Monday, December 22, 2008

Guilt by Association

With the news that the governor of Illinois has tried to sell an appointment to the United States Senate to fill the position vacated by the President-elect, conservative commentators have responded with glee. They have been frantically looking for a weak spot in what has untill now seemed to be an upright character on the American political scene.

Barack Obama got his start in politics in Chicago. Everyone knows that Chicago is corrupt, the commentators say, and this latest event proves that Obama must be corrupt also. Along the way someplace Obama must have rubbed shoulders with the errant governor and therefore he is guilty of the same sin.

Guilt by association is all they have on the President-elect and they are making the best of it. From my perspective, conservatives should forget trying to find something bad about Obama and cooperate with him as he prepares to lead the country. They lost the recent presidential election so conservatives should get over it. It is going to be a long four years for them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


It has been very interesting to watch the right wing commentators rant and rave about President-elect Obama’s preparation to assume the high office in another month. While Obama has done an exceptionally good job of putting together a team of competent people to lead the nation, conservative writers are already claiming that he is a failure. They don’t seem to notice that he hasn’t taken office yet. However, they predict that he is going to fail even before they see what he does in office.

From my perspective, with such an obvious bias nothing they say will have much credibility. They could at least wait until he is in office a few months before they condemn his program. But, that’s not the nature of ultra-conservatives. They tend to be ideological to the core and just plain don’t understand nor can they accept anything outside the parameters of their strict philosophical beliefs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Respect Our President

News from Iraq is very disturbing. No, it is not the conduct of the war. President Bush recently made a quick trip there as his final visit before relinquishing the presidency. At a hastily called press conference, one of the Iraqi reporters threw his shoes at Bush. Fortunately Bush ducked in time to avoid injury.

I find such behavior appalling. Evidently the Iraqi press has not learned that in a democracy there are appropriate ways to express opposition to leaders. Violent action is not among them. The reporter should be reminded that under Saddam he would have lived only a short time after such an act. His life would have been spared only for purposes of sadistic torture.

Like George Bush or not, he is still President of the United States. From my perspective, in that office he is deserving of respect both as an individual and as representative of our grand republic. Certainly the Iraqis owe us that regardless of their view of the war. The same is true for those of us who disagree with his politics.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Buyout Instead of Bailout

Here is a novel idea. The Big Three automakers are asking the government to bail them out of their financial troubles. Their latest request is for $34 billion. However, the total market value of General Motors is only $3 billion. Ford is only worth $7 Billion. Chrysler is privately held so no one knows what it is worth. So, it would be cheaper for the government to buy GM and Ford than to bail them out. Then they could fire the current management team and hire competent managers to run the company in a profitable manner. Maybe they should outsource the management to Toyota or some such people who have shown skill at running a manufacturing business. Then when the stock value goes up the government would sell the companies at a profit. Just a thought.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I am finally getting back to my blog. I put so much energy into the election that I just got behind on sharing my perspective. But, I am back at it now so watch this site for all kinds of interesting ideas, some of which will actually be rational.

And, finally President Bush has admitted that he had it wrong in the run up to the war in Iraq. In a recent interview he was asked if he had any regrets regarding his eight years in office. He said he regretted the bad intelligence he got about Iraq and the WMD’s prior to the war. However, he did not say that he would not have gone to war if he had gotten accurate information.

It is not much of an admission, but it is a huge change from the arrogant, self assured leader who taunted the enemy with "bring em on!" at the beginning of the war. It is the closest thing we are going to get to an apology for the tragic blunder which led to the needless death of 4000 brave service men and women plus many thousands more who have returned home with bodies torn apart. From my perspective, it is a sad legacy Bush has left for our fair republic.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I met recently with local leaders of the Democratic party in my part of the state to develop strategy for the coming election. There is only a few days left to put the final pieces in place. We have some good local candidates as well as a strong national ticket. Of major concern is a massive Republican effort to steal this election. I almost hesitate to use such a strong word but when all the rhetoric is put aside, that is what the ultimate outcome turns out to be.

We are aware of some tactics they have used in the past to suppress the Democratic vote. First is dirty tricks such as passing out fliers in heavy Democratic precincts telling voters that the election day has been changed to Wednesday. They also try to misdirect people to the wrong polling place or give out false information about voting such as the threat that anyone with an unpaid parking ticket will be arrested if they try to vote. There are all kinds of such dirty tricks the Republicans have used in the past and we expect to see them all again along with some new ones.

