Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Left-Over: The Next Phase.

It’s hard to believe that this blog has been around for nearly 3 ½ years!

It started on October 24, 2005, with Left-Over’s expression of excitement at the possibility that members of the Bush administration might be held accountable (for anything!) as Patrick Fitzgerald prepared to announce indictments in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation.

I quickly joined the party by comparing the Republicans of that era, quite unfavorably, to even those of the Nixon-Watergate era, with this eerily accurate prediction:
Unlike Watergate, when the sheer stupidity of the break-in and subsequent cover up led both parties to insist on investigations that drove out a corrupt administration, these Republicans are going to stick with Bush to the end, fueling a fire that will burn the party to the ground, and then keep scorching the earth beneath them for so long that nothing will ever come back!
And with that start, we were off and running, through what now tallies 888 889 posts, during a time when some amazing things have happened:

• The Chief of Staff for the Vice President of the United States was convicted of multiple felonies.

• A major U.S. city was nearly lost to Hurricane Katrina.

• Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan surpassed the length of the Vietnam war, and continue with no apparent end in sight.

• The 2006 elections marked a decisive turn against Republican leadership.

• During the primary season leading up to the 2008 elections, an establishment candidate with an aura of inevitability was defeated by a newcomer backed largely by ordinary people.

• The 2008 elections continued the wave of anti-GOP sentiment and gave us the country’s first African-American President.

• The many failures of the Bush presidency – which served as an incubator for greed and corruption - culminated in the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression.

While all of this happened, we were actively engaged in the task of absorbing each day’s developments and reflecting them back to readers in a way that was, perhaps, entertaining, sometimes informative, and at the very least, always therapeutic for us as writers.

Along the way, there were some memorable posts such as the ones listed below that I think best reflect what we’ve tried to do in this forum:

Vaccinate Against What?

The Last Commercial Break of the Bush Presidency.

Increasing Irrelevancy? Now That’s Something Bush Can Actually Achieve!

But all good things must come to an end! Writing a political blog is both a blessing and a curse, because accumulated momentum adds the weight of responsibility to keep that momentum from stalling. Writing sometimes shifts from being a joyous expression of ideas, to being a chore that must be done even in the absence of inspiration, made harder still by a dwindling amount of feedback from readers who are pulled in many directions from the sheer volume of information available on the Internet.

So it’s time to pull the plug and let it die.

Actually, let me rephrase that, since the nature of blogs is that they don’t really have to die completely. The words remain, always available to be discovered by an accidental tourist, even though new posts aren’t being generated.

That will be the new state of Left-Over, at least for a while. Who knows? It might even become a zombie blog that will occasionally lurch forward, if one of us has an irresistible urge to add a new chapter. Or maybe not!

Perhaps another way to look at the demise/hiatus of Left-Over is to take a lesson from artist Vincent Van Gogh, poet Emily Dickinson, and singer Billie Holiday – all of whom found widespread acceptance and critical acclaim after their deaths, despite toiling for years in relative obscurity.

I think it can clearly be stated that we’ve conquered the “toiling in relative obscurity” phase! There is nothing more to achieve in the art of "toiling in relative obscurity,” so now it’s time to move on to the next phase in the strategic marketing of this blog: We will now begin the stage centered on achieving posthumous notoriety!



PS: Damn! I just finished writing this, and was dawdling before preparing to hit the “upload” button, when I stumbled across an article that hints at one of the few things that would compel me to come out of retirement and resurrect this blog (or begin a new one), as I read that Arnold Schwarzenegger is signaling the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer.

How could I miss being on the scene to make fun of that on a daily basis?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG Just Forced President Obama to Become a Populist!

Despite his amazing success at raising campaign funds through small donations from individual citizens, Barack Obama never campaigned as a populist. He promised “change,” but his rhetoric always suggested a pragmatic approach to achieving goals that left plenty of room for working within existing corporate and political structures, rather than adopting the “throw the bums out” attitude of true populists like John Edwards and Ron Paul.

Obama also took plenty of money from Wall Street in order to get his campaign up and running; and his cabinet choices (Geithner, Gates, Clinton, etc.) certainly seemed to indicate a desire to reassure the traditional forces of power that change wouldn’t happen too fast!

Of course, it could be argued that he really had no choice if he wanted to overcome the formidable obstacles that would stand in the way of his ascension to the presidency. Had he not taken a somewhat moderate, non-frightening, approach to achieving change, he may never have had the opportunity to begin his primary run on an arc that looked viable enough to overcome the “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton. And he may never have had the chance to attract the large and committed donor base that helped push him over the top!

Although Obama seems to have a sincere desire to promote broad-based opportunity for ordinary people, and to hold even corporations accountable for helping to solve the countries’ real problems, it could be argued that he did what he had to do to get in the position of moving the country in the right direction, while accepting that he had to do it in a way that was tolerable to the already rich and powerful.

In other words, he had to give them some slack.

And it seems that AIG has just taken that slack and tied its own noose. Perhaps a noose large enough to squeeze in the heads of all the Wall Street fat cats who have bled the economy dry to feed their own desire for personal wealth and aggrandizement!

Obama is now in the position where if he does not take a harsh populist stand against corporate interests trying to fleece the American taxpayer, he may not have a chance at a second term! He may lose the dedicated support of the millions of ordinary people whom he has relied upon to give momentum to his policy goals.

While it wasn’t Obama’s preferred path at the beginning, at this point, being a populist may be the pragmatic choice; particularly since, as an incumbent in 2012, he no longer needs Wall Street money to propel him into viability. He needs people – ordinary people – to continue to support him.

As one of those early supporters who is still yearning for a counterbalance to the greed and corporate excesses of the Bush years, I can only hope that this was Obama’s plan all along - that he knew, even as he promised change, that some things never change!

Perhaps AIG just proved him right!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let Me Spare the Washington Post From Its Own “Mea Crama!”

I’ve read lots of commentary on John Stewart’s public spanking of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, but nothing more fitting than Glenn Greenwald’s point that Cramer isn’t all that different from the rest of the traditional media in his willingness to pass on lies and then claim innocence when they turned out to be wrong.
Jim Cramer isn't an aberration. What he did and the excuses he offered are ones that are embraced as gospel to this day by most of our establishment press corps, and to know that this is true, just look at what they do and say about their roles. But at least Cramer wants to appear to be contrite for the complicit role he played in disseminating incredibly destructive and false claims from the politically powerful. That stands in stark contrast to David Gregory, Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams, David Ignatius and most of their friends, who continue to be defiantly and pompously proud of the exact same role they play.
Then sure enough, as if on cue, I find this Washington Post “report” suggesting that Barack Obama risks being seen as “too partisan” if he mentions the fact that he inherited a failing economy from George Bush.

Give me a break! Didn’t we just have an election in which John McCain’s last hope of prevailing went up in flames at the precise moment he suggested that “the fundamentals of our economy (were) strong, while everyone knew that they weren’t? I believe George Bush was still President at that time, so don’t give me Ari Fleischer suggesting that Obama’s credibility is at risk if he points out the obvious:
“There's a fascinating behind-the-scenes trend taking place for someone who remains a very popular president," said Ari Fleischer, a former Bush press secretary, describing the decline in Obama's approval ratings and an increase in disapproval numbers. "His response to that trend is to turn up the blame on George Bush and everything that came before him. And he was the one who talked about getting past partisanship.”
Jim Cramer just went on The Daily Show and had to apologize profusely because he had been (gasp!) "lied to by CEOs" hoping to boost the value of their stocks despite horribly overvalued assets. Unable to muster even a token rationale for his willingness to pass on such misleading information, Cramer had no choice but to bend over and take his punishment, while meekly wishing he had tried harder to expose the lies, and promising to do better.

So let me spare the Washington Post the same indignity that Cramer was forced to endure at the hands of John Stewart:

When Ari Fleischer is talking to you about Obama’s extreme partisanship, he’s lying!

When anyone tells you that the American people want the new President to shield George Bush from the undeniable fact that his policies sent the economy into a downward spiral, he’s lying!

They are lying just like the CEOs who so "painfully" lied to Jim Cramer, who then did nothing to correct those lies but actually gave them weight by letting them be aired on his show.

When the Washington Post presents lies as fact, they spread the same kind of bullshit that Cramer just had to eat in front of millions!

If the good folks at the Washington Post really want to be considered respected purveyors of news, instead of easily manipulated, misleading clowns like Cramer, I’d suggest they take the opportunity now to "try harder and do better," rather than waiting for someone like John Stewart to tar and feather them in front of the whole world!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Madoff Just a Tumor in an Economy Where Greed has Metastasized!

Sure, it’s a good thing that Bernie Madoff is likely to pay a harsh price for his crimes, but let’s not think that punishing him is a decisive victory that frees us to focus on the future while turning the page on past corruption and greed.

After all, throwing the book at Madoff is not going to stop white collar crime any more than throwing the book at a single marijuana user is going to wipe out drug use.

During the last eight years of the Bush administration, and arguably during every administration going back to Ronald Reagan’s, the American free market laissez faire economy has become riddled with greed, to the point of being slowly killed.

Catching and prosecuting a Bernie Madoff is a big step, but there are plenty of other tumors out there capable of killing the economy – plenty of other frauds and scams that will occur if the greed that has been allowed to spread is not systematically checked, both by investigating and prosecuting past crimes, and creating systems that prevent the opportunity and incentives that allow new tumors to develop.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

McCain the Barometer!

I really don’t have a good feel at all for what should be done for the auto industry. I’m torn between letting them fail, in order to make sure that the failed management types are flushed out of power; and finding a way to hold them together, in order to save jobs that are critically important as we try to stave off a major depression.

At the same time, what I do know about the auto industry and just about everything else, is that when John McCain takes a strong position – like pushing hard for bankruptcy for General Motors – I’m pretty sure that it’s an uninformed, politically-motivated, and probably disastrous idea!

At this point in his political career (and frankly, I’m guessing throughout his life if I’d really been paying attention), the man just exudes ignorance!

Friday, March 06, 2009

From Russia With Love Hate!

As some of you know, my office overlooks Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, which gives me a straight-on view of the courthouse steps in front of the California Supreme Court. Consequently, I couldn’t help but notice the raucous protest going on below me yesterday as the Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Political junkie and gay rights advocate that I am, I decided to spend my lunch hour mingling with the crowd and checking out the scene, while listening to some of the speeches on the steps outside the courthouse.

As you might expect, there was a large, very spirited, contingent of Prop 8 opponents, and it was gratifying to see the diverse group that included all ages, races, and socioeconomic categories, as well as many straight supporters among the crowd.

However, there were also a surprisingly large number of highly organized Prop 8 supporters, with huge signs and matching shirts with the slogan: “Marriage = One Man & One Woman.” While smaller in number, they were very loud and confrontational (though seemingly not violent). Also odd was the fact that as I walked through the crowd, it seemed that a very large percentage of them were speaking Russian to each other. I mean almost all of them!

I tried to talk to a few of them, as I was curious about what organization they belonged to, but had little success. Several of them couldn’t really communicate with me in English, and the others were reluctant to tell me anything. All I could get was one guy who told me they were from “the Jewish God,” and that they had “just met each other.”

Well, I did a little research and it turns out that there is a very large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union (Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, etc.) that have settled in the Sacramento area, and that most in this community are affiliated with one of over 50 to 60 evangelical Christian churches led by rabidly anti-gay pastors. Several of them are known to be involved with international organizations currently being tracked as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many of the members have become fixtures in vocal opposition to gay pride events in California.

Talk about hypocrisy! Most of these people came to this country in part to gain the right to freely practice their religion, and yet they are now using their religion to mobilize efforts to deny basic rights to another oppressed minority. It’s difficult to know how to process these undeniable facts without developing some negative ethnic stereotypes.

Ultimately, I guess I must simply take it as evidence that one all too prevalent component of human nature – the desire to feel powerful and important by finding someone inferior to demonize – suggests that either man can’t possibly have been created “in God’s image,” or that God is actually a somewhat cruel being who created man for his own sadistic entertainment! Either way, the actions of these people is proof that their own belief system is completely bankrupt!

All images were taken, quite discretely, with my Treo.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Not So Deep Thought:

If Rush Limbaugh is now the de facto head of the Republican Party, then does the party have a new de facto ass? Or is the Republican Party now a Gastropod?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Who’s Going to Pay For the Bush Library?

Life must be tough when you’re a recently replaced ex-President, who is trying to raise funds for a legacy-fluffing monument during the onset of a global depression caused by your policy failures!

According to this report, Dubya himself has been forced to hit the phones, but he must find himself asking the question: “Who ya gonna call?” in a world without “Ghostbusters

Bush left office with approval ratings in the 30’s, so you can probably take the other 60 to 70 percent of Americans off the call list.

The remaining base of supporters are largely made up of the same people who just listened to the leading conservative extremists at CPAC (Coulter, Limbaugh, etc.) treat Bush like so much toxic waste at their annual conference.

Other reports show that the Bush Library website, which is the primary means of eliciting small dollar donations, is lagging behind even some parody websites in Internet traffic (and no, the image above is from the real website and not the parody!)

Large potential corporate donors are likely too busy begging for bailout money to stave off bankruptcy to consider chipping in for the Bush Library. (Note to Tim Geithner: How about adding donations to the Bush Library to the list, with corporate jets and golf junkets to the Caymans, as banned uses of bailout money?)

Of course, there is also a new website specifically for “Bush/Cheney Alumni,” so maybe there’s hope that the “loyal Bushies” from his administration will pony up some money for the cause. But many of them are still trying to find jobs. So far, nobody has been willing to contribute so much as a blog post, or a testimonial to “set the record straight,” so it’s hard to imagine them generously opening their wallets for the ex-boss’s library!

I guess that probably only leaves his daddy’s friends, the Saudis, as the likely recipients of Bush 43’s telephone solicitations. Will they come up with the dough, out of loyalty to Poppy Bush? Yeah, they probably will!

But who knows? The Bush Bust™ has become a global phenomenon, and it increasingly looks like the U.S. can no longer be counted on as a gullible and insatiable market for oil. It’s highly possible that even the oil producing countries of the Middle East will retract into financial turtle mode rather than continue their binge spending ways amid an uncertain future.

And what possible use, really, do the Saudis have with a library propaganda generation facility designed to glorify a spoiled, petulant shithead who has no influence on anyone remotely connected to the current levers of power, much less any power of his own?

When it’s all said and done – and let me be the first to suggest it here – we might actually see the complete rebuilding of the city of New Orleans before we see the completion of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, at least in its current vision. They may have to scale it down to the size of a branch library in a small town neighborhood strip mall, once they find out who is still willing to donate!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

“Fiscal Discipline” Includes Finding What Was Stolen!

How ironic that Republicans are now giving self-righteous speeches about “fiscal discipline” after they presided over the largest bungling theft of taxpayer funds in the history of our country?

Now that a Democratic administration wants to use the power of government to ensure that the economy is revived by channeling funds to those who need it most (and who will spend it rather than socking it away in Swiss bank accounts to avoid taxes), the Republicans have become all high and mighty about the importance of “frugality” and “living within our means!”

Well, frugality is fine, and surely many Americans need to learn that a satisfying life does not revolve around conspicuous consumption. But if we are going to learn to be disciplined about spending, we should also learn to be disciplined about enforcing our laws against theft of taxpayers’ money, including everything that occurred during the Bush Global Theft Pandemic™!

Just think how much the economy would be helped if we could investigate, find, and re-claim for the American people, the following funds:

1. The money that went missing in Iraq.
2. The money sucked out of the economy by war profiteers like Halliburton and Blackwater, etc.
3. The taxes avoided by rich scammers who funnel their wealth into offshore accounts in The Caymans, Switzerland, Dubai, etc.
4. The windfall profits raked in by the oil companies through price manipulation and gouging at the pump during the fog of war.
5. The money stolen by fraudsters like Madoff, Stanford, and many others.

Obviously, this is not a complete list, but it’s a list that would likely add up to much more than the amount of the current stimulus package that blowhards like John McCain are calling “generational theft.” After all, fiscal discipline is more than just clutching your wallet. It’s also about making sure nobody gets away with robbing your house!

And speaking of “houses” and “generational theft,” how about if we remove the real incentive to hoard wealth from younger generations and put a stop to “generational theft” once and for all, by increasing the Estate Tax on old f**kers with 14 houses?