The Looting of America

Morality takes many forms and hides behind many masks. Perhaps no loss of morality is more complete than that which infests the corporate and political leadership of the United States of America. Forget sex and drugs and rock-n-roll; the moral loss I speak of refers to the utter indifference these so-called leaders have with regards to their own personal culpability in creating and sustaining our current economic nightmare.

-Lifelong politicians who “forget” to pay their taxes.

-Corporate CEO’s with their hands in the taxpayer vault gifting themselves with billions of dollars of bonuses and perks.

-Professional lobbyists paying off politicians in exchange for legal cover to commit fraud on the public.

These are but a few examples of how America is looted daily by those we expect to do the right thing. Millions of people are losing jobs and homes, while lawmakers find ways to shovel more money into the abyss in the name of stimulating the economy. Millions of children watch their future earning power disintegrate before their eyes, while America’s corporate stooges plan their next taxpayer-funded junket. It’s enough to make a person want to scream.

Money may be the root of all evil (or the love of money, as the saying goes), but I think our current worries go beyond biblical phraseology. What we are experiencing now is nothing less than a complete breakdown of social conscience and stewardship on the part of those who should not only know better, but are expected to do better. There no longer is shame associated with screwing old ladies out of their retirement funds. There is no moral judgment against those who enrich themselves with one hand in the public till while stabbing the public in the back with the other hand. Hell, for most of these unscrupulous bastards, there isn’t even a legal reckoning to fear. In the “effort” to right the ship of state, any consideration to public scrutiny of what went wrong and why it got that way is deemed not relevant to the “real” problem.

Forgive me if I beg to differ.

The economic crisis may well be the important issue at hand, but trying to solve it with the same people who created it doesn’t really seem to be the best idea to me. We may now have an administration bent on changing the way politics works in this country, but Team Obama has certainly stumbled on its way out of the chute. When “change” is the mantra of the day you not only have to say it, you have to mean it, live it, breathe it in every action along the way. To his credit, Obama has accepted responsibility for some bad selections of staff. But he’s also violated his own new lobbying rules by granting waivers to several who wouldn’t get jobs under the new rules. Bending the rules when they don’t suit you is the old way of doing politics. I think we expected a bit more.

The looting of America isn’t just the emptying of the treasury into the hands of private bankers, auto makers, and insurance corporations. The looting of America also reflects a vacuous morality that says, “Screw you-I’m only out for me.” We’re not only losing our hard-earned money, we’re losing the sense of common commitment that creates and sustains a nation.

If anything, the economic crash is just the last symptom in a body riddled with disease. We ignored the other symptoms for so long that eventually we began to think of them not as signs of poor national health at all, but instead as an evolution towards a better, stronger entity. Corruption that permeated all aspects of public life-from the boardrooms to the backrooms of Congress-was sold as virtuosity if it increased the profit margin. If you had to lie, steal, or bend the letter of the law farther than a world record holding limbo artist, so be it. After all, so long as the general public was wrapped up in petty debates of pretend morality (flag burning, gay marriage, nudity on TV and assisted suicide) the bigwigs could operate behind the scenes pretty much unfettered. At least until the house of cards finally collapsed.

The looting of America is almost complete. Our public finances are a disaster, and our personal finances aren’t in great shape either. Our national infrastructure has deteriorated while those entrusted to its care have fleeced the treasury. But worse is the fact that we accept these things as commonplace to such a degree that outrage is not only invisible, it’s often unthinkable. And when it does rear its head, there’s some “patriotic” idiot ready to slap it down in the name of “good Christian, American morals.” After all, if you admit that your country is failing and that your leadership is filled with greedbags, you have to take some responsibility yourself. And accountability is NOT the American way.

Barack Obama may be the right man at the right time to actually create some changes in this country. Sadly, for many, those changes will be too little or too late. Perhaps far greater than trying to repair a broken economic system is the task of repairing the broken sense of stewardship and morality that ultimately put us in this precarious position. In the end, no amount of political tinkering will withstand the onslaught of immoral actions by those at the helm. We need to not only clean house, but fire the cleaning crew as soon as they wipe up. But that’s not going to happen. Those who hold power have made sure that it won’t happen. And most Americans are too busy complaining about the “other” guy to recognize that it’s “their” guy who is part of the problem too. 

As I said, accountability is NOT the American way. Maybe collapse is. Maybe the only way to really root out the immoral leadership is to start from scratch. At this rate, we may get that chance sooner than later. The question is whether or not we’d even notice the opportunity.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

Posted in Barack Obama, Common Sense, Democracy, Economy, Government, Politics, Reform | 2 Comments »

Obama Economic Stimulus- Rescue for America or Rebuilding The House of Cards?

So the economy is in the tank. What’s a government to do? In the halls of power, the answer seems to be to throw money at the problem and hope for the best. We’ve had the Bush Stimulus ($165 billion of borrowed money thrown to the citizenry at the tune of $600 a head), and the Bush Bail-out (whereby $350 billion-and counting- was hand delivered to the banks and businesses from the treasury), neither of which slowed the downturn or delivered the promised recovery steps. Now we have the Obama Stimulus of nearly $900 billion on the table and probably set to pass Congress in a short time. The Obama plan relies on a combination of government spending on national infrastructure and targeted tax cuts to stimulate job growth so America can return to its consumer capitalism and get back to business as usual.

For the record, I opposed the Bush Stimulus despite the money that it put into my pocket. Those $165 borrowed billions were bad economics based on faulty reasoning- that citizens would immediately put that money back into the economy. Instead, the majority either put that money in a savings account or handed it back to the banking sector via debt payoff. (Personally, I used that money to pay for summer day care for my daughter, so I guess I was trying to do my “part.”) I opposed borrowing more money that my daughter will be stuck paying off for what amounted to little more than a “feel good” gesture that in the end felt like a sucker punch.

Similarly, I opposed the Bush Bail-out on the grounds that feeding the insatiable maw of banker largesse was exactly the wrong approach to stave off the housing mortgage crisis and credit crunch. A look at the secrecy of the recipients, their proven wasteful use of the money, and a determined lack of willingness by the banks to part with that cash infusion has proven to be one of the biggest transfer of wealth boondoggles of all time. Had the Bush government really wanted to help the economy and the struggling housing market, that $350+ billion could have been doled out to 1.4 million homeowners to the tune of $250,000 each with the stipulation that the money HAD to be used to pay down a mortgage. The result would have been that the banks still ended up with the cash but that the housing mortgage crisis would have been significantly lessened and consumer confidence in their own resources would have been somewhat restored. Even as housing prices crashed, individual equity could have retained some value and consumers wouldn’t be tightening their purse strings like a sphincter in a snowstorm. But that, as they say, is water under the bridge. The Bush plan didn’t do that, and the Bail-out has utterly failed.

So my lack of support for the first two economic miracle cures has proven well founded. Not only did they do nothing to help the real economy, not only did they line the pockets of unscrupulous business tycoons, not only did they drain the treasury, but the tacked on hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt-strapped backs of yet to be born Americans.

Now comes the biggest plan of all, the Obama Stimulus plan, that promises to create jobs while rebuilding our national infrastructure. And again, I have to say I am reticent to offer my support. Don’t get me wrong…I support Obama in general and have been more pleased so far than not with what he’s been putting forth. And as a matter of fact, infrastructure investment in this country is well over due in many areas. The questions I have aren’t whether the money is going to be well spent or whether the spending will invigorate the overall economy- in fact Obama is promising to be as transparent as Saran Wrap so far as the spending goes-but rather returning our economy to “normal” is really all that wise in the first place.

