And it’s about time someone said it:

This is brilliant and beautifully done. See This is Reality for more.

From Nick Gillespie review of Steven Johnson’s new book:

We live in troubling times, filled with signs of a great economic apocalypse, politicized science on topics from birth control to climate change and religious zealots who kill innocents rather than live peacefully with them. This is exactly the moment to learn from Priestley, who survived riots, threats of prosecution and other hardships and yet never doubted that “the world was headed naturally toward an increase in liberty and understanding.” Ironically, “The Invention of Air” underscores that there is nothing natural about progress and liberty, each of which must be fought for and defended every single day by visionary individuals.

I have followed Steven’s work, both in print and online, as long or longer than anyone else that comes to mind. His subject matter is not only fascinating on its own, he infuses his narratives with links to and from all manner of topics, bringing more context and painting with much more vivid color. I find his work endlessly fascinating, and will soon rank this book (when I finish it) with “Emergence” as one of my favorites.

What strikes me most about Nick’s review is that last sentence from the paragraph above. This theme of progress is near and dear to me, and when I think of the ideas that excite me most it is this issue of how to motivate a now largely acquiescent society. Many, myself included, live a good life, but things have changed drastically in the past eight years, and we are on the cusp of deeper and much more foundational changes in the very near future. How then do we as a people summon the courage and capacity to do more than muddle through, to no longer cling desperately to an outdated mode of existence, but to fundamentally rework the way we approach life and all that entails?

I know it begins with thought instead of emotion, with a vision not more vindictive reaction, and with an underlying fairness over the single-minded pursuit of profit at the expense of everything and everyone else.

As you may know, I am deeply interested in politics, in particular the subtle art of crafting imagery, shaping narratives, and building harmony to create something much larger than a moment’s victory. Yes, I want a movement. Oddly enough, these past few of weeks of writing about music have taught me more about love than anything else — I believe love it is what is uniting us at this moment and that is precisely why hatred can no longer win in America.

In 2003, I was drawn back into politics by Howard Dean, the man who gave voice to a dormant and disillusioned left, and in turn tasked me to use my newfound passion to participate in the political process. I genuinely loved what Dean stood for, and under his leadership I was never completely ruled by my growing distaste for George W. Bush, but that is precisely what the election became under John Kerry: a referendum on Bush’s first term, an outlet for my contempt, and a battle against those who absolutely loved him. We all know how that turned out.

Leap forward to 2008 and our present nominee, Barack Obama. Much has been written about his ability to unite us and even more will be said if he emerges victorious, but the one thing that’s missing from the conversation is love. Let me define it: it’s a deep affection for him and each other, an openness to the moment and the opportunity, a hope and hunger for something more meaningful, and most of all a sense of wonder that this is even possible. Here we are on the verge of electing an African-American man with a decidedly foreign name to succeed the most culturally divisive and thoroughly destructive Presidency in our brief history!

Is it any wonder that these stories like Charles meets Barack and Michael Shaw‘s incredible post about James Armstrong, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s one-time barber seen in the photo above, are floating to the surface? Just look at the history on that wall, and look at that smile — it’s not smug or self-satisfied, it’s genuinely composed and content that each and every struggle has been worth it.

I can think of no better song than “Damn” to sum up the confluence of their dreams and aspirations, our shared trials and tribulations, and America’s chance to make history tomorrow. This track from George Evelyn, aka DJ E.A.S.E., aka Nightmares on Wax, and vocalist Chyna B. is dripping with funk, soaring with soul, and absolutely bouncing with the energy of new life:

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Damn, indeed.

Charles Alexander was married for 69 years, but lost his wife just four weeks ago. Ever since then, he’s poured his heart and soul into volunteering for Barack Obama (via debha):

I can’t watch this without crying, but I am more hopeful than ever that Obama can truly bring about the change we so desperately need in America. Yes, change has become a catchall phrase in this election, but look into Charles Alexander’s eyes to see what it really means — it has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with making the world a better place for his grandkids and great grandkids. That’s a life worth living and a love worth sharing.

btw, music takes a back seat to politics on tankt today, but will resume with another Song of the Day tomorrow.

No.

So let me get this straight. The Bush administration, the very people who religiously eliminated regulation and thwarted any attempts at oversight — in other words, the very policies that have brought us to the brink of financial disaster — want close to $1,000,000,000,000 of our money to fix it. No strings attached, no obligation to Congress, and absolutely no potential review by the courts.

I say No.

What do they propose to do with ONE TRILLION DOLLARS? Buy all the bad debt from the companies that benefitted most from this lax environment, which leaves them wholly intact to pursue the very same corrupt practices, allows the people criminally responsible to escape without penalty, and sweeps the entire mess under the proverbial rug before the election. No accountability, no meaningful examination of the policies behind the mess, and no chance of enacting new laws to prevent this from happening again.

I say No.

Just like oil revenues were supposed to pay for the War in Iraq, the Bush administration claims this deal will pay for itself, meaning that someday we’ll profit from the purchase of their currently worthless assets — if that’s the case, why are these financial companies so desperate to sell? I see this as nothing more than a short-term fix to prevent their worst fears from coming true: not the collapse of the economy, not the final death of the American dream, but the ultimate revelation that George W. Bush and his Republican party ruined America. They’ve bankrupted us, morally and financially, and now they not only want a “Get out of jail free” card, they want John McCain elected to serve Bush’s third term.

I say No.

Do you support Bush today, more than you did four years ago?

Approval Ratings: The Public v. McCain is a great ad. I wish it were a little sharper on the failings of the Bush presidency — New Orleans didn’t just fall, it flooded and its people were left to die by the Bush Administration (at least McCain got his cake) — but overall I think it’s right on target. Here’s the transcript:

He’s the worst president in history and an international embarrassment.

It took years for George Bush to squander the faith of this country.

We wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But as Americans learned more, his approval ratings slide lower and lower.

Yet, there is one man whose support of Bush just keeps growing.

They campaigned together as our soldiers died.

They ate cake together as New Orleans fell.

And each year, he votes with Bush by ever increasing percentages.

77% of the time in 2005. 86% in 2006. 95% in 2007 and 100% in 2008.

As time finally runs out on this presidency, ask yourself this:

“Do you support Bush today more than you did four years ago?”

John McCain clearly does. Still think he’d be a good president? Still think he’d be anything other than George Bush’s third term? Does anyone really think that’s what America needs?

This quote from Edward R. Murrow is the perfect end to Humanitainment’s take on John McCain:

I never realized it until recently, but losing to George W. Bush in 2000, then having to kiss his ring in 2004 in order to position himself for 2008, must have crushed McCain’s soul. He is clearly half the man he was in 2000. Furthermore, he is incredibly ill-equipped for today’s much more transparent campaign; sad but true, this sea change has left him high and dry. Still, none of that excuses his blatant pandering and outright lying. This man is not fit to be president.

I did a bit of digging into Humanitainment and found their incredibly pointed positioning: “The promotion of social reform through the art of popular entertainment.” Those of you near and dear to me know my passion for politics and my desire to fill the void created by today’s (purposefully) empty-headed coverage. I’ve danced around this topic time and again, never quite sure of how best to engage it, but I remain convinced that simple and fiendishly clever humor is an important part of the answer. What’s missing for me is the call-to-action — what will really make the American people move on an issue or candidate?

That answer, and much more, soon.

Today, Barack Obama spoke to hundreds of thousands in Berlin, and said:

The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

Watch it or read it. it’s worth every bit of the 25 minutes:

Meanwhile, John McCain had to cancel his planned appearance on an offshore oil rig due to a) a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, and b) an oil spill in that same location, both of which negated the point of his speech, namely that drilling offshore is desirable and safe. Instead, he spent the afternoon in my hometown at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant in German Village, no doubt a clever (not really) counterpoint to Obama’s speech in Berlin. After lunch with six small business owners, including the Flag Lady and a local car dealer, he took several petty shots at Obama, concerning issues that were relevant two years ago.

Watch it if you can:

And so I ask you, which one of these men has not only the vision of a better tomorrow, but the ability to pull the world together to achieve it? McCain can only think about himself and desperately wants the world to bend to his will, but Obama appeals to each of us as individuals and to our shared experience as citizens of the world.

Obama finishes with this:

Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

People of Berlin — people of the world — this is our moment. This is our time.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived — at great cost and great sacrifice — to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom — indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us — what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores — is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people — everywhere — became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation — our generation — must make our mark on the world.

People of Berlin — and people of the world — the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

No longer will we be distracted or divided by our differences, but instead focused on our common destiny of citizens of the Earth. Yes, it sounds overly idealistic, perhaps highly implausible, but after the past seven years we can no longer afford to go it alone, us against the world, seeking power and glory at a cost to everyone else.

Instead, this is the moment when we choose a new direction in life, a new way forward in the world, and a skinny kid with a funny name to take us there.

Every bit of that’s got to change.

For some added perspective, please see my previous post for my thoughts on Al Gore and George W. Bush. There’s no pressing need to rehash it line-by-line, but I will reiterate that Al’s brilliance continues to outshine his dimmer rival, time and again.

This man is a true visionary and a great inspiration, single-handedly rising above mere politics to viscerally challenge not just the American people, but the entrenched and powerful agents of the status quo. His message is clear and well-considered, and after seven plus years of Republican misdirection and malfeasance the American people are ready to rise up and embrace this moment.

Together, we can meet the challenge. We can solve the climate crisis.

In a post on Daily Kos that I wish I would have written this afternoon, David Sirota furthers my point about the uniquely and deeply disruptive progressive populism of John Edwards:

We are at a historic moment right now — and I say that not in the way the Monday Night Football-mimicking political media bills every single election as “the most important election in our lifetime.” I say it because I believe America is, for the first time in many generations, starting to think in terms of economic class. Put another way, the battle between Democrats and Republicans is being superseded by the battle between The Money Party and The People Party. How this new class awareness manifests itself in one election cycle is far less important than the fact that awareness is rising at all.

This, beyond everything else, is the storyline that will never be written by the Beltway media — because class awareness among the masses is something that threatens the powers that be. The system in Washington is set up to crush class awareness and solidarity among the masses — to break us up along racial, ethnic, geographic and religious lines so that we do not unify in support of an economic agenda based on fairness and equality. This Washington system exists, ironically, to preserve a well-coordinated class war being waged by an economic class very aware of itself — a class war by the wealthy against the rest of us. This may sound like hyperbole, but polls show most Americans know this is the undeniable truth. And no matter whether your personal preference wins or loses tonight in Iowa, We The People have already won, because class awareness and class-based politics is on the rise. [my emphasis in bold]

I am pleased that Edwards fared so well tonight, holding his own against two extremely well-funded opponents. I remain ever hopeful about his prospects in the coming weeks, as I believe Barack Obama clearly benefitted from having Independents and Republicans vote for him in Iowa (not a complaint, just a point to keep in mind). Edwards’ continued viability will take his message to more and more people, and force Obama and Hillary Clinton to sharpen their rhetoric as well.

Beyond that, I am even more heartened by the overwhelming enthusiasm and support for our Democratic candidates:

Percentage of total vote:
24.5% Obama
20.5% Edwards
19.8% Clinton
11.4% Huckabee (R)

No matter who gets the Democratic nomination, America is clearly over the unscrupulous and overly sanctimonious Republican party. That to me is the greatest victory of all.