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Sherman Yellen Headshot

Goodbye to Greed -- Hello to Need

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It took eight years for Bush and friends to turn the free market into a flea market, and what took years to destroy may take years to rebuild as a more durable, adult supervised economy. No easy task for a President Obama. We'll have to be patient, although patience is not our national virtue, and it is hard to ask those with a family to feed and no new work on the horizon to wait for their piece of the bailout. Brilliant as Obama may be, he is still human.

Before Obama even arrives at the White House the far right is whispering that our future President is a secret alien. I hope they are on to something. With any luck we will discover that Obama is not really a human but comes to us from the Planet Oahu, a distant star in the galaxy much feared by Rush Limbaugh, Grand Master of the Planet Oxycodone and his satellite followers, the Oxymorons. The Oxys live in dread of Obama's extraterrestrial power to turn red states blue; okay - deep purple - transform despair into hope, and recession into prosperity. But as Obama says, he can't do it alone. That is why he needs earthling critics from the left to shine a light on his missteps and his accomplishments as we defend him from those on the far right who can't wait for him to stumble.

It strikes me that Obama is the coolest man to become President in my lifetime. We need to keep him that way. Cool works now as never before. Forget the warm and cuddly search for the perfect puppy and the photo ops with those adorable children of his. And lose the beefcake on the beach. Who needs a president who looks like he's busy staying buff? A little flab around the middle will bring credibility back to the White House. Remember, Bush was fit in every way except mentally and morally for the job.

Here it comes, folks, my wish list. Duck now if you're scared of lists: we need new and better jobs; safer bridges; modern trains and a national light rail system; public schools that teach civics; universal health care, and national parks safe from commercial exploitation. More? You mean that? Or are you just being nice to me because it's the New Year? Okay, we need an educated population for the new jobs and that means good primary schools that aren't run on the arbitrary, thought destroying standards of No Child Left Behind. We need truly affordable colleges for every one with the will to learn. And we need to restore the teaching of the arts in our public schools to create well rounded citizens whose greatest pleasure as an adult is not a video game. We need to enforce environmental safety standards so our kids and grand-kids have clean air to breathe and pure water to drink. We need banking regulations that make banks lend our government's money to actual working people; immigration reform, and careful oversight on the trillions that will be spent to restart the country. And, oh yes, we need a modest foreign policy that does not dig us deeper into a disastrous war in Afghanistan.

While we're remaking the world for the New Year, we need Hollywood to make movies that entertain grownups with strong stories and vivid characters; movies that move us again and thrill us without depending on ear shattering, eye wrecking special effects. We need TV that doesn't litter the new channels with cheap quiz shows and panels of smarmy experts speaking trash to wannabe singers and dancers. Crap in high resolution is still crap, only with more pixels in it.

Here's what we don't need: Obama's choice of Rick Warren for that inaugural invocation. This was a blunder that won't find cover in Barack's big tent politics. No tent is large enough to hold a new president and a new bigot, no matter how much the bigot looks like chubby, cheerful Uncle Charley, now reformed, who once hustled crowds at the carnival.

Warren is a charismatic figure who famously helps the poor and the sick throughout the world with the royalties of his best selling inspirational books. Noble as that may be, Rick Warren regards gays as a biblical abomination and sends out that message to his massive following. Such messages are not lost on the skin head with the scary tattoo eager to go out for a friendly fag bashing. What is Warren doing as a speaker at an inaugural for all Americans? As Gertrude Stein would say, a bigot is a bigot is a bigot. Learn, Barack, learn. Civil Rights are a universal need; it isn't black, white, straight, or gay. It's for everyone. Even Republicans.

Here's some unsolicited advice from an older straight white male for gay leaders outraged by the passage of Prop 8. Fight for all the civil rights of marriage without worrying about the symbolic ceremony that so excites the opposition. Fight for the right of a surviving partner of a same sex union to receive the deceased partner's pension and Social Security benefits. Fight for the right to file joint tax returns, for the rights of inheritance, shared health insurance, and every other right that a married couple enjoys. These are achievable goals which Obama and the Congress can meet if pressed to do so. Get the rights and let the wedding bells follow. And to those who voted Yes for Prop 8, a prediction. You may not think so now but you just voted against yourself and your own children.

As we enter the New Year let us not forget those wonderful little rascals from the GOP's Our Gang Comedy: Condi, Turd Blossom, Brownie, Gonzo and Scooter who played such crazy tricks on our country. Just consider what these lovable scamps did in the past eight years: they ignored the warning about 9/11; they left the poor of New Orleans to languish and die after Katrina; they tricked this country into a calamitous, life taking, bank breaking war; they abused our planet by failing to meet environmental standards; they shackled scientific research, made a sneaky grab for extra-constitutional power, blurred the separation of church and state, corrupted the Justice Department, and helped to destroy the economy by the deregulation of oversight. It wasn't just the housing bubble that burst - all bubbles pop - it was the greed driven life that came to us through Bush and his people, the governmental dishonesty flowing outward to our financial markets which didn't need much encouragement to become Hedge Fund hawks and Ponzi style swindlers.

That pyramid on our dollar bill should have been a warning about pyramid schemes; instead it became an inspiration to our financial leaders during the Bush years. By choosing not to change course after the Enron debacle, the crash of '08 was inevitable. We need a modern Dickens to describe the way the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and everyone in between got crushed, squeezed and screwed. Bush and Cheney, aided by Rummy, had a genius for spreading ruin while lining the pockets of friends and supporters. What was once called war profiteering they called nation building. And when everything collapsed, they were distinguished by their refusal to accept responsibility for their calamitous, often criminal acts. A dazed and befuddled Alan Greenspan mumbled a mea culpa for his flawed guardianship of our national finances, but it didn't come through loud and clear. And many people, including me, don't trust any of the bozos now in charge of the bailout.

A special New Year's greeting to Sandra Day O'Connor and those Supremes who first put Bush and his jokers in power. Until we hear "sorry," go to the corner for a time out, and sit there very quietly, even if you have to stay there the rest of your natural lives.

Unfortunately, a President Obama is unlikely to delve into the crimes of his predecessor, viewing it as a distraction from restoring the economy, repairing our reputation in the world, and uniting the country as he tries to save it. A big mistake. Without accountability governments tend to repeat the same crimes only with new players. Power will do that to you even if you start out as one of the good guys. Without a new transparency in the White House what is to keep a bright and ambitious Rahm Emanuel from becoming our next Karl Rove? His modesty? His profanity? His ballet lessons?

On a personal note, '08 was a good year for me despite the sadness that came with the passing of an old friend. What made it so good was the entrance of new life into my family. I've been here to welcome the birth of the two most beautiful twin girls on planet Earth, my infant granddaughters. And I've had some magical days with my amazing three year old granddaughter, who, after a recent visit, said, "Thank you Pop-Pop, I had the best time I never had." So here's wishing all of you the best time you never had in 2009.

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