I am now appreciating the amazing jazz I wasn't hearing in the Sixties when I was listening to The Beatles, Doors, Rascals, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Temptations, Jefferson Airplane, Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield, Buckinghams and the like. It is mind-blowing, revelatory music.
I love discovering new music.
Tonight I have been cleaning and playing lots of 45 rpm records I got at Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul thrift shops. My astonishing discovery tonight was coloratura soprano Erna Sack. Sack can hit C above high C. Oh, my goodness, gracious.
Another new artist was Gia Miaone. She was Louis Prima's fifth and last wife. Listening to them sing together was a musical treat that put a smile on my face.
Earlier this evening I spun records by Brian Hyland, the Bee Gees, John Travolta, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Fats Domino, Xavier Cugat, Queen, Glenn Campbell, the Carter Family, Janis Ian, Heart, Nillson, Wham, Cher, Libnda Ronstadt, J. D. Souther, Tom Jones, Jay and the Americans, Connie Francis, the Turtles, Neil Sedaka and Elvis.
Right now I'm listening to the plaintive cowboy harmonies of the Sons of the Pioneers.
Ok, I have to admit it. I was a Yoko hater. Never much liked that she inculcated herself onto some of my musical hero's albums.
But, last night I watched the documentary on Lennon's and Ono's time in New York City. It was fascinating and revealing.
There is an interesting quote in which John says that he heard the B-52's on the radio and that it sounded like Yoko, that they were using her voice. He went on to say that maybe it was time for the public to catch up to her musical art. He was right.
I listened to "Double Fantasy" again today after maybe 20 years. Yoko's contributions are strong and unique. Now that I know the background to the songs, I appreciate the album all the more. Together the interplay of the two songwriters' works tells the story of their lives at that time and just before - the good and the bad. The album is such a raw and truthful story of love, betrayal and redemption.
Good artists are usually ahead of their audience. So, Yoko, please accept my belated apology for ignorantly dissing your music and your life. You are your own artist.
And it is so very, sadly prescient that the last lines of the album are "Hard times are over."
Tonight I am tipping a glass in loving memory of John Lennon, who was there for nearly every chapter in my life.
On August 8th in 1980, when John Lennon was murdered, I was producing a two-hour live show on CNN, called "Take Two". We, of course, devoted the entire program that day to the news of his killing, his life and his music.
A year later, on the anniversary of his death, I produced a half-hour tribute that aired on WTBS. My budget was zero, so I literally had to beg, borrow or steal any and every piece of footage I could get my hands on. This program is raw, as these were pre-digital days, and the source tapes I used were of poor quality. You can watch the program on Vimeo at http://vimeo.com/4597917. This file was digitized from an old VHS tape copy.
I had to put the show together quickly with whatever I had at hand, so I tried to tell a story using just John's words. To this day, I miss the man and his music.
So, bless you John Lennon and thanks for all the grooves. There has never been anyone better. Your music lives on and your legacy grows
Starving the government and its citizens is just fine with the Republicans.
The only thing that Republicans want the federal government to do is protect the nation. So, they have always been and will always be for expanding defense spending. War is good for big business. The United States is the world’s largest arms merchant. And the Bush administration started two wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan - and borrowed every penney to pay for them - causing a crippling national deficit. All of that was just fine with the Republicans.
During the last Bush administration, George W. got passed a massive tax cut that mostly benefited the richest people in the country. Billions of dollars that were needed to run government programs were no longer available from tax revenue. So, more money was borrowed to keep the government running, growing the deficit even more, while the wealthy kept their money and paid disproportionally lower taxes than the less fortunate. All of this was just fine with the Republicans. They got their money back.
Before the Bush administration left office, they created a financial meltdown of supposed catastrophic proportions. They said if they didn’t give billions to the banking industry, our economy would collapse. And so they did, raiding the Treasury of its last money. Bush turned a Clinton administration record surplus in 2000 to a record deficit in 2008. All that was just fine with the Republicans. They got their money back.
When Obama came into office, wealthy Republicans were sitting pretty - low taxes, giant reserves of money practically scot-free from taxpayers to cover their greedy folly, a robust defense industry and loosened federal regulations across the board from Reagan, Bush and Bush.
Never mind that most Americans were in financial crisis, losing their jobs, homes, savings, education, skills and self-respect. The rich was getting richer, and the poor, poorer. As billionaire Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, "There's class warfare, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."
Now, for them, it is time to kill off the beast, i.e, the federal government. They have been demonizing “big government” for two years. Their dishonest mantra now is “cutting the spending of an out-of-control, over-reaching government.” Even though, it was they who caused an unconscionable national debt.
