If you'll permit me one more "Godfather" reference, as we slouch toward the end of this turbulent year I am reminded of the scene where the Meyer Lansky/Hyman Roth character tells Michael Corleone in corrupted 1950s Cuba that (I will paraphrase), "We're only one step away from finding someone to be the President of the United States who understands how to do business."
I would never compare our country's successful corporations with the Mafia. Oh hell, why not? These business criminals who pay no taxes to our treasury; this CEO corporate culture of mega-salaries and unlimited benefits that outsources both jobs and corporate bank accounts; this Executive Mafia that rewards the boardroom and punishes the worker even as corrupt bookkeeping practices strip away the pensions and retirement funds that once seemingly secured the retirement of a loyal employee; these cynical profiteers who's only concern is the bottom line have finally found their man in George W. Bush, someone who "understands" how to do business.
In this tumultuous year we have seen natural disasters of cataclysmic proportion. The year began with the largest magnitude earthquake ever measured in the Pacific Ocean that resulted in a tsunami that put half of South Asia under water. Then the crippling earthquake in Pakistan stretched our resources and will to assist because we had just experienced the worst hurricane season ever in the United States and lost a major American city. Already, this winter has caused early ice storms in the warmer Atlantic states and unseasonably warm temperatures where there should be snow, accompanied by a government caveat that winter gas bills could reach an all time high. People and families in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast are living in tents because of ineptitude in high governmental positions and they are the lucky ones. At least some are able to camp out on their own land and hope for the future, while poorer people in Texas and Louisiana may be gone for good and the diaspora from New Orleans continues unabated.
No one can blame the Bush administration for the climate changes that are undeniably taking place. But you can blame them for ignoring the problem. This is why international treaties like Kyoto are important and should be embraced rather that scuttled by our leaders. International cooperation is necessary to study and take measures to prevent the man-made contributors to climate change. This government is so busy stripping regulations from industry under the guise of benevolent sounding programs like The Clear Skies Initiative which allows more pollutants, that they are actively making matters worse instead of better. Their complete indifference to environmental matters is not only a national disgrace but a clear and present danger to the public health and to the well being of the Earth. But it's just business for the Bush cabal and their corporate friends.
The energy policy meetings chaired by Mr. Cheney have yet to be investigated because they were held behind closed doors. But we do know that executives and lobbyists from energy companies wrote our national policy to benefit the industry, and former CEO Cheney's company, Halliburton, has made out like a bandit during this regime's watch. A handful of favored corporate sectors like Big Energy, Big Pharmaceutical, and Big Insurance are doing well while the "Electronic Horde" that Thomas Friedman once described as the excitement and job creation surrounding the technological revolution has moved on to China and India. The brain drain in Science and Medicine continues because of a lack of governmental grants for new research and the major medical breakthroughs are now occurring in Israel and France. While this country argues about what to teach in biology class, the conservative right attempts to shout down dissent and drown their opposition in a sea of self righteousness.
The single year-end optimistic note came with the Iraqi election. Despite our government's arrogant mishandling, there is still a chance for a good result to come from our Iraqi incursion if the Defense Department realizes that this war can no longer be won militarily. Our President's calls for nothing but "total victory" can not be accomplished at the point of a gun. We must do everything to assist the Iraqis in winning their current political wars, so that we may remove the bulls-eyes from our own soldiers' backs. And someone in government must realize the need for Islamic Peacekeepers from the region to restore order in Iraqi cities and give their fledgling democracy a chance to flourish. The Iraqis' chances for parliamentary democracy will be better with our military removed from their streets and re-positioned in secured locations along the borders. Only then will we have the chance to be seen as something other than occupiers.
The lessons in Democracy, however, are better learned from someone other than President Bush and his co-conspirators. The current revelations concerning domestic spying and surveillance of American citizens are only the top layer in this particular pit of blatant illegalities and are much wider than the President has admitted. The President claims that he is "absolutely" within the law to order wiretaps and data collections involving scores of U.S. citizens, without the approval or supervision of the courts. But just because Bush says it's so, doesn't make it so. This man-made disaster, like so many of this governments' other pratfalls, is just now unfolding. In this coming election year, how many of the President's loyalists will rethink their positions when considering facing their constituents for reelection? And George W. Bush, proudly serving his corporate masters, is oblivious to the fact that although he once envisioned himself as the incarnation of Ronald Reagan, he will end up as the historical successor to Richard Nixon. We all deserve better in the New Year. A couple of Congressional investigations into the secret inner dealings of how the Bush administration conducts "business" would be a good start.