GIs die for Chinese oil; Palin McCain’s girl…

August 31, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I have to admit I don’t know what is going on with the oil out of Iraq. I read a story on CNN online Saturday morning and saw one report elsewhere as well that said China has all but finalized a $3 billion oil deal with Iraq. Why do we send troops to fight and die for Chinese oil?

A few months ago it was announced that western oil companies would be allowed to go back into Iraq. I don’t know what the status on that is and could not readily find out on the web. My newspapers and nightly news and even all-day long cable news tell me nothing either.

But I’ll just have to get back to that later. Meantime:

You only had to see how John McCain acted as Sarah Palin, newby politician and first-term governor of Alaska, introduced herself as the old man’s vice presidential pick in his quest for president to realize why he chose her to be a heart beat away from the top job.

At least that’s the conclusion I am coming to. He stood there right next to her the whole time – looking pleased and a little nervous at the same time. When she said something good about him or something that pleased the crowd he would smile and give a little wave to the audience.

You’ve heard of big shots surrounding themselves with yes men, well McCain seems to have found himself a yes woman. Oh sure, I know that she is supposed to be a maverick, and she may well be. In fact she may turn out to be so much so that McCain will be sorry for his choice. But I think he just didn’t care for the other male picks and maybe thought they might give him competition or even be too weak to help him, or be on the wrong side of some issue. (In fact I am now hearing that he was all set to announce Joe Lieberman, the turncoat Democrat, now independent in name, but Republican really, as his running mate. Tested it, didn’t sell among evangelicals.) But I suspect that McCain is enough of a male chauvinist to feel more comfortable with a nice young woman who will be spunky, yes, but adore him too, and make daddy look good. That is just a hunch.

I originally blogged that he made a bold move in choosing a woman to counter the fact that the Democrats had created history by nominating a black man, Barack Obama, for president. At the same time I noted that McCain is going after disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. Palin made that plain in her speech, talking about the 18 million women (Hillary voters) who “shattered the glass ceiling.”

Now I’m getting the feeling that many woman think it is an insult to pick a woman who does not seem to have the experience for such high office, in fact the highest office, being as she would be (and did we say this before?) a heart beat away from the presidency.

I still think he made a bold move and I think it is still too early to tell what it will get him. It could be the best move he could have made or the worst. He must be a gambler. In fact, I now recall reading that he is indeed a “compulsive gambler.” That’s just what I read. I can’t verify that. I read that in, among other places, a blog by Stephen C. Rose in the Huffington Post on Aug. 18. I’m not trying to make an issue at this time of his gambling, just trying to suggest, though, he may not be risk aversive (that could be significant, especially in foreign relations, war decisions).

The hardest group on women in politics are other women. I suppose it might be that they don’t want one of their own messing up and ruining it all for other women.

Some of the polling suggests that more women are questioning Palin’s readiness than men. One male friend of mine, who describes himself as conservative, said he was pleased that she is reported to be conservative and added “she’s the best looking candidate I’ve seen…”

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup poll I read on electoral votes (the most important measure) showed Obama with 281 votes and McCain with 257, with 270 needed to win. Now that was my interpretation of a poll I saw on the online New York Times site on Saturday and I split the undecided giving each man half. I know nothing of the actual science or required calculations of professional polling, but the idea here is that the race is close. I’m sure I am right in that.

From what I have read on Palin so far, she is hard right wing with a maverick twist. So McCain does even more than he did at the Saddleback mega-church in Southern California a couple of weeks ago when he kowtowed to the close-minded zealots of Christian fundamentalism. And now he has taken the no-experience issue he had against Obama off the table and maybe alienated many women in the process, but picked up others (no pun intended).

Sarah Palin may well be a fine and decent woman who given time could effect a lot of positive change in government, maybe sticking with Alaska for a while longer for starters, but I have to feel after some reflection that choosing her as his vice president was a cynical and irresponsible move by McCain. And I have read that he only met her once and made what amounts to a snap overnight decision. Is this a hint or example of his decision-making process? We all need to be concerned, very concerned.

And what about this experience thing? George W. Bush was first elected president some eight years ago, with basically no experience (he had been governor of Texas, but they have some strange system there they call the “weak governor”), but we were assured he had experienced folks to help him.

Barack Obama comes to us with little experience and a thin record, but he has Joe Biden.

Why is it we elect the inexperienced? Why don’t we elect the people who are supposedly there to help the inexperienced? Is it really a beauty contest? And what was ever beautiful about George W.?

I know, I get caught in my own words. I blogged the time before last: “do we really want experience?”

Yes, one would think so. But the only one at the top of the tickets with measurable national and international experience is McCain.

And now I really go into a ramble…

Way back When George H. W. Bush (the senior one) was running for re-election (unsuccessfully) the joke on Saturday Night Live was that he kept saying “Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf.” Then this time around Joe Biden quipped that every sentence that Rudy Giuliani uttered contained only three things: “a noun and a verb and 9/11.”

McCain of late takes to answering tough or uncomfortable questions with, “let me tell you about the time I was shot down over North Vietnam and spent five and a half years in a hole.”

Mr. McCain, we know you’re a hero, now please stick to the issues at hand.


A little clarification and amplification:

– What I am reading now is that the scandal (if it is that) against Palin is that she forced out the Alaska director of public safety and her or her family and/or associates tried to get a state trooper, a former brother-in-law, fired, supposedly over a custody battle. She claims the force out of the director of safety was not related to the trooper thing. You can read about that yourself and should.

– Also, I think more to be cute than anything, I blogged that Bill Clinton when he was trying to get everyone to hush up before his convention speech (stop, stop, stop), that he “doth protest too much.” Now on second thought, I have to admit that at the time I thought he looked like he sincerely did not want to waste time with endless applause (and when can you tell if he is sincere?). And a couple of talking heads on TV said as much, that is he felt pressured to get said what needed to be said. So I promise to not be cute again (unless I can’t help it), especially if it misleads – that’s not my intention. I was just pre-disposed to think he never minds being the center of attention.

McCain and Obama, compare and contrast…

August 30, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

What the public really thinks of John McCain’s vice presidential pick will be played out in all that constant polling and news talk and stories and the Republican Convention over the next week, but let’s just try to concentrate on what will happen if either John McCain or Barack Obama is elected.

The economy:

Really I don’t think presidents affect the economy as much as they are given credit or blame for, although bankrupting a nation through wars could be an exception. But I think the economy will pretty much follow its cycles regardless of who is elected. There is hope for the middle class and lower to get some relief, I suppose, if Obama is elected. Not so much if McCain is elected. But the cycle is the cycle and if or when it starts on the upswing again, either McCain or Obama will look good. I do think we need fundamental change. We need to regain our strength as an industrial giant and producer of goods and say good riddance to the “service economy.”


It seems we are in a much more precarious situation with McCain because he comes from a military family and his pride in his own service, to include his war heroism, predisposes him to think in terms of the military option. He also thinks we are doing great in Iraq and therefore must stay till the bitter end (oh I know he wants the Iraqis to take over as soon as they can – kind of like we always wanted the South Vietnamese to take over. We finally did let them have it and they lost the whole thing in short order). But Obama does not want to cut and run, he just wants to end things “responsibly.” Nixon promised to get us out of Vietnam, but insisted on “peace with honor.” We got our own peace by quitting. We did not get honor. And no one can predict what or what more might happen in the Middle East or the old Soviet empire and elsewhere once or even before either man becomes president.

One can’t forget there is a war in Afghanistan as well. Both candidates seem commited to continuing action there.

National defense, military spending in general:

We certainly don’t want to withdraw from a war and decide we’ve spent too much on the military and then let everything go to heck like we did after Vietnam. I think a lot of people forget how we let our armed services deteriorate for quite awhile. It was bad for morale and made us look weak. One can only wonder if that sent a signal to the terrorists movements that plague us today.

With only history to go by, the Democrats are more likely to let things slip than the Republicans. But that does not have to be the case. The public itself has to realize the need for a strong military.

Energy independence:

From what I have heard, both men claim to be solidly for energy independence. Just how we will get there is not for sure. McCain talks a lot about drill, drill, drill, but even he does not propose that such would be the total answer. So really who can say which man would get us there, if either?

Health care:

With Obama and a Democratic majority in both houses there would be no excuse not to get to universal health care (but I’m sure congress can come up with one). McCain is not so excited about guaranteed health care, to say the least.


I’m not sure what the problem is in education, except the costs of higher education are formidable. So in that regard I’m sure Democrats are more likely to restore or create new programs that provide grants and low cost loans. Obama actually seems to propose free or lower-cost higher education for all (or something of that order). I think demonstrated scholarship has to be a requirement. Our colleges are already forced to do too much remediation, as if they were high schools. Help in trade and/or technology school education is certainly needed.

Social issues:

If you want to retain the right for a woman to decide whether she is to receive an abortion (“pro-choice” being the euphemism), then you have to vote for Obama. For homosexual (“gay” being the euphemism) rights a vote for Obama is required. And basically any change in the direction of further guarantees on social rights, and assistance for the disadvantage is dependent primarily on Democrats. If you believe things are good the way they are, McCain is your best option.

Governmental reform:

Cutting out waste and malfeasance in government is something that can be accomplished by both parties and in fact almost has to be bi-partisan. We as citizens have to accept that in the long run honesty and integrity and fairness in government are just as important as achieving our normal political objectives, unless we don’t care for democracy. An informed citizenry can and should bring the pressure to bear to get governmental reform. If we fail to pay attention, we deserve what we get.

Foreign policy:

This may be the biggie, since it always seems to affect us so much. You get the impression that McCain will help us stand tall, which we do need to do toward aggressors. With Obama it is kind of hard to tell. Would anyone believe him? Does he have to prove himself, thus risking war? Could he be bluffed or cowed? Not sure. I still maintain we need to be the strong and silent type on the world stage. Let them know we’re strong by being obviously militarily ready, but keep them guessing and off balance as to when and where we would strike or strike back. That is a strong deterrent in itself. Bush and cronies were too much about talk that forced us into possibly unnecessary action and/or not enough action when it was needed (if the surge worked, what were we waiting for?). Both McCain and Obama offer the risk of war, one by action, and one possibly by inaction. Really impossible to predict.


Can McCain, 72 now, with cancer history, war injuries, survive the presidency? What would President Sarah Palin, 44 years old, no experience on the national or world stage, be like? Now that’s a wild card!

Is experience really what’s needed???

August 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Is experience what we really want to lead this nation now?

Qualifications sure. But we have all kinds of experienced folks in the government and look where we are: economic chaos, war (maybe unnecessary war at that), threats of war (especially from a resurgence in the rivalry for world power from Russia (and don’t forget the Chinese juggernaut and of course continuing Islamic extremist terrorism).

We are literally going broke on an individual by individual scale and a national scale (yes, of course there are always those smart and fortunate enough to be untouched, that was so even in the Great Depression, but you know what I mean), and the present government seems powerless and even unwilling to do anything, save bail out Wall Street.

This has to be the strangest and most important presidential election in this 59-year-old’s lifetime.

You have Democrats threatening to vote Republican and some Republicans indicating they’d just as soon vote Democrat.

Despite basic differences in governmental philosophy between Republicans and Democrats, it seems to me that both candidates and parties are converging to some extent on the issues, not totally, of course.

Many Republicans are perplexed with McCain’s surprise announcement that he chose a woman, Sarah Palin, fomer beauty queen and stay-at-home mom, but now first-term Alaska governor, for his running mate (vice presidential spot). Democrats are quick to point out she would be a heart beat away from the presidency with no real experience on the national scale.

But, without knowing much about her, I would point out that she is governor of a state of the United States. What qualifications do you really have to have? And look where experience (and maybe with Bush, lack of experience at first, but plenty now) has gotten us.

(By the way, Time online has a good article on Palin at

Without going over the issues point by point, the fundamental difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that the Republicans like to look at government as something to back up business interests and in so doing promote a robust economy that supposedly benefits all, but gives commerce a free rein, with only minimal control (generalizing for sure).

The Democrats, since Franklin Roosevelt, see a government that takes a more activist role in the lives of the general public, protecting them somewhat from the uncertainty and risks of economic cycles and looks after the general welfare – working together for the common good.

The Democrats push a lot of civil rights legislation (used to be primarily for blacks, now it’s gone into protection of homosexual rights and of women’s rights, immigration rights? ) and they are heavily into pushing some form of universal health care.

(And if I could just interrupt my own blog here. Why does universal health care seem like such a threat to so many? I’ve worked all my life and have paid a heck of a lot of health care premiums, still do, but if I can’t pay them anymore and want to get in on a universal system, does that threaten you who can pay? Certainly I would support a reform that lets everyone stay on their own plan if they have one and like it, but helps those in need. Yes, we all know that there will always be freeloaders in society who never do contribute but want to get in on help. So do we deny everyone for the sins of some? Thanks, I needed that.)

The Republicans even lean toward the Democrats in some of these social issues, but for the most part they contend that government should not go too far in legislating on social issues. However, the Republicans have taken up the mantle of ultra-conservatives and want to go heavily into legislating on what they see as moral issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research. Back before the civil rights bills were passed in the 60s, conservative icon Barry Goldwater said: “you can’t legislate morality” (he was speaking against civil rights legislation). But the more modern conservatives seem to be big on legislating morality as they see it. They don’t mind government intrusion into personal lives.

I actually think that if this race stays close as it is now, you will see Barack Obama move toward McCain on some issues and you will see McCain move toward Obama on some issues (they already have a little at least).

It could be that both parties and both candidates are responding to the voters who want their government to do something constructive.

If  Mrs. Palin lives up to her purported conservative, but maverick (and is that a contradiction in terms?) image, we might really be moving into a post-partisan period… maybe.

Even Barack Obama could lead us into a post-partisan period … I think it could happen.

I know, for conservatives he did sound quite socialist the other night, but like it or not, we have used quite a bit of socialism in this country for a long time. Look what happened when Bush tried to mess with Social Security.

The preceding can be considered a true blog, not an essay as I often try to write. I just wanted to put some thoughts out into the blogoshere.

Oh, and so there you have it. We have Obama, who could be president, with questionable experience, and Palin, who could be a heart beat away from the presidency, with zero experience, as it is usually defined in terms of the presidency.

Seems like experience has been somewhat removed from the issues.

Certainly Obama aims to push much harder on issues of social reform. Both Obama and McCain vow to push hard on the energy crisis and energy independence, if in slightly different ways, and both want to wrap up the warfare in the Middle East, Iraq especially. McCain gives the impression, though, that the stay would be longer there. And something said by Palin seemed to suggest McCain is itching to go into Iran. Obama wants to wrap up Iraq, but push harder in Afghanistan. Of course Obama is pro-choice (abortion rights) and McCain is not. Both men claim to follow the Christian faith, but McCain has pretty much vowed to support what one might call Christian fundamentalism (if only for political purposes).

Time to stop this blog. Thanks.

McCain master stroke,woman VP, but the voice

August 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I’m adding a new lead to this blog now that I’ve listened to the acceptance speech of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s vice presidential running mate:

Oooh! that voice, kind of shrill. Maybe if she keeps her remarks brief out on the campaign trail. Lots of jingoism during the speech with chants of “USA, USA, USA” and her remarks that a son is going to serve in Iraq and her praise for McCain as the only one, as a brave war hero, who can defend America and keep Iran from getting the bomb.

And now back to the original blog:

You snooze you lose – I just got the news that John McCain has selected a woman, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, to be his vice presidential running mate.

And a bold and clever stroke that was, choosing a woman, on the heels of the Democrats selecting the first black (a man) to run for president.

I really think this could be a winner for McCain because if there really are still die-hard Hillary fans out there who really will live up to their threats to vote for McCain, then this gives them more incentive to vote the Republican ticket. I say this even though it would seem that a Democrat, man or woman, voting Republican these days is surly voting against her or his own interests.

Now I know almost nothing about Ms. Palin. To paraphrase Will Rogers, I only know what I read on the internet. To be honest, I never heard of her until I turned on my computer this morning. I do know that she is a first-term governor and had been involved in local politics and she has one mini-scandal – a staffer made a phone call and tried to get her former brother-in-law fired from the highway patrol – something about a custody battle. But she said that was wrong of the staffer and she did not know anything about it (hardly believable, but probably not a major scandal, really).

More importantly, I also read that she is all for drilling in the Alaska wilderness reserve for oil – currently off limits. That will surly play well among many in the lower 48 (and Hawaii) who simply say, as McCain, drill, drill, drill, no matter where it is (who cares about the environment? We need oil and cheaper gasoline). We’ll destroy our home (planet Earth) to save our way of life. Huh?

I had suggested early on that McCain might choose Condoleezza Rice (I was going on something from another blog). So he did choose a woman after all.

Later, when I can digest more of this and learn more about Ms. Palin, I’ll write more.

But in closing for now, I have to say, McCain has delivered a master stroke (barring the skeletons and scandal).

I think McCain is smart enough to tone down some of his warlike and country club Republican stuff and go with the proud soldier, public servant, and reasonable leader thing that won’t let another Katrina failure happen (he has said as much on Katrina — although the one threatening now will still be on Bush’s watch) and that coupled with choosing a woman could really give him the boost that he needs.

It’s going to be tight folks. Both sides will need to exhort their followers to vote early and vote often.

Obama hits one out of the park…

August 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Barack Obama hit it out of Mile High Stadium in Denver with his acceptance speech as Democratic candidate for president of the United States.

(Okay, it’s Invesco Stadium now; the old name’s better, the new one’s ugly.)

I think John McCain has got a fight on his hands for sure, and it seems to me that Obama said what needed to be said and said it in a convincing enough way to persuade so-called working class or blue-collar workers that he would best represent their interests.

There may have been some doubt among some of them that he’s just not the type to carry a lunch bucket so he can’t understand them – well when is the last time you saw a lunch bucket guy run and/or get elected president? But he laid out the plans for the kind of government he envisions, one that represents the majority, rather than the privileged few.

I was not quite sure whether Obama would be able to carry it off at first. I actually saw him quiver a little before he really got under way.

But he did carry it off in fine, strong fashion, promising to implement a new way of doing things rather than follow failed policies of the past.

And someone I know and trust mentioned to me last night that he thought Obama was a guy who was kind of “liberal” but was willing to look at things and see how he could work things out even with those who don’t agree with him – and I hope I paraphrased all that correctly. I’m kind of in a hurry here and want to get this posted.

Sure enough, Obama called for “people of opposing views to unite in a common effort.”

He chided his detractors who say his proposals for reforms are nothing but a “Trojan Horse” for more taxes. “If you don’t have new ideas (yourself) you stick to stale tactics,” he said.

He said that while McCain proposes to keep in place tax cuts for the wealthy, he, Obama, would cut taxes for “95 percent of the working people.”

And in almost a Republican way (the idea of a line item veto), he said he would go over existing programs “line by line” and cut out the ones that are not effective (to help balance the budget while cutting taxes, I suppose).

Now I could sum up most of his proposals by saying he basically in good old Democratic Party fashion promised good jobs, higher wages, education, health care and all things good for all working Americans (I know. I’m never comfortable using terms like “working class,” implying that anyone who does not report to a shop steward or punch a time clock or live pay check to pay check does not work).

He also called for a program to make the United States energy independent in a decade (Obama could only serve eight years at the most). Hey I guess that was like John Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the Moon – we did, and in less than a decade from his promise.

Obama delivered quite a few good lines, but my purpose here is not to recount the content of his speech, but to comment on what it might portend.

I think the Democrats have managed to put themselves in the best position to win a presidential election in a long time. I blogged earlier that inherent or lingering racism in our society might be the only thing holding Obama back. If the participation is high come election day, seems like that would not be as much of a factor, and maybe I’m just wrong and it’s not much of a factor at all.

The debates between Obama and McCain probably will allow those who care a chance to really see the difference in philosophies of government that are being presented.

On the other hand, I have heard McCain at times manage to stray from that Bush type thing that always seems to put the interests of big business and Bush’s cronies ahead of everything (you know like that time George W. was appearing before a country club crowd and said something to the effect of some say you are the richest people in the United States, “I call you my base,” and everyone snickered.

So the race looks to be extremely close. But Obama by his performance tonight seems up to it and then some.

P.S.  As far as foreign policy, I could sum up Obama’s positions by saying that he proposes not to be so trigger happy and emphasize diplomacy and working in common with our allies, but not fail to use force when and where it’s called for.

“Lion of the Left” is now Lompoc bound….

August 28, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Probably the blog I shouldn’t bother to write, but I feel I have to comment about one of the few counters to right-wing hate radio, Bernie Ward, formerly of KGO Radio in San Francisco.

The “Lion of the Left” as they called him, was sentenced today  to more than seven years in federal prison, to be served at Lompoc, Ca., a minimum security facility. He was convicted on numerous counts of distributing child pornography via the internet.

He had maintained he was doing “research” on a story, but I guess it seems as he had done a little too much “research.” I didn’t follow the whole story closely, but I heard that he had had some problems previously (don’t know for sure about that). He had been a Catholic priest at one time.

The point is this. It is always disturbing when someone who has been such a spokesperson for a point of view gets discredited on moral grounds. The worst example in modern history I think is Bill Clinton. Now he did not have to go to prison and he did not do anything illegal or quite as disgusting (oh, I guess he may have committed perjury, maybe).

In Clinton’s case, the tragedy is that he gave the other side (extreme right wing) such ammunition against progressives and liberals and anyone who is not extreme right wing everywhere.

The extreme right wing, neocon, even fascist-like politics of the last decade or two has been largely supported by the ubiquitousness of right-wing super cynical don’t let the facts get in the way radio and the void of any other point of view on the airwaves, to include middle of the road.

Ward filled that void. He was extreme left. I often did not agree with his extremism. However, I appreciated his analytical ability and his handle on events. As I drove a big truck down the road in the middle of the night, he was the first one to give me a heads up on the fact that George W was taking us into Iraq and that was before 9/11, as I recall. Bush was looking for an excuse and he found one (and I don’t want to get into the merits of that argument).

I should also mention, Ward was a tremendously successful fund raiser for causes mostly dealing with feeding the poor.

But as I blogged once before, I did always notice something creepy about Bernie Ward, usually when he discussed drugs and sex.

Then one night he casually mentioned that he might be in trouble for something involving research on a story or book he was writing concerning child pornography. It was kind of like, hey I had to look at it to do the research, would they put a policeman or a prosecutor in jail for looking at the evidence? I didn’t think much of it at the time and then was shocked when I heard that he had been arrested and charged (and I may have been the only one shocked; I don’t know).

I do know this: he reached millions of people all over the U.S. because of KGO’s strong nighttime signal (50,000 watts, I believe). He was also becoming a fixture on TV talking head panels because of the oddity of a far left mouthpiece these days (or anyone that is not far right).

It seems plausible to me that he could have been set up by the feds. But he has pleaded guilty and apologized (maybe because to fight it would be hopeless and you can get better treatment and possible time shaved from your sentence if you say you’re repentant).

I suppose the fact is that he is just plain guilty of a terrible and disgusting and heinous crime.

Certainly he deserves what he gets if that is the case.

I wonder how much talking he did to authorities. He often counseled that the last thing you want to do when dealing with the law (police, prosecution) is talk, even if you are innocent. Keep your mouth shut, he said.

For Ward, that would have been hard to do.

P.S. I plan to blog in reaction to Barack Obama’s speech tonight.

Obama may have to overcome to win….

August 28, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

If Barack Obama loses this presidential race it may well be due to white voters of all education and economic levels who just can’t get themselves to vote a black man into the White House and even more so due to blue-collar workers my age, 59, and older who have memories of the riots and looting of the 60s.

And if that sounds racist, I’m sorry.

I definitely am not saying that Obama should not win because of the color of his skin and surely he is not to blame for the 60s.

Right now it looks as if it will be a tight race, perhaps the closest ever, so any little thing can win it or lose it for either Obama or John McCain.

But if you’re my age or older you remember George Wallace and his calls in the 60s for law and order and his rants against hippies and commies and black rioters.

Wallace was a little too much on the fringe (even though he did get a lot of votes) to make it to the White House, but his sentiments helped Richard Nixon get there.

The post Vietnam generations have no way of understanding what it was like in the 60s. We were truly a nation divided, even families were divided.

You had the Vietnam war, which kind of snuck up on everyone and had generally good support at first, but as it dragged on and it became apparent that we were not getting anywhere and that we did not have any clear plan for victory and perhaps not even a definition for victory, and that we were slaughtering many of the people we were supposedly trying to help, that support waned. Sound familiar?

At the same time, while as a whole the nation supported the idea of ensuring civil rights that had been so long denied to black people even after their ancestors were emancipated from slavery a hundred years before, we all were aghast and even scared by the rioting and looting by black mobs in the major urban centers. And of course it is not fair to law-abiding blacks who get blamed for the actions of those who don’t obey the law, but that’s the way it was.

And there’s something else going on here too. Sometimes it helps to read literature. Read a book such as “Accordion Crimes,” by Annie Proulx, and you will find that especially in the working class circles throughout our history there has been fierce competition between ethnic and racial groups, not just white vs. black.

And how do you think the landed aristocracy of the South got regular poor down home boys to fight for their, the plantation owners, right to hold black human beings as slaves? And how did the upper class whites get those same folks and their ancestors to support segregation and discrimination after the Civil War? They appealed to the fear of loss of jobs and places to live and even places to farm due to a newly liberated class of people.

Obama, as one news story I read noted, does not even have slave ancestors, and I add, he is only half black, but he is, of course, by appearance simply a black man. So that is something, even though not really fair at all, he has to overcome.

I actually think that with each new generation the remnants of racial prejudice are dying out – well at least the prejudice against blacks. Nowadays we have illegal immigration and even legal immigration and outsourcing and that could be a whole new ball of wax.

Obama has some kind of gift that has brought him to where he is today and with his speech tonight he may be able to overcome. I think he is right not to emphasize his race (and not to run from it, either). He needs to come across with the issues and put out the message that he has better judgment than the crowd that is running things today.

He does seem to think things through, rather than shoot from the hip, and I think that could indeed be refreshing and good for the nation.

We’ll tune in tonight.

Clintons to Obama: we’re solid bro…

August 28, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

So, Mr. And Mrs. Clinton have spoken. They both have now come out in full-force support of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party nominee for president against the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

They could not have come out any stronger, so all this worry that they would be sore losers should be put to rest, although right up to his stellar speech in favor of Obama Wednesday evening, Bill Clinton was giving off disturbing vibes – notably a weird suggestion that even if a candidate stands for everything you are for, he might not be able to deliver. Who was he talking about? He certainly wasn’t talking about McCain.


I started to write this blog with my laptop as I was waiting for Mr. Clinton to appear on the TV screen and this is how it went:

Just sitting in front of the TV waiting for Bill Clinton to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and wondering will he behave and urge everyone without qualification to get out and vote for Barack Obama and not allude to some hypothetical where you have someone who agrees with you but may not be able to get the job done.

He’s being introduced now.

Yes, I guess this is an historical occasion what with the first black American, Obama, now having been nominated to be a candidate for president. Ironically, the Clintons wanted to reclaim the White House for themselves and have always campaigned with civil rights being in the forefront and wouldn’t you know it, their dream came true and turned out to be a nightmare. A black man stood in the way of them re-entering the White House.

Now Clinton begins to speak….

The requisite standing O.

I joke to my wife that he might say “ah sit down and let me get on with it,” and he does, “please stop,” he says several times (he doth protest too much).

“I’m here first to support Barack Obama, secondly… I’m here to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden.”

He says that wife Hillary is doing everything she can to elect Obama and “that makes two of us, actually that makes 18 million of us,” he goes on to say, alluding to her primary votes and the need for those votes to be converted to Obama votes.

And now back to now after the speech. Clinton noted that the argument Obama is too inexperienced reminded him of the inexperienced argument used against him, Clinton, when he first ran. He of course served two terms. And I remember myself that in 1960 both Kennedy and Nixon were said to be “too young” to be running for president.

One line I liked was when Clinton said America should lead “by the power of our example rather than the example of our power.”

Hillary the night before did not lay out a resume of experience for Obama and Mr. Clinton Wednesday night did not stress Obama’s resume either (actually he doesn’t have much of a resume), but he did say that Obama has a certain inspirational power. And Mrs. Clinton seemed to be saying it was not as important to elect the candidate you wanted as the party you wanted.

The former president said something to the effect that his own experience tells him “Barack Obama is the man for the job.”

So, anyway, the Clintons came through for Obama.

The pressure is on Obama to reciprocate by coming through not for the Clintons, but for the Democratic Party.

That first speech he gave at the Democratic convention years ago put him on the road to where he is today. His acceptance speech now may well decide if he sits in the oval office come the new year.

Have WM? Don’t worry, be happy….

August 27, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

This was going to be a blog about the latest developments in my Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (WM), a form of cancer, and maybe I will say some things about it, but really I’m just blogging now to put off other things I really should be doing.

(For a summer of fires update, please see the P.S. at the bottom of this blog.)

But, okay, I will say something about my WM. Went to my oncologist yesterday and found out that despite what I had been told many weeks ago by a specialist in San Francisco, I am not in remission. Actually, I don’t think he said unequivocally that I was in remission, but he suggested as much. But I already knew before yesterday that such was not the case. My oncologist here at home told me my cancer was still doing its thing several weeks ago, and again yesterday.

The good news was that things seem to be fairly stable at the moment, although my protein level in the blood is starting to climb again, if ever so slightly. The bad news is that I cannot go back to work and it is not looking as though I ever will. I also may be looking at another round of chemotherapy in the near future.

Not being able to return to work would not be so bad if I had a lot of money, but you know, I don’t. I was really holding out hope that I could go back to work and maybe build up a little nest egg. I am 59 now. So anyone reading this, especially if you are younger, please, for your own sake and for the sake of your family, if you have one, prepare for the future, for that future can come now.

It’s been about a year and two months since I was diagnosed with WM, a non-curable form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It’s slow moving, indolent they like to say, but the problem is by the time one is diagnosed, one never really knows how long one has had it (I use “one” to avoid that awkward he or she thing and now I have to explain it and I might as well have said he or she or just he because that is often gender neutral anyway).

You hear things like, your life expectancy once you’ve been diagnosed is five years, maybe even ten years, could be more, could be less than all that, because for one reason even the doctors don’t know how long you’ve had it.

So, anyway, the oncologist tells my wife as we are leaving (I’m sitting a ways away in the waiting room) to enjoy the time we have left and don’t worry. While that is easier said than done, I wholeheartedly agree with that advice (what would be the point in doing anything else?).

I intend to write a more detailed blog about my WM soon (as in today or tomorrow). This I would think would be of general interest but also of special interest to anyone who has WM or anyone whose family member has it. It is a rare form of cancer, so unfortunately there has not been a lot of research on it, at least not compared to the more prevalent forms of cancer.

This is my second summer with WM. I went through six, one-week, sessions of chemotherapy and many hospital stays, mostly due to a weak immune system, and worst of all early on I had a bout with uncontrollable bleeding of the tongue, finally put down with an infusion of factor 8 in my blood. When my immune system was at its worst, I had terrible mouth sores.

So now, I do not have any sores and little to no pain or discomfort – oh, except for the neuropathy or nerve damage in my feet, which was actually my first symptom. So if you ever get that, make sure you get a blood test, you might have WM and the sooner you jump on it, the better chance you have of prolonging your life. I have read that many times when one is diagnosed with WM nothing is done because it is in its early stages. I guess that can be unsettling too, to know you have a deadly disease, but nothing can be done about it at the time.

I should add that I suffer from some anxiety and fatigue at times, which my oncologist tells me is expected with my disease.

I always know my blogs have gone on long enough when I get to the second page, so I’ll try to wrap things up.

As I said, I plan to write more about my WM with some more details or tidbits that might be of interest, especially to those with it or affected by it.

And I should always add this piece of advice, always get a second opinion and make sure you are comfortable with your oncologist from the get go.

For now, don’t worry, be happy.

P.S. This certainly has been the summer of fire here in Northern California. It all started about the first day of summer and went on for more than a month. Much of the time here in my town at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley we were nearly surrounded by fire, most of it burning in mountain forests and in brush lands. At times it looked like it would spread into the city limits, and I guess it did a little. But now that the fires are spent, for the most part, we had a close call yesterday. A fire broke out in some brush lands within the city limits and jumped a main road and spread to more brush lands and caused the evacuation of hundreds from homes and businesses and widespread power outages. We did not have to evacuate and suffered no power outage except for a split second during Hillary’s speech. The cause of the fires in the wild lands earlier was predominantly so-called dry lightening strikes. The cause of yesterday’s fire (and come to think of it there was another similar fire this morning) in under investigation, but I suspect it has something to do with transients who live in our urban wild lands… don’t know really.

Hillary has her finest hour; your turn Barack

August 27, 2008

(copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Hillary Clinton gave the speech of her life. Too bad it had to be one to endorse Barack Obama. No offense meant to Obama, but such a speech could have won her the presidency.

Okay, so I’m a sucker for the good old time political/rhetorical speech. I only followed the primary via the internet, a little TV, and newspaper, so I don’t know what Hillary’s stump speeches were like, at least not that I can recall. But if she gave a speech like that one she gave at the Democratic National Convention in Denver Tuesday evening, it seems to me the only one complaining would have been Obama. He’d be unhappy he lost.

Mrs. Clinton did everything anyone could have done to rally those committed to her to vote for Obama.

A TV commentator said “it was her finest hour,” my wife just told me.

Mrs. Clinton asked her supporters point blank: “were you in the campaign just for me?…” and went on to ask if they were not in it for all the things they thought needed to be done and changed.

As I said, I’m a sucker for the good old time rockem sockem motivating fired up campaign speech, so with that in mind I had to ask myself, why isn’t someone like Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer running for president. He spoke ahead of Hillary and did a rip roaring job.

But back to Hillary. It was not all pure rhetoric in my mind. As an example, she asked why we have to “borrow from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis.” Well, I think that is a point and not just rhetoric.

At any rate, I’m not writing this to recite the substance of her speech. I’m just commenting on its effect. If Democrats are not united after this, then they have no hope. No one could have done better.

It’s very possible that the Democrats may wish Hillary were the candidate now. But again, I think she sounded more than gracious and truly sincere in here endorsement of Obama. Judging from the camera shots toward the end of the speech, I think she might have even won over sore loser Bill Clinton.

My wife and I both agreed that the two handicaps she faced during the primary were being a woman, and Bill Clinton.

The only downside for the Democrats after her speech is that Obama will have to live up to Hillary’s performance. I know he wowed them at a convention years ago and he is supposed to have star quality. But maybe I’m just too old. Just like old time religion, Hillary gave us some of that old time politics. Maybe I just like the old tunes better.

But this was not meant to be a put down or criticism of Obama. I was just commenting on Hillary.

She is better off being in the senate than being vice president.

A power seat in the senate beats what one time vice president “Cactus Jack” Garner called a “warm bucket of spit” (the vice presidency) any day.

P.S. Yes, if you read my blogs you know I already used the “bucket of spit” quote the other day, but it seemed appropriate. If Hillary Clinton can be as powerful in the senate as her speech, she has quite a political career ahead of her yet. The vice presidency would have ended it all for her, save for some calamity.