Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January 2009... End of an Error


This is the last day of the year 2008. A year when the effects from the missteps, failures and duplicities of the tumultuous eight years of the Bush administration came home to roost. Or, should we say, were flung at him.

As Bob Herbert laments today in "Add Up the Damage" (NYTimes).... "This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guant├ínamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job."

The invasion of Iraq is a good example of the wrecking ball the White House mafia took to our country. Herbert reflects on the devastation.... "The Bush administration specialized in deceit. How else could you get the public (and a feckless Congress) to go along with an invasion of Iraq as an absolutely essential response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when Iraq had had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?

"Exploiting the public’s understandable fears, Mr. Bush made it sound as if Iraq was about to nuke us: 'We cannot wait,' he said, 'for the final proof — the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.'

"He then set the blaze that has continued to rage for nearly six years, consuming more than 4,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.... The financial cost to the U.S. will eventually reach $3 trillion or more, according to the Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz."

So just how does The Decider view this sorry Iraq-war chapter in his catalog of horrors?

"A year into the war Mr. Bush was cracking jokes about it at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association. He displayed a series of photos that showed him searching the Oval Office, peering behind curtains and looking under the furniture. A mock caption had Mr. Bush saying: 'Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.' ”

Couldn't you just die laughing.

Now The Decider is trying to tidy up the record of his apocalyptic reign by rewriting history. But, we were given a more accurate image to remember him by in the form of a size 10. No, not the measurements of his ego-inflated all-hat-and-no-cattle Stetson, but the shoes of an irate reporter flung at his head during his recent legacy-burnishing trip to Iraq.

For a Bush legacy summation after eight years of pent-up frustrations, for a you-deserve-no-breaks-today job evaluation.... on the your-place-in-history scale of 1 to 10, this shoe-fly moment was a ten plus.

On January 22 Barack Obama will right the national course and restore the forward momentum our nation enjoyed before we were so rudely interrupted.

That most of all is why we celebrate the arrival of 2009, a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Some the Superficial Runs Very Deep....

Sometimes when you're least expecting it you are gifted with a "wow" moment.

Today's "wow" moment erupted on MSNBC's early show "Morning Joe" hosted by Joe Scarborough with sidekick Mika Brzezinski.

From time to time Mika is able to lure her father Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski onto the show to share his foreign policy wisdom. Today, as all too often happens, arrogant Joe thinks he knows it all and uses his best "final word" pushy attitude to talk down views differing from his own and started down that path with Dr. Z.

But..... today, Dr. Z turned the tables and delivered a jolt to Jivin' Joe. He interrupted Joe in mid-spout after Joe flatly stated about the current dangerous Israel-Hamas escalation of the Palestine conflict.... "you cannot blame what's going on in Israel on the Bush administration."

Unable to bear Joe's sound-bite-analysis any longer, an exasperated Dr. Z stopped Joe in his tracks and face-to-face charged him of having "such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on, it is almost embarrassing to listen to you."

Wow!!!

Mika, as evidently is her assigned task, did her squirming best to restrain Joe's typical slash and burn response.... even throwing her father under the bus by explaining to the obviously ego-bruised Joe that her father's "stunning" comments would pass for affection in their family. For shame Mika. What price honor?

The Morning Joe show has great guests, but Joe needs to drop the rude "Imus wanna-be" routine. He can't pull it off and despite Mika's best efforts, too many times he boringly makes himself and his talking-point world view the story, taking time away from the truly interesting and knowledgeable opinions being offered by real experts.

Here is the video of this "wow" encounter.

Thanks for the upper, Dr. Z.... we needed that! Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

GOP Senators: Put USA First

What are the GOP Senators thinking? "Auto Bailout Clears House but Faces Hurdles in Senate." (WaPo)

"The House last night approved an emergency plan to prevent the collapse of the nation's domestic automobile industry, but the measure faces serious opposition in the Senate, where Republicans are revolting against a White House-brokered deal to speed $14 billion to cash-starved General Motors and Chrysler."

After giving white-collar financial types over a trillion dollars.... with barely a string attached.... to bail them out of the fix we're in largely because of their reckless lending and "bundling" practices, Republican senators.... especially southern senators who are protecting their foreign-owned local auto manufacturers.... are threatening to risk all to "stand on principle" and reject a comparatively paltry $14 billion bridge-loan to the blue-collar Big Three.

Risking all means.... bankruptcies that would throw up to 3 million out of work and possibly turn a deep recession into a 1930s depression!

Already rocketing unemployment makes such a denial of financial help an even more death-defying act.... "New Unemployment Claims Surge Unexpectedly." (Huffington)

"The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial applications for jobless benefits in the week ending Dec. 6 rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 515,000 in the previous week.

"New jobless claims last week reached their highest level since November 1982...."

And the GOP wants to play Russian Roulette with millions of jobs. It's time to forget mindless ideology and narrow lobbying interests.... it's time to vote for America. Pass the auto financial aid bill!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blag the Extorter

Just follow your nose. It's not like Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich didn't already exude the stink of corruption.

In April of this year, a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that at least three of every four $25,000 donors to Boss Blag got something from the administration.... including jobs, contracts or favorable regulatory rulings.

A month later Illinois lawmakers passed an ethics reform bill targeted directly at Blagojevich and his record-setting efforts to collect campaign contributions from state contractors.

The effect of this legislation .... it kicked Boss Blag's arm-twisting into high gear.... "with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target," according to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The end of July The Tribune reported that in the month since lawmakers passed the ethics bill, the governor ramped up his efforts by collecting more than a quarter of a million dollars from those with business before the state.

Besides using his office in an effort to trample the Tribune's editorial voices of criticism, Boss Blag thumbed his nose at the state's attempts to reign him in .... toward the end of August he vetoed the ethics bill saying he wants it to be tougher and to include lawmakers as well as himself.

Undoubtedly Boss Blag knew he was being bugged and taped.... but he must have thought he was the windy city's Tony Soprano..... too smart for the Feds, using his "organization" to make crime pay, big time.

His big take would be the selling of the U.S. Senate seat vacated by president-elect Barack Obama. By Illinois law, as governor, Boss Blag is the only person who can name Obama's replacement.

Note to Illinois lawmakers: You couldn't see this situation developing? You were happy to just let this extortionist name your one of two U.S. Senators for Illinois?

Yesterday.... federal prosecutor Fitzgerald of Scooter Libby investigation fame made Boss Blag and his chief of graft, John Harris, do the perp walk, arresting them on corruption charges.

Yet......

Despite Fitzgerald saying that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," hours after his arrest Boss Blag was out of jail on his own recognizance.... on a $4,500 bond.... chump change to Boss Blag. (ABC)

Today he's back in the governor's office and as of this writing still has the sole power to appoint Obama's replacement.

Even though according to the Tribune timeline, the "federal criminal investigation" of Boss Blag began in June of 2004, an investigation of what has been labeled as a political crime spree, he was, and still is, allowed to continue to abuse the considerable power of his office.

We need to hear much more.....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Crawford Crawl

Here's a little ditty to set your foot to tappin', and your spirits soaring. Listen here to.... "Crawl Back to Crawford" (YouTube) by Matt Farmer, performed by the Blue State Cowboys:

CRAWL BACK TO CRAWFORD

VERSE
Well, for eight long years
We've been payin' your rent
But now your lease done run
And all our money's been spent
So pack up your bags and take a last look around
At how you drove a great nation straight into the ground

CHORUS
And don't let the door
Hit you in the ass on the way out
Don't bother with the goodbyes
Just make sure that you stay out
There ain't no need to call
No need to write
We don't even need you to turn out the light
Just crawl back to Crawford, brother
Promise that you'll leave us alone

VERSE
Every step of the way, your story's been the same
Just cruisin' through the world
On your daddy's name
You had the oilmen friends
You had the Skull and Bones
But it never would have happened if your name was Jones

BRIDGE
Slam dunk, privatize, deregulate
Tax cuts, trickle down
The politics of hate
Flag pin, waterboard
Intelligent design
You were handed your throne by just five of the nine.

Thanks, Matt and the Blue State Cowboys, we needed that!

Matt and the Cowboys are from Chicago and, as Matt said, they wanted to "offer our musical tribute to W's 'legacy.' "

Many of us will admit to suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome... and while this musical gem offers some respite, we'll only find lasting relief when The Decider crawls back to Crawford!

After eight long years.... just 41 more agonizing Bush-days to get through.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Unveiling Bush's Legacy

"Welcome to my hanging."

So said popularity bottom-feeder President George W. Bush at the unveiling of his Union League of Philadelphia's portrait.

Continuing to entertain his receptive audience, he complimented the artist, Mark Carder, for his fine job and observed, "I was taken aback by how much gray paint you had to use."

He later remarked, "I'm especially proud to be co-recipient with a guy I call '41'... we owe our achievements to the same savvy political counselor and firm disciplinarian: Barbara."

After these witty and self-deprecating remarks The Decider made an unabashed grab for Abraham Lincoln's distinguished coattails.

The Union League presidential gallery displays portraits of every Republican president since Lincoln. Bush seized on "Abe's" controversial leadership legacy saying.... "the principles on which he stood have stood the test of time: All men are created equal under God, he said, unflinchingly throughout his presidency. Liberty was given to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. He has taught Presidents that you must act on your principles and make tough decisions, regardless of the political consequences.

"I have been a..... I have drawn strength from his example. I have learned lessons by reading about Abraham Lincoln"

Oh, pleeeeeze.

Too bad The Decider didn't live up to his own rhetoric or Abe's example.

An editorial in today's The New York Times, "Tortured Justice," paints a far different portrait than the one Bush wants us to see.... "The nation’s courts continue to grapple with the abuses committed by President Bush’s administration in the name of fighting terrorism. The extent of the damage to American liberties, and how lasting it will be, will be told in part by the outcome of two cases that are to be heard by the federal courts."

"On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that turns on Mr. Bush’s claim that he can order people living in the United States to be detained by the military indefinitely without charges. The case involves Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was in the United States legally. He was declared an enemy combatant in mid-2003 and has been held in a Navy brig since then..... This intolerable reading of the law would leave a president free to suspend the rights of anyone, including American citizens."

The second case involves "a Syrian-born Canadian with no ties to terrorism who became a victim of the Bush team’s lawless policy of 'extraordinary rendition' — the outsourcing of interrogations to foreign governments known to torture prisoners.

"Mr. Arar’s ordeal began in 2002, when he was seized by federal agents as he tried to change planes on his way home to Canada from a family vacation. After being held incommunicado in solitary confinement and subjected to harsh interrogation without proper access to a lawyer, he was 'rendered' to Syria, where he was tortured. He was locked up for almost a year in a dank underground cell the size of a grave before he was finally let go."

The Union League Bush portrait depicts a benignly smiling man.... not the ruthless, law-breaking, Constitution-rending, outlaw president who destroyed the American ideal of equal justice for all. Hopefully when hanging The Decider, the Union League doesn't place his portrait anywhere near honest Abe's.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sixty-seven Years After Infamy....


"December 7, 1941.... a date which will live in infamy.... the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. "

So said President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he asked Congress for a Declaration of War sixty-seven years ago.

On that day Japan also attacked Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Wake Island and Midway Island.

In response to this all-out attack, Roosevelt clearly and forcefully declared.... "As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us...."

Today it is much different. Seemingly nationless enemies strike civilian populations.... cloaked suicidal terrorism is the new norm, not declarations of war between nations.

As Richard A. Clarke who was the White House counterterrorism coordinator under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush explains today in his op-ed "Plans of Attack" (WaPo) .... "Ten young men land a small boat at a quay in a city of 18 million people. Within minutes of setting ashore, they are throwing grenades and raking crowds with automatic weapons fire. Days later, almost 200 people are dead, more are wounded, the financial capital of a nation of a billion people has ground to a halt, and the world is riveted.

"To most of the world, the Mumbai massacre seems inexplicable and random, like the periodic devastation caused by typhoons or tornadoes, or simply pointless, just killing for killing's sake. But the attack was neither random nor pointless. The carnage in Mumbai was goal-oriented, an attempt to advance an overall strategy that is being ruthlessly pursued by the Islamist radical network."

That is the face of conflict today.


Even Osama bin Laden's dastardly 9/11 attack on the twin towers wasn't a Pearl Harbor.... it wasn't backed by a nation declaring war. The very nationless nature of the attack allowed the Bush presidency to name its own target for retaliation.... Iraq.... leading America down the shadowy path of their selective-intelligence "war on terrorism."

Clarke maps out the terrorism minefield facing the Obama administration.... "Seven years after 9/11, the United States has neither eliminated the threat from al-Qaeda nor secured Afghanistan, where bin Laden's terrorists were once headquartered.

"To accomplish these two tasks, we must now eliminate the new terrorist safe haven in Pakistan. But that will require effective action from a weak and riven Pakistani government. It might also depend upon dealing with the long-standing India-Pakistan rivalry."

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt galvanized the nation through his leadership and call for shared sacrifice as he declared war on Japan. It now falls to Barack Obama to rally the nation, and the world, to a common goal.... the defeat of the hydra-headed terrorist monster.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Life Without Duffy.... Stuffy

If a picture is worth a thousand words.... what is the cost of losing that picture?

Iowa is about to find out.

The once-Pulitzer Prize winning Des Moines Register just showed the door to the last of their what-makes-us-any-different-than-getting-the-news-online-or-from-TV-networks feature.... it chopped Brian Duffy from its staff, thus ending his quarter of a century tenure as the Register's front page political cartoonist and the unique standing of the Register as the only newspaper in the country that carried a front-page cartoon commentary.

It's like taking away our morning coffee.... or the jam on our toast, the raisins in our bran flakes, the frosting on our cinnamon bun!

Let's hope the Register doesn't Bush-up their mistake by refusing to listen to disappointed, even outraged, readers who not only looked forward to Duffy every morning, but counted on him for the wry smile that helped them face another day.... especially during these unsettled times.

Register, reconsider.... please.... give us back our Duffy!

Here is Duffy's final (it doesn't have to be) cartoon.... it says it all without a thousand words!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Big Three: Bush, Hoover, Buchanan

Harold Meyerson looks George W. Bush in the eye and calls him what he is.... Herbert Hoover.

In "Bush's Final Fiasco" Meyerson compares the Bush administration's handling of our downward-spiraling economy to the actions of the 1930's Great Depression president .... "Herbert Hoover, we should recall, had a program for dealing with the Depression. It consisted of lending to banks but opposing fiscal stimulus or direct aid to individuals. Which is why Hank Paulson's frenzied endeavors to prop up the banking sector and Bush's dogged resistance to assisting anybody else amount to pure neo-Hooverism.

"As the 1930s began, Hoover believed that the coordinated actions of the private sector could save the beleaguered economy. It soon became apparent that the only action that private-sector businesses could agree upon was closing down factories and offices and throwing people out of work. Under immense pressure to do something, in late 1931 Hoover asked Congress to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to provide funds to banks it deemed creditworthy.

"Having done his bit to bail out the banks, however, Hoover rested. He opposed provisions that would have enabled homeowners to hang on to their homes."

Sound familiar?

As Meyerson points out, "The Bush administration's approach to today's meltdown is to direct all its energies and largess to lending institutions. There is, as yet, no program to help floundering homeowners renegotiate the terms of their mortgages. The president is opposed to further stimulus programs, even though private-sector investment in the United States has all but ceased."

Meyerson asks, where's the outrage? He suspects that the answer "is that you can only irreversibly give up on a president once. Further catastrophic failures on the president's part elicit only diminishing returns. Buchanan did nothing while the South seceded: That was it for him. Hoover did nothing as farmers, workers and middle-class America got wiped out: With that, he was beyond rehabilitation. Nixon had Watergate: Enough said. One mega-strike and you're out."

And when it comes to mega-strike outs, Bush has swung and missed over and over. Meyerson counts three biggies.... "He misled us into a nearly endless war of choice to disarm a threat that never really existed. He let a great American city drown. And now he stands by while the economic security of tens of millions of Americans is vanishing.

"Yet in the hearts of his countrymen, Bush's place is already fixed. Even before the financial collapse, he was in the ninth circle of presidential hell, with Buchanan and Hoover. At his own party's national convention this summer, his was the name that no one dared speak.

"And so, though his mishandling of the economy is criminally inept, he is being spared one more outbreak of public rage by two countervailing public sentiments: Americans' relief that he soon will be gone and their kind reluctance to kick a corpse."

Bush justifies his record by saying he kept us safe for eight years (he myopically doesn't count 9/11 or the myriad of victims of his ill-conceived policies).

That's kind of like saying that despite his rampaging through our domestic and foreign landscape like a bull in a china shop one tea cup survived..... but President Decider, that tea cup was made in China.