advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Monday, December 26, 2011

On Christmas 2.0, Or, Who Might Be The New Santa?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the evolution of Christmas, and I’ve been thinking that there is a lot about the current practice that we can admire.

Peace and good will, of course, and cookies and candy canes, and happy kids – and this is also the time we think the most about those less fortunate, as do Jews and Muslims, who also have holiday celebrations this time of the year that include a component of charity.

But if there is anything that I could change about the modern practice of Christmas, it would be the installation of Santa Claus as an icon of consumer spending, more or less to the exclusion of everything else.

As an intellectual exercise, I started thinking about what a different Santa might be like; today’s story lays out who a few candidates might be for “Santa 2.0” and why.

So go grab a cookie, and, perhaps, a refreshing beverage…and let’s have some post-Christmas fun.

Chipmunk Family Reunion…
…someone stole the nuts…
…squirrel jail…

--“Flo”, the Progressive Insurance Representative, in a recent commercial

To help everyone understand my choices, I’m partial to the kind of Santa who might be inclined to be a force for good in society, even when Christmas isn’t around; that concept’s central to these selections.

I also tried to pick folks who would make the gift-giving role Santa fills interesting and, above all, fun; with all that in mind let’s jump right in and see where this thing goes:

In a tough economy, you want to save where you can, with that in mind my first nomination for the new Santa is Michael Moore, if for no other reason than he fact that he already fits the suit.

He’s from Michigan, you know, so the cold weather up there at the North Pole is something he’s already used to – and you can imagine that the Elves will finally be getting the health care and retirement benefits that they’ve been negotiating for these past several years.

But beyond that, I could see Mike coming down the chimney and giving people jobs if he could apply the Santa power that way, and I figure he likes cookies and milk, too, so we wouldn’t have to change that part of the deal – and all that suggests he’d be really good for the economy.

Plus, if he had all of Santa’s powers, he’d always know where Roger is, and that’s pretty cool, too, eh?

Now our next choice is a bit unusual, but I think we’re on the right path nonetheless, and that’s Meghan McCain, daughter of the Senator from Arizona.

She seems to be a really nice person, which is a good place to start, she’s blonde, which, again, works with the red suit, and I get the impression that she’d be OK with dealing with kids all day.

As for her Santa power…she’s an outspoken critic of the Crazy Right, and it’s entirely possible that she’ll bring some degree of rationality and reason from way up North to the GOP, which would be a present we could all use.

Some of y’all might be a bit put off by the idea that she appears to be the kind of person who, if a 13-year-old boy asked, would get him a gun, but I got a Godson who was given his first rifle younger than that, and he turned out to be a nonviolent person, so, you know, maybe Santa would turn out to support the Second Amendment, but that doesn’t automatically have to be a bad thing.

For our next nomination, we’re going way off the track to select someone you’ve probably never heard of: Yetta Kurland.

Ye-who What, you say?

Yetta Kurland is an attorney in New York City, and for the past few years, if you are a member of the LBGT community, and you’re interested in civil rights litigation, Yetta Kurland’s has been a pretty good name to know.

But beyond that, Yetta’s been working as a member of the National Lawyer’s Guild as one of the on-site attorneys for Occupy Wall Street, right down there at New York City’s Zucotti Park – and that means our Santa nominee’s been working day and night, literally out on the barricades, fighting for the rights of every one of us.

Animal rights are also a big focus for Yetta, and that suggests a Santa who would be thinking about all the kids, even the ones covered in fur…and that also means a Santa who might be particularly interested in bringing good homes to abandoned animals, which is as worthy a cause as anyone could wish for.

The best part is that Kurland is already interested in the arts, as is the potential Ms. Claus (Kurland’s partner, Elizabeth Koke); that’s good news for the Elves going forward, and for anyone who would be getting presents designed and manufactured at the North Pole Workshops.

Finally, the nomination for Claus 2.0 that I consider the most serendipitous – and potentially the most interesting of all: Lady Gaga.

She’s already known, loved, and admired around the world, which is exactly what you want in a Santa, she’s bound to do something interesting to the costume every year, which seems like a “great leap forward”, and she’s already used to dealing with great volumes of fan interaction – and if Lady Gaga were the next Santa, you could expect social media to become a big, big, deal at the North Pole.

It was entirely coincidental, but I happened to catch Gaga by Gaultier the other night, and as it turns out Gaga is looking to recreate The Factory, the storied workshop and studios of Andy Warhol…which could not be more perfect for a Santa with artistic ambitions, since the North Pole Workshops are full of skilled technicians who have been cranking out a mixture of art and fun as long as there’s been a Santa Claus, for Goodness sake.

As for her Santa power: imagine if someone could visit all the bullied boys and girls, all in one night, just to let them know that things can “get better”…and leave coal and access to social services for the bullies…well, that’s a pretty good power, and if Santa could do all that while singing “I Was Born This Way” – then I think we may have a winner.

So how about that? Four alternative Santas, each with a set of unique qualifications, all of whom could make things fun even as they’re stirring things up a bit, and all of whom bring their own interesting personality characteristics to this thought exercise.

Toss it around in your head a bit, see what you think, and let’s have a bit more fun fleshing out the thinking here in an effort to see who might really be the best choice for Santa 2.0.

In other words, now that I’ve reported – you decide.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On Helping Republicans, Or, Next Time You Need A Bad Idea, Try These

I have spent a number of years complaining about the interactions between Democrats and Republicans, but after the recent events involving the Keystone XL and civil liberties cave-ins, I’ve decided it’s time to stop complaining and embrace the madness.

But I also feel like there’s an ugly edge to all this…that hasn’t really been fully exploited.

I mean, Republicans have tried to force through a lot of disgusting ideas this Congress as they’ve held various bills hostage, but it seems like, if they really tried, they could do so much more.

But I’m not here to complain, I’m here to help; that’s why today we’ll be trotting out a few ideas of our own that Republicans can attach to bills throughout 2012, with the assistance of certain errant Democrats.

It’ll be fun, it’ll be festive, but most of all…it’ll be an exercise in Civic Responsibility, and in these difficult times, that’s something we could sorely use.

1) Above all, the needs of the army need to be taken into consideration. For instance, it will scarcely be possible to avoid, here and there, leaving behind some trade Jews who are absolutely essential for the provisioning of the troops, for lack of other possibilities. But in each case the proper Aryanization of these enterprises is to be planned and the move of the Jews to be completed in due course, in cooperation with the competent local German administrative authorities.

--From a planning document written in 1939 by Reinhard Heydrich, as reported in the book Documents of the Holocaust, edited by Yitzhak Arad, Israel Gutman, and Abraham Margaliot

So let’s start with the economy: the Census Bureau tells us that nearly half the population is now poor or near-poor, and something needs to be done. With that in mind, I’d propose the “Economic Freedom and Upward Mobility Act” (HR 4377), which would establish a series of military catapult sites along the US border where carefully selected poor folks would be given, literally, economic freedom and upward mobility, even as we instantly reduce the number of impoverished persons in the United States.

Civil rights are important, but not at any cost; that’s why the “Election Cost Control Act” (HR OU812) would allow States to empower local officials to preselect winners in various elections, saving the taxpayer the time and expense of having to count the votes for all those losing candidates.

Messaging matters, and there’s no reason Republicans have to be the bearers of all the bad news: Mississippi Congressman Hatesem Lotsabunch confirmed to me in a phone call yesterday that he will take my suggestion and introduce the “Voter Education Act”, which would require President Obama to wear a giant red, white, and blue dog whistle on a thick silver chain every time he appears in public between the date of passage and November of 2012. (For the record, I actually suggested a gold chain; he thought that was a bit “uppity”.)

We have a serious immigration problem, but I think we can take a page from the Newt Gingrich playbook and introduce the “Guest Worker Protection and Identification Act” (GWIPA).

Here’s the idea: Gingrich has proposed creating a class of persons (“worker residents”?) who are allowed to live and work in the USA, but are never going to be allowed to have US citizenship. The problem is that it will be impossible to quickly tell who is a legal worker resident and who isn’t. Under GWIPA, government-issued armbands would be provided for all legal worker residents to hold their photo ID; as long as they always wear the armband, they’ll be protected from having to show papers to law enforcement officials as they go about their daily business.

Governors as diverse as Rick Perry, Jan Brewer, and Robert Bentley have demanded that the Federal Government finally get serious about “securing the border”; the “Nuclear Assault Mine/Border Legislation Act” (NAM/BLA) is my “if you’re crazy enough to support Rick Santorum, why not this?” proposal to make that happen. The new law would order the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to work together to develop, manufacture, and deploy small “assault-sized” nuclear land mines along the Mexican border as a way to deter illegal immigration.

"Well you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes!"
"These aren't my clothes!"
"Well, where are your clothes?"
"I've lost my clothes!"
"Well, why are you wearing these clothes?"
"Because I just went GAY all of a sudden!"

--Cary Grant, as David Huxley, from the 1938 movie Bringing Up Baby

Finally, let’s take a moment and consider one of the vital social issues of the day.

It is apparently still possible to lock down some GOP votes by going “hard negative” on the LBGT community, if what I’m hearing from the candidates is to be believed (I was particularly struck by Mitt Romney’s ability to twist on this issue: in the last GOP debate, in one single sentence, Romney said he felt there should be no discrimination against the LBGT community…but that there should be no same-sex marriages), and I have a proposal that allows the GOP to appear to be moving to a better place while ensuring that nothing ever changes at all:

The “Mitt Romney Legal Access Beyond Intimidation Act” (MRLABIA) would do two things: it would repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act – and, in the Mitt Romney tradition, it would also add a new provision into law that prevents same-sex couples from entering into contracts for the purposes of marriage, thus ensuring “a perfect flip-flop, every time”, as they might say on an infomercial somewhere.

So there you go: instead of relying on the usual “poison pills”, I’m challenging the GOP to try out a few of these ideas – and I’m also challenging much of the American media to try and tell the difference between some of these ideas and the present reality; just at the moment that won’t be easy, and, all humor aside, I think that might actually be the saddest part of this whole exercise.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On The Question Of Virginity, Or, “Starter? I Can’t Make Her Stop!”

I got a weird little story about my friend Blitz Krieger to bring to you today.

He’s had a crazy car problem, he has, and over the past few months he thought he had found a solution – in fact, he thought he had found the solution of his dreams – but in the end, he’s discovered that the things you dream about often don’t go according to plan.

The way it’s worked out for him so far, it’s been a lot of anticipation followed by a sudden wave of frustration, but I feel like he’s a lot better off having his particular problem with his car…because if he’d had cancer instead, he’d surely be dead by now.

The community is always embarrassed by the drag queens because straight society says, “A faggot always dresses in drag, or he’s effeminate.” But you got to be who you are. Passing for straight is like a light-skinned woman or man passing for white. I refuse to pass. I couldn’t have passed, not in this lifetime.

--Sylvia Rivera, describing the founding of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), quoted in the book Becoming Visible: An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America

So here’s what happened to Blitz: he waited forever to buy his first car because he wanted, more than anything else in life, to drive his “perfect” car: a 1982 American Motors Eagle SX/4.

It’s a wild car: it was designed as a small hatchback…with a V-8 engine…and “switchable” 4WD…which allowed it to travel easily in snow in a way that virtually no other passenger car at the time could manage.

So he waited all this time, and two years ago, in California, he literally found a little old lady from Pasadena who sold him his “Dream Car”, which, ironically, was the same brown color as Al Bundy’s Dodge.

It drove great for about six months, but it’s been suffering from a strange malady that presents as a horrible grinding noise when he tries to start the car. He has no idea what to do – and standing in the way of a solution is an obsession that I find a bit strange:

He is absolutely determined that he is not going to go to just any mechanic.

Instead, Blitz told me that since it’s the first time the Dream Car needs to be repaired, he intends to go to a mechanic who has never worked on any car before his – and he says he wants to do this because he feels the experience of having the work done this way will make it more “special” for the both of them.

It took him almost a year to find someone, but when he did, it was truly perfect: he met a woman named Jenna Talia who wanted more than anything to be a mechanic.

She’d been studying through one of those “learn at home” programs, and, amazingly, she had an attitude similar to my friend Blitz’s: she knew about how to fix a car from what she’d read in a book, but she refused to actually repair one until she got the chance to work on her Dream Car – and even more amazingly, her Dream Car…was a 1982 American Motors Eagle SX/4.

They actually met on the bus (Blitz, naturally, refused to drive any other car except the Dream Car), and after a few months of knowing each other, Blitz proposed that Jenna might work on his car in his garage, and she agreed.

Fun Fact I Just Made Up: In a recent poll, 32% of voters thought the Iowa Caucuses were a country located near the former Soviet Georgia.

So we’re going out last Saturday night, and I get a call from Blitz asking if I could come by and pick ‘em both up there at his house, and I’m OK with that, because with two drinks in a night being a big evening for me I’m more or less a permanent designated driver.

I was wondering how it was going with the car, and what I saw was stunning: the upper half of the engine was sitting in the living room, entirely disassembled. There were rockers and rods and all kinds of stuff there, neatly arranged for easy reassembly, and it looked like they had really put a lot of effort into the thing, but it was clear that they just couldn’t get it quite figured out…which isn’t surprising, considering it was the first time for both of them.

And you could see, in just that first second, that the two of them were some kind of frustrated. But it gets worse: Blitz told me that this was her third “diagnosis”, and that, now that she was actually face-to-face with a real car, she seemed to be entirely confused about exactly what to do.

Apparently things had gone so bad that Jenna wouldn’t even leave his house at night to go home until she could get things figured out…and, from what he’s telling me, he’s ready to throw her out, buy a different car, and get that car fixed by a mechanic who’s been there and done that – a lot.

To put it another way, he’s ready to dump his virgin mechanic…for a slut.

Now here’s the really crazy part of the story: I’ve had a bit of experience with cars breaking down over time, and I knew what was wrong from the beginning, as many of you probably did, too: the starter was bad – and that’s located on the very bottom of the engine, not the top, which means everything they’d been doing was pretty much pointless.

But I couldn’t tell them that in the beginning…because, again, it would’ve just spoiled the experience…and I sure wasn’t gonna say “I told you so” now…so even though I could have offered them both useful advice about how ignorance ain’t bliss, they surely didn’t want to hear it.

So look, folks, we could have a lot more fun following out this comic premise, but there’s a bigger point: I don’t want a virgin mechanic, and surely not a virgin doctor – and they don’t even allow virgin pilots to carry passengers.

What is it about sex (and politics, for that matter) that makes people think they’ll be able to simply “get it” with no experience at all? What is it that makes them think that celebrating their own ignorance is the best way to show they’re ready to take on something that, frankly, requires a bit of trial…and error…before you really get it right?

I don’t know the answer, but the next time someone tells you how their ignorance makes them a lot smarter about something, do me a favor and think about Blitz and Jenna and the Dream Car – and the living room full of engine parts – and if that person’s running for office, run the other way. Quickly.

I’d appreciate it; so will you – and if I know Blitz, he will, too.