Wednesday, November 28, 2012

But I am Gonzales

In the summer of 1969, my brother and I applied for and then got summer jobs working for the post office. We both worked the parcel post belt for most of the summer. Occasionally we worked what was called "the bum room" where sacks were folded and stored, and every once in a while we were on the loading docks receiving incoming bags of parcels and placing them on skids.

The job was not that difficult; we knew we were only there for the summer so the problem with the work--that it was dull--would not be something we had to worry about. And we have great stories from some of the characters we met on the parcel post belt and thereabouts.  To be sure, the people I have met in so called white collar jobs are just as idiosyncratic as those in the blue collar post office. The difference is only the flavor of quirkiness.  I have met some strange ducks with very highfalutin college degrees, so my comments about the post office are not to be considered as condescending remarks from a college professor.

Our job on the parcel post belt amounted to waiting for parcels to travel toward us which we would then trow (as in throw) into bins.  A manager at one end of the belt would tell the workers there to "keep dumping" the parcels onto the belt, while my manager on the belt, would exhort us to "clear the belt" encouraging sometimes a frenzied tossing of the parcels just to clear the belt as more and more packages came our way.  Getting the parcels into the right bin became secondary to getting rid of the parcels. If the belt were to be clogged with parcels-- meaning we had not cleared them quickly enough--the fellows dumping the parcels and their manager would consider this a victory of some sort having dumped parcels more quickly than we could trow them.  The result was this folly of rapid dumping and haphazard trowing, an explanation perhaps for some slow delivery if you lived in Nassau or Suffolk county in the summer of 1969.

The post office we were in was really outdated.  It looked and was like an old factory. Cement floor, dust all over the joint, lunchrooms right out of 1950 industrial films.  And so, a new facility was being built for the modern '70s. On occasion we would be taken to the new facility to get it ready for its opening. We veterans of the old parcel post method were wide eyed when we saw the newfangled way parcels would be sorted.  Something like watching Mr. Wizard or the GE exhibit at the 1964 worlds fair.

Our work at the new facility involved moving things from here to there prepping for the grand opening. As was the case on the old parcel post belt, managerial instructions toward this end were haphazardly, but loudly, barked.  "You, take that bucket and move it here." "Push those skids to first class."  "Get those bum bags the hell out of here. Let's go."

The veterans and the summer workers were moving around like a poorly coordinated marching band in various directions pushing this and hauling that, crisscrossing, comically to any observer not her or himself engaged. One of the regular workers was named Gonzales.  A manager in a tie doing a management dance was pointing here and there giving orders.  To Gonzales, he gave a nod to a ladder that was lying on its side.  "Look," he said, "You and Gonzales take that ladder the hell away from here."

Gonzales, always in an old fashioned tank top undershirt--forever with a toothpick in his mouth--snapped his head back. With spittle coming out from around the toothpick he responded incredulously "But, I am Gonzales" he said.

The manager did not want to be bothered with this fact. He made a gesture with his hands that could have passed for the illegal procedure signal of a football referee before strutting somewhere else to bark some command.

To this day whenever I hear someone call another Gonzales I can't help myself from thinking if not saying, "But I am Gonzales."

I thought of the story today on the way to work even though I had not heard anyone say Gonzales.  I was thinking about something my dad had written recently about how we are all connected to one another. I responded to him that I agreed. I commented that the word "individual" refers to a bogus construction not a reality.  Yes, I am  in a different body than my colleagues at work. But maybe we ought to consider the possibility, as Rod Serling-esque as it seems, that we are otherwise connected in a way that cannot currently be explained such that no individual is a human entity by her or himself.

Lovers, in particular, are hinged in a way that is as real as the way the door to my office is hinged to its frame. Try to yank lovers apart and it is as unnatural and destructive as trying to rip a door off its hinge.  If we think of ourselves as individuals--discretely separated from others--it is difficult to function without something being set off kilter in our universe.

I've blogged about this before, but it is worth considering that we introduce toxins into our system once we deliberately separate from others and especially those we love.  "But I am Gonzales" is only true on a level related to hoisting ladders independently.  Gonzales is more than Gonzales and is not even Gonzales without the connections Gonzales has to others..

Friday, November 23, 2012

1 oclock news

I heard a story this afternoon on the one o'clock news.  A man went out with his toddler during the night hours of Black Friday to buy a flat screen tv.  His wife was working somewhere on the night shift. The deal for the tv, I am assuming, was too good to miss. The bargain would expire before the spouse would get home.

The man gets the tv.  He drives home with the flat screen.  Later he is called by a representative from the store because while he has the tv home and secure, he neglected to bring home his toddler. "Oops," or something of that sort, the proud owner of the tv says.  He goes back to the store to get his child.

I went out today to do some errands.  I did not go near the malls, but overheard chatter at the supermarket that the stores are packed with frenzied shoppers.

A)  How bad can the economy be?
B)  What is the big deal about this day?
C)  Is there a shrine somewhere in the capitalist hall of fame for the marketers who created this idea that the Friday after Thanksgiving should be designated super sale day.

I could barely lift the paper on Thanksgiving off the sidewalk. It was fatter than the Sunday Times.  Advertisements for all sorts of things one does not need spilled out when I removed the brick from the plastic wrapper.  You want sweaters, you got it. And if you want to get up at 3 in the morning some are 50% off.  How bout some candles that smell nice.  Haul yourself out of bed at 1 a.m. and there are three for the price of one.  Mini box sets which I could not possibly live without are regularly 12.99 but today--and just today--you can get a set of 3 empty boxes for 9.99.  Instant Rebates are available on cameras.  Lots of FREE items are available as long as you drop a couple of C notes on other items concurrently.

There is nothing that could get me to a mall today.

Book Review--Elsewhere

I have read all but one of Richard Russo's nine books.  Books like Bridge of Sighs, the Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, and The Whore's Child (the latter a collection of short stories) are on my top shelf in terms of good reads. Russo's newest, Elsewhere, is billed as a memoir.  When I saw that it had been published, I bought the book and just finished it yesterday afternoon.

When you read authors' works you, or at least I, develop a notion of the kind of person they might be.  Elsewhere changed the notion I'd had about Russo.  While it is billed as a "memoir", the focus of the book is not on Russo so much as Russo's life with his mother. Given the nature of their relationship, it would have been difficult to write a personal memoir without his mother being central to it.

Clearly, it seems to me, and I judge this not primarily by some remarks he made in the Acknowledgments but because of the whole of the book, his mother was, and even in death now, is central to his life in a way that is greater than most mothers are central to their children's lives.Russo's mother was nothing like mine. Russo's mother was beyond quirky--contrary, very very clingy, needy, and well difficult.  From the time he left for college--with his mother going right along with him-until her death, the two were tethered and he was her life support.  In the book, Russo does not complain about his plight; in fact he portrays his mother as sympathetically as a man would who, in some ways, was nourished himself by the relationship despite the enormous draining effect it had on his life. It is unbelievable to me that someone could write a masterpiece like Bridge of Sighs and yet need to continuously jump when the phone rang and rush to the rescue of something that needed no immediate attention.

Russo's  father left when he was a kid and does not factor into this book much at all.  I found it a bit strange that the father who is likely the inspiration for the narrator's favorably depicted if irreverent dad in The Risk Pool is rarely part of this story. It's surprising not so much that the father and mother had no connection after the marriage ended, but  that since the burden was heavy and constant on his son, there was no attempt at intervening for the kid's behalf.

Russo comes across in this book as a man who has a hole in his heart because of something big missing as a kid.  From his novels, I had a sense that he had his life very much together.  Yet, I don't think he does.  Nobody does really, but at the end of this book I felt as if Russo had hoped that the writing would have provided some closure for him and ease of pain.  It does not seem that way to me.  He is still at sea as it relates to his mother and lives with a deep emotional bruise which I did not sense from the way he humorously and brilliantly writes his novels.

Do I recommend this?  Well it is a depressing read and I am not sure there is anything that comes to a conclusion or take away other than to know that we all have tsuris even those who might seem to be unaffected.  Before I read this book,  I thought of Russo as a mensch who had an insightful perspective on human interaction. I still feel this way, perhaps more so, but I also know that he is not as carefree and unaffected as I imagined him to be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Give Peace a Chance

My doctoral dissertation is about the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.  When I was writing it, in the summer of 1976, my advisers suggested that it was an important topic as the tension in the middle east then was high.

The tension in the Middle East has been high at least since 1948.  My research was about the 73 Yom Kippur war. From 1948 through 1973, a mere twenty five years there had been four wars. There was a war in 48, 56, 67--the six day war-- and the 1973 war. Twenty five years, four wars.    

Now in 2012, nearly forty years later there is another war in the middle east. And since 1973 the region has had very little rest from bloody war.  I was in graduate school in 1973 and I can remember a poster pasted to a wall in the Student Center at the University of Buffalo.  "Every test Israel takes, is a final."

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have asserted that Israel has the right to defend itself and this, to me, seems so self evident that it troubles me that anyone needs to assert this.  It troubles me that some will ask why is Israel involved in yet another war.

Here is why in a nutshell.  In the charter of militant groups is the objective to destroy the state of Israel.

Imagine this: You move into a community and a neighbor immediately informs you and all the other neighbors that they have as a goal to kill you.  So, tell me, how do you react when they try to do so.

If Hamas wants peace, they ought to give peace a chance. You don't give peace a chance when in your charter you declare that you want to destroy your neighbor.  If at Thanksgiving someone sighs and asks, why are the Israelis, always at war, please stand up and ask how the inquirer would feel if someone was disrupting the calm of your meal by bashing on your doors and screaming through the windows that a primary objective was for you to die.


Monday, November 19, 2012


Andrew Luck had a tough day as quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.  Two of his passes were intercepted and returned for touchdowns. He fumbled the ball away once, and his team lost 59-24.

He was interviewed after the game and asked about the loss. The questions were not easy.  Did you ever lose by this many points?  How do you respond to such a loss?  What happened on the pick sixes (interceptions returned for touchdowns).

Luck responded by praising his opponents for playing well, accepting responsibility for the loss, and determining to work harder.

Last week Governor Romney and many of his supporters responded to the presidential defeat by explaining that the loss was because people liked gifts, handouts.  He identified women who would be getting free contraceptives as a group who voted for Obama because of this largesse.

I think Governor Romney might take the implicit advice from athletes who when they lose are taught to not blame anyone else, but work harder to achieve their goals.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Game

Yesterday, Saturday, I was in Harvard Square early in the morning.  As I was driving in on what is now called John F. Kennedy Boulevard I was reminded by an additional police presence that yesterday was the day of THE GAME.

In these parts THE GAME is the Harvard-Yale football game played annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Harvard is having a good season and Yale is not, so Harvard was a thirty point favorite yesterday.

I parked my car, got a cup of coffee and sat in one of the several coffee shops on Massachusetts Avenue--a road that intersects with JFK boulevard right at the Harvard Square subway stop across from the campus.  On the sidewalk, at 830 were undergraduates and alums wearing Harvard and Yale gear. The game was at noon.  The stadium is across the Charles River, a ten minute walk from where JFK and Mass Avenue meet. I took the walk and as I got closer to the stadium the activity picked up.  There were no crowds yet, but it was buzzing.  Already tail gate parties were getting going, a barbecue pit was set up near the stadium and hamburgers and various tail gate fare were being cooked up such that the area smelled more like the late afternoon than early morning.Two scalpers asked, in scalper code, if I wanted a ticket.

 I walked back to the Square and saw two fellows lugging long wooden tables from a truck setting up, I assume, for some soiree.  In the back of the pickup were no fewer than twenty cases of Heineken beer.

The game was a sellout.  The stadium seats over 30,000.  At 12:30, only thirty minutes from the start of THE GAME, Boston College was hosting Virginia Tech.  I looked in today's paper and there were over 30,000 in attendance at that game no more than a few miles away from the Harvard-Yale contest.  Also at 1230, downtown, a ten minute drive from Harvard Stadium, the Boston Celtics were playing a home game against the Toronto Raptors.  A little less than 20000 attend the Celtic games.

So, at noon yesterday, within a short radius, 80,000 people were watching a sporting event. This does  not include the 12,000 who saw UMASS play the University of Buffalo about twenty miles away in Foxboro.

THE GAME turned out to be a very close one. It was tied at the half, and in the second half the lead changed a number of times.  Finally Harvard went ahead and put the icing on the cake with a long scoring run when what they were really trying to do was run out the clock.  Very exciting. The game ended at about 330.

My guess is that there were no Heinekens left by 5.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A nation of Adolescents

Again, I hear on the radio and read in the mainstream and social media, that there is a national scandal.  A general who is married is having sex with his biographer who also is married.  The story is complicated because the biographer senses a rival paramour and has been writing to this other woman hoping to push her away from the general.  More news surfaced today that another government official was aware of the activity.

This, despite the media attention, should not be a national scandal. It is depicted this way only because we are a nation of adolescents and act like tittering teenagers when we talk about it.  The general and biographer's sexual relationship is, in fact, none of our business. It is the business of only the lovers and the spouses.  The general was not sleeping with the enemy.  The intimacy was consensual.    It seems as if these two fell in love or at least were physically attracted to each other and had sex.

Is this wrong?  How the hell do we know. We have no idea of the particulars. And besides the biographer and general have not asked us our opinion.This should be where this ends.

The conventional notion of marriage--a social construction--is that there is a pledge to be monogamous.  The best guess is that these two made these pledges and violated them.  I am not a big fan of people who violate pledges, but nobody really knows anything about the nuances of the relationships.

I am drinking coffee now. It is in a paper cup.  I have a cup of coffee. This is not a social construction. If I drink this coffee I will taste coffee. If I hurry up and write this blog the coffee will be hot when I drink it. Hot, as it relates to coffee, is not a social construction.  If I drink a lot of the coffee I will be jittery and in no shape to conduct my two o'clock or four o'clock meetings after lunch.  Jittery is not a social construction.  Monogamy is not a social construction. Bigamy is not a social construction.

Marriage is a social construction.  What it is and has come to mean has been constructed by our society.  If you take a step back, you would realize that when you marry you are explicitly or tacitly agreeing to a set of principles that have no organic provenance.  If you agree to them and remain committed to them, then, that is your business. If you agree to a different set and remain committed to them, that is also your business. And if you agree to them and do not remain committed to them, that is also your business.   I have no more right to comment on the general's behavior or to consider it a scandal, than to point at my neighbor's holiday decorations and scream "scandalous".

When I was a kid there was a house a few blocks away that was decorated in a way that you would not believe. When I write you would not believe it, I am not exaggerating.  We would take visitors to see it. You would have trouble parking on the otherwise lazy street during holiday season.  Unbelievable display.

It was, I'll opine, in bad taste.  It was ostentatious, took away from anyone else's decoration, and was like someone painting his house hot pink or purple.   But it was not a national scandal.  What people do without interfering with others is not a national story.

As it relates to the general and his biographer, maybe their marriages were on the rocks. Maybe they had spoken with their spouses and decided that they were going to open up their marriages. And maybe not.  Whatever, it is not a national story. It is a local story. Very local.

We are a nation of adolescents. We react to sex the same way as adults as when we were in junior high and found out that Jane, who was wearing Billy's id bracelet, was smooching with Louie by the handball court. People who are in monogamous relationships may say that they are under contract. Fine. It is their business how they construct and adhere to their contract.  It is not ours.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

the downfall of the magician

When I was in graduate school I took at least one course, maybe two, in therapeutic counseling.  In one of these we had a "Reader"--a term I am not sure that's still in use.  A Reader as opposed to a textbook was an anthology--a collection of essays or cases or articles. Not sure why they were or are called Readers as opposed to anthologies.

The Reader in this class consisted of a series of cases or stories fictionalized to make a point.  Each story was headed by a quote of some sort.  One was about a client who had created a set of rationalizations and a persona to fit what he desired as opposed to what was real.  He experienced a series of disappointments when his created self collided with who he was.  The section was headed with the quote:  "The downfall of the magician is the belief in his own magic."   The point, in the course about therapeutic counseling, was to acknowledge that in dealing with those seeking help, we had to be aware of the tendency to lose one's self in the course of constructing a bogus reality.

Since the election I have read at least two articles that describe Governor Mitt Romney as being shell shocked on the night of the election when each of the battle ground states with the exception of North Carolina was coming in for President Obama.  I had become in the weeks before the election an avid follower of the race.  Each morning before I did much of anything, I sat at the computer and looked at the previous day's polls.  I counted the likely electoral votes for each candidate several times a day attempting to assess the permutations necessary for a victory.

After the first debate Governor Romney's status changed dramatically.  Many battleground states that had  been leaning blue, became red.  But after the Biden/Ryan debate and the second presidential contest, that trend reversed.  During the last week of the election only North Carolina and Florida were showing red.  New Hampshire had gone to blue and Virginia was going that way.  The state that everyone identified as the key state, Ohio, never, ever became red.  I must have looked at 50 different Ohio polls in the month before the election. 95 percent of them were blue, a couple showed the race a tie, and maybe one or two had a tiny Romney lead. However taken as a whole, Ohio was clearly blue.  Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada--they were consistently blue.

Yet toward the end of the campaign Romney's advisers contended that their polls showed the results differently. They stated confidently that the election would be a decisive victory for the governor.  Even Minnesota they claimed was not out of the question.  The Republicans said they had momentum, and enthusiasm, and they would win the battleground states and the election.

I was not at all positive that Romney would lose, but if one looked at the polls that would have been the way to bet.  And, as it turned out, the polls were stunningly accurate. The Ohio result was almost exactly what the polls consistently indicated.  Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania--they all went as the polls indicated they would.

So, while I would expect Governor Romney to be disappointed, to be shell shocked, to be startled each time these results came in indicating one battleground state after another went to Obama, this is surprising to me.  Apparently, he believed in his own magic.

And I think that was the downfall of the campaign for him throughout.  When they trotted out that the crowds were enthusiastic and this meant a victory, I think he might have believed it.  When he said that they had momentum--even when the momentum reversed--I believed he swallowed his own line of malarkey.  You can't really redirect appropriately any course that is off line, if you think it is on line.

It's not just in politics, but one would think that someone familiar with the election process would be sensitive to the tendency to selectively perceive data in a way that could be counterproductive.

Not everything relates to sports, but this does.  In sports if you believe, for example, that you have a great defense--then you lose by 40 points, you can not continue to believe you have a great defense.  If you do, you will lose your coaching position or, if you are a player, your playing time.Sports and competition reduces the chances for self deception among all who continue to play.

I do not remember a whole lot from that class I took many years ago, but I do remember the quote.  It is my, and everyone's downfall,  when we believe in our own magic and kid ourselves to think that what is real is what we'd like it to be.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

basketball matters

Last night I could not decide whether to go to the gym for a needed workout, or watch the opening night basketball game between my school, Northeastern University, and our in-town rivals, Boston University.  BU is sort of out of town up Commonwealth Avenue and not a spot from which you can get to downtown without taking a subway.  Northeastern is right in the city, a short walk to Fenway Park, the Prudential Center where the marathon finishes, and the tony back bay and south end sections of the city.  A little bit longer shake of the leg and you are at Quincy and the Hay Market.   So to write that we are in-town rivals gives BU a little more credit than it deserves.  (I wonder at times if I have read too much of our publicity literature--but this is the truth about the names of the schools.   Boston College, another rival, is incontrovertibly misnamed as it does not even sit in Boston, but in Newton a nearby suburb).

Nevertheless the BU/NU game has about as much tension and interest as any of our basketball games.  Hockey is a big draw at the school, but basketball not so much.  The BU game does draw some fans and has been exciting the last few years. In the 80s and 90s it was even more tense with one game including a near fist fight between the two coaches.  So, I decided to attend the game and resolved to exercise on the morrow.

It was crowded getting into the arena last night, but not packed.  It was loud though as supporters from both schools were couched together and the cheering sections already shouting before the opening tip.  I rarely sit in the upper deck but that was where I was perched, parked there just when the NU team was being introduced.

One of the fun things about watching a first game of the season is that the teams are so juiced--no squad is deflated because of a depleting losing streak and the players have not had an opportunity to develop resentments because of lack of playing time.  The players last night played the entire contest as if they had been in a starbucks knocking back espressos for six hours before the tilt.  NU came out in a tenacious man to man and we were fighting through picks and jumping through the roof to grab rebounds. Unfortunately, during the first half we were throwing up bricks reflecting, I am thinking, the anxiety of an opening game.

As I have mentioned in these blogs, I played some college basketball on a freshman team.  The last player on the bench on both BU and NU teams on their worst day would beat me when I was at my prime on my best day by 15 points in a one on one game to 15.  And I can, (or at least could) shoot.  Still these guys are so much better than I was that I find it startling sometimes to see them throw up shots as if they are pushing cinderblocks into the air.

BU went ahead by ten points and held a lead until the midpoint in the second half.  Then the stud for NU took over and was able to get BU to foul often.  We caught up with foul shots and some good inside baskets so that down within a couple of minutes the lead was changing regularly.  Then, someone from BU hit a three putting them up 63-62 with less than a minute to go.

We called a time out and set up the stud who not only lost the ball but fouled a player in the process--fouling himself out of the game and giving BU two foul shots with ten seconds left.  BU hit the first and missed the second.  NU is down 64-62 with ten seconds left and the stud on the bench.

NU takes the ball up the court and with two seconds left it is somehow in the hands of a fellow who has amassed a grand total of one point in the preceding 39 minutes and 57 seconds of the game.  He takes a long three at the buzzer.

It goes in, NU wins, and the place erupts in a way I have never seen it.

In one second the NU coach goes from someone who does not know what he is doing to genius. The BU coach goes from a genius to a fool.   The erstwhile one point player goes from a member of the bricklayers union to the school hero.

The NU coach is wildly and widely congratulated by those who might have been wondering whether it was time for a change.  Players run down a gauntlet of admiring fans as they go to the locker room. The BU coach is shaking his head and, one hopes, is being consoled.

One of the number of images that will stay with me from last night is related to the look on the NU assistant coach's face at the end of the night.  NU has an assistant coach who must be close to 70.  He was the coach's coach when the coach played college basketball.  He does not need this job.  He could retire one assumes without worrying about a paycheck.  This guy was positively beaming last night after the game. Just a broad genuine smile ear to ear.

What does it matter.  A kid hit a three at the buzzer.  Does it affect the economy? Address our problems with Iran?  Deal with the political dichotomy in this country?  Well, no.  But to the wild fans who are still feeling the effects of the cheering, the coaches, and certainly the kid who buried the three, it matters. In today's Globe the headline of the article about the game reads, "Pollard's 3-pointer propels NU over BU."  I think the kid will probably clip and save the headline.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thoughts for the Right

I am not sure how I would have reacted had the situation been reversed, but I am surprised at the reaction of many Republican leaders in the two days since the election.

Today I read Mike McConnell's less than gracious congratulatory communication to the president.  I see that Karl Rove is insisting that the Democrats suppressed votes.  Fox News yesterday posted an article which identified five reasons why the media skewed the election for the Democrats. (Never mind that Fox News is a powerful media outlet).  I see how the governor of Florida will adamantly oppose the Affordable Health Care Act despite the fact that the election has reenforced it as the law of the land.  Bill O'Reilly reduced the results to the conclusion that the majority of Americans just want things--as if the reason for the Obama victory was because all Democrats want a hand out.

I'm sure there are Republican leaders who are embarrassed by these reactions.  I have heard some speak more reasonably and I am guessing that the people we are hearing whine just may be the most vocal of those who voted for Governor Romney.

The Republicans will have to dispassionately look at what they supported and realize that to run on such a platform is to guarantee a loss.  They alienated gays, a large percentage of women,  and immigrants for whom they suggested self-deportation as a reasonable notion.  

A fellow I play tennis with commented last night that the chickens just came home to roost.  In  an  election that will be decided by two or  three percentage points you can't disparage a much larger percentage of the population and then be incredulous when you lose.

I have friends who I love and respect who believe in the Economic policies of the Republican party.  They voted for Governor Romney.  However these friends do not respect the social agenda of the Republicans nor, I am thinking, are they comfortable with the childish reaction of the vocal leaders. My recommendation to the Republican leadership is that they need to stop yielding to the reactionaries, genuinely embrace populations  they alienated, and stop acting like babies who are crabby because the bottle of milk they spilled themselves is no longer available..  Otherwise as time  goes on they will become inconsequential and a sad footnote to American political history.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

303 or 332

Today at 7:15 a.m. there was a line at the polling place and I had to park in a nearby Walgreens because there was no room in the school lot.  I understand that the lines in Cambridge and Boston were enormous.

My buddy Brian assured me this morning that President Obama would win.  It was comforting. I have been adding up the numbers like a human calculator for a week now trying to identify who would be successful.

Last night I heard about "enthusiasm" in the Romney campaign. I wish the case was that the Romney camp really was reporting about enthusiasm that they witnessed. However, I don't think that is the case.  There might have been enthusiastic crowds, but I think "enthusiasm" was the message point the Romney camp identified in their strategy sessions.  I think the Romney camp thought that by saying there was enthusiasm-regardless of how much enthusiasm there actually was--they would create enthusiasm and votes.  

Throughout the campaign I found that the message from the right was not truly a reporting of what they claimed to be seeing, but rather something generated as the message du jour regardless of whether that message was in fact, fact.  Concerns for the middle class during the first debate, momentum in the weeks before Sandy, enthusiasm now--were tactics as opposed to realities.  Romney had momentum after the first debate--but when after the second debate the momentum stalled, he claimed to have momentum as a ploy to manufacture momentum.

It is this creation of narrative regardless of fact that I find offensive.  Fact is, that while it turned out to be a liability--I thought that Romney's stand on not bailing out the auto industry was actually the right thing to do.  He might have earned my vote if instead of backtracking when that became a liability, he double downed on it--instead of doubling down on the spurious claims he made in order to gain an advantage.  Had he told his base what I believe he really thinks--that a woman should not be prohibited from making choices--I would have been more likely to consider his candidacy.  Yet what he actually did throughout the campaign was change direction like some dust in a windstorm.  There might be a there there, but because of what he did I wasn't sure that the there there could be trusted. .

And, of course, he did nothing to stop the public service charlatans: the governor of Florida and the attorney general of Ohio, who attempted to restrict voting.

I am terrible about predicting elections.  Just awful.  I think with my heart sometimes, so who knows if 303, let alone 332, will turn out to be accurate.  But I will not be surprised if tonight the election will show that many Americans were not taken in by the right's slight of hand.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Criterion number 1

Last night I was looking at an internet site when a poll popped up.  I was asked to indicate who I will vote for on election day.  I so indicated and then immediately the results to date appeared on the screen. My guy was losing and that was deflating.

What I saw next was similarly deflating but I did not sense how much so until I began considering the poll as I was driving to work today.  On the screen was a simple question.  It read: "Which of the following issues is the most important issue for you when you consider your voting decision."

A number of items were listed: jobs, economy, equal pay, immigration, education, abortion.  I scoured the list, thought about it, and did not see the issue that I considered most significant.  I checked "other."

I have an opinion and a strong one at that, on each of the issues listed.  The idea that Roe vs. Wade might be overturned by the same people who bemoan "big government" is very difficult to understand.  Who could argue that equal pay for equal work is debatable.  Who--who has any experience teaching--would argue against the idea that public education and educational resources is essential for our country.  On almost every issue that was identified on the list I feel as if the choice is  binary and my choice is correct.

Still, none of those items is the most important criterion for a president.  That criterion is character.

You want to roll your eyes and consider this naive nonsense, knock yourself out.  But for me--both for pragmatic and moral reasons, character is the primary criterion upon which everything else is based.

If you have a moral compass which creates a foundation for ethical behavior, I'm likely to vote for you. I am not talking about some superficial adherence to some official religious creed.  I dont care if you go to church or are a "family man" or never swear.

I care if you think being honest is a virtue.  I care about how you are likely to treat people who can't help you get elected.  I care if you think about sending a percentage of kids to their certain death for no reason other than to save face.  I care if you care enough about your responsibility as officer not to fall asleep at the wheel and risk the safety of the citizens of the country.

Sure, I care about someone who can get things done. That is important.  And I have to consider the positions of the candidates on key issues.  But the most significant criterion is trust and character.

So, your kid has two offers for a job.. One is more lucrative than another, the company financially secure and connected to powerful people.  This company promises your kid a car.  But there is a sleaze sense you have when you talk to the CEO.

The  other job offer is from a company that also is financially secure, but not as lucrative or powerfully connected.  This company is owned by someone you can trust.  Your kid asks for your advice.

 What is your recommendation?