Yes, I am concerned about the selection of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State. Yes, her sometimes despicable husband can be a problem. Yes, she differs in perspective from Obama on some key issues. Yes, she can be annoyingly cold.
However no one can deny her stature among world leaders. No one can deny that she brings some unique gifts and experiences to the position. And no one can question the strength of leadership that Barack Obama possesses. He will lead a strong team. I personally await New Mexico Governor Richardson to be appointed to the cabinet.
From Ciao Café, to Sal's Pizza (almost), to "What's Poppin" .. 404 E. Silver Spring should have a new tenant shortly.
Few presidents, if any, disgraced the office and damaged the nation as much as George W. Bush. Perhaps our lofty hopes for Barack Obama are unattainable, but we are left with little beyond that in the rubble of 2001-2009. Think of how low the image of the U.S. has sunk in the past eight years. Even our closest nation-friends grew to despise our actions. No democratic nation in the world thinks George W. Bush's military adventures and corporate hand-outs were the actions of a man of democratic intent. He is/was an ignorant bully with smaller nations. He had people tortured. He ran up astronomical budget deficits. He landed on an aircraft carrier with the boastful "Mission Accomplished" banner boorishly displayed. This military bravado from a man whose military "career" left a great deal to be desired.
Yes, there is no need to dwell on the failures and deviousness of President George W. Bush. The very title with his name attached makes one grimace and want to vomit. But unless there is a clear acknowledgment, the right-wing nutcases will continue to try and convince us otherwise. The man was an absolute failure...with the military, with the budget, with the infrastructure, with health care, with his "guardianship" of children, with the environment, with the elderly, with foreign affairs, with justice, with education, with medical science, with religion, with human rights, with our energy policy, ...the list could go on endlessly. He is what he is, he was what he was. To quote a recently-famous analogy: neocons can try to put lipstick on this pig, but it's still a pig. As a man with a master's degree in history, let me assure you that George W. Bush will go down in history as a sad, devious leader who greatly damaged the United States of America.
I am becoming disheartened with the recent rash of bailouts coming from the United States government. Although it never seemed like a good idea, people like the secretary of the treasury convinced us that it would be the lesser of two evils. Yes, taxpaying Americans would now be forking over money to financial institutions who made bad decisions and paid executives millions in a heyday that was not too long ago. Some of these institutions were deemed too big to fail. Yet we have seen the results of what has happened when companies like Enron, WorldCom and others went bankrupt. It impacted a lot of people, some went broke, some went to jail. And America survived.
Now taxpaying Americans are being asked to fork over money to automobile corporations who made bad decisions and paid millions in executive bonuses in a heyday that was not too long ago. The United States should not be without domestic automakers. However, they must change the way he did do business and the way they handle their money. The American auto industry cannot and should not go the way of the American television industry. Names like Zenith, Curtis Mathes, and others proudly graced quality television sets over a generation ago. Now, everything is imported. Although, we have grown accustomed to this, I don't believe it would be in America's best interest to let this happen to the auto industry. I'm not really a fan of Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, or the rest. However, there may be a day when this would be all I would have to choose from. Whether I liked it or not, I will be driving an import.
Imagine the reason two presidents were put on trial, and then further imagine why George W. Bush escaped that. President Johnson's trial was a trumped up action, and so was President Clinton's trial. Clinton's private life is none of my damn business, just as George W. Bush's horrible private life is none of my business. But his direct actions as president ARE the business of every American. These actions have not only been atrocious and sometimes even inhuman, he has lowered the esteem and reputation of this nation. Compare how Clinton's private acts and Bush's official actions reflected on the nation and how it is viewed in the world. Clinton still carries respect and honor internationally, Bush does not.
George W. Bush illegally invaded a sovereign nation, Iraq. The claim that he was given faulty C.I.A. information is bogus. From the very beginning many of us who know the background and make-up of the Middle East screamed that he not invade. He lied to Congress and the American people. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Iraq is a sovereign nation. If we wanted to free people who were abused by a dictator, why didn't we invade nations whose atrocities against their citizens were at least as horrible as Saddam Hussein's: North Korea, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Batista's Cuba, Somoza's Nicaragua, Marcos' Phillipines, etc.???
In a few short weeks, all of the excessive ballyhooing from the Democrats who claim that George Bush is the worst president ever may soon have their own crow to eat. The reprise of a Democratic administration may have the characteristic of our most recent Democratic president-the continual scandal. There was a prediction made by a prominent media person in Milwaukee who has claimed that whenever a Democrat runs on a platform of reform, they turn out to be more corrupt than what they believe they would be flushing out. I thought this was a gutsy move by predicting this, however I do not find myself disagreeing.
This weeks news story concerning filling the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama is showing us that ethical politics do not often come out of Illinois. It doesn't make sense anymore to rehash the Tony Rezko, Rev. Wright, and the rest which were ignored largely during the campaign. However, like these individuals, scandals have a way of distancing themselves from Barack Obama much like a Nostradamus prediction. Once the scandal breaks, Obama makes a statement saying that he had no contact or communication with the wrongdoer, and the meetings, conversations, and everything else gets expunged from the public's mind. Although nobody sees it coming, the rape thing seems to have gotten done in hindsight. Figure that out.
As the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler sat before Congress, there was a growing tendency in American public opinion to shift blame to the UAW and the labor unions for the financial failure in the U.S. auto industry. Nonsense! Yes, auto workers in these corporations are well paid, but they NEGOTIATED their wage and benefit packages. These same CEOs were a part of the agreed labor contracts, and the corporate executives meanwhile enhanced their individual income packages EACH by many millions of dollars. If GM, Ford, and Chrysler had continued their sales growth, as Toyota and Honda did, there would not be this mess in the auto industry. No labor union ordered the U.S. auto makers to build huge SUVs, Hummers, etc. That decision was made by the heads of the industry.
It should also be pointed out that while auto workers in some other auto producing nations do not seem to have the benefits of U.S. workers, these other nations have paid national health care programs that are NOT a part of any "benefit" package that auto workers have to negotiate. All citizens in those nations have tax-paid health care. And there are more benefits that other nations' workers receive as a part of the general population's paid benefits. American costs for health care are going up and up at a rapid rate. And performence in U.S. health care is far below the industrialized nations of Europe. American health and life expectancy is far below that of other industrialized nations, yet it costs us far more. American health care is a scam. Auto workers in the U.S. are faced with these figures. But I cannot emphasize enough that the same CEO greedy dolts who sat before Congress were OK when the labor contracts were negotiated as long as the execs got their immense pay-off. So it is important to keep this all in mind, and not single out labor union workers.
As political hacks begin to power up for the arrival of a new president, it is important to recognize who put Barack Obama in the White House. It was far more than members of the Democratic Party. And Obama must realize that he is not the traditionally elected official who owes it all to one of the political parties. The Democrats have made a mess of their own party, and they could not have elected Obama. In fact, the two elections of a man of such low caliber as George W. Bush is ample testimony to the impotence of the Democrat Party.
Obama owes much to a wider group of supporters. His very campaign was outside the norm as he ushered in large numbers of new voters via the electronic networks. Expectations are high. Demands will be forthcoming. He will have to have keen insight into a wide spectrum of humane and progressive programs. Being a liberal will not be enough.
In what most must consider a surprise move, Barack Obama has denied all wrongdoing from his staff in the senate seat for sale scandal. This must come as is shock to anyone who has even a passing fancy with politics. One can almost visualize how this story rolled out: Obama calls on his transition team to gather in a room, Obama stands up and says, "If anyone is involved raise your hand." No hands go up. Obama then asks for his office of the president-elect placard and the press release begins. It becomes as anticipated as a Nostradamus prediction.
And what's up with that Caroline Kennedy appointment? There are actual reports questioning her qualifications for U.S. Senate. This seems somewhat unbelievable, after all, she's going after Hillary Clinton's seat. Isn't the Kennedy name qualifications enough? What do Senators do anyway? After reviewing the accomplishments of the last couple of congresses, it is apparent that they do not do very much. If she is unqualified for office and has no experience, she should fit right in with Obama.
The modus operandi of the neocons, fascists, right-wingers, bigots, etc. is becoming clear. First, make some general statement about warning that Obama will not be able to solve the problems facing us. Then remain silent. And when success by Obama is not immediately forthcoming, say, "I told you so."
It is amazing that for 8 long years of lies, budget deficits, illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, alienating most of our nation-friends, ignoring the UN, giving no-bid handouts to corporate buddies, savaging the environment, conducting secret energy meetings, torturing prisoners, holding people for years without charging them, sending troops to Iraq with inadequate equipment, stopping budgets for adequate vets' benefits, embarrassing the U.S. over and over, ruining healthcare and retirement programs, offering primitive solutions to education problems, hiding the president's background history, continuing the Bush family special contacts with Saudi royals, spying on innocent U.S. citizens, and causing a horrendous economic disaster, NOW the right-wingers want a fix for all this in months if not in days from Obama. Absolutely amazing.
