Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January Blahs (but Hope Springs Eternal)

It is hard to believe that a month has passed since I last wrote here. Frankly, it was a lousy month.

As noted in my last pondering, I've been dealing with some health issues. Thankfully, those are, for the most part, behind me (literally) and the persistent discomfort in my right rear cheek no longer hinders my efforts to assist in mucking stalls.

I have yet to complete the annual Stern Holiday Letter. When (not if) I do, it will appear in connection with the celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday celebration or Valentine's Day or President's Day. "Holiday" has many convenient meanings.

The Israelis were forced, once again, to defend themselves by responding to incessant rocket attacks with a show of force at a level needed to make the point. The resulting loss of life is horrific. But the rush by some to blame Israel, and the media's focus on the human suffering in Gaza, is misplaced. A "government", Hamas, which uses mosques and schools as weapons depots and women and children has human shields, loses the right to invoke sympathy when its means of waging warfare results in intended consequences to its constituency. Were Israel to refrain from engaging the enemy when and where the enemy has established itself, there would be no point in any engagement at all; Israel would be left to hope and pray that the Qassam rockets flying into southern Israel do not kill too many Israeli citizens. Those quick to condemn Israel should consider how long the United States would stand by while Duluth was under rocket attack on a daily basis from terrorists in Winnipeg. Or, more on point, would we refrain from responding if Mexican nationalists operating out of Nogales and upset over the U.S. incorporation of the Arizona Territory, started sending missiles into Tucson? I fully expect some changes in U.S. policy towards Israel in the coming years because, unfortunately, Israel is losing the p.r. war to the warped concept of support for the underdog. However, I also have a sense that the new administration will condition any concessions demanded from Israel on a quid pro quo of peaceful co-existence from its neighbors.

My unbridled enthusiasm for the possibilities presented by an incoming Obama Administration, augmented by a Franken ascendancy to the seat formerly held by Paul Wellstone, has been tempered by the same old politics of those who rely on fear-mongering to quell the audacity of hope. Yesterday's mail brought a solicitation from a Republican legislative leader (I have no idea how I ended up on his list) urging me to support the Minnesota Republican Party to protect against "liberal Democrats determined to raise (my) taxes". While my first reaction was "That's it? That's your best shot? We face a $5-8 billion shortfall in the State's budget, 25% of the total budget, and you're worried about raising taxes?" Then I realized that, unfortunately, the pitch will ring true to too many GOP constituents and, as with efforts to fund basic infrastructure last year, the Legislature will enter gridlock and the resulting compromises will, like sausage, best be consumed without examining the components.

And, speaking of Senator-elect Al Franken (how I love typing that phrase), I have been muzzled by ethical considerations and have had to sit quietly while watching the Coleman political and legal apparatchiks hijack the democratic process by undermining the legitimacy of the work of hundreds of bi-partisan election officials and, by extension, the legitimacy of Al Franken's victory. One need only peruse the comments to the Star Tribune's online stories about the recount to see how well Norm Coleman's strategy has succeeded. If you choose not to take my word for it, and actually peruse, be prepared to feel some degree of alarm over the extent to which uninformed, small-minded (NOT a redundancy) masses can be swayed by rhetoric pandering to their insecurities. The Coleman strategy does us all a disservice in this time of national trauma. By undermining confidence in the legitimacy of our elected officials, the Republican Party, on both State and National levels, has diminished the ability to engage citizens in the process of finding solutions to the challenges we face. Because I agreed not to discuss or blog about specifics of what transpired in the recount process based on personal knowledge I acquired as a recount volunteer, and because as a recount volunteer attorney I view the issue to be one of attorney-client privilege, I cannot say much more on the subject for now. Once released, I will have plenty to say. Here's a teaser: The Republicans are engaging in such a level of hypocrisy that the Coleman legal team should be sanctioned by the Lawyers' Board of Professional Responsibility for pursuing frivolous claims.

As long as I am exorcising my funk, let me dwell on the economy for a minute. I am reminded of my reaction to predictions, before Hurricane Katrina, that New Orleans could be wiped off the map if it took a direct hit from a hurricane because of the peculiar topography of the area. I remember thinking that, outside of a Hollywood blockbuster, nothing of the sort could ever actually happen. Fast forward to economic pundits' observations in mid-2008 that the U.S. economy, left to spiral out of control or, pick your metaphor, left to pick up the dominoes of fallen sectors, would face the most serious crisis since the Great Depression. I remember thinking that, outside of a Hollywood blockbuster, nothing of the sort could ever actually happen (again). At the time, President W would not even use the word "recession" out of concern for the mental health of the citizenry. As W prepares to leave office, economists are openly discussing the fact that we are in a depression. At work, I hear one horror story after another about businesses, recently thriving, that are forced to significantly reduce production/expansion/workforce/etc. in response to an unprecedented lack of available financing and the constriction of consumer spending. Despite Republican efforts to dissuade me from doing so, I harbor a hope and a faith that the new President will be able to utilize the power of the Federal government to loosen up the credit markets, create jobs that will put cashflow back into the economy and give consumers a sense that solutions to our current malaise exist, are being applied, and justify a loosening of personal purse strings to, again, put cashflow back into the economy.

I do want a "do over" of the last Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's Holiday season. I know that can never happen in the literal sense. However, since everything in 2009 before January 20th amounts to nothing more than marking time, I am going to treat next Tuesday as my New Year celebration. I am going to celebrate the greatness of the occasion. I am going to make resolutions, committing myself to being part of the solution for what ails us. I am going to call friends all over the country, even my Republican friends, and exchange greetings and good tidings for what I hope will be a new era of political discourse, candor, common sense, and Chicago Cool.

The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day
A way!


Charles Leck said...

Welcome back! Stay healthy and keep writing.

irvstern said...

All caught up on your blogs. Excellent and "right on!".
You also looked great. Keep up the good work. Irv