Here's a patriotic elephant, looking all U.S.A. And his friend, the patriotic donkey, also 'merica'd out.

My dad was a New Deal democrat. He had a spate as shop steward at his factory before me and my sibs were conscious. He filed a grievance after he was fired for taking the day–not the whole day–to bring my mom home from the hospital. She was in the hospital to have a baby. Me. He won. For the other guys, too.

I remember him saying that the union should negotiate for a new dental benefit–of which I begot my straight teeth–rather than incrementally higher wages. He thought he was paid well-enough and that the real value of organized labor was ensuring that his family had access to the tools of good health. He was also for the vision plan.

He worked at the forge plant. In Hamtramck. His toughest days were those days when he had to put out fires. Literally. He’d come home smelling of burning factory with a bit of ash on his cheek as he made his way to the shower. On days his relief didn’t show up, he had to stay at his post. He’d work a double. He couldn’t leave.

He’d get two days off in a row. Each week they would slide one day over so once in a while he’d have a “weekend” off. Weekends weren’t a big part of our family life since the school weekend rarely coincided with his work weekend.

Every fifth or sixth week–I don’t exactly remember but I had it down pat when I was negotiating hard to schedule a trip to Cedar Point–he’d have three consecutive days off. He worked every Christmas Day that I can remember, except one. The calendar dice didn’t roll that way. He did get double time for our troubles. Oh, and he was the only man at ballet class. Again, literally. The only. He took me every week. Sometimes twice a week.

My dad lied to get into the Navy. He said he was older. He was as much looking to sow oats, of the wild variety thank you very much, as he was to serve. He did both. With distinction. His tats displayed ports in Panama, Honolulu, Manila, Cairo and Cyprus. I never asked him if he sailed through the Suez Canal. I’m thinking about that scene when Lawrence of Arabia looks up from his dusty desert journey to see a ship floating out of the sand. I bet Dad rolled through those sandy straits on a U.S.N. boat. I betcha.

He didn’t talk about his service. I know he did a small stint on a sub, which he hated, and once, offhandedly, he said something that made me know that he knew what embalming fluid smelled like.

After the Big War and a stint stateside after he married and after his discharge, he joined the union.

My dad was also a Reagan Democrat. He had no love for a naval officer nor for a peanut farmer. He was frustrated by an awful economy. The auto companies were on life support. There was a steady exodus to the south for jobs. Jobs with less pay, no benefits and no security. He felt betrayed by his union, was adrift from their agenda. He was offered  a buyout deal to get rid of the guys with seniority. To replace them with lower-waged grunts without the same protections.

He took his decent pension. He took his terrific health benefits. He asked me to look at the agreement because he thought my mid-college educated opinion had value. Any value from that request accrued to me. I didn’t add anything to his thinking, since I agreed with him, but he catapulted me into a new part of my life that was grown and independent and validated. Because my Dad believed in me enough to ask my opinion on something important to his life. Jeez.

But, I digress.

Reagan spoke of resolve, of strength and of the promise that is America. My dad didn’t care about taxes. He did care about the U.S.S.R. He was susceptible to the racist dog whistles of busing and welfare queens with big TVs. He cared most about our future. He saw the solutions for that future through the lens of the past.

I railed against his wrong choice of candidate and party with the fervor of a young idealist at the beginning of life’s trail. He respected my disagreement, and we were never disagreeable.

He voted as Dad (R-MI) for Reagan and Bush 41. Then things got a little murky. I don’t know for sure when he started voting D again, but I know that he voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush. He was cagey about his vote for Al Gore, but based on his disgust over the hanging chads and the results, we think he pulled the D lever. And I know without any doubt at all that he thought that George W. Bush was an idiot. I have no doubt because he told me. More than once. Frequently using colorful language that would crack me up.

I would call home and he’d pick up the phone. We’d exchange a few pleasantries and then he would go full tilt into current events. Not conspiracy crap. Not anybody’s party line. Nope. He would read the newspaper (I don’t know how given he was mostly blind) and listen to the radio and watch multiple newscasts, including the Sunday morning public affairs shows. So he was always well informed. And he had a definite point of view.

I loved how he’d get riled up, and we’d get a good exchange going. Then, in the background, I’d hear my mother shouting, “SPOUSE! SPOUSE! What are you talking about? NOBODY cares about what you think.”

She was wrong. I cared very much. He kept me plugged in to where I was from and provided an analysis that I could agree or disagree with, but was an articulation of one American’s legit point of view.

She’d grab the phone away sometimes, just giving me and Dad enough time to share our I-love-yous as the receiver left his hands. But I’d get to talk with him next time, likely the next week, and we would continue. I would just say George Bush to him sometimes. It was my trigger to get him going. I was never disappointed.

My father never had the experience of watching Barack Obama run against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election. My last discussion of national polictics with him was in early June of 2007. I don’t know if he would have cast a vote for our first African-American president, but I really believe that he would. Because of how I know, I mean knew, him.

I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot during this presidential campaign dirge. Mostly, I’m thinking WWDD? What would Dad do?

Would he be enraged and engaged with Trump? I don’t really see any of the other Rs inflaming his fancy, but there are some parts of Trump that might appeal to him. Would he settle on Hillary as a solid, but flawed, answer for the next four years? I can see him eyeballing Sanders, especially his fervor over Wall Street largesse, but it’s hard to project him as a Bernie Bro.

I use my Dad as a lens to understand good people that I may disagree with. It’s not really right, though, because I can’t stop seeing his depth of field colored by my own focus through my memories of him. My view of him limits how I can use his view. It’s like a hologram of Tupac singing with Snoop, you can literally see through the facade. Or maybe it was just all a dream, an interpretation.

I’ve been thinking about this for months. I’ve created scenarios and opinions that may not be supported by the historical evidence. Maybe me using him, how I contort him to be my representative of a smart, white, working class man, may be simply ridiculous.

And, if I’m perfectly honest, I just might have to say that I don’t actually know WWDD. But I bet it’d be interesting to find out. Damn. I wish I could find out.

The People’s Choice

Aretha Franklin singing like a boss.

OMG! News flash!

Conservatives are WORRIED! Distraught, I tell you.

Perhaps even SHOCKED, that they disagree with Obama’s cabinet picks and/or his policies. And somehow, once they wake up, that the 66,882,230 people who voted for Obama are not going to be happy.

According to the WashPost

“It is disturbing,” said Roger Clegg, a conservative…”The transition team as described to me was made up of nothing but people on the far left. Though Obama is more moderate, that makes you wonder what kind of advice the president is given, and what range of choices he’ll be given when it comes time to make appointments.”

Oh no! Nothing but people that disagree with the current failed policies of the Bush administration.

Note to Mr. Clegg: Your side LOST!

A few months into the Bush presidency–you know the election when Bush lost the popular vote* and then came in running the place like he had a frickin’ mandate– I saw my friend David at the local bar and grill.

David: You know, I never, ever got the hatred and bile that people had for Bill Clinton.
Me: There was alot of hate and bile.
David: Yeah, there was. But now I get it. I really can’t stand the “W.” I now know how the other side feels.

Reminder to the other side–this is what it feels like.

Except that this new Prez-elect actually thinks it’s important to listen and acknowledge differences. That this new Prez-elect understands that he is a member of our national government, that was founded in 1776–that it did just not pop out of his head. And that this Prez-elect is the leader of a movement that has been embraced by the majority of the American voters.

Like in a democracy.

‘Nuff said.

*BTW–50,456,002 people voted for G.W. Bush in 2000. That’s more than a half-million fewer than voted for Al Gore. See more.

Scottie We Hardly Knew Ye

Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!What was he thinking? Scott McClellan longtime press punching bag and Bush mouthpiece, that is.

For most of his time in the Press Room, I thought Scott was such a tool (definition 6)–repeatedly mumbling his talking points without any evidence of imagination or art. Maybe if he said the exact phrase seventeen times in a row his interrogators would

  1. Believe him and move on. (As IF!)
  2. Forget their point and move on.
  3. Get bored and move on.
  4. Turn into a field of Budweisers, ripe for the pickin’. Boy a cold one sure would be good right about now. Let’s move on!

Then, toward the end of his tenure, I began to feel sorry for him. It must of been around the time when reporters began to openly mock him. And like a weeble, he would get knocked around, wobble, but not fall down. His demeanor changed. He began to look hurt. He seemed like he would rather be anywhere else–inside of an active volcano, for example–than behind that podium.

Scott wasn’t quick enough to dodge any of the incoming. He seemed wounded. It was like watching someone getting stoned. (Not like smoking weed stoned, but like “whoever is without sin…” stoned.) His loyalty seemed dopey, yet somehow pure. He was sticking by the man who brought him to Washington.

Now he comes out with his book. And he really gives it to the Bush administration–even the President. So I wonder, “Why?”

Well, one friend, channeling Deep Throat, said to “follow the money.” It’s true that McClellan will make alot more money on a controversial book, but given the bridges he’s burned, h e better invest wisely because he won’t be working in communications or PR ever again. (In addition to smashing his political glass house, he made a shambles of the 4th Estate, too!)

Empty White House press briefing room with an empty podium.Nobody says that Scott is smart, so the easy money motive is a quick fit. But it also seems possible that McClellan did have an epiphany–as well as an axe to grind with Rove and Scooter. Maybe it got to be that the more he thought about what happened, the more he felt he had to take layers of varnish off of the truth. Maybe he was worried for his immortal soul.

And now, in a perfect Karmic turn, all the vitriol that he had giveth is now being returnith to him ten-fold. Does he deserve it? I don’t know. Is he doing the right thing? For the right reasons? I don’t know. But for some reason, I sure want to figure it out.

Cautionary Tale

President Bush clears brush from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It's part of his workout routine at the ranch.The NYTimes has a piece today talking about the long-term effects of binge-drinking. To sum it up, binge drinking causes long-term damage that causes even sober rats to

…to stay the course, a diminished capacity for relearning and maladaptive decision-making. —Dec 29., “The Hangover That Lasts”

The author, a psychiatrist, recommends that you NEVER binge drink, but if you do, start after 40. And, if you did binge drink young, exercise can help regenerate those dead brain cells.

Damn, I wish that the President worked out more.

$outhwe$tern Whitehou$e

Did you know that the President has spent 416 days (like one-sixth of his tenure) at his Ranch in Crawford (pop 705) , Texas? I know that in addition to clearing brush, biking, clearing brush, hiking and clearing brush he does alot of work. It’s not like the President of the Free World can just duck out. He really doesn’t get a “day off.”

Did you know that in order for him to be able to do this we–American taxpayers–have paid for a SxSW WhiteHouse that includes:

  • a carpeted conference room in a trailer equipped with videoconference equipment
  • secure telephones installed in his home office
  • A cluster of double-wide trailer homes, including 5 bedroom trailers (without formaldehyde) outfitted with secure phones, two-way radios and backup generators
  • Newly constructed tornado bunkers to protect staffers in the case of serious storms
  • BlackHawk helicopters to protect the air space
  • Lots of hotel rooms 20 miles away for the president’s large entourage of personal, military, security and press aides. (Source Wash Post)

I don’t think that the President can do without this level of technology and personnel and their costs when he is in Crawford. If he is going to be there so much, this is required.

This begs the question, though, why we have to spend the money so that he can indulge his desire to be there so much. At least that’s the question that I’m thinking.

In or Out?

It’s like the cool kids. The “in” crowd. The OC or Beverly Hills 90210. The ones that the high-school Alphas take into their circle. You know, like the Bushies.

Between shutting out career Justice Department lawyers, inexperienced appointees at NASA telling scientists what to say, putting political appointees in charge of all regulatory policy undercutting career staff and experts, and, overall, increasing the number of Schedule C–political appointments the wagons are circled tightly.

Today’s WashPost and others report that Monica Goodling–former Justice Department official and of the 5th Amendment fame–may have questioned applicants for career jobs about their political affiliation. I guess she was thinking, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Or something.

It’s very discouraging for career civil servants to be ignored. Not invited to meetings. Not consulted or overridden in their areas of expertise by inexperienced political hacks. To be told by a senior agency official, “I don’t know you [federal worker], but I trust the political appointee to my right” really makes for a bad meeting.

Lots of the Politicals are terrific public servants. But if the main qualification for critical jobs, like rebuilding Iraq, is ties to the Bush-Cheney campaign, something is amiss. If leaders in political jobs do not trust career staff, if career staff are seen as lazy bureaucrats, if career staff are outside of the decision making process we have government by the seat of our pants and government being pulled out of a youthful buttocks. Oh, and wasting a bunch of resource$$.

Ultimately, the important work of governing suffers. The Bushie A-Team is long gone, and many agencies are being led by the 5th stringers or vacancies. Yet there is work to be done–in education, health care, terrorism response, information sharing, the environment, poverty eradication, immigration reform, international relations, support for returning and especially injured veterans and much more.

But it looks like we might have to wait for the remaining Bushies to vacate their posts. What a shame when there are so many good people–many of them career civil servants who are also Democrats, Republicans, Independents or Other –who are so ready to do real work.

High school is over! The OC and Beverly Hills 90210 have been cancelled.

Toles Cartoon (c) Wash Post

Friends Like These

Boy, I was surprised today when I heard that our good friend, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, said,

In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers, in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and abhorrent sectarianism threatens a civil war. (Article)

One of our biggest allies calls U.S. presence in Iraq “illegitimate,” in his remarks to his fellow Arab leaders at a summit. Pre-summit talk was that King A has been establishing a greater leadership role in the Middle East. Bet that the Administration was hoping for more supportive remarks. There was a pretty quick response from the White House. It seems, though, that the fissure with our friends in the mid-East grows.

Speaking of trusted friends turning on you, did you see Kyle Sampson–former chief of staff to troubled AG Gonzales? In discussing his old boss

I don’t think the attorney general’s statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate. (More on PBS NewsHour)

WOW! We have one taking the fifth, and this one flat-out contradicting his boss. What price loyalty?

Then there was President Bush at last night’s Radio and Television Correspondents’ Annual Dinner, joking among his “friends” in the media.

Well, where should I start? A year ago, my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my Vice President had shot someone. (pause….) Ahhh, those were the good old days. (Complete transcript)

Yes, what a difference a year makes.

Who Misses Rummy the Most?

Well, for years folks had been calling for the resignation of Don Rumsfeld. See here, here, and here for examples.

Now that he’s gone, it looks like somebody new has taken his place–POTUS long-time confidant and current Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales is on the top of the To Go menu.

The NYTimes, et al., chronicle politically motivated firings of political appointees, extra-curricular spying via a supra-Patriot Act, a starring role in warrantless eavesdropping and, of course, the Administration “interpretation” of the Geneva convention and humanitarian treatment of prisoners. Roll it up and you have some prime motivation for clearing the top of the deck at Justice.

I miss a Rumsfeld press conference. His sarcasm and disdain, while bad for public policy, did make for some diverting moments. Mr. Gonzales has been less than forthcoming, and much less entertaining

Somehow, though, I think that Fredo (AKA Alberto G.) wishes Rummy was around even more than me.

Under International Scrutiny

According to China View–or Xinhua.net–The Hindu, and news websites world wide, Americans want the Bush presidency to be OVER. So now everybody in the world knows.

Enough! No mas! We say, “Uncle!”

But darn it, we got 721 days, 13 hours and counting, until the new guy* comes in.

So, it doesn’t matter if the people are sick of the administration. It doesn’t matter if a bit more than two-thirds think that the president disregards facts when making decisions. It doesn’t matter if 7 out of 10 Americans disapprove of the job President Bush is doing.

And the whole world can see that we–in this great democracy of ours–need to figure out within our laws how to make this president respond to the will of the people.

And it’s hard work. The president and his henchmen continue to spew their dream state point-of-view. We will march; we will protest; we will write letters to the editor, and to Congress. All the while, Congress is trying to figure out how to move this intransigent President away from bad policy and still support the troops we have asked to fight this war.

And as I write this, I find myself getting all patriotic. Standing up on a soapbox and saying,

“Look World! This is how we disagree in a democracy. It isn’t instant. It doesn’t happen in a coup. It happens according to the rule of law, the rule of our constitution.” And THAT’s how we do it downtown.

* “Guy” like in a generic, genderless sense.

Go Shawty-It’s Your Birthday

Don’t know if there was any drinking of Bacardi* at the White House when George W. Bush celebrated his 60th birthday. But interesting to me, is that Curtis Jackson III, shares the President’s July 6th birth date. Better known as 50 Cent, Curtis blew out 30 candles on his recent cake.

Makes you think what else these guys–President of the United States of America and buff-and-tough rapper–have in common. I mean other than the obvious; their rakish good looks (GW, 50) and pumped physiques (GW, 50).

Well for starters 50 grew up in the ‘hood and moved to the Connecticut suburbs. GW started in the Connecticut ‘burbs and moved to da hood.

Another thing, both balance their popularity on their cred. 50–no matter how rich and suburban–needs to be the tough, gun toting gangsta to sell his CD’s, movies, games and gear. GW–no matter the relationship between Iraq, WMD and Bin Laden–needs to maintain his tough, gun toting international gangsta image to sell his policies and Republican party revolution. Critics think that these are bad image for their fans/supporters to emulate or respect. Other people don’t think that it is so damaging.

Who woulda guessed that these two men, 30 years apart, would be so alike. Must be something true about sharing the constellation of the Crab.

* See/hear if you don’t know the song. I predict that grandmothers will be dancing to this song at weddings in 10-15 years. You read it here first!