Friday, October 31, 2008


Today was a sad day.
Had pho with D.
Shy of Manhattan,
the J enters the king borough
and quickly turns away,
curves back toward Brooklyn.

Then on an everyday Tuesday
afternoon it all at once encrystals:
A bomb-scare morning, the Port Authority
Bus Terminal cleared out by men with badges,
plainclothes, an annoyed commute and late to work.
It was a real tap-tap, sir there’s a line day.

But on the downtown A,
a man next to me’s starting
a book I love. I point and give the thumbs-up.
Then a young woman with an interesting face
and holding a square, clear vase
of purple flowers smiles
at some children in pink, one girl playing
with the other’s ponytail; while a band
whose songs I’ve never been able to get into
suddenly all sound perfect. The lyrics appear
like the scene unfolding before me, into which soon steps
a thugged-out violinist, with an ammo T-shirt
and corn-row braids: He plays,
and, piqued, I pop out my earphones and listen
to subway street-violin, a passionate caterwauling
I’d never known existed.
I give him my last gold Pocahontas dollar
as we ruck into the station, thirty charmed blocks
as the rat scurries.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hard Times in New York (Magazine) Town

Well, it's up in the mornin' tryin' to find a job of work.
Stand in one place till your feet begin to hurt.
If you got a lot o' money you can make yourself merry,
If you only got a nickel, it's the Staten Island Ferry.
And it's hard times in the city,
Livin' down in New York town.

—Bob Dylan, "Hard Times in New York Town"
This week and last have not been good for magazine publishing in New York. First it was announced that the twice- or thrice-dead-already Radar would again be folding; then it came down that Rolling Stone would axe seven staffers and Time Inc. would lay off 600 employees. This story in The New York Times detailed the cuts at magazines and in other city industries.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the 100-year-old Christian Science Monitor newspaper—which, despite the name, has always been pretty respected—would shutter its print operation, electing henceforth to publish only on the web (and in a forthcoming weekend magazine).

And then today: It has been reported by Gawker and The Observer that editors and publishers at all titles of the giant of giants in the magazine business, Conde Nast, have been ordered to trim their staff levels and budgets by five percent. (For those who don't know, Conde Nast publishes The New Yorker, GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and many more magazines, and has long had a reputation in the industry for being a citadel of prestige and indifference to market conditions.)

Most sad to me are what's happening to Portfolio and Men's Vogue, detailed in the links behind "The" and "Observer." I always liked Portfolio's quirky, off-center covers—they made you stop and take notice, unlike most business magazines' covers—and I'm a subscriber to Men's Vogue.

Long story short? It's bad out there for those in the publishing industry, and getting worse. If you have a job, be thankful. If you don't, learn to pick rutabagas and perfect your hobo diction.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hobos 'n' Obama

Writer John Hodgman (you may recognize him from The Daily Show or, if you turn in early, the I'm-a-Mac, I'm-a-PC knife fight commercials) has a new book coming out soon called More Information Than You Require, a sequel to his bizarrely hilarious The Areas of My Expertise, a fake almanac that contains a list of 700 Hobo names. The best, and my chosen hobo moniker: Cholly the Yegg. ("Yegg" is wonderfully defined as "an inept safecracker.") Other great ones: Douglas, the Future of Hoboing; Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick. Click here for the full list of hobo names.

Hodgman is one smart cookie. In this long interview with The Onion A.V. Club, it is mentioned that he has been supporting Barack Obama with much vim and vigor, on his blog and his Twitter account and what-not. He's asked, "What has made this election so compelling to you?"

Hodgman answers:
The thing that I find so compelling is that right now Obama's whole campaign strategy is simply [to] speak to people as though they were adults and trust that the truth of the world situation will be evident to them. For him to be attacked as a friend of a terrorist, for "palling" around with terrorists and to simply go back and say, "No, I'm not"? That was such a refreshing political moment. It's like he's saying, "Oh, you know that's not true. You know what's happening here." So much of the past eight years in politics, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, you have to acknowledge is based on what the Bush people to themselves have described outside the reality-based community. That the words they were speaking had no basis in reality and they felt no compulsion to exist in a real world. They were creating a world of their own imagining. They were writing their own book of fake trivia and that's a fine way to make a living, but I don't know that it's a very productive way to run a country. And I think we are seeing the results of that right now. So from a very selfish point of view, I'm enchanted by the idea that a politician can come along and speak simply and clearly and truthfully to an electorate as though they are grown-ups and to feel the electorate respond to that. I've found that to be astonishing and especially now that we are in the end game and you see basically the McCain campaign has nothing left but conspiracy theories to throw at Obama. It really has become a fight between fantasy and reality, and although I don't make my living off of it, I endorse reality.
I was just thinking about this very thing the other day; that the reason that McCain and Palin's whole "Americans are cravin' that straight talk," "Joe the Plumber" angle hasn't gained any traction is because ... that's what Barack has been delivering all along. McCain and Palin accuse Obama of all these things, of misleading eloquence, of being elitist—But Obama has consistently been very plain-spoken and direct with the American people. His is not a gilded language; it is sturdy and simple, though also majestic and uniquely American, and I think that is a big reason why he is winning this race. Obama's words, and how he delivers them, are the linguistic transubstantiation of "purple mountain majesties" and "amber waves of grain."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greenspan Recants

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Allen Greenspan said the following in a statement yesterday to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:
[T]hose of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions [aka self-regulation—ed.] to protect shareholder’s equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief. Such counterparty surveillance is a central pillar of our financial markets’ state of balance. If it fails, as occurred this year, market stability is undermined.
Then this happened, as reported in the New York Times:
“You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the committee. “Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?”

Mr. Greenspan conceded: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.”

Mr. Waxman noted that the Fed chairman had been one of the nation’s leading voices for deregulation, displaying past statements in which Mr. Greenspan had argued that government regulators were no better than markets at imposing discipline.

“Were you wrong?” Mr. Waxman asked.

“Partially,” the former Fed chairman reluctantly answered, before trying to parse his concession as thinly as possible.
OK. Moving forward. John McCain told the Wall Street Journal the following this past March:
I’m always for less regulation. But I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight. … But I am a fundamentally a deregulator. I’d like to see a lot of the unnecessary government regulations eliminated.
And then he said this in a speech on March 25th:
In financial institutions, there is no substitute for adequate capital to serve as a buffer against losses. Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital.
"Removing" regulatory impediments. Got that? Removing.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama said the following in his speech at the Democratic National Convention on August 28th:
And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.
Keep in mind that these statements by Obama and McCain were all made before the Dow blew up.

In summary:

Greenspan, former acolyte of deregulation, “partially” renounces his ideology; McCain “is fundamentally a deregulator”—While Obama says that American business “should … play by the rules of the road” and that “government … should do … that which we cannot do for ourselves.” One of those things being: Regulate the financial institutions who have dragged the U.S. public into this current mess.

So who you gonna vote for?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuning Up

Angry and running
a little late on the subway rucking
over the Williamsburg Bridge, and rehearsing
what I’ll say to her and why,
with a running color commentary
as to whether I should say anything at all
on the TV in another room of my mind,

suddenly a shaft of trumpet-colored light
bugles its way up the boulevard
through the lots, Luger’s, Bambini Art—
“fans, cups, kites, cops, eats, nights”—
to stop me warm in my thoughts,
like a C major seven amid cacophony.

Diffuse, the light stroked, almost petted
over the tops of buildings and the bay—
I thought of Brooklyn spread out in the morning,
its zip codes strewn like carpet samples.

But soon we were across
the bridge and back underground,
the cars having crept
their way above us, and the hate—
the winter, the jockeying—had returned.

Then I dreamed of spring and coffee,
and of one day not far off when,
layers having been shed
in dribs and drabs,
we’ll ride in rolled shirtsleeves
with the train windows triangled open
and the light returned but changed: opalescent,
like the pearlized snaps on a Western shirt’s front,
the subway car’s air perfumed by the smell of sea.

Monday, October 20, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve been focusing a lot on politics, which is good and I’m glad people have been responding to it, but one’s gotta mix it up at some point. So today is about music.

One: Two Saturdays ago I was riding into the city on the JMZ train at 7pm and was reading The Onion’s concert listings. All of a sudden I see this Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour thing, organized by former Neutral Milk Hotel member Julian Koster (now performing under the moniker the Music Tapes), along with members of the Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, and more. “Oh man,” I think to myself, “this is great! When is it? I have to go!” (Elephant 6 is an old Athens, Georgia-based record label, on which some of my all-time favorite bands recorded.) The bad news: The show was that very night at the Knitting Factory, and I was headed to something I couldn’t cancel.

Oh well. “I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.”

