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For those of you that don’t know– I live in Harlem.

It is mayhem of the most joyous kind here.

I will try and post media from my cell phone ASAP if the quality is decent.

I was blessed enough to follow a procession of brass and dancers a la New Orleans to a rally at the intersection of 125th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd where a raucous throng of Americans were celebrating the victory of Barack Obama.  I heard his victory speech surrounded by men, women, and children from all walks of life, some in tears, some with fists clenched in pride, all filled with hope.

Regardless of your political beliefs, this election represents the turning of a page in the history of our Republic and our World.

I have no words that can really sum up the pride I feel for my country nor my hope for its future nor the happiness that is filling what are often less than ecstatic streets.

Tonight in Harlem and across America, it ain’t nothing but a party.  Tomorrow the sun dawns on a new era of the American Republic and the work of Americans begins anew.


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Is it Opposite Day?

Take this for what it’s worth (probably not much; certainly not in a statistical sense) but Esquire magazine found some Aryan Nation types who support Obama and a black nationalist who doesn’t.

Just when you thought you’d seen it all in this campaign…

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I just got home and it was a good day today.  I say good mostly because I have a job.  A job that pays well.  This is more than a fair number of people in my neighborhood can say.  Sure, my day came with all the requisite absurdity of any day in big city America.  Noise.  Aloofness.  Frustration.  Filth.  Poverty.  Silence.  Intensity. Elation. Wealth.

I’m writing tonight because on my way up the stairs leading out of my subway stop I stopped a moment, covered as I was in a thin film of sweat and mass transit grime, to listen to three men singing “This Little Light of Mine” along with an impromptu 4th member of their group.  She was 5’8″ish, thin, with dark brown skin and thick, raven hair.  She was dressed in business attire: black heels and skirt, a royal blue blouse.  Her right heel click-clacked a righteous rhythm on the worn floor tiles as her shrill soprano voice, confident and in key, sang to the walls, turnstyles, and rush-hour passersby.

“On my way to work,” she sang as the chorus of men, all bouncing knees and swaying heads, answered back, “I’m gonna let it shine.”  I smiled.  They’re a bit of a scarce commodity these days- smiles.

I don’t care if you’re religious or even a fan of the song.  The point is that the soul of America, the thing we are all presumably fighting for one post, one protest, one donation, one rally, one youtube link, one “special report,” one vote at a time is renewed and manifested in moments like these.  For at least a moment four people were just Happy Singers- an impromptu identity more genuine and American than any you’ll find on pollster’s questionnaires or voter registration forms.

I encourage you to look for these moments no matter how busy you are, how caught up in your life and in this election you might be.

After November 4th, the mission to “save” America doesn’t stop.  Curiously though the rhetoric will.  The people we were encouraged to vilify and despise and rally against just 24 hours ago will go back to being our teachers, parents, bus drivers, bosses, colleagues, friends, band mates, volunteers, students, children…and so on.  We  will have to live here together and work together, same as we always have, same as we always will.  There will be no politicians glad handing us and handing out apologies-  they’ll leave that dirty, humbling work to us to do in the break room and around the water cooler.

I can only hope that as we head into the final weeks of this campaign, as the politicians drive Americans apart to win votes that Americans will have the integrity not to let their vote alone define who they are.

America isn’t saved by elections. America isn’t for the politicians.  The bullshit expires in less than a month.

d. zomgergen

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"Patriotic Grace" by Peggy Noonan

In my first post I spoke about the importance of finding and USING your voice to either effect a change in or at least contribute to the American dialog.  Peggy Noonan’s new book “Partiotic Grace” is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.

“Patriotic Grace” is filled with moving accounts of personal sacrifice, civic leadership, and insightful political and cultural critique that can only come from someone with a wealth of experience in the world (and the willingness to learn from it).

Part One opens with an intimate and powerful debunking of the myth that the “Greatest Generation” is somehow in the past, never to be seen again. It is a stirring defense of the hard work, sacrifice, and incredible everyday heroism of the Baby Boomers (a generation to which my own parents belong, a generation which, until now, I had never really given much credit or thought…)

“Set out runnin’ but I take my time.  A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine…”
Set out runnin but I take my time.  A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine...   Little did Gerry know hidden microphones linked to an underground CIA database had flagged him as a possible terrorist due to the Godless, Freedom hating lyrics spewing forth from his vinyl Altar of the Damned.
Little did Gerry know hidden microphones linked to an underground CIA database had flagged him as a terrorist due to the Godless, Freedom-hating lyrics spewing forth from his Vinyl Altar of the Damned.

Noonan also asks us to recognize our own current heroism and hard work in difficult and sometimes tragic personal and national circumstances.  She  declares that current generations of people should take pride in their accomplishments whether as parents, preachers, politicians, teachers, civil servants, doctors, soldiers, or any of a host of roles that call on the best aspects of Americans.

What follows in Part Two is what the author calls “a brief and mostly political attempt to come to grips with the Bush era.” In fact this notion of coming to grips with politics and culture is a recurring theme throughout the section and one which helps reveal the often overlooked trauma our national psyche battles with daily.  From partisan rancor to economic and security concerns, we are a nation in distress.  9/11 of course plays an integral role in framing this section of the book but Noonan manages to use it in service of her broader message without it coming off as cheap and formulaic as it so often does in our politics and media.

By the end of the section she has also presented a number of insightful observations about the current generation of youth, my generation

“They have been shaken by the world since 9/11, and we don’t understand how rocked they’ve been. They’ve internalized it; they never talk about it. But: They are not always sure they have a future…They are something new in America, an entire generation that does not assume their lives will be even better than their parents’.”

“They are…used to living other worlds in their heads, for many worlds have, in a lifetime of videos, CD’s and downloads, been implanted there…So they are not always in the moment, not fully aware of their surroundings…”

If only girls understood that Ziggurat the Brave is the REAL me...

If only girls understood that Ziggurat the Brave is the REAL me... /sigh

Within some of her statements I found the first accurate formulation of the dis-ease that spurs me to write for this blog, to debate politics with anyone that will listen, and to search for a way to contribute more meaningfully to this country through my work and personal life:

“I think a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases, unnoticed, a sense that…in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can’t be fixed or won’t be fixed anytime soon.”

“I mean I believe there’s a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.”

By Part Three the author has built a strong foundation for her appeal to change American culture, to reorient our relationships with and sense of duty to one another. It is a call for a political culture that matches the challenges of the world as it is today: rife with conflict, complexity, and uncertainty. Interestingly she devotes a fair amount of time to pointing out the immense expectations we place on politicians (who after all are just normal people like you and I).  Why is it that we balk at their failings when we expect them to have an answer for everything no matter how scientific, philosophical, complex or obscure the matter?

Now just hold on a second.  I know I left my talking points in here somewhere.

I know I left my talking points in here somewhere...

Ultimately her plea for mature, responsible, and well-tempered leadership along with a culture of peace and preparedness is nothing if not timely.  For Noonan it is not a question of IF we are faced with tragedy again but WHEN. Her criticism of the lack of focus on this by both McCain and Obama  as well as the media is salient and worth heeding when discussing the candidates’ relative merits.  Why aren’t we asking candidates how they would prepare for and handle a crisis like 9/11?  How will we as a nation, under a newly elected leader move forward as a strong, responsible, and intelligent leader of the world?

Despite any political differences I may have with her as a conservative, I could not agree more wholeheartedly that cultural unity, civil defense, and thoughtful leadership will be key in preparing our best defense against what awaits this country in its uncertain and seemingly ominous future.

I consider this a must read for any thoughtful citizen.  I think the vast majority of readers will find it both inspiring and provocative regardless of their political affiliation.

Buy it here or pick it up at your local book store.  It’ll be a hell of a lot better than spending your money on this.

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Obama made a stop in Green Bay a couple of days ago and, as he’s known to do, made a speech. Big shocker. Pretty standard stuff but there was one specific section of the speech I’d like to dwell on and possibly over analyze. Here’s the relevant passage that piqued my interest:

As president, I will go through the entire federal budget, page-by-page, line-by-line and I will eliminate the programs that do not work and are not needed…. Even for the programs that we do need, I’ll make them work better and cost less. I want to create a high performance team that evaluates every agency and every office, based on how well they are serving the American tax payer. We are going to fire government managers who aren’t getting results. We will cut funding for programs that are wasting your money. We will use technology and the lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government because we cannot meet 21st century challenges with a 20th century bureaucracy, and that is going to change when I’m president.”

Idealistic? Mmm-hmm. Ambitious? You bet’cha. Realistic? I seriously doubt it. Shenanigans? Quite possibly.

I realize this is a politician making a campaign speech but… seriously? High performance team to evaluate government efficiency? Fix the bloated bureaucracy by creating more bureaucracy? Come on. Adding to the total number of bureaucrats is not likely to make anyone more efficient, even if you do modernize the existing bureaucracy.

Then there’s the firing of government managers. This one had me scratching my head. Is he talking about civil servants? No, he can’t be…that’d be like suggesting the President could fire the chairman of the SEC. He must be talking about people in his cabinet. OK, fair enough. I’m all for accountability. If someone in your cabinet pulls a Brownie, sack ’em. Immediately.

More than anything, it’s disappointing that Obama is saying we’re still at a stage where we need to evaluate and find the inefficiencies in our government. After years of watching the current administration awkwardly stumble their way through multiple wars and natural disasters we still need to evaluate. Great. Change? Yeah, we’ll get to that, some day….

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I realize we’re only a fledgling blog, but we get all the exclusives from the McCain camp. In fact, one landed on my desk this morning. Imagine that.

Has anyone been following the technology question? Well, long story short, McCain’s come under fire from the left for being completely useless with technology, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP spin machine from filling their retorts full of nationalistic jingo and heartstring-tugging imagery. Simply put: McCain is terrible with a computer because of Vietnam.

Well, it turns out he’s taken the bold gambit of speaking out against these accusations, and we here at BP received the first missive in what promises to be a fun little scuffle.
Read along!

For Immediate Release
September 18, 2008

Contact: Press Office 703-650-5550

John McCain issues statement on technology question; quotes bloggers and reporters as “grossly miscalculated” and sets record straight

ARLINGTON, VA — The liberal media focus in recent times has been unfairly placed upon my record with technology. Citing several mainstream media reports, it appears that my internet habits and general technology use has come in to question.

As has been stated by various campaign sources, the reasons behind my distrust and low use of computers, cellular telephones, blackberry devices and e-mailed messages stem back to my experiences in Vietnam. For anyone unaware, I was subjected to unspeakable horror and torture in my time as a Prisoner of War, resulting in scarring and damage to my body from which I have never fully recovered.

I did what I did to defend this wonderful country and to fight for the democratic rights afforded to me by this nation, and such participation in the wartime efforts enabled us all to enjoy the very freedom needed to invent and produce microchips, computers, portable telephones and facebooks. Even democrat Al Gore benefited directly from my experiences in Vietnam, for he was instrumental in the development and proliferation of the internets, a wide world of webbing that enriches all of us in our daily lives.

As correctly asserted by the straight-talking Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, my debilitating injuries prevent me from sitting and using a keyboard for long periods of time, and as such, my time spent on email is minimal compared to the average American. These ailments have not stopped me from serving this nation in public office for 25 years as a maverick, and they will not stop me from uniting Americans in my Presidential administration. It has slowed my MySpace page, but remember: I sacrificed my MySpace for freedom.

