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Sunday, October 26, 2008

World Gone Wrong: Beyond Bushworld

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.

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,
Children unwanted,
The next day could be your last.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the election blows

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
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

America in Peril: Someone said Dignity was the first to leave

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade,

House on fire, debts unpaid,
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid,
Have you seen dignity?

America is angry. And frankly, we have every right to be.

Over the last eight years, we’ve been buttered up, talked down to, led down the primrose path. And in the process, we’ve been robbed blind.

It would be one thing if we’d been cornered in a dark alley, held at gunpoint and told to hand over everything in our pockets. But that’s not the way the deal’s gone down. It happened in broad daylight, right in the middle of the street.

Instead of having a gun shoved in our ribcage, we’ve had a knife slowly slipped into our back. And we could have only been so lucky as to have been asked to empty our pockets. After all, I don’t know how many Americans carry their entire life savings in their pant pockets. But that’s what the boys on Wall Street walked away with last week.

Estimates vary (after all the estimates are being provided by the guys who stuck it to us in the first place), but one thing’s for sure. Our pockets are empty. And so are our bank accounts. Which means mortgages can’t be paid, car loans can’t be paid, school loans can’t be paid. And just try to turn to your 401K plan for relief. Wall Street’s scorched earth policy burned all that up, too.

The irony, of course, is that while money may be the symptom, the real sickness is the disease of conceit. Sure Lehman is out of business; AIG is $85 billion in the hole; Wachovia is awash in a sea of debt. But the real crime here is that the people running these companies just walked away. The soul of a nation under the knife, and the bankers and politicians are the only ones who got a cut.

We’ve always been told that America is built on a single unifying principle: Hard work pays off. Looks like the old adage may not be true. Certainly not today. Truth be told, many of us are wondering if it was ever true.

According to a recent CNN Money poll, nearly six out of ten Americans believe our country is heading for another economic depression. Quite a frightening turn in public opinion from the halcyon days of just a year ago when the financial markets were at a generational high.

American is angry. But this isn’t some conspiratorial destruction of the American Dream. It’s much scarier than that. This is the real thing. After years of steady moral, ethical and financial decline, we are no longer just a distraught nation. We are a nation in peril.

Caption: Peter Finch as prophetic newscaster Howard Beale in Network. It’s amazing how some things never change.

In the last eight years, the fabric of this country has been torn to shreds. We are fighting an unpopular war abroad while we ship American jobs to China and India. At home, we cannot educate our youth, we cannot take care of our elderly, and animosity toward America has reached an all-time high.

“But don’t worry,” they tell us. “Be patient. Everything will be okay." Sure, America will come back. We always do.

But who the hell are they kidding? It ain’t ever going to come back all the way. Not until we restore the thing that our leaders really robbed us of in the first place…

Lookin’ east, Lookin’ west,
See people curse, see people blessed
Asking everybody like a man possessed
Have you seen dignity?

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