WHAT 100-Day Honeymoon??

President Barack Obama has been in office for only eight short days.  One day was filled with the celebratory inaugural events and festivities and two days were on the weekend, and thus at least partly shared with his family.  That leaves five days that the president has thus far had to conduct the people’s business.

In a normal election cycle when a new president takes office, it has been customary and perhaps even traditional for there to be a 100-day honeymoon between the president and winning political party (the winners) on one side, and his detractors on the other side of the political spectrum (the losers in the election).  During this time, the president and his party have been allowed to proceed in office mostly without criticism in order to allow him and them to settle in and get into normal operational mode with his new duties and responsibilities.  Once the 100- or so day period expires, it is expected that the president has now established his modus operandi.  The gloves come off and the opposition, as well as the press, can then take all the shots they want at him and his performance.

Thus, it is truly amazing that the ultra-right wing mouthpieces such as Rush (the druggie) Limbaugh and Fox News, as well some extremely conservative congresspersons have taken as many shots at the new chief executive within the first five working days of his administration as they have.

Limbaugh jumped the gun and stated on inauguration day last week, before Obama even had the opportunity to take the oath of office, that he hopes Obama fails.  “I hope he fails”, he stated on his nationwide radio program.

In a country where freedom of speech is revered, there is nothing illegal about what Rush said.  And it is also true that there is nothing illegal about someone displaying incredibly bad manners, or having incredibly bad body odor, either.  But people generally try to exhibit good manners and good grooming and strive for social acceptance.  Therefore, there has to be a reason why Rush would rush (pardon the pun) to be the first to publicly criticize Obama on the very day of his inauguration.

The probable reason seems to be a revealing sense of desperation that ultra-conservatives have over their loss of influence and relevance in American politics.  During the Bush years, these folks held sway over political and policy decisions made by the White House.  But the collective American electorate voted in November to end that scenario and start fresh.

So those ultra-conservative folks probably feel they have nowhere else to go, and their only hope for continued existence is to make lots of outrageous noise whenever they can.  Like throwing spaghetti on a wall, perhaps they hope that some of their nonsensical, emotion-based rhetoric will stick.

It’s not just the Rush’s of the country who are doing it.  Fox News reported about a statement made by Obama in which he said “I won”, referring to not only the presidency but the increased control of congress that the democrats won in November, when responding to a republican congressman opposing the economic stimulus package that is making its way through congress.

The news report alone is simply common fare for right-slanting Fox and isn’t really a big deal by itself.  But the ultra-conservative losers (of the election, of course   🙂   ) grabbed onto this weak report and emailed it around the internet to their sympathizers.  Comments accompanying the email included such hate-mongering as “so Obama thinks that because he won he can direct policy?” and “Don’t you just LOVE (dripping with sarcasm) Obama’s comment about how he won?”

Those ultra-conservatives have got to get a grip!  After all,  wasn’t it their champion of the ultra-conservative war on reality, GW Bush, who always talked about how he won the election, he’s the president, and he’s the “decider-guy”?  HMmmmmm….

The utter divisiveness of the ultra-conservative pundits stands in sharp contrast to the bipartisan efforts of Obama and his bipartisan administration.  Just yesterday Obama met with congressional republicans, on their turf no less, to seek support for the critical economic stimulus bill winding its way through congress.  Most of the republican congressionals later said that they genuinely appreciated Obama’s effort, although it may not have changed their view on the bill  One even commented that so far, Obama has met with them more in his first week of office (once) than Bush did in his entire eight years in office (zero, for those following along at home).

For blow-hard Rush to state, in response to Obama’s statement that republicans should not be listening to Rush if they want to get along with the democrats, that Obama is “not a unifier and not bipartisan is not only a total fabrication and it flies in the face of reality (there’s that war on reality again), but clearly an effort on Rush’s part to deflect the truth, sow seeds of hate and uninformed discontent, and desperately seek to retain some semblance of relevancy in this era of “out with the old, in with the new.”

Unfortunately, there will always be an audience for the Rush’s of the world…people like white supremacist skinheads, fascists who believe the leaders are always more important than We, the PEOPLE!!, religious zealots who want to remake everyone into their warped image of the world, and human losers who think that logic is overrated and only emotion and the masking of their own human and societal (and/or other..  🙂 ) inadequacies should rule the nation.

There is no such thing as a constitutional ban on decision-making by the galactically stupid.  But there are days when some of us could wish for one.

A Great Day For We, the People

Barack Obama has now been sworn in as the forty-fourth president of the United States of America.  He is, in reality, the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, the country that potentially influences events on this planet more than any other.  It is a tall order and an astonishing challenge for a man whom many had never even heard of just two short years ago.  But Barack Obama is a truly gifted man, possessing at once intelligence, logical thought processes, and a vision of humanity as well as a wisdom that belies his forty-seven years of life.

President John F. Kennedy (JFK) gave a magnificent and historical speech at his inaugural on January 20, 1961.  JFK addressed the nation in somewhat similar historical circumstances as those we see today:  war, a faltering economy, and a decline of respect and admiration for America both internally and internationally.  Some of the more signifant passages of his speech were:

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…..And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country…..Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.”

These powerful words shaped a generation of Americans and influenced people around the globe.  We haven’t heard such an inspiring message from a US president since….until now.

Yesterday, President Obama (wow, it feels good to say those words) gave the speech of a lifetime, reminiscent of JFk’s speech forty-eight years ago.  Obama spoke candidly of the the challenges ahead, but he also immediately began the repair of the tarnished American image and defective arrogant leadership that has been so apparent over the past eight years.

While everyone is encouraged to read Obama’s entire speech HERE and/or watch it HERE, We the PEOPLE believes that the following passages are particularly worthy of note:

1.  “America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.” It’s always meritorious of note when someone important plugs this blog.   🙂

2.  “So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.” An obvious reference and acknowledgment of JFK’s speech under like conditions.

3.  “Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.” Obama sent the message that the conservative Bush dogma of “anything goes” with the economy is to a large degree responsible for our economic meltdown, and that this will no longer be tolerated.

4.  “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.”  This is a clear slap at the Bush syndicate’s war on science in favor of implementing religious dogma into the laws and policies of America.  From an operational point of view, this may well be the most significant part of his speech, and the most hopeful.

5.  “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” Obama wanted to make it clear that the political doctrine of exclusion so prevalent over the past right years is over.

6.  “…without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” At this point, one can only wonder how squirmy Bush and Cheney felt sitting there hearing the repudiation of their eight year failure of favoring the very rich and big corporate America over average American citizens.

7.  “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” This is the first step in restoring America’s leadership as a nation of laws and ideals.  Obama made it clear that the Bush philosophy of trampling on civil and individual rights in the misguided name of protecting national security is unadulterated tripe, and that the Bush policy of “Do as we say, not as we do” is over.  History will record this passage as perhaps the most significant policy change for the image of America.

It is clear that forty-eight years after JFK so eloquently stated it, the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.  President Obama and his wife have demonstrated that Americans can indeed be eloquent, honest, and classy in their demeanor and the image they present to the rest of the world.  They have clearly begun the difficult process of returning honor to this country.

We, the People!! could not be more hopeful, more grateful, or finally, more proud.

Ah….. the refreshing winds of change…..

January 20th Can’t Come Soon Enough

A story published in the New York Times today (January 14, 2009) quotes a Bush administration official, Susan Crawford, as confirming that prisoners at Guantanamo were tortured during interrogations.  Crawford is an appointee of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and a retired military judge.  She is the convening authority for the military commissions at Guantanamo and as such, she studied in detail the treatment of Mohammed al-Qahtani, who is often described as the “20th hijacker” of 9-11.  You can read the full story for yourself HERE.

There is nothing new about the fact that the Bush syndicate, and particularly W himself and his sidekick “Tricky Dick” Cheney, endorsed these practices while concurrently denying that the USA ever tortured anyone.  But it is significant to note that both of these men have been making the rounds of the press shows in their waning days in office.   Neither one shows the lease bit of regret for their practice of saying one thing publicly while doing something else out of the public eye.

Last night, Bush appeared on the Larry King Show and had the audacity to state to everyone watching that neither he nor anyone in his administration ever tortured anyone, and that he had “no pause” about any treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, or for that matter, anywhere else.  He specifically mentioned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered to be a mastermind of 9-11, as a prisoner at Guantanamo who had been “interrogated” to  determine what additional plans al-Qaeda might have in the USA.  You can watch the pertinent part of the interview HERE.

Obviously, the fact that the Bush interview of “denial” aired on national television just hours before the New York Times article hit the streets was fortuitous, to say the least.  It put Bush’s statement squarely up against a legal expert’s informed conclusions after examining clear and unambiguous evidence of torture committed by the USA.

The fact that Bush is blowing off his low approval ratings as simply a direct result of the recent economic fiasco which he helped to cause is proof that he is either an arrogant liar who has no respect for the intelligence of the citizenry, or that he is horribly misinformed and probably delusional.  After all, the economy didn’t really show its true colors until late summer of 2008, and Bush’s approval ratings were already in the toilet by 2005 and never recovered.  You can check them for yourself HERE.

“Tricky Dick” Cheney has also been making the rounds on the Sunday news programs, claiming that all the “controversial” (illegal, actually) things the Bush administration has done (and is still doing) are not only necessary to keep America safe, but should be continued in the Obama administration if the country is to be protected from a terrorist attack. He offered Joseph Biden, the incoming vice-president and until recently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee some advice.  Cheney proposed that once Biden takes office, he should forget the campaign rhetoric and keep in place what they (Cheney and his puppet W) put into place:  Guantanamo, extreme rendition, “harsh” interrogation including torture such as water-boarding, warrant-less surveillance of foreign and American citizens alike, warrant-less search of telephone records of Americans, and secret CIA prisons that are beyond the reach of the American legal system.

Did he really think that anyone would take him seriously?

Obama has promised to close Guantanamo shortly after taking office next week.  He has stated repeated that the US will comply with the law, including the Geneva Conventions which the Bush criminals have rarely referred to, except to state that the US should not be bound by such archaic documents.  Obama and his entire administration have a lot of work to do in order to undo all the harm done by these remorseless incompetent criminals.

Unfortunately, It is doubtful that either Bush or Cheney will ever be held legally accountable for the multiple violations of constitution and law that they have committed over the past eight years.  Additionally, because of the “legal” opinions engineered by the Bush Syndicate to cover their transgressions, it is also doubtful that any of the ‘hands-on” operatives and implementers of these policies will be brought to justice.  That is truly short-sighted, since it will make the US appear to be hypocritical in the eyes of the rest of the world as we attempt to bring others to justice for war crimes.  But then the manta of the Bushies has been a resounding “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

A HUGE Bush Mistake Obama Should Note

When GW Bush took office in 2001 he promptly proceeded to take a hands-off approach to most government policies that really required hands-on.  He decided to ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though the parties had recently worked at the negotiating table under Clinton, and quite possibly could have hammered out an agreement of some sort with more mentoring by the United States.

He also chose to impose a “profit motivated” business model and philosophy upon much of the federal government’s agencies and administrations, reasoning that if the agencies’ number one priority was the bottom line (instead of public service), the federal government would save money to fund Bush’s big business tax cuts for the “have’s and have more’s” .

A known side benefit of operating federal agencies like a profit-motivated businesses was to set these agencies up for private sector outsourcing.  In other words, Bush’s big business friends could have a shot at huge lucrative contracts from the federal government by taking over the now-bottom-line-motivated (as opposed to public service, i.e., safety, protection, etc. motivated) agency functions.

The first official action Bush took as president was to cancel a Clinton presidential executive order mandating the function of the air traffic control system as “inherently governmental”.  More on this later.

After 9-11 when the nation’s air traffic controllers landed over 6000 planes in three hours under emergency conditions, the need for many more airport passenger screeners was painfully apparent.  As a result of the Bush “sell off the government” philosophy, Bush attempted to have the proposed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) use private-contractor screeners at airports.  These private company employees would only have to answer to the bosses who were more concerned about the money pouring in from the feds than ensuring that the quality of safety and service to the folks trapped inside an airliner was the best it could be.

Luckily, the senate, which at the time was still under democratic control, passed a bill demanding that the screeners be federal employees, and the full Congress ultimately agreed to that language in conference committee.  That probably saved lives over the past seven years.

Bush also contracted out a lot of security in Iraq to private sector contractors, often via no-bid contracts to companies such as Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater.  These and others often had ties to administration officials such as the Bush family and “tricky Dick” Cheney, who just happen to head Halliburton before becoming vice-president.  Besides caring more about greed and profit than quality of service, this led to the myriad abuses of human rights, property, and tax dollars that we have all become so shamefully familiar with.

We all know what Bush’s hands-off profit-motivated program did to FEMA (“You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie”), the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA (“Pollution?  What Pollution??”) and the Food and Drug Administration (“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.  You’re still alive, so what’s your problem??”).  But a couple of agencies that affect the American people and the American economy every single day deserve special mention.

The Untied States Postal Service (USPS) was once a proud organization which prided itself upon the accurate delivery of mail six days a week.  If you had a problem, your mail carrier or local postmaster could probably solve it for you within twenty-fours.  Of course, there were always problems which are inherent in any operation that involves so many folks performing so many tasks daily.  But you still trusted that your letter or package would arrive at its destination, and you would get the service that you paid for.

Over the past eight years, the powers that be at USPS, which was already a partly privatized organization, has become more and more “profit-motivated” at the expense of service.  Mind you, we’re not talking about the “above and beyond” service that most postal workers interfacing with the public were previously known for.  No, this is about PAID SERVICES for which the customer forks over cash.

You’re not getting your mail even though you submitted a change of address months ago?  Your postmaster can’t help you…the computer operator for this system is in Memphis.  Nope, you can’t call him directly.

You paid for return receipt that was supposed to come back to you with a delivery date, recipient’s printed name and signature, but only had an illegible chicken-scratch with no printed name or delivery date?   Oh, well…sucks to be you.

This is occurring on a repeated basis because in an effort to save money and preserve the bottom line, the USPS decentralized and isolated most services so that no one, except perhaps folks in the intelligence community, knows what is happening in any other part of the USPS than their own tiny corner.  Local ostmasters are now powerless to help customers, and can only offer a telephone number to a remote office for assistance.

Someone should tell the Bushies that the more progressive companies today are abandoning this “decentralization” practice as too ineffective and too costly in customer good will to help the companies’ bottom line.  But then again, no one ever said that the profit-motivated Bush administration was any good at managing anything.

The other government agency that has been rendered a sad shadow of its former self is the Federal (or now known as FAILED) Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control System (ATCS), operated by federal employees.  These folks control not only all the commercial jets that fly people and cargo every day, but also control the military flights which criss-cross the USA on a continuous and generally classified basis.

Bush really wanted to contract out this incredibly crucial national resource to the lowest bidder before the end of his tenure.  To this end, in September 2006 his administration imposed horribly draconian work and pay rules on the nation’s controllers.  This caused a massive exodus of veteran experienced controllers who felt that they couldn’t work such a stressful job under those conditions.  The FAA has now managed to piss off every aviation group it deals with in its quest to do less with less, thus ostensibly saving a buck for Bush.  New employees hired to replace the veterans who left are being paid fully 30% less than new hires before the imposed pay rules.  Many leave after being hired for better paying jobs.

Do you want your flight to be handled in bad weather by a young overworked, underpaid air traffic control trainee who can’t pay his bills, while the agency he works for is more concerned with their bottom line than the safety of the flying public?

Private sector companies that stand to profit hugely from winning an air traffic control system contract just might.

Of course, the lesson for Obama is both simple and obvious.  Public safety and national security are inherently government functions that even libertarians are willing to pay for.  When it comes to the security of the nation and the safety of its people, profit should never be a factor.

If you’ve flown around in Air Force One for eight years, and all of your mail is courier-delivered, you probably don’t see this as a big issue.

On the other hand, Obama, despite the same flying privileges and courier service, should recognize the damage done to the governmental infrastructure over the past eight years.  It’s at least as bad as the roads and bridges.  There’s every reason to believe that he does, and he will move to fix it..

In the meantime, though, you just might want to take the train or even drive (gas is so cheap right now, after all).

And if the letter is really important…use UPS or FEDEX.