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On My Approaching Gay Anniversary, Or, I Break The Fourth Wall May 28, 2010

Filed under: Bilerico Project,Culture,LGBT,Uncategorized — fakeconsultant @ 7:52 am
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So once again my writing schedule is going to be turned upside down by unforeseen events—but it’s going to be worth it, as I have one of the funnier stories to tell you that I’ve brought to these pages for some time.

It’s a tale of catering and rejection and redemption, all in one, along with a bit of the Harlem Renaissance thrown in for good measure, and the big circle that was created was officially closed last Saturday night.

So come along, Gentle Reader, and I’ll tell you the story of how I was officially notified that I’m a member of the gay community—by email.

“Did you know that dolphins were just gay sharks?”

–Heather Morris, as Brittany, from the television show “Glee”

So it all started with Groucho Marx.

I’m a huge fan of the Marx Brothers, and I had the chance to borrow the DVD set of his 1950s game show, “You Bet Your Life”. The very first episode of the series featured Gladys Bentley, who proceeded to pound out some of the best boogie-woogie piano I’ve ever heard; investigation revealed that the same person who was living as a woman in the 1950s was living, under the same name, as one of America’s best-known male celebrities in 1929.

A story emerged, a couple of thousand words later, of a person who had been a central part of the Harlem Renaissance, who had married a woman in a big public ceremony—again, in 1929—and who, by the time she made that “You Bet Your Life” appearance, had rejected it all in an effort of return to the “straight life” she had never really known in the first place.

So I posted the story, as I normally do, across a number of websites…and then I got the email.

The message was from the Bilerico Project website, who wondered if I might be interested in becoming a contributor. As they noted in the email, Bilerico is one of the premiere sites on the Web serving the LBGTQ community, and, as a member of that community, they knew I’d be glad to have the opportunity to associate myself with the site.

I immediately ran off to inform The Girlfriend of my new status—and I almost as immediately sent a message back, telling the folks there that I’d be thrilled…with one caveat.

I felt that they had to be informed that I’m a male who’s been with the same woman for 28 years…which, if you know anything about long-term relationships, pretty much makes me asexual.

We all had a good laugh over that, and despite the fact that I had “come out” to them, they were still willing to accept me as I am, and as a result I happily contribute to Bilerico to this very day.

Because I post to so many sites, I’m always trying to catch up with what’s going on everywhere, and just in time I happened to notice the story from one of the proprietors of the Bilerico Project, Bil Browning, who wanted us to know that he’d be in town over the weekend, and that a meetup was planned for Saturday night.

Off I went, and a great time was had by all, so far as I could tell, anyway, but we decided to go to a second bar…and that’s where the story gets good—at least for me.

So in a previous life I was a caterer, and if you’ve ever worked with a group of “food people”, you’re probably associated with the gay community on a daily basis. On our job it was not unusual to go into Seattle after work and hang out, and because one of our little group was gay, we would go to gay bars from time to time.

Now our gay friend was obviously there to hook up, and he would, but the two of us…well, not so much.

Nonetheless, my other friend (who we’ll call Dave, to protect the innocent), who was, to be honest, a better looking guy than me, would have men approach him, from time to time, to say hi.

It was never an issue, and we would explain…but you know, after a while I found myself wondering…”hey, what’s wrong with me?”

Even after Dave moved to the Portland, Oregon area we would still hang out, and one night we hit the downtown bars—including two gay bars that are immediately next door to one another.

Sure as day follows night, Dave gets hit on by all sorts of men…in fact, folks who were expressing a variety of gender presentations came by to say hello to Dave during the course of the evening—and me…nothing.

Even The Girlfriend, who had watched all this happen in Portland with her own two eyes, began to give me a bad time about it…and she’s still giving me a bad time about it, even after a decade or so has gone by.

OK, so it’s last Saturday night, and we’re standing around in the second bar, in our little group…and somebody walked past and randomly groped me!

Oh, I was dying.

I tried to explain to the group what had just happened, but as you might imagine, they were just looking at me all kind of confused (and probably thinking…”what a dweeb”).

I had to leave fairly early, as I had another event to attend the next day, so after I finished my beer I left, and almost as quickly as I could get out of the bar I had The Girlfriend on the phone to tell her the good news.

So there you go: after years of “what’s wrong with me”, I’ve finally achieved validation, in my own weird way, The Girlfriend can no longer give me a bad time…about this, anyway…and I got to meet up with online friends that, if I hadn’t of been paying attention at just the right time, I would have missed.

Not bad for a Saturday night, if I say so myself—and I have a Sunday story, too, starring the inimitable Red Green, but we’ll save that for another time.

 

A Few Quick Words About Small Government May 22, 2010

We don’t have a lot of time for a big discussion today, but I wanted to take a second and talk about basic Federal Government economics as they apply to Rand Paul.

It is his stated vision to reduce the size of Government…and it is an undeniable reality that the vast majority of the Federal Budget is focused on only a few areas of spending.

Today, we’ll quickly run through that economic reality, and we’ll challenge Dr. Paul to tell us where he stands.

So it’s about as basic as this: the four biggest items in the budget are Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, the Department of Defense budget, and interest on the Federal debt.

Those four items are 80% of the total 2011 budget.

What does that mean?

That means you can get rid of every other thing that Government does–no more people overseeing oil drilling, no food inspections, or border security, no FBI or ATF or DEA or CIA, or OSHA or MSHA, no National Guard or air traffic control or Coast Guard or NASA…or Department of Agriculture or food stamps, either–you can get rid of all of it, and government will still be 80% of what it is today.

And that means that the only way you can really make the Federal Government smaller…is to cut one or more of those four core activities that Government is performing.

So which one will it be, Dr. Paul?

Are you against Medicare and Medicaid?
Should it be ended today?

What about Social Security?
Are you ready to tell Kentucky voters that Social Security should end, today?

Are you ready to tell Kentucky voters that you do not believe that the US should be the world leader in military technologies?

Do you think China should be the preeminent military power?

Let’s get these questions in front of Dr. Paul, and even as he tries to dodge questions about the right of Woolworth’s to keep its lunch counter white, let’s make him face these questions as well…which are neither abstract nor obscure.

 

To Attract Tourists, Louisiana Governor Announces Free Oil Giveaway May 1, 2010

Baton Rouge (FNS)—Facing both a massive oil slick from a sunken offshore drilling platform and a second year of declining tourism revenues along the Louisiana Gulf Coast caused by high gas prices, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today introduced a new tourism promotion that he reports is going to “…make lemons into lemonade”.

Jindal, flanked by British Petroleum’s Director of Marketing Dick Timoneous and the Executive Director of the Louisiana State Tourism Board, Jenna Talia, announced that the “All The Oil You Can Carry Festival” would officially commence today just east of New Orleans, and last at least through the month of May.

According to Jindal, “Louisiana produces 30 percent to 40 percent of the nation’s oil and gas off our coast. It is certainly good for our economy…It is also good for the nation…We’re sending tens of billions of dollars overseas, often to countries who are not friendly to us…this is one of the reasons we’ve got such a large trade deficit…and today, we’re doing something about it.”

Executive Director Talia told the assembled journalists that Louisiana Highway 90 will be closed at Fort Macomb for the weekend so that families can fan out across The Rigolets and gather their own free samples of BP oil.

“It’s going to be a great event” Talia said, “we have vendors and craftspeople setting up on the bridge who will be selling lots of gear so that families can scoop the oil up and take it home. We’ll also be selling lots of local food, there‘s local music…and of course, the bar will be open.”

Members of the public will be able to rent boats or launch their own from any of several convenient locations nearby.

“In this time of economic challenges, we here at BP are happy to provide free samples of our product to the public” Timoneous was quoted as saying. “This oil is perfectly suitable for home heating use, and we would encourage members of the public to gather just as much as they can carry and take it with them.”

BP is promoting the event as the largest giveaway of free product in the company’s history; the current estimate is that more than 11 million free gallons of oil will be distributed by the end of next month.

Boaters are encouraged to participate, and the Alligator Bend coastline, just to the southeast of the Fort, promises particularly rich opportunities for “gathering samples”, as Mr. Timoneous put it.

CSX Railroad is also involved in the festivities, and they promise to close their track across The Rigolets so that those without boats can hike in and gather oil directly from the water at the Rigolets Pass Bridge.

“As a Member of Congress I introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act of 2006, which was intended to provide more opportunities for Americans to access the oil off our Continental Shelf”, Governor Jindal told the reporters, “and with this cooperative effort in direct-to-consumer distribution between BP and the State of Louisiana that vision has finally been realized. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Ms. Talia continued the press availability by reminding members of the public that “Although there are no hotels in the immediate area, there is lots of new open land made available since Hurricane Katrina that can be used for camping…and if you’re driving a diesel rig, you can probably grab a shovel and fill up right here at the Fort….and even take some home besides.”

She also noted that the opportunities to celebrate weren’t limited to just this one area: “It’s entirely possible that the Festival will be expanded to include much of Louisiana’s coastline before the month is out, and we would encourage tourists to follow our website for additional announcements.”

She ended the event by asking what is probably going to be the question of the year for Louisianans: “What could possibly be better for this State’s tourism industry than millions of gallons of free oil laying around, just waiting to be picked up by anyone who wants it?”

 

On Winning The Mexican Drug War, Or, “Fighting For Peace Is Like…” March 28, 2009

The AIG Bonus Scandal having been disposed of for the moment, Congress is all a-flitter, all of a sudden, about the new “Greatest Threat To The American Way Of Life In All Of World History Of The Week”…and this week the threat is The Mexican Drug War.

The Mexican Drug Cartels, Senator Joe Lieberman told us in a March 25th hearing, are the number one organized crime threat we face in America today.

The violence, we are told, is beginning to affect America’s National Security…and unless I’m mistaken, Congress is looking to spin up for some sort of action that might range from sending thousands of troops to the US Southwest—and beyond—to going after users in the US “by any means necessary” to perhaps even getting all “Jack Bauer” on some Mexicans who would, presumably, have some useful information.

Although no one’s discussed it yet, we will probably hear someone even propose sending cartel leaders to Guantanamo (Michelle Bachman…I’m thinking of you…).

However, there is another way to disarm these dangerous cartels…and history tells us it works.

So Congress, before you go passing some “warrantless wiretapping for drugs” 4th Amendment exception, allow me to suggest that instead of a drug war, what we really need…is a drug peace.

I certainly do not drink all the time.
I have to sleep you know.

W.C. Fields

If you really want to understand today’s War On Drugs from the mind of a Mexican Drug Cartel “senior manager”, imagine the America of about 1929.

Alcohol was only available from you and your friends—or it was available from your enemies, who you were trying to kill with all the ingenuity you could muster.

Your enemies were, of course, also trying to kill you; so every day at work you needed to be looking over your shoulder…and to be willing to shoot first and ask questions later.

The police, the Courts, and the various elected officials were, at worst, a “business expense”.

Corporate America had embraced the concept of “vertical integration”; and in Detroit Henry Ford’s River Rouge Complex combined all of the elements of car manufacture, all in one place: a steel mill, a glass factory, a tire plant…and all of it ending in an assembly line.

Criminal America had seen the same light, which was why The Purple Gang, also based in Detroit, was engaged in liquor smuggling, liquor distribution (they were reported to be Al Capone’s largest supplier), and, naturally, the extortion of money from the speakeasies—not to mention robbing or kidnapping the occasional high-roller speakeasy customer.

The Purple Gang even allied themselves with the Sugar House Gang to ensure vertical integration was more efficient. Because of Prohibition, the availability of products used to make alcohol was suddenly restricted; meaning whoever controlled the distribution of corn sugar controlled who would be manufacturing liquor.

The Sugar House Gang (named after the product they controlled and the place they sold it) would tell The Purple Gang who had been buying corn syrup. Once the customer had distilled the liquor, The Purple Gang would rob them…and then sell the goods to Capone, or another customer…and then vertical integration was complete!

The Purple Gang was so tied in to the bootlegger-on-bootlegger violence of the era that they even have a tangential connection with the Valentine’s Day Massacre; which seems to have been related to a dispute among rival liquor distributors “Bugs” Moran and Al Capone (who, as everyone knows, was in Florida at the time…so he couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it).

It was estimated The Purple Gang might have been responsible for as many as 500 murders before they were targeted by Federal officials.

Murders, kidnapping, bootlegging, extortion, public corruption, rotgut liquor that could cause blindness–or even death–the invention of the “drive-by” shooting…all of it was part and parcel of daily life in 1920s Prohibition America.

