Saturday, July 19, 2008
Latest Newspaper Column:
If some of the comments I hear from folks I run into are any indication, this is the column some of you have been looking for.
"Why," some readers have asked me, "don't you write something about Barack Obama?"
Now, obviously, if you read this column at all, you know I'm an Obama supporter. I have been ever since I saw the inspiring call for national unity in his "E Pluribus Unum" speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and asked, "Why the heck isn't THIS guy the nominee?"
The man is, in my opinion, the best chance we have of breaking the cycle of divisive, payback-driven, red vs. blue, culture-war politics that have become the norm in the past 20 years.
But the dude really needs to get a grip over this whole New Yorker thing.
In case you missed it, the cover of the July 14 New Yorker magazine showed a cartoon of Barack Obama dressed in Muslim garb, giving a fist-bump (or as one Fox News bimbo called it, "terrorist fist jab") to wife Michelle, who's dressed in camo and combat boots and carrying a slung AK-47.
In the background, a portrait of Osama bin Laden hangs over a fireplace in which the American flag burns merrily.
The cover is meant to illustrate an article entitled "The Politics of Fear," and it's a pretty dead-on satire of the hysterical, fearful images that some people have of the Obamas. And by "some people," I mean "extremely stupid people who believe everything they see on Fox News or hear in the demented ravings of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh."
Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't see it as funny. Some commentators on the New Yorker Web site demanded that their subscriptions be canceled, and one not only threatened never to read the New Yorker again, but also insisted he'd never even come to the city of New York, which seems a bit extreme.
Even the Obama campaign didn't seem to get that the cartoon was lampooning the stereotypes, not claiming they were true.
"Offensive and tasteless," they sniffed, and the McCain campaign followed suit.
Well, duh. It's satirical. Offensive and tasteless is part of the package. If someone's not barking in outrage, then you haven't done satire properly.
After all, the classic example of satire, the one by which all others are measured, was Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," which suggested that the solution to overpopulation and famine in Ireland was for the Irish people to eat their children.
Obviously it was a joke, meant to mock the callous attitude people of the time held toward the Irish. But it got some angry and indignant letters, you betcha.
Look, I understand that the Obamites are still a little sensitive about the whole Muslim thing.
They don't want to see anything that the usual crowd of drooling idiots is going to point at and go "See! He IS a Muslim!"
I'm sure there's even a fear of the phenomenon known as "even the liberal," as in "even the liberal New Yorker says Obama's a Muslim."
But let's face it: Those mouth-breathers who are still buying into the whole "Obama as Muslim" thing aren't going to be reading the New Yorker anyway. Heck, they probably don't even know what it is.
I've got to tell you, I've never believed in literacy tests for voting, but after all of the evidence that's been presented that Obama isn't a Muslim, I might be willing to make an exception. After the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, anyone who believes that Barack Obama goes to a mosque may just be too stupid to vote.
Sure, all of us, even morons, are entitled to our opinion. But whether or not Obama is Muslim is not an opinion. It's a fact that he is not a Muslim. People are not, as the saying goes, entitled to their own facts. And, as comedian Ron White famously says, "You can't fix stupid."
But I digress.
All that said, Obama blew his chance on this one. What he should have done is laugh and go, "Yep, those kinds of images of me and my wife are pretty stupid all right. That cartoonist got them dead on." But he didn't.
Oh, I'll still vote for him. I won't refuse to vote for a candidate because he doesn't get a joke in the snooty old New Yorker.
That would be elitist.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
The hinges creaked as I swung the office door open. It looked like my first order of business was going to be to find an oil can.
Actually, I thought, that was going to be the second order of business. I walked over to the desk, kicking up dust bunnies as I went, and opened the bottom drawer. There it was, faithfully awaiting my return, the private eye's best friend: a pint of Old Overshoe.
I uncapped the bottle and took a drink, wondering if age had improved the stuff. It hadn't. The rotgut whiskey still had a kick like an angry chorus girl with a black belt in karate.
It was good to be back.
There was a knock at the door.
A young couple stood there, looking around nervously. They were young, well-dressed, and polite. I vowed not to hold it against them. At least if they were paying clients.
"Can I help you folks?" I asked.
"Are you Mr. Tundra?" the woman asked.
"That's me, toots," I answered. "Sluice Tundra, Private Eye. An honest gumshoe, out on the mean streets, where the lead is hot and the women are...are..." I stopped.
"Are what?" the guy said.
"Dang," I said. "It's been so long, I forgot the rest. Anyway, come on in. Pull up a chair and tell me how I can help."
"Thanks," the guy said, eyeing the client chairs that were covered in cobwebs. "We'll stand."
"Suit yourself," I said, plopping down in the chair behind the desk. They immediately vanished in the cloud of dust that puffed up. I really had been away a long time.
When we all stopped coughing, I wheezed, "So what's the trouble?"
"It's Senator McCain," the woman said. "Something's happened to him."
"And what's your interest in the case?"
They looked at each other. "We're moderates," the man said. "We were big fans of Senator McCain. But we don't recognize the guy that's running for president."
I sighed. I knew what kind of case this was going to be. "Let me guess," I said. "He's taking positions that are different from what he's said before."
"Well, yes. "
"For example, where he once said that detainees at Guantanamo Bay 'deserve to have some adjudication of their cases,' now he says the Supreme Court decision giving them the right to contest their imprisonment in the federal courts was 'the worst in the court's history.'"
"How did you -- "
I interrupted him. "Where McCain once said we were going to have to negotiate with Hamas because 'They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another,' now he says that Barack Obama's proposal to hold talks with the terrorist-supporting government of Iran shows 'naïveté and a lack of judgment.'"
"Exactly," the woman said.
"So you're wondering if maybe the straight-talking John McCain you voted for in the primaries might have been replaced by some sort of right-wing robot, or maybe an evil clone."
"Wow," the guy said. "you really are good, Mister Tundra."
"Let's just say I've been around this block a few times. Sorry, kid, but the guy you voted for has been at this a while. This is a guy who once said, 'I think that gay marriage should be allowed,' and then 'I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal,' and said both of them at the same campaign appearance. This is a guy who called the Confederate flag 'a symbol of racism and slavery' in South Carolina in 2000, then backpedaled so fast he left skidmarks."
"Are you saying he's a ... a flip-flopper?"
"If the shoe fits, kid."
"But he's a war hero!" The guy said. "He flew fighter planes!" His jaw tightened. "You can't criticize a war hero. You just hate the military."
"Not really," I said. "Look, I can hardly blame the guy. He's trying to get elected. To do so, he has to come up with a position that satisfies both ends of the Republican Party: the one that thinks the government should have limited power and a practical foreign policy, and the one that thinks government needs to be the all-powerful Big Daddy who keeps us safe from evil gays and Scary Brown People. Problem is, he can't do it. No one can. Not even a war hero."
"But if Senator McCain is making all these flip-flops, why isn't the press pointing it out?"
"Now there," I said, "is the real missing persons story."
"I guess you're right," the guy said. He turned to leave.
"Wait!" I called out. "What about my fee?"
He turned back. "There's no mystery," he said. "You said it yourself. No mystery, no case, no fee." He and the woman walked out.
"Dang," I said.