Saturday, May 16, 2009

*This Is Not Your Father’s War- But It May Be Your Children’s- Obama’s Afghan War

Click On Title For Link To Associated Press Story On Obama's Afghan War Budget.

This Is Not Your Father’s War- But It May Be Your Children’s- Obama’s Afghan War- Vote No With Both Hands On The War Budget!

President withholds torture photos as national security measure. President revives military tribunals. Congress gets ready to pass President’s supplementary Afghan/Iraq war budgets. Correct me if I am wrong but is this May 15, 2008 or May 15, 2009. These are headlines formerly associated with the Cheney/Bush Administration. For those who are ready to shed a few dogmatic illusions the contours of the Age of Obama are starting to come into focus. And it isn’t pretty. The streets are not for dreaming now. Read on.


Sometime soon, perhaps as this commentary is being written on Friday May 15, 2007, the Democrat Party-controlled Congress will have passed the latest supplemental war budget appropriations asked for by the Obama Administration (actually more that they asked for, nice right?). I have already noted previously in a commentary earlier this year, as this issue surfaced, that such supplementary war budgets were a hallmark of the …Bush Administration. But we will let that little issue pass because the “big deal” here is how little opposition (and press coverage) there has been now that the “good guys” are in charge. The epitome of such servile non-opposition (Ouch! Sorry for this awkward expression.) is exemplified by the lack on efforts to oppose this war budget by the so-called “anti-war’ Progressive Democratic Caucus. The “highlight” of Democratic opposition centers on a bill by left-liberal Massachusetts Democratic Congressman James McGovern to “require” the Pentagon to come up with an “exit” strategy for Afghanistan by the end of this year. So much for the vaunted parliamentary opposition. Hence the title of the headline of this commentary.

Such innocuous and, frankly, baffling legislation does not even come close to rising to the occasions in the past where the likes of Congressman McGovern at least voted against the war budget. If Congressman McGovern represents the most extreme left expression within the Democratic Party on war issues, and I believe that he does, one hardly needs a crystal ball to realize that the already almost eight year American presence in Afghanistan has just gotten a lot longer. Add to that the recent decisions to have “Shoot first, and let god sort the rest out” General McChrystal replace the old-line armchair General McKiernan and you now know why at the very beginning of this Obama Administration I stated that he has staked his place in history on the outcome of that war. For those who despair that their children will be fighting in Afghanistan I do have a simple solution. Fight around this slogan- Obama- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan (and Iraq). Do it for the kids.


House Passes War Funds As 51 Democrats Dissent

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 15, 2009

The House passed a bill yesterday that would provide more than $96 billion in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through Sept. 30, as President Obama had requested, but a bloc of 51 Democrats opposed it.

Democratic opponents are accusing Obama of the same charge they leveled against his predecessor: escalating a war without a clear exit strategy.

The bill passed 368 to 60, with 200 Democrats and all but nine Republicans supporting it.

Democratic opponents did not attack Obama by name, but some likened his increase of 21,000 troops and billions of dollars to win the war in Afghanistan to President George W. Bush's efforts in Iraq.

"When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). "The same applies with Afghanistan. I'm tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends."

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who also voted against the bill, said that "this bill simply amplifies and extends failed policies."

The vote came the same day that another part of Obama's security agenda -- closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- drew criticism from his party. The Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that includes $50 million to close the prison, as Obama promised during the campaign.

But the measure bans Obama from using the money to bring any of the 241 detainees to the United States, a move that administration officials have suggested might be necessary to get other countries to accept prisoners. The measure also requires the administration present Congress with a detailed plan on closing the prison before the money can be used.

Senate Democratic leaders criticized Obama for not having presented such a plan, as Republicans continue to highlight the issue and accuse the administration of putting Americans at risk with its proposal to bring potential terrorists to the United States.

Obama defended his strategy for Afghanistan in a meeting late last month with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of more than 70 liberal members, many of whom opposed the funding bill. But most House Democrats indicated they want to give Obama's strategy a chance to succeed.

"The questions that were not being asked are now being asked," said Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who voted for the supplemental funding.

House Democratic leaders refused to back an effort by McGovern and other antiwar legislators that would require Obama to provide Congress a detailed exit strategy for Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Some Democratic senators, particularly Russell Feingold (Wis.), have also criticized Obama's proposal, but the funding is expected to be approved there, possibly as soon as next week. Republicans have said they might oppose increased funding for the International Monetary Fund, a request that has been inserted in the Senate version.

Some liberal activist groups, such as, which sharply criticized Bush's efforts to increase troops in Iraq two years ago, have said little about Obama's troop increase in Afghanistan.

The failed effort to amend the House bill illustrated the ineffectiveness of some of the House's most liberal members. While the caucus of conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs has effectively blocked some of Obama's proposals, such as a ban on assault weapons, liberal Democrats have struggled with two of their biggest priorities: establishing a commission to investigate allegations of violations by the Bush administration; and greater reductions of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McGovern said he remains concerned about Obama's policy in Afghanistan but is not sure exactly what he and others could do.

"I like Barack Obama; I thank God he's president; I think he will be a great president," McGovern said. "But sometimes great presidents make mistakes."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

*Those Oklahoma Hills Back Home- The Cowboy Songs Of Woody Guthrie

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Woody Guthrie Doing "So Long Its Been Good To Know You".


Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Volume 4, Woody Guthrie, Smithsonian/Folkways, 1999

As I have mentioned on early reviews concerning the music of folklorist Woody Guthrie if any of the older generation, the “Generation of ‘68” needs an introduction to Woody Guthrie then I ask what planet have you been on. Woody’s “This Land Is Your Land” is practically a national anthem (and in some quarters is treated as just that). Not as well known, but which now should be rectified with the production of this fourth volume of Woody’s work from his most prolific Asch Recording period of the 1940’s, is his rather large compilation of Western cowboy-oriented material. This, as the title of this entry notes, reflects those Oklahoma hills back home from whence he came.

Woody as a folklorist, as well as a singer and songwriter, was not interested in the cowboy as created by the movies, especially the one-dimensional one created in the hey day of the cowboy movie in the 1930’s, but the real one. The one who spend many a lonely night out on the trail herding cattle to market; who went hungry and dusty for long periods; and, who was nicked up, kicked up and busted up by man and animal alike. And the one who liked his entertainments short and sweet, a little simple music, a lot of simple liquor and plenty of women on those raucous Saturday nights off the range. Not much room in those tales, either for 1930’s Hollywood or Woody’s for that matter, for the ones portrayed in literature by Larry McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy or on film by “Brokeback Mountain” or those not recognized until much later like those of the black cowboys of the Oklahoma range, but those are stories for another day.

This compilation covers a wide variety of songs that pay honor, justifiably or not, to the norms of the cowboy profession. “Ranger’s Command” and “Buffalo Skinners” give a sense of the hard life on the trail and the pitfalls of ignorant cowboys being taken in by primitive agrarian or industrial capitalists or their agents-and, as in the case, of “Buffalo Skinners” the quick and sure retribution when the rank and file cowboy got his dander up. Songs of the trail and its travails get a workout here, as well, in “Little Dogies” and “Chisholm Trail”. The loneliness of the life and the vagaries of love in such a transient profession are reflected in “Cowboy Waltz” and “Red River Valley”. The theme of ’rough and ready’ justice is revealed in songs like “Slipknot” and “Billy The Kid”. Overall these twenty- six tracks, several of which also have Woody's long time traveling friend Cisco Houston accompanying him(a man whose career and place in the folk pantheon deserves more attention separately), bring to life the ‘real’ cowboy experience as it was known in Woody’s time.

As always with a Smithsonian/Folkways production the CD includes a booklet of copious liner notes that detail, for the folk historian or the novice alike, the history of each song and its genesis. I am always surprised by the insightful detail provided and as much as I know about this milieu always find something new in them. Moreover, the information here provided inevitably details the rather mundane genesis of some very famous songs like “Pretty Boy Floyd”.

Note: I want to address separately the subject of one of Woody’s most famous songs, and perhaps one of the first of his songs that I remember hearing back in the days, the above-mentioned “Pretty Boy Floyd”. I have reviewed Larry McMurtry’s novel of the same title elsewhere in this space. That novel details the actual ‘exploits of this notorious murderer at the tail end of the Old West period (and maybe, really, the post-Old West period). Woody’s version reflects a 1930’s romantic notion of this primordial outlaw as a modern day Robin Hood. Thus, even a realist like Woody, who could write with compassion and wit about the real sufferings of his beloved Okies and others, got caught up in the myths of the Old West that have sustained generations of Americans, including this reviewer, eagerly looking for a heroic past. For all its false premises though, Woody’s “Pretty Boy” has a line that still has a kernel of folk wisdom that is what drew me to the song in the first place-“some men will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen”. Sounds prophetic, right?

Pretty Boy Floyd

If you'll gather 'round me, children,
A story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw,
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.