Dear John…

John McCain gets down to the rock’n’roll these kids are talking about….

There’s a group on Facebook sending letters to good old (old) John McCain (R-PTSD) about what artists do as he recently said: “$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts,” McCain said. “Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs?”

This is an important matter. It is also an irresistable opportunity for snark. Consequently, here’s my “Dear John” letter. The whole thing wouldn’t fit on the Facebook page, but this is the entire message I sent to him. I can’t wait to hear back!


Dear John– I understand you are not aware of how funding for the arts creates jobs. So, I’d like to tell you what I do for a living.

I am a playwright. I write plays for theatres to produce. When a theatre agrees to produce one of my plays, they pay me a fee, which I use to pay my mortgage. When I pay my mortgage, that’s one less home going into default and one less bad loan that has to be covered by the government to prevent the financial system from collapsing.

Also when a theatre produces one of my plays, they hire a director, actors, set designers, light designers, property designers, sound designers, stage managers, box office managers, public relations professionals (who disperse money for advertising), and other theatre professionals, many of whom have advanced degrees from universities who have received their tuition.

When a patron chooses to come see my play, they buy a ticket or tickets. They and their friends may also choose to have dinner before the play, which means they go to restaurants, order food, tip waiters and waitresses, and so on. If they drive, they purchase gas to operate their automobiles and often they pay for parking. Many times, if my play has entertained them or provoked discussion, they will go for a drink afterwards, which usually means they spend a few bucks. You like to have a drink now and then, right? And they often make plans to see their friends again, which means they’ll get together and do something at a later date, which usually entails spending more money. To get home, they’ll either drive, or maybe they’ll pay for a taxi. Or, even if they’ve had one or two drinks too many, are tired, or are visiting from out of town, they’ll stay a hotel that night.

People even sometimes fly in from out of town to see one of my shows, which not only involves staying in hotels but requires purchasing airline tickets. So that’s how a silly little bit of “entertainment” affects the economy. Clearly, I should charge more for my plays.

But then, I think you know all that, and you’re just playing politics with the whole
arts issue because a good many of your supporters feel that the arts industry is dominated by liberals, and, as they’re conservatives, singling out the arts is a way to “stick” it to the opposition while pretending to be a great defender of the budget. But we’ll just leave that little inconvenient wrinkle between the two of us, uh?

Thank you so much for asking what I do. One of the traits that helps playwrights do our work is staying informed as to how the world, including politics, works. So I do. It comes in handy when I’m writing. Especially about politics.


Steve Patterson
Portland, Oregon

But then again….

The media’s working through all the election post-mortems…Obama ran a brilliant campaign…McCain never broke free of the conservative wing of his party…no Republican could have won with George W. Bush in office…blah blah blah….

What if, well, it just turns out John McCain wasn’t a very good pilot?I’m just sayin’….

Why? Because They Can

Poll: A Dead Heat In McCain’s Home State Of Arizona

Another poll shows that John McCain could be in serious danger of losing his home state of Arizona — and remember, the Obama campaign just announced that they’ll be advertising there for the first time in the general election.

The new numbers from Research 2000: McCain 48%, Obama 47%, with a ±4% margin of error. The key number from the internals is that Obama is winning the early vote by a 54%-42% margin, and this group is expected to make up 17% of the total likely voters.

Another important number, showing McCain’s latent vulnerability: In a test run for his 2010 re-election against Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, McCain is trailing 53%-45%.

Final Debate Recap

In case you missed the last big debate, here are some highlights.

As you may know, McCain, ever sensitive to racial stereotypes, declared yesterday that he was a-goin’ to “whip his you-know-what.” Here’s McCain during debate prep.

Here they are during the actual debate. Schieffer’s just asked them what stuff they’re going to have to give up because the economy’s totally screwed.

Here McCain finally makes his move, hitting Obama on hanging around with Bill Ayers, who blew some shit up and stuff during the 1960s, when Obama was working on his times tables and we were having another stupid war.

Obama pretty much responds, dude…what? Are you high?

The big move fizzled, and then McCain talked a lot about the American people being scared and angry. (In other words, projection.) And he said Sarah Palin’s a bitchin’ babe who digs puppies. CBS’s snap poll shows Obama winning 53% to 22%. (The remaining percentage was in the restroom or too drunk to respond after playing the “my friends” drinking game.)

Finally, here’s a last, fond shot of McCain immediately after the debate.

The end. Now, let go vote and get this sucker over with.

Good Times

The McCain people have been swaggering about, claiming Obama’s already been “measuring the drapes” in the White House (like he doesn’t have better things to do), but, in fact, all presidential candidates have a “transition team” in place in case they actually win. McCain does, for instance, and it turns out his head transition dude has plenty of experience working for cranky old guys who know what it’s like kill people and stuff:

McCain Transition Chief Aided Saddam In Lobbying Effort

That’s not change we can believe in, my friends.

Goin’ to Mis-si-sip-pi…

Shadowy Advisor #1: …lure him into the debates with–ahem–any means possible. And terminate the Senator’s command.
Barack: Terminate…the Senator?
Shadowy Advisor #2: He’s out there operating beyond the sense of any acceptable political conduct. And he is still on the stump affecting the economy.
Shadowy Advisor #3: Terminate with extreme predjudice.


Washington Post published poll results that show Obama leading by 9 points. Reaction from McCain campaign?


McCain cancels David Letterman appearance due to the nation’s dire financial situation then does a live interview down the street during Letterman’s taping. Letterman cues up live feed and asks the senator if he’d like a ride home.


McCain demands candidates suspend campaign, cancel debate, to deal with financial crisis. Obama says, uh, no…dumbass. We have planes. We can fly to DC for a vote. Presidents ought to be able to do more than one thing at a time.


Palin gets interviewed by soft-news princess Katie Couric and sounds like a stammering, clueless hick in so far out of her depth that you can only watch through your fingers. Meet the maverick! See the roadkill.


I believe we have finally, for true, followed the black light arrow around the bend. Cue the carnival music.

Tomorrow and the Day After

There’s a crack in everything….

We’re just about a week out from the first debate, a little over a month away from the election. I’m puzzled. I don’t have any certainty over this election, which is probably good because I’m frequently wrong right when it comes down to the wire. Over the years, my gut was right about predicting Carter (’76), Reagan (’80 & ’84), Bush (’88), Clinton (’92 and ’96), then wrong with Gore (2000) and Kerry (2004). In other words, George W. Bush fucked up my average, along with everything else in America.

This year, my gut says Obama. But, as I said, I’m not certain. I am, however, feeling better because McCain’s bounce evaporated after just a week, and the celebrity/puppy love over Palin seems to have faded, as crushes often will once you get to know the person, which leaves McCain with basically nothing.

And it’s weird about history, but I’d forgotten the absolute nihilism I felt in ’92 at the prospect of another four years of a Bush. As apocalyptic as it turned out, I didn’t feel that bad in 2004 about W., much as I despised him, because, shit, who could have imagined Katrina? That was when I knew, indeed, that we were living in one of the worst times in American history. You…are…there.

But, back to this year’s politics. Here’s why I think Obama has a chance. He’s basically been steadily leading McCain in both the popular vote and the electoral college (where it counts) since he clinched the nomination. Last week, directly after McCain’s Hail Mary pass (which no one seems to acknowledge was as much a desperate attempt to keep his party from splintering as it was to change the overall game), McCain edged ahead, but not by much, and, in fact, more or less pulled to a statistical tie. The debates will tell the tale, certainly, and neither guy is the most briliant debater in history. (Though Biden’s very good, and the VP debate ought to be…fascinating. It’ll either be a slaughter or it’ll look like the first Kerry/Bush debate, where Kerry clearly won but Bush didn’t screw up so badly that he didn’t croak his incumbent advantage.) Brass tacks, though: 2004 was very, very close, really coming down to Ohio. Obama’s a stronger candidate than Kerry, is running a smarter campaign, and, despite the fact that he automatically loses a few points due to race (there are just some white people who will never vote for a black guy), he holds a very strong hand in at least winning every state Kerry did. That won’t be enough, of course, but he’s also putting other states in play sufficiently that both campaigns are contesting states that McCain shouldn’t be worrying about. His ground game is also reputed to be extremely good, his grassroots organizing, and McCain’s is rumored to be a mess. It was Bush’s ground game, particularly among evangelicals, that carried his ass in 2004. Sometimes, it helps to be a community organizer. Obama’s fundraising and use of the Net is clearly superior to McCain’s.

And this is where I think Palin screws McCain rather than helps him: he’s 72 years old, he’s had melanoma four times, and he’s going to look like 26 years of rough road by the time we get to the final stretch, when even youthful, vigorous candidates begin to look like papery husks. All that puts an emphasis on Palin possibly becoming president, and, I think, with people so worried about their checkbooks, jobs, homes, and retirements, the thought of putting a clear lightweight in charge of a listing ship will give them serious pause. She needs to either game up in a big way or Obama needs to make a serious misstep, else McCain has a steep hill ahead of him. Not a good place to be when the Republican brand is so bad their presidential candidate can only get traction by running away from it. Plus there’s simply the war: McCain won’t end it, and people–especially those with military ties who have borne the burden and traditionally vote Republican–are done with it.

So that’s what my gut tells me. It’s pretty clear that people can choose 1960…or 1929. But, as The Clash (and many others) noted: the future is unwritten. There is, literally, no telling what could happen between now and November 4th and how absolutely mindbending this all could become. The entire economy melting down, a terrorist attack, a gigantic skeleton falling out of a closet, and the stars could realign. And if that happens and McCain wins, all those folks who muttered about leaving the country in 2000 and 2004 might actually start dusting off their passports. Not that it’ll do them a lot of good, because by that time the whole damn planet will be swirling ’round the drain.

…that’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen–