Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Buddy President

National Review is a “conservative commentary on American politics, news and culture,” and I make the journey to the right from my center soapbox about twice a week to read about what stereotypical conservatives have to say about what's going on in the good ole US of A.
Two days ago I happened upon an article by Rich Lowry on how Obama is tricking young voters entitled “Obama's Dupes.”
Expecting to hear about another Bachmann-esque conspiracy rant and rave, I skimmed through the first few sentences.
Skimming turned to reading and I finished up the one page article feeling inspired.
Inspired and pissed off.

Now, I have no problem with a conservative having a point - I would be just as inspired and pissed off if it was a leftist that brought this up again.
I have a problem with the fact that his point is even an issue.
In short, he makes the argument that young voters flocked to Obama in '08 because of his promise of hope and change. Fine - they were duped just like any other constituent who honestly believes anything a potential President (or in office one for that matter) has to say. 
But the unsettling argument continues on to point out that it'll just happen again - why? Well, because Obama has that "cool and cerebral style," because of the "slow jam" on the Fallon show, because he's like their buddy.
Their buddy?!?!
I can remember the first time I heard about this - when Bush was first elected. In interviews, people said they voted for him because he seemed like a good guy, someone you'd want to grab a beer with. 

Why the fuck would you want the President to be someone you'd grab a beer with?
Wouldn't you rather he skip the beer and spend some time...oh I dunno...running the god damn country?!
While Lowry's post focused on young liberals, this phenomenon is not cloistered in the leftist lair. It's a widespread factor in deciding who to vote for. 
And this kind of thinking points to something that I have long wrestled with: the cultural politics of my generation. 
In other words, my generation (I'm 25) does a damn good job of avoiding politics. And when we do encounter it, we treat it like a Facebook event - something we can ignore or pay attention to based on who's gonna be there, how much fun we think we'll have and whether it happens at the same time as Glee or not. 
Well shit people, it's not a frat party. 
Politics happen whether you RSVP or not - the only thing is that if you don't show up, or possibly even worse, if you show up with a punch bowl blend of ignorance and arrogance, the downfall of our future economically, socially, politically, globally and yes, culturally, will catch up with you quicker than that 5th gin and tonic.

Politics can be culturally stimulating - but we as a culture, our generation, has to make it so. And that does not include having a beer with the President. The President should be chosen based on his ability to work for you, for the issues that effect you and will effect you. 
But since most people my age don't know what those are, we fall back on how likable a guy is. 

Make politics part of your cultural existence - educate yourself on the things going on around you outside of fashion, fucking and Facebook. 
Create culture that mirrors politics and you'll see that through the creation of a culture that is tied to politics, the political trajectory can be moved. 
We can't change politics through a few non profits and a few rallies. We have to change it through the cultural lens we use to see it. 
Only then will we honestly appreciate the realities of our nation's issues. 

So, put down the Bud Light and get to know Obama as a President, not as a buddy. 
And get to know the system he's a part of. 
Pretty sure once you do, you won't want to have a beer with any candidate.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Burned by the sun...

Call me crazy. Many have.
It's been suggested that i'm lazy, complaining and a downright drag.
I sit and I write, concocting a fight -
in my head, that I dread –
will never see the light -
of day.
There's apathy here -
festering in the open air -
of reality – no shade -
getting burned by the sun -
all we think to do is run -
so the bad news won't hit us -
the evil escape us -
and we emerge unscathed
on the other side of rage.
But you can't skip that step
where you won't give but you get -
the perfect world, that polished pearl -
the future you planned in your dreams
it ripped at the seams
and you won't pick up the needle to sew
to move forward and grow
or tear it down to start again -
just act!
Instead you sit in your left, you stall in your right -
you flip flop and see saw, abide by the fucked laws -
and whine when you can't have your way -
but who has your say?
The ones in the boardrooms -
the slick and sly tycoons -
may sound cliché but check.
No really, I want you to
go google and yahoo -
I want to be wrong – prove me wrong.

This world's going down
to the sound
of our silence
infighting, violence -
the wallets on wall street just laugh.
A brilliant dark craft -
the buck just gets passed -
to figureheads bought and sold -
and a drying hard mold -
burned by the sun -
harder to crack
the more we relax
so sit back and wait
the end quickens its pace
rushing towards our shrugging fat race
sitting under the weight
of dictatorial fate -
learning to breathe through gasps
ignoring imploring relapse
our noted division
a vicious addiction
to being told
who we are
what we know.

far be it from me
to change what you see
all I can do is suggest -
but if taken in jest
as most all will do
it's nothing to you
nor to me
so I might as well keep
these thoughts to myself
if all that they'll reap
is a place on the shelf
by morals and ethics and
ideas by dead presidents -
i'm not here just to be read.
I'm here to set fire
to make us move higher
above what we think we can do -
for why would they spend
the time and the money
to paint things so sunny
if they didn't fear the storm?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Around the World

My dad, a historian, travels all over the world speaking and lecturing on US history. A colleague of his recently contacted him asking if some German middle schoolers could email him with questions on the upcoming US Presidential elections. He said of course, remarking to me how sad it is that many of the college students in the US don't even know what kind of government Germany has, much less who runs in elections, wins and loses. Hard to imagine US middle schoolers emailing German professors with detailed, intelligent questions on their elections.
Whether it's a matter of being smarter or just paying more attention, Europe, and well - much of the world is way ahead of us.
I can recall a girl in my freshman class at UCSB who though Berlin was in Russia...I'm serious.

I don't want to get into a rant about the educational system b/c it'll exhaust me and unless you care, bore you.
But what is short and sweet to note is that paying attention to what goes on in other countries makes it easier and more interesting to pay attention to your own. The US is clutching to a faded name of "superpower," and our influence is felt all over the world, culturally and politically. Stepping outside of the mundane, media mogul driven heap of how we arrogantly and ignorantly look in the mirror - why not check out a few other viewpoints? Tis, after all, the digital age. It takes you just as long to get to BBC, and Al Jazeera English as it does CNN and FOX.
So hey, live a little and take your brain around the world for a spin :)

It's a conspiracy! I'm not gonna lie - I sometimes enjoy pondering conspiracy theories - toying with the notion of underlying secrets and intrigue. Some don't even warrant that phrase due to overwhelming evidence and fact. However, this is not one of those cases.
Remember Bachmann? Yeah - that Tea Party nut job who threw her name into the hat for President way back when. Yeah, she wants in to the spotlight again, this time with a conspiracy that long time aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and is really a spy for the organization. Huma Abedin has been a close aide to Hillary Clinton since her days in the Senate, and the Senate was not quiet on their attacks against Bachmann and her letter.  John McCain, no stranger to controversy or the Tea Party had this to say: "These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit, and they need to stop now." House speaker Boehner echoed that sentiment, "From everything I do know of [Huma Abedin], she has a sterling character, and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous." Dangerous and stupid, maybe, but not enough to get Bachmann to apologize. She stands by her motion for a probe into the White House questioning the influence of the Brotherhood. On Wednesday she released a statement, effectively telling everyone to go fuck themselves and she will not apologize, and "not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces".
Fear, fear, fear, fear!! Run, run, run, run!!! Wait, I have an idea. Bachmann - why don't you get your small-minded, big mouthed head the hell out of politics.
We've already got all the loony tunes we need.

Apocalypse: In that same vein of fear and controversy, I thought I'd introduce you to a new book I came across: The Last Myth - What the rise of Apocalyptic thinking tells us about America.  In this book co-authors, Mel Gilles and Matthew Barrett Gross argue that the US's obsession with the Apocalypse, whether that be global warming, the NWO, Jesus, the A-bomb or October 2012, our constant worry about the impending end leads us down paths of extremes that ultimately fuck us over. For example, not dealing with issues as they pertain to the present, but only seeing them as inevitable - such as global warming. It's never too late to stop torturing our own bodies with waste, and yet because of the apocalyptic notion that it's all fucked anyway, we fight less for the here and now. Same thing goes for the apparent 3 million "preppers" in the US. These extremers believe that due to some rapidly approaching mayhem - war, famine, zombies, etc. - they need to keep basements fully stocked with spam and ammunition. Now as Gross says, there's nothing wrong with being prepared, but when you make all your decisions based on an unforeseen future, you skew your present to reflect a hypothesis that is often times unfounded, at least time line wise. Gross argues that if the Apocalypse didn't play such a major roll in America's thinking, we'd be more inclined to stay active in our country, both politically and socially, recognizing the present as now and the future as when we get to it.

