that ticket.

I think I could be Vice President. I’d like an opportunity to evade questions and talk turkey with America’s common folk. I also think that I am very likeable when I wink so that should get me pretty far. I’m thinking a line of questioning could go something like this…

Moderator: “What do you think about the current economic crisis and how can we fix this?

Me: “Well, do you mind if I just go back to that question regarding foreign policy for a minute? There wasn’t enough time on that and it’s very important. You see I have a lot of experience with China. Did you know that we share a maritime border with China? There’s just an ocean between us…and I can see China from my apartment…I mean, if I go to my computer I can view maps and images and keep an eye on the Chinese. I know what they’re up to and, you know, I like to talk about that amongst other things when I’m spending time with other middle class families watching my kids’ games. We middle class folks need to look out for each other and take care of this great country of ours. God bless America! (wink)”

Monday, September 29, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?!

Well, actually, how about a couple trillion? With the first bailout proposal officially snuffed out we face a huge amount of uncertainty. The market reacted dramatically to the news putting many of us in wait-and-see mode; as in, wait and see how much more our 401ks tank, wait and see if we will have jobs in the next month or so, wait and see if we are on the cusp of a depression.

I can’t claim to know whether this bailout plan was the best option - it doesn’t help that the original proposal was very broad and gave Paulson a blank check with no oversight (no oversight is what’s gotten us into this mess to begin with). I do know that, much to my dismay and disapproval, the government does need to take action and it will be very expensive. We have two choices; allow the market to get out of this trough on its own and accept the road kill on Wall and Main Streets or attempt to limit the destruction left in this economic disaster’s wake. There’s not one politician who will go with option one so we are going to need to ante up. The question is, on what terms?

Again, I am left wondering, “Women where are you? Why are you so passive? When will we band together and bring America back to prominence and prosperity? How long will we let the Masculine run this country and our families into the ground?”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Republicans, will you buy my “toxic asset”?

I have to wonder if Middle America is sleeping through this economic disaster. Considering the amount of Americans who have been facing foreclosure, lost jobs, are finding it difficult to get credit, you’d think there would be more outrage. I would also have hoped that more women would start to get engaged – why aren’t they protecting themselves, their families?

The Republican administration is offering a bailout to Wall Street because the market for these “toxic assets” has dried up. They’ve become illiquid, there are no buyers. So, we taxpayers are going to step in and buy them. Paulson would have you think that it’s a good idea because we can sit on them and eventually sell them and maybe, maybe, make a profit. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

As much as others on Wall Street and Paulson will disagree with me, these are not real assets. They are “instruments” that were created by bundling up loans – some risky and some solid. They were graded and given a credit rating (the credit rating was total joke) and sold to investors. They were marketed as if they were as safe as cash when clearly they weren’t. I can’t claim to explain how you create these instruments (this complexity should have alerted regulators, by the way) but when you think about it they’re just fabricated. They were a creative way for investment banks to make more money.

At least our assets are real. Your house is a physical, quantifiable, tangible asset. The loan on your house is a real income stream to the lender so that can be bought and sold, too. You and I could sit down, do the math, and figure out if we should buy a loan from a mortgage company. We would look at the credit rating of the borrower, the interest rate (i.e., how much we’ll get paid every month), the price of the loan (how much of a discount are we getting) and make a decision. A simple risk/return equation. This happens all the time. If we were buying these loans (with the homes as collateral) it would make more sense to me.

I would argue that the housing market has been somewhat illiquid for quite awhile. That in some markets you can’t find buyers who will buy your house for what you paid for it or even sell it at a loss. What would happen if that $700 billion had been applied to the housing market a year ago? If, instead of perpetuating the trickledown theory (money to the rich eventually gets to the poor), we applied these funds to the working class people that needed help to stay in their homes?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Taxes are no longer a reason to choose a candidate

“The fundamentals of the economy are still sound.”

Ouch! It doesn’t feel that way to me. It hasn’t felt that way for quite some time; yet, this has been John McCain’s mantra for several months. Walking off the plane on Monday morning in London, I was barraged by the latest bank failures and was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread. I wondered (and still do) if the average American understands how serious this is.

OK, folks, a number of you cite taxes as the reason to vote for McCain. For those of who cite taxes as your main reason for voting for any candidate scratch that argument. Regardless of which party enters the White House in January taxes will need to be raised or, at the very least, they won’t be cut. Period. You can debate the merits of one tax policy as opposed to another but we are in unchartered territory. In fact, if you’d like to find an example of this type of crisis you should go back to the Great Depression. Yes, it is that serious. And, yes, it was Democratic policies and regulation that got us out of that mess and ushered in one of our most prosperous economic eras.

McCain has supported deregulation as much as he tries to back pedal this week. That same deregulation coupled with no government oversight is what has brought us to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Let me ask you this, if you support small government and free markets do you support the $700 billion to $1 trillion bailout of the banking industry? Why? Why is it OK to jump in now and let taxpayers shoulder the cost?

Do you remember the days when banks were just banks? The Glass -Steagall Act of 1933 split commercial banking and investment banking. The thinking was that the free reign given to banks prior to “The Crash” was one of the major causes thanks to the excessive risks banks were taking. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to Reaganomics and the beginning of deregulation. Throughout the 80s and 90s the banking industry lobbied hard for the repeal of these laws. Senator Phil Gram, now an economic adviser to McCain, was a key supporter. Believe it or not, we can’t just blame Republicans for this repeal. It was passed in 1999, voted for by both Republicans (McCain was notably absent probably due to the fact that this economy stuff is self-admittedly over his head) and Democrats and signed into law by Clinton. The consensus being that these outdated rules no longer applied to the current environment.

But, here’s where the Republicans are left holding the bag. Oversight. There was none. There’s no debating the fact that Republicans were in control. If they couldn’t monitor and stop these egregious abuses while they were occurring what makes you think they’ll fix it now? You and I may not have seen it coming but others did. When credit is cheap, unaffordable homes are somehow affordable, and investment banks are selling instruments that are impossible to understand for most people you have to wonder how so many people could be asleep at the wheel. Greed is a powerful thing.

Lastly, our Republican administration has offered to bailout our banks by buying $700 billion of toxic assets which would then be managed by the investment banks we bought them from. Is it me or does this make absolutely no sense? How does that work? If they couldn't sell these instruments when they owned them why do we think they'll be able to sell them when taxpayers own them?! Not only are we getting slammed due to inflation, tight credit, job losses, etc. but now we also get to own the crap no one can sell? Brilliant.

Come on, people. Wake up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are we that gullible?

No, we can’t be. I was convinced that after McCain announced his pick for VP that the majority of women would see right through it. I told myself, “Women are smarter than that. We won’t fall for such an obvious ploy and this will backfire.” I was wrong.

As I listen to the chatter and read my friends’ Facebook comments I’ve come to realize that McCain’s move was sheer brilliance. McCain was right to underestimate American women. He made the right bet that we would pull our heads from out of the sand long enough to catch a few sound bites, conclude that Palin is just what we need (she’s an everyday Jane just like us, right?), and proceed to stick said head right back into said sand. Ignorance is truly bliss.

The women I know are intelligent, sophisticated, successful. So, what makes them like Sarah Palin? She has very little in common with these women and Palin doesn’t represent Feminine values. Yes, she wears lipstick and skirts, is a mother and wife. But, if you think about it she mimics the Masculine and the values of the fundamentalist right-wing party. She’s a modern day Jim Crow, if you will. Palin was chosen to humor women. We may not be exactly equal but it’s close enough. Clearly the right-wing values us; that we made it. If we have a female VP what could we possibly complain about?

Diversity is not just about different genders or ethnicities. Diversity of thought is important as well. Sarah Palin may bring gender diversity but she will not bring a new Feminine way of thinking to the White House. Women bring more that just estrogen to the table so what is the Feminine? I am not a Women’s Studies scholar but I will give you my thoughts. The Feminine is our maternal, peaceful, loving, collaborative side. Men have it as well; some more than others. It is what drives us to care for our children and children of others, to be charitable, to be diplomatic and choose aggression only when threatened, to embrace family, and to connect with others.

Most women speak as if they are proud of these values (family, education, charity, peace) but their actions are incompatible if they vote for McCain/Palin. Have we been completely indoctrinated into a culture that snuffs the Feminine? Have we been so brainwashed that we ignore, even deny, the Feminine – what makes us different, special – and adopt the Masculine? Clearly, this is what some women admire in Palin. Who doesn’t want to be the chick who can give guys a run for their money; whether it’s slaughtering caribou, on the sidelines of a hockey game, or in the government offices of Alaska? She must be able to translate this sassiness into something great in DC. In fact, we think she has so much potential let’s put her one step away from the highest office in the country. Really? What’s that about?

We’re scared

For seven years we have been bombarded with propaganda. Al-Qaeda is coming back any day, Iraq is threatening, some Muslim or another is going to sneak in with all the other illegal immigrants (they’re scary, too) and bomb the hell out of us. We watch “24” and thank God that the Republican administration is full of Jack Bauers without whom we all would have died six times over and without a doubt Jack wouldn’t work for Democrat. We need men to keep us safe – let’s ignore the fact that they are the ones that got us into danger.

We’ve brushed aside the Feminine for the good of a nation. We’ve come to believe that striking first is the right thing to do, that lots of guns at home keep us safe, and that healthcare and education are other people’s problems – those issues are important but just not now. We’ve come to believe that it’s OK to be second class citizens, that it’s OK to make 70 cents on the dollar, that we should be proud that a woman actually tried to run for President. Isn’t that an achievement? No, it’s not. A woman should have already been President. We’ve been humored, placated. We’ve been complacent.

Since when is shooting animals out of a helicopter a good thing? Since when is pro-life with no exceptions a good idea? Since when do we believe that the government knows what’s better for us than we do? Should the government tell us what to do with our bodies, what books our children should read, who we should worship? Sarah Palin wants to do exactly that. Doesn’t exactly sound like Feminine values to me. In fact, it sounds a heck of a lot like what fundamentalist men have been trying to accomplish for years.

Whether you are Republican or Democrat is not the issue. What concerns me most is that lack of objectivity and critical thinking. This Alex P. Keaton behavior in which folks are do-or-die Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter) regardless of the changes in that party’s dogma. And the dogma has changed.

I was amused recently when an old friend reminded me that I was pretty conservative in high school. In fact, there was a time during my teens and twenties – dare I say it – when I identified with Republicans. Frankly, the Republican economic theory (aka, “trickle down”) directly benefits me and I do subscribe to some of its ideals. But what was once a party that believed in small federal government and low taxes has morphed into a right-wing fundamentalist, imperialist, and intrusive ideology. Yes, the “Family Values” ideology has been part of the Republican dogma since the eighties (and I wasn’t a fan of it then) but think about how much it’s devolved over the past 20 years.

We think we’ve come a long way and we’re proud of ourselves. We’re politically correct now. We don’t talk about the d*kes, t*wel heads, n**gers, j*ps, ch*nks, w*tbacks, and k*kes the way we used to (although, bitch and fag are still fair game). Yup, I just used those words (or at least I would have if I weren’t afraid that Facebook would shut me down regardless of my intent). You don’t use them anymore but if you support the fundamentalist right-wing ideology you vote for something much more subversive and much more dangerous. I’d rather you use those words as then I would at least know who I’m dealing with. The right-wing hates anyone who is different. Are you an immigrant? Oooh, scary. Are you gay? Oh dear lord, please don’t try to marry. Are you black, Hispanic, Asian? Wow, not sure how to deal with you. But, wait, please, please, don’t be Muslim. That’s really scary stuff. Those are the kinds of people that attack countries with no provocation. Those are the kinds of people that send their children to die on a bed of lies. Wait a minute that sounds a lot like us…odd.

Over the past few days I’ve come to realize a few things…

- Women don’t have a cause. We’ve lost all interest in the feminist movement. We’ve grown complacent. We have come to believe that the man will keep us safe. Why don’t we think we could do it better? Do you really think a woman would have attacked Iraq? (Sarah Palin would have but that just proves the rule.) Why did McCain choose Palin and not another more experienced strong Republican woman? Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman come to mind and I am sure there are many other solid choices for VP. What was his motivation?

- People don’t want to think. They choose a side. They find people they identify with. They stick with it. They ignore the overall impact – on themselves, those they love – in lieu of feeling a part of something. I am amazed that the people who benefit the least from Republican policy identify with and vote Republican.

- People don’t want to take responsibility. We’d prefer to leave the decisions to our organized religions and/or political parties. It’s much easier to point to our religions and say, “Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. That’s how God wants it.” Believe it or not, you can be Christian (I was raised Catholic so this is the religion I am most comfortable discussing) and think for yourself. In fact, I would argue that Christ’s teachings advocate individual responsibility and ownership for your actions. Christ preached the Feminine; peace, love, charity. If Christ were running the country things would be a lot different. The sick wouldn’t go untreated, the hungry would be fed, we would truly strive for peace. For those of you who are Catholics or are part of an organized religion my goal is not to offend. That said, Christians should take the time to read the Gnostic Gospels and the vast amount of credible research on Christ and his teachings. I wonder why we prefer to hide behind religion but I guess the answer is clear. Why is it that your divorce, your abortion, your theft, your aggression, your lack of charity is OK? When you go against your religion’s teachings God’s Ok with it but my homosexuality is not. Because you confess and I don’t? Isn’t that convenient. I guess it is nice to have unlimited do-overs in life and our organized religions provide that.

- People won’t accept the fact that what we should be really afraid of is not outsiders but ourselves. It’s the people who are working hard to quietly erode everything this nation was built on - our rights, our privacy, our independence. Every time we make a decision like, “I think it would be great for Jennifer and Nicole to marry but there are bigger issues like national security.” or “Sure, I think a woman should be able to choose but Republicans won’t be able to overturn Roe v. Wade so what’s the big deal?” or “They would never tap my phones so I think it’s fine that they go after suspected terrorists,” we come a step closer to what we truly fear.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this diatribe but here’s the really important one. Did you really think it through when you chose your candidate? There are a lot of reasons to vote for McCain (some of them are actually good). Palin isn’t one of them. In fact, I dare say that if you are truly objective and think critically you would realize that Palin should be the final nail in the proverbial coffin. And this year, and maybe only this year for you Alex P. Keaton Republicans, you should vote the Democratic ticket.