Monday, April 06, 2009

Unavoidable Contrasts

Let me start this little opus of mine by saying that I am disappointed (to put it mildly) with the Obama administration thus far. He has far too many people in his orbit that are part of the problem - not the solution. People like Tim Geithner. And yet, I also have confidence in the man's intelligence. I believe he will eventually realize this. He probably already does. We're only less than three months into his first term, I am still more than willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. No reason to panic - yet.

Having gotten that little bit if venting out of the way, it has to be acknowledged that the performance of the president and the First Lady during the European G 20 summit has been nothing short of stellar. Stellar, I say!

PLEASE NOTE: I have never used the word "stellar" in my life. Honest, I haven't!

Forgive the cliche but Barack and Michelle took Europe by storm. It was the kind of shot-in-the-arm publicity that comes along very rarely; the type of publicity that this country was desperate for. After eight years of the my-way-or-the-highway, half-witted, cowboy diplomacy of George W. Bush and the extremist assholes he surrounded himself with, the contrasts are impossible to ignore. The comparisons are literally screaming to be made. As a public service, please allow me to make them....

I'll never forget the first time I ever laid eyes on George W. Bush. It was twenty-one years ago in the Spring of 1988 during his father's South Carolina primary campaign. He was being interviewed on NBC News and I can remember my response like it was yesterday:

"My goodness! The boy is dumber than dog shit, isn't he?"

If you had told me right then and there that in thirteen years this inarticulate little guttersnipe would be sitting in the Oval Office, I probably would have smiled gently, patted you on the hand and replied, "Please, may I have just a little toke of what you're smoking? Oh, please! Oh, please! Oh, please???"

When he announced his candidacy in the autumn of 1999, I remember saying to someone, "Wouldn't it be great if the Republicans nominated this knucklehead? The guy is so mind-numbingly stupid, he doesn't stand a chance on Election Day. The American people just aren't that dumb!" When he finally did get the nomination at the GOP convention in the summer of 2000, I thought that the Democrats had hit the jackpot:

"Al Gore vs. George W. Bush? GEORGE W. FREAKING BUSH?"

This is gonna be like shooting fish in a barrel, I thought. The American people wouldn't be foolish enough to send this moron to the White House! Ain't ever gonna happen! No way, baby!

I stand corrected. So sue me.

Comparing Barack Obama to George W. Bush is about as unfair as comparing the acting abilities of Lawrence Olivier to those of Larry the Cable Guy. Unfair but irresistible! Last week, for the first time since I was in kindergarten, a chief executive we could really be proud of stood on the world stage and transformed the badly tarnished image of this country. Not since 1941, when President Roosevelt took up arms against Adolf Hitler, have American/European relations been given a greater shot of adrenaline. It was a remarkable thing to behold.

As president, Bill Clinton represented his country well and with great skill and diplomacy. But (let's face some uncomfortable facts here) it was kind of hard to be bursting at the seams with pride over poor old Bubbah - the man was seriously flawed. Not since Jack and Jackie Kennedy have the people of Europe taken an American First Family to heart as they have this one (And don't kid yourselves - they couldn't stand the Reagans). They respected - even liked - Bill and Hillary, no question about it. But they're just wild about Barack and Michelle. It reminded me of the Beatles' 1964 invasion of America in reverse.

We have to be honest with ourselves. The rest of the world has become somewhat bewildered in the last forty years at the quality of our leaders. Can you even imagine how they would have reacted had we sent a doddering old reactionary like John McCain to the White House last November? Are you able to contemplate the utter horror the rest of the planet would have felt had the American electorate put a white trash diva like Sarah Palin "a seventy-two-year-old heartbeat" away from the presidency? I seriously doubt that America's prestige would have ever been able to recover from something like that. The blow would have been fatal. The election of President Obama has sent a signal that we are open to change. We may have to be dragged into that change kicking and screaming, but we're open to it nonetheless.

The last eight years have proven (one would hope forever) the utter bankruptcy of the GOP's philosophy of governance. If America ever chooses to go down that road again, we'll deserve everything that happens to us. Each time in our past that the "plutocracy" (READ: Loony right wing) was able to seize control of all three branches of our government, they ruined this country economically. Have the American people finally learned the lesson lesson they should have learned nearly a century-and-a-half ago during the Grant administration? Judging by their history, probably not. We shall see.

After eight years of George W. Bush's Death Valley, Barack Obama is the proverbial mountaintop. Just knowing that there is a guy in charge who can put two coherent sentences together without the aid of a team of speechwriters and a state-of-the-art teleprompter is something we used to take for granted in this country. Now it seems a luxury. True, as stated at the top of this piece, Team Obama is far from perfect and is in much need of a bit of an overhaul. But when placed in juxtaposition to the Nightmare Years 2001-2009, the dissimilarities are striking and refreshing. It's almost like comparing Bobo the Simpleminded to Albert Einstein; or Charles Manson to Mother Theresa; or George Washington to - well - George W. Bush.

I don't know about you, but I've been sleeping a lot sounder since January 20, 2009.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Most people are under the impression that the modern civil rights movement began late one afternoon in December 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man. They're off by almost seventeen years. It really began on Easter Sunday 1939 - seventy years ago this Thursday. Stay tuned.


At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno, Tom. Sometimes I begin to fear that Obama's been turned into another Stepford president. It's still early, there's still hope, but yeah, it's nice to not be embarassed on the world stage! In the meantime, look who'd back!


At 9:03 AM, Blogger charles moore said...

Hi Tom, Thanks for such an upbeat and positive Rant. Sure,Obama is not perfect, he has made some minor flubs and will make others, BUT the man is intelligent - something that as you noted has been sorely lacking for the last 8 years. His performance on the campaign tail was absolutely astounding; focused and with his eye always on the goal and was an indication of the direction for his presidency.

Let's all just relax and give the guy a chance. He is one of the few who has the capacity, wisdom and humility to acknowledge his missteps and to grow as well as the vision to get this country back on the right track. And it sure is fun to see the Republicans stumbling and falling all over themselves.

Obama and Michelle - strictly a class act.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Hear! Hear, Charles! As I said, less than three months in so there's still a lot of time to get it right. We shall see what we shall see. I am still optimistic.



At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you got me curious and I decided to come find YOU! Ha!
I don't know if it's the same for you people, but here in England the politicians are always promising things and then when they are elected, their promises are forgotten *sigh*
I pretty much live in a bubble anyway. I tend to be a 'dreamer' not a realist. I guess you've gathered that though, if you read my scribbles.
Thanks for your kind comment about my 'blog'

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

To paraphrase a favorite to both of us..."Barack is the man who escorted Michele Obama to France...England...etc...etc..."

Oh, my, she touched the queen! It was a very tender and lovely gesture actually. A "royal expert" said that if the Queen didn't like it...she would have politely shrugged Michele off.

Truly, a class act...and they both earned the respect of Europe...a hard thing to do when following in the footsteps of the frat boy!


At 10:11 AM, Anonymous GRR said...

Yes, the Obama's are a welcome breath of Fresh air. They actually behave like human beings.

Just what empire needs to throw the unwashed masses off the scent.

Keep your eye on the ball, people.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

"Keep your eye on the ball, people."

...and your ear to the ground.

So true, GRR, so true. Things are not as they seem to be.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Mom's Fortress of Solitude said...

Now I know how difficult it is to type through fits of uncontrollable laughter.

Tom, you hit the proverbial nail on the head, here!

The Bush administration had me so incredibly ashamed of being a Native Texan. I would absolutely cringed each and every time Georgie would open his mouth!

Being a military family, moving around from place-to-place constantly, I can truly attest that one IS capable of losing the "I'm dumber than a box of rocks" accent. It's called adaptation, but apparently Bush couldn't pronounce any words over two syllables, so he never acquired this lesson.

"I'm George DUB YA Bush."
"Com' on over . . . we're fixin' to go to war."
"Don't get me ta lyin.'"
"I'd like to get me one of them jacked-up four-wheel drive trucks, too."
"We're gonna turn this nation around 360 degrees!"

WTF, Georgie Porgie?!? Don't ya mean 180? Tuck your tail between your legs and run away!

. . . A Larry the Cable Guy persona, indeed.

After eight years of that, I am more than confident that the Obama administration will, as you stated, will quickly surpass that of its substandard command.

I adore your rants and sarcasm, and will definitely follow faithfully.


At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, stop your bullshit.
If you're unable to say the truth, don't say anything. The system is rotten, whatever facade it chooses to fool people like you.
You are not contributing to anything useful, go check independent news websites before posting insanities.
Latest Chris Hedges article on Truthdig starts like this:
"America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs."
Another quote from same article :"The Obama administration, rather than chart a new course, is intent on re-inflating the bubble. The trillions of dollars of government funds being spent to sustain these corrupt corporations could have renovated our economy. We could have saved tens of millions of Americans from poverty."
Tom, let courageous people inform us about what's going on and stop your propaganda.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

"America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs."


I am in total agreement with that. We're on the same page, pal. What's the conflict?

Tom Degan

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

Don't blame me, I've been anti-establishment since age eleven. The first lie we are told as children is that we are not lied to. From there we are led down the " garden path ". Since the 1970s our society has been so diluted by non-assimilating immigrants that any type of useful unity of the citizenry is impossible to achieve. I've said for years that to effectuate change all oppressed groups ( which are the majority of society ) must unite and support one another to redress the establishment's wrong doings. The establishment has done a great job of preventing us from identifying with and aiding one another. As for me..." I'd rather be a free man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave."

At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom I hope you don't mind me asking, but can I have a little of what your smoking.If this is change I can believe in I believe the only change I'll get is what is at the bottom of my pocket. Do you read any of the other sites you are linked to or do you draw your opinions from newspapers and TV news.The financial team Mr.Obama has assembled, led by Treasury Secratary Tim Gietner(a.k.a. Henry Paulson Jr.) are almost all ex Wall Street bankers, the people who got us into this mess. Changing the name from the "War on Terror" to Overseas Contingency Operation has not altered our Mid-East policy or lowered defense spending. So far Mr. Obama seems to be shaping up to become the 21st century version of Jimmy Carter, nice, articulate, well intentioned man who got run over by. the power elite in Washington and set this country up for 12 years of republican presidency's. God help us all. So Tom, please lift your head above that smoke cloud your under and see the light of truth. Or else send your readers a little sample of what your smoking to help ease our pain. If anyone is interested there will be nationwide street protests on Sat. April 11 at 2 p.m. about the banking industry and the government response. Details may be found at It's time to take to the streets to let our officials know who runs the government in a democracy, THE PEOPLE.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...


With all due respect, we are less than three months into this administration. Your etched-in-stone assessment of it thus far is not only unfair, it is, quite frankly, naive. I agree with you that placing the proverbial fox, "Henry Paulson Jr. (good call), in charge of the proverbial chicken coop was nuts. He still has time to correct the situation. Have you been reading Paul Krugman's recent columns? I think that Team Obama would do well to listen to him.

As I have said on this site before, I may be back here two or three years from today with an omelet on my face, complaining how Barack has let us down - just like Clinton did. But until that day comes (and I hope it doesn't) I - you - have no other choice but to give the poor bastard the benefit of the doubt.

And to even imply that this administration is just a repeat of the eight years of criminality that this country suffered under the Bush Mob is not only naive - that's crazy.

Let's see what happens, OK? If you turn out in the end to have the gift of prophecy, I'll be the first one to admit it.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous GRR said...

Tom, I don't always agree with you,but I do admire your even keel.

I suspect anonymous is just overly upset, as many are who come to this clearing you've created in the cyberverse -(hey, there's a new term, I think. Do you like it?).

Hopefully the realization will dawn that differences don't preclude friendship.

Hmmm. Our very own 'Socrates Cafe'.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

We're obviously in dire straits and it's apparent, to me anyway, that they don't have any idea how to repair the damage already done -- much less what's to come. It seems to be a big -- and political -- waiting game.

It's estimated that there's still around $600 trillion in credit derivatives still out there -- that will have to be reckoned with over the next twelve months...two years...maybe longer (because nobody really knows) -- that no government, or consortium of governments, could possibly deal with. (Yes, that's "trillion" -- not billion, which I'm sure you thought I really meant.) These derivatives have been described as "financial hydrogen bombs." Even Warren Buffett has branded derivatives the "financial weapons of mass destruction." If you want to acquire a deep understanding of what went wrong, I strongly suggest that you read Matt Taibbi's The Big Takeover, and also James Lieber's What Cooked the World's Economy?. Each article is fairly lengthy, so pour yourself a glass, or two, of your favorite libation and be prepared to get scared shitless!

Neither article has too much financial mumbo-jumbo; both are straightforward and speak directly to the layman's mind. Please read them, then recommend them to your friends. Remember, knowledge is power -- for that's exactly how they exert control, so follow the same tactics and "arm yourself". As the population understands more, we're in a better position to make more intelligent selections in the polling booth. We're a long way from that, I know, but it has to begin from the bottom...then be pushed up the food chain. That is, if it's not too late.

Don't kid yourself and fall into the mistaken notion that we're on a upward swing again. I'm sure they want you to believe that, because the public's negative perception doesn't help their cause. We're in unchartered waters now, and the moneyed-elite and the powerful are going to take care of themselves before they life a finger for the working and middle class. I'm very disappointed in Obama. The people have been enamored with his style and charm (and I've been guilty, too), while at the same time he seems to be carrying the torch for the wealthy. I felt the biggest clues were his selections at the Treasury secretary post and also his top economic advisor, Geithner and Summers respectively, and their continuing Paulson-like program to repair the banking fiasco. Now, with yesterday's news that Obama's administration is expanding Bush's legal defense of his wiretapping program, I have fallen back to my previous notion that it doesn't matter which major political party is in control -- they both only look after big business, and the banking cabal that funds them -- to the almost total denial by the American people.

Borrowing a tag from one of Tom's recent articles, but upping-the-anti, it's a foregone conclusion that the 600 trillion dollar shit-hammer is going to be hitting the fan. When it'll happen, nobody knows for sure, but one thing is for sure -- it ain't gonna be pretty. By the way, Tom, it's not too far-fetched to believe Obama's being led around by the nose just as Bush was. Each were propped into office by a higher authority than We, the People -- I'm sure. His actions certainly speak louder than his, very eloquent, words. I can't see how you'd disagree.

** Afterthought: (Hey, if Tom can have 'em, so can I...) Read Chris Hedges' latest, titled Resist or Become Serfs. If you're not ready to head to Washington with pitchfork-in-hand, after reading this, nothing will get you off your ass.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thanks for the links, JG - particularly the Taibbi piece. He is one of my favorites.

And thank you for the kind words, GRR. "Cyberverse". I like that!

I am as disappointed as anyone with the direction this administration seems to be going but we'll just have to see. I'll give him two years. Remember, he's no George W Bush.



At 3:15 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Anonymous, I'll never understand the Right's preoccupation with slurring President Obama with the title of socialist; as if being an adherent of socialism is on the same level as being a pedophile, or a serial killer, or a rapist. Wish you guys would get off this kick. If anything, socialism is a civilized and non-adversarial system that allows communities and neighborhoods to flourish. Socialism, as opposed to capitalism, allows for the development of the best qualities in people. Capitalism does the opposite: It defiles and corrupts people, and makes them no more than a disposable resource -- just a cog in the wheel in the means of production.

No, I'm afraid you and your ilk are definitely out of order when you refer to the president as a socialist. If any label should be applied, it's becoming quite clear he's more of a corporatist. His bank bailout scheme ("TARP 2.0") more closely fits this mold. If he were a socialist, he would have nationalized the troubled financial institutions -- not thrown billions of more taxpayer dollars to them.

You need a better understanding of the "isms".

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous John said...

JG, >>These derivatives have been described as "financial hydrogen bombs."

Yea, they set one off every-time they want an infusion of loot...

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Josephine said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind words. Thought I'd check what are you up to and I do like your political analysis!! Don’t agree with everything you present, but life would be boring if we all thought the same way.
Have to agree that it is a greatly refreshing to see a bright man in the oval office. Unfortunately people had not seen the writing on the wall 5 years ago and opted to continue the same “course” which some can now interpret as the “curse”. Today the damage endured during past 8 years is irreversible. We are all in big trouble and, yes, on the way to become a third-world nation and most of the people are not prepared to deal with this kind of situation. It will be tough. The economy is already on its knees, the bailouts will cause total collapse. The outlook is not bright, but your article is very good!!
Thanks again for visiting my scribblings!!

At 4:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW.. president obama is a socalist..i didnt know you let rush limbarf trolls post on this board..its getting late..but the news is saying norm coleman is finished in minnesota..lets get senator al franken seated..good day to get up early for the masters..

At 9:31 PM, Blogger finefroghair said...

Hey, what can I say I think were screwed and that Obama is a damned Plutocrat. Where is the proof you say? Consider the fact that he garnered enormous amounts of campaign contributions from small indidvidual donors enough to make a run for the presidency. He was not beholden to the damn establishment. Yet here he is appointing the likes of Geithner and ilk, Jefferson Guardian said it perfectly he is not a socialist. His true colors are certainly hard to discern but like a morning fog that slowly dissipates we are stating to get glimpses of the horizon and in this case the world is not round its freaking flat and running true to form. The powers that be rule from on high and nothing can shake or remove them except a God Damn Revolution a brutal realignment of the structure of our society. The Constitution is merely a piece of tissue paper if the rule of law is arbitrarily enforced. Bill Moyers had an author on his show last saturday William K Black this interview was a must see Alternet has posted the entire transcript on their website.

The point of show was that the law is not being enforced the cops are bribed the lawyers, judges, prosecutors, regulators, senators, hell even the fucking dog catchers are abrogating their responsibilties and we pay the price. I can only hope that Obama gets his own legs and does a fast break away from Wall Street gang he has surrounded himself with. Why wasn't Krugman asked to be Treasury Secretary Jesus he just received the Nobel prize. WTF has Geithner ever received except backdoor prizes from his rich cronies. Obama better change his stripes or else He'll become just another skunk in the white house albeit with black stripes instead of white ones!!!

At 9:04 PM, Blogger silenceisnoise said...

Hey, thanks for your comment. =)

To be honest, I don't know much about politics (I know a fair share, but I don't know it in detail... hey, I'm still in high school), and, being Canadian, although I'm obviously aware of the tumultuous politics in the States, I was delighted to look at your blog, and look forward to learning.

Obama for Prime Minister. ;)

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Silence is Noise....

Silence is also golden and spiritually awakening. Keep on tuning in. We could teach each other a lot.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 9:30 PM, Blogger silenceisnoise said...

That's sort of what I meant, actually. It isn't "noise" in a negative sense. It kind of referred to that slight ringing in your ears when someone who lives in a city steps into a completely silent cathedral, and how we also sometimes forget that silence makes just as much of an impact on us as noise does... actually, usually it has a lot more impact.

Ha, well, anyways. That's pretty much the history of my username. Can you tell love words?



At 12:37 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...


You make a good point. Have you ever had an experience where the air-conditioner was on and you didn't even know it? And then it shuts off automatically and the silence is deafening.


Tom Degan

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Infinitely to discuss it is impossible


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