Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Lost Travelers of the Time Horizon"

Do you think there's an office in the White House where someone's job is to sit there and make up this crap? Now, the administration reports that the Bush and Maliki governments have agreed on a "time horizon," for the withdrawal of US troops. Who's their sloganeer, H.G. Wells? How long do they expect the American people to buy this brand of bullshit? After trotting out slogans like "The new way forward," "Return on success," and "We'll stand down when they stand up," you would believe that Bush's message was controlled by a slick, Madison avenue-type advertising agency. If you believed that, you would be correct. Somewhere in the White House is a large storeroom for janitorial supplies where Frank Luntz lurks in the semi-darkness, laboring over a computerized thesaurus to find softer language to describe the crimes of the Bush administration. In Frank Luntz's world, Bush is "making love" to the country.

Luntz, a Republican pollster and language doctor for corporate interests, takes credit for changing the administration's position of total denial of global warming, to owning up that there has been somewhat of a "climate change." And rather than have the Oil Twins, Bush and Cheney, and their surrogates going around advocating drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico or otherwise offshore, Luntz suggested they say that they are in favor of local "energy exploration," and if it's near someones beach vacation spot, it's merely "deep sea energy exploration." What could possibly be wrong with that? It's not like oil spewing into our scenic shores from a pipeline break, it's just looking for energy. Luntz has appeared on every cable show from "Hardball," to "Real Time with Bill Maher," and I have some language to describe his appearance; "toupee challenged," or "the man with the coonskin hair." Hey pal, just admit your bald and get a decent piece. Then tell people you do it for your own psychological well-being and not theirs. It always worked for me.

This applies to the other "Orwellian" language that Luntz has defended in the past as a good thing; "Compassionate Conservative," "Homeland Security," "The Surge," and now the Star Trek-like, "Time Horizon." Has anyone referred to their country as the "Homeland" since the Nazis? The "surge" was just an escalation of troops, and "Time Horizon," is something you wish you had George Carlin still around to deal with. He might say something like, "Time is a human creation to measure our days, and since our days are transitory, and maybe our race too, time is an illusion. The 'Horizon,' is at least something you can see, but it still depends on conceptual human belief. You can start walking towards the horizon and drown before you ever get there. In other words, it's all total bullshit, and it's bad for ya'."

Now the bullshit torch has been passed to John McCain. To hear him tell it, the "surge" was such an enormous success that it has allowed us to "win" in our fight for Iraqi democracy and the right for them to sell us oil. If that's the case, in the words of Pooty Tang, "Let's wrap this shit up, G," declare the war over and won, and withdraw the troops. McCain instead, while his political rival is out of the country on a trip that McCain goaded him into taking, has decided to impugn Obama's personal ethics by saying, "He would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign." I understand Karl Rove is currently advising the McCain campaign but, have they gone insane? Is McCain so aggrieved at Obama's popularity that he is now planning to employ the entire Bush Bullshit Battalion to attack his loyalty?

McCain the "maverick" is gone, replaced by McCain the "new sheriff," who "knows how to win wars." Which war is he refering to? "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Wesley Clark caught a lot of flack for saying being a prisoner of war is not a presidential qualification, but if you consider McCain's role, had his plane not been shot down by the North Vietnamese, he would have just been another silent, and anonymous, killer in the night. The period of McCain's captivity assured that he missed the profound sociological changes that took place as a result of the Vietnam War, and he returned, a war hero to be sure, but with the same militaristic mindset with which he left the Naval Academy. It's ironic that the non-soldier Obama's assessments about the Middle-East were castigated as "appeasement" by the same administration that now embraces his ideas,(only using their own clumsy, self-serving linguistics), while the old soldier McCain is hung out to dry and left to defend his Nixonian visions of "winning with honor" on his own. There is no honor in withdrawing forces from a country that you have invaded and occupied for six years.

If Frank Luntz and Karl Rove can brainstorm some slogans for John McCain's hardline views, they'd better do better than "Time Horizon." They should call back Peggy Noonan to refer to Baghdad as, "A shining city in the sand, at least for a few hours a day," or, "Last chance for cheap gas." If the rest of Obama's Middle East trip goes as well as the opening week, perhaps the message masseurs should refocus their attention on the Bush legacy. I know the plans for the library are underway and the Bush Cult is concerned about how history will refer to Junior. Like Luntz, I was in the word business too, as a lyricist for popular music, and I've created some epithets that history can co-opt when referencing our lamest of lame duck presidents. 1) "George the Terrible" 2) "Bush the Merciless," and my personal favorite, 3) "George the Scourge." That's what's in my "time horizon," along with maybe, "Inmate Cheney." Keep hope alive.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Starring George Bush as James Dean

I stumbled upon some psychological insight into the chuckleheaded mass of protoplasm known as George Bush. I was watching him cross the White House lawn after getting off of his helicopter, making those inane hand wiggling motions he uses for a wave, and then he did something that looked sophomoric but vaguely familiar. He held his hand out, palm down, and made a scooping, circular motion that ended up as some type of greeting. I knew I had seen it in the distant past, but I couldn't quite remember where until it occurred to me that it was the wave James Dean used in two different movies, most notably "Giant." I used to think it was cool, and did the scoop wave myself until I outgrew it in the seventh grade. It was then that I realized; "This dumb son of a bitch thinks he's James Dean."

To prove my theory, we acquired a copy of "Giant," the George Stevens four hour soap opera of the Edna Ferber book, and it views like the George W. Bush story. You can almost picture George in 1956, wearing his coonskin cap, mesmerized by the big screen's version of the Lone Star state. Filmed in Marfa, Texas, "Giant" is the huge, sprawling tale of the Benedict Ranch, starring Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor as the ranch's proprietors, and James Dean as the ne'er-do-well roustabout Jet Rink. Jordan Benedict (Rock) lives on the ranch with his silver-haired sister, Luzz, (read: Barr), who is Rink's benefactor and surrogate mother. She even looks like Barbara Bush and has a bad temper and an intolerant streak for Mexicans, to whom she refers to as "those people." Luzz pampers Rink/Dean, but surrogate daddy Rock wants him the hell out of there. When Luzz dies, she leaves Jet a small parcel on the larger ranch which he calls "Little Reata," just like "Arbusto Oil."

Surrogate Dad is a successful, old-school cattle man, but Jet wants to be a wildcatter, and sure enough, he strikes oil, which leads to one of the films memorable scenes. Jet drives his jalopy right up to the big house and tells Jordan, "I'm a richun', I'm going to be even richer than you." It gets stranger when Jordan and Leslie (Liz) have twins, just like the Bushes, and they name one of the girls Luzz after the silver-haired old bat, just like George and Laura named one of their daughters Barbara. The good son, played by Dennis Hopper, doesn't want to work the ranch and runs off to marry a Mexican woman, just like Jeb Bush. Remember when the elder Bushes referred to their grandchildren as "the little brown ones?" It's right there in "Giant." Even Georgie's Oedipal struggle with Dad is portrayed by Jet Rink's crush on Jordan Benedict's wife, Leslie, who's too good for him.

In the movie's conclusion, Jet Rink gets drunk and passes out at his own testimonial dinner, showing all of Texas that he does what he damn well pleases. Just like the dry drunk George Bush, who's manic antics have made him the Global Village Idiot, and caused international ridicule and shame over the morally and emotionally bankrupt child we elected as our president. Jet Rink, like George Bush, believed that money could buy him respectability. Poppy's money and assorted henchman even made Georgie the President, but respectability alludes him. He is still the oafish, immature cowboy, Jet Rink, and nobody tells him what to do. For Bush's first forty years, he imitated the fast cars, boozing lifestyle of James Dean. That's what caught the attention of Karl Rove and made him believe he could make Bush president. Only, James Dean wrapped his race car around a tree and made an early exit. George just got a DUI. Had Dean lived to see George the Jackass assume his mannerisms and his dress, he might have concluded what everyone else has by now; that George W. Bush is a punk-ass chump.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

July 4th, Memphis Style

Happy Independence day. In Memphis, the local news crews requested that people not fire their guns into the air because the ammunition will ultimately come down somewhere. But I suppose that demographic wasn't watching the news and shot up the place anyway. A man ate some Bar-B-Que with his ex-girlfriend's family in Overton Park, then shot her and killed himself while children played nearby. A man was struck in the leg while mowing his yard, a mother and her young child were grazed by bullets as they celebrated in a downtown park, and my stepson, Cameron, and two of his friends were robbed at gunpoint in an elevator of the parking garage at Peabody Place. There were no security cameras present in the elevators or the garage. We are technologically able to watch a man on YouTube spend forty-eight hours in a New York office building elevator, but the proprietors of Peabody Place can't stick a security camera in the parking lot.

As usual, I wasn't going to answer the 1:30 AM call with the unknown number on the caller ID, until Cameron said, "If you're listening, pick up." He was unhurt physically, if not bruised morally, and was calling mainly to tell me to cut off the service to his stolen cell phone. He had no keys and needed to come by and asked me to tell his mother. I awoke Melody first with the news that he was safe, then filled in the details. I shared her outrage, doubly so, because this is the second time in two years that Cameron has had a gun pointed in his face.("Baghdad On the Mississippi;" 8/6/07). When Melody asked me the race of the gunman, I said, "Black." Only then, because I've somehow retained some semblance of sensitivity, did I realize that Cameron had never told me the armed robber's race, I had merely assumed he was black, and pointed out my own racial prejudices to my wife.

Of course, the gunman was black. There are no Caucasian armed robbers preying on innocent people who came downtown to see the fireworks and celebrate the Fourth. My black friends and acquaintances know that I am not one to launch into some quasi-racist tirade for two reasons; I would never say or write anything I would not comfortably discuss face to face, and I do not generalize. As part of a group that has been generalized about, I recognized that brand of foolishness long ago from being Jewish, and though anti-Semitism was never as virulent in the South as racial hatred, I understand the injustice of painting any group of people with so broad a brush as to deny individuality. Having said that, allow me to delve into a topic that may be none of my damn business; the crisis among young black men, and the affects on the larger community.

Cameron is of a group now called the "post-racial generation." While I never attended classes with anyone of a different race than me until I reached college, Cameron has always been part of a racially mixed social and scholastic group. He has as many black friends as white, and I can honestly say that even as a teenager, he was the least racially conscience person I'd ever met. So I asked him, "What is it? Is it a generational thing? Is it this insane "thug culture?" Cameron suggested people were getting held up when I was a kid, and I replied, "Never like this. There were never so many guns on the streets." The result is that Memphis ranks #1 in property crimes among major cities, and is among the top five cities in violent crime. Once gang free, Memphis is riddled with gangbangers killing each other and the occasional innocent child on the swing set.

Then Cameron made it plain for me by explaining that it is several decades of teenage mothers having babies that fall immediately adrift; homeless, helpless, aimless. It's too much drug abuse and pointless existences among young men that prefer to victimize others rather than gain for themselves. It's a gang mentality that stresses "revenge" as manly and studious pursuits as "white." But it's not so much a societal thing as just plain ignorance. Among an older generation of black people, there is great dismay and confusion that has been unreported by the media until only recently when certain famous celebrities spoke out. Even Jesse Jackson admitted to his own embarrassed relief, when he found the group of men that were walking behind him to be white and not black. Is it fair to blame the entertainment media's glorification of the "gangsta?" In my young days, we all watched "Shaft" and "Superfly," but it didn't cause a rash of young men to go out and become pimps and private dicks.

I have no answers. I only hope this violent era passes with the violence that provoked it. Sensible whites and blacks feel the same about this crisis that stares us in the face down the barrel of a gun. The handgun manufacturers and their enablers, like the Supreme Court, won't be satisfied until we're all sporting side holsters like in Old Dodge City. Then, by God, nobody dare tread on us. Or on our neighbors' yards either, as was the case in Texas last week when a man killed two men running from the house next door, and wasn't charged. This may mollify some, but I don't want to live this way. I told Cameron that perhaps the election of Barack Obama will inspire a new generation that doesn't want to live this way any longer either. He just said, "Don't count on it." Meanwhile, Cameron says he's, "outta' here. I'm going home." He is joining the Peace Corps, and by "home," he meant Mother Africa, where he has requested to be located. We hope he'll be safer there.