Republican Soul-Searching: A 9-Point Plan (Redux)

I first posted the following blog entry on 11.11.2008, days after the election of Barack Obama.  It’s repeated here in its entirety.  It’s kind of stunning to note that, if the GOP amended their strategies and policies at all in the ensuing four years, they did so in the wrong direction.

In the wake of the drubbing they took in the election last week , the Republican Party is now in the process of doing some long overdue self-examination. The media have been trying to determine the whereabouts of the soul of the Republican party. So I thought I’d offer my unsolicited 9-point plan for Republican soul searching:

  1. Get one. In order to search one’s soul, one actually has to have a soul.
  2. Stop lying. This is the 21st century. We have technology. We will find out that you’re lying. The only ones left to believe your lies will be stupid people. And you don’t want stupid people in your party. (I know this is an unfamiliar concept to Republicans, because you’ve benefited for a couple of decades from the stupid people who you’ve drawn to the party and who have believed the lies that you’ve told them.)
  3. Have principles, and follow them. Strategy and tactics are the necessary evil of a political campaign, but they’re not what people vote for. We’re drawn to noble, clear ideas. We’re looking for leaders who inspire us to make our nation and our world a better place.
  4. Get smart. That’s not to suggest that you should be more tactical, but rather that you should actually value education more. That also means valuing the educated more. You’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “no child left behind,” but you continue to run people (like Michele Bachmann) who seem like the children who were left behind. The nation and the world are facing unbelievably difficult issues, and it will take intelligent, educated people to come up with solutions.
  5. Ostracize the corrupt. Especially when they’re in your own party. The fact that Tom DeLay is still somehow perceived as someone who can go on national television and represent the positions of the party is laughable. Marginalize persons of his ilk or the nation will marginalize the entire party.
  6. Stop elevating and rewarding wackos. Believe it or not, people are looking to you for leadership. When you put subnormal or even just mediocre people on the ballot and expect that the public is going to go along with it just because you have previously enjoyed unquestioning party unity, you do your party and the nation a grave disservice.
  7. Separate church from state. You can have still your religion. Knock yourselves out. But why not put your faith into action by doing good works, instead of blurring the boundaries between pulpit and politics in an attempt to force the rest of the world to believe the same dogma that you choose to believe?
  8. Distance yourself from the ditto-heads. Admit it. You’ve spent the last 25 or so years building and fostering the multi-billion dollar right-wing media empire — of the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Bill O’Reilly variety. But now you may be realizing that you’ve created a monster that is incapable of moderating itself. Cut ‘em off before they eat you alive.
  9. Quit blaming the media. How can you be focusing on what you need to be doing when you’re whining about how badly you’re being treated? Besides, you don’t win votes with shame and blame.

One more thing you might want to take into account. I’m sure there are Republican campaign professionals who are right now dissecting examining every aspect of Barack Obama’s campaign, searching for clues as to what was done to win an election and how they might replicate those things. What those strategists seem to be failing to take into account is that, while some of the campaign strategy might be replicatable, the candidate cannot. Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate with transformative ideas and, by all accounts, an uncanny ability to inspire and bring people together.

Tilting at (Corporate) Windmills, Pt. 2

Telecom giant SBC has a product that they’re hawking called “SBC Unified Communications.” In theory, it sounds like a convenient technology — all your voice mail from all your phones in a single account, which you can play back from any phone (residential land line or Cingular cell phone) or from a browser based mailbox. Plus you can receive faxes in the mailbox, too, and print them out. Sounds great, right?

Well, don’t get too excited, because it sucks. SBC proves unmistakably that theory and practice are two entirely different things by taking a good idea and implementing it in such a shabby fashion that it makes it seem like a bad idea. Not only is the product drastically misrepresented in their marketing hype, but also almost no one in SBC’s customer service (and certainly no one in Cingular’s customer service) has ever heard of it.

Here are the pitfalls I found in less than 24 hours of starting and then cancelling this utterly useless service:

  • SBC advertises that the web service is available from any PC in the world. What they don’t tell you is that you have to install a bunch of ActiveX and Java plugins to get it to work. So if you’re on a corporate PC that has restrictions on software and plugin installations (as most well-secured systems do these days), you can’t access it.
  • If you have a SBC Yahoo Email account, they can’t integrate the two. You have to have a whole separate Email account, and it’s limited to 50MB. Are you starting to see how the concept breaks down?
  • If you have a Cingular cell phone, the marketing hype makes it sound like they’ve already got things completely integrated. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing they have integrated is the legal arrangements between the two subcorporations of the uber-corporation; the technology doesn’t even come in a close second. For example, they haven’t figured out a way to flip the “Message Indicator” switch on your Cingular phone. Instead, when you get a voice mail message, the system sends a text message (for which you are charged a separate fee); then, when you retrieve the voice mail message, it sends anothertext message (for which you are charged another separate fee). Their customer service tells me that they’re working on coming up with a way to remove the second text message and it “might be done by the end of the first quarter.”

The most insulting aspect of all of this is the utter contempt that SBC shows for its customers. First, they think it’s o.k. to send a product to market that clearly isn’t remotely ready for human consumption. Second, they don’t bother to train their own personnel sufficiently in how to use it. Oh, I spoke with a number of people who claimed they had had training, but with only one exception, no one had any idea how this thing actually worked. None of them had actually used the product, and all (including the man who knew a little about the product) were working from a script and not from first-hand knowledge. Damn! (Then the excuse they use for not knowing anything about it is that it’s a new product. One guy told me “We’ve only had it available for about a year and a half.”)

For SBC, it’s o.k. to ask customers to spend more money for products that don’t work as well as the ones they are paying less for. For SBC, your time is worth nothing. Just once I’d like to hear the following phone hell outgoing message:

Thank you for calling BigScaryCorp. Your call is important to us, but not so important that we’d actually have someone here to answer it. Instead, we’re going to use some of your unpaid time and some of the unpaid time of everyone else who calls so that we don’t have to spend money on staffing and we can increase our returns to our stockholders. Your approximate wait time is 2 hours and fifteen minutes.

To date, my investment in time for this foolish venture in misplaced trust is as follows: (a) approximately 2 hours of phone hell trying to get specific questions answered about the product prior to ordering; (b) a half hour placing the order; (c) another three hours of phone time determining that the product did not perform the way either the marketing materials claimed or the way the people who answered the initial questions claimed; (d) another hour or so cancelling the order with SBC; (e) another half-hour getting SBC to give me back my original voice mail; and (f) another half-hour getting Cingular to give me back my original voice mail. There was also two weeks of waiting between the time that the order was placed and they actually initiated the service.

Oh, I just remembered. There’s one more investment of my time — the time it took to compose this rant. But at least that part was worth it.

Wake Up, Rod

There’s an AM radio station here in L.A. (KLAC – 570) that has returned to its previous format of playing standards, performed – when the station is at its best – by Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Billie Holiday and a number of other people who knew/know how to interpret a song. But interspersed with those heroes of popular song are the forays the station makes into the dark side.

I’m referring to those sorry attempts by artists who have never before ventured into the realm of American popular song (a/k/a ‘The Great American Songbook,’ standards, Tin Pan Alley songs, etc.) but who somehow believe that they can succeed in this milieu with neither the understanding or the inherent ‘chops’ to do so.

The most grievous of these offenders is Rod Stewart. I’m sorry. His voice might be alright for waking up Maggie or letting us know what night tonight is but it could otherwise strip the finish off a Buick. This poor soul sounds like he’s been gargling with paint thinner for the last couple of decades. Clearly, that life-ravaged voice has no business attempting such a nuanced song as ‘The Way You Look Tonight.’

And to add insult to injury, Stewart has only a passing acquaintance with the lyrics, his arrangements quite often strip out the harmonic nuance, and he changes melodies the way most people change their minds.

I can guarantee that if Rod Stewart didn’t already have a recording career, if he mailed a demo of this dreck to a record company, they’d throw it out with the leftover sushi.

Now, I’ve got nothing against people crossing over. Some have done it successfully. But they’ve done it by exhibiting respect for the genre they’re crossing over to. (And, let’s face it. Placido Domingo, whose operatic tenor voice can send chills up the spine of even the most shut down audience member, has no business singing John Denver songs, either. But I’ll save that rant for another time.)

What the hell. You can’t blame a guy for trying. But you can blame ClearChannel for jamming this dreck down our ear canals every chance it gets.

 

21st Century Blues

Let me say up front that I am well aware that I risk sounding like an old fart with what I am about to say. But, quite honestly, I’m not so thrilled with the 21st century so far.

Maybe someone can convince me that car alarms are better than being able to leave your keys in the car so that you know where they are.

Maybe there’s a compelling case to be made that the ability to whip out a piece of plastic to fulfill some need for instant gratification is worth the indentured servitude that you will be in for the rest of your life because of the usurious interest rates on credit cards.

Maybe it’s actually worth the agony of spending a couple hours in traffic each way so you can work in a totally depersonalized job you detest for some mega-conglomerate corporation with too many tax breaks.

Maybe it truly is better to wait for three or four weeks for a doctor’s appointment when you’re actually sick today because, what the fuck, you probably couldn’t afford it if the doctor could actually see you today anyway and even if you have insurance, the insurance probably doesn’t cover what you want to see the doctor for in the first place because once, back ten or fifteen years ago, you had a symptom that rhymes with the symptom you now have and you are therefore not covered.

Maybe it’s o.k. that corporations always have plenty of people available to call you at home while you’re eating dinner or having sex or mourning the loss of a loved one, but they never have enough people available to answer the phone when you call them.

Maybe we should all just lower our personal standards further and adapt to this new world order.

Or maybe we should step back and say collectively say, “What in the fuck is wrong with this picture?”