Thursday, December 31, 2009

This, That and the Other Thing

I don’t remember my dreams. Apart from providing a haunting metaphor, it’s also true. I could be in bed scaling the summit of sexual ecstasy with Megan Fox and I wouldn’t recall it. It’s sleep-induced amnesia.

But last night was different. Not surprisingly, I dreamt of work. I was in a meeting room, seated at a conference table. I was new to the company. The air was thick with stress. Every time the faceless leader said something, a different co-worker leaned over and whispered something bitter and contradictory in my ear.

The meeting was grid-locked. The harder management pressed for resolution, the more staunch the employee opposition. Yet when the leader called for a vote, the vote was unanimous. It was disturbing; I felt trapped by the employee’s public agreement and their private dissent.

It's the usual propaganda about speaking freely and the unwritten rules about never, ever doing so. Work in a nutshell. A head-on collision of colliding contradictions.

Then there’s the Christmas Day terrorist fiasco over Detroit. Republicans have seized it as another opportunity to plant the seeds of fear in our always-receptive soil. Democrats can only issue a wobbly, off-target response about it being proof that ‘the system works’.

If you say so.

Lost in the fumbling and the fear-mongering is the fact the kid didn’t board the plane in the United States! But by all means, let’s re-invent the wheel. When we’re done running around shrieking, I mean.

I’m in complete agreement with a recent Time magazine cover story calling this the worst decade ever. It certainly is the worst I’ve experienced. I’ll be the first in line to give this decade (and this year) a good, hard kick in the ass tonight. Good fucking riddance!

And a good fucking New Year to you all. We need it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Had a Dream

A man walks into an office. He approaches the reception desk. The receptionist looks up.

Receptionist: Good morning. Can I help you?

Ben Nelson: Morning. I'm here to see Mr. Kisser. I have an appointment.

Receptionist: Okay. Have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.

Nelson: Thank you.

A few minutes pass. Kisser walks into the reception area.

John Kisser: Good morning. You must be Ben Nelson.

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: John Kisser. Nice to meet you. Follow me.

The two men go to Kisser's office. Kisser closes the door.

Kisser: Okay. So. You’re here to interview for the position of department head with BeigeCare. Is that correct?

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

Nelson: Well, I’ve spent most of my career in public service. After graduating from law school, I got into the insurance biz. Made a ton of money, but it didn’t satisfy me. I just didn’t feel in control. I was too short to be a cop, so I ran for office. (Laughs) Started out as Governor in ’90. Gotta start somewhere y’know. Pay your dues. (Chuckles) I just kept moving up the chain. My most-recent position was as U.S. Senator from the great state of Nebraska.

Kisser: Really. That must have been fascinating.

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why did you leave?

Nelson coughs and shifts in his chair.

Nelson: Well, um, it was a bad fit. The opportunities for advancement were very limited. It was time to move on.

Kisser: I see. So now you’re interested in family planning and reproductive rights?

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why BeigeCare? I mean, after being a senator, I would think this would seem awfully…boring.

Nelson: You pay, right? (Nervous laughter)

Kisser: Of course. What are your qualifications?

Nelson: Well, I headed a staff of fourteen as a senator, and coordinated numerous state-wide campaigns. I spearheaded the effort to water-down and derail health care. I’m a consensus-builder. I get things done.

Kisser: Tell me what kind of consensuses you built.

Nelson: Um, the conserva-Dem effort to stop the government take-over of our health care system.

Kisser: And what about your experience as a campaign coordinator?

Nelson: I ran for office four times. Twice for governor. Twice for the senate. Never lost.

Kisser: I want to find out what your role as a coordinator was. How you pulled things together and got them off the ground.

Nelson: I was the candidate!

Kisser: Yes, but tell me what you did.

Nelson: I gave the speeches. Made the public appearances. Kissed the babies. You ever shake two-thousand hands in a day?

Kisser: Can't say that I have. Why don't you tell me about your staff.

Nelson: Well, my campaign manager hired them. But I made the actual policy decisions. I was the one who actually voted in the senate.

Kisser: On the advice of your staff?

Nelson: Well, yeah. That’s how it works. We all have advisors. Consultants. But I delegated. I took care of the big picture, and had my staff deal with the little stuff. The details.

Kisser: Like policy?

Nelson: Yeah. No! No one tells me what to do!

Kisser looks down at his desk.

Kisser: To be frank, Mr. Nelson, I have some concerns.

Nelson: About what?

Kisser: Your ability to function as a department head within the larger scope of an organization.

Nelson: But I’m a consensus-builder! It says so on my web site!

Kisser: Yes but…

Nelson: Look. Say the U.S. is a company. And every state is a department. Being a U.S. senator is just like being a department head! I was the department head of…Nebraska. Dammit! I built consensuses! I took care of my department! I provided for my constituents!

Kisser: Yes. At the expense of the rest of the country.

Nelson: They could afford it! I needed to take care of the people who got me elected!

Kisser: You mean the people who financed your campaign?

Nelson: Same difference!

Kisser: But Mr. Nelson, this is business—not politics. You can’t just screw the rest of the company so your department benefits. We operate on a finite budget. Money is limited. You could jeopardize the entire company. BeigeCare places a premium on its employees being team players. And I just don’t see that in you. I’m sorry.

Nelson: What do you mean? I was a great team player—for the team of Nebraska! You’re just looking at it wrong!

Kisser: Mr. Nelson, let’s be honest with each other. You didn’t leave the senate because of a lack of “advancement opportunities”. You were censured. You were stripped of your committee chairs and kept out of the loop until the voters of Nebraska demanded you be recalled. You were powerless. (Kisser stands up—agitated.) You couldn’t pass gas, much less legislation. You were a lame duck, or better yet—a limp dick—of a senator who didn’t have a prayer of being re-elected. You’re the Democrats’ answer to Jim DeMint, only they never asked the fucking question! Team player? Don't make me laugh! Only on team Ben! You don’t know fuck about being a team player!

Kisser leans over and gets very near Nelson's face.

Kisser: Mr. Nelson, you disgust me. If anyone ever looks up to you again, I hope it's because you're hanging from a tree.

Nelson slumps in his seat.

Nelson: What am I supposed to do?

Kisser: You have a great talent for extortion, Mr. Nelson. Here’s my advice: why don’t you hit the streets and tell people you’ll stand near them unless they give you money. As I see it, the stench of your company is about the only leverage you have left.

An alarm clock rings. A groggy man reaches for the off button and wipes his eyes. He is no longer sleeping.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ideas from Outside the Box

How ironic is it that I, a confirmed business-hater, would think of an idea to save General Motors?

It came to me as I was reading the obit for Saab yesterday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the latest in a string of GM-related murders. It follows the deaths of Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn, and unsuccessful attempts on Opel and Hummer.

GM bought a fifty-percent interest in Saab for $600 million in 1989. Eleven years later, it purchased the remaining half for $125 million. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but by my reckoning this begs a question: why was the second half 79.1 percent cheaper than the first? Frequent-buyer miles?

Or does GM have one of those preferred customer keyring tags you get from the supermarket?

I'm betting the only time you get 80 percent off is on really junky Christmas cards after New Year’s Day. So how does GM get 80 percent off on the asking price of a viable car manufacturer with a distinguished history and a passionate following?

Just for the sake of argument, let’s take it on the word of car enthusiasts that GM wrecked the brand. Smoothed-out every irregular personality trait until Ashley Simpson resembled one of Hugh Hefner’s plastic surgery Barbies. Took what had been a quirky, much-loved automobile and spread-sheeted it into perfect Buick blandness. What if?

And therein lies GM’s salvation. So ironic. And so true. Its own ineptness, its bloated culture of bureaucracy and accountants and design by committee that insures that any trace of personality is ironed out of each and every automobile, could save its ass.

GM wants to survive? All it needs to do is buy the competition.

Buy Toyota. Buy Ford. And buy Honda. Within eleven years, all will be wheezing shadows of their former selves. Uninspired sheetmetal resting on outdated platforms. Of course, past performance is never a guarantee of future results, but the odds look pretty good.

My bill is in the mail.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Joe Letter

I sent the following letter to Senator Joe Lieberman this morning. You can write him too, at lieberman.senate.gov. We forget that senators are people very vulnerable to public opinion. Tounge-in-cheek or serious-as-a-heart attack, it's important that we express how we feel.

Give it a try. Please?



December 18, 2009


Dear Senator Lieberman,

I’m kind of new at this ‘pay-to-play’ stuff, and have some questions:

First of all, how much does it cost? Secondly, do you prefer cash or check? And if the latter, do you have a numbered bank account in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland or the Isle of Man you would like that check deposited in?

Also, where do you enjoy playing golf most? Hawaii? The Caribbean? Scotland? Do you prefer your wife accompany you when you play, or in the gentlemen-only-ladies-forbidden tradition of the sport, do you prefer to quote-unquote ‘go it alone’?

And if that is your preference, do you prefer blondes, brunettes or redheads?

How do you feel about vacation homes? What are your favorite locales? Do you like custom-built or existing?

Finally, do I get a guarantee? And how long do I have to wait?

I mean, do you change positions immediately, or do you like to gradually implement your shift on a particular issue like you did with filibusters?

