Monday, September 27, 2010


There was and may still be an ad that played on TV several years ago. It was about a sales manager hyping up the sale staff to sell a bad product. Put some lipstick on this pig he admonishes them. It was not actually to be taken literally; it was a way to dress up the product and make it look good. In the specific case it was stocks, but it applies to all products and actions.

The thought that somewhere someone actually said such a thing is disconcerting. However I am reminded of the ad each electoral season. People like Newt Gingrich, G. W. Bush, B. Clinton, L. B. J and J. McCain, among others are immediately brought to mind. I have been voting for lo these many years and each time the candidate is shown in a larger-than-life size on the television, in the papers and even on the radio dressed properly and prepped with just the right things to say. It is only after they have either lost the election or been elected and served their terms that we discover they were no more imaginative or smarter than we are. Somehow they are portrayed by the media as super human people and we, the great unwashed believe them. There is something in the human psyche that allows us to accept an image of a person that is beyond reality; maybe it is the lipstick. Who can believe that Jimmy Carter or G. W. Bush or Clinton or G H.W. Bush or Nixon or Regan or Jack Kennedy or even today Obama were the anointed ones. Now that Obama is involved in solving our collective problems, he appears to be less of a superman. G. Ford was never was one of the bigger-than-life persons. They would never trip over their feet in public. He of course never ran for office of the president; he was appointed to fill Nixon’s remaining term; he never had to be polished and sold. Reagan was by far a never failing God figure. He was a consummate actor and never gave up playing the role; he knew all his lines and could say them in the right tone; he was always on camera.

Somewhere behind the scenery there are makeup artists, speech writers, policy wonks, dressing coordinators, etc. who create the image that we see much like the image of actors who on stage play their parts well. We of course vote for the image, the role player and not the flesh and blood real person who emerges when the play is over. The wizard of OZ comes to mind when much to the dismay of Dorothy and her friends the wizard is revealed as just a fake; one of us as the curtain falls away and the mask is gone. The Greeks had it right when they used masks in their plays. The audience did not confuse the role played and the real person behind the mask. Their lipstick was obvious; ours, much to our dismay, is cleverly hidden.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I just love Ronnie. It must be the same way we remember Lincoln: History as narrative; Must fit the current paradigm. Make heroes when we need them. There are so few. We all know Lincoln must have had the slavery issue in mind when he started the Civil War. Otherwise why would he want to get all those hundreds of thousands of soldiers killed and maimed when some good heart to heart talks may have saved the day? Or what is wrong with two or three countries where we now have one big behemoth that is unmanageable? But who wants to manage a minor league team when you are already in the majors? What do New Yorkers have in common with citizens of New Mexico anyway? Slavery was dying around the world but not because it is morally bad but because it is not economically sound. Even corporations in Japan had to finally give up on guaranteed jobs to its workers; not economically sound. Only unions still hold the false belief that jobs are to be saved no matter what the cost.

Ronnie left a trail of disasters, not as bad or as big as Abe’s but still bad. His stewardship of California started it on the road to its current financial woes much as his stewardship of the USA started it on the road to probable bankruptcy or at least financial turmoil. Nowhere did he stop the growth of government; not in California nor on the bigger and better federal stage. A biting of the bullet then and perhaps no endless deficits.

Great events are sometimes started by one small step: a gunshot in Sarajevo and WW1; get used to spending a handful of billions you don’t have and deficits forever. Leaders who followed him, notably Cheney, chanted the mantra that Ronnie showed that deficits do not matter. The state grew; the federal government grew; the military ballooned; the embarrassments of Grenada, the Beirut bombings and Iran Contra are never mentioned in polite company. Only the tax cuts. TV talks from the Oval Office about the tax cuts with the ubiquitous jar of jelly beans on display on the desk. That they were actually tax increases is never mentioned. I felt it. No longer could I buy property and write it off as a business loss on my tax form. No. Now I had to send the money to Ronnie to spend on star wars. He must have liked the stuff of comic books and movies having spent his life playing in B grade movies: earth and space based laser battle stations, magnetic guns firing large slabs of steel as bullets, etc. Every kid under the age of 13 was enthralled with the possibilities. Hiding in a bunker in Utah and remotely firing lasers at approaching enemy missiles. Portent of computer games warfare such as the drones we have now in Afghanistan. Never mind that none of them ever worked because of cost and lack of know how. But with that comic book threat we all believe that Ronnie killed the Great Russian Empire. Never mind that it’s Social and economic systems were deteriorating faster than the steel bullets and it was only a matter of time before it died. Ask Gorbachev who killed it? Ask the Romans or the Brits what killed their empires. Of course when he retired we found out he was well on the road to becoming a victim of Alzheimer’s. Never did remember signing the okay for Iran Contra. What movie was that in? He left quietly and flew to Japan, probably on my nickel, delivered two speeches written by who knows and delivered in just one take, probably a first for his movie acting career; received his fee of $2,000,000 and returned. Nancy must have needed the money. They returned triumphant and wealthy to California, the scene of his early crime. Never to be heard from again. Don’t criminals always return to the scene of their crime? And when he died he received the same accolades as Lincoln and FDR directed by Nancy and the pages of details to be carried out she and Ronnie crafted about a god’s burial. But now with modern transportation we could fly him around the USA. No need for a flag draped Lincoln train ride so all the great unwashed could see him; they could come to Washington and wait in line to see the remains.

Nancy, who could not live without Ronnie, still survives. We all finally get accustomed to losing Gods.