Saturday, November 29, 2008

Obama’s Promise of Renewing American Diplomacy With Europe: D.O.A.

[This essay was subsequently published as's Weekend Essay on November 29, 2008 under the headline "Obama and Europe: How long a love-fest?" with some minor editing and revision.]

image The bells of all Europe’s cathedrals seemed to ring in unison as the polls closed on Election Night in America earlier this month. In his rhetoric on the domestic campaign trail, President-elect Obama asked Americans to respect the judgment of Europeans that Bush’s foreign policy had been an abject disaster, not a leap of faith in that most American voters opinions coincided with those across the pond.

So, too, on his controversial summer world tour, Obama acknowledged to a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin that the prevailing attitude in Europe was that America was “part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right”, validating their animosity toward American values without stipulation.

Therefore, it was no surprise that, as results of the American election began appearing on televisions across the European continent, celebration was spontaneous and jubilant.

In Leicester, England, in the days following Obama’s victory over Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Kwame Boyce-Deacon, a fourteen year-old black Briton went to his barber to have the image of Obama shaved into the hair on the back of his head. His reason and purpose were clear. “Obama is the first black President of America and I'm the first black model of Obama in Leicester – which is special for me,” Boyce-Deacon said.

The euphoric reaction to the idea of America’s first black president was not confined to capricious Brit teens.

Lady Scotland, Britain’s attorney general, said, “This wonderful election demonstrates that the dream of Martin Luther King that there would come a time when people would be judged not by the colour of their skin but the quality of their character has arrived.”

In sync with the waves of political and social ecstasy, Rama Yade, France’s junior minister for human rights, said, “This is the fall of the Berlin Wall times ten. America is re-becoming a New World. … On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes.”

The election represented more than just a repudiation of the Bush Doctrine and validation of European desires to have America resume a partnership role in world affairs, rather than one of leadership. For many Europeans it was a symbol that barriers to minorities were falling further, and for the president-elect, his status as an icon in Europe must have encouraged him to feel that his goals of working with Europe to achieve his foreign policy objectives were attainable. The unfortunate irony is that the rallying of Europe’s citizens around a symbol of ethnic minority achievement will be the precise undoing of Obama’s European agenda.

At first consideration, the idea that at a time when Europe’s citizenry - for the first time since 9/11 - are claiming solidarity with Americans, Obama might have any difficulty repairing alliances seems ill-conceived. After all, with Obama’s election to the American presidency, Europe has forgiven us for our sins and given us an opportunity for redemption.

What a relief. Now I can visit Auschwitz and not feel ashamed of my country.

There is hypocrisy, however, in Europe’s treatment of America, evident in their over-loud feedback to our politics. European condescension of their little American cousins has a history equal in bulk to that of America’s rescuing their lard from so many wars rooted in squabbling over what crown head of Europe would dominate the people of [insert name of darker-skinned and resource-rich region here].

Underscoring this typical European blind arrogance, an unnamed Frenchman was quoted on Election Night as saying, “Finally, a victory over racism in the whole world.”

The entire world? Are we to conclude that America’s election of a black man eradicated racism the world over? Surely, Europeans do not have to look all the way to America for an example of diversity in the highest of government offices. Can they not refer to the history of German chancellors, French presidents and British prime ministers to find minority role models? No? Let us expand our query to include Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland the Benelux nations. Still none? Scandinavia? Greece? The Balkans?

USA: 1 – Europe: 0.

Although Europe’s leaders and heads of state most certainly did lean down from their perches of moral superiority to pat the United States on the head and tousle our hair a bit, statements on Obama’s election ranged from guarded to non-substantive.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called Obama’s election a “historic victory”. French President Nicholas Sarkozy proclaimed that his presidency “raised enormous hope in France, Europe and beyond.” Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev’s comments post-election did not even mention President-elect Obama by name. No commendations from Europe’s top tiers of power for the defeat of racism, just restrained and generic statements of support, typical of those made during any presidential power transition.

With Obama’s approval ratings in Europe riding higher than those of the continental heads of government, why would these leaders choose to ignore an opportunity to jump on coattails and hail America’s black champion? To answer that question requires understanding the European climate concerning ethnicity and race. As stated by Trevor Philips, a black politician in the United Kingdom who now heads the British Equality and Human Rights Commission:

“It would be very difficult for somebody like Barack Obama to find their way through the way we do things. I don’t think that the public of this country would be at all resistant to electing a black Prime Minister … My point is that it is very difficult for people who don’t fit a certain mould – to do with gender, to do with race and to do with class – to find their way into the upper reaches of politics.”

A Labour party representative to the British Parliament, Sadiq Khan, addresses the political conditions in a way that shines more light on the quickening that worries Europe’s establishment.

"In Britain you can't make a brilliant speech and get noticed in the way Barack Obama did. You have to rise up through the ranks in parliament. Our history is different. Mass migration - slavery - took place to America 400 years ago. Condoleezza Rice is the fourth generation of her family to go to university. Our mass migration has only happened over the last 40 to 50 years. But our recent progress has been far steeper than in the US - we have been much quicker."

The fluorescent pink, green and yellow-striped elephant – bound, gagged and stuffed in the water closet during the Europe’s mid-November Obamafest – has been Europe’s own problems with immigrant populations and a lack of cultural integration. America has shattered the illusion that it could not elect a minority person to our highest executive office. The spotlight now shines on Europe, and that kind of light cascading through its mirrored halls of power must be blinding to the elite establishment that wants to preserve their own history and traditions while maintaining social harmony.

