Thursday, January 15, 2009

* Being special does not abdicate responsibility – Most of the people reading these words find themselves in a most unique moment in the history of humans who have walked on this planet. We enjoy a standard of living and a sense of peace and safety rarely found in history books or what is the reality for most of the people in the world today. For those of us “special” individuals there is a sense of entitlement that is insulating in its nature. It affects all political affiliations in this country and it seems to have been especially embraced by the Republican Party over the last 3 decades. It removes us from the poverty, violence and subjugation so prevalent throughout the world and including parts of this blessed country. As individuals there is a limit to what we can do about it. We depend upon our government, our representatives, to take needed action both domestically and internationally. What we can do is pressure our elected representatives to do what is right and take greater care in those we elect.

This caveat is required because too many of our representatives have failed us. Too often our government has added to sorrowful conditions internationally and proved inadequate in alleviating undesirable conditions domestically. These conditions did not begin with the Bush administration but it was during this administration that abuse of power militarily and economically and an ignorance of people with needs reached its respective heights and depths. I believe that much of the support for Obama’s candidacy was a reaction to this misguided policy. To the President who so woefully presided over eight years of reversal for the American people I eagerly say farewell. To the man about to take office, Barack Obama, I wish him wisdom, forbearance, humility and good fortune because the fate of Americans and many of the peoples of the world are now dependent upon his guidance.

* Quote of the Week – “The United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. That we will uphold our highest values and ideals.” The words were spoken by Barack Obama at the press conference introducing his Intelligence Team on January 9, 2009. An incredible number of Americans volunteered to help elect Mr. Obama. These were some of the words and more importantly the actions we want from the President of the United States of America.

Broadcasts this week featured President Bush saying the exact same words “The United States does not torture,” in news clips from years past. (The evidence and Mr. Bush’s own words during his legacy tour the past two weeks showed this statement to be a lie.) I trust that Mr. Obama will prove to be a president we can believe.

* Letter of the Week - A group of scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent a letter to the Obama transition team about widespread managerial misconduct in a division of the agency. "The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the scientific review process for medical devices at the FDA has been corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers, thereby placing the American people at risk." In the letter FDA dissidents alleged that agency managers use intimidation to squelch scientific debate. In the Bush administration business interests took precedence over the interests of the American people and avoided scientific findings like they were a communicable disease. I would not be surprised if similar letters are being sent from the Dept. of the Interior, the EPA and a plethora of other federal agencies. I am optimistic that such an anti-intellectual approach to government and special interest generated “under sight” will improve with Bush’s departure.

* Responsible approach to our environment ~ our lives are at stake – Last week I discussed the health threat resulting from the lack of regulation and guidelines for the byproducts of coal-fired facilities. “Senate Democrats said…they want stricter rules for toxic ash from coal-fired power plants following a massive spill in Tennessee that has threatened drinking water and caused health fears.” Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, "The federal government has the power to regulate these wastes, and inaction has allowed this enormous volume of toxic material to go largely unregulated." Inaction is the operative word. Taking action following a disaster is positive. As the Obama administration designs it economic recovery program preventative programs should be an important element. Recall that is was known for a long time that the levees in New Orleans were inadequate to keep the city from flooding under certain conditions. The price for upgrading the levees would have been a lot less than the costs that resulted from the Katrina disaster. And how many lives would have been saved? The staggering cost of the Tennessee cleanup will possibly be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Health issues aside, lack of prevention is stupid economics. And NO, health issues are not aside. It is the tragic consequence of ignorant economics.

* The Word of the Day ~ “Confabulation” is defined as familiar talk or conversation – Last Saturday my Yahoo home page offered this word of the day. It accompanied news on the same page about Illinois Governor Brad Blagojevich’s impeachment, Mayor of Baltimore Sheila Dixon’s indictment on theft and perjury, more news about the Ponzi embezzler Bernard Madoff and news of additional mini-Madoffs. These are the current faces of the disease of fraud and dishonesty running rampant throughout our society. Feeling helpless we confabulate about these matters and shrug our shoulders. I have a sense that as a society we have become too accepting of much that is wrong and what such a development forebodes.

* Lack of accountability contributed to this mess ~ it will not get us out of it - When Barack Obama was asked about investigating possible crimes by the Bush administration his response was “we should look forward as opposed to looking backwards”. I found this response condescending and irresponsible. Eight years of unaccountability, marked by very responsible individuals and organizations identifying the breaking of laws cannot be swept under the national carpet. It only keeps the door open for further abuses by the Obama administration or future administrations. Fortunately, there are some responsible people in Congress (this is not a typo) who do not accept Obama’s somewhat glib view:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said, “I think that there’s a lot that remains to look at, and I appreciate that President Obama doesn’t want to make it his purpose as a new president, with America in real distress in many directions, to go back and look at all this, but I think we in Congress have an independent responsibility, and I fully intend to discharge that responsibility.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary committee “got behind a very different approach, releasing a nearly 500-page report that recommends establishing a blue-ribbon commission -- along the lines of the 9/11 commission, but with subpoena power -- to investigate whether crimes were committed” by members of the Bush administration. “The report also advocates an investigation by the Justice Department, potentially involving a special prosecutor. And in addition to focusing on issues of torture, wiretapping, and the like, the report also recommends continuing to probe matters like the leaking of the name of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, and the US Attorney firings.”

For two months we have listened to Bush and Cheney and their supporters/spokespeople weaving a legacy web as disingenuous and delusional as much of Bush’s presidency. I suggest that it is imperative the truth be told.

* The rule of law – In a speech last June the man Barack Obama has nominated for Attorney General, Eric Holder, said: "I never thought I would see the day when a Justice Department would claim that only the most extreme infliction of pain and physical abuse constitutes torture and that acts that are merely cruel, inhuman and degrading are consistent with United States law and policy, that the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention, never thought that I would see that a president would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of American citizens. This disrespect for the rule of law is not only wrong, it is destructive in our struggle against terrorism."

Holder is the nominee that Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA) is opposing for Attorney General. It appears that my “esteemed” senator from Pennsylvania prefers Attorney Generals who range from overly partisan to incompetent such as Ashcroft, Gonzalez and Mukasey – appointments he did not block in his Judiciary Committee. Spector never tires of hearing himself pontificate but many of us in Pennsylvania are exhausted. Should Mr. Spector decide to run again in 2010 he has my commitment to work for his defeat.

* Making the big decisions, or, it’s not my ass on fire – On Wednesday I watched VP Dick Cheney being interviewed on PBS. Jim Lehrer asked Vice President Cheney about the American soldiers who have lost their lives in the war in Iraq. Lehrer asked, "Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4,500 Americans have died, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?" "I think so," Cheney responded. Mr. Cheney failed to note that none of his children or grandchildren lost a life, an arm, a leg or their eyesight or sanity in Iraq.

* “Sometimes we are so caught up in who's right and who's wrong that we forget what's right and wrong.”
Author unknown

No comments: