Friday, December 28, 2007

Dear Iowans Likely to Caucus

Well, Iowan caucus-goers and nation, even though the epic election begins next year, as of now it really is less than a week away. Already. The elephant in the holidays, dressed up for New Year's Eve and the Circus d' 08. Who ever thought this idea of crunching a wintery blizzard of canvassing and caucusing right into the middle of the Jesus Season (otherwise known as the Santa and Snow Storm and Champagne and After Christmas Sales Galas and Bowl Games Season) was a good idea? Hmmm?

Meanwhile, we've got to go with it, even those of us who live in states that lean precariously Red AND which are LPS (LPS, that would be Late Primary States, such as Big Red, big and behind the curve Texas). Never have we "late" staters felt so much like we were waiting helplessly in the wings, not even really part of the process. It seems to me, we of the sensible spring primaries, we've got to get our feet in the door in the early states, at least until some sane new spring schedule of these things gets put in place of this premature holiday hoedown.

As regular readers know, I worked Iowa in '04 for Dean, and now I am a John Edwards enthusiast, and so I'm pitching here as I see fit -- to a state that really does matter. Dear Iowans Likely to Caucus, lend me your ears (as well as your courage and your convictions).

I have friends in Iowa, and so I just sent a link to my recent post endorsing John Edwards, which you can see as the December 13th post here at ABN.

As an intro to that post, here's what I said to my friends:

Hi Friends,

Since by March my vote in Texas may not count for anything (if it ever did), I forward this to you, one of several takes on John Edwards (and Iowa) at my blog, "A Better Nation." All three of the top contenders are decent candidates, but I asked myself, who would I most want to have talking to me from the Oval Office in a time of need? Clinton and Obama came up as capable but shrill, packaged, not really inspiring, much less heroic. I suppose it turns out that, of the three, I think John Edwards would be the most heroic and comforting.

I hope things go well on Thursday for the candidate who, for now, is showing the most conviction -- and enough warmth to melt the ice off the sidewalks.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Eyes on the Green Prize

Again, as many days, I feel compelled to comment at the Sierra Club's Green Tips. Today's tip was about refilling plastic bottles with bulk soaps, household cleaners, etc. Nice but not essential. Here's my take:

It's best not to make special trips to buy all sorts of specialty things at a dozen stores when three or four have everything you need -- making special trips to find refillables, for example. If we keep our eyes on the big picture, we're reminded that mostly making a real difference comes down to just a few things: living in town near stores and services, having one or no children, driving and flying efficiently and in modest amounts, buying generally modest things (mostly "necessities") in modest amounts, and doing whatever you can to reduce your energy use at home. Everything else is just details, fun perhaps but really just distractions from the big picture that REALLY counts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Putting to Death the Death Penalty

Thanks to New Jersey.

Thank you, New Jersey legislature and Governor Corzine, for putting an end to the death penalty, the first state to do so in over 40 years.

What a gruesome state of affairs our prisons -- and especially our death rows -- are in. No other civilized nation packs 'em in like we do. We must love prisons. Or someone loves prisons. The prison lobby, and don't you know, like grackles, like funeral directors, there is a strong prison lobby.

As a region, the South loves the death penalty the most. The South accounts for 86% of all executions performed in the United States. And Texas alone, this ass backwards state in which I happen to reside, accounts for 62% of ALL United States executions. Jesus, lord.

I know we have a lot of people here in Lone Star State, around abouts 20 million or so, but we've also got some serious inclinations toward the institution of incarceration. And we've got the most famous death row in the world, behind "The Wall" in Huntsville, an historic burg in which I have dallied long enough to learn that prison guards do not make for great cocktail party conversation.

No studies show prisons nor prisoners of the sort we so to be the solution to our ills. And no study shows the death penalty to be a worthy deterrent, the only moral argument for its existence. And so, really, the arguments for the death penalty are immoral, the stuff of bullies and profiteers and Old Testament thugs. Still, the march to the gallows (by lethal injection now, not rope nor guillotine ) goes on, with tough old gunslinger Texas leading the way.

Surely, there is a better way.

'Tis the season to turn the tide.

And so again, thanks to New Jersey for leading the other way, surely a better way toward a more decent nation. Even a more honorable one.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Digging Into Life

The thing is, you could miss it. It could pass you by. Not life. You're alive. You're not missing life. But LIFE.... mmmm, that might be a thing you miss...

UNLESS, you dig deep into the veins beneath others' skin, and crawl around inside their limbs, as if they were the tunnel/roads to your quest.

Do you get in? Do you grovel? Do you risk it that much? Out on a limb? Into a limb?

Are you letting others do the living for you, thinking their movies are as good as it gets? Their poetry is as good as it gets? Their headlines and pastimes and passions as good as it gets.

It only gets as good as it gets when it's all up to you.

And it's just NOT a matter of the middle of the road, never the middle of the road. Keep your land, but push on, press on, press in, then adrift, FLOAT, lift off, lift UP, FLOAT, and with all deft grace and patience, fly.

Dig into this thing, LIFE. ONE chance, one try, one, one.

And the best way to get there, down that flying highway, that low and go way, hovering and having and heaven? Don't hold back. Be bold. Express. Give. Gush. Give. Love, love, LOVE.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm a John Edwards Man, Myself

Four years ago, in late 2003, I was already signed up to go to Iowa to work for Howard Dean. Dean was, in December of that year, at the apogee of his popularity and appeal. He was on the cover of Rolling Stone, even though he said he was a politician, not a rock star. Dean was treated like a rock star that night he came in third in Iowa, and he still is.

Back then, as the winter of '03-'04 approached, I thought John Edwards was just a smooth-talking pretty boy. I preferred Dean's scrappier, Harry Trumanesque, street-fightin' posture. Edwards was not my man, but then neither was John Kerry.

Go back another four years, to 2000. Al Gore briefly considered picking Edwards for his running mate. Instead, Gore chose Joe Lieberman, and the rest is sad history. If Gore had chosen Edwards, I think Edwards would be running for president this year as well, but as Vice President. It turns out Leiberman was a horrible choice for VP, and it had as much to do with Gore's defeat as anything else. If Gore had chosen another young, gutsy Southerner, as Clinton had done when he picked Gore in 1992, I think the Gore/Edwards ticket would have won. With two dedicated, fired-up Southerners on the ticket, both Florida and Tennessee might have gone for Gore, easily taking the election without any interference from the courts, Floridian or Supreme.

Edwards is a more compassionate, more graceful and more nuanced speaker than either Clinton or Obama, and personal riches aside, he is a populist, not a paper-pusher. Clinton and Obama are senators at heart. They come across as senators. Edwards is a man of the people, for the people. I think he alone of the three puts people above policy, and that resonates with me.

Newsweek has a big profile of Edwards this week, suggesting he still can take Iowa. As we've learned, Iowans like nice, and Edwards is Mr. Nice Guy in that state, especially in its rural nooks and crannies, the ones that killed the Dean campaign (our orange Deaniac caps were like a cancer of carpetbaggers to the cautious, insular heartland people of Iowa). Edwards has the right tone to take Iowa or at least come in a strong second.

And if he does that, then this campaign is a no lose situation for him. Even if he is not the nominee or the VP pick, he'll be in the top three for a cabinet seat, and that would be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The "Affable" Huckabilly

Ah, the Huckabilly!

This coming weekend, The New York Times Sunday Magazine features a long profile on Mike Huckabee, and despite the fleshed-out, state of the art portraiture, the whole thing comes down to the ex-governor's down-home, good ol' preacher boy "affability," a word the Times piece wastes no time using in the first few paragraphs.

By the story's end, even after demonstrations of Huckabee's likability and his ignorance (avoidance of basic 20th Century knowledge) of Biblical proportions, his jeans-on-the-front-porch Hillbilly Soul, the moral of the story is the same as it ever was.

We used to think the taller presidential candidates prone to winning (and throughout human history, there is anthropological evidence aplenty to support that). But ever since the advent of televangelized, sound bite candidacies, the Affability Factor wins just about every time!

Take note: the less stiff, the less robotic of the candidates has the edge (as long as he isn't TOO bland and doesn't rant or otherwise get too edgy). The taller guy still has an advantage, but the shorter person can overcome that with other attributes better conveyed from the distant stage, especially in ten-second clips on the you-know-what.

Let's look at presidential elections since 1960, when the TV camera began to run the show:

Kennedy over Nixon (clearly), Johnson over Goldwater (a closer call, though Johnson stiffened more after he won while Goldwater loosened up after retiring), Nixon over Humphrey (hard to call, an aberration? '68 was a MESS of a year!), Nixon over McGovern (two stiffs, one a soft stiff, one stiff in power), Carter over Ford (clearly), Reagan over Carter (clearly), Reagan over Mondale (clearly again), Bush over Dukakis (two stiffs, but Bush was the much more ambling speaker), Clinton over all comers (and poor Bob Dole, a funny man out of campaign mode), Bush over Gore (again, a Bush the more ambling, if illiterate, speaker of the two and certainly less robotic), and Bush over Kerry (the drawling Texas squeaks by a buttoned-down Yankee every time).

The most affable/comfortable speaker of the Republicans this round: Huckabee (who towers in affability over the much taller and more imposing but not-so-discreetly scripted Fred Thompson.

The most affable/comfortable speaker of the Democrats this round: I'd say of the leading three, John Edwards. And of the marginal candidates, Dennis Kucinich, who, at times, seems almost ready for prime-time PBS, a cross between Charlie Rose, Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.

As we're seeing, the Affability Factor rides again. Game ON!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ron Paul of the Grand Old Party

Of the Republican candidates for president, I tend to most enjoy hearing from (for short periods of time) the amiable and likable yet delusional Mike Huckabee and the rather courageously crusty and even sometimes sensible Ron Paul. I have at least one friend who's parading his being "for" Paul, though as usual with this friend, his being "for" anything comes not from any conviction besides the desire to be as contrarian as possible.

And so, here we have two truly interesting candidates who are NOT party regulars -- and how different they are. One is 'onward Christian soldiers' while the other is 'soliders get home now.'

More on Huckabee another time. For now, I'll make a few sweeping comments regarding the new Ronnie, sort of a strangely fossilized Old World mix of Reagan and Noam Chomsky!

I think Ron Paul tends toward being very sensible about foreign policy, and the most refreshing thing about him is that he seems to be truly independent, not beholden to particular corporations -- and certainly not to the Republican Party powers that be. The media often marginalize candidates such as Paul, as the major media are mostly owned and shaped by vested interests intent on gaining audience share without rocking the boat too much. Paul shakes the status quo as he is not middle-of-the-road.

It is not that we should be isolationist, though, or libertarian at home. Paul is right to say we should not be bombing bridges, but he is wrong to not more comprehensively acknowledge that we need to be building more bridges. The world is too interconnected and interdependent for diplomatic or economic isolationism or for cultural or political libertarianism to seem reasonable. The future is more globalism and more cooperation and more partnership. If Paul could work this more progressive (and I feel politically and economically viable and indeed inevitable) world view into his own personal and political views, he might really get somewhere with millions more of us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners"

And here is a poem for today, by the Sufi poet Hafiz, who lived in the 14th century.

"We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners"

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”

For we have not come here to take prisoners

Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and