Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Two Americas

Bill Maher recently did a bit on the Eco-friendly packaging of Sun Chips. In its desire to get down with the Go Green marketing trend, Frito-Lay developed a biodegradable bag. It was hoped the new package would alleviate some of the toxic burden traditional polyethylene packaging places on landfills. It was a great idea and a small sign of forward progress in developing environmentally friendly waste management solutions for our conspicuously consumer centric throw away society. Seemed like a good idea until Frito-Lay started to get negative feedback from its customers on its packaging.  The crescendo of noise the crackling bags made was too much for the sensitive ears of Sun Chips consumers. In deference to their clients wishes Frito-Lay scrapped the Eco-friendly packaging and returned to the old polyethylene bags.

Its amazing how a small inconvenience compels us to to cede the pursuit of the better path.  The paths that affirms our better nature and sustains life is abandoned because it is burdensome or makes too much noise.  It pesters our ears, it hectors our comforts.  We prefer to down our cholesterol in the silence of compliant bags rather then suffer the annoyance of a deafening crinkle to protect the environment and save the planet. We take the easier path that confirms the adage “have it your way”.  In America the personal “my way” is the only way.  After all this is America and that is what freedom is all about.  My way or the highway.  Can I get an Amen?

During the holiday season the big stink was about the Transportation Security Authority (TSA).  The news was flush with reports of travelers outraged by how TSA personal were overly intrusive and overstepped the bounds of decency and deportment as they screened exasperated airline passengers trying to board planes. Travelers became angry and ornery complaining about the violation of their person and screamed violent threats at TSA personnel if they “touched their junk”.

I find it a bit curious that the response to this egregious violation of personal liberty fails to call for the repeal of laws that codify the erosion of  our freedoms.  In its stead we learn states are busy passing privilege and immunity laws that confer special rights to certain classes of citizens. The Arizona Immigration law that was enacted earlier in the year burdens Latinos with proving they belong  to be living amongst us.  Its a pathway to a softer kinder Apartheid that codifies a bifurcation of citizenship and the value and validity of a persons humanness.  In its wake the value of liberty and our humanity both plummet.

The notion of Two Americas is not new.  Its just that the glaring injustice  threatening our society is becoming too stark to ignore.  This pernicious sedition is the gravest threat undermining our democracy.  It is a greater threat then any attack Al Qaeda could ever mount on America. In 1962 Michael Harrington wrote “The Other America”.  It was instrumental in publicizing the pervasive poverty that existed in America.  In response to the growing  threat poverty and the cultural and economic fissure it created between the of “haves and have nots,”  the Johnson Administration initiated a war on poverty.  The Great Society legislation was enacted to insure that all citizens are enfranchised with the vote and that a social safety net would catch any citizen from being swallowed by the great divide.  Today such notions are condemned as socialistic and unAmerican.

While the richest 1% of American’s continue to amass great fortunes for themselves gobbling up a disproportionate amount of income the much greater proportion of our countrymen sees its standard of living erode as the Two Americas  drift further apart.  The well off cash their fat dividend checks from a roaring stock market that has less to do with the economic development of America then the self enrichment of capitalist speculators.  The greatest irony is that as they sit atop their piles of cash they remain convinced that their riches confirm the greatness of America and that their wealth is why America remains great.

When President Obama took office the country was in a terrible state.  Two wars were raging, unemployment was spiraling upward, foreclosures were throwing millions of Americans out of their homes and an epidemic of small business bankruptcies was a plague ravishing Main Street USA.   During times like these you would think patriotic minded citizens would come together to aid the country in its dire hour of need; but the GOP led a virulent opposition whose single goal was Obama’s failure.  Their obstructionism added distance to the divide and America suffers for it.  The ugliness of the debates concerning Health Care Reform spurred the creation of a political dialog that delegitimatized governing institutions.  It  made the ability to reach consensus impossible and prompted threats that Second Amendment solutions would be considered to remedy ill considered legislation.

In the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre, we dusted off the old debate about gun control and wheeled it on to center stage again.  Many believe that the mentally ill murderer should have not been allowed to purchase a semi-automatic Glock and the 30 round clip that served to enlarge the scope of Jared Loughner’s terrible carnage.

All are thankful for Gabrielle Gifford’s miraculous recovery from her head wound.  All hope for a speedy and full recovery of the thirteen wounded and offer condolences to the six citizens whose lives were senselessly ended.  But all don’t believe the availability of guns should be restricted.  In fact many believe that had more citizens been armed the death toll of innocents would not have been as great because it would have included Jared Loughner before he could finish his grim work.  I’m not so sure.  I believe it more likely that a widely armed citizenry encourages wanton barbarity then the well considered promotion of dispassionate civic discourse.

Differences of opinion are critical to a healthy society.  The ability to have dialog and assimilate differences in a shared consensus in service to country is what makes democracies the best form of government.

If we are a people who prize freedom we cannot be complicit accomplishes in ceding our liberties.   We must be vigilant missionaries seeking to enlarge the pallet of liberty for all  people.  Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality” Affirming a respect for our shared humanity, equal rights of citizenship and sense of duty to one another in service to our country and democratic way of life is how we breech the walls that divide us and bridge the fissures that separate.  These are the characteristics of  a great nation and protecting them serves to maintain the greatness of its people.  It is how out of many becomes one.  It may require that you put up with the annoying noise of a loud obnoxious windbag but the savory delight of the bread of freedom is well worth it.

You Tube Music Video:  Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Freedom Now Suite, We Insist

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, culture, consensus

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, democracy, homelessness, MLK, Obama, poverty, recession, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michele Bachmann’s Handfull of Subpoenas

Michelle Bachmann recently advanced the idea that the new congress needs to go to Washington with a hand full of subpoenas to fully uncover and punish the criminal behavior of the Obama Administration.   Why does she want to do this?  Why does the Chairwoman of the Republican Tea Party Caucus think this is a good idea?

During President Clinton’s second term the GOP’s extreme partisanship led to impeachment proceedings and severely hampered the effectiveness of our government and its Chief Executive.  This distraction may have made some political hay for Republicans but crippled our Chief Executive’s ability to focus on and deal with the growing terror threat Al-Qaeda was preparing to launch against our country.  The GOP’s actions provided support, aid, cover and comfort to the terrorists and heightened our country’s vulnerability to attack.  Perhaps we should investigate their activities and motives for effectively becoming a Fifth Column for the Evil Doers?

Earlier in the year, Ms. Bachmann’s suggested to Chris Matthews that we should investigate the UnAmerican activities of congress and senate members to root out and expose those who hate America and are actively working for its destruction.  I’m not so sure about this; it may lead to the mass imprisonment of  the Republicans who obstructed President Clinton’s ability to perform his duties as Commander and Chief. With the GOP gone it would be impossible to form a consensus to effectively govern the nation so I’m kinda lukewarm on this one.  After all President Obama and the ruling democrats rely on the good will of the loyal opposition GOP party to show the country that democracy works and that we can all get along.

But because I don’t think Ms. Bachmann’s idea is a good one doesn’t make it bad. After all I’m coming from a pretty partisan place myself.  So in the spirit of consensus building I’m trying to understand why she would propose such a thing.  Though its a dangerous and scary place to visit, I have tried to get inside Ms. Bachmann’s mind to understand her reasoning why she thinks the congress should spend the next session investigating members for crimes against the republic.

I have comprised a list of 13 reasons as to why Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party may think this is a good idea for the country.  Please feel free to add your own.

1. Because its fun to shut the Federal Government down (ask Newt Gingrich)
2. It will heighten partisanship to levels yet unseen
3. Obstructionism is their preferred style of governance
4. Dissent is dangerous to a democracy
(America is long over due for another round of McCarthyism)
5. Enemy combatants sitting in congress must be imprisoned
6. It will demonstrate reactionary street cred
7. Sean Hannity thinks its a good idea
8. Rush Limbaugh thinks its a great idea
9. Glenn Beck tearfully pleads to show no quarter to “Wilsonian Reprobates”
10. Compromise/consensus forming is for sissies
11. Its how Michele Bachmann Mans Up and shows her pair
12. It plays well on Talk Radio and to the rabid dogs in the TP howling for fresh meat
13. 2012 GOP can say we did our best under trying circumstances now give us the White House and Senate. We’ll finish the job. Rove calls it the Coup de Grace campaign. A final silver bullet to the head of the democrats, democratic consensus and Federalism paid and financed by serious 527 money.

You Tube Video: Edvard Grieg, In the Hall of the Mountain King

Risk: consensus, governance, democracy

November 13, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, Clinton, conservatism, democracy, democrats, Federalism, government, politics, republicans, Tea Party, terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Deserve Better (2): The Damnation of the Democrats

A few days after President Obama took office I remember him emerging from a meeting at the Pentagon.  The summit was arranged to brief the Commander In Chief on the progress of the wars and to assure the nation that the new president was in-sync with his generals and admirals charged with running the war.  Emerging from the highly publicized meeting America’s new war time president stated “as long as the generals take care of what they have to do, we’ll take care of what we have to do.”  I found the statement to be unsettling.  It implied that  the new administration would not alter the course set by the previous administration insuring that the inertia of Bush’s policies and strategies would continue unabated.  On another level Obama’s statement also seemed to suggest an abdication.  I get nervous to think that the Commander in Chief  has ceded civilian control of the greatest military force the world has ever known.  The decision to pursue war or enjoy peace is too delicate a matter to be left to the decisions of an entrenched military-industrial bureaucracy.  The abdication of assertive control, weather its born from the desire to get along, build consensus or a deep seated need for acceptance has been a disturbing custom of Obama’s presidency and the prevailing characteristic of the Democratic Party.

Obama’s easy surrender to established protocols, processes, precedents has been a hallmark of his presidency.  It exemplifies the failure of the Democratic Party’s oppositional legacy to Republican rule during the two previous Bush Administrations.  At every turn, the Democrats gave in to the Republican conservative legislative agenda with little or no dissent.  The Patriot Act, the blind march to  two unnecessary wars, the dismantling of government oversight and regulatory controls on business, the slavish submission to Republican led expenditures or tax cuts in service to corporate welfare and the tepid lip service to the struggle for social justice made the democrats complicit accomplices in America’s dramatic conservative swing.

The democrats failure as an oppositional force to counter the reactionary juggernaut of neo-conservatism has emboldened the reactionary impulses of the ruthless power elites.  Threatened by economic distress and disintegration of our political institutions, Americas ruling  plutocracy has spawned a malevolent Tea Party movement to crush any progressive populism that may arise to counteract their social position, economic power and political sovereignty. The democrats adamant refusal to stand firmly against the destructive impulses of xenophobia and virulent nationalism has allowed an ugly chorus of fear to become our new national anthem.  The resentful voices of suspicion, intolerance and  exclusion grows ever louder each day as emboldened Falangists and neo-fascists take center stage on a surreal  commercial production of American political theater.

In defense of President Obama his presidential campaign and his administration have expressed a deep desire to pursue a political consensus.  This sentiment is admirable and the ability to form a consensus is an absolute and critical virtue to the health of a democratic society.  The freedom to express differing opinions, voice dissent, air grievances, petition, ability to listen, interest to hear, converse, change opinions and assimilate these competing impulses to form a consensus to express the common will are what makes democracies imperfect yet the fairest expression of governance.  Mr. Obama has sought to pursue and build consensus with an opposition Republican Party that has been nothing short of obstructionist since the democrats assumed control of the Executive office.  Rush “Country Firster” Limbaugh said it best “I hope he fails” set the tone and sealed the intractability of Republicans and any possibility of bipartisan cooperation to deal with the critical issues confronting the nation.

Last summers spectacle of town meetings designed to initiate a national conversation on Health Care Reform devolved into a partisan shouting match and an opportunity for the formation of the Tea Party galvanized by propaganda about a socialist takeover of the economy, death panels, and the idea that President Obama was a fascist dictator.  At this point President Obama still took the opportunity to sit down with the leadership of the GOP in a televised discussion to initiate a dialog.  The Consensus Builder in Chief was rebuffed again.  The democrats responded by killing single-payer and backing down on universal health coverage.  The watered down health care reform bill accomplished an extension of coverage for more, but not all Americans and eliminated preexisting conditions as a disqualification for coverage while also extending the power of insurance companies by making it mandatory that all tax payers purchase health insurance.

This reform is not a significant ground breaking legislative event.  President Obama and the democrats should have recognized early on the inability to work a compromise with the obstructionists in the Republican Party.  As is the case with Cap and Trade legislation, rescinding  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending the Iraq and Afghanistan war, financial services reform, TARP and the economic stimulus bill;  the GOP, “Party of No” has done everything in its power to derail the efforts of the democratic party to address the deep problems confronting America.  The Democratic Party should have leveraged its control of the legislative and executive branch of the Federal Government to push through a program for a new America.  The pressing circumstances of history required decisive leadership and bold ideas to address the complex problems confronting America.  FDR’s “New Deal” or Johnson’s “Great Society” were ideas accompanied by innovative legislation to solve systemic problems.  The democrats tepid response acquiesced to the conservative demands of the GOP.   The Blue Dog Democrats yelped and barked louder then any rabid GOP hound subverting a robust game changing legislative response to the problems confronting America.

The democrats would again demonstrate their timidity in how they responded to the Gulf Oil Spill.  If the free falling economy was the equivalent of economic Armageddon the Horizon Deep Water catastrophic oil spill was its environmental equivalent.  In each case President Obama fashioned piece meal responses designed not to offend “free market evangelists” for fear of being accused of over reaching.  Both instances provided opportunities to mobilize the nation and its significant resources in these titanic tests of national resolve.  In both instances the cojones challenged donkeys failed to seize the reins of state to wield its power.  I am still shocked by images of Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein pulling the strings on Timothy Geithner like a marionette to exact concessions during the banking crisis.  Or consider the high profile of BP CEO,  Tony “I want my life back” Hayward mounting a $50 million PR campaign to quell any concerns that the benevolence of corporate capitalism will eventually “set things right.”    The Republicans turned this into President Obama’s Katrina with Bobby “don’t spend no stim in Louisiana” Jindal taking the EPA to court for declaring a moratorium on deep water drilling.  And the fattest of fat cats Republican Mississippi Governor Haley “rebuild the casinos first” Barbour shaming Obama to spend a portion of his non- Martha Vineyard family vacation swimming in the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a PR disaster for President Obama because he failed to act with the resolve or manner of a strong decisive leader.

But now as the midterms approach the democrats must answer to a crumbling alliance of constituencies that they have taken for granted and failed to help.  They are unable to see  constituents as anything other then a demographic voting block devoid of a face, personality or soul.  The democrats see stereotypes not people.  Labor unions are blue collar voters that now approximate 7% of registered voters.  This year the democratic controlled legislature failed to act on Card Check legislation that would protect the right of labor unions to vote and organize non-union companies.  Another important constituency of the Democratic Party is the LGBT community.  The military said it would comply with the decision of a California District Court  that overturned Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Incredibly, President Obama’s Attorney General appealed the decision and asked the court to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Teacher unions are also big supporters of the Democratic Party, but many democrats support school vouchers and Charter Schools and seem unconcerned that financial and institutional support of public schools continues to erode.  Working class families and woman  are under severe distress as unemployment rates approach 10%, home foreclosures rise , spiraling cost of living increases spike, the cost of sending kids to college slip out of reach and a marked erosion in quality of life and expectations for a secure future and comfortable retirement evaporate.    The democrats did little to solve these pressing problems save the offer of cheap lip service that they understand their pain.  Charlie Rangel secure in the refuge of his four rent controlled apartments will not feel the cold experienced by a homeless mother and her children this winter;  nor will Hillary Clinton lose any sleep worrying about  deploying Chelsea to fight an incomprehensible war in Afghanistan.

This mid term election democratic candidates are running away from their unpopular president.  They will run on a platform of tax cuts and appear as local election district manifestations of gun toting patriotic Christophanies.  The poverty of a party with no conviction of principle is made plain.  Having no principles, Democrats have not offered a true alternative to reactionary Republicanism.  Nearsightedness has robbed them of a vision for a new republic.  They offer no demarcation with the broken policies that preceded their rule.  The hallmark of their governance has been the complete compromise with an recalcitrant opposition; content to administer a broken and corrupt apparatus rather then chart a new path.  The democrats remain shining examples of self serving politicians retuning to office  on mythical inertia to secure rent controlled apartments while public housing remains an endangered and dear want for many.  They believe themselves to be righteously led by the presiding shame of a president made possible by an epic civil rights struggle who cannot muster the fortitude or conviction to extend the equal right of marriage for one of his liberal constituencies.

We deserve better.

You tube Music Video: Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Compared to What

Risk: democracy, two party political system, liberalism

 

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Bush, conservatism, culture, democracy, democrats, environment, labor, LGBT, Obama, politics, recession, republicans, social justice, TARP, taxation, Tea Party, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment