Archive for December, 2009
I see eight major events of the 2000s decade in the realm of politics. In chronological order, they are the following:
2000–The Contested Presidential Election Between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
2001–The Attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11.
2003–The beginning of the disastrous Iraq War, based on false intelligence and incompetent management.
2005-Hurricane Katrina and the poor response by all levels of government to this natural disaster.
2006–The return of the Democrats to control of the Congress after 12 years of Republican rule.
2008–The collapse of the American economy beginning on Wall Street and working its way through the entire nation on many levels, including housing, unemployment, and bankruptcies.
2009–The inauguration of the first African American President Barack Obama, and the hope it engendered.
2009–The most significant social legislation (health care reform) since the 1960s in process through Congress as the decade ends.
Also, two other stories in international affairs have permeated this decade we are now finishing, and will continue to be major centers of attention in the new decade: The economic growth of China and India, and the growing menace of Iran in the Middle East and world affairs.
May we hope for a better decade than the one we are ending tonight!
Happy New Year and New Decade to everyone who reads this blog!
The decade now ending saw certain trends that are very disturbing for the long run!
A key term is CORRUPTION, which became so widespread both politically and economically that it has caused great skepticism among the American people as to the future course of American democracy and capitalism.
Another key term is ABUSE OF POWER on the presidential level, which became endemic during the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and has led to negativism toward Federal government authority under Barack Obama.
A third term is INCOMPETENCE, which showed up so often in the poor intelligence gathering before September 11, the waging of the Iraq War, the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the short term reaction to the collapse of the stock market in 2008.
A fourth term is EXTREME PARTISANSHIP, a trend which has been developing since the Clinton years, but reached higher levels in the Bush years, and continues in the Obama years, where there is absolutely no sense of national purpose that unites Republicans and Democrats to cooperate and work together for the public good.
A final term is PESSIMISM ON THE FUTURE of the country, very disturbing as America is still seen as the world’s leader, but going through extremely difficult times.
Let’s hope that the next decade will see the decline of these disturbing trends of the first decade of the 21st century!
It is indeed sad news when the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, is losing its major conservative alternative to the Washington Post, the Washington Times, as a fully competing entity.
The news today that there would be more than 40 percent cuts in staff, and the earlier announcement of no Saturday or Sunday editions anymore, is a sign of the times in print journalism, but it seems likely that this attempt to resuscitate the competitor to the Post will ultimately fail in the long run.
While no one would compare the Times to the Post in quality, it was still a good thing to have the alternative approach to national and international news, and competition is good in any industry, particularly one dealing with information and knowledge.
The Post once before had lost its competitor, when the Evening Star went out of business in the 1970s, to be replaced in 1982 by the Times. It is hoped that somehow the cutback paper will survive as another editorial voice!
The Democratic Party is moving toward eliminating the power of so called “Super Delegates”, party leaders and movers, who became the center of controversy during the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary season.
The argument is that the office holders should vote in the national convention in lockstep with the party members who have voted in the primaries or caucuses, so that the will of the people is obeyed.
The power of super delegates to affect the result of the nomination battle was a source of friction during the Obama-Hillary Clinton nomination battle, and it is not too soon to bring that unfortunate controversy to an end.
A final decision will be made by the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee sometime early in 2010.
Now it is time for the top ten most inspiring figures in American politics in 2009!
I will work my way down from Number Ten to Number One!
TEN: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a carryover from the Bush Administration, who has been very even handed and cooperative, and has been a real asset to the Obama Administration!
NINE: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who has proved to be one of the rising stars in the Senate in her third year in the upper chamber!
EIGHT: Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who has proved to be a great leader of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, a key figure in the health care debate!
SEVEN: Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Presidential nominee in 2004, who has worked out very well in his crucial role in the upper chamber!
SIX: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has done a good job in her post, and has become a loyal team member in the Obama Administration!
FIVE: Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has fought the good fight as the one “true” Independent in Congress, taking the most leftist view on most issues and making others use their conscience when considering what we are doing on changing the direction of American internally and overseas!
FOUR: First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been graceful and appropriate in her role, and has become extremely popular with the American people!
THREE: Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, my favorite Senator in the present Senate, who has always stood for principle and goodness, much like Bernie Sanders!
TWO: Vice President Joe Biden, who has been very successful in having input in the Obama Administration, and has elevated the Vice Presidency’s image from what it was under Dick Cheney!
ONE: Obviously, President Barack Obama, who has transformed the office in his first year, with his initiatives in economic, social and foreign policy! While much of what he has done is not yet possible to assess long term, a great start has been accomplished!
Again, I invite commentary on my selections, but let me add ten more people to the list in no special order: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida, CNN National Correspondent John King, MSNBC talk show host Keith Olbermann, and MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow.
Finally, I wish to pay tribute to two people who had a great role in American politics for many decades, and who passed away this year: CBS Anchor Walter Cronkite, and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts! May they both rest in peace!
As the year 2009 nears its end, it is time to reflect on which people in the public spotlight stood out as the most annoying, most outrageous, most despicable in the politics of 2009.
I will work down from ten to one on this list! This is no easy task!
TEN: Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who became embroiled in a sex scandal with a woman on his staff, and had his parents pay “hush money” to her in order to keep it quiet, which it failed to do, and has refused to resign. A fundamentalist Christian who is shown to be a total hypocrite!
NINE: Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who also became involved in a sex scandal with a lady from Argentina, talked too much about it, and has been considered for impeachment, but is still there and refusing to leave. He is another very devout fundamentalist Christian who has proved to be a hypocrite!
EIGHT: Governor Rick Perry of Texas, facing a tough re-election battle against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison next year, and promoted the concept of “secession” this past year, and became embroiled in a scandal regarding the state Pardon Board. He has served longer than any governor and is hopefully to be retired next year!
SEVEN: Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Minority Leader, who promoted total obstruction and lack of cooperation with the Obama Administration as a basic principle. He did not add to his stature by so doing!
SIX: Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who became more and more annoying and ridiculous as the leading critic of climate change, and made a fool of himself at the Copenhagen summit .
FIVE: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who became the leading conservative of all in the Senate, and called for creating President Obama’s “Waterloo”. He has presidential ambitions for 2012, but hopefully will go nowhere!
FOUR: Radio Talk Show Host Rush Limbaugh, who made many wonder about his sanity this year, and promoted division and hate on his three hour daily talk show. He had nothing positive to contribute to the debates of 2009, and showed himself to be totally self serving!
THREE: Radio and TV Talk Show Host Glenn Beck, who became the most controversial talk show host of all, ranting and raving in an insane fashion, with wild accusations and hints of hallucinations if one paid attention regularly to his commentary. Many might think of him as a total joke, but unfortunately, like Rush Limbaugh, he has his devoted fans who fail to see how crazy he is!
TWO: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who milked her Vice Presidential candidacy for all it was worth this year, but in so doing, made a fool of herself and showed total incapability to address any important issue with facts and truth. She was proof that an ignorant, very ordinary person could be a factor in politics since she appealed to those like herself, a scary thought for the upcoming election year of 2012!
ONE: The honor, or lack of it, for being Number One goes to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who proved to be the most divisive public figure of the year 2009, with his constant attacks and accusations against the Obama Presidency. Never before had a former Vice President been so public after leaving office, particularly ironic since when he was in office, he was very elusive and secretive!
I welcome commentary on this list, but let me add honorable mentions to this list in no special order: Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and Radio and TV talk show host Sean Hannity!
It is well known that right wing conservatives have been working for a long time to promote religion over science, as is most evident in their denial of evolution and promotion of “intelligent design”, which is a new title for “creationism”. This has permeated many educational systems across the country, most notably in the state of Kansas.
But a new move by these right wing extremists is to attempt to change the story of American history–that is to promote that America is a perfect nation with no weaknesses nor faults nor mistakes in its past, and that it is far superior to all other nations on the globe. Also, that all children should learn about significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, but no equivalent liberal groups or persons. This perception of the American past was attempted years ago in Lake County, Florida, until fortunately the school board that had decided on this propagandistic approach, was defeated, and sanity returned to that county’s educational curriculum.
This right wing promotion is a denial of the massacre of native Americans, the racism and degradation of African Americans during the era of slavery and since, the discrimination visited against various immigrant groups in American history, the mistreatment by corporations of the American working force, the second class citizenship for a long time of American womanhood, the denial of civil liberties on a regular basis in America’s past, the manipulation of public opinion which has often led us into many wars and overseas adventures, and the role of dissenters in taking a moral stand against many injustices throughout our nation’s history.
It is not the issue of “badmouthing” America’s past, as there is much to applaud and praise in the experiment of our American republic. But students need to learn the entire “truth”, good and bad, rather than a sanitized version.
This conservative attempt to propagandize their version of American history is taking place in Texas, the state of Rick Perry, the governor who spoke about “secession” this past spring. The problem is that Texas, along with California, have the most students, and so if the state educational curriculum is slanted in favor of textbooks that promote a right wing view of history, most publishers will be forced, by pure percentage of students in that state, to divert their resources to a view of the past that will sell their textbooks to public and private schools across America, to avoid loss of profits.
The realization of what is about to happen early in 2010 must be brought to light and fought intensely, as the future threat of propagandizing America’s students is facing us, just at a time when the Obama Presidency offers new hope of a different internal and external vision of America after the tragedy of the Bush years!
In the midst of the Detroit terrorism investigation surrounding the Nigerian national who attempted unsuccessfully to blow up a Northwest jet on Christmas Day, the Republican party is going negative and blaming the whole incident on the Obama Administration.
President Obama has taken responsibility for the lack of intelligence information being put together to prevent this fortunately botched attempt at bringing down an American plane. This is more than the Bush Presidency was willing to do after September 11.
And yet, Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, running for governor in that state next year, has decided to milk the issue for all it is worth as a means to raise campaign funds.
Also, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, thought to be planning a presidential run in 2012, and having called earlier for the health care reform plan to be Obama’s “Waterloo”, is also using the issue against the administration, even though the whole system of homeland security was organized under President Bush in 2003.
These are cheap shots being utilized for political gain, just days after the crisis occurred. And the trend is toward profiling everyone who is of Middle Eastern or African or Asian heritage, because there have been Al Qaeda terrorists in this country and overseas of all these ethnic origins.
I guess the answer is put everyone in this country who is of any minority group–including Latin America too–on the profiling list, and therefore, limit or refuse air passage to about 40 percent of the American population, and most of the world’s six billion plus population!
But then again, one of the spokesmen for Al Qaeda is a white Anglo, and I seem to remember that we have domestic terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh in the past, the various militia group activists, the Ku Klux Klan, and just maybe some of the “Tea Party/Freedom Works” people who, at various rallies, have sounded ready for violent revolution and bloodshed in their rhetoric.
So maybe we should shut down all air travel altogether! But wait, that would be an economic disaster, and would be conceding victory to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations!
In other words, we cannot give in to the terrorists, but can also not profile people based on their ethnicity, as a terrorist can be of any background or nationality. What we can do is better our intelligence gathering, connect the dots better, and all be watchful and alert, and also do a lot of praying.
But ultimately, there is this fact. The chances of anyone being a victim of a terrorist attack are far less than being hit by lightning! We cannot allow ourselves to be taken “hostage” and become hysterical. But the Republican party, famous for McCarthyism in the past, is now disgracing our political discourse by utilizing a similar hysteria and panic against the threat of terrorism! Shame on them!
We are ending the first decade of the 21st century in a few days, and as we look back, the realization is, as Paul Krugman in the NY Times calls it, that the period was “The Big Zero”, with the nation in the midst of the “Great Recession” as it ends.
How is it Zero? First, the investment in stocks in the beginning of the decade came out with no profit by its end, including for those who were planning for their retirement, the so called “Baby Boomers” born after World War II.
Job Creation was Zero, and the highest unemployment since 1983 by the end of the decade resulted.
Housing prices came out Zero, after a boom early in the decade, and a complete collapse late in the decade.
Median family household income was also Zero, a sad commentary on the economic disaster of the past decade.
Overall, nothing good happened economically, and one has to wonder how we emerge from this economic mess with the possibility now of expansion of war into Yemen, and concern about the future of Iran and Pakistan, along with the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tax cuts and deregulation under George W. Bush contributed a lot to this disaster, and yet we hear nothing new from GOP leadership.
What a difference from the Clinton 90s when there may have been moral lapses on the part of the President, but it was a time of economic boom and avoidance of foreign wars. To try to make this first decade of the new century look good will be a massive undertaking that I doubt anyone who is sane will attempt to do!
President Obama is being criticized by Republicans for failing to make a public appearance and to dramatize the incident on the Northwest flight in Detroit on Christmas Day, when a Nigerian national attempted to commit a terrorist attack as the plane was landing.
Rather than promote hysteria and fear, Obama chose the route to act calmly and take necessary action within government agencies, but not to politicize by raising the threat level and giving Al Qaeda a symbolic victory by instilling panic.
This is absolutely the proper approach, as the Bush Administration saw fear as the best way to deal with the issue, while Obama is emphasizing that the government will do what it needs to do without utilizing negativism, something we have seen too much of in recent years!