vendredi, novembre 19, 2010

The Only Thing We Have to Fear, is . . .

When I was a lad, we worried. Not about stupid stuff, like terrorism, or a collapsing economy. We had real concerns angsting our daily bread.

We worried about clothes. We were poor, in a poor neighborhood; and no one is more status obsessed than the lower middle class. NO ONE. You had to wear the right thing. To do otherwise was to subject yourself to all manner of verbal cruelty. With us, it was worse than name calling (though there was plenty of that). It was petty, catty gossip, designed to be delivered anonymously and leave you unable to respond. Silent bullets in the back of your off brand shirt. It seems to me kids today are less brand obsessed, more laid back. Thrift store shopping was something to hide. Now it's all the rage. Absent this division, kids are left to bully each other into suicide on facebook. Sad, yes, but hardly Marxist. It was amazing how relative poverty united us against each other. It was civil class warfare, and believe me, it was stressful.

Almost as stressful as puberty. As there's nothing new under the sun, I'm sure kids today stress endlessly about the bizarre biological arms race. Like us back then, modern adolescents pull their hair out hoping for emergent body hair. A late bloomer, I crumbled under the pressure and used to force my voice to crack, because of the badge of honor you could wear when your voice started to change. I also went for eyeliner on the upper lip. And prayed hourly for a five o'clock shadow. (One of the great ironies, really: we seek a boon, and only when it is granted do we realize we were praying for a scourge.) The whole process tore me in two. When an older brother said: "Dude, you stink!" I was naturally horrified, but my pubescent heart secretly rejoiced, and with affected nonchalance seasoned with glee I reported the body odor to my friends. Sick, sick sick.
But all this has been true for every generation since the beginning. The horror for us, which I don't believe modern youth have to suffer, was showering after gym. Pale, skinny, largely hairless 7th graders herded into showers. Once, coach Yingling, (yes, that was his real name) heard we were disgracing his showers by holding our towels on and simply wetting our hair. He actually came into the showers and used a couple of us as examples of how to hang up your towel on the rail and cross the denuded gauntlet of death to the showering area. He added torture to the horror by having his eighth grade teacher's assistants monitor us in his absence. You just had to go numb and stumble through it. I don't' think your average junior high even HAS showers nowadays. Nothing surpassed that stress.

Except Global Thermal Nuclear War.

Sure, the current generation had 9/11. And for a while afterwards, we all pretended to be worried about a recurrence. But our laughable faux terror malaise, and even the horrors of the TSA are nothing compared to the tangible fear that brooded over the world during the cold war and reached it's apex under president Cosby. Those of us who hit our formative years in the late 70's/early 80's will never forget the daily possibility that almost all life on earth could be wiped out in a matter of minutes. Forget about the politicians--our movies, our TV, our own parents, drove the imminent nuclear holocaust deep into our collective psyche. Sting even charted a hit on the subject. And we were so caught up in fear and expectation that we couldn't see how pretentious and melodramatic the song was. And whereas we had Red Dawn to say: "Oh, by the way, we don't even need nuclear weapons to drive you young people into the high country," this generation already has comedies--comedies!--about jihadist terror. Proof that ours were headier times. Time spent musing about the end of the world as we know it changes you. Even if, at the end of it all, you feel fine. There is no equivalent for the current crop. What will become of them?

So nothing ever changes. And the more it changes, the more it stays the same. Fine. The kids of today are just like we were: they're just undeniably fatter, softer, ruder, cruder, hypersexualized versions of ourselves. But they are happy-go-luckier, than we ever were or could be.

And why not? They have relatively nothing to fear.

jeudi, octobre 21, 2010

Big Mouth Strikes Again

A friend was about to tell me to keep something secret. This friend seemed to be under the impression that I tell people things.

At first, I was offended. Because people have entrusted me with hundreds of secrets that I have never revealed. Never even THOUGHT of revealing. People have confided in me. They really have. On top of that, I have secrets of my own, which, despite occasional ribbons of revelation, I am quite content to keep to myself. I'm quite sure the world is a better place with most of its information classified.

So I tried to go back through time and find the reasons why someone might have this low opinion. The occasions were found.

INCIDENT THE FIRST: During some bizarre sleep over in some cabin, or condo, or something, in Tahoe, apparently a bunch of people crashed together on a sofa bed. The next morning, I reportedly "sold out" an engaged friend to his fiance. Given that there was no alcohol involved, (don't drink; never have) my complete inability to remember any part of the entire affair was a little odd. I had to meditate extensively to recall even vague impressions. But the salient details and concrete facts are simple to recall: 1)The friend in question had nothing to hide or be ashamed of, as nothing happened on the aforementioned sofa bed; 2) I was, at the time, completely unaware of any history between said friend and any other participant in the innocent sleep that occurred; 3) I considered the relationship between the friend and his fiance to be more solid than any I had observed; and 4) A joke about the proceedings under the circumstances must have seemed, I can only suppose (as I don't remember) completely harmless. If I made a mistake, it was being wrong about the solid footing of the relationship, or mistaken in my perception of the "innocence" of the proceedings. In which case, sue me. But clearly there was nothing in the occasion to merit a reputation of being a blabbermouth. There didn't seem to be any secret to keep. I seem to have spent the subsequent years in a constant state of apology for leaking non confidential information about how nobody did anything.

INCIDENT THE SECOND: During the "State Fair" era, wherein we all worked summers building exhibits at the fair, we had the pleasure of working with a skilled carpenter we dubbed "Safety Dave." We liked the guy; and I, for one, admired his dedicated use of eye and ear protection. At some point during one of many commutes, or lunch breaks, I made a reference to Safety Dave. My "friends" literally used the following words: "We're calling him 'Sweaty Dave' now." There was no further explanation. Later that day, I politely called him Sweaty Dave. He was slightly confused and offended. My bungled apology must have included something stupid like: "I thought that's what we were calling you now." It was a faux pas on my part to underestimate the insulting nature of the nickname and misjudge the situation. It was worse to implicate anyone but myself in the fiasco. But it was certainly no breech of confidence. At no point did anyone say: "We're calling him Sweaty Dave, but that's top secret, so only say it behind his back." I seem to have spent the subsequent years fighting the constant accusation that, based on this incident, I cannot be trusted with information.

If anyone can think of anything else, then I'll eat these words. But it seems to me that based on this meager evidence, the reputation is unfounded, and I do have a right to take my place in the human race. People around me will probably find at least one slip for every secret kept. Which is an embarrassing possibility I'm willing to entertain.

Because, come to think of it, that's not my point.

Initially, I wanted to defend whatever illusion of Honor I might have amongst the people who seem to delight in calling me unworthy of trust. But even as I constructed the defense, I came to realized the HUGE advantage of the reputation, (however egregious.) The fact is, when people think you're going blab it all over, they tend keep the sordid, awkward, potentially draining, crap details of their lives to themselves. And when they're keeping such to themselves, they can't possibly expect you to entrust them with anything potentially embarrassing. While it is important for me that people consider me worthy of trust, it is equally important to me that they save the gossip for people who give a crap.

To be clear:
1) If you tell me to keep it a secret, I will. (But be clear about it, as I am often aloof enough to miss the point when you're blabbing to me and you want the blabbing train to stop there.)
2) If you have developed the habit of keeping so-called "secret" information away from me, I'm fine with that. I don't live in a world where a friendship is based on how much you can't talk about. Keep it to yourself. It honestly improves my quality of life when I can go on thinking everyone is open and honest and realizes the value of George Bernard Shaw's axiom . . .

