Monday, July 30, 2012

Romney Invades Poland!

Here's what I learned in ten years of writing songs in Nashville. When somebody says they have something they want to play for you, and it's obvious that time, money and emotion have been invested in the project, even if the tune is infested with monkey pox, it does no harm to praise the result. Usually, a small group of cynical guys will listen without making eye contact, and when the song is over, they'll say, "Nothin' wrong with that," giving the positive affirmation that the interested party seeks without really venturing an opinion. So, when Mitt Romney is asked what he thinks of Olympic preparedness while in London on the eve of the games, is it so hard to say, "Everything looks great and I'm sure we'll have a swell time," instead of launching into a six-tiered critique of British security? Romney's one of those guys that if you show him a new watch that you bought, he'll say, "You should have talked to me first." The mayor of London used Willard's witless gaffe as a rallying cry in front of 60,000 people in Hyde Park. The British press excoriated Romney as "worse than Palin," while tabloid headlines screamed "Mitt the Twit." Years ago during one of Dubya's hilarious trips abroad, when he gave an impromptu neck massage to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it only creeped her out. Romney succeeded in offending an entire nation with what Winston Churchill once referred to as "arrogant pedantry." So much for "improving our unique Anglo Saxon relationship." Just move along folks-- no "Ich bin ein Berliner" here.

The bad press did not prevent Romney from staging his fundraiser with the heads of all the European banks currently embroiled in the LIBOR scandal, but that's another topic. In a televised press interview, Mitt wore his frozen-smile face while deflecting questions about his dressage horse participating in the Olympics to his wife, Anne. Mitt claimed he wasn't even going to watch the event and didn't know what day it was scheduled. Imagine the number of handlers and groomsmen required to prepare and ship a horse overseas for an international competition. You can't say Romney's not a job creator, at least in the horse arena. But if he's paying the tab, don't tell me he won't find a television somewhere to see how splendidly his pony dances. The most exciting horse-related news for Memphians is that Congressman Steve Cohen's brother, Martin, has invented a new type of stirrup that is being used in the Olympics by the U.S. Riding Team. I suppose I'm allowed to promote Cohen Stirrups if everybody attached to these games is already plugging something. The only controversy I can imagine is if some Cohen stirrups wind up on a Romney horse.

Michelle Obama headed up the official American delegation, although she had to share camera time with the Romney's while waving to the entering athletes in preparation for the opening ceremonies, which were very light-hearted when compared with China's martial approach. There was a lot of drumming, but the British drummers were looser and more relaxed than the sea of synchronized drummers the Chinese used four years ago. That's because the jolly Brits were all volunteers in the production, while the Chinese conscripted young boys from their families and forced them into Olympic drum schools, nailed their feet to the floor and beat them with bamboo rods until they got it perfect. But, the British know how to do whimsy and the Queen showed such a marvelous sense of humor, she nearly smiled. In director Danny Boyle's opening film, when Daniel Craig appeared at Buckingham Palace as James Bond, I suppose I wasn't the only one to ask, "Did Sean Connery die?" The only other request that I might have had for the Royals is, would it be too much to ask Prince Harry to bring Pippa?

The journey through four decades of British music was great to a point, but I would like to take this opportunity to apologise, on behalf of the so-called "Baby Boomers," for my generation's obsession with the song, "Hey Jude." Even in Beatles history, this one was late in the game when the band was breaking up and everyone believed Paul had written an anthem that would last. Except, after the first 10,000 listenings I began to hate the freaking song and would be horrified if young listeners judged the Beatles' musical catalog by this stinker. Let's face it, they had a seventy year old entertainer singing a forty year old song, and when the "Na na nas" kicked in, the cameras showed a younger generation that knew not Paul McCartney. If they wanted to dust off the Beatles, they should have gotten Ringo's ass up there and had them play some Beatles songs. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Sir Paul's voice is shot. The network anchors blamed it on "emotion," but this man played a Command Performance for the Queen when he was barely 21. Why would one more sporting event make him emotional?  Perhaps they should have concluded with something a little more contemporary, like the Pet Shop Boys, or Wham!

Meanwhile, the Romney circus had moved on to Israel where the campaign had arranged a major fundraiser starring the Vegas Zionist, Sheldon Adelson. Only it was the holiday of  Tisha B'av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the first two temples and fast for the night, so the Romney staff quickly arranged a 50K per plate fundraising breakfast where no press was allowed. I'm certain the pot was sweetened by the remarks of Romney advisor Dan Senor, the partisan hack hired by the Bush government to give press conferences from Iraq. Senor hinted that a Romney presidency would give tacit approval for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, creating another international flap. In an interview with ABC News, Romney's face froze into a twisted contortion resembling a grin and said that everything must be done to prevent Iran from becoming a "nuclear capability state." Well, every nation on earth is a "nuclear capability state." I tremble at the thought of Romney invading Poland, his next stop. With his distaste for trade unions, he might insult Lech Walesa.

The travelling Bush 2.0 caravan couldn't sour the celebration of the London games, however, so after a glorious public celebration of socialized medicine, the competition finally began. We settled in only to see Michael Phelps' fall from glory. Let that be a lesson to you kids not to stay too long on the bong. It makes your legs rubbery. While new American stars were being born, I've already become addicted to women's weightlifting. It's the single opportunity for an announcer to say, "her snatch looked better than her clean and jerk," and not get censored. With Mitt Romney gone until the equestrian events begin, the competition can proceed without sniping from the Savior of Salt Lake City. After the Fleet Street press scolding he received, I'd stay clear of the dressage myself. Want to know why the British media reacted so furiously over Romney's seemingly inane pre-Olympic comments? Because he displayed bad manners, and in England, manners count. From my admittedly limited interactions, the British people are simply nicer than they are here. That's why they call it civilization.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Corporate Olympic Spirit

The London Olympics are just around the corner, but it appears as if pre-games jitters have set-in. The most explosive controversy in this country was the discovery that the Ralph Lauren designed, official U.S. Olympic uniforms were manufactured in China. Democrats and Republicans who can't agree on the color of the sky have discovered unity in their outrage. House Speaker John Boehner said the Olympic Committee "should have known better," and Senate majority leader Harry Reid sputtered that they should throw the uniforms in a big pile, burn them, and start over again. The impracticality of that notion is illustrated by the fact that polyester doesn't burn well, and it might be considered a tribute towards the country that is holding our national note to let them continue making our clothing. I think the Olympic team should dress like the rest of America, and when I looked last night, my shoes and Dillard's brand slacks were made in China, my underthings in Costa Rica, and my groovy, Cremieux shirt was made in Sri Lanka. I don't know what's more offensive; that the US team uniforms were manufactured overseas, or that they allow the Ralph Lauren, "Polo" logo to be plastered all over the clothes like a NASCAR driver. I'm no style maven, but isn't the Polo brand a little passe? I'd be embarrassed to wear an oversized symbol of corporate branding on my coat. To make it worse, the man-on-a-horse logo is on the jacket's left side, so the athletes will be pledging their allegiances to Ralph Lauren.

Over at Fox News, the main complaint was about the beret. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy wondered aloud why they couldn't wear cowboy hats and dimwit "contributer" Kimberly Guilfoyle complained that the berets looked, "too Frenchy." Fox News' outrage was calmed when it was pointed out that certain elite U.S. military forces also wear the beret. The general agitation was sufficient for six Democratic Senators, including Schumer and Lautenberg, to propose the "Team USA Made in America Act of 2012," as if they sold Olympic uniforms off-the-rack at Macy's. Ralph Lauren has since promised that the outfits will be all U.S. made by the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but first he has to build some plants in the U.S. that still make clothes

London, meanwhile, resembles an armed camp with missile batteries on the rooftops and gunboats on the Thames. There are currently more air defenses in London than during the Blitz, and the Brits are such sticklers for curfews and such, that some poor civic lackey did the unthinkable. Last Saturday, Bruce Springsteen was giving a free concert in Hyde Park, which is surrounded by foreign embassies and the tony homes of London's mega-wealthy. He had already played for three hours, but when he returned for an encore, he said to the crowd of 65,000, "I've gotta tell you...I've been trying to do this for fifty years," and he called Paul McCartney onstage to join him. Springsteen's face reportedly lit up like a child as they burned their way through, "I Saw Her Standing There," and then began to play "Twist & Shout." The problem was that the concert's organizer, Hard Rock Calling, promised the event would end at 10:15, so promptly at 10:40, an overzealous city official cut off the power in mid-song, leaving the rock icons to shrug and walk off the stage. Angriest was guitarist "Little" Steven Van Zandt, who tweeted, "When did England become a police state?" British journalist Richard James wrote, "Only in Britain could a local council pull the plug on the greatest artists of the last 50 years, giving it their all."

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was unavailable for comment because he was busy preparing for his two major London fundraisers on the eve of the Games. The first presidential candidate in history to travel to a foreign country and openly solicit funds during an American election campaign, Romney will host a reception, at $2,500 per person, for the peasants, and another "private dinner" with Mitt, costing from $25,000 to $75,000 per plate. At those prices, they'd better be serving hummingbirds' eyelashes and fillet of Komodo dragon, but as an added benefit, you get to rub tuxedoed elbows with the co-hosts; the heads of Barklay's Bank, The Bank of Credit Suisse, Deutche Bank, and Wells Fargo Securities. Romney, aside from money-grubbing in Socialist Britain, will be attending the Olympics to watch his wife's "therapy horse," Rafalca, compete in the dressage, sometimes known as "horse ballet." It should be a unique sight, watching a presidential contender suspend his campaign and fly to another continent to root for his horse. I'm certain that Mitt believes the entire country will be pulling for the Romney horse to "bring home the gold." I only hope they treat the horse better than the dog.

The other major Olympic news concerned former Britain Football Squad captain, David Beckham, being left off his home country's roster for being "overage." How does that make you feel? I don't think the British ever forgave him for taking away "Posh Spice," but I sure hope he decides to play for our side. So, construction delays aside, no one does pomp like the British and it should be quite a show, especially with all that international corporate money to spend. The Olympics also gives me a legitimate excuse for staying home and watching hundreds of hours of televised events, at least until I get so sick of that John Williams theme music that I begin to recoil at the sound of trumpets. For sure, I'll be watching the "horse ballet." It will be a welcome change from a steady diet of Hard Core Pawn and Lizard Lick Towing. Only, the Olympics are a reality TV show that is unscripted, and, berets be damned, it's an occasion for genuine national pride, depending on how Fox News decides to spin it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Surprise, Surprise!

The frazzled, frothing, obstructionist Republicans had set aside the date of June 28 as the day they would finally decapitate the Obama administration, but a funny thing happened on the way to the guillotine. The Tea Party dominated GOP had scheduled a House vote to declare Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress just hours after the Supreme Court was due to strike down Obamacare, delivering the old one-two punch to the president's chances for a second term. Minority leader John Boehner had warned his troops that there would be no celebrations, and "no spiking the ball." Instead, they got sacked in their own end zone and the other team did the celebrating. If I say that the conservatives' ace reliever walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, I will have made three separate sports analogies in one paragraph.

Everyone on both sides expected the Supreme Court to hand Barry his hat and overturn his major legislative accomplishment, but somehow Chief Justice John Roberts developed a conscience and not only sided with the court's "liberals," but wrote the majority opinion upholding the legality of the Affordable Care Act. It's worth noting that of the five votes in favor of retaining Obamacare, three were from women. The Tea party had set up a battery of microphones to bleat their delight to the lame-stream media, but instead they ran from the courthouse steps screaming, "It's a tax! It's a tax!" like Charlton Heston at the end of "Soylent Green" shouting, "It's people! Soylent Green is made from people!" Later in the day, the GOP-produced Eric Holder passion play was spoiled when outraged Democrats refused to participate in this particular farce and walked out, leaving the right-wing centurions to hammer in the nails alone. Thus, for allegedly withholding documents concerning a botched operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms called, "Fast and Furious," Attorney General Eric Holder, not John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, or Janet Reno, became the first sitting cabinet officer in American history to be held in Contempt of Congress.

California Representative Daniel Issa, the leader of this posse, sputtered, "Very clearly, (the ATF) made a crisis and they are using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people's Second Amendment rights." Translating from the overtly hysterical, the ATF supposedly allowed guns to be smuggled to Mexican drug cartels so the resulting carnage would so horrify this country's citizens that the confiscation of firearms would begin, triggering the Second American Revoltion. The nearest equivalency I can think to compare would be if we sold cheesburgers and pizza to the Canadians and became so grossed out over their morbid obesity, our entire country went on a diet. This effort to humilate Obama on the same day that his health care legislation was due to be struck down would have been declared transparent on its face had it not contained a kernal of truth. A Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, was murdered with a gun purchased by a suspect that the ATF office in Phoenix was tracking. Journalist Katherine Eban has written an article for Fortune Magazine entitled, "The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal," which offers a definitive account of the tragic episode. Eban concludes, "The ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels," and quotes IRS Special Agent Linda Wallace, who investigated the case, as saying, "Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false."

As for the historic decision upholding the Affordable Healthcare Act, I was all set to rail about this overtly politicized Supreme Court and how, once again, a conservative majority did the bidding of the Republican Party. I was going to reference Bush v Gore and Citizens United as the first two nails in democracy's coffin, and overturning Obamacare was the third. I was prepared to draw paralells between the Roberts Court and the courts of the 1930s which thwarted FDR's New Deal and was absolutely convinced another 5-4 decision along party lines was forthcoming. This convincingly proves that I don't know squat. Only, I'm in good company. Constitutional scholars and Court watchers were all expecting the law to be struck down but never imagined that it would be John Roberts that would save the bill. Now, instead of comparing Roberts to Warren Burger in the seventies or Earl Warren in the sixties, he turns out to be more like the conservatives' nemisis,  David Souter, who considered resigning rather than serve on a court that could approve Bush v Gore. Judge Roberts' principled stand motivated the Executive Director of Families USA, Ron Pollack, to write, "It has taken close to a century to enact meaningful healthcare reform. Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law, it will become a living reality for all Americans very soon."

So the battle lines have been drawn. Mitt Romney promises to "Repeal and replace Obamacare," only he doesn't say with what. The individual mandate was, after all, Mitt's baby. Now he treats it like a bastard lovechild. In Massachusets, meanwhile, 98 percent of its citizens are covered because of Romneycare's individual mandate, highest in the nation, and they seem to like it. I don't particularly like the government telling me that I have to buy something either, but health insurance is something I have long tried to purchase, but have been denied. The mandate is the only way within the current system that healthcare  becomes affordable and available to all. Let's face it, health insurance is just another racket invented by greedy capitalists to skim cash from hospitals and the lucrative medical testing industry. Ever wonder why your aspirin costs ten dollars a tablet in the hospital but only seven bucks a bottle in the gift store? Insurance companies are the ones that are getting in-between you and your doctor, but it's a revenue producer, so the corporatists have to convince you with lies that, "Obamacare is a govenment takeover of healthcare," and that the government will now dictate your medical preferences. The government is only enriching the insurance companies by providing them with 33 million new customers, but that's better left unsaid. Currently, this is the way the game is played. If you want decent healthcare you need to buy insurance, at least until the people wake up and ask, "Why?"