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.


Gay marriage ban separate, but not equal…

November 6, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Today my wife and I celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary, proving that all teenage marriages don’t end in failure. And they said it was only puppy love.

And now that I’ve been sweet by starting off my blog on that note I will no doubt make the other half of this long-lasting marriage shake her head as I go into my near daily political thing:

So Proposition 8 in California that bans gay (homosexual) marriage has apparently passed, and this only months after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was allowed under the state’s constitution. Proposition 8 amended that constitution.

There was a split in my household over the voting on that one.

It is not in my usual character to be a champion of so-called gay rights. But I did some study of constitutional law in obtaining a BA degree in political science and it seems to me that to deny a class of people rights that all others have is a violation of equal protection under the law.

Of course, I suppose, the first challenge to that in most people’s minds might be whether homosexuals are truly a different class of people in the sense that, say, black people have been considered a different class, a class that in the past was heavily discriminated against.

Black people were born with a darker skin pigment. Society as a whole – not everyone – I think has come to the conclusion now into the 21st Century that homosexuality is a natural condition some people have at birth (and while I understand there is still some division of thought on this in the scientific community, don’t most of us have gay people in our families and realize they were born that way and did not just hang out with the wrong crowd?). A homosexual can no more help his or her condition than a black person can help his or her condition, and I quickly add that I do not mean that either class of people should want to change their condition. But both have and do suffer discrimination from society as a whole.

Now the favorite argument as to whether gays should have a right to marry is that no they should not, that marriage by tradition, primarily religious tradition, but also by secular tradition, has been considered to be a union of a man and a woman, and that if gays are concerned that they are being  discriminated against they can have so-called civil unions or domestic partnerships, which are supposedly to take the place of marriage.

The problem with that is that civil unions are not marriage in name and do not necessarily carry the same status as marriage. They are not recognized in all jurisdictions and I am not sure that even under the best of circumstances they offer the same protections as marriage.

And the very idea that you can get around the tag of discrimination by offering one brand of something to one class and another supposedly separate but equal brand to another was shot down in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954). That ruling directly dealt with discriminating against black people by making them attend separate public schools. But the ruling covers all such supposedly separate but equal practices. That ruling overturned the Supreme Court’s Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling (1896) that held separate but equal was permissible. In that one the issue at hand was whether blacks could be made to ride in separate passenger railway cars.

Now this is not a lawyerly analysis, but basically we all know that separate is never equal, otherwise there would be no need for being separate. The fact is that in the case of schools, black schools were almost always starved of funding and maintenance. In the case of separate passenger accommodations, the idea was to shun black people from the rest of society, due to white prejudice of the time.

So, I have a problem with all of that. But moreover, I think what galls me are the single-issue people. I read in my local newspaper about one 34-year-old guy who voted for the first time in his life just so he could vote yes on Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage. So, no other issues – war, the economy, taxation, health care, etc. ever mattered to him, but by gosh running other folks’ lives, imposing his morality on someone else, that mattered. And if he felt a religious compulsion to do so that only indicates that such measures violate the First Amendment which forbids government intrusion into matters religious.

Having said all the above, I am not totally comfortable myself with gay marriage. I think I just see the idea of banning it to be a conflict in my sense of personal liberty. Personal liberties sometimes are restricted if they can be construed to hinder the personal liberties of others, but how that applies in this case I am not sure.

In California the status of current gay marriages is in limbo. That issue will probably go to court. As I understand it, civil unions are still allowed.

And now, the rest of my blog:

A parting shot I just can’t resist: let’s hope that Sarah Palin is put back into the Alaskan deep freeze where she belongs.

We might see her again for 2012, but she’s no doubt going to have some hefty competition from the likes of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee (who now is a talk show host on FOX – makes sense, there is a pattern: preacher, politician, talk show host). Maybe by that time she can learn a little more about basic civics and world events and how to answer questions in hardball as well as softball interviews.

But now in a pause from writing this blog, I just watched a Sarah Plain interview on CNN and was impressed with how humble and sincere she came across. She said she doubted that her candidacy trumped the major economic crisis that surfaced just before the election. But she said that if she cost John McCain “even one vote” for that, “I am sorry…” She promised to “work with” Obama on energy issues (uh, sure Sarah, have your people get in touch with my people).

See how gullible I am? I fell for her humbleness. But how is it in politics that you can say such terrible things about someone one day – he pals around with terrorists who want to destroy our nation or he wants to take away our freedom and make us share our hard-earned money or he is not a leader. And then the next day you are willing to work with him.

Thanks to the endless talk on TV we can watch and listen to the experts tell us how they are crafting the messages that are full of lies and distortions designed to fool us and then we are supposed to listen to those messages as if we did not know we were being taken in. Ah politics. No wonder some folks say they can’t stand it.

As gracious as John McCain himself was in defeat, the boos from the sore losers during his concession speech are emblematic of the attitude among much of his support group that turned the majority of the voters off. That attitude has been turning a lot of folks off for some years. The GOP finally got a taste of what that attitude can mean (they got their first hint during the last midterm elections – they just wouldn’t shape up).

And just what was that sour grapes assessment of the Obama win by no. 1 Obama basher Charles Krauthammer I saw late Tuesday night on FOX all about? I know he wanted the other guy to win, but why couldn’t he have just admitted that if nothing else Obama made a lot more folks more comfortable in voting for him than the other guy? Krauthammer complained that Obama really never presented a program. Oh really, well maybe not, but what was the program presented by McCain – wait don’t tell me, leave the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in place (the one’s he originally opposed because we needed to pay for the war directly rather than borrow from China – you know, support the troops as they say). Oh and make sure we don’t tax Joe the Plumber, who is not a real plumber, whose name I understand is not really Joe, and who would in all likelihood, I just have a hunch, would be the first in line to take unemployment, disability, medicare, Social Security, or any kind of public assistance if he felt he needed it (or run for congress or cut a record or book deal or run for vice president).

— I thought my local newspaper was localcentric, as I like to call it, emphasizing local news over national and world, but the Manteca, Ca. Bulletin (7-day per week) Wednesday edition has all kinds of election news (local), but nary a word or picture of Barack Obama on its front page. Maybe they could have at least had local reaction story.

Print media is dying. As I stated in a previous blog, I had no sooner got interested in U.S. News and World Report news magazine, thinking that it seemed newsier than Time or Newsweek, only to find it was dropping from once per week to once every other week. Now I read that just as the daily Christian Science Monitor newspaper is doing, they are getting out of the print editions altogether and going to online, except I think they may be doing some kind of monthly not real news editions or something.

Yes I love the instantaneousnous (did I make up that word?) of the world wide web, but where is the news for posterity that a print edition provides? And as much as I use this contraption nowadays, I still can’t figure out how to comfortably sit back and read my computer. On the other hand, the keyboard sure beats those manual Royal typewriters I used in more than one newspaper job. How I ever banged out my stories I can hardly imagine (and you should have seen all the pencil self-corrections in my copy). Spell check was looking it up in the dictionary or being ridiculed by the proofreader. And the instant access to fact checking on my computer can’t be beat.


OBAMA WINS! FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT!

November 4, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

OBAMA BECOMES FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT-ELECT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NOW AT 8 P.M. Pacific time, it has just been announced on CBS and other news outlets.

I never thought this would happen in my lifetime.

Now at 8:15 p.m. MSNBC projects the electoral vote count at 306/146 Obama. More importantly, John McCain is giving his concession speech, with boos by his supporters when he first said Obama’s name, but he told them “please” and went on to praise Obama for the inspiration he has given the American people and comments on the momentous occasion of electing the first Black president, helping to right the wrongs of the past, and now gets applause.

And I should add that Obama took the vote in Florida, a state that went to George W. Bush in both of his elections — you know, the one with the hanging chads back in 2000, the one that a right-leaning Supreme Court halted the recount in that ended hopes for the Democrat Al Gore, who had actually won the popular vote of the electorate of the nation as a whole.

— Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnestota, the man John McCain did not pick for his vice presidential slot, but maybe should have (as opposed to Sarah Palin who polling shows has cost him many votes), says that in the future the Republican Party needs to “do a better job reaching out to modest income people”.

That’s a good new lead for my running election day blog here at about 7:45 p.m. I just heard him tell that to CBS’s Katie Couric. And Couric says Obama supporters can now “almost smell victory.”

Currently, Barack Obama leads John McCain 207/142 (projected) — he needs 270.  Gov. Pawlenty admitted that since Obama has apparently taken Ohio and Pennsylvania, it is virtually impossible for McCain to win. The talk now seems to be that Obama is just waiting for McCain’s concession call (I’m saying that, not Pawlenty).

There had been fear that Obama, headed to be America’s first Black president could not attract enough white working class voters. But in Ohio polling shows he attracted 46 percent of that vote.

And now they are saying that this is an historic shift, political realignment in politics. The Reagan era is finally over. We’ll see. You know, government is the enemy — maybe folks think now they need government as a friend.

Another updated lead to my blog at about 6:40 p.m. Pacific time. Barack Obama is projected to win Ohio (an additional 20 electoral votes),  the state that has the longest history of picking the winner. And that was from an NBC report. They put Obama at 200 electoral votes to John McCain’s 90 at this time.

 — A tough loss apparently for John McCain. CBS projects now at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time as I write this updated lead that Barack Obama will win Pennsylvania. The McCain camp had said they had to win Pennsylvania to win the election.

Obama leads in the projected electoral vote count,102/54, according to CBS. And while thousands gather in Chicago for a big Obama bash, many fewer gather in Phoenix, where the mood among John McCain’s top staff is “stoic”, as the CNN reporter puts it.

Election night coverage is almost like that endless commentary during the Super Bowl, with the difference being that no plays can now be made to change anything — unless it would be close and there was a legal challenge, I guess. And I always wondered why all the during the game commentary? Why not just watch the game and see how it comes out or why not during the election just go to bed and see how it came out tomorrow morning? But being the political junkie I am, I think I know the feeling of those rabid sports fans — I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Just heard a TV report about a newly naturalized citizen from Germany. She voted for the Green party candidate because she could not decide between Obama and McCain.

Never have seen anything like this in my lifetime: people are waiting five hours in line to vote in Detroit in a line estimated to be one-thousand people long, according to CNN.

Meanwhle, I’m just your average progressive white guy here with one good omen and one bad:

The good: early ballot counts in New Hampshire show it Obama  by a landslide.

The bad: two Youtube posts I just watched purportedly show some black thug-looking guys with billy clubs standing in front of a polling place in Philedephia. The first shows them there. The second shows the real police arriving and seemingly escorting them away, although it ends there and I don’t know what happended next. Could find nothing on the official news as of yet. The hysterical or maybe not so hysterical types are already blogging that it’s part of an earlier announced plan by the Black Panthers and others to intimidate voters. They claim that they were planning to discourage anyone who “looked” like they might not be voting for Obama. I love the internet because you get immediate, unfiltered news. Unfortunately it is also unverified and a lot of hard details and facts are missing. Welcome to the new internet news age.

Kind of doing a running commentary here — I have heard nothing further on the intimidation reports on either side, except for a running story about Democrats in some areas getting robocalls informing them that they are not to vote until Wednesday. But as one pro-Obama commentator even conceded: if someone is naive enough to believe that, maybe they should not be voting in the first place.

I went to bed late last night after I heard that Barack Obama beat John McCain 15-6 in the nation’s earliest voting in Dixville Notch, N.H., which took place just after midnight Eastern time. He also beat McCain 17-10 at Hart’s Location, N.H., I learned this morning.

McCain must feel the ground moving beneath him – that would be the Obama landslide!

