Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Media Recession of 2008

One of the factors cited as evidence that the US economy is in or headed toward a recession is the number of foreclosures on home loans. Just the other night one Democrat consultant on Fox News cited the number of 40,000 foreclosures in worried tones. Think of that: 40,000 families can’t afford to make their house payments and will lose their homes. When you consider that the average American family is more than three people, that’s well over 100,000 people, in all.

That’s as many people as live in a fair sized city. That’s enough people to fill two pretty large football stadiums. Wow! The nation is really in a crisis!

So goes the tenor of news stories addressing the “crisis” in the housing market. Problem is, there is no crisis in the housing market; whatever the scope of the problem, the problem is in the subprime mortgage market, which is but a small part the entire housing industry. Subprime mortgages are available to people whose credit isn’t good enough to qualify for a conventional mortgage. Knowing that, do you really think it is surprising that some of them can’t make their house payment?

The truth is that 96 percent of all mortgages are being paid on time and, furthermore, mortgage defaults were higher in the 1980s than they are today. And beyond that, thirty percent of American homeowners have no mortgage at all and own their homes outright. What none of the media will report is that only a small fraction of all mortgages are in foreclosure, which is a pretty small proportion to be responsible for a “crisis,” and that same situation exists in most, if not all, of the other economic areas. Employment, for example, is considered full employment if fewer that five percent of the working population is out of work and actively looking for a job.

“Recession” is not some nebulous concept without well-defined parameters. A recession occurs when the economy meets certain negative criteria for two consecutives quarters. The fact is that a very good case can be made that if—notice I said “if,” not “when”—the economy goes into a recession it will be the product of a news media with an overactive imagination or a desperate need to create news as much as any true economic problems. After all, it’s not news when things are going well, and the 24-hour cable news networks have to look far and wide to find fodder to fill all that time.

The media gets all upset when the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 300 points. And recently when it dropped 600 points, wow, the world was about to end. But think about that for a moment: The Dow is somewhere in the 12,400 range as this is being written. Six hundred points is less than five percent of that number. Now, a five-percent drop is worthy of our attention, but it is not a crisis. And if you remember, the very next day it regained 300 of the 600 points it had lost. Stock markets go up and stock markets go down, and a swing of a few percentage points here and there is not unusual, and it isn’t a crisis.

But the media need a crisis to keep people reading newspapers and watching TV and listening to the radio and reading blogs, and they are going to have one, even if that means creating one. By trumpeting bad news in the housing industry, and that consumers are being cautious about spending due to fears of recession, guess what happens? Right. Consumers slow down or stop spending, and guess what that does: it causes other slow downs, in such things as producing goods, which leads to layoffs, etc., etc., etc. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if the media aren’t manufacturing an economic crisis in order to have something to report, all of this manic behavior indicates that the media have a very poor understanding of economics.

Frankly, I don’t know which is worse.

Key West – Wednesday

A lazy day reading, watching TV and lounging by the pool was the prescription for today. We finally made it out around 4 p.m. and hit the Publix market for a few items, and then went downtown for the sunset activities at Sunset Pier.

The Pier is a neat place, facing west at the point that a lot of the commercial boats head out and back in, and there was a lot of activity on the water in addition to the big boats. We found good table along the banister and right in front of the stage. Almost immediately two guitarists took the stage, creating a little concern that they might be loud and they might not be very good. We shouldn’t have worried: they were just loud enough, and were fantastic. Their music was Latin, with both guys alternating playing guitar solos and rhythm over recorded bass and percussion tracks.

Their music was energetic and quite well done, and they played such things a “Hotel California,” “Volare,” “Spain,” some things by the Gypsy Kings and Santana, some music from Cuba, all with Latin and jazz influences. The guy on the right was Hispanic, and sang as well as he played guitar. If you are familiar with Chick Corea’s “Spain,” it has a challenging riff that eludes many players: these guys were quite a pleasant surprise.

