Friday, October 31, 2008

It's a Good Thing My Former Boss Can No Longer Fire Me

An email came to me by a circuitous route the other day, a shrill cry of horror at the prospect of an Obama Presidency.

Normally I would pass on responding to something like this--particularly since the specifics have been rebutted by others more effectively than I dilettante such as I could ever manage.

But this one is special--it comes from a person that I worked with very closely for many years. This person was a veteran of business affairs. A longtime senior executive. And I was his right hand.

We spent much time together in foxholes, but never talked about politics.

It turns out that was a wise decision.

I wrote lengthy replies to all the specifics in his missive, which included a potpourri of trite attacks on Obama's patriotism, his Marxist political philosophy, and his thinly veiled revolutionary black anger.

In response, my critique of media bias was groundbreaking, my debunking of his supposed terrorist associations, irrefutable. My defense of ACORN's voter registration efforts was a seminal work on the topic. I demolished the attempt to brand him a socialist. And my treatment of the issue of race was so nuanced and sensitive, that it brought even me to tears.

Yet none will ever bask in that brilliance. Because it was too long, and boring as hell. So I deleted it.

Tragic, really.

Yet I think that enough remains below, that were my former boss ever to read it, he still would never speak to me again.

And so...

Dear friend, what the fuck? You're smarter than this.

I can't respond to all the points in your email. I tried and it gave me writer's cramp. You listed a host of smears that you suspect bespeak the tips of icebergs, and which I think point only to desperate Republicans with their backs to the wall.

I don't think either of us is likely to persuade the other.

But all these little points you make. You seem to be winding up to deliver the lethal blow. To say that Obama is anti-American, some kind of alien mole trying to worm his way into the White House so he can execute a long-planned Manchurian Candidate strategy to destroy America from within.

Is that it?

Than why don't you just say it?

Why all this veiled suggestion, this collection of minutia worth nothing individually, adding up to nothing when combined?

Colin Powell, Richard Lugar, and Chuck Hagel, all seem pretty comfortable with Obama's intellect, loyalty and patriotism. If these impressionable innocents are being conned, hadn't you better reach out and show them all the startling truth you've discovered on the Internets? Before it's too late?

Bad enough to attack someone's character rather than their policies. But to do so in this roundabout way, and then refuse to own it. Well, as you were always so fond to say:

For shame.

I know you prefer traditional conservative policies to what you perceive as liberalism. I can respect that and find plenty of room for dialogue.

But what about competence?

Nobody knows better than I how you do business. The attention to detail. The steadiness. Your respect for ability.

Is that really what you've seen from McCain and Palin?

What goes through your mind when you see McCain swing from talking about cutting taxes to offering to buy a country's worth of worthless mortgages? When he trumpets the importance of experience over all, and then selects a small-town Alaskan mayor whose biggest strengths are her boobs and her appeal to religious extremists to be his running mate? When he sacrifices the national interest in favor of petty political gamesmanship, suspending his campaign and rushing to Washington where his indiscretion promptly torpedoes a deal to resolve what you yourself just said was a genuine crisis of the highest order?

I know what you would have said about a business associate who behaved this way. Your disdain would know no limits.

Meanwhile, Obama runs an efficient juggernaut of a campaign, puts out some of the most detailed policy proposals that we've seen from a presidential candidate in ages, and demonstrates nothing but sense, stability and competence.

But you find that "empty" and "confusing." I don't think it's the message you have a problem with. It's the messenger.

You say it's not racism. I won't say it is.

I think it all comes down to your last words: You're scared. And what you're scared of is not policies you don't agree with. It's people who aren't like you and ideas that differ from yours.

I'm sure you would say that the mess the country finds itself in right now is not the result of your philosophy. I think you would argue that the underlying philosophy is sound. That the problem has been incompetence.

I don't buy it.

You have no problem with the opacity of conduct, with the authoritarian style, with the unalloyed rule of wealthy white guys who hire their fishing buddies for cabinet posts.

Well I've got news for you. That's the petrie dish that bred the incompetence. And that petrie dish will breed incompetence 100 times out of 100.

The fact that you would have the gall to suggest you know what's best when what you think best is such a monumental and self-evident failure is beyond presumptuous.

You're scared of what will happen if Obama gets his way? Well, I don't need to agonize over some ill-defined fear of what might happen if the country was run your way. I'm living it.

And frankly, it blows.

No Job? No Family? Sounds like you've got time to burn. Read the way-too-long version of this post so you can impress people at parties. If you're ever invited to one.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A VP's Only Job: Rule the Universe!

Sarah Palin was an idea John McCain believed just crazy enough to work. That now seems too fond a hope. But hold your head high John. No one will ever accuse you of scrimping on the crazy.

From the moment Palin entered the race I've maintained unswerving confidence in her ability to kill the Republican ticket. I don't know how anyone could say anything negative about this woman. She has exceeded my wildest expectations, and I will be indebted to her until the day I die.

The media was slower to take her proper measure, but it's easy to see why. She presents a baffling array of conflicting cliches, this feminist dominionist with the smart glasses, sweet ass, and reality-tv family. Even now it's not clear whether she can best be used to sell advertising for bibles or lingerie.

So they poked her warily with sticks until she showed her true colors. She's a talking bobble-head figurine! And if you keep pushing the button, there is no end to the riotous absurdities she will utter. The pretensions of foreign policy expertise. The cringe-worthy attempts to don the ill-fitting mantle of reformer and maverick. The tortured fragments of syntax spilling off her assembly line like forgings from no mold.

And now, to keep this story on it's wobbling legs, the media informs us that our mockery on all these counts must cease. Jocularity has its time, but this matter has passed from farce to threat, and nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake. With that in mind, we must all pull together and henceforth mock her exclusively for her belief that the Constitution grants significant authority to Vice Presidents.

The press' outrage is manufactured, but valid nonetheless. Constitutionally, the vice President is our great government's sole spare part. Its job, like all spare parts, is to sit on the shelf and to cost too much. Thus, historically, those who have been most comfortable in the role are those that don't feel the need to be productive... well, pretty much ever.

So let us do our patriotic duty and mock Mrs. Palin. She may not have been smart enough to demur when McCain asked her to be his running mate, but I'm pretty sure she's not mentally disabled. And that means we can laugh at her with a clear conscience.

But remind me what exactly is so far-fetched about the possibility of Vice Presidential authority? Has everyone forgotten old you-know-who? The most powerful person in the world for the last eight years?

True, Dick Cheney had and has no formal authority. But like some diabolical political acupuncturist, he has altered history with a few pin pricks.

Who was the prime mover of the wars that cost trillions? Of the belligerent anti-diplomacy that has destroyed our international standing and which hastens the twilight of pax Americana? Of an altered balance of power that favors an authoritarian executive?

Sure, the orders came from a smiling puppet with a Texas twang. But in this production, Lady Macbeth is the one with a pace maker.

So it's embarrassing to watch the media haggle over Constitutional fine print like rabbis hashing out Talmudic arcana. Would somebody please ask the only question that matters?

How the hell did Dick Cheney happen?

The answer of course, is that Vice Presidents can wield exactly as much power as their wit, charm, connections, experience, and evil powers of sorcery can command. And as the President will cede.

Thus, Dick Cheney's successful conquest of the universe prompts two conclusions.

First, has there ever been a President more suggestible than George Bush? Mother of God, who reminds him to breathe out after he breathes in? Does he get hypnotized by the windshield wipers when he drives in the rain?

Second: Dick Cheney must have wit, connections, experience, and satanic power in spades, cuz' he sure didn't do it with charm.

Our experience with Mr. Cheney is germane. It tells us that Sarah Palin is more than just ignorant about the Constitution. She is also deeply deluded about her potential authority as a VP.

Sarah Palin is a simplest of one-trick ponies, a mere tool for getting John McCain elected. Her job is to smile, wave, praise Jesus and bash liberals. In the increasingly unlikely event that the guy that's always standing next to her--the one that looks like her grandfather--actually wins this thing, she will become invisible. Not because of anything the Constitution says, but because of who she is: an unconnected, unconvincing half-term Governor of an insignificant state who can't use the word "Machiavellian" in a sentence. No one in Washington knows her, respects her, or fears her. John McCain least of all. She'll be lucky if she can score Redskins tickets.

Sarah Palin the next Dick Cheney? As any movie goer knows, only the Dark Lord can wield the One Ring.

So if McCain is elected, and miraculously manages to keep senility and cancer at bay for the duration of his term, we won't need the Constitution to insure that Sarah Palin is one of history's most irrelevant Vice Presidents.

Though if John McCain is elected, Palin will be the least of our worries.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

America: Right of Center or South of Stupid?

Obama devotees (and I am one) may be inclined to see the ascendancy of their favorite as a great reawakening of the American body politic to its true self.

But I'm not so sure.

It's been 40 years since a significant portion of the populace shook off their torpor to inquire what the fuck, exactly, is going on here?! It was a volatile time, but that's not a bad thing. As lawful and tolerant as this country has typically been compared to just about anywhere else in the world you can think of, there's never been a shortage of black folks hanging from trees or support for murderous repressive foreign regimes. Rioting in the streets is an indication that at least somebody notices.

But that brief interval of optimism dissolved into successive decades of cynicism, jingoistic belligerence, superficial materialism, and finally--icing on the cake--the last eight years during which our country turned into your reprehensible cousin Todd, who lies, cheats, molests children, hits his mom and manufactures meth in the garage. Or at least that's what he was doing last time you visited and he stole your credit cards and ran up all those Internet porn charges.

So it's only natural that anyone eager to see the nation embrace ambitions loftier than gettin' rich and killin' A-rabs would speed to lash their dreams to this Democratic star from the windy city. That they would squint to see in this moment just what they so desperately want to see: the return of the true America of tolerance, moderation, compassion, and respect for intellect and accomplishment. This, they imagine, is not an America rendered temporarily placid by the anti-psychotic medications the international community begged her for years to take, but America casting off an evil magic spell and being itself again.

How very charming.

But forgive me. That's not what I see.

Perhaps I'm embittered beyond salvation. Give me lemons and I will take the seeds and the pith and make something so sour and rancid that it will blister your lips before it even hits your tongue. Or perhaps it's the profound discomfort with which I regard good times. When society is at rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. But if this is a shining renaissance, duck and cover, baby.

No, the thing that I find so striking about America inviting Obama into their living rooms is the mind boggling degree of coercion that was required to get them to unbolt their front doors.

I mean, yes, it looks like he's going to be President. But he's been staked to such an overwhelming advantage that it seems a bit odd to call what he's doing "winning."

How stacked is the deck in Obama's favor?

To the extent that all elections are a referendum on the party in power, the Democrats should be able to store the public disgust with the last eight years and use it to hold the executive branch for the next half century.

Is their anything the Bush administration hasn't bungled catastrophically?

The war in Iraq is an unqualified failure. Don't waste my time with some crap about the surge. Is that shiny penny supposed to distract us from the fact that when it's all over, what we will have obtained for our trillion dollar investment is a distinctly less-desirable strategic position in the middle east, responsibility for thousands if not millions of lives destroyed, and an indefensible squandering of our international prestige?

And maybe it's because we focused all our energies and resources on Iraq that the fabric of our foreign policy is in tatters. Truly critical issues of national security like the Palestinian situation, nuclear proliferation, and global warming have been either ignored or addressed only with the administration's favored pour-gasoline-light-match tactic. Then again, perhaps we should be thankful for the Bush administration's absurd obsession with Mesopotamia. Can you imagine what disasters would have befallen had they reserved more of this monumental incompetence and applied it to countries that matter?

Our Republican-led international failures are, if anything, exceeded by the swath of their domestic destruction. Let's set aside the torture, the domestic eavesdropping, the politicization of the justice department, and the alteration of the balance of powers so that our federal structure more nearly resembles the dictatorship our founding fathers always envisioned. Set them aside because, by modern conservatives, these are counted accomplishments. There's no point in arguing about it here. But what about the things Republicans are supposed to be good at? What about the ballooning size of government? What about the deficit? What about the economy, for chrissakes!?

OK. We know the Bush administration is awful. Maybe the worst ever. But John McCain is a man who has bucked the Republican party time and again, a war hero with a Roman sense of honor and public virtue, right? No wonder then that, despite our pitiful circumstances, more than 43% of our populace will vote against Obama.


The whole idea of John McCain as a formidable candidate has never been more than wishful thinking. He is but the faint distillate of his party's fragmentation. Events have shattered the tenuous alliance between social, political, and fiscal conservatives. To say that John McCain represents all these groups is to call half-full a glass that is all but empty.

McCain is the great compromise, wholly appealing to no constituency of his party. In fact, he doesn't have much in the "appeal" department at all. There are the physical tics. The explosive temper. The jokes that are--to put it generously--off-color. And the man can barely read off a teleprompter. Appropriately or not, these aesthetics impact electability. These things are McCain's "Kucinich ears."

Nor should we forgive McCain his Keystone Kampaign. Have we ever witnessed a more cringe-worthy attempt to become President? Michael Dukakis was every inch the conquering Caeser in that tank compared to Spastic John. Bill Ayers? The Fundamentals of the economy are strong? Sarah Palin? Sarah-freaking-Palin?! He's not just trying to give the election to Obama, he's personally installed it in the Democrat's living room!. And McCain's endless failed attempts at political suicide have rendered him a far more pitiful figure than if he had succeeded the first time he kicked over the chair.

So here is Barack Obama, running for office for the opposition party at a time of almost unprecedented public dissatisfaction, against a despised Republican President and the weakest Republican Presidential candidate in living memory running one of history's most botched campaigns. Yes, Obama appears headed for a solid, perhaps even a landslide electoral victory.

But given the circumstances--how could this thing be so close? What if the collapse of first-domino Lehman Brothers had been delayed for a few months? If you recall, the country was in pretty bad shape before the financial crisis, but could Obama have pulled ahead without that issue coming to the fore?

Perhaps real change is on the way for this right-of-center country, floating behind the cresting wave of the baby boomer die-off. Maybe the brilliance of an Obama administration will be the spark. But it's not here yet. The American majority may be settling comfortably into the Obama camp, but they had to be driven there at gunpoint.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

She's a Breash of Freth Air!

Why in Christ's name would anybody waste 10 bucks registering the domain It has none of the cache of "That one." It practically impossible to spell, much less say--proven by the fact I wasted another $10 registering a misspelling.

I better sell about two million sets of glasses frames and d-cup bras tomorrow, cuz' this thing's got a half life of about ten minutes.