Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Putting a good spin on 2009

2009 was a disappointing year for me. Even more disappointing than the Bush years. With Bush you knew what you were getting—a pro-big business, pro-war, pro-rich, pro-crony looting of the public coffers and pillaging of the Constitution. He was liar, a thief and a charlatan. No surprises. No disappointments.

I had higher expectations for the Obama administration. The President came into office on an antiwar, anti-fat cat, pro-middle-class platform with his party in control of both the House and the Senate. Since taking over the helm from Bush’s band of pirates, the Obama Administration has expanded the war, catered to fat cats and given the middle class nothing. No real healthcare reform. No real banking reform. No Gitmo closing. No Iraq pullout. No investigation of the Bush crime wave.

I know we can’t blame it all on the White House. The fat cats still have their claws deeply dug into Congress. I just wanted to see the President act like he promised in the campaign.

As the New Year approaches, I’m trying to put a good spin on 2009. Maybe it was the transition year that the Obama team needed to ramp up for change we can believe in. Nah!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Painted Pine Man

Paul Evans calls himself “The Painted Pine Man", and it’s a name that fits just right. In a small one-man Vermont shop, Paul builds reproductions of painted antique country pine furniture.

Paul handcrafts each piece using tools and techniques from the past. He hand-planes the lumber and moldings. He uses square-head cut nails and hand-forged hinges. But it’s the painted finishes that give Paul’s cupboards an authentic aged look that few furniture makers can match; and if you ask him how he gets that look, he politely changes the subject.

Hanging Corner Cupboard

Paul and his wife, Jean, have a lovely little shop on their picturesque 19th Century farm that will delight anyone with a passion for country decor. It sits on a narrow country lane called Still Run after the whiskey stills that were once located there.

The tiny building, formerly part of a sash and blind mill, was moved to the farm in the 1930s. Jean has great eye for decorating, and the shop is a perfect setting for Paul’s work. His furniture is complimented by a charming array of decorative accessories—also for sale.

The shop is located in Peacham, one of the prettiest towns in what I think is the prettiest part of Vermont—The Northeast Kingdom. Peacham is about four hours from Boston, so it’s not quite a Sunday afternoon excursion; but if you plan to be in the area, it’s well worth a visit.

Paul and Jean are friendly country folks who love visitors. The shop is open weekends Memorial Day thru October from 10:00 to 5:00 or by appointment. You can take a virtual tour on their website at www.paintedpineman.com.

Stepback Open-Shelf Cupboard

If you see something you like, give Paul a call at 802-592-3219. He can sell you something from the website or custom-build a piece of furniture to fit a particular spot in your home in a color to match your décor.

Tombstone Corner Cupboard

Sunday, December 20, 2009

War Birds

George Bush and his kettle of hawks must be feeling pretty smug about now. They were taking the rap for having gotten us into a no-win quagmire. Their ill-conceived invasion of the Middle East had turned into a monstrous albatross. The Chicken Hawk-in-Chief was stuck with terrible legacy.

Then along comes President Obama with this terrific speech on Afghanistan. He was eloquent, thoughtful and thorough. His speechwriters really strutted their stuff. And with that speech, he took that dead rotting bird and hung it around his own neck.

General McChrystal and his cohorts were able to sell the President on their testosterone-fueled fantasies about taming Afghanistan. Our Middle East foreign policy was hijacked by the military/industrial vultures and national security theorists who play war games with other people's lives and money.

Their foolhardy attempt to conquer Afghanistan has nothing to do with enhancing our national security. It’s an American intrusion into a civil war they don’t understand and can’t use military force to control.

This new troop deployment and its huge cost will have no impact on the insignificant number of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It won’t keep the Taliban influence from growing. And unless we’re prepared to dump billions more into the illegitimate Afghan government, it won’t make any significant contribution to rebuilding Afghanistan.

Most independent analysts believe it will take at least 10 years to turn Afghanistan's illiterate and corrupt security forces into anything resembling competency. And cost us three to four billion dollars a year to do it.

The President’s contention that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity" is false. This is a war of his choosing.

I had hoped we elected a leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his Afghan policy shows he’s not that leader. He's a hawk in dove's feathers.

Holiday Doors 09

On the way home from shopping up in St. Johnsbury, I took pictures of some of the town's wonderful doorways decorated for the holidays. Click on the image for a closer look. Best wishes for a peaceful holiday season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Faded Hope

If you read the very first entry in this journal, you know I was very excited about the election of Barack Obama. I had high hopes that he would restore the integrity of the United States Presidency and the American people.

I’ve been through enough election cycles to know that Presidential candidates say whatever they need to say to get elected. I’m not so naïve to think Barack Obama was any different. I did, however, hope that he might lead the country in a new direction

1. I hoped he would close Guantanamo as he said he would. Maintaining this illegal facility and our other “black site” prisons makes us no better that any of the repressive regimes we claim to oppose. There is not one valid reason why these prisoners should not be given due process. We were able to bring Timothy McViegh and a whole host of other terrorists to justice using our legal system and prisons. We’re a country of blind justice, not selective justice.

2. I hoped that he would give the American people a thorough investigation of the Bush Administration’s bailout of the financial industry. We know it involved extensive corruption, mismanagement and cronyism, but there has still not been a full accounting of the $700 billion TARP spending or the $2 trillion+ in loan guarantees by the Federal Reserve.

3. I knew that Obama opposed the military invasion of Iraq and supported the invasion of Afghanistan, but I hoped he would stand up to the hawks who think military action is the solution to all international political problems. I hoped he would have the insight to see that continued military action in Afghanistan is causing more harm than good.

4. I hoped that he would get us out of Iraq. Thousands of US troops permanently remain in Iraq to protect our business and political interests. By recommitting the United States to the imperialistic nation-building policies of the Bush Administration, President Obama is continuing the legacy of saying our country is doing one thing when it’s in fact doing another.

5. I hoped he would use the bully pulpit of his office to lead the country toward meaningful healthcare and financial reform. He came into office backed by a populist mandate and a Democratic-controlled Congress, yet he has done little to discourage the upward flow of our nation’s wealth into the hands of a decreasing number of people at the top of the income scale.

What attracted me to Barack Obama was that he seemed like a political outsider who possessed the idealism and commitment to bring about change. I may have projected more of my progressive goals onto him than was realistic; but I thought he would stand up to Wall Street, the healthcare/pharma industry and the military on behalf of middle-class America.

He has turned out to be a disappointing centrist focused on pleasing the same special interests as the last four administrations. President Obama seems more dedicated to maintaining the status quo than change we can believe in. He's not leading. He is placating.

I still have hope, but it’s fading fast. My biggest hope is that I’m wrong about him.