Action On Energy

Hey John! Got your call to action on energy conservation and oil dependency today.

I agree with you that personal gestures are important. Taken together, they can have a big impact on a broader problem. Plus, they give a very clear indication of the ‘real’ mind-set of the person doing the talking.

So, I’m kinda wondering why all the talk around town is that you and Elizabeth gave yourselves a couple of John Deere run-arounds for Christmas?

Now, maybe they’re just for show? Or perhaps you have some new gizmo out there in the country, that allows you to run those babies on moonshine?

I guess you could argue that, being as you live on a brand new plot of some 100 acres, there’s a heap of work to be done, and you need to get around fast.

Oh but hush, that would sound like you think you deserve an extraordinary dispensation. Making you some sort of ‘special interest.’ Silly me, I’m sure you’re not suggesting that.

Maybe, it’s a case of one ‘reality’ for you, and another ‘reality’ for the rest of us? Well heck no. That would be “Two America’s.”

Well darn, now my head’s spinning. I tell you what. Why don’t you drop a line to the blog, and let us all know? Clearly, this “Man of the People” thing is more complicated than I thought…

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Published in: on January 19, 2007 at 5:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Peoples’ Champion?: Part III

Now, this is more like it.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “This Week,” John talks about putting investment in people ahead of reducing the budget deficit.

It was always George Bush’s plan to lumber succeeding administrations with an unwieldy deficit, in the hope that other politicians – and preferably Democrats – would then reduce federal social programs, in order to appease calls by the middle class to alleviate their tax burden.

On the face of it, John seems to have taken a bold stance, that sweeps away Bush’s cynical ploy. And it may even put him at odds with fellow Democrats in charge of Congressional spending committees.

John is not suggesting an expansion of the deficit. Rather, that plans for its reduction should be put on hold.

The money that would have been used for deficit reduction is invested instead in housing, healthcare and targeted tax cuts, to help bring people above the poverty line.

Leaving aside the moral benefit to the nation of restoring dignity to millions of our neighbors and friends, this approach would help to make for a more productive economy, by enlarging both the labor force and the internal market.

Any corporation knows that you have to invest to grow. You don’t confuse operational spending with capital investment.

Reducing the deficit in operational spending should remain a medium-term fiscal goal. But not at the expense of the economic and moral necessity of eliminating poverty in this country.

So, bully for you, John. Unless…this is just more campaign rhetoric.

You see, what John said during the ABC interview bears a striking resemblance to the language used by Tony Blair to defeat the British Conservative Party in 1997.

The political situation in Britain then was much the same as it is in the US now. The British people had been brainwashed for 18 years into believing that their economic health depended on continuing tax cuts.

Tony realized that he could only overcome the public’s fear of more Labour “tax-and-spend” policies with a firm, immutable commitment by him not to increase taxes by so much as a penny.

However, Tony knew that money needed to be spent on modernizing the country’s infrastructure, on re-training its workforce and on public services, to help those who could not help themselves.

So, he came up with this language about “Investing in People.” He advanced the then novel notion that a government could run its finances like a corporation, and separate this capital investment from its operational spending. And thus not appear to be increasing either spending or taxes.

In large part, and to their cost, the British electorate discovered that Tony’s words were so much empty rhetoric. And it is for this reason, much more than his tragic support for the War on Iraq, that Tony is now on the way out.

So, John. Are you playing the same game? Is this just rhetoric, or is it for real?

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 10:37 am  Comments (1)  

The Peoples’ Champion?: Part II

Wal-Mart is a classic target for Democrats who think they know what working people want.

With the best will in the world, these Democrats get it wrong because they are not talking to ‘real’ working people.

The working poor of this country could not survive without the cheap goods that Wal-Mart, and stores like it, provide. And John, if you talked to the ‘real’ working poor, you’d know this.

Let’s get real here.

Wal-Mart does not close down stores. Shoppers who choose to shop elsewhere close down stores.

The benefits offered to workers by Wal-Mart are no worse than other grocery stores. The problem is not Wal-Mart; it is the system.

Small, independent stores are no better for workers than Wal-Mart. They pay less; they do not hire disabled workers; and they often do not offer any healthcare.

Trade Unions aren’t interested in alleviating poverty. Without the working poor, there would be no need for Trade Unions.

The bottom line, John, is this: you’re not listening to ‘real’ working people. I know you need Trade Union support in the Primaries. But bless your heart, Trade Unions are not ‘real’ working people.

If you want to know what ‘real’ working people think about Wal-Mart, why don’t you get off the photo-op picket line, and go and ask some of the shoppers – or some of the people who actually work quite happily at Wal-Mart?

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 12:42 am  Comments (3)  

The Peoples’ Champion?: Part I

On one level, this photograph screams “The People!”

You have Sylvester Stallone, a peoples’ actor, famous for portraying that blue-collar hero, “Rocky.”

He’s waving to a crowd of the English working-class, at “The Peoples’ Club,” Everton.

This in the same week that it is announced that English soccer star David Beckham will be joining the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.

For the uninitiated, Beckham is one half of “Posh and Becks,” a couple who are regarded in England as being the “Peoples’ Royalty” – and that would be “Posh” Spice, by the way.

But then you look behind the arranged photo op, and smack yourself in the head when you realize that Stallone is an actor who made millions playing that make-believe blue-collar character. And he probably returned to a private box rather than the public stands.

Everton is a filthy-rich soccer club, which stopped being a genuine working-class football club a long time ago.

Beckham will be receiving $250 million for the pleasure of kicking a ball around in Los Angeles. And “Posh” Spice hasn’t been ‘real’ since she got the boob job.

None of them is any more representative of “The People” than George Bush is. Once again, smoke and mirrors have us almost convinced that Hollywood ‘real’ is actual reality. And that brings me right back to John’s Campaign.

You have to be very careful when you hold yourself out to be a “Man of the People.” Pre-arranged photo ops, open-neck shirts and vaguely-worded speeches are no substitute for genuinely staying in touch with ‘real’ people – every day.

You can only truly understand what ‘real’ working people want if you make yourself regularly available to ‘real’ working people – at their level, in their space and on their time-scale.

And if you can’t do this during an Election Campaign, then what hope is there that you can do it when you get to the White House?

Published in: on January 14, 2007 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

…The Big Sleeper


Al Gore.

Will he, won’t he?

Al is a great big teddy bear of a conundrum. Overweight. Sometimes shaggy. Still wooden and intense. And pretty much always flaky.

Yet, for all of that, ordinary people feel like they know him. They’ve seen him weather the storms. They sense he is genuine. That he just let’s it all hang out. And they understand that he doesn’t care whether or not they like his message – so long as they get that it’s honest.

I get a headache trying to factor Al into the equation. So, I go outside, clear my head, and wait to see what happens. And one word comes crashing through.

Integrity.

And that’s the 2008 Democratic Nomination and Presidential Election right there. If Al wants them, he’s got both.

If Al enters the Democratic Primaries, he will win. But I’m not sure that he will enter them. Remember, he backed out in 1988 and in 1992. He really doesn’t like the scrum.

If Al doesn’t enter the Primaries, and there is a hung Convention between John, Hillary and Barack (as I predict), then frantic delegates will turn to Al to save them.

And if Al is the Democratic Nominee, he will beat whoever the Republicans put up. Period.

Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 11:47 am  Comments (2)  

The Dreamy Team

So. Hillary will bomb in the Southern Primaries, leaving the field clear for John and Barack.

Barack has some pull with the African-American vote, but not as much as people think.

Ordinary African-Americans would be the first to smack a pundit around the head, and remind him that Caucasians don’t just knee-jerk vote Caucasian. They vote for the individual and their policies. So, why should African-Americans be any different?

John has worked long and hard to court Trade Union support. This will be crucial in getting out votes in the Industrial North, and states such as Nevada, which has an important early Primary.

Barack comes out slightly ahead of John on charisma, but John wins hands down on organization.

He has built up a superb effort through two national campaigns, and his work with the Center for Poverty at the University of North Carolina. And at the end of the day, getting out the votes will make the difference.

I predict that John and Barack will do equally well in the South. They both have their differing strengths in the North. But John will tip the balance in places like Florida and the West, and will come out ahead.

Finally, I predict that, for all of this, there will be a hung Democratic Convention in 2008. John will only just pip Barack. And Hillary will still have gathered a large enough stack of delegates that there will be no overall winner on the first ballot.

Hillary, however, will never agree to be a Vice-Presidential Nominee – she has way too much pride. Besides, she has an alternative path to power as the next Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate.

So, the Convention will finally rally around its “Dreamy Team”: “Bobby” John and “Baritone” Barack – in that order. Unless…

Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Barack, Hollywood and Coke

Oh give me a break on Barack and coke!

Ordinary people beg every day to be represented by politicians who understand what it is to be ordinary.

Regular people know that ‘real’ people have flaws. And that often, great flaws go with great characters.

Working stiffs laugh and cry, hurt and mend, cheat and make up – and they do alcohol and drugs, and anything else they can find, to help make what they see as the indignity of their daily lives a little more bearable.

It’s not that regular folks don’t mind if their politicians have ordinary flaws, just like them; they positively want them to have ordinary flaws, just like them. They want to know that they have representatives who truly ‘get’ their hurt.

It is only the professional Washington pundits who expect political candidates to walk off the pages of a Hollywood script.

