Saturday, November 29, 2008

2009 DCI Season Starts

The beginnings of the 2009 DCI season are underway with Corps holding audition camps. This weekend Josh has taken a bus to Dallas to help out the Crossmen with the audtion camp being held there. They want as many vets as possible to help tell the story of what it is like to march.

On the weekend prior to coming home for Christmas will be going to San Antonio to attend the Crossmen banquet. At the banquet they will be showing the video from last year. To help promote their work the Crossmen have posted samples from their 2008 video.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Obama Is To Blame

Strong partisanship is dangerous as it creates extremes and limits the possibility of balanced policy for the good of all. On Sept 10 2008 on Hannity and Combs, Sean Hannity a Republican apologist trashed a guest for suggesting the economy was in dire straits. He declared “this is garbage you are spewing.” Hannity went on to say that the economy was not only fine but that very healthy and that the guest is an Obama agent a charge which the man denied. Hannity all but screamed, “You have to convince the economy is in bad shape….it’s all based on a lie.”

In these last weeks Sean Hannity has joined Rush Limbaugh, the self proclaimed guardian of righteous thought, in blaming President-elect Obama for the failing economy. Both are beating their chests calling what we are experiencing the “Obama recession.” Limbaugh on the radio stated, “This is the Obama recession. Might turn into a depression. He hasn’t done anything yet. But his ideas are killing the economy.” Dick Morris has joined them by arguing that as long as the tax increases are on capital gains are on the horizon, people will be pulling their money out of stocks.

Morris is held to be a thoughtful balanced analysis, but he is far from being balanced. One must never forget that Morris is a strong Republican who is making hundreds of thousands a year with his unbalanced commentary. On the surface Morris’ comments sounds plausible until one does the math. What Morris is saying is that people are selling their stocks rather than pay a higher rate of capital gains tax, and are doing so even if they take a lost on those stocks or have less net income.

Morris, Limbaugh and Hannity are arguing that thousands of people who had stocks worth $10,000 in the summer started to quickly sell them in September to present for $7,000 because they did not want to pay more in taxes. Let’s do the math, a person who had a net profit before taxes in the summer of say $3,500 profit in October was willing to sell and take a profit of $500 rather at a higher rate, say of 28% versus 15%. Amazingly this triumphant are actually suggesting people are willing to have less money than to more income. It makes no sense to me, and as they say in court, if it makes no sense it is not true.

Morris, Limbaugh and Hannity are absolving Bush and the Republicans of blame. They are blaming the world’s financial markets melting down not because of bad lending practices, poor retail sales, falling housing prices, declining production and layoffs, but because investors fear Obama’s tax and health care policies. These men represent one of the major problems with the right wing of Republican Party, denying reality when it does not match their ideology.

The genius of great political leaders and thinkers like Washington, Lincoln as well as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt is rooted in their capacity to grow, a willingness to change their mind in light of new information and their avoidance of becoming slaves to ideologies. They had their partisan views, but they were realists. They were willing to change their thinking and modify their models and ideology in light of new information and what was happening around them. Many Republicans, including this trio, are blaming the lost of the White House, Senate and House upon the Republican party running candidates who were not dogmatic and conservative enough rather than upon a lack of great leaders and thinkers with balanced policies.

Hopefully Republicans will not listen and follow these three men who are far short of the genius of the thinkers the party needs. The nation needs a credible pragmatic Republican party that is not fixated upon holding firmly to failed ideologies. Unfortunately the early signs are that the dogmatic extreme of the party are increasingly guiding the direction of the party.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Some Perspective

There are moments when one is arrested by an item that causes one to pause and gain perspective. Some moments are unpleasant while others are pleasant. Below is a link to a video that helps me to keep what I do in perspective. It causes me to refocus my eyes to see what I may not notice if I was not looking.

This short video reminds us how little things can make a big difference to someone else.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bowling With Jonathan and Maggie

This past Friday evening, Evie and I went bowling with Jon and Maggie. Though we forgot to bring a camera to capture the night, it will be a remembered evening. It is remembered because of the horrendous scores (104 and 103). Though I consul myself that it was almost two years since Evie and I last bowled. My gutter balls than outnumbered my strikes by nine to one.

Regardless of the what was posted on the score sheet and the loud music that was cranked up as we were finishing our second game, the night was pleasurable. I enjoyed socializing with my son as an adult and his girlfriend level. I love it that over the past five years our socializing and conversations have moved to a different plain than in the past. I look forward to more such events.

For those interested, Jonathan one the first game, and Evie the second.

LSU Tiger Band Tigerama! 11.17.08

Josh in his blog on Saturday mentioned Tigerama, as performance where the Tiger Marching Band performs selections from their season. There are a host of clips on YouTube. I have elected to post this one since between the 1:12-1:18 mark Josh is clearly seen (particularly in the high resolution version option on YouTube). He is standing just in front of the one cymbalist who is facing away from the drum major before turning around. If you want to see more of the show, go to YouTube, search for LSU and Tigerama.

Josh is in this clip at the 0:28 mark

Josh is also in this clip. He comes in and out on the right side at the 1:34 mark ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Josh - Crossmen Pictures

Below are two pictures of Josh from this past summer. The first is from their performance in June in Madison Wisconsin. The second was in San Antonio in mid July.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gas Prices Are Coming Down

From the summer highs gas prices have dropped significantly. In 1996 when Clinton was elected to second term gas prices across the nation were running between 1.32 to 1.44. I just returned from a trip to Williamsburg. Today I saw gas ranging from 1.79 to 1.84 in Williamsburg and 1.68 to 1.75 in Fredericksburg. What are you seeing in your area?

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Sad Commentary on American Politics

Ted Stevens, the current Republican Senator from Alaska, was convicted of lying on Senate disclosure forms regarding renovations on his home and other related matters. He claimed that the $250,000 in work were not gifts. Though convicted he refused to heed calls to step down from the Senate and withdraw from his reelection.

Stevens proclaimed that he was not convicted as he was going to appeal his case. This is an interesting as Stevens is thereby saying hundreds of thousands currently in prison are wrongly incarcerated as they are still writing and filing appeals from prison for years.

By rational reasoning, he should lose the election badly. Yet on election night he was ahead over his Democrat opponent by 3,200 votes. For some, the attitude is that he may be convicted but it was not a serious crime. With about 30,000 absentee and early voting needing to still be counted (out of about 90,000 such votes), Democrat Mark Begich is ahead by about 810 votes.

If he wins, Stevens is forcing/daring the Senate to remove him for his crimes. First the Ethics Committee of the Senate need to investigate and come forward with a finding that he be removed. Then the full Senate will debate the finding before voting to remove him. An interesting twist of the rules allows Stevens to not only speak as a fellow Senator and lobby them to his side, but he is also allowed to vote on the motion to expel him. This process will not start until late January and go on as long as a eight to ten months. In the meantime, Stevens remains in the Senate.

If he is removed from the Senate, which is likely as the Senate will not tolerate having a convicted felon in the Senate, the Governor of Alaska will appoint his successor. Governor Palin has not ruled out appointing herself and has implied that “If he’s (God) got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interests, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

There is a possibility that Stevens will still in the Senate for years. As one of his final acts before leaving office, President Bush could give him a Presidential pardon. Given other things Bush has done, a pardon is a stronger possibility.

Hopefully the Democrat will win at the end of the day and put an end to this sad commentary on American politics.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

American Healthcare, Is It the Best?

Americans, particularly those on the right, strongly claim the American healthcare system is the best in the world. The greatest system, by what measure and standard? If it is the greatest number of doctors per capita, yes. If it is the most ornate and beautiful hospitals, yes. Most moderate to large communities have hospitals that are as appointed as major corporate offices. If the measure is the country that develops more medicines and machines than any other, the United States comes out on top. If the measure point is the country with the most well equipped hospitals on a per capita basis, the answer is a clear yes. Small hospitals have a plethora of the latest machines even if they sit idle several hours of the day for if they did not patients would go to the hospital down the road. Each hospital needs to have the machines in order to compete with their neighbors. It the measure is the country with a greater number of skilled medical professionals on a per capita basis than any others, yes the United States is the best. If the measure is the system that creates wealth for doctors, suppliers, hospitals, etc., most definitely the United States is the place to invest in healthcare!!

As the American healthcare system is the best, it is a reasonable expectation for that to translate into having one of the highest overall life expectancy rates in the industrialized world. If it is not at the top, American should be in the top five, and then barely edged out by those above. Does that expectation hold up?

The United States has an overall life expectancy of 78.06 years. There are 44 countries in with longer overall life expectancies than the United States. The major industrialized countries with a longer life expectancy rates are: Sweden (80.83), Australia (80.62), Canada (80.34), Italy, Spain, Norway, Israel, France, Switzerland, Japan, Austria, South Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany (78.95), Belgium, United Kingdom (78.7), and Finland (78.66). The only major industrialized country that has a lower overall life expectancy rate than the United States is Russia.

In America the Canadian healthcare is disparaged as being inferior to the United States. Whenever arguments for a government run health system is raised, the medical lobbyists ask if Americans want to settle for an inferior system like Canada’s. Canada has a life style so similar to the America. The difference between Ontario and Michigan, Ohio and New York is less than the differences those states have with North Carolina or Texas. If Canada which is culturally similar to the US has a healthcare system that is so inferior, then why are Canada’s overall life expectancy rates two years higher than their neighbor?

While the American health care system has great strengths, the claim becomes suspect when we look at how this great system translates into the care received by the average middle class family. Amongst western countries, on a per capita basis the United States has one of the lowest rates of its citizens with health insurance. Yet on a per capita basis is spends more on healthcare than most other industrialized countries.

In America tens of millions of its citizens will go three or more years without seeing a doctor for a basic check-up. Every year millions delay receiving care due to the cost of medical care. Thinking they only have a mild ailment that will clear-up too many Americans delay going to the doctor only to find out that they have a major issue that only has become more significant during the delay.

That a good number of Americans fear government healthcare should not be undervalued. A large portion of that fear is created and sustained by the healthcare industry which clearly has a significant invested interest in maintaining the status quo. While they are in the business of providing healthcare, their primary goal is not quality service as inexpensively as possible. We must be clear, the primary goal of the industry is to maximize profit throughout the system. The lobbyists have the public that managed care means some bureaucrat will make their medical care decisions rather than them and their doctor. They are told that they will not be able see the doctor of their choice but that as some government official will make that determination for them.

Those who live in places Canada, England, Sweden, Norway, Australia and Germany have not experienced some bureaucrat making such decisions in their government managed care system. In America a good number of health care plans require patients to call their insurance company, in other words an insurance bureaucrat, prior to receiving a host of treatments. Many health insurance plans in America have an approved list of doctors and hospitals, and if you receive treatment from medical practitioners or hospitals not on the list, the patient pays a much greater portion of the expense. In other words, the rationing of care by bureaucrats that the healthcare industry says will happen in government run system happens more frequently in the existing American healthcare system than it does in Canada.

The healthcare lobby, whether it is the lobby for doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms or the healthcare insurance industry, has an invested interest in maintaining the current structure. They have and will continue to play upon the ignorance of the general public about what the care the average citizen receives in other industrialized countries through their government managed care. They have and will inflame the fears of the unknown. Amongst the uninformed, the fear of the unknown is a powerful weapon.

One of the fundamental principles of the free market is that if you produce a superior product that is properly priced that you will not only be the leader in the market but that others will follow your lead. In other words, if you are successful others will mirror you practice. If America truly has the best medical system in the world and government healthcare is such a terrible system, why is it that no other industrialized country is adopting the American system?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Republican Socialist Charge

As noted in an earlier blog in this past election the Republicans tended to label Democrats as being Socialists and Marists. As one writer, Barbara Simpson, has penned “It’s clear Marxism will permeate Obama’s presidency.” The Socialist/Marxist label was not new to this election for it has been a tactic that has been used by the Republicans for decades.

Before commenting on the charge, let me summarize the essence of Marxism. Marxism views society through the prism of class struggle whereby the wealthy keep workers repressed while they absorb the wealth of their worker’s labor. The goal of the wealthy is to exploit workers by underpaying them and limiting their employment rights.

The goal of Marxism is to create an egalitarian system by eliminating class distinctions. It holds that all workers are to be paid the same wage. To this end, the state owns all corporate assets and creates monopolies, owns all farms and manages every aspect of the society. To help establish the egalitarian system and eliminate the wealthy landed gentry, Marx advocates the abolition of inheritance and implementing a heavy progressive income tax to strip the wealthy of the wealth that they have accumulated and inherited.

When I look at Democratic policies, I do not see Marxism at play. Neither the Democrats nor President-elect Obama is advocating that the state hold all property and assets, the creation of state run monopolies, implementing an egalitarian pay system and the abolition of inheritance.

No one can deny that the current tax structure is progressive with the wealthier paying a higher per cent of their income in taxes than those who are paid less. A progressive structure is not Marxism if it is neither heavy nor intended to eliminate the wealth of those who have amassed it. Heavy is a matter of interpretation. A tax rate of 35% is heavy if you believe that you should not be paying more than 20%, 15% can be viewed as outrageous if one holds that one should not be paying more than 7%.

Like the next guy, I would love to pay less in taxes. Yet, if there was a poor public infrastructure it is unlikely I would have my same standard of living. Public infrastructure elements ranging from transportation to education, from regulatory standards and enforcement to public safety are essential to a stable and healthy modern country. Without such a solid public infrastructure corporations and business owners would not be able to flourish and increase their wealth. Without a healthy business community, solid gainful employment for most in the country would be unlikely. A progressive tax structure allows those who are benefiting economically at a higher level to pay for a greater portion of the public infrastructure.

The red herring Socialist charges will continue to be made by the Republicans. As evidenced by Representative Michelle Bachmann’s blatant McCarthy like statement during the campaign, there are Republican elements who would be happy to have Congress investigate Obama and a host of Democrats for anti-American and Marxist beliefs. Fortunately, the attack has had less traction this year than in past elections because a large portion of those under the age of forty are buying into that language. The Republican attacks indicate that they are either ignorant about Socialism or if they are informed as to its definition, that they are intentionally preying upon those who are uninformed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

LSU Tiger Band Halftime Show 11.08.08 Veterans Salute

Courtesy of Aline, this the LSU band show from this past Saturday. Where Josh is located in the trombone formation in the bottom right half of the field is unknown to me. I will leave it to Josh to note where he is at a particular point in the show.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Conservative, Strict-constructionist Judiciary

As noted in my earlier post of November 10 I noted that in America the far political right holds that government has a narrow role to play in society. As part of their argument they frequently speak out about the need to eliminate “judicial activism”, that is, the courts by their ruling expanding civil liberties. They heatedly argue for a strict understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, not within an evolving civil context but within the original setting. They hold that it is a travesty to read into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights issues not envisioned or addressed by the Founding Fathers.

Until recently have been somewhat perplexed by the strength of this narrow understanding of the role of the judiciary within the religious right who like Dr. Dobson openly call for the President and Congress to appointment “conservative, strict-constructionist judges.” They want judges who will strike down rulings laws that expand civil liberties, impact personal and corporate property and trade rights that are not in keeping with what the Founding Fathers envisioned. Three issues drive their viewpoint,
1. Abortion
2. Gay rights and marriage
3. Broadening of the definition of the separation of Church and State which has led to the removal of the Lords’ Prayer and prayer in general from schools and the public square.

In all three areas the courts issued created rulings that permitted abortion, accepted the gay lifestyle that citizens are free to pursue rather than imprisoned as sexual perverts, and recognized the rights the validity of non-Christian faiths without being confronted daily in government settings by government sanctioned Christian worship and expression.

Many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians would freely nod in agreement that the courts have been prime movers in these areas. Hence, their stand against judicial activism makes sense, at least within a narrow context of just these issues over recent decades.

Their position puts the conservative strict-constitutionalist in a position of affirming that the courts were:
1. Correct in upholding the Dred Scott ruling and that slavery is an acceptable practice.
2. Wrong is upholding and expanding child labor laws.
3. Wrong is upholding minimum wage laws that helped to break the cycle of indentured servitude to their employers.
4. Wrong in its rulings such as Brown vs. the Board of education that integrated public schools.
5. Wrong in ruling after ruling of civil rights cases that eliminated segregation
6. Wrong in helping to define and uphold truancy laws.
7. Wrong in issuing rulings that eliminated laws that institutionalized the mentally handicapped.
8. Wrong in issuing rulings that allowed the mentally and physically handicapped to attend the same public schools as their neighbors rather than “special schools.”
9. Wrong in invalidating legal contracts with children that were not signed by the parents.
10. Wrong in granting Miranda Rights (the right to remain silent and be interrogated only with one’s lawyer present).
11. Wrong in allowing those who appear before the court to have a translator when they do not speak English.
12. Wrong in addressing in firm terms lynching and other forms of rush to judgments by the public.
13. Wrong in defining due processes that we now all value as part of our judicial system.
14. Wrong in defining slander and issuing other statements that affect the public safety of others, such as screaming “fire” in a crowded theatre, as not protected free speech.

A host of other issues could be added to above list. While the modern strict-constructionist would distance himself/herself from issues on the list, by the very nature of their static view of justice, they are against each of the civil rights issues in the above list. If one is a strict-constructionist, one cannot pick and choose what rulings are judicial activist rulings were appropriate or not appropriate.

Even though the courts may issues rulings with which I do not agree, I am pleased that our judicial system recognizes that society progresses and evolves, and the laws need to be understood afresh within that changing context. Though we hold our Founding Fathers in respect, a dynamic view of the judiciary recognizes that their views and writings are not divine writ. They may have been insightful, but they did not envision our contemporary society with its plethora of issues, nor are their views without flaws that subsequent generations have had to address.

I am pleased with a dynamic posture of the judiciary for a fixed view of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is not justice. A static posture is blind legalism which as the decades pass creates an unjust judicial system that lacks wisdom.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Challenge - What Have You Done?

Once again, two posts in one day.

Following my sister Barb’s challenge I have noted in red what I have done. Jenn modified Barb's list. I have included most of Jenn’s modifications and then added a few other options.

I have done 61% of the items. How many have you done?

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower / Watched the Northern Lights
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (also, Disney World twice)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped / White Water rafting with at least one level IV rapid
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty / Been to the top of all four classic tall structures in North America (CN Tower in Toronto, the Sears Tower in Chicago, World Trade Towers in NY City, Empire State Building in NY City)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train / Slept overnight in an airport
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when youʼre not ill (son was ill)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (solar and lunar)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (both)
31. Hit a home run

32. Been on an overnight cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangeloʼs David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt / Seen the wheat fields of the Prairies
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud (very muddy college rugby game is a vivid memory)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie / Been on television / Been on the radio
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies/ Sold Boy Scout Apples
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter / Flown in a plane that took off and/or landed on water
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial / Toured Parliament Hill / Toured Capitol Hill
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt / Changed our car’s oil
73. Stood in Times Square / Visited Old Quebec City
74. Toured the Everglades / Gone Shopping at West Edmonton Mall / Gone Shopping at the Mall of America in Minneapolis
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London / Watched the Rose Parade in person.
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book / Recorded are record or CD
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House / Visited inside the White House (attended a reception) / Visited Ann of Green Gables
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating / Eaten Moose or Deer / Eaten Squid / Eaten Allegator
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someoneʼs life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake / Swam in all five Great Lakes
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

So...what have you done?

American Political Right Wing

Over the years I have not voted for a single political party. While in Canada I voted for mainly for the Conservatives and Liberals, twice in provincial elections I voted for the NDP candidate. Since becoming an American citizen I have voted for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Until recently I have had a hard time understanding the extreme political right’s cries against big government and their labeling Obama as a Marist. One quote by Fred Barnes, one of the key piece to help me understand the right wing of the Republican party.

In the days going into the election Barnes wrote, “Elections are government undertakings, so they are not expected to be well run…” The extreme right holds that anything that government is involved in will run poorly, be ineffective and doomed to failure. Hence, they reflect what Chuck Norris’ view of the Constitution that a President who takes the Constitution seriously will “limit the powers of the federal government, reduce takes (for everyone), encourage the freedom of religion and expression (even in the public square) and stand up for such things as our right to bear arms.”

The other day I listened to Sean Hannity, one of the American right’s talking heads and personalities rail against big government and socialism. He holds that the government should only be involved in running the military, justice system and immigration, and other activities that protect the country and citizenry from foreign influences and invasion, and crimes against individuals and property. The government should not be involved in education, agriculture, health care, transportation, building of infrastructure, regulation of trade or industry. This hands off view is what stands behind Norris’ view.

Joseph Farah, and right wing extremist has recently said in a commentary on education stated, “Government schools cannot be reformed. They must be overthrown. I don't mean burned down. I mean abandoned – left behind, deserted, forsaken. The day conservatives are radicalized is the day the government indoctrination centers, the child-abuse detention camps and this corrupt, immoral system of mind control implode of their own dead weight.”

Barbara Simpson another writer on the far right recently wrote, “It's clear Marxism will permeate Obama's presidency.” Prior to that statement she wrote, “I don't want Marxism in my country….I don't want bigger, more expensive and intrusive government.”

These writers and their followers hold that every person has the opportunity to become wealthy and that they will achieve it if they fight hard enough for it. They are against income tax and would agree with Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Fields that income tax will inevitably lead to Marxism. As an aside, also standing behind their views is the view point that government has no role to play in defining workplace conditions or hours.

The far right Republicans freely cry out against various policies that are not in line with their thinking by liberally using the terms Marxism and Socialism. They use these terms to describe their detractors and Democrats, even though the positions of Obama and the Democrats are far removed from what they are charging (to be examined in an upcoming blog). I regret they have an overwhelming fear created by the prism and paradigm through which they view civil discourse and discussion. That said, in America, civil discourse and the freedom of expression allows for their voices to be expressed in the public square.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Walk In the Clouds

Released in 1995 A Walk In the Clouds, staring Keana Reeves and Aitana Sanchez-Gijun, is one of my favorite movies. I will not outline the plot, as I would not do this romance story set in the post WWII California justice.

Two young people (Paul and Victoria) surely and steadily fall in love while her father is against their relationship. Her father rejects Paul yet he remains by Victoria’s side. Paul is a noble character who continually looks to do the honorable thing. When the father unduly criticizes his daughter, with sincere passion Paul repeatedly comes to Victoria’s defense.

Beside a strong romantic threat, the story is also about stubbornness, both negative and positive. The plot deals with forgiveness, hope and building for the future. It is about an outsider being embraced by most of the family while the patriarch rejects him. Underlying the story is a competition between a father and the man who has captured the daughter’s heart.

The characters are warm, dynamic and not forced. The acting is solid across all characters. This enjoyable movie is well worth watching more than once.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Carolina Crown Hornline 2008

The brass players in the family will find this warm-up process to be of interest. This is Carolina Crown which had one of the better sounding horn lines in 2008.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Unjust Justice

Earlier today when I read a story I cried it cannot be true. But alas, I must remember that though I wish it not to be real does not make it any less than true. Instead of looking the other way, I must face the stark reality that in Somalia a thirteen year old girl who is raped by three men was victimized again. Under militant fundamentalist rendering of Islamic Law, rape means the woman has committed adultery, which is deemed to be punishable by stoning to death. And that is not only what happened, but she was stoned in a stadium with over a thousand spectators cheering the stoners.

Here is the link to the story….

Though the story does not indicate what happened to the men, I suspect that no effort was made to find the rapists. I suspect that even if they were known, they would not be punished. In Islamic extremist thinking, the woman bears the blame and guilt. Islamic extremism victimizes the victim rather than seeking balanced informed justice. This thirteen year old girl has paid the price for seeking justice whereas her rapists are free to victimize other women.

While Islamic law is not interpreted in such a manner by many of its practitioners, the story powerfully indicates the type of thinking that is found within Islamic extremist movements such as the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Reflection on 2008 Presidential Race

Two posts in one day...what can I goal is to hit or surpass the goal announced in the challenge to the family. Now as as to the election.

As I type, throughout the east voting is concluding on the agonizingly long 2008 American presidential campaign. If the election goes along the lines of the polls it will not be close as far as the Electoral College is concerned. Obama should have about a 70 to 110 spread between over McCain.

About a year ago, the election started to impact our direct mail strategies. Earlier in the year our division was looking at implementing a donor call system that it has done in the past. Though Virginia has been solidly Republican for decades I argued then that we should not do so. The early signs indicated that Virginia could be a battle ground. Over the last four presidential cycles the popular vote spread between the two parties has narrowed significantly.

The military vote was not a solid as it has been in the past years for the Republicans. Add to those two factors that Obama was energizing the younger voters at a level unseen since Kennedy in 1960 and you have a fertile ground for a battle.

For the first time in decades Virginia has its second consecutive Democratic Governor and at least one Democrat Senator. With the second Senate seat being vacated by a retiring Republican, it seemed to stand to reason that the senate race was going to be hotly contested by the Democrats.

With a hotly contested presidential and senatorial race the state would be flooded by robo calls between mid September and the election. Not only would candidates be making calls, but so would various PACs from right to life to woman’s rights groups, from the National Rifle Association to groups opposed to the United Nations. The last thing The Salvation Army needed to do was to make calls during the same period and be caught up in the backlash.

It appears that former Democrat Governor Warner will soundly defeat his Republican predecessor Governor Gilmore. The early returns appear that Obama will take the Commonwealth and its 13 electoral votes by seven to nine points, which would be a major shift.

With McCain going down to defeat, recriminations and figure pointing will commence within days. Some leaders of the Religious Right will cry the Republicans ignored their concerns by selecting the wrong candidate. Those leaders and their followers who nod in agreement need to be reminded of two realities. The first is that the Religious Right is one voice, albeit a significant voice, in the Republican Party. The democratic process is grounded upon the civil discourse and of putting forth a cogent persuasive. If others have a more convincing message than the Religious Right, they need to accept the result. They should not bemoan that they did not win the day and do what James Dobson did, announce that he was picking up his ball and going home because he did not like the result (he later came back to the game when Palin was picked by McCain).

The second is that the Religious Right has lost credibility by wrapping themselves around George Bush. In the last election many evangelical leaders made it clear, as did Sarah Palin’s pastor did, that a good Christian could not vote for Bush’s opponent or any Democrat. As these preachers of righteousness remained silent on abuses within the Bush administration the Religious Right started to lose its moral ground and hearing. The middle of the road independents, particularly those under thirty, are giving far less attention to leaders of the Religious Right than in the past.

The McCain campaign continued to struggle to find a message that would hold traction and undergird the whole campaign. The first narrative was McCain the hero who does not back away from tough fights vs. those who lack courage. How he tried to cast Obama did not hold. Obama did not allow McCain’s bait to distract him. Instead Obama remained calmly focused on the message of change and his game plan.

Over the summer McCain’s message evolved to be the deal maker who puts country first versus Obama the nonpartisan pretender. McCain had a long history of brokering deals and working with Democrats in the Senate but the message did not hold. That message did not connect primarily because Obama again was being cast far from how he was being perceived. The Republican’s underlying dismissive view of Obama was apparent in their messages.

During and immediately following Obama’s trip to Europe the Republican message shifted to McCain the decisive leader versus Obama the rock star celebrity. That message died quietly when the electorate felt Obama had serious ideas that stood behind his popularity with the younger demographics whereas McCain still was not focused upon the serious issues facing the nation. McCain’s answer to rising gasoline prices was to drill more and diversify. When pressed as to flesh out his diversify message he remained vague and wanting. He answers to the rising foreclosure rates remained fuzzy. A vague energy plan and a fuzzy foreclosure plans did not match the McCain the decisive leader message.

Saying it was a reflection of his decisive leadership McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. Immediately the unknown Palin became the rock star, a star who dwarfed McCain on the campaign trail. Coming out of the convention the new narrative was McCain/Palin, a team of mavericks standing against old style Washington politics. This message took hold for a while but soon lost traction. Though it lost traction the theme kept surfacing again and again through to the end of the campaign. The general public had difficulty seeing Obama as old style politics in light of his time in Washington and balanced thoughtful approach to issues.

In his effort to court the far right of the party McCain jettisoned a host of positions previously held. In changing his positions just to get the nomination, the maverick became a typical old style Washington politician. The message also lost traction when the public started to know about Palin and witnessed her in two disastrous interviews.

When the signs of the economic crisis become increasingly evident, McCain continued to claim that the fundamentals of the economy were sound. He and his financial advisor assured all would be well. McCain appeared shocked by the meltdown. Trying to portray himself as the decisive leader who could work with both parties to resolve a problem, he boldly announced the he was suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to solve the financial problem. That action backfired badly on three fronts.

It soon became evident that McCain was charging into the battle without understanding the nature of the battleground which was evident in several of his public pronouncements. Then people started to read and hear the stories that McCain sat silently in meetings without giving any suggestions. He was not being the reconciler or the decisive leader he claimed. Not only did he leave town without any plan in place but it appears that he emboldened those who were against doing anything. Hence, McCain became identified as being part of the problem.

Sarah Palin’s posturing herself as a down-home honest speaking hockey mom WalMart shopper was derailed by stories about $150,000 being spent on her wardrobe. It is one thing to have good looking clothing, but the cost of the outfits alarmed the middle of the road voter at a critical point in the race. Even when the press left the story, Palin revived it again by her comments on the campaign trail and by her Alaskan handlers false faulting Wallace.

In the closing weeks McCain turned to the traditional Republican message, the conservative fighter against the tax and spend liberal. Bush effectively used the same message against Gore in 2000. The message resonated with the base and independent voters who are right of center. It did find traction but it lost its punch when left of center voters recalled McCain’s past votes against Bush’s tax cuts undercut his message. The message lost some punch when amongst voters to recalled that Bush said the same yet is the President with the greatest deficit in the nation’s history whereas his “liberal Democrat” predecessor had a surplus.

That said, polls tightened in the last week as the Republicans unleashed an endless stream of attack ads that played upon fear. In the next hour time will tell if going to the well of fear will work once again. For the sake of future elections, their approach does not work.

On the whole, Obama has run a stronger campaign at all levels. His message has been consistent. His decisions have been thoughtful as against McCain’s rash selection of Palin and during the financial crisis charging off like mindless general into a war without knowing the nature of the battlefield. In his moving passionate speeches he has given the country a vision. We have seen a thoughtful passionate man. While campaigning is not the same as governing, running a thoughtful deliberate campaign does show potential leadership.

On another election issue, Kay Hagan is projected to defeat Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina (see the earlier 30 October post on this subject).

A Multi Car Crash In the Making

A van stopped on the freeway triggers a series of accidents. It also reminds us about driving to close and fast for the conditions.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Blog Challenge For the Family

In June 05 Barb was the first family member to start blogging. With 346 posts to date, Barb has been one of the more prolific bloggers.

Two months later Cathy, though less prolific, started blogging too. To date she has posted 68 posts.

The next to jump into the blogosphere was Christian who posted his first blog on December 05. As he does not have a sidebar counter I cannot say how many blogs he has done since. That said I suspect that he has around 90-100 posts.

Evie got going in March 06. Evie started off with posting several times a week and soon was one of the more frequent bloggers in the family. Though her rate has decreased in the last months, she has posted the most items in the family with 354 blogs.

Joanne got started in April 06. She has posted less frequently, submitting one to three posts a month for our reading. I cannot say how many, since like Christians she does not have a sidebar record.

In June 06 Jenn jumped into the pool. Since she has posted with a vengeance and taking into account when she started, Jenn has posted more often than others in the family. To date Jenn has posted for our reading 352 posts, two less than Evie.

After weeks of encouragement from Evie I too got started in June 2006. My blogging rate dropped off earlier this year but with a more rigorous posting schedule lately I have posted 332 blogs prior to this one.

Two months later, in August 2006, Stephen started blogging. To date he has posted 89 posts.

Dad posted his first blog in August 2006. Though he initially was posting every three to eight weeks, after his ninth blog he dropped off the blogosphere.

In August 2007, Krista (Evie’s niece), started blogging consistently and steadily. She has posted three to five times a week. There is not history sidebar or count, so I am unable to give a count. That said I would not be surprised that Krista has over 250 posts.

Late comers, Jonathan and Joshua got started this past summer. Jonathan posted his first of eleven blogs in May 08. Since starting in August, Josh has posted thirteen blogs.

We valued James’ blogs while he was in Korea. His posts were a way for us to learn little things about Korea and James’ life during that period. Since his return to Canada, his blog went inactive.

Jason too posted periodically prior to May 2007. The number of blogs posted is unknown as his blog is inactive.

Now for the challenge. Between now and the end of 2008 the challenge is to hit or surpass the figure below. Posting pictures or stories from where you live could help you to hit the challenge goal.

Evie …. 370
Jenn …. 370
Barb …. 360
Stephen … 100
Cathy …. 75
Jonathan … 20
Josh … 20
Dad … 11

Christian, Krista and Joanne, I have to leave it to you to announce the number of blogs you have posted to date and your challenge goal.

As for myself, my goal is to hit or surpass the 350 mark by the end of the year.

It would be great if kudos can go to all by the end of the year for hitting their goal.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Republicans Know What Tuesday Holds

Regardless of the polls Republican talking heads speak of Republicans winning a host of Senate races and the presidential race on Tuesday. This morning Davis, McCain's campaign director affirmed on national television that McCain/Palin would win. They claim that the polls are biased to the Democrats and that their internal data gives a different picture.

Do the behaviors and decisions being made does not match the verbal statements? The evidence indicates that Davis and other Repubican apologists are not sharing true picture. For over a week Republicans have been in-fighting pointing blame for the poor results to various individuals. In the dying days of America's national election where the presidential and vice-presidential candidates travel indicates their own internal reading of the results. What they are saying in these last hours on the trail and the last minute ads speak volumes.

When Obama’s team increases commercial buys in Arizona, McCain’s home state, McCain is in trouble. When Obama spends his last four days focused upon states that voted for Bush in the last elections, that is an indication the Republicans are losing. Obama/Biden are not running around shoring up their base and ground they traditionally win. Besides visiting swing states like Ohio and Florida in the last five days, McCain and Palin are making campaign stops in Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina, three states that have been Republican strong holds. When the Republicans start pouring resources into Virginia with a week to go, a state that has not supported a Democrat presidential candidate since 1964, there is great concern. The same is happening in Indiana and North Carolina.

McCain's message has changed in these last days. He is asking for voters to vote for him by arguing that if he does now win the Democrats will control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. That message is a sign that across the board the Republican party are headed for difficult and disappointing night. McCain’s argument is founded upon strong indications that after this election the Democrats will have a much stronger majority in the House and Senate.

Interestingly, the Republican National Committee is running ads using a similar message in an effort to support their Senate candidates. The RNC ads plead for voters to vote for their Senator since Democrats will be controlling both the White House and the House or Representatives.

In Organ the RNC’s ad says "Sending Jeff Merkley to the U.S. Senate could give one party a blank check … Especially in this economy, Oregon needs an independent voice in the U.S. Senate." Polls are indicating that Democrat challenger Merkley may defeat incumbent Senator Gordon Smith.

In North Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Dole is at such severe risk of losing to Kay Hagan that Dole has run some of the nastiest ads this year. The RNC has jumped in to help support Senator Dole with an ad, "Who's the Senate race really about? Hagan or Dole? Neither one. It's about liberals in Washington. They want complete control of the government … The left wants 60 votes in the Senate." Though the Republicans use the traditional “liberal” attack, the problem for Dole and the RNC is that politically Hagan is very much a middle of the road. Similar ads are being run by the RNC where incombent Senators are at risk.

While McCain is admitting that the Senate and House are lost, the RNC is admitting that the White House and House of Representatives are going to the Democrats. The "vote for me because my party is going down in flames" messages are very telling, particularly in a party that has historically valued party loyalty. When a party that puts a premium on loyalty starts to use these messages and openly finger point, its days of glory are coming to an end.

Far too many Republicans have held that they have the divine right to rule. This view is somewhat grounded in the religious right that assumes it has all the right answers, that one cannot be a Democrat and true Christian, and God’s will is for them to rule America. When Clinton won the White House the religious right was so angry and bitter because his election put into question their viewpoint on ruling.

The nation needs a well balanced Republican party, a party that is not controlled by the right wing. The over dominance of the right wing has not been good for the party or the country. Hopefully they will go through a much needed soul searching in the coming weeks and months that will drive them toward being much more toward the center. Hopefully they repeat what they did following Clinton's victory by moving further toward the extreme right.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Low Road and the American Two Party System

If a character evaluation of American politicians was made based upon the printed material going into homes, the television and radio commercials being run across the USA in strongly contested Senatorial and Congressional races you could easily come to a most negative conclusion. If you accepted the evaluation of one candidate of his/her opponent you would conclude that American politicians are incompetent, corrupted, self-serving liars who are a step removed from being imprisoned. Negative attack ads are designed not only to instill fear of the other candidate’s position but also put in question the character of the primary opponent.

Americans are staunchly proud of the two party system. The rules, funding and campaign structure makes a viable third party functionally impossible. A heavy dose of negative attack advertisements is readily possible when you only have one candidate upon whom to focus. A competitive third party would push candidates to utilize far more ads proclaiming their positions and fewer attack ads. As long as the two party system remains the American political scene will be dominated by the low road.