September 25, 2008

She's Not Oprah, For Christ's Sake

So I went over to a deli near my office yesterday to grab some lunch, and while I was waiting in the always wonderfully long line to cash out, I happened to overhear a snippet of a conversation two women were having about Sarah Palin. I can't recall all of it verbatim, and it didn't help that I had an iPod earbud stuck in one ear, but the gist of it as follows:

Woman #1: Well, I mean, no, I don't think she's like the greatest politician ever, but she doesn't deserve to be treated this way.

Woman #2: (Through a giant mouthful of salad) I know!!! They don't have to be so MEAN to her!

Woman #1: She doesn't deserve it. What did she do to deserve it?

Woman #2: (Oblivious to the glob of ranch dressing on her lower lip) They don't do this to Biden, do they?

And that's about when I just forced myself to listen to the Middle Eastern guy in front of me talk on his cell phone in a language I couldn't nearly comprehend, because had I been forced to listen to the flawed, pathetic logic of those two women for another minute, I probably would've drove my panini through my eye. And that's just not good for anybody. Especially me.

I wanted to tell them, "They DO do this to Biden! And to every other politician in the modern era as well! You can't bemoan the fact that Palin gets treated differently because she's a woman, but then feel sorry for her two seconds later based on the fact that she's a woman!"

This double-standard, completely oxymoronic logic has basically pervaded every single major media outlet's coverage of Palin since she was plucked out of Alaska based on her allure to white female voters, er, I mean, because of her strong leadership and foreign policy experience and invaluable political skill set.

She was shiny and new, sort of like Obama and Hillary were during the onset of their campaigns, simply because she wasn't an old white guy -- the franchise that's dominated the Presidential game basically from day one. Suddenly, she (sort of) filled that gap left by Hillary's defeat in the Democratic primary, and the media couldn't be happier. There's a woman on the ticket again! Hooray for special-interest puff pieces!

Problem is, even while everyone said that she shouldn't be treated differently just because of her lack of a Y chromosome, once she started getting grilled by the usual American political scrutiny machine, that's EXACTLY what people started doing. The media wasn't allowed to dig into her past, or ask questions about her supposed pregnancy (that might just have been the first of her currently knocked-up daughter), because it was mean. Questions and investigations that are normally done to every other (read: male) Presidential hopeful were met with so much scorn from the McCain camp and airheaded feminists alike, you'd think they were asking about her cup size, or what her weight was. (Sorry, that was incredibly chauvinistic/cliche, but you get the point.)

Even when she was just asked simple questions (for example, about how she actually had foreign policy experience based on her state's proximity to Russia) by Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, she couldn't produce sound, or even cohesive, answers. She's being given the kid-gloves treatment by journalists and potential voters alike, because it's so MEAN to ask her questions! And this is a person who's supposed to stand up to people like Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?? Even the Vice Presidential debate will probably be toned down, because I'm sure the Dems are wary of having Joe Biden look like a dick for exposing the flaws of an obviously unintelligent and under-qualified woman. The worst thing is, it's not the Dems' fault, or the media's fault, or even the McCain camp's fault. It's just another offshoot of having an uninformed, unintelligent, and apathetic American populace.

I've written about this idea a lot since starting up this blog, so I won't harp on it too much, but there is a huge identity problem in America when it comes to the... national intelligence, I guess you would call it. I firmly believe that as a whole, Americans are much, much less intelligent now than we've ever been. And I'm not even referring to the actual facts we have showing how far we've slipped in global literacy ranks or children's test scores, or large-sample polls that indicate that the average American can't even find the general area of Iraq on a map.

I'm talking about the little things that used to matter but don't seem to be present these days: The thirst for knowledge, the attention span required to better oneself, the general knowledge of simple trivia/history, and the self-respect to not be sucked into caring more about things like who Lindsay Lohan is sleeping with rather than what China is being allowed to do in Tibet and Darfur. These things used to be strove for, they were once part of what makes a person more complete. People act like there's too much going on to stay aware, or that it's better to be able to talk about one tiny facet of life or culture, rather than be a well-rounded individual.

You're not even allowed to say that America, as a whole, is less intelligent without being attacked. How DARE you say that we're all stupid??!! But frankly, if you're one of the people who gets offended by that statement, then you're one of the new (probably) majority, this recent boom in anti-intellectualism. You're part of the problem.

I used to think that maaaaaaybe, as a country, we'd eventually achieve that sort of intellectual/cultural renaissance that defined so many of history's great civilizations, and I thought that with the growing ease of use of new technology and communication methods, it would be an even more inevitable occurrence, or at least a simpler transition to one. But for some reason, a lot of the country seems to be fighting that trend. It's a lot less taxing, for many, to just keep things the way they are, and not challenge themselves, or at least attempt to better themselves or actually seek out knowledge.

I've strayed pretty far from my original topic, but this is basically the undercurrent of what bothered me so much about the two women in the deli, and about the coverage of Palin in general. Why is it better to just be stuck in the same old, same old? Why not allow ourselves to open up to other modes of thought other than the ones passed down to us from the prior generation, who got theirs from their prior generation, and on and on?

Why not allow ourselves to simply be better?

September 23, 2008

Passing the Buck

Years from now, maybe some historian will be able to look back and figure out exactly why we let our economy erode into such an awful mess, and why exactly when it hit the worst point (if indeed where we're at is the worst point, which I doubt), the people who were most responsible weren't held accountable. Maybe we just haven't yet evolved to the level of intelligence and reason to figure that out, but I'm sure a more advanced version of Americans will solve it right away.

I know very little about the world of finance, so I won't have many words to spout off on this topic, but I almost feel compelled to based primarily on my ignorance. I know very little, and yet even I can understand that a horrible, awful fleece job is being pulled on the majority of Americans with this recent bailout plan for major U.S. financial institutions.

I understand that if nothing were done to keep these institutions afloat, there would be unfathomable crises for millions of people across the country. Imagine, if you can, an America where credit does not, and can not, exist. Imagine if the value of the dollar were to take an exponential plummet from its already dismal place in the world economy. In short, bad shit would happen.

This bailout, though, doesn't seem to be the way to address the situation. It will, in theory, buy out the distressed assets and dead-in-the-water mortgages held by these institutions. But it doesn't hold accountable the people who allowed this all to happen in the first place. These executives who pulled in record, multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses in recent years are essentially getting away scott-free. These institutions who kept collecting money based on poor assumptions that the housing market would just continue to rise in America, they're going to be taken care of, with the bill basically being passed on the the Amerian taxpayer, without any sort of assurance that something like this won't happen again.

I've had to hear a whole lot of opinions and analysis of this matter living here in New York, where Wall Street isn't just a catchall name for the world of American finance, but a physical place downtown, and the only people who seem to be given a doomsday scenario for the future are regular, lower- to middle-class Americans, already suffering through the housing slump and an economy headed straight for (if not already in) recession. This plan could reportedly end up costing taxpayers up to a TRILLION dollars, all to hand a blank check to the Treasury Department (unchecked, mind you, there are provisions in the plan to keep this out of the courts and not hold the Treasury Department responsible for anything, should further problems arise) in hopes that they can fix the situation, while not punishing the leaders of the institutions that got us here in the first place.

The whole thing gives me a headache. This is America? This is what we do when the people elected to protect our well-being lead us down the wrong path?

September 12, 2008

Got it Bad, Got it Bad, Got it Bad...

Sarah Palin...

Sarah Palin?

Really? Sarah Palin?

Because of my inexcusable lapse in posting on this here blog, it's been a few weeks since the actual announcement of the governor of the populous, important, electoral-vote-brimming state of Alaska as McCain's VP choice (although I say that with a mountain of salt, as I don't think he had anything to do with this pick), so the initial shock and "what the fuck?"-ness (it's a word) has worn off. So I won't devote much time to that. But seriously...

What the fuck??? The man is 72 years old, has had multiple bouts with cancer, and has been given 1-in-3 odds, based on actuarial models, to not reach 80 (and probably not the end of his first term, when adjusting for the stress and rigor of being President of the United States - look how horribly our presidents seem to age in office). Given this set of circumstances, THIS is the person you choose? A complete Hail-Mary, vanity pick meant solely to shake up a stagnant campaign facing the country's first black candidate?

This whole notion that Republicans are trying to spin that Palin's experience as a less-than-two-year governor of Alaska is just like Obama's is a joke. Their assertion that her command of the Alaska National Guard and that her state's proximity to Russia gives her significant military and foreign-policy experience is a joke. This candidacy is a joke. The sad part is, though, it gave him a boost in the polls. People actually fell for the move.

See, I long ago gave up on the notion that this is a country for smart people. Although I think the resiliency, patriotism, dedication, and resolve of the American People is unmatched by no other country when it comes down to it, it doesn't mean that the American People, as a whole, are all that fucking bright. (The fact that I saw a commercial for FOX's new reality/game show, "Hole in the Wall," recently only helped cement this notion in my mind. If you haven't seen/heard about this show yet, please look it up. I thought it was a joke, something that would be run as a fake show on another TV show or movie... but no, it's real.)

So it doesn't matter that Palin brings absolutely nothing to the table. She's a hard-working, straight-shooting, working mother... just like me! Sign me up!! People don't want substance, it seems. They want someone who they feel (just like Bush in '04) that they can relate to. But you know what? That's not important. On a list of what a man or woman should possess in order to be a great leader, similarity to the average, John Deere-riding American is far from the top. I've wrote about this before, but a President should be presidential. He (I'll drop the "or she", since that's not technically applicable anymore to this campaign) should be possessive of a superior intellect, fearless resolve, and a skill set far broader than knowing how to crush a can of Coors against his forehead. People voted for the guy who reminded them of a down-home, average Joe in '04 (and not really in 2000, but still), and look where it got us. Can't we maybe take a chance and go for something different this time? But I digress...

I don't doubt that Palin's a hot prospect -- no pun intended -- in the Republican party. She hits on so many of those intangibles that candidates yearn to fake in order to grab those hard-to-secure swing votes. But that doesn't make her capable of being the second most powerful person in the country; it just makes her a better news story. Look what happened when she finally agreed to be interviewed (by a reporter and network of the McCain camp's choosing):

It wasn't necessarily what she said that bothered me. I could care less if she doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is. That's not important. What bothered me about that slice of the interview was how woefully unprepared and unintelligent she seemed. EVERY question was clumsily avoided, and she tried to just pump in campaign talking points for anything she couldn't answer in confidence, which was basically every question. She seemed nervous and completely submissive. People have already made the comparison, but that interview segment reminded me a whoooole lot of this video:

Okay, maybe she's not that dumb. But you have to admit, there were striking similarities.

I don't think, as some of my other doom-stricken friends have proferred, that this move will give McCain the push he needs to win the election. I think her sheen will eventually fade, she'll make a lot of mistakes along the way, and people who care an iota about their vote will realize that she's just a political maneuver in Tina Fey glasses. They'll realize, if they're women, that the McCain camp tried to just steal their vote by thinking that any woman will vote for any other woman. They'll realize they've been talked down to. Again. Hopefully, people will realize that the last few times they've let the Republicans do that, it didn't quite work out for them. That all depends on the American People, though. And that doesn't exactly fill me with hope.

September 8, 2008

Sorry I've Been Gone For So Long...

To anyone who actually reads this blog, I'm sorry that's it's been more than a month now since my last post. A few crazy things happening in my life combined with a much more hectic work schedule (where I cultivate most of my thoughts/posts during lunch and downtime) have pushed the blog aside for a bit.

But I'm back now! There've been loads of things to talk about recently, from the Democratic convention, to the IDIOTIC (but possibly idiot-savant-level genius) Sarah Palin VP pick by McCain (that will be covered soon, I promise), to the worst-looking Michigan football team I've seen in my lifetime, to everything else... I'll get to all of it, and promise to be more regular with the posts from here on out.

Keep an eye out for the next one.