"The only real secrets are the secrets that keep themselves."

vendredi, octobre 08, 2010

No-Man's Land

I'm a man without a country, so to speak. But it didn't start politically. As always, my social/emotional/physical/political state has philosophical roots. Let us re-trace our steps.

By the end of the teenage years, most people have a pretty clear idea of whether they are a "morning person" or a "night owl." It usually has something to do with how late they like to stay up, relative to how early they are comfortable getting up. Most people have a pretty clear preference. Both lifestyles have their advantages. Early risers get to live out Franklin's "early to bed, early to rise" axiom. They get to enjoy the glory of the morning, the clear stillness and palpable hope inherent in the dawn. Early morning mountain bike rides are cool even in the summer, and you have the trail all to yourself. The morning is serenity.
Night birds, on the other hand, get to wrap themselves in the mystery of the night. To revel in the misty truths that are seen unseen. A kiss while the world sleeps has twice the passion. They also get to share precious moments with comedians, who, for some reason are not allowed to make people laugh while the sun shines. (I speak of Craig Ferguson, and, recently, SNL, and hopefully, Conan). I know how rare it is that anything truly good, or noble, happens after sunset, but even Mozart, who owned the sun, wrote a Little Nacht Musik.
Clear advantages on every side--the problem being that they are mutually exclusive. It simply isn't practicable to indulge in both as a matter of course. Yet here I am, a nocturnal morning person. I love (even need) them both, and cannot choose. So I'm doomed. Their combined magic most often adds up to misery.

Then there's shaving. I have no desire to be lumped with the modern scruffy slacker aesthetic. But that's what happens. It doesn't matter how often I want to say to myself: I'm not trying to look like EVERY Hollywood actor or magazine model, from Jack on Lost to whoever appears on the cover of Esquire. I like a smooth face. Yet I also hate shaving. So I play a game of cat and mouse with my whiskers and always end up on the losing side. Shaven/unshaven and liking/hating it.

Likewise with vegetarianism. I've never minded being the top of the food chain. I think meat tastes good and when produced on a small scale it's not immoral to eat other living things morally and sparingly. And yet, after watching and reading some accounts of how meat is produced, I decided that eating it was not a moral option--indeed, that you cannot be christian, or karmically positive, or enlightened, (insert whatever you believe), and also be part of the meat industry in any way. But I don't want to be one of those vegetarians, the judgemental, evangelical, activist vegetarians who think that a religious person should keep their damn mouth shut but a vegetarian should tell the world how to live. I don't really want to discuss it. But time and again, it comes up. People see you not eating it and have to know. And the next thing you know you're telling them about the toxic pools that kill people and poison the water table as fixtures at mass production pig farms all over the country. I guess if you wait for someone to ask, you're not technically trolling for converts. But let's face it, no one--NOT ONE PERSON--has EVER stopped eating meat because a vegetarian told them where their bacon came from. Even so, my approach leaves me unsatisfied. A vegetarian who likes meat, who cannot and must discuss it with people who ask, but don't really want to know.

I could go on, but why? The philosophical underpinnings are obvious at this point. The reader cannot help but perceive why I am trapped in political limbo. As it is with the night and the day, so it is with my position on the political spectrum. No party represents me. And while I hate dipsheists who display posters of the president with a hitler mustache, I also hate the smug ignoramuses who dismiss people who advocate responsible, limited government as "tea baggers." I know for a fact that people who watch Keith Olberman are precisely as mentally impaired as those who can stand the sound of Sean Hannity's voice for long periods. I understand your need to affiliate with a movement or party, but think you're a complete idiot for thinking the democrats or republicans represent anything but fascism and party-line intellectual cop-outs. I can see how you might think FOX news has a bias; I think you must have fecal matter for brains if you think that the other news networks even approach journalistic neutrality. I admire your clarity and dedication; I despise your feckless, loud-mouthed activism. I applaud your skewering of the power structure when Bush was in office; I mock and deride your blind allegiance to the blundering, power hungry, image obsessed Obama regime. I honestly don't give a tinker's damn about the president's race--on the other hand I think it's really cool that we are half a step closer to having a leader who resembles the chief executive in "The Fifth Element" and various other Hollywood classics.

See? I'm a man without a country, looking around for a third America I can call my own. A man, floundering between extremes, hoping a house divided unto itself can somehow stand.

samedi, août 21, 2010

Medical Miracles

We began dismissing people from the Arena of Ideas years ago. It doesn't seem to have made much of a difference. But hope springs eternal. As it turns out, there are medical facilities adjacent to the arena that may be able to help. Please pay attention, as this may be your only hope for continued participation.

If you believe that one major political party governs by hope, and the other by fear, please report to the medical tent, where your ears will be checked. Your left, or possibly your right ear is obviously blocked to the point of not hearing both parties make that ridiculous statement. The party shills who make such statements don't even believe themselves. Then again, it might not be your hearing. If you believe there is more than a cosmetic difference between the current ruling camps, then a parasite may have actually eaten away half of your brain. If the procedure to remove the parasite isn't destructively invasive, you may be allowed back into the arena after the requisite bed rest and antibiotics.

Similar procedures will be necessary for everyone who thinks that the news media they like isn't biased, and that the media they don't like is politically partisan. Sadly, a preponderance of people in this category will never be allowed to re-enter, whereas the medical issue has less to do with hearing or cranial parasites, and more to do with the fact that doctors have yet to perfect a technique for removing the head from the anus. Recent studies have shown very little post-operative brain activity. Some doctors claim we cannot blame the procedure, postulating that there was not measurable activity prior to extraction. Either way, admittance to the arena of ideas is revoked for individuals in this category for the foreseeable future.

Specialists are now claiming they can help people who have been banned from the arena based on their insane, unhistorical belief that radical islamists can be negotiated with, or that victims of terrorism are in any way to blame, or that they will like us more or less depending on who the president is, or who or what he/she does, or worse, that the current president is any less of a mismanaging war monger than the last one. As it turns out, a recently invented scanning technique is able to detect the pink cotton candy that has grown like padding around your heart, migrated north and corrupted the channels of logic and historical analysis in your brain. Copious doses of antibiotic reality are showing results that give the victims of this disorder hope of returning to the debate.

There remain large, idea-deficient demographics who cannot yet be helped by medical science. Those who have been removed from the arena based on their insidious use of the term "FREE universal health care," individuals who think they can blame economic woes on the people they disagree with morally, double standard bearers who think that freedom of expression only applies to the people they like (i.e. people who fret about a hick burning the Koran and never batted an eye when the virgin mary was ensconced in elephant dung) and 100% of the people who stopped "protesting" the war when the current administration began prosecuting it, are drinking such a unique brand of especially poisonous kool-aid that doctors and researchers have nearly given up hope of finding an antidote. These groups must be excluded from the Arena of Ideas until a cure is found, lest their idiocy prove contagious and contaminate the idea pool.

To those of you on the outside looking in, hoping for a medical miracle, please understand that you have our deepest sympathies. We trust, as always, that science will prevail.

vendredi, juillet 23, 2010


Everyone has it. Just a little. Or so says the literature on the subject. To some degree, everyone obsesses compulsively about something. Even you fall somewhere on the scale, from insisting on a certain brand of raisin bran, to being utterly paralyzed by a perceived need to keep flushing the toilet until the toilet paper roll is spent. Maybe you function normally until confronted with a cheesecake, the deliciousness of which you are deprived by your morbid fear of its "texture." Or perhaps you carry hand sanitizer in your purse. Obsessive Compulsive traits of one kind or another are universal. It unites us as a race.

