Final Battle For U.S. Healthcare 2009

Aquarian Weekly 9/16/09 REALITY CHECK

HOPEVILLE IN AUTUMN

This debate has become less about facts than emotions. – Joe Scarborough

Political animals, real political animals, know virgin territory when they see it. This kind of thing can create weird currents and strange vacuums and absorb concussive effects unrecognized to the untrained eye. The efficient aggressor can use it as a rare opportunity for marking territory. In fact, identifying uncharted political and social terrain is one of this space’s specialties, recognizing when events go sideways and judging how the true professionals own it. Aristotle was a pro. Cincinnatus. That crazy idiot who runs South Carolina.

Joe Cool Makes His CaseThis past Wednesday, Barack Obama proved his political pedigree, unleashing his thus far unforeseen feral side in an historic address to congress upon its autumnal reconvening. All the tell-tell signs were there; the snarl, the unflinching spring-loaded crouch poised to mutilate whatever remains of a National Healthcare debate. It was evident in his tone; combative with overtures of indignation and a sousance of schmaltz.

Presidents prepared to horsewhip lawmakers, plead with the electorate, and make certain everyone within earshot knows whose boss can provide a most revelatory experience. And believe me, political animals can smell a member of the pride from miles away.

It was, ultimately, this president’s finest speech, as noted by NY Times columnist, David Brooks on PBS soon afterwards — the best since the campaign’s Race Speech. But it was, without argument, overtly and unapologetically political; from the opening salvo, which conjured the independently spirited Teddy Roosevelt, whose anti-establishmentarianism status has gained traction in recent decades, all the way to the shameless grand finale, a tearful tribute to the Left’s late hero, Ted Kennedy. It toed the difficult line between paying backhanded lip service to bipartisanship while ripping the opposition new holes. Mostly it accomplished its only pertinent goal, to galvanize a recently dispirited and fractured Democratic base spewing queer demands on half-baked ultimatums.

The address’ most important point, however, was its stake of historical claim, which is exactly what is transpiring in Washington right now as you read this; for never in any lifetime has Healthcare Reform gotten this must traction, caused this much furor, or moved this far down the legislative line. For the first time even fellow cynics are willing to admit that this puppy might even come to a vote, unlike the recently quashed Cap & Trade fiasco.

It was crisp, chock full of luster, and at times a king-hell romp. The problem is it is a speech he should have given three months ago.

There is a sense now, and you can almost feel it seep through the television as Republicans squirmed in their seats, shouting random hoots and waving copies of dissenting bills, that this idea of avoiding a head-on collision with Joe Cool is a dream fast dying. Ask South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson, who confused the chamber with a Dylan Goes Electric concert and blurted out “Liar!” twice. By morning, reeling Republican officials were shoving him out the door to blubber a half-assed apology.

It is becoming more and more evident by the day that this issue will have to finally be settled in the realm of law and not in the ambivalence of popular opinion or beneath the din of stupidity. The country is fast losing patience with the issue, and the months of incoherence coming from the founders of this movement has left ample room for Myth-Making 101. The president made more than veiled references to this throughout the hour-long address, affecting an anger lost on his first nine months in office.

It was crisp, chock full of luster, and at times a king-hell romp. The problem is it is a speech he should have given three months ago. It was nothing more than a pep talk, a call to arms. What was needed was a final summation, a forceful, undeniable framework. But instead of a singular push for one signature agenda, a strongly worded manifesto for an actual bill the president would sign, we received vague examples of what can be worked out through determination and an understanding of its gravity. And although it is admirable this mostly liberal president could begin to broach opening interstate insurance competition or visiting tort reform, it has become laughable that a wide range of options and back-to-the-drawing-board rhetoric is still passing for a proclamation.

The failure to hit concrete points like the who and how of its bankrolling (made more curious the day after when even prominent Democrats were waiting on number-crunchers to figure how in the world $900 billion over ten years would pay for this thing) was manifest upon a reading of the transcript the next morning. Without the drama and inflection of the performance there seemed to be nothing in the text that answers the key questions, and since the Democrats have no one even close to this guy’s ability to communicate, trouble still brews.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are also slowly splitting at the seams. There is the tried and true political animal salivating from The Right refusing to cast a vote for anything that would hand this president a much-needed first term victory, one in which has avoided chief executives for nearly a century. Then there is a growing contingent of moderates and survivalists (political animals all) lead by Maine Senator Olympia Snow, who understands all to well that being on the wrong side of history is not a wise move. If the train has left the station, it is better to not be left on the platform with nary a voice or anyone to bow to. But they have also learned the lessons from the Democrats who voted with fervor for an unpopular and badly conceived war, only to be buried by its abysmal results. This has now become the new administration’s gamble, as Iraq was the last go-round.

This time, however, unlike a few poor souls being shipped halfway across the globe on the wave of flimsy excuses, we’re all on the front lines now.

 

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Edward Moore Kennedy 1932 – 2009

Aquarian Weekly 9/2/09 REALITY CHECK

EDWARD MOORE KENNEDY — 1932 – 2009

Ted KennedyIt is a good thing Ted Kennedy is Irish Catholic. He is going to heaven. That’s how it works. No matter what kind of sham your life is, what type of negligent homicide you’re guilty of, scores of hypocrisy you’ve dabbled in, and the fraudulent legacy you leave behind, the slate is clean. They bring a priest in, throw some incense on you and you’re fast-tracked to the pearly gates. And if there’s something akin to the heaven the Kennedy’s believe in, then Mary Jo Kopechne will be waiting there to greet him; the beautiful, young Boiler Room Girl with bouncy blonde locks and a dazzling New England smile standing across from the ravaged, wrinkled, cancer-ridden shell of the man who left her to drown in a dark inlet at Chappaquiddick 40 years ago.

And if there is a God, she will kick him squarely in the testicles. Twice.

It is a heartwarming story worthy of Revelation; the part of the Holy Bible where it all comes to pass — the shit rain, the seven-headed beasts, bottomless chasms, and the torture of the unrepentant. Humanity, in a phrase, is “kicked in the testicles”. Twice.

It is a book Ted Kennedy knew well. Every Kennedy knew Revelation backwards and forwards. Mother Rose insisted on it. She made them read it aloud every night before cookies and milk, later admitting it was a veiled attempt to wipe away the terrible iniquities of her husband, the racist bootlegger, who after visiting 1930s’ Germany framed the Jewish slaughter in Europe this way: “They brought it on themselves.” Later, the patriarch became a master at fixing elections, buying off laws, and hosting Senator Joseph McCarthy and his loving family up at Martha’s Vineyard for weekend detentes on how to “strip Commie Jew bastards of their rights”.

But despite the insanity of their parents and the ill-gotten fortune they would exploit to power, three of the four Kennedy boys became victims; the eldest, Joseph Jr. in World War II, and Jack and Robert to assassins’ bullets two decades later. Not baby, boy, Ted. He was a survivor. He was the one Kennedy that understood the lessons of Revelation. The Big Bad Senator had to look out for Number One. And this philosophy served him well for 47 years of public service.

Edward M. Kennedy was the genetic run-off of America’s Royal Family; a boorish toad of a man with the scruples of a desperate crack addict and the brains of a dung beetle. Everything he stood for or achieved was bought for him, handed down from the crimes of greater men and far more accomplished cretins. He was a failure and a geek and caused so much family embarrassment he was repeatedly sent on beer runs during the famous shirtless Kennedy football games. He was booted from Harvard as a dumb ass jock and stumbled into the Senate in a cesspool’s sludge of nepotism.

Edward M. Kennedy was the genetic run-off of America’s Royal Family; a boorish toad of a man with the scruples of a desperate crack addict and the brains of a dung beetle. Everything he stood for or achieved was bought for him, handed down from the crimes of greater men and far more accomplished cretins.

His professional career consisted of manic bluster on inconsistent drivel, including flip-flopping on abortion whenever it benefited him. He personally screwed two Democratic presidential candidates by stringing the party along like a coquettish debutante; leaving the doomed George McGovern to choose a shock-treatment patient for vice president during a cantankerous convention the Kennedy Camp ignited. Four years later, Kennedy blew his best chance at the White House when his shameless behavior of six years earlier — leaving a girl to die on a drunken night of lunacy with his pregnant wife convalescing at home — forced him to back out. Four years hence, he and his cronies haunted the weakened incumbent in a nasty primary race, all-but sealing the fate of an embattled Jimmy Carter. Minutes before the death rattle, Kennedy ignored party diplomacy and snubbed the president on the convention stage, symbolically hoarding his delegates and creating what later would become the Reagan Democrats.

Kennedy wasn’t even a decent drunk; surpassed by his first wife, Virginia Joan Bennett’s Herculean consumption of barbiturates and vodka. Mrs. Kennedy’s lasting comment on living with Teddy was she eventually had to check into several rehab stints after trying to drive her car off a cliff in a botched escape scheme. But escape she did in 1978, separating from Kennedy, but inconceivably remaining married to aid his botched1980 presidential run before divorcing him outright the next year.

Even from the grave Teddy remains a survivor. Just this week, on his deathbed, Kennedy lobbied to strike a 2004 law he championed to let the naming of his successor fall into the hands of the governor rather than the previous law, which handed it over to a special election, a process that could drag on for months and leave a crucial Democratic seat open for the eventual vote on Health Care Reform; his lifelong political objective.

It was a seamy, partisan, almost mean-spirited move, but summed up what Ted Kennedy, like any servable political survivor excels at. And no one clinging to this ragged democracy should begrudge him. Ted’s problem was that he could never keep his mouth shut when the other side pulled the same treacherous chicanery. He flew into a rage upon the pardoning of Richard Nixon in 1974, only four years after his Chappaquiddick fiasco, mustering the gall to comment, “Do we operate under a system of equal justice under law? Or is there one system for the average citizen and another for the high and mighty?”

Kennedy’s spectacular exercise in hypocrisy was also on display during his vocal attacks on Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork in 1986 and Clarence Thomas in 1991, the latter of which he had to slink away due to its “sexual harassment” theme, something the Kennedy boys, and most assuredly Teddy Boy turned into an art form. In fact, only weeks before the hearings, the senator’s nephew, William Kennedy Smith was arrested on rape charges, allegedly meeting the victim at a bar with his soused uncle.

I am proud to say in the wake of his passing, having thrown words down for public consumption over 20 years and in this space for a dozen now, I have never, ever written a single positive thing about Ted Kennedy.

Until now.

He was no Jesse Helms.

 

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Last Temptation Of Obama

Aquarian Weekly 8/26/09 REALITY CHECK

LAST TEMPTATION OF OBAMA Joe Cool Must Rally To Save Progressive Movement

It is pointless to argue that George W. Bush all-but destroyed the conservative movement, while ironically, in more ways than a little, failed to resemble or embody any of the true aspects of conservatism. His lunatic federal spending, ill-conceived and badly executed nation building, and most strikingly, an almost hippie-fueled freedom-around-the-world meddling was distinctly progressive and at times downright liberal; the final straw being his $400 billion Medicare Barack ObamaPrescription Drug Modernization Act, which will doubtless bankrupt the system, not to mention simultaneously signing into law the recently dubbed “Death Panel” quotient. His government’s behavior in the controversial but wholly private Terry Shivo case sealed the deal. Under Bush, the federal government became a massive, invasive, insufficient mess; all the fears of the original and less religiously baked and corporate lapping conservatives of yore. Yet so-called conservatives defended Captain Shoo-In all the way through, trading in their fragile ideologies for a slice of the power pie.

Now it is the progressives turn. Handed the entirety of the government and the majority of the public’s trust in two consecutive ass-stomping elections, and the hiring of the first African-American as chief executive, they are faced with choosing between the purity of their ideological faith or staying in charge. This faith was squarely laid on the shoulders of a Democratic Party, which handed over the reigns to the party’s liberal wing last November just as Republicans handed a powerful voice to the right wing in the autumn of 1980, when their holy patriarch, Ronald Reagan landed the final blow of a century-old conservative push.

Barack Obama is, as stated more than once in this space for over a year, the yin to Reagan’s yang. He understands this better than most, having put his liberal-cred on the line during the primary campaign by quoting Reagan copiously at rallies and giving network interviews that conspicuously skipped the impact of the Clinton era while heaping praise on the totality of Reagan’s political reach.

Thus, the president went into this thing with eyes wide open, and should now realize that the man he sold the progressive liberals and the majority of the nation’s Independents with chants of Change and Yes We Can is now on trial — in the halls of governance and the Main Street he loved courting so.

It is Go Time for Joe Cool, the man who did not listen to crazed pundits when they prodded him to go ugly on the Clinton Machine or get tough on the weak McCain/ Palin rhetoric over months of campaigning. The vaunted Obama Syndicate, which bested all comers and stayed above the fray during racial nastiness and mud-slinging hoo-hah has to emerge soon, or not only will his legacy be in jeopardy, but the significance of his entire presidency and the last stand of true progressive politics in America.

It is an enviable quest, whether agreed upon or feared, for it is the determinate of what leadership means. And isn’t that the deal you run on, raise all that money and have every fiber of your being vetted ’til Tuesday to achieve. It comes with the gig, and the gig has suddenly challenged what Obamamania stood for, not some political ploy, but a very real and inspiring movement.

The August stand-off on National Healthcare, the continued struggle for energy reform and the pogrom on the rich and all-things corporate has turned the new president’s first significant challenge into his Gettysburg; notwithstanding the moronic notion that this is his Waterloo as recently proffered by sub-mentals whose laughable grasp of history is on display every time some nitwit minimizes the horrors of Adolf Hitler by portraying or referring to the president of the United States to humanity’s most celebrated monster. It was imbecilic when the anti-war movement did it to the last guy, and it is equally so now.

