Friday, August 29, 2008

Values verses Candidates

By Cody Lyon

In what was probably the most important speech of his political career thus far, Barack Obama used his acceptance speech at the Democratic party convention to light up the election season stratosphere in ways that both inspired and challenged voters to consider the stark choices being offered this fall.

In one of the speeches' more powerful moments, Obama said "America, we are better than these last eight years," and "we are a better country than this."

For anyone that calls themselves middle class, lower middle class, poor or whatever wonkish and impersonal term that gets applied by countless experts, politicians or pundit, the tea leaves seem to indicate a resounding... he's correct.

Basically, over the past eight years, we've witnessed actions by our executive branch that have further tested much of the nation's mantle of trust in government. We find ourselves in a what might be called a nationwide psychological malaise, an unfortunate sense of collective frustration, even depression. The litany of almost incomprehensible events administrated by the current White House, from misleading tactics that led to the invasion of Iraq to allegations of abuses of power in our Justice System to a tax code that rewards the country's most wealthy while cold shoulders are turned to struggling homeowners, those without healthcare and the longrunning continued fostering of cruel cultures of poverty, inequity and damaged ladders of opportunity.

In short, the sense of gloom in America is tangible.

An April 3 "CBS News" poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction.

Still, during the Democratic party primaries, many Americans became more engrossed by the petty, but typical political drama's of those days instead of debates and analysis of policy specifics.

At times, it seemed that many Democrats were more engaged by personalities, baggage and images.

As the convention approached, many pundits and others with platforms still appeared to be more focused on the drama's between the Hillary's and the Barack's rather than the real drama of reality on the ground that is America, a drama that was continuing its pronounced assent onto the stage of the nation's sad collective reality.

At the stadium acceptance speech, Senator Obama did his best at clearing up the mess by reaching out to those Democrats, who have expressed leeriness over his relative inexperience in foreign policy, his un-tested mettle in dealing with powerful big business lobbies or, more simply, what they see as a starry eyed idealist, who like many humans upon entering the shark infested political waters of Washington, often succumb to the molding of powers that be, forces that in the end, shape policy, policies that in the end, are the nuts and bolts of our economy, defense, education system, health care and in the end, how this has impacted our collective national psyche.

Most Democrats hope and feel he succeeded in alleviating those fears for now.

But there was something else that took place that night. If nothing else, Obama, if only for a moment, lifted the nation's psyche and in some ways succeeded in inspiring all Americans to believe that the dream is still alive in this land of freedom, where the bells of democracy occasionally ring with messages of hope, not the fear and gloom that has crippled the very essence of who and what we as a people stand for and strive to be.

Obama's uplifting moment followed an by his former opponent when she did her best to further bridge the divide between those Democrats who express leeriness about Obama.

Just two nights before the Obama moment, Senator Hillary Clinton stood before her supporters on the floor along with millions of viewers and voters who had long held to the belief that it was she, not Obama, who should have been chosen to lead the party to a November victory against the Republican party.

Television reports showed delegates in tears, but, even still, Clinton directed a laser eye at her supporters and made it clear, she is not their therapist or for that fact, their Mother.

Clinton was clear, a vote for either her, or for Senator Obama, was so much more than a vote for an individual candidate's image, personality, for that matter, race, gender or origin or rhetoric.

No matter what a delegate or voter's preferences between the two candidates, a more simple question of fundamental political party values is at stake.

In these modern times when a campaign song like "Happy Days are here again" seems silly, in these days of Presidential administrations filled with countless advisors, policy shapers and other insiders who pontificate from above to the 'chosen ones' occupying the oval office, it is imperative that voters take into account what are clearly package deals, they are the packages that each party embodies, and each is filled with stark differences and competing ideologies.

For anyone on the political fence, it might be especially important to remember some simple basics.

Both candidates Obama and Clinton embody the values of the party they love, the Democratic. At the heart of their political souls, they embody the political values of Ted Kennedy, for that matter his late brother, former President John Kennedy. They are the political offspring a a party who produced a President that saw the nation through the horrors of the second world war, the same President who created the "New Deal" and social programs that elevated America into a more humane existence.

The political policy values that Senator Obama embodies are the values of another President, ironically from a Southern State, a President who was the leader of a party that when the poisons of racism dripped from the lips of many of his former allies in the 1960's, chose morality over politics and signed the Voting rights Act into law. This is the party that subscribes to the values of a President who more recently, in the 1990's brilliantly reached across party lines and oversaw one of the greatest economic expansions this nation has ever witnessed, a President who bravely brought seemingly controversial issues and concerns to the political table, opening the door to a more tolerant and accepting society for LGBT Americans among others.

Democratic Party values are seen in the work of a Peanut Farmer from Plains Georgia, a former President in dire time who is now an international statesman and peacemaker who travels the world mediating disputes, risking his own legacy in the face of controversy and stands and speaks to what is right and fair and who still teaches a Sunday School class at least once a month back in Plains.

Barack Obama and his candidacy embody the values of what some conservatives like to call liberal, but are in truth, values based in compassion, values that encourage the hopes of the less fortunate, the rescue of a sadly disappearing middle class, the fair and decent rewards for hard work and life played by the rules . They are also the values of those who demand a solid ladder of economic and educational opportunity in every town, county and state in the country, ladders available for every American willing to climb.

They are the values of a political party that will hopefully seek out tangible solutions that perhaps must start with self examination and acceptance of the humbling reality that we as a nation have allowed our own arrogance threaten our true greatness.

That said, millions pray, that this chosen Democratic candidate, if he indeed wins, will embody the values and good sense that recognizes and respects the responsibilities of perhaps his most crucial role, commander in chief. They pray for a President who will not play upon the fears of a traumatized nation and will only call upon our military when it is essential to the preservation of our nation's security.

Never again should we as a people allow a military excursion into a land that has led our great military men and women, as well as their families, into what has become one of our longest running nightmares. And, never again should every member of the nation not be called upon in some way to share the pain and offer some form of sacrifice, like those military families either through some sort of mandatory public service or higher taxes for our most wealthy citizens and corporations.

Perhaps, at its very deepest core, the Democratic party embodies the values of a great nation.

Now, there are those who may say that this young, relatively inexperienced candidate is not ready, or they may secretly hold reservations over his ethnicity, his upbringing perhaps even his name. They may see a candidate that they could never possibly relate to on a more personal level. Perhaps they see a candidate who they feel they simply don't know enough about. But despite such tragic misgivings among the electorate, there is and are greater, quiet frankly, less selfish reasons to carefully consider jumping off the fence of indecision in November.

In the end, voters must make their decision based on what is clearly a choice of packages. And, they must remember, beneath the wrapping paper of campaign ads, rhetoric, assorted controversies and infighting, there are solid differences between these two Party ideologies. Whichever ideology succeeds in selling itself best, could determine the outcome of the election. Whichever candidate that voters ultimately choose, will place in power a party ideology that will perhaps shape the future of our nation, perhaps too, our world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

(REUTERS) Suicide Bomber Targets Banquet in Iraq

Iraq bomber targets banquet (REUTERS)
(01:03) Report
Aug 25 - A suicide bomber detonates a vest packed with explosives at a celebration feast in western Baghdad.

Police say 25 people have been killed in the blast at the home of a local sheikh who was holding the feast to celebrate the release of his son from U.S. detention.

Paul Chapman reports.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is America's Judicial System Antagonistic?

From my story at OMNI

The Central Park Jogger crime occurred in a time before the seeds of DNA evidence had taken root as tools of evidence in the United States judicial system. And some say New York Law Enforcement authorities needed a suspect to appease the public's outrage over the brutality of the incident that night in the park.

In the case of the Central Park Jogger, the original group of suspects easily fit the psyche of local tabloids and what was clearly a traumatized and apparently divided city.

But as history has shown, in the thirst to obtain a shut and close case, justice was in fact denied on three fronts.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alabama Rumor? An emerging story where money trails may lead to answers

FROM BIRMINGHAM BLUES (Kathy) (including reporting from "The Birmingham News")

The Birmingham News ran an article yesterday (the online version of which is in serious need of an editor's mouse) detailing the inflated salaries of some of AG Troy King's aides. King's chief of staff and spokesman, Chris Bence, apparently managed to keep a straight face while explaining how King had designated Bence a paralegal this spring -- despite his complete lack of legal education or experience -- in order to increase his salary from $94,000 to $104,400. He says Troy did it to make up for the three years he didn't get a raise. And, according to him, the AG has the authority to appoint five paralegals without regard to their qualifications.
Link at:


Monday, August 11, 2008

(REUTERS)Russia takes fight into Georgia

(02:23) Reuters Report

Aug 11 - The conflict in the Caucasus escalates as Russia moves to bolster the separtist region of South Ossetia which lies within Georgia's borders.

Andrew Potter reports.

Friday, August 08, 2008

From Whence I come

PHOTO CREDIT-JAY KIRKPATRICK-(*-Click on Photos for large size image*)
by Cody Lyon

Just south of Birmingham, Alabama situated on Hiway 25 lying on the banks of the Coosa River sits the one stop-light town Wilsonville. This pretty little hamlet is just down the road from another small town, a spitting image of television's Mayberry, a place that happens to be crowned by a stately southern court house, hence it is the County seat, Columbiana. A portion of the farm land area between Wilsonville, Columbiana and the area just north, the fast growing Hiway 280 suburban corridor leading to Birmingham, is called Four Mile. My parents, now retired from normal shift work, live there now, as they have existed in close proximity for most of their lives. Currently, they operate a small, casually run blueberry picking farm.

Here, one can come with family in tow, and you and your's pick a gallon bucket of berries for $7.

The berry bushes were planted on a whim years ago by my parents and sister, in neat rows, on a slope that catches the Alabama sunlight from all angles of the sky daily. A natural irrigation system keeps the plants moist, even in the face of drought conditions that nearly destroyed the crop just one year ago. The bushes have since grown into large tree like plants, filled with bountiful berries with deep hues of blue hidden inside their branches.

His business is brisk, in part due to the fact that blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients of the fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA.

Next year, he's hoping his new blackberry bushes will be ready for picking, as will his new fig trees, that is, if he can keep the birds from eating them.

Along with the berries, fresh tomatoes burst from vines in another patch, alongside fresh okra, turnip greens and what reportedly seems to be a favorite among many newcomers to his small operation, watermelons.

One day, during a phone conversation as I sat by the Hudson River in New York City's Manhattan, my Dad told me he's certain some of the people that visit him are first timers to a farm like his. He said that more than one visitor had told him they had never actually picked berries, watermelons or a tomato from a vine or bush.

He said he liked to share the story of his now deceased basset hound, who when the tomato's were ripe, could be seen strolling in the garden, stopping occasionally to inspect, then eat a couple off the vine. To this day, he finds his tomato loving basset hound a bit, unusual.

As cyclists and joggers passed me as I sat on a bench in the manicured Hudson River Park, from Alabama, my Dad spoke of guests who speak with accents unlike his, people originally from beyond these United State borders, who now made their way down to his blueberry patch in Shelby County.

My Dad has found joy in showing the first time visitors how to gently roll their fingers over the berries so the ripe ones fall into the bucket. He also loved taking them to the watermelon patch, a place where these giant pod like pieces of fruit grew from tiny seeds, where they'd tap and thump the melon to 'hear' if it was ripe. The watermelon patch was always almost magical, mysterious, a place to find those creations where he, like many a southerner, discovered the satisfaction of salt on the sweet juicy creation from the ground.

When the guests found find one they like, he tells them to "go on and get it" and they go and cut the curly pigtail lifeline that connects to the ground and hoisting the melon, load it into their car, maybe for a trip back to suburbia, another town, city, perhaps too, with a vivid memory tucked away, to be recalled at another place and time.

He said it just tickled him to death to see the fascination in these folks faces, the beauty of introducing something he'd always known as a simple part of seasonal and daily life.

Maybe too, they find him interesting, a relic of sorts, one who worked shift work at a power plant for years, but now finds peace and joy with the land, one who shares, albeit sells the fruits of that love with the world around him.

This past Spring, my Dad was thrilled when he went outside and found that one of his humming birds had made it back to Alabama for the summer season. During another phone conversation between my adopted home and Alabama, my Mother described an older man behaving like a small child on Christmas morning. One day, he rushed into the house and announced with smiles from ear to ear, "they come back, they're back!"

They, being tiny creatures with wings, who humm, devour nectar then build nests no larger than a walnut to raise there young.

He has five humming bird feeders and the customers who come to the farm reportedly marvel at the tiny creatures as they feed, dance and dart at lightning speed, often dodging each other in a sort of bird combat, sometimes in the quest for a mate. He had done research and found that the tiny birds spend part of their lives in this part of Central Bama but as Fall and Winter approach, they come together and flap their tiny wings and fly thousands of miles across the Gulf to Mexico. By the next spring and summer, the birds somehow find their way back to this newly established sanctuary of humming just south of Birmingham, near the Coosa River.

Of course it's not just the feeders , the birds love the berries as they will the new crop of figs, blackberries and pears too.

It goes without saying, that in this world where we are constantly bombarded with the pains of life's challenges and the news of world events that seem so far beyond our control, that all around us are unreported and under discussed simplicities that are in fact, capsules of the beauty, communication and the exchange of experiences that we as living beings truly are capable of. There is less than obvious beauty in this world, often times, right under our noses, perhaps far away from the banks of the Hudson, or yet again, right along those banks but lost in the shuffle of daily life. As our world grows smaller, we can be sure, that places like my Dad's blueberry farm, are helping in some small way to bring us all a little closer together, face to face, human to human, as people, as living beings of this earth we all share. And, as the bustle continues all around here in the Big Apple, there is comfort in knowing that this place from whence I come, it is the root of who I am.
Note: No one in this story is affiliated in any way with, or subscribes to in any way, the political opinions pontificated by this author in other parts of this blog-that being because I often speak my mind)


Clips from Politico's Collection of Late night antics

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


(01:34) REUTERS-Report
Aug. 6 - Rwanda has formally accused senior French officials of involvement in its 1994 genocide and called for them to be put on trial.

Among those named in a report by a Rwandan investigation commission were former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and late President Francois Mitterrand.

France denies any wrongdoing, and says its forces helped protect people during a U.N.-sanctioned mission in Rwanda at the time.
Andrew Potter reports.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

(REUTERS) Obama Shifts position on Energy

Aug 4 - Barack Obama proposed tapping the strategic oil reserves to help lower gas prices, a reversal of a stance he made just weeks ago.
The emergency reserve created in the 1970s holds about 700 million barrels of crude stored in Texas and Louisiana.
Jon Decker reports. (REUTERS)