Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well, it's Friday, and the weather is still pretty darn nice.
This morning on the drive into the office I listened to NPR, and they were playing clips of John McCain at a recent speaking engagement, talking about his new plans for government oversight and regulation of financial institutions and the markets. These clips were closely followed by town hall meetings from McCain speaking during the primaries earlier this year (I think this was in New Hampshire, but I'm not exactly sure) in which he railed against any increased regulation or "government interference" with financial systems and talked about how any such plans on the part of the Democrats could do nothing but lead us into an economic crisis.
I'm not bringing this stuff up just to show that McCain is contradicting himself (which, yes, politicians on both sides of the aisle tend to do). I'm bringing this up to show that there are, in fact, actual substantive differences in terms of economic ideologies between the two candidates. McCain may be talking about reform and greater oversight right now, but the man has been against such things for over 20 years in office, and to pretend that he's going to change now is doing nothing but paying lip service to the issue long enough to get him through the election. At heart, McCain is a "hands off", trickle down economics sort of guy. There's nothing wrong with having that belief (except that, personally, I think that sort of model really doesn't work and ends up screwing the middle class- but I respect the fact that there are people out there who have ther own, very legitimate reasons for thinking its more effective system than a system involving more government intervention). I just wish that McCain would just be honest about his ideology. It's interesting to watch him swing towards the left in order to try to win the election, while simultaneously attacking Obama, claiming that Obama's not really going to be an agent for change, while McCain has had 22 years with the good ol' boys in the Senate to effect change in terms of economic policy, but has shown no interest in doing so (and, of course, has voted with the current administration over 90% of the time). If McCain were really to be honest, he should just admit that he's a trickle down economics, no regulation sort of guy, and just argue that the economy is making a natural correction (albeit a big one) and that we'll eventually work our way through and get ourselves back on track (to a thriving economy where the rich keep getting richer). I strongly suspect that this is what McCain and many Republicans actually believe, but they just don't want to say it when so many of their middle class constituents are losing their jobs, their homes, and their health insurance.
Anyway, I think that the issue of our current economic crisis and the need to repair it is one area where people ought to be able to see a sort of clear choice between the candidates and their ideologies without letting a bunch of character attacks and political spin getting in the way.
If you want to see some of the specifics of Obama's plan to try to revitalize the economy, you can check out some of the details here (for those too lazy to click, it includes greater regulation of predatory credit card practices, greater protection for American workers through international trade agreements, infrastructure investment, tech sector and green industry investments for new jobs, a tax cut for middle class families, tougher regulations to protect against mortgage fraud and unfair lending practices, etc.). I doubt that Obama's plan contains any magic bullets, but I think it's a good start. It doesn't sound like it takes regulation too far, but it sounds like it takes aim at some serious issues that need fixing within our current economy.
McCain's plan for economic reform seems to feature, as a key component, the development of a new agency, The Mortgage and Financial Institutions Trust, whose goals are “to work with the private sector and regulators to identify institutions that are weak and take remedies to strengthen them before they become insolvent.” Pretty much I read this as an organization designed to continue the sort of ad hoc bailouts of poorly run institutions with taxpayer money (pouring more middle class taxpayer money into the top of the system in struggling financial institutions and hope that the benefits trickle down). Unsurprisingly, investors on Wall Street seem to like this sort of plan (mostly, I think, because it promises to throw them more life preservers when they get into trouble rather than trying very hard to prevent them from getting into trouble in the first place).
Anyway, I'm no economist, but I just don't think the policies in place over the last eight years have served us very well, and given his basic political ideology, I don't see things changing very much under McCain.
Thus ends my political rant of the day.

In other news, the season premier of It's Always sunny in Philadelphia was on last night. I haven't laughed that hard at a television show in a very long time. Who would have ever guessed that you could get so many laughs out of cannibalism, waterboarding, and oil prices? Anyway, that show is definitely not for everyone (they label it as MA- television meant for a mature audience, but as I told my brother, I'm not sure that anyone who's very "mature" would actually enjoy it), but it really cracks me up. The guys who write for and appear on that show are quick witted and fearless.

What else? On a more personal note, Eric Gottula, my good friend and the lead singer/songwriter for The Mono Ensemble, has just finished a new CD with his other band, Operation Moon Pie Face Destroy. I got an advanced copy of the CD a few nights ago and listened to the whole thing last night (I'm not sure it has a name yet- Eric just gave me the CD and didn't tell me). It's really good.
It's kind of strange for me, personally, to listen to it because I've been listening to Eric's music in many different configurations for a number of years now (in the Mono Ensemble and solo stuff that Eric has recorded on his own, mostly), so I still hear that sort of classic Eric quality to the music, but now it's as if he's speaking with a different voice- out of a different mouth (well, not literally out of a different mouth, since Eric still sings just about everything, but you know what I mean, hopefully).
Operation Moon Pie Face Destroy plays fun, fast tunes that kind of manage to be rockin' party music while being sort of subversive at the same time. The members of OMPFD and most of their fans tend to be a bit of a younger crowd than us old timers with Mono Ensemble, and the energy and vibrancy of that younger scene plays through in the music. This isn't to suggest that the songs don't have anything to say (the songs, in typical Eric fashion, actually tend to have a surprising weight to them, even when at first glance they may seem to be more simple), but the messages of the OMPFD songs may tend to get lost in the dancing, tequila drinkin', and general tomfoolery that seems to naturally accompany their music (and many of their live shows, if experience is any guide). It's the kind of music that just makes you naturally want to move your feet and dance around. Anyway, the CD is really good. I'm not sure exactly if, when, and how they're going to distribute it, but I'll let everyone know if they put it up on the internet for sale. You guys should definitely check it out.

One other thing. Last night I saw this game show on Fox called Hole in the Wall. The show features, true to its name, a wall with a hole in it that moves toward the contestants as they struggle to figure out how to fit through said hole without getting swept into a watery, slimey pool by the oncoming wall. The holes in the walls come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and oftentimes, when two contestants are on stage at once, teamwork is necessary in order for both of the contestants to make it through the hole (i.e., sometimes contestants may have to pick each other up, hide behind each other, etc. to make it through the hole).
For some reason the contestants on the show wear shiny unitards, and they're accompanied by a screaming cheerleader/host who stands nearby and who gets so excited during the wall-moving rounds that one might realistically expect her to pee herself with excitement before the conclusion of the show. If the moving wall/hole thing isn't enough to intrigue you, the selection of contestants might be what ends up drawing you in. Apparently not satisfied in squeezing people of average size and shape through these holes, the producers for last night's show had assembled teams of unusual sizes and shapes, including a team of little people (am I not supposed to use the phrase dwarf? I'm never clear on that) and a team full of hulked-out, female bodybuilders.
While watching the show's contestants being repeatedly swept off the stage and into the slime pit, I couldn't get past comparing the show to a fictional show called "Ow, My Nuts!!" (you can guess the theme) from the often overlooked modern cult classic, Idiocracy.
It just feels like America is getting dumber and dumber every day. We're literally shoving each other through oddly shaped holes for entertainment now.

Well, I gotta go. Maybe more later. If not, have a good weekend!


The League said...

Whether you're discussing the financial meltdown of the post-Reagan years or the current post "trickle down works!" theory of economics + deregulation = implosion, I am sure of one thing...

The rich dudes set policy. Of course they set policy that allows them to do whatever they want.

On "Hole in the Wall" (I mean, lets stick to real topics here...)

I was surprised the host was such a smarmy jerk. he was making derogatory jokes toward both groups of contestants (little people and female bodybuilders). there wasn't any reason for it. It just seemed mean-spirited and unpleasant. If ANYTHING should just be about stupid fun, it should be a show where people try to fit through a hole. In a wall.

It just seemed like an odd bit of unnecessary for a show that didn't need it.

Also: I vote we manhunt Sigmund.

J.S. said...

Are you sure Sigmund would be good for a manhunt? I think he's sort of slow and probably freezes up under pressure like a deer cuaght in headlights. Now Matt Mangum, a man who's trained himself in both the martial arts and scuba diving escape techniques, might present more of a challenge. Unless we just jump him while he's sleeping. Gorilla mask style.

Meredith said...

I think people are allowed to grow and change their opinions and ideas over time. It's a sign of strong character to me that people learn and change rather than stay stagnant in their old ways and resistant to new ideas.

Take, for example, the fact that I was raised Catholic, come from a long line of Catholics and swore I'd always be Catholic. I converted to Presbyterian 3 years ago and have loved the change for many, many reasons. But had I been so stuck in my ways and unopen to other ways of thinking, I would have never moved forward into positive change.

Whether you agree with McCain or Obama, or just plain don't care either way, I see the growth in McCain's ideas and his willingness to work for reform and change instead of working for his own personal gain. I respect a leader who is willing to look at the facts, admit maybe they were wrong or whatever, and will change along the way. We're all human.

The League said...

You make an intriguing counter-offer. Perhaps, though, we should start with Sigmund and work our ay up to Mangum?

J.S. said...

Queenie, I'm open to allowing our politicians the ability to change their minds and see things differently (and, to be honest, it should probably happen a bit more often). The question here is whether McCain really is changing his ideology (and if he changes his mind drastically enough, whether it might warrant a switch in parties), or whether he's just saying what the voters want to hear long enough to get elected. He may very well be rethinking some things in light of the current economic situation, but he's been sticking pretty strongly with his old ways of thinking for over 20 years, and it makes me suspicious when he suddenly changes his ideology (to something much more popular with the public at the moment) with less than 2 months to go before the election. Is he really changing his mind, or does he just realize that his beliefs on the economy (which seem to match the Bush philosophies that helped get us into this mess) can't carry him through the election? Anyway, suddenly the same people who have been complaining for decades about any kind of goverment "interference" with the free markets are all running to the federal government for bailouts at the rate of hundreds of billions of dollars. Seems pretty disingenuous, and the taxpayers are footing the bill.