Thursday, October 30, 2008

GOP Sinks To New Low - Dole's Sleazy

Senator Elizabeth Dole’s nasty advertisement is alarming on two levels. First, is the severe misrepresentation of Hagan as well as her on-going defense of the disgusting commercial. Dole is questioning Hagan’s character at a fundamental level, but at the end of the day Dole is demonstrating that it is her character that is questionable by authoring such falsehoods.

Second, by faulting Hagan for attending a fundraiser which was attended and cosponsored by two or three prominent atheists (it was also co-sponsored by others who were not atheists) Dole is indicating that she does not uphold the American Constitution and is akin to the thinking behind the disgraced Joseph McCarthy communist hunts of the late 1950s. The Constitution guarantees for all citizens the right of free association and free speech. Apparently the dishonorable Senator from North Carolina does not believe in those founding principles.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oakton HS Baseball Show 2006

The last few posts have been on the heavier side. The other night I stumbled across Oakton HS's 2006 baseball show. The tape is from the competition in Charlottesville Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. It was known as the mud bowl. Oakton was the Grand Champions that night.

Josh is in the two ensembles. He is the inside of the two trombones. He can be seen clearly at the start of Take Me Out To the Ball Game....he is the one that tosses the ball into the air.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Conviction of Senator Stevens

Yesterday a jury in Washington DC found Alaska Senator Ted Stevens guilty on seven counts of felony. A jury of his citizen peers did not accept his explanation that he thought he was paying for all the work on his home. If I had a whole new floor added to my home and all sorts of renovations done to it I am certain I would know whether I had paid for the work or not. He was asking the jury to accept that he was a horrendous manager of his home and personal accounts while be one of the most skilled managers of the Republican agenda in the Senate.

While such a conviction a week prior to an election would end a political career, I would be surprised if he goes down to defeat. For my Canadian family and foreign readers the strong possibility of Stevens of being reelection serves as the prime example of dynamics that are at play in American politics.

Stevens is one of the longest serving Republicans in the Senate. Multiple term Senators, more than any other elected official, become somewhat god-like in their power on the Hill and back home. Many of these Senators are served by a cadre of local staff who are not only at their beckon call but act their messengers. Acting solely upon general verbal directions, some staff do the Senator’s dirty work while keeping the Senator out of harms way by becoming the fall guy/gal when something goes wrong.

Senators do not carry their own luggage. Staff does that for them. Staff pulls their car to the door. Staffers wash their car and take it in for servicing. Often staffers drive them from place to place. For some Senators staff shop for their groceries. Some have staff buy Christmas and birthday gifts for friends and even family. Aircraft are held for them when they run a few minutes late. They have special seats at sports and arts events. They function is a style that can cause them to a divine-like complex and to be out of touch with what the average citizen experiences on Main Street.

McCain has called for Stevens to drop out of the race. McCain has noted that Stevens “has broken his trust with the people.” Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee stated, "Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years, and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace….Senator Stevens had his day in court, and the jury found he violated the public's trust _ as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law."

Yet Stevens refuses saying that he will fight on and that he is a victim of a witch hunt. He is likely to win because of his power and influence. His immense power has allowed him to amass a huge sum to flood the airwaves and mail boxes with his “I am an innocent victim” message. He may be convicted of seven felonies but he is asking people to believe that they were not real crimes, it was not real corruption. Unfortunately many in Alaska will believe that message and vote for Stevens.

In Alaska, as well as in other states, Stevens’ message will resonate. He is also posturing himself as being the victim of a big governmental bureaucracy. This too will resonate. People will rally behind their local hero and believe he is the victim of a rogue prosecutor from outside the state.

Another factor that must not be dismissed is all the money he has brought to Alaska. In the last five years alone he has brought $3.5 billion in pork barrel money to Alaska. “Spreading the wealth” is another term for earmarks.

Through earmarks Stevens has bought strong loyalties and defeated opponents. If you do not get along with him, he will prevent your town, company or organization from feeding at the government trough. Though most of his constituents, like those in most states, are against government waist and pork barrel spending, they are against it only when it goes to places outside their own state. A good number of people will stick with Stevens because they do not want the gravy train to end.

Others will vote for him only because though he has been convicted of crimes, he is a Republican. They would rather have a Republican crook as their representative than a Democrat regardless how upright he may be. And least we forget, Alaska is a very heavy Republican state.

While those outside Alaska have called for him to end the race, there is no national party mechanism for them to force the issue. The Senator still holds the power in Alaska. No Republican in Alaska will dare to voice McCain’s or Ensign’s statements. Alaskans officials will stand by their man least they loose their own head. As Republican Representative Don Young has said in response to McCain’s statement, Stevens “is the best think for the Senate.”

If Stevens is returned to the Senate the Senate will be required to review his convictions with an eye toward possibly removing him from the Senate. Stevens will likely use very political move and trick possible to prevent any investigation or removal from the Senate. One of his arguments may well be that they people of Alaska returned him to the Senate even though he was convicted and the Senate should accept their choice. And the gravy train will continue.

While Ensign’s and McCain’s calls are signs of hope for the Republican Party Stevens is at the heart of what is currently wrong with the Republican Party and in general, with a system that allows Senators to serve more than three terms.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Sobbering Thought?

Throughout its history the Church has taught that God’s Spirit works through the Church and its people. Wesleyan and Salvation Army theologies affirm that not only does God work through the institution of the Church but through its individual members. A common theme that occurs in Sunday sermons is how God’s Spirit guides and shapes the lives of His people.

Our Officers and theological documents teach that as the believer matures in the faith that their thoughts, words, views, decisions and actions are increasingly under the direction of the Spirit and are shaped by the Spirit of Christ. Such teaching not only goes hand-in-hand with growing toward holiness but is wedded into the foundation of the holiness doctrine. If a person who claims to be in the state of holiness does not have the Holy Spirit increasingly shaping the majority of their thoughts, decisions and actions on a daily basis then the claim to holiness and spiritual maturity is negated.

Yet, we recognize that individuals do error in their judgments. Holiness does not keep them from making errors in judgment and making misstatements. Hence when something happens that is not in keeping with the Spirit it is explained away. The problem is when it is explained away too quickly and too frequently as it starts to negate the theology of holiness and the work of the Spirit that is taught on Sundays.

A sister teaching is that God works through the collective decisions of the whole. While one or two may have errors in judgments, the prayerful deliberation of the spiritual mature leadership works much more in keeping with the desires of the Spirit. The confidences Salvation Army Officers and Soldiers are called to have in their divisional and territorial leaders are founded upon this teaching. The same is said to be of the confidences the soldiery are called upon to have as they obey and support their Corps Officers and Officers in the local social service office and center.

Functionally Orders and Regulations cannot conceive of an Officer commanding a soldier to do something that Officer knows is illegal and/or contrary to Scripture. These holiness teachings and the spiritual state of the Army’s leadership compels the soldiery to obey their leaders unless they have clear and compelling rationale that their leaders are acting outside the leading of the Spirit.

At its core, the Officers and Soldiers of The Salvation Army are duty-bound by their Senior Soldiership vow to view the decisions of their leaders as being divinely guided. They are obligated to view the decisions of such leaders as God’s voice and their actions of God’s sign to them regarding the direction of their lives.

The problem for and the challenge for those who are in leadership positions is to recognize the ramifications of the Army’s theology. It challenges them to be more thoughtful and deliberate in their decisions rather than hasty and reactionary. It challenges them to look for hope, to build for a godly outcome and to see how they can redeem a person or situation. The problem is that when leaders act in haste, speak and make decisions too quickly, think the worst too quickly, or let unchecked emotions guide their words that the recipient is accepting their decisions as God’s will and message.

In looking back over the years I can see how many have interpreted the actions and words as Christ telling them to leave the Corps or even the Army. I doubt the leader viewed their actions and words as being God telling the person to leave, or as God speaking to the other person with a divine message, but the recepient may well be doing so. Our teaching and the senior soldier vows, and the sermons proclaimed from the pulpit encourage them to think in such a manner. Hence, the person’s response in leaving may well be in keeping with our theology just as much as it is an emotional response....and that should give each of us pause in how we respond to others in such a moment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Melt-Down, My Thoughts

In the USA the Republicans blame the Obama and the Democrats for the global financial crisis. McCain charges that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made risky loans “with the encouragement of Obama and his cronies…in Washington.” McCain and Palin point to Obama and the Democrats not supporting the Senator’s Chuck Hagel’s (R) effort to in 2005 to pass legislation regulate to a greater level in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is the same legislation that McCain claims he helped author. McCain did not author the bill, he signed on as co-sponsor nine months after it was voted on by the Committee and shortly before it died when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) refused to bring it out of committee to the Senate for a vote. Though he signed on to the bill, he did not actively work for it to be brought to the Senate or to lobby his peers to vote for it.

Republicans, McCain and Palin included, claim that both these institutions were dominated by Democrats. Their Boards of management being dominated by Democrats is true. What Republicans fail to note is that since 2004 Freddie Mac’s political arm was headed by Republicans who hired a Republican lobbying firm for $2 million to target a short list of seventeen Republican Senators to persuade them not to support Hagel’s bill. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis and his lobbying firm, received $2 million from Freddie and Fannie to help lobby Republicans and kill various regulatory efforts.

It should also be noted that since 2004 all Freddie Mac’s political contributions have been given to Republican candidates, including a small sum of $2,800 to McCain. Hence, for political purposes McCain and the Republicans obfuscate the picture.

The Democrats are not much better. They quickly point to Republican efforts to deregulate the banking and insurance industry as the cause. Republicans pushed for increased deregulation, McCain included. They point to Republican Senator Phil Gramm who retired in 2003 who as a banking lobbyist legislation that withdrew several oversight provisions and blurred the distinctions between insurance and banking institutions. Gramm, also McCain’s financial advisor, persuaded his former peers to support the deregulation.

Democrats also rightly note Senator Dodd leading an effort to keep derivatives/swaps/hedges from coming under regulatory oversight. What Democrats are not noting is that President Clinton supported several of the bills that helped deregulate the financial industry.

There is blame to be shared by all. No single legislative action created this mess. Those claiming otherwise are putting forth self-serving and disingenuous effort at oversimplification. Such oversimplification is an act to wash away the guilt that rests in their hands.

When former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified on October 23 before Congress he admitted that he was shocked by the credit market meltdown. When Fed, Capitol Hill and other officials provided warnings, Greenspan dismissed their concerns as being unfounded. Part of the problem is that he did not question his economic modeling or pay attention to signals that showed that there were some flaws in his model that needed adjusting.

Greenspan dismissed efforts to regulate mortgage backed derivatives/swaps that were founded upon the assumption that property values would continually increase at a steady rate of 5 to 15% per year. Questions raised by some, including Obama, about what would happen if there was a wide spread decline in housing values was not worth consideration. The shine has clearly come off of the Oracle of Wall Street and history will have just as many harsh words for him as complementary ones.

Greenspan’s and the Republican efforts to deregulate the finance industry was both correct yet deeply flawed. It was correct that a host of regulations put in place since the 1929 crash were out of date. They needed to be rewritten, not tossed aside wholesale. The deregulation effort was based upon two flawed assumptions, that when the wealthy become wealthier the rest of the population will benefit, and that the financial institutions will look after their best interest without government involvement.

History is replete with examples of the wealthy becoming wealthier on the backs of the poor who they keep repressed. No industry has adequately regulated itself unless there is a real threat of government stepping in to do so, and even then it will do only the minimum needed to keep governmental involvement at bay. Greenspan and the Republicans overlooked a critical factor, that humanity is self-centered. When we have unchecked capitalism abuse trickles down, not wealth. When safeguards are removed questionable and fraudulent products will be sold by golden tongued people to those who they can beguile. Republican fiscal philosophy of deregulation has been found wanting.

Banks themselves must shoulder a significant part of the blame. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not the main issuers of poor banking loans. These institutions were the purchasers of loans banks had already made. With regulations lifts Fannie and Freddie required less documentation on loans and were allowed to assume subprime loans (interest only loans). Banks issued loans that in the past if they had to hold onto the loans would not have issued.

With increased availability of mortgage money a housing boom caused home priced to climb rapidly. It was not uncommon to have a house go on the market in Northern Virginia and in other hot markets at the beginning of the week and by the end of the week have two or three people trying to out-bid each other. Rapidly increasing home prices, and the building of a greater number of “luxury homes” increasingly pushed people into buying homes they could not afford.

Home buyers too must shoulder some of the blame. Though real estate and bank officials were able to show buyers how they could afford homes they really could not, it is the home buyer who signed on the line. When a deal seems to be too good to be true, it normally is. When we forget the phrase “buyer beware” we are headed for trouble. I know of individuals who did not buy because they questioned the assumptions upon which the subprime loans were based. Unfortunately, there were too many who did not question those assumptions and have found the road is paved with worthless dross, not gold.

No single group, individual or legislation is to be faulted for the failure. The confluence of greed, deregulation and blind faith that has created the financial meltdown. Hopefully we will have new leaders who will have the wisdom to rebuild a balanced financial industry that has appropriate regulatory oversight that will protect the industry from its own bent toward greed, as well as protecting the general public and the nation in the process.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Election Math

The national election is the United States is in its home stretch. In September polls have constantly shown Obama with a lead, a lead that continued to widen. No candidate or party has given a knock-out punch or faltered to the degree that victory is hopeless.

