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Friday, November 9, 2012

Ketchup … Lindenhurst, L.I. … and a book review: Bernard Malamud’s, The Assistant …

Amici:


The dust has settled and the most expensive presidential campaign in the country’s history is over. For all the talk of “one of the closest elections of our time”, it was a near blowout. So it goes. For all the talk of it being “the most important election of our time”, it was the last in a series of the same ... ever since I can remember.

But feel relaxed amici ... for this will be the last (for a while) of TK’s political posts.

So, let’s get started: For all the talk of how important voting is to our democracy, let’s just take a look-see at the following facts: 1) in most cases, you get to do so on your own time (it isn’t a national holiday), and although some employers will give you a few hours off, others won’t do so; 2) unless your state has early voting, you have about a dozen or so hours to make it count; 3) if you’re in a hotly contested state, there’s a good chance games will be played and you’ll be standing in line for 3-4-6 or more hours.

The wife gave me some flack for not voting (she also likes to break shoes). She and her son were about to leave to vote for the Democratic nominee, and she said, “We’re going to vote, like good Americans.”

I said, “Do we have any ketchup?”

I know TK has endorsed Obama over Romney, but that’s all it ever was; an endorsement of one guy over another (note how I didn’t call either one of them clowns this time—it’s a last ditch attempt to score some points upstairs, just in case). I’m sure they’re both nice guys (in their way), but if I had to choose one over the other as someone to “have a beer with,” it’d be Obama—but I doubt he’d want to have one with me after hearing what I have to say.


What I do think is that our political process is a circus act meant to distract people (i.e., if you’re yelling back and forth at each other loud enough, and you were, there’s a good chance you won’t see the elephant in the room). The elephant for me is capitalism, but rather than stir that shit storm up anymore than is necessary, let me defend my non-voting statement as follows: Until someone I would consider my choice (Jill Stein, this go) has a genuine voice (is on all the ballots, has the same amount of air time private, corporate and union sponsorship buys the two major parties, etc.), I have no desire to lend the process any legitimacy.

Many will say, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.”

And I say, “Do you know if we have any ketchup?”

Simply put, time has become way too precious for me to waste. Without any dog in the hunt, so to speak, and without any faith in either of the major parties, there is simply zero interest for me to wait on a line that doesn’t provide me with gasoline for my car. Me, I’d rather do something else. On election night we had Ribs and Fries and I can’t eat the Fries without ketchup. As a former coach used to say, “It’s as simple as that.”


I know, I know … the lesser of two evils ... yada, yada, yada … but that is fear winning the day and I refuse to buy into it. My endorsement of Obama over Romney was nothing more than that; there was no way I was going to vote for somebody who did to labor what this president has done since his inauguration; unforgiveable in my opinion. The truth of the matter is, he hasn’t been much different than Bush, and in some ways, Obama has been Bush on steroids. The Democratic left went after Bush full throttle for some of the same things Obama has continued (and he’s been given a pass for them). The list is too long to bore myself typing, but drones killing innocents (most of those killed being people of color, something for the 93% African-American vote to consider) is a hard one to excuse. His ignoring union busting in Wisconsin was but the tip of the iceberg for me; he’d long before that turned his back on workers with his carte blanche bailout of Wall Street. Again, much of the left remained silent on those issues as well. At best they were “disappointed”, but quickly pointed to what the other candidate “said he would do,” somehow justifying a vote for a guy who lied to their faces over a potential vote for a guy who told them what he’d do (with the results being the exact same, either way).

Now there’s logic!

Nor is there any way to walk back some of the stimulus money being handed over to campaign contributors. Solyndra wasn’t just another “Woops.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein doesn’t feel that way, but as a guy who has been on the street a fair number of years, I feel pretty confident in telling Mr. Klein (someone I often read and agree with), “Listen to me: The expedition of that loan, no matter who initiated it, was a payback, pal. Next time use caffeine in your coffee.”

As for the Republican candidate, there was no way they could possibly represent most of what I want to see happen because of the Ayn Rand influence the tea party exerted over their candidate. Not that Romney was ever consistent about anything that might, or might not, get him elected, but the belief that those who don’t “make it” in society are “parasites” and “moochers” (classic Ayn Rand), is way too offensive to acknowledge. That he was caught on camera denigrating 47% of the American people should have disqualified him from running alone, and one would think Obama’s victory would have been much greater than 50-48% with that in mind, but it wasn’t, which is scary. In fact, very scary.

So long as the Republican Party flies a flag of arrogance and hatred, they will dwindle toward the same insignificance as one of their spokespersons this past election season, The Dopey Donald.

For those of you still in need of basic Ayn Rand philosophy, here are two sources.

  One on her philosophy (“in a nutshell”) …

And this on her HUGE novel, Atlas Shrugged (from back in the day, William F. Buckley interviewed by Charlie Rose).



If yous wonder why I use the terms arrogance and hatred, see Donald Trump’s “tweets” during election night, although I now understand most have been deleted. He may not represent all Republicans, but he was someone the major candidates cow-towed to over and again during the primaries and after. Here are a few of The Donald’s quips:

This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! [Note to Donald: Actually, we are a democracy.]

Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice. The world is laughing at us. [And we're laughing at you, Donald.]

We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided. [Divided?  And you figured that out all by yourself? It must be your smarts that made you wealthy and not your daddy's dollars after all!]

He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country. [Many of us agree about the revolution, Donald, but we doubt you'd like the end result.]

The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one! [Ehhh, again, Donald ... and it's "won" not "one" AND the winner had more popular votes AND electoral votes.]

More votes equals a loss. Revolution! [We'll leave your good friend Sarah Palin to figure that one out.]

Brian Williams on Trump’s tweetfest: “Donald Trump — who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible here — is tweeting tonight.”

For me it’s a simple choice: until I actually have a choice, I’ll make damn sure I know whether or not we have ketchup before I join my wife in voting. For one thing, if we had run out, she could’ve picked some up on the way home (or told me to get off my fat ass and go to the store myself) … and if we did have ketchup, better to know where it was than to throw a fit trying to find it.
 
The morning/mourning after the election tea party crazies were out in full voice … Whacko Marc Levin was yelling at the top of his lungs that Tyranny had won the election. Tyranny? Really? It’s bad enough the extreme right has been trying to associate the Democratic party with Joseph Stalin forever, it seems, but does Levin really believe what he says? Is Obama really working toward a Marxist ideology? One has to wonder ... the 1% had earned more under one term of Obama than it did under two terms with Bush (remember that Bush on steroids analogy?). Until this election, Wall Street had put more money behind Obama than any other presidential candidate in history (maybe because they knew a Democrat had to win post Bush?).

If Obama is a socialist, he’s not a very good one. Back in June 2011, Salon.com featured an article advising the GOP to nominate Obama (since he’s really just another moderate Republican). My theory a couple of years ago was that the Republican Party, at least those pulling their strings, were more than happy with Obama, but according to the talk radio heads (Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity, et al), America is a lost cause; liberty and freedom were flushed down the toilet; the takers/moochers/parasites won.

Both Limbaugh and Levin, ignoring the Hispanic vote less than 24 hours after it helped cost their candidate the election, were hurling insult after insult at the same constituency. A Limbaugh quote: “What do we have to do for the Hispanic vote, open the borders and let in all the illegals?” Paraphrasing Levin: “Let’s go to India and welcome those people here, register them as Republicans, the Hispanics are mostly illiterate anyway.”

On the conservative site I haunt, I was particularly annoying the day after the election ... but that had much more to do with letting a few imbeciles get under my skin for poking fun (literally making fun) of hurricane victims on the Jersey shore and on Staten Island for, get this: not preparing better. Where was their sterno, peanut butter and crackers? some wanted to know.

As if those who’d lost their homes, whether swept out to sea, demolished by the tidal surge, or burned to the ground from electrical and gas fires, should’ve had boats and/or fire trucks in their pockets (not to mention sterno, peanut butter and crackers). To be fair, there was also a very fair assessment of the situation and some good community planning advice at the same site, but the Ayn Randers aiming at my “emotions” won the day and pissed me off enough to play a game I happen to be pretty good at—paybacks. They got my goat post hurricane and I made them pay post election.

Yes, I know, like children.

As far as the election goes, the same site’s gloom and doomers couldn’t help themselves ... essentially, many of them feel like the The Donald: The country went down the shitter ... the people who want stuff won ... their parent’s America is no more ... we’re all lost … so much so, not only did the re-election of Obama doom the country, but just agreeing with me apparently does too! A direct quote from one of the contributors (one I actually respect quite a bit): the minute you agree with Charlie…..all hope is lost. But, we have a spot reserved for you on Pluto.

The Pluto reference is for me. I'm captain cannoli on the site (and proud of it) ... and they suggest I live on Pluto.

To be fair, not all commentators on that conservative site are unreasonable. Some are very reasonable, but the leaders of the group so ascribe to Ayn Rand’s objectivism, they can’t divorce it from reality; interjecting black and white in a world turned very gray a very long time ago. Rather than adapt to an ever changing world, they cling to ideological fabulism (what William F. Buckley called, Atlas Shrugged), and thus, a fantasy no less so than what they deride as the utopian communist state.

I suggest they take a look-see at the real estate values of average American citizens. The American Dream is no longer a desire to own a home. It has become a desire to own the winning Power Ball Lotto ticket.

One has to wonder if the extreme right exists in a parallel universe all the time or only when they blog. The realities of the 21st century in America require a much more inclusive and compassionate game plan than what Ayn Rand would prescribe.“Screw them, it’s great to be me” is a dying theme. Advances in technology reduce the need for workers at a much faster pace now than ever before. Global markets combined with technology permit outsourcing for greater profits far more easily now; why Nike and Apple, among others, use Chinese labor rather than American. Exploiting workers overseas (where labor is more than happy to take the work due to economic conditions in their homeland) for profit here is now the way of doing business. Somehow, no matter how you look at it, workers are the ones being exploited, whether here or abroad. Not a very good game plan for an ever expanding population, it seems to me. And like him or not, Mr. Marx made a very valid point when he stated: “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”

So, the day after, the extremists on the right saw the end of America as they have believed in it heart and soul ... and then some became nastier than usual ... over at Keith Rawson’s blog, he posted about this beauty:


Keith is a terrific author and a hell of a nice guy … and a lot smarter than I am mostly keeping his politics to himself … some people really do hold it against authors when they voice their opinions … but no one (EVER) has accused me of being the sharpest knife in the drawer (just ask my buddies on that conservative site and/or The Doc), so I’ll often say what’s on my mind (using my real name). Check out Keith’s blog here: … and buy his work here (where I was honored to write the forward to The Chaos We Know).

Whatever is going to happen in America, the election process is finally over … or is it? Talk of 2016 has already begun.

Oy friggin’ vey … except at least this political rant is exhausted ... and done.

From Lindenhurst, Long Island ...




And now, finally, Bernard Malamud’s, The Assistant ... this is one of my favorite all-time American novels. It was one of the very first novels to catch my eye when I was a kid without much direction. It made me think for a change, especially about the town I grew up in, where a very Jewish-Italian mix would come together in an attempt to ward off busing (a microcosm of the racial ugliness permeating the 1970’s), but where many felt mingling was one thing, dating and/or marriage another. I revisited this particular novel because of a short story I’m currently writing about something I experienced just prior to my senior year of high school. This has been the fifth time I’ve read this novel.
 
Beware of Spoilers (a first on TK): The assistant is essentially a story about suffering in all its forms; financial, emotional and physical. An Italyener drifter from the west coast with a tough past takes part in the holdup of a grocery that has fallen on bad times. The owner of the grocery is Morris Bober, an honest man trying to survive a mostly dishonest world. He has a wife and daughter, but has lost a son to illness. He’s been the victim of a thief partner, economic circumstances, and an unfriendly neighborhood where Jews aren’t very welcome. He slaves away in his store day and night for barely enough to reopen the following day. When Frank Alpine (the assistant) can no longer live with the guilt of holding up such a poor man, he returns to the store and does his best to make amends (without confessing his part in the crime). Eventually, because Morris could never ignore a poor soul, he takes on Frank as his assistant. Business gets better, but is it because of Frank or changes in the neighborhood? Of course Frank falls for Helen (Morris’s daughter), but that’s where I’ll leave off.
 
 
I say it’s one of the best American novels ever written. Anyone turned on by great writing, whether it’s dialogue or narrative, need look no further.
 
—Knucks
 
Yesterday was my daughters 33rd birthday ... don’t ask me how that happened. A beautiful quartet from Rigoletto ... the opera, not our doggie.