Benny's World

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Father Christmas: Reprise by Greg Lake

Beautiful song by ELP. For your evening enjoyment, BW readers.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Blog Spotlight: Orient Lodge

Haddy haddy ho, hoddy hoddy ho

BW Readers, I have another treat for you tonight. I am spotlighting another artist/entrepreneur-like blog. As you know, I wanted to do this every 2-3 weeks, but to be honest, once a month is what I have time to do.

Tonight's spotlight is on Orient Lodge, by Aldon Hynes in CT.

Aldon chooses to go by his real name when he posts anywhere; he is not like me or Digby, who are pseudomyous. I met Aldon online 18 months ago, maybe longer because I admired his work with the Dean Campaign, but more forcefully for John Edwards during the time we have been acquainted. As most of you know, Orient Lodge is on my blogroll.

Aldon has worked many places, including Wall Street, and has a great understanding of hedge fund management--and how it works. He has pointed out on more than one occasion that some of them are not evil, as portrayed by very far progressives, and the WSJ has chosen to do with Democratic candidates who worked for one, but for the right reasons: the understanding of those markets and what one could advise in the future to improve.

As BW readers know or if they don't by now, I am drawn to blogs who have balanced views about art, life, family, progressive politics, and just transparency, even through sharing of Flickr photos.

Aldon strikes me as someone who understands the rat race, and got away from it. He chose to first back Howard Dean in 2003-04 primaries. Not a bad choice. Dean was my second choice behind JRE.

But Aldon has the intellectual and emotional IQ of many bloggers. He is struggling yet loves his family and trying to make his entrepreneurial ventures work. Wall Streeters may not be following in his path, but as a business librarian, Aldon and Orient Lodge hit the middle for me. He's not defining centrists in their ideology, but what could work for all of us.

Via e-mail, I asked Aldon what he would like to accomplish through his blog and other posts. He replied with his current activities and interests about blogging and Second Life:
Hence, I have a mix of articles about Second Life, Wordless Wednesdays, talking about writing, whether it be NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo, or my recently added section for poems. I try to reach to the bloggers in the other arenas, at home moms, homeschoolers, folks who try to connect using sites like MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, BlogExplosion and so on. These are the people I want to reach. I want to write in a way that doesn't breakdown into troll rating wars. I want to touch the authentic American experience in all its beauty, the way Sen. Edwards celebrates American hereos.

Aldon Hynes and Orient Lodge, I salute you for what you post and enlighten us all.

Update: Aldon took notice of numbers through the blogs, and while my numbers aren't are good as many, he happened to notice my post about him. Thx Aldon! I like your posts, they fit the criteria I'm looking for. Hope some readers who vote may view it similarly.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Ad of the Day

Sounds like someone's got John Edwards' back.

(h/t Cosbo at MyDD)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Movie Trailer Ad Featuring the Edwards Team

It's different from the other candidates, tad corny (but then Iowa grows a lot of corn), but I think it's brilliant at the same time. It's rated CG: Caucus Goers.

Take a look:

The voice-over is by JRE supporter George Hoyo, who is well known for his voice overs in trailers. And I think Kevin Bacon is helping out with the e-mails (and possible snail mailings) to Iowans. You can read more about it at the Caucus Command Center at JRE's site.

I missed JRE on the Today show this morning, but apparently he was on his game, according to Chuck Todd, who thought a few weeks ago Edwards wasn't worth mentioning since he wasn't a viable candidate.

And if you haven't seen Newsweek this week, check it out. JRE is on the cover.

Today Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne will be back with the JRE to help campaign in NH. Wish I could go.

America rising indeed--and so is Edwards' campaign. The media just woke up.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Beloved Central Illinois Son Dan Fogelberg Passes Away

I read at the DU that Dan Fogelberg passed away this afternoon at age 56. He died of prostate cancer or complications thereof. He had been diagnosed 3 years ago. And with his diagnosis, he encouraged all men over 50 to get seek tests or preventive measures.

Dan Fogelberg was from Peoria, IL, about a 90 minutes from where I live. From his website:

Daniel Grayling Fogelberg was born in Peoria on August 13, 1951. His father taught music in local high schools and colleges, gave private lessons, and conducted
school bands. Dan's early creativity surfaced in imaginative ways to avoid piano practice. " I used to fake injuries," he said proudly, "even taping up my finger and saying I jammed it playing baseball. But it wasn't a trick you could use a lot." Though he didn't like lessons, he loved the instrument itself, and would spend endless happy hours at the keys, sounding out the hits of the day.

In church, he loved the music but grew restless during the sermons. To keep him occupied, his folks provided pen and paper, thus fueling his love for drawing and painting that has extended throughout his life. He was a constructive kid quick to create his own fun -- At a cub scout jamboree where boys hurled baseballs at old records as a kind of carnival sport, he collected all the unbroken ones, a great bounty of old obscure fifties pop and college fight songs.

