The popular angst over AIG

The national outcry this week over the AIG executives receiving bonuses creates a nagging sensibility that I can’t just seem to shake. For some reason, it’s more bothersome than the Halliburton fiasco. Now, there is no bone in my body that believes I could rationally explain the AIG situation to you, dear reader, although I’m sure there are people on this earth who think they have a full grasp of the situation and are in the control room, right now, trying to fix that mess. Maybe ... the ability to fix it part, I mean … the world is just too full of people who think they have the answers and they are complete idiots for believing so ...

But for the rest of us, all we really share is a most profound sense of mystery. We watch the responses on television from our elected and appointed officials. These responses redouble the failures in common sense, thus increasing the sense of mystery and angst about how millions of dollars in bonuses can fall on the so far anonymous executives at AIG. The highlight among these folks was Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who thought the AIG executives who took the bonuses should kill themselves.

Later, he apologized for that statement. But he was only voicing the popular consensus against these lucky bastards, who almost brought the economy to ruin, were rewarded so handsomely for their apparent failures.
Compared to other situations … for example, how can the New York Yankees not win the World Series every year with a payroll of maybe a half-billion dollars … shouldn’t they give the money back? … Why should anyone win $1 million on “Survivor” for being the most dishonest, cutthroat asshole on the show … Oh yeah, Halliburton … and that Bridge to Nowhere … but there’s clearly something paranormal about this AIG bonus issue that is really bringing people together.

The Obama Administration is going to send a strongly worded letter to the AIG executives, asking they give the money back. This doesn’t sound workable, to me, but hey, it’s worth a try. I’m sure most of us would send a check for $1 million back if we received one in the mail if we were asked, politely, to do so. Especially after the monkeys began to fly out of our arses.

Despite the sweetly amusing hopelessness of that cause, there’s still one more class of individual who must receive a most gracious notice … before I get to the actual point I’d like to make: The Republican response. All of the events leading to this week occurred, in fact, during the Bush administration. The contracts. The bailouts. Everything.

But still we see them on TV, trying to pin it on Obama, who hadn’t been elected yet, and was only partially responsible for the entire bailout package last fall … although I seem to recall Sen. John McCain trying to take credit for leading the charge on that one …

Yet, now that I’ve gotten these surface observations off my chest … at least in tune to my own flawed poetic sensibilities … I can find something positive about the whole bailout mess. Finally, after all, there is some maintenance going on with my most immediate city environment with these bailouts, my TV tells me … because the deep science of this is that, like some solution to an imbalance in the subatomic world, we need a healthy AIG to keep the heart of the demiurge a-poundin’ … but more than that, the national outrage is focused on something it can actually do something about … other than terrorism … asking a couple a hundred executive assholes to have common sense. Not that I believe they ever will. It’s this newfound desire for common sense … after an age of anything but … that’s what’s giving me hope.

Paradigm Lost, Journalism Unbound

They are falling like trees made ill from the insides by bark beetles. But the destruction is self-induced. Major newspapers are going out of business because they are no longer convincing bridges between man, his nature and his history. While declines in advertising lineage and the energy costs of distribution of flattened out brittle-bricks of newsprint to their readers became too expensive to support these institutions, these are perhaps only last straws, fatal blows at precisely the wrong time, swan song signs of an overrun paradigm lost. Those financial facts are merely condemning occurrences upon structures built with unstable codes and limited belief systems about what it means to communicate fully. They became like pencils. Or, horse-drawn wagons. Obviously. Obviously.

Who has a sharpener anymore, anyway?

The major dailies, built upon a sense of objective reporting, could no longer be considered as virtuosos of realistic detail. While the internet ran off its mouth like a prairie fire of subjectivity and emotional observations of history in real time, newsprint became more and more obvious each day as the dinosaur trying to chase the lightning bolt across the sky. Instead of maintaining a sense of themselves as vehicles for accurate perceptions of reality, the internet gave a glimpse behind this false projection like Toto sniffing around the curtain for the phony Wizard of Oz.

Now, as major dailies fall like burning towers from city to city, editors and publishers are being sought out for comment. But their views cannot be trusted. If they actually knew what was going on, for example, if they say that perhaps if classified advertising had remained, um, classified to newsprint publishing alone, then all of this could have been avoided: well, that just doesn’t fly. Like anything else that enters a period of decline, they are just creatures of denial. We are actually no more able to discern the full sensibility and causality of decline than a newspaper article can still concoct itself as an accurate replication of reality. Media literate Americans, caught flying down freeways for longer and longer periods of their waking days and unable to reach for their newspapers, have chosen (are forced, more like) instead to absorb information in far more varied ways, leaving their newsprint antiques on the shelves, on their porches or on their coffee tables unread, where they remain daily, weekly, always challenged by the other numerous new ports for media.

Newspapers became saltine crackers served to a populace dying of thirst. So if there’s any good news, it depends upon our ability to find a new diet, and that requires becoming more savvy about the impacts of media in general.
For example, I don’t buy that we are less literate due to these events; that democracy is imperiled without these stanchions of objective reporting to save us from authoritarianism. The sober, unsigned editorial became far less effective as an object for social change or preservation than, say, 100,000 raving bloggers creating an emerging consensus on the very same topic. The daily newspaper, it could be argued, was just a group-think tool for the autocrat, as supporting dicta for supposedly right-thinking morality (just as local TV news broadcasts are mere tsk, tsk mouthpieces for law enforcement activities caught on videotape). Like I said, objectivity was always a false presumption.

In the decade-plus since the internet has become a popularized reflection of reality, it also nonetheless fails in that category, but the general sense for this, too, has yet to be realized en masse. The internet is now perceived as the projection of immediate reality, but once again, it’s no more effective for that than the poet crowing from the hilltops, as far as I can tell. But, perhaps, the good news is this: That reporter, once hamstrung by the dictates of their journalism dads striking out words the observer wishes he or she could print, is now free to include every thought along the way.

An excerpt from 'Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain,' a living novel by Douglas McDaniel:

I rush over to her condo. This is a moment that must be shared. The Senator John Kerry is prepared to concede. He will give no fight for Ohio, though in time we will learn there is something clearly wrong with the count. It seems fishy. The ballot machines have had their dials turned toward counting giving peace a chance as zero, pure evil as one. I rush over, in tears by the time I get to her door. The emotion of the fulminating moment pouring through me, just as it must be pouring through exactly half of the voting nation. She answers the door and we embrace, weeping madly: The whole world is done.
Within the hour we are charging up a shale rock mountain in central Phoenix and she is screaming at the creosote, the sky, the wide sky that never answers back. She runs ahead up the trail. Pissed off at everything. Including me. We had messed up on the previous night in terms of getting to the polls on time, and when she’d found they were closed, tried to start a personal insurrection with the poor tired blue haired women running the voting station in a community meeting room at a church in the Arcadia District, a predominantly Red voter part of town, maybe a mile, maybe two, from one of the homes owned by Senator John McCain in Paradise Valley, a town with a statue and unapproachable (in terms of, hah, pedestrian access) cactus and stone inlaid monument to the late icon of conservatism, Barry Goldwater. I’m afraid the blue-haired ladies are getting ready to call the cops, so I pull out of there as she fumes.
The mountain we are climbing now is just a mile away, too, and as we rise along the trail, which is now a sidetrack from the main thoroughfare as she apparently doesn’t want to be around any human being, we can see the rooftops of the fabulous rich down below us. They are reddish-roofed haciendas on sprawling properties, lush with swimming pools with small waterfall amenities, global greenery. They have the entire Phoenix Mountain Preserve for backyards. They are in excellent defensive positioning to insulate themselves from the rest of humanity. But now they are under assault from the rear. She is at the top of the peak now, overlooking the glory and security and shallowness of the rich and she’s throwing stones at these houses. The stones disappear in the sky. I join in. But the homes are still too far away. The stones, like our uncounted votes, disappear into the blue sky. We cannot hear the sound as the well-thrown stones land, harmlessly in the vertical desert below. So then she starts yelling at the city itself, at the state that never wants anything to change because it’s immune to war: Things are just too good. I join in.
Fuck youhoooooooooo! Fuck youhooooos! You fucking vampires! Fuck you all!

Arizona, I don't recognize you anymore
Your creosote roots lie beneath
the perfect piles of McDonalds parking lots

Arizona, an unequal symmetry
of rubble piles collect
Ten thousand miles from here
Arizona, you are responsible ...

The middle-aged businessman
with expendable income
sweats for pleasure
Arizona, when can I stop sweating?

I swear in the heat like a pizza oven

Arizona, you are a car part store
but you got no glass to see through
and the beige collection
of air conditioned caves
is conditioned to respond
in all the right ways

The forests are in ashes
as the governor gapes
from a helicopter high

Arizona, I can find no fluid,
no friend, nor car phone to lean on
for company
By GPS, you can find me in the living room,
darkly lit, with rayolight flashing
bible black blurbs

Arizona, not even Ginsberg
would gripe about your tripe,
so blurred with anonymity
hell hardly matters anymore
Arizona, my life's belongings
are melting in a storage facility
and there are more things that beep
here than I can count

Arizona, you haven't hassled me for a while
The world is flooding
as you dry up and blow away

Arizona, a kid almost got crushed in your parking lot
and I went to one of your social service buildings
and was amazed about how many homeless lurks
were sleeping in the lobby

Arizona, I can't get assistance at the cash register
and the mountains are closed, cats run free
and all the lizards are gone

Arizona, you are sucking in souls
I think you should battalion
the borders with snow

The apocalyptic dread is all over me. Inside my head. Surely now, we will be attacked again. Though Phoenix is a long way from the East Coast, where all of the terrorist mayhem took place four years before, my paranoia is running unchecked. We devise escape plans in case of attack. When the lights go out, are if the sky turns to fire and we somehow survive, the best plan is to walk north to the mountains since the automobiles and highways supporting them will be of no use. We will move to the mountains north of Cave Creek and Carefree. I know where there are springs and water and game to be had as we worry ourselves into a survivalist mentality since, after all, we are sure to be attacked again and if, say, the Palo Verde Nuclear Power station were attacked the winds would head generally northeasterly and if we went southeasterly … oh hell, a few days later, weeks, then a month past, and nothing happens, my swirling brain gets calm enough to get toward a more practical plan. Because, you see, we felt the real problem was our inability to mix with people in such a hotbed of conservatism where no change is necessary, where the stores are chockfull of goods, most people are fully employed, where hundreds and hundreds of SUVs continue, shamelessly from their daily grinds to their convenience stores and big box meatlockered retail hubs and back to their TVs at night to feed on channelized fear and gory, glorified entertainments.
To escape the city to seek like-minded souls in the presumably more stable confines of small resort becomes … a kind of solution we can both get behind … so off to the small towns we go …


The Bull Run Fire came to about my doorstep. Five miles east, wind in my face and the fire plume, a violet volcano was close enough to see the white washed coat of burned juniper to force the Saturn in the nostrils. It was burning as a series of full plumes on Hackberry Mountain, south of the Verde River Valley in Central Arizona. But the mountain and the nearby mesas appeared to fizzle out and dampen around a many shouldered beast of fire and smoke.
We had been living in the Verde Valley for six months, on the edge of BLM lands holding a good portion of the General Crook Trail as it wound its way up to the Plateau. Then a major fire, started in Carefree maybe 60 to 80 miles south as the crow flies from the easterly banks of the Verde River, as it flowed to the desert canyons north of Phoenix. Big suckerfish Phoenix. We had escaped, but not for long. The fire started at some high-end hacianda had come all this way up and over and across the mountains, burning great fields of sage and juniper and sajuaro; the mountains of central Arizona blackened, from highway to shining highway,, burning more than 100,000 acres. As the smoke climbed onto the ridge, we went home and made a list of what we would need when the call for evacuation came, feeling a strange craving disaster to bring the memories awake, the dreaming down as great thin-legged clouds spiderwalk across the purple ridge, purple with weather, as our precious things shake in their cupboard, and nostalgia elucidates the decision making process.
Lightning pounds the mesas and the wind pushes down in atomic bundles and white orange flares of violence; A curtain on the sun is a dirty window of light, as we blow out compressed desires, pressing the sky, re-animating us.