Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grampy & The MILF



The selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate shocked many in his party who wondered why the most known Republican would pick someone so unknown.
Palin, 44, is a mother of five and former small town councilwoman and mayor who has served as Alaska’s governor for 20 months. The GOP is hammering Barack Obama on his inexperience (Obama has been a U.S. Senator since 2005; before that he was in the Illinois Senate from 1997 until 2004) and choose Palin, who has less experience than Obama.
The GOP said Palin has more “executive experience” than Obama. Does McCain or anyone else running have “executive experience”?
Who is this enchantress from the frozen north that will be McCain’s numero dos?
When she was younger, Palin won “Miss Congeniality” in a beauty contest and finished second in the miss Alaska pageant. She majored in journalism at the University of Idaho and worked as a sports reporter for a local television station. Palin served on the Wasilla city council and later as its mayor before her election as governor. She supports opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for oil, favors capital punishment and gun education for children. She opposes abortion and gay marriage, yet she vetoed a bill that would have prevented partners of gay state employees from receiving health benefits. She favors teaching students both creationism and evolution.
In choosing Palin, McCain’s camp made one of the most brilliant maneuvers in American politics. Not comfortable in giving the Democrats the monopoly on change, the Republicans chose a woman on their ticket. Not since Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale in 1984 has a woman ran on a presidential ticket, and after the drama power-struggle between Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Republicans knew there’d be a lot of pissed off women.
So what does Palin mean for the ticket? It means McCain looks like the maverick he purports to be. Palin is a safe pick, someone who proves the Republicans aren’t a bunch of stodgy old men. Obama’s ad nauseum mantra of change is apparently resonating because McCain, by making his veep a woman, is showing the GOP can be progressive and that the party is not the sausage fest it’s been for over 100 years.
Palin is short on experience, but she has strengths that work in an election based more on who the candidates are rather than what they stand for and their individual track records. Policis is now about superficial impressions and this candidate will work well for the GOP. Here are some of her strengths that could put her and McCain in the White House:

* Palin is hot. Not Sports Illustrated swimsuit model hot, but she’s definitely hot. Okay, she’s very doable.

* Palin is a mother. She’s got five kids. One of them serves in the U.S. Army and will be deployed to Iraq for active duty. One of her kids has Down syndrome. She knows the nurturing, motherly love thing and is a self-described “hockey mom”. And that’s hot.

* Palin has the Everywoman thing going on. She’s not from old money. She’s not entrenched in any oligarchy. Her father was a science teacher and her mother was a secretary. Palin eloped and married her high school sweetheart. She’s got a background that appeals to regular people. That’s also hot.

* She wears glasses and looks like every man’s fantasy librarian. Hot.

* Palin’s record and views on foreign policy is…scant. Nobody outside Alaska knows where she stands yet. Because she’s so new and unheard of, reporters have to dig for any information about her. And if you’re the GOP who wants a candidate without any skeletons in their closet, then this is hot.

* Palin did not run against McCain in the primary, so there are no clips of her criticizing him. The GOP is using clips of Joe Biden hammering Obama from the primary debates.

* Palin is a woman. A woman young enough to appeal to younger women voters and disenchanted Hillary supporters. Her “den mother” qualities appeal to housefraus, career women and anyone else with a vagina. And that’s hot.

* Palin loves guns. She’s a member of the NRA and kills animals. Again, hot.

* Did you know Palin once smoked marijuana? Though legal at the time in Alaska, Palin smoked a doobie. Now that’s hot. She later said she didn’t like it. Sure, Sarah. Sure…

* She shares a last name with Michael Palin, member of Monty Python. Not really hot, but just an interesting factoid.

So to recap: McCain picked an appealing woman who will please the social conservatives, disenfranchised women who feel politics is a cock party, and someone with no substantive positions on foreign policy and international affairs. Biden will destroy her in the debates, then look like a bully for picking on a girl.
Hillary supporters might be less inclined to vote for the McCain ticket once they know Palin's views on abortion, guns and the war in Iraq.
Palin might surprise us all. She might be a hotter version of Margaret Thatcher: a tough-as-nails broad who wants to mix it up with the big boys. She might be this, we don’t know. McCain’s selection does have its merits, but is also polarizing and could backfire. He’s really putting everything on the line with Palin. Whether she’s aggressive and speaks her mind or is a good-looking Stepford puppet remains to be seen.
For now, this presidential race got a hell of a lot more interesting…and hotter.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Magical, Hoperiffic, Changetastical World of Barack Obama

When I wanted to blog about Senator Barack Obama’s watershed speech “The American Promise” he delivered to the Democratic National Convention tonight, I wanted to scrutinize and critique the hell out of it.
I wanted to be like the talking heads and pundits who analyze every phrase for double meanings.
I wanted to be a dick and say he talks in high platitudes and that everything he says is raw bullshit designed to wheedle the common masses out of four more years.
I wanted to…but I’m not.
Though the pundits predictably gushed at the speech, including Pat Buchanan – Buchanan for Christ’s sake – I have to say that the criticisms Obama’s speech was nothing but kabuki theater for the gullible plebs hooked into muttering the mantra of the “c-word” (that’s “change” and not the other one), were unfounded.
The speech was deftly executed, well-organized and concise in preserving major themes and effectively communicating them. Obama’s speech was also delivered on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and Obama used the anniversary as a rallying cry to inspire voters to support him. Obama, the first black man (technically half black, half white but who’s keeping score) nominated as the candidate for a major party, talked about his family and personal history, addressed criticisms of his experience, defused criticisms from Republicans on his ability to lead, and provided some specifics on what all this “change” business actually was.
The Republican's biggest criticism is that Obama is a hollow man, espousing words such as “change” and “hope” with no real context or definition of his policies. He’s all fluff, no substance. A young candidate that inspires the MTV generation. The acceptance speech did address this, as well as criticisms levied by Republicans that the Illinois Senator is too inexperienced. Obama responded by evoking Kennedy and Reagan, drawing a comparison to their elections as the people’s desire to invest in something new and untried.
Obama, as well as every other Democrat who spoke at the convention, acknowledged John McCain’s military service. McCain is a nice guy and good soldier, they said, but he’s dead wrong in his agreement with George Bush. I guarantee at their convention the Republicans won’t be as gracious to Obama, and deride the Democrats en masse as the Party of the Great Horned Beast.
Obama’s praise might have been by design. Flatter your opponent and put him on the defensive.
One thing I picked up was the parallel between Obama’s speech and the Aaron Sorkin movie The American President. Some parts seemed eerily similar in word choice and tone, as if his staff rented the movie to inspire the speechwriters and candidate before the convention. Here are some examples:

Obama: It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

Movie: Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it.

Obama: The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

Movie: This is a time for serious men, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up.

Despite this homage to great political cinema, the speech was more than the emotional, heartstring-tugging fare delivered at party conventions. It was a different Obama speech, one with gravity and weight.
To be expected from a Democratic speech, it was heavy on domestic issues. The speech also touched on fighting terrorists and improving America’s standing globally. Democrats always poll low on War on Terror and national security questions, and it was refreshing to hear a Democrat talk about committing troops. Obama cast Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq as misguided and pushed committing troops into Afghanistan to deal with Al-Qaeda directly.
Obama might be this young, charismatic figure that bridges the gap between the generations, a savior/messiah figure that comes along once in a generation, someone who can manipulate the media to his advantage and deliver a concise message that resonates with voters. He might be, as I’ve heard people say, “the real deal”, someone who evokes Kennedy or Bill Clinton, a leader of the cult of personality who really wants the country to prosper and lift us out of this vale of evil and place us on a mountaintop of prosperity and purpose.
Or the guy might just be another snake oil selling charlatan, a Pied Piper of Hamlin leading the rats to the voting booths with sweet music and fairy-tale promises of hope and change.
One thing I do know is that the convention speech was unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a long time. Bush is about as inspiring as a wet dishrag. I don’t think McCain has the charisma or personal qualities to attract people that Obama has. The right wants to argue about patriotism, whether Obama is fit to serve and what an elitist he is. If the Republicans don’t produce more substance and back off their tactics of fear and smear and have McCain actually challenge and inspire Americans by offering to take the country in a clearly-defined direction, then their campaign could easily flounder.
One thing Obama’s speech did was accuse Republicans of waging a campaign attacking Obama's stances as superficial and his policies as pie-in-the-sky. Obama countered with a terse response that was probably the only time in recent memory I think a political figure was openly honest:

“I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.”

Obama put McCain on the defensive. Now it’s up to Republicans at their convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul to present their vision for America and McCain to outline the reasons why people should vote for him.
Rest assured, America will be listening.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just Write the Truth

I had one of those “why am I still a journalist” moments the other day. Seems that a certain former councilman read my blog and didn’t approve of a previous post where I ripped him specifically and politicians in general.
He called my rant “childish” and said, “If this is what you think of elected officials after 14 years, then you need to get into another line of work, brother.”
He wanted to lay a guilt trip on me.
I mean, journalists are supposed to love the hell out of politicians, right? I actually have a shrine to George Bush in my room I adorn with candles nightly.
Okay, I'm being sardonic there.
Thing is, when I started reporting, I didn’t harbor these impressions. I fawned over politicians when I was in my 20s – a kind of mystique and admiration of those in power. It was this idealistic fascination with politics that made me interested in political reporting. I attended the Congressional inauguration in 1995, covered nearly every congressional race since then and many state and local races in my area.
I was mesmerized and hooked on the legislative process, something no sane person would care to freely admit.
But over time, the wonder and awe faded. The honeymoon was over. I realized that it wasn’t about a sacred exercise in democracy – it was just political parties raking in dough and churning out bland, boring men in suits who are safe and marketable.
I haven't seen mavericks or trailblazers. Year after year campaigns that aren't hip-deep in bullshit are rancor-filled battles where the winner does their best to demonize their opponents without looking like an asshole.
I explained to the offended ex-councilman that this is why I was angry at "elected officials" who talk about progress and patriotism but act like mongrels wrestling each other for scraps.
It's not about democracy or elevating public discourse. It's about money and fear.
Why I still work as a journalist is a mystery to me. Maybe I'm numb from men in suits and neckties who claim to know so much but say and do so little to actually improve their constituent's lives. Maybe after hearing so much spin and propaganda, I've become acclimated to people who don't want to hear facts or truth but have their opinions validated. Maybe I'm like a businessman who hires hookers to burn cigarettes on his arm - a complete masochist hungry for the pain.
Is that why I'm still here?
This above former official once worked as a journalist over a decade ago, but chose politics over reporting. I'm the one who weathered politics from the public side of the dais. I didn't get invited to fancy parties or feted by muckety-mucks from Trenton. I don't have the connections he has, nor do I want them. I just open the notebook, ask the questions and write.
I used to feel like I'm just stuck in traffic, waiting for the light to change.
Recently, my father and I talked about local politics and my newspaper. He told me, "Just keep writing the truth."
I guess that's why I'm still here. If the press didn't exist, these "elected officials" and governmental bureaucrats would get away with murder.
I'm trying to just write the truth.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCain is no Dungeon Master

John McCain staffer Michael Goldfarb on McCain's blog responded to criticism that McCain plagiarized an account from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, when the Soviet prisoner became inspired after a fellow inmate drew a cross in the sand. McCain told the same story about his experiences as a captive in Vietnam, with a guard who drew a cross in the sand. Goldfarb called the attacks "desperate" and then compared Barrack Obama supporters to Dungeons & Dragons geeks:

"It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others. "

Is that how you stifle your detractors? Call your opponents nerds? Is John McCain running for president of the United States or high school class president?
And Dungeons & Dragons? Does the old stereotype of the socially-awkward geek in his parent's basement playing D&D really resonate with voters who aren't trapped in 1978?
Talk about misdirection. Your candidate is questioned about whether he lifted a story from a Soviet prisoner and you bring up D&D. If that's the best the McCain camp can do, they are in trouble.
In his blog, Goldfarb compared the editors of The New York Times to a blogger "sitting at home in his mother's basement and ranting into the ether between games of Dungeons & Dragons."
Is Goldfarb's frame of reference the 1982 made-for-TV movie "Mazes and Monsters," where a disturbed gamer (future Oscar-winner Tom Hanks) goes batty after losing himself in a game that's strangely like D&D?
Back in the 1980s, which is probably where McCain's cultural barometer stops, a movement by evangelicals and parent groups decried D&D as promoting Satanism and antisocial behavior. Of course none of these people actually played the game, but that's not important. What's important was that rabid zealots propagated untruths about a game where prepubescent teenagers sat around a table pretending to battle orcs and trolls.
Now it's not that Goldfarb is calling Obama supporters or anyone questioning McCain as evil Satanists (although that ad might hit sometime closer to the election). It's that he's calling them...geeks.
So any time you point out a candidate is playing fast and loose with the facts, you're an acne-scarred D&D nerd?
What's wrong with roleplayers anyway that they deserve this negative stigma? Most roleplayers I know are intelligent, creative and successful people. They're not maladjusted loners or rejects.
I think Goldfarb is showing his ignorance and, quite frankly, his obtuseness when it comes to this much-maligned hobby of RPGs (that's roleplaying games, not rocket-propelled grenades, Mr. Cheney). Roleplayers adopt alternate identities and use combat and violence to overcome obstacles. Sounds an awful lot like Bush Republicans, right? See? They do have something in common with the Dungeons & Dragons crowd.
I played D&D in school, and I own several RPGs, including several editions of D&D. I've written and designed an RPG and from my experience, the gaming industry is not a hobby for nebbishy nerds - it's a great opportunity to meet and work with professional people.
I was talking about Goldfarb's D&D barb to a buddy of mine who owns a local game shop. He's held game drives in his store where people can donate games and comic books to American troops serving in Iraq. What Goldfarb and the other McCain staffers might not realize is members of the military actually play D&D and roleplaying games. A few people I know in the gaming industry who design RPGs served in the military at one point in their lives. How many conservatives who play RPGs and D&D did Goldfarb alienate with his snarky comparison?
Goldfarb actually apologized for his statements after a wave of protest hit the Internet:

"If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American."

Wow. What a suck up. Think he had a staffer run out and buy a 4th edition and generate a character? To appease the gaming geeks he lists the abilities and all's forgiven? Why stop there? Why not mention hit points, the Bag of Holding or Mordenkainen's Sword?
Goldfarb's ill-chosen jab is not really about D&D or gaming. It's about the devaluation of intelligent people in our society. It associates intelligence with nerds and awkwardness and, according to McCain's camp, they're the ones running Obama's campaign.
This leads to the intriguing question: who the fuck is managing the McCain campaign? What out of touch blueblooded preppie douchebags are pulling this guy's strings? Aren't there enough alpha wolf posers and Project for the New American Century neocons who need to pad out their resumes? If D&D is their cultural benchmark, they really need to leave the country club and get out more. This is the 21st century, Skippy! Broaden your horizons!
Maybe actually playing a game of D&D would introduce McCain, Goldfarb and their ilk to a new concept: using their imaginations.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Angry Reporter on Journalism.me

Kiyoshi Martinez of Chicago has a really wonderful blog about journalism and journalists called, appropriately, Journalism.me.
My site, The Angry Reporter, is one of the many sites linked to the network, which consists of blogs by journalists, editors and graphic designers. It's great being part of a vast, online kvetching community of media professionals.
Martinez's journalism blogosphere has more than newsroom rants - it's got news about the news industry culled from the Internet. Think of it as the Drudge Report but without the sensational fear-mongering and blurry photos of celebrity crotches.
Thanks for including my blog, Kiyoshi. You're beginning a noble experiment by linking journalists throughout the world and that's commendable.

http://journalism.me/

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Governor, a Boardwalk and a Massive Photo-Op



New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine visited Ocean City today, and brought with him the usual horde of spin-doctors, sycophants, and hangers-on. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, it’s politics. These people are part of the package.
I waited in the lobby of the Port-O-Call Hotel for the governor to show up. The Ocean City Illuminati, a few connected business owners, clergy leaders and government officials popped by to introduce themselves when the governor’s black SUV pulled up.
Corzine shook hands as he entered the hotel, and made his way to the small group of reporters – one local news camera and three local journalists, myself included.
When the governor shook hands with me, he noticed my notebook.
“Oh, he’s got one of those things. He’s a reporter,” Corzine said when we shook hands.
“Yes, excellent,” I said through clenched teeth. No matter. I’d get him later. See, I called my dad on my cell phone minutes before Corzine’s arrival and asked him if he had any questions he wanted the governor to answer.
“Ask him why New Jersey has the highest property tax in the country,” my dad said.
My dad owns a small business and a few properties and gets pummeled by high taxes. He thinks the government screws you for wanting the American dream. Decades ago, the working man yearned for prosperity. Now the government penalizes you for succeeding.
Corzine made his way down the Boardwalk, photographers leaping in front of him and snapping photos, dodging joggers and cyclists and following the governor and a cadre of local officials including the mayor, city business administrator and president of the state AFL-CIO.
The governor chatted with beach tag collectors, met tourists and posed for pictures. The whole event was a dog and pony show and a gigantic photo op with Ocean City as a backdrop.
A man on a bicycle rode by and called out, “Nice job!”
A woman sitting on a bench with a large plastic drum of caramel corn overhead this and blurted, “What? Are you nuts?”
Corzine stopped and bought salt water taffy and visited the Ocean City Music Pier, where local girls rehearsed for the Miss Ocean City Pageant.
The governor had a few hecklers. A few guys riding bikes yelled out, “Drill for oil!” but Corine’s presence received mostly positive attention. When Corzine walked into a local pizza shop, the place burst out in applause. He sat and had pizza and shook hands and chatted, all while photographers snapped his every move.



Usually such stunts are tiresome exercises in futility, but I walked with his entourage for blocks and his aide assured me that I’d get a chance to interview the governor. A perky TV reporter who resembled an Amazon beauty queen lobbed softball questions at Corzine. I wanted the governor to answer dad’s question.
So I ran it by the governor’s aide.
“I don’t think that’s the kind of question we want today,” the aide said. “Today is about being on the Boardwalk…”
“Okay,” I said, nodding.
When Corzine exited the pizza shop, his aide grabbed him and said the local press would like to interview him.
Corzine came over. Here’s what transpired:

ME: I was going to ask about property taxes.
CORZINE: Property taxes are a serious problem in this state. We put a cap on. We’re trying to bring about consolidation in services and provision of services. A lot of people are not happy with some of those elements but we actually cut the budget this year. If that ends up having implications of municipalities, we increased the spending on education on a broader basis or hold out the place where property taxes are driven by. At the end of the day there’s growing costs across the state and across the country; energy, food and other things that the state has to deal with as well and the local government. We’re going to do everything we can to hold the line. The rate of increases cut back pretty significantly….It’s a problem, I know it, but we’ve got to keep working on it. We can’t fix it overnight.
ME: How can we make it more affordable for people to stay here and for businesses to relocate here and set up shop so everyone can enjoy New Jersey?
CORZINE: The idea of dealing with health care, dealing with the cost of education, dealing with some of the business tax structure which we’ve worked on, I’ve lowered business taxes about $500 million since I’ve been in office, are all elements that will help encourage the growth of business over a period of time. We have a national recession going on so you sometimes have to distinguish what’s happening in the state versus what’s happening from the national economy. It looks to me like Ocean City is doing well, at least today. From what I hear revenues are strong this year, activity is strong. Matter of fact, a lot of people are staying close to home this year and I think that probably helps this year.

Well, dad, I tried. I didn’t want to just talk about the obvious – his visit to the Boardwalk. How many weekly reporters from southern New Jersey can interview the governor? Usually, he’s protected by a phalanx of aides and a communications office that handles media inquiries. Not today. Today, I asked dad’s question and the reply was promptly spun.
Corzine and the Ocean City delegation continued their journey to view a solar panel project on the city’s civic center. Along the way, the head of the Boardwalk Merchants group nudged me.
“Can I ask you a question? How come your paper writes articles that are critical of the administration?” he asked me.
“They’re not critical. It’s just news,” I replied.
“But they’re one-sided,” he said.
At this point I became belligerent.
“Oh, no! We’re so biased!” I pretended to lament. “Listen, I talk to the mayor and the administration for every story I do. I get all sides of a story. If you feel slighted about a Boardwalk story, then I’ll interview you.”
“No, it’s not the Boardwalk. It’s just that your stories report one side and criticize the administration,” he said.
“Look, I talk to everyone. Do you even read the paper? I try to get comments from the mayor and business administrator every week. I’m professional at what I do. That’s why I win the awards,” I said, making a slam dunk in the argument.
The guy backed off.
“I’m not having any animosity here,” he said.
“Neither am I,” I said. “Life is too short to have animosity. If you feel slighted, then just give me a call.”
I felt 100 feet tall. I used to back off any criticisms and shrink at any assertions that my reporting was skewed or biased in any way. Today, I wasn’t meek. I defended my reputation and profession. I’m the Fourth Estate, bitches. Don’t fuck with me.
In the end, the meet-and-greet was a well-orchestrated grovel-fest between local officials and the governor, but that’s what politics is: ingratiating and ass-kissing. Ocean City partnered with the state for a beach replenishment project, they keep applying and getting state grants, they continue to be America’s Greatest Family Resort. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. That’s the way politics works in New Jersey. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right. I’m saying it’s just the way it is here.
Corzine posed for pictures and thanked everyone for hosting his visit. His black SUV pulled up near the civic center and he, his aides and State Trooper security detail got inside and were whisked away, north to Ocean Grove, to another town and another place where he met a different set of local officials and tourists. To do a familiar grip-and-grin dance and hear the plight of the little people.
Walking home, a noisy calliope from Gillian’s Wonderland spilled its jaunty melody out onto the Boardwalk. I threw back my head and laughed out loud. I felt an electric pulse of absurdity around me, a carnival of mediocrity where the scum of the earth were the hawkers, luring unsuspected hayseeds into the big top with promises of wonders and delights that turn out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Wanna Be On SWAT

video

At National Night Out, the county SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team were on hand, and they brought some fun toys with them. I tried out the kevlar vest, battering ram and shield while a nice SWAT officer videotaped me...mocking police brutality. I'm sorry, but if you suit up in that equipment, you just get a primal urge to crack open a terrorist's head or lob tear gas at political dissidents. If I wasn't a reporter, I'd be on the SWAT team, kicking ass and taking names. These people train hard and are extremely skilled at what they do and respond to hostage rescues, assistance on drug raids, and other specialized situations.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Freedom of the Press?

Today a former councilman told me to delay publishing a story of his acceptance to work in State College, Pa. as executive director of a downtown improvement district. Apparently the councilman, who has been out of office for over a month, said the story of him leaving town would look bad because he's under investigation by the local ethics board after a resident filed a complaint against him when he was on council.
He wanted me to delay publishing the story, which had been picked up by two papers in State College, until the ethics board rules on the counts against him.
"It would create the impression that I was leaving because of the ethics complaint," he said. "I promise and give you my word that I won't talk to any other newspaper and you'll get the story."
I said I'll run it by my editor first. My editor said we should publish the story and that said former official wasn't in office anymore nor was he taking a job in the private sector. It was a job in a municipal authority, with public accountability. Besides, two other newspapers in Pennsylvania ran the story.
So I told the former official we were going ahead and publish it and I needed a quote from him about his job opportunity in the bucolic splendor of central Pennsylvania and said I wouldn't mention the ethics complaint because it had nothing to do with the story. He didn't budge.
"I'll send you a press release with my comments on it," he said.
I'm only doing my job, and you rebuke me for the story I wrote on the ethics complaint against you by clamming up and trying to get me to yank this new story and publish it at a time when it's politically convenient for you. Does anyone see the problem with this?
Thanks for confirming my theory that politicians, whether they're in office or not, are two-faced scumbags.
If the media bends, even a little, we're not serving the public's best interest by informing them in a timely manner.
I know it's not a colossal, earth-shattering story, but suppressing information based on the whims of a former politician is wrong.
Not that it matters, but the politician in question was a Democrat. You know, the same bunch that says they champion freedoms and individual liberties and call for more open and honest government. Bullshit! They favor exactly what's favorable for their clique and nothing more. It's ego and self-interest before the people's right to know.
Sorry, bitches, but I don't do coverups.
Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle down here. The citizens don't realize how much grief and crap I go through to write the news.
This is not an exotic career; it's like plummeting down an elevator shaft into a pile of live scorpions, except the scorpions get re-elected every four years.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Baby Boomers Just Suck

On August 1, House Republicans protested a move by Democrats to adjourn Congress for an August recess before voting on a measure to open land to domestic oil drilling. Democrats refused to let the matter come to a vote. The lights and microphones were turned off, leaving a small group of Republicans remaining to voice their objections to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat's hasty retreat. More damaging, C-SPAN's cameras were switched off and reporters were told to leave.
The Republicans bashed the Democrats for not allowing the vote, which they said would provide relief to beleaguered consumers who are paying high gas prices. The chaotic protest, which involved visitors coming down to the floor, lights being switched off and on and a round of "God Bless America", demonstrates just how screwed up and uncivil government is.
The Democrats didn't want the vote, but instead of having it, they shut the lights off, left the chamber and gave the Republicans the opportunity to look strong. It doesn't matter if the Republican protest was a smear-fest against Pelosi and her ilk. What this shows is a genuine lack of accountability by a legislative body whose approval rating is in the teens and twenties depending on the source.
This episode demonstrates the divide between the left and the right and the disconnect the American people have with their elected representatives. In the end, Congress doesn't care about the will of the people. Politicians don't serve the average citizen - they have and always will serve the interests of their political parties. In the end, it isn't about left or right, liberals or conservatives. It's about factions, money and power and whoever is in the driver's seat commands the civilization.
Society's primary role in America isn't a loving democracy where citizens vote and participate and have their say. Such a system would lead to breakdowns and anarchy. No, America's social order is based on conformity, capitalism and fear and the political system fosters this.
A majority in Congress are baby boomers - people born in the years of or shortly after World War II. Their politics were influenced by two factions during their youth - the establishment and counterculture. The practical conservatives and idealistic liberals. Their personal views of what society should be became the driving force of where they stand politically. Compromise and doing the right thing for society's sake takes a back seat to winning an argument. No wonder why Congress seldom accomplishes much - their whole agenda is a 40-year old pissing contest over Vietnam, equality and re-making a social order based on feel-good slogans.
This isn't to say their contribution to America have been for naught; equality for women and minorities altered America's social landscape forever. But at some point, you have to put your idealism aside and work with practical realities. You have to compromise and meet people half way. You can't remain a recalcitrant, self-righteous liberal dipshit or a pig-headed, rigid conservative asshole all the time.
Okay, so maybe you can.
With the baby boomers in control, everything is fucked up. It's the virtue and family values crowd versus the if-it-feels-good-do-it bunch, the crewcuts versus the longhairs, Fred MacMurray versus Abbie Hoffman. Instead of creating a homogenized society, politics factionalizes and marginalizes groups. This division is deliberate, because without scapegoats you can't make the electorate fearful. It's not about drawing people to you out of respect, admiration or confidence - it's about scaring the shit out of them so they'd vote for you.
Candidates do this Machiavellian dance every election cycle, demonizing opponents and manipulating the public, who consume politics like products. Political parties are nothing more than brands that spin doctors advertise as the latest cure-all panacea for your social ills. Gas prices up? Then you need to buy a Republican. Tired of the war? How about switching to Democrat? And while the pundits spin and partisan hacks blather in an American mosh pit of political discourse, our freedoms, rights and liberties, once viewed as sacrosanct by the Founding Fathers, are slowly disappearing.
I don't know what the solution is. I write about what I see and feel in my gut. I love my country, but I hate how it's being run. The baby boomers of both parties dwell in the past and only talk about the future because those sound bites sound great on the news. The people running this country have bred cynicism and scorn from those who haven't imbibed the red, white and blue Flavor Aid like a majority of good patriotic cultists. Those who are awake or are paying attention know everything's fucked up.
Baby boomers battle over what they think their own utopian vision for America should be. We, the people, are lab rats trapped in their experiments. Except lab rats aren't subjected to inane slogans or warped policies.
My generation sees things differently. Generation X has its rootless anger and violence, its knowing manipulation by Madison Avenue and Hollywood and its acquisition of status symbols and technology. We were jokingly viewed as apathetic and distant slackers; a jaded, forlorn generation raised on grunge music, MTV, and video games. Yet in our 30s, we're more like our grandparent's generation - practical, hardworking and, dare I say it, optimistic about the country. Yes, optimistic that all the bungled bullshit our parents supported and the mess we're in will one day cease.
Baby boomers were raised with fears of mushroom clouds and nuclear armageddon. They were indoctrinated and nursed on fear and propaganda. My generation is skeptical of government and the media and this is a good thing, because when you scrutinize everything and think for yourself, you develop a keen knack for siphoning through the bullshit. I think Generation X is good at separating fact from fiction and bullshit from good government.
The pissy stunt the Democrats pulled by shutting off the lights and leaving the chamber and the so-called protest made by the the Republicans is bullshit, each an orchestrated display of unadulterated partisanship made for the cameras - when they were switched on, of course.