Friday, February 27, 2009

Grief #1

It's now been a full two weeks since I received the news that my good friend Nathan had died.

So far I would take a bit of issue with the idea of the "stages" of grief, at least as I've heard of them. I definitely see that the early days of knowing of his death were characterized primarily by a refusal to admit, emotionally to myself, that he was gone.

These days I'm definitely very angry. However, my experience of the anger is in a sense an expression of denial. It is not that I feel angry at Nathan for dying, or even for taking his own life. I feel angry in the way that we used to feel angry together, an unfocused, juvenile dissatisfaction with the obvious cravenness and parsimony of the world and the people in it. I feel angry so that I can be close to the ferocious, passionate intensity that made it so hard for me to reach out to Nathan while he was alive, to drink it in one last time.

So I am angry with my kitchen for being messy, and at my family for expecting me to do my job and clean it up. I am angry with my parents for all the things they ever said to me that I didn't want to hear, and also for all the things that they didn't say to me that I needed to hear. I'm angry with my high school teachers for not understanding me. I'm angry at my high school crushes for not falling in love with me. I'm angry with my cats, the trees in my yard, my muddy lawn, my cracked driveway, and my ridiculous heap of a car.

I wish I could write all this on a card and tape it to my chest so that the people who cross me in minor, insignificant ways over the coming weeks will understand that yes, there IS a reason why this normally easygoing guy is looking like he might punch them for blocking his path in the produce section of the grocery store.

The reason is because when I stop being angry and go back to being myself, then Nathan will really be gone. And I'm not there yet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Raul's Reflection #3

When someone says "I don't understand" it is usually assumed that he is describing something he has tried and failed to do.

It's worth remembering that he may be describing something he has succeeded in doing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Raul's Reflection #2

People often say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Pessimists like the phrase because it confirms their pessimism. Cynics like it because it excuses their intellectual laziness.

I myself, being an optimist, like the phrase too. Who, after all, would want to travel to hell on an unpaved road?

Pennywise, Pound Feckless

I liked this Yglesias post on Obama rolling the Blue Dogs, but it seemed like he buried the lede a bit.

I'd like to see a whole post on the phenomenon of GOP and right-wing Dem "fiscal conservatism."

The plain fact is, for decades the people in US government with a reputation for fiscal conservatism (that is, the GOP and their righty-Dem pals like Ben Nelson) maintain that reputation by spending as much time as possible on television scolding Americans about why they cannot have useful, well-run government services because those programs cost too much money, despite the fact that most of the programs they say this about do not add anything significant to the deficit, either this year's budget or the budget 10 years from now.

Yet these same politicians are always, ALWAYS the ones arguing in favor of truly wasteful, budget busting spending - giant, failed wars whose purpose no one can explain, for example. They are always front and center telling us why we can't do anything to contain medical costs, despite the fact that our country wastes more money on unneeded administrative costs and unhelpful, mass-production medical treatments than most other countries spend on anything, period.

In short, "fiscal responsibility" in the modern media environment is a sham. The people who cultivate a reputation for it are con artists with big PR budgets. The people who really value fiscal conservatism - that is, real Democrats - know that it is but one of many important principles of governance, so they are not able to compete with the hucksters who pretend, when it's convenient to do so, that it is the most important thing in the goddamn universe.

Obama's right that the right path to fiscal health is a repair of the broken finance sytsem, a return to full employment, medical reform, and fewer giant failed wars whose purpose no one can explain.

If you do those things, there is no way to run a crippling deficit in the richest country in the world by spending too much money studying how much methane is released by cow farts.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

In Defense of the Compromise

[Cross posted at Yglesias' House]

At the risk of sounding like a centrist morally bankrupt appeaser (and I hope a cursory reading of my work over the years would dispel the notion that I’m USUALLY singing such a tune, regardless of what you think of my POV at this instant) I think this is one of those moments where we’re all getting a bit hot and bothered because we’re refusing to see this in terms of political interests rather than policy principles.

I was as disappointed as anyone to see that so much aid to the states had been cut. Just about all liberals seem to be in agreement that such a thing makes no sense. I am in wholehearted agreement with that assessment, and I also share a lot of the angst over some of the smaller cuts that were made as well.

But the reality is that Senate rules and recent Senate practices make it the case that a committed minority of at least 40 Senators can block legislation. The current GOP Senate caucus constitutes such a committed minority.

What the Democrats did in this case was allow a detachment of the Democratic caucus made up of members who, for whatever reason, don’t like the stimulus that much but who are willing to go along with it if they get something out of it to get together with a detachment of Republicans who don’t like the stimulus that much but who are willing to go along with it if they get something out of it.

What I’m hearing from a lot of liberals is that the Democrats should instead have forced the GOP into a game of chicken where we would have risked deep-sixing this stimulus bill on the theory that some Republicans would cave anyway, and that if they didn’t we could try to ram it through under budget rules. That may well have worked. But we can’t know. More importantly, OBAMA can’t know. And that’s why, obviously, he’s going to prefer this shitty compromise to a coordinated PR high-wire act that could doom his presidency if it were to fail.

The bottom line is that passing this bill strengthens (in this order) Obama, wishy-washy center-right pseudodemocrats like Ben Nelson, and wishy-washy center-right Republicans like Olympia Snowe. Is that a perfect outcome, even in political terms? Hell, no. But guess what? The people who have the power to decide what happens with this bill are Obama, wishy-washy center-right pseudodemocrats like Ben Nelson, and wishy-washy center-right Republicans like Olympia Snowe.

That’s life in 2009. To change it, we need a powerful Democratic President and more and better Democrats. Full stop.

I’m all for bringing this all up again when Nelson or any of the other “moderate” Dems are running in Democratic primaries down the road. They should of course face angry Democrats in those primaries, and if the Democrats of their states are angry enough, we’ll throw them out and get some real Democrats.

But right now, at least by all appearances, THIS fight is over. And we won. Let’s act like it.