Victory for Democrats, new freedom for GOP…

November 5, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

It’s the day after and this white boy is feeling happy as a clam with the victory of Barack Obama, who is the first black man to be elected president of the United States of America.

Do I think that our savior has arrived and all of our problems are solved? Not quite. But for the first time in my adult life (at age 59) I feel jubilant about a presidential election victory.

Not only have I not approved of George W. Bush’s policies, I think that he has tarnished the name of the United States of America for eight years and done great damage to our world reputation. Now usually I am not one to wring my hands about what everyone thinks about us around the world – after all we are a superpower with a lot of responsibilities and we have a long history of fighting against tyranny, World War II being as Winston Churchill said of his own nation’s efforts, “our finest hour”. But Bush took the belligerent course of declaring that our nation could just at will decide to do pre-emptive war. Now sure, who would argue if there were a situation in which we could strike somewhere to prevent a real imminent attack on us? But we all know that is not what we did. And in my opinion, Bush also seemed to push efforts to essentially turn our nation into a Christian theocracy, while decrying the efforts of Islamic terrorists (a real threat) who are working to enforce their form of Islamic theocracy around the world. Both sides are wrong in that one. Admittedly, Bush’s efforts in that regard were much more subtle and non-violent (in terms of what he has done here).

And who could believe that a Republican who claims to be conservative and a fan of the free-wheeling capitalist market and an enemy of big government could have expanded the government, ran our nation into debt – after a Democrat at least balanced the budget – and then ended up having to hand over billions of dollars of taxpayer money to private banks and even have the government step in and take part ownership of the banks? If that is not some form of socialism, I don’t know what is.

I am a certified Bush basher. How he got elected, and two times at that, I am sure I will never fully understand. Part of it was that things did not appear so bad at the time, the electorate was complacent, and the first Democratic challenger worked hard, but not hard enough, and the second one was a little too much of a blow dried wind surfing empty suit.

But in what I believe is the biggest election turnout ever, Americans had their backs to the wall (facing a possible second Great Depression and continuing war in the Middle East) and knew that the only hope was to vote for real change. Even a lot of white bigots were at least smart enough to vote their own self-interest, or at least take a chance.

As I understand it at this time, the Democrats did not get the complete 60 votes needed in the Senate to be filibuster-proof. But I think that is a good thing. There needs to be checks and balances.

And I truly believe that those who sincerely worried that Obama would bring about complete or near complete socialism can rest assured that he will do nothing of the kind. I think that they may be pleased to find that he will be more of a centrist – strangely more like his vanquished challenger John McCain than not. Obama is careful and pragmatic. But yes, die-hard capitalists, he will lean to the left to help the majority of us to the extent that he sees fit.

And to you Republicans who are still worried, remember this: the nation survived the Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected to four terms, and even won a world war in the process. Surely we will survive a little real change. And I truly believe that the Republican Party is going to rise back from this stronger than ever and hopefully with a slightly more open-minded and more inclusive persona. No I don’t want the GOP to become Democrats. I want them to be the loyal opposition, but one that does not take such a narrow path. There are going to be problems, big problems, for Obama and plenty of openings for that loyal opposition to make their case that there is a different way to approach things. And I guess that I am going on with too many words, but I think that the GOP may have finally been freed from the shackles of dangerously hard-right conservatism and worse yet neocon conservatism.

Neocon conservatism is a hard one to understand, but in short, from what I have read, it was instituted primarily by progressives or liberals who were more interested in power than ideology, so they renamed themselves conservatives and have wrought major damage to our political system, with their winner-take-all no-compromise and often hate-inspired (have you ever listened to Rush Limberger?) approach.


The great Republican culture war rages…

October 27, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

There is a culture war going on inside the Republican Party between those who are not only educated, but took their education seriously, and those who are not educated or who did not take their education seriously.

A growing list of educated Republicans have abandoned John McCain, primarily over his choice of Sarah Palin for vice president. Palin, although educated, likes to play the part of a simple down-home rustic and she does it quite well – a little too well.

Palin gives off the impression that if you talk in complete sentences and actually say something that makes sense about issues, especially foreign policy, besides “support the troops”, you are just being an elitist and don’t understand Main Street America values.

