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Well, this is certainly a huge shock. In the current economic climate, largely the result of an almost complete lack of regulatory oversight of the financial markets and a host of poor policy decisions during his disastrous tenure in the White House, former alleged president George W. Bush is having trouble raising the nut for his $300,000,000 presidential library, to be housed at Southern Methodist University (much to the chagrin of the professors in the history and political science departments at that institution).
First of all, what could possibly justify $300 million for a library in honor of an alleged adult whose favorite book – indeed quite possibly the only book he ever read – was The Pet Goat?
Second, in the present economic climate, where is he going to find donors with that kind of cash lying around for such a purpose?
Think about it. Usually, in such instances, there is some sort of wall of donors in a prominent location in the structure, to stroke the egos of wealthy supporters. But even if you initially supported GWB, would you want to have your name memorialized in bronze in connection with what many historians have already labeled the worst president ever?
According to a recent story at Politico.com, George and Laura are hosting a series of dinner parties among their super-rich buddies, trying to drum up support. But, gee, they’re just having a hard time raising the necessary cash.
Doesn’t your heart just bleed for the man?
I’m going to sign off with a video from a new group called Funk Vigilante. This song sums up my thoughts about Bush’s presidency quite nicely…
Okay, first of all, whose brilliant idea was it to have the State of the Union speech on Fat Tuesday?
I didn’t watch the speech live. Not that I was out Mardi Gras-ing, or anything. I just kind of spaced until after it was over. I’ve gotten so in the habit of watching podcasts for news coverage (Countdown and the Rachel Maddow Show, natch) that I don’t turn the TV on anymore…and most of the time, I don’t miss anything except a few commercials with this approach.
So I kind of blew it last night, and missed Obama’s SOTU.
Fortunately, everything is available on the internets these days, so I can watch the speech and Jindal’s response in the comfort of my favorite coffee shop. Following are my thoughts on his speech, in more or less chronological order, along with a few quotes so that the comments aren’t arriving in a vacuum:
- Okay, did he just say hello to every single person in the chamber before taking his place at the podium? Also, did the Shrub get a standing ovation just for being presented the last couple of SOTUs he gave? I think I would have remembered that…
- Jeez, could Hillary’s suit possibly be a more vivid color?
- Also, somebody needs to explain to Nancy Pelosi that she is also on camera during these speeches and needs to not mess with her hair.
- A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.” Yeah, Dubya, he’s talking to you.
- Let the record show that when President Obama said, “And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law,” the Republican half (oops, sorry, significantly less than half) of the chamber sat on its hands, while the Democratic side gave itself a standing ovation.
- “And that’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.” Okay, that’s a sound bite that’s going to end up in the history books…
- “Already, we’ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we’ve done in the last decade.” Not that that’s difficult to have done, since Dubya and his minions did exactly nothing on the health care reform front, beyond adding a Medicare drug benefit that was written by Big Pharma. Oh, and vetoed SCHIP every chance it got…which is why the Obama administration can claim to have done so much.
- Forty three minutes after his introduction before he actually says the word “Iraq”, and then only to talk about the no-bid contracts there… okay, granted I am radically opposed to those contracts and the Halliburtons and Blackwaters running around that country acting in our name on cost-plus contracts (anyone who’s seen my reviews of the movie War, Inc., and my comments on Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine knows my position on this). Just seems like he should be talking about Iraq and Afghanistan more than this…
- “We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.” Hallelujah! I had a HUGE argument a few years back with a friend who does business consulting who took a gig on behalf of an Indian company trying to get American jobs. His rationalization was that he was helping American corporations operate more efficiently, and couldn’t see or didn’t care that he was sending American jobs overseas. Or maybe he just wanted to remain in denial… (Are you reading this, my friend? You know who you are…)
- Okay, this is amusing. At the part of his speech where Obama reveals that families making less than a quarter million a year won’t see their taxes go up a dime, all the Democrats in the chamber stood up right away, but initially the people on the Republican side of the chamber remained seated. Then it apparently occurred to some of them that staying seated on this point might not look real good to all the less well-off citizens who vote against their financial interests in supporting the Republican party, and some of them started standing up, too. Out of touch much, Repubs? Remember, if it were just the rich people voting for you, you’d maybe have four or five congressmen and a senator or two…maybe.
- Ooh, another mention of Iraq and Afghanistan, this time in connection with the budget. They’re including the “full cost” of fighting these conflicts in the budget, instead of doing supplemental things that make it harder to track how much the government is spending…very nice. “For seven years, we’ve been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.” Yeah, Bush, he’s talking to you…again…
- Ah, 46 minutes into a 58 minute speech, finally we get to actually ending the war in Iraq: “Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.” Yay!
- “And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Quaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.” Um, sorry, does this mean we’re going to be fighting Pakistan, too? Aren’t they ostensibly one of our allies? Or is he just talking about launching raids into the remote areas of Pakistan where the government really doesn’t have any power?
- At least he is doing more than just mouthing platitudes about “supporting the troops” and talking about DOING things to help them out: increasing pay, increasing recruiting, and expanding health care benefits for vets. That’s something…
- And 49 minutes in he mentions closing Gitmo, “…because living our values doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment here tonight.” Yeah, that’s aimed at you again, Duhbya…
- “New era of engagement”…”cannot shun the negotiating table” … “lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors”…Groovy
- And of course, something inspiring to close on: “I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far. There are surely times in the future where we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. I know that. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground. And if we do, if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then some day, years from now, our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, ‘something worthy to be remembered.’” Very nice.
This wasn’t nearly as much fun as blogging Bush’s SOTUs, which were so damn mockable…still, it’s a nice change having a president who is capable of speaking without completely mangling the English language. Which is actually damning with faint praise – Obama is one hell of a public speaker.
Jindal’s response next…
I was going to post one last anti-Bush diatribe, as many other writers and commentators have done. I’ve been working on it off and on for several days. But today I find that I just can’t.
I’m too giddy.
We made history today, folks, in a day many thought would never come.
It’s a great day to be an American.
We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, undoing the damage of the past eight years – the past twenty-eight years, more accurately, perhaps even longer. And tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves and get to work.
But for now? I say we party.
The end of any year is often a time of reflection. Looking back to see what went right, what went wrong. This year, we could perhaps benefit from such retrospection more than other years.
I was going to refer to 2008 as “a kidney stone of a year,” but I was almost certain I had heard that phrase elsewhere, likely in something by Hunter S. Thompson. A quick Google search of the phrase didn’t reveal the original source, but it did show three other people describing 2008 in those words, so at least I’m not alone in thinking of it that way.
On a national level, we saw a further…what’s the word I want? crumbling? eroding? collapsing? disintegrating?…let’s go with… deterioration of: our civil rights, our privacy, our status overseas, the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding all the neocons rushing to claim the surge has been a “success”), the situation in Afghanistan, the economy, the health care system, our schools, our infrastructure (Rachel Maddow’s favorite word), the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the environment, and…well…it’s a really long list, actually.
So maybe we should think of 2008 as the year when the whole house of cards we’ve all been living in fell to the floor.
There was the presidential election, which filled up our ears for way too many months with noise and lies and distortions and endless debates and oh the spinning and spinning and spinning and stop the world, please, I’m getting dizzy.
Before that, though, we had the primaries, and the caucuses, and the conventions, and the polls, and the protests and…well, you were there. You heard it.
There were a lot of lows, but there were a few highs, as well. Particularly toward the end of the year.
For a nice change, we had a presidential candidate that appealed to our hopes, rather than hammering at our fears. We dodged the bullet of a McCain/Palin administration, four more years that would most likely have looked like the last eight, except less organized, and instead managed to elect the smart guy over the guy people would like to have a beer with. Thought I suspect Obama would be way more fun to have a beer with than McCain, anyway.
And there was the nice bit about finally electing someone who isn’t a white male to the highest office in the land. That part was pretty cool.
But the economy is bad, and likely to get worse before it gets better. People are losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement investments. We’re probably going to see a lot more people moving in with other family members to save money, and we’re already seeing more people living on the street.
It’s a scary situation.
And yet, with the new year comes hope.
In twenty days, we will be rid of alleged president George Walker Bush.
We will have strong Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress.
Let’s hope they use their new power for good. Let’s hope they actually use their power, instead of allowing themselves to be conned by Republicans into thinking they don’t dare use the power we gave them to change things.
Hope is good.
I have some ideas for a new project for myself in the new year…something that will involve this blog – or perhaps a separate blog created specifically for the project…more on that soon. But I think some more changes are coming in the life of yours truly, that I hope will be interesting for you all, and ultimately, perhaps profitable for me. We shall see…
In the mean time, happy new year, everyone!
And stay safe.
p.s. And lest there be any doubt about it…I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.
By now you may have heard about my new hero, Tim DeChristopher: the University of Utah (my undergrad university!) student who threw a spanner into the works at the recent Bureau of Land Mismanagement oil and mineral lease auction for parcels surrounding Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
If you haven’t, here’s more or less what happened:
The BLM, under Bush’s direction on his way out the door, was holding an auction December 19th in Salt Lake City, trying to sell off chunks of our pristine national wilderness to people in the non-renewable fuel industries. This has made a lot of people very unhappy, myself included.
It seems my new hero decided to do more than protest in front of the building where the auctions were being held. In a brilliant bit of monkeywrenching, he entered the building and registered as an auction participant, then proceeded to bid on many of the parcels being auctioned off, driving up the prices of the leases and even winning a few of the auctions.
Of course, Mr. DeChristopher (which is very fun to say out loud – try it and see) has no money to pay for these parcels, and has been arrested for his actions. He may be charged with criminal fraud, earning himself a few years in jail.
He has said that if his actions are successful in saving that pristine wilderness, he’s willing to serve the time.
Meanwhile, the outcome of the auctions is tangled up in some legal maneuvering connected to Mr. DeChristopher’s court case.
According to Rachel Maddow, there’s supposed to be some sort of court hearing to resolve the whole mess on January 19th. It’s probably not a coincidence that that’s the day before Obama and his crew take over in D.C.
Still, I have high hopes for this. See, I’ve had my own experience before a Republican-appointed judge in the Federal District Court in Salt Lake City. And he ruled the right way (i.e., in favor of my friends and I in our civil rights-related case), rather than the way that would have been popular with local (read: Republican) leaders.
So there’s still a chance that that pristine wilderness will remain pristine, at least for a few more years.
And in the mean time, Hayduke Lives!
Ah, the beauty of being in a state that allows early voting. No waiting in long lines next Tuesday for your humble correspondent. Which is just as well, because barring any unforeseen disasters, I will be driving to Chicago on election day to visit a friend and – assuming the election goes as current polls suggest it will – to be at ground zero for Obama victory celebrations.
No, I haven’t forgiven him yet for his vote on the FISA reauthorization. But I still voted for him, and I still want him to win.
The alternative seems unthinkable to me.
I honestly do not know that our country would survive even four years of a McCain presidency, considering our current sorry circumstances after eight years of alleged president George W. Bush’s mishandling of literally every matter that crossed his desk. To say nothing of the nightmare that might ensue if McCain died or became otherwise incapacitated (I still think he is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease) and Scary Palin took over running the show.
In spite of my ongoing fears that there will be some sort of terrorist attack in the coming days by someone seeking to influence the election in favor of John McCain (fears that the recent story about a call for terrorist groups to cause such an attack for just that purpose on a pro-al Quaeda website, did absolutely nothing to ease — honestly, who knew that al Quaeda would have a preference for a McCain/Palin presidency over an Obama presidency?), at this point, I do not believe that such an attack would actually be sufficient to swing the election in McCain’s favor.
Let me say that again, in case any terrorists (foreign or domestic) are actually reading this and got confused by that long sentence and the even longer parenthetical in the middle of it:
At this point, I do not believe that a terrorist attack would be sufficient to swing the election in favor of John McCain.
That window of opportunity has now closed, in my opinion. I don’t know if I could pinpoint the exact moment it slammed shut, but it has definitely done so now.
Back when the race was closer – before the economic meltdown and the McCain campaign meltdown that more or less coincided with it – there was a good chance that a terrorist attack would have swung the election in his favor enough to make a difference. I have explained elsewhere in this blog (over and over again) about why the principles of terror management theory and the research supporting that theory would make such a change in election outcome possible or even likely.
And even now, an attack would likely sway some voters who are still on the fence into McCain’s column. Just as the race-baiting and fear tactics that we have seen so much of from the Republican campaign likely have already swayed some particularly fearful voters.
But I do not think that an attack – even a very large one, even a nuclear attack on a major city – would be enough to persuade voters that McCain was in any way temperamentally suited to handle such a crisis.
Not after the way McCain responded to the economic crisis.
Not after the way the McCain campaign has repeatedly changed tactics and contradicted itself over the past few weeks.
Not after the way that McCain, Palin, and other members of the McCain campaign have repeatedly been revealed to have committed the very same sins they seek to smear Obama with, often to a far greater degree.
Not since the outcome of the Troopergate investigation, which has caused even Republican party loyalists to question McCain’s judgment in his decision to make her his running mate, and has even cause a few of said loyalists to actually endorse – or at least tacitly suggest that they plan to vote for – Barack Obama.
Not since it was revealed that the campaign that has repeatedly tried to paint Barack Obama as an elitist who is out of touch with the American public spent over $150,000 of the Republican campaign budget – money donated by party supporters under the assumption that it would be used to fund advertising – on the Empress’s new clothes.
Not now that McCain campaign insiders have taken to refering to Sarah Palin as “a complete whack job” and “a diva” who has “gone roque” in their comments to the press.
Not since it was revealed that Indiana employees of a robocalling firm walked off the job en masse the other day rather than read the Republican-prepared script smearing Obama over the phone to Indiana voters.
Let there be no doubt about it: not only have the wheels come off the Straight Talk Express, but so have the axles, the transmission, the exhaust system, and various other vital engine parts.
And as much as the pundits and politicians may assume otherwise, the American public does not consist entirely of uneducated morons. And even most of those with less education are smart enough to see that the McCain campaign is a campaign not only without a plan for responding to the various crises that currently face our country, but it is a campaign without even a coherent strategy for winning the election in order to attempt to take on those problems.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has continued to take the high road (for the most part, at least) – refusing to be persuaded to openly badmouth either McCain or Palin in the press, speaking instead (again, for the most part) only about differences between the two campaigns plans for the country and their respective abilities to respond to crises. Members of the campaign have not panicked, and are not badmouthing either Obama or Biden (or other members of the campaign team) in the press, and are continuing to work hard to ensure an Obama victory next week.
Obama continues to take his measured approach to responding to questions from the press. He has demonstrated an ability to be thinking about and responding to multiple issues simultaneously. And he has not once, to my knowledge, lost his cool during any of that. Sure, there’ve been a couple of times where he has clearly appeared frustrated by the differences in press treatment of the two campaigns – especially during a couple of the debates. But he has remained cool under pressure, has not made faces when his opponent was speaking, and has stuck to his message – a message that has remained consistent over the course of the entire campaign, not one that changes with the weather.
Of course, none of this is enough to persuade diehard Republican loyalists to vote for Obama. What would be? There are always and have always been members of both parties who would sooner cut off useful parts of their anatomy than consider voting for a candidate from the other party – particularly in presidential races. There likely always will be such voters.
But for most of the voters who describe themselves as independents (with the notable exception of Bill O’Reilly, who, let’s face it, is about as independent as Puerto Rico), the difference between the two major candidates is clear, and those that have taken the time and trouble to listen to what both candidates have to say are showing a lot of concern about what they are hearing coming out of the McCain camp. And with each day that passes, it seems that a larger chunk of those independent voters have made the decision to support Obama.
And I do not believe that a terrorist attack at this point in the race would be sufficient to change that, or to assuage voters’ concerns about the chaos they are seeing in the McCain campaign.
So in spite of being both a Democrat and a Cubs fan, I am actually feeling less and less certain that the Democrats will find a way blow this thing between now and next Tuesday. Though of course, I suppose the election could still be stolen. Sort of like the last two presidential elections…
That’s it for now, my friends. I have to hit the road. I have a long drive ahead of me today.
I thought last night’s RNC speeches were bad, but apparently they were just softening us up for tonight’s performance.
I don’t even know what to say about Lindsay Graham’s speech, beyond asking, “Is he talking about the same war as the rest of us?”
The 9/11 video was beyond appalling.
And the raging insincerity and verbal gymnastics inherent in the various speakers’ attempts to distance themselves from the debacle of the last eight years under a Republican president while at the same time trying to generate enthusiasm for a candidate that promises four more years of the same policies are producing seizure-inducing levels of cognitive dissonance.
I just don’t know what to say.