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The morning walk

Every morning, glancing out the front window, I’d see these curious-looking, silent oddballs – neighbors, I guess – walking down the sidewalk with one hand holding a plastic grocery bag filled with hot dog shit, the other hand holding a dog straining at his leash. Without realizing it was happening, I’m now one of these curious-looking, silent oddballs, walking down the street with one hand holding a plastic grocery bag filled with hot Weimaraner shit, the other hand holding Abbie, straining at her leash.

I say hello to a few of them as we pass. The woman with the painfully overweight Dalmatian. I’ve also waved at the old fella wearing a knit Tibetan skull cap, the guy who lives at the end of the road. In the fall he’s obsessively raking leaves, even those on his neighbors’ tree lawns, and the leaves falling from the trees across the street. In the winter he’s clearing his sidewalk and driveway after the slightest of snowfalls. I’ve even seen him snow-blowing the street. He never waves back. He may have interpersonal communication issues. But he keeps his end of the street tidy.

The other morning, Abbie hit the jackpot. A McDonald’s bag was lying in the street, and inside was a full box of cold French fries. She nosed the bag open and started wolfing down the fries, mindful that I am prone to snatch that kind of treat away from her. I didn’t. I let her finish. It was her lucky morning.

As I was picking up the now-empty bag, a garbage truck turned onto the street. We stepped onto the grass. The driver slowed, leaned out of his cab and pointed at the back of his truck. I flipped the empty McDonald’s bag and the plastic bag of dog shit into the truck and waved thanks.

The No. 1 bus was on time that morning. Another two or so miles closer to downtown, after the 20 or so Laotians got on, and it was standing room only. The bus stopped again and someone exited from the side door. A woman entered through the side door. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to get on in front and slip your $1, or your bus pass, into the collecting machine. But the bus aisle was packed, the side door was right in front of her, so she climbed on board.

She stood there for a second. I think she was wondering if maybe she didn’t have to pay. That maybe she might catch a break today. Most of the people on the No. 1, especially the ones who get on board in this neighborhood, look like $1 is a lot of money to them. After a few seconds, a slight murmur moved through the bus. I guess the driver was asking for her dollar. She looked down at her purse and kind of fumbled for the opening.

“That’s all right, ma’am,” said a guy standing in the aisle. “We got ya.” He’d pulled a buck out of his own pocket and passed it up to the driver. It was a really tiny but decent thing to do. And it looked like $1 was a lot of money to him as well.

The bus lurched on. I started to think about Mitt Romney. I wondered, if Romney was in that guy’s place, would he have thought to make such a nice gesture?

I decided he wouldn’t have done so. A dollar means nothing to the rich.

The old election clichés are dead

We live with clichés. Cliché’s are comfortable and easy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t walk away from them when they’ve outlived their usefulness. Remember “Think outside the box?” Haven’t heard that one in a while. The first time I heard “24/7,” it sounded like a cliché. And if one more waitress walks up to me in the middle of a meal and asks, “Still workin’ on that?”  I’m gonna fire my fork into the ceiling tiles.

President Obama’s re-election Tuesday night is a fine opportunity to bury some clichés. That is, once the monumental degree of Tuesday’s election has registered with people.

It’s time for the self-appointed experts to shelve 2012 campaign phases such as “optics” and “double down.” Most of these pundits were wildly off target with their election analysis anyway, so we don’t need to speak their codes.  By both the electoral vote and popular vote, Obama’s victory was much more convincing than any of them predicted. If there was a thing such as professional accountability in media, we would never again have to hear the arch voices of Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan, Bill Kristol, George Will or Mark Halperin. Because they are all regurgitating hacks, and they were all wrong.

Tuesday’s election results should have been a no-brainer. The Obama campaign was backed by Nobel Prize winners in economics (Joseph L. Stiglitz), Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen), Pulitzer Prize winners (Toni Morrison), neurobiologists (David Hubel), heavyweight champs (Muhammad Ali), best-selling celebrity chefs (Anthony Bourdain)  and the creator of The West Wing (Aaron Sorkin). Romney had Meat Loaf, Ted Nugent and Clint Eastwood yelling at an empty chair.

Now it’s Wednesday, and we can stop taking Mitt Romney seriously. Quit pretending that he ever had serious plans for the economy, education, the health of the people of this nation.

The pro-rape candidates for Congress, Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, both lost. Tea Party dreamboats Joe Walsh of Illinois and Allen West of Florida lost. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota nearly lost. Senate candidates George Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Josh Mandel in Ohio and Connie Mack in Florida all lost.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and  members of his family gave $53.69 million to Republican candidates. And all six candidates that Adelson supported… lost. Instead, minorities and women made their voices heard in this election.

I’m not a big fan of putting civil rights and social issues to the vote: If we had done that with civil rights in the 1960s, rather than using the courts to get it done, we might have seen “Whites Only” drinking fountains for another 10 years. But in this election, Americans should be applauded for acting like mature adults who don’t sit in judgment of others. They approved bills supporting recreational marijuana use and gay marriage. An openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin, was elected in Wisconsin.

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham may be onto something when he said on Tuesday night that there aren’t enough “angry white men”out there anymore to sustain the Republican Party.

Tuesday was a Democratic love fest. Alan Grayson of Florida lost his seat in the House of Representatives in the Tea Party wave of 2010. He won it back on Tuesday night in resounding fashion. Grayson is famous for quotes like this one about Dick Cheney: “I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes, because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he’s talking.” It’ll be good to have Grayson back.

Democrats have suddenly embraced the idea of loudly taking pro-life and pro-gay marriage positions, realizing that Americans are increasingly endorsing these rights as well. Elizabeth Warren celebrated her liberal intellect, and now she’s a new senator from Massachusetts.

This makes two straight elections in which Obama’s campaign promises have included raising taxes on the rich. He’s won both elections. That sounds like a mandate for Thurston Howell III to crack open his wallet.

So much of the post-election analysis feels like the same old clichés. Republicans, whose spokesmen were Donald Trump and the certifiably loopsy former Saturday Night Live comedian Victoria Jackson, may want to blame a candidate for president who wasn’t conservative enough, or an ill-timed storm on the East Coast that allowed Obama to be his presidential best. But really, whether the ossifying Republicans admit it or not, America is slowly evolving into a 21st-century liberal nation.

The Critical Mass

Mitt Romney thinks you’re dumb

Since the first day of the Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign has been unspooling like a disaster-flick trailer. I can’t think of one positive tidbit of news that’s emerged about the dynamic duo of Romney-Ryan since then.

Character flaws? There are plenty. But I suspect there’s more to it. With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, who never stood a chance, it’s simply unimaginable that any of the characters who were a part of the Republican Primary Circus could have been taken any more seriously than Romney. The idea seems outlandish now, but at one point or another the Republican frontrunners were Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

It’s the intellectual vacuity of the Republican platform that is behind this parade of mediocrity. It is impossible to argue, without short-circuiting the logic centers of your brain, that the deficit can be reduced and jobs created by cutting taxes for the rich and allowing banks and corporations to do as they please. This has never happened in the history of the world. In fact, the effect is the opposite, as the eight-year George W. Bush experiment proved.

It is impossible to argue that climate change is not real and intelligent design is responsible for the existence of humans. Science tells us otherwise. Anyone who denies climate change and evolution is operating on faith-based beliefs, and is holding back the rest of  society.

Any politician who accepts the Republican platform must explain, if abortion is murder, what the prison sentence should be for a woman who seeks to end her unwanted pregnancy. Even if that pregnancy is life-threatening, or the result of incest or rape.

Anyone supporting the Republican platform must explain why it is important to cut federal funding for education, yet increase military spending, including the purchase of weapon systems that even the Pentagon agrees it does not need.

Anyone in agreement with the Republican platform must explain how gays and lesbians cannot have the same rights as other Americans, including the right to marry who they love, yet we’ll still collect taxes from them.

Smart people can’t explain these positions, and many others.

Unless, those people actually are smart, and they just think you’re dumb.

The Romney campaign effectively self-destructed yesterday with the release of secretly recorded video of the candidate, in an unguarded moment while speaking to a small group of wealthy donors. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney says. “All right – there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”

You know what? In the world we should be building, people should be entitled to health care, food and housing. Not just the rich, but the poor.

Romney also said of the 47 percent that, “my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The candidate’s position here has already been hacked to pieces by virtually every honest analysis available. There’s no need to list the falsehoods and discrimination that are not only the foundation of these indefensible comments, but that are at the heart of his entire campaign. I’ll just say this: My mother worked most of her adult life and will probably vote for Romney, out of habit. But as a senior citizen now, enjoying her well-earned retirement, but with no income other than her hard-earned entitlements of Social Security and Medicare, which she paid for, she’s in that 47 percent that Romney will not “worry” about. She’s one of those people who Romney says do not “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

How bad is it? Even Bill Kristol, the conservative pundit who was one of the biggest early supporters of Sarah Palin, and remains one, has called Romney’s comments “stupid and arrogant.” When a Palin acolyte recognizes stupid and arrogant, he must be looking upon an Everest of evidence.

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