“This Time Must Be Different”

•November 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

P1010018_2The weather foretold it in Chicago. Rare is it to feel the warmth of southerly winds on an early November night in this city. Rarer still was the occasion of welcoming a president who means so much to the people he has set out to serve.

The gates were said to open at 8:30 p.m., but organizers let the crowd of ticket holders in early. Looking around at the faces of those men and women, some with children already sleepy, making their way down to Grant Park’s Hutchinson Field, one could spy a cautious kind of hope. A spark fired within. But, the full blown excitement was yet to be uncorked.

On this election night, merchants took full advantage to sell all and any Barack Obama merchandise, from the rhinestone studded to the more traditional. Most favored were items bearing “President Barack Obama.”

Chicago, the city that has defiantly cheered its beloved and beleaguered sports teams to victory and faced an unequal share of bitter defeat couldn’t help but feel minor trepidation about an Obama win. “We’ll believe it when we see it” may easily have been overheard throughout. Though some wild optimists among us with more healthy levels of skepticism knew the best was saved for last.

Down past the three checkpoints, and out on the field cheers erupted from the crowd, most of whom had already stood for nearly hours by then. Returns were announced on the two giant screens erected in the field. Shoulder to shoulder, people turned to their neighbor to chat them up with nervous laughter in an effort to take their minds off the tension.

The many young people managed the wait in the company of their friends and a box of Connie’s pizza. The older ones in attendance: they wouldn’t dare think of tiring out now. They had waited this long. Most notable of all roars followed Obama’s win of Ohio. That felt good. This was the one we had never gotten over. For good reason.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania already occupied the list of electoral votes by the time Ohio joined. When Virginia jumped into the group, it was a done deal. We knew no one could or would steal it from us now. All who had held their breaths were relieved.

Shortly thereafter, the announcement was broadcast and the wildest and most joyous pandemonium began. The words “Barack Obama Elected 44th President” ran along the bottom of the jumbotron. Several older ladies clasped their hands in prayer and relief.  Shouts of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” peppered in between the raucous screams and hollers. Over 6 minutes of continuous cheers ensued as the television pundits and analysts weighed in onscreen.

When after prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem was sung, Obama took the stage with the rest of the new First family, he quickly reaffirmed the thoughts of the hundreds of thousands who came to celebrate with him in Chicago. The victory belonged to us. This “victory of ideals” proved to be far more important to the spirit of unity than any issue driven agenda.

As Obama recounted the trials of the numerous volunteers and voters the election brought forth and the decades in the life of 106 year old voter, Ann Nixon Cooper, whose life had seen America’s darkest times and most unstoppable determination, tears streamed over the good fortune of our nation’s  newest turn of events.

Sent out into the night, a new era waiting to begin, the procession of people poured forth onto Michigan Avenue jubilant. Many fell silent, smiling, arms linked with their friends and family, strains of music from Grant Park filling the air. The crowd stretched all the way down to Roosevelt Road on the south and as far as could be seen to the north.

Soon horns blared, loud roars of “Obama!” “Obama!” erupted time and again. Cameras clicked and Chicago lit with flashbulbs as Americans captured their own moment in history on this one for the history books made in the city of Chicago.

“I’m very excited..I just wish he was more progressive”

•October 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Edward Lifson gets the word from Studs Terkel on Obama over at The Huffington Post.

EPA Ineptitude Continues to Be Revealed, Milwaukee Reporters Investigate

•August 25, 2008 • 1 Comment

(See what happens when local media take matters into their own hands and ask questions about the EPA and big industry)

Reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today published the results of their investigation of chemicals U.S. regulators had promised to screen for health effects 10 years ago but failed to do even now.

The newspaper reviewed more than 250 scientific studies written over the past 20 years; examined thousands of pages of regulatory documents and industry correspondence; and interviewed more than 100 scientists, physicians, and industry and government officials.

The investigation reveals millions of dollars have been spent on the EPA testing program without a single screening being done. Due to this delay and lack of testing, scientists and doctors must rely solely on animal data to study the health effects of chemicals on humans.

Further angering health advocates, the Food and Drug Administration recently pronounced the chemical BPA safe in food containers (such as water bottles and baby bottles) and not a threat to infants or adults despite numerous contrary studies.

In April The Washington Post reported that the FDA has relied on studies funded by the plastics industry over dozens of studies independently published by researchers.

