I watched President Obama’s state of the union speech before congress last night. He is a good orator, probably the best since Kennedy, but he’s no Jack Kennedy. Obama has no Aeschylus, no Cicero in him. He doesn’t reach for the stars, maybe because he thinks he is the star. The rhythms and cadence of the black preachers are in his repertoire , but he mostly keeps them at the back of the bus. He knows he can’t sound too black, and in him, it is an affect anyway. He mostly played the white keys and delivered a reasonably rendered Souza march from the moderate Protestant Republican side of his family tree. The south side Chicago community organizer who can do a reasonable Al Green impression was not in evidence.
I recalled that ordinary US citizens can no longer sit in the gallery and watch our elected officials. We can only visit a facsimile, presumably soon to be staffed with animatronic senators. Given the state of our actual corrupt sock puppet government, the Disneyland version will at least have clean toilets and a story line that won’t give you a stroke.
Posted in journal
“Cast your whole ballot, not just a slip of paper, but your whole influence.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Seeing Daniel Ellsberg speak is like grabbing hold of a high-tension power line that runs through recent American history. I had the honor of meeting him at a screening of a new documentary about his life, “The Most Dangerous Man in America” last night in Portland. He spoke after the film about his role in ending the war in Vietnam and wars we are in now, opening with this lovely quote from Thoreau about citizen involvement in government.
Though initially an Obama supporter, he said he was troubled that Obama has “continued the coup that the executive branch of government has made since 2001 with it’s illegal imprisonment, illegal wiretapping and illegal wars.” Ellsberg believes Obama’s biggest mistake has been to make Afghanistan his war and that he has no intention of stopping the escalation of the war in Afghanistan at 100,000 troups. “I think Obama was threatened by the generals in the Pentagon the same way LBJ was. They told LBJ they would resign, go public and call him ‘weak’ as a president. Imagine that — threatening someone with weakness causes wars,” said Ellsberg. “I predict we will have 200,00 troups there in four years and the war will end up costing us two trillion dollars unless we stop it. The soviets killed one million Afghans. How many will we kill before we are through? Afghan society is organized to repel invaders. That is what they do.” He did say that like Kennedy, Obama is young and may have a change of heart and confront his generals they way Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis.
Ellsberg spoke of the hubris caused by secrecy. He recalled counseling a colleague who entered the inner circle of the Nixon administration telling him, “you will get access to information that is two or three levels above top secret –stuff only an handful of people know. Your first reaction will be giddiness. Then you will feel stupid that you did not know these things. Then you will stop listening to experts on any topic because you believe you know more than they do.”
He asked the audience where the personal courage will come from to stop the war. “I don’t see people risking imprisonment or their careers today like they did then. Colin Powell came back from Vietnam, rose to Secretary of Defense and helped lie us into the Iraq war. He could have stopped it.” Ellsberg said the only way to stop the Afghan war is to cut the funding in congress. “Your former senator, Wayne Morse, told me if he had access to the Pentagon Papers during the Gulf of Tonkin incident the resolution would not have gotten out of committee and there would have been no war.”
I asked Ellsberg afterwards about people using civil disobedience and not paying their taxes. “My friends have done it but they garnish your wages and take your house. It would take a half a million people doing it to make a difference. That would have an impact.”
There once was a man named Obama
Who grew up where they need no pajamas.
It soon became evident, when he became president,
He was more Herbert Hoover than High Llama.
Words are falling out of common use everyday. When was the last time you used a shoe hook, went pace egging or ate haggis? Or for that matter, when was the last time you heard of someone obambulating? We note that to obambulate means to wander aimlessly. However, this muscular and clinical sounding word is crying out for a more common definition. So we offer the following alternative definition:
intransitive verb, obambulate, obambulating
1. to choke to near asphyxiation during a violent verbal tirade against Barack Obama, as in “Mr. Limbaugh obambulated on his show again today and had to be taken to the emergency room.”
Chicago, IL - President elect Obama’s former campaign manager and strategic advisor David Plouffe said Wednesday that some of the Bush team appointees would be staying on in a different capacity. “We are planning on having some of the real dinosaurs stuffed and put on display,” said Plouffe. Candidates being discussed for stuffing and mounting include outgoing EPA administrator Michael Leavitt who effectively disabled most environmental oversight functions during his tenure.
New York, NY – “More left wingnut blather,” said Rush Limbaugh about the revelation by the Chicago Sun-Times that Barack Obama and Limbaugh are distant cousins. A spokesperson for Obama said they were not surprised, “if Barack is related to Dick Cheney then Rush has to be in the picture somewhere.”
Washington DC – To the amazement of researchers, the press and followers of politics in general, testicles have been seen again in Washington after a long absence. First thought to be a fluke, sightings have been reported as far away as the Capital Building and some Senate offices. Civil service personnel who track such things say they have not seen such a rapid increase in the testicular population the Kennedy administration. “They are just busting out all over,” said Stan Myers, a security guard at the House of Representatives.
Orange County, CA – “Yes, you’ve discovered my secret. I can usually get the Cubs games wherever I am, ” said a smiling Obama when asked yesterday about his expansive appendages. “Oh, and I get all the secret ultra-liberal agenda talking points that way too. We are rolling out a proposal for mandatory health insurance for pets tomorrow. It is part of my expansion of the socialist welfare state. Actually, we could probably get health care for pets done easier than health care for the rest of us.”