Of course I don’t actually know that it will be a landslide, but it sure seems so from everything I am reading and seeing on television. When all the Republican (nearly all) spokespersons and Republican leaning commentators predict an Obama win, what else could one conclude?

(Yes, I said I probably would not blog until I got word on the winner or at least not until much later today, but I could not help myself.)

The record surge in voting across the nation is heartening. All of my life I have witnessed the hand wringing about the lack of voter participation in the United States. Well, finally, maybe, folks had a reason to vote. For most of my life it has been tweedle dee vs. tweedle dumb at the top level of the ticket. This time, I don’t think so. There is a stark contrast: basically we have one candidate — Barack Obama — who appears to represent the people (as a whole), a man who is too young to be part of the entrenched establishment, which in my opinion for whatever reason does not represent the people as much as it should, a man who promises change (and apparently a lot of people think change is needed), and a man who personifies change because he is black. I’m white. But somehow his being black does not scare me a bit. Okay, he’s half black, but by appearance, he is African-American (I like to call myself German-American, but I doubt my appearance shows it). And although folks like Jesse Jackson might resent it, this new guy does not carry the baggage of the civil rights movement. He benefitted from it, but he did not suffer to any extent from racial prejudice, so he is more broad minded.

I don’t see him as the messiah, but I certainly have hopes that he will indeed have a different approach to government. Admittedly, he does not have a clear or long paper record, but he has demonstrated by his speaking that he has an ability to see both sides of the equation and that he is willing to consider differing points of view. And I think what I did not see much of in his campaign is vilifying the other side (fair criticism is fine, but mudslinging, lies, and innuendo, not so fine).

Okay, and then you have John McCain. Frankly, I can’t recall what he has said he has to offer, except patriotism, which in and of itself is fine, but not enough. Oh, yes, I know he claims to be a maverick and that he too will shake up Washington – he even co-opted Obama’s message and said he too is the candidate of change. But how can he do this? He’s a Republican, the same party that is in the White House now. If he is so much against his own party, why did he not become a Democrat?

Ironically, the Republicans, the party of self-reliance and free enterprise, have resorted to socialism of our banking system, while calling the Democratic opponent a socialist. It seems that socialism is okay when it seeks to help the big money interests, but not so okay when it seeks to help those farther down the scale.

I see little difference between McCain and Obama on national defense, except that McCain is a little more hawkish on Iraq, but even Obama has hedged his position somewhat on Iraq and he calls for an emphasis on Afghanistan – does not sound anti-war or anti-military to me.

The only concern I once may have had (not so much now) on Obama is that he might neglect the military. I served a brief second stint in the Army during the Carter administration and witnessed first hand the low morale of a neglected military – the federal government at the time actually let the military go past a payday without issuing checks (the Republicans caused the problem, but I think Carter could have issued an executive order as Commander in Chief that the military be paid on time). But nothing Obama has said really indicates to me that he would let the military suffer. In fact, he calls for providing troops with the best equipment available to a fight a war, something the current administration has not always done (although poor supply for troops even happened in World War II – logistics and procurement is a complicated thing, often rife with graft).

I don’t know what to think of the tax issue. Using shorthand here, McCain proposes to leave the tax cuts in place for the wealthy and proclaims he will not raise anyone’s taxes. Obama proclaims he will only raise taxes on the wealthy. My problem with this is that if we are trillions of dollars in debt and we are fighting multiple wars, and if millions of Americans are losing their jobs and need assistance, how do we pay down the debt and finance our government without taxes? And is it fair to soak one class of people on taxes? Somehow I think both candidates are unrealistic on the issue. If either of them had any real guts on that issue they would have pushed for a complete overhaul of the tax system: no deductions, flat tax, consumption tax? I don’t know the answer. Certainly a large part of the answer has to be that we have to get the economy going so there will be a surge in tax revenue. It will likely take a lot of government assistance (and the government is really all of us) to fix our economy, or we could revert to laissez faire and let the natural law of supply and demand and the miracle of the free enterprise market place do its thing (not likely under Obama), but we do have to have regulation. And with the current mess, we might all starve to death waiting for the free market to work. So we are back to square one.

– Why are there seemingly so many problems with voting? I guess I have been fortunate to spend most of my life, not all, in relative low population areas. Voting has never been a problem for my wife and me. For several years now we have voted absentee. It used to be here in California that you had to have an excuse to do so, but sometime many years back they opened it up to everyone. We could send our ballots in by mail, but we always drop them by the county elections department. This year, we didn’t even have to go inside, we just dropped them in a slot they had outside. And how hard is it to register? We never have had to rely on someone helping us or persuading us to register – well there was this one time: we lived in Porterville, Ca.  and were shopping several miles away at the county seat of Tulare County, Visalia, and someone approached us and asked if we wanted to register to vote. We had recently moved to the area and took them up on it. Problem was, they never turned the forms in. But we re-registered. Subsequently we moved. I called the Tulare County registrar and they allowed us to vote (they sent the ballots to us – I guess some nitpickers might cry foul). Even with all of that, it seems we have never really faced obstacles in voting.

— Why can’t we use paper ballots and count by hand? I recall voting at a school many long years ago – no voting machines. We used a rubber stamp to mark our ballots. What with the worry about some types of voting machines being unreliable and the concern about the lack of a paper trail in many types of machines, I have to wonder why we can’t just go back to paper ballots. So what if it took weeks to count the paper ballots (it did not when we used them, usually). What is the rush? In the presidential election the new president does not take office until next year. Sure we all want to know as soon as we can this evening – but do we have to?

– Fox News last night was still spewing out the anti-Obama message and Greta Van Susteren seemed beside herself at the prospect of an Obama win. I don’t really understand Fox News. On the one hand, I understand that the thinking may have been at one time that the regular network news was a little biased toward what has been called the left (true or not), but I don’t see how having a cable network that is openly biased (fair and balanced being their empty slogan), so much so it is almost comical, solves the problem. I guess it’s kind of like the adversarial approach in a court of law where both sides are biased and you the listener are the judge. NPR does a much better job in the way of being impartial, although I often feel they are a tad left leaning at times (you think?). Objective news reporting is difficult. In some ways it is much better when you can interpret a story by calling it as you see it, but on the other hand, doing so, means that there is a bias and you may be ignoring different points of view. But going out of one’s way to be balanced (really balanced, not the fake Fox kind) can be misleading – when you have to give an absurd point or view in the interest of being balanced – and decidedly dull at times. Nevertheless, I prefer the objective approach. Look at it this way: if you were building a house or trying to figure out which is the best deal in buying a house, or if you were fixing your car, wouldn’t you want clear objective information? So why in issues of politics or public policy do some folks seem more comfortable with people telling them only what they want to hear?


Looking for Republican renaissance in defeat…

November 3, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I’m assuming today that John McCain is going to lose. And it looks as if the Democratic Party will not only win the White House but solid control of the House and Senate.

I do not think that this will mean the death of the Republican Party.

Quite the contrary: I think a McCain loss will mean the renaissance of a proud political party, the party of Abraham Lincoln.

I don’t think the Republican Party will turn liberal. I do think it will move more toward the center.

The center is a good place to be, because as far as I can see it, that is where the electorate has always been, except that it has a funny way of moving ever so slightly to the right or left depending upon the Zeitgeist.

Bill Clinton won his first term because of two things: the spoiling effect of the third party candidacy of Ross Perot and as his campaign manager advised him at the time, “it’s the economy stupid”.

If Obama wins (and do I really have to qualify that with an if?), it will be because of one overriding issue – the economy. Really, I think Mickey Mouse could almost win (and I’m not poking fun at Obama’s big ears) after the collapse of our banking system and the threat of another Great Depression that we are witnessing at the moment. At least the economy is a major part of it all.

Also, I think that McCain sowed the seeds of his anticipated defeat by his careless and cynical selection of Sarah Palin for vice president (and at the very first it seemed so clever). While less than spectacular vice presidential picks don’t always mean a loss – remember Dan Quayle – this time I think that the presidential candidate went too far.

I think McCain picked up a tiger by the tail and it got away from him and came back to bite him in the posterior.

I remember that day he introduced Sara Palin. He hovered over her as if he was ready to control everything she would do or say. That didn’t last long. Oh, sure, she gave a dynamite acceptance speech at the convention, but it was not long before she struck out on her own (well to some extent anyway) and even seemed to be challenging her boss (althought part of that was no doubt the campaign’s strategic attack dog, or should I say pit bull with lipstick, tactic for the VP pick to save the top guy from spoiling his image). And could the McCain campaign have conceived of how dismal she would be in answering questions without a script? Apparently not. And yes, sometimes questions can be unfair — have you ever had what I call a hostile job interview?

As much as I have watched her and read about her, I really don’t know who Sarah Palin is or quite what she is all about (I have a good idea, though). But it seems apparent that at the very least she is not someone you would want to be president of the United States, and that is really the only official duty the VP has, that of being ready to assume that duty at a moment’s notice, well, along with breaking a tie vote in the Senate. Palin has made it painfully plain that she has no grasp of issues and after all these months does not even know what the duties of the vice president are (and how hard is that?They’re the two things I just mentioned). She stated in a recent interview that the VP controls the Senate. Actually, if you’re going by example of the past eight years and Dick Cheney, the VP may indeed control the whole enchilada in a secret and dark way behind the scenes, but we don’t want more of that.

I just read on another blog that there are signs that even white bigots are voting for the black guy this time around (bigotry does not prevent one from voting his or her own self interest – and it is a secret ballot).  And remember all the uproar when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball? Today, redneck sports fans unabashedly cheer on leagues of black players in all sports and go on spouting off their bigotry in their own personal lives as if they saw no irony in that, well heck, they wouldn’t even know what irony means, except that they prefer wives who are irony, as in go iron my shirt.

And even the conservatives are becoming more open-minded. I forget where our VP Cheney officially comes down on gay rights and gay marriage, but I know he and his sometimes critical of the gay lifestyle wife had to hold back a little being as their own daughter is openly gay (I usually avoid using the term “gay” and use “homosexual”, but sometimes that seems pejorative).

Mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders recently found himself having to do an about face after having come out against gay marriage (there is a ballot measure on the subject in California).

Just as his city council was set to pass a resolution against gay marriage, he announced that he had changed his mind. He said that some friends and members of this family, including his own daughter, were gay.

“… In the end, I couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship – their very lives – were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife …”

In my own case, rather than worry about the break in tradition that gay marriage is, I look at it this way: since marriage is a contract sanctioned by government action, it would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s present interpretation of equal rights to deny marriage to a certain class of people. Brown vs. the Board of Education struck down the previously held position of separate, but equal (such as gays being allowed only civil unions, not marriage would be). Most available evidence, especially the empirical evidence that most of us have within our own families, suggests that gays or homosexuals are a distinct class of people – they were born homosexual.

So, at any rate, conservatives and the Republican Party are adapting, if but ever so slowly.

I think the election of Obama will hasten that transition toward more open-mindedness.

I have never registered Republican, but I feel that we need the Republican Party. We need a loyal opposition to balance out our government and save ourselves from the extremes.

In my off-the-cuff interpretation, the Republicans stand for self-initiative, less government control, and no sudden changes (even if that is not the way things have worked out).

Even though I think that the traditional left and right designations are blurring with time and generational changes, I still think there is a natural tendency for politics to waver between the extremes of ultra liberal, which at its worst can result in socialist totalitarian government (Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong), and the extreme right, which at its worst can result in fascist or Nazi totalitarianism (Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini), and of course many readers younger than I have no idea who I am talking about because it is not taught in schools.

And isn’t it strange that while liberals and conservatives are arch enemies, when taken to the extreme both ideologies seek to destroy the rights of the individual and replace those rights with the requirement of blind obedience to something called the state.

On television yesterday I saw a report that said that people around the world are rooting for a new beginning for America that will once more make us the hope of freedom-loving folks all over the globe. No more Nazi-like blitzkriegs into other nations under false-pretext, no more police-state tactics, no more incarcerations without charges or trials, no more attempts to make the nation a theocracy, and hopefully no more proclamations of war with no end in order to stifle democratic (with a small d) dissent, and here’s one – how about an administration that does not send its citizen-soldiers (National Guard and Reserve) to war and then have the uncaring audacity to charge them for their medical bills when they are wounded? George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative”. If I had of been him and I found out that either through policy or bureaucratic bungling my solders were being charged for their own treatment, I would have issued an executive order on the spot rectifying such a situation and followed up with the necessary policy changes through legislation or whatever it would take. If he had any shame or decency he would have done so. How can we hear those reports and with good conscience go about our everyday lives?

I think the crowds in Berlin turning out for Obama meant something (although a right-wing friend of mine claimed they were waiting for a rock concert). I think the U.S. as a nation has felt unappreciated and has gone around with a chip on its shoulder too long.

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

I’m Tony Walther and I approve of this message.

P.s. barring unexpected circumstances, I probably won’t blog again until after I get the word on who won the presidency, assuming I get that word sometime at least by late Tuesday (don’t think I could hold off blogging longer than that).


Surely they’re not standing in line for McCain…

November 2, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I find it hard to believe that all those young people, all those new never voted before voters, and all those people starting to wait in line at 3 a.m. at one place for early voting are all excited to get out the vote for John McCain. That seems unlikely.

I’m not sure how much good McCain’s appearance on Saturday Night Live did him two days before election Tuesday. With an assist from wife Cindy along with Tina Fey doing her Sarah Palin routine, complete with a “going rogue” aside about her running in 2012, McCain did a pretty good skit. But really, is that the image he wants just before election day running for the most powerful office in the world? Well, who knows? maybe he could do like that other Republican oldster war hero and presidential campaign loser Bob Dole and wind up taking a job doing Viagra commercials.

No, I’m envisioning an Obama landslide, not just a win, but a Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater (the latter of course being an Arizonan like McCain) kind of an affair. Of course I was sure Mitt Romney was going to be the Republican candidate too (even though I don’t care for him).

With so many top Republicans repudiating McCain and with so many more conceding either tacitly or directly he won’t win, it seems those who actually decide, the voters, are not likely to pull this one out of the hat for him, even if McCain acts as if he is the happy underdog confident that he will come back from behind one last time. Heck a large percentage of the voters have already cast their ballots and more of them are registered Democratic than not, I believe.

If this were still an extremely tight race, I might be concerned about voting irregularities and dirty tricks with the ballots, but with the overwhelming outpouring I am witnessing on television of voters across the nation I find it hard to believe that the election can or will be stolen, even though there is sure to be some mischief (from either side).

—  So I can’t sleep and in the middle of the night I get up and watch C-Span and I see convicted bribe taker Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens debating his Democratic opponent and declaring that they (the Senate) won’t kick him out. They wouldn’t dare, he proclaims indignantly. He has a lot of friends, he boasts (hmm I wouldn’t count on it Ted). He is well respected, he says. Okay already, keep believing it. Call me sappy, but I almost don’t want to see the old coot go to jail, I just want him out of government.

But even more startling: Stevens in answer to a question by the moderator as to whether he thinks Iraq had any hand in 9/11 (here we go again) confidently said yes it did and he knows things others don’t. I know, and so did Bush. But they are keeping it secret from the rest of the American people.

Why is this?

Apparently there is some super secret information that explains why our nation has done what it has done in Iraq and if we only knew what it was we would not complain, but we cannot be told, because, well, I don’t know why. But at any rate, only Republicans can be privy to this super secret information. Maybe it should not even be shared with other Republicans. Maybe George W. and Dick Cheney should be able to continue in office.

And let me state here and now: I do not know for sure whether there was ever any connection between Saddam Hussein and his Iraq and 9/11 but I have never come across it and I read the news regularly. Of course I know old Saddam was not sorry for it – well at least not until he got blamed for it and later got hanged. I also know that no matter how much is written there will always be people, and quite a few of them at that, who did not get the message that Iraq apparently had no direct connection with 9/11. Who knows? Maybe some day we will find evidence that there was some direct or indirect connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the 9/11 terrorists (I doubt it) and we might even stumble upon a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction or a bakery where yellow cake was being made, now covered under a sand dune. (I was kidding; I know it’s a different kind of yellow cake.)

We went into Afghanistan with an army to basically find one man, Osama bin Laden, and still have not located him (psst, he’s in Pakistan, but keep that under your hat – oh I forgot, McCain told us he knows where Osama is and he knows how to get him, and Nixon had a secret plan to get us out of the Vietnam War, it was called drag out the war and try to sue for peace in the background and then quit the presidency and let the other guy take the blame for quitting the war.

We went into Iraq because George W. for various reasons, including a reported attempt by Saddam Hussein to assassinate his father and to make up for what he considered the weakness of his father for not going all the way to Baghdad at the conclusion of the otherwise successful Gulf War. “Regime change” was called for by the fashionably dressed Condoleezza Rice and others, and Bush had been convinced by those who put together a think tank paper called “Project for a New Century” that we needed to control the Middle East for strategic interests. To put it bluntly, we needed to have control over an area that produces most of the world’s easily refinable crude oil.

—  What is up with this thing when the talking heads discuss whether some politician should have had a better speech written for him or her? Why, I ask, can’t they say their own words? Even taking into consideration that some folks have an ability to speak more eloquently than others, say Obama over McCain, why would we want to elect someone who can’t even come up with his or her own words?

Don’t know if it is true, but weren’t we taught that Abe Lincoln wrote his own speeches. Supposedly he scrawled out the Gettysburg Address on the train en-route to his speaking engagement and stuck the draft in his stove pipe hat (and wouldn’t you have thought he would have had an advance man to get the address for him – I digress). I thought of this inability in drafting one’s own words when I watched a clip of former speech writer and economic guru Ben Stein telling Larry King that Sarah Palin benefitted from a good speech writer when she was introduced at the convention, but suffered from not having the same support later. He also claimed that she is incredibly able, in many ways more so than Barack Obama (huh?), but lamentably she just doesn’t appear to have, his words: “presidential timbre”. I would just add that she is “clueless”. That having been said, that would not preclude her from running for president as the Republican candidate in the future.

—  And here’s something that I have been hearing a lot lately, so much so, I wonder if it will not become accepted as correct. It’s about elementary grammar. I confess, I didn’t know what to call it, but I consulted a grammar text and it called what I am encountering a “double comparison”. Anyway, it’s when you hear someone say something like “more better”, when better alone would suffice and be correct English. I keep hearing these double comparisons on the radio and television from those who should know better, so much so, that it does not appear to be just careless speech.

I think Dave Letterman usually uses correct speech, even though he is a jokester. But I just watched a clip from his show where he asked guest Alec Baldwin if had ever seen a “more hotter political figure” than Sarah Palin. And I know that when people talk fast that sometimes their grammar slips, but I hear this all the time (and I know technically one is not supposed to begin a sentence with and, as I just did and often do – it’s a holdover from my journalism experience where many rules are broken. We who call ourselves writers feel that it is okay to break the rules if we know that we are breaking them, and sometimes I do, know that I am breaking the rules, that is).

—  And I just saw and heard Sarah Palin, whiny voice and all, stating to the crowd “doggone it, government is the problem not the solution.” So I must ask: then why do you want so much to be part of it Mrs. Palin?

 



 

Correction: I incorrectly stated in a recent blog that the Catholic-run hospital in my city was a for-profit business. It is a non-profit run by Catholic Healthcare West.


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.