Obama. What’s up?

Hi there Barry, may I call you Barry? That’s probably a rhetorical question since you’ll never see this, but in light of recent news, maybe it will somehow make it to your desk!

I remember being in NY in 2008 when you were elected into office. Hope was in the air. My wife, two children and myself were visiting from our adopted place of residence in France. We felt privileged to be in America at such an auspicious moment in time.

We took full advantage and hoped to soak ourselves in the feel-good factor and hopped on a train heading down to Harlem. The left over celebratory feelings from the preceding night, that infamous Tuesday in November when America elected its first African-American president, were palpable. I felt like I was in a futuristic film when such things are used to depict a far-off future. Walking through  the streets of Harlem it was if the residents were floating on air and we were too. As we all ate our ‘Barrack Obama Special’ sandwiches in front of a small Deli on 110th street we nearly tasted a new beginning for America.

You and I are the same age, we graduated college the same year – 1983. Although Columbia University and C.U.N.Y. Lehman may seem worlds apart, we could have crossed paths many times. At that time I remember many a night passed in the West End Cafe. While having a beer I was thinking how cool it was to be possibly be sitting in the same chair as Jack Kerouac once had, but little did I know that at the same exact moment in time the future president of America might have been sitting right next to me, as Columbia University was just a few blocks away.

While embarking on your political career you took time out to search out family in Africa. Coupled with the Indonesian connection from your childhood, I was excited to think the American president was going to bring such a different perspective to the White House.

After college my travels led me out of the country of my birth but I still held a keen interest in America’s political climate because as they say if America sneezes, the world catches a cold. In 2008 I had faith in the possibility of change. You were a contemporary, and now in charge. Your platform for the first election was brilliant. Your ability to woo a crowd with your fine delivery of a speech was impeccable, especially in contrast to your predecessor!

I need to ask here. What happened?

While my travels of the world eventually brought me to the land you were raised in as a small child, and also the land of your ancestors my eyes were opened to the fact that America was just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. People enjoy being treated like human beings and no matter how dark a picture politicians or the media like to paint, you and I both saw close up that people are people and all deserve to be treated with respect no matter their race, color or creed.

After 9/11 much of the world was on America’s side, but G W Bush managed to turn that around in his eight year tenure by waging war, and being at the helm of a vengeful America killing others to satiate a blood-lust that seems to satisfy some base need for revenge. Worldwide (America included) we all breathed a sigh of relief when he finally left office and a president with so much talk of change was ushered in. You were even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the promise you represented.

That hopeful world vision slowly disintegrated over the years. While I know the battles got tougher and tougher in D.C. it seemed “The most powerful man on the planet” had his hands well and truly tied, or at least that was what I hoped, because the alternative was you never were what you sold to the public.

Yes you inherited a bit of a mess to clean up. The world economic situation I realize had nothing to do with you, but the billions handed over to Wall Street has just prolonged the inevitable. Modern-day unsustainable economic growth is an unfix-able system that will hopefully one day be abandoned, but that’s another story.

What about Guantanamo, Afghanistan, escalated drone attacks, giving Monsanto carte blanche on American soil, the crack down on unions and the list does go on? In short Barry your presidency isn’t such a great success. What about living up to the Nobel Peace Prize? I’m not sure signing kill lists on Tuesday nights for drone attacks is the act of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

I must say that in 2012 my Hollywood brainwashed self was waiting for you to do the most powerful thing you could have done in your shoes; stand up in front of the world and say that you were not going to run for a second term. The office of the president has his hands tied and is in a weakened position to institute any real change. Another four years will not make things better, but me stepping down from this post voluntarily will hopefully show the world once and for all what a futile position the American president is in.

Intellectually I knew that would never happen so I held out and thought your second term would show more of the true you. Not beholden to a re-election, you could maybe make good on some of those promises from 2008.

Oops wrong again, tar sands pipelines going through native American lands,  the ongoing loss of free speech open journalism and innocent lives, multi-nationals such as Monsanto wielding unknown power the world over which has been some pretty bad PR for America overseas.

I have traveled, lived and worked abroad during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, G W Bush years and now yours. I must say that the negative feelings towards the world’s current superpower have never felt so low, I think it feels worse after so much high expectation. America is losing it’s face once again, and the world keeps on wondering what is happening over there?

Come on Barry come clean, separate yourself from those who preceded you. Do something interesting in your final term as president. Right now the bravest action I have witnessed was the person your administration has labeled a traitor. From where I sit I can see a definite traitor out there. I see a person who said one thing five years ago, but has done the opposite. Can you trade your morals, the actual fibre that makes you what you are and not think yourself a traitor not only to yourself, but the people who put their faith in you?

You can do it Barry, speak the truth the next time you address the American Public. Dig deep, find that you that I read about in your book. Your supporters are forced to grab onto little tidbits like a new health system you sort of almost got in place, and getting the troops out of Iraq (while quietly leaving a disaster in its wake).

Really come on, you could do better than that. The veggie garden on the front lawn of the White House is a nice touch, but let’s see the change we really wanted to see, not America once again slipping into an even worse international opinion than the Bush/Cheney years while things on the ground in America are not as rosy as the media spin. The sheer curtain is being looked through and it’s not a pretty sight.

A bit of honesty and integrity will go a long way. We need true creative leaders willing to put themselves on the line even if it means losing face or shattering false images. You still have time to swim against the flow of the political rivers. I realize that the political machine is a beast, but change is possible. A tough job yes, but you have done tough jobs before – being the first president of color elected to office – an historical coup I am glad to have witnessed in my lifetime.

Be that change you promised us all in 2008. Fancy words and speeches are sounding pretty hollow from where I sit lately.

Expect more from yourself. We all did.

About thebikeguy61

I was born in The Bronx, in NYC. I traveled a fair bit of the world by bicycle for many years. In more recent years I have moved around Europe with my wife and 2 children. My first book was published in 2010, "Cycles of a Traveler". www.cyclesofatraveler.com Back living in France after a fantastic voyage across America with my family. Next book on its way, and always more interviews to look forward to.
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8 Responses to Obama. What’s up?

  1. Love this Joe. I agree entirely. Thanks for having the ability to speak my thoughts so clearly and the willingness to put it out there.


  2. Charlie Arbuiso says:

    Dear Joe
    I realize that with the internet people can post stuff up and even expect replies, but not everyone will like your words and they feel (I do anyway) trapped. Do we respond with our criticisms, or let it go? Letting it go seems to let you “get away” with what you wrote with no consequence. It doesn’t show you that I even read it. Having read your piece, I feel frustrated with your frustration, hence my response. I do appreciate you trying to keep the world in balance from your perspective but there are others. Here comes mine.
    You may not call the President Barry. I suppose you can, but by doing so you undercut your own sense of seriousness. He is the President, like him or not. Even the dreaded GW Bush would be the President (capital P). You are not supposed to talk to the President as if you are his friend, even if you are his friend. That was too casual and only set you up for the rest of the piece. I don’t think you can do that in the future (you can, but you put yourself in a weakened position of debate).

    What happened, you ask? I think that you are foolish to think that the President can do whatever he wants to, even if it’s right. I agree, Gitmo is a terrible thing, was since it opened. I looked forward to it’s closing, and I am angered that it’s still open and we are force feeding “inmates” who have no real way out except their own death. It’s not that the President wants it open, the Republican Congress has stopped this closing in it’s tracks. The President CAN’T just close it, He is waiting for Americans to vote out the fools who are stalling most all of Congress. It will surely close ASAP, but not out your timetable (or his).
    As for his Peace Prize, he did get us out of Iraq as promised. It appears that there is a plan to exit Afghanistan sooner than later. For many reasons he thinks that keeping troops in Karzi land it smarter than a quick abandon ship. I wish our troops would come home now, I wish we never went too. You, and I, don’t have the whole picture. That’s history, The rest of the story is not clear to us yet, but you can’t think that Obama wants to just keep our troops there for nothing?
    The drone attacks should stop, you are right on this point. Monsanto and Mr. Obama probably have not had much to talk about, the companies are being given “carte blanche” (you date yourself with that old reference) by the Congress. Crack down on unions? I don’t see that at all. You might need to elucidate that some more otherwise it seems like just a big list of things of questionable value to make your point by making it seem like the list goes on and on. I am in a union, and I wish my union stopped giving money to any political groups. Let’s fix campaign finance soon, but again, that’s congress.
    The pipe line for tar sands is not yet decided (I think) and with the spills in Canada it appears that the pressure to say no to this is great. There is no loss of free speech that I am aware of, although the idea of “open journalism” is vague. Anyone with a computer (you, or me) is now a journalist. I am happy that Mr. Snowdon exposed the lies of Washington, and we know how the NSA is stealing our privacy, but from that comes (hopefully) an effective fight to regain our privacy from them. The country lost its’ mind after 9-11, and the “war on terrorism” has gone to great lengths to “protect” us. Loss of our privacy is a nightmare, but, separately, many people have given it up on facebook and other social media freely. Giving it away freely is different from having it stolen by the government, but, the public is ignorant of many things, including the problems with our overall loss of privacy (stolen or given). Society makes mistakes, learns sometimes, and fixes itself. Patience on this, the government is wrong, and will not be able to make a case to continue this. This will stop (I think).
    As for healthcare, it is in place. It’s coming. It was never supposed to be all done on one day. A huge change requires lots of work, fixes, adjustments, etc. The Affordable Health Care Act is working, and there is crazy opposition to it from the right side. It’s moving ahead, not smoothly, this is not like icing a cake, it’s like changing how millions of people in 50 states handle the constantly growing and changing health care we all need and depend on. Millions of people make their living in this system, they all have a stake in what happens. They are all working hard to make it “right”. Patience.

    Joe, don’t lose faith in our President. He’s the best one we’ve had in a very long time. I also think he’s had the harshest Congress ever. In November and next we will have elections. Americans I hope will vote out the right wing freaks waging war on women and minorities, and the “new” congress will be more sensible. They will be able to work better at compromising and making our government work better. It’s not one man, and if anything, feel lucky we have such a good one with the congress that is in Washington.
    I still respect you. I sometimes tell people who mistake me for a republican from my haircut that I am the most left leaning person that they’ll ever meet. I am reminded by you that I am only on the same side as you, but hardly near the edge! Peace. Charlie Arbuiso


    • thebikeguy61 says:


      Thank you, thank you. I am glad to have your reply and that is why I write the blog to get heart-felt responses in agreement or not.

      Barry, Mr. President, I was trying to point out the fact we were contemporaries. Sorry the whole capital P thing doesn’t impress me. We are all Humans, capital H. Titles of elected people do not deserve any higher respect from me or anyone else in my book. Organic Farmer, Teacher, Mechanic, these are the people running our world really and I’d rather show them their due respect, but then it would look like I hit my caps lock key by accident;-)

      Of course I realize Obama is not able to act on his own accord, as you say I would be foolish to think otherwise. I do feel that the president does have the ability to stand up to certain pressures, and maybe drone attacks should be high on that priority list. No excuses or pardons there my friend, murder is murder no matter what banner you put it under.

      Obama has always been a Monsanto fan, and Europe and much of the world do not share that opinion. GM technology is not embraced in Europe and there is a big backlash against it and has been for a long time. African countries who supply non-gmo products (ie. corn) to Europe have been bullied in the past to accept gm corn from America putting their food supply chain in danger of contamination. The list here does go on, and we here in Europe are forced by big American multi-nationals, but fortunately the citizens here are very aware and pro active on the anti-gm front.

      As for Iraq, I think we need to be real on this matter, here is the reality on the ground Charlie:

      “Obama’s US combat troop drawdown was more subterfuge than real. Most redeployed US forces shifted to Kuwait and other regional locations. Permanent occupation is policy. Four super-bases remain.

      They include one near Baghdad International Airport, Tallil Air Base near southern Iraq’s Nasiriyah, H-1 Air Base in western Al-Anbar Province, and northern Iraq’s Bashur Airfield. The Pentagon retains access to other bases handed over to Iraqi authorities.

      Thousands of private military contractors (PMCs) and other paid US employees remain. They’re based at Washington’s huge Baghdad embassy and two large consulates.

      One’s in Basra. Another’s in northern Iraq. Around 1,000 paid US personnel staff each one. Washington’s Baghdad embassy has up to 20,000.

      America largely retains control of Iraq’s air space. Drones and satellite surveillance augment internal and regionally positioned ground and naval power.

      Unacknowledged US special forces, CIA and FBI agents, as well as unknown numbers of other covert elements infest Iraq. So does out-of-control violence…………………………………..”

      Peace prize worthy, I think not.

      Charlie my mention of unions were based on the stuff not making main stream media in America:

      “The claim that Obama is a man of the people is an utter fraud. The same day the White House released the anti-Romney video, Obama collected more than $2 million at a fund-raising event in New York City where Wall Street asset-strippers no less ruthless than the Republican candidate paid out $35,800 a head for an evening with the president.

      Obama’s servitude to the financial elite was also highlighted in his remarks defending JPMorgan Chase, after the Wall Street bank acknowledged a $2 billion loss from speculative trades in derivatives by its London office. “JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is,” Obama gushed. “Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we’ve got.”

      President Obama’s intervention in the auto industry was not aimed at “saving” jobs but of boosting the profits of these same financial sharks. The president exploited the meltdown of the auto industry—produced by the banking crisis—to impose long sought after attacks on auto workers, once the highest paid industrial workers in America. For years, Wall Street had complained about low returns caused by high wages and “Cadillac” benefits, along with outmoded job and workplace protections.

      The Obama administration handed over the restructuring of the auto industry to Wall Street, appointing as “car czar” Steven Rattner, formerly of Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley and the CEO of the asset-stripping firm Quadrangle.

      After rejecting the cost-cutting plans of GM and Chrysler as too little, too late, Obama’s Auto Task Force began a “managed bankruptcy” of the two companies—shutting down dozens of plants deemed unprofitable and eliminating 35,000 jobs. The president worked with the UAW to slash the wages of new-hires in half, ban strikes for six years and impose other devastating concessions on current and retired workers.”


      Obama is a Wall Street kinda guy. Here in Europe, Spain, Portugal and Greece the only thing saving those countries is cleverness, creativity, and abandoning the old way of thinking about economics. Click on my link in the blog with the interview me and a friend did with the Franco-Greek filmmaker. I think you might like him and respect his view.

      Charlie lets agree to disagree about Obama’s health care. From everything I read and have read, although it will roll out, I’m not so sure how it will actually work. Let’s let time decide that one. America is in the business of making money, and as long as that remains the bottom line not much will really change. Living in the land of true socialized medicine America will have a tough time embracing or living up to some of the longer running European models.

      Charlie I respect you as well. The world looks very different from one of the poorest regions in France, and close to the economic folly all around us. The only way out is creativity. The old growth model is destructive and dying, (while it kills our planet and strips people of their humanity).

      I am sorry, that is where I think the president could do a lot more, and yes I know he seems to be the best you had in a while, but not from where I stand. I lost faith in politicians a long time ago. I had a quick glimmer of hope with Obama, but as you come to his back quite nicely in your comment, I still have to disagree and say America and the world will never change by voting anyone in or out of office, or having a democratic congress or a republican one. Any change needs to come from the grass-roots up. Forget the politicians. It’s the power of community and the people who will steer our world the way it needs to go. There are many examples of this and more coming out of the cinders of economic destruction daily.

      Thanks again I hope this clears up a few of my statements, as for journalism well the mainstream media is quite honestly not what I consider journalism, and since the whole Snowden episode rags like The Times have shown their true colors where they feel obeying the current admins rules is something to be proud of. YIKES!!!

      Please take a look at this website http://fraudcastnews.net/ He is a good friend and has written a book you will enjoy. You can download it for free or buy it on-line. Or you can wait for it as a Christmas present when I come in December and I’ll bring a signed copy!!

      Peace, Joe


  3. William Julian says:

    Hey Joe, Change happens when enough people engage in it. I write to you from a deeply divided country where one side of the political aisle’s sole purpose is to create obstacles to stop change. Do some people want environmentally friendly energy ?yes but as they attempt to promote this there are many others who only say drill more etc… sane gun control needed ?yes but other’s say that it is their constitutional right to lock and load any and all guns etc… health care ?? we all need it at one point or another and yet there is crazy opposition to it! So the question that needs to be discussed is who benefits when American’s own 300 million guns ,drive gas guzzlers and must spend their life’s savings to pay med. bills.Me thinks that the fix is in ! Sick of the mess in Wash. DC Social reform can only happen when we collectively seek it . PS thanks for your thoughts. Billy


    • thebikeguy61 says:

      Yes Billy, we all need to seek it, but more importantly create it. Political will is weakened by other interests mostly corporate. It’s all about recreating society in small steps. It is happening in Europe big time. Greece, Portugal, Spain and to some extent Ireland are all changing the way they live and see the future. Many have given up on government or government programs to help out as most programs in those countries are just looking at ways to cut expenditure not being very creative in anything else. Watch the video interview with the guy in Patrick’s comment. He sheds a positive light on Greece, and his movie is excellent. (Available for free in September) Guns stop killing people when people stop aiming them and pulling the trigger. Gas stops being consumed when people take a look around locally and enjoy what’s available in their neighbourhoods, good healthy food is available when people start growing more, shopping less in the cheapest places and support local growers etc.. etc.. No government policy will help people move that way. People like you with your lovely veggies and your passion for justice inspiring others to get involved is the true way forward!

      See you soon, Joe


  4. Great post Joe – and thanks for the book mention in your reply. This is tough stuff to say.

    It was easier for us Brits to see through the stardust around Obama’s election as we’d had our own version of showbiz politics with Tony Blair getting elected on a wave of euphoria in 1997. (I can’t deny it, I was in there surfing myself).

    We were quickly disappointed by a man who turned out to be Margaret Thatcher without the skirt or with the decency to be honest and clear about his true convictions (Is this the true Obama?). At least with Thatcher no one could claim she wasn’t being clear about the multiple wrecking balls she aimed at the core values of civil society (And didn’t Ronnie and her get along just swell?) The devastation continues to this day in Britain.

    This is a video link to Yannis Youlountas, a franco-greek philosopher and film maker Joe and I interviewed last week. His documentary, called “Let’s no longer live like slaves” (a rough translation of the French), is due for public release on September 25. It will be free to view and to download from the internet, including with English subtitle tracks. Here, he speaks in English:

    Yannis doesn’t mess around with conventional politics – he gathers a series of grassroots responses to the financial crisis as it is playing out in Greece right now. The good news is that there is some good news. Human beings can be remarkably resourceful and sociable in adversity, they cook and give away free food to all comers, they arrange clothes swap depots, free workshops to learn new skills, set up farmer-to-consumer short links that bypass the retail profit suckers, stage anti-fascist rallies in support of immigrants facing racist attack, and plenty more cool stuff you don’t read about in headline coverage shouting about chaos.

    Yannis is a smart, thoughtful guy. His message to the rest of us amounts to: “Don’t look away, crisis is coming to us all so you better learn how to do this this stuff now.” The difference between Greece and France for him is time. The same could be said of the States and Britain, all it would take is for the financial markets to turn feral and the debt mountains in either country could suddenly become unsustainable. It’s happening already with the “austerity” programme deemed necessary by both the government and the opposition, a programme that is basically an excuse to cut government spending, fire people and privatise anything that moves.

    Our conventional political systems are broken. We do not live in democracies but oligarchies or plutocracies. Yannis likes to get back to the original definitions of words in Greek – they’re very revealing. Democracy means government by the people – oh yeah?

    We need to stop kidding ourselves that political nirvana is just an election away. What’s absurd about conventional politics is that it divides us over tiny points while the vast underlying injustice, which is the elite capture of our governments, on which so many ordinary people could agree, gets buried. The labels “left” and “right”, “republican” or “democrat” are absurd ways to delineate what’s important. People are scared for their futures – we need to find ways to reach out to them that calm us all down and open up less destructive possibilities. Rather than waiting for conventional politicians and journalists to catch up, we should ignore them and get on with our local projects.

    Joe’s a master at that.


    • thebikeguy61 says:

      Yes Patrick, the weakest thing we do as humans is waiting for the fix from elsewhere. We all have the skills and most of us the desire, but we keep waiting for answers from those on high!! We have the answers and Yannis points it out nicely.

      Let’s roll on into a brighter future and take hold of the helm.

      Cheers, Joe


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