Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let Slip the Dogs of War

Am I missing something? What good does it do to re-examine security procedures and install full body scanners, à la Total Recall, at U.S. airports to stop terrorists on inbound international flights? Certainly, these measures, in theory, are an attempt to thwart another 9/11, and to present the appearance of addressing the safety concerns of American citizens. However, this is backward thinking at a time when the need exists to think progressively, if not aggressively, of the future unthinkable act. Apparently, it is our allies abroad who need to step up their security – or maybe, at the very least, check the terrorist watch list – to prevent the terrorists from boarding planes in the first place. No passport? No luggage? Hello, red flag calling Amsterdam!

What really needs to be realized is that al Qaeda is indoctrinating and training the next generation of kamikaze bombers. Like their WWII Japanese counterparts, their mission is simple: demoralize our will to fight. Similarly, it says something else – al Qaeda is desperate, knowing they are on the verge of defeat despite their best efforts. The Japanese unleashed the kamikaze upon the Allies out of such desperation, as a last gasp at victory out of the clutches of their eventual defeat. And like that time, there is only one response: perseverance. Only through perseverance can we do what is necessary to win, unleashing hell upon our enemy as no time before. We have the might, and we have the resources. As such, knowing the desperate measures to which the terrorists are resorting, it is time, as even Shakespeare knew in his day, to "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war."

Otherwise, what are we fighting for? 

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Monday, December 21, 2009

Light Up the Darkness

The cry calling for an end to tyranny and oppression has been expressed considerably throughout history, almost to the point of saturation. Mankind has gone “once more unto the breach” so often, marching off to war in search of a world without such conditions, that it seems a continuously hollow crusade. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, new generations of “band of brothers” consistently revisit the Jungian conflict of man’s duality. How many rousing speeches, how many campaigns and how many lives has, and will it take, until the sentiment indefinitely holds?

According to several sources – Mayans, Nostradamus – humanity is exactly three years from the end of days, a foreboding “Age of Apocalypse.” Curiously, neither source specifically mentions the world ending, each predicated more upon a major change to the world as we know it. Whether this change will indeed be an apocalyptic event or a revelatory revolution is anyone’s guess. In either case, the real question is will we be prepared when it occurs.

Nonetheless, the problem lies in molding that “brave new world” before casting off the impediments of the old:  humanity’s insatiable malevolence notwithstanding its own destruction. Certainly, a scan of any particular day's headlines give no indication of that happening any time soon; rather, they are evidence of history’s sadly repetitive theme. Until that time when we do, we will never truly “light up the darkness” as Marley implores us.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Monday, December 7, 2009

Selfish-Made Men

In my estimation, the Nobel Peace Prize is 0-2 in recent years. As the entire global-warming (scammed) world knows, Al Gore and the Swiss-based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) received a Nobel “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” However, the already-questionable climate research passed as legit science now appears based on documented lies, pushing it even further into the pseudoscience variety. As such, it would seem the argument for global warming is possibly more “Mann-made” – as in Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann, whose research is at the heart of the controversy – than “man-made.” But the real question is since the criteria for awarding the prize is ostensibly bogus, do Gore and the I.P.C.C. have to return it? With the Environmental Protection Agency set to declare carbon emissions (i.e. greenhouse gases) a danger – essentially dismissing the argument against the cause(s) of global warming and further perpetrating the myth – it seems unlikely.

Then, there is President Barack Obama, a sitting president, who received his based on...nothing. Well, officially he won it, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Really? When, and working under what timetable, did he do all this? At least Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were awarded the Nobel – after Congressional consent no less – for existent endeavors:  Roosevelt, as arbiter, for successfully mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese war and deferring the issue to the Hague, and Wilson as founder of the inspired, yet ill-fated League of Nations. Despite such precedents, there is a question as to whether Obama, as a sitting president, even has the Constitutional right to claim the award. Why? The aforementioned Congressional consent, which Obama has yet to seek and Congress has yet to grant.

Time will only tell whether these two laureates indeed “conferred the greatest benefit on mankind,” as stipulated in Alfred Nobel’s will establishing the Nobel Prize, or whether they simply conferred two great farcical frauds.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Government Failout, Part II

In case you haven't heard, 15 million American taxpayers probably owe money to the U.S. government. No, they are not tax evaders, but rather victims yet again of government oversight through no fault of their own. Apparently, the Internal Revenue Service incorrectly established the new tax tables in implementing President Obama's economic stimulus tax "break." Consequently, many taxpayers received too much in their paychecks - and the government wants “their” money back. Alas, taxation with recompensation. 

Let's be honest though. Even though elected by the people, government – and Congress specifically – is not looking out for the people as it should. Never really has, probably never really will. And though you may think otherwise – wanting not to be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered” – you are nothing more than a (Social Security) number to them. 

As example among the most recent, lawmakers could have made changes to credit card practices effective immediately instead of next year. How are credit card companies responding to that legislation? Incrementally increasing percentage rates and fees before the legislation takes effect, thereby continuing their manipulative practices toward the very taxpayers Congress supposedly aimed to protect. The same ones whose tax money helped bail out these companies. Of course, you have the option to "opt out" of the increase as a cardholder - the downside being that your account will be closed and you will no longer be a cardholder. As such, it is a Catch-22:  either you agree to the increase, enslaving yourself further to the gluttonous corporate juggernaut, or are forced to lower your credit standing, and by consequence, your credit rating, due to their strong-arm tactics.

Indeed, by hook or by crook.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scare Tactic Prescription?

A so-called "troubling" new healthcare study allegedly shows that uninsured patients are more likely to die in the emergency room than their insured counterparts. For one, I call the study into question for the simple fact that Dr. Atul Gawande, a senior author of the study, is both a reform-minded critic of the current system and a pro-universal healthcare advocate who has worked as a policy advisor to a host of Democrats, including Al Gore and the Clinton Administration. That its publication comes as Congress debates a sweeping healthcare reform bill geared toward the uninsured is convenient, giving even greater weight to a political agenda presented as objective research. Even more, the study's conclusions cannot even correlate patient care to a specific mitigating circumstance such as medical insurance; as the researchers concede, it is conceivable that patient outcome had just as much to do with the treatment received, or lack thereof, regardless of any of other factors.

As far as equitable treatment in the emergency room, I myself was an uninsured car accident victim 2½ years ago. Needless to say, despite my own reservations concerning the medical field, I received some of the best treatment from the staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. They treated me as any other, never once asking if I had insurance. In fact, a few days passed before that discussion even took place, and even then I continued receiving exceptional care until discharged a week and a half later. Whatever the case, I highly doubt it had anything to do with my insurance situation.

Maybe I just got lucky, but I prefer to think that those in medicine are moved more by their Hippocratic Oath to provide treatment to a patient than by any other motivation. Unlike the politicians - who also take an oath - trying to force-feed constituents the supposed cure for our ills, through such measures as ostensibly partisan studies aimed at scaring millions of uninsured Americans. 

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Great Exaggerator

Former president Ronald Reagan was given the moniker, “The Great Communicator,” due to his prowess in debates, speeches and addresses. Before the House of Representatives passed a partisan "resolution of disapproval" under the pretense of civility, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) explicitly attempted to assign the current sitting president a similar communication-inspired title. Yet, during former president George W. Bush’s tenure in office, Democrats frequently called him names without admonishment. As example, in a 2004 interview with Tim Russert, Heny Reid (D-NV) confirmed that he said, "President Bush is a liar." Reid never received any discipline for the remark, nor did he ever apologize. Of course, he was not on the Senate floor at the time – apparently making it okay to say it on national television – unlike Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) three years later, who was on the House floor when he repeatedly called out Bush as a liar:
All told, the situation seems slightly hypocritical. After all, the president himself conveyed a similar attitude toward those opposed to his health care reform in the very speech that prompted Wilson’s outburst. He was just more subtle about it:  

"Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost…that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens…It is a lie, plain and simple."

No one can be naïve enough to believe lies are not part and parcel in politics, particularly when politicians try to push their agendas. Obviously, it helps when the media is your personal public relations firm. An example among many, MSNBC’s David Shuster propagated this laughable nugget:  "You look at the image of the Republican Party, all white males with short haircuts. They look sort of angry. No women, no minorities, and it looks like they've sort of become unhinged." No women? No minorities? Apparently, Shuster needs to re-examine the Republican rolls, failing to remember Sarah Palin, who is very much a woman, running as the vice-presidential candidate last November and Michael Steele, who is a black man, heading the party that nominated her.

President Obama himself is guilty of similar "exaggerations." Take his claims concerning the deficit, when he said, "Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy." The only problem is that when he took office the deficit was half that amount, at just under $500 billion. Prophetically, however, the deficit has in fact grown to over a trillion dollars, thanks in large part to his economic policies. With his proposed health care “reforms,” it stands to be even worse by the time his successor walks in the door.

Regardless of Wilson’s rebuke, analyzed the main points of Obama’s healthcare speech to Congress. They found that three out of four were, at the very least, overstated. Whether that makes him a liar is debatable, but it certainly confirms him as a politician. As such, a more appropriate designation for President Obama might be as “The Great Exaggerator."

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day of Days

There are those who believe that the United States government, and more pointedly the Bush Administration, not only was involved in September 11th, but that it was the instrumental mastermind behind the attacks. To be fair, I openly support healthy debate and conspiracy theory paranoia on controversial subjects, and there are still many unsolved questions concerning the attacks from the events leading up to them to the aftermath following. Let’s face it, though, Americans love a good conspiracy – especially if there’s even the merest possibility of truth to it.

However, the notion that the U.S. government masterminded the attacks – allowing thousands of innocent civilians to die – in order to ignite a Crusade-like war is inconceivable if not abhorrent. In the annals of lunacy, the theory ranks with the well-publicized belief that President Franklin Roosevelt let the Japanese practically obliterate the Pacific fleet on December 7, 1941 – allowing valuable military personnel and equipment to perish – as pretext for entering the Second World War. Both scenarios are ludicrous and make no sense, yet people still believe in them. Just goes to show that people will believe anything.

I prefer to reflect on September 11, 2001, in a different way. First, that al-Qaeda terrorists, provoked or otherwise yet nonetheless bent on the destruction of Western civilization, did the unimaginable and attacked the United States, and by proxy allied nations, on our soil. Second, that thousands of innocent persons – from civilian office workers to emergency responders – perished in both the initial attacks and the ensuing chaos that followed them. Third, that a generation of brave and honorable men and women answered the gauntlet tendered by those cowardly terrorists and continue even today to combat the evil they represent worldwide, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is how I care to remember that “day of days” – celebrating the unremitting triumph of the American spirit over barbarism, rather than the incessant questioning of the American endeavor inconsiderate of such barbarism.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When the Children Cry

Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch the movie Changeling, a fact-based story of a child’s disappearance. To be honest, I knew nothing about the subject going into it, but found it a well-crafted, well-acted and poignant portrayal of a lone mother’s plight to find her child in 1920s Los Angeles. Not to give away spoilers, but the gross mistreatment by those in authority toward her and their ineptitude in investigating the case is nauseatingly disgraceful from a modern perspective. Of course, Christine Collins was not Charles Lindbergh.

Not surprisingly, I found the story resonatingly reminiscent of recent events concerning missing children. Naturally, I thought immediately of Shawn Hornbeck, but I turned distinctively more to Jaycee Lee Dugard. To put her case in perspective, I was a 19-year old readying to graduate high school when 11-year old Jaycee was abducted waiting for the bus to take her to elementary school. As I was preparing to start a positive, new chapter in my life, this little girl was beginning an unknown life of hell because of the actions of a loathsome, repeat deviant. Both their cases, along with the thousands still unsolved, really makes one reflect on the “hardships” one has faced and dwelled upon in comparison to what these abducted children have been through in their disrupted lives.

It also makes one wonder why we keep letting child predators, molesters and other such filth of that ilk continue to walk among society. As far as many are concerned, myself included, people like Michael Devlin and Phillip Garrido forfeit their lives the moment they touch a child. After all, psychologists consider these acts akin to murder – with the exception that the victim is left hollowly alive. However, we as a culture are too “civilized” to put to death the “uncivilized” for acts seen as rehabilitative, mental conditions rather than an extant, societal threat.

*Jaycee Lee Dugard Trust Fund*

(And yes, it is a White Lion song. It seemed apropos.)

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Friday, August 21, 2009

American Medical Conundrum

Not without merit, the insurance and medical industries are notoriously known for unscrupulous practices. There are bad apples in every walk of life. All the same, it is a blatant insult to those dedicated to providing these services that government, from the President on down, believes itself more capable of providing and administrating healthcare to the nation’s citizens. Has anyone bothered to reconcile that idea with the incredibly inept job the U.S. government has done with other government-run programs, most notably social security and housing; they cannot modernize these, and they are to be entrusted to transition healthcare into a new era? Taken as a whole, most would rather have a root canal – that is, if they could get on the list for the government-sponsored dental specialist.

Proponents of universal, government-run healthcare cite Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.) as model examples in terms of coverage, cost and quality that can be provided by such. Yet, Medicare is on the verge of being a bankrupt program, and is a prime example of the need for change. The V.H.A., on the other hand, has been under fire in recent years concerning routine administrative failures and proper care given to veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. These are the standard-bearers held up as paradigm in reshaping healthcare? Good luck.

Predictably, a major tenet of the leftist agenda is at the heart of healthcare reform: entitlement.
There are those in American society who believe that government is a tool for providing, and should provide, citizens with the necessities of life, without taking any personal responsibility for acquiring such on their own. Yet, the preamble of the U.S. Constitution simply states “…promote the general welfare…”; though it may, debatably, “insure domestic tranquility,” nowhere does it stipulate the specific provisioning of such, nor the outright requirement thereof, by, of or for “We the people of the United States.” This is, and has been, a major source of contention over the course of this nation’s existence, and a constant rallying point between liberals and conservatives.

Nonetheless, by essentially throwing in its hat as a potential insurance provider – the taxpayer funded “public option” – the government’s intention is to offer a competitive alternative aimed at decreasing cost. According to, however, any alleged savings are extremely exaggerated by the Obama Administration. More than likely, it will add yet another layer of federal bureaucracy to an already bloated and convoluted system rather than much needed simplification and streamlining. Instead, restructuring, or outright elimination of, certain regulatory mechanisms that inherently increase cost – most notable being healthcare taxes, the monopolization of drug patents and frivolous malpractice lawsuits – would allow individuals and employers alike to afford private insurance without the need for governmental interference and a complete overhaul of the system.

Undeniably, there are other underlying, yet fundamental, issues in the mix as well that unnecessarily exacerbate the very societal concerns – welfare, housing, healthcare – currently at the forefront of debate. The healthcare system cannot be cured without addressing these root causes, many of which will never be expressed openly, particularly by those setting policy, due to their implications. One is the matter of overpopulation. Certainly, fertility treatments that yield multiple conceptions, beyond and against the Darwinian reproductive model, only compound the problem. One would think, as a moral and biological antithesis, that Creationist and Evolutionist could find common ground in opposition to such practices.

Again, it is about personal responsibility. The so-called obesity “epidemic” is due in large part to people eating unhealthily and without proper exercise. Taking the time to learn how to prevent diseases, especially in the purchasing of harmful and non-nutritious products, along with bans on products that cause disease in the first place, the impact on the healthcare system could be greatly reduced. But in a world of selfish crybabies who run off to the emergency room at a sneeze, there is little room for such commonsense.

In the end, if “Obamacare” does come to pass – with or without the divisive elements currently threatening to sink it – the government will simply be replacing one broken system with another. Until the associated periphery problems are dealt with first, it will not solve the healthcare “crisis.”

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cynically Optimistic

Yes, it has been a month since I last blogged. I wish I could say that July was so busy that I did not have the time. While there is some truth to it - I did have a lot on my plate during the month - it would not be a fair assessment. I have no less or no more time than anyone else, despite the colloquial "never enough time." The more accurate reason is I simply had nothing to write about. Certainly, I could have written about this or that, ranting and raving with the typical "told you sos" and "can't believes"...but would there really be the need? I mean, how much of that is already in the world? Just take a scan of the daily headlines on any given day, and try not to come down with a bitter case of disillusionment lassitude from all the rape, murder, corruption and conflict. And that's just a single day on Capitol Hill.

See, my problem is I'm a cynical optimist - in general, I'm cynical toward individual humans but optimistic about humanity as a whole. I know, weird if not contradictory. However, every so often, I reach a level where I have to take pause and regroup; otherwise, I'd just turn into a cynic with no hope. I think that's part of the problem with a lot of people - they lose hope too easily, and simply resign themselves to their cynicism. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

Golf is a great example. To be honest, I am not a very good golfer; inconsistent from tee to green, I spray my hits all over the course. Yet, there always comes that moment of a perfect shot - straight, long and in the fairway - that leaps off the club. It’s a little nudge that makes you want to keep going, and to come back. Optimism triumphing over cynicism, if only for a brief moment.

If only life, and our lives, were that simple.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Monday, July 6, 2009

Channeling the Founders?

This past weekend, the United States commemorated its 233rd birthday. In scope, rather pubescent compared to certain past civilizations, even to the British from whom we gained independence. Still, it is no small feat considering the volatility with which the country has had to contend over those two centuries. To honor the mark, President Obama expressed to the nation to summon the spirit of the Founding Fathers.

Given the latest international events, his administration seems to be failing in that sentiment. Despite questionable results, criticized internally even by hardliners, the U.S. has failed to take a stronger stance in the Iranian presidential election furor. As opposed to going “out of its way not to interfere,” the U.S. would be better poised diplomatically in calling for a comprehensive review and recount of the full vote to legitimize leadership. Particularly, one open to future dialogue between our two countries. Meantime, the Minnesota senatorial race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken has dragged on for months because of that very process.

In Honduras, the U.S. – alongside those bastions of freedom, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela – insists upon maintaining recognition of ousted leader Manuel Zelaya in his attempt to subvert democratic principles, à la Hugo Chavez. As such, rather than support a coup aimed at upholding those principles, the U.S. would see a would-be dictator, and Chavez ally, returned to power and make changes to the country’s constitution in order for him to retain it. (For more on that situation, see Cal Thomas' column, The Honduran Predicament)

Less it be forgotten as well, plans are underway for the eventual withdrawal of American troops from Iraq while their vulnerably infant democratic government still suckles at the tit of Lady Liberty. (Of course, the Iraqis have been most helpful in fulfilling their end of the bargain over the past six years.) Certainly, all of this is in the spirit of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, whom we indeed need to embrace. Only then can we be, if not continue to be, the beacon of the free world and democratic values. It just seems we are failing to adhere consistently to that idea.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Waiting For Total Collapse?

Apparently, we got it wrong concerning President Obama’s economic stance – he is not a socialist in capitalist clothing, rather a BIG BUSINESS capitalist in socialist clothing. How else to explain Wall Street receiving taxpayer money that Main Street has not? Meantime, taxpayers funding the bailout continue losing jobs and retirement nest eggs as these big business capitalists receive more capital, from an administration elected on the promise of “hope and change” for the nation's electorate. So much for the redistribution of wealth for those taxpayers – even the ones who voted for him – and the restructuring of the economic order.

Even more, Obama insists that another stimulus package is not yet needed, despite his own admission that his administration grossly underestimated the recession’s forecasted impact. While the president sees it as “pretty clear” that unemployment will continue to rise, it is even clearer where his administration stands on truly helping taxpayers – offering only empty rhetoric to encourage us to “tough it out” while giving our money to big business and wasteful government programs.

Obama Says Second Fiscal Stimulus Bill Not Yet Needed

Now how do you feel about the tax cuts – aimed at taxpayers, mind you – and the stimulus check received under the Bush Administration? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Don’t expect any of that type of relief from the Obama Administration any time soon though.

Apparently, it just isn’t needed yet.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Name of the Band Is...

Do you hate when you’re at a concert, and the band makes you participate? You’re there to enjoy yourself, relax or whatever, and next thing you’re being told to put your hands up, scream or punch a baby. Whatever it is, suddenly you’ve become part of their act, without so much as a farthing to show for the effort. But you do it don’t you, even if reluctantly?

Government likes to do the same thing. As I was raised and taught, democratic government is an institution formed and designated to lessen the burden and better facilitate collectively the tasks that individual citizens, and to that extent individual states, alone cannot do on their own. For the most part this has dealt with commerce and foreign relations, but has expanded to include everything from education to emergency services. In theory, it is not meant to intrude in every aspect of the lives of its citizens or to be used as a tool of fear. Fear tactics are reserved for tyrannical dictatorships – not a country founded on individual liberty – who oppress their people beyond the point of any realization that they are living in a state of fear.

There are many citizens who feel that this is the type of government we live under in the United States. Without getting into a political theory debate, this is far from the truth. Even if it does seem somewhat illusionary (or delusionary?), we actively participate in government at election time, even if reluctantly, by calling upon certain citizens drawn from our population to represent our common interests. Only those on the fringes see it as otherwise, either not enough involvement or too much intrusion.

The latest Iranian election, and the subsequent controversy, is a presumptuous contrast. For arguments sake, when George W. Bush “allegedly” stole the 2000 election – which anyone, like myself, who has actually read the U.S. Constitution knows is grossly inaccurate – there was massive outrage from Democrats. What happened? Eventually, the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. And when the hotly contested 2008 election between John McCain and Barack Obama ended, what happened? Again, the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. The system worked, for better or worse, as it has worked since 1789 – no mass riots by the opposition, no goon squads to oppress them.

Juxtaposed, Iran has seen nothing but mass protests and a crackdown on anyone opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s allegedly fraudulent re-election. Sadly, it serves to illuminate the pseudo-nature of the world’s “democracies” in otherwise oppressive societies. Ahmadinejad is simply one of many world leaders who could be placed among the Mount Rushmore of dictators-in-disguise – the Castro brothers in Cuba, Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. You know, the beacons of (totalitarian) hope and promise. (For the entire band, you could even include Kim “Wipe Out U.S. Imperialists” Jong-Il of North Korea.)

And the name of their band? Naturally, the “Axis of Evil”. They only play death metal, but they don’t care whether you participate in their act – they will play no matter how much you pump your fist or how loud you scream. However, they might like it if you punch a baby.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You Are Hereby Notified

How are we expected to re-start the economy when banks and creditors are cutting the spending capabilities of consumers? This is a representative example of what these corporations are doing wholesale to customers, new and old:

Dear John Doe,

We are contacting you to be sure you do not have any surprises when you use your card. In this difficult economic environment, we all need to make choices about how we spend and save. For us, that means carefully reviewing the spending and debt profiles of our Cardmembers - and making some difficult decisions. Unfortunately, we have had to make the decision to lower the credit limit on your account listed above.

Account Services

There is absolutely no reason for the drastic, and unprecedented need for, cutting of credit limits, especially to those consumers who are never late on a payment, pay more than the minimum due, and/or have a good debt-to-credit ratio in general. And
there is no sympathy for these corporate entities who continue to play the victim role, pandering to a faux collective "tough economic situation," rather than taking the blame for getting us into the troubles in the first place. Certainly, it must really affect their balance sheets to lower credit limits; indeed, it does affect ours, the consumer, who once again is legitimately victimized by such actions.

When banks like Bank of America and Citi insist upon more financial assistance from the government, they need to remember who it is footing the bill - the very consumers who have just had their credit amount and spending capabilities reduced. The next time any of these companies do ask for more taxpayer money - because they have and will again - I hope the government has the spine to tell them where they can go. And that they can wait until it freezes over. Because the question still remains - how are we expected to re-start the economy when banks and creditors are cutting the spending capabilities of the very consumers who are expected to drive it?

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rockin’ in the Free World

Without being too conceited, not to mention for good or ill, the United States arguably saved the free world from three empires – Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union – that wanted to see its demise. At present, the U.S. continues to be that backbone, in an ostensibly spineless U.N.-led world, against quite possibly the biggest threat ever to freedom – terrorism. For its trouble, the U.S. has barely received, if at all, a thank you, and more like the equivalent of the international middle finger. For the most part, this has come from its enemies, but, more often than not, it has come from those who have benefited the most from such sacrifice, including American citizens.

With that in mind, the current sitting present, Barack Hussein Obama, has left open the possibly – which he had previously signaled as unlikely but has since reversed – that Bush-era officials could face prosecution, either domestically or internationally, for their involvement in prisoner interrogations stemming from the ongoing “War on Terror.” All the while, these enemy “combatants” – who in an earlier generation would have faced summary execution for their actions without question – are being allowed their supposedly “legal” civil liberties (a standard some American citizens do not even enjoy) and/or their outright release. Talk about fighting the wrong war with the wrong strategery.

Persecuting Terror Defeaters

As Jack Nicholson's character, Colonel Jessep, says in the movie, A Few Good Men:

“We live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded...I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom...and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said ‘thank you,’ and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post.”

So, keep on rockin' in the free world, Americans. For one day, and that day hopefully will never come, there could be only smoke on the water, as the free world is engulfed in the flames wrought by those deemed a lesser threat than those trying to stop them.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Abomination of the Obama Nation

For the third time, President Obama held a press conference within his first 100 days in office. For anyone keeping track, that is one just about every five weeks. Frankly, he might consider having his own series if he intends to keep that pace up. Think of the irony: an actor-turned-politician, Ronald Reagan, elected president in 1980, while a politician-turned-actor would currently hold office. After all, Obamanomics is replacing, if not already destroyed, Reaganomics.

Obviously, Obama is attempting to emulate FDR’s “Fireside Chat” broadcasts during the Depression. Certainly, the objective is to tell us, the American people, what his administration plans to do, mostly concerning the economy. The difference being modern-day technology brings him directly into our homes through the medium of television rather than radio. Fortunately, there are more than enough channels to switch to – on the radio and the television – than there were back then in order not to listen.

While it is one thing to keep citizens informed, I have always been one to believe, as the 17th century philosopher John Locke did, that “the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.” In other words, show us don’t tell us. Understand, despite being a writer, I have never ascribed to the notion that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Words can be manipulated, if not manipulative, and they can be hollow when not backed by the substance of action. Indeed, a vast lexis exists from intellects through the ages, yet truly measurable achievement (
agriculture, exploration, industry, etc.) has only come from the hard-working backbone of humanity.

So, while it might be cozy for Obama to keep reminding us of his already-exhausted promise of “hope and change,” many from both sides would prefer he delivered upon it. But he cannot, and he knows it. That is how a con artist operates, building up their mark’s confidence with talk until the moment the swindle is ripe to payoff. As it currently stands – in spite of his incessant cry of “inheriting” a one trillion dollar deficit – Obama’s swindle of the American people stands at a pork-bloated budget of $3.4 trillion. It only aims to get worse before it gets better.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gay Old Time At Miss USA

Apparently, Miss California Carrie Prejean caused a major uproar in her bid for the Miss USA title. I say apparently, because I did not even know it was pageant time. Nor, in spite of a healthily hetero predilection for beautiful women, did I really care. Anyway, when asked about same-sex marriage by Perez Hilton – an openly gay man and a controversial gossip blogger – Prejean answered that she believes, due to her upbringing and beliefs, a marriage should be between a man and woman. The backlash began immediately, with Hilton stating he gave her a “0” for the answer – which almost certainly cost the crown to her ostensibly long-lost twin, Miss North Carolina Kristen Dalton. (Both blonde, both hot. Let your mind wander on that thought for a second…).

By saying Prejean gave the “wrong” answer to a politically charged, morals-based question, the judges criticized her politics and morals while in the same breath wanting her to agree with theirs. Hilton even qualified his question by asking “why or why not” she would feel that way. Though apparently looking for a well-argued opinion on the subject, it is obvious he was looking for an answer more in step with the gay community. Consequently, she was judged not on the quality of her answer, whether agreeable or not, but rather on her political correctness, due in large part to an apparent bias on the part of, at least, one judge in favor of same-sex marriage. That is a textbook example of the liberal mindset of the Left, awash in self-congratulatory smugness considered intellectually absolute.

The contention is not the validity of the question. In a country founded on individual freedoms, civil rights should constantly be part of the dialogue. Rather, the contention is the reaction to Miss California's answer in light of obvious assumptions of what constitutes the “proper” one. I hate people who ask a question, and then act stunned when the answer is not what they were looking for. Then do not ask the question.

The real question is because contestants’ answers are in opposition to a certain lifestyle – one shared by a few of the judges on this year’s panel, mind you – it should constitute an automatic mark? Such a double standard is absurd. That it happened at an event chastised in the post-feminist era for its allegedly sexist exploitation of women makes it even more hypocritical. How do you question political correctness in a pageant seen as anything but by certain standards of society? Expecting tolerance for rights is one thing, but it comes with being tolerant of expression for or against those rights as well.

With Sean Penn’s recent win at the Oscars for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, gay rights are once again a hot topic. Should Miss California been sensitive to that circumstance? Maybe. After all, the point of the Miss USA pageant is to choose a contestant best fit to represent the ideals of the United States. Ultimately, they are judged on their integrity and character as relates to the values of the nation. However, one’s personal principles speak to integrity and character, and compromising them to conform to another’s speaks as well. Again, the judges seemed more concerned with the latter than the former – yet another tenet of the liberal agenda. Prejean did not compromise her principles in stating her respectful opposition to same-sex marriage. Whether you agree or not, that is the criteria upon which she should have been judged.

It is becoming increasingly rare that substance wins over style. Why should it be any different at a pageant where style is queen?

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, April 2, 2009

People Start Pollution...People Can Stop It?

Do you know the main problem for planet Earth, and quite possibly the entire solar system, galaxy and universe? The most sentient being, presumably, living among it – humans. Pseudo-activist ones at that, who blindly preach the sin of our "carbon footprint" and believe they can effect change on a global scale that will result positively or negatively. "Earth Hour" to save the planet? Really? Turning off lights for an hour means nothing, not even symbolically. All it does is put us further in the dark.

The planet has been around for billions of years, living harmoniously among the cosmos, bombarded by everything the universe, not to mention itself, can throw at it – horrifically torrential weather patterns, chillingly lethal volcanoes and catastrophically devastating asteroids. And the planet is still here. Earth does not perceive us, does not care about us. We are not its children. Despite man's attempts and measures to control nature, nature always will humble man's hubris of such grasping inclination. The only threat we pose is unbalancing the equation in arrogantly thinking that it needs to be rebalanced through a quasi-cult movement that insists turning off our lights, picking up a few plastic bags or filling our gas tanks after the sun goes down can "save the planet."

All the planet, the universe, and quite possibly even the invisible man so many are keen to worship will do is permanently turn out our lights
long after the sun has gone down on usand scoop us into the galactic trash can with the rest of the cosmic garbage.

But don't think this is just my opinion though...


©2009 Steve Sagarra

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Would Jack Shephard Do?

In a previous post, I described a weird phenomenon that seemed to be occurring. Looking into the situation further, I recently came across all of this:

The Search for the 11:11 Angels

Urantia Foundation

Urantia Book Online

Now, I am not saying that I subscribe to this philosophy...yet. However, it has to be more than coincidence that something presumably insignificant – for example, seeing a repeated number on a clock – led me to it without any prior knowledge of it. Being a man of science (anthropology), two things stand out for me about Urantia:

1) The combination of faith and science, i.e. a creator God and biological evolution.
2) That Creationists, who believe the Earth is only around 10,000 years old and modern man walked with dinosaurs, criticize it for its alleged profane, cult-like "inanities" and inaccuracies.

Even though I am an agnostic opposed to organized religion, I try to keep an open mind about one's faith. Describing myself as spiritually inclined (after all I’m not an atheist), I believe in the rights of an individual to worship as they please. With that in mind, perhaps on a subconscious level I simply have been seeking something that relates and reaffirms my own ideas about our existence, purpose, etc., and sought it out. As such, it is very conceivable that on that same level I have been controlling the aforementioned phenomenon with nothing more to it. Yet, on the other hand, maybe there is some real entity – whether a celestial messenger or a higher-evolved "alien" life form – trying to make contact and communicate that knowledge.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but I'm really beginning to increasingly believe that it is beyond coincidence. Perhaps that is the point? To believe? (After all, Locke wished Jack had believed...)

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dark Ages: The Sequel

When I was in education school, I was told by one professor that I might not be able to teach World War Two as part of the curriculum, or at least certain topics like the Holocaust, due to the sensitive nature of certain subjects. At the time, I was flabbergasted that such a notion could be true. Though she herself admitted it was wrong, it would appear she was nonetheless correct if this article is any indication of the future of history education:

Exit Winston Churchill, Enter Twitter

With proposed curriculum changes like this, there could be more than just an hour of darkness after Saturday's "Earth Hour." How does one even contemplate the change from studying the likes of Shakespeare and the Second World War to blogs and social networking trends? Just what the world needs - more self-absorbed dumb people spreading their "knowledge" in real-time without knowing the facts.

Weirdly, there just might be a bright light on the horizon...from the educational system of the United States, no less:

Bill to Reform Teaching of American History and Civics Introduced in the Senate

Guess only time will tell if we learn the lesson. And hopefully, before the mistakes of the past are repeated.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pass the Buck, Hold the Bonus

How is the economic recovery plan working for you? Did you get your bonus? No, of course not. Such an extravagance would be absurd during these troubled economic times. That is, unless you are an employee – at the executive level, no less – of one of the companies that have received taxpayer bailout money. Whoever did not see that happening probably should apply for a position on the Obama economic team – the same one that blindly forced a bailout plan upon the American taxpayer, paid for with their money, without any oversight in place. Next time, how about sending the American taxpayers the check, and let the ones who got us into the mess foot the bill?

Speaking of the Obama Administration…has there been one in more disarray during its first months in office? For one, Cabinet nominees – including Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle – have dropped as much, and as rapidly, as Wall Street. And due to the uproar across the nation over the bailout plan, there are already calls for the Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, to resign. Meanwhile, three key Cabinet-level positions – Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Health & Human Services and U.S. Trade Representative – have yet to be filled. Guess they are trying to find a Democrat who paid their taxes.

Forget the economic crisis, though. From the start, the new administration has had, in general, an incoherency among its team in setting policy that would give whiplash to a schizophrenic. Not everyone seems to be on the same page.

Even more, President Obama likes to point out inheriting a one trillion dollar deficit, vowing to cut it in half by 2013. However, by the time the bailout plan has run its course, the reality is that he will face an almost THREE trillion dollar deficit (and counting, presumably). Last time I was in a math class, which was a long time ago, 1 + 2 \ ½ =1.5. The only thing cut will be the next administration’s ability to reverse the failed economic policies of its predecessor – while inheriting a trillion dollar plus deficit, if not more, because of Democrats’ current spending plans. There will be no taxpayer money to spend, no executive bonuses to recoup. Only economic catastrophe.

From the President on down, the inexperience – touted as an asset by Democrats and a liability by Republicans during the Presidential campaign – is showing, if not telling. And were only two months into it.

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maybe Billy Mays Can Mighty Mend It

By no means am I a billionaire, nor do I pretend to know how to become one. In fact, the only thing remotely similar to myself and a billionaire is "air" – and even that is speculative. However, I think billionaire Warren Buffet, of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., needs to keep quiet for a while. Why? First, he practically single-handedly facilitated the sale of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch to InBev by selling his stock in the former, primarily because he thought the takeover would fail. He later recanted by saying he thought it was a mistake to sell…simply because he lost money on the deal by selling a majority of stock too early. Cue the smallest of solemn violins…

Then yesterday, Buffet’s pessimistic remarks that the economy “has fallen off a cliff” sent Wall Street plummeting faster than an airplane with no wings (for reference, see Superman Returns). Contrastingly, Citigroup, receiver of multiple government bailout funds, today reported profits for the first time since 2007. What happened? Wall Street soared on the news. Of course, any positive banking news is good at this point. However, the promising upswing does little to offset the reality that Citigroup and the general banking sector are still in deep caca. Instead, financial analysts would rather see a “shift in sentiment” for a sustained rally.

Wait...sentiment? As in attitude, feelings? Are you saying Wall Street bases achievement on having a few Dr. Phil moments?!!

The worst was when Alan Greenspan was head of the Federal Reserve. When Alan spoke, the economy listened and acted a Catholic mass. Up and down, up and down. The economy seemingly hinged on his every word. The question is does it seem secure that the economy can swing on the words of a few? It is scary that the likes of Greenspan and Buffet could send the economy over the cliff – even after it has fallen off – simply by yawning. - You Are Not Warren Buffett

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Winds At Dawn

In 1978, President Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan, the founder of the modern republic of Afghanistan, and his family were assassinated and buried in an unmarked grave during a communist coup. Daoud, a progressive yet repressive leader hardly representative of democratic government, had wrested control of the country only five years earlier in a coup against his own cousin, King Mohammad Zahir Shah; ironically, it was Zahir who introduced democratic reforms during his reign, including free elections and universal suffrage. Sadly, the assassination of Daoud precipitated thirty years of conflict – beginning with the Soviet Union’s invasion the year after – that still endures. Yet, thanks to the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, the current democratically elected government under President Hamid Karzai is preparing to put to rest its past by reinterring the former president with a state funeral – a stark reminder of what was lost and what has been regained.

A world away, Venezuelans have seemingly embraced despotism – no less through democratic means. In a referendum vote, President Hugo Chavez secured a slim victory in removing term limits for all public officials, essentially paving the way for him and his political cronies to stay in power for decades and further their socialist agenda. Much like his friend Fidel Castro, the former “president” of Cuba, President Chavez is anything but, and should call himself what he is – a dictator. Only dictators seek to maintain their power for as long as possible, while presidents seek to lead until such time when it is time for them to step down. Castro and Chavez are to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln what an apple is to an orange – not alike at all, except for both being fruits.

There is the belief that such things do not, and cannot, occur in the United States. The U.S. was founded on democratic principles, and Americans have always elected their leaders. Yet, four out of 44 presidents have been assassinated, each time calling into question our self-touted civil character. Meanwhile, a myriad of crises – the Great Depression being the prime example, no less under the longest-serving U.S. president – have put the country on the brink of radical reform. With the largest economic stimulus in its history and calls for nationalization of major corporate entities, the prospect of a socialist agenda imperiously thrust upon Americans is at hand under the Obama Administration; however, unlike Darth Chavez, President Obama has, at most, only two terms in which to do it. All the while, we face daily threats that seek an inglorious end to our national sovereignty and outright existence.

Perhaps stemming from the Soviet-era occupation, a certain affinity for the Afghan people has always existed in the United States. After all, only John Rambo could go to Kabul. Seemingly, Afghanis have been waging battle against oppression and control of their country for decades, from the Soviets to the Taliban. They continue that fight still today alongside U.S.-led forces, understanding what is at stake for their future.

On the other front, the opposite seems true of Iraq. That is not a disparaging observation, simply a matter of perspective. The Iraqis have known only oppression and occupation over the same period as the Afghan people, with no understanding of freedom and self-government. There is a good reason for that fact:  Saddam Hussein ruthlessly stamped out such ideas by slaughtering the people who voiced them.

In the judgment of many, that was the problem from the beginning. Taking for granted our own circumstances, Americans inherently believe that everyone wants what we want. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that thinking. We thought what had occurred in Afghanistan – the overthrow of the Taliban and establishment of an elective government almost over night – could happen in Iraq. When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, we thought the Iraqis at the same time would embrace democratic ideals just as the Afghanis had upon the removal of the Taliban regime. It did not happen for one simple reason:  the socio-political culture and history of Iraq, and our misunderstanding of it. Think of it in terms of a fiery, caged animal versus a timid, abused one – we failed to realize that the Afghanis have been zealously fighting for it for decades while the Iraqis have not. Just because one breaks the bonds of oppression does not mean the enlightenment of freedom will replace it.

At the same time, the defeatist attitude that has crept into the fight against the enemies of democracy and freedom – particularly from those nations that have both – is unfathomable. Regrettably, the United States is not immune. Like the Iraqis, Americans, or at least half of the polled electorate, have no idea, have forgotten or just do not care for what it is we fight, lulled by media coverage and Washington rhetoric that stymies our efforts and portrays an unwinnable situation. The worst possible course is idly to abide the forces that seek to destroy our ideals, particularly when on the cusp of triumph over them. In the end, that thinking that will lead to our undoing and, ultimately, our own self-destruction; Igor Panarin, dean of the School for Future Diplomats in the Russian Foreign Ministry, predicted before a group at the Diplomatic Academy that the collapse will occur in 2010. The only question is will we act like a caged animal who fights back or an abused one who never gets the chance?  

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Road of Excesses Paved With Bad Intentions

Ford Motor Company founder, Henry Ford, once said, “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Declining government assistance and accepting internal accountability, Ford thwarted a corporate collapse of its business ventures through in-house restructuring and refinancing. Consumers will no doubt remember, or at least consider, that when deciding to buy a new car, with Ford’s reputation intact for what it did that competitors like General Motors and Chrysler did not. No company in the world can buy that sort of public relations marketing.

Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, on the other hand, have pulled off an audacious heist of taxpayer money. After soliciting, and receiving, a combined $155 billion in government bailout money, the companies continued their frivolous spending. Despite supposed near-catastrophic financial straits, the three managed nonetheless to shell out a combined $606 million, of which Citigroup spent the majority at a cost of $400 million, for the naming rights at three sports arenas. Certainly, hardly the indispensable, curative investment needed for curbing the economic strife of the financial sector. Even more, Citigroup, citing contracts already in place, was set to purchase a new corporate jet for $50 million, no doubt for ferrying executives to their now-cancelled Bahamas convention in June. Only the combined outrage of politicians, the media and taxpayers – possibly the first time in history all three aligned in unison – ostensibly forced the cancellation of the purchase.

The precedents and examples set by these corporations, who by no means are alone in their impudence, have only served to entice entities of all ilks – from lobbyist groups like ACORN to the porn industry – to coolly seek their handout from the government. As Davy Crockett, the legendary 19th century frontiersman and politician, so eloquently stated, "We have rights, as individuals, to give as much of our own money as we please to charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money." Unfortunately, that is exactly what is occurring under any bailout plans - government charity taken from the public coffers.

To make matters worse, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had major tax issues, a problem which claimed the nomination of Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Predictably, the errors were not corrected until they came to light during the nomination process. Geithner took ineligible business and charity-related deductions, expensed personal use items and failed to pay self-employment taxes totaling $34,000 between 2001 and 2005. Yet, as a key member of the economic brain trust, he is the person charged with administering and overhauling the troubled economy – no less paid for by the average American taxpayer. Or at least, the ones who pay into the system. Like the most expensive inauguration in Presidential history, it sends the wrong message at a time when Americans are looking to its leaders for fiscal responsibility with taxpayer money and alleviating the country’s economic ills.

Accordingly, rather than a bailout of financially mismanaged industries and undeserving entities, a more agreeable solution would be the division of the proposed stimulus (House bill - $820 billion; Senate bill - $838 billion) among every American taxpayer – the ones supplying a large chunk of the economic recovery package, after all – who no less would directly contribute to those very industries through spending. With an estimated population near 306 million, with just under half comprising the taxpayers, every eligible citizen (i.e. John Q. Taxpayer) could then receive roughly $6,000. Though outwardly insignificant compared to months of losses in wages and investments, that money could nonetheless be used by burdened Americans to at least pay their mortgage, ease their debt and/or spend on items from groceries to cars. Thus, economic recovery would be driven from the bottom on up, rather than from the top on down. Additionally, it would buy time, literally, for government and industry to affect changes, respectively, to fiscal policy and business models – not to mention establishing proper oversight for implementation and compliance – without haphazardly instituting such in a symbolic rush to satisfy campaign promises.

With the understood reality that we live in a capitalistic society and a global world market, that scenario, however, would not be a win-win for business. In spite of a prospective increase in consumer spending if consumers, rather than producers, were bailed out, business, from its perspective, would not thrive in the way that best benefits their bottom line. Forget the fact that questionable practices and irresponsible dealings were the majority cause of the economic troubles in the first place. For instance, if customers were able to wipe out their debt due to government intervention, banks and credit companies could not continue to exploit and reap from consumers’ debt spending in the form of exorbitant fees and interest rates. As such, those truly in need of an economic bailout – which would not include high-priced executives seeking bonuses – are not the ones who will receive it. Thus, the cycle will perpetuate that continually puts Wall Street ahead of Main Street, and maintain the status quo of economic enslavement for the most impoverished.

So much for the little guy filled with the promise of “hope and change”…

©2009 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change Comes to Washington?

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama, the enigmatic celebrity darling turned divine savior of the leftist media, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Indeed, being the first African-American to hold the highest office in the country, his election is quite possibly as significant as, if not more than, Washington or Lincoln. Everyone knew that it would happen; it was just a matter of when. With a rather atypical flat inaugural speech, Obama continued his campaign rhetoric of bringing change to Washington and to the country as a whole. The question is, as the most expensive inauguration in Presidential history, were the obvious excesses necessary at a time when Americans are looking to the U.S. government, and its leaders, for fiscal restraint and responsibility? To some, on both sides of the political aisle, it simply sent the wrong message.

While Joe Biden, the long-serving U.S. Senator from Delaware, will be Vice-President, who has “Team Obama” picked for the rest of the Administration to usher in the new era of “hope and change”?


Chief of Staff - Rahm Emanuel

Emanuel is a former senior advisor to President Bill Clinton. He is known as a firebrand, lashing out at those who cross him. He also has documented associations with the corrupt of Illinois politics, from the current scandal-plagued Governor, Rod Blagojevich, on down.

Director of the Office of Management and Budget - Peter Orszag

Orszag is former Director of the Congressional Budget Office. Professors Alan Blinder, of Princeton, and Joseph Stiglitz, of Columbia University, who served in the Clinton Administration as part of Clinton’s economic advisory team, and Robert Rubin, the former Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton, mentored and influenced him. As the current Director and Senior Counselor of Citigroup, Rubin orchestrated Citigroup's strategy of taking on more risk in debt markets that by the end of 2008 led the firm to the brink of collapse and an eventual government bailout. All things considered, a former student of a man who helped bring about the Wall Street collapse in the first place does not seem the solution needed at present.

Ambassador to the United Nations - Susan Rice

Rice is a former staff member of the National Security Council and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton Administration. A senior foreign policy advisor, accusations have swirled around her concerning the failure to act against, and potentially neutralize, Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, while he was in Sudan in the mid-1990s.

Director of National Intelligence - Dennis C. Blair

A retired Navy admiral with 34 years experience, Admiral Blair was the CIA's military liaison in the mid-1990s. Upon occasion, he advised Obama while the latter served in the U.S. Senate, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University with former President Bill Clinton.

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency - Leon Panetta

Panetta is former White House Chief of Staff under Clinton. A veteran Congressman, he is a bureaucratic "outsider" known more for administrative concerns over personnel and budgets with little to no experience in national security matters. He served on the Iraq Study Group, which recommended a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq in opposition to proposals by the Bush Administration, and General David Petraeus, to increase troops in order to stabilize the country. Only time will tell whether his "outsiderness" will aid or hinder his task of implementing change in an agency that has been under a negative microscope throughout the Bush Administration. As Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated, “I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

Solicitor General - Elena Kagan

Kagan was most recently Dean of the Harvard Law School, from which Obama graduated, and former law professor, working alongside Obama, at the University of Chicago. Her scholarly work focuses on administrative law, including the role of the President of the United States in formulating and influencing federal administrative and regulatory law - undoubtedly something needed by an inexperienced President such as Obama. Having previously served as an associate counsel to President Bill Clinton, it may be recalled that Clinton nominated her for the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia in 1999. The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee declined to bring her nomination forward for a hearing, making it one of two D.C. Circuit nominations not acted upon before the end of the Clinton Administration. Later, President George W. Bush nominated John Roberts, the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to the seat to which she had been nominated; even more, Obama, as a junior U.S. Senator, voted against Roberts’ confirmation to the high court in 2005. For those not understanding the irony of the entire situation, the Solicitor General is charged with arguing for the United States in front of the Supreme Court.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot…

Another year has passed, and another has begun. More memories gained and further memories, unfortunately, lost to time and age. The question is, have you started your Christmas shopping? Keep in mind, only eleven months until we do it once again. Fortuitously, the astronomical necessity in adding an extra second to the closing year presents an opportunity to reflect on it that much longer.

Intrinsically, the reality of life shows that with the good comes the bad, and vice-versa. Hardly unique, 2008 was witness to moments woefully forgotten – soaring gas prices, global recession, further worldwide terrorism – and those eminently remembered – Fidel Castro stepping down, Michael Phelps surpassing Mark Spitz in Olympic gold, the first African-American elected U.S. President. Locally, there was no less a noteworthy mix as well – tragic, unprecedented shootings; perennial flooding and an early morning earthquake; the ongoing, remarkably hassle-free major highway overhaul. Of course, the sale of Anheuser-Busch may take precedence as the foremost local event to occur during the year. With that in mind, and although we may want some of these moments “never brought to mind” again, we should surely toast the more pleasant with “a right goodwill draught.”

Is it truly a “new” year though? According to the accepted, fairly universal Gregorian calendar, yes – the calendar turned two weeks ago. However, for those countries that still follow the “old” Julian calendar, the New Year actually starts, well, today. The Chinese New Year does not begin, typically, for another week, but may not start from then until sometime in late February. Depending on where one resides in India, the New Year could begin in March or April. Yet, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, started last September, and because the Islamic calendar is shorter than the Gregorian, Muslims celebrated Muharram (“Islamic New Year”) twice last year.

Thus, have we really rung in “the New Year”? With all the different ways to track time around the globe, it is amazing we even know the day let alone the year. Perhaps that explains, in part, why international diplomacy seems so difficult? Is the real barrier to global peace that no one knows the meeting time? Certainly, the world could use “a cup of kindness yet,” having indeed “wandered many a weary foot.”

No matter the time when one celebrates, there is the inherent hope of a fresh start at the New Year. Regrettably, it is too optimistic to believe that as one is chased away the latest will usher in only the good. Even so, it would be difficult to overcome those unforeseen, dire times without such confidence. Ultimately, we should remember what came before when looking to what is to come, because far too soon, we will face yet another year gone by. Just make certain to have your shopping done before the last second, particularly for those you may have since forgotten.

©2009 Steve Sagarra