Today the bail-out plan failed to pass in Congress. This was an incident when several House Representatives chose to vote in a way they felt was “safe” rather than for what may have actually been best for everyone in the long run. A lot of average citizens influenced their representatives; they spoke loudly in their opposition to this bill, misperceiving it as simply a government sanctioned “save the fat cats” deal. By listening to their constituents, many congressmen took the loud prostrations of average citizens who don’t comprehend the complexities of such a serious situation as political guidance and hoped that turning down the bill would save them face and keep them their job. This is one of those instances when a politician should vote for what’s best for the country, not for what is most popular. Politicians have to make the difficult decisions sometimes, and if helping to prevent a catastrophic economic crisis with your vote costs you popularity or even another term, if you are an ethical person you will make that vote anyway. I’ve never been a Republican, but I feel that when George H.W. Bush went against his stated “no new taxes,” and increased taxes, he did so at a time when that was by far the best choice. It cost him another term, and as such brought in Clinton, whom I felt was very much needed at the time, but I respect Bush senior for making that hard decision. The problem with a senator listening to his constituents over his common sense at certain points is that a lot of average Americans are uneducated when it comes to the issue at hand.

What follows is the article I penned in longhand before I heard that the bill had failed, and it fits perfectly with what I’ve covered so far.
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Much of what I want to say ties in with a point I made in my last blog, which is that it takes action on the part of all potential voters to understand the issues at stake.
“Girl, you know what they’re wanting to do with our taxes?” , a customer asked one of my co-workers today. “You got to watch them Democrats the most, they want to raise our taxes and take away our money, too…my kids live off of money I get back from the government and those Democrats want to take it away.” She continued to rant, saying that she had just heard about the bailout today (this despite the fact that it’s been major news for some time now), and that she had, “never voted in my life, but I will this time.” My co-worker laughed and nodded politely, conversing with the customer. I bit my tongue, knowing to never argue politics with a customer on the job. I think my blood pressure rose as I pushed back he anger and bewilderment for such comments; this type of mentality truly frightens me. In America, every adult citizen has the right to vote and every vote should count. But shouldn’t anyone taking advantage of their right to vote be conscientious enough to bear the responsibility of learning a bit about the candidates and the issues before voting? I won’t make the claim that reading and educating yourself about the issues will make you agree with me in my belief that Obama is the best choice in this election; there are educated people who support McCain, people who know about the issues and believe he is the better choice because they have different worldviews, opinions and priorities than I do. But I feel that a lot of people voting this time, and probably in a lot of past elections as well, vote with a lack of knowledge and a lot of misperceptions. How else to explain why single mothers can vote against a candidate and a party-ticket that aims to help single moms in ways the other side has declined to even consider? Or how schoolteachers can vote against a candidate that wants to give them a raise, provide more funds for education and elevate the status of educators in ways that haven’t been done in years? Or how a working-class or poverty-stricken voter can complain that “Obama wants to raise our taxes,” while Obama’s stated plan aims to give the poor and middle class tax cuts they haven’t had in a very long time and instead gain new funds by increasing taxes for those that make more than $250,000 a year, a sum about 8 times what many middle class workers make in a year these days. How can unemployed workers actively seeking employment vote against a candidate that wants to provide millions of jobs that can’t be out-sourced? How can a woman vote for a candidate and a ticket that has opposed equal pay for equal work and overlook the alternative candidate that has made that issue a priority? Furthermore, how can a certain woman run on a ticket with a man that has done as such; how can this same woman, a mother of a special-needs child, look into the camera and promise parents like herself with their own special-needs children, that they “will have a friend in Washington,” when she is running with a man who has voted against legislation that would benefit families with special needs children?
The answer for all of these head-scratching scenarios has to be that many people today are ignorant, misled, misinformed or confused. People don’t take time to read and educate themselves like they should. People trust blatant propaganda and lies that pass as news in the faux-news channel Fox News. People feel like they can’t trust a candidate like Obama because he sounds too “professorial” and intelligent because they themselves don’t put pride in knowledge and education like they used to. People grow apathetic and confused because things seem to only get worse and they forget what type of policies and philosophies put them in this sort of situation in the first place. If you do the research and the reading, and you form an honest and informed opinion and you come to the conclusion that based on your beliefs and opinions (not your prejudices and your fears) that McCain is the best choice for you, then I can respect your opinion. Although I will disagree with you based on my convictions and beliefs, I will respect that you’ve done the work in determining your choice. I will not respect you, however, if you choose to vote for McCain as a result of prejudices, fears, misinformation or lack of knowledge.
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So that’s it. Statements from many financial advisors and commentators have stressed the point that too many congressmen followed advice from constituents who didn’t fully grasp the complexities involved in the bailout, that those “average citizens” didn’t comprehend how everyone can easily be affected by a wall street collapse. As a Bishop in my Episcopal church recently stated, the current national crisis reflects failures on all of our parts. Not just “fat cats,” but everyone who took a mortgage out knowing that there was no way they could ever pay it back. Honesty and integrity should always be a part of all our dealings, even our business dealings. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no,” the Bishop stressed in church last Sunday. He’s right; I’m all in favor of tag-ons to the bill that help to erase “golden parachutes” and runaway corporate salaries. I’m all in favor of increasing regulation on Wall Street (something McCain was always against). I’m also aware that even though I rent and do not own a house and that I’ve never had a mortgage, I am a citizen of the U.S. and that as such I and all of my fellow citizens are tied up in a world of bad debt, bad loans and harsh times. We have to do what’ s best for all of us, even when some of us don’t understand that.

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So the first presidential debate is over. After the debate was under wraps both camps released statements declaring their candidate the clear winner. Commentators and pundits have been mixed on who won as well. Some claimed McCain sounded condescending and lecturing towards Obama while others claimed this was because he showed his experience and knowledge over Obama; I’ve read that McCain was both on the offensive all night and on the defensive all night depending on who you ask. Snapshot polls by both CBS and CNN show that among uncommitted voters the number of viewers who think Obama won the debate were more than double the number who felt McCain won. After the debates we saw comments by Biden claiming the democratic victory and with Sarah Palin nowhere to be found we had to instead hear from Mayor Giuliani who, in my opinion, sounds increasingly sarcastic and vile whenever he comments on Obama. Perhaps Palin is holed up somewhere rehearsing for her upcoming debate with Joe Biden; anyone who has seen her meltdown interview with Katie Couric knows she needs more preparation before she attempts a debate on her own. While watching the debates I couldn’t help but worry that much of what the candidates argued over flew right over the heads of the typical viewer at home. I’m not claiming I’m an expert on everything that was discussed, far from it, but I do try my best to read and research what’s going on and what the issues are about and it does take active participation on my part to understand what much of the issues center on…does the average American do that? I’m afraid not, judging by many conversations I have with people who always resort to comments like, “Well, I guess I don’t pay much attention to that,” “ I don’t like to hear things about politics,” and “Neither party can do anything for me, nothing in Washington affects my life.” Even when there are plenty of us who do at least a small part of research into the matters at hand, most of us attach ourselves to our own pet issues and concerns and do tend to get blind eyed about other equally important issues. Much of this first debate centered on Foreign Policy and I felt very troubled that almost every time Jim Leherer, who preceded over the debates, asked any question regarding any other country it was always in the context of a threat assessment. “How will you deal with Iran in your presidency,”, “Russia?”, “Korea?” “Afghanistan?”, “Pakistan?”, and so on. I kept thinking, “How did we come to this?” I suppose I am a bit naïve in matters of foreign policy because I like to think peace is still a possibility. I’d like to think we could talk about other countries in terms of diplomatic negations, trade, humanitarian aid, culture and hope rather than “threat assessment.” It seems in a world of possible “nuclear suitcase bombs” and fundamentalist terrorists rising out of poverty and war stricken areas to aim their anger at those that have more than they do and who now have our weapons to do so, well, it seems like we have to discuss how to protect ourselves from any and every other country should the need arise. I hope that one day we can spend some of the billions that we spend on the military and on war on instead feeding, clothing, educating and helping those in other countries so that they can have aspirations to strive for other than terrorism. As far as the foreign policy debate, I do think Obama is correct in saying we need to establish a timetable for the removal of troops from Iraq. I do agree that Iraq never had anything to do with Al Qaeda or Bin Laden. I do feel that we should finally capture Bin Laden and confront the Taliban where they really are. At the same time, it’s disheartening to think of pouring more troops into Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan. As for Russia? Can we please try a non-combative plan with them, they’re more than we can handle right now. No nation stays great and maintains “top dog” status forever, so we need to not spread ourselves too thin and we need to try a little peace when possible.
The things I most support in Obama are his economic plans: Obama plans to provide for 5 million renewable energy jobs and to rebuild our decaying infrastructures and roads–these types of measures would provide for millions of jobs here in America that cannot be outsourced. I support his tax plan: if you make more than $250,000 a year your taxes will go up, but as planned, if you make under that threshold your taxes will go down: that’s a tax cut that will benefit 95 percent of Americans. For years we’ve had that in reverse, with the largest percentage of tax cuts benefiting the top 5 percent, a method of government McCain would continue. I support Obama’s move to improve health care; while I wish he would announce a strong and immediate push for universal, government-provided health care for all Americans, I’m at least glad he plans to make the initial steps to improving and providing better and more affordable health care for all of us instead of McCain’s stated plan to de-regulate the health care industry to promote competition in the hopes that that will be the solution (we see how deregulation played out on Wall Street, do we want that in our clinics and with our insurance providers even more than we have now?). These and many other issues are what draw me to Obama’s plan and campaign and I hope these factors get to be touched on in much greater depth in the next two debates. Obama made a really good point in last nights debate concerning our standing in the world. Can we really say that how the world and its people view us is better than it was before the Bush presidency? Obama commented on how when his father was a boy he dreamed of coming to America because “anything was possible” here. Do those of us living here even feel that so much anymore? People may scoff that our “standing in the world” isn’t that important, but how can anyone say that? Our relations with other countries, with allies and enemies alike and with the United Nations is very important. I feel that if our country decides to elect another Bush-like Republican we will even further distance ourselves and hurt our image in the world.
Sometimes I can’t believe how far we’ve come (or fallen) over the past eight years. When Bill Clinton was president our unemployment rate was at an all-time low, our respect in the world was high, our diplomatic relationships were solid, fuel costs were low, foreign wars and skirmishes were scarce, affordable health care seemed possible. Clinton had his personal failures, which tarnished his image at home but had scarce affect abroad–most of the bewilderment abroad was in response to our citizens reactions to Clinton’s scandal not to the scandal itself. As a leader focused on the economy Clinton did his best to fix what 12 years of Reagan and G.H.W. Bush had done. After he left it all came back again, in many instances worse than before.
The thing is, I do not hate John McCain. I really don’t even dislike the man. I think his intentions are good. I think he is intelligent. I think he believes he knows what is best for this country. I do not, however, feel his policies are actually what this country needs now. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, truly frightens me. I don’t believe I’ve seen a more ill-prepared and politically unsound candidate in my lifetime. Palin seems to be worse than even Dan Quayle or Ross Perot. Even when she has her talking points down pat and sounds passionate in a speech, her policies and personal beliefs are disastrous possibilities for this country. Nowadays it seems that Vice Presidents take on more than they ever have; I know people keep saying that “Palin is only a heartbeat away from the Presidency,” and I now think that’s a bit of a cheap shot. McCain is elderly now and he has had health problems in the past, but I don’t really think he has much of a higher chance of dying in the White House than any other President in history, all Vice Presidents are a “heartbeat away from the Presidency.” But with Palin I think even the slightest possibility of her having full rein in the White House is terrifying. I’ve mentioned several times on this site aspects of her political thoughts that I vehemently oppose so I won’t mention them again here and you’ve probably heard them elsewhere. I will say that in this day and age we need a President who can effectively and respectfully govern over the entire population; not just it’s Christian citizens but also it’s Jewish, Muslim and Atheist citizens. Not just heterosexual white citizens, but also African-American, Hispanic and homosexual citizens as well. America is a melting-pot Nation, a diverse and blended society of all types of thoughts and appearances and we need a leader that can lead them all; I really don’t feel that Palin’s strongest supporters care that much about governing the more diverse members of our society.

One last point I want to make about the debate last night is in regards to the late President Ronald Reagan. McCain referenced Reagan and his respect for Reagan and his policies and presidency on several occasions. I began to notice that McCain’s voice even began to eerily sound like Reagan’s. I’m just a bit confused; you see, when I was in college every conservative and Republican I knew had an unwavering support of Reagan. I’ve heard many conservative pundits even call for his face on Mt. Rushmore. There have been appreciative articles and books about Regan even by moderate writers and politicians over the past few years. I know the man wasn’t an imbecile or an evil man, and I know he accomplished some important things in foreign policy and is credited with “ending the cold war.” But how did he become so revered and respected as a President? If you’re reading this and like Reagan, please post a comment and explain to me how these following issues can be overlooked to cause such beaming admiration for his role as President:


1) The Iran-Contra scandal: Reagan’s administration sold U.S. weapons to Iran in exchange for a release of hostages. Funds of these weapon sales also went to support anti-Communist contra rebels in Nicaragua. His administration helped proliferate dangerous weapons to most of the countries that we’re still having problems with today. When Iran-Contra was all said and done, fourteen Reagan Administration officials were charged with crimes, eleven were convicted and all would eventually be pardoned by G.H.W. Bush while he was President. No evidence of Reagan’s direct involvement and knowledge of what was going on has come forward–he claims he didn’t know the arms trading and selling was going on, and many volumes of documents were destroyed by Reagan Administration Officials, so we’ll never know how involved Reagan himself truly was. But which is worse? His active involvement in such a dangerous and damaging operation, or his complete ignorance of what was going on with his cabinet on his watch? People today still debate whether or not Reagan’s middle- east policies aided the rise of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and that if they did in some way do as such did the overlapping policies that ended the cold war make up for it.
2) “AIDS gate”- AIDS was first reported in both the popular and medical press in 1981. Reagan waited until April 2nd, 1987 to ever mention the word AIDS in public. He finally mentioned AIDS in siding with Education Secretary William Bennett and other conservatives in saying that the Government should not provide sex education information. “But let’s be honest with ourselves, AIDS information can not be what some call ‘value neutral.’ After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don’t medicine and morality teach the same lessons,” he said. Reagan’s White House slowed funding for AIDS research and the distribution of information to the public by almost ten years. For the Reagan white house, AIDS was something people “brought on themselves,” and safe sex was a foreign concept.
3)”Trickle-Down Economics”- or, “Voodoo Economics” as it was sometimes referred to in the eighties. I’ve railed against this before so go back and read “Moral Issues Conservatives Overlook” on this site if you want more of my opinion on it. In short, it’s a terrible and failed economic plan that the GOP has been doing whenever they are in the office ever since Reagan initially implemented it. By giving the wealthiest Americans the best tax cuts and encouraging massive wealth for a small percentage of Americans, Republicans think the rest of us will be okay because some of that money will trickle down.
4) To wrap this up, Reagan is also responsible for GHWBush and his son by default.

That’s it. If you would like to post and tell me the good qualities Regan had that overshadow these scandals, please feel free to comment. If you have input on the debate and my reaction, comment as well. Please go to you-tube and search for “Katie Couric interviews Sarah Palin” to see the interview I mentioned earlier if you haven’t seen it already. Coming up next on this site I plan to post my article “Why I Loathe Wal-Mart and How We Can Make a Difference.”

I have to do a bit more raving and promoting today. I read a small one sentence blurb in Rolling Stone awhile back about a band called Gaslight Anthem. I was looking around on the internet and reading in magazines the other day, making a few play lists and I wanted to hear a little new music. Anyway, I remembered the blurb from Rolling Stone because it put one of the singles from this band on their hot list and it said, “just a guess, but these buzzed-about Jersey punk kids might like Springsteen…the fist- pumpiest guitar anthems we’ve heard all year.” So, being a huge Springsteen fan I had to research this band. The Springsteen influence is overstated for a lot of bands, what with Arcade Fire being called on it for “Keep the Car Running,” The Killers for “Sam’s Town,” and The Hold Steady for much of “Boy and Girls in America,” but I think the Springsteen influence is much more evident with Gaslight Anthem. I listened to four songs by the band and was blown away. I found their latest album on itunes for a few bucks, threw it on my ipod and listened to it while trying to go to sleep last night…and I felt like getting out of bed and calling every music fan friend I have and telling them to either log on and buy this or drive to the nearest music store as soon as possible and purchase it on CD (I can only imagine it on vinyl, I have to hunt it down on vinyl soon). This band’s music has excited me like no other has done in quite awhile. The lyrics are all great, the music is all perfect…I’ve been researching the heck out of this band and have been out of luck to find a bad song by them. If you like pure, true rock and roll music you will not be disappointed with the Gaslight Anthem and their new album “The ‘59 Sound.” Perfect choruses, perfect guitar riffs and music that cuts to the bone and settles in your heart. Honestly, I’m not the type of person who hears a new band every month or two and gets thrilled–most of my favorite bands and musicians started their music careers years if not decades ago. Although I like some new music, a lot of it is simply good but nowhere near great for me. A lot of the newer stuff that does turn out to be great for me takes awhile as it grows on me–like The National, My Morning Jacket, etc. But the music by Gaslight Anthem grabbed me upon first listen. Even my two favorite newer bands from the past 5 years–The Hold Steady and The Drive by Truckers–put out many songs and albums that took a little time to really settle in with me. I haven’t been this hyped about a band since The Hold Steady, and with time this band may very well surpass them for me if the rest of their music remains this great. You’ll catch nods to their influences in many of their songs–patches of lyrics from Springsteen, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and even early Counting Crows, sing-along chorus with powerful riffs and breakdown chants that echo classic rock perfectly, but even though they nod to their influences they never sound like a copy. They sound like a totally original band that knows where they came from and who they owe to be able to make the kind of music that they’re making but who uses those influences to enhance what they already have. Most of the time when a newer band tries to emulate the influences I mentioned they end up writing lyrics that fall flat and border on cheesy and barely conceal earlier riffs to hope newer audiences don’t notice or don’t care–not Gaslight Anthem. Rock and Roll is all about the intertwining of the sacred and the profane, about seizing any moment it can in an attempt to fully realize life and its potential. It’s about nostalgia for a past and prediction of a future that may not even exist but does exist as long as the song continues. It’s about girls, cars, God, death, sex, love, life, school, debt, riches, sickness, heartbreak, lust love, faith, hope, failure–it’s about the moments when these things all occur simultaneously, and good God I’ve never felt this upon hearing songs by a new band for the very first time–it reminds me of the best “rock and roll” moments in my life–seeing Kiss live when I was the perfect age for such a thing (13), catching a drumstick at a concert by The Darkness, who put on the closest thing to a Queen concert someone from my generation could ever hope for, hearing the entire “Born to Run” album for the first time, cruising in my first car at 17 listening to my favorite Cds at night, hearing albums like “London Calling” by The Clash on the very first turntable sound system I ever assembled with my roommate in college, seeing Nine Inch Nails on Halloween night as they performed “Right Where It Belongs” in front of a video screen showing George Bush, printing presses full of money, dying soldiers and exploding bombs and knowing the crowd felt unified in their hatred of the status quo and the hope for a better world.
Springsteen said in an interview once that what Elvis did for the body, Dylan did for the mind. I feel that Springsteen was the first to ever successfully combine those two factors in his own music while making it totally original in its own right. Springsteen came along when much of popular music was stagnant and succeeded by nodding to his past and making it new again. If you want to hear that in a modern version, music that nods to its past but makes it new again and is totally original, get a hold of some music by Gaslight Anthem. I’m thrilled to be able to add another title to what will probably be my “Ten Best of the Year” album list I’ll put on here at the end of the year. I was afraid it’d be a slow year– I buy much fewer new releases than I did a few years ago but I’ve been discerning this year and have noticed quite a few classic under the radar that have sparked my faith in new music again–and of course there have been a few good popular releases as well.
I’ve done my part–listen to Gaslight Anthem if you like rock and roll–you won’t be disappointed.

By the way, tune into the Presidential Debates this Friday. I’ll have my take on them afterwards. Also look out for a blog about presidential urban legends concerning topics you may have seen in your email (taxes, anyone?) that have been misleading and wrong. More to come…

Make Up Your Mind Already

September 18, 2008

I think one of the most irritating things going on during this presidential campaign is the persistent comments of people who claim with stubborn indecisiveness that they cannot tell the difference between the candidates. These people are really quite mind blowing. When I hear someone say “I just don’t know who I’m going to vote for, I don’t think either will help me,” I can’t help but think that that person is either showing a type of misplaced politeness due to not wanting to offend anyone in this “polarized” political environment, or that person is completely ignorant of the issues at stake and their importance. I’m not using “ignorant” as a way of name calling, but rather for its dictionary meaning–these people are unknowledgeable and uneducated about the issues.

McCain and Obama are worlds apart on almost every single issue. McCain represents what the Republican Party is today and how they view issues concerning the economy, world policy and culture. Obama is the truest Democrat we’ve seen as a mainstream candidate in quite awhile and his views in the above mentioned categories differ quite drastically from McCain and the GOP. If you know anything at all about the candidate’s viewpoints on most major issues it shouldn’t be very difficult to determine which one most closely matches your own personal views.

I guess the group that disappoints me the most are the people that have been lifelong Democrats but who refuse to support Obama. I really see no reason other than racism or an acceptance of misleading falsities that have been directed towards Obama.

In past elections it’s been easy to see why people felt under whelmed with their choice at the polls. An independent or a liberal could easily have found trouble supporting Gore and Lieberman enthusiastically over Bush; Gore had yet to find his voice and display his political intelligence and Lieberman bogged down the ticket with conservative viewpoints by being a Democrat in name only, leaving many to feel like there wasn’t much difference between the two parties (plus many didn’t know quite how ill prepared George W. Bush would prove to be). So while I, as a senior in High School going through the first election in which I ever did any research and thought about the candidates, and many others felt that Gore was the better choice it was easy to see why others seemed to be indifferent. In 2004 it was on display how poorly Bush was doing, yet he won again. Most of us that supported Gore still opted for Kerry over giving Bush yet another term, but many of us felt discouraged that the most outspoken and truly progressive Democratic candidates were shoved aside–Dean, Kucinich, etc.–and we were left with Kerry, who failed to excite anyone enough to keep Bush out. Now, as a liberal, I believe a man like Nader still has the best ideas and would be willing to go for a type of progressive and positive change that mainstream candidates in America can never dream to actually attempt. I realize this type of candidate can’t win here and now. But for the first time, I feel like Democrats have a candidate with true Democratic roots who actually has a chance at the White House. So how can this group of lifelong Democrats who’ve supported Kennedy, Carter and Clinton not support Obama, a candidate that has the opportunity to accomplish what many of these predecessors could only hope to do? Whether or not he will be able to do this remains to be seen but how can any Democrat not be willing to let him try, especially when his opponent represents politics and interests that are at the polar opposite of the Democratic Party?

I could argue why I feel Obama’s politics are superior to McCain’s for pages but that’s really not the point of this article. The point is that there are major differences between the two candidates so it’s ignorant for anyone to say, “I just can’t tell the difference between the parties anymore.” This is the most important election in recent American history. If you still do not know which candidate you support, please do a little research and know where they both stand on the big issues. Form an opinion and vote, do not be oblivious and uncaring. Finally, feel free to politely share your opinion if someone asks you who you support. Even as a staunch Obama supporter, if someone tells me they support McCain I find it much less offensive than when someone tells me they simply do not care who wins.

Okay, now there are a few random things I want to rave about. First off, a band I enjoy quite a bit, Rise Against, just released a new single, “Re-Education (Through Labor),” from their forthcoming album, Appeal to Reason. I always enjoy their lyrics tremendously; I wouldn’t say they’re the best songwriters or the most deep, but for political hard rock they always manage to write words that perfectly contain just enough politics without being overwhelming and more than enough genuine emotion that mainly comes through in conjunction with the big sound they bring. Anyway, I just wanted to post the lyrics to this single here because they’ve been stuck in my head since I heard the song.

“To the sound of a heartbeat pounding away
To the rhythm of the awful rusted machines
We toss and turn but don’t sleep
Each breath we take makes us thieves
Like causes without rebels
Just talk but promise nothing else

We crawl on our knees for you
Under a sky no longer blue
We sweat all day long for you
But we sow seeds to see us through
‘Cause sometimes dreams just don’t come true
We wait to reap what we are due

To the rhythm of a time bomb ticking away
And the blare of the sirens combing the streets
Chased down like dogs we run from
Your grasp until the sun comes up

We crawl on our knees for you
Under a sky no longer blue
We sweat all day long for you
But we sow seeds to see us through
‘Cause sometimes dreams just don’t come true
Look now at what they’ve done to you

White needles buried in the red
The engine roars and then it gives
But never dies
‘Cause we don’t live
We just survive
On the scraps that you throw away

I won’t crawl on my knees for you
I won’t believe the lies that hide the truth
I won’t sweat one more drop for you
‘Cause we are the rust upon your gears
We are the insect in your ears
We crawl
We crawl
We crawl… all over you

We sow the seeds to see us through
Our days are precious and so few
We all reap what we are due
Under this sky no longer blue
We bring the dawn long over-due
We crawl
We crawl
We crawl… all over you”

Also, a new Comic Hardcover was just released, “Local” by Brian Wood with art by Ryan Kelly. It collects a 12 issue mini-series published by Oni Press and it’s about a mid twenty something woman who feels aimless and confused with what to do with her life. She gets the urge to hit the road and travel as she reflects on her life, all of her major relationships and what to do going forward. Each issue (which is a chapter in this one volume hardcover version) is set in a different city along the way of her travels, and Wood is notorious for doing heavy amounts or research prior to any writing on any title he does so each city is supposed to be meticulously correct and detailed. I can’t do a full book review of this yet because I haven’t read it yet–it’s near the top of my want-to-read list now. I’m a huge fan of Brian Wood’s, his work on “Demo,” “Northlanders,” and “DMZ” is terrific and Kelly’s art is gorgeous as well.

Last of all, that often promised comprehensive “Six Feet Under” Appreciation Article is now complete so you can click on “An Appreciation of Six Feet Under in the links box at the top of the page or go here:

https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/an-appreciation-of-six-feet-under/

“Why does everyone like ‘Scarface’ so much? It’s such a silly movie,” David Lapham said in a recent Vertigo Voices column. Lapham, if you’re unfamiliar, is a great comic writer and artist of both indie and mainstream work, notably his creator owned and published Stray Bullets and his new Vertigo series Young Liars. Well, I love most of Lapham’s work and I have an answer for his random question.

Yes, Scarface is pretty silly in many aspects. Pacino’s fake accent and acting aren’t at his greatest, it’s a long movie that can be very slow paced at times. It’s violent and it’s antihero protagonist is shallow and too flawed to even be an admirable noir character. Really though, what amounts to its enduring popularity is the same basic qualities that kept gangsta rap successful during its middle period and much of it successful today as well: the lure of success. My generation heard repeatedly when we were younger the same concept that most past generations of young Americans had heard about: “The American Dream.” The whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ethos that pervaded politics, entertainment and American society for decades was pretty much gospel. A lot of people had always felt this concept to be a bit bogus, and nowadays it feel bogus even for the supposed middle class many times. Hard work, going to college and getting good grades turned out for a lot of young adults to be not enough “do it yourself” work to land them a career. Because in the real world today, there are thousands of people just like you, who work just as hard as you, who have similar backgrounds as you. To be truly successful, ambition and hard work isn’t enough–you have to hold out and hope for luck, chance, opportunity and “knowing the right people”–“networking” and having the right contacts.

And then on the other hand you have the protagonist of Scarface–Tony Montana. He’s an immigrant from Cuba who comes to this country with nothing and is incredibly rich within a year. Sure Tony ends up breaking the only rules he espouses, and he ends up losing his best friend, his sister and his own life due to his poor choices…but that’s near the end. First the audience gets to see him rise from nothing, earn respect and gain power, money, cars, girls and a type of local celebrity status. This type of rise really seems to reflect the supposed “American Dream,” albeit distorted. Tony gets by without education, prior connections and really even without luck. He succeeds by sheer drive and ambition to make if for himself.

A lot of gangsta rap portrays a version of this. Though some Scarface and hip hop fans like the action, stylized fake (therefore “safe”) violence and drug aspects of this story, for many the “drug game” aspect is almost irrelevant. For many, watching or listening to this type of entertainment, they are able to live vicariously “on top,” in an imaginary world where money and power can still be gained by sheer force of will. Admittedly Scarface and much of gangsta rap eventually showcase the downside of the lifestyle and choices, but the aspects that continue to appeal to the kind of people who keep this popular are still the promise of self-fulfilled ambition.

There’s a whole generation of guys in their twenty and thirty somethings today that were raised on hip hop. Some of us listened to it as one of many genres we enjoyed growing up; some listened exclusively to it and nothing else; even those that didn’t listen to it at all were around it in some form or fashion throughout their youth, be it on TV, the radio or the school parking lot. Now as adults, many of us still listen to it, hopefully for most of us by now it’s one of many different choices of music, and hopefully most of us by now also realize there are many different paths hip hop can successfully take, both lyrically and stylistically that eschew “gangsta-ism” altogether (although most of this type of hip hop is considered “indie” or “alternative”). Regardless, a lot of us are still trying to find that level of success we envisioned while growing up. In our real world, the jobs and the lifestyles are usually a far cry from true wealth and power. “When I was growing up…it seems like I had all these dreams and plans…now it feels like I’m just paying rent,” a thirty something character opined in the hip hop film Hustle and Flow. Therein lies the ultimate appeal of the wanksta subculture: for those of us who often feel like our hard work amounts to nothing more than paying rent, an occasional listen to a classic 2pac record or a newer watered down (though often very entertaining) version by someone like Young Jeezy or Lil Wayne, or an occasional viewing of Scarface can cause us to envision living a lifestyle in which we do much more than just “pay rent.”

Okay, that’s all I have about that. As a side-note, “wanksta” as I understand it means “whack gangsta,” aka “fake gangsta.” So, anyone who listens to rap or watches Scarface and vicariously lives the lifestyle is a wanksta–of course, since most of the rappers and entertainers that pretend to be gangsters aren’t really anything of the sort, they to by definition are wanksta’s; so we’re all part of the same wanksta subculture that amounts to nothing more than grown men playing like little boys in a higher level of cops and robbers–if you want to be cynical about it. While writing this article and quoting the line from Hustle and Flow I came to the idea that perhaps everything that has changed about popular hip hop over the past ten years can be determined in a comparison of 8 Mile and Hustle and Flow. Keep your eyes out for an article about that in the near future. One last thing, since a comment by David Lapham sparked the idea for this article I’ll try to urge anyone reading this to pick up his excellent new series Young Liars published by the mature-readers DC comics imprint “Vertigo.” It’s a crazy ride, always shocking and unexpected by full of characters you want to know more about. I would offer a summary of what it’s about, but after reading issue 7 that just shipped last week, I think it may be going in a completely unexpected direction. Check it out.

The New Eve Ensler Article

September 10, 2008

I had a few article choices of topics that I wanted to write about today but I feel the need to wait on them for now. I just read a great article by Eve Ensler and I feel like posting it here for anyone who stumbles across my blog to read for themselves. I’m sure it’s making it’s way across the Internet, and that’s good. Ensler is the American playwright and feminist known for “The Vagina Monologues” and V Day, and I can’t say that I ever would have predicted myself posting one of her articles verbatim on a site of mine…nothing against her whatsoever, she does great things (any type of movement such as Vday that aims to reduce and eliminate domestic violence is a great thing), I’m just not a huge fan of her performance art personally. This article she has written about the Palin/McCain ticket is pretty powerful information and I would like to share it though. After a day of news in which the main focus has been Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment (for the record-it’s an old expression; he was using it in reference to GOP politics not Palin as a person; McCain has used the same expression in the same exact context before), and a day in which a few misguided former Hillary Clinton supporters have turned to McCain, going against everything their candidate stood for, and labeling Obama sexist, it’s nice to see a true feminist share her feelings and focus on the real issues. Here goes:

“Drill, Drill, Drill

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story — connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God’s plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin’s view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, “It was a task from God.”

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist’s baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States . She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God’s name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S. , but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, “Drill Drill Drill.” I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Eve Ensler

September 5, 2008″

Drive By Truckers

Drive By Truckers

This post is going to be a bit scatter-shot, but there are three unrelated topics I’d like to write a little about.

First of all, if you scroll back about ten posts or so, you’ll see a blog in which I encourage anyone reading to check out a few musicians that I feel are making the best modern popular music. I was very excited to find out a few days ago that two of the bands mentioned in that article are now on tour together–The Drive By Truckers and The Hold Steady. It’s actually very suprising for me to hear this, because I would never have imagined these two bands would ever headline together. They both write excellent lyrics, play music that just sounds incredible, are raved about for their live shows and each band released a contender for album of the year this year—DBT with Brighter Than Creation’s Dark back at the beginning of the year, The Hold Steady with Stay Positive about a month or two ago. But stylistically they don’t have a lot in common–DBT makes a mixture of hard southern rock, folk and alt.country, Hold Steady is a mash up of classic rock and eighties post punk–think early Springsteen (The Wild,The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle era) meets late Clash and The Replacements. I’ve been able to see DBT once but never Hold Steady and I could not be more excited. They’re hitting several small to mid venues across the country, and tickets are priced around 20 bucks which is almost unheard of these days, so don’t miss out.

Okay, next up I want to briefly weigh in on the whole Sarah Palin debacle. I know that by this point every journalist, pundit, talk show host, blogger and citizen on the street has voiced a loud opinion but I had to just vent a few points. See, what’s obvious is that McCain was running out of gas campagining with nothing but his POW and military experience to rant about, the fumes were almost out on his supposed “Maverick” reputation (that Rolling Stone cover was almost a decade ago and his “radical Republican politics” were now just “status quo Republican politics). So what did he do? Well, McCain is well known to be an avid fan of playing craps, so he threw the dice and picked a VP candidate that he had met only once. People have been arguing relentlessly whether or not she was qualified to be VP or (in the case of something happening to 72 year old McCain) even President herself–does a term as mayor in a small town followed by the beginning of a Governor term in a sparsely populated rich state match up or surpass Obama’s experience as a Community Organizer, lawyer and senator? I’m not going to debate that at this point, I’m just going to point out a few issues she’s taken that in my opinion prove her “unfit to run” status much better than any lack of experience could. Even if she’d been Governor for 2 terms and senator for 3 I’d feel that her position on these issues are much more damning:

1) The Banned Books case: Palin once tried to user her leadership postion to get dozens of books banned and removed from public libraries in Alaska–that’s right, not school libraries, but public libraries. Palin didn’t feel adults had the right to choose what they should or should not read. Though several magazines and online sites have argued over what all was on that list (and the librarian that was aghast when Palin contacted her about the legalites of such a move has refused to comment), most lists have included classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Shakespeare’s Twelve Night, modern novels by Stephen King and Dean Koontz and children’s books like How to Eat Fried Worms and Hey God! It’s Me, Margaret. OKAY, I LEFT THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH AS ORIGINALLY POSTED SO THAT I WOULDN’T BE BACKPEDALING HERE: IT IS INNACURATE; MY LATEST RESEARCH INTO THIS ISSUE REVEALTED THAT NO LIST OF ANY BOOKS SUPPOSEDLY BANNED BY PALIN IS ACCURATE; ON RECORD SHE NEVER BANNED ANY BOOKS FROM ANY PUBLIC LIBRARIES DURING HER TENURE AS MAYOR. SHE DID CONTACT THE LOCAL LIBRARIAN AND ASKED HER HOW ONE WOULD “THEORETICALLY” GO ABOUT REMOVING CERTAIN “OBJECTIONABLE” MATERIALS FROM PUBLIC LIBRARIES. THE LIRBRARIAN WAS AGHAST AND STATED THAT ALL BOOKS IN ALASKA’S PUBLIC LIBRARIES WERE TYPICAL, ACCEPTABLE AND CREDIBLE LIBRARY FARE. THE SPECIFIC BOOKS PALIN “THEORETICALLY” WANTED REMOVED ARE UNKNOWN. THANKS.

2)Palin opposes stem cell research. She also is a staunch abortion foe, and has stated that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose even in cases of incest and rape. When she was recently inundated with questions about her seventeen year old daughter’s pregnancy she has stated that Bristol, her daughter, has made her decision to have the child and to marry the father. Okay, as Jon Stewart tried to hammer home on a recent episode of The Today Show Bristol and her family have been able to make the decision that Palin would deny other women to make for themselves if she had her way. She would take the decision away from the individual and the family and place it in the hands of the government; the government would deny single working women in much worse economic shape than the Palin family the right to make their own decision concerning such a difficult matter.

3) Alaska makes most of it’s money in gas and oil–would a Palin run White House really be concerned with alternative fuels? Also, Palin has stated before that she feels humans have no impact on global warming, so environmental laws would in no safe hands with her and McCain.

4)She’s willing to run with McCain, a man who has voted against equal pay for an equal day’s work for women–Obama voted for it, and Obama has consistently worked for policies that help working class women much more than Palin. What’s better for American women–a female vice president or economic policies that have women’s best interests at heart? If you think the latter, you have to vote Obama.

5)Palin voted for the bridge to nowhere, then said she didn’t.

Okay, I could go on for pages but you get my drift.

Last of all I wanted to briefly discuss the TV show Six Feet Under. I’m going to write a longer piece, “An Appreciation of Six Feet Under,” which you can find at:

https://dmhamby2.wordpress.com/an-appreciation-of-six-feet-under/

I tend to watch most TV shows by DVD from either netflix or the library, and when I moved to a new town I noticed my local library had every disc of Six Feet Under. Now, 4 months later I’ve seen every episode and feel the need to write a piece discussing the show. Although I’ve had several other favorite shows over the years that I like more, I feel that maybe the best in quality and importance very well may be Six Feet Under. Sure, in many ways shows like The Simpsons or Buffy the Vampire Slayer are higher on my personal list for being enjoyable, intelligent and re-watchable, but for sheer acting skills, direction, depth of subject matter and pure emotional investment, Six Feet Under does what no other show has done. You’ll be able to read why I say this soon.

Well, those are my three topics for the day–hopefully my next article will be more contained.

So fall’s pretty much here even though it’s still hot out and that always signals the return of football and the winding down of baseball. Sure, post season runs through October but those of us without massive cable or satellite know that too often when it’s this time of the year and a small station can show football or baseball games that are running concurrently, much of the country’s going to opt with football. We’ll get the world series at least, it’s the one last big event near the end. I have to agree with many of the commentator’s from the Ken Burns documentary Baseball that there’s just something better about those approximately 30 weeks throughout spring, summer and early fall when baseball is in season. Just knowing there’s a game on somewhere, knowing that you can watch it on TV, listen to it on the radio, go to the park to see it or read about it in the paper, it adds to those weeks and months and helps make them the best part of the year. So, though I could go for pages about what makes baseball the greatest sport to have ever been played, I’ll simply leave you with two things.

First, a picture of a book you should pick up if you’re unfamiliar with baseball and would like to know some of the things about it that aren’t immediately evident when you first start watching it:

You can pick this one up for just over ten bucks on Amazon.com or at your local book shop for not much more, or check your local library.

Next, although most have heard, seen or read it before (and if you couldn’t guess that I would mention it from the picture that’s at the top of this post) I’m going to reprint the classic George Carlin baseball monologue as listed on http://www.baseball-almanac.com. With Carlin’s great wit he sums up many of what baseball fans feel make it the far superior sport.

“Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he’s out; sometimes unintentionally, he’s out.

Also: in football,basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you’d ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform,you’d know the reason for this custom.

Now, I’ve mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football: Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs – what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups – who’s up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog…
In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.
Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end – might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there’s not too much unpleasantness.
In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you’re capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!”