Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blog #66: Nay Sayers Front and Center

BULLETIN: Erstwhile president George W. Bush brought to a close his involvement in the US, Iraq debacle. Traveling to Bagdad, and speaking to a group of Iraqi journalists, suddenly a shoe came flying his way. He ducked. Came a second one and he held up his arm to shield his face. The assailant - later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi - leapt from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away. "This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic. Can anyone imagine a more fitting conclusion to the ill timed, shamelessly mismanaged invasion of Iraq? Way to go, Iraqi newsman.

Already nay sayers are popping up like mushrooms on a late summer's evening. From the far left wafts whispers that President Elect Obama has appointed too many conservatives to his cabinet to be. These fears are somewhat stoked by the generally positive reaction of many prominent Republicans, and especially the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Here’s a scary thought, even Rush Limbaugh seemed to have reacted positively to the Hillary announcement, although Rush tempered his enthusiasm by gleefully reasoning that Ms. Clinton wouldn’t be able to run for the presidency in 2012. However the media are presently having a field day. It has not gotten over its penchant for running with any and every tiny thread connecting the candidate with the disgraced governor of Illinois. And so in spite of the less than flattering depiction of the democratic presidential nominee that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's tapped phone conversations revealed, right wing opponents are gamely attempting to hitch Obama's political star to the besieged governor in the fond hope that some of the tarnish will stick.

Of course, nothing is likely to stick, for the President elect either through skill, foresight or incredible instinct left yards if not miles between the two. According to Eli Saslow writing in the Washington Post, “like every other Illinois politician Gov. Blagojevich awaited anxiously for a speaking role at the Democratic convention last summer, expecting the payback for being the first governor to endorse the Senator in his run for the presidency. Obama's campaign made speaking offers to the Illinois treasurer, the comptroller, the attorney general and a Chicago city clerk. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) was asked to introduce Obama on the convention's final night; Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (Ill.) was told he would speak on television during prime time. Finally, fed up and embarrassed that he still had heard nothing, Blagojevich joked to a crowd at the Illinois State Fair that, yes, he also had been asked to speak – at 4 a.m., in a Denver area men's bathroom.” (Foot tapping anyone?)

Of course Blagojevich's subsequent telephone conversations, wire-tapped courtesy your FBI, will serve as a stain on the shirtfronts of all Democrats, center and left alike. However since the good governor's instincts parallel those of virtually every politician swimming in our present body politic, Republican as well as Democrat, it should seem only in excess because of its plainspoken honesty. We are not used to politicians speaking that succinctly. The Illinois governor put his thoughts into words so laconic that it left no doubt as to the true nature of his character. And so the country waits anxiously to see what remedy the state and feds will take to safeguard the appointment of Senator Obama's successor. Heaven forbid that the good governor appoint anyone, and most especially not himself, to the soon to be vacated Senate seat. Of course, the Senate itself is the final arbiter as to who its members might be, and there's not a chance in hell that they would admit Blagojevich should he have the audacity to
appoint himself, as would be his right as things now stand.

Will the show ever end? We hope not, for it keeps us amused and entertained as inauguration day approaches. Meantime what should the Illinois governor's punishment be? Expulsion from office surely. Whether incarceration is in the cards, and how much, will be determined by subsequent trial, and it would be un-American to convict before trial, now wouldn't it? Damn, we can't have any fun these days?
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We might remind you that the Republican party is the party that professes to fervently believe in as little federal government and regulation as possible and which has in the near and distant past done it's damnedest to neuter the federal bureaucracy and bring it to a state of malfunctioning impotence. How ironic it is to see all of the proponents of the “less government the better” syndrome, have their party, the party presently in power until January 20, the one having to bail out first the banking and financial industries, and then come up with a handout for the American automobile industry. The right wingers keep squealing that the country is a center right country, and must be governed accordingly. Poof! If you believe that we have a Bush/McCain government we'll sell you cheap. What they don't admit to is that the Republican government of George Bush has been governing arrogantly and unswervingly from the center right for the past eight years, and it is this very center right government which the majority of Americans merrily voted against last November 4th. What a marvelous day that was, watching on television as the voting population voted out the current ruling party leaving not a doubt in the world. And shame on the Senate Republicans who voted against the auto bailout because the union workers didn't make enough concessions. War on the Middle Class, that's the Republican's favorite target.

The Supreme Court was given the chance to overrule America's political process once again, as they had in 2000. They were presented a case saying Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen and so is not eligible to be president, the election be damned. But this time around the Supreme Court decided not to gerrymander the election results. Perhaps some of them were having second thoughts about having suspended Florida’s ongoing recount in 2000 thereby giving the election to Bush who in his thanks brought us Iraq, the Katrina aftermath, and the most autocratic government in the history of our democracy. Way to go Court! To their credit this time around they refused to hear the case.

