politics

All posts tagged politics


When the victory din for Obama was ringing loudest, I must admit that I was caught up in the hope that a regime change was something more, that there was hope that this time. It would be an end to our past decades of policy sins. I should have known better.

Forget that Obama hires a Raytheon lobbyist Bill Lynn into the DOD (among other lobbyists) right after banning such action. Forget that former lobbyist Tim Geitner who now heads out treasury is a tax dodger. Forget the laughable half mil salary cap on fat cats, which only affects the top 25 employess (promote a few janitors) and ISN'T RETROACTIVE! Where's the accountability for the bailout money spent as CEO bonuses?

The hypocrisy of the left wing denouncing conservative tax cuts and ignoring democrat ones makes me want to just tell you to forget it all. But when I saw the mortgage relief plan, well I snapped back to reality. I hope you do too.

So pretend for a moment that throwing $275 billion at a trillion dollar hole was somehow enough. Here's the gist of the plan, with my comments in red:

  1. For 5 years, mortgage interest will be reduced by banks so that monthly payments are 38% or less of monthly income.
    So the tax deductible part is reduced, and even then for only 5 years. Right now it's a blessing to have any tax at all to deduct! Got Job?
  2. Treasury will help get this down further to 31%.
    …with our tax money. Just clarifying.
  3. Both banks and borrowers get paid for modifying their loan.
    We're paying these guys to do something they need to do anyways? Are the banks even trying to survive?
  4. Modified loans get bolstered insurance policies as an incentive.
    So that when fundamental real estate forces cause more foreclosures, the banks will get more protection for their assets. Aren't we supposed to be stemming those forces in the first place?

The best things for banks to do now (by my uneducated guess) is to modify as many loans as possible on the worst terms possible. This is a reckless win-win for the banks. Either get paid for modifying loans you had to anyways, or foreclose on modified loans if the asset price + insurance adds up to more than what the owner can short sale.

Really, the only solution right now is to define exactly how much capital banks need to survive, kill the real estate market to that level, and then give them the bailout money for that use only. Too bad that bailout money is made of caviar and yachts right now.

Long live change.


Due to work circumstances, I'm not in the country right now. Following international coverage, it's been very interesting to see just how addicted to our election non-Americans can be. It's quite a spectacle, this American political extravaganza, and it speaks to our ability, indeed our need to concentrate our hopes and expectations on a human element. Obama acts as a lens, a crystal clear grain that braids and magnifies those in-line with his vision, yet scatters the vagrant rays of the misaligned for future self-reflection.

It's very unfair to say that Obama's supporters are the new America. But they are certainly the empowered America. I don't think this nation should be divided, and I think the "old" America should realize that it's time to step up and support Obama as our president. I said the same about Bush, and I'll say the same about Obama, and any future president we elect- a part of America made that choice, and we should respect that other part as soon as the divisiveness is over. Look at the election maps; the states are split in mini-majorities even on a per county basis. There is no prototype American. In fact that's our strength.

Remember that our Founding Fathers did not always intend for everyone to be able to vote. They wanted voters to be educated on the issues, and to show their responsibility with property ownership and such qualifications. The reason we have the electoral system today is because our Founding Father, despite their misgivings about the mobocracy, realized that as a republic, the participation in government is not a Federal business. And so the responsibility went to the States.

So please, dear Americans. I feel this very acutely being so far from home. Remember your roots. Remember your history. Remember that even though the States give every American the opportunity to vote, you have a responsibility to vote as an educated individual, and part of that education should be realizing just how diverse and unique our nation really is, and how the electoral system exists to protect that. Remember that the electoral system was so important to them because whoever the minority opinion, no matter how wrong, is still part of America.


People have forgotten how tough things used to be. This is true of both the today’s recession and Mega Man 9. The market is in near panic right now, if you go by the put option prices that have hit all time highs. Check out the ^VIX volatility index for an idea how that looks… you’re looking at a spike in FEAR.

But somehow I’m not fazed yet. People in this recession don’t really know how bad the coming depression will be. People in the coming depression won’t know how bad the Great Depression was. And those who lived during the Great Depression just vaguely remember how rough depressions before that had been. Short memories are so divinely human. We think politics today is more corrupt than before, or wars are more pandemic, or racism more intolerable.

Is that why we crave nostalgia? This idealized summary of the good of the past? Mega Man 9 faceplants me in a slab of nostalgia. What was it about the originals that made them stand the test of time and technology to be fun to this day?

I like to think Mega Man was the first game character in tribute to gastronome Brillat-Savarin, who famously said “you are what you eat”. Mega Man begins as weak as the player, and as he culls the weak theme-bots and usurps their collective powers into his own, he evolves at the player’s will. Mega Man was the ultimate predator.

And he was a man of character. His arsenal was fought for, not given. His name implied great size, but he is as dimmunitive as Alexander Pope, yet this mechanical everyman has every bit as much wrath. He’s a blank slate, a surrogate for all our platforming victories, yet a myth for our ignoble deaths to those goddamn spikes.

Boy, do I crave real men to lead us today. How can anyone who remembers the long shadows of men like Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, or Andrew Jackson, bear to vote in this coming election? How did the Republicans become the antithesis to every fiscal stance they claim? How did Democrats become raging hypocrites, hating the very people they propose to help? If video games have gotten too easy today, then life certainly ain’t churnin’ out winners.

“Satan is wiser now than before, and tempts by making rich instead of poor.”

If you listen to the anti-capitalists, they will tell you that the answer is “none, the market will fix the problem.” And then they’ll tell you that the market hasn’t fixed the problem, and that’s why Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should be taken back into tight government control.

If you are an intelligent human being, you should understand that that line is a turd of bullshit so large you’d never stop counting the agendas embedded in it like corn in crap. Was that disgusting enough imagery for you? ‘Cuz that’s how you should be feeling right now.

What part of “backed by the government, yo” tattooed on F&F’s back sounds privatized? You see, it’s not just how you run the company, it’s not just what investors are rubbing your balls in cash, it’s what your contingency plan is. And when that plan is “the Treasury will bail us out” then that is NOT free market. Unless you think it has no effect on the decisions/mistakes they make.

F&F are GSEs. This means they were created by the government, for the government, regardless of how “privately” they are run. The Fed gives them cheap loans that they securitize for a profit and then pass on to borrowers, who have special faith in that relationship.

So now look at the Fed’s latest bail-out plan:

  • F&F CEO removed… GOOD, though I’m sure they get some nice parachutes…
  • F&F Conservatorship… RIGHT, because the goverment’s had such a good track record before…
  • Buyer of the Last Resort… WHAT? So the Fed keeps F&F stock afloat with $200 billion of our money? BTW there is only the “last resort” left, ding dong.
  • 10% per annum portfolio reduction… WTF?! Who the hell? Wha…? How are you going to achieve this, how is this relevant, and what are you saying when you tell a company to reduce its business as you buy up its stock with our money?

All that does is keep or lower existing mortgage rates. Solving the credit crisis is not going to address the lack of DEMAND for things to DO with that credit. Like I’m really going to buy a house now that lending rates fell 1% when the nation is facing mass unemployment and inflation. Like I’d really solve the latter by doing the former anyways.

You’d think the Republicans would be against ham-handed intervention. Too bad they’ve confused F&F with Terry Schiavo.

We just finished Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica… oh my god this show is good. I keep calling it a Republican version of West Wing in space…. but it's just so much more intense and you'd imagine, somewhere near ER and The Shield. I've also deduced who the final Cyclon…

…and it sure ain't Hillary. I think we can safely expect her to announce withdrawal tonite. And it's about fucking time. I've complained enough about how unscrupulous of a human being she is, let's forget that for now. Let's just focus on the fact that after the Bush administration, there shouldn't even be talk of a race between Republicans and Democrats. It was in the bag. Her actions in the last few months were the single most harmful thing to the DNC's future, far better than what the opposition could cook up. If you haven't seen the brilliant SNL mock ad, watch it now, it's viciously succinct in its summary of follies.

SPOILERS!!!
Anyways, back to BSG, the last Cyclon must be Dualla. Here's my evidence:

  1. Dualla's first name is Anastasia, which means "resurrection."
  2. Leoben tells Roslin early on in the show that one of the Adamas is a Cyclon. Dualla, having married Lee, is now an Adama. Anastasia Adama to be exact.
  3. Each of the final four Cyclon were paired with an important human element. Lee Adama, who's last name means "man" and "earth," is no exception. We can expect the last Cyclon to be part of a pair.
  4. Dualla is a Sagittaron. Lee's callsign is Apollo. On Caprica, Starbuck seeks the "Arrow of Apollo" as the way to Earth, and that arrow was placed in Sagittaron's bow to open the Tomb of Athena. This implies the two of them are destined for something related to Earth.
  5. D'Anna recognizes the final cyclon on the Algae Planet. Dualla is the one that gives D'Anna the tour on Galactica.


So what does this mean? Well, my theory is that Starbuck, who represents the self-destructiveness of man, leads them to Earth only to find that it's a conflict ground for humans and Cyclons. For millenia, this cycle of humans versus machines has been happening, hence the hybrid's warning that "it has happened, and will happen again." Starbuck, being the ultimate Cyclon killer, is not only keeping human and Cyclon apart militarily, but her love triangle with Lee keeps Lee (human) and Dualla (Cyclon) apart metaphorically as well.

This means that at some point Lee will have to choose between Dualla and Starbuck, essentially choosing between the unification of man and Cyclon, and perpetuating the cycle of war. I'm still trying to figure out what role Hera will play in all of this, but that's what is so compelling about this show… it keeps you guessing even when so much evidence has already been in plain sight for you to dwell on.

This post is going to attempt pulling three disparate subjects I wanted to talk about into one coherent rant… ready?

I’m savagely disappointed in John McCain, my candidate of choicelessness, and was dismayed to hear Michael Hollick’s complaints about being underpaid for his voice acting role as the main character of Grand Theft Auto IV. These happened within a week of each other, and got me incensed by how this country is dominated by populist feel-good, and not rational understanding.

McCain, along with the hypocritical bitch whose husband I’ve already written about, is pushing for a Gas Tax Holiday paid for by money the government doesn’t have (until it taxes it out of the people). Like the biodiesel fad that has led to mass starvation in worldwide food shortages, it stokes that unjustified indignation people have who think Big Oil is plundering the common man. Meanwhile, Hollick, telling the NY Times of the “mere” $100,000 he made voicing Nico Bellic, made the presumptuous remark, saying “But it’s tough, when you see Grand Theft Auto IV out there as the biggest thing going right now, when they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars, and we don’t see any of it.”

I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged recently, after a debate with a co-worker where he felt I didn’t fully understand Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy and had represented it unfairly in my Bioshock article. After reading it, I’ve realized that I was more right than I ever knew. She created a complete strawman for her Atlas’ and now I know I can’t point out any flaw in her logic if I’m in the same room as her fans/cultists. But I did gain an appreciation for how deeply she feels for the great men and women who are assaulted for their wealth and power by the very people who depend on it.

And I have a similar if less fervent feeling for Big Oil. Yes I’m going to defend them. Do you people know that Big Oil has had a declining profit margin since Standard Oil? That Big Oil today has a lower profit margin (7-9%) than most other industries (look up the highest yourself)? And that’s without the reinvestment into infrastructure people damn them for! Did you know that the government’s gasoline taxes rake in twice as much as Big Oil revenues?

But Big Oil has made so much money! They should give back to the people, cried the looters! Did you know that if you graph Big Oil’s “huge” profits to oil consumption, the correlation damns no one but the oil-gobbling people ourselves? Did you know that Big Oil isn’t even that big? Exxon (the largest of Big Oil) ranks 14th largest in the world, the biggest being ARAMCO which is 12 times its size! Sure, let’s return Big Oil to the mercy of the people, let’s just make it state-owned… like the 13 other oil giants in the world that dwarf “Big” Oil.

So when Hollick says it’s hard to watch GTA make millions, isn’t he right? It’s not like he signed a contract agreeing to all these terms, nor had any idea of the popularity of the world’s best-selling game beforehand. Clearly he was misled. He should have protested the obvious exploitation by letting another unknown actor take the $100,000 blow that was merely better than average for opportunity starved voice actors whose video game work isn’t protected by their own selfless union. :rolleyes:

Where Ayn Rand was wrong was her trust in the utilitarian nobility of the elites in capitalism, a trust not so different than the trust in the working man found in her nemesis: socialism. But her dangerously seductive philosophy was birthed from a real and tragic irony. If you run a business, shall I punish you when people can’t get enough of your product? When the people force profits upon you, shall I force you to give back charitably? Shall I take your right to pursue profit in the name of National Security, along with wire-tapping and waterboarding?

So then, tell me what right Hollick has to feel anymore pain than the hundreds of other people who worked far more for far less pay and fame, whose efforts in anonymity made Nico Bellic possible? Tell me what right Hollick has to the millions GTA made, when any number of elements in that game could have become the clincher to its appeal? Did anyone buy GTA because Michael Hollick was starring in it?

Then tell me what right we have to demand Big Oil’s morality at our feet, when it is us who drank in the prosperity of energy irresponsibility until the mirage began to fade?

The two big swaths of entertainment for us this past week has been Iron Man (which Xstine and I saw for a combined 5 times!) and, of course, Grand Theft Auto 4.

Ah, GTA4… I quickly got bored of the original Playstation one, but somehow this latest entry has really brought back the fun. THere is a certain threshold that the right amount of variety crosses to give you the feeling of an infinitely rich world, and they were finally able to pull it off. Don't get me wrong, there are still obvious repetition in peds and vehicles, and the facial animation isn't nearly as well done as people seem to think, but all is forgiven the moment you enter this beautiful game. They've set a standard in time-of-day lighting, panoramas, and sheer environmental variety. Every part of town has it's own flavor reflecting the virtual "realities" of the local economy, history, and people. It's as close to a living breathing city as we have in video games.

The gameplay interests in a different way. Sometimes, the missions can be unforgivingly hard since the camera is utterly obtuse, and the controls are a mash-up of schemas that just couldn't get along. I suppose they had no choice, but there is certainly little elegance in getting your protagonist Nico Bellic to do a wide range of mundane to violent actions. Somehow, the sandbox play eases up the difficulty scaling by letting you go on murderous tangents whenever you feel frustration rising. It's very self-regulating. I may be en route to a critical mission when an off-the-cuff remark from a sassy pedestrian will send me into a rampage, and an hour later I've accomplished nothing but a trail of bodies. What better way to take out my frustrations at repeated mission failings.

That lack of progress is a bit tiring, and the game's punishment system is too binary (being arrested is worse than dying because you get all weapons stripped?), and the saving is a penalty itself (you can't save mid-mission, you can't quit missions, and you only have one place in a huge town to save). But for once I can overlook fundamental gameplay flaws because the game isn't just polished, it *is* polish. From the endless webpages you can browse to a huge amount of television and radio content, there is no shortage of quality satire of every aspect of our real lives. There's too much to absorb that it's almost paralyzing.

There is even an in-game joke referencing idiot attorney extraordinaire Jack Thompson, who oh-so-cleverly phoned into NPR to voice his misguided attack on the game's content. Unfortunately, the gamer correspondent on the show made for pitiful defense. Gamers need to stop masturbating over the game's features and start talking about the issues intelligently.

It's ignorant to claim games can't incite violence. There is no way that that amount of violent exposure doesn't cause some level of aggressiveness or desensitization. Gamers need to accept that. Then they need to turn around and point out the double-edge sword that treats games as brainwashing kill trainers, but pretends violence in TV, film, comics, books, music, or any other medium is innocuous. Yes, GTA4 will end up in the hands of certain impressionable children, but you can't sue Take-Two for that, you have to blame the retailers. And frankly, they really can't, because game retailers have done a great job controlling sales to minors. Check out the FTC report yourself.

But since stupid lawyers want to reduce games to nothing but murder sims, I see nothing wrong with putting lawyers into games as nothing but sims to murder. After so many violent games, it's not like we have the free-will to think otherwise.

On Wednesday, the Olympic torch passed through San Francisco and we went down to Embarcadero for lunch to see the festivities. Predictably, the well-to-do-but-willfully-modest lower-upper-middle-class yuppies were out in force, holding aloft signs emblazoned in magic marker fury. Free Tibet! Down With China! Free Burma! Free Darfur! Free Sudan!

Fights almost broke out if not for the meaningful police presence. In the distance, I saw a Free Tibet banner, floating above a sea of sight-seeing baseball caps, meet a giant red flag of China. They lowered quickly, disappearing into the mass, and then people erupted in a mix of cheering and jeering. It wasn’t as bad as earlier in the day when protesters shook a bus they thought contained the Olympic torch, but it really caught the feelings of the moment. I watched bemused as an old Chinese woman yelled at a Free Burma chick to “stop causing trah-bul” or when an elderly man argued with a kid who had no idea what his Free Darfur T-shirt really meant.

Then again, it’s not like the adults understood what it all meant either. I don’t want to get too contentious, but the Free Tibet people have to understand that since the Mongols conquered them, Tibet has never been considered a free nation by anyone except themselves. As unfair as it is, the world runs on established documents and treaties, and none exist declaring Tibetan sovereignty.

Instead, the international community recognizes the Succession of States principle that essentially says when one state takes over another, it assumes the former’s assets. In this view, Tibet was passed over from Mongols to the Qing, Qing to ROC, and finally ROC to PRC. Interestingly, Taiwan (the ROC) actually denies Tibet’s independence. Not one foreign government supports Tibetan independence despite criticizing the violence- the world would fall apart! States would be meaningless.

So what defines a state? The answer, sadly, is everyone else. Without international diplomatic recognition, no amount of desire for independence can *make* you a state, anymore than Hawaii’s islanders can declare themselves historically sovereign from the United States. Tibetans validly point out China colonized them by force, but that essentially validates they are a subjugated state. Are our southern states rightfully independent because the Civil War formed the Union by force?

One cannot go around earning freedom by demanding it. Knowing the Chinese people well, protests and shame are only going to reinforce their adamancy. If we want results, first take politics out of the Olympics, as it was always meant to be. Then treat China as a peer, don’t bring Western arrogance to the table. They will follow that lead far better than any empty threats. Or crazies yelling out “FREE CASINOS FOR TIBET!