Monday, June 28, 2010

How the World Cup solved my moderation problem

I’ve fallen down on the job as a blogger lately… I’m sorry! But I’m back on the boat now. One of the reasons I haven’t written anything lately is that I really wanted to see if my experiment with drinking in moderation would work out. So far, it has. I think so many months off really helped me put some distance and perspective on the whole situation, and now I’m back and better than ever! So how did the World Cup do this for me? Well, in South Korea this world Cup has been a big deal. So of course Dan and my friends want to go watch it at the bar. And I want to go too! So I decided to drink one drink every half (that’s 45 minutes). This works perfectly, my body has plenty of time to metabolize and I get just a bit of a buzz. So we’ve had quite a few successful nights out, just having a few drinks and going home early (you know, 3am). Overall, I think I’m just getting back to my normal self!

In other lifestyle news, we’ve also been eating a lot less meat and generally being healthier which has also helped my motivation to not drink so much. Who wants to ruin a great diet with excess calories in alcohol? I’ve also been taking a Pilates class twice a week and it is AWESOME! I completely forgot how great a difficult workout feels afterward. I can’t wait to have more time to workout! I really crave endorphins, whether it’s from a hard workout or a night out in the club, so when I get that feeling in a healthy way it helps keep me on the right track.

I think this time in life (late twenties) is difficult because I’ve already achieved so much of what I set out to do in my teens (graduate college, travel, get a steady job) and it feels like I should have everything figured out by now. But the truth is I’m still learning and growing, setting new goals and figuring everything out. I just consider myself SO lucky to be in the position I’m in, to be able to have such a good time (even too much of a good time!) with such fun people, not to mention the ability to travel and live “the dream” as they say. Life is a little scary, going back to the states is pretty much the most daunting thing EVER, in my opinion, but it’s all about change.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A year and a half.

Two years ago I don't think I could have possibly been more exited by a politician than I was by Barack Obama. Two years later my feelings have changed, but not in the way that you might think. I don't regret voting for him; it was the right decision. Barack Obama is, and continues to be, the best president of my lifetime. When he was campaigning he struck me as a politician that was eminently reasonable, who looked upon the world as I or any reasonable person would. If the wars are bankrupting us, let's stop the wars, if corporate collusion in the political process has made advancement impossible than lets stop lobbying and collusion. It's undeniable that despite the nitpickers who might bristle at the Daschle or Sestak scandals or how he undermined his campaign promise to ban lobbyists, he has a speck in his own eye while the previous administrations had planks you could dive off of. He also struck me as someone intelligent enough and moral enough to make the right decision even when it might be unpopular.

He has made significant gains that make his presidency a success. We have been trying to enact health care reform for a generation despite insane protests, absurd fabrications, absurd fabrications which are fortunately rebutted by an actual economist, and adolescent shortsightedness. The legislation is weak (people need health care now not in 2014), but is a great stride forward putting an end to notorious insurer abuses and introducing subsidies for people priced out of being able to go to the doctor. We are leaving Iraq, more slowly than expected, but I haven't stopped holding my breath. He's been trying to close Guantanamo Bay, but it's proving more difficult than anticipated so I'll cut the guy some slack. The stimulus package was a success and the unemployment situation is improving. And hey, if anything comes of this, I might have much less reason to inveigh so strongly against my home country.

Let it be known that I am disappointed. I'm disappointed in Barack Obama to be sure. Not much, but he has let me down significantly enough to disappoint me. His decisions on civil liberties have not sat well with me or Glenn Greenwald. And his reticence to prosecute or even admit the Naziesque (I know you're not supposed to use this in argument, but this is right out of the Axis WWII playbook) behavior of the previous administration. If Greenwald's vitriol seems harsher on Obama than the actual perpetrators it's because Obama should know better and do something about it and anyway what do you say to people who experiment on prisoners. His extension of the war in Afghanistan is disappointing, but in the end understandable, and I forgive him for it. I was even ready to forgive him for letting the Bush administration's crimes go unpunished at first, but what has come out is so bad that we can't just let them keep walking around free.

