3 GUITARS AND A TRACTOR PLAY ‘SWEET GEORGIA BROWN’

Where else do you get stuff like this? (Thanks, Stewart.)

TRACTOR TRAILER FUN

These eight photos are too terrific not to ogle. (Thanks, Murray.)

IDEALISTS

I’ve been engaging in an email thread with some very thoughtful high-end environmental activists/funders. They are rightly distressed over the peril to our planet (a concern Gore totally got that Bush ignored), and rightly distressed over compromises we’re having to make (be they to spare jobs at a time of economic crisis or to bridge the gap until negawatts and alternative energy can replace noxious energy sources).

One of them was so discouraged he concluded a list of grievances by saying “I may not even vote for the first time in a dozen elections.”

I so respect where he was coming from, I wrote back, but – not vote? I so disagreed with his assessment.

Here is a piece from Sunday’s Times” (I continued) “that concludes: ‘Liberal critics of Obama, just like conservative critics of Republican presidents, generally want both maximal partisan conflict and maximal legislative achievement. In the real world, those two things are often at odds.’”

My own view is that the TRUE idealist is the one who does what he or she has to to advance his or her ideals (perhaps call him or her the “practical idealist”) whereas the TRAGIC idealist is tremendously well motivated but, by refusing to make the hard choices and accept the distasteful compromises, may actually set his or her cause back horribly.

That’s what Nader did. By ignoring all his friends and advisors – who begged him to tell voters in Texas and Massachusetts to vote for him but swing state voters to vote for Gore – he dealt the world an (unintentional!) blow of truly disastrous proportions. If that’s idealism, I want no part of it.

Those who, out of idealism, will stay home next year, or who this year fail to throw their full energy and resources into trying to register and turn out the huge vote needed to hold the White House and Senate, take back the House, and avoid losing the Court for the rest of our lives – they are Karl Rove’s dream idealists.

People used to accuse President Clinton of having “no moral compass” – I saw that all the time. I spectacularly disagreed with that. Rather, I liked the metaphor (not original with me) of a sailor who knew EXACTLY where he wanted to go, wanted desperately to make the world better, but who, facing headwinds, had to tack to get there. And while President Clinton didn’t get everything we all wanted, he sure moved the ball down the field. (And continues to with his Clinton Global Initiative.)

President Obama is the same way. Take an issue I know very well – LGBT rights. Not remotely as important as the habitability of the planet, but illustrative of what I’m trying to say. To this day, quite a few of the most passionate LGBT activists consider Obama’s performance in this area to have been disappointing. But here is a to-me-breathtaking list of 66 things he’s done that McCain never would have done and Perry or whoever will try to undo.

Whatever led the Natural Resources Defense Council to proclaim that the Obama Administration did “more in its first few months to protect our air, water and communities than we’ve seen in the last decade” should count for something. The doubled CAFE standard recently negotiated should count for something. The ozone standards that will be imposed in 2013 if we reelect him but that will not if we don’t should count for something. And on and on. Not to mention taxing the affluent to provide affordable health care to 30 million uninsured of whom an estimated 45,000 die each year for lack of coverage . . . or the more stringent tobacco regulation . . . or eliminating the co-pay on birth control and lifting Bush’s “global gag order” (given the impact of population on the environment).

SURE it’s upsetting we didn’t get the public option – let alone a sensible single-payer system – but why not channel our frustration where it belongs: the Republicans who wouldn’t allow it?

I am emphatically NOT saying anyone is wrong forcefully to advocate for the environment. It’s obvious that nothing is more important. Nor is anyone wrong loudly to lament the compromises. We need to sound the alarm! But at the same time, the practical idealist – the true idealist – will join me in contributing everything she or he can in terms of energy and enthusiasm and resources to see that the Bush / Koch / Scalia / Exxon / Rove / Perry / Romney / Ryan / Limbaugh / Bachmann / Palin team are not given control of the White House, Congress, and – most durably, should Ruth Bader Ginsburg retire – the already-largely-corporate-captured Supreme Court.

Tomorrow: Letter From a Marine to the President

 

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