Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks to the Giving....

Thanksgiving blessings!

A Nation of Dolts....

After eight years as the poster boy for gut-decision uninformed leadership by a man who called the Constitution "just a piece of paper,".... the incurious Decider's sorry legacy will be legions of like-minded dummies.

Proof of the decline of an educated U.S. populace was highlighted by Kathleen Parker in "Voters Fail the Test." (WaPo)

As Parker says, "So much for the wisdom of The People.

"A new report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) on the nation's civic literacy finds that most Americans are too ignorant to vote.

"Out of 2,500 American quiz-takers, including college students, elected officials and other randomly selected citizens, nearly 1,800 flunked a 33-question test on basic civics."

Here's the scary part.... "In fact, elected officials scored slightly lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent compared to 49 percent.

"Most bracing: Only 27 percent of elected officeholders in the survey could identify a right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment."

That's right, our leaders. You know, the ones deciding all things that affect our daily lives.

Really not surprising since we watched incredulously as John McCain's VP choice, Sarah Palin.... the governor of a state.... didn't know the duties of the next office she sought, the vice presidency of our country. She thought the Vice President "ran" the Senate.

Of those taking the test, "Forty-three percent didn't know what the Electoral College does. And 46 percent didn't know that the Constitution gives Congress power to declare war."

What's behind this dumbing down of America?

"The ISI found that passive activities, such as watching television (including TV news) and talking on the phone, diminish civic literacy."

What increases civic literacy?

"Actively pursuing information through print media and participating in high-level conversations -- even, potentially, blogging -- makes one smarter. "

That's right.... blogging! Bloggers personify the First Amendment.... you know, freedom of speech, freedom of the press.

Only a sorry 0.8 percent of all test-takers scored an 'A.'

Parker points out, "America's report card may come as little surprise to fans of Jay Leno's man-on-the-street interviews, which reveal that most people don't know diddly about doohickey. Still, it's disheartening in the wake of a populist-driven election celebrating joes-of-all-trades to be reminded that the voting public is dumber than ever."

Let's face it.... most of the economic trouble we are in has come about because people didn't understand the loan agreements they were signing, financial institutions didn't understand the far-reaching ramifications of their actions, and our government was unable to anticipate the severity of.... and appropriately regulate.... this financial house of cards.

It's hopeful that an intellectual Barack Obama prevailed over the McCain-Palin hillbilly-pandering roadshow. As The Decider would put it.... "Our children is learning!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Fear Itself....

From Bear Stearns to Citi Group our deer-caught-in-the-headlights Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been the Bush administration's frantic bailout fireman.... hosing down failing financial institutions before they burst into flames.... they hope.

Fireman Paulson answered the four-alarm only after Wall Street and financial institutions had partied during the Bush administration's unregulated anything-goes trickle-down orgy like Shriners at a Vegas convention.... and the whole country is suffering the hangover.

OK... that's the problem. So far, throwing money at the problem hasn't helped in any noticeable way. People are still losing their homes and jobs, the markets are still on life support and credit lines are still constipated.

What to do? Robert Samuelson opines today in "A 'Wealth Effect' In Reverse." (WaPo) "The 'wealth effect' refers to the tendency of people to adjust their spending as their wealth... concentrated heavily in housing and stocks... changes."

Samuelson points out, "... now the wealth effect is reversing. As stock and home values drop, Americans are scrambling to increase savings and curb spending. The plausible math is daunting. Since September 2007, Americans' personal wealth has dropped about $9 trillion, says economist Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight."

The reversal in fortunes has fostered more than long-overdue consumer prudence, it has fueled fear.... and fear is the sand in the cogs of the battered economy as it grinds to a near halt.

Overcoming fear is vital if we are to reverse this self-perpetuating plummet.... fear keeps consumers and investors immobilized in the meltdown headlights, unable.... or unwilling.... to take the steps necessary to avoid the collision.

As Samuelson says, "Americans are less upset by hardships they've experienced than by those they imagine."

It'll take more than bailout money to re-energize the economy.... in the coming months it will take nerves of steel and leaders who can instill confidence faster than a speeding bullet.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vilsack Wrong Tom

We were so sure. Who better than a former governor from not just any state, but ag Iowa whose caucus-goers planted Barack Obama's feet squarely on the path toward his field of dreams.

Everyone said so, even the Washington Post reported that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was a "near shoo-in" for Obama's cabinet position as Secretary of Agriculture.

Everyone said so that is, except Obama and now "Vilsack ends ag secretary speculation." (DMRegister) It isn't going to happen.

"Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack on Sunday said that he won't be the next agriculture secretary, ending speculation that an Iowan would snag the post important to a large swath of the state's economy. In an e-mail, Vilsack said he had never been contacted by aides to President-elect Barack Obama about that position or any other."

You can hear the air going out of the Iowan-in-the-Obama-cabinet balloon. Why not Vilsack? We may be able to answer that question only when we know who Obama settles on. But he's given us big clues.

Obama's 13-page policy position "Rural Leadership for Rural America" shows that Obama supports ensuring that "farm programs are strong and are targeted to support family farm farmers."

Part of that support is spelled out succinctly on his rural issues site. Obama will "implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers - not large corporate agribusiness," something Congress has not had the political will to accomplish on several tries.

So really, in light of Obama's policy positions on agriculture, Vilsack never had a chance. Vilsack never saw an agribusiness he didn't like, in fact he "has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto." (Grassroots) Vilsack had big ideas for agriculture tied to big agribusiness, not the family farmer.

Ag secretary is a key position in the cabinet with a portfolio ranging from overseeing food safety, the food stamp program, food distribution during disaster relief efforts, the U. S. Forestry Service and the food that is fed to our children in school to setting farm policy, national nutritional standards and food labeling.

Who is most likely to fill that bill and support the family farmer?

Perhaps Tom Buis who is currently the president of the National Farmers Union and has advocated for family farmers.

Prior to joining NFU Buis served for nearly five years as senior ag policy advisor to.... guess who.... Obama's close advisor and an early power-behind-the-movement strategist, South Dakota's former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who will serve in Obama's cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Buis was also special assistant for ag to U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), and before moving to Washington was a full-time grain and livestock farmer in Indiana. Buis currently also serves as a member of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers executive committee, an organization that represents more than 600 million international farm families.

Buis sounds like a much better fit for a family-farm friendly administration.

But one thing that seems certain.... this Thanksgiving insofar as ag secretary goes, Vilsack isn't the Tom on the short-list menu.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jindal"s "Fix" Is In

When it comes to Louisiana's GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal's attitude toward making the GOP relevant after their November drubbing, one is reminded of Peggy Lee's "Is that all there is, my friends?..... then let's keep dancing."

Jindal told an audience of 800 yesterday in West Des Moines at a fundraiser for the socially conservative Iowa Family Policy Center, " 'There are things we can do as private citizens working together to strengthen our society. Our focus does not need to be on fixing the (Republican) party,' he said. 'Our focus needs to be on how to fix America.' " (DM Register)

Oh noooooooo! The Republican party has been trying to "fix" America for eight years, and look where we are.... nowhere!

Worse than nowhere.... our creditors can still find us!

Jindal, please focus on fixing the GOP.... the country needs two viable parties.... haven't you noticed that the Republican party is stuck in reverse, mired in social crusades against gays, choice, privacy, and science.

The "focus" of the Iowa Family Policy Center is even narrower.... it is working for a marriage amendment to the Constitution aimed at gay marriage. They evidently think they can "fix" America and their own marriages by denying those rights to others.... promoting a "Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman."

With this kickoff tour, it's obvious to which base Jindal is going to pander in his 2012 presidential bid.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Will the GOP Evolve?

There is a battle being waged in Texas and within the GOP party.
The outcome of that battle will determine if they go forward toward the liberating cultural complexities and scientific advances of the 21st century. Or, if they will continue their backwards fall into the embrace of the suffocating superstitions of religious fundamentalism.

Case in point.

"State education panel hears evolution debate." (Dallas Morning News) "Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution grabbed center stage Wednesday as State Board of Education members heard from dozens of Texans trying to influence the panel on how evolution should be covered in science classes of the future.

"College professors, science teachers and pro-evolution groups urged the board to drop a rule that requires the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory to be taught in science courses, while conservative groups aligned with a sizable bloc of board members said the rule has worked well and hasn't forced religion into those classes as critics charge.

Of course, conservatives aren't fooling anyone. Their religious wolf under the cloak of "educational freedom" is trying to ambush impressionable hearts and minds.

The first vote on the issue by the state education board will be in January. At stake are the science guidelines for elementary and secondary schools and the materials used for state tests and textbooks. The guidelines would remain in place for a decade after their approval by the state board.

The state's most famous Texan, George "Is Our Children Learning?" Bush, has already weighed in on the debate. In 2005 he famously told reporters that he believes that intelligent design.... creationism repackaged.... should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories. (WaPo)

The report on Bush's remarks explains that "Much of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious -- especially Christian -- thinking to students.

".... Bush's remarks heartened conservatives who have been asking school boards and legislatures to teach students that there are gaps in evolutionary theory and explain that life's complexity is evidence of a guiding hand."

It isn't just the Texas education system at the crossroads, an increasingly marginalized GOP is trying to read the what-went-wrong tea leaves after their defeat in the last election.

As Kathleen Parker said in her recent editorial, "Giving Up on God," (WaPo)..... "the evangelical, right-wing, oogedly-boogedly branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue" to do so unless the GOP faces "the gorilla".... perhaps that should be monkey.... "in the room."

Parker diagnosis is, "Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party."

Texas, don't let it kill your educational excellence too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama Taking the Wheel

"The first step is half the longest journey."

In this case, the longest journey is back from the rusting gates at the junkyard of our economy if the U.S. automobile industry collapses.

The first small, but significant, step is "Rep. Dingell Loses Energy Post - Waxman to Head Key Panel; Change Is Blow to Automakers." (WaPo)

Why, you may ask, is this change a blow to automakers. Because in Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) they are losing from the House Energy and Commerce Committee chair their premier gas-gussler enabler to no-nonsense Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) fresh from the chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Waxman's victory signaled the rise of a younger, more environmentally conscious party eager to support the policies of President-elect Barack Obama. Waxman's supporters said his win probably would mean a smoother ride through Congress for Obama's energy agenda, which focuses on spending $150 billion on research for producing renewable fuels and 1 million new plug-in hybrid cars.

"Dingell, 82, who was first elected to represent his Dearborn-based district in 1954... has been chairman or ranking Democrat of the energy committee since 1981, at times feuding with fellow Democrats, including Waxman, over efforts to impose fuel-efficiency standards on cars."

Dingell kept the better-gas-mileage-brakes on for the the resistant, short-sighted Detroit manufacturers.

For the automakers who jetted into D.C., the hearings before Congress were a car wreck.

Eugene Robinson points out today in "Detroit: Get a Clue".... (WaPo) The Detroit CEOs "could have hitchhiked to Washington to beg for alms and they still would have been raked over the coals. But the fact that they came in their corporate jets was a bit much."

So the CEOs were sent home with a roadmap for reaching their $25 billion bridge.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) demanded of the jetsetters, "Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future... we cannot show them the money." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed: "We can only help if they (the automakers) are willing to help themselves." (WaPo) The plan is to be submitted to Congress on December 2.

Robinson suggested that "Richard Wagoner of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford should begin the inevitable cost-cutting by firing their public relations consultants.

"They left Capitol Hill empty-handed, but they're bound to get some kind of federal help, however grudging. In the end, I don't think either George W. Bush or Barack Obama wants to be remembered as the president who lost the auto industry."

Or needlessly lost millions of jobs in an unforgiving economy.

(It was just announced that GM is selling two of its private jets.)

All of these course corrections are just baby-steps tottering toward an uncertain future for the U.S. auto industry, an industry that is a critical keystone underpinning the rescue of the American economy.

The longest journey can be successful if it travels.... at last.... in the right direction.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Bailout for Blue Collars?

It's discouraging all the way around.

Discouraging that "Auto Execs Fly Corporate Jets to D.C., Tin Cups in Hand," (WaPo) thus confirming the impression that Detroit just doesn't get it.

Discouraging that lawmakers were taking gotcha shots at the auto executives because they flew in separate corporate jets to the hearings this week.... admittedly an ill-timed display of corporate excess for a trio of executives begging for an additional $25 billion from the public trough.... instead of focusing on the million jobs that would be lost if the companies were allowed to fail.

Discouraging that the news outlets then gleefully looped the committee's stick-it-to-them sound bites.... like Rep. Gary Ackerman's (D-NY) who needled, "There's a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands.... It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo. . "

Sis boom! Very clever. Lots of time taken up with precious cleverness. Time that would have been better spent trying salvage the situation. Pink slips can fly later.

Did we, the many imminent jobless, hear anything about the engineering already under way for more efficient "green" cars, or the renegotiated union contracts that will greatly reduce overhead costs to make the Detroit cars more competitive? No.... the media is more interested in the entertainment value of zingers delivered by camera-savvy legislators.

Let's admit up front that it appears that the Big Three CEOs are all probably a bunch of arrogant, over-paid and pampered executives.

So.... evidently the reasoning for many on The Hill goes.... let's throw a million people out of work, suffer hundreds of billions in lost wages (you know, the green stuff that buys things) and more billions in lost tax revenues because we don't like the cut of the jib of three pouty corporate peacocks.

Not to mention delivering a shock to our economy that will rip the Dutch boy's finger away from the already over-stressed economic dike.

Lawmakers, let's keep our eyes on the ball. Are you going to tell us that you whipped out the taxpayer checkbook for the white-collar crowd.... a blank $700-billion-plus check at that, with more goodies yet for "perky" AIG.... but will balk at using $25 billion of those bailout funds for the blue collars?

We're not looking for retribution here, or cutesy-pie finger pointing. Work with the auto execs, holding your nose if you must.... but save those jobs. In the big picture, it'll be the best bailout money spent so far in this whole sordid mess.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hillary: A Doppelganger or a Cuckoo?

Doppelganger: A ghostly counterpart of a living person. Cuckoo bird: Lays egg in another bird's nest, and when the cuckoo hatches it takes over the nest.

Thomas Friedman is pondering today in "Madam Secretary?" (NYTimes)

"My question: Is Obama considering Mrs. Clinton for this job in order to get her off his back or as a prelude to protecting her back?"

"That backing is the most important requirement for a secretary of state to be effective. Frankly, Obama could appoint his dear mother-in-law as secretary of state, and if he let the world know she was his envoy, she would be more effective than any ex-ambassador who had no relationship with the president.

"Our current president never cared about this, so neither of his secretaries of state were particularly effective. Rather than having Colin Powell’s back, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delighted in stabbing Powell in the back, particularly when he was on the road.

"But being close to the president is not enough. Condoleezza Rice had a close relationship with Bush, but Bush had no coherent worldview to animate her diplomacy, so all her travels added up to less than the sum of their miles...

"Foreign leaders can spot daylight between a president and a secretary of state from 1,000 miles away. They know when they’re talking to the secretary of state alone and when they are talking through the secretary of state to the president.....

"My question is whether a President Obama and a Secretary of State Clinton, given all that has gone down between them and their staffs, can have that kind of relationship, particularly with Mrs. Clinton always thinking four to eight years ahead, and the possibility that she may run again for the presidency. I just don’t know."

And don't forget just vain Bill. Bill Clinton famously said during his 1992 presidential campaign that with him you get "two for the price of one." But it's 2008, and Maureen Dowd opines that getting Hillary for Secretary of State means getting "Two for the Price of Two." (NY Times)

Dowd thinks the grumpy hubby will come around if Hillary becomes the Mistress of Foggy Bottom. "At least Bill has the satisfaction of seeing that he has roiled the previously serene and joyous Obamaland. It may be Obama’s very willingness to take the albatross of Bill from around Hillary’s neck and sling it around his own that impresses Bill.

"Obama is overlooking all his cherished dictums against drama and leaking and his lofty vetting standards to try and create a situation where the country can benefit from the talent of the Clintons while curbing their cheesy excesses, like their endless cash flow from foreigners."

But, there is a deep unease with many counting on real change, unconvinced that regardless of their current public posture of support for the Obama White House, the Billary will do only what is best for Billary.

And shadowing about the world as Obama's Doppelganger may not fit into Billary's long-term ambitions.

As Chuck Todd points out today in "First Read".... "HillaryLand seems to be making a concerted effort to start tamping down speculation about the secretary of state job. Reports from the New York Times and Politico are sparking the debate about whether she's 100% ready to make the leap from the Senate and 100% ready to give up politics for a while (at least while at State)...

"Today's Wall Street Journal and the AP confirm that the Obama folks are letting it be known that Bill Clinton is fully cooperating with the vet. So while the Hillary folks use the Times/Politico to signal reluctance, others are using the WSJ/AP to suggest that the momentum is still building for the Clinton appointment to happen."

And that is pure chaotic Clinton conundrum-making style.... fogging the question of a closet-cuckoo Hillary in Obama's cabinet nest in Shakespearean "to be, or not to be" fashion.

Hopefully, not.

Des Moines Holds Steady

Des Moines has high-fived lots of atta-boys lately. Earlier this year Forbes rated Des Moines metro 4th in the nation in their "Best Places for Business and Careers."

In May, Kiplinger issued a list of "Best Cities to Live, Work and Play" and Des Moines came in 9th on the list. Why? Here's what Kiplinger sees.... "Des Moines’s friendly, hometown atmosphere, top public schooling and affordable cost of living make it an ideal place to raise a family. But it also has big city amenities, including a growing arts scene with galleries, a symphony orchestra, a ballet and opera, trendy shops and an expanding skyscraper cityscape.

"The local economy is gaining momentum as well. Jobs will increase mainly in finance, insurance, government and manufacturing. About 60 insurance companies here make the city the third largest insurance center in the world.

"Housing is still affordable. The median price for a single-family home is just under $150,000. In the northwest suburbs, for example, a 2,100-square foot three-bedroom home will go for $165,000. For those seeking trendier accommodations, a one-bedroom condo in the downtown’s newly redeveloped Western Gateway neighborhood can fetch a price of under $130,000, while a 2,700-square foot, newly renovated Victorian home in the western suburbs can go for just under $330,000."

And the Des Moines housing market is still healthy, yet affordable, six months later even though the nation is experiencing a decline in housing prices. As The Des Moines Register reports this morning, "Des Moines bucks trend, sees increase in home prices."

"The Des Moines metropolitan area was one of 28 areas nationwide to see its median home sale prices climb in the third quarter, squeaking 1 percent higher to $155,400, a National Association of Realtors report showed on Tuesday."

Des Moines.... steady as she goes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iraq Corruption By "Western Standards"

Oh, this is rich.... "Premier of Iraq Is Quietly Firing Fraud Monitors" (NYTlimes)

"BAGHDAD — The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is systematically dismissing Iraqi oversight officials, who were installed to fight corruption in Iraqi ministries by order of the American occupation administration, which had hoped to bring Western standards of accountability to the notoriously opaque and graft-ridden bureaucracy here."

Western standards! Western standards! You mean like Wall Street robber barons who Ponzi-schemed trash loans, driving the world into a financial abyss? You mean like lobby-ridden D.C. with legislators on the take and worse.... like Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens convicted of 7 counts of fraud but still in office (for now). Those Western standards?

The Iraq crimes.... "One Iraqi former chief investigator recently testified before Congress that $13 billion in reconstruction funds from the United States had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste by Iraqi government officials."

This sounds like business as usual, Western standards.

After all, we gave our Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson $700 billion plus dollars to "rescue" our economy. It's estimated he has probably spent half of if, or about $350 billion. Why "estimated?" Because Paulson won't tell anyone how the money was allocated! Even Congress! Western standards.

"...Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads an independent oversight office in Washington, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and who is currently working in Iraq, said he knew of six of the dismissals. He said the inspectors general were vulnerable because once their offices were created, the United States provided little support and training for what was a startling concept for the bureaucracy, which was shaped by the secrecy and corruption of the Saddam Hussein era."

Look, why is anyone surprised that the Bush administration provided little support and training, they can't govern here. After legislating strict oversight for the $700+ billion bailout, that oversight was never made operational.

Secrecy?... you mean like the way Undisclosed Location Cheney and Executive Privilege Bush operate?

Really, what can we expect unless we set the example? Let's just quit throwing good money after bad in Iraq.... let's no longer "occupy" ourselves with their corruption of our billions and concentrate on cleaning up our own act.

No more U.S.-made Baghdad billionaires! Bring our troops home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A $25 Billion Bridge to Somewhere

While "let's party" AIG and trash-loan banks wallow in a promised $700 billion of bailout taxbucks, there is a big debate in D.C. on whether or not to use $25 billion of that bailout to rescue the manufacturing backbone of our country, the auto industry's Big 3.

As Jeffrey D. Sachs explains in "A Bridge for the Carmakers - The Future Is in Sight. They Just Need Help Getting There" (WaPo) "We face an unprecedented financial calamity, energy crisis and environmental threat. A vibrant, growing U.S. automobile industry should play an essential role in solving all three. The technologies that will win the day are in sight; industry has already made important advances. A partnership with government is vital and should begin this week."

And not only that.... if Washington doesn't take action, the second big "D" could be the legacy of George W. Hoover. Sachs warns "...the sudden closure of an automaker would be catastrophic, possibly pushing our economy from recession to depression. Because of the impact on parts suppliers, the shutdown of one company would imperil domestic production across the board, and the jobs at risk include not only the 1 million in vehicle assembly and parts but millions more that would be caught in the resulting cascade of failures. The industrial Midwest -- especially Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee -- would be devastated, and the shock waves would reverberate across the world."

This isn't the time for faux-conservative ideology or petulant pay-back for the auto industry's past myopic performance.... this is the time for bold action. This week could be the start.... or the end.... of the rest of our financial lives.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Bar" Boyle and His Ilk

This is a massive failure of competence, oversight and just plain humanity.... "Gangrene, death follow stay at facility." (DMRegister)

Ruth Louden is a victim of the "system."

"A year ago, Louden was in good spirits and good health. Twice widowed, she lived alone in an immaculately maintained Grinnell apartment where she liked to crochet. She had recently renewed her driver's license and had just returned from a trip to California, where she traveled by herself to visit her daughter. A lifelong Iowan and a graduate of the Music Conservatory at the University of Dubuque, Louden played the piano on a regular basis - and usually from memory

"While at her apartment on Feb. 16, Louden fell, fracturing a bone in her left ankle. Her doctors didn't think a cast was necessary, but they put her leg in a brace and a medical stocking and sent her to Grinnell's Friendship Manor nursing home for short-term therapy."

And then.... "Louden's doctors allegedly gave Friendship Manor written orders to monitor the circulation in her leg and to check her skin every shift for any signs of swelling or redness.

"Over the next four weeks, Louden complained to the staff of 'horrible' and 'excruciating' pain, state inspectors later alleged. During that time, inspectors say, Friendship Manor staff gave Louden pain medication but never evaluated the cause of her pain or pulled back the stocking to examine her leg.

"On March 20, a physical therapy aide at Friendship Manor noticed Louden's leg smelled like 'rotting meat.' She also noticed blood seeping through the stocking.

"Louden was rushed to a local hospital where an emergency room physician noted the smell of 'rotting flesh.' A wound dressing that had been applied at the hospital four weeks earlier appeared untouched, as if it never had been changed at Friendship Manor, inspectors said.

"Louden was diagnosed with gangrene."

It need never have happened at all.... "One of her doctors later told state inspectors the situation was 'very upsetting' because the bone fracture that had resulted in Louden going to Friendship Manor was almost 'nonexistent.' The amputation, he said, was avoidable.

"According to the inspectors, workers at Friendship Manor acknowledged that during Ruth's 25-day stay, they never removed the stocking to check the condition of her leg. She was never examined by a physician while at the home."

The action taken.... "At the recommendation of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, federal officials fined Friendship Manor's owners $4,050 for each of the 25 days Louden was at the home. They also imposed a $150 per day fine for the 76 days the home needed to correct other alleged problems. Those fines totaled $112,650."

Who is responsible? "Friendship Manor is owned and managed by two for-profit companies based in South Dakota. The president of both companies is Tim Boyle, a real estate developer.

"Boyle did not respond to several requests for an interview. State records indicate he is appealing the fine.

"Boyle has complained to his congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., arguing that Friendship Manor was under doctors' orders to keep the stocking on Louden's leg. The doctors told state inspectors they expected the facility's staff to understand that temporarily removing the stocking would be necessary to conduct the physician-ordered skin checks."

Lots of finger pointing. But on the most basic level, why did no one try to get to the root of Louden's suffering?... tell her doctors of her "horrible, excruciating pain."

The negligent, absentee for-profit nursing home owners are bringing out the big guns.... lobbyists.

"Around the same time Boyle was complaining to Congress, the industry lobbying organization he heads began scheduling meetings with Iowa state lawmakers.

"The Iowa Healthcare Association, with Boyle as board president, is now telling legislators that the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is too aggressive in its enforcement of health and safety regulations.

"In one of the written presentations for legislators, the association says the inspections department is 'flogging' nursing homes and blocking seniors' access to health care, in part by imposing huge fines against the owners and prohibiting new admissions until care problems are addressed."

Listen up lawmakers.... maybe Boyle is right. Maybe large fines aren't the answer. How about a little prison time for these negligent elder-abusers?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lame Duck Dines on Quail

The world economy is in meltdown mode. People are losing jobs, homes, life savings, pensions and more. The backbone of the U.S. economy, the automobile manufacturer's Big 3, are tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, bankruptcies whose shock waves would ripple out to millions of households.

So, last night visiting heads of state of 20 countries met at the White House for a dinner held on the eve of a financial summit prompted by global economic distress. There was a "Full Plate at White House for G20: Economic Talk and Quail." (WaPo)

And quail? Is this a meeting of AIG bailout-billionaires?

No, it's a meeting of twenty world leaders, representing 90% of the world economy, meeting to discuss "global economic distress," who at their "working dinner" are dining on, among other delicacies: "... fruitwood-smoked quail, thyme-roasted rack of lamb and baked Vermont brie with walnut crostini, along with three wines."

The theme of the meeting is "Let Them Eat Cake."

These heads of state who allowed or fostered the deregulated "globalization" of the world economy have no shame. Especially the host, The Decider, who will happily dine on lame-duck until he dumps his eight years of garbage on Barack Obama on January 20.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Facing Down GOP's Devils

The GOP is at a crossroads. Will they take the social conservative route to please the religious right and Paliniacs, or a more moderate road with a bigger tent than social policy and anti-intellectualism.

Christine Todd Whitman, who headed Bush's EPA from 2001 to 2003 and is currently co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council, wades into the debate in "Free the GOP - The Party Won't Win Back the Middle as Long As It's Hostage to Social Fundamentalists" (WaPo)

It's not the first time Whitman has been the canary in the coal mine. After the 2004 election Whitman published, "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America," which she co-authored with this article's co-author, Robert Bostock.

Whitman says of that 2004 book...."Our central thesis was simple: The Republican Party had been taken hostage by 'social fundamentalists,' the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Unless the GOP freed itself from their grip, we argued, it would so alienate itself from the broad center of the American electorate that it would become increasingly marginalized and find itself out of power."

It's 2008, and the GOP is out of power.

The GOP ignored Whitman's fading canary call as John McCain allowed himself to become co-opted by Bush/Rove social fundamentalists and upstaged by their Vacuous Valkyrie, Sarah Palin.

The new sell-out McCain.... as opposed to the mythical 2000 maverick.... didn't attract moderates, and so he lost even though his percentage of "value voters" increased. As Whitman explains, "McCain actually won more votes from self-identified white evangelical/born-again voters than Bush did four years ago -- 1.8 million more. But that was not enough to offset the loss of so many moderates."

As for Palin's value to the ticket, Whitman calls it as she see it, "Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moment's notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party's consent."

Whitman accuses the GOP of suffering from a political Stockholm syndrome, "In the wake of the Democrats' landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldn't support him.

"They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate. This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don't find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders
"Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It's long past time for the GOP to do the same."

There may be a glimmer of hope for those who identify with Whitman's clarion call for the Republican party to flee their social conservative captors. It comes from GOP governors who are holding a summit in Miami.... though McCain's Trophy Vice must have thought she was still in Alaska.... "Sarah Palin gets cold reception in Sunshine State GOP gathering" (NYDailyNews)

It was clear that the state governors thought it was grown-up time, a time to address substantive issues. As once-considered-for-VP Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota pointedly said, " 'Drill, baby, drill!' by itself is not an energy policy" referring to the chant that became a staple of Palin's rallies - the target of his tweak was clear."

Social fundamentalists take no prisoners, give no ground. The question remains... can the GOP be deprogrammed? Possibly, with a soul-searching intervention by determined moderate voices in the GOP. But it will be an ugly exorcism.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bailing Out the Bailout

Congress gave the Bush administration the power to go to war in Iraq if all else failed.... with a misleading MWD scare. The Bush neocons snatched up that power and ran with it, right into a mismanaged wall.

That was the first "big time" Bush White House policy disaster.

Fast forward to September 2008 and the second "big time" disaster.... the collapse of the U.S. financial and housing markets.

Congress once again trusted the Bush administration with $700 billion plus to "manage" the collapse. The Bush Treasury snatched up that money and ran with it, right into a mismanaged wall.

The headline says it all... "Bailout Lacks Oversight Despite Billions Pledged - Watchdog Panel Is Empty; Report Is Unfinished" (WaPo)

The alarming news is that "In the six weeks since lawmakers approved the Treasury's massive bailout of financial firms, the government has poured money into the country's largest banks, recruited smaller banks into the program and repeatedly widened its scope to cover yet other types of businesses, from insurers to consumer lenders.

"Along the way, the Bush administration has committed $290 billion of the $700 billion rescue package.

"Yet for all this activity, no formal action has been taken to fill the independent oversight posts established by Congress when it approved the bailout to prevent corruption and government waste. Nor has the first monitoring report required by lawmakers been completed, though the initial deadline has passed."

What happened? "In approving the rescue package, lawmakers trumpeted provisions in the legislation that established layers of independent scrutiny, including a special inspector general to be nominated by the White House and a congressional oversight panel to be named by lawmakers themselves."

This rudderless bailout of taxpayer gold is drifting toward the shoals without a captain, or a crew.

Will it help that the bailout legislation provided for a Financial Stability Oversight Board "whose five members include Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke?" Hardly, "it has no staff of its own, and few expect that policymakers can conduct oversight of themselves. 'It's sort of a joke in terms of oversight,' a congressional aide said.

So, where are we? Yesterday a panicky Treasury Secretary Paulson addressed the nation.... "Treasury Redefines Its Rescue Program - Plan to Buy Distressed Assets Is Abandoned In Favor of Aid to Loosen Consumer Credit" (WaPo)

Paulson announced a series of moves that redefine the federal government's $700 billion rescue plan for the financial industry "in order to tackle what he called a dire situation in the consumer credit markets.

"In recasting the program, the Treasury no longer plans to buy troubled assets from financial firms, the idea initially presented to the country, but instead will offer aid to banks and other firms that issue student, auto and credit card loans in part by jump-starting the market that provides financing for these companies."

This latest reversal of Congressional intent evidently took The Hill by surprise.... it's stunning that they still trust, that they can still be surprised by The Decider's maladministration. It's clear that Bush has already mentally moved on to his Texas rocking chair, Paulson is the poster boy for the Peter Principle, and the Obama calvary is charging ahead but they're still in transition limbo-land.

The tourniquet needed to stop the financial hemorrhaging is public confidence in government and jobs. The administration's entire unaccountable bungling approach has made the situation worse.... consumer confidence is in the dumper.

Now it's a race to see if the economy can be kept on life support until it reaches the Obama emergency room on January 20.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jindal Jumps the 2012 Gun

A very troubling news brief this morning.... "Louisiana: Killing at K.K.K. Initiation." (NYTimes) An Oklahoma woman was killed at a Ku Klux Klan camp site after she tried to leave the initiation ritual. Her body was found about 60 miles north of New Orleans.

Also troubling is The Progress Report's update on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina issued August 29... "Three Years Later." It found that in Louisiana massive problems resulting from the hurricane remain, including "significant debris management issues," and "a cleanup fraught with environmental issues." New Orleans still has a far greater proportion of vacant homes than any other city in the country, with "more than one in three residential addresses vacant or unoccupied."

As of March, "only 13% of the $1.6 billion in the state's emergency community development block grant funds had benefited lower-income victims." And, the levees still aren't up to snuff.... threatening to "make New Orleans the scene of another devastating flood."

All of this in the light of.... "Here we go again: Huckabee, Jindal visit." (DM Register) "...two high-profile Republicans will visit Iowa amid speculation that they will seek the GOP 2012 presidential nomination.... On Nov. 22, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will visit Cedar Rapids and West Des Moines to speak at several events."

Perhaps Jindal needs to spend more time in his own back yard.

Solid First Steps....

This is change we can believe in.... "Obama Transition Announces Rules for Lobbyists in Transition" (

On Tuesday Barack Obama Transition Co-Chair John Podesta announced the strictest, and most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.

The rules include the policy that if someone has lobbied in the last 12 months, they are prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied.

Even after the transition.... if someone becomes a lobbyist they are prohibited from lobbying the administration for 12 months on matters on which they worked.

And, a gift ban that is aggressive in reducing the influence of special interests.

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution said of Obama's lobbyist rules, "The ethical guidelines released today for the Obama transition are tough and unequivocal. They will prevent some honorable people with rich experience from serving in the transition. That is a real cost but it is more than balanced by the strong signal sent by the President-elect. He aspires to attract to government able individuals whose highest priority is to serve the public interest. This is a very constructive step in that direction."

As part of the transition, "Agency Reviews Start Monday." (WaPo) Monday Obama transition team members will start arriving at offices to start reviewing over 100 departments, agencies and commissions of the United States according to Podesta.

The former White House chief of staff said the agency review teams "will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete their confirmation process, lead their departments and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they're sworn in.”

In a demonstration of unprecedented transition transparency, Podesta said his team will publicly release the names of every person on the agency review teams and those that will enter the agencies for review.

This, fellow Americans, is what it means to "hit the ground running" next January 20. Aren't you feeling better by the moment....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let the Wandering Begin....

Rep. Roy Blunt has stepped down as House Minority Whip after a mixed decade in GOP leadership. Summing up his move, Blunt wearily noted that "Ten years of asking people to do things they don't want to do is a long time." (WaPo)

Of course that is the job of a whip, to whip the troops into line. But what if that line is hard to find, let alone defend? In a what-happened-to-my-party statement, a chagrined Blunt charged, "Republicans need to stand on their principles in the years ahead."

Too bad he didn't take that stand.

Blunt cut his House leadership teeth under the Velvet Hammer, Tom Delay, in the heydays of GOP power. In January 1999 powerful House Majority Whip Delay elected Missouri representative Blunt as his chief deputy. Then in 2005, after rising to the position of House Majority Leader, a corrupt Delay was forced to step down as Leader after being indicted by a Texas grand jury.

The handwriting should have been on the wall for an overreaching GOP House whose members had only a nodding acquaintance with their touted conservative principles of less spending and smaller government.... both of which they abandoned in a power-grabbing spending spree that turned the voters off, and them out in 2006.
So today, after the party's second decimating election, Blunt announced that he would step down from the position of Minority Whip, allowing his own chief deputy, Rep Eric Cantor (R-Va.), to ascend to the Whip post.

Blunt's departure from Republican leadership severs one of the last remaining connections between the GOP's pinnacle of power in the House and its current predicament. Listen up Democratic Congress.... there is a powerful lesson here!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Out: Bluster In: Brains

Among the most pressing unresolved issues facing president-elect Barack Obama are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he, and the nation, can celebrate the GOP-fostered conflict in which he emerged victorious.... "Obama and the War on Brains."

As Nicholas Kristof exults, "Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual."

For eight years the country suffered through an incurious George, who as Kristof explains, "adopted anti-intellectualism as administration policy, repeatedly rejecting expertise (from Middle East experts, climate scientists and reproductive health specialists). Mr. Bush is smart in the sense of remembering facts and faces, yet I can’t think of anybody I’ve ever interviewed who appeared so uninterested in ideas."

We can all name a "is our children learning" Bushism. George relished his lackadaisical education, bragged that he didn't read newspapers and squirmed if his briefings exceeded five minutes.

The antithesis of an intellectual, Bush stubbornly held to his narrow ideology.... perhaps afraid that if challenged his intellect would be unable to assimilate new facts, ideas or complexity.... his was "my way or the highway."

As the country labored under The Decider's "stay the course" governance they increasingly rejected his intellectual superficiality. As Kristof says, "leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity."

Happily, with the election of Obama, intellectualism is in, and dopey unlettered mediocrity is out. Are you paying attention, Sarah?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It's Not the Impossible Dream!

The people of the United States have spoken, and with their election of Barack Obama as their next president have renewed the world's faith in the American ideal.

What is it that the world is hoping will be the first things that Barack Obama does?.... close Guantanamo Bay prison, fix the domestic economy (a tall order), and "approach the world with respect." (WaPo)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Orphan Annie" Palin

Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

But in this case, Sarah Palin may have earned the role of the failed McCain campaign's Orphan Annie.

Not to pile on, but the nation needs to know how close it came to electing this cartoon-of-a-candidate as the president-in-waiting.

Thanks to Newsweek's release of the highlights of their Special Election Report, we now know that Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent, couldn't name the U.S., Canada and Mexico as the countries in NAFTA... in short there was great concern within the McCain campaign that Palin lacked "a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency." (HuffingtonPost)

Of course, we must halt right here. Just why didn't the campaign know she was borderline ignorant about matters of national import? But that is another story. This one is about orphan Sarah.

The $150,000 spending spree on clothes?.... it was Sarah who spent the money, and it was much more than reported. One campaign aide characterized it as , "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast."

Newsweek learned that "...Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent 'tens of thousands' more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband."

The embarrassing interview with Katie Couric?.... her staff wanted to prep her but she refused, and then when she bombed she turned on them. She read all her press clippings, throwing "tantrums" over the more critical ones.

"Palin was apparently a nightmare for her campaign staff to deal with. She refused preparation help for her interview with Katie Couric and then blamed her staff, specifically Nicole Wallace, when the interview was panned as a disaster. After the Couric interview, Fox News reported, Palin turned nasty with her staff and began to accuse them of mishandling her. Palin would view press clippings of herself in the morning and throw 'tantrums' over the negative coverage. There were times when she would be so nasty and angry that her staff was reduced to tears." (HuffingtonPost)

It was reported that "McCain himself rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign." So he was evidently worse than surprised when "Palin launched her attack on Obama's association with William Ayers before the campaign had finalized a plan to raise the issue. McCain's advisers were working on a strategy that they hoped to unveil the following week, but McCain had not signed off on it, and top adviser Mark Salter was resisting." (HuffingtonPost)

So, is this just campaign-insider sour grapes from the losing McCain camp? Anyone who watched Palin's pathetic Couric interview knows better. Palin, perhaps deservedly, is the perfect orphan of McCain's failure.

But unlike Orphan Annie, Palin seems to be permanently separated from Daddy Warbucks McCain. As for the country.... leapin' lizards, that was a close one!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New Spirit.....

"This is a defining moment.... change has come to America." President-elect Barack Obama, November 4, 2008.

A change away from a divisive, oppressive trickle-down government to inclusive leadership that will strive to fulfill Lincoln's promise.... "of the people, by the people and for the people."

And the walls came tumbling down.... the dismantling of that wall started in Iowa.

It's possible that without Iowa, where Obama won the first-in-the-nation caucus last January, the moment might have been missed, and the country would have continued down the "bring it on" path instead of leading the way to "Yes We Can."

The election of Obama shows that, in his own words.... "the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

Yesterday "we the people" chose Obama, a uniquely gifted man of vision, intellect, will and judgment, to lead us out of our national nightmare, newborn into a world of possibilities where we'll no longer need to bemoan..... "What happened to my country?"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Last Dance.... Vote!

"It began in Iowa.... Now, U.S. decides." (DMRegister)

It was a whirlwind of anticipation, excitement and finally exhaustion for Iowans.... their 2008 first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

John McCain treated the Iowa caucuses like the wallflower at the nominating prom, and saved his dances for the flashier primaries.

More than a year ago, McCain slashed his Iowa caucus campaign staff and blew off the Ames Republican straw poll in August. He finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses this January.... but cornered the GOP nomination.

When he returned to Iowa, McCain bragged about voting against the farm bill, and he never warmed to ethanol.

But now McCain is courting his Iowa wallflower.... he needs Iowa's electoral college delegates.

"I'm going to give you a little straight talk today and one of them is, as you know, we need to win Iowa," McCain said in Cedar Falls last week.

But McCain's wooing seems too little too late. Iowa voters know that it was Barack Obama who courted Iowa, built a strong organization, inspired first-time voters, reached across lines of division and won the caucuses.... eclipsing the preordained prom Queen, Hillary Clinton.

And Obama returned to Iowa to thank the voters when he secured the nomination.

Obama's win in Iowa not only put him on the road to the Democratic nomination, but as he told Iowans at a rally in Des Moines this week, "it vindicated my faith in the American people".... a faith that looked past the color of his skin to measure the content of his character.

Eugene Robinson, a black columnist for the Washington Post, said it best today in "A New Kind of Pride" .... "an amazing thing happened. In the Iowa caucuses, white Americans voted for the black guy. That's the moment Obama was referring to when he said his faith in the American people was vindicated....

"Even if John McCain somehow prevails, that won't change the fact that Obama won all those primaries, or that he won the Democratic Party nomination, or that he raised more money than any candidate in history, or that he rewrote the book on how to run a presidential campaign. Nothing can change the fact that so many white Americans entrusted a black American with their hopes and dreams.

"We can all have a new kind of pride in our country."



Monday, November 03, 2008

Iowa's Turning Blue!

The headline: "New Iowa Poll: Obama widens lead over McCain." (DMRegister)

The gap: Obama 54% - McCain 37%

The deal breaker: "Best able to fix U.S. economy:" Obama 51% - McCain 39%. And, 58% of likely voters saw this as the most important trait in the candidates.

McCain's strong suit is national security, the question was who "can best keep America secure:" Obama 47% - McCain 45%.

Fair play? Who "has run the least negative campaign:" Obama 57% - McCain 21%.

Looking toward the future, who "will be the most successful in unifying the country:" Obama 59% - McCain 33%.

So.... will McCain's desperate ads drudging up Rev. Wright, or accusing Obama of being a socialist, or the scare-tactic robo calls turn the tide against Obama. Seems like they are having the opposite effect, although the Rovian dirty tricks worked in 2000 and 2004.

But this time, in 2008, looking at the shambles the Bush White House has made of the country's economy and foreign policy.... Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, ouch! Fool us three times, no way!!

Don't let the polls lull you into complacency.... you still must VOTE. It really matters!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

We Thought We Knew Him

Just who is Sen. John McCain?

As Maureen Down asks today in "Who's the Question Mark?" (NYTimes).... "In the final moments of the most gripping campaign in modern history, John McCain is still trying to costume Barack Obama as a dangerous enigma.

"But, in an odd and remarkable reversal, it is McCain who is the enigma, even though he entered the race with one of the best brands in American politics."

Dowd notes that "The McCain campaign specializes in erratica, while the Obama campaign continues to avoid any dramatica."

So just how was it that the man who was one of the most knowable politicians in America..... the Straight-Talking maverick Senator who made the press swoon.... morphed into a political alien? A crooked-talking Bushie insider spouting inanities such as "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."?

Dowd says it was when McCain hired replacement campaign manager Steve Schmidt last summer. Schmidt shackled McCain, "turning the vibrant and respected McCain into a shell of his former self.

"Schmidt abruptly cut off the oxygen supply to McCain's brain" and he became the question mark of the campaign, Dowd opines. The social McCain become "whiny, angry, vengeful and bitter."

Campaign tactics became a see-what-sticks-to-the-wall game of murky constantly-shifting policies and Obama character assassination-by-association.

McCain, like W, likes to depend on his gut for decisions, the most rumbling of which was the selection of Palin the Unpalatable.

For Dowd the "ultimate riddle is this: Why doesn't McCain question why he has become a question mark?"

Like much of the press, Dowd may have a McCain blind spot. She may not want to see that McCain allowed himself to be shackled. That he bought into the Rovian spinmeisters schemes.

And that the relentless spotlight of a fiercely-contested long campaign season exposed the very empty character-vessel beneath McCain's well-crafted public facade.

Vote. It really matters!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Days Dwindle Down....

Imagine Sinatra crooning.... "and the days dwindle down to a precious few.... September, November.... "

Take comfort, it's almost over.

Next Tuesday will end the phony "My friends," the brassy "You betchas" .... and Webster can quit spinning as word-bludgeons such as "elite" and "maverick" recede back to their actual meaning, not gimmicky soundbites.

The Decider governed by soundbites.

He justified his Iraq crusade because of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" under the banner of "freedom on the march," and then "Mission Accomplished."

Then, when it wasn't accomplished, those who wanted to end the war wouldn't "stay the course," wanted to "cut and run," wanted to "lose" in Iraq, were unpatriotic, didn't support the troops.... and on and on.

It should have been abundantly clear by 2004 that we were a duped nation being led by a sloganeering unfit dunce of a president. We winced when he fractured the English language.... "Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?."

But this Freudian slip should have sent cold chills when The Decider uttered during his re-election campaign.... "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

You can't say we weren't warned.

The "new way" was the trickle-down-enabled mushrooming debt and financial meltdown that has brought the country to the brink.

And, now the 72-year-old-Senator McSame, who voted with The Decider over 90 percent of the time, and bragged that he supported Bush on all his major initiatives, is trying his best to extend the Bush years by feeding misinformation and downright lies to the electorate.

Not able to defeat him on the field of ideas, McSame has waged a by-association smear and distortion campaign against Barack Obama.... not stopping at character innuendos implying Obama is unAmerican, a pal of terrorists, a socialist, and not-like-us in "real America."

McCain named a journalism-media major, fast-talking Annie Oakley wanna-be as his sidekick. Why? Because Silly Sarah was qualified? Not even close. Because she could deliver the far-right base and the lines fed to her by McSame's hired Rovian guns.

We can shed this shallow, Bush/McCain propagandizing cabal. So, as the days dwindle down to a precious few....

Vote. It really matters!