Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cloward-Piven Strategy

Imagine a strategy that "seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a list of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse." One was developed in 1966 and bears a strong resemblance to recent events in the United States. Read more about the strategy here. Need an antidote for what you just read? Try this one. My thanks to Moonbattery for the link.

Friday, February 27, 2009

William F. Buckley Jr.

Today is the first anniversary of the death of William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review magazine and the modern conservative movement. Whatever your politics, you have to admire this extraordinarily gifted man. Ramesh Ponnuru reflects on the subject in this NR Online post.

Policy Termination With Prejudice

Seems there will be certain change now that Charles Freeman is chairing the National Intelligence Council. As for the radical shift - read that 180 degrees - the appointment brings, I'm not so sure. Read more:

from Cigar Mike at Babalu Blog

John Hinderaker at Powerline

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline

Mark Steyn at NRO's The Corner

William Katz at Urgent Agenda - "A Sickening Choice"

About 77% of Jewish voters supported Obama. How are they reacting to this choice? Do they not care about Israel? About human rights?

Good Bye, Rocky

Today's edition of the Rocky Mountain News will be its last. I'm sorry to see it go. My colleagues from the Mountain West brought the paper to my attention several years ago. Many of those years, I read it over the Internet and always made a point of getting the print edition in hand when I was in the Denver area. The Rocky had a good news staff and a refreshing approach to its content, especially the features. Got to be tough to end a run of 150 years.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hot and Windy with Occasional Incoming

Fox News is reporting that President Obama has announced to leaders in Congress that he will end combat operations in Iraq on August 31, 2010. I think that's a great day for the last plane out of Baghdad because skies will be clear with 10 mph winds out of the northwest and a high temperature of 108 degrees.

Wow. The need to soothe the agony of the anti-war left in Obama's camp must be critical. I guess the lefties think all those computer simulations and models popped out "08312010" in response to the question, "When can we stop fighting?" Such an announcement really has no meaning, but it does bring the Islamofascists closer to reality. I can see them inside their caves in the Hindu Kush typing the information and other notes onto their calendar page under the heading, "Things to Do." They may have reason for concern as our combat forces in Afghanistan may be 140,000 soldiers stronger than it is today. Six from one, half dozen to another. On the other hand, those forces could be returning to American soil. But don't worry, American combat soldiers won't be fighting in Iraq.

One thing I learned from my political science professors was that war, by definition, is seldom a unilateral experience; historically, it has required an opposing force. I would like to think that military history and experience, rather than strong ideology, will drive our decision making. However, we already know President Obama has little training in history, military or otherwise, and limited executive experience in the real world. Thus, he announces the end of our combat operations to the world "08312010." That is eighteen months from now and a signal to our opponents to work overtime to embarrass the United States and weaken our foreign policy. His advisers should know better.

I wonder what the weather will be on "11022010?" I predict that it will be Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cloaking Devices and Dirty White Suits

In his speech before Congress yesterday, President Obama proved again that he is a masterful speaker. No matter that some of the statements of fact were wrong - those Germans invented the automobile - and the style - the Biden shout out - could use a bit of buffing. No question that the man knows how to move an audience. As several pundits have noted, he is extending his campaign style into his presidency. That style surely got him into the White House and has the power to whip his supporters into the higher realms of expectation. And with such lofty oratory comes the possibility that some of those expectations may be unrealized.

One absolutely unrealized expectation yesterday was the Republican response delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Frankly, I've never thought much of opposition responses. They remind me of the white-suited man, shovel in hand, following the elephant in the circus parade. The guy may have an important job, but everybody remembers the elephant. If Jindal wants to stay clean and build his resume, he simply must improve that shoveling technique or find another job in the circus. Republicans should take all of this as a serious warning that their message for 2010 must be selected carefully, wrapped beautifully, and delivered appropriately. If not, they will be following an ass - the donkey variety - for a very long time.

[Apologies to my Democrat friends - just couldn't help myself.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gift Wrapping for Success

Mona Charen has a valuable history lesson on political perception and reality in her post at National Review Online.

Toto figured it out.

Comic Relief

Here is a nine minute clip of some of the most hilarious student protest dialog ever. The event took place at NYU a few days ago. Caution: you will hear bits of strong language between your waves of hysterical laughter.

I am haunted by the thought that student protests in the '60s sounded just as lame.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Robert J. Samuelson on the "Stimulus"

Samuelson was a business writer for The Washington Post when I became familiar with his skillful writing and measured approach to the "not nearly as dismal as it once was" science of economics. Here is his appraisal of the "Stimulus" bill. A tip of the hat to William Katz (Urgent Agenda) for alerting his reader to the post in Real Clear Politics.

Starbucks Reaches for Instant Coffee

Starbucks has been a part of my life over the years, usually when I was on per diem or happened to find their bean coffee at Bell's, my favorite discount grocery store near Covington. Times are tough at Starbucks these days, so tough that they have ventured into the forbidden territory of instant coffee. Well, there goes the image. Ben Domenech provides the sad details here in his post at The New Ledger.

To be perfectly frank, I won't be upset as Starbucks attempts reinvention. I think they built an industry selling over-roasted coffee as a quality experience. Don't get me wrong, friends. I can enjoy almost any coffee with wi-fi and overstuffed chairs. Given the choice, though, I can brew with the best of them right here at home and for mere pennies a cup. All this makes me think that Kieron Dwyer's parody, left, does provide the last word. Indeed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Amateur Diplomacy

Power Line's John Hinderaker comments about the Obama administration's dismal diplomacy to date.

William Katz has more on this topic at his always interesting blog, Urgent Agenda. Read today's "No Miracles."

Gateway Pundit has even more here and here.

The Corner at National Review Online has this from Nile Gardiner.

So far, not a good record on using polite behavior in the pursuit of political advantage.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feeling Stimulated? No Joke!

Another business week has come to end. The stock market dropped 100 point today, bringing it down almost 20% since the election, and to its lowest point in eleven years. I've done my best to hold my political tongue, but patience is dwindling given that this is the roughest presidential transition in my sixty years of U.S. history. Finding issues involving ethics, judgment, and experience in the new administration is all too easy. It's so painful that I resort to humor as a survival mechanism. Gateway Pundit likes that strategy as well, posting about Obama's admonition that he will "call out" governors who waste stimulus dollars. Pundit goes on to point out that the bill funds doorbells, golf courses, streetcars, snow making facilities, dog parks, water slides, birth control, and ACORN. Check out "Is This a Joke" for some essential stimulus relief.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reinventing Where America Lives

For most of the time in post-World War II America, I think a house was a reasonably accurate extension of the identity and character of its homeowners. That began to change for me in the mid-1990s, when my wife would return home with stories about the real estate explosion in the north Atlanta suburbs. It seemed that more and more people were buying huge, expensive homes in new developments along the Chattahoochee River corridor. Nothing wrong with that, with one exception. More than a few of the homes had virtually no furniture. Fast forward a decade and I'll bet those same houses stand empty of people. In other words, the "all hat, no cattle" lifestyle had come head to head with the reality of the financial and housing meltdown. As the decline enters its second year, the ability to purchase a house remains somewhat detached from reality, and the family you see moving in next door may not be what you get. Furthermore, occupancy rates and rental housing continue to mold the identity and character of many neighborhoods. With the Atlanta metro area now ranked as the third emptiest city in the country, you can bet change is the order of the day.

If you're a student of urban historical geography, all of this would make perfect sense, in part, because it would be interpreted perhaps in a less emotional environment. For homeowners, it is interpreted more in terms of property value, personal safety, quality schools, employment opportunity, and culture.

I discovered some "must read" articles on this subject, thanks to Tim Mak's "The Decline of Suburbia," appearing today on the blog, The New Majority. I think two of his sources demand special attention. They are:

Richard Florida's "How the Crash Will Reshape America," from The Atlantic Online; and

Alan Ehrenhalt's "Trading Places," appearing in The New Republic

A commenter provided a link to David Brooks's New York Times opinion column on a recent Pew Research Center study of American preferences for location and lifestyle. In general, I found comments, if available, to be of great interest.

Yes, I'm asking my readers to take on a long assignment here, but is a significant topic with serious social, economic, and political impacts for most Americans. If you get the feeling this subject was one aspect of my training and career, you'd be correct.

Photo by David Shankbone

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents Day

George Washington was our first president to govern under the Constitution of the United States. On his departure from office in 1796, he issued a letter to the American people which has become known as Washington's Farewell Address. Here is his conclusion:

. . . in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

The great American experiment continues.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


February 14, 1910

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln Birthday Bicentennial

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. As you can see from the photo in my bio on the left, Lincoln and I go way back. That picture was taken during the spring of 1952 during my first visit to Washington. It was the beginning of a long association that peaked during the last fifteen years of my career.

If you want to settle into an evening with Lincoln, your choice of titles will number in the thousands and in a variety of media. I am inclined to recommend Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years. It is available as a one-volume abridgement or you may choose to tackle the original six-volume version. Not always accurate, not always "organized" as a traditional biography, Sandburg's work is really the story of Lincoln as American experience. It's romantic, rich, warm, organic, meandering, sometimes stormy, sometimes calm. I think the approach works well because the Lincoln story is, in so many respects, the American story. Also keep in mind that, although well-known as a poet, Sandburg soon was revered in the U.S. as a poet/writer for the people, once the first volumes appeared . With that in mind, I believe Old Abe would have been proud to select a writer of popular history and culture as his official biographer.

Do take some time today to reflect on the life, time, and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. So much of what he was, as a nation, we are.

Blossom Dearie

The world of American music lost a rare talent on Saturday with the passing of singer, lyricist and pianist, Blossom Dearie. With her tiny voice, perfect diction, sophisticated song selections, and touch of humor, she entertained jazz and cabaret fans for almost fifty years. Had she not valued her privacy so much, I'm certain she would have been far better known and appreciated. Read more about her at the link above, and check out this recording from the '60s.

I'm Old Fashioned (1942), with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, has long been in the Great American Songbook. Blossom only adds to the class. I chose this song because she had joined Mercer's circle of close friends by the early '60s, and supplied the music for his last lyric, My New Celebrity is You, probably in early 1975. Celebrity really captures the best qualities of both artists. Sorry I couldn't post it for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reaching Beyond The Politics Of The Day

Yesterday, my son returned from Egypt with many stories of his adventures over the past month. One of the highlights was his four day trip from Aswan to Luxor, Karnak, and other sites aboard a felucca, the small lateen rigged sailboat so frequently pictured on the Nile. He mentioned the pleasure of hearing the gentle sounds of sailing, especially the rhythmic splash as the boat cut through the wavelets. Immediately, I was carried back thirty years to the days when I sailed off Tybee in the Savannah ranges and the Back River or surfed the boat in the shoals off 19th Street at the inlet.

My sailboat was by no means large, but it was enough to provide two people with unforgivable challenge on the water. She had many functions over the years. At various times, she was a sanctuary, a bar, a bistro of sorts, a bed, and even a confessional. Most of all, she was a remarkable teacher, enticing me to stretch limits while never hesitating to admonish me before demonstrating the results of recklessness. Through it all, there was the timelessness of being on the water, driven by the winds and currents, responding to the needs of both the boat and the compass. When I moved off the water a few years later, I sold the boat reluctantly, but with great confidence knowing she would reward her new owner with his personal set of lasting memories.

I wish everyone could have an opportunity to learn to sail and sail frequently. It is a rewarding recreation, a sure therapy for mind and body. And with sailing goes the necessity of learning to swim, for if one sails, one will surely swim. Believe me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Changing Times

The passage of Senate Amendment 570 to H.R. 1 and the coming of "stimulus" to the tune of 1,000,000,000,000 suggests that we may have some hope accompanying the massive change that the bill brings to American life. As I see it, regardless of the contents of the final bill, this package will assure only the ascendancy of government. A small portion of the funding - details will emerge in the coming weeks - will lead to a slow economic recovery over many years. Is this the "hope" we've been waiting for? That's all we'll get out of this legislation. Over time, the remainder of the so-called stimulation will grow into more "government," and liberal - read Democrat - domination will be assured throughout the federal government. This is historic change for our society as this legislation leaves almost no facet of American life untouched.

