The socialization of America; a war loss…

October 14, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I think our economy is fundamentally unsound and what we are doing now, the bailouts and what amounts to a partial nationalization or socialization of the economy by our government, will only act as a band-aid or a pill that at best will temporarily mask the symptoms of what ails us.

Admittedly I know little of economics, but like most of us, it has been so much in the news these past several weeks and in so much detail, I feel like after all these years I really do understand some of the fundamentals.

Before I go any further, I would suggest reading a piece by Harvard lecturer and economist and Libertarian Jeffrey Miron, now posted on CNN Politics.com. While I have never thoroughly bought into libertarianism, I think that they seem to be the only true conservatives (and they are liberal on social issues, although not government involvement in social issues).

Back to my thoughts: I will wander here, as I sometimes do. But last night while I was trying to read a novel, I had the TV on low and caught a portion of some finance commentators from Britain, I believe. They read an e-mail from someone who complained about the bailouts and also noted that he began his career as a gofer for some financial firm in 1969 at $129 (American) per week. “Now these guys come out of college and think they should start at $200,000 per year.”

Wandering still: I note that Barack Obama has the political guts or maybe savvy to concede in his stump speech that although a lot of our problems are caused by greed and malfeasance on Wall Street, there is also blame to those on Main Street, so to speak, who knew they were getting in over their heads and did it anyway. I think he is being honest there and is also trying to appeal to the centrists, much as I believe Bill Clinton often did. I recall that at one time during his presidency Clinton was referred to as a centrist or maybe even a slightly conservative or “new” Democrat.

Whatever, he supposedly balanced the budget and left office with a surplus. Actually I think that is a lot of accounting trickery that both the major parties engage in, such as when they propose new spending, then cut that proposed new spending slightly and claim they have reduced government spending. This charade is aided and abetted by the news media, which in some cases does not understand what is going on and in others just settles for it because to do otherwise takes too many paragraphs of explanation.

All that aside, Clinton was aided by a robust economy, the Dot Com bubble, as I recall, was a big part of it. But under Clinton the federal budget was balanced (in governmentspeak anyway) and Welfare reform was enacted, something you would have expected Republicans to do.

Bush came into office promising to keep taxes low (especially for folks who could most afford to pay them in the first place) and to loosen government control on free enterprise. He now prepares to leave office while presiding over the biggest socialization of government since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (maybe bigger).

It seems that a lot of the laissez faire free enterprise folks, to include George W., don’t have the courage of their convictions. To be sure, this bailout and nationalization stuff has caused a split in the GOP, which will in part to be blamed for John McCain losing the election, as he at this time seems destined to do. I still think he could win if the stock market were to stay up and gasoline prices kept falling, and if there were to be some attack on the nation or if as I read in another blog that the Bush Administration is able to announce that Osama Bin Laden has been caught. Now this does not make sense. But the voting record of the American electorate is often driven by fear and emotion. This time around it does seem,though, that folks – the Palin contingent aside – seem to be looking at things more thoughtfully and more people are taking part.

What I meant to say in this blog and did not get around to, is that our economy is fundamentally unsound because we (as a nation) have spent too much time consuming and not enough time making. When we get back to the making, which we are quite capable of doing, conditions will improve greatly, I feel. When we get back to investing in our own nation and not industry elsewhere and not in nation building in the Middle East, things will turn around.

Still wandering, but I fear that all of this government infusion into the economy is going to lead to wild inflation. I just heard an economic pundit on TV say that he thinks we are in danger of going into something worse than the Great Depression. We’ll have high unemployment but unlike the Great Depression, we’ll also have inflation.

Wouldn’t it have been better to let the investment banks and other banks fail and be replaced by new bankers who would operate like the bankers of old, prudently?

And finally, I want to jump to the subject of war. In all of this economic upheaval we have forgotten about the wars we are fighting.

Unlike Vietnam (something a couple of generations now have no memory of), there is no draft and the numbers of casualties and troops involved are much smaller (but no less important). But people are dying and being gravely wounded and none of us really know what for, beyond the jingoistic phrases of “fighting terror” or “fighting for freedom”, that have no thought behind them.

I want to mention this because I was thinking about a boyhood acquaintance that dates back to first through fifth grade. He had a stutter, and beyond that I can only describe him as the typical all-American boy. He probably did not do well in school (I don’t know. Our family moved after fifth grade). I recall going over to his house and a bunch of us kids playing on the slip and slide he had just got. I often think back to those kids because it was a time when we were all so happy, free and easy, with no responsibilities (at least I didn’t have any).

I had just got through entertaining my youngest daughter with my memories of that kid who stuttered (not about his stutter, just the fun) and went back into the house to go on the computer. Quite by chance I ran across his name. He died as a Marine in Vietnam from enemy fire.

None of us knew what that war was all about either, except something about fighting for the cause of freedom, and yet no one was freed, except from life on earth.


Conservatives create their own monster…

October 11, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Intellectual conservatives may finally be realizing that they created a monster when they let the conservative movement be taken over by the anti-intellectuals.

Christopher Buckley, the son of the late William F. Buckley Jr., has endorsed Barack Obama, dropping the support he once gave to John McCain. He says McCain is not the man he used to be, that the campaign has changed him and that he is now snarly and mean spirited and worse yet, he chose the decidedly unintellectual Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

I don’t know much about this Buckley. He describes himself as a Libertarian, according to the Washington Post. But his father was certainly the epitome of intellectual conservatism.

It seems that the intellectual conservatives who have not come out against McCain are not saying anything good about him and are decidedly upset over Palin.

And here’s something to really be scared about for everyone. It seems that in making personal attacks against Obama, McCain and Palin have whipped the reactionary element in society into such a frenzy that they may have created a monster. Folks are hinting at or outright threatening violence toward Obama. It is plain to see that it isn’t only politics it’s race. And apparently not just anti-black. One woman at a rally said she was against Obama because she heard he was a an Arab (maybe like the black Othello in Shakespeare, described as a the Moor). I saw a man trembling at a McCain rally and angrily saying that the “socialists (and he might has well have said Bolsheviks) … are taking over …” Another man angrily expressed dismay and disbelief that Obama could be ahead in the race. Apparently he thought the Republican by law has to win. And there has been anger directed at the “media”. I would not attempt to argue whether the “media” is always as objective as it should be, but I will say this. I think a lot of folks, especially reactionary conservatives, think that the role of journalists is to be a cheerleader for whomever or whatever issue they, the listening or reading public, are supporting at the time. But using that point of view, then I guess if I was a farmer and I needed to know whether a storm might be brewing that could ruin my harvest, I would only listen to the weatherman who predicted good weather. But back to my story. The same McCain who questioned Obama’s character now tries to calm the crowd conceding that Obama is worthy to be president, but adding that he, McCain, is the better choice, but McCain’s own crowds boo him for this (I’m not sure who they dislike more, their own candidate or Obama).

I might be off base a little, but I see a connection with what happened in Nazi Germany. Hitler, not an educated man himself, whipped up the masses with super nationalism coupled with prejudice against the Jews and the idea of race superiority. The wealthy and intellectuals went along with him – after all he gave an outlet for the anger of the hungry masses and he was not communist – even though they had contempt for Hitler.

Today’s conservative intelligentsia have read their history or some of the older ones have lived through it, and they don’t want to see that happen again.

Not only do they not like the tone their conservative movement has taken, more than that they are worried about their money. Even though conservatives are supposed to be good with money – prudent investors, free market, low taxes and all – they’re worried about what is happening to their own fortunes, or at least their 401(k)s, under the non-intellectual conservative George W. Bush.

They see a decidedly more educated man and much more thoughtful person in Obama than the present occupant of the White House.

Personally, while I think Obama without a doubt looks to be the better pick and that Palin is out of the question, I am not one hundred percent sold on Obama. But what choice is there?

There is fear in the land and there is resentment in the land. People realize that Wall Street can and will take everyone down with them. And some accuse the public itself of culpability by living beyond its means via credit. Strangely, after 9/11 the public wasn’t urged to sacrifice in the so-called war on terror, no rationing was imposed, it wasn’t urged to grow victory gardens, no, the commander in chief himself, “W”, urged everyone to “go shopping.”

Today, facing possibly the biggest economic crisis in our history or even in the world’s history, we no longer have so much money to go shopping, especially food shopping, and a victory garden would come in handy right now.


Freeze spending, reduce mortgage payments…

October 8, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The big news to me out of the so-called debate in Nashville Tuesday night was that John McCain might call for an across the board spending freeze if the financial crisis warranted, and that he also announced a sketchy proposal for buying up home loans and renegotiating them at their diminished value. He claimed it was his own personal idea’ with the indication that this would be separate from the just-passed $700 billion bailout bill.

On the other hand, although he vowed to give health care equal priority to other pressing problems, he made it clear he does not believe in government involvement in health care. So, I don’t know what he really means there. Well, actually I do know. He means status quo. If you can afford it, you get it, if not you don’t, unless you have zero dollars and then you might get in on an existing government program (although McCain apparently does not believe in such programs). McCain proposes a tax credit for health care and then wants to tax employer health plans (that is Obama’s version of what McCain offers. McCain does not clearly explain the tax part).

Fact checking aside, it was what I would consider a tie but it is clear that Barack Obama sees government as an agent for people in general, while McCain, well I’m not sure what he thinks government’s obligation is, except perhaps to fight war. He does call for energy independence and other programs, but does not want to raise taxes (taxes seem kind of necessary to fund things) and calls for the mostly unspecified cuts in spending. He did mention that there is waste in the defense budget that he would cut (he has said that before).

The instant polls indicate that Obama won the debate. I saw it more as a tie, but thought most of the time Obama expressed more direct concern for individuals. McCain’s direct mortgage rescue might be an exception.

As far as foreign policy, I felt it was a wash. I just don’t see a major difference, except that McCain is a little more insistent that some sort of victory (something he does not define) be attained in Iraq. Since we occupied the country, I am not sure what more we can do, except keep occupying it and hope that the violence subsides over time or turn it over as soon as possible to the Iraqis. Both want to press on in Afghanistan.

The candidates were asked at least twice what the $700 Billion Wall Street bailout does for the people (as opposed to Wall Street investment bankers). Neither one of them answered. At least I did not catch an answer (the transcript will be available soon on the web, I’m sure).

Tom Brokaw asked each candidate to prioritize their actions on health, energy, and entitlement reform to include Social Security. Obama said he would call for a 10-year program to gain energy independence just as JFK initiated the moon landing program, which was accomplished in less than a decade. He ranked health care as number two and then listed education (not on the questioner’s list, I thought).

McCain said he’d do everything at once. But he also suggested that Social Security would have to be cut (and if I got that incorrect, I’ll admit in after I read the transcript, but that is what he seemed to say. He may have been suggesting that unless something is done, the fund will run out). Later he said that he felt the Social Security funding problem could be resolved via bi-partisan study and negotiation as done during the Reagan administration. He said a special commission would probably be needed to resolve the medicare funding issue, which he called “tougher.”

I was impressed that McCain claimed that he was concerned for the environment and said that he has disagreed with the Bush administration on the issue (and I think he might find he disagrees with his vice presidential candidate too).

McCain supports nuclear power.

I did not hear Obama say he supports nuclear. He does call for increased efforts on alternative energy, using the moon-shot approach, as I already mentioned.

And really what more useful can I say. You have to have watched the debate and/or read the transcript on the web.

McCain as usual tried to portray Obama as too inexperienced in foreign affairs and military matters, but Obama stood his ground and demonstrated that he is up on the issues.

There were no major breakthrough proposals or answers concerning how to solve the nation’s financial crisis.

P.s. In my last blog I rewrote the lead and said that I would not vote for anyone who would not give a specific answer. Well both candidates fudged a little. I may have to go back on that – don’t know.


Easy credit makes things cost more…

October 3, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Those who control the nation’s credit markets rule. When you sign that note of credit you have signed a deal with the devil.

The world of high finance loaned money to people who could not pay back and then loaned more money based on notes with people who could not pay back and so on and so on and it worked for a long time. When the bubble finally burst and the paper was shown to be worthless, the high finance people told us all you either bail us out or we are taking you down with us. There was some resistance. But the high finance people were better at poker, natural-born gamblers that they are. They called the bluff of the resisters to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout by refusing to lend money. In turn Wall Street stocks went into the tank (even though they did go up and down after that). But that one-day drop and the fact you can’t even get a car loan was enough to make the resisters fold their hands.

So now we have the bailout. If it works, well I guess that is good enough. We go back to status quo and go on with our lives. If it does not, what then?

It seems that the Democrat Barack Obama could well win the presidency over the economic mess. He will probably be forced into applying even more government involvement into the economy, strangely enough something started by a Republican president.

If this all brings more caution into the credit markets, maybe this is a good thing (with the bailout I am not sure that it will). In my non-economic mind, I have always thought easy credit makes things cost more.

Tight credit should bring higher interest rates and more savings. If those who sell things know that people can’t just charge it, they might be forced to bring prices more in line with what people can afford.


Biden debates as VP, Palin as president…

October 2, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Joe Biden is a known commodity. Sarah Palin with her sorry Katie Couric interview is almost one, but tonight should be the final verdict on her side show.

Interestingly, Palin supporters put her up to be a kind of homespun common sense kind of gal. So far all I have heard from her are stock Republican talking points and nonsense and lies, such as her claiming time and again that she opposed the infamous boondoggle known as the Bridge to Nowhere when she supported it until she found it wouldn’t sell once the scheme was exposed. She successfully sought tons of the notorious congressional earmarks she and John McCain so stridently oppose. On the question of earmarks she is a prevaricator in that she makes statements that she will do away with them and implies how evil they are, but does not admit to her listeners that she was a top earmark obtainer herself. When pressed by the media (which of course her supporters characterize as the enemy) she justifies her actions by noting that they are the only practical way the system allows for localities to obtain federal funds. Nonetheless, she leaves all that out in her speeches in order that she can accuse the other side of using earmarks, as if they were doing something underhanded, but that she has been clean as the newly-driven Alaska snow. A little honesty would go a long ways Sarah.

And on world affairs, I would have been okay with her if she had just said, “I know where Russia is and I have a college education and can figure out the rest” and maybe even gave the impression she ever had any interest in the rest until now. But no, she makes the absurd claim that because from some point in Alaska (a place we now find out she has never been) you can see Russia she has insight into geo-politcal relations. Then she claims in an interview to be well read, but can’t or declines to even give an example of what she might have read. At least George W. Bush admitted he doesn’t read anything. He just decides.

Having said all that, I can’t help but have just a little empathy with Palin. She has a college degree, but she has not traveled in the same circles as some in the media and someone like Biden. She took journalism and political science and graduated from the University of Idaho with a journalism degree. She attended more than one college before getting her degree. I attended one year of junior college, then became a small town newspaper reporter and attended many night classes and then in my 40s went back and completed what I needed for the standard four-year degree. My BA degree was in political science, with many what you might call pre-law classes. I had wild ambitions of maybe going to law school. Reality set in – I had a family to support – and I went back to newspapering. I lost out finally in a corporate downsizing and went into truck driving. So there I was, a college educated person who never really, as I call it, “joined the club.” It took my life story there to explain why I have some, not much, empathy for Palin. The only problem is that if you’re just as good as they are (members of the club) you have to prove it. Tonight, Palin has to prove it, as far as I am concerned. Stock answers that don’t even match up to the questions will not do.

In reality, Palin has more to prove than Biden. In all likelihood, if Barack Obama becomes president, Biden will be nothing more than a stand-in and perhaps a foreign policy advisor, both things he can obviously handle. If McCain wins, due to his age and his cancer-related health history, Palin would be much more likely to assume the presidency. And she has no record anywhere near that level.

So, tonight Biden debates as a vice presidential candidate. Palin debates as a presidential candidate.


Bailouts: part of me wants to say Hell No!!!!!!

September 22, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

As the late Sen. Everett Dirksen supposedly said, a few hundred billion dollars here and a few hundred billion dollars there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

It just keeps getting worse. Now the Bush administration, I understand, has expanded the financial industry rescue plan from having the taxpayers take on bad debts from the mortgage industry to taking on bad debts elsewhere. I don’t know why the $700 billion figure is used, because the $1 trillion figure or something above that is probably more accurate, from most of what I have read. Besides, it’s all meaningless because those in charge admit they don’t know the real cost or even if it will work.

Part of me wants to say “Hell No! (Wall Street) you pay for it! Are you going to pay my debts?!” Answer: “no.”

The reason the Bush administration is expanding the the Wall Street rescue plan becomes clear in a line out of a story in the New York Times Business section: “Even as policy makers worked on details … Wall Street began looking at ways to profit from it.”

Methinks the rest of us may be getting ripped off. What do you think? 

I also just read an article on Bloomberg News in which some expert in the field said that when Japan suffered a major decline in real estate many years ago, the government did similar things as we are embarked upon now and it did not work. Banks took the money from the government and then hoarded it and they’ve had problems ever since.

And I also read that in an emergency move late Sunday, the Federal Reserve has granted permission to the nation’s two remaining investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, to become bank holding companies. Both institutions had been in danger of failing. Their new status will allow them to create new banks and give them access to capital from bank deposits. That new status, though, puts them under much tighter restrictions, I read in the New York Times.

Hopefully, those who are really working on this thing, such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, know what they are doing. We know that Mr. MBA George W. doesn’t. As far as I know, Bush never ran a successful business in his life. His family does have a successful business. It’s called influence peddling. Both he and his father built their careers not on their business acumen and not so much on their political acumen (although, I guess they have it), but on their ability to get people to support them because they knew that Bush and Son could help them out from the White House.

….Caught Barack Obama and John McCain interviews on 60 Minutes’ first new fall show. The interviews made both of them look good. But, of course, those of us who pay attention (such as the readers of this blog) know more about them. McCain is in the uncomfortable position of being the Republican candidate for president and having to admit that the Republicans who have held the office for the last eight years have, well, screwed up. But he would be different, he says. McCain has that edginess too. When he’s happy and smiling, he seems nice – but he’s always ready to go the other way, I am beginning to see (others have seen it and experienced it I am told).

Obama, meanwhile, sits there smiling and all calm, cool, and collected and reasonable, but ready to defend his position when need be.

Obama wants to wind up the war in Iraq as soon as possible and claimed that the Iraqis were not doing their part (I’m sure he said that) and shift the emphasis to Afghanistan and would not be reluctant to strike in Pakistan if that is where the enemy is hiding (we are already doing this).

Both men said Iran having a nuclear bomb is unacceptable.

But McCain again gave the indication that he is itching to militarily strike Iran. And we know from recent history that if a president is predisposed to send the military somewhere that is what will happen.

I’m making a prediction that if McCain is elected, Iran will be bombed (maybe it needs to be; I don’t know for sure).

If Obama is elected, that seems less likely, although not nearly out of the question.

War won’t stop no matter who is elected, although we wouldn’t always have to take part in it.

The economy can only be fixed by those who take part in it over the long haul.

Who knows? We might actually as a nation try to live within our means. And we might actually look inward and remember charity begins at home.


Bloomberg available to rescue America…

September 21, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I don’t know much about Michael Bloomberg, multi-billionaire and mayor of New York, but I think he wants us all to know that he is ready to step in and save us in this current financial crisis, either as some type of financial czar in Washington or maybe as an emergency write-in candidate for president.

I was actually pretty impressed with what I heard him say on Meet the Press this morning, but then I am sometimes gullible when people are making sense. The only thing that I really knew about him before today was from a news magazine article I read several months ago while I was laid up in the hospital. I had mixed reactions from that (he has been on more than one occasion accused of sexual harassment). He was described as a moderate (and he has switched back and forth between being a Democrat and a Republican, independent, I guess to fit whatever needed to be done to get elected, and I don’t fault him for that – first I don’t think much of our political party system, and second, both major parties are leading us to hell in a handbasket).

Oh, and I give credit (whoops not a good word) to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson this morning for saying that what has happened in the financial markets (the hanky panky) is “unexcusible” (although I think the word is “inexcusable,” but same difference, he was under pressure).

(The Bush administration is proposing that the federal government assume what it estimates to be $700 billion in bad mortgage securities, but other estimates put the price at $1 trillion, and if you add in the bailouts from the past week, the higher figure seems closer to being accurate — and now, Sunday evening, I read on Bloomberg News that the Bush administration is now proposing a wider and costlier program to assume other types of bad debt — check your news.) 

Also, in my just-previous blog I put in a pitch for universal health care (as they said in a parody of a John McCain ad on Saturday Night Live, “Barack Obama wants to cover everybody in the universe, even Osama bin Laden”). Thank you Mr. Billionaire capitalist and proud of it Bloomberg for saying that the United States spends more of its gross national product, percentage wise, on health care than other nations, but Europe has better health care. (And I am not sure whether Obama is calling for so-called universal health care or a plan than makes health care available to all, via private plans or government, well, same difference).

PBS recently did a documentary on health care systems (basically various forms of what used to be called “socialized medicine”) around the world.

For instance, in Taiwan (remember we used to call it Nationalist China, anyway, the other China – hey get out the good China – just a joke, I’m losing my concentration here) every citizen has a plastic card that entitles him or her to instant access to all types of health services and doctors, no referral needed for specialists. Some of the top government people interviewed admitted that the program is getting rather costly, but you know, no one seemed to suggest that it was not necessary and right. Well for that matter, I assume communist China has universal health care too. I guess the Chinese think all their people need to be healthy (just don’t drink the milk). Those Chinese, inscrutable!

But back to Bloomberg:

Coming on just after Paulson, who looked as if he had not slept in days and was in a daze, Bloomberg appeared rested, calm, cool, and just a tad sarcastic at a few intervals and looked as if he was sitting in the catbird seat. He said that he would be willing to step in as a kind of financial czar (he did not use that term, maybe Tom Brokaw did) if his country called him, and it seems to me that he was trying to imply, telepathically almost, that he would be willing to serve as president (he had considered running and then shrewdly, I believe, decided to let others try to buy that spot). I don’t know if he could run now at this late date. For crying out loud they’re already voting for president in Virginia.

Bloomberg said there needs to be more transparency in the market so everyone actually knows how much companies are worth. He suggested that even the CEOs did not really know the state of their assets (or their asses, my word again) and that many of them were phony (the assets), due to the crisis in mortgage securities, due to a high default rate.

He blamed everyone, from the man on the street to Wall Street for demanding instant gratification, rather than saving for the future or borrowing prudently.

And he said that there needs to be bipartisanship in congress. He said that Republicans need to realize that there has to be regulations in the market, but that Democrats need to realize that the market is what creates jobs. He also said that bailing out things like the auto industry many years ago was the wrong approach. He said that instead workers should have been retrained to produce products that can compete in the global economy (but then, again, do auto workers want to make toxic toys?).

He also said that congress does not work together because most of its members are in gerrymandered (my term again) safe seats (his term).

One late night comedian said that there is a term for what the Bush administration is doing by essentially taking over a large part of the economy: “it’s called socialism.” (And I think its kind of like Hitler’s national socialism (Nazism, fascism), which is supposedly to the far right of traditional socialism, in which private enterprise is partners with the government and runs the lives of the public as a whole).

Personally, I am not an ideologue. The only thing I do not waver from is the belief in free representative democracy and our Bill of Rights. We have blended in elements of socialism at least back to the 1930s and this has been accepted, if reluctantly so at times, by the right (whether they would admit it or not) and the left (well, of course). We have the flexibility to adjust.

And one last note today: Disappointingly, a study, described in an Associated Press story that first ran Saturday, I believe, indicated that 40 percent of whites admit to racial prejudice in their voting decisions. I think racism will die out with my generation (I am 59).

P.S. Oh, and another thing that Bloomberg mentioned. He said that our birth rate is too low to support our retirement system. I know Western Europe, Germany for example, is realizing that a low birth rate is threatening their whole existence. I personally think that all those calls for reducing the birth rate were wrong. You either multiply or you subtract and if you keep subtracting you have nothing. Or put it another way, if one part of the human race fails to reproduce in large numbers and the other part keeps on reproducing, one part will die out. Over population certainly can be a problem, but God has a way of taking care of that, it’s called death.

P.S. P.S. Anyone who has read all my blogs has picked up on the fact that I am not committed to a traditional religion. But one has to believe in something, and I do.


Presidential race seen as black and white…

September 14, 2008

(copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I pretty much see the presidential race as black and white.

Kind of a play on words. Kind of not.

With the polls I’m reading being at best dead even and with the hand wringing apparent in some of the Democratic leaning blogs, and with some folks admitting on TV that either they themselves or their neighbors will not vote for a black man to be president, and with the obsession over Sarah Palin, the handwriting is almost visible on the wall.

The worriers could only wish it really was just a “bad Disney movie,” as one Hollywood star put it. But it’s real folks and for some Democrats it’s even worse than lipstick on a pig.

And the lies and/or distortions continue: That state Jet Palin rejected on becoming the Alaska governor and that she claimed she sold on eBay, wouldn’t sell online, so it was sold elsewhere at a loss. Her campaign trying to tout her knowledge of foreign affairs claimed she traveled to Iraq, no, only to the border – she was on the Kuwait side. It was also claimed she visited Ireland – her airliner stopped for refueling (heck I did that). She’s for cutting spending, but it has increased under her governorship. All that was courtesy from a memo put out by the Obama campaign and carried on Time CNN online (but I’m sure it can be verified elsewhere).

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, whatever are we going to do with you? Your nose is going to grow so long.

All these lies Palin and McCain (it seems like that’s the order of the ticket now, Palin-McCain) are putting out is terribly cynical. She spewed out several lies and distortions in her acceptance speech. One wonders if she and the campaign did not think the mendacity (been waiting to use that word) would not be quickly uncovered? No, they knew it would, but the public would just figure the “media” (excluding beacons of truth such as Fox and Limberger (not his real name) is in the pocket of Obama and wouldn’t believe the truth and what is more probably would not care. Besides if you repeat a lie over and over people begin to believe it.

Yes, I fear that prejudice and the big lie, and I have to say, not a bad publicity stunt by McCain (he was needing one), may push the Republicans over the top once more (even without the Supreme Court or hanky panky in Ohio – although watch for that too).

The reason Palin and McCain may be resorting to easily uncovered lies is the principle set forth by Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He actually accused Churchill and the English of using the following method: “…one should lie and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” (My source was Wikipedia under Joseph Goebbels.)

The polls are close and there is still time for Democrat Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden. Hopefully the upcoming debates will enlighten the public, and I think with the race as close as it is, they will tune in. But, meantime out on the trail, Obama has his work cut out for him and the time for eloquent speechifying is over. He has to get out there and hit the issues, issues, issues, and never mind McCain, except to remind of the natural link with Bush policies, and don’t even mention Palin. The public needs to know what precisely Obama proposes. No I don’t mean reciting line by line how much would be spent on what programs or a long recitation covering the minutia of programs, but he needs to be more specific than “change” (cynically co-opted by the Republican ticket, and forget about Yes We Can and definitely I don’t want to hear Si Se Puede). Remind folks of what the Republican administration these past eight years has wrought and tell them what you plan to do and hit hard at those working class areas and just remind folks that Republicans are almost never the friend of wage earners and not even small businessmen.

And don’t be afraid to mention that the Republicans, Bush, and now McBush and his female version of Bush (God tells me what to do, that’s all I need to know; like the Blues Brothers, “we’re on a mission from God”) want us to be in endless war (the word is that Palin has connections with a religious organization that sees a holocaust between Russia and the U.S. and Iran and Israel, or something of that nature, just a part of the end times as forecast in the Book of Revelations – Bush W. is said to follow that line of thinking too and he’s sure been trying. If you’re Palin, you think, what me worry? I’m going to be lifted up to Heaven in the Rapture).

You have to be mighty careful on this one, though. A Democrat has to show he is for keeping up the best military in the world, but that he just wants to choose missions more wisely.

Obama will have to defend himself in strong terms where necessary against the Republican lies (and I am disappointed that someone who has had such a long record of public service and an impeccable record as a patriot as McCain has stooped to a campaign of lies and distortions), but Obama can’t let himself be sidetracked by Palin, who talks around in circles, and again, attacking McCain head on is useless.

If things are as bad as they seem to be for so many people, it’s hard to think that they would vote for essentially the same machine that has been in power for the better (or worse) part of a decade. Yes, residual or even outright racism could play a factor. But why oh why I must ask would one vote against his or her self-interests and the interests of the nation as a whole because a candidate is black?

I’m not trying to blow something out of proportion. One might argue that there is no real race question. But I hear it a little, and it sure pops up, even among Obama supporters.

My problem with McCain (and Palin) is that he relishes war (even if he says he does not), sees any fight, right or wrong, as the home team against them (so you have to support it), has a view of fiscal policy as one where you give the tax advantages to the ones who need it the least, and a social agenda that ignores most of those in trouble under the philosophy that something will trickle down to them. My objections to Palin are primarily that she does not have enough experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. And moreover, all of her amendments to past statements and restatements about her positions do not remove the fact that all evidence shows that she is a Christian fundamentalist who sees herself as having the ear God and her mission as being to run things for the country as per her interpretation of God’s will.

Our founding fathers and Americans today do not want a theocracy. Yes, many Christians wish more people would follow their path and wish that traditional moralities would be restored, but that is work they must carry out by their own actions and mentoring to those younger than themselves. In order to protect freedom of religion we have a system of government that separates religion from government in order that no one interpretation of God’s plan can be made law, so each and every citizen can worship according to his or her own beliefs or even not worship.

The liberal pendulum at times in this nation has swayed so far to the left that our own Supreme Court and the lower appellate courts have made rulings that seem to bar the practice of religion in public places (schools, governmental agencies). I’m not going cite cases here, but some have interpreted rulings as, for an example, preventing a child from praying at school. Now certainly if that is so, that would give much concern and fodder to far-right religious groups. But I would hope that the real intention is to prevent, say, school authorities from forcing a child to pray, and moreover forcing a child to pray in a certain manner. That would be state-sanctioned religion, a clear violation of the First Amendment. I do not know what the legal scholars think, but I have never seen the Constitution as prohibiting religion, only prohibiting the forced practice of a certain type of religion. At any rate, I am suspicious of anyone running for the highest offices of the land who constantly invokes the almighty (it has become obligatory for candidates to do so at the end of speeches, I notice).

My God Bless!

P.S. For anyone who had been following the progress of my Tuleville Sundown novel, or any other interested reader, I have posted a new page at http://tonybooks.wordpress.com and you can get more of the book by Googling or Yahooing — Tony Walther, Yahoo –. All very confusing, I know. At some point I’ll get it into coherent order — maybe publish it in book form, or maybe just drop it.


Liberalism, conservatism, getterdoneism…

September 12, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I’m in search of a new party or a new ideology, sticking of course to the democratic (notice small “d”) model.

How about the Liberty and Justice for All Party, dedicated neither toward liberalism nor conservatism but getterdoneism. The right and left attack each other constantly, but lose sight of the work that needs to be done.

Really, both the Democrats and the Republicans wind up doing much the same thing, especially at the top levels of government. Lyndon Johnson had his Vietnam and George W. Bush has Iraq (and Afghanistan). And, the economic mess we are in now, failing banks and investment firms, a gargantuan mortgage crisis, mounting unemployment, has built up over both Republican and Democratic regimes. Bill Clinton had a pretty good ride, but had he been able to run and get elected to a third term, no doubt the economic bubble would have burst anyway.

Now in theory, the Democrats work more from the bottom up in society and the Republicans from the top down. The Democrats are fond of saying they want government to offer a hand up and the Republicans want you to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, but they will help you after that once you’ve shown your own worth, and they might throw you a crumb anyway in the name of being “compassionate conservatives”.

But in reality, especially at the federal level, both parties foster big government, expanding bureaucracy, wasteful special interest spending, scandals, and out and out thievery of the public monies. As for foreign policy – tell me what is the difference?

Since the Democrats chickened out of the Vietnam War after the public grew weary of endless casualties for no identifiable purpose, except for the questionable “domino theory”, they have been accused of being soft of defense. Didn’t Clinton go into Kosovo? How that defended us I am not sure, but then again, how fighting in the Mid East today defends us, I am not sure (in fact, it seems to be wearing us down and draining our treasury and making us borrow more and more money from China, and our supply of human capital is not endless either).

(Clinton authorized some other military adventures besides Kosovo, including bombing Iraq, but did not go for all-out war in his terms)

And now I have to break away from this train of thought, because I have just watched an online video of an interview with Queen Noor of Jordan, who I find, thanks to Wikipedia, and backed up by some vague memory, is American born and educated. She was at a public service forum that was attended by both Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican counterpart John McCain. She said she was pleased with the “tone” from both men, which was more civil than they have been out on the hustings. She said the whole world is watching because the U.S. is the moral leader.

She’s well spoken, obviously sophisticated, and altruistic, at least in her demeanor and talk of the need for public service. One wonders then why Jordan is not an oasis of freedom and cooperation among the strata of society. But being where that nation is and human behavior and history and religion and religious factions and the natural competition among the levels of society being what it is, one can understand, to an extent.

But I do agree that the world looks to us for moral leadership. Certainly once the United States took over the role as predominant world power after World War II, we did seem to take a new path. We did not colonize and we helped rebuild a world ravaged by war and we encouraged democratic government as opposed to authoritarian rule. Of course at the same time, we were more than willing to prop up military dictatorships (right wing) on the grounds that at least they were anti-communist, communism being anathema to capitalism, and communism being in practice authoritarian rule of the worst kind, and we always had hopes that right wing dictators would eventually relinquish their power to representative government, and many did.

But then we got confused in Vietnam, lost our will and our bravado for awhile, then regained it and came back with a vengeance, and we were not backing down and were taking names.

But trying to get back to the point here, it would indeed be nice if both candidates could take the high road and deal with the issues in a civil manner, instead of challenging the personal integrity or even intelligence of the opponent. Both McCain and Obama often do acknowledge the integrity of each other, but then proceed to do the bashing or let their surrogates and advertising do the dirty work.

Certainly if your opponent has shortcomings, if he or she actually lacked integrity, that would be fair game (as long as you don’t imply that she looks like a pig with lipstick). You can’t very well run an effective campaign by saying nothing but nice things about your opponent either. But it would be refreshing to see someone confident enough about his or her positions on the issues and his or her proposals, that no bashing or personal criticism, or at least a minimum of it, was necessary.

But that comes back to both of the two major parties (really our only parties) being so close together at the national level that personal bashing is often about all that is left.

I have generalized here. I realize that in some respects there is a world of difference between Republican and Democrat, it’s just often and strangely hard to detect at times.

There is often a call for a non-partisan approach to problems, or maybe I should say a bi-partisan approach. While either side has a different philosophy as to how to get there, both may agree on the end result of an issue and can find common ground.

I think by nature, people develop ideologies, such as conservative and liberal, and everything in between. But when one is so strait jacketed by his own frame of reference, right or left, it is hard to come up with solutions or compromises that lead to solutions. The California legislature is the best example. It is dysfunctional and has been for years, with neither Republicans nor Democrats willing to give much ground. Winning is an all or nothing thing. In the meantime, everyone from social program recipients to business vendors go unpaid because the legislature cannot pass a budget.

Some wish we could take politics out of politics, I think (not me; I like to watch the game). And we probably could if we all were not so wrapped up in our own self interest. But then again, one has to look after one’s self.

The ratings driven electronic media (and now I become a media basher) has I think to some extent pushed news as 24-hour entertainment to such an extent that mudslinging and the latest titillating headline, such as, yes, “lipstick on a pig” or caricatures of Obama as a Muslim terrorist get more play than the dull, dry issues. Talk too much about issues and you’re a “policy wonk.” And here we go again with things relatively new to me. I had never heard the term “wonk” before it started being applied many years ago to Bill Clinton (and wonk or not, no one would say he’s dull, tiresome to some extent now, but dull no).

I blog a lot, especially lately, about the side issues, because they are what is being talked about. Gossip leads to perceptions, right or wrong, and humans make decisions on perceptions and first impressions.

And I could go on forever, dontcha know, but I think I’ll cut it off here. I do want to keep up on the latest in the continuing sideshow of Sarah Palin, so I plan to watch ABC News this evening and see what she has for us (I’m not running for president so I can do this. I would suggest that Barack get back in the game and not be distracted by the opposing team’s cheerleader).


Two philosophies running for president….

August 27, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Just waiting for Hillary now….

Plan to blog after Hillary Clinton does her thing this evening, with the emphasis being on how well she did to rally her supporters behind Barack Obama, with upwards of 25 to 30 percent still threatening to vote for John McCain. And of course, I’ll be looking for anything else she might bring out.

At the same time, I am planning to blog about my latest trip to the oncologist and what my Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, a form of cancer, has in store for me, and I will do that no doubt after I dispose of the Hillary thing.

Just heard that detestable, mouthy, mean-spirited, reactionary hate radio host Laura Ingrham on Fox News and it made me think: basically, this time around, we have two seemingly decent and reasonably intelligent men running for president. We know a lot less about the Democrat, Obama, than we do the Republican, McCain. That’s because McCain has been around a long time and Obama is far younger and does not have a long track record and apparently not much of a paper trail – he didn’t even do much writing when he was a law school professor, I have read.

But, really, what I am trying to say is that instead of two people running against each other, we have two philosophies. Brace yourself, I’m going to generalize here, but this is it:

And Ms. Ingrham helped me remember this – The Republican side sees a world where no one gets in your way in your quest to try to make as much wealth as you can and the tax burden is primarily on those who can’t afford or are too stupid to hire a good tax person. Government is there primarily to enforce rules that allow them to hold their property and protect their wealth and I guess fight off foreign invaders or even fight fights elsewhere because in the long run it’s good for commerce, and besides, there’s money, lots of money, to be made in war itself. They like to use terms such as laissez-faire, meaning that government stays out of your affairs, but in reality, they don’t mind an active or big government that does things to help them personally – they deserve it. You should not have to apologize for being wealthy. Everyone should be wealthy (and explain to me how that could be – think about it). These were not Ms. Ingrham’s words. They were a synthesis of the things I have heard her and others of her ilk and even McCain say (although I think McCain is much more careful and diplomatic when he says them).

The other philosophy sees a more activist government that actually helps individuals and enables them to pull themselves up by their own efforts, but also with the augmentation of the government when necessary. This philosophy, adopted in modern times by the Democrats, sees obligations in society to look after the less fortunate and to ensure the well being of all members of society. Within the ranks of the adherents to this Democratic (with a big D, as they say) following there is a division of thought as to how far social programs should go and how much should be required of individuals and just how much government (which is really us) should be obligated to them in the first place.

Sometimes issues and realities come along that make both major parties seemingly agree on something or at least give lip service to agreeing, health care being an example.

Both the Democrats and Republicans talk about improving the health care system and making it more accessible or affordable.

But the party whose own philosophy abhors too much government involvement at the behest of the individual is less likely to come up with anything meaningful on something like healthcare for everyone. (And if the free market supplies all the needs, why is there a problem? And if you say there is not a problem, you either have your health care taken care of or you have a death wish.)

All of that was as I said a generalization. Philosophies or political ideologies can be stifling and get in the way of any type of progress or solutions to problems.

Anyway, just waiting for Hillary….