The Syrian sink hole: A deadly blast on Wednesday killed over 180 people, including al-Assad's defense minister. There are conflicting reports as to whether it was a suicide bombing or remote controlled - government says the former, rebels say the latter.
Either way, with targets of al-Assad's inner circle, many are hoping that this signals the beginning of the end for him and his regime. Fareed Zakaria made a good point in his CNN post, saying that we are often times too quick to celebrate things like this - the truth of the matter is, much like our overall foreign policy, we don't know that much about what's happening in Syria,
We don't know who the rebels are, how organized they are, if there's a central chain of command, or even what their agenda is, besides overthrowing al-Assad.
Beyond that, in reality, the rebels don't control any part of Syria - they cause a ruckus, sure, but that's certainly not the same as organized control of an area. Zakaria goes on to ask several questions about the rebels:
"is the opposition fighting together in a coordinated way? Who leads it? Does the Syrian National Council — the main exile opposition group – have any sway over these forces? Do the groups on the ground have any sectarian flavor? Are they largely Kurdish or Sunni? What is the role of the jihadi militant groups in the Syrian rebellion?"
These questions are spot on in terms of the role we, and any other nations, will play in Syria. It's not a promotion of inactivity, but having seen historically the wide gap between what lack of planning (Iraq, cough, cough, cough) and careful planning (WW2) can lead to, it'd be best to do a little recon - maybe figure out where Berlin is, so to speak, before we blast through there like an old Western.

Big Banks: Sound familiar? Yeah...currently four of Europe's largest banks are under investigation following a rate-fixing scandal. Crédit Agricole, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Société Générale under the leadership of Barclays' traders, most notably Philippe Moryoussef, apparently set out to rig the regions benchmark interest rate. However, at this time, only Barclays' is under fire - having also tripped up on its blown attempt at fixing the London interbank offered rate (Libor) and the European equivalent, Euribor.
Unfortunately, any hope I have for justice on this front is tarnished by past experience. Considering how well the US banks fared after grave counts of fraud and corruption, a little slap on the wrist for billion-dollar corporations doesn't do a damn thing for the people at the bottom.
Hope springs eternal but I'm not expecting a few probes to pull the rug out from under corporate behemoths. That's something only we could do...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rant, rattle and roll

My guitarist and best friend Brian is the catalyst for today's rant and roll - followed of course by some news bite munchies...enjoy!

The latest from the campaign trail: he's a shifty asshole, vote for me! Not that that's really news - it's a sad recurrence that is now all but synonymous with political elections. When my guitarist asked what I thought about it, I shrugged. I don't really. With the hours in my day, political attack ads rank right there next to root canals and Reality TV. If I wanted to listen to unfounded, juvenile aspersions, I'd just open my window and let the bickering bums serenade me for a while. At least they're mildly entertaining. However, as Brian pointed out, this has become the norm. We expect it, and this expectation shapes how we react on voting day. For example, how many people do you know that vote "against" someone?
Now that I think of it, most of the people I know are negative nancies when it comes to politics - they very rarely seem gung-ho about a candidate, and more often than not say something like, "Well, I can't imagine seeing him as President so I'll just vote for the other guy," regardless of who that is! We are now overwhelmingly concerned with the negative aspects of the campaign as opposed to the positives. Now, you could certainly argue that the ratio of bad to good is overwhelmingly in favor of the former, but it's interesting to take notice of these details.
For example, what would happen if someone ran for office with no attack ads? If everything they put out was an affirmation, an opinion as opposed to piss and vinegar attack...
I mean we tell kids to ignore the "mean people" at school - we tell our friends to ignore their bosses cut-downs, if anything apply a formidable blend of sarcasm and wit as a retort.
What if we could apply that same logic? It has long been a belief of mine that politics are so detached from how we really think and how we really live that it's no wonder our government holds no parallel to modern day or modern ways. And yet, because it is our government, it effects our daily lives at every turn. It's a mind boggling anomaly - like living with a slob that wrecks your house but pretending he's not there.

Well, the slob is here. Doing away with attack ads is not the be-all, end-all of course, it's just a small detail in a system rife with corruption and detriment. However, maybe thinking about these attack ads, how they effect our choices, how they effect our system, will spur some other thoughts...some other musings. It did for me...and as I like to say....Think. React. Do Something.

