The perils of self rule

Either these elections are getting worse or i’m getting more cynical, or maybe both. Look, i can respect opinions other than my own so i can see a healthy republic that isn’t a model of my political views. But there’s nothing to salvage here. The political system is well and truly fucked. We’ve got two candidates who will gut the social contract to the full extent of their ability. Both will continue solidifying and expanding the imperial presidency. We’re all inside the disposition matrix now. The poor, a healthy economy, the environment, these truths we hold to be self-evident and whatever else gets in the way will be sacrificed for the power and wealth of the few.

And if all that shit wasn’t enough, the answer to a dysfunctional political system appears to be ballot measures. Now i’d be in favor of a little direct democracy, but these ballot measures are even more easily manipulated than our politicians. For example, we’ve got one about building a second bridge to Canada on the ballot. The ballot language is such that if you’re against it, then you have to vote “yes.” Granted, ballot language is always confusing but the new wave of direct democracy seems particularly well designed to confuse the average voter…who is likely to be ignorant, irrational, and willfully misinformed, because that’s what makes us great. These measures are written and fought over in the public square by the dreaded “special interests.” They’re the ones buying the commercials and sending me flyers. We complain about politicians not reading the bills they vote on, but I can’t imagine that my fellow Americans are reading (and understanding) the measures they’re voting on. They’re doing what they’re told by liars, based on whose lies most comport with their personal feelings.

We’ve also got a “collective bargaining” measure that sounds good if you’re for the Platonic ideal of organized labor. But it may only be for public sector unions, admittedly under the gun of our new breed of Randian superheroes and self-made men with public educations collecting a paycheck from the State. See, i haven’t read the amendment either, and i know that i should as well as likely being capable of understanding it … which says nothing about whether my understanding will have anything to do with the implementation of the amendment.

And then there’s one about renewable energy mandates, which if the eyes of the actors in the commercial are to believed, will cause you to have a stroke when you open your electric bill. I like the idea of renewable energy and I get that without significant prodding, the holy market can be slow to react and accomplish what needs to be done. The problem is, do i trust the people writing the measure that we can pass into law to be doing it honestly and without corruption … and well … any more than I trust voting for assholes who think that rape is just all part of god’s plan?

No.

I voted for our medical marijuana amendment four years ago, enthusiastically, and cheered when the results came back showing that dope is significantly more popular than hope and John McCain is a distant third in that popularity contest. I don’t have a card. I just saw an opportunity for the people of my state to end run the colossal stupidity of the war on drugs. But as it turns out, that was a horribly written amendment. It left all sorts of loose ends like not establishing a legal distribution network beyond decriminalizing the black market network. So of course the politicians and cops have attacked that glaring loophole in addition to trying to find a way to overturn the will of the people. The same thing is happening with Arizona’smedical marijuana law. And if Colorado passes its brave decriminalization bill you can bet that all holy hell will break loose. Either of the liars that may win the presidency will come down with the full force of the federal government on Colorado for daring to practice democracy.

We like to think of ourselves as a nation of laws rather than men, but when you go to the polls tomorrow, stop and think about the men you’re electing to write and implement those laws. Think about your fellow men (and take a long look in the mirror) who are crafting and voting on these ballot measures. It is men who will be enforcing the laws. It is men who will take your vote as an enthusiastic acceptance and support for them doing whatever the hell they want to do. And don’t forget that it is men who will look at the results of your experiments in direct democracy and decide whether you’re right, wrong, or incompetent to make those decisions. Unfortunately, we probably are incompetent to make those decisions, and since we vote for politicians based on who we’d like to have a beer with and which church they attend, those assholes are every bit as incompetent as we are.

I’ll go vote. I was raised to view it as an obligation. But it won’t be for Obama or Romney. It won’t be for Stabenow or Hoekstra. It won’t be for McDowell or Benishek. I don’t know what i’ll do with the constitutional amendments on my MI ballot. I should probably abstain, because i’m old, cynical, and apathetic enough to realize that none will be what they seem and most will be the equivalent of voting Democratic or Republican. I won’t vote for a Democrat or a Republican for the rest of my life. i wouldn’t vote for Obama if i knew ahead of time that mine would be the deciding vote. Let it end in a tie and they can fight to the death for it. And more, and more, i’m coming to the conclusion that my compatriots who vote for either of these parties hate America, freedom, Democracy. That you tactical, strategic, and disturbingly ideological voters are what’s wrong with this nation; it’s you that allow the foxes into the henhouse and the chickenhawks to rule the roost.

God Bless America. We’re gonna need it, because the people entrusted with maintaining the Republic sure as shit aren’t up to the task.

Four more years? Of what? Same old shit, no matter who wins.

I have cast a vote for president every four years for nearly half a century. Doing so is an obligation of citizenship. Each cast ballot has reminded me of those, in other nations, for whom voting is neither easy nor free of fraud or coercion. Sadly, in this election, voting may not be easy for some Americans: Lawyers and legislators stand in their way for the sole reason of protecting power or seeking to gain it.

But, as usual, I digress. Mea culpa.

Each cast ballot in my lifetime has usually brought satisfaction: I considered the candidates carefully and said my piece. In each race (well, maybe not Nixon vs. McGovern or Bush vs. Kerry), I voted for a candidate instead of against the other.

But this time? As I’ve written, I will be voting for a liar. One lied much more than the other, but both allowed deceit to be practiced routinely in their names. I’m prepared to swallow that.

But neither candidate has a prayer of governing effectively over the next few years. One, who promised bilateral and transparent governance, has demonstrated he and the other party cannot negotiate or compromise. The other has promised to work with the opposite party. He will fail. Neither candidate has provided evidence of ability to legislate effectively with opposing parties. Neither has provided detailed guidance for moving legislation effectively through the House and the Senate.

That’s because each of the America’s two political parties has figured out how to be minority obstructionists, particularly in the Senate.

Each presidential candidate will huff and puff but fail to blow down the door leading to functional governance. So much money has been poured into House and Senate races by the same superPACs and “social organizations” funding presidential campaigns. That has reduced the presidential race to a competition among consultant bottom feeders. Expect the obstructionism to be raised to an even higher art form by the party that fails to win the White House. All to stall for four more years, to try to gain power again.

So I will vote on the morrow. For the guy the lied less. And no matter who wins, we’ll have another four years of lobbyist-guided and billionaire-funded legislative warfare.

That sound you hear is the can being kicked down the road. Again.

Tournament of Rock IV: the Phil Collins pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!Somebody better call 911, ’cause Bon Jovi done killed everybody! Yep, in pod #8 we had a comprehensive butt-kicking, with the man who gave rock a bad name running riot on the field. Congrats, Jon, we’ll see you in the Sweet 16.

Up next, I can feel it coming in the air tonight, as our next round of contestants are cooking up something in the stu-stu-studio.

  • #11 Seed: Phil Collins
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • Elton John (post-Rock of the Westies years)
  • Little River Band
  • Asia

Phil Collins

Phil Collins’ ascent to the status of one of the most successful pop and adult contemporary singers of the ’80s and beyond was probably as much of a surprise to him as it was to many others. Balding and diminutive, Collins was almost 30 years old when his first solo single, “In the Air Tonight,” became a number two hit in his native U.K. (the song was a Top 20 hit in the U.S.). Between 1984 and 1990, Collins had a string of 13 straight U.S. Top Ten hits. Long before any of that happened, however, Collins was a child actor/singer who appeared as the Artful Dodger in the London production of Oliver! in 1964. (He also has a cameo in A Hard Day’s Night, among other films.) He got his first break in music at the end of his teens, when he was chosen to be a replacement drummer in the British art rock band Genesis in 1970.

fikshun: When Peter Gabriel bequeathed unto him the drum sound to rule them all, this little hobbit went on a long, epic adventure indeed. White male attorneys everywhere cheered as he sang of his inability to dance. It was a bonding moment. Some artists whore out their back catalog to advertising campaigns, but there’s a special circle of hell for those artists who re-record their hits to fit the product. What exactly does Sasson say, chief?

Jim: Desperate band (Genesis) lets drummer run things with predictable result: nitwit comedy of errors called “Drum and Drummer.”

Me: I feel bad trying to snark on Collins. Yeah, he was as perfect a whore as the machine could hope for, but he was a pretty good drummer, an entirely not-bad singer, a talented pop-rock songsmith, and he reminds us of a long-lost era when you actually listen to hit radio without wanting to rip your ears off. Also – and this is important – you never got the sense that he was terribly cocky about it all. He was just as surprised as the rest of us were that he was famous.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Following his 1970 departure from the Guess Who, guitarist Randy Bachman recorded a solo album (Axe) and planned a project with ex-Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson (later canceled due to illness) before forming Bachman-Turner Overdrive in 1972… While their self-titled 1973 debut caused little impact in the U.S. or the band’s native Canada, Bachman-Turner Overdrive II was a smash, netting a hit single with the anthemic “Takin’ Care of Business.”

Lex: I think I’ve successfully managed to avoid almost this entire pod! I’m sure I’ve heard songs but I couldn’t name them or call out bands when those songs come on the radio. BTO is the one I might know.

Me: Hell, yes. I loved me some BTO. When I was sort of in a little band in high school for about five minutes, this was my favorite song to sing.

Bonesparkle: Easily the biggest band in rock history. By displacement, anyway.

Jim: After leaving The Guess Who, Randy Bachman decides to form a band based on the principle: “Size matters.” Especially in band members….

Elton John

In terms of sales and lasting popularity, Elton John was the biggest pop superstar of the early ’70s. Initially marketed as a singer/songwriter, John soon revealed he could craft Beatlesque pop and pound out rockers with equal aplomb. He could dip into soul, disco, and country, as well as classic pop balladry and even progressive rock. His versatility, combined with his effortless melodic skills, dynamic charisma, and flamboyant stage shows, made him the most popular recording artist of the ’70s. Unlike many pop stars, John was able to sustain his popularity, charting a Top 40 single every single year from 1970 to 1996. During that time, he had temporary slumps in creativity and sales, as he fell out of favor with critics, had fights with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, and battled various addictions and public scandals. But through it all, John remained a remarkably popular artist, and many of his songs — including “Your Song,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” — became contemporary pop standards.

Me: #1 on the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen List, arguably no recording artist in history has gone from being so great to sucking so utterly. His catalogue up through Rock of the Westies was incomparable, with eight or nine four or five-star albums in something like six years. Now he cries himself to sleep over Diana every night.

Jim: Your school’s dweebiest kid becomes the biggest rock star in the world – then, much to your delight (you heartless bastard), he crashes and burns.

Bonesparkle: To Reg’s credit, he has acknowledged in interviews that he knows he’s sucked urinal cakes since the Ford administration. I’m paraphrasing. Less to his credit, he’s still sucking urinal cakes like they’re jello shots at a Tri-Delt mixer.

Little River Band

Little River Band were formed to conquer the world from Australia via America. With that in mind, they almost immediately went into the studio, even before the rest of the band had been consolidated. They were retaining Mississippi drummer Derek Pellicci and were on the lookout for a guitarist and a bass player. A very early version of the group recorded the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” as a single, a recording that was shelved when Linda Ronstadt also happened to choose that song as a single. The blueprint for Little River Band was country-rock as practiced by exponents like the Eagles.

Jim: One must ask – is “Lonesome Loser” autobiography?

Me: There was a moment there in the late ’70s, sort of just before Punk and New Wave caught fire, when LRB seemed pretty cool. Of course, when all the radio stations are all-Bee Gees all the time, Roseanne Barr gargling rancid moose milk is gonna sound pretty good by comparison.

Asia

When they appeared in the early ’80s, Asia seemed to be a holdover from the ’70s, when supergroups and self-important progressive rockers reigned supreme. Featuring members of such seminal art rock bands as King Crimson (John Wetton), Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Carl Palmer), and Yes (Steve Howe), as well as Geoff Downes from the Buggles, Asia did feature stretches of indulgent instrumentals on their records. However, they also could be surprisingly poppy, and that is what brought them to the top of the charts with their debut album, Asia, and its hit single, “Heat of the Moment.”

Jim: Cartman did the song better….

Lex: Oh, that’s an Asia song!? I lied. I sing along to that in Cartman’s voice every chance I get.

Me: I should probably take this opportunity to apologize to my ΘX suitemates during 1982 and 1983 for all the times I cranked that debut album up to 11, shouldn’t I?

Click to vote.

The rules.

Image Credit: Village Voice

Re: New Jersey electronic voting

Right now, the East Coast is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and the destruction she wrought. New Jersey in particular was hard-hit, forcing boards of elections to think quickly: how can people vote if they’ve been displaced?

