Tuesday, September 30, 2008

700 Billion Dollar Baby

I don't discuss politics in public, so I am going to be as non political as I can be in writing this.

"Children, papa gambled away all of the money for the mortgage--now you are going to have to bail papa out--break open your piggy banks--Papa needs every penny--oh, and by the way, we must all agree that papa must not be punished--oh and by the way, if you refuse to bail papa out, we're all going to be in big trouble. Papa gets kicked out of the house, but you get kicked out too. See, papa's troubles hurt you as much as they hurt papa--so break open those piggy banks, children!"

What I'm trying to say is that I love the super rich Main Street and Wall Street tycoons!!!

They are the ultimate gamblers!

Spend what you want--beg for what you need. Keep on playing the game. The only game is to play the game, baby. It does not hurt to have rich friends, either--friends with 700 billion dollars to loan to you who have proven to be poor stewards of the billions you already had.

Are these tycoons a metaphor for the gambler or is the gambler a metaphor for them?

Regardless, I love 'em!

Anybody who can bet that big, lose it all, and have the balls to come at you with his hand stuck out is my personal hero!

That, my friends, is capitalism in action. Sorry, I meant "socialism" in action--but of course we are not socialists, right, so we cannot say that word. Perhaps if we were those dirty, stinking, red, rat-bastard socialists we would come with our hands stuck out asking for money for unnecessary things like universal health care, education, the crumbling physical infrastructure of, say, Minnesota--sing it with me children: "St.paul Bridge is falling down, falling down, my fair lady . . ."

But we love the free market (especially unfettered and unmonitored)!

We love small government (especially when it allows our rich friends to do their business in a manner that is unfettered and unmonitored)!

But we are so stoooopid that we are forgetting what government (of the people, by the people, and for the people) actually means.

Government means that . . . WE are the government!

We should not hate or fear the government--WE are the government.

We should not hate or fear the IRS--WE are the IRS--it's our freakin' money! We simply created the IRS to collect it and to count it so that WE, the government, could use it later to fight our wars, defend our borders, educate our children, feed our poor, heal our sick, care for our elderly, maintain our roads, police our neighborhoods to keep them safe from crime, fight our fires, protect our forests and natural places.

We should not hate or fear our president--WE elected him to PRESIDE over our affairs. He is not our leader in the way a monarch such as a king would be; he is more of a chief steward, an overseer of our affairs. If the president is LEADING our country, then we no longer have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

We should not hate or fear our senators and our members of congress--they are OUR voice in Washington. They only speak the will of the people--WE are the people. If they are speaking for themselves or in accordance with the ambitions of special interest groups and lobbyists, then we no longer have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

As I see it, there are two major problems with us in America with our government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

One--it is too hard and too time consuming to participate in a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. We all have jobs that we must go to everyday, children to bear and care for, daily life things to see to. Thus, we grant too much unfettered and unmonitored power to those we have HIRED to be stewards of the affairs of our government of the people, for the people, and by the people--so much so that our government of the people, for the people, and by the people becomes a government of the people, for the people, and by the people IN NAME ONLY. We the people are no longer paying attention to our government, except when election time rolls around every few years or so or when there is a disaster--Hurricane Katrina, 911, Watergate, Vietnam, and, on yeah--"Children, papa needs to borrow 700 Billion dollars, and he needs it now."

Two--power corrupts. If we the people are too busy to watch our stewards, then they, in essence cease to be stewards and become de facto leaders, like the old monarchies and royal courts of feudal antiquity used to be, and they RULE and GOVERN in much the same way--through nepotism, cronyism [sic], whim, personal vision/ambition, through the knighting of those who have earned favor, and through the establishment of powerful vassals, henchmen who will carry out the orders of the king and make sure others abide by them, too. Oh, now that is a fanciful way of putting it--obviously I've been reading too much LORD OF THE RINGS. But like the old saying says, "another name for an unwatched steward is Lord and Master."

In other words, it is a fact that we are too busy to watch our government's stewards; so then we must answer honestly when we ask whether in fact we still have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

How long have we been allowing the stewards to govern in a manner that is unfettered and unmonitored?

This 700 billion problem just sort of snuck up on them? Were they sleeping on the job? Were we?

Obviously, we are going to have to pay the tab. None of us is willing to suffer through another Great Depression. There will be an amended and improved proposal put forward by the president in a week or two or maybe three and the house will pass it overwhelmingly. Things will go back to usual, sort of.

But this time--after this shocking wake up call--we will, hopefully, understand how important it is to monitor the stewards of our government and hold them accountable for their lapses, and see that they keep an eye on their gambling friends down at the casino at the intersection of Wall and Main Streets.

Otherwise we need to stop saying that we have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, and begin to pay fealty to our elected counts, dukes, barons, and kings.

Thanks,

Preston

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Editorial Reviews of All or Nothing

New York Times--". . . a cartographer of autodegradation . . . Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu — the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand."

Florida Book Review--". . . Allen examines the flaming abyss compulsive gambling burns in its victims’ guts, self-esteem and bank accounts, the desperate, myopic immediacy it incites, the self-destructive need it feeds on, the families and relationships it destroys. For with gamblers, it really is all or nothing. Usually nothing. Take it from a reviewer who’s been there. Allen is right on the money here."

Foreword Magazine--"Not shame, not assault, not even murder is enough reason to stop. Allen’s second novel, All or Nothing, is funny, relentless, haunting, and highly readable. P’s inner dialogues illuminate the grubby tragedy of addiction, and his actions speak for the train wreck that is gambling."

Library Journal--"Told without preaching or moralizing, the facts of P's life express volumes on the destructive power of gambling. This is strongly recommended and deserves a wide audience; an excellent choice for book discussion groups."—Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH

LEXIS-NEXIS--"By day, P drives a school bus in Miami. But his vocation? He's a gambler who craves every opportunity to steal a few hours to play the numbers, the lottery, at the Indian casinos. Allen has a narrative voice as compelling as feeding the slots is to P." Betsy Willeford is a Miami-based freelance book reviewer. November 4, 2007

Publisher’s Weekly--"Allen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction . . . The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing."

Kirkus Review--"We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno.

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Bio


Preston L. Allen is the recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press 2003). His works have appeared in numerous publications including The Seattle Review, The Crab Orchard Review, Asili, Drum Voices, and Gulfstream Magazine; and he has been anthologized in Here We Are: An Anthology of South Florida Writers, Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction, Miami Noir, and the forthcoming Las Vegas Noir. His fourth novel, All Or Nothing, chronicles the life of a small-time gambler who finally hits it big. Preston Allen teaches English and Creative Writing in Miami, Florida.