Friday, January 30, 2009

Down with the Old, Up with the New

Probably no photo of the Iraq invasion has been hyped more than the pictures of a statue of Saddam being toppled in Baghdad.

Since then, some of those who participated in toppling the statue have expressed regrets.

Now a new monument has been erected concerning the war.

Why would children at an orphanage assist an artist to memorialize the shoe recently thrown at George Bush?

From David Knowles:
But why are these Iraqis so ungrateful to our former president given that the tyrant who led them, Saddam Hussein, has been deposed and executed? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that 5.1 million Iraqis were displaced by the war and the sectarian violence that ensued. According to the International Organization for Migration, that figure represents the largest human relocation in modern times.

Consider, too, the mind-boggling number of orphans caused by the war. The Iraqi Government estimates that the conflict has left 5 million children without parents.

Given these hard realities, perhaps a shoe-sculpture can be viewed as a civilized reaction to the legacy of Mr. Bush.

Surely a totally unexpected monument to your legacy, Mr Bush!


McConnell says GOP "must change"

"After crushing defeats in back-to-back elections, the top Senate Republican warned Thursday that the GOP risks remaining out of power in the White House and Congress unless it better explains its core principles to woo one-time faithful and new loyalists."

What is amazing to me is that McConnell thinks that the "core principles", as operationalized over the past 10 years,are attractive to more than a minority of the population.

As I read further, it seems that the GOP feels that their "message" is either not getting out or is misunderstood. Are they unable to understand that it is not a matter of "message", but the impact of their rule that has turned off so many voters.

What planet are these people living on?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get ????

Todays IHT had this piece on Wall Street. Seems the geniuses in the financial industry managed to rake in the sixth highest level of total bonus dollars in history. Not bad for a gaggle of boys who posted record losses, bankrupted many, and helped push the world into a near depression.

Granted, 2008's $18.4 billion in bonuses is down 44% from 2007. The average bonus for 2008 was only $112,000, or only 3 times the average US worker's annual wages. Three times the average worker's wages for losing other peoples' money. Or, in another perspective, it's three times the annual budget for the city of Chicago! And that's just the bonuses, not base salaries, stock options and benefits.

The firms argue that it's necessary to pay this to retain "bright, hard working employees". If they were so bright, why did they set their investors up for calamity? Perhaps they really need employees who don't work so hard, and the losses could be less?

And, many of these firms were on the taxpayer dole with bailout/TARP money. Why did I (or more accurately, my grandkids) get stuck with part of financing rewards for people who couldn't turn a profit?



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Campaign is over - now the work begins

Watching yesterday's Inauguration, I was reminded of the old joke about the Senator who dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates. He's offered the chance to choose between Heaven and Hell, and given a chance to spend a day in each place. In Hell, much to his surprise, he sees cocktail parties, yachting, golf, bridge tournaments and sunny beaches. Heaven is simply clouds and harp music. He tells St Peter that while Heaven seems nice, Hell seems less boring. St Peter accepts this and places the Senator back on the elevator. When the elevator doors open in Hell, the Senator steps out into pure fire and brimstone, misery and suffering. He accosts the Devil and asks, "What is going on. When I was here yesterday, this was a pleasant and lively place. Now, it's hellish!"

"Simple", say the Devil. "Yesterday we were campaigning for your vote. Today is a different story."

Through the campaign and in his inauguration address, President Obama promised a better America. Yesterday, he clearly denounced many of the practices and habits that have brought great harm to our country, the family of nations and this earth.

Both Mr Obama and the American people have a lot on our plates that needs to be corrected. He used the pronoun "we" regularly, and I find that dead on.

To achieve what Mr Obama speaks of, Americans must undergo a major cultural shift. I hope we can rise again to the task.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mixed Emotions

There's and old saying that the ultimate in mixed emotions is watching your worst enemy drive off a high cliff - in your brand new Mercedes.

Well, this piece in the IHT raises such mixed emotions.

Deep in my heart of hearts, as well as firmly in my intellect, I am convinced that GWB & Co broke the law. Further, I would like to see him and all who enabled him pay for such transgressions, returning the functioning of our republic to that of a nation of law. Yet, on the other hand, I clearly remember the never ending story of GOP v. Clinton and the vast resources expended in that witch hunt.

There are arguments for and against a wide ranging investigation. Some of the "against" arguments say that it would cause a "chilling effect" on INTEL operations, as the agents who did certain things were assured by the administration that their actions were lawful, and would be hesitant to act decisively in the future. This kind of "Eichmann" defense is chilling in its own way.

One reason for the mess in Afghanistan was GWB taking his "eye off the ball" by invading Iraq. At present, I am tempted to think that that Mr Obama & Congress have a huge target to engage in terms of our collapsing economy. While I would like to see every torturer, every proponent of torture, and every tolerater of torture hung by his or her heels, perhaps we should let our elected officials get their arms around the economy first, and then turn to on investing time and energy in bringing the GWB criminals to justice.

To be frank, I would welcome a year or two without reference to, or reminders of Bush & Co. Condemn and outlaw the old practices on 20 Jan. Then give us all a break.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hearts and Minds

Those of us of the Viet Nam era remember so well the "Hearts and Minds" mantra. Of course, it was used to refer to the hearts and minds of other peoples we were trying to "free".

Today's IHT had three interesting pieces.

The first surely raises eyebrows. A Roman cardinal comparing Gaza to concentration camps. A bit strong? Perhaps. But taken in concert with the second article, one surely must recall a city called Warsaw. The only significant difference is that Gaza is far more than a city, and all of Gaza is a ghetto. It is difficult to describe it any other way.

Quite chilling is Khilidi's comment:

Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people."

So, rather than win the "hearts and Minds" of the Palestinians, folks like Yaalon wish to crush them. With this mindset, can a workable accord, such as that suggested in the Lichfield piece, ever be reached? Do people with minds such as Yaalon have a heart?


P.S. While speaking of "hearts and minds", there are conflicting forces in my heart and mind. My maternal family hails from Kobryn, Belorus, where the Nazis diligently recorded their success in eradicating 99.9% of the Jewish population, all of my relatives included. My mind reels at the totality of this barbarity, and my heart is pierced by my innocent kinfolks' slaughter. I do cry "Never Again!" But then, statements such as understanding that "in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people", is calling for genocide of the spirit. The reduction of a people to eternal underclass status in the notion that Jewishness trumps all others. Have people like Yaalon failed to understand the broader reality of the Halocaust? No one should suffer the fate of my kin - physically or spiritually. Never!