Super Bowl Reality

An estimated 85 million Americans voted in November’s midterm elections.

The Super Bowl is expected to draw a US viewing audience almost double that, roughly 140 million.

And a good proportion of them will be ordinary working folk, who then have to go to work the next day.

Four men, in North Carolina, are collecting signatures for a petition that would seek national holiday status for the Super Bowl.

That official day off would be on the Monday, allowing regular workers to spend the day recovering from an excess of unhealthy food, strong beverage and televised sporting violence. No need to call in sick if the factory is already closed.

Super Bowl Sunday is a special day for ordinary folk all across America. If you want to add your voice to this wonderful, blue-collar, grass-roots campaign, go to

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reality is Rough

And while I’m making comparisons between love-lives and politics…

Remember back in 1988, when Democratic Presidential front-runner Gary Hart dared the press to find the real story about his love-life?

And they did.
They found him cuddling someone who was not his wife on a boat called “Monkey Business.”

John, your new ‘plantation’ in Chapel Hill, North Carolina may turn out to be your “Monkey Business.”

You dared the electorate and the media to find the real political you. And they got in a plane, and found your ‘plantation.’ Can you really blame them now for underlining the apparent disconnect between the “OneAmerica” you preach, and the “Two Americas” you practice?

Again, what to do? I’m not about knocking down. I’m about helping to pick up. Maybe you could take a leaf out of an earlier insurgent Presidential campaign of Gary’s?

Remember even further back in 1984? When Gary almost upended the Presidential campaign of former Vice-President Walter Mondale? A campaign that bore all the same overly-slick, overly-organized hallmarks of your own campaign?

When the chips were down, Gary got in a van and just turned up places and spoke to people from the heart. No advance team. No web-site – not in those days! And little organization worth its name.

John, you’ve put together a superb campaign. It’s practically running itself. And what isn’t looking after itself, can be expertly guided by David Bonior.

Why don’t you get off the campaign plane, and out of the campaign cavalcade? Get in a simple bus. And just become a OneMan (well, maybe a little more than one…), walking, talking ‘meet-up.’

Go around the states, and turn up unexpectedly. Make impromptu visits. Stand on picket lines. Wait outside social clubs. Talk, laugh, kid, joke – be the real guy you say you want real people to see.

Yes, there will be miscues and mishaps and mistimings. And every one of them will make you more human.

Come on John. Why not disconnect from the impersonal powerhouse that your campaign has become? Leave its business in Dave’s capable hands.

Focus your energies instead on a personal re-connection with the real working heroes of everyday America.

And John, bless your heart, get real – you won’t be connecting with any real people or any questions that really interest ordinary working stiffs with Tim Russert on “Meet The Press.” Much as I admire him.
For a true dose of rough reality, you’re going to have to take up my invitation for a grass-roots radio interview, with live call-ins from your real neighbors in your hometown.
Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 7:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

‘Porking’ is Kosher!

What is this I hear about George Clooney and Pamela Anderson dating?!

Pam, Pam, Pam, Pam, Pam!

How could you lower yourself so?

What on earth do you think this will do for your reputation…!

Now, what I’m guessing is that George felt a little trapped by his image as a cardboard cut-out Hollywood smoothie, and decided he ought to to rough it up a bit.

Hmm. Maybe there’s a lesson here, John? Maybe you’re getting a little too trapped by your image as a cardboard cut-out political smoothie?

Maybe you need to break out and rough it up a bit, too…?

No! Not with Pam! I was thinking more in the political sense. Like taking me up on that offer to do a live, grass-roots, no-holds-barred, radio interview? Surely that doesn’t make you nervous?
Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

‘Pork’ is Kosher!

While we’re on the subject of huge building projects in the North Carolina countryside…why are we all so dead set against ‘pork’ in the budget? Think about it.

I speak as one who believes more strongly than most that unbridled capitalism should govern the workings of the economy.

I feel that the economy like, say, the weather is a natural force. You do not seek to restrict it. You let it ebb and flow – naturally.

The job of government is to ameliorate what the Austrian-American economist Josef Schumpeter called the destructive side-effects of the overall creative and positive nature of capitalism. Or as ordinary people would understand it, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.”

And a part of that amelioration (or “picking up the pieces”) is the provision of public projects, which can provide a temporary stop-gap for short or middle-term unemployment.

Who do you think is better placed to pick those projects – a faceless, remote bureaucrat in Washington? Or a Congressmen, who knows his neighborhood backwards, and whose primary interest is in making his people happy, so they’ll vote for him (or her) again?

Instead of discouraging indiscriminate ‘pork,’ maybe we should encourage it to be more discriminating, by making it the primary mechanism for distributing federal funds?

Now, don’t get carried away with the snickering. Granted I’m having a little fun. But only a little. You see, if all politics is local, why not all government? Or, at least, more of it?

When I was a lad in England, I ran a campaign to have the government funds for our local youth center handed over to the center’s management committee. I believed that the local committee knew better than remote government how to spend the funds for the benefit of the youth in my then hometown.

There is a move within the British Conservative Party at the moment to make just such an idea the foundation of its new policy for granting funds to local government. Central government in London would allocate grants, which municipalities and the like would then spend as they see fit.

Of course, successive governments in Washington have been doing something similar since the days of Reagan. Only thing is, they’ve devolved responsibility, but have forgotten to send the funds along with that responsibility!

So. Maybe ‘pork’ should be made kosher – as a better alternative…?

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Score One for OneCorps

John Edwards just helped a friend of mine. Thank you, John.

Well, to be accurate, John’s staff at his National Campaign HQ (just across the village green from where I work in Chapel Hill, North Carolina) assisted my friend. So my thanks actually go to them.

We’ll call my friend Deirdre. She’s an honest-to-goodness working lady, who wouldn’t want to cause the slightest ripple. So, I won’t mention her real name. But there, partly, is the problem.

Deirdre felt embarrassed to ask a Presidential Candidate for help. I said – who better to ask? Particularly one who has made his desire to bridge the gap between the “Two Americas,” and connect with ordinary people, a measure of his credibility.

So, this got me to thinking.

John, you want your campaign to be one of action, response and responsibility. Why not make all of your campaign offices, across the country, more approachable ‘action centers’?

  • Call them something catchy, like “OneStops.”
  • Put a welcoming sign outside.
  • Make the receptions a tad more inviting.
  • Have your staff wear ‘How can I help you?’ badges.
  • Advertise in the local media.

Sure, you have your web-site. But not all working folk have computers, or know how to use them. Plus, it’s way too impersonal.

Most of us engaged in politics take for granted the fact that we have the ability to shape the world around us.

My friends who are regular working people don’t think that way. They feel the world shapes them. And they struggle every day to preserve their dignity as they fight against that world.

John, I don’t have to tell you this. You should know it already. Help ordinary working folk to maintain their dignity while they ask you for your help.

The best politics, John, will always be personal. One-one-one. Why not make it a little easier for regular people to help you build “OneAmerica,” one person at a time?

Published in: on January 30, 2007 at 10:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

The "Reality is Rough" Challenge

John, I think real people are beginning to catch onto the fact that you are a little too neatly packaged.

You may very well be real underneath. But regular folk are sensing they really aren’t getting to see that real you.

And by the way, John, real people know that ‘roughing it’ with Jay Leno in Hollywood or Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in New York isn’t really real!

Now, before the itch becomes a scratch. And the scratch leads to tumbling poll figures, why not give ordinary folk an up-close look at the truly real you?

No minders, no photo ops, no prepared video blogs. Just you. Being real. Roughing it a bit.

As you know, I’m a sometime broadcaster in Chapel Hill, hometown to us both. I do no-frills, grass-roots, progressive, political chat radio. Why don’t you agree to do an unrehearsed, unscripted, one-hour interview with me?

It’ll be friendly. But it’ll be serious. Those that know me, know that I’m tough, but I’m fair. And my guests and I, we have a little fun too.

I can promise you this: you’ll be roughing it for real, on real grass-roots radio. Real questions. With real answers. We’ll all have a chance to see the real you.

The worst that can happen is that you’ll trip up – and frankly, you probably need that at the moment. A little rough and tumble would do you good. Ordinary folk would then see you as a real human being, not as an advertising campaign.

Real people expect to see the rough with the smooth. I believe the problem you’re beginning to experience is that your tightly-organized campaign has smoothed too much of the rough out of you.

What’s more, the very success of your campaign is now its own potential disadvantage. Hollywood slickness, dressed up as internet activism, isn’t geared to showcasing the rough edges that make you real.

On the other hand, a live grass-roots radio interview, with someone whom everyone knows is not a campaign patsy, would be the ideal vehicle for you to rough it with real working folk, and allow all of us to see the rough diamond within you.

Maybe you’ve been playing it too safe? Maybe it’s time to take a risk? That’s what real working folk do every day.

Maybe it’s time for you to find a way to remind real people that, away from the Hollywood slickness and the oh-so-careful campaign management, you really do remember that, for most of us, reality really is rough.

Why not give it a whirl at our level? Accept my “Reality is Rough” Challenge. And get reacquainted – publicly – with the real issues and the real people you claim to champion.

Published in: on January 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Disconnect…what disconnect?

I have received the following suggested captions for this recent photograph of John’s new hideaway outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina:

“Honey, what did you do with the chain-saw?”


“Psst, whatever you do, don’t say ‘Carolina White House.'”


“Dolly Parton rang – she’s misplaced ‘Dollywood.'”


“Hey look, you can see us from outer space!”


“But Dave, it’s a working farm and meat-packing facility…”


“Al Gore wants to know if he can come over and discuss the Tree Conservation Plan tomorrow.”


“…the Secret Service will go here, and the Missile Silo over there…”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

John, you know how you did that ‘impromptu’ video, where you wondered aloud why you were paying so much money to consultants who weren’t giving you sensible advice?

I’m assuming those were the same consultants who told you it would be ok to build a brand-new, $10 million mansion in the middle of a Presidential Campaign, where your primary theme is convincing working poor people you can connect with them?

Hmm…is it safe to conclude those consultants have now been demoted to the turf-laying detail?


[Photo: Don Carrington/Carolina Journal]
Published in: on January 27, 2007 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Real Leadership

I love my uncle. He’s got a lifetime of which he can be proud. A career devoted to teaching young adults how better to appreciate the world around them.

He still takes the time to try and improve my understanding of matters political. But on one thing he is just plain wrong – bless you, Norb. Drawing on all his conviction as a lifelong liberal, he declares that Bush is no leader.

I say my uncle is wrong.

Bush is every inch the leader. Full of strength and purpose. Sure of his direction. Filled with confidence. Never short of a word or gesture, with which to enroll others in his mission.

Now, he may be leading us all to heck in the wrong direction. But sure as there’s a burr in his saddle, George Bush is most definitely leading.

And I’m sad to say that the entire crop of declared Democratic Candidates for the White House, taken all together, have barely one-half of the leadership material in them that George Bush does. And that should frighten any true progressive.

The reason why Jonny Nascar and Wynette Walmart voted for George in two elections is that they saw a man who strapped on his spurs, set off in a particular direction – daring all others to follow him – and then brought home the oil.

Jonny and Wynette look at the Democrats – 2000, 2004 and now – and all they see are a bunch of preening pompadours, more concerned with whether or not they are perceived as being fauxthentic, than with actually being authentic.

Sure, you have to listen. Certainly, you have to ‘converse.’ And it would be nice – John, and the others – if you would, just for once, get off the podium, and do that ‘conversing’ with some real people in some real-life situations.

But there comes a time when, finally, you have to lead. When you have to leave the focus groups behind.

Leaders do not do the safe thing. They do what they believe to be the right thing – regardless of popularity. And George Bush, for all of his many faults, does that very thing.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time doing a fair bit of knocking in the early days of this blog. Frankly, there’s a lot to knock.

In coming weeks, I’m going to spend some time talking about me, and my own views as to how I would like to see our Democratic Candidates – and particularly John Edwards – doing their leading. It’s no good constantly asking John to reveal his ‘real’ persona, without giving at least a glimpse of mine.

Here’s something to chew on, in the meantime: we are all agreed (I hope) that 50 million people living in this country below the poverty line is an obscenity. It is a further obscenity that we are spending as much time and money as we are rebuilding a country the other side of the world, while we do so little about our own friends and neighbors.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day. It said: “The poor don’t have health care – please mug my neighbor for the funds.”

When did we stop being a nation of generous spirit and heart? When did we cease to be the country that asked the world to send us its poor and huddled masses?

When did we become a country that felt it deserved an economic policy based on greed; a social policy based on hatred; and a foreign policy based on revenge?

I don’t buy this narrow-minded meanness, and I don’t buy the narrow-minded people who are selling it to us. And I certainly won’t stand by quietly while the collective response of our Democratic Candidates is to answer narrow-mindedness with small-mindedness.

We have spent some $400 billion on Iraq. A one per cent tax raise across the board, personal and corporate, would raise about $200 billion.

I am no great lover of indiscriminate government spending – after all, I began my own political journey to progressivism at the feet of Margaret Thatcher in England. But there comes a time when a wrong is just that – a wrong. And when even Blind Bertie can see that money will be needed to right that wrong.

It would take a bold Democrat to come out and propose a one per cent tax increase. But boldness – in the right direction for a change – is what this country needs at the moment. It’s what ‘real’ people are crying out for.

The poor people that I know, and whom I am honored to call my friends, don’t want charity. They don’t want something for nothing. They want a helping hand; not a hand-out. A decent break; not a tax break. Is it really too much to ask? Is one per cent more really too much to ask?

If we learned anything from 2006, it is that the mood in this country has changed. More than half of Christian voters this time voted Democrat. Why? Because they finally got that American Family Values actually means taking care of all of America’s Families – particularly those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to take care of themselves.

Let us finally treat our fellow voters with respect, and credit them with the intelligence of knowing that with good intentions comes a bill – and let’s accept that a majority of the electorate is now ready to pay that bill.

Call it ‘investment.’ Call it ‘audacity of hope.’ Call it whatever you like. But we’ll be calling it a pipe-dream if our Democratic Candidates – you too, John – don’t start showing some sign of spine over the next two years.

Come 2008, mean spirit or no, Jonny and Wynette will vote Republican again if it’s the only ‘spirit’ on offer. Mark my words.

Published in: on January 23, 2007 at 10:29 pm  Comments (1)  

A Raspberry to Reality

Well. Today was the announcement of the Oscar nominations. Fittingly, on the same day as Dubya’s State of the Union Address. Two heavily stage-managed events, both about aspects of human activity which require us to suspend belief.

Is it just me? Or does anyone else find that they are more likely, in the past year, to have watched the movies that have been nominated for Razzies, rather than those put up for Oscars?

Increasingly, the Oscar nominations are becoming obscure and eccentic. This year, there are nominations for people and movies I’ve never even heard of – and I go to the movies twice a week.

Is this one more example of all things ‘Hollywood’ simply being out of touch with real people?

You see, reality shows are all the rage on television. But they’re not ‘reality.’ They’re fake. They’re massively stage-managed. We’re too easily buying into Hollywood’s concept of reality.

And I can’t help but wonder, as all the big names are now announcing their runs for the White House, that we’re about to buy into two years of fake ‘Hollywood’ political reality.

As Candidate vies with Candidate to prove how ‘real’ they are. All of them by way of photo-ops and catch-phrases that are as close to ‘reality’ as Donald Trump’s hair – or Dubya’s description of the state of this nation.

Published in: on January 23, 2007 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  

"W" = [W + (D-d)] x TQM x NA

The secret is out! “Watch 9” (W9) has the exclusive on how George (“W”) Bush came up with “The Surge.”

Forget military Generals and Study Groups and the new Democratic Congress. “W” came across an obscure formula while reading his morning Intelligence Briefing – which, as we all know, is culled from a selection of English-language children’s comics.

Apparently, on the back of this one Welsh comic was a story about a University of Cardiff lecturer, one Cliff Arnall, who had invented a formula which predicted that Monday, January 22 would be the most depressing day of 2007.

Well, of course, “W” instantly saw the connection. He knew that on January 23, in his State of the Union Address, he would be formally announcing the most depressing news of 2007 – his “New Direction” in Iraq.

So, “W” thought to himself, maybe the formula could both predict the most depressing day of the year, and help him to formulate the most depressing news?

Check out Arnall’s formula for yourself, and see if “W” was right. The so-called formula itself looks like this – [W + (D-d)] x TQM x NA. All of the letters and symbols apparently represent a sort of mathematical code to track the following:

W: How bad the weather is at this time of year.

D: Amount of debt accumulated over the holidays minus how much is paid off.

T: The time since the holidays.

Q: Amount of time passed since New Year’s resolutions have gone south.

M: Our general motivation levels.

NA: The need to take action.

Uncanny isn’t it…?
Published in: on January 22, 2007 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment