Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Week of Change

Well, it's finally here. This is the week that everything begins anew. After what seems like decades, change is finally here. We finally get to move on to the next phase of our lives, to a series of new decisions that will take our story to new and surely uncharted paths.

That's right folks. Lost returns with new episodes this Wednesday evening.

It's been a long time coming, and to mark the occasion ABC will be taking over all of our television programming with three grueling hours of Lost from 8-11pm ET. First is a one-hour recap of what has happened in the first four seasons, for those who are fool enough to never have watched the greatest show of this millennium, and in particular to remind all of us what happened at the end of Season 4, which I believe was originally aired some time in the early 1970s. I got lucky and channel-surfed my way right into a four-hour Lost marathon on SciFi on Monday evening, and they were smart enough to be showing the final four episodes of Season 4, so I got myself all caught up, but I still will be watching that first hour of Lost programming on Wednesday just to catch any new tidbits they are sure to throw our way, based on previous years' recap episodes. Following that are the first two episodes of Season 5, billed as a two-hour season premiere, running from 9 to 11pm ET. Personally, I can't wait. Even though from interviews done by the show's co-producers during the offseason it does seem like Season 5 is likely to bring more questions than answers, and we will have to wait until the final season to really find out what the hike is really going on with the island, I am still looking forward to finding out the answers to some of our less central and more immediate questions. Questions like Why is it so important that everyone go back to the island? and Who are these people from the freighter, Dr. Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, etc.? Of course another season of Lost will mean another few months of weekly frustration and total confusion. But along with it will be without a doubt the most entertaining hour of every week, the most talked-about show at the virtual water cooler, and, of course, a weekly dose of Goat's fabulous Lost recaps. How's that for pressuring the guy to bring back one of my favorite parts of Lost every week?

Moving on to the other, lesser story of this week, Barack Obama takes office midday Tuesday, putting an end to the tenure of George W. Bush as the leader of the United States of America. As with most inauguration days since I have grown up, I find myself looking back today on the man's legacy after eight years at the helm of our country.

First and foremost, no review of the Bush presidency can be started or finished without talking about 9-11. The worst terrorist attack on our nation's soil went down just nine months into Bush's first term in office, and it really ended up defining the first several years of his presidency, until the economic turmoil of the past couple of years found a way to even supplant that. To be honest, the Bush response to 9-11 has got to be the highlight of his time in office in my view. Maybe some of this has to do with being a New Yorker at the time that 9-11 happened (though I doubt that), but I don't know how one can not give Bush tremendous props for managing to help the country recover from those devastating attacks, and for preventing further violence within our borders. Honestly, if you had told me a few weeks after 9-11 that there would not be another terror attack on our soil for the next eight years, I am positive I would have signed up for that right then and there, regardless of whatever else happened. That was far and away the biggest and most pressing goal of the Bush presidency less than a year after it began, and it turns out that our president delivered on that goal with flying colors. Although there have been some alleged threats, they have all been thwarted and the result has been a totally terrorism-free America ever since the day the towers fell. Bush and his team deserve a massive amount of credit for that, and they surely get it from me. As much of an abject failure as the whole Iraq debacle has been, the mere presence of the war in that country has so successfully diverted the attention of Al-Qaeda and those who wish harm on the U.S. that there has been nary a mention of a serious threat to our security here at home. I'll never know if this was the actual planned strategy all along, but Al-Qaeda has spent their time over the past several years planning attacks on U.S. and U.S.-led forces over there, while having no time or inclination to plan more missives on U.S. soil. A tradeoff which has proven to be brilliant in its simplicity and in its results. As the new president looks to shrink our presence in Iraq, we may come back to this thought time and again as the years go by.

Unfortunately, Bush's stunning success in preventing further attacks in the U.S. stands alone in my eyes among his positive achievements over eight years in office. And things ended up getting so bad on the finance and economic front that it's enough to make me second-guess my feeling eight years ago that I would have signed up for no further terror attacks regardless of what else happened during these eight years. Iraq, other than its general effect of diverting the attention and violent efforts of terrorists away from the United States, has of course been a failure. Attacking a country surrounded by our bitter enemies and full of subversive, violent sects which hate us as well, with absolutely no exit plan or no way of even knowing if we've won or lost at all, was a disaster from the moment of its inception. Thousands of Americans and others have died in Iraq for, in my opinion, no good reason at all while we have insisted on remaining there to "keep the peace" and "promote democracy" in a country whose people seem to have little interest in either.

The worst part about the whole Iraq thing to me is not even the execution so much but how we got there to begin with. In what would prove to be just the beginning of a disturbing trend with George W. Bush, the man went before Congress and before the American people on prime time television and lied to us all. Lied through his fucking teeth about weapons of mass destruction being rampant all through Iraq, and how dire of an emergency it therefore was for us to send troops over there to die in the name of saving America from imminent disaster. In doing so, Bush lost much of his effectiveness with the Congress, while winning a feeling of betrayal from mostly every American. It's always hard to me, and I think for millions of my fellow Americans, to have our own president bald-faced lie to us, making things sound worse than they are just to advance his own personal agenda. I think back to that scumbag Bill Clinton looking right in the camera, proclaiming "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and then having the audacity to explain during his deposition that "it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is". What a bunch of lowlifes. And these presidents will never seem to realize how damaging it is when they tell bald-faced lies in front of 250 million Americans, 100 million or so of which are young, impressionable children and teenagers. How the F am I supposed to teach my children to tell the truth when our own president blatantly lies to everyone in the world just to get what he wants? How can people raise their sons not to be womanizing scumbags when our own president ten years ago was more concerned with chasing blowjobs than stamping out a rising Osama Bin Laden in the Sudan? From this perspective alone, I find George Bush's actions to be as unforgivable as those of his predecessor, and surely not befitting of someone worthy of leading this great country.

Although I am a big fan of Bush's sticking to his promise (unlike his daddy) not to raise taxes during his time in office, and I especially favor his support in passing a bill to phase out the baseless and (in my view) unfair estate tax -- a phase-out which Mr. Obama is set to reverse as one of his first steps in office -- Bush also spent the next several years of his time as president focusing far too much on Iraq and far too little on issues threatening to wreak havoc right here in the U.S. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area, the response by federal emergency management personnel was far too slow and led to significant unnecessary damage, death and destruction, all while Bush refused to do the right thing and personally visit the area. When we took prisoners in our war against terror, America's historic focus on human rights went right out the window, along with the dignity of our leader, as we tortured our prisoners of war just like any other indecent, lowlife country would (and Bush lied about it, of course). When the last of the major oil companies wanted to merge, where was the Bush administration to stop it in the name of protection of U.S. consumers? What about releasing our strategic oil reserves as necessary in times of big crude shortages in the U.S.? Cue the record-high energy, oil and gasoline prices that occurred during Bush's second term, and which are sure to return as soon as the global economy rebounds. What about the fiscal responsibility that used to be such a lynchpin of the American Republican party platform? Even Ronald Reagan would be rolling over in his grave at the way the Bush administration has nearly tripled our national debt to over $ 8 trillion at last count. And when Bill Clinton's grand strategy to de-regulate the entire banking industry combined with the House and Senate finance committees' blind insistence on banks loaning far too much money to people unable to pay those debts to slowly but surely create a massive bubble in the finance and credit sector at large, where was our current president to step in, recognize the problem and start solving it before the whole house of cards came crashing down? Who knows.

And as I mentioned, this business about lying to the Congress and the public to get whatever he wants proved to be the norm, not an aberration, for Mr. Bush. As the economy worsened all through 2007, Bush was repeatedly one of those clowns who publicly stated that the economy was fine, its fundamentals were sound, and that it was just people talking about a recession all the time that actually created a recession. In reality, this is an abominably stupid position for anyone to take, as recessions are 100% real and 100% regular and in fact as American as apple pie, and yet the Bush camp spent the all of 2007 and the better part of early 2008 making just this argument, even as credit markets around the world seized up in the summer of 2007 amid what has now officially been defined as a recession starting more than 14 months ago. And it all came to a head for me when Bush went on tv last September, in the wake of the failure of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of insurance giant AIG, and told Americans that we needed to pass the TARP bill to bail out the banks of this country immediately, that the bailout would work to solve the banks' problems, and that if we didn't immediately pass this bill, our country would slip into an economic abyss. Well I got news for ya buddy, we did pass TARP, it ain't done shit for any bank, all of which are once again making new multi-year lows as I type this, and even despite TARP's passage and the expenditure of $750 billion of taxpayer funds to "save the economy", we are still totally, utterly and completely in the tank, economically speaking.

George Bush's legacy as president of the United States is I think very clear at this point. Despite his efforts late in his term to redefine his legacy through silly speeches and disingenuous claims, Bush will go down in history not only as an ineffective leader, but as a dishonest, untrustworthy man who allowed his one-track mind to focus too hard to his own personal agendas and could not see the forest for the trees, someone whose blatant and public dishonesty won him the disrespect of not only the American people at large, but of his partners in the legislative branch of government as well, including even his own party who by the end of his term could barely stand to listen to a word he had to say. As Bush leaves office with a record-low 22% approval rating (and who the F are those 22% btw?!), I find myself hoping that if nothing else, Barack Obama will prove to be true to his word as president. The sad truth is, it's been a looooong time since we've had anyone as president who anybody could call honest without a little bit of a chuckle. I know all politicians are scum when it comes right down to it, but let's get someone in here who can be trusted generally to do what he says he will do, and to always be on the lookout for the American people in all facets of our lives, instead of someone whose primary agenda is getting laid, or getting revenge on the people who tried to kill their daddy a generation earlier. It's time America got someone into office who really is governing "for the people" in every sense of the word.

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Blogger Astin said...

$10 trillion and counting.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Bush did not triple the debt check your facts. Obama may double it to 20 trillion, but who cares. It's not like we will ever pay it off. I also don't remember Bush saying TARP would immediatly solve everything. Despite what the media loves to claim, TARP has been somewhat effective. The stock market has settled down, and bank failures have slowed as well. Of course stockholders will be hurt when you are issuing 20+ billion in senior preferred stock @ 8%. The government is now first in line should the banks go BK, and I would say the stock is worthless.

1:57 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

LOST posts?

Yes, we can!

Yes, we can!

Yes, we can!

2:08 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

Blinders - Market settled only in notional terms, there are still big % swings (ie.- today it's down 4% so far), but since it's not at 13,000, there's no 800 point drops. The calm spell over the last month is mostly due to the holidays. Now that retail numbers are in, and companies are once again failing and announcing layoffs and paycuts, the market will swing back down.

Bank failures are curbed because the government keeps bailing them out. Citi should be toast. BofA should be on the brink. There are others that should have collapsed and been picked at instead of being absorbed wholesale by bigger banks (but their debt was guaranteed by the government). But that's still a failure. TARP has done nothing to fix the underlying problems of these institutions. Two state banks have already been taken over and redistributed by FDIC this year. At least 100 more small banks will fold in the near future as the commercial mortgages they rely on are defaulted on.

Most critics (except the bankers) are pretty adamant that TARP has been mishandled and poorly allocated so far. The only reason it has ANY traction is because nobody can account where the money has actually gone, so the assumption is that SOME of it must be helping somewhere.

3:24 AM  
Blogger OES said...

Hey Hoy. Incredible recap. One thing though that I feel slightly vague about is that you mentioned about Bush being a clown for telling everyone in '07 that we are doing just fine and then flipped a shit late in '08 and you thought both of those were mishandled, which I agree. However, you posted awhile back the right way to handle a recession, citing previous presidents and how they did a good job handling the public during times of economic crisis. The way they did this was (quoting you from october) "The President has either been quiet about it entirely -- which is a more or less fine reaction in my book, since these are as inevitable as the sun coming up tomorrow."

Where is the buffer between the two that I am missing. I admit I do not have great market knowledge, but definitely confused here on where you draw the line.

Sorry about your Eagles. However, my team cheat.

4:59 AM  
Blogger donkeypuncher said...

YES!!!! LOST!!!

6:00 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...


I said "somewhat effective". IMO we should have never done it. Just let Citi, B of A, GM and the others fail already. The TARP bill was crafted by the Dems in congress against the opposition of the Republicans. Sure Bush signed that piece of crap, but just imagine if he would have blocked it back then. Bush does not deserve all of the blame here. Let's see how effective Obama is with his 1/2.

12:38 AM  

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