Okay. That’s about it for now. Please respond ASAP. I think Obama’s serious about this ‘by Christmas’ thing.


Best Regards,

La Piazza Gancio

Some Motown, Reconsidered

Like all pop music labels of the day, Motown was one predicated on the success of its singles. Albums were an afterthought, especially in the early and mid-sixties. Pick-up a Motown album from that era and you’ll find a featured single or two and lots of covers—usually of songs published by Berry Gordy, Jr.

Gordy was a businessman first and foremost, and he knew the real money in the music biz lay in publishing. It was nice to pick-up some cash from Martha & the Vandellas “Heat Wave”, but it was even nicer when the Supremes and Mary Wells recorded it and put it on their albums, too.

Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye eventually ushered Motown into the album age four years after Sgt. Pepper. Gaye’s 1971 classic What’s Going On and Wonder’s 1973 landmark Innervisions aligned Motown with the album-buying preferences of seventies consumers.

But even in the golden age of the hit single, a handful of worthy Motown albums were made. If you’re of a mind to, you will find these well-worth seeking out:

1.) The Temptations – The Temptin’ Temptations (1965) Unlike so many Motown albums of its era, there isn’t a cover—or a weak song—in the bunch. While none of the Temp’s best-remembered chart-toppers are on board, many of their most sublime are. "Since I Lost My Baby" is epic heartbreak. "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" and "I’ll Be in Trouble" are just the sort of song craft Motown tossed-off so effortlessly in its prime. And "Don’t Look Back"'s understated groove sneaks up on you like a Crown Royal buzz. Which come to think of it, pretty much describes the entire album.

2.) The Four Tops – The Four Tops Second Album (1965) Levi Stubbs might have had the most recognizable voice at Motown. When he leaned into a lyric, it didn’t matter what kind of radio you were listening to it on. Everything he sang was instantly rendered into 70mm CinemaScope. Second Album sustained the career momentum begun with "Baby I Need Your Loving", providing the Tops with top five hits in "I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "It’s the Same Old Song". Songs like "Something about You" and "Helpless" come off the bench and elevate Second Album to minor classic status.

3.) Martha & the Vandellas – Dance Party (1965) Unlike label-mate Diana Ross, lead Vandella Martha Reeves wasn’t afraid to sweat—at least as much as image-conscious Motown would allow. Dance Party features the anthemic "Dancing in the Street" (check out the clarion call of that brass intro) and perhaps their second-greatest hit, the pulsing "Nowhere to Run". That it also contains the unappreciated proto funk of "Mobile Lil the Dancing Witch" is just a bonus. Not for the caffeine averse.

4.) The Temptations – Wish It Would Rain (1968) Anchored by another masterful Temps hit, Wish It Would Rain mirrors The Temptin’ Temptations in its array of ache and ecstasy. While the Supremes were Berry Gordy’s pet project, judging from the A-list material on Wish It Would Rain, the Temps were everyone else’s. There isn’t a ‘skip track’ in the bunch; just the sound of a band at their zenith, moving from strength to strength. Sadly, this was also beginning of the end. David Ruffin left during its recording after being refused his request to rename the band David Ruffin and the Temptations.

5.) Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed & Delivered (1970) Lost in the attention and the grammys awarded his later work was the fact that Stevie Wonder was an uncommonly gifted singer, player and arranger well before he released Talking Book. And here’s the proof. This is stuffed with resonant performances like "Never Had a Dream Come True", "Heaven Help Us All" and "Don’t Wonder Why". And when combined with the bracing strut of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)", it becomes a must-have. In more-fashionable words, this is Stevie on the verge of blowing up.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keith Olbermann: Special Comment 12/16/09

I don't always agree with Keith Olbermann. He can be as stubborn and narrow-minded as the conservatives he loathes. But tonight, he offered the best analysis of the abyssal state of our government and of health care reform yet heard.

I hope you have a few minutes.


Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of H-R 35-90, the Senate Health Care Reform bill. To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: "I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war."

Last night on this program Howard Dean said that with the appeasement of Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut by the abandonment of the Medicare Buy-in, he could no longer support H-R 35-90. Dr. Dean's argument is informed, cogent, heart breaking, and unanswerable.

Seeking the least common denominator, Sen. Reid has found it, especially the "least" part. This is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform. I bless the Sherrod Browns and Ron Wydens and Jay Rockefellers and Sheldon Whitehouses and Anthony Weiners and all the others who have fought for real reform and I bleed for the pain inflicted upon them and their hopes. They have done their jobs and served their nation.

But through circumstances beyond their control, they are now seeking to reanimate a corpse killed by the Republicans, and by a political game played in the Senate and in the White House by men and women who have now proved themselves poorly equipped for the fight. The "men" of the current moment, have lost to the "mice" of history.

They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony. This bill, slowly bled to death by the political equivalent of the leeches that were once thought state-of-the-art-medicine, is now little more than a series of microscopically minor tweaks of a system which is the real-life, here-and-now version, of the malarkey of the Town Hallers. The American Insurance Cartel is the Death Panel, and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it. Nor even to satiate it.

It merely decrees that our underprivileged, our sick, our elderly, our middle class, can be fed into it, as human sacrifices to the great maw of corporate voraciousness, at a profit per victim of 10 cents on the dollar instead of the current 20. Even before the support columns of reform were knocked down, one by one, with the kind of passive defense that would embarrass a touch-football player - single-payer, the public option, the Medicare Buy-In - before they vanished, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the part of this bill that would require you to buy insurance unless you could prove you could not afford it, would cost a family of four with a household income of 54-thousand dollars a year, 17 percent of that income. Nine thousand dollars a year. Just for the insurance!

That was with a public option. That was with some kind of check on the insurance companies. That was before — as Howard Dean pointed out — the revelation that the cartel will still be able to charge older people more than others; will — at the least — now be able to charge much more, maybe 50 percent more, for people with pre-existing conditions — pre-existing conditions; you know, like being alive.

You have just agreed to purchase a product. If you do not, you will be breaking the law and subject to a fine. You have no control over how much you will pay for the product. The government will have virtually no control over how much the company will charge for the product. The product is designed like the Monty Python sketch about the insurance company's "Never-Pay" policy ... "which, you know, if you never claim — is very worthwhile. But you had to claim, and, well, there it is."

And who do we have to blame for this? There are enough villains to go around, men and women who, in a just world, would be the next to get sick and have to sell their homes or their memories or their futures — just to keep themselves alive, just to keep their children alive, against the implacable enemy of American society, the insurance cartel. Mr. Grassley of Iowa has lied, and fomented panic and fear. Mr. DeMint of South Carolina has forgotten he represents people, and not just a political party. Mr. Baucus of Montana has operated as a virtual agent for the industry he is charged with regulating. Mr. Nelson of Nebraska has not only derailed reform, he has tried to exploit it to overturn a Supreme Court decision that, in this context, is frankly none of his goddamned business.

They say they have done what they have done for the most important, the most fiscally prudent, the most gloriously phrased, the most inescapable of reasons. But mostly they have done it for the money. Lots and lots of money from the insurance companies and the pharmacological companies and the other health care companies who have slowly taken this country over.

Which brings us to Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, the one man at the center of this farcical perversion of what a government is supposed to be. Out of pique, out of revenge, out of betrayal of his earlier wiser saner self, he has sold untold hundreds of thousands of us into pain and fear and privation and slavery — for money. He has been bought and sold by the insurance lobby. He has become a Senatorial prostitute. And sadly, the President has not provided the leadership his office demands.

He has badly misjudged the country's mood at all ends of the spectrum. There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir. There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out.

Mr. President, the line between "compromise" and "compromised" is an incredibly fine one. Any reform bill enrages the right, and provides it with the war cry around which it will rally its mindless legions in the midterms and in '12. But this Republican knee-jerk inflexibility provides an incredible opportunity to you, Sir, and an incredible license.

On April 6th 2003, I was approached by two drunken young men at a baseball game. One of them started to ask for an autograph. The other stopped him by shouting "Screw him, he's a liberal." This program had been on the air for three weeks. It had to that point consisted entirely of brief introductions to correspondents in Iraq or to military analysts. There had been no criticism, no political analysis, no commentary. I had not covered news full-time for more than four years. I could not fathom on what factual basis, I was being called a "liberal," let alone being sworn at for being such.

Only later did it dawn on me that it didn't matter why, and it didn't matter that they were doing it — it only mattered that if I was going to be mindlessly criticized for anything, the reaction would be identical whether I did nothing that engendered it, or stood for something that engendered it.

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist. You could be further to the right than Reagan - and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, sure invites the comparison. And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliché goes, something to cry about.

But concomitant with that is the reaction from Democrats and Independents. You have riven them, Sir. Any bill will engender criticism but this bill costs you the left — and anybody who now has to pony up 17 percent of his family's income to buy this equivalent of Medical Mobster Protection Money.

Some speaking for you, Sir, have called the public option a fetish. They may be right. But to stay with this uncomfortable language, this bill is less fetish, more bondage. Nothing short of your re-election and the re-election of dozens of Democrats in the house and senate, hinges in large part on this bill. Make it palatable or make it go away or make yourself ready — not merely for a horrifying campaign in 2012 — but for the distinct possibility also of a primary challenge.

Befitting the season, Sir, these are not the shadows of the things that will be, but the shadows of the things that may be. But at this point, Mr. President, only you can make certain of that. There is only one redemption possible. The mandate in this bill under which we are required to buy insurance must be stripped out.

The bill now is little more than a legally mandated delivery of the middle class (and those whose dreams of joining it slip ever further away) into a kind of Chicago stockyards of insurance. Make enough money to take care of yourself and your family and you must buy insurance — on the insurers terms — or face a fine.

This provision must go. It is, above all else, immoral and a betrayal of the people who elected you, Sir. You must now announce that you will veto any bill lacking an option or buy-in, but containing a mandate.

And Sen. Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both. Or single-payer. Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 "ayes." Let them commit political suicide instead of you.

Let Mr. Lieberman kill the bill — then turn to his Republican friends only to find out they hate him more than the Democrats do. Let him stagger off the public stage, to go work for the insurance industry. As if he is not doing that now.

Then, Mr. Reid, take every worthwhile provision of health care reform you legally can, and pass it via reconciliation, when ever and how ever you can — and by the way, a Medicare Buy-In can be legally passed via reconciliation. The Senate bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House.

Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable and there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported. And if still the bill and this heinous mandate become law there is yet further reaction required. I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight, to use the only weapon that will be left to us if this bill becomes law. We must not buy federally mandated insurance if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy.

No single payer? No sale. No public option? No sale. No Medicare buy-in? No sale. I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice. And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health care reform. Pass this at your peril, Senators, and sign it at yours, Mr. President. I will not buy this insurance. Brand me a lawbreaker if you choose. Fine me if you will. Jail me if you must.

But if the Medicare Buy-In goes, but the Mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and so sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated version of their dream, because those elected by us to act for us have forgotten what must be the golden rule of health care reform. It is the same one to which physicians are bound, by oath: First do no harm.

Play with Matches

Have you ever donated money to the Susan G. Komen foundation? You know, that pink non-profit devoted to finding a cure for breast cancer? Did you know they employ Hadassah Lieberman and pay her upwards of 300K per annum to be something called a global ambassador?

I find this very interesting. Because I’m a non-profit organization too, but I don’t have 300K to give anybody.

But that’s not all. You see, Hadassah happens to be the wife of Joe Lieberman. Yeah, that Joe Lieberman. The preening peacock of a U.S. senator who’s decided he’s more important than health care reform and the well-being of the 330 million citizens of the U.S. not named Joe Lieberman.

In ways that aren’t quite clear to me, his one vote is somehow worth more than the one vote each of his 99 fellow senators possess.

Maybe Joe is playing some imaginary form of congressional basketball, and he’s standing behind a three-point line that only he can see. That’s why his vote is worth more than anyone else’s! It’s a three-point vote!

OK. Got it.

If it isn’t bad-enough that democrats are only spineless appeasers, it definitely is that a non-profit organization like the Susan G. Komen foundation has 300K to stuff down Hadassah Lieberman’s throat. She profits very handsomely by people being sick, doesn’t she?

As does hubby Joe. Where would his campaign financing be if not for his rigorous protection of America’s health care profiteers? I don't think it really pays to make people better—but thanks for asking.

What’s that about this land is our land? This land was made for you and me? Would that be ‘our’ as in participatory democracy? That ‘us’ word? Because I’ve got four eyes, and I don’t see any democracy. All I see is an auction.

If the smell is getting to you, you can start deodorizing at firedoglake.com. There, you can fire-off a note to the Susan G. Komen foundation, requesting that Hadassah Lieberman um, step down. Or be fired.

Either works.

True, obstructionist Republicants, spineless, fake Democrats and the odd fleck of fecal matter will still populate the U.S. senate. But it’s a start.

Play with matches. You never know, it could start a fire.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pay No Attention! It's Just the Vodka Talking!

When MySpace was much younger than it is now, these surveys used to circulate constantly. One night, I filled this out. My co-author was Alexi Stolichnaya.

MOUTHOLOGY

Q. What is your salad dressing of choice?
A. 10W30 motor oil.

Q. What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
A. The fish pellet dispenser at the zoo.

Q. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
A. The curb outside 7-Eleven.

Q. On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
A. I never give unsolicited advice.

Q. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
A. Unspoiled.
.
Q. What do you like to put on your toast?
A. A dash of wit, hopefully.

TECHNOLOGY

Q. What is your wallpaper on your computer?
A. I refuse to answer that question under the protection of the Fifth Amendment, which protects all Americans from self-incrimination.

Q. How many televisions are in your house?
A. Wait. Could you repeat the question?

BIOLOGY

Q. Are you right-handed or left-handed?
A. Yes

Q. Have u ever had anything removed from ur body?
A. You mean forcibly?

Q. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
A. Where?

BS-OLOGY

Q. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
A. I'm going to die?

Q. If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
A. Fred Funk.

Q. What color do you think looks best on you?
A. Ecru

Q. Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
A. Just some campaign promises.

Q. Have you ever saved someone's life?
A. London

Q. Has some one ever saved yours??
A. 16.8

DAREOLOGY

Q. Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
A. Yes, if it were a little one.

Q. Would you never blog again for $50,000?
A. If my readers would stand for it, yes.

Q. Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000?
A. Yes. But considering I was once offered twenty-dollars to put my shirt back on at a beach, the chances are remote.

Q. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
A. And just what do you call hot sauce? I sneer at your hot sauce!

Q. Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
A. Only if I could return it without a receipt for cash.

DUMBOLOGY

Q: What is in your left pocket?
A. Billions and billions of molecules.

Q: Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
A. It is?

Q: Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A. I won't have it! I won't!

Q: Do you sit or stand in the shower?
A. My showering position is kind of hard to describe.

Q: Could you live with roommates?
A. I'm going to die?

Q: How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
A. Why? What did I ever do?

Q: Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
A. When, in a misguided attempt to celebrate the arrival of spring, I danced naked on my front lawn after an overdose of anti-depressants.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. Older.

LASTOLOGY

Q: Last Friend you talked to?
A. E.T.

Q: Last person who called u?
A. Fame.

Q: Person you hugged?
A. A census-taker.

FAVORITOLOGY

Q: Number?
A. Roman, probably.

Q: Season?
A. The off-season--I'm a professional athlete.

CURRENTOLOGY

Q: Missing someone?
A. Let me do a head count...

Q: Watching?
A. My cat, whom I caught with a partially-completed withdrawal slip to my bank.

Q: Worrying about?
A. Anxiety.

RANDOMOLOGY

Q: First place you went this morning?
A. Someplace dark, to hide from the sun.

Q: What can you not wait to do?
A. Have sex. With a partner I mean.

Q: What's the last movie you saw?
A. Sober or for free?

Q: Do you smile often?
A. It's more of a leer, owing to some botched plastic surgery.

Fish Story

In my youth I once received a less-than-stellar report card. I got the idea to wait until I had to leave for school the next day to show it to my parents and collect their signatures. I thought it was pretty clever. No lectures, no punishment. Just some momentary disapproval and I was out the door.

This worked exactly once, and from that point forward my parents made it their business to know when report cards were being issued.

After reading how yet-another government contractor has pulled another fast one on yet-another feckless government agency, I'm sorry my parents aren't in government. Or at least don't work for Smith-Root, Inc. or the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Asian carp was initially brought to the U.S. to control parasites on Arkansas fish farms and to eat algae in area sewage treatment plants. After escaping into the wild, they crowded-out native species in the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers, and now stand poised to infiltrate the Great Lakes.

To halt their migration, an electronic barrier (designed and constructed by Smith-Root, Inc.) was installed on the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal, which connects Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River basin.

But Asian carp DNA has now been found beyond the supposedly impenetrable barrier.

Worse, the contractor never told the Army Corps of Engineers that the barrier needed to be turned-off every six-months or so for periodic maintenance until after it was installed.

Remind you of anyone?

As a consequence, mass fish kills are required whenever the barrier is switched-off for its tune-ups. Huge quantities of poison are dumped in the canal, and after the die-off and the maintenance are complete, the poison is allegedly neutralized, the dead fish are collected and the barrier is turned back on.

Maybe it's poor communication. Maybe it's fraud. Maybe the fish barrier isn't the only thing lacking sufficient electrical current. Whatever the case, you can bet Smith-Root won't be held liable for the cost of the poisoning and collection. Or for subsequent poisonings and collections.

We will.

We can't quite seize the carp, but we can certainly carpe taxpayer dollar.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The CEO Personality Assessment

Hello and thank you for your interest in the Legacy Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Icon Industries. We are pleased that you have decided to apply with us. The final step in your employment journey will be to complete this brief personality assessment. Time is a consideration, so don’t linger too long on any one question.

With the finely-honed mind of a CEO, we find that first responses are usually best. Don’t second-guess yourself. That’s what shareholders and the media are for! To expedite the path to the riches you deserve, we have included three acceptable answers in the group of four that follow every question. Remember—you’re too big to fail!



1.) Wall Street is unhappy with your company’s stock performance. The best solution is:

A. Immediately slash payroll, thereby increasing profit. Wall Street must be kept happy at all costs.

B. Immediately cut five-thousand jobs, reducing overhead. Wall Street must be kept happy at all costs.

C. Allocate resources to research and development, paving the way for better products and greater market share.

D. Immediately announce that unfavorable market conditions necessitate massive layoffs. Wall Street must be kept happy at all costs.


2.) Impending government regulation will markedly reduce your firm’s stock value. You:

A. Call a press conference and announce you are confident your company will “weather the storm” as you call your broker and request they dump your shares ASAP.

B. Announce you will “stay the course” and that there is no need to panic while privately selling-off your shares.

C. Encourage continued employee stock purchases with the phrase “we’re all in this together” as you instruct your broker to divest yourself of all company shares immediately.

D. Set-up a committee to explore alternate business models using existing company technology and infrastructure.


3.) When confronted with the information that the average U.S. executive earns more than three-hundred times what the average employee does, you:

A. Complain about the skyrocketing cost of tuition at premium private schools in the U.S.

B. Express concern over the inequity and immediately act to reverse it within your company.

C. Announce your intention to hire lobbyists and lower the minimum wage.

D. Complain about the skyrocketing cost of premium housing in the U.S.


4.) Your blue ribbon panel on profit enhancement has submitted its report. Which of their recommendations do you follow?

A. Explore new markets abroad.

B. Eliminate pensions and medical benefits for retirees.

C. Bribe consumer testing labs to lie about competitor’s products.

D. Have employees lease their computer and office space as a condition of employment.


5.) Which answer best describes your reaction when third-quarter sales show continued decline?

A. Did I expense account Bambi’s rent this month?

B. Go ahead—fire me. It’ll cost you forty-five mil. More if I cash in my stock option.

C. I need to get with sales and find out what the problem is.

D. What are those overpaid, profit-sucking parasites screwing up now?


6.) Performance-based executive pay is:

A. A socialist plot devised by the Obama administration.

B. A fair way to ensure shareholder value.

C. The triumph of mass-based mediocrity over the prickly genius of rugged individualism.

D. Another attempt by liberals to penalize success.


7.) Your rationale for requiring salary histories from applicants is:

A. We need to contain operating costs.

B. We collect salary data for the U.S. Department of Labor, but don’t actually use it in negotiations.

C. The limbo is the official office party game.

D. You’re already overpaid, asshole.


8.) What percentage of CEOs are ethical?

A. 100%

B. 98%

C. 99%

D. The same as in any other demographic of the population.


9.) Sixty-percent of U.S. corporations pay no income taxes. To express your appreciation for America’s largesse, you:

A. Outsource hundreds of thousands of jobs to Asia, India and Mexico, further eroding America’s tax base.

B. Establish offshore corporate headquarters to further evade profit-draining penalties and taxes.

C. Make numerous donations to non-profit organizations—provided they’re tax deductible.

D. Announce you’re moving your corporate headquarters, and play one municipality against another until relocating becomes a profit center in itself.


10.) Machievellli is:

A. A useful philosopher, depending on the application.

B. Your business model.

C. All the justification you need.

D. Your all-time favorite centerfold from ‘Business Weekly’.


11.) Production and distribution costs are rising. The best course of action is:

A. Mount an advertising campaign repositioning your product as a ‘premium’ or ‘gourmet’ one. Raise prices accordingly.

B. Shrink package size while maintaining price point. Customers won't know the difference.

C. Absorb cost increases in the hope they are temporary and/or seasonal.

D. Label product as 'New and Improved', thereby justifying any and all price hikes.


12.) Millions in government subsidies are available for growers of tomatoes. Your company mines coal. You:

A. Hire lobbyists to convince Congress that as a producer of energy, you are in a related field and thus qualify for the subsidies.

B. Admit tomato-growers have had a rough time recently and wish them well.

C. Invent an agriculture-based subsidiary and apply for the subsidies.

D. Hire lobbyists to convince Congress that in addition to coal, your company does, in fact, mine tomatoes and thus qualifies for the subsidies.


13.) Which of the following statements best describes your feelings about government regulation?

A. A lunar crater on the highway to America’s continued dominance as an economic power.

B. A necessary evil, as not all companies act with integrity and concern for their employees and customers.

C. A socialist plot devised by the Obama administration.

D. The reason jobs have been outsourced, and will continue to be until America’s business owners are allowed to operate their businesses as they see fit.


14.) What percentage of employees are essentially untrustworthy?

A. All of them.

B. 100%

C. The whole stinking lot.

D. The same as in any other demographic of the population.


15.) What word or phrase best describes your management style?

A. I take management cues from my political party of choice, making liberal use of threats, coercion, fear, the withholding of praise and the sadistic manipulation of psychological sensitivities revealed in applicant’s personality profiles to achieve stated business goals.

B. Open door.

C. Results-oriented and vision-forward.

D. Egalitarian.


16.) Downturns in business are:

A. Unavoidable.

B. Often the result of poor management and decision-making.

C. Inevitable.

D. Unfortunate, but your compensation isn't performance-based anyway.


17.) In addition to being CEO of an investment bank, you have recently been nominated to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. You:

A. Accept the nomination and enjoy the windfall.

B. Accept the nomination and adopt a laissez faire policy regarding Wall Street investment.

C. Realize this presents a potential conflict of interest and make plans to either decline the nomination or resign your position as CEO.

D. Accept the nomination and make a commitment to rigorously maintain the status quo as long as it favors your bank.


18.) Would you say your integrity is greater or less than that of your fellow CEOs?

A. Greater.

B. Greater.

C. Greater.

D. Less than.


19.) What word or phrase best describes your approach to the job?

A. When will the private jet and satellite office in Bora Bora be ready?

B. I don’t have an ‘off’ switch.

C. Whatever it takes.

D. Driven. Like a truck.


20.) What quality is most-important in an employee?

A. Unblinking obedience.

B. Sight-challenged obedience.

C. Experience.

D. Blind obedience.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't Touch!

The thought takes you by surprise. Is it really a good thing you’re not a car designer or an architect? Given your current circumstances, it’s—to say the least—ironic. Okay, maybe it isn’t a good thing. But it’s definitely a less-embarrassing thing. Because it occurs to you that you’re Steely Dan. You’re the Eagles.

Explanation is required.

While going through some late-seventies issues of ‘Rolling Stone’, you came across stories about their recording processes. That they were obsessive-compulsive is like saying you have employment issues. You laughed while reading how they would spend months getting just the right drum sound. Or how they spent weeks recording and re-recording a vocal. Or how EQing the bass nearly broke-up the band.

And that was just for a single song. No wonder years disappeared between albums.

But now that you write blogs, you discover the same unfortunate tendencies in yourself. Once posted, you can’t leave your blogs alone. There’s something about seeing them published that blows open the doors of your creativity—such as it is. Words, thoughts and phrases that refused to come now dance upon your keyboard. But only after you click the ‘submit’ button.

Your newfound compulsion demands that you use them. You edit and edit again. It is critical that this be perfect. Only you don’t know why. Am I Don Henley yet?

Taken to its logical extreme, you imagine life as a car designer. The fender crease on a recent design is all wrong, so you spend the next eight-years hunting down every example built. Be it driveways, parking lots or drive-thru lanes, you remove the offending fenders and one by one, re-shape them to your new design.

You’re an architect. Construction permits be dammed, you’re out there in a thirty-ton crane removing windows and walls and facades and installing your corrections. Motorists and clients are not pleased, as this can’t help but impact them. It is especially troublesome on high-rises. And in winter.

Can humanity even begin to fathom how fortunate it is that life as a tattoo artist didn’t appeal to you? Never mind surgery.

You’re determined that, once posted, this blog will rest in peace. Excuse the reference, but if Michelangelo could put it in stone, so can you. There is no ‘edit’ button. Anyone know if Sarah Burge is single?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This is what it’s like. In a desperate attempt to extract yourself from the Land of Entrapment (a.k.a the Land of Enchantment) and move to a state with an actual economy, you drain your bank account. Every single penny.

Unfortunately, you do this just as the nation's economy is getting bent over the couch by Wall Street. The entire country becomes the place you're trying to leave.

Every day you get out of bed, you fall further into debt. Every bite of food, every watt of electricity, every drop of gas consumes a non-renewable resource called cash.

It gnaws at you. It infests your sleep.

You once enjoyed the luxury of being self-supporting. But that requires a job. You wonder why you get headaches every day. And you wonder how long before the stress and the strain and the mounting hopelessness splits you and your girlfriend.

There isn’t any government assistance. You’ve got a dried-up carcass of an IRA that, seven years after 9-11, still isn’t worth now what it was then. But that won’t stop the government from snatching a third should you decide to cash it in for impulse items like food, gas and rent.

Or from finding hundreds of billions of dollars for the vermin who flushed us down the toilet in the first place.

You mull over the fact that because you have an IRA that wouldn’t cover an appendectomy, you’re too well-off for food stamps. You attempt to reconcile this with the fact that you have given-up taking pictures because you can’t afford to develop them.

You haven't gone to a movie in a year and-a-half. But the government says you’re rolling in it.

You make a note of it.

You haven’t held a job in over a year, unless you count the two-months you spent in a hell-hole known as the Van Ru Credit Corporation. Fifty-percent of the employees don’t see their three-month anniversary because the training isn’t worth the shit up your ass.

If that's not enough, your supervisor is delusional.

Joyce Tillis sees herself as the Oprah Winfrey of the collections world, and will lead her team of inner-city African-American women not just to meetings, but to life-changing empowerment. She will then receive national exposure and a talk show of her very own.

There are just two problems: you have a penis. And it’s white.

When she’s asked what’s wrong with this picture, the answer is you. You’re the speck of plaster the paint didn’t cover. She humiliates you. Lies about you. Makes no effort whatsoever to conceal her resentment of you.

She accuses you of stealing another agent’s call, and becomes apoplectic when you deny it. She threatens to run a report. You suppress the urge to tell her you hope she runs reports better than she runs teams.

When it becomes clear you are innocent of all charges, it goes without saying the bitch doesn’t have the balls to apologize.

On the other occasion you impress decision-makers, you have a job offer withdrawn because after receiving two, you inexplicably choose the permanent one over the temporary one.

You’re not some poor, dumb fuck trying to stay dry in the sewer-bound torrent of 2009. No. You’re a sneaky, manipulative con-artist who pulled a fast one on the company and needs to be removed before you spread, virus-like, throughout the chain.

At least that’s what Laurie Colson, the manager who low-balled you with the offer of temporary employment, says when her inflamed ego can't bear the indignity of seeing you work for a competing Half-Price Books store.

Your continued employment is an affront to her self-perception as a savvy, experienced manager.

The remaining companies who express an interest in you are the backbone of newspapers and job sites everywhere because their openings are permanent. The only way they could retain an employee is to dress them in a straitjacket and lock them in a burial vault.

In an act of transformation Dr. Phil would appreciate, employees in these jobs morph into Harry Houdini with alarming regularity.

You’re over or under-qualified for everything. Apply for menial jobs with a college degree and employers assume you’ll be bored and unhappy.

Go up market and there’s invariably some twenty-three year-old with a master’s degree, fifteen-year’s experience and every one of the one-hundred fifty-eight characteristics the ideal candidate should possess.

This includes setting-up and collapsing a Mongolian yurt in under ten-minutes.

Which isn't to suggest business is unreasonable. Far from it.

You recall an article from the Wall Street Journal titled "Only the Employed Need Apply" which attempts to explain business's belief that only the employed deserve consideration. The thinking is that those still employed are a strain of super-employee, impervious to the cutbacks, layoffs and rampant downsizing so many of the rest of us have fallen prey to.

Despite the fact that 60% of jobs are currently found through networking, business insists the time-honored maxim of it's who you know, and not what you know is untrue. That those drawing paychecks aren't just friends, pals and buddies.

This is very different from performance-based employment. This is also very different from being good at what you do.

But then, what do you know? You forget that in America, intelligence is measured in dollars.

And you're broke.

Confronted with your six-billionth attribute inventory, you want to retch. That these are gateways to mansions in Florida for the slicks who sell them seems invisible to every HR department in the country.

You want to get this straight: no business using them has ever had to fire a single, solitary employee, because every hire was a perfect fit. Is that correct? Because you know differently.

Then you remember the expression “Monkey see, monkey do” was inspired by the business world. And if it wasn’t, it should have.

If America’s corporate managers aren’t the most-obedient bandwagon-jumpers in existence, you're too big to fail. If personality profiles are this year’s model, you can bet the thirty-five incher in the living room that business will be the first in line and want one in every color.

While applying at the local supermarket, you answer one-hundred eighty questions about your moods and self-esteem and whether feelings are important in the workplace. About how strongly you believe in rules and hierarchies for a minimum wage, part-time job placing boxes of cereal on a shelf.

No health insurance, no benefits, no vacation.

Just one-hundred eighty questions bent on finding out how hard you’ll squeeze your eyes shut and pretend the shit you’re being served is caviar. The piss you're drinking is champagne. One-hundred eighty questions bent on finding out how desperate you really are, and just how much you'll take.

You’re a fucking circus dog. Beg. Roll-over. Sit.

Afterwards, you visit the supermarket you applied to and buy a newspaper. The cashier is able to wordlessly express a multitude of thoughts and emotions. Namely, that she'd rather be the subject of a televised gynecological exam than ring-up you and your goddamned paper.

She snatches the dollar bill and pounds the register keys. She accuses you of wanting a bag. The register drawer springs open. You say you don’t. She slams the drawer shut, rips the receipt from the printer and hands you your change in an angry blur.

Before the quarter hits your pocket, she’s reaching for the next customer's purchases. It couldn’t be more clear you’re in her way.

You wonder how she answered the questions about moods and leaving problems at home and not just meeting, but exceeding customer expectations.

Yeah, you wonder.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sports in the Twenty-first Century

Man. What a decade. Ever think you’d live long-enough to see the New Jersey Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals? Or the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series? How about the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl?

Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only going to a Super Bowl but actually winning one a vision not even binge-drinking could inspire? Imagine the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox finally ending their championship droughts—in consecutive years!

Okay. Very funny. When does the alarm clock go off?

Sure, the usual suspects made plenty of appearances; the Lakers won four titles, the Yankees, rejuvenated Red Wings and Steelers two each. The San Antonio Spurs at last converted all those winning seasons into a trio of trophies. And the Celtics recovered from their post-Bird stupor long-enough to snatch one.

But that’s not what this decade is about.

It’s about the Florida Marlins winning another Series just six years after their ’97 title. It’s about the Phillies winning only their second title in 108 years. And it’s about the fresh-out-of diapers Arizona Diamondbacks denying the fabled New York Yankees a World Series fourpeat by scoring two ninth-inning runs in the seventh game of the 2001 classic—off of Mariano Rivera.

It's about the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim—a hockey team named after a Disney movie—going to the Stanley Cup twice. (And winning once.) It’s about the Anaheim Angels winning the 2002 World Series against the Giants and big, bad Barry Bonds. Can anyone say Anaheim—Suburb of Champions?

When the Tampa Bay Lightning (What? Tampa Bay again?) and Carolina Hurricanes win successive Stanley Cups, and the New England Patriots become the dominant team in the NFL, you just know someone spiked the punch.

But not everyone tried it.

The Los Angeles Clippers still reside at the bottom of the NBA. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a Series since 1948. The Sacramento Kings haven’t put their fingerprints on a championship since 1951, when they played in Rochester, N.Y. and were called the Royals.

And the Stanley Cup remains a rumor in—of all places—Toronto, where the Maple Leafs haven’t bothered since 1967.

And then there’s the Detroit Lions. Once upon a time, the Lions were the cream of professional football, playing for four NFL championships between 1952 and 1957 and winning three.

But then, the Titanic used to float.

That leaves the hapless Chicago Cubs. One-hundred years and counting. A Las Vegas bookie calculated the odds at a million-to-one, which actually means the Cubs have won the lottery. Only no one's calling and claiming to be related.

When homes wired for electricity represented cutting-edge technology the last time you won a championship, you're overdue.

When eleven of baseball's fourteen expansion franchises have seen World Series action since you did, you're overdue.

And when a football team quarterbacked by Rex Grossman hits the Super Bowl before you're awarded World Series visitation rights, you need to call your OB.

Now.

Who knows. Maybe the next decade will be the one. But like my math teacher once advised me about a malfunctioning calculator—don’t count on it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Bit of Silliness

Dear Sodomy Corp.,

I am responding to your Internet post seeking a Resource Allocation Specialist and am submitting my resume for consideration.

Resource allocation has been a passion since childhood, and a position with the Sodomy Corp. is a dream I never thought I’d have the opportunity to realize.

Let me tell you about myself and my qualifications.

As the senior member of a bio-team with working parents, I had extensive experience serving as a Resource Allocation Specialist (RAS). For instance, a junior team member was frequently assigned school projects. These typically required glue, paper, scissors, crayons and rulers.

As the on-site RAS, I would retrieve the educational enhancements from a hallway distribution center and deliver them to the appropriate team member. (I should add that I was instrumental in having senior management upgrade facility terminology to better reflect current marketplace realities.)

Another junior bio-team member was struggling with a pile of reports. After identifying the need, it became apparent our distribution facility did not stock the required item. Outsourcing was clearly the best option.

As a customer-driven RSA, I not only secured financing through our financial arm, but was able to locate and deliver elastic bands with a minimum of project down time.

The reports were secured and, most-importantly, the junior bio-team member received the tools they needed to succeed.

While I lack the requisite master’s degree in supply-chain economics and resource distribution theory, I have demonstrated, real-life experience in getting things to the people who need them—on time and within budget.

I am also certified in cyber and ‘legacy’ resource management, which gives me the product knowledge critical for thriving in a pluralistic work environment with diverse resource needs.

I am fluent in the operation of compressed air keyboard dusters, as well as mouse pad replacement. On the legacy side, I can source and replace chisel-point staples for Swingline units dating as far back as the nineteen-eighties.

In a summer internship with Phukum, Goode & Hart, I had the unique experience of training on a nineteen-seventies-era typewriter. My background is as extensive as my ability.

In an on-demand world, efficient and timely resource allocation can be the tipping point between project success—and project failure. Resource allocation stands on the very precipice of those extremes, and demands strong focus and high attention to detail.

It’s not just handing out paper clips to receptionists.

The Sodomy Corp. is one with a reputation for standing behind its employees, and one whose executives are well-known for the personal attention they take in filling every opening.

Through their careful probing, the Sodomy Corp. has achieved the market penetration that is the envy of the business world.

It is for these reasons I wish to bring to the Sodomy Corp. the results-oriented resource allocation it deserves.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,

Jonathan Hynde

Friday, November 13, 2009

Haunted

She was seventeen when we met. I was in my mid-twenties, and working at a convenience store until something better came along. She worked there part-time. Afternoons and Saturdays. Our paths would cross occasionally.

She was tall, with sandy-blonde hair and green eyes that tried to hide behind slightly-nerdy glasses. There was a whiff of not-quite-fitting-in at school. She called her mom ‘Wilma’ because of a certain coat she wore.

Conversation flowed like a river—easy and deep. Her company was elevating. And I fell hard. But however wildly my heart was beating, I was wracked with guilt.

The eight-year difference felt like twenty. I imagined outraged fathers—with shotguns. Many nights were spent talking to myself. “This isn’t the hot flash of lust. You really like her. And if you really like her…”

Only I never quite convinced myself it was okay. I couldn’t outrun the feeling that I was some vile, heinous cradle-robber.

Late one afternoon, I was checking in the week’s shipment of cigarettes. She asked me out. Did I want to visit a college campus she was thinking of attending? It was inexpensive, informal and a nice, long drive away.

I put the last carton of Winstons away and looked up. I was an encyclopedia of neuroses. The expression on my face said everything I couldn’t.

Later that day, she approached me from behind and tousled my hair. I looked up. Her flawless vanilla-caramel skin; her searching eyes. I was speechless. God how I wanted to kiss her.

I’d like to say I did, and that it was the beginning of a passionate, life-changing relationship. But I didn’t. I'm not sure I ever saw her again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In memories, we are ghosts. Forever frozen and endlessly looping. Remembering unrequited love makes possibility permanent, even as it remains out of reach. It is regret and longing lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

Cue the languid country and western song. Do I ever cross your mind?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Got Truck?

Does the world make you feel "small", no matter how many nights you put in at the gym?

Introducing the cure for small—the Titan XL Panacea. It says I’m on the road now. And I’m in control.



The sheer force of its testosterone-inspired styling blows slow-moving traffic out of the way. Your path clears instantly when drivers get a glimpse of the Titan XL Panacea’s ferocious grille. Yes, the days of being stuck behind indecisive mopes are over.

Want more?

The Titan XL Panacea’s patented “AweForce” protects you from traffic citations because it renders law enforcement agencies awestruck. And if they can’t talk, they can’t ticket. From now on, speed limits are things for other guys to worry about. You've got AweForce.



But it’s not all about vehicular intimidation is it? No. Sometimes it’s about the love. And the Titan XL Panacea has you covered there, too. The optional testosterone diffuser means the ladies are always available—even if they detest your politics and the smell of rotting deer flesh.

Go ahead and toss that Axe bodywash; there isn't a woman above ground who can resist the scent of pure testosterone.



And the diffuser easily converts during hunting season to dispense whatever scent you need to attract that prize kill. Deer urine or elk hormones, the Titan XL Panacea can handle it.

Best of all, respected medical journals report that Titan XL Panacea owners enjoy an average 36% increase in penis length, and a 21% increase in circumference post-purchase.

Yes, the Titan XL Panacea is a game-changer. No more pills, syringes and embarrassing suction devices that just don’t work. No more worries that you don't "measure-up" to other guys.

And check out the Titan XL Panacea’s guns and ammo locker. Let that tree-hugger in his Prius honk. You’re reloading.

And because the Titan XL Panacea can accommodate up to fifteen firearms and three-hundred rounds of ammo, there’s a whole lot more of where that came from, isn’t there?

It's no accident the Titan XL Panacea doesn’t come in green.



The Titan XL Panacea is all the truck you’ll ever need. Or want. Feel its hot, hard steel. The stiffness of its beefed-up, hydro-formed chassis. And the continuously-erect suspension mounts that keep rubber pressed against asphalt just the way you like it.

Or direct your eyes to the Titan XL Panacea’s massive hood-mounted power bulge. It can barely contain an eight-liter aluminum block V-10 now engorged with a class-leading five-hundred and fifty horsepower. Yeah, there’s a y chromosome here all right.

The Titan XL Panacea. Don’t negotiate—dominate. Climb in and feel what it’s like to be a man.



(Socio-sexual performance attributes apply only in vehicular environments. Characteristics are not transferable to bedroom or office environments and said transfer is neither expressed nor implied. The Titan XL Panacea starts at $19,732. As shown $36,212. Does not include tax, title and licensing. Destination charges apply.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tales of the Unemployed

After a restless night with a four-thirty AM wake-up call, it’s kind of tough to find things to be grateful for.

When found, those things are usually of the “at least” variety. At least I don’t have pancreatic cancer. At least my car wasn’t stolen last night. At least I didn’t lose my keys.

Gratitude notwithstanding, the grind of unemployment continues. The stubby, fat forefinger of unanswered questions pokes my breastbone. What are you going to do?

I log on to the computer and apply at one of America’s biggest retailers—the one where the employees wear red tops and beige pants. Under the aegis of something called the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the site asks me for my birth date.

Isn’t this illegal? I try to convince myself that as one of America’s leading companies, they’ll use that information responsibly. It doesn’t work.

I take a personality test which determines my suitability for wage-slavery.

What percentage of politicians are corrupt? What percentage of people would shoplift if they could get away with it? Is taking a pen home from work stealing? How many days a week do you feel angry for no reason? Are you happy with your life?

What percentage of your friends are more-satisfied with their lives than you are with yours? What is the consistency of your stool?

(Sorry. That last one is from my proctology exam--not the online questionnaire. It's so easy to confuse the two!)

The site then asks when I am available. Like the flotsam I am, I answer ‘anytime’. Two AM Saturdays, eight PM Wednesdays, seven AM on Mondays—it’s all the same to me. What I lack in life-satisfaction, I'll make-up for in availability.

It then asks me to confirm this yawning chasm of free-time using my digital signature, a combination of digits from my social security number and birth date. This is presumably legally-binding and allows the company to terminate in the event said employee isn’t as available as promised.

I am then asked a third time if I am actually this available. I take it as an insult.

The next question is ‘Have you ever applied to this company before, and if so, when?’

Answer ‘yes’ and your application is consigned to the circular file. If they didn’t want you before, why would they want you now?

Answer ‘no’ and your application survives until the next cut. (Or until your life-satisfaction is found to be wanting.) I lie and answer ‘no’. I wonder where and when I learned to obfuscate the truth.

I ignore the metaphorical implications and click the ‘submit’ button.

I do not hold my breath.

Later that night, I’m watching TV. A man defines insanity as the repetition of an action with the expectation of a different outcome. This bears a disturbing resemblance to my job search.

I go to bed. I do not sleep well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blog Therapy

A friend of mine (Marcus) graciously re-posted a story of his, one called The Book Collector.

It is a tale haunted by regret; one which resonates with the consequences of the road not taken. It is the story of choosing safe and sensible over passion and dreams. It is a story which demands to be read.

And I have—many times. The narrative is Luke’s, and I identify with him completely.

When I was young-enough to be making such decisions, I wanted to write. Photograph. Paint. Make music. In my eyes, the traditional work world was a place steeped in the stench of slow, insidious death.

If you’ve ever seen Brazil or Joe vs. the Volcano, their office scenes captured what that world looked like to me. A place where people turned grey and lifeless. A place where unthinking regimentation and soul-sucking conformity gnawed away at you every single day.

But like Luke, I was afraid. Afraid to take a chance. And I have come to understand that was taking the biggest chance of all.

My father was a free-lance writer. Despite his being a fairly-talented one, he struggled to support a family of six. He supplemented his job as the managing editor of a quarterly publication by selling the odd article to whatever publication was interested. It was, in its way, a grueling life.

True, my father didn’t have to fight rush hour every day or wage combat with the office sociopath. But out of necessity he sequestered himself in the bedroom and banged away at his typewriter from eight in the morning until nine or ten at night. It was a ceaseless grind of research, queries, deadlines and rejections.

Despite my love of words and pictures and music, I knew I didn’t want to work twelve or thirteen hours a day sans benefits and with only an uncertain reward to show for it. There was also this nagging question as to whether I even possessed the talent. I wanted stability and security.

All these years later, that reads like a sick joke. There is no stability. There is no security. And there is certainly no fulfillment.

I lost a publishing job because, in the words of my boss, a financial wizard in New York figured trimming payroll was the fastest way to boost stock values, and in turn, excite shareholders.

I lost a job in telecommunications when a union-hating gentleman by the name of Joe Naccio engineered the ouster of my co-workers and me by reconfiguring our jobs so that it was virtually impossible to meet its sales goals.

Then there was Kathy Lovett. She was a company director so disliked by her peers and subordinates that she sat alone at an office Christmas dinner until there—literally—wasn’t another seat in the room.

This same woman made it agenda item number-one to rid the company of me, and succeeded.

The only clue I have for her intense dislike was that I negotiated my wage with her. And judging by her reaction, you would have thought it was coming out of her check.

It wasn’t.

You are familiar with my latest tale of woe.

Life sucks. Or more specifically, work sucks. Contrary to what we say at meetings and performance reviews and in the hallways, very few of us love it. I take that word to mean we’d do it for nothing, but I don’t know anyone who would.

I failed to locate that elusive place where ability and interest intersect. We make our own beds and then must lie in them.

That being the case, I hear Motel 6 is looking for maids. I’m experienced.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm Employed! Wait! I'm Not!

I’m pretty sure that I’m becoming insufferable.

You see, this is my therapy. And I really, really need therapy. So if you feel an eyeroll coming on and need to click that white ‘X’ in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, I'll understand. No offense taken.

This has been a brutal year. A brutal, unforgiving year. I find myself wondering what it is I did. Did I swindle money from helpless and lonely old ladies? Did I rape? Murder? Vote Republican?

I ask these questions because life is beginning to feel like punishment.

Let me explain.

Last week, I found work. My relief was immeasurable. The compensation sucked, as did the hours. But it was a job. A paycheck. Something to plug the nasty employment gap on my resume.

I was ready to sing. Let God on high be praised!

But like all things 2009, it was too good to be true.

I submitted applications to two stores in a Texas-based chain specializing in used books, music and movies. After a year of joblessness, I was asked to interview at both locations. I don’t think the savviest bookie in Las Vegas could have calculated the odds.

It was off the charts. It seemed like a perfect fit, and I was thrilled.

OK. So what’s the problem? you ask.

I accepted an offer for temporary employment because it was the first one offered. (Yes, I'm that desperate.) Then a second offer followed. It was for permanent employment. Caving-in to my selfish desire to remain clothed, housed and fed for as long a period as possible, I then accepted the permanent offer.

Since all my fine china and stemware is in storage, I never entertained the idea that both interviews would yield job offers. Not me. Not in 2009. But they did.

In my view, this was an entirely understandable and acceptable decision. Especially in the revolving door that is retail. But retail isn't retail at Half-Price Books. This was an act of romantic betrayal tantamount to treason. One which demanded only the swiftest and most-severe punishment.

I first detected the foul odor of payback when the start date for the permanent position was postponed.

The next day I received a phone call from a district manager. He berated me for “exhibiting poor judgment”, explaining how I had maliciously played one store against another by interviewing with the second store while in the employ of the first. How I had deviously concealed from the manager at the first store where I was headed.

Firing squad being presumably unavailable, the offer for permanent employment was withdrawn.

As I had yet to even set foot in the first store when I interviewed with the second, I’m confused how I was in its employ. And while under the influence of ignorance, I also don’t understand if I never mentioned store A to store B and vice versa, exactly how did I pit one store against another?

In my admittedly limited experience, the sort of manipulation I was accused of required the disclosure that a second party was involved, which indicated increased demand for a particular commodity, which in turn enhanced one’s bargaining position.

But what do I know? I just write here.

The unemployed are told to remain positive in the face of evidence to the contrary. We are told to look forward, not back. And above all, we are told not to take unemployment and rejection personally. It’s just business.

Yet when the delicate sensibilities of a store manager are offended by an employee choosing a permanent position over a temporary one, it’s not just business. It’s personal, and someone must be made to pay.

Is Rambo available?

It doesn’t matter that the manager had a two-inch stack of applicants from which to choose a replacement. It doesn’t matter that the employee actually showed up for his final shift and even offered to work the following day if it would help minimize subsequent schedule changes.

It also doesn’t matter that the employee expressed genuine remorse for the short notice and explained in detail that his financial situation didn’t allow any other choice.

What matters is that a manager who was angry with herself because she awarded the permanent slots to a couple of dolts while she tossed the temporary slot to the keeper won’t have to bear the humiliation of seeing that employee work for a competing store.

What matters is that her shaky self-esteem has been soothed. What matters is that her out-sized ego has been stroked. That’s right—you’re still in control. If you can’t have him, no one will!

Her ruffled feathers have been smoothed.

Yes, I’m guilty of interviewing at two stores and choosing the best deal. But I’m fairly sure that’s what we do every day at the grocery store. Or the mall. And I’m fairly sure it’s what business does when it shops for a supplier.

It’s even what business does when it (ahem) shops for a prospective employee. It’s—dare I say—just business.

But don’t you try it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

La Piazza Gancio's Guide to Unemployment

The Emotions

At first, unemployment feels like some much-needed time-off from the stress and numbing routine of the workplace. No alarm clock. No rush hour. No performance reviews. It’s actually quite pleasant. Liberating, even.

But beware—this first phase is usually short-lived. Depending on your financial situation, it may not even be lived at all.

Accompanying the realization that it’s taking just two or three minutes to peruse the job listings is a vague unease. This soon turns to mild panic as the resumes and applications you submit are met with a stony, impenetrable silence.

Extended periods of silence intensify and heighten the panic.

The good news is that this eventually congeals into a thick, lard-like resignation, unless preceded by internal organ failure.

The Application

Beyond the buoyant joy one receives from listing name, address, school and work history over and over and over again are the unusual questions you encounter on the job application.

Answering these questions soon becomes an exercise in the opening of Pandora’s Box as your inner cynic soon supplies surly and unprofessional responses to even the most benign questions.

For example, an innocent query such as What’s your biggest weakness? will provoke the sarcasm of “Differentiating late-period Etruscan pottery from early-Hellenic pottery is sometimes an issue for me.”

Another potential land mine is Why do you want to work for the _______________ company? Care must be taken to avoid being “smart”.

Who among us hasn’t wanted to respond that “It is my considered opinion that employment with the ______________ company is preferable to a painful, lingering death by starvation, exposure or some combination of both.”

Now who, exactly, has this helped? That’s right—no one.

The Career Counselor

At least that’s what the counselor at the job center tells you when you arrive with just a couple hundred dollars in your bank account and half a tub of very yellow margarine in the fridge.

Being gainfully employed, the counselor has no idea of the deep well of resentment that lurks within you, or of the eye-rolling disgust you feel when you’re told “the most-important thing is to stay positive.”

It briefly lifts their spirits when you remark that “I’m positive I feel like a bird when I’m job-hunting, because nearly all of the available jobs are beneath me.”

But when your thinly-veiled insouciance becomes apparent, their face hardens like plaster of Paris.

“You shouldn’t take this personally. This isn’t anything against you.”

You try telling your landlord the same thing when the rent is late, but for reasons that remain unclear to you, he doesn't see it that way.

Which is the funny thing about unemployment. It is an ironic state-of-being fraught with contradictions. While no one is legally obligated to hire you, you remain liable to your creditors.

Unemployment requires a kind of magic. Alchemy. Even without rain, you must keep the cash stream flowing. Or, depending on one’s landlord, utility, department of motor vehicles and telecommunications provider, even increase its flow.

And while you shouldn’t take impending bankruptcy, homelessness and starvation personally, business will consign your credit rating (and you) to sub-prime hell if you can’t pay a thirty-dollar phone bill.

It’s only fair.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Banned Books Week

Acting on a suggestion from her friend Melissa, Laura recently celebrated Banned Books Week by reading one and posting a review.

I, too, wanted to participate, but being in the middle of a book and being a molasses-in-January kind of reader, saw there was no way I’d finish my current read and complete another by week’s end.

So I've done the next best thing. (Those of you who know me well will likely roll their eyes.) I have an album of an Allen Ginsberg poetry reading, which includes the famous ‘Howl’.

So in honor of Banned Books Week, I have listened to a record.

Admittedly a bit off the mark, but under the circumstances, the best I could do.

A bit of backstory: Allen Ginsberg was one of the leading lights of beat poetry. In mid-fifties San Francisco, Ginsberg, along with Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, railed against the social strictures of the day, fueled by be-bop jazz, illegal sex and narcotics.

This literary rebellion contributed directly to the civil rights rebellion of the early-sixties, and the anti-war protests of the late-sixties. It is no stretch to say that the beat poets lit the fuse that exploded “Leave It to Beaver”-land.

Among the frank sexual imagery, ‘Howl’ is the song of the ostracized, looking up the skirt of staid, conservative and capitalist nineteen-fifties America. Half a century later, it’s easy to forget that copies were impounded as obscene, and that publisher Ferlinghetti was arrested for the distribution of obscenity.

It took a court to decide that the publication and distribution of ‘Howl’ wouldn’t destroy the moral fiber of America.  

That would require a cabal of our captains of industry and elected representation.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Just In--Democrat Grows a Set!

Oh my. Did this really happen? It did, didn’t it? Please tell me it did.

After a summer of being brutalized and battered, of remaining mute even as the most outrageous lies were being told, did a Democrat finally, really make a fist and hit back?

Yes!

Alan Grayson, a freshman congressman from Florida, inflamed and outraged House Republicants while addressing health care reform. In his presentation, Grayson had the chutzpah to lay bare the Republicant idea of health care, whose essence--in Grayson's words--is 1.) Don’t get sick and 2.) Die quickly.

When asked by Republicants to apologize, Grayson took the floor and apologized to everyone who has died because of insufficient health care. Then he apologized to their families. Then he told Republicants they need to give a damn about people--even after they're born.

Ha!

Republicants are indignant. Indignant because Democrats have been meek and obedient lap cats this long hot summer, and done everything in their power to give the impression of being, if not spineless, then neutered.

Grayson’s behavior must be a terrible shock to them.

Congressman Grayson, wherever you are, thank you. Here’s hoping your chutzpah is an airborne contagion which spreads rapidly throughout the House and Senate.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Stop Light

Ordinarily, I would welcome the distraction of colored lights. I would revel in their ephemeral, continually-changing array, and delight in the sense of whimsy they brought to the hard urban landscape.

But I don’t. I hate them. They are my sworn enemy.

It doesn't matter whether they're mounted on the ground or suspended in the air. They make my upper lip curl in an Elvis-like sneer. They just can’t win with me. I hate the long ones, and I hate the short ones.

And how the hell do they always know to turn red as I'm approaching, anyway? It's motion detectors, right?

I’ve lost track of the times I’ve seen two-dozen drivers on an enormous, six-lane boulevard come to a stop at the scrawny driveway of a dilapidated strip mall only to stare at an empty intersection. What end does it serve? What point does it make?

I’m convinced traffic signals are set by an evil consortium of brake pad manufacturers and oil companies.

But that's not all. I also hate the way they keep traffic compacted into a tight little knot until the next light. It’s like a rolling pressure cooker. Lane changes require elevated levels of testosterone.

The kid subjecting his car to death via hip-hop is invariably next to you. And if you couldn’t assume the next light was red, you wouldn’t be able to see it for the lumbering SUV in front of you.

Aside from making a powerful argument for Libertarians and insuring that our trips take as long and contain as many stops as possible, I really can’t think of a good use for traffic signals.

Maybe I should call Martha Stewart. She might know how to turn them into planters. Or mailboxes.

Anything would be more useful.

For Labor Day

For the balance of human history, workers were employed at the whim of their employer. There were no rules governing working conditions or compensation or time off. The terms were whatever suited the employer, when it suited the employer.

And workers suffered accordingly.

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the imbalance only worsened. For the employer, mechanization meant greater output and greater profits with lower production costs.

For the employee, it meant exhausting days under gruesome conditions. Children were enlisted to feed industry’s insatiable appetite. Six-day work weeks with ten-hour days were typical. At its worst, seven-day work weeks full of fourteen-hour days devoured the lives of men, women and children alike.

Reform eventually began with children, and with the rise to power of the union soon extended to adults. Workers at last had a say in the conditions and terms of their employment, putting an end to the exploitation enjoyed by the nation’s employers.

And this was a good thing.

The wealthy were loathe to admit it, but the rise of the union (and with it the middle-class) only enriched them, as it meant more people with more disposable income. It was a far cry from the Marxist redistribution of wealth America’s captains of industry had feared. But the equilibrium couldn’t last. A handful of unions began to amass enormous power.

The United Auto Workers union (UAW) was the most-powerful.

America’s auto manufacturers had a near-monopoly on what was easily the world’s biggest market. General Motors controlled fifty-percent of the market. The other half was essentially divided between Ford and Chrysler, with a handful of smaller automakers and imports fighting for whatever remained.

And the UAW controlled one-hundred percent of their labor.

The UAW was phenomenally-successful at extracting generous terms for its membership. Even as domestic automakers began to lose market-share, UAW members continued to receive lavish contracts, with salaries and benefits disproportionate to their skill and education levels. This was the fruit of a corpulent corporate culture that would soon be receiving a lap band.

As America’s industrial might migrated overseas, its manufacturing-based economy was replaced by a service-oriented one. These were typically lower-paying jobs in offices, not factories. They were also rarely unionized. The convergence of increasing consumer unhappiness with domestic automobiles and an increasingly white collar workforce changed the perception of unions.

Unions were held-up as shelters for wildly-overcompensated, lazy and incompetent workers. The workers at Chicago’s McCormick Place were exposed to public derision for the terms of their union contracts; contracts which drove and rewarded unproductive behavior.

Then-president Ronald Reagan was widely-praised when he smashed the air traffic controller’s union. Unions had become overripe fruit. The social pendulum had reached the end of its labor-friendly swing, and was now beginning a move in the opposite direction.

As the seventies became the eighties and the eighties became the nineties, union membership continued to fall. Where they still existed, unions were mere shadows of their former selves. Members routinely made concessions in return for having a job to report to.

Mercury Marine (an outboard motor manufacturer in Fond du Lac, WI.) recently demanded that union members either accept a seven-year wage-freeze and a thirty-percent wage-cut for laid-off workers (called back to work), or face losing their jobs when the company opened a proposed non-union plant in Stillwater, OK.

Additional concessions would reduce vacation time and affect both health care and pension benefits.

Faced with having a job versus not having a job, workers voted Friday and reluctantly accepted the company’s offer.

The gulf between America’s richest and poorest continues to widen. An ever-increasing percentage of America's wealth is held in fewer and fewer hands as income inequity continues to soar. CEOs make hundreds (hundreds!) of times what their employees do.

Yet America’s workers are told they must concede to remain competitive in the new global marketplace. Curious that executive compensation continues to rise amidst all this belt-tightening and globalization, isn’t it?

On the one-way street that employment has become, it is clear that unions are once again the best path towards restoring two-way traffic. In a country with an economy which is two-thirds consumer-driven, even the short-sighted and the self-serving that pass for corporate leadership need to acknowledge the importance of a viable middle-class.

And that begins with viable unions.

It's time to give the pendulum a shove in a new direction.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Political Science Project

Copies of the following were sent to all 39 Republican senators (Mel Martinez (R-FL) vacated his seat in early-August) and the Milwaukee 'Journal-Sentinel'.

I'll keep you posted as to what--if any--responses are received.

Dear Senator ___________:

Since their epiphany last January 20th, Republicans have issued repeated and dire warnings about the horrors of big government. With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully submit that government downsizing begin with you.

By resigning your post as U.S. Senator, you enable the Republican Party to position itself as the party that not only stands behind its beliefs, but as one willing to sacrifice for them. While one party speaks of change you can believe in, Republicans offer change you can see.

By leaving the senate, you say “small government starts with me." It is leadership by example. It is standing tall by getting small. And in these economically-challenged times, imagine the credibility your party stands to gain with America’s legions of unemployed.

It is the kind of “win-win” PR firms only dream of.

It is my hope you will take this under consideration.

Sincerely,

La Piazza Gancio

Sunday, August 30, 2009

WTF?

It figures. No sooner do I lambaste John McCain and Orrin Hatch than I’m watching them spin yarns about Senator Edward Kennedy at his wake. And I am shocked.

Did you know John McCain could be LOL funny? I didn’t. Where was that McCain during the ’08 presidential campaign? (In my humble opinion, McCain paid for some really bad campaign advice last year.)

And then there’s Orrin Hatch. Did you know he had a warm and poignant setting?

Despite my cynical exterior, I’m a softie at heart. And Hatch’s reminiscence about the friendship that evolved between he and Kennedy (opposites if ever there were opposites) found me with a stupid smile on my face. It was disgusting.

Why was seeing these two ‘unplugged’ such a surprise? Because their public appearances are so tightly-scripted that they come to resemble one-dimensional cartoons. The real human being is boxed up for domestic use only.

It makes you wonder: in these divisive days, is this the extent to which congressional Democrats and Republicans also know each other?

I’m aware that John McCain and Orrin Hatch are very successful politicians, and that if they couldn’t evoke a laugh or a tear at a friend’s wake, they don’t belong in politics. That basically renders them incapable of selling ice-water in the Sahara.

But if it wasn’t before, politics has become a very carefully-choreographed stage show. And judging from this glimpse of actual human beings, and comparing it to what we will soon see again on and in our national media, it is one in dire need of fewer managers and spin-meisters, and more living, breathing, three-dimensional people.

Just a thought.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just Wondering...

Senators McCain (R-AZ), Hatch (R-UT) and Gregg (R-NH) have recently made a point of marking the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy by issuing statements like “If only Senator Edward Kennedy were still here, we might get this health care thing passed.”

I can only assume they’re referring to the same Senator Edward Kennedy whose health care reform legislation they repeatedly voted against, because in my (admittedly) limited experience, I’m pretty sure there’s been just one Senator Edward Kennedy.

Of course, the fatal flaw in this line of thinking is that it doesn’t take into account life on other planets, which, judging from the Republican platforms established this summer, is likely where they spend the majority of their time.

Guys? Save the crap for the base. OK?

And another thing. Why has no one asked Republicans that if big government is such a bad thing, why do they fight so hard to be a part of it? If it’s the root of all evil, why do they persist in participation?

I’d like to respectfully submit that if Republicans think government is too big, the best place to begin its downsizing is with the removal of all Republican representatives and senators. Imagine how streamlined, how efficient government would become.

Government in the hands of the Party of Know.