Sunday, January 27, 2008

Just Show Me You Care, and I'll Vote You In

Blog doc 15 Fundamentals of American Politics: Part Eleven - Purchasing an Office

There is a running deception which begins in the numbing experience of high school civics, matures in a grotesque way and finally appears in place in our government. This would be little more than an interesting socio-cultural phenomenon in any environment other than the focused power of our government. There, the expenditure of $150,000,000 is a very reasonable cost to lubricate the transfer of power from old administrations to new ones. That will be the rough cost of shepherding a Democratic candidate into the White House, even in a year when the election is essentially without a contest, no matter who will be the choice.

Why goodness gracious! In an ideal world we could lament about just how many tractors, irrigation projects, water wells, schools or clinics might be built with cash like that. In a more pragmatic world we might consider that money sufficient for a single fifth generation fighter bomber. At least an economy model with no arm rests. In fact, $150,000,000 is actually enough money to “support the troops” in Iraq for a little less than one hour and thirty minutes, now that the monthly bill has been economized to $12 billion.

Why is it so expensive to “schmooze” the electorate into such a decision? After all, it has taken time to convince a voter that he has been somehow disenfranchised if he is not bombarded by irritating television commercials. Aside from making certain that every voter has an opportunity for some new, exciting explanation of the “Vision, Justice, Change” idea, there is still the matter of “name recognition,” or even, “electability.”

During the Cold War when the Russians were contemplating a first strike against us, we can be sure that all those Russian Generals were sizing up their chances based on the “name recognition” and “electability” of the President they were to be going against. When the single mother is trying to keep her hungry baby warm in a cold apartment, she will be able to take a great comfort from the nation’s leadership’s “electability” and “name recognition.” After all, we didn’t elect just anybody.

That $150,000,000 successful election effort is required to win. It is absolutely necessary to wall paper the psyche of every voter with enough televised “Vision, Change and Direction” messages, regardless of what they are, to generate the needed cloud of “name recognition” and “electability.” If there are too few such commercials for any given candidate, it will be damning evidence indeed that the votes in one’s county, village or city are not valued enough by some ambitious fellow on his (or her) way to the top of the heap.

Cash-wise, we need also remember that eight or ten losers all invested $149,000,000 each to the same effort. By the way, what exactly would my share of that have been if, instead of those ridiculous commercials, I had received a simple, honest bribe? Perhaps this is too much of ancient Rome’s process, too cynical. America is way ahead of that old “wine and circuses” idea.

There is a modern “Tower of Babel” which must be revealed, then explained if one is determined to win. The American model has everything to do with “gut feelings” and “intuition” about an individual. Every issue with merit is illuminated only through the lens of a candidate’s personality. The natural result is a concentration on the individual standing there in the light. The appalling second thought is whether some candidate seems to be winning. Then we voters join in with the same mental clarity as can be found in a dog fight. And the same unbending intent. We simply must elect one of them!

Selecting an individual from the field based on a carefully tailored image of personality is abysmally complicated. And risky. It inevitably asks an ill prepared and ill informed electorate to connect the number of divorces to the quality of economic policy, the religion of childhood to the level of cynicism in plans to fight crime or the suitability of an affected accent to the nuances of international relations.

This process we have spent such energy perfecting is a rolling paradox. We cannot choose the individual without the maddening proliferation of the positions on things, hypocritically word smithed positions on things which are promised to be exactly the “burning question of the day” even when they seem, well, a little off, somehow. Likewise, when we focus on these special, selected “issues,” we can view them only through our unconfident and threateningly incomplete guess about the implementing process of the candidate which seems to have become associated with them. Nothing is certain. Unless it is a very good year, nothing is even probable. Listening to more of their impassioned drivel about “change,” “vision,” “hope,” “direction,” “progress,” “freedom” or even “justice” only makes the mental nosebleed worse than before.

There is no refuge to be had by selecting a party. In fact, no one can remember what these organizations were designed to provide when they were first created, while they still had some discernible purpose. All the facts are submerged by the recollected memories of this President from this party or that President from the other party and his alleged behavior which was, somehow, an indication of his Party’s philosophy. By far the most educational feature of our modern parties will be the elephant and the horse, each presented as an updated caricature every several years as a testament to modernity.

It is so nebulous, we don’t even know if we’ve been tricked even after it is over! Was this President true to his party’s ideology? Tough question when we don’t know and never knew what that is alleged to be. Did he keep his promises? Were there promises, hidden somewhere amid the “change” and the “vision” and the new “direction?” If we isolated one of these complicated, ethereal things could we even tell if it was kept after the House, Senate and Supreme Court were finished savaging it for the interests of their friends? Or his friends?

It is, in fact, a relatively simple dichotomy. One side is ever so slightly liberal. The other, equally conservative. Of course, there are the myriad of vagaries inescapably attached to each, but perhaps there does exist some thread of motive to separate them into understandable choices, each carefully laundered into a form reflecting sincerity, occasional honesty and enlightened pragmatism.

Without the “laundry,” cynicism wins, and the cynic also wins -- a trip to Homeland Security for rendering. Without a lawyer. Or a trial. No matter, the “tapes” of the confession have been destroyed, but the evidence would still count if there ever were to be a trial. This might be “vision,” “change” or “justice.”

Both choices must be arranged with the promise of a high agenda, one motivated by the best interests of, of course, the country. A clear description of this liberal and this conservative will be necessary.

Liberals place the highest priority on the advancement of the common people, and in pursuing this, they argue, will inevitably advance the nation. Conservatives, on the other hand, place their highest priority on the advancement of the nation and, as they pursue this goal, they believe their course will inevitably advance the common citizen.

Welcome to England. Is there any possibility that we could simplify the message? Any hope that these political parties might actually mean something to a voter? Is there any future in somehow separating candidates from ideology, a chance that these issues might be considered separately? Is it reasonable to chose a political future based on some kind of coherent and comprehensible position? You know, something parliamentary.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Springtime in Paraguay

Blog doc 14: A Short Story from the White House Basement
A Telling Conversation Between Two Maintenance Men

“Wow Bill! Who’s that guy?” Larry asked as the man in gray coveralls left the room.

“Oh, he’s the Blackwater guy who’s in charge of room 30, here. You don’t need to worry about him that much. He only shows up here once in a blue to moon to be a jerk and try to scare us. The rest of the time he spends in the private BW Lounge out on Corridor B.” Bill responded easily.

“Gosh, it seems like he just some kind of janitor with an automatic rifle and an real bad attitude. I guess he’s in charge of this warehouse, right?” Larry asked.

“Yeah. You musta’ got the cleaning order from our supervisor. Did you bring all the floor stuff. Nobody ever can even get into this room, much less make a mess of it, but when they want the floor mopped, they want the floor mopped.” Bill explained.

“Wow, Bill, what is all this stuff? Every box has a number on it. What do you suppose is in all them wooden crates over on that side, anyway?” Larry asked, looking over the contents of the dim storage room.

“Pay attention to yourself. See all those cameras? They can see every move you make. Don’t ever, like, write anything down on paper or you’ll be talkin’ to those Blackwater boys in a heartbeat. The whole reason we’re here is 'cause they figure we’re stupid. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that they can’t hear us.” Bill held up his hand in a caution signal to the younger worker.

“So. What is this warehouse for, anyway?” The younger man looked to the more experienced worker, now sitting on a crate.

“This is all the stuff they plan to fly into Paraguay after the election. It’s all stuff the Vice President got for, you know, favors and payoffs and stuff. Them boxes are full of loot. That’s why all the cameras. Heh, heh, heh, I guess they just wanna’ make sure it only gets stolen once!” Bill offered casually.

“Right. So What exactly are we doin’ to this floor?” Larry spoke, not a little intimidated by his surroundings.

“See right over there. You got two big rows of wooden crates stacked three high. We’re not movin’ those babies, they’re full of gold ingots. This other row of wood crates right over here are full of AK’s and ammo. They’re all okay right where they are. But right back there, see, by the door is where they came and took out a bunch of boxes. Them boxes were all full of cash, and they sent ‘em to Europe somewhere and traded ‘em out for those other boxes over there full of Euros.” Bill explained nonchalantly.

“You mean the Vice President is trading in his cash for Euros?” the younger man asked incredulously.

“Oh yeah, but just them boxes over there. I guess the rest of these in this row are full of US cash he’s plannin’ to keep, you know, plannin’ to take with him. I figure they didn’t plan on the economy tanking quite so soon before the election. I suppose they thought they could just ride it out until they moved on to their new place. You gotta remember, once him and the Pres are in Paraguay they ain’t goin’ to be able to leave, what with the World Court and everything, prowlin’ around like they do. Ever hear of a guy named Mengele?” Bill shared the authority of the hearsay traveling around the building.

“Yeah, I think so. Wasn’t he some kind of Russian or somethin’?” Larry answered, puzzled.

“Nah, Mengele was the old Nazi ‘Doctor Death’ guy. He was the one them Israelis snatched somewhere in South America, can’t remember the name of the town. They were pissed. They hauled him out somewhere and hung him. Had a trial and everything. You can bet your bottom dollar that this pair ain’t goin’ risk anything like that!” the older man exclaimed, chuckling.

“I guess that’s what all the guns are for, right?” Larry offered.

“Yeah, I guess. I’m sure they got some kind of a deal cooked up with the Dictator down there, but AK’s are always more dependable than any kind of deal they could make.” Bill continued in the role of seasoned expert.

“So the Veep is plannin’ on takin’ a crew of Blackwaters with him? How are they gonna move all this stuff and all those people from here to Paraguay?” Larry pondered.

“Oh, there’s no problem there. Mario, you know the older guy that cleans up in State, told me there’s a couple of Saudi jet liners hid away somewhere in Canada waitin’ to take ‘em. There’d be plenty of room on one of those babies for all this stuff with seats left over for a gun crew. I betcha’ them planes are nothin’ if they ain’t plush as hell!” Bill responded.

“Watch out now. All them crates in this row are full of a complete cardiac operating room and pace makers and stuff. You know, Cheney’s meds. Good thing that water didn’t drip this far over or there’d be hell to pay. I, for one, would not like to be on the receiving end of “Shooter” when he’s pissed!” he added.

“All that stain over there is where they took out them boxes of cash. You need to mop it all out and dry it up good, then buff it back down. We wanna’ get this place back up to number one condition.” the older man continued.

“That leak that caused all this problem come from the coffee maker up on the third floor. You know, the legal counsel offices. The Veep’s secret dungeon bunker on down below got water stains on a couple of chairs and he went out of his friggin’ mind. Yeah, out of his friggin’ head. That’s when they dumped what’s his name, you know, the Secretary of State.”

“Anyways, I’ll come back later to get ya’. I’ll have to have Blackwater open the vault door to let you out and stuff. They’ll probably wanna’ pat us down.”

“Later.” Bill added as a friendly aside as he walked away from the younger man.

“Yeah. Later.” Larry responded, grabbing his mop and bucket.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Means to be Truly Arrogant When Listening to Politicians

BlogDoc 12 19 December 2007
“Oh, Hemmingway!” Listening to Oatmeal

For all the failings and foibles of the media folks interviewing our candidates, we must acknowledge the difficulties they face before we are too harsh in judgment. Here, although it is always a temptation to repeatedly reconsider the rather sinister side of the industrial media, we will focus for a moment on the words and language of the candidates.

Simply expressed concepts, by their own nature, limit media coverage possibilities. The option of a simple statement which might elicit questions about details originating from a more or less normal curiosity has been colored as unmanageable. Even questions from previous, simple statements are considered threatening.

Does the complexity of the explanations of intentions of our contemporary political candidates betray a similar complexity in the intentions themselves? Is there no straightforward opportunity remaining? That is, can they find a straightforward explanation or a straightforward intention?

Is this complexity necessary? Is this complaint about sixty word sentences with three or four conditional branches too sensitive? After all, the media or, at least, the competition will sort through these monsters word by word, extracting tidbits without context. These phrases, well enhanced by biased innuendo, will form unuttered positions filled with partisan vulnerabilities. It seems the obvious goal is to finally present arguments which challenge each other but have no legitimatizing ownership from either position, arguments which proceed by some suspect inertia, arguments which seem to have something to do with, perhaps, the candidates or, at least, the positions.

This political discourse comes to rest, almost immediately, as partisan claims become no more than hungry dogs roaming a cemetery at night. After that, the illusion of an election executed by the illusion of an educated electorate is made into power. All these missed points will convert to solidly present frustrations, crazy cowboys riding imaginary steeds which graze on nothing but ambiguities. Finally, after being savaged by opinion polls, the congress and inevitably contradicting, mitigating, out-of-control events, the citizens will find no comfort other than that arising from their well cultivated short memories.

If you are likely to encounter a candidate speaking, spend a moment first with the exhilarating active tenses of Hemmingway. Inoculate yourself with some forgotten speech by John Kennedy. Or even Dwight Eisenhower. Compare this history to what you will hear from these modern competitors for your favor.

Do we suspect that the political world was less contentious back in “those good old days?” Hardly. Now, for the most unreasonable element of this short paper. Codependents hate conflicts. Has the entire political system upon which we rely with so much loyalty descended into a codependent swamp? Do all these vindicating conditional sentences exist for no greater purpose than to protect the speakers from any possibility of direct conflict, either now or later? Are we all to be indicted for codependency, that is, both speakers and satisfied listeners? The entire nation?

To escape this gloomy possibility, we can mention the “argument and yelling talk shows” populated by ever more aggressive, retired near-somebodies from the media or the government. These become all the more popular as they become ever more rude, conflicted and strident. Each aging, marginally relevant participant throws forth more and more squeaks of imagined authority projected for the camera with dramatic interruptions and urgently raised voices.

The fans of these gladiatorial yelling matches will never admit the deepest nature of their attraction to such unlikely forms of illumination, but even a passing speculation may be of some interest. Struggling under the heavy burden of “humiliation avoidance” these fans are determined to never be “made into fools” again. Perhaps they have foolishly believed statements, promises and other news they have encountered before. Perhaps they believe that statements made in the duress of these yelling matches are, somehow, more reliably sincere.

Aside from the obvious enjoyment of the role as judge, not of fact, of course, but at least, of presentation, by these competing participants, these fans suspect that some truth might emerge while the “lying and manipulating” equipment is over-occupied with the immediate need to dominate the verbal arguments. This hope is nothing other than “grasping the thread” that each of these speakers is too busy dominating the others to be cunning with “respect to me.”

At least, these pathetic yelling matches are largely conducted in Hemmingway’s active tense, that is, in refreshing sentences devoid of the numbing elixir of so much conditional grammar. Perhaps, the press of such contests has rehabilitated these pundits’ sadly constant cries for imaginary, elusive, faint meaning.

The Merciless Heiropass

Blogdoc 10 Canes and Reconciliation November 22, 2007

For a while after the cane became necessary in a good “common sense” sense, I still clung to the old American ambitions of constant improvement and that sacred hope of rejoining a contemporary moment of “those good old days.” I would walk around with it, absolutely obsessed with my image of maturity and dignity. As was the case with most of my “images,” this was, I finally concluded, not amounting to much more that “singing to the choir.”

My bliss-filled ambitions were finally quelled when I fully, deeply down inside, could no longer escape the verdict that “I am the choir!”

Oh yes, I can effortlessly remember that impetuous and infectious stride, years past, of the young Marine, usurping the independent eyes of all the pretty girls for furtive, longing attention before they glanced away. It occurs to me that they were somehow easier then. They have grown ominously more suspicious here and now in my seventh decade.

Reflecting on the world, I can hardly blame them.

Have the famous three fold aspects of Beelzebub’s Triamazikamno manifested themselves, finally revealing the parts, qualities and periods of my wonderful planetary life? Is this a knowing vision only available now, that is, just now, after the lightening and thunder of my adolescent humanity have calmed a little?

Perhaps I have successfully completed my Affirming and Denying work, leaving me now with this pleasant and reassuring sabbatical for my final Reconciliation. Most of us never get the lucky chance for the cane before this esoteric Phase Three.

Now this incredible old wooden cane, purchased for me at a thrift store by one of my students, is an unthinking affront to the young, a coarse invasion into the temporary luxury of a new world filled with beauty, sexual excitement, troubling Narcissism and what seems to be a perpetual “toothache” inflicted by the sorrow of continuous codependence. If this cane had a voice, it would speak to the young, disquietingly, of geriatric challenges, mortality and inevitable, yet reconstructed, humility. I had supposed that I had lived too long already to, once more, be transformed by unexpected external influences.

Just think. For a while when it was new to me, I toyed with the possibility that this cane might reconstitute itself as a “latter day chick magnet!”

As for the morning of this particular day, I’ll just sit here and enjoy my morning coffee now, thank you.

Gee, There's STILL No Immigration Bill?

BLOGdoc 10 Immigration: The Ultimate Solution January 16, 2008

Along the side of the freeway in San Diego one might see a troubling sight. It is a standard freeway sign, the type with only symbols, no writing. It is not to indicate a curve ahead or a steep hill or a railroad. It is a very clear image of a man and a woman desperately pulling a child behind them. It warns drivers to be especially cautious, to be on the look out for immigrants dashing across the deadly lanes of the freeway.

The sign might have had a deer, but it didn’t. In the driver’s thought was a chilling, academic, legalistic model of border violations and invisible, illegal people seeping into our society. Of course, these people are determined to elude capture and fulfill every tiny aspect of the inflammatory “society wrecking” threats cast out daily on the AM talk shows.

Without exercising some care for one’s thoughts, these border violators could become a secret Red Chinese army camouflaged in civilian clothes. Even the children being dragged behind in the symbol might have some secret military purpose.

At seventy miles an hour it probably took another mile or so before those symbols on the sign began to possibly be a family. A mother and a father with a little daughter.

Too bad. Our driver’s remorse, should he hit them, could have been cool and academic, even sterile, had they remained the symbols on the sign. As actual, living, breathing people, people with names, our driver’s remorse becomes a heavy, tragic perpetual wound in his spirit. Perhaps, in his mind, an undeserved burden.

This necessary plan for immigration is a devilish balance, crafted by a master chess player. There is no direction to move which will not yield sadness and suffering for one side or the other. We may spend a fitful night searching for a bloodless solution, but it will be no more than our inner selves and hopes sinking slowly into a quagmire.

It is a perfected paradox. How harshly will we treat them at the river? How harshly will we treat them as they hide and work so filled with hope in San Diego? On the other hand, how much of our precious prosperity are we willing to forego so they can take our jobs and our social money and the seats in our schools? You know. The schools we paid for with our general fund taxes. Our property taxes. The fund we had to pay our taxes into. Taxes the immigrant cannot pay or won’t pay for reason of fear or necessity or greed.

A paradox such as this one is not inflicted on us by an outside force. It seems to be built into our private ideas. It is spontaneous and inescapable. Interestingly, it travels with these immigrants in just the same cloud of doubts if not intransigence. In the minds and hearts of the blissfully numb in either group it never rises up in thoughts to become words. Its path to a conscious awareness is constantly blocked by other more superficial ideas. Questions.

