Monday, October 19, 2009

On The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

I’m sure everyone thought the resident Obama fan would have some comment about the President being selected to win the Nobel Peace Prize. So here are my two cents:

Do I think Mr. Obama’s selection for that lofty prize may have been a bit premature? Yes, I do. Do I think President Obama has had an opportunity to implement his world-peace-enhancing policies? No, I do not. Do I believe that our Congress/electorate/national media will even allow him to implement those policies? Hard to say.

But what I think is not important. In fact, what we as a nation think isn’t important. The Nobel Prize is awarded by a committee that represents, arguably, global interests. And that is key.

What we don’t, as a nation, see—what we refused to allow ourselves to believe for eight years—was how far, under the hand of the Bush Administration, the United States of America had fallen from the ideals that had made her the great nation she was. After the September 11th attacks, the US turned cowardly. Fear made her retract the great wings of freedom and protection with which she traditionally attempted to enfold the world. Fear made her stretch her sharp talons in the direction of any threat, real or imagined. Fear made her claw and snap and growl. A world that had depended upon a strong, brave, free and generous America saw the US turn into a very large, very wounded animal, with the Bush Administration continuously chewing upon the sores to keep them open and to keep her fearful and angry and half-crazed with pain. And the world became afraid—of us.

Finally, We the People regained our senses and drove the party responsible for our loss of respect on the world stage out of the White House. Sure, we elected a man who got the job pretty much because he was as far from the person and policies of the previous Administration as you could get. President Obama was elected because he was NOT George W. Bush, and as far as the rest of the world is concerned, that (obviously) carries a tremendous amount of weight. Mr. Obama has at the very least talked the talk of a complete about-face from the previous administration’s policies. That was enough to impress the Nobel Committee, to inspire them to award the Peace Prize to the man who personifies the restoration of the United States of America to her rightful place in the world—that of Uniter, not Divider.

I look at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize as having been awarded more to the people of the United States than to the new President. We kicked the bad guys out, and demanded the change that the Obama Administration represents. Let’s just hope that, now, we go forward and implement that change the world so desperately needs to see in us.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Choosing Anger over Fear

I’m convinced that our intrepid media are more than marginally responsible for the economy’s continuing downward spiral. They delight in imparting everything, down to the tiniest, goriest detail; confident that we, the sensation-starved public, will gobble down every poisonous morsel and beg for more. And we do.

With that in mind, I’ve had to limit my exposure to those tainted offerings, lest I simply give up, lock the doors of the cafĂ©, walk away and go live in my car—the one that has been paid for since 1985. Business is down, but we haven’t gone broke yet. Customers come in, food goes out, and the bills get paid on time. So it’s no good for me to start obsessing about all the gloom and doom the media are spreading around. Not yet, anyway.

And yet, despite my best efforts, one of those deadly stories will get to me every couple of days. And my best defense…is a good offense. I refuse to get scared. I choose to get pissed instead.

So, what did I choose to get pissed at this time? Well, I read the news about AIG using the second infusion of federal bailout money to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in “bonuses.” I came upon this information via a long, involved story in the New York Times. Wherein I learned that AIG claims, and independent lawyers seem to confirm, that they “have no choice” but to pay out these bonuses.

Have no choice? Excuse me? On how many levels is this absolute horse puckey?

“We promised these bonuses back in 2008, before the economy tanked.” First of all, it has always been my understanding that bonuses are paid for good performance. Bonuses are paid to employees who have contributed above and beyond the call to increase a company’s profits. It can’t be news to you that not only has your company tanked, but it has taken a good portion of the American economy with it. Exactly what, then, have these guys done to rate a “bonus?” To the tune of several hundred million dollars? The very fact that the government has HAD to pump billions into AIG’s coffers should summarily disqualify any employee from receiving a “bonus.”

And if that federal bailout money did not have some kind of clear directives attached to it as to how it could be used, somebody REALLY screwed the pooch.

“We need to pay out these bonuses in order to retain our best employees.” Hello! Your “best” employees are responsible for one of the biggest economic disasters in the history of…economy. I personally would be telling them not to let the door hit them in the ass… And, by the by, where are they going to go? There’s a recession on, dipshits. No one is hiring. Bonuses or not, you’re very likely stuck with them. FIRE their butts. Or let them sue. DON’T GIVE THEM THE MONEY.

All I could think when I read that stupid article was, if someone is so convinced that this money HAS to go out, and they, in turn, have convinced the government that there is nothing they can do to stop it, we have bigger problems than just a broken economy. The rich (and don't insult me by claiming that someone who receives a million dollar bonus is not rich) WILL have their money, if they have to snatch the last dollar out of the hands of a starving family to get it. Something is so fundamentally broken here that it’s going to take generations to fix. If it can be fixed at all.

And that…

THAT scares the hell out of me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Go Ahead...Give It Back!

First, we heard certain Republican governors whining that they “didn’t need” federal bailout money and planned on either giving it back or refusing it altogether. It seems one of the big sticking points was that in order to accept certain moneys, the states would have to amend their unemployment policies to include part-time workers. Oh, by all means…we can’t extend benefits to part-timers. We’ll just overlook the fact that some people have to work two or three part-time jobs in order to make ends meet, because our 21st century service-based economy does not have an adequate number of full-time, living wage jobs available. Those jobs—along with the factories and the mills—are all in Asia now…supporting the Chinese and Indian middle class.

The situation kind of reminds me of the joke about the drowning man who refused a life ring, a boat, and a helicopter because “God was going to save him.” When he ultimately drowned and arrived at the Pearly Gates, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “What do you mean? I sent you a life preserver, a boat and a helicopter…”

Now that we’ve got that bit of insanity out of our system, the banks have decided to get into the act. Today, I spied an article at The New York Times about banks—big and small—contriving to refuse or send back bailout money. It seems that the Obama administration has put “onerous” conditions on banks accepting federal bailout funds. Things like suspending evictions and offering distressed homeowners the opportunity to refinance. Things like requiring banks to allow shareholders to vote on executive compensation packages. Terrible, awful, reprehensible things to require of a bunch of rich ***holes standing in line with one hand out and the other with fingers crossed behind their backs.

The banks have become so enamored of their unencumbered, unrestricted, unregulated status that they just can’t allow themselves to be controlled in any way. They were all in favor of the “Give us the money and we’ll figure out how to use it” style of bailout. They were overjoyed to stand in line with their stack of bags at the ready to fill up and then stash somewhere that no one would ever see it again (probably in the Swiss bank accounts of their highest executives…)

But now…what? We’re going to try to tell them what they can do with the money? We’re going to try to hold them responsible? We’re going to try to coerce them into some kind of social accountability? Well, then they’ll just have to sputter and turn all red in the face and cry “Socialism! Government control! Ack! Ack!”

All this crap about “socialism” that’s being bandied about these days… I have to ask: Why is it that any time government steps in to try to benefit the poor—or, god forbid, the over-burdened, under-appreciated middle class—the right-wing blares the “S” word like an air-raid siren? What is so wrong with the idea of the government “of the people by the people” making sure the people get a fare shake from time to time? Why does it so infuriate the “haves” when the “have-nots” steal a tiny, cap-gun-sized pop of their thunder?

In the end, I have to wonder: if all these banks are standing in line to give the bailout money back, how much did they need it in the first place? Because I really can’t believe that they’re willing to face certain doom rather than accept money with “onerous” conditions attached to it, just on principle. How does the saying go? Fool me once ($800 billion in unregulated bailout money from the Bush Administration), shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me...

Cross-posted from Women On...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Remember When Freedom Wasn't Free?

I read last week that Dan Rather is suing CBS news for $70 million, seeking retribution for the debacle following his story on Bush's military record that cost him his job just before election 2004.

You remember that story, right? The one where Rather's team acquired documents that indicated that our illustrious War President had received preferential treatment to avoid serving in Viet Nam during the war, and in fact had been allowed to duck out of the military without fulfilling all his obligations? The story that resulted in Rather's "Swift-boating" by nefarious factions of the Right Wing Media Noise Machine?

I was fascinated to discover, in reading about Rather's current lawsuit, that those documents that were deafeningly decried as forgeries by conservative bloggers (they claimed to have evidence that the type faces and fonts used on the documents did not exist in the military in the 1960's) were never actually proven to be anything but authentic. And that neither Bush nor his team ever denied the contents of the records.

More than anything, this story brought back memories of the Bad Old Days: those months in the wake of 9/11 when George W. Bush was allowed—no, not merely allowed…begged—to ride rough-shod over the American public's freedoms in the name of gathering us all, trembling and wetting ourselves—under his great, fearless, protective wings. Those were dark days, indeed; days when an ambiguous administration, and a man who struggled to attain mediocrity on his best days, were elevated to Knights of the Right and Protectors of All Things Sacred. Days when we traded our rights to privacy, due process, dissent and a free press for a security to which citizens of a free nation should never condescend to aspire.

But that was years ago, wasn't it? The Bush Administration is gasping its last breath, and Barack Obama is waiting in the wings to take over and initiate course corrections to our ship of state. Right? So why is Dan Rather suing now? Why keep beating a dead horse? Why not just…get over it?

I don't know. Bleeding-heart liberal that I am, I was never a Dan Rather fan. Sure, we share many of the same political opinions…but that's the point. Opinions do not have a place behind the anchor desk. At least, they didn't twenty-five years ago. I was never comfortable with the in-your-face liberal slant with which Rather branded his "news" broadcasts. Invariably, I could watch him for about five minutes before I would tune him out in disgust. He always came off as way too "holier than thou." "Just report the news, Dan," I would chide him in my mind. "Don't tell me how to think about it."

Little did I know then that Rather was blazing the trail of the future of journalism. The future where the boundaries between news and editorialism completely evaporated; the future where the public would be bombarded with so much skewed and often contradicting "information," put out there by factions with varying agendas, that they would ultimately be forced to choose a reality.

That future that is NOW.

So, it is true that, in some respects, Rather was hoist on his own petard. He was one of the original polluters of the information stream; eventually, he was forced to drink his own poison. I feel bad for him; I think he got a raw deal. And I think he wants vindication. And if he can get it, though it's too late for it to free us from one more minute of Bush Administration bungling, I think he deserves it.

But more importantly, we as a nation need to watch Dan Rather reopen this can of worms. We need to be reminded of where we were four short years ago. Remember when the president was so revered, almost sanctified, that any whisper of negative press about him was called un-American and punished as severely as law—or society outside the law—would tolerate? Remember when you refrained from voicing political opinions at your local watering hole, lest you meet with some embarrassing or violent incident? Remember when you were afraid that a petty fight with a neighbor might result in him imagining a terrorist plot and ratting you out to the FBI? Remember when one of the nation's pre-eminent journalists was discredited, disgraced, and ridden out of town on a rail on the basis of a story that was, in all likelihood, true?

Remember not feeling very free in the land of the free and home of the brave?

We absolutely need to remember these things. Because we absolutely need to make sure they never happen again.

(Cross-posted from "Women On...")