Thursday, October 09, 2008

The government privatizes profit and socializes loss.

Here is a sentence ever American should become acquainted with: The government privatizes profit and socializes loss.
What does it mean? Well, consider this. The two arguments against a national health care system from the right are always, it will cost way too much and giving everyone health care is socialism.
Get it? We can’t have health care because here in America we apply the rules of capitalism to dying cancer patients.
Do you know what the 850 Billion dollar bail out of Wall Street is?

We are giving them money for failure while we cannot provide health care to sick people without a company making a profit. But if that company really fucks up and they are really big, they might be lucky enough to receive a check to cover their loss thanks to the American taxpayer.
That is socialism.
We do it for companies but not for people.

Right now we have a government whose interests are aligned with big business. Hey, go look up that description. You know what that definition of our current situation is?
When the government and business merge as almost one single entity you have fascism.
But when those companies go belly up they get the world largest welfare check from us.
America, you are being fucked every way they can think of fucking you and the problem has gotten so big that it now has the chance to bring down the entire global economy.

25 Billion dollars went to the big three automakers too. You didn’t hear about that did you? It looks like a small number when you put it alongside the 850 Billion dollar Wall Street bail out. By the way, that’s how much the bail out was, 850 Billion and counting. Whenever I hear about it on the news, they keep saying 700 Billion.
It keeps going up too. Yesterday they gave AIG; an insurance firm that backed all the ridiculous mortgages another 37 Billion!
Why did Detroit need a bail out? Because they fought change and even though the writing has been on the wall for more than ten years, Detroit insisted on keeping fuel mileage poor and not investing in future technologies. While the rest of the world correctly realized that they needed to start finding new ways of making autos, Detroit happily churned out SUV’s that you can now buy six to eight thousand dollars cheaper than they were last year.
Once again the government has given a check for shortsightedness and failure while most people struggle to repay student loans, make house payments and buy food.
The government privatizes profit and socializes loss.
You get it? When the big companies make money, they get to keep it. When they fail spectacularly they get more of our money.
It’s a great system!

Oroville Casino Gig

A gig is a gig is a gig. Right? Most of the time they are. Last night I performed at the Gold Country Casino in Oroville, CA. With a casino gig you know that the check will be good but the concern is always how the stage is set up. You know how casinos have those bars by a stage set up for a band? Its great for a band but since the “room” is open to the casino there is a wall of noise like thunder that you have no choice but to yell over. Any joke with subtlety anything that requires the crowd to pay attention is lost to the sound of slot machines, bells and the occasional buzzer sound. In other words, it is a shitty place to do comedy.

I don’t get it. I really don’t. If you are going to go to all the trouble of Booking comics and putting on a show then be smart enough to understand that stand-up and bands have very different requirements for a successful show. Screaming into a mic as I try to get the attention of a room filled with disinterested red necks is not my idea of where I want my career to go. It looked like a NASCAR convention. Every guy had a ball cap on and a sweat stained t-shirt. The casino itself looked like a retirement home. They know who their clientele is. The room I had was beautiful. A huge bathtub built for two and a shower with no door and a ledge to sit on. You know how draining a shower can be. It’s nice to have the option of sitting down. Handrails were all over the bathroom too. You will never feel more lonely than masturbating in a tub big enough for two.

When I asked the DJ whats the big news in town or what the big thing going on lately was he thought about it for a second and then replied, “We have a big problem with meth.”
Yeah. I am goanna pass on that local reference.
The only other thing I was told about the town was that the lake was low. In fact, the girl at the Burger King counter told me this as if it was her fault. Sorry to bring it up.

These little towns in the central valley are like time capsules. I saw a shakey’s pizza place. I haven’t seen one of those in ten or twelve years. I never ate at one. I don’t like to eat at a place named after a symptom.

When I show up at the gig the MC/DJ dude sits me down and tells me the best way for me to succeed at this gig is to “…ignore the audience.”
I am consistently amazed that the guys in charge of these rooms are surprised that they have more bad shows than good.
“If the crowd yells something stupid out. Ignore it and please don’t say fuck you to them.”
Do you know what the signs are for a consistently poorly run show? Telling a comic you just met that the crowds here are prone to drunk yelling and more than a few comics have just said, fuck it and walked off the stage early.
They have done stand-up shows here for two and a half years.

He introduces me as being from San Francisco. When he says it though he says San Francisco with a noticeable lisp.
You should always create a stereotypical hole for the comic to climb out of the second he hits the stage.
I end up doing OK for what it was. People would just file in or come and go as they pleased. At one point I was telling the crowd to check out my site and that I needed to wrap up. The MC/DJ walks up to the stage and motions for me to bend over to him with his hand.
“Dude. You have to do another 12 minuets.”
No shit rhythm killer. I doubt you have seen many pros on a gig like this but walking up to the stage in the middle of a joke is a stupid unprofessional move.

Sorry. But everything about this gig was bad.
From the moron girl who couldn’t use the computer to check me in because she just got her nails done with little pumpkins on them to the MC/DJ’s girlfriend reminding me that she was indeed his girlfriend when I asked her what her name was again. Thanks but no thanks. I was asking to be polite not so I could fuck you. Honestly darling, do you really think I want to hook up in Oroville?
And that’s pretty much how the gig went. I drove three hours, hung out in a beautiful hotel room alone-it’s bathtub for two mocking me-and then shouted jokes over the din of people playing slots to a mostly indifferent audience of rednecks in baseball caps, got back in my car and drove three hours home. It still beats working for a living but these are not the gigs I want to have anything to do with anymore.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where it went astray

I am a junkie. Of news and ideas. I am taking the unprecedented step of reposting someones elses article. He does a great job of connecting the dots from 9/11 to our current financial crisis.
By Andrew J. Bacevich
Sunday, October 5, 2008; Page B03

It's widely thought that the biggest gamble President Bush ever took was deciding to invade Iraq in 2003. It wasn't. His riskiest move was actually one made right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he chose not to mobilize the country or summon his fellow citizens to any wartime economic sacrifice. Bush tried to remake the world on the cheap, and as the bill grew larger, he still refused to ask Americans to pay up. During this past week, that gamble collapsed, leaving the rest of us to sort through the wreckage.

To understand this link between today's financial crisis and Bush's wider national security decisions, we need to go back to 9/11 itself. From the very outset, the president described the "war on terror" as a vast undertaking of paramount importance. But he simultaneously urged Americans to carry on as if there were no war. "Get down to Disney World in Florida," he urged just over two weeks after 9/11. "Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed." Bush certainly wanted citizens to support his war -- he just wasn't going to require them actually to do anything. The support he sought was not active but passive. It entailed not popular engagement but popular deference. Bush simply wanted citizens (and Congress) to go along without asking too many questions.

So his administration's policies reflected an oddly business-as-usual approach. Senior officials routinely described the war as global in scope and likely to last decades, but the administration made no effort to expand the armed forces. It sought no additional revenue to cover the costs of waging a protracted conflict. It left the nation's economic priorities unchanged. Instead of sacrifices, it offered tax cuts. So as the American soldier fought, the American consumer binged, encouraged by American banks offering easy credit.

From September 2001 until September 2008, this approach allowed Bush to enjoy nearly unfettered freedom of action. To fund the war on terror, Congress gave the administration all the money it wanted. Huge bipartisan majorities appropriated hundreds of billions of dollars, producing massive federal deficits and pushing the national debt from roughly $6 trillion in 2001 to just shy of $10 trillion today. Even many liberal Democrats who decried the war routinely voted to approve this spending, as did conservative Republicans who still trumpeted their principled commitment to fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets.

Bush seems to have calculated -- cynically but correctly -- that prolonging the credit-fueled consumer binge could help keep complaints about his performance as commander in chief from becoming more than a nuisance. Members of Congress calculated -- again correctly -- that their constituents were looking to Capitol Hill for largesse, not lessons in austerity. In this sense, recklessness on Main Street, on Wall Street and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue proved mutually reinforcing.

For both the Bush administration and Congress, this gambit has turned out to be clever rather than smart. The ongoing crisis on Wall Street has now, in effect, ended the Bush presidency. Meanwhile, a month before elections, panic-stricken members of Congress are desperately trying to insulate Main Street from the effects of that crisis -- or at least to pass the blame onto someone else.

But in less obvious ways, the economic crisis also renders a definitive verdict on the country's post-9/11 national security strategy. The "go to Disney World" approach to waging war has produced large, unanticipated consequences. When the American people, as instructed, turned their attention back to enjoying life, their hankering for prosperity without pain deprived the administration of the wherewithal needed over the long haul to achieve some truly ambitious ends.

Even today, the scope of those ambitions is not widely understood, in part due to the administration's own obfuscations. After September 2001, senior officials described U.S. objectives as merely defensive, designed to prevent further terrorist attacks. Or they wrapped America's purposes in the gauze of ideology, saying that our aim was to spread freedom and eliminate tyranny. But in reality, the Bush strategy conceived after 9/11 was expansionist, shaped above all by geopolitical considerations. The central purpose was to secure U.S. preeminence across the strategically critical and unstable greater Middle East. Securing preeminence didn't necessarily imply conquering and occupying this vast region, but it did require changing it -- comprehensively and irrevocably. This was not some fantasy nursed by neoconservatives at the Weekly Standard or the American Enterprise Institute. Rather, it was the central pillar of the misnamed enterprise that we persist in calling the "global war on terror."

At a Pentagon press conference on Sept. 18, 2001, then-defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld let the cat out of the bag: "We have a choice, either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live, and we chose the latter." This was not some slip of the tongue. The United States was now out to change the way "they" -- i.e., hundreds of millions of Muslims living in the Middle East -- live. Senior officials did not shrink from -- perhaps even relished -- the magnitude of the challenges that lay ahead. The idea, wrote chief Pentagon strategist Douglas J. Feith in a May 2004 memo, was to "transform the Middle East and the broader world of Islam generally."

But if the administration's goals were grandiose, its means were modest. The administration's governing assumption was that the U.S. military, as constituted in late 2001, ought to suffice to transform the Middle East. Bush could afford to tell the American people to go on holiday and head back to the mall because the indomitable American soldier could be counted on to liberate (and thereby pacify) the Muslim world.

For a while, that seemed to work: The Taliban fell quickly, with little need for the U.S. taxpayer to shell out for a larger military. But the Bush team turned quickly to Iraq, hoping to demonstrate on an even grander scale what the determined exercise of U.S. power could achieve. This proved a fatal miscalculation. After five and a half years of arduous effort, Iraq continues to drain U.S. resources on a colossal scale. Violence is down, but expenditures are not. An end to the U.S. commitment is nowhere in sight.

The achievements of Gen. David H. Petraeus notwithstanding, the primary lesson of the Iraq war remains this one: To imagine that the United States can easily and cheaply invade, occupy and redeem any country in the Muslim world is sheer folly. That holds true in Afghanistan, too, where the reinforcements that Gen. David D. McKiernan, the recently appointed U.S. commander, says he needs to turn things around will be unavailable until at least next spring.

Yet there is an economic lesson here too. "We have more will than wallet," the president's father said in 1989 during his own inaugural address. That is again painfully true today. The 2008 election finds the Pentagon cupboard bare, the U.S. Treasury depleted, the economy in disarray and the average American household feeling acute distress. Profligacy at home and profligacy abroad have combined to produce a grave crisis. This time around, telling Americans to head for Disney World won't work. The credit card's already maxed out, and the banks are refusing to pony up for new loans.

It's not surprising that people don't cotton to the idea of spending $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. Nor should they find it acceptable to spend as much as that, or more, to perpetuate a misguided and never-ending global war. But like it or not, the bill collector is pounding on the door. Bush's parting gift to the nation will be to let others figure out how to settle accounts.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book is "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism."