Lots To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the USA and Canada, although Canadian Thanksgiving celebrates theirs in October.  A tradition for this day is to think about all the things one has to be thankful for, presumably over the past year.

In the USA, there is a lot to be thankful for, despite the economic meltdown. In fact, the financial crisis, if it had to come, couldn’t have come at a better time.  Its timing helped to usher in the end of our long national nightmare, a.k.a, the exit of the worst president (G W Bush) and worst administration in American history, and the election of a young, fresh-thinking democrat to the US presidency,

It’s hard to have more than that to be thankful for, as far as our country and the world are concerned.  But  there is more.

An additional reason to be grateful is that the democratic majority in the US Senate is now 58 to 40 republican seats, with the slim possibility for becoming a 60 vote filibuster-proof super-majority.  Both Minnesota’s and Georgia’s US senate races are still undecided, with Georgia holding a runoff election on December 2nd, and Minnesota’s race going through a recount.

While it is unlikely that the democrats will be victorious in both races, which would give them the magical 60 vote majority, it is more likely that they might pick up one seat.  If the democrats can’t find one moderate republican in the senate to vote with them to end a republican filibuster, then the bill being debated probably isn’t a good idea anyway.

In recent days, some “sour grapes” losers of the national election have criticized president-elect Obama for appoining a number of ex-Clinton-administration officials to his cabinet and administration.  They claim that Obama is violating his campaign promise about “change” because of this.

Are they for real??

The change Obama was referring to, and that even McCain was trying to convince everyone he was for, was change from the dismal status quo of the Bush administration!  And the appointments Obama has made of ex-Clinton folks has not returned these folks to their previous Clinton posts.

Where else would one find democratic folks with the right experience in government administration if not in people who served under the most recent democratic president, Bill Clinton?  Perhaps the detractors would have been happier if Obama picked folks associated with the Carter administration?  Or maybe the Johnson or Kennedy administrations?

There is yet another event that begs comment and perhaps gratefulness from those who early on dreamed of a “dream ticket” in the White House.  For those folks, what is actually scheduled to occur is even better than a “dream team”!

Hillary Clinton supporters were disappointed twice this year, first when Hillary didn’t win the democratic nomination, and then when Obama didn’t pick her as his running mate.  But as his vice-president, she would have essentially been relegated to a non-decision-making, somewhat insignificant role, just as most vice-presidents historically are.

However, as US Secretary of State, Hillary is truly in a more influential role in the shiny new Obama administration.  She will be a member  of his cabinet and be extremely influential in repairing the Bush-caused damage to the USA’s prestige around the world.  There are, admittedly, high expectations for her to live up to, but that also applied to the entire Obama administration.  And according to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, she is in the line of succession to become president, following the vice-president, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.  The “dream team” folks should be smiling this Thanksgiving.

Finally, each of us has special reasons known only to ourselves to be thankful for.  For example,if you’re reading this, you can be thankful that you know how to read.

Unless you hate what you’re reading.  🙂

We, the People!! would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and joyful Thanksgiving Day, even if you are not American or Canadian.  By this time next year, one can expect that most nations in the world will feel a lot closer.

Bailing Out GM: Yes, No, or Sort of?

There cannot be a person in the USA or any other industrialized country that isn’t feeling the economy morph into the incredible shrinking violet.

Just today it was announced (HERE) that the US Consumer Price Index dropped by a record 1% last month.  The price of gas is off a whopping 60% from its outrageously greedy high of $4.65 a gallon in July to $1.99 a gallon or less in many parts of the US.

The housing market continues to implode with no end in sight.  It has marked a 9% decline in housing prices since February 2008.  There is little news out there to encourage anyone about the immediate financial furure of the country or the world, considering that so much of the economy is global and interconnected.

In the midst of this calamity, when millions have either lost their jobs or are at imminent risk of doing so, the three big American automakers, GM, Chrysler and Ford, are begging to join the new “bailout club” to the tune of at least US$25 billion.  In order for anyone to decide whether or not these companies, led by GM, should receive a dime of taxpayers’ money, an examination of obvious fact is in order:

The Case FOR Bailout

Using GM as an example, these companies are as American as apple pie and the Grand Canyon.  They are part of the rich (and sometimes shameful) industrial heritage of the United States. As the epitome  of economic interconnection and interdependence, several million jobs in the US  and elsewhere, such as Canada and Mexico, are related to the auto industry;  parts, paint, steel, rubber, petroleum products, insurance and on and on.  Were GM to go under, there would be little need for all of these suppliers and products, and millions might be out of work within months.  In an already tittering economy, the last thing the Obama administration would need is a significant additional portion of the work force to be unemployed.  Tax revenues would go down right at the time that they are needed the most.

The Case AGAINST Bailout

GM and the others utterly failed to produce the type and quality of cars that consumers want and need.  They fought tooth and nail for years, with lots of help from the Bush Administration,  against a mandatory increase in fuel economy.  They resisted research and development of hybrid and alternate energy autos since the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973.  They gave the store away to those terrible unions and workers.  Remember Eastern Air Lines and Pan Am?  They were American icons as well, but they were allowed to go under and the airline industry and its passengers are better for it today.  Besides, no one is suggesting that Circuit City be bailed out.  If the taxpayer is forced to bail out GM and the like, where does it all stop?

The Case for Partial Intervention, a.k.a Sort of

There are good point on both sides, but the best point for some sort of intervention is the preservation of some (not all) of the jobs in question.  GM’s unions have already given the company huge concessions in the recent past, and are prepared to do so again, if their very survival is on the line.  The consequences of ignoring all of those jobs in the peripheral interconnected industries mentioned above could be disastrous to any economic recovery plan for the rest of the country.

A $25 billion bailout is not the way to go.

The way to go is a combination of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is “liquidation”, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is “reorganization”.  The American taxpayer could then invest in the reorganization of the companies.  The taxpayer would become a stockholder/stakeholder and take a percentage of control of the now leaner company decision-making, beginning the recovery for the auto industry.

Under this plan, GM would be forced to scrap its present business plan (and support of cars that no one really wants anymore) and start producing hybrid and alternative fuel cars.  It could put now-freed-up resources into the research and development required to make cars continuously more fuel efficient and green-fuel dependent, as well as help to design the country-wide infrastructure necessary to support these future products.  It would renegotiate with its unions, whom ultimately want the company to be salvaged so that its workers’ jobs are salvaged, for wages, benefits, staffing requirements and so forth.  It could streamline its operation the way other successful foreign auto makers on American soil have done.  The economic infrastructure that is dependent upon GM would be preserved, albeit in a somewhat leaner and meaner format.

It’s one idea.  Maybe there’s a better one out there.  A revolutionary one.

In 1914 Henry Ford revolutionized the entire industrial world with the implementation of the world’s first successful large-scale conveyor-belt assembly line in Detroit to produce the Model T Ford.  You can read more about it HERE.

There isn’t a reason on Earth that a similar industrial revolution can’t be implemented with the ailing US auto industry.  Throwing $25 billion at them is not the answer, any more than letting the industry die an economically tragic death.  But developing a new plan, with new ideas and forward thinking people just might work.  And the only way to do that is to NOT do what has already been done.

There is, after all, a word to describe the expectation of a different result after doing the same thing over and over:

Insanity.

Guantanamo, GM and Gasoline

At the end of October, George W. Bush quietly made a decision to not close the prison at the US Naval Station Guantanamo, Cuba.  You can, and should, read more about it HERE.

Besides the fact that he had previously promised to close the prison, Bush went along with his war-mongering advisers, including “Tricky Dick” Cheney, to leave the problem to his presidential successor.

Since Guantanamo opened as a prison for suspected foreign terrorists and “foreign combatants” (where those are), the Bush Syndicate promoted that the executive branch of the USA was above the constitution and the law.  They believed that they could imprison people they didn’t like indefinitely with no access to the legal system and in violation of the writ of Habeas Corpus, one of the pillars of American jurisprudence.  Habeas Corpus essentially guarantees that no one can be held against their will without knowing the charges against them and having access to the legal system to challenge the charges.

The Bushies believed that placing the prison at Guantanamo on the island of Cuba would isolate them from oversight of the American legal system, or perhaps more on target, they thought they could convince everyone else of that fantasy.  But there is a reason why Cuba cannot kick the USA off of their island:  Guantanamo is US territory, and US jurisprudence definitely applies there.

There were also the conservative pundits who thought they could justify and defend the Bush legal violations by claiming that American laws do not apply to foreigners.  If this was true, however, would that mean that foreigners then have the right to murder, rape, and ignore tax codes on US soil?

These crap-house lawyers also have tried to convince the rest of the world that the US Constitution somehow gives the US president the authority to rise above the self-same US Constitution and federal laws because he is commander-in-chief.  But they ignore Article VI of the US Constitution, which states, in pertinent part:

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

To this end, the US Supreme Court this past summer, in Boumediene v. Bush, disagreed with the Bush Syndicate by ruling that the immates at Guantanamo do indeed have Habeas Corpus rights.  Thus, it seems that for six years the Bush administration has illegally imprisoned hundreds of people.  Think about that;  If the average person does that, it is called kidnapping.

Part of the thought process of the Bush decision to keep the prison in operation is that they want to avoid all sorts of legal questions about their illegal actions regarding Guantanamo.  Besides the illegal imprisonment of hundred of people, there are questions of torture, other supposedly non-existent super secret prisons elsewhere, and questions about what the administration was afraid of in allowing these prisoners access to the legal system.  Was the administration’s evidence against the detainees so weak that any court in the land would have thrown the cases out?  If so, then why were these people imprisoned for years in the first place?

To his credit, President-elect Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo as a high priority when he enters office.  You can read more about that HERE.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland USA, GM and the other US automakers are in deep financial trouble.  The reducing demand for gasoline is causing the Bush-friendly oil suppliers and oil supply/demand speculators, whom together hold ultimate sway of the price of gas at the pump, to definitely hope for a bailout of GM and the others.  That bailout, if it comes, will be funded by all US taxpayers, not the speculators and suppliers, just as the increasing and never-ending  bailout of AIG is funded by the abused taxpayer of this country, and not the insurance industry or Wall Street.

But if the prison at Guantanamo is closed, as well as all of the supposedly non-existent secret foreign CIA-run prisons, that would save billions of dollars, which could be used to fund the auto company bailout.  That could be a boon to taxpayers.

Of course, if, as the oil suppliers and speculators hope, the auto makers are saved and more cars are built and sold in the US, then the demand for gasoline will go up.  The oil speculators will make the price of a barrel start its upward spiral once again.

On second thought, perhaps one of those supposedly non-existent super-duper secret prisons should remain open somewhere…as a destination for any greedy oil speculator who warps the basic economic rule of supply and demand to feed his fortune at the expense of innocent consumers.

Imagine…anyone suspected of ripping off the American people with inflated oil prices being arrested without warrant and sent, without access to the legal system, to a supposedly non-existent super-secret prison somewhere with no contact with the ouside world.

Talk about poetic justice.

What REALLY Makes This Election Historical

WOW!!!!!

It almost feels like Christmas and the Fourth of July all rolled into one for those of us who stayed up last night to watch the election returns.

Obviously, the election of the first African-American to the presidency of the USA didn’t happen by accident.  Nor did the fact that almost 118,000,000 citizens, fully a third of all living Americans, voted in this election, which itself is a huge historical record.

One might believe that the economic meltdown is responsible for the huge voter turnout and excitement in this election cycle.  But if one did, one would be ignoring the clear fact that people of all philosophical backgrounds were so disgusted with the Bush administration that they just could not wait to get past it as fast as they possibly could.  Given the chance, they seized the opportunity to vote for anyone who would replace Bush as if voting, in many cases early, would somehow hasten the departure the the worst president in US history.  You can check out Bush’s dismal approval ratings HERE.

And the end of the Bush Syndicate can’t come a minute too soon.  Even as this is written, the Bushies are changing all kinds of federal regulations covering such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow for easing restrictions on polluters, mines, and the like.  It is also changing regulations making it easier for big business to profit at the expense of reducing consumer protections.

It will take the Obama administration a lot of effort to change these regulations back because of the process required to do so.  You can more about this HERE.

Additionally, despite the optimism with which Obama was elected, some strange and negative events have  occurred during this election.  The weirdest one is probably the potential re-election of Ted Stevens, republican of Alaska to the US senate.  Stevens was convicted  last week of seven felony offenses, and yet the Alaskans seem to have re-elected him anyway!

This is truly absurd to behold.  It embarrasses us before the world, and is another reason why folks should be licensed to vote only after having to demonstrate at least rudimentary knowledge and judgment to vote. But it is also a testament to the stale old politics of the republican party.

As unbelievable as Stevens’ re-election is, it can be partially explained by the fact that over the many years of his time in the senate, he practiced the “good-ol’-boy politics” that Bush and his cronies loved so much – Stevens brought home to Alaska lots of pork-barrel projects and money.  The senior republican senator in the US senate, instead of keeping spending down (ostensibly espoused by the GOP philosophy), delivered lots of stuff to lots of Alaskan folks at the expense of the rest of the country’s taxpayers.  Remember the “bridge to nowhere”?

One other negative occurrence in this election was the extremely negative ads by the 527 “swift-boat” groups and, increasingly toward the end of the campaign, the National Republican Committee ads that were full of lies and misleading statements about Obama.  Even on election day, these ads continued to air on radio and TV.  They were, in a word, disgusting, and if folks really believed them, then their ability to vote rationally should be questioned.

The real problem for the GOP is that this is what they always do in an election:  Smear, libel, abuse, hate and fear as motivators, and the belief that message integrity doesn’t exist.  Pure Karl Rove playbook stuff.

In light of the results of this historical election, the GOP would be well served to examine why so many folks rejected their message, methodology, trickle-down economics, war-mongering, and arrogant behavior before the entire world.  People are sick of it, and if the Grand Old Party doesn’t change, it’ll become extinct.

The GOP should also put out the message far, wide, and repeatedly to their staunchest and most conservative supporters that the bitterness and hatred that these folks are feeling today is unacceptable behavior.  Disappointment that your guy didn’t win is natural and understandable; retaining and promoting hatred and fear is something different and unacceptable if these folks want their party to retain any credibility at all.

After all, the majority of voters and the majority of electoral votes have determined that Obama won the election.  The American constitution worked as designed. Today, all American citizens have every reason to be proud of the USA, given the historical nature of this election.  Many Americans have not felt this much pride in almost eight years.

As another young new president stated forty-seven years ago on his inauguration day, “Let the word go out to friend and foe alike, that the the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

That president was John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961.

footnote:  Last week We, the PEOPLE!! predicted Obama would win with at least 320 electoral votes.  If North Carolina and Missouri hold as they are now, Obama will have received 364 electoral voters to McCain’s 174.  Those that bet… pay up.    🙂