Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Act I in the Theater of the Grand Inquisition of Socialism

"Torquemada" Pelosi Fans Flames of Class Warfare


One might expect to hear Madame Congresswoman Pelosi screaming, "Repent!  Repent your capitalism and accept socialism as your savior!"  Her dogmatic passion for the big government solutions embedded in the Paulson plan and her flaming rhetoric set up the quickening of the financial crisis through the failure of the vote yesterday.  In the rush to speed track a plan that Republicans and economists were suggesting had serious flaws, all doors of opportunity for competing ideas was shut off and opponents of the weak loan guarantee and securities purchase scheme were branded by Pelosi as "unpatriotic" heretics.

I believe the message Americans were sending to their elected representatives was as follows:

'Give us back our meritocracy.  Bailouts, rescue plans, guarantees, for which we all pay, but to which we did not all contribute, are not in the long-term interest of our economy and our nation.  The foundation of our country is the idea that each person, each entity, must evolve to succeed by experiencing the consequences of failure and the rewards of success.  Let us have our way of life back.'

I will wait and see how this epic battle between the capitalist ideas of Smith and Mill and socialism concludes.  I will pray for the preservation of a system that protects the opportunities and rights of individuals to economic choice, even if it means that we have to endure a period of hardship in the road back to equilibrium.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Massive Banking Bailout Will Be the Genesis of Big Government 3.0

Whether we call this $700 billion plan to preserve the financial system a bailout or a rescue is completely semantic. When the dust settles, we will have a plan that has the Treasury buying billions worth of risky assets with the prospect of reselling them at a profit once the market recovers and the assets regain their value.

Let's revisit that last point, because it will be at the center of what I want you to think about.

The Treasury will be buying assets and reselling them for a profit.

The fact that we, as real conservatives, are resigned to bite down and take this plan is an indication of just exactly the threat posed by the crisis. When the government enters into the financial sector as a buyer, it signals the beginning phases of socialism. In the battle between socialism and capitalism, capitalism is being painted as the flawed system and it is up to champions of the free market to make sure that it is protected from the obvious open door this change in philosophy that this represents.

If the plan is successful, the Treasury will use taxpayer dollars to buy assets low and sell them high. (Sounds a little bit like the kind of actions speculators and market shakers took to exacerbate this crisis.) We have to hope that Congress will be having the SEC remove or modify regulations governing how values of these assets are set once they are bought and sold for lower-than-market prices, or else this bailout could turn out to be a one-two punch on the banks. I mean, I'm sure they've thought of that. Right?

Even if the rescue plan manages to account for all of the booby-traps, set by regulators as though they were guarding Inca gold from Indiana Jones, it has a definite chance of succeeding. The economy will get back on its feet, and by buying assets at forty of fifty cents on the dollar, the Treasury will have a hard time not turning a profit. In the best projections, it could result in a net gain of $200 billion. (Will that be subject to capital gains tax, Senator Obama?) Jumping forward to 2011 or 2012, when the gains are realized, what does Uncle Sam want to do with its windfall? The best predictor of the future behavior is past behavior. We will see the greatest expansion of the federal government since the Johnson administration.

We can look at Social Security - another failing system - as an example of what this bailout could evolve to become.

When the Roosevelt administration devised of the Social Security program, it did not explicitly promised that it would be a fund to itself. We just remember it that way in our collective memory, polarized by so much rhetorical subterfuge. So, there were no stops to prevent politicians - always looking for a way to enlarge their own power - to see a pot of gold overflowing and ask, "Who would notice if I just took a few of these extra coins to do some good?"

Do we really think that the current government has developed restraint? When you and I spend too much the bank manager calls or the cashier tells us that our credit card has been declined. When the Congress overspends they seem to always find a way to avoid paying real consequences by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Democrats aim their cuts at Republican pet programs, Republicans call for slashing items that Democrats need for re-election.

The politicans would have us believe that the Republican taxpayer is Peter and the Democrat taxpayer is Paul. We are so mesmerized that we forget that we are all Peter and Paul and we share the same house. The Republicans and Democrats who are quick to always blame their opposition for tax increases are taking money from everyone when the day is done and nothing improves. Republicans continue finding ways to spend unneccesarily and so do Democrats, and the bill lands on our doorstep. The politicking is just a way of distracting us from the three-card Monty game.

The only way to insure against that possibility is for Congress to legislate a three-pronged set of conditions:

  1. The rescue fund must be segregated from all other federal accounts. No intermingling. No "withdrawals" when Congress gets a little hungry from the belt-tightening that is right around the corner.
  2. Profits are used to pay down national debt. This cannot be left to verbal promises and assurances. It must be part of the enacting legislation and it must be firm and impossible to circumvent. Congress must be treated as you would any compulsive; the vice must be locked away until the compulsion is dealt with.
  3. Congress must agree to scour federal programs for pork to find as much of the $700 billion for the bailout from existing revenues. Tax increases should be as small as possible. The effect of tax increases will be economic contraction and a harsher environment for the struggling American family to find work and make ends meet.

If we don't take these steps, or children will be buried in debt and dealing with a declining economy. We've heard that before, but we fail to listen. Instead of 'paying it backward' it's time to do what is right, even if doing it is hard.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Here's a Change of Pace to Settle Things Down

I read an essay posted to Crosscut.com this morning that reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago but never thought to share. It's not in any way political, but maybe it's the perfect time to take a little break from the high anxiety that is gripping many of us.


People often keep mementos of their lost relatives; gifts they were given and other things for which emotional significance far outweighs size. My father left me an entire city.

I wasn’t at the 1960 World’s Fair. I never went to watch the Pilots - Seattle’s first major league baseball team - play at Sick’s Stadium. Nor was I alive when the Beatles came to play Seattle in 1964; I wasn’t lucky enough to pick up my morning paper and see a picture of the Fab Four fishing from the window of their room at Edgewater Hotel on the Seattle Waterfront. Nevertheless, the memories of these things are vivid because I lived them through my father’s voice. He cheerfully shared all of the stories from his own childhood growing up in what was then a small city (or big town, depending on your point of view) in the furthest corner of the contiguous United States.

Everything about Seattle is attached in some way to my father—Robert Stephan Myrick. Every hill I crest points me west toward the Olympics and the mountain that claimed his life when I was 12. While he was alive, my brother and I tagged along with him to every neighborhood, like school-agers on urban safari. Our little red Toyota pickup truck carried us on our cultural tour. Ballard. Fremont. West Seattle. Shilshole. Lake Union.

Our itinerary on any given weekend was more of a courtship ritual. His enthusiasm made sure we would fall in love with the city he loved.

My dad’s love for Seattle taught me what being home was all about. Now, the city is also my only real scrapbook of my time with him. I connect with the city so that I can still, in some way, connect with him.

* * * * * *

It’s seven thirty on any weekday morning and I’m driving south, toward University Village on 25th Avenue NE when my first postcard from the past turns up on my left.

It’s just a little yellow house—the same color paint as it was twenty-odd years ago—two doors up from the Kidd Valley on the corner of NE 55th. My brother and I used to sleep on the floor of the den in that house on alternating weekends. My father, after separating from my mother, had moved in with his best high-school friend Tom. Coincidentally, Tom was divorcing from my mother’s best high-school friend.

As I drive by, sometimes I capture a piece of a memory; most often it’s like chasing a leaf on a windy day. When I do manage to snare a vignette of days past, I commit it to memory. Later, in quieter moments, I will take it out and observe it like a boy with a captured firefly in a jar. Sometimes those quieter moments pass as a trance-like state that carries me all the way from the little yellow house to the Padelford parking garage without any conscious recollection of the road between.

Walking purposefully across the Quad, I feel his swagger coursing through me. As a UW student in the late 1960s, he would have walked those same bricks every day. Architecture major, philosophy major, then art major, he was a talented underachiever with the Vietnam draft in hot pursuit. He claimed to be a Marxist-Leninist, probably more to identify himself as being different from his staunchly anti-Communist father than out of any true ideological devotion.

My father and I would have debated mercilessly and emotionally, sometimes simply for the thrill of the debate. Competing for each other’s respect, we might have spent more time alienating each other than getting along. The only consolation in spending our time in that kind of difficult relationship - had it come to pass - would have been that it was time of any kind at all.

* * * * * *

Now it’s a Saturday afternoon and I am racing to get from Bothell to my home in Lake Forest Park. My route will take me directly through the area we lived at the time of my parent’s divorce; an area I know like the back of my hand. I am driving on a road crossing a very tall hill, looking west at the next hill over, and the road ahead of me disappears. When we first moved here in 1976, people called this Nike Hill because of the Nike missile silo. The massive concrete lid to the missile chamber could be seen from the road; an eerie reminder that the Cold War was real and nuclear weapons were in the neighborhood.

Every time I reach the point where the road heads down the side of the hill, I see an image of my dad’s red Toyota truck plunging headlong down the road. The hill today - still long and steep - isn’t as steep as it once was due to re-grading in 1997. When we were young it was the kind of slope that elementary school legends were made of. It was calculated by my friends in the fourth grade that if, during the winter, a boy hopped on a sled at the top and managed to stay on all the way to the bottom, they would reach a top speed of 753 miles per hour. Exaggeration is the special gift of the young because they haven’t yet learned to put limits on things.

My father’s purpose in life was to keep us on our toes. If my mother was not present, as we approached the critical point at which we would begin to drive down the hill, he would dramatically slow the little red truck to 10 or 15 miles per hour. Once the wheels passed the threshold (the point where the top of the hill became the hill proper) he would make the same announcement.

“No brakes,” he would say calmly. It was a declaration, not an exclamation. I was very aware that the brakes worked just fine, it was just that he was not going to employ them.

Slipping the gearshift into neutral, and removing his hands from the steering wheel, we accelerated. By midpoint the speedometer read 60 miles per hour. When I looked at my brother sitting next to me on the bench seat he was always smiling and when I became aware of myself I realized I was laughing. My dad was smiling, too, and it was one of the rare times I can remember seeing him really happy. When we reached the bottom of the hill, where the road flattened out, gravity pushed us down in the seat giving a sensation as one would imagine a Nordic ski jumper feels upon landing.

Then we would get the second, and more important, announcement.

“Let’s not tell your mother about this,” he said, innocently drafting us into the battle that would wage between our parents. Inevitably, my brother or I would want to share the excitement with my mother. She would feign amusement, but the seed would always be planted for an argument between she and my father at some point later in the evening. After seeing this happen on more than a few occasions, we began to withhold a lot of the fun we were having from my mom.

* * * * * *

March seems to be my favorite month to randomly drive to the Arboretum. The sky is usually battleship grey. The trees are still clinging onto their leaves which turn over in the wind to expose their lighter underside. I can sit and watch a tree change in the wind like that for hours, all of its leaves changing from dark green to light green in unison. In those moments nature seems to be speaking with a clear voice - directly and dramatically.

I always find myself in front of one tree in particular. It’s a thirty-foot tall maple with a trunk that splits at the base. Twenty-five years ago, Linda - my father’s girlfriend at the time of his death - was standing under the canopy of leaves making adjustments to her Hasselblad large-format camera atop its tripod. She was a professional photographer, and my father had relented to her requests to take a portrait of he and his sons. His only stipulations were that it would be a) black and white and b) not in three-quarter profile. He would not tolerate anything being mundane, especially a likeness of something as individual and important as his family.

As we stood together, in the shade of the tree, Linda would periodically probe various spots on our skin and clothing with her light meter. Then she would walk back to the camera and make an adjustment. It was not in our nature to be patient, but I remember feeling patient on that day. It seemed important; more than just a snapshot.

Less than two months from that day he would be gone. The picture still sits on my bureau; I look at it every morning before leaving the house. Seeing the three of us huddled together and smiling, the picture just manages to counteract the nightmarish images that accompany thoughts of his death.

But actually standing there, under the maple tree, the reality of the moment struggles to reassemble itself and I almost experience it again. It’s as though some impression of us - our feelings of belonging in that moment - was made there. Like a powerful explosion of emotion that had occurred, and something of us had been left like radiation in the surrounding grass and trees. I don’t know what the half-life of a memory is, so I keep coming back every year to experience it while I still can.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stay tuned...

I'm preparing a complete response to the just-announced congressional bailout agreement, but don't believe the news bites. This is not a "done deal" as the reporting intends to have you believe.

McCain Makes Serendipitous Choice Heading to Join Bailout Debate

Commitment to Duty at Heart of McCain's Decision

Unintended Result Will Be "Checkmate" to Obama on Issue of Financial Crisis Recovery

Duty first has been John McCain's mantra since he made a fateful decision to refuse early release in Hanoi.  As a United States Senator, he still has a duty.  He took an oath to serve the people of Arizona, and the current financial crisis represents just the kind of situation in which no other obligations or pursuits should be placed prior.  He wants to be president, but he is a senator.  Duty first.

In contrast, Senator Obama seems content to tell his constituents that he's not needed in the effort to respond to the threat facing our country.  If he's not needed now, than when was he ever?  More importantly, if he sees fit to overlook his senatorial oath, what kind of value will he place on the oath he might take as president?

It is frustrating to listen to even certain conservative pundits and voices decry McCain's return to Washington as "weak", as encapsulated by radio host Laura Ingraham.  It shows that "beltway fever" can infect habitual observers so that even they become more concerned about the politics than what the politics are all about. 

We, Republicans, moan and complain about how President Bush has played politics in Washington and failed to fulfill the bulk of his promise of compassionate conservatism.  When a man steps forward who wants to set politics aside to do his job to help preserve the nation, elements within the party should not portray him as having misread the political landscape.  We should speak loudly about the correctness of doing instead of talking. 

Courage is doing what is right even when it will hurt you to do so.  Isn't John McCain demonstrating that he is a leader?  While Obama continues entertaining VIP donors and squawking about change as though he were some deranged panhandling parrot on a downtown street corner, McCain is working.  It's time that Americans remember that everyone has a job to do and talking isn't the same as working.

But there's a byproduct to this turn of events that the Obama camp is struggling to deal with.  With McCain back in D.C., debating the bailout package, and having made early statements opposing some of its measures, Obama has been sealed in the pickle jar. 

On its face, we would expect that Obama would be in favor of the plan proposed by the Bush Administration.  It has all of the elements of big government that comprise the stitching of the own economic parachute he has been promoting.  It actually goes farther than his proposals in the amount of unchecked authority it would give the Treasury Secretary.

If McCain debates against the Bush plan, in whole or in part, or introduces his own roadmap out of the crisis, Obama has three options:

  1. Be a follower by standing on the same side as McCain.
  2. Support the Bush proposal, which negates his mantra of change.
  3. Abstain.  The McCain campaign will respond with a talking points and email campaign highlighting - again - the frequency with which Obama has chosen not to show up to work.

It seems the McCain has cornered your king, Mr. Obama.  Rematch in 2012?

If Obama was a leader, he would lead.  Instead, he sticks his finger in the wind while McCain works to help his neighbors find shelter from the hurricane to come.  Mr. Obama, your slip is showing.   Gradually, people are beginning to see that Obama is purely narcissistic in nature; consumed by his own desires and unable to reach beyond them.

Who do we want manning the Oval Office?  A effite snob who always has something better to do when there is work to be done, or a man who cancels their dinner party and heads to the river to pack sandbags?  Most real people don't even like having to sit next to the snob at the dinner party

Getting Americans to realize that that is the choice they are making in this election - an arrogant egocentric versus an unselfish leader - should be the focus of McCain's campaign staff while the senator is doing the work he was elected to do.

Obama can just keep eating rubber chicken for all I care.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain's Smart Move of the Week

Good job Johnny!  In this time of financial crisis, Senator McCain's decision to head back to D.C. to weigh in on possible solutions and cast a vote is absolutely what he should be doing.

We still must hold our breath in the hope that McCain doesn't come down on the side of socialism, but, for now, demonstrating that real problems are more important than a political campaign sends a message to voters that he is serious about fixing things and not just talking about it.

The fact that he made this decision while Senator Obama is still puttering on the campaign trail is just a maraschino on the sundae.  If Obama rises to the challenge and heads back to Washington, we may be witness to one of the great floor debates in the history of the U.S. Congress.

Will this be a defining moment in McCain's political career?  He has an opportunity to boldly define the rhetorical differences between liberals and conservatives and in doing so give America its watershed election.

Paint the lines.  Red and blue aren't visual enough to differentiate the choice has to make.  McCain must make the debate black and white, no grey.

He must make it clear that liberals want to comfort us in times of crisis and shelter us from harm, no matter what the cost.  Conservatives view failure as a valuable experience that informs us so that we can eventually celebrate success.  Just handing the keys of industry over to the government is not a solution, unless what Americans want is a state of life that offers an illusion of security and an absence of reward.

This is a battle that capitalism lost the last time American sank into widespread panic.  The New Deal exacerbated the misery of millions at the same time that it exponentially expanded the federal government's role in our lives.  In many ways, the current crisis is a product of those same "reforms".

This election will become a referendum on the direction of the nation in a way that few have in recent history.  Capitalism versus socialism in domestic economic policy.  Appeasement versus engagement in foreign policy.  We want to see clear differences between the candidates, and in that way this crisis could not have come at a better time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are Biden's Gaffes a Serious Issue or Just Petty Mistakes?

The University of Delaware should immediately be petitioned to invalidate any and all credits Senator Biden may have earned in courses dealing with United States history or economics.  They can offer a series of night courses as a way for the senator to hold on to his degrees.

Biden's latest gaffe comes during an interview with Couric, conducted aboard the campaign bus.  In an attempt to challenge the economic experience of the McCain/Palin ticket and capitalize on American's fears about economic recession/depression he had the following comments (full video clip below):

"Part of what a leader does is to instill confidence and to demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about and communicate to the people, 'If you listen to me and follow what I'm suggesting we can fix this.' 

When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed.  He said, "Look, here's what happened."'

Factless Gaffe #1 - The stock market crash occurred in 1929.  Americans did not have televisions in 1929.  Perhaps Biden has knowledge that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was secretly experimenting in his own basement with the invention of television broadcasting.  Even if the absurd were true, no one would have been watching.

Factless Gaffe #2 - FDR was the governor of New York in 1929 - not president - and was not in a position to address the nation as its leader.  It's true that FDR was described by those close to him as being arrogant, but assuming the role of national cheerleader was beyond the reach of even his ego.

After Biden had fallen from his horse to land in a pile of steaming historical inaccuracy, Couric appeared unaware that anything he had said was worthy of further questioning.  I don't remember Couric being that polite when interviewing Republicans.

The big question is whether Biden's gaffe (and the dozens of others in the past and to follow) matters or is it just opportunistic nitpicking to jump on Biden's mistake?  I don't want to be accused of making commentary that only rises to the level of splitting hairs.

Aside from the sublime irony of a stocking a sanctimonious lecture on being knowledgeable with factual errors, I guess it's just a question of how much arrogance and thick-headedness voters are willing to tolerate in their leaders.  I suggest that it matters a great deal.

Understanding history can give us a powerful tool by showing us the outcomes of human decisions taken within a specific environment and framed by specific events.  In our personal lives, we apply some version of historical hindsight every day.  It gives us a template from which to make good choices, but only if we are making choices based on all of the facts.

If facts aren't important to how Biden takes his lessons from history then we can assume that he will fail to be educated by the past.  How can we put faith in politicians who are comfortable making choices for the country based on half of the facts?

We can't expect our leaders to be perfect, but we must expect them to avail themselves of some basic facts to inform their decisions.  Or, let's not even leave it up to them.  The voters can just get our facts straight and not elect those who do not.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Attack on Capitalism is Renewed

Capitalism is a force of nature, or at least that is what we are led to believe.  The economy - from the point of view of the individual - seems to be an almost mythological thing, controlled by fate, destiny or some such superhuman element.  It is only natural that when economic skies darken and the lightning begins to strike locations local and familiar to us - banks, mortgage lenders and huge corporations like GM - a primitive impulse grabs hold. 

In ancient times, gods on mountaintops protected us when we placed the right riches and foodstuffs at the feet of their idols.  We have always sought refuge from destruction by offering tribute to higher authorities but the immortals were slain long ago in favor of mortal voices of leadership.  Modern government does not have a taste for ambrosia or roast lamb; its only appetite is for power, and when we feel afraid that is what we offer.

Democrats and Republicans alike rush to the temple to console the average American who hears the din of chaos in the financial markets and wants someone to silence the clamor.  But the intense action in Congress reminds me of my 5 year-old son playing his miniature piano.  His hands fly across the keys, the musician's sneer overtakes his face, but for all of the movement and theatrics there is nothing that you could call music.

The hands of Congress are molesting an instrument they have no understanding of but they bang away like virtuosos.  If it only made bad music we could just sit back and call it vaudeville. 

The cacophony emanating from the Capitol will result in a radical shift in the American economy, an engine that drives the world's markets, but more importantly they will usher in a shift in American values.

This is not to say that the government does not have a role in weathering the crisis.  Because of grossly unethical and irresponsible behavior by financial gatekeepers and fudiciaries, government intervention is required in order to prevent collapse. But the federal government must walk the line of underwriting the nation's economy while not nullifying the basic economic laws that balance every economic organism, from the largest of companies to the individual worker. 

The economic body of the nation maintains its health by finding its way through transition just like the human body attacks sickness.  To attempt to avert either process is to extend suffering.    

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joe Biden's Words Echo Big Government Sentiments of FDR

Maybe Senator Joe Biden didn't actually quote word for word from another politician this time, but his tactic of shaming Americans for not wanting to pay more is as old as the New Deal politics he and Senator Obama will inflict on the nation if they are successful in their bid for the White House.

In a speech given to the American Retail Federation on May 22, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt voiced the following sentiments:

"The second condition is that in the repeal of this tax we shall not return to the old tax evasion loophole by which a very small group of people with incomes in the very high brackets were able, until two years ago, to leave their profits in closely held corporations, thus avoiding the full rates of the higher brackets on their personal incomes. It seems to me that patriotic people everywhere will not want to go back to that old pernicious habit." Source in link

Compare that to Biden's quote from his interview on ABC's Good Morning America program of September 18, 2008, speaking to the wealthier Americans.

"It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."

It seems as though the only that has changed in 70 years with the Democratic Party is the ability to condense FDR's desire to put the government's hand in everyone's wallet into a snappy sound bite.

The Seeds Have Been Planted for Post-Election Democrat Claims of Election Fraud

It appears that the public relations team lurking behind the Obama campaign has seized upon a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report which identifies a series of problems with voting machines and voter roll maintenance programs not addressed since the last national election in 2004.  The angle of the CNN.com story (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/18/voting.problems/index.html) is that these problems exist in the same key swing states that have recently been trending in McCain's direction - Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Will the outcome of this election be immediately challenged if McCain is victorious?  The odds on it are probably better than the odds of your stock portfolio seeing any capital gains this quarter.

The Democrats have proven to be masters of the art of molding public opinion through the use of push polls and feeding stories to the media.  This is no exception.

The Dems are playing with nitroglycerin.  They have cried, "Stolen Election!" in the past four contests, fueling alienation and anger in a large group of voters.  Added to the mix this year, is their other pet project, "The Race Card", and I fear that the combination will create an explosive reaction on November 5th if McCain has won the election in constitutional terms.

The two-pronged strategy of undermining fundamental election laws and priming public opinion to see a McCain victory is tainted may produce results in this election that are not as easy to contain as in the Kerry/Edwards loss of 2004.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/18/voting.problems/index.html

Monday, September 15, 2008

The People Ignore Celebrity Politico-Babble; Why Can't the Media?

Old Dogs Don't Learn New Tricks Until the Old Bone Stops Tasting Good

Memo to {Insert Name of Hollywood Left-Wing Notable Here}:

The brain is a tool for sorting through rational arguments. 

Your brain, specifically, ceases to function properly when the paparazzi show up.

Any questions?

The Hollywood left is not political and I am not writing that with sarcasm.  Politics is the process through which power is shared and celebrities do not like sharing.  Celebrities like Pam Anderson, Oprah, Susan Sarandon or so many like-minded glitterati have only one common motivator - they don't like being upstaged.

Like moths to the porch light, whenever cameras take aim, it is impulse that propels their insertion into the spotlight.  Bonded by lack of secondary talents to a career in entertainment, the urge to take center stage is very likely beyond their control.  A sixth sense alerts the common celebrity that attention is being paid to someone other than them and the body and mouth take over.  The brain, often, gets left behind in the shuffle.

During the campaign, whether it has been Senator Obama or Governor Palin soaking up camera time, the stars have "leaned in" whenever and wherever possible.

When everything in your world tells you that "you" are the center of it, and that must be compounded on a daily basis by how little effect the average celebrity has on the world around them. 

In cosmic terms, the American celebrity is like a massive black hole, an object of such density that it consumes energy and matter but throws nothing back out to the universe that feeds it.

But when celebrity commentary intersects with politics, we have the equivalent of a having a belly dancer perform at a one year-old's birthday party.  A lot of movement that distracts from the real purpose and which leaves you a little nauseous.

As mimicry is the first resort of children when they want attention, it is only natural that the celebs will begin to babble about politics when Americans start diverting their interest in that direction.  Right now that big bad Sarah Palin is getting everyone's attention and it's just not fair. 

It's just not fair because in contrast to Obama, Palin isn't willing to pander to their liberal agenda and doesn't get stars in her eyes just thinking about rubbing elbows with the chosen few.  She has, in effect, said to Hollywood, "And I should know who you are because...?"

(We all that Senator Obama is omnipotent therefore is already aware that without popularity the celebs would be spending as much time talking up his policies as they will spend talking up the next Tom Selleck project.)

The celebs are like the friend we all had in college who had an uncanny ability to show up just after the pizza arrived and just before the hat was passed around to pay for it.

By not selling out to Babylon, Palin and McCain send the message that they will not ignore the hypocrisies of the Hollywood liberal elite.  They have achieved complete understanding that box office numbers to not translate into votes at the ballot box even if Hollywood has not. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Will the Next President Inherit a New Cold War?

Presidential Candidates Must Be Quizzed on How They Would Handle an Expansionist Russia

America is now fully engulfed in election fever.  Republicans are energized by their ticket, Democrats have tasted blood in their own mouths and are responding to the ring of the bell.

The horse race, however, is obscuring from our view important events that will inform voters on Election Day.  Those who declare that a President McCain would merely execute the Bush foreign policy ignore one obvious and important reality - President Bush has not had to develop a comprehensive foreign policy doctrine to address a post-Soviet expansionist Russia.

Grappling with the enigma of Russia's new foreign policy will be the number one challenge of our next president.  It intersects with all other concerns.  Without safety and security, economic concerns and other social issues become secondary.  There is a reason that Thomas Jefferson ordered his causes as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". There is no duty higher than meeting the potential threat of a waking Russian bear. 

At its most benign, Russia intends only to achieve some measure of energy security with its new policy and it has no interest in engaging in a full-scale Cold War.  The malignant and more probable reality is that the old Soviet heart of Russia's power elite sings again with the dream of expansion.  Emboldened by America's low standing in the halls of power around the world, it is likely that they have foreseen a window of opportunity that must be seized.

Russia's actions - in the recent days, weeks and months - are not isolated, and should be seen as part of a broader strategy.  They can also not be excused any longer as appeasement of hard-liners, as some have suggested in the past.  It also makes very little sense to read Russian actions as a temporary challenge to the United States' response to Russia's invasion of Georgia, namely sending our warships into the Black Sea.

The Venezuelan-Russian alliance could also be seen as advantageous for a Russia that has its mind set on influencing the world's energy resource supply and delivery.  But with Venezuela being a staunch enemy to the United States, Russia has no fear in "losing" any battle for oil rights or access to supply to America.

By deduction, we know there is more at work within the Russian strategy.  

In interpersonal terms, the relationship between Venezuela and Russia has just gone from holding hands to sleeping over.  If Russia was only leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom cabinet we could rest at night.  Tu-160 Blackjack long-range strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear payloads, landed in Venezuela yesterday, with an official explanation that they will be conducting training flights.  That's a toothbrush with operational range capable of delivering a first-strike nuclear payload Washington, D.C.

The Tu-160s arrived two days after joint Venezuelan-Russian naval exercises were announced for later this year - to be held in the Caribbean - and the same day that Venezuelan strongman President Hugo Chavez issued a 72-hour order to the United States ambassador to leave the country.

Despite official statements to the contrary, undoubtedly it has already occurred to officials at the State Department and the Department of Defense that Russia may be establishing its right to conduct military training exercises in our hemisphere for the purpose of establishing a more permanent military presence over time. 

In the past, it has only been the ability of the United States to project its power that has given us leverage in moments of diplomatic crisis.  What effect would a similar Russian ability have on international relations?  It would be foolish to assume that Russia has no such intentions of following the model the United States has already demonstrated to be a pattern for power expansion.

Understated comment of the week: It would be destabilizing.

Even if the Russians do not establish a more permanent military presence in South America, it has been clear over the preceding year that they are very comfortable in taking openly hostile statements in opposition to United States policy.  The knee-jerk response to our designs to build a missile defense system in Europe should have reminded policymakers that Russia is still very aware that its nuclear arsenal gives it power. 

Even a rusting giant can earn superpower respect at the negotiating table when their words are backed by atomic weapons.  The only piece that has been missing from Russia's application of its yet-to-be-determined foreign policy doctrine, was that the world had assumed that Russia was more concerned with economic growth than power expansion.  By invading Georgia, the threat that Russia is capable of using force to achieve its goals was given credibility.

We can leave the intricate machine of policy implementation and formation up to experts who have far more information than those of us without a daily briefing could ever gather.  We cannot, though, put off the hitting the presidential candidates on the "what ifs". Answers to these hard questions are not optional, and journalists should not accept less than directness or shy away from explaining to their readers, viewers and listeners why these topics are important.  The stakes are too high to move forward in blissful ignorance.

This is cross-posted at Dancing With Bears (http://dancing-with-bears.blogspot.com). 

Introducing My New Blog, "Dancing with Bears"

I am one of those political writers you know who have to remind themselves that it is all right for the president to deal with smaller issues than national security and foreign policy.  That is not only because foreign affairs have such a profound impact on domestic affairs - which they do - but this area of the president's responsibilities is the only one in which their performance can be measured along a continuum that has peace at one end and war at another.  That is why I am starting a new blog at http://dancing-with-bears.blogspot.com/ called "Dancing with Bears", a reference to the bears used to represent the two nations pursuing notions of achieving superpower status - China and Russia - and our relations with those countries.

Over the past two decades, the world has been transformed by a retreat of global communism and an ascent of global capitalism.  Bipolar theory was tossed out (not that it ever truly applied with the fundamental difference that always existed between Communist China and the former Soviet Union) and replaced with a very messy world.  On a macroscopic level, each nation existed in a state of nature where raw power - economic or military - largely determined behavior and outcomes.

In recent years, with China's economic rise and Russia's apparent embracing of expansionist policies, the rules have begun to shift once more.

This new blog is written for the purpose of discussing events that are shaping international relations, specifically in terms of regional and global power blocs.  Although it will contain a great deal of opinion and analysis, I will keep it readable for the non-wonks out there.  These issues are important to everyone, because what is happening out there has a very real effect on all of our lives, even when war isn't breaking out.  Therefore, I want the postings to be able

Go the blog over the next few weeks and read the material.  I will be cross-posting here occasionally, but only when I think the material will be of interest to readers of this blog.

Thanks for reading!  Keep coming back!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Euro-trash Talk" at MTV VMAs is Most Recent Example of Obama's Failure to Lead

Can Palin-Mania Become a Negative for McCain?

For years, my household has forgone subscribing to cable and satellite television.  Although we have televisions in our home for watching DVDs and playing games, we will not subscribe to cable or satellite service.  Even our rabbit ears stay in the storage closet.  Sometimes--such as when we were forced to watch the Palin and McCain speeches on CNN.com streaming video--the temptation arises to cave in and let the wave of confused values wash over our little family. 

Then comes a moment such as the rant of a self-appointed "representative of the global community", British heroin, sex, alcohol and attention addict, Russell Brand, this year's host of MTV's Video Music Awards.  While he may have been chosen to make Britney Spears, in her re-debut, seem cultured and stable, I believe he was sent to give me strength and reaffirm the decision to keep the mainstream video media out of my family's home.

Brand's grand pique (or was it really a grand mal?) was to suggest that opposition to an Obama presidency is motivated by racism. 

We can't really blame Brand for not recognizing the arrogance and hypocrisy of coming to America and insinuating that not voting for Obama is tantamount to racism.  His drug-addled mind should not be held to the same standards of lucidity as the rest of us.

Let's ignore, of course, the fact that the alleged enlightened nations of Northern and Western Europe (that includes the blessed United Kingdom, Mr. Brand), have yet to elect anyone of color to their highest office or even anyone who wouldn't require SPF 2000 to sustain a moment in the sun.  I'll ignore this glaring oversight because none of us need be worried about Mr. Brand being instrumental in sending any voters to the polls who might vote for Obama. 

Everyone is aware of the inverse rule of political action when it comes to the 18-25 crowd.  The louder and meaner the mockery becomes, the greater the probability of that person hitting the snooze button on November 4th instead of rising early to get to the polls.

Forget about the Hurricane Sarah bump in the polls, or the convention bump, I will be looking for a "Brand bump" in recoil from the lunacy of Brand's rambling endorsement of Obama and childish attacks on Governor Sarah Palin.  Nothing mobilizes a parent like the reality of a Pied Piper is lusting after their child's soul.  When a candidate like Obama does not adequately distance himself from voices such as Brand he fails to lead but he also passively endorses the ideas Brand spews forth. 

Americans have always been the world's last and best guardians of common sense.  Surely, on the fringes--where Brand bounces and jangles like a court jester--the lunacy will always seem reasonable.  But at the end of the day, when Hollywood and the left play the fool it reminds the greater population their values and mobilizes them to react against things that threaten those values.

Where are the "new politics" Obama has promised?  Brand's comments are just part of the crescendo in a flurry of attacks against Sarah Palin, her family, people who identify with Sarah Palin, or people who believe that simply being black isn't a reason to give a candidate their vote.

Obama might earn some respect from the electorate if he at least attempted to lead the younger generation (and the older generations, for that matter) into a more evolved notion of the responsibilities of citizenship.  Perhaps he will become our president, but he will never be a leader until he learns how to step into the breach and promote the values of common sense that have made America great.

Thus far he has been a spectator in the great circus of chaos that has been the Democratic Party since the post-Carter schism, and this Brand spectacle is just one example.  Another was Code Pink's disruption of McCain's acceptance speech (not that it hurt the ratings), and we again saw that Obama has no control over his own followers.  When he requests civility, Code Pink ignores him.  When he sends the clear message that he will not tolerate personal attacks on Palin or her family, his campaign and associated mouthpieces push forward and conduct a campaign of smearing her and her family.  How can Obama unite a country that is divided by harsh rhetoric when he can not even convince the far fringes of his party to act their age and play nice?

(There is also some reason to believe that his campaign has actively begun a media push to accentuate Obama's clean family image as a contrast to the perception being created in the media that Palin's family is not perfect.  The Obama campaign almost certainly had input on the glowing portrayal of the clean, happy Obama family on OK Magazine's cover that sits directly beside the notorious US Weekly Palin hit piece at most grocery checkouts.)

Voters do not need to wait for Obama to show leadership.  He has had ample opportunity since the beginning of this, the longest election period in American history.  We only need to look at the lack of respect he receives from those who support his candidacy.  The "Recreate '68" and MoveOn.org crowd has a greater hold over the liberal mind than their candidate for president.  Alas, we all hoped that age would mature the activist fervor that plagues the Democratic Party so that our nation could get around to solving some of the major issues we face.


Collapse of the North TowerIt really did happen.  Nineteen evil men, acting upon the orders of dozens of organizers, who in turn reflected the sentiments of millions of radical fundamentalist Muslims, set about seven years ago to take the lives of as many innocent Americans as possible and succeeded.

  2,974 Americans dead.  24 still missing and presumed dead.

  The nation survived in the following days by correctly recognizing that we were living in a state of war, even if it had not been declared upon us.  The wave of radical Islamic violence directed at U.S. targets around the world leading up to the 9/11 attack was not a chance series of events.  We were correct to identify the threat but the resolve to act has been weakened by a softer element in our society.

The Pentagon damaged by fire and partially collapsed.  For all the comfort and trappings of our civilized society, we still exist - in global terms - in a state of nature because the terms of resolving conflict can only be set by mutual consent.  When our enemy establishes violence as their medium of political communication and the currency of their power, it is not our choice to opt against meeting them with violence.  To choose non-violence is to choose death.

The crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA  We must remember that the choice was made for us on September 11th, 2001.  I didn't know anyone who died in the attacks.  Most of us didn't.  But those people who died unprepared, in a state of fear and terror, were someone's friend or family.  We can only imagine the sharpest sliver of pain that must have been felt when the bonds were broken in such a painful, sudden and senseless way. 

  Hold on to that moment, when the pain of those thousands becomes conceivable to those of us who didn't experience it personally.  It is what gives this war against terror purpose and gives us the will to proceed when the cause is difficult and forces seeks to dissuade us from the path that is just.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Have the Mainstream Press Forgotten About Biden's Golden Oldies of Oral Offense?

I don't really like "re-post" blogging, but the article that was done by the L.A. Times in February of last year, when Joe Biden was just a maybe in the presidential race, deserves to be spun around one more time.  Biden has always been a well-spring of quasi-racist comments, but I noticed that the same paper didn't dig up their own story when he received the vice presidential spot on the ticket.

I have yet to see how a Good Ol' Boy Democrat as VP and a tax and spend liberal as President are supposed to represent change.

Joe Biden's just a barrel of gaffes - Los Angeles Times

Friday, September 5, 2008

McCain's Speech Not Greek Oratory, But We're Not Greeks

If, this morning, we pay attention to much of the mainstream media, McCain's speech was a bust.

  • Roland Martin, CNN analyst, said last night that the speech was not constructed well in comparison to Governor Sarah Palin's three-act masterpiece and Senator Obama's acceptance speech.
  • Andrea Martin, speaking on MSNBC this morning, said, "They got through it."
  • Slate.com's Mickey Kaus (who actually gave a poor rating to Senator Obama's acceptance speech a week earlier) wrote a mile-long technical and style critique of McCain's address.

But I think TVWeek--publishing overnight ratings comparing Senator McCain's speech to Senator Obama's--may be far more telling in terms of gauging momentum and interest among the electorate.

Obama's speech grabbed a 4.3 rating/7 share, while McCain gathered together a 4.8 rating/7 share. For those who aren't media savvy, that means that of all television households in the nation, 4.3% were tuned in to Obama's speech and 4.8% were tuned in to listen to McCain's.

Additionally, TVWeek reports that Nielsen overnight ratings showed that once the network shifted to the speech after the conclusion of the Redskins-Giants game, the speech earned a 6.3 rating/10 share.

The 2% difference between Obama's 4.3% and the 6.3% through NBC translates to more than 2,000,000 viewing households. No wonder the attacks and rhetoric are being ratcheted up by the Obama camp and the Dem gang behind them.

This for a speech that the pundits are telling us was boring and lacked substance.

Maybe, just maybe, Americans tend to value character above grand oratory. After all, don't most of us instinctively equate a well-spoken politician with someone who is a skilled manipulator? Perhaps the American people have enough common sense to listen instead of watch. George Washington was barely audible when speaking to even a small group. Harry Truman was regarded as a terrible public speaker, by even those who regard him as one of our great presidents. Even John Kennedy, who we now listen to and marvel at his skill in reading a speech, was tethered to a thick, New England accent that much of he country was predisposed to dislike.

Americans are smarter than the media give them credit for, and they don't always care about the same things that the media thinks they should care about.

When McCain describes how his worldview was transformed during his capture, Americans are able to interpret that he is telling us exactly how he views the president's duty as being greater than one person's individual agenda.

When McCain explains that he "hates war", Americans are capable of realizing that he is telling us exactly how he will make decisions about the use of force in resolving foreign policy objectives.

When McCain tells us that he sees himself as a servant of the people, Americans instinctively understand that he means that he wants to lead the whole country, not just those who follow him.

When McCain says that he wants to overhaul the nation's unemployment system because it is outmoded and incapable of dealing with the challenges of a global economy, Americans do not sit and ponder what that means for them. When he expands on that proposal, stating that he wishes to use the community college system for retraining, and provide income gap coverage so that those in training can still work part-time to support their families, even the average American knows that McCain has his finger on the pulse of a dilemma that people face when hit by having their old-economy jobs eliminated.

Before I sat down to watch the speech last night, I felt that what McCain said was far more important than how he said it. What he said to me (and undecided voters will continue to process his speech over the following days and weeks) is that he knows where change need to occur and what steps he wants to take to affect real change. He informed us of his character and resolve as a way of assuring us that he will not waver from his pursuit of the country's best interest.

No, the speech would not grade well against Obama's if they were standing in a Public Speaking 101 classroom. It was heavy on pathos and ethos, light on logos, and at times clumsy in its delivery. But it was completely devoid of stagecraft, pretense, or disingenuousness. In the final analysis, I think that kind of straight talk--as opposed to smooth talk--is what America both wants and needs.

GOP Values Demand Greater Response to Charges of "Lying"

Public Support for Senator Lieberman May Be Key to Winning Independent and Jewish Vote

My maternal grandmother taught me that to level the charge against someone of being a liar was the gravest of allegations, an attack against someone's character, integrity and that of their family.

Obama's operatives and the ruling elite of the DNC obviously didn't have the benefit of a moral grandmother.

Obama's key campaign people--led of late by David Axelrod--have been kicking and squirming about "lying" in one way or another since the beginning of the campaign, a useful slander that comes out whenever the opposition's comments about their candidate's statements or policies hit a little too close to the mark.

The tactic smacks of a style of politics that has never been well received by American voters. Self-righteousness is a turn-off for people who believe themselves to be beholden to something larger. That's a demographic that I don't think the Dems want to have stay home in November.

When it comes down to it, all any of have to offer is our word. Far ahead of our skills, or any amount of superficial charm, our integrity is the currency that binds all of our relationships, personal and economic. Calling someone a liar should never be done frivolously, or as a way to distract from some amount truth in what another person is saying.

It is time for the GOP and its members to put our mouths where our values are. While the party fights back against the scurrilous charge of lying the shell-shocked Obama campaign has leveled at the Day 2 Truth Squad, it is vital to stand publicly and vocally in unbroken support for Senator Joe Lieberman.

The GOP is a big tent party, as President Reagan proved, and by his actions Lieberman has shown that he is a courageous and principled man whose first priority is doing what is right, not what will make him the poster-child for the special interest group that the Democrat party has become. He has those basic values in common and it is time the we give him full faith and credit as an honorary party member.

Clearly, the Democrats and Obama have every reason to want to punish Lieberman. After all, he is voicing truths that they would rather remain undiscussed, but to call these things lies? That isn't just nipping at the toes of slander, it's biting it off at the knee.

Lieberman suggested that Obama, during his time in the U.S. Senate, did not work with Republicans, as the great Obama has tried to have us believe. Really, when one takes a moment to think about it, it does really seem silly to believe that someone could actually have worked with Republicans in Congress when he voted in lock-step with his party 95% of the time.

(Note to Senator Obama: Waving and saying "hi" to your Republican colleagues in the airport, on your way back home for campaign fund-raisers, does not equal working together.)

What the American people need is true leadership; leading begins with character. The GOP must show it is fair, benevolent and that we value our friends. Write letters to your community or city newspaper. Send an email of support to Lieberman, and communicate your disgust to your elected public officials. But most importantly, remember that integrity and character matter when you go to the polls in November.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

CNN.com's Tradition of Unbiased Journalism Continues

Well, well, well. Had I blogged earlier when my intuition told me that the mainstream media couldn't help but play tricks with the first real act of the RNC, in what will probably end up being our third "down-to-the-wire" election in a row. I could have been heralded as a prophet. It was only a matter of time before CNN.com pulled one of its tricks. Just as prime-time rolls in, the RNC, Sarah Palin, and John McCain come down off the front page to be replaced by news of a hurricane that is almost a week away from the US coastline. When I was surfing last week during the DNC, it was wall-to-wall Obama/Biden, even when Gustav was becoming a news story.

My journalism teachers always taught me that relevance and timeliness were two of the primary factors governing placement of a a story. I guess they were wrong.


Sarah Palin's Proud Vice Presidential Heritage

We now have a major drama unfolding around John McCain's choice for VP. A governor having only just assumed the reins of their office, only having been previously elected to smattering of lesser offices, has now been nominated for the second highest office in the nation. It is easy to forget that this has happened before.

Here is the resume of one of our former vice presidents:

- Age 23: Elected to state legislature. Served 5 years.

- Age 31: After a short break from public life, he accepts a commission posting on a presidential commission where he serves for 4 years.

- Age 35: Becomes president of his city's board of police commissioners. Serves 2 years in this position.

- Age 37: Accepts a role as assistant secretary of a federal agency. Serves only 2 years when war breaks out and he elects to serve.

- Age 40: Runs for and wins state governor's race.

- Age 42: After only 2 years serving as the governor of his state, he is chosen as his party's vice presidential nominee.

After serving for only two years as a state governor, this man was chosen by his party as its vice presidential nominee.

Only two years holding a top-level office, combined with a smattering of other short stints in lower level positions, and this man was being placed a heartbeat away from the presidency! What were our predecessors thinking?

Of course it sounds familiar, but who is this mysterious person? You're probably thinking that you shouldn't feel stupid for not knowing. After all, with such a weak resume, they could have only been a footnote to history; a bystander in the White House.

The career I outlined is that of Teddy Roosevelt.

Yes, that Teddy Roosevelt. The one who would assume the presidency after President McKinley's assassination and go on to have his face carved into a South Dakota mountainside.

Roosevelt's choice as vice president is not judge to have been smart because he was the right choice "on paper". It was the right choice because of of the strength of his character. Experience matters less than how a person will make choices and from an early age, throughout his public life, Roosevelt demonstrated in word and deed that he was a man of action who would challenge and seek to demolish the forces that threatened to weaken our nation.

It is not right to say that Sarah Palin, should we be fortunate enough to call her Vice President after the election, would achieve the same kind of historical greatness that did Roosevelt. But she has the same mettle and instinct to wade into the fray and stand up to power when power is wrong. That is the kind of strength it will take to change America and remind ourselves how great this country truly is.