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“Inside Job”: They Got Away with It. And Obama Let Them.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times is out with a review of “Inside Job,” a documentary by Charles Ferguson of the Wall Street Meltdown of 2008. I’m going to quote from Scott’s review; you can read it all here.

Two years ago at this time, a month before the presidential election, my friends and I were wondering if we’d all lose our homes and end up sleeping in tents in the woods. (I’d head for the Iroquois River a few miles from my house, because the fairgrounds are public land.) People were buying guns and ammo, and I asked, “Will everyone have to have a gun?”

I’ve only fired a shotgun once in my life, and that was plenty. It had more kick than the Indianapolis Colts. I hate guns, but there I was, asking if the chaos to come would mean total lawlessness, a complete breakdown of society.

That did not come to pass. I credit the bank bailout known as TARP passed two years ago this week by Congress under President Bush.

Senator Barack Obama supported it; Senator John McCain “suspended his campaign” for President, then sat on the sidelines because he really had nothing to do with it. It took two tries in Congress before the bill went through.

It was of course the most politically unpalatable piece of legislative garbage any politician has ever swallowed. But we needed it to prevent a rerun of the Great Depression. Other countries also bailed out their banks, some were nationalized, some were sold for pennies on the dollar, and the whole world squeaked through.

Sen. Obama was elected President a month later, and then made the worst mistakes of his life, more disastrous than Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Obama will be entirely to blame for whatever losses Democrats suffer in the upcoming election.

Why? He let the crooks get away with it.

In doing so he followed standard political advice; but never were political advisers more wrong than the same folks – Axelrod, Plouffe, Emanuel – who carried out the most brilliant political campaign in history.

I don’t want to punish the current president; I like him as a man. But gee whiz, how dumb can you get?

The standard political advice for an incoming administration is “turn the page.” Don’t go after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, or you’ll have nothing but political warfare.

I agree with that, even though I hated every minute of Bush-Cheney; holding them accountable under the law would have led immediately to political gridlock.

So what do we have now? Political gridlock.

I agreed, very reluctantly, with Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, even though by rights he should have died in prison.

You simply cannot put an elected President of the United States in prison. You just can’t, no matter how much he may have trampled on the Constitution. An elected President has a democratic mandate no court but the elected Senate can remove. When Democrats didn’t impeach Bush and Cheney in 2007, it was Game Over. (That was Nancy Pelosi’s bad advice. Someone should have told her Bush’s illegal war is not Clinton’s blowjob. But she was scared of the media and more gridlock.)

There’s a big difference between indicting Dumb and Dumber, and indicting people who were never elected to anything but a cushy job at Goldman Sachs.

Obama should have sent U.S. Marshals to Wall Street to round them all up. If he’d done that, Democrats would win 80 more seats in the House next month. He’d be the most popular president ever.

Instead he leaves us with this mess.

Joe Biden can whine all he wants to about “whining liberals,” but I have no sympathy. Obama lost the liberals and the moderates because of his own stupid decisions.

He let Wall Street get away with it, while millions of people have lost their homes, their jobs and their retirement savings.

From A.O. Scott’s review:

As I was watching “Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson’s meticulous and infuriating documentary about the causes and consequences of the financial crisis of 2008, an odd, archaic sentence kept popping into my head. The words come from the second chapter of “The Scarlet Letter” and are spoken in frustration and disgust by an old Puritan woman who watches Hester Prynne, publicly disgraced but without any sign of remorse, making her way from Salem’s prison to a scaffold in its market square. She “has brought shame upon us all …” the anonymous woman remarks. “Is there not law for it?”

“Inside Job,” a sleek, briskly paced film whose title suggests a heist movie, is the story of a crime without punishment, of an outrage that has so far largely escaped legal sanction and societal stigma. The betrayal of public trust and collective values that Mr. Ferguson chronicles was far more brazen and damaging than the adultery in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, which treated Hester more as scapegoat than villain.

The gist of this movie, which begins in a mood of calm reflection and grows angrier and more incredulous as it goes on, is unmistakably punitive. The density of information and the complexity of the subject matter make “Inside Job” feel like a classroom lecture at times, but by the end Mr. Ferguson has summoned the scourging moral force of a pulpit-shaking sermon. That he delivers it with rigor, restraint and good humor makes his case all the more devastating.

Two years ago while I was wondering if I’d lose my house, my car and all my savings, I couldn’t help but remember that “the last time this happened,” (not true; it was 1920), somebody bombed J.P. Morgan’s headquarters at 23 Wall Street, injuring 400 and killing 38.

I don’t want anyone hurt, but why, I wondered, was public rage not directed at Wall Street’s self-described “geniuses” who nearly brought down the entire world financial system?

No arrests, no indictments, no nothing. Just complaints from Wall Street wives that they couldn’t be seen tramping around with bags from Tiffany’s and Bergdorf’s without getting nasty looks. Poor babies!

A.O. Scott in The Times wonders why so little rage has been directed at the Wall Street titans. Yes, there were a few chartered buses to scout out their mansions in Westchester, but nothing came of that. He writes about the movie:

This call to arms makes you wonder why anger of the kind so eloquently expressed in “Inside Job” has been so inchoate.

It’s a good observation, but it’s easy enough to answer; when the Hopey-Changey Democratic President doesn’t complain about Wall Street’s crimes and abuses, much less lead a raid on all their headquarters, what’s an ordinary person to do?

When Obama didn’t say anything, neither did the most prominent members of Congress. I guess they were expecting him to lead or somethin’.

Meanwhile there were Axelrod, Emanuel and Plouffe saying, “Turn the page. Work on your own agenda. Let bygones be bygones, get some watered-down bills passed.”

They squandered the greatest political advantage since the LBJ landslide of 1964.

So I have no sympathy for them. They made the worst imaginable miscalculation, by conflating Bad Elected Officials (Bush, Cheney et al.) with Bad Boys on Wall Street.

After all, Obama got a lot of help from Wall Street; for the first time that I can remember, the Democratic candidate got more donations from financiers than the Republican. Wall Street knows what a winner looks like; did they buy him off?

No, I don’t think so, though there’s no doubt their contributions were part of the calculus. I think Obama appointed Wall Streeters to the Treasury and the Fed because… “that’s where all the experts are.” Politicians always appoint insider-experts, right?

It’s one more example of the horrible advice this President has acted on. He isn’t nearly the “think-outside-the-box” intellectual he was portrayed as.

Meanwhile Lou Dobbs (remember him?) was excoriating Mexican immigrants as scapegoats (and Gay people are always available if that doesn’t work), Rush Limbaugh gave the Republicans their talking points and Fox “News” amplified and repeated them. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell decided to obstruct everything Obama tried to do (which was smart politics, but horrible governance), and the President ended up looking like an emasculated jerk, when he was such a stud candidate.

And there’s poor Joe Biden, telling all the Democrats this is all their fault. It’s halfway comical, but this is my country at stake!

• Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: still in place.
• Guantanamo: still open.
• Iraq War: still dying.
• Afghanistan: worse than ever.
• Jobs: sorry, not hiring.

And we’re all supposed to be thrilled because some time after I’m dead, Americans will finally get a small version of health care as a human right?

It’s your own damn fault, Barack; you blew it.

I guess you missed that lecture in PoliSci 102, which is also conventional wisdom: the pollsters and strategists who helped you get elected don’t know the first thing about running a government.

You’re the one who’s supposed to know – but you don’t.++

Bring back this guy, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker; he's the only one who makes any sense.

The Politics of Rage

If you need a politician to advise you about masturbation, this Delaware tea person is ready.

The primaries are over, at last. The nominees for Senate, House and governor are set. The general election will take place in about six weeks, November 2nd. To a lot of the media this is a big whoop-de-doo, but to most normal folks it’s more like a big whoop.

(Note to Dutchmen and other foreigners: a “big whoop” isn’t one.)

This is not to say it won’t be an important election; it will be, perhaps as important as 2008. But America’s in the midst of a collective funk, and the only people excited about voting are right-wing extremists, who’ve convinced themselves they have a chance to bring back Jesus, John Birch and new episodes of “Gunsmoke.”

I call it the politics of rage. “We want our country back!”

But as I look around me, Indiana’s still where it always was; Illinois’s right next door, with Michigan on top of us, Ohio to the east and Kentucky down south with all the hills and hollers.

I think the tea partiers are way too optimistic. A new poll by The New York Times shows that Americans’ view of the movement skews a bit negative, with 29% unfavorable to 23% favorable, while the majority hasn’t figured it out yet or isn’t even paying attention.

This is not what I’d call a wildfire with only six weeks left to go – and they’ve been at it for over a year now, guns, Hitler and Stalin images at the ready.

Meanwhile the media-ocracy is busy proclaiming that this is a Republican year, with takeovers of one or both houses of Congress routinely predicted. The economy’s bad, Obama is weak, the Democrats are clueless, and look at all this tea party enthusiasm!

No one can predict the future, but I suspect there are surprises yet to come. My sense is that the results will be mixed, with most races turning on local issues and personalities, not an outburst of national fervor one way or the other.

This election may not be “a referendum on Obama.” I doubt it will be a referendum on much of anything, except whether Nevada goes for unpopular Harry Reid, unpopular Sharron Angle or very popular “none of the above.”

If “none of these candidates” wins, Reid’s likely to be re-elected, because Nevada throws the election to the next-highest vote-getter.

This isn’t Britain or the rest of Europe; we don’t vote for parties here, we vote for candidates. There will be 435 local elections for the House of Representatives, plus a third of the Senate and 37 governors.

The country as a whole is likely to get redder, but I bet we’re still purple in the end.

Still, these are exciting times for political junkies; I’ve never seen a dynamic like this one. The closest analogy I can see is the presidential election of 1980, when Jimmy Carter was weak and had a strong opponent in Ronald Reagan.

But lemme tell ya, these tea people are nothing like Ronald Reagan. He was a two-term governor of California, the biggest state; he wasn’t an unknown who came out of nowhere, he was a movie star and an experienced politician. He was handsome and genial; his ideas were backward but people liked him – and they did want to register their disapproval of the incumbent. He looked like a president, acted like one and people voted for him. He was cynical, but he was also skilled, and he took the White House despite all the power of the presidency to prevent it.

These tea people may have some ideological affinity for him, but they are nothing like him. He was a star; these folks wouldn’t make it as extras on “Bedtime for Bonzo.”

• Sharron Angle in Nevada threatens that if the tea partiers don’t get their way, “a Second Amendment remedy” may be necessary – in other words, we’ll shoot people. Let’s have armed insurrection.

• Christine O’Donnell, the anti-Gay bigot/Senate candidate in Delaware, used to make anti-masturbation videos for Jesus and MTV. She doesn’t pay her taxes, has no real income, pays her living expenses from campaign contributions, claimed she graduated from college 17 years ago when it was only last month, and even lies about how well she did in the last election. There is no Google in Christine’s world.

• Carl Paladino, the new Republican nominee for governor of New York, likes to send racist and pornographic e-mails to his friends. He threatens to take a “baseball bat” to Albany, the state capital.

• Rand Paul in Kentucky thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a bad idea because the Federal government “intruded” on the right of business owners to refuse service to African-Americans. That’s not the “free enterprise system” he’s for!

They’re all like this. Every one nuttier than the last.

Abolish Social Security! That’s sure a winner politically.

Abolish unemployment insurance! Make jobless people and their kids starve to death, that will surely pick up the economy.

Make welfare recipients go to prison – and while they’re there, make them listen to lectures about personal hygiene!

Secure the borders! – As if illegal immigrants don’t contribute billions to the economy.

I live in a small town, in a depopulating rural area. Mexicans are visible and audible here, though there aren’t very many of them. Considering that this town was all-White when I grew up, even a few people of different color and nationality would be visible. But they rent houses and apartments and work jobs and start businesses – and best of all, we still have a grocery store. The four nearest towns have all lost their grocery stores. Immigrants provide population stability in my hometown! They’re the difference in whether I can buy a can of peas or not.

But to the enraged, they represent the “others.” Life isn’t what it used to be, back in the days of “Gunsmoke.” Back when General Motors was a big business; back when Wall Street wasn’t robbing everyone blind; back when the Soviet Union was a constant threat; back when Jesus reigned supreme; back when the president was always White.

The tea partiers have won Republican primaries in state after state – which mostly proves the complete political bankruptcy of the Republican Party. It hasn’t taken much for the new folks to muscle in.

Sorry, Mitch McConnell, being the Party of No gets you no-where.

After Obama shellacked John McCain, and the GOP realized how rudderless it was, Just Saying No was the only alternative. As a strategy it’s empty, but as a short-term tactic it may prove successful, especially given Obama’s squandering of every political advantage he ever had.

He reminds me of the newly-ousted mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty, hailed as a star four years ago, and with a considerable record of accomplishment he thought would see him through to re-election.

The chairman of the City Council trounced him. Fenty made a series of classic mistakes (hubris, cronyism, remoteness) and now he’s out on his behind. Maybe this will happen to Obama in 2012; it happened to Carter, when faced with a very talented opponent.

Obama’s best hope is that… there aren’t any talented opponents. Newt Gingrich? One sex scandal after another, now reduced to promoting anti-Muslim paranoia. Sarah Palin? Too dumb to read a magazine – and too smart to leave TV Land, where she’s making big bucks. Mitt Romney? Mike Huckabee? Mitch Daniels of Indiana?

Lou Dobbs? Bill O’Reilly? Glenn Beck? Jon Stewart can take down every one of them.

Meghan McCain? Lightweight. Dick Cheney’s daughter? Been there, heard that. Marco Rubio, when Bobby Jindal didn’t exactly work out?

I fault this president nearly every step of the way. I worked my ass off for him and he didn’t deserve it. I saw it when he failed to take down Hillary Clinton in debate prior to the Texas and Ohio primaries in 2008; she gave him the perfect opening and he wouldn’t walk through it.

If you can’t demolish an opponent you’re not worthy to be president of the United States – and he can’t, so he isn’t. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, anyone? “I promise to end the war in Iraq and shut down Guantanamo.” Hasn’t done it. Never will.

Can’t defend his health care bill, so neither can any other Democrat on the ballot. He’ll never say it, but let me write his speech for him, the one he’s too timid to say: “Some people call it socialized medicine; some people say they don’t want it. I guess they liked it when the insurance company could cut you off for a pre-existing condition. I guess they liked it when the insurance company could deny you a treatment that would save your life. I guess they liked it when 45 million Americans couldn’t get health insurance – and the rest of us had to pay for it with higher premiums to cover the ER’s losses, or the uninsured had to go bankrupt. So now it’s all about ‘socialized medicine.’ Well, let me tell you how the alternative works. Here’s how capitalized health care works. If you’ve got the capital, you get the health care. If you don’t have the capital, you’re stone out of luck.”

If Obama doesn’t have the balls to tell the truth – and he doesn’t – why should I drive three blocks to my precinct?

Blue Dog Democrats are running away from him as fast as they can get. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-South Bend) is buying ads attacking Nancy Pelosi, his own Democratic Speaker of the House.

Meanwhile Obama’s surrounded himself with every Goldman Sachs exec he can find. The man’s not just tone-deaf, he’s stuffed his head with earplugs.

I like him as a person but I have no reason to vote this year. I live in a Democratic district; my Congressman is one of the “ten most corrupt members of Congress,” according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

His opponent, a perennial landslide loser, isn’t worth listening to. So I have no reason to vote for Congress.

The Senate? The Democratic nominee, Brad Ellsworth, is an anti-Gay, anti-abortion, anti-Obama Blue Dog. He’s slightly better than his Republican lobbyist opponent, but not by much; what if it rains on Election Day?

The Indiana Legislature is a perennial hotbed politically, with Republicans controlling the Senate and Democrats barely in charge of the House; but I don’t even know who the current candidate is. The last two Assembly races here were very close, with my hometown sheriff running on the D side; but now he’s the U.S. Marshal (Matt Dillon!) for Northern Indiana and his replacement is a non-entity. Here 2010 is a census year, a reapportionment year, with control of the legislature and the Congressional delegation very much up for grabs, and whoever the Democratic candidate is he’s a ghost, invisible. Why should I vote?

Despite my disillusionment, I expect to turn out; I know the county assessor, a Democrat and former social studies teacher. I interviewed him once and I think he’s probably honest. I also favor the Democratic nominee for county prosecutor, because he’s not the ex-liquor store owner who got into a bar fight at 2 a.m. this spring in a nearby town. This is a Republican county, but Democrats do win locally here (more than when I was a kid), and if I have to I’ll grab an umbrella and punch a computer card for Lester, the assessor, and maybe the mom of the kid who used to mow my yard, who’s also running for a courthouse job. She turned out a revolving-door Republican this spring and, y’know, the kid mowed my yard more or less.

Not exactly a referendum on Obama, is it.

Then there’s Brad Ellsworth, the former sheriff in Evansville, two-term Congressman/Blue Dog trying, but poorly, to succeed the awful U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh (who just like George W. Bush thought he was smarter than his daddy; in this case Birch Bayh, an actual liberal). Why vote for Ellsworth? There’s one thing only in his bio that speaks to me. It’s the only good thing about him I know.

Years ago he was a young deputy sheriff, and there was a proposal before the Vanderburgh County Commission to buy bulletproof vests, protective gear. The Democrats on the commission were in favor of spending the money, but the Republicans balked; $40,000? How can we justify this to the taxpayers (when we’re totally committed to spending nothing extra ever, so we can get re-elected by proving we never raised taxes)?

When the local-yokel Republicans weren’t willing to spend a pittance to save the lives of the officers who protected them 24/7/365, non-political Brad Ellsworth became a Democrat.

I wish he’d remember that incident more often; I wish he’d remember it every day, because the middle class is getting hammered in this economy, and the poor (including cops) are getting wiped out.

The real reason for the tea people’s rage isn’t the end of the Cold War or the demise of James Arness; it isn’t the arrival of Muslims and Hindus and Mexicans and Gay people; it isn’t that we have a half-Black president and a watered-down health care plan when it takes effect five years from now.

It is that the America they knew is not the America we’re becoming – and they have every right to feel concerned and even angry. But they’ve been led by commercial interests (Goldman Sachs, Rupert Murdoch, Republican politicians) to target the wrong folks.

They should have taken their pitchforks to Wall Street. (I’m still a bit surprised that they did not. The last time this happened, someone tried to blow up J.P. Morgan’s Bank, and even killed a couple of folks.)

Instead “We’ve got a socialist in the White House.” No, we’ve got an idiot in the neighborhood, who will not survive scrutiny by the voters.

No one needs a senator to advise them about masturbation. You want “the land of the free”? Shut the damn door.

House: Republican. Senate: Democratic. President: Re-elected.

Democrats: wounded. Republicans: collapsing. Extremists: marginal. Common sense: modest but still in control.++

Brad Ellsworth, back when he stood for something.

Dumb Dog Democrats

Yup, Joe Donnelly's an outsider, all right, but he's still got the flag and Capitol thing going.

They’re not Blue Dogs, they’re dumb dogs.

Ind. Democrat Donnelly blasts Pelosi in new ad

By Tom Coyne, Associated Press Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly is taking an unusual jab at his party’s leadership in a campaign ad that refers to climate change legislation as “Nancy Pelosi’s energy tax.”

The two-term Democrat is pulling a page from Republican strategists in trying to distance himself from policies that have some voters wary.

In one ad, Donnelly says he voted against Pelosi’s “energy tax on Hoosier families.”

Another ad touts his votes to crack down on illegal immigration. Donnelly says he doesn’t work for the “Washington crowd” as a photograph of President Barack Obama, Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner flashes by.

Indiana once had liberal Democrats in Congress, but the dumb dogs don’t remember that. Birch Bayh, Vance Hartke, Andy Jacobs, Julia Carson, Ray Madden – liberals, all of them. They believed in a compassionate society full of opportunity, and they knew how to defend their beliefs and get re-elected.

The current crop of Indiana Democrats (including the worst of them, Birch Bayh’s son Evan) are hapless, craven and lily-livered. (I’d call ’em queers but it’d be a step up.) You wonder why they even bother hanging a D behind their names.

They’re pussywillows. They’re joyless. They live in fear of Fox News and Sarah Palin, who’s nothing but a female bully. They’re all afraid to knock her down, when it’s the only thing that works against bullies. She’s dumb as a rock. I know grizzly bears with more intelligence than Sarah Palin. She doesn’t read, remember? I bet she doesn’t know how.

Yet here are these guys catering to her, afraid of her.

So Joe Donnelly takes a swing at Nancy Pelosi instead. She oughta deck him. Pelosi isn’t afraid of a fight.

The other day Barack Obama tried to get me to commit to vote this year. I put his e-mail in the trash, so he sent me another one. I emptied the trash.

I mean, how pathetic; I was Obama’s county coordinator in 2008, and now he’s asking me to promise I’ll vote? Give me something to vote for, birdbrain!

Pete Visclosky, one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress, according to the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. To guys like this, the flag is just a prop.

I have nobody to vote for. My congressman? He’s a D, but he’s a crook. There’s no evidence that he benefits financially, but Pete Visclosky trades corporate earmarks for campaign contributions. It’s kind of sad, really; you’d think he’d at least get a fishing boat out of it, or an “institute of government” at NYU.

Rangel at work for the taxpayers of America.

Charlie Rangel, the Harlem Democrat, was once my Congressman; I was proud to vote for him. Not no more. He’s got four rent-controlled apartments (limit: one) plus a little villa down in the Dominican Republic he forgot to tell anyone about. It makes a nice chunk of change he doesn’t pay taxes on. And he was the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means?

Pelosi ditched him.

Mind you, I’m not too wild about her either, but at least she exercises a little discipline and gets bills passed – watered-down bills, health care by-and-by, which is all these bedbug Democrats can manage lately; but without her Obama would have nothing to show for himself.

We pulled “all combat troops” out of Iraq this week, while leaving 50,000 soldiers there. We’re still up to our necks in Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still in business, and Gay and Lesbian soldiers are still getting drummed out of Rahm Emanuel’s military.

The de facto president. Apparently the Oval Office is vacant.

I’m fond of Barack Obama personally. But he gets the worst advice any president has ever received, and at some point (like now) he becomes responsible for that; he picked these bozos, including half of Goldman Sachs as his economic advisers, and personal goodwill is not enough.

If he doesn’t have the mental flexibility to realize that Republicans are not going to compromise, they’re only going to obstruct; that they have no ideas and no candidates; that all they’ve got is Fox and Palin; that there is no point in being post-partisan when his opponents are all partisan; and that his only alternative is to become as partisan as they are, then he’s the new bus driver heading right over the cliff.

And no, sir, I will not vote for that.

You either come up with a jobs program and repeal the Bush tax cut for millionaires, or you don’t. Screw the deficit if you have to, interest rates are miniscule! Either be a Democrat or go home.

Stand up or shut up. Either the bullies rule or you do. Which is it going to be?

If you can’t beat this guy, you can’t beat anybody.++

LewJack Gives Boilers a Boost to Beat Wisconsin, 60-57

Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson (23) saw action tonight for the first time since pre-season foot surgery. (Michael Conroy/AP)

Okay, his two points weren’t that significant. He only played 12 minutes. Fouled twice and had two turnovers to go with three rebounds. But make no mistake, the return of starting point guard Lewis Jackson from preseason surgery provided an important emotional boost as his Purdue Boilermakers defended Keady Court at Mackey Arena tonight against #16 Wisconsin, 60-57.

The #10 Boilers needed this win. After a 14-0 start and an AP ranking as high as #4, Purdue went on a 3-game losing streak starting at Madison, Wisconsin January 9, as the Badgers beat Purdue 73-66. The Cornfield Sailors then proceeded to lose to Ohio State in West Lafayette and again at Northwestern. Swan dive or belly flop?

But now Purdue’s back to fundamentals, with a 3-game winning streak that includes victories at Illinois and against Michigan at home. Tonight’s game was a typical Big Ten seesaw bruise-fest; Purdue led by two at halftime, then went on a big run in the second half to lead by 8 with under 4 minutes to go. Typically, the disciplined Badgers raced right back to take a 7-point lead thanks to Keaton Nankivil’s 25 points on 7-of-8 three-point shooting. Such is life in the Big Ten, where if you get too big for your britches, you’ll get beat.

As Purdue Coach Matt Painter stressed to his high-flying team after it crashed down to earth earlier this month, “Success messes with you.” He’s so right. Life is littered with stars, from Janis Joplin to River Phoenix, who couldn’t cope with success. It can be terrifying; what if people find out the ten million things you don’t know and can’t do?

I am hoping that Painter is a better sports psychologist than his predecessor Gene Keady, “the best coach who never made it to the Final Four.” Keady was a mastermind at teaching kids how to play beyond their capabilities. It’s a trait he passed on to his mentee Matt Painter, who played for him from ’79-’83.

The biggest trap in sports is something I call “ego collapse.” You’re doing well, doing well, doing well, then all of a sudden you’re not—and you panic. Out goes the game plan, out goes what you’re good at, and in comes an anxiety attack and even stupid play. Purdue has always been prone to this. Keady, a superb coach and human being, never knew what to say or do to right the ship. It’s hard for older men to coach young guys. So much has changed between his day and theirs that an older coach suddenly lacks the vocabulary when adversity strikes.

Matt Painter is 39. He’s brought this year’s Boilermakers to the brink of real success—watched them falter, and brought them back. Purdue beat gritty, talented Wisconsin tonight, and is now a half-game out of second place behind Wisconsin and undefeated Michigan State.

So the surprise return of Lewis Jackson, after a fast and splendid recovery, is what the experts call an intangible. It’s always good to get one of your key teammates back. The last thought before the players fall asleep tonight will be, “LewJack’s back.” Then they’ll smile and make Z’s.

Their next to last thought will be, “Thank you God for John Hart.”

Purdue's John Hart (32) and Robbie Hummel (4) defend as Illinois' Mike Davis (24) goes to the basket at Assembly Hall in Champaign on Jan. 19. Purdue won 84-78. (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)

Hart provided as much emotional spark in the second half as Jackson did in the first. In a short stretch early in the second half as Purdue clung to a narrow lead, he led to an amazing run, doing everything you could ask of a player; he scored, defended, rebounded and blocked. Suddenly he was everywhere on every key play, and the veterans took over from there.

Basketball is emotional; all sports are. John Madden once said he thought football was the most emotional sport, but that’s simply not true. In American football, you run a play, then spend 20 seconds huddling up to discuss the next one. Hoops don’t stop nearly as much, the play keeps going. You’ve got the ball, then there’s a turnover and steal, suddenly you’re running the other way—but the shooter misses, you get the rebound, so run back again! Go go go!

The faster the game, the harder it is for players to keep their emotions in check, to not get too high or too low. The only game as fast and continuous as basketball is hockey—which uses goalies to prevent scoring, the dumbest athletic idea of all time. Audiences like scoring, and goal-tending is illegal in hoops. I wouldn’t give you one thin dime for soccer, no matter how much British thugs riot over it. Would you rather watch a game where the final score is 2-1 or 60-57, much less 102-101?

Hart was superb tonight; he played his role. He’s just a sophomore having to earn his time, but he brought fluid to the charcoal and lit a fire.

I haven’t even mentioned Robbie Hummel, who had a double-double (12 points, 13 fabulous rebounds) or E’twaun Moore (20 points) or JuJuan Johnson (14 points). Give them all credit; they each had their miscues but they played well enough to win despite Nankivil’s personal highlight reel.

Wisconsin’s backcourt combined for 57 points January 9 at Madison; Purdue’s defense held them to 25 tonight.

Losses help you learn; they toughen you up, so that success after success doesn’t make your head swell, knowing that failure is just around the corner. Don’t get too high when you’re high or too low when you’re low, just focus on your next opponent and find a way to beat ’em.

One last note about another man who established himself tonight: Purdue radio broadcaster Larry Clisby’s new sidekick, Ralph Taylor, who played from ’67-’69 on the National Runner-up team. He’s been part of the Purdue radio team off and on for four years, but (I believe) this year he replaced the previous color commentator, Steve Reid, the guy Bobby Knight threw a chair at (okay, deliberately missing), inadvertently becoming a YouTube sensation. Reid’s grammar was appalling, much less for a Purdue alumnus, but he knew the game and was an unabashed homer, and I liked him. Now we’ve got this guy named Taylor, the first African-American on Purdue’s broadcast team. I must have seen him play back in the late ’60s during the Rick Mount years (I went to Purdue ’68-’69 and ’70-’72), but I don’t remember him. From tonight, though, I will. He explained, time after time, how Nankivil scored all those points. Purdue’s Johnson repeatedly left the high post to help out a guard, which left Nankivil uncovered, and no one rotated over. Time after time!

Without Nankivil, Purdue might have blown out Wisconsin. But Johnson got suckered every time, and Wilson tracked the pattern. He added a lot to the broadcast.

So bye-bye Wisconsin and Nankovil, great game and yeah yeah; we won’t be surprised to see you again in the B10 tournament or the NCAA. But I’ll be very surprised if Matt Painter doesn’t kick ass and massage his boys into understanding: Success messes with you, but only if you let it. Stay centered, do what you’re good at, don’t panic, never say die, screw ’em if they can’t take a joke, and stay confident even when (as they did tonight) the refs call the second half completely different from the first half. The officials started acting like they got paid by the number of fouls they called (though the teams ended up equal).

It’s hard on players when the rules seem to change at halftime, but they’ve got to roll with the punches.

Star of the game: Hummel. Best performance: Ninkivil. Best analyst: Taylor. Winner: Purdue.++

Mr. Taylor

Conservatism for Profit

UPDATE: The New York Times profiles Fox News’s Paranoid-in-Chief, Roger Ailes; click here.

Face it, folks, we’ve been Murdoched.

He told us he would do it, and he has.

Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, has pulled off an incredibly daring stunt, highjacking democracy for the sake of his own fat wallet.

He figured out how to commercialize politics—to simply make money off it.

He’s done it here the same as he did in Australia and Britain. We knew in advance what his agenda was. He doesn’t have to win elections (indeed, he cozied up bigtime to Hillary Clinton in 2008, when he thought she might win the presidency—and she cozied up to him). Regardless of who wins elections, he makes billions of dollars by giving people what they want: the Old Regime. The Way Things Usedta Be.

What amazes me is the stupidity of American politicians and traditional news organizations, who cower before the Mighty Mouse.

Fox “News” sets the national agenda, by serving up a steady diet of outrages, lies and innuendoes. When the outrages (say, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s coddling AIG and Goldman Sachs) run thin, Murdoch’s minions simply invent more. “No global warming! Obama wasn’t born in Hawai’i! Death panels, socialized medicine, Hitler, Stalin!”

The politicians and media whores don’t know what hit them. Glenn Beck’s on the cover of Time magazine!

Tea parties, orchestrated by discredited Republicans like Dick Armey. Terrorism, thanks to a wannabe Muslim fanatic over Detroit! Obama isn’t protecting us, because he’s a foreign-born Muslim/Nazi/Commie who attended a madrassa in Indonesia!

This is Murdoch’s schtick. He doesn’t care about facts and neither do his followers. They gladly pay for their spoonfed phony “news.”

Sarah Palin is dumber than a bag of rocks, an ex-beauty queen who doesn’t even read the newspaper—but then, neither does anyone else, thanks to pay-TV and pay-Internet, “where everything is free.”

Go Google yourself. In the immortal words of Perry Mason, Sarah Palin is incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.

Yet the poor ink-stained wretches still don’t know what hit them. The New York Times recently admitted no one on the staff monitors Fox “News,” so it was constantly behind the curve in understanding what’s going on in the country.

In the runup to the illegal invasion of Iraq, NBC News execs told their reporters not to question the Bush Administration’s flimsy rationales (“weapons of mass destruction!”), and the dumbfucks did what they were told. Questioning the president was unpatriotic, ya see. Nine-eleven and all that.

No matter what happens in the world, good news or bad, Murdoch profits. He figured out long ago that facts don’t matter to people nearly as much as confirming their previous worldview. People will pay big money when you reinforce their prejudices.

He could have taken a liberal tack instead of a conservative one—when you’re commercializing ideology, the content of the ideology doesn’t matter that much—but conservatives are far more gullible. There isn’t anyone in Hawai’i who doesn’t believe Barack Obama was born there, but in the other 49 states, maybe he’s a foreigner!

As P.T. Barnum said, there’s a sucker born every minute. And Murdoch has simply exploited that.

What does he care if his lie-telling paralyzes democracy?

He doesn’t, which makes him the Worst Person in the World. Osama bin Laden is chump change by comparison. Bin Laden’s too damn dumb to realize that the way to bring down America isn’t to fly airplanes into skyscrapers, but to undermine it from within—to use its capitalist system for ultimate profit. Billions of dollars are a lot more satisfying than 72 mythical virgins in heaven, especially when you can get someone else to do your dirty work. Suicide bombers are cheap and easily amortized.

The British and Australian media told us exactly what would happen when Murdoch invaded America. Still, U.S. media and politicians are awestruck by the teabaggers, As Seen on TV. “But wait, there’s more!”

You can never go wrong underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

That’s the saddest aspect of this, but democracy exposes us to this very danger, Rule by the Stupid.

Beck’s got the ratings, while Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow do not. (Murdoch’s making a big mistake not giving Beck the prime-time slot of the eclipsed has-been Bill O’Reilly. Make money, Rupert, don’t be a loser.)

Maddow’s amazingly brilliant, a genius at what she does, an incredibly facile talker and analyst, easy on the eyes to boot. Why is she stuck on MSNBC?

Olbermann’s good too, though he does get overwrought at times. He writes well, but his delivery is over the top, even for liberals.

MSNBC, the not-Fox network, proves Murdoch’s thesis that there’s more money in right-wingnuttery than in left-wing. He’s just looking to make a buck, and he’s good at it.

Meanwhile we’re led by Barack Hussein Obama, the madrassa-trained Kenyan Black man born of a White mother in our distant-most state, where it’s still morning when the New York Stock Exchange shuts down for the day. He fancies himself a Lincoln, but hasn’t the courage of Honest Abe to tell the truth. He’s surrounded himself with toadies (Geithner, Rahm Emmanuel) who should be fired at once. Bring back Volcker, you idiot! He’s the one man who really understands this economy, where Wall Street robs every taxpayer.

Lincoln was cautious at times like Obama is; he kept bringing back McClellan, a failed general who trained incessantly but wouldn’t fight; three times Lincoln foisted McClellan on us and three times he fired him, until McClellan ran against him in the ultimate act of disloyalty, the presidential election of 1864. How many times do you gotta learn this, Abe?

How many times, Barack? When will you fight?

Meanwhile Fox “News” continues to lead the cable ratings, and Western democracy itself gets Murdoched. Brit Hume says Tiger Woods should convert to Christianity, and the Gay-haters at Stand Firm (another commercial enterprise) eat it up.

I believe in Jesus Christ, but I don’t believe in TV flacks pimping for him.

Consider the source; Murdoch made money the instant Hume opened his mouth.++

We Survived 2009

Rabbit stew. Looks almost appealing.

Fifteen months ago my friends and I were wondering if we’d all lose our houses and be living in the woods. Should we get a gun? Who among us knows how to fish? How do you make rabbit stew, anyway? If you bring me a squirrel I can probably fry it up, but no, it won’t taste like chicken.

The stock market lost 37% in 2008. In 2009 it rose 27%, but that’s people’s retirement money and a good chunk of it’s still gone.

A friend of mine sells GM cars; I prayed for him every single day, but somehow he survived. Thank you, President Obama, even as you paid a terrible political price.

We survived 2009!

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, I’m cooking up some red beans and rice, in honor of my dear friends in Louisiana; they’ve survived too, and after Hurricane Katrina, when Phil went missing, every extra year is a blessing. His dad Ervin would probably add some boudin to the dish; it’s a Cajun blood sausage, considered quite the delicacy, but I don’t like it. It’s spicy-hot and I don’t do blood sausage, especially from filthy gas stations outside Grand Mamou. Ervin used to go nuts after that stuff, but I use Polish sausage instead.

Red beans and rice with shrimp, done the right way; stew on top of the rice in a bowl.

In October of ’09 I brought home a little pooch from the Humane Society of Indianapolis. It’s been six weeks now and I think I’ve finally got the hang of toilet training. Despite a few tense moments Luke has been a joy to me; I should have gotten a dog years ago, we could have been together all this time. But I’ll sure take the one I’ve got. Now that I’ve corrected my mistakes he’s corrected his; the stake in the yard with the 30-foot lead has taught him, here’s where you go. Luke to Josh: “Why didn’t you say so?”

He is so cute, so sweet; if only the humans were like that. My favorite behavior of his currently is how he burrows underneath his Purdue blanket, so when he’s in his house, all I can see is a lump of cloth. Somewhere under there is 10 pounds of terrier lost in the folds. He’s also great about eating my leftovers; a dab of chicken or steak here, a ham hock there, some cheesy rice and broccoli—and everything goes better with COTTAGE CHEESE!

We have a routine for treats too; he sits on the throw rug under the sink, I sit on the kitchen steps and put a treat on my knee. He watches, then I say, “Come!” He races over, grabs the treat and takes it back to the rug before he devours it. But wait, there’s more—I’ve got another one in my pocket!

Luke on Day 2 at home.

In 2010 I have work to do; after discussion with my spiritual director Marcia, I’m going to try letting God have much more power in my life. This is a one-month experiment, which I ought to be able to get through; after that we’ll evaluate. The program involves writing some personal prayers that really discuss what’s going on with me, working every day on finishing my new novel about Gay Christian marriage, and spending 20 minutes a day in silent meditation, which I’ve neglected for some time now. I also have some other goals, but they’re not New Year’s resolutions; they’ll take longer to work out, and besides I need an attitude adjustment. At this late date I’m no longer very good at running my own life, so it’s time to let God take the wheel for awhile. Perhaps every serious believer eventually comes to a place like this, but I’m here now, so it’s time to trust more and screw up less.

The beans and rice are about done, so farewell 2009, we survived you. Best wishes to Peter, Leonardo and all of you in 2010; I wish you health, prosperity and a greater awareness of the Ultimate Reality.++

Healthcare Bill Would Remove Gay Tax Inequity

LesbianMarriage

So, the House has passed the long-awaited healthcare reform bill, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is basking in congratulations. Good for her, and good for the country. It may even be good for partnered Lesbians and Gay men.

The New York Times points out today that the House bill contains a provision to remove a little-known injustice in the tax code that penalizes Gay domestic partners, where one gets health insurance through the other’s employer:

As a high-priority bill for Congressional leaders and President Obama, the legislation has become a vehicle for many other initiatives large and small.

Supporters of gay rights have long been trying to change the tax treatment of health benefits provided by employers to the domestic partners of their employees. In effect, such benefits are now treated as taxable income for the employee, and the employer may owe payroll taxes on their fair-market value.

Under the bill, such benefits would be tax-free, just like health benefits provided to the family of an employee married to a person of the opposite sex.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who proposed the change, said it would “correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans.”

Joseph R. Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said federal tax law had not kept up with changes in the workplace.

“I meet people all the time who are gratified they work for companies that offer domestic partner benefits,” he said. “But they pass on the benefits because they cannot afford the taxes that go with the benefits.”

M. V. Lee Badgett, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said employees with domestic partner benefits paid $1,100 a year more in taxes, on average, than married employees with the same coverage.

This is just one of over a thousand tax breaks written into the IRS code favoring people who are legally married. I have no problem with those subsidies—but they should be applied equally.

Consider why the marriage privileges were inserted into the tax code in the first place: not just because of religion or because “the family is the building block of society,” a grandiose and untested claim treated as if it was common knowledge, but because, all other things being equal, committed relationships are more stable than ones without measurable commitment. Tons of research show that marriage leads to favorable social outcomes; married people live longer, and that’s only the start of the benefits.

That means we should want as many people married as possible, including the Gay ones. Yet Congress provides financial incentives for Straight ones only, while the Gay people have to pay.

Thus the state-by-state strategy on Gay marriage has a built-in flaw. Though marriage laws are administered by each state, it’s the Federal benefits for married people that cost big Gay money.

As helpful as it is that last Tuesday Oregon voters agreed to eliminate all state inequities for domestic partners, state taxes are not the biggest bite in Gay paychecks. The IRS and Social Security eat big chunks. Those are Federal programs. And the Feds have a “Defense of Marriage” Act that writes discrimination into law.

All 50 states could do what Oregon has done—”Gay marriage without calling it that”—and it wouldn’t make much of a financial difference. Most tax money goes to the national government.

The Feds’ biggest wallop in your wallet is the inheritance tax. Being a legal “spouse,” or not, makes all the difference in the world. Being Lesbian or Gay can cost you millions.

And the IRS couldn’t care less that you were together for 50 years, that you worked to put your lover through law school, or that you provided tender loving care all the time that s/he was sick, only to be kicked out of the hospital room by some unknown aunt from New Jersey. All the IRS wants to know is “spouse or not.”

This may not matter to you when you’re 25, penniless and in love, but it will matter a great deal when you’re 75, with a lifetime of assets you worked for, and widowed.

LGBT leaders need to do a lot better job of illustrating the built-in inequity of DOMA as applied to the tax code. We did it earlier with the “kicked out of the hospital room” scenario, which has resonated with fair-minded people. Now let’s defend Uncle Harold, forced to sell the condo at 75 to pay the taxman.

Let’s accept that, as in Maine and California, the #1 weapon of anti-Gay marriage politicians is “protect our children from queers in school.” Since the whole wingnut conspiracy machine is geared to stoke heterosexual fears (and always has been since the days of the Briggs Initiative and Anita Bryant, as depicted in the film “Milk”), we need to do more than get sarcastic when opponents suggest that teachers will take 6-year-olds on a field trip to a Lesbian wedding. Of course the claim is ludicrous, but we know that will be the battleground, so let’s pre-empt it. The Lesbians at the wedding are not zoo animals to be petted, and Mrs. Palmer’s first grade class ain’t invited.

Write a schools exclusion into the Gay marriage bill.

If homosexuality was catching, the entire country would have it by now.

It can’t be infectious, because there’s nothing you can do once a teenage boy discovers girls. Heterosexuality cannot be cured.

It’s not like preachers and whacked-out shrinks haven’t tried; imagine the Straight women who would give anything for a little purple pill that turned down the testosterone level at home and in the office. Straight men are incurable!

But their spouses shouldn’t have tax benefits no one else gets; that’s unfair.

Congress and the IRS should not make Uncle Harold sell the condo.

Kudos to Rep. Jim McDermott for chipping away at heterosexual subsidies enforced by the IRS. The man isn’t famous but he just helped a lot of people.

RepJimMcDermott

From here the action shifts to the Senate. A lot can still go wrong, but Pelosi corraled the Democrats for President Obama, and healthcare reform now has the momentum.++

Pelosi.Obama