We know very few of the details contained within this proposal, yet many are willing to cheer at the pep rallies and votes that will lead to its signing on the President's desk. As a man who seeks to "hold the center," celebration seems premature to me. Such a gargantuan bill deserves careful study. After all, this bill will soon be law and not easily undone if we find objectionable content within. True, some events, for example, the 9/11 attack, demand immediate response. On the other hand, the huge, complex web called the economy is unlike to disappear overnight. Why such haste to pass this legislation? And furthermore, we should understand that every dime of funding in this bill will be borrowed. Who will be paying for this, and for how long? I don't think any of my readers would disagree with Ben Franklin's advice: Take time for all things: Great haste makes great waste. In other words: You can screw up almost indefinitely with $1,000,000,000,000 of borrowed money.

I am inclined to recall a command from my radical youth: Just don't do something. Stand there!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Recovery Without Mortgaging Our Future

The Congressional Budget Office - nonpartisan - has issued a report today that the recession will be coming to a close in the second half of this year without the need for a massive pork infusion and wealth transfer. Check out the story at Gateway Pundit.

My gut feeling tells me the Democrats in Congress are in for a huge backlash, and President Obama will pay dearly for using Chicago-style politics - fear, clenched fist, loyalty as patriotism, bossism - as leverage in an attempt to pass such deceptive legislation.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

All Armed With Photos From Local Rotos

In the worst of times, we seem to rise to the challenge. In light of the expensive compromise stimulus bill that's likely to come out of Congress, we'll need lots of optimism to carry us through a prolonged recovery. John Nolte at Big Hollywood starts us off in a grand way.

Just too good to pass up.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Space Stations and Mullah Missles

Last night, I went outside about an hour after sunset to watch the International Space Station (ISS) pass over my house. Atlanta was in the last grasps of an arctic dome of cold, clear air, so the pass was exceptional, rising in the northwest, reaching a height of 61 degrees, and disappearing at the horizon in the southeast after 112 seconds. Earlier in the day, I noticed that my source for the flyover time - Spaceweather - also listed the near tandem passes for the new Iranian satellite and its booster rocket. That reminded me of another story in yesterday's news: President Obama's intention to carry out his campaign promise to pursue a policy of no weapons in space, e.g., no "Star Wars" projects. There was also news of his proposal to reduce our nuclear weapons stock to something like 500 warheads, if Russia would agree to do the same. I think there was some indication of a unilateral action to give others some incentive.

With Iran working hard to develop some nuclear capability with assistance from the Russians, our defense systems should take on new meaning. It is one thing to deal with an old adversary who shares many of your Western values. It is quite another to coexist with a society bent on martyrdom as a pathway to salvation. I hope we are looking beyond Russian missiles when planning our tactical response to threats from the sky. The Iranian space program may have more in store for us than opportunities to watch their latest achievements in space drift over my house.

Granted, it has been a very rough two weeks for the new administration, undoubtedly the worst in my 50 years observing such transitions. We can afford neither the instability nor the soft leftist thinking that appears to be seeping into our defense policy. The world is watching every move, every minute. Let's not give them opportunities to see weakness. As my life unfolds, I want to be assured that the bright fast-moving "star" coming over my horizon is the ISS or another object I can enjoy watching.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Take Two: Negotiating With Madness Is Not An Option

If you ever think you can reason with irrational people, try reading this Little Green Footballs post about an Iraqi woman who organized the rape of 80 women so she could recruit them as suicide bombers. The culture of shame does not translate well in the West. It is a behavior we need to know and understand, if we are to successfully defend our values from this death cult.

This disturbing story is showing up in several places today, but I think it so important that I want to make sure readers see it.

Is It Time To Apologize For Crimes Against Iran?

John Hinderaker - Powerline, Claremont Institute, etc. - has some comment today on a Rasmussen poll released yesterday. The poll indicated that "just 11%" of American voters thought the United States should apologize to Iran for " 'crimes' committed against the Islamic country." What caught his attention was the term "just." Was Rasmussen expecting more? Exactly what is on this "crimes" list? Where have we violated law with specific acts against Iran?
I must agree with him that I find it hard to understand how even one out of ten American voters - yes, these people voted - could hold this view. On the other hand I had eleven aunts and uncles, and only one of them, Uncle Bill, was an "outlier," to say the least. Maybe "one in ten/eleven" is a reasonable ratio for chronic fringe behavior among the general population as well.

More seriously, the use of the word "just" could be acceptable given what I perceive is a much higher infection of derangement syndrome still flourishing on the left. Granted, Obama's election is a balm that will sooth many in the syndrome crowd, but their nucleus cannot be penetrated so easily. Nothing short of the end of the U.S. as we know it will satisfy this group. In fact, they continue to hammer Bush-Cheney-Palin as if they were "in power." Soon, projection will set in and their anger will focus on the new power structure as the unrealized expectations accumulate day by day. This is not good for an administration likely to face an array of serious international challenges in the short term.

I see Obama responding in one of two ways. He can be a Harry Truman with some "give 'em hell" reality. Or he can be a Jimmy Carter and his "can't we all just get along?" strategy. Campaign rhetoric would support the former. I cannot see the middle way as a meaningful alternative these days. Either way, the Uncle Bills will be there making life a bit more challenging for them, more entertaining for us. Too bad they can't apologize for such misery making.

[Understand that I can see a Carter strategy working in the appropriate environment, but certainly not today. I'm sorry to be tough on him; he's a fine writer. We have enjoyed several of his books.]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Buddy Holly

Big Hollywood posts a warm tribute to the man on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Steele, the Bloggers, and the RNC

Patrick Ruffini's post at The Next Right has some thoughts on Michael Steele, conservative bloggers, and the RNC. Ruffini has done some fine graphic studies of voter trends in recent election cycles. He and Michael Barone would make quite a team.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More Horizons

Both of my sons are traveling this week. One of them is nearing the end of a five-week trek across the the eastern Mediterranean from Turkey, through Greece, and into Egypt. This week, he's "vacationing" in Dahab, a former Bedouin fishing village on the Red Sea. His older brother leaves this evening for his second trip into the Himalayas, this time to Afghanistan. The journey will be long for him both in time and deep history, as he will be there several months among those whose ancestors composed the Rigveda almost 4000 years ago. It will be a professional and intellectual adventure for him.

I expect my sons will return to the United States as changed individuals, both in terms of maturity as citizens of the world and their appreciation for the bountiful goodness their country affords them.

Today, I am content to explore the world through the experiences of my children, if they choose to tolerate my intrusions. And, while the boys are on the road physically, their sister explores ancient language here at home. For me, it is the best of both worlds, but I look forward to the time when my daughter can explore other lands through the lens of her specialized studies.

There was a time, years ago, when I came so very close to taking an adventure into China, but had my plans changed by another significant event. The thirty years that have passed since then still lead me to the east, but the destination has changed. Should the trip happen, it will be into Nepal, Tibet, and the shadow of Everest.

Steyn on the House Stimulus as Self-Abuse

You may not agree with what he says, but you can't escape the fact that Mark Steyn is one of the most entertaining observers of the political stage. His latest column is a must read critique of the House "stimulus" bill as an economic prophylactic guaranteed to put the nation on the road to serfdom. Blue Crab Boulevard provided the link.

Michael Steele New Head of RNC

The Republican National Committee has selected Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor and recent Senate candidate from Maryland, as its new chairman. This is good news if you consider yourself a defender of the mission as set forth by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. I've followed his political career since the late '90s. Expect to hear his name often in the future.