A political evolution observed in my home area

October 31, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I live in Republican country, kind of a stranger in a strange land, except that but for a few relatively brief periods I have resided here for virtually all of my adult as well as adolescent life.

This area, California’s Sacramento Valley, was not always such a Republican stronghold, but particularly where I live now, at the northern end of the valley, the narrative goes something like this:

Back when I was an adolescent, this area was more heavily Democratic. That was when the local sawmills were going full blast and there was a lot of union membership. In fact my only brief period as a union member was when I worked at a mill and I was nominally a member of the Woodworkers of America. It was a union shop. I never went to a meeting – don’t recall being invited – and I didn’t even know who my shop steward was.

But at any rate, unions tend to support the Democrats, because over the years, the Democrats have been supportive of organized labor, the idea of labor being organized being anathema to Republican pro-business interest thinking.

Interestingly to me, though, I recall that in the Nixon era, the Teamsters backed the Republican administration because they saw it as a counter to the anti-Vietnam War, commie-pinko welfare fraud crowd (that is not my belief system, just what I think is a blunt, but accurate portrayal of the mind set of the times). I guess it goes back to 1968 when there was a rift in the Democratic Party between basically the political left side of the party and the middle to right side of the party.

It really came to a head in 1972 when George McGovern, a World War II combat veteran, but an anti-Vietnam War crusader and a symbol for pacifism, became the Democratic Party candidate. He lost in a landslide to Republican Richard Nixon, who then began his second term, only to wind up being the first and only, so far, president to resign office (for the younger set, look up the Watergate scandal – that’s why all the modern scandals carry a nickname that ends in gate).

Nixon capitalized on the bad feelings and fear over the race riots of the 60s, the split in the electorate over the Vietnam War, and the worries about the break down in morality and law and order. In an odd twist in politics, the openly racist south up until the 60s was led by primarily conservative Democrats (an animal that has recently come back from extinction, but minus the racism, I think). But the passage of the civil rights legislation in the 60s thanks to more progressive Democrats led those Dixie Democrats to switch to the Republican side. The Party of Lincoln, who had freed the slaves, had now become the anti-civil rights party – politics is strange. Actually, the flip flop of the parties began back in the 1930s with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but I’m going too much and too far back into history here.

Another thing happened in my home area over the past many decades. San Francisco Bay area and Southern California folks, many of them good Democratic union members, retired here in droves bringing their real-estate equity (remember that?) with them, enjoying the mountains and the wide open spaces and the ability to buy nice houses and/or beautiful tracts to land with their urban home equity.

Funny thing happened. They transformed themselves from workers to landed gentry who had something to protect. They became Republicans.

Also, I know a guy who was raised here. As a very young man, he became a carpenter. He went through the union apprenticeship program because at the time, he explained, you needed to be a union member to get a job. But over time, he became disenchanted with the union. Union reps, as he tells it, would come out on hot days in their air conditioned cars, make him stop what he was doing and demand to see his union card. He once got bawled out by a union rep for helping a concrete man who was racing against time to get done before the cement set up. The rep said my carpenter friend was working out of his job classification. He also did not care for the union reps calling him and telling him how to vote (although I don’t think he was ever an active voter). He also did not like waiting around a union hall for work. He left the union and had no problem getting work the rest of his career (and I’ve known him the whole time and can attest to that part). And he was paid well (although no union benefits). There’s more to this story, but I’ll leave that out – I was only trying to set the scene as I have known it, not tell one man’s life story.

For several decades now we have had Republican congressmen and state legislators up here. But this time around, a Democrat is giving the solidly-entrenched Republican rubber stamp for Bush guy a serious challenge. The Democrat could ( I emphasize could ) win. The local newspaper, which has endorsed Republicans consistently for the past several decades, chickened out this year and announced that what with its new localcentric format it has decided not to endorse at the presidential level, citing the fact they couldn’t get an interview with Obama or McCain (really). They did endorse the Republican congressman, though.

That Republican congressman serves in a district that once was represented by a Democrat who brought a lot of pork (people liked the taste of that other white meat then) back to the home district – you know wasteful pork, such as strengthening the Sacramento River levees for flood protection.

And that Republican congressman also was preceded by another Democrat who went on to become one of California’s U.S. Senators. He was Clair Engle. He helped break a Republican filibuster, a move that led to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was afflicted with cancer, was partially paralyzed and a brain tumor left him unable to speak. But when the Senate clerk called his name, he slowly raised an arm and pointed to his eye (meaning, “aye” or “yes”).

Sen. Engle died a month and a half later at age 52. I remember when his coffin lay in state under the rotunda of the Tehama County Courthouse. I was a high school student in that county at the time.

I also remember when my family took a trip to Washington D.C. and we had lunch in the Capitol building with our Democratic congressman.

Then a few years later I was taking a journalism class near where I now live and the local newspaper editor talked to us. I asked him if that sometimes when he wrote an editorial he might go against what he thought might be local opinion. He said he did not think that would be wise. While this area has gone Republican in these past many decades, his successors have seemed to follow suit.

One thing I have noticed this election cycle is that there are more pro-Democrat letters to the editor in the newspaper than usual.

But local voter registration statistics still show my county and the ones directly to the south to be Republican strongholds.

I think there will be a lot of moaning and groaning come next Wednesday morning.

But come the first of the year, it will be all happiness what with the diehards being able to blame all of our woes on the opposition rather than their own man.

P.s. I have more often than not devoted this blog to political issues, I guess, but when I began I tried not to come down too partisan or one-sided. I like to analyze things, and besides what is the use of preaching to the choir? But sometimes it is hard to be completely neutral when you find yourself citing the ridiculous to seem objective. I did cast my absentee vote a few days ago. Anyone who is undecided by this time probably should not even bother to vote – well unless they are voting for my chosen candidates.

———-

CORRECTION: 

In a previous blog I stated that the Catholic-run hospital in my city is a for-profit operation. I was wrong. It is run by Catholic Healthcare West, a non-profit organization. And I feel obligated to add that my wife and my mother were treated at another one of their hospitals and received excellent care. I can also attest to the fact that in my wife’s case they were extremely cooperative in the billing for insurance and a representative told me not to worry, that regardless of our coverage, my wife would get the best care. Fortunatley we had good coverage and my wife did receive excellent care, and I am eternally grateful. I regreat the error in stating their business arrangement. A family member corrected me. I was not contacted by the good sisters or anyone connected with them.


Candidates’ last chance; cold $ reality…

October 15, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

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.


Republican rule: wake me when it’s over…

October 4, 2008

(Copyright 2008) 

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Maybe it has taken the economic nightmare we are in now for the American electorate to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that eight years of Republican administration is not working.

John McCain has not lost yet, but his campaign is said to be on the defensive, despite the energy of Sarah Palin. A first class actress she is. Is she or more importantly at this time McCain a reformer? I have not seen the proof of that.

In a hard to explain and hard to sell, I would think, twist McCain and Palin claim to be not only running against the Democrats, but the Republican establishment as well (gee why aren’t they running as third party candidates then?).

McCain is more tied to the traditional Republicans, maverick moves on isolated issues aside. And he is the presidential candidate, not Palin, although it is hard to remember. There is so much interest in Palin, as a novelty if nothing else, that the vice presidential debate Thursday evening drew many more viewers than what I consider the presidential candidate borefest last week.

Unlike the veteran, and I still say more traditional, McCain, Palin comes across as some kind of populist folk hero out of the right side of the political spectrum. But one gets the impression her noise is more of a side show to distract from the usual Republican plans to provide for those who don’t need providing for.

Of course she would have you believe she is concerned for “Joe Six Pack.” Well first of all, I doubt it. And second of all, would you want to be identified as “Joe Six Pack?” He sounds like the kind of working class fool who will spend too much out of his pay check for a six pack of beer each night, while smarter and more enterprising folks such as Sarah and Todd Palin put their efforts elsewhere (and I have no idea how much or what kind of refreshment the Palins go in for).

But just as fat cat Republicans sucker not so fat cat wannabes to go along with them, so do the enterprising Palins, both on the grounds that the other side is just a bunch of lazy loafers who want to depend upon government and in turn your hard-earned money.

Then there are the “soccer” or “hockey” moms Palin refers to. I guess those are moms who run their kids to games and have the usual concerns of parents everywhere. Well let’s see, for the last 40 years for some reason the Republicans have been the party of war – they are always itching to show American’s military muscle. Are those moms concerned that their own children might one day soon be sacrificed in war? Palin sees it as a sacred duty, because if America goes to war it has to be fighting for freedom (she perhaps has not kept up all that well on current events and did not take many history classes).

And now that I come to think of it, let’s get this straight – Palin has no ability when it comes to original or independent thinking. If she did she would not stick to that nauseatingly simple and repetitious line of trash she spews out daily. I know politicians tend to do this, but with her there seems to be no illusion that she is doing anything other than performing an act, albeit with great gusto.

That said, if these were normal times, her act might work. These are not normal times. I’m starting to see that the public is more discerning than I would have given it credit for.

Whatever, the noise does not seem to be resonating as much as it did.

I started to go over a debate transcript of the Biden-Pail thing, but I got tired. It’s really all silliness. Fact check articles on the web show that both Sarah Palin and Joe Biden were guilty of inaccuracies in their assertions and counter assertions.

And even though I blogged in my initial reaction that Palin basically won by sheer energy, I think it was a hollow victory (and most news reports called it a tie at best) because she won only because she bowled over Biden, who had been cautioned to take it easy on her as not to upset her sensibilities or those of her admirers, in an onslaught of Republican talking point nonsense that made her appear as an automaton. It was as if someone had reached up just before the debate and pulled a chord out from the back of her neck. She delivered more of a monologue than answers to questions in what passes for a debate these days.

I also noticed that Palin has the same annoying and probably nervous habit of John McCain in that when the opponent is making a point or leveling a criticism, she gives off a smirky smile.

And that loving hockey mom Palin claims to be can be as cold as ice. At one point when Biden was making some personal point concerning his family and teared up and even choked up a little, Palin was busy scribbling notes (getting more of those coached talking points ready). She didn’t look up, but she did give off that smirky smile.

I called my mom to get her reaction to the debate. She did not read my blog (failing eyesight and no computer) and I did not tell her, but she immediately noted what I had already in a previous blog. Palin in Reaganesque. She is an actress. I would not for a minute under estimate her. It worked for Ronald Reagan.

One commentator on my previous debate reaction blog noted that Palin uses “red neck” speech. The commentator said that if Obama used Ebonics (the official name for black ghetto speech, I guess), he would be called the N word by his detractors. I do hear him talk about “shout outs” occasionally, although, strangely enough, Palin used that term too. But I associate the term with modern jive talk.

I suppose Palin feels she sounds more populist, a person of the common folk, by using slang, like ending words with an n instead of ing. I’m not extremely fussy in the finer points of speech, but I think someone at that level or someone wanting to be at that level (vice presidency or presidency) needs a little more decorum. At any rate, a little slang goes a long ways. She pours it on a little too thick.

I was going to go over the debate point by point, but it is not worth it. Republicans are for top down and Democrats for bottom up. It’s really is as simple as that (yes there are variations on both sides, but the basics still remain true).

But here is something that scares me: if Palin is as incapable of forming her own words as she seems to be, then perhaps she lacks critical thinking skills. If she were to become president she would be led around by folks behind the scenes. George W. Bush, even with his Yale education, has proven to be something near an imbecile. He has been led by the nose by the forces of evil, represented by the dark and devious Dick Cheney.

Now with that last part, I have probably discredited myself in the eyes of many as being nothing more than a Bush basher. Well I am a Bush basher. It’s hard for a thinking person not to be (his handling of the war, Katrina, economic policy, his speaking abilities or lack thereof, his admission that he does not read news accounts – he just decides).

We have a choice in this election: go with the reactionaries, disguised as architects of reform, represented by the Republicans, or go with the more progressive and thoughtful element represented by the Democrats.

P.s. Even if the Republicans lose, I would not be surprised to see Sarah Palin re-emerge on the national stage. Like her or not, she is the modern version of Ronald Reagan, albeit a little rougher around the edges, and female, of course.


Easy credit makes things cost more…

October 3, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wall Street addiction cure: Just say No…

September 22, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Congressmen. Please. Just say no to the bailout of Wall Street.

In my last blog I wrote that part of me wants to just say no to the president’s latest proposal to bail out Wall Street and cost the taxpayers at least a trillion dollars.

Now, less than 24 hours later, I say, all of me wants to say that.

In reality, I do not understand economics or Wall Street ways enough to know for certain what should be done. But common sense (something I have never been accused of having, but I think I really do have, just don’t always use it) tells me that if the free market works, let the free market work. We will need to clamp down with reasonable regulations, ones that we have previously dropped, but there always has to be rules in any game.

Something I just read on another blog went like this: thanks to folks like Sen. Joe Biden, who is I believe beholding to credit card companies and such, it is more difficult for average folks to file bankruptcy. It used to be people would file bankruptcy, but be allowed to keep their house. Now people who can’t file bankruptcy due to tighter rules, just walk away from the house. The result is the plethora of foreclosures which has led to this whole financial crisis.

And John McCain is in tight with all those who pushed for deregulation in the financial sector, which also led to all of this. And Barack Obama was in tight with Fannie Mae, I understand, which was mismanaged and led to all of this.

I am now in the camp of Ron Paul, the Libertarian, masquerading as a Republican. He proposes a real free market economy where capital is generated by savings not phony paper. He also does not think we should be fighting wars of choice.

Now I once blogged that I liked what Libertarians say, but usually they are either eccentric or out and out nutcases. Well, I still think they often come across that way – but they make so much sense.

Ron Paul, of course will not be elected president. I assume either John McCain or Barack Obama will be elected.

I prefer Obama over McCain, but in many respects I think that the two are more alike than they are unalike. The reason I say that is that they are stuck with the conventional thinking, it’s just that one is more aligned with top-down Republicanism and one with bottom-up Democratism.

I heard one congressman this morning on C-Span saying that there should be no rush for the current Wall Street rescue package that the world will not come to an end if they take a week or more. I second that. I would prefer they do nothing and let Wall Street stew in its own juices. And actually I think the big money boys are clever and could pull themselves out of this mess without the help of the government. I’m sure it’s the common folk who will suffer, either way. But if there is to be a rescue plan, take it easy, feel your way through this thing congress.

Another disturbing thing I read today is that regional banks who did not take part in the Wall Street mess are going to suffer because of changes being made, something to do with the elimination of the last two investment banks (turning themselves into bank holding companies). I do not understand this, but that is the way things go. The wrongdoers get rewarded and the right doers suffer.

In summary, I am for doing nothing or very little, and Libertarianism sounds better to me all the time. My one big reservation with Libertarianism is personal, because I soon will be in need of universal health care since I won’t be able to keep paying my private insurance. I know that Libertarians don’t go in for that sort of thing. On the other hand, if the economy were run under Libertarian principles and one adhered to them in his own personal life, one might not be in need of universal health care (and besides, as I also blogged previously, I am not hard and fast on any one ideology, except my belief in representative democracy and our Bill of Rights). I can’t go back in time. And of course I am just writing all of this off the top of my head. But I have lived long enough to see both the Republicans and Democrats at work and the results, and you know, they come up with about the same thing.


Bush administration turns socialist…

September 18, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

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

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

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


A look at some presidential political givens…

September 9, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Some things in presidential politics or in the mind of the electorate as a whole are a given, or not:

Personalities and perceptions win over issues most of the time.

People like to wave Old Glory or see other people waving Old Glory.

If our troops are fighting in far off lands, it has to be because they should be doing that, because the USA is always on the side of God and freedom and justice and everything right. We would not have sent them there if that were not so.

Despite the sexual revolution, making fun of or questioning family values is not the way to win an election. Pointing out moral hypocrisy doesn’t always seem to work either.

A person who is open minded and can see both sides of an issue is seen as untrustworthy. There is only one right or correct side of an issue and if you can see both sides, you are wishy washy and weak and may be just trying to see which way the wind is blowing. Many folks seem to think “objectivity” means you object too much.

Academic prowess and a good speaking ability are generally respected, but there is a sympathy or empathy factor among many for anyone who falls short of the mark among those who feel that in their own life they have been looked down upon.

Blaming everything bad on something called “the media” works 80 to 90 percent of the time.

The public assumes that “the media,” excluding FOX and Rush Limberger (not his real name), is left wing, even though much of it is owned and controlled by the right wing.

Democrats do nice things for people, but they’re pantywaists when it comes to war, even though through history many of our wars have been overseen by Democratic presidents, World War I, World War II, Vietnam (with a Republicans in there too), as examples.

Democrats are big spenders, Republicans are more frugal, even though the budget was balanced and there was a plan to pay off the national debt under Democrat Bill Clinton, and now both are wildly out of control under Republican George Bush.

Working people or hourly wage slaves are drawn to the Democrats. Not really, or not necessarily. A lot of working men (and women) see the Democrats as the ones who want to take your hard-earned wages and give them to welfare bums who refuse to work. They also remember flag burners of the 60s who seemed to be supported by at least one faction of the Democratic Party and as Merle Haggard would say: “when you’re runnin down my country man, you’re walkin on the fightin side of me.”

A woman has just as much right to be president as a man, but it’s not going to happen in this lifetime. That idea seems to be dissolving. Hillary Clinton almost won the Democratic nomination and Sarah Palin has energized the Republican race (and she could well one day become president if John McCain wins).

Race is not a factor (well, not in polite conversation).

Most voters have a grasp of history that only goes back to yesterday, maybe.

Despite the fact that voters often act on emotion and don’t always consider the facts, and even though some who study such things have concluded they are nothing more than “the masses of asses,” they might actually see through the sloganeering, jingoism, distortions, and lies and vote for the candidate who seems to put forward the most workable ideas and proposals.

I’ve written it before, more than once, but I really believe that this is the most important presidential election in my 59 years.