Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks Again

"The server at wikileaks.org is taking too long to respond."

I am usually disdainful of Denial of Service Attacks on web sites, but the ongoing attack on the Wikileaks.org web site is slightly different.  In this case, I continue to believe that it is wrong, but at least I understand it's motivation and am sympathetic with it's objectives.  Unfortunately, the attack will not do much real good because Mr. Assange has already provided several news organizations with the next tranche of classified documents to be released.  We are told by the United States Department of State that these files will probably be damaging to our national security and will expose more people to retribution from evil people for their cooperation with our country.  I believe those warnings and continue to believe that Mr. Assange deserves incarceration for the remainder of his life as do those that have cooperated with him in purloining these documents.  He is an enemy of the United States and any Americans that have cooperated with him are traitors to our country.

Having said that, I would like to comment on diplomatic and military communications within our government.  I feel qualified in this regard because of decades of service within the Department of State.  I have read and have written a very large number of classified documents.  During my years of service, I found the flow of information contained in those files to be extremely impressive, but I also found much of it to be over classified and poorly thought through.  Many of the documents that I read were badly reasoned and over simplified.  Another problem with reading individual documents isolated from the main flow of information is that at least some statements contained in them will appear to be unfounded.  It is analogous to taking a line of text out of a speech and criticizing it without regard to the context within which it was made.  My suspicion is that one of the reasons that our government fears the release of these documents is that they will open us up to a number of criticisms beyond that of national security.

The United States government is a huge organization with all kinds of internal rivalries both personal and organizational.  These rivalries are well represented in the flow of documents generated within the various departments of government.  They infect the drafting process and not infrequently color the author's analysis of friendly governments.  An element of our government has close relations with an element of a foreign government which in turn is involved in the rivalries within that foreign government.  This situation can and does impact the documents created on all sides.  Those that are involved in the process understand the situation and make the necessary allowances that an outsider can not appreciate.  This makes reading individual reports by the public at large a difficult process at best.  Unfortunately, the situation is different for intelligence operatives.  The Wikileaks documents are an unbelievably rich gold mine for all foreign intelligence operations - both friend and foe of the United States.

The only good thing that will come out of this is that at the end of the day our enemies will not know any more about what we are going to do than we do.  Our national security will be bruised but not permanently damaged.

The really bad thing that will happen is that a lot of people who have been trying to help us will be hurt very badly if not killed outright.  That is why Mr. Assange and all who assisted him should be put in a poorly ventilated jail for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waiver Please

It is my understanding that the Department of Human Services is in the process of issuing waivers to 111 selected businesses and labor organizations that permit them to avoid the regulations in the new health legislation, known popularly as Obama Care.  The fact that most or all of these organizations are controlled by Democrats is also interesting given that the leadership of many or all of these organizations supported the passage of this legislation against the wishes of the American people.  On the face of it, this appears to be unbelievably stinky politics as well as extremely bad policy.  I presume that it is legal as defined by some lawyer in Washington, but I do not find it acceptable under any definition of the word.  I may have been an angry voter earlier this month, but now I am furious.

I suppose that I will have to just get over it and deal with the political reality that my present government is controlled by men and women who share a misguided view of how things should work in this country.  Maybe I should take solace in the fact that it is another admission by the administration that this legislation just does not work.  Maybe we all ought to just apply for a waiver and be done with it.  In fact, that is exactly what I want to do.  Let's just waive the entire Obama Health Care initiative.  I think that bipartisan initiatives like that being contemplated by Senators Scott Brown and Ron Wyden to modify the legislation so that states have more flexibility is a good start given the political reality in Washington, but I hope that we can go much further than that as soon as possible.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Earmarks may be Dead

Please pay attention to what is going on right now with regard to earmarks.  Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority leader has just caved on this issue and President Obama has issued a statement thanking him for joining with his administration in opposing the practice.  In a few months, if we are not careful, we will begin to believe that Mr. Obama was responsible for killing earmarks.  We will forget that although he pledged to do so while on the campaign trail, he failed miserably in following through while he governed for two years and pushed major pieces of legislation through congress in part by paying off Democratic senators and representatives with earmarks.  Make no mistake about it, the American public killed earmarks with the recent midterm elections, and the enthusiasm of the new Tea Party members of Congress is enforcing this new attitude in Washington.

Earmarks have long been part of business as usual in congress and many members of both parties use the practice.  Most of the legislation that is passed this way is aimed at satisfying constituent demands and is justified by the member as being part of his responsibility in representing the people of his district or state.  The problem is that at least some of this legislation is wasteful of tax payer money.  It would be far better if all legislation was required to stand or fall on it's own merits and be fully transparent to the public at large.  As a conservative, I am really upset with Republican leaders who talk about a "temporary" halt to the practice.  This kind of talk gives credence to the charges made by the Tea Party that the Republican establishment is out of touch with the American public.  Earmarks should be eliminated permanently and proponents of the practice should be voted out of office no matter their party or position.  If that makes me a "Tea Bagger" so be it.

Eliminating earmarks is not going to resolve all of our financial difficulties, but it is a good place to start because it is very easy to do.  Conversely, if we can not solve the easy problems what are we going to do with the difficult ones?  This is a test of will -  the American public against entrenched political interests.  Although I disagree with many of his political views, I applaud Senator Tom Coburn's intention of introducing legislation in the Senate that requires a public vote on earmarks.  I presume that Speaker Boehner will ensure that the House eschews earmarks going forward.  (It is my understanding that he has never resorted to earmarks to fulfill his responsibilities to his district and he  was just elected to his tenth term of office.)

Assuming that the Republicans succeed in killing earmarks in the House, it will be interesting to see what Majority Leader Harry Reed and the Democrats do in the Senate.  Democratic senators facing reelection in 2012 are going to be reluctant to give up their ability to use the earmark process to curry favor back home.  If, however, earmarks are eliminated this might encourage them to abandon extreme political positions and move toward the center.  This in turn might, repeat might, encourage the bipartisanship that this country so badly needs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heath Shuler vs. Nancy Pelosi

Heath Shuler has announced that he will challenge Nancy Pelosi for the position of Minority Leader if she insists on running on Wednesday and no one else within the Democratic Party challenges her.  He also recognizes that it is a race that he will almost certainly lose.  Shuler is a leader among the Blue Dog Democrats and voted against all of the most controversial legislation rammed through congress these past few years.  From the perspective of those hoping for bipartisanship in this next congress it is "way too bad" that he does not have a chance.  He and John Boehner could probably get along just fine and we might actually be able to move forward in bipartisan fashion on a lot of important legislation - at least in the House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, the recent midterms winnowed the number of Democrats in Congress by removing more conservatives than liberals.  Ms. Pelosi has announced that she intends to continue the fight to protect the legislation that she helped pass and she almost certainly has enough liberal support within the remainder of the Democratic ranks in Congress to beat down Mr. Shuler.  This, combined with the Democratic majority in the Senate, and their control of the White House, makes it unlikely that we will see true bipartisanship in the run-up to 2012.  It would not be surprising to see both sides replace bipartisan effort with political posturing, but I sincerely hope that Mr. Boehner is able to persevere in his announced effort to find bipartisan solutions to specific pieces of legislation.

Mr. Obama is a formidable politician with powerful oratorical skills.  In 2008, he was able to sell this country a vision of change that led to his being elected.  In 2010, a majority of Americans expressed the opinion that they had misunderstood what he meant by "change."  We must remember that the 2010 midterm election did not express the opinion that America liked Republicans much better than Democrats.  In fact, the polls show that Americans are just about fed up with both parties and politics as usual.  America wants solutions to our problems, not rhetoric.  If we are to put our national house in order we must find solutions that most of us can support.  The majority of those solutions are going to be found in the middle of the political spectrum.  It is too bad that our primary system militates against selecting strong candidates in the middle of either party.  I guess, in the last analysis, that is a comentary on us - the voters.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Optimism is better than Pessimism

One of the more important discussions that is going on right now in America is related to tax policy.  Some believe that the wealthiest folks living in this country are not paying their fair share and they favor raising their taxes to help pay down the debt.  New York State tried to do this a few years ago and found that their revenues went down, not up.  Wealthy folks simply moved out of New York to a state that had lower taxes.  The wealthiest folks can move out of the country if they want to.  (What really tees me off in this debate is that many of the super rich liberal voices advocating higher taxes shelter their money in foreign countries.  They can advocate that Americans earning more than $250,000 should pay more because it will not affect them.  That may be legal, but it is really wrong and says a lot about these people.)

I am not wealthy and my taxes will not be affected whether taxes are raised on folks making more than $250,000 a year or not.  I want us to do everything that we can to lower the deficit, but I do not want taxes to go up on anyone right now.  I am one of those that believe that we should grow our way out of our current economic difficulties.  In the process, we must not just cap spending - we must reduce it.  At the same time we must do everything possible to encourage the private sector to get off the sidelines and restart this country's economic engine.  Raising taxes on folks with the money to expand business is not a good idea, in fact, it is really stupid and reflects a lack of understanding about how a free enterprise economy works.

Another reason why I want to get our economy going again is that our government is rapidly running out of other people's money and will very soon have to start reducing entitlements.  A shrinking economy will have a much harder time dealing with these issues than will an expanding economy.  Optimistic people make better decisions than pessimistic people do.  That goes for countries too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I am Cautiously Optimistic

Mr. Obama, while talking about the U.S. economy yesterday in South Korea, is reported to have said "the only way to make those tough choices historically has been if both parties are willing to move forward together."  I congratulate him on this sentiment and hope that he really means it.  If he does, the road forward will still be difficult, but it will be possible to start digging ourselves out of the hole that we are in right now.  If he does not mean it, we will have to wait until 2012 to do more than make a few peripheral adjustments.

Another encouraging indicator is a very recent statement by a senior White House official that Mr. Obama is willing to extend all of the Bush tax cuts for another two years.  I would prefer to see those measures made permanent, but can accept this compromise.  I don't mind seeing it made one of the issues that need to be addressed again in 2012. In fact, I welcome that debate in the context of a presidential election.

It remains to be seen how well the president reads the mood of the American people as expressed in the recent mid term elections, but my guess is that he is intelligent enough to understand the situation as well as any of us.  I am not at all surprised that he does not want to admit publicly that it was a crushing rejection of his policies.  He continues to believe in a set of principals that lead logically to those policies and I expect to see him fight hard to protect what he has won these past couple of years.  I disagree totally with his principals, but give him credit for having them and respect him for holding to them.  At the same time, I believe that it is critical to the best interests of the nation that he be voted out of office as soon as possible.

On the other side of the aisle I must say that I kind of like Mr. John Boehner's style and sincerely hope that the Republicans confirm him as Speaker of the House.  So far at least, he is saying things that I can support wholeheartedly.  I like his tone and his repeated low key statements about the importance of working together with Democrats to do the people's business.  Here again, it remains to be seen if he means it, but I suspect (and hope) that he does.  Oh, and I thank him for vowing to give up the private jet that the current speaker demanded.  A million dollars here and a million dollars there can add up to real money in no time at all.  Plus, it's nice to know that he is less elitist than the one that we have now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Thugocracy" is a bad choice of words

There are a number of conservative analysts that I respect as far as their analytical abilities, but I wish that they would select their words more carefully.  Ironically, in this last election, many of them pointed out correctly that Democratic candidates throughout the country felt that they could not run on their political record so they savagely attacked the personality of their opponent instead.  In their analysis these conservative pundits themselves sometimes maligned the Democratic candidate in similar manner.  That weakens their argument among thinking Americans and loses support for conservative positions.

A good example is conservative angst regarding union support of Democratic candidates.  It is one thing to examine the why and the how of that support, but it is quite another to refer to unions as "thugocracies