A diplomat’s daughter growing up in NYC is something that I never thought twice about until way after the fact. It was full of “ups” and “downs”. Some of the “downs” I have mentioned in previous posts. Today I want to mention one of the marvelous “ups” which reached a summit a few years ago, or better said, came full
Tag: Jimmy Carter
The events in Japan as they relate to issues of nuclear energy have been an urgent and important clarion call to all regarding the safety of our nuclear facilities and the role nuclear energy will play in our energy future. It is an issue of vital importance to the nation given its impact on global warming, national security and the economy. It is an issue that needs be examined openly and not simply left to those who are pre-programmed to present us with the familiar saws railing against nuclear energy with the tailwind of current events at their back.
Almost the first out of the box of nuclear energy dismissal was Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who on March 13, but two days after the tsunami hit Japan set forth a list of nuclear policy objectives ranging from a call to imposing a moratorium on siting new reactors to requiring a review of the
I’m going to miss Chris. I miss him already.
He was much more than my friend and mentor. He was one of a diminishing breed of Americans who believe that public service is more than a resume builder. They see it — he saw it — as a trust, a stewardship.
Warren Christopher was not a man of
Whenever Jimmy Carter makes a statement, opinions fly.
Yet it wasn’t the former U.S. President’s political views that had a crowd of students and parents gasping during his speech at an Atlanta private school February 17. It was his talk of a horrific creature known as Guinea Worm that elicited dropped jaws from the
The Jimmy Carter comparisons began on the campaign trail, before Barack Obama won the election in 2008. As candidates both men were relatively inexperienced. Both offered a fresh alternative to a departing administration that had grown profoundly unpopular. As presidents, Carter and Obama both struggled against a slumping, stubborn
If, on Presidents Day 2011, I had to rank the last twelve presidents since America became the world’s most powerful empire, in World War II, I’d put them in the following order:
1.Franklin D. Roosevelt: by far and away, in my view, the greatest of all our modern American Caesars — in wisdom, courage, determination, selflessness, judgment and vision.
In the second tier I would rank these three Caesars:
2.Harry S Truman , who truly stepped up to the plate in April 1945, and made the historic decisions that ended World War II and defined the post-war era:
The decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war with the Empire of Japan
The Marshall plan
The Berlin Airlift
The decision to fight back in Korea, tho’ failing to stop MacArthur from crossing the 38th Parallel.
3.Dwight D. Eisenhower, who brought the Korean War to an end, kept the U.S. strong but out of foreign wars (especially during the 1956 Suez Crisis) — and attempted to find a modus vivendi with the Russians (including the second maddest Soviet emperor, Nikita Khrushchev).
Just six and one half years ago, a young state senator spoke for 16 minutes and 11 seconds (just 4 seconds longer than the real “King’s Speech,” Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream,” the greatest in modern American history), launched a presidency and established himself as one of America’s greatest orators.
Tonight, we will see the maturation of the extraordinary qualities that make Barack Obama America’s third greatest presidential orator since 1933. It was those qualities that, in October of 2006, caused me to predict, amidst overwhelming skepticism and doubt, that the young US Senator was ready, would run and would likely win, and the qualities that did, in fact, sweep him to the White House.
In the wake of a profoundly presidential and politically “seismic” moment in Tucson, we approach a speech that I believe will firmly establish Barack Obama as the 3rd greatest presidential orator in modern American history… the era that started with the president who first used the new electronic media to forge a different kind of relationship with the American electorate.
The Top Presidential Orators (since 1933)
Last week I wrote about how Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy computer, is “smarter” than Google. But there are plenty of things that throw the computer for a loss. In researching my book, Final Jeopardy, which amounts to a “biography” of Watson, I got a feel for how it “thinks.” Some examples:
Category: Diplomatic Relations
Clue: Of the four countries in the world that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with, the one that’s farthest north.
Correct Response: What is North Korea?
Once Watson understands this clue, which is not easy, one of its many algorithms launches two separate
Chuck Leavell: Keyboardist, tree farmer, and author
Chuck Leavell has been a melodic force behind some of rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest acts. He played with George Harrison and Eric Clapton and has been touring with the Rolling Stones for nearly 30 years. (The rollicking piano solo on the Allman Brothers Band’s hit instrumental “Jessica” is his.) Leavell is also a committed conservationist and tree farmer. He and his wife, Rose Lane, grow oak, elm, and pine trees on in their 2,500-acre forest Bullard, Georgia. A co-founder of the popular eco-site Mother Nature Network, he just finished his fourth book about conservation, Growing a Better America.
Q: What got you into tree farming?
A: It’s all my wife’s fault. She comes from a family that’s dedicated to the land and has been for generations. In 1981 we inherited property from her grandmother. We considered all manner of possibilities for it — pecans, peaches, different options. But the more I studied forestry, the more I got a long-term view of what managing a forest has to offer.
Q: What’s good about planting trees?
A: Oh my goodness. What’s not good about planting trees? First, they give us incredible natural, organic, renewable building materials. Second, they give us a tremendous list of products. They also clean our air, clean our water, and provide home and shelter to all manner of wildlife. Trees are the best sequesterer of carbon there is. To me, they’re really the most important natural resource we have.
Q: Do musicians tend to be more in tune with the earth?
A: One of the first “aha” moments I had was realizing that my instrument comes from the resource of wood. It’s the same with just about any other musical instrument — even saxophones have a reed. So there’s already, for me, a very strong connection to the earth with music. I think musicians in general are sensitive to that.
Q: Has your environmentalism has influenced your Rolling Stone band mates?
A: I’m a hired gun. But I certainly encourage the artists I work with to look at that, and I would certainly like to think so. Q: The rock culture is known to be… excessive. Did seeing that influence your environmentalism?
A: The truth is, I’m a child of the ’60s and ’70s. There was definitely a cultural revolution that went on in my generation. Along with all that was being discussed, the environment was certainly part of that. Our generation was one of the first to stand up. We made a difference, I’m proud to say. The birth of the EPA was a result of our pointing fingers. Yes, there was certainly excess, no doubt. But I think the ones of us that are still around are survivors that woke up, and that have some internal governor that knew when to say no. We focused on what was important to us, and that was the music. The other stuff was fluff.Q: How do you deal with seeing that much waste at the concerts at which you perform?
A: Those are things that need to be addressed by entertainers. The Rolling Stones tour was made carbon neutral by donating money to an organization that plants trees.Q: Do you believe in offsetting?
A: I have an open mind as to how it could pan out into law. But I think it’s important to do something. What I don’t like is the idea of oh, just do nothing. Let’s face this problem head on. Q: Are you noticing examples of people going greener in the music industry?
A: Yes, I think that’s across the board. Not only music entertainers. The corporate world, everyone is waking up to this. Most people want to make a difference. In my book I pointed out a lot of what my fellow entertainers have done. Personally, I don’t like entertainers of any type getting preachy about it, especially while on the stage. It’s my job to entertain, not to preach. It’s best to leave that for another setting. Q: What’s the most important aspect of being a conservationist? What’s the most important action you take?
A: It’s so hard to say just one thing. Number one is just wake up and be aware. After that, there’s a list of things. CFLs make a difference. Carpool to work, drive a hybrid. Work with neighbors to make sure there are good walking and biking corridors. Buy Energy Star — buildings and homes are the largest offenders of carbon. For heaven’s sake, walk. I was glad to see the first lady taking that on. That is a connectivity to saving energy and to getting healthier and connecting with the outdoors. We need to encourage our children to get off of those Xboxes.Q: What advice would you give to young musicians or those just getting started?
A: You gotta find the passion. Once you’ve found it, engage in it. Read about it. Educate yourself about it and don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to fail. When I first started managing my forest, I made mistakes, planted trees the wrong way. Everybody’s gonna make mistakes. I couldn’t tell you how many times I stumbled on stage and it upset me so. Working with the Rolling Stones helped; they’re not the most precise artists but that’s part of their charm. It’s good to strive for perfection but understand that you’re never going to be perfect. My father used to say to me that there’s an art to everything. I think that’s so true. Whatever your calling in life is, there’s an art to it. What fascinates me about the art of land management is that the canvas we have to perform that art on is our own backyard. Let’s be careful of the colors we mix in our palette, because whatever we paint is gonna be there for a long time. Q: You’ve also written three books. What’s the key to your productivity?
A: My feeling is that if you’re passionate about something and really believe in it, you’ll find the time it takes to get involved and let your feelings be known about it. Besides, I find it a lot of fun. I also can see the results of long-term sustainable management.Q: You’re from Alabama, right? It seems like the South gets a bad rap in terms of caring for the environment but it actually has a lot of people who care passionately.
A: There’s no stronger environmentalist than Ted Turner. I played with the Allman Brothers in a rock concert to raise money for Jimmy Carter. Maybe we’re a little quieter about what we do in the South. We just go about the business of managing our land and being good stewards. My biggest fear is what I call the “invisible forest health crisis” — development. In the metro Atlanta area, we lose about 100 acres a day to growth and development and impervious surfaces. That’s a day. Those are scary numbers. Everybody’s gotta have an office and a place to live, but let’s do it intelligently.
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In a scene from the new movie, The Fighter, we watch welterweight Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, take a brutal pounding when he’s thrown into the ring against a bigger boxer. Micky’s been told the fight would be “an easy win,” but he’s driven into a corner, gloves in front of his face, bloodied and helpless as his opponent throws punch after punch.
With just a few days left in the life of the 111th Congress, Michigan’s Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been urging President Obama to support keeping the Senate in session past Christmas, one last bid to pass legislation before the 112th convenes next month, Republicans dominating the House and increasing their numbers in the Senate.
“The way I think the President needs to fight is to say that he is going to use all of the power he has of a bully pulpit and urge the Senate to stay in, right up to New Year’s,” Levin said on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program Sunday. But, he continued, “I don’t see that kind of a willingness to fight that hard, where he will take that kind of a position and that’s what necessary.”
Instead, the president’s on the ropes like Micky Ward. But he could make a comeback, taking cues from his own past and the examples of two men – each an Obama supporter — whose recent deaths remind us that there are people of actions and words whose very existence advances America and the cause of democracy in the face of seemingly implacable opposition, within and without.
Richard Holbrooke was arrogant, vaultingly ambitious and did not, as the saying goes, suffer fools gladly. But in his decades of public service and diplomacy he displayed, in the words of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, “the courage of his convictions, and his convictions were on the side of innocent people bludgeoned by the world’s worst bullies and tyrants. His was a foreign policy pragmatic in its particulars but intensely moral in purpose and perspective.”
I first crossed paths with Holbrooke in 1977, just after President Jimmy Carter had appointed him assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. He was only 35, but already had more than a decade’s worth of work experience in world affairs, including his time in 1963 as an officer with the Agency for International Development in Vietnam and a stint on Averell Harriman’s staff at the Paris Peace Talks in 1968. Just for starters.
His greatest success was as chief negotiator of the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended in the war in Bosnia, although, as John F. Harris and Bill Nichols recalled on the website Politico.com, “Colleagues joked at the time that Holbrooke succeeded… because the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia preferred to end a generations-old blood feud rather than endure another day sequestered with and being badgered by Holbrooke.” He was the embodiment of Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck’s credo,” Don’t say yes until I finish talking.”
At his death, as President Obama’s chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he continued to struggle for answers, desperately hoping to find solutions that might bring to a peaceful end America’s involvement in those two mutually desperate countries. He refused to relinquish his belief, as he told The New Yorker’s George Packer, in “the possibility of the United States, with all its will and strength, and I don’t just mean military, persevering against any challenge.”
Holbrooke embraced the sentiment so beautifully expressed in John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate,” words crafted by Kennedy with his friend, counselor and speechwriter Theodore Sorensen. Sorensen died October 31st, but a memorial for him was held last week here in Manhattan.
If you were one of those politicians and leaders fortunate to speak Ted Sorensen’s prose, his words not only made you sound smart — they actually made you smarter. That’s because echoing through the resonance of his rhetoric there was learning to be had — history and philosophy, eloquent and perceptive allusions from the Bible, Pericles and Jefferson, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Churchill. An historical or literary reference in one of his speeches, well honed and to the point, could not only inspire you to action but also send you running for an encyclopedia.
He came by that knowledge via a love of reading passed along to him by his mother, Annis Chaikin, who paid her way through the University of Nebraska working as a maid, and his father Charles, a lawyer who served as that state’s attorney general. Writing of his childhood during the Depression in Lincoln, Nebraska, Ted Sorensen said reading allowed him to be “carried afar, on the wings of words.”
Sorensen described himself as “a Danish Russian Jewish Unitarian… surely a member of the smallest minority among the many small minorities that made this country great.” Although he was kidding, there was nonetheless within him a compassion and understanding that permanently embroidered his heart on his sleeve, whether it was integrating Lincoln’s municipal swimming pool when he was in college or writing a Kennedy address on civil rights in the hours after Governor George Wallace was made to stand aside from the doorway of the University of Alabama and allow entrance to African American students. Sorensen was a man who sought justice; a man of peace, humanitarianism and idealism; a man of discretion, commitment, and loyalty not only to his colleagues but his country.
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” Those, too, are words from the 1961 inaugural address Sorensen and Kennedy wrote together, as true today while we’re debating tax cuts and the estate tax.
Just words. But President Obama, as I know Ted Sorensen told you, just words are how a president operates, how a president engages a country. Put up your rhetorical dukes — we know it’s what you’re good at when you want to be and the spirit moves you. At the end of The Fighter, Micky Ward triumphs and becomes light welterweight champion of the world. This fight is only over, sir, if you throw in the towel. Many fear you already have done so. Now’s the time to start proving them wrong.
Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television in New York City.
If you want to make money in the stock market, buy low and sell high. If you want to get and hold elective office in two-party America, secure your base in the primary and win the middle in the general. As the math-inclined would say, keeping the base on your side is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for success. This bit of simple-to-say but hard-to-do wisdom explains why the flap between Obama and the Progressive wing is so important.
A friend of mine recently pointed out most people want their president to do what suits most people — at least most of the time. A president should carefully pick battles where he takes an unpopular view and pushes it through. When a president panders to his base, he risks losing the country.
This thought inspired me to look at history to see how often a president lost the country by playing too hard to the base. I found that more often than not the president “lost the country,” or re-election, by alienating his base rather than pandering to it. To make my case, consider this survey:
To find a case where the president played to his base against the wishes of the country, I had to go all the way back to Herbert Hoover. As the Great Depression deepened, he stuck to his principles, playing to a laissez faire conservative base. The majority wanted more action, and FDR won in a landslide.
Franklin Roosevelt mastered using the base. When he wanted to do something, but knew that the mainstream was not on board, he would tell his contacts in the base, in private, “Make me do it.” FDR had the best of all worlds: the base felt like insiders, they did much of the heavy lifting to persuade the middle, and he did not appear to pander.
I’ll punt on fitting Truman and Eisenhower into this analysis.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated before he could make a full record. But it was clear that in his 1,000 days of governing, JFK used the base to move the middle on issues like civil rights and Medicare, setting up what would have been success in his second term. LBJ realized the gains.
Despite becoming a hero to the base for legislative success on civil rights, Medicare, and the Great Society, Lyndon Johnson alienated the same base over Vietnam. The loss of the base was enough to persuade LBJ not to run for a second term.
Richard Nixon had the base and the middle on his side, and didn’t need the Watergate shenanigans to secure re-election. But as the facts of Watergate came out, even the most loyal of the Republican base turned on Nixon, ending his presidency.
Jimmy Carter lost the enthusiasm of his base with his infamous “malaise” speech. Fifteen months later, he lost re-election.
Ronald Reagan was never comfortable with the Religious Right as a key part of his base, and he never even tried to deliver on their expectations about abortion. But he was too canny a political tactician to openly break with them.
George H. W. Bush notoriously enraged the Conservative base by going back on his “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge. His action may have been fiscally sound, but it was politically disastrous, enabling Ross Perot’s third-party candidacy to gain enough altitude to allow Clinton to win his first term with only 46% of the popular vote.
In hindsight, the Progressive base is less and less enamored of Bill Clinton’s record. But at the time, Clinton was able to persuade the base that they were better off with him than letting his presidency go down. Clinton won re-election decisively, while Congress stayed firmly in the hands of his Republican opposition. As Clinton’s anointed successor, Gore was less able to placate the base. Just as Perot’s third-party candidacy sunk G. H. W. Bush’s re-election prospects, Nader’s third-party run helped deprive Gore of victory.
George W. Bush started off with impeccable mastery of the base in his first term, using their enthusiasm to move the middle on issues like tax cuts and the Iraq War. Never before did so many opponents so willingly vote for policies they previously, and subsequently, viewed as disastrous. But after his 2004 re-election, hubris set in, as Bush believed that his political capital was strong enough to win his plan for partial privatization of Social Security. The base balked, for both philosophical and political reasons. The Bush presidency never recovered, with the loss of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.
Which brings us to Obama. Progressives are livid over the tax cut package negotiated by the White House and the Republican leadership. The deeper issue in their mind is that the relatively modest stimulus benefits do not justify the enormous price tag ($900 billion more to the deficit). But the surface issue, simple and memorable, is Obama’s about-face on letting top-bracket Bush-era tax cuts expire.
Much can happen in two years. The White House counts on accelerating economic recovery by 2012 and hopes that today’s flap with the base will be forgotten. The base would rather Obama’s view prevail, but remains unconvinced that it can or will. Obama has time to cure the breach with his base. So far, he has not demonstrated the inclination to do so.
Unless Obama makes nice to his base, this quick review of history does not augur well for him. More presidencies foundered because the sitting President alienated his base than were lost because of too much pandering to the base. If Obama becomes a one-term president, the irony is that it will be caused more by disaffection in his base than by the efforts of the opposition party. Most victories result from mistakes of the loser — in sports, in battle, and in politics.
It’s two years into the first term of a young Democratic president, one whose election brought a sense of hope to the White House after two terms of a polarizing Republican presidency, but who now faces declining approval ratings and the loss of Congressional seats for his Party.
The year is 1978. America is in the middle of Jimmy Carter’s first and only term as president when Bruce Springsteen releases his fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town.
It’s been three long years since his breakthrough third album, Born to Run, delivered on the “future of rock ‘n’ roll” promise once prophesied for him. While the nation celebrates its independence in 1976, a lawsuit with former manager Mike Appel prevents Springsteen from entering the studio. Magazines have started to publish “What ever happened to?” pieces about him. But 1978 will be summer of cultural comebacks. The Rolling Stones and The Who revitalize their careers with Some Girls and Who Are You. Jaws 2 hits screens with the most memorable tag line of all time: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….” Born to Run came out two months after the original Jaws and became the subject of a media blitz that included simultaneous Time and Newsweek cover stories. This time, Springsteen seeks to circumvent the media monster and only reluctantly concedes to any promotional efforts surrounding the album.
It’s a risky move. While Springsteen is at his farm house in Holmdel, New Jersey, writing songs for the new album, the musical landscape is changing. Elvis, the nominal King of Rock and Roll, is dead. Time and Newsweek now both do features on the emerging punk and new wave movements. In the painstaking months that Springsteen and the band spend in the studio, recording as many as 70 or even 90 tracks from varying accounts, music fans see the release of seminal punk albums Rocket to Russia, Never Mind the Bullocks, and Easter, the U.S. releases of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model, and Warren Zevon’s sardonic classic Excitable Boy. Other pop acts threaten to out-Springsteen Springsteen: Bob Seger scores a Top 5 hit with “Night Moves.” Billy Joel, a Long Island lounge-singer version of Bruce from the same Columbia label, reaches his career peak with The Stranger. A blusterous act known as Meat Loaf releases the worldwide smash Bat Out of Hell aided by Springsteen camp members Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg, and Jimmy Iovine. Meanwhile, the anti-rock movie Saturday Night Fever pushes sister disco into the mainstream. Springsteen’s brand of Crystals-infused retro-rock feels like yesterday’s news.
His follow-up record is almost released in 1977 under the title Badlands, lifted from the name of Terrence Malick’s bleak 1973 anithero film loosely based on the life of serial killer Charley Starkweather. (It is a season of serial killers: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Chase, The Hillside Stranger, and the Son of Sam all make headlines in 1977-78.) But Springsteen opts against it. He struggles with song selection and sequence, and then over the album’s mix, which Chuck Plotkin is called in to fix.
Finally, Darkness on the Edge of Town is released in June 1978. The ten-song, five-a-side sequence show a different Bruce altogether. The songs are more concise, eight less than five minutes in length, none reaching seven minutes. Springsteen has moved past the winding Broadway-by-the-backstreets narratives toward a more conventional verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus structure. Phil Spector’s wallpaper has been torn down, replaced by the systolic and systolic beats of Max Weinberg’s drums. Unlike the ivory-conceived narratives of “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland,” the Darkness tracks are guitar driven, something that is immediately noticeable on the hard-driving opener “Badlands” and becomes unavoidable on the furious six-string attack that opens the next track, “Adam Raised a Cain.” For this song, Springsteen’s instructions to Plotkin–to create the mood of a cinematic scene change that goes from two lovers having a picnic to the shot of a dead body–cut a murderous swath through the heart of the record. By the time we get to the solo on “Candy’s Room,” we see a singer stepping up as a Seventies guitar hero.
His lyrics have changed, too. Inspired by Hank Williams and John Ford and the malaise of the working class, Springsteen has turned his gaze to the American heartland. Having shed his local cult label, he now seeks a wider relevance and looked to speak to the life of Small Town, U.S.A. The settings of his songs stretch as far south as Louisiana small towns and as far west as the Utah desert. Gone are the colorful names from the first three albums, giving way to anonymous Everymen. And the narrative mode is shifting, as well: Springsteen begins to write in the second-person, dispensing populist observations to the proverbial “you” like a rock-and-roll Woody Guthrie singing of the working life, of dreams unfulfilled, of the prices to be paid.
Album no. 4 is more populist, but not necessarily more popular. Darkness peaks at #5 on the Billboard chart. The first single, “Prove It All Night,” barely breaks registers on American Top 40, and the second, “Badlands,” peters out just below Casey Kasem range. But the record provides the muscle behind a memorable tour. When Born to Run broke back in ’75, Springsteen and the E Street Band were still playing the college-and-club circuit. Now with two hits records to his name, Bruce and the band bring their gaslit anthems to civic centers and arenas across the country. Radio listeners tune into live broadcasts of marathon shows–often three hours plus an intermission–at the Roxy in LA in July, Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom in August, the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, and Fox Theatre in Atlanta in September, San Francisco’s Winterland in December. Springsteen is at the height of his performative powers, a musician confirming his place in the popular culture, a driver taking the nation for a ride.
It’s 2010. We’re mid-way through Obama’s first term, and he’s having a tough time of his own. Springsteen has released The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, a six-disc CD/DVD box set documenting the Year Springsteen Changed.
I had missed it all at the time. I was too young in 1978, and I lacked an older sibling to introduce me cool albums. I didn’t even get KISS. The only pop album I remember liking at the time was Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk from the sci-fi disco band Meco.
But I do remember the gas lines and the energy crisis and the co-op dwelling hippies from the local state college campus coming to our class and getting us to sign petitions against nuclear energy. (Fears of a China syndrome obscured those of diminishing fossil fuels.) Alternative energy sources were much on the mind of Americans during the 1970s. The previous April, President Carter had delivered a televised speech about the on-going crisis:
Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the “moral equivalent of war” — except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.
I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter.
Fittingly, Springsteen remembers his fourth album as his “samurai” record, stripped to the frame and ready to rumble,” as he writes in the liner notes to The Promise. “Power, directness, and austerity were my goals.”
No song on the new set embodies this sense more than “The Promise,” in which Springsteen tears down his own mythology. Wistfully name-checking Born to Run’s “Thunder Road” and its Wild Ones kiss off (“It’s a town full of losers/And I’m pulling out of here to win”) the singer looks back in disillusion: “I followed that dream just like those guys do up on the screen…we were gonna take it all and throw it all away.” Strapped for cash, he even has to sell the Dodge Challenger he built–the ultimate self-defeating statement in Springsteen’s fuel-injected body of work. On Born to Run, he sang of romantic fatalism, of dying on the streets at night in an everlasting kiss. Three years later, he sang wearily and less romantically of that nameless something in the night, of “somethin’ dying on the highway tonight.”
Yet with all the talk of this being the beginning of a darker phase in Springsteen’s work, a slew of songs on The Promise show a brighter side: the Brill Building sunlight sheen of “Gotta Get That Feeling” and “Someday (We’ll Be Together)”; the simmering soul of “The Broken Hearted” and “One Way Street”; the enjoy-the-hurt bar rockers “Ain’t Good Enough” and “It’s a Shame”; the would-be Elvis hit “Fire” and soon-to-be hits “Because the Night” (for Patti Smith) and “Talk to Me” (for Southside Johnny); the Buddy Holly bounce of “Outside Looking In”; the pop-perfect “Rendezvous.” Some songs are noticeably retrofitted from the original sessions and share common ground with Working on a Dream, as does one new/old track, “Save My Love,” recorded anew in 2010.
The introspective gem “City of Night” depicts a john’s taxi ride into Leiber and Stoller territory (“12th and Vine”) to street walker with the stillness of an Edward Hopper study. “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)” speaks more of restlessness than the blue-collar despair of its later incarnation, “Factory,” a track on Darkness that might have been even more suited to the misappropriated Reagan-era blockbuster Born in the U.S.A. Even the obsessive “The Way,” hidden stalker-like at the end of the second disc, speaks to the prevailing theme among the newly released songs that is largely absent from Darkness: that of love and sex, lost and found. In his vinyl fanfare for the common man, in which even “Candy’s Room” seems to be more about loneliness than lust, such notions are a luxury to those beaten down by the working life.
While The Promise enlightens the focus of Darkness by showing what Springsteen chose not to include on his fourth album, it also frustrates in what was still left unreleased. Bootleg packages from the 1977-78 sessions include two out-of-control rockers, “Breakout” and “Don’t Say No,” that show Springsteen at his most frantic, surpassing the best high-energy moments of The River, his roller-rink-flavored double album from 1980. “I’m Goin’ Back” was a harmonica-heavy romp that sounds like Bo Diddley via The Rolling Stones. “Janey Needs a Shooter,” a quirky sex ballad, resurfaced in 1978 from a murky demo tape pre-Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., and lent its chorus to Warren Zevon’s rewrite two years later.
The most surprising omission, and my nomination to assume the title of best unreleased Springsteen song, is “Preacher’s Daughter,” a slow, seething track with a subdued Diddley pulse. (Some lines of the song can be heard in Springsteen’s reworked version of “Mona” on the Houston ’78 Bootleg: House Cut DVD.) Its lyrical landscape seems straight out of Hank Williams territory, haunted by the echoes of “Jungleland”:
I got a date with the preacher’s daughter
She give me life she bring me water
Every Sunday I watch her work
Pretty little self in a pretty little church
Daddy gives her a nod she takes collection
Daddy gives her a nod she kneels by her side
Well I’d sell my soul for just one touch
The Lord would too if he loved her half as much.
Well I got a date with the preacher’s daughter
Her Daddy say that the boy’s no good
Just want to raise some coons out through the back woods
Well baby better believe what your Daddy say
Just wanna ramrod baby my life away.
It’s a long walk to heaven and a road filled with sin
And they better open up the freeway to let me in.
‘Cuz I got a date with the preacher’s daughter
Well now I don’t care what the preacher say
Well now I don’t care what the preacher do
I don’t care what the preacher like
I don’t care what the preacher think
Leads me to water but won’t let me drink.
He leads me to water but won’t let me drink.
And now out on this little road on Saturday night
Two boys fighting in a halo of light
Car door flung open and a radio loud
And everybody shouting and running around.
Two guys bloody and one I don’t know
And all little girls shouting “Go Billy go”
Well just as I got the preacher’s daughter ready for a light
And missed a VH fire and something ain’t right
And like a she-devil howlin’ from the gates of hell
Goddam here come the preacher in his Coupe De Ville
Burnin’ up the backroad kicking in the dirt
And oh baby preacher thinks he is in church
Well now your lips they shine in the willow mist
And I swear I’d take you down the aisle for just one kiss
I got a date with the preacher’s daughter
Considering the Darkness outtakes already released on the 1998 Tracks box set–”Frankie,” “Don’t Look Back,” “Hearts of Stone,” “Give That Girl a Kiss,” “Iceman,” and “I Wanna Be With You”–along with the several River tracks that date from the Darkness sessions, and one can imagine a mammoth “Badlands” box set rivaling the complete “Basement Tape” bootlegs that document the 100+ recordings Bob Dylan, post-motorcycle accident, laid down with the Hawks in the Catskill mountains in 1967.
Springsteen’s post-lawsuit record remains a signature recording in his career, the first album in a populist phrase that began with the oft-overlooked Born to Run track “Night” and continued on the records that completed his transition from turnpike hoodrat to heartland hero: The River, Nebraska (with a title song that was, like Badham’s film, inspired by the Starkweather story), and Born in the U.S.A. In these albums and beyond, he would remain committed to exploring the territory laid out in Darkness–the dynamic tension between the defeat of “The Promise” and the reassertion of faith in “The Promised Land.”
Springsteen’s comeback album also captured a changing mood in America. Amid the decade’s second major energy crisis in July 1979, Carter would speak of the nation’s creeping malaise in his “Crisis of Confidence” address:
I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.
I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.
The Reagan Era was around the bend. Morning in America. Trouble in the heartland.
For the highlight of The Promise box set, check out the three-hour concert on the Houston ’78 DVD, an amazing document of a rocker in his prime.
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Sometimes it helps to step back and view a whole nation as if it were a person. Right now we are told that America is in crisis, and solutions are being offered from every quarter. When a person is in crisis, the search for a solution runs into conflict and confusion. The worst scenarios run through one’s imagination. Reason wars with emotion. We see the same in America today. The impulse to throw reason out the window is expressed through Sarah Palin, who makes a very nice living, thank you very much, by throwing tantrums in public. The impulse to blame somebody, anybody is expressed through the Tea Party. The cool-headed police officer or firefighter who comes to your house to handle an emergency is expressed through President Obama. As for Congress, it expresses the country’s refusal to accept that a crisis exists, since for all its hot air, Congress is dedicated to doing the same thing it has always done.
Yet people do get out of crises and so do countries. They do so by discovering that they are stronger, better, and more resilient than they ever thought they were. The first rule is that when they fall, souls bounce, they don’t break. I’ve put this in spiritual terms because leaving religion aside, spirituality has always been about the endurance of the soul and the possibilities of a higher vision. When terrible things happen in their lives, people don’t immediately find a spiritual solution. They first go into shock, numbness, denial, and fear. These forces take time to dissipate. It’s a slow process but a reliable one. The downturn of 2008 is fresh in everyone’s mind; the backlash of the midterm elections evidenced just how shocked and afraid the public still is.
But with an eye to recovery, here are the ingredients of solving a crisis when the time finally comes.
1. It doesn’t have to hurt.
2. You get to lead a better life than before.
3. You learn from your mistakes.
4. You stop listening to fear and anger.
5. You let go and surrender.
I think of these as spiritual qualities and therefore essential to the soul’s healing. Let me expand upon each just a little.
1. It doesn’t have to hurt. The reason that a very intelligent leader like Jimmy Carter failed was that he told people that recovery would hurt. That’s not a message anyone in crisis wants to hear or can hear. By comparison, Ronald Reagan, whatever his faults, made recovery seem like a happy prospect. No one wants to go to a dentist who says, “This is going to hurt, but it’s good for you.” Genuine healing makes you feel better. Forced improvement leads to resentment.
2. You get to lead a better life than before. America can seem, at its worst, like a country of endless consumerism, but it also stands for progress and personal growth. There’s a spiritual underpinning for this kind of optimism. The world is not a vale of tears but the vale of soul-making. The tendency of life is to evolve, which is why the best way out of a crisis is to grow out of it. When critics claim that America can’t grow out of this crisis, they offer the counsel of despair, which helps no one and is spiritually misguided.
3. You learn from your mistakes. Crises aren’t curses from God. They are opportunities for a breakthrough. Change and transformation are always possible. The difference between people who find a way to change and those who don’t isn’t simple, but a major ingredient is the willingness to learn from the past so that old mistakes aren’t repeated. In the current crisis America’s past mistakes are not exactly a secret. Time will tell if we decided to learn from them. At the very least, huge deficits and adventuring into foreign wars aren’t things most people are eager to repeat.
4. You stop listening to fear and anger. When someone is filled with fear and anger, the underlying condition is insecurity. If fear becomes endemic, the underlying situation is victimization. Our failed foreign wars were symptoms of both fear and anger, but since wars are never healing, there’s been no change in the insecurity that lies beneath the surface. The present crisis is worsened by demagogues of the Palin stripe who fatten off other people’s misery, but at least nobody is hiding from the emotional difficulties the country is going through. The key here is for leaders, who are not afraid, to keep encouraging others to stop listening to fear. Economic recovery will do a lot to relieve the malaise, but it’s worth remembering that America was prosperous when 9/11 happened, and wealth didn’t protect us from anxiety.
5. You let go and surrender. On both sides of the political divide, tightness and tension prevail. When no one is able to let go, relax and find their comfort zone, there’s no chance for reducing the level of stress that fuels crises. Letting go has more than one face, of course. But at its most basic, people should stop throwing kerosene on the fire. As a society, we are still incredibly privileged; we have the resources to overcome any difficulty and the world continues to look to us for leadership. All of that is nullified when we feel defensive and beleaguered. Feelings are real, but they aren’t always realistic. By letting go of the worst things (militarism, reactionary politics, greed, lack of empathy for immigrants and the poor), we will find that the best remains. Surrender isn’t failure. It’s giving up illusions so that our better nature can show the way forward.
It doesn’t matter if we attach the label “spiritual” to any of these points. They stand for a solution to the present crisis that is based on human nature, which is always pulled between its best and worst impulses. Having seen, time and again, that people pull out of crisis when the best part of them prevails, I’m confident that the same is true of this country as a whole.
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Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet
by Deepak Chopra
The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment
by Deepak Chopra
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Fans of Hollywood’s imaginative take on American politics may remember the movie, Guarding Tess. That 1994 comic hit featured Shirley MacLaine as a former First Lady who was being guarded by a Secret Service detachment headed by Nicolas Cage. Tess was something of a composite figure, part feisty Bess Truman, part liberal activist Eleanor Roosevelt, and part small town belle Rosalynn Carter. Of course, Hollywood being Hollywood, no part of Tess could be mistaken for a Barbara Bush or a Nancy Reagan. Even the fictional former First Ladies have got to be on the side of the Hollywood donor angels.
The movie reminds us that when we elect a President, we get him and his missus for life. We provide Secret Service protection for the President, of course, but for the ex-Presidents, too. Ever since communist guerillas kidnapped and murdered ex-Premier of Italy, Aldo Moro, Americans have recognized that our former Commanders-in-Chief could require guarding.
That’s not out of line. Even if the voters have tired of a President and are eager to kick his administration to the curb, no one wants to see our Mr. Citizen — as Harry Truman memorably called himself in his post-White House years — put in harm’s way.
Too bad we have no Special Agent in Charge to guard former President Jimmy Carter’s tongue. He was on CBS News recently holding forth on topics above his pay grade. He claimed that he had the “highest batting average” of any post-war President since LBJ in terms of legislative successes. Right.
We can remember some of those successes. Recall the creation of a U.S. Department of Education under Carter? Good. Now, quick: Ask yourself to name one improvement in American education attributable to Jimmy Carter’s gift to the bosses of the national teacher unions.
Carter gave us an unnecessary Department of Energy. With it we got his Rube Goldberg system of gasoline rationing. Older Americans may remember waiting in long lines for gas. You had to line up on Odd/Even days, according to the last digit in your license plate. What a nightmare!
Ronald Reagan swept all that apparat away on his first day in office. Since January 20, 1981 — you can look it up — Americans have never stood in line one day for gasoline.
Carter’s high legislative “batting average” is hard to credit when you recall that he campaigned against Jerry Ford’s Misery Index in 1976. The Carter team invented the Misery Index, a combination of inflation and unemployment figures. Under Ford, the Misery Index was 16. By the time Carter was racking up his congressional runs, hits and errors, his Misery Index was over 20.
Carter told CBS’ Bill Plante that many of the same problems that beset President Obama are problems he had to deal with more than thirty years ago. Really? The overwhelming issue thirty years ago was the U.S.-Soviet standoff in the Cold War. Two nuclear superpowers faced each other across an Iron Curtain in Europe.
Carter told an audience at the University of Notre Dame in 1977 that is was time for Americans to get over “our inordinate fear of Communism.” But all too soon, Carter was desperately trying to shore up collapsing alliances around the world.
In 1979, after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and after he had fecklessly allowed the Shah of Iran to be overthrown by the mad mullahs who remain in power to this day, Carter scrambled to stop the Communist juggernaut. More people in Africa and Latin America lost their freedom on Jimmy Carter’s watch than under any other American president.
Now, Jimmy Carter is taking to the airwaves to advise President Obama. Be tough, he says, to his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, be tough. He doesn’t mean be tough with America’s adversaries. He means be tough with those nasty Republicans on Capitol Hill. Be more confrontational.
Well, President Obama, you might consider Jimmy Carter’s free advice. He ought to know about the right moves in the Oval Office. Taking his own advice enabled Jimmy Carter to take early retirement from politics. For thirty years, he has been free to circle the planet, looking for dictators to hug and fraudulent elections to monitor. By following his own star, Carter’s re-election bid netted the former peanut farmer a cracking 49 Electoral Votes in his 1980 match-up against Ronald Reagan.
Jimmy Carter got a Nobel Peace Prize as consolation after his own “shellacking” from the voters thirty years ago. He also got Secret Service protection and a nice cushy pension. But President Obama, you already have your Nobel Prize!
In light of recent events sparked by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), there has been much debate and discussion over the importance of balancing civil liberties with national safety. There is no doubt that this is an important conversation worth having in regards to issues like military tribunals or wiretapping. However, debating this political trade-off is irrelevant when discussing TSA security procedures. Trade-offs imply receiving something in return for a sacrifice. While Americans are increasingly expected to forgo any right to privacy and personal liberty, TSA policies have continuously proven ineffective in carrying out their promised goals. Their new policies on bodyscanners and pat-downs have come to symbolize a decade of flawed administration.
The most obvious irony that emerges when discussing the newly controversial body scanners is that a policy designed to promote passenger safety can actually jeopardize it. While the verdict is still out on studying the health risks associated with these body scanners, many red flags have already been raised. The Allied Pilots Association (the union for all American pilots) has urged its members to opt out of a body scanning due to the “ionizing radiation, which could be harmful to their health.” Specifically, studies out of the University of California and John Hopkins University sight a growing fear that these scanners could potentially leading to skin cancer. While the TSA vehemently denies these assertions, they simultaneously refuse to allow for an independent and secondary evaluation of its scanners.
The TSA’s war on the scientific method extends beyond the scanner’s health effects to their perceived benefit on national security. While these scanners prove effective in detecting a bottle of Tylenol on an older mother or a case of contact solution on a young student, they are ineffective at detecting the new and more complicated liquid combinations used for explosives by terrorists. Former chief of security at the Israel Airport Authority, Rafi Seli summarizes their flaws in noting, “I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.” While the TSA presents these machines as the future to aviation security, Italy has dumped their usage of scanners after just six months of operation. The President of Italy’s aviation authority, Vito Riggio noted in addition to being excessively time consuming, the machines simply are not effective in ensuring safety.
The failure of these body scanners is part of a larger concern with regards to the TSA and their security focus. The incompetence of the TSA in the past decade results from their continuously retroactive approach to national security instead of a proactive one. Simply, Americans will not be safe as long as the TSA continues to focus on the “what” instead of the “who.” Terrorists act and organize in cells, and thus use ever evolving and adapting methods to accomplish their goals. Attempting to deter terrorists by anticipating their methods will inevitably prove futile; they will adapt to the status quo and operate out of another perceived weakness in the system. After banning knifes and sharp objects following 9/11, Richard Reid used a shoe bomb to evade security. Following the forceful removal of all shoe wear, Al-Qaeda operatives used liquid explosives. After banning passengers from carrying liquids, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab employed plastic explosives hidden in his underwear during his attempted Christmas Day bombing. As a result we have a universal body scanners, but one can only imagine the terrorists’ response. The TSA’s retroactive approach is clearly designed to thwart past terrorists instead of future ones.
While the TSA has set out to strike “a balance between privacy and safety” there approach is simply failing on both accounts. Despite a TSA aversion to empirical evidence and practical analysis, a through examination of Israeli security procedures could offer noteworthy improvements to both American security and passenger liberties. Despite a history filled with never-ending threats from the Arab world, Israeli’s have experienced a greater degree of safety in the air than their American counterparts. Without a terrorist attack on an airplane in nearly four decades, Israel’s proactive approach is one worth replicating. While many critics of the “Israelification” of security proceedings cite its use of racial profiling, the system is actually designed around behavioral profiling. At several different points throughout security proceedings, passengers are stopped and questioned. These conversations with travelers are conducted in car lines, identification stations, and baggage drop-off areas. In the process, Israeli security guards roam the area in search of suspicious behavior. Although a terrorist could potentially elude one Israeli agent, there is little chance his intentions can be hidden from an entire team.
As the TSA is focused on examining the contents of our shoes and that of our liquid containers, Israeli officials are studying the eyes and the mental disposition of its travelers. Israeli security expert, Rafi Seia summarizes the contrast in noting, “”Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes, and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.” In a prime example, one needs to only examine the TSA’s failure with the Christmas Day bomber to understand a larger systematic failure in American security. Abdulmutallab had been placed on various terrorist watch lists and had recently journeyed to Yemen to “network” with Al Qaeda. If the TSA had been focused on the man’s character instead of his possessions, the incident would have been averted.
While those who believe the TSA is on the proper path to security are mistaken, it is equally foolish to assume that a uniform copy of Israeli’s security system is the complete solution to all of our woes. The Israeli system relies intensely on scrutiny over a passenger’s travel records and personal background. While there is much outrage over these new pat downs and body scanners, obtaining access to personal information has proven difficult in the past. In 2003, Congress rejected the Bush Administration’s proposal to obtain “itineraries and related information” for all domestic travelers. However in light of new procedures, Americans would rather see the examination of their personal information than that of their private parts. Finally, the inevitable debate emerges about racial profiling. While the Israeli system is designed to detect suspicious behavior and not specific races, the overwhelming majority of people apprehended our Arabs. Although our security would be increased by adopting methods similar to that of Israeli’s, the government would still be faced with a fight from civil liberties organizations.
All the American people are asking for is open discussion on this issue — based on empirical evidence and not the ideology of fear. Instead, the American people have been ignored in favor of high-powered lobbyists. Makers of body scanners have spent millions of dollars over the course of the past year in lobbying the government for permanent use of their machines. L-3 Communications which has sold $39.7 million in scanners to the government, allocated over $4.3 million for lobbying purposes in just the first nine months of the calendar year. These lobbying firms recently worked hard to defeat a bill proposed by Congress Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to limit the use of body scanners at the airport. Somehow a feeling lingers that L-3 Communications and their lobbyists’ objections to this bill were not based on the long-term interest of the American people, but rather their short term profit margin.
The most startling result of this entire debate over the use of body scanners has been the complete 180-degree turn of the Obama Administration and also it’s foot soldiers in the Democratic Party. While our favorite constitutional law professor ran for the presidency on the notion of balancing civil liberties with security, President Obama has proven to distance himself from the ongoing debate. Similar to his lack of movement on Guantanamo and wiretapping, the President’s actions on airport security lag well beyond his words. However, if the President truly believes that body scanners and pat downs are the most effective method to ensuring safety, then he needs to set the example and not hide behind the TSA. Similar to President Jimmy Carter’s turning down the thermostat and wearing a sweater to support his new energy policy, President Barack Obama should agree to a full body scan or a groping pat-down before every flight on Air Force One to support his national security plan. American safety and civil liberties are serious issues, but America cannot afford to settle for a policy that does injustice to the former and the latter.
In the heat of divisive politics, President Obama declared that he was willing to be a one-term President if that’s what it took to get a health care bill passed. It seemed at the time like a show of principle, the kind of thing a mature, adult leader would say rather than a self-serving politician. But in the background, Democrats believed that he would never have to live up to his words. At the time, the country hated Republicans more than ever. The 2008 election had been a rout. When re-election time came, there seemed to be no credible Republican candidate for President in 2012, much less a serious challenger.
The midterms radically changed that perception. Obama’s “shellacking” press conference made him seem weak and uncertain. The worst had happened, which wasn’t just the resounding setback of the progressive agenda. Far worse was the evidence that a principled leader who wanted to heal the country’s corrosive gridlock had been defeated by the party of no. By acting as selfish and unscrupulous as they wanted, the Republicans halted the process of governance, blocked hundreds of appointments both judicial and executive, thumbed their noses at the Democrats’ super-majority in the Senate, and to add insult to injury, ran against Obama’s health care bill after they were the ones who ruined it. In the process of having their cake and eating it, too, the Republicans proved that being the party of no could fool most of the people most of the time.
Suddenly pundits were saying that a Romney or Huckabee had a chance against him in 2012 (today’s Gallup poll shows him losing to both of them at this point). We began to witness the Jimmy Carterizing of Barack Obama. And the scary part is that he seems to want to fill the role. His most ardent supporters — and I am one of them — started to see his virtues as liabilities. This may not be the time for a laid-back man whose instincts are conciliatory. His brain trust didn’t fix the economy. The recent trade meeting with the rest of the world brought back few victories, signaling that American prestige isn’t what it used to be. So are our fears right? Is Obama the wrong leader at the wrong time? I think that Democrats have to make this a serious consideration, so here are two rationales that are struggling against each other:
Rationale #1– America is going through a tough transition. Wall Street caused a worldwide recession, and in their anger, the rest of the world refused to share the pain. Instead, they told the U.S. to bear the burden, and we are. German, France, and China have recovered better and faster on their own, while we are weighed down by the same sagging housing market that triggered the meltdown. Obama cannot be blamed for this. It’s a storm any President would buckle under. Even Roosevelt saw the Depression enter a double dip in 1937, despite all his best efforts. We don’t have another Roosevelt today because the country is too divided. The public speaks out of two sides of its mouth. People cry for Washington to do something to help them, yet time after time they elect the most divisive candidates pledging to get the government off their backs. Obama believes that he gave the right medicine, but the patient rebelled and refused to swallow it. Nobody could do any better. Therefore keeping him as President, because of his vision of a better future, based on the campaign of 2008, still represents our best hope.
Rationale #2 — Obama inspired us in 2008, but he buckled once he got into office. The Republicans ran roughshod over him, and instead of fighting back, he remained aloof and out of touch. The serious reforms that Obama promised in health care and the financial sector never materialized. He caved on the public option. He caved on punishing Wall Street and bringing them under strict regulations. Each piece of legislation that he calls a compromise is actually a defeat. Now that the tide has turned and the right wing is stronger than ever, Obama has been discredited. He is the same man he always was, but that’s the problem. We need a warrior, not a negotiator. Divisiveness is incurable. The economy is horrible. Leaders can’t escape paying the price for their failures, and we need to stop pretending that Obama has hidden potential waiting to be unleashed. He needs to step down and turn to what he is best at: inspiring the rest of the world. That’s what got him the Nobel Peace Prize, so let him move on to the role he was born to fill.
I cannot choose between these two scenarios, because both rationales can be made to look persuasive. Maybe Hilary Clinton, aided by Bill’s incredible political skills, can take the Republicans to the mat the way her husband decisively defeated Newt Gingrich and put an end to the Republican dominance of 1994. Or maybe it’s foolish to think that history ever repeats itself. Obama is holding his finger in the dike, and just as he averted having the recession spiral into a depression, he is holding back the darkness of full-blown reactionary rule as represented by Sarah Palin’s gleeful brand of know-nothing bigotry.
Since so many of us are confused, there are two things we need in order to move forward. The first is for the White House to realize that both rationales are in play. Taking the stand that the doctor gave the right medicine but the patient wouldn’t swallow it just doesn’t wash anymore. Second, Obama needs to do what it takes to wipe out rationale #2, because what defeats a sitting President isn’t a crisis but a sense of paralysis. Jimmy Carter’s one term brought about more productive legislation than anyone realizes, unfortunately his achievements are overshadowed by his paralysis over the Iran hostage crisis. Obama can’t afford to let the same image overshadow his achievements, and his enormous potential. We need a fix-it president, but far more we need a President who can erase an image of weakness. Images have a way of turning into reality, and right now, the two are beginning to merge quite dangerously.
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Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet
by Deepak Chopra
The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment
by Deepak Chopra
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Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a six-part series by Jim Wallis reflecting on the past two years and painting a post-election vision for people of faith and Sojourners. To read more from Jim and join in a discussion with other Social Justice Christians check out his blog at God’s Politics.
There are endless comparisons made between Obama, Clinton, and Reagan — how badly each did in their first midterm elections, and how to recover and not be a one-term president like Jimmy Carter. But in the case of Obama, the better historical models are FDR and the JFK/Johnson period. It was the robust activism of those independent progressive movements of the past that created the space for major reforms and made other presidencies memorable. That’s because social change does not ultimately rest on who is in the White House, but a movement outside of Washington, D.C., that makes fundamental reforms possible. What we need to re-learn now is the choreography of the “outside/inside dance” that real social change always requires.
Barack Obama, perhaps more than any other American president, is aware of the “call-and-response” tradition in the black church. This tradition is why I love to preach in black churches. When the preacher “calls,” and the congregation “responds,” your sermon actually gets better, stronger and deeper. It can even change your sermon, taking you in directions you were not planning to go.
It’s time for this president to find the political equivalent of the black church’s “call and response.” He needs to be engaged with the movement that elected him, over the heads of the special interests and elites that now run this country, and even over the heads of Congress and their leaders from both parties. We need presidential leadership that can break through the 24-hour news cycle and connect directly with voters even when he isn’t immediately looking for their votes. It would require meeting with key constituency leaders and groups, including the faith community, not just to get their support for the White House political agenda, but to actually help shape a deeper social agenda and strategy. Part of this requires a change in perspective — to see an independent social movement on the outside as necessary and worth supporting (i.e. calling for it), rather than seeing an independent social movement as a threat or as constituencies that must be appeased or simply mobilized for e-mail campaigns on behalf of the administration’s agenda. Most White Houses have been incapable of a wider and deeper perspective, but that is what we need from the Obama administration.
Real social movements also reject the rigid partisanship that has come to dominate Washington. They stick to their core principles and realize they have neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, but rather, permanent issues. The kind of social movement we now need will not focus on Democratic or Republican victories in the next election cycle, but in finding allies wherever they can for a set of moral principles and issues.
Such presidential leadership would, of course, seem a very risky strategy — which many or even most White House aides will likely tell the president. But if Obama’s own “calling” is to really lead the change we can truly believe in, he might come to see that a bolder leadership style is the best, or even the only, way to accomplish that vision; or at least give it the best shot he possibly can.
Just as Lincoln needed Frederick Douglass, Roosevelt needed a pressuring labor movement. And just as Kennedy and Johnson needed King and the black-church led civil rights movement, I believe that Barack Obama now needs the kind of social movement that is always necessary to make real change in Washington. He can’t do this by himself, which he must painfully realize by now.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy and CEO of Sojourners. Get e-mail updates from Jim Wallis.
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Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street
by Jim Wallis
In 1980, Ted Kennedy shocked voters by launching an insurgent campaign against his party’s unpopular president, Jimmy Carter. Would Hillary Clinton dare?
If you’re watching Sarah Palin, then your attention may be fixed on the wrong would-be female president.
Political addicts and analysts will be monitoring Hillary Clinton’s behavior over the next few months. In particular, they’ll be looking to see if she voices dissent against Obama’s domestic policies, which are sure to be informed by the newly Republican House and the party’s stronger presence in the Senate.
Next, they’ll ask for her opinion on The Poll. The Poll, of course, is the impending media coverage on whether Democrats favor Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama and by what margin. Additionally, they’ll be asked if they think Hillary Clinton, whose husband oversaw the largest expansion of jobs in U.S. history, would have done a better job with the economy.
We’ll all be watching for an obvious sign: if Clinton resigns her post as Secretary of State. She will claim exhaustion as the reason, as she mentioned last year in a joint Newsweek interview with Henry Kissinger. If she resigns in early 2011, the reason will most certainly not be exhaustion.
How similar are Carter and Obama? Their presidencies are both marred by recession, they both installed solar panels on the White House (Obama’s are going up soon), both supported nationally comprehensive healthcare and, well, they both bailed out Chrysler. Carter’s approval rating was around 28% when Kennedy moved to unseat him. Obama’s, according the Rasmussen Report, is roughly 46% today, due to the sizable economic woes of Americans and the administration’s favorable treatment of Wall Street.
Obama’s appointment of Clinton as Secretary of State can be seen as a cold-blooded political calculation, much like his dealings with Wall Street. You may have forgotten (and if you have, Peggy Noonan is here to remind you), but Obama’s victory over Clinton was by no means overwhelming. Roughly half of Democrats voted for her presidential nomination.
For Obama, the Secretary of State appointment doubled as a prestigious position and a muzzle for Clinton. If you don’t think so, why did he pass over John Kerry, the man who arguably launched his career at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, for the position? He brushed Kerry aside twice, actually, most recently on climate change. I’m sure Kerry would probably love to support a Clinton presidency.
The question is, would you?
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Although our lives have turned out different, I learned in my friend Charles “Chic” Dambach’s exciting new book, Exhaust the Limits, that we have much in our personal and professional lives in common. I first met Chic through Paul Stevers, the Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist who funds orphans, peacebuilding, and counter strategies to terrorism.
Chic Dambach, President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.
Chic struck me as a tremendous thought leader and global citizen so I immediately wrote about him (story). In interviewing Chic, I learned much about him – but nothing compared to what I leaned in his riveting and soon to be narrative. Apprentice House of Loyola University Maryland is the publisher, and Amazon, Barnes & Noble and some book stores will carry it starting November 15. Advance signed copies are available at the website www.exhaustthelimits.org.
We both hail from Ohio – and we both moved away from the Midwest to the East Coast after a host of foreign experiences internationalized us so that Washington D.C. – and New York – became our global centers.
I have devoted the last twelve years to orphan care through Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) which resonates with Chic more than I realized. I learn in his autobiography his father was an orphan who actually had to run away as his orphanage had been so abysmal.
Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and Peter Yarrow with the book’s author, Chic Dambach.
Chic and I are also both fans of Peter, Paul and Mary. More than that, our mutual friendship with Peter Yarrow has impacted our saving the world. Chic worked with Peter’s organization, Operation Respect, and Peter sits of the Global Advisory Board of my orphan project, OIWW.
Years ago I co-founded an organization to counter the Fundamentalist Mindset and offered support to those addicted to it (story). Chic and I see this mindset as an integral barrier to peacebuilding. Chic knows this mindset well because, as he writes, he was caught up in it for a time:
My parents were particularly involved in civil rights and protesting the Vietnam War. Chic describes his presence on the Mall of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech which affected Chic profoundly. “This dream became my mission,” Chic writes.
My brother took this picture of George McGovern as he ran for president in Ohio, 1972.
Although I was only twelve, I worked very hard to elect George McGovern president in 1972. Chic actually met McGovern on several occasions and was a strong supporter as a result. As Chic writes, “McGovern was right. The war (in Vietnam) was wrong.”
Chic and I share many of the same heroes: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, and Albert Camus. Chic also knows well many people I have met only briefly but greatly admire: Bill Clinton, Carol Bellamy, and Harris Wofford to name a few. Chic has dealt with so many people I admire but have never met: Hubert Humphrey, Sargent Shriver, Jimmy Carter are among many examples. He even had dinner with Fidel Castro in Havana as part of a U.S. Olympic Committee delegation.
Our commonalities continue through Colombia. Although I was in Bogot through the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA), Chic was there with the Peace Corps. We both stayed with middle-class Colombian families through the auspices of CEUCA, now defunct.
My first exposure to poverty outside of Appalachia was in Bogot and it profoundly changed my life, leading me soon to relocate to Haiti, for example. Chic witnessed almost identical conditions in Colombia, which he describes so well:
On my first trip a chilling rain filled gullies with yellow-brown clay saturated water and it carried trash and sewage alike downstream to an unknown destination. There were no schools for the children; no one could read nor write, and unemployment exceeded 70%.
They survived by begging and stealing and I came to view both professions as noble. When your family is starving you do what you must to survive. To me it was Hugo’s Les Misrables come to life. For the first time in my sheltered and protected life, I came face to face with reality for the billions of people who miss meals regularly because they have no food.
I felt troubled and inept, and I’ve never been fully comfortable since that experience. Why was I born into affluence when so many people are born into so little? Where is the justice?
One interesting episode Chic relates is his experience administering arts for a time. He discovered Turfism, the blight of the non-profit community. He writes:
Any effort to promote broader allocation of NEA resources into “community” rather than “elite” institutions met with serious resistance from our local colleagues with the American Symphony League, American Association of Museums, Opera America, etc. All federal funding for the arts, they contended, should go to institutions judged (by them) to be the very best in the nation.
I discovered Turfism when I tried to work with my alma mater as a student to add Japanese language to the curriculum. The foreign language pie was only so large, and the French, German, and Chinese language/culture professors sabotaged my attempts to cut another slice.
Chic and I share as many differences as we do similarities. The biggest difference is that he was a star athlete and even trained in Olympic canoeing. He has retained a life-long appreciation for sports. I know next to nothings about athletics, although I rowed crew in school.
Another story that runs through Chic’s excellent book is the challenge s his son Kai has had with his health. A father myself, I realize nothing hurts a partner more than standing by helplessly as your child is hurting. Chic and his son have triumphed over serious illness, with the support of his wonderful wide and second son, and this medical miracle has colored Chic’s sense of life.
Chic’s work coordinating Peace Corps returnees back into the field following the genocide in Rwanda is perhaps the most riveting part of Chic’s book. I recently met an orphan given refugee status in America years ago who watched his Hutu mother and Tutsi father killed in front of him as a child – the atrocities there remain indescribable.
The enormous impact Chic made in settling disputes between Eritrea and Ethiopia is equally riveting, although, as most Americans, my own ignorance on events in that part of Africa dampen my understanding and appreciation of what appears to have been Chic’s Herculean efforts.
Chic has a vision that is particularly 20/20. He writes:
At the time, the entire U.S. foreign affair budget was barely 1% of the federal budget. That included every penny for embassies, the U.N., development assistance, educational exchanges, and arms control. Furthermore, the U.S. Government contributions to social, political, and economic development was the smallest, not the largest, among all developed nations. This, of course, ran absolutely counter to the public perception. Most Americans believe foreign aid alone consumes 15-25% of the federal budget and that the U.S. alone carries the burden of foreign aid. It is a myth.
Chic writes eloquently on the theme of extremism:
They hate us because — from their perspective — we have humiliated them, occupied their land, and exploited their resources. Now, U.S. planes without pilots fire explosives into their homes with impunity. U.S. military bases in Arab countries are insulting. We would react much the same way if Arab military bases were to be built in Kansas and Georgia. How, then, can enlarging our military presence and dropping bombs on Muslim populations overcome extremists. A few more anti-terrorism strategists need to read Three Cups of Tea if we ever hope to turn the tide.
This is a struggle between extremist elements and moderates — regardless of theology, geography, or ethnicity. When we resort to the tactics of the extremists, we are no better, and we will lose. I fear we have come close. This crisis calls for a new and different strategy, one based on building up vulnerable societies and winning allies rather than killing perceived potential adversaries and destroying their homes and their societies.
Fortunately top U.S. policy makers seem to be learning these lessons, we are behaving better, but much of the damage has been done. With support from philanthropist Paul Stevers, the Alliance for PeaceBuilding is developing a new “Peace through Moderation” project to support citizen-based initiatives to help overcome extremist movements that lead to violence. I am convinced we can do more to reduce extremism and the threat of terrorism with a few million dollars than our military can with tens of billions.
Chic has dedicated his life to conflict resolution. He writes:
Throughout history, ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and nation states have wantonly resorted to violence — open warfare — to assert and impose their will. When my children study world history they study the story of war and few people anywhere believe it will ever change. But that is what we are doing. We are changing it. It is too early to prove we can change the course of history, but that is our aspiration and there is reason to believe we are on the right path.
He sees the importance of the individual on the world stage:
The concept of citizen diplomacy emerged in the United States following World War II with tremendously important exchange programs like Sister Cities, AFS, the Experiment in International Living, and of course the marvelous Fulbright Scholars Program. Rotary International and other civic organizations add a vital dimension to the mix. My favorite, the Peace Corps, was created in the Cold War climate to build friendships and mutual understanding in remote parts of the world. All of this helped tear down walls and build bridges as a foundation for a more peaceful world.
CARE, Catholic Relief Services, WorldVision, Mercy Corps, and many other relief and development agencies have incorporated conflict resolution into their services because social and economic development initiatives depend on it. This is new.
As I prepare to move my life to Haiti, to participate in the construction of a New Haiti and use the Internet to continue my work with orphans around the world, I find great strength in Chic’s words:
Private citizens are leading the way, but the U.N. and many national governments are also part of the cause. Together, we are designing and building a pathway to peace. I wish it could be a super highway, but a walking path will do for now. It’s up to you to complete the task. It can happen in your lifetime. You will make it happen.
I am thankful for the quiet determination that thought leader and global citizen Charles “Chic” Dambach has brought to our world. Literally tens of thousands of lives have been saved around the globe through his brave efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed Chic’s book Exhaust the Limits and highly recommend it. The story of one man who makes a difference inspires us all.
Buy the brilliant book by Charles F. ‘Chic’ Dambach, “Exhaust the Limits” — the life and times of a global peacemaker — on-line here.
See Also by Jim Luce:
Meet the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Thought Leader Chic Dambach
Jim Luce on Africa
Jim Luce on Extremism
Jim Luce on Haiti
Jim Luce on Peace & Conflict Resolution
Jim Luce on Social Responsibility
The Luce Index on Thought Leaders and Global Leaders
99 – Peter Yarrow
98 – Bill Clinton
98 – Martin Luther King
98 – Paul Stevers
96 – Albert Camus
96 – Jimmy Carter
92 – Charles “Chic” Dambach
91 – George McGovern
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Earlier today, I sat down with former President Jimmy Carter for an extensive conversation about a number of issues, including the debate over the amount of money being spent on campaigns.
I specifically asked him about the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that paved the way for unlimited corporate contributions.
The full interview airs tonight on PBS.
On May 26th, 1978, Resorts International opened the first legal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town was released one week later.
No, Bruce and the E Street Band hadn’t planned to punctuate the dawning of a new era with their record. They probably never noticed the coincidence. But in the new documentary The Promise: the Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, premiering Thursday night on HBO, you can see that the album was an attempt to articulate a confrontation with what Springsteen called “the dark heart of a dream,” the rot that was already capturing, and about to eat away at, the promise of America.
Filmmaker Thom Zimny has unearthed and assembled long-forgotten footage of rehearsals and recording sessions shot in the studio from 1976-1978, and cut it together with commentary from Springsteen and his band mates to create an experience that is intimate in perspective and bracingly expansive in scope.
In the film, Springsteen talks about “the promise of rock and roll” and the sense it can provide of “the never-ending now.” He’s talking about the heightened, sometimes transcendent immediacy a good three minute song can deliver, but he could also be talking about the experience of making, or listening to, or watching him make, Darkness on the Edge of Town, a record in the most literal sense of a personal actualization and a pivotal American moment.
“More than rich, more than famous, more than happy, I wanted to be great,” Springsteen says, and his record bears him out. The Promise provides a fly-on-the-wall look at the creative process of a possessed, controlling, almost excessively talented artist at the most decisive point in his career. A three-year song-writing bender unfolds before our eyes. We see Bruce pull a seemingly endless supply of ideas, rough drafts and fragments from his ratty old notebooks. We cringe as he shouts at the band to “shut the fuck up!”, laugh as Steve Van Zandt and Roy Bittan place bets on how many takes the Boss will insist on at the next day’s session, and in one particularly revealing scene, watch slack-jawed as Springsteen barks the word “Stick!” over and over, and an obviously spent Max Weinberg repeatedly lifts and drops a drumstick, trying to hit his snare in a way that will satisfy his deranged taskmaster’s demand for the perfect, “stickless” drum sound. “Drum sounds were always bigger in my head,” the now smiling and much healthier-looking 61-year-old Springsteen says in commentary.
But it’s the songs, more than anything, that make the film so arresting. A quiet, powerful sense of their emotional authenticity, thematic unity, and wider resonance slowly accrues over the course of the documentary, just as it does on the record. It was on the following album, The River, that Springsteen would articulate the question, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” but he begins to ask it on Darkness. Born to Run’s grand, “wall of sound” canvas was perfect for a kid with big dreams, but Darkness was made by a grown up asking new questions, and it has a much more stripped-down, grounded sound that is somehow hugely cinematic. No other records were speaking its language or asking its questions in 1978. Saturday Night Fever was all over the radio. And Grease. And a bunch of good records from Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon and Talking Heads. But London Calling was still a year away, and until it arrived, Springsteen was pretty much on his own, creatively. The United States was in the midst of a recession, an energy crisis, and what President Jimmy Carter would call a “crisis of confidence” in what came to be known as his “malaise” speech, although he never uttered the word.
And just around the corner lurked Ronald Reagan, voodoo economics, lots more casinos in Atlantic City, a far more devastating recession, collective national delusion and thirty years of the kind of darkening of the American consciousness Springsteen was inveighing against on his record. In his speech, Carter said:
The “true freedom” Carter was talking about, the freedom afforded by a capacity for honest self-refection and an awakened consciousness, was the subject of Darkness on the Edge of Town, released a year before the President’s speech. In 1978, American culture was just beginning a tentative examination, through the prisms of Vietnam and Watergate, of the country’s myriad mid-century sins. The question in the air was whether we’d have the courage to keep looking.
Springsteen was only 27 when he made Darkness. He was still a scrawny, hyper-kinetic manchild, playing four sweaty hours a night. But he had already begun to write about the freedoms, limitations and responsibilities of adulthood on Born to Run, already declared to the world that “I’m no hero, that’s understood.” And Born to Run brought him the kind of success that can stop a career dead in its tracks. Soon after critic Jon Landau (his future manager) famously anointed him “The Future of Rock and Roll,” Springsteen was caught up in a protracted legal battle over publishing rights with his manager, Mike Appel, which kept him from recording or releasing any music for the next three years. And he was wrestling with his own demons, many of them products of his stormy relationship with his father, a volatile, tragic but inscrutable figure in his life. So it made sense that this young, scruffy boardwalk rat might be called “Boss” before his time, and, once he was allowed back in the studio, make a record that was a fierce, clear-but-bleary-eyed look at the hard truths of modern American adulthood.
He spent those years touring and rehearsing with the E Street Band, (one of the many pleasures of re-listening to Darkness is discovering the ferocious musical command they developed during this period) and writing song after song about “how to carry our sins,”– the sins of our fathers, the burden of guilt, the temptations of living the kind of unconscious life “where no one asks any questions, or looks too long in your face,” and the desperate necessity of “heading straight into the storm,” defying the darkness and honoring, as he says in the film, “Life. The breath in your lungs:”
The album is beautifully haunted, full of rage against the broken promises of America life, but it’s also full of hope, as each song’s narrator invariably reclaims those promises for himself:
I’ve done my best to live the right way / I get up every morning and go to work each day / But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold / Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode… / The dogs on main street howl, / ’cause they understand, / If I could take one / moment into my hands / Mister, I ain’t a boy, no, I’m a man, / And I believe in a promised land.
In the film, Springsteen talks about wanting to write songs that were “angry, rebellious, but adult.” About the sense of loneliness he wanted to evoke, the sense of something more, “something in the night,” within himself and in the world, that seemed to require something essential from him. As we watch his commitment towards that force deepen, a sense of what’s happening in the world just outside the studio seeps in to the film, and it becomes clear that Darkness on the Edge of Town is a record of American reckoning, an accounting of the steep, dreadful costs of unconsciousness and the fulsome, liberating rewards of opening our eyes.
Springsteen never stopped writing during his forced hiatus. By the time the album was released he had written and recorded five times more songs than he ended up using on the record. (Twenty-one of those tracks are being released by Columbia as a two-CD set on Nov. 16, as “The Promise.”)
Most of the film is made up of footage shot in the 70′s by Barry Reebo, a friend of the band’s who used to follow them around the New Jersey club scene. Reebo apparently had a particular talent for making himself invisible while hanging around the studio during the Darkness sessions. Throughout the film, Springsteen and the band members seem entirely unself-conscious, clearly oblivious to Rebo’s presence, and completely immersed in the work at hand.
The record comes alive in a whole new way in the film, as the personalities of the band members, musical and otherwise, reveal themselves. Max Weinberg’s drumming is a massive, martial heartbeat, booming against the ribs of the songs in fear and defiance.
The interplay between Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt lives up to the legend of their friendship, in scenes like one in which they crack each other up as Bruce bangs out an elusive riff (which would later become “Sherry Darling,” from The River) on a piano while Miami Steve yelps adlibbed lyrics and drums accompaniment on a rolled up carpet.
And keyboardist Danny Federici, who died two years ago at the age of 58, speaks with short breath and visible love for his friends and their work. He contributed the film’s, and the album’s, most indelible musical moment: the plaintive solo at the end of “Racing in the Street,” a customarily swirling, keening wail made of equal parts lonesome calliope, funeral dirge and call to the faithful. It’s an incongruously light moment in a dark song, one that lifts it to a whole new place and magnifies the compassion with which Springsteen renders its narrator.
Darkness on the Edge of Town is full of that kind of light. Streetlamp light, early morning porch light, the dim, hot, cigarette light of vigil, lonely rage and yearning.
Rock & roll too often condescends to, ignores or sentimentalizes the everyday life of the people who move in and out of that light, who populate the highways, bars, and factories of these songs. But on Darkness on the Edge of Town they have their eyes wide open, bravely looking a hard life right in the face. And now as we listen to this haunted record they haunt us. As we look back through the dark haze of thirty years, and see them daring America to live up to its promise, it’s hard to escape the feeling that they’re somehow daring us to do the same.
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who once famously held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to climate change, is installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on his official residence this week.
Donated by Sungevity, an Oakland, California based solar company, the Maldives’ PV system is grid-connected and will generate about 15,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per annum, providing half of the residence’s power needs, according to Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy, whose company donated and designed the installation for the Maldives’ presidential palace. South Korean company LG donated the PV modules, while the three inverters were provided by Germany manufacturer Kaco, and the mounting hardware by Ironridge.
Sungevity estimates the system will save the Maldives $300,000 over its 25-year expected lifespan. The system will go online tomorrow.
Kennedy’s company has made a similar bid to put solar on the U.S. White House for free, and started the Globama petition that garnered over 50,000 signatures. The petition and offer were hand-delivered to President Obama last month by 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who traveled to Washington with a group of students from Maine’s Unity College in an attempt to return one of former President Jimmy Carter’s solar panels to the White House roof. They were rebuked at that time, although yesterday the White House did finally announce plans to put solar back on the roof at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the near future.
Maldives President Nasheed says his country could not afford to delay another minute, with climate disruptions already impacting the tiny island nation 200 miles south southwest of the Southern tip of India. Its highest point is only 2.4 meters above sea-level, leaving residents at extreme risk from rising sea levels caused by global climate change.
“For the Maldives, climate change is a real challenge. It is not a problem in the future, it is a problem that we are facing every day. We have more than 16 islands that are facing serious erosion problems. We are having to relocate people from one island to another. We also have serious water contamination issues due to saltwater intrusion, which lead to food security issues as well,” President Nasheed said today on a call with media.
“For us it is an issue of life or death,” Mr. Nasheed said.
I asked President Nasheed what he thought about the criticism lodged by those who deny the science of climate change who often argue that renewable energy sources like solar are too expensive to warrant investment.
Drawing an anology to his grandfather, whom he said didn’t believe that man had landed on the moon, Nasheed said:
“There is very little we can do for that kind of ignorance, other than consistently trying to tell them that there is no doubt about the science about it.”
“You really have to be more intelligent about it. And it’s very difficult for me to be telling the people of the United States, ‘try to have a better grip on knowledge,’” Nasheed said with a chuckle.
“To be going on with the obsolete technology is, in my mind, madness,” Nasheed said.
Sungevity founder Kennedy described President Nasheed as “a climate justice champion” who is “willing to roll up his sleeves and get involved, installing a money-saving solution to climate change.”
“The [350.org] Global Work Party begins with this installation,” Kennedy said of the Maldives project.
350.org has tallied over 6,000 events in 184 countries happening this weekend as part of the group’s 10.10.10 Global Work Party to demonstrate commitment to global climate action.
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Five things are certain about the solar panels going back on the White House roof:
They won’t generate nuclear waste
They won’t be targets for terrorists hoping cause an atomic holocaust
They’ll be working many years before any new atomic reactor could be built
They’ll deliver usable heat and electricity far more cheaply than new nuclear plants
They’ll make the US that much freer from the oil addiction that fuels our disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The great unknown: could this solar energy zap Team Obama with the courage to confront the nuclear/military madness now destroying our nation?
These new panels go far beyond those Jimmy Carter installed and Ronald Reagan tore down. Carter’s $30,000 rig was installed in 1979 to heat water, which it did.
Reagan’s 1986 tear-down symbolized his assault on the green power industry on behalf of King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas).
We at Greenpeace marched with many others in 1991, at the launch of the first Gulf War, demanding George H.W. Bush reinstall the panels. He wouldn’t.
We asked the same of Bill Clinton. He wouldn’t either.
George W. Bush did quietly install some solar features on the White House.
After a first refusal, Obama says he’ll now re-instate solar water heating to the White House roof, and will add photo-voltaic cells that will generate electricity.
Team Obama is clearly responding to the anger of the Democratic base, which expects the White House to be truly green.
This includes ferocious opposition to atomic energy. The administration recently granted $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for a double-reactor scam in Georgia. Barely underway, the project has already emitted $100 million in hikes for the state’s ratepayers. The builders are now asking for an extra $1 billion. Endless delays and cost overruns are as certain here as they were for the “first generation” of reactors and are now being endured in Finland and France.
But Steven Chu’s Department of Energy may want still more guarantees for yet another disastrous reactor project in Maryland, Texas or South Carolina. And Obama has pushed Congress to hand more money to a failed industry that is efficient and reliable only in wasting billions of public dollars.
Can we dream that the new solar panels will zap some green sense into Obama’s energy planners?
Likewise with the military. Obama’s magic opportunity came when he “evaluated” escalating the war in Afghanistan.
But through weeks of deliberations, he met only with “experts” in suits and uniforms. He never talked with his once-ardent and hopeful supporters in the grassroots movements for peace, justice and environmental preservation.
Now we read, from Bob Woodward and others, that the generals refused to even provide the President with the exit strategy he requested.
Who runs this country? The civilians or the military?
Obama’s tragic decision to escalate the war robbed the nation of the resources needed to rebuild our economy and employment.
So the Democrats now stumble blind into mid-term elections, void of a vision that shines with any real hope for an economic turn-around.
Restoring solar power to the White House is a tiny but tangible step toward the Solartopian future necessary to our survival.
Now must come the definitive demise of atomic power. Imagine what an amazing green-powered Earth we’d now enjoy had all those billions not been squandered on that failed technology.
We need a fearless focus on the gargantuan military budget that cripples our moral and fiscal core. Imagine what Obama’s Nobel Prize speech — and mid-term election prospects — might resemble had he not jumped in to the Afghan quagmire.
We’ve been a quarter-century fighting to restore those solar panels to the White House roof. We seem to have won that one.
Given what we’ve seen of this administration, it might seem delusional to think it would seriously confront the nuke/military madness.
But we are winners as well as dreamers. And without that happening, we don’t survive.
Senator Barack Obama announced for president on February 10, 2007 in Springfield, Illinois. In a rousing speech quoting Abraham Lincoln in cold weather he set off on his quest for the presidency that very few thought would end in triumph as it, of course, did.
Senator Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy on January 20, 2007 with a post on her website saying “I’m in. And I’m in to win.”
The GOP frontrunner at that time former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani entered the Republican presidential race during an interview with Sean Hannity on FOX News.
The former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney made his announcement in Dearborn, Michigan the state where his father was once the governor.
And who can forget that the former senator from Alaska Mike Gravel announced a full thirty months before the 2008 election on April 17, 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
And, fifty years ago then Senator John F. Kennedy officially announced his decision to run for the presidency a mere ten months before the general election.
Times have certainly changed since JFK’s announcement. If someone waited until ten months before the election we would already be in the middle of the primary season and the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary would have been held.
Does it really matter how early you announce for president? It certainly did not help Mike Gravel in 2008 but it may have helped an obscure former governor of Georgia named Jimmy Carter who announced at the end of 1974.
In addition, to when you announce, is the symbolism of where you announce. Obama , in Springfield, Illinois invoked his connection to Abraham Lincoln setting the stage for his long campaign to the Oval Office.
When Bobby Kennedy announced for president in the 1960′s he chose to make his announcement in the same Senate room as his late brother did in 1960.
As soon as the midterm elections are over and the results calculated look for a possible early announcement this December and then there will begin a flood of presidential announcements in January and February.
Some candidates may take the Hillary Clinton approach and announce on their websites or Facebook or Twitter. Some may go on a late night talk show and announce to a national audience. Most though will choose somewhere important and symbolic to their lives in their home states when they announce.
The Donald as in Donald Trump is now putting himself forward as a possible presidential candidate. Certainly a man who likes publicity he could announce at one of his luxury properties in New York or elsewhere to give the image of a successful businessman.
The Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour could set up microphones on the Gulf Coast and talk about what a superb job he did in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. If the GOP gains seats in governors’ races Barbour, the head of GOP Governors’ Conference can take credit for the gains. Barbour could announce for president with all the new GOP governors at his side.
If Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels decides to throw his hat into the presidential ring he could make his announcement at the Indianapolis 500 race track and show he is a fan of the Indy Racing and NASCAR circuit and connect with the large number of race fans from North Carolina to California who are key voters.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal could stand on an offshore oil rig and make his bid for the presidency official by bashing BP and telling all of us how he helped solve the oil spill crisis and proved his leadership in this environmental disaster.
With so many of the possible GOP presidential candidates connected to FOX News we should look for some announcements on that unbiased channel. Mike Huckabee will have to decide soon whether he wants to be a talk show host or try again for the presidency. He obviously could announce on his own popular television show.
Sarah Palin has the perfect opportunity to announce in Alaska with the beautiful mountains behind her or if she announces soon she could do it on Dancing With The Stars as she watches her daughter in the audience. That way if she is actually booed it will be for her announcement and not for people upset with scoring by the judges on something not connected to her.
Since Palin needs to beef up her foreign policy skills she could announce from Afghanistan or another trouble spot around the world which would make for even more news than she normally generates.
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum also have ties with FOX News so they could announce on television during one of their commentaries. Since Gingrich is an historian he will probably choose something and somewhere symbolic to announce his presidential bid.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty could announce in a canoe on one of the hundreds of beautiful lakes in his state. And, Mitt Romney could actually announce in the state where he was governor-Massachusetts.
There will be other candidates like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich and possibly some big winners in the midterm elections who will become national political celebrities.
From the top of Trump Tower to the Indianapolis 500 to the lakes of Minnesota to the offshore oil rigs of Louisiana there will be well set up sites for presidential announcements beginning this December or early next year.
Historically, presidential announcement speeches have been pretty forgettable and not that inspiring.
So get ready. There is an unpopular president in the White House defending some unpopular policies and there will be many Republican candidates coming out of the woodwork to announce and the announcements will be coming soon.
The big question: Will a Democrat from the left or right of the party challenge Obama for the nomination? Don’t bet against that happening.
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