Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

An Open Letter to President Obama

First of all, congratulations. You had the truly extraordinary courage to run in the first place, even while all the blowdried blowhards on the small screen were predicting your demise via sniper’s bullet. Even your main competitor for the nomination couldn’t help but wish publicly that you’d be assassinated. What’s become clear throughout this race is that you’re one smart guy, and the way the country has gone in the last several years – going back long before Cheney took power in the 2000 coup d’etat – we’re going to need it. In one small stroke, this country is poised to reclaim a real leadership role in the world, one that may even transcend the beautiful and literally paradigm-shifting moment when we elected you. In so doing, many of us were voting to put an end to racism once and for all, not only rejoicing in the possibility that you would even have won the nomination, but looking forward to the point where an Arab could be President of France or a Jew could be chief executive in Germany. Laughable as these ideas may have been a scant few months ago, they’re not laughable now.

While I don’t want to spoil the party, assuredly you realize that you weren’t elected because the American public wanted you as President. This past election was a referendum on the Bush regime and its failed policies that your Republican rival failed to repudiate. Because he failed to do so, he lost the election. While I’d rather have you in the White House than, say, Donald Duck, Donald Duck could have won this election had he been the Democratic candidate.

 

And what have you won? A conspiracy theorist would be quick to say that Karl Rove is the man behind the curtain here, selecting a Vice-Presidential candidate so repulsive that she’d alienate even the most diehard McCain supporters. Taking the theory to its logical extreme, the Bushites are counting that in four years the economy will be in such tatters that we’ll long for a messianic figure to appear, no matter how much sinister baggage that messiah may bring with him or what far rightwing corner he comes from. You have your work cut out for you, and the sharks are already circling, particularly all the hangers-on from the Clinton administration hungry for another go-round of partying on the Georgetown circuit. And everyone who threw money at you – and god knows, pretty much everyone did – is waiting for their pound of flesh. I don’t think there’s a soul alive who envies you right now.

 

Since you’ve doubtlessly already felt how many knowing nudges in one direction or another, I thought I’d put together my own list. This isn’t a personal wish list. If it was, I’d be asking for more government support of the arts, a shorter work week, free college tuition for those who’ve attained the proper prerequisites, forgiveness of college debt for those enslaved by what the government’s lent them and legalization of recreational drugs. Important as all those ideas are, they can wait. We have far more serious issues to deal with. I can’t say I’ve been thinking about this for a long time so far as it applies to you, because frankly I underestimated the intelligence of the American public: I didn’t think you were going to win. Then again I didn’t think I’d ever live to see the Boston Red Sox win a World Series, or to see Radio Birdman live in concert. So here’s what I’ve come up with, a program for your first hundred days in office:

 

1. Let’s get out of Iraq, now. Bill Richardson style. Let’s bring the troops home before any more American kids get blown up by those nasty oversize grenades the Bush regime euphemistically calls I.E.D.’s. No country has ever had the resources to fight a war while simultaneously tackling the kind of economic crises we face at the moment. Let’s focus our resources where they can actually do some good, here at home. And remember that America still has first dibs on Iraqi oil. You can thank your predecessor for that.

 

2. Speaking of oil, let’s initiate a massive electrification process, the likes of which will make rural electrification back in the 20s and 30s look puny by comparison. America can be 100% energy-independent in ten years if we do it right. GM, Chrysler and Ford on the ropes because nobody’s buying their cars? Don’t forget that virtually every municipality in this country, from Lenox, Massachusetts to Birmingham, Alabama had its own electric light rail system before GM put them out of business. Let’s turn history on its tail and help the Big Three – and local entrepreneurs – retool this country for light rail and public transporation. It can be done because we did it before, without one tenth of the energy-saving technology we have now. And we can do it without nuclear power. Just ask T. Boone Pickens, who’s suddenly seen the light and apparently wants to redeem himself after a lifetime spent as a corporate raider putting people out of work.

 

2A. Then let’s export this technology. You want a Marshall plan for Iraq, or Afghanistan? How about a Marshall plan for the whole world!

 

3. Outlaw speculation. Did you know that in the United States, it’s illegal to speculate in onions? That’s right. Now, quick, name the administration that signed that bill into law: A) FDR. B) Truman. C) Kennedy. D) Teddy Roosevelt. If you answered any of the above, you’re wrong. It was the conservative Eisenhower administration who realized that to allow Wall Street gamblers to drive up the price of onions just so they could afford a few more mansions and private islands is profoundly anti-American. Likewise, allowing Wall Street to rig the price of ANY essential resource, oil, foodstuffs or anything else purely for profit has profound and drastic consequences for average Americans who can’t understand why they can’t afford to buy groceries, heat their homes or take their kids to school anymore. Abolish the toothless Securities and Exchange Commission and replace it with a new Federal office with subpoena and arrest powers. Any of those poor speculators who can’t find work can get a real job. Like picking onions, for example.

 

4. Completely revamp the bank bailout plan. Drawn up and passed under extraordinary pressure from the multimillionaire corporate elite who understood it – none of whom supported you – and ordinary Americans who didn’t, what it essentially does is take all the profits of risky speculation private while taking the losses public. Meaning that taxpayers will be left to pick up the pieces while the speculators who created the mess walk away scot free with every cent they managed to squirrel away before the shit hit the fan. All profits earned by the corporate elite should go to paying down any debt owed by the government for the bailout. Let’s also not forget that the ultimate owner of all that bad mortgage debt is the government: taken to the logical extreme, this means Federal sheriffs will be going around foreclosing in a neighborhood near you. While we shouldn’t issue a blank check to those who took advantage of lax fiduciary oversight to speculate in real estate, we should very seriously consider amnesty for anyone threatened with the loss of a family residence who was swindled by the mortgage lenders.

 

5. Resist the urge to include Clintonistas in your administration. Putting Podesta in charge was a big mistake – unless you’re thinking of pinning the first disaster on him and throwing him to the wolves. My, you’re smarter than we ever thought. Please keep in mind that many of the evils of the Bush regime would not have been possible without precedents created by the Clinton administration, including but not limited to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act (which would have prevented the entire current financial crisis); the GATT treaty that gave Swiss lawyers sovereignty over American citizens, the NAFTA treaty that created that giant sucking sound of jobs being swept overseas, and the welfare bill that made slavery legal again on American soil. All of those were Clinton creations. Clinton beat Bush I by being more of a Republican than he was. Invoking the magic of the Clinton years – what a party, huh? – won’t cut it, policy-wise. It’ll just drive you into the arms of the extreme right who think Clinton was a liberal. And remember: the Clintons are profoundly evil people. Hillary Clinton let her lust for power get the better of her to the point that she wished openly that someone would assassinate you.

 

6. Watch your back. More than ever, now is the time to keep one eye over your shoulder. Keep in mind that the Bush regime completely gutted many offices of government including the CIA and Secret Service, replacing lifelong, patriotic civil servants with Bush sympathizers and apologists. The person who’s watching your back might be the last person you want in that job.

7. Close Guantanamo. Now. Free the innocent bystanders there who had the bad fortune to be out and about while the bounty hunters were rounding up bodies, eager for a handful of American taxpayer dollars that the Bush regime was only too glad to hand over.

 

8. And while we’re at it, how about more government support of the arts, a shorter work week, free college tuition for those who’ve attained the proper prerequisites, forgiveness of college debt for those enslaved by what the government’s lent them, legalization of recreational drugs, and doubling the budget of the Library of Congress? If we got out of the war we could do all that and more.

 

As much as many readers may find this list completely unachievable, remember, that’s what everybody said when Barack Obama first announced his candidacy. If we don’t ask for a mile, we won’t get an inch.

 

Thank you for listening. Now back to the music.

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November 6, 2008 - Posted by | Politics, Rant

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