Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just A Regular Guy Who Wants To Be Your Prez

So, John McCain doesn't want to admit to owning seven houses*. Why? Oh, maybe because it plays against his strategy of appearing down-to-Earth, poor white male-friendly, and anti-intellectual. Anti-intellectual? Yep.

Here's a statement from McCain's advisor, Brian "Don't Call Me Mr." Rogers*2.

"In terms of who's an elitist, I think people have made a judgment that John McCain is not an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor-type based on his life story."

So, because he doesn't eat arugula and he isn't a 'professor-type', John McCain is better suited than Barack Obama to be president? I don't know about anyone else, but after eight years of the Bush presi-duncy (genuine stupidity) and eight years of the Clinton Shucks-idency (feigned stupidity; which is actually a little more galling in retrospect), I'd find a professorial tone in the White House a breath of fresh air. As far as 'pointy headed', I'm not sure McCain touting physical characteristics as important will work out too well. The man's essentially a corpse*3.



"HUH?! WHA?! Bomb 'em!"

Here's the thing; much as I don't care who each candidate prays to, I also don't care how many houses they have. Or if they hang out in Hawaii. Or if they eat yucky vegetables. There is no way for a politician to pretend that they're not rich. In my four-person household, 100k a year would seem like filthy richitude. No candidate is going to be able to convince me that they're personally in touch with my financial situation. That point is moot.

Protein from green vegetables helps the body function at peak efficiency.

What is relevant is how these men have interacted with the poor/working poor. Obama? Got out of school and worked with poor people (maybe actually breathed the same air!). McCain? Got out of school and dropped bombs on them. I don't think most of those North Vietnamese villagers cared one way or another about a Cold War. They were probably more concerned with napalm obliterating their houses, crops and families. I might be wrong.

Granted, Obama was never heroically captured and tortured. G.I. John has definitely got him beat in that category. I know I'd like my leadership to have deep psychological scars that informed his outlook on foreign relations. Wouldn't you? That kind of snark might be out of bounds if McCain's camp didn't keep bringing his torture up as a mark of 'normal guy' status. Witness...

"This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison,"; also Rogers.

So, once again, to clarify; being tortured as a POW makes you a better leader. Sorry, but until the entire country is held prisoner in Southeast Asia, I don't see the experience gained as being germane. McCain does get 'tough guy points' though. However, he loses them just as fast for toeing the line with the Bush administration's 'enhanced interrogation' euphemisms*4.

What do I look for in a leader? Smarts. I don't want a 'regular guy' in the White House. I want a fucking superhero! I want somebody smarter than me with more genuine compassion than I have. If our president is normal (or in the case of Bush Part 2 sub-normal) in these areas, what's the point? Elected office should be something aspired to and hard to attain. 'Normal guys' don't have what it takes, and that's exactly the point. Now, before anyone screams "Elitist!", let's ask a real question with a real answer. Don't we want the 'elite' to represent our country to the rest of the world? I don't mean the monetarily elite (who I'd suggest are better called 'the assholes' in most cases), or the familial elite (there's a reason we broke from a hereditary system*5), or even the ideological elite (surely an entirely subjective status; some 'reg'lar Amurkans' would consider the Fox News stable to be ideologically elite). When I say elite, I mean it in the true sense of the word; better at their job than everybody else.

Sure, you could make the case that plenty of evil people are elite by that definition. That's the rub. That's the choice. Pick the ones who aren't actively engaged in evil. What's evil? Enforcing your morals on others is one of my definitions (and certainly, enforcing them with 'Democracy bombs' qualifies). Another definition of evil is advocating for the 'haves' from a bully pulpit. These people/corporations don't need any help; they're bleeding us dry just fine, thanks.

Evil is ignorance given power. Ignorance is not stupidity. Stupidity is impossible to overcome, and therefore just something to be pitied. Ignorance is a choice to continue not knowing. Not knowing how the world works; not knowing how to argue your ideas without a superpower's military to back you up; not knowing enough to see that your policies are hurting people unneccesarily (here and overseas); not knowing how many houses you have because you do know, but a part of you feels shameful for it when there are still people starving and dying all over the world; not knowing the value of the environment (and I don't mean the price of oil); not knowing how to be a human being with the best interests of us all in mind (plenty of politicians know how to be an American; congratulations, but that's not going to be enough if you want to keep the planet sane enough to inhabit).

To summarize:

- A good president needs intelligence (perhaps even 'professor-type' levels)

He went on to earn his law degree from Harvard in 1991, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Soon after, he returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer and teach constitutional law.

- A good president needs compassion (that doesn't end at their eyeline)

Speaking at Murrells Inlet VFW Hall in South Carolina, McCain was asked when he thought the US Military might "send an air mail message to Tehran."

"McCain began his answer by changing the words to a popular Beach Boys song," the Georgetown Times reports.

"'Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,' he sang to the tune of Barbara Ann," the paper notes.

- A good president needs to not be evil (hard to find when evil parades as patriotism)

The AP reported yesterday that U.S. exports to Iran “grew more than tenfold during President Bush’s years in office.” When a reporter informed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) of the story, noting that “America sent more cigarettes to Iran…than any other products,” McCain said, “Maybe thats a way of killing them.” After being poked in the back by his wife, McCain quickly added, “I meant that as a joke!” — presumably one similar to his bomb Iran “joke.”

Some reporters dismissed McCain’s new Iran “joke,” suggesting that it is perhaps just part of his “regular guy” persona, an endearing quality for a man running for an office that commands the world’s strongest and most advanced military:

NBC’s Chuck Todd: “That’s what makes him real and that’s what makes people who disagree with him say ‘ah, you know what? The guy seems like any guy you’d want to have around the dinner table or the bar stool.’”

CNN’s Jessica Yellin: “People who love him think his a maverick and think he’s a real guy who makes a joke off the cuff just like real people do [but] we’re all waiting to see if something explodes, this kind of comment doesn’t.”

- A good president needs to know (his people's problems, his world's realities, which countries border which)

Senator John McCain has spent the week trying to tell people that he feels their economic pain. So it was more than a little unhelpful when one of his top economic advisers was quoted Thursday as saying that the United States was only in a “mental recession” and that it had become a “nation of whiners.”

Although McCain insists he is no George W. Bush, his campaign is stacked with advisers who played key roles in shaping the Bush administration's Middle East policies, including the disastrous plan to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq that has cost taxpayers nearly $1 trillion, resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 US soldiers, and hundreds of thousands Iraqi civilians.

With these hardcore neoconservatives now directing McCain's foreign policy there is every reason to believe that a McCain administration would continue to try its goal of implementing a Pax Americana in the Middle East through preemptive military action.

Asked by Diane Sawyer whether the "the situation in Afghanistan in precarious and urgent," McCain responded: "I think it's serious. . . . It's a serious situation, but there's a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."

But as ABC's Rick Klein noted: "Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border. Afghanistan and Pakistan do."

- A good president nee-


Oh no, it's Mummy Reagan!!! RRRUUUUUNNNNN!!!

* Seven is a spiritual number, JoMac. Just tell the bible-suckers you wanted to be closer to Jeebus and they'll understand.

*2 The ghost of Mr. Rogers also asks that you don't call Brian Rogers 'Mr. Rogers', because he doesn't want to be associated with a douche bag posthumously.
Mr. Rogers

Brian Rogers

*3 I hear that Joe "Eeyore" Lieberman's official cabinet position in a McCain presidency would be Secretary of Continued Vertical Positioning.
McCain: "You've been very supportive of me, Joe. I thank you."
Lieberman: "No need, old chum. It's been a tremendous workout. Now I don't have to learn what a 'pilates' is."

*4 If I beat and rob someone, can I call it 'enhanced personal fundraising'?

*5 Or at least
pretended we did. Even back to the Adams boys, it's still been all in the family in American politics. No offense to Ted, but some of those damn Kennedys are dumber than a box of rocks and occupy positions above their competence because 'good Catholics' create dynasties to rival the pharaohs. Don't tell Mummy Reagan.

Obama And His 'Pick'

While hardly speech-polished, here is another...

Dream Obama Dispatch*:

Dream Obama: SURPRISE!!! It's me, BARACK OBAMA!!! Let's go punch the scrotum of politics as usual.

VP Pick*2: You kick. I'll drown the kittens of partisanship*3!

Dream Obama: Stuff the naughty kitties of partisanship in the 'Bag of Change'TM; I'll cover you with 'The Icepick of Unity'TM.


* While not an actual transcript from the future, this exchange is very likely.

*2 I know who this is, but I don't want to spoil it for you, dear reader.