But, the real "enemies of the people" are the manipulative rich (corporate America, the Koch brothers, etc.), their political henchmen (Boehner, McConnell, etc.), their propagandists (Rove, Luntz, etc.) and their media mouthpieces (Fox News, Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly, etc.).
So, now that they have control of the House of Representatives, and control of the message to “rein in government”, they will try to kill the health insurance reforms put in place by the previous Democratic-controlled Congress, eliminating consumer protections long needed and long overdue. Nothing to worry for them, because they can afford private health insurance and private doctors.
They will try and kill the financial reforms put in place by the Obama administration that protect ordinary voters of modest means. They want the banks they own and the money funds they control to be run unfettered, making as much money as possible for Republican investors by any means necessary. Too bad if the working class lose their pensions, savings or homes. The Republicans don't care about workers or consumers, only shareholders.
They will try to replace public education, in the name of efficiency, with a private voucher system. Nothing to worry for them, because they send their kids to private school and will be able to keep the money they used to send to educate the poor kids for themselves.
They will try and weaken or destroy the Environment Protection Agency and end environmental regulations saying those regulations meant to protect us all from dangerous pollutants are too costly for business. They value their greed over our health. Again, not their worry. They have access to excellent preventative health care.
They will try to destroy Social Security, again favoring a privatization that would allow them to keep their contributions and put them into personal investment funds. Nothing to worry for them, because they have brokers and advisers and fund managers who can grow and protect their money. The poorer citizens, alas, will have to fend for themselves in a gamblers’ market that is neither familiar or friendly to those of modest means.
Lastly, they will try and extend tax cuts to the wealthy, even though the government desperatley needs those tax revenues.
(The Walton Family: Jim, Rob, Alice, Christy)
The Republicans own the corporations who now own us. So, they will accelerate their efforts to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. They will amplify dishonest messages meant to manipulate public opinion in order to achieve their greedy aims with the unbridled contributions of secret rich donors. They will buy more politicians with obscene, and again, secret campaign contributions. They will form more powerful cabals to control the economies of the world.
When the Republicans say they are concerned about the future of their children, they are being literal. They are only concerned about their own children. The rest be damned.
The Republicans will be happy when none of their money is spent for retirement protection, health care, education, pollution control, workplace justice or job benefits for the working class or the poor. They believe, not in government responsibility for the well-being of its citizenry, but, rather, the charity of the rich. They want to see all government-sponsored social safety nets eliminated. They believe helping those struggling to survive is the work of churches and charities. Of course, they do get to write off their charitable contributions from their taxes.
Make no mistake. Republicans are for the rich and the rich only. When they talk about growing the economy, supporting businesses, making a solid financial foundation for our children, they are talking about themselves. Again, workers, and those in fundamental financial need be damned.
The last entity standing in the way of them running their businesses unfettered by regulation, oversight, responsibility, fairness or common goodness, is the federal government. They will not rest until they kill it off.
If that happens, each citizen of this country will have lost his/her freedom, as our lives will be controlled by corporations and those corporations will be protected, as Eisenhower warned, by an all-powerful military-industrial complex of, by and for the wealthy. And the Koch's and Walton's of the world will finally be the ultimate rulers.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office this month, in a report about fiscal policy choices, rated extending the Bush tax cuts as the least effective policy to increase employment. Their top recommendations are to increase aid to the unemployed and reduce employers' payroll taxes. In their estimation, extending the tax cuts would double the deficit to $1.4 trillion dollars.
They further determined that any policy "that widened budget deficits in the near term would need to be accompanied by specific policies to reduce spending or increase revenue over time." Neither the Republicans or the Democrats have a plan to make up for the loss of revenue if the tax cuts are extended. Obama wants to extend them for 97% of Americans, and the Republicans want to extend them also for the richest 3%.
Maybe we should just bite the bullet and let all our taxes go up to help pay down the debt that the Bush Administration ran up by waging two wars without funding and raiding the surplus to give tax cuts without a way to make up the loss of that revenue.
But, more importantly, let's not forget, as voters, who sent us into economic freefall with policies that widened the gap between the rich and the poor - the Republicans. For all their talk of deficit reduction, the figures don't lie. The GOP is responsible for our record deficits. They are surely NOT the ones to get us out of debt.
Remember that under President Clinton, and Democratic policies, we had 8 years of peace and prosperity. Give Obama and a Democratic Congress your support so they can try and get us out of the mess Bush, his cronies and cabal got us into. Maybe our resolve might strengthen the backbones of the Democrats in Congress, giving them more courage to follow President Obama's lead and bring about the real change and reform we expected after the last election.
"Close to 230 media professionals, of whom 172 were journalists, died in Iraq as a result of the conflict stemming from the American intervention between 20 March 2003 and 19 August 2010, the date on which the U.S. Army’s last combat brigades withdrew from Iraq.
In the two months following the American intervention, 12 journalists were killed. After that, the number of victims declined slightly until early 2004, when Iraq experienced a resurgence of bomb attacks and actions carried out by armed groups. From 2004 to 2007, media professionals were constantly targeted : nearly every month one or more journalists were killed. From that date on, it was noted that fewer journalists were killed while doing their jobs. None have been killed as a result of the conflict since the beginning of 2010." - Reports Without Borders Report
Photo Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP
MEMO TO MEDIA
TO: The Heads of ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, PBS, CNN
FROM: David Guilbault (Former Television News Producer)
DATE: September 7, 2010
SUBJECT: You Need to be Told What Needs to be Told
To the point, the most important stories of our time are not being reported, or are being under-reported. They are stories of power and greed, and the long, steady, decline of the American working class.
It is long past time for your organiziations to get back to your primary journalistic duty, fully fund your news operations, stop chasing ratings and do your public service by reporting the stories people need to know. Credibility, prestige, increased viewership and, likely, increased advertising revenue will follow.
To that end, I propose the series of reports listed below. I would be happy to come out of early retirement to help you set up special units to report these critical stories.
POWER AND MONEY: Who Controls the World?
Corporations and their rich and powerful owners rule the world. Who are they? What do they own? What resoruces are they exploiting? How are they weilding their power? Which governments and politicians do they control? How do they use their political might? What worldwide policies are they trying to endorse and which are they trying to thwart? Why are they doing what they do and to what end? Why do some operate in secrecy? Most importantly, how do their actions effect the lives of common people and the broader economies of the world?
ENEMIES: Why Do We Fight?
The world is in conflict, seemingly perpetually. Why? This series of reports would have a journalist of the stature of a Ted Koppell travel the globe to interview world leaders face-to-face. The direct, blunt, questions would be the same for each. We would be looking for honest. straight-forward answers, not diplomatic subtleties, to these questions. Who is your enemy? Why are they your enemy? How have they wronged you? What do you intend to do to them? How have you come to this position? What do you think might be your misperceptions or misunderstanding of your enemy, or their motives? What doesn't your enemy know about you and your intentions? What would you be willing to do, if anything, to make peace with your enemy? What would you expect from them in return? Is there a solution to your conflict? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
THE GULF BETWEEN US: What Don’t We Know About the Middle East?
Americans simply do not understand the Middle East. Too many don’t know the differences and/or similarities betweens Arabs, Persians, Muslims, Islamists, Shiites, Sunnis, Shieks, The Taliban, The Iraqi Awakening, Mullahs, Imans, Ayatollahs, Hamas, Hezbullah, Al-Qaeda, the Palenstinian Authority, Jihadists and “terrorits”. Neither do I. As this part of the world is where we are constantly embroiled in armed conflict, it is unconscionably negligent that news organizations aren’t doing daily primers on all this. So, let’s do it.
MAKING STUFF: Who Are the Drivers of the Engines of Industry?
The future will belong to those who make the products wanted and sold around the world. So, who are the world’s manufacturers? Which countries and companies are at the forefront, making solar panels, mining lithium, developing efficient electrical grids, designing low-emission, high-mileage automobiles, inventing new battery technologies. Who has research and development money and how are they spending it? What new industries are coming next and why? Where are the wealthy investing their money? Where is our country leading or lagging? Who will control the engines of industry?
POOR STUDENTS: Why are We Dumbing Down the Masses?
Public education has been cynically allowed to wither and die in this country. Because our schools are primarily funded by property taxes, rich districts get more money and good education, while poor districts struggle and fail at educating their students. Education should be a regular, strong beat for any and all news organizations. The Constitution calls for “equal” education. That is simply not the case across the nation. And, the rich, in an effort to stop sending their tax money to poor schools, are pushing hard for a so-called voucher system that would allow them to take their tax dolalrs out of the public school system and funnel their wealth into the private schools their children attend. That would all but destroy public education in this country. In whose interest is an undereducated population? Who benefits and why when only the rich can get a proper education? Tell this story, loud and clear.
THE WORKING POOR: How Are People Surviving?
Studies show that the rich are indeed getting richer and more concentrated in number while the poor are getter poorer and increasing in numbers. So, as money around the world moves from the middle class to the upper class, how are the working poor surviving? These are the individual people stories that need to be told. What are American workers going through as the idea of becoming wealthy becomes out of their reach? How do working families manage their daily lives and budgets? Are the unemployed failing into deep, unreported holes? Is the mental health of Americans suffering? Are there any efforts from new companies to give their employees health care insurance and retirement savings? Who is working for a return of worker benefits and who against? What will become of the Baby Boomer generation as they reach retirement without the financial means to go on? How are our children getting the money for an education? And around the world, how are workers being expolited? Are there nascent labor movements in developing countries? Are there any governments ready, willing or able to share record wealth from oil and mineral resources with their poverty-striken populations? Are we really headed for world economic collapse?
THE MEDIA: Who Controls the Message?
After a burst of de-regulation, media companies have consolidated their holdings. A handful of powerful conglomerates are now free to control the collection, production and disemmination of information. This has inevitably led to an abuse of power, and a lot of intentional misinformation. The temptation to control what the public hears and how they hear it is overpowering. So, who controls the flow of information around the world? Which individual owners have undue power over the message? Are they telling the truth? If not, why not? What are their agendas? Who are their propogandists? What voices are being purposely drowned out? Who are not being heard? What truths are not getting told?
These stories are not easy to tell. They take time, diligence and resources. Their telling also takes courage. But it is essential that you tell them if your news audiences are to understand their world and make intelligent choices as informed voters. Please, do YOUR job, so that the citizens of America can properly do theirs.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Retired (Too Early)
The Republicans in Congress stood against every single initiative of the Democratic House, Senate and White House. Their goal was to prevent the Obama administration from passing into law any solution to our nation's problems. They wanted to ensure this administration would end in failure.
Because the Democrats, who were voted in to change the destructive and greedy policies of the Bush years, couldn't, or wouldn't, go it alone, we wound up with watered-down reforms. We got no public option for health care, weakened financial regulations and not enough government juice to really get the economy going strong. And we're still mired in two wars.
The Republicans think they were victorious. But, truly, they have shot themselves in their sad marching-in-lock-step feet.
They painted the federal government as intrusive, socialistic, Islamic-loving, Constitution-hating, terrorist-coddling, big-spending, out-of-control elites. The Republicans, their corporate sponsors and their media propagandists hoped to use these willful distortions to scare the citizenry into voting Republican in the next couple of elections.
But, they underestimated the stupidity of the voters they were wooing (and scaring). Those voters aren't voting Republican in the primaries. They are voting Tea Party. They are standing behind regular folks, folks "just like them."
So, the Republicans have probably succeeded in getting lots of Democrats voted out of office. But, they are also getting themselves voted out, as well.
What we may wind up with is a Congress populated by too many "representatives of the people" who don't have the experience to govern, or the intellects to understand and solve the great problems of our day.
That's what happens when you paint the government as an enemy of the people. The people overthrow the government. And you get Wee, the People.
Tom Rush - The Circle Game
Van Morrison - Poetic Champions Compose
The Beatles - Rubber Soul
Gram Parson - GP & Grievous Angel
Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
Beach Boys - Dart to the Heart
Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town
Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach - Painted From Memory
Guy Clark - Dublin Blues
Neil Young - Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Elvis Costello - My Aim is True
Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours
Bonnie Raitt - Luck of the Draw
Bonnie Bramlett - Lady's Choice
Rosanne Cash - The Wheel
The Pretenders - Isle of View
Johnny Mathis - More Greatest Hits
Billie Holiday - Lady in Satin
The Temptations - With a Lot o' Soul
The Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks, 1964-1971
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
Chad Mitchell - Himself
The sign on the bus said, “What will you do when this circuit learns your job?” Someone scribbled in response, “brake the circuit.” When I saw that illiterate and violent reaction, in 1962, as a high school student, I realized that violence comes from ignorance and that free-thinking people need to be worried about the actions of the ignorant.
I see this again today in America. Too many citizens, who are uneducated, or undereducated, are full of ignorance and fear. They are being kept in their place by the circuits of privilege and wealth who are out to break them. They have been rendered illiterate and fearful by the rich and powerful. The problem is, these voters are now “just too plain stupid” to understand these simple facts.
Today, economic power and political might rest in the hands of corporations. Global industries are controlling the accumulation and preservation of wealth around the world. Too many of their principal owners are unprincipled arbiters of world policy. The very rich are very few and very powerful. We are not really ruled by governments anymore, but, rather, controlled by the greedy dictators of the banking, energy, insurance, defense and pharmaceutical industries.
In order to continue their plunder of world treasure, these companies need to shed government regulation, eliminate worker benefits, skirt environmental protections, dismiss the sick and the elderly, exploit cheap labor and manipulate public debate.
They do this through the political and propagandist maneuverings of a cabal who will do their bidding. Here, in America, that cabal would be the Republican Party, FOX News and conservative radio talk show hosts. Their job is to obfuscate and keep the masses misinformed and fearful, keeping their eyes averted, while the corporations profit from the accumulation of the world’s resources.
In pursuit of that goal, the cabal gets the “just plain stupid” to look the wrong way. They get them up in arms against “ground zero mosques”, “death panels”, terrorism, gun control, school prayer, illegal immigration, gay marriage and the like. They make the misinformed think that they will lose their guns, their neighborhoods, their livelihoods, their liberties, their "way of life." Of course, these are all canards, meant to distract, while those in control raid treasuries, reduce their own taxes and operate with abandon to increase their influence and wealth.
To keep the spotlight off their own shenanigans, the corporations and their puppets want the “just plain stupid” to think that government is their enemy, particularly a progressive federal government.
But, in fact, it is the corporations who are foreclosing on people’s homes, sending jobs overseas, raising health care costs. Corporations have taken away worker benefits, fouled the atsmosphere, bankrupted pension funds and are now trying to end Social Security benefits. The same companies and their political hatchet men are trying to end public education in favor of a so-called voucher system, which will, of course, benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, keeping the underclass undereducated.
Their greedy pursuit of more money at the expense of common workers and national economies has been relentless. Their elimination of pensions and benefits has been planned. Their reduction of the living wage for American workers in exchange for exploitation of cheap foreign labor has been purposeful. Their abandonment of the sick and elderly has been cynical. Their dishonest “dumbing down of America” has been incrementally successful and fruitful.
At the moment, they are working forcefully and diligently to all but eliminate taxes on the wealthy. They say if the rich have to pay more taxes, they won’t invest in the economy. They say small businesses will suffer and go broke. They say more money in the pockets of the rich will trickle down and mean better lives for the middle class and the poor. These are all lies, pure and simple. When they are repeated loudly and often, they take on the ring of truth. But, lies are still lies, no matter how loudly and repeatedly professed.
When the Republicans talk about “getting the government out of our lives”, they don’t mean the lives of the common person. That's just a scare tactic making voters think that the big, bad, federal government is trying to control their health care decisions, personal relationships, ways of worship. Again, all canards. What the Republicans mean to protect from government control are their corporate benefactors. They mean to set those companies free to exploit with no oversight or consequence.
But, it is government that protects the citizenry. With no federal watchdogs, corporations will no longer be held responsible for paying decent wages, giving benefits to their workers, making safe products, protecting the environment, paying their fair share of taxes or taking responsibility for their actions.
It is a free and vibrant press, in turn, that keeps everyone honest. So, attacking and destroying the credibility of journalism is another goal of the rich and powerful. If they can make everyone question the veracity of legitimate news reports, then the atmosphere for their deception is rife. Lies again become the truth, and the lives of the liars are enriched.
All of this should be painfully obvious to anyone with a decent intellect and a working knowledge of current events.
But, alas, more and more of the “just plain stupid” are believing misinformation, distortion and deception intentionally meant to manipulate them, frighten them and move them to angry outrage against gays, immigrants, Muslims, elites, progressives, government, intellectuals, media, whatever - all red herrings.
In short, the true enemies of the common man, the corporations and their cabals, have turned the ignorant masses against their natural benefactors - progressive governments and a free press.
So, how do we get the “just plain stupid” to understand that they have been snowed? How do we get them to understand who is really on their side? How do we get them to understand that they are being intentionally manipulated? How do we “break the circuit” of deceit? What should we do?
I guess we need to keep repeating, as convincingly as possible, the truths that should be self-evident. And we need to reform and repair those public institutions that have been damaged or broken. I suggest that these are things that should be done:
JOURNALISM: A lie should be called out whenever and wherever it tries to destroy the truth. Distortions should be countered with facts. Journalists should reclaim their mantle of credibility and never allow a mis-truth to be spoken without challenge.
NEWS ORGANIZATIONS: No company should be allowed to identify itself as a news organization if it contributes money or reportorial space in advocacy of any political party or cause. All news and commentary should be separated, with all opinion clearly identified.
MEDIA COMPANIES: No media company should be allowed to own the collection, creation and dissemination of information. Each should be separate to prevent a monopoly on that information.
