Sunday, December 21, 2008
The kings of Tyrus with their convict list
Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss,
And you wouldn't know it would happen like this,
But who among them really wants just to kiss you?
I don’t know which is more surprising— that Barack Obama tapped his former rival, Hillary Clinton, to be Secretary of State, or that Bill Clinton has agreed to play ball with the guy who humiliated him by making him sing his praises in the seventh inning stretch of the recent presidential campaign.
Either way, naming Hillary Clinton as the next Secretary of State is a political masterstroke. Once again, Barack Obama has hit it out of the ballpark.
In all fairness to the Clintons, the pitch probably seemed like a softball. In exchange for a coveted spot on Team Obama, all the Clintons had to do was publicly disclose a list of the financial contributors to their wildly successful, albeit highly secretive charitable organization, the Clinton Global Initiative.
Sure, the deal lets the former president feign ‘transparency’ by voluntarily offering up the names of the corporations, countries and charitable organizations that have stuffed more than $500 million into the Clinton coffers over the last 10 years. But can anyone really expect Hillary Clinton, the soon-to-be de facto representative of the Obama Administration abroad, to see past the favors, chits and IOUs that she and her husband have amassed over the last 15 years?
Saudi Arabia alone gave to the Clinton Global Initiative between $10 million and $25 million. The governments of Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan each gave more than $1 million. So did the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation.
So why would Barack Obama appoint someone with such an obvious conflict of interest to such a high profile post? Because Hillary Clinton’s nomination was never about building a ‘team of rivals,’ as Obama so often likes to suggest, casting himself in the mold of his political aspirant, Abraham Lincoln. Obama had another Lincoln mantra on his mind when he decided to call Hillary Clinton up to the big leagues, and that mantra goes something like this: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”
By providing the 2,922-page list containing more than 200,000 benefactors, Bill Clinton not only lifted a veil of secrecy that had protected his personal and business dealings from scrutiny for the last decade and half, he publicly disclosed every name of every person from every county on every continent in every corner of the world he has had contact with for the last 15 years.
Anyone connected to the Clintons—all their supporters, their benefactors, their cronies, their champions—all laid out not only for Obama, but for every other Clinton contrarian to see.
This deliberate drawing an adversary out into the open, leading them into the arena, then laying them bare for all to see isn’t just a technique that works well on the political stage. In fact, it’s a technique Bob Dylan has employed with dexterous skill since he stepped in the stage some 40 years ago.
Anyone who has witness Bob in his element knows that when you step on stage with Dylan, you leave nothing on the sidelines. The same is proving true with Barack Obama. Whether it’s writing about a marriage that’s doomed, or plotting a union that will likely end the same way, Dylan and Obama are masters at their craft.
The pending Obama-Clinton pact is a perfect case in point. Should Senator Clinton becomes Secretary of State, Obama gets two of the biggest sluggers in the Democratic Party on his team. If not, they go back to the minor leagues.
Either way, Barack Obama has his bases covered...
Now you stand with your thief, you're on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saintlike face and your ghostlike soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you?
For a complete, searchable list of all 220,000 donors to the Clinton Global Initiative, click here.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to make a buck.
They'll stone ya and then they'll say, "good luck."
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.
Cigars, it seems, aren’t the only thing they’re smoking in the backrooms of Chicago.
Last week it was reported that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly schemed to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for $1 million dollars.
Again, that’s $1 million dollars for a Senate seat held by the man who was just elected to lead the free world, making him the most recognizable person on the planet.
What could this guy possibly have been thinking?
Maybe in a time when it’s become a national pastime for politicians to see how many zeros they can put behind the next bank bailout, mortgage mark down or cash-and-carry plan for the failing car industry, Governor Blagojevich thought six zeros was a bargain. Maybe Blagojevich thought it was his duty as governor to uphold Chicago’s longstanding tradition of political corruption and scandal.
Or maybe Blagojevich is just an idiot.
Mental competency aside, anyone with a shred decency knows there’s a larger problem here hanging like a hazy cloud of smoke over this whole sordid affair. In one fail swoop, one governor’s half-baked scheme to sell-out democracy somehow managed to further retard the electorate’s already ailing perception of our political system.
