August 24th, 2011

Peter G

When Angels Stop To Welcome The New Arrival

There are some events, some things that happen, that what happened ultimately doesn't matter. What matters is how people react to it. These isolated incidents become less a notation in the history books and instead hold a mirror up to society.

And such reflections don't usually go very well.

Yesterday, the toxicology report on Amy Winehouse came in. Well, sort of. Cause of death still undetermined, but they know it wasn't drug related. Well, thank God for that. People were stupid enough when they suspected it.

I didn't write anything about Winehouse's death because I didn't want to associate myself with all the idiots celebrating her demise. I wasn't that familiar with Winehouse personally. I knew she recorded an album that had people raving about her talent and her self-destructive behavior. In the days after she died, people were practically stumbling over themselves to chant, “That's what you get!”

(To be fair, we don't know how much of her drug use was part of her act at any given moment. She could have eventually gotten herself under control, but the drug use was such a part of her image, she had to maintain it. Dean Martin always had a rocks glass with him on stage with what looked like whiskey. Turns out it was actually iced tea, but only someone who drank from it would know. Martin said he did it just because he had a reputation to maintain. So it wouldn't surprise me if some of Winehouse's act was just that – an act.)

True, Winehouse was unrepentant about her drug use and even recorded a song declaring she wouldn't go to rehab. But there are far more evil people in the world, people far more deserving of hatred, and saying someone with addiction problems deserves to die just strikes me as cruel. The correct response is, “Oh, man, is she in trouble,” not “Overdose, bitch!”

In fact, most of these people celebrate other unrepentant drug users. Rap stars constantly brag about their drugs of choice, whether using, acquiring, or dealing. Rock stars were enabling their own bad behavior (of which drugs are only part of the package) long before Steve Tyler was a sperm in his daddy's gonads. Elvis was on so many drugs, a sneeze from him might have cured a third world country. Jim Morrison....say, you don't suppose there's some sexism involved here, do ya? The guys who do this stuff are celebrated as cool dudes, and women who do this stuff should be ashamed. Naaaaaaaaah....

There are also plenty of other people who behave...well, let's be polite and say questionably. Gretchen Wilson is a country singer who openly brags about being a redneck. Now, her worst drug is hard liquor, but it seems like that was Winehouse, too. The toxicology report detected alcohol in her system, and if that's grounds for someone deserving death, 99.9% of the country is going to keel over. There's this, “Oh, WE'RE responsible! SHE isn't! SHE deserves it!” to that.

Winehouse came along at the worst time. The entertainment industry has learned that people like to be bad. Such behavior was scandalous years ago. Now, it's necessary so that audiences don't dismiss you as a goody two shoes.

Should her handlers have tried harder to save her? Maybe. Should the public have been more interested in celebrating her instead of her lifestyle? Maybe. Should Winehouse have put her foot down and risked everything? Maybe. There's a lot of blame to go around here, folks, and heaping it all on one or the other isn't the way to go.

If you are religious, spare a prayer. If you aren't, spare a thought. But please spare a moment for a person who poured through the cracks and deserved better.

The Bagman And His Getaway Driver

It was one of the greatest scams Big Business ever pulled. Lest anyone forget that politicians are underwritten by major corporations to make sure their interests are represented, we got the federal bailouts (I don't blame Obama. Yeah, he may have signed off on it, but any corporate backed President would have. Shrub was a "bidnessman." You honestly think he would have fought against the bailouts?). Money was taken from taxpayers and given to big banks to loan to taxpayers. So the taxpayers not only didn't get the money back (it was a LOAN, after all), but had to pay interest. Well, sort of. Getting approval for anything was nearly impossible. I know a couple with a PERFECT credit rating that tried getting a new SUV. EVERY bank turned them down as too risky. The banks spent the money given to them to line their pockets.

As financial Darwinism took over, it was no longer survival of the fittest. Some banks were too big to fail, some were too small to let live. Once again, both parties deserve the blame for this. Banks got rules to enable them to streamline their processes, and a wave of foreclosures hit. Done without paperwork. Without research. In some cases, without cause, as in the case of the couple I reported who paid cash and Bank Of America tried to foreclose on them anyway.

Last fall, the Attorneys General of all fifty states began looking into the practices of Bank Of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup. The leader of the crusade was New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman. But since then, two things have happened. First, a number of AG's simply lost interest in pursuing this. The other is the banks have united to cut a deal with the feds. They would rather pay a one lump sum ($20 bil) and end the lawsuits instead of dealing with several ongoing ones around the country.

Schneiderman has continued his pursuit of the banks. Now, it turns out the Obama Administration is putting the arm on him to drop his quest and let the feds handle this. Reported in the New York Times, "Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade Schneiderman to agree to the deal which changes no laws but protects the banks from future lawsuits.

This is what happens when Big Business is tied so closely to politicians -- not only do they get all these neat little rules made for them, but the politicians have a vested interest in protecting them. Not just for the contributions, but also the political black eye this can yield with a tough election season just around the corner.

As the saying on the Internet goes, "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention."