Wednesday, February 04, 2009


During last weekend's sesshin, we talked about balance - the ability to see two sides of a situation, and not sticking to one side or the other in recognition of the dual nature of all phenomena. Not clinging to our opinions and views is hard enough to do in the zendo, but even more so in the marketplace. It's nearly impossible at my workplace when someone brings up the subject of politics.

Not everyone in America is as enthusiastic about President Barack Obama as I am. Polls show that he still has high approval ratings, but the die-hard neo-con wingnuts in my office are still convinced that these are truly end times, and that the Union is disintegrating before their very eyes. And by saying "die-hard neo-con wingnuts" I've already pretty much abandoned my equilibrium and balance, so here I go off on what Mettai Cherry calls one of my rants, one of those political posts that I almost always regret afterwords.

My co-workers don't miss an opportunity to march into my office and demand an apology or something for what they perceive as Obama's latest miscue. They're particularly relishing Obama's problems with getting some of his Cabinet appointments approved and his admittedly sloppy and too-rapid vetting process.

Although it had nothing to do with Cabinet appointments, it all started with the arrest of the crooked but strangely fascinating former Governor of Illinois, Rob Blagojevich, and their hopes that somehow this would lead to charges against and ultimately the impeachment of Obama, and was amplified by Bill Richardson's stepping down amid an ethics investigation involving a firm that did business with his State's government. (Long-time readers of WDW will understand my particular sadness in hearing about Richardson's problems, as he was my favorite candidate during the early campaign season).

When Tim Geithner's tax problems came to light, my co-workers were overjoyed. "There ought to be a Federal Marshall at all of these nomination hearings," they said, "And a bus outside waiting to take them off to Guantanamo." Putting aside the concept of a bus taking them from Washington to Cuba, aren't they being a bit harsh? Sweet jesus! Guantanamo?

"This whole Administration might be in jail before even the State of the Union Address," they crowed. But Geithner's ultimate appointment despite his tax problems had my co-workers beside themselves with frustration. "Double standard!," they cried, "How could someone who doesn't pay taxes to the IRS be the head of the IRS?" (I didn't point out that their questions was like asking how Bush could appoint an ambassador to the United Nations who had publicly stated that he would like to see the United Nations destroyed).

Somehow, it was all my fault. But when both Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer had to step down, they were somewhat appeased, and back to thinking about buses to Guantanamo, and saying that all of this shows how hypocritical, how corrupt, the Democrats all are.

How quickly they forget about Linda Chavez, Bush's first nomination for Secretary of Labor. Her nomination came under attack when evidence came to light that she had given money to an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who lived in her home. Chavez claimed that the woman was not an employee but just liked living in Chavez' house, and that she had merely provided her with emergency assistance due to domestic abuse the woman had been facing at the time. Chavez's nomination was withdrawn.

But the problems of Chavez, not to mention Richardson, Geithner, Daschle and Killefer, pale in comparison to those of Bernard Kerik. When Tom Ridge announced his decision to resign as Secretary of Homeland Security, Bush's first choice to replace him was Bernard Kerik, who served as Police Commissioner of the City of New York during the 911 attacks. Kerik's nomination first raised controversy when it was discovered that he had previously hired an undocumented worker as a nanny and housekeeper. Kerik had failed to pay taxes for the worker, who may have been an illegal immigrant to the United States. However, the nanny has never been located, leading some to believe the nanny story was an invention created to divert attention away from Kerik's other problems.

Other controversies which may have contributed to Kerik's declining the nomination included an alleged outstanding arrest warrant from 1998 stemming from unpaid bills on the maintenance of a condominium (documents regarding this warrant were faxed to the White House less than three hours before Kerik submitted his withdrawal of acceptance to the President) and questions regarding Kerik's sale of stock in Taser International shortly before the release of an Amnesty International report critical of the company's stun-gun product. Kerik has also been accused of being involved in at least two extramarital affairs. One of the affairs occurred in the aftermath of 911. Kerik allegedly used an apartment intended for police business that overlooked Ground Zero for the affair. After a week, Kerik pulled his nomination and Bush went on to nominate Michael Chertoff.

And how can anyone forget Bush's nomination of Harriet Myers for Supreme Court Justice? At least none of Obama's nominees have been laughed out of selection due to a total lack of qualification and the utter, sheer inappropriateness of their even having been considered.

There, all that threw my equilibrium pretty far off. Now it's time for some zazen to get back into balance.

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