Meanwhile on his way out our most thoroughly discredited president is doing his best to leave as many onerous rules and regulations in place as possible to thwart his successors, he hopes for years to come. Departments all through the government will probably be spending months in discovering the rules W. is putting in place, and then overwriting them. Just thank a merciful lord that Bush had no chance to make further Supreme Court appointments, the court is already tilted far enough to the right to make future judgments a crap shoot. Remedy will only come when President Obama gets to make future appointments to bring the courts back to the center. For it is in the Courts where a president can have long standing effect on the country. And we should feel damn lucky that Bush didn't appoint any more than he did.
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I guess you can say life goes full circle, and I'm lucky enough to get to witness what went around in my youth finally turning around in my old age. I was born in 1926 during the extravagance of the roaring twenties, though I didn't wake up to what was going on in the country until the great depression of the early thirties, which was when first I heard President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's booming voice emanating from our living room radio warning us in that ever authoritative voice of his that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Roosevelt was the first president to discover and use that new entity known as radio, a communication device knowing no peer as a tool for instant access to the American people. And did he ever use it. And the “nothing to fear” speech was so effective in preventing riots and runs on the banks that he wisely devised a regular series of radio talks which he called “Fireside Chats” to bring the American people along with him on his journey through the great depression. And while two of Europe's biggest, Germany and Italy, fell under the domination of fascism, America was spared and remained a free market society thanks to Roosevelt's steady hand. He did have competition though, for the originator of hate radio, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, was speaking to millions of radio listeners every week.

From Wikipedia: Charles Edward Coughlin (October 25, 1891 – October 27, 1979) was a Canadian-born Roman Catholic priest at Royal Oak, Michigan's National Shrine of the Little Flower Church. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as more than forty million tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s. Coughlin at first used his radio program to promote Franklin D. Roosevelt and his early New Deal proposals, and then went on to issue antisemitic commentary, and later to rationalize some of the policies of National Socialist Adolf Hitler and Fascist Benito Mussolini. The broadcasts have been called "a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture.” His chief topics were political and economic rather than religious, with his slogan being Social Justice, first with, and later against, Roosevelt's New Deal.

Also from Wikipedia here’s a short course on Roosevelt’s New Deal: The New Deal was the name that United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to a series of economic programs he initiated between 1933 and 1936 with the goals of giving work (relief) to the unemployed, reform of business and financial practices, and recovery of the economy during The Great Depression. The "First New Deal" of 1933 was aimed at short-term recovery programs for all groups. The Roosevelt administration promoted or implemented banking reform laws, emergency relief programs, work relief programs, agricultural programs, and industrial reform (the NRA), a federal welfare state, as well as the end of the gold standard and prohibition.

“A ‘Second New Deal’ (1935–36) included labor union support, the Works Projects Administration (WPA) relief program, the Social Security Act, and programs to aid farmers, including tenant farmers and migrant workers. The Supreme Court ruled several programs unconstitutional; however, most were soon replaced, with the exception of the NRA. In practice the New Deal ended with World War II. As Roosevelt himself said in December, 1943, "Dr. New Deal" had given way to "Dr. Win the War."

“Most of the relief programs were shut down during World War II by the Conservative Coalition (i.e. the opponents of the New Deal in Congress). Many of the regulations were ended during the wave of deregulation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Several New Deal programs remain active, with some still operating under the original names, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The largest programs still in existence today are the Social Security System and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

Roosevelt's New Deal recognized that the two conflicting forces in the country were in the form of management, the capitalists who ran the businesses, and labor, whose unions represented the working people. Roosevelt saw the need for the government to stand as a moderating force between these two entities, regulating them as fairly as possible, and particularly he sensed the need to regulate, and thereby stabilize. the financial industry. Although the rich hated Roosevelt, in retrospect by taking strong measures to combat the extremes of management and labor, he is generally credited with saving the United States from fascism, which overran much of Europe during the great depression of the thirties. Phil Gramm, onetime Senator from Texas, and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, are generally credited with bringing about much of the present day deregulation of the banking and financial industry, and as a consequence many today lay the full blame for the mess we're presently in directly on their shoulders. The Gramm, Gingrich monkeying around with deregulation, which had brought stability to the financial industry during the Great Depression and beyond, proved once and for all that the banks and markets have need for regulation, transparency and accountability. And this notion that you let the markets and the economy run free while you fiddle is fodder for the birds, deserving to die alongside that other Republican myth, the “trickle down” theory that if you let the wealthy gain unending wealth they will allow small driblets to trickle down to the rest of us. What a crock! Nobody knows better than the rich how to acquire and retain money.
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In our ongoing celebration of the waning days of the Bush administration we once again dip into our archives yet another edition of our “greatest hits”: Saturday, March 1, 2008 Blog #25: Bush and the Price of Gasoline

Did you see George Bush’s incredible unbelieving expression when he was asked by a reporter about the possibility of ‘surging’ oil prices possibly reaching $4 a gallon? Obviously our soon to be erstwhile leader had not a clue as to the current price of gasoline. Just like his father (who had had no clue as to the 1992 price of a quart of milk or a dozen eggs) Bush the son is completely shielded from the predicament of the average American. And from the jovial sneer that lit up his face it was evident he is quite happy being in his blissful state.
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The Bush/Cheney/McCain triumvirate is making a lot of noise at Barack Obama about cutting and running in Iraq, providing he should get the nomination and then go on to win the presidency. And they are trotting out the so-called retired general experts who echo their “win at all costs” doctrine. Naturally the military can only accept winning, losing is a word not found in the lexicon of the military. But the reality is that even the best armies lose wars. We pulled out and lost Vietnam, had to cut and run, leaving a lot of locals who had helped us in the lurch. We settled the Korean conflict at the very parallel from whence the confrontation had begun. The only war that this country has won in my lifetime was World War II, and we won that one because all of the American people were united in making sacrifices to help win it. The draft snared most of the male population. Goods that were scarce were rationed. Women worked the assembly line in war plants. Rosie the Welder was a folk legend of the times. And as individuals we actually invested financially in the conflict with the purchase of War Bonds.

McCain does not dare tackle Obama’s charge that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake which we should retreat from poste haste. Most conveniently from the perspective of the war monger McCain says we should look only forward, not backward. “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die. . .” Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? But if this country is going to return to government by reason and sanity, return to a government that truly represents the people it is supposed to serve, we have to examine what got us into that quicksand that is Iraq, and what restrictions we need to put in place to avoid future presidents involving us in adventures like Iraq. For it seems to be human nature that the types who run for president will get all caught up in international relations, which obviously is where the rush of having extreme power lies, to the total neglect of our own country.

I’m certainly not worried about either Clinton or Obama involving America into any kind of conflagration, they are both healers, and will work full time attempting to restore this country to where it had been before the disastrous Bush regime pumped the nation up with falsehoods and then invaded a country which had not attacked us. And I really believe that the chances are excellent that either Clinton or Obama will lead this country for the next eight years. But Congress and the Democrats must delve deeply into the details of how we got dragged into this mess, and then adopt such measures as are necessary to prevent future presidents from leading us so astray.

Saturday, March 8, 2008 Blog #26 Of Candidates and Windmills and SDK's:

Well friends, the Democratic presidential battle lines are clearly drawn. Ohio and Texas have spoken. Ohio spoke with a voice loud and clear, but Texas hath spoken with forked tongue, the primary popular vote naming two-thirds of the delegates to the Democratic convention was substantially for Hillary Clinton but the caucus vote which picks the other third of the delegates favored Barack Obama. And since Obama is running ahead in the delegate count he invites us to do the math, which he thinks hands him the nomination. But if you actually do the math you find you’ve only muddied the water, for it tells you that neither candidate can possibly reach the necessary total to insure victory by convention time. And so my friends we have a plain, old fashioned horse race. Although thanks to our ongoing trade embargo Cuban cigars will be in short supply, smoke filled rooms will surely abound during the Denver convention. For the first time in recent memory the Democratic candidate is likely to be chosen amid coughs and sputters. And at that altitude the delegates should find themselves on a true rocky-mountain high.

My son Joel, the doctor in residence, worries that such a long conflict will show both Democratic candidates in a bad light and might divert people to John McCain’s candidacy. McCain is looking tired and somewhat out of things, but he has flung off his competition and is marching towards the Republican convention in step with his own drummer. Before the Dems go any further, Joel’s solution is for each contender to guarantee that if they are the winner, they will ask the other one to join the ticket as vice president. Of course, that’s the ideal solution for all loyal Democrats, for no matter which candidate you favor, you respect the other one and would quickly support either one occupying a place on the other’s ticket. Only problem, I doubt that either candidate would agree to name the other at this stage. But it is a helluva idea, and it would convey the message that without a doubt, each candidate respects the other and will go out of his or her way to share responsibility in the upcoming election.

Republicans giggle and sneer at the Democratic situation, figuring (hoping, hallucinating?) that our Democratic candidates will tear each other apart in the many months before the convention while their man cruises (make that stumbles) his way into the presidency with no problems. But if they say that then they are either dreaming or they’re smoking something they should immediately be required to share. It would seem they have no idea of the intensity of the anti-Republican feelings running rampart through Democratic and even Independent quarters these days. A desperation triggered by a Republican president constantly attempting to justify an unjustifiable and out-of-control war that is bleeding the American people of it’s youth and piling up a debt that is turning the ownership of much of our country over to foreign interests like China, as we bankrupt our economy in the irresponsible pursuit of an impossible victory in Iraq. George W. Bush is a modern day Don Quixote, with sidekick Dick Cheney at his side he is tilting swords at a bunch of Iraqi windmills which live only in his mind. And as he contemplates his legacy he is desperate to justify his unconscionable actions. And for those of you rocking along with him here’s Republican candidate John McCain offering you four more years of McBush, eight if we’d be foolish enough to reelect him.
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The big secret that the Bush administration and the Republican party is desperately trying to hide from us is the true cost of this Iraq adventure. Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz had an article in Sunday’s Washington Post online reporting on the true cost that should be required reading for all Americans of voting age. Their article begins by saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can't spend $3 trillion – yes, $3 trillion – on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.

“Some people will scoff at that number, but we've done the math. Senior Bush administration aides certainly pooh-poohed worrisome estimates in the run-up to the war. Former White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey reckoned that the conflict would cost $100 billion to $200 billion; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later called his estimate "baloney." Administration officials insisted that the costs would be more like $50 billion to $60 billion. In April 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, the thoughtful head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said on "Nightline" that reconstructing Iraq would cost the American taxpayer just $1.7 billion. Ted Koppel, in disbelief, pressed Natsios on the question, but Natsios stuck to his guns. Others in the administration, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, hoped that U.S. partners would chip in, as they had in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or that Iraq's oil would pay for the damages.

“The end result of all this wishful thinking? As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion, Iraq is not only the second longest war in U.S. history (after Vietnam), it is also the second most costly – surpassing 10 billion dollars monthly – surpassed only by World War II.”

Now I would come in here to remind you that it is those loudmouth Republicans who are always shrilly screaming about Tax and Spend Democrats (however it should be pointed out that Democrats usually tax and spend for the good of the country, not to fund some misguided holocaust on foreign shores.) Republicans claim to be the party of prudence in government, the minders of the nation’s fiscal store. What a joke! I would remind you that the Republican party is the one currently in power and gigging the national treasury to the tune of $3 Trillion which they are busily shoveling into that fiscal sink hole called Iraq. And the “no surrender” military types are insisting that we stay there, either until the “job is done” or I guess until our economy collapses of its own weight. Dare we find out which will come first?

Remember the Clinton years. It was during those years that we had a taste of what *real* fiscal responsibility would be like. In his recently published memoirs even the Republican appointed ex Fed Chief Alan Greenspan couldn't help but praise Bill Clinton’s persistence in trimming the nation’s spending during his eight year term as president, while the Republican slander machine was working full time shamelessly trying to negate everything he was doing. Fortunately they couldn’t stop him. He guided us through our most recent period of tranquility, a period that saw no wars, brought diplomatic solutions to offshore problems, a period that saw the national debt shrink until it turned into a surplus.

That is the very reason that we at the Real Little Eddy Blog support Hillary Clinton for president. Obama’s campaign is all too human and flawed, as several recent glimpses have shown. An aide assuring a Canadian embassy worker that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying in Ohio about NAFTA, he had to take that position to win votes; a military adviser assuring the military that of course Obama would not move the troops out of Iraq until it was prudent to do so, which was exactly the position Clinton had taken from the beginning. And what was it that an Obama campaign manager called Hillary Clinton on the BBC, a “monster?” Well, methinks a “monster” is exactly what we’re going to need in the White House come January to try and right this listing American Ship of State, before it crashes into the rocks of bankruptcy, flounders, and sinks into the cold, cold depths of irrelevancy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 marked the fifth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq and in commemoration of this (blood soaked) red letter day President Bush and vice president Cheney separately waltzed through the Alice in Wonderland magic looking glass, setting off a distortion field of Steve Jobsian proportions. Bush claimed he was lo0king victory in Iraq squarely in the eye, and announced we were on the very cusp of that elusive commodity. And vice-president Cheney when confronted by a reporter with polls that showed two thirds of Americans oppose our presence in Iraq said, “So?” then went on the relate that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the public supports the continued US presence in Iraq. “I think you cannot be blown off course by fluctuations in opinion polls,” he said, as if the opinions of the people he and Bush were elected to serve meant absolutely nothing to him, which you better believe is correct. Then he went on to liken Bush’s leadership to that of Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War. Can you believe that? Damn, I wish he would pass around whatever it is he’s smoking. Fella, true scouts SHARE!

Stephen Colbert took note of Bush's video conference with U.S. personnel in Afghanistan last week, in which Bush said: "I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you . . . in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."

Colbert responds with outrage – at the soldiers in Afghanistan: "Soldiers, shame on you for arousing our president's envy. You must stop making multiple tours of duty battling foreign militias in a faraway land look like so much fun. While you're romantically running around dodging roadside bombs and rounding up potential terrorists, the president is stuck in the White House, pushing glazed salmon around his dinner plate and pretending to pay attention while Condi plays the piano . . . .

"Stop enticing the president. We could lose him again. Remember the last time he got excited about a war? He joined the Alabama Air National Guard, and nobody could find him."
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This week I find myself still mulling over last week’s fateful words of our favorite president of vice, Dick Cheney. He certainly gave us a lot of gristle to chew on. It was during that interview with the ABC news reporter where in response to her referring to polls indicating that two thirds of Americans are against the Iraq war, he replied, “so?” and then went on to relate that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the public supports the continued US presence in Iraq. “I think you cannot be blown off course by fluctuations in opinion polls,” he said.

Think about that for one little moment, my friends. The opinions of two thirds of the American people, the very ones that he and Bush were elected to serve, amount to nothing more than fluctuations in the opinion polls. Have you ever in your life read a statement more arrogant? And we are supposed to be a government Of the People, By the People, and For the People, or so I was taught in school. What a joke! Under Bush/Cheney we have a government Of the Rich, By the Rich, For the Rich, a government being Run by Incompetents. And that seems to be the standard credence of all Republican led regimes of late. I guess we should thank our lucky stars in that Cheney deigned to be honest with us. But then he went on to defame the memory of the president who freed the slaves by comparing Bush’s position in Iraq to that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. A stretch truly of Grand Canyon proportions. Paraphrasing the immortal words of the late Lloyd Bentsen, believe me, mister VEEP, George W. Bush is no Abraham Lincoln. Not even close!

The question hanging in the aftermath of Cheney’s bad air is this: “What, if anything, can be done about an administration which is trashing our nation’s economy while bankrolling this Highway to Nowhere that is Iraq? Mr. Bush began the invasion in direct response to Saddam Hussein’s reputed attempt to assassinate his father. We leave it to you, avenging the threat to his father may be admirable, but to the extent that we end up selling off our nation’s resources to China to pay for it? Is the Bush honor really worth our country going financially bellyup? And keep in mind, a November vote for John McCain will guarantee an Iraqi fight to the finish, although it is not at all clear as to just whose finish such a fight is likely to bring about. In my 82 years on this earth I have never seen a pair as arrogant and as openly uncaring as Bush/Cheney. They are indeed two of a kind. In retrospect they have managed to make Richard M. Nixon seem like a well meaning Sunday school teacher.

It is heartwarming to see a return to the marches and demonstrations that were common during Vietnam. It is reassuring to note that people who oppose our government’s actions have not lost their will to be counted and desire to make their voices heard. It’s too bad those in power aren’t listening. It must be wonderful to feel that you are right no matter how strong the feelings are running against you. But whatever you do, Mister and Mrs. North America (and all the ships at sea), let’s go to the polls, and for God’s sake don’t let the Republicans trick, lie, Swift-Boat and bamboozle us into another four years of such highly autocratic leadership. I don’t think the country could stand it. I know I couldn’t. All indications are pointing to a dynamic Democratic sweep in the fall. Let us keep our fingers crossed. And pray. And VOTE! Or as Star Trek's Next Generation Captain Picard would say, “Make it so!”
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Well, as you can plainly see, things worked out just fine with the election. And on January 20th comes the liberation of a lifetime. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy

1 comment:

Ted said...

The consequences of the Supreme Court declining to address the US Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause on the morning of Monday 12/15/08 — thereafter enabling the College of Electors to transform the crisis from “law” to “political and Congressional”, leading to the ‘inauguration’ of Mr. Obama, are nothing less than catastrophic. Lawsuits by members of the military challenging his ‘commander in chief’ status are INEVITABLE. And a military takeover to oust the “usurper” may be inevitable as well. Where is the media? This is no “tin foil hat” joke.