Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Literary Profiling

I just left Borders a few moments ago and I was the victim, once again, of Literary Profiling. It’s starting to piss me off. And I’ll state right here at the outset that I’ve received this treatment at Barnes & Noble as well, so its not a matter of the store I choose. It’s a matter of these book-Nazis assuming that certain types of people buy certain types of books.

I took a look in the mirror when I got home. I had pretty standard apparel on for me:

Navy Blue Baseball Hat, Duke University
Navy Blue Fleece Pullover
Navy Blue w/white side stripe Nike warm-up pants
Navy Blue Crocs, Chicago Cubs Logo
Various undergarments (none of which are Navy blue!)

Granted, I look more prepared for the gym than I do the bookstore, but that’s no excuse for Literary Profiling. But that’s exactly what happens when I walk into a book store. They see me walking through the new releases and tell me, very politely, that they have some great new books in the Sports section in back.

It’s almost like they don’t want the smart-looking people to see me browsing the books up front. Apparently, they think I’m some kind of smart-person scarecrow.

“Oh look, the Neanderthal wanna-be jock guy is looking at the jacket of that book, it must have pictures and small words! I won’t even bother picking it up.”

When I go into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, they assume I’ve gotten lost. Apparently, I don’t look like a guy who can appreciate a story about Elves and magic. And so:

“Excuse me Sir, can I help you find something? Are you looking for a gift?” Why must I be shopping for a gift? Why can’t I enjoy wizards and witches and magical swords? Huh?

Well, lately it’s been much, much worse for me. I’m not normally someone who reads the classics. I much prefer contemporary works to the oldies, but for the past few months, I’ve been on a Kurt Vonnegut kick. I’ve gone through almost his entire library of works, with only a few left to go.

Granted, it’s the beginning of Christmas shopping season now, so its not uncommon for the register person to ask I need a gift receipt, but this has been going on since this summer and they aren’t just asking if I need a gift receipt, they ASSUME I need one!

Here are some of the various things that have been said to me after plopping down one of Vonnegut’s books at the register:

“Oh, do you have a Vonnegut fan in your family?” Yes. Me.

“Are you buying this for a special someone?” Yes. Me.

“Oh, look, Siren’s of Titan, one of my favorites! You know it’s not your typical science fiction right?” Yes. I do.

“Breakfast of Champions! You know it’s not about the cereal!” [ha, ha, ha!] Really? I thought it was a recipe book!

Do I have the word DUH written on my forehead? Is it impossible for someone who dresses like I do to enjoy dark humor and scathing wit? And let’s face it folks, anyone who’s ever read Vonnegut knows that it’s not tough reading. A middle-school kid could get quite a bit of Vonnegut and would have no trouble reading him.

So, what’s with these elitist, book-nerds who don’t want to let me play in any reindeer games? I bet if I came in wearing a half-tucked shirt, dark-rimmed glasses and mismatched socks they’d be nice to me! Do I really have to nerd it up in order to have a peaceful shopping experience? Do I really need to dress the part so that I won’t be met with incredulity when I reach the cashier?

I’m a dork. I’m proud of the fact that I’m a dork, but I don’t have to dress like a dork do I? Aren’t the Cubs Crocs enough proof of my dorkdom? Do I really need to push the envelope farther than that in order to gain your respect bookstore people?

So, no. I don’t need help finding my way back to the Sports books section and I’m not interested in the new NASCAR picture book you recently got in for the Holidays. Yes, I’m actually buying this deep and intellectual book for me. Hooked on Phonics not only worked on me, but it created a miracle! Jesus hisownself, of water to wine and rising from the dead fame has nothing on athlete-wannabe guy who learned to enjoy books of substance!

I just want to do my book shopping in peace. I like being in bookstores. I like grabbing a cup of coffee and wandering aimlessly in my comfy clothes for an hour or two, just reading the jackets of various books and picking one or two to take home with me. I like being left alone while I wander through the Psychology section and the Writing section and the Classics section. It’s not a jungle. Navigation, even for a Neanderthal like me, isn’t that difficult. The HUGE signs hanging all over the place letting me know what section is where are extremely helpful and do a wonderful job all on their own.

So, in the future, book store people, just smile and assume I’m exactly where I want to be in your store. Assume that I’m buying these books for myself and that I’m a big boy who can understand all of the big words and big thoughts inside them. And please, just stop it with the Literary Profiling.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Open Letter to Interactive Polls

Dear Interactive Polls,

Go Away. I’m tired of you. Why must you inundate every live broadcast of anything, anywhere? Why must my college basketball game be interrupted by you? Why must you hijack every newscast? Why? Why? Why?

You see, I don’t care about your results! The people who log on to the interwebs in the middle of watching a television program to vote on some idiotic question aren’t exactly the people whose opinions matter to me.

And what possible difference can you make? You ask us things like whether Joe the Plumber will effect our vote or if we’re in favor of moving the NCAA 3-point line back a foot or if we prefer ninjas or pirates and in the end, how can this possibly be important?

You ask us who we think will win the big game, but do you really think you tell us anything more than which team has more interweb geeks willing to log on and vote for their favorite team?

You are stupid. You are pointless. You really bother me and I want you gone! If you had any balls at all you would devote an entire day allowing only one of you and it would be with this question: Should we eliminate interactive polls from every broadcast of every program forever? YES or NO?

Oh, I’d take the time to log in if that poll ever crossed my television screen! I would vote early and often as we Chicagoans are wont to do. I would call my friends and email everyone I know and I would say to them: Please, please, please, for the love of God and tiny fuzzy baby ducks, please vote to ban interactive polls forever, because if I see just one more, I just might snap.

Let the people who love to vote on any little thing text their votes to American Idol and Dancing with the Stars so that I don’t need to be bothered with them if I don’t want to be! Stay away from politics and sports! I die a little every time I see one of you! Die you rotten, idiotic, mind-numbing bastard, die!!!!


Albert A. Riehle

p.s. I hate you!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Save the Whale Savers!

Gather round children
I’ll tell you a tale
Of some stupid-ass people
Saving the whales

I just don’t even know where to begin when trying to explain the idiocy I just witnessed. I’ve watched the commercials and have to admit, this show actually looked pretty good, but then I watched two back to back episodes and my mouth is hanging open wider than a panting dogs. The show is called Whale Wars and it’s on the channel Animal Planet. And you’ll have to excuse me, but this kind of idiocy, even in today’s world, is just really astonishing.

The show is about a misguided and foolish action nerd (if you don’t know what an action nerd is, you need to read the book Fluke, Or, I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore) who puts lives at risk with blatant disregard in order to protect whales in Antarctica. There was just so much idiocy I’m having trouble processing it, but let me try to summarize the first two episodes for you.

This guy named Paul Watson, one of the founding members of Greenpeace has an organization called Sea Shepherds because Greenpeace kicked him out (he seems very proud of this fact) for being absolutely batshit crazy. Sea Shepherds bypass diplomacy and peaceful tactics to stop whaling in favor of what can only be described as terrorist methods.

They fly a skull and crossbones pirate flag from the ship’s mast. The ship, coincidentally, is called the Steve Irwin and based in Australia. The widow Irwin helps dedicate the ship in the opening scenes, at which point you think these people are going to be reputable. You’re wrong for thinking that though.

Let the batshit crazy begin. So, the ship’s captain is Paul Watson. He has a crew of what seem to be a semi-competent two or three other people with experience at sea, and a bunch of green, impressionable kids who want to make the world a better place and have no idea what they are getting into. The idea of actively taking part in whale preservation is one thing. Being pressured to act like eco-terrorists is another.

As they introduce the crew, everyone seems to be a Quartermaster—which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The crew totals 35 and at least half of them are called Quartermasters. They eat all vegan meals cooked by a man named Potsy and all but 4 or 5 people are puking their guts out by day two because they have never been aboard a ship before.

But that’s tame compared to what happens from here. Instead of training the crew a bit, running them through their paces in the warm Australian waters, they decide to sail to Antarctica before doing any drilling. The first drill they do is to try to lower a crew on one of their Zodiac boats into the water. That would be the freezing water. The water you would die in if you were in it for more than a moment or two. They had just given a comical lecture to the crew about how spending any amount of time in that water is a death sentence when they tried to lower these poor untrained schmucks into the frigid water when, of course, a line snapped because one of the ships 1st mate—second in charge to only the Captain, didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

Into the drink go four poor souls. By some miracle, none were injured in the fall and none of them drifted far from the upturned Zodiac boat, so they were all able to clamor atop. Of course, getting a line to them to tow them in, for a group of completely inexperienced and incompetent sailors was much like a horse trying to perform brain surgery. For the record, it’s really hard to hold a scalpel with a hoof.

By another act of God they get the line out to the popsicles and tow them in and no one has any major injuries, but during the clusterfuck Potsy the chef, who had since then been promoted to assistant of the helicopter pilot (his vegan cooking must have sucked) somehow managed to nick the blade of the tail rotor of the chopper. Apparently, that’s really, really, really bad.

The helicopter pilot tells this to Captain Watson, who mostly seems concerned with chastising the shitty vegan chef. In his second absolute boneheaded move that shows an absolute disregard for those under his command, he has the pilot do a test flight to see if there are any problems. Of course, if there are, the pilot crashes into that really cold water and dies. Fortunately, he didn’t, but decides that the helicopter is unsafe for further flight.

So, it’s a bit odd that they have the unrepaired helicopter up and searching for Japanese whaling ships the very next day, but not too odd considering that safety not only doesn’t come first on board the Steve Irwin, it doesn’t even come in last. Safety of the crew just doesn’t even make Captain Watson’s list. He seems almost eager to help the members of his crew become whale martyrs. So, when repeated radio requests to Greenpeace (who kicked Watson out for being batshit crazy) are met with disdain and a refusal to help the Sea Shepherds find Japanese whaling ships, up goes the helicopter once again.

But let me skip ahead a bit because if I cover every bit of idiocy I’ll fall over and die of carpel tunnel somewhere after page 746 of this report.

Captain Watson gathers the crew for a meeting. He wants two volunteers to board a Japanese whaling ship without permission with the express intent of having them held as “hostages” so that he can get their names in the press and force the Australian military to act on their behalf. When the green whale huggers all fail to volunteer, Captain Watson is pretty upset—after all, they all told him that they were willing to die to save the whales!

So, he uses guilt as a means of getting Potsy to go. After all, he ruined the helicopter. And then some English kid named Giles agrees to go too. Woo hoo! Human bait!

Of course, before they send these two kids to board the ship, they attack it first with stinkbombs and attempts at ruining the ship’s propeller. After this, Herr Captain feels it would be a good time to send in the clowns, so off goes the Zodiac containing the hopeful martyrs and to kill time while they are on the way to intercept, they have the only person aboard the Steve Irwin who speaks Japanese insult the people on board the whaling ship.

Surprise! Surprise! The Japanese sailors weren’t happy to see them when they got on board! Who could have seen that coming? When the helicopter pilot (you remember him right? He’s the one flying the helicopter with the nicked up tail rotor, miles from his own ship) radios to tell the command crew of the Steve Irwin that the Japanese are treating their guys roughly. All around good guy Paul Watson wants to know if their getting it all on video so they can send it to the press.

Now is probably a good time to talk about piracy. You see, when you board a vessel at sea without the permission of the captain and crew of the ship you’re boarding, you have just committed an act of piracy. If a pirate is apprehended, he is typically tried in the country of the ship he or she has attacked. Captain Watson neglected to mention that to the lads before he patted them on the back and sent them off.

None of this concerns the good Captain though. The returning helicopter brings back video of the apprehension of the two hostages/pirates (take your pick---really, it probably doesn’t matter unless you consider that they are aboard the ship and in the custody of people who think they are pirates). One particular photo has the crew high fiving! Potsy is in pain and being manhandled by the Japanese crew! Woo hoo! This will definitely make the papers! Nevermind that two kids are being held captive on board a Japanese whaling ship and likely to be kept there for three months until they return to Japan and be charged with acts of piracy on the high seas.

True fact: Some countries punish piracy by death.
True fact 2: The 9/11 attacks were technically, acts of piracy (air ships count the same as water ones)

Sadly, I was left off at this point. I have to wait until next Friday to find out the fate of the two dumb pirates and their idiot, uncaring captain. If history is any indicator, sheer dumb luck will save the crew and bespectacled female action nerds will gush over them when they are returned to the Steve Irwin, but we shall see. Idiocy like this is too engaging to pass up and I’m afraid I must watch next week to see what happens next.

I’ll admit, the only whale I’ve ever seen was at SeaWorld, but still, I can appreciate the plight of people who do their best to save them. I’m all for action nerds. This idiot captain takes it too far though. He rationalizes that violence must be met with violence. He lives by Hammurabi’s code, and sadly, he neglectfully and foolishly risks the lives of people who simply want to make a difference in the world. He seems all too eager to get someone killed for the publicity it would gain. He is dangerous and in my opinion, evil.

Watch the show. Save the whales. But don’t be fooled by this arrogant narcissist. There are lines that people of good intentions do not cross. And a Captain’s first responsibility should always be to the safety and well being of his crew. This man will get someone killed. And like a train wreck, I just can’t look away.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fingers and Thumbs

One of the things I’m looking forward to, now that Barack Obama has been elected President, is to see how the blame game changes. Now that the election is over and the lipstick bulldog and the senile old guy have been defeated, even those of us who voted for Obama can admit. The guy is severely under-qualified for this position!

I mean, seriously people, one term as a senator (incomplete) and community organizer. That’s hardly a resume made for Presidency. And that’s okay, that’s good in fact, we need someone who isn’t too caught up in the game to run the show for a while, but it also means that he is going to make mistakes, possibly huge ones.

Obviously, when he does, the right wing is going to try to put the blame directly on him. That’s not interesting though. Everyone knows that’s going to happen. What I’m curious about is how all these people who blame George W. Bush for every little thing are going to have to say.

Blaming W has become something of a sport. The Senate and House almost unanimously vote to go to war based on the evidence presented that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction, but when it’s proven that there aren’t, W was treated like a monarch who had made the call independently of everyone else. And that’s just one example. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not coming to the defense of President Bush. I truly believe he puts the Lame in Lame Duck President, but I’m really looking forward to the outpouring of hypocrisy that’s about to come down.

I also like, support and voted for Barack Obama, but screw ups are inevitable on the part of this young President. We live in a difficult and dangerous time. Mistakes will happen. And when they do, I can’t help but wonder if every time there is one, if the masses will take to the blogs and the message boards to holler at the moon about them?

I wonder if anything will be his fault? I wonder for how long people will be able to look back and blame W. From my perspective, the 9/11 tragedy can be pinned squarely on President William Jefferson Clinton and his foreign policy decisions, but I never hear anyone talking about that though. I do hear 9/11 being blamed on Bush though.

The thing is that George W. Bush is, was, and always will be an easy target. Even the politically ignorant can have a go at old Georgie boy. He’s the slow kid in the back of the class who almost seems to beg to be picked on. We’ve certainly obliged him. I read a lot of blogs and rarely does a week go by that someone isn’t trashing him—usually in an uninformed way.

This isn’t a defense of Bush or an attack on Obama. This is a simple question: Are we, as a nation, going to hold Obama to the same standard of perfection by which we now judge Bush? Let’s face it, a lot of the criticism Bush got and gets has been warranted, but we do not and never have lived in a monarchy. One man alone does not rule our country. While the President is certainly the figure head of our government, he does not have the power to act alone.

And moving forward, I wonder how this blame game will change? Certainly, Bush will be blamed for messes that arise long after he’s out of office—some justified, others not. Certainly, the Republicans will try to pin as many problems to Obama as they can in an effort to win in 2012. But what about, “We the People?” Who will we blame?

In a country where we are supposed to have a voice and rarely take one, we stood up and found that voice to elect Obama. His successes will surely be our own. We will extend thumbs, pointed back at ourselves and with a wink to tell anyone who will listen that we voted for him every single time he does something, in which we can take pride.

Who will get to own his mistakes though? We never use our thumbs to point out failure. At least we haven’t the past eight years. We’ll be using our index fingers when errors are made. At whom will we point them?

Friday, November 7, 2008

American Pride

As the old theme to the sitcom The Facts of Life used to state, You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life. So, I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked by a recurring theme I’ve been hearing since the election of Barack Obama on Tuesday, but there are certain times, like this one, when the bad seems to be no nonsensical that it’s almost beyond comprehension.

The thing I’ve been hearing that I’ve found so distressing is the sentiment amongst many younger Americans that this, meaning Obama’s election, is the first time in their lives that they have ever felt proud as Americans.

To put it into a jargon that audience will understand: *facepalm*

I just can’t adequately express my profound disappointment in the idea that someone could possibly have been born and raised under the umbrella of freedom in which we live and not feel some kind of pride in those who fought for that freedom. It was such a common sentiment and so frequently repeated over the past couple days that I’ve really spent a lot of time thinking about it. I came to realize that someone who is 18 today, was 10 when George W. Bush took office. Someone who is 24 now was only 16 at that time.

The point there is that one of the more egregious eras in American politics has been the focal point of the just budding political lives of this generation. Even so, I find it hard to believe that those who are just now feeling pride in our nation, failed to do so during the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks on the country. Only seven years ago, the twin towers fell and walls of the Pentagon were breached and it just completely astonishes me that regardless of what a person’s age may have been at that time, they not have been influenced by the wave of patriotism that followed.

I came into my own political awareness in the era when the Cold War ended, when the Berlin Wall crumpled, when the Soviet Union failed, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and we were compelled to help liberate the Kuwaiti people. I am the son of a Viet Nam veteran and the grandson of two World War II veterans.

It is with that background that I matured to an age where politics became important to me and I took an active part in our political system. Maybe it gave me a more solid background and allowed me to connect more closely to the major events of that time. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’ve always felt a tremendous sense of pride in being American. One of my vivid memories from childhood was a cute thing I used to say: “I’m a little bit Polish, a little bit Irish, a little bit German, but I’m ALL American!” And that’s how my generation grew up, we were proud of where we came from, but more proud of where we were.

I look around today and watch as people celebrate the various Independence days from their countries of origin, waving foreign flags, plastering them on the hoods of their cars and flying them from their windows. I don’t see those same people flying the American flag on July 4th, our own Independence Day. It astounds me. They come from all over the world, leaving those countries for the greater opportunity our country offers, but instead of celebrating that opportunity, earned through the blood, sweat and tears of our forbearers, they celebrate the places they left behind.

I watch as with each generation we seemingly take less pride in the freedoms we have as Americans. I watch as those freedoms are taken for granted. I hear opinions about how certain speech should not be allowed, about how certain rights that our ancestors fought for should be given up freely. I notice that not only do many people not appreciate the sacrifice of those who fought for and earned us those freedoms, but they don’t even understand the importance of them.

The apathy with which many regard the freedoms they enjoy in our country is astonishing. These people who are feeling pride in our country for the first time because of the election of a black man, ignore the many triumphs of those who came before him. Do these people not take pride in Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus? Do they not understand the weight of the Emancipation Proclamation? Do these people not acknowledge the dream of Martin Luther King that laid the foundation for this election?

How can you fully appreciate the weight of what has happened if you don’t appreciate the history of it? And if you know the history of it, how can you fail to have taken pride in the journey? How can you not be proud of the participation of our country in WWII, where we helped defeat Hitler who was exterminating Jews because he thought they were inferior? How can you not take pride in a country that expanded the world of science and put a man on the moon? How can you fail to take pride in 13 fledgling colonies, who demanded a voice in the government that taxed them and who, when they were refused, decided to declare their independence and create a nation based on freedom and democracy?

These past few days I’ve heard this sad refrain again and again. This is the first time I’ve ever been proud to be an American. Meanwhile, in China, a 12 year old girl wakes up before dawn and goes to work in a factory. She works hard all day long using a machine that is very dangerous. There are no safety catches on this machine, those catches are expensive, it is much cheaper to replace her should she lose a finger or a hand.

She works 16 hours straight with only a quick couple breaks for bathroom use and perhaps one for eating a small portion of rice. The factory in which she works wasn’t the one she chose to work in. It was the one she was commanded to report to. The ventilation is poor and her lungs get blacker by the day. She makes mere pennies a day, while the products she makes earn vast amounts of money for the country in which she lives.

She lives in poverty, with her family, who have all been brought up under the same oppressive rule. She is a machine. She is a number. Her opinions do not matter and she is not allowed to express them. No one cares what she thinks. She has no opportunity in life. She will not grow up to be the thing she dreams of at night. She will grow up and continue working in that same cold factory because that’s what her government demands. Her life is monotony and obedience.

And if she traded places with those of you who are only feeling pride in America for the first time because of the election of a black man as our President, it would not take her very long at all to take pride in our country and the freedom it would provide for her. She would understand why our country is so great immediately. She would not take freedom for granted.

We are not perfect here in America, but we have a say. We have the freedom to speak up when we feel things are not as they should be. We have choices. We have the power to bring on change. This freedom, our right to speak out, our choices, our power to change, these things were not free. They were earned. Lives have been sacrificed so that we could grow up in a place like this. Those lives lost and those ones that were devoted to earning the freedom you take for granted demand your respect and if you can’t take pride in their struggles and hardships, then you don’t deserve America.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Save it for the morning after

Well, it’s the morning after and now it’s time to reflect on all that was and all that can be. The election is now over and we have elected Barack Obama to be our next President. There’s just so much to talk about, so many thing I want to say and express, some of it serious, some of it funny, some of it potentially inflammatory. The point, I suppose is that there is just too much in my mind right now, so I’ll try to touch briefly on many subjects—though, as you may already have suspected, I have trouble with being brief. I’ll do my best though.

John McCain

After his concession speech, the first thing I said was: “I wonder what the election would have been like if that guy had been a part of it?” In defeat, McCain found the humility, integrity, eloquence and statesmanship that he always seemed to lack during the campaign. This is the John McCain that I’ve always known in the past. This is the man who I would have been completely comfortable voting for before his campaign started. He did this to himself. He allowed his campaign to become what it did. Still, Barack Obama’s win wasn’t the only reason I found myself being proud to be American last night. John McCain’s graciousness put a lump in my throat as well.

Anderson Cooper & Wolf Blitzer

Cooper: The number we’re looking at is 270, Wolf, what happens when we get there?

Wolf: [looking very confused] Ummm, we’ll report it Anderson.

Jon Stewart has nothing on this comedy team


It wasn’t only national pride that I was experiencing last night, there was a great bit of civic pride as well. Barack Obama is an adopted son of this city and he chose to address the nation from our very own Grant Park. A quarter million people went to go hear him speak and they did so peacefully, without incident. On a beautiful night, one of the most important nights in the history of our nation, the first black President stood before the beautiful backdrop of the incomparable skyline of our downtown area and began by saying, “Hello, Chicago!”

All night long, the crews from national news outlets were broadcasting live from Grant Park and the third largest city in our nation was the absolute focal point of the entire world. Chicago is fiercely proud of her own and President Elect Obama is one of us. You will be hard-pressed to find a city of people better than those you find here, and I am so proud to have been in the spotlight of the entire world for this history making night.

Campbell Brown

How you doin? No, seriously, I did a little research and found out that you have 2 kids and converted to Judaism for your second husband. If you ever want to switch back to Christianity, I’d be happy to be a daddy to your kids and to even put a few more buns in that oven.

Black & White

I hate giving my opinions on race sometimes, because people read what they want to read and the ignorant among you will pump your fists in agreement with me on this, but not in a healthy way.

What I have to say is this: You couldn’t have done it without us Black America. What I mean by that is that perhaps this is a time for reassessing what you think you know about your pasty co-inhabitants of this country. Obama didn’t play the so-called “race card.” He didn’t run as a black man, he ran as the best man for the job. And White America rallied to him and embraced him.

I’m not so naïve as to think that racism doesn’t exist. In fact, it was so evident in some of Sarah Palin’s hate speech and in some of the supporters of the McCain ticket that it is undeniably still a huge problem in our country. But, those racist bigots are not the majority of us.

Until today, the symbols of Black America have been the reverends, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are ambulance chasers who never pass up a chance to point out any instance when the slightest injustice has been done to any black man, woman or child. The perception of these men among whites is that they are racist as well, against whites. Because these men are the symbols of Black America, and those symbols are racist, by extension, White America fears allowing any bit of the balance of power to slip their way.

With the election of Obama, a new kind of man is the symbol of Black America. A smart, well spoken man with strong character who has preached nothing but a message of unity, he wants to unite red and blue states, Republicans and Democrats and yes, white and black people.

The point of all of this is that the election of Obama offers both whites and blacks—and every other ethnicity for that matter, a chance to come together. I think that Obama is going to have a tough love for the black community that will both benefit Black America and resound with White America. It will be the kind of tough love that was advocated by Martin Luther King Jr. whose dream came back to life last night, and will be carried brightly into the future. In any event, we helped elect him. Perhaps we’re all not as racist as the reverends would have you believe?

Erica Hill

Like your contemporary Campbell Brown, I’d like to say to you: How you doin? Sadly, you are also married with kids. What the hell? But seriously, if things don’t work out between Campbell and I, you should know that you are on deck young lady!

Anderson Cooper

I’ve been finding white hairs in my goatee lately. Not a lot, just every once in a while, one pops up. I suppose I just want to say thanks for making white hair look hip and fresh. It really makes me worry a whole lot less about the inevitability that someday, these white hairs poking through my beard will come not single spies, but in battalions.

Tim Russert

I wasn’t only watching CNN, I was switching back and forth between NBC and CNN, it’s just that NBC offered me much less to comment upon. One thing I can mention about the NBC coverage was Tom Brokaw’s toast to Tim Russert. I’ve always liked both Brokaw and Russert and Russert was sorely missed on this night.

Sarah Palin

They say you went “rogue” on John McCain. By that, they mean that when you figured out that he wasn’t going to win, you started using the spotlight to begin your own campaign for 2012. You’ve been fooled into thinking, by the racist, ignorant portion of our country that you have a chance to win in 2012, but what the Republican party is going to realize as they look back on what went wrong in this election is that you were a big part of the reason. Moderate Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike were all frightened by the prospect of you being a heartbeat away from the Presidency and while you may have galvanized the right wing, Christian conservative nut jobs, you lost more votes than you won.

The best description I’ve heard of the Palin-effect was that she was like a sugar rush. She brought a lot of life and energy to the campaign that just as quickly turned into a depressing malaise. When the repubs start figuring out how to take back the White House and congress from the Dems, they are going to realize that they have to start appealing more to the moderates and sorry toots, but moose-hunting pit bulls wearing lipstick need not apply.

Oprah, Will I Am & Spike Lee

Where the fuck was Denzel?



And to the People of the World

The United States of America is often self-described as a beacon on the hill. Perhaps we are a bit arrogant to think so, but then again, I think not. I often use this space to rail against the many problems we have in our country. It has allowed me to get in touch with people from all over the world and see our great nation through the eyes of the world around us.

Often, you have ridiculed the country I love so much and questioned how we could have ever elected George W. Bush not once, but twice. You have, at times, looked upon us with disdain and when it’s been so, I’ve always felt attacked.

There have been times that I have come to resent the world around me because though I may rail against our nation at times, I have never stopped believing that we are the greatest nation on the face of this earth and the disdain that I’ve felt from around the world has at times felt like it was mixed with a bit of glee over the state we Americans have put ourselves in.

Then, I noticed the reaction of the world to our election of Barack Obama. I noticed the pride the world took in what we did. I noticed the love and support we received from the world around us. I noticed how much our neighbors in the world truly cared about who we elected and how desperately they wanted Obama to win.

It was then that I realized that perhaps there is no reason to think that the beacon on the hill is an arrogant view of ourselves. We are the United States of America and the world is watching. When we stumble, the ripple of that stumble permeates throughout the world. When we fall, even more so. But when we shine, we are that beacon for the entire world to see, and our pride is theirs to share in, our success is theirs to enjoy, our triumphs are theirs to celebrate because we are that beacon on the hill. Perhaps though, we should look at the world around us and see that we are not the only beacon. We should see that there are many beacons on many hills and we should learn to take pride, enjoy successes and celebrate triumphs with them, as they so fervently do with us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Three Little Birds

Well, the time for mud-slinging, name calling, blatantly lying, misleading and scaring the public has come to an end. Oh yeah, and the whole running an actual campaign based on issues has come to an end for Obama. Now, it’s time to tally the vote and figure out where we, as a nation are going to go.

I do have a few things to say before the results are in though. There are a lot of people who seem to be under the impression that if McCain wins, it’s a complete disaster for the USA and for the entire world.

To those people, I’d just like to say, that even as a firm supporter of Barack Obama, the only concern I’d have with McCain as President is the fact that if he dies in office, Sarah Palin would take over. Aside from that, John McCain is a good man and loves our country very much. He is not George Bush revisited. He really and truly isn’t.

Allow me to explain a few things that you may not know about McCain and his campaign:

The first thing you should know is that although he ran a lousy campaign where he didn’t speak to the issues, there is a reason for this. Believe it or not, it’s a reason of integrity. Simply put, John McCain couldn’t run a campaign based on the issues because his views on the issues are not those of the hard-core, right wing, Christian conservatives. He also HAD to have that segment of our country turn out en mass in order for him to win the election, so he kept his mouth shut when it came to the issues.

This also is the explanation for his choice of Vice President. He doesn’t like Sarah Palin and he doesn’t agree with her on…just about anything. She is on the ticket because she appeals to the hard core right wing, Christian conservatives and because he hoped to gain Hilary Clinton supporters who were voting on the basis of gender alone. The problem is that if McCain dies in office, she is our President. It’s a big problem, but even if he wins, you can’t just assume he’s going to die. That’s an ageist attitude. We’ll just cross that bridge when it we come to it—if we come to it.

Because he couldn’t run a campaign on the issues, he ran a negative campaign against Obama. It’s a shame because John McCain is better than that. Without the issues though, he had to run a campaign of misdirection so that his core Republican voters could rally around him. Pointing out that Obama has a controversial minister, and served on a committee over 10 years ago with someone who is a blight on our country, linking him with terrorism and with Islamic Fundamentalists because of his name was the way he misdirected his constituency.

This is the first exposure for many people, especially those outside the US to John McCain and it’s been an ugly picture. What you’ve seen is a man who slings mud, what you’ve seen lacks substance, what you’ve seen is the product of the same machine that got George W. Bush elected twice. I know that. But I don’t believe you’ve seen John McCain.

I don’t think he’s going to win. I really hope he doesn’t win, but that hope comes from how strongly I feel about Barack Obama, not from worry about the kind of leader John McCain would be. If the polls are wrong and McCain somehow does win the White House, I think you’ll start to see a completely different man that you’ve seen during the election process.

I was surprised to find that McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time and I wonder if that percentage is somehow skewed because before this all began, I’ve always thought of McCain as someone who was one of the few Republicans who was willing and able to stand up to Bush. I thought of him as more of a moderate than a conservative. I thought of him as a man with a great deal of integrity, an intelligent man and a good leader.

So, if he does win, don’t think that it’s the end of the world. Don’t think that it’s four more years of Bush policies. I think that the John McCain we’ve been watching these past months is a fallacy, created so that he’d have the best chance he could have at winning. I think a post-election McCain will be more of the man that I used to think of him as being.

It’s a sad state of affairs that a candidate has to reinvent himself for an election and be someone he’s not in order to give himself a chance. It’s been sad watching McCain. He’s obviously been very uncomfortable in the skin he’s been wearing these past months. He’s been very unnatural, forced and even phony.

In short, if he wins, I don’t think it’ll be the end of the world. I think John McCain is a lousy actor, but a good man. I think that if he’d ran the campaign he really wanted to run, the right wing Republicans wouldn’t have bothered voting and he would have lost in a landslide. So, he’s done what he needed to do to make it competitive. I think he chose the big picture and chose a strategy that belies who and what he is all about.

I really hope Barack Obama wins tonight. But if he doesn’t, take a deep breath. Better days are ahead even if he isn’t.

Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin, (this is my message to you-ou-ou:)
Singin: dont worry bout a thing,cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin: dont worry (dont worry) bout a thing,cause every little thing gonna be all right!
-Bob Marley, Three Little Birds

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Palin Pranked

If you vote for McCain-Palin on Tuesday, and they win--then McCain dies in office, THIS, my friends, is YOUR President:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And I endorse...

Well, I think it’s time to officially endorse a candidate and I’m going to go ahead and endorse Barack Obama. Consider yourself endorsed by me Mr. Obama. And consider yourself special too, because this is the first time I’ve ever endorsed a Democrat candidate for President of the United States. That’s right. I’m one of those people. I voted for Bush, not once, but twice. I voted for Bob Dole and George Bush the elder as well. That said, I’m not a Republican. Actually, I’m a registered Democrat, but that’s because I live in Chicago and prefer that the pot holes in my neighborhood be repaired in a timely manner.

It’s easy to look back and cast ridicule at my voting record, but I’ve voted my conscience in every election and consider myself an informed voter. In my first foray into electing a President I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush, who I thought had been a pretty good President. Retrospectively, I wish he’d finished the job in Iraq—the mistake of not doing so really killed his son’s presidency. But, alas, Slick Billy Clinton won that election and like most presidents elected from the party of the mule, the economy thrived and the foreign relations and defense suffered.

Willy C ran for a second term against Mr. Viagra himself, Bob Dole, who was a nice enough guy and an honorable man—aside from pimping himself for erection meds, just wasn’t a match for the charisma of Clinton and in fairness to Bill, to say the economy was good under his presidency was an understatement of extreme proportions. Clinton made two big mistakes as it would turn out. The first was that he didn’t do enough to curb the rising threat of Islamic Fundamentalists. It was naïve, in retrospect, to assume that their anti-American hatred would never play itself out on our soil. They got more and more bold under Clinton’s presidency.

The second mistake was Al Gore. The party of the donkey could have forged a monopoly if Clinton had picked a Vice President who wasn’t equal parts robot, zombie and computer generated voice. Being a good leader is more than having a good policy, it’s inspiring others to follow. Al Gore is a smart man, but he couldn’t inspire a meth junkie to get high.

So, at the end of Clinton’s 8 years in the White House, after he worked wonders with the economy and stained a nice girl’s blue dress, I voted for Georgie the Moron. I didn’t like him as a candidate. I liked him better than Gore though. Al Gore just wasn’t a leader. Bush, like him or not, showed strength and leadership ability in that first election. It’s easy to ridicule a vote for Bush now. We know he’s a moron. That wasn’t always the perception of him though. To say so is revisionist history. In fact, after the attacks on 9/11, he was a strong, solid voice that calmed the nation and gave us resolve for what needed to be done in a brand new world.

His War on Terrorism was supported on both sides of the aisle. It’s important to remember that while he was the spearhead, on the whole, we as a country wanted to kick someone’s ass. That’s where things went awry for Georgie the Moron. Knowing that he was in over his head, he let people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld run the country. It turned out that Georgie wasn’t such a good leader after all. And worse, he’d picked really bad people to rely upon to help him. I still judge Georgie to be a good man, I really do. I think he’s a poor judge of character though. I think he listed to the wrong people and the deeper they dragged him into the mud, the more he had to depend on them to not let him go.

But I get ahead of myself. He was running for re-election in 2004 against John Kerry, who I still do not believe is a good man. The Donkey’s really screwed up by not offering up a candidate that the American people could get behind in this election. Had they trotted someone, anyone credible out, I would have voted for them. Once again, Bush was in a “lesser of two evils” election. The last time, I judged him to be the lesser of two those to evils, this time, I chose the evil I knew over the evil I didn’t. I firmly stand behind my vote, knowing full well what a mess Bush made of things, because I think Kerry would have made a worse mess of them.

It turned out that the final four years of Bush were a nightmare. His first term, was ridiculed for decisions he made based on bad intelligence. We invaded Iraq because we thought they had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The thing that people tend to forget is that the intelligence was real and widely believed, even if it was false. Cheney and Rumsfeld didn’t need much of an excuse to declare war and in this, they had it.

He also was ridiculed for not anticipating the amount of time it would take to withdraw from Iraq. But he wasn’t the only one. Again, it’s easy to point the finger at him, but a few things happened that—though they could have been foreseen, were not. First, the people of Iraq didn’t play their part. This left us with a mess because their failure to get organized quickly allowed our many enemies in the area to use Iraq, a country to which they held no particular loyalty or ownership, as the battleground on which to fight the USA.

When your “military” depends on hijacking planes for an air force and suicide bomb-laden zodiacs as a navy, and the enemy does you a favor setting up shop with their Army and Marines at your neighbor’s house, you lick your chops and go pick a fight.

They did. I still think this clusterfuck saved the citizens of our country another attack on U.S. soil. I would still rather engage the enemy on Iraqi soil than in New York and Washington D.C. I don’t think it was planned that way, but that’s what happened.

A few years ago, it was thought that the central focus of this election would be immediate withdrawal from Iraq. It’s not. The reason for that is that both parties know that removal for removal’s sake is a danger to our country, our allies and the entire Middle East region. Both parties know that immediate withdrawal from Iraq is a bad idea. John Kerry planned to do just that. Four years later, it’s accepted that this strategy would have been a dangerous and disastrous one. People who criticize a second vote for Bush tend to overlook this fact.

You thought this was going to be an endorsement huh? Well, it is, but my reasons for voting for Obama are the result of the lessons I’ve learned from each of these previous elections in which I had the privilege to vote.

Here are few things I know about our government. It’s a bad idea for either party to be in charge for too long. More than 8 years of any party in charge is a dangerous thing. If the economy is great then there’s a good chance our foreign policy is messed up and vice versa. No matter how much prosperity we’ve had under an administration, giving either party more than eight years spells danger. It could be argued that more than four years is spells danger too.

I also think that more than 8 years of one party picking Supreme Court Justices is a bad thing. I think balance in that branch of government is essential. Those two reasons, of course, lead to a vote for the Democrat candidate in this election.

But those reasons, are really only tie breakers and I’d be lying if I said that it came down to tie breakers this time around. In this election, I don’t think it’s a battle of the lesser of two evils.

I’ve long admired John McCain, but I’m afraid that this campaign has painted an ugly portrait of him. Instead of running HIS campaign, he ran the campaign the elephant party wanted him to run. He’s been a puppet in much the same way that Bush has been. He hasn’t run the campaign of the “maverick” he has at times been throughout his political career. He’s made me think of him as a puppet and as dangerous. Still though, it may very well be that he’s running that campaign because the monetary support of the far right is the only way he stood a chance of getting elected. It may very well be that he chose Sarah Palin as a means of pandering to that money.

As much as I don’t want him to win, a part of me still thinks that once he had the presidency, he’d revert back to the John McCain I’d often admired throughout the years. But once again, I’m not casting this vote for the guy running against the guy I’m afraid of or worried about either. I don’t think the country will suffer from a McCain presidency. I’m not casting this vote out of fear of the candidate running against the one I support.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because while I’m not a fan of big government, I think that his plan for our country economically is the right one for us right now. The only place money trickled down under the rule of the elephant party was into the pockets of people who were already rich. It’s silly to assume that the giants of industry would do anything but be selfish. The distance between the rich and the middle class is vast, while the distance between the middle class and poor is much closer. It’s time for the bottom two thirds (and that’s not two thirds in terms of number of total people by the way) narrowed their respective gaps. That happens from the bottom up, not through trickling down.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because the state of health care in this country scares me. I think our neighbors to the north will tell you that universal health care, while having some advantages, is not the ideal either. Both candidates realize that a happy medium is needed. I tend to think Obama’s ideas favor someone of my age, income and social status.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because I’m tired of the elitist attitude of our foreign policy. I think the idea that we only sit down to talk with people that promise to do what we tell them to is the very antithesis of democratic. I think that the notion that sitting down with extremist leaders validates their cause is about as ludicrous as the idea that inviting a Santa Clause to the White House on Christmas validates his existence.

I think that the idea of John McCain’s about a League of Democracies does nothing but further separate the world instead of bringing it together. I think that you only pick sides before you play and in this case, play = war. I think that we have a body that’s supposed to bring the nations together and it’s called the United Nations. I think it’s corrupt, ineffectual and impotent. I think that has happened because of our reduced standing as a country in the eyes of the world. I think the world, as a whole, believes in the ability of Obama to make us respectable again.

I’m voting for Obama because I believe he listens to the people. I’m voting for him because I believe he is a leader. I’m voting for him because while he may be inexperienced, I think he can unite, galvanize and motivate our country. I’m voting for him because I judge him to be a good man, with common sense and integrity. I’m voting for him because I believe he is intelligent. I’m voting for him because he is well spoken and can effectively communicate, not only with his constituents, but with his peers in the governing of the world’s countries.

I’m voting for Obama because of a gut feeling that he is something special. I’m voting for him because I think he has a chance to be a once-in-a-lifetime type of leader, like Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Washington before him. I’m voting for him because when it’s all said and done, when all the facts are weighed, personalities taken into consideration, past lessons of my voting life accounted for the summation of facts completed, I believe Barack Obama is the overwhelming right choice for our country.

So, with all this said, I will cast my vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday. Time will tell if my decision was right or wrong, but I’ve never cast a vote I regretted because I’ve never voted without reason—whether you agree with those reasons or not. This is the first time though, in any election, that I have been so adamant in my support of a candidate. I am voting for Barack Obama for President of the United States, and I urge those readers who are able, to cast their vote the same way.