Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cynicism? Bite Me

I have to say at the outset that I admired John McCain quite a bit before this summer. If he'd stuck to the platform he adopted in the 2000 election, I wouldn't have voted for him, but I would have kept my respect for him. It's sad that he felt he had to sell out, or was told, John, that tactic didn't work for you in 2000, let's do something different. Well, 2000 was a very different year in America, and his conservative but not pedagogical approach to governing would have resonated in this election. I'm a flaming liberal, but the United States is, fundamentally, a conservative country. There's a reason why we are so out of step with other developed nations in terms of our political stripe. The fact that we are THE only developed nation that still has the death penalty on our books is only one example. So like it or not, I have to accept that my political leanings will always be out of step with the mainstream of America.

Abandoning a platform that would have sold him in this political and economic climate, McCain piled upon mistake after mistake. He capitulated to the hard right's demands that he pick an uber conservative running mate whose only claim to fame is that she negotiated an oil pipeline deal. That's it. By doing so, McCain alienated many of the middle of the road Republicans, and as the campaign moved forward, despite all her efforts (and I think she's pretty smart or at least as charismatic as hell), her inexperience trumped her charm.

But his biggest mistake (and the mistake of the ugly, mud-slinging conservatives like Limbaugh and now DeLay--moral arbitrator that HE is) is that the usual tactics that the Republicans have been using to win elections--mud-slinging--are not working. They don't get that. They keep trying to pile on the crap--he's a Marxist, he's a socialist--and it's not sticking because you look at Barack Obama and you see someone completely invested in the system. A subtle undercurrent of his message is that, yes, he wants change, but what he wants is to turn BACK to the way it was. When corporations didn't rack in obscene profits (Exxon's profit reported in today's paper exceeded its previous record profit), when someone didn't have to choose between paying the mortgage and paying the heating bill.

The Republicans don't get this. That people are DESPERATE. They don't want to hear about Obama is pals with terrorists (because, for one thing, it's ludicrous), they want to hear what the Republicans plan on doing about this mess. And they aren't saying squat. Perhaps they don't know. Perhaps Obama doesn't really know, and given this is an untested situation, I'm sure a lot of his plan is theory that sounds good. When you have Alan Greenspan shaking his head and admitting he was wrong, then I'm pretty worried, even while acknowledging that Obama is one smart guy.

But the point I'm making is that mud-slinging tactics can work when the economy is doing okay. It does NOT work when you have cities filled with foreclosed homes (Tracy, an hour's drive from me, is, literally, a city of foreclosed homes). People want to hear solutions. It does nothing for the Republican party (which is why they are failing across the Nation) to trash Obama. McCain's biggest failure is that he didn't come up with a big vision. You might not agree with Obama's vision, but you have to agree that he's THOUGHT about this.

Obama isn't running a completely clean campaign. He takes swipes at McCain. But these are largely offensive maneuvers against the trash talk. What sort of campaign he IS running is one full of ideas and solutions. You get that from him. You don't get that from McCain. I think that if McCain wants to have ANY hope in hell of winning this election (at least not getting slammed) it would be to STOP TALKING ABOUT OBAMA and start talking about what his administration has on tap. I can only think that because he spends so much of his time attacking Obama that he really doesn't have a plan. Which, of course, plays right into Obama's hands because it seems like he will continue with a Bush-oriented fiscal policy. McCain can say, I'm not George Bush, but he has yet to say, I'm not George Bush because I'm going to do this and it's a 180 from what he did. If McCain needs to attack anyone, it's GEORGE BUSH. By attacking Bush he will reinstate his position as a maverick. He will still be stuck with that albatross Palin, but at least he will be running on his own ticket, not on the coattails of Bush's failed presidency.

So the title of this post. For the first time in a long time I am seeing trash politics fail. I am seeing the political machinations of people like Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich fail. The lying, deceit, out and out vicious whatever it takes to win concept is failing. On it's ass. People do not want to hear it. They want a message of hope and a plan to realize that hope. I am hoping that the standard M.O. of evil bastards like Cheney and Rove that has dominated politics for the last twenty years has come to an end.

This has been an especially ugly eight years. And as much as I was a Hillary supporter, Barack Obama has won me over completely. Just like he's done with the rest of the country. Every time I see him on television, I am heartened by his message. Not because he and I are politically aligned, because, um, no, he's too conservative for me, but because he's NOT an ideologue. He will support legislation that I don't agree with. He will veto measures that I support, no doubt. But he will THINK about what he is doing and if he had to make a case for his decision, I believe that I could disagree with him and yet still say, yeah, I see your point.

Yeah, so the cynicism is very much on hold these days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Look, I Just Want Some Dinner

I should write about my trip to Baltimore and mystery con stuff, but I'm so worked up over this food issue in Beijing that's it pretty much put every single thought out of my head.

Yes, I am at the work-related conference. And I suppose that all sorts of wonderful goodness is coming from all the networking that is going on, but all I can think about is the fact that this frigging hotel has NO FOOD. Let me back up. I did not actually register for the conference, but my employer put down a shitload of money for a eight foot by eight foot booth. I thought something was strange when I did not get the normal registration packet that I saw everyone else carrying. I was sent off to some hinterland to receive a worthless satchel with a program in it, but most importantly, NO MEAL TICKETS. I didn't realize the significance attached to the desk clerk's admonition that I was only allowed to eat at breakfast. Fine, there seemed to be a few restaurants in this bizarre hotel, no worries. HAH!

Except that one restaurant is closed for repairs. And the other restaurant, where I was lucky enough to get lunch yesterday, shoos away customers when it gets filled up. Literally, some very polite woman escorts you down the hall AWAY from the restaurant. You are not allowed to wait for a table. Tonight, I went there early, right after conference table duty, so that I would get a table, and it's closed until 9 o'clock at night. I had cookies for dinner tonight. Yes, that's right, a package of cookies. That's after a lunch consisting of a banana that I'd squirreled away from the breakfast buffet.

I'm beginning to hate this hotel.

This is the strangest place for a conference. We are in the middle of nowhere. It originally was (and remains) a small amusement park with spa amenities, probably in a former lifetime it was some hide away for communist party bosses. It is staffed by kids. Literally, the average age of everyone working here is around twenty-one. They are all very polite, but the English is very limited, and you get the feeling that they say yes to all questions.

And what really fries me is that being in Beijing, there is, naturally, a heavy contingent of Chinese companies that have booths, and THEY are getting food from somewhere. I see them eating from nice little take-away stryrofoam containers, while the rest of us starve in our booths. SOMEONE in the hotel is providing them with food, but not relaying this to the Westerners. It's REALLY beginning to piss me off.

I go to the Great Wall on Friday. My one day of sightseeing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debate: I Like My Vice Presidents Seasoned

I think that people basically went into the debate with their minds made up. I will say that Sarah Palin did much better than I thought she would, based on the very sad interviews she did earlier in the week. Having said that, I came away from the debate feeling that she was aptly coached. Which, given the history of the Republican party and it's affection for likable but malleable puppets (Reagan and Bush), she will most definitely be the front runner for 2012. It was, for the most part, sound bite after sound bite. When she didn't have an answer, she didn't answer the question and whipped out another sound bite that usually had nothing to do with the question. Energy got a lot of play. Someone said last night on CNN that she'd make a dynamite Interior head during a Republican administration and that's probably true. It seems to be the ONE area that she spoke with any confidence that didn't feel rehearsed.

Biden did much better than I thought he would. He reined in the snide, had complete command over his answers. I have to agree with David Gergen on this. They both won in that Biden showed his command of the issues and she didn't blow it.

I will also say one thing that I find extremely irritating to the point of reaching for sharp pointed objects and wanting to impale my television. WHY IN THE HELL do Republicans constantly trot out this "faux" hatred of government? This goes hand and hand with their hatred of Washington. Then why in the holy fuck are they so eager to get there! This was a running mantra in George Bush's first campaign, and Sarah Palin rolled this out again. This mistrust of government, this hatred of it. It's inherently evil.

You know what? It paves my streets, puts cops on my street corner, and educates my children. I LOVE GOVERNMENT. I LOVE DEMOCRACY. And it fries me to no end to hear this constant snide against government by politicians. Is all government good? Well, no, it is not. And this last administration is an excellent example of that. That's why we have a system where you vote people in and out. But government itself is NOT bad. And if you think it's bad, then please go home. Because I want people there who believe in the system. It is clear that George Bush's coven of trolls HATES government, because it got in their way. Gee, we can't wire tap citizens without congressional approval? Gee, water-boarding is torture? Gee, we're holding prisoners of war (oh, we can't call them that, oops) without due process? Gee, we can't FIRE federal prosecutors because they're not voting the way we want them to vote?

Stand on notice! I WANT people who love this system to be in Washington. I am sick of all this bullshit talk about how I love this great land, blahblahblah, and then do they do their damndest to undermine it. You want to change things? Great. It's all there, a system of checks and balances (Governor Palin, brush up on your Civics 101 so that you know exactly WHAT the Vice President is supposed to do) so that no one entity is in a position to abuse the other. Cheney did his level best to completely undermine the Constitution, and I hope that the next government restores the safeguards that he so callously whittled away over the last eight years.

You know another thing that bugs the shit out of me? This concept that if you've been in Washington for a while, you're an insider. You're tainted. I don't know how John McCain squares this with his long years of service in the Senate. You know what? I WANT someone with experience there. I want someone who knows how to get the bills out of committee and on to the floor and put up for votes. In short, I want people who know what in the hell they are doing! It absolutely boggles my mind. If there was a job description for the Vice Presidential office and Joe Biden applied for the job and Sarah Palin applied for the job, who do you think, just based on their relative experience levels, would get the job? Just based on experience and not political party. Hands down it would be Biden. And yet those years of experience are seen as a negative by the Republican faithful (although they certainly don't have a problem with John McCain's years of service).

She's young! She's fresh! Uh yeah, but she has the experience of governing a state with less than a million people and 75% of those people are white! Will people get a brain! Sarah Palin might be one of the most brilliant POTENIAL vice presidents to come down the pipe. But not yet. Give her something, like Secretary of the Interior, with a tad more exposure to what is the reality in national governance. Get her involved in negotiating with other states. But someone who does not even KNOW what a Vice President does is not qualified. Call me picky!

I want experienced people there. It's like going to a doctor with a serious problem and you're given a choice of the guy whose had twenty years of experience operating on this sort of thing, OR you can have the intern who has gloved up three times--all in the last week. Again, I WANT someone who is experienced and knows a thing or twenty about how the Senate works. Because they are presiding over the Senate

But most of all, I want people who believe in government to be there representing me.

Bouchercon Here I Come

The last four months have been hellish in a number of ways. Son had major surgery, got daughter off to college--IN CANADA--near and dear relative has been in ICU for, what, three months and have been helping other near and dear relative with childcare. Oh yeah, did a lot of bookstuff because new book came out.

Anyway, am continuing this breakneck pace by flying out to Baltimore to attend Bouchercon, the BIG mystery conference. My wonderful editor, Barbara Peters, and publisher, Rob Rosenwald, are being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award this go around, so there will be a lot of Poisoned Pen authors there. It will be great to reconnect with them.

I've got a primo slot, 1:30-2:30 in the INTERNATIONAL E. The title of my panel is "APPLES, PEACHES, PUMPKIN PIE--Do our eating habits reflect our reading habits?" Claudia Bishop is our moderator, and I'm "paneling" with Judy Balzo, JoAnna Carl, Don Bruns, and Julie Hyzy.

After that I'm flying to Bejing--notice how she just tosses that off--for a work-related conference. Am getting all my plot ducks lined up for the next Mary Ryan and as I'm spending a ton of time in airports and on planes over the next two weeks, I expect I'll make a good dent in number 3.

See you in Baltimore!