Consider the fact that our consumer economy is predicated on people buying more and more things that they probably don’t need and that will purposefully be obsolete in a few short years. An economy based primarily on consumption necessarily feeds upon itself until there is little left to consume. Yet our form of capitalism needs people to spend more and save less or it does not work. If John and Jane Doe don’t buy the latest widget, people don’t have jobs making widgets. Fewer people working means fewer people buying and around and around it goes. At some point though, the benefits of this kind of economy are outweighed by the damage wrought. The results of a voracious consumer economy is a depletion of resources, an increase in pollution and waste, a reliance on cheaper goods from abroad to keep the spending going, which pushes businesses abroad to keep costs low, which reduces homeland jobs…the cycle continues until the wheels fall off the cart-like they are doing now. One has to ask themselves…is this the best we can do?

For many, the answer is clearly “Yes.” But in the current light, our entire economy seems to resemble one big Ponzi scheme. Good for those at the top, bad for those down the pyramid. And simply shoveling massive amounts of taxpayer money only promises to continue the current scheme in perpetuity. Basically, what our leaders are saying is that in order to fix the broken system, we have to continue doing the things that made it break down in the first place. And I wonder if rebuilding a house of cards and pretending that the foundation is now made of better, thicker, stronger cards is really any fix at all.

I’ve looked over the specifics of the Obama Stimulus and recognize that the infrastructure goals are admirable and in many cases absolutely necessary to propel our nation into a new era of cleaner technology, more reliable energy and transmission, and modernized transportation, medical, and educational facilities. I understand that once begun, many people will be put back to work rebuilding these elements of our infrastructure. But what isn’t being said and what isn’t being advocated is for a fundamental change in the way government, business, and regular people look and think about economic issues. We can spend all this money and rebuild all these things and get people working again…but unless we change our underlying habits and concepts of economy, we’ll ultimately end right back where we are now…deep in debt with little to show for it.

I know that the efforts of the Bush Administration were dead wrong, primarily because Bush and the GOP refused to provide oversight of policies and spending and just wanted to transfer the nations wealth into the hands of bastard financiers and business cronies. Kudos to them. They succeeded admirably in their efforts. They also left us in the worst financial shape in generations.

Now I see the Obama team trying to fix the problem in a different way. We’re still going to borrow and spend a ton of money, but instead of just handing it over, we’ll be getting something back in the process- better public infrastructure. So it’s a step up the ladder in that regard. But it doesn’t really change the dynamics of our consumer capitalism, or the way politicians look at tax dollars.

I don’t have the answers to our problems, but I do have questions. To be fair, Obama himself understands that this massive borrowing and unprecedented infrastructure plan won’t turn the corner on the economy right away. We still face months or years of downward economic news. But he’s trying to help-not by giving the money to a few fatcats with the caveat that they should help out if they want to-but by investing the money in our country. It’s a small difference to be sure, but maybe just big enough to do the trick. At least, we can all hope so.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

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Obama Sets New Path For American Foreign Policy, Addresses Arab World

In his first foreign interview, President Obama sat down with Al-Arabiya television and discussed his initial goals for American foreign policy, both in general and towards the Arab world in particular. As I read through the transcript (you can read it here) I was impressed by the words and the tone, but also by the similarities between what Obama is saying now and what I’ve been saying for years.

From my article Foreign Relations Roulette  (Feb. 27, 2005):

“To begin with, we should have a real heart to heart talk with our “allies.” We need to make clear, in no uncertain terms, that our goal is to help create a world that guarantees people the rights of freedom, the rights to have a representative government of their making, and a chance at prosperity as they define it. We, along with our other allies, should offer them all the technical, practical, educational, and financial assistance to help bring them up to developed standards. We should listen to their methods and ideas regarding “social growth” and incorporate them when practical. We need to be willing to share life-changing advances with other governments and ensure that they use this knowledge for their people. In exchange, we need to make clear what we expect from them in return: a quick transition towards a stable, elected representative government that provides for its people’s needs as defined by the people and an atmosphere of personal freedom and responsibility. And then, perhaps most importantly, we must lead by example. We must show our sincerity by including these countries and their people in the changes rather than just throwing money to American companies with a mandate to “fix the place.” We must clean up our act here at home and we must embrace actions that show the world that we are committed to world peace above capitalist profit.”


From the Interview

(On directions to Mid-East envoy George Mitchell)

“And so what I told him is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating — in the past on some of these issues –and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved. So let’s listen. He’s going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response.”

(On the Israel-Palestine situation)

“I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These things are interrelated. And what I’ve said, and I think Hillary Clinton has expressed this in her confirmation, is that if we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress.

And so what we want to do is to listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years. And I think if we do that, then there’s a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs.

And the bottom line in all these talks and all these conversations is, is a child in the Palestinian Territories going to be better off? Do they have a future for themselves? And is the child in Israel going to feel confident about his or her safety and security? And if we can keep our focus on making their lives better and look forward, and not simply think about all the conflicts and tragedies of the past, then I think that we have an opportunity to make real progress.”

(On the Muslim world in general)

“In my inauguration speech, I spoke about: You will be judged on what you’ve built, not what you’ve destroyed. And what they’ve been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction.

Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.”

And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.

And I think that what you will see over the next several years is that I’m not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what’s on a television station in the Arab world — but I think that what you’ll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity.

A New Trend?

If you can notice the trend in all of these statements, it is that America will do better with friends and foes alike if we listen to the positions of all sides before rushing to judgment. But further, he understands that people (or nations) cannot move forward unless they are willing to let go of the past, especially the past wrongs that have created generations of enmity.

Secondly, for too long, our foreign policy forays have been based on the “Lesser of Two Evils” policy.

Again, from my article The Lesser of Two Evils (Jan.3, 2006):

“For over 60 years, U.S. Foreign policy has been predicated upon a doctrine known as “the lesser of two evils.” In essence, this policy was used as rationale for engaging in alliances with foreign dictators whose disdain for democracy held their own countrymen in virtual bondage to their whims. These dictatorships were free to act as they pleased within their own countries without pressure from the U.S. government with regards to human rights and freedoms so long as they sided with the U.S. in international matters or engaged in capitalistic endeavors with our government and corporations. Despite a stated goal of promoting democracy and freedom across the world, successive U.S. administrations and Congresses have made pacts with tyrants who abhor individual freedoms and seek power and wealth at the expense of their countrymen.

The simple truth is that the lesser of two evils policy is a fallacy. By choosing this method of foreign relations, the U.S. has not endeared itself to the people of the world. Despite the charity of our individual citizens to poor or ravaged countries around the world, the reputation of America is based on the actions of our government. We tout our freedoms and democratic principals everywhere we go, so the people of the world can only assume that we not only approve of what our government does abroad, we dictate that policy ourselves. They may want to come here and share in that power, but that doesn’t mean they like us. By choosing the lesser of two evils, we’ve shown the world that our means justify any ends, especially if the ends means more money and leisure for us. This approach to foreign policy has made us many false allies and real enemies, and the fruition of this approach is coming home to roost in the form of terror attacks and nuclear proliferation. And while the worst tyrants operate abroad, it is we who let them. Who is worse: the man who kicks the puppy or the one who pays to watch?”

We can only hope now, as we watch the beginnings of a new approach to foreign relations by America, that the Obama administration not only understands these concepts but puts them to constructive practice around the world. Listen before you act. Act consistently to all. Do not support tyrants while espousing democracy. Follow these three ideals, Mr. President, and you’ll make great progress towards restoring our national reputation and perhaps even leave the world a better, safer place than when it was handed to you.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

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What A Difference 2 Days Make

Finally, an adult is running things in Washington D.C. President Obama, in two short days, has begun to transform American politics and our reputation abroad with a series of mature decisions that will shape his presidency and the landscape of American politics. Instead of pretending that things are rosy all around, Obama has told all Americans that the time for sacrifice is upon us. No shopping our way out of our troubles this time. No going it solo on the world stage. No “my way or the highway” mentality.

Consider the following:

1- Announcing serious reforms regarding lobbyist behavior and standards to better ensure that the “pay to play” system of government begins to end.

2-Freezing staffer salaries in a symbolic effort to show that his people will put public service above personal profit.

3-Opening the doors to government decision and policy making and restoring a semblance of transparency to government by repealing the Bush FOIA restraints.

4-Starting the process of closing Gitmo, thus assuring the world that America is back on track vis-a-vis respecting the rule of law, both domestically and internationally.

5-Ending the practice of torture against captured foes.

6-Directing diplomacy and focused attention to be the hallmarks of our international relations.

7-Declaring that assistance to the Middle East will no longer be one-sided towards Israel, provided that the regional players all step to the table together.

And this is all in just two days. Granted, some of these things are more symbolic than substantive, but for the beginning of an administration, symbolism can mean plenty, especially when it begins to transform into reality. More than anything, Obama is telling us all that things are going to be done differently than they have been done in the past. And while many of these early signs are directed outwardly towards our international friends and foes alike, they are as important as any domestic proclamations that he could be making. The problems that face America are also the problems that are facing the world, and many can only be solved through partnerships with other nations. Partnerships…not strong-arm policies that use might without right.

From the economy to the environment to a more peaceful world, Obama can’t hope to succeed alone…indeed, going it alone has put America into one big, ugly hole. We need friends across the globe…real friends, not friends of convenience. By addressing some of the worst aggreviences of the past 8 years, Obama signals that a new day is here. Let’s hope that other nations understand this for what it is-an opportunity for progress-and that they grab hold of the potential for real change.

I admit to being less than pleased with the Obama’s initial beginnings following  his election and up to the inauguration. I’ve noted before that it might be unrealistic to expect much change with an administration staffed with career politicians. But I also noted that so long as Obama drove the ship, experienced deck hands might not be all so bad. Clearly, some of these “old timers” are taking to heart the notion that the old way of business is as dead as the telegraph.

Still, it’s only been two days. So much time remains for things to derail. But some of the hope that bouyed me through the general election, and then started to wane as we waited for the changing of the guard to become official, is returning. I don’t expect miracles (as many seemingly do), I expect progress. And for my money, these first two days of the Obama presidency have shown more promise than the last administration showed for nearly a decade.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

Posted in Barack Obama, Common Sense, Democracy, Government, Politics, Presidential Politics, Reform | 1 Comment »

“The Time Has Come To Set Aside Childish Things.”

Let us hope that this is true.

For those of you who missed it, here is the full text of President Obama’s inaugural speech.

As a new day dawns in American governance, let us all hope together for success. But let us not forget to hold accountable those who promise to do so much. Not just Obama, but all those in government or leaders of industry and business whose decisions make or break America. Let us renew our own potential for good and honor by moving forward into a new future together.

This is not to say that we should all agree on all things at all times, for not all paths available are the right ones. But let us move from an era of nasty discourse and wanton demonization for the sport of it towards an enlightened era where ideas are put forth and debated on their merits and not the faults of the thinker. Let us work together to make better choices for ourselves and our children and our neighbors, friends and families. Let us take the things that drive us apart and put them in the ground with the hope that they will be replaced by a spirit of healthy cooperation and conscientious policies.

Let us not be encumbered by past attitudes or enmities, even as we look to right the wrongs of the last eight years. Instead, let us wash away those legacies that drag us down while embracing those ideas that can propel us forward.

As we move forward, let us not be burdened by old ways of thinking, but let us explore new possibilities to solve old problems. For in the end, it is not me vs. you or Dem. vs. Rep. that will restore our nation to glory. It is not us vs. them either. It is just us. All of us, working together for a better day, a better America, a better world.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

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The $160 Million Party

I’m as excited for Barack Obama to be sworn in as president as the next person, but is a $160 million inauguration extravaganza really the best way to start an administration built on the mantra of change? At the risk of being labeled a “party-pooper,” I have to say, I don’t think so.