Despite trivial and anecdotal statistics of interracial and same-gender couples walking down the streets of Paris or Amsterdam without causing a stir, most large European cities have developed ghetto districts of immigrant populations – many from North Africa the Middle East and Central Asia; many culturally Arab, Berber and/or Muslim. These communities are typically isolated and dominated by poverty, consume a disproportionate amount of public resources and often choose not to assimilate into their host country’s culture. In many such places – as cited by Bruce Bawer in his controversial book "While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within", governments grapple with Muslim populations that openly defy Western democracy and the rule of non-Sharia law.

Therefore, when considering its European strategy, the Obama administration must consider the following question: Will the European establishment allow Obama to lead the world when to do so would create an upsurge of potential energy within ethnic communities to fight for proportional representation in government, energy that could quickly become active and transform Europe in ways that the establishment is unprepared to handle?

There is every reason to believe that Europe will eventually overcome its institutional biases concerning race, ethnicity and culture. It is, however, not a change that can be forced and societies have sometimes alarming reactions to change that moves too fast.

The widespread popularity of Obama among the European people – combined with the plug-and-play compatibility of his self-assessed “mutt” heritage – could become a fuel source for minority movements, some of which will openly challenge the legitimacy of the status quo. Obama is already a poster-child for minority movements. With his crowning by some as a world leader, it may simply not be in the interest of Europe’s power elite to grant him greater status by allowing him to stand as a leader on the international stage. From a Machiavellian perspective they would be alienating themselves from their own bases of power, thus making re-election less likely. Even if their motives are less self-preserving and more concerned with the continuation of their forms of government, an ascendant Obama could be used as a symbolic leader of a broad range of anti-establishment movements.

It would seem then, that Europe will have no choice but to allow the waltz of diplomacy to be conducted while finding ways to bar Obama from taking the lead or the spotlight. President Obama will be forced to operate within the same box as President Bush, pursuing America’s interests without the support of European leaders. Obama knows that he must resist the temptation to gain the approval of the Old World Order to appear strong at home. Doing so will mean favoring policies that promote American interests and alienate our allies in Europe and those allies, because of their own domestic concerns, will be more than glad to conduct relations with a style that tips toward adversarial.

If an adversarial dialogue is inevitable, Obama will have little choice but to adopt a more unilateral approach to foreign policy. To pursue any other course would find his 2012 re-election campaign rummaging the drawers for fancy clothes to dress up a set of mediocre achievements.

The results of Europe not letting Obama 'in the room' could be real and disastrous.  NATO expansion, Russian aggression and Middle Eastern tensions will all force us to work in some way with Europe to bridge gaps and broker agreements.  The emphasis of Obama's foreign policy team should be to formulate strategies that coerce or triangulate Europe, but which do not require voluntary agreement on their part. 

Of course, Europe could set it itself on a different course. Instead of fighting against minority inclusion and proportional representation they could begin conceiving of ways to reshape a society restrained by so much ivy and stone. When we can read in the New York Times that a person of color has assumed the helm of France, Germany or Britain, only then will a minority American president be truly welcomed into the clique of Europe’s elite.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

As I enter into the early portion of my Thanksgiving routine - namely sharing the sofa with my family and taking in the smells wafting in from the kitchen, yams and peach cobblers we will be bringing to two of the three gatherings scheduled for the day - the carnage still unfolding in Bombay is preventing me from embracing the spirit of the day.

It appears that Al Qaeda has followed through on threats to stage a major attack on Westerners.  Thousands of innocent travelers are experiencing their second day of unimaginable terror.  For many, life ended yesterday, brutally and cruelly.

I must give thanks that there are millions of people across the world praying for the souls of those cut down in the wave of violence that descended on Bombay.  May they rest in peace.

We will all give thanks for many things today, things that have happened in the past year, and things that we hope will always endure.  In addition to expressing thanks for my wonderful family and good health, I will be adding a prayer that next year I will be giving thanks for the reduction of terror in the world.  Nothing is so important to our survival, both individually and as a nation, than allowing our fists to clench and our blood to boil.  We must react to survive.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Castro to Obama: Take Your Flag Back

As reported by multiple news outlets, including the Miami Herald, Cuban President Raúl Castro has stated that he is willing to meet with President-elect Obama on "neutral ground", suggesting that the Guantánamo Bay United States Naval Base would be an ideal location.

In the interview - conducted by international communist superstar, actor Sean Penn - Castro went on to say that at the conclusion of the meeting he could give Obama a gift.  His idea?  To "send him home with the American flag that waves over Guantánamo Bay."

Despite Castro's errors of fact - the base at Guantanamo is technically not neutral ground, and the flag that flies there is not Cuba's to give - this smacks of taunting, a challenge to a fledgling world leader by an upstart nation.  Cuba may feel emboldened to poke a stick in the eye of Obama with the Soviet Russian Federation Navy currently sailing in the Caribbean, plus commitments by the Russians to build a space launch complex on Cuban soil and bolster anti-aircraft defenses for the small despotic island. 

It is a very minor flea on the dog, in terms of international relations, but those working the American desk in other nations' foreign ministries will be watching carefully.  Obama's reaction will begin to create a data set by which foreign governments might predict or manipulate his responses to situations.

My guess is that the flag over Guantanamo won't be moving any time soon.


Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Time to Bail Out the Seattle Times

The Seattle Times is looking for spare change between the sofa cushions, as it begins to sell off real estate assets in order to unburden itself from massive debt obligations, and now may be the time for Seattle's conservative minority to make itself known. 

Bill Richards has been doing great work covering the business side of the Times operations for Crosscut - a well-balanced regional news and opinion web site which I have contributed material to - most recently in his article "Seattle Times Struggles With Debt".