His grandfather was a steelworker.

His maternal grandfather, a steelworker from Scotland who worked at a foundry in Peoria, gave him an old Hawaiian slide guitar. It had pictures of dancing hula girls engraved on it, as well as steel strings about a half-inch from the neck, tough for anyone, but nearly impossible for an eleven year old beginner. Yet he took to it naturally, forcing him to acquire a strong left hand as he taught himself chords from his Mel Bay guitar book.

Amazing, taught himself how to play a guitar. Natural gift.

I skip to when he was a student at the University of Illinois, an institution in the town I live in:

After[high school] graduation, he felt he could have gone in many directions, and eventually decided to pursue acting at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Finding the college acting scene to be more political than theatrical, he switched majors to study art, with aspirations of becoming a serious painter.

Yet music kept calling, this time in the form of a kindred soul, musician Peter Berkow, who ran a little folk music club called The Red Herring. Berkow invited him to perform, and before long Fogelberg was a cherished part of the burgeoning coffee house scene. "I started meeting like-minded people, musicians who were bright and well read, and I realized that I was finally free of the provincialism of high school." He started playing his own songs, and the spirit of the scene shifted from politics to music: "The Red Herring went from being a hide-out for pinko leftists who were plotting the overthrow of the government to a really creative musical scene. And it started packing people in."

He eventually dropped out of UIUC, went on to California, stopping in Colorado for awhile when he ran out of money, and happily worked on his music while taking a temporary job. Song from Half Mountain was among the tunes that arose out of that respite.

He went to Los Angeles, made some good albums. The one I was introduced to at age 15 was Souvenirs. I loved it. He had some great musicians working for him.

Pass on to 1979. Remember Three Mile Island in PA and the risk of a nuclear holocast? Fogelberg released the following year on his Phoenix CD, "Face the Fire". Here are the lyrics:

I hear the thunder
Three miles away
The island's leaking
Into the bay
The poison is spreading
The demon is free
And people are running from
What they can't even see.

Face the fire
You can't turn away
The risk grows greater
With each passing day
The waiting's over
The moment has come
To kill the fire
And turn to the sun.

They'll take your money
And then take your health
To line their pockets with
Unequaled wealth
These men are under
The power of gold
We won't be safe until we
Shut them down cold.

Face the fire
You can't turn away
The risk grows greater
With each passing day
The waiting's over
The moment has come
To kill the fire
And turn to the sun.

The people came to the capitol town
One hundred thousand of them
Laid their hearts down
They screamed in anger
And broadcast their fears
Just to have them
Fall on deaf ears.

face the fire
you cant turn away
the risk grows greater
with each passing day
the waitings over
the moment has come
to kill the fire
and turn to the sun
to kill the fire
and turn to the sun

Very progressive and persuasive. Forever then I was against Nuclear facilities since they were costly to maintain and the waste was unaccountable.

But I loved his next album/CD Collection, "The Innocent Age". On it was the Same Ol Lang Syne piece I was always think of when I was last with my college sweetheart in 1984.

I loved Dan Fogelberg, and passed by his house in CO twice, albeit I was told by the Pagosa Springs librarians he had been away for a couple of years before we started visiting in 2004. And the cancer was one of the reasons. Pagosa Springs hasn't a big facility to treat cancer.

RIP to one of my favorite composers/singers, Dan Fogelberg, the Leader of my band.

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An Essay on Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal by Montana Maven

BW readers, I have a great treat for you. Montana Maven (whose blog is on my blogroll) wrote an exquisite essay that would rival anything one would read in the NYT Books section. It incorporates a theme about getting the gentry out of the government and restoring it back to the people, using Paul Krugman's new book, The Conscience of Liberal as a theme. The essay was originally diaried on the Daily Kos earlier today. It was so well received that I e-mailed Montana Maven to obtain permission to reproduce it here, and she responded very enthusiastically a "Yes".

Readers will see how this ties to JRE's message. Oh, in case you didn't know, Krugman has complemented JRE quite a few times this year, particularly about his universal health care plan. Additionally, Montana Maven said that on her radio show yesterday out of Des Moines, quite a few Ron Paul supporters called in. They think the system is rigged against us, but of course they prefer less government in general.

So, here is her essay, with the proper title below. Enjoy. Special thanks to Montana Maven for allowing Benny's World to reprint this excellent piece. Do drop by her blog and listen to her podcasts of her radio show. She has the most interesting guests to interview. And if you like her work, drop her a note with some change.