“Why do they have so much? Why do I have so little?”

“Why have they come here to rob me? To rob my family?”

The prospects of taking or giving seem to conveniently escape the teachings of one’s church or family. This paradox is most comfortably handled in the realm of human adjustments to both taking and giving. We and they pretend that this conflicted dualism is the scourge of others. It falls to them to handle these details.

Yet, even when we imagine this theoretical isolation, we encounter no comfort at all from some solution or alternative. There is no pure moment when we realize just the perfect answer. No moment of clarity. No sudden awareness that reassures us, finally, that we were simply making too hard a task of it all.

Perhaps a very short story can brighten this dreary place.

“Hi! Bill Smith, XYZ news, here in the field on the steps of the Capitol for the big mix-up this morning! Just think. By noon today we will have our new national immigration policy hammered out!

“The Capitol police have separated this incredible crowd into the four groups we have been hearing so much from in the past weeks and months. At exactly nine o’clock this morning all the security staff are going to just pull back, the Marine Honor Guard up there guarding the door will use their bugles to sound the start, and after that, heh heh, this crowd is going to have at it!

“The XYZ News Action helicopter is in its assigned place high above us to get a full view of the action. In fact, there are so many news choppers up there, each one parked in exactly its assigned place, this place looks like Viet Nam!

“In less than two minutes the action here at the Capitol will be starting, and, boy are these crowds ever ready to go to town! Every one of these screaming immigration activists has been searched for any kind of possible weapon and the crowd managers are telling me that they have a liability release form signed and sealed by every one of them.

“The business interest group is over there on the north side. We can see they are pretty well dressed, but don’t be fooled. These guys work out. They’re fit and trim for this get together. My gosh! They are all removing their ties in unison! Things like this make me suspect that these unruly crowds are more organized than they look at first glance.

“Over to my left you can see a mass of blue collar workers, truck drivers and the like who are just plain sick of trying to compete with the wages being paid to illegal immigrants. These are the folks who talk about a “race to the bottom” in wages and benefits. They’re not making any bones, this morning, about being a tough lot with plenty of experience.

“Standing just opposite of them, over to my right, are the immigrants. Jim can you pan over to the right? That’s good. You can see that they have an agenda, too. You can definitely see that they are motivated. These are people who have already taken some big chances, dangerous chances, to get here in hopes of doing better for their families. This crowd may not have had many political ideas when they crossed the border, but they damn sure have some now.

“And just behind the camera is the border safety group. The Capitol police have taken all their weapons, knives, machine guns and RPG’s according to the rules of engagement for this morning’s historical event. The border security bunch wanted to show up flying their flags, but the flag poles were all confiscated. These boys have a lot of members with military experience. Everyone’s expecting them to do really well here this morning.

“There would have been six groups here this morning instead of just the four we see, but the education and humanity groups were meeting in a bar trying to consolidate their position when that fight broke out. Because the rioting over there got so intense, almost none of those groups has been able to make it over here in time for the start of activities. I have heard some talk that they might still show up late, if they can hammer out some kind of agreement between themselves.

“Well, I can see the big clock donated by WalMart. Its about 30 seconds until the fight starts and the Capitol Police are pulling back quickly right now to open up the fight area. The Marines at the door to the Capitol have exchanged their bugles for riot gear and tear gas rifles, and our XYZ camera crew, including yours truly, are getting the signal to “get out of Dodge” on the double.

“The showdown is starting as I speak. Stay tuned to this channel for some exciting full coverage from our XYZ News Chopper! This is Bill Smith, XYZ News, signing off. Now that all this uncontrolled violence has started, it is anyone's guess how this is going to end up at the high noon hour when hostilities will be stopped. Right after the noon chime on this big WalMart clock, all the survivors who can still walk are going to vote on the new immigration bill. Be sure to join us for the post riot recaps!”