Despite America’s long national nightmare that has been the last eight years…despite the historic nature of this presidential election…despite the fact that this new president is the first African-American elected to be to the highest post in the land…and these are all great reasons to celebrate heartily…despite all of those things and a multitude of others…I just don’t think this is the best way to begin a new era in American governance. After all, profligate overspending is the old way of doing things, and to my mind, a $160 million party is merely a continuation of that attitude.

Oh, I understand that people want to celebrate, maybe even need to celebrate this presidential inauguration. I have no argument there. In my own way, I’ll be celebrating this event too. But instead of orchestrating a party of friends and spending a few hundred bucks I can’t really afford to spend, I’ll be commemorating this event internally, awash in the knowledge that America will begin a new chapter and flush with the hope that it’s not too late to turn the ship of state around.

Some will undoubtably say, “Hey. Wait a minute. $160 million isn’t that much, compared to the billions Bush has wasted away.” Okay. I agree. But what’s the point? Our nation is in the midst of the worst economic crisis in over 70 years. Our country remains mired in a war that should never have been. Our domestic problems-from health care to education to immigration to energy to the environment-all are reaching breaking points that continue to put our nation into a downward spiral. We’ve got big problems folks, and no amount of celebrating will change those facts.

Obama came to us with the message of change. I believed him on the campaign trail when he talked about fixing America’s problems, starting with the way government does business. I supported Obama all the way through the primaries to the victory in November, and was hopeful that this man would truly take us in new directions. I’m still hopeful, but I must say I am less than impressed with the way things are beginning. From packing his cabinet with professional politicians who only know the old way of doing things to backing away from some of his more promising campaign rhetoric (although I still believe Obama can instill the change he spoke of with such passion during the campaign), I’m not seeing a hard turn away from the poisonous practices that have made this government such the intransigent beast that it is. I know…the man isn’t the president yet, so what did I expect? One must sit in the captain’s chair before he can steer the ship, right?

Wrong. Obama could have started to create significant change immediately by declaring that upon swearing in there would be no festivities. Instead, he would simply get to work immediately. No big parties. No celebrity performances. No publically funded inaugural ball. Just a quick reading of the oath and off to work. America is in trouble. We don’t have time to party. And we can’t responsibly keep throwing millions of dollars around just to pat ourselves on the back. America’s problems are too big to put off for even one more day. Doing those things would have sent a loud and clear message that a new day was dawning in DC.

But that’s not what they are doing. Instead, tomorrow’s inauguration will be one big party, as if to say, “Problems? What’s one more day going to hurt.”

For my money, I’d rather see Obama take the oath, head over to the Oval Office, and begin to undo the damage that Bush wrought. I’d like to see his first day filled with new executive orders dismantling the worst of the Bush abuses. I’d like to see some real change for once. But I know that won’t happen. Instead we’ll all have to endure this orgy of celebration, this historic moment of change wrapped in a $160 million catering bill. Not exactly humble. Not exactly different. Not exactly a new day in politics.

I guess my hopes for a better tomorrow will have to wait a little longer.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

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This is the End

As we bid a final “Good Riddance” to the Bumbler-In-Chief, a little retrospective at his “legacy” is hard to resist. Yes, George W. Bush may be headed back to the obscurity of his Texas ranch…but his “legacy” will haunt us for decades…

Click here to watch the movie.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)


Posted in Bush, Economy, Iraq, Politics | 3 Comments »

Note To Congress: When America Voted For Change, We Were Talking About You Too

Frankly, I don’t care how much past service or time in office any of our politicians may have. This is a new game, and yesterday’s “achievements” mean little or nothing in a Post-Bush world. Especially when, for a great number of our so-called leaders, those “achievements” can be directly tied to the place we find ourselves today. Sadly, most, if not all, of our elected officials are slow in realizing that we Americans were serious when we elected Barack Obama on a platform of change.


I for one no longer have any patience for those “esteemed” leaders like Diane Feinstein who make noise and gum up the works when they don’t get a “courtesy call” from Obama when he chooses someone for a cabinet position. Hey Feinstein…Obama is not required to ask your permission or check with you first about any nomination. Your job as Senator is to simply vote yes or no when the time comes for you to do so. Enough of this petty nonsense from people who are supposed to be adults. News flash for you politicians…you too could be looking for a new job if you don’t change your ways.


Call it a leap of faith, but for me, this presidential election was about more than just finally ending the disastrous course set by Bush and his criminal cronies. It was about bringing real change to our nation’s politics by ending the old way of doing things. Granted, I’ve been less than thrilled about the team Obama has been putting together-too many “old timers” in there for my taste, especially when the goal is to change the order of business. (I mean how much change can you expect to get from people who have spent decades mired in pay to play politics?) But for now, I’m still willing to believe that Obama will drive this ship in a new direction, and in order to avoid running aground, he decided to hire on a seasoned crew rather than a bunch of greenhorns. But so long as Obama is the one driving the ship and calling the shots, the names of those hoisting the sails and manning the jib is somewhat less important provided they follow the directions given to them and don’t fall into old habits that would sink their boss’s best intentions.


But does this hope for change we all signed up for stand any real chance of succeeding? We all know that a president can only do so much on his own, despite the disgusting trend crafted by the Bush-Cheney team. If Obama reverts to a more traditional interpretation of the office of President, then reliance on a rational, adult Congress is key to any success he may achieve for this country. Unfortunately, that’s not the Congress we gave him, or at least, it isn’t looking that way in the beginning. Obama is saying and trying to do all the right things to be able to hit the ground running. But the Congress continues its petty infighting, it’s unearned displays of individual grandeur, and it’s incessant partisanship. With leadership like that, Obama could be supernatural and still get stymied while playing by the inane rules of yesterday’s political playbook.


I am optimistic that Obama will have not only the vision, but the assistance he needs from a rationally behaving Congress to put America on more solid footing and towards a better tomorrow. Clearly the task is daunting. And as Obama has been saying, things will probably get worse before they take a better turn. But a better future is possible, if Americans really want it. Many of us may think that the battle for rational government has been won simply by electing Obama. It is a mistake to think that. The first skirmish was won, but the battle looms large ahead. We must all have the fortitude to stay engaged, to pressure petulant lawmakers to do better, to think beyond themselves, to behave like real leaders. If they do not, we must have the will to remove them from office. If WE do not, then the mess we lay in will be of our own making. Politicians will listen to people if we speak loudly enough. But if we simply sit back and pretend that our task is done because we got Obama into the White House, we will fail. And we will deserve to fail.


(cross posted at Bring It On!)

Posted in Barack Obama, Common Sense, Democracy, Government, Politics, Reform | 2 Comments »

Despite Historic Obama Election, Bush Still Has 77 Days In Which To Make Things Even Worse

Despite yesterday’s historic election that has made Barack Obama the next president, let us not forget that we still have 77 days of George W. Bush to contend with. Because believe me, Bush isn’t forgetting that he’s still the Decider in Chief until January 20th.

Outgoing presidents like to “tie up loose ends” and place their ideological stamp on all sorts of governmental regulations and programs. Clinton did it. So did many of his predecessors. Often times, these last minute regulatory efforts take place in the final days or hours of an outgoing presidents term. But because new or revised regulations have a specific path they must take before becoming active, incoming presidents can sometimes halt or even negate these plans. It isn’t uncommon. In fact, when W took office, he ordered a halt to all of Clinton’s last minute regulations that had not yet been published in the federal register.

Hoping to avoid a halt to his own last minute regulations, the Bush administration got the ball rolling early, hoping to have over 90 new or revised regulations on the books before Obama can take the oath of office.  So what’s the problem? Isn’t Bush just doing what many previous outgoing presidents have done? Well, yes…and no.

Where Clinton’s end of term regulations sought to strengthen enviromental policy or help create more parity with regards to publically funded aid programs, it seems that Bush’s regulatory efforts do the exact opposite, and may also add to an already overburdened national treasury.

Some of the changes Bush seeks to stamp in cement before he departs include:

CIVIL LILBERTIES: Expanded F.B.I. guidelines that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

ENVIRONMENT: Weakening the Endangered Species Act even further; rules that weaken clean air and water standards; opening even more federal lands for gas and oil exploration. Also, easing restrictions on mountaintop mining, removing mining restrictions near the Grand Canyon and easing rules on power plant emissions.

ABORTION RIGHTS: New regulations aimed at further limiting women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.

ECONOMIC: Restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now that this change is in the works, JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.

Bush’s last minute regulations are really more DEREGULATIONS aimed at rewarding those remaining loyalist in corporate America. And if we’ve learned nothing from this whole economic crisis, it’s that when Republicans DEREGULATE it doesn’t bode well for John and Jane America.

Bush wants to leave his mark, but he seems to not understain that what he’s already left (and apparently wants to leave more of) is a big ugly stain. Apparently not content with being the least popular president AND the worst president in US history, Bush wants to make sure he can still screw things up when he’s out clearing brush at the ranch. With an economy in ruins, a military stretched to the breaking point, and an international reputation in tatters, Bush has already tied the hands of his successor to a great degree. But it just doesn’t seem to be enough for the Decider.

Some presidents want to be remembered for the good things they do. Sadly for America, George W. Bush has never done anything good in his life. So if we’re going to remember him for his failures, it seems that he wants to be sure to leave us plenty to ruminate on.

Barack Obama has a tough road ahead of him. So do we all.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

Posted in Barack Obama, Bush, Clinton, Government, Politics, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

An Election To Remember

It’s not often that we actually can feel the sense of being a part of an historic moment. Today is that day.

I’ve voted at the same location for over five years. In those five years, I can not ever remember seeing more than about ten people at the poll at the same time as I was there. This morning I showed up at 6:57 AM and was greeted by a line of at least 60 people waiting to vote. As I got into the line, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this election was indeed something special. Oh sure, the media has portrayed this as an election like no other, and this is certainly true, if only because of the historic nature of the candidates. But it dawned on me that it was more than that.

The poll worker told me this morning that our small precinct usually was lucky to have about 23% voter turnout at any election. Today is going to be a record breaker.

As I waited in the line to get my ballot, I had a pleasant conversation with a man who originally comes from Arkansas. We wiled the time away with small talk and stories of our experiences. He was there with a relative, a first time voter who was excited to cast her first ballot. People in front and in back of me were smiling, actually happy to see a line at the poll, and no one was grumbling about the wait-a wait they have never experienced at this polling location before. To top it off, it’s raining buckets here today in Southern California, something that always makes the “beautiful people” a bit frumpy. Even the rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of an electorate ready to make history.

As we neared the table where we got our ballots, my line companion said something to me that made me think about how far we’ve come in this country. He told me that back where he came from, a small town in Arkansas, when he was a kid, people like him and me would never be seen laughing and smiling and shooting the breeze together. I said that maybe we would, but there probably wouldn’t be a bunch of smiling faces around us. At that he smiled and agreed. He was black; I am white.

It’s an historic election to be sure. The fate of our country is literally at stake after eight years of destructive policies and malevolent stewardship. The people of America know this and are coming out in droves to make their voices heard.

I remember when I first voted in a presidential election. I felt proud to mark my ballot for Bill Clinton. Back then it felt like I was helping to “change the guard” by putting a younger man in the highest office in the land. I was pretty happy with Clinton as president, but his was no groundbreaking administration, his challenges not so daunting compared to ours today. In retrospect, I think that my feelings in that election were more about me, about finally being able to be part of “adult America.” Today I felt different. Today, this election, and my part in it, was not about writing a page in my personal history. Today’s election is all about us. This will be the election to remember. This is the one that counts.

If you haven’t voted yet, go vote. If you’ve already voted, thank you. See you on the other side.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)

Posted in Common Sense, Democracy, Government, Life, Politics, Presidential Politics | 1 Comment »