Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Capitalism’s Terminal Condition

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 13, 2009

Whenever I see an old building that has shifted from its foundation and crumbled to a heap, I often ask myself: “Did the occupants sense the shift or notice the cracks while they were resting comfortably inside?” I wonder how subtle the movement was, and if there was ever a sudden motion that should have alerted them of coming doom. Well, folks, when the history books are written about the economic collapse that brought down the most advanced and successful economy in the history of the world, perhaps they will see a major crack developing in our foundation during the Spring of 2009.

Capitalism can trace its origin – among the thinkers who thought enough to publish their thoughts – to the pen of John Locke, whom, in the mid-17th century wrote some revolutionary things. To us, today, it seems so natural to believe that private property is an inalienable right. In fact, many textbooks will tell you that the original phrase in the Declaration of Independence was not: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” – (although they are relevant to this discussion) – no, the original phrase, borrowed from the philosophy of Locke, was: “Life Liberty and Property.”

That revolutionary philosophy, which flew in the face of most hierarchical societies at that time, shook the world to its foundations. And friends, that particular building was long overdue for collapse. To think that a divine entity had endowed all men with equal political power, while not, as we will discover later, endowing them all with equal abilities and drives, was the engine that drove our forefathers to fight the fight for freedom.

I haven’t the space here to give a long, drawn-out history lesson about the virtues of capitalism. However, I do hereby challenge any reader – or my fellow columnist – to deliver to me the parameters of an economic system that has delivered more people from poverty and given more people a more luxurious life.

The structure that is capitalism rests upon a substantial foundation. That foundation is built upon the laws of nature itself: The law of competition, the law of demand and supply and the law of private ownership. To deny these statutes is like denying that water runs downhill. Now, we can artificially and temporarily alter the pull of gravity, but eventually, what goes up must come down, likewise with private ownership and supply of demand. Our government has, from time to time, altered the pull of the market and has subsidized certain chosen enterprises – usually to the detriment of that enterprise and the weakening of the economy. Just as we usually regret playing God with trying to alter the ecosystem by introducing or limiting certain organisms, we usually regret playing puppet master with the economy.

We can trace most of our current economic woes to just such an attempt. By pressuring the financial institutions to grant unwise and unsecured loans for housing, we set up a house of cards that was sure to tumble when the exaggerated home values collapsed under their own weight. Now, that same stable of donkeys is asking to have the keys to the granary so they can make more stupid decisions with our money.

To the terminal condition of capitalism – let me take you around back and show you a huge fissure in the foundation. This past week, our newly elected, and woefully inexperienced, president made a declaration that sent shivers along my spine and I swear I almost felt the earth shake. He mandated that a cap be placed upon the salaries of private citizens – in essence, he was saying that those in power have been endowed with superior knowledge and altruism and a greater sense of what ought to be. I’m sorry, but that is scary to me.

I remember reading the warnings of those, who only a generation ago, fought the idea of a minimum wage. They predicted that once the tent flap was left opened enough for the government to stick her camel-like nose into the private sector, she would soon decide a maximum wage as well. Well friends, do not think that that nose won’t come sniffing around your paystub also. It is easy to say that $500,000.00 is more than enough for those fat cats to live on.

We are opening a crack in our economy, people, and it will open even further with this non-stimulating stimulus bill.

The tendency of most inexperienced drivers is always to over-steer or over-correct when they are learning to drive. I see the same tendency here. We are looking only as far as the end of the hood, instead of focusing down the road. We should not fall for the fear tactics of “We cannot wait for a perfect bill – just pass this one and trust us”. I’m sorry, but I watch CSPAN and those guys do not impress me as being very trustworthy.

More to follow on this debate in coming weeks.

Capitalism Has Its Dangers

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 13, 2009

I have looked forward to this discussion of capitalism and the economy. I agree with my brother that the foundation of capitalism is cracking. What we disagree on is the cause of its impending collapse. My fellow columnist somehow feels that government intervention has led to our current economic crisis. I think the damage has come from within the system.

I’m not here to deny the history of capitalism, nor deny the validity of market workings. However, it’s not without its flaws and blemishes. We happy inhabitants of this deteriorating structure have long been living secure within its longevity and sturdiness, oblivious to its disrepair. The laws of supply and demand have not been at work alone in this neighborhood. Greed, crime and malice have moved in from time to time. When capitalists became bad actors throughout our history, threatening the nation’s residents with sweatshops, manipulation of the markets, and oppression of the working class, we have been fortunate to have the government to police the bad guys and clean up the streets. Capitalism has been a mixed bag at best. The same system that gave us Bill Gates and Warren Buffet also gave us Bernie Madoff.

It is easy for Republicans in Congress to pin the woes of the economy on big government. The problem is the argument is weak. It was not the urging of the government that drove financial firms to unethical leveraging of investments. It wasn’t Fannie and Freddie who brought down Wall Street. Corporate greed lured firms into fast money schemes that ignored great risk. For years, many at these firms got fat off credit schemes and immoral lending practices. Then the bottom fell out.

I should also remind my fellow columnist that it was former President George W. Bush (with nearly eight years of experience in the nation’s highest office) who, along with his Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, decided we should put these firms on the public payroll because they were too big to fail. Thus began the bailout fever that brought socialism to the wealthy and handed the bill to the American people.

I don’t like the stimulus package idea. I don’t think many of the people who are voting for it on Capital Hill like it either. However, capitalist greed has dug a deep hole. I doubt that the stimulus package is the shovel that will dig us out. But the outcry is for swift action and Congress and the president have few tools at their disposal. The fact is that the bill is costly and it will fall short of success. Republicans will vote against it in attempt to build political capital and prove that Barack Obama can’t bring bipartisan cooperation to Washington. But the bill will pass and Obama will sign it. He and Democratic leaders will be judged on it for decades to come. But we will survive the 2009 Stimulus Package (or whatever name it takes) just as we will survive TARP.

My brother Gordon’s criticism of the president’s recent call for a salary cap is simplistic and misleading. He implies that this maximum salary of a mere $500,000 annually is some blanket restriction across all of corporate America. However, all it requires is for firms who accept a welfare check from the public bailout funds to curb their spending in ways appropriate to their financial circumstances. That kind of fiscal responsibility is a conservative value that should make sense to my brother and others who share his views. And, these executives are still able to supplement their meager incomes with stock options. They just need to wait until the company is flush enough to pay back the taxpayers before they cash in. I think that’s called performance incentive.

Of course, many firms will back away from these restrictions in order to compete for executive talents. Those seeking $10 million bonuses can certainly find homes at these firms that reject the government handout. These companies would be doing us a favor by saving some tax dollars.

What is really needed, however, runs deeper than stimulus packages and executive salary caps. We need to look beyond the sanctity of capitalism. We need to see the pitfalls and shortcomings of our consumer economy. We need to look far past the car hood, to progressive ideals for the future.

Perhaps “inexperience” really translates into not being mired by the tired and worn ideals of the past. Perhaps what is called for is the audacity to pursue new avenues. Perhaps we need to demolish the decaying eyesore of our current economy and rebuild a safer more solid one.

A Reason For Optimism

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, January 30, 2009

A cynic by nature, I watched the recent transition from George W. Bush’s administration to Barack H. Obama’s without allowing myself to be even cautiously optimistic about the level of change I could expect to see from the new president. As that transition culminated with Obama’s oath shortly after noon on Tuesday, January 20, I could no longer resist the temptation to celebrate.

While race seemed to be a recurring theme of the media coverage of Inauguration Day, for me there was much more of importance, than the fruition of Dr. King’s dream. For me, the time for judging Barack Obama by his associations, by his color, or by his name ended at midnight on that fateful day. Hereafter, history will judge our new president on the performance of his duties during troubling times. The challenges he faces today will test his mettle and try his commitment.

The speech Obama gave after taking his oath will be deconstructed by pundits, criticized by rivals and praised by allies. It was important that his words inspire trust and communicate honestly with the American people at a time when so many are filled with despair. I feel he was successful to that end, but I must qualify my analysis before I give it.

In preparation for this week’s column I had several thoughts about how to approach my critique. One influence I looked to was a recent comment by my fellow columnist that indicated that Obama’s election had been seen as historical, despite the fact that he had done nothing presidential. I also thought back to a conversation I had with my brother on the eve of the 2004 election. He argued that regardless of who won the election, the president would be only one man functioning with limited power in a system of checks and balances that restrict the greatness of his accomplishments and the extent of the harm he inflicts.

If the powers of the executive are so strictly limited, I would pose, then the president is a mere figurehead. If that be the case, then the most presidential thing Obama can do is appear publicly presidential. One could argue then, that Obama began being presidential as early as the keynote of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His command of the English language and his exploitation of the spoken word has inspired his supporters and humbled his critics throughout his long journey to the White House. I had been prepared to make that case and write that essay.

Then came January 20. With the exhaustive media attention to the significance of the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States, it was difficult not to be swept away from the real issues. In fact, in his speech Obama could have dwelt entirely on the storied ascent of the black man through America’s history from the birth of the nation; through civil war and emancipation; through the civil rights movement; through to struggles with inequality today. Few would judge him harshly had he chosen to make that speech.

Instead Obama chose to limit his mention of race to an appropriate few references, only one with a personal connection to himself. He chose to focus on the challenges that face not just him but the nation and the world. Instead of inviting America’s citizen to follow him to the promised land he would help usher us into, he chose to invite us to stand up and accept the price and promise of citizenship.

In an “ask not” type of speech that harkened back to JFK, Obama communicated a common ownership of the tasks ahead and a common ownership of the rewards brought by overcoming them. This shift of focus from the authority of the executive to the power of the people is a dramatic contrast to the previous administration, and a sign to me that change was more than a shallow slogan.

During the address were constant reminders that problems we face are real and that meeting them is a daunting task. But he cautioned those who would set the sights low that the “ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” The sense is that the traditional approaches we have been chained to are no longer relevant and are, in fact, detrimental to progress.

Obama’s commentary on diplomacy and foreign policy also marked a dramatic change. With his subtle condemnation of torture and other tactics that trade our foundational values in favor of security, few could deny that a new era had begun.

He referred back to those values as he wrapped up his call for action:

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world…

It is undeniable that it is a new era. Not because this nation has elected its first African American president, but because this president is cut from a different cloth than recent presidents. This new era inspires in this cynic, hope and even optimism.

The Royal Inauguration

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, January 30, 2009

I am sure that there is not a thesaurus in the press rooms or broadcast networks that has not been torn apart these past few days as gleeful media mavens sought some fresh and unique adjective for “historic”. It seems that all the other positive descriptive words eventually became overused and redundant as the parroting press corps fell over themselves while they jointly and joyfully hailed our new Chief Executive.

One of the first indications of how significant and unique this inauguration would be came to me as I sat in a Shoney’s off I-81 North in central Virginia. As my son and I were enjoying the buffet, three large tour buses full of Obama supporters (according to their T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats) joined us. As I contemplated the fact that the these buses had been traveling from Texas, I considered that they had already been on the road for at least a day or two and they still had to find lodging and food for at least three more days before they returned home. I realized, then, how great an investment they were willing to make.

Now, here in this great nation of ours, at least for the time being, you can make these types of financial investments and travel to whatever lengths you choose to be a part of whatever celebration or event that fits your fancy. I, therefore, do not disparage anyone for making any financial investment or time commitment to any cause that moves them. However, I would like to offer some advice to those caught up in this (okay, I’ll use it) historic moment.

I am not here to rain on the global parade of good feelings and renewed hope, but instead, I just want to point your eyes toward a small dark cloud on the horizon. While we all like to bask in the sunlight – and Obama’s speech offered enough of that to those who considered the past eight years as walking through the fog – we have to be grown-up enough to realize that sunny days do not last forever.

My brother has taken up the common, liberal practice of misquoting, misapplying and taking out of context my words about the 2004 election. In that discussion I was stressing that, while the Executive branch is a powerful part of our government, it is only one leg of three-legged stool. I also stressed that my personal happiness and joy was not dependent upon who sat behind a desk in Washington. I still have a family to support and a job (well, really, I have three jobs) to do, regardless of who is signing those Executive Orders. And, in the course of supporting my family and doing my jobs I often find happiness and joy; while I have yet to find either in any Federal program or legislative action.

Now, to the cloud. I am sorry to say that there are several reasons for subduing our feelings of euphoria and glee, at least just a little bit.

First of all, while everyone is eagerly gazing through the windshield toward a future filled with great things to come, it is important to look toward the rearview mirror of history as well. History tells us that it takes more than clever words and a grand oratorical style to foster real change and to deal with real crises. Obama’s skills as a speaker are well noted and I will add, well deserved. As my brother again takes space to attack the former president for his oratorical deficiencies, I feel as though I should remind him that Bush’s actions have kept our children safe from attack on our soil since 2001. His actions have also resulted in safer neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Words are nice and they are definitely powerful, but to this point, I am sorry to say that Obama reminds me of the line from the old Bee Gees song; “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away”. In the first week of his term, Obama has already shown us that those words may not always ring as true as we had hoped. For example, he touted a new “transparency” to his administration, as if we could expect a new level of integrity. Yet he went forward with his nominee for Secretary of the Treasury despite the fact that the man who will be in charge of making sure we all dutifully pay our fair share of taxes has chosen to defy the very laws he is charged to enforce. Let’s watch that dark cloud, friends and neighbors.

Another shadow to watch in these next few months and years is the seemingly complicit news media. The independence of the “Fourth Estate” is a necessary component of freedom. However, I see a troubling lack of holding Obama accountable by our shrinking news media. It has been noted by Jim VanderHei of Politico that our news outlets are facing cutbacks like every other industry, and the shrinking resources and manpower will translate into less investigative reporting and less accountability in our government.

So, enjoy the sunlight for today, but keep an eye on the sky!

Obama’s First Big Test – The Crisis in Gaza

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, January 16, 2009

As each new day dawns here in the Western Hemisphere, the morning news shows bring reports of the continued fighting and the rising death tolls from the streets of Gaza. Because their dawn precedes ours by several hours, we have the opportunity to hear of the early morning battles as we prepare to eat our breakfasts. In the details of the reports will be the disturbing mental images of men, women and children blown apart. We who live in the relative safety and comfort of our American neighborhoods, thankfully, have no concept of the daily struggle faced by the citizenry of Israel and Palestine. Because of the distance between our neighborhoods and theirs – both literally and politically – we cannot easily relate to the news. I admit, shamefully, that I have found myself feeling no reaction upon hearing of the death toll nearing 800 souls.

I guess we tend to shield ourselves from things that bring us discomfort, and the thought of so many lives lost is definitely discomforting. As the reporters surrounding our President-elect questioned him about his silence concerning the crisis, it became clear to me that it was discomforting to him as well. At the point of this writing, his repeated mantra has been that we have only one president at a time and at this time, Bush has the responsibility of condemning or justifying the action of either side. Well, the inauguration set for January 20 will change all that. He will no longer have the punt option available. It will be ‘First-and-10” and he will be the quarterback.

Based upon the above, what play should our new QB-in-Chief run?

A brief history lesson and a few observations would serve us well as we examine the options Obama may employ in dealing with this crisis. First of all, it is important to recall that Israel is a unique nation, created by the action of the United Nations in 1948, even though she traces her identity and claims upon her lands back to the pages of the Old Testament. She now faces threats to her security without a hint of aid from that international organization which recognized her right to exist 60 years ago.

It is also important to bear in mind the nature of the group that brought this current crisis upon the civilians of this tortured land. The Iranian-sponsored terrorists who call themselves Hamas took advantage of the “Road Map to Peace” that Israel believed would lead them to peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. Hamas followed the Palestinian people into the lands relinquished by Israel as she bowed to international pressures and withdrew from the Gaza strip in 2005.

The ensuing years since that withdrawal have been marked by rocket attacks from those very streets bartered away by the Israelis in the hopes that peace would come through appeasement. Over 6,300 rockets have landed on Israel’s sovereign soil, each firing representing the international definition of an act of war. These rockets came from densely populated civilian areas and were targeted not at military outposts or strategic targets as during a conventional war, but instead they were aimed at schoolyards, kindergartens and hospitals.

Israel had shown great restraint in her response to these attacks until she finally realized her duty and responsibility to protect her citizenry and, in the broad scheme of things, to preserve what it means to be a sovereign nation. Since her retaliatory strikes upon Hamas targets and weapons caches hidden in mosques and apartment buildings, Israel has faced growing international criticism. The idea that her retaliation was not in proportion to the rocket attacks simply because more casualties resulted from her warplanes is missing the point of how one should deal with a terrorist.

Terrorists such as those in Hamas are like the thugs from the old Dirty Harry movie, in which they stood behind the frightened face of a diner waitress in the belief that no one would dare shoot at them while innocent lives stood in the way. Israel has shown more mercy for the lives of the Palestinians than the leaders of Hamas have shown. Taking the time to warn the residents before the ground offensive began and offering to cease hostilities while humanitarian aid was delivered, Israel has gone beyond the extra mile to limit civilian deaths. Hamas, however, has fought an illegitimate war and done so in an illegitimate fashion. To grant them any semblance of legitimacy by opening up diplomatic channels at this time would be foolish and naïve.

As Obama takes that oath on January 20, he will also be taking the position “under center” and he can ill afford to throw an interception on his first pass from the oval office. He must hold the leaders of Hamas responsible for this latest conflict, and demand that instead of international pressure upon Israel to surrender more of her land and her independence, she should receive international aid in her quest to rid the world of this terroristic threat.

The Gaza Situation

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, January 16, 2009

The media presentation of the current strife in the Gaza strip is largely one sided. Certainly, one expects Fox News to reinforce the U.S. government’s line regarding its unconditional support of Israel. I wasn’t surprised to see newsroom staff and show anchors playing down casualties on the Palestinian side and playing up the few casualties on Israel’s. However, network news coverage offered little criticism of Israel’s aggression and other media were largely in line with this bias.

Missing from the coverage during the last few weeks is a mention of the Israeli blockade which has plagued the residents of Gaza for two years. Israel’s blockade of Gaza has denied access to necessary food and supplies, imprisoning and nearly crippling the territory.

Hamas’ rockets launched into Israel are acts of terrorism and represent a small threat to Israeli citizens. However, Hamas was not alone in breaking the fragile six-month truce that Egypt had helped to negotiate between the two parties. Israel fueled hostilities with the destruction of a tunnel near the Gaza wall. Hamas could hardly be expected to see the region strangled and cut off without retaliating. There is more to both sides of the situation than the oversimplification offered by my fellow columnist and the mass media.

On the Palestinian side, one must consider the plight of the Gaza residents caught between Hamas and the occupying Israel. Three years ago, Israel formally withdrew from the territory but has maintained sovereign control over it. Its long blockade of Gaza has violated its obligation as occupying force by denying humanitarian aid to enter and breaking negotiated promises that allow for adequate aid.

On the Israeli side, there is more at issue than mere self-defense. The mention of Israel’s biblical claim to the land is irrelevant in the context of the current timeframe, but it remains part of the debate when it comes to commentary within certain factions in the United States. More important to Israel’s perspective is the political dynamic that exists within. Prime Minister Tsipi Livni, who is criticized by Benjamin Netanyahu (her rival in the upcoming election) for being soft on the Palestinians, must demonstrate her strength with decisive and unrelenting military aggression. Also, with Barack Obama’s impending inauguration, there is a sense that the new U.S. administration is an unknown quantity and Israel must strike while the iron is hot and the climate of support is at its peak. It seems to have more to do with political timing than the timing of rocket launches from Gaza.

The fact is that while Obama has been silent when it comes to response to the current aggression, it is debatable that his approach to the Israel/Palestinian struggle will differ much from his predecessor. His one-president-at-a-time defense has drawn criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. I predict that pressure will be high from within the administration to maintain the current level of support for Israel despite the legitimacy of its agenda.

In March of 2008, I wrote in this column of the dysfunctional and perilous relationship between Israel and the United States. As tensions rise in the Middle East, the U.S. remains beholden to Israel as an ally among increasingly hostile Arab nations in the region. The irony of the situation is that the alliance has become a source of the hostility. The government of Egypt, which has taken a role of mediator in the Gaza situation, is under pressure from within as the popularity of Hamas has risen along with the disdain for Israel’s actions. Other Arab governments are feeling the heat, and the pressure to condemn those actions is mounting.

Of no small consequence is the powerful pro-Israel lobby within the United States. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has considerable influence in U.S. policy in the Middle East. Decisions in the region ranging from the sale of arms to Arab nations to declarations of war have been weighed and tested by AIPAC and often only proceed with concession to the lobbying group. This deference to the pro-Israel lobby has been evidenced through several presidential administrations regardless of which political party was in control.

I would hope that as Obama huddles with his foreign policy team, that he sees beyond the surface and simplification of the issue. I would hope that he would resist the urge to placate an ally at great sacrifice, or defer to a powerful lobby against national interest. More importantly, I would hope that he would eschew the hurry-up offense that was the signature of the Bush administration.

Perhaps an end to unconditional support of Israeli aggression is near. I would hope so.

Welcome to 2009

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, January 2, 2009

By the time this issue reaches your hands, the last lights of 2008 will have flickered and faded into history while 2009 will have begun to stretch its shadow toward the future.

My brother and I have written about 25 editions of our column since we took a look back at 2007 last December, and speculated about what was in store for the year ahead. It has been an interesting year with its ups and downs.

Previous years in the Bush era were consumed with anguish and conflict over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 2008 was different, with its focus on the economy. The United States began the year in a state of denial about the recession. Politicians, pundits and media danced around the dreaded “R” word as if not naming it could somehow make it untrue. The sad fact is that it was as true on January 1, 2008 as it was on December 31, 2008.

Years and years of policy had built an economy on the backs of consumers at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. The slowing growth and negative growth (the latter an oxymoron only an economist could craft) were signs that the lower and middle classes could no longer bear the burden. A collapse was inevitable. When this financial and economic collapse came in September its scope was wide, snaring wealthy and poor alike and impacting the world economy in a way no economic downturn in history has. And even the brightest among economists aren’t predicting how bad it will get or how long it will last.

Another sad fact was that economic woes took center stage, fading from discussion issues like our unjust war in Iraq. Oh, there was plenty of talk in the media, from the White House and from the presidential campaign trail about the success of the military surge. The fact remains that even the reduced level of violence is much higher than the pre-invasion levels. The infrastructure of the war-torn Iraq is still in disrepair. And the war brought pockets of al Qaeda, religious extremists, and other terrorists to the nation.

Iraqi sentiment about our occupation is evident even beyond the outburst of the shoe-wielding journalist at a recent press conference in Iraq. Despite the threat of a resurgence of sectarian violence and terrorism upon the departure of U.S. and coalition forces, the Iraqi government made it clear this year that they want us out. Denying the United States its imperialist claim to victory, the sovereign nation has set a date certain for our withdrawal.

There were bright spots in 2008. The Beijing Olympics brought the world together for a spectacle of competition and entertainment. Stars like Michael Phelps kept us glued to our television sets and distracted us from our problems and from the controversy over China’s abhorrent human rights record. Those stars shone brightly enough to pierce the clouds of polluted smog that shrouded the Olympic Village.

Then there was the historic presidential primary that produced the first African American nominee. Later, an even more historic general election gave us president elect Barack Obama. Some still claim the responsibility for the election’s results rests in the media’s lopsided coverage of the campaigns. Perhaps this is another case of denial. It is clear to most that a nation frustrated by policies that created a destructive economic model, and that weakened the U.S. stance abroad, chose real change.

As 2009 begins that change, I feel optimistic, even though I understand well that challenges persist. The economy is in dire straits and beyond solutions like corporate bailouts and $300 stimulus checks.

Threats that the United States invited, remain. Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are problems that must be dealt with intelligently and pragmatically regardless of what led to the current unrest. Israel and Palestine continue to wage their centuries-old conflict with bombings and bloodshed. The United States yet lags behind other developed nations when it comes to education and giving our youth the tools to birth the creativity and ingenuity to solve the world’s problems.

We will need leadership that sets aside politics for pragmatism. We will need leaders who look beyond the tired practices of the past toward new visions. We will need real change.

As much as I believe that Obama represents real change, I know that no one man can bring reform. We all need to work to be the change we wish to see in the world. But I am confident that an Obama administration will not be a barrier to that change and may even help to facilitate it.

Hopefully, we will look back in twelve months at a brighter year than 2008.

Welcome to 2009

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, January 2, 2009

Well, things were not all that great in 2008, and things don’t look too fine for 2009 either. As we fold away the memories of last year and look ahead to the unblemished calendar of next year, we can once again find the best of times and the worst of times.

Last year at this time, we published a column looking back and looking forward. My fellow columnist and I both made a few bold and some not-so-bold predictions. I considered copying and pasting mine here and then analyzing my accuracy as prophet. But, instead, in the consideration of space and time, I decided to just paraphrase last year’s column and spend more time making predictions for this new year.

I started my column with a few personal notes about the births of my two granddaughters and the bittersweet short life of Gracie Ann Cooper. This year, I again celebrate two new grandchildren. God has blessed our family again as Amelia Rose Yook and Eli Wait were born to our two daughters and their proud spouses. So, despite the notable crises that shook our nation and world during the pages of that faded 2008 calendar, I will relish in those memories of seeing new life added to our world.

Now, back to the notable crises…it seems as though each year has its share of trials, but the history books may note 2008 in the same sense of infamy as 1929. The economic meltdown and the subsequent governmental action will affect our future for generations to come just as the Great Depression altered our cultural landscape during the last century.

A new frontier awaits us, now that our government has decided that we taxpayers should bear the burdens of those who make poor business decisions. I lack the wisdom or foresight to accurately predict the final result of this new practice of bailing out every failed industry, but I can prophesy that one result will be a very deep and lasting federal debt. As a grandparent, I am concerned for the future world Eli, Amelia, Meredith and Kyle, Jr will inherit from our generation.

Also of note in 2008 was the Presidential election. Many have proclaimed the historic nature of Obama’s presidency even before he has taken an oath or accomplished anything presidential. While I admit that I did not venture too far out on a limb when I predicted on these pages last year that we would look back on this election and remark about how hotly contested it was, yet without bloodshed or violence, I was right.

I also made a bold prediction that Hilary would lose the election (right again) but I was wrong when I predicted she would divorce Bill (and, I admit that I did not see the Secretary of State nomination coming).

I predicted a new channel dedicated to Britney, Paris, Lindsey etc. and while I still think it is a good idea, I was wrong to predict that the news channels would finally tire of covering celebrities as if they were newsworthy.

I also predicted that the “Old Gray Mare” – AKA The New York Times – would return to printing REAL news. I am sorry to say I was wrong again. I also failed to see the financial struggles she would have this past year as she dealt with lost advertising revenues and declining subscription numbers. Oh well, I hereby relinquish my official “Prophet-of-the-Year” award.

Now, to this next year, I already stated my fears about the new policy of governmental involvement in the economy. I predict here that this year will see more and more bailout pleas coming from the other affected industries of this meltdown. And on a related note, I predict that the global market will undergo broad changes as well. I can see an international monetary board taking control of other industries the way the U.S. Government has taken control of the auto industry. Today’s Car Czar will be tomorrow’s Oil Czar, and an Airline Czar, Housing Czar and Manufacturing Czar will soon follow. But I am afraid that these new czars will not be American and I am sure they will not have our American interests as their highest priority.

I predict the Blagojevich scandal will escalate to include Barack Obama’s aides and I predict an administration marked by scandal and deception like the administration of Bill Clinton, seeing as how most of the principal players from that administration have been appointed to this one.

I will also predict that a severe natural emergency, such as a blizzard, earthquake, hurricane or Nor’easter will further stretch our financial and emotional resources to the point of breaking. I hope I am wrong about this, but I fear that such an event could send us into a period of violence and rioting if aid is not delivered in a timely and effective manner.

To prevent ending this essay on such a negative note, I will also predict that, despite my own misgivings about Obama’s capabilities, and my disapproval of most of his policies, our nation will survive his presidency and True Conservatism will see a revival in the Republican party.