But then on Monday I see a post on BrooklynVegan about the show, and I kick myself even more: Jeff Mangum, lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, was there, and sang on a few songs including Olivia Tremor Control’s “The Opera House.” Now, I don’t feel as bad as I might have, as I got to see Olivia Tremor Control a few years back at Bowery Ballroom, when Jeff came out and sang on a couple of songs of theirs, including “I Have Been Floated” (which he sang on back in the day on their record), but I still felt pretty bummed out. Why?

In 1998, Jeff Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel released their second album, called In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which quickly became a cult classic. I first heard it in the fall of my sophomore year at school, and it is one of the very few albums that I have loved from the first notes (one other being Yankee Hotel Foxtrot).

After touring on that album, though, Neutral Milk Hotel disbanded and Jeff Mangum more or less disappeared. Stories would surface about him having serious mental problems, about him playing a weird show at a pub in Australia—all adding to the myth of Neutral Milk Hotel, which by that time was legendary.


But so for any of you out there in TV land who haven’t heard In the Aeroplane, I highly recommend you go out and buy/find it immediately. It is simply one of the best 39+ minutes of music—a real album—that I’ve ever heard. It’s weird, and joyous, and very sad, and angry, and all the stuff that life at its very best is. Strangely, a ribbon of Anne Frank runs through the album, alongside an earthy, sticky-sweet sexuality. See these lines from the song “Oh Comely,” for example:
Your father made fetuses
With flesh licking ladies
While you and your mother
Were asleep in the trailer park
Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums
The music and medicine you needed for comforting
So make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving
And pluck all your silly strings
And bend all your notes for me
Soft silly music is meaningful magical
The movements were beautiful
All in your ovaries
All of them milking with green fleshy flowers
While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines
Smelling of semen all under the garden
Was all you were needing when you still believed in me

And I know they buried her body with others
Her sister and mother and 500 families
And will she remember me 50 years later
I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine
Know all your enemies
We know who are enemies are
So beautiful and strange. And Jeff’s voice was (is!) so distinctive: adenoidal, almost (at times) unhinged. But sometimes he just sounded sweet. And that’s where I come back around to the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour. I read today on BrooklynVegan that, in Pittsburgh this Saturday, at the end of the show, Julian and Jeff came and sang in the middle of the crowd a simple song called “Engine.” I first heard “Engine” on Oh, Merge, a 10th anniversary album for Merge Records, which label Neutral Milk Hotel was on, and it grabbed me immediately—a lament with singing saw and Jeff’s voice, about a dreamtime sort of ship:
For I am an engine and I'm holding on
The world is all bending and breaking from me
For sweetness alone who flew out through the window
And landed back home in a garden of green

You're riding alone in the back of a steamer
And steaming yourself in the warm shower spray
And water rolls on off the round captain's belly
Who's talking to tigers from his cafeteria tray

And sweet babies cry for the cool taste of milking
That milky delight that invited us all
And if there's a taste in this life more inviting
Then wake up your windows and watch as those sweet babies crawl away
Here is video (dark, with only intermittent flashes of camera-flash) of the two of them performing the same song the following night in Columbus, Ohio. (Video exists of the Pittsburgh performance, but the crowd is loud and talking and the sound quality is much worse than this one.) Just put it on in the background—You don’t have to actually watch, the video is nothing—and listen to the song:

And then finally, this one goes out to my brother Jacob, who I know—with as much certainty as I know the sun will rise tomorrow morning, or that Obama will win on Nov. 4—will love this song. I am sort of ashamed to say that I heard this song last night during an Axe Chocolate Body Spray commercial (a product which I still don’t entirely understand), but hey—You get older, you gotta catch as catch can; otherwise you end up sitting on the JMZ at 7pm, rucking over the Williamsburg Bridge and wishing you kept up with music like you used to.

Dig, cats:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Enough already about Joe the goddamn Plumber.

Tell me, who in their right mind buys this folksy Joe the Plumber B.S.? Are Americans really so dense that all it takes to get their attention (and their vote) is laying out economic policy like it's a children's book? I personally am very very tired of:

Joe Six-pack
Joe the Plumber
Hockey Moms
Soccer Moms
And all the rest

I wonder. How can we tell whether or not Americans lap up this Joe the Plumber pablum? Hmm. I wonder. Oh, I've got it! The highest-rated TV shows in America would surely be an indicator of the nation's collective mental and emotional maturity—right? Meaning it would follow that if smart shows like The Office and Mad Men were at the top of the Nielsen ratings, it would indicate that the majority of Americans don't like this Joe the Plumber nonsense, either.

Well let's go to the tape:

Drat. Foiled again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

That's Right, This Is Where I Live.

Rodney Park is directly across the street from my apartment.

From the New York Post today:

A new offshoot of the notorious Bloods gang has raised its ugly head in South Williamsburg, sparking a police crackdown in the Brooklyn neighborhood, authorities say.

Since September, the Pretty Boy Goonies have repeatedly clashed with the Trinitarios, a Dominican gang whose power base is the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

"We have a serious problem here. This escalates from robberies to murder and more youth-on-youth violence," said Democratic Councilwoman Diana Reyna.

"This is not fist-fighting we are talking about. They are using machetes to stab and slash, and screwdrivers. There are brawls in the streets, in broad daylight, stopping traffic.

"We can't revert to the times . . . where gangs took over our street corners ."

The Pretty Boy Goonies, aka PBGs, have about a dozen members, authorities said. Gang members gather to fight for turf in Rodney Park under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway near the Williamsburg Bridge.

In response to the concerns of Reyna and community groups, cops have begun arresting gang members; a sweep last weekend nabbed 14 suspects, authorities said.

Authorities have also increased the number of cops and narcotics detectives patrolling the area, placing some on rooftops and installing a Sky Watch, a video camera manned by a cop at Marcy Avenue and South Fifth Street.

The device has been used to fight crime in Harlem.

That's just great. I saw this Sky Watch thing going up last Friday night (literally a block away from my apartment). I also talked to a cop on Saturday and he told me pretty much the same thing as this article describes, though in less detail.

And yes, Joe, that's right: Pretty Boy Goonies.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Southwest Airlines Moves One Step Closer to Being the Greyhound of the Skies

P. Solomon Banda reported in the Associated Press on Saturday:
Wallace and the two sisters, ages 9 and 16, were seated in the same row on a San Diego-to-Denver flight Aug. 1. Officials said Wallace did not know the girls or their brother, 10, who was seated behind them. The siblings were traveling without a parent.

In a preliminary hearing, FBI agent Joel Nishida said Wallace tried to take pictures of the younger sister, seated near the aisle, but that she covered her face.

During the flight, the older sister said Wallace took out some strips of white athletic tape from his backpack and used a figure eight pattern to tie her hands together with the tape.

When she asked him what he was doing, "he gave out a creepy laugh," Nishida testified.

The younger sister managed to free her sister, tearing the tape off using her teeth. Afterward, Wallace allegedly tried to tape the younger sister's hands to those of her older sibling. A flight attendant who saw what was happening then moved the two girls to a different row with their brother.
Made me think of this.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

McCain to the Rescue

Frankly, I find this passage—from a New York Times story by Elisabeth Bumiller—utterly fascinating:

[Mr. McCain's] temporary embrace of Mr. Obama came as Mr. McCain was repeatedly implored by voters at the town-hall-style meeting to “fight back” against Mr. Obama at the next presidential debate, on Wednesday, and to stop him from becoming president. But unlike at an earlier town-hall-style meeting this week in Wisconsin, where Mr. McCain sharply agreed with voters who urged him to punch back, this time he drew a line.

When a man told him he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, Mr. McCain replied, “I want to be president of the United States and obviously I do not want Senator Obama to be, but I have to tell you — I have to tell you — he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.” The crowd booed loudly at Mr. McCain’s response.

Later, a woman stood up at the meeting, held at Lakeville South High School in a far suburb of Minneapolis, and told Mr. McCain that she could not trust Mr. Obama because he was an “Arab.”

Mr. McCain replied: “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.” (He did not correct her false depiction of Mr. Obama.) At that, the crowd applauded.

Wow. I have been saying for several months now that I thought McCain would ultimately lose this election because he is, at his core, an honorable man, and that he would refuse to do absolutely whatever it takes, as dirty or underhanded as that might be, to beat Obama.

I said that McCain would not go as far as George W. Bush did against him (McCain) in the Republican primary in 2000, and that given Obama's charisma and intelligence, plus the generally poor view of Republicans right now as a result of eight years of the Bush Administration, that he (Obama) would win.

And I think that unless his advisors, like Karl Rove protege Steve Schmidt, somehow hijack McCain's campaign, this is just what's going to happen. I don't agree with McCain on a number of issues, but I applaud his decency, responsibility (which doesn't unfortunately extend to all areas of his campaign, but still), and patriotism in this matter.

I will refer you now to Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, during which he said the following:
Now, I don't believe that Sen. McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know.

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

But what I will not do is suggest that [Senator McCain] takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

That, Dear Reader, is what's called Elevating the Discourse. Let's encourage both candidates—and not the crazed supporters at Palin rallies shouting "kill him," "off with his head," and "terrorist" with respect to Barack Obama (and no I am not kidding; look it up)—to keep it up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Office

I never post stuff like this, but last night's The Office contained one of the best lines ever. The episode was about business ethics, and during a meeting Andy proposed the ethical dilemma of, "If your family were starving, would you steal bread to feed them?" To which Dwight replies,
"Trick question. The bread is poison, and it's not your real family. You've been cuckolded by a stronger, smarter male."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

New York State Voter Registration Deadline Tomorrow

Hello all. Tomorrow is the deadline for New York state residents to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election. Why should you care, and why should you vote? Here, let my friend Kevin tell you (the video is only two minutes long, so quit yer whining):

Makes sense, doesn't it? Do what Kevin says. If you live in New York City, click here to download a PDF copy of the voter registration form. All you have to do is fill it out and put it in the mail. Postage-paid. Zero cost to you, and it takes < 5 minutes.

If you don't live in New York City, go here to see A) whether or not you are already registered, and B) if you're not, how to get that way (registered). (Yes, the site is associated with Obama, but it's not a shill for him or the Democratic party; it's a strictly nonpartisan tool to help more people get registered to vote.)

As Mark Twain said, Where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible.”

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sign of the Times

From Gothamist:
After the end of the Clinton era, the National Debt Clock in midtown was temporarily turned off because the number had actually started to go down for the first time since it was installed in 1989 by real estate developer Seymour Durst. Now, after eight years of The Decider, the number's gotten so vast and incomprehensible and depressing that the sign isn't big enough for all those digits.
Click here for the full post, along with a picture of the sign as it stands today.

Monday, October 06, 2008

What is the real America?

In a piece posted Friday on Slate, ("Alaska vs. Hawaii: Why is Seward's Folly the 'real America' and the Aloha State not?"), Timothy Noah writes, regarding Governor Sarah Palin and why her homespun Americana doggerel is being viewed as, for better or worse, the "real" America:
Why is Alaska authentically American when Hawaii is not? At bottom, of course, it's a silly question. Both states, while disconnected geographically from the continental United States, are populated with people whose American-ness is beyond dispute. Every corner of each one of the 50 states is "authentically American." But Alaska leans Republican while Hawaii leans Democratic, and the GOP long ago intimidated the media into believing that only Republican strongholds represent the "real America." These Republican strongholds are usually sparsely populated, and I suppose the media's been sold on the idea that because the United States started out as an agrarian nation, rural areas are somehow more authentic than urban ones.
That's spot on, and a nice articulation of something I've been thinking about and noticing as well. Bob Herbert, in an excellent Sept. 8th op-ed in The New York Times, raised sort of a similar issue in his defense of liberals being patriots and real Americans just as much as (if not more so) than conservatives. Herbert writes about something Mitt Romney said ("Liberals don't have a clue") during the Republican National Convention:
Why liberals don’t stand up to this garbage, I don’t know. Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals—from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers—the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today.
And I would argue that without the contribution of the cities and of the values of tolerance, acceptance, and civil rights that the U.S. would be a much, much worse place than it is today. I don't know, either, why liberals "don't stand up to this garbage," fight back. One reason of course in this campaign is that Barack Obama has set out to really change the tenor of the public debate; to not descend to the level of Sarah Palin's mean, sniping, red-meat attack during her acceptance speech at the RNC. And that's good. I think Barack is pursuing the higher path.

But Jay-Z, in his song "Justify My Thug," off 2003's The Black Album, makes a good point—One that Malcolm X might have agreed with, and that I in some ways agree with as well. Jay-Z raps:
They say an eye for an eye, we both lose our sight
And two wrongs don't make a right
But when you been wrong and you know all along that it's just one life
At what point does one fight? (Good question, right?)
Part of me wants to say it's time for Democrats to fight back, to be all like, "Y'know what, Republicans? Fuck you. Fuck you, Alaska. We did this and this and this and you are the party of the past and your time is dying and falling away. We represent the cities, where 80 percent (and growing) of Americans now live. We represent the spirit of progress, tolerance, and learning. We represent the future, and we represent a proud, strong America; and henceforth we refuse to be labeled as unpatriotic or bad Americans."

I don't know. That's probably wrong—in fact I'm sure it is—but I still want to say it. I do think, though, that liberals need to take back that word, to proudly claim their heritage and no longer allow themselves to be marginalized by Republicans and their so-called "heartland" values.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Well then allow me to retort

My dad told me last night that my brother Jacob's blog had blown up a bit, comments-wise, after his recent post endorsing Barack Obama. So I went there, read the comments, and now have a few responses for Messrs. Skelly and Fatt.

Regarding Obama's supposed lack of experience, here’s a bit of a history lesson:

1983: Obama graduates with a degree in political science (with an emphasis in international relations and a thesis on Soviet disarmament) from Columbia University.

1985: Obama moves to Chicago and becomes a community organizer with a church-based group dedicated to improving living conditions in poor neighborhoods. (Hmm … that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I bet Jesus would like this guy and his efforts. You know, Jesus? The guy about which Obama said, earlier this year in Christianity Today magazine, the following?:
“I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful.”
Y’know, that guy.

Moving on:

1988: Barack Obama matriculates at Harvard Law School.

1990: Becomes first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

1991: Graduates magna cum laude from Harvard Law.

1991: Rather than taking a cherry, high-paying job at a prestigious law firm (which, as a magna cum laude graduate from Harvard Law, he certainly could have), Obama instead chooses to move back to Chicago and work as a civil rights lawyer and a constitutional law professor. He also runs Project Vote, which gets 150,000 people registered to vote in the 1992 election.

1996: Elected to the Illinois State Senate. Serves for eight years, during which time he sponsors 233 bills on health care and public health and 125 bills on poverty and public assistance, among many others.

2002: Makes speech against pursuing war against Iraq. You know, Iraq? The country that didn’t attack us on 9/11 and that didn’t, it turns out, have any weapons of mass destruction? Weapons of mass destruction being, of course, the entire reason given to the American public for the Iraq War in the first place. (There weren’t any.)

2004: Elected to U.S. Senate. Serves on the Committee on Foreign Relations; the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Sponsors 121 bills and co-sponsors 490 bills since taking office in January 2005. Misses 303 votes in the Senate during this time—117 votes less than John McCain, who missed 109 more votes than Senator Tim Johnson, who had a brain hemorrhage in December of ’06. That’s right: McCain missed more votes than a guy who had a brain hemorrhage.

Now, that should answer the experience question. I am not, of course, saying that John McCain isn’t experienced; of course he is—But “experience” is a slippery metric that doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself. It’s the quality of the experience that matters—not the quantity. I would argue that the quality of Barack Obama’s experience is much better suited than the quality of John McCain’s experience to fixing the problems facing America in the 21st century.

Joe Biden is of course experienced as well. That guy got elected to the Senate when he was 29, which is great—But he’s not a visionary like Obama, and so I think the ticket is in the proper order, Barack on top and Biden in the veep slot.

Quick note: Sarah Palin is not experienced for shit. What was she doing in 1984, a year after Barack graduated from the (Ivy League) Columbia University? She was coming in 2nd in a beauty pageant. Then she went to the University of Idaho and worked as a sportscaster and pitched in with the family fishing business.

This is getting long, so I’ll quickly address the following comment by Skelly, who wrote: “the government is going to be the government, and until they’re stealing my house, burning my clothes, and eating my food - i’ll have a damn good life”

Of course, “they” are not stealing your house—But, according to an editorial in today’s New York Times, “At last count, six million people were expected to default on their mortgages this year and next, putting them at risk of losing their homes unless they can catch up in their payments or catch a break on their loan terms.”

People are losing their homes. Maybe you aren’t, but other people are. And then so what about this?:
This verse enjoins us to care about our neighbor and his or her possible lost home, no matter who or where they are. Biblically, not caring about someone else's foreclosure or mortgage default is clearly not an option.

Now regarding not voting: Of course it is your right to not vote. But I contend that every single vote matters. Sure, one vote in 100 million doesn’t make all that big of a difference—Unless, of course, something happens like it did in Florida in 2000, when the national election was decided by just over half a million votes.

Finally, we should all desire to vote, because only by voting do we keep Washington accountable. The fewer people vote, the more that corrupt politicians (of which not all of them are, believe it or not) can and will get away with. It’s our responsibility to vote for whom we think would best serve the nation and our fellow citizens, for we are our truly our brothers’ keepers.

Also Obama will lower your taxes:

OK, I'm finished now.