Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Surge Is Working. Would Someone Please Tell the Iraqis?

Baghdad is a quieter place now than it was one year ago. Suicide bombings are down, pedestrian traffic is up, and General David Petraeus is already being asked about running for President. (Abortion? Immigration? Who cares? He has a pulse and a can-do spirit, which is more than can be said for announced-candidate Fred Thompson.)

The news about the surge though involves a curious disconnect from reality. Few doubted that adding 160,000 U.S. troops would have a quelling effect on violence in Iraq. The entire point, according to President Bush, was to buy (and not cheaply, either) "breathing room" for the feuding factions there to be able to make political accomodations.

So far, no such luck.

So, American troops continue to courageously patrol, provide security, and yes--die--while Sunnis and shiites continue to avoid making the hard, messy--and yes, courageous--concessions to national unity.

To Petraeus, plaudits. Hey, he did the job he was asked to do.
To the Iraqis, there simply isn't enough bile and disgust to spit at them.
To President Bush--no problem. And no deadlines, timelines or any other act of responsible and appropriate censure from him towards the Iraqi cowards whose continued and unforgiveable intransigence is not worth one single additional American life. Nevermind the nearly 4000 that have already been sacrificed for the sons-of-bitches.

But then, why make tough concessions when George Bush will cover your sorry ass? Oops, make that, when American soldiers will cover your sorry ass.
David Petraeus is covering George Bush's.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have A Mysterious Christmas

The snow is falling, here in Boston, anyway. (The blizzard now is of shifting drifts of blame for the lousy plowing on local roads and highways already this young winter.) The lights are twinkling, the number of shopping days are dwindling and Christmas is nigh.

But I see mysteries that have nothing to do with who those Wise Men were, what's up with a virgin birth, and how to correctly spell "myrrh."

I mean, is that the most strangely-spelled word in the english language? Okay, "frankincense" is right up there, too.

Mystery number one: the
Mike Huckabee Christmas ad. Actually, this involves a riddle within a mystery. First, how can a politician two weeks before an election (excuse me, "caucus") air a commercial in which he actually says, "Are you about worn out with all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics?" And yours would be about what, exactly? Oh, Christmas! It's Christmas greetings from a politician who is campaigning for votes from those same people he's asking if they are sick of politicians asking for their vote. But he's wearing a red sweater and--right there! Right over his right shoulder looks for all the world like...a white cross. Is it? Is it a quirk of the lighting? The mysteries only accumulate like the snow in my driveway.

Second mystery involves a highly unlikely trio: Dean Martin, Santa Claus, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In one of Martin's now classic contributions to the Holiday music playlist, he of course sings the "Rudolph" song. But in one chorus, he suddenly affects a German accent as Santa: "Rudolph mitt your nose so bright, vont you guide mein sleigh tonight?"

What is up with that? No one knows. One website lists Dino's Deutsch-inspired ditty as one of the worst Christmas songs ever. That seems a bit harsh. And Martin did a wonderful job with "Baby It's Cold Outside."

But Germanic Santa? Weird. 'Tis the Season to be mysterious....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is the War Over?

No, not that war. The war that the men and women fighting the real war are missing here at home. The War on Christmas. Why, it seems like just yesterday that Bill O'Reilly and the other neocon nitwits at Focks News were bursting veins decrying the secular assault on all things Xmas.

For a few seasons even, there was something strangely dependable about their declaration.

Halloween, Thanksgiving..."War on Christmas!" It was becoming something of a yuletide tradition, in its own twisted way. But this year? It's like that Faith Hill song--"Where Are You, (War On) Christmas?"

Did I miss something? Was the War on Christmas settled at that recent Annopolis summit along with the Arab-Israeli issue? Did the hated Secularists win finally? Or did Fox News and the Christmas Keepers overun the slimy Secs, run them through with sharpened candy canes, and make them into tree ornaments?

Who won, dammit?

I wouldn't want to step on Shep (Smith) who may, for all I know, be planning some sort of Secularist surrender ceremony on the deck of the mothballed Missouri, but judging from all things commercial, calendar-related and otherwise, it would appear that while minor skirmishes may continue to flare, Fox's pet Holiday is safe.

Yes, on this last night of Chanukah, it is at least reassuring to know that either way, Christmas has apparently survived. Whew....

As for actual wars.....can the troops come home now?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Can I Get An Amen?

Profile in courage?

Hardly. Mitt Romney's much anticipated speech on religious tolerance, far from being the "breakthrough" political moment some would make it, was instead yet one more pathetic profile in pandering from the man who just may be the most desperate, despicable hack I have ever seen in my lifetime.

Is there nothing this man won't do to cajole and massage some meager support from a potential niche of support? Apparrently not.

In Boston, right-wing radio talk show host Jay Severin hailed Romney's speech as a special, singular event not just in this year's campaign, but in American political history. But then, it's hard to imagine how Severin could have even heard or watched the speech, given that his eyes and ears are obscured by the cheeks of Romney's ass.

Give Severin half credit, though. The speech was a singular event--in the history of naked American political crassness. The wonder of Mitt Romney, in all his chameleon-like bobbing and weaving between stands on issues past and present, is not that he has the truly breathtaking chutzpah to do these flip-flops and panderings; it is that he seems to think that people won't sufficiently notice. In the end, I am more outraged by Romney's low regard for my intelligence than I am his own low regard for personal integrity.

As has been observed elsewhere, Romney was not calling for religious tolerance per se; he was asking rather for religious acceptance. Acceptance not for everyone, mind you, but for Mitt Romney as a Mormon by conservative Christian Evangelicals who mistrust his Christian bona fides. Sure, Romney paid lip service on behalf of other religions, but where was that plea for tolerance when he was up in the Iowa polls, and true-blue Christian conservative Mike Huckabee was safely in Mitt's rear-veiw mirror?

Once more, Romney acted only out of political expediency.
Even Huckabee, at the recent CNN/YouTube debate, had a moment that admirably blended both personal and political integrity, when he chastised Romney for suggesting that even the children of illegal immigrants should be dealt with punitively.

One wonders, where is that moment for Romney? Could there even be such a moment? On what subject would it possibly be? What significant constituency (gays, gun control advocates and Massachusetts residents don't qualify) is he willing to alienate on a matter of deep, unshakable (and non-malleable) integrity?

Keep wondering.
Keep marvelling at the most shameless hack in history.
And keep praying for poor Jay Severin--the man has to come up (out?) for air sometime...

Friday, November 16, 2007

One Man's Macaca...

"How do we beat the bitch?"

If you look at the video of the South Carolina woman asking that question to John McCain, what seems most discordant is not what she said but what she looks like. She looks like a country-club, blonde Southernern lady "of a certain age," as Tennessee Williams might have said. Dainty. Dignified. You know. From Memphis to Mobile, it's a type.

"How do we beat the bitch?'

And the question most certainly doesn't go with the type. It is distinctly non-dainty, non-dignified, and most definitely un-lady-like.

But was it a macaca moment for John McCain? No. Yeah, he should have probably recoiled in mock horror, and gasped something like, "Why madam!" He still would have been criticized for taking it too lightly. Hey, he did say he respected Hillary Clinton. Okay, several minutes after the question, but he did say it. No small thing in front of a small knot of knee-jerk right-wingers who no doubt are the actual small knot of twelve people who still believe in Dick Cheney.

I'll tell you who it was a macaca moment for. The lady who asked the question. If she has any national political aspirations, they're finished.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Sitter, My President

Finally, a political poll result I couldn't resist digesting in all its usually boring detail.

Except it wasn't.

As reported in USA Today
, Parents Magazine commissioned a poll which asked which of the presidential candidates of both parties parents most and least trusted to baby-sit their children. (It was conducted by Global Strategy Group, a national polling and consulting firm.)

A full 20% of respondents said they would not trust ANY of the announced candidates with their children. That's comforting, isn't it?

26%--the largest number in the poll--said they would most trust Hillary Rodham Clinton to baby-sit their children.
So Hillary gets the baby sitter vote, right?

Not so fast.

25 %--the largest negative number--said of all the candidates, the one they would least trust their children with was...Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Once again, Clinton winds up squarely on both sides of an issue.

Mitt Romney may be polling well with the flat-earth, let's-go-back-to-the-fifties types, but he can kiss the "could he baby-sit our kids?" vote goodbye. Only 5% in the poll would drive off for the night with Mitt in charge at the house. And really, why should it be otherwise? Romney is a man who has change his mind about just about everything that has ever crossed it, so fair for a parent to wonder if mid-way through the evening, Mitt might just take off, having decided that, on second thought, this baby-sitting thing is not for me.

But then, John Edwards only drew 5%, too. Surprising, too, when you think about it. This is a man, a dad, who has young kids at home now. Knows a thing or two about children. And hasn't he spoken eloquently for years about "Two Americas," one with good dependable sitters, and one with crappy sitters who never call you back, have their boyfriends over, and go through your stuff? Or was that "Two Americas" thing about poverty and lack of economic justice? Oh, wait, I think it was...

Rudy "9/11" Giulliani only polled slightly better at 9%. Maybe his past is finally catching up with him. No, not his "Ask Me About 9/11" past, but his disttinctly non-heroic family past. This is a man whose kids hate him, and are supporting other candidates. A man who used a press conference to inform his second-wife (he's on #3 now) that he intended to divorce her. Clearly those are the kind of traditional family-values that attracted the endorsement of that values Vicar himself, Pat Robertson.

Neither Dennis Kucinich nor Mike Gravel registered in the poll. Pity. Mike Gravel may strike many as that nutty, grouchy uncle in the Democratic debates, but at least you know he'd get the kids to bed on time, the playroom would be spotless, and their teeth would be well-brushed. Their shoes would probably be lined up by the bed according to size, too. Gravel would make Mrs. Doubtfire seem like an addled substitute teacher. "I said lights out now or we'll get out of bed and realign those shoes all over again!"

But enough about which presidential candidate would make the best baby-sitter.
The important thing is that one of them will be president by this time a year from now.
Replacing a president who desperately needed a good sitter, and who should never have been left alone in the house...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

No, not a comment on the Bush-Cheney message for America.

Rather, Halloween last night, and my wife and I for the third consecutive year joined a small posse of neighborhood kids and parents for group trick-or-treating. Little did we know just how scary things would be out there in the dark with the pumpkins and the witches and the ghosts.

For one thing, the older and bigger kids have gotten, well, older and bigger. My 4-year-old tried to keep up with the slightly older girls, and several boys. But watching my 2-year-old toddle and weave her way up each walkway to each door was downright scary: first, she was jolted and pushed aside as the small, costumed mob made for the door ahead of her; then she was washed aside all over again as the kiddie wave broke from the door and dashed away making for the next house. It was like a new form of "wilding."

If I didn't intercede and literally carry her from door to door, she would have been left limp and splayed like some European soccer crowd casualty.

I actually felt pity for some of the poor people opening doors. Many were greeted by a small pack of kids 8-10 deep raising their goody bags in unison. Some actually seem to have a sudden look of shock and fear on their faces. If it were me, I would have simply tossed handfuls of candy out the door like a zookeeper feeding a pack of hungry hyenas. Then slam the door and just pray they all got some and that a few minutes later I would not see small heads bobbing up and down at the living room window like something out of a Hitchcock movie. Nevermind "The Birds." "The Kids!"

The pack began darting from house to house with seemingly increasing speed and fervor. It was candylust, plain and simple. The only elements missing were pitchforks and burning torches, and given that it was Halloween, that probably could have blended right in.

"Give us full-size Snickers or we'll burn your house down!"

"Hey, Maloneys--we know you're in there! Don't make the same mistake the Levinsons made with the bite-size Milky Ways and the single-serving Yogurt Bars!"

Scary. Very scary.

After 30 minutes or so, we weaned our girls away from the wolf-pack, and headed down another street toward home, a full several houses ahead of the mob. Next year we may wean from Halloween altogether. At least as we've done it. We're eyeing another neighborhood, and leaving the pack behind.

We'll leave the terror tactics to the White House. Where it's always Halloween....

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Got 9/11?

That should be Rudy Giuliani's campaign slogan. Period. Why dick around with crusty, cliched, shopworn slogans when there's a fresh, brand-new one that fits the candidate like a glove?

And here's the commercial, too:

(plane into North Tower. Giuliani in street, hustling about lower Manhattan in WT collapse aftermath.)
Voice-Over: "He was there on 9/11. Up close, too close. He wore 9/11 dust that day. Got it into his lungs, breathed it, coughed it up--just like the firemen and first-responders. And he was there after 9/11. He has lived 9/11 ever since. When you see images of 9/11, you think of him; when you read about about 9/11, you think of him, when you even THINK of 9/11, you think of him. Rudy Giuliani. He IS 9/11."

(Rudy on-camera, respirator over mouth, slightly garbled:)
"I'm Rudy Giuliani, and I--(coughs)--approved this message."

Outrageous? Not hardly. Giuliani did, after all, say this past summer that he inhaled all that awful World Trade Center stuff and now ran the same risk as those actual rescuers, some of whom actually are beyond the "risk" stage and actually are suffering from actual illnesses they incurred.

As Sen. Joe Biden said of Giuliani in the best line of last night's Democratic debate at Drexel U.,
"His message consists of a noun, a verb, and 9/11."

May Rudy Giuliani choke on his message. It will serve him right. Without 9/11, his candidacy would be as ludicrous as it would have been on 9/10.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Cook-ed. You?

The Red Sox advance to the World Series.
The Rockies advance to the World Series.
Does Dane Cook have to advance to the World Series, too?

We all agree that there is only one October.
Now can we please enjoy it without him?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's Fall: Line up.

Well, it’s that time again. The candidates are making their best pitch. Can the lure of change and something new lure people away from the familiar? Everywhere there is buzz and spin. The debates are proliferating, and in the morning around the water cooler and amongst the cubicles, the best moments, the merits and flaws are all picked over with passion and detail.

Campaign ’08? No, the new fall TV season in America.

No living American who is ambulatory and taking nourishment can escape the networks’ promotional onslaught.


Last year, for instance, CBS invaded refrigerators to use “egg-vertising, “ a process by which eggs can be laser-printed. (“CSI: Crack the Case!”) The saying used to be, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.” Now it’s, “You can’t make an omelet without checking some TV time slots.” Advertising on your food. Sounds like a kitchen nightmare. Oh, wait -- that’s an actual new show this season on Fox. (Wednesdays at 9pm.)

There’s even news amidst the new programming. Or promotion masquerading as news. It’s hard to tell anymore.

Surely you’ve caught some of the uproar over CBS’s controversial new series, “Kid Nation,” a reality show in which 40 children (ages 8-15) struggle to govern themselves and create order in a desert town. Actually, sounds a lot like Baghdad.

But these are kids! Away from home, no parents, being cruelly separated into rude social classes. Are they being exploited? Are we reaching a new low? Are CBS network execs pinching themselves right now with all this free publicity? Yes, yes, and yes.

And if you think some of those Kid Nation kids’ parents made a pact with the devil to allow their children to be used like that, there is actually a new show this fall that is even more hellish in its premise. “Reaper” (which airs on something called a “CW”) is about a young man whose parents actually sold his soul to the devil before he was born.

As opposed to those “Kid Nation” parents, who sold their own souls for $20,000.

And speaking of money, some returning shows need to be updated. Who can afford to merely be a millionaire anymore? According to Federal Reserve figures, if you bought $1 million dollars worth of goods in 1957, you would need $7.3 million to buy the same goods today. “Who Wants to be a Billionaire?” would be more like it. Or perhaps, “Who Wants Free Healthcare?” Or, “Who Wants to Sell their Home for even Close to what you Bought it for?” Those are program changes that the average viewer could relate to.

Being a man, I am continually struck at how many new shows each season are centered around men acting like cavemen. From “My Name is Earl” (who spends every waking day working his way through a list of people he’s wronged), to “King of the Hill”, “Big Shots”, and “Two And a Half Men,” there is never any shortage of shows where men look and act like Troglodytes. In fact, this season the transformation back to knuckle-dragging Neanderthal is complete with the premiere of “Cavemen.” (ABC.)

“Cavemen” was inspired (not sure if that word can apply here) by a series of TV commercials for a car insurance company. Now that is some kind of successful promotion. Be prepared next year for, “Dancing with the Charmin Squeezers.”

And sometimes the shows mimic real-life in other ways. This season, “Survivor” goes to China where contestants will gut it out and rat each other out. A “Survivor” press release states that the show “had a government overseer with us at all times to make sure we didn’t desecrate the country’s image.” Presumably, the Chinese would prefer to do that themselves with killer toys, food, political repression, totalitarian censorship and environmental disaster.

But, its Fall, it’s a new TV season, and it’s all about escape and entertainment, after all.
For the networks, needless to say, it’s all about the “Numbers” (CBS), and making as much of that “Dirty, Sexy Money” (ABC) as they possibly can. But watching some shows, you can’t help but wonder -- “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (FOX)

“Back to You.” (FOX)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Win, Or I'll Jump!

I didn't want it to get to this point. Leaving a note from high up here on the Tobin Bridge. Funny, I can even see Fenway Park from here. Funny? What am I saying? Maddening, is more like it.

Not that I don't have plenty of company up here. It seems like half of Red Sox Nation is trooping up here. We'll have to jump in shifts.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Back in the balmy days of May and June, the Sox were cruising, safely in first place and up by as many as 14-1/2 games over the hated Yankees. Life was sweet. It was even sweeter watching Joe Torre's face turn more and more sour night after night. Ha! Even signing Roger "the Retro Rocket" Clemens wasn't the silver bullet the pin-pricked pinstripes were looking for.

Then came late summer. And early fall. And suddenly the Yankees were winning night and after night and the Sox are folding like a cheap chair under Pavarotti, may he rest in peace.

Why do I feel like I have seen this particular horror film before? Because I have. Almost exactly 30 years ago to be exact. That was the year (1978) that the Sox also blew a 14-game lead to the Yanks, then, in a fateful one-game playoff, disappeared entirely thanks to the immortal Bucky "bleeping" Dent's homerun.

The Sox' lead has once again all but vanished. (A mere game-and-a-half, as of this writing.) A key difference now, as opposed to then, is that the Sox are already assured of a playoff spot thanks to the perverted wrinkle of the wild card. Shouldn't that be good enough? Frankly, no. The Sox have finished second to the Yankees 8 of the last 9 seasons. Enough is enough.

We thought, naively, it seems to have turned out, that we had banished and fully exorcized the ghosts and curses in that magical year of 2004. Turns out that curse, or whatever it was, may be as hardy as a New England winter, with the shelf life of a Twinkie. It lives.

So, here I am, up on the Tobin. There are those who counsel restraint; why not wait for this last week of the season to play out before doing anything this drastic? Great--just when I had finally secured a primo spot right on the railing.

Win. Or I'll jump.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saluting Hypocrisy

Let's get it out of the way right up front and move on to the meat of the matter. In this case, that means dealing with before moving on. Its 9/10 full page ad in the New York Times was beyond stupid. The word play on Gen. David Petraeus' name ("Petraeus/Betray us") was the stuff of sophmoric idiocy. And it handed conservatives and Republicans in Congress not merely a life preserver, but a full-fledged cruise ship with which to repair to and now comfortably wait out Democratic attempts to curtail Bush's Iraq policy. Yeah, brilliant.

Republicans have had a field day excoriating, not to mention reveling in calling on virtually every prominent Democrat to condemn the ad and the organization as well for disparaging an honorable military man. If you're a Republican, pressuring Democrats to distance themselves from the Left sure beats being pressured by the Left to distance yourself from your president.

And most leading Democrats did themselves no favors (or honor) by failing to immediately and forthrightly call the ad for what it was--stupid.

Naturally, the ad sideshow sadly (but happily for Republicans) obscures the bigger issues.

There is in fact an entire shipload of shitheads, liars and neocon crazies who deserve full-page and full-force villification for their various roles in paving the way into, and perpetuating the present fiasco that is Iraq.

David Petraeus isn't one of them.

But ask yourself this: where was all that conservative outrage three short years ago when another honorable military officer was similarly slimed? And five years ago when an honorable military man in his wheelchair was attacked?

In the presidential campaign of 2004, Democrat John Kerry was set upon by the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," a group formed, bought, and paid for by right-wing money. Kerry, a highly-decorated Naval Lieutenant in Vietnam (including a Purple Heart) had his
integrity, his war record--his war wounds themselves--called into question. With only one notable exception (Arizona Sen. John McCain) Republicans were uniformly silent.

Just as they were in the mid-term elections of 2002, when Georgia Democratic Senator (and former head of Veterans Affairs) Max Cleland was defeated by Congressman Saxby Chambliss.
All Chambliss did was question Cleland's patriotism by running ads juxtaposing Cleland with the likes of Saddam and Osama. All Cleland ever did that was patriotic was fight for his country in Vietnam. Chambliss didn't; he got out on account of a bad knee. Bad knees are not something Max Cleland ever has to worry about, having lost an arm and both legs in Vietnam.

And from Republicans in response to what many consider the single-most nasty political attack (Chambliss') ad in recent American history? Not a word.

And now Republicans are outraged over an ad impugning an honorable military man.
Unlike them, at least David Petraeus has some honor.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Here's Trouble

News Item: In her will, which was recently made public,
the late Leona Helmsley leaves $12 million to her dog,
Trouble. Two of her four grandchildren were left nothing.

Like I needed this.

Like living with “the Queen of Mean” most of my life was not punishment enough. It’s not like I was a big, loping Lab or something. I’m a tiny white Maltese. There are cats in New York bigger than me. There are babies with louder voices than my bark.

(Although I am not a complete push-over: let the record show I bit a hotel housekeeper once. Hey, tiny doesn’t mean toothless, you know.)

And like children, dogs do not get to choose their owners any more than kids get to choose their parents. You think I liked being cooped up in a fancy big house all day? Does that look like a happy pooch punim in all the photos of me and Madam?

Not that my doggie digs were that bad, don’t get me wrong.
After all, when your owner is ranked by Forbes as the 369th richest person in the world, you don’t expect to be slurping spaghetti out of a dirty dish in the alley like the Little Tramp. No, for a little pocket pooch, I did alright for myself, no question.

But that doesn’t mean I was happy.

Look at that picture. Look at those doleful eyes and that hangdog look.
It looks like a very put-out pooch, is what it looks like. How would you like that
face of hers pressed up against yours twenty times a day all slobbering and saying things like, “How’s my tweety, tweety Twubble today?”

Frankly, it was often enough to make me want to toss my Alpo.

Not that I actually ever ate Alpo. Good heavens. As Madam might have said, “Only the little people serve Alpo.” She actually did say something quite like that in 1988 (after her indictment on tax evasion): “Only the little people pay taxes.” I’m surprised that’s not on her gravestone. (Is it? I can’t read, you know.)

Oh, she hated taxes. Probably as much as President Bush. In fact, if that dog of his, Barney, and I ever got together, we would have some stories to tell. (Okay, bark about.)

And speaking of Barney, does anyone complain about that equally small mutt living at one of the world’s most famous addresses? No. Kids can write to him at the White House and get a letter back from him. (Like he’s fooling anyone.) He even stars in a corny Christmas video every year and everyone thinks it’s a riot.
Hey, Barn -- I starred in TV commercials for the Helmsley Hotels. I know my way around a camera, too, pal. (And my owner may have started plenty of fights, but at least she never started a war.)

So I was left $12 million. What can I say? Sue me.

Yes, it’s a lot of money for a dog. But it’s not like she didn’t leave a dime for anyone else. Her brother gets $10 million. (That has to hurt, though, beaten by a pooch.) Two of her four grandchildren get $5 million each. Okay, it’s true, the other two get zilch. “I have not made any provisions in this will” for them, she said, “for reasons which are known to them.”

Yikes. I don’t know what they did or said to piss her off right into the afterlife, but it must have been something good. Not that it took that much, come to think of it. Over the years, she had people fired for just about anything. You don’t get “Queen of Mean” crown by being a peachy boss, that’s for sure.

But she certainly liked me. Personally, I think it was just other humans she had trouble with. (Get it?) So yeah, I am pretty much all set. And when I go, I get my own spot in the Helmsley mausoleum. ‘Course, it’s also right next to her.
Oh, well.

But for now, it’s a dog’s life for me. Woof.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Don't Cry For Me, Condoleeza..."

He cries. He really, really cries. A lot.

"I do tears," Bush told journalist Robert Draper, author of a new book on Bush's presidency, "Dead Certain," which went on sale this week.

Now, "Dead Certain" joins other already-published accounts of Bush's presidency, such as "Fiasco," "State of Denial," and "Hubris."

Oh, wait--those three books were about the Iraq war.

Bush tells Draper that he has "God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot."
Who knows? Perhaps Laura's shoulder is no longer being made available for the torrents.

In fact, if Bush were to do unto himself as he as done unto so many others, and give himself a nickname, perhaps the most apt one would be "Weepy."

"I do a lot of crying in this job," Bush told Draper. "I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president. I'll shed some tomorrow."

I'm getting all ferklempt today.

The nation might have already seen some the president's countless tears if he had bothered to attend a single funeral of those he sent to die in Iraq. That number, by the way, is not countless. It only feels that way. The exact number--as of this writing, as of this moment, that is--is 3,753. (And that's only U.S. military deaths.)

Have you shed 3,753 tears, Mr. President?

Bush also shared with Draper some musings about his former life as an alchoholic.
"I wouldn't be president if I kept drinking. You get sloppy, can't make decisions, it clouds your reason, absolutely."

Sloppy? Clouded reason? Wait, that sounds like sober Bush.

I think I need a drink now. And I don't even drink. Well, hardly. Not sloppy-like, anyway.

Yeah, I do tears, too, Mr. President.
Every time I think about the last eight years.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Will This Be On The Quiz?

So, now George Bush is lecturing about the true lessons of Vietnam. Which may be setting a whole new standard when it comes to chutzpah. Call it "chutzpah-platinum."

Earlier in the week, before a VFW convention, Bush used America's experience in Vietnam (i.e., it's failure) as a cautionary tale for Iraq. (i.e., our need for to stay and be victorious, whatever that means.)

Bush's conflation with Vietnam and Iraq is about as accurate as his conflation of Saddam and Al-Qaeda. His grasp and reading of the particular history alone is shoddy; his political willingness to make the connection at all is shameless. "Desperate presidents resort to desperate rhetoric," is how Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland put it.

What's most suprising about Bush bringing up Vietnam is not America's troubled history with that war, but his own. Bush has never been to Vietnam. When he had the opportunity to go and indeed, do his part to ensure the victory there which he now so laments not achieving, he passed.
That much we know.

In 1968, he had been able to get into the highly competitive Texas Air National Guard. Also known as the fabled "Champagne Unit." Much has been written about where and how exactly Bush spent his remaining four years of service time. He was in Alabama for a while working on a sentatorial campaign. One place he wasn't, was Vietnam.

But now professor Bush lectures about the real lessons of that horrible conflict.
As if he would know.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"I Was A 9/11 Hero Once Myself!"

First, there was Mitt Romney equating his son's service to his presidential ambitions with actual military service to the country. That was merely nauseating.

Not to be outdone in the "The Man, the Mitt, the Legend" department, rival Republican Rudy Giuliani boasted this past week that he is just the same as the tireless, heroic rescue workers at the World Trade Center. And thus we pass from the merely nauseating to the actual act of throwing up.

"I am one of them," Giuliani told reporters at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game.

"This is not a mayor or a governor or a President who's sitting in an ivory tower," Giuliani said. "I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

Oh, in that sense.

In other words, in the sense that I am perfectly willing to say virtually anything imaginable, however implausible, inappropriate, insulting and untrue. Just that like that loathsome lizard of a liar, Mitt Romney.

And for the record, many of those that actually were working at Ground Zero, and actually were exposed to horrible, toxic shit, and actually have been worrying about what they might eventually come down with--those people actually were insulted by St. Rudy's effing-effrontery.

"I personally find that very, very insulting," said Marvin Bethea, who suffered a stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder and breathing problems after responding to the attacks.

Who, exactly, elected Rudy Giuliani "America's Mayor", anyway? Certainly not the voters of New York City, who had so utterly tired of Giuliani's tenure that, on September 10, as Giuliani himself knows only too well, his political career at least in New York was effectively over. Like countless others--including New Yorkers--I have nothing but respect for Giuliani's grace under the pressure and fire of that horrific day. But I have nothing but disgust for his appropriating 9/11 like a personal franchise, and for his milking it for the millions that have made him a hugely wealthy man. Tell me how Giuliani's exploitation of 9/11 is any different than the rankest war profiteering?

Hey, embellishment and pandering in politics is nothing new, and odds are, whether it was ever recorded or not, George Washington himself likely muttered something in broken dutch to some farmers in Pennsylvania, in the same smarmy and cynically deliberate way that candidates today would easily understand.

But there's pandering, and then there's pandering...

My personal favorite all-time pandering anecdote involves the late Minnesota Senator and former U.S. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey. In his "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail," the late-great Gonzo Journalist Hunter Thompson swore that Humphrey, as a presidential candidate in 1972, said a most remarkable thing late one night after one of those "seven states in one day" days. Speaking to a group of Haddasah women, Thompson claimed Humphrey cried out at one point in his speech, "Why, I was a Jew once myself!"

Sounds absurd, right? Any more absurd than the inanity that Giuliani and Romney are tossing around these days? Before the right group, properly lubed up by the moment, either one of them is capable of that legendary Humphrey-ism.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Mitt." Rhymes With "Bullsh--"

I think it’s terrible that there are some Americans who say they will not vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon.

You’d think we were past that sort of thing as a nation.

Mitt Romney shouldn’t be disqualified because of his religious beliefs.
Mitt Romney should be disqualified because he has no beliefs, period.

Actually, scratch that.

If there is one overriding belief that binds Mitt Romney and his preppy progeny, it is…well, Mitt Romney. No one could ever accuse the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor of lacking belief in the Romney brand. Mitt Romney oozes such gooey and glistening self-confidence, it’s a wonder his pores aren’t blocked.

Among Romney’s five sons, whose ages range from 26-37, the belief in Mitt is so strong that they are willing to go to war for him. No, no -- not that kind of war. Not like, say, a real war like the one in Iraq.
No. More like the war to elect Mitt Romney president.

At a campaign event Wednesday in Bettendorf, Iowa, Romney was asked by a citizen why none of his own five sons have served in the military.

In response, Romney initially sounded a simple and sensible note:
“My sons are all adults and they’ve made decisions about their careers and they’ve chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard.”

Fair enough.

Then Romney went off the scale with a note so sour it made national news.

“One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation,” Romney explained, “is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.”

Gee, thanks boys!

Romney had begun the campaign event by calling for a “surge in support” for the troops in Iraq. For some, whether one agrees or not, that surge actually involves standing shoulder to shoulder with those troops. One of Romney’s republican rivals, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has two sons in active military service, one of whom is currently on an Iraq deployment.

But why quibble? To Romney, service is service, whether it is dodging enemy bullets or dishing on your blog.

See, the Romney sons -- Josh, Tagg, Craig, Matt and Ben -- don’t just drive back and forth across Iowa in service to their dad -- er, nation -- they also blog about it all, too.

But the Bettendorf incident only adds to what is growing on Mitt Romney like Pinocchio’s nose -- namely, the sense that this man will say virtually anything
to appeal to the more troglodyte tier of the Republican base.

At the same time, Romney will also disavow anything he has said if it helps him politically. Hell, he’s even disavowed an entire state. Romney has taken great pains to make sure no taint of Massachusetts blue has rubbed off on his new red state persona.

Whether it’s his changed positions on abortion, stem cell research, gun control or gay rights, the Mitt Macarena is the most entertaining dance of the ’08 campaign so far. Equating actual military service with helping daddy be president? Hey, why not? I’m Mitt Romney and dammit, I believe in me. And so do my sons the bloggers.

But what is blind belief for Mitt and his sons, conjures a different “b” word for lots of others who are observing this smarmy snake-oil salesman slither his way across America.

In a bit of irony perhaps lost on the boys, their latest blog entry shows Josh and Tagg in Audubon County, Iowa, posing beneath the massive statue of Albert, “the world’s largest bull.”

All in support of their dad, Mitt Romney, who is perhaps the world’s biggest bull--
…….well, you get the idea.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bridge To Nowhere

In running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton spoke frequently about “building a bridge to the 21st century.” That was metaphor. Little did we know that some of our actual, physical 20th century bridges would not last long into the new century.

The fatal I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis was a cry for help from the nation’s aging, crumbling infrastructure.
Too bad too few are listening.

As campaign issues go, it’s not a “sexy” one.
It’s not about war, gay marriage or climate change.
And yet, as we see, it is nonetheless about life and death.

Some big-city mayors focus on infrastructure elements like bridges, roads, and water systems. And they get nicknames like Boston’s Thomas M. Menino: “Mayor Pothole.” We need more “Mayor Potholes.” We need a “President Pothole.”

How bad and how pervasive nationally is our ailing infrastructure? Perform the following quick, simple test: How often do you drive over a bridge or under an overpass, notice clearly old, rusting metal or crumbling concrete, and think to yourself, “God, just don’t let this thing go while I am going through?”

I do that several times a week. And you?

I have driven for years under a stretch of Route 9 in Wellesley that has finally been undergoing re-construction. Before that, I would pray that my drive through did not coincide with an 18-wheeler passing overhead.

Turns out I wasn’t imagining things.

Among states, Massachusetts ranks second-to-last when it comes to bad bridges. The American Society of Civil Engineers has found that 51% of bridges in Massachusetts are are “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” .

Ironically, just days before the disaster in Minnesota, the Berkshire Eagle reported on an overpass in Hadley, Massachusetts that is one of 39 rated “structurally deficient” just in that western section of the state alone..

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, is quoted as calling the Hadley span, “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Eerie words now.

The Minneapolis bridge had also been rated “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete.” Yet Minnesota’s bridges are supposed to be some of the country’s safest. With only 12.2% of its bridges rated “deficient,” the state ranks third in the country in terms of bridge quality. No matter. Minneapolis now becomes the poster child of our decaying infrastructure.

How expensive would it be to repair the nation’s infrastructure? Hugely.
Most estimates begin at $1-trillion. Can we afford it? It is, as they say, a matter of priorities.

Each day, America spends $200-million in Iraq. By September, we will have spent upwards of $456-billion since the invasion itself in 2003. Recently released projections estimate that, even if all U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq within three years, the long-term financial costs to American taxpayers may approach $2 -trillion dollars. Um, that’s a lot of bridgework.

We have a pretty simple choice. And smart presidential candidates, in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, would be wise to frame it so. We can continue to waste lives and money on a foreign policy disaster, or we can redirect that money to averting disaster and saving lives here at home.

And you don’t have to have a degree in civil engineering to make that choice.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I'm Not Running

These are troubling times for the nation. Citizens have questions about the direction the nation is heading in, about emerging threats, and how we will
deal with them.

I also realize that in many ways, I am uniquely suited to lead my nation. And despite the fact that the campaign for president is in full swing, and despite the fact that I feel I am as qualified as many other candidates, I must regretfully decline to run.

For President of Red Sox Nation.

Having latched on to the once-hazy concept of a Red Sox “nation” with the suction of a mosquito on warm, wet skin, the Boston Red Sox ownership is now promoting a contest/campaign to award some lucky person the title of “First Fan,” and President of Red Sox Nation.

Spare me.

According to a team press release, “the ceremonial ‘First Fan’ would have an assortment of powers, privileges, and perquisites designed to unify the club’s unique global fan base.”

The President would also have a blog provided by the team. Presumably then, the President could compete with fellow Sox blogger Curt Schilling to see whose site gets more hits during a game.

(Even one or two hits would be more than J.D. Drew will get.)

“While this innovation is light-hearted, it is nonetheless real,” said Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino in a press release. Yes it is real. Another real crafty commercial ploy all dressed up in team colors.

See, first the Red Sox decided in 2005 to offer paid membership in the Nation. A fan could buy a basic membership for $9.95. (And get a genuine membership card!) Now the team is offering packages ranging from the “Fan Pack” for $14.95, to the “Monster Membership” option for $199. You want perks? “Monster Membership” actually offers a “guaranteed opportunity to purchase two Green Monster seats.” A guaranteed opportunity to purchase tickets, mind you.
Wow. Heady stuff.

Guess what? You can purchase tickets without paying for the right to purchase them.

See, what Red Sox Nation really needs is not an orderly transfer of government but a full-scale insurrection. I remember when there was no “nation.” (A term first coined by the Boston Globe’s Nathan Cobb in 1986, then shamelessly appropriated by his colleague Dan Shaughnessy.) The Sox fan based more closely resembled the Balkans -- a disparate group of generally dispirited followers who expected their team to compete but lose in the end.

But that was also when the team was run by amiable bumblers with generally as little business sense as baseball sense. (They did, after all, let Carlton Fisk get away, yet traded for the immortal Jack “car collection” Clark.)

Today, it’s as if Forbes itself is running the team. All business, all promotion, all the time. A team mascot for the Boston Red Sox would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. “Wally” would have been hooted off the field and showered with boos to rival real-life duds like Dick Stuart and Jack Brohammer.

Hey, to be fair, under this regime the Sox threw off the bitter past and won a World Series. And they are having a great season thus far. But enough with the relentlessly promotional ploys already.

What Red Sox Nation needs is not a president but a civil war -- between the new, Johnny-come-lately fans who freely shell out a $100 bucks to sit and squeal on cue in their $150 team jerseys, and the real fans for whom baseball comes first and baseball promotions second.

No, I won’t be running for President of Red Sox Nation. And I’ll go further: If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.


On the other hand, I remain always open to anyone offering free tickets.
Thank you, God bless, and vote your conscience.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube Debate: You kidding?

So we have now had history made with the first YouTube debate. What fun. What theatre. What horseshit.

How do I know history was made? Why, because CNN's Wolf Blitzer (CNN was the debate sponsor) said so.

Anderson--er, excuse me, "AC/360"--called the debate "groundbreaking." But he said that before a guy fondling an assault weapon asked a question about gun-control. That, I will grant you, was groundbreaking.

Don't get me wrong--there was a new and refreshing quality of people asking questions of the candidates directly. But "directly" here is a most relative term. CNN still ultimately made the decision of which YouTube questions were used and which were not. Which means that it would have been just as easy to have potential questioners simply email their video clips/questions directly to CNN, no? Or was it appropriating the supposedly young and hip mantle of "YouTube" that CNN was really after?

Either way, the debate had moments that stood out for sure. But Lincoln-Douglas it wasn't. Wonder how Abe would have responded to a guy doing a poor Mr. Bill imitation as the voice for a talking snowman worried about global warming. Here's an inconvenient truth: Just because a blogger is asking a question via a cheesy homemade video on YouTube doesn't mean we've witnessed a "What hath God wrought?" moment.

Yes, weighty issues like Iraq, immigration, education and gun control were covered. Or briefly raised, to be more precise. No candidate, Democrat or Republican, will be dramatically distinguishing themselves on any issue whatsoever in 60 seconds. Time enough to screw up, yes (think Obama would like to retool his thoughts on negotiating with Iran and N. Korea?); time enough to bend, beckon or breath through with voters, no.

But, baby steps, after all. The overall concept of trying to have voters/citizens more directly able to question presidential candidates is a good one. It can be made even better.

And give the Democrats their due--they all, for the most part, have a sense of humor. (Okay, I wouldn't want to tell a joke that Mike Gravel didn't find funny.) It will be even more entertaining to watch the Republicans have their YouTube moment come September. Maybe Lou Dobbs can moderate, and Tom Tancredo can sputter that he's for rounding up all undocumented snowmen. YouTube meets you boob.

Your thoughts, AC?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter & Homeland Security

What a week. Tense. High alert. Massive security. Attempts to circumvent those security measures all over the world.

The latest Al-Qaeda threat?

No, just the release of the new Harry Potter book.

There are few more successful franchises in the world today than Harry Potter. What began some 17 years ago as an out-of-work effort by fledgling British writer J.K. Rowling, has now made her history’s first billionaire author. Aside from the more than 250 million books sold and six movies made, there are now plans for a Harry Potter theme park to be developed in (where else?) Florida. Move over, Magic Kingdom.

The release of the seventh, and what Rowling says will be the final book in the Harry Potter series (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) has also generated a massive promotional blitz and buzz. The world has not seen this kind of build-up toward the roll-out of a new product since…well, since the iPhone’s debut a couple of weeks ago.

Hey, but still.

The book’s public release has been mapped out with military precision. On July 21, at exactly 12:01am (“Western European Summer Time”, no less), the book ships and goes on sale across each succeeding western-speaking time zone. (When does China get it, a week from now?)

No less impressive has been the extraordinary security put in place to forestall leaks about the book prior to its release. Yes, there have been breaches. Pages of the book appeared mysteriously on the internet, the front cover has been, well, uncovered for weeks now, and one unlucky distributor even shipped its allotment early, for which it is being sued. You don’t play around with Potter.

But for the most part, in a day and age when security measures seem to exist only as templates to be tested, the Potter Plan held. For example, workers described a near-Defcon-Five state of readiness, with guards standing 24/7 over palettes of Potter books in cordoned-off areas of a special warehouse. They didn’t even have to say, “Bring ‘em on.” Mission accomplished. For real.

Such flawless preparation and rigid security only served to inspire envy when the other story of the week involving security broke. That would be the unsettling story beckoning from the non-fiction section of our lives. The Bush administration’s own intelligence analysts reported that Al-Qaeda is not only alive and thriving, but is stronger than ever and still very much determined to carry out a large-scale attack inside the American homeland. All this a full six years after 9/11, hundreds of billions spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 7000 American lives lost, and countless more wounded and maimed.

That’s some security.

Maybe the Bush folks should talk to the Potter folks, who appear to have written the book on competent preparation and effective vigilance. After all, Harry Potter was secured and protected.
At least someone is.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My Own Summer Of Love

Much as been written of late about the legendary summer of 1967.

How much was packed in to that magical moment 40 years ago? More than you may recall. There was the explosion of the hippie counter-culture, the emergence of the new national youth-magnet that was Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco’s “Summer of Love,” the release of the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s” album, and the gathering momentum of the Vietnam anti-war movement.

And to top it all off, my team, the Boston Red Sox, went from last to first and won the American League pennant.

It was a monumental summer indeed, and I was right in the thick of it all.
For an 11-year-old, anyway.

Most of my early counter-culture experience was gained through simply watching my older brother, who was 17 that summer. He had long hair, wore only jeans, T-shirts and “Jesus” sandals, and was teaching himself the guitar. Naturally. (In fairness, he did stay with the guitar, and is quite good at it even today.) I remember one hot Saturday afternoon that summer when my brother, new driver’s license tucked proudly into his macramé (or-whatever-the-hell-it was made of) wallet, took me on his first solo driving errand.

He was buying some new jeans and denim work-shirts, the erstwhile uniform of the well-dressed teen at that time. We drove into Cambridge, to Harvard Square, and a long-gone store called the Lodge. The square and the store were teeming with long-haired young rebels-with-whatever-causes they could find. I wandered around the store, trying on jean jackets, woven ponchos and granny glasses, and admiring my young hippie self in the mirror. A big, bearded guy in overalls walked by me and flashed the peace sign. “Peace, little brother.” I returned the gesture. I was happening.

I was also in love.

Her name was Jill Ronan. She was several years older than me, a friend of my older sister’s. Jill had no idea of my deep feelings for her. In fact, I am not sure she ever said anything to me. I did my best to impress her and look sexy and older than I was. Which is a real challenge when your wheels are a 3-speed Schwinn with a blue banana seat, your voice is changing, and you have to be home when the street lights come on.

Nearly every night after supper, I would hop on that bike, pedal the three blocks to her street and ride back and forth, back and forth, hoping against hope I would see her walk in or out. Once, I actually did see her come out and I almost fell off my bike before pedaling the other way. I did have a brief conversation once with her father, though. Opening his garage door one night, he said, “Hey, kid -- do you live on this street?” I shook my head. What was I going to say, “No, but I’m stalking your daughter?”

Fortunately, there was more requited excitement for me on the radio.

My beloved Red Sox, dead-last place finishers only the summer before, were in a 4-way dogfight for the pennant. Jill Ronan might be playing hard-to-get, but Yaz, Boomer, Jim Lonborg and Reggie Smith shared the joy with me, even from afar. As the “Impossible Dream” season took real and dramatic shape over that summer, I was as hooked on that team as I was on Jill -- my other impossible dream.

And the rest, alas, is history.

The Sox lost the World Series in seven games, and who knew then that our hopeful “wait till next year” would mean waiting another full 37 years?

Jill moved away, without our ever having had so much as a conversation. I blame it all on the bike. I truly believe a 10-speed might have altered the whole equation.

Now, 40 years later, there are some interesting parallels with that summer. Another senseless war is dragging on, and another deluded president dithers while kids die. The Red Sox are winning, with a 10-game lead, no less -- an unimaginable luxury in 1967, when they needed the last game of the season and help from the Angels (California) to clinch.

And I still ride my bike when I can. It has 18-speeds.
What do you think of that, Jill Ronan, wherever you are?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tony the Tuchas*

You want to talk Yiddish, Tony? I’ll give you Yiddish.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Tony Snow addressed reporters once more on President Bush’s controversial decision to commute the sentence of convicted perjurer (and former aide) I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Specifically, Snow was responding to remarks made earlier by former President Bill Clinton. Campaigning in Iowa with his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., the former president acidly observed of the Bush administration, “They believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle.”

In noting that Bill Clinton had himself pardoned 140 people in the closing hours of his presidency (including fugitive financier Marc Rich), Snow said, “I don’t know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it.”

“Gigantic case of it?” Tony, Tony, Tony…….

When you allow a former horse show administrator to oversee the nation’s response to Katrina, and then, when that response is an unmitigated disaster you tell the guy he’s doing a “heckuva job” -- that’s chutzpah.

When you take the nation dishonestly and unnecessarily into a catastrophic war, waste a trillion dollars, needlessly sacrifice more than 3000 young American lives, consistently make excuses for an Iraqi government too feeble to shoulder more of the burden, and then, when the war has lasts longer than our involvement in WWII, ask the American people for more patience -- that’s chutzpah.

But then, so many other Yiddishisms come as easily to mind as “chutzpah” when speaking of all these shmucks. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and jailed former U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham are just three of a veritable glut of goniffs and shnorers who have truly mucked up Washington with dreck for the past six years. Bush and Cheney’s relentless post-9/11 exploitation and manipulation of fear has given the entire a country a case of severe spilkes. It’s as if we all look forward to 2008 and a big, nationally-cleansing spritz to somehow rid ourselves of two terms of nothing but tsouris.

And Tony Snow? You’re a putz. And you can look it up.*

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mitt's Mutt

The facts are not in dispute. Mitt Romney's dog is dead.

Okay, not from the now-infamous ride from hell; that was nearly 25 years ago. (Though in dog years it might as well have been yesterday.)

Even if you aren't from Massachusetts, you may have heard about former Gov. Mitt Romney's former dog, Seamus. In 1983, the Romney family took off for a 12-hour drive to Romney's parents' cottage on Lake Huron in Ontario. Space in the family station wagon was limited because Romney has, like, 27 sons, each one with names like Chip, Chap, Nip, Nog.

Seamus, an Irish setter, was relegated to the roof of the car for the trip.

Reports are that he rode in a carrier which Romney had rigged up with a windshield, but to this point in doggie-gate, no photos of any kind have been produced to support this claim. For all we know, poor Seamus might have been splayed out between the roof racks, tied down with bungie cords with his tail flapping out behind him like one of those 50's antenna jobs. Only real.

It has also been reported that, at some point during the drive, the roof-bound dog developed diarrhea. (Apparently the Romney boys alerted dad that something was amiss because brown liquid was streaming down the rear window.) Guess what? You would develop diarrhea, too, if you were strapped to the roof of a an automobile hurtling down the highway.

Now, as more extensive digging dogs Romney, more sinister reports are surfacing that it wasn't Seamus at all who had diarrhea, but rather one of Romney's boys. (Tog or Tug, Chug or Chag--it's unclear which one.) With his penchant for efficiency, Romney, unconfirmed sources say, simply put the offending lad up there with the dog--problem solved, time saved from a long, drawn-out stop at a rest area, not to mention a time-consuming and expensive interior simonize.

True? Of course not. But the fact is, it's fun to find fault with Mitt "Robot" Romney. We here in Massachusetts have had years to have had it up to here with a guy whose blood seems synthetic, who exudes "Stepford," and who seems to wear perfection like so much after-shave. Like after-shave, it's put on.

And it's no longer fooling anyone; Romney's smarmy act stinks.

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone: iDon't Think So

The Day has approached for weeks now. The Big Day.
The day the iPhone is rolled out to the world.

Well, not exactly the world. But at least those hardy head cases
who have been willing to camp out on city streets to be the first
to get into a store and buy one.

They don’t need an iPhone. They need a life.

But, this is not a day to bite the Apple, but to behold the Book of (Steve) Jobs,
and his creation. Or at least his hype.

It is sleek. It is shiny. It is packed with features a single cell phone has never had before. It is $500 bucks for crying out loud--it should be packed with incredible features.

But guess what? It isn’t.

I have done some careful research, combed Apple’s own promotional ( information, and pieced together what the vaunted iPhone will NOT do. And in terms of what’s NOT there, it’s a sobering list to say the least.

-Start your car? Not happening with the iPhone. Hell, these days you can buy a remote car starter with full keyless entry for less than $70. ( And they can’t add that little trifle to the iPhone? For shame, Apple, for shame.

-Anything on it for your car? Zippo, zilch, zero, nothing, nada, bupkes. How can this be? Where do they think people are using their sleek new iPhones? In their sleek new cars, of course. How about including a radar detector, an overheating sensor, maybe a simple garage door opener? Nope. Okay, a measly little tire pressure gauge? They give ‘em out for free for crying out loud at Tony’s Tire World! Forget it. Baffling, just baffling.

-Monitor your blood pressure? Gauge insulin levels? Not on your new iPhone. Why include that, you ask? Why not? With all the hype that Apple has attracted for itself with the iPhone’s road-to-the-rollout, why not have gone that little extra mile for medicine? Create a certain public service component to the carnival. But no. They’d rather gum it all up with GPS and MP3 and who cares if some users have high blood pressure or diabetes? Not Apple. No, you’re on your own with your iPhone. Use it to call an ambulance. Oh, wait--its service depends on AT&T, the worst carrier on the market. Oops. Good luck.

-Make coffee? Dream on. Oh, sure it will wake you up with a choice of 47 different alarm modes and tones, but then what? Then you desperately want a cup of hot, steaming coffee to sip while you fire up that sleek screen and go through your email, edit your playlist, and read the New York Times online. Coffee? Make it yourself. Please -- you can buy a 4-cup Mr. Coffee online these days ( for under $20. Heaven forbid you get one included on your $500 Mr. iPhone.

-Flowbee? Forget about it. How hard would it have been to have included the world’s most popular home hair-cutting system? Not very. Apple went with AT&T as its carrier because reportedly the communications giant was more compliant than Verizon. You think Flowbee wouldn’t have completely restructured its entire corporate identity to have been included on the iPhone?
The entire Flowbee haircut system complete with Super Mini-Vac costs a mere $89.90 online. ( Nowhere to be found on your iPhone. And you could use a trim there, too, big boy.

So there you have it. For all its super-cool, supposedly revolutionary new features, the iPhone is ipoppingly bereft of some of life’s most basic everyday conveniences. Sure you know by now about its bold new touch-screen interface system. But did you know that Flowbee also makes a pet attachment so you can trim your dog or cat as well?

iPhone? Don’t even look.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Physician, Hush Thyself

A new study alleges that doctors are overly chatty during patient visits, and worse--talk too much about themselves. Self-centered doctors? No!

Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine (which, by the way, I understand has a totally wild personals section), researchers wrote that physician "disclosures, both not useful and disruptive, interrupted the flow of information exchange and expended valuable patient time in the typically time-pressured primary care visit."

Here is an actual doctor/patient exchange from the study:

DOCTOR: So, is that boil any better, Mr. Frumholtz?

PATIENT: Not really, doctor. In fact, not only is it still so painful I have had to buy Morphine on eBay, but I also believe my cancer may be back. Oh, and I think I may have had a minor stroke during breakfast this morning according to my wife.

DOCTOR: Speaking of strokes, you're not going to believe this--I shot a 67 at Ballymore yesterday. Do you remember how windy it was? Unreal. So how's tricks?

If you are like most people, an overly chatty doctor is the least of your problems. Hello? Not that I am a researcher for the august Archives of Internal Medicine (if you're still online there looking for the personals I was just kidding), but I think I speak for patients everywhere when I point out to these presumably otherwise brilliant folks that (a) the thing that interupts the flow of patient exchange, and (b), expends valuable patient time is NOT the fact that doctors talk about themselves too much, but the fact that they are always, always, always LATE.

Perhaps that rather significant fact somehow eluded the researchers, and will be included next month in the Archives of Painfully Obvious and Really Self-Evident Facts of Life.

If you're like me, you would be only too happy to have your doctor talk about anything he or she wanted to if they would never keep you waiting again. Hell, I would be happy to use sign language or write my comments on little yellow post-its if my doctor was waiting for me, chart in hand, when I arrive. And then, providing he efficiently carried out whatever it was he was supposed to do that visit, I would give him carte blanche to be a non-stop medical motor mouth. For all I care, he could bounce from what he had for dinner last night to why he switched to Cingular to what he thought of "Knocked Up." If that was the trade-off for never having to wait a single moment for your doctor again, what wouldn't you mind hearing him or her go on about?

("Your daughter's been cast as sorcerer #3 and tree #1 in Rumpelstiltskin? That's fabulous, doctor! And good luck with that new ride-on mower--I'll just fill this prescription then on the way home, and thanks again for being so prompt today!")

So doctors may talk too much.
But apparently only to the people who are scheduled ahead of you.
Finally, an explanation for why they are always running late.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dork Reform, not Tort Reform

Well, it's over. It didn't have the historial import of the Scopes Monkey Trial. It didn't have the Access Hollywood factor (or the hilarious former-cabby Judge Larry) of the Anna Nicole Smith paternity trial. And it certainly didn't rise to the national obsession of O.J. After all, no Bronco chase, no legal dream team, no Johnnie Cochran and that courtroom catchphrase for the ages--"If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

Although, the case could have been made in this case for a slight variation: "Enough with the rants--and to hell with your pants!"

In fact, those might have been words that Washington Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff was tempted to say to $54-million lost-pants lawsuit defendant Roy Pearson. On Monday, this real-life Judge Judy ruled against Pearson, and for the Korean couple who own Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C. Incredibly, the case took on a spin cycle of its own, and took two years to churn its way through the legal system. What was Pearson wearing all this time to his own job as an administrative judge, a freaking barrel?

Legal show-off that he apparently is, Pearson based his case on a sign that the store displayed: "Satisfaction Guaranteed." See? He felt he should be able to take that literally. And I think I should be able to take today's weather report as a binding contract between me and the meteorologist.

Alas, Pearson was not satisfied. (Even though the store came up with what they said were his precious lost pants.) So he came up with a brilliantly dorky financial equation which involved the price of the pants multiplied by the cost of cleaning them divided by his days without them get the idea. Just subtract this pathetic putz's personality, divide by the number of legal professionals in the nation, and you get some idea why people hate lawyers and the American court system, and why conservatives take a campaign whack every chance they get at tort reform. Because they know as long as there are frivilous lawsuits, people will generate the same steam out of their ears that dry cleaners use on their pants, lost or otherwise.

And as frivolous lawsuits go, this one was rather up there after all.
Or was this a pantsuit?

Small consolation: Pearson will have to pay the Korean couple's court fee (about $1000), and may have to ultimately pay their legal fees as well, which amount to tens of thousands of dollars. I say Judge Bartnoff scores one for creative sentencing, and allows Soo Chung a good five minutes with Roy Pearson under her pants press.

That should straighten him out.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vatican Car Talk (The Rosary Meets the Road)

Holy Car.
The Vatican has discovered the automobile.

Or rather, it has discovered that there is more to driving than transportation, and that once behind the wheel, even good people are not always saints.

Word is next week the Vatican will take on that newfangled telephone thing.

The Vatican’s office for migrants and itinerant people has issued a Ten Commandments for Drivers
At a news conference in Rome, the office’s head, Cardinal Renato Martino, explained that the Vatican felt compelled to address the needs of motorists “because driving has become such a big part of contemporary life.”
So has refrigeration and indoor plumbing. What’s next, a “Ten Commandments for Tackling Those Pesky Home Fix-it Problems?”

Seriously, the internal combustion engine is over 100 years old. Automobile accidents have been a fact of life almost as long. How long? When there were still just two horseless carriages on the long-ago streets of Chicago, they collided. Imagine the paperwork involved, considering that car insurance hadn’t been invented yet.

The report is officially titled, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road.” That sounds suspiciously like a document in my glove compartment: “Guidelines for the Professional Care of your Jeep.” But the similarities end there.

Consider commandment #1: “You shall not kill.”
Now, as I recall, there was no direct mention of that particular point when I took my driver’s license test, but somehow I got the feeling that if they were going to flunk me for screwing up a three-point turn, there was no way I was getting my license if I ran over anyone on the sidewalk.

Commandment #2 is interesting as well: “The road shall be a place of communion between people and not of mortal harm.” But what happens when it’s both at the same time? Ever drive on the L.A. Freeway at rush hour?

Number five raises some interesting questions: “Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination.” I will expect to see faith-loving car dealers re-advertise the Hummer as the “Heretic.”

Commandment #5 also instructs that cars will not be “an occasion of sin.”
Oh, Lord—about that summer between my junior and senior year…..

Commandment #6 (“Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so”) takes 22 words to say what 4 will do more effectively: “Don’t drink and drive.” Amen.

Commandment #9 will raise eyebrows among certain car quarters as well: “On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.” What fun is that? Has the Vatican never heard of NASCAR?

Beyond the Ten Commandments of Driving themselves, the Vatican has some other helpful tips for the road that you won’t find in your AAA brochure. The report extols the benefits of making the sign of the cross before turning the ignition key. Actually, the only time I have ever seen a driver do that was in a scene from “The Sopranos.” And he crossed himself again when the car didn’t explode.

The Vatican also says that, for those of you who know it, reciting the Rosary on the road can be helpful, as its “rhythm and gentle repetition does not distract the driver’s attention.” That may very well be. Curiously though, the Vatican does not address the use of cell phones, PDA’s or sending and receiving emails while driving, which most certainly DO distract the driver’s attention. On the other hand, I guess if you are reciting the Rosary you can’t be ranting on your Bluetooth.

But, why quibble?

There are a few laudable things in the Vatican’s report, like always helping at an accident (even if it's been caused by someone blabbing on their Bluetooth.) Besides, perhaps a few years down the road they will issue a “Ten Commandments for Technical Toys.”

After all, they only just discovered the automobile.