Michael Franti's Presidents' Day Contest

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For any Michael Franti fans, I just saw that he’s hosting a contest that challenges people to write a letter to the President. The carrot is a pair of tickets to an upcoming show and the opportunity to read your letter on stage before Spearhead’s set. I just finished a letter telling the President that if he’s going to continue to put people through the meat grinder in Iraq, then he needs to institute a draft (ladies, too; it’s only fair). This should have been done long ago. Is it really right that the war has such a minimal effect on the day-to-day lives of most Americans while soldiers are being sent back for two, three, or four tours? When your number gets called, you get clued in real fast, which, I imagine, is part of why the Bush administration will never resort to selective service. Just keep us fat and happy, you know?

I also wrote to say that there should be a series of free, public, live televised debates in Washington D.C. this spring and summer. Last August, President Ahmadinejad of Iran challenged George Bush to a debate saying, “The debate should be uncensored in order for the American people to be able to listen to what we say.” The White House dismissed it as a “diversion” intended to distract Americans from Iran’s nuclear program. (How would listening to a debate about Iran’s nuclear program distract us any more than not knowing anything about it?) Personally, I’d love to see President Bush debate President Ahmadinejad. I’d also like to see him debate Hugo Chavez, Castro, and others, but only if he would agree to take the battery pack out of his back. It would be like reality politics and I’d hitchhike back east in order to see it. Since Bush’s (few remaining) proponents liken him to Abraham Lincoln, let’s revive the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Anyway, back to Franti. The more I hear of Franti’s music, the more I respect his work. In 2005, Franti went to Baghdad, Israel, and Palestine to see first-hand what’s going on. The result is a documentary film, “I Know I’m Not Alone,” and the recent album, “Yell Fire!” (Franti isn’t as competent a filmmaker as he is a musician, but it doesn’t really matter.) At one point, he asks his guide and driver, Maher, “What about the pollution? The air is so heavy here,” to which Maher replies, “Who the hell cares about pollution?”

Touche. War and environmental degradation make unfortunate bedfellows.