In fact, Prohibition had created “drug cartels” so dangerous to National Security that President Herbert Hoover had named Al Capone “Public Enemy Number One”.

(Of course, some might argue that Hoover’s real Public Enemy Number One was the Great Depression…but we’ll address that question another day.)

Under great public pressure, Prohibition ended in 1933, having lasted roughly 14 years.

This discussion began with an examination of the question of how you might reduce the power of the Mexican Drug Cartels, you’ll recall; so let’s end this conversation by posing some questions that tie the whole thing together:

–When’s the last time you heard of three carfuls of guys from Jack Daniels using their Tommy guns to first shoot up, and then burn, Jim Beam’s distillery so that they could take over their turf?

–Mexican Drug Cartels make billions of dollars annually importing virtually every drug you might want: they import the reefer, I’m told, and the cocaine, the heroin, the meth, the ecstasy…and probably Viagra, to boot.

You know what the one drug is that Mexican Drug Cartels don’t import?

Tequila.

–So if liquor has become a legal business…and Jack Daniel’s sees no business imperative in a raid on Jim Beam…and Mexican Drug Cartels aren’t making money smuggling tequila (at least not since the 1930s, anyway)…and the last drive-by shooting that involved the liquor business was sometime in 1932 or early 1933…and every single “Mafia Liquor Cartel” was basically out of business the moment Prohibition ended…you think maybe it’s time that we thought about making some of the other drugs a legal business, too?

I’m pretty sure I know who won’t like the idea…and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the suddenly much less powerful Mexican Drug Cartels.

 

On The View From Egypt, Part Four, Or, Gaza, We Have A Problem December 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — fakeconsultant @ 10:35 am
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What had been a truce between Israel and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip seems to have abruptly come to a halt; with the Israelis blaming Hamas and Hamas blaming Israeli oppression of the displaced Palestinians for the simmering hostilities that are now boiling over into military-scale violence.

Before the recent holidays and an immoderate amount of snow buried me in things that could not be done on the computer we had been having a conversation about the strategic importance of our relationship with Egypt. Within that series of discussions we explored the influence of the political opposition, and we considered the fragility of President Mubarak’s hold on power.

We also noted the immediate proximity of Egypt to the Gaza Strip.

Today we’re going to tie all of that together—and the end result of all that tying is that we better keep a close eye on Egypt, because trouble in Gaza has spilled over into trouble in Cairo….and that’s one more Middle Eastern problem we don’t need.

If you’re looking for more details as to why Egyptian politics have been a one-party affair since the Republic’s founding, information about the opposition, or a consideration of the country’s strategic importance, have a look at Parts One, Two, or Three of this series.

So that we might put some of the background in place, here are some of the salient facts surrounding the events of the past few days:

A ceasefire that had existed between Hamas and the Israeli Government has expired. That ceasefire, however, had been a bit of an imperfect exercise.

Some attacks from Gaza into Israel have been self-attributed by Hamas (actions that they have described as responses to Israeli aggressions); and there are suggestions that forces loyal to the rival Fatah movement have also been involved in attacks. The Israeli Foreign Ministry reported 2502 rockets or mortars were fired from Gaza in the first 11 months of 2008, resulting in 17 Israeli deaths. (The ceasefire began in June of 2008.)

Over the four days since the ceasefire’s expiration at least 1100 Palestinians have been killed or wounded by Israeli airstrikes, with some airstrikes targeting tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip to Egypt.

The tunnels are important because they are used to import supplies to the region when normal commercial crossings are restricted or closed by the Israeli Defense Forces. (Truck crossings into Gaza have been reduced from 475 daily before Hamas took control of the region to 123 daily in October 2008 to none for the past eight days.)

The IDF reports that the tunnels are used to import weapons as well.

It is also reported that IDF troops are massing near the Gaza border. It is possible that an entry into Gaza by the IDF is imminent, but as of this writing that has not yet occurred…or it may have already occurred, as reported by the sometimes reliable Debka.com.

And it’s the tunnels that connect this story to Egypt.

As you may recall from our earlier conversations, there are many Egyptians who support the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist views, and there are also many Egyptians, unassociated with Islamism, who feel a sense of solidarity with Gazans and their struggles with Israel. Add to that the fact that President Mubarak’s secular but increasingly unpopular Government has been cooperative with Israel as they have worked to isolate Gaza and you have the makings of some serious trouble in the Egyptian street.

And as of today, the trouble seems to have started.

In a country with a Government that attempts to deter undesired street demonstrations with an extremely hostile internal security response, El Badeel of Cairo reports as many as 200.000 of the undeterred may have taken to the streets in demonstrations against the Government in cities such as Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, and even down the Nile in the farm country of Minya and Asyut.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abul-Gheit, and the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, are trading words—and Egyptian police and military border guard units are firing on Palestinians who attempt to enter Egypt through holes blown in the wall (by the bombing raids…) that would normally prevent such entries.

Now here is where it gets tricky.

Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, is essentially descended from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood—and the last thing Mr. Mubarak wants is hundreds of thousands of Hamas supporters taking up permanent residence in his country, especially if they end up forming fairly insular communities out in the Sinai Desert where the Egyptian internal security apparatus is at it’s weakest.

On the other hand, being perceived as supporting Israel is fraught with 200,000 or so of its own perils—and if the internal security apparatus can’t control the demonstrations, or uses unusually harsh methods to regain control, the internal security threat to Mr. Mubarak’s control from his own citizens will also rise dramatically.

There are those in Israel who want Egypt to take control of Gaza…and it is possible that Israel will use the blockade to create an atmosphere that will “require” Egypt to take “humanitarian” steps—something that might be popular in the Egyptian street…but something that Mr. Mubarak, as we have noted, has no desire to accept.

There are also those who would like to see the Fatah Party take over again in Gaza, removing Hamas from power—but you may recall that Hamas was able to come to power in Gaza because many ordinary Gazans perceived Fatah and Yasser Arafat to be extraordinarily corrupt and ineffectual during their time in power.

The bad news for the US?

We are perceived throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds as the blindly supportive enablers of what Israel is doing in Gaza…and we are perceived in Egypt as the country that enables Mr. Mubarak’s often highly oppressive rule.

As things go badly for the Palestinians, ironically, they get bad for us—and probably for the Israelis as well.

Why? Well, as I often say to my friends, we are making enemies faster than we can kill them. This blind support of Israel against the Gazans isn’t helping matters…but Johann Hari tells the story much better than I:

The world isn’t just watching the Israeli government commit a crime in Gaza; we are watching it self-harm. This morning, and tomorrow morning, and every morning until this punishment beating ends, the young people of the Gaza Strip are going to be more filled with hate, and more determined to fight back, with stones or suicide vests or rockets. Israeli leaders have convinced themselves that the harder you beat the Palestinians, the softer they will become. But when this is over, the rage against Israelis will have hardened, and the same old compromises will still be waiting by the roadside of history, untended and unmade.

To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other, jobless and hungry, in vast, sagging tower blocks. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean, and Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall – as they are doing now with more deadly force than at any time since 1967 – there is nowhere to hide.

–From an editorial in The Independent, December 29, 2008

There is one bit of good news: if Hillary Clinton can find a way to be seen as an “honest broker”, instead of just a supporter of Israel, the incoming Obama Administration could change the atmosphere enough to allow Gazans and Israelis to again return to negotiations. Can the Obama Administration change the atmosphere enough to induce Israel to adopt a less hard-line anti-Palestinian stance? That may be the biggest question the new Secretary of State finds on her plate next month.

Another possible bit of good news: a rapid settlement and return to a semi-ceasefire status could reduce the long-term political damage. In the unfortunate event of a large-scale ground action by the IDF, it is likely the long-term damage increases. (Some suggest the Israelis chose this moment because they feel the Obama Administration will be less supportive of a hard-line policy than the Bush Administration. If this is true, the window for aggressive action may be closing sooner rather than later.)

So here we are: The Israeli actions against Gaza, intended to end the desire of Gazans to attack Israel, are likely to have exactly the opposite effect…which is spilling over the border to create all kinds of problems for the Mubarak Government in Egypt…all of which means all kinds of new bad news for us.

Hillary Clinton might have problems negotiating with all the players…but if she can overcome that obstacle, there could be a better outcome down the road than we have today.

If Israel cannot be convinced to find a way to develop a different relationship with their Palestinian neighbors—and vice versa—eight years from now President Obama will find himself just as vexed as Mr. Bush is today with his giant Middle Eastern failure…and if events cause Egypt, Pakistan, and maybe even Morocco to slide over to the Iran end of the “scale of hostile nations”, he may find himself quite a bit more vexed than he ever expected.

 

On The New President, Or, The World Doesn’t Change All In One Day November 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — fakeconsultant @ 7:43 am
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Those who follow this space closely will know that we, from time to time, scout around and see what the other members of my blogging community are up to.

The “Blogpower” bloggers are primarily based in the UK, but others are located in the US, Canada, Australia, Italy…and even the Sudan.

We’ll see how they reacted to the US elections—and we’ll discover that while many are happy, it’s not all strawberries and cream out there.

We’ll meet the happy, we’ll meet the silly—and we’ll meet the not-so-very-happy as well.

So with that said, let’s head over to the UK, shall we?

“When as the rye reach to the chin,
And chopcherry, chopcherry, ripe within,
Strawberties swimming in the cream,
And schoolboys playing in the stream…”

–George Peele, “The Old Wives Tale

Not quite 100 miles north of London, and roughly 100 miles west of Amsterdam lies a whole bunch of lovely farm country, which includes Norfolk, where the “Norfolk Blogger” is one of the happy. No longer will the USA seem as though we are “putting two fingers up to the world”, we are told (for the benefit of Americans, the “peace sign” is not always seen as peaceful…); and in fact, it’s “Now for America to become the “good guys” again”, as the blog’s title reminds us.

Our friend Ellee Seymour, besides being one of the happy, is also the one who is checking up on her fellow bloggers’ predictive skills, as she reviews who was more right about the outcome, and those who were, shall we say, not exactly right at all.

There is advice to be had, as well. Matt Wardman, over at the “Wardman Wire” cautions us that “landslide” talk is helping no one. (Be sure to follow the comment thread for a most informative list that shows the margins of victory for every Presidential election since 1900.)

Thunder Dragon notes the problem of Presidential lame dickitude and the apparent pointlessness of the G20 economic summit–unless Obama attends.

Some offered advice just before the election, as well. Our friend Hercules presented cautions that seem to have also been well represented in the official John McCain message…and Ruthie Zaftig suggested people like Hercules should basically get over it.

And on a completely different subject “The Tangled Rope” blog reminds us that the Fifth Annual Worldwide Admire Your Genitals Day was celebrated November 6th…

More analysis: “A Conservative’s Blog” is worried about possible protectionist tendencies from an Obama Administration, “The People’s Republic of Birmingham” hopes that expectations are not impossibly high, and Andrew Allison reminds us that voting against Obama is not a sign of racism…even as he expresses his appreciation that the US has elected a President “…who can string a few words together in grammatical English…”

Analysis of the day: the “Capitalists @ Work” blog compares the 2008 and the 1860 Presidential election maps, creating some serious electoral déjà vu…and suggesting the possibility of “Republican dreams gone with the wind”.

“It must be some measure of the catastrophic decline in Australian cricket that there are blokes in the squad these days who have not even published an autobiography, let alone a barbecue cookbook.”

John Huxley, “The Sydney Morning Herald”, Nov 10, 2008

Australia’s “Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe” offers Obama two llamas and three bananas, along with the observation that Obama wasn’t the only world leader who acceded to power this past week.

Vancouver, BC’s “The Conscious Earth” reminds us that political apathy is often related to the question of who’s running…

Returning to the UK…the Emperor Camillus, the conquest of the Etruscans, and the never-ending question of how a Senate deals with a fiscal windfall are questions addressed by the most excellent “Westminster Wisdom” blog.

Tuscan Tony, the master of mixing the moderately naughty with Conservative politics, brings us the truly important electoral results: Whirl of Change has defeated Straight Talk Crunch in the Baskin-Robbins “Flavor Debate ’08!”, marking the sixth and seventh times politically inspired flavors have been tried at the ol’ 31 Flavors.

There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.

Gautam Buddha

I am myself forever guilty of this habit…and it is fair to say that I would not be here today if it were not for my habit of doubt—and there are two members of my community who have substantial doubts about this new President.

From “The Two Wolves” come concerns that the US has become a nation that votes based on race…and from the “Pub Philosopher” we are asked, basically, just how happy should liberals really feel if Obama is elected and California passes Proposition 8 on the same day?

