Friday, November 28, 2008

In The Era Of Hope, Some Things Don't Change

The last eight years, at least from our leaders, have demonstrated the worst aspects of human behaviour. And to be sure, they've brought the United States to the brink of disaster on just about every front imaginable. To me, the current economic meltdown and the election of Barack Obama, seemed to indicate that people are finally looking for something different. And a lot of them are.

But not everyone, apparently.

The end of Thanksgiving ushers in the start of the (insert your holiday of choice or make one up here) season. You remember, that time of peace on earth and good will towards men? Unfortunately, the season also comes with an ugly underbelly as the focus for many seems to lock squarely on the acquisition of "things."

Yes, the quotes are meant to convey my disgust. Did it work?

Today is what is affectionately referred to in the retail world as "Black Friday." The term is meant to signify a shopping day where the registers ring so loudly that the balance sheet is solidly in the black. But it also has an ominous ring to it and nothing makes the point better than what happened today. This morning a temporary Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as he attempted to unlock the doors of the store in Valley Stream, New York. It occurred at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. when you would think that a person might be safe. Instead it seems that a two thousand people had lined up like pigs at the trough to gorge themselves on the latest bargains, or perhaps the slim hope of scoring a Nintendo Wii. When the man and his fellow workers began to open the door, the crowd surged forward, breaking the doors in the process. It took several minutes for help to get to him, but not before he was trampled reportedly by hundreds of shoppers.

What's the price of a man's life? Today it's apparently $100 of Chinese made crap.

Unfortunately, this is not the only report of consumerism gone lethal. At a Toys 'R' Us store in Palm Desert, California, two individuals were killed in a shooting. These tragedies are the outcome of a country that is too focused on material goods, a country that has mortgaged it's future and sold it's soul to foreign powers in the name of convenience and the saving of a dollar. Welcome to Ronald Reagan's America and George W. Bush's new world order.

I wonder how many others have to die at the alter of greed?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Pretty Good Day, But Not For All

Without a doubt, the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency is an historic moment for the United States of America. It's a day that many of us have long envisioned and one that hopefully will help to heal the deep racial wounds that slavery, segregation and hard fought civil rights battles have inflicted on our national psyche. It is a day when I am particularly proud to be an American, because on this day, we inched a little closer to reaching that noble ideal that "all men are created equal."

But as historical as this day is, we should not and cannot believe that the work is done.

For on the day that we elected the first African American President in U.S. history, we also witnessed the rights of other non-majority populations being suppressed. 3 states, California, Florida and Arizona had ballot initiatives to ban gay marriage. All three passed, with the closest margin being 4%. Arkansas, by a 14% margin, passed a measure that prohibits gay couples from adopting children. On the national level, at no time in the history of the United States, has the constitution been amended to take away or suppress civil rights. The initiatives now passed in these four states do just that. And we as a people are lesser for it.

So celebrate this remarkable time in our history. Let your spirits be lifted by the hope and the promise of true change. But remember, that the work is not done. Remember that there are those among us with reason not to celebrate today. For they have been told that they are somehow less worthy of the full blessings of citizenship.

And that diminishes all of us.

Monday, November 03, 2008

On The Eve Of An Election

It's a simple question, America. Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?

If you are one of those still out there considering pulling the lever for the McCain-Palin ticket, or Republicans running for Congress, take a good hard look at their record. This is what 8 years of a republican presidency and 6 years of a republican controlled Congress have yielded.

On January 1, 2001 - The price of regular unleaded gasoline was $1.22/gallon.

Within the last 6 months we saw gas top $4.00 a gallon. How did that impact your or your family's budget? What about the cost to heat your home?

In 2000, the federal government had a budget surplus of $236,200,000,000.

As of September 9, 2008, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the United States would run a deficit of $407,000,000,000. How do you think that will impact our ability to create jobs?

On January 1, 2001 - The US unemployment rate was 3.7%

In September 2008 it was 6.1% and is expected to increase to 6.3% when the Labor Department releases it's jobs report in 4 days. Meanwhile, layoffs are up significantly in all sectors of the economy and are expected to continue. Some economists feel that the unemployment rate will reach 8% by the end of the year. How safe is your job or that of someone you care about?

On December 31, 2000, the annual trade deficit was $436,103,000,000

As of December 31, 2007 it stood at $794,484,000,000. What more needs to be said about it?

Still not convinced? Here's some additional data to chew on:

• The U.S. housing foreclosure rate is the highest it's been in 50 years.

• On January 2, 2001 the Dow Jones average stood at 10,646. Today it stands at 9,319. Don't think this is meaningful? Research the last time a President left office with the Dow lower than when he started.

And if this doesn't convince you, ask yourself one final question: When was the last time you saw the United States government fork over $700,000,000,000 to bailout corporate America.

The correct answer is never.

Chew on that tomorrow, when you're waiting in line thinking about casting your vote for the Republican party.