"Mirror Image" (Poisoned Pen Press) now at your bookseller's.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Since today's Halloween, it seems a good time to reflect on the haunted legacies of some of our nation's most notable figures.
For example, look at Ralph Nader. Instead of going down in history for his ground-breaking, courageous work on behalf of consumers everywhere, he'll probably be remembered as the "spoiler" in the Gore-Bush presidential contest.
Not only that, but watching his surly, bombastic media appearances during each of his successive, ludicrous presidential runs, the impression he's left is that of some political wing-nut, outside the mainstream of the average citizen's interests and concerns. Given his contribution to product safety and consumer awareness of corporate indifference to their customers' health, this re-tooled legacy is a real shame.
Then there's Alan Greenspan, whose near-legendary status as Fed chairman has taken a real hit these last weeks, in the face of our current financial crisis. Forget Sarah Palin and Barack Obama---I suspect more people would like to hang Greenspan in effigy than either of these politicos. Greenspan is another towering figure in the national consciousness whose legacy, if not exactly haunted, is at least tainted.
Next---though I'm not sure I agree---I wonder if many people feel that Bill Clinton's legacy has been damaged, at least in terms of his image among African-Americans. His contribution to the race-baiting ugliness of Hillary's campaign was a real blow to his long-regarded reputation among civil rights leaders. For a guy whose positive legacy as president survived even his impeachment, it would be ironic if his work on the recent Democratic campaign ultimately dilutes his memory in history.
Finally, in terms of a haunted legacy, I think the prize has to go to GOP presidential candidate John McCain. At least in his current incarnation. I kind of liked the 2000 John McCain, whose campaign was torpedoed by the same kind of divisive, right-wing attacks that he's now using against Obama.
McCain has gone from a guy who criticized the Jerry Falwell's of the world to a guy who embraces them. From a guy who prided himself on his independence from his own party to a foot-soldier in the socially-conservative "culture war." From a guy who claims to have regretted his role in the Keating Five scandal to a friend of Wall Street corporations. He's gone from being a relatively moderate statesman to someone who cynically chose Sarah Palin---pin-up girl for race-baiting, gun-toting, immigrant-hating right-wing religious zealots---as his V-P nominee.
Forget ghosts, goblins and werewolves---I think the scariest creature on the loose this Halloween is John McCain. Dragging his tattered, haunted legacy behind him like the chains that burdened Marley's ghost, he's become the candidate of anger and division. The Ghost of Bush Past.
Maybe, after the election, I'll feel badly about that. As I do somewhat for those others, named above, whose legacies have been tainted or diluted.
Then again, maybe not. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Master of Mystery Dies

I was saddened to read of the death of mystery novelist Tony Hillerman, whose crime novels set in the world of Native Americans in the Southwest were consistent best-sellers, winning him both critical and popular acclaim. Hillerman's sympathy and respect for, and understanding of, the ways of Native American culture, particularly its spiritual beliefs, always informed his crime novels with a vivid sense of place and a unique perspective on issues of conflict, revenge and justice.  
I've been a fan of his work for years, and think the Times did a fine job with its obit, which you can read here:

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Barack Obama's speech yesterday in Indiana was, frankly, one of the strongest he's ever delivered. And for five very good reasons:
1) He presented a clear and incisive outline of how our current financial crisis occurred (or was allowed to occur, under the present administration). Unlike John McCain, who prides himself on being anti-regulation and still maintains that tax cuts to the wealthy will prompt movement in the economy, Obama stated convincingly his belief that in a complicated global economy, there is a role for government in providing appropriate oversight.
2) Obama emphasized that the government rescue plan, though flawed, was crucial if we were going to solve the credit crunch. Cracking that logjam is vital, since both the average citizen and the small business owner relies on credit to secure a car loan, or maintain employee payrolls.
3) As a baby-boomer, I well remember JFK's call to the nation to pull together, to set lofty goals, and to understand that each of us had a stake in America's future. I thought both Obama's rhetoric and the content of his speech reminded us of that shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared goals.
4) He spoke vigorously against fear and panic, and in favor of the value of leadership in the face of crisis. Quite a contrast to the fear-mongering approach of a desperate McCain-Palin campaign.
5) Overall, he spoke as someone whose time has come. Despite McCain's best efforts in the debate the night before in Nashville, he was unable to convince voters that Barack Obama was not fit to be president. And since the only remaining weapon the
McCain-Palin ticket has in its arsenal is attacks on Obama as a person, it's apparent that Obama is surviving that onslaught pretty well.
That's why my favorite line of Obama's speech, in reference to these personal attacks, was, "I can survive four more weeks of John McCain; but this country can't survive four more years of Bush's policies."
Tell me about it!

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Thursday, October 2, 2008


...re the Biden-Palin debate. Frankly, I'll be glad when it's over. Biden has to be careful not to seem threatening, patronizing, or even overly-knowledgeable, or else he'll turn off a lot of viewers.
One of my female patients---a liberal Dem, BTW---says she's worried he'll come off as a smug, know-it-all paternal figure, putting down the female Sarah. The dismissive Daddy to an ambitious daughter. My patient worries about the effect this might/would have on middle-aged white female voters, regardless of their policy positions.
Actually, now that I think about it, I'll be glad when the whole damned election is over. The suspense is killing me. Things look better for Obama....but as John Cleese wisely observed, "It isn't the despair that kills you, it's the hope."

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