Sunday, December 28, 2008

GOP: KKK Karaoke?

The GOP just can’t seem to shed its divisive and racially insensitive mantle of privileged intolerance and hate. Many Republicans still herd all black and hispanic people into the back entrances of their minds, and find raucous, race-bating, put-down musical parodies good for an attitude affirming chuckle. “Why no harm intended!”

Chip Saltsman, pretender to the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee who thought it would be funny to send a CD with 41 tasteless, demeaning racial parodies to his Republican buddies as a holiday gift makes my point. The good-old-boy gaffe caused an uproar. Saltsman still thinks the songs, produced for the ever sensitive, Rush Limbaugh, are “light hearted” and “good humor.”

What good old Chip has done here is to also prove what my departed yellow dog Democrat Irish-stock father always enjoyed pointing out about South Texas politics, “The jackasses always stick out a head higher from everybody else.” His observation works across party lines and on the national level as well.

In the quiet confines of the private whites-only clubs and well-tithed all white Protestant churches many still do not see what all the uproar over the “clever little songs” are all about. It is dismissed as so much more thin-skinned political screaming from “those liberals.” Even one of the two African-American candidates for the chairmanship of the GOP National Committee, J. Kenneth Blackwell, reportedly called the disgust with the Republican’s “Barack The Magic Negro” racial ditty, mere “hypersensitivity.” Perhaps a token dismissal?

Just to be sure they don’t regain any of the flood of Latino votes that went to the Democrats, the happy holiday hum-along CD also contained a tasteless treatment of hispanics set to the music of our national anthem titled, “The Starspanglish Banner.”

While high profile Republicans like current party chairman, Mike Duncan, former GOP house speaker, Newt Gingrich, and many more in the GOP leadership have been quick to distance themselves from, and denounce Chip Saltsman’s musical miscue, I have to wonder how many of the other candidates for the GOP party chairmanship, who were, or were not, on the gift list for the now-toxic CD will issue statements categorically denouncing Saltsman and his lack of musical taste.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dialogue: The Great Depression of 2009?

What happens after the last strains of Auld Lang Syne fade away on New Year’s Eve, and the glow of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20th quickly dims? By then, the deep economic mess we face should really start to sink in across America.

Those of us in our Golden Years may see things coming that those of more recent generations can’t even imagine. Its really a matter of what our parents knew about the great depression in the 1930’s and what they taught us when we were young. But if you were born in 1970, by the time you were old enough to remember daily life, things would have probably seemed fine. Your parents grew up when America was taking deep swigs of the new good life and opportunity after WWII. My folks were little kids when the 1929 crash happened. They grew up in the depth of the depression and did without. So, I got stern warnings about spending and saving money. Warnings that 40-somethings today probably didn’t get. And 40-somethings certainly didn’t see thrift and restraint reflected in the America of their youth.

How prepared are Americans today to cope, adjust, improvise, and to help one another as things really get tough in the coming year or two? Could really bad times that go on and on bring about a forced reset of the American psyche? A sea-change in leadership is coming, but a new Obama administration will begin work in the midst of global recession. Our new leaders will inherit record-setting national debt, and the diplomatic debris and great political uncertainty left by Bush and company. Massive government stimulus and work programs will be part of the long term solution but individual responsibility for daily survival will be key on the community level.

Compared to the more than ten years of misery, loss, unemployment, hunger and grinding uncertainty following the crash of 1929, we are a much stronger nation today. But the ability of average Americans to make do and to do without will be an unfolding saga. Will the new jobless again be forced to depend upon soup-kitchens and handouts to survive? Can we even imagine that? Millions, who for decades have been spending money they do not have, using a wallet full of credit cards to get whatever they want, will be forced to take a hard look at themselves. A pay-as-you-go world is a great social leveling force.

I would like to see an exchange of ideas about what you see coming on the basic person to person level. Post a comment and let's hear your thoughts and observations. Hardship can also create positive changes. Will humbling loss and poverty merely increase crimes like shoplifting and burglaries or will it bring out a renewed American strength and pride? What role will the internet and wireless communication make as times get really tough?

Let's start by exchanging ideas and talking to one another early on.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bush: Lame Duck Ducks

Timing is everything. Sneaking out of the White House under maximum security, "Almost-No-Longer-President" Bush wanted one more long ride on Air Force One. No one even missed him. Then Sunday he appeared on TV at a hastily arranged press conference in Iraq. He had just taken his place beside his inadvertent host, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, when an Iraqi TV journalist a dozen feet away, bellowing insults and invective, hurled his shoes, one after the other in rapid succession at Mr. Bush.

Fortunately Bush is an expert at ducking things and both shoes zipped by, inches from his head. But it was impossible for America's commander-in-chief to duck the insulting symbolism the tossing of shoes at him on live TV represented to Middle Eastern viewers. Before being hauled off by security agents, his attacker shouted that the shoes, and the symbolic filth on their soles, were a "farewell present" from the women, children, and innocents killed and injured in the Iraq war. He also called Bush "a dog." Bush lamely recovered, inappropriately quipping that the shoes "were a size 10," unaware that he had just been mightily insulted in the worst way.

I mentioned timing. Just yesterday, The New York Times broke the story about a U. S. Governmental "official history" of the the Bush administration's monumental failures in Iraq. Still in draft form, "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" was meticulously compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. A 513 page draft copy was made available to The NY Times who quickly posted a PDF link to the entire report. It is a damning document.

As the NY Times internet story was being published, Mr. Bush was back-slapping his way through talks about a recently negotiated Iraq-American security pact. This last visit was to have been a high note in his presidential legacy. Instead, he was figuratively smeared with street filth in front of millions. At the same time a government report detailing his failures in Iraq became available to millions more back home.

The government's findings mirror Peter W. Galbraith's acclaimed book, "The End of Iraq." It is a scholarly, intensely personal and detailed account of Iraq's complex history, politics and religious counterpoints and how they doomed Bush's clumsy efforts to utter failure. Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat with years of experience in Iraq, preceded the government's just released research and historical findings by almost three years with his award winning book which details the tragedy, waste, incompetence and delusional madness of the neo-conservative Bush loyalists pre and post invasion.

"Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" written by Rajiv Chandresekaran, Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Times, offers a darkly humorous personal glimpse of American waste and madness in Iraq. His reporter's eye for detail captures America's Catch-22, slap dash bungling following the invasion of Iraq. He shows how totally unqualified, clueless Bush loyalists assigned to the "little America" Green Zone of Baghdad burned through billions of dollars, ultimately accomplishing nothing to speak of.

I highly recommend both these books not only because they are compelling, but because they pre-date and confirm the findings of the "official history" conducted by the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. All three sources provide the detailed evidence, names, dates and documentation needed to structure a criminal case against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others. Is all there in black and white.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bob Jones University Says 'No' to Racism, Abercrombie & Fitch

World religions, right down to localized fundamental religious schools like Bob Jones University in South Carolina, follow what they call the "local ethos" to justify dogmatic religious statements and teachings. Damning, faith-based broadsides like the ones from BJU are always also attributed to some biblical scriptural quote. But now, finally, BJU has issued a half-hearted apology for their racist past. They blame their own disgustingly well documented racism on a social “ethos” rather than simply having done the right thing from the beginning. At least it is an admission that what liberals of the day were telling them 30 years ago was correct.
Students at Bob Jones University becoming smart at the
Bob Jones University Library, reading books by Bob Jones.
Photo by Francis Miller / Life Magazine / 1948.

Bob Jones U. apologizes for racial past

GREENVILLE, S.C.-- Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian school in South Carolina, has apologized for its "racially hurtful" past policies.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the university blamed its policies on the "segregationist ethos" of the United States.

"Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures," the statement said. "We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it."

Bob Jones, founded in 1927 by evangelist Bob Jones Sr., did not admit black students until 1971 and did not admit unmarried blacks until 1975.

Interracial dating and marriage was banned until 2000, a policy the administration justified based on a commandment given Moses against the mixing of unlike things. That became an issue during the presidential campaign when George W. Bush spoke on the campus.

Source / UPI / Nov. 21, 2008

And to further understand BJU: The clothes make the man.
"BJU bases its dress codes for men and women on the application of the principles of modesty, gender distinction, appropriateness and distinction from the world. ....

Brand Restrictions. Abercrombie & Fitch and its subsidiary Hollister have shown an unusual degree of antagonism to the name of Christ and an unusual display of wickedness in their promotions. In protest, articles displaying their logos are not acceptable to be worn, carried, or displayed (even if covered or masked in some way)."
Go here for a dress code chuckle.

See much difference in BJU and a strict Islamic Madrassa? Read this student expectation extract:
"Students are challenged to develop Christlikeness that is evidenced in consistent Christian character. To help each student to grow in Christlikeness, BJU has a reasonable, just, and firm disciplinary system.

Loyalty to Christ results in separated living. Dishonesty, lewdness, sensual behavior, adultery, homosexuality, sexual perversion of any kind, pornography, illegal use of drugs, and drunkenness all are clearly condemned by God’s Word and prohibited here. Further, we believe that biblical principles preclude gambling, dancing, and the beverage use of alcohol.

Dating and Mixed Groups

We want students to have wholesome social opportunities in a setting that provides accountability for biblical requirements of purity. It is with this in mind that we chaperon campus activities where men and women students are present and require a chaperon when students date or interact in a mixed group off campus."

And to think, some of us went to UT in Austin, Texas when we could have been socially neutered and made brain dead in South Carolina!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Recession: Delusional Politics meets Lewis Carroll

"The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today!" Young Alice Bernanke stared at the ranting Queen and mumbled, "I don't understand you. It's dreadfully confusing!"

Monday's top news headline could have been read through Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass: "It's Official: U.S. is in Recession" What a surprise. But even as the National Bureau of Economic Research issued its formal pronouncement that, "A US recession began in 2007" the evil royalty and aides in Wonderland's White House still refused to say the word "recession."

“ `And you do Addition?' the White Queen asked. `What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?'

`I don't know,' said Alice. `I lost count.'"

Instead of fessing up and accepting what has been abundantly clear to most all of us as the economic sky is falling all around, White House spokesman "Foxy Loxy," Tony Fratto, instead, breezily remarked upon the fact that the NBER “determines the start and end dates of business cycles.”

Too late for doublespeak. Bush's last parade had all ready been undone. Hans Christen Anderson wrote about such parades in 1837. And the ending of his tale about another deluded emperor fits the Bush political legacy perfectly:

"The Emperor is naked," the child said.

"Fool!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:

"The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"

The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle."

But hundreds of thousands of Chicken Littles were all ready out of their coops of delusion having heard Bush and company formally described by everyone as being buck naked! A flapping, frantic flock followed including Goosey Loosey, Henny Penny and a Thanksgiving survivor, Turkey Lurkey, all squawking, panic selling and sending the Dow down 680 points, almost 8%.

Lewis Carroll had yet another explanation for things, that also might fit the end of the delusional politics of the Bush era while also acknowledging that no one has a clue about what is happening economically right now:

`It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.

`What sort of things do you remember best?' Alice ventured to ask.

`Oh, things that happened the week after next,' the Queen replied in a careless tone. `For instance, now,' she went on,`there's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn't even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.'

`Suppose he never commits the crime?' said Alice.

`That would be all the better, wouldn't it?' the Queen said.

With apologies to Mssrs Carroll and Anderson

Friday, November 28, 2008

AT&T: Talking to the Voice-Lady

I called AT&T a while ago to learn how to buy one of their “Go-Phones.” I found the 800 number and placed a call. Human beings no longer answer your call to AT&T. A recorded female voice answers and greets you as if it were a human. It asks you to respond by talking to “her,” speaking words into your phone from her fixed list of questions. The voice recognition routine becomes tedious and irritating real quickly and the voice lady’s options of words to say had nothing to do with Go-Phones.

Trapped by inflexible computer software talking to me like I was a three-year-old, I began to reply speaking like a hair-lipped Italian. More fun than just getting mad. The voice-lady had no sense of humor. With an insistent tone, she replied "I'm sorry, I didn't get that," and she repeated the fill-in-the-voice-blank question. Amazed at the absurdity of talking to a computer hard drive, I replied in cartoon character voices, even urban street gang black mangled English until finally, in a slightly scolding tone, the voice-lady said, "Please hold and I will connect you with an AT&T Agent." Finally a human!

But eventually being connected to a live AT&T agent, opens up a whole new set of problems. The real person did not have the Go-Phone information and asked me to hold so they could “connect me, with that department." Guess what? I got connected to the voice-lady again. It is the voice-lady or no sale.

So, customer service is now the voice-lady on a hard drive somewhere in a large computer cabinet. AT&T must assume that America will willingly turn themselves into manipulated robots happily dealing with this maddening, frustrating and totally un-customer- friendly waste of time.

I finally managed to escape the voice-lady by doing something I had read about on the internet, repeatedly pressing #0#0#0#0. This got me to another real human and he eventually actually helped me place my Go-Phone order. But it required a sneaky back door trick to bypass the voice-lady. The phone arrived promptly but the charger plug did not fit into the phone. I forced my way past the voice-lady once more, and eventually got a human who directed me to a local AT&T store nearby where I could get a phone that worked. "No problem, sir, just go out there and they will make an in-kind exchange."

The Go-Phone store, formerly Cingular, was located in a large shopping center. It was set up like a circular airline ticket counter with uniformed clerks positioned in little spaces around it like orange suited carousel horses. Customers are made to stop at a pedestal just inside the front door and sign in, noting the time you got there. Then you wait in line for one of the carousel horses to become free.

I finally got to the counter, told the fellow that I was here for an "in-kind exchange." He had no idea what I was talking about. I explained that I had been told to come here to exchange the phone for one that would properly charge. I demonstrated how the little flat rectangular plug just wallowed around in the phone charger receptacle. He fiddled around and eventually found the proper charger for my phone. I asked him if that would fix the problem, because I thought I was supposed to exchange the whole telephone in its original packaging. "Yeah, this should work. We don't carry that model phone, and we don't do exchanges. We just sell and activate new phones."

It was like an orange-hued Twilight Zone. No two people seem to have the same information. Then I then noticed that all the sales agents were using their speaker phones to talk to the AT&T voice-lady! I was astounded. I asked if they didn't have direct lines, and was told in a resignedly tired manner that no, they have to use the same 1-800 numbers all customers have to use. I could only imagine how much money AT&T was saving by forcing their counter clerks to talk to the voice-lady all day like robots, while making customers take a number and wait.

Americans are already being trained to "Press 1 for English." Now, to do business or get help we must repeat words to a soulless, humorless recording. Fad-driven cell phone users already easily accept paying two bucks for a rude and raucous 'ringtone,' and are oblivious to the monthly bill for mindlessly chatting, texting and doinking around on the internet squinting at the tiny little screen. Just put it on the credit card. If this steadily growing monthly financial obligation doesn't bother them, talking to voice-lady eventually might seem normal. But it will never seem normal to a huge number of us out here who know better, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be called customer service.

Ed. Update Note:
(This saga went on with two personal calls from the AT&T Executive offices after I sent a copy of the post above to them. Neither caller from Hqs. had any idea why they were calling me. Sad and funny. Links to those follow up posts below if you want to see how genuinely nutty this whole customer service thing got.)

Follow-up on AT&T and the Voice Lady

Follow-up on the Follow-up above

revised update from original May 08 post

Monday, November 17, 2008

Palin: Call of the Moose!

Sarah is making the most of what's left of her remaining moments in the spotlight. The previously unknown state governor is using her hockey mom hoopla VP candidate exposure to seemingly promote tourism in Alaska. Or is tourism all her huge direct mail campaign is about? My first thought was, "Why would Sarah Palin be sending an invite down here to the balmy South Mississippi gulf coast inviting me to Alaska less than two weeks after the election?" As I write this it is 12 degrees F. in Wasilla and will be 9 degrees tonight and winter is just getting underway up there. It is in the upper 60's here and locals out on our golf courses are talking about how chilly it is.
The nice off white envelope with the Official State Seal comes directly from the "Office of the Governor of Alaska," not from the Alaska Division of Tourism. Searching for the Alaska Division of Tourism's web sent me to the Alaska Travel Industry Association's website which has Sarah's photo and her welcome. Sarah tells us that, Alaska is different from every other destination in the world. Sure is, Sarah. And every other destination in the world is different from every other destination in the world. Duh.

Inside the envelope from the Gov's office is a tear-off return postage paid card for a FREE travel guide. Unforgettable Alaska memories include a dog sled ride and a mother moose and her calf. Personally, I have all the memories of a moose mom I will ever need. On the back of the mail-in card are, Questions to help you plan your Alaska vacation, and include, Do you have children at home? Highest level of education attained? and What is your age? While these questions may somehow help find you that perfect igloo with a nice view of Russia, such information, along with your email address and telephone number, would be awful handy to have to cross-check against voter rolls.

Again, why is Sarah Palin mass mailing my neighborhood in the deep South? At this point I started to wonder if these invites only went to Red States? Curiouser and curiouser is the fact that the return card with all your info on it is not sent to the Alaska Division of Tourism in Anchorage, but to "ALASKA, Vacation Information Distribution Center, Portland Oregon, 97208-9807. Portland, Oregon? Sarah seems to have outsourced Joe the Junketplanner's job to the lower 48. But the ad copy on all the direct mail pieces was clearly written in Alaska, probably by Governor Sarah, or perhaps her husband? The tear apart card, below has more deathless copy offering a "virtual guarantee" you will get a travel guide before they are all snapped up:

I rushed to scan the envelope, card and letter for this article so I could get the card off for my FREE official Alaska travel guide because Sara's note tells me that Previous editions have disappeared quickly. I bet they haven't disappeared, Sarah, they are probably still all down in Portland, Oregon. But I am dying to get my copy because Sarah tells me that it is a really dandy thing to have, and starts off her letter to me:

"Dear Neighbor, (Neighbor?)
As Governor of Alaska, I am pleased to tell you about a very special offer:
now you can receive an official Alaska travel guide-absolutely FREE. This isn't some skimpy brochure-this is a full-color publication, as bold and exciting as Alaska."

That sold me, because I hate skimpy. The letter continues with its pitch and invites me to Just Imagine: Watchable wildlife, (as opposed to unwatchable wildlife, I guess) Clamming, Eskimo blanket toss, and lots more really neat stuff. But her pitch really stretches my imagination asking me, To learn about our comfortable weather. Nothing like clamming in comfortable weather, Sarah. I might come up if could take that tour of the world famous Alaskan "Nowhere" but I understand the bridge is still out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

GOP: Whoops! There Goes the Firewall

This is an update to an earlier article on Senator Orrin Hatch's frenetic September internet email plea for $7.00 donations to “defend the firewall!” Just two months ago, the Vice Chairman of the angst-ridden GOP Senators' Club was mainly concerned that Al Franken would beat Norm Coleman in Minnesota. Now, Franken and Coleman are barely a couple hundred votes apart. A Statewide vote recount gets underway there shortly. Franken could win. Poor Senator Hatch is still digesting the cold, hard post-Nov. 4th election results which saw him lose a half dozen of his fellow Senators in a massive firewall breach. What's a Senior Senator to do?

In September Sen. Hatch warned, “Al Franken is the poster-boy for the liberals' plan to break our firewall in the Senate and to seize total control of our government. Frankly, Al Franken is unfit for office." Damn, imagine, Al Franken unfit and a poster boy to boot! Al graduated cum laude from Harvard College, is a highly successful author, and a little of his SNL humor in the Senate chambers might be a good idea. Orrin should read Frankin's, 1993 book, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me."

Since the early panicked pleas for money, here’s the firewall’s status: Six GOP senators have lost their places on the wall, falling off just like a bunch of Humpty Dumpties including a long-time Dumptyette, Liddy Dole. Three more GOP seats teeter precariously. Democrats now have 57 Senate seats. Three more wins for a true firewall-smashing majority of 60 votes is very possible.

They are still counting in Alaska in legendary incumbent and convicted felon, Senator Ted Steven's race. At this writing with some 35,000 ballots left to count, Democratic challenger and Anchorage Mayor, Mark Begich, has the lead. Again, Al Franken has a good shot in Minnesota as the recount gets underway there.

And three's a charm in Georgia. A December 2nd runoff is scheduled there between GOP incumbent, political hack Saxby Chambliss, and Democratic challenger, Jim Martin, an Atlanta attorney. In 2004, then Georgia Senator, Max Cleland, a triple amputee who was awarded the Silver Star for exceptional bravery in Vietnam was targeted by Chambliss and the GOP slimemeisters in a filthy Rove-style campaign of lies and denigration. The ever lovely Ann Coulter was Chambliss' cheer leader savaging Cleland with her vapid vitrol. And the Senate Republicans are only worried about firewalls?

Looks like you should have asked for more than $7.00, Senator Hatch. More than money, your private senator's club needed a dose of humility and a reality check. And that is just what you have just gotten. You might have also considered that your firewall was already being attacked from the inside by the excess weight of Senatorial hubris, greed, negativity and a massive overgrowth of moss in your midst.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post Election Tidbits

Every reporter or writer has story ideas and scrawled words left in their notebooks after extended major news events. The daily news focus is ever changing. Wars, global warming, killer hurricanes, and of course, politicians and political campaigns. A presidential campaign produces a mother lode of ideas. One learns to keep a pad and pen handy. It is not possible to use each idea you jot down as a central theme for an article. But it always seems a shame to let them just fade away because the hot theme du jour has changed from wayward politicians caught flagrante delicto, to deadly earthquakes in California. So, here are some of my recent sketchy notes plumped out into mini-articles. We are in a recession, so best to use everything in the pantry.

America's veterinarians are reportedly getting an income boost since the campaign is over. Sarah Palin cost them untold dollars in potential exam and treatment fees because, as one Vet observed, "Damn, that woman has a voice that would worm a dog at thirty yards!" And sure enough, soon as her nasal twang quit filling America's living rooms, dogs again started dragging their butts across those same living room floors about a week after she packed up her designer duds and returned to Alaska. The dogs are reportedly lots happier having the vet worm them than the moose mom.

Continuing the pet theme . . . Billions of American taxpayer's dollars have been shelled out to "rescue" huge Wall Street firms because of lax Federal oversight allowing greedy management to royally screw up. But there is no such thing as a Chagrined CEO. Soon as the cash was deposited in their depleted tills what did do they do? Go into the conference rooms of their posh high rise office digs and start planning how to get a grip and tighten things up? Oh, no. The almost-on-the-rocks mortgage and insurance moguls booked thousand dollar a night rooms at distant posh resorts and flew the whole management staffs there from Wall Street . . . first class. Poolside penitence. Between spa treatments, lobster niblets and lots of Dom Perignon they discussed how to best spend all the new money we just gave them. A TV news investigative team followed and caught them red-handed. That night America saw the AIG hotshots poolside, sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them. Outrage! Fire them all! (this call for their heads lasted for two, maybe three days) Then, only a few weeks later, the Fed gives them another 80 billion or so of bailout money to keep their doors open, and guess what the top AIG managers did? A bit of conference room contrition? Not on your life. They kept the doors open at AIG so they could dash out of them again and fly off first class to yet another poolside executive "workshop." Again they were caught by waiting cameras. We see them on the nightly news stonily walking away from a reporter's microphone as they are asked why they are pissing away all our money.

This should be called the "Bad Dog" syndrome. These hedge fund hotshots are basically peeing on America's rug, over and over just like the family's pedigreed pooch, who despite threats and attempts to change his behavior, continues to pee the carpet. The pooch just won't learn, but at least he displays a slinking, hang dog indication that he knows it is wrong. Ever see a hang-dog sub-prime hotshot? When they talk about having a leg up on everyone else, we now know what that really means.

Finally, I was playing with the idea of the nation's self-service gas stations all of a sudden feeling the pinch of the recession with gasoline dropping from four bucks to less than two bucks. Regular gas at the Exxon station near my house has always been lots higher than the big discount station across the street from it. Now they're having a gas-war with just pennies difference in their prices. Today the discounter had regular for $1.95 and Exxon had it for $1.97. Lots of readers are too young to remember, but when Exxon was Esso, all the stations had a gimmick to get you to buy gas at their pumps. You stayed in the car while an attendant came out, asked you how much and what grade of gas he could put in your tank. Then he checked the oil and cleaned the windshield while the gas was pumping. If you got a fill up, you got a free dinner plate or coffee cup. The idea was to get you to return and eventually get a service for six of dinnerware. Wonder if Exxon and Chevron will be forced to actually compete for business in the coming couple years of recession? There would be no trouble filling the station attendant jobs. But I wonder if folks will have anything to put on the dinner plates?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Parsing the Pundits

After months of endless guessing, speculating, pontificating, fear mongering and blathering, came the evening of November 4th, and the TV talking heads had spectacularly shown their asses. Ordinary American voters had it right. The talking heads had just been jabbering.

Let’s set this up a little first. As a retired nightly newscaster from the old school, I stayed on the air just into the gender-correct Alphonse and Gaston vaudeville co-anchor era, I know the difference between what's correct and commercial chowder. I lament what passes for news and commentary today. I wish America’s broadcast and cable news operations were still run by tough-nosed editors, news directors and assignment editors instead of by their corporate headquarters.

Today’s news and commentary offerings, with very few exceptions, are run strictly as major revenue producers. Most are dog food factories with higher paid, better looking employees. Good looks, perfect hairdos and smooth teleprompter reading skills are the hallmarks of “good” today. What they read is second to how it all looks. America’s remaining three major networks, broadcasting over the public airwaves, still have one newscaster sitting in the chair introducing stories, beamed in via satellite in 30 second to two minute “packages.” What little network news there is, sandwiched between interminable commercial breaks, is generally OK, excluding the fluff stories. Cable news has lots more time to fill, and so there is lots more about Paris Hilton than there is about Paris, France, and lots more fluff.

Like pond minnows swarming around a morsel tossed into the water, news outlets on TV, and especially cable talk shows, have a feeding frenzy when a speculative gem is broadcast by any one of them. In a matter of minutes everyone is doing their own version of the gem. “Bradley effect, is a good example.” “Bradley effect” sent the 20-something desk producers and ‘researchers’ to the Google servers. Faster than you can say “Exclusive,” all news and sorta-news outlets were predicting a dire hidden force eluding the polls that menaced the Obama campaign. In a loud “Not so” to the prognosticating pundits, more white men across the nation, and even into the old South, voted for Obama than for any Democrat since Jimmy Carter. More voted Obama than for Bubba Clinton.

Obama Hussein, the secret Muslim terrorist, was not going to get the Jewish vote, and Florida was portrayed right up to election day as teetering and a toss up. A huge helpless sigh issued from TV sets across America. Ooops. Wolf got blitzed and Olberman was overruled. In a turnout even larger than that for John Kerry, 78 percent of America’s Jews voted for Obama. And endless shuttles to the polls from retirement homes in Florida as well as the Cuban-American vote there helped produce a handy win for Obama.

The ones listening hardest to appellations like terrorist, socialist, most liberal, inexperienced, were apparently the TV pundits who endlessly repeated and combined them ad nauseam. The ones really listening to America's heartbeat and making their own assessments clearly were average American voters, not the pundits.

There is a lesson in here somewhere for those who fill the time on cable channels and for the folks reading teleprompters and doing interviews. Producers and millionaire show “hosts,” why not do your own Google searches for, “initiative,” “resourceful,” “original,” “variety,” “lucid” and “accurate.” We’ll see how you do in four years. Faux News, never mind, you don't count.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A String of Lights

It has been like a long Christmas morning since the evening of the November 4th Democratic victory. Tens of millions of us basked in a new feeling of peace on earth and good will toward men. But by now we have already taken off almost all the political ornaments, tinsel and flashing lights from our early stand-in Christmas tree, and have packed them away for another four years.

Don't expect pretty incentive packages under America's real Christmas trees this year. This New Year's day, millions of households will face post-holiday blues not felt in more than half a century. Frigid winter's increasing chill will punctuate our deep economic crisis. We are slowly realizing that no immediate rescue is in sight. We are stuck with Bush and company till late January next year. The new Obama administration will require time to get effective plans underway. “Maybe some mortgage relief in a few months,” say the hopeful. Meanwhile we watch the daily terrifying cycle of vanishing credit, no one spending leading to layoffs and store closures, leading to a dimmer and dimmer future.

Imagine an early TV broadcast of June Evelyn Bronson Cleaver, of all people, having to tell Beaver and Wally that it will be a one present Christmas. Ward still has his job, but he had to take a steep cut in pay and his company pension fund is dwindling daily. Already more than half of the Cleaver’s neighbors have packed up and left as the foreclosure signs went up. June’s spinster aunt, Martha, has had to divide her prescription drug medicines to every other day because there is just not enough money, even living alone. It is the last show of their season and we don't get to see the ending.

For today’s real families there is no way to leave it to Beaver. Millions of Americans are slowly being reduced to the basics of just having enough to eat, and trying to stay warm. Crime rates are predicted to climb as many normally law abiding people resort to doing what they think it takes to feed their families. As dark times of scarcity face us it is imperative we not lose that newly rekindled sense of hope seen across our nation on the evening of November 4th.

“Yes We Can” requires that we all work together as a connected string of individual bright lights that refuse to burn out as a new Obama administration tackles the huge stack of problems that face us. All Americans regardless of political stripe must find that inner energy, powered by our pride and hope, to keep that essential string of lights burning to fight the darkness we face. Decades of unregulated financial dealings that led to today's economic nightmare will take a long time to clean up and repair. Bad habits in Washington will have to be broken, and lots of sticky fingers and downward pointing thumbs on Capitol Hill should get broken as well.

The brightest light of all for America would come from a vigorous effort to bring criminal charges against the Bush administration and the neo-conservative, Constitution-trampling knot-heads who need to pay for the serious damage they have done to our great country. For them to ignore subpoenas, wait out the clock, smugly return to their super wealthy protected enclaves as though nothing culpable had happened is not right.

Actually charge and prosecute the powerful? Yes We Can.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Graphic Change Coming

What to say after the historic, emotion filled hours we have just witnessed?

My first post-Obama post . . . a design from my mind to yours.
Instead of writing, I was motivated to use my graphic design and artistic side to produce this "first post-Obama post." I hope you let your own eyes bore into this image and that it speaks to you as you take a moment to decompress compressed feelings, both mine and yours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Heartbeat Away From Tuesday

It seems that some sub-prime mortgage holders who are losing their homes and some American voters unfortunately have a great deal in common. Both groups have been eager to figuratively sign the dotted line for something they may not have carefully thought through. Both have been manipulated and persuaded to do something that ultimately could cause them and the whole country great difficulty.

We all know the sub-prime story by now. Big name mortgage bankers and high rolling financial giants roared along in recent years with very little oversight. Mathematicians created convoluted, complex mortgage “products” few people could understand, and slick agents sold them like cotton candy to unwitting fiscal diabetics. Folks lined up to buy quarter-million dollar homes for nothing down and low monthly payments. Few bothered to read the fine print. Lots of folks who already had huge credit card debt were already primed for the sub-prime sweets. And then one morning everyone woke up from the dream and started screaming, asking how this could have happened.

This coming Tuesday as we vote for a new American president and vice president there will be many voters who haven’t read the fine print about John McCain and his frighteningly unqualified vice presidential choice, Sarah Palin. Barak Obama’s supporters have gathered by the hundreds of thousands across America to hear his positive message and detailed plans for our future and have made an informed and enthusiastic decision to vote for him.

In addition to loyal hard core conservatives, many other Americans are going to vote for the the McCain ticket and just hope for the best. Period. The big mortgage wheeler dealers fudged the truth and promised great things, all with no oversight and no one calling their hand as they peddled their flawed mortgages. McCain’s “Straight Talk” has not been straight at all. In his campaign’s waning days his vague promises and negative attacks change from campaign stop to campaign stop. Repeated media debunking of his wild claims and negative attacks have not stopped him from shamelessly aspursing them week after week as if they were true. Lots of folks actually believe the endless fantastic, false information spread about Obama. Or they certainly want to believe it, just like folks with no money wanted to believe they could own a huge expensive house with no money down.

One last time, for the good of America, we should seriously consider the points below before casting our votes Tuesday:

Seventy-two-year-old Senator McCain has successfully held back from the public a complete look at his medical records that could reveal the current state of his third remission for deadly melanoma cancer. We need to know for sure if he if fit and healthy. Is he hiding something?

Senator McCain’s record shows that in spite of what he says, he will, in the end, bow to the old guard Republican “base” and will continue Bush’s ruinous fiscal policies.

Sarah Palin, McCain’s chosen Vice Presidential candidate, has cynically refused to produce any of her medical records. This intellectually void, power hungry and dismally uninformed lightweight would become president of the United States should Senator McCain become incapacitated or die.

This is not buy-one-get-one-free, folks. Political foreclosure on America with Sarah Palin in charge is too grim to even imagine. But a vote for the McCain ticket includes that possibility. Better stop and read not only the fine print but the already glaring large print before voting Republican.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dubya: Texas Tried To Warn Us

I think the best state magazine in America is Texas Monthly. As a native Texan living away from South Texas for decades, my annual subscription to TM has been a lifeline to my deep Texas roots. The July, 2000 issue should have been required reading for all registered voters in America. The cover, seen at left, asked the question about the then Texas Governor, "Is George W. Smart After All?"
Senior Executive Editor, Paul Burka's article was titled, "Yes, And He Can Win'" A follow-on article, "But You'll Be Sorry!" contained personal observations about Bush from six noted Texas politicians and political analysts. Former Texas Governor, Ann "Ma" Richards, who was beaten by the young George W. in 1994, wrote,

“To his credit, George Bush is a disciplined campaigner. He stays on message . . . He seemingly does not tire of saying the same thing over and over and over again. If you ask me what time it is, I’m likely to tell you about the history of timekeeping and clock making . . . . If you ask George Bush what time it is, he’ll say, ‘I think Americans have the right to bear arms.’"

Jim Hightower, former agricultural commissioner, predicted Bush would lose, listing his observations about the cocky young candidate.

“One, the smirk. This is not a facial tic. This is from within. It reflects a spoiled brat’s sense of entitlement and a mean streak that we’ve seen flare up. I think that Bush’s sense of privilege is going to grow real tiresome real fast. The more you get to know him, the less you get to like him."

Hightower continued this pure Texas diatribe,

“Two, deep down, this guy is shallow. His one hundred experts and fundraisers and media handlers and powderers and puffers have done a good job so far of keeping his shallowness under cover."

“Three, he is a corporate wet dream, a loyal performer for the fat cats who’ve put money in him. If the voters and the media focus on the favors he has done for rich people, they’ll see Bush for what he really is: a hired hand for corporate interests. That’s not what the general public wants its president to be.”

Hightower had Bush nailed, but his prediction was wrong. Americans unwittingly elected W. anyway by the thinnest of voter margins . . . votes cast by the Supreme Court.

Prophetic stuff. Problem is that it has taken eight years for too many Americans to finally discover all this for themselves. John McCain is frantically trying to replace George Bush in a last minute game of political Whack-a-Mole. McCain keeps popping up, learning new lines, yelling, "My friends!" throwing out last-minute non-Bush economic promises. But what about McCain's hapless hockey mom, who would be next in line as president? Even NASCAR GOP abductees must be thinking that over.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Queen for a Day . . . or Two

Less than a dozen days till the presidential election. A fiction writer couldn’t have come up with the political plot changes of the past two months. I will be glad when something else dominates the news but for now the down-to-the-wire dynamics of this presidential race still offer a smorgasbord of story possibilities. For instance, imagine fiction writer coming up with a U.S. presidential candidate calling a break from campaigning a dozen days before election day. But, indeed, Barak Obama left the campaign trail for two days and flew to visit his critically ill grandmother in Hawaii. It was a last visit with the beloved woman who guided his early life. He then jetted back to the mainland to resume campaigning.

In Obama’s absence, the McCain-Palin campaign continued to self-implode. Headlines focus not upon their constantly changing message, but upon details of fleshed-out GOP campaign financial filings with the Federal Election Commission. The Republican National Committee has already lavished $150,000 for luxury shopping sprees to clothe America’s Hockey Mom and her tag-along family. RNC campaign cash for Mrs. Palin still gushes forth. The New York Times reports a dazzling new GOP tab and it’s a beauty. The top salary paid in the first half of October was not to a McCain campaign strategy Guru, but to a makeup artist. The two week stipend for the haute blush-dauber was $22,800 just to dandy up the Hockey Mom’s face for the bright lights of arena halls and news photogs. Queen Nefertiti should have looked so good. Her hairdo was a bargain basement deal with the Cindy-McCain-recommended California salon stylist being paid only ten grand, reported by the RNC as “Communication Consulting” for those two weeks. The GOP is making up Sarah Palin but The NY Times is not making up anything. And America is getting the message.

The faithful right wing voter base still overlooks McCain’s increasingly frequent senior moment gaffes, but his VP choice has gone beyond the Pale in the minds of huge numbers of the faithful. Coughing up that much donated cash to doll up a dud with more than lipstick has struck a nerve with decided as well as undecided voters.

Friday, October 24, 2008

McCain's Maverick Moment . . .

Want a final reality check if you are still an undecided voter? Imagine Senator McCain, as seen in the video below, addressing a rally in western Pennsylvania. Imagine him becoming equally flustered when having to deal with the little black bag and the nuclear weapon codes . . . Wonder how many more of these have been happening when the cameras weren't rolling?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah: The Big Alaskan Snow Job . . .

Sarah Louise, as she would be called if she was a Southern girl, is real easy to look at. A great talker too, an animated, articulate beauty queen. Sarah Palin's good looks and personality, plus her huge drive for power and control have made her mayor of a small town in Alaska and ultimately the Governor of that state for the past 22 months. Now she could possibly be Vice President of the USA. It is time for a voter reality check list. Would you vote for any Vice Presidential candidate who:

*Was plucked from relative obscurity and offered as a candidate less than two months before you are to vote, and who refused to release any medical records whatsoever?

*Who has been cloistered from the press except for a couple of national interviews which showed embarrassing ignorance of basic facts, a clueless inability to answer even softball questions and who thinks the Vice President, "Runs the Senate?"

*Who has recently been judged by bipartisan peers to have abused power as a State Governor and who is under continuing investigation for alleged petty and personal pressuring of underlings and other actions?

*A person about whom you really know nothing at all except the carefully orchestrated campaign hoopla and that he or she can easily reel off lies, half truths and the nastiest rabid fear mongering character assassination in recent Republican history?

*A mother of five children, with three of them still adolescents and one of those a Down Syndrome baby who demands extra special parental care?

*A fundamentalist, glossolalia speaking Pentecostal, whose teen aged daughter will be giving birth to an illegitimate child unless a rushed up wedding can be planned right after the election? Would it dare be a White House wedding if the the candidate won?

Now, imagine the Veep and her oilfield worker hubby, who lacks a college degree, in the real world of white tie state dinners making small talk with learned dignitaries and leaders from around the world. Eight years of one socially inept moron has caused enough international cringing wouldn’t you think?

Senator McCain’s desperate, cynical selection of Sarah Palin should be reason enough to run like you had seen a pink snake if asked to vote Republican. But as a final test, take McCain and Palin’s own campaign key words and hold them both up to those claims. If you think they pass then go to the polls with a clear conscience:

. . .Transparency - Leadership - Responsible Change - Ready on Day One . . .

Ready to vote now?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why is McCain Stonewalling?

There are only a couple of weeks before we vote for a new president. Americans deserve to see the current medical records of both candidates before making up their minds. Senator McCain still refuses to provide his current medical records. Senator Obama fully complied just a few months ago, undergoing a complete medical checkup. His publicly available records describe Obama as “in excellent health, lean and muscular with no excess body fat.” Senator Biden released a current update, Monday, Oct. 20th, and appears in good health for a guy his age. Sarah Palin, has released no medical information on herself whatsoever.

In McCain’s U.S. Navy aircraft carrier flying days, passing a flight medical exam was easy for him. But as we get older it can become harder to pass that annual flight physical. I am only a few years younger than Sen. McCain and am a private pilot, so I know all about having a "current medical." I am in decent health but am not "current." McCain is tough. But it is also tough to imagine being shot out of the air by an enemy missile, surviving a bail-out with broken bones, then enduring five and a half years of torture as a POW some 41 years ago and today being in a third remission from melanoma cancer. All that could certainly make getting a clean bill of health tougher, but not impossible. I have several pilot buddies McCain's age who are "current" and still having a dandy time flying. But none are running for president.

Remember why the pilot and co-pilot on commercial airliners eat different in-flight meals off the menu? If one meal is tainted, like bad tuna salad, both pilots don't become incapacitated, leaving one to fly and land the plane safely. But we are not talking about toxic tuna salad here. And we are not talking about United Airlines. We're talking about the United States, with John McCain as our possible president and his VP candidate, Sarah Palin, as our potential co-pilot. Showing us all he has a clean bill of health would clearly help the 72 year old McCain's faltering campaign right now. It's fair enough to ask why he doesn't. Ms. Palin's lungs do seem to be in tip top condition, but that's all we have been permitted to know about her state of physical health.

While McCain invokes his discredited folk hero, “Joe the Plumber” and Palin whips up “the base” with her nasal, hate-tinged talking points, the noise they are making still can not drown out that basic question in voters’ minds, “Is candidate McCain healthy enough to take over an America which has just lost power in its engines and is flying in a fog of uncertainty? And what about his co-pilot?”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber's Butt in a Crack

Overnight celebrity, Joe "The Plumber" Wurtzelbacher, of Toledo, Ohio, initially flush with fame, isn't holding up too well under the harsh media glare the day after the final presidential debate. When first interviewed after the debate Joe became a verbal Roto-Rooter as the cameras rolled, calling Obama a "Socialist" and saying his tax plan "infuriated him." The press went plumb crazy. John McCain invoked "Joe the Plumber" 21 times last night. McCain's "average Joe" was used as a verbal club which he repeatedly used to try to clobber Barak Obama. At a recent campaign stop, Joe asked Obama a question about taxes on a plumbing business he was "planning on buying." With no more detail than Joe provided, Obama gave a very general answer about small businesses making more than $250,000 dollars a year, and indicated the possibility of a tax increase. McCain's campaign adopted angry Joe using him to attack Obama's tax plan, claiming it would destroy America's small businesses, ad nauseam. Today tax experts said that under Obama's plan, Joe would, in fact, not pay higher taxes and might even get a tax break when figuring actual taxable earnings.

Journalists soon started doing some background checking on Joe. First of all, Joe has never been a licensed plumber or contractor, which is a requirement in the City of Toledo. He has never even formally apprenticed as a plumber. Joe has never belonged to Columbus plumber's local 189 as he supposedly claimed on his internet facebook page, and more details are coming to light hourly. Joe's concern about paying more taxes becomes clearer with reported findings that he already has problems paying what he owes. He is reported to have had two liens against him of more than $1,000. One of them, a personal lien from 2007, he reportedly still has not paid. Seems McCain's vetting of Joe, his folk hero de jour, was no better than the vetting of his ill advised VP choice, Sarah Palin.

Details or facts have not been of much interest to Senator McCain lately as he grimaces his way forward, trying to score a last cheap political point. Before using Joe Wurtzelbacher as a catch basin for his campaign's hogwash he might have checked the drain before it overflowed all over them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Trick or Treat Palin Rescues Economy!

Orders for the Sarah Palin full-face latex Halloween mask have caused a major upswing in the volatile US flash-in-the-pan futures market. President Bush will reportedly go on national TV this week to announce that the tax boost from Palin mask sales is easing the national credit crunch. Costume Kingdom in Tarzana, California is offering the "full face, hand painted latex mask," seen at left, for $29.95. Buyers are urged to "get them before they are gone." Smart marketers, these Tarzana folks. They remember the Pet Rock fad of the 1970's, and how short lived it was after the novelty wore off. Palin and Pet Rocks have lots in common. Palin was imported from distant Alaska. The equally dense rocks were brought in from a beach in distant Baja California, Mexico. The six month run on Pet Rocks made their creator a millionaire. The Political Mask Market, symbol PMM, sees huge Halloween cash inflows. This has created a stir on Wall Street because anything that could potentially last even one month is more promising than anything they have going right now. PMM market comparison figures show existing Obama and McCain plastic masks are holding steady at $15.95, with George W. Bush and Hillary masks going for only $7.95 from Costume Kingdom on the West Coast. Anytime Costumes on Long Island, New York only has a photograph on their web site of a clay mold used to make the Palin mask but they are taking orders nonetheless. The clay mold is at least more solid than any of the promises we have heard from the White house or Wall street so far.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Old Emperor Penguin

Penguins have several distinguishing traits. They have an urgent waddle and repeat the same determined behaviors year after year. They also sometimes get way off track and become lost. Hundreds of wayward Magellanic penguins wound up in balmy Northern Brazil after straying almost a thousand miles off course. After being rescued, fed and cared for, they were returned to their normal habitat this past weekend. Brazil accomplished the penguin bailout with no help from congress or the taxpayers. "We had to learn how to work with them," said Carlos Garcia, a spokesman for IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute for Environment and Renewable Resources." (You can't make up this kind of stuff )

Last night's town hall debate really showcased Senator McCain's inner penguin. He had a pronounced forward-leaning waddle as he urgently repeated "My Friends" dozens of times to the selected audience, before spewing barely believable negatives about his opponent. IBAMA was not there to rescue Sen. McPenguin and send him back to the comfort of his accustomed millionaire habitat. OBAMA, a rescuer of a more familiar sort, showed his humane side by basically ignoring the old bird as he waddled and squawked. The applause had not died at the end of the ninety minute bird watch and McPenguin had already done a fast waddle off stage. He didn't even wave bye with one of his vestigial wings. OBAMA remained and continued his conversation with audience members. Next Wednesday night there will be a final chance for Audubon enthusiasts to again glimpse the almost extinct McPenguin . . . if he doesn't get so far to the right that he misses New York entirely.


Monday, October 6, 2008

The Dulling Down of America

Two more debates to go before the November presidential election. Political TV spots have become a dull, nagging roar. Viewers long ago learned to tune out most TV commercials, especially ones detailing the many medical side-effects of prescription drugs. While we watch a lust-filled couple walk off arm in arm for a jump in the sack, all made possible by a pill that raises sagging fortunes, we are simultaneously warned not to take the pill if any of a list of dire things happen including, god forbid, an erection lasting more than four hours. A truly schizophrenic message.

Night after night the 60 second medicine shows continue. We see pretty, happy, people taking pills that now let them clip flowers, run along the edge of the beach, and stare deeply into each another’s eyes, but the voice-over simultaneously warns of horrible side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, flatulence, jaundice and other unappetizing dinner hour images.

Americans have allowed these disturbing mixed messages into their homes without complaint, simply tuning out what they don’t want to see or hear. Political commercials have very little credibility or effectiveness today, and none offer a warning about elections lasting longer than 4 lifetimes. Some can cause vomiting, but again, there is no warning. Lies and out-of-context claims delivered in a Nancy Grace-style snarling voice-over are combined with jarring music and this is supposed to attract your vote. It has become a juvenile school lot shouting match and, indeed, invites one to tune it all out.

The two remaining live debates offer a last chance for a real candid exchange of ideas by McCain and Obama, and for listeners to submit their own questions in the Tuesday October 7th town hall style debate. Many will still only hear what they want to hear and will tune out the rest just as they do every other night as they watch TV. Maybe the debates should end with McCain, a grin on his face, running in slow motion down a beach into the sunset.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Voting for the Pony Show

Last night’s Vice Presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Alaska State Governor Sarah Palin wasn’t really a debate at all. Folks were mostly waiting to see if Ms. Palin would continue to display her dismal lack of basic knowledge about current affairs. Direct questions about American government, her running partner’s record, foreign affairs and even names of newspapers she reads have made her draw embarrassing blanks in recent limited live news interviews. Fortunately, the debate format allowed her to smile, ramble and gesture her way past the moderator’s general questions by just simply not answering them. Her well coached, folksy barrage of rehearsed talking points allowed her to hammer together mismatched topics and construct verbal Potemkin villages around her. Causal viewers wanting her to do well were probably happy with her repeated winks at the camera, pointing pistol finger gestures, and folksy circumlocution. After all, Minister Potempkin fooled Empress Catherine II with his handiwork.

The rookie small town politician shamelessly “corrected” senior Senator Biden on several occasions with her prepared rattle of talking points. Biden, ever the statesman, didn’t dignify her sophomoric attempts except a couple of times when he had to slowly and clearly run down a list of well known facts that deflated and debunked her flimsy attempts, including why McCain is simply not a “maverick.” During Biden’s thoughtful and knowledgeable presentation of his points and plans, Palin stared down at the her podium desperately scanning her talking point reminder notes to try to fill the her growing intellectual vacuum.

At the end of ninety minutes, sighs of relief could be heard from the GOP faithful. She had not committed any serious gaffes and was still smiling and perky! But nothing had really changed. Like a trained pony, she had made it around the ring. She jumped, pranced, performed just like she had been rehearsed and didn’t crap in the ring. Her ninety minute presence, more than anything, served to again display John McCain’s utter cynicism and political expediency in selecting such a lightweight flash in the pan to try to bail out his flagging campaign. Now we will wait to see how many Americans genuinely would willingly vote for a slick pony show.

Monday, September 22, 2008

America the Duped?

If you aren’t frightened for your country right now, you should be. In a couple of months Americans could be led again, like compliant sheep, into electing another George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, but with even worse consequences. How are Americans so easily lulled and duped? Seems it doesn’t take much. American Indians knew all about it. A proverb attributed to the Cherokee says it well,

"Tell me facts and I may remember them. Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever."

In 2000, and 2004, it was storytelling time. George W. Bush was marketed not unlike a prime time dog food commercial. He already had a familiar presidential name. Great stories were repeated over and over about his supposed accomplishments, and qualifications. His spoiled rich playboy past, problems with alcoholism, basically unspectacular work history, and lackluster accomplishments were carefully downplayed or blanked out. But you never actually see the dog food being made in their commercials either.

But it was enough for Bush, with the help of The Supreme Court to barely prevail over Vice President Al Gore. In 2004, the storytelling with a boost from 9/11 again prevailed, fending off Senator John Kerry in spite of Bush’s already dismal track record. Now in 2008 the Republicans offer aging, confused Senator McCain as president and a last minute unknown female rookie Governor from Alaska, with a closet crowded with skeletons as Vice President. That is frightening on its face.

Big time Republican storytelling has frantically been going on. Outright lies about Senator Obama, repeated shamelessly over and over. The story trumping fact and reason. Is it working? NY Times columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, reports that, “A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr. Obama is a Christian. More ominously, a rising share — now 16 percent — say they aren’t sure about his religion because they’ve heard “different things” about it.”

Different things . . .” Like the tongue clucking of a gossipy old aunt. Doubt, rumor, toss in a dash of racism and Americans themselves could once again fall for the tactics and misdirection of entrenched self-serving cynics. Are you frightened yet? Frightened enough to physically get out there and fight the stories?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Quick Look at “Female Voters”

Let me tip toe out into a minefield and talk about “Female Voters.” You hear both ‘female voters’ and ‘women voters.’ Women’s Liberation must have sounded better than Female Liberation. Women's Lib is easier to say. Female's lib might sound too anatomical.

I'm already in trouble here, but I have to ask about all those energized women, screaming and chanting for Hillary night after night during the primary. Were they motivated by her message or were they just enchanted by Hillary the female candidate? Would those same women now be as easily enchanted by the cute, tough talking, last minute Republican selection for Vice President, just because she is a woman?

