Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The President Makes A Whistle Stop In My Olde Home Towne....

President Obama will be embarking on a bus tour of Central New York, making a stop in Syracuse on Thursday August 22nd, 2013.

He's going to give a to give a little talk concerning educational opportunities at Henniger High School. According to the White House, he will presumably discuss and promote the
"importance of ensuring that every American has the opportunity to achieve a quality education by reducing cost and improving the value of higher education for middle-class students and their families."

This is quite an honor for the Salt City. The Presidential spot light carries much more weight to cities that have struggled to survive the economic climate that has prevailed in the post 9/11 era, along with being seriously caught in the swoon of the economic meltdown of 2008.

Its also been rumored that on Thursday Night the entire Presidential Entourage will be staying at  the ultra exclusive and chi-chi Mirbeau Spa in my home town of Skaneateles, which sits on the northern tip of one of the freshest bodies of water in the US.

Skaneateles Lake is part of the water supply for residents of the city of Syracuse, with over 250,000 humans dependent on access to clean and plentiful water.

(A  disclaimer: I've been involved in the anti-hydrofracking grass roots movement in New York State for almost five years now, and administer a facebook page called YOU CAN'T DRINK MONEY.)

Many people on the grass roots level have worked tirelessly to protect Skaneateles Lake, and thus the water supply for a densely populated area, as gas leases were signed willy nilly in the gold rush that is high volume, slick water, hydrofracking. So far, a moratorium on the practice has held for five years, and Skaneateles Lake got a special layer of dispensation that would make it slightly less profitable to frack about and around its shores.

President Obama has been recently quoted as calling the US "The New Saudi Arabia Of Natural Gas", and is about to sign off on opening federally controlled lands to widespread fracking, among other initiatives. He has adopted an open and official stance of "Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead". His usual stance of at least perceived caution and pragmatism has been clearly discarded for a "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy that out Sarah Palins Sarah Palin.

He's making James Watt look like a bonafide tree hugger.

I'm a supporter of the President, and voted for him twice. I'd be a liar if I didn't mention that lately I've been pretty disappointed with some of his policy decisions and administrative actions, especially those revolving around energy and natural gas extraction in the US.

So the irony of the President on a promotional tour and taking a break to enjoy one of the most naturally beautiful places in New York State that many have busted their collective asses (at great personal and financial risk) to protect from the industrial dangers of high volume, slick water, horizontal hydrofracking hasn't escaped me.

                                                          Mirbeau Spa, Skaneateles NY

The more I think about the Presidential Bus Tour stopping in Syracuse and having an overnight in Skaneateles, the more galled and appalled I become considering his stance on hydrofracking.

He will be speaking at a high school ostensibly to talk about the "opportunity to have achieve a quality education".

Those of us involved in the anti hydrofracking movement are concerned with much more simple opportunities. The opportunity to access of clean water, to not have the risks of the oil and gas industry externalized onto an unknowing and uneducated public, by the unethical re-writing of laws and regulations that were bought and paid for by an industry that has proven over time to be wholly incapable of any type of transparency or self-regulation. This is so much more than a straight up environmental issue.

Aside from the absolute public relations tone deaf gaffe of tossing the majority of your New York populist support under the wheels of your tour bus by having a "spa night" like a Pasha (Axelrod and P-Fluffy: Are you listening?), I'd like to make a suggestion:

Stay in Skaneateles if you must, Mr. President, but stick to your principles and the industry rhetorical bullshit that you have embraced and don't turn on the water taps in your luxury bathroom.

Don't wash your hands, hydrate yourself, have bowel movements, brush your teeth or take a shower during your visit.

And if you must urinate, relieve yourself by the side of Route 20 in full sight of your secret service detail.

Or better yet, if you are insistent on propagating this absolute hypocrisy, just go piss up a rope.

I, as did many other of your constituents, voted for you because you were the smartest guy in the room.

That never gave you Carte Blanche to act like the biggest asshole in the room.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Daily Dose #69: The Bee Boy / A Lake Boy Tale

Back when I was a little shaver (around 4), we used to visit my Momma's best friend's camp on the western shores of Owasco Lake. Both friends had several kids around the same age, so it was always a lazy summer day hang. The rote routine: Swimming, playing in the woods, macaroni salad, hot dogs and lemonade for lunch, nappy time on the front porch, more swimming, and then packing up and getting home before Dad arrived from work.

I was the youngest in that combined gaggle of goslings, so I was always running around trying to play "catch up", and the older kids were always trying to ditch me. Such is the social dynamic of groups of children. The youngest is always the outcast, bringing up the rear.

One of the pastimes enjoyed was "Penny On The Rails". A real live train used to run on the west side of that lake back in the early 1960's, and right through that camp like clock work at high noon.

So all the kids would take pennies and put them on the tracks, go eat lunch, and after the train rumbled through, run and collect their squished copper coins.

The older kids would always get there first, so by the time I brought up the rear, all the flattened pennies would be scarfed up. It was always an exercise in futility for me, but I never stopped trying to be part of the action.

One time while chasing after them, I stepped right on a yellow jacket nest in my barefeet, wearing only my plaid swim trunks. As the angry little beasts swarmed all over me, up me, and in me, I really didn't know what to do. I knew to stay away from bees, but when you're covered from head to toe with them within seconds, including having a mouthful of them.... I kinda was at a loss, and in shock.

I called to my brother and sister, but they were way ahead of me on their penny retrieval mission... so I turned around and tried to get back to the camp, where my mother and her friend were laconically cleaning up from lunch, smoking cigarettes and sipping their afternoon decompression cocktail.

I must have been some sight. I was a half-pint, walking, talking festering, robot bee hive. As my mother tell the tale, she would recount "You couldn't see any SKIN!...just bees".

My mother has always been good in emergency crisis situations, and I never failed to provide them for her in my accident prone younger years. She ran down the hill, picked me up, ran down the dock, threw me in the water, jumped in, pulled off my bathing trunks, and held me under while squeegeeing bees off my little body with her bare hands.

Then she pulled me out of that baptism by bee and finger lake water, threw me in the car, and hustled my now ballooning and bloated body to the hospital, all without saying a word. She just dealt it down.

Up until yesterday, I have not been stung by a bee... a pretty good run of almost 50 years of a clean, sting free record.

But yesterday, while weeding the garden, I inadvertently stuck my hand in a nest of yellow jackets.

Hello my old striped friends! Within a nano second, I was about to revisit the torture I had once endured back in 1964. Fortunately this time, I was wearing a few more clothes.

I did a clumsy dance (I'm naming this dance "The Yellow Jacket", and I fully expect it to sweep the nation)  to the hose and escaped with minimal damage, except to my soggy ego. In my brief forays into naturalism, the lifetime score is Bees=2, Little Georgie=0.

But the first word I uttered when I stuck my hand in that nest and saw the swarm fly at my face was "MOMMA"... then the unending stream of expletives followed, like a little kid trying to catch up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Friday On My Mind Leads To Tuesday's Child. A Musing On The Presidential Press Conference on 08/09/2013

 There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity!

                  Burl Ives as Big Daddy Pollitt in Tenesee William's "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof"

I've been going to a little 24/7 "key access" gym to rehab an ankle that I inadvertently destroyed in a freak home improvement accident.

Alone in the building, with the sun streaming through the front plate glass window, I mounted the Lifestyle 9500 Elliptical instrument of torture for my dose of aerobic, cardiovascular ankle crunching.

On the television directly in front of me, members of the White House Press Corps were jockeying for position, in preparing for an upcoming Presidential press conference... on a lazy Friday afternoon... in the middle of summer, right before the Prez will disappear off the grid on his Martha's Vineyard Vacation... announced in such a low key fashion that I wasn't even aware that there was going to be an event of such importance to the American and ultimately World Audience even held.

Lucky me, I got to witness the whole enchilada in its entirety, whilst wincing in very real and physical pain, sweating like a whore in church. I even got closed captioning along with sound, and that's always good for a chuckle when watching live broadcasts.

In his opening statement, he promised to address the current Edward Snowden / NSA / Government Surveillance / Leaking vs Whistleblowing/ Internet Privacy Violation debacle, and that seemed like damned good political Kabuki Theater entertainment for the political junkie that I am on a Friday afternoon. I pedaled faster to get my heart rate up to optimum speed for what was to follow, because it promised to be a doozy.

The Obama Administration's now standard tactic of addressing critical issues or signing controversial legislation on the slowest of news cycle days are getting a little moldy for me. "Slipping it in the backdoor when no one notices" is not a hallmark of grabbing the reigns of leadership robustly. Its bad passive aggressive manners in bed, and even more obviously manipulative and duplicitous in the political arena.

As the President addressed the issue of Snowden/ Leaks/ The Patriot Act/ The NSA / FISC ect, I ticked off on my fingers every provable, debatable half truth, subterfuge and lie. I'm not exactly uninformed on Patriot Act abuse, as its study has been kind a "hobby" of mine for the past 5 years or so.

I was struck with how the President was allowing himself little to no wiggle room, and no outlet to any plausible deniability with the absolute finality and assuredness in some of his statements. I didn't know whether to cheer at the TV at the sheer genius of his bluffing strategy, or yell at the TV to advise him to duck. He wasn't potentially digging holes with a garden shovel, he was breaking out the back hoe and doubling down.

It was as if he, The Big P-Fluffer, and Axelrod were never around when Clinton uttered "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky", and never learned the political and public relations lessons in the aftermath of that fateful statement.

As I watched this press conference the critical question for me was "Does He know the extent of what he is saying, or is He being fed so much dis-information by his advisory teams that he's actually being set up for a massive fall?"

As I entertained that hypothetical second notion, I became very concerned for our President. Perhaps the bubble that he lives in has made him that vulnerable to that type of attack.

The surface is only being scratched here. If the actual abuses of these programs are eventually uncovered (and judging by the draconian clampdown by the administration, somewhat of a perceived long shot at this point; one can only hope that more whistleblowers will surface), then the President has either an unprecedented hubris, or is about to be forced into taking an unwitted fall of epic proportions. One thing is for sure though. To paraphrase "Breaking Bad"'s Walter White; he most definitely is not currently "Treading Lightly".

I won't bore you with the gory details of refuting or debating what was said in this conference, but today an article published by The Atlantic started making the social network rounds on facebook entitled:
"THE SURVEILLANCE SPEECH: A NEW LOW IN BARRACK OBAMA'S PRESIDENCY. His tone was inappropriately dismissive, while the substance was misleading at best, and mendacious at worst" (Byline: Connor Friedersdorf, August 12, 2013 at 4:14 am)

I couldn't have agreed with that opening shot across the bow more. So I dove in and read the thing, and if you should decide to go any further with this blog, I suggest you read it and get up to speed. I don't know if the editorial slant of The Atlantic is part of the vast biased media conspiracy, but I do know that the article is worth the time to read and consider.

I seem to confuse my facebook and social networking  friends with my political views. I'm loathe to put an ideological label on myself, because I find the whole idea of an all or nothing bi-polar ideological system loathsome to begin with. Truth and Consensual Realities, are on a potentiometer.

There are many different degrees, and many different points of view and perspectives. All must be accommodated, and none should be marginalized. Like the X-Files, truth is in there somewhere, but it has to come from interpretation, and that can only happen when the data set you're working with is as complete as you can possibly make it. Collect the data, orbit and rotate around it, view all facets, and then make an interpretive call. That is as close to truth in the political arena that you will ever get.

If forced, I guess I'm a left leaning centrist. I believe in progressive thinking, and therefore could be labeled a liberal progressive.  I also believe in basic common sense, and certain core ideas like respecting the Constitution; rather the province of a typical definition of  a "Conservative".

So when I choose to be publicly critical of the stewardship of the Presidency (per example), somehow my liberal friends think I've gone over to the dark side, and my Conservative friends think I'm somehow validating their more extremist positions... both of which couldn't be further from my own truth. There's a lot of unconscious, non-voluntary knee jerking going on out there in cyber space.

Being critical of how the Presidency is represented to the American Public and thus the world does not automatically mean that you don't support " The Presidency" or even The President for that matter. It does mean that you want it to function differently, and in your own opinion, function better and at a higher level. You want your guy to do the job you know he's capable of doing.

People seem to be very comfortable in demonizing President Obama as a singular entity, but lets get real here for a brief NY minute. The Presidency is always a creation of committee; many different skill sets are required to acquire a US Presidency, from the creative conceptualization of an electable entity to those who put up the money to fund the initiative to go out and win it.

The Executive Branch is then beholden, and accountable, to all that contributed to secure the reigns of power for four, or in the current case, an eight year cycle... and the basic job of elected office is to make hay for yourself and your supporters while the sun shines. In cases where there are no term limits, the figureheads are constantly raising money first, leading and legislating LAST. Its all about power, and money, in that order.

But every once in awhile to make it look good, the manifestation of progress on a social initiative might materialize...but more times than not "legislation and appropriations" take the form some sort of legal chicanery that results in someone making a lot of money, either the elected official his or herself, or the consortia and corporations that put up the money to get them there in the first place.

The hoi polloi electorate that physically won the office, in the end in terms of hierarchy in the food chain of being accountable for, is far down the actual agenda ladder.

Cynical, I know. But that's our current system, in simplified terms.

This particular Presidency is a brain child of a few brilliant American public relation minds, the best and brightest on the technological front, and deep, deep pockets; not only a group that obviously includes President Obama himself, but also the individuals that really invented the concept of an "Obama Presidency." They are leading just as much as the figurehead himself, if not more so.

I know its hard, but try to not buy into the singular entity as a target, but the larger organization of what the figurehead represents... and here's a clue. It isn't the Democratic Party. Widen your scope and your ability to its widest angle, and you still will be hard pressed to identify (Its designed that way).

What I saw in this press conference was a man that may have finally reached a "Peter Principle" point. He finally was over matched and over whelmed in actual performance and conceptual ability to perform the required task at hand. Either that, or a Narcissist that has finally strayed far off the reservation.

What was exhibited in my mind was the clear incapability to step outside his committee consensus and take the lead for those who supported this Presidency from the bottom; The ones that worked phone banks, and contributed their paltry five dollars in unprecedented numbers during the campaign of 2008. We're all waiting for the potential that was recognized to be finally realized.

What seems to be happening is the exact opposite; The Atlantic article clearly articulates in point by point fashion not only the minute points concerning surveillance, but in doing so, exposes the larger methodology of the official actions and strategies of the current Presidency.

A standard reaction tool now used is the one of "withering condescension" directed at the opposition forces.

It may have worked in the past, but this too is becoming less an less of an effective strategy. It works less and less on the informed. Whether a rabid frothing at the mouth tea bagger or a way left of center commie pinko liberal, the internal thought that is inspired by that now standard five year rhetorical maneuver and smug high school debate strategy is basically, "Fuck Off, Mr. President".

No American Citizen, no matter at what station of life they may or may not occupy, needs to willingly suffer an arrogant asshole, especially one that's digging himself in a hole in front of their very eyes. Take your constituents a little more seriously, and treat them with the respect you demand for yourself. You'll need the hands of those same constituents to pull you out of this current mess of your own making down the road.

There is a simple pathway out of the current NSA/ Security / Privacy / Snowden morass. There may be legal implications that dictate massaging it with a seemingly light non-committal touch, but in the end, there are going to have to be some heads on pikes. Significant ones, but not so much to touch the Presidency. In other words, by targeting Snowden, you are targeting the wrong head. Or set of heads, for that matter.

It may be a good obfuscation trick to focus the debate on the ""Is He A Traitor? / Is He A Hero?" question, but that will only work in the short term. Many of us are actually beyond that and focused on the content of the message that Snowden actually attempted to deliver. Dropping the turd in the cornflake bowl on a Friday before the slowest news cycle of the year isn't going to throw people of the scent. Its a woeful underestimation of the resolve of the American Citizenry.

There will be damage and loss, much like a drastic cancer surgery. Cancer can be survived after radical surgery, and so can a Presidency and its subsequent legacy after a large scale public purging and house cleaning.

Then all the actors will get to do there best Claude Rains in Casablanca impression "I'm SHOCKED... SHOCKED that this was going on in this Casino!". The Kabuki Theater will compel the public to stop paying attention to the next bit of behind the scenes thievery, and eventually we all can get back to "normal" and business as usual.

But if the decision is made to continue down the current pathway that seems to have been chosen by the creators and handlers of this Presidency, a word of caution. You have compromised the figurehead to the point that if the real truth of these matters are uncovered, then that figurehead will be burned beyond any reasonable political or public repair. Its a very dangerous political and public relations game that is being played right now.

I like a high stakes gamble as much as anybody, but don't overestimate your ability to keep a lid on this one, or plug all the leaks. Too many people know too much. Its the HUBRIS that will kill your golden goose.

So give up a little ground first. It will give you the element of surprise.You missed the window to get ahead on this issue, and now you're about to enter full on damage/ spin control. The water is swirling down the bowl, and unfortunately its YOUR HAND that jiggled the lever... a rookie mistake, really , and that's why I'm disappointed.

So follow the simple dictum and the standard playbook. Its standard for a reason; now is not the time to re-invent the wheel.. Shed some sacrificial heads that are verifiable abusers of the laws on the books ( I have a few suggestions if you're interested), and live to fight another day. You have an election cycle coming up in 2014, a political and data collecting machine to preserve post term, people to pay off, and a legacy to secure.... oh yeah, and a country that needs to run that actually requires guidance and leadership, instead of falsely sustaining the seat of power on a fuel mixture that CAN be clearly recognized as a formula comprised of mostly horseshit by all Americans if they invest the energy to take a heady whiff, regardless of their ideological leanings.

Have a nice vacation, and then get your collective heads out of the sand of your own creation.

And as a minor personal aside to P-Fluffer and Axelrod: Bo The DOG being delivered by Ofsprey to Martha's Vineyard? Who made THAT genius call?

You guys are killing us. Dip in the well of Archie Drell and the Bells and "Tighten Up".