There are even more direct attempts to block people from voting or just plain steal the election. Since the election machinery in this part of the state is firmly under the control of the Republican party, they tend to challenge the eligibility of a large number of potential voters in heavily Democratic precincts. Also the vote counting machines can easily be manipulated at the beginning of the election day to record a number of votes before any voters even arrive at the polls. It is very difficult to catch them at this thievery.

Democrats have only a limited number of poll watchers and it is impossible to constantly watch all the precincts for unusual occurrences. In the last election, one precinct recorded an unusually high number of votes right after the Democratic poll watchers left the voting site. And guess who won in that precinct by a healthy margin!

Lets hope we get a reasonably accurate count in this election. So Democrats, be ever vigilant!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Not Like Us

Obama is not like us. Or so says Sarah Palin all across the country. He sees things different than us real Americans, she claims. He is one of those other people. Indeed fear of the "other" people has had a powerful influence on national behavior throughout history. Usually the "other" is marked by language, racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious differences. The other is a source of fear among the majority. This fear then becomes the source of irrational action among otherwise well meaning people. Jews have been targets for twenty centuries or more. It was Hitler’s search for a "final solution" to the Jewish problem that formed the foundation for the Holocaust.

In our own United States, fear of the other brought restrictive laws, as well as private action, discriminating against Jews, Blacks ,and Catholics. Members of these groups were much feared, especially in the South. At one time laws were enacted forbidding anyone to teach a person of color to read. Once they get educated they will be a real threat to the rest of us, it was feared. Current "others" such as Gypsies in Italy, Muslims in France and Polish in Great Britain are a source of much fear in those countries.

From my perspective, Governor Palin has tapped into a long standing source of fear when she labels Barack Obama as not like us. He is one of those others who are ever a point of anxiety to the rest of us. How effective will instilling fear of the "other" be as a campaign strategy? It has worked well throughout history and has already had an influence on the thinking of many people. It remains to be seen if fear will be a determining factor in the final outcome of the election.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


On C-span’s Washington Journal this morning, one caller expressed concern that if Barack Obama became president he would impose socialism on the country. "He would make us into a socialist nation," she said. This concern has been expressed for some time now. Even John McCain has charged Obama with espousing socialist doctrine. What McCain and the public seem to have missed is the fact that we already have many socialist programs in place right now here in the United States. Things such as social security, medicare, government run medical plan for congress people, and government subsidies for farmers and energy companies are all part of the socialist agenda. The recent partial nationalization of several major banks is a giant step into socialism. So, I would not worry about Obama leading us into socialism. We are already there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The War Within

I just finished reading the recent book by Bob Woodward, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006 - 2008. The book provides deep insight into how the Bush administration dealt with a failing policy regarding the Iraq war. While there was a good bit of dissension within the administration, Bush himself never got connected to the reality of the situation. The President’s approach was to go with his instinct rather than an analysis of the facts. He is the Decider and he is certain of the correctness of his decisions. The book is easy to read and helped me understand how America got sucked into the quagmire we are in. Whoever becomes the next president will inherit a real mess. Hopefully he will have a more rational approach to decision making than George Bush.

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain's Good Idea

Every once in a while a politician comes up with a really good idea. John McCain did so this last week. He suggested that senior citizens not be required to cash in their retirement accounts as mandated by law.

For those who have not reached an advanced age, the law requires those who have set up tax deferred retirement accounts invested in the stock market to take a certain amount out in the year they turn 70 and ½ years of age. Doing so now, when the market is down, would result in a big loss for those who are retired. So, McCain’s idea would be a real benefit to those of us who have saved over the years for our retirement. Maybe hard work and frugal living has some benefits after all!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Difference

I found the presidential debate the other night very interesting, although not too informative. Both McCain and Obama mostly reiterated their previously stated positions on the various topics of the debate. They both spoke quite well but with very little passion. What struck me most was how little difference there is in their positions on the issues. Of course they used different words to answer the questions but when all the rhetoric is put aside they both said about the same thing. It comes down to a matter of personal style. Does one prefer a president who is a self-described maverick or one who seems to be calm, cool, and collected in a crisis? So, take your choice on election day. They both will respond to the problems of the presidency with quite similar actions.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The McCain/Palin presidential campaign seems to have a touch of desperation these days. Palin, on the campaign trail, has claimed that Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists." She is referring to the fact that Obama has a passing acquaintance with a guy who forty years ago was involved in violent anti-war activities. At that time he could indeed have been described as a domestic terrorist. Today he is a respected member of the community. Whatever he is or was, Obama’s fleeting contact with him can hardly be described as making them pals.

