Sunday, December 16, 2007

Al Gore Broke My Heart

I want to thank you folks for not pointing out that my future as a political prognosticator has been irredeemably scarred by my wishful thinking toward an Al Gore candidacy. I thought I had it all figured out. But like someone that can't accept Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman, I could not believe that a statesman who's political trajectory had propelled him to win the popular vote for the presidency could turn his back on his destiny and merely walk away. I thought Gore certainly must have some grand and Biblical strategy that would swallow the other candidates like Jonah by the whale. My scenario was this; John Edwards wins Iowa, Hillary wins New Hampshire, and Obama wins South Carolina. Then in the midst of this turmoil would come Al Gore, organization at the ready and with a chest full of medals, prepared to assume his rightful place in American history as the redeemer of the thoughtless and slayer of the Bush philosophy of government by the corporation.

America believes in redemption and needed Gore to cleanse the collective guilt felt by those who voted for Bush, actually believing he had integrity. It would have been a national do-over, like a football sideline review, where an historic wrong might finally be righted. In every interview, when asked about running again, Gore always said, "I have no plans to be a candidate." That's quite different from saying, "No, I will not run." But then came the news that Al had accepted a partnership in a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that specialized in helping innovative start-ups that were energy efficient and potentially profitable. Before I could become too indignant about Gore cashing in on his environmental advocacy, however, I read he is donating his salary to the Alliance for Climate Protection. Still, he started the Alliance, and venture capitalists usually get stock in the company. I'm sure he's not working for free.

Silicon Valley is also within proximity of Gore's San Francisco based cable network, "Current," which plans to combine the best features of television and the Internet. Now you can watch multiple reruns of "Law and Order," while simultaneously seeing the most popular Google searches. Gore has been a noble, lifelong public servant and deserves to financially capitalize on an historic year of achievement. I'm certain the speaking fees of a Nobel Laureate are considerable, not to mention the Oscar and Emmy, but I can't help but feel disappointed as a citizen.

If Al Gore is on an urgent mission to decrease global warming, it would seem the most direct way of affecting policy is as U.S. President. But, I am reluctant to admit, Gore's moment has passed and any lingering hope that he, or we, had for a draft has passed too. Also passed is the chance that the "boy groomed for the office," will ever be President. Had he known this before, Gore could have skipped the Nam. I'll also admit something else. When I heard Gore speak last week at the U.N. Climate Conference in Bali, and he blamed the U.S. for obstructionism to great applause from the delegates, I wanted to say, "All right. We get it!", or, "You've got the job. Ease up already." For the first time, I found Al Gore annoying, and imagined years of similar preaching.

So, I was wrong. There will be no President Gore and the politician I have championed since the eighties has gone Hollywood on me. Though sometimes unctuous, most obviously when he blew the 2000 Debates, he was the best informed candidate we'll likely ever see, including Bill Clinton. He will choose to remain in the private sector until next year, when a new President may call upon him to return once again to public service, and I'm sure he will answer his nation's summons. I only hope that in whatever capacity Mr. Gore serves the next government, it doesn't require him to make any more speeches.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Jewish Conspiracy

I'm always bemused when some mouth-breather starts spouting off that the Jews own the entertainment industry, or the Jews run U.S. foreign policy, or any other such notion that the Jews collectively "run" anything. Such myths are so easily dispelled, it's difficult to realize they still exist, but much of American society, at least, still think of the "Jews" as if they were some monolithic bloc, thinking with one mind and speaking with one voice. The Jews can't even agree on how to spell Chanukah, or is it Hanukkah? Determining how the Jewish community thinks is much like a pollster asking, "How do you white people feel about this?" It's more accurate to refer to Jewish communities, since the diversity of opinion is so vast.

When I was a child in Memphis and excluded from certain social functions because of religion, I used to ask my father, "Don't they know how much we argue among ourselves?" My father, correct as usual, told me that the Jews don't air their dirty laundry in public. He explained that there are always plenty of people willing to criticize the Jews without us doing it to ourselves. But the internecine feuds between the three branches of Judaism were so intense in the Fifties, that the Orthodox Jews segregated themselves from the Reform Jews, and vice versa. For every Country Club and golf course the Reform Jews erected, the Orthodox would counter with swimming pools and gymnasiums. Although the Reform thought the Orthodox were a superstitious lot who refused to leave the 12th century, and the Orthodox considered the Reform Jews as Christians, the fact that the sects of Judaism did not get along was lost on the general public. And, my father would remind me, during the war when the Nazis were loading up the boxcars, they never asked anyone if they were Reform or Orthodox.

It's not hard to understand why there are Jews in influential positions in all fields. In their history, the Jewish people have traditionally emphasized two things; family and learning. A scholar was among the highest pursuits to which a Jewish man could aspire. Add that tradition to 5000 years of ancestral intellectual pursuits, and you'll eventually breed some big-brained people who are not only capable, but adaptable as well. Consider the fact that this country is up in arms over an estimated 12 million undocumented foreign workers within our borders, then contrast that with the knowledge that there are only 13 million Jews in the entire world. While Americans remember 1492 as the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Jews know it as the year that Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain. Our collective history is what binds us, but we rarely indulge in group-think. When I asked my father why the Jews didn't recruit like the Christians, he told me that back in the bad old days of anti-Semitism, when a Gentile expressed interest in converting to Judaism, the first thing the rabbi did was try and talk them out of it.

The Israeli Jews demonstrate this internal disagreement daily. The Ultra-Orthodox claim that anyone who converted to Judaism under the auspices of a Reform rabbi is not a Jew. The Reform want to go to movies on Saturday and say the Orthodox religious laws interfere with their freedoms. But the vast majority of Israelis are secular Jews that practice no formal rituals at all, or consider themselves as "religious." The latest conflict began with a group of Israeli environmentalists calling for a "Green" Chanukah this year, by lighting one less candle than the traditional eight. Whenever three Jews agree on anything, they call themselves a "coalition." Thus, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and the New York based Jewish Council for Public Affairs, neither of which have I heard of before, have stated that lighting one less Chanukah candle will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and lessen greenhouse gasses. If this is an example of the workings of the "International Jewish Conspiracy," my ballot must have gotten lost in the mail.

Many think of Chanukah as "The Jewish Christmas" anyway, so it's fitting that Chanukah should lose its' way as well. Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday, celebrating the military victory of the Maccabees over the encroaching Greeks by recapturing the great Temple and relighting the lamps. The oil, only enough for a day, lasted eight, which represented some sort of miracle of early refinery. A Jewish group that calls for the lighting of only seven candles sort of defeats the purpose of the holiday, doesn't it? As children, my sister and I were told that we got eight days worth of presents, but they were always trinkets and tops and mesh bags of gold-covered, chocolate coins. We couldn't wait for Christmas. Still, all eight nights my father said the Hebrew blessing while the family gathered around the menorah to light the candles, a practice that I continue in his honor. Do you believe I am about to listen to the advice of an Israeli tree-hugger and alter that tradition? It only proves to me that Jews are as capable of foolishness as anyone else.

That also explains the "Jews running U.S. foreign policy" argument. It's true that several influential Jews, Wolfowitz, Pearle, and Feith, among others, were among the neocons who thought up the Iraqi War and most of the Bush governments' Middle East policy. But most U.S. Jews are liberal Democrats who are the antithesis of the neocons. This small group caused a huge rift among American Jews who are generally anti-war, regardless of Mel Gibson's opinion. It goes back to the "smart Jews in all fields" argument and proves that Jews can no longer be characterised as only one thing. The adamant Zionists, Israeli and American, support the Bush regime for one reason only; their unblinking, rapture-driven, apocalyptic dream of a united Israel, Temple Mount intact and prepared for the return of Jesus. The Wolfowitz crowd is living proof that assholism is a universal affliction, but never believe they speak for the Jews. This is Cheney's war, and no more proof need be offered than the Jew they scapegoated in the Valerie Plame case.

So, Happy Chanukah, or Hanukkah, ya'll. We sure kicked some ass that time. A joke going around Jewish circles says that most Jewish religious holidays can be summed up with a short blessing; "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat." But why can't we keep the (guttural) "cha" in Chanukah and keep modernistic and trendy phases out of it? The only green I want at Chanukah is the gelt, and I won't allow Jewish guilt to prevent me from lighting all eight candles, even if I feel global warming is entirely my personal responsibility when I'm done. I apologize to the polar bears in advance. Like my Daddy said, "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Or, to paraphrase Elvis, "I'll have a green Chanukah without you."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't Mess With Oprah

The men don't know, but the little girls understand"
Howlin' Wolf: "Backdoor Man" 1955

I watch Oprah. You got a problem with that? I used to think when "Jeopardy!" was over, it was time to hit the computer. I associated Oprah with all the other provocative, one-name, daytime hosts, like Phil, or Maury, Sally, or Rikki, who all seemed to cover the same topics on the same day; teen sluts, people who were grotesquely fat, or incest, sometime all three at once. Then I became a househusband and a freelancer, which means any sort of lancing I'm called upon to do is usually pro bono, so I've allowed myself to be coaxed by Melody away from the internet to check out the topics on "Oprah," and have come to the same understanding that all her admirers reach; there are talk show hosts, there are celebrities, there are politicians, and then there is Oprah. And the amazing part of it is that men have no conception of this single, courageous woman's influence, because they don't watch the show. Men think of her as a rich, celebrity TV star, women see her as a force of nature.

I've become familiar with the inner stories surrounding Ms. Winfrey and Harpo Productions. I know of her humble beginnings and her start in broadcasting in Nashville to become the head of not just a corporation, like Martha Stewart, but a business empire that includes publications, movies, television, theatre, and more. And she is the CEO, as well as spiritual leader, of a philanthropic organization that has given more scholarships, medical supplies and treatment than any celebrity since Danny Thomas. Her school for girls in South Africa was briefly touched by sexual scandal until Oprah attended to it personally, ending the problem like Paul Bunyan stamping out a prairie fire. I know her favorite designer is Nate Berkus who lost his partner in the Indonesian tsunami, and her best friend is Gail King. When Gail and Oprah came through Memphis, it was treated by the media like a Presidential visit and their tour of Graceland was hosted by Priscilla herself. Oprah had already won the Freedom Award, given by the National Civil Rights Museum.

Oprah has never used her celebrity to support politicians, until her recent endorsement of Barack Obama and her announcement that she would attend several upcoming campaign events in Iowa on his behalf. Immediately, both Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, who should know better, discounted the importance of her participation. But, as I said, they are men and just don't watch the show. I have seen spontaneous demonstrations of respect and love by ordinary people toward Oprah that rival the public's response to Robert Kennedy. Olbermann said that she would make no difference unless she started handing out clock radios. Others may only see the Oprah highlights; the ribbon cuttings, the Broadway openings, and the "favorite things" shows, but they don't understand that the devotion of her fans is a direct response to the sincerity of her mission, to help people live better lives.

Oprah will be appearing opposite Bill Clinton, but I bet that secretly, Hillary would trade Bill for her, if Oprah would only offer. Because Oprah is a genuine threat to Hillary and her claim to the women's vote. I, like many people, would welcome a woman President; just not Hillary Clinton. Obviously, Oprah feels the same way, and anyone who doubts her ability to persuade should look at the long list of books, including many classics, that have reached the top of every national best-seller list because of her recommendation. And anyone who wishes to cross Oprah, or take her on, would do well to remember the author James Frey, who's fictionalized "autobiography" caused Oprah to break him into a million little pieces after the hoax was revealed. Or the Texas Cattle Industry, whose lawsuit against Oprah's free speech was thrown out of court as baseless and only caused Winfrey's stature to rise.

I have heard female talking-heads on cable news say that the thought of a woman president is just too appealing not to vote for Hillary. I'd like to see a Jewish president one day, but don't expect me to be voting for Joe Lieberman. Oprah's appeal to women of all regions, economic strati, races, and ages is enough to make the most ardent feminist take another look at Barack Obama, and that chips away at the perception of inevitability that Hillary is attempting to establish. Clinton tries to project competence and toughness. Oprah constantly exudes the single emotion that Mrs. Clinton lacks; empathy. Anyone who doubts this does so at their own peril.

My wife believes that Hillary's interview yesterday with Katy Couric is the equivalent of Howard Dean's scream. Asked if she would support a nominee other than her, Hillary protested that "it will be me," and when prodded by Couric that certainly she must have taken into consideration that someone else could win, Hillary replied that she never thinks of anything other than being the next President. That is hubris that George Bush would admire. No wonder all the Republicans are dying to run against her. But the latest Zogby Poll showed Hillary losing in head-to-head races with five different Republican candidates; Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, McCain, and Huckabee. Her arrogance, masquerading as certainty, may be her undoing.

Celebrity endorsements may not mean much to the beltway types, but they have never reckoned with an Oprah Winfrey. And although Iowans are reputed to be a jaded lot when it comes to celebrity, I'll bet right now that Oprah and Barack are the hottest ticket in town and will outdraw Bill and Hill. And that's because Obama is right; the Clintons are old news and are still caught in the teeth of the culture wars begun in the sixties that my generation will fight until we all roll over and die, and people are rightly weary of it and eager to turn the page. Barack Obama is increasingly looking like the agent of change the country so desperately wants, and Oprah, like her many other successful endeavors, just may convert enough women voters to tip the nomination to him. In that case, Ambassador Winfrey has a nice ring to it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

American I Dull

"Sitting on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon,
Going to the candidate's debate.
Laugh about it, Shout about it, when you've got to choose,
Anyway you look at it you lose."

Paul Simon "Mrs. Robinson," 1968

These travelling road shows called debates have increasingly taken on the air of a TV reality program, complete with scripted and planted questions. I watched one Republican debate, but after seeing a majority of the candidates admit, en masse, that they questioned the validity of evolution, I didn't need to watch another. The Republican debates are only the equivalent of the summer replacement, "America's Got Talent," to the Democrats', "American Idol." The contestants are carefully scrutinized on appearance and confidence, and expectations run high each week over who will stumble and who will rise to the challenge. They even have judges posing as questioners, who critique the candidates' answers and attempt to build rivalries within the group. The role of the intemperate asshole judge is played by Wolf Blitzer. The single flaw is that we can't phone in each week and get somebody bounced, in order to thin this herd and maybe hear something of substance.

I took an online poll where you are asked your opinion on a variety of topics and then you are matched with the candidate who most closely holds your views. Mine came out Dennis Kucinich, which is good and bad. I admire the Congressman's courage to call for impeachment openly and often, (he nearly got a vote to the floor last week). I agree with him on ending the war in Iraq and holding the planners accountable, and he has been the single most consistent liberal voice in all these dark Bush years. But I also know he hasn't got a chance to win the nomination. I'll happily vote for him in the Tennessee Primary to make a statement. Hell, I once voted for Prince Mongo for County Mayor. I also voted for LaToya London. But once again, machine politics and corporate cash rule over the procedure, and even though Kucinich's rousing debate performances rival Bo Bice, he's going to lose to the blond lady who was mistreated when she was younger. Yes, I'm speaking of Kelly Pickler.

Hill & Bill are all but Lords and Ladies in Waiting according to the geek news channels, and just waiting for the coronation. But before Hillary gets measured for crown and scepter, it would be well to remember that not a single vote has yet been cast, and the American voter is a famously fickle animal who will turn on you in an instant. How else can you explain Taylor Hicks winning American Idol, or George Bush winning anything, for that matter? Let's get through the first couple of rounds before we declare a winner. I'm sure Kucinich will get a record deal, even though he deserves at least as much attention as Clay Aiken. But if I had to review Hillary's debate performances thus far, I would say, "It was just aw'ite for me, Dog. You're a little pitchy."

While this lite operetta continues, President Zero is neglecting some serious issues. The Chinese are trying to date-rape our children; Wal-Mart has been discovered taking out life insurance policies on their aged workers and collecting benefits when they die; Lacy Peterson has morphed into Stacy Peterson; a statement from the still deceased Saddam Hussein said his flim-flammery about WMD was not to threaten the US, but to fool Iran; and deluded Dick Cheney was forced to fill in for the absent drug store cowboy, and lay a wreath at the cracking Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, while the blood dripped from his gloved hands as surely as O.J. Simpson's. But stay tuned, Barack has promised to take off the gloves this week. And did I fail to mention our troops are in the middle of a foreign civil war with no end in sight? Too bad we can't just vote the troops off the island.

Al Gore may have won his Grammy, his Oscar, and his Nobel Prize, whatever that is, but Carrie Underwood and Daughtry kicked major ass at the AMA's, and Fantasia was up for an award too. With the current television writers' strike in effect, the mid-January start of the new season of American Idol might have to be moved up, just like those nervy states and their Primaries. Then we could have five nights of nothing but Idol, Countdown, and Debates. But if the Debates are going to compete with Idol, they have to really want it, dog. This is, after all, a singing competition. And there is one lonely voice singing in the corner, crying, "Impeach Now. Impeach Now." Can you hear him? It's Dennis, "the Dark Horse" Kucinich, and his spouse is better looking than Hillary's any day. Hey, no one believed Ruben Studdard could win either. Seacrest out.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The (Bleeping) Phone

I apologise to anyone to whom I owe a phone call. I've attempted to explain individually in the past that it's not personal, I'm just a phoneaphobe. I hate the fucking telephone; now, more than ever. Every advance in phone technology has been cause to hate them more. Remember when the government determined that AT&T was a monopoly and broke them up into "Baby Bells?" Now, everything has been reconsolidated into AT&T again, and to show their corporate gratitude, they have voluntarily turned over your private phone records to the government to see if your call to Lowe's about fertilizer is part of a plot to blow up Home Depot.

I enjoyed the days when the telephone was a black and heavy curio. I recall our family's first number was 38916, changed to 33-8916, and then entered the golden age of the prefix, with terms like "Fairfax," and "Broadway." Our number was Mutual57795 and morphed into 685-7795. The two phones in our house were in the den and next to my mother's bed. If you wished to speak in privacy, it required pulling the phone cord into the kitchen and closing the door, leaving you standing over the oven to converse. The number of wacky phone calls I received increased with my band's popularity, until one late-night caller harassed my mother to the point of arranging a sting with the phone company. Mom had to wait for the call, leave the phone off the hook, walk to a neighbor's, and call the phone company to begin a trace. It turned out to be a girl I knew that I would like to have spoken to in the daytime.

When I returned to Memphis after college, I was pursuing a career as a working musician the hard way; I refused to have a telephone in my apartment. When that chattering bell went off, you never knew if it was a pal calling, or the grim reaper. I had to show up personally to seek work and my friends knew they were welcome to come over without calling first. My mother and my employers, Ashlar Hall and The Looking Glass, finally convinced me to get a phone, but it was uncanny how it could ring at the perfectly inopportune moment. If I chose not to answer, it became a test of wills between me and the unknown caller to see who would give in first. Although I was ignorant of the identity of the person at the other end of the line, the more times the phone rang, the bigger the asshole the caller became in my mind. I worked out one-ring, hang-up codes with my family but it did not always work. Finally, out of frustration, my mother said, "What good is a phone if you won't answer it?" and she gave me one of the first telephone answering machines for a Christmas present.

The machine was so old, it still ran a reel of recording tape to capture incoming and outgoing messages, so I figured I'd have some fun with it. I began recording funny messages with sound effects and it evolved into the recruitment of friends to help me record outrageous twenty second skits before the beep. We made fun of the carnival execution of Gary Gilmore and did parodies of the news and scenes from movies like "Nevada Smith," but then along came "Roots." The message began by me saying, "I'm not home now, but answering the phone in my absence is my friend Toby." Then a second voice said, "Kunta Kinte," and I lashed the kitchen table with a belt until the voice said, "Toby." Granted, it was stupid and insensitive, but only my mutually twisted friends were aware of it, until one of them gave my personal number to an ebony secretary who knew me not, and she thought it was a recruitment line for the White Citizen's Council. I thought I was parodying a TV show rather than insulting a cultural touchstone, but the secretary reported it to the NAACP and radio station WDIA. Unfortunately, I was on the road, unable to turn it off, and when I returned, the recording tape reel had reached it's bitter end until the incoming calls had run the batteries down. I fielded an additional week of hate calls and messages, night and day, until finally the phone company unlisted my number.

One of the first songs I wrote in Nashville was called "Code-A-Phone," about the frustrations of leaving messages for someone to whom you need to speak, but the cell phone is, by far, the most insidious, privacy-invading mutation yet. I first became revulsed when I was placed into a large waiting hall for jury duty with the first great wave of gadget buyers and spent a week listening to sing-song rings and one-sided conversations until my head throbbed. Then I attended a private patio dinner and several of my hot-shot friends showed up with cell phones hooked to their belts where they used to hang their Buck knives when they were hippies. Not only did they allow incoming calls, but first one friend, and then another, interrupted live, face-to-face conversations to take them. I was shocked to think someone believed they were so indispensable that they needed to remain within constant telephone reach, and I actually said, "Hey fellows, it's after 5. You're off the clock."

Public courtesy pretty much disappeared everywhere after that. All incidental contact between humans was precluded by the ever-present phone glued to the ear of each pedestrian. I've stood in check-out lines where cashiers rang-up every item and presented a paper for my signature, without ever making eye contact and talking on the cell the entire time. This insulting behavior is epidemic, but nowhere is it worse, more dangerous, or infuriating than in a car. Observing someone driving blithely along, yakking on the cell, making turns with one hand on the wheel and operating their vehicle in a semi-comatose state, jacks up my barely suppressed, but festering road rage into overdrive. The Suburban Assault Vehicle and the cell phone have made driving among the most unpleasant and hair-raising activities in daily life. It would be logical and easy to stop it, but most local, state, and national governmental bodies are so far in the pockets of the telecommunications industry to make any regulation unthinkable. But I still search like Diogenes for that single, non-corrupted legislator, who will have the common decency to scream, "enough," and pass a law slapping a hefty fine on hand-held cell phone use while operating an automobile. Call it, DWB; "Driving While Bloviating."

I find email a terrific way to communicate because you have the chance to consider what you say before you say it. The Caller ID was a godsend for protection from the unknown caller and it allows you to recognize in advance which calls will take two minutes, and which twenty. But you can answer an email at your leisure and the sender doesn't expect you to drop everything and answer immediately. People get so angry if you fail to answer the phone that they hang up on the answering machine. And then they get pissed-off at me. If it's important, leave a damn message, and if it's strictly convivial, I'll be happy to talk when my anxiety levels are manageable. In the meantime, I'll be here if you need me. Just drop me a line. It's more personal these days.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Waiting For Goredot

The only thing more exhilarating than seeing Al Gore win the Nobel Peace Prize was watching the dead-end Republicans squirm and fester like petulant children who's football team just lost the big game. The whole thing was rigged. It was the referees. It was the fuzzy math. But as far as American Presidential candidates who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the score is Democrats-3, Republicans-1. The Nobel Prize Committee can't be played, yet the mini-Goebbels cable talkers tried to make it sound like Oslo was rebuking King Chuckles. Who did the GOP shills think it would go to, President "Bring 'Em On?" Of course, Henry Kissinger has one, but then, so did Yasser Arafat. But not the old, cold warrior Ronnie Ray-gun, or "Line in the Sand," Bush the Elder. You actually have to be a peacemaker to be rewarded this prize.

Because I am now old and irritable and had just returned from an Endoscopy, I thought it would be amusing and help revive me from a Demerol haze if I watched the Gore coverage on Fox News. Can these Bushney zombie zealots not consider the fact that one of the world's most prestigious awards went to a deserving American who has devoted his entire public career, often in the face of ridicule, to raise awareness to the dangers of climate change? But, how do you get Luddites who don't accept evolution to believe global warming is anything else but God's will? Still, it might have been refreshing to see some grudging appreciation for the man's accomplishment from this obscenity against journalism that passes for a news network.

Instead, Fox went into full, live attack mode. We were treated to a panel with actor Jay Thomas, who spoke as if he had just been beaned by a Curt Schilling fastball, asking what the big deal was over a factually incorrect movie. Gore's left-wing show-biz friends put in the old Hollywood shuffle to the prize committee, just like they did at the Oscars. He was joined by a child-blond named Cheri Jacobuss, not a half-decade off an anchor desk at Eyewitless News somewhere, speaking venomous bile for the right as calmly as an original cast member of "Village of the Damned." She couldn't imagine what Gore's work, or this U.N. Committee he shared the award with, had anything to do with peace. She concluded her sour diatribe by saying, "No one can name the Nobel Peace Prize winners from year to year anyway."

I raised my hand and shouted, "I can." If not from every year, some real winners, like Oscar Arias Sanchez, President of Costa Rica who helped bring peace to Central America, or Mother Theresa, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Rabin, Le Duc Tho, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Gore joined a highly distinguished company today, show some goddamned respect. Do they have special Journalism schools with different rules to train the Jello-heads, or have we become numb to this ideological carjacking of the airwaves to promote discredited drivel from a frantic fringe of pseudo-philosophical fools? Later in the evening, Fox had different discussions about whether Mr. Gore is too fat to run for president, or if the Nobel committee only awards the prize to people who wreck the economy, like Jimmy Carter, awarded for his humanitarian work around the world.

After Gore's brief and eloquent statement in receiving the award, of the three cable news networks, only MSNBC continued with a discussion about the prize's effect on Gore's future. CNN and Fox immediately cut to breaking news about the terminally dead Anna Nicole Smith. The Fox "News" gang could have learned something from Al Gore today that they overlooked in 2000 as well, magnanimity in victory, and graciousness in defeat. I've made my support known for Al Gore in these posts before, (Clinton's Sin,12/5/05; Al Gore, "Soul Man," 1/30/07; and Gore/Obama, 7/8/07), so I need not repeat myself, other than my consistent belief that he is the best qualified candidate for President in 85 years. This year alone, he's captured the trifecta; the Oscar, The Emmy, and the Nobel Prize. Why not go for the cycle?

Gore said today that he would continue to bring the urgency of climate change to the people and governments of the world. Hey Al! You wanna' do something serious about reversing the damage of global warming? Run for President of the United States. You have the knowledge, the moral authority, and you are the only candidate who can stop Hillary Clinton. Perhaps it's also time to acknowledge that maybe it would have been wiser to vote for the smart guy who dedicated his life to public service, rather than the amiable novice who's personality you kind of liked but really didn't know. After almost seven years, who's been the better "steward" of the Lord's creation?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hillary, Please!

At the risk of sounding too graphic, we're about to have Clinton rammed down our throats, but it's Hillary this time; so driven to wrap up the nomination that she's still willing to pander to the militaristic right. Her latest Senate vote giving Bushney a first step toward war with Iran may be the "close but no cigar" moment when liberals, feminists, and anti-war Democrats realize that Senator Clinton is using them. If Hillary's support for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, opening the door for U.S. attacks on Iran, is her best judgment about resolving the Iraq war, then this nation deeply needs an agent of change. In this election, we really do need a "uniter and not a divider," and that includes the liar lying beside her. If she betrays the anti-war movement, the blue states could turn against her like the blue dress did for her advisor.

That's always been my problem with Hillary, too many advisers. Her entire Senate career seems one giant calibration in preparation for this presidential run. Though she has done some admirable things, her vote for the Iraq War lacked political courage, as does her ongoing attempt to justify it. But the co-sponsorship of an anti flag burning amendment to the Constitution was suck-up politics of the worst sort, and an insult to thoughtful people, especially in the Mid-South, who have followed her career since she was Arkansas' First Lady. She is so determined to become this century's new "Iron Lady," that she has torched her liberal values in favor of appealing to the electorate as the toughest, bare-knuckled, anti-terrorist who has never thrown an actual punch, this side of George Bush.

How else to explain this vote in favor of granting Bushney a toe-hold in Iran, despite her colleagues warnings, if not to show herself tough on security and somehow "supporting the troops?" Did the Senator learn nothing from her original vote, or has she forgotten the Tonkin Gulf Amendment giving LBJ power to unleash the military in Indochina? Since the current regime insists on following the Vietnam blueprint, they can be expected to use their new powers to initiate cross-border raids and secret bombings, guaranteed to take more civilian life regardless of the strategic targeting abilities. Mrs. Clinton is the only Democratic candidate voting in favor of the Lieberman sponsored nightmare, made doubly dubious by the secret and "Refuse to discuss it," bombings of Syrian facilities by Israel last month. Someone whispered to Hillary to be "Thatcheresque," and she has enabled Bush and Cheney to make more war.

Since Senator Clinton's ultimate goal is to be the first woman President, here's the sure fire way to de-rail her. Demand that Congressional Democrats join with John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich in immediately drawing up terms of impeachment for Dick Cheney for war-mongering and profiteering, as well as the many felonies committed while in office. Then, demand similar charges be filed against George Bush, including Abuse of Power and High Crimes and Misdemeanors. You could pick from the dozens that Chuckles doesn't even realize he has yet committed. After accepting Bush's resignation in order to "support the troops," the line of presidential succession goes to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who would immediately be sworn in by Justice John Roberts. President Pelosi, the first woman and Italian president, could then run as the incumbent and pop Hillary's bubble. Insert your own sexual reference here, but the Clintons back in the White House with Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers for preferred corporate donors? Hillary, please!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

USA/Half Off

The dollar hit an all time low against the euro again today, trading at $1.44 and heading further south. This would be dry news for most, except that it ties in with Iran's President Ahmadinejad's visit to New York this week. That was some ugly business at Columbia University yesterday. I believed that Columbia showed courage and honored freedom of speech by allowing Ahmadinejad a forum, but it was anything but courageous for the University's president to sucker punch him like a bitch. Ahmadinejad sat and took it like Edwin Booth returning to the stage after his brother killed President Lincoln, and Columbia's Bollinger succeeded in actually making him look sympathetic. Had he left it to the students, it would have been an informative enough exchange since they asked scalding questions. The student response to the statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran was with derisive laughter and ridicule. That is what effectively defangs a clever liar, but I haven't seen such grandstanding by a university president since S.I. Hayakawa at San Francisco State in 1968.

Ahmadinejad's entire anti-Israel, holocaust denial, Palestinian propaganda carnival is strictly for Middle Eastern consumption, since I have learned from Iranian exiles that Persians are quick to point out that they are not Arabs. Neither am I moved by his semi-admission of the holocaust before a New York audience. He knows that all holocaust deniers are about to get a Third Reich Smackdown in the soon to be opened trove of documents that have been sitting in the German town of Bad Arolsen since 1945. Just because the Nazis attempted to disguise their genocide against the Jews while it was happening, doesn't mean they weren't proud of it. They kept meticulous records of every soul they sent to a death camp, and it has taken 60 years to unseal these files. Millions of records will soon be available to the public, and the answers may yet tell a worse story than previously thought.

No one today, and no one tomorrow, will ask Ahmadinejad the important questions about the IOB, or the Iranian Oil Bourse. The Bourse, or exchange, began last year and is the third such exchange for oil, futures, petroleum products, and all other financial instruments, joining those in London and New York. The IOB is the first located in the Middle East and the first to trade exclusively in euros. You know the term "petrodollars?" If that changes to petro-euros and other oil consuming countries like Russia and India go along, we're in for a wild ride. In his book, "Reefer Madness," describing the U.S. underground economy, Eric Schlosser already maintains that the one hundred dollar bill, once the staple of smugglers the world over, has been abandoned for the euro by money launderers and all manner of dealers in contraband, not just for the value, but because the euro comes in notes of 500. When the euro was launched, it was ridiculed in some quarters of this country. Don't be surprised to reach in your pocket one of these days for an Amero.

In this insane economy where President Chuckles thinks we can have guns and butter, if the perception of the almighty dollar collapses, so does our economy. Our trade deficits are obscene because we all want cheap stuff, yet there is no market for our consumer goods; not in autos, software, or even underwear. We do, however, lead the world in the gross output of porno. We are a debtor nation, $200 billion in hock to China alone, who buys our debt in Treasury Bills and transfers a large percentage to euros. Russia has followed suit in transferring their dollar reserves, and the country of Dubai, of the infamous Dubai Ports World debacle, has found their convergence of dollar reserves to the euro to be so profitable, they are poised to purchase the NASDAQ stock exchange; wholesale. The kings of the no-bid contract, Halliburton, home of the Cheney School of Business Ethics, have just moved their entire operation to Dubai. So much for that good corporate citizen nonsense.

This collapsing dollar is great for Europeans and other non-Americans using the euro, including Canadians, who are crossing borders for terrific bargains. Not only are all of our consumer goods on sale for half price, so is our land, our institutions, our landmarks, and our way of life. If there is a crisis in our currency, it could show the Bush economic policy as the Darwinian/Milton Friedman, free market, free-for-all, grab bag that it has always been, and then the tent poles could come down. What makes this scary story even more frightening is that if President Chuckles has populated the Departments of Commerce and the Treasury with his conservative cronies like he did in the Justice Department, you could wake up in a few years in a third world country, and still be in your own bed. The Hurricane Katrina of finance could hit and the first responders will blame it on gay marriage. Someone needs to ask President Ahmadinejad if his intention was to declare economic war on the United States by accepting oil payments only in euros and further weakening the dollar? His views on the holocaust may make him look like a fool, but his views on oil and the euro make him look like a fox.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's Oil, Ya'll

On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the attack on our country by nineteen fanatical Saudis with boxcutters, I am not too cynical to pause and remember the innocent people killed that day and those that struggle still with the after effects. Whatever grievance Islamic extremists had with this country was nullified by the strategy to make their odious point by killing Mommies and Daddies. It's also worth remembering that under the the cover of the Twin Tower attacks, our government responded by unleashing two hundred 9/11's in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We bombed their innocents, incapacitated the Iraqi Army, and set up a puppet government, and we ain't going nowhere. Does anyone feel avenged?

The Rumsfeld strategy to allow looting and lawlessness in major cities while securing the oil fields first, should have been the giveaway. Iraq never had anything to do with freedom, or 9/11, or anything other than oil, and our troops will be there until the oil leases are signed. The Bush/Cheney All-Oil team was ramrodding a bill through the Iraqi parliament, opening Iraq's oil fields to exploration by foreign companies, but it stalled before they went on Summer vacation. Not because of "sectarian strife," but because of what oil industry watchdog The Platform described as "sign(ing) away Iraq's future." Though the bill offered "revenue sharing," with Iraq's ethnic communities, it's real intent was to offer up Iraq's oilfields to the international Oil Lobby on more favorable terms than in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, with the promise of even greater returns.

Regardless of what General Patraeus says today about "the surge," or President Chuckles says about the "possibility" of troop withdrawals, our soldiers will be in Iraq until the oil deals are settled and the fields are open for business. BushCo needs these leases to act as quasi-legal documents when the whole pathetic venture implodes. Only, our CEO and MBA government might all be on a compound in Paraguay clipping their Halliburton coupons by the time that happens. And any discussion of the Democrats defunding the war will be drowned out by the clamor for the essential needs of our troops and Bush's mercenaries. The troops are hostages to Cheney's oil deal and protesting in the streets is no longer viable. Osama Bin Laden can now release 9/11 anniversary tapes with the regularity of an Andy Williams Christmas Show. They have you over the old oil barrel and the only way to stop it is to demand impeachment.

On "Meet The Press" yesterday, Joe Biden suggested a similar solution to the one that I expressed on 4/7/06 (My Exit Strategy); Islamic peacekeepers from neighboring countries to remove the targets from our soldiers' backs. But this President will commission more studies and ask for more patience until his last day in office. Hopefully, under a less venal executive, the next president can begin to repair the damage by returning control of Iraqi natural resources to the Iraqis. Then we can remove our apparatchiks and uproot KBR from Saddam's palaces and return them to the people. Finally, we can hand over the most elaborate palace of them all, the gargantuan American Embassy that was to serve as our personal "Nerve Central" in the Middle East. Like Senator Biden said earlier, all the troops we can send will not accomplish reconciliation among the Iraqis. If that fails, we will be pulling desperate people off of the roof of that new U.S. Embassy in helicopters. All for oil, ya'll.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Letter to Jesse Jackson

Randolph J. Haspel
Memphis, TN

August 30, 2007

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson
Founder: Rainbow/PUSH Coalition

Dear Reverend Jackson,

I write as a long time supporter, contributor, and voter to both your presidential races. I have heard you speak in Memphis and Nashville, and I have been inspired while attending the early PUSH For Excellence Basketball games you brought to Memphis, and standing in a crowd of motivated young people shouting “I am somebody.” I believe in your concept of a Rainbow Coalition and the need for the “common ground” of which you so eloquently speak. Unfortunately, not all the people who claim to work in your name believe the same.

Rev. LaSimba Gray, of New Sardis Baptist Church, who claims to be the president of the Memphis chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has established a group within the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, to oppose and smear District 9 Rep. Steve Cohen, for his support for the same federal hate crimes bill that was endorsed by your own organization. Rev. Gray has joined in an unholy alliance with the James Dobsons and Donald Wildmons of this world, along with a cadre of conservative Evangelical Christian ministers, in repeating the lie that the passage of this bill will restrict their right to preach against homosexuality from the pulpit. Though the ministers have been repeatedly assured that the hate crimes bill does not affect freedom of speech, they are using the issue to smear the congressman in a Bush-like, pre-emptive strike before the 2008 elections.

Rep. Cohen is the legitimately elected, true Democrat from the district seat held by the Ford family for thirty years. Rev. Gray supported the eminently unqualified Jake Ford, who ran against Cohen as an independent. Even though Rep. Cohen has won praise for his great start in Congress from everyone from John Conyers to Bill Clinton, Rev. Gray has been lamenting the loss of the District’s seat to a white man, regardless of Cohen’s record or accomplishments. The Evangelical preachers say they are incensed that gays might receive special status, and in the original letter sent to Cohen by Baptist ministers, co-signed by Rev. Gray, they demanded that Cohen protect their “Christian values” so many times, the only thing that was missing was a salutation reading, “Dear Jew.” Rev. Gray has already announced his support for Nikki Tinker, a very attractive candidate in the mold of Joe Lieberman and Harold Ford, Jr., only with more corporate backing, when Cohen is the one who’s unafraid to say he is a Liberal and votes in the best interests of the community. In the first six months, Cohen has passed legislation to name a federal building after Judge Odell Horton, he has proposed an official apology for slavery be declared in Congress, and he serves with distinction on the House Judiciary Committee.

When Rep. Cohen met with a group of Baptist ministers to clarify the hate crimes bill, he was met with derision and scorn, not because of his support for the legislation, but because he is a white man who was democratically elected in a majority black district. The newspaper reported that in a rowdy question and answer session, Cohen was repeatedly accused of being unable to represent the district because of his race. Rev Robert Poindexter of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church was quoted as saying, “He’s not black and he can’t represent me, that’s just the bottom line.” Imagine those words transposed into the mouth of a white preacher speaking of a black candidate. Even you, Rev. Jackson, would say that man was a consummate racist.

This hate campaign against the Jewish congressman is taking place in your name, Rev. Jackson, with the imprimatur of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in the person of Rev. LaSimba Gray. Rev. Gray, and a small group of preachers within the Baptist organization, are opposing the hate crimes legislation that would attempt to stop racially motivated slayings like that of James Byrd in Texas. They are using your organization that preaches “common ground,” to attack and falsely vilify a Congressman, sufficiently enough for the leaders of the Ministerial group to issue a letter of apology. I know these are not the principles upon which the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was founded, but we need to hear from you Rev. Jackson. We need for you to repudiate these repugnant tactics and support Rep. Steve Cohen, one of the truly liberal Democrats in the Congress. The people of Memphis are bone weary of racist politics, Rev. Jackson. You may not be able to end it all, but you could help put a stop to this particularly ugly incident. I implore you to help.

Sincerely,

Randolph J. Haspel

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Randianity

A hypothesis on the meaning of life, based on a layman's study of comparative religion.

After a search through a trove of books, I am one of those people who believe that the answers to the eternal questions can be found within. Only in the past few years, did I find that this belief in a personal truth had a name. It is Gnosticism, as opposed to agnosticism, which means you just can't commit. Please regard,
"Randy's revelations from religious ruminations."


1. If there is creation, there is a creator. To avoid confusion, we'll call this entity Steve.

2. There is no Steve but Steve, but all other names for Steve are equally valid.

3. Steve is the primal force, vibration, sound, event, and designer of creation and, yes, it is quite intelligent.

4. It is a mistake to think of Steve in human form since he is formless. The spark of life within every person, or soul, is of the exact same substance as Steve. Thus, the translation of the biblical verse, "God created man in His own image," refers to the soul. Since this energy is divine, it is also immortal. All energy is immortal. The body depreciates, but the soul is ageless. It's resale value remains intact and the warranty never expires.

5. Although there is a probability of other life forms in the universe, the Earth is the realm of Steve's divine play, or leela in Sanskrit, and mankind is the only species capable of reflection, knowledge of self, and contemplation upon the eternal soul by a mortal mind. This is the only life that offers the chance for the soul's advancement. There are no UFOs, Venusians, or Little Green Men, except for Billy Lee Riley's band. NASA is firing our rockets in the wrong direction. More information about the origin of man can be found beneath the seas than beyond the stars.

6. Since the soul consists of the stuff and substance of Steve, the heart's desire is to return Steveward. The ultimate purpose of the soul's journey is to merge human awareness with Steve awareness. This requires an accumulation of experience and wisdom that takes more than one lifetime to achieve. Thus, the soul is in a constant birth/death/rebirth continuum, as is all of nature, until you get it right. Nature moves in a cycle, but the soul travels in a spiral. The soul advances Steveward, or away from Steve, according to thoughts and deeds while in human form. Some call this karma, or cause and effect, and reincarnation. Some call it, "What goes around.."

7. Your soul is an individual soul, and though it may animate many vessels in many ages, it remains a unique gift from Steve to you. Humans have karma, families have karma, communities have karma, nations have karma. In order to sufficiently learn from the human experience, souls must be incarnated in groups to resolve past issues and advance to the next round, like in Family Feud. Thus, families are incarnated together, although not necessarily in the same roles or genders, to learn of the absolute equality of the spirit. That's what makes "Deja Vu" such a fascinating notion. So, say hello to your Uncle Max, my boy. And don't be going upside anyone's head, lest your head be gone upside against.

8. Any method of seeking Steve is valid, as long as it includes service to man and seeks to foster peace and communion. The least any individual can do, is restrain from intentionally harming anyone else. Steve's messengers say, "There are many paths up the mountain, but they all eventually lead to the top." Any group that claims to know the exclusive way to Steve, has delusions of grandeur. Killing in Steve's name causes you to be demoted and held back a grade. You will not be graduating with your class and must repeat the entire term. If you return a leper, you had it coming.

9. Steve is not prejudiced. If Steve chose to send a divine messenger, or evolved being, to reveal eternal truths to a group of people in one part of the world, it's a logical imperative to assume that he would send his messengers to people in all parts of the world. Enlightened teachers from Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, Muhammad, and the present Saints of India are living examples of the capacity of humanity to achieve Steve consciousness. There are hundreds of Holy Scriptures in the world written by thousands of divinely inspired men. One book alone cannot contain the infinite wisdom of Steve.

10. Steve doesn't care if you believe in him or not. It's inconsequential to his purposes. He does, however, value righteous action over rigid religiosity any day. The search for Steve begins with a thirst for truth and not a desire for dogma. Since brainwaves create ripples in the ether and Steve encourages communing with the spirit; prayer, meditation, and contemplation are good things. But there are billions of stars and Steve does not micromanage life on this one. He sets the wheel in motion and gives you what you need, and then you are responsible for your own salvation. The church is for those who benefit from the comfort of ritual, but Steve resides in your heart, bidden or unbidden.

11. Everything does not happen for a reason. That is an arrogant and homo-sapiencentric assumption. Sometimes, things happen for no reason at all. It is Steve's nature to allow for free will and random accident. Every event in life, negative and positive, offers the chance for spiritual growth, even tragedy. Evil exists in the human realm because of ignorance, but if you screw up, don't go blaming Steve by saying that it was his will.

12. Steve created evolution. Natural selection is Steve's way of seeing which of his creations can cut it. The dinosaurs are now our fossil fuel. To prevent our becoming fuel for a future superspecies, we must get about the business of evolving. Now that we have achieved opposable thumbs, further evolution in man must take place in the heart. War is not the natural state of mankind. Although Arjuna had to fight in the Bhagavad Gita, and Ecclesiastes says there is "a time for war," peace is the evolutionary, and revolutionary destination of mankind.

13. When Steve created physics, those laws function in a physical world in perpetual flux and thus, are in transition. If man's evolution is continual, then the rational mind must allow for the possibility of the irrational. If Steve has dominion over the laws of physics, he can also defy them, since they only operate in this realm. Paranormal powers, psychic energies, ESP, clairvoyance, and miracles are not only possible, they are within the reach of humanity in its evolutionary state. There is already enough anecdotal evidence in hypnosis, meditation, and past life regression to warrant scientific study into metaphysical phenomena. The power of Steve is within you.

14. Steve is love. Whatever the question, the answer is Steve.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elvis+30

I got the call early on Aug. 16, 1977. My friend and guitarist Donnie Baer's brother-in-law was a fireman who had monitored the first ambulance calls to Graceland, and he was reporting Elvis had died. I replied with one word, "bullshit." There was nothing on radio or TV yet, and enough reason to disbelieve, at least for a short while. Elvis had become a curio by 1977, and had long passed the days when he was an active influence in popular music. But people from Memphis felt a special pain at his passing, especially those who had been there at the beginning.

My sister, Susan, returned home from a teenage party at the Gayosa Hotel on Main Street in 1957, flushed with excitement. Elvis had chosen the occasion to visit his friend, disc jockey Dewey Phillips, at the WHBQ radio studios in the hotel, "On the Magazine Floor," in Deweyspeak. After his visit, someone informed him of the party of twelve and thirteen year olds going on in the ballroom, and he took the time to come say hello to all the kids. Susan breathlessly told me about Elvis putting his arm around her and posing for a photograph, and I could picture the entire scene in my mind. Susan, short haired and diminutive in bobby sox and saddle oxfords, with Elvis, wearing a two-tone sport coat with the collar turned up in the back and slicked back hair, draping an arm casually around my sister's shoulder. Years later, I asked her what ever became of that picture, but Susan continues to insist that no such photo has ever existed. But I can still see it. After all, I developed it in my imagination for my scrapbook of Elvis memories.

That's how much we loved him. It was inconceivable to think of Memphis without his presence. When the nation saw him for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, we felt were watching one of our own conquer the world. And Elvis' loyalty to Memphis never wavered, even during the dismal Hollywood era. During the Quaalude years, I knew a girl who worked in the pharmacy across the street from Dr. Nick's office on Madison Ave. She told me that one of the guys was picking up packages of 100 Quaaludes a week for Elvis. I imagined the slur-fest that must be going on up at Graceland with "E" and all the guys, but I never thought Elvis could be ingesting them all himself. That's a dose to knock down a silverback gorilla. At the same time, reports of bizarre behavior by Elvis of using police lights to pull over cars and behaving like a narc, or interfering in the arguments of strangers as if he were a superhero, began to surface. When the drug problem became public knowledge, there was no Betty Ford clinic to check into, or facility to dryout and rehabilitate a reputation. The tragedy of Elvis' lonely death is that the Colonel had him end his years, playing a carnie circuit of arenas as a very sick man, in order to cover the Colonel's Vegas gambling debts.

When Elvis died, I, and several other musicians, gathered at the Sam Phillips Studio to talk it over. We ended up surrounding a piano being played by James Brown Hooker of the Rhythm Aces. There was Donnie, Bob Simon, Jerry Phillips, Casper Peters, Teddy Paige, and other regulars, and we began to sing Elvis songs. But because we were irreverent, we sang them all in minor keys, like "Hound Dog," only in E-minor, making it sound like a Gregorian chant. We were laughing to cover our sorrow, since every person in that room was aware that the reason we were even standing there, was because of Elvis. The very studio itself, stood because of Elvis. We were the musical spawn of Elvis. Whatever careers in music we had, we owed to him. That's how important he was in our lives.

I recall thinking in the early 70s, that there was no further need for Elvis to be so isolated. The people of Memphis were used to his presence and would allow him to interact normally in society without too much interference. I saw Jerry Lee Lewis and his entourage out on the town all the time. His boys protected him from the severely inebriated and he was generally gracious to everyone else. I wondered why Elvis couldn't live in a similar manner. But, I was walking down the concourse of the Memphis Airport, back in the days when you could actually meet someone at the gate, and I saw this bizarre looking man walking toward me headed for the exits. I thought, "I know this guy," but I couldn't place him, despite the white jumpsuit. He was very handsome, with unusually large facial pores that looked sanded, and a shock of the blackest hair to come out of a bottle. When I caught up to my mother ahead of me, she asked, "Did you see Elvis?" Only then did all the gears mesh and without another word, I turned and began running after Elvis like a crazed teenage girl. I caught up to him just as he was entering his car on the passenger side. He looked up and I said with understated brilliance, "Hey Elvis. How you doing?" "Fine man. How 'bout you?"

My single conversation with Elvis made me realize that, if I had chased after him at full speed through an airport just to gaze upon his countenance, perhaps he couldn't come out in public after all. I have attended many Elvis "Death Week" events over the years, including conferences, dinners, and impersonator competitions. At first, I went for the freak show aspect of it; to witness these people who were turning Elvis into a world spiritual figure. But the devotion and sincerity of these Elvis fans, who come here during the hottest days of the year, was moving to me instead. I went to laugh, and ended up crying. In the middle of yet another Ronnie McDowell "tribute," I looked to the back of the room and saw a large group of Japanese tourists standing and silently weeping copious tears. You have to marvel at the astonishing depth of emotion created by this one man, in people from all corners of human existence.

I never got to meet Elvis. I might have imposed upon George Klein or members of the Phillips family to wrangle myself an introduction, but that would have been very un-Elvislike of me. I was lucky enough to have been at the epicenter of the Elvis explosion and could never describe to a non-Memphian how incredibly exciting it was. Like cotton candy, Elvis' music is a confection that conjures up wonderful memories that linger long after it's gone. I did write a short poem for him after his death, titled; Elvis Never Bought Me a Cadillac.
Elvis never bought me a Cadillac/ He never knew my name.
I never got a diamond ring/ But I loved him just the same.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Baghdad On The Mississippi

I have had a variety of truncheons, knives, and batons around the house, but I have never owned a gun. My family members were not firearm enthusiasts. I had a 22. rifle on loan when I lived in the county back in the day, and got to be a whiz at knocking the "D" out of a Dr. Pepper can at fifty paces, but I never considered it as protection. My most provocative weapon is a Louisville Slugger that has been tooled and tipped to be a walking cane. Who's going to mess with a guy carrying a baseball bat? Now I know.

When Melody and I moved into our home five years ago, two blocks away from the neighborhood where I grew up, my stepson, Cameron, went to spend the night at a friend's. I was watching TV at 3:00AM, when I saw the silhouette of a large man approach the thinly curtained back door. I immediately thought Cameron had changed his mind and come home, until I realized the man was working the lock. Like a fool, I shouted as loudly as I could, jumped up and grabbed the fireplace poker and moved toward the door. I don't know who was more afraid; the awakened dogs, the intruder, or me. He ran out the back gate, that we have since secured with a lock, and disappeared. When we called 911, our backyard was crawling with young, undercover cops in minutes. This was the east Memphis creeper who stalked the Sam Cooper Blvd. area for years, a thief so brazen he took jewelry and cash from the night tables of sleeping residents. Months later, when a burglar was killed trying to break into a house's skylight while the owner waited with a gun, we were told that this was our prowler.

We made sure our security system was working well and began to turn it on at night, even while we were at home. A week ago, Cameron, who is now in college, came over to inform us that the night before, he was robbed at gunpoint. He and a friend, both Lacrosse players well over six feet, went to a field in the early morning with their gear to practice, when approached by two black men with handguns who demanded their valuables. When the boys said all their stuff was at home, they were robbed of their iPods and shoes. They reported it, but didn't expect any results. We were relieved and thankful that he wasn't shot just for the hell of it.

It was 100 degrees in Memphis yesterday, only eleven degrees cooler than Baghdad. In Iraq, sectarian violence is taking a terrible toll. Local TV station WREG reports that Memphis homicides have skyrocketed past last years' number at this date by twenty, and at this rate, we could top the record 212 murders recorded in 1993. Statistics show over 70% of these homicides are between acquaintances or relatives and have resulted from an alarming increase in the number of personal, domestic, and other disputes, not related to criminal activity. That's an awful lot of angry people out there killing each other, and we haven't begun to discuss the ominous home invasions, muggings, carjackings, and murders by actual criminals. There is a palpable fear and hostility in the air, reminiscent of 1968, and citizens are wary of the next stray bullet and are leaving the city. We rarely go out in public much since we have wearied of enduring the ongoing aggravation of others incapable of civility. After this week's bridge collapse in the Twin Cities, there has been a lot of talk about "Minnesota Nice." People in Memphis are no longer nice.

The argument about the relation between poverty and despair, and crime and drugs, is best left for another time. Never before, however, have we had such a lethal gang problem and underground drug economy. Or a thug-life mentality, promoted by hip-hop moguls to white teenagers, and accepted as reality for those in the city with little hope. The whites hate the blacks, the blacks hate the whites, and everybody hates the "new niggers," the Mexicans. Our school system is floundering while major companies open new facilities in Arkansas and Mississippi. Half the City Council have chosen not to run for reelection while the last of the elected Fords, Ophelia, can't seem to show up for work without being arrested or hospitalized. As a steady stream of elected officials head off to prison, the bedlam continues at Memphis Light, Gas and Water unabated, and the mayor is seeing messianic visions, one wonders if there is a future for our city.

Many of my friends have done more than talk about leaving, they're gone. Mostly to places where the racial discord of Memphis doesn't exist. Others have relocated to the suburbs and endure the commute, while those who are able, hang in as best they can. I can't recall any friend or acquaintance, however, expressing any joy about living here recently. Like many native Memphians, I have left the city for periods of time and returned. After all, this is where my family and my oldest friends are, and I know it's the single place where someone cares a little something about me and won't let the poor boy down,(to paraphrase Chuck Berry). But Melody and I have discussed leaving too. We have a cadre of friends from Tennessee who moved to Eugene, Oregon in the late 60s, and it certainly seems like a peaceable place to exist. Of course, we have to wait for me to paint my masterpiece before we could afford it. In the meantime, we're doing the next best thing, and I never in my life believed I would say this; I'm getting a gun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Language Police

The domestic spies unleashed by the Cheney branch of government to examine your electronic communications use two major analysis programs called Echelon and Carnivore. They search for "keywords" in your emails, text messaging, and phone calls that can determine whether you are a terrorist and need to be put on the watch list. The word "terrorist" itself is prominent on the list, as are "jihad," "Texas," and the Sears Tower. Then there are serious words, like "charcoal," and "Zen." They finally busted the Born-Again Hippie blog for using too many "hot" words, and I agreed to cut a deal with the Feds. I get to keep writing if I will announce the official, 2007, list of words and phrases that the Language Police have designated for elimination. I'm just the messenger.

"That's the $64,000 question"
The show's been over for forty years already. Some say the "$64 question." Before you can use this metaphor, you must be old enough to have seen the program.

"Pushing the envelope"
Sounded clever when Chuck Yeager said it back in the fifties. They make bigger envelopes now.

"See what I'm saying?"
No, I don't see what you're saying because I'm not a lip reader. I do, however, hear what you're saying.

"At the end of the day"
In the final analysis, and when all is said and done, ultimately, at the end of the day is the beginning of the night.

"Think outside the box"
Instead of stink inside the box. Akin to "pushing the envelope," except we used to call this "abstract thinking." This also applies to "coloring outside the lines."

"Awesome"
If everything is awesome, nothing is awesome.

"Let's see if I've got this right"
Beware: Sarcasm ahead.

"Family values"
Often promoted as a "Father Knows Best" world-view by Republicans living in a Caligula reality.

"Global War on Terror" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction"
Totalitarian Bushspeak for a war franchise for profiteers without end, and what used to be known as "bombs."

"As we speak"
Usually the person who says this is the only one speaking. "Now" will suffice and it saves you two words. And finally....

"Don't hold your breath"
What if I'm under water?

Now get out there and do your part. Clearly, at the end of the day, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that some phrases need to be hunted down and smoked out in a responsible manner. But not on my watch, and that's the bottom line.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Gore/Obama

"We are the other people,
You're the other people, too/Found a way to get to you."

Frank Zappa, "Mother People," 1967

Mark it down. After today, no one beats this ticket. No combination of Clintons, and certainly no foreseeable combination of Republicans can match the starpower of these two candidates. And yes, Gore is a candidate, and I believe the presidency is his for the taking. And nothing anyone in my generation can say or do, thank God, will alter the outcome. Al Gore has found his audience with a younger, hipper generation that doesn't believe intelligence is a drawback, and he has found the way to get to them. The Live Earth Concerts were a stunning success, and the biggest star to emerge from the international showcase was Al Gore.

I have waited my entire socially conscious life for a political coalition to coalesce around idealistic young people before they're eaten alive by cynicism. My generation had the chance, but blew it. Big time. After the Vietnam War, we had the chance to consolidate political power gained in the protest years. But instead, we opted out of the political process, allowing Richard Nixon to be elected and re-elected. When the war ended, everyone put on a tie and tried to make up for the lost time not spent hoarding money. Thus, hippies became yuppies and the moment was lost. The direct and concrete result of that apathy is that my generation is now represented by unprincipled men like Karl Rove, who has made a career of demonizing the excesses of the sixties. The failure of my generation is on display every day that pot is still illegal. My divided and disenchanted peers have forfeited the right to instruct the young. They will decide the next presidential election.

The big story of the Live Earth Concerts was not the Police/Kanye/John Mayer jam, but how Al Gore has been transformed into a pop icon and is treated like a rock star among the young. Readers of this post know that I am a Gore man, (see Al Gore; Soul Man), but I must now confess my sin of doubting Al. Like many, I felt "just what the world needs, another rock concert," and thought that this time, Gore had overreached. But not only were the shows uplifting and smartly staged, Gore emerged as a prophet and displayed in one day what George Bush has been unable to show in six years as President; leadership. Climate consciousness has been kicked off worldwide with real conservation suggestions that will yield genuine dividends, and Al Gore has tapped into the Internet generation like no other political figure.

Barack Obama is another impressive candidate with intellectual curiosity, real world knowledge, and his eye to the future. His online fundraising, though a regrettable evil, has been as remarkable as the Howard Dean internet phenomenon of 2004. Obama has already captured the interest of the young, and rightly so. His positive campaign has been compared to Robert Kennedy's of 1968. The only minus on the Obama ledger is lack of experience. Of course, that never stopped George Bush, but it makes Obama an ideal candidate for Vice President, and promises a continuation of a progressive Gore legacy well into the future.

I used to imagine my generation as a force for good. In my youthful optimism, I believed that we could change the world. I never could have imagined that the change would come through preemptive bombing campaigns and secret Gulags. I have long ago given up on my generation to accomplish great things in this life, and President
Chuckles is the mortal sum of my fears. No, we're going to argue over the 1960's counterculture and refight the Vietnam War until we're all dead and buried. But if hope was rekindled today, I entrust my hope to the young. As much as anyone can who doesn't go out much, I feel something stirring in the political air, and it is growing daily in size and strength. Something big is going to occur, and I hope that this burgeoning new youth movement finds its' voice before Cheney bombs Iran. That would be terrible for the environment.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Paris & OJ

Up until now, I have found the antics of Paris Hilton to be a harmless diversion from the Bush body count. I admire her for being someone with no discernible talent, other than for "making the scene," turning the media frenzy over her into a cottage industry including a TV reality show, commercials, fashion, and fragrance. Of course, I may also be the last computer-owning male who has not seen, nor has the desire to see, the Paris Hilton sex tape. I'd prefer for her naughty parts to remain virginal in my imagination, and consider the whole thing grossly ungentlemanly for some swine to take advantage of her in that way. I also think she's sweet, but then I made the terrible mistake of voicing those opinions to my wife, Melody. My sweet God! I lit the shortest fuse since the cannons fired on Fort Sumter.

Everyone recalls the huge racial chasm uncovered by the OJ Simpson verdict. The Paris Hilton case has revealed similar raw reactions, only along gender lines this time. While male talking heads have mostly discussed the merits of another wacky judge's decisions, women commentators have verbally torn Ms. Hilton limb from limb. I was shocked, shocked, at the venom directed toward her, and the glee with which some have greeted her predicament. I haven't seen the desire for stark female vengeance like this since Linda Tripp. Women seem to hate her guts. Melody says she brought it on herself and could have killed someone while drunk behind the wheel. But that's not what she was incarcerated for. Celebrities get stopped for DUI every night. How else are they going to get home? I would be more afraid of Lindsay Lohan crashing into a tree and fleeing a cocaine-laden vehicle than Paris Hilton at point 08. But Hilton was given the 45 day sentence for driving on a suspended license. The last person that happened to was Ted Bundy. Hilton did everything asked of her by the courts. She surrendered herself and was photographed, fingerprinted, and booked. If the Sheriff cut her loose, it's over. But the public's hatred and hysteria over the young heiress, colored the judgement of another Anna Nicole-like raging and arrogant jurist, just enough for him to commit double jeopardy. Paris Hilton is now a political prisoner.

What might have been just a show-biz footnote, has morphed into yet another case of a Los Angeles judge attempting to make a name for himself at the expense of this young girl, and she is a girl. If Paris Hilton bred puppies for slaughter, she wouldn't deserve to be caught in a power struggle between an angry judge and the sheriff in this way. She is not just being made an example of by the appropriately named Judge Sauer, she is being punished more severely simply because of who she is. But women commentators, including many attorneys, say she is being justly punished for flaunting the law. Sheriff Lee Baca says that justice would be better served without the world's most famous woman losing her sanity, like Frances Farmer, in his jail. Let he who is without sin cast the first ankle bracelet.

Meanwhile, I have learned to temper my remarks about Paris around my wife. She wants her drawn and quartered before she parties again. But Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell, the woman's round table on CNN, and others, want to see her under the jail or on a chain gang, and I can't quite figure out why this is. The women seem to want to see Paris Hilton suffer in jail as much as I'd like to see Bush and Cheney in there with her. Melody says she's a frivolous person who wouldn't be concerned about me were I in the same situation. That's the point; I wouldn't be in that situation. In my wildest youthful transgressions, a reckless driving charge or driving on a suspended license, would have gotten me a fine, probation or community service. No one is sentenced to jail for 45 days for a misdemeanor unless the judge has a point to make. I believe Ms. Hilton will get the last laugh, however, when her lawsuit against L.A. County and Judge Sauer results in her owning the correctional facility in which she was housed. It can become the Hilton Lockaway.

Having said all that, there is a war going on and soldiers and civilians are still dying. Whatever happens in the Hilton case is no longer a harmless diversion, and I hope it passes from the public's attention quickly. But I don't expect it will. Should Paris wish to repair her tattered image after her release, I suggest she make a USO trip to the Green Zone in Baghdad to visit the troops. She would be welcomed like Betty Grable in Berlin after the blitz. And it would give the women another reason to hate her.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dissing Dems

Everyone from Keith Olbermann to Ben Affleck got to demonstrate some fair and balanced venom last week directed at the Democratic Congress for their so-called "cave in" over the Iraq Supplemental Bill without guidelines for withdrawal. What's the surprise? Bush and the Wild Bunch may have lost their rubber stamp majority, but they're still looking to portray Democrats as abandoning our soldiers in the field on Memorial Day and thus, the cause of our increasing disaster. The Bushies have built so many straw men, they should have an art festival in the desert and burn them. But one skirmish doth not a battle make. Rather than send their troops into the fray like Pickett's Charge, some Democrats are keeping their powder dry and waiting until they have the votes to override a presidential veto.

I am not surprised. Since Bush's war is exactly like Vietnam, it will take more than one vote to force his hand. I, and others like me, in our little corner of West Tennessee, elected a liberal, anti-war Democrat to represent us in Congress, so we expected that his vote would be consistent with our wishes to end this war. Had Harold Ford, Jr. supported Rep. Steve Cohen's candidacy and run as a true Democrat, rather than soul brother to Joe Lieberman, he would be sitting in the Senate today. I don't blame the Democrats for appearing timid in the face of potential vilification. Even the fiercest partisan must admit the presence of many legislators who's sole purpose is raising money for reelection. Their fingers are constantly in the wind, their eyes are on the focus groups, and their ears are attuned to their political advisers. So, I don't blame the Democrats for vaccilating; I blame you and your complacency for not making yourself clearly understood. If your congressman or senator voted to continue funding this war and you are angry about it, it is your obligation to forcefully deliver the message.

Fortunately, it is not too late. Citizens who elected a Congress to put an end to the Bush atrocities must demand representation and the pressure must be maintained until a veto-proof majority is obtained. Netroots (i.e. e-mail, blogs, and postings) have proven to be effective. Even if a lonely staffer is at the other end of the computer, they will read your mail because data and public opinion are being compiled for a legislator. Find your Senator's or Representative's address at www.house.gov, or www.senate.gov. Another good link is www.congress.org.
Phone calls work and can be found at the same sights. Snail mail does not work because of the unsolved postal scares after 9/11. Some of these folks just don't know how to vote unless you tell them.

My heart breaks over the daily body count and the carnage in Iraq. These insideous roadside bombs make sitting ducks of our troops. But the U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, is on schedule to be finished right in the same spot as one of Saddam's guilded palaces. There was never an exit strategy because we never intended to exit. At least not until the Bush puppet government can sign over international oil leases to the U.S. Cindy Sheehan deserves a rest. Now everyone, just like 1968, must choose a side and fight for peace individually. Only I never believed we would have had to fight this same battle twice. Sometimes I wonder when everyone who was affected by the Vietnam era will awaken from their sleep-walking and raise their voices, especially now when the communication revolution allows you to express yourself so readily and easily. Your representatives are on vacation now, probably just waiting to hear from you.

"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Falwell's Hell

Moms Mabely used to do a bit about her cheap, late husband. She said her mother had told her, "Don't say anything about the dead unless you can say something good." So she said, "He's dead. Good!" Same with Jerry Falwell. In fact, I talked with the Lord who told me Falwell's death was retribution for doing intentional harm to so many of His children. While the candidates in the Republican debate fell all over themselves portraying Falwell as a great religious figure, I knew of no one outside of South Carolina who shed any tears for the pompous inquisitor. In fact, my phone started ringing with messages from people uplifted by his departure. In the sixties, Falwell would have been branded as the racist he is, along with figures like George Lincoln Rockwell and George Wallace. They cloaked their bigotry in Klan robes; Falwell cloaked his in the robes of the church. His South Carolina brand of divide and conquer preaching is no stranger to the South, and only another rigid fundamentalist could say that Falwell left this world any better for his presence in it.

Falwell liked to say he was "pro" things, like "pro" life, and "pro" family, as if anyone was against the family, but he was mainly known for the things for which he was opposed; Abortion, sex education, welfare, secularism, globalism, homosexuals, feminists, fornicators, and freeloaders. The Jews would have been at the top of the list, had it not been for Falwell's twisted desire to see the State of Israel used as a springboard for the return of Jesus and the judgement of the Jews. Some of his more outrageous statements made me believe he was reading from a different Bible than the other Christians, but what he calls the inerrancy of the Good Book was only his interpretation, just like everyone else. How else to explain Falwell's ghastly and cruel televised statement to his flock that the blame for 9/11 lied with "Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" The doctors claim Falwell had a heart attack; how would they know where to find it?

Falwell wasn't the first evangelist to use religion to advance his petty prejudices. Father Coughlin, from the WWII era, comes to mind. But Falwell was the first to use Christian exclusivity as a political philosophy, and the most successful in marshaling like-minded followers into holding political candidates hostage to his views. He made his bones as an anti-gay crusader, howling about Disneyland and Tinky Winky the purple Telletubbie, but the Moral Majority was his creation and legacy to the political process. Who could have imagined that his rise to political power would find such official Washington sympathy, that the last two election cycles, in a time of war, would be decided on abortion rights and gay marriage? But what made me choke over Falwell's message, was his utter intolerance for people not sharing his rigid biblical views, and his towering ignorance of any faith other than his own.

Falwell was so unyielding in his "one way" ideal that the IRS found, in 1993, that he was diverting contributions from his "Old Time Gospel Hour" to right wing Political Action Committees. Falwell paid a fine and retroactively lost the program's tax-exempt status for the years involved. That's a lot of prayer cloths and poor people's hopes that went into the political coffers of the morality police. Falwell believed that absolute certainty in his faith made him a religious leader of great stature and wisdom. Of course, Moktada Al-Sadr believes the same thing. So does George Bush. But inflexibility never led to diplomacy, or cooperation, or peace. The fact that Republicans like John McCain, who called Falwell an "agent of intolerance" in 2004, now line up to talk at Liberty University, speaks of the moral bankruptcy of a party that has sold its soul to the Christian Right. Falwell has already promised that "the Anti-Christ would be Jewish," but I can't think of a less Christian approach to society than Falwell's. There were no sex scandals as there were with his compadres Bakker, Swaggert, and Haggard, but there was financial malfeasance galore, including the discovery of Falwell's participation in financing anti-Clinton materials that accused the former president of drug smuggling and murder.

Before Falwell is eulogised as a great defender of America and its freedoms by those who covet his followers' votes, let's us regular people stop to remember the man who gave us the Moral Majority and the abortion-driven, sledge hammer tactics they have used for the past thirty years. For all the crusades against public schools, all the attempts to force prayer into the public arena, the opinion that AIDS was God's scourge against homosexuals and all AIDS relief to impoverished countries be tied to abstinence only education, we will remember him. For the War on Christmas, the outing of Tinky Winky, the Hustler Magazine lawsuit, and the statement that "Global warming is a conspiracy orchestrated by Satan," we will remember Jerry Falwell as one of the fiercest Christian jihadists ever.

Since I don't actually believe in Hell, there's no way I can envision even a Jerry Falwell in such an eternal place. I do, however, believe in karma, or reaping what you sew, or what goes around comes around; but eternal damnation for only making it harder for people in just one lifetime? That only necessitates one lifetime's worth of rumination over the soul and the requirement to come back to this realm and do it all over again; in Falwell's case, probably as a professional baseball player, but gay. After watching the film, "The U.S. v. Larry Flint," I would prefer to see Jerry Falwell do his time in multi-century limbo as the spiritual advisor to Courtney Love. Then he would at least know what hell is like, and perhaps how obnoxious he seemed to those who had to listen to his inane yammering.
fact timeline from thecarpetbaggerreport.com

Monday, April 30, 2007

Bush's Beatitudes

It's been nearly twenty years since I traveled to Israel with an ecumenical collection of pilgrims from Tennessee. The varied influences in my youth enabled me to appreciate all sides of the Biblical story. One afternoon, we found ourselves about five miles outside of Jerusalem on a grassy hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. A little church at the top of the hill commemorates the spot many archaeologists believe to be the location of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. One of our Christian travelers produced a New Testament and read the opening portion of the Sermon known as the "Beatitudes," a description of the blessed. As a Jew in Catholic school, I was very familiar with these verses from Catholic liturgy, but their significance seemed as basic to Catholicism as to mainstream Protestantism, and became, in my eyes, the Bill of Rights for Christianity. These sentiments, expressed by Jesus to His disciples and the gathering crowd, laid the groundwork for the common bonds of humankind and the duties of His followers toward the suffering and the poor. On that hilltop, hearing the words spoken from a Jesus eye-view, was moving to Christians and Jews alike. Lately, however, a sect of Charismatic Evangelicals, who must account for the 29% of the population who still think Bush is doing a good job, has had to provide a new translation for the Sermon on the Mount to accommodate their Faith-Based President in the troubling days of His spiritual wilderness. I offer first a quote from the actual Sermon, and then the translation; known as Bush's Beatitudes

"'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
BB: Blessed are the wealthy campaign donors to the Republican Party, who by giving generously to the Party of God, help to insure themselves a reserved seat at the right hand of the Lord.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
BB: Not by me, of course. I don't attend the funerals of our soldiers, but I talk to families who die. Better to let the military deal with that sort of thing. I make sure the flags are folded correctly.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
BB: Those hippies can have the damn thing as soon as my deregulations allow my corporate friends to drain the earth's remaining natural resources and sell them back to you at steep prices for gargantuan profits.

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
BB: Unless the righteousness for which you hunger includes government assistance, in which case, you ain't fillin' nothin' around here except forms in triplicate. We're working hard to put food on your family. The righteousness is free, but the food's gonna' cost ya.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
BB: Maybe I should have rethought that express lane in the Texas death chamber.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
BB: Just take my word for it. God wants me to be president and rise up against Babylon. God's busy; He'll see you later.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
BB: Just as soon as we win this war.

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
BB: Alberto Gonzales died for your sins.

"Blessed are ye, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
BB: Ronald Reagan was John the Baptist; Republicans equal life, Democrats equal death; Stay the course; I 'preciate your sacrifice; God bless America.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rove? Investigate?

I must admit to an odd palpitation of the heart when it was announced by the L.A. Times that the Office of the Special Prosecutor would begin an investigation into the machinations of Karl Rove. But after doing a bit of due diligence, it's beginning to appear as if Rove himself has engineered this move. It wouldn't be out of character. Once, in Texas when his client for statewide election appeared vulnerable, Rove bugged his own office and announced it to the press shortly before election day, allowing his candidate to squeak out a victory. Rove is entirely capable of launching a bogus investigation that originates in the Executive Branch, is conducted by a Bush appointee, and is intentioned to deflect the legitimate criticism that Rove is the White House nexus behind every issue currently under congressional investigation; the Valerie Plame leak, the Prosecutor firings, and five million "missing" e-mails.

Jason Leopold reports for Truthout.org, that Scott J. Bloch, the head of the OSC who announced the pending investigation, was formerly at the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and was promoted by Bush three years ago to his present post. What's more, Bloch himself is under internal investigation for his alleged "purging" of the agency of unlike-minded believers and complaints by his employees, ranging, according to Leopold, from "having an anti-gay bias to criticizing employees for wearing short skirts and tight pants to work." Does anyone truly believe that this "loyal Bushie" zealot is the one to investigate Rover's activities?

I have objected previously in this post that having the President's political advisor participate in national policy decisions and be privy to the country's most sensitive secrets is a threat to representative democracy. I likened it to setting up a whorehouse in the West Wing, as opposed to the ostensibly private trysts of previous Presidents. No one can move to impeach Rove because he's accountable only to the President, and after Bush's gangbanger-style loyalty he showed for Alberto Gonzales this week, the Dubya monster will never turn on Dr. Frankenstein. But there's a new sheriff in town and Rove has never suffered from such scrutiny since his plan for a permanent Republican majority came a cropper. No wonder he was so testy at Sheryl Crow and Laurie David at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, telling them, "I work for the American people." No he doesn't. Nobody voted for Karl Rove. He works for George W. Bush and the Republican Party. And why so mean to the ladies only a month after his dynamic appearance as hip-hopper M.C.Rove, at whatever that last press-politician Swinging Suarez was? More "hop" than "hip."

Speaking of the Correspondents' Dinner, I watched the proceedings on C-Span, dumbfounded. After the Steven Colbert skewering of last year, the administration made a "Beach Boys" decision and came up with the cryogenically preserved Rich Little for the alleged entertainment. I felt that he always took his name from Little Richard, but ironically, "rich little" describes the content of his act as well. When he began to sing a ditty; Sing a little song/All about the throng in Washington, I was reminded of the Chuckles the Clown episode of Mary Tyler Moore, when his motto was, Sing a little song/do a little dance/spray a little seltzer/down your pants. If the Correspondents' desire was to avoid a YouTube frenzy like last year, they succeeded. Although the video is worth watching just to see the audience gaping in shocked silence while President Jethro chuckles like he's watching a Hee-Haw re-run. It's been a long time since Rich Little dusted off the old Nixon impersonation, although he was never as good as David Frye. You could almost see President Zero mouth the words "I am not a crook," along with the botoxed comic, just in case he needs to practice it for the future.

So once again, the world paused for just a little while, so Washington reporters and Washington politicians could join together in a bacchanalia of self congratulations; evil actors and their enablers, locked in Rovian embrace while the world burns. The single ray of hope and peace at the dinner was Sanjaya Malakar. And after the Sheryl Crow-Karl Rove dust-up, and the numbing banality of the Lee Greenwood-like pandering to the shills by Rich Little, the President made a self-serving announcement "not to be funny" in deference to the Virginia Tech shootings. That never stopped him in years' past from filming a skit looking under desks and tables in the Oval Office for fictitious "weapons of mass destruction," while our soldiers were dying in Iraq looking for the real ones. To me, that was a far worse desecration of the office than Bill Clinton could ever have imagined. Rich Little was quoted as saying that the President approached him after the dinner and told him his skit was "perfect." That, in itself, is an impeachable offense.