Krugman Asks Us to Fight for a New New Deal and Not Betray Progressivism

by Montana Maven

That’s what is behind Krugman and his recent columns. Democracy has been shoved aside, but he sees our chance out of this radical inequality we find ourselves in. But is must be done NOW. It is urgent that we elect the person most capable of taking on FDR’s mantle and fighting like heck for universal heath care. It’s not as radical as some lefties would like. It still is working within the capitalist system. But it will lead us from the brink. His book "The Conscience of a Liberal" is an ode to the New Deal and he makes a strong case for a New New Deal.

"Your Future Still Lies Ahead of You" declared Thomas Dewey in his campaign against Harry Truman. And so it goes in every election. Barfy populist statements. Meaningless platitudes escape from the lips of grown men and the occasional woman. They mostly used to come from the Republican side to mask the real agenda. I call it Smiley Face Fascism delivered by affable politicians.

In 1948, Dewey masked his assault on the New Deal with generalizations like the one quoted. But just as Senator Howard Taft had attacked the labor reforms of the New Deal with the Taft Hartley Act, Dewey’s agenda was to reverse the programs of the New Deal like social security and worker’s rights. He was appealing to Americans to return to the oligarchic system in place prior to Roosevelt.

Well the people wanted none of it and elected Truman. After Dewey's defeat, for the most part, the Republicans gave up trying to undo The New Deal. Their ideas were literally bankrupt. In 1954, Eisenhower, in a letter to his brother Edgar, said that "a tiny splinter group...H.L. Hunt...a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas" wanted to eliminate labor laws and farms programs." "Their numbers are negligible and they are stupid".

But 30 years later, the "tiny splinter group" came back with a vengeance and "The Great Compression" that resulted from Roosevelt’s policies to counter "The Great Depression" took a backward turn that continues today. The modern conservatives built a movement, media outlets, organizations, around the ideas of economist Milton Friedman and sociologist, Irving Kristol. When the next crisis hit, their ideas would be ready. Naomi Klein whole book "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" is about how these folks would exploit crisis after crisis swooping in with their radical fundamental free market ideas.

Krugman’s new book is not as shocking or as filled with personal interviews as Naomi Klein’s, but it is a very smart, succinct, and smart companion piece to it. It's also a personal story and a personal journey of Krugman's that I understand being the same age and growing up in the 1950's and the 1960's. Klein was trained as an economist but she has found her gift in journalism. Her book is filled with brilliant reportage; of personal accounts of the tragedies inflicted by the Milton Friedman "greed is good" school. Like Klein, Krugman’s writing in his economic column morphed from an attack on George W. Bush and his administration to the conservative movement as a whole. He couldn’t help it. He became a gadfly who has changed in the way he looks at the "why" of where we are today. Why are we in another Gilded Age when it looked like we were heading towards greater equality not less? The Friedman (Miltie and Tommie) mantra has been globalization, globalization, globalization.

But Krugman, as he examined the period from Gilded to Gilded, sees two arcs; one in economics and one in politics and they parallel each other. The greatest inequality of incomes in the Gilded Age was mirrored by extreme partisanship. In the 1950’s, post war America, there was the greatest income equality and the greatest bi-partisanship. His book is an examination of the "why?" of these arcs. It is an ode to The New Deal and its reforms.

To his credit, Krugman said that he believed the story that:

"technological changes and globalization caused America’s income distribution to become increasingly unequal, with an elite minority pulling away from the rest of the population. The Republican Party chose to cater to the interests of that rising elite... And so a gap opened between the parties, with the Republicans becoming the part of the winners...the Democrats represented those left behind."

But in his research he became more and more convinced that the arrow pointed in the other direction; not from economic inequality causing a growing political rift, but a radical political shift caused the economic inequality. This idea is heresy to traditional economists who believe that the invisible hand of the market mattered most in how income is distributed.

And more and more economists are starting to take another look at the shenanigans of the political right and neo-liberal crookedness disguised as theory. Krugman posits:

"Forces of technological change and globalization...affect everyone. If the rise in inequality has political roots, the United States should stand out; if it’s mainly due to impersonal market forces, trends in inequality should have been similar across the advanced world. And the fact is that the increase in U.S. inequality has no counterpart anywhere else in the advanced world.

Political change seems to be at the heart of the story. How did that political change happen?"

Krugman unearths the same culprit as Klein does; the modern radical conservative movement, but by going back an examining The New Deal, he puts our salvation clearly in a New New Deal that puts first and foremost as it’s number one agenda, universal health care "something every other advanced country already has." And in order to make his case he examines our politics from the Gilded Age of the 1890’s to the Gilded Age of the last 30 years. In the telling of the tale, he hopes that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, but embrace the great radical reforms that Roosevelt instituted that led to our finest hours.

And here's where the "Bourbon Democrats" come in. From the civil war to Woodrow Wilson, the Democrats were primarily led by pro-business Northerners and reactionary Southerners. They differed in being pro free trade and anti-tariff and they decried corruption. The Republican Party was clearly the party of the rich and no longer the party of free labor. So who got left out? Labor and farmers. Hence the rise of the Populists. But their chosen leader, William Jennings Bryan, could never create a coalition of labor and farm; of urban and rural workers. He also got hung up with silver and gold standards and being awfully preachy. And one of his worst mistakes was to pick a Northern pro-business running mate instead of the great Southern populist Tom Watson. So once again, the choice wasn't clear. When one side is mushy, the voters usually go for the strong clear "commander guy".

Today we have a version of the "Bourbon Democrats". Some call them the "Gentry Democrats". A great article in the Baltimore Sun "Worker's Aren't on the Agenda of Today's Gentry Liberals" is a great read.

The ascent of gentry liberalism remains largely unchallenged, in part because of the abject failure of the Republicans to address middle-class aspirations in a serious way and in part because of the absence of a strong pro-middle-class voice among Democratic presidential contenders, with the exception of former Sen. John Edwards. As a result, Democrats are unlikely to stop, let alone reverse, the current economic trend that dispenses major benefits to gentry-favored sectors such as private equity firms, dot-com giants and entertainment media.

Over the last half-century, liberals have moved from strong support for basic middle-class concerns - epitomized by the New Deal and the GI Bill - to policies that reflect the concerns and prejudices of ever-more-elite interests. As a result, neither party speaks for broad middle-class concerns.

The nation deserves better than that.

Yes, our future still lies ahead of us if we put away hollow pseudo progressivism that worships power and loves the world of corporate jets and perks. We must put away those childish things and go for the substantial. And that lies in embracing labor once again and putting its needs first. By putting money into the hands of the poorest workers, everybody gains in income except the top 1 %. Bummer. But that’s what happened from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. Good strong labor unions (fraternity) and fair progressive taxes (equality). That gave everybody freedom (liberty) and restored the American dream.

In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not pussy foot around with barfy populist statements. He "let the malefactors of great wealth have it with both barrels", says Krugman:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me⎯and I welcome their hatred.

You cannot sleep with these forces. You cannot cajole them. The only way we will get back to more political bi-partisanship is to fix inequality of income and inequality of health care and inequality of opportunity and restore democracy. Not the other way around. You cannot rise above or transcend the fierce bickering. You must fight the causes of it. There is no Staples EASY button to right these wrong that involve race, poverty, class and the rift between town and country. The progressive/liberal/labor movement has been growing getting stronger. The old Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition is being reborn with the new resurgence o the unions and our Latino and Latina allies. It is a new coalition that has strength and power and not just intellectual exercises.

Naomi Klein said that when a crisis hits, Milton Friedman says that government will turn to the "ideas lying around." In the 1990’s there was no visible progressive movement. Bill Clinton did not come in to office on a wave of a movement. He got lucky. Then he wasn’t sure what to do, so he winged it.

This accounted for part of the reason why health care reform didn’t happen. Krugman says that there were many reasons why Hillary and Bill’s health care plan didn’t work:

"but a key weakness was that it wasn’t an attempt to give substance to the goals of a broad movement⎯it was a personal venture, developed in isolation and without a supporting coalition. And after the Republican victory in 1994, Bill Clinton was reduced to making marginal policy changes. He ran the government well, but he didn’t advance a larger agenda, and he didn’t build a movement. This could happen again, but if it does, progressives will rightly feel betrayed."

Well, we have a movement, thank goodness. We don’t have time to wait for somebody to begin to build one. Besides a movement is really never built by following a person. That’s a cult. To return to traditional liberalism will take a radical turn. (And John McLaughlin, of all people, noted several months ago that is what the country needed right now.)

It will take courage. It will take being a partisan; a defender of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Just like the Free French Partisans, we must fight entrenched greed not collaborate with them. By becoming fiercely partisan, fighting for equality and justice, we can finally regain such a thing as bi-partisanship aka working through our differences towards the common good. John Edwards said in a town hall meeting in Iowa on December 12, "We have an epic battle ahead of us."

Krugman in his final chapter defines liberals and progressives:

"To be a liberal is in a sense to be a conservative. It means, to a large extent, wanting us to go back to being a middle class society. To be progressive, however, clearly implies wanting to move forward...Advancing the traditional goals of liberalism requires new policies."

The Democratic Primary has seen a great many ideas surface while on the other side they are trying to see who can expand Gitmo and who can up the ante on our next war. But still there will be "fierce opposition" to the reforms the people want. So Krugman leaves us with this admonition:

"For now being an active liberal means being a progressive, and being a progressive means being partisan. But the end goal isn’t one-party rule. It’s the reestablishment of a truly vital, competitive, democracy. Because in the end, democracy is what being a liberal is all about. "

But we need a clear choice. Aristocrats and democrats, Jefferson said, are the divide in a nation. It is time for liberals in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity to take back the Republic from the gentry Democrats and the Radical Republicans.

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