"I'm only one man...on the White House lawn, where the white man inside, without a thought of his own, with a million arms..."
Ted Quinn "Billions & Billions" July 3, 2001
President George W Bush leads White House cabinet meetings "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people" and rarely has an opinion of his own to offer on his administration's policies, according to his former Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, quoted in an article by Julian Coman in the UK's Sunday Telegraph.
"Does he call the shots? Well probably not...Isn't told a lot, so it's not his fault..."
(Here Comes the) Idiot Son, November 2002
I'd meant to write something on the anniversary of the JFK assasination a few weeks ago but the holidaze got the best of me. 40 years later, all the TV anchors were trying to re-write the history of what we all know happened. There was a lot of 'new' evidence that, yes, Lee Harvey Oswald 'acted alone.'
Lots of people went through the American ritual of remembering where they were on that day. I was at St. Victor's on Holloway Drive in West Hollywood, attending kindergarten (or could it have been first grade?) when Sister Marie Therese's voice broke in over the little wooden speaker above the chalkboard, telling us that the President has been shot in Texas and to say a prayer for him.
I had seen President Kennedy a few months before. I was four years old and one Sunday my family went to Blessed Sacrament in Beverly Hills instead of St.Victors because they had heard that JFK would be attending a service that day. We were already seated when there was a commotion at the back of the church. I turned around and watched the President as he bowed his head to pray.
When Sister Marie Therese announced that the President had been shot in Texas, I remember thinking that it must have been like a cowboy movie, where the bad guy shoots from behind a big rock.
Last night at Dana's, we watched an hour or two of JFK's press conferences that Gary had on videotape. All the myth-making and image-destroying propaganda of the past 40 years fell away and we got to see a President, standing there answering questions from the press.
JFK gave 62 press conferences in his less than three years in office. He didn't talk about re-election campaigns much but he did talk alot about protecting and advancing equal rights, equal pay for equal work, a decent minimum living wage, universal health care, nuclear test bans and letting other countries determine their own destiny. He challenged NASA to put a man n the moon by 1970 to inspire people's imagination. He created the Peace Corps as an alternative to opposing Communism through Cold War tactics.
Dana and I were amazed to see the real person, equally comfortable when he was serious as he was joking, saying all the things we wish a President had the courage to say today.
He was obviously a thinking person who was not programmed with ready-made 'political' answers. He was clearly the person in charge. Man, we could use someone with that spirit again. It's funny. Every politician since JFK has tried to evoke him in some phony way, but the thing that was so great about JFK was that he was REAL.
Today, our friend's Mark Olsen and Ray Woods are in Des Moines, Iowa, lending some music to the campaign of Dick Gephardt. I'm not sure I agree with Mark's choice of candidates, but I definitely applaud his passion.
The other night I had an argument with a very good friend, a very intelligent person, who doesn't vote. I think by the end I convinced him to, even if he believes it does no good, 'for the rest of us' who may have to live with another four years of Bush and really don't want to.
Kennedy said something, in one of the press conferences, about the right to vote, that was in such stark contrast to our current 'leadership,' who steal elections by depriving as many voters of the right as possible by purging names from voters registries:
"Without ensuring the right to vote, any talk about freedom is hollow."
Dana said something which hit me, as we watched the young President outline a course for the future. "That's the way it was supposed to be. We were supposed to grow up with that..."
And I thought. Yeah, the sixties could have been so different. The Beatles still would have played on the Ed Sullivan Show in early '64. We could have had both JFK and the Beatles, all the great music without the needless deaths in Vietnam, in Dallas, Memphis, Los Angeles, Kent State, Attica State. We could have enjoyed a legacy of ending the Cold War, winning the war on poverty, and stil gotten to the moon. The Women's movement, the environmental movement, all sorts of human rights movements could have had a friend in the White House during those years...
I like to think that it's not too late. I like to think that the corporate stranglehold on this country is not irreversible, that the people can take back the land and stop being poisoned by greedy, power-hungry, war mongers. Whoever ends up being the Democratic candidate that runs against Bush this year should watch the Kennedy press conferences. Not to study his style, that's something you've either got or you don't. It's the authenticity and thoughtfullness of the person that should be emulated.
Voters, or those who think that voting is meaningless, should see the tapes as well. We should hold our leaders to a standard set by an idealist, who briefly made it to the position of leader, all those years ago.
"They're up to their usual tricks again, they'll never learn as long as they win, so now it's come to this, it's just the way it is, it's us against them."
Ministry of Fools, "Us Against Them" November 22, 1988
(written on the 25th anniversary of the JFK assasination, as Bush the First prepared to take office...)
strange days. last night played a show for nys eve at the beatnik cafe in joshua tree. i mentioned to my girlfriend elia and my friends carol ann and veronica that my fingers were bleeding from playing guitar. carol ann said that gave her deja vu, to a time when i was about to go play at the gram parsons festival. we were at a party at the jt inn (where gram died). i was saying my goodbyes wth keys in hand, when brnda fell over backwards into some cactus. i caught her fall so she didn't land too hard, but the keys cut my finger (one that i make chords with). as i had to go play, i wrapped up my finger in a bandage and left. that would be the last time i saw brenda. i mentioned that to elia, carol ann and veronica and we toasted brenda. we played at the beatnik until 2am, then went to the rancho where we played some more until 6:30 this morning (new years day). after breakfast at the country kitchen (elia, dana, john lee, rose, jemma and i were mareine's first customers of the year), i went home and took off my shirt. i felt something in the pocket and i pulled it out. it was the leather 'coin' with the initials 'gp' on it. brenda had given it to me at the gram fest, not that last time i saw her but the year before. i guess that was the last time i had worn that shirt.
the show got off to a rough start but got transcendent by the end, singing with ruben, sue,shawn, very pregnant elaine (now is the moment of power) and victoria (thirst for god) was fun and elia's performance pieces with cyndera and linda sibio were great. bira and kitty ending the night with hare krishna chants and bells was perfect.
otherwise, the rancho new years eve-into-morning was incredible. dana, chris laine, elia, kenny, bingo and wild beauty rae, all jamming in the tracking room, while john lee, rose, nisi, carol ann, victoria, pirozzi and i stayed safe and warm through the first hours of the year, under fred's wing, in the living room. at the rancho, i thought fred would be happy to see his studio entering the year 2004, with new and old friends around (doug and meredith arrived after mere closed the saloon)...and as fred sang (i'll be around) 'in the morning', the sunrose over the quiet desert...