Given the callous left-wing attacks on this record, I’d also like to address several other criticisms in my character that are due to events in my history and in world history, so as to cut off this negative liberal campaign at the knees before it can truly begin. I. Will. Always. Give. You. The. Truth.

1. I am not particularly good at remaining still, especially when being talked to in a debate setting and/or a town hall environment.

This is not because I am nervous or have something to hide; moreso, it’s a symptom of my deep angst of being locked in a tiny box at the Hanoi Hilton. You’ve heard the stories, but I can always tell them again; they locked me in a tiny box and forced me to remain still for days at a time even with dislocated joints. As such, when I am being talked to by a democrat, I cannot remain still. I must move and shift around in my place to alleviate the intense pressure on my joints, sustained in Vietnam when imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton. It also alleviates the intense pressure of my utterly indefensible positions on a number of hot button issues.

2. I am not particularly good at giving speeches.

This is not because I’m inauthentic, or suffer from having little-to-no original thoughts, as my detractors might claim. It is also not because I am spoon-fed words and catchphrases to repeat in a monotone. It is due to the trauma of Abraham Lincoln being assassinated in a theater, and my nerves are so unsettled at being stood so alone in front of a large crowd. My psyche is deeply bruised by what happened to that brave patriot, a man who stood up for what he believed in much like I did in Vietnam when imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton.

3. I am unbelievably soft on the economy.

This is not due to my inability to break rank from the GOP despite my maverick status, nor it is attributed directly to my stubbornness to admit there is a problem with the state of our risk-happy spending culture. It is simply tied to not being hugged enough as a child due to my parents spending money needlessly on distractions for themselves.

You see, my parents were not particularly loving; it was not their flaw, it was the state of our nation at the time, with mothers and fathers dispensing little affection so as to breed strong, upstanding citizens, many of whom fought with me and were injured much like I was in Vietnam when imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton.

Their lack of physical love and obsession with reckless spending on sex swings, supplies of snacks and drinks for their key parties and their pomade led me to be very distrusting of our family’s finances, and as such, I developed a blissful ignorance about the state of our monetary security.

Don’t worry; I will surround myself with intelligent people from the newly-absorbed financial institutions, because they clearly have a good idea of what’s going on.

4. I have no idea what I was doing in picking Sarah Palin.

You see, the first girl I was in love with was named Suzy. She was really sweet, and I thought she liked me. When it turned out she was going steady with my best friend, I enlisted in the war effort and directed all of my love and emotion into fighting for the ideals and values that this country holds dear. Those values were challenged when I was in Vietnam when imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton, trapped in a tiny cube with no room to move.

As such, I needed some nursing and support to stem the lasting effects of those awful injuries, much like I did in Vietnam when imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton, and Sarah Palin reminds me of the kind-hearted, small-town civil servant who helped bring me back to full strength while recuperating in that military hospital. She is the right attractive nurse-like strong woman to help revive this country’s ills, much like I was revived after Vietnam where I was imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton.

Sarah also reminds me of Suzy. Even though that relationship in my youth didn’t turn out so well, there’s no reason why this doomed partnership should fail. As they said in my platoon, second time’s a charm.

There are many other inconsistencies in my personal value system and my political platform, but what’s important is this: I will. not. lie. to. you. I am a man of principles and beliefs that you all like, because we’re all Americans. I fought for this country, and I fight with my body’s limitations every time I pick up a telephone, a blackberry, or a computer that you put on your lap. Those limitations were handed to me by the Vietnamese army, much like those physical limitations I was handed in Vietnam when imprisoned against my will as a Prisoner of War at the Hanoi Hilton, but they have not limited my mind.

I will be a good president. Just don’t ask me to sit still, talk with confidence, devise a coherent economic plan or explore any vice president option other than the superficial, patently unfit candidate I actually selected.

Live well my friends, and God Bless America.

John McCain

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Welcome to the Bandit Pulpit. We’ll be up and running soon.

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