Observations in a Parking Lot

February 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Posted in Humor | 1 Comment

Parking lots are a lot like zoos, except the inmates are vehicles, and in some cases people, instead of animals.

Recently I went to a restaurant that will never get five stars. But the price is right, and my table overlooked the parking lot, which had a lot of pickup trucks in it, with quite a few SUVs mixed in. The occasional cars looked like the flowers in an overgrown garden. They were wishing somebody would get the damn trucks out of there so they could get some sunshine.

But what struck me was the things in the front license plate holders of these vehicles. You see, I live in an enlightened state that has long since dispensed with tags on the fronts of vehicles. (It is vastly unenlightened in other ways, but we won’t go into that now.) The front license plate holders of our vehicles are thus available for their owners to express themselves. Of course these non-license plates don’t have quite as much variety as their cousins the bumper stickers, but they allow at least some personal creativity.

Of course there were the usual American Flag tags (I used to have one of those myself) and a variety of religious motifs. My favorite of the latter is one that looks like the Harley Davidson logo, but substitutes Jesus and Christ for Harley and Davidson. I expect that William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson would be astonished, and perhaps hopeful that if Christ were around today he would be riding one. I’m told by one of my more mystical friends that he is and he does, but that only makes me wonder (even more) about my mystical friend.

Then there are the tags that purport to describe the owner of the vehicle. One said “Native Texan,” making me wonder what the vehicle is doing here. Another said “SOFTAIL,” making me wonder…Oh, never mind, we’re not going to go there. My all-time favorite (so far) was on the front of a huge, black, diesel-powered, maximum horsepower/towing/cargo capacity, ugly (but very shiny) pickup truck. You know, the kind that shouts, “my owner is a Real man and you’re not,” and is frequently purchased by people who aren’t entirely sure that they are “real” men. I considered my hypothesis proved when I saw the sign in the front license plate holder: it said, “Mr. Stud Muffin.”

Well…if you have a favorite front non-license plate, post it below. We can all use a laugh.

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Let’s Get Together and Be All Right

February 9, 2009 at 10:10 am | Posted in Congress, Economy, Obama Administration, Politics | 2 Comments

It was 1957 or so when I last set foot in Jamaica, so I have no idea how well their slogan is working. But whether it works for the Jamaica Tourist Board or not, it’s a good idea, and we ought to try it here.

We have always had partisan fights in this country: George Washington was the only president who was elected unanimously. That’s fine. But it seems to me that starting with the Clinton administration, the fights became nastier, focused on putting down the opposition party rather than on doing what’s right for the country. The trend continued through the Bush administration, although the Democrats didn’t demonstrate as much ideological hatred as the Republicans had.

Maybe if we had been less intent on giving the other party a black eye we would have anticipated the economic crisis we now face, and would have done something about it before it became a crisis. We’ll never know…but it’s possible. It would be better for all concerned if we were to work together.

That’s a major idea that drove the Obama campaign, and that President Obama has tried his level best to implement. Before he was inaugurated he met with the top conservative columnists and—as they said themselves—not only talked, but listened to what they had to say. Since the inauguration he has met several times with the leaders of both parties. Not just the formal leadership, but with the leading senators and representatives. Over cocktails, over lunch, and around conference tables, President Obama has presented his point of view—and has listened to the points of view of the members of both parties.

But he has done more than listen. The Economic Recovery plan he presented to the Congress had a lot of things suggested by the Republican minority. Nobody expected it to pass exactly as presented, but it was a truly bipartisan bill. Yet not a single Republican member of the House voted for it, and the Senate Republicans are doing everything in their power to slow it down.

Despite all of President Obama’s overtures; despite the fact that the Economic Recovery legislation contains huge chunks suggested by Republicans; despite the fact that Senators on both sides of the aisle negotiated compromises…the Republicans mulishly dig in their heels to prevent what they cannot prevent: passage of the bill.

They cannot prevent passage, but they can delay it, and every day of delay means a worse economy, because the worst thing we can do is to do nothing. We need to get together and pass the bill. As they say in Jamaica, “Let’s get together and be all right.”

Why, thank you, Mr. Bush

February 1, 2009 at 10:38 am | Posted in Bush Administration, Politics | 3 Comments

I’m sure you didn’t mean to do it, Mr. Bush, but you gave us our new president.

You sat there like a dummy, reading to children for ten minutes, after an aide told you that a hijacked airplane had crashed into the Twin Towers. You lied us into an interminable and costly war in Iraq, using cherry-picked intelligence as evidence. You illegally detained hundreds of people at Gitmo, denying them that basic pillar of our legal system, habeas corpus. You tried to justify torture, failed, and used it anyway. You used “extraordinary rendition” to have others tortured and imprisoned overseas, guilty or not. You eavesdropped on innocent American citizens with no oversight from the courts—or anybody else. You politicized the Department of Justice, firing competent professionals and replacing them with political hacks.

And that’s not all. You staffed FEMA with more political hacks, putting a horse-show manager in charge, to supervise the most inept response to a major tragedy in American history. You got the Pentagon to issue no-bid contracts to your friends, who wasted billions of tax dollars and killed Iraqis and Americans in the process. And your minions sat there with their feet on their desks while our financial system tottered and failed. Then you asked for a bailout, but failed to watch where the money was going. Remember AIG executives going on a boondoggle on our money? Banks paying bonuses and buying fancy new corporate jets? Banks using bailout money for everything but opening up credit?

Your administration was a monument to incompetence and malfeasance. You bent the Constitution out of shape, breaking it in several ways. You wasted the worldwide outpouring of sympathy after 9/11 and threw away our moral leadership, turning the U.S. into the most hated country since the Soviet Union. And you treated the citizens of this country with the utmost contempt, trying to manipulate us to your own ends—and nearly succeeding.

But you didn’t succeed, Mr. Bush. The result of your contemptuous maneuvering, your corruption and your incompetence, was that we elected Barack Obama to be the President of the United States. That’s why I thank you, Mr. Bush. Without your performance as president we might never have done that.

You left President Obama with a God-awful mess to clean up, Mr. Bush, but he has already started and I believe he will ultimately succeed. He has a very full plate, but there’s one thing he needs to be strong and unequivocal about: his administration should use all the tools available to investigate the actions of your administration. Illegal detention, eavesdropping on American citizens and using the power of the administration for political purposes are crimes under U.S. law, and torture is a crime under international law. If members of your administration committed these or other crimes they must be punished.

That is the way to restore public (and worldwide) confidence in our status as a nation ruled by law. It need not be divisive; it must be thoroughly and fairly done. You see, Mr. Bush, even if we don’t do it, somebody else will prosecute you as a war criminal. Mr. Bush, how would you like to see members of your administration, possibly you yourself, sitting in the dock at The Hague? Would you feel humiliated?

I would.

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