A great frustration for me over the past several years has been a poor internet connection. That being said, I've been fairly happy with my new service -- AT&T U-verse.
Am I paying more? Yes. But do I really mind if it means I can get a fairly stable internet connection, good phone service and many television channels? No. I will admit that I am especially fond of the DVR service where I can view recorded programs from any TV in the house. (We only have two so that's "any TV".)
With re-worked bailouts, stimulus packages, and the re-awakening of credit, it's clear someone wants you to spend your money. Just a few months ago, when credit was really tightening up, Americans were becoming scared to spend money. Payments could not be made, interest rates were too high, owns for hard to get, and job losses were looming. The media had scared us all into thinking this was happening to everyone everywhere. And when we were convinced, we did not like the result. The stimulus checks that had come to us from the government did not get spent on things that we could not afford. Instead, some of them wisely got put towards retiring old debt, or possibly even saving. While living within our means is good for us individually, the economy as a whole suffers. So now, the task at hand is to get consumers to believe that they have unlimited income potentially, in unlimited time to pay off debts. Asset appreciation will soon be on its way back. It's time to forget about the tough times already. Thank goodness we somehow survived.
On the aggregate, government is once again perceived as the savior to the economy. President elect Obama, with placard in hand, will try to convince Americans to spend their way out of this recession. And of course government wants to do its part. Deficit after deficit will be piled up higher and higher in about half the time. The United States government will spend $1 trillion more than it has in one year alone. It used to take three years to reach the trillion mark even in bad times. The United States government wants to revisit the depression years and the huge deficits racked up by President Roosevelt believing this brought us the prosperity we remember so nostalgically. Displaced workers from the auto industry, financial industry, and retail will all be lined up to apply for jobs building bridges and laying highways. Once they're completed, how will they be used? Will we still have cars?
It's funny. When I don't write a column for a few weeks at a time, the stock question is "Why haven't you written something in a while?" But when I actually do get around to posting something new, I get, "Why did you have to write about THAT?"
After being pretty consistent before the election, why did I slow down? Why, you ask, did I post only one little blog giblet for Thanksgiving? Well, what can I say? In the wake of the election, everything at once became...perfect. No complaints. No problems. Everyone was happy. We made history electing our country's first African American POTUS. We made history by having the first competent, presidential-looking president this millenium. And, as I might humbly note, the title of my little internet-based journal here is Roasted Nuts. Who was left to roast? The planets were aligned in perfect harmony.
Halliburton, oil corporations, Americans making over a million dollars a year, pharmaceutical corporations, insurance companies, Lockheed, General Electric, energy companies, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, U.S. Supreme Court, Congressional Republicans, pentecostal churches, Pat Robertson, ammunition companies, the Saudi family, banks, investment tycoons, Mr. Madoff, Mr. Chablani, Dick Cheney, neocons, right-wingers, fascists, Burlington [Wis.] Liars Club, FoxNews, Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh, No Child Left Behind masqueraders, vouchers schools, union busters, No New Taxes groups, Blackwater, Phyllis Schlafly, NRA, John Birch Society, Flat Earth Society, creationists, Bob Jones University, KKK, fundamentalists, torturers, military-industrial complex, gun store owners, Bill O'Reilly, etc. We owe you a great deal. Holiday blessings to you, Mr. President.
Of course there is room for forgiveness for all the lies, deceptions, mistakes, and general crookedness of the administration of George W. Bush. But Mr. Bush will have to do more than simply make his last lap as president with a solemn and melancholy look on his face. Honesty, openness, and forgiveness requests will be honored. Until then, let us never, never forget what he did. He brutalized the reputation of the United States, he gave handouts to the richest Americans at the expense of the poor and middle class, invaded a SOVEREIGN nation illegally, lied over and over to the American people, screwed up an already unfair health care system, cheated the military veterans out of needed benefits, took a federal budget surplus that he inherited and turned it into an economic disaster that our children and grandchildren will pay for in far more taxes, ignored warnings about the pending 9-11 disaster, held secret energy meetings in which the American public was forced to hand over trillions of dollars unnecessarily to Bush and Cheney corporate buddies, the invasion of Iraq set up al Quaeda in that country for the first time, his policies in the Middle East greatly enhanced the power and influence of Iran, gave no-bid and no-accountabiity contracts to Halliburton, Blackwater, etc., acted as a Saudi surrogate as he again carried out horrible plans to help the Saudis illegally as his father and grandfather had done, endangered the health and safety of every American with policies that harmed the environment and hampered the Environmental Protection Agency, approved actions that tortured people, snooped on innocent American citizens, held thousands in Guantanamo without ever charging them with any crime, and this despicable list goes on endlessly.
To claim that he protected us is the height of folly. His administration proactively sought to silence the EPA from releasing data about harmful products, including some that harmed babies. Some kind of protection. His administration greatly hampered stem cell research that might already be helping persons suffering from Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and a host of other crippling illnesses. Some protection. 4,300 Americans have lost their lives in Bush's illegal war in Iraq, Some protection. His administration pushed policies that greatly harmed the environment and endangered the future for our children and grandchildren. Some protection. He hampered additional funding for military veterans. Some protection. He sat on his hands as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated, and now, finally, got involved at the end of his administration. Some protection. He sat by and dropped negotiations with nuclear-armed North Korea. Some protection. More and more people are now without healthcare insurance than in 2001. Protection? Our food banks cannot keep up with the avalanche of people needing help. Protection? The Bush administration has actively put in place programs and policies that have greatly hurt millions of Americans.
Whether any of us are in the wide spectrum of "beliefs" that identify us as "Christians," the story of the birth of a Nazarene baby boy in Bethlehem has special meaning this year in America. Think of how this story illuminates what is happening here. How common are the threads in the U.S. of 2008 and 2009.
Trekking slowly to pay their taxes to a military Roman Empire, built in part on Middle East military adventures, come a humble man who works hard with his hands, and a pregnant girl of 13 or 14 years. Joseph and Mary are examples that billions of people all over the world follow, but in hypocritical U.S., the young girl would be considered a social outcast. And a man working without a labor union would be poor enough to have to walk to pay his taxes a long, long way. No societal welfare was there to help them in their hour of great need, and instead of a roofed house over their heads, the birth takes place in a barn. In a sense, on this special night, they are homeless.
What has happened to the nation, the people, the idea that was once identified as "America"? We have become a nation and a society of wimps. We confuse unfair advantage with strength. We mix up manliness with weaponry. We brew hatred with greed. We have squashed the American ideal. We have become more than diluted in our posture and essence, we have become violent and insensitive bullies.
One is not a hero of the "Old West" because he kills a deer from a hundred yards using a mechanized rifle with a telescopic sight. The nation is not defending what is right and altruistic by using its military power to try and force and forge nations who are unwilling to bend to our overwhelming military might. A sheriff with a tin star on his chest, trying to bring justice to an emerging civilization in the opening frontier, would be embarrassed at the actions of greedy, mechanized, military pushiness. We are not an honored sheriff anymore, America has become a brute.
I have finally settled on what I think will be my Christmas wish for 2008. Or should I settle on what my Christmas wish should be for 2008? Oh, if there was just enough money for everyone to be happy. As we know, what we wish for does not really make a whole lot of difference. And of course, there is no way of determining how much money everyone would be satisfied with. And if I thought it would make everyone happy, I would be dead wrong.
Earlier in the fall, Americans were convinced that the government should give obscene amounts of money to private corporations to keep them financially stable. If we didn't, we were scared into thinking that the whole financial system as we know it would collapse. Whether or not it would, we really don't know. But we didn't rush through Congress a huge bailout bill with few strings attached and few questions asked. One thing we did not want to, was that this bailout money would go to the executives of these failing companies in the form of bonuses. And of course, that happened.
Through the malaise and fog of neocon and right-wing judgmentalism of the past decades, it is time to take stock of where we are as a nation and as a people.
"Trust us," said the right-wingers, "all this growing fortune will trickle down." It trickled all right, in fact there was a gusher that flooded the entire nation in debt and financial destruction.
As we cross the threshold from 2008 to 2009, the time comes for many people to write down some New Year's resolutions. And of course, they always include the perennial lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, swear less, etc. etc. etc. And because these New Year's resolutions primarily focus on our bad habits, the things we wish to change about ourselves to make us better some how, usually last for about two weeks. Whether that is good or bad, I don't know. Focusing on bringing ourselves of bad habits is usually doomed to failure. So why even do it?
I don't advocate making New Year's resolutions however, if you would allow me to toss out a suggestion that may set an attitude, a word of caution, to set a tone for 2009 albeit it is still negative. Here it is: beware of the tax and spend liberals. Yes, they were all happily elected a month or so ago and now in January, the new government sessions began in the tax-and-spend liberals will be glad as can be to raise every tax that they can.