I think Sarah’s famous doppelganger Tina Fey put it best when she said: “I think she is at least as smart as I am, but that is not going to cut it…”

Palin does read a script with polish, though, and when everything is written out for her she shows great poise in front of the camera (so did Ronald Reagan). But she is not particularly good at quick thinking and the ad lib and spews out sentences that wander all over the place, seemingly missing a subject or predicate, when caught off guard – you know, with one of those silly “gotcha” questions, such as: What are the duties of the vice president?  How does the fact that one can see Russia from some part of Alaska somehow give you insight into foreign policy?

At any rate, this culture war I think may be one of the major reasons John McCain seems headed for defeat (if he wins, certainly it will be one of the biggest upsets in history – a real Truman proudly holding up the erroneous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment).

While I have had about as much of Sarah Palin as I can take and while I don’t agree with her politics, I do have some possibly misplaced sympathy for her now that she is accused by the McCain campaign of going off the reservation and making statements on her own. I say “good for Sarah”, it’s about time! And that’s even if I still don’t agree with her.

On one televised occasion she – gasp – actually talked to reporters and wouldn’t stop even though one of her handlers kept trying to end the impromptu interview. And over the weekend she fought back over the flap about her expensive wardrobe, $150,000 paid by the Republican National Committee ( not to mention the thousands of dollars of makeup). She said that her expensive Nieman Markus or whatever duds were mere props or equipment such as the lighting, which she would give back to the party after the campaign is over. I imagine if that is true it is more likely the result of the bad publicity for the self-proclaimed small-town “hockey mom” than an original plan.

On the other hand, do we ask how much Barack Obama’s suits cost or how much Michelle Obama’s wardrobe costs? Of course those two, even though championing the middle class, of which by net worth ( in the millions thanks to good jobs and more importantly book sales) they are not part, they do not go around playing the part of Joe the Plumber themselves. In fact, Obama takes the tack that he has done quite well, thank you, and that like Bill Clinton, and even Billionaire Warren Buffet, he could afford to pay higher taxes and should. Republicans seldom if ever say such things.

Really, the only reason Sarah’s clothes are an issue is the fact that so many people are having to cut back and are losing their jobs and that the whole economy is falling apart and that she portrays herself as just a simple down-home girl who would be more comfortable shopping at Walmart than Saks Fifth Avenue. But again, even a Palin basher such as I cannot see much there except a laugh or two. I get more worked up watching the snippy Cindy McCain in her ultra expensive wardrobe so transparently looking down at all of us who are not fortunate enough to have a daddy who made it big in the beer distributing business. Four years of John McCain in the White House, well, who knows? It could be alright, or not. Four years of super snotty Cindy McCain, unbearable. I’d almost rather listen to George W – almost.

And just one more thing. Why do candidates have to have handlers? If the handlers have all the answers, why don’t we elect them? Why do we have to watch puppets on a string perform before us?

P.s.  John McCain as far as I can see is neither an elitist nor an anti-elitist. I know he was near the bottom in his West Point class, but he does not wear ignorance as a badge of honor (and I know he is not ignorant), and he does not play the part of a rube ought on the stump. Because he is a more or less middle-of-the-road Republican he gets hit from both sides and his biggest enemies may not be among the Democrats but in his own Republican fold. I don’t think a McCain victory is going to happen, but I wonder what a free McCain, not having to appease the ignorant and intolerant, would be like. We probably won’t find out.

P.s. P.s. Just thought of this: remember what happened in the Great Cultural Revolution in China when formal education was attacked and elitists were persecuted? It took decades for that nation to recover.

W. movie sums it up; McCain charges “socialism”

October 19, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

If you went into the theater with no knowledge of what has gone on for the past eight years, you might come out feeling sympathetic to George W. Bush after watching Oliver Stone’s movie “W.”, which opened Friday. I didn’t, but I could have, as I say, if I had not seen the real story played out before my eyes.

It is ironic, since Stone has little sympathy (a little, but not much) for Bush and set out to show what a disaster he has been and a little of the why and how. I watched the Charlie Rose show on PBS and saw an interview with Stone and the lead actor Josh Brolin. They both basically admitted to being Bush bashers, but Brolin also said he had a little sympathy for him, and I think Stone did too. Stone said Bush was a man who may have been able to look back and reassess his life at one point, seeing that he was an alcoholic and drug abuser and then supposedly becoming “born again” (and really, what is worse than a sinner? A reformed sinner). But Bush could not seem to do that same reassessment once he got mired in Mesopotamia. And it’s too bad he didn’t reassess what he was getting into before he did it.

I read at least one liberal blog before I saw the movie that lamented that it was too sympathetic to Bush. I think the sympathetic aspect gave it a human touch. But in reality, I don’t think there is anything to be sympathetic about (even though I caught myself being a little sympathetic during the movie, but that quickly faded). I warned someone I know before W.’s first election not to vote for him because he was “evil.” and I believe my warning turned out to be right. I’m not sure, but I think that person did not listen to or believe me.

Bush is evil because, in my opinion, he was, is, a spoiled rich kid who has always been cynical about the American people and this nation.

(This is not meant to be a normal movie revue. But if you want to know if the movie is worth seeing, I would say yes. Even though the writer of the movie — Stanley Weiser — had to depend upon the accounts of others and not Bush himself, I have little doubt that the story is eerily near accurate. I think it gives you a general sense of what he is all about and how he came to mess things up, particularly the Mid East wars. The movie does not deal with the financial crisis.)

Bush cleverly dodged the Vietnam draft by enlisting in the Air National Guard and then by all accounts did not fully complete his obligation. If he had just simply done what he was supposed to do, complete all the training and attend all the meetings, I would not fault him for that. It would have made him more honorable than Bill Clinton, who pretended to want to go into ROTC and then didn’t, keeping him ineligible for the Vietnam draft for awhile, and then skipped the country for awhile in the Rhodes Scholar program, once more keeping him out of reach, and then didn’t complete that program and then made a trip to the Soviet Union. But Bush does not have a clear record of completing his obligation. And then he has the audacity to pretend to land an airplane on the carrier deck and parade around in a flight suit and declare “Mission Accomplished,” and then go on to preside over a fiasco in which the death toll is 4,000 and counting and no end in sight, many long years later.

Actually, if things ever do settle down in the Middle East and we were to get some friendly-to-us governments there, history might record that it was all thanks to the determination of George W. Bush. Somehow I don’t think things are going to work out so cleanly. In fact, the mess there — Iraq and Afghanistan — may be the undoing of what looks to be an Obama presidency, strangely just as it undid the Bush presidency. Bush brought it all upon himself by his proud ignorance (he doesn’t  read much history or current news) and his stubbornness and cynicism. Obama is a thinker. We don’t know, though, if he is a “decider”.

If by chance John McCain ekes out a win, surly we will be headed for some type action against Iran (Russia?), because despite the fact that he accuses Obama of unwisely telegraphing moves, McCain has made it plain that Iran is his public enemy number one.

I personally wished this nation would refrain from military adventures, except in true direct self defense, but if we do, I wished we had decisive leaders. You either fight to win or you should not fight at all. And I believe the public feels this way too instinctively, but we have timid and inept leadership when it comes to war.

I actually think we as a nation may soon find that due to our own poor economic condition we can no longer afford to fight wars of choice. And what if we exhaust our strength and can’t even defend ourselves?

But on the subject on self defense, we need to look at the situation on our border with Mexico. It does not get much play in the press, but that nation’s internal order has by all accounts broken down under an all-out assault by the drug cartels. And now it looks as though members of a Mexican drug cartel have abducted a young apparently Caucasian boy, an American citizen as far as a I know, from his home in Nevada, possibly because his grandfather welched on a debt. This type of lawlessness from across the border we should not tolerate.




…McCain’s new line of attack is to call Obama a socialist, what with Obama’s call for “spreading the wealth”. McCain may have found an argument that resonates with many, but it’s kind of late for one thing, and we have been doing this for decades, for another. The progressive income tax, bracketing so that the more money you make the higher percentage of your income you pay (supposedly), is in essence income redistribution. I’m not sure but what I even feel that such is not fair or just. But I know that folks in the higher brackets either through their own adeptness or that of their tax preparers find a myriad of deductions to offset their tax burden, and don’t we constantly get those news stories at tax time where some major corporations pay no income taxes at all?

