Waiting for Obama; give me the simple life…

November 17, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I’m kind of in a malaise what with the election over and just sitting around waiting for Obama.

Yes, he was elected to be the next president of the United States, but meanwhile he has no actual authority, while our current president George W. Bush has little authority either being the lamest of lame ducks one could imagine. I suppose he does have enough time left to create some mischief.

It’s not that I am waiting for Barack Obama to do anything in particular, I just think it would be nice to see a president do something besides make awful and ill considered decisions on the use of our military and act as if we were the only country in the world that mattered. Sure we all want to feel pride in our own country and we certainly don’t want outsiders dictating to us what to do, but I think we are better than what we have gone through these past eight years.

Strangely, I don’t think Obama is planning to do much of anything different that Bush would have done in Iraq. It seems that the Bush administration was already trying to ease its way out of Iraq, if ever so slowly. I actually agree that time tables are a bad idea, although, in reality the Bush administration set them, just not in concrete, using the euphemism of “time horizons”. And I believe Obama plans to withdraw troops as quickly as possible (probably quicker than Bush would have and certainly quicker than John McCain would have), but he is leaving some wiggle room should matters on the ground change significantly for the worse.

And I hate to admit it, but if things eventually work out in Iraq to our favor, W. might go down in history with more favor than it now appears — he was steadfast in the face of adversity, in the face of negative public opinion, instead of just ignorant and stubborn. The fact remains as a nation we violated our own principles and possibly international law – something we only follow when it is in our own interests (or do we ever?).

I did appreciate Obama’s clear statement on 60 Minutes Sunday that he would end our use of torture. I heard a retired Army general from World War II on C-Span tell of how we caught an important Japanese agent and did not torture him and got lots of invaluable information from him nonetheless. Of course I have to think that back then we were fortunate to have a statesman at the helm and generals and admirals who believed in duty, honor, country (to include preserving our moral stature) over just escaping with a good retirement (and I am not so ignorant that I have not heard that there were some limited atrocities committed on our part, but they were not secret policy as now).

Afghanistan? Who knows? Seems like we will end up brokering with factions of the enemy and buying our way out (with our own funny money?) and maybe not until there is a whole lot more loss of life.

The economy? We certainly tried to hang on to the old economic model where we were in charge as long as we could, but I fear it has slipped out of our grasp. And that does not stop the rest of the world from blaming us on what is shaping up to be the second Great World Wide Depression in half a century. I almost have to agree with the hard-line fundamentalist free marketers who say we just have to let the free market sort things out and not let the government or governments run things (apparently a lot of free marketers, a lot of Republicans in fact, have been panicked out of their laissez faire attitudes). However to alleviate great suffering and possibly to prevent rebellion of the masses, we probably have to have a rather massive intervention by the government. But simply throwing money at something does not make it work. Didn’t we bail out Chrysler a few decades ago? What happened?

I really think if I had life to do over again (and I don’t) I’d be a conservative Republican and concentrate on making as much wealth for me and my family as I could, but not really for self-aggrandizement, but instead protection.

If not wealthy, I think I would have liked to have had a self-sufficient kind of farm or acreage where I grew my own food (to include a hog or two and chickens for eggs, maybe a milk cow).

One thing that has never appealed to me is communal life. Never had any desire whatsoever to live on a commune while I toil and others sit in the shade (and I don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid either), and with all due respect Mr. Obama, even though I am happy you won, I don’t want to “share the wealth”, although I think they took your quote slightly out of context.

I had a great uncle of French descent (he died before I was born), who was a small (both in stature and land) independent farmer in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He believed I am told that a farmer should do his own work and not hire many people. But he was a big believer of cooperative undertakings such as the public irrigation district of which his farm was part and public schools, sitting on the local school board himself.

And now I’ll go off into one of my stories – My dad always used to tell me that my great uncle and others on that country school district board back in the earlier part of the 20th Century would pitch in themselves when something needed to be fixed at the schoolhouse. Fast forward to the latter part of the 20th Century and as a reporter for a newspaper I was covering a meeting of a rural one-school school district in Tulare County, Ca. The Superintendent-principal was giving his report and noted the drinking fountain was on the fritz again. “I’ll get down there tomorrow and fix it,” one of the farmer-school board members commented. If that had been the city’s school district it would have taken a funding request and negotiation with the union to get the job done.

There’s certainly something to be said for the simplicity of the old ways. But lest you think that I’m stuck with some notion that we can all return to some bucolic paradise, that same rural school district where the farmer-school trustee was ready and willing to fix the drinking fountain had its problems. One errant kid lit a match to the school and several classrooms burned down one weekend. And this wasn’t rural North Dakota, so their student body had a fairly good cross section of society. Then again, although as I recall they went through normal channels to rebuild, they did get right to it and they also caught and dealt with the culprit (through juvenile court I think) with dispatch.

I’m trying to make this thing fit together somehow. I think our current economic problems may force our nation as a whole into more practicality – that could be a good thing.


Mr. Wall Street: ‘Your money or your life!’

September 26, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The word this morning is that John McCain will take part in the debate this evening and apparently those pushing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill are hell bent on getting it done today (tonight).

 I find myself in the strange position of being on the side of those House Republicans who yesterday were holding out for some different type of bill that would use private money (government guarateed, I guess) instead of the straight bailout. I don’t know what the status of all that is now and whether they were sincere or just making a show for the folks back home who are skeptical.

I thought the political cartoon in my local newspaper this morning said it all: A big fat cat Wall Street tycoon was sitting up against a wall and begging to a little older couple with a sign that reads: “Please get me out of debt, or I’ll be forced to ruin us all.” The little slender old man is standing there with his hands in his pockets while the wife hands the sobbing tycoon some cash from her purse. I think we are all asked to be that lady.

It is hard to swallow that a whole society can be dependent upon those who borrow and leverage and borrow on what they borrowed and leverage and anyway, make money on money they never had in the first place (and pardon me if I don’t tell this is strict or correct financial language, I’m a layman).

Perhaps as a society it is our collective fault for not paying enough attention to the inner workings of our economy and letting ourselves be misled by leaders who don’t understand it themselves and that goes for those in both major parties.

And I am still scratching my head trying to figure out what the urgency is in this bailout thing. I realize it would not be a good thing to let the financial market go down the tubes in a panic because it thought phony money was not available anymore. But folks, if it is all that bad, we need to fix the system. That should be the urgency, and that may take a little more time.

And by the by, I plan to watch the debate tonight. I think this could be the most important presidential debate that has ever taken place. I plan to blog on it afterwards. And now for anyone who is interested, my previous blog follows:

I now recall seeing an earlier tape – was it Monday? – of Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby asking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake if they had thought of an alternative to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan. I don’t think Paulson answered – he seemed to just sit there bewildered and speechless (maybe he did mumble something), anyway I didn’t think much of it.

But a self-satisfied Shelby, chairman of the senate banking committee, came out of the specially-called Bush meeting Thursday afternoon before anyone else and told reporters: “There’s no deal.”

Where it all stands today, who knows? It’s like a Howie Mandel Deal- No Deal game.

What will Wall Street, picked up Thursday by hopes for a deal, think today?

This $700 Billion giveaway plan for Wall Street is one of the most bizarre, implausible and maybe even frightening turn of events ever. A Republican president proposed to bail out gambling investors on Wall Street, threatening that failure to do so would be the near instant ruination of the whole nation’s economy, with implications world wide.

(No one argues that there is not something terribly wrong right now with the economy. No one, not even the administration, though, is claiming to know exactly how to fix it.  Supposedly, the government might eventually recoup losses – make money, I don’t know – in the plan to buy up bad debt. While the official price tag is put at $700 Billion, the $1 trillion figure is often used, especially when the already-approved bailouts are counted.)

And it gets stranger all the time. Now we have Democrats seemingly pushing for a quick movement on a bill, but one with “safeguards” and help for some distressed homeowners who can’t make their mortgages and provisions to prevent Wall Street executives from getting multi-million dollar perks after receiving tax-payer dollars to bail them out. Some Republicans are on board too, but reportedly some 100 House Republicans are not.

A poll I heard on Thursday said that one third of the voters are against it, one third for it, and one third undecided.

The latest is that the objecting Republicans are proposing that it all go back to the drawing board and that a plan that would use private capital (probably much less than $700 billion), with some government incentives, such as tax breaks, be presented. And actually, that in principle, sounds reasonable to me.

It’s hard to tell what the motivations by the various parties are.

I suppose the original idea just to hand over $700 billion with no questions asked was never popular with most Republicans, let alone Democrats, especially since it was from a Republican president. On the other hand, they might have supported it if they really thought the world would come to an end otherwise. And some Republicans may have deviously thought, well at least it will help business and if the Democrat Barack Obama is elected it will tie his hands somewhat in getting social legislation through.

Then came the outcry from the constituency. Especially staunch conservatives or just citizens with a sense of fair play. You can’t just say when the man on the street makes a poor or unfortunate financial decision that it is his problem, don’t go crying to government, but when Wall Street investors make a bad or a just plain reckless move, the taxpayer must bail them out.

Meantime, Democrats saw the hypocrisy of the bailout and the cost, but thought, oh well, if it must be done let’s at least tack on some programs we want – and that was good politics.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain did not know what to think. But now he seems to be pushing some type of bailout (he was against it before he was for it), what type, we don’t know. And of course, meantime, he has suspended his campaign and threatened not to take part in tonight’s (Friday) presidential debate. Many think this is all a ploy. I suspect for the most part it is. It is a rather weak argument to suggest one cannot run for president and make decisions at the same time. Isn’t that after all, making decisions, pretty much the job of the president? Why even George W. Knows that – “I’m the Decider” (although not-so-much now).

Both presidential candidates were at Thursday’s meeting at the invitation of Bush. Actually McCain apparently was the one who came up with the idea to drop everything and put the debate on hold so he could run back to Washington to play hero (he didn’t seem to get anywhere Thursday). Obama reluctantly agreed. And in a statement late in the day, long after Shelby made his “no deal” announcement, Obama implied that he and McCain due to the politics of the whole thing may have actually been a distraction (of course they are politicians). McCain for his part said he was hopeful something (what?) could be passed soon.

P.S. That Hillary might replace Biden as VP thing I inserted as a new lead in my last blog came out of the Drudge Report (as reported somewhere else) and the report said that while it was just a rumor, the usual myth debunkers, such as Snopes and one the Obama campaign has set up, are neither confirming nor denying it. I usually would not bother with something so thin, but I couldn’t pass it up. It seems plausible (if a little Eagleton-like risky). It’s hard to know where the presidential race stands now with polls contradicting each other. Some say McCain is falling on his face, others say he’s made some crafty or clever moves, such as the suspending campaign move and picking Palin – and then there’s always the race card.  And if Obama says he’s “behind Biden one hundred percent”, don’t quit your day job Joe.


Rumor Only: Hillary might replace Biden…

September 25, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

It’s just a rumor, but the news is that Hillary Clinton might replace Joe Biden on the Obama ticket. And I think that might be the winning ticket. Hillary has one heck of a lot of supporters and women always decide the vote anyway and faced with the choice of Palin or Clinton, c’mon one is steeped in politics at the higher level and one is definitely not. One is progressive and one is regressive. The rumor is that Biden will drop out for health reasons. He already publicly said that Hillary would have been a better choice. Everyone probably thought, well Joe is just running off at the mouth, and maybe so, but maybe there was a message there…..

And now the rest of my blog, which was previously posted:

Despite a massive public outcry against the $700 billion (plus?) Wall Street bailout I read in the news this morning that quick action is expected on it, meaning it will sail through, which would mean that lawmakers and the administration are going one way and the American people the other.

Everything I’ve read and heard in the last 24 hours indicates that public sentiment is against the bailout, although it is too early to know whether Bush’s address had an effect, but it was only good on a quick backgrounder on the problem, with no credible sales job (well except to threaten that the whole economy would fall apart with out it – but why? And couldn’t there be a better and more prudent and more capitalist way of handling things?).

One item I read about it said there is a clause in the proposed Bush bailout bill that gives total authority to the treasury secretary and says it cannot be legally challenged by a court or administrative agency. Well that sounds like a Bush tactic. I don’t see how that can be constitutional, but that has never bothered Bush.

Now he won’t be the executive for long, but he seems to want to get this thing through awful bad. Maybe he and his buddies need the money they lost.

I notice former president Bill Clinton is pushing hard for this bailout too.

And I also have noticed that Bill is not campaigning all that hard for Obama. I watched him the other night on David Letterman and he barely mentioned Obama, except to finally give him the obligatory Democratic endorsement. But He went on and on about what a great man John McCain was and how good of a friend McCain was to Hillary and him. And today I read that he’s gone on TV and said that McCain had good intentions in suspending his campaign and wanting to delay Friday’s debate. I thought that too at first, but quickly saw that it was more of a ploy, a political tactic to steal the show and appear as a statesman. Apparently he can’t vote on the bailout and run for president at the same time.

I also just read an article that says that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation may need $150 Billion due to increased bank failures. The FDIC is of course the entity that insures everyone’s bank account up to $100,000. I would think it would be far more important to refresh that fund than fund the bailout. I realize both can and probably will be done – guess I just don’t understand how the government keeps finding a billion here and a billion there, and you know it all adds up to real money as Dirksen said (or supposedly said).

Much of our money comes from loans from the Chinese. A Reuters news service story today (in the Drudge Report) said that Chinese domestic banks have been ordered by their government not to lend money to U.S. institutions during this economic crisis.

The Bush administration tried to ram the bailout through last weekend, no questions asked, but was unsuccessful.

Now it appears that enough compromises have been made, to include help for homeowners and limits on pay packages of executives whose firms get help, to pursuade reluctant lawmakers.

I definitely think the presidential debate should go on Friday and economic policy should be discussed, possibly with foreign policy, the scheduled topic.

Again, if action on the federal level is needed, I think it should be more cautious.

And isn’t it strange we are already hearing that with this economic crisis some of the hoped for social reforms pushed by Obama may have to be put on hold.

Bush policies (war, bad economics): the gift that keeps on taking!

When the top defenders of the free market suddenly change their tune, it is cause for suspicion.


Elderly McCain unable to multi-task…

September 25, 2008
(Copyright 2008)
The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
John McCain suspended his campaign for president Wednesday to run back to Washington to deal with the economic crisis and said that unless a bailout package was passed before then, he is backing out of the Friday debate with Barack Obama.
He also wants to cancel the Sarah Palin and Joe Biden debate and replace it with Friday’s cancelled debate.
That was the last word I had before blogging this.
Seems as though Mr. McCain is chickening out.

What’s he going to do if he is elected and a crisis comes up, suspend his presidency? That’s what Dave Letterman quipped. McCain cancelled an appearance on his show.

Obama wants to hold the debate. “Presidents should be able to do more than one thing at a time,” he said. (Maybe the elderly McCain cannot multi-task.)

Sarah Palin meanwhile is being kept away from unfriendly media. That is a tactic used by politicians. The Republicans, in particular, have a long record of this. Reporters have complained, though, that Obama is not terribly accessible nowadays either.

The McCain campaign would not let any reporters, friendly or otherwise, near her at her faux foreign policy adventure the other day at the United Nations. One foreign dignitary was quoted as saying: “She’s good looking.”

She is supposed to have chatted up Henry Kissinger and said something to the effect that she would be interested in some of his insights (like what is this whole foreign thing about?).

I blogged the other day that I agreed with Bill Clinton that Obama supporters should not spend time making personal jabs at Palin, but just say they disagree with her. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with pointing out she is afraid to face critical questions and that she might not have the experience or knowledge to be a vice presidential candidate.

President Bush gave what I thought was a rather weak pitch Wednesday evening for the $7 billion Wall Street bailout package. I guess he did say that if it were not passed it would be devastating to the economy, but he was short on proof or specifics of what I understand the administration is trying to sell as a “rescue package.”

If it seems as if there does need to be some government intervention, the plan needs to be worked out carefully, even if it takes some weeks. And why does it have to be so much money up front? Some have suggested that it could be substantially less money, and if the lesser infusion into the economy had positive results, then more could be added. Whatever, it needs to be done right the first time, because we are already suffering from major mistakes. It may be even more costly if we just apply a super expensive band aid but don’t cure the disease. And as one person pointed out to me, there’s an old adage: “people say they don’t have time to do it right, but they have time to do it over.”

Back to the McCain campaign shenanigans. At first Wednesday I thought McCain was just being statesman like and after all this must be a true crisis (and it may be). But then I heard the whole story. Obama called him first and suggested they make a joint statement on the economic crisis. McCain agreed and then no sooner had he got off the telephone than McCain went on National TV and gave his phony statesman announcement. He didn’t mention Obama had called him.

And then this thing about cancelling his appearance at the debate and trying to delay or eliminate the Palin-Biden debate (not sure on details there).