The Obama administration has put me off living in the US. It's not their policies that have done this, but the reaction to their existence and their policies by the general populous and the media. The echo chamber with which the media shapes public opinion by confirming the conclusions they draw with the fact that they've drawn the conclusions, the straw men, and the argumentum ad populum which they use after they've misrepresented the facts to the populous and created a distorted opinion burns me with anger when I observe it. The infinitesimally short memory of the population and their inability to critically think about the issues presented to them which is then reinforced by the media who employ commentators who are either as ignorant as the populous just cockily so, or charlatans who reinforce an absurd narrative for personal gain. I cannot deal with it. Here are Obama's poll numbers. Here it shows that 66% of Americans think that the heath care bill which costs $0 over ten years and will supply coverage to 40 million uninsured Americans will cost too much. Wow, that's interesting America, is there a collective cavity in your skulls or are you just so soaked with disinformation you can't form a coherent opinion anymore. Obama is being blamed left and right for the oil spill in the gulf. The media has done such a hatchet job on him and the issues in the gulf that his response to the spill has gone from this to this in less than a month. It's called argumentum ad nauseam and the right uses it shamelessly. Most people make an absurd claim and when everyone looks at them like they have five heads they stop. The sophists on the right have learned to persist in parroting themselves until their lame talking points infiltrate the members of our society less disposed to independent reasoning. "Obama's Katrina" "Obama's Katrina" "Obama's Katrina" well sure, ok, except that it was built under Clinton and Bush and it's spill was the result of the corruption of the MMS under the Bush administration and the loosening of the regulatory framework kickstarted by the golden boy of golden boys, Reagan. Maybe Obama should have cleaned them up before this happened but he had plenty on his hands with a foundering economy and comprehensive health reform to push through despite another gerrymandered public response.

The stimulus package has driven the job growth evident in a previous graph, but the right blocked that at every turn. And now all the public wants are jobs. Unemployment is the number one issue as the job market turned to sludge, no new positions and thousands of new job seekers. The reasons for the economic crisis are complex. It's hard to point to an epicenter, but if you had to you'd have to point to the banking and investment industries that over-leveraged themselves with minimal oversight and labyrinthine debt contracts. Without that private investment and the credit markets drying up it became difficult to obtain loans for new businesses and businesses that were getting by on credit had to go under. People became unemployed, stopped spending, and more people became unemployed. The democrats and Obama have created jobs and stopped the job loss spiral that ended the Bush administration. And this is what the senatorial midterm map looks like. Are you fucking kidding me. This is a big fucking boat to turn around and the progress that has been made since 2009 as a direct result of the administrations policies is not insignificant. So, I'm sorry if the job market doesn't look wonderful just yet, but now you want to hand the reins back to the people that destroyed the job market hoping that they'll create jobs with their ideas that lowering taxes and cutting spending does that (it doesn't). It's so bad that Rand Paul is significantly ahead in Kentucky. Ok, well that's Kentucky, but the insane Pat Toomey is actually leading Joe Sestak in most PA polls. Another Santorum, I'm really holding my breath for that election.

If that isn't enough the federal deficit looms like a bludgeon in every discourse with the right who weren't so worried about it when it was funding wars instead of jobs (which is what everyone wants). Run away spending! We need jobs! Where are the jobs! Oh, my god Washington politicians are spending so much and are so out of touch with Americans! The spending is what is creating jobs. If it hasn't quite caught up with the population yet, perhaps you should talk to the people who weakened the legislation, oh right you support that guy because he wants to cut spending. The cognitive dissonance is massive. The deficits that the Obama administration is running and will run will put people back to work and will not be larger than Bush's deficits (except for the stimulus years). The debt will be at a very manageable 67% of GDP, less than during WWII, and government revenue will increase as employment increases. If spending was slashed, employment would falter and revenues would diminish, increasing deficits in spite of spending cuts.

Overall, I fear that the US will put the right back in the driver seat in 2012 because at the end of the day no good deed goes unpunished. And Obama will go the way of Jimmy Carter, good ideas undone by a populous informed by disingenuous media and bereft of critical thinking skills. When Obama ran, I felt hope. I hoped that the right things would be appreciated as the right things by the people around me. I hoped that the US's situation was not hopeless, that we could get rid of the corruption and the corporate collusion, the wrongheadedness, and the misinformation. I hoped we could make rational choices to advantage us in our future, alternative energies, universal health care, environmental protection, wealth redistribution, eliminating usury, but it's apparent that those choices are going to be opposed tooth and nail by a charlatan pundit class and an impressionable population and eventually overturned or watered down as the empire sinks into decline. Well, it was worth a shot.