Over the upcoming twelve days the polls will narrow, which is what typically happens when the election is not going to a landslide. That said, there are signs of growing tension within the McCain campaign’s leadership. McCain messaging has continued to meander. Palin’s fitness to be President has increasingly come into question and today 55% of those surveyed feel she is not qualified to be Vice-President.

In the United States, the candidate entering the White House does not need to win the popular vote. Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the race. The race is focused upon winning the Electoral College. Win a state, even by one vote, the candidates receives all that state’s electoral college votes.

I would note for family and friends north of the boarder that it is possible to win the White House by winning only eleven of the fifty States. The eleven have the largest electoral colleges and when combined gives a candidate 271 electoral votes, one greater than what is needed to win. The eleven states are:
California with 55 electoral votes
Texas with 35
New York with 31
Florida with 27
Illinois with 21
Pennsylvania with 21
Ohio with 20
Michigan with 17
North Carolina with 15
Georgia with 15
New Jersey 15

Losing three of the above states does not unduly harm a candidate if they are not all in the largest four. Losing one of the large four and two of the others can be easily off-set by strength from a range of smaller Electoral College states. But losing five or six of the eleven creates a great challenge for any candidate. Both parties are aware of the importance of these eleven and build their campaigns around winning as many any of the eleven as possible.

Before the campaign started the Democrats knew Texas is going Republican and conceded Texas. Texas is easily offset by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Georgia too is likely to go Republican. Democrats balance off Georgia with Massachusetts and Vermont, both of which are strong Democrat states.

Though the fight for North Carolina is a tight, North Carolina too is likely to go Republican. Again its lost is not of great concern since the northeast strong holds of Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire compensate for not winning North Carolina. That said, the Democrats are pouring resources into North Carolina in an effort to drain Republican resources from other states as Republican success depends upon Republicans winning North Carolina.

Though the Republicans have conceded Illinois, New York and Michigan, they would be in great difficulty if they lose North Carolina. What is interesting is that recent polls indicate that Obama is within two or three points of winning North Carolina. If Obama wins North Carolina it is more than likely that Obama will be the overall victor.

A great deal of attention is being given by both parties to Ohio and Florida. In the last two presidential elections these states could easily have gone Democrat. For the Democrats losing either Ohio or Florida could be balanced off by a series of smaller states, but for either party to lose both creates an uphill battle, particularly for McCain.

Democrats losing Ohio is balanced off by winning Maryland, Maine and Iowa. Iowa which went Republican in 2004 gives Democrats more breathing space. Loosing Florida requires the Democrats to win Maine and Hawaii, which the Democrats have won in the last four election cycles, as well as several states that swing back and forth.

Losing Ohio and Florida means Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico become must wins for Obama. Both Florida and Ohio are close. Obama has a strong lead in Oregon and somewhat of a lead in Colorado and New Mexico.

For the first time since 1964 Virginia could be taken by the Democrats. Virginia is being hotly contested. If the Commonwealth of Virginia does vote for Obama and so does Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico, the Democrats will be in a strong position to win the White House, even without lost Ohio and Florida.

Given where Virginia is polling recently, significant campaign money is being poured into the state. Though the Commonwealth may well go Republican, Missouri too is receiving a great deal of attention from both parties.

For McCain to win the White House he must take Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. He is going to lose Iowa and New Mexico. The lost of these two states means Maine and Pennsylvania become must wins for him. Hence, the Republicans are pouring resources in Pennsylvania in an effort to win there even though the polls indicate that McCain is behind in the state by six to nine points.

For any reader who is interested in playing around with various combinations, I would point them to

The race will tighten and the heavy focus will come down to six to eight states.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harry S. Truman and Sarah Palin

Fans of Sarah Palin passionately claim that she is not only qualified to be Vice-President but also President. They point to her being mayor of a small town and governor of Alaska. As her record has become known, her taunted successes have been questioned. Once the initial enthusiasm waned, following a disastrous news interview and news of her misuse of her office, a number of powerful Republicans have wondered if she is qualified. Needless of one’s views of her record, she has burst upon the national political field with an aura, an aura that has faded, with a modest background and a short résumé.

People can come from the back of the pack with thin a résumé into a significant leadership position and excel. Gifts that were previously unseen and hidden under a basket burst forth to enrich us. One only has to look at Harry S. Truman an obscure Congressman that Franklin Roosevelt selected as his running mate. Few knew of Truman prior to him becoming Vice President. Yet upon the death of Roosevelt, Truman was thrust into the most significant and powerful office on earth. This unknown became the advocate of the Marshall Plan, the policy of containment rather than aggressive confrontation and one of the architects of the United Nations.

For nearly seven weeks we have watched Mrs. Palin strut across the national stage proclaiming her populist rhetoric. I have avoided the term “populist philosophy” since I have not been able to put together a coherent picture of her governing principles and philosophy. Other than stringing together populist platitudes that resonate but which have little content behind them, I see little evidence that she has the tools and the knowledge to be the President, let alone Vice President.

When asked what papers she reads regularly, she could not name one. When pressed she replied “them all.” When she was unable to mention the name of the major paper in Alaska or three or four other major papers in America, I am left wondering about her intellectual curiosity. We need our top office holders to be critical thinkers, who can ask probative questions of their advisors, Cabinet and Congressional leaders.

I am left wondering what Republican philosophy underpins her views, her hopes and dreams. Is she a liberal Republican or an extremely conservative one? It seems to me that she is a Republican as a matter of convenience as it is the dominant party in Alaska rather than being a Republican because of deep convictions. Even while standing on the national stage she has not fleshed out her views. I have not basis for understanding the basis from which she will make decisions in the future that will impact my life, the nation and the world.

Her interaction with the press has been tightly controlled. She has not been allowed to venture forth untethered into a news scrum. Palin has not been put before the press to address their questions. I fear that she is carefully controlled because the campaign leadership realize that she lacks the skills to handle the press, to think thoughtfully and respond cogently to their questions. Rather than giving a thoughtful response she responds with whatever comes across her mind at the moment. I am left wondering whether Palin will be able to handle herself and respond well when pressed by international leaders, strong Cabinet members and party officials. The last thing we need is a national leader who is a pawn of a powerful people who are around her. We do not need a political leader who will have a bunker mentality when it comes to the press.

We need leaders who are hardheaded and are driven by instincts. Instincts are important but operating only by instincts is dangerous, particularly for occupants of the White House. We need a leader who is more than a populist leader who is great to visit with at a barbeque and spouts platitudes. We need more than a party pal. We need leaders who are strong critical thinkers who can see the broad picture and are able to challenge others with probative questions, even if they are already predisposed to that option or view.

Harry S. Truman was an unknown whose light graced the world when he entered the office of President of the United States. Though an unknown Congressman from Missouri, Truman was a tough critical thinker who had the knack of getting down the heart of the matter, a man who knew the big picture, who knew what major battles to fight and what skirmishes must not distract him. He accepted responsibility. When he used a folksy phrase or expression people knew he was summarizing a complicated matter in his own words. He instilled confidence, not by his whimsical words but through his actions and decisions. He was a wonderful leader for the country at an important junction in its history.

Sarah Palin came onto the national stage an unknown like Harry S. Truman. Yet what she has demonstrated on that stage and what we know of her leadership in Alaska, is far from being a Truman. She is not the person who should be either President or Vice President.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Victory to al-Qaeda From Lindsey Graham

Have you ever heard of the Uighurs? This is a group Turkic people who live in Central Asia, including a western province of China, are in a type of diasporas in that they are dispersed and scattered due to Chinese persecution. For generations the Uighurs have unsuccessfully pressed for independence from China. The latest Chinese strategy is to label Uighurs who oppose their rule terrorists.

Many of the refugees have been welcomed in the United States and for the most part they are very pro-American. Human rights groups have become concerned that the Chinese government has used a war on terror to further dismantle the Uighur community, its language, its religion and art.

In 2001/2002 as part of its attack on al-Qaeda seventeen Uighur men from China were caught in the dragnet going across Afghanistan and taken as “enemy combatants” to Guantanamo. They were not with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. They did not fire a shot at the American military but due to their looks and location they were captured. I should mention that when they were captured there was one gun between them and they had no bullets for that solitary gun.

The United States military and government has long determined that none of these men were enemy combatants or had ties to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The problem for the US is that if they returned these Chinese citizens to China that China would imprison these men, and possibly execute them, for advocating independence and trying to organize a protest movement.

There was another group of Uighur detainees mistakenly captured who the United States has settled in other countries. Those countries received great flack and pressure from the Chinese government. Hence when the US tried to find countries to accept these seventeen men they have been unsuccessful given the pressure from the Chinese government and China’s reaction to the earlier group.

The State Department has noted that these men are not a threat to the US. Though a judge has ordered that they be released, the US will not do so and are appealing the case. Instead they note that they have received some “terrorist” training and US laws prohibit anyone who has received such training from entering the country.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R) has admitted that the US made an error in retaining these men. That said, this clear headed and most logical Senator in his pontificating stammered forth that “the judge’s decision to release these detainees into American neighborhoods is unprecedented. The decision is a dangerous precedent in the war on terror, that should it stand, could imperil U.S. citizens and the detainees themselves.” What? The U.S. has made a mistake and recognizing it by accepting these men into the country imperils the US and undermines the war on terror? Evidently the Senator does not believe that admitting guilt, making amends and doing the righteous thing will bring harm to America and our war on terror.

The Senator pointing proudly to the law goes on to say, “this prohibition on admitting those with terrorist training into the USA” must be upheld because it is the law. What is included in terrorist training? Handling and shooting weapons? If so then anyone with military training would be excluded. Ah, but Graham would note that formal military training is different. But in whose eyes? And what about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have learned to shoot and handle significant weapons who have never been in the military? The Senator’s rationale on this point is thin indeed.

As to upholding the law, a Republican hobby horse that is ridden hard and long, and goes just about as far as a rocking horse when applied to this matter. The Lindsey Graham is talking as if the law was some powerful godlike force over which he has no power. Who is the Senator and to what body does he belong? He is a member of a body that has the power to modify laws and grant special exceptions when upholding of the law creates an injustice.

The law is not all powerful. It serves us well as a means to order and govern society. There are times when upholding the law undermines the very principals upon which the law rests or is seeking to sustain. The Senator has failed to acknowledge this reality.

What I find most interesting is the reaction of Graham and many of his Republican colleagues to the report that Sarah Palin violated Alaskan law. A common response was that the violation was more of a technicality as she sought to uphold a greater law. For me, the Republican defense of Palin undermines Graham’s argument that these seventeen men should be held indefinitely in Guantanamo, for the rest of their lives if necessary.

Graham by his actions and words is saying that the law and the war on terrorism trumps righteous actions, making amends of wrongs and correcting an injustice. Where are human rights in this matter? Evidently human rights are not an issue for the Senator or a concern here. Senator Graham, has given al-Qaeda a victory when a Senator disregards fundamental principles of the country he serves and advocates that an injustice continue indefinitely.

Regardless from where you hale, feel free to post your opinion on this matter. Should these men be released? Is an injustice being done?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain/Pailin Victory Is a Frightening Thought

I victory by John McCain and Sarah Palin is a scary thought. The self-proclaimed maverick has long admitted that he shoots from the hip without little thought. McCain claims he tends to rely upon instinct, which for me translates to mean, he is governed by his emotion. His bent to tirades is renown on the Hill.

Palin, the proclaimed populous maverick governor, states she is a proud American who will help clean up America, set it on the right course and reform how politics are done in Washington. Yet, as governor of Alaska used her office for personal gain by charging back to the state nights she stays in her personal home rather than in the governor’s mansion. She talks about reforming politics in Washington yet as governor violated the ethical guidelines for public officials. What she states and her conduct has not matched her actions.

This election has exposed America’s ugly side, particularly the degree and nature of its bigotry.

The above is disconcerting but in of itself does not scare me. What scares me is that under the leadership of McCain and Palin the Republican party is drawing out its bigotry and its threads of intolerance. Day after day Palin talks about Obama being connected with a terrorist and that America really does not know him. McCain ads are run impugning Obama’s reputation. He addresses his opponent as “that man” and puts out advertisements that while talking about Wall Street corruption shows a picture of an African American businessman.

And then, McCain and Pailin are alarmed when some of their supporters at rallies cry out for Obama to be killed, call him godless, call him a terrorist who is out to destroy America, a Muslim and “an Arab”. McCain, mainly put the dots out there and when people draw the connections they act shocked. They have played with matches in a room filled with gas and act surprised that when a fire breaks out. Their alarm undermines their talk that they will govern thoughtfully.

Following the McCain lead, Elizabeth Dole, the Republican Senator in North Carolina who is in a very close race has run ads decrying her opponent Kay Hagan for visiting with a group of atheists. The advertisement is designed to inflame religious intolerance. The ad says, “In North Carolina, Kay Hagan says she shares our values. But, behind our backs she’s the guest of honor at a fundraiser hosted by the most vile, radical liberals in America.” The group is vile and radical because they are atheists. I have no idea what Hagan’s religious affiliation but it does not matter. A person should be able to meet with any citizens without incrimination or fear, but apparently Dole does not agree. By implication Dole is saying there are groups she will not meet with nor represent. Will she refuse to meet with and represent Hindus? About Muslims? Budhists? Agnostics? Gays? If she is willing to meet with all her constituents, then why the ad?

As mentioned a victory for McCain and Palin is a scary thought. A Republican victory will signal that the US is not as progressive on tolerance as the country wishes to believe and that it is acceptable behavior to draw it out. A McCain/Palin victory will mean that this country is not as religiously tolerant as its claims. It will mean that the country still is awash with bigotry, albeit more subtle and hidden than in the past.

Fortunately, and though things can change, current polls indicate they are not headed to the White House. I am an independent who has become convinced that the Republican party on the national level has lost its moral authority to govern.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Surprise For Evie

As I start to write this, it is Friday night and we are just about fourteen hours from the start of the Oakton Classic. The Classic is a major marching band competition that the high school from which Jonathan and Josh graduated holds annually. This year there are over 31 high school bands marching, and two guest college bands, Virginia Tech in the afternoon and James Madison in the evening. For weeks Evie and I have planned to attend the Classic and earlier this evening I retrieved the stadium chairs from the RV (these padded chairs strap to the metal benches and have a back which the metal benches lack).

I am eagerly anticipating what will happen in about eleven hours. We are about eleven hours away from Evie discovering a surprise Jonathan and I have planned. I will be cooking a good breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, orange juice and tea (as an aside, to my sisters, no cooking is breakfast is not the surprise). This post will be completed and posted after the surprise. I really hope I will have a few pictures to go with the post. You will know if I was successful if the key moment is caught by the camera.

I want this moment to be a special one for my wife. She deserves this surprise and I am pleased to have Jonathan help me to carry out the logistics.

Back to serving breakfast to Evie. The plan is for Evie to be seated in the dining room. As she is seated her surprise will come down the stairs, through the kitchen unseen and sit down across from her as if it was perfectly normal morning.

I hope it all comes off as planned and we capture her surprise. As I type this sentence, Josh’s flight into to BWI (Baltimore-Washington International) left Dallas fifty-two minutes ago. Of course there is no way I could attempt to get out of the house late at night without creating some undue concern from Evie. Hence, Jonathan is picking him up from BWI at 12:30 AM and arrive home after Evie is sound asleep (I am not sure I will be asleep at 1:45). We will be taking Josh to BWI Sunday morning for this return flight to LSU via Dallas.

This is the first time Josh will be home since he left 1 June, and it will be the first time he will be able to spend time with his brother. Josh will go up to Oakton around eleven to be there for his high school’s pre-Classic run-through. He wants to wait to hear the winning band of the ESPN contest. Evie and I will join him a later and spend the day with him watching the various bands perform.

We have known for some time for a long time that Josh’s room needed to be prepared for this return. A few bags and boxes had found their way into it. The bed was covered with various items from our packing his things for college. Evie and I have put off doing much with his room, putting it off until late November in a sort of denial that we are entering the empty nest. We have kept the messy room out of our mind by keeping the door closed. Hence, for the last week I have been slowly preparing Josh’s room for his return. I have had to do a little at a time so as not to unduly tip off my wife. On the way home from the office I put on new sheets (overdue) which I put on before Evie arrived home. The window is opened to air the room out. I have closed the door, and hopefully she will not notice it is in somewhat of a tidy condition.

To help cover the plan, Josh posted a blog that is designed to lead Evie to believe that Josh is attending a party with other trombones to watch the LSU/Florida game and await the results of the ESPN Battle of the Bands. For the last several weeks we have called Josh on Friday night. Earlier in the week when I asked Evie when we were calling Josh again she said Friday night, which we have been doing for the last several weeks. A few minutes ago, knowing he was in the air and his cell would be off, I reminded her we needed to call. She just called him and left a message asking him to call her tonight. I have suggested to Josh to call her from BWI but still make it sound like he is still in Baton Rouge. I anticipate the call will awaken her (yes I am a nasty) but she will be happy to hear from him.

So that is what is planned. Will it work out as planned? I will know in less than eleven hours. Hopefully the pictures will tell it all.

It is now Saturday. Last night I started to become a little nervous at 1:00 when Evie was still up writing a blog on something she read. If she was up much longer, Josh could be home. With some encouragement she turned in for the night, just twenty minutes before I heard the fan in the other bathroom go on indicating the boys were home.

Below are two pictures of Evie moments after she became aware that Josh was home. I will leave it to her to tell how she felt. When she awoke, I tried to get her to shower and dress but her response was that she will do it later, as is normal for a Saturday morning.

Oh, ESPN announced that the Golden Band from LSU won the Battle of the Bands and $25,000. As an aside, if you voted, thank you. The funds are being used toward the new band room.

Does Palin Lack the Moral Authority to be Vice President?

Shortly after the bi-partisan committee issued its report that noted Palin violated Alaska’s Ethical Act McCain issued a statement decrying the report as being an overreaching report that is making a tortured argument which is a result of as a partisan effort by the Obama and the Democrats to disgrace Palin. McCain’s statement is more applicable to his and Palin’s dismissive reaction.

McCain and Palin wants the country to believe that this report was a witch hunt over nothing as Palin did nothing wrong. Their goal is to have the country to believe that this is process was driven by Obama and his minions of political purposes. McCain and Palin want people to turn of their intellectual capacities and accept their claims uncritically for that is the only way that I can see accepting the McCain and Palin charge.

McCain and Palin want us to forget that the inquiry was a started as bi-partisan vote well before she became McCain’s running mate. They want us to ignore that Palin retracted her promise to cooperate until she became McCain’s running mate. They want us to ignore that the fourteen member committee was made up of four Democrats and ten Republicans. They want us to ignore that the vote was 12-0 for issuing of the report (two members abstained). The Republicans knew that report could impact the campaign but they still issued it. This speaks volumes for the Republicans on the committee and the Governor’s conduct should be viewed with askance.

Instead of recognizing what happened, and accepting responsibility, Palin and McCain are doing their version of Nixon. Nixon was not responsible for the planning or implementing of the Watergate break-in. He became swept up in not being forthright when wrongdoing was discovered.

On the whole, Palin has not committed a criminal act. She violated an ethical code and behaved in a manner that is not becoming of a Governor or Vice-President. Though it was an significant error of judgment, it is not necessarily a character flaw if she was forthright in accepting responsibility and confessing that she has not upheld the high standard. If she had accepted the responsibility for her actions, and those of her husband, the whole matter would not only blow over quickly but she would also demonstrate depth of character. A person of significant character would admit their error and actively seek to do a much better job. By accepting responsibility she would be living out in her own life “telling it as it is” that she made a mistake in trying to use her office for personal purposes.

Instead of “telling it as it is” she tells it as she wants it to be even if the evidence says otherwise. She is behaving like so many other politicians in Washington. She faults the press, the Democrats, Obama and Biden, and anyone else rather than admit that what she has done was wrong. Her response and defensiveness demonstrates lack of character. Her actions Palin indicates lack in depth of character. More importantly, the question now must be asked whether she has the moral authority to be Vice-President.

Unfortunately for McCain, his statement couples his credibility to hers. I now must ask myself whether he has the moral authority to be President. I am wondering more than ever if he has the balanced judgment to be President.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pics of Josh Marching at LSU

When the indoor football field is not being used by the football team, at LSU the marching band is able to use it. Apparently this happens for the game day rehersal. The following pictures are from the Golden Band rehersals on 9/26 and 9/27. Not all football teams allow marching bands to use their football field.
The first picture gives a sense of the full-sized of the indoor field.

Josh is in the following picture. He is just off the left shoulder of the Golden Girl who is closest to the camera.

Josh is clearly seen in the following picture. He is in the left third in the shorts with the double white strip.

Colleges, teams and bands develop a host of generations that are passed down from one generation to another. I received this photo. It appears to be some sort of marching band tradition, its history and meaning are unknown to me, so I have to leave it to Josh to give a comment on it.
While this shot taken from a great distance is fuzzy, Josh is the first row of trombones, four from the left, that was taken during the game on 9/27.

Friday, October 03, 2008

LSU Three Dog Night Show

Following are three clips posted on youtube of the LSU marching band's half-time show from last Saturday. For each home game they learn a different show, which is different than high school and dci where they do one show for the whole season. That said, the high school and dci shows are much more complicated.

This is the first part of the show. Josh is in the far right of the field in this show.

Here is the second part. Josh is at the top of the arch, on the 18 yard line and the third player in from the top of the "20" on the field. Pause at 1:40 and you can catch a glimpse of him.

In third part of the show is in this clip. Josh is on the far right of the formation, the third player in from the sideline on the back line at the 0:20 mark. At the 0:56 mark Josh is framed in the top right corner of the screen.

Jenn, yes parents often are able to recognize their little blob. Sometimes they just need to have a clue as to where to look and their eyes will zero you will discover.

Here is the end of the show.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


My secretary scheduled for me to be on a business trip to Tidewater this past Tuesday and Wednesday. This trip afforded me to visit with Barb who was with her scrapbooking friends. The next morning, from my hotel room I was able to watch the sun rise in the sky....fortunately I had the office camera with me.