*3 'The Kittens Of Partisanship' coined by Meat Bikini.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Better Angel - Chris Adrian

Let’s face facts, people. I, your humble typist, am not even close to being cool*. I’m not on top of the latest music, the hippest fashion, or the coolest drugs*2. The only arena (save for comics) that I can pretend to know about is books. As a bookseller in various capacities for the last 7+ years I’ve seen thousands of titles pass my way. I’ve even read some of them*3. However, even when it comes to books, I still fall a bit short of ‘guy you want at your ‘altbook goth poetry slam and appletini mixer’*4.

I’ve gotten weary over the years, especially of hype and marketing. It’s engendered in me no small amount of Bestseller Backlash*5. This extends to lesser-known authors in a ‘coolness mutation’ of the disease (which explains why I’m so McSweeney’s/New Directions/SoHo Press deficient). This mutation kept me from reading a book called The Children’s Hospital, written by Chris Adrian. It sounded good, I wanted to read it, and then at least four co-workers had to tell me just how good it was. This sort of thing has kept me from Murakami, Marias, Marquez*6 and other ‘M’ name authors.

Time went by, The Children’s Hospital stared at me accusingly each time I unpacked it from a Perseus Distribution box, and I got on with life. Then, as if by magic (or the weekly galley box sent to each Schwartz store from the home office), I saw a book by Chris Adrian with my name on it.

Did I dare? Well, yeah, or I wouldn’t be writing about it. I tore through Adrian’s collection of stories, A Better Angel, and soon after felt like the last guy to insist that the Earth was flat*7. From the first story on it’s evident that Adrian has an envious amount of creativity and an admirable grasp of his characters’ motivations and viewpoints.

Make no mistake; these aren’t quirky slices of life or faith-affirming meditations on mankind’s foibles. What’s in this book, in every story without exception, is sadness, nearly incommunicable rage, twisted pathos and the ever-present specter of death. Having never read Adrian before, I was surprised to say the least. There are elements of the fantastic and the supernatural in many cases, but they serve as a means to explore a reality that’s been turned upside down.

The central question in so many of the stories in A Better Angel is “How does a person deal with death?” The death of loved ones, the death of innocence, the death of spirit in the face of atrocity. The answers proffered won’t help you sleep better at night, but they will make you think hard about your own response to tragedy. This book is not a positive coping mechanism; quite the opposite, it is a rage-filled howl against the inadequacy of emotion and the way in which terrible events weigh down everyday lives.

A Better Angel is definitely not for the faint of heart; it is for the questioners and the seekers who are open to plumbing the depths of anguish and living in the chilly recesses of tortured minds for the space of a story now and then.

*I’m not fishing for compliments here. It’s a simple statement of fact. Let it be.

*2 No “meth-mouth” for me, thanks. Drugs are bad. You heard it here first.

*3 Not many classics, too much genre trash, and a fair amount worth recommending here and on The Inside Flap.

*4 Catch the next mixer at Recreational Sherpa’s; Milwaukee’s newest indoor rock climbing center and pub house! Located in the basement of the third crack house on Cambridge, just off the corner of Brady and Farwell. $5 cover, Tuesday night rails are only $2 until 10pm. Can’t relate to having a street with at least three crack houses in your city or town? Good for you.

*5 A particularly virulent book-borne form of elitism that causes sufferers to recoil from any book that comes highly recommended by any print or online publication (except The Inside Flap), or sells a lot of copies.

*6 “It’s Garcia Marquez, jerk!” I’m aware, but go into any bookstore and you’ll find him shelved in both ways. I don’t make the rules, I just bend them to make weak alphabet jokes.

*7 I know; I seem to start a fair amount of my book recommendations by saying that I held off on reading a book and found I was wrong to do so. What can I say? I spend a lot of time being stubborn and wrong. I could have just come out and said as much, but who am I; Georgia’s senior Senator, Saxby Chambliss*8?

“I don’t know what I’m doing here either. While I’ve got your attention; don’t vote for that Barack Hussein Obama feller. He’s a ‘risky’ choice. I hope you take my Southern Strategy meaning when I say ‘risky’.”

*8 I actually know next to nothing about Saxby Chambliss or his reading habits, save for that he’s a Republican and therefore alternates The Bible and Ann Coulter and is most likely evil. Plus, he’s got an ‘old money’, funny-sounding name worthy of mockery.