When a candidate for elective office makes such a reckless charge against their opponent it is usually because they have lost hope of winning the election by honorable means. From my perspective, both John McCain and Sarah Palin are too good of people to stoop to this kind of dirty politics. Certainly they have something better to say to the American people than to utter such a ludicrous statement.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

McCain Ignores Palin

John McCain made a strategic decision to discontinue his campaign in Michigan. Strangely, he did not confer with his running mate, Sarah Palin, before making this important decision. Even worse, he did not even tell her about it after the fact. She read about it in the newspaper. Why does he not trust his would-be Vice-President? If McCain is elected, it does not look like Palin will have much of a role in his administration.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin Wins Debate

I just finished watching the vice-presidential debate. If this was a contest to see who was most adept at sidestepping the question, I would have to say that Sarah Palin was the clear winner. By golly, she did a heck of a job! Biden managed to avoid the question on occasion but not with the outright audacity displayed by the Governor. Her biggest task with this debate was to keep from showing her ignorance about topics where her knowledge really is limited. She did that very well by giving what appeared to be memorized statements on topics that were not related to the question at hand. Biden’s broad knowledge on both foreign and domestic issues is well known. We still do not know how much Palin knows about anything other than her strong support for John McCain.

Who is to Blame?

Who is to blame for the failure of the House to pass the bailout bill? McCain blamed Obama. However, it is hard to blame him for the two thirds of the Republicans who voted against the bill. McCain did not seem to have much more influence on his own party than Bush did. From my perspective, this does not augur well for his effectiveness as a leader if he becomes president. The Senator suspended his political campaign to go to Washington to save the nation. I hope he is more effective in the future than he was this time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Blank Check

President Bush has announced a national emergency because of the financial mess caused by the big banks and has asked Congress to give him a blank check to deal with the problem. Sound familiar? It is the same strategy he used after September 11 to get us involved in the Iraq war fiasco. And Congress gave him what he asked for in that instance. Even though the Democrats were again ready to cave in to his demands so they would not be blamed for the problem, a few wise conservative Republicans said "No Thank You." Having been burned once they were smart enough not to get burned again, for which all Americans should be thankful.

Why should ordinary taxpayers pay for the sins of the elite New York bankers? Certainly the smart guys who run America’s business can find a solution to this problem that doesn’t turn our country into a welfare state for the greedy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Smart Guys

It is interesting to watch the collapse of American corporations as they fall prostrate begging for government intervention. What I don’t understand is what happened to the corporate leaders who get such high pay. Their multimillion dollar compensation packages are justified on the basis of their great business skills yet they seem to be expert only at leading America’s businesses towards bankruptcy. These guys are supposed to be so smart but they appear to be actually quite inept. Maybe if they were paid less they would pay more attention to their work. What is so infuriating is that these high paid executives are so well favored by our federal government when it comes to the tax code. Maybe if they were treated like the rest of us they would do better work

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Understanding Iraq

I just finished reading the book Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq by Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn. I understand much better now why things in Iraq are in such a mess. American leaders, and especially President Bush, continue to be totally ignorant of the culture in that distant land, which explains why we have made the mistakes we have. Our mainstream media seem to be just as clueless as our politicians. From Cockburn’s description of the situation, I don’t see any way America can extract itself from Iraq with any degree of grace without leaving a mess. So we might as well get out as quickly as possible and save the lives of our brave troops.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Don't Understand

I don’t understand the conservatives' sudden love affair with Sarah Palin, recently nominated as candidate for vice president. She passes their two major litmus tests, anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. However, she had the audacity to parade her unmarried pregnant teenage daughter on the national stage at the Republican convention. Social conservatives are opposed to premarital sex. I don’t understand how they can come to accept an obvious violation of their moral stance on this issue. I don’t blame Governor Palin for the misdeeds of her children, but I do not understand why the young lady was placed in the national spotlight. We have enough pregnant teenagers in this country without having a high profile poster child added to the mix.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Return of the Russians

Written 9-03-08

The Russian Empire collapsed in 1917 only to be replaced shortly thereafter by the Soviet Union which was a Communist empire. This union was dominated by its largest entity, Russia. At the end of the Second World War the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the two great powers in the world. This was a throwback to the 19th century with its contests among several great powers, especially within Europe. Both Russia and the United States jockeyed for influence throughout the world each carving out its own sphere of particular interest. They did not want to confront each other militarily because each had the power to destroy the other. It was referred to as MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction.

The war that raged between the two superpowers was referred to as a Cold War. Eventually in the last decade of the 20th century the United States won and once again the Russian Empire collapsed with many of its components declaring independence. The Russia that emerged was weak militarily, economically, and in matters of governance. The United States, the proud winner, boasted more than a little that it was now the one great power in the world and it seemed that no other nation had the resources to challenge its status. Russia struggled to develop an effective governance structure. Its lack of experience with democratic institutions made that effort very difficult.

Meanwhile, America got fat and lazy. The easy life was good indeed. We were busy assisting the remnants of the Soviet Union in developing democratic processes and an affinity for the American way of life. Several of them wanted to join with other European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We were glad to have them, while Russia, in its weakness, chafed at the thought that their former enemy was encircling them. The United States went on a spending spree piling up debt at an unprecedented rate with little to show for the expenditures.
Russia, dabbled with democracy but mainly found economic institutions to build its own wealth and strength. Recent events in the tiny republic of Georgia have been a wake-up call to the Americans. Georgia has been our strongest ally in the Iraq war, and we were ready to let them into NATO. When the Georgian military began to bombard the Russian population of one of its own breakaway enclaves, the Russians said "no thank you." They moved their military, not only to defend their own people, but invaded Georgia itself. The Georgian leadership looked to their great friends, the Americans, for help.

President George Bush huffed and puffed. He snorted and pawed the ground and kicked up dust everywhere demanding that the Russians leave Georgia. The Russians smiled and continued their occupation of our beleaguered friend. In response, President Bush dispatched his Secretary of State, the stern faced Dr. Rice, to take care of the situation. She did more huffing and puffing with the same result. The Russians giggled at the suggestion that they should relinquish their quick conquest. Their response to the American efforts sends a clear message, the Russians are back.

From my perspective, America has dithered away its strength while the Russians have quietly built theirs. Now there is a new superpower on the planet and unless the United States quickly reverses course and rebuilds its financial institutions, its weakened economy, and it’s exhausted military they will leave us in the dust of history. I made a similar statement in my last commentary and one of my friends challenged me: " Where will America get the money to do all this? No politician will suggest that we raise taxes and eventually we have to quit borrowing money from the Chinese, so how are we going to rebuild American strength?"

My friend is correct. Neither one of the candidates for president would dare suggest that we raise taxes to pay for rebuilding America. That would be a political kiss of death. However, unless the American people are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reconstruct the infrastructure of America , revitalize our weakened financial structure, and rebuild our military, they will have to get used to the United States being a secondary power in the new world order. The Russians are back and we better learn to live with that fact.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Still More on the Conventions

Finally the Republicans have generated some spirit at their convention. The speeches last night roused the crowd and got them on their feet. It was typical conservative rhetoric with an attack on government, the media and elitist thinkers who might be influenced by European ideas. They clearly differentiated themselves from Obama and the Democrats. It appears that McCain's selection of Sarah Palin has healed the rift with the ultra conservative right wing of the party. Now, all that remains is for the Senator to put the finisheing touches on a relatively successful convention.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Even More on the Convention

What a disappointment that the Republican convention is preempted by a hurricane. Here was an opportunity for the Republicans to show the nation what they stand for and showcase John McCain and his vice presidential choice. From my perspective, McCain and the Republicans did the right thing by downsizing their party plans. Hopefully the media will give them sufficient coverage so that the nation can see what their vision for America is. That way the electorate can make a more informed choice.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More on the Conventions

The Democratic convention finished with a bang. They needed to accomplish three things: bring unity between the Obama and Clinton delegates, define Obama as a candidate, and differentiate him from Republican John McCain. From my perspective, they accomplished all three of those matters.

Now we await the Republicans in St. Paul. They also need to accomplish three things: heal the rift between McCain and the ultraconservatives of the Republican Party, define McCain’s campaign agenda, and differentiate it from the Bush legacy. It will be interesting to see if they are successful in accomplishing these things

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Convention

I am having a great time following the Democratic convention. However I am disturbed about the way the media keeps trying to find a controversy between the Clintons and the Obama campaign. No matter how strong a statement Hillery makes in support of Obama, the media keeps looking for the slightest little pause or inflection in her voice that might indicate that she really doesn't support him.

Clinton fought a hard campaign although it was a bit flawed in strategy. She has every right to be a proud of what she achieved, but now it's time to move on and pull together in unity. I think that's her intention but the media needs a controversy to sell their stories. I hope America doesn't buy.

And that's my casual perspective on the convention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Huff and Puff

Lyndon G. Furst: A Different Perspective

I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I"ll. . . .?

I have for many years been fascinated with children’s stories and their application to adult life. One favorite that comes to mind is the story of the three little pigs and the big bad Wolf who threatened their very lives. In building his domicile, one little pig made it out of straw because it was so easy. Another pig made his dwelling place out of sticks because they were so readily available, while a third little pig, giving considerable thought to his personal security and the dangers that lurked nearby, built his house of brick.

Now comes the big bad Wolf. Not giving heed to the dietary restrictions found in the Hebrew Scriptures, Mr. Wolf decided to feast upon pork chops for his evening meal. With visions of a succulent roast pig dancing in his head, he confronted the first little pig, who scurried to his house made of straw. It was an uneven contest, for the Wolf huffed and puffed and blew the house down. However, the wolf did not find satiation with one pig and sought another, whereupon he confronted the house made of sticks. He huffed and he puffed and he blew that house down too.

As big bad wolves tend to do after tasting easy success in mismatched combat, our wolf became filled with pride and arrogantly sought out a more challenging venue to display his prowess. He confronted the little pig in the house made of brick. "If you don’t come out I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down," he threatened. The little pig laughed to see such a sight as the big bad Wolf huffing and puffing with little effect upon this house which, constructed according to the local building code, could sustain winds far greater than what the wolf could produce. In the end, the big bad Wolf was vanquished and the little pig live happily ever after.
I was thinking of this story last week as news broke of Russia’s brutal invasion into the tiny country of Georgia located on its southern border. This little bit of a country was once part of the Soviet Union and before that a part of the Russian Empire. Since the fall of communism Georgia has declared independence as a sovereign nation and become enamored with the benefits of close friendship with the United States. It is one of the strongest supporters of our war in Iraq.

What a shock it must have been to the citizens of Georgia that, having cast their lot with America and the Western democracies, Russia should be so bold as to invade their sovereign nation without fear of reprisal from the one great superpower left on this earth. Strangely enough, the American President George Bush was sitting side-by-side with the Russian Prime Minister, Mr. Putin. If you remember, Putin is the man whose soul was subject to close inspection as George Bush looked intently into his eyes while they were together on his Texas ranch some years ago. Bush saw an honorable man. I wonder what he saw this time when he looked into his eyes at the Olympic Stadium there in faraway China?

The Americans put on a nice diplomatic display in response to the Russian’s rough handling of our Georgian allies. That did not seem to do any good for the Russians not only invaded the disputed province’s but also their tanks and armored vehicles roamed at will through the Georgian countryside bringing death and destruction to any who got in their way. Eventually, the American President, George Bush, tired of diplomatic niceties and reverted to the role of tough talking Texan with which he finds more comfort.
President Bush showed barely controlled anger as he threatened dire consequences if the Russians did not immediately withdraw from the sovereign territory of our Georgian friends. He huffed and he puffed but there was no real attempt to blow the Russian house down. Mainly, he threatened to keep the Russians out of the rich boys club and denied them entry into international meetings.

The Bush administration insisted that the territorial integrity of Georgia be respected. The Russians laughed at the suggestion. Doesn’t Bush know the time-honored formula at the conclusion of all wars? To the victors go the spoils! Unfortunately, the Russians know that Bush really can’t do anything in response to their thuggery. America is financially broke, economically shaky, diplomatically weak, and totally dependent on foreign commodities to maintain its current standard of living. Further, our military is exhausted from the long protracted wars in the Middle East.

From my perspective, about all Bush can do is huff and puff in response to the Russians military adventurism. Let that be a lesson to the next president; America must rebuild its strength on every level if it wants to continue as a superpower in the 21st century. We cannot confront the Russians, or any other power bent on building an empire from a standpoint of weakness. If we are to be a beacon light of democracy in this world, we must rebuild America and make it strong once again. Hopefully, our two candidates for president will realize that necessary task ahead and rise to the occasion.