Hence, rather than be ashamed of myself, I can rejoice in the O.C.D tendencies that may in fact constitute my only common ground with humans being.

Like you, I am unable to concentrate in my house if there is any kind of mess of any kind. Kind of kooky, huh? Like how we grab for the Windex when there's a fingerprint on the fridge? The daily vacuuming? The bleaching of the tub calking? Clean is better than dirty. Clean is better than dirty. And poor as we are, our houses might not be luxurious, per se, but they can at least look and smell decent. It's nice that we have that in common.

And I'm with you on the car foibles as well. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has almost crashed his car as he tried to pick up a napkin on the floor of the passenger side. Spots on the window. Spots on the window. Don't touch the glass, why do people insist on touching the glass? Is there a possible reason on God's green earth why people need to touch the glass? I think a lot of you may feel an obsessive compulsion to sully a beautifully clean and transparent substance with your bodily oils. Obviously, you have a problem. But nothing we can't handle together. This is about solidarity. Just keep your damn grubby hands off the windows and, hey, no problem!

You're probably going to be relieved to know that you're not the only one who feels a compulsion to tuck people's tags back into their shirts when they are flouted. Flagrantly or negligently isn't the issue. Tags belong on the inside. Perhaps we can commiserate about that time we followed the pretty girl around the store, but didn't dare say, "miss, your tag is sticking out" for fear that she might think we're flirting? It warms my heart to share with you the joy one can only feel when the scissors we carry for this purpose are called into action.

There may be a couple of people out there who don't understand the drinking fountain problem, but they are the few. So let them drink from the tall side and pass blithely on. We'll understand with relish the majority's desire to drink from tall side, then small, then tall again, and then--walk away--no--small again--finish where you started--tall one, followed naturally by small, back again--go now while you can--tall, tall again to break the pattern--go--but wait, the small one--no--walk--forget it if you can--run--run away--ETC. Luckily, they're usually porcelain or stainless steel, which are pretty good about concealing fingerprints and the like. I knew you were thinking that. We're not so different, you and I.

There are so many other little innocent quirks we could bond over, even celebrate. Of course, there are people who don't understand. Filthy, lazy people, who need help. Thankfully, they are in the minority. The research seems to say so. For now. But who cares? Just knowing how many of you there are out there, and how much we have in common, is life affirming. This solidarity goes beyond mere statistics. It binds souls together.

I don't want to overstate it.

Suffice it to say, it makes me feel better about the inevitable day when we can really join hands, and hearts, and rise up against the brazen, brutish heathen hoards polluting the planet and exterminate them once and for all.

That's all.

dimanche, juillet 11, 2010

Let's Pop!

[Having taken time off to care for the Wife, who has been cured by the world class surgeons at Stanford, we can now return--to anything but politics.]

We hereby nominate Kesha, sorry, Ke$ha, for the title of "World's Worst Person."

That's right. She beats out Olberman, Cheney, Hannity, Michael Moore, and that cretinous, anti-semitic old lady in the white house press corps. Given the competition, it wasn't easy, but our girl won us over.

And before handing her the award at the World's Worst Person Awards ceremony [dubbed the "worpies" by the pop culture mags] here's what the vapid celebrity presenter will read from the cue card:

As if making the "S" in her name into a dollar sign wasn't enough, the recipient of this year's award has earned it with every unspeakable line of her inane songs, and the mindless videos that punctuate them. For flaunting her disregard for the most basic elements of hygiene--yes, you can actually smell her boot-feet stank through the internet--for the lyrical conceit that tricked a million 13 year old girls into thinking that waking up in a stranger's tub and substituting whiskey for toothpaste was in ANY way less than ABSOLUTELY VILE--for holding up Mick Jagger as a standard of desirability for the sake of a vacuous attempt at rhyme--and finally, for driving it all home with a catchy tune that poisons the mind for weeks after hearing it--we are proud to present Kesha--sorry, Ke$ha--with the 2010 World's Worst Person Award!

Music will kick up as a disappointed Iranian dictator nudges the head a drunk-out-of-her-mind Ke$ha from his shoulder. Hearing her song, she'll kick into party mode and skank up to the podium. Unaware of what she has just won, she'll shout "AFTER PARTY AT THE NEAREST CLUB!!!!!!! PICK ME UP AROUND BACK!!!!!! Wooohoooo!!!"

We'd apologize to her fans for insulting her, and through her, them. But someday, she'll treasure this award as the only proof of her career. So, rather than apologies we offer our sincerest congratulations.

vendredi, juin 04, 2010

In Reductio

Someone is going to have to explain this to me. But let me warn you: Oscar Wilde couldn't do it. Karl Marx couldn't do it. My own brilliant brother couldn't do it. So you're up against some tough company before you even start. Which doesn't mean I don't sincerely want you to try.

But Socialism doesn't make sense to me. I get the idea, which is noble in the same way that a perfect world would be delightful. I understand the concept, which is simple on the face of it. What I want to understand is where you get the idea that it works. What I don't get is how you can look past the utopian side of it and see anything but the purest evil.

I read Wilde's "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" before going to Canada (well, Quebec). He had me for a second. Then I saw generations of people whose soul had been sucked dry and spit out by socialism. People for whom life's grand ambition was to turn 18 and be grandfathered into the public dole, which allows them to spend other people's money on beer and cigarettes so they have the time to enoble the world by watching TV. I saw a medical system that was so inept that people put up coffee cans in grocery stores with the message: "Please donate. If I can get to the states, the doctors there can help!" (I even LIVED this scenario with a friend, who went to every doctor in the province for months and suffered. He was totally cured in two weeks upon his return to the states. Stories like this didn't make it into the Michael Moore propaganda, but they happen with regularity.) I asked around. What do you like about it? "It's free" was the only positive. "It isn't free. Other people are being forced to pay for it. Where the hell did you get the idea that this is free?" "Well, I don't pay anything." Neither would I, if all my clinics looked like yours.

I read the communist manifesto. But it was too late: I'd already seen too much of the real history that followed its publication. 70 million dead in China. The killing fields. Stalin out-murdering Hitler. The former Eastern Block's outrageous pollution of the environment. A noble young woman who cannot talk about the horrors of communism in Romania without crying. These are the undeniable fruits of communism, no matter what the intellectual roots claim. If you can look at them and still espouse the idea, then you are either too stupid to participate in the debate, or you know something I don't about why all this is OK.

Recent events in Greece tore down your argument even further--and you haven't even made it yet. The socialist nations are broke and the shiftless masses are angry. Ever lived in public housing, or been to a county clinic? These are the undeniably ugly places to which socialism wants us all to go.

But forget all that. You have to get me with philosophy. Because the bare bones is where the final die is cast. And here they are:

Wanting to help people is good. Wanting people to help each other is noble. Forcing to people to help each other is Satanic. There is little (if any) nobility in a system that takes money from one person at gun point and gives it to another. Especially when the recipient's only job is to spend what you just gave him. There is no such thing as "free universal health care." There is no such thing as something for nothing. There is no system in Nature that rewards zero effort behavior. Hence, at the moment your belief that we should help each other turns into "we should have a system that forces us to help each other," it cease to be noble, or even natural, and makes you a fascist--no different from anyone who seeks to force their views upon their neighbors.

To sum up: It has never worked in practice; it has never led to prosperity; it has never ended poverty. The consolidation of power it requires has lead to millions of people being murdered, tortured, and oppressed in its name. It is philosphically repugnant, a belief system for fascists and tyrants.

