Friday, January 29, 2010


He was one of my more sober and saner friends. So it was surprising to see him so worked up, so inexpressively frustrated by his inability to remember most of what happened during the last ten years.

“I get flashes,” he admitted, “sometimes full blown images that bring back those events. But mostly they’re gone.”

“For instance…” I prodded.

“Like this budget mess,” he explained. “I get so worked up by Obama spending so much money. But then I get one of these flashes and I remember, oh yeah, Republicans were in charge for the last ten years. It’s like I totally forgot they spent incredible sums on a small war that was totally unnecessary! Shelled out billions to Halliburton, Blackwater and other Republican-supporting friends, with no accounting, no auditing, no…”

“Okay,” I said, trying to calm him down. “Anybody could forget a trillion-dollar mistake like the Iraq War.”

“Yes, but I forget it all. You hear me screaming about the cost of healthcare reform, but then…sort of hazily…it comes back to me that Republicans voted in prescription drug coverage for seniors that forbade the government from using its buying power to negotiate lower prices with the drug companies.

“How could I forget something so egregiously wasteful as forcing the government to pay list price!”

“Do you remember Terry Schiavo…?” I asked tentatively.

“Only when I find myself arguing against ‘death panels’ or some other leftist intrusion into people’s lives.”

“How about the fact we Americans tortured our prisoners?”

“I still don’t believe Americans in the employ of their government would commit acts of torture. Of course that depends on how you define torture…”


“One man’s torture is another man’s enhanced interrogation!”

“You do remember a number of people died from those enhanced interrogation sessions?”

“Not really. At most, I remember some Fox TV commentator offering to get waterboarded to show what pussies the liberals were.”

“Well this is pretty bad,” I sadly acknowledged. “If what you say is true, you probably have no memory of the Great Financial Collapse that occurred the last year of Bush’s term?”

“Is that why we’re suffering 10% unemployment? And here I was thinking Obama had ruined our economy in merely a year’s time.”

“Do you recall Dick Cheney outing a CIA spy to get back at her husband for writing a New York Times Op Ed piece?”

“I vaguely recall something.”

“Or that we had advance information about Al Quaeda’s plans to attack us, and that the CIA titled its August 6, 2001 Presidential Briefing: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”?

“No, I don’t.”

“How about tax cuts?" I pursued. "Do you recall Bush and his Republican majority cutting taxes twice at the same time he was borrowing money from the Chinese to pay for two wars?”

“Is that where we got the money?”

“Or that President Bush violated our constitution any number of ways—by reading our emails, intercepting our phone calls, telling lies to lead us into war, using the Justice Department to go after political enemies, using the levers of government to create a permanent Republican majority…?

"You protest about Obama bankrupting the country," I concluded, "and yet you forget that Republicans practically picked clean the Treasury's pockets."

“Wait, before you go on, just tell me," he shouted, almost in despair. "Was there anything that George W. Bush and his Republican majority in Congress did right during the last ten years?”

“Do you remember Hurricane Katrina?”

“Sure," he said, almost smiling. "Wasn’t she an exotic dancer…?”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


For any democrats, progressives or dumbstruck Obama supporters wondering “What the hell happened?” in Massachusetts yesterday, let me offer a few thoughts.

As Pogo once said in a famous cartoon strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

After eight years of Bush-Cheney malign neglect, the American presidency was turned over to a man who promised to change the way Washington worked. To take back power for the people. To curtail the power of the lobbyists and their entrenched special interests. To fight Wall Street for Main Street. To bridge partisan divide. And to restore America’s pride, not just as a powerful nation but a moral one as well.

And where do we find ourselves a year later?


With a president who appears to value comity over fighting for what he believes in. With a president who promised to fight for real health care reform but appeared to quickly abandon the very drug cost containment and public option elements that real reform requires.

We voted for a president who would fight drug companies for the right to import drugs from Canada and who would use America’s colossal bargaining power like a club to lower drug prices. Instead we ended up with a president who negotiated away his power in exchange for the pharmaceutical industry’s collusion in a program that would never threaten either their American monopoly or their colossal greed.

We voted for a president who would fight Wall Street but who quickly brought in the usual suspects to run things, some of them clearly tarnished by their inside involvement in the financial crisis or their initial efforts to make whole the bankers and CEOs whose greed and system manipulation caused the crisis.

This last year we have hungered for a President who would worry less about upsetting the apple cart and more about removing the bad apples and cleaning up the mess. It may have been politically expedient to give Bush and Cheney a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, but America’s constitution has been bloodied by their cowboy-up approach to starting wars, torturing prisoners, denying constitutional rights and subverting civil liberties.

To not shine a light on these illegal and destructive behaviors is to allow them to eat away in the dark at the cornerstone of rights that others have died to secure.

We voted for a president who, if he didn’t have the heart or courage to pursue these miscreants, would at least have had the wisdom to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If only to uphold the honor of his office and his somber responsibility to our Constitution.

Over the last year we have watched President Obama repeatedly step back from using the full weight and power of his position to foster the policies and programs he was elected to pursue. His willingness to enter into compromise or meaningless negotiation with fanatical Republicans so invested in protecting the wealth and power of entrenched interests they would never meet him halfway on any field, over any issue, will prove to be his—and probably our—undoing.

Mr. President, we elected you to clean up Dodge City, but it appears you’ve settled in far too comfortably, and much more quickly than anyone could have expected.

If your advisors tell you that you are doing a good job, fire them. If you can’t find worthy advisors to replace them, perhaps you’ll need to look beyond the boundaries of Washington, D.C.

That would be change we could believe in.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tales Of The Book Part Twelve


Move it, he said, there isn't much time.

So you stepped on the gas or walked a bit faster or hurried your phone conversation, and still arrived late for your next activity.

Faster, he said, only losers slow down.

So you worked late at the office or left the party early or rushed out of the house without kissing the kids goodbye, and still never made up for the time you lost.

Hurry up, he said, you'll miss your big opportunity.

So you took a second job working weekends or cheated in business or cancelled the family vacation, and still never found the opportunity you were looking for.

Skip the formalities, he said, you'll have time for that later.

So you forgot your anniversary or never showed up for parents night at school or stepped over a friend to better your position, and still found yourself dreaming about all the things you didn't have.

Don't slow down, he said, time grows shorter every minute.

So you pretended to stay young or cheated on your marriage or forgot to watch your children growing up, and still never found someone who could understand you.

Pick up your speed, he said, time's almost up.

So you grew bitter and resentful or left your family or started a list with everything the world owed you, and still grew older every day.

Final seconds, he said, last chance to make good.

So you looked around and wondered where all the time had gone or searched out those you had wronged or started making friends with priests, and still couldn't get his voice out of your head.

Move it, he said, you're running out of time.

And finally he was right.

You ran out of time.

The above is from the collection, "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on For more information, go to, or the author's site at