I am not going to go through the long drawn-out case for why Seattle needs a functioning newspaper.  What I will say is that after ten years of abstaining from receiving the Seattle Times at home, last week I subscribed and I would urge you to do the same.  There is only one condition.  You must make sure to write letters to:

Leon Espinoza, Executive News Editor,

James Vesely, Editorial Page Editor,

Michael Sheehan, Director of Circulation Operations,

All letters can be addressed in care of:

Seattle Times
PO Box 70
Seattle, WA 98111

Inform them that your subscription is a vote of confidence that the paper will begin including more voices from the right, and not on the basis of tokenism.  Inform them also that your subscription you are voting with your dollars and the subscription can be canceled should the voices not begin to appear.

More balance in the newsroom will balance the papers books.  The message is simple and if hundreds or thousands of such letters were to arrive on the desks of these three individuals we can be certain the topic will show up on someone's meeting agenda.

Perhaps we can revive the spirit of dialogue (that is when opposing viewpoints both speak and listen) in our city's newspaper.  Only through effort can we even hope to achieve that noble goal.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

How Can the U.S. Military Maintain a Positive Image with Americans?

This morning, I received a link to a video someone made for promotional use by the United States Air Force.  The slogan is "America's Air Force: Then, Now, Always," and uses audio from a John F. Kennedy speech to underscore its theme.

Although I like the overall effect of the video, I would also like the USAF (and other armed services) to take a more active approach to public relations.  The public affairs officers do a great deal of hard work - a very close relative of mine is a top tier public affairs officer in the Navy and she stands head and shoulders above her peers in the private sector - but, in my humble opinion, the brass a) allows the politicians to do the job of convincing Americans of the utility and necessity of their mission and b) takes for granted that as their mission is national defense that Americans will always default to an attitude of approval of the military.  A more proactive approach to fostering a conversation and relationship with citizens would reap significant benefits.

In that vein, I would like to see the U.S. military begin putting a greater emphasis on telling us of their victories in ways that do not depend on the mainstream media.  Dropping bombs and inflicting damage are not the mission of our military, they are tactics to achieve goals.  Americans should know what the goals are, in plain English, and how the military is instrumental in achieving them.   

It's worth taking a look at the video.  Clicking in the image below will link to the host site.



Friday, November 21, 2008

Are Americans Really Informed Enough to Even Cast Reasoned Ballots?

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (IGI) released results of a 118-question survey taken of 2,508 respondents, the purpose of which was to determine what the level of civic knowledge was among American adults.  The respondents were selected to form a cross-section of American society and the results were shocking.

image You can take a portion of the test (the 33-question subset dealing only with civic knowledge) and see how you stack up.  I was dissatisfied with my 84.85%  (a B by most collegiate standards), but took some solace in knowing that was only five incorrect answers and seven percentage points above average.  Room for improvement, to be certain. 

Post your own scores as comments to this post, anonymously if you must.  I think a robust conversation about this survey and its implications is essential. 

What this should show us is that we need to take a hard look in the mirror, be honest with ourselves and dedicate our nation to reviving an interest in being education.  Talking about making education a national or local priority is not equivalent to challenging our schools to make curriculum adjustments to educate.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that the researchers did not find that any group (as an aggregate) did well.  Ivy League educated, elected government officials, rich, poor, churched, unchurched, conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat... all were equally uninformed.

The summarized findings of the test were, as excerpted from the IGI site:

1) Americans Fail the Test of Civic Literacy

Of the 2,508 Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test, 71% fail. Nationwide, the average score on the test is only 49%. The vast majority cannot recognize the language of Lincoln’s famous speech.

2) American Agree: Colleges Should Teach America's Heritage

We believe this whether we are young or old, rich or poor, liberal or conservative. We believe this whether we are male or female; black, white, or Hispanic. We believe this whether we have served in the military or not, and whether we attend church regularly or seldom.

3) College Adds Little to Civic Knowledge

The average score on the American civic literacy exam for those who ended their formal education with a bachelor’s degree is 57%, or an “F.” That is only 13 percentage points higher than the average score earned by those who hold high school, but not college, diplomas.

4) Television--Including TV News--Dumbs America Down

The multiple-regression analysis indicated that a person’s test score drops in proportion to the time he or she spends using certain types of passive electronic media. Talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and even monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries diminishes a respondent’s civic literacy

5) What College Graduates Don't Know About America

Overall, the survey shows that bachelor’s-degree holders tend to know twentieth-century American history better than free-market economics and themes that pre-date the twentieth century, especially constitutional principles and the founding and Civil War eras.


The IGI is a non-profit, non-partisan group with a mission to "further in successive generations of American college youth a better understanding of the economic, political, and ethical values that sustain a free and humane society".

Michael Medved at Seattle's Town Hall


Last night, my fiancee and I made a point of attending Michael Medved's talk at Seattle's Town Hall.  Along with host Enrique Cerna - a long-time fixture in Seattle television - Mr. Medved discussed portions of his new book "The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Lies About Our Nation" and took direct questions from audience members on a variety of topics.

At times spirited, the dialogue between Michael and the audience was both entertaining and enlightening, a credit to his credentials as a radio talk show host.  Whether he was suggesting that we may be on the verge of a "new Awakening" in the culture, such as occurred during the Revolution, the abolition movement and the suffrage movement, or responding to difficult questions about his views on gay marriage, Michael was considerate of his questioners.  Mr. Medved is one of the rare conservative voices - not alone, but lonely at times - who relies on intellectual honesty and logic to support his opinions.  For that reason, it was an honor to meet him briefly (we were in the rear portion of the book-signing line and he was operating on a sleep deficit), as it always is an honor to meet someone who shapes your personal approach.

I am reading the book and will report back with my review as soon as I am finished.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NYT Sources: Iran Has Enough Material for One Nuclear Bomb

It appears that there is now credible evidence that Iran has produced enough weapons-grade material to build one weapon, as reported by the New York Times on Wednesday.

This is something that I wrote about last month, by way of a story run by Israel's DebkaFile.  That piece was focused mainly on the proximity of intelligence details about Iran's nuclear capability to the tough-talking remarks of now-Vice President-elect Joe Biden at a Seattle fundraiser.  I did, however, I pose several key questions that President-elect Obama will need to answer to the American people in order to devise a response to an Iranian threat that does not a) conflict with any current doctrine, or with a doctrine he wishes to set or b) destabilize the region or kick off a wider conflict.  The questions I posed, relevant to the Iranian issue, were:

    • How do you see our relationship with Russia, considering Russia's recent strengthening of ties with our enemies in key areas of the world?
    • What will be your criteria for determining when and how to apply the force of the US military?

Russian involvement (and to a lesser extent the participation of France and Germany) will be a key factor in what courses of action are available to the United States in dealing with any existential threat posed by Iran.  Iran's insistence on possessing a nuclear weapon demonstrates its desire to become a dominant Middle Eastern state, and we cannot rule out the possibility of an attack on Israel.  At this point, whatever country would come the aid of Israel may find themselves engaged with Russia, due to mutual defense agreements.

This writer is glad that attention is being drawn to this issue, but I fear that the die may have been cast.  With the current state of international affairs, it would be rash to place Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as head of the State Department, in what is a vanity posting designed to appease party big wigs.  Direct experience in foreign affairs and high stakes diplomacy is required to navigate the coming crisis and despite Ms. Clinton's undeniable savvy and intellect, she would not be the right person for this task.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Retains Key Chairmanship of Homeland Security

I picked this up off the Political Ticker:

(CNN) — Senate Democrats have voted to allow Sen. Joe Lieberman to retain his chairmanship of the powerful Homeland Security Committee.

The secret-ballot vote was 42-13.

Lieberman is losing his chairmanship on an environmental subcommittee.

Apparently, when the voting is done in secret, more Dems support Senator Lieberman than are willing to do so in the light of day.

Comments to the post are running hard left, however.  There will be a serious challenge to his seat from the Democrat Party who want to punish him for his support of Senator McCain.

This is one of those cases in which I hope the Republican party can deal with the realities of Connecticut politics and find a way to back Lieberman when he stands for re-election.  His wisdom and judgment on issues of great importance would be difficult to replace.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Unequal Time's "Fairness Doctrine" Post Linked by

Thank you, Ed Morrissey! 

After notifying's Generalissimo Morrissey my post of last Friday - "LA Times Media Commentator Says Fairness Doctrine is Baseless; Millions of Conservatives Breathe a Sigh of Relief" - he was kind enough to link to my blog and pull a couple of paragraphs from my post in his excellent expansion on the confused commentary of James Rainey on the subject of the "Fairness Doctrine".

Still no word back from James Rainey, himself, who I emailed just prior to posting, not that I plan to wait by the computer for a response that will likely never come.

Friday, November 14, 2008

LA Times Media Commentator Says Fairness Doctrine Paranoia Is Baseless; Millions of Conservatives Breathe a Sigh of Relief

Rainey Demonstrates His Lack of Ability to Properly Use Search Engines

The "Fairness Doctrine" issue - the possible re-imposition of political balance requirements for radio broadcasters - is going to be a hot one for the next year.  Many eyes are trained on President-elect Obama with concerns about how far left his agenda will be, and the "Fairness Doctrine" is near the top of many conservative watch lists.   According to James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times, conservatives don't need to worry our pretty little heads about it one bit.

The sub-headline of the story reads:

Impose a mandate on broadcasters to balance their political views? That would be onerous indeed. But memo to Rush: Nobody's asking for that.

I know Rainey didn't write the headline of the sub-head.  Still, any readers not managing to make it past the bold print take away the notion that conservative talk radio hosts across the country are held in the grip of paranoid delusion.  But, in the commentary body, Rainey cites two senators - Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) - as having publicly called for the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" to be reapplied. 

Of all people that I would ever expect to be referred to as "nobody", Chuck Schumer would be eternally absent from that list.

Rainey's contention, though, seems to be that the voices of two influential senators do not constitute the political will necessary to change the way the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently regulates broadcasters.  In support of his hypothesis that a lack of enthusiasm is present for such action, he offers the following:

If the left wing is gearing up for such a push, I had trouble detecting it. A search of the liberal Daily Kos website turned up almost no mentions of the Fairness Doctrine.

Mr. Rainey, you must always remember to turn the detection device on before using it.

Mr. Rainey should educate himself in two areas: how politics works in America and a knowledge of search engines. 

I donned my wet suit and went to Daily Kos for myself and found that Mr. Rainey is partially correct.  When I searched for the terms "fairness" and "doctrine" in "stories" - commentaries and postings by Daily Kos staff writers and contributors - I only find two results within the last two weeks.  This, however, is where the understanding of American politics comes in.  Movements always gain strength from vocal activists, sometimes known as people.  These are the kind of folks who hop on the computer and comment on blogs like the Daily Kos, they even write letters and make phone calls to elected officials.

imageSo what happens when we search through "comments"?  During the past 2 weeks, those same search terms found 511 results.  When we search through "stories and diaries" - diaries are the personal blogs kept by Daily Kos users - we get 56 results.  Reminder: That's just in the past two weeks.  One one liberal web site.

When Mr. Rainey wrote of finding "almost no mentions" of the "Fairness Doctrine", I would have given him a bit of leeway to accept four, five, maybe even fifteen results, but 511?  That's a margin of error even exit pollsters wouldn't be comfortable with.

Furthermore, if Mr. Rainey actually did the work read the content of posts, he would have learned that there are examples of people who are actively advocating the return of the anti-free speech "Fairness Doctrine".

'shpilk' is one Daily Kos user who keeps a blog on the site.  In a diary post with the tag "Fairness Doctrine" attached - for context - they wrote on November 7:

We've got to find the Achilles Heel of the newspapers and local TV and radio stations that refuse to play fair, that give favorable borrowing terms to Republicans like they did with Reichert a few scant weeks before the election.

Another offering comes from 'lfurman97', who wrote on November 8th:

"Now the work begins. The first order of business will be to re-instate the "Fairness Doctrine" and reverse the policies that have proven so disastrous..."

Another Kos user, 'Troubadour', comments as follows to explain how President-elect Obama could begin moving the "Fairness Doctrine" into place.  (Be careful, it's Daily Kos so the language gets a little rough.  Cover the eyes of small children and refrain from reading aloud.)

Obama would give a speech on it.

He would explain that the airwaves belong to YOU, the American people - they are not the private property of the corporations to whom YOU the people grant conditional licenses to operate for the public good.  He could even quote directly from the text of those licenses, and perhaps Edward R. Murrow if he's feeling saucy.  And the wingnuts would be left with what?  Their usual - their dicks in their hands.

Naturally he would consult with legal experts first and have built up a substantial base of support for it, but that would just be icing on the cake.  Obama speeches are irresistible when they confront some deep truth and seek to exercise leadership.  My only advice to him: Keep making speeches from a standing position - don't do the desk thing.

This comment came after this one by 'methinsaw':

Although I think the Fairness Doctrine is a good idea, the wing-nuts will go crazy saying their first amendment rights are being taken away by the liberals.  That would be a salient argument for them to use to attract voters that might not understand the issue very well.

These are not the only citations I could find on the mother ship of all liberal chatter, I just don't have time to keep cutting, pasting and hyperlinking for the remainder of the day.  There are more liberal web sites, and plenty of blogs that are operated independent of a parent site.  Perform a Google blog search for yourself and get back to me with what you find.

Before Mr. Rainey dismissed conservative impulses to protect the first amendment something akin to staying mad at your wife because you dreamt she cheated on you, he should have taken the time to really acknowledge that there are people on the left who wish to silence conservative media voices.  Just saying it isn't so won't make the threat go away.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama Administration's Vetting Questionnaire: Cuts Like a Knife

This is the typical combination of traditional vetting and political acid-testing that occurs with White House hiring; I'm not sure why it makes's front page.  A 63-item questionnaire covering every little detail (except drug use) is something that is justified for people seeking one of the 7,000 or so jobs for which the transition team has to find warm bodies.  After all, many of these positions have a political component and require the jobholder to support the views and policies of the president.  Not to mention the fact that many of them will work in within jogging distance of the president himself, making security a factor.

So, it's okay to dig deep into an applicant for this kind of job.  Right?  Maybe delving into past lovers, personal diaries and gun ownership is over the top, but there is no absolute right to privacy when seeking employment.  Questions about the invasiveness of this questionnaire should be asked of the chief of staff appointee, Rahm Emanuel, but don't expect much enlightenment from the answers. 

Will this establish a new standard for the private sector (do we really have a private sector anymore?) in their own hiring practices.  In truth, any other employer would be vulnerable to charges if they even posed these questions in a casual discussion, much less a job interview.

In rough terms, however, investigation of an applicant's background is rational, but how the administration will actually use the information to make hiring choices is what should receive the greatest amount of scrutiny.  With the track record Team Obama has been blazing so far in the its use of strong-arm tactics and a style of internal policing that one would expect from an authoritarian ruler, don't be surprised if information obtained from these applications finds its way into the publics hands.   

There is one question that simply jumps off the page and remains enigmatic after a lot of pondering:

28) Have you or your spouse at any time held property... the title to which contained any restrictive covenant based on race, sex, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation?

Can someone (attorneys are welcome) please explain the purpose of this question?  Having some experience in mortgage finance, I have had some contact with titles to real property, but I have never seen any document - private or otherwise - which restrains the owner on any of the aforementioned bases.  Are there people who assume title to property or assets with the restrictions .  Would a country club membership to, let's say, Augusta National, qualify?  The question is ambiguous enough to require legal advice prior to, during - and probably after - answering.

50) Please list any claims of sexual harassment of [sic] other workplace misconduct, made against you or any employee supervised by you, including the resolution of the matter.

Well, there goes William Jefferson Clinton's bid to become the next ambassador to United Nations, or even Thailand for that matter.

It appears that we have elected a president with the charm of Kennedy, the ideology of Carter and the paranoia of Nixon. 

God bless America.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When Times Are Tough, the Obama Campaign Wants to Sell You Another Campaign Tee-Shirt

imageDavid Plouffe, the campaign manager for Obama for America, just sent me an email to make sure I send him $30 or more to refill the DNC coffers. (In exchange, I will receive a tee-shirt that, we assume was made with union labor.  So the net to the DNC should be around $5.) 

So, despite Obama's record-shattering fundraising, and the absence of any need to fund a legal defense against campaign fund-raising violations, the DNC is bankrupt.  Where did all of the money go?

What is most shocking is not the panhandling after an election; Robert Duncan - RNC chair - sent me a plea for dollars two and a half hours earlier in the day.  What is stunning is that from a campaign that owes their victory to an economic crisis, they become suddenly tone-deaf about what is truly important to the voters.  In his words:

We'll get to work transforming this country. But first, we need to take care of the DNC.

Are we to assume that if the DNC remains broke, the country will just have to wait?  Leave it to the party of the donkey to put the cart ahead of the horse.

Hank Paulson is On the Loose and We Were Concerned About Palin's Wardrobe Expenditures?

The era of 'I told you so' is about to commence, but for now let's just deal with the facts.  Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has just side-stepped the portion of the $700 billion bailout package that we were told was its central reason for being made into law.  As reported by [bold added]:

NEW YORK( -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Wednesday that the government would broaden the reach of its $700 billion bailout plan to support non-bank financial institutions that provide consumer credit, such as credit cards and auto loans.

In this second stage of the bailout, officials also hope to attract private capital, possibly through matching investments, to give the government's injections more heft.

Paulson also said the government is no longer planning to buy troubled mortgage assets, the original goal of the plan. And officials are continuing to examine ways to help homeowners and slow the tide of foreclosures.

Having read the entire piece of legislation, I can state equivocally that the only boundaries placed on what kinds of asset purchases the Treasury can make with its largesse will be decided by whoever occupies the seat as Treasury Secretary and the president who appoints them.  That means that in late January, when Paulson is sent packing and Obama is sworn in, the Treasury will have the authority to buy just about anything it wants.

I won't even begin to make the arguments about economic and fiscal vulnerabilities inherent in this type of policy.  Only one argument needs to be made.  When the government begins taking ownership in private companies, those companies fail to be private.  This country's political future rests on principles that lie diametrically opposed to what the Treasury is now capable of doing.

Pick your favorite ideological hero from early United States history.  Unless you happen to be one of those odd fans of Alexander Hamilton's desire for a powerful national bank, you will find that your American idol was sharply opposed to the formation of a central bank controlled by the government.  The rationale for this among the founders was diverse but among many it was the fear that a national bank would have direct involvement with businesses and thus force the free market a political actor instead of a purely economic one.

In the bulk of our human history we have seen what occurs when governments become owners in industry individuals and, more importantly individualism, suffers.  A new argument for capitalism must emerge just as Hayek's Road to Serfdom did in the era when socialism was in its ascendancy and posed a great threat to free societies and the free people within them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Special Veterans Day Message


We should all pause today to remember the sacrifice - sometimes ultimate - made by men and women in uniform over the course of our nation's history.

We pray to never again fight against our fellow man, but know that the course of human events will again carry us to that brink.  We have faith that the character and decency as a nation to inform us of whether our cause is just.  Therefore, to preserve our own future dignity, we honor those who have gone before us.

Transition Spokesperson Establishes President-elect Obama as 'Ruler'

Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team, and the person rumored to be President-elect Obama's choice to fill his vacated Senate seat, has finally let the cat out of the bag. 

"Given the daunting challenges that we face, it's important that President-elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one."

Ms. Jarrett made this statement while speaking to Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, in one swift sentence she has confirmed the fears of some that an Obama presidency, without lack of loyal opposition, could allow Americans to do some political tourism without leaving home.  We may have an opportunity to experience what a constitutional monarchy would have been like, if things had gone differently in the years of our nation's birth.

The phrase "take power" is borderline, but does the Obama administration really want to begin by establishing that President Obama is a 'ruler'?

Ruler, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary:

rul·er, (rōō'lər) n.

1. One, such as a monarch or dictator, that rules or governs.

If you prefer, also defines a ruler as, "a person who rules or commands; 'swayer of the universe'."

If we strip it down to the root - rule - it might be okay.  Right?  It turns out there is no hiding place there either.  All definitions of 'rule' in the context of governance, and when used as a verb in conjunction with a singular object (e.g., a person who has been elected president), imply some form of autocratic governance.

After two-hundred and thirty-two years of independence from a monarchy maybe it wouldn't hurt, I suppose, to sneak back onto that old horse and see if the ride wasn't really as bad as we thought.  Alexander Hamilton didn't think it would be so terribly awful.  Plus, it just isn't fair that Britain gets all the fun of having royals at which to poke fun, and leaders tend to look more respectable on the world stage when wearing a sash.  We should be open-minded.

With all seriousness, American presidents heretofore had been very careful about how they verbally defined their place in government.  Even FDR never used the verb 'rule' in reference to the function of his office, and he would be one who could have used it correctly.

Ms. Jarrett, or some member of the transition team, should issue a statement of clarification.  Although her words were almost certainly a slip of the tongue (Vice president-elect Biden's first press conference will likely put this gaffe to shame), as a law school graduate, she would be well-advised to remember that words carry meaning in our society.  There are those of us who expect her to select them carefully so as to not be confused as signaling a radical shift in our system of government.

We did elect him, after all.  I think the least we deserve is some recognition that he understands the limitations of what we elected him to do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Looking to the Future: America version 44.0

That, as they say, is that. President-elect Barack Obama is correct in saying that, "a defining moment of change has come to America."

As the first president with a minority background, he will always hold a significant place in national history, but his effectiveness in delivering on the promise of change must be measured both in terms of quantity and direction as he assumes the roles of chief executive and commander-in-chief.

Change is not hard-wired to run in only a positive direction. Neither is it a constant that change that causes positive effects for one person or family will not have a negative effect on others. Nor is it like a domesticated pet that can be leashed; unintended consequences are the bane of every change-artist politico.

Despite all of the realities and wildcards - known by way of hindsight - change sounds good. Even when we do not have the benefit of seeing it in legislative form, but only hear the happy populist rhetoric that scintillates crowds on the campaign trail, change makes us feel like good times are just around the bend. The grass is always greener. Yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah.

The question that faces us is to what degree Obama's victory is also a mandate for the changes he will attempt to make, in terms of judicial appointments and cabinet postings, as well as his policy agenda. There are many reasons to suspect that the Democrat wave that swept the country yesterday was a public relations success, not an ideological one, because the ideology has yet to manifest itself in a clear legislative policymaking agenda.

Based on campaign promises, a person voting for Obama may have done so simply because they believed he would lower their taxes. To them, he might represent the values of conservativism in a package that was more appealing than that grumpy ol' John McCain. If not for the fine print that will become the essence of how Obama delivers on his other promises without bankrupting the country, that voter might get what they are expecting. With that in mind, it may not be smart for Obama to rapidly conclude that the results of this election represent a mandate for the liberal objectives that were challenged by his McCain, as well as members of the media, without much in the way of substantive response from Obama.

It is probably unrealistic to expect Democrat politicians - now in cloistered conclave, contemplating what can be accomplished whilst we have one-party rule - to question whether a juggernaut liberal agenda for the first session of 2009 is not the will of the people. No one wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, but ignoring the possibility that the electorate may not have been voicing a mandate, despite the results of the election, could have the effects both of ensuring a pendulum swing back in 2010 to a Republican-dominated Congress and the exacerbation of the country's current economic predicament.

Based on our two year history with the party leadership of Reid and Pelosi, the Democrats will gulp greedily from the chalice handed them without too much concern for why it was given to them in the first place. After all, it would be somewhat rational - although short-sighted - to conclude that yesterday's results were a clear message of animosity toward Republican candidates and the values underpinning their party.

In the presidential race, while several states switched from red to blue, not one flipped in the other direction. The same trend is shaping up in the Senate, House, and gubernatorial races, although the Minnesota race between Coleman and Franken will have to be decided after at least one recount. (Minnesota GOP attorneys should connect with the Washington State GOP for a briefing on lessons learned from having close statewide races slip through their hands. Reference: Gorton/Cantwell, 2000, Rossi/Gregoire, 2004.)

If the election was intended to be a repudiation of the conservative values that are often associated with the Republican party, one might think that traditionally conservative issues should have suffered as well, but, for reasons as yet unknown, rays of conservative light can be seen, if we want to squint really, really hard.

  • Bans on gay marriage (as distinguished from civil unions or domestic partnerships) in California, Florida and Arizona are passing, although they will almost certainly face immediate court battles.
  • Nebraska voted to end affirmative action policies of the state government by a 58 to 42 percent margin.

On the other hand, 'value of life' issues were losers. Washington state passed Initiative 1000, a law legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide that has been criticized for its failure to provide common sense safeguards. South Dakota and California failed to pass abortion limits propositions, and Colorado's attempt to legally define life as beginning at the moment conception was crushed by voters.

In the weeks and months ahead, Republicans will come to some conclusions about why they lost (psst, get the base on the line and see if they have an alibi for where they all were on Election Night), and the Democrats will come to their own conclusions about why they won. This will all go into the big Mid-term Election Strategy hopper.

Meanwhile, Obama will be naming cabinet nominees, assembling White House staff and mapping out the agenda for his first one hundred days. With a Democrat-controlled Congress, and a media presumably still panting after "The One", maintain a grip on reality will be harder for Republicans and conservatives than any time since 1976.

Nevertheless, after the electoral college convenes and the inauguration takes places in the cold January air of the nation's capital, President-elect Obama will become the President Obama. He will be America's president and my president, despite my having voted for Senator John McCain.

I hope that those who may despair, or even fear, an Obama presidency will remember that the presidency is the symbol of our nation's strength and the office deserves its own measure of respect, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

I also hope that those who rejoiced last night remember that the greatest strength of our system is in the value we place on keeping a hot furnace of debate stoked. No matter how dire our circumstances may be, or what stakes lay before us, honest and open-minded argument about issues is vital and should be embraced. Brand loyalty might give us warm feelings when choosing a carbonated beverage, but blind partisanship should chill us if it becomes the only factor in how we, as individuals, arrive at our decisions to vote or how we judge the performance of our government.

Answers to tough questions should be demanded from the new president and the congress serving beside him, and we should all be color-blind in that pursuit, focusing only on the merits of proposals, considerate of the effects government actions may have on the fabric of American life.

So, too, should President-elect Obama recognize that he is in uncharted waters. With virtually no executive experience, and absolutely no experience dealing with matters of foreign affairs, he should be careful to avoid catering to the masses. Foreign policy is not an area for ideological experimentation, as so many presidents have learned after it was too late. Poll respondents on the questions of Iraq and Afghanistan do not receive the daily intelligence briefing that Obama will soon begin receiving. As distasteful as it may be, even the most idealistic presidents have to succumb to the harshness of realpolitik.

Obama should also carefully consider the weight of his proposals and the real impact that many would have on American families and individuals. If any set of American values do still exist that cross party lines they would be the desire for freedom, choice and opportunity. When politicians have not been careful to protect those values in our laws and way of life, they have paid the price in mid-term elections and their own bids to stay in office.

We are capable of emerging through the crises ahead - challenges that await us like predators shrouded in a concealing fog - but only if we are willing to be critical, open-minded and involved in the process of government. The media sits in the important position of moderating the conversation. More respect in our culture is needed and the nation's media are uniquely able to present an example to Americans of how issues should discussed and differences resolved. By promoting authentic respect for differing points of view in the newsroom, and a transparent balance in how issues are covered, a more robust and civil conversation can develop.

Less talking and more active listening is required. True, it sounds more like a prescription for couples counseling than political communication, but haven't the last eight years felt a bit like the country is in the throes of a bitter divorce? Would it hurt either side to occasionally acknowledge - publicly - when the opposition has the facts right, instead of simply racing down Diatribe Boulevard?

If we are truly interested in defining our problems or finding solutions, we need to be getting a lot closer to the truth than the current style of political discourse allows.

The first political party, or politician to put down the bullhorn and the pom-poms and speak to all Americans either as one who thinks as they do or as one who respects their beliefs despite disagreement, will reap the enormous benefits of true leadership.


This piece was subsequently published November 7, 2008 on the website, with minor editing, under the headline 'Questioniong the promise of change'.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is The Mainstream Media Just As Smart As They Are Partisan? You Betcha.

I just watched call South Carolina for McCain with 0% of precincts reporting but showing 47% McCain, 53% Obama.  Does this amount to a media-spun Get of The Vote effort in the potentially crucial states of Nevada and Colorado?  Obviously, there is no way to know for sure, but it would certainly make sense that if the media had any concerns that early exit polling calls in 2000 and 2004 actually decreased Democrat turnout, wouldn't it make sense to reverse the process and see if that reversed the reaction?

It's just a random thought.  I'm sure the madness will intensify as the night progresses.

Vote Fraud in Oakdale: What We're Fighting Against

I found this story by way of Michelle Malkin, who plucked it from the pages of The Modesto Bee.  I wish I could even claim to be shocked.  It would make the predictability of this kind of nonsense less chilling.

Two pre-marked ballots discovered at precinct

By J.N. Sbranti

last updated: November 04, 2008 12:09:24 PM

OAKDALE — At least two Spanish-language ballots were pre-marked for Barack Obama at a rural Oakdale precinct Tuesday morning, causing election officials to confiscate and inspect all the blank ballots.

"I consider this extremely serious," said Lee Lundrigan, Stanislaus County clerk and registrar of voters. "We've sent an additional person to the precinct, and everyone is now watching each other."

The incident happened about 9:20 a.m. at the River Oak Grace Community Church polling place on Rodden Road just north of Oakdale.

Hector Parra, who doesn't speak English, was handed a Spanish-language ballot, which he took to the voting station. A moment later, he went to the precinct workers seeking help. Since there was no designated translator working at the time, the precinct's staff asked if anyone in the crowded room could speak Spanish.

Sylvia Moreno volunteered to translate, and she said Parra didn't understand why the ballot he was given had been marked.

"He was going to vote for Obama, but it was already filled in for Obama," Moreno said. "He just wondered why."

Moreno explained the problem to precinct workers, who then took Parra's ballot and put it among the "spoiled" ballots. Parra then was handed a second Spanish-language ballot.

"It was marked for Obama, too. It truly was," said Moreno, who witnessed the fresh ballot being handed from the precinct worker to Parra in the middle of the room.

Parra and Moreno immediately reported the problem with the second ballot, and they never moved from the time Parra was handed that ballot to when he handed it back to precinct workers.

"I was shocked," said Lynda Sesser, the precinct's election inspector. "At first I assumed he had (filled in the first ballot) himself, which is why I marked it as spoiled."

Sesser said she was stunned to discover the otherwise-blank second ballot had been filled in for Obama the same way.

"It was an ink pen," Sesser said of the mark. "It was a little shocking. You don't expect ballots to come from the elections office like that."

Sesser said Parra was the first voter to ask for a Spanish-language ballot Tuesday. After the two suspect ballots were found, Sesser said precinct workers started inspecting the blank forms before handing them to voters.

The irregularity was quickly reported to election officials, and by 10 a.m. Lundrigan's office was taking action.

"All of the precincts are being called," said Lundrigan, assuring that election workers were told to look for pre-marked ballots. "Our inspectors have confiscated (the two suspect ballots) and bringing them to me."

Lundrigan said she didn't believe the ballots could have been tampered with at the county's election office.

"They're sealed when they leave us," said Lundrigan, noting how the ballots are printed and processed en masse. "We don't allow black pens anywhere near us. We only have red pens."

What does this say about how minorities are viewed in our country?  It says that the kind of person (or people) who would attempt to perpetrate this kind of fraud see minorities as useful tools, not as free-thinking citizens.


Monday, November 3, 2008

My Predictions: Does McCain Have a Legitimate Chance? Absolutely.

Here's One Analysis That Might Give McCain Voters a Spring in Their Step on Election Day 


There is no doubt that this election will be a close contest and every vote will be important in the final count.  Fear, hope, anxiety, optimism and despair are gripping voters of all backgrounds and the country has been plunged into a cauldron of racial politics, class politics and good old fashioned lying for a year and a half.  If Rasmussen or Zogby could correlate blood pressure and heart rate along with voting preference insurance actuaries would be bracing for a run on the hospitals.

Here's how I justify giving McCain the states that are currently painted blue on most mainstream media maps, states that could tip the election for a McCain victory.

Pennsylvania (21 EV), Minnesota (10 EV) and Wisconsin (10 EV): There is every reason to believe that Obama has failed to secure crucial support among union workers (as differentiated from the union leadership) that is so crucial to these blue collar states.  High democratic turnout in the primaries was at a time when Obama and Senator Clinton were going at each other full force.  There will be a lot of Clinton supporters who will simply stay home or jump the fence to vote for McCain.

Florida (27 EV): In the primaries, the ratio of GOP votes to Dem votes was 1.12:1, and Florida is a state in which party politics still drives electioneering.  Also, in the primary election, McCain got a 5.3% better showing than polls were predicting just before the vote, demonstrating that Team McCain knows how to get out the vote in the Sunshine State.

Three other voting blocs will be critical.

Jewish voters have proven to be difficult to poll accurately.  The issue of how Obama will protect Israel may bring many of these voters to a single issue decision.

Florida is represented largely in the military.  All responsible polling has indicated a heavy McCain vote coming from the armed forces.

Immigrants who came here seeking asylum from despotic or communist oppression.  This includes tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Cuban, Haitian, and other Latin Americans who have made their homes in Florida.  Will McCain's efforts to pin Obama as a socialist be in their minds as they mark their ballots?

Nevada (5 EV): Using the primary turnout to calculate the same 'strength-of-base' ratio as I used to predict Florida for McCain, Nevada shows a 2.11:1 ratio of GOP voters to Dem voters.

Of course, McCain also has to win the races in which he is currently running ahead in the polls.  It's not going to be an easy victory, and at this point he has to be considered an underdog.

It is time to simply go and do our civic duty, come what may.