Friday, October 31, 2008

High-Stakes Buffoonery. Defining Heroism Down. The Plumber vs. The Carpenter.

"Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends."
- Woody Allen

Four days.

I am trying today to spiritually and consciously detach from the thunderous crush of giant forces colliding. As the irresistible force of right-wing desperation bears down on the immovable object of Obama's likely victory, I am choosing to focus my limited time and attention on what really matters to the GTL: the laughs, the stupidity, the moments of high farce.

What choice do I have? Give myself an ulcer?

The morning coffee n' news shows are playing clips today of angry old John McCain, before a sea of pale, angry, white Ohioans, shouting and waving his arms and spewing such nonsense about Barack Obama that Saturday Night Live will have a hell of a time parodying him without accidentally making him seem more rational and less unhinged. A few pitchforks and torches, some sepia tones, and it could be right out of Young Frankenstein:

"A riot iss an ugly sing, und I sink it's about time that ve had vun!"

McCain grew serious - or tried to: "There's a real hero here today, one that I have dedicated my campaign to and that keeps me strong" - this is a paraphrase, so I may be getting the wording a bit wrong - "Joe the Plumber! He's here today! Where is he? Joe the Plumber!"

Now, I'm confused. A hero? Joe? The humble but surly "I-ain't-paying-my-taxes" Joe Wurtzelburger, not actually a plumber, but "a guy who does plumbing" (only a licensed plumber may call himself one)? A hero? Our angry Joe?

I remember this book from my childhood, "A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich." Turns out they were wrong. A hero ain't nothin' but a guy who works on pipes, owes back taxes, and likes to call people socialists without troubling to find out what a socialist actually is.

Or maybe a hero is a real American who thinks all Muslims are terrorists and all blacks are on welfare. He's at the rally, too, why isn't he also a hero? Or a governor who abuses power? Or a Senator who is convicted of seven felonies and arrives home to a hero's welcome and triumphantly resumes campaigning for high office? Hell, with these low standards, even George w. Bush might wind up a hero. Or maybe even yours truly.

Reader! Hey you! You might be a hero too!

I don't know which is funnier, the endless shouting of this bizarre mantra, "Joe the plumber, Joe the plumber, Joe the plumber!, or the fact that Wurtzelbacher wasn't even present at the rally.

This freaky scene is a bathetic redux of the evangelical movement as a whole, always yelling about Armageddon and the second coming and the end times and the lake of fire and all that other happy crap they want to happen to the rest of us while they're eating Chick-Fil-A with the Lord of Hosts.

Today it isn't Jesus they're in a lather about, which is nice for a change. Leave that nice Jewish boy alone, for his sake!

No, they're not yelling for Jesus. He's so second-millennium. Passe, even.

Today's Savior wears a tool belt and shows his coin slot as he prostrates himself before the gleaming altar of the Frigidaire.

Will Joe the plumber die for our sins?

Or is it the other way around?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six Days.

Whatever happens in the election six days from now, I want to remember this moment, tonight. I want to savor it and memorize it. It was the moment when a candidate for president finally spoke the kinds of truths and voiced the same fears and concerns for our nation that I have felt for over a quarter of a century.

Barack Obama's extended campaign commercial transcended for a brief moment the familiar politics of our time, the bloody churn of insinuation and character destruction, of "swift-boating" and "robo-calling." And by transcending it, even if only for a moment, it has been rendered broken and obsolete, and the air is clear, and clean, and feels fine.

My first realization, after drying my eyes for the second or third time, was that not once in the entire thirty minutes was I invited to hate or sneer at anybody, to pry the divisions between people further apart, to demonize anyone, to mock anyone's sincerity or question their patriotism. I was able to feel hopeful, and proud.

As a hard worker in this vanishing middle class, I felt dignified, uplifted. I was reminded how tough we are, the Americans struggling to hold onto our futures and our standard of living, to protect and nurture our children even as the ground vanishes beneath our feet. I heard a loud voice calling for a life-rope for the middle class, and was reminded of the dignity of work.

Best of all, not once did Obama criticize or even mention John McCain or Sarah Palin. Not once. He didn't spend ten seconds of his million-dollar half-hour to respond to their slanders and lies about his character, his background, his religion, his associations, his love of country.

