Eli's Observations

Month: May, 2012

Make War, Not Love

We’re supposed to learn from history so we don’t repeat our mistakes. But suppose you learned very little history, just the mistakes? And history is still often taught about wars and the dates of battles, not the real reason for the wars nor the results.

In high school, Miss Hickey taught that the Mexican-American War started because “the Mexicans insulted our flag!” When I asked whether a piece of cloth was worth a war, I was sent to the principal’s office.

That battle about the reason for wars is still being fought. Only the geography changes: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. In the past, most wars were ostensibly about religion, now frequently it’s about territory. But the real prizes are access to markets, fishing rights, drilling rights (rarely about human rights.)

Unfortunately for the capitalists, most Americans don’t want their children killed or their treasury depleted to secure markets for United Fruit, BP, or Apple. So, these wars are wrapped in the stars and stripes because our enemies are everywhere! (Remember Iraq and those Weapons Of Mass Deception? We can’t wait for that shitake-shaped cloud!) So we invade places.

These wars have a nice symmetry. We need weapons to invade — expensive weapons! And lots of them! And do they ever create profits. Then there’s the “job creation” in the few factories that the U.S. has left. It’s tricky to offshore much military work. Suppose we needed to fight our supplier?

President Obama is trying something revolutionary now: give wars an expiration date, have a smaller, smarter military capability, and try to form real coalitions, not the Iraq version of fourteen Mongolians and a Ukranian Motor Pool. But the President has to deal with lots of people who desperately want to see him fail.

Most distressing are the anti-war people who won’t forgive the President because he didn’t do all this sooner. They’re like the kids in the back seat: “But Dad, you promised! You promised!” Well, kids, the trip will be a whole lot longer if President Romney is in the driver’s seat.


From Head To Toe

Deep in a gated community of multi-million dollar houses in Texas, safe from the prying press, Mitt Romney is ensconced in the plush “basement” of a big donor, Cabot Rogers Agustus Babbitt. This multi-millionaire made his fortune from a chain of pawn shops called “Happy Hockers.” Their motto is “send me your poor, your huddled masses, yearning for cash.” Outside each shop is a four foot Statue of Liberty. Instead of a torch, she carries the familiar three-ball pawn symbol. 

Romney is speaking quietly into the phone while a super-clean-cut aide keeps a running cash total. It’s fundraising time! In the background, Cabot Rogers Agustus Babbitt paces impatiently. He’s wearing cowboy-style clothes, big shiny boots and leather chaps monogrammed CRAB.

Romney: “Oh, I know Buffy! Everyone’s portfolio took some real hits. You and Tab have been so generous … when will Tab be back? Then, why don’t I call back in an hour? Great! Give my best to those lovely daughters of yours — sons! Did I say — I meant sons, of course — right Buffy, thanks.

Babbitt: “Dammit, Governor, we need to scare some big money loose! Talk more about Godless Socialism, I don’t want to be a one-man Super Pac.”

In a far corner sit three consultants. Brad Cole and Lindsay.

Brad: “I Googled this guy Babbitt. He’s from Rhode Island, for pete’s sakes. Where’d he come up with this cowboy and pork rinds deal?”

Lindsay: “The Republicans have a little school for that. They call it Dumbdown U. But listen, guys, our job isn’t fundraising — we’ve got a portrait to paint of this man!”

Cole: “She’s right. Let’s go over him from head to toe –”

All three stare intently across the room at Romney. They agree Romney has good hair, and good features — better than Obama.

Lindsay: “Obama has such big ears –”

Brad: “Like car doors! Gigantic!”

Cole: “Focus, please? Everybody likes the curl over the forehead?”

Lindsay: “Yeah, but it’s a little contrived. Maybe we can get Ann to muss it a little –”

Brad: “No way! The Mittster doesn’t like to be touched in public. Kissing and hugging with the wife is good –”

Cole:  Careful kissing. That wet smackeroo with Tipper cost Al Gore the election!”

Lindsay: “Oh, puh-lease! Body’s good. He’s finally getting out of that white shirt and skinny tie. We need him to look more like he works with his hands –”

Brad: (snickers): “Do they make banker jeans?”

Lindsay: “Sure! Oshkosh office wear — hey, what’s he wearing on his feet — is he wearing — oh my God — sneakers??

Cole (nods):  New Balance, and get this. They’re made in the USA. Mitty kept showing them to the workers at that steel plant yesterday –”

Brad: “I just wish he hadn’t kept saying ‘See? We’re twins!’ And he kept giggling!”

Lindsay: “…New Balance! Hey, wouldn’t that be a great theme for his whole campaign –?”

Brad (puzzled): “Some other guy does his music, Lindsay –”

Lindsay: “No! I mean a theme! Like — Romney’s ideas will give America a whole new balance!! Like that –”

Cole (baffled): “Ideas? I don’t think he has any of that –”

Brad: “And I know he doesn’t like new anything!”

Lindsay (sighs): “Forget it — how do we feel about his socks?”

Words R Us

I admit I have a pretty low opinion of syndicated columnists and talking heads. I refuse to call them by that irritating word pundit! I don’t know what pundit means, and anyway, graduates of the George W. Mush school of speech insist on pronouncing it “pundint.” (Maybe if a pun somehow could ding your fender that might be a pun-ding, at least in Texas.)

Okay, I’m a crank who thinks words written or spoken really matter. (R U with me so far?) Language makes us human. Wait, please don’t tell me about chimps who’ve learned sign language. I have an iguana that sings Puccini, though no one but me can tell he is singing.

I’ve given up trying to convince people that impact is a noun, not a verb, and if people don’t want to be wracked by pain and prefer to be racked by it or even shelved, I’m not going to waste any more italics on them. I’m obviously having no impact. But there are some forms of misusage I can’t give up on yet.

If you and I show up at the same dentist’s office at the same time, wearing the same necktie and get the same tooth filled by accident on National Dentists’ Day, that could be called a lot of things (stupid, for example) but not ironic.

Aside from advertisers and politicians, the worst abusers of language are the aforementioned talking heads who apply “special case” words to everything. When did “sad” become “tragic?” Is nothing “horrible” now but “horrific?” Why should U care? Because if everything is “special,” nothing is. A car crash with fatalities can be horrible, but let’s save “horrific” for events that raise horror to new heights, like the Rwanda genocide.

The people who purvey the news should choose their words more carefully, but they seem more interested in elevating their own status with made-up titles. Once television became dominant, reporters became journalists, and news readers became anchors. But we’re still getting the same “news” from each of the three commercial networks. (We don’t expect news from the Faux News network, just propaganda.) Words really matter if you’re a journalist, and you shouldn’t overuse words like “horrific,” unless you’re following the Kardashians, in which case it always is appropriate.

Words can decide elections. If a candidate calls himself a “job creator” instead of a “corporate fat cat,” he’ll probably tell you that job creators deserve a tax cut at your expense. And he’s not being “ironic.” Of course the final irony (this time, I think it works) is that the press describes such people as conservative. What exactly are Tea Party members trying to conserve? Wouldn’t calling them “reactionary” be more like it? Or how about “extremist?” Or maybe just plain “crackpots?” So pay attention, because the difference between a “conservative” and a “crackpot” could ruin this country and that would be a bummer for U and me.


From time to time, Eli has heard from a few readers who say we are depressingly cynical and obsessed with national politics. Our first reaction was, “Oh, shut up.” But on mature reflection, we said, “What the hell.” But we just CAN’T give up politics, so this column will at least eschew depressing stories for an experiment: Happinews.

Bulletin: Rupert Murdoch, AKA King of Snoops, has shocked the financial world with a trillion dollar deal. Selling ALL of his media holdings, Murdoch has used the money to buy Australia. Murdoch describes buying the country where he was born as a “sentimental impulse.”

Bulletin: Madame Tussaud’s wax museum has announced it will make Senator Mitch McConnell part of its permanent collection. This will not be a wax replica, but the actual Senator himself!

Bulletin: In an effort to become part of a possible Romney Cabinet, Rep. Michelle Bachmann tweeted that if she became Secretary Of Education, she would seek funding to have a microchip containing the entire text of the Bible implanted in every school child’s head. The child could activate the Bible story by clicking his or her heels together three times, repeating the phrase, “There’s no place like heaven…”

Update: Representative Bachmann now says Moslems and Jews would be offered alternative texts, but not at the taxpayers’ expense. When asked about atheists, Bachmann replied, “They can all go to hell!”

Update: Sources now report Rupert Murdoch has also acquired the world’s largest cloning lab and plans to clone Australia! His spokesman has denied it.

Bulletin: The Fox News (sic) Channel has announced that all its female on-air staff will be outsourced to Clairol. In a related move, Reese Witherspoon has replaced Sean Hannity as a Fox anchor. Hannity blamed his demotion on President Obama.

Bulletin: After a huge negative reaction to her microchip idea, Rep. Bachmann has withdrawn it. In an attempt to burnish her foreign policy credentials, Bachmann has challenged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a debate. Or a bake-off! No comment from the State Department.

Bulletin: Having withdrawn from the race, Newt Gingrich now admits trying to get Rick Santorum to withdraw first. Gingrich added that his secret offer to make Santorum an astronaut on Gingrich’s lunar colony was just a joke.

Bulletin: Drenched by a sudden rainstorm, Presidential candidate Romney was forced to cancel a speech to the National Machete Owners’ Association of America. Romney told reporters at the event he had definitely NOT decided that if elected he would put his face on both sides of the five dollar bill, facing in opposite directions. He blamed the rumor and the rainstorm on President Obama.

Update: This just in! Mitt Romney has denied all of the above denial totally! Except for the blaming Obama stuff.

Update: Michelle Bachmann has apologized to non-believers for saying they can all go to hell but later retracted the apology, pointing out that they could, and very well may. In a bid for a senior health post in a possible Romney Cabinet, Bachmann has challenged Mrs. Obama to a push-up contest. No comment from the First Lady.

Bulletin: Sources close to the source have leaked the news that Rupert Murdoch is weeks away from cloning Australia. The sources’ source said Murdoch planned to leave the original Australia where it is but will tow its clone to an undisclosed spot near oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Reacting to protests about the ethics of cloning a nation and moving it, Murdoch said casually, “If you own it, you can clone it!”

Bulletin: Desperate for ANY kind of attention, Michelle Bachman just challenged the First Lady to a vegetable-eating contest! Mrs. Obama again gave no response but she has sent Bachmann a crate of Rutabagas.

That’s it for Happi News. Next week, back to serious matters with a lengthy expose of the ash scandal in the nation’s crematoriums! Or — maybe not. The same person who called Eli’s Observations depressing thought the word “blog” is depressing in itself. It is kind of klutzy. If any of you have an alternative, let us know.