Monday, December 22, 2008

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

I'm not gay, but I support the "gay agenda." I wonder, if you're only pushing one issue, do you have an agendum? If so, gay-bashing would seem a failed, Rovian political stratagem that should have receded along with the power of the bitch-slapped GOP after the last election, so that gays and lesbians might enter a new dawn of equal protection under the law. It would seem, that is, until two things happened; Proposition 8, an initiative banning same-sex marriage, passed in California; and Barack Obama invited one of the bill's primary advocates to deliver the invocation at his forthcoming inaugural. To paraphrase the Three 6 Mafia, "It's hard out here for a gay."

While the majority of the populous is preparing to celebrate their new president, homosexuals must endure the galling sight of Rick Warren, pastor of the ironically named Saddleback Church near Los Angeles, delivering the invocation. Warren is the author of the bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Life," which received a lot of press a couple of years ago after that woman in Georgia read it to a rapist-killer, and he decided, with the assistance of a little meth, to allow her to live. Warren's philosophy may work for outlaws, but Rachel Maddow has reported on the fine print, now removed, from the Saddleback Church's website that said homosexuals who were unrepentant of their gay lifestyle would not be welcomed as congregants. (Did you notice how I so delicately avoided saying "church members?") That's reminiscent of a country club that bans Jews, or putting up a sign that says, "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone," and Warren is supposed to be one of the newer thinking evangelists that believe that climate change and the AIDS scourge are worthy of Christian attention. I suppose that gays are the last minority at which you can still throw stones, even forty years after the 1969 New York Stonewall riots. Before that, police were allowed to rough up and toss someone in jail for being publicly gay. You haven't come a long way, baby.

We were discussing how downright sorrowful it is that in this year of societal evolution, gays should suffer such a setback that rights granted them by the power of the state, could be taken back by a fear-driven ballot initiative. Melody said that everyone knows that you are born gay, and this discrimination is like hating someone because they have green eyes. I answered, "Not exactly, we all know what's at the core of this hatred, and it is "the act." Melody replied, "If that's what it is, then you're spending way too much time thinking about something that's not your business." But if it's not the act, why is it that so many homophobes seem to have no problem with lesbianism, especially if the chicks are hot? Melody is correct. Someone is born gay or they're not. Who would ask for all that tsuris? We all knew gay children with whom we grew up, but in the immortal words of Chris Rock, "they just didn't have anyone to be gay with" yet.

Candidate Obama could be infuriating, even to his most ardent supporters, during the campaign when he refused to engage his detractors. Then, after he won the nomination by running to the left of Hillary Clinton, his sprint back to the center was rivaled only by Ussain Bolt. I understand what Obama is attempting to do with the Rick Warren invitation. He's trying to bridge a gap between himself and "people of faith" who didn't vote for him in the first place and never will. But aside from Rick Warren's public comparisons of homosexuality with incest and pedophilia, Barack Obama is playing politics with God. This Saddleback symbolism may pacify some, but it violates the human code of conscience which demands, "First, do no harm." Not even the benediction by the sainted Reverend Joseph Lowery can't gloss over this bit of "scratch my back" politics with the Evangelical Right. It's sort of like putting lipstick on a pig.

Obama defended his choice of Pastor Warren and added that the message of the campaign was to promote dialogue between differing groups. Barack added that he had been "a fierce advocate for gay and lesbian Americans," while simultaneously opposing gay marriage. With heterosexual marriages failing at the rate of one out of two, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate skyrocketing even while the stigma of unwed pregnancy fades as we watch the gestation of the Palin teen, shouldn't we, as a society, be encouraging long-term relationships between loving couples, even of the same sex? Wouldn't that dampen the sexual promiscuity that the fundamentalists so despise, and lower the risk of acquiring AIDS in homosexual men? For those who consider same-sex marriage a threat to the public good, others still believe in the pursuit of happiness and the redemptive power of love. I think either John Lennon or Jesus taught that, too.

In this festive season of goodwill toward men, that should include gay men and women as well. And in this time of political renewal and the promise of a more just society, I take President-elect Obama at his word that he will be a "fierce advocate," for the only dis-included group at his upcoming gala. I understand that gays will march in the inaugural parade, but at the risk of aggravating straights by acting-up. Their mere presence has already been unjustly illuminated. Mainstream society's delusion is that this Rip Taylor, gay caricature has been accepted to be the norm, rather than the low-keyed, respectable citizen working at the desk next to yours, who also happens to be gay. That is who I wish Obama had considered before extending the invitation to Rick Warren to utter the opening words of a new era. A far better choice for the invocation would have been the Reverend Al Green of Memphis. Reverend Green has made it abundantly clear through his ministry and his music that his major concerns are "Love and Happiness." It makes you want to moan for love. The constitutionality of Proposition 8 will yet be tested by the California Supreme Court, so Merry Christmas everybody, and fight the power.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Magical History Tour

The criminal Bush has been making the rounds lately, trying to convince everyone that he wasn't that bad, but at every turn he continues to step on his dick. Bush told Fox "News," "I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy." What soul? And now that Sen. Carl Levin has mentioned the potential for indictments concerning cases of state torture and violating the Geneva Conventions, Bush can look forward to being a very popular guy in Federal Prison. Leaked GOP talking points encouraged Bushies to say that he "maintained the honor and dignity of the office." I guess that means he didn't diddle an intern on his desk. But I would have much preferred he screwed his secretary instead of the Constitution. We're all the blue dress now. Fortunately, George picked up some Iraqi shoes to match.

The shoe dodging video is like a good Beatles album where you recognize something new with every listening, in this case viewing. My initial reaction was shock and outrage. After all, Goober is my president, too. And although I detest the man, his smug, willful ignorance, and the wreckage he has created in the world, I never wished him personal harm. I've often thought that perhaps if someone had kicked his ass 35 or 40 years ago, it might have done wonders for his humility problems, but what purpose would that serve now? Still, the shoe tosser might have heaved something more dangerous while the Secret Service was having a coffee klatch in the back room. I understand they scanned the crowd for weapons and the Iraqi journalist was known by the people in attendance. They said the same thing about Jack Ruby.

Bush passed it off as a messy expression of democracy. Hell, he never even stopped chewing his gum. In true Democracies, however, you don't hear the protester's screams in the next room while the Prime Minister's bone breakers assure him an extended stay in the hospital. Now, the Iraqi journalist/shoe tosser is a folk hero in the Arab world, and even much of the Western world, for one reason; he is the only outraged civilian Bush has had to face in eight years. In my questioning of the Secret Service's reactions, I'd forgotten that there are millions of angry people in the world who would literally die for proximity to Bush, and the true miracle of the Service's protection is that the only harm done to the President in his entire term was by a pretzel.

For eight years, Bush's audience's have been so carefully screened, if they were not big money donors or soldiers, he couldn't get a word out for the shouts and boos. His bubble is so thick, he hasn't so much been heckled in public, and yet he continues to portray himself as merely a victim of circumstance. All those bad things- war, rendition, wiretapping, corruption, economic collapses, hurricanes- just happened to take place while Bush was busy doing the nation's business. Only that one lonely protester in New Orleans that shouted, "Go fuck yourself, Mister Cheney," got through to this gang. Cheney is so contemptuous of the public and the law, he's admitted approving "harsh interrogation techniques" against detainees. In effect, Cheney is saying to the next Justice Department, "bring 'em on." Thus far, Cheney has been accountable to no one, so let the investigations begin, the subpoenas fly, and the chips fall.

This group still believes that in ten years, if Iraq is self-governing, that they will be vindicated by history. Kissinger thought that too, about the carpet bombing of North Vietnam. In the end, it's the casualties that can never be forgiven, and to date, there are 4,209 U.S. soldiers confirmed dead, and another 30,000 wounded. estimates 1,284,105 dead Iraqi civilians, (other estimates go from 100,000 to 2 million. The figure is not officially recorded), and an additional 2.5 million people displaced. In that light, "A kiss goodbye from the Iraqi people," in the form of a flying shoe is a fairly mild protest for a "dirty dog." It's a good thing that when someone says "lame duck," Bush takes it literally.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governors Gone Wild

Imagine this as a screenplay. Right before Christmas, a factory in Chicago gets their credit cut off by a greedy banker, played, of course, by Michael Douglas, and the company fires the entire workforce without even the benefits they have worked to earn. The workers, led by John Leguizamo and Jamie Lee Curtis, urge their companions to protest and, just like Rosa Parks, they finally get tired and decide to sit down. They believe they're going to jail, but the sympathetic police captain, Morgan Freeman, who used to be a working stiff, is hesitant to arrest anyone so close to Christmas. Two days later, the factory is surrounded by media and supporters and even the newly elected President, Denzel Washington, voices his support. But here's where the plot gets tricky. The workers' sit-in gets so much attention that the Governor, already under investigation, decides to get involved.

The arrogant Governor of Illinois, played by Alec Baldwin because of the hair and the temperament, comes to the workers' aid and puts pressure on the mega-bank, in this case we'll call it the Bank of America, to come off of some of the $25 Billion they've just been given by the government, to help out the working man. This makes the CEO of BoA, Kevin Spacey, worried about company image and his pension, and the Board goes into conference to consider the Governor's threats to cut off all state business with the bank. The next morning, the Governor's threats look like extortion as he is hooked up and carried away by the FBI who have been listening to his conversations, just as he invited them to do. Gary Hart appears here as himself. They even hear his greedy wife screaming in the background about appointed jobs and lucrative positions. I know it sounds impractical, but I really believe Kim Basinger could give an Oscar turn in this role. But just as things look grimmest for the factory workers, and they watch as their main supporter does a perp-walk, the bank decides it's Christmas time and peels off a few singles from their wad of billions and gives it to the company owners, Ben Kingsley and Judd Hirsch. I haven't decided yet if the bosses will give the money to the workers, or buy them each a Christmas turkey and kick them out the door.

Cut to a dimly lit office with a smiling President Denzel sitting with his Chief of Staff, portrayed by Hugh Laurie. They are both Chicago politicians and should be concerned that the Governor's arrest will rain on their inaugural parade, but they are chuckling. A recording just turned up where the Governor referred to his former colleague, the President-elect, as a "motherfucker" who would not give him what he wanted, and a no-nonsense Special Prosecutor, Nick Nolte, holds a press conference shredding the disgraced Governor's reputation and exonerating the new President. But here's the kicker. It turns out that the old bareknuckled Chicago poll, the President's Chief of Staff, was the one that blew the whistle on the Illinois Governor in the first place to protect his new boss. The two men clink snifters of cognac before a roaring fire while a montage shows all the factory workers' kids getting just what they wanted for Christmas and the company owners basking in the warmth of their generosity. As Sonny Corleone said to Michael just before he shot the police captain, "Yeah, they just might like a story like that."

Governor Rod Blagojevich, if not ending the Obama honeymoon, at least flushed the toilet while the Love Train was still in the station. He proves that greed, arrogance, and idiocy know no party, yet he is in a class all by himself for naked corruption. I had just written about former Tenn. Governor Ray Blanton and his pardon-selling scandal when Blagojevich goes and puts Obama's former Senate seat on eBay. Tennessee has had corrupt officials, but we only put them in jail one at a time. If, wait-who am I fooling, when Governor Blagojevich is sentenced, he can do time with Illinois' former Governor Ryan, a Republican. In fact, justice would dictate that they be cell mates, with conjugal visits from Bubba and Eugene. This blatant contempt for basic honesty may not taint Obama, but it certainly embarrasses him at an inopportune time, and gives ammunition to his enemies when his concentration needs to be elsewhere. If Blagojevich had a shred of decency, which is questionable, he would take the Elliot Spitzer route; apologize profusely, resign, and disappear. Or as they say in Texas, make like horseshit and hit the old, dusty, trail. The sooner the better.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Singing In The Rain

This is going to be a great Depression. Not with a capital "G" like the 30s, because the tech economy is real and the Depression will be blogged. I heard a TV economist say in regards to the recession that, "it will be longer and deeper than initially imagined." That's what I told my wife on our wedding night and I was lying, too. There is too much entrepreneurial spirit out there to keep the American economy stagnant for long and once we chase the money changers from the Temple, perhaps free enterprise will be a bit freer for all without the old fix in place. Watching the Obama administration come together has been exhilarating just for the pleasure of watching a President who actually knows what he's talking about and can string more than two coherent sentences together. The economy is kicking the crap out of me, but I have such confidence that conditions will improve. It's like when you have a terrible cold and you smoke a joint. You still have the cold, only you don't care as much. I have no health insurance, but Sasha and Melia are adorable.

The question is, can't we speed this thing up? If you've been following the final days of Chuckles, you're aware that Bush would strip mine Jellystone Park if he could get away with it. He's attempting to turn as much public land over to his oil buddies as will fly under the radar and trying to see how many animal species he can bring to the brink of extinction. Tennessee used to have a governor named Ray Blanton who was as crooked as a spring twig. It was discovered that in his lame-duck days, he was selling pardons, or technically, his staff was shopping pardons that he then approved. The citizens of the Volunteer State ended up having to jerk his ass out of there and swear in the new Governor several weeks early to end the crime spree. Al Capone finally went down for income tax evasion, can't we arrest Bush for loitering?

Even the massive bailout of the economy doesn't overly concern me, except for I'd like to know where this barrel of money is that they're doing the bailing from. To paraphrase the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirkson, "Twenty billion here, twenty billion there, soon you're talking about real money." If the banks are hoarding the money, print notes with Bush's picture on them, call them Bush Bucks, and the banks will work late to get them out the door. The Big Three automakers are deserving of scorn for their thirty years of neglect, but I know that they already possess the technology to turn on a dime and start making solid vehicles. It's the oil and gas lobby that has kept the internal combustion engine king, although its planned obsolescence was probably considered along with tail fins. There is a 2006 documentary that you need to see, now on DVD, called "Who Killed The Electric Car?" directed by Chris Paine. These emission free, silent, and powerful vehicles already exist and are in need only of battery charging stations instead of gas stations. Here's a thought: Give them the loan, but put Arnold Schwarzenegger in charge of fiscal discipline.

This dire economy and grim retail season have shown us one thing. If you want the price to drop on a certain commodity, stop buying it. I received dozens of emails about boycotting Exxon or just buying gas on Wednesdays when all that was required to make the price of oil drop like the Times Square New Year's Ball was to stop driving. Oil prices dropped so precipitously, they had to put Ahmedinijad in the hospital for nervous exhaustion. We are a one car family now. I purchased a Honda scooter that gets 85 mpg. Want to know how to decrease the price of electronics, computers, and televisions? Stop buying that shit for awhile, and even customer service might return. My stepson was ultimately glad he didn't buy the iPhone on it's first day of release. So long Circuit City, so long Rite-Aid; you could have done so much better.

The Obama team has shown great skill already in warding off what potentially could have been a general panic and run on the banks. And in foreign affairs, those "Extenze" male enhancement tablets Hillary has been taking finally paid off for her. Now she's got the biggest balls in the cabinet and a job to match. Her selection as Secretary of State was inspired, as was Bill Richardson at Commerce. And you can't help but admire Robert Gates for his patriotic service in staying as Secretary of Defense while we wind down Rumsfeld's and Cheney's dirty business in Iraq. Despite the debris field caused by the Bush era, the cleanup feels well under way. It almost seems like prosperity's just around the corner, every man's a king, a chicken in every pot, and some pot for every chicken. I plan to endure the entertaining economic chaos with my chin up and my eyes open, and if I should falter, tell my family that I fell with my face to the enemy.

Since beginning Born-Again Hippies in 2005, this is my 101st posting. Thank you for reading and all your comments, Randy

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sympathy For The Doofus

White House staffers have been revealing a "genuine sadness" around the West Wing these days. One report said that Bush was concerned that his presidency is being compared to Herbert Hoover's, but that would be an insult to Hoover. His morale was reportedly so low, he practically gushed when honored by the Intrepid Air & Space Museum that everything was "fabulous," from the brave troops to his fabulous Dad. Sarah Palin went out of her way in a Miami speech to thank Bush for keeping the nation safe from another air attack of hi-jacked domestic carriers, while our currency sank like the Lusitania. An anonymous assistant explained that Bush is so distraught because they had planned to spend his last few months in office doing "legacy stuff," but the sudden economic collapse prevented them from accomplishing much. Let me clue the Bush folks in, the economic collapse is his legacy.

While all crashes down around him, Bush still persists that a de-regulated free market is the soundest regulator of itself, a true believer until the bitter end, just like Herbert Hoover. No, Bush's "legacy stuff" consists of criminal capitalism masked by a populist concern for small "bidness," the war in Iraq, torture, rendition, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Blackwater mercenaries, illegal wire-tapping, the corruption of the Justice Department, and the No-Fly List. And who doesn't know in their heart that it was Dick Cheney who ordered the outing of Valerie Plame to get even with his critics, and it will only be a matter of days before the criminal Bush gives a full pardon to the patsy, Scooter Libby? And now we're treated to a battery of headlines in the conservative media about how horribly Bush has been treated by all parties in the recently concluded election.

Are we supposed to feel sympathy for Bush because his name was exceeded in toxicity only by Cheney's, and no one wanted to be seen with him, including McCain, who's tardiness to the White House endorsement created the opportunity for us to watch the Buffoon in Chief do a little of the old Shuffle-Off to Buffalo? Bush was the Bubonic Plague, the kiss of death, and the Evil Eye to any Republican who dared utter the name. All he has attempted is in tatters, especially the Constitution, so that it will take the new President at least half his first term trying to unravel Bush's political dingleberries. But now he's feeling lonely because he's no longer popular. This from a man who came to the office with no vision, only a cult of personality that carried him along like a leaf in a gutter after a rain-storm for his entire career. The Bush Presidency was the biggest farce foisted upon a gullible populace since Milli Vanilli, and the full effects are yet to be felt by all those hapless loyalists who have lost their jobs and don't even know it yet.

Possibly Bush's greatest accomplishment, aside from re-starting the Cold War, is his escaping impeachment. When Speaker Pelosi announced in 2006, that "impeachment was off the table," I remembered Tip O'Neill, who said in reference to Nixon in similar circumstances that, "the best interests of the country must come first." Nancy, you're no Tip O'Neill. And Bush's most egregious and visible violation is that he betrayed his Oath of Office to protect and defend the Constitution and he knows it. That's why he's working double time to write immunity for himself and his cronies into law before he leaves office. Bush envisions a leisurely life commuting between a home in Dallas and the ranch, when he's not off on a lucrative speaking tour to "fill the old coffers," in the President's words. But I envision Bush answering summons after summons without protection from John McCain, like Gerald Ford was to Richard Nixon. This is a man with questions to answer and it's best that they be asked under oath.

George W. Bush is the Frankenstein monster created by the unholy alliance of Fundamental Christianity and a Godless Corporatocracy. He was a Pied Piper, born-again Evangelical Christian, ruthless free-market capitalist who granted access to untold riches for the already rich, while preaching that "government is the problem" to the "social" Conservatives. Even now, while jobless claims are skyrocketing, retail sales are plummeting, and the GOP coalition has been shattered, a Pew Poll found that 60% of people who identified themselves as Republicans, believe the party should go in a more conservative direction. Nixon's 1968 "Southern Strategy" has come to its' fruition, the GOP has become the party of the Old South.

Mine is not the only family who has decided to cut back this Christmas. Instead of lavishing presents on everyone, we're going to draw names and buy one nice present each. Other family's are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy or foreclosure this holiday season with nothing to hope for but a new administration and the departure of Bush. So when Bill O'Reilly revs up his annual "War on Christmas," he need no more than look in the White House to see the Grinch. Sympathy for Bush? I have no pity for this reckless man who, even now, can't bring himself to admit his part in the disaster his policies have caused. I merely worry over the old adage about the cornered animal being the most dangerous. When Bush was elected, he joked that among his first orders of business before moving in after Bill Clinton, was to give the Oval Office a good cleaning. I suggest that before the Obamas move in, they should acquire the services of an exorcist, and that's no joke.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Election Reflection

Did I dream it, or did what I see really just happen? The citizens of the United States not only elected the first African-American president, but Barack Obama's race seemed only a peripheral issue at best. This nation just decided to return to excellence and voted for the most capable candidate. The old smear and fear politics did not work this time, young voters came out in record numbers, people withstood multiple hour waits to cast their votes, and there was jubilation in the streets of major cities in this country, and all over the world. I must be dreaming.

We had the political equivalent of a Super Bowl party here. My friend Dave the Dog drove in from Nashville, as he did in 1992 for the Clinton election, Larry took his customary spot, Melody put out hors' doevres, but I held my breath until 10:00. Even when Pennsylvania went to Obama, I had seen too many voodoo elections to ever get comfortable. When the West was declared, we jumped up and down and yelled and cried, but the spectacle in Grant Park was breathtaking. The symbolism in Obama's historic run kept grabbing me; He began his campaign in Illinois, on the court house steps where Lincoln stood, and he ended it in Manassas, Va, where the documents ending the Civil War were signed. Then he held his victory celebration in the very spot where young anti-war demonstrators were beaten and maced exactly forty years ago. The tears of the greying eminence, Jesse Jackson, spoke more eloquently to the moment than any words, and every citizen, regardless of party, should take a measure of pride in this fulfillment of America's promise.

John McCain ended his quest on an honorable note, with a more than gracious concession speech, that I'm certain reminded more people than just me of the genuine man that he used to be. But that was before he handed his campaign over to the former Bush/Rove operatives, just to let them screw up one last thing before they leave town. In half the McCain rallies that I saw, I thought he was doing a Walter Brennan, "Grandpappy Amos" impression. "Hehhh?" Dirty tricks backfired on Elizabeth "Sugar Lips" Dole as well, and MSNBC reported that for the first time since 1952, a Bush or a Dole will not be on Capitol Hill. Just a little icing for us. To see Obama win North Carolina, Indiana, and especially Virginia, where Robert E. Lee is still worshipped and revered, was simply astounding. I believe this election gave birth to a new electorate which will not revert to the old game of the selling of the president, and we picked the right man that we need for these perilous times.

Even in my little blue corner of a solid red state, people have seemed nicer the last couple of days and I detected a general feeling of, "Things will be better now." We have chosen the candidate that offers the best chance for change, but now the real work begins. Bush/McCain voters will find that Democrats are more gracious in victory than the Republicans could ever imagine, so there will no payback or purges (save Israel's favorite Senator, Joe Lieberman, who has it coming), or "Revolutions" like the GOP Congress attempted in 1994. I only ask of Republicans the same civility and neutrality that I tried to adopt when George Bush was first elected, before he lied this nation into the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So, before the Limbaughs of this world attempt to dismember him, I hope the new president will be given the chance to implement his programs without the same whiplash resistance we have seen in the past.

My initial election night joy was sobered by Obama's magnificent speech concerning the magnitude of the problems we face as a nation, until the emotion I can best describe about this entire ordeal for me, is relief. For those with ears to hear, Obama referenced both Dr. King and Sam Cooke, but broadened the context. I'm happy to be alive to witness the ascension of an African-American to this nations' highest office, but I was so uncertain that it could really happen that I continued to see the dark cloud behind the silver lining. When the moment actually arrived, I, probably like you, thought of a lot of people who would loved to have seen this day. Now, I feel as if I'm undergoing whatever is the male equivalent of post-partem depression. We did this improbable thing, so now what? I trust this good man and his advisers to chart a new course for the nation, freed from the same political battles that have raged for the past thirty years, but I don't trust a recalcitrant congressional minority who's purpose is to thwart and block the new president's agenda.

Obama's victory must also be seen in the light of the 48% of the public that voted for John McCain. They had their reasons, but in light of the brutal recriminations coming from the McCain camp directed at Sarah Palin, I believe we dodged a bullet. And it is troubling that otherwise rational people would even consider placing the government in the control of this cartoonish and inept person. Almost half the country bought that bullshit, when it has been proven in this week's "Newsweek," that Palin is definitely not smarter than a 5th grader, and was ignorant about even the most commonplace facts of geography. Worse still, she took an arrogant pride in her stupidity in favor of "Wasilla Main Street values." If the right-wing Evangelicals want to make her into the future of the GOP, "bring 'em on." Meanwhile, we have a very capable man about to assume the office of President, who was put there by the most committed group of voters I have ever witnessed. So, may I just say, "God bless us, every one," and please diligently protect the Obamas.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Joe "The Plumber" McCarthy Tour

So it's come to this. Desperate and panicked, the former Bush operatives now surrounding Sarah Palin have sent her out to stoke the mob by quoting Karl Marx. Initially, Palin thought Karl was the fifth Marx Brother after Zeppo, but she can see remnants of Marxism from her official state sponsored trips to the Bering Strait with the "First Dude," so she seemed a natural at calling Obama a Communist. Nodding agreement was added to her quoting of the Communist Manifesto by the gravitas of her chief surrogate of the day, Hank Williams, Jr., who was standing next to her in cowboy hat and customary shades. I always take sociological advice from a country singer who once sang he was, "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound."

Just like the other day, when Palin appeared with the vapid Elizabeth Hasslebeck. Who better to introduce a candidate who acts like a game show host than a "celebrity" who's claim to fame was being a game show contestant? But Hasslebeck should spare her lectures on Dialectic Materialism for The View, where she can be debated by a real authority, Whoopie Goldberg. Should McCain/Palin lose the election, I'd like to pitch the networks a reality show where Hasselbeck, Palin, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and Laura Ingraham can sit around a table and excoriate those abortion loving, liberal, women feminists types. We'll call it "Mean Girls." Better yet, allow the gun worshippers and abortion zealots to follow Sarah, Todd, Trigg, Track, Piper, Willow, Levi, Bristol and the baby back to Alaska to wait for the Rapture. There's tons of room and some oil too, whose revenues Palin "redistributes" among her constituents. The Mormons have a state; the Jews have a state; The Catholics have a whole country; let's give Seward's Folly to the right-wing Christians and survivalists, and call it Evangelaska.

Palin's red-baiting and accusations of un-Americanism bring back chilling memories of Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, who went on a Communist "Witch Hunt" in the fifties that ruined people's lives, reputations, and livelihoods. For young people who don't remember, McCarthy was a bellicose, hawkish, former pilot, super-patriot who, along with his overtly Jewish sidekick Roy Cohn, slandered all those he considered sympathetic to the country's enemies. Sort of like John McCain and Joe Lieberman today, minus the charm. But since the military was one of McCarthy's targets, John McCain should have known better than to unleash this lowest and most dangerous of attacks. Sarah Palin, having no knowledge of history, has no problems slinging around venom like this, but McCain is old enough to know that there are still people alive today, especially in the creative arts, who suffered irreparably from the unspoken "Blacklists" that resulted from McCarthy's inquisitions. It worked for old Joe awhile, but McCarthy's name is forever associated with disgrace and zealotry. This is dangerous stuff for a V.P. candidate who believes that she's the future of the Republican Party to be spouting.

Speaking of Joe, I still can't understand how McCain's entire economic plan is encapsulated in "Joe the Plumber." In fact, if he refers to "JTP" one more time, I'm going to need a plumber. It was bad enough until JTP started showing up at Palin rallies and offering opinions on everything from Socialism to how a vote for Obama assures the "Death of Israel." And to cap it off, country singer Aaron Tippen has signed JTP to a management contract for a future album project. I guess I didn't make it big as a country songwriter because I was too honest. I stood in a room full of Nashville writers who were in my same publishing stable and expressed the opinion that, "Country Music is a celebration of poverty and ignorance." At least that's what Nashville turns out, so Joe The Plumber will not only fit right in, he'll be treated like visiting royalty. There's already a Larry the Cable Guy, so why not?

McCain chose Palin in a fit of pique when the Bush/Rove boys that manage his campaign, refused to let him pick Joe Lieberman. McCain, himself, won the nomination by default, because no one could appease the beast. First, Rudy was a shoo-in until he refused to campaign and began accepting calls from his wife in the middle of important speeches. Then it was Mitt Romney until his magic underwear failed him. Huckabee was too Huckleberry and he didn't believe in evolution, and Fred Thompson was so bloated and gaseous it made you wonder how his trophy wife endured the excessive belching. It was McCain by elimination, and Palin in order to throw the lions to the Christians. That's why at McCain/Palin rallies, you hear a lot of boos, while they are cheering at Obama/Biden events. The Democrats present initiatives and plans, the GOP offers invective and poison.

I am not sorry watching the patchwork Republican majority of free-marketeers, right wing Evangelicals, rich people who hate capital gains and inheritance taxes, anti-abortionists, and xenophobes that has existed for 30 years begin to implode. But it's not enough to merely defeat a party. The philosophy of Gingrich and DeLay, Dobson and Robertson, Limbaugh and Hannity, and Cheney and Bush must be crushed absolutely with a wooden stake driven through it's cold, shrivelled heart. I watched the Democratic Party completely unravel over an unpopular war and ominously repressed societal problems. An Obama victory is not guaranteed, but should the Democrats win, the ultimate irony is that the President-elect will address the nation from Chicago, where exactly 40 years ago, blood ran in the streets and the old Democratic cooalition was trampled and scattered after the brutality and chaos of the 1968 Convention. The mayor then, as now, was named Richard J. Daley. Only this time the candidate is Barack Obama, and he has a clarion call to unity.

"Power concedes nothing without a fight" Barack Obama 10/29/08

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Appeal To Youth

While speaking in Florida a while back, John McCain said, "I'm sorry to tell you, my friends, but there will be other wars." Who's supposed to fight in these wars that McCain speaks of? Not our current military, stretched to the limit. Not me, or my entire generation. We're still busy fighting over the Vietnam War and the domestic cultural shifts that arose because of that bloody conflict. We've been doing that for forty years now, partly because of the disrespect directed toward the military, including the soldiers, who were sacrificed by the "Greatest Generation" for dubious causes, and also the fight over "patriotism," when you find your country is engaged in a murderous and immoral conflict. The American participation in that war ended in 1973, but not before 58,000 men, average age 19, perished. The terrible psychic costs of Vietnam were never resolved at home. We decided it was better not to talk about such unpleasantness and went on a decade long Disco and cocaine bender instead.

I once swore that when I grew older, I would never say "When I was your age," to a young person. When those old geezers were my age, they were still listening to Jack Benny and FDR's Fireside Chats on the radio. How could they possibly relate to my life in the modern era? Having said that, "When I was your age..." we were at war, with a despised president who put us there, when an attractive candidate emerged who was adored by the young. He was a champion of the destitute and the downtrodden. Bobby Kennedy promised to end the war and bring our soldiers home in order to concentrate on the growing domestic unrest exploding in every major city. The similarities between 1968 and 2008 are striking with two exceptions: the draft was feeding my peers who weren't able to take refuge in college into a meat-grinder, and the voting age was 21. Despite being only 20, I had been drafted because of a university's computer glitch, and was emotionally invested in Kennedy's election. You can imagine how crushed we were when Robert Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles, the first act of Palestinian terror on American soil.

Deeply dispirited, my generation chose to withdraw from politics, insuring the election of Richard Nixon, five more years of war and 20,000 more American soldiers dead, plus the beginnings of the nasty, partisan political world that we inhabit today. There are a lot of "what ifs" in this life. Young people voting in large numbers then could have literally saved lives, and my generation, who once believed we were going to transform the world in the cause for good, blew it...big time. Nixon's bag of "dirty tricks" soon turned people cynical about their government and the tactics of "wedge politics;" topics meant to divide people, were used for the first time; and they worked. The Rovian position of "political strategist" has become the politician's preeminent advisor and we have been divided ever since. You can change that now if you remember two things: Assume nothing, this race is far from over; and do not discount the importance of your actions. Go to the polls as if your single vote were going to determine the outcome, and bring a friend with you.

You've seen the best and the worst of my generation. We had a brilliant policy thinker and communicator who couldn't keep his pecker in his pants, and a moral absolutist and former drunk who took this country to war because his Nixon-worshipping neocons convinced him that it was the Lord's will. To paraphrase JFK, it's time to pass the damn torch already. We have lived too long with prejudices that the young never had to experience, and it clouds our thinking. Can you imagine that I never sat in a classroom with a non-white person until college? Once again, we desperately need to alter our nation's course, but still I wonder if the young are aware of the potential political clout that rests within them. Being disqualified from voting in 1968, when my ass was personally on the line, changed me. I am one of the laziest men walking, (it took 28 years to complete my Bachelor's Degree), but I have never missed the chance to vote in a single election since. Now, it's your future that's at stake.

It's this simple. If young people come out in numbers and vote, Obama will win. If they don't, he won't. And history is not on your side. Young people might have saved us from a second Bush term, but registering on campus is not the same as going to the voting booth and pulling that curtain shut. In every election since Nixon, young voters have disappointed those candidates who depended on them. Just ask Al Gore. Early voting seems to be the way to go, but first-time voters might enjoy the chaos of election day. If you don't know, you must call or Google your city or state's Election Commission to find out your polling place. Don't wear your campaign gear or some zealot will make you turn your T-shirt inside out, and bring an ID and prepare to do battle with those who would challenge your rights. You have the power to decide this election, and if we do it right this time, you also have the ability to redeem a lot of forgotten or discarded dreams. If I could, I would come and beg each of you individually, please vote.

If you don't receive this message, it's because your parents wouldn't send it to you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The McCain Mutiny

I haven't seen rats desert a sinking ship this fast since we sank the Bismark. Kathleen Parker was first to say the V.P. nominee had no mental clothing, followed by George Will, Charles Krauthhammer, Christopher Buckley, David Brooks, and finally Peggy "1000 Points of Light" Noonan. In other words, the "Intellectual" Conservatives that the red state voters so disdain, have thrown in the towel on the McCain/Palin ticket. So who's left? The Evangelicals who believe that Jesus is a Republican and Palin would just make a nifty president; the fat cats who not only will get fatter in a GOP administration, but will escape further investigation for their nefarious deeds; followers of particular "isms," from Protectionism to Zionism; and pocketbook voters who can't stand the thought of their taxes supplementing anyone's food stamps. And I am so weary of listening to rich people whine about Capital Gains Taxes. A capital gain is free money that your existing money earned for you while you weren't looking. Another of my father's sayings: "This is a great country, but the dues are expensive." Why not just be grateful for any capital gains and pay the fucking tax?

In the final Presidential debate Wednesday, I fully expected McCain to begin rolling steel marbles in his palm, turn to Obama, and say, "Ahh, but it was the strawberries!" Nothing has worked for him. Not Bill Ayers, or "Lipstick on a Pig," or suspending his campaign to fix the economy, or his latest manufactured outrage about Rep. John Lewis. And certainly not the selection of Sarah Palin, who has proven to be Bush in Spanks: just as dumb but twice the ambition. From simply a visual point of view, McCain's pallor made me question the wisdom of High Def TV. At times he alternated from appearing like Casper, the unfriendly ghost (or was that Spooky?), to becoming so red-faced, it looked like his head was going to explode. No wonder they prop Cindy up there at every, single speech. She would have sat at the table with John on Wednesday, but she has already become the Yoko Ono of the campaign.

Senator McCain has made the classic Hillary Clinton mistake in his run for the presidency. He altered who he really was and accepted a persona created by Karl Rove and his hapless, outdated advisers in the belief that the old politics would get him elected. Even his colleagues said they don't recognize the current John McCain, and that's a shame for those who have followed his political career. If you were able to see McCain's comments at the Al Smith Dinner in New York last night, after the hilarious jokes, the Senator paid a genuine and heartfelt tribute to the achievements of his opponent, ending with "I can't wish you good luck, but I do wish you well." This is the honorable John McCain that I remember working with Sen. Feingold for campaign finance reform, or saying that this country does not torture for the reciprocal safety of our own soldiers. It's sad to see him end his career like Bob Dole, wandering around muttering "Where's the outrage?"

I give credit to Sen. McCain for not shoveling through the Rev. Wright muck again, but the constant references to "Joe, the not-quite Plumber," more than created an alternate living, breathing straw man upon which to base a bogus argument. McCain may have been aiming for the "Joe Six-Pack" vote, but he lost every former Hillary supporter when he mocked a "woman's health" in air-quotes as a potential reason to have an abortion. Personally, I believe that life begins when the doctor slaps your ass, but what I, or anyone else thinks is irrelevant to the woman facing that decision. It's not the government's business either. But Obama is the first Democrat yet I have heard say that "Nobody is pro-abortion," and tackle the issue. McCain also doesn't understand that his $5000 tax credit to buy health insurance does no good when HMOs disqualify anyone with pre-existing conditions. There are thousands just like me who can't purchase health insurance at any cost. For the past several weeks, McCain has been asking crowds at his rallies, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" The shame of this election campaign is that we never got to see the real John McCain, until it was too late.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Raiding The Whorehouse

It was one of my father's sayings about stock market declines; "When they raid the whorehouse, they take the pretty ones along with the ugly ones." They all look suspect to me now, but in the case of AIG (American International Group), that's one particularly ugly whore. Only days after receiving an $85 Billion dollar bailout from the Fed to keep from going belly up, the company spent a half million dollars on a "retreat" for company employees at an exclusive California resort/spa. Congress is insisting they pay back the half-mil, while approving another $35 Billion for the company in additional aid. Of course, it's beyond outrageous, but a revealing glimpse into the mentality of today's corporate America. Talk about a group of people who have become dependant on government largess, and they're all wearing suits and carrying Blackberries.

My sincerest sympathy goes to those who have been crack-backed by the decade of gains that have just been wiped out. I feel your pain. I retired from the field of play after the tech stock bust of 2000 and am still licking my wounds. That's when I finally realized that the market; the Dow, NASDAQ, futures, commodities, you name it, was an insiders' game. If you're someone like me, the only way to make money is if you're lucky enough to bet on the insiders' side. It's like the casinos. It's a rigged deal and the odds favor the house. And just like the casinos, market institutions are always coming up with new ways to bet. Only instead of Blackjack, Keno and craps, they call them financial instruments, derivatives, puts, and calls. You can make money betting a company's stock will go down. In fact, that's probably one of the only ways left to make money in stocks.

I come from a family of investors. When I was a little boy, my parents had to explain to me why my Grandfather had given me 50 shares of Nabisco for my birthday instead of a toy truck. After I understood, when my Mother took me to the grocery store I would always insist she buy Vanilla Wafers, just to support the company. The stock market seemed like a private club, or some mysterious Masonic order with closely held secrets. My Grandfather, who came to this country with nothing, would buy a stock and hold it for a quarter century before he sold. He taught my father the same principles of buying shares in a solid company with a future and holding on to them forever. That sort of conservative wisdom helped put me through college, but the internet age changed everything.

Part of the insiders' game is that they don't teach you about the stock market in school. You have to learn it from other insiders, or go to special schools where they teach this stuff exclusively. I learned from sitting with my father about the intricacies of the game. I entrusted my investments to him my entire life because he was better than any broker; he was smarter than most, did better research, and he actually cared. He kept books of moving averages that he would track using his own methods. When a stock broker would show him his new car, my father would say, "I want to see your clients' new cars." He would explain he was such a conservative investor because, "My father got wiped out in the Stock Market crash of 1929. A broker jumped out of a high window and landed on his pushcart." It was the same for 70 or so years. Then he got an online account.

My father had persuaded me that my intuitive judgement was as good as anyone's and if I did the proper research, I could make money in the market. When I pulled the trigger on my first online trade, it was as big a rush as drawing a straight-flush. It was like having a loose slot machine in the house. I was way up for awhile and began imagining myself as having some latent ability to think a step ahead of the herd, but then the herd trampled me. I'll spare you the gory details, but I was left bewildered and feeling guilty that I had failed because I was too impulsive or my research was flawed. I had read books by everyone from Lee Ioccoca to Melvin Van Peebles. I looked at as many as five separate sources for expert opinion before making a trade, but made the mistake of falling in love with the "pretty ones" and holding on to them too long. I took my lumps and bailed out, no wiser but certainly sadder. I didn't even get a free buffet out of the deal.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that my online brokerages, first Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette, and then Harris Direct, were under investigation for their sales practices. It seems that some of the "experts" giving presumably impartial advice had financial interests in many of the stocks they were supposed to be reviewing. Both companies promptly went under and class-action lawsuits were filed, but because of lack of a paper trail and institutional candor, I could never prove that the shares I purchased were tainted by someone else's personal interest. It helped my pride to know I wasn't a total fool, just a sucker and a mark. But it hurt my pocketbook just the same. That's how I know they're a bunch of thieves going in. In the end, they even got to my father. Dad, had who maintained the same investment philosophy his entire life, was lured into a group of clients given exclusive access to IPO's(Initial Public Offerings), which created so many instant millionaires in the 90s, and soon found out that part of his ass was missing. Dad was smarter than me, he had other assets. My financial plan is now probably much like yours; vote for Obama and pray.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"That One"

Here we were all settled in to watch a civil debate and John McCain goes all Uncle Remus on us. His referral to Obama as "that one" can be interpreted one of two ways. First, as an elementary school teacher would refer to a class of mischievous children, or worse, as someone who has a little Joel Chandler Harris (Uncle Remus) in his soul. "That one." It's ugly. It's a dehumanizing remark and suggests the referenced person is somehow "the other." At best, it is sneering condescension, and at worst, McCain may as well have called Obama "tarbaby." That was another old Uncle Remus tale that Disney made one of their classic full-length animated movies about, but they only break it out for White Citizen's Council meetings these days. Try buying a copy of "Song of the South" online while singing "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah."

The things that seep from the subconscious when you're on live TV are amazing. McCain told one audience member that he had probably never heard of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae before the current economic crisis. Why would he assume that? The young man was sitting there in a jacket and tie like everyone else, and he had just asked a question about economics. Oh yeah, he was black. Who let the dogs out? Whoo, whoo, whoo. "That one." What else could explain McCain's contempt for Obama except an old boy mentality of exclusivity? Over the course of the debate, McCain's voice grew into an urgent whisper, like an exasperated Washington insider who can't believe he is about to get his ass kicked by a black man still in his first Senate term, sort of like Hillary Clinton in wing-tips.

Last night's debate in Nashville only solidified the image of John McCain as old grouch. He kept referring to the country's need for a "steady hand on the tiller" while he is already being coached by Cindy like Nancy Reagan giving Ronnie his cue. Melody asked me, "Why is she up his ass all the time? No one else's spouse has to stand there like an attendant." I answered, "I guess his advisers must think it makes him look younger." When McCain's prima facie case for bad judgement, Sarah Palin, said, "I think the American people are looking for something fresh and new," she couldn't have been referring to McCain. God help us if McCain should die in office and leave the country in the care of the weather girl.

Speaking of weather girls, there was no mention in the debate of Bernadine Dohrn or William Ayers, which was a welcome respite from Palin's obnoxious repetition of Obama "palling around with domestic terrorists." There you go again, Joe, pointing fingers at the past. Personally, I would enjoy meeting the Ayers' to talk about back in the day, but I doubt that I would walk away from the meeting with a desire to bomb the Pentagon. "That one." And if McCain knows, as he assures us he does, how to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, why doesn't he go ahead and tell somebody? It didn't help matters that the McCains immediately left the hall, leaving the Obamas the opportunity to shake hands and generally look gracious on television. Who's really "that one" in this contest? "Thar he," spoke the pointing man while McCain exited, stage right.

The open contempt John McCain displays towards his opponent is disturbing, and his dismissal of Obama as a worthy adversary is insulting, especially on the heels of the "Bailout/Rescue Plan" that McCain "suspended" his campaign for, failing to stop worldwide markets from going into freefall. I much preferred Obama's choice of Warren Buffett as Treasury Secretary over McCain's suggestion of the woman who founded eBay on the same day that eBay laid off 1,000 employees. When the hock shops are hurting, you know times are hard. If this were a movie, Obama came off as William Powell and McCain looked like Al Lewis as Grandpa Munster. Tonight, I saw John McCain do an illusion worthy of David Blaine; he turned into Bob Dole. And by the way, the Beach Boys' version of "Barbara Ann," that McCain sings "Bomb Iran" to, is a weak cover of the original, doo-wop classic by The Regents, 1961. JFK was President and John McCain was already in the Navy. Just wanted to clear that up.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hotty Toddy

Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty
Who in the Hell are we?
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
Ole Miss, By Damn.

Just writing the words gives me a queasy feeling. They echo in my childhood memory from the many football games my father took me to between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Memphis State Tigers. We hated everything about them; how they came to town with their Confederate flags and pep band playing "Dixie" and took over the Peabody Hotel and turned it into a scene from the Old South with annual drunken arrogance. But we hated that damned southern aristocratic cheer most of all. Even before the Coliseum, back when the games were played in Crump Stadium, when the Ole Miss side started up the "Hotty Toddy" cheer, the stadium thundered with boos and the Memphis crowd shouted back, "Go to Hell Ole Miss, Go to Hell," which was considered somewhat scandalous for the time. Mississippi, and it's University, were the last bastions of white supremacy and the plantation mentality. I grew up hating Ole Miss.

In my sophomore year at Christian Brothers High School, I was sitting in a history class, staring out the window at South Parkway in awe as an endless convoy of military vehicles, heavy trucks and tanks, and Federal troops with U.S. Marshals caravaned South in front of the school on the avenue that became old Highway 51 into Mississippi. It was October of 1962, and the resistance of Gov. Ross Barnett to the integration of Ole Miss by James Meredith had touched off deadly riots on campus. President Kennedy had assembled a massive number of troops, which were passing before my eyes on the way to Oxford, when I felt a hard blow to my forehead. The Brother had hit me with a fast-thrown eraser and admonished me to pay attention to my history lesson.

That was an ugly time at Ole Miss. People died and numerous U.S. Marshals were injured by gunfire coming from the angry mob of segregationists. I had some knowledge of the state, travelling with my father on his sales trips when I was a child and performing throughout the Delta when I was a teenager. Although the high school kids seemed more interested in music, sports, and fashion than segregation, the older generation, and by only a few years, seemed to seethe with racial hatred and the potential for violence. At one Delta dance in 1965, a group of greasers at a diner yelled at us, "Where you Beatle boys from?" Thinking I could disarm anyone, I shouted cheerfully, "Memphis," to which the greasers responded, "Well, get your goddam asses back up there then," and we retreated in a hail of rocks and full cans of beer. They were just rednecks who wanted to fight. The same kind that nearly burned down Ole Miss in 1962.

I had no intention of playing at Ole Miss again until I met Holmes Pettey in 1972. Holmes was the scion of an old Mississippi plantation family and booked entertainment as a student at Ole Miss. He heard me play acoustic solo at the old Looking Glass in Overton Square and insisted that I play for his fraternity, SAE. I couldn't imagine that an Ole Miss fraternity, famous for their drunken Bacchanalias, could possibly want to hear me sing protest songs, but Holmes convinced me to come. I drove a VW Minivan full of hippies for moral support to Oxford and set up in the living room of the frat house.
Randy and friends at Ole Miss, 1972 (Melody above Randy holding beer mug w/ head back)
My friends and I could not have been treated better, and found a new generation of Mississippians who were eager to put Ole Miss' racial history behind them and join the rest of the nation in the Twentieth Century. I sang Dylan's "Oxford Town" in a frat house in Oxford, something I might have been beaten up for only a few years before. In short order, my friend Holmes had me opening for the Allman Brothers in the Oxford Coliseum, and pretty much fed me for a couple of years by continuing to book me throughout the state.

It's taken a long time for the stars and bars to disappear and the band to stop playing "Dixie" at athletic events, but under Chancellor Robert Khayat's leadership, even the die-hards came to realize that the Old South symbols were counter-productive for the University and needed to go. The success of that campaign was on full display as Ole Miss applied its finest spit and polish to the campus in preparation as host for the opening Presidential Debate. Just seeing the diversity of the student body that gathered in the Grove for spirited political rallies proves that the University has come a very long way. And it was not lost on some that the school that erupted in violence over the admission of a black student 46 years ago, would now host the first debate that included an African-American candidate for President of the United States.

Ole Miss may always be The Rebels, but the national attention focused on the campus last week was entirely positive. I realize that the significance of football is dwarfed by the pressing issues of our time, but for the unranked Rebels to travel to Gainesville the day after the debate and upset the Florida Gators by one point must have seemed like a sign from the Lord to Ole Miss fans. I will own up to rooting for the Rebels for the first time in my life, just because I know folks like Holmes Pettey and the other alumni, along with the students, faculty and debate organizers, will be walking on air all this week, if not all year. So, before we return our attention to the looming economic abyss, it's worth mentioning that during the vicious 60s, Ole Miss saw a bloody weekend that this nation will never forget. Now, 46 years later, Ole Miss had a weekend that school supporters, students, and officials, can always remember with deserved pride. I never thought I'd say it, but "Well done, Ole Miss." Now, if you could only change that goddamned cheer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Daydream Believer and a Homecoming Queen

John McClane(L)
John McCain(R)

I believe this election is still close because a great number of the voting populace have confused John McCain with John McClane, of the "Die Hard" movies. We certainly need a "Yippie Ki-Yay" kind of guy right about now, but I think Bruce Willis is in a House of Blues somewhere blowing harp. So we're left with surly tough-guy John McCain applying for the lead role in the next disaster classic, "Soft Money Dies Hard." He's going to "clean up Wall Street" and "reform the Old-Boy Network in Washington." He's going to "follow Bin Laden to the Gates of Hell," because, as McCain/McClane says, "I know how to win wars." Like that one against the villian who blew up an office building. Now that he's cast Sarah Palin as his wisecracking, gun toting, sidekick, we have either a blockbuster, or a sit-com waiting to happen.

There's nothing like a total economic collapse to re-focus the attention. As a lay observer of the Bush economy, I posted an article about this a year ago that I encourage you to revisit by clicking on the title of this piece. But that great ship, the no-holds-barred U.S.S. Free Market, has hit the iceberg and there aren't enough life rafts to go around. And then, the deregulating, anti-government greedheads who have placed us all in this rudderless boat, have the fucking gall to come before Congress and ask for $700 Billion dollars to pass out bail-buckets to Wall Street, but only if no questions are asked, and we must act immediately. Sec. Henry Paulson, the one doing the asking, is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and has surrounded himself with GS execs to assist him in the current crisis, even while Goldman Sachs is one of the firms in danger of collapse. I don't see any brokers jumping off the ledges yet, so shouldn't we all just stop and take a deep breath?

I'm the first to admit I don't know Freddie Mac from Bernie Mac, except for they both recently died, so I appreciate John McCain's honesty in admitting that economic matters aren't his strong suit. But to suggest a "9/11 style commission" to study the problem when you've just been told the economy is teetering on the verge of the Great Depression Part II, is the equivalent of sitting in a classroom reading "My Pet Goat" when the country is under attack. Now, McCain is eviscerating the very culture he helped to create in his "Maverick" days as "The Great De-Regulator." Only Ronald Reagan patented that fake cowboy stuff 30 years ago, and what Bush the Elder once called "Voodoo Economics," has now come to its' full fruition. Things finally "trickled down" alright, all over me and you. But I don't want Dr. Phil Gramm, the architect of removing institutional regulation like stripping varnish, to be Secretary of the Treasury after the "Ownership Society" has just become the "Borrower Society."

The implosion of the McCain campaign is further evidenced by the Disneyesque, manufactured Sarah Palin bubble that is just about to burst. After being secluded like a college student cramming for finals and being tutored in politics by former Bush operatives, the Palin camp made a serious blunder in trying to manage the media on her meet-and-greet at the United Nations. Attempting to ban a pool reporter from the room while allowing photographers to capture the friendly smiles is an old Soviet-style propaganda stunt. Someone should remind the Governor that in the lower 48, we still maintain that quaint "Freedom of the Press" thing, and sooner, rather than later, she will have to subject herself to the same scrutiny every other candidate must face. In 1980, Geraldine Ferraro's glow fell victim to her husband's sleazy business associates. Should the "First Dude" receive a similar examination of his secessionist views since his wife wants to hold office in this country? Tomorrow, Sarah has a photo shoot with Bono, who's a pacifist, so I hope she washed the blood off of her hands after meeting with Henry Kissinger today.

How anyone could support a candidate who's entire political career has been a trajectory leading to the current crisis is beyond me. His answer to provocation is force; his answer to fiscal crisis is committee. I don't know about you, but I am not a Georgian today, and I will not send my stepson into another politician's misguided war. Our country is being drained, financially and militarily, by the expenses of occupying a sovereign nation and our collapsing financial institutions, but John McCain "can't wait to introduce Sarah Palin to Washington." It's too late for introductions, but I'd like to get in my request. I am an entertainer who serves a societal purpose, and I made some bad investments several years ago that have affected my ability to perform happily. I would like the government to bail me out and reimburse my losses, or I could be too stressed to sing at Woofstock, the music festival for pets, in Overton Park next Sunday afternoon. That would be a huge loss for canine morale, and payback is a dog. This might be a job for John McLane.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick On Your Collar

This signed photo has nothing to do with the current circus clown pie-fight over lipstick, pigs, mavericks, and pit bulls. I just wanted to show you how nice Connie Francis is. When I was a little kid, I got hold on one of my big sister's "Teen" Magazines, and found some publicists' addresses for the current stars and I chose to write my beloved Connie. Weeks later, when I had forgotten about it, I received this picture in the mail proving that Connie had not forgotten me. Since she sang "Lipstick on Your Collar," I figure she knows more about it than most and, in any case, I believe she is far more qualified to be Vice President than Sarah Palin. Concetta Franconero rose from her small town roots in Newark to make albums in over 13 languages, including Yiddish and Russian, and has travelled all over the world. She once appeared in Romania and did a concert in the native tongue. She's dealt with some of the toughest men of her generation; Dick Clark, Ed Sullivan, Don Kirschner, and Bobby Darin, who learned about her family's position on gun control the hard way when Connie's father brandished a shotgun and threatened Darin's life. That's more hard core than shooting wolves from a bi-plane with an AK-47.

The collar that bears the lipstick in this current nastiness sounds like it belongs to Karl Rove, who has admitted "assisting" the McCain team and would prefer the media indulge in another tabloid campaign than one of substance. So, first the Murdock machine jumps on the false outrage concerning Obama's "lipstick on a pig" remark about McCain's economic policies and then the rest of the media, being in the entertainment and ratings business, follows suit. It's too juicy a story not to say that Sen. Obama referred to Governor Palin as a "pig," and then let him deny it, without reporting the full context and the asininity of the assumption. They're fortunate the language of the Nashville songwriter was avoided. When we found ourselves trying to dress-up something that was fundamentally flawed, we called it "polishing a turd." This campaign trick equivalent of throwing sand in the referee's eyes only deprives people of a serious debate on the real issues.

The GOP seems so giddy over their V.P. nominee, they don't quite know how to behave. The last time I witnessed public hysteria like this build over a public figure in a period of ten days, it was called Beatlemania. Only it's the adults doing the screaming this time over their working class hero. But when they throw big Fred "Hoss" Thompson in front of the cameras to rage about "vicious" attacks on the Governor, and McCain insists she is owed an apology, it merely illustrates how they know nothing of feminism, and are even oblivious that their frantic leaps to "defend the little lady" are nothing but chauvinistic insults to women who actually think for themselves. Still, Obama was forced, first thing, to address the "Old White Men Gone Wild" videos, which the cable networks, in turn, spent the rest of the day gnawing on and the politics of Rove lived to fight another day.

This is why Obama made a mistake in waiting a month to reach out to the Clintons. Only today, will he be having lunch with the former president, while Hillary begins to campaign on his behalf. A valid point that Hillary made during her primary run was her experience in dealing with the Republican attack machine. During Bill's two Presidential campaigns, the "Rapid Response Team" was a hallmark of his organization, and an unsubstantiated claim rarely lasted a news cycle before being firmly addressed. Maybe Obama did not feel the urgency to mend fences, but on a day like yesterday, he badly needed Hillary Clinton on the stump to explain how the other party was exploiting their own nominee. Forcefully saying "Enough!" is not sufficient. It's time to release the hounds.

The saddest part of this is that it seems to work. These irrational GOP attacks become water cooler fodder and blend into the general hum of election discussion. The party apparatchiks, like Marsha Blackburn (a genuine Republican woman), go on talk shows with talking points, screaming "sexism" every time Governor Palin's qualifications are questioned, just like John McCain deflects criticism with his POW credentials. McCain promised a dignified campaign, but I suppose it's clear how this is going to go. The baffling giddiness over Sarah Palin will even out after she answers some tough questions about her vision for the country's direction and some explanations regarding her personal beliefs, but the sneering, self-righteous attacks from the GOP will not stop. Meanwhile, both Palin and McCain have repeated their St. Paul speeches for a week now. It's time to get some new shtick.

I have no doubt that the Governor will do well with reporters, having once been one of them, but I hope no one falls for this Sir Walter Raleigh defense that is now filling the airwaves. I'm sure Sarah is entirely capable of leaping over her own mud puddles, and it will be interesting to watch. Then, women offended by "lipstick" references will see that Palin stands pretty much in opposite of the causes for which others struggled so mightily for so long. At present, her party is trying to portray her as the heroine of another song about lipstick, Benny Spellman's New Orleans classic, "Lipstick Traces," where he says:
"Lipstick traces on a cigarette/every memory lingers with me yet/I've got it bad like I told you before/I'm so in love with you, don't leave me no more."
Sort of like Governor Palin, I disagree with most of what she says, I abhor everything she stands for, yet somehow, I can't quite seem to get her off my mind.
If the McCain/Palin campaign really believes that stunts like this are not going to backfire on them in this important election, I've got another Connie Francis hit for them to listen to. It's called, "Who's Sorry Now?"

Friday, September 05, 2008

Citizen mcKane

After all the speeches are over and the confetti has been dropped, this election comes down to who would you prefer to be your king, the Warrior or the Scholar? Certain times require each, so where is America facing now? The Warrior sees things strategically with the objective being the conquest and domination of his enemies. He closely examines the parts in furtherance of his mission and, when achieved, it is considered "victory." The Warrior sees cubes, while the Scholar sees circles. The Scholar can conceptualize an issue or policy in its totality. He sees the whole rather than the parts, and not just the acts, but their ramifications. The Scholar understands that, rather than confrontation with a belligerent government as a first resort, the power of diplomacy and the application of true American ideals in the world will win us allies and partners over the long run. In other words, "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

The personal courage and conduct of John McCain while serving in the armed forces is unassailable. I had never heard him speak, before tonight, so personally about his experiences as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. I'd seen the clips and read the accounts, but nothing could have been as stirring as McCain's moving description of not only his suffering, but the bravery and honor he both witnessed and exemplified in that terrible place. For enduring that alone, McCain is a great man and a true American hero. But even while McCain was being tortured in Hanoi, a groundswell of social and political change was sweeping America, rejecting the militaristic mindset that fed 58,000 members of my generation into a mindless war machine that was of both parties making. When I reflect on my personal changes between the years 1967-1973, the Summer of Love to the summer of Watergate, I can't possibly conceive what it must have looked like to a man who missed it all; the growth of the anti-war movement and LBJ's abdication, the King and Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago Convention and Nixon's election, to Cambodia, Carpet Bombing, Kissinger and Kent State. None of these events informed John McCain's world view while imprisoned in Vietnam.

Like other military families, especially generational ones, McCain was infused with Naval Academy dedication to duty. By his own admission, he went into the war and came out of it with the same military bearing, and fought in the U.S. Senate against corruption and political financial abuse only after being implicated in the "Keating Five" Savings & Loan scandals of 1989, where he was cleared of wrongdoing but criticized by a Senate Ethics Committee for using "poor judgement." Now that he has made "judgement" a major issue in this election, there was a stark contrast between McCain's words, and the image of Governor Sarah Palin standing in front of the lights that spelled out the campaign's theme; "Country First." In this case, McCain did not put "Country First" by well considering his own mortality in placing a half-term governor and political unknown within one breath of becoming leader of the free world. He put "Election First" and made a "McGovern Picks Eagleton" decision.

The Governor made a great speech, electrified the base, and established herself as a new political star on the scene. She is, however, the anti-Hillary and though I'm sure Republicans love her, it's got to be love at first sight since no one outside of the 49th state knew her name before last week. Does it sound wise that the very first time the country lays eyes upon, or hears the voice of any aspiring politician, it's during that person's acceptance speech for the nation's second highest office? At least Dubya ran for, and won re-election to a second term as Texas Governor before Karl Rove set his eyes on the White House. Governor Palin is not yet into her second year. Even Dan Quayle spent a decade in the Senate before Poppy Bush picked him as, "My Favorite Blonde." Everyone held their breath for four years and prayed for Poppy's safety, lest the "potatoe" head assume power.

Senator McCain may have chosen an engrossing new personality, but he has grossly underestimated the intelligence of women with this calculated choice. In the last post I said that if McCain had a lick of sense, he would put a woman on the ticket, but I was thinking of Elizabeth Dole, Olympia Snowe, or even Susan Molinari. I didn't mean the first one passing by. But McCain caved to the Evangelical right and picked a hyper-Christian "hockey mom" who is to the womans' movement what Clarence Thomas is to modern jurisprudence. And I'm weary of hearing voters say, "We can identify with her because she's just like us." When I vote to elect either member of the Executive Branch, God help this country if he is just like me. I don't want some slacker like me as President, I want someone smarter than me and with more discipline and dedication than me. I want someone rooted in the present with an imaginative vision for the future, and I want someone who is for peace instead of more wars, and diplomacy rather than threats. And I want someone who finally knows how to use the damned internets.

That's why, although this was the most remarkable GOP Convention in memory, I've decided to vote for the smart guy this election. So, rather than compare the candidates' hobbies and hypothetical judgements, let's compare their SAT scores. I'm voting for the guy who came from nothing to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Columbia on scholarships and student loans, rather than the legacy admission who graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis. I am not afraid of the word "intellectual," and I want the once president of the Harvard Law Review who taught Constitutional law to be the Head of State this time, rather than someone who seems like a good guy or looks like he/she could kick ass. I want my president to be "elite." And despite the heroic record of John McCain while in captivity, I am tired of fighting the Vietnam War. McCain has contributed honorable service to this country and is 72 years old. By any measure, this will be a change election. I hope voters can summon the will to put one-issue, divisive politics behind and move into the new century with forward thinking, accompanied with a much needed dose of humility. We are presently engaged in a world war of new ideas, so who shall lead us; the Warrior or the Scholar?

Friday, August 29, 2008

We Overcame

I never thought I'd live to see it. I'm not talking about the Barack Obama nomination, I'm talking about Patrick Buchanan's effusive praise of his populist speech. If Obama can win over Pat Buchanan in a night, imagine what he can do in the next two months. America's fiercest culture warrior deemed the speech "magnificent." I have watched conventions since 1960, but I have never witnessed anything like last night. And after Obama's speech about the specifics of his direction as contrasted with the Republican agenda, I can't understand why anyone wouldn't wish to cast their vote for him. Oh, wait a minute. Yes I can. I live in Memphis, Tennessee, where racism burns like an open flame that some recoil from, while others can't help but draw near to stoke.

The headline of this post is both simplistic and in error. Only, as a songwriter, I couldn't resist a catchy title. But I know that despite the historic event we just witnessed, 45 years to the day of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, scores of people refused to watch while others watched while muttering obscenities under their breath. Racism lives all around me, and soon, maybe in the comments to this post, you'll see it raise it's pock-marked face once again. I received an anonymous message after Obama won the Iowa primary stating that "America will never elect a black man as president." I told the sender to get used to saying President Obama, but of course I am not that naive. The Old South will never surrender an ingrained white supremest mindset and embrace racial harmony until the last old dog dies. Why do you suppose Ronald Reagan opened his campaign for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi?

But I have just seen a crossroads moment in history presented to the American people for their ratification, and I pray we don't blow it this time, like we did in 1968 and 2004. Last night, Obama said, "Let's not have a big election over small things." In the middle of two wars, the populace re-elected the criminal Bush to halt gay marriage. Then, after Obama's triumphant speech in Berlin, where 250,000 Germans stood and waved American flags, he was ridiculed by his opposition as merely a celebrity. I saw in the negative GOP ads every subliminal way to turn that triumph into a hollow moment, just by appealing to the good old boy American hatred of foreigners. Did you ever notice that those that scream, "This is the greatest country in the world" the loudest, are the one's who've never been anywhere else?

But this country is the only place I can think of where something like last night could have transpired. I read an editorial earlier in the day that spoke of the struggle from "the middle passage" to the present moment and realized, that's just it. Neither Obama's Kenyan father nor Kansan mother had anything to do with the "middle passage." That's why Jesse Jackson and the old guard of the Civil Rights Movement at first had such difficulty moving to his side. Obama was a child during the sixties and was not a participant in the physical, marching reality of the movement, but he is a child of Dr. King's dream nonetheless.

There has been much talk about a post-racial America, and although Obama may be the living representative of such a notion, the country is a long way from that day. As evidenced by recent political activity in Memphis, racism exists on all sides of the skin pigment spectrum and black racism is as insidious as white. But racial politics did not work in Memphis this time. It seems that people are sick to death of it, as well as all "identity politics." They simple wanted to elect a person with their best interests at heart, and not beholden to some party ideology. That is why Obama's multi-racial perspective gives him the ability to speak authoritatively about the subject to all races. I am supporting Barack Obama for the same reason that Oprah stated, "Not because he's black, but because he's brilliant." Don't believe, however, that it will happen without a fierce struggle. But isn't it great that the Democrats finally found a nominee who is prepared to fight back?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All About Hillary's Eve

There were rumors on the internets and from the mediates that there was the potential for 1968-style demonstrations at this years' Democratic Convention, but so far it's been the feel-good event of the summer, right after the Olympics, murder aside. Sometimes it seems there's a Leon Klinghoffer on every cruise. And instead of angry crowds chanting "The whole world is watching," the masses are gathering around the brightest new media star, Rachel Maddow, and chanting "MSNBC." A younger generation assumes everybody is either watching already or can catch highlights on YouTube. And on Maddow's new cable show, they should make Pat Buchanan play her Ed McMahon. He's the perfect foil, but can he say "Hi-yo?"

Melody and I like to watch the direct feed from C-Span, without the commentary about what we are currently seeing for ourselves, or distracting graphics on a crawl like, "Senator McCain sends Cindy to Georgia to access civilian casualties." Barbie is going to wake up in Tbilisi and wonder what happened to the uprising in Marietta and Buckhead. I wept through most of the Kennedy portion and felt it was Teddy's finest hour. I imagine that you have to be of a certain age to feel the full impact of seeing the last of the Kennedy brothers in his final campaign. It tugs at your own mortality to comprehend that the legislative accomplishments of the younger Kennedy, who was kicked out of Harvard and who's own presidential ambitions drowned with a young girl in Chappaquiddick, dwarfs the combined lasting achievements of his martyred brothers. It's nearly enough to erase a lifetime of personal sins. When Michelle Obama spoke, Melody noted that the only people crying were African Americans, women, and me. But I cry at old Gene Autry songs, too. I have the emotions of a woman trapped in a man's body, and she's pissed and wants them back. But, how could you not love those two children who were, literally, adorable?

We watched tonight's featured attraction, the Hillary Moment, after hearing James Carville say the Democrats "wasted a day," by not attacking BushCain enough. What's the point? This country's on the precipice and everyone knows it. In any case, first blood was drawn by Montana's Governor Schweitzer, who used a rapier rather than a bludgeon, and then we settled in for the main event. After watching Hillary's speech without punditry, I thought her endorsement of Obama was lukewarm and Melody said, "It was all about her." When we switched back to MSNBC to see what the gang was saying, Keith Olbermann called it "a 5-run home run," and Eugene Robinson declared it a "turning point." At first I wondered if I had watched a different speech. I felt portions of the speech were very moving, especially the Harriet Tubman bit, but even that seemed directed at her own supporters. But after hearing all the superlatives heaped in her direction, I started questioning my own experience.

Perhaps I've grown so cynical that I can't see sincerity in a politician anymore, or maybe it annoys me that after 35 years, Hillary still stomps all over her own applause lines, but I do not understand the emotional investment a lot of woman had placed in her candidacy. I'm not a woman, but I thought I was a feminist. I have some knowledge of the Suffrage Movement, but I believed that Hillary, in her Senate record and in her candidacy, ill-served the feminist ideal by being a war hawk with our children and presiding over a sleazy attempt to villainize Barack Obama, which his opponents are now using against him. If John McCain had a lick of sense, he would now nominate a woman to be Vice President, but he doesn't, so we don't have to worry. Still, the most significant line of Hillary's speech was, "Were you only in it for me?" She did what she needed to do and then some, and she became, like Teddy Kennedy, a potentially formidable force in the Senate, while still keeping her options open for 2012, or even 2016.

If Obama is elected, and that is no sure thing for sure, perhaps Hillary, like Kennedy, can be liberated in the Senate to allow her true self to shine through without the political calculations. Then she can begin to sponsor progressive legislation, rather than flag burning amendments and sabre-rattling in the Middle East, and with such a record, she could again ascend the heights and still become the first woman president. She made a good speech tonight and began the process of reconciliation among the Democratic factions. I wrote in a previous post (6/5/08) that had Hillary voted against the war in Iraq, she would be the nominee today. But she didn't, and she's not. Barack Obama is the nominee, and if half the voting population wish to protect their hard-won gains, voting for John McCain is antithetical to the cause. For the future of feminism, "Now is the time for all good women to come to the aid of their party."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Remember When?

I love to receive those nostalgic emails about life in the Fifties. All the Teabury Gum, and nickel Cokes, and wax lips, presented in a Rock n' Roll wonderland where all the guys acted like Fonzie and high school was exactly like "Grease." Ah yes, the innocent Fifties, where virginal Bobby-Soxers abounded and life was "On the Beach" and survival was in a fallout shelter. I guess it's in my nature to remember adolescence a bit differently, so I present to you a different view of that Dick Clark decade, and wonder, do you...

Remember When
the first time your parents told you, "everybody dies?"

Remember When
Your pajamas with the built-in feet were recalled for lack of flame retardant?

Remember When
Every other commercial on television or ad in a magazine was for cigarettes, and they told you they were good for you? Now, 50 years later, and you can still recite tobacco slogans like, "LSMFT," "Winston Tastes Good Like A Cigarette Should," and "Call For Phillip Morris." You've come a long way, baby.

Remember When
You were taught in school to hide under your desk in case of a nuclear attack, and you figured out by age 7 that your ass was as good as fried and the human race could be obliterated at any moment, so what the hell?

Remember When
The air-raid sirens on top of public buildings went off every Saturday at noon, and you were never sure if it was a test or if the Russians figured out the best time to attack was noon, Saturday?

Remember When
Ike's government electrocuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for show, setting off a wave of anti-Semitism and orphaning two children, when the "atomic secrets" they passed to the Russians were the same "secrets" that the Soviet's Nazi scientists were only a few months behind our Nazi scientists in discovering in the first place; and no one said a thing about it.

Remember When
You were taught to believe that dropping two atomic weapons on a civilian population was justified, and saved lives?

Remember When
All your grade school and high school teachers were borderline senile Christian fanatics and they were allowed to beat you?

Remember When
You were taught that the police were your friends, until personal interaction proved they were liars, thugs, and racists?

Remember When
Hitching a ride was considered to be safe until that guy grabbed your inner thigh and you had to fight him to get out of the car?

Remember When
That first time you found your Dad's dirty books?

Remember When
If you dropped the phone, you could break your foot?

Remember When
Every family on your street had a maid that worked for wages so low, that if your parents tried to pay that today, they would be arrested. And since there were no retirement plans or Social Security, the maids worked until they died?

Remember When
The racist system threw Chuck Berry in prison because he drove across the state line with an underage girl in the car?

Remember When
The government drafted Elvis into the Army, when no one famous ever got drafted, effectively ending the rebellious age of Rock n' Roll and killing Gladys Presley in the process, and The Colonel let them do it and insisted that Elvis go along and be a grunt?

Remember When
Your city government started to tear down 100 year old palatial homes and historic buildings to make room for fast food restaurants, until every major city has turned into the exact same aesthetically offensive strip mall.

Remember When
Most of the public school Art and Music teachers were gay, but nobody made a big deal about it?

Remember When
Your Dad used to curse at the "women drivers?"

Remember When
You had to re-learn the silly, sing-song "Pledge of Allegiance" because the politicians voted to put the words "Under God" in there, and you couldn't understand why you were swearing personal loyalty to a piece of cloth in the first place? And finally.......

Remember When
You grew your hair long, and your parents kicked you out? Oops sorry, that was the 60s.

The Fifties; that grand decade right after the Forties.