We’re almost at the end, and since we are talking about doubt I wanted to bring to your attention a blog from the Sudan that is not a part of our Blogpower community, “Soul Searching”; who sees the election’s demonizing of “Muslim” Obama as a setback for Arab-Americans.

The final blog: my own. I challenged myself to dress Sarah Palin in the finest of clothes, from Saks’ and Neiman’s no less; and to do it for a mere $43,000—2/3 off the Republican National Committee’s expenses.

The point: could you trust an Administration to spend $150 billion if they couldn’t handle $150,000? Two stories full of Oscar de la Renta and Miu Miu later, not only did we do it, we did it under budget.

So there you go…we learn a bit about what folks are thinking, we get a few cautions, and we are reminded that this is our chance to redeem ourselves…if we don’t screw it up.

 

On Dressing For Success, Part Two, Or, We Costume Palin…For 2/3 Off! October 27, 2008

When last we met, Gentle Reader, we were talking about more or less $150,000 in clothing and beauty services that had been purchased mostly for Sarah Palin’s use by the Republican National Committee.

Since then, we have learned that John McCain himself once tried to outlaw the very type of contribution that led to this situation, we’ve heard McCain’s campaign offer a very non-maverick-y denial…and we’ve learned that the highest paid member of the McCain campaign staff—the person who presumably has the magic touch needed to turn this thing around—will be working her magic with a makeup brush.

As we discussed yesterday, I think I could have dressed Palin for 1/3 of what the RNC paid. Yesterday we “purchased” five of the outfits I think she needs…and with half the shopping done, we’re $670 over budget.

Can she be dressed for a mere $43,000?
Let’s see if we can pull it off…

Just so you know…the McCain campaign claims most of the clothing in question has never left the campaign plane…and they want us to know the expensive clothes they just bought but never used will be eventually donated to charity… and they still claim they are the ones who can best manage the Federal budget.

If you missed Part One…here are the rules: we are trying to find for Sarah a total of ten outfits. Seven of these outfits will be for “business” use and three are intended for evening wear.

The business outfits are budgeted at $4000 each; the evening wear’s budgeted at $5000 per ensemble. The total cost for all of this: $43,000.

We have identified four of the business choices, and a gorgeous blue metallic evening dress so far; leaving three more business and two more evening costumes to assemble.

And with all that said…may I direct your attention to the runway, for today’s first selection…

This is a truly understated, but nonetheless truly elegant silver wool and cashmere design, the “Wrap Bust Chevron Dress” by Alexander McQueen ($1670, Saks). The banded Empire waist is virtually the only ornamentation on the dress…but that allows us to be a bit flashy with the accessories.

We can be flashy and still save a ton of money by “recycling” the black Jimmy Choo “Patent Pumps” and the silver “Python Original Clutch” by Jalda from yesterday…and with the money we save we can afford to finish the look by picking up the “Punjab Waist Belt”, also by Alexander McQueen, thereby trickling an additional $625 down to the coffers of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Total cost: $2295—and that’s $1705 under budget for this item, $1035 under budget for the entire exercise to this point.

Mr. Blackwell died at the age of 86 this week.
It turns out he really was caught dead in that outfit…

–Seth Meyers, on “Weekend Update”, October 26, 2008

This next selection is entirely taken from a single page at the Saks website…which is kind of cheating, but the combination could not be better.

From Akris Punto, we present the “Wool Jacket” (which, for my money, could use a less utilitarian name), the “Silk Jersey Boatneck Top”, and the “New Carla Wool Pants” ($1290, $295, and $395 each). The pumpkin colored three button cropped jacket and toffee pants (both made of Swiss wool) are comfortably accented by the chestnut colored boatneck top, which mixes silk and wool.

This is another relatively inexpensive set, so let’s splurge a bit on accoutrement.

Something we can’t afford for this story, but the RNC could: the Dior “Beaded Jacket & Duchess Satin Skirt”, an $8095 vision in peacock green satin.

We need a brown bag…and what could be nicer than Fendi’s “Vintage Leather Baguette” in chocolate brown with lots of detail stitching and interchangeable long and short shoulder straps. From Saks, once again…and considering what we saved on the Akris Punto set and the Alexander McQueen dress, the $1950 price is easily justified.

