Archive for the ‘Bush’ Category.

The Razor Celebrates 13 Years

For 13 years I have used this medium as my soapbox, to stand and shout into the Void known as the Internet. 2,352 posts. 6,048 comments. Over that time I have swung from righteous anger in the months following 9-11, to optimism and hope in the years after the Iraqi invasion at a time when I was personally trying to change the world, to disappointment following the economic collapse of 2008 and the election of Barack Obama, to the despair of the Benghazi and IRS scandals, ending finally in the cynicism shrouded nihilism of today.

What can I say, but I’m simply stubborn. While I may no longer wish to change the world and simply want to be left alone in my current libertarian exile, there are still things I need to say and this is the only medium I have found to say them.

I have failed at essay writing, and authoring fiction and non-fiction books. I have failed at numerous small businesses and enterprises. Many of my predictions made in this journal and the positions I have argued have been proven wrong. In 2006 I said Google wouldn’t be around in 2011 and that Lindsay Lohan would die tragically in 2007. 8 years later Google is still my homepage and Lindsay Lohan is still alive, although whether her career is alive is arguable.

But my marriage of 24 years has never been stronger. I have helped raise a child over these 13 years, and while he’s not heading towards a full scholarship at MIT or Harvard, he is a very decent human being whose future in this world concerns me. I have built a writing-based career and nurtured the Wife’s education so that together we are comfortable. We have put money to work in our community, buying local products and hiring local workers whenever possible so that our success is shared with others. Our choices have allowed us to take an active role in animal rescue, saving dozens of unwanted animals from miserable deaths.

I was also right about some things. In 2005 I predicted the real estate bubble was becoming unsustainable. I was right that the soaring oil prices of 2008 would succumb to economic gravity and fall. And I was right in 2011 that removing Khaddafi from power was a bad idea.

The world may be indifferent to my existence yet I am confident I have made it a better place. So I may not be as respected as Charles Krauthammer or popular as Matt Drudge, I do occasionally write something worth reading.

I’ve picked one post from each year that is still worth reading today. Enjoy.

2001 -  Judging News Sources: Truth or Trash

The problem with bias is that it assumes the average reader or listener will believe everything that he or she reads or hears regardless of its source. However for Americans exposed to everything from sightings of Elvis to alien abductions to Clinton scandals, developing a “truth detector” (or its crudely named opposite, the “bullshit detector”) becomes an important skill. Such a skill starts early as children take on the media preferences of their parents, and is refined later in high school and often college when critical thinking skills are emphasized (one purpose of this journal is to save these skills from their demise at the hand of the Politically Correct). (Read the entire post)

2002 – October 2, 2002 – No Prize For Jimmy

President Carter’s crowning achievement was the Camp David Accords which returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for the end of a state of war between Israel and Egypt. While the accords ended a shooting war between the two countries, it is worth noting that the agreement was not even negotiated by the Americans – most of the diplomacy having been done by the King of Morocco and the Ceausescu regime in Rumania. Washington DC was simply the money to fund the deal. (Read the entire post)

2003 – May 25, 2003 – Censorship Today

It is important in a society for people to follow the same code of behavior. Americans are notorious for being more unmannered and direct than many other nationalities. Recent events show the impact a slow-death of civility in our society has. It is why President Ford’s saying that “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” remains a shining example that allows us to protect our rights to free expression. (Read the entire post)

2004 – June 25, 2004 – Cognitive Dissonance and Islam

The Saudi royal family has spread Wahabism around the globe, and now are about to be consumed by it. All the makings are in place for a jihadist overthrow of the kingdom: a corrupt government infiltrated by jihadists, a dying king, a large yet effete royal family containing many supporters of the jihadists, and the cognitive dissonance which prevents the leaders from recognizing the true enemies within their own ranks caused by their own inflexible understanding of their religion. (Read the entire post)

 2005 – April 12, 2005 – Visiting the Funeral Home

“These ceremonies are for the living,” the funeral director said. I commented that her job seemed more like a cruise director or wedding planner. “My job is to…” I almost got her to say it but she didn’t. She wanted to say:

Put the “fun” back into “funeral” but she artfully stopped herself from saying that although I knew deep down she wanted to. What followed was a more politically correct explanation of her duties and how much she enjoyed her job.

Well, I suppose it takes all types. (Read the entire post)

2006 – August 10, 2006 – We Are All Israelis

I stand for Israel because I see it as a desert that has bloomed through the hard work and brilliance of its people. I see a people that has suffered unjustly for thousands of years continue to suffer today. I see a people who refuse to accept the status of victims. I see a people who value peace but aren’t willing to trade it for annihilation.

I stand for Israel because Israel is a nation where Arabs, Jews and Christians live together in peace – next to states where religions and their books are banned outright. I stand for Israel because it values everyone. It holds gay pride rallies next to nations where gays are hung from forklifts. It treats women as equals in all ways, while the women in nearby nations can’t even leave their homes alone.

I stand for Israel because it is at the frontier of civilization, an outpost of honesty in a region mired in corruption. I stand for Israel because in the fight to preserve the light from the darkness, we are all Israelis. (Read the entire post)

2007 – October 7, 2007 – The Kiwi And the Eagle: Anti-Americanism in New Zealand

I recently wrote about my Wife’s experience while serving at a hospital in Tanzania with a 24 year old New Zealander. The girl was well versed in anti-American propaganda and felt compelled to heap abuse on my Wife. The Wife is quite capable of defending herself, but she lacks my background knowledge of American foreign policy and world history. During our brief phone call, I provided her with some basic facts to combat the Kiwi’s propaganda regurgitations. Afterward I decided to dig deeper into the youngster’s bigotry and did some research into New Zealand’s attitudes towards Americans. What I found changed my mind about wanting to visit the place anytime soon. (Read the entire post)

2008 – October 20, 2008 – The Good Daughter

Fenwick Island was different; our family was different. There was nothing left to do but accept these truths.

I took the box containing the ashes and at the Wife’s request I opened them and removed the plastic bag that held them shut with a twist tie. Inside were the mixed remains of both the Father-in-law and the Mother-in-law. The Wife cradled them under her pullover as we climbed the dune and walked to the waterline of the beach. As the Kid took the dog upwind, she undid the twist tie and allowed the bag to billow open. (Read the entire post)

2009 – November 19, 2009 – The Weak Horse Named Obama

A friend who voted for Obama last year (and regrets his decision BTW) asked me why I opposed the civil prosecution of terrorists and supported military tribunals. He thought that treating them as run-of-the-mill criminals was an insult, and that by convicting and sentencing them in a military tribunal elevated their status from terrorist to warrior. Here are the reasons I gave him for why I believe that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision is the worst political decision made since President Ford pardoned Nixon in 1974. (Read the entire post)

 2010 – August 10, 2010 – Riders in the Storm

As with the storms, my instinct tells me that something is seriously wrong with my country. That same paralyzing fear that I had during the storm is with me everyday. The skies are ominous, yet Obama and the Federal Government are driving us deep into the storm and there is nothing much we can do it about it since both are deaf to our concerns. All we can do is listen to our instincts and take every chance we can to limit the danger to ourselves and loved ones the President and the Feds seem determined to visit upon us. (Read the entire post)

2011 – September 6, 2011 – A Short List of Lessons Since 9-11

Islam is Problematic And Our Ruling Elite Doesn’t Understand It
9-11 and the events over the past 10 years have taught us that Islam is different from all other world religions. It is not Christianity with different traditions unless the comparison is made to Christianity prior to the Renaissance. Then Christianity was a political and cultural defining force that determined all aspects of life for the lowliest peasant to the greatest emperor. It determined when each arose, what he did prior to work, his job, how he dressed, how he ate, and his relationship to his superiors (in the case of the emperor, to the Pope). There were no concepts of freedom in thought or deed at that time. The identify of “self” as inviolate would not become accepted until the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Tolerance of other cultures, ethnicities and especially religions simply did not exist at all. (Read the entire post)

2012 – January 17, 2012 – In the Belly of the Swan

Assess the situation. Keep calm. I tend to speak quickly and loudly when I’m nervous so I intentionally slow down the cadence of my words. Keep everyone calm. Crack a bad joke even though no one feels like laughing. Talk about the weather. Whatever it takes to keep everyone – including myself – from panicking. As a writer by instinct I feel myself observing myself, but that is also a task for the future; better to stay in the moment, the now. Time stretches, knees knock, keep scanning the darkness. “Safeties off?” “Yes,” I command. We are locked and loaded. The past is written, the future no longer exists. In the dense fog, in the belly of the swan, waiting for what must happen to happen. (Read the entire post)

2013 – April 3, 2013 – We Are Idiots

The system is corrupt yet we do nothing about it. We are told happy days are here again, that the stockmarket is at record highs, yet those of us who dabbled in the market prior to 2009 have still not recovered from the losses suffered then, leaving us on the sidelines of this rally. Small investors piled into the market and out of the market late back then, proving they were the “greater fools” and some are doing so today as the market skyrockets and smart money looks for the exits. Sure our 401K’s are expanding, but the numbers are meaningless for anyone other than those planning to retire in the coming months before this bubble bursts. Self employed people and contractors like myself don’t have 401K’s, we just have our wits and an ever sharpening skill set that we use to stay employed, but both are slowly being eroded by time as we age and the younger cohorts below us grow hungrier and more competitive. (Read the entire post)

Class Is In Session For Obama

Russian leaders have many qualities but unpredictability isn’t one of them. Events unfolding in the Ukraine have followed a pattern blazed by Soviet tanks crushing rebellions in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia 12 years later. The only question at this point is where will they stop?

Any world leader that reacts with surprise over recent events in the Crimea, the appearance of soldiers wearing uniforms without insignia outside of airports, then the appearance of similarly clad men at other key facilities in the peninsula, followed by a formal request for Russian troops by the puppet authorities put into place by the men in the insignia-less uniforms, should be immediately impeached. Since his rise to power Vladimir Putin has acted the way one would expect the former head of the KGB in Soviet times to act. Putin sees the world in zero sum, Cold War era terms, and has acted accordingly.

While the US and Europe viewed the Cold War as long over, Putin evidently failed to get the memo. George W. Bush believed his personal relationship with “Pootie-Poot” would help him in his global war against terrorism. Putin provided little support, instead bolstering socialist regimes in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, capping off 2008 with an invasion of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. By then relations with Russia had deteriorated to the point where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a reset of relations with the Kremlin, blaming the problems with Russia on the Bush administration. Putin acted accordingly, helping Iran develop its nuclear capabilities. Missing an opportunity to bolster the Libyan regime of Mohamar Khadaffi, Putin didn’t pass up the chance when the Arab Spring swept into Syria. While the West dithered over the support of rebels against Bashir Assad’s regime, Russia didn’t hold back. It provided money and diplomatic cover for the regime in the United Nations, the favorite playground for the post-Cold War thinkers proliferating in the West, and did the same for Assad’s primary backer Iran.

For those of us educated during the Cold War, none of this is surprising or new. Of course Obama and his crew were all educated during the Cold War as well, but evidently they were educated into believing the US was the reason the Soviets did the things they did. Such an attitude also manifests itself in what is called “beaten spouse syndrome” where an abused person believes he or she can control the abuser if only he or she did the right thing. This attitude is narcissistic, fantasy-based and wrong.

The control the US had against the Soviets was blunt. Brute force, mountains of men and material and lots of cash. Truman used it in Berlin in 1948, and for the next 40 years this power was wielded by his successors with varying degrees of effectiveness. That was pretty much it. Every word we said was backed up by the use of force. It was a simple language originating from the dawn of Time and the Soviets understood it.

Now Putin and his Soviet-era thinking has confronted Obama and his liberal idealist philosophy. And the winner? Well… The Russians still control most of Georgia. Iran is still refining uranium. Syria still has its chemical weapons. And the Ukraine is experiencing the same type of fear and hysteria Czechoslovakia felt in 1968.

A famous Democrat once said, “No man can tame a tiger by stroking it.” Before him one of his relatives once cautioned, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” These lessons have been lost on Obama and his minions  who have lived in their comfy cocoons for too long. They are about to be schooled by Putin and the Russians, and this time Obama’s transcripts will be there for everyone to see.

There is nothing short of full-out war that Obama and the European leaders can do about Putin’s annexation of the Crimea. Putin knows the West has no stomach for war, so it will acquiesce to his aggression. Then the question is, where should Putin stop?

From a realpolitik standpoint, I see no reason why Putin should not fan his forces northward out of the Crimea to liberate Ukraine. At this point the only hindrances would be logistical. Do his forces have enough supplies to make it to Kiev? My guess is that local resistance would be miniscule in the countryside, and that most small and medium sized towns would side with the Russians. Only in Kiev would the Ukrainian regime be able to mount any type of notable resistance, and that could be handled through deals with many of the Ukrainian oligarchs supporting the regime. With Russia in control of the countryside, funding in-fighting and supplying anti-regime forces inside Kiev while laying a de facto siege to the city, resistance wouldn’t take long to overcome. Putin then could sweep away the current regime,  promise elections in the fall to give a veneer of Democracy to the re-installation of a pro-Russian regime. This playbook was written in Eastern Europe after World War 2.

Will he stop with Ukraine? Success breeds success which is another way of saying people get greedy. I have no idea, but I’m reminded of something said long ago after another “surprise” annexation in Europe. When Chamberlain returned from Munich, Winston Churchill said, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.” Obama and the Europeans have shown their dishonor, and as a result the likelihood of war next week is much greater than it was last week.

A Republican Reflects On A Kennedy

I grew up a Democrat, and although my party affiliations have since changed (and may change back given the stupidity shown by the current GOP leadership) certain Democratic ideals and icons still resonate me with. Sure John F. Kennedy cheated on his wife and wasn’t very effective at getting his legislation passed in Congress, but he did inspire generations of people who came after him. He promised to go to the moon by the end of the 1960’s, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” He stood at the erection of the Berlin Wall, saying “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”” just as Reagan would stand a generation later shortly before it’s destruction saying “President Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Growing up in our modest home that my Depression era parents purchased with 90% down (because they feared debt in a way later generations cannot yet fathom), I remember a heavy wrought iron plaque of JFK mixed in with paintings of the Blessed Virgin and Sacred Heart, emblazoned with the words “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” It’s a statement that I know so well I didn’t need to look it up. It’s ingrained in my memory and the memories of many, which shouldn’t be surprising since Kennedy’s Inauguration Speech is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. It’s not as memorable or brief as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, nor is it as important to our history as the vision laid out in Washington’s Farewell Address, but that single sentence alone catapults it into the pantheon of important and inspiring words for lovers of liberty to know by heart.

I think about Kennedy’s words a lot these days. They came to mind on Friday evening when the Wife was home late from the office after filling out paperwork for some of her Medicaid patients. She has a whole slew of patients who are grossly (in every sense of the word) obese, depressed and on public assistance. She being the liberal care-giver she is does her best to help these people, but she cannot say to them what they truly need to hear: that nearly all of their problems would be solved if they lost weight and got off the taxpayer’s dime.

We did not evolve to become the fat couple I saw at Wal-mart Saturday night: the 400+ lb wife in a scooter-cart being filled by her 300 lb husband. Now I am by no means a food nazi; if you want to drink a gallon of Pepsi flavored with high fructose corn syrup everyday until your toes fall off, then knock yourself out – that is, as long as you’re not on public assistance. If you are, then guess what? People like me have a right to what you shove into your pie hole.

If you weigh over 300 lbs and aren’t a Sumo wrestler, a linebacker or over 7 feet tall, you’ve got a problem. A weight problem. No amount of anti-depressants that doctors like my wife prescribe is going to make you happy; no windfall from the Federal Government will ever be enough to make you feel good about yourself. We evolved in the African savannah and prospered in Asia, Europe and the Americas because we could move and fend for ourselves. Spear a mammoth and running it down with your buddies provided immense personal satisfaction. Finding a hidden supply of food in the forest and giving it to your kids went a long way to chase away the blues. Our Pleistocene ancestors didn’t have paxil, klonopin, or xanax. They moved their bodies. They walked, ran, lifted, hefted, jumped,  threw, stooped, crawled, jogged, swam, and swung. They were highly motivated: If they didn’t something ate them.

When I watched the fat guy waddle down the aisle and knock a box of powdered donuts into his wife’s scooter-cart with a laugh and what appeared to me to be some type of satisfaction over his athletic prowess, I didn’t feel the pity that my wife feels for her obese patients. I felt anger. It’s not a secret that sugar soft drinks and sweets make it easy to pack on the pounds, and it’s not Wal-Mart’s job to keep the junk off the shelves. You can become as fat as you want, but don’t expect to be happy. Nothing my wife prescribes will do more than take the edge off your sadness and self-hatred. And here’s where Kennedy comes back into my screed.

Kennedy saw the wisdom of service. He didn’t say the reverse, “Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you.” This is exactly what the Democratic Party has evolved into and one of the reasons I left it. We as free human beings are not meant to be served, we are meant to serve.  It’s healthier to think about and fulfill the needs of others than it is to focus on one’s own self, a fact lost in today’s narcissistic culture. I still remember the day I truly became an adult. It was the day that I accepted I was going to become a father. Prior to that day my life had been about me; after it my life revolved around my child and the family that supported him. After that everything became different; I saw the world in a completely new way and was a better man for it. Thinking about others and doing for others won’t cure all of one’s ills, but it’s a start. Given studies have shown antidepressants to be only slightly better than placebos at best and sometimes make depression worse for some, building a life focused on service is a cheap way to fight depression and anxiety.

Notice how Kennedy did not use the word government either. He didn’t say, “Ask what you can do for your government.” Since taking over the White House the Democratic Party has worked overtime to equate the two in our minds, labeling Tea Party supporters and others opposed to the current regime as racist, extremist or unpatriotic. It’s not much different from what the Bush White House and the GOP did for those opposed to the war in Iraq, so both parties will wrap themselves in the mantle of “country” if we let them.

But America is bigger than our government and Kennedy knew it. America is a country that doesn’t exclude anyone. It transcends any divide that we throw at it. Gays or Straights? Americans. Muslims or Jews? Americans. Tobacco-spitting Rednecks or Arugula Eating Vegans? Americans. He wasn’t asking for each of us to serve our government, or our particular social group. He was asking us to serve America, to act and make our country with all its diversity and differences better. Action. Movement. Doing these it’s hard to be fat, but doing nothing, sitting back and waiting for the government to give us “free s**t” will deaden our souls.

I truly believe our nation under the Democrats has lost its way. John F. Kennedy was a Democrat yet his message today transcends both parties. Asking what one can do for one’s country sounds positively subversive these days when we don’t equate “country” with “government”. Such statements are only found among Tea Partiers, and both parties loath them. After all the GOP has not tasked us to act to make America better; they’re just looking to switch out the Democrats in Washington DC and get the same perks the current administration has.

But we Americans can do better than that. We can serve one another with a spirit that Kennedy believed when he said those words and Americans of all political stripes can share. We just need to get off our butts and move. For years we’ve grown flabby; it’s time we acted.


You’ll Know the Obama Presidency Is Over…

When Valerie Jarrett falls on her sword.

Jarrett, an old Chicago friend of both Barack and Michelle Obama, appears to exercise such extraordinary influence she is sometimes quietly referred to as “Rasputin” on Capitol Hill, a reference to the mystical monk who held sway over Russia’s Czar Nicholas as he increasingly lost touch with reality during World War I.

All close advisers eventually exit before their presidents do. The Bush presidency was over when Karl Rove exited the stage. For Clinton it was the exit of Lean Panetta followed a year later by Erskine Bowles. Eventually the mob will demand blood from the White House, and when that call can no longer be ignored Jarrett will do what is expected to protect her president. But when that happens, he will be completely lost and his presidency effectively over. So for those of us looking forward to this event, the sharpening of knives and increased frequency of the name “Jarrett” in the news bode well for the future.

Democrats Should Watch What They Wish For

Watching liberals freak out over a possible Romney presidency would be entertaining if it weren’t sad to those of us hoping to see Washington work again for the good of the country. If one were to believe the hysteria, minutes after taking the oath of office he is going to take away everyone’s health insurance and force them to buy private plans from insurance companies his friends own, send all American jobs to China, force women to emulate the Mormon wives portrayed in Big Love, invade Syria, Iraq, Iran and any other Middle Eastern country the angel Moroni tells him, and unleash torrents of crude oil into the wilderness all the while sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office tapping his fingers together and maniacally laughing. I’m sure forcing people to drive with their dogs on top of their cars comes his second day in office.

People on the right don’t get this at all. While liberals relished the spectacle of Republican Primaries where each candidate defined him or herself as more conservative than Mitt Romney by portraying him as a liberal RINO (Republican In Name Only), they evidently failed to notice that of all the GOP candidates Mitt Romney is the most liberal on many issues important to conservatives. He is after all the grandfather of Obamacare, the issue that nearly sank him in the primaries, and worse, wasn’t the governor of Texas, the way George W. Bush was, or California (which once had a flourishing conservatism) like Reagan. No he was governor of the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts, a state that many on the right refer to as Taxachusetts due to its tax code that more resembles socialist France than small-government loving New Hampshire. Face it, a Republican in Massachusetts is like a Pomeranian. A Pom is as much a dog as a Rottweiler. It may bark like a Rottweiler but if you are going to stroll through a city park at night you’ll note the salient difference between the two dogs and want the Rotty, not the Pom, at your side.

The rise of the Democratic party is directly the result of the election of 2004. Had Kerry defeated Bush that year it is unlikely that the Democrats would have taken over Congress in 2006 which laid the groundwork for the Obama election in 2008. By the time Congress came into session in January 2007 Bush was already a lame duck, despised by the electorate with no political capital to spend in Washington. What were the great achievements of his second term? See for yourself. He pacified Iraq of course, but that’s already unraveling. Domestically the only thing that can be loosely classified as an achievement is the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, a bill sponsored by then Senator Joe Biden which I vehemently opposed. As a rule second terms always disappoint. Clinton’s was marred by scandal and the failed attempt at impeachment, so he did what presidents often due to burnish their entry in History by chasing after foreign policy illusions. Reagan had Iran Contra, and Nixon, well let’s just note that ended badly for him.

There is no reason for the pattern to break. In a second term Obama will have a Republican House and possibly a Republican Senate. The GOP rank and file will follow the Democrat’s example and purge itself of all the establishment figures that shoved Romney down the throats of the Tea Party faithful, forcing the GOP further to the Right in the same way that Kerry’s failure forced the Democrats leftward. In the long-term this will be good for Conservatives because it will be nearly impossible for the Democrats to win again in 2016, and so the GOP will choose a candidate that will make Michelle Bachmann look as liberal as Nancy Pelosi. But he or she won’t be defeated in the primary by a centrist establishment candidate, because the establishment will have been purged of RINOs in the same way that the Democrat Party purged itself of conservatives like Zell Miller, Dick Gephardt and Jim Webb.

If Obama wins it is unlikely either the House of Senate will move back into Democratic hands. So in 2016 when America voices its desire for change it will elect a much more conservative Republican than Mitt Romney, and will hand him or her a unified Congress. If this doesn’t scare liberals today, it should, because had someone told me in 2004 that my vote for “W” would have resulted in the Democrats controlling both halls of Congress and electing the most liberal president since Carter, I would have voted for Kerry and encouraged my libertarian and conservative brethren to do the same.

Mitt Romney is many things, but he is not a conservative. He may claim Reagan’s mantle, and the GOP will pretend it’s his, but don’t fool yourself: Romney is a liberal Republican and honestly at this point that’s okay for me. I’m tired of extremists of any stripe, and would welcome a moderate in the White House. The question is whether the Democratic Party wants to remain relevant in the long-term by losing the election this November and likely retaking Congress in two years, or desires to re-elect Obama now and give up control of Congress until 2018 and risk electing a Republican extremist in 2016. Elections have consequences, Obama once said. They sure do, and Democrats should remember that before they cast their votes.

Of Goats and Politics

Over the weekend I attended an open house at an organic farm specializing in making goat cheese. Since I live on a large inactive farm I’m interested in learning about all aspects of small scale farming, and having grown up in the St. Louis suburbs there’s much to study. As I have learned more about growing things, I’ve come to appreciate organic methods that minimize or eliminate chemicals and work with the forces present in nature in order to grow food. Don’t get me wrong: Mother Nature will starve you to death and dine on your bones if you let her, but there are strategies such as avoiding monoculture plantings and pesticides that whack beneficial insects as well as pests that are worth pursuing for a hobby farmer such as myself. Additionally I’m becoming more aware of the sourcing of my food, recognizing that we have completely lost the ability to eat what’s in season when at the local supermarket we can buy strawberries in November and whole ear corn in January. I live among farmers, and I have seen the gradual creep of large agribusiness and the depopulation of rural America. Neither are good omens for our nation’s future, and though they may be inevitable, I’ll be damned if I contribute to the process. So I’m gradually buying more locally, and the trip to the farm open house was a way to get some ideas on my new lifestyle.

When we arrived the place was hopping, with young men directing people to park on a newly-mowed hay field. We parked, and as I walked past the cars I automatically scanned the bumper stickers, a bit of a habit of mine. The first one I saw as expected was an Obama ‘08 sticker, but the next one I saw surprised me: a Gadsden flag of the Tea Party along with a sticker that read “God Bless Our Military, Especially Our Snipers.” North Carolina is much bluer than I expected when I moved down here, and I’ve learned that while I might live in a predominantly conservative part of the state it is full to the brim with people of all political philosophies and walks of life.

All were represented at the organic farm. There were gay couples and old hippies, as well as clean-cut military men and their families, their kids petting goats and chasing free range chickens. A man dressed in a checked shirt beneath blue overalls stood alongside a young woman with more piercings than a rural stop sign, listening to one of the founders of the farm talk about its history and how it has grown over the years. Hispanics mingled with blacks who in turn stood in line with monied white suburbanites and their kids to take a turn at the pottery wheel and throw their own pot. Smiles were everywhere, and the place seemed as alive as the show hive of bees that stood on saw horses in the middle of a vegetable patch.

I was an odd child growing up. Some of my first memories are not of clowns or birthdays but of political events. I watched Nixon’s visit to Beijing broadcast on network TV in 1972. Two years later I rushed home from school and flipped on the Watergate hearings instead of game shows or cartoons. I grew up living and loving politics, and had I been born with a more gregarious personality I would have pursued a career in it. Instead I was socially inept, perhaps even autistic, so politics could never be more than a spectator sport for me, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

But I’ve lost that joy. It has been years since I felt something other than doom and dread about politics, and the organic farm reminded me why.

We are divided, almost atomized these days. It has been years since we felt unity, the last time being the unity of grief by the 9-11 attacks. Since then our leaders have failed us. President Bush famously promised to be a “uniter not a divider”, but then went and did what he wanted to do in Iraq and in the biggest failure of his administration, presided over an explosion of government and spending. The Department of Homeland Security wasn’t a Clinton creation, it was a Bush one after all. While I agreed with his policies in Iraq at the time, Bush failed to support his actions at home against his critics. He just did what he wanted because he knew it was right, but didn’t even try to convince people otherwise.

Obama hasn’t even attempted to unite us. He took office reminding Republicans that he won and has governed accordingly, ramming through his signature health care legislation without a single Republican vote. A year later Americans clipped his power by taking away the House from the Democrats and ending their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but Obama didn’t miss a beat. Instead of moving to the center and working with the opposition to get legislation passed, he went to the extreme, and decided to wait things out to the next election, blaming the GOP and his Republican predecessor for the fruits of his own failure to lead.

Leadership in a democracy requires skills in the art of compromise. It’s hard to imagine but Ronald Reagan whom even Obama himself has claimed for his own never had a friendly majority in the House during his 8 years yet managed to pass budgets and legislation with bipartisan support with no less a political mastermind like Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. We have yet to have a single budget from the president even during the 2 years his own party held both the House and Senate.

In fairness to Obama he never was much of a leader. His career reflects the Peter Principle more than the exercising of leadership skills to make it to the top, always having a mentor in higher position who can push him further up the political ladder. Unfortunately Obama now finds himself at the top with no mentor other than his usual billionaire friends like George Judenrat Soros and Warren Buffet. While these men may support him with their financial acumen and deep pockets, there is no one above Obama that can protect him anymore so he must rely on his skills. The problem is that the process that led to his ascension to the highest office in the land avoided cultivating those skills.

George W. Bush had a similar rise through the ranks, although based on his name rather than mentors. Samuel P. Bush, George W’s great-grandfather, built a successful career as an industrialist and dabbled in politics during World War I. His son Prescott continued the path of mixing success in business with politics that lead to George Bush’s ascendance to the presidency in 1988. While George W. Bush showed the ability of a leader to make difficult decisions such as to attack Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, an upbringing where his name alone opened doors and convinced people made it unlikely that he would develop other leadership skills such as the ability to convince others and charm one’s opponents.

The last president that had such leadership skills? Bill Clinton. Clinton is a self-made man and rose through the political ranks solely on his wit and charm. During his 8 years in office Clinton was able to pass budgets and bipartisan legislation with die-hard partisans such as Newt Gingrich. Clinton understood how to work with Congress, and his domestic policy record proves it (on the other hand his foreign policy record was in retrospect a disaster, consciously ignoring the threat posed by al Qaeda even though numerous terrorist attacks occurred on his watch.)

We have gone 11 years with weak leadership and our nation has suffered. You can’t compromise with someone you call a racist. You can’t cut deals with a party you demonize as misogynistic and homophobic. Leadership doesn’t pit one group of people against another; it fuses them together in a shared purpose.

A true leader does more than call his opponents names and make grand promises in eloquently delivered speeches from teleprompters. He inspires but also delivers on his promises. He doesn’t hold grudges but also makes it clear that he will not be played the fool. He understands the responsibility that comes with his position and serves all the people, not just those who voted for him. Most importantly he appreciates and respects the ideals that bind us together as a people and a nation, recognizing that while we might disagree vehemently on issues big and small, we are all bound by the love of freedom and hope for a better future for our children and our country.

While it is clear that leader is not Obama, neither is it clear that it is Romney. But I do wish that both men could have taken a moment from their politicking to talk to the farmer selling hand raised beef, watched the Montagnard women weaving brightly colored fabrics, and tasted the red pepper goat cheese. Perhaps they would have understood that if we could put aside our differences at a goat farm founded by a woman driving around with two goats in the front seat of her Toyota looking for a farm in North Carolina, we are a people ready to be led, and who deserve a good leader.

The Hype Over Obama’s Intellect

Obama is intelligent – or so we are told. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank opines “there is too much going on in the poor guy’s head.” Obama’s IQ is “off the charts”, according to Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss. Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia (and contributor to Obama’s campaign) is quoted by Milbank as saying “He is a brilliant social and political analyst.” AP stringer Glen Johnson, writing in a puff piece on Obama in January 2007, was similarly impressed by Obama’s intellect. “Obama analyzed and integrated Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity, for a Law Review article that Tribe wrote titled, ‘The Curvature of Constitutional Space.’”

They happen to be some of the same people who are now applying the label “dumb” to Texas governor Rick Perry just as they did to President George W. Bush – who scored 1206 (old scale) on the SAT putting him in the top 16% of prospective college students.

The basis for Obama’s supposed intellectual capacity is his Ivy League experience, starting with his graduation from Columbia followed by attaining his law degree at Harvard and ending with his teaching law at the University of Chicago. People view Harvard as the top university for America’s best and brightest. Add in his selection as editor of the Harvard Law Review and it is easy to understand how the meme that Obama is more intelligent than your average politician began.

Obama enrolled in Harvard in 1988 and was elected president of the Harvard Law Review in 1989. Consider that the Harvard Law Review is a student run publication with many proud alumni including Supreme Court justices who once worked for or edited the publication. But as Rey at Rey’s a Point explained in a post about the Review,

In recent years, the number of students completing the competition has ranged from 200 to 255. Between 41 and 43 students are invited to join the Review each year.

Okay using the harshest numbers: 255 yearly competition completions, 16% make it onto the team.

It isn’t as if the getting the position is particularly hard. Anyone who has gotten a job after 43 resumes were submitted and several interviews conducted during the hiring process can consider him/herself just as gifted. Besides, while Wikipedia notes the luminaries who worked for the Review, it doesn’t mention those who were selected president of the Review and now wait tables. I looked everywhere for a list of Harvard Law Review presidents and couldn’t find one. It would be interesting to see those who are waiting tables as well as those serving on the Supreme Court to get a sense of how prestigious the president of the Review is, not that waiting tables is a lesser profession than Supreme Court justice. Well, with apologies to all the Harvard educated waiters out there, maybe it is.

The true challenge lays in getting into Harvard. Once you are in it seems rather easy to find positions that sound prestigious simply because of their association with the venerable institution. And getting in would be easier for Barack Obama.   Asians and poor whites, especially those from rural states, find it much harder to enter schools in the Ivy League because of “diversity.” Obama’s race coupled with his degree from Columbia, another Ivy League school, guaranteed his admission to Harvard.

In fact it was much easier than that. Obama’s Kenyan-born father attended Harvard as a graduate student, receiving his masters in 1965. One of the lesser known discriminatory admissions practices is the admission of legacy students, those whose parents graduated from  the particular educational institution they are applying to. As a study in the Chronicle of Higher Education points out, legacy students are 45% more likely to be admitted to elite schools than those whose parents did not attend. The legacy aspect of George W. Bush’s attendance at Yale has been used by his detractors to explain his apparent ignorance after attending Yale, while the legacy aspect of Obama’s Harvard admission has been completely ignored. Google “Bush Legacy Student” and “Obama Legacy Student” and you’ll see what I mean.

Obama taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago from 1992 – 2004 first as a lecturer and later, senior lecturer. These positions were not tenure track (Obama was offered tenure and declined), but allowed Obama the time he needed to develop his political career.

If Obama is so smart, why is he such a lousy leader? Consider that in his first two years he had a Democrat-controlled congress and high approval ratings, yet he outsourced health care and the stimulus to Congress, enacted the bank bailouts demanded by his Wall Street backers including billionaires George Soros and Warren Buffet and started during the last gasp of the Bush administration. He even continued Bush’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq; the only thing he added was a sense of Hamlet-esque hand-wringing to these decisions.

A meta-analysis conducted by students at the University of Florida and the University of Iowa found that intelligence and leadership are correlated (albeit weakly – see comments), yet Obama has shown poor leadership skills over the past 3 years.

Is it possible that he isn’t as intelligent as his supporters think, and that his supposed brilliance is in fact due to a career path in the Ivy League that while commendable would not be considered extraordinary if it weren’t for the color of his skin? To suggest this may be the case is to court charges of racism, but given how freely the charges are made against anyone who dissents with the President and his administration I suppose one must go ahead with the accusation anyway.

The fact is that Barack Obama’s father and mother were both academics. Obama attended a prep school in Hawaii which, along with the academic credentials of his parents, allowed him to enter Columbia. The degree from Columbia improved his odds of being admitted to Harvard, but nowhere near as much as the boost provided by his legacy status through his father’s attendance. While at Harvard, Obama joined the Law Review and was selected as president. Once finishing at Harvard, it would be expected that Obama would be offered a position at another Ivy League school, such as the lecturer position at the University of Chicago.

There are thousands of Ivy League graduates who have followed a career path such as this. Most Ivy League professors currently in academia would have a similar curriculum vitae, albeit with completely different achievements, some more notable than Obama’s academic successes, some less. While all would be considered more intelligent than the average person (especially by the average person), few would match Obama’s supposed brilliance for one reason: there aren’t many Ivy League leaders and decisionmakers with black skin.

Would Beschloss say a Jew who went to Columbia, got his degree from Harvard and taught at the University of Chicago, had an IQ off the charts? How about a African-American guy from Pin Point Georgia? It is impossible to disentangle Obama’s race from his academic success, but I am coming to believe that while it had less to do with his overall success, it was an important factor at critical points – such as in his selection as the president of the Harvard Law Review and the offers of tenure at the University of Chicago. For all its talk of diversity, the Ivy League still remains a bastion of wealthy liberal white people – from the composition of the boards and trusts that manage endowments down to the level of college deans. Obama would have been an inviting academic to use to show how “diverse” the Ivy League had become. He had the “right” background (Ivy League educated parents and Ivy League education). Coming from that background Obama shared the Ivy League culture. He was a true Ivy Leaguer who was special in only one way: his skin color. Obama looked different but at heart he was “one of them.” It would only be natural for the wealthy elite controlling Ivy League to elevate one of their own to higher status in their world regardless of his intellectual ability.

This is not to say that Obama is stupid, or that he would make a terrible professor. Quite the opposite; I believe that Obama is intelligent and from what I’ve read his students in Chicago enjoyed his classes. Like George W. Bush Obama benefited from his family connections and his upbringing, only his skin color and liberal upbringing sets him apart. But the reality of the presidency has laid bare what liberal guilt or affirmative action hid in academia: Obama isn’t as brilliant as either his supporters or he himself believes.

If the charge of racism is to be leveled, it should be at the liberal elite that elevates a relatively mediocre academic to increasingly higher levels of status, while distancing itself from a true genius of color: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. But unlike Obama, Thomas wasn’t “one of them” – so his intelligence isn’t celebrated the way Obama’s is.

Democrats, Obama – NOT Bush and Republicans – Got Us Into This Mess

This little chart says it all:
Budget Deficit and Iraq War

Let’s see… Republicans were responsible for FY 2007 Budget, the Democrats were responsible for FY 2008 and later, having taken over Congress in the 2006 election.

Read the rest at the Washington Examiner.

The President’s Deaf Ear

Watching the president’s approval ratings sink and hearing people regret their votes cast a year ago makes me consider the president’s failure to acknowledge the growing chorus of criticism of his policies. The tone deafness of his administration manifests itself from the refusal to compromise with the GOP on health care to the shrugging off of the losses of governorships in Virginia and New Jersey. Where Clinton kept a close watch on his polling numbers, Obama has shown a George W. Bush-like steadfastness against bowing to public pressure.

Obama was elected to bring change, and the president is well aware that change can be painful. But he understands that there is no danger to him for ramming through the most radical and unwanted parts of his agenda. His Gallup poll numbers might put him in the approval-rating cellar of post-war presidents, but the only poll that matters is still 3 years away – plenty of time to build a political legacy that will eventually become popular and reelect him, or leave a mark on the American polity that will be hard to erase by future administrations.

Either way, the president doesn’t care. He views himself as an historical figure and is driven by reshaping American society according to his ideals than he is staying in power. This is a fundamental difference between him and his predecessor Bill Clinton, and in my view shows that he has more in common with George W. Bush than any other recent president.

President Bush ignored popular opinion when it came to the War on Terror and the associated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But his fortitude in those areas contrast with his willingness to cut any deal – no matter how unpalatable from the perspective of his base – with the Democrats on domestic spending and other issues. Bush was an ideologue on Defense, but a politician in all other areas. This probably explains his success at reelection in 2004. Even though conservatives such as myself disagreed vehemently with his domestic agenda, it allowed him to peel away the hawkish independents from Kerry. After all, we weren’t going to stab him in the back and not vote for him when the deciding issue in the 2004 election was the Global War on Terror.

The danger is that where Bush showed a pragmatic side on issues unrelated to Defense, I have yet to see Obama don his deal-making hat and work with the Republicans. Where Bush got squishy with his domestic agenda, we might expect to see Obama act similarly over Defense – but it’s too early to judge whether that is the case. Granted he has followed the Surge recommendations of General McChrystal, the man Obama himself appointed to manage the war there, but only after an excruciatingly long decision. Republicans and hawkish conservatives have finally found something to agree with the President on, but it comes after a year of foreign policy mistakes around the world: apologizing, refusing to support the pro-democracy movements in Iran and Tibet, kowtowing to China and Russia, apologizing some more, bullying Israel and Honduras, patronizing Venezuela and Cuba, snubbing American allies like the UK, apologizing yet again.

If Obama is hoping to peel away enough hawkish independents over his foreign policy stance, then he’s got a long way to go. But I doubt he’s concerned with the 2012 election. To paraphrase a line from the Blues Brothers, he’s on a mission from God – although given his lack of spirituality, I doubt it’s god in the sense of the Jude0-Christian tradition. It’s History.

Obama sees himself as the peer of Abraham Lincoln – another president who defied the advice and opinion of others to do what he believed was right. Such a man on a “Divine Mission” is more than willing to sacrifice a governor or two this year, and perhaps even a House and Senate majority next year if History demands it. That’s why if I were a Republican strategist, I would be collecting all the pictures and videos of Democrats – and RINOs – shaking hands with Obama, tallying how often they voted for the President’s legislation, and preparing to flood the airways with these in campaign and 527 ads next Autumn (the RINOs should be targeted in next Spring’s primaries). When unemployment is in the double-digits and the President’s approval rating is in the basement there is a political term for these politicians: dead meat.

A president should have the ability to leave his mark on the nation, but he should never forget that he is ultimately there to serve the American people. A great leader leads by charming his charges into believing that his goals are really their own – not by forcing his ideas upon them whether they like it or not.  The poll numbers showing the majority of Americans in opposition to everything from health care “reform” to global warming prove the president has taken the latter route. They show that Obama is at present not a great leader.

What Bush Got Right

I think we’ll be seeing more pieces like this over the next few years.

President Bush made a courageous decision in the summer of 2006 to reverse direction, but not the reversal sought by Congress (including then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden), the American public, the overwhelming majority of the press (including this newspaper), and even most of his own military advisers. Instead of cutting our losses and pulling out of Iraq, as we did in Vietnam, Bush doubled down. He invested more troops and, more important, embraced an entirely new strategy.

And Bush was right.

If Obama Wins… Part 3

This is the final part of a three part series.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 1
can be found here.
A satire of the Obama presidency can be viewed here.

Regardless of whether Obama wins on Tuesday or not, it is clear that Democrats are dominating the national landscape – from holding a majority of governorships to a solid lock on both houses of Congress. In such a hostile environment, can the Republican party hope to recover? Can there be a conservative renaissance as GayPatriot believes?

The Republican Party has been the primary vehicle for conservativism in America, but the party itself is on life-support. Since President Bush has been the defacto head of the party for the last eight years, the calamitous state of the party rests with him and his administration. Having come to power as a stalwart conservative in 2000, the President turned his back on the conservative base by pursuing policies anathema to it; he’s now leaving office with a larger government in place than he found in 2001, and a federal budget deficit that is worse than that of any Democratic administration since FDR. Of everything the president has been blamed by the Left, this is the one criticism that sticks.

Having strayed from its core principles one could argue that the party should simply return to them and American voters would reward the party. Unfortunately the reality is not that simple. America of today is not the same that swept Ronald Reagan to power in 1980 and led to his landslide in 1984. America of 2008 is not that of 1994 when a generation of conservatives came to power led by Newt Gingrich and the Contract for America banner.

In order to take back power the Republican Party must change with the times yet stick to the core principles that unite the broadest segment of  conservatives as well as the independents the party needs in order to win elections. It’s a unique blend of new and old ideas that begins with a reassessment of what the party’s core values truly are.

What are they? Let’s start by taking a look at the 2008 Republican Party Platform. Here we find yet another example of how the party has strayed from its core principles. The platform looks and reads like an annual report from a corporation.  And does “Supporting Native American Communities” rise to the same level of importance as “Preserving America’s Property Rights” or “Ensuring Equal Treatment For All”? What exactly does “Ensuring Equal Treatment For All” mean anyway?

Buried within the values section of the platform are these gems:

  • Individual rights – and the responsibilities that go with them – are the foundation of a free society.

  • At the center of a free economy is the right of citizens to be secure in their property.

The primacy of the individual is the heart of the conservative movement and the core of the Republican Party. Everything that the Republican party offers should flow from these two values. So what about these values that are spelled out in the platform?

We uphold the right of individual Americans to own firearms – covered by Individual Rights.
We support freedom of speech and freedom of the press – ditto.
Our Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion – ditto.

However the following “values” in the platform don’t belong because they undermine individual rights and property rights. These are the party’s sacred cows and ones that must be carefully reconsidered and if necessary led to slaughter if the party hopes to remain the champion of individual rights.

The symbol of our unity, to which we all pledge allegiance, is the flag. – Who got this inserted into the platform – students of Carl Jung? America got along fine for over 100 years without the pledge of allegiance. The flag is a symbol, and burning it or desecrating it does not damage or tarnish what the flag symbolizes. Banning flag burning goes against individual rights. Besides, it didn’t get much traction in the 1992 election and gets even less today.

...we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed – What about when the mother’s life is in danger? What about cases of rape and incest? Except for the few at either extreme, abortion falls into a grey area that has not been accepted or recognized by the modern Republican party. This issue – and the Republican party stance – needs to be modeled to reflect the complex view that Americans have towards abortion. Most are appalled by it, yet are equally concerned about the government control over a woman’s body a ban would entail.

Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage… - With the possible exception of flag burning, no plank in the Republican Party platform is as rotten and wormeaten as this one. By speaking of “our children’s future” the party is reaching for societal rights to trump individual rights – the antithesis of the core belief respecting the primacy of the individual. It also contradicts the “free exercise of religion” by continuing the tradition whereby the state meddles in religious affairs.

Marriage is a religious agreement, not a civil one, and should be decided by the religions themselves. If Christians want to ban marriages between two women or two men, then so be it; those same people can enter into legal agreements of incorporation that determine division of property. How about three women? A brother and sister? As long as everyone is of legal age and of sound mind then they can enter into any legal arrangement that they want. But they cannot marry – nor can the state force a religion to act against its own religious principles and conduct one.

As I have written elsewhere, the GOP needs to embrace gays not out of pure self interest but philosophy. Nothing is more personal, no right is as individual as the right to choose whom to love. Besides, it seems like the only place that Democrats don’t like Big Goverment is in the bedroom, so why should the Republicans embrace  it? Tossing this platform plank won’t result in large numbers of gays joining the party, but it will align the party better with its own principles.

A healthy and vibrant Republican Party is the best way to protect its core values. Over the coming years these values will be tested more than ever before, so its critical that the Party rejuvenate itself. In an Obama-dominated government it must

  1. Recognize that it cannot continue business as usual if the party and its principles are to survive.

  2. Respect the power of the electorate to make decisions in its own best interest.

  3. Conduct a fearless and honest inventory of its beliefs and values.

That’s only a start, but there will be plenty of time to take these steps over the coming months if Obama wins.

American Whining and the Culture of Dependency

The AP wire story “Americans’ unhappy birthday: ‘Too much wrong right now’” link appeared the day after Independence Day. The story uses an Optimist Club meeting to discuss the general feelings by Americans that their nation is “on the wrong track” and that “something must be done.”

... talk turns to the state of the Union, and the Optimists become decidedly bleak.

They use words such as “terrified,” “disgusted” and “scary” to describe what one calls “this mess” we Americans find ourselves in. Then comes the list of problems constituting the mess: a protracted war, $4-a-gallon gas, soaring food prices, uncertainty about jobs, an erratic stock market, a tougher housing market, and so on and so forth.

One member’s son is serving his second tour in Iraq. Another speaks of a daughter who’s lost her job in the mortgage industry and a son in construction whose salary was slashed. Still another mentions a friend who can barely afford gas.

Joanne Kontak, 60, an elementary school lunch aide inducted just this day as an Optimist, sums things up like this: “There’s just entirely too much wrong right now.”

Some things Americans should feel unhappy about. The skyrocketing cost of gasoline is a big part of the pessimistic mood gripping the country. Seeing the price blast into the stratosphere through $4 a gallon heading into $5 gives us the feeling of a linear progression. What will stop it from hitting $6, $7 or more? People feel helpless and believe that there is nothing they can do.

But a dose of reason is in order.

First the ministers of OPEC themselves have stated that there is a bubble in oil right now. Contrary to what many think, OPEC does not like bubbles because it recognizes that high prices bring new supply onto the market as oil is extracted from deposits that were considered unprofitable at $70/barrel. Add in the cut in demand brought by higher prices and a collapse in oil prices is inevitable. While bubbles irrationally overinflate prices, collapsed bubbles (“corrections”) inevitably overshoot the true value of commodities as producers flood the market with product in order to get the best price they can before the price declines more. This floods the market further, and coupled with decreased demand the effects of collapsed prices take a long time to clear.

There are several factors that play into this including the concept of “peak oil” and political meddling with markets – such as the Indian and Chinese government subsidizing of petroleum products and environmental opposition to drilling in ANWAR and use of oil derived from shale. “Peak oil” remains a controversial topic and the political meddling with markets inevitably breaks down from the high cost of subsidies and the political cost of keeping supplies off the market.

Like all bubbles – tulips in the 17th century, precious metals in 1980 and Internet stocks in 2000 – the oil bubble will pop. The key is to curb our tendency to demand that government “do something” since such meddling could only make the situation worse. Anyone who remembers the lines at filling stations during the Carter administration should be surprised at their lack during the Bush administration. The difference is due to the Carter’s meddling in the market with price controls, something that Bush – for all his real and imagined faults – has not instituted.
Contrary to what some politicians have said, there are no magic bullets that will help Americans with high fuel prices. Options include driving less, buying more fuel efficient vehicles including those with manual transmissions instead of automatics, and for those who heat their homes with oil, lower the thermostat. But these options take time to work, and they don’t elect politicians to office.

Rising home prices caused by the real estate bubble gave home owners a sense of wealth that encouraged indebtedness and excessive spending. Now that the bubble has collapsed, home owners are left with the bills at the same time they watch properties sell in their neighborhood for less. Those with adjustable mortgages are in their own private hell as they are squeezed between higher payments, declining values, and higher fuel costs. Those who can get some relief through refinancing; unfortunately for many in thjs difficult position bankruptcy is not an option anymore thanks to the bankruptcy “reforms” sponsored by Democrat senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper. The only option is to walk away from their homes, which eventually leads to more properties on the market, driving down real estate values in a self-reinforcing cycle.

For those that keep their homes there aren’t any easy solutions. Home values will continue to decline until the supply of homes is met by demand for them. In the meantime homeowners should pay down debt and save more so that they can leap at the buying opportunities that will come around once the real estate market has bottomed out.

“There are so many things you have to do to survive now,” says Larue Lawson of Forest Park, Ill. “It used to be just clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. Now, it’s everything.

“I wish it was just simpler.”

Lawson, mind you, is all of 16 years old.
Stay-at-home-mom Heather Hammack grapples with tough decisions daily about how to spend her family’s dwindling income in the face of rising food costs. One day, she priced strawberries at $1.75. The next day, they were $2.28.

“I could cry,” she responds when asked how things are.

“We used to have more money than we knew what to do with. Now, I have to decide: Do I pay the electric this week? Do I pay for gas? Do I get groceries?” says Hammack, 24, who lives with her boyfriend, a window installer, and their 5-year-old son in a rented home in rural Rowlesburg, W.Va. “You can’t get ahead. You can’t save money. You can’t buy a house. It just stinks.”

When you have a sixteen year old whining about how complex life is, or a 24 year old stay-at-home mom crying about a $.53 increase in the cost of strawberries, then it’s time to open up a can of some old fashioned Protestant work ethics and values.

First off, Ms. Hammack has bigger problems than $2.28 strawberries. Getting married would save some on taxes, but the best thing to improve her family’s situation would be for her boyfriend to get training to do a job that pays more than window installing. Another idea would be for them to leave the rental home for a cheaper apartment. How much space do three people need after all? There are existing job training programs for low income wage earners; her boyfriend needs to take advantage of them. I am an advocate of stay-at-home parents; maybe her boyfriend should be the one taking care of her child at home if Heather Hammack can earn more than he can on the current job market. Regardless, it’s not the federal government’s job to improve their lot in life – it’s theirs! As for the sixteen year old, what perspective can he possibly offer on our current economic situation?

I’ll be honest and state that I am earning the same wage today that I was eight years ago. Am I angry at the government for that fact? No. During those years I invested time and money in building up my Wife’s career. She’s now in her last year of residency and poised to double our family income.

This is not the result of a government program to improve our lives; it was a conscious decision we made 10 years ago. Like any investment it was fraught with risk: What if the Wife doesn’t pass the MCAT? What if the Wife doesn’t get accepted into med school? What if the Wife can’t find a residency program that wants her? What if the value of the Wife’s specialty decreases while she’s in school and residency? And the biggest risk of all, what if we get divorced?

I switched careers five years ago because I viewed my old one as becoming technologically obsolete. Again there was considerable risk to doing this; developers in my specialty could do better as others left for greener pastures. Has it worked out? Aside from the importation of H-1b/L-1 labor that depresses my wages (an example of more government meddling in the labor market), whether it has or not is not the government’s fault. I made the choice.

Since the Bush administration was pilloried in 2005 for its slow response to Hurricane Katrina, some politicians including Barack Obama and leading Democrats like Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton have encouraged Americans to expect more from the federal government. This is taking the culture of dependence which saw Katrina victims waiting for help from the federal government instead of relying upon state and local governments and even themselves. The Democrats see such dependence as an avenue to power, a strategy that has been successful for them in large cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Now they want to take that patronage machine national, and turn the entire country into Chicago or Philadelphia.

Republicans are not spared blame for this malaise. Instead of extolling the benefits of free trade, lower taxes and smaller government, they expanded government entitlement programs during an economic boom fueled by trade while ignoring the pleas for lower taxes and responsible government from the Republican base. They became RINOs – Republican in Name Only. By doing so they allowed Democrats to portray the party as out of touch and corrupt – the very criticisms that the party’s base was leveling at the party leadership. As a consequence Democrats are on the attack using empty words like “hope” and “change” and the GOP plays the Democrats’ game by reacting to the statements instead of attacking the Democrats with their own rhetoric. “Change? You’re going to need it to pay your taxes when the Democrats win in November.” “Hope doesn’t stop al-Qaeda from slamming aircraft into skyscrapers.” But Republicans are in disarray and many in the base are waiting for the clobbering in November to return the party to its roots.

Democratic politicians do not know anything except the culture of dependence and entitlement. It is the culture they learn in the corrupt political machines of the cities, and from the agricultural subsidies they feed Agribusiness in the Midwest. They peddle a poison that paralyzes its victims and saps them of their humanity, turning them into slaves beholden to their masters that feed and clothe them. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” has become “What will my country do for me?”

The solution is not more government but less. It is the solution that ended the economic malaise of the Carter administration. Less government was the mantle worn by Ronald Reagan when he took office in 1981, and it remains the solution a generation later when Reagan’s old foes from the Carter administration are poised to retake the presidency under Obama.

Americans must counter the rhetoric of more government with a demand for personal responsibility. It is not the government’s job to make you happy; it’s job is to create the conditions that allow you to pursue happiness. Americans have forgotten this, and there is no Reagan around to remind them.

Being Free isn’t easy. With freedom comes responsibility, and Americans don’t seem to bear the latter very well. Weathering the financial storm that lays ahead with the continued collapse of the real estate and stock markets as well as the rising cost of energy and food will be tough. However electing politicians who promise “change” and “hope” will only place people in power with prior experience at really screwing the economy up. The price of energy will come down; home prices will stabilize if only Americans take responsibility of their own situations and not expect the federal government to fix it.

But will we?

Choice and Honor

My father was a devout Catholic until he died in 1977. In about 1962 or 1963 he got into an argument with the pastor of his parish, Father McGuire, another Irishman, over the changes the Church had begun instituting that culminated in the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, or Vatican II.

My father was what we would call today a traditionalist. For him being a Catholic meant masses in Latin said by a priest with his back to the faithful. Father McGuire was younger and held that the Church needed to modernize. Part of that modernization meant masses in the vernacular with a less authoritarian role for the priest. My father was active in the parish since he had several kids in its school. Evidently he used to have some heated arguments with McGuire over church doctrine. My dad didn’t argue politely; he argued passionately as did McGuire from what I’ve learned.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my old man over the past few weeks, and the recent controversy over Scott McClellan’s tell-all book brought my dad’s actions 45 years ago into focus. One response to the McClellan’s book really resonated with me. Bob Dole wrote an email to Scott McClellan where he calls him a “miserable creature”.

There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.

Bob Dole gets it. If Scott McClellan truly believed at the time that the decision to go to Iraq was wrong, then he had a moral obligation to speak up or resign. When a man finds himself doing a job that he deep down believes is morally wrong, than it is his moral duty to himself and if he’s religious, to his God, to do what he can to change the situation and failing that, to quit.

McClellan wasn’t in the military. He wouldn’t have been court martialed for disobeying orders. If he had voiced his disagreement with administration policy at the time, the worst outcome would have been the president demanding his resignation. There would have been public statements of wishing him the best, and he would have landed a cushy job at a university, thinktank or lobbyist firm.

Similarly Barack Obama’s recent announcement that after 20 years he was leaving the Trinity United Church of Christ where Rev. Jeremiah Wright has preached his paranoid and racist beliefs meets Dole’s “miserable creature”criteria. If Obama disagreed with the pastor, it was his moral duty to either confront him and if that failed to temper Wright’s ravings, to quit the church. There are thousands of churches in Chicago, and had Obama truly disagreed with Wright as he now claims, he should have quit the church years ago. But he chose to stay.

My feeling is that Obama belonged to Wright’s church because it gave him “street cred” – something in common with the African-American community that his elite upbringing couldn’t provide. I suspect that he never believed what Wright said, which would explain why he seemed so incredulous at first when outsiders looked seriously at the pastor’s statements. Why should the press and the rest of the country take Wright’s rantings seriously if he didn’t?

If on the other hand he did believe Wright’s rhetoric, throwing him under the bus now shows that Obama will steamroller anyone who stands in his way. At this point Obama can’t win on the issue, and why he decided three months after the Wright controversy started making the front pages shows that once again Obama is a poor decision maker. The controversy was dying down – except among people like me who aren’t going to vote for him anyway. Yet inexplicably he decided to fan the flames again by cutting ties with Wright.

For the final 15 years of his life my father refused to step foot in a church except to walk his daughters down the aisle at their weddings. He considered himself a Catholic up to his death, but for the last decade and a half he refused to attend mass or take sacraments.

Unlike McClellan and Obama, my father didn’t have a choice. There was no Catholic church that maintained its pre-Vatican II traditions. He spoke up and fought for what he believed in and when that failed to change Church policy, he stopped going to church. From what I understand it wasn’t an easy choice for him, especially for a man as deeply religious as he was, but he did it.

Like Bob Dole my father was a war veteran; he knew about choices and honor, how it was often necessary to make hard from the former in order to maintain the latter. My father finished school in the tenth grade, served in the military and spent the rest of his life working in the trades, yet he understood something that neither McClellan nor Obama do not after all their university degrees and experience at the very pinnacle of our society. Did he and Dole pick it up on the battlefield, or was it a product of their generation? Perhaps it isn’t something the Greatest Generation had but that their children the Baby Boomers lack.

We are confronted by such choices every day of our lives, and over time our choices stand as a measure of our character. My father was not the greatest; for most of his life he had a drinking problem and our family suffered as a result. But it gained from his work ethic that kept food on the table through troubled times, as well as from the protection of a man “blessed” with 4 daughters growing up in the 1960’s. All of my siblings are decent people with one glaring exception – my 2nd sister who turned her back on us and took to her husband’s family instead of her own. We have all become successful, and my father played no small part in that even if he died when I was a kid.

McClellan will become wealthy from his books, and Obama might yet become president. However both men pale in comparison to my father when it comes to their character, and Dole’s email says why.

McClellan and Obama won’t understand it and neither will their supporters for whom “character” is a meaningless term. But one day McClellan will wonder why his fame has been fleeting, and if Obama fails to win in November – or perhaps even if he does – why History has judged him so harshly. And when this happens perhaps they will read Dole’s email and see what the former senator from Kansas and World War II hero understood that they did not.

Republican Angst

There’s a lot of angst out there among Republicans. Many it seems are tired of being in power - in the few places they still have it like the Executive branch, and haven’t really gotten fired up to snatch it back from the Democrats in the places they’ve lost it – like most of the governorships and the Legislative branch. Some of the ideas that get the rank and file fired up – like gun rights – have been avoided like a political 3rd Rail by the Democrats. Other ideas like free trade and a strong defense have been taken for granted so long that they’ve lost their ability to fire up the base. Worst of all the issues that do fire up the rank and file – like lower taxes and smaller government – have been stomped on over the past 8 years by the Republican leadership and the Bush administration.

Republicans have a right to be questioning their leaders and the status quo right now; the Party has failed them. The question becomes: will this failure kill their chances in November?

6 months is an eternity in politics, and the real fight between the two parties hasn’t even started. It remains to be seen whether the Republicans will continue to lose their stomach for a fight while the Democrats begin to seriously wail on them this Summer, and especially after Labor Day. We’ll get a good sense by then whether they have, or if the Democrats have forced them to get off their asses and fight back.

The Myth of America’s Friend – Saddam

The following is a comment posted at Dean’s World by denizen and all-around cool dude Martin Shoemaker that refutes the myth of Saddam, America’s best-buddy. Dean himself is pretty livid about the legs this myth has.

Martin writes:

Here’s the chart.

Here’s the original from the Frogman.

And here, courtesy of that notorious buncha neocons at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, is the source data.

Their other insidious propaganda tool is even more informative: the trade register. It lets you track arms deals by country and type. For the pre-Gulf War Saddam era, the USA supplied:

  • 30 Hughes-300/TH-55 Light helicopters.
  • 30 MD-500MD Defender Light helicopters.
  • (31) Bell-214ST Helicopters.
  • 26 MD-530F Light helicopters.

As best I can tell, a number in parens means the exact number is unclear.

For that same period, the USSR supplied:

  • (184) SON-9/Fire Can Fire control radars.
  • (250) BRDM-2 Reconnaissance vehicles.
  • (250) BTR-50 APCs.
  • (250) BTR-60PB APCs.
  • (100) T-12 100mm/2A19 Towed guns.
  • (100) ZSU-57-2 AAVs.
  • (550) 5V27/SA-3B Goa SAMs.
  • (6) Osa/Type-205 FACs.
  • (6) P-12/Spoon Rest Air surv radars.
  • (48) P-15U/SS-N-2B Styx Anti-ship missiles.
  • (30) S-125M/SA-3B SAM systems.
  • (15) Mi-6T/Hook-A Helicopters.
  • (90) Mi-8T/Hip-C Helicopters.
  • (60) Su-7B/Fitter-A FGA aircraft.
  • 12 Tu-22/Blinder-A Bomber aircraft.
  • (250) 3M11/AT-2a Swatter Anti-tank missiles.
  • (20000) 9M14M/AT-3 Sagger Anti-tank missiles.
  • (200) BMP-1 IFVs.
  • (100) BRDM-2 Tank destroyers.
  • (60) MiG-21MF/Fishbed-J Fighter aircraft.
  • 8 Osa/Type-205 FACs.
  • (64) P-15/SS-N-2A Styx Anti-ship missiles.
  • (1260) R-13R/AA-2C Atoll-C SRAAMs.
  • (80) Su-20/Fitter-C/F FGA aircraft.
  • (300) T-55 Tanks.
  • (100) T-62 Tanks.
  • (200) ZSU-23-4 Shilka AAVs.
  • (12) 9P117/SS-1 Scud TEL SSM launchers.
  • (20) MiG-23MF/Flogger-B Fighter aircraft.
  • (48) R-17/SS-1c Scud-B SSMs.
  • (20) 2K12 Kvadrat/SA-6A SAM systems.
  • (840) 3M9/SA-6 Gainful SAMs.
  • (50) D-20 152mm Towed guns.
  • (100) R-23R/T/AA-7 Apex BVRAAMs.
  • (6500) Strela-2/SA-7 Grail Portable SAMs.
  • 2 An-26/Curl Transport aircraft.
  • 70 MiG-23BN/Flogger-H FGA aircraft.
  • (600) T-62 Tanks.
  • (24) 9K52 Luna-M/FROG-7 SSM launchers.
  • (100) BM-21 Grad 122mm MRLs.
  • (33) Il-76M/Candid-B Transport aircraft.
  • (40) Mi-24D/Mi-25/Hind-D Combat helicopters.
  • (5) P-14/Tall King Air surv radar.
  • (50) 2S1 122mm Self-propelled guns.
  • (50) 2S3 152mm Self-propelled guns.
  • 10 Long Track Air surv radars.
  • (25) MiG-25P/Foxbat-A Fighter aircraft.
  • (8) MiG-25RB/Foxbat-B Reconnaissance ac.
  • 5 PRV-9/Thin Skin Height-finding radar.
  • (450) R-40/AA-6 Acrid BVRAAMs.
  • 50 T-72 Tanks.
  • (160) 9K31/SA-9 Gaskin Mobile SAM systems.
  • (10) BMD-1 IFVs.
  • (25) M-240 240mm Mortars.
  • (2500) Strela-1/SA-9 Gaskin SAMs.
  • (750) BMP-1 IFVs.
  • (576) M-46 130mm Towed guns.
  • (400) T-55 Tanks.
  • (10) 2S4 240mm Self-propelled mortars.
  • (50) 9K33 Osa/SA-8 Mobile SAM systems.
  • (1300) 9M33/SA-8 Gecko SAMs.
  • (10) 9P117/SS-1 Scud TEL SSM launchers.
  • (200) BM-21 Grad 122mm MRLs.
  • (576) D-30 122mm Towed guns.
  • (250) Kh-28/AS-9 Kyle Anti-radar missiles.
  • (750) MT-LB APCs.
  • (40) R-17/SS-1c Scud-B SSMs.
  • (2150) T-62 Tanks.
  • (500) T-72 Tanks.
  • (36) KSR-5/AS-6 Kingfish Anti-ship missiles.
  • (12) Mi-24D/Mi-25/Hind-D Combat helicopters.
  • (30) Mi-8/Mi-17/Hip-H Helicopters.
  • (61) MiG-21bis/Fishbed-N Fighter aircraft.
  • (50) MiG-23BN/Flogger-H FGA aircraft.
  • (30) MiG-25P/Foxbat-A Fighter aircraft.
  • (200) PT-76 Light tanks.
  • (1080) R-13S/AA-2S Atoll SRAAMs.
  • (60) 9K35 ZREB-BD/SA-13 Mobile SAM systems.
  • 15 Mi-2/Hoplite Helicopters.
  • (1500) Strela-10/SA-13 Gopher SAMs.
  • (37) Mi-8/Mi-17/Hip-H Helicopters.
  • (41) MiG-29/Fulcrum-A Fighter aircraft.
  • (800) R-17/SS-1c Scud-B SSMs.
  • (175) R-27/AA-10 Alamo BVRAAMs.
  • (582) R-60/AA-8 Aphid SRAAMs.
  • (500) Strela-3/SA-14 Gremlin Portable SAMs.
  • (46) Su-22/Fitter-H/J/K FGA aircraft.
  • 84 Su-25/Frogfoot-A Ground attack ac.
  • (180) 2A36 Hyacinth 152mm Towed guns.
  • (100) 2S1 122mm Self-propelled guns.
  • (100) 2S3 152mm Self-propelled guns.
  • (3000) 9M111/AT-4 Spigot Anti-tank missiles.
  • (360) BM-21 Grad 122mm MRLs.
  • (200) BMP-2 IFVs.
  • (40) Kh-29/AS-14 Kedge ASMs.
  • (25) Su-24MK/Fencer-D Bomber aircraft.
  • (1000) Igla-1/SA-16 Gimlet Portable SAMs.

So we supplied around 117 helicopters. The USSR supplied 239 helicopters, a little more than twice as many. Oh, yeah, and four pages of other kinds of arms and materiel.

By USSR standards, France was a relative piker:

  • 64 AS-12 ASMs.
  • 365 SS-11/AS-11 Anti-tank missiles.
  • (62) AML-60/90 Armoured cars.
  • 600 AS-12 ASMs.
  • 2050 HOT Anti-tank missiles.
  • 25 M-3 VTT APCs.
  • 3750 MILAN Anti-tank missiles.
  • 31 SA-316B Alouette-3 Light helicopters.
  • 1000 SS-11/AS-11 Anti-tank missiles.
  • 3 SA-330 Puma Helicopters.
  • 40 SA-342K/L Gazelle Light helicopters.
  • (25) AML-60/90 Armoured cars.
  • (2) AML-60/90 Armoured cars.
  • 10 SA-321G Super Frelon ASW helicopters.
  • 600 HOT Anti-tank missiles.
  • 700 MILAN Anti-tank missiles.
  • 36 Mirage F-1E FGA aircraft.
  • (534) R-550 Magic-1 SRAAMs.
  • (200) Super-530F BVRAAMs.
  • (72) AM-39 Exocet Anti-ship missiles.
  • (100) AMX-10P IFVs.
  • 50 ERC-90 Armoured cars.
  • 20 SA-342K/L Gazelle Light helicopters.
  • 100 VCR-TH Tank destroyer.
  • 1000 HOT Anti-tank missiles.
  • 23 Mirage F-1C Fighter aircraft.
  • 30 Mirage F-1C Fighter aircraft.
  • 20 SA-330 Puma Helicopters.
  • (5) AMX-30D ARVs.
  • (6) SA-321H Super Frelon Helicopters.
  • (6) TRS-2215/2230 Air surv radars.
  • (5) Volex Air surv radars.
  • (150) ERC-90 Armoured cars.
  • 13 Roland Mobile SAM systems.
  • (100) Roland Mobile SAM systems.
  • (2260) Roland-2 SAMs.
  • 85 AMX-GCT/AU-F1 Self-propelled guns.
  • (115) M-3 VTT APCs.
  • (280) AM-39 Exocet Anti-ship missiles.
  • (450) ARMAT Anti-radar missiles.
  • 5 Super Etendard FGA aircraft.
  • (240) AS-30L ASMs.
  • (2) Rasit Ground surv radars.
  • 19 Mirage F-1C Fighter aircraft.
  • 18 SA-342K/L Gazelle Light helicopters.
  • (5) TRS-2100 Tiger Air surv radars.
  • (1) TRS-2100 Tiger Air surv radars.
  • 36 AM-39 Exocet Anti-ship missiles.

Though not up to Soviet standards, they sold about the same number of helicopters as us (124)—and far exceeded us in things that shoot or explode.

Some around here have foolishly derided Poland as a military power; but for the period in question, Poland’s sales to Saddam were four timers ours in dollar amounts. And as for destructive potential:

  • 4 Type-771/Polnocny Landing ships.
  • (400) T-55 Tanks.

I have to say that 400 tanks sound a bit more destructive than 117 helicopters.