Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Political Editorial

How can you tell when a politician is lying?
His lips are moving

Today we will depart from our usual format and write an editorial about the sad state of our country. I do not profess to be a political scientist. Perhaps I am na├»ve regarding the give-and-take of political gamesmanship. I was shocked a decade ago when voters of my country elected a president that in my mind was an ex-drunk, ex druggie, millionaire playboy who had accomplished little in his lifetime. Leaders with such qualities are elected in banana republics but not in America, or so I thought. When our country was attacked we lost all reason. Had the administration said we should drop 99 hydrogen bombs on every country east of Germany, they would have had a 99% approval rating. Congressmen from both parties stumbled over themselves to get to vote “Yea” for anything that was proposed in the euphoria that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. So we attacked a sovereign country who had never attacked us, was not a part of the bombing in New York City, and whose vaunted “Republican Guard” spent most of its time with its hands in the air – not giving thanks, but surrendering.

The Administration had no plan, no exit strategy, and not much of a standing army to invade. Thus with grossly inadequate numbers in our standing military our National Guard and Reserve Army were pressed into service. Of those two entities the Guard is designed to help with domestic crises like floods, tornado cleanup and such, and the Reserves are former active duty soldiers on standby. Both groups are weekend warriors with lives far removed from formal military action. Several months later a made-for-TV ad complete with the president flying a fighter jet onto an aircraft carrier and a “Mission Accomplished” banner welcomed him. Yet our troops continued dying and being crippled and our country continued spending billions of dollars into that military black hole for nigh a decade.

The hope of change came with a bright young man not soiled by years in politics who came suddenly on the scene and pledged to counter everything the “ins” were doing wrong. He would focus on the future, not the past, bring our troops home, get rid of the vermin in the nation’s capital who call themselves lobbyists, improve job numbers, and save the nation’s economy, bringing it back from the brink of ruin. Although members of the opposition followed the path that Karl Rove and hatemonger TV and radio pundits blazed, the fresh young voice of hope prevailed and a new leader was elected.

It is now nine months since the election and the new president has accomplished some things. His first 100-day report card showed improvements at Health Care Reform, more open communication, the Department of Transportation approved 2,500 highway projects, a $2,500 tax credit for those seeking a college education was passed as well as energy stimulus and funding for anti-gang initiatives. He engaged world leaders and their populations in an effort for peace, and made strides toward reduction of greenhouse gasses. Those are all good things, of course, but the specter of politics has begun to raise its ugly head.

An astute scholar such as the president should have learned from the blunder of one of his predecessors whose famous line, “Read my lips. No new taxes,” came back to bite him on the buttocks. During the campaign he hammered his opponent on taxing health care benefits but it appears he’ll have to do that, he seems to be backtracking on his anti-NAFTA stance, his pledge of openness and transparency is becoming blurred, and pork barrel projects continue to slip into legislation as easily as before his election. Lobbyists still rule their addicts by keeping them hooked with money. Some of his faux pas might be the politics of survival but no matter how pretty you dress up a pig, teach it to sing or to dance it is still, after all a pig.

I love my country. I’m not one of these ultra-right wingers who say, “My country, right or wrong!” And I’m not one of the blindly fanatic groups that considers themselves ultra-patriotic and claim the U.S.A. is the best country in the world. Quite simply, we aren’t (pause for gasps from the right). From a recent newspaper report: "U.S. Teens Trail Peers Around World on Math-Science Test." Of 30 industrial countries we ranked 16th behind Finland, Japan, Canada, and Korea among others.

The U.S. ranks 34th in infant mortality behind Croatia, Poland, Cuba, and Estonia among others.

Of the world’s 30 richest nations we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty and the most people in prison. We have 5% of the world's population but 24% of the world's prison population.

Overall life expectancy in America ranks behind Australia New Zealand, Canada, Japan, all Western European countries as well as Israel, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, and South Korea. We spend twice as much money on health care as any of the 41 countries ahead of us but live shorter lives.

The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 37th in the world in overall performance of our health care system behind (in order) France, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Singapore, Spain, Oman, Austria, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Monaco, Greece, Iceland, Luxemburg, Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden Columbia, Cypress, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Republics, Israel, Morocco, Finland, Canada, Australia, Chile, Denmark, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

We rank 39th in Environmental Performance, 31st in gender gap economic performance, 46th in suicides. We rank behind Denmark and Sweden in technology.

We are not a perfect country. Our leaders have made mistakes and there is no shame in apologizing for those mistakes. I do not purport to be able to solve all our problems, but to my mind this would be a start:

1. Recall all U.S. troops from around the world. The Middle East, Europe, Asia.... bring them all home. The military budget has nearly doubled since 1991 to just under $ 1 TRILLION!
2. Increase the size of the Peace Corps. Export peace around the world instead of war. It is cheaper, more effective, and teaches young people values and thrift as they lead by example.
3. Put the world on notice that we will adopt an Israeli-style defense plan. If Americans anywhere in the world are molested, abused, imprisoned, or tortured, the offending group or country will have 72 hours to make things right or we will unleash a force that will obliterate them. It matters not if the offending country is Iraq, N. Korea, China, Russia, or Mexico. Our goal is peace, but inside our velvet glove is an iron fist with a nuclear warhead.
4. The days of ground troops fighting are behind us. We need to develop more drones that will patrol our interests abroad.

Today we are a country divided and on the brink of bankruptcy. But with a few adjustments we can be on the road to recovery.

A little blogging music Maestro... “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

Dr. Forgot

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