INTERNET: The Internet should remain unregulated, un-owned, free and open for anyone and everyone to use as they see fit. And, as a self-policing check and balance, everyone getting information off the Internet should fact check it before endorsing or disseminating it.
REGULATION: No corporation should be allowed to endanger the population in any way. Regulating the energy, financial, industrial, pharmaceutical, defense, insurance, medical industries is a must.
STOCK MARKET: The buying and selling of financial instruments should be regulated, so as not to gamble away the capital wealth of honest investors and unwitting shareholders.
CORPORATE TAXES: Corporate giants should not enjoy the benefits of unfair tax advantages while reaping obscene record profits. The more they make, the more they should pay in taxes.
FAIR TAXES: The tax codes should be rewritten so that everyone pays their fair share. That is, very simply, again, the more you make, the more you pay.
JOBS: Companies that operate on American soil should have an obligation to their communities. There should be tax incentives for job creation here and tax penalties for sending jobs overseas.
LIVING WAGES: Workers should be afforded a decent living. Minimum wage requirements are, and should be, the purview of the government. Labor unions should be encouraged to negotiate for better wages and benefits.
PENSIONS: Workers who have given a lifetime of labor for the benefit of a company should, by law, be benefited in return by that same company.
HEALTH CARE: Everyone should have the right to a healthy life. Insurance companies should be prevented, by law, from purging their rolls of the sick and the elderly. Doctors and hospitals should strive for lower medical costs.
ELDERLY CARE: We should take good care of the senior members of our community. Their health care costs should be lowered and subsidized with tax dollars. And, Social Security, should continue to be funded by the government for this generation and all generations to come.
EDUCATION: Public education needs to be funded by all tax payers instead of by property owners in a school district. The current funding insures that rich neighborhoods turn out the well-educated and poor communities turn out the ill-educated. We owe all our children an equal education.
MARRIAGE: Anyone, anywhere, anytime should be able to profess their love for another and marry them. Period.
IMMIGRATION: We should be the most welcoming country on earth for immigrants. Those who have come here illegally to benefit themselves and their families should be given an opportunity to present themselves and become resident workers or U.S. citizens.
GUNS: Those who have hunting rifles or personal handguns should register them. No one, outside law enforcement, should own an assault weapon.
TERRORISM: We should stop treating terrorism as a war and, instead, use our law enforcement and intelligence community resources to identify, target and eliminate those we have proven intend to do us harm.
WARS: No war should be waged without a declaration of The Senate of the United States, as defined in The Constitution. The unlawful wars being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, meant to change Islamic & Arab cultures, garner oil resources and support the energy and defense industries, are misguided and unsustainable. We should bring our troops home promptly.
VETERANS: All veterans, by law, should have their service honored with full education and health care for life, paid for with tax revenues.
RELIGION: Everyone should be free to believe or disbelieve whatever religious philosophy they choose. And, by law, no one should be allowed to prevent anyone else from practicing their religion when and where they choose. By the same token, by law, no one should be forced to endure the preachings of any religion in a government or public space.
BUDGET: Our federal government should be prudent and efficient in its collection and spending of tax monies. The Obama administration should develop a thoughtful and just plan to reduce the current deficit, irresponsibly created by the Bush administration, with the goal of returning to the budget surplus of the Clinton administration.
FEDERAL SPENDING: Defense spending should be reduced, as it has always been larger than necessary. Seed money for university research and development in the fields of energy and medicine should be greatly increased. A plan to keep Social Security solvent ad infinitum should be developed and put in place. Money for unemployment benefits should be earmarked and set aside. Unjust tax breaks for the wealthy should be eliminated. Tax incentives for businesses to create new jobs and industries in the United States should be written into law. Federal money should be earmarked to help states repair and improve the nation's electrical and transportation infrastructure.
ELECTIONS: Congress should pass a law over-ruling the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations unlimited spending on political messaging. No person or entity, by exercising their First Amendment rights, should be able to use the might of financial power to wield undue, monopolistic influence over political discourse and, thus, election results.
All in all, we need to call out the lies and defend the truth. No one in America should make important voting decisions based on information intentionally meant to deceive and manipulate. That would be "just plain stupid."
I bring all this up because I know I would be having screaming arguments with my father over the proposed building of an Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, a site of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Yesterday, President Obama said “as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. … I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground. … This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.” I applauded my president’s remarks.
So, the debate will continue to get more heated. Those seeking protection of their “normal” lives and those seeking to use the controversy to grab political power will get more and more vocal and venomous. Those who are easily manipulated by fear, ignorance and distrust will get more and more fearful.Intolerance can not be allowed to win the day. We must always speak out against injustice and speak up when our constitutional rights are being abridged. In this case, we must support the right for the Muslim community to build their community center anywhere they chose.
I had the privilege and pleasure to work on a documentary produced by Diversity Films about HIV/AIDS and African-Americans.
"Why Us? Left Behind and Dying " is an in-depth examination of the reasons why HIV rates are disproportionately high in black communities. It was made from the point of view of a small group of inner-city African-American teenagers, ages 14-17, from Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, PA.
This film is also being made into high-school and college curricula.
African-Americans comprise roughly 13 percent of the U.S population. But, recent studies suggest that about 50% of new HIV infections are in black communities. The contributing reasons are plenty - stigma, poverty, forced displacement, disproportionate incarceration, distrust of health systems, gender inequality, homophobia, shame, religious fundamentalism, racism, denial and secrecy.
This documentary needs to be seen. I urge everyone who reads this blog to do what they can to spread the word
about this important work. You can order the film at www.whyusmovie.com.
So, stop expecting the President to go to the shores of the Gulf to rant and rave and cry and moan. Let's desist with forcing him to commit presidential theater and let him get on with monumental tasks of presidential leadership. Let him do his job to the best of his ability. He gets it. Let's all get on with it.
Sometimes there's just no fixing what went wrong. Sometimes severe consequences cannot be avoided or mitigated. That is becoming painfully clear in the Gulf of Mexico.
For over a month, untold gallons of crude oil have spewed from the ocean floor into the sea, the result of the failure of a fail-safe system. Everyone assumes that the industries that have the technology to drill miles below sea level also have the technology to cap a leaking well. It's not true.
We are lulled into that false belief by popular culture. We watch TV dramas and movies where, with just the tappity-tap of a keyboard and exotic video screens and databases that can locate, identify, cross-reference and enhance, we can solve complex problems. It just ain't so.
It is also becoming painfully obvious that the oil industry, the scientific community and the Obama administration all are in the dark about what to do and how to do it. Yes, they are trying everything they know to do. But, that's the point. They don't really know what to do. If they did, it would be done.
Technology went awry, as it always does. The so-called safeguards failed. And now, we and the planet suffer the inevitable disaster. Also inevitable will be the blame game, and there is enough of that to go around.
But, in the end, the oily truth is, technology can not save itself from itself. The lesson is that corporate greed usually prevails and government regulation and intervention usually fail. A technological disaster can and will happen again.
"The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone. Our adversaries would like to see America sap its strength by overextending our power. And in the past, we've always had the foresight to avoid acting alone. We were part of the most powerful wartime coalition in human history through World War II. We stitched together a community of free nations and institutions to endure and ultimately prevail during a Cold War.
Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation -- we have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don't.
So we have to shape an international order that can meet the challenges of our generation. We will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well, including those who will serve by your side in Afghanistan and around the globe. As influence extends to more countries and capitals, we also have to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions.
This engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times -- countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing wounds. If we are successful in these tasks, that will lessen conflicts around the world. It will be supportive of our efforts by our military to secure our country.
More than anything else, though, our success will be claimed by who we are as a country. This is more important than ever, given the nature of the challenges that we face. Our campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and to defeat al Qaeda is part of an international effort that is necessary and just.
But this is a different kind of war. There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey's end -- no armistice, no banner headline. Though we have had more success in eliminating al Qaeda leaders in recent months than in recent years, they will continue to recruit, and plot, and exploit our open society. We see that in bombs that go off in Kabul and Karachi. We see it in attempts to blow up an airliner over Detroit or an SUV in Times Square, even as these failed attacks show that pressure on networks like al Qaeda is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train. We see the potential duration of this struggle in al Qaeda's gross distortions of Islam, their disrespect for human life, and their attempt to prey upon fear and hatred and prejudice.
So the threat will not go away soon, but let's be clear: Al Qaeda and its affiliates are small men on the wrong side of history. They lead no nation. They lead no religion. We need not give in to fear every time a terrorist tries to scare us. We should not discard our freedoms because extremists try to exploit them. We cannot succumb to division because others try to drive us apart. We are the United States of America. (Applause.) We are the United States of America, and we have repaired our union, and faced down fascism, and outlasted communism. We've gone through turmoil, we've gone through Civil War, and we have come out stronger -- and we will do so once more. (Applause.)
And I know this to be true because I see the strength and resilience of the American people. Terrorists want to scare us. New Yorkers just go about their lives unafraid. (Applause.) Extremists want a war between America and Islam, but Muslims are part of our national life, including those who serve in our United States Army. (Applause.) Adversaries want to divide us, but we are united by our support for you -- soldiers who send a clear message that this country is both the land of the free and the home of the brave. (Applause.)