Answer: They can fax their votes, or vote online. From The Atlantic:

“Less than a week after the storm — and just three days before Election Day — New Jersey officials have announced that they will allow those displaced from their homes and first responders to submit their votes by email or fax. A directive issued by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno officially designated displaced New Jersey residents as “overseas voters,” thus giving them the electronic voting option already available to New Jersey residents serving in the military. In addition, displaced voters and first responders may also vote by provisional ballot at any New Jersey polling location.”

The voters who wish to vote this way must first fax or e-mail a request to the board of elections, who will determine their eligibility for this voting method. Voters must then fill out a “waiver of secrecy” before the board of elections decide whether to send them a ballot or not.

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A vote, but not for any candidate

Romney vs. Obama. This is the exact matchup I was hoping for a year ago when the Republicans were looking under rocks and tearing up logs to find someone, anyone who wasn’t the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon. But at the time, Romney was the reasonable, adult candidate compared to the other candidates in the field. Perry? Newt? Santorum? Bachmann? Lunatics running the asylum.

There was a point in this election season when I wasn’t sure who I’d vote for in a (then) hypothetical Romney vs. Obama race. I was so unhappy about Obama’s lack of progress in solving our nation’s real problems (with one thoroughly mixed bag, namely health care) that I was ready to vote for a change.

But then Romney tacked hard to the right and started running against the very things that made me consider him in the first place. He went from being the moderate governor of a blue state to a firebrand Tea Party member in order to appeal more to the base of the Republican party, and in the process he threw away his own sanity and joined the lunatics.

When Romney did that, he made my decision easy because he demonstrated that he was a slug – small-minded, spineless, and slimy. If elected, would Romney run the country as he had the state of Massachusetts, or would he rule as a Tea Party king over the 99%? I don’t know, but I do know that his personal transformation clearly demonstrates that Romney lacks a properly functioning ethical compass.

I’m still saddened that voting for Obama became so easy, though. It’s not like I’m really voting FOR Obama, since he’s not really my candidate – he’s ignored climate disruption, expanded the use of drones, failed to shut down Guantanamo, expanded the imperial presidency, and adopted too many of Bush II’s policies just for starters – it’s more that I’m voting against Romney.

And when I fill in the bubble next to Obama’s name tomorrow, I’ll worry that I’m doing the wrong thing. Not because I think Romney would be good for the United States of America over the short run – he’ll be horrible for the country over the short run – but because there’s an argument to be made that Romney will be so bad for the country that the backlash will create a generation of honestly progressive leadership and change.

Romney winning would lead to an era of internal conflict that the USA hasn’t seen since at least Vietnam, and as horrible as that would be for us to live through, I’m not convinced that there is any way to avoid it. And if you can’t avoid the pain, best to get it over quickly so you can start healing sooner.

The United States faces real issues. The perversion of our election process by money, a faltering education system, pollution, industrial climate disruption (aka climate change), degrading soil, health care, a bloated defense budget, etc. all need to be addressed, and by leaders who are serious about addressing them. Back in 2008 I hoped that Obama would do that, and I have been largely disappointed. I will vote tomorrow in the hope that Obama’s second term will be when he can focus on the real, serious issues that need to be solved and turn away from all the stupid bullshit that merely distracts.

And I’ll vote against the candidate whose entire campaign has been about distraction.

Deciphering those S&R Obama/racism poll results

Last week, a highly unscientific Scholars & Rogues poll asked our readers this question: What percent of the popular vote do you believe Barack Obama would win in the upcoming election if he were white? The results are in, and I’d like to spend a few moments examining what they reveal.

First, the numbers:

Less than 50% 15.15%
Roughly 50% 10.61%
60% 31.82%
70% 36.36%
80% 4.55%
More than 80% 1.52%

Here’s what those answers mean.

60%: This we’ll call the aware, informed and reasoned answer. Our friend Wufnik, in the comment thread, offers some analysis suggesting that the race factor is worth maybe four points. It’s certainly an intelligent estimate, although for reasons I briefly note in reply, I fear it underestimates.

70%: This is the the aware, informed and reasoned, but even more cynical answer. Full disclosure: this is how I voted. I don’t think everybody in the South (and various other South-like regions of the country) are racists, but I grew up there and I know the culture intimately. Over time these people have learned what to say in public. But they vote in private, don’t they?

80%: The more cynical than is probably healthy answer. Listen, 30% of the population would vote for Voldemort before they would a Democrat, regardless of race. (Although, granted, a big part of the reason this is true traces back to Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. Objection noted.)

More than 80%: The seek help answer. Lord, folks, it probably wasn’t that bad even during the Jim Crow era.

Now, to the other end of the spectrum.

Roughly 50%: The there is no racism in America answer. If Barack Obama were white, his poll numbers would be precisely what they are now, apparently. This answer asserts that there are no Americans who hold his race against him. This option pulled better than 10% of the response. Which, now that I think on it, might mean the polls has more scientific validity than I previously imagined.

Less than 50%: The positively barking being a minority is a huge plus in American politics answer. Not only does race not hinder your ability to attain higher office, it helps to be black. Which explains why we have had so many black presidents and nominees from both major parties. And why in the entirety of modern US history there have been four black senators (none of them from the South, it might be observed, and unless I’m missing someone, none currently). And why there has only been one black Supreme Court justice. (Well, two if you count Thomas.) This option rang up better than 15% of the final tally. It’s possible that some of those who voted this way were trolling. It’s certain that the rest shouldn’t be allowed outdoors off-leash.

In the end, this poll perhaps suggests that S&R’s readership is less skewed to the left than we usually assume. As Wufnik notes in the comments on the previous post, analyses of American politics begin with the assumption that 27% of the voters are certifiably insane. The percentage of respondents voting the two incoherent conservative choices here comes to nearly 26% – well within any margin of error you might like to apply – and if you add the exceedingly paranoid 1.52% from the other end, we’re at precisely 27.28%, with a significant majority of the irrationalism on the right end of the spectrum.

Sounds about right.

Attacking Iran is like setting off nuclear bombs on the ground

The West may not use nuclear weapons on Iran, but attacking its nuclear enrichment facilities will have a similar effect.

As you can tell by the title, this 61-page paper, The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble, is not Tehran-friendly. The report, released in September, is the product of Khosrow B. Semnani, an Iranian-American industrialist and philanthropist with, according to his bio, “extensive experience in the industrial management of nuclear waste and chemicals.” I’m in the midst of reading it in its entirety.

In the meantime, an excerpt from the executive summary (also available to those non-executives just as time-pressed as executives!) provides a good indication of exactly where Omid for Iran, Semnani’s organization, which released the report along with the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the University of Utah, is coming from.

The best long-term strategy would be a democratic, transparent, and accountable government in Iran. In such a scenario, political leaders would quickly understand that their people want jobs, dignity, opportunity, and political freedoms, not the false promise of nuclear weapons bought at a heavy, even existential, cost. A military strike would not only kill thousands of civilians and expose tens and possibly hundreds of thousands to highly toxic chemicals, it would also have a devastating effect on those who dream of democracy in Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei has proven that he cares little for the Iranian people. It is up to us in the international community, including the Iranian-American diaspora to demonstrate that we do.

Semnani et al state that while (all emphases theirs)

… there has been considerable debate about the timing and targets of military strikes against Iran’s nuclear program, the costs and consequences of such strikes have not received sufficient atten­tion. Military planners at the Pentagon do provide policymakers with estimates of civilian casualties; these estimates are typically for operational purposes and not made available to the general public. Virtually no one has presented a scientific assessment of the conse­quences of military strikes on operational nuclear facilities. What is certain is the gravity of the risk to civilians: The IAEA has verified an inventory of at least 371 metric tons of highly toxic uranium hexafluoride stored at Iran’s nuclear facilities. The release of this material at sites that are only a few miles from major population centers such as Isfahan warrants a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the potential risks to thousands of civilians living in the vicinity of Iran’s nuclear sites.

Nor have Iran’s leaders shown any inclination to present such an assessment.

[They] have had no interest in making the risks of their reckless nuclear policies obvious to its citizens even though the resulting economic toll—inflation, unem­ployment, and the loss of international credit—has devastated the Iranian people. The Iranian military has not provided the Iranian people with any description of potential casualties resulting from attacks on these nuclear facilities. Nor has the parliament encouraged an open assessment of the grave implications of the government’s policies for Iranian scientists, soldiers and civilians working at or living within the vicinity of Iran’s nuclear facilities. This study seeks to address this deficit.

In regards to the Western and IAEA view that Iran is developing nuclear capacity, they write:

While no smoking gun has emerged to prove that Iran is pursuing a weapon. … Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, is making a deadly nuclear gamble.

Whether or not Iran is pursuing a weapon

… the political reality is this: Israel continues to threaten military strikes, should diplomacy fail. In a post-election United States, either a newly re-elected President Barack Obama or an incoming President Mitt Romney will face a ticking clock that will add an element of urgency to their decisions on Iran’s nuclear program. The risks to the Iranian people of military strikes have never been greater.

Holding all parties liable, they write:

By quantifying the costs of military strikes, we have sought to make the scale of the Ayatollah’s reckless gamble and the gamble of possible U.S. and/or Israeli strikes apparent not only to the Iranian people but also to the international community, including policymakers in the United States and Israel.

That the West isn’t contemplating nuclear strikes provides scant solace.

Conventional strikes involving the systematic bombing of nuclear installations can be far more devastating than nuclear and industrial accidents such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island or Bhopal. The damage from strategic aerial bombardment is planned to be total and irreversible. It leaves no time for intervention, no chance for evacuation and no possibility for containment.

Exactly what do Semnani et al see as the targets?

Beyond the sites, some military planners have suggested that any strike against Iran could extend to more than 400 targets, or “aim points.” The goal of the strikes would be to permanently cripple Iran’s ability to revive its nuclear program by targeting site personnel as well as the auxiliary and support infrastructure.

For the purposes of this study, we have assumed a conservative strike scenario and analyzed the impact of conventional military strike against four targets: Isfahan, Natanz, Arak and Bushehr. … We have not included the deeply buried Fordow site near Qom in our analysis due to the incomplete nature of information about this site. However, it is almost certain that Fordow would be targeted with powerful bunker busters. … We have restricted our estimates of casualties to those injured or killed as a direct result of strikes at the four nuclear facilities and the immediate vicinities only.

What kind of numbers are we talking about?

Based on the best information available as well as discussions with Iranian and Western nuclear experts, we have estimated the total number of people—scientists, workers, soldiers and support staff—at Iran’s four nuclear facilities to be between 7,000 and 11,000.… However, unlike traditional targets, the risks to civilians extend well beyond those killed from exposure to thermal and blast injuries at the nuclear sites. Tens, and quite possibly, hundreds of thousands of civilians could be exposed to highly toxic chemical plumes and, in the case of operational reactors, radioactive fallout. … Additionally, the environmental deg­radation due to the spread of airborne uranium compounds, and their entry into water, soil and the food chain would introduce long-term, chronic health risks such as a spike in cancer rates and birth defect

You get the idea. Beyond that, the attack and radiation will work its synergistic black magic in conjunction with Iran’s meager disaster management and emergency preparation capabilities. In other words, bombing Iranian nuclear facilities is like setting off nuclear weapons on the ground.

Semnani et al eloquently summarize (and remember this is just the executive summary):

Rather than dismiss them as collateral damage, it is time to factor the Iranian people into any equation involving military strikes. There is a strong moral, strategic, political and military argument for counting the Iranian people’s interests as a key factor in the nuclear dispute.

Compared to the interests of Jerusalem, Tehran, and Washington, those of the Iranian people come in a distant last.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Mitt Romney: The rich boy

Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created-nothing. That is because we are all queer fish, queerer behind our faces and voices than we want anyone to know and than we know ourselves. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy

Some find comfort in reading history; others find comfort in reading philosophy; I find comfort in reading what used to be called classic literature. It is to such literature that I turn at times of stress or sadness or confusion. It is to literature that I turn again and again for answers to questions about human behavior. So it is at this time.

Like many of you, I have found the election of 2012 perhaps the most troubling in my life as an American citizen. And so, as I have done in the past when confronted with what is called, in the “Chinese” curse, “interesting times,” as this election season has worn on relentlessly and cheerlessly, I have turned to literature for solace.

The major party candidates in this race both have failings, though my personal opinion is that Obama’s failings are fairly obvious (though I would be loath to choose between whether those failings come more from a Hamlet-like flaw of indecision – or merely from “Peter-ean” tragi-comic ineptitude). Suffice to say, whichever of these might be the source of the discomfit the President gives me, it is enough to give me pause as I prepare to vote.

Mitt Romney intrigues me more, though – at least from a literary standpoint. Until today, I wasn’t sure where in literature I might find his equivalent. I mean – who IS Mitt Romney? (In the literary sense, that is.)

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