And now, for a quick news bite:

Home Sweet Greece: Many young Greeks are facing a dilemma - maybe some Americans can relate. The economy is shit! Known as the post-junta generation, these Greeks have to consider whether to stay - hope and help rebuild this broken system or flee for better opportunities. The dilemma is one that I have often pondered as well - stay because you love your country (or the idea of it) or leave because you know a better life exists, with more opportunities and more money. More than 50% of Greeks under the age of 26 are jobless, and with many smart, young professionals emigrating, the cycle deepens. One 23 year old soldier wants to go abroad to study political science but then return to, as he puts it, break his generation's "consciousness of dependency."
He says Greece needs to "rise up and develop its own power, to protect our people's benefits. Economically and politically, we need to rise up."
Although the current crisis hits him and his family hard, he is optimistic in that it represents a chance "to change people's minds.... to abolish the mentality of dependency."
A few words of wisdom we could all learn from...meanwhile, the Kardashians are on...

Secretary of State Clinton in Cairo: Hillary Clinton met with newly elected President Mohamed Morsy in Cairo to urge him to "assert the full authority of the presidency." As in, get the military back in its place as a national defense organization, under the yolk of the presidency. Morsy as of now, has no parliament and no cabinet. There is no official constitution. Clinton re-iterated her support for a "full transition to civilian rule, with all that it entails." Morsy expressed his happiness in seeing Clinton and having her visit Egypt. So, looks like we can begin to breathe a sigh of relief - Egypt is in our pocket once again.

al-Assad staying power: Many have asked how long al-Assad can hold out. It's been about 16 months, and the latest shows aerial attacks blasting his civilians. A senior general defected earlier this week but before you get all optimistic, this general had been under house arrest for over a year. The inner circle of generals and political high-ups is 80% Alawites, a faction that makes up only 20% of Syria's population. Needless to say, it's a tight-knit group and one that's proving hard to crack. With his go-to guys still close and loyal, al-Assad shows no significant signs of backing down. But, rollercoaster up - don't lose all hope. As with any dictatorship, there are a fair share of silent objectors, mostly Sunnis, who make up a good deal of the military. Beyond that, inflation is up 30% and can't finance al-Assad's mayhem forever. Sources say that al-Assad and company are now freely printing money like garage band tickets. And lastly, neighbours are beginning to tire of the ruckus. Last week an Iranian ambassador criticized his government for their support and suggesting that al-Assad's days are clearly numbered. It's no surprise - this isn't exactly a war effort. And unlike other dictatorial regimes that have deep pocketed financiers in various crevices of the world (or CIA, ahem ahem), al-Assad is pretty much on his own, like a psychopathic candle in the wind, if you will.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

Not to worry. I am not going to wax poetic or puff pompous, pretentious prose on how awesome we are as a nation.
Nope - just going to throw out some interesting facts, questions and ponderings, a few things to mull over with a side of beer and BBQ, something to think about and discuss as we head into our 236th year.

• If our national security budget were its own economy, it would be the 19th largest in the world at $931 billion.

• $64 billion is slated for education.

• 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line

• The average US household carries $75,000 in debt and takes in an average of $26,000 a year.

• $25,000 of that debt is tied to student loans.

• One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don't require a college degree:

• Only 55.3% of Americans 18-30 were employed last year. That's the lowest since WW2.

• More people voted for American Idol than for president in 2004.

• Only 56% of Americans are covered under employer-provided health care. 44 million Americans are uninsured all together.

• You know someone who is unemployed. You know someone who has served in the military. You know someone who can't pay for health care, housing, food and a proper education.

I hate to be the buzz kill of the party but lady liberty ain't doin so good in her teen age (relative to other countries)

Of course there are more facts than ones I chose to include here. Yes, there are good things as well. I am and always have been proud to be American.
But pride does not equal contentment.
I am not content.
And you shouldn't be either.
Whatever ideologies you call your own, this country is fucked up.
And that's not something we can continuously project as "their" fault - our country is not separate from us - we ironically treat it like some foreign object we can complain about, take pride in but never actually invest real time in - like a dead beat dad.
If our country is fucked up, we're fucked up. If it fails, we've failed.
It's that simple.

So, this 4th of July - wave the flag, have a few drinks, enjoy yourself. Hell, you probably got the day off so take advantage of that.
But let's not forget to take advantage of what it means to have this day, to be a US citizen, to actually live here and be a part of this.

The unruly teenager needs to be reigned in - that begins with knowledge, understanding and giving a shit.
Let's toss the apathy out with the moldy hot dog buns and have some truth and action with your potato salad.

Happy 4th.
Happy Birthday - here's to living up to our ideals.