Friday, January 30, 2009

Pull Back the Tarp

Is anyone surprised, really surprised, that the Wall Street folks took our taxpayer bailout money and gave it to their already super-wealthy friends as bonuses? I sure ain’t. You cannot give a crack addict more crack and delude yourself into thinking he’s going to share it with others. Obama was right to express his anger at the misuse of the TARP money, but that doesn’t go far enough. While there may be no legal means by which he can claw back the compensation already paid, he can certainly place stringent conditions on the dispersion of future funds. The question is whether he has the will. Have a nice week-end everyone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The First Seven Days

I promised Erin the day of the inauguration that I would refrain from making any negative comments about Obama until at least 100 days had passed. At the time I expected this period of self-imposed silence to be a teeth-gritting, hand-wringing sort of affair. I imagined sitting in front of the keyboard, vein throbbing in my head, willing my fingers not to smash out a bitter screed of betrayal and dashed dreams. Much to my pleasant surprise, this has not been the case. Yes, I know it’s only been seven days, but the ability of a politician to keep his promises and tell the truth usually has a half-life measured in hours, not days. Consequently, there is reason to hope that the next 93 days will be as filled with fresh-baked cookies and hot chocolate as these first seven were.

Obama’s first week in office has been such a clear repudiation of the Bush years that one scarcely knows where to begin. Let’s begin with this, a partial transcript from an interview-the first of his presidency- Obama sat for with Al Arabiya:

“I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries….[t]he largest one, Indonesia. And so what I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith – and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers – regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.

And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task.”

Quite a sea change, isn’t it? Contrast that with the Bush administration’s paranoia and inability to draw fine distinctions between terrorists and, well, anyone else. Quite refreshing. In the same interview, the President acknowledges that the tone of a conversation is just as important as its content-something else lost on our last president:

“[T]he language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations – whether Muslim or any other faith in the past – that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name.”

Obama has more faith in religion than I, but the point that we, as a country, will use our collective intellect to discern intent from context is something I can get behind 100%.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Year of the Earth Ox

The Times reported today on a recent Danish study which showed that people who drink coffee are at a greatly reduced risk for developing dementia later in life. Scientists found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less. People who drank more than five cups a day also were at reduced risk of dementia, the researchers said, but there were not enough people in this group to draw statistically significant conclusions-probably because they couldn’t sit still long enough to complete the questionnaire. The Patriot is greatly relieved that he has an excuse to increase his coffee consumption without guilt.

Welcome to the year of the Earth Ox. Generally The Ox is the sign of prosperity gained through fortitude and hard work. The Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in his work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint-a very Protestant Animal, in the Weberian sense. According to a Chinese astrology web site I happened across while engaging in the very non ox-like activity of shirking my own work, “Effort, commitment and duty will be the keywords for 2009. Creatively and artistically, the Year of the Ox could see influential and exciting new works and creations being announced. Environmental and green issues will also dominate the world stage with countries establishing tighter controls and regulations.” Amazing how Chinese astrology can be so issue specific. I wonder what all the little rats in Congress-whose year has ended- think about their feng shui prospects for the coming year? Perhaps they should get a reading.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Audacity of Hope

There are endings and there are beginnings. The United States, and by extension the world, experienced both this week. The ending, of course, was the final exit of George Dubya Bush, who decamped to his suburban ranch in Texas, smarting in the wake of Obama’s devastating indictment of his legacy so eloquently framed in his inaugural speech. While Bush no doubt wished for nothing less than full imperial powers, he also must feel relieved, finally left alone to indulge his penchant for mountain biking and brush-clearing unencumbered by the unceasing demands of the Oval Office. Like a house full of graduating frat boys, he and his cowboy cabinet left one helluva mess for the rest of us to clean up. The Patriot Act, FISA, torture of prisoners and the suspension of habeus corpus, have left our Constitution tattered and faded, brittled by spending too much time immersed in the fires of ignorance and self-righteousness. Much damage was done and much needs to be undone.

The beginning of the Obama era started on Election Day and really lifted off in Washington on Tuesday. Along with everyone else on the globe I was riveted by the spectacle of an African American with a Muslim father and a strange name, take the oath of office a scant eight years after the World Trade Center collapsed into a hole in the ground, dragging with it our leaders moral compass and our collective sanity. I felt something that I haven’t felt in a long time. Hope. For those of you who have read this blog with any regularity over the last four years, you are well aware that hope is not an emotion I have usually expressed when holding forth about the capability and intent of our leaders. Nevertheless, the sheer size of the paradigm shift which is occurring here is, I think, beyond all of our capacity to fully appreciate.

Let’s face it, the perception of America around the world is of a country full of scoundrels and self-interested, naval-gazing consumers. We pull our heads out of the feeding trough just long enough to turn the channel on the television, pray to Jesus or start a war, then its back to our slop. Yet this very same group of people put a (relatively) young black man in the White House and gave him the keys to the treasury. It defies stereotype. It further defies stereotype that our new president is single-handedly restoring faith in reason and intellectualism. (The fact that concepts like “reason” and “intelligence” have taken on a pejorative air speaks volumes about how far off track we’ve gotten in the last eight years.)

I’m not expecting miracles. Obama is an establishment politician and still beholden to the interests that allowed him to accede to the seat of power. However, in his first two days in office he has suspended the Guantanamo show-trials and issued an executive order to close the prison within a year. If he keeps going in that direction we’ll be in pretty good shape in 100 days, or even eight years.I think Jefferson would be proud of us today.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Senate Intrigue

Greetings readers and happy new year! The Patriot is energized by two weeks off from working and blogging and has digested several news cycles in his never ending quest to keep you, the reader, informed about hidden agendas, abuse of the public fisc and a general disregard for the will of the people evinced by our "leaders" in Congress and the White House.

Without delay, I urge the immediate appointment of Senator Burris from Chicago and Senator Franken from Minnesota. We all know Harry Reid is a pussy-that's not news-but he has come out in favor of seating Franken so I urge you all to write to the great ballless one and urge him to continue his public support of the erstwhile comic turned legislator. For fucks sake, Franken is EXACTLY the sort of senator this country needs. He would be a great foil for the do-nothing assholes currently posing as Democrats.

As for Burris...well, Blagojevich has neither been convicted nor indicted and his (Burris) resume is rock solid. So, in the spirit of the Constitution, which does not allow any additional qualifications to be added to the job, let the man get to work. The pussy dems are hewing to the CNN party line and coming out against Blagojevich because of the public performance of a US Attorney General who has presented nothing other than politics as usual in his attempt to launch his career a la Elliott Ness.

I'm a lawyer and know full well that an accusation, unsupported by evidence, means shit. From what I hear on the new the US "attorney" has shit, by that I mean nothing, on the Illinois Governor. The whole thing sounds like a Republican plan to disrupt the government before King Obama takes office. Chicago, Whitewater, don't be fooled again! I love you all.