“Despite more than 100 published studies by government scientists and
university laboratories that have raised health concerns about a
chemical compound that is central to the multibillion-dollar plastics
industry, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe largely because of two studies, both funded by an industry trade group.”

The lack of EPA testing and conflicting FDA advice on BPA confirm a pattern of government failure eerily evidenced by the EPA’s repeated failure to protect the public from flame retardant chemicals throughout the years. 

PBDE’s are chemically similar to PCB’s, which were banned in the U.S. over 20 years ago, according to Environment California, a state based citizen environmental organization. The group reported that PBDE’s are increasingly found in breast milk in U.S. mothers in levels that could cause significant developmental delay in children and infants.

The Edwards Affair Through the Eyes of A Supporter

•August 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

There isn’t any recent political figure I can say with honesty I have followed as closely in the past several years as I have followed John Edwards’ campaign.

Perhaps it was the grave situation the country was in December 2006 and still is in (far worse now), that spurred me to notice Edwards’ candidacy. He correctly addressed the tragic and cruel treatment of New Orleans’ citizens effected by Katrina. He appeared to recognize the growing gap between the rich and the poor and he championed the working class with the message of taking back our country from the hands of corporate abuse and uncontrolled excess.

Whatever ideas, facts or circumstances were at play, in many ways, supporters of Edwards, like myself, early on put ourselves out on a limb for the man and his message. We wrote letters to the editor to support his candidacy when superficial put-downs about his appearance and house surfaced in news articles undermining the issues at stake. We donated our money, at times low sums of just $15, $10 or $5. We donated our time to volunteer in Iowa for the best chance of Edwards winning the Iowa caucuses. We fought the good fight with him.

And with Elizabeth Edwards it was no different. Because of the intelligence and grace she showed both on camera and off in conversation and debate she became broadly admired by many, including those that didn’t support her husband as a candidate.

Genuine was always the word used. I talked with Elizabeth one Sunday morning in November 2007, nervous as could be that some technical glitch would ruin my phone interview with the next potential first lady. She had responded to a post of mine and on a whim I sent her an email asking to speak with her on homeschooling and education since I knew that her children were at the time being home schooled, as are mine.

I emailed her and less than an hour later, she responded saying she’d be happy to do it. We arranged a time for the weekend and I spent the next several days coming up with the questions. So, there I was, my husband and kids out for the morning to breakfast to give me some space and quiet, waiting for my cellphone to ring in our 2 bedroom apartment overlooking a TV shop, wondering if she’d have to cancel and I’d get a call from her assistant or more likely an email. But, instead the phone rang. I answered and heard her voice say “Christine? Elizabeth Edwards…”

We talked for about 40 minutes, cut off here and there by a dropped line that Elizabeth said apologetically was due to notoriously bad cell phone service in New Hampshire where she was traveling by van as we spoke. She was just as everyone had said she was: genuine.

Meeting John was no different. I shook his hand and had a picture with him in Chicago at a fundraiser in June of that year. Two months later I began covering the campaign for Off the Bus when I saw him again at the AFL-CIO candidate forum in Chicago in August. Later that fall, I drove, husband and kids in tow, to Madison, WI to cover another Edwards event and for my son to meet him in person.

Finally, in Iowa, covering the lead up to the Iowa caucuses, I witnessed the final hours of the Edwards’ 36 hour marathon the day before the caucuses. In a small packed coffee shop in Iowa City, John rallied his supporters. Afterward, I met Elizabeth finally in person and marveled that she recalled our interview.

We voted for him when he remained on the ballot even as he had dropped out suddenly days before the February 5 primaries. We kept his message in earshot of the policy makers and pundits who shape the election debate and law of the land. We rallied to his aide against allegations of the affair last fall and again recently only to suffer bitter disappointment as in January all over again only this time on a much deeper level.

My husband asked the other day what I think of the Cubs when they’re winning and I told him I don’t expect much, but every once in a while I’m still thrilled. He theorized correctly that for long time Cub fans and Chicagoans the expectation is always for losses. Truly this is no different in politics especially during election season.

Perhaps the buffer of time will ease the anger and resentment clouding the minds of those most receptive to trumpeting the Edwards’ political efforts. While the Rielle Hunter affair remains a personal matter for Edwards and his family, the dishonest handling of Edwards’ campaign encompassed thousands of voters, campaign staff, volunteers and ordinary citizens.

The game of U.S. politics has always been played with the front of morality. Appeals to puritanical, nuclear families and “small-town values” still form the basis of modern campaign strategy. Beer-drinking, biker rallying, hunting candidates try to pretend: “Look, I’m just like you!” and most often they fail embarrassingly with their attempts.

But, every once in a while their antics are almost believable and we see them as one of us. On election night in 2004, it was Edwards who told the anxious crowd of voters in Boston at 2:30 a.m. as votes were being counted, “We’ve waited four years for this victory, we can wait one more night,” before John Kerry conceded the election to George W. Bush after sunrise. Edwards’ words were just what we wanted to hear at a time like that.

But, therein lies the irony of the Edwards’ affair. As he’s said so himself before, “I’m human, like everybody else.” And despite the fact we’d like to pretend otherwise, humans can never escape being miserably flawed.

Populist Manifesto No.1

•August 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Populist Manifesto No. 1

Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up too long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills,
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses,
down from your foothills and mountains,
out of your teepees and domes.
The trees are still falling
and we’ll to the woods no more.
No time now for sitting in them
As man burns down his own house
to roast his pig
No more chanting Hare Krishna
while Rome burns.
San Francisco’s burning,
Mayakovsky’s Moscow’s burning
the fossil-fuels of life.
Night & the Horse approaches
eating light, heat & power,
and the clouds have trousers.
No time now for the artist to hide
above, beyond, behind the scenes,
indifferent, paring his fingernails,
refining himself out of existence.
No time now for our little literary games,
no time now for our paranoias & hypochondrias,
no time now for fear & loathing,
time now only for light & love.
We have seen the best minds of our generation
destroyed by boredom at poetry readings.
Poetry isn’t a secret society,
It isn’t a temple either.
Secret words & chants won’t do any longer.
The hour of oming is over,
the time of keening come,
a time for keening & rejoicing
over the coming end
of industrial civilization
which is bad for earth & Man.
Time now to face outward
in the full lotus position
with eyes wide open,
Time now to open your mouths
with a new open speech,
time now to communicate with all sentient beings,
All you ‘Poets of the Cities’
hung in museums including myself,
All you poet’s poets writing poetry
about poetry,
All you poetry workshop poets
in the boondock heart of America,
All you housebroken Ezra Pounds,
All you far-out freaked-out cut-up poets,
All you pre-stressed Concrete poets,
All you cunnilingual poets,
All you pay-toilet poets groaning with graffiti,
All you A-train swingers who never swing on birches,
All you masters of the sawmill haiku in the Siberias of America,
All you eyeless unrealists,
All you self-occulting supersurrealists,
All you bedroom visionaries and closet agitpropagators,
All you Groucho Marxist poets
and leisure-class Comrades
who lie around all day and talk about the workingclass proletariat,
All you Catholic anarchists of poetry,
All you Black Mountaineers of poetry,
All you Boston Brahims and Bolinas bucolics,
All you den mothers of poetry,
All you zen brothers of poetry,
All you suicide lovers of poetry,
All you hairy professors of poesie,
All you poetry reviewers
drinking the blood of the poet,
All you Poetry Police –
Where are Whitman’s wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great’new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song
of the immense earth
and all that sings in it
And our relations to it –
Poets, descend
to the street of the world once more
And open your minds & eyes
with the old visual delight,
Clear your throat and speak up,
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
with terrible eyes and buffalo strength.
Don’t wait for the Revolution
or it’ll happen without you,
Stop mumbling and speak out
with a new wide-open poetry
with a new commonsensual ‘public surface’
with other subjective levels
or other subversive levels,
a tuning fork in the inner ear
to strike below the surface.
Of your own sweet Self still sing
yet utter ‘the word en-masse –
Poetry the common carrier
for the transportation of the public
to higher places
than other wheels can carry it.
Poetry still falls from the skies
into our streets still open.
They haven’t put up the barricades, yet,
the streets still alive with faces,
lovely men & women still walking there,
still lovely creatures everywhere,
in the eyes of all the secret of all
still buried there,
Whitman’s wild children still sleeping there,
Awake and walk in the open air.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Marketers Hope They’re A Better Influence On Kids

•July 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

With little public outcry in opposition, the tales brand marketers weave about marketing and young people continue to reach bizarre proportions.

In a July 16 article in the British magazine Ethical Corporation, Giles Gibbons marketing director of the PR and marketing firm Good Business argues, not surprisingly, that brands shouldn’t fear marketing to kids and can actually can reach children in a way parents and schools are unable to.

Gibbons takes on “commentators” who argue for control of brand marketing. He writes that these commentators “tend to react in a knee-jerk
way particularly when it comes to products that can be deemed “bad” for
children – whether it is the possible health risks of mobiles phones,
or soft drinks and obesity.”

Companies themselves are capable of their own regulation, according to Gibbons and “will often rule out activity that would clearly lead to children
pestering their parents for unhealthy or expensive products – whether
by changing the message or changing the context in which it is found.”

“But to suggest that companies should not communicate with children at all is narrow-minded and shortsighted..” he continues.

“Messages on bullying, or the environment, or online safety that come
from a cool brand – like Hello Kitty – can have far more impact than
the strictures of parents and schools.”

Tina Wells, who prides herself on being the queen of tween and teen marketing and leads her own Buzzspotter tween marketing recruits, recently wrote in The Huffington Post about the “new power couple” of celebrities and brands.

Wells hopes consumers believe her argument that celebrity plugs for youth products and entertainment is necessary and actually desired by teens and young people.

“The market has become so fragmented, with dozens of information outlets
competing for the attention of savvy young consumers, that traditional
advertising simply does not reach them anymore. Even when I was a teen, we were glued to the TV on Thursday nights.
Consuming the ads was part of the experience of watching Dawson’s Creek
and Beverly Hills 90210. When Ali Landry became the new Doritos girl,
we actually cared who she was. And we all noticed that the kids on
Dawson’s Creek wore American Eagle.”

Wells, a PR and marketing specialist by trade is the new “author” behind the recent Mackenzie Blue “book series” by Harper Collins Publishing, aimed at 8- to 12-year-old girls. The series features product placement written into the plot. The release of the book was met with criticism by consumer advocacy group Commercial Alert.

A press release from February says” tweens will discover more about going “green,” learn about the “global”
landscape, and be motivated to achieve their goals in the Mackenzie Blue books.

-crossposted on Green Parent Chicago

Obama Campaign Addresses NY Times Report on Al-Qaida Growth in Pakistan

•June 30, 2008 • 2 Comments

Obama foreign policy adviser Susan Rice and former CIA officer Bruce Reidel launched a conference call today to address the failure of the Bush administration’s approach toward Pakistan and the recently reported safe haven that exists in the country for Al Qaida.

The article on the existing Pakistan bases appeared today in the New York Times and tells of the rising number of Al Qaida operatives being trained in the region:

“Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of
terrorist camps from which to plan and train for attacks against
Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new
camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However,
despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one
retired C.I.A.
officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as
many as 2,000 local and foreign militants, up from several hundred
three years ago,”
the article states.

During the call, Rice and Reidel said Sen. Obama, as president would focus on a multi-layered economic approach that could possibly draw in help from NATO to defeat the Al Qaida presence in Pakistan.

Rice was clear to pinpoint John McCain’s support of the Bush policies toward the region and called McCain’s support “poor judgement.”

“We have 5 times the troop levels we have in Afghanistan in Iraq, yet John McCain wants to keep our troops in Iraq indefinitely,” said Rice.

She added that by demonstrating economic assistance to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. would be “in a better position to leverage comparable contributions from NATO.”

“The heart of the terrorist threat has always been in Afganistan and Pakistan border,” Reidel said.

However, there appeared some defense from Rice and Reidel on comments Obama made last summer on “actionable intelligence” and when and if he, as president would act to make a strike on Al Qaida targets in Pakistan with or without the permission of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Rice called Obama’s words “a new approach” and highlighted that he was
the only candidate at the time to make such a statement on U.S. policy.
Rice added that Obama plan includes a commitment to an additional 2
combat brigades in Pakistan.

Rice and Reidel responded to a reporter’s question on whether or not the NY Times article itself in their opinion constituted “actionable intelligence”. Both disagreed.

“It’s not the kind of intelligence that tells you where you can drop a bomb,” responded Reidel. Rice responded to the question saying, “actionable intelligence is widely understood to mean time and place specific.”

-crossposted on MOMocrats