The GOP is trying to attract “disaffected Hillary supporters.” How can we believe that the cheering, almost rabid women we saw in the close-up TV shots at the Hillary rallies would suddenly become disaffected because a man won the Democratic nomination rather than a woman? Isn't it cynical to suggest that they were cheering only because they were women, and that now any woman with a shot near the top, would as easily become their heroine? Ditch your principals as a Democrat and vote for the clueless moose mommie! She's a Woman! The McCain campaign managers are giving it a shot.

In Denver, Palin praised the hard work of Hillary and her “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling,” then she uttered, “But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!” Women who would vote their lingering gender anger to spite their own well being can’t represent a meaningful number. But McCain will take every vote he can get, especially the deluded and the disaffected.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Political Science?

There are rumors that a medical and political first may happen before the upcoming political debates begin. The boost McCain’s flagging campaign got from his improbable selection of Sarah Palin as his VP is now fading. So a new even weirder plan is being hatched. Confidential sources tell The iHandbill that McCain and Palin are to undergo elective surgery to medically join them at the hip with double velcro patches. Dr. Frank N. Stein promises benefit for them both in the coming debates with Senators Obama and Biden. Dr. Stein says the detachable hip connector will share their bile production and other selected abilities through a small incision. Each hip will have small connectors that can be plugged together or unplugged with the velcro patch. Medical insiders report that the surgery runs no risk of rejection because they both share A-negative blood lust. Palin’s radio and TV studies at one of the several colleges she attended will help Senator McCain in reading a teleprompter. Her access to McCain’s repository of decades of political experience, knowledge of history, geography and Washington D.C. would make Palin to seem like she actually knows stuff. Precautions include a former Rove staffer dressed as an adoring fan who would “accidentally” bump into them, disconnecting them in case McCain starts speaking in tongues, or Palin starts telling off-color fighter pilot jokes.
Reportedly Palin will only be allowed to debate while connected to McCain, and will be kept in an undisclosed location while unplugged. Biden would be labeled a liberal elitist whiner if he complained about having McCain plugged in during the VP debate with Palin. McCain will not need to read a teleprompter during his debates so there would be no reason for him to remain connected to Palin. In fact, remaining connected might make him do Palin's cutsie eye blinking, and real mavericks don't blink.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cosmetics over Substance

Just as easily as the GOP McCain campaign spinmeisters crank out their outright lies and distortions, they also feign outrage and insult. Senator Obama's recent use of the old political chestnut, "putting lipstick on a pig," was snatched immediately by the McCain spinning circle and denounced as an outrageous reference to their Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Their press release machine overheated as they bellowed. They reacted so wildly because cosmetics are the stock in trade for McCain's campaign folks. It was after all, McCain's speechwriters who introduced labial makeup in Ms. Palin's speech with the "lip gloss" and pit bull reference. A quick bit of research shows that the idea of putting lipstick on anything didn't happen before about 1880 when the word lipstick first shows up. But it has shown up on pigs, donkeys, frogs and other things since then in references by politicians of all stripes.
A classic definition of the expression is generally, "A term used by many, generally in reference to someone who may be trying to make something or someone look appealing or attractive when it quite clearly will not work, or will only deceive the dumbest of people."
Had that been applied to Ms. Palin it actually would have been quite appropriate. But Senator Obama was not talking about her at all. He was talking about the total Republican failure to lead this country the past 8 years and the mess they have left. A mess that the Grand Old Party has been steadily smearing with lipstick to try to gloss over its ugliness. We should, instead, be seriously talking about how to get this great country out of the mess it is in, which the Democrats have been doing for months and months. Instead the Republicans continue to lob schoolyard epithets, praise God and Country, and crank up their smoke machines. They are doing everything possible to not even mention Bush or Cheney or any specific ways they are going to throw the runaway GOP greed train into reverse. Glossing over glaring shortcomings of the train's engineer and conductor by using Republican Revlon just increases the chances for a major American train wreck.

Photo from Information Week's July 24, 2006 Cover

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vice Presidents We Have Known

The nomination of Sarah Palin as Vice President, a virtual political unknown with little experience, is being beautifully stage managed. Americans must have short memories when it comes to embarrassing and incompetent GOP VP candidates. Republican campaign management has gotten dirtier and louder than ever because they have specialized in selling their lackluster candidates with slogans and spin better defined as outright lies. They not only got W. elected, but are now stuck with the disaster he and his Vice President have caused. They learned lots about spin and damage control from another light-weight Vice President, James Danforth Quayle. His selection by George H. W. Bush caused an immediate controversy. The media, in 1988 were mostly mainstream broadcast and print publications. There were no internet bloggers and no round the clock cable channels with prattling pundits to minutely dissect Quayle's glaring tattered edges. The media did jump on questions concerning young Dan's military service, a Florida golf trip he took with a female lobbyist, and the question of his experience to be VEEP. But daddy Bush won and Quayle became VP #44 and immediately became a non-stop string of embarrassments.
Today Republicans have learned to control and limit access to their intellectual lightweights, keeping George W. Bush's gaffes under the radar as much as possible. Now they have to do something with Ms. Palin who was presented with calculated fanfare and given a handful of old re-sharpened GOP darts to toss as she read her prepared speech full of sound and fury signifying nothing . . . except that she is going to have a tough time in a serious interview. But the campaign has now sent her back to the frozen north “to take care of family and state government matters” making her unavailable for interviews except for one interview on ABC, and Charlie Gibson has to be nice. Meanwhile like a goose being stuffed with a feeding funnel to become eventual pate’ Palin is being force fed answers to possible questions and coached on hail Mary plays in case someone asks her about world politics, social issues or anything else requiring an informed answer.
We survived Quayle because George H.W. Bush was in good health and kept his court idiot at arm's length for four years. Senator McCain’s health and state of mind at age 72 plus his sad political prostitution of once admired stands and challenges to his party make him a sorry choice to lead our country. The cynicism of the GOP in selecting an inexperienced but opportunistic female for the VP spot and then marketing her like premium dog food with designer glasses is the worst yet. They can't keep her hidden till November.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Vote for me and I PROMISE!

Well, John McCain promised last night to “end partisan rancor.” It is about time. Kissing and making up. Gee, I am so glad he’s finally going to do that. At last we are going to do a 180 turn and salvage the Republican disaster of the past almost 8 years. Of course time limitations must have prevented Senator McCain from mentioning just how he was going to do anything or from offering plans or concrete ideas, but what great promises! It will all be just swell. Hell they may even redesign the two chambers on Capitol Hill and do away with aisles altogether. Open seating anywhere in the chamber!
Lots of listings in the Thesaurus for rancor: “bitterness, spite, hate, hatred, resentment, malice, ill will, malevolence, animosity, antipathy, enmity, hostility, acrimony, venom, vitriol.” I guess that kind of stuff just builds up over time like dust in a closed up house. But now the old fellow says he is going to get all the angry, smug, selfish screaming and jeering folks who have been assembled this past week to lambast Democrats, and particularly Democratic Presidential Nominee Barak Obama, to do an about face while having the Democrats all turn and smile and forgive as well. Helluva promise. And what a surprise just a day after bitterness, spite, hate, hatred, resentment, malice, ill will, malevolence, animosity, antipathy, enmity, hostility, acrimony, venom, and vitriol spewed forth as his hand chosen book-burner hockey mom read the Karl Rovesque crafted words of the speech that scrolled before her on the teleprompter. There was a hint of surreal déjà vu as if we were again watching George W. Bush making the same bipartisan promise almost eight years ago as he slowly morphed into a stooped, white haired and tired nice old guy before the same audience. Damned shame McCain hadn’t made his astounding promise that morning. It might have stopped the almost 400 point slide on the Dow Jones index.