I am nevertheless open to your ideas. Mostly because I am uncomfortable with the implications of how widespread socialistic ideas have become--especially if the only explanation is: "people are just that selfish, lazy, and dumb." Which is pretty much what I'm left with at the moment.

If that argument fails to grab you, I also have never understood hundreds of other widespread atrocities, any of which I'd love to "get," if you're willing to help. For instance:

Classic rock, for the most part, eludes me. Anything having to do with the hippy movement is a mystery. How anyone derives any pleasure from Monopoly is beyond me. As well as Hootie and the Blowfish, the Paris Hilton enigma, people who think we didn't land on the moon, people who eat at McDonald's, why smokers don't categorize their vile cigarette butts as litter, parents who let their kids drink 40 ounce energy drinks, and time travel.

jeudi, mai 20, 2010

Facist, or Ignoramus? [the new Rock vs. Hard Place]

Here are some simple facts, the mere listing of which will either make you think I have some kind of insight, because you have preconceived ideas about various issues that cloud your judgement, or fill you with pious rage, because you have deep seated preconceptions on sundry topics that cloud your judgement.

But please keep in mind: these are facts. Mere facts.

In 2010, a border state that had long suffered undeniable ill effects due to an abundance of illegal immigration, passed a law, supported by a vast majority of its citizens. The law was short, 10 to 18 pages, depending upon the printing format. It stipulated simply that it would enforce existing federal statutes. Before it was finalized, language was added--an attempt to prevent racial profiling. A mandate for the training of officers in the prevention of discrimination was included in the bill.

Remember, the state in question made no new policy. It simply offered to enforce existing federal policy.

In the days subsequent to the passage of the bill, protests were mounted by groups all over the country. They called the state racist and said they would boycott the place. They appeared to be really, really angry. When asked if they had read the bill, 99.999% of the angry protesters had NOT read the bill. They had a right to be angry about the bill. They decided to forgo that right, and instead get incensed by a vague idea they created themselves based on heresay.

The Attorney General of the United States said disparaging things about the bill, and threatened to take the state to court. In an embarassing exchange, he later admitted to not ever reading the bill.

The Head of Homeland Security called the bill discriminatory, among other things. In an embarassing exchange, SHE later admitted to having never read the bill.

Commentators lined up to trash a bill, passed in a state where they do not live, by a majority of the people who live there, supported by at least 60% of the nation (depending on the poll). They said it was similar to measures passed in Nazi Germany. Most of them had not read the bill.

Weeks later, in a press conference with the President of Mexico, our president called the bill misguided. He said his administration (most of which were now on record as having not read the bill) was looking into it. He said we need new laws to accomplish noble objectives. For every objective he stated, there is ALREADY a law on the books. So, in essence, he said we should be enforcing existing federal law.

Which is exactly what the "misguided" bill stipulates.

He said immigrants should learn English. He said people here illegally should not be allowed to work. He said they should pay a fine and go to the back of the line.

Almost everything he said has been previously stated by right wing talk show hosts. When stated by said talk show hosts, the sentiments were called racist and xenophobic and discriminatory, and nazi-esque.

I'm not on either side here. Really. These are facts. They do not change according to our preconceived notions. There are certainly other facts we could use to bolster our ideas. Is this about our opinion, or about which facts we choose to accept and/or ignore? I personally don't think my opinion is valuable to your interpretation of the facts.

But if I was to voice an opinion, it would look something like this: I'm glad Arizona passed that law. I don't care what it says, I may not agree with what it says, but I've read it, and it seems to have put a point on a debate that needed a point. I'm amused by all the ignorant ranting on both sides. But at least one side can claim to have read the bill. I'm embarassed by the way the Obama administration jumped out and blathered without being informed. I had hoped that such practices would stop. (If you're not embarassed by it, you are something worse than ill-informed. Wait, that's a fact--this is the opinion part. Sorry.) I'm embarassed by the way the loyal political opposition revels in an administration's embarassment. I resent the way said opposition acts like they ever did anything about this problem.

If Mexicorp had worked (click on it!), this would be a non-issue. Sadly, this is only the beginning.

So here we are, stuck between the facts and a hard road ahead. And now that I look at the facts, I somehow don't feel any better informed, or validated. Or hopeful.

samedi, mai 15, 2010

Warning: Fatigue Has Set In

I get tired.

Tired of people saying how busy they are. Tired of teenagers claiming they didn't have time to do this or that. Or adults with no kids, or parents with competent partners, claiming they are strapped for time.

In essence, I am tired of people claiming to be tired. It generates a disdain in my heart that would be indecorous to elucidate.

Because I can trump your claim. I can beat your hand by showing only half my cards. I am loathe to do so, because it is so pitiful, and so pitifully personal. So most of the time the lips remain zipped and ignore the bile that rises in my gorge.

But every once in a while, I crack. I was at a meeting of people involved in my son's scout troop. Someone had the nerve to forgive another parent for their lack of involvement, citing their busy schedule. Remaining calm, I heard myself say: "I work 80 hours a week. Night and day. Two jobs. I do all the house work, all the yard work, all the paper work. My wife is too sick to even cook for herself. I do all the cooking. I do all the parenting. Not to mention getting my wife to the doctor, which is sometimes as far away as San Francisco, and picking up all her meds. Anyone and everyone with less to do than that can shove it."

It was not well received. But neither was it met with disdain. The worst part is people thinking that I'm looking for pity. I'm not. I just want people to appreciate the time on their hands. Stop pretending you're busy. You have plenty of time.

dimanche, avril 25, 2010

Why I'm not the one (or, Don't Vote for Me)

I've made a great deal, recently, about a mythical third party candidate rising to power. For clarity, let me sum up why I've never once imagined that person being me.

Because I could never be elected president.

My agenda would not be the noble Constitution-based platform of the New Federalist Party. I have too many other concerns that would reduce my target demographic to men, my age, who are me. For instance:

My first legislative act would be an executive order forbidding the use of the word "baby" in all music for at least ten years. Punishable by a punch to the throat. A rider to the order would expand the executive war powers, and the United States of America would instantly declare war on any artist that rhymed "girl" with "world" for the next ten years. I would call it the "historic musical palette cleanser act."

Next order of business would be a campaign to make all televisions run with pedal power alone. Yes, I would force all Americans to pedal a stationary bicycle for any and all TV or DVD watching. Old, fat, or exceptionally lazy people would have to take up reading or hire a fit person to pedal whilst they watched. And if anyone complained, the official response from the White House would be: "Shut up, Fatty. Nobody cares."

Secret Service snipers would be despatched to put a bullet in the buttocks of anyone caught sagging their pants in public. Seriously.

I would push my Father through the nomination process to the Supreme Court, and affectionately refer to him as "the National Curmudgeon."

I would make Sushi the official national dish. One day a month would be called Sushi Day, whereupon extended lunch breaks were granted, as long as they were spent consuming sushi, hereafter referred to as "our nation's most important culinary treasure."

Dark Chocolate would be officially recognized as superior to milk chocolate, which would be illegal to consume except for those willing to be labeled "barbarian heathens." So-called "white chocolate" would be absolutely forbidden.

I would enact legislation making it essentially legal to punch Bill Maher and Keith Olberman in the face. My administration would never advocate violence, but as a symbolic gesture, we would officially pardon, in advance, anyone who performed such on those two individuals. Navy Seals would toilet paper Michael Moore's house every night. All right wing talk hosts would be forced to give every caller 20 seconds minimum before cutting them off or talking over them--a violation would result in an electric shock roughly equivalent to a taser, the delicious sound of which would be illegal to edit. One press conference a month would be dedicated to an audio montage of Sean Hannity and all his ilk being shocked on air. Sean Penn would be abducted by the C.I.A. and a chip would be implanted in his brain. Every time he made a mockery of every legitimate argument the Left ever made by suggesting that his opposition should die a slow painful death, or that his intellectual opponents should be rounded up and shot, or anything of that stripe, the chip would cause him drop his pants, sit on his thumb and repeat "I am not smart enough to participate in the exchange of ideas" for thirty minutes.

October would be Emily Dickinson Month. The president would be given a month's paid vacation to make pilgrimages to her home in Amherst, sit at her tombstone for ponderous hours, and re-read her poetry and letters. Any press conference during this month would be restricted to questions about Emily, and would be answered with quotes from her best biographers.


After all that, I might just get around to abolishing the nazi IRS. I might make an effort to return power to the States. I might audit the FED. I would eventually cancel all foreign aid and bring all troops home until the national debt was paid, and all that blah blah blah. But as you can see, my own insane interests would compromise the office of president, if not the very Constitution itself. So I am hereby taking my hat out of the ring forever.

Just in case the nation ever goes crazy.

jeudi, avril 22, 2010

Let me get this straight

The Seattle Times reports that the Gay Softball World Championship has stripped the winning team of its victory and suspended two players. The reason? Two of the players on the team were reportedly bi-sexual. "This is not the bi-sexual softball championship," someone says.

Forget about how any panel of judges or gay softball "officials" might determine if a player is gay or not (It was not, presumably, by giving in to the inevitable urge to make tasteless "pitching vs. catching" jokes). In fact, forget about the idea that such a panel exists--lest we be distracted from the salient questions. How could a demographic that has been, by their own account, stereotyped, marginalized, and excluded from the culture, take the sword from the hand of Lady Justice and castrate the Champions of Gay Softball, simply because two too many players were not sufficiently gay? Are we not told that injustice toward some is injustice to all?

As usual, the lawyers have the answers. (Yes the not-gay-enough team is suing . . . if only to show how mainstream America they are). "This is a private organization," say the attorneys for the defense, "and they are allowed to make their own rules as to who is allowed." An argument which makes sense.
Unless you are the Boy Scouts of America, who, having made the same argument, have been castigated and abused for their stance against gay scoutmasters.

It shouldn't take the mistreatment of bisexual softballers to illustrate how important it is that the door swing both ways.

vendredi, avril 02, 2010

The End Is Far Away

The day may yet come. Certainly we are headed in that direction. Let us first be very clear that this is not about rose colored glasses: let us not attempt to pretend that a world where Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline can make millions of dollars unleashing their demon spawn, even as the grunting hedonist electorate clamors for more, can be headed for any eventuality but DOOM. Let us not pretend that a country that proposes to solve unsolvable problems by picking pockets and mortgaging the future can be long for this earth. Yes, the end is out there. But the end is not near.

If it's going to happen, one cannot believe that Armageddon can occur until there are more stupid, cruel, evil people than good, caring, sensible people. And that day has not yet come. My evidence is incontrovertible.

By day I teach Guitar, Philosophy, French, and Drama in various charter schools. The pay is nice. But the kids are nicer. They represent a broad cross section of socio-economic and religious backgrounds: from home schooled conservative religionists to barefoot counterculture hippy laissez-faire zealots. From privileged trust-fundians to middle/lower class smoke-with-your-kids-in-the-car trash. They are almost unanimously the nicest, most involved parents you can imagine. And any way you slice it, they have all made the similar decision to opt out of public binge and purge education, and they represent a demographic that increases almost geometrically every year. But we were talking about Armageddon.

Picture a world where an adorable, freckled, red head named Walter takes a guitar class, decides he likes it so much he wants private lessons, which the American school system is designed to pay for. He makes great progress. His parents thank the teacher and mom knits him a scarf with musical notes on it to thank him, as if the generous pay did not suffice. Halfway through the semester, the teacher says to Walter, "I'm really pleased with your progress." Walter replies, "well, I couldn't make progress without a great teacher!" Teacher fights back a tear and thinks: Walter has 5 siblings who are as polite, positive, and dedicated to goodness as he is. The world is in good hands.

Picture a world where another student sees his teacher doing some paper work. Without any kind of prompting from any adult, he crosses a crowded room and hands the teacher a small bag of Honey Nut Cheerios. "What's this for, Lucas?" asks the teacher. Comes the reply, "You're always bringing us treats. Someone should bring you a treat for once." Teacher gets a little choked up thinking of a future where little Lucas is teaching his own kids, by precept and by example, that one must go out of one's way to be gracious--even if it means giving up a delicious snack. The world has a smile on its weary face.

Imagine a world wherein a former Drama student found me on Facebook and asked if I could tutor him in French, which he was failing at a major University. He insisted on paying me what the school pays, notwithstanding his state of financial distress. Never mind that he was at least 3 years removed from my classroom. It wasn't there he learned that failure was not an option wherever effort and honorably attained help could be applied. He learned that at home. He's neither a Drama nor French nor Music major. He's studying economics, but he is artfully applying everything he learned from every class, with a clear understanding of the intricacies of life that make the numbers meaningful. And beautiful. He's a person. A great person who has opened up wide access channels to his store of infinite potential. And he's going to have kids who will follow in his footsteps. The world is striding towards glory.

Multiply these experiences by factors of tens and hundreds, and you'll understand the world of a charter school teacher. I am inundated every semester with bright-eyed kids who exhibit equal parts intelligence and grace. My cup overflows with the kindness of involved parents and the wonderful children they are raising. I am not Polly Anna. I know there are bad parents out there raising violent, ignorant children. I know there are drug addicts with 4 kids from 3 different fathers whose children are raised into a state of dependence by the State. I know this because by night I work at the Children's Emergency Shelter. I answer the crisis line. I take the reports of domestic violence and physical/sexual/emotional abuse. I deal with the ungrateful, ignorant behavior of poorly raised, disadvantaged children. For obviously opposite reasons, I get choked up about these kids as well. Especially when I think of the almost mathematical certainty that they will grow up and copulate, and raise up the next generation of system-dependent degenerates.

But when I weigh the two against each other, when I put my head to my pillow and try to make sense of this crazy world--most of all, when I look into the eyes of both groups of kids and see the same yearning for love and infinite potential for good--guess which side wins.

And until it stops winning, the hand written sign my inner hobo holds as he begs the Universe for spare change will read: THE END IS FAR AWAY.

vendredi, mars 05, 2010

A Little Dream I Had: Finale

[editor's note: it is supposed on the part of the writer that everyone is well and truly tired of his little "New Federalist Party" pipe dream sequence. The reader who perseveres and reads on to the end is promised that he or she will emerge a better person: the testing of one's patience can only make one stronger.]

Sitting, for the first time as an official member of the press corps [hereafter pronounced "Press Corpse"--ed.] for a State of the Union address, I was naturally a little anxious. At the inauguration, the president in question had simply read Thomas Jefferson's inaugural address. Most Americans, of course, had no idea. But this was different. With the State of the Union, one always has to wonder if the SNL version will trump it. And naturally, I wondered how my fellow journalists would react when I vomited at the 100th mandatory applause. These events had become a shameless clap-fest for party shills, and I was honestly nauseated at the thought of it. The sushi consumed at lunch had been expensive, and I didn't want to lose it. Luckily for everyone involved, the nation's first New Federalist President allayed my fear with her/his first sentence . . .

My Fellow Americans, the remainder of my speech tonight will be addressed almost entirely to you, but first let me address the assembled senators and congresspeople for just a second: I wonder if you'll all do me the favor of refraining from applause until the end, if not entirely. I don't believe the purpose of this forum is for the President to bolster the approval rating. And I'm secure enough with my self esteem to get by without the faux adulation of a bunch of glad handing bureaucrats who think their job consists of running for re-election. Most of you are not of my party anyway, and it would most likely be a little awkward for you, wondering when, or if, to applaud, and how long, or how loud. So let's forget about whatever directives your party bosses sent out in whatever memo and just turn off the applause sign for tonight. Let's get the people back to their regularly scheduled program, OK? Thanks.

Rhetorically speaking, I'm going to make a bit of a sandwich for you and slip the bad news between a couple thin slices of delicious, low-carb good news. And yes, there is good news. We all still live in the beautiful country that invented Freedom. It may be hanging by a thread, but we still have our Constitution--the most efficiently noble, and nobly efficient legal document ever conceived. Look around and you will see a wide variety of great, free people with infinite potential. We live in the most prosperous, and the most generous, country that was ever conceived. I'm not just spewing platitudes here. I think we need to be reminded from time to time that this nation is not a jumble of problems for some politician to solve. The biggest problems were solved in advance by our Founders. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. Of course, there is other good news that is more proximate. By bringing nearly all military personnel home to protect our own shores, we have made friends and taken billions of dollars out of the next budget before we even make it. By eliminating all foreign aid, we have made a few old friends angry, but with the same wonderful fiscal result. I hope I don't need to point out that as soon as we are out of debt, we look forward to being able to help struggling nations again. Anybody who only loved us for our money wasn't much of a friend at any rate, so to hell with them. While I'm on the subject of saving money, I hope you don't mind if I brag just a little bit. I have to say: cancelling the lavish inauguration festivities and giving the money to the National Endowment for the Arts and a host of reputable charities was pretty cool. I'm sorry if it made EVERY SINGLE PRESIDENT BEFORE ME EXCEPT JEFFERSON look like a complete ass. I'm kidding. Sort of. Anyway, let's hope this sets a precedent that others will follow. The idea of throwing million dollar parties for an employee who hasn't even had one real day on the job is simply ridiculous.

Now the bad news. I'm not going to varnish this. I am getting a ton of pressure, from angles I could not have conceived of, to act in ways that are contrary to the aforementioned Constitution. I got death threats when I tried audit the Fed. I get a real cold shoulder from democrats and republicans who think I'm screwing with their power base by turning things like welfare and abortion and gun control and education entirely over to the states, and by refusing to sign anything with an earmark in it. Sorry, but I just didn't want to be one of those presidents who promises to end earmarks and then signs record numbers of them into law. And you'd be surprised how angry people get when you start actually eliminating bureaucratic waste instead of just talking about it. In short, this job is a good deal more difficult than I imagined; and the timeline we posted is turning out to be fairly unrealistic. Gridlock, it turns out, is not so much a function of feuding political parties as it is the lovechild of a bureaucracy trying desperately to justify and perpetuate itself. I'm not giving up. No way. But you might have to wait a year or two before we can actually eliminate the IRS, or pass real Tort reform, or reduce the size of government until the national debt actually begins to shrink. For the moment we are still flushing millions of dollars of down the toilet of cronyism and sloth. I'm sorry about that. I can see now, at least partially, why nearly every president from Nixon to Obama promised responsibility and was, at least partially, unable to deliver. That said, we must not let my predecessors off the hook; and I hope you will hold me to my promises.
The other bad news is that there are bad people in this country. They are few, but they are powerful. They live by violence and theft. They have always been there and no one can eliminate them. I thought we could stop their political non identical twins, but I wonder now if I was wrong. I speak of the growing segment of the population who remain convinced that the world owes them a living. They think Freedom means they can sit around and get fat on someone else's dime. Though they might claim to despise their more violent kin, they continue to think that government of the people and by the people and for the people should be able to do things to some of the people that we would never let people do to each other. They think they can harm the person or property of others, as long as they do so indirectly, and they have found loopholes in our law that protect them. I don't know what to do about these idiots as long as there are politicians who rely on their support. I am stymied by individuals who think themselves compassionate because they perpetuate helplessness with other people's money, who have convinced themselves that there is nobility in forcing others to help. I don't know what to do about people who get angry because I propound undeniably true statements like "Stupid should hurt."

So, to sum up: We are in debt up to our earlobes. In fact the whole budget and the process by which it is made is corrupt. The noble and great in our society are being undermined by an ever growing contingent of the lazy and the stupid and the vulgar. There remain among us the violent, the ugly and the foolish, who live to undermine not only the prosperous, but also the merely unfortunate who might actually benefit from a little help. Politicians have grown fat and sassy pretending that a government program could eliminate either of these demographics. Furthermore, our government is diametrically opposed to change, and may even be incapable of real efficiency. I used to take hope in the idea that an inefficient government can't really oppress the people. But I've come to know that inefficiency is its own special kind of oppression. What can I say? You didn't hire me to blow sunshine up your skirt.

I know this sounds depressing. But let me end on a positive note. I may not know exactly what to say or do about the sad people I have mentioned. But I do know I will never apologize for offending them, even if it means I will never be elected to public office again. And I will try not to let their insidious philosophy get in the way of my belief that every human soul inherits nobility, and the capacity to achieve greatness. I will hold tenaciously to my understanding that an individual cannot truly grasp freedom to achieve without also taking a firm grip of the responsibility for failure. Every person within the sound of my voice can trust this: my administration will leave this government, more efficient, less invasive, and more bound to the constitution than we found it. To what degree we succeed may be in question. But giving up is not an option.

So the State of the Union is as follows: We are saving money and streamlining all we can at the federal level. We are trying our damnedest to turn power over to the various States of the Union. In an environment drunk with its own power, we are dedicated to a process which, though it may have more than twelve steps, will result in a people, and, by extension, a government, that has the serenity to accept the things it cannot change, the courage to change the things it can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I look forward to working with the legislators around me towards concrete goals that embody this philosophical premise. The modest success we have had so far indicates, in my very humble opinion, a very positive state of the union.

Thanks for listening. Let's get to work.

Maybe they were glad it was over. Maybe they were surprised at the brevity. But the applause of the assembled legislators was instantaneous and loud. It went on until it blended with the sound of the de-tuned radio static blaring in the car. The light turned green and I drove on.

dimanche, février 21, 2010

In all fairness to [H]ope

I wish I could talk about the magical moment when I caught Olympic Fever. But I'm depressed and I need your help.

See, I wasn't comfortable with the Bush warrantless wire tapping. Very few people were; but fans of the president said he was protecting our freedom. They routinely dismissed the egregious policy with the line: "I don't have anything to hide--they can track me all they want." As long as they catch terrorists. Right? Meanwhile, the political enemies of the previous administration called him Hitler.

Now, as Obama increases the range of the above mentioned activity, and further interprets the law to exclude the federal government from prosecution if they happen to spy on some uppity citizen who believes in the Constitution, I wait in vain to for the piercing sound of outrage. I don't expect it from dullard kool-aid drinkers like Olberman, Garofalo and Matthews, but my actual friends, whose opinion I might actually respect, should have something respectable to say, right? So I bring it up with one Obama Mama, who immediately, almost nonchalantly repeats, VERBATIM the above mentioned rationalization that righties made for Bush. I was depressed, and decided not to mention it to another woman I know and love, remembering that the last time someone dared question Obama's papal infallibility, she nearly cried. (Seriously!) Almost hopeless, I bemoaned my plight to a friend who may or may not have voted for Barrack. He temporarily saved the day: "No man, I decided early on that everything I hated about Bush, I was going to hate about Obama." Then a former co-worker, from whom I expected much less (given that he had actually attempted to influence mental health clients to vote for his man) wrote to me about his anger over the idea that a man who sends 30 thousand extra troops to kill and die in a foreign land could ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I began to feel a little better. Until the fiance of an Obama Mama showed himself to be completely unable to carry on an intelligent discussion about the economy, believing in all frankness that Obama has "saved it." Yes, savED, past tense, as in "mission accomplished." [ed. This belief, no matter how much we hope he succeeds, requires more than the usual amount of kool-aid.] For those of you keeping score: Dangerous ignorance: 3.5 . . . informed rationality: 1.5

I need your help here. I need you to ask around. Find people who hated Bush (it won't be difficult). Bring up the following points of FACT:

1) The current president's war policies are identical to, if not more bellicose than, his predecessor.

2) The current president's verbal gaffes, if ever publicized, are at LEAST as depressing, and almost as numerous, as his predecessor. (One small example: when recently reading from his teleprompter, he really did pronounce the word "corpsman" as "CORPSE man." If I need to tell you that it's pronounced "core," as in the Marine Corps, then perhaps you thought Bush was a little verbose.)

3) The current president inherited a difficult situation, not unlike his predecessor, and both responded by crawling into bed with fat cats, devaluing the dollar, and mindlessly increasing the national debt.

4) Both presidents enjoyed party majorities in the legislature. Both used them to enact wildly unpopular legislation, thereby sending the congressional approval rating into a dark abyss.

Should you honestly conduct this survey, I believe you will be at least partially shocked and/or disappointed with the reactions and results. And one could go on with 25 (give or take) similar points. (These facts, and many others, are all available with a modicum of research.) But rather than blather, let us ask ourselves what this multitude of queasy similarities means. Is the very office of president corrupted to such a degree that it no longer matters who occupies it? What kind of future lies in store for a Republic wherein the electorate is so ignorant as to excuse reprehensible behavior because of party affiliation, or for any other reason? What happens to freedom when people are willing to accept tyranny from someone who makes them feel good? What are the further implications of the broad philosophical differences that seem to divide the country squarely down the middle?
Do you know the answers to these questions before even conducting the survey? Do said answeres leave room for optimism?

My hope--my sincere hope--is that the results will surprise me. That we will discover a fair minded, informed center--a core group of registered voters who are able to evaluate a political entity based on something other than "focus groups, cool graphics, brainless endorsements from Hollywood elites and Internet pan flashes, nebulous catch phrases and an A+ in teleprompter reading."

Alas, as dear Emily observed: "hope is the thing with feathers." It can, and maybe should, "pearch upon [our] soul, and sing the tune without the words--and never stop at all." But only a fool follows that bird into places like the blogosphere . . . or the future . . . or the voting booth.

vendredi, février 05, 2010

A Little Dream I Had . . . Part III

Having been granted the privilege of interviewing a presidential candidate for the first time, I was initially a bit nervous. Then, in an interview on the BBC, the candidate in question said: "No; I haven't noticed any difference in the way people react to me since I started running. Why should people react at all? I'm the same citizen. I'm on the same level they are. And if anyone tries any of that hero worship bullsh*t with me I'll simply tell them to pull their head out . . . of the clouds . . . and try to understand what America is supposed to be about. Even as the damn president, which I hope to be, if anyone says I give them a chill running down their leg I swear I'll start throwing hay makers. Because I don't really think democracy can long survive that level of ignorance. School children are absolutely NOT supposed to be singing songs about ANY president in office. In our country, the President works for the people. I am applying to be THEIR employee! Respect the office, fine. Now let's work together as equals for the betterment of the country. And if you get all weepy over who is president, either from hatred or admiration, PLEASE DO NOT VOTE."

That put the butterflies on sabbatical and I was able to get down to the business of having a conversation with the New Federalist Party candidate for the presidency.

You have steadfastly refused to discuss race and gender, and have even asked that people who cover you not bring it up. That is so refreshing. But what do you say to critics who want to make that an issue?

They are wrong. The president's gender and race are irrelevant. Anyone who thinks differently is as ignorant as they are condescending and I don't care what they think. If I were to become the first female president, I would find it demeaning if that was what people celebrated. If I were to become the first Chinese American president, I wouldn't want people throwing focus on something over which I had no control. This is a country of Laws and Ideas. If they can't commemorate my ideas, and commemorate them FIRST, then to hell with them.

You aren't the first candidate to openly call for the abolishing of the I.R.S. but you are the first whose party has made the end of Income tax a plank in your platform. This seems to put you out on the fringes. Ever feel like you're tilting at windmills?

If something is right, you have to believe in it no matter how far "out there" it puts you. And if something is wrong, you have to oppose it no matter how much of a behemoth it is. Yes, in a sense, I feel like I'm holding up the head of Medusa against the Kraken. But there is NO WAY that anyone can make a case for taking people's income. It is fiscally unnecessary and morally repugnant. And as long as the government can put a gun in your face and force you to pay, this country is not free. Tax property for the schools. Tax gas for the highways. Collect fees for garbage pick up and sewer maintenance. Tax sales of goods and services. That's part of living in a civilized society. But the great people who drew up the constitution would have marched against you with guns if you proposed to put your grubby hands into their wallets and bank accounts. I guess I'm just not into class warfare. That crap is for suckers and a truly enlightened person knows it. If the only way you can feel good about the world is to soak the rich, then pass a luxury tax on the items you think they buy so they can look down their nose at you.

Like yachts and such?

I was thinking of designer jeans and plastic surgery, but yeah.

So would you call yourself an advocate for the rich?

No. The rich don't need any one advocating for them. But on the other hand, how dare anyone hold a grudge against another and judge them for how much money they make? It's as petty and small minded as judging someone for how little they make. As president, my province is the law, before which we are all equal. We are all born with, and we all retain to our dying day, a perfectly infinite potential. Ours was supposed to be the government that stays out of people's way when they access that potential, and lets them deal with the consequences when they don't. What else could equality mean?

Should we help the poor?

What kind of loaded question is that? Damn right we should help the poor. Every private citizen with means should reach out, notice I didn't say reach down, and help people in need. I was raised lower middle class, but the vast majority of rich people I've met spend huge amounts of time and funds helping others. Most of the people I know from all walks of life have spent a chunk of their days looking out for the less fortunate. If you don't you're simply evil. But you're asking, "should the government help the poor." That's a separate question, and the answer is dicey. According to the Constitution, NO. I can promise you with absolute confidence that if the people of this country didn't have the government doing it by force, their hearts are big enough that they would be doing it privately, and voluntarily. There is an abundance of historical evidence to back that up. Anyone who proposes to take one person's money to purchase a vote from another is automatically dubious. That said, we have programs in place. They're wasteful, poorly managed, and end up subsidizing sloth and promiscuity. But there they are. And you can argue reasonably that there are people who have been helped by them. My party has NEVER proposed to end welfare or food stamps or medicare anything like that. We simply propose to turn it over to the states, where it can be managed more effectively. Similar to our position on education. Americans are not stupid enough to believe that a cloistered, glad handing politician in D.C. can better manage a situation thousands of miles away in Medford, Oregon. So, to encapsulate our position on the government forcing citizens to help others, there is an honest case to be made against it, and a heartfelt case for it. At this point, it might be too late for us as a country to be what the founders intended. But at least we can keep the money close to the situation it is supposed to remedy.

Last question--because this is for the Internet, and you know the American attention span: Are you worried about anything in your past that the press is going to dig up as we approach the election?

Not really. I think Americans are sick of media frenzy on any topic, and they are REALLY sick of personal foibles making headlines. If that turns out not to be the case, and the people are hungry for juicy details about my personal life, then maybe I'm in trouble. I might be too boring to be elected. But my party is about ideas. There was no metaphorical colonoscopy into my past and no focus grouping about my likability. You know what? I have predicted the winner in the last 7 presidential elections based solely on HAIR. That's really true. We want a good looking president, and we have, since Carter, always elected the candidate with better hair. That's the field a candidate is playing on. We're trying to change the game. Our cards are not focus groups, cool graphics, brainless endorsements from Hollywood elites and Internet pan flashes, nebulous catch phrases and an A+ in teleprompter reading. We have a different deck. It only contains ideas, principles, and historical precedent. And the Constitution. That's it. We think if the People want to play our game, the other parties cannot win. They can't. They can't and they know it. So I'm sure I can expect a media blitz because the press are motivated and controlled by their obvious political allegiances and their need for profit. Let them come.

Then the candidate inexplicably opened his/her mouth as wide as it would go, blaring out a loud beeping noise that filled the room, echoing out into the void of space. It took a moment to understand what was going on. Everything went blurry. I opened my sand man eyes, reached over, and turned off my alarm clock.

vendredi, janvier 22, 2010

Best of, Most of . . .

Well known, perhaps even painfully obvious, is Entertainment Axiom #21: A "best of" or "greatest hits" compilation spells the end. There are no exceptions. It has been true for every musical entity you've ever loved. (The recent Clay Aiken compilation being simply the most gloriously hilarious). It was true for the Simpsons when they ran their first "clip" show--though the writers/producers claimed they put it out simply to placate an impossible schedule imposed upon them by Fox.
This is a truth we have to admit and face without compromise. Too often, we fool ourselves into thinking that because we like something it should continue. Face it, the world would be a better place without the final 6 seasons of M*A*S*H. The BBC has it largely right: Cancel the show while the flame is still bright. Don't give us too much of a good thing and leave us wanting less.

We therefore bid a fond farewell to The Office (American version), of which a clip/montage show aired Thursday, January 21. Even as it reminded us of how glorious the show was in its prime, the episode confirmed the vague feelings of inferiority this season with a palpable goodbye. To the viewer who claims that the vitality of the montage of past genius is a reason to continue, we simply say you are wrong: when the collective memory of the past makes the present pale, put a bow on it and get it under glass with a quickness. And move on. When I literally cried with Pam as Jim simply asked her out to dinner (a television moment never equalled by the show since, and rarely equalled by any show anywhere), I came to understand that coasting on that greatness is a mirage. In this case, one's thirst is better slaked by the memory of the past than by the false hope of future satisfaction. Let it be with Television as with Life: let it go. Please.

I don't know why American shows insist on coasting to a slow, painful death. But if The Office goes on beyond this season, it can only be as a sad tribute to the gravity incurred by the attainment of great heights, and I'd rather not witness the decent any further.

samedi, janvier 09, 2010

A Little Dream I Had--part two

The cameras flashed like any press conference. The legit press--or was it a town hall meeting?-- gathered around, taking notes. Standing outside, with cotton candy stuffed into their mouths until they gagged, were the gaggle of reporters who had been asking Obama questions like: "What has enchanted you about being president?" and essentially giving him a free pass on everything and letting his teleprompter answer for him. Even further down the road was a port-a-potty where everyone who had ever screamed a protest slogan or shouted down a speaker in a public forum was being crammed with ruthless efficiency. (There were many of them. They were very uncomfortable.) The Daily Show and Fox news had been told that there was a monumental pile of political hay on the other side of town, the kind for which their constituents are so hungry. They ran to it as though it would cure their raging rabies.

Even after these precautions had been taken, there remained a few idiots in the room. Some of them were intelligent idiots. We decided to proceed. At the pulpit was the Presidential Nominee of the New Federalist Party. She, (or he--we never even discussed gender) stood there without a prepared statement. There was no teleprompter. No action committee had trucked in supporters. No operatives had filtered through the audience and dismissed people who might disagree. The Networks had not been allowed to line up anything controversial for ratings.

The first question came: As President, what will you do about Education?

Quickly came the answer: NOTHING! Why would you ask the president about education? Before asking a question like that, you might peruse the Constitution. Then ask yourself: Does it give the president any authority or purview over education? You might further ask, "How the hell did the people of this country get fooled into thinking that an elected official in freaking Washington DC should have ANYTHING to say about the running of their school in Colfax, California--or anywhere else? So yes, my answer is, literally, I'm not going to do anything about education. I'm not supposed to. Get up off your couch and go to the local School Board meeting. Better yet, join the PTA and see how you can help out. This is not an issue that the federal government has the tools to consider. Next question.

Now there was a pause. The candidate spoke clearly, and like a real person, whose authority comes from confidence, rather than buzz lines followed by mandatory pauses for applause. The press were taken aback.

The second question was a little tentative: Your party's platform seems ambivalent on certain issues. for instance, What is your position on abortion?

The candidate smiled before answering: My position on abortion is officially irrelevant. I believe, with all my heart, that the federal government should have nothing to say about it. But since this will, apparently, not suffice, I'll give you my personal opinion. I think the idea of sucking a partially formed or potential human being out of a woman's body with a vacuum, or plucking it out with forceps, is disgusting and anyone with a soul feels the same way. But I also despise the kind of political activism that would protest outside a clinic where a woman is having one. Each state should decide that issue for itself and then you can move to a state where abortions either happen or don't, whichever makes you feel like you can go on living. Like most other issues, this should shake out on a local level. Does anyone have a question about something the President is supposed to decide and act upon?

A sea of hands went down. A burly ex-marine and an unwashed hippy peacenik stood and simultaneously said: What about the military?

The candidate smiled again: Wow, stereo! You know what? Believe it or not, I think I can satisfy both of you at the same time. This is, in fact, one of the few things the President is supposed to manage effectively. I believe in a strong military--but not necessarily in a gigantic, invasive one. My sacred trust, as President, will be to protect our country. I don't see how sending our forces out all over the world accomplishes that. Under my watch, we will no longer be regulating conflicts in other nations, unless I perceive a DIRECT and IMMEDIATE threat to our national security. Let me be clear. All troops will return from foreign shores. All forces will focus on national defence. And you know what?
This is an opportunity to address the idea of foreign aid. I'll be withdrawing it. Entirely. Until we pay off the national debt, we will send ZERO money overseas. Before you go hating me for that, think about it for a second. How does a country with TRILLIONS LESS THAN NOTHING send money to other countries? If your parents were in the hole, would you go to them with your hand out? Even if you did, could they help you? Think about it. By the way, once our debt is erased, believe me, whatever surplus we generate will go to the neediest countries we can find. We absolutely have a responsibility to help the less fortunate. Which begs the question: What have YOU done lately, with your own damn time and money, to help the less fortunate? You know why you want the government to dish it out? Because YOU DON'T, and yet you still want to appropriate, somehow, the good feeling of living in a world where people help each other. Get off your couch and open your wallet and help someone. Then maybe you'll stop crying when your government fails to do something it isn't supposed to do anyway.

At this point, a large section of the audience was getting into it. They had never heard a political candidate talk like this. They asked about taxes. About crime. About the movie rating system. The answers were all in the same clearly exciting vein. When it was over, it was clear that the next election was going to be very interesting indeed.

And then I woke up.