Friday, July 04, 2008

"Friday" Muxtape no. 10 (belated as hell); Obama 2.0

Yup, this shoulda woulda coulda gone up on Friday. [Insert the usual excuses here, tour planning, life intruding, blah blah blah.]

Mea culpa. But don't hold it against me: the mux is still worth a listen!

Paticularly: track two features Kris Tiner's splendid lil' ensemble, referenced in a previous post o' mine. The album (and the band) are highly recommended, of course.

The Sonics: "Have Love Will Travel"
Empty Cage Quartet: "Old Ladies"
Lee Wiley: "A Hundred Years From Today"
Pink Martini: "Lilly"
Jerseyband: "Lord Magnificent"
James Brown: "Down and Out in NY City"
The Louvin Brothers: "The Great Atomic Power"
James Kochalka Superstar: "Monkey vs. Robot"
Angelic Gospel Singers: "Back to the Dust"
Johnny Otis: "Castin' My Spell on You"
Lee Hazlewood: "I Move Around"
Spoon: "The Underdog"


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[Oh, boy, here he goes shooting his mouth off on the subject of politics again. Goddamn, but I thought he was done with that -- Ed.]

Okay, I can't resist any longer. How about that Barack Obama, eh? It's been a busy few weeks.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I have been an Obama supporter for a long time -- well before the primaries, in fact.

But honestly, I have never felt swayed by the "rockstar" thing, the in-the-tank mentality, or the halo-allegations that seem to have attracted many of his supporters. I didn't get the Obama girl concept, I thought the man came off as a bit of a buffoon on the Ellen Degeneres show, I thought the video was about 35% too precious, and although I liked most of the speeches, I know full well that we can not live by rhetoric alone. (And, incidentally, I don't get Barry's tendency to use prompters planted on diametrically opposed sides of the room -- it usually gives the impression that he's watching a very slow-motion tennis match while speech-ifying. Awkward!)

So the more extreme, ethereal, emotional form of Obama-mania always frightened me, at least partly because it was inevitable that the bubble was going to burst at some point. Predictably, for some folks it has been bursting practically every day since the primaries ended.

The mainstream media, in their infinite wisdom, have a phrase for this burstification. They call it "moving to the center." Maybe that's what it is, maybe it isn't. (I'd like to believe 'em, really I would, but it's hard to know how to process information given to you by people who seriously entertain the notion that getting shot down in Vietnam may actually be a qualification for being president).

Look: I can hardly blame leftward-oriented folks for feeling more than a little on-edge in the wake of post-primary developments (FISA, Supreme Court decisions, Muslim photo ops, faith-based initiatives, etc.), or in anticipation of this election. After 7 years of Bush (not to mention the brave new world of the Internets), whaddya expect? Plus, when it comes to the future of this country, there's so much that has all the texture and aroma of Armageddon that the late great George Carlin may have been right when he declared that "this country is finished."

But shit, people -- now is not a time for purism, either. I mean, we don't want to lose, do we?! Here's someone named Sara opining on the brouhaha over Obama's FISA stance:

I don't understand what all the fuss is about Obama's statement. To me it seems like a pretty typical case of working within the system to rise up through the system in order to change the system. Is patience such a rare quality in a politician that we don't recognize it anymore and misperceive it as cowardice?

Prioritizing the present and the future over the past--with an end date in mind for this prioritization--is hardly a glaring warning sign of ethical fluidity or weakness. It's basic triage.

He doesn't want to try to fix everything from the floor of the Senate. That's why he's running for President. I'm OK with that approach.

Indeed. And here's insightful MandyW (same post):

In a democracy, unelected activists are free to take extreme, uncompromising positions. They succeed insofar as their arguments convince the majority of the people of the correctness and importance of their views (e.g. abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison). Thus, they can transform unrealistic ideals into practical possibilities.

Elected politicians, otoh, MUST compromise to reflect the mainstream of public opinion. (What's the point of democracy if elected leaders pay NO attention to the "will of the people"?) That means the reforms they can accomplish are by definition less sweeping than what outside activists would prefer, but at least they can actually accomplish something (e.g. Presidents like Abraham Lincoln).

For democracy to work, we need BOTH outside activists AND elected politicians. It's silly for activists to denounce ANY deviation by a politician from their view of what's "perfect" as a sellout. It's equally silly for politicians to dismiss ANY deviation by an activist from their view of what's "practical" as not worth considering.

Yes, I'm disappointed at the stance that the Dems, including Obama, are taking on the FISA Act. I assume it's because they fear that a stronger stand would encourage 527's to pop up to attack them, citing FISA as proof that they're "soft on terrorism".

Sadly, imho, such 527 attacks would probably be effective. It could make it a lot harder for Obama to get elected and/or for the Dems to get a large enough majority in Congress to actually accomplish anything on things like Health Care after the election.

These ladies have it exactly right. How much stupider could Obama be than to get hamstrung by the "PETA syndrome" -- political stances that may draw attention and engender a certain degree of moral satisfaction (for those who grasp and sympathize with their meaning), but that ultimately fail to break through the deadlock. It would be like, oh, I don't know, a jazz composer declaring that there was no redeeming value in pop music, thereby shoring up the quaint but useless notion of "high art."

When I taught writing in college, the primary criterion for evaluating student work was cogency. All freshman writing assignments presented students with a basic debate into which they were supposed to position themselves effectively. The idea was to write an argument that had the potential to actually convince someone on the other side, rather than taking up the rhetorical bludgeon and simply attempting to insist and assert the reader into submission. Students had to start by trying to find some common ground with their opposition, giving whatever counterarguments existed a fair shake (without, of course, weakening their own position).

That's not an easy thing to do, but Obama would have aced that class. I just hope his supporters can figure it out too.

* * * * *

And besides. Specifically:

I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I’m not exempt from that. I’m certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too.

I'd like to see John McCain say that without choking.

* * * * *

By the way, phenomenal PDX-based saxophonist Lee Elderton -- who will most likely be joining the IJG for our Pacific Northwest tour this September (fingers crossed!) -- has a blog. It features much better Obama rally pix than the ones I posted here.

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