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Today's Note From a Madman

January 12, 2009


Pushing a Legacy

There is a link on the White House's web site titled "The Bush Record". In the world of Bush politics, Bush-spin and Bush-speak, the "Bush Record" is something to be proud of. And to that end, it was today, at an impromptu press conference, that President George W. Bush came out of his no-press-conference bunker to allow members of the main- and not-so-main-stream media an opportunity to wallow in that... what's the right word here? - what shall we call it?... Bush-ness. Bush took it as a time to reflect on all of the good which he has done.

It must have been a very short press conference.

The "Bush Record" page exists for only one reason: to satisfy his needs for a legacy. To that end, the only picture on that page is of President Bush himself standing on the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series just a month and a half after the terror attacks of 9-11. The picture shows "W" in all his glory wearing an FDNY (New York City Fire Department) jacket, his left hand holding a baseball at his side and his right arm up straight, with his thumb in the Fonz' "Eh-h-h!" position.

Surely this is how "W" wishes to be remembered. And just as surely, it won't be.

On the left side of the page are three documents which, unfortunately, need to be read. They are, in order: Highlights of Accomplishments and Results: The Administration of George W. Bush, 2001-2009 (legacybooklet.pdf) consisting of some 52 pages; 100 Things Americans Might not Know about the Bush Administration Record (appendix_acc_for_web.pdf), 53 pages; and Policies of the Bush Administration, 2001-2009 (Policies_of_the_Bush_Administration.pdf), 44 pages.

As I mentioned above, these document needs to be read, but they'll have to be read by someone with a stronger stomach than me. As an example, take the opening of each of the three documents. "Highlights..." begins with "Kept America Safe and Promoted Liberty Abroad"; "100 Things..." starts with the bullet-point "Kept America Safe; And last, and certainly least is the "Policies..." booklet with its very own "President Bush has kept America Safe".

Seems to be a pattern here, doesn't there?

Each of the three documents appear to be mirror images of one another. Keeping with the Bushco tradition of staying on message and hammering home their bullet-points and one-liners, and like everything they've wanted to accomplish (such as destroying the American middle class; waging multiple wars for profit; and keeping their "base of haves and have mores" in the "having even more" category), they're theory appears to be "say it often enough and it's the truth."

how much did these three replica-lie documents cost the American people? How many man-hours did it take to put them together when that time could have been spent more wisely elsewhere? Certainly these "historic" documents mean more to President Bush than the President's Daily Briefing (PDB) titled Bin Laden determined to strike in US, also called "an historic document" by then NSA head Condoleezza Rice.

After all, everyone likes to see their name in print... when it's good news.

In the three documents, searching the name "Katrina" yields only three finds (two referring the same bullet-point):.

"In response to Hurricane Katrina, National Service programs have given more than 5.4 million hours of service, directing 405,000 volunteers in recovery efforts,"
-from the Did You Know section of Highlights of Accomplishments and Results: The Administration of George W. Bush, 2001-2009

"USA Freedom Corps plays a vital role in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricanes Gustav and Katrina, helping to link more than 1.1 million volunteers with opportunities to assist with relief efforts. As part of this effort, more than 93,000 participants in national service programs have given 3.5 million hours of service in response to Katrina,"
-from "Policies of the Bush Administration, 2001-2009

There was nothing mentioned about Hurricane Katrina in 100 Things Americans Might not Know about the Bush Administration Record.

Hurricane Katrina has to be considered the worst preparation and response to any disaster of the Bush years, including 9-11. With 9-11, the Bushies used the excuse that no one could have predicted that the terrorists would use planes to attack us. And even in the face of the PDB (mentioned above), it's possible to take them at their word that, at least, THEY would not have imagined such as scenario. however, when it comes to Katrina, that very same THEY had the information and reports.

And in Katrina's aftermath, THEY were taking credit for the little things that THEY did. THEY did a fly-over the area; THEY ignored the warnings; THEY only had two FEMA personnel on the ground as "observers; THEY told FEMA head Mike Brown, "Brownie... you're doing a heck-of-a job"; and THEY allowed New Orleans and many other areas of the Gulf Coast to die a slow, painful death.

THEY even prepared a war-type game in which THEY simulated a hurricane like Katrina hitting the area. And the only thing they could think of saying about the legacy of THEIR administration, in regard to Hurricane Katrina is promoting an effort of unpaid volunteers who gave of their time and their sweat and their tears while THEY slept.

Some legacy, huh?

In the end it doesn't really matter. Bush father, George Herbert Walker Bush, has said of his son that he thinks he did a good job and that history will bear him out. Surely with these documents, George W. Bush wishes to write his very own history. And as his term ends, this revisionist history will take center stage anytime "W" appears before an audience.

Much like those who said the same of Herbert Hoover - the former worst President of all time - George W. Bush will be remembered for his numerous failures, all of which seem to be of catastrophic proportions.

-Noah Greenberg

Homeless in America
by Robert W. Barker
Eureka CA USA


She stood pleadingly, clutching a sign in her hands, it read: “Hungry.”

Standing on the edge of the grocery store parking lot, rain falling in drenching waves, she appeared undaunted by the conditions. I stopped and handed her three bucks, her eyes held the look of a weary soul, a fellow human being caught up in calamitous circumstances. Ragged clothes, dirty hands, rain dripping from her chin yet a certain depth to her gaze; she nodded and said, “God Bless.”

Her eyes told a story of desperation and suffering, no more than thirty-five she was a victim of circumstances brought on by bad habits or perhaps unavoidable crisis; far more likely a mix of these variables. Once a handsome woman, now the drugs, alcohol, and pain of life imparted a worn out toothless appearance, she could pass for fifty up close.

As I pulled away one started to wonder if she was really hungry or just in need of a fix; yet should it matter?

My cynical reaction borne of experience, as a student I worked with drug addicts and down and out humans, each group provided a myriad of excuses for behaviors deemed outside of their control. One cannot travel the USA without encountering homeless at some point, and the majority of the destitute hold some form of substance abuse problems.

My uncle Barney was one of these people, not by circumstance, but by choice. He could go home anytime, but he chooses to drink all day and ride the rails.

I tend to give a bit from time to time to outstretched hands; I see ole Barney in their eyes or a fellow human being, other circumstances irrelevant.

Yet just as often I avoid them and ease away without commitment.

Panhandlers, beggars and indigents leave me in a quandary; I want to help one day and the next I may think, “Get a job.”

Meth users or Tweekers form a percentage of the street beggars, and they are the most desperate and hard core of the druggies. Meth drains the soul and ruins the human corpus; it is the scourge of the American streets today. My wife’s a nurse, she has worked at rehab clinics and hospitals, and daily observes the waste and devastation meth causes on our fellow human beings.

Those experiences teach us to appreciate the various possibilities and hidden plight this poor woman faced, but was it hunger or desperate substance abuse, psychological problems or poverty?

Most likely all the above could b e applied to the majority of homeless.

Drugs, alcohol, psychological problems, social adjustments, poverty, lack of education, economics; all contribute to the emergent homeless toll. Many veterans suffer this burgeoning social malady old Viet Nam or Desert storm veterans have spoken to me here. Most suffer from PTS post traumatic stress syndrome and treatment depends on how close to a vet center they happen to be; here in this area we have none.

In Humboldt County California we have more than our share of the homeless.

Liberal social attitudes prevail in North California; we tend to be more tolerant to the homeless, consequently we are rewarded with an abundance of indigents. They live by the railroad tracks, fill our shelters, and strain our local social system. Sleeping on street corners, begging in alleys, many push grocery carts through the streets with their entire lives in a basket. Some have dogs as company, they sleep in cardboard boxes and nylon tents along the rivers or near abandoned beaches, and a few commit minor crimes. Generally harmless and only interested in the next meal or fix, yet desperate people leave a community vulnerable in more ways than one.

Homelessness often creates areas of dense dispossessed populations and this leads to environmental hazards filth and garbage, until police are called in to run them off. And the cleanup is a community project, financed by taxes and the group moves to another spot and it starts again.

Other communities are less tolerant.

The local authorities harassed and drove out indigents in many upwardly mobile communities and even paid to send many vagrants to more tolerant places. Subsequently the more forbearing communities are inundated, and the dilemma is mounting.

Hate Crimes
Another baleful variable of this quandary is the emerging disrespect and animosity towards these forlorn people. Recently escalating brutality aimed at the homeless has emerged, teenaged culprits performing acts of violence on the homeless for thrills. The incidence of documented crimes upon the homeless has amplified 30% from 1999 to 2005 according to the National Coalition for the Homeless {NCH} and 75% of the perpetrators are under the age of twenty-five.

NCH further reported 386 acts carried out in that same time period and 156 were fatal.

These actions are deemed hate crimes and allegedly agitated and exacerbated by the distribution of bum-fight videos. Films of the homeless being beaten or encouraged to fight each other over a cash offering are shown in homes and then some go out and duplicate the scene, a sick and sadistic art to say the least.

The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism (CSHE) at California State University, San Bernardino in conjunction with the NCH found that 155 homeless people were killed by domiciled people in "hate killings." Nonetheless, only 76 people were killed in all the other traditional hate crime categories, such as race and religion combined.

The CSHE assert that negative and demeaning depiction of the homeless add to a climate where violence is accepted.

Various studies and surveys designate a growing trend; that homeless people have a great deal higher criminal persecution than domiciled people. However most incidents never get reported to authorities, therefore our alarming crime statistics are not the entire picture. Accordingly we can see this is the exposed surface or tip of the preverbal iceberg the problem is far deeper and pervasive.

Homelessness with children involved is increasing and that may be the most alarming statistic.

Here in the land of plenty to have innocent children on the streets and no provisions is a poor reflection on our values and abilities to assist those in need. There are numerous outreach programs available to people but many refuse to connect and therefore are outside the realm of the philanthropic means. And the ones that do reach out are often driven back out into the streets by the authorities and social workers overbearing rules and attitudes.

This is a national problem we must face it or lose our higher selves and elevated ideals of human value. Cynical is the easy way out, ignoring them the ostrich solution, not caring the wrong path and no action increases the numbers of our fellow humans in plight.

As our economic woes grow our indigent population increases in proportion.

Houses being foreclosed create deprivation, jobs sent overseas add to homelessness, closing factories and commercial enterprise exacerbates the problem and we are losing control.

The average household lost three thousand a year in income over the last eight years, previous to those years Americans enjoyed a higher standard of living increase almost continuously.

The Bush years have shoved the gap between the middle class and wealthy wider. The vast separation in wealth is one cause of the falling economic picture, the last time the fissure was this large between the rich and poor was the great depression.

Our unsheltered masses are estimated to range between 600,000 to 2.1 million depending on whose research you quote. So the medium number between those two is over a million people and increasing in the Bush economy.

The Clinton administration created a superior job training program for welfare recipients, they trained people for bona fide occupations like welder’s, computer programmers, plumbers, electricians, and it dropped the roles of generational welfare by huge numbers. The Bush administration disregarded that program and instead of offering decent wage job training they limited the federally backed training to the fast food jobs like McDonalds and Burger King.

People require pride and self esteem to work out of a deep rut and the fast food places paid little more than a welfare check, so the incentive that drives capitalism forward for the majority was squashed in more ways than one.

President elect Obama’s plan to reverse this trend was met with cries of socialism, yet truth be known we need a strong middle class or risk being a Third World nation. Creating jobs to supplement for those sent overseas and bringing back the stronger middle class is tantamount to continuation of our culture, and few priorities trump this one.

My Libertarian friends tell me there will always be poverty, hunger and homelessness, and they are no doubt correct. Yet I would like to think we can work to eliminate or reduce this plight on mankind’s soul. Humanistic, idealist and even unrealistic perhaps, but we are obligated to strive and find the better spark in our fellow human beings.

Christ instructed that the ultimate good was love and I believe in that.

Sartre the existentialist philosopher told us we’re responsible for our own happiness, and this makes sense as well.

So the dichotomy goes on, and we seek a balance that sways like a pendulum in the wind, yet here in the land of plenty poverty should be everyone’s problem. As the situation worsens we may augment this problem to a quicker pace then we can handle.

The lady at the market disappeared and her personal plight unknown, yet she is an example of the economic and substances abuse reality that creates this situation. Solutions are not forth coming but the need is great and our own plight reflected in their collective eyes.

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2009, Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

With just days left until the inauguration of Barack Obama, you would think the Democrats would be in sync, excited at the prospect of a new and Democratic president.

You would think that if you hadn’t been watching the performance of the Democratic Congress over the past few years, that is.

The 2006 elections brought Democratic leadership back to the Congress as well as signaling the rise of the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). But high hopes voters had were quickly dashed. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) became water-carriers for the Bush Administration in short order, acquiescing to nearly every egregious or outrageous demand from either the President or his Republican minions. When baffled Democratic constituents protested, the excuse of “bipartisanship” was given as the catch-all answer.

The Wall Street bailout was the most recent, and most damning, decision by the Democrats. Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson proposed a deal, and with lightning speed and at the whim of the Bush Administration, the Democrats shoved the bailout through. There was an Oversight Panel, but when questions arose on Jan. 9 about where the money had actually gone, there were no answers.

Leadership demands accountability–it also demands demanding accountability. Pelosi has failed in both regards.

Yet despite this and other serious disappointments of the past two years, with the election of Barack Obama, those of us still clinging to the margins of the Democratic Party hoping for some kind of progressive re-birth, thought the Democrats in Congress–now with an even greater margin than they garnered in 2006–might actually begin to act like progressives.

Or at least stop acting like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight.

Alas, the past few weeks haven’t augured well for that prospect. Reid has outdone even Pelosi with triangulated moves that have reflected badly on the President-elect and on the Democratic Congress.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached on Jan. 9, but that was too late for Reid, who had already managed to embroil himself in the controversy.

Reid declared–with no actual law to back him up–that he would not seat anyone that Blagojevich chose to fill the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Then Blagojevich–indicted for influence peddling for allegedly attempting to sell the Obama seat–called Reid’s bluff. He appointed Roland Burris.

Burris was the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Illinois. He was also the first black attorney general in Illinois and made several unsuccessful runs at the Illinois governor’s spot. Burris, a career politician, had every intention of taking over Obama’s seat and told Reid as much.

Congressional Republicans, who haven’t had much to say since their trouncing at the polls, jumped on the Burris issue, countering that if Reid didn’t seat Burris, then they would not allow Al Franken, who won the Minnesota Senate seat by a scant 225 votes, to be seated while incumbent Norm Coleman was still contesting the vote count in the courts. (Franken can be seated provisionally.) This would mean two vacant seats in the Senate–Democratic vacancies.

Reid handled the controversy badly, as he is known to do, even saying in a TV interview that he didn’t work for Barack Obama. Reid had already been caught having spoken to Blagojevich about who he did and did not want to replace Obama. But on Jan. 7, the President-elect was reported to have asked Reid to seat Burris. Reid, however, said Jan. 8 that the full Senate will have to vote on Burris’s appointment–which will mean further bad feeling about the Democrats.

It seems unlikely Burris won’t be seated in the end, unless it can be established that he actually was involved in a scheme with Blagojevich–which seems unlikely. Everyone who has said they didn’t speak with Blagojevich–Obama, Reid, Emmanuel Rahm–has been found to have discussed the appointment with him. Burris having been discovered to have discussed it with Blagojevich doesn’t taint him. While he’s not the best choice for the seat, given some concerns over cases he was involved in during his stint as AG, the stench of corruption is on Blagojevich, not Burris. And Reid knows it.

Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. David Patterson is mulling his choices to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton once she is sworn in as Secretary of State. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, has made it clear she wants the job and has been “campaigning” for the position. She has never been in public office and has never previously been involved in politics, except for her support of Obama during his campaign.

Like the pay-to-play scandal in Chicago, the question of why Kennedy should be appointed comes down to privilege. What got Blagojevich into trouble was thinking he should be able to “trade” his power to appoint–a political quid pro quo.

Caroline Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. She campaigned for him, using her family name.

Patterson, who is up for re-election in 2010, will need a lot of money to beat back any Republican challengers as well as a lot of political support behind him. It has been suggested that Kennedy can provide both.

Some have argued that the “Kennedy kid,” as she’s been referred to (she’s 52–hardly a kid), “deserves a chance.” Why? Why is a Senate seat something to be traded for influence? It’s an elected position and it’s only due to happenstance that these governors are being given an opportunity to appoint someone at all. Given the state of the economy, shouldn’t the choices be predicated on who can do the best job for the constituency, not on who has the best pedigree?

I had hoped that another African American would fill Obama’s seat and another woman, Hillary Clinton’s. But I had also hoped that both seats would be filled by people with at least the same level of acumen and credentials as the man and woman they were replacing. While it can be argued that Burris meets that criteria, even if he’s neither the strongest nor best choice, the same cannot be said of Caroline Kennedy.

Kennedy has said she wants her uncle’s seat, referring to the late Robert F. Kennedy who also was senator from New York. In making that statement, she suggests it’s a family dynasty. Yet Robert Kennedy held the seat for a mere half term before deciding to run for president and then, tragically, being assassinated like his brother, Caroline’s father.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan held the seat for 28 years after Kennedy’s assassination, until he retired. If the seat is anyone’s legacy, it’s his.

Hillary Clinton ran for and won Moynihan’s seat after a very bitterly fought election. She was re-elected to a second term. Many have compared Caroline and Hillary, but the only comparison is that they are both female and both Democrats. Clinton had been involved in politics for decades, then campaigned for two years for the position and won it in a landslide victory, despite the odds against her. Caroline Kennedy, who records show doesn’t always even vote, has done none of the political work that Hillary Clinton has done, either in New York or nationally. Were her name not Kennedy, she would not even be in the running, let alone a lead choice.

The Democrats need to pull themselves together. Either find a real reason to oust Burris or seat him–now. Seat Franken provisionally. And find a suitable, not dynastic, replacement for Clinton. Someone who has the same level of experience and ambition (and that extends to actually getting to the polls to vote) not a political neophyte who thinks a Senate seat is an inheritance.

Obama is inheriting a phenomenal mess, on both the domestic and foreign fronts. He needs a Congress with strong leadership and focus to get the enormity of the jobs before him done. The Democratic majority should be dependable and solid, not mired in squabbling and power plays at the expense of its constituency, the American people.

Harry Reid is correct when he says he doesn’t work for Barack Obama–he doesn’t. He works for America. And he’s not doing the best job by any stretch of even the most lenient imagination. Nor is Pelosi.

It took eight years for the Republicans to get the country into the mess it’s in, but they did it as a united front intent on following their President and supporting their party loyalties above all else. It would behoove the Democrats to remember that. Because only by pulling together instead of their usual pulling apart will the Democrats be able to achieve the goals being set forth by Obama.

Americans have been saddled with mismanaged government for eight very long and disastrous years. The Democrats have a real opportunity to create the kind of change Barack Obama said he wanted for the nation. What would be the best change is if they don’t blow that opportunity, but take advantage of it. That can only happen with solid leadership. It will do nothing for Americans if the new President is strong, but the Congress remains weak and unfocused. We don’t need change we can believe in, we need leadership we can depend on.

And in response to, "It was to our detriment and it was our fault," Pat Thompson adds:

No, it was not our fault totally. I didn't vote for Bush/Cheney. I worked and contributed to Al Gore's campaign. Blame the ignorant "conservatives" and the right wing Christians, and the greedy Republicans eager for a tax cut who voted for them. And the Supreme Court who appointed them. Things sure are looking up!!

In response to, "But the rest of us will remember that mean, secretive man who took control over our nation as no Vice President, and few president ever have," Pat Thompson writes:

I truly feared it was a permanent situation, that we'd never be free of this bunch of neo-cons. The Obama administration seems almost a miracle, and I am pleased with just about all of his appointments so far. Gates was an improvement over Rumsfeld, but I wonder if keeping him is the best idea. And no one has ever succeeded in Afghanistan; it had a big part in bringing down the Soviet Union. Obama should not push the Afghanistan war -- we are just in no position to pursue it. Another solution was mentioned recently -- an underground railroad type of assistance for their women to leave. Let the old men of the Taliban have the country. A Russian official has just been quoted as saying that the US will disintegrate within the next four years. They should know -- it happened to their "empire".

In response to, ""How dare you talk about the killing of the Jews when you murdered millions of Germans in the bombing", David W. writes:

Indeed. How dare someone, anyone, bring home some of that whupass that they (Germany) opened up back in 1938? Didn't think there'd be bombs dropping out of their sky when they were singing, "Uber Alles" and launching those V-2 England's way, hmmm? I love that.

I also love the American version of it--mostly it's the whining from Southerners about Sherman's March to the Sea... But you have to allow for the wounded sense of entitlement to the resources of other people that is embodied in statements regarding Iraq's lack of gratitude to the US for "liberating" them.

It takes a hefty dose of ignorance and arrogance for that.

And Bob Driscoll writes:

How dare us, indeed! We weren't responsible for all of those German deaths, just as we weren't responsible for the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hitler and Imperial Japan bear that responsibly. The only thing that we helped do was end the madness and sacrifice hundreds of thousands of our own in doing so!

In response to, "Think of the famous last words of the disillusioned Liberal in 'Heart of Darkness' - 'Exterminate the brutes'”, David W. writes:

In high school I was taught that "Heart of Darkness" was an allegory. According to several researchers not the least of whom is Adam Hochschild, Joseph Konrad was on that boat going up the Congo, and he did indeed meet the real "Mr. Kurtz" all the atrocities he described and then some were real and were perpetrated on the people of the Congo by the Belgians. Extermination was the order of the day and the ones doing it were the real brutes. King Leopold and his agents were the monsters not the people who's only crime was the color of their skin.

And Denise writes:

To think that "exterminate the thugs" is the right answer puts you in the same category as those that are referred to as jihadist murderous thugs, the same category as Saddam, and the same category as Hitler and the Nazis. There may not be a peaceful reality that comes from a resolution of attempted peace but it is worth a try for diplomacy to take place between the powers that be, for the sake of some sort of decent, stable lives of innocent people that suffer from the casualties and hardships that continued fighting does to both sides. To fan the flames is not the answer.

And in response to, "Here's one suggestion - stop the blockade that led to the rockets," Ginger H. writes:

How does one deal with a county/group whose sworn mission is the destruction of Israel? They would stop the rockets until it suited them to start again. They're not going to stop their war of aggression till they're soundly beaten. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn't paying attention. And forget returning lands. Those lands were hard won, and for a good reason, that reason being they were tired of being bombarded from those sectors. I'm sure Hamas would love for them to return the lands, but it's not happening.

In response to, "'Their" Problem", Robert W. Barker writes:

I just wanted to say you are spot on in this. I think the unemployment rate is going further south before it turns around, Bush has buried us in crap. I am also sending you a piece I would like you to consider running, its called Homeless in America.

In response to, "What we have - and what those at the top keep on saying - is that we have our bootstraps and we have to pull ourselves up by them. Figure out a way to do it. Remember, you're on your own," Robert Scardapane writes:

Dennis Kucinich puts the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" conservative bromide in perspective:

Now what's interesting, the philosophy that's guiding leaders in the Executive and Judicial branch of government because they go out and tell people, 'Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps' and then they steal the boots.

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-Noah Greenberg