Posts Tagged ‘Frank Rich’

Frank Rich: The Best of the Worst

January 17, 2010

Please read Frank Rich’s Op-Ed in the New York Times today:

In this article, Rich says everything I have been trying to get across, albeit in a much more long-winded way.  These politicians, from both parties, are sorry excuses for human beings.  However, there still exists a difference between the overall ethos of the two major American political parties.

The Democrats, in all of their shenanigans, usually act with the underlying goal of bettering our country, i.e. health care reform.  The GOP on the other hand, has no such redeeming qualities, and their actions are motivated solely for the purpose of personal wealth.  Historically, this philosophical divide has been demonstrated time and time again by the enacted legislation:  the Dems passed Medicare and Medicaid, social security and were the force behind ending segregation.  The GOP enacted tax cut after tax cut, the Patriot Act, rescinded any modicum of financial regulation and most important, were always the “NO” factor is legislation having to do with a social and economic safety net for our citizens.  Republicans thrive on their belief that too much government is harmful and that, by leaving things alone, the economy and the welfare of our people will take care of  themselves.  Really what a Republican means is that if we leave well enough alone, he can reap all the profits for himself.  As for all the other Americans, they will just have to roll with the punches and be victims of  “letting the chips fall where they may.”

Rich’s term “buckraker” to describe these GOP personal worth hoarders, is perfect.  As he explains, look at that idiot Michael Steele and our own Sarah Palin.  Both public figures are in the game for their own enhancement. Period.  Furthermore, Rich makes the point that the Republicans have no qualms about abusing their own constituency, i.e. the tea parties, to bring even more lucre into their own pockets.  The GOP has no intention of “paying it forward”.

That is what is so ugly about this Harry Reid incident.  When Trent Lott made his racial comments by praising Strom Thurmond’s prejudiced stance on integration, they were said to promote negative, damaging effects, in support of nothing constructive.  Reid’s comments were uttered in support of candidate Obama.  That is the crux of Rich’s observations: while the GOP has a platform to tear down everything, the Dems try to bring to the table some legislation that will benefit our citizens.

Granted: both parties use ugly methods of operation.  Who would believe that the GOP is going after the middle class and blue collar workers for votes?  And which people who fall in those classes would actually believe that the GOP will deliver the safety net that they need?  Preposterous.  So even though the Dems have scoundrels like Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, at least their equally preposterous actions had some redeeming values for the people they represent.  Despite these bi-partisan examples of bad behavior, the distinction, though small at this point, still exists between the two parties.

It is not pretty out there.  But we have what we have, and the Democrats are still worth fighting for.

Running on Empty

October 4, 2009

It’s never going to happen.  America’s bottomless abyss of excess will continue to drive this country.  Frank Rich is correct in his article today about Washington’s ever-present need for lobbyists and special interests.  Even I was, and am still, not naive enough to believe Barack Obama’s campaign promises to throw  out the greedy, ethically handicapped creeps who really control our government.  Even though “America may run on Dunkin,” our underlying political and governmental structure runs on profit-and power-motivated special interests.

As per Mr. Rich, we provide ourselves, individually and as a country, with a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Our misplaced goals coupled with our misspent (absent?) morals and drive for more, more and more, eventually ends up in a flash of self-immolation and failure.  Just look at the boom and bust cycles of Wall Street, especially the moguls behind the trendy terrain of finance.  Even when faced with the possible demise of our economic system, no checks and balances have as yet to be enacted.  One good depression deserves another, and I believe the next downturn will be even more dangerous that the one we are somewhat exiting at this time.

Similarly, our passion for war is eating us alive, both morally and financially.  It is no longer feasible to enter into a foreign country to provide it with a democratic structure (whether they want it or not) or use that opportunity to flex America’s long-standing need for exercising  its substantial amounts of testosterone.  Once again, our excess, driven by the individual and institutional penchant for money and power, are ruling any semblance of common sense.  Our cowboy mentality just has no place is securing a safe and sane world.  It surely is one thing for Americans to go after what they want, but it is another thing entirely to sacrifice our entire nation, with its economic well-being and moral validity at risk, in order to reach those desired levels of special interest supremacy.  I think we are at the point where we have to consider the differences between sweeping goals and the effects the process has on individuals.  That is where we have lost our mojo.

Even President Obama is realizing this daunting feat of subduing our selfish national persona for the greater good.  It may be an impossible task.  Look at our health care debate: in our pursuit of corporate earnings and payoffs, we have so far been unable to design a health care policy that will fulfill the needs of our population.  Just the mere thought of a public option has created violence that threatens not only our citizens, but also our President.  How can we accept a nation that does not provide for affordable, universal health care?  The driving force behind this selfishness is simply the personal fortunes of our lawmakers and business entities.  Enough.  The next rebellion, based on a health care system that does NOT offer a public option due to an unwarranted fear of government intervention, will be bigger and more damaging than whatever it is we are currently experiencing.  Once again, things will have to get worse in order to get better.

All across America’s vast national map of issues that must be addressed so that the seemingly insurmountable can become surmountable, there is this pervasive miasma of personal gain holding sway over what really needs accomplishing in order to have a more perfect union.  That means that historically, we have had no qualms in ignoring and denying the basic rights and needs of our people in order to assure the attainment of money and power for the chosen, usually elected, few.  There have been limited uprisings in the far past, such as the Boston Tea Party in the 1700’s, and in the most recent past , i.e. the anti-war, anti corporate efforts of the 1960’s, with many protests in-between.  However, our basic national identity, I guess fueled by the very nature of democracy and capitalism, has remained unchanged in its glory for the mighty buck and disregard for the benevolence of the people.

President Obama is no idiot.  He knows his efforts to alter this national identity probably will be inadequate in the long run.  This is who we are.  Unfortunately, if real change were on the horizon, the state of our nation would have to be in a much more serious and precarious position.  Frank Rich is correct is stating that he would “short” America.  Ironically, to provide a sea change in our thinking and doing in America, things will have to deteriorate.  This is the only way America learns.  We live in a country of superlative thinking and actions, where the middle ground has none of the allure that the intoxicating “best and worst” offer.  Unlike Frank Rich, I am not optimistic that President Obama can effect such reform.  Power-grabbing is too ingrained in our national ethos.

Hold on to your hats.  When excess rules over moderation, especially in terms of money and power, the outcome will be excessively bumpy.  We can wring out “running on empty” for just so long.

Ever Vigilant

July 12, 2009

It is high time for the United States of America to act on the inclusive directives of our Constitution rather than the exclusive  policies of our partisan lawmakers.  An ideological overhaul must precede any major policy alteration.  Therein lies the rub.

Once again, Frank Rich of the New York Times brings home the bacon.  His piece today is magnificent, saying perfectly what I have tried to say in drips and drabs.  The danger of Sarah Palin and her ilk is very simply, that she might one day actually become our President.

How can this possibly come about?  Sarah Palin’s popularity derives from and feeds on the anger, the ethos of the American people.  Their cultural character goes deep and especially in hard economic times,  will rear its ugly head in a backlash against perceived sinister forces, such as minorities, immigrants, the educated and a status quo that has shown some progressive growth .  Rich uses the words “resentment and victimization” to describe this head-in-the-hole attribute of Palin and what remains of the GOP.  Here is my favorite part:

That’s why Palin won’t go gently into the good night, much as some Republicans in Washington might wish. She is not just the party’s biggest star and most charismatic television performer; she is its only star and charismatic performer. Most important, she stands for a genuine movement: a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind. Palin gives this movement a major party brand and political plausibility that its open-throated media auxiliary, exemplified by Glenn Beck, cannot. She loves the spotlight, can raise millions of dollars and has no discernible reason to go fishing now except for self-promotional photo ops.

The essence of Palinism is emotional, not ideological. Yes, she is of the religious right, even if she winks literally and figuratively at her own daughter’s flagrant disregard of abstinence and marriage. But family-values politics, now more devalued than the dollar by the philandering of ostentatiously Christian Republican politicians, can only take her so far. The real wave she’s riding is a loud, resonant surge of resentment and victimization that’s larger than issues like abortion and gay civil rights.

During the last week, I have done some serious thinking about the state of our economy, where we are coming from and where we are headed.  The Palin furor, wrapped up in its ignorance and repudiation of anything substantive and instead playing on the deep-seated fears of the American people, has only served to crystallize my thoughts.  My premise is that there are two issues that have historically dragged us down: foreign energy dependence and health care reform.  We are trying to repair those problems with an insufficient band-aid when a total re-design is needed.

President Obama knows these two problem areas are of the utmost importance and the bane of our very existence. However, along with the full plate he was handed on January 20th, 2009, these specific realignments take time.  I dearly hope that he realizes his words and theories will work if and only if he has the guts to truly re-vamp these problem areas, to “go deep” and actually alter attitudes, and not succumb to compromise, which will act like just a band- aid again.

First, we must minimize our dependence on foreign oil as totally as possible.  In a very unscientific manner, sort of like a mental monitoring, I have tracked the price of a barrel of oil and watched a definite correlation with economic weakness, individual, corporate and institutional financial hardship, and a significant decline in public confidence.  America must waste no more time in developing as much of an alternative energy program as possible.  Natural gas, solar, wind and even nuclear energy are there for the taking, if we so decide to actually spend the money.  These sources of power are within the borders of our own country.  In order to fully develop these possibilities though, we need to embrace a new mind set.  That is the difficult part.  Imported oil is poison for us.  Further, the jobs potentially created in establishing these alternative forms of energy would also provide new life for our nation.  Thus, we have a double, positive whammy that could inject new life in to our faltering, outmoded, wasteful downward spiral.

The second issue that likewise needs to be totally redesigned is our health care “system.”  As it stands now, the waste and corruption fueled by our patch, patch, patch strategy is a disaster in the waiting.  Over 50 million Americans have no health insurance at all, and of those that do, many are teetering on the brink  of being able to afford such coverage (i.e. health care should not be a contest between spending one’s money on insurance, medications, or food on the table).  How many more medical insurance company executives are going to have to go public about the greed, corruption, and illegal refusals to honor their policies before we realize that what we have is just a facade of benefits for a wisp of a population?

Our current health care quagmire is very complicated and each new option carries with it a domino effect.  The answer is simply not just reducing doctors’ and hospitals’ fees; that by itself would serve only to create an exodus of qualified professionals and much needed points of service.  Rather, health care professionals and patients need to be re-educated about the benefits/costs relationship.  “If you build it, they will come” might be a good description of a ball field, but certainly not of a health care system.  Just because we have the existence of, for example, MRI’s, does not mean that physicians must prescribe such tests across the board.  Of course, their intention is to avoid any liability punishment.  It is defensive medicine.  So the domino continues to roll: until we have reform in the area of medical liability, we can not realistically expect the caregivers to become more prudent in their requests for more, often unnecessary, testing.  Thus, the waste inherent in our current program will continue to grow.  And so on and so forth.

This piecemeal approach to health care will not be changed by the current proposals in front of Congress.  Nothing less than a major overhaul will suffice to provide all Americans with decent health care.  Universal, mandatory, single payer health care is really what is called for.  Yet, I would settle for a “babying-in” of such policies at this point, in which case we must offer a public option.  Americans must be realistic as well; it would be foolish to expect the Cadillac of health care coverage on a minuscule budget.  That is just not going to happen because it would seal the fate of  financially burdened businesses and government.  If people want fantastic benefits, they will have to pay fantastic premiums.  If they so desire overall coverage for for the cheapest cost, they are going to have to realize that restrictions and yes, even rationing, will be the the order of the day.  We are at a crossroads now, and while it is imperative to adequately and fairly cover all citizens, that notion must be tempered with the  reality of overuse, abuse, expectations and entitlement.  Once again, a mind set change is called for.

Yes, under President Obama’s leadership, we have avoided total financial collapse.  Is this the best we can hope for? Or can we also better our future outlook?  Optimistically, we are on a corrective path.  However, these major changes take a lot of time.  Paul Krugman has been hollering for quite a while now that the stimulus will not be enough to recoup our sure economic footing.  We need more.  Granted: only 10% of the $700 billion designated as stimulus funds has been spent.  Of course, capital projects such as road building and major infrastructure improvements take a considerable chunk of time to implement.  So is the rehabilitation and renovation of our economy stymied by the typical American trait of a lack of patience, or a lack of new, viable policies?  Will we settle once again for the band-aid approach or have the courage of our convictions to alter our attitude and thereby update our American world?

If we truly want to alter our past policies, we need to admit and then restructure  our energy policy and health care coverage and delivery system.  The first step would be to acknowledge the ethical and moral void that permeates our system of government and private enterprise.  Democracy is a funny thing: while providing for freedom and justice, it also allows for capitalistic corruption.  There  exists a fine line between total economic freedom and abuse.  President Obama is on the right track, but a new mind set regarding our needs and wants versus their cost must be squarely faced.  Whether our present economic lethargy is due to just a factor of time or real, long-term faults in the system is moot.  We must initiate corrective policies with the underlying emphasis being on a more equitable system of values.

This is the point where Sarah Palin and the GOP fall flat on their faces.  They have no regard for all the people.  Instead, they think every American should be on their own and not at all reliant on any government assistance.  Those that can afford necessities will receive them and those that can not, will not.  Less government, more for the top 5% of the population.  Instilling fear and prejudice against the have nots is one way to ensure the continuation of this dominance.

As my husband wisely warned our children upon Barack Obama’s election, “You must continue to be vigilant lest we have another Bush.”  The fight goes on, for Sarah Palin could well be our next Bush.  There will always be another scoundrel waiting in the wings, draped in self-righteous, hypocritical, blind faithfulness expected from the general population but not from himself.  We need President Obama to do more than just lay the groundwork, both ideological and actual, for drastic policy change; he must get the job done.  There is little distinction between capitalism’s well-intended aims and its discriminatory, selfish, often destructive ends.  The same holds true for democracy.  That is why we must pursue significant, meaningful and long-term policy changes at this time.   Our constitutional ideals and timbre of our society can be protected only if our policy implementations take precedence over our  leaders’ selfish ambitions our own personal agendas.

So my loyal readers, consider me vigilant.  I will continue the fight for what is good, right and just for the sake of my children and future generations.  If I do not pursue these lofty aims, I might as well just up and join the GOP.  And the American people will maybe get what they deserve: President Sarah Palin.

The Folly of Our Leadership

May 31, 2009

Frank Rich of the New York Times has been reading my posts again.  All egotistical flattery aside, our ideas are in sync because they are the obvious truth.   So very obvious, in fact, that everyone and Yo Mama have the very same thoughts.  No secret there.

The folly and intellectual laziness of people still astounds me.  At the heart of Dick Cheney’s foray into the media this month is the fact of revenge.  His main objective is to continue the Bush/Cheney scare tactic of a repeat 9/11 performance in order to obtain the political ends the GOP desires.  Those wants, such as lower taxes, obstruction of individual rights, lower taxes, invasion of privacy, lower taxes, benefits for the rich over all the other economic classes and lower taxes, often bear no correlation to the prevention of terrorism.  As I said in an earlier post, Cheney would feel vindicated if there was another major terrorist attack on our soil.  It is more important for him to be “right” than for peace to prevail.

Frank Rich is also correct that the cradle of worry should be Pakistan.  May I add to that Iran and North Korea?  The common denominator of these three countries is the threat (an actuality in Pakistan) of nuclear arms.  All three nations have corrupt, unstable governments whereby an atomic warhead can very possibly fall into the wrong hands.  President Obama, upon taking office, made his plea for global nuclear disarmament clear.   However, the topic was not sexy enough and the current bevy of pressing issues quickly overtook this essential tenet.

As an aside, I can not for the life of me, reconcile the actions of nuclear armed nations “outlawing” non-nuclear governments from obtaining the technology.  Are the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, more peace-loving, politically sane and less power hungry than Iran or North Korea?   History would prove that untrue.  If it is forbidden for some countries to develop the bomb, then the entities that already have the bomb must disarm immediately.

Pakistan is the main worry now.  Afghanistan not so much: the terrorists in Pakistan were born in Afghanistan, their loyalties remain to that country but the geographical borders between the two countries do not exist in reality.  The mountains and rough terrain muddy what the maps say exist.  Attention must be paid to Pakistan because they are a nuclear nation and the political unrest there has the power to unleash chaos, which could morph into a nuclear weapon being stolen and used by the extremists.  So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.  Even  though Iran and North Korea may not be atomically armed yet, they too must be watched closely, for they also encompass a shaky political structure that can fall victim to the destructive aims of terrorists.

Furthermore, the Democrats who sided against the closing of GITMO are equally culpable in their contribution to this game of fear and succumbing to the least common moral denominator.  Fear mongering is so much easier than using ones brain to design a more effective solution.  Lazy bastards.

What can the world do?  Frank Rich echoes my thoughts again: we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.  However, until we can attain that stasis, we must protect ourselves.  This is the fly in the ointment.  The yardstick, whether for global harmony, political power or individual financial gain, must become a fair and just belief system rather than a map for what one has, such as power and lucre.  The world at large has vacated their senses, if they ever had any sense in the first place.

Read Frank Rich carefully this morning.  If the next step in the narcissistic political battle field escalates to a nuclear attack, we all lose.


I have received an illuminating comment on this post in my Daily KOS diary.  I include it here:

You make some fine points.  However I believe that you have swallowed the propaganda with regard to several of the countries you cite as being unstable. For some of them “instability” is the cultural norm, externally imposed stability is the danger.

When discussing Pakistan and Afghanistan, one must recognize that they are tribal societies first and nation states second. When one bombs Pakistanis or Afghans, from the victims point of view, one is bombing their tribe, and that tribe as a whole will react regardless of which country they actually live in. This is why their border is so porous; there is little difference between the populations on either side of it. The border is a mere technicality of more interest to those doing the bombing than those who are being bombed.

Pakistan and Iran are more developed nation states than Afghanistan, but this is largely because their modern identities were developed in opposition to what they perceive as colonization by foreign powers. With Pakistan that would be Britain/India, with Iran it would be the United States. Their fundamental tribal basis is incredibly stable and is only made stronger by foreign intervention which tends to make the various tribes more cooperative.

The paternalistic attitude we take toward them with regard to propping up authoritarian rule in their country has blowback as can be seen in the Russo/Afghan and U.S./Afghan wars and the revolution against the U.S. backed Shah, not to mention the U.S. supported regimes in Iraq.

Your statements as regards Iran’s efforts to get the bomb have been repeatedly knocked down by intelligence services worldwide, though they also say that continued harping on the subject and aggressive stances towards them will ensure their ultimately seeking it if only as a deterrent/bargaining chip.

proliferation of nuclear weaponry has proven to be the sole point upon which the west will bargain. North Korea has proven this conclusively and has milked it through escalation for decades…as has Pakistan vs. India. Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability. They are in fact very stable countries within their own contexts, foreign as they may seem, And aggression or paternalism on our parts only makes both factions more likely to escalate.

we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.

is absolutely correct. The militaristic stances we have taken in order to achieve our own narrow goals for the last seventy years, and longer if Britain, Russia and France are taken into account, have created the problems we see today. When you say:

So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.

You are essentially ratifying the status quo, which I sincerely do not believe will be of any real use if what we are interested in is resolving the problems we face with regard to extremism in the M.E and S.E Asia.

Sorry this turned into a novel.

And here is my response:

Thank you for your insightful comments.  We probably agree more than we disagree.

However, regarding the political stability (or lack thereof) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I beg to differ with you.  Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of an overall national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.  Each tribal faction has there own little war with the next faction. So even though the tribes may provide some internal stability, that stasis does not apply to a national government or the international arena.

Regarding the stability in Iran, even my son astutely pointed out to me that there is a stable government in Iran.  Once again, I beg to differ.  Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry for action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?  That’s stability?  And what of the electorate who elected him?  That’s stability?  No way.  Internal national security can not exist if it is a threat to international security.  If a nuclear device were to be detonated, would we be able to erect our territorial fences to prevent the toxic poison from entering our space?  No way.

I understand and acknowledge our paternalistic advances in countries that we have no right to interfere with.  That is an obvious given.  However, in view that a few extremist governments, either already possessing a nuclear capability or just on the verge of it, are a real threat to the entire world, we must find a better way, using our hearts and minds, to disarm them.

And more back and forth:

I hear you and I am quite sure that our agreements outnumber the disagreements, however I think the main disagreement is too fundamental not to discuss.

Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of a national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.

I tried to make this point here:

Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability

Probably not well. However, I maintain that aggressive militarism and self righteous, often false, propaganda with regard to such countries is not our friend because it tends to make the competing factions cooperate to a more extreme end than would otherwise be the case. You made my case for me by using Achmidenijad as an example:

Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry to action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?

It is perfectly simple: they have been messed with by foreign powers, including Israel, for over seventy years. As regards Israel: Iran has the largest population of Jews in the middle east, yet Iranian Jews encounter few difficulties in their daily lives. The Persian peoples have traditionally been an extremely religiously sophisticated group. Their stance with regard to Israel has little to do with the Jewish faith, they cannot be fobbed off as anti-semites, there is something more at work here and I believe that the protected status of such an aggressive power as Israel in their backyard has a lot to do with it. See how the tribal and state interests coalesce in a more extreme form than they otherwise would in a different scenario?

Further, Iran has given incredible amounts of aid to the U.S. and its’ coalition partners with regard to our effort in Afghanistan, yet we have infiltrated them with factions hostile to their regime. How can such overt slaps in the face not be considered a factor in the radicalization of the Iranian regime?

Your son is right, the primary reason that Iran is as stable as it is is because they are drawn together in the face of what is perceived a greater enemy than conservative, nutcase Presidents; the Great Satan (U.S.) and its’ indefatigable efforts to undermine their leadership. We cannot say, at this point, that we do not understand that particular dynamic here, why would it be unreasonable elsewhere with far more historical reasons?

Note that the Iranian people’s enmity has not, until recently, extended to the U.S. people, just its’ government. This is an insight that we should be well aware of when advocating for a status quo solution.

My response:

Your comments on Iran are well-taken and I think you are correct. But can you explain to me, because I do not get it, how a seemingly mature nation like Iran can elect a leader like Ahmendinijad?  Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

And finally, more from my interested party:

Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

By comparison, the revolution was only thirty years ago; the coup around fifty. It will take time for their wounds to heal. We should respect that.

Exactly!  Few here could possibly recognize the very real trauma of having one’s elected leadership replaced in a coup instigated by a foreign power and then being ruled by so authoritarian a personage as the Shah. Reja Pahlavi was every bit the butcher that Saddam was (yet another one of our creations). We do not often hear what his reign was actually like…it wouldn’t put us in a favorable light.

The revolution by fundamentalist Muslims in Iran was easily forseeable given the type of country it was, yet one never hears that other side of the story. Instead, we hear a lot about the hostages, nothing about why they were taken hostage. Convenient, eh? When in peril, even a perceived peril, a people, any people including ourselves as we now well know, will seek freedom from that threat(however that term may be defined within the context of its’ own culture) in the most brutal way necessary.

Iran as a culture may be thousands of years old, but as a state it is, comparatively speaking, brand new with virtually all of its founders intact. The revolutionary rhetoric is not surprising, though actions based upon it in the absence of a real threat would be. These folks ain’t stupid…just like Kim Jong Il. Given Iran has essentially been surrounded by what their leadership perceives as an aggressive threat, the surprise is how helpful they have been in spite of their harsh rhetoric.

During the (from their perspective) relatively benign Clinton Administration they were slackening up on their more authoritarian tendencies with regard to their own people and the west, under Bush we got Achmadinejad. Their President, who is surprisingly powerless under their form of government, may have been popularly elected but he is not popular. Don’t bet, however, that in the face of a real threat each and every one of his constituents wouldn’t haul out their pitchforks and follow him wherever he might lead.

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

This is, indeed, critical for our understanding of how to handle all such countries, in my view.

I just thought of the perfect example. Persia is a VERY conservative culture which does not take slights well. Within the tribal system, where most cultural knowledge is passed down verbally, they are still angry at Alexander the Great and memorize epic poems about him. Alexander the Great! Nearly four thousand years ago!

Frost Heaves

March 23, 2009

Perspective. In order to get through life’s trying times, perspective, welling up from common sense and humor, is imperative.

In Maine, there is a winter phenomenon called frost heaves. A frost heave is basically a bump in the road. Water seeps under the pavement, then freezes and expands as winter sets in. The result is a huge bump in the road. These frost heaves make driving in Maine during the winter a whole lot of fun; it is better than a roller coaster, including the unexpectedness of the bumps but not the severe turns and violent ups and downs of a real roller coaster that would put me in physical therapy for months . It is not all fun and games though. Once winter passes, the ice underneath the road surface melts, the ground becomes soft and the road usually breaks up. Thus, repaving is necessary.

So it is with our crisis of confidence today. We must be willing to accept the bumps in the road and carry on to fulfill the larger picture. Facing up to this AIG bonus scandal is like moving through the various stages of facing death: first there is denial because we are stunned, then we become angry as all get out, followed by a willingness to bargain, then depression, but finally we accept the facts. Sustained anger and revenge are just not healthy for any of us. It is not that President Obama does not care about AIG’s missteps. It is just that he refuses to let their thievery prevent him from getting done what needs to get done. He grounds himself in plain old common sense. Further, his media appearances are not meant to make light of the situation, but through his use of humor, to diffuse it.

The following links will help to handle the outrage we all feel at this financial and ethical debacle. In no way do I use these examples as a means of belittling the severity of this crisis. Its effects must not be minimized. But a break in our anger is healthy. I have always admired Judge Judy, first and foremost for her groundedness, her common sense. Last week she had a sit-down with Larry King and they discussed all matters from AIG to Bernie Madoff to the Octomom. Judge Judy is one smart cookie who definitely has a productive perspective on life.

Perhaps her words that stick in my mind best, is when asked to analyze President Obama’s Presidency so far, are that there is no doubt that he is “well-intentioned.” Even though there is a lot that needs fixing in our country, I am confident that Obama wants the best for us. How heroic of him to undertake this metamorphosis that ranges from a change in our fundamental values to health care reform to energy independence to climate control.

Frank Rich of the New York Times echoes my take on this situation:

Our nation needs to face directly, all at one time, all that ails us. Our old and ongoing policies (or lack thereof) have weakened us. President Obama is correct when he says that to ignore these problems might just drag us all the way down. These issues are too important to be put on hold once again.

The other part of perspective is humor. President Obama and Judge Judy both value the power of a good laugh. I am sure that in light of the serious issues facing them, humor serves to keep them sane. Humor is my first refuge from getting out from under misery. NPR had a show on Saturday called “Wait Wait….Don’t Tell Me!”. It is a weekly review of current news and listeners call in to participate in different games. The most recent panel included three comedians along with the moderator. I haven’t laughed so hard in months. If you can find a half hour or so to just chill and recoup your mental health, go to this link and have a listen. I promise you will not be disappointed:

The best part of this show was the prize they offer to winning contestants. No bonuses, no stock options and no bull sh**. Instead, one of the participating comedians will record a message on the winner’s answering machine. That, my friends, is innovation.

As with Maine’s frost heaves, whose annual appearance provides me with so much fun, come spring the piper must be paid. So it is with all these problems we face as a nation. Bump after bump in the road must not prevent us from getting to the finish line. We need to follow President Obama’s lead and take stock, get some perspective on the whole picture. Common sense and humor will make that road a little bit more palatable.

Heave ho!

Sabbath Sunday Service

March 15, 2009

Frank Rich of the New York Times has his hot Sunday stuff today:

Culture wars, shmulture wars.  Religion and right wing exclusionary ideology are substitutes for the financially and intellectually destitute.  Those GOP leaders, Limbaugh and Gingrich, have SIX marriages between them.  Need I say more?  How many babies in the Palin family were really born out of wedlock?  Need I say more?  None of this would matter except for the fact that these bastions of religious, ethical and moral platitudes are totally void of any of those principles themselves.

Let’s take it down a notch.  NPR has a “Tiny Desk Concert” program where various members of the arts visit the NPR offices and perform.  Back to basics: small is beautiful.  Life can be manageable.  Ultimate reward comes from individual connections.  Less is more.  Tom Jones rocks, especially in his last song here:

Finally, my Sunday worship would not be complete unless I include my confession that I will withhold the appropriate amount of taxes owed to Uncle Sam that amounts to my share of the bailout funds given to AIG.  Ask me if I care whether or not my whole life’s employment history, my superb credit rating, my hard-earned financial independence, my respect for the letter of the law and my moral backbone will go down the toilet.  AIG is using my honestly earned and well managed tax dollars to pay out bonuses to the very people responsible for the downfall of their company and possibly our economy.  My reaction is not anarchy;  AIG’s cheating and lying ways ARE.  So how come I will be thrown in jail, after ignoring IRS penalties and accrued interest, and AIG is rewarded for their behavior?  Why is my protest punishable but AIG’s initial and ONGOING fraud acceptable?

AIG announced this morning that they will trim their bonuses by 30%, after Tim Geithner applied some pressure.  Not good enough.  That is still like “being a little pregnant.”  Oh, I almost forgot in light of my Sunday service:  Newt, “Poppin Fresh” dough boy Rush, certainly that righteous Palin family and AIG are allowed to be “a little pregnant”.  Yo Mama is not.

This is not a “culture” war; it is just simply an all-out war of individual responsibility versus institutionalized lawlessness.  This is true blasphemy, a disdain and disregard for the laws of our land, plain and simple.  My very own government is ordering me to support illegal and immoral practices.  It is one thing to contribute my tax dollars to the efforts of running a viable country.  It is totally another thing to require my tax dollars to help poison the system.  No culture, no government, can make me participate in that fraud.  What?  Is this the Nuremberg defense, i.e. “I only did what I was told to do,” all over again?  I was brought up much better than that.  I was taught right from wrong much better than that.  I have lived my life in support of lawful and moral credos much better than that.  I have raised my two children, the true bastions of all that is good, much better than that.  My “culture” barometer has been honed by a well-lived, principled life and I will not go against it, even for my “country”, whose ongoing survival seems to now be based on illegal activities.

So they might as well come and get me.  Just shoot me now.