Monday, September 29, 2008

Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters - 2008 General Election (California) Edition - UPDATED

LAST UPDATE (I PROMISE!): This may well be the most important election we've had in the last twenty years. There are clear choices to be made here, many of them between polar opposites (as with Proposition 8).

You may have noticed that I do not generally use the Curmudgeon's Guide to discuss candidates. The simple reason is, there's too many of them. Uncle Woody has a hard enough time deciding between our local candidates, let alone keeping an eye on the rest of the state or, indeed, the nation.

However, as I have kept up with the news reports and blogs over the past several weeks, one thing is crystal clear in Uncle Woody's mind: Barack Obama needs to be defeated tomorrow. His election will usher in an era of socialist-leaning programs and policies, the likes of which have not been seen since the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. And I do not mean that to be a favorable comparison. The New Deal addressed a series of national woes, true. But rather than let them simply expire over time as the nation righted itself, they were codified into our collective consciousness and we have been dealing with those consequences for going on four generations now. Barack Obama will represent a tremendous step backward for this country, and it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE COLOR OF HIS SKIN. It is entirely about his political philosophies, none of which show any understanding of the intent or purpose of the United States Constitution.

One other comment is directed at voters in western Pennsylvania who must choose between incumbent Rep. John Murtha, or newcomer Bill Russell. Given Murtha's tireless rantings and insults which he has directed at both the Marines who served in Haditha, as well as his own constituents, I would be absolutely astonished if Murtha is somehow re-elected tomorrow.

But whatever you do, people, or however you intend to vote, you must vote. You must participate in this process if we are to have any hope at all of resurrecting the form of government envisioned by our founding fathers.

UPDATE: Tom McClintock is one of the last reliable conservatives we have in California politics today. With very few exceptions (and what would life be without a few exceptions?) he has tended to vote for or support my own views on a wide range of issues. I just received an email that outlines Tom's recommendations for the Propositions on this ballot. I find that we match pretty well, with just a few differences. I'll note those differences below.
Hey, there, Young Conservatives! It's been a busy year. Coming up on Election Number Three in this state, which by my count is approximately two elections too many.

However, the monster must be fed, and you're here because you're looking for some deep, insightful analysis presented in a concise format that will make all the California ballot initiatives clear in your young minds.

What you get instead is whatever knee-jerk reactions Uncle Woody has had whilst perusing the voluminous "Official Voter Information Guide" that weighs approximately as much as the car you're driving right now. Shame on you, Young Conservatives! Pull over before you start reading this stuff!

And now, for your Ritalin induced dementia research and reading pleasure, we present you with

Uncle Woody's Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters, 2008 General Election (California) Edition

Prop. 1A - Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act.

The idea here is to issue bonds (state politicians' favorite non-tax tax) in the amount of just under $10 billion to build and improve passenger rail service between the major population centers in the state. Hence a trip from Los Angeles to Oakland would take 2 hours and 40 minutes. Sounds terrific, and Uncle Woody is an old railfan from waaay back. I just don't know if there's enough interest in such commutes (except for state-hopping politicians, perhaps) to really make any money off of it. Reminds me of past attempts to build high-speed lines between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. That one would have had you losing money paying for the line, and losing your shirt when you got there.

Uncle Woody says get out of the way and let Amtrak do their thing. No on Prop 1A.

Prop. 2 - Standards for Confining Farm Animals. Initiative Statute.

Thinly veiled attempt by the ASPCA and PETA to quit torturing animals that are targeted for eventual slaughter and eating anyway. Forcing "humane" conditions on growers just inevitably raises prices between them and the dinner table, which, I have little doubt, is PETA's ultimate goal. Make the animals expensive enough to eat, and everyone converts to Veganology.

(Tom McClintock appears to take a sort of reverse philosophy from Bruce the Shark in "Finding Nemo." Animals are food, not friends.)

Uncle Woody oinks in their general direction. No on Prop 2.

Prop. 3 - Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program. Initiative Statute.

Uncle Woody must break with his traditional curmudgeonry in this particular instance. Children's (and other) hospitals across the state provide services that Uncle Woody's extended family has required in the past, and they always need more funds. This money is used to help maintain, increase, and promote the level of care and research that these hospitals provide. Even though much of Proposition 61's funds have yet to be awarded, we need to keep this money flowing. I'd even rather see the money we might have spent on high-speed rail travel being spent on kids instead. Cancer, in particular, is much more pervasive now than it was even ten years ago.

[Here's one of the differences I have with Tom McClintock. He finds use of "children" to be a cynical way of funneling taxpayer money into private hospital concerns. That may be true; I'm certainly no legal or financial expert. However, I have always watched with no small concern as we continue to try to provide quality medical care with fewer facilities and underpaid staff. I hold my line on Prop 3.]

Uncle Woody votes an unqualified Yes on Prop 3.

Prop. 4 - Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Here we go again. We keep trying to outwit our teenagers, rather than communicate with them. Look, parents, if you're so worried about your daughter rushing out to get an abortion without your consent and knowledge, then you have already slammed the doors of communication shut between you. If you want to get ahead of the curve, STAY INVOLVED IN THEIR LIVES. Just because they're old enough to go to high school is no reason to abdicate your position AND INFLUENCE as a parent. If you love your kids, help them know that their lives are safe in your arms. That includes being able to come to you with news of a mistake — even a huge one like unprotected sex — without having to fear for their young lives.

I hate to admit that Planned Parenthood, of all subversive organizations, might be right, but forcing doctors to tell parents about abortions 48 hours before performing them is only going to drive kids to seek such treatment elsewhere, under unsafe conditions. If you'd rather your daughter not get an abortion, teach her about the nobility of adoption. Then go vote for legislation that criminalizes all elective abortion.

[Here again I disagree with McClintock. Look, I'm not saying that requiring parents to be notified before their child gets an abortion is a bad thing. I'm all for keeping parents in the loop. My argument is that if you've gotten to the point where a provider has to inform you that your child wants an abortion, you've already missed the boat. TALK TO YOUR KIDS. If you want to vote Yes on Prop 4, Uncle Woody will not stand in your way. I really won't howl if it passes. I just think it won't accomplish everything its proponents think it will.]

Try again and get it right, folks. Uncle Woody votes No on Prop 4.

Prop. 5 - Nonviolent Drug Offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Initiative Statute.

Uncle Woody sees several huge problems with this initiative. The biggest problem, both in terms of uselessness and gross weight, is a "19 member board" to be created to direct parole and rehabilitation policy. In other words, a new bureaucracy that will toss drug offenders into rehab, wash their collective hands of the offenders, then gasp with surprise when 90% of those offenders wind up back in jail.

Here's where Hollywood really sets the example, folks. How many rehabbed actors and musicians have cleaned up and stayed that way?

Uncle Woody votes No way, Dude, on Prop 5.

Prop. 6 - Police and Law Enforcement Funding. Criminal Penalties and Laws. Initiative Statute.

Uncle Woody supposes that, since he votes No for Prop 5, he'd better be ready to vote for increases in funding for law enforcement. Since I don't, you know, believe in rehab, for example. This initiative alots nearly $10 billion (that figure, again!) for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, and facilities to handle stiffer regulations with regards to gang activity in particular. In other words, it's all intertwined in this initiative, and voting against it kind of kills the whole thing.

My problem here is that we continue to view gangs as just another element of society with (as some have argued) potential for (here's that word again!) rehabilitation. Uncle Woody, on the other hand, keeps wishing someone will wake up and actually label gangs as what they really are: enemy combatants. Then we can persecute and prosecute under provisions of Homeland Security and send in the National Guard, rather than wasting the efforts of good cops.

Until then, however, Uncle Woody will swallow hard and vote Yes for Prop 6.

Prop. 7 - Renewable Energy Generation. Initiative Statute.

Requires utilities in California to generate 20% of the power from renewable sources by 2010, 40% by 2020, and 50% by 2025.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But there's a problem, and this initiative isn't going to solve it. We DON'T HAVE THE INFRASTRUCTURE TO SUPPORT THIS IDEA. Honestly; am I the only one in this state still waiting to see Schwarzenegger's promised "Hydrogen Corridor?" Well, guess what: that's an infrastructure issue, and WE AREN'T THERE YET. Ask folks in Tehachapi how much of a break they get on power provided by all those ugly windmills that besmirch their lovely foothills.

There's also the small issue of calendar. By my calendar, we have just over 15 months left until 2010. Even if we give them until December of 2010, that only gives them 27 months to come up with this 20% of renewable power. It will take 26 months alone for the Public Utilities Commission ("Preventing Your Power For Your Own Good") to approve the plans.

Uncle Woody votes Lights Out (that's "no" in utility-speak) on Prop 7.

Prop. 8 - Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

You just know that Jerry Brown came up with this description. "Eliminates" their right. Cute, that.

A future post is forthcoming (delivered, as promised, here) in regards to Proposition 8. There are arguments aplenty in support of the initiative, one of which is that it took 61% of California voters to approve the exact same language in Proposition 22 back in 2000, but only 4 arrogant California Supreme Court justices to overturn it a few months ago. Said it wasn't "constitutional." Like they would know.

Let's make it constitutional. Uncle Woody votes YES on Prop 8.

Prop. 9 - Criminal Justice System. Victims’ Rights. Parole. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

This one will be tricky. So-called "victims rights" are tenuous at best, especially in California where we seem to glory in creating safe-havens for every undocumented murderer that comes across the border. Berkeley still hasn't learned this lesson, and I doubt that this amendment will convince them otherwise. There's also the fact that the real damage to victims is typically done in court, and is inflicted by defense attorneys whose only goal in life is to win the case, without any moral compunction about using every available loophole to prevent an obviously guilty defendant from receiving the full brunt of the penalty they deserve.

Still, as a sort of consolation prize, we have the opportunity to make it somewhat harder for criminals to be granted parole, warn the victims when parole may be granted, and give them a greater voice in whether parole should be considered.

Uncle Woody votes Yes for Prop 9.

Prop. 10 - Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy. Bonds. Initiative Statute.

Money, money, money. Everyone wants it. No one wants to give it. Particularly when they refuse to build infrastructure to support what they're asking for. Look, Uncle Woody is all for alternative fuels. The problem is, we're not very good about implementing these ideas. Everyone who has a hand in it is really looking to have a controlling interest (read: huge payback) in how it grows. If you want hydrogen fueling stations at more than a handful of locations around the state, you need to make it worth someone's while to build them. This is something Schwarzenegger has utterly failed to do, and remains one of the last things on which he campaigned that hasn't seen much activity. Bio-fuels are also dicey. We have a tendency to go overboard when something seems to work (corn, for example), then realize that we fouled up and forgot that people have a tendency to want to eat the stuff, not burn it in cars.

Uncle Woody "Brakes" for Prop 10. Show me something that will work to everyone's advantage, then we'll talk.

Prop. 11 - Redistricting. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

1. California's redistricting process is broken.
2. Everyone wants it fixed.
3. No one can agree on how this should be accomplished.

Solution: make the voters do it! Really. This initiative creates a 14 member commission from a pool of 60 (can you say "lottery?"). Of the 14, 5 must be Democrats, 5 must be Republicans, and 4 must belong to "neither party."

Oh, really? Does that mean this commission might be influenced by 4 stoners from the Green Party?

[My final conflict with Mr. McClintock. He posits that voters, not legislators, should draw the lines. My problem is with the way this thing is written. It won't be "the voters" making these decisions, it will be a lottery-based commission of 5, 5, and 4. I'm being a tad facetious with my "stoners" crack, but not by much. Just look at all the nonsense surrounding the selection of a simple jury for any given trial, and you'll see where my concerns lie. This again will not accomplish what I think the proponents believe it will accomplish. There are too many question marks, and not everyone who registers Republican acts like a Republican. Can you say "Schwarzenegger?" I'm sticking with my curmudgeonly NO vote.]

Uncle Woody votes to snuff out Prop 11. Sober commissions only, please.

Prop. 12 - Veterans’ Bond Act of 2008.

The only argument provided against this initiative is that the Cal-Vet loan program isn't limiting enough. Seriously. Someone volunteers to serve in the military to protect their country and (by extension) their state, and some Bozo in a three-piece suit wants to limit loans to only those veterans who actually serve in a combat area.

This program makes more sense than anything Congress is currently hashing out with respect to our credit crisis. Uncle Woody salutes the flag for Prop 12.
Convenient summary for Young Conservatives to clip out and take to the polls:

1A - NO
2 - NO
3 - YES [McClintock: NO]
4 - NO [McClintock: YES]
5 - NO
6 - YES
7 - NO
8 - YES
9 - YES
10 - NO
11 - NO [McClintock: YES]
12 - YES

UPDATE: So I've had this star-rating thingie on this blog for a few months now. The only score I'd received up until yesterday was my own 4-star rating for one of my own posts that I thought was particularly clever (although please don't ask me which one... can't remember). Finally I receive a rating from an actual reader! It's only 1 star, but still.

It's a little like those quick surveys that we ask customers to fill out when we've provided a service. They rank you in the toilet, but refuse to leave any comments that explain why they hate you.

Ah, well. At least someone noticed.

A Tale of Two Families

In the parable of the prodigal son, a young man takes his half of his father's estate and wastes it on riotous living. His fall is swift and humiliating. He finds himself living lower than his father's own servants. Finally he resolves to return to his father and offer to work as one of his servants, knowing that at least he'd be cared for and be able to eat real food. His father, of course, will have none of it, but instead welcomes his son home joyously. They kill the fatted calf and have a feast to celebrate the return of his once-lost son. The other son, who had remained faithful throughout, cannot understand why his father would greet this wayward son and welcome his return with full forgiveness. This faithful son is taught an important lesson about the need to welcome back those who stray and return with repentant hearts. True repentance requires being in the depths of humility and recognizing the need to remove the sinful behavior from one's life.

How very different from the prodigal son is this tale of the country's financial crisis. In this tale we have fathers and sons making horrible decisions with their finances. Money is lent irresponsibly to those who cannot truly afford to borrow. When those borrowers cannot repay, they face losing their homes and, potentially, even their livelihoods. Rome, being Rome, can think of only one response to this situation: give money held by those who chose wisely to those who made those bad decisions. Thus everyone appears to win.

Except for the repentance. There is no repentance in this scenario. The lenders will continue to lend, raking in as many borrowers as the new laws will allow. They will find whatever loopholes they can exploit for lending money once again to those who truly are in no responsible position to borrow. The borrowers will seek new sources of money so they can live in homes they cannot truly afford in order to maintain the lifestyles they dream of. They hope against hope that their personal finances will grow to the point of being able to pay back the loans without further assistance, but this will only happen if their income increases dramatically in a short amount of time.

Meanwhile, taxpayers who have acted (I know some of you hate this word) conservatively with their funds and their financial decisions are suddenly expected to simply hand money over to those who will (emphasis intended) squander it. There is no question that our taxes are going to be squandered by throwing it after people who have lived riotously, yet fail to realize that this was a bad decision on their part. No, they feel that they are entitled to this bailout, or at least they have felt that way ever since the government told them that they were so entitled.

So, if this bailout legislation succeeds, please don't ask me for a fatted calf with which to make merry. I won't be able to afford one.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Amendment? What First Amendment?

Noticing a pattern emerging on Obama's campaign trail. Every effort is being made to squelch dissent whereever it is found. A classic example of "freedom of speech for me, but not for thee" thinking (via Michelle Malkin).

This story comes from The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, Virginia:
Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is scheduled to speak at a rally at the university today. The public is invited to this forum, on property it, the public, owns. However, signs and banners will not be allowed, according to the organizers and compliant campus officials.
The First Amendment guarantees the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, petition of the government. Will one who aspires to the title Defender of the Constitution begin inhibiting these First Freedoms even before he is in office--at a public university?
A fabulous question. The commenters to this story attempt to trivialize the issue by claiming it to be simply a question of good manners. Really. Signs prevent me from gazing with rapture at The One, so they should be banned. This comment from "thatguyb" is typical:
...if someone holds up a placard, banner or sign in front of me, they are violating my right to participate in this rally. If people respected others rights, this wouldn't be an issue, any banner would be held at best chest high. Unfortunately respect lately has gone out the window, and people don't seem to care, so I admire the campaign for prohibiting these view obstructing items. I want to be able to see and hear the forum, without distraction.
Do yourself a favor, dude. Stay away from party conventions. The point is, even the Secret Service doesn't care about signs, so long as you can't turn any part of it into a weapon.

Next we turn to Obama's "Goon Truth Squad" efforts. Gateway Pundit has this story, including video of a story from the news team at KMOV:
St. Louis and Missouri Democrat sheriffs and top prosecutors are planning to go after anyone who makes false statements against Obama during his campaign. This is so one sided I can't even begin to describe how wrong this agenda is.

It's one thing if they want to keep the campaign fair for both sides, but they clearly only want to enforce the issue for the Obama Camp.
True enough. Since the KMOV story includes interviews with the prosecutor involved, you may as well watch it to see for yourselves.

For all the howling about Bush's record on "civil rights violations" with regards to our handling of enemy combatants at Gitmo, you'd think Obama's campaign would be particularly sensitive to this issue of squelching freedom of speech at his rallies. It's one thing to have dedicated teams for debunking statements made by opponents to your campaign; it's another one altogether to try to prevent your opponents from saying anything in the first place. That is a violation of the First Amendment, and Obama needs to be called on it. If someone uses their right to free speech to incite violence or threaten the life of another, hey, I'm all for throwing their sorry fannies in jail for awhile. But you can't arrest them until they actually make such a speech or you can prove that they intended to. Just about everything else, including mocking your opponent's disabilities are all covered under that wonderful First Amendment.

Want to see how tolerant liberals really are of conservative values or candidates? Are you sure? It's pretty ugly. (Extreme content warning: you will see more fingers in this one video than you've ever seen from truck drivers or since high school.) It's a video of a group of McCain supporters marching through downtown Manhattan on September 21, 2008. Watch at your own risk. (Hat tip: American Digest)

Completely offensive to me, but the First Amendment guarantees their absolute right to express themselves in this way. I will not, on the other hand, ever visit Manhattan. I'd be too tempted to wear my McCain-Palin campaign button, and I might get hurt.

Of course, fair is only fair. So if Obama has Truth Squads dedicated to correcting Republican messages about The One, surely he must have an entire sub-team whose job is to follow Joe Biden around and correct his own innumerable slips of the lip.

The One must have balance, after all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm Still No Fan

Didn't tune in to the debate until about midway through, when they were already discussing foreign affairs. This is actually a relief, since the economy just gives me a headache, and I really don't believe either candidate has any clue how to fix it anyway. They'll just naturally pick whichever political solution fits with their anticipated base of voters and go for it.

It was interesting to note the opportunities McCain missed. I agree with Michelle Malkin that McCain didn't make any noteworthy boo-boos during the (part of the) debate (that I bothered to watch). But he noticeably missed opportunities to really slam the door on Obama's particularly naïve world view. McCain never really answered Obama's stated goal of "restoring America's reputation" with the world. Started re-hashing his already scored point that Iraq is still a fundamental key to our success in the whole war on terrorism.


Both men cut across each other frequently and forcefully enough that no one will be accused of being a shrinking violet. To this old conservative's eyes, though, Obama looked more and more tense as the debate progressed. His noticeable hesitation when attempting to respond to McCain's bracelet story was particularly telling. He actually had to glance down to remind himself of the man's name. Not a gaffe, per se, but an indicator that the war is for Obama something to be closed out and distanced from sooner rather than correctly. He's not interested in a lasting solution in Iraq. He's interested in how the world views that solution.

I also don't think the rest of Obama's base has got to be thrilled with their Anointed One's stated desire to close out the Iraqi theater, while at the same time ramping up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hey, war is war, guys, and if Iraq is unpopular, why should Afghanistan or Pakistan be any more popular as a place to spill American blood?

I also have to wonder how Russia and China are ever expected to consider US interests by helping with sanctions against Iran. Given Russia's continuing "imperialist" tendencies of late, and China's continual thumbing of noses at any human rights violations, I just don't see either one of them getting excited about helping us prevent Iran from going nuclear. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see nuclear centrifuges in Iran with parts made in Russia and/or China.

So I obviously give the nod to McCain, even though he muffed quite a few chances to put this upstart in his place. I heard absolutely nothing that I wasn't expecting from either candidate tonight, nor was I particularly impressed with either man's debating style. (CNN was hilarious with their little "instant audience reaction" graphic. Gee, look at that... the overall average goes up when Obama is talking — even before he actually answers the question — and goes down when McCain speaks. What a shocker. Could it be that CNN viewers are in the tank for Obama? Nah... That's cynical, even for a Republican.)

Woody ranks this one: Big Hairy Deal. (Not!)

Question of note in the Woody household: Jelly Woodyette asked, "Daddy? What did he say about torture?" My first political discussion with Daddy's little girl. *sigh*

No Fan of Debates, Either


I was really kind of hoping this one would be cancelled. There are two reasons, primarily:

1. I still think the financial crisis is more critical. Yeah, we need to know what our potential leaders think, but this crisis is going to affect more people in this country for a longer time than a mere 4 or even 8 year administration ever will. We need to get this one right, even though I fear we will not.

2. Along the lines of knowing what our potential leaders think, debates in modern politics don't do that. Here's the rub: thanks to modern media, the internet, and a plethora of opinionated people (present company included), if we don't know the candidates by this time after more than a year of listening to their dribble, the debate ain't gonna fill that void. The one possible exception to this axiom is Sarah Palin. Still relatively unknown, even to those who are throwing their whole-hearted support her way (including your gracious Blog Host), the VP debate may yet reveal some qualities about Palin that have not yet been reported. This is especially true since the MSM weevils insist on reporting everything BUT where Palin stands on the issues. Her "interviews" with Gibson and Couric were both carefully transcripted so as to show her as not having ready answers to anything, and made her statement about getting back to Couric on one specific question seem weak. It was a perfectly reasonable response to a question designed as a media "gotcha."

Otherwise, debates in modern politics are the functional equivalent of beauty pageants. They are designed by the same geniuses that long ago decided to cater to America's incredible shrinking attention span by providing us everything we need to know in soundbites of 1 minute or less. May as well dress McCain and Obama in swimsuits, have them pivot a time or two, then answer "The Question" (answer: world peace!) for the benefit of our media judges, whose opinions of who won seem to be the only ones that matter.

Will I watch the debates? Maybe. I'm definitely more interested in the Vice Presidential debate than the Presidential ones, if more for the potential entertainment value than the political "capital" that will be claimed by both sides. Debates are fascinating things. They seem to mirror our predilection for so-called "reality TV." It's like watching a season of "Survivor: Washington, D. C." for two years. The debates are designed to show how the contestants can outmaneuver each other, stab each other in the back, make alliances they have no intention of ever keeping, and generally showing what schmucks they are. It's not politics at its finest.

So with morbid fascination, America will watch tonight's debate between McCain and Obama. My prediction: each side will claim victory on principle and no one's mind will be made up.


No Fan of the Bailout (Updated)

If the Woundup were to state some sort of "official" position on the whole bailout scheme, that position would be "against." I see this as nothing more than punishing honest taxpayers for the sins of those who just couldn't wait to jump into mortgages that they ultimately couldn't handle. I dare say that most of them were those creative mortgages that sounded wonderful until you got a few years into it and realized that once your "fixed" rate expired, your adjustable rate would suck your money out of your wallet faster than a vindictive ex-wife. (Not that I have a vindictive ex... it's just a metaphor that seems to work for a lot of people.)

When Woody was a pup (and several times since) he received advice from several people regarding his financial future. Given the fact that Woody has never actually completed a college degree (Whee! More ammo for my detractors!) he readily admits to being anything but a financial expert. Still, the advice received all those years ago holds true today: if something sounds too good to be true, it very likely is.

One piece of advice I was given stated that the only good mortgage was a truly fixed-rate mortgage. One where the lender couldn't play any head games with your rate, your payment, or the terms whereby you could make an early exit from the contract. Three times I heeded that advice. One time I was forced to enter foreclosure. Ironic, I suppose, that the only times I was able to even consider entering the market were those times where the interest rates were considerably higher than they have been lately.

The foreclosure was a bite. No two ways around it; they were difficult times for me on several levels. Seven years (minimum) of bad credit scores. I say minimum, because after we abandoned the house some dirt-bag opportunists (squatters, really) forged my name on some documents, promised to pay the lender some of those arrears, and dragged the foreclosure process out by at least a year after the house should have been sold at auction.

The point is, I took the hit. It affected me personally, and my new wife by extension. For the first seven years of our marriage we were unable to get anything that didn't have punishing interest rates due to that one blotch on an otherwise good credit report. And I accepted both the hit and the downstream consequences. I never once complained to any of my elected officials that, gee, the banks really led me astray and would they please pass some sort of legislation to give me some taxpayer money and help me keep my house. Whining was not an option. (Not to the government, anyway. I'm certain I whined to someone, but that was several years ago. No idea who that may have been.)

This bailout is touted by too many people who see it as some sort of panacea for the country's financial woes. I wish it were that simple. Far from curing the disease, it will only encourage those who wish to continue their dangerous speculative practices. We don't need a bailout; we need Gamblers' Anonymous.

Hillary Clinton has already raised the spectre of a "government entity" that would rival the New Deal bureaucracies of the 30's. This can't be good. Creating more layers of government oversight will only serve to deepen the already neck-deep welfare state mentality in this country.

[UPDATE: I'm keeping the following section in strictly because I never learn from my own mistakes (hmm... must have political blood in me after all...), but this one should at least teach me to dust off my calculator from time to time. The numbers in this viral email don't quite add up, as pointed out by commenter Chris. Take three zeroes off of the results and you come closer to the truth.

Even with that, I still like this plan better than anything Congress is kvetcing about.]

The best solution I've heard so far came from a viral email that's been making the rounds the past couple of days. Since both my elder daughter and Official Woundup StepDad, ZeeMeister®, forwarded it to me in the past couple of days, I feel it worth passing along to my three or four readers. The original email is attributed to a Tim K Parkinson, Improvements Project Manager for the state of Utah. No idea if it's real, but I like it. He's only addressing the AIG bailout (a mere $85 billion), but think what his proposal would look like using the $700 Billion being touted by Congress right now:
Hi Everyone,

I'm against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG. Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend. To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up.

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals$425,000.00.

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We Deserve It Dividend. Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let's assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends 25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam. But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket.

A husband and wife have $595,000.00. What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

Pay off your mortgage - housing crisis solved.
Repay college loans - what a great boost to new grads
Put away money for college - it'll be there
Save in a bank - create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
Buy a new car - create jobs
Invest in the market - capital drives growth
Pay for your parent's medical insurance - health care improves
Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean - or else

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.

If we're going to re-distribute wealth let's really do it...instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 ("bying the vote") economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our candidates for President.

If we're going to do an $85 billion bailout, let's bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!

As for AIG - liquidate it. Sell off its parts. Let American General go back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up. Here's my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn't. Sure it's a crazy idea that can "never work."

But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party! How do you spell Economic Boom? I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion We Deserve It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC.

And remember, my plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.
So there it is. A proposal I can stand behind.

Of course the bailout is practically a given. Too many constituents (voters) in too many states need it because they got caught with their hands in the virtual cookie jar. Turns out the CEOs of the lenders got there first. It's a shame, but all too soon we taxpayers are going to be told to fork over whatever we have and hand it out to these "poor" defaulters.

Off to bed I go. I'll be a tax-paying pauper in the morning.

UPDATE: Baldilocks gets it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If This Is a Political Stunt...'s a darned good one. McCain has now and forever changed the tenor of the entire campaign with one well-intentioned move. He has "suspended" his campaign — meaning that he wishes to cancel/postpone this Friday's debate — in favor of attending to his senatorial duties during our financial crisis.

Win, lose, or draw it's a good move. Any response by Obama or his campaign is going to sound nothing short of self-serving if his response is anything other than agreeing with McCain and suspending the debate long enough to pass whatever artificial "solution" Congress will present to the President.

In fact, Obama's campaign has already spurned McCain's request, stating, in effect, that it isn't Obama's fault that McCain is incapable of multi-tasking. But this response has an immediate hollow sound to it, as if trying to get a clear tone from a wooden bell. Obama is really saying that the current financial crisis is not worthy of his full time and effort as one one-hundredth of the United States Senate. Whichever way he votes (if, indeed, he bothers to vote), it will be a vote that relies strictly on the work of others. It may or may not carry specific provisions upon which Obama would insist because he won't be there to propose or defend them. McCain, on the other hand, whether or not one agrees with his approach (I'm pretty sure I don't) will have participated in the debate, been seen as negotiating compromises, and generally look as though he thought this crisis as worthy of his attention.

In the Political Perceptions Game, this is functional equivalent of forcing your opponent to draw dozens of cards from the Uno® deck.

All that's missing so far is Joltin' Joe Biden tearing into an adoring crowd and saying something like, "Well, I don't know what ol' McCain is runnin' from, but it's clear he doesn't think he can win any debate with Barack Obama." In fact, I'm hoping he does something exactly like that, since Biden himself represents another one-hundredth part of the Senate, and if he follows his boss's example he'll be too busy stumping while Obama memorizes his responses to the debate questions.

Obama made one statement that should be examined, though:
"... I think that it is going to be part of the President’s job to deal with more than one thing at once."
Nice little bit of snark, that. Multi-tasking must be one of the requisites of community organizing if Obama is so good at it. In the days immediately following the attacks of 9/11, however, one wonders just how much (more) criticism would have been levelled at President Bush if he hadn't given that event his full and undivided attention. Is it possible that he was multi-tasking during that crisis? Perhaps, but the perception was that he was working around the clock to formulate a response and deal with the attacks head-on. Wasn't one of the harshest criticisms of Bush and his administration that their response to the Katrina disaster was anything but adequate? How does that fit in with the demand for a multi-task-capable President?

Senator Obama, who is understandably busy running for President this week, would, I think, be forgiven if he decided to follow McCain's lead and spend some time worrying about crafting the bailout package. It's not a terribly popular thing, granted. I sure don't like the President's bailout plan. I personally feel it leads precisely to the sort of "New Deal" thinking that Senator Clinton seems to be advocating these days; a new Depression-era bureaucracy designed to keep the federal government permanently interfering with mortgages ad infinitum. But a solution of some sort is required, and we need our sitting legislators, whether or not they happen to be running for President of the United States, to show us how they would "handle" this mess, rather than talking us to death about it.

The ball is in your court, Senator Obama, and I think you've just missed the serve.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Professional Ath-uh-letes

There are numerous reasons why I'm no fan of professional sports. Primary among them is the self-deluded demi-god attitude of those who get paid insane amounts of money to play games. It's not a blanket accusation, by any means, as I know there are notable exceptions to my own rule. There are plenty of stories of those who attempt to ennoble their sports through their examples and charitable activities around the nation.

Still, there are, I think, far more of these ath-uh-letes that forever give professional sports a black eye. Considering the life of absolute privilege in which Josh Howard of the Mavericks lives, you'd think he'd have a somewhat better attitude about his country of birth:
When the national anthem is being sung, various participants are shown mugging for the camera. When the camera gets to Howard, he says: "'The Star-Spangled Banner' is going on. I don't celebrate this [expletive]. I'm black."
He then, according to the article, made some rambling (nearly incoherent) comment about Barack Obama for whom, I'm assuming, he intends to vote since he seems to consider himself to be such a victim.

And the team's leadership? It's Mark Cuban. What'd you expect?
"...we will be going through some advanced communication-skill sessions together this training camp," Cuban said Tuesday.
I'm sure that'll do it. If only he'd change the phrasing by saying "I don't celebrate this stuff," all would be instantly forgiven.

One has one's image to uphold, after all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obama and His Supporters: Studies in Contradiction (UPDATED)

This is one for the textbooks. Political science instructors around the nation need to take a careful look at Obama's campaign and teach it as precisely the wrong way to win converts to a cause.

The punch line is that Obama is getting "feistier" in his most recent campaign stops. While I'm certain this plays well with his dedicated base, I am less than convinced that this will lead to pulling in those swing votes he seems to crave with just under seven weeks left in the campaign.

There's the usual "my opponent is lying" diatribe, of course. But this is no cause for alarm. This is what presidential candidates do as they get closer to the finish line. Obama dishes it out; McCain dishes it right back. Even I can write campaign speeches for most of this nonsense. "My opponent claims to have supported [insert issue du jour], when in fact he was the one who torpedoed it during his long/short career in the Senate, which is why I am the one who represents true hope/change/whatever." Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda.

News flash, candidates: no one who isn't already sold on you is listening. The fence-sitters are, instead, listening to the pundits (who are, themselves, firmly in the tank for one or the other of you), and will be biting their wishy-washy nails right down to the wire. On November 4 they will read their horoscopes, then go vote. That's just the way it is. Then whichever one of you loses can send out your legal team to whichever state(s) had "irregularities" in the ballot box so we can drag this election out interminably.

This is the essence of American presidential politics.

But back to my main point, which I'd nearly forgotten. Having descended from his cloud-obscured mountain retreat, the Dalai 'Bama made a pronouncement to his acolytes:
"I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face," he said.
The Feisty One continues:
"And if they tell you that, 'Well, we're not sure where he stands on guns.' I want you to say, 'He believes in the Second Amendment.' If they tell you, 'Well, he's going to raise your taxes,' you say, 'No, he's not, he's going lower them.' You are my ambassadors. You guys are the ones who can make the case."
Thus spake Zarathustra.

Hey, just ask any Mormon missionary how effective Obama's method is for gathering converts. When we do it Obama's way, we ultimately get doors slammed in our faces and/or dogs sicced after us. I suppose it's faintly damning that Obama seems to feel that the combative approach is the one worth pursuing. If you're going after Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, I'm all for it. If you're trying to persuade me that you "support the 2nd Amendment" (I'm not persuaded, by the way), then this isn't the way to get my attention.

Which brings me to the study in contradictions. Obama supporters have been urging The One to go after McCain more aggressively for several weeks now, a call which intensified after Sarah Palin was added to the Republican ticket. (Speaking of which, nice work, guys. Way to make a name for yourselves. Specifically, that name would be "moron.") The Chron article points out:
The feistier, more sarcastic tone came as worried Democrats urged Obama to get tougher and show more passion. Obama has tried to assure donors and voters that he's been schooled by Chicago politics.
Oh, he has. Indeed he has. Then, when presented with the "feistier, more sarcastic" Obama, his adoring public reacted this way:
"I think he needs to keep doing exactly what he's doing, which is speak softly, show it through," said Paul Barnhart, a retired real estate appraiser. "I think most Americans are pretty fed up and sick and tired of the bickering and the battling back and forth. I am."

Holly Black, a special education teacher in Elko, agreed. "I don't believe in the trash-talking. I believe he is aggressive."
As Obama himself has said, you can't make this stuff up.

So which is it, Obamatics? Is he aggressive, or is he speaking softly? Is he trash-talking, or is he bickering and battling back and forth? I tend to think (call me an old fool) that an aggressive manner lends itself to both trash-talk and bickering and battling back and forth. Nor have I ever heard Obama "speak softly." I've never heard any politician in my lifetime speak softly, with or without a big stick.

No, what has happened is that Obama started out trying to keep himself "above the fray" so to speak. It was a nice thought, but from the moment the convention ended the gaffes began to appear. Every time Biden opens his mouth, it seems, something weird or unintentionally silly comes out, and Obama's handlers need to keep Joltin' Joe behind a teleprompter as much as Obama needs one. So now they face the reality that speaking softly in an election year wins nothing, and they're scrambling to play catch-up.

Which makes The One no different from any of the others. Not even McCain.

UPDATE: It's in the classrooms already, but not Poli/Sci. Try an English class at Metropolitan State College of Denver. (H/T: Malkin)


Interestingly, Prof. Hallam's profile, if he ever had one, has been removed from the school's web site.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stop the Presses! Palin's "Phenomenon" is Doomed!

Interesting think piece over at the CBSNews website. (H/T: Drudge.) Written by Jon Friedman of MarketWatch, it states that the Palin "phenomenon" is "doomed." Although, how one interprets "doomed" may say a lot about how this will eventually unfold.

Friedman's primary objective seems to be by way of warning: those who find MSM coverage of Sarah Palin to be an unexpected boon to McCain's campaign are soon to be disappointed. The MSM will, he states, soon get bored with Palin and move on to other (perhaps more vapid) celebs on which to squander their overrated journalistic skills. (Okay, there may be some embellishment on my part. Suffice it to say he feels Palin will soon find the Coverage Carpet to be pulled out from under her.)

Using a device of extreme self-deprecation, Friedman states the obvious:
This is how the world works in the age of 24/7 news cycles. Whether the subject is Britney Spears, Michael Jordan or Sarah Palin, we inevitably raise stars to mythic levels, out of all reasonable proportions. Then we knock them down. (Look out, Michael Phelps. Your time is coming, too.)
If I were Phelps, I'd start looking for ways to parlay bad press into endorsements, and quick.

Still, Friedman doesn't say anything we didn't already know. Of course the press builds up their subjects beyond all logical expectations. It's what they do. They have no story if they can't milk some sort of prime-time drama from them. So, far from letting us in on one of the MSM's "dirty little secrets," Friedman basically just 'fesses up to something we convicted them of decades ago.

What I find interesting in his story, however, is his analysis of Palin's treatment by Charles Gibson of ABC. All it takes, really, is one read-through of the actual interview — you know, the parts they left out as well as the parts they actually deigned to show us — to see just how "fairly" Gibson and ABC treated Palin. Here's the transcript (via Newsbusters). Read the whole thing, and see how fairness is defined by Gibson and his handlers.

Another interesting thing to consider. How about those "tough" questions Obama himself faced when interviewed by Mr. Gibson? More "fairness" at play? You decide (these are samples):
Questions for Obama (running, you may recall, for President):
Will you accept public finance?
What issues is your campaign about?
Will you visit Iraq?

Questions for Palin (Vice Presidential candidate):
Do you have enough qualifications for the job you're seeking? Specifically have you visited foreign countries and met foreign leaders?
Aren't you conceited to be seeking this high level job?
Questions about foreign policy
  -the Bush Doctrine
Is America fighting a holy war? [misquoted Palin]
Obvious paraphrases, but capturing the essence of the interrogation, I think.

Yet Friedman treats Gibson as if he were some sort of journalistic senior statesman.
Gibson, as dignified a newsperson as America has now, treated Palin fairly and didn't resort to hectoring her with "gotcha" questions, either.
Gibson treated her with the respect befitting a vice presidential candidate.
Respect? He treated her as if she were some unlearned backwoods whipper-snapper, while he played the long-suffering school-master pondering whether to administer a few lashes with a switch. Heavy sighs. Peering over the rims of his "dignified" glasses. It may not have been hectoring, but it was clearly not respectful.

Friedman's bias is further demonstrated by his own lack of knowledge regarding Gibson's one (and only) attempted "zinger" throughout the interview. (Okay, he attempted others, but this is the only one that most people seem to think he nailed, but which, for obvious reasons, he did not.)
Specifically, Palin seemed to have little idea about the Bush Doctrine, in which the U.S must spread democracy around the world to halt terrorist acts. When Gibson put it to her and asked if she agreed with the doctrine, she answered, "In what respect, Charlie?"

Some analysts have suggested that Gibson knew more about the Bush Doctrine than the vice-presidential candidate.
But the "analysts" are wrong, in this case. Just purely wrong. Gibson himself showed an amazing ignorance of American foreign policy by stating his belief in a single "Bush Doctrine," as if it had the same parameters and measurable attributes of a Monroe Doctrine, or a Truman Doctrine. But it doesn't have, nor has it ever had a single iteration that you could point to and call "the" Bush Doctrine. It doesn't exist. For all of Gibson's cynical and snide insinuations that Palin, of all people, ought to have known what it is, she just as clearly showed her own mastery of Bush's foreign policy statements and her superior knowledge (superior to Gibson's, at any rate) that the Bush Doctrine is just a figment of Gibson's own imagination. Until they edited it out of the final presentation, that is.

Beyond all of the above, I really think Palin's "phenomenon" has longer legs (sorry!) than Friedman thinks. It is not an easy or insignificant thing to galvanize the conservative base of the GOP, and Palin's selection as Vice President has done exactly that. Furthermore, as evidenced by the sheer (and admittedly unscientific) numbers of female callers into talk radio of late, Palin has also touched a nerve with those who wonder just why the Democrats are so determined to tear down this woman, rather than debate her on the issues alone. So far they've just danced around the issues, yet tried with all their might to show Palin in anything but a flattering light as an American.

So I guess this means that the Democratic ticket (Barack "the Great Pretender" Obama, and Joe "Plagiarism is My Middle Name" Biden) is now fair game.

"Hunting" season ought to be interesting this fall.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Incalculable Good

The sun has gone down, and my bloggy holiday has come to an end. (Had a wonderful time with the fam, I must say. Perhaps I'll blog that over at my other home.) But with the end of the holiday comes the return to highly opinionated bloviation.

From Power Line comes word of this post from the LATimes blogs. The title reads:
Canadian doctor warns Sarah Palin's decision to have Down baby could reduce abortions

That, dear reader(s?), is worth the price of the Ticket. Read the whole thing. Our good Canuck quack evidently assumes that all Down babies are — in true Obamian fashion — a burden to their parents and society at large. (Remember Obama's meme of "babies as punishment?") Dr. Andre Lalonde laments:
Lalonde says his primary concern is that women have the....

...choice of abortion and that greater public awareness of women making choices like Palin to complete a pregnancy and give birth to their genetically-abnormal baby could be detrimental and confusing to the women and their families.

"The worry is that this will have an implication for abortion issues in Canada," Lalonde tells the Globe and Mail.
Read: however will we make money destroying life?

Thus it has ever been with the pro-abortionists. If Sarah Palin's inclusion on the Republican ticket does nothing more than give more women pause before making such a life-altering and always horrendous decision, it will have been well worth it.

One might even call her invaluable.

Marking the Day

The seventh anniversary of September 11, 2001. I remember sitting in my cubicle at work, desperately trying to find coverage of the terrible events of that day on the internet. I remember the numbness as the towers collapsed. I remember the cold fury as planes were hijacked to become terrorist tools. I remember deep sorrow at the lives lost because of the violent selfishness of "religious" zealots.

Life presses forward, and I will mark this day by taking my precious family to a local aquarium for a homeschool field trip. I will be thanking my Heavenly Father along the way for living in a day, age, and society where such things are possible in the middle of a work week. And I will remember to send up prayers on behalf of those who continue to fight so that we won't have another 9/11 to deal with on American soil.

If nothing else, this is a bloggy holiday. Hug your family. Pray for someone. Ignore the election for a day.

God bless you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is Corruption an Issue?

Should it be?

Hugh Hewitt, in observing Obama's over-reaction to everyone else's reaction to his "pig with lipstick" remarks, makes this statement:
But mostly it [Obama's seeming reversal of fortune] isn't about Obama losing support, but about McCain-Palin gaining support as millions of Americans sense a genuine commitment on the part of the GOP ticket to reversing Washington's culture of corruption --both Congress's corruption and MSM's.
Now, on its face this appears to be just more Republican hyperbole, especially coming from one of the primary voices of today's conservative movement. In other words, just what you'd expect from someone like Hugh.

However, my own observations actually match up pretty well with Hugh in this case. (Yes, it happens that, on occasion, I disagree with Hugh. For months he tried to sell McCain solely on the basis of his stance on Iraq and the war on terror. I wasn't buying it.) When Palin was first announced for the VP slot on the ticket, one of the first stories that floated to the surface was her reputation for going after corruption, even in her own party. Assuming most or all of those stories to be factual, this would indeed be worrisome to many elected public servants, Democrat and Republican alike.

Even if we were willing to set aside Obama's relationship with radicals like Ayers (which we're not, by the way), his very identification with the notorious Chicago Democratic Machine makes Obama damaged goods. A community organizer with nearly no resources that hails from Podunk, Iowa would hold more implied honor than any number of organizers with deep-pocketed influence peddlers that hail from Chicago today.

You can call it a perception problem if you like, but it's a potentially flammable one. Particularly if Palin continues to impress voters the way she has since her announcement. For Democrats in this election the stain of the Daley "boss" days of the 60's and 70's has not been completely obliterated, but has instead done a mafia-like makeover in order to appear more respectable to the modern eye.

Democrats may have bought into the "reform," but Republicans aren't convinced.

Thus the idea of having an anti-corruptocrat in the Executive branch is cause for true hope and, yes, hope for change. It is not, as the Democrats insist, a continuation of Bush policies. Bush never went after the Washington machine like we all hoped he would. He was only ever successful in bucking Congressional direction when our national security was on the line. In the meantime, the size of government actually has grown under Bush, and no attempt has ever been made to weed out the incompetence that affects pretty much every department in his cabinet.

If McCain has his A game on when he enters the White House, the first thing he'll do is task Sarah Palin with doing exactly what Bush failed to do; go after the stupidity inherent in a huge federal bureaucracy. I don't see Obama doing anything of the sort: McCain prosecutes the interests of national security at home and abroad, and Palin goes after the corruptocrats in government.

That, my friends, is something this conservative hopes for.

The World Has an Opinion. Who Knew?

Story from the Australian Broadcasting Company regarding a recent poll of 22 (23 if you count the US) countries and whom they'd like to see in the White House next year.

Yeah. Big surprise.

Two problems with this poll:

1. The polling was done during the months of July and August. Presumably this is pre-Palin data we're talking about. I'd be very interested in (though no less swayed by) data with Palin in the mix. I wonder how the stuffed-shirt Euro-establishment sees a conservative woman affecting this race. The Brits already seem to regard her more or less as window dressing, based on what I've seen in their Fleet Street fish-wrappers thus far.

2. Like I care what the rest of the world thinks about our candidates. Aside from the mild curiosity I just mentioned, why should we care for one minute what world opinion is with respect to our political process? Lest we fear too much that world opinion holds any real sway here, let's remind ourselves just how welcome US opinion of foreign processes is these days. Last I heard, even the G8 were telling Bush to mind his own doggoned business, and I can't imagine Obama being much more than just another celebrity anywhere outside of Washington, D.C. They'd fawn over him when he makes his appearances before kings and ministers, then pat him on his head and send him back across the pond to get him out of the way. A world power-player he would not be. The first time he goes to the United Nations to ask "Mother, may I?" (Obama would characterize such a visit as having a "frank" dialogue with the Security Council, of course) would forever brand him as weak, and he would find powers such as Russia and China (not to mention the entire Middle East) testing his limits to the uttermost.

I find the list of nations who were polled to be fascinating:
A total of 23,531 people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, Britain and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone in July and August 2008 for the poll.
Of the nations polled, I find China and Russia to be particularly telling. If they truly want an Obama presidency, what does that say about the person with whom they'd rather deal? Several socialist or near-socialist nations in this mix, not to mention countries with heavy Muslim populations that would be highly unlikely to support anyone who wishes to pursue the fight with terrorists on (or near) their turf. Not even Australia is as staunchly conservative as it once was, so no surprise here.

Here's the money quote, though:
"Large numbers of people around the world clearly like what Barack Obama represents," GlobeScan chairman Doug Miller said.

"Given how negative America's international image is at present, it is quite striking that only one in five think a McCain presidency would improve on the Bush administration's relations with the world."
Striking, perhaps, but not in the least surprising. And a negative international image is just par for the course. Even with Clinton's pandering to foreign leaders, our international image wasn't all that hot during his presidency, either. Fact is, the world has always seen us more or less as uncultured cowboys, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

But, hey, thanks for your feedback, folks. Keep those comments coming. We'll just keep filing them in our nice round file cabinet next to the shredder.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It's Not an Ideology; It's a Point of View

I've not been a fan of celebrity gossip/news magazines for many years now. I used to get a copy of People every once in awhile when I was younger. You know... whenever the current news cycle was getting dry (which was apparently a frequent thing twenty years ago). As I got older, though, I found my taste for celebrity voyeurism waning. I began to care less about which celebs were divorcing, dating, or openly gay. What I cared about was how to protect my children from the political aspirations of actors who had talent (arguably), moxie (definitely), but not a lot of actual smarts (decidedly). Hark! Rob Reiner wants to force my kids to go to pre-school. Quelle surprise. Gee, [insert celebrity name here] thinks animals are more important than unborn children. How inspiring.

I think over the years I picked up exactly one issue of US Weekly of my own volition. I was probably bored and curious about whatever their then-current salacious cover story might be. Any other issues I perused were probably bought by a magazine-junkie relative or in hair-cutting salons. I would never in a million years consider US to be anything resembling a legitimate news organization. Especially having been subjected to a culture in Southern California that has pretty much worshipped at the altar of celebrity for my entire life.

Thus you may imagine my inability to keep my guffaws to myself when I heard Bradley Jacobs, senior editor with US Weekly, defend his magazine as a news magazine in an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly:
KELLY: No, you don't. You don't, Bradley. That's not in there. Do you mention an official — you mentioned so-called "trooper-gate" talking about — and I'm quoting from your article, an official who refused - She's under investigation for dismissing an official who refused to fire her sister's state trooper ex-husband. Do you point out that the allegations that that trooper she allegedly wanted fired tasered his own stepson who was only 10 and made death threats against Sarah Palin's father. Do you mention that in the article?

JACOBS: We didn't have time to get into everything that you have mentioned. This story was breaking over the weekend. Everyone was talking about it, and Us magazine has a very distinctive voice and we cover the news.
While his excuse may have held more weight twenty years ago, in this day of instantaneous (and frequently incorrect) fact-gathering one would think a more conservative approach to such stories might be advisable. Certainly they wouldn't want to find themselves in the unenviable position of having reported something as being "possibly true," only to find before the magazine was even published that most of those allegations were patently false. That's the sort of thing that used to shut down reporters' (and not a few editors') careers back in the day.

Unfortunately, these days a magazine like US is likely hailed as a heroic anti-establishment crusader by the Daily Kos-induced madness of the political left. Hey, it could have been true, and that's good enough for us! The rest of Jacobs' interview consisted of his whining about how "measured and even-keeled" the story was, assuming that Kelly had never read it. She had, drat the luck.
KELLY: I've read the story. What are the lies?

JACOBS: Actually, the lies that we point out are some of the liberal bloggers who were speculating that the daughter was actually - had given birth, that there was a cover-up there. We're one of the few magazines that actually did call to task those liberal bloggers for the news stories over the weekend.
The problem with Jacobs' assertion, however, is that the article apparently nowhere actually mentions these lying liberals according to Michelle Malkin (who graciously — and bravely — read the article so we don't have to):
But the article makes zero mention of any of those liberal slime bloggers. Instead, here is how the magazine played up those rumors. Look at the big, red “Where’s the Bump?” headline. The caption reads: “In an earlier pregnancy (left), Palin had a visible bump. In a 2008 photo (right), used online to call Palin’s pregnangy into question, she is six months pregnant with her fifth baby.” [Photo included in Michelle's post]
Compare and Contrast

US Weekly's transparent attempt to smear Sarah Palin and her family does nothing to allay the accusations of liberal bias in the press today. MSNBC is having their own problems with this perception, and much of it comes from a deeply held sense of denial in which the chiefs of this and other news organizations live. Take, for example, this statement by MSNBC chief Phil Griffin:
Mr. Griffin, MSNBC’s president, denies that it has an ideology. “I think ideology means we think one way, and we don’t,” he said. Rather than label MSNBC’s prime time as left-leaning, he says it has passion and point of view.
Okay, let's help Mr. Griffin out here; if you have a "point of view," you have an ideology. Passion is undeniable, and we'll grant that point. But he loses the argument on point of view versus ideology. The two are, if not synonymous, deeply intertwined.

MSNBC's problems right now are it's admittedly incendiary cornerstones: Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Olbermann is arguably MSNBC's most successful host. (Side note: at just over one million viewers — roughly half of Fox's highest rated show — he's just negotiated a four-year, four million dollar extension of his contract. At just over $1.00 per viewer, the man is clearly over-priced.) Yet both have been "yanked" from anchoring the upcoming debate season and election night in favor of the somewhat less controversial David Gregory. This qualifies as a major slap-in-the-face for Olbermann and Matthews, neither of whom have made any bones about their deep-rooted hatred for conservative America. Here again, MSNBC lies, if only to themselves:
In January, Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews, the host of “Hardball,” began co-anchoring primary night coverage, drawing an audience that enjoyed the pair’s “SportsCenter”-style show. While some critics argued that the assignment was akin to having the Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly anchor on election night — something that has never happened — MSNBC insisted that Mr. Olbermann knew the difference between news and commentary.
Or maybe he doesn't.

In writing about this latest liberal fiasco, Hugh Hewitt made this closing statement:
You cannot fix what you don't know is broken.
I'd have to disagree with that, Hugh. You cannot fix what you refuse to acknowledge is broken.

There is a difference.

UPDATE: A French student, I ain't. I'd said "q'uel" surprise initially. Snarkocist Commenter Mark N. set me straight. (Yeah, yeah, I know... takes one to know one.) I learned a form of Spanish unique to the Maya Quiché of Guatemala. Won't find that in any textbook. ;-)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Neo-Civil Discourse

I've lamented before about the state of the modern socio-political discussion.

Michelle Malkin posted her syndicated column today. It's titled "The Four Stages of Conservative Female Abuse." She makes the well-documented assertion that each stage — infantilization, sexualization, demonization, and dehumanization — has been utilized with alarming acceleration by the unhinged elements of the Democratic party adherents. These people are clearly out to get Palin's scalp, and nothing less will satisfy them. The phrase "kill Palin, and kill her quick" has already been suggested, and one wonders just how literally the left is willing to go to accomplish that directive.

I found Malkin's article interesting for another reason. It documents the use of means by which totalitarian regimes throughout history have often degraded and humiliated their citizens in order to attain and maintain control over them. Hitler used demonization, for instance, to astonishing degrees of success. He so inflamed the wrath of Germans and their sympathizers against the Jews that the next step — dehumanization — was completed without so much as a battle fought. They seemingly just rounded them up and tossed them all into concentration camps, there to endure abuses and deprivations that have never been seen at Gitmo.

But there is a fundamental problem with decrying such behaviors and trying to pin them exclusively to one side or the other. It simply can't be done. There is no exclusivity in this arena because both sides, Democrats and Republicans alike, are frequently guilty.

To use one of Michelle's examples, Bill Maher once infamously called Laura Bush "Hitler's dog." Other examples abound, including Whoopi Goldberg's profane comparisons of George Bush with female anatomy. In each case, no attempt at civility is even hinted at. The intended victims have incurred the wrath of the speakers, and they must pay.

Yet Michelle herself is often no less guilty of demonization when writing about her political opponents and targets. Let's face it: writing an entire tome about the "unhinged" left (a phrase I myself have used, including the second paragraph of this post) is demonizing, whatever else you may choose to call it.

But these tactics are inherent in modern politics. You can't avoid them, and no single candidate in the last 100 years or more has ever dared try. Politicians who do not employ one or more of Malkin's "stages" do not attain office in this country. Not anymore. Especially when confronted with an electorate that has become so saturated with the "entertainment value" of denigrating one's opponent to the point of abject humiliation and destruction.

We have long since, as a nation, put behind us the ability to judge a candidate solely on their stated positions. One wonders whether Lincoln would ever have reached the White House were he put under the modern microscopes of armchair internet investigators, rabid talk-show hosts, cable network talking heads, and a decidedly arrogant and biased press. The man certainly had his human faults and foibles, and it's highly unlikely that even the Douglas-Lincoln debates would have amounted to much more than a 30-second sound bite because the "moderator" would have insisted on lobbing inane question after inane question at them.

So here's my challenge to the electorate-at-large: Let's take the next several weeks and quit trying to find out whether Palin was at some point in her life a closet Nazi pole-dancer, or whether Joe Biden is having inappropriate relations with his hair dresser. Let's instead listen to what they actually say and make our judgements solely on that basis. No other distractions, please, so we can listen and actually process what we're hearing. I believe we'll all be able to come out of that experience with a much greater appreciation for whether or not our preferred candidates are truly worthy of the job.

I, for one, will be listening intently to Gov. Palin this evening. I really need to hear what she says, and I hope she doesn't waste too much time on all the nonsense to which the scandal-mongers have subjected her this week. I've only heard her talk about energy so far, and I liked what I heard. I will tune into the debates later to see how the candidates measure up to each other. It should be very enlightening.

At least, it will so long as the white noise goes away.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Fun Election! Finally!

If you have any sympathy at all for McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, you have to admit that this team has made the election fun this year!

In my previous post, I wondered just what, exactly, the overall reaction to Palin would be. What has happened has in fact gone beyond my wildest dreams. The Obama Idiocrats are falling over themselves to dismiss Palin as anything but a viable candidate for the Number Two spot on the Republican ticket.

Some of the "accusations" rendered thus far:

• Palin was not the mother of baby Trig, who was born with Down's Syndrome. Daughter Bristol was the alleged mother and "Grandma" Sarah is taking the heat.
Status: Not true. Plenty of photographic support for a very pregnant Gov. Palin just prior to Trig's birth. That's her baby.

• Evangelical Christian candidate for vice president has a daughter who is pregnant out of wedlock. How can she possibly expect other evangelicals to support her?
Status: Check your scandal-meters, folks. Will there be those who won't support Palin because of this issue? Probably. Will their lack of support make much of a difference? I doubt it. This is, first, foremost, and forever a family issue. Their family. Not mine or anyone else's. They are handling it. The fact that they are handling it in a way with which I happen to sympathize just cements my own support for the Governor.

• Sarah Palin is "good looking."
Status: While not so much an "accusation," the fact that it comes from Joe Biden and appears to be the only redeeming quality he can find in her makes it significant. Plagiarized any speeches lately, Joe?

• Palin's "Trooper-gate" Problem.
Status: Well and fully fisked. Another non-issue.

• Yeah, but didn't Palin just hire a private lawyer to help with the "Trooper-gate" problem?
Status: Oh, please. With Democrats and the liberal press dogging your every step, wouldn't you get a lawyer? We've already established that the woman is no idiot.

This is one case where the harder they push, the more tightly we will tend to circle the wagons. None of these allegations has been particularly disturbing on their surface. Even less so as we dig deeper into them. A pregnant daughter? Well, so what? Doesn't that say more about the liberal policies foisted upon us by hippies and others over the preceeding decades? The very fact that Bristol has a) chosen to keep the baby and b) decided to marry the father speak volumes about how she was raised. Not for me to judge the situation, but I surely can (and do) support them.

Apparently the hard-core feminists of the country are all a-dither over Palin. Consider her a "sell out" it seems. This would be because, although a highly successful career woman, she also chooses to be as much of a "traditional" wife and mother as she can. And she succeeds at both. This is anathemic to the ERA-spawned Steinems of the nation who still don't (and never will) get it. A woman's noblest calling is that of mother, and those who succeed (even aspiring to, as Palin does) are beyond the pale of their collective understanding.

Obama himself seeks to diminish the accomplishments of the Alaskan Governor. Seems to have forgotten (or perhaps is jealous of) the fact that she is, in fact, a governor. Something he himself has never been. Rather than compare his "massive" campaign credentials to her itty-bitty mayoral post, why not compare them instead to her creds as a governor over-seeing a $13 billion annual budget for a state that directly abuts Russia? Because he comes off as much less impressive if he does so. Do us all a favor, Barack; keep ignoring her accomplishments as governor. We'll fill in the blanks for you.

Thus the histrionics of the Democratic party continue, and their designated target is a woman who could probably arm-wrestle any one of them into eternal shame. And thanks to the internet and new media, we have a front-row seat for the Greatest Show on Earth. Palin has so far acquitted herself nicely in the center ring of the national arena. Can we vote for someone like that?

Why, yes. Yes, we can.