So it seems that income redistribution (which may work both ways – from the rich to the poor or from the poor to the rich in some cases) is something the right and left have accepted for the most part.

I notice that calls for a flat tax (Ronald Reagan made the pitch) or national sales tax or consumption tax, to replace the income tax never seem to get anywhere. As much as many hate the income tax, they may feel they or their tax people know how to work the system, so leave it alone.

It would seem that if those who worked in government, from our elected representatives to bureaucrats, knew that their source of sustenance directly depended upon a vibrant economy they would have no choice but to do everything they could to not hinder business activity.

Then again, I do not know the full ramifications of a national sales tax or such as opposed to the traditional income tax.


Clarification: In my reaction blog to the last presidential debate I inadvertently left out part of a sentence. What I meant to say is that McCain accused the Obama campaign of wrongly accusing his, McCain’s campaign, of using George Wallace type race baiting tactics.

P.s. The McCain campaign is directly accusing Obama of consorting with terrorist (s) of the past (American born anti-government radical(s), and by implication or innuendo aimed at the ignorant, Islamic terrorists of the present – and how absurd is that?) and by innuendo are mentioning Obama’s race by saying he is “not like us”. Of course the Obama campaign is using some negative and probably not totally accurate stuff against McCain, and so it goes in political campaigns.

Unfortunately in this nation we do not have an intelligence test or current events test for voting so at least in the past negative and inaccurate political ads seemed to have worked. This time around, perhaps, the majority may just want something different and the only way you can do that is elect someone who who is different.

I have still not marked my absentee ballot.

Republicans speak two ways on government…

October 16, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Something that has always irritated me is that Republicans are against government intervention or support until they need it for themselves. I’ve witnessed this fact ever since I was old enough to understand current events (and that was pretty early thanks to mom and dad).

Of course the biggest example of that is the recently enacted business bailouts (at least $1 trillion, I believe). To be sure, there was some resistance to them on both the GOP and Democratic side, but as the stock market crashed even constituents who had just e-mailed their congressmen to stop the bailouts e-mailed back, bring them on to save us!

And you couldn’t be more blatantly hypocritical than Republican presidential candidate John McCain Wednesday night calling for the cutting of taxes and even an across the board spending freeze (and why doesn’t the media play that spending freeze up?) and then on the other side of his mouth implying that his administration would go to bat for “special needs” children and that his running mate Sarah Palin is an expert on that because she has a “special needs” child (she recently gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome). Palin herself was the first to suggest that under a McCain/Palin ticket special needs children would get help. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems counter to the calls for self-reliance (government is not the answer, they say) and no tax hikes or even tax reductions. But it is as I say a common trait among so-called conservative pull yourself up by your own bootstraps types to be the first in line when they need help.

And that “my friends”, as McCain would phrase it, is why I could never buy the Republican line (and I’m talking about Republicans of the last three or four decades, post-Eisenhower).

And then there is Joe the Plumber. I have worked with his type and worked for one of his type. I respect their initiative if they actually do what they say. For almost a decade I worked for a trucking company, the owner of which started out by driving his own truck.  I met an old truck driver one time at a coffee shop out on the road. He said he worked with him when they were younger. “He always bragged that he was going to run his own company one day – we just laughed at him,” the old boy told me. Well, he admitted, “he did it.” I don’t know the whole story and can’t guarantee the accuracy of it, but it went something like this: instead of buying a truck from his employer, he rented one from his father-in-law and expanded from there (if true, he knew better than to get caught up in that lease to own trap, although he subsequently used it on others). I admire his initiative and savvy.

Then there are the types who remain employees but spout off about how they don’t believe in big government and anything that gets in the way of business, but meanwhile they take advantage of every social program they are “entitled to,” unemployment benefits, disability, Social Security, OSHA safety standards, etc.

And while I have never been a union person (save for a few months and didn’t go to meetings), I find it a little hypocritical to rail against unions when I know that in my final trucking job, in which I was well paid (not the one run by the entrepreneur), while I was working for a non-union terminal, I knew that the reason we were so well paid was that there was pressure from other union terminals. The company did what it had to do to keep us happy, hoping that we would not vote the union in. And they did keep us happy, and I appreciate them for that. But I also appreciate the fact that the union was there in the background.

(But I am not pro-union because unions are often corrupt and I have witnessed the difference between union and non-union operations. In non-union operations people keep busy. In union operations people often watch the clock and refuse to do work they claim is not part of their job. The pace is often slower. However, that said, unions can protect their members and if they run their own internal quality control, and realize that the health of their employer is necessary to maintain their jobs, it would seem unions could work. And I did not mean to get off on a tangent on unions. But I have to say one more thing. The word is – don’t know if it is accurate – that an Obama administration would support the move by unions to institute the so-called card check method nationwide. This means unions can force themselves on an employer if they can persuade or intimidate enough workers to sign union cards. I believe a secret ballot is better. No one should be intimidated to sign up for a union or not sign up for a union).

The ugly hot button subject of abortion came up in the final debate. McCain unintentionally I think wound up cruelly insulting women by using that silly popular gesture nowadays of air quotes when he referred to “the health of the mother”. He claimed the phrase has been stretched to justify any abortion. I understood his point (although I don’t know if it is accurate), but his mocking and disgust ridden tone did not serve him well. Obama danced around the super delicate subject.

Both men say they are against abortion personally (of course being men they would never have to have one), but Obama supports a woman’s right to have one. McCain said he feels the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade, which ensures that right, was wrong. I think McCain claims he would not interfere with the right, nonetheless, although I think he has been equivocal on that position – kind of depends upon the audience to whom he is speaking.

My personal position on this most uncomfortable subject is this: abortion is something that is the business of the patient (always a woman, of course) and her doctor. The concept that the state (the government) cannot or should not intrude on one’s right to deal with or control their own body seems to me intrinsic. And now after all of these years, after writing that last sentence, I think I finally understand the Roe vs. Wade language where the opinion stated that while there is no actual wording in the Constitution (and its Bill of Rights) that gives a woman a right to privacy (thus a right to abortion), the right is contained in a “penumbra” of the Constitution. Put in my own English, if one does not have a right to control her or his own body, what right could one have?

I should stop while I am ahead, but I have to go on. It is true that we do have laws against taking life. So there is a conflict here. Then there is the question of: when does life begin? The easy answer is: at conception (I don’t know, but I would guess that an historical check would show that in times past, life in a legal context was always assumed to be the state of being once out of the womb and into the outside world). So we come full circle. A woman choosing to do something with her own body, but something that will result in the ending of a life. Ah, if things were simple we would not need written laws and judges. But I maintain we have to have a right to our own bodies and if we believe in a higher power, then we may reach out to the power for guidance and if we don’t follow a higher power, then we have to reach within ourselves. But again, if an individual, and in this case we really are talking about a woman, does not have a right to control her own body, that is so basic, how can you say a person has a right to anything?

And now, if you have read many of my other blogs, you will note that I am repetitious in the next thing I have to say:

If you go by their words (fact checks aside), the stark difference between Barack Obama and John McCain is that Obama is for an activist government that backs up and supports its citizens and McCain claims to be for one that calls on more sacrifice and self-reliance from the citizenry, albeit he has exceptions, such as for Palin’s family needs and others so situated, and talks about helping folks out there who are hurting (how?).

If the economic situation was not so dire, McCain would win, I have no doubt. But the U.S. and the world is facing what appears to be the biggest economic challenge ever. The only way most folks can see out of this (and they know it’s no guarantee) is to change horses, or should I say, replace the Republican elephant with the Democratic mule.

Obama wins, McCain scores in debate…

October 16, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

John McCain got his best line off when he told Barack Obama that he was not George Bush and that if Obama wanted to run against Bush he should have run four years ago.

While I have to give the nod to Obama as the winner in this final debate, I have to think McCain may have picked up a few undecideds.

However, I think with all the wild gyrations of the stock market and the predictions that we might be going into a severe recession that could last for years or even another Great Depression and all the financial uncertainty in the world, Obama as the Democrat has to have the advantage.

McCain himself brought up the fact that the electorate faces two distinct philosophies. I don’t recall exactly how he phrased it, but I think I am correct in saying that basically McCain’s philosophy is for more public self-reliance and lower taxes with minimal support from government, although McCain seems to promote some social issues, and Obama’s philosophy is that government has to step in and help people, especially in light of the fact it seems to be able to step in and help Wall Street to the tune of billions of dollars (trillions?). Both support the bailouts.

But just commenting on the performance of the two, they seemed evenly matched for the most part, but Obama scores almost every time with his calm, cool, and collected responses and delivery.

McCain is more tightly wound.

I think Obama was almost on the ropes at one point under McCain’s aggressive approach, but he quickly recovered by collecting his thoughts and then calmly explaining his positions.

And like I always note, it is hard to know who is right when one says his program would do this and cost this or not cost this or that he voted this way, not that way and the other disputes it (you have to read the analysis the next day).

But something specific McCain repeated from his last debate is that he would implement an across the board freeze on government spending (exactly how that would work I don’t know and surly something would have to be spent).

Before Obama could respond, McCain said he knew Obama would accuse him of taking a hatchet approach instead of using a scalpel, but then added that he, McCain, could do both.

Sure enough, Obama countered that McCain was taking a hatchet approach, adding that while some things need to be cut, some things require more funding.

But I will give points to McCain here because he unlike Obama at least gave an answer to the question of how he would cut spending, even if not a complete answer, although McCain did again mention there is waste in the defense budget.

McCain was the most animated when he pressed Obama on his connections to 60s/70s radical terrorist William Ayers and also when he accused the Obama Campaign of wrongly and unfairly accusing the McCain campaign of engaging in George Wallace-like racist rhetoric. He also accused the Obama campaign with complicity in alleged voter registration fraud, which Obama denied.

Obama coolly explained away his Ayers connection, noting that he, Obama, was only eight years old when Ayers was doing his terrorist thing and that since then Ayers has become accepted by both Democrats and Republicans and that he only served with him on non-profit agencies. Ayers has given some political support to Obama.

While I think many would buy McCain’s governmental philosophy and accept his qualities as a long-time lawmaker and war hero, in these tough times a lot of people know they may have to look to their own government for some support and that they need someone at the top whose main interest is with them and not just the business sector.

McCain claims he would not raise anyone’s – not anyone’s! – taxes. Obama says if you make under $250,000 per year you will not see a tax increase.

How McCain thinks he can fund the government, pay for the corporate bailouts, pay down the national debt, and do some of the social programs that even he supports without increased taxes, I don’t know. I didn’t hear.

McCain also led off with something about Joe the Plumber, a guy who wants to go into business for himself, but who he claims Obama blew off by saying we have to spread the wealth.

Obama did not answer that directly, but he indicated he had nothing against Joe the Plumber and that most small businesses in the nation or a large percentage of them do not make $250,000 per year.

So, I guess if we want to support Joe the Plumber we are obligated to vote for McCain, or so he wants you to think.

I’m neutral of Joe the Plumber, but somehow I think Obama may represent my interests more than McCain.

And remember, if something should happen to the elderly McCain we get Sarah Palin.

If that alone doesn’t give you pause, I give up.

In summary, McCain did well, fought hard, made some points. Obama seemed more in line with what the vast majority of Americans need.

P.s. I’ll probably blog more tomorrow on all of this.

Candidates’ last chance; cold $ reality…

October 15, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

For all intents and purposes it’s the last chance for Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama to make their respective cases to the electorate as a whole, and it’s less than three hours from now as I write this.

I sure hope tonight’s debate will be more exciting than the last two presidential ones and even the vice presidential one. I’m watching primarily for the entertainment. Wild horses could not make me vote for John McCain and especially not the extremely shrill and extremely under qualified Sarah Palin. Will I vote for Barack Obama? Probably. I already have my absentee ballot, but have not marked it yet. Voting third party is useless, but then again, voting in California is somewhat useless too, since it is a foregone conclusion who will get the winner-take-all electoral votes (but if everyone thought that way…).

But I’ll tune in at 6 p.m. Pacific time and plan to blog as soon as it is over. Don’t think I’ll take notes this time. It gets in the way of really seeing the thing. I even missed Sarah’s wink, on the live shot, a few weeks ago.

Seriously, no matter what I think of the two candidates, I would hope they put some oomph into this thing, layout their agenda and make someone want to vote for them and feel good about it. I think the format always gets in the way, but too late to do anything about that.

If McCain is itching to say something about Obama’s William Ayers connection, for goodness sakes do it. Look right at Obama and say it to his face. In fact, I think McCain owes it to everyone to do so since he and his campaign have made so much of it through ads and political stump speeches.

And Obama should answer the charge straight on, truthfully without nuance or equivocation, and be done with it and move on to what people really want to hear.

As for the “tax and spend charge” Republicans always level at the Democrats , I wished Obama would just say in essence, all administrations, Republican or Democrat, in fact, all governments, tax and spend, it’s just how they tax and how much they spend and on what and whom.

And Mr. McCain, if you can actually cut government spending, please tell us how. Your hero Ronald Reagan didn’t do it, although in the popular neo-conservative lore he is depicted as doing so.

Even though I won’t vote for McCain I could see him winning the debate if he concentrated on his own programs (if he has any) and stressed his experience in government and his handle on military matters (although being a pilot and getting shot down over enemy territory and being a POW and surviving torture may show bravery, it does not make him Napoleon Bonaparte).

Also, “winning” a presidential debate is subjective and does not historically always equate with winning the election. However, McCain has spent too much time preaching to his choir. He needs to convince undecideds. If he could grab enough of them, that combined with the possible Bradley effect (Whites who won’t vote for a Black, but will not divulge such to pollsters) and a no-show by newly registered, but not dedicated, voters, might give McCain a shot (election hankly panky could be a factor too, but that could go either way).

…….The other day I thought that maybe since Wall Street had successfully extorted some $1 trillion or so out of the American taxpayers it was satisfied, hence the big jump in the stock market on Monday, after the big loss on the previous Friday. Maybe in the cold light of reality traders saw that there are government strings attached to the “rescue” package – the Wall Street Journal reports today that bankers were basically given a take it or leave it option, no negotiation – and that new earnings reports show we are in or are going into a deep recession, turning optimism into doom (also these wide swings, I suppose, just mean the speculators are at their game). One cold reality is that the stock market is a gamblers game. Unfortunately some years ago it was decided that we all should play that game with our retirement funds.

Please read my post-debate blog coming out soon on a computer screen near you.

The socialization of America; a war loss…

October 14, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


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 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.

Stock market recovery: good news, unfair rules

October 13, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

With government help comes a lot more oversight (one would hope), and hopefully a whole lot more transparency, but if anyone doubted who or what controls our government, it is money, the Big Money. Big Money took an awful gamble and lost, but it successfully extorted the American taxpayers out of a trillion dollars or more and scared the whole world nearly to death.

Besides the U.S. government bailout, there was emergency action worldwide by governments to prop up the Big Money interests, thus proving Big Money could and did bring the whole globe to its knees.

Now that it got what it wanted,  bailouts, maybe it will be back to business as normal, or maybe not, there are real problems with our economy that go beyond the greed of the Big Money interests.

But how do you explain one of or the worst weeks ever on Wall Street last week, and one of the biggest rallies ever today as a new week opened? I don’t think the Big Money interests wanted it this way, that is all the likely government oversight and even control, but they had finally overreached, getting caught in a game they may not have fully understood themselves, with complex math formulations on derivatives and such that seemed to promise they could not lose.

Of course I’m writing all of this in the abstract. I don’t mean to say that there is some real single force out there called “Big Money”, but those with the big money play the game how it is played and in a sense are a united force.

Make no mistake about it, the rules for the Big Money are not the same for you or me. When we go broke, we go broke. When Big Money goes broke, we all go broke.

Having said all this, I hope it all works out anyway. Because those are the rules, albeit unfair, of the game and it’s better for all of us to win in our own way than to lose.

Now no one knows what the stock market will do tomorrow (at least I am not quite yet into the conspiracy frame of mind enough to think so). Today’s 936 point rebound, the biggest in 70 years (according to Bloomberg News), could just be a blip and lost again.

But if stocks go up again or even level off, I think it might be a good sign for John McCain’s failing campaign, and that is not my endorsement of him. As a matter of fact, he scares me and even more so, Sarah Palin scares me, and the ice berg that is Cindy McCain scares me too. Maybe I’m just timid.

I plan to write more on all of this later when I can put some real facts together, but this was my off- the-top-of-the-head reaction to today’s events.

Thank you for reading.

Conservatives create their own monster…

October 11, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


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)


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.