Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union: Reality Disconnect

The fantasies of Washington Republicans continue. They cheered Bush at the State of the Union despite the fact that privately they know Bush is a failed president. I listened to Bush's speech and kept looking at my wife asking, "Am I missing something?" Bush gave us an exercise in some sort of alternate reality. It's the president's job to tell us where we are and where we may need to go. All we got was a smirk and rope-a-dope.

Fred Kaplan of Slate puts the spotlight on part of the problem with Bush's last State of the Union speech:
The sad thing about President George W. Bush's final State of the Union address is that he seems to have learned so little about the crises in which he's immersed his nation so deeply.


Maybe the president believes that saying something makes it close to true. (Some of his former aides have told me they suspect this is the case.) For instance, toward the end of the address, he said that protecting the nation's security "requires changing the conditions that breed resentment and allow extremists to prey on despair. So America is using its influence to build a freer, more hopeful, and more compassionate world." The first sentence is true, the second encouraging. What's his follow-up—what are some examples of America using its influence to this end? "America is opposing genocide in Sudan," he said. (That's nice. What are we doing?) ....
I listened to Andy Card last night on MSNBC make a pretentious and self-righteous defense of Bush as some kind of idealist. Yeah. Sure. Bush gave us a costly war we didn't need. Wealthy people count on Bush to make them richer without having to work for it. Privatization contracts go to his cronies. Conservative compassion is offered but turns out to be a con to entice the religious right. And our economy is in trouble because deregulation has gone stark raving mad to the point that bankers and investment houses are so uncontrolled that midlevel people are stealing companies blind, sometimes their own and sometimes others, with phony derivatives and shabby unsecured loans while essentially defrauding thousands of homeowners (let's not pretend too hard that high level executives didn't know what was going on as they dig for the $100 million bonuses so freely handed out; it's Enron all over again). There's an effort out there, by the way, to blame homeowners for their bad business judgment but did anyone really expect real estate prices to drop 25% or more in some areas? The real estate bubble was insane and yet an idiot (we know he's an idiot now and not a guru) like Alan Greenspan was unconcerned. Bernake was asleep at the wheel. And Bush? When has he made himself useful in the last seven years?

America is weaker today than we were seven years ago. I don't like saying that but it's the truth. We need new sources of energy. We cannot hand the problems of global warming to future generations when the best solutions, the cheapest solutions, exist now. We cannot act like the bully of the world and expect people to take us seriously when we talk about democracy and human rights. We need to create jobs and we need incentives for American companies that create jobs at home. We do not need to make corporations more powerful and more arrogant than they already are. The problems go on because our country has spent more than a generation believing Republican happy talk that our only problem is high taxes, communists, and now in this era, 'Islamofascists.' Outright gibberish does not lead to greatness.

In the coming decade, confronting the world as it really is, without the fantasies, but with a much healthier respect for what individual Americans can do together, is the only way we're going to move forward. That may sound like a campaign slogan but it was the philosophy that guided our country most of the time in its first two hundred years. It wasn't a perfect philosophy and it wasn't perfectly executed, but it gave us a great deal more year after year than anything Bush and his cronies have done.


Campaign Note: I still plan on voting for John Edwards. Maybe he'll be the broker at the convention that makes sure we'll see real change if a Democrat is elected. I still plan on supporting any Democratic nominee. Here's the order of my preferences:

1. John Edwards
2. Barack Obama
3. Christopher Dowd
4. Hillary Clinton

Yeah, I know, Dodd's out of the race. But he's still my third choice. If Hillary wins, I'll support her, but she and Bill will need to mend some fences and prove to us that they're not still the candidates of the 1990s. We are very much in a different era now. If by chance a Republican gets elected president, hunker down. It's going to be a very rough ride.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

President Bush and His Oil Theory Fraud

We have a dishonest president. I don't know how much that has really sunk in with the American people. I could point to a wide range of issues where Bush's dishonesty is blatant and embarrassing. Today, I'll just focus on oil.

Dick and George, our two oil executives, have been lying to the American people for years about oil and energy. But the problem goes deeper than that. It goes back to President Reagan and the failure of his administration to deal with the energy problem. For years, Republican leaders in Congress and the White House have refused to deal with the simple fact that oil is finite. Where once we believed oil might last five hundred years, we know now the oil age will be relatively brief. If we are to sustain our civilization, we need other sources of energy. We knew this long before Global Warming became established as a threat to our world. We know now that fossil fuels emissions are a major cause of Global Warming. We have a problem. What we do not need are games.

Bush is urging Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production. It's a bit like asking your uncle to empty out his bank account for your expensive lifestyle (okay, never mind that the Saudis have been emptying out their own bank accounts for decades to maintain their own lavish lifestyle). I suppose Bush can't help himself. When Bush makes a blunder, his first response is to blame someone else. He has blundered on oil. And he has blundered on the economy. Here's the story from James Gerstenzang of the Los Angeles Times:
Producers should "realize that high energy prices affect the economies of consuming nations," he said. If those economies weaken, he said, they "will eventually be buying fewer barrels of oil."

Energy demand has "outstripped new supply," Bush told reporters. "That's why there's high price."

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Ibrahim Naimi said his country was sympathetic to such economic worries, but he refused to commit to increasing production.

"The concern for the U.S. economy is valid," he said. "But what affects the U.S. economy is more than the price of oil."
The Saudi Oil Minister has it largely right: what affects the U.S. economy is more than the price of oil. But the Saudis are reluctant to admit a more salient fact: their ability to increase production is limited. In fact, the ability of the world's oil producers to increase productivity is limited. This is a problem that cannot be wished away by presidential temper tantrums.

Oil prices have been slowing down our economy for more than two years. But the five year war in Iraq is also slowing down our economy despite the stimulus of war spending. We are engaged in a war we did not need and we see almost no benefit for the American people. Bush's lax attitude towards business ethics has also slowed down our economy. The failure of the Bush Administration to go after crooks in the loan and derivatives sectors is the back breaker that has set the stock markets roiling since summer. But Bush's many failures to protect the American economy can be found elsewhere. When the price of gold jumps 40% in one year, it's an indicator of serious systemic flaws, and those flaws can be traced to the White House. We're in new territory and we have a president and vice president who haven't a clue.

Democratic Primaries Note: I will support whoever wins the Democratic nomination but I still stand by John Edwards. The theme of change was Edwards' theme months before Obama and Clinton jumped aboard (isn't the fact that Romney jumped aboard a bit odd?). In fact, Edwards has driven the vision and policies that the other two major Democratic candidates have been borrowing. Of all the Democrats and all the Republicans, Edwards is the one who sat down and did his homework. He knows what we're facing. So I'm voting for him.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

John Edwards for President

The Dow Jones went down 220 points today. Oil momentarily hit $100 a barrel. The price of real estate around the country continues to fall. We are now in a period of a weird stagflation where some prices rise like gas and food and some prices fall like real estate, sometimes forcing, in many cases, higher mortgage payments. For 27 years, conservatives have been in charge in Washington. The Republican leadership in particular has no ideas and has no clue where our nation and the world are going. The most incompetent president in the history of our nation remains in the White House. Despite numerous issues that would have gotten any other president impeached, Bush will probably finish out his presidency in 2009.

There are good presidential candidates on the Democratic side. The Republican side, unfortunately, is like a nightmare from some dark era like the 1930s. The media continues to think of politics as some sort of entertainment as our country slides backwards for the first time in more than half a century. We're told that technology is going to save us but we're doing little to develop the kind of technology that is essential. We're developing technological toys we do not need and new medical technology hardly anyone can afford. We're offered pie in the sky technology schemes that were pie in the sky thirty years ago. The energy crisis is real. Global warming is a profound threat to our future. Other resource problems are increasingly coming into focus and the picture is sobering. Political tensions are growing around the world as our foreign policy erodes. The only country in the world that can provide a reasonable level of leadership in the world has been awol for seven years. Things will only get worse if some sort of clone of Bush is elected. Things may not move quickly enough if a Democrat who isn't committed to change fails to see in time the problems our nation is facing. Still, Democrats are the most realistic hope at the moment. Americans need to take their future into their hands and deal with it the only way that has ever made sense: at the ballot box.

If Americans want change, if they want reform, the candidate most likely to move in a meaningful direction towards the kinds of changes we need is John Edwards.

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