Shoes? How about these dark brown “Patent Leather Mary Janes” from Manolo Blahnik, courtesy of Neiman’s. Simple, elegant, and at $625, surprisingly affordable.

The total: $4555. We ran a bit over on this one…but for the entire project we are still $480 under budget.

Since we already have the brown accessories, let’s really put them to use: check out this spectacular “Brocade Jacket” by Piazza Sempione ($1400, Neiman’s) in cotton, linen, silk, and…polyester. It’s a cropped length, but it has a traditional blazer style with a notched collar and three button front—and it is the perfect match for the “Belted Pant” from Pringle of Scotland (cotton/linen blend, $595, Neiman’s) and Eskandar’s cotton “Revere Blouse” (Bergdorf-Goodman, $370).

The total: $2365…which is $1635 under for the outfit, and $2115 total under budget.

Another item we can’t afford: the amazing silk and viscose “Stained Glass Gown” by Christian Lacroix…$6760, at Neiman’s.

It is entirely possible that Sarah The Vice Presidential Candidate might find herself giving a speech on a warm and rainy day in New Orleans—so to protect that lovely brocade jacket, we need Proenza Schouler’s “Trench Dress”.

Try to picture a lightweight viscose and linen trench coat, cut just above the knee, and you have the idea exactly. We had $2115 available, the jacket is $1975, leaving us still $140 under budget.

“That whole thing is just, bad!
Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are.”

Sarah Palin

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself.
Aloud.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

We are almost there, with only the final two evening ensembles remaining to select…and we will finish in fine style, I promise.

One of the most complicated mechanical processes I’m aware of is the weaving of jacquard fabrics; and we can observe the amazing results of that process in Caroline Herrera’s wool, silk, and polyester “Floral-Jacquard Jacket & Sheath Dress”. It is a simple bit of construction that uses its long, flat blue surfaces to perfectly show off the elaborate silver weaving.

As with the other outfits, the elegant design and rich fabrics of this jacket and dress make their own statements, which is actually allowing us to save money on jewelry—although, to be fair, that lack of external “bling” requires even more attention to hair styling than most of us often provide.

It is a bit pricey, ($4880, Neiman’s) but this set perfectly mates to the Python clutch from above…and the black Jimmy Choo Patent Pumps also work perfectly for this look…so we are still under budget, the total now being $260 below target.

Ombré is the process of weaving graduated color changes into a fabric, and this effect is presented spectacularly by Herve Leger’s “Allover Sequin Dress”: the navy bodice fades through purple and cranberry and fuscia and pastels, finally finishing in a silver band at the hem. The “allover sequins” make this the perfect dinner dress for a formal State dinner, a fundraising reception at the Washington Hilton…or any time Our Dear Sarah wants to remind Ann Coulter that she’s probably been…replaced…in the hearts of the Conservative community.

It’s $2800 at Saks…but if it gives her a chance to have a cocktail dress smackdown with Coulter, it might be well-spent money…especially if, somehow, they could be convinced to appear on ”The Jerry Springer Show” to fight it out, in evening wear, for our amusement.

Obviously the sparkling silver Python clutch is again going to be the perfect choice…and I even found the perfect shoes: from Miu Miu, the “Sequin Pump”. They’re purple, the shimmer like the afternoon sky at “Burning Man”…and at $650, they allow us to finish this project $1810 under budget—which we can use to bolster Palin’s “foreign policy experience” by picking up the tab at the Russian Tea Room.

And with all that said, we come to the end.

And what have we learned?

We have been reminded, once again, that fashion is indeed an art…we have seen the intersection of highly specialized manufacturing techniques and the products they create…but most importantly of all, we were reminded that it is possible to present a candidate in the finest of clothes and accoutrement for roughly $100,000 less than what McCain’s putative minions at the RNC spent—and we were also reminded that you and I are not the ones running around the countryside claiming we know how to balance a budget in our first term while simultaneously claiming most of the clothes were never used and will be donated at a loss.

Which means the biggest lesson we learned today might be this: if you can’t be counted on to handle the purchase of $150,000 worth of clothing, how are we supposed to trust you to manage the purchase of $150 billion worth of currently dead mortgage securities…or military equipment…or prescription drugs for Medicare?

If this big ol’ pile of fashion foolishness is any indication, I’d say we can’t.