Thursday, April 24, 2008

No Country for Good Men

You know, I really don't mind that Hillary fights dirty. I just wish she wasn't so obviously a chameleon. I guess I should be glad that she has shown her true colors. Several months ago, I was ready to accept her, reasonably gladly, as our best hope. She has shown her stripes now. Now I know that a Hillary presidency would be a Bush presidency every bit as much as a McCain presidency would be.

Could anybody be more transparently fake? OK, bad question. Mitt Romney was much more obviously fake. The other twit from New York, what's his name, was nearly as bad. Hillary is fake in a more cleverly deceitful way (she had me fooled for months). I saw right through Romney and Whosis right away.

And she is going to fool bigoted Americans who fancy themselves Democrats and Liberals right into electing her president. Or lacking that, she's going to fool them into voting entirely against their own interests and voting in McSame just to satisfy their fears and hatreds. And she'll smile with robotic pretense, and wait four years.

People say they don't know Barak. But the truth is that Americans have no ability to judge character. The reasons are myriad. But the reality is unequivocal. We don't elect politicians with character because we couldn't identify character if our lives depended on it.

As may well be the case.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Phony as a 3-dollar bill

After the Pennsylvania vote, Hillary says, "the tide is turning."

That's kind of like cheating on a test and telling dirty lies about the best student in class, and then strutting about proudly when you get an A and the other student gets an A-minus.

Why Obama Can’t “Close the Deal”

There’s been a lot of talk this morning about why Barak Obama can’t make this nomination his. There is valid concern that even though Obama leads in delegates, he wins some races and loses some races, and this doesn’t bode well for a race against McCain.

Nobody that I have heard has been able to pronounce a plausible reason for this apparent weakness in his campaign. Some point to Hillary as being such a strong candidate. They suggest that both candidates are great candidates, and that people are just torn between two greats. Give me a break. Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be little better than McCain in her tactics and rhetoric. Yes, she comes off as intelligent and experienced. But she’s down to saber rattling to get hawk votes, and that is simply deplorable. While I think there are probably some moderate Democrats who approve of the hawk talk, this is likely to disaffect even more Democrats. And her continued determination to turn all things Obama into questions of patriotism, and questions about his character (a tactic very absent from Obama’s own campaign), shows a despicable side that Democrats have come to associate with Karl Rove. That certainly isn’t what is causing the vote to turn as often as not to her over Obama.

So what is the reason? I’m afraid that the answer is simple and that it’s insidious. America is racist. I’m not saying that all Americans are racist (I’m not, and many of us are not). But America herself is racist. We have racist institutions and a racist economy. Our schools reflect our racism. Our prisons reflect our racism. It’s reflected in the service industries and in the food processing industries. Unfortunately, racism is a steaming cancer at the core of our nation. I sympathize with Reverend Wright’s sentiments. Not because I hate America, but because America refuses to face up to this fact. We put window dressing all around the ugly outbreaks of this disease, and we pretend we have solved our racism. We even argue that affirmative action is no longer necessary (if it ever was) because racial inequality has been eradicated.

Barak Obama tried to address this a month ago when the Reverend Wright “story” broke. I put “story” in quotation marks because it wasn’t a story. It was a deliberately placed distraction. And it was itself, a play of that famous “race card.”

The Republican Party may openly underwrite racism, but it’s not a phenomenon limited to conservatives. I listen to liberal pundits on the radio fairly regularly, and the folks that call in to those shows are by and large liberal themselves. Yet I have heard them time and time again say that Obama shouldn’t run because “America isn’t ready to elect a black man President,” or even, “America will never elect a black man President.” I am beginning to worry that this may be true. But to state that as a reason for Obama not to run, is racist itself. Yet I’m sure those folks wouldn’t consider themselves racist. As I said, it is insidious. This morning on the Bill Press radio show, a caller actually suggested that Obama ought to accept Hillary's offer to "ride in the back of the bus." He was referring, of course, to Hillary's offer of the Veep position to Obama, but the expression was clearly racist. Bill Press not only did not chastise the caller for the expression, he repeated it himself!

Barak Obama is so much more a candidate than any I have had the opportunity to vote for in my lifetime. With regard to the state of American politics, this man is more honest than any viable Presidential candidate I have ever seen. Instead of fighting as dirty as Hillary, he attempts to raise the discussion. But Clinton and the media insist on pulling it back down into the dirt. And it’s not merely to destroy Obama, but much more importantly, it’s to destroy the vision. American politics as usual, and the corporate interests it serves, cannot afford to tolerate a vision of hope. They cannot allow people to control their own destinies. They have us all by the short hairs and that suits them just fine. Hillary is totally sold out to that reality, as surely as John McCain is. Obama is the only hope we have going. And any time his populist message begins to raise his numbers above the fray, all that is needed is a subtle reminder to our dark hearts that he is after all, black.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Photos from Paradise

As promised, here are more photos from Bonnie's and my recent trip to Hawaii. Specifically, the photos below are all from our stay on the island of Kauai.

Sunrise, from our porch on our first morning. This photo has not been modified. But my heart was as I watched this unfold.

Looking across the property on which our little bungalow, "Taro Patch Hale," was located.

A small tributary stream of the Hanalei River, running adjacent to Taro Patch Hale's "yard."

White ginger. I remember the fragrance of these flowers as sweeter than perfume. Alas the loss of my sense of smell.

Also on the Taro Patch grounds, I don't know the name of these dainty blossoms.

Lichen on the trunk and branches of a plumeria tree.

A small sampling of our host's Zen hobby.

Our Taro Patch Hale accommodations.

A longer view of our "hotel."

Later that afternoon; Kiluea Point Lighthouse, a few miles East of Hanalei.

This is the trail Bonnie and I took on our second day on Kauai. The trail, after eleven arduous miles, finds its way to Kalalau Valley (see the last two photos below). We hiked just the first two miles to Hanakapiai Valley. The terrain you see here is a very good example of what this trail is like. Four miles (two each way) is a workout.

A view along the way of the world famous Na Pali Coast.

Another coastal view en route.

I wish I remembered the name of the orange flowered tree (Mary would remember). The foreground tree is named Lauhala.

And I don't know what this little guy's name is, nor if he is a native. But he sat so patiently for me, just a few feet away from my camera.

More mountain splendor along the Na Pali Coast.

These are wild orchids, just growing without fanfare along the edge of the trail.

At last, our first view of Hanakapiai beach.

A deceptively tame looking wave on Hanakapiai beach. With severe rip tides and undertows, these waters claim the lives of many who are foolish enough to enter them.

Wonderfully colored rocks at the mouth of the Hanakapiai Stream.

A sand piper strolls the white wash on the beach.

A red crested cardinal sitting in an ohia tree in Kokee, two days after our hike.

A view of Kalalau Valley from the lookout 4000 feet above sea level.

And one of the most photographed views in the world. This is the east side of Kalalau Valley from the same lookout. It is to this valley the trail we took two days earlier eventually leads. I completed the hike when I was 19. I would give my eyeteeth to hike it again.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hawaii - Land of my Birth

I grew up in Hawaii and I spent the first 20 years of my life there. I've been gone 31 years (math majors may submit their final answers here).

Bonnie and I just spent a week and a half there. We enjoyed the first three days alone. Actually my use of the word "enjoyed" is kind of like an Exxon exec recounting his experience in the thralls of Bush's bash, as merely "stimulating."

I fled (yes, that is an accurate word choice) Hawaii thirty-one years ago. When I return now, it is never without trepidation. It is never without encountering a cascade of memory undertows that threaten to wipe me out - at last. And I always return home in an exceptionally spent state.

This time was no exception. The inclusion, on this occasion, of my siblings, and the addition of our parents' final memorial service, only served to magnify any of the usual effects Hawaii has on me.

But Hawaii still carries a magic that I cannot escape. I've chosen photos here at random. Most are from Kauai. That's where Bonnie spent our three days in paradise - in Hanalei. The lava flow into the ocean is obviously not from Kauai. It's from the Big Island. Kauai is far too ancient to sport live volcanoes. These are just a few photos that I want to share. I will share more. And I will provide a story or two to go with them. For now these will have to do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Elitism Charge is a Smokescreen

I tried to find a full transcript of the comments Barak Obama made a few days ago, in which he discussed the "bitterness" of those who "cling to guns and religion." It's hard to locate.

But let's cut to the chase here. I heard the full transcript today, read by Randi Rhodes on her new flagship, The Nova M Network. As is typical where Barak Obama is concerned, his comments were anything but off-handed and ill-chosen. Mr. Obama spoke of things that he felt he needed to say, and he said them in a way that few public speakers in our time care to or dare to match.

Obama is erudite, but that is only a surface description of his character. Notice that I didn't say, "that is only the surface of his charm," or "that is only the surface of what attracts us to him." This comes down to character. And it is very important that we realize it is a distinct difference from what makes him electable or un-electable. That is an entirely different concern.

Beyond Barak Obama's intelligence is his ability and his propensity for honesty. Pardon the inappropriateness of this, but I have to say that Barak will call a spade a spade. In fact, I am pretty darned sure that any time he makes a public apology for his, or a compatriot's, comments, it is by sheer force of his campaign management team. Reverend Wright was right. And so is Obama in his assessment of America's working class. Some of the words, phrases, and sentiments of both Wright and Obama are hard pills to swallow, but that makes them no less true. In fact we ought to listen to their message all the more.

Hillary Clinton, standard bearer and apologist for the Neo-Conservative Right, latched on Mr. Obama’s wise comments and turned them around, entirely out of context, and accused him of being elitist. John McCain, so close on Hillary’s heels that the appearances are of a single camp in lock-step solidarity, seconded this accusation.

And ever since, the media has been either, a) accusing Barak of this elitism, b) asking if this charge of elitism will affect his candidacy, or c) defending his elitism, either by trying to prove that it wasn’t elitist, or by trying to show that elitism is what we need to turn the corner on an America gone horribly off-course.

Okay, so much for preamble. Here’s the rub.

The press has fostered the assumption that Clinton’s and McCain’s elitism charges are aimed at discrediting Obama’s campaign. This is a reasonable assumption; Hillary wants to beat Obama at all costs regardless of the harm to the Democratic Party, and McCain wants to run against Hillary because the Republican machine has fully stocked arsenals with Clinton’s coordinates pre-loaded in the smart bombs’ cross-hairs.

However, neither of these candidates is really concerned with discrediting Obama in this particular instance.

Yet discredit is the game.

Let’s pay more attention to Obama’s message (this is why I tried to find a full transcript of it). Barak took pains to describe the way in which the American populace has been disappointed so often by candidates and by seated representatives. He took pains, not so much as to separate himself from this bunch, but to define them. To his great credit he didn’t spit out platitudes regarding how different he was from that fray. He gave credence to the anger, the skepticism, and, yes, the bitterness, of the American public. He didn’t condescend to them. He said, “this is your voice!” And then he indicated that he believed that together we could change things if we were honest with each other.

And it’s that message both Hillary and McCain want to discredit. Neither of their campaigns stretches very far beyond Washington as Usual in their portrayal of how they will command this country. Both campaigns are about entrenched paradigms.

It takes a hell of a lot of energy to beat inertia, and to beat entropy. Obama knows this. He isn’t unrealistic about the odds of his success. But he is certain of this: you cannot and will not make any forward movement without an honest assessment of the realities you face. You must be willing, and even compelled, to level with the public, and to elicit the public’s reciprocal response, if we are to actually achieve anything that isn’t merely another glossy-looking lie. Another glossy-looking lie like NAFTA. Or another glossy-looking lie like, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

If you respect the citizenry you are asking to vote for you, you have to entrust them with the truth. And you have to respect them with their assessment of the same.

And it is that truth that neither Clinton, nor McCain, can allow the American Public to be privy too. Because both of these inferior candidates are sold out entirely to the vested interests that feather their nests, and that have defined nearly every minute of their sold-out lives.

Tax Day

Man oh man, we're half way through April and I haven't blogged once. I keep promising to get back here and catch up. And I will. But this will just be a short note written during my lunch hour (half hour actually; and half over already at that).

All the presidential candidates are talking about taxes today. It's April 15, so go figure. Barak is saying that if we can spend $10 billion monthly in Iraq, we can do so to build American infrastructure. I buy that to a degree; we are borrowing that much for Iraq, and would have to either raise taxes or continue borrowing that money if we were to spend it on infrastructure. That's even if Iraq were to go bye bye. Now the fact is, we must raise taxes. But that tax raise must be a roll-back of Republican tax cuts, not increased taxes on the working/middle classes. And I'm not entirely against borrowing some of the money. At least it would be money spent building our ability to create wealth instead of spending it on bombs.

The one that really gets me, though, is McCain's proposal to roll back gas taxes for the summer months to help American citizens and the economy. The worst part of this proposal is that it will sound so inviting to a very large sector of the American public, when in fact it should cause revolt. More on this later (I need to get back to work now).

Later (the following day actually):

I was just reading on Kos how McCain is claiming that cutting the federal gas tax will save motorists as much as 20%. But poor old John was born before math was taught in schools. The federal tax on gasoline is $0.184 per gallon, about 5.4%.

But let's forget about the fuzzy math. McCain pretends (like all Repugnicans) that taxes are the great evil enemy of the middle-class pocket book. With Exxon-Mobile rolling in dough - the most profitable company in world history - they are the real enemy. But how many Americans are going to make that simple leap in logic? How many are going to see that the Republican party has become a shill for big oil (to name one of of their clients), and that it is the height of cynical hypocrisy to offer the public a tax break instead of going after the real crooks instead? And just where does McCain intend to find the money to replace the revenue he will be denying the Federal government by eliminating this tax? From his ass?

No folks. That money will come from our pocket books after all. And it will come with interest owed since it will merely be one more line item on our national debt.

Don't let this pandering liar fool you at the pump. Wake up and smell the dirty oil on his lips.