Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I was in my local Whole Foods yesterday morning picking up some things I can only get there, and the Beatles’ recording of “Good Day Sunshine” was playing in the background. It made me smile.

Not just because it’s an upbeat song that reminds me of a pretty upbeat time in my life, but because it also made me realize the upbeat things about life right now, despite our current worldwide financial mess and the rightwing influence on the media in this country and their triumph in continuing to control a lot of the rhetoric as well as perspective on important issues.

For instance, in 1966 we’d already lost more people in Viet Nam, soldiers and civilians, and it hadn’t even reached it’s peak yet, than we’ve lost in the more than six years we’ve been in Iraq.

In fact there were more deaths from war and starvation and disease, per capita, in the world in ’66 than in ’08 or ’09 so far (the exception as far as areas or nations goes is The Congo, which is a war torn humanitarian catastrophe that should be on the top of the world agenda for addressing major problems, not just because of the extent of the human misery caused by the ongoing war(s) there but also because it is one of the most resource rich places on earth as well as one of the most naturally rich (e.g. mountain gorillas and their terrain etc.)).

1966, despite Viet Nam and the ongoing struggle for Civil Rights (it would be another year before race-based laws against “mixed marriages” would finally be struck down by the Supreme Court) as well as unrest in various spots around the world and the continuing Cold War with the Soviet Bloc, felt like an optimistic time because it felt like change was in the air.

The rightwing of the Republican party was dormant at the time, having gone down in the ’64 presidential election to a huge defeat under Barry Goldwater, who was, by today’s rightwing Republican standards almost a moderate in comparison (or in other words he was more a true “conservative” than the current rightwing which uses the term but is far from it on most of the issues).

Anyway, as always, reality contains good and bad, because, as my old friend Selby used to point out, each term is inherent in the other. You can’t have good without bad, and vice versa, just as you can’t have pleasure without pain, success without failure, etc. they’re contained in each other, each implies the existence of the other.

So like any other time, this one is both good and bad. But that song in the Whole Foods yesterday helped me recognize the good and the feeling I and I know a lot of you had after Obama was elected. Which was the feeling that change was in the air.

It still is. The naysayers on the right are trying to (and doing a good job of it with the help of their corporate sponsors and media cowardice, afraid to “speak truth to stupid” as Bill Maher put it on his last show, a terrific one by the way) dominate the discussion with their fearmongering, but the reality is, Obama has already brought about some major changes not just in the USA but in the world.

The right seemed obsessed with the stock market, especially It’s continued decline after the last administration failed to reverse the trend and it kept descending in Obama’s first few months in office, but yesterday it rose above the level it was at when he took the oath and became our president.

In other words in only six months he lead not only an avoidance of another Great Depression, which most economists were predicting when he took office, but an actual turn around in the market from its low of around 6000 (when many economists predicted it would bottom out at 3 or even 2 thousand (and some still think it might if those in charge aren’t careful).

That’s an enormous change for the better. Of course no rightwinger is crediting Obama with that or his policies, at least no one at the public media level is doing it. They’re too busy trying to distract us all from the good that has occurred since January and get us to focus on the bad which is usually bogus, like the whole “birther” bit or now the charge that the public option in the healthcare reform efforts has a hidden agenda aimed at actually murdering senior citizens!

(Ever notice how the rightwing Senators and Congess people don’t offer to give up their government run healthcare plans? They seem awfully satisfied with the government running theirs but keep yelling about how if we were to get the same it would be disastrous, hmmmm. For the best take on the ways the health industry has bought almost all Republicans in the Congress and a bunch of Dems as well, check out Keither Olberman’s beautiful rant from last night on Huffington post here. [Thanks to Robert Slater for the link])

The cash for clunkers has also been a great success, a government run program that worked so well and so fast rightwingers became incensed that the government had created a program that was so successful it helped reverse the downward spiral of the automakers and actually made Ford profitable for the first time in a year, and besides helping the autmakers helped clear the roads of older more polluting vehicles and made it possible for a lot of folks to buy a new car and thus contributed an enormous amount of wealth to the economy in general which in turn will generate more tax revenue for the government and end up more than paying for the program. A win-win-win-win-win-situation, which as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, really makes the right angry.

Because they thrive on failure and fear, the government can’t do anything well and if you let them try we’ll all die!

No, actually we haven’t lost hardly any military in Iraq since Obama got in, and as he promised, we are drawing down there rapidly. And the new G.I. Bill that went into effect yesterday will make it possible for veterans who fought there to get a college education which will also contribute to the economy as well as honor those who served (interesting that it's always the Dems who end up doing the most for veterans, but then more Democratic Senators and Congress people are veterans than Republicans).

And the stock market is better than it was when he came in with the trend generally upward while it was precipitously downward when he took office. The jobless rate has slowed. Corporate profits are up in many areas, etc. etc.

Around the world, things haven’t become ideal, but our relationships with other countries is much better and with the Islamic world in general have improved radically so that the fighting now is amongst their own rightwingers (the government in Iran for instance) and their more liberal or moderate elements, rather than with them unified against us.

Change IS in the air, even if as always there is good and bad out there and in here, but I still say “Good day sunshine!”


JIm said...

The US market is recovering, but the recovery is lagging international markets. There follows year to date performance of US markets vs. International markets as of yesterday’s close. I suspect that Obama’s war on business and his socialist and tax policies are unhelpful. The Democrats have promised to let the 2003 tax cuts expire.

DJIA + 9%
SP 500 +14%
EEM (emerging markets) +53%
EWU (UK) +26%
EAFE (Europe, Australia, Far East) 19.8%

If the Cash for Clunkers is such a success how come the Government will not release the statistics? Supposedly, 60% of the new cars bought with US taxpayers money is going for foreign makes. I am sure Toyota Nissan Hyundai etc., are very grateful.

Goldwater seems more moderate in 2009 because modern Conservatives are contrasted with modern loony socialist Democrats who are further to the left and more openly embrace socialism and anti American foreign leaders like Chavez, the Castros and Ortega’s of the world.

In his speech accepting the 1964 presidential nomination, Goldwater extolled "freedom under a government limited by the laws of nature and of nature's God." He warned:
Those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for Divine Will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.
Reagan and Bush later echoed this language.

Anonymous said...

Dear M:

True---the president has done much good since taking office (but, really, after Bush-Cheney, there was nowhere to go but up). Not to block out the sun completely, but I do wish that he would take the gloves off a little more and kick some ass. I'm also increasingly concerned about Afganistan---I'm not exactly sure what our goal is there, or what the strategy is to meet that goal; nor does it seem clear when & how we're going to leave.

Butch in Waukegan said...

You may be onto something. Maybe the Democrats can dump their traditional ditty “Happy Days Are Here Again” for GDS. Or how about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? Bobby McFerrin (of Sunday's post) slapped a cease and desist on Bush 41 in ’88 when Poppy’s campaign ripped off that song. Maybe McFerrin will be more forthcoming with Obama.

But I can’t get on board with your optimism about the US empire:
. . .in 1966 we’d already lost more people in Viet Nam, soldiers and civilians, and it hadn’t even reached it’s peak yet, than we’ve lost in the more than six years we’ve been in Iraq

Who are “we”? Over 1 million Iraqis have lost their lives in this war. There are 5 million refugees, in a country of 25 million. Are they humming along to GDS in Baghdad? And Obama is now marching us headlong into Afghanistan - a country that has never, literally never, been subdued.

In ’66 it would be 9 years until the last helicopter took off from the Saigon embassy, signaling the US defeat. Can anyone seriously propose, at the rate we’re going, the US military won’t be in the thick of conflict in the Middle East in 2018?

And I can’t agree with your take on the economy:
In other words in only six months he lead not only an avoidance of another Great Depression, which most economists were predicting when he took office, but an actual turn around in the market from its low of around 6000 (when many economists predicted it would bottom out at 3 or even 2 thousand (and some still think it might if those in charge aren’t careful). . . .The jobless rate has slowed. Corporate profits are up in many areas, etc. etc.

Corporate profits are up (hence the rise in the stock market) not because of increased productivity but because costs have been cut. People have lost their jobs to fund this “turnaround”. (Your phrase “the jobless rate has slowed” really means unemployment is increasing, only not as fast as before.) The jury is still out on whether this is a depression. This fall 1.5 million will lose their unemployment benefits. What then?

There’s a lot in my life that I’m happy about, and Good Day Sunshine makes me smile too. I just can’t get happy about how our country is being governed.

Butch in Waukegan said...

If the Cash for Clunkers is such a success how come the Government will not release the statistics?

Presidential privilege.

You're an Imperial Presidency kind of guy, a trait you share with Bush, Cheney, and sadly, Obama.

JIm said...

Imperial Presidency results from a strong president. Obama the "Joker" is already showing signs of weakness with his poll numbers plummeting. Cracks are beginning to show in his socialist agenda. It is possible that he will be defeated but only if the Blue Dogs do it in league with the Republicans.
Here is a a headline and story reminicent of 1966.

Senators, Advisers Urge Obama to Double Afghan Forces (Update1)

By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan

Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama and top U.S. military commanders are under pressure from senators and civilian advisers to double the size of Afghan security forces, a commitment that would cost billions of dollars.

In private letters and face-to-face meetings, these supporters of mounting a stronger effort against the Taliban seek to boost the Afghan National Army and police to at least 400,000 personnel from the current 175,000.

“Any further postponement” of a decision to support a surge in Afghan forces will hamper U.S. efforts to quell an insurgency in its eighth year, Senators Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to the White House in a July 21 letter obtained by Bloomberg News.

General Stanley McChrystal, the new U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will recommend a speedier expansion of Afghan forces beyond current targets in an assessment he will give Defense Secretary Robert Gates and North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen by Aug. 14, according to a military official familiar with the review

Lally said...

Okay, I write this blog first of all for myself and second of all for my friends and anyone interested in my take on things and events I have some experience with and knowledge of. I'm not writing term papers with footnotes and we all know that at this point in our history there are sources (ala my rightwing critics and their links to usually rightwing sources that either skew or distort or outright lie) for any point of view. But I stand by everything I write, and when corrected I admit I was wrong. But Butch, you're accusations and generalities are no more true than anyone's. I meant by deaths in Viet Nam both military on both sides and civilians, as I did as well about Iraq. We dropped more bombs on Viet Nam, a pretty small country, than we dropped on all of Europe in World War Two! We haven't come anywhere close to anything like that in Iraq. I was against the invasion of Iraq and I am for an immediate pullout of our troops there. But I don't control reality. And my point was that, of course even one death is a tragedy and should be avoided, but that isn't gonna happen either, so from a realistic perspective it is absolutely true that as horrible as the civilian deaths in Iraq have been (and there is absolutely no credible source that will support your "million" figure, not even the most "liberal" or even socialist organizations have used a number anywhere near that) as well as the military's, the figure is miniscule compared to many past wars, including Nam and Korea and the World Wars obviously, etc. That doesn't make the Iraq war "good" but the fact that those deaths have diminished and that our troops are being withdrawn is a positive development that might not have occurred had McCain been elected and lived up to his bellicose rhetoric regarding Iraq. And anyone out of a job is a tragedy as well, but the direction the economy was going in under the past administration was the doubling an tripling of job losses every month and the fact that that has slowed down and fewer jobless numbers have been coming out in recent months is a sign that Obama's policies are having a positive effect on that. The past president spent most of his first six months in office ignoring warnings about an imminent terrorist attack from Al Queda and vacationing in Texas. Obama has spent it getting the Congress to pass severla major pieces of legislation already, including the insuring of tons of uninsured children, the extension of unemployment which though it may run out this Fall for too many (or new legislation could change that too) helped many people, millions in fact, as have other bills and presidential executive orders etc. He's done a better job than most other politicians could or would have, if not all, at least on the scene today. Maybe there's a genius politician in hiding somewhere in the country who could bring to fruition each of our personal ideals for how the country should be run and where it should be heading, but which one of our ideals would that be? Onama is doing pretty well with what he has to work with so far.

Jamie Rose said...

Rock on Lals.

Butch in Waukegan said...

For what it’s worth, and at the risk of sounding like a term paper, Iraqi deaths, reputable sources:

Lancet (British medical journal) - 650,000 through June 2006

Opinion Research Business (London polling group) - between 946,000 and 1,120,000, to September, 2007.


What about Afghanistan, Obama’s “good war”?

JIm said...

I remember 1966 as a year of realization that death can come to my former school mates. Mike had mentioned that he belonged to a singing group of Irish school boys that used to perform at some of the parties we attended in and around the Oranges and Nutley New Jersey. Brian Conlan was one of the guys in the group. Brian was a tall very affable, smart, athletic guy with bronze red hair. Brian stepped on a mine in Vietnam. It was strange looking at him resplendent in his uniform laying in a coffin flanked by fellow marines. His sisters and parents were standing bravely greeting his friends as many of the girls that we knew from attending Our Lady of Sorrows the local grammar school and subsequently the local Catholic Schools were crying. Brian didn’t look hurt or dead. The havoc that the mine had wrecked did not show on his face or hands. Even in death he still looked handsome and strong. Forty three years ago seems like yesterday.

harryn said...

in spite of what jim and butch say - and i've got to express i'm a bit bored by their lack of direct message and instead favoring half-baked statistics, links, soliloquy, and opinions spoken as truth [major problem with those rightwingers] ...
in spite of them - the majority of people i talk to are pleased about the results of the election and the efforts of obama - that's right - the majority - whereas before during the dark ages of bush, few people were expressing any hope for the future or optimism ...
good day ...

JIm said...

I suspect your hanging with liberals. The numbers for independents and Republicans has turned against the"Joker".