So, give Barack a break. He’s showing himself to be a ‘real’ person.

I’m more concerned that both of the books he has written play on their association with “Dreams.” Is this genuine? Or a focus group ploy to tie himself subliminally to the American Dream, and to Martin Luther King’s famous speech?

The people of this country are sick and tired of ‘politics as usual.’ They are fed up with plastic persona and policies that pander rather than paint a bold vision. They are thirsty for someone who, through his words and his experiences, can blaze a trail that gives them hope that things might actually be a little bit better tomorrow.

Barack, I will say only this: if you hold yourself out as the African-American Kennedy, and you then turn out to be a charlatan, the people will never forgive you. Whether you win or lose, do not let us down!

Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The "H-Bomb"?

Time to consider some of John’s serious Presidential opponents. My first prediction: Hillary will enter the race, and she will bomb in the South.

Her first problem will be sex. And I don’t mean gender; I mean sex. Gender was a plus. It gave her an edge over all her other baggage, with the ‘what if’ factor. “Er, I’m not really sure I like her…but hey…a female President – that could be cool!” She has now lost the ‘what if’ factor to Barack.

For all the talk of a ‘New South,’ when it comes to male-female relationships, regular boys and girls down here still pretty much follow the script in “Gone With The Wind.” Working men do what they do, and their women keep quiet. I don’t agree with it. But any honest pundit knows it’s true.

Ordinary folk – both men and women – just smirk at the thought of Bill getting ‘serviced’ in the White House. But they cringe at the memory of Hillary’s stern not-so-private remonstrations. It makes them feel uncomfortable.

Guys won’t want to flirt at the water-fountain. Gals will start wondering what their men are doing at the water-fountain. And all of them will blame Hillary for their itchiness.

Next problem for Hillary: Southerners held their noses and voted for Al Gore in Democratic Primaries in 2000, because he was at least nominally Southern. They held their nose for John Kerry in 2004, because he was former military. Not even Bill will get them to do it for Hillary.

She’ll do ok in Iowa. Cream New Hampshire. And will then bomb for the first time in South Carolina.

She’ll pick up her skirts, and move onto the Mid-West. And places North and West. But she will then bomb for a second and final time when the circus swings South again.

And once people see that a Clinton can lose, Hillary will nose-dive for the remainder of the Primaries. She will not win the Democratic nomination in 2008. The field will be left to John and Barack.

Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Stood Up @ The Stand Up

And so…

No John! Not even a funny story in the e-mail!

To be fair, he might have been scared off by the possibility of an NSA satellite overhead his homebase. But everyone knows. All of George’s satellites are currently over Chicago, trying to work out if that’s actually dandruff on Barack’s blazer lapel!

Boom, boom! And we had much more of the same last night at the DSI Comedy Theater in John’s home town. It was a pity John did not accept my invitation and turn up. He missed out on some good, clean fun with some of his regular working neighbors.

I don’t care so much for myself. There will be other opportunities. I just felt bad for the audience, who were well aware that John had found the time to do Hollywood with Jay Leno earlier in the week.

Ah well. And so the reality show of politics continues. While this blog will continue to try to find the actual reality…

My thanks to Zach and DSI for being great hosts, and to the audience for just being great!

Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 10:02 am  Comments (1)  

‘Dear John’ Letter


What follows is an open ‘Dear John’ letter I have just e-mailed to John:

“Dear John,

I will shortly be posting this invitation on my new blog – http://www.watch9.blogspot.com/ – but I wanted you to receive it first.

As a consequence of my new blog, I have been invited to be the guest this Friday (January 12) of DSI Comedy Theater (http://dsicomedytheater.com/), on stage, at their home base, in our home town of Carrboro-Chapel Hill.

It occurs to me that the only reason I have been invited is because of you, and in fact, you should be a co-guest. So, I am making this open invitation to you to appear with me this Friday, at 9.00pm, on stage.

As explained to me, the format is that the special guests (you and me; or me on my own, if you don’t want to come) tell personal stories and anecdotes inspired by audience suggestion, and DSI members then improvise comic scenes based on the stories we tell. This will last from 9.00pm to 10.30pm. And the show will feature about 5-6 stories, each with an average length of 2 minutes.

I’ve been having a little fun at your expense. Here is your opportunity to have a little fun at mine. Plus, you can prove to all the world that you have a human side that goes with the political. Most of the audience and the actors are ordinary working stiffs, the very people with whom you hope to connect.

In the event you genuinely can not attend, why not send me a true but funny story about yourself, which I promise to read to the audience as you send it to me. Of course, we may have to have a little fun in your absence as well…but I will read out the story word for word.

What about it, John? Let me know.

Your continuing friend and supporter,
Geoff Gilson”

Published in: on January 7, 2007 at 5:26 pm  Comments (6)