It is absurd that a candidate for president would suspend his campaign over a legislative issue. Excuse me, didn’t they have presidential elections during Word War II?

I understand Bush has invited McCain and Obama and other legislators to the White House to discuss the economic crisis.

I still feel that the bailout-rescue package proponents are using blackmail techniques – pass this without question or the economy disintegrates.

Bush and both candidates do agree there needs to be a bi-partisan approach to this whole thing.

I suggest that both parties do need to get together, take the time they need, and not rush into a major give-away of tax dollars, even if the government might one day profit. No economy run strictly from the coffers of government can work in the long run, at least not the way we as Americans want it to.

What happened to the free market? I told someone earlier that it has taken me nearly all my adult life to even get a handle on economics. This past week has been an excellent real world lesson. But just as I finally think I understand the basics, the proponents of the system want to change the rules.

 

 


Bush administration turns socialist…

September 18, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Do you know where your money is? Under your mattress might be as good a place as any.

I didn’t make this line up, but I guess what we have nowadays in the financial markets is “private profits and socialized losses” ( I have used that quotation before, but how true with all of these bailouts). But, actually we now are going into the socialist, communist, or third world model of nationalizing companies (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG). And this on the Republican watch – strange indeed.

So has the Republican Bush administration turned socialist? Are the so-called conservatives who shun government control and intrusion now running to the head of the welfare line? Yes, to a degree, and yes.


Obama hits one out of the park…

August 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

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.


Debating ‘de’ issues……………

August 5, 2008

(Copyright)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I blog even though I have more pressing matters to take care of, because, well, I have more pressing matters to take care of and I’d rather blog.

Three presidential debates and one VP debate have been set and ABC has been left out, reportedly because of “gotcha style” journalism tactics used by two of their talking heads in one of the Democratic primary debates last April.

Whatever, I hope this time around, the candidates get the center stage and not the moderators.

Probably a person would do just as well to ignore the campaigning between now and the debates. Nothing too serious has been brought up in some time, despite the fact we have some of the most serious issues confronting us in a lifetime.

Of course, how the candidates handle themselves or how they are handled out of the stump may be somewhat informative.

The presidential debates are set for: Sept. 26 (PBS), Oct. 7 (NBC), and Oct. 15 (CBS). And the VP debate is Oct. 2 (PBS).

I thought blogger Jon Stolz had an interesting reaction to that ABC debate back in April (I got this via The Huffington Post):

“The excuse from the pundits stepping up to defend ABC is, that well, we’ve had 20 debates and we’ve gone over all of the issues, and people don’t want to hear it anymore. Oh, really? I don’t remember any debate where we talked seriously about when it is proper and not proper to deploy the military. Are we going to continue preemption and nation building? Is there any situation where that might be called for? I haven’t heard that question asked in a debate. Have we talked about the GI Bill in the debates? What other benefits for veterans would they increase or decrease and by what amounts?”

Of course the big issues on nearly everyone’s mind now are the cost of fuel, the economy (to include the housing/mortgage crisis), and the war and they are all really intertwined.

I’ll probably have my mind made up before the debates (if I don’t already), but to see how each candidate handles the questions certainly will help confirm that decision.

And then there is always the third option, voting for a third choice. That never seems appealing or practical, because it is virtually impossible to win the presidency unless you are a Republican or a Democrat and you have raised millions and millions of dollars and you have started early. So if you vote for a third choice, you essentially are giving your vote by default to someone you really don’t want to see in the White House.

And I don’t know where this fits in, but it would be interesting to see the Republican, John McCain, in the White House with a Democratic majority and even an increased veto-proof majority. Of course California has often chosen to have Republican governors and predominantly Democratic legislatures and the result is constant gridlock. Some folks actually prefer gridlock because it prevents a lot of new laws.

And in reference to blogger Stolz’s comments and questions, I recall that Bush Jr. (I like to call him), originally campaigned against nation building, criticizing the previous Clinton administration for trying to do so in God forsaken places such as Haiti. Then he goes and tries to nation build like crazy in Iraq, certainly another God forsaken place (my apologies to God). And preemption.  Are we to foresee every possible, imaginable threat around the world and preemptively go to war? That will certainly tie us up for awhile.

And now, I have more pressing matters. Thanks for reading.