Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adapted by Claudia Haas
From The Artful Notes Blog of Richard Schmidt


MAC: Middle-aged, well-heeled Republican “handler”
JACK: Middle-aged Republican “handler”
SUSIE: Secretary; really cute and energetic – OR – could be a recorded voice via the phone.

SYNOPSIS: be careful what you wish for, especially when picking a vice presidential nominee


AT RISE two men (MAC and JACK) are going over pictures and resumes trying to pick a Vice Presidential running mate for their elderly presidential nominee. All are Republican. They are seated at a table – imbibing something alcoholic.

The middle-aged white guys are out?

Diversity. That’s the ticket. We have no diversity.

(MAC dumps some pictures and resumes.)

There goes all the experienced ones.

Don’t know how to clinch the minority vote.

Which minority?

How many are there?

You’re thinking’s off. Don’t go for the minority – go for the majority.

Well, yeah. Want the majority come November. Don’t want Florida rearing its ugly head. Going to look suspicious if that happened again.

A woman.

Yeah – a woman was helpful in Florida.

And a woman could be helpful again. A woman vice presidential nominee. Women are over half the population in this country.

Never gave that much thought. But you know – our guy – he doesn’t like the frumpy ones and that’s mainly what you see in politics. Older. Plain. Hard-nosed.

She’s gotta be a hottie--not one who let herself go. No one who wears stretch pants.

Or mu-mus.

(They shudder. And dump some more pictures and resumes in the basket.)

Okay. Bye-bye middle-aged women. They’re out of the running. This is good. We’re narrowing the field. And what else?

She’s gotta be anti-abortion and anti gay marriage.

Goes without saying. They’re out there. Not a lot of them but that’s “do-able.” Let me check. Well… that’s it for them. Still a lot left.

(More pictures and resumes are thrown.)

While you’re at it – eliminate the tree-huggers. We need to drill for oil and we don’t want to find out one of these fine ladies once wrote a check to the Sierra Club or anything.

Only one who is pro-environment. She’s gone.
(Another picture and resume is thrown.)
Hey, have a few smart ones here – Ivy League, Magna Cum Laude ….

Irrelevant. In fact detrimental.

Here’s an economist – you know we could use some help in that area. Our guy’s not too knowledgeable about the economy.

We don’t want to make that an issue. Our man’s been told – turn the subject away from the economy.

How about foreign policy? Got a few who have experience in that area.

Are they “hot?”

How “hot?”


Maybe with the right hair-do …

She won’t do. She knows more than he does. He gets uppity when that happens.
(Another picture and resume is on the floor.)
You know what would really knock everyone’s socks off? A woman who’s pro guns! A genuine, Flag waving member of the NRA.

That would be hard to find.

Think! We’d not only get the women who are only voting for women – but we’d get the men who would vote for a gun-toting hottie.

You know, a gun-toting “hottie” would bring in the male fantasy vote ….

And there’s a lot of men with fantasies out there. What I wouldn’t give for a politician who once was a beauty queen.

That would bring out the voters.

She’d be front page news every time she changed her dress. She’d be on all the women’s magazine covers.

You‘re dreaming.

I know. How many do we have left?

Three. This one’s kind of cute. But not married.

Don’t go there. We don’t want his old cavorting days and his divorce to be headlines.

That’s it. No one left. No one suitable anyway.

We’re not looking for suitable. Any anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-gun, former Beauty Queen, married woman can apply.

It’s the impossible dream, Mac.

Tell me about it, Jack.

(SUSIE enters or calls)

Mac? Jack? There’s someone on the phone who wants to speak with the two of you. She’s from Alaska. Will you take it?


That’s a state, right?


(MAC and JACK burst into laughter and down their drinks.)

Anyone taking the call? Hello? Hello?

(MAC and JACK are shaking their heads, laughing and pouring another drink as the lights fade to black.)


Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Barbie

So, are they being clever, or is this some giant insider joke being played on all of us ordinary folks? Sarah Palin .. . Miss Wasilla????. Are they kidding? I mean, isn’t this taking inexperience to a fare-thee-well as a criterion?
I imagine “Da Guys”, sitting around the old conference table, maybe late evening, sipping their third glass of Scotch, trying to reach consensus on the criteria for the VEEP slot.
Ok, so we agree it has to be a woman to grab the Hill fans.
Yeah, but she has to be a hottie. We don’t want some dowdy babe in a stretch pants suit, do we?
Yeah, ok – hot broad. What else?
Clearly, she needs to be anti-abortion and anti Gay Marriage.
Goes without saying .. . next?
Wouldn’t hurt if she were pro-gun, huh? Do we know any pro-gun women??
Hmmm .. . could be tough.
What about drilling for oil? We can’t have some tree-hugger.
No, tree huggers are out.
How about smart. Do we want a smart broad?
Irrelevant. Next
Foreign policy knowledge or experience?
How about the Economy, guys. They’re going to hammer us on the economy. Hey, how about we find us a hot female-type economist?
They don’t exist . . . besides, it’s irrelevant. She doesn’t have to know anything. I mean, look at Dan Quayle.]
Yeah, better if she’s married. We don’t want smart guys speculating on Big Mac’s relationship with her.
So, where are we???
Hey gang, someone’s on the phone from, of all places, Alaska . . .
Hahahahahahahahaha . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

History in the Making

Tonight, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, the first Black candidate for President will accept his party's nomination. It seems we have come a long way since that awful day in 1968 when Mr. King was assassinated. It seemed, that day, that, "this was the best of times, this was the worst of times" was being repeated. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in that same year. The nation was being torn asunder by a war and by ongoing racism. It made you wonder what kind of nation we were.
Pain is often the body's signal that something is wrong. Perhaps the same is true of a Nation. It is not that we wish for the pain, but that we need to pay attention to it.
Today, we are again gripped by pain and fear. Greed created a second banking crisis equivalent, perhaps even worse than the S&L collapse during King George the First's blessedly brief reign. Junior's reign, both longer and more destructive, has given us this second lesson in the effects of greed and unchecked capitalism. Note, it is not the fault of that abstract thing we call capitalism. Rather, it is the fault of specific greedy and even corrupt capitalists, specific individuals, cheered on by our neo-con, really neo-fascist, government leaders.
All government and economic systems work best when they are balanced. George II and his greedy, corrupt advisers don't care about any of that. They explicitly rejected a balanced model for the old style robber baron approach to the economy.
We are reaping the rewards now.
Hopefully, the clock is ticking down on the George II reign. Dick Cheney will go back into his spiderhole for life one hopes. Condi will return to the Hoover Institute for War.
Perhaps a new day is dawning, one filled with hope for our children and grandchildren.
There are 145 days left in the George Bush nightmare.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Be careful what you wish for.
Our area is in deep drought (not to mention deep financial doodoo due to Conservatives' skimming of the cream and then running away from bad mortgages). So, we whine a lot about rain, or the lack thereof. Well, we need to stop whining, or stop praying so much. Fay arrived with a vengeance. Last night we received over six inches (by our rain gauge) and ten inches since Monday. Some flooding in our basement and workshop. Great fun.
And on the comic relief front, our Dems continue to yell at the Darth Vader crowd (deservedly so) about the lousy economy, and Hillary finally came out and told her supporters to get with the program and support Barack. Good job Hill. Darth Vader and his PR flacks demonstrated remarkable chutzpah by running an ad aimed at attracting disaffected Hillary supporters over to The Dark Side. Hillary says she “does not approve” that message. Again, good for you Girl. Stay with the folks what brung ya.
Meanwhile in another dark corner of the universe, Muslims and Hindus are again shooting at each other in one of the most remarkably beautiful places on Planet Earth, the Kashmir Valley. If you’ve been paying attention these past fifty years, the current state of Jammu and Kashmir in India is in the Himalayas. Just prior to Partition, Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu prince, the Maharajah of J&K. As Partition approached, the Muslim population of Kashmir, that part of the state in Kashmir Valley, began rebelling, trying to align itself with the coming Muslim State of Pakistan. The Maharajah appealed to the Brits who sent in troops to support him. The great state of J&K was officially aligned with India. That began all The Troubles (as the Irish quaintly called their own religious killing game). Ever since then Muslims and Hindus have been shooting at one another in the Kashmir Valley. Much of the violence seemed to slowly calm down over time, although it never stopped. When I visited Kashmir in the 1960s, Indian troops were all over the place, but it was quietly beautiful.
Now, they’re shooting at each other again, all because of some decision to allow a new Hindu religious place in Kashmir. The Muslims there are not big on sharing. So, it starts all over again. Makes you wonder about religion. How many people have to die before too many have died?????

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convention Fever

Convention Fever: Let the games begin. The nominating convention circus has begun with a blast from the past. Teddy did his thing, much to everyone’s delight and amazement. And Michelle did her best (mostly very fine) to convince the American people that her husband is actually a normal, sentient human being, who has experienced much of the same life things they have. He’s normal. He’s entirely American, and a better husband and father than many of the people who will be voting for or against him.
And then there was Johnny MAC, appearing with that old Republican comic faithful, Jay Leno. You know, if Rudy Giuliani appeared to many people as a Johnny One-Note with his constant references to 9/11, is anyone noticing that Johnny MAC cannot respond to any hint of criticism without beginning with, “well, you know when I was a POW . . .” I guess, you go with your strength, and he seems to have precious little else.
We watched Bill Moyers last night. He spoke of the growing phenomenon of China as an economic superpower. They have become a giant, and the foremost, if not sole, producer of the World of Crap. Apparently China has trademarked and patented Crap as an exclusively Chinese province. Ever try to buy Crap that wasn’t Chinese?
Bill had a suggestion for the Democratic leadership gathered in Denver. Instead of spending all your time in the convention hall, or in Denver bars, go out and talk with some real Denver middle class citizens. They need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The assault on the middle class is almost complete, and we are losing. George W never got this middle class thing. He doesn’t understand (anything??) that the middle class is what made America great. It is what people aspire to become. People might love to have Johnny MAC’s seven houses, but mainly they want to be middle class—house in the suburbs, white picket fence, couple of kids, an actual job with health insurance and a retirement package and an employer who isn’t always looking out the window to send their job off to Burma. So, if the Dems want to get elected this Fall, it would be useful to pay attention and to speak to the People. Yeah, you get your Big Bucks from the same kind of people who bribe Republican Pols, but you really need to get your act together and remember who you are, and where you came from. Otherwise, this nation is going down the tubes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Whistling Past the Graveyard

I was standing inside the showroom of a Ford dealer, waiting for my son-in-law to turn back his leased car. Two salesmen were nearby. I was looking at this large pickup in the showroom--Pickups, like SUVs come in many flavors, from monster to large to ordinary. This one was on the large side. I commented, "So, I guess you're not selling many of these, with gasoline at $4.00/gallon. He smiled, nervously, and replied, "Oh, no, if someone wants a truck, they want a truck. They'll come in and buy this one. Besides, the price is coming down." I said, "well, no, the prices will be up and down, but they're headed up permanently. We are now at the end of that period when we could hold on to low prices, while the rest of the world was being stung. Forty years ago, when we lived in India, we paid $2.50 a gallon, while in the US gas sold for $0.30. That period is over." He replies, "Yes, but they use liters, don't they?" I'm thinking, "Hmmm . . . and your point would be?"

See, it didn't matter what I said, he needed to believe. His future depended on the price of gas coming down, or on his conviction that Americans are fundamentally idiots when it comes to cars. And I was thinking . . . he's whistling past the graveyard.

When I read letters to the Eitor in the Observer saying, "well if drilling in ANWR brings down the price of gas 3 cents a gallon, I'm in favor of it. I don't care about wildlife, " I think, this man wants to be lied to. He's why a John McCain, or a Newt Gingrich can get away with arguing in favor of drilling. Their public wants to be lied to. Newt and John know that. They're not cynical, they're manipulative, much like the TV pitch men.

It's how we elected George W twice. He lied, they believed.

That's how American politics works these days.

But the Bill Collector is walking up the walk now. He's going to want to get paid.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why a Blog?

I decided to try to maintain a blog, to set down perceptions of the day's events, some personal, some political, or commercial. I used to write a lot as a public policy analyst with my own consulting firm. Now I ruminate less frequently, except for a weekly "liberal" column in our local Concord newspaper.
So, this is a beginning at a new form of open diary. I plan no specific agenda, but rather I will try to speak to issues that interest me, and hopefully others.
Three issues spark my interest this morning.
1. Vaccination rates for measles are down marginally, and the measles rate is up marginally, mainly due to parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids due to (largely unfounded) issues about links between autism and the measles vaccine. It's unfortunate, because eventually some kids will die. That's the way it is with measles. Most kids just get sick. Some require hospitalization, and some die. So parents are rolling the dice with their children's lives at stake. But for people unwilling to look at the evidence, that's their decision. Too bad their kids don't get a shot at the decision.
2. Hospital Death Rates are now being published by Medicare. That seems a good thing, except it's more complicated than the simple statistics indicate. One might assume that the higher the death rate associated with a hospital, the worse its care. That assumption is often wrong. Higher death rates might reveal hospitals that treat disproportionately high percentages of very elderly, or even very sick elderly patients. Sometimes people leave the hospital ok and then die within 30 days--they count. It's just one more indicator that for every complex issue there are generally one or two really simple answers that are wrong. Like the measles vaccination issue, it is always useful to look more deeply, and ask more questions before subscribing to particular points of view. Thinking, however difficult, remains useful.
3. Fat people seem to abound in the South. The day's Charlotte Observer reports the percentages of obese people in each state, and the South dominates. Life style and food preferences (high fat, fried foods) would account for the differences. But there's also an element, call it the George Bush Syndrome, that you can keep doing demonstrably harmful things forever and there will never be a bill to pay. Unfortunately, the bill always comes due.