This space offers Gettysburg as the perfect wartime analogy, seeing how Napoleon’s last stand at Waterloo implies a lengthy run of victories and unquestioned power coming to an ignominious end over a seminal moment when what appeared to be an unstoppable Union force had to prove on the battlefield and not on the statistical sheet it was to either crush the rebellion or slowly be bled dry.

But a shameful lack of historic perspective aside, the next few weeks will likely render a verdict on liberalism and its always-entertaining off-shoot, progressivism. And this is not merely because Barack Obama is the most progressive president perhaps ever, but because not since The New Deal or The Great Society has this country been faced with such a severe legislative shift in the role of the federal government over the private sector. And like the previous two massive shifts, this one has been at the very least agreed upon by both major parties: There is a problem with our healthcare system and it is time for some type of energy reform. The debate rages on as to the length and breadth of the government’s, and let that read the taxpayers’ level of responsibility therein.

For his part and to his credit, the president has taken to the streets like none other in my lifetime; engaging direct dialogue with the citizenry on the healthcare issue specifically. And although this has helped frame his enthusiasm, it has met with mixed results, merely because no one pushing the legislation can clearly define its more detailed pratfalls, sacrifices, or benefits, as laid out in perfect bureaucratic banality over 1,000 pages. Generalities and axioms have not taken hold, nor should they, for generations have understood that once the toothpaste is out of the tube in large government programs there is no putting it back.

Due to the occasional ferocious public pushback and more importantly a Republican contingent in the senate that is emboldened by the groundswell, the president is already beginning to sway from ideology to politics, miffing those on the far left like Howard Dean, who from the periphery try and hold Obama’s feet to the fire. Then comes more rumblings from the House that there could be two bills, following in the public relations, “Insurance Reform vs. Public Option” the president has leaned on in weaker moments.

There is already a sense on the Right that the white flags are beginning to be unfurled, and to a certain extent, they are, as long as this progressive president tries to both govern and chase the two-party unity tag, at best a pipedream worthy of a man banging his head on the unyielding healthcare wall.

It is an enviable quest, whether agreed upon or feared, for it is the determinate of what leadership means. And isn’t that the deal you run on, raise all that money and have every fiber of your being vetted ’til Tuesday to achieve. It comes with the gig, and the gig has suddenly challenged what Obamamania stood for, not some political ploy, but a very real and inspiring movement.

And that is as much at stake now for progressivism as the supply-side, less-government, Shining City On The Hill rallying cry was for conservatism in 1981, not long after the Reagan Victory became the Reagan Myth as the 40th president of the United States, faced with a crippling recession and an alarming spike in the national deficit, unilaterally rolled back his famous tax cuts one by one, until he was forced to repeatedly raise taxes across two terms. But the myth lives, like the myth that The New Deal without an ensuing world conflict was a rousing success in saving a nation plunged into a Depression by the same drunken spasms of greed we too paid dearly for these past months.

A presidency and his ideology on the line.

Go time.

 

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Un-American Again?

Aquarian Weekly 8/19/09 REALITY CHECK

“UN-AMERICAN” IS UN-AMERICAN

Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. – ‘Un-American’ Attacks Can’t Derail Health Care Debate Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer

There is stupid, insipidly moronic, and then there is the above.

Mob In what can best be described as a barely masticated brain poof, the Speaker of The House and its Majority Leader decided it would be a good idea to deftly illustrate how arguments can be utterly bereft of reason while simultaneously driving home the point of their opponents. If nothing else, it is a miraculous feat. Not sure it gets us any closer to supporting Universal Healthcare, but nonetheless…

If there has ever been a point to America it is to drown out opposing views. It fueled the Declaration of Independence, sparked a revolution, erected a constitution and inspired a series of amendments, motivated generations to expand the borders, crushed the secession of the South, supplanted the human condition with industry, and invaded nearly every hemisphere on the planet.

However, it is now official that no matter what bleating dink is in charge of this government of ours, there seems to be this prevailing thought that if you’re not on board with the agenda, you are un-American.

No, I’m sorry; “simply un-American”.

Here’s some simple American for ya:

FUCK Nancy Pelosi and FUCK Steny Hoyer and FUCK any lame motherfucker who tells me I’m un-American for writing it.

By the way, the CAPS were a visual illustration of “drowning out”. Apparently the “F” word was not sufficient enough.

Drowning out opposing views has freed slaves, given women the right to vote and control their bodies, and toppled more than a few foreign despots. Almost every inch of progress achieved for good or ill, depending upon point of view, began with “drowning out an opposing view”.

What I can only guess Ms. Pelosi and her sidekick meant was the “denial of opposing views”. That would be a plausible description of un-American, but “drowning out opposing views” is the very essence of America. There is no America or democracy or really any structured society without it. And, ironically, “drowning out opposing views” pretty much defines what this fancy USA Today op ed faux pas is trying to accomplish.

Here’s another doozy from the goon squad: “These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves.”

Did the recession drain the entire proofing department at USA Today?

Yes, people who oppose views are usually frightened by the facts behind them. This is why they oppose them. Also, the use of “facts” here is dicey. The rancor about Healthcare is merely speculation; no one, whether opposing or supporting the concept, has a goddamned clue of how it will play out. This is made painfully obvious by the continued lunacy coming from both sides, whether it’s “Death Panels” or “Curtailing Insurance Company Greed”. Finally, the use of “disruption” is downright insulting. Would Ms. Pelosi call those who opposed the Iraq War “disrupters”? I doubt it, since she counted herself one.

Would Ms. Pelosi call those who opposed the Iraq War “disrupters”? I doubt it, since she counted herself one.

One more key question for our House Speaker: What is the difference between Dick Cheney’s two-dimensional bunker mentality against dissent and this crap? The most disturbing aspect of the Pelosi/Hoyer drivel is that it feeds into the long-running fears Americans have about their legislative branch, whether it is Republican senators making infantile anti-Healthcare arguments with cartoon placards of bunny rabbits or red-faced Democrats acting as if people screaming at public forums constitutes “mob mentality”.

To wit: “Tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted ‘Just say no!’ drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.”

I argue that visual aids and chants are fine examples of “substantive discussion”, but maybe you don’t. Okay. But this does not make you un-American. Perhaps it suggests you need to get laid, sip a beer, read a little Blake, turn up the volume on Ray Charles and get to shaking yo ass, but to each is own.

But hell, “Un-American” worked like gangbusters for Republicans during the months and years following 9/11, through all the goofy machinations and laughable screw-ups masked as patriotism, so why not? Just throw it out there, like the opposition currently throws out killing grandmothers, Nazis, tyranny, and rationed care to spin the tide. And this is all very American, and quite educational; unlike someone claiming that crazy innuendo and bombastic fear mongering are hidden plots to warp the electorate. Get over yourself; we have talk radio for that.

Of course behind all this posturing is a Democratic Party on its heels with the decades-old Healthcare debate, as it has once again plunged into a quagmire of bureaucratic nonsense, followed predictably by harebrained panic-speak. You’d think by now professional civil servants would recognize the telltale signs. They might even recall similar tactics employed when the last president tried to privatize Social Security, another American institution the citizenry believes is doomed but gets nuts when you try and restructure, just like Healthcare or the College Football Bowl system.

What is this, the fourth, fifth, twentieth, thousandth crack at this? You have to give them credit for what many would describe as the very definition of insanity — attempting the same failed maneuver time and again and expecting victory. But even George W. would have been hard-pressed to write something as completely irrational as Pelosi, which should give Sarah Palin supporters hope.

Speaking of idiocy, White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel recently told the NY Times, “Do not associate loud with effective”, which is hilarious when considering the source. Emanuel would be delivering sub sandwiches around the Southside of Chicago without his brilliant use of the “loud as effective” template.

I haven’t boned up on my Machiavelli lately, but I feel pretty confident that it isn’t too cool for populists to be mocking the populace. This is a fair tack for a Right Wing “The public doesn’t know what’s good for it” play, but the Democrats, who posit themselves as “Saving the people from themselves” would be better served with more coddling and less sarcasm.

At the very least the party shouldn’t unleash people with questionable debating skills and at best sub par literary abilities to front what the president of the United States has repeatedly called the most important piece of legislation of his young administration.

Why doesn’t the new guy just go the route of the last cabal and ignore everyone and do whatever the hell he wants. He has the votes. He has the “political capital”. Enough with these people expecting everyone to love them. Get on with it, and then history will decide what works and what doesn’t.

Annoying. Defiant. Reactionary.

Very American.

 

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Obama Beer Summit Review

Aquarian Weekly 8/5/09 REALITY CHECK

STUPIDLY, STUPIDLY, STUPIDLY… …Life Is But A Dream

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. – 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution

Beer SummitLast week in the final seconds of a nearly one-hour press conference on Healthcare reform the president of the United States commented derisively on a curious case of police activity in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Barack Obama, despite admitting he did not know the hard details of the case but did have a personal relationship with the accused, said the police acted “stupidly”. After a close review of the police report it turns out the president was kind. What the police did to a Mr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was beyond blunder or misconduct. It was criminal, and when all is said and done should be tried and convicted as such.

The “stupidly” part came afterwards.

The ensuing furor over the president offering any commentary on such a random case, despite its thorny racial overtones, was heated and somewhat warranted, even though as the first citizen of the United States and its chief executive officer and protector of the constitution, and also, (yikes!), a black man, he was simply asked and answered honestly. However, rarely are presidents as candid and forthcoming on such matters, excluding, of course, the famous quote from Richard Nixon about Charles Manson’s obvious guilt smack dab in the middle of the most dramatic trial of the twentieth century. The president busting on cops would be a cause for uproar. Apparently the president can only mock the press, dissidents, evildoers, or hippies without backlash.

Of course the president eventually backslid, as everyone does these days, which is very disappointing. Just because it hurts the odd feeling or crosses an invisible line of presidential etiquette does not make the observation false or wrong. It was true and right, and quite frankly not strong enough. Perhaps the president should have been more up on the details, then maybe he would not have been so quick to try and make nice, and make nice he did the day of this writing with a hollow and creepy White House “Beer Summit” between the victim and his most ardent critic, Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department.

Most troubling is that this P.R. fracas misses the most salient points — the entire episode has less to do with race, freedom of speech, or the presidency than it does with the priority of the Fourth Amendment.

Let’s begin with the incident at large, and then move onto the subsequent silliness. Firstly, there is a fair argument to be made that Henry Louis Gates Jr., author, scholar, literary critic and Harvard professor for nearly two decades was harassed within the walls of his own home because he was a black man. Cambridge is a lily-white upper crust town, and that upon returning home from a trip to China his driver, also an African American man, attempted to help him gain forced entrance through a “jammed” front door. Moreover, the woman who called the cops, Lucia Whalen, was cacuasian.

Most troubling is that this P.R. fracas misses the most salient points — the entire episode has less to do with race, freedom of speech, or the presidency than it does with the priority of the Fourth Amendment.

If you’re African Amercian this might seem more than a tad coincidental. However, I too might be inclined to call the cops if two guys I did not recognize were trying to gimmy their way into a home. That’s not true. I’d probably mutter, “That’s a shame” and walk away. But I get it. Then again I’m not black, so how could I begin to understand what someone who is might say to such an overt act of suspicion and the subsequent goofy actions by the local police.

This gets us to the climax of this notrious tale of bungle: When responding to a report of a possible break-in, the Cambridge police cuff and arrest Gates, charging him with disorderly conduct after what the officer described as “a confrontation”, but was later revealed as pretty much an overly dramatic wigout by Gates. Here’s where things get weird whether you relate or not.

Once the officers arrive, Gates clearly shows his identification and suffucient proof that the house was indeed his residence. Now it no longer matters why anyone called the cops, what color Gates is, what he does for a living, or what the hell the president of the United States or anyone else thinks of the proceedings. It is a blatantly indefensible 4th Amendment violation, and no matter what harrangue followed, barring physcial abuse to the officers, civil servants of the state grossly overstepped their duty and broke the law.

Oh, and by the way, prosecutors later dropped the charges, all but admitting the police at the very least acted inappropriately.

How the president could cave when the facts of this case were later made clear beyond mere public relations is beyond fathoming.

Could it have been the insipid ranting of Right Wing idiots blabbering on about Obama hating white people or dinasuars like George Will mucking up network news shows with the most out-of-touch Jim Crow gobblygook imaginable? Probably. Now that an outspoken Hispanic woman is in the dock for the Supreme Court and middle America needs to be greased for the Healthcare dirge, it’s time to placate; but since this space is not written by a politician or anyone running for the Congeniality ticket, it won’t fly here.

One thing Will, who knows less about race relations in this country than he does about baseball (at least he didn’t write a laughably moronic book about race relations), said about Gates was right; he’s a victim. But Will seems to think the president made him one, instead of the police, who actually ripped the guy from his home and arrested him for merely being an asshole. And shit, I can have half the people I know dragged to the tank for that.

Will, like all the crazies who attacked Obama for his commentary, profess to be card-carrying conservatives, who cannot stop whining about how the country is besieged by sudden tyranny, and scream bloody murder anytime someone mentions gun control — we need to protect ourselves from an authoritarian state, you know — appear comfortable with thin-skinned coppers playing Gestapo in someone’s living room.

 

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The Healthcare Shuffle ’09

Aquarian Weekly 7/29/09 REALITY CHECK

THE HEALTHCARE SHUFFLE Fourth Rail of American Politics Goes Nuclear

Glenn Beck MeltdownAt the risk of continuing to make Glenn Beck weep like a schoolgirl or cause Chris Matthews further senseless hemorrhaging, it is important that this space reiterate its apathy when it comes to either the overhaul of the nation’s convoluted sinkhole of a Healthcare System or the ignoring of it. As a lifetime freelancer and mainline grifter, my irresponsible stagger through life has provided little in the way of “outside” financial assistance, beyond blood, sweat and swindle. At some point in the early nineties the idea of universal health provisions by the federal government was intriguing, and then the president let his ego-mad spouse peddle a hair-brained scheme into congress and the jig was up. Since, the subject has resonated only slightly beyond an abject hatred of all insurance companies and the usual shameless snake oil nonsense that passes for the pharmaceutical cabal.

Chances are, as predicted here for more than a decade, nothing this massive will survive The Process, and if it did, it would barely resemble anything close to an “overhaul” dreamed of in the most government-bloating wet dreams of Nancy Pelosi or the darkest night sweats of Newt Gingrich. Dilution of bills on Capitol Hill is as American as free land grabs and insider trading. It is where good, bold or even ridiculous ideas go to be gutted, pecked at, and drained of its spirit.

Take for instance the ambitious and dreaded Cap & Trade American Clean Energy & Security Act, a fairly motivated if not sketchy attempt to extricate this nation from its insatiable gluttony. However, the thing was so immense and incoherent by the House vote it was easily yanked apart and shredded by the Senate to the point that if it takes any steps toward resembling an actual clean energy edict it would qualify at the Vatican as a Living Miracle. Even the gruesome monstrosity it has now become could hardly be considered a shoo-in for law. At best, it will end up a sad, tired shell of its former mission, accomplishing only a forum for recycled rhetoric beneath the shadowy mist of fantasy.

This brings us to the decades old debate about the United States Healthcare System, which by the most liberal standards of Webster’s definition of System, is laughable.

Chances are, as predicted here for more than a decade, nothing this massive will survive The Process, and if it did, it would barely resemble anything close to an “overhaul” dreamed of in the most government-bloating wet dreams of Nancy Pelosi or the darkest night sweats of Newt Gingrich.

Most of what is happening now in the realm of Healthcare Reform is simply about politics. The Republicans, whipped and irrelevant for nearly two years now, have found a soapbox in which to rail and for a Democratic majority jacked on the fumes of victory and mandate with a still wildly popular executive, it’s bonkers time. The president, who has broken all records for media appearances, town hall meetings and press conferences, is out front for his first-year push. This, as is political wrangling over the issue, is nothing new. The last president spent his first six months pushing his tax cuts across the country to try and steal the day before a Republican-controlled Congress went to sleep, and thus so is the new one on Healthcare.

Baby Bush banked his presidency on tax cuts, and if not for what was to come in September of that fateful year of our Lord 2001, historians may have been privy to its ultimate results on what was then a significant surplus, but that presidency and its fallout was determined by the events of 9/11, and for he and the Republicans, it turned out expediency was indeed the ticket.

So there is no point wondering why Joe Cool was on the air again holding his near-weekly press briefing to quell fears and squash rumors of Socialism, Bureaucracy and dismembered babies crying in vain for their wounded mothers to provide solace beneath a cold and indifferent government clusterfuck, as it is pointless in defining his de facto deadlines. Unfortunately for him, this was insufficient for Lefties who wished for His Excellency to bring the funk and spine-chilling sermons on Hope Mach II and it damn sure didn’t placate an already feed-frenzied Right, which provides lip service to wanting to “reform” The System while banking on an early burial of the current administration.

And this is a good thing for democracy as we know and love it. The Loyal Opposition hitting and running with TV ads and radio talk show geeks and RNC chairmen shouting Armageddon, while the bleeding hearts of urban plight wax poetic about morality and rising costs and bankrupting the middle class. None of it is close to being true or even having a shot at ultimately affecting anyone. This is tantamount to the same hue and cry when the government votes to spy on its citizens. Honestly, did this curtail your drug deals or sex chats or put your incessant cell phone yammering and texting lunacy on hold? Nope. And neither shall whatever piddling nonsense congress and the president whip up put you on the street bleeding to death while illegal immigrants get free foot massages.

What is fairly amusing however is this half-cocked notion out of the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, which has now gotten into the business of regulating human behavior by trying to ramrod into this sieve of a bill weirdly phrased shit about obesity and smoking. Nice try. Lord knows we’re fat and drugged up beyond recognition, but hell, it’s our choice — it’s the way God wanted it; Free Will. And while it is highly unlikely this or any other government in our lifetime will do anything about the state of providing, regulating or overhauling our dysfunctional Healthcare System from Medicare to Medicaid and beyond, there is absolutely no chance of saving us from ourselves.

 

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Uprising In Iran 2009

Aquarian Weekly 6/24/09 REALITY CHECK

THE ALLAH STOMP How The Streets Of Iran Are Burning The Fumes of the ’79 Revolution

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away. – Tom Waits

If you have children at an age where they have a basic grasp of their place in the grand scheme of human endeavor, you must place them in front of a television or find a spot on the Internet and share with them the incredible Awakening In Tehranevents unfolding in Iran. For it is important that youth be served with uprising. It is even more important they understand what it means to fight to control their environment and to be comfortable in the total and furious rejection of all that has come before; especially when what has come before is a tired and pathetic series of atavistic oppressive nonsense perpetuated by mindless zealot thugs hiding behind laughably formed religious dogma.

You see, the riots engulfing the whole of Tehran currently have less to do with a sham of an election than it does with a “movement”. Granted, movements tend to explode from the bowels of cheap political frauds, but they also tend to have a life of their own, a violent birthing complete with a bloody, cacophonous splendor of fury. Movements also don’t necessarily need leaders or figureheads or even a singular purpose. But they always seem to regress into a fistful of backlash from the Status Quo, which more times than not see movements as a threat to what is left of their stale hag of desiccating stupidity that has subsisted way beyond any reason to keep functioning save for the greed and self-preservation of its nurtured few.

Thomas Jefferson, one of history’s most articulate dreamers, saw uprisings as a kind of spiritual right of passage for the human spirit, a Jesus/Mohammad king-hell joust with tyranny, whether religious, cultural or political. He also believed in the “world revolution” where the desire to steer one’s destiny trumps any feign designs on the collective freedom, because one man’s freedom is another man’s shackles and Jefferson, like all pie-in-the-sky types, knew instinctively that only those who’ve worn the shackles understand implicitly that things gotta change.

So maybe while you watch a world turn upon itself you can explain to your kids that not everything is shit, but a goodly portion of things are, and strange aberrations of civilization like Theocracies only work for some but not all. And when the majority of the “all” happens to be around the age of 27 and cannot recall with xenophobic blinders the Revolution of 1979, they fully realize the absurdity of their existence; that all about them is religious miasma existing only to expunge any remnants of the evil western-propped governments for a return to the Dark Ages and the headdresses of warring tribes and the muzzling of science and progress and art and social expression.

There are only so many jailhouses and so many bullets and so much upheaval the Status Quo can handle. Eventually the voices overwhelm. If not today or tomorrow, soon. No matter what comes and how our new president or the rest of the curious Middle East will deal with it when it has subsided, it will not be the same.

This is how a society becomes straddled with a bleating little troll like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a twisted gnome of a man whose sole purpose is the wiping away of the terrible nightmare in the mirror — the sad beady-eyed gargoyle mommy ignored and the neighborhood bullies stomped for kicks — and replace him with something “special”. Ah, but his babbling psychosis was forgiven for too long, this tour-de-force of spectacular dumbness displayed with spastic zeal, simply because the public learned that he’d been stricken from birth with a strange malady called Mesenteric Torsion, which had heretofore only been diagnosed in dogs and other creatures that regularly consume their own feces and countless pounds of diseased meat. It is literally a rotting of the intestines wherein eventually the bile invades the bloodstream and then onto the brain. Dogs usually have the decency to crawl off to die alone, but in the human, MT produces a bloated sense of self-worth and a demented lust for purpose, producing a bent sort of abject megalomania.

Modern civilized societies either quarantine these poor creatures or give them high-profile radio gigs, but in Iran there appears to be a relish for this manner of madness at the state level. But, alas, Ahmadinejad’s atavistic showbiz had begun to wear thin, not only abroad but at home, and that is a hard dose to swallow for those living in fantasyland. And it’s also how that fantasy might spill into “the process”, where campaigns suddenly become pud pulling exercises and votes are more a vague framework than reality.

And despite the fading echo of The Revolution being outnumbered by the new, wide-eyed youth to the tune of almost two-to-one and rising poll numbers for weeks for his opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh, and a strong tailwind of debates in which all observers viewed Ahmadinejad’s “clock cleaned”, the election went the other way by a staggering two-thirds. Weird stories of thousands of hand ballots ignored, a media crackdown and a quickly cobbled victory speech left Iran looking to the rest of the world not as it wished — a noble nation built of tradition and allegiance to Allah — but a grotesquely anachronistic embarrassment to modern civilization.

That’s when the foreign press was kicked out and international cell phone connections were shut down and the Internet was blockaded. But this, like all revolutions, has new avenues to victory, whether they are the sword and musket or the Twitter and FaceBook.

Images of a vengeful Revolutionary Guard shooting wildly at protesting students and the capitol in flames is not the way a rogue nation wants to hang in this renewed time of diplomacy. The mockery of justice and law and the total abandon of human rights and common decency play regularly on the World Wide Web and it is all a pox on Iran’s faith and its way of life. And all the vacillating rambles of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will amount to the proverbial hill of beans if order is not restored.

There are only so many jailhouses and so many bullets and so much upheaval the Status Quo can handle. Eventually the voices overwhelm. If not today or tomorrow, soon. No matter what comes and how our new president or the rest of the curious Middle East will deal with it when it has subsided, it will not be the same.

That is a Movement, brutha.

Give your kids a taste.

 

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Rove & Carville Invade Radio City Music Hall

Aquarian Weekly 6/3/09 REALITY CHECK

DINOSAURS ON SIXTH AVENUE
Recording The Death Rattle Of Karl Rove & James Carville

For me, the notion of ‘teenage wasteland’ is about waste. It’s not about getting wasted, it’s about waste; wasted life, wasted opportunity, wasted years. And I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the planet and did nothing to change it. – Pete Townshend

Politics is the art of controlling your environment. – Hunter S. Thompson

Rove & CarvilleThis, I told myself, was not going to be pleasant. A rainy, windswept late-spring evening on Manhattan Island ruined by a dismal assignment to “cover” the final brain flatus of two dying breeds, Karl Rove and James Carville, once giants in a field still very much inhabited by similar groaning creatures but the likes of which will rarely be seen again. Two middle-aged southern white men, whose claim to legacy is the achievement of other men’s dreams and, in weird unexplainable ways, doomed ideologies of bygone eras.

“Mach Shau!” my friend and colleague for the evening, Master Buzz exclaimed before we entered the main room of the still gloriously stunning Radio City Music Hall. This immediately lightened my mood, for I knew it as the clarion call of soused German audiences along the grimy stages of the Reeperbahn in early-sixties Hamburg.

Make Show.

Yes, and what of this “show”; a debate series of political misfits hurled at New York audiences for a price. It bordered on the obscene: Paying to see what is widely available from all ends 24/7 online and on cable television? It was not unlike those insidious live events staged with cartoon characters to pry the last dollars from guilty parents.

Entitled “Strategies, Alliances and Policy” and moderated by PBS’s Charlie Rose, the ruse unfurled a symposium air; properly attired set of comfortable chairs, dotted with bottles of designer water and a floral arrangement. By all outward appearances it was to be an educational evening of interesting anecdotes shared between celebrated rivals, but it was Buzz who noticed right away a terrible kind of misty funk about the place. I could only describe it as the scent of death. No one around us could smell it, but it was there; a rancid pall which might emanate from discarded carcasses left to rot in the midday sun. It was distracting but also strikingly clear. Rot, I told myself, don’t forget to tell the readers about the rot.

Soon Rose was behind the podium at stage right butchering what little notes he’d taken for the evening’s proceedings. He began strongly enough, but soon looked like a man stricken by confusion. We were sure the powerful odor had taken control of his senses, cracking his otherwise impenetrable professional facade. He tried to soldier on, but soon gave up, simply announcing the names of the men he was to moderate, hoping to Jesus the onerous stench would abate and allow him to conduct the business at hand.

Rove and Carville then emerged from the wings together, smiling and waving as if geeks in a traveling carnival. I winced at the sight. Buzz had to cover his face to keep from retching. I wanted to poke the gray-haired couple in front of us to see if what we were experiencing was also giving them this inexplicable bout of inertia. When I finally did, the woman’s head slumped forward, dangling awkwardly on the end of her spinal column. A young bearded man across from us gasped. I could tell he was not prepared for what was to come next.

I can only say that it was odd to see these men paraded out this way. I had been in the room with both of them before, watching Carville from afar at a Bill Bradley media junket in the summer of 1999 and almost a year later crammed in a hotel bar in Florida with the man behind our 43rd president, George W. Bush. That night Rove sported the impish grin of bloated cat with a tummy full of canary. Eight years before, Carville never looked unsure of his place in Americana while he was ramrodding Bill Clinton into the White House. But they now appeared sad, captured in a desperate plea to be loved, and finding only disdain. Apparently unaware of the horrors unfolding around them, the crowd cheered.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public.

Half-expecting a hooded executioner brandishing a battle-axe to follow them to center stage, I kept thinking; Why would they do such a thing? Hasn’t everything both of them hold dear on The Right & The Left been shattered by the political events of the past year? Carville’s beloved Clinton Machine beaten severely by the process and rejected outright with no hint of honor and Rove’s eight-year reign summarily mocked, debased, and sent out of the Big Town riding high on the dreaded rail?

Shit, Rove re-invented Republicanism by politicizing the entire executive branch of the federal government, while Carville orchestrated a series of improbable comebacks for a morally bankrupt sociopath. Both are pundit darlings now; Rove guests on FOXNEWS and pens a predictably smarmy column for the Wall Street Journal, Carville squeaks in when he can on CNN and MSNBC, taking cab fare and cheap bottles of wine for speaking engagements.

Only four minutes into the exercise told us the answer. Rove, dressed like an actuary in a gleaming power-suit and clutching a thick notebook of charts, graphs and stats, he immediately began defending his president’s unmatched series of incomprehensible mishaps, while Carville laughed in his barely coherent Cajun style, throwing his hands up and yawping spastically. Rove became obsessed with “protecting the country after 9/11”, and Carville equally obsessed with two terms of “peace and prosperity”. Rove crowed on about the “shifting trends” of the opening century and Carville whined incessantly about Katrina.

None of the subjects, save Rose’s blithe inclusion of the new nominee for the Supreme Court, which had been rolled out only hours before, concentrated on the present. With the exception of one segment, when both guests, reeling from the terrible realization that they’d both passed their effectiveness as human beings, began to assess the Youth Vote for the next generation.

When faced with having stayed at the circus too long, Carville stammered on about how neither Barack Obama’s electric campaign nor the internet had as much to do with the now Golden Age of Liberalism as the failure of Republicans or a Democratic Party imprimatur. Rove did nothing to explain how his plan to rule Washington for decades turned into a terminal dismantling of the modern Republican Party.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public. It was never about “the economy stupid” or “compassionate conservativism”, “supporting the troops” or “mounting a defense against a Vast Right Wing conspiracy”. It was about looking like the winner, no matter the circumstance. It was, as it will always be for the powerbroker: What did I sweat and bleed for? Was it worth it? Was it what I wanted? And was it ever going to be any better for me again?

By the time protests began to rage in the audience, it all seemed staged and predictable, as if the former vice president were suddenly a media darling trying in vein to appear relevant again.

At least someone still thinks these men matter.

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The Sins Of Pakistan

Aquarian Weekly 5/27/09 REALITY CHECK

THE SINS OF PAKISTAN How Sovereignty & Absinthe Will Defeat The Taliban Once & For All

A victory in the fight against terrorism is in fact a guarantee for the security and protection of our coming generations. – Pakistani Prime Minsiter Yusuf Raza Gilani

It has been a dormant fifteen days since I emerged from the dark voodoo-drenched tanks in the black heart of the French Quarter, where One For The Roadnow instead of begging the kitchen help for sweet absinthe, one can purchase a glass over the bar for eighteen American, complete with a tourist-seducing fire show. Traditionally, the French frown on such activities, but this has never stopped me from blazing my own goodly share of sugarcane, and as it turned out the lovely barkeep at the Old Absinthe House on the Rue de Bourbon hailing from the suburbs “just north of Paris” exhibited the right accent and deft of wrist to best apply the ice water where needed. These flashpoints from hazy days lost in New Orleans may appear random to the untrained eye, until one realizes from time to time you need companionship when summoning the Green Fairy, and I have been blessed over the years with many a hale and hearty volunteer, but on this night it happened to be an Italian accountant from Brooklyn, NY and a former member of the Israeli Defense Force by way of Manhattan.

The accountant had come less for the wormwood than the music, as did my dearest brother-in-arms, Buzz and his engagingly erudite woman, both of whom had stayed at the hotel after weird vibrations from deceased authors took hold. This could not be properly explained then and I shall respect this edict now. As for my new Israeli friend, he was happy to discuss his mandatory “three-year duty” but was not as forthcoming about the sordid details of the World’s Finest Fighting Force, however we both agreed on two very important points; the drink and the company were pretty fine and the Pakistan Army will crush the Taliban and speedily make nice what the U.S. military and its befuddled intelligentsia have screwed royally in the deserts of Iraq. This, we also agreed, would bring about serious and debilitating setbacks to the misguided clusterfuck that represents the radical Islamic revolution against the Saudi Empire and its benefactors, Uncle Sam.

This may be a lot to digest in two paragraphs, but there is no sane way to quickly describe being half out of one’s head on finely distilled Roquette 1797 while confronting the kind of naked truths best kept hidden from “normal” Bourbon Street revelers. Yes, my friend assured me, the Pakistani Army would not only expunge the rag-tag revolutionary horde from its Afghanistan border, but also “gut the entire operation” – again, I reminded him, a job we failed to accomplish seven long years ago.

Leave it up to the Experienced Intelligence Community in the District of Columbia to wonder how a trained fighting force, familiar with the enemy – since most of them were created by the Pakistan government to combat the ever-present threat of neighboring India – can be properly motivated.

We agreed once more that after enjoying a three-to-one ratio of men and ten-to-one in arms and cash, the highly motivated Pakistani forces will win the day, but alas fail to find Osama bin Laden among the defeated, for he has long been slain, dismembered and carefully planted along the mountainous region to keep the terrible Western Devil from apprehending him like a common criminal; de-liced on cable television and sent to the gallows like his sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein. But they will find hundreds of acres of poppy growth and chemical plants feeding the western world its taste of the Brown Master or H or as the physicists call it, diacetylmorphine. It is better known to the rest of us as Heroin.

While Pakistan hails the United States as its most cherished ally in the pursuit of “radical militants”, their enemy hails the same country as one of its best customers. It is the export of heroin that built the Taliban in the first place, not the oft-cited dedication to the Qur’an or any half-baked Jihad or parades of virgins awaiting the fallen in the afterlife. No, it’s the glorious god poppy that has put them on the map and sent them foolishly into battle with a nation heretofore obsessed with the dangers of their Hindu neighbors in India.

Not surprising, our half-assed “dismantling” of the original Taliban has reared its ugly head again, but not as surprising, even with a new commander-in-chief aboard, is the U.S.’s critique of Pakistan for “not being proactive enough in battling militants who are launching attacks from a swath of tribal areas”, despite, of course, the $10 billion handed over to former U.S. puppet, Pervez Musharraf to dick around like an Anglo-aristocrat for most of the last decade. Now he is gone, under suspicion of conspiracy to murder and other formally forgivable sins, as his successors are left to play the no-mercy IDF game. Musharraf predictably claims this will “backfire”, but anyone on the ground with any real experience with desert fighters disagree.

I learned back on ’96 to trust a member of the IDF when it came to not fucking around. This is the credo I made clear to my contacts at the Jerusalem Post in October of 2001 when I received several and varied e-mails fingering Iraq as the “bankrolling of 9/11 and the single most crucial target” in the terrorist vengeance jag we were all going to be on for the next few years. And I assured my new friend that not one of those journalists were from Texas, as he assured me that when a nation is put on alert to a gang of religious marauders breathing down its fractious democratic sovereignty, there is no use diddling around with the vagaries of an “exit strategy”. Leave it up to the Big Bad White House Chess Club to deconstruct a country defending its capitol and its nuclear arsenal.

Leave it up to the Experienced Intelligence Community in the District of Columbia to wonder how a trained fighting force, familiar with the enemy – since most of them were created by the Pakistan government to combat the ever-present threat of neighboring India – can be properly motivated.

Just the same, New Orleans is far enough away from Washington and something resembling reality to offer a more complete view of how things will go now that people who have a real stake beyond oil and strategic allies are in charge of this War On Terror. All one has to do is ask the statue of Andrew Jackson set in a vast park at the north end of The Quarter, a testament to what a motivated fighting unit can do when its cities are on the brink.

It was, however, more than an epiphany to realize all of America’s most cherished goals for most of the 21st Century’s first bloody decade has centered on crushing this so-called al Qaeda by way of the Taliban, somewhat sidetracked by the Iraq War and the gory circus hatched on the Middle East. But we were stupid and naïve then, a tough combination when dealing with Naked Truths, whether hyped up on a Euro liquid dream stomper on a balmy Friday night by the mighty Mississippi or rolling out field maps for the Pentagon Press.

Turns out Commander Bush had it right before 9/11; let the damned desert people figure this thing out for themselves.

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Obama At The Century Mark

Aquarian Weekly 5/6/09 REALITY CHECK

THE CENTURY MARK Joe Cool’s Honeymoon Epilogue

We have ten fingers and ten toes, therefore we make its denominations our benchmark; a decade, a century, a millennium, etc. But it wasn’t until FDR that we are now expected to judge the honeymoon period of a new president by his first 100 days. Okay, but when you consider that the last guy’s entire two terms hung on the events of 9/11/01, which happened long after the first 100 days, it tends to dilute its significance. However, in my lifetime alone the first 100 days have proven noteworthy. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had lousy first 100 days; the former never recovered, but the latter learned valuable lessons, rallied, and hung around to be re-elected. Hard to argue with either Lyndon Johnson’s or Ronald Reagan’s success in their first 100 days, then you remember Viet Nam and the economic collapse of 1982 and it dilutes them. So, in the interest of proper pundit decorum, where does Joe Cool stand after his century mark?

New Sheriff In TownBy any count, Barack Hussein Obama has been virtually unstoppable. He has already engineered the largest federal stimulus package in the nation’s history and in the process completely neutered the opposing party, while managing to balance his approval ratings in the sixties — not to mention his personal meter, which remains in the stratosphere. People love this guy. They love his youth, exuberance, his wife and family, his dog and the near butler-like penchant to please. They like that he isn’t like the last guy, or really any guy who has held the office. He even apologizes for dumb shit and humbly passes the credit for popular moves to his subordinates.

But he has not apologized for being liberal. No, sir. He promised it during the election and has come hard on nearly fifty years of post-war liberal agenda from healthcare to energy reform to government oversight. Change is flying all over the place. I recalled last week what a Republican insider told me after Captain Shoo-In finally wrested the presidency away from his opponent; “In six months, you won’t recognize this place.” He was right, and here’s something he may also agree with: It is getting harder each day to believe there ever was a President George W. Bush.

Oh, things haven’t been all that politically sunny. There were major screw-ups in cabinet appointments and several embarrassing kick-starts to the crack economic team, not to mention weird things abroad, but the air around Washington has gone from lockdown paranoia to a drunken spending spree of love and hope, and whether it all amounts to gangbusters or plain bust does not erase the 100-Day Sprint, which has come up gold for the new guy.

Unfortunately for his detractors, feces-hitting-fan won’t happen for sometime. But fear not, it will happen. It has to. No deficit can be this bloated and not sink something somewhere. Mass foreclosures are coming. Nasty doings in Pakistan are on the way. The auto industry is weeks from completely imploding. More partisan ugliness and party in fighting is definitely afoot. But for now it is wine & roses. Feds say the economy is beginning to show signs, and unless there is a major attack on this nation, then these first 100 days, whether fairly or not, will be determined by its health.

He has come to play with an odd combination of grace and muscle; the dexterity of a ballet dancer and the brutal force of a steroid-addled wrestler. It has been a tough act to impede, and it shows no signs of slowing.

There are those, and they are in the minority presently, that believe it less risky to wage war all over the place on Chinese loans than raising the tax rate three percent to prop up the banking system. They have had their say and if things continue to go badly or come up for air and then tank again, they will have their day once more. But for now, they are in the wilderness.

Case in point: One Arlen Specter, the 29-year senator from Pennsylvania, knows a good escape hatch when he sees it. He has decided to ceremoniously hitch his wagon to the winning team, knowing that local squeakers in state primaries pale in comparison to steamrollers in the national headquarters. Specter came in with The Gipper. He knows good Mojo. So he jumps the sinker for a shot at The Win. He wants to stay a senator and he doesn’t care who knows it. He doesn’t lie about his sexuality to stay around or give big speeches about morality. He wants a clear road to victory and cannot see it as a Republican anymore. Fair enough. Joe Lieberman had a similar revelation two years ago, went all independent, and then decided to sharpen his hawk talons. But he was sent back to the Democrats with a whipped tail between his legs never to be heard from again.

Soon the Democrats will have a filibuster-proof 60 strong in the Senate and continue to stranglehold the congress. The man at the top, for all the talk about his inability to lead from day one has hit the ground in a full-flail, throwing everything everywhere, and making it look like an evening stroll. He has come to play with an odd combination of grace and muscle; the dexterity of a ballet dancer and the brutal force of a steroid-addled wrestler. It has been a tough act to impede, and it shows no signs of slowing.

History tells us the storm clouds are coming. They always do. Things are tough now, but most of the bad stuff was cobbled together by someone else over a long stretch. Right now the “Not My Doing” chant works. Soon the bad smell will end up on him, as it does with all the guys in the Big Chair, and that is usually when the mettle is tested and the pudding bares proof.

I agree with conservative columnist, David Brooks when he said the other day that Obama has bitten off more than anyone could chew and that always leads to choking. But after 100 days with the majority of the public and the legislative branch of the federal government in his back pocket and a crippling economic crisis filling his sails, he’s come up aces. It is the pinnacle of civic chest-thumping — a political juggernaut whose shit has yet to stink.

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