We looked over the menu for a drink with our food and almost immediately decided against the Liquid Jelly Monkey Luv in favor of more conventional libations. We first had some chips with three dips: salsa, con queso and guacamole; Diane ordered a Cuban Mix sandwich and I had Crab and Lobster on a Croissant. Once again, my choice wasn’t all I had hoped or expected. The half of Diane’s sandwich that I had after downing my own was pretty good.

The Pier is not far from Mallory Square and other activities along the waterfront. We saw jugglers, acrobats, a one-man band, a guy with a dog that did tricks, a woman who swallowed a long balloon that ought to have choked her and other entertainers after the sunset dinner at the pier. After walking around the downtown for a while, we headed back and caught the end of the Republican debate. All in all, it was a good day.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Key West – Tuesday

Diane is a HGTV girl; she likes the design shows. Each year for the last few HGTV has had a give-away of a pretty special house somewhere, and this year, as fate would have it, it isn’t far from paradise where we have been since Saturday night. After we’d had as much of Duval Street as we could take, we decided to do something different today, and headed up US 1 to Islamorada where this year’s Dream Home has been built. Don’t worry: that’s about all I’m going to say about it, except that I enjoyed touring the house, and if we won it, I’d at least think seriously about living in it. More to the point of this series of columns is the rest of what we did today.

We left the apartment about 10 and headed north. It’s about 81 miles to Islamorada from Key West, and the trip was not at all unpleasant. We got to see the sights we couldn’t see on the way down on Saturday due to darkness. And since you can’t go very fast on the mostly two-lane road, it was noon when we got close to our destination. A friend had recommended a place for lunch, which we couldn’t find, so we stopped at a place called Wahoo’s, which is on the water, and had lunch before tackling the tour of the Dream Home. I had seafood (yea!) in the form of a basket consisting of scallops, shrimp and fries, and Di had a basket with just shrimp (she loves seafood, as long as it’s fried shrimp).

Not far up the road we came to the Dream Home location and went through the place. It is well appointed and located in a very nice place. Trouble is that there are seven more places planned to go in a relatively small area, making the place less desirable from my point of view. The ticket money goes to a charity, so even though admission was overpriced, it probably was worth it. We walked around the art shops nearby and then headed back, stopping at the Boondocks bar and grill to break up the trip.

Dinner was at Kelly’s, a couple blocks off Duval Street, a place that once was the beginnings of the now-defunct Pan American Airways, and turned into a restaurant by Kelly McGillis of “Top Gun” fame. She no longer owns the place, but it still bears her name. Kelly’s is the hands-down winner for atmosphere so far, with an outdoor dining area with palms and other natural scenery. The only negative was that a room over top of the kitchen was a rehearsal hall for a show on the weekend that was, unfortunately, open so that we could hear the goings on up there. The menu was a good one and the wine list passable. We opened with a Macadamia Nut Encrusted Baked Brie appetizer with mango salsa and pita bread “points” that was pretty good. Diane had a Five-spice Encrusted Filet with a Ginger Shitake Cream Sauce (that was under done and had to be sent back, but very good), and I opted for Camerones Rellenos, which is butterflied shrimp stuffed with crab meat, wrapped in bacon and baked with an orange beurre blanc sauce. It wasn’t all I had hoped for.

We headed back to the apartment so that Diane could finish watching tonight’s edition of "American Idol" while I had a cigar on the deck and finished my McCain rant (See below).

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Not John McCain?

Dateline: Key West, Florida

Being in Florida on this Primary Day might be expected to provide a little insight into what’s going to happen. It doesn’t. The only thing I’ve come across today that even remotely smacks of politics was a conversation overheard at lunch in Islamorada, where a guy who is a Democrat said he and his wife had thought seriously about changing parties because the Democrat Party has its panties in a wad because Florida moved its primary up in the year without permission, and the party essentially disenfranchised Florida Democrats who might vote today.

But the reality is for this conservative fellow (me) that none of the Democrats is a viable choice because of their liberal ideology, and the Republicans are less than desirable for some of the same reasons. So now that the real political season has dawned trying to find a person suitable to be President begins in earnest and every candidate remaining in the race on the Republican side has his own set of shortcomings. Some of the shortcomings affect the independent vote more than the conservative vote, but that is of little concern when you think about the true nature of electoral politics. Mike Huckabee’s religion is a weight around his neck more powerful than his sense of humor. Rudy Guilanni’s record as the mayor of New York gets him respect as an administrator and manager, but doesn’t overcome his positions on certain issues and the “stains” many perceive from his personal life. Mitt Romney gets negative points for being a Mormon, as if that is somehow worse than being just a plain old Christian, or a Catholic, or an atheist, and despite his pretty impressive record as a governor, and his enviable record in the private sector, he’ll have trouble with the independents.

John McCain has recently risen from the dead, and is a force to be reckoned with; prospects of him being the Republican nominee are all too real, and more than a little disconcerting. McCain has a few assets, among which is his service in the U.S. Navy and having been a stand-up guy during five years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. A guy with McCain’s background gets a lot of sympathy and hero support, but it doesn’t get him the nomination or the election. There’s a dark side to McCain that deserves as much attention as his war record and public service record, and it is strong enough to neutralize those assets, and in fact to overcome them. And it isn’t his age, as Chuck Norris charged. Norris is another of those Hollywood and entertainment figures who ought to keep his political opinions to himself.

McCain has two stains on his public service record that disqualify him as the Republican nominee, although they are not strong enough to prevent me from voting for him over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and certainly John Edwards, whose continued participation in the race is nothing more than a power play. But that’s the subject for another day.

As every election season heats up we hear more and more about “reaching across the aisle for the good of all Americans,” the idea that compromise is the solution to our national problems. No doubt some issues can be resolved that way. But some positions cannot be compromised into solutions, and that is a lesson that John McCain either hasn’t learned, or has been willing to put aside for political expediency. One such folly is the the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA, or the “McCain–Feingold Act”) a reach across the isle by McCain to the outstretched hand of Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). The Act has high-minded intentions, which are to reduce the increased role of soft money in campaign financing by prohibiting national political party committees from raising or spending any funds not subject to federal limits, even for state and local races or issue discussion, and to control the proliferation of issue ads, by defining as "electioneering communications" broadcast ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election, and prohibiting any such ad paid for by a corporation (including non-profit issue organizations such as Right to Life or the Environmental Defense Fund) or paid for by an unincorporated entity using any corporate or union funds.

And the problem with that is: The First Amendment. Our Founders were very concerned that Americans have the freedom to say pretty much what they please, and we can see today that many Americans avail themselves of that freedom in very explicit and ill-conceived ways. What the Founders were concerned about was protecting not just the right to criticize the latest movie or fashion trend, but to protect political speech, for without the right to criticize our government and our elected leaders, the United States is in the same boat as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or other famous places where the boot of some dictator is firmly on the neck of the citizenry. John McCain co-authored a bill to limit political speech, and that creates substantial problems for many voters. I am one of them.

The second of McCain’s ill-advised ventures in bi-partisanship is his involvement with Connecticut Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman, who joined forces in a feel-good measure to try to water down the harsh, unacceptable and disastrous terms of the Kyoto Protocols agreement to reduce carbon emissions. Kyoto’s aim is to reverse global warming by crippling mankind, or at least those of us in developed countries, under the fallacious guise that by reducing carbon emissions we can reverse global warming. We can’t, for the simple reason that manmade carbon emissions are not responsible for global warming, and even if Kyoto’s demands were met the reduction in greenhouse gases would be miniscule, and at the expense of billions of dollars in increased cost and great inconvenience to Americans. You might think that any effort to weaken Kyoto should be applauded, but merely weakening it, as McCain has twice attempted to do, is not nearly enough, and his efforts are nearly as dangerous as enacting Kyoto as written.

The depth of McCain’s failure to understand the “climate change” issue is breathtaking, and it is more than a little unsettling that someone who wants to be President of the United States would endorse a measure so dangerous to his own country. That tells me that one of two things is true: McCain doesn’t know the issue thoroughly; or he doesn’t care about the dirty details because pandering to the green lobby for political expedience is more important. I prefer to think it is the former, rather than the latter, but either way, John McCain isn’t “The Man.”

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Key West - Monday

Walking around the historic area of Key West revealed much more than we had imagined, based upon the first brief visit. The maps and visitor information told us about these places, of course, but only by visiting them do you really get a feel for the places. On that first visit we took a trolley tour that showed us some of the old town area, but there is so much more that we hadn’t seen.

It’s difficult to park close to where you want to go in Key West, and if you’re not careful, you can set yourself up for a lot more walking than you might really want to do. If you scope out places and plan a little, you can save both time and walking. We found a couple of areas that we want to spend some time at later in the week, trying to get a feel for where to try to park, since parking is such a problem.

Back in the 40s President Harry Truman came here on a vacation recommended by his doctor. He stayed on the Naval base, in the commandants residence while no commandant was assigned, and liked it so well that he visited nine more times during his presidency. He is quoted as having said he’d like to move the White House here and just stay. The commandant’s house became Harry’s place, and became known as the “Little White House.” The Naval base is no more, and the Little White House is now an historic site. After lunch we visited the LWH.

We’ve been here since Saturday evening and I’ve only had seafood for one meal, the very first one, and it was fried shrimp. I’m a little disappointed in myself. We had a light breakfast in the apartment and headed downtown, finally deciding to visit the Historic Seaport area and had lunch at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, where I had a steak sandwich with peppers, onions and provolone on Cuban bread. It was pretty good, very big, and very messy. It wasn’t seafood. Diane had a mango pulled pork barbeque sandwich. She liked it.

It was an odd day, weather-wise. In the sunshine it was pretty warm, but in the shaded areas the sometimes stiff breeze made it a little chilly. We wondered around for a few hours looking at places, had a piece of Key lime pie, and headed back to the apartment around 5 p.m. No dinner tonight; we’re both still full from lunch and the pie. Just having a snack.

We’re both ticked off that the apartment’s Internet service is lousy and unreliable. It’s especially irritating because when we made the reservation we explained that having reliable Internet service was a necessity. Had we any indication that it wasn’t going to be, we’d have found a different place. I’m not shy about telling people when they screw up, but I really hate to have to do that.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

At Long Last: A Trip

The first time we were in Key West was four years ago when we took a cruise to celebrate our son’s graduation from high school. It wasn’t the best experience, but overall a pretty good one, but we felt we needed to go back someday. So, we saved up and after a lot of commotion to get a Christmas trip to give each other, Diane and I booked a flight to Miami and rented a convertible to drive down US 1 to Key West.

We got to Miami International (for a really good price, thanks to Diane’s shopping expertise) about 3:15, and by the time we got to the rental place and got all that straightened out, we were in our Mustang convertible and heading out of Miami in an hour.

After about an hour of driving we had worked our way to US 1 south and escaped the mainland. It was a nice day, and after we got to the first and only drawbridge, we stopped and put the top down and continued south. We finally got to Key West and to the place we were going to stay about 7:40. The drive down was pretty nice, but long. Had we gotten to Miami a little earlier, I think the whole trip to the Keys would have been, on the whole, a better trip. But as time passed, darkness set in, and the trip began to drag out, since we didn’t have the magnificent scenery to keep us interested. Speed limits of 35 mph didn’t help.

Once we got checked in and to the apartment and unloaded everything and went out to get dinner, it was about 8 p.m. We ended up at a TGI Friday’s. It was loud and busy, but the food was good. Back to the apartment, and the day was done.

Sunday was a relaxed day, as all should be in KW. We headed to the historic part of the island about 10:30 a.m. with no plans, other than to spend some time looking around. Most of the stuff you read tells you to avoid Duval Street, because it is so “touristy.” But we hadn’t really gotten to see much of it before, and we ignored the advice. After walking around a while we ended up at Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet’s place. We had been there on the first trip when the ship we were on docked there for a day. On the advice of some friends we had gone to Buffet’s place for a conch sandwich, which two of the four of us didn’t even consider. Ryan and I thought about it, and I actually ordered one, looking forward to a seafood treat. When the sandwich finally came, it had chicken between the bun halves, not conch. I was unhappy (gross understatement!).

This time, it turned out that a conch sandwich wasn’t even a possibility; it had been taken off the menu. Darn! So, I had a chicken club and Diane had a Cheeseburger in Paradise. That was her second one of those. We both had a margarita, and moved on. We walked around for a couple of hours, saw stuff we hadn’t seen before, bought some locally hand-rolled cigars, had dessert and a drink, visited Key West Winery and bought a bottle of Hurricane Class 5 white sangria (a very nice sweet wine), and had a great time. We headed back to the apartment about 4 p.m., and killed some time until we decided to go out to get dinner.

We hadn’t made any plans, so we just rode around looking for what we could find away from the busy historic area, but didn’t find anything that really rang our bells. Next thing we knew, we were back in the historic district which, among other things, is not friendly to people looking for a place to park. As it turned out, we had lucked into a free parking spot not more than a couple of blocks from Duvall Street earlier, so we went back there. As luck would have it we found another place at nearly the same place.

While we were riding around we saw a Thai restaurant that Diane was interested in, and it was only about a block away from the parking spot, so we went there. It’s just amazing how being only a block or two away from Duvall Street makes such a difference in foot traffic. As we drove down Duvall, we saw wall-to-wall people, standing in lines waiting to get into the places along the strip. At Thai Cuisine, on Greene Street two blocks away, we were seated immediately.

It was an international place: It was a Thai restaurant; an American girl seated us; a delightful Polish lass named Kasia waited on us; and a friendly Hispanic fellow bussed the table.

I haven’t had much experience with Thai food, but let me tell you that if you get to Key West, you should go to Thai Cuisine. Diane had a chicken panang curry dish (she likes curry) with coconut milk and ground peanuts, pea pods, carrots and green peppers. I had a honey roasted duck dish with carrots, pea pods, green peppers, onions and straw mushrooms with white rice. The food was terrific! And, it wasn’t very expensive, as Key West food goes. We got out of there with a $65 bill, including a bottle of wine. You’ve got to go there!

We walked around a little while, stopped in at Fogarty’s for a Mojito expertly made by Brandon, then headed home.

Day One was near an end.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Classic Lines

Although you’d never know it from reading my stuff, I really appreciate a clever or artful turn of phrase. Sometimes, someone puts a string of words together in such a way that it is truly a wonderful thing to behold.

While watching a rerun of “M.A.S.H.,” one of the truly classic TV shows (darn, I’ve said “truly” twice in two consecutive paragraphs), I came across one of those classic phrases. It seems that in the absence of Maj. Frank Burns, one of the surgeons in the zany 4077th M.A.S.H. unit, one Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester, III, was temporarily assigned to the unit, and was not (to say the least) happy about it.

Winchester was a New England Yankee snob (for those who have never seen the show), an arrogant and superior person, a person of culture who was totally repulsed at having to go to the 4077th, even for the intended 48-hour temporary period. A M.A.S.H. unit in the middle of nowhere was just too far beneath Chaaaaaaarrrrrles for him to bear. There were no gourmet meals and wine, no high culture like he experienced in his previous cushy assignment in Tokyo, and the “crudeness” of the rest of the 4077th’s personnel, like his tent-mates Hawkeye and BJ, drove him nuts.

As fate would have it, circumstances deteriorated for Winchester, whose experience doing “meatball surgery” was traumatic, at best, and he ended up being permanently assigned to the 4077th. Realizing he was stuck, but nevertheless being not only determined to get out of there, and also being his elitist, snobby self, Chaaaaarrrrles told Col. Potter, the CO of the unit: "Know this. You can cut me off from the civilized world. You can incarcerate me with two moronic cellmates. You can torture me with your thrice daily swill, but you cannot break the spirit of a Winchester. My voice shall be heard from this wilderness and I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewer!"

A classic line, for certain.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Latest “Election for Change”

In every election some candidates run on a theme of “change.” The party that is not in power, like the Democrats in this election, preaches change to attract voters who may be disenchanted with the status quo. Changing things may be the only thing they’ve got, even if things don’t need to be changed. And, depending upon how things are going, and/or how things are perceived to be going, even candidates in the party in power may adopt “change” as their mantra.

No administration is perfect; no administration makes everyone happy with its policies and initiatives. And in certain situations where uncontrollable events change the political and social landscape, every administration is going to be out of favor with many Americans. Even if Al Gore had won the 2000 election instead of George Bush, it is likely that a large segment of the American people would be unhappy with what his administration did in response to the 9-11 attacks. And if John Kerry had prevailed in 2004 there would be widespread dissatisfaction with his handling of the war in Iraq. Hurricane Katrina likely would have produced the same response.

Voters like to hear that change can be had by electing so-and-so, and sometimes they probably get what they voted for. Other times, though, they get the same old stuff repackaged under the guise of “change.” That is likely what they’ll get if Hillary Clinton is elected, at least so far as one issue she recently brought up is concerned.

She criticized President Bush in the last debate for what she described as attempting to get the Saudis to reduce oil prices. She characterized his effort as “begging,” which I’m fairly certain is an exaggeration of the reality. Of course, merely recounting what actually happened often isn’t good enough to fire up the desire for change in many voters, so for good measure Sen. Clinton resorted to hyperbole, a popular tactic in campaigns. And she topped off her embellishment with the comment that the President’s behavior was “pathetic.”

If indeed the Mr. Bush went to Riyadh “begging” for lower prices, he didn’t follow his own advice, since OPEC really doesn’t control oil prices, and he knows it. Demand sets prices, and China is fueling demand more than the US. What OPEC could do is step up production, increasing supplies, and that reportedly was discussed.

However, the worst thing Ms. Clinton did, worse than distorting Mr. Bush’s talk with the Saudi king, was to pretend that she wouldn’t do precisely the same thing, to talk, to negotiate, something liberals always prefer. After all, her husband did just that when he was president. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson, did exactly what Ms. Clinton criticizes President Bush for. I wonder if she called Bill “pathetic” when he did it.

Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one that stretches the truth, of course, but she is one of the loudest and shrillest voices for change. However, her voice is filled with deception, and there is a serious question as to whether she can be trusted with the power she seeks.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stupid Commercials

That title might seem redundant, given the recent crap that is used to peddle products in the US. Readers from Canada, Spain, Ireland or Australia (to name just four places readers come from) might not have to face the idiocy we lucky Americans see daily on the boob tube.

Some commercials are just dumb. Like the Campbell’s Soup spots that feature some dope drinking soup as he lets it run down his chin to his shirt while the rest of the people in the meeting look at him like he’s crazy, or the dope who leaves his lovely naked girlfriend in the water skinny-dipping as he jumps in his car to go get some more soup.

But the ones that really gall me are those that feature the destruction of something, a trend that has become far too prevalent for my tastes.

If you don’t use the right water filter, your water may become so heavy that when it fills a water balloon that is thrown by one kid at another kid, and mistakenly hits the family van, it tips the van over. That is stupid, of course, but not too destructive or violent. Others are worse, like the one where when Mom fills a pitcher with water that isn’t filtered and sets it on the table, the pitcher crashes through the table, through the floor into the garage below where Dad is standing by the car, which (naturally) sustains substantial damage from the heavy missile that crashes onto it.

If you want new furniture, you can no longer just sell or give away the old stuff, you now have to take a small fork lift into your home, load it with the old stuff, and drive the fork lift out onto the front lawn, banging and crashing along the way.

If your washer isn’t doing its job, don’t buy a new one and have the delivery guys haul the old one off. No. Instead, throw it out the second story window, and let it crash to the ground. Or, set it on a railroad track for a train to hit as it goes on its merry way. Or, find a crane with a wrecking ball on it and swing the ball at the offending appliance, smashing it to bits.

This idiotic trend has even invaded home design shows, once the province of gentle folk concerned with prettying up your home with paint, wall paper, and design elements from the genteel side of life. No more, though. If you want to remodel your kitchen and need to remove the old cabinets, don’t just take them off the wall, beat the hell out of them with a sledge hammer. Got a wall that needs to be removed or shortened? That’s right: get out the sledges.

Whether this trend toward destructive and violent home decorating is a reflection of our declining culture, or a motivating factor of it, I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a lot more of this tendency to destroy things, and I don’t see how that is good for anybody. It certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in the American way of life.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Conservatives and Libertarians in Limbo

For conservatives and libertarians the presidential election of 2008 holds little promise; there is no strong conservative candidate, and the only libertarian candidate has very little chance of being nominated.

So, when you look over the Republican field, which is the only place you would be likely to find a conservative or a libertarian, it becomes difficult to pick someone that you really can believe in, and that you can strongly support. It is
mostly a matter of disqualifying candidates because of their ideological shortcomings, as opposed to strongly getting behind a candidate that shares your beliefs and ideals.

As someone who is conservative but not really a Republican, I will likely vote for whomever the Republicans nominate, for the simple reason that none of the Democrats can qualify under my strict conservative/libertarian criteria. Just who that will be, I have no idea; it’s too early to make that determination, and I’m a lousy predictor of such things, particularly these days, when I don’t have the time to really follow politics.

I have never supported John McCain, although I will vote for him if he is nominated for the reasons previously enumerated. But McCain has many, many shortcomings.

An excellent description of McCain’s strengths and weaknesses, written by columnist Jay Ambrose, lays out my feelings about McCain. If you have any interest in John McCain, I urge you to read it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hillary Clinton's "Experience Odyssey"

Sen. Hillary Clinton, out there on the campaign trail seeking the Democrat presidential nomination, has been loudly proclaiming her 35 years of experience implementing change as the reason to nominate her and then elect her President of the United States.

"I was a member of the White House team that was involved with trying to make a lot of changes,” she said, referencing being the wife of a President for eight years. “I think that people who are running for President should lay out for Americans their record, their experiences, their qualifications, their vision, their plan, and their understanding of how to make it all happen, and that's what I'm doing."

There are two problems (at least) with that statement. First, Mrs. Clinton has talked about her record, but has not provided any documentation to back up her claims. Those records are locked up in the National Archives, and their release has not been allowed by her husband, the former President.

Second, and more important, being in the White House as First Lady doesn’t qualify you for anything. Even though she has some experience in politics and policy formulation, and participated as an off-the-payroll advisor to her husband, Mrs. Clinton wasn’t the decision maker. She has no executive experience and less experience as an elected representative than other candidates. So, that begs the question: do her years as a lawyer, her eight years as First Lady and her minimal time in elected office really set her above the rest of the candidates? No, of course not.

To illustrate the absurdity of Mrs. Clinton’s claim to experience, I present the following excerpt from an email making the rounds:

“In a news conference Deanna Favre announced she will be the starting QB for the Green Bay Packers this coming Sunday. Deanna asserts that she is qualified to be starting QB because she has spent the past 16 years married to Brett while he played QB for the Packers. During this period of time she became familiar with the definition of a corner blitz, and is now completely comfortable with other terminology of the Packers offense.”

The comparison may not be precise, but you get the point.

Those of us who recognize the media’s left bias and its preference for a Democrat in the White House haven’t missed the fact that Mrs. Clinton has not been challenged on her claims of superiority basis on her “experience,” and they haven’t asked her about those records safely tucked out of public view in the National Archives, either.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Muslims Really Don’t Discriminate Against Women

The conventional wisdom in the West is that Muslims view females as second-class citizens, deserving of being treated as property, subservient to males and quietly obedient. This is why they cover their bodies from head to toe, showing only their eyes so that they can see where they are going.

A news item today puts that idea into debate, and shows once again that we in the West really don’t know or understand Islam and the Muslim culture, by revealing that women are just as good as men, at least for certain roles.

The news report says that “U.S.-led coalition forces are increasingly catching militants suspected of training women to become human bombs or finding evidence of efforts by al-Qaida in Iraq to recruit women” as suicide bombers.

And, apparently al-Qaida is not as maniacally wedded to the fundamentalist fringes of Islam as we once thought, because it goes against religious taboos in Iraq to involve women in fighting. The three recent suicide bombings carried out by women indicate, perhaps, that al-Qaida really doesn’t hew so closely to the dictates of the Islamic faith, or maybe, as the news story suggested, insurgents are merely growing increasingly desperate.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

How Ridiculous a Concept is the Iowa Caucus?

The more you learn about the Iowa Caucus the more ridiculous the entire concept seems.

For example:

~ Three million people live in Iowa, 95 percent are white, and two million Iowans are registered to vote.
~ Iowa is a rural state, unlike where most voters in the US live; Iowa is not representative of America as a whole.
~ You must be able to attend the caucus at the appointed time in order to participate in the exercise.
~ If you are away on a business trip, serving your country in the military, sick, away at college, can’t get off work, or whatever, you can’t participate in your state’s primary-level political exercise.
~ If you attend college in Iowa, even if you are a resident of another state, you can vote in the Iowa caucus.
~ Only about 240,000 Iowans, approximately 12 percent of registered voters, will participate in the caucuses.
~ Over 40%, perhaps as much as 50%, of the Iowa GOP caucus vote consists of white evangelical Christians.
~ The event takes place two days after the holiday season ends, and the most important time for communicating with voters by candidates occurs along with the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years celebrations.

Does this sound like something that ought to have any influence on who the Democrats and Republicans nominate for President?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


One day a fourth-grade teacher asked her students what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up -- fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman, doctor, lawyer, mailman and so forth.

However, little Justin was being uncharacteristically quiet, and when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied, "My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and stay with him all night for money."

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and then took little Justin aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"

"No," the boy said, "He works for the Democratic National Committee and is helping to get Hillary Clinton to be our next President, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Assimilation is the Key to a Strong and Enduring Society

In the back-and-forth comments to an earlier post about Latinos feeling the US is hostile toward them my Catalonian friend Nuri wondered in what way I expect Hispanics to adapt when they move to the US. To answer that question, I offer the following: There is a widely accepted principle that when you are in someone else’s home, you do things their way. If, for example, you were in the habit of running around naked throughout your old house whenever you pleased, and if your new hosts don’t appreciate you displaying your wonderful bod in all its glory, you stop running around bare. It’s the polite thing to do. When you expand that example to people moving from one country to another, the principle remains the same; it is called “assimilation,” which is the process whereby a minority group gradually adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture. Without assimilation of newcomers into the population at large, no culture can long survive.

Theodore Roosevelt put it very well in a letter to the American Defense Society in 1919. "In the first place we should insist that the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equity with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming an American and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people." It was this process that served America so well for decades, the process utilized by legal immigrants from Ireland, Sweden, Great Britain, Poland, and elsewhere.

But what once was a natural part of coming to America is, to many, unacceptable these days, and while E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) is still America’s national motto, its meaning is becoming a foggy concept. Several factors have combined in recent years to allow immigrants to resist the Americanization that had once been considered irresistible. For example, the United States increasingly promotes diversity, the factors that set people apart. But the more emphasis there is on people’s differences, the less emphasis there can be on the things that make us one people, and that is where the trouble comes from.

Latino/Hispanic populations are growing out of all sensible proportion, due to the Bush administration’s magnificent failure to guard our borders and control immigration. And because of their increased numbers, as their populations grow, and because of the “strength in numbers” principle, the reluctance to adopt American customs is significantly noticeable. Latinos, many of them in the US illegally, have boldly and arrogantly asserted their independence from American customs by demanding we do certain things to accommodate them in dissident public demonstrations, and have even had the gall to fly the Mexican flag above the American flag in public. This brazen behavior is rejected by most Americans. Controlled immigration of Hispanics into the US likely would have produced a far different attitude about Hispanic immigrants/aliens than we have today, because sensible numbers of immigrants—LEGAL immigrants—under a controlled immigration policy would result in smaller numbers of immigrants from any one country or culture to enter the country over a given period of time, and in smaller numbers these immigrants would be more likely to adopt our customs and to properly assimilate.

The American culture isn’t what it used to be, and I view many of the things that have changed over the last 40 years as foolish and harmful to our society. But for better or worse our culture is what it is. You come here to live because of the opportunity that America provides; you get the whole ball of wax, both the bad and the good. You don’t get to pick and choose. If you don’t like that, then maybe you should go back where you came from, or go somewhere else.