You know, in an age of instant access to information, a lot of cynicism in the news, it's easy to lose perspective in a flood of pictures and the swirl of political debate. Power and influence can seem to ebb and flow. Wars and grand plans can be deemed won or lost day to day, even hour to hour. As we experience the immediacy of the image of a suffering child or the boasts of a prideful dictator, it's easy to give in to the belief sometimes that human progress has stalled -- that events are beyond our control, that change is not possible.
But this nation was founded upon a different notion. We believe, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (Applause.) And that truth has bound us together, a nation populated by people from around the globe, enduring hardship and achieving greatness as one people. And that belief is as true today as it was 200 years ago. It is a belief that has been claimed by people of every race and religion in every region of the world. Can anybody doubt that this belief will be any less true -- any less powerful -- two years, two decades, or even two centuries from now?
And so a fundamental part of our strategy for our security has to be America's support for those universal rights that formed the creed of our founding. And we will promote these values above all by living them -- through our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it's hard; even when we're being attacked; even when we're in the midst of war.
And we will commit ourselves to forever pursuing a more perfect union. Together with our friends and allies, America will always seek a world that extends these rights so that when an individual is being silenced, we aim to be her voice. Where ideas are suppressed, we provide space for open debate. Where democratic institutions take hold, we add a wind at their back. When humanitarian disaster strikes, we extend a hand. Where human dignity is denied, America opposes poverty and is a source of opportunity. That is who we are. That is what we do.
We do so with no illusions. We understand change doesn't come quick. We understand that neither America nor any nation can dictate every outcome beyond its borders. We know that a world of mortal men and women will never be rid of oppression or evil. What we can do, what we must do, is work and reach and fight for the world that we seek -- all of us, those in uniform and those who are not."
- President Barack Obama
Once again, the chief propagandist of the right, Frank Luntz, is advising Republicans how to kill any financial reform by manipulating the language of the debate. He successfully led the distorted attack on health care reform with a memo called, "The Language of Health Care 2009." Now, he aims to repeat his damaging tactics with "The Language of Financial Reform." As the slogan of his company, The Word Doctors, proclaims: "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." And you can bet, you will hear his false words, meant to demean, discredit and destroy true reform, oft repeated by congressional Republicans in the days and weeks to come. Please read his memo and understand the verbal disinformation that is once again meant to misinform and manipulate the voters.
Music is the heart of humanity. Tonight's Haiti telethon was filled with heartfelt and honest musical expression. Each and every artist sang and played with purity and love. They were extraordinary performances in empathy with the hurt and suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Change a life. Keep the world in your view and a song in your heart.
There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day. I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.
First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years. It was President Obama who finally implemented a strategy of winding down the war in Iraq, and actually focusing our resources on the war against al Qaeda – more than doubling our troops in Afghanistan, and building partnerships to target al Qaeda’s safe-havens in Yemen and Somalia. And in less than one year, we have already seen many al Qaeda leaders taken out, our alliances strengthened, and the pressure on al Qaeda increased worldwide.
To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.
Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”
There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
I just saw "This Is It", the movie culled from rehearsal footage from Michael Jackson's planned final live tour. Even in checked practice performance, minimizing his dance moves and saving his singing voice, you can not take your eyes off MJ for a second. Even modulated, he is the embodiement of his music, his precise movement and vocal phrasing becoming the emotions of his signature songs. Even with all the visual spectacle going on around him, his charisma commands your attention. Let there be no doubt, Madonna and Britney and Justin and Miley and all you other pretenders to the throne with your manufactured spectacles, Michael, even dead, is still the King of Pop. His tour would have been truly spectacular.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, who passed tonight of brain cancer, while often on the wrong side of personal rectitude, was always on the right side of social justice.
Teddy spoke for the downtrodden and fought for their rights. He never gave up the cause; never lost sight of the goal; never gave in to the defeat of politics or the politics of defeat. We need to continue his lifelong battle to bring the civil right of health care to all Americans.
"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."- Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, 1980
"The work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on."- Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, 2008
In an editorial, The New York Times looks at who the medically uninsured are in this country, and concludes: "Any nation as rich as ours ought to guarantee health coverage for all of its residents."
"Scores of well-designed studies have shown that uninsured people are more likely than insured people to die prematurely, to have their cancers diagnosed too late, or to die from heart failure, a heart attack, a stroke or a severe injury. The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2004 that perhaps 18,000 deaths a year among adults could be attributed to lack of insurance."
- Editorial, The New York Times