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Archive for August, 2010

Dennis Herrera has announced his candidacy for the Mayor’s job in San Francisco. A long time ago, Dennis was one of my Facebook Friends. I didn’t ask him to befriend me. The request ostensibly came from him, but it’s highly probable that a clerk or an assistant in his office sent out blanket Friend requests and somehow, purely as an afterthought or by mistake, included my name.

This was during a brief time in my Facebook life when I was receiving requests from politicians left and right. And like the naïve novice I was, I accepted them all, flattered that I was actually in their thoughts. Later, I learned otherwise. I was caught in the midst of a drive by every politician in the state to build up their Facebook Friend list to establish their viability as candidates. I never received a request from Gavin, though. He apparently had enough friends. One more anonymous blogger would have been a mere redundancy.

At any rate, one day I asked myself a question, “Why is my Friends’ list packed with noncommunicative politicians?”

Answering myself, I said, “I don’t know, but I’m getting rid of them.” So, I systematically went through my list and purged all politicians, except one guy who attended the same university I did. I thought about old school loyalty when I finally decided to leave him on my list. I’m thinking of removing him, though. He hasn’t responded to my post informing him that we are school buddies.

I want to make it clear that I have never met and have no intentions of ever meeting any politician whose Facebook Friend list numbers above 20. There is such a thing as overdoing a good thing. This isn’t to suggest that I’ve never met a politician. I have. Many. Up close. Personal.

I must have had a run of bad luck because everyone was either egotistical, arrogant, or an asshole. None had mastered the essential political skill of faking sincerity. Every single one of them, man and woman, could have profited from several private sessions presented by Sally on How to Fake a Political Orgasm.

I’m not suggesting that any of the above adjectives or descriptions apply to Dennis Herrera. In fact, a guy from New York State can’t be all bad. My best friend in the Air Force was an Italian kid from the Bronx who taught me to speak Italian. Unfortunately, the only word I remember is lapis, meaning pencil. So, if I ever walk up to you, Dennis, and say lapis, I’ll expect you to reflexively reach for your pencil.

On the other hand, Herrera may be Hispanic for all I know, or even Portuguese. According to one source, the surname Herrera is Derived from the Spanish herrería, meaning place where ironwork is made, the Herrera surname means “worker in iron, a blacksmith.” According to the Instituto Genealógico e Histórico Latino-Americano, this Castellan surname originated in the Villa of Pedraza, in the province of Segovia, in Castile and Leon, Spain.

Now, that’s a commendable generic genealogy for a politician. It has all of the right words, iron, worker, Castellan. I’d be proud of these credentials myself except I’m not Hispanic.

Even so, if I were Dennis’s agent or something, I could work with these quals. A few examples of pithy themes: “Man of Iron. Faster than a speeding ballot. More powerful than a loco voter. Able to leap tall issues in a single bound.”

But I’m merely speculating. Regardless of his birth pedigree, Dennis Herrera is undoubtedly a nice guy. Unfortunately, I won’t be voting for him. I’m a registered voter of another planet. Nevertheless, I spend a good deal of time in the Bay Area and the city, receiving updates from relatives and a gay expert on politics who lives in the City.

However, Dennis, if you ever need a positive and glowing review on this blog, have your campaign manager write one and send it to me. I’ll run it under my name.

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Sometimes I feel like Barack Obama. I don’t mean I share his intellect or charisma and all that stuff. I’m talking about my status in life as a punching bag serving double duty as a pin cushion. Everything I do or say is met with instant criticism. This applies to all aspects of my life but it’s most notable in my eating habits. Here’s the latest example of what I’m talking about.

A few days ago, a woman of my acquaintance brought me something to eat that she had prepared at her home. I dutifully accepted it and placed the wrapped plate and its contents on the table. That’s when she said, “It’s a red snapper.”

I should have kept my mouth shut, thanked her, and thrown it away after she left, which is my usual means of handling food gifts. But I must have been in a bad mood that day. Honesty got the better of me.

Almost instinctively, I said, “I don’t like red snapper.”

I think my words touched a nerve in this nice little lady. Her demeanor shifted into prickly high gear.

These are her exact words. I am not making them up.  She said, “You’re the only man in the world who hates fish.”

Now, I’m familiar with the tendency of politicians to make leaps in logic. That’s their job. It’s a part of their innate DNA structure.

But this nice little lady? I’m still trying to figure out how she made a transition from the specifically named red snapper to the general class of fish. I finally concluded that the shock of my honesty rocked her very sense of being.s

Barrack has his own food-fixation problem. Only, in his case, his  problem extends far beyond a simple criticism of an irrelevant personal habit, although I’m sure someone has criticized him for his failure to divulge his preferences in male shorts. “Boxers or briefs, Mr. President.” In Barack’s case, everything he does or says is a food-fixation problem.

The latest mesmerizing event to enter his universe is a proposed mosque in New York City near 9/11 ground zero. The matter that has enthralled the American public revolves around Barrack’s statement about the proposed mosque. His remarks in their entirety can be found here. Oddly, or perhaps not since Americans have a strong tendency to prefer form over substance, the hullabaloo is almost exclusively about whether he should have said anything at all rather than the substance of his statement. In fact, the Republicans by and large agreed with him.

Yes, everyone agrees that Americans have a right to worship as they choose. Yes, in a capitalistic society everyone has a right to buy property and do pretty much as they choose with it.

And, certainly, America must remain a bastion of religious freedom as a beacon for the oppressed of the world.

But…and I’ve never heard so many “buts” in my life…these are turbulent times and a mosque at ground zero would exacerbate the negative picture good Americans already have of Muslims and possibly inflame our sensitivities.

I’m thinking about all of this as I watch a news report on one of those ubiquitous 24/7 news outlets staffed with generic news readers. According to the report, sixty-eight (68%) of the people polled were against the building of the mosque.

Why did they oppose it? Many of them said something similar to my analysis above. “Yes, we have freedom of religion, but in this case, building a mosque is a bad idea. There’s a difference between a right and the exercise of that right. Common sense is needed here. This is a provocative act and can only inflame Americans against Muslims.”

I tend to agree with the last sentence. We live in volatile times, and it doesn’t take much to raise the dander of Americans. But embedded somewhere in all of the comments that I read and listened to was an underlying theme somewhat similar to the logic of my nice little lady who made a leap from red snapper to fish. Somewhere along the line, the opponents of the mosque have leaped from “the people who want to build the mosque” to “all Muslims.”

Another thread running through the comments of the mosque’s opponents is the subtle threat that if anything happens, it won’t be our fault. The threat manifested itself most prominently when a talking head or a politician said, “Yes, they have the right erect a mosque and worship in it, but what is right and what is prudent aren’t always the same.”

The theme neatly relieves Americans of all responsibility for their failure to exercise any degree of self-control should they feel a need to take advantage of their Second Amendment rights. Phrased more succinctly, “The Devil made me do it.”

Seems to me I’ve heard that refrain in another context. Thank you, Designer in Chief, for giving me free will, but I sure wish you hadn’t sent me to hell when I decided to covet my neighbor’s wife.

When all is said and done, this will turn out to be another tempest in a teapot. Do you remember the Elian Gonzales case? Republican indignation evaporated the moment Elian departed for Cuba. The Republicans are going to use the mosque as a political football in the run up to the November election, hoping fervently for a Hail Mary. And the Democrats are going to cave on the issue just as Harry Reid has already done.

Obama had the courage and the honesty to speak up on the issue, although to be fair, he was rather wishy-washy. The best we can say at this point is that his wishy-washy is morally preferable to the Democratic rank and file’s genetic tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory using the simple tactic of silence.

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There was a time in my life when I read a lot of books. I’m not saying they were classics or even books on the New York Times list of best sellers. Mostly, they were books I was forced to read in school or books popular among pre-adolescent boys, stuff like London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang.

For some strange reason, I really liked London’s works and began to read biographies of his life. Yes, he traveled widely to places like Alaska, the Yukon, Tahiti, and Hawaii, but somehow, the stories and articles based on the “exotic” locations didn’t grab me the way his earlier work about life in the Yukon had. And when he turned to “deep” works like the Iron Heel and the Sea Wolf, he lost me. They were too intellectual for my simplistic brain.

Like every kid, I thought a lot about sex, but the real McCoy wasn’t quite as available then as it is now. We had to satisfy our lust by reading literary tomes like Lady Chatterley’s Lover. For some reason, we thought this was a pornographic novel, and we scoured the book from cover to cover looking for the “right “ words, which had apparently been expurgated from the copies we managed to get our hands on.

We went through the same process with other books like Tropic of Cancer and God’s Little Acre. From the standpoint of a kid looking for vicarious sex, both were sorely disappointing, although I will admit that God’s Little Acre was oddly humorous.

Still, we’d pretty well outgrown mere writings. Real sex was right in front of us because the girls had grown along with us and in some cases ahead of us. We spent enormous amounts of energy maneuvering ourselves into twisted  positions that afforded us a fleeting sight of panties. There wasn’t much satisfaction you might argue and rightly so. But we occasionally received a whack on the side of the head from a feminine hand that satisfied our fantasies until the next whack.

Entering young adulthood, we suddenly became aware of testosterone-laden books like From Here to Eternity, the Naked and the Dead, and Catch 22. These were real books, books for red-blooded American males embarked on world domination. In the pages of these books, we became acquainted with words like “fug.” America had not yet become enlightened enough to permit its fighting men access to graphic language, although language in the ranks, even then, was comprised almost entirely of words such as fuck, motherfucker, asshole, cunt, dick, prick and shit. The ordinary folk antedated George Carlin by a few centuries.

Life seemed to move with the speed of light after that, and the number of books I actually read shrunk to the vanishing point. You know the drill. You get married, have kids, and work your ass off making enough money to buy a gallon of gas. Reading anything becomes a luxury, and on those few occasions you drop into Borders and buy the latest sophisticated best seller in the Bargain Bin, it remains on your “To Read” shelf until the pages turn to dust. Intellectual development virtually ceases.

Still, you think about reading something, anything, just to have at least one book on your Facebook page. Sure, you could lie and no one would know the difference. Who knows who read Catcher in the Rye? No one understands the damned thing, anyway. The way I figure it, a book with a protagonist named Holden Caulfield is for Pacific Heights ladies and gentlemen. Give me Where Eagles Dare anytime. But just in case some elite Marina babe might be impressed, I entered Catcher in the Rye on my FB page. You never know.

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Has anyone asked you a question you don’t know how to respond to, so you fabricate your version of a reasonable answer? It happens to me all the time. The most common question people ask me is in the “Do you know So-and-So?” class. Like the following:

“Joe said you were from California. Do you know Lindsay Lohan?”

In my mind, I’m thinking, “Sure, you dumb SOB. I see her every day when I stop by the UCLA Rehab Facility’s private loo for a quick pit stop.”

Instead, I reply, “No. I’ve never met her,” deciding not to point out that the present population of California is around 55 million people and my chances of running into her are roughly equivalent to my chances of scoring with Marilyn Monroe, who just happens to be dead.

My earliest experience in fabricating a truth to suit myself happened when I was in the first grade. On the second or third day of class, the teacher required each student to stand in front of class and report on their summertime activities.

I made the mistake of lying instead of telling the truth. I should have said “I just stayed at home” and sat down. But I embellished because I would have been the only male student in class who failed to Boy Up. So, I became creative.

“We went to a Hollywood rodeo and watched John Wayne and the Three Stooges ride horses and rope cows and shoot guns and stuff.”

Kids are not stupid. They are very incisive. My classmates spotted my lie almost before I finished. They responded with a cacophony of hoots, whistles, and laughs, not to mention derisive comments like:

“You did not.”

“Ha, ha, ha. What a joke.”

“Stop kidding around. You’re too dumb to meet John Wayne.”

“Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

“Your nose is longer than your *&$#@.

And a few more I can’t repeat here. Even the teacher said something like, “Do you need to visit the Boy’s Restroom, Bobby?” It seems that in the process of concentrating on my story, I hadn’t noticed the odor of escaped gas. The pressure of lying will do those things to kids.

Obviously, the humiliation heaped on me as a result of my lie didn’t affect my lies in the future. If anything they became more preposterous. The only difference between then and later was my motivation. In those days, I was innocent and told innocent lies. Today, I unwind whoppers with great flourish and drama on purpose. I figure anyone dumb enough to believe me doesn’t deserve the truth.

This is what I mean.

An overly inquisitive friend once asked me, “How much money did you make last year?”

Without thinking, I quickly answered, “Ten million. That doesn’t include social security. Or unemployment compensation for the six months I was out of a job. Plus a couple of thou disability payments for a broken neck suffered in a topless bar. Not to mention a seafarer’s union pension for service on tankers out of Dubai. And, oh yeah, I almost forgot. A non-taxable payoff from Jack Abramoff.”

“That’s about what I drew,” the questioner responded.

The lying s-o-b. I know for a fact he never met Jack Abramoff.

But despite the outrageousness of my responses, people won’t leave me alone. Here’s another case study:

“What is the scariest situation you’ve ever experienced?”

You might be surprised to know who asked this one. He is a professor of sociology at a local college. At a seminar on teaching techniques, we had to tell the class about our scariest experience. The first-graded-ness of the project was more than I could take. I snapped.

“Once when I was on Omaha Beach, I was sent on a scouting mission to locate German soldiers in the vicinity. As I fought my way across the beach and through a thicket of hedgerows, I turned a bend in a small country road and I suddenly found myself surrounded by about a hundred German soldiers, all with weapons pointed straight at me. I started shaking and begging them for mercy, crying nonstop. I was terrified that I would never see Lindsay again.”

Then I returned to my seat.

After a long, pregnant pause, an exasperated voice reached my corner of the room. “Well, what happened?”

“They killed me,” I said laconically.

The audience was stunned.

Finally, one guy broke the silence. “Man that is one scary story.”

That’s when I learned one of those immutable laws of human existence.

The more outrageous the lie, the better qualified the liar is for a career in politics.

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How do we explain the startling statistic that a substantial percentage of Americans polled believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or some other foreign country?

This despite these facts:

  • A birth certificate for Barack dated 1961 is on file with the registrar of the State of Hawaii.
  • Obama’s birth was reported in the newspapers in Honolulu.
  • A link to images of both of these documents is here.
  • Linda Lingle, the Governor of the State of Hawaii and a conservative Republican, instructed the State  Health Director to personally view Obama’s official birth certificate. Based on the Director’s inspection, Lingle appeared on television and reported that Obama was in fact born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently refused to hear appeals of cases questioning the President’s citizenship.

In light of the above, one wonders, would any element or combination of evidentiary elements constitute acceptable proof for the doubters. The answer seems to be “No. Nothing would be acceptable.” Every document released by the Obama Administration and the conservative governor of Hawaii has been rejected by the Birthers.

Some have suggested that the birth frenzy is a perfect example of Hitler’s observation: “Tell a lie often enough and people will eventually believe it.” These aren’t Hitler’s exact words but they certainly summarize an often used propaganda tactic.

But more, the success of the Birthers in making their nonexistent case against Obama proves another, more dangerous point.  Americans possess little if any ability to recognize and separate fact from fiction.

Or, perhaps Americans choose to ignore facts. Driven by high emotion and a powerful aversion to Obama, they simply refuse to accept as valid any and all evidence counter to their twisted outlook.

This is not a pretty picture of our society, and it presages tougher times ahead. Hold onto your hats. We’re going to have a bumpy ride.

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