Monday, February 8, 2010

The President's Turn

I greatly enjoyed a three page article on the subject of President Obama and his inability toget anything done, a subject that has caused me endless frustration. Someone called David Michael Green, a professor at Hofstra University, New York has published a superb discussion of the failures of the excessively polite President. The entire article can be found at, at this link:

Here is an excerpt that tickled my funny bone. Having read it I feel less alone:

Much as I hesitate to say it, the changes in the Obama White House this last week are slightly encouraging. It's even possible that they've recognized what a suicide mission they've been on this last year and have taken some baby steps in the only direction available to them for survival, let alone any sort of redemption. Obama doesn't strike me as constitutionally able to throw a punch at an adversary. It's just not in his character. But this week, at least, he flicked a couple of spitballs. For this White House, that's progress.

In any case, there was much that was telling about the event. First, that this semi-hostile dialogue which many have compared to the British weekly tradition of Prime Minister's Question Time transpired at all was a somewhat profound development. Of course, that statement says far more about the pathetic nature of the American political system than it does about Obama or the cavemen from the Valley of the Right who questioned him. It's also enormously telling that the GOP resisted until the last moment allowing the cameras to roll during the question and answer period they really didn't want to go there. Think about that. You had a single meek politician going up against two hundred rabid bullies, and which side wanted to make sure the public didn't see the engagement? Did Republicans know something in advance that made them fearful of public exposure, even when going up against President Neville O'Bambi?

Perhaps it was the same thing that caused FOCS (Frighten Old Children Silly) "News" to cut away from the broadcast in the middle of it, despite the food-fight event being the very epitome of what television loves to show in politics. Uh-oh. Not only was Obama occasionally holding Republican feet to the fire, but he was even doing it without a Teleprompter! Evidently, the sight of the nice, genteel, reasonable black man helping a bunch of white sharks make themselves look like the stupid liars they are was all too much for Mr. Ailes and company. Seeing this was causing smoke to pour out of the ears of robo-regressives all across America, their circuits frying all at once. Cut to American Idol reruns, boys! Fast!

Why? Because Obama was actually making these lying thugs own, even slightly, the consequences of their destructive deceits. Here he was with the Republicans at their retreat, for example: "There was an interesting headline in CNN today: "Americans disapprove of stimulus, but like every policy in it.' And there was a poll that showed that if you broke it down into its component parts, 80 percent approved of the tax cuts, 80 percent approved of the infrastructure, 80 percent approved of the assistance to the unemployed. Well, that's what the Recovery Act was. And let's face it, some of you have been at the ribbon-cuttings for some of these important projects in your communities." Similarly, the next day he was tweaking seven Republicans who actually walked away from their own proposal for a bipartisan debt-cutting commission, just because the socialist president had subsequently agreed with them on the idea.

The Kumbaya Kid is considerably more gentle about whacking these Joe McCarthy protégés than I would be. I'd like to see a lot more Harry Truman out of him, and a lot less Harry Reid. A lot more Betty Friedan, and a lot less Betty Crocker. Just the same, the Massachusetts election may go down as an inflection point in this presidency, the moment at which the White House figured out that standing by silently and watching yourself get your ass kicked by dress-up cowboy cowards unarmed with anything but lies and bullying tactics turns out to be, amazingly enough, something of a strategic error in national politics.

But what I find so astonishing about moments like this is how revealing they are of simple truths that somehow manage to get lost, particularly in the ranks of the Democratic Party. To begin with, Barack Obama has been hard at work for a year now, crashing an enormously promising presidency that just happens to also have his name attached to it, and the way forward has always seemed to me so transparently clear. Regressives in Congress (some from his own party), representing parasitical special interests, are sucking the blood from the American polity, even as the corpse begins to stiffen in rigor mortis. Maybe I'm just a sucker for that old fashioned democracy gospel, but I still believe that many times good policy can also be good politics. How much greater public fury at banks and other corporate predators does there need to be before the president realizes that actually taking on the malefactors of great wealth in this society also happens to be the best thing that could happen to him politically? How many times does he have to lose public support because of the astounding fabrications people are promulgating about him before he decides to stop playing nice and call the liars liars?

After seeing the president in action this week, the obnoxiously abrasive pundit Chris Matthews opined that Republicans should fear Barack Obama's learning curve. That one gave me a real chuckle. As far as I can see, no one in America has more to fear from Obama's learning curve than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who is currently slated to be very much on the housing market in January of 2013. Indeed, the single thing most utterly astonishing to me about the Obama presidency is how such a politically astute candidate could turn out to be such an absolutely lame, slow-to-get-it, president.
There are plenty more thought provoking essays at his own site which I have labelled Regressive Antidote in my own weblist.


A man riding down from Solares Hill towards the cemetery on a Honda Metropolitan. Quintessential Key West,you might say, and notice the pronounced slope from the island's highest point, estimated at around 16 feet (5 meters) above sea level. I was out walking aimlessly around the middle part of town, around William and Margaret Streets, on a hazy sunny afternoon last Thursday. A developer is planning on turning the four million dollar historic Harris School on Southard Street into something new. For now it sits forlorn amidst it's empty parking lot awaiting the costly face lift:In a recent post Pefley in Seattle identified a classic car he photographed. I have no idea what this is on William Street. It looks like it would be more at home 90 miles south in Havana.
I think this next sad object under a mouldy tarp is a Corvair. Maybe not:The red blob in the middle of the fence says "No Trespassing" though how you are supposed to trespass a fence that tall I have no idea, not being a pole vaulter.
Living life in North Carolina seems to involve enjoying life in Key West as well. Good job, kayak bicycle and spend money chaps.I was prompted to take a picture of the interior when I noticed the multiplicity of wires and mounting brackets and general electronic crap. Living life indeed!Better living through electrons. This next one cracked me up after I double checked what I was seeing through the cemetery fence.The bronze colored plaque celebrates the dead person's service in the Civil War fighting in the rebellion against the Union and someone has seen fit to mark the spot with a Union Flag. That is really missing the point with delicious irony. In the next picture I saw riepe's over sized dog celebrated in a bumper sticker. Of course I had to take the picture whereupon I spotted the burger joint sticker as well.For my take on the In-N-Out phenomenon here is a link to an essay I wrote about my last visit to that particular burger chain in California's Central Valley:

For the sentimental types I include a photo of an orchard blooming in February:No cat is safe that we care for, none, to paraphrase Gilbert and Sullivan's Three Little Maids in Mikado:An international incident was narrowly averted by pre-emptive use of the extend-a-leash. I looked around when I saw the scribble on the street sign painted on a power pole:Indeed the city seems to have forgotten to label Carsten's Lane as one way from William to Margaret. The penciled notation might help. It happened that I started noticing tin roofs, like this delightful antique rusting gently under the southern sun and salt:
Or this old style tin roof in much better shape: I love these particular Key West roof styles:
This church tower on Fleming reminds me of the Missionary church tower they invented for the movie Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. He set part of the movie in the mission church at San Juan Bautista in Central California but the church does not actually have a tower so they made one up for the movie. Had Hitchcock lived here instead of in Santa Cruz County he could have used this Congregational Church tower to show Jimmy Stewart losing his mind over another blonde:
And talking about pencilled scribbles I spotted this phone number written down as though by some dork who hadn't heard of pen and paper. What a weird way to disfigure a gateway.This next oddity must have a proper botanical name but it put me in mind of things more biological than botanical.And then I came across this conveyance, a vestige of a proud 20th century corporation, now said to be headed towards ownership by the Russian mob. Or not because GM is currently owned by the US government who is embarrassed by news that the Dutch buyers of the Saab brand are backed by the Mafiya.It happens that people call 9-1-1 and we need to get what we call "descriptors" of the people involved in whatever thing is being reported. All too often callers say "white shirt and brown shorts" or "black shirt, tan shorts" or something like that. "The Key West uniform" I think to myself as I dutifully note down the clothing details. they are supposed to help in case the people move away and officers are out looking for them.
Sometimes we get the word that someone is wearing plaid shorts for a change. A comely young woman in this case. The two other uniform toting people are men.
But the uniform is pretty much the uniform, though locals tend to eschew name brands and visitors manage to look spiffy at the same time. For readers who reside in 1990's style suburban boredom these two pictures:These and other assorted stairways lead not to heaven (usually) but to small cramped inefficient apartments that cost as much to rent as whole blocks of Detroit or Cleveland cost to buy. You would be horrified. Which leads one to ponder what exactly this means:Old Skool Orin has made a point of Portland's efforts to keep the city weird. Key West does that with one hand tied behind it's collective back. Keeping the attitude down to a low hum is a lot harder. I like the live and let live philosophy so I try not to support change for change's sake when an issue comes up.

Then it was time to park the dog and head off to the movies. Cheyenne is actually welcome at the Tropic Cinema on Eaton but I am going to wait till summer comes and the theater isn't as crowded and she will be more used to being out in public with me. Life on the back seat of the Nissan Maxima isn't so bad.On my way down Eaton Street I started to see motorcycles. This is one of the major arteries into Old Town and new arrivals line up around here to take advantage of the guest houses close to Duval Street. This people appeared to be from Manitoba. One would like to think they rode the whole way.In Key west the utility of a small motor scooter cannot be overstated:
Try doing this with a dressed cruiser:Putting multiple vehicles in one parking space is legal in Key West, but if the meter runs out all vehicles in the spot get a ticket. There is tons of free motorcycle parking so you'd think people would use it. I had the great joy of encountering Tony at the corner of Duval and Eaton. We discussed the Bible verse about judging not, lest ye be judged which led us down a dark dead end of disagreement. A young woman walked by and shouted "You give Christians a bad name!" to which Tony replied with a venomous comment that involved an asshole. I told him I was shocked and he looked at me with contempt.Of course the anonymous woman is right, Tony just makes public what Christians don't want to say out loud. They hate fags. Bummer, but what shocks me is how many fags want to belong to a club that views them as sinners. People are just incomprehensible to me; if you need to believe in the unbelievable become a Druid, a group of tree worshippers who I don't think care about sexual orientation. Here's another preposterous sign seen as I walked back to the car from having seen and enjoyed A Single Man, ironically enough a superb story well told about a fag! I suppose that makes me a fag enabler, or something.A tumble down house still on offer for a price that seems to ignore quite happily the realty of the US real estate market. Perhaps unreality is another fine Key West quality.

Eaton Street at seven o'clock at night and warm as a summer's day. Ah, Key West.

Motorcycle Down

I had just taken over the main police channel when Nick went on break leaving Paula answering phones and dispatching Fire/Rescue. One of our two ambulances called out a traffic wreck on the Palm Avenue bridge they had just come across on their way downtown. "Motorcycle down!" they called out as they watched the motorcycle appear over the hump of the bridge and go down as it landed in the road. I immediately toned out an officer and within less than a minute he too was on scene. They called for help and soon we had officers, ambulances and engines all on scene and the radio went quiet as they worked away. Then they called for a helicopter to fly the rider out. His passenger was going to be treated at the local hospital for her injuries. It was only when an officer called out the tag that I realised who it was.I met Steve last October at Badboy Burrito proudly riding his Buell, both of them survivors of the ride across the backroads of the Midwest known as the TAT, the Trans America Trail, and he was justifiably proud of the accomplishment. We talked before the demise of the Buell company was announced and his enthusiasm for the marque was a pleasure to see. It served him well on his epic journey. I took this picture from the blog of the journey a very worthwhile read about three motorcyclists riding a crazy trail for three weeks to Moab Utah, from Memphis Tennessee.The prognosis is good for rider and pillion according to the last word I got from one of the rescue crews at the scene and it is so rare for dispatchers to hear the end of the story I made a point of seeking them out. They say Steve who was flown to Miami was conscious and alert at the crash scene. One tough cookie. There is the obvious wish for a speedy recovery and the hope that the Buell will be back on the streets of Key West, because they are indeed not making them anymore. I'm not sure how many riders they are still making who are ready to ride a TAT either, come to that. Tough cookies indeed. I was lucky when I went down last June that I slid across the highway without hitting anything, a feat much harder to achieve in the narrow confines of Palm Avenue. He is tough, AND lucky. I will be thinking hard about him as I ride home this morning. I know all the aggravation that comes from a fall.