Nor did he waste time ticking off the thousand injuries John McCain has inflicted on his own integrity, the ways McCain's once-principled stances have vanished one by one, gone underground, or simply morphed into their own opposites, sold off in the marketplace for votes: The wrongness of President Bush's tax cuts. The bigotry of the Religious Right. The moral necessity of banning torture in our prison camps. The refusal to demonize immigrants. All gone, flip-flopped away like the tricks a performing seal learns to do for a handful of fish.

It takes a strong person with real courage to have as many weapons at hand as Obama did tonight and not use them. We had a glimpse of this defining trait tonight, this decency, this faith in his own ideas. I hope and believe we will see this again soon, not only in the man, but in the president.

Thinking about it now, later in the evening, with the Phillies clobbering the Rays silently in the background, I come to my second realization.

Somehow, despite my best efforts, I have, at least for the moment, let my guard down and done the one thing Obama has been asking me to do for over a year: Hope.

Millions of Americans like me are standing shoulder to shoulder in a skirmish line. I enjoy the feeling, this immense force pulling on me, this swelling of humanity, this mass consciousness, this group-think - even as I know it is fleeting, and dangerous, and corrupting - and addictive.

I stand here, my hard-won cynicism fallen around my ankles, the autumn night sky cold and clear on my face, our wide-open future laid out ahead of me. I call out to you, fellow travelers, across the dust-blown, windy, American playground, from this small corner in history and time.

We are not alone!

Here comes Tuesday. Stand firm. See you on the other side.

Ah, History: The GTL Learns Something New Every Day.

I have grown pretty sick over the years of hearing so-called "conservatives" crow about what a great president Ronald Reagan was.

To me, this hoary chestnut is the greatest fallacy of our political times. Reagan was a dreadful president. He courted racists with coded "states' rights" language, he broke the back of American labor, he refused to enforce workplace-safety and equality rules, and he actually lobbied the Ayatollah in Iran to keep our hostages in bondage until his inauguration day, so he could triumphantly exclaim, during his speech, that they were on a plane, in the air now, heading home.

Such stagecraft, using the American people as props, came sickeningly to mind in 2003 when George W. Bush used an aircraft carrier, a beautiful sunset, a jet plane, a flight suit, a carrier-full of loyal, fresh-faced American sailors, and that famous "mission accomplished" banner to achieve the same effect.

Calling our adversaries evil, proclaiming America God's country, bringing religious fanatics into public prominence. Crassly manipulating patriotic images that keep Joe Six-Pack drunk on fear and nationalism, unable to think straight, not wanting to. Not my favorite presidents, people.

Most annoying has been the claim, repeated over and over, again and again, that Ronald Reagan "ended the cold war."

Today, in a NY Times article by Thomas Friedman about the U.S.' bargaining position with Iran in the coming presidential administration, comes a more plausible reason for the fall of the U.S.S.R., from a Russian expert on the subject:

"... it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. "


This is big news for me and the gang down here behind the sand bags and razor wire at GTL HQ. Conserving gasoline, driving smaller cars, harnessing wind, solar, geothermal, hydro power - these are the ways to not only clean our planet, keep today's American "petrodollars" at home tomorrow, provide high-tech jobs for millions of Americans and revive our economy, but also to hoist our adversaries on their own petard and thus defeat them bloodlessly.

Best of all, it is a surprisingly understandable and rational history lesson for those of us who remember Ronald Reagan as the avuncular face of a cruel and retrograde political movement, one that has spread through our country like a cancer and finally threatened, at its apotheosis under Reagan's spiritual offspring, George W. Bush, to kill the host outright.

Thanks and a hearty shout-out on this chilly morning to Thomas Friedman, for a history lesson we've been eagerly awaiting for decades.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Jury of Peers, Just Not His.

He meant to pay for it.

He didn't know it was there.

He demanded it be taken away.

He thought his wife paid for it.

Misbehaving Republicans have been chipping away at Bill Clinton's mother-of-all-excuses, "I didn't inhale" for years now. There's Senator Larry Craig's "I have a wide men's-room stance," Rep. Mark Foley's "I was abused by a priest as a child," and of course my favorite, national evangelical leader Ted Haggard's "I hired the gay prostitute but didn't have sex with him, and bought crystal meth from him but never used it."

Now this.

Senator Ted Stevens is probably not a bad man. And he may not be too bad as a senator. Perhaps he is a family man as well. And who knows, maybe he's telling the truth about the generator, the appliances, the "massage chair," and other sumptuous goodies which magically appeared, unbidden, in his Alaska home, courtesy of his longtime friend and contributor, Bill Allen.

Maybe, probably, perhaps. He tried to send everything back, but his good friend Bill wouldn't let him. Poor, bullied Senator Stevens. Trapped in his own massage chair of self-pity.

What we do know is that a jury of his peers has unanimously convicted Stevens on all seven felony counts of lying in order to hide a quarter-million dollars' worth of illegal gifts.

The good Senator expresses no shame. In fact, defiance would be a more appropriate descriptor for his affect in light of the outcome of his trial. For those who see courts as crazed agents of left-wing, un-American conspiracies, this verdict comes as no surprise. The party that would foist Harriet Myers on the Supreme Court has never particularly appreciated courts in general. When you're pilfering or scamming or picking pockets or deregulating industries, the last thing you want is honest verdicts in court. You prefer to be tried in the court of public opinion, if at all, where you own the cameras and the airtime.

Senator Stevens will seek an appeal, but nothing we see in this trial screams injustice. For the moment, we have to assume the guilty verdicts, all seven of them, will stand. The slim reed his spokespeople are waving is that he could not get a fair trial in Washington, D.C. because everybody there hates Congress.

And things are better in Alaska?

Given Stevens' multiple-felony conviction, and Sarah Palin's own proven problem abusing power in the "Troopergate" fiasco, the question of the moment is, "is there a single Alaskan politician who is not on the take, or bullying innocent public servants out of their jobs?"

Another thought: It has been hard for all but the angriest evangelical GOP party faithful to put their credibility on the line to support Sarah Palin. Will they now have the chutzpah to line up behind Stevens? At a certain point, defending a crook becomes an embarrassment, or evidence of group psychosis. I believe we've long passed that point with today's GOP.

Senator Stevens may not back off his unrepentant pledge to soldier on and continue his re-election campaign. From where the GTL stands, doing so would turn an unseemly corruption scandal into a masterpiece of bathos. However, if Alaskans see his defiant denials as "Mavericky" behavior, and continue to support him with their votes, the only question that remains is,

Can a man with handcuffs on get one hand on the bible and the other high enough in the air to be sworn in?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Small Town Values At Big City Prices

Sarah Palin spins around the clock to convince us she's the aw-shucks-just-folks nominee from small-town "real America."

Sure she is. If you believe that I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

This morning on NBC comes the news that the pit bull herself is not content with lipstick; the Republican party has spent over $150, 000 on clothes from high-end stores for her to wear on the campaign trail.

Wonder what the other hockey moms will say: Sarah's puttin' on airs?

But the best - or worst - is yet to come.

When it comes to providing basic services to the middle class and poor, or helping provide health insurance for millions of uninsured Americans, Governor Palin howls like a banshee about "socialism" -- a word I would give a hundred dollars to hear her even attempt to correctly define (this is a woman who could not correctly explain the role of vice president to a young school child).

The Sarah Palin we see on TV is cut from whole cloth - and not the high-quality cloth her party has wrapped her in from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Now we find she has quietly made her home state's beloved small government a little bit bigger, making the taxpayer pick up the tab for over twenty thousand dollars' worth of airplane tickets - for her children.

Millions of Americans are losing their homes, savings, health care, retirement accounts - but helping them isn't the government's job, according to Sarah Lee Moose-Musk and those adoring white men of the GOP trying to get a glimpse under her skirt at her speeches.

Providing free air travel for "real American" children to go to work with their mommies is.

What will be next?

Can't wait to find out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber vs. Bob the Builder. Class War Erupts, Mass Casualties Predicted (Mostly From Chinese Lead-Painted Toys).

Okay here's my confession: I could not finish watching the third and final presidential debate last night. I had a stomach ache, went to bed knowing the pundits and bloggers would have the long knives out to slice and dice the debate for me.

But I did watch enough to hear the phrase "Joe the Plumber" about twenty times. It made me think of the persistent leak under my downstairs sink and the money I owe my real plumber (his name is Matt, not Joe) and, well, that kind of election-cycle stress can be bad for my health. Same image comes up when I think of the Republican mantra phrase, "trickle down."

As I ran and hid from the second half of the debate, the image I could not get out of my head was not of Joe the Plumber, but his spiritual brother and fellow tradesman, Bob the Builder.

Now, I know we're treading into class-warfare territory here, but I'm pretty sure Bob makes a lot more money than Joe, certainly much more than the $250,000 that Obama would set has the threshold for tax increases.

Half of Bob's fortune comes from those dang Chinese-made toys. Let's raise our coffee cup and toast lead-free paint in toys and the man who has the guts to stand up to our largest creditor and say, "no lead, please!" (See, we have to say "please" to the red Chinese now or they'll cut off our line of credit. "Tough talk" on human rights? Not anytime soon.)

I'll have more thoughts on this subject later.

Here's an interactive site that makes me LOL! Enjoy it, you crazy Mavericks! Love to all my fellow humans, even my next-door neighbor with his "McCain/Palin yard sign!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain Shows Us His Nuts. The Golem Rises. You. Yes, You. You Are Responsible.

This leaps out at me this morning from the front page of the paper:

“I think there have been quite a few reporters recently,” said Mr. McCain’s closest adviser, Mark Salter, “who have sort of implied, or made more than implications, that somehow we’re responsible for the occasional nut who shows up and yells something about Barack Obama.”

Here in a nutshell is the problem with McCain's campaign. They have run on innuendo and paranoid smears, implying Barack Obama is simply not a real American, not a Christian, likely a Muslim, and probably a terrorist, like the people he "palls around" with.

Now they seem surprised that "Joe and Jane Six-Pack," who they celebrate for their lack of sophistication, and praise for being the opposite of educated "elites," actually believe what they have been told: Obama IS an Arab. He IS a Muslim. He WAS educated in a religious Islamic school; he IS a terrorist.

So, you, Mr. Salter yes, you, and John McCain are responsible. Who else would be?

To the McCain campaign, these are strategic talking points designed to peel away voters to their side. But after a six-pack or two, Joe and Jane, fresh from not studying politics, or economics, or finance, or international relations - or anything, since education is after all a badge of "elite" snobbery - don't see it that way.

They believe what they're told!

John McCain knows Barack Obama is no terrorist. He knows his campaign is distorting his association with William Ayers, and that there is no "there" there. He knows that Obama voted against one military spending bill for the same reasons he himself voted against another, for political reasons, not because he isn't a "real American." I believe that McCain knows he was lying when he told us Obama would willingly lose a war to win an election.

The McCain campaign has followed this dangerous and divisive strategy because they have no other compelling reasons for you and me to vote Republican. McCain and his party have been so wrong about so much, for so long, that the friction of reality has truly ground the spin machine to a shrieking halt.

Mr. Salter, Poo-Bah of the McCain campaign team, now blames the media for creating the Golem they in fact have conjured into existence. Instead he should congratulate himself that the propaganda campaign has been so effective, at least with the base. The real problem with calling Obama a dangerous terrorist is not that it's a lie, it's how ugly the sight of "Joe Six-Pack," terrified and screaming for blood on the evening news, has been.

When a losing campaign has to do damage-control over its own successful propaganda, the writing is truly on the wall.

This is a greater problem than just an election-cycle problem. If, after November, a fourth of the country still believes the new president is a terrorist, someone sooner or later may attempt some kind of daft "rescue." There is a word for a violent, paranoid person who tries to bring down a president - the word is Terrorist.

Obama may be using some of those new-found presidential "war-on-terror" powers sooner than he might have thought, and much, much closer to home.

* * * * *

Last year John McCain told the Wall Street Journal, "You are interviewing the greatest free trader you will ever interview, and the greatest deregulator you will ever interview."

Republicans have for decades promised economic prosperity based on the now-discredited idea that industry regulations are unnecessary, and that free markets could regulate themselves. Putting aside the amorphous call for the return to "family values," this has been the centerpiece of the GOP's economic platform since Ronald Reagan.

"Call off the cops," Republicans told us, "we promise not to steal." Lots and lots of us have been flabbergasted over how successful they were in creating the perception that government had no place in business.

It has been a boondoggle from the start. Industry boomed and the productivity of workers skyrocketed, but workers saw their real wages stagnate, their union power evaporate, their good-paying jobs go abroad. Their anger was legitimate and understandable, and was effectively channeled by the GOP "values conservatives" away from the source of their problem and onto "liberals."

The word "Liberal" has had some rehabilitation recently. The Gun Toting Liberal feels a great deal of satisfaction in this. Liberals treat the country better when they are privileged enough to control its government. Liberals never demand less scrutiny of their plans, because we don't need to.

Liberals understand the basic rule of economics, the law of Supply and Demand that says, "no matter how you regulate industry, it will always make a profit - so go ahead and protect society from the excesses of industry." Europe figured this out ages ago. We have yet to do so.

Maybe now we will.

Postscript: The GTL must be on to something when Frank Rich hits the same theme at the same time!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mobs and Monsters. McCain's Golem. A Picture and a Thousand Words.

Not a good day for John McCain and the Republican Party.

This evening's viewing of CNN shows an uncomfortable and embarrassed McCain trying to talk a near-hysterical town-hall crowd of supporters down from a paroxysm of fear and rage over the likelihood of an Obama win.

One particular wild-haired older woman, seen only from the back, tries with all her might to put into words the inchoate panic she feels at the thought of this Barack Obama as president: "he's... he's... [wait for it] ... an Arab," she practically whispers.

I thought she was going to say "nigger." I really did.

How did McCain react? First, he took the microphone away from her. No surprise there. Watching the exchange on Youtube, you can practically hear McCain's brain whirring: "NOT good. I can't go down in history as the leader of an ignorant, blood-thirsty lynch mob... gotta rein them in... and quick."

He tried. He changed his body language, softened his posture. He reminded the all-white crowd that this was supposed to be a battle of ideas between two distinguished senatorial colleagues, not a race war sparked by lies and innuendos. Obama is a decent and worthy leader, he told his panicked supporters, a family man who would make a fine president.

They booed him. He called for calm and dignity and his own supporters booed him.

Die-hard Republican voters want a leader who will stoke their fear, validate their prejudices, lead them to greater acts of impulsive anger, not one who tries to calm and reassure them.

They don't want McCain. They want Sarah Palin.

John McCain, in stoking the paranoid fears and racist undercurrents of his supporters, the "base" of the Republican Party, has created a Golem that is rapidly twisting out from the grip of his control. In order to subdue the Golem he has to undo his own campaign's message. He has to praise and dignify the humanity of his opponent. In attempting to control his base, McCain has no choice but to nullify what remains of his own campaign strategy, and campaign for Barack Obama.

* * * *

The zeitgeist on the Right is unmistakable: McCain may be the candidate, but Sarah Palin is the star. Did you see her smile as she dismissed the Media as a bunch of Elites, and then told Katie Couric she reads all the newspapers, every day?

Don't you love the deliciousness of her audacity - did you see her wink? Did you hear her call herself a foreign policy expert because she sees Russia from her state? She sees the moon! She's an astronaut! She knows nothing and is damn proud! What an all-American gal! Gee whiz, she makes ya feel good, don't she?!

Sarah Palin is a fantasy right out of Karl Rove's dirtiest wet dream; a sexy, snarling pit-bull for the cause of mockery, crowd-manipulation and character-smear. She can put her hand on the bible and lie about anything. She sells - and drinks - the Kool-Aid like a true Republican. In better times, happier times, she could've out-W'd Bush himself.

But the country today is tired, and can't get it up for Rove's emotional porn any more. They'd prefer sweet dreams, no more nightmares. The orgy is over.

The Alaska legislature released its report on their investigation of Sarah Palin's "Troopergate" behavior today.

As it turns out, even before we knew her name, Palin was a bully who abused the power of the Governor's office. The investigation was bipartisan, and was begun months before she was picked for the Republican ticket. She and John McCain produced every argument they could think of to suppress this report from coming out before election day, but thankfully they failed, and the truth is now known.

It is unclear how this development will affect the presidential race. One thing, however, is clear to all of us down here at GTL headquarters: it will not help Senator McCain bring the Monster he has created under control.

We began this post with a picture. We end it with a thousand words... more, actually. Read them if you need the details.

Weird times, friends. Keep your powder dry.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Rose by Any Other (Middle) Name

I support Barack Obama. I think he's the better of the two presidential candidates, the stronger thinker and the greater gentleman. I also happen to believe he is ten times tougher, calmer, and more resilient than John McCain. I have been nervous in previous posts over his unwillingness to get down into the gutter with his opponents, but it is a gamble that has paid off handsomely in terms of poll numbers, and left many of us feeling clean for a change besides.

Thank you, Senator Obama!

I despise the dirty tricks Republicans since Lee Atwater have used to take political power and screw the American people. But I have to break ranks with my fellow Left-leaning writers and pundits when they wring their hands over Republicans' latest gambit in the sleaze wars: calling Obama by his full name.

Most people know by now that Obama's middle name is Hussein. It's hardly worth mentioning at this late date. The fact that his opponents are doing so only underscores their desperation and lack of real ideas or creativity.

Americans are not responding to the bloody red meat of Rovian campaigning any more. I guess they feel like government not only isn't always the problem, but sometimes is the only solution to enormously difficult problems. Turns out when you turn the heat up, voters recognize the need for reality-based leaders with actual knowledge and experience.

So my opinion is this: it's his name, his real name, the name his parents gave him. He has nothing to be ashamed of. Barack Hussein Obama is a true patriotic American and public servant in the finest sense.

The rest of the world sees Obama's success as progress, and it is.

So let Sarah Lee Moose-Musk call Obama by his real name as if it alone, and not his ideas, were evidence of his unfitness for office. let the hang-'em high crowd go after him.

Let 'em all shout it. It only diminishes them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

39 Days Later.

Senator McCain announced his choice of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate on August 29.

Why Isn't The Media Asking Sarah Palin The Tough Questions At Her Press Conferences?

Because she hasn't had any.

Not a single one.

Not since George W. Bush has a candidate so successfully manipulated the press and avoided questions.

Will you let the Republicans do it again?

Can you afford to?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Oh How The Gun-Toting Liberal Loves Free Speech!

I sent a modified version of one of my recent posts about the bailout package to the local newspaper as a letter to the editor. I was gratified that they printed it, although they didn't notify me in advance and I had no idea it was there until my pharmacist mentioned it a day or two later. I never got to see it on paper.

An odd thing happened when I went online to see it: there were comments! I read some and of course they were the usual angry paranoid mudslinging rants and so forth. Well, what could I do? I leaped right on in and braved the insults to keep my level head and cheerful love of my fellow man well-represented.

Then a marvelous thing happened. As the days passed, commenters showed a little rationality, calmed down, ceased the name-calling, and actually apologized to each other!

I felt like Nelson Mandela! Or Oprah Winfrey! Or Martin Luther King, Jr.!

(And I don't mean I felt black, all you race - baiters! You can see I'm joking around, giddy with humor this fine Sunday morning, can you not?)

I would love it if you took a look for yourselves. This really perked me up.

it also brings me to another political crisis here in Massachusetts I feel passionate about avoiding.

Read it.

The GTL loves you, America.

The following appears as my response to the comment stream generated by my letter to the editor of the Lowell Sun on Friday, September 26, 2008. I've cleaned it up a little, removed a typo or two):

Now this is what I like to see -- my letter to the editor sparked some heated, I would argue turgid - mud-slinging, and now, a week or so later, people in my comment stream are behaving like decent human beings to one another.

I feel so proud!

Now, please hear me on my new concern:

Please vote NO on Question 1, the push to eliminate the Massachusetts personal income tax. It would decrease state revenue by 40% over two years.

"You never miss your water 'till your well runs dry."

There is an article in today's Sun about the dire need for child protection social workers -- DSS has changed its name to DCF, by the way -- as cases have skyrocketed and social workers cannot keep up unless they inject their own time and resources, nights, weekends, to cover the explosion, which they do. It soon will not be enough to meet demand.

Sports figures and hotel heiresses are not heroes. Social workers are. Find a couple and buy them dinner.

Here in our beloved Lowell, DCF social workers' caseloads are exploding and are approaching the point of being unmanageable. Thankfully, there is a rescue plan to inject 5 million dollars into the DCF budget.

However, due to the sudden economic crisis, Governor Patrick may have to scuttle this rescue of the most sacred, most important element of any society or government, the protection of children from rape, murder, physical abuse and torture.

Imagine if we lost 40% of the revenue which is already not enough to cover basic services across the state.

I am donating my time to making calls and canvassing against this reckless proposal, which, by the way is supported by neither the Republican nor Democratic state party. It originated with Carla Howell, our loopy libertarian ideologue. Did you vote for her? Well, don't now.

I will end with a list of services our taxes pay for, but before I do remember this: If this turd of a proposal passes, the pain will be immediate and will hit you, your family, and all of us (well, not you New Hampshire-ites).

More Massachusetts children will be beaten, raped, and murdered, or at the very least, neglected. Schools and firehouses will close. Gangs will proliferate, even in comfy suburbia. Police budgets will go down.

It will be immediately apparent that Question 1 was a fool's errand based on hostility to taxes, even as they directly benefit and protect our communities.

Remember this: if Question 1 passes, it will hurt. BAD. And no politician, and I mean NONE, will ever be willing to stand up and say, "it was a bad idea, let's re-introduce a 5% income tax." Such a move would be political suicide and would never win.

Some things your tax dollars do which will be reduced by 40% :

Pothole repair
Keeping schools open
Snow removal
Highway safety
Police protection
Streetlights (some towns are turning theirs off even now)
Student/teacher ratios in schools
Special education services
Services for the mentally ill
Day care for the working poor
Gang reduction initiatives
Firefighting (has your town closed any firehouses? Mine has - imagine 40% more closures)
Services for the blind
Ambulance service
Flood control
Monitoring elections
Health insurance for the poor and elderly

I could go on and on but it's Sunday and I've got things to do.

Once again, this comment stream does my heart so much good, as I sit in my chilly house, my heart strings are warm and plucked.

Stand with me and your neighbors. Vote NO on Question 1.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Pit Bull

It seems Sarah can memorize her lines after all.

Who knew?

The bar was set shockingly low for Sarah Palin at last night's debate, and with good reason. For a week she had been beaten senseless night after night by that hard-hitting colossus of investigative journalism, Katie Couric, whose basic ninth-grade civics questions left Palin flummoxed, either stuttering incoherent sound bite fragments or simply remaining silent.

McCain's own people were worried. What if she couldn't answer a simple question, like, "what are the three branches of government?" or "how many justices are there on the Supreme Court?" - or that her mangled answers would make W's soundbites ("I know how hard it is to put food on your family") sound like the Gettysburg Address?

I think we can all agree. Sarah Palin exceeded our expectations on these meager criteria. She can indeed walk and chew gum at the same time.

But more than that, she seemed to enjoy the bloodsport of the thing, even though most of the blood in the ring up to that point was hers. She spoke directly to America. She looked into the camera and betrayed not a shred of fear.

Only a person with a narrow, rock-steady worldview could show that kind of poise and self-confidence with so little to back it up. It was surreal, and unsettling - terrifying, even - to see her happily sparring with "O'Biden," as she referred to Joe Biden at one point.

For his part, Biden was calm, pleasant, and self-controlled. He understood the stakes and was not about to be caught in the national spotlight beating the intellectual daylights out of a sweet, pretty, aw-shucks-ain't-I-cute North Country hockey mom with a pregnant teen-aged daughter and newborn Down-Syndrome baby boy waiting back home. With blood in the water he circled but did not go in for the kill.

But all this begs the issue: Did Palin demonstrate any qualifications for high office other than bluff and swagger? Did she demonstrate mastery of any real material that a president might need?

Hell, no.

But she showed up, and looked good, and didn't cower in a fight for which she was woefully unprepared. She got in the ring with an apple-cheek smile on her aging-beauty-queen face and read her lines like a pro.

In another time, a happier, easier, former time in America, Sarah Palin might just have been able to pull it off. From where I stand, she might have even been able to out-Bush the master of make-believe, W himself.

Palin may not know a thing about the world, and she may have no idea what the Supreme Court is for, and she may think Thomas Jefferson wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, but she does know this: a pit bull brings down its prey by clamping onto the jugular vein, never looking back, and never letting go.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Their Politics, Their Women.

The more Sarah Palin speaks, the more amazed I am that anyone would put their integrity and judgment on the line to vouch for her suitability for high office. At this point, I would not vote for this woman for PTA president at my daughter's elementary school, let alone for the second-highest office in the U.S. government.

And yet there are those who will forgive anything, even a woman who can't name a single Supreme Court decision aside from Roe vs. Wade, and when asked what newspapers or periodicals she reads to inform her of world events, pauses and replies, "all of them," but can't name a single one.

McCain is the new mega-Bush. His politically-motivated cynicism has a direct analogue in the Bush White House: the President's nomination of Harriet Myers for the Supreme Court.

If there is anyone out there who will still carry an ounce of Bush's water for his nomination of Harriet Myers, and is willing to come on this blog and do so publicly, I will personally congratulate him for his courage and audacity, if not his judgment and credibility.

My intuition tells me that in a few short weeks Palin will be in the same category as Myers and there will be no one left in her own party leadership willing to expend a drop of political capital on her.

We shall see.

Postscript. I just googled Ms. Myers and apparently I am not the first to make this connection.