Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's the 2007 Douche of the Year award!

You know, a lot of people have asked me, "Chuck, why don't you blog any more?" Or at least one person, my friend Pedro, has asked this. I don't really have good answers to this question, other than

1. I have two jobs, plus freelancing assignments, and as a result have very little time.

2. I'm also looking for another job that would allow me to cut down to one.

3. It's the holidays and nobody really pays much attention to things other than egg nog, champagne and any and all alcoholic beverages necessary to delude themselves into thinking they really care for their relatives and it's a good idea to spend four hours watching the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

But, it is now New Year's Eve, and as years of media consumption have taught us, it's time to watch the Humanitarian Bowl from Boise, Idaho, matching Fres ... er, no. Time for an end-of-the-year list or award! Like, say, my Douche of the Year award!

Previously we had nominated Dick Cheney and Rupert Murdoch. Throw in best buds Pat Robertson and Rudy Giuliani, and we have a crowded field, folks. They're all assholes, to be sure. But what is it about each of them that allows them to transcend asshole status and become the remarkable douches they are? Let's take a quick look:

Dick Cheney: The CEO of the Bush White House, he is the man in charge of the neocon assault on humanity, the U.S. Constitution and common sense.

Rupert Murdoch
: The media monopolist whose minions are directed to ignore the tenets of the journalism they are purported to practice and serve merely as water carriers for Bush, Cheney and the neocons.

Pat Robertson: Fundamentalist Christian televangelist bent on whipping up a fervent faith amongst the masses not in the Prince of Peace but in the politics of fear and hatred.

Rudy Giuliani: A pure opportunist who stops at nothing -- not even the untimely deaths of 9-11 victims -- to exploit his way to power.

An impressive lineup, all of whom are worthy candidates for Douche of the Year. But only one can win. So I must be especially scrutinizing when it comes to their credentials, and of particular interest, since this is a yearly award, is their activity within the last 12 months. So Robertson, who made an impressive return to relevance with his well-hyped endorsement of Giuliani but who has been a bigger douche in other years, is out. Cheney, whose influence took a hit from the midterms of 2006, albeit a tiny, barely recognizable hit shrinking in effect with each day Nancy Pelosi and the pecked hens of the Democratic Leadership Committee sit on their hands in Congress, is also out. Giuliani, who has slid in the polls while leveraging defeat in early, small state primaries against a large-state sweep on Super Tuesday, is in great position to be the douche of the year for 2008. But the choice for 2007 is a man who has worked largely behind the scenes to spread propaganda, fear, hatred, hypocrisy and out-and-out lies across the country and around the world for years. Rupert Murdoch, whose empire expanded with the acquisition of the Wall Street Journal and whose mendacity was enough to strike fear into as nefarious a figure as Journal editorial page chief Paul Gigot, is accorded the dishonor of the very first Time stops for no one Douche of the Year award.

Congratulations, Rupert! May you rot in hell!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not-So-Insane Campaign

Well, I have to apologize for not writing in such a long time ... well, I don't really have to apologize, since this is my own blog, but ... I feel it's owed to you, dear readers, since I made no announcement of my impending absence in this space. I had to know that moving a taking a third job would monopolize the remainder of my free time for at least a couple of weeks, but I nonetheless felt compelled to deny myself a "cop out" to avoid blogging. Because, you know, guys who work three jobs deserve no break whatsoever, and especially from themselves.

Regardless, I'm here now, so let's get up to date. I'm living with my friend Jeff George, not the former NFL quarterback but a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 14th District of Florida, which includes Fort Myers and Naples. In return for my room, I'm volunteering on his campaign That's right -- the inevitable drift toward politics has finally brought me into loggerheads with an ice floe in the form of a gonzo, independent run for office that calls itself Crazy for Congress. It had to happen.

So I'd like to chronicle my experience with the campaign here. Only, who knows how long I'll be involved with this? I'm supposed to take a job in Sebring with my old paper in January -- but that position may not be around in January, or February, or ever, for that matter, since the parent company is not exactly in the best financial shape. And then I've also been interviewing for other positions that pay a living wage, too, so I don't have to work three jobs just to stay in the neighborhood of financial solvency (never mind actually making enough money to live on). So I have no idea what I'll be doing in a matter of weeks. It's a hell of a time, in all senses of the phrase.

But for the time being ... the campaign. Jeff is running on a platform of "Transparency, Integrity and Accountability," which is a vague way of saying he wants to open up the workings of democracy so everyone can see what influences it and exert their own influence as they see fit. Ideally, what we'd like to have happen is for democracy to no longer be a "pay for play" sort of arrangement in this country, and for the ideals of democracy to supercede the ideals of capitalism, or at the very least co-exist with them. Because otherwise you have an oligarchy and not a democracy. Capitalism is an economic system, not a form of government.

Naturally, sentiments like this relegate you to the back of the pack in any election. The story is no different here, but Jeff would also like to position himself as an outsider/alternative for political outsiders of all stripes, the kind of populist candidate who gets elected whenever the president's approval rating slips below, say, 30 percent.

Jeff's up against a manifestation of the very engines that put that president in office: nepotism, cronyism and disconnection with the people whom you claim to represent. Connie Mack IV, a fourth-generation politician, future husband of California congresswoman Mary Bono and only occasional resident of the 14th District. Also in the race are a pair of democrats and, as of this Friday, Burt Saunders, a state senator who broke ranks from the Republicans to oppose Mack as an independent. Jeff has been quite a bit concerned with this fellow, who threatens to siphon the disgruntled Republican votes and money upon which he had been counting, but, then, when have you known Republicans who broke ranks to have survived more than two months without being turned into political toast? At the very least this distracts the Republican noise machine from aiming squarely at Jeff, and that can only be a good thing. While Mack and Saunders engage in a pissing contest, Jeff will be able to concentrate on voters and issues, which is what he intended to do anyway.

So is democracy in at least some small way accessible to all? We're about to see. Jeff has never run for office before and has neither influential fortune nor friends, so he is a fantastic litmus test of whether someone from outside the societal and monied elite can get elected in this country. Now, Jeff isn't exactly what you might call an "average" citizen ... he's a Muslim and a small-time filmmaker, which doesn't exactly sound like the description of your next door neighbor. Then again, he's a veteran, and his Islam is to the Islam promulgated by Middle Eastern leaders as the Christianity of your mom who goes to Midnight Mass is to Pat Robertson. So no, I am not writing this in between daily 40 lashes from my roommate which I must endure for living as an infidel. Although I have been told to clean my room a little.

Right now I'm working on marshaling the support of an array of community groups, making lots of phone calls and getting lots of "No, sorry, we don't like to talk to politicians," and a good dose of "Who are you? What?! Democracy? What's that? Isn't that the name of the dog in Paris Hilton's handbag?" But I have secured the services of Pond Water Experiment, which has pledged a benefit concert. So now all I need is a venue and an audience, which is precisely where Jake and Elwood were about an hour into The Blues Brothers. Which reminds me ... all I want for Christmas is a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes and a pair of sunglasses to wear when it's dark.