To Blagojevich's credit, this Wiley politician from the Windy City’s North side wasn't completely impervious to the fact that most people don’t have $1 million cash just lying around. According to FBI wiretaps, Blagojevich would have been willing to have made do with any one of the following:
- a substantial salary for himself at a non-profit foundation or organization affiliated with labor unions;
- a spot for his wife on a paid corporate board;
- promises of future campaign funds;
- a Cabinet post or ambassadorship
In this season of giving, however, it seems Old Saint Nick isn’t the only one ‘making a list and checking it twice.’ Blagojevich had a list of his own. And that’s where it starts to get really interesting…
According to the FBI, prominent Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi held a meeting October 31 during which Blagojevich claimed he'd been approached by a representative for an unnamed "Senate Candidate #5" who offered cash in exchange for the Senate seat. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Jesse, Jackson, Jr., was that candidate.
Jackson spokesman Rick Bryant says that while Jackson did discuss the Senate seat with Nayak, he never asked him to do—or give—anything. The notoriously talkative Jackson has said even less. Interesting.
It’s also started to get interesting for Barack Obama.
The president-elect also insists he hasn't had any contact with the Illinois governor regarding his vacant Senate seat. But Obama has yet to give his transition staff the same clean bill of health—and perhaps with good reason.
Obama stammers through Blagojevich press conference (mash-up courtesy of Sneakyville Prods.)
As it turns out, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s incoming chief of staff, is a rough-and-tumble politico in his own right. But until Emanuel assumes his new position on January 20, he will continue to represent the good people of Illinois’ 5th congressional district. And can you guess who held that job before Rahm? That’s right—Rod Blagojevich.
For the Obama team to expect us to think that the paths of Emanuel and Blagojevich haven’t crossed, and crossed repeatedly—especially considering the fact Emanuel was charged with securing his new boss’s old Senate seat for Obama family friend, Valerie Jarrett—we’d all have to be smoking something.
And while it’s definitely rained on Jarrett’s political aspirations, it seems she’s traded an umbrella for a golden parachute. Just before the Blagojevich scandal broke, Jarrett’s name was withdrawn from the running for the Senate seat. Shortly thereafter, she was named ‘special adviser to the president.’ Interesting.
I would imagine our fair Bob is watching all of this with some interest as well.
From unequivocal disdain of the flatfoots on Fourth Street,
Yes, I wish that for just one time;
You could stand inside my shoes;
You'd know what a drag it is;
To see you
to unapologetic enmity of those who have mastered the art of war profiteering,
Let me ask you one question;
Is your money that good;
Will it buy you forgiveness;
Do you think that it could
Bob Dylan has always held the feet of the media and the men who manipulate it to the fire.
Dylan once famously claimed, "I don't write political songs." But in light of the sheer disregard for justice exhibited by Rod Blagojevich, Dylan need not concern himself with chronicling this particular crisis of faith. There’s enough here to launch a thousand politically minded minstrels.
Besides, if you're looking for a Dylan song to bookend this cockamamie case of political corruption and mind numbing incompetence, all you have to do is turn the clock back 42 years…
Well, they'll stone you when you walk all alone.
They'll stone you when you are walking home.
They'll stone you and then say you are brave.
They'll stone you when you are set down in your grave.
In 2008, however, those words are less whimsical social commentary and more reflective of the massive political drubbing a certain governor from Illinois is about to rightfully endure.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I pity the poor immigrant,
Who wishes he would've stayed home,
Who uses all his power to do evil,
But in the end is always left so alone.
Barack Obama has always had his detractors. It is politics, after all. And considering the playing field for the last 18 months has been the presidency, it’s to be expected when people came after him, they came hard.
But unlike Bush, Clinton, or any of the other recent candidates for the highest office in the land, Barack Obama has been held to a different standard. From the beginning, there have been those who maintained something ‘just isn’t American’ about Barack Obama.
But the latest controversy, which suggests Obama may not be a natural born American citizen (and therefore must be prohibited from assuming the office to which he was elected in November), ironically is the most 'American' controversy of them all: Build them up so we can tear them back down.
'Legitimacy'-- that's precisely what's at the core of this most recent affront on the meteoric ascension of Barack Obama. And the argument goes something like this:
• Kenya was still a British colony in 1961
• Obama’s father from Kenya and therefore a British citizen
• British citizenship passed on to his son
• Obama was born with dual citizenship
• Obama is therefore not a naturalized, US citizen
The Obama team maintains the president-elect’s proof of citizenship is right on his birth certificate.
State of birth: Hawai’i.
Furthermore, they contend, Barack’s dual Kenyan citizenship expired when he turned 21. Case closed.
Not so fast. It turns out that the case just may be heading to the Supreme Court. Yet despite the excitement generated over the December 5th announcement that the highest court in the land could take the Obama case, most legal experts expect the Court will take a pass. As a result, what it means to be a “national born citizen of the US” will likely stay ambiguous. The rationale? The Court doesn’t like to step in and override the will of the voters.
It seems the legal experts overlooked a certain case the Supreme Court took in 2000 that very much did override the will of the voters—but that’s another grunt altogether.
The point is this: Fame comes with a price. We raise our idols to the pinnacle of fame, only to rejoice in their demise as they suffer the wounds we inflict upon them. We’ve seen it with Elvis, we’ve seen it with Marilyn, we’ve seen it with Brando. And we’ve seen it with Bob.
Just as with Barack Obama, the ‘legitimacy’ of the Bob Dylan has been called into question ever since a snot-nosed kid by the name of Robert Zimmerman arrived in New York on a cold winter day in February 1961, and began his own lifelong process of reinvention.
Maybe it’s their dubious backgrounds, maybe it’s their enigmatic, shape-shifting personalities, or maybe it’s their meteoric rise from obscurity. But whatever it is, there is definitely something about these men that excites us--and makes us extremely uneasy.
We marvel at the way they shimmer in the spotlight, yet we can’t help but wonder what it is they do when the lights turn off and they retreat to the shadows. They walk among us; yet the world they inhabit is not our own. They may be restless souls, determined and undaunted. But we are the ones left unsure and wary.
And though Dylan and Obama are both cloaked in a shroud of mystery, that cloak is cut from distinctly different cloth, two men tailored for two very different times.
But one thing is for sure. Just as something happened when the man born Robert Allen Zimmerman became ‘Dylan,’ something happened when the man born Barack Hussein Obama became simply ‘Barack’ to millions of Americans. And while Bob Dylan may be in the twilight of his spiritual journey, for Barack Obama the dawn is just now breaking.
In the end, however, the joke is on us. We may have engaged in what is a uniquely American tradition of raising these two men to the highest echelons of fame, but once we put Barack Obama and Bob Dylan on their respective pedestals, they no longer belonged to us. They became citizens of the world…
Whose visions in the final end,
Must shatter like the glass.
I pity the poor immigrant,
When his gladness comes to pass.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can't help but wonder what's happenin' to my companions,
Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it'll take to bring
All their earthly principles they're gonna have to abandon?
Who knew a song written nearly 30 years ago would be so relevant three decades later? I don't think any of us would put it past Bob Dylan.
Now, the last I want to do is knock the arts. Artistic expression—in whatever form it bubbles to surface—is something that should be praised, protected and preserved.
So why am I out to tear the arts a new one? Because there is a slow train coming, my fellow Disgruntled Dylanologists, and it ain’t running on coal—it’s running on oil.
The future is bright in the Persian Gulf. The horizon, it seems, is even brighter. Because in the months to come, oil derricks won’t be the only structures rising up from the white-hot Arabian sands.
In the last year alone, nearly every member of OPEC has commissioned a ‘cultural arts’ center. Shining, sparkling, glowing celebrations of the world’s artistic heritage in a land formerly awash in sand dunes.
First, there’s the King Abdulaziz Center, a sprawling, 400-acre compound consisting of a museum, library, theater, cinema and more. And here’s the best part… the whole thing is dedicated to one, singular objective: The history of oil in Saudi Arabia. This, of course, makes complete sense when you consider who’s footing the bill—Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company.
And then there’s the newly-commissioned Louvre Abu Dhabi, set to open sometime in 2012. Let’s be honest. Most of the world couldn’t find Abu Dhabi on a map if they tried. And while the city has been in existence for nearly 3,000 years, it wasn’t even on the map until 1958. Guess what they found in 1958? (HINT: What’s black and gold and greases the palms of politicians the world over?)
No museum, however, is more impressive than the Museum of Islamic Art, which opened last week in Qatar. But it isn’t what the Museum of Islamic Art houses that’s so impressive— it’s where it houses them.
One of the guidelines for the project enacted by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei was that his 376,740-sq.-ft. museum rise from its own island in the Arabian Gulf in Doha Qatar. An island in the middle of an Arabian oasis. It drips with irony, not to mention $1.6 billion in oil money.
Listen, I’m not coming down on the OPEC nations for wanting to celebrate the arts. And I’m certainly not criticizing them for wanting to preserve their own cultural heritage. The fact that anyone is willing, much less able, to make an investment in the arts in this day and age is something we should all stand up and take note of. And that’s precisely my point…
A large part of the reason that arts funding is being cut faster than a punk in a back alley knife fight in America and abroad is that the world economy is in shambles. Money that should be spent on schools, roads, education, and the arts is being siphoned off at an alarming rate to fund a war to protect the countries who are crippling us in the first place.
I guess there’s an upside to the fact that Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are building monuments while the rest of the world build ships and boats. At least we’ll know everything that’s important to us will be safe when the deal goes down.
The irony, of course, is that we certainly had plenty of forewarning. Bob saw that slow train coming nearly 30 years ago...
All that foreign oil controlling American soil,
Look around you, it's just bound to make you embarrassed.
Sheiks walkin' around like kings, wearing fancy jewels and nose rings,
Deciding America's future from Amsterdam and to Paris
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Sixteen banners united over the field,
Where the good shepherd grieves.
Desperate men, desperate women divided,
Spreading their wings 'neath the falling leaves.
First, let me say that I’m not a big fan of politicos. But James Carville—perhaps the most puffed up, bombastic, pretentious politico of them all—got it right when he famously opined back in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
It was the economy in 1992. Sixteen years later, it’s the economy all over again.
The fact that the US economy is in the shitter should come as a surprise to no one. For the past 12 months, we've been sliding toward the precipice of the worst recession in 16 years.In the last 60 days, it’s only gone from bad to worse. Thirteen banks have gone into bankruptcy, the top five investment banks have died, the stock market has hit a six-year low, unemployment has reached a 14-year high.
Contrary to John McCain’s reassuring reaction to the September 10 collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fundamentals of our economy were not ‘strong.’ And it certainly didn’t help that McCain borrowed his phrasing from Herbert Hoover, who on Thursday, Oct. 24, 1929, just five days before the crash that would result in the deepest depression in world history, proclaimed, "The fundamental business of the country, that is, production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis."
As the largest economy in the world, the American financial crisis has far-reaching ramifications. The direction of the U.S. economy doesn’t merely ‘impact’ the global economy; it decides its destiny.
It’s a big idea. It’s also a big problem. And the irony is that the problem isn’t going to go away until we change the way we do business in this country.
Yet despite the proclamations of ‘change’ that were the cornerstones of both the McCain and Obama presidential campaigns, change won’t be coming anytime soon. You already know the reason why.
It’s the economy, stupid.
Historically, the election of a Democrat has meant more jobs for Americans. History, however, is hardly consolation for the 1.2 million Americans who have lost their jobs since January.
It’s not especially encouraging for those who have jobs, either. With most 401(k)s off by an average of 40% or worse, dreams of retirement by the 50+ set have been replaced by the realization that there simply isn’t enough money in their accounts to sustain them for 10 years, much less the 20 years they’re expected to live.
Sure they can stay the course, stick it out, work a few extra years until the anemic stock market turns around. But there’s just something fundamentally wrong with the notion that what was only a year ago considered an appalling indignation by those who have toiled their entire life to build something for themselves and their families is now an umbrage those who actually have jobs would all too gladly suffer.
This past election was about change. A seismic shift, a comprehensive overhaul, a changing of the guard. It’s what we were promised, it’s what we want and, considering the perilous state of the economy, it’s what we need.
Unfortunately, change is not something the Obama Administration will be able to deliver anytime soon. It would mean the old guard would need to step down. But the old guard is like a caged animal tethered to a stake that keeps it from wondering too far from the trough.
And with their retirement pensions gone, the stock market in a perpetual downward spiral, and the potential some of that $700 billion in bailout money might potentially come their way if they just hang on long enough, the old guard is a permanent fixture on the horizon.
Contrary to what the media would have us believe, the rest of the world truly wants America to succeed. For millions around the world, America truly is a beacon of hope, prosperity and opportunity. But Eden is burning. And rather than change the old guard, we need to change their way of thinking.
Because the old guard isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Frankly, they can’t afford to…
I don't need your organization, I've shined your shoes,
I've moved your mountains and marked your cards,
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination,
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Advertising signs that con you,
Into thinking you're the one,
That can do what's never been done,
That can win what's never been won,
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.
“Stunning…” “Unprecedented…” “Electrifying…” “Incredible…”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a superlative that hasn’t been used in the last two weeks to describe Barack Obama’s meteoric ascension to the nation’s highest office.
But perhaps no comment has been more analyzed, more categorized or more scrutinized by fellow Dylanologists than the one made by Dylan himself during his election eve show in Minneapolis’ Northrop Auditorium:
“…it’s a brand new time right now. An age of light. Me, I was born in 1941 — that’s the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well I been livin’ in a world of darkness ever since. But it looks like things are gonna change now…”
Typically, Dylan revels in his innate ability to confound us with his cryptic, enigmatic comments. This, of course, is precisely what's so perplexing about Dylan’s election eve proclamation. It wasn’t wrapped in a riddle. It didn’t need to be sliced, diced, dissected and redirected. It was strikingly sincere and without pretense.
As Sean Curnyn thoughtfully observed in his blog, ‘Right Wing Bob,’ a few days after the election, it was never Dylan’s intention to confound us. Nor was it his intent to offer a ringing endorsement of president-elect Obama. The notoriously irascible Dylan was simply referring to an Obama campaign button worn by his longstanding bass player, Tony Granier. But that fact was left out of most reports, who were so stunned Dylan had actually spoken that they stripped the statement of all context.
It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.
His entire life, Dylan has constantly reinvented himself to keep the hounding media at bay. Whether it’s changing his name, changing his musical direction, changing his religion—the man who famously opined, ‘he not busy being born is busy dying,’ has given birth to countless ‘Dylans’ over the last 40 years.
In the months leading up to the election, one could argue we’ve seen our share of ‘Obamas’ as well. In the last 18 months alone, Obama has appeared on no few than 300 magazine covers. Ebony, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek. Each caters to a different audience. Each requires a different persona be projected. Yet Obama manages to move from one to the next with an effortlessness and facility that is eerily reminiscent of another Midwesterner who's donned his fair share of disguises over the years.
To see the many 'faces' of Barack Obama, click here.
In the days to come, the searing light the media that has turned on Barack Obama is only going to get more intense and more scrutinous. And as it does, things are going to change for Barack Obama. Things are going to change for Bob Dylan, too.
Forty years ago, a prescient Bob Dylan told the press he didn’t want to deny, defy and classify them. All he really wanted to do was be friends. Of course, being friends wasn’t enough. The press wanted more—we wanted more. The result? We got 'Bob Dylan.'
And what did Dylan get? A rap he’s been trying to shake ever since— ‘voice of a generation.’
And while it’s not our cross to bear, one can only imagine that the moniker, ‘voice of a generation,’ carries a lot of weight. Certainly, it’s a burden Dylan’s been trying to free himself from his entire life.
Maybe Dylan’s admission that he’s ready to step out of the darkness and into light isn’t some confounding, cautionary tale after all. Maybe it’s not an admonishment at all. Maybe all Bob Dylan was doing November 4 was telling us whose voice he’ll be listening to now that a new generation has spoken...
While preachers preach of evil fates,
Teachers teach that knowledge waits,
Goodness hides behind its gates,
But even the president of the United States,
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Ring them bells, ye heathen,
From the city that dreams,
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries,
Cross the valleys and streams.
It’s hard to be disgruntled when everyone around you is so happy. And November 4 was unquestionably a day that brought immense joy to millions of Americas.
Whether you were among the 64,058,826 people who voted for Barack Obama, or one of the 56,500,053 who voted for John McCain, at exactly 11:01 West Coast time the mood of a country changed. For a brief, fleeting moment, we were neither Republicans nor Democrats. Conservative nor Liberal. Right nor Left. Ideology evaporated, labels disappeared, color was washed away.
The whole world was watching. And what they saw was something uniquely American. The singular, defining quality that distinguishes America from every other country in the world: ‘redemption’.
The election of Barack Obama as the first African American president didn’t eradicate the racial injustices embedded in our nation’s DNA some 240 years ago. But it did emancipate us by from the past in some communal, collective way. And African Americans weren't the only ones who felt the lifting of the shackles. We all felt the weight lift. We all experienced that moment together.
Traditionally, these moments of collective consciousness are reserved to see us through the dark times that have befallen our nation—Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans, 9/11.
This was different. This was a moment in which we were bound together by hope and optimism, rather than brought together by horror and despair.
The closest thing this nation has come to the transformational moment we experienced Tuesday night was the defeat of the Nazis in World World II. But even that wasn’t really the same.
Yes, the chimes of freedom rang around the world, but the freedom America fought for was a deferred freedom. It would take another 60 years, and another generation, before the true tenets of freedom were extended to every American.
The headlines told the tale. And the tale didn’t need elaboration. Like all pivotal moments in history, the story could be reduced to three simple words:
To see over 700 front pages from November 5, 2008, click here.
The elevation of a black man to the presidency in this year, on this date, at this moment in our nation’s history could not have happened at any other time. Barack Obama was simply born at the right time. Born into a broken world desperately in need of being fixed.
For the last eight years, decisive, destructive partisanship has torn at the fabric of this country. On November 3, 2008, we were a nation of broken idols, broken treaties, broken vows, broken laws, broken words that should never have been spoken. On November 4, we were something else.
And while the man charged with picking up those pieces will inevitably be labeled by his detractors as a ‘empty vessel,’ a ‘blank slate,’ a ‘complete unknown,’ perhaps we can take solace in this simple fact: what better place to put all these broken pieces than in a vessel large enough to hold the limitless hope for a future that, for the first time in our nation’s history, truly feels like it can benefit every American.
Oh the lines are long,
And the fighting is strong,
And they're breaking down the distance,
Between right and wrong.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Oh the foes will rise,
With the sleep still in their eyes,
And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'.
But they'll pinch themselves and squeal,
And know that it's for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.
In two days, America will pick a new president. The reality, of course, is that the man who will lead us into the new millennium has already been chosen.
Brought out of Africa, blessed in the cornfields of Kansas and baptized in the warm waters of the South Pacific, he came with a simple, prophetic promise: Make right a world that has gone decidedly wrong.
And while there are those who will dismiss this assessment of our next president as nothing more than bombastic hyperbole, there is no denying the fact that the press has anointed Barack Obama a modern-day political messiah— David to the world’s Goliath, the man who will save America, and in doing so, just may save the world.
The time is right for a savior. For the last 40 years, America has been in the wilderness. In March of 1968, Lyndon Johnson, covered in the blood of 50,000 men, was crucified for his trespasses in Vietnam. Twelve years later, a born-again peanut farmer from Georgia turned the other cheek when 52 Americans were taken hostage in Iran. But in ‘doing the right thing’ Jimmy Carter let a ragtag band of religious zealots cast a stone that shattered America’s resolve for years to come. In 1992, America thought they had found a man who could transform a nation that had spent a decade teetering on the precipice of Babylonian excess. But instead of restoring our faith in our better angels, Bill Clinton succumbed to the temptations of the flesh and he, too, was banished.
And then He came.
Little is known of Barack Obama’s early years. Once he answered his calling as a community organizer in his 30th year, however, he quickly began to change people to his way of thinking. His opponents portrayed his philosophies as radical, even dangerous. But he triumphed over his adversaries, and wrote of his trials in a book he titled, Dream from My Father— a memoir that chronicled a father who abandoned him at his time of need, yet someone whom he has always kept close, especially in moments of doubt.
Many are bothered that the pundits are so overwhelming behind Obama. Yet as any student of history knows, there are two sides of history: the right side, and the wrong side. But we are not talking about that pedantic, petty, “you are either with us or against us,” mantra the Bush Administration has perpetrated against the American people for the last eight years. This is different.
For George W. Bush the decision is simple.
For years, we have been like a ship lost at sea as our moral and ethical bearings have given way to greed and gluttony. But the tide is about to turn, and the hour is rapidly approaching. And while the pundits may be on the right side of history, the pundits have gotten it wrong.
Electing Barack Obama as the first African American president isn’t about standing on the ship’s bow and shouting that Pharaoh’s days are numbered. It’s not as black and white as that. There are larger factors at play. And when the history books are written, it will become apparent that the decision to cede the moral direction of a nation to a man about whom little is known but much has been entrusted was never our decision to make in the first place.
What happens in the days that follow is, however…
Then the sands will roll,
Out a carpet of gold,
And the ship's wise men,
Will remind you once again,
That the whole wide world is watchin'.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
We live in a political world,
As soon as you're awake,
You're trained to take,
What looks like the easy way out.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we live in a political world. The fact that we’re in the final throes of perhaps the most contentious presidential campaign in 40 years is a daily reminder that America is at a crossroads. Those days are numbered, however.
But before we pick a new direction for the country, it only seems fitting to review the signposts of the last eight years.
In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. And for the last eight years, we’ve been in a place called ‘Bushworld’.
Bushworld, a look back:
For a closer look at Bush's world, click on the map above.
Divisive Politics. Bush has spent more money on focus groups than any other administration in U.S. history. In Bushworld, we don’t need to see or feel. Instead, we have polls and pundits to tell us what’s real.
Diminished Privacy. Bush has signed more laws and executive orders amending the Constitution than any other president. As a result, wiretaps, surveillance, and undisclosed data mining are now a daily ritual. In Bushworld, we may live in a time where men commit crimes, yet thanks to a barrage of Bush lawyers the real criminal’s face remain hidden.
Eradication of Human Rights. Bush is the first president to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from both the elections monitoring board and human rights commission. In Bushworld, we throw the wisdom of the world’s nations in jail, and let those whose patriotism we question rot in a Cuban cell.
Destruction of Economic Markets. Bush’s economic advisers smugly presided over the highest number of bank failures and home foreclosures ever. In Bushworld, money doesn’t talk, it swears. And by doing nothing as the economic markets collapsed, Bush told the American middle class to go screw themselves.
Invasion of Sovereign Countries. Bush has dissolved more international treaties than any president in U.S. history, ensuring American is able to travel anywhere we want. In the months leading up to the removal of Saddam Hussein, Bush claimed that everything that was his was ours. In Bushworld, however, you run the risk you might hang yourself there if you bring enough rope.
Squandered Political Capital. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush turned a nation in mourning into the most resented country in the world. In Bushworld, it makes more sense to close an open door than to have a world where peace is welcome.
For the last eight years, America has witnessed the systematic dismantling of our venerated 200-year old political system by George Bush's brand of ‘come hell or high-water’ politics.
And while Bush’s critics have done their best to tag the pugnacious Texan as nothing more than a highly functioning moron, Dubya is hardly some run of a mill Tweedle Dum to America’s Tweedle Dee.
The Grimm reality is that he’s actually a lot closer to Humpty Dumpty. Sadly, however, it’s America that’s taken the tumble.
The biggest challenge facing the man who steps into the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, won’t be whether he has the resolve to put American back together again. It will be the frightening realization that while Bush and his fawning, sycophantic advisers were trying to create a world in their image, they may have pocketed a few key pieces when they realized their idyllic worldview wasn’t coming together quite the way they had planned.
There’s no question we live in a world gone wrong. But just because things are wrong now doesn’t mean they can’t be put right in the future.
Let’s just hope the next president can reassemble a foreign policy that has been spread too thin, a financial system that’s been stretched too far, and a domestic agenda that has shortchanged freedom in the name of ‘liberty.’
Of course, that’s assuming the next president can actually find all the pieces. We all know what happens when the vandals get hold of the handle...
We live in a political world,
Where courage is a thing of the past,
Houses are haunted,
The next day could be your last.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Johnny's in the basement,
Mixing up the medicine,
I'm on the pavement,
Thinking about the government
Back in the 1960s, domestic terrorists knew their place. They lived underground. They kept out of sight. And when they did come up for air, you knew about it.
Today it seems domestic terrorists not only walk among us, they actually breathe the same air we do. Well, maybe not all of us. But they certainly breathe the same air as Barack Obama.
So what does the tempestuous, stormy past of a 1960s Weatherman by the name of William Charles Ayers have to do with Barack Obama, who was all of eight years old when Ayers was tapping phones, blowing up buildings and generally trying to bring down the American government?
This, my friends, is just the question the McCain campaign would like you to consider. But whatever you do don’t look to John McCain for the answer. The last thing McCain and his minions want to do is tell you what to think about Bill Ayers' relationship with Barack Obama. They want you to use your imagination. And they want you to imagine the worst.
According to the McCain campaign, Obama wasn’t just friends with Bill Ayers, Ayers was actually a mentor—someone who helped to mold and shape Obama when he was a young, up and coming Chicago politician.
They had coffee together back in 1995 when Obama was first running for office, for Pete's sake. And we all know what those ‘60s radicals were putting in their drinks back then, don’t we? Hell, for all we know, Ayers could have programmed Barack to be the next Manchurian Candidate.
And while McCain keeps pitching his stories to the ink well, he's been very careful not to call Obama a terrorist. No question, McCain's trying to keep a clean nose on this one, letting a group called American Issues Project do his bidding.
McCain campaign ad: Subterranean terrorist, Bill Ayers, comes up for air after 40 years.
But McCain isn’t the only one walking on tiptoes. Barack Obama’s jumped down a few manholes himself over the last few years when the issue of his relationship with Bill Ayers has come up.
In his 2004 race for the Senate when the Obama-Ayers relationship first was made an issue, Obama avoided a potential political scandal by claiming the Republicans where just doing it again by looking for a new friend, a man in a trench coat to whom they could tie the electorate’s über paranoia.
In February of 2008, the ‘Ayers issue’ arose again during the Democratic primary. And again, Obama failed to personally repudiate the charges. Instead, he ducked down the alleyway, leaving it up to his spokesman, Bill Burton, to issue the following statement: “Any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous.”
So why has that soot the McCain campaign has been shoving in the face of Obama stuck this time? Because it turns out that Bill Ayers and Barack Obama do have something in common.
In a September 2001 interview with the New York Times, Bill Ayers was asked about his past 'civil disobediences,' to which he replied, "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough."
Similarly, it wasn’t until last Wednesday’s debate with McCain that Barack Obama finally acknowledged Ayers’ actions in the 1960s and early 1970s were unconscionable. Yet in typical Obama double-speak, he stopped short of extending that condemnation to Ayers himself.
America is a forbearing nation. We tend to forgive one another for our past indiscretions. But in order to receive your ‘get out of jail’ card, you have to admit to the indiscretion in the first place.
The real issue at the heart of the current Ayers-Obama controversy isn’t whether or not Ayers' actions in the ‘60s and early ‘70s were “unconscionable." What Ayers did 40 years ago is beyond unconscionable. It's irreprehensible. And it isn't that Barack Obama has shown himself to be just as unrepentant as the man with whom he has allowed himself to be linked, either. The real issue is that neither man will admit an error in judgment.
When given the chance to come clean in 2001, Ayers should have said he was wrong to put innocent American lives at stake to advance his own personal, vindictive political beliefs. And when asked about his relationship with Ayers in 2004, Barack Obama should have said he respects Ayers for his convictions, but abhors the tactics he used to try to achieve them.
What American wants is for these men to come clean. To date, neither has come close. And until they do, this political shit storm isn’t going to blow over anytime soon. Which is exactly what John McCain was counting on the moment he dosed the American public with the story in the first place…
Better stay away from those,
That carry around a fire hose,
You don't need a weather man,
To know which way the wind blows