Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday Night Ramblings

I’ve taken a needed break from blogging these past few days. Rather than post a topic oriented essay this evening I just have a few random thoughts rattling in my head:
  • President Obama used his bully pulpit today to promote credit card reform legislation currently making its way through congress. Obama’s YouTube fireside chat contained echoes of Vice President Biden’s Chief Economist Jared Bernstein. How I wish Bernstein had more influence than Tim Geithner and Larry Summers.
  • I concur with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert’s response to the so-called good news of “only” losing half a million jobs in April. I very much fear the corporate media and body politic will become complacent as long as the stock market continues to rally. Obama is too politically savvy to declare “mission accomplished” but his administration is kidding itself if they believe we have turned the corner.
  • Obama’s rhetoric is spot on but his deeds remain Wall Street centric. I have no faith in these so-called stress tests for the banks. My hunch is that the Obama administration is hoping to produce another “bubble” by restoring faith in our financial institutions with fuzzy math. Perhaps Obama is rationalizing that he would use a future bubble responsibly and invest in programs with long term returns for the public such as education, energy, health care and infrastructure. There are two risks with this approach. Risk number one is that the markets expose the fuzzy math just as they revealed the banks balance sheets as phony last year. Should that occur, as Paul Krugman noted in his recent column, Obama’s credibility will be vaporized and so will his ambitious agenda. Risk number two is that the Geithner/Summers plutocratic juggernaut successfully create their phony bubble, we become complacent and have another epic crash.
  • As New Yorkers know by now, Governor David Paterson and Senate Democrats finally agreed to a deal that bails out the MTA without draconian cuts in service and massive far hikes. This was achieved without any Republican votes. In the short term this good for New Yorkers struggling to keep their heads above water in this economy. Long term however there still is no viable plan to reform the MTA’s corrupt cronyism and culture of looting that New Yorkers always end up subsidizing.
  • As for Governor Paterson, he is sadly not ready for prime time. Paterson is reactive and constantly shifting his positions. His hapless performance is taking its toll as polls now show that voters prefer Eliot Spitzer who resigned in disgrace last year. Whereas Paterson navigates Albany’s tough terrain like a baby seal, Spitzer often seemed as if his sphincter muscle was on fire. Paterson is bullied and Spitzer tried to be a bully. Neither demonstrated leadership ability as New York 's chief executive. Hence, not enough has been accomplished since the Democrats retook the governor’s mansion in November 2006. Paterson still has time to turn things around but like most New York Democrats I’m hoping for a primary challenge. I’ve never been a fan of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo but as of now would support him over Paterson.
  • America owes a debt of gratitude to Supreme Court Justice David Souter for not retiring under President George W. Bush. I vividly recall when Souter was nominated by the first President Bush to replace Justice William Brennan in 1990. It was my senior year in college and one of my friends compared him to Robert Bork. Instead Souter turned out to be judicious and sensible. Conservatives chafed that Souter betrayed their cause. In my opinion, Souter presided as a traditional conservative jurist who respected precedent and didn’t overreact to the passions of the moment. Simply put, Souter didn’t betray conservatism. Conservatism’s metamorphosis to radicalism betrayed people like Souter. They wanted Souter to be a radical right wing activist and he opted to respect the Constitution instead.
  • I first became aware of Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a decade ago because of her diligent support of human rights in China over corporate interests. I appreciated her stolid advocacy of human rights in China and have long admired her staunch unapologetic liberalism.
  • Today, the Washington Post reported that a top Pelosi aide attended a briefing in 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were used. In recent weeks there have been numerous leaks to the press about what Pelosi knew with respect to "enhanced interrogation" techniques or torture as decent people refer to it. The CIA has apparently targeted Pelosi for damaging leaks just as they previously went after the Bush Administration during the Valerie Plame controversy as well as the who knew what about WMDs in Iraq infighting. One has to wonder if this contributed to Pelosi’s early declaration in 2006 not to investigate the Bush administration, initiate impeachment hearings and her holding back of House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers. Obviously, the Bush administration had plenty of enablers in the Democratic Party for their crimes. If Pelosi was among them she should be held accountable along with other Democratic enablers and we liberal Democrats must insist upon it.
  • Happy Mother's Day to all tomorrow!


libhom said...

Pelosi is no liberal. She is a rightist, Bush Republican pretending to be liberal because she lives in SF and wants to be in Congress.

She gay baited her opponent to get into Congress in the 1986 primary. She has been sabotaging lgbt civil rights ever since.

She kept impeachment "off the table" while doing everything in her power to make sure funding the genocidal war on Iraq continued. She pushed through the House legislation unconstitutionally authorizing warrentless wiretapping. She still hasn't taken any serious action to help the people in Louisiana and Mississippi who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

I could go on, and on, and on. But, you get the point.

Patrick said...

Hey Rob, I agree with libhom on this one. Whether or not Pelosi is lying about what she knew and when, she's someone the Democrats could do without. I can't remember the details, but back when the states were fighting over who would be first in the primaries, I heard a story about her and a young woman in New Hampshire (in some government position). Pelosi apparently (mistakenly)thought that this woman could change the date of New Hampshire's primary. And Pelosi wrote a bullying letter threatening to destroy this woman's career if she didn't change it. I haven't liked her since. She behaved like an unprincipled and arrogant bully. As to her behavior during the Bush years - unprincipled and expedient self-preservation always seemed to be her motto. She brushed aside countless opportunities to challenge the Bush admin and never did. The torture memos would be just another example.

As to Obama... you know... I almost wrote this last night. And now Frank Rich beat me to the punch. Rich says it all. During an interview on NPR a while back, someone said something about Obama that really struck me - this is a President who doesn't have a record of interest in ethics or principles (which isn't the same as saying he's unprincipled or unethical). His interest is in consensus building - governance. I don't express it as well. But all of his actions so far reflect this attitude, including his decision to withhold the detainee abuse photos. It's really too bad, because I like the guy. But you remember how angry I was when Obama voted for the Telecomm immunity bill. This is all more of the same.

He refuses to look backward. Well, there wouldn't be a legal system if we didn't look backward. For the first time in his presidency his administration lost control of the headlines. This is only going to get worse. As long as these questions concerning the Bush Administration and torture aren't dealt with, it's going to continue metastasizing and consuming his administration's agenda.

I've read some commentators who believe this is a deliberate strategy by Obama. If so, he's playing with fire and this week he got burned. If he doesn't investigate the previous administration, he risks being run over by it.