Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog #70: Book a Failed President!

As the clock ticks away and the magic date of January 20 inches forward, high on our list of New Year’s resolutions is the one to put the Bush/Cheney administration completely out of our minds for once and for always. Hopefully after Jan. 20 there will be no need to ever recall that pair. And as we happily take out exit from the duo isn’t it wonderful that that dick sized Cheney sees nothing wrong with any action the administration has taken in its entire eight years in office. Torture – it’s only torture if you admit it’s torture, to hell with what the rest of the world might think. (Or what they might do to any Americans taken prisoner.) Bush on the other hand, who plans to spend his post presidential years writing his memoirs and speaking for a fee, is taking a more realistic view of his tenure. He is admitting a mistake here and there, but says his heart is pure. So how much would a Bush speech be worth? And who would want to pay him to speak?

One possible source might be businesses which are about to tank. Bush’s lecture agent might promote an appearance thusly: Is your business ready to tank? Has today’s downturn fatally eaten into your company's bottom line? Take your business out in a blaze of glory! Tank it with a Bang by hiring that Master Tanker, George W. Bush, to speed your company’s demise! With such achievements as the invasion of Iraq and the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina in his resume, nobody in the speaking profession today comes anywhere near the 43rd president of these United States. Be the first to take your Business Out with a Bang. Book George W. Bush, because your business deserves no less!
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
We all join John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston in mourning the death of their son Jett recently from a seizure. However, because the death brings up an interesting conflict between the teachings of the Church of Scientology (of which the Travolta’s are members) and the medical profession, it makes for some interesting speculation. For an overview from the standpoint of a practicing physician be sure to point your browser here:

The conflict is one of the major forces of our day, pitting strongly held religious beliefs against scientific knowledge. We sincerely hope and pray that scientific knowledge wins every time.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
What force in our popular culture had the most influence on your life? If you asked that question of me, I would have to credit music, popular music. The specific music I will identify in a minute. First let me review my 82 running up to 83 years as a listener. I have lived through a whole bunch of changes in music. Big influences when I was a kid in the 1930’s and 40’s were the Lucky Strike Hit Parade on Saturday Nights, the nightly Chesterfield program with Glenn Miller and his orchestra (note how popular music was used to promote the use of cigarettes, helping to turn my generation into the lung cancer generation), and Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge.

As I grew older I expanded my musical horizons to include jazz, and most especially Dixieland Jazz, New Orleans style, and classical music, particularly Debussy and music which seemed to paint musical pictures, like Delius’ Song of the High Hills and Respeghi’s Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome. When I returned from serving in the Army Air Corps after World War II, I worked in radio, for KPRC-FM and then KXYZ. At the latter I broadened my tastes even more, opening the station up each morning with a country music program called The Bar None Ranch, and later doing an afternoon pop music program called the Mailbag. (The name Mailbag implied that we got our selections from listener requests, but this was so much fiction, we didn’t get that many letters. We played what we, the disk jockeys thought was relevant, and occasionally we gave into pressure from music publishers or record companies and promoted a song they wished us to push.)

I quit radio at age 24 to teach myself guitar and play folk music. A black singer named Josh White inspired me in this. White, after growing up leading several blind street singers around and learning guitar from them, later became a moderately successful night club singer, singing his arrangements of a variety of folk songs. Another big influence on me was the incomparable Pete Seeger, the 5-string banjo playing, 12 string guitar playing, activist folk singer, who sang against war in Vietnam, and who ended up singing for the environment, and most particularly, the Hudson River, and the sailing sloop he helped finance, the Clearwater. Pete Seeger showed me how music could be relevant in our everyday lives.

But the music. and associated life styles, which most influenced me (and I suspect a large group of America’s population) was that of The Beatles. The music they produced was unique and was an overwhelming influence on pop music in general, they literally changed its face. Elvis Pressley who had preceded them, had turned the U.S. and much of the world onto black music as sung by a white man. But it was The Beatles who burst their way into the mainstream of music, first in England, then the US, and finally the world through the hearts and minds of screaming, love-struck adolescent girls. They weren’t the first to do this. Frank Sinatra had long lines of swooning young ladies lining up for his autograph at Tommy Dorsey dances, and even Vaughn Monroe had lines of swooning young girls. And Pete Seeger had politically conscious teenage hearts a’beating to the beat of his banjo.

But The Beatles dwarfed anything that had gone before them, with beautifully crafted gems of songs which captured the feelings of the young and the growing like nothing which had preceded it. And then a remarkable thing happened. The Beatles began growing up, right in front of our ears, so to speak. As they matured they very nicely took the rest of us along for the ride. They began the tradition of rock bands needing stadiums to house their concerts, with their initial concert at Shea Stadium in New York. And when touring became too great a drag for them they invented the music video with which to promote their albums, and which in their turn gave birth to the likes of MTV.

Their influence was so great on the popular culture of their time that they made it okay for men to grow their hair long and grow beards. I grew my beard years before I let my hair grow, but eventually I chose to do both. It was interesting to be among the first. When I first grew my beard, in Houston occasionally some outraged male driving by would shout an insult like “buy yourself a razor!” or the like. But after having lived through the conforming fifties where men shaved, kept their hair trimmed close, and concealed their respective individuality in charcoal gray suits, the freedom of the 1960’s was a welcome relief. And fortunately for us we had The Beatles to point freedom's way. We would welcome the surviving Beatles and their heirs into the 21st century with the suggestion that they put their music on iTunes so that their fan can have a legitimate was to access their libary.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
The state of Israel claims the right of self protection, as do virtually all independent states, including the right to defend itself, offensively if necessary, to protect the safety of its citizens. One would think that the experiences of the Jewish people under the regime of Adolph Hitler in the Germany of the 1930’s would have given them a built-in sympathy for the underdog, which includes all people treated as second class citizens. Perhaps that is true, except when the safety and well being of Jewish citizens are at stake. Then they are every bit as racist as Hitler ever was. In our New Year’s blog last week we listed zero Israeli citizens killed by rocket fire as opposed to upwards of 400 Palestinians killed. This was the figure that had been published at the time I wrote it. Since then it has been revealed that four Israeli citizens have fallen victim to Hamas’ rockets. Palestinian health officials report that as of yesterday 758 Palestinians, including 257 children and 56 women, have died in the attacks. Israel in turn claim that about 390 of those killed were Hamas fighters. You don't have to be an Hamas sympathizer to feel that those figures are a wee bit skewed. That there's a modicum of overkill here.

Israel is adamant about continuing the offensive until Hamas gives up their rocket launchings in spite of a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. Thursday night the United Nations Security Council approved just such a resolution, one calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The vote was 14-0, with the United States abstaining. What does this prove? It proves that Hitler’s theory of a superior race is not unique to those of Germanic origin. Any group, even groups who have been on the receiving end of such prejudice, can adopt the superior race concept when given the opportunity, and especially when they feel their security is threatened. And although you won’t find many Israelis admitting it, the State of Israel itself was born in the ashes of terrorist acts by Zionists eager to form an independent state of Israel. The land used to form the state of Israel was taken from Palestinians, who were driven from their land and forced into exile in states like Jordan where they have been forced to live in refugee camps ever since.

This is not to say that there aren’t groups active within Israel who are trying their damnedest to pressure the Israeli government to seek peace with the Palestinians. There are, but many observers mark the true death of the peace prospects with the assassination of Yitzah Rabin, who was sincerely moving Israel along the path to peace. Upon the death of Rabin the subsequent election of super-hawk Benjamin Netanyahu further signaled an end to any Palestinian hopes for a peaceful settlement with Israel and an independent Palestinian state, just as previously the election of Ariel Sharon as Israel’s prime minister had been taken as a slap in the face to Palestinians and marked the beginning in the intifada, an Arabic word meaning “shaking off”, though is it usually translated in the west as rebellion.
There is probably no easy solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. however it will never be solved by force of arms, just as all of Israel’s previous attempts have failed. When Israeli citizens quit settling in Palestinian territory, when the forces of peace rule the country, when Israel recognizes Palestinians as people who have just as much right to live in peace as they, then maybe the Oslo agreement can begin to be implemented and the wings of doves drown out the drums of war and destruction.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
My favorite new website, and the one I turn to first thing every morning after finishing reading the local news on, is, the website whose editor in chief is Tina Brown, the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown. She has written for numerous publications, including The Times of London, The Spectator, and The Washington Post.

The Beast, like so many websites these days, is an aggregator which means it mostly mines stories from other websites and publications. However, it has a unique format which not only gives you access to other material, but it goes out of its way to bring different, related viewpoints on some stories. It also has it’s own staff of bloggers and columnists, and has had it’s share of content written exclusively for it during the few months it has been active.
– – – – –
Currently running in the Beast is a series called The Farewell Chronicles, written by or about members of the Bush administration as they are on their way out. Part two of this series is a piece written by John W. Dean, Nixonian whistleblower extraordinaire, on Dick Cheney’s establishment of an Imperial Presidency. From the piece: “I would love to write a biography of Dick Cheney’s vice presidential years to better understand and then explain how he all but single-handedly — without being impeached or imprisoned or seriously threatened with either — rebuilt the “Imperial Presidency” (picking up where Reagan & Company left off). In doing so, Cheney revived “stonewalling” as the lingua franca of presidential communications, pushed government secrecy and unaccountability to unprecedented new levels, shamed Americans throughout the world as torturers while compounding our problems with terrorism, richly serviced his oil patch cronies, and made the once toothless Office of the Vice President a threat to Constitutional government.

“For me, Cheney is the last of a dying breed of former Nixon aides and apologists who do not believe that the disgraced president set the standard for what should not be done, rather that he provided a “to do” list legacy. To understand Richard Nixon, as I believe I do, is to appreciate that Cheney has carried Nixon’s political DNA into contemporary Republican politics and governing. Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday closed the case on Cheney’s Nixonian nature when he asked the vice president during a recent exit interview a question that produced the eeriest of echoes for anyone who has seen the Frost/Nixon film, or recalls the actual interviews from decades earlier. Nixon told David Frost, “Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” Thirty-one years later, Wallace asked Cheney, “If the President, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Without blinking, Cheney replied, “General proposition, I'd say yes.”

“Like Nixon, Cheney operates best shrouded with secrecy. Cheney plays the enigma well. Unlike Nixon, however, who had intellectual heft, remarkable political acumen and a carefully developed world vision, Cheney has a small-bore mind along with a world-class Rolodex. At heart Cheney is and always has been the consummate “staff man” — an implementer of the ideas of others but neither an original nor analytical thinker. He started in Washington as a staff person and simply never grew beyond that role. As vice president, he was Bush’s super-head of staff, and when not doing Bush’s bidding, he was devoted to implementing Nixon’s vision of the presidency — a vision Cheney says he has held since Watergate.”

The complete Dean piece can be found at:

The Dean perspective seems to be quite a lot to chew on, but John W. Dean has been a party to conspiracies in the past, and indisputably has what it takes to spot one in the present. His piece offers a nice follow up to Barton Gellman’s book “Angler The Cheney Vice Presidency,” which began as a series in the Washington Post, and which in book form was the winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. The book is available for $17.54 at
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
The great conflict in today’s world of the web is whether digital material should be free and widely available, as opposed to the capitalist mantra of limited exposure and “for sale” at a price. The music industry is virtually a shadow of itself these days, having decided to fight illegal downloading of copyrighted material freely available on the torrents by suing individuals. Mostly college students, who could avoid expensive court suits only by paying a several thousand dollar fee. If it sounds like blackmail, welcome to the club. In fairness it should be pointed out that the music industry has recently announced the discontinuation of lawsuits against individuals (probably in lieu of the facts that the courts are no longer allowing that the mere posting of copyrighted material in a public folder is evidence that any downloading took place. Material downloaded by the industry’s Media Sentry were no longer being accepted in the courts, and there is no other way to prove anyone other than the Media Sentry investigator downloaded the material.) in favor of a system which would require Internet providers to watch out for copying activity and would would pass on cease and desist letters to violators.

This might sound good on paper, but most ISP's are not about to monitor and discipline it's customers unless the RIAA pays them, and pays them well. There are other solutions, sure, but the RIAA sees the world only through tired, legal eyes, and the record companies seem bereft of any truly creative ideas. Welcome Music Industry, into the bit torrent world of the 21st Century.

See you next week, the Real Little Eddy

No comments: