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.