Sunday, December 28, 2008

Save the Past, Imperil the Future

Nature abhors a vacuum: An old axiom, but apropos to the current financial crisis, and the hand-wringing that has become the national response. the question du jour - "do we bail out the auto companies?" Most normal people say, "No." The rest - most of those who speak for the normal people (i.e. Congress) - say, "Yes, we have no choice. If the auto companies fail, 2.5 million jobs nationwide will follow." Sounds like the same old fear-mongers to me; like those who tried to scare America into invading Iraq. Now they seek to make us fear the natural cycle of change.

America's car companies have been badly mismanaged and are in need of restructuring. This restructuring need not be base upon senators and representatives dictating to companies who stay and who go, but rather on a tried and true system - Chapter 11, a basic tool of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 11 automatically governs corporate reorganization. Here, there is no need for fat-cats on Capitol Hill playing god - deciding who sinks and who swims. (How amazingly pretentious, and transparent they are, like children playing a board game.)

Besides, the U.S. doesn't need a Big Three. Perhaps it is time for a Big Two...or a Big One, along with three or four new companies competing to produce cars designed for the future. What's wrong with that?

Let the vacuum happen naturally, and just as naturally, let true entrepreneurs fill that vacuum. There is money enough and smarts enough in this great country to fill any vacuum. So what if current suppliers go under? New suppliers will rise up, just as new automakers will rise up to replace the old.

Would we save the dinosaurs at the risk of imperiling the evolution of mammals? Likewise, are we to save GM at the risk of imperiling the development of truly 21st century machines?

This country does not owe the Big Three; neither does it owe current autoworkers. We are all employees, and are all subject to the same laws of change.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dumbing Down Two Raggedy Wars

Bush's war on terror has been a disaster. We lost 3,000 Americans on 911. In the ensuing War of Retaliation, we lost another 5,000 Americans, and have brought on the death of over 100,000 Iraqis and Afghans, most of whom were innocent civilians. Still, Al Quaeda exists in places it never did before the war - most notably Iraq - and they continue to carry out attacks on targets worldwide.

Some point to no further attacks on American soil as a sign of success. No, that is merely a sign of due diligence. If Bush had applied due diligence before 911, then 911 never would have happened. (The signs were there - the warnings were ignored).

Now, the Bush administration has signed an accord with Iraq for a withdrawal (based on a timeline) - what this administration has sneered at all along as a "date of surrender." They can call it what they will; I will simply call it "inevitable." We must leave Iraq. We must also leave Afghanistan.

President-elect Obama is suggesting that he will escalate the struggle in Afghanistan, "to get Al Quaeda." If he does, then he will show that he has bought into Bush's failed rhetoric.

We have punished Al Quaeda for 911, and we have punished the Taliban for harboring Al Quaeda. If America's leaders think now that they must "wipe them all out," then they are sadly mistaken. They just as soon wipe out the very hills and mountains of Afghanistan than to wipe out all of their young lions. The Russians tried with 150,000 troops, and then left with their tails between their legs. Obama with his 50,000 will do the same.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Madame Secretary

So, Hillary has taken the job: Secretary of State. Good for her. It is good for her. People say, "But Hillary like being a senator." They all like being senators. It looks good; it sounds good. But, next to "Secretary of State," being a senator is like being a statue in Central Park. Senators are all process and procedures, votes and counter-votes. Secretaries of State are spearheads into the flesh of history.
What does Hillary want? She wants to make history.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vive L' Obama!

On December 7, 1941, after Japan's successful attack on Pearl Harbor, a somber Admiral Yamamoto uttered these prophetic words, "I fear we have wakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."

Sixty-seven years later, America has elected its first black president, Barack Obama. African-Americans came out in droves to assure that victory. They have been singularly disciplined this election cycle, and profoundly effective. Along this road to history - in what some may call "a detour" - 7 out of 10 African-Americans voted down gay marriage in California.

In a microcosmic way, that "California" vote has generated its own seismic thunder. Ellen DeGeneres is "crushed." John Stewart of "The Daily Show" wonders whether "the oppressed has become the oppressor."

Could it be that Barack Obama has shaken African-America from its slumber? Having long shirked its responsibilities - from letting its neighborhoods fall into disrepair, to failing to tell it sons to "pull up your pants" - is this troubled community now inspired by the president-elect and filled with a new resolve? Let us all pray that it is.

Despite the gay community being up in arms, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. Voting in such large numbers (70%) to disallow gay marriage is not about blacks flexing their muscles. Rather, it is an affirmation of the deep-seated conservative values they have held all along. This stand has less to do with gay rights, and more to do with a greater paradigm - the union of man and woman. That institution must be held above all other rights of man. It is a matter of survival.

The French have a saying: "Vive la difference!" (veev lah dee-fay-rawnss) or "Long live the difference!" (between the sexes). Could that "California" vote to ban gay marriage have been a vote for "la difference," and the survival of the species?

Today we challenge gay marriage. Tomorrow, will we have the resolve to challenge drug dealers and drive-by shooters - and the many other forms of chaos and indolence that would profane our families and threaten the survival of our communities? Entertainers for so long, are we now ready to take on the mantle of "man"? If so, then all I have to say is, "Vive L' Obama!"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just Published: The King of Pearl

The King of Pearl is now available. Order your copy today!

Here is a quick overview to wet your appetite:

Sirius Boa has night sight-an uncanny way of affixing to inanimate objects that which lets him see them in the dark. He first became aware of this talent during a midnight raid on a chicken coop. As he matured, he honed this faculty until he could imbue an ottoman with the aura he once bestowed upon anthills. He calls it, "giving breath, then space."
He has other talents besides-he can discern faint whisperings. But it is his night sight that will guide him in his battle against the terrible dark that has descended upon the Rouen countryside.

This is the story of Sirius Boa, an American called to Rouen to help heal a stricken friend. It is the story of Giselda, the mysterious Gypsy he befriends, and of Madame de la Plume, doleful mistress of the magnificent and tragic Briand estate.

This is the story of a haunting, and of an entity that has existed upon the plains of central France for millennia. It is the story of two people who find each other in the midst of this haunting, and of a third person who is part lover, part hater, and part key to their very survival.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Doing It With Mirrors

What can a thousand billion dollars be worth when it issues from a ten thousand billion dollar debt? More to the point: How much will the few remaining dollars in our pockets be worth once that ungodly sum floods the market?

We're not out of the woods; we're not even moving in the right direction. Rather, we stand still, at a crossroads, so to speak, looking down a narrowing way. That is the easy way - the way to our desires. It has always been the wider road, with its endless possibilities and its wide cliffs. The cliff remains wide. The road, itself, has narrowed.

Let us understand this: There is obvious value in the buildings we live and work in, and in the land those buildings stand upon. There is value in the products that come out of those buildings, and in the services rendered when we enter them. The land upon which we grow our crops has great value. We can put our arms around these things.

What we can not put our arms around is 85 billion dollars to AIG, over 100 billion to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, 25 billion to GM, 20 to Bear Stearns, 750 billion to the bail out, 150 billion to the stimulus - we're talking real dollars, right? We have a ten trillion dollar debt, yet we can prop up these fooolish banks and failing businesses with a thousand billion dollars? Is that real money? Sounds like monopoly money to me.

Throwing money around like it's paper is no way to climb out of a financial hole. Rather, it is an attempt to buy our way out - that is, to "credit" our way out, (although "credit" is what has gotten us here.)

Trying to do it with credit is like doing it with mirrors - simply more illusion. It is like we have gone into the Fun House and have gotten lost. "Send in more clowns," we say, "and more mirrors."

There are signs that some of us are trying to make an adjustment. I hear "lay-aways" are coming back, and people are driving less - taking less joy rides and more walks. That's a start. It will take a lot more of the same - the walking, the saving, the sacrificing; the spending of "earned" dollars instead of "free" (i.e., fake) ones.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You Go Girl!

Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire Primary. They say it was her strategic show of emotion that saved the day. I say: Her tears won her the primary but may have lost her everything else.

That mist moment came in a New Hampshire cafe when Hillary thought she was hopelessly behind Barack Obama in the polls. She was feeling sorry for herself, and let her tell it, feeling sorry for the American people. It was a watershed moment that some pundits believe turned a 10-point Clinton deficit into a 3-point win - an unprecedented one-day swing, especially considering Obama had done nothing noticeably wrong to lose the vote, and Clinton had done nothing noticeably right to win it...except to cry.

What does it say about us when we are driven by fear in on election (2004) and by tears in the next (2008)? It does not bode well for the world when the pre-eminent standard bearer of democracy persists in voting out of weakness.

Barack Obama speaks of bridging the great divide. His message of change crosses lines of race, politics, and nations. It is a promise he cannot deliver himself; only we, the people, can fulfill that promise. Obama promises to help.

Hillary pooh-poohs Obama's message - calls it "just words." "Just words"? Where would America be without its words? Do we think the American Revolution could have been fought and won without Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death"? How could Americans (and the world) put the slaughter of the Civil War into perspective without Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? The words of great Americans resound through the centuries, assuring us, and moving us forward.

For those women who are inspired by Obama "words," but feel desperately bound by the bonds of sisterhood, you might consider this:

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr stood within shouting distance of the White House and delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech. Two weeks later, racist white men tossed a bomb through a church window in Birmingham, Alabama killing four young African-American girls. It is a stain on this land that cannot be erased, except it be erased by a sight that warms our hearts with a clarity equal to the hateful act that broke out hearts 45 years ago.

Today, two young African-American sisters by the name of "Obama" move inexorably toward the steps of that same White House. And you thought Hillary was the most important female in this campaign. Au contraire, female voters of America. That distinction belongs to you - you desperate housewives - and to the little Obama girls.

Monday, October 27, 2008

La Famille

In the movie "Godfather III" Michael Corleone stands at the cusp of legitimacy. Then a violent act drives his family back into its past. The Don laments: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

In the real world, Alaskan senator, Ted Stevens, is on trial, charged with accepting gifts (including expensive home renovations), and lying on senate financial disclosure forms. He asked Colin Powell to vouch for his character. Mr. Powell did just that.

It was not that long ago that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield, and the gang needed some vouching for - somebody with the "creds" to assure the world that Bush's headlong rush to war with Iraq was legit. As Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell made the case with his presentation to UN of "mobile weapons labs" and other such evidence of Saddam's WMD program - a program that, in reality, did not exist. Thanks to his "good reputation," Powell was able to convince many that what did not exist, did. this good man sold the world a lie - a lie that cost 100,000 lives.

Nothing gnaws at a man like regret. Once the truth began to come out, and Powell realized how he had been used, he rued his critical part in this disastrous war. Too bad. Bush was done with him - this man with a conscience - and soon threw him over for someone (Condoleeza Rice) who had few qualms about keeping the lie alive. Ms. Rice's job: Further galvanize the "Coalition of the Swilling" - that motley collection of countries who sole stake in the Iraq War was what bounty they could reap from the US by joining.

It has been close to four years now, and Powell has steadily recovered what is innately his - his good reputation. It can happen, once you have disconnected yourself from that which is cancer.

Comes the senator, Ted Stevens, ranking "crook" and former chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee: "Colin," he says, "can you vouch for me?"

Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Marching As One

The old bowed tree in front of The Breeze
Where we tested our leap and our mettle
Sitting the tracks with the sun at our backs
Remembering the days, how they settled

Bid whist games when the rains came
The runs too muddy for sledding
Long, country days, we had it our way
And knew just where we were heading...

Marching as one
Woodland Park
Through a land called "Home"
Woodland Park
Through the woods of our birth
That sweet patch of Earth
Where we grew straight and strong

Singing our song
About the woods we would roam
Whether dusty dirt roads
Or blackberry lodes
It's where we belonged
Marching as one
Marching as one
Marching as one...

The back roads know of the heartaches
And promises written in the sand
They know of secrets that only time will tell
Of enchanted nights hand in hand

We praise above for these woods we love
Its moonlit nights on the beach
For the flowers that bloom in its April room
And memories that make us complete...

Marching as one
Woodland Park
Through a land called "Home"
Woodland Park
Through the woods of our birth
That sweet patch of Earth
Where we grew straight and strong

Singing our song
About the woods we would roam
Whether dusty dirt roads
Or blackberry lodes
It's where we belonged

Coming on strong
Thinking 'bout those we've known
All the people who've stayed
Or just came and played
They made this a home

Oh, the people we've known
How their spirits have flown
Come on back inside
This door's open wide
It's always your home

Marching as one
Through a land called "Home"
Through the good and the bad
The sound and the mad
What a place to belong

Marching as one
Through a land called "Home"
Through the good and the bad
The sound and the mad
What a place to belong...

(Dedicated to Josephine Carter-Toliver)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Get the Shotgun!

Sarah Palin is quite a woman...she is just out of touch with America. Her insistence that two 17 year olds marry because one of them comes up pregnant is right out of the...Middle Ages...of America. We don't do that to our children anymore - pretend that they are adults and, therefore "ready," simply because one makes the other pregnant. For one thing, 17 year olds today are not what they were 50 years ago. Today's 17 year old is more like yesterday's 14 year old.

Perhaps it is a cultural thing. Perhaps they still do that in Alaska. Okay. That's cool. I like Alaska. But it's not cool when you bring that kind of talk down to the lower contiguous states.

Sarah, let's talk: I'm not mad at you. I like that good "old time religion." But it does not play the same down here. What I'm saying is: We are not going back. John McCain is an "old dog," and you, Sarah, are old-fashioned. Neither of you the future America. He marches in beat with, not only what is the natural rhythm of this country, but with it inevitable destiny.

You are beautiful, Sarah - a natural governor...of Alaska. That great state is fortunate to have you your fine family. But America moves in a different direction. Barack Obama understands this.

Whether you and McCain defeat Barack Obama or not, it will still be Barack's vision that prevails. All that you and McCain can do is slow America down; you cannot stop it.

America will move in Barack's direction with or without Barack Obama. It will move in Barack's direction with or without Palin and McCain.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wall Street - Shop of Horrors

"...Then everything shall include itself into power, power into will, will into appetite, and appetite, a universal wolf so doubly seconded with will and power that must make perforce a universal prey, and last eat up himself...
- Shakespeare, "Troilus and Cressida"

Wall Street is hungry. It wants money. And America's business and political leaders are frantic to feed it.

It all reminds me of the Hollywood classic, "The Little Shop of Horrors," when the man-eating plant cries out, "Feed me." Today, this modern shop of horrors we refer to as Wall Street is crying out, "Feed me...feed me, or else." It wants that 700 million dollars, and it wants it now! To make its point, when denied its sustenance on Monday by those "awful people on Capitol Hill," it gobbled up 1.2 trillion dollars itself - gone! Feed me.

Wall Street will get its money because the people in charge of the money are afraid of Wall Street. And the big shots that got rich before will get rich later. That money is theirs - they know it - and they are already formulating their strategies to get it. Forget about the taxpayer. When he signs over that 700 billion to Wall Street, that is the last he will ever see of it.

It is time the lowly taxpayer returned to his senses - stop trying to be that which you are not. Start thinking of yourselves - not in terms of Wall Street and fat cats, but in terms of real life and real ideals. Become more self-sufficient. Let Wall Street do what Wall Street does - parade itself around as the picture of prosperity, when in fact it is the picture of greed. Let the illusion be.

It is time real people began to earn real dollars again by doing real work - by saving, by sacrificing, and by denying themselves that which they want but do not need. Don't let Wall Street devour you. Let it devour itself; it will. Your job will be to keep your family at a safe distance.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Be a Man: Burst Your Own Bubble

The politicians have it wrong, and purposely so. They tell us it is the bank executives and the Wall Street hotshots who have created this financial mess. Of course, these high-end muckety-mucks are complicit in this sordid affair. But the biggest culprit is the average consumer, and his utter determination to get something for nothing.

Even now, the politicians are setting the stage for more of the same. They are about to create a "magic bank" wherein much of our bad debt will fit. What will be left, theoretically, is good debt - debt that represents the true value, not only of our actual transactions, but interestingly, of what we can afford.

Yes, what we cannot afford goes into the "magic bank." No penalty for our sins? Well, yes, there will be a penalty - we hear about it all of the time - "the taxpayer will pay." Okay. But what does that mean? It means money each of us has paid in taxes will be used to sop up that bad debt. Funny, how ambivalent it all feels - we believe them, and we resent the notion that "the taxpayer (me) will pay," but we don't feel it - not really. It doesn't hurt.

In fact, we are released, as it were, from our sins, and then are told to get out there and sin some more - i.e., spend, spend, spend - as though nothing has happened; all in order to perpetuate the illusion of prosperity. People will be encouraged to buy more homes, more cars, more furs and diamonds, and more plane tickets to anywhere, simply because that is what makes us rich - spending. What?

Stop it! This is not simply a mortgage mess; it is a credit mess. We have bought too much of what we do not need and cannot afford. Buying things we cannot afford - even holding a credit card - gives us the illusion of success. "Success" is really what we all want. Many of us, failing at financial success," settle for the illusion of success, which is credit.

The politicians and other so called "leaders" need to be telling us, "If you don't need to go to Chicago, don't go. If you can't afford dinner at Andre's, go to Popeye's; better yet, cook. If you don't have it don't spend it!"

Why won't they tell us this? They don't have the hearts to burst our pretty little bubbles. So I say to you what I say to my beloved sons and daughters; Burst your own bubble. You're man enough; you're woman enough. Burst it. You will not die. You will simply begin to live like real men and women.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bound for Alaska

The number one rule of Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power" is: Never outshine the Master. John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, has already broken it. At a campaign rally in Ohio, just the other day, when Palin gave up the podium to McCain, people began to leave the room.

Here is the disconnect between the McCain campaign and the people who would vote for him: They like McCain just barely; they like Palin a lot. But, alas, she is only to be his vice-president. Many people seem to think there is more in store for her than for the others - those who have disappeared, many not so mysteriously, into the night. But no, there is less. If you thought other VP's were invisible, you haven't see anything until you see Palin get "bunkerized."

If McCain wins, Palin just as well move back to Alaska. People will not see her, not hear her, except on ceremonial occasions, and on the occasional Sunday morning talk show. McCain is playing time with a fiddle, hoping that he can keep the wool pulled down over the people's eyes - dangling the bait, as it is - long enough to get in. If he is elected, Palin goes back in the box.

"Enough is enough," he shall declare. (He will be talking about Palin hogging the light.)

John McCain thinks he is a rock star - he has always considered himself to be a rock star, and always will, no matter how decrepit he gets. The truth: there are only two rock stars in this election: Obama and Palin. Hilary used to be a rock star, but those days are gone. Haven't you noticed? Even her hair has fallen.

Now they are asking Hillary to campaign for Obama. Sorry, folks, it won't work. Hillary is a tragic figure now; it pains the very people she would convince to even look her way.

Back to Palin: Get your looks in now. Win or lose, she is on her way back to Alaska.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Boys of Walkerville

Barack Obama doesn't quite get it. The voter he has the hardest time reaching is the white man in the blue-collar. Now, I see why.

On the third night of the Republican National Convention, Romney, Guiliani, - and especially Sarah Palin - gave Obama a good old fashioned political lashing. At a campaign stop in Pennsylvania the following day, a man stood up and asked Obama how he would respond. Basically, Obama told the guy, "I won't." The man appeared disappointed.

Over the next 50 days, Barack Obama will be campaigning in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, and yes, Pennsylvania again, looking to connect with that same breed of man - the one who asked, "What are you going to do about it?" That man is blue collar America. He doesn't care about college degrees and bestsellers. He wants to know, "Are you going to hit them back?"

There is something primal about a man who regards a willingness to fight as the hole card that stands between him and eternity. It defines him like nothing else. He is secure there. For that man, fancy adds will not do.

I grew up in Woodland Park, Michigan, a small African-American enclave in Newaygo County. Woodland Park is banked on three sides by white communities; at is back, M-37. One of those communities, Walkerville, is just west of "the Park."

Most of the men of Walkerville were farmers back when I was coming up, and baseball players, and fighters. They were good men, tough men. And though it was during the 50's and the 60's, when race relations were tenuous nationwide, the men of Walkerville respected the men of Woodland Park because the men of Woodland Park would fight.

Chances are that most of the men of Walkerville are leaning toward John McCain in this election. I didn't know that for certain yesterday. But after seeing Obama turn the other cheek, I'm pretty sure today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Trash Taking Trash From Trash

There is already something empty about this latest OJ Simpson saga. We can't see the victim. The victim in a crime is most often the rallying point, the source of heat and light that inspires us, and stokes the wheels of justice. Absent a victim, we settle for the colder standard - the law itself, and for our need to see the law upheld. The legal problem with this case is that it is fueled by Simpson's cohorts' alleged possession of a gun that was neither fired nor wielded in any way that left so much as a bruise. In a society where there are estimated to be 100 million guns, our outrage much logically be muted.

That aside, what we have is all rather seedy: a gathering of thugs in a Vegas hotel room - thieves among thieves. There are no innocents here. Victim? The so-called "victims" look like rejects from a Sopranos re-run (...woke up this morning, got yourself a gun...). You almost want to say, "Hey, turn it into a made-for-television movie, then turn the channel." That may be all that it is good for. Except, a law was broken.

That O.J. is charged with eleven offenses further adds to the circus nature of these proceedings. One legal correspondent compares the charges brought against O.J. to an exercise a law professor might present to his students: "I give you a circumstance, you find as many charges as possible." In reality, what we have is trash taking trash from trash. (A memorabilia expert estimates the entire worth of the property in question to be no more than $1500). The crime is that grown men would be fighting over something so trivial.

When we are faced with a crime, we are faced with these three truths: Before us, the victim; besides us, the law; and behind us, our own pressing need for vengeance. At the end of what many are calling "O.J. III," I fear all we will be left with is the last and least of the three - and we shall all be the worse for calling it "satisfaction."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Panicked McCain Picks Palin

Back in the 60s, Motown's Martha and the Vandella's sang, "Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things." Perhaps that helps explain McCain's Palin pick: Love. Why else would he take 60 years of Republican national security bravado and stand it on its head? And we're not talking just any "love", either. No, he did this after one meeting with Palin. That qualifies as "Love at first sight."

Seriously, in one fell swoop, McCain took what he considered to be his best argument against Obama - Obama's youth and inexperience - and tossed it out the window. By picking a V.P. younger than Obama, and with less foreign policy experience, and then placing here to within a breath of the presidency, he tells America "Experience is overrated; ('cute' is far more important)." In the land of "American Idol" and MTV, he may be right.

On the last day of the Democratic National Convention, McCain watched an NFL stadium fill to the rafters, and then learned that another 40 million Americans had tuned in...just to hear Obama speak. That's when he decided, "I can't beat this man...not unless I go nuclear." He panicked.

McCain got so caught up in his own captious railings against Obama's celebrity that he convinced himself he needed a celebrity, too. So, he picked Palin who has a darling little girl, to boot. (Haven't you noticed? America loves little girls in the White House. Witness Caroline, Amy, Chelsea, the Bush twins, and on the horizon, Sasha and Malilah). McCain saw Sasha and Malilah on that stage with their father. He panicked.

Nonetheless, there are practical reasons for the Palin pick. She is to the right of McCain. That pleases the Republican base to no end, many of whom see McCain as a default choice. Strange, however, that McCain would hold Palin up as the Hillary alternate - a crass way of wooing Hillary diehards. In essence, he is saying to the feminist left, "Look what I have for you." These women, who fiercely value their right to choose, must ask McCain, "Are you serious?"

Could it be that McCain is far more shallow - and reckless - than many of us had imagined? He certainly appears to not know what he is doing from one day to the next. Fortunately, when a candidate flies his campaign by the seat of his pants, it gives America time to wonder if he would run the White House the same way.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Daddy Was A Body Slammer

My daddy was a body-slammer
But more than that to me
He'd tell a tale as soon as bat a ball
or fell a tree

And with those hands I've seen him build
Outhouses out of sand
And often wondered:
As a child, were you sill a man?

And was there any sense at all
In waiting for the rest?
When to this world you gave your all
For sure, you gave your best

And though we feel cheated, still
It's life a summer's day
That pretty soon shall find its end
You went and chose your way

And no different than the man he was
Is the man he'll ever be
We know him - all - by many names
But most by "Marion C."

And in his wake, we'll seek to live
For living is a must
And, yes, he was a body slammer
But more than that to us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hillary, Bill, and the Vice Presidency: Why It Won't Happen

In the western classic, The Culpepper Cattle Co., a young man joins a cattle drive and lands a job as the cook's helper. The trail boss tells him, "See the cook and tell him you're going to be his Little Mary." That's what they called cooks' helpers back then. I wonder what they will call men today whose wives become vice presidents.
Would Hillary make a good vice president? That would depend on your definition of "good." She would certainly be one of the most hardworking and ambitious vice-presidents. Whether she would be loyal and cooperative is another matter. Toward the end of the primaries, Bill Clinton suggested that Hillary, based upon her strong performance in the primaries, had "earned a spot" on the ticket. That doesn't help. A vice-president that feels entitled is more likely to be independent and self-assured. Vice presidents, above all, must be grateful.
Hillary's upside: She brings voters - women, older people, Hispanics, and blue collar workers; she brings drama, too. Yes, there will be drama. We've seen the previews - smashing! Remember "misty" in New Hampshire and "Shame on you, Barak!" in Ohio. In a mischievous kind of way, we want more. She promises more. Throw in a couple of "Where is Bill (and what is he doings)?" and an Obama-Clinton ticket promises entertainment on a grand scale.
But, what about Bill? Bill Clinton is big. He has his presidential library, his bestseller, speaking engagements, and mega-deals with foreign entities - whether it be free traders in Columbia or uranium deals in Kazakhstan. He is a millionaire one hundred times over, and a major player on the world stage. And throw in this understated fact: In the past 40 years, there have been three democratic administrations. Bill has headed two of them.
Why in the world would he chance being Barack and Hillary's "Little Mary" when his is already Big Bill?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pigmeat Did It!! (Yeah, but he was funny)

There was a time when smokers enjoyed free range to smoke anywhere and every where they chose. If nonsmokers didn't like ti, they had one choice: Move. Then, we passed laws that banned smoking in public places, and individually, we became emboldened - we challenged smokers.
Before being challenged many smokers were oblivious to the discomfort they caused others. It was all about them. Today, a lot of smokers still don't care; but we do. The surgeon general says we have good reason to care: Second-hand smoke is hazardous to our health.
Comes another scourge: public profanity. During the 50's and 60's, when smokers were suave and debonair, we frowned upon public profanity - considered it the refuge of the vulgar and ill-bred. Now that we have closed the door on smoking in public places, we seem to have opened it wider for profanity. It is not that profanity doesn't bother people; it does. (Nothing worse can come from our mouths than profane and vulgar language. It is like someone farting in a room. It does not affect our physical health like second-hand smoke, but it deeply affects our sensibilities.) Rather, something is going missing in our lives when we surrender the air we breathe to men who would defile it.
There is a time and place for raunchy language. It was funny when Redd Foxx and Rudy Raymore did it; and Pigmeat Markham split our sides when he made his stand in nightclubs and on "XX-rated" party albums. Heard of "Petey Wheatstraw", "Dolomite", and "Shine, Shine, save poor me..."? Those were the albums your fathers brought out only when the earthiest company dropped by, and then, only after the children had been safely tucked away. Now people curse like Pigmeat over morning coffee. (They must think it makes them funny, too.) Let me be blunt, fart-mouths: You are not nearly so funny as you are offensive.
Profanity is no less toxic today than second-hand smoke was 50 years ago. We didn't need scientists then, and we don't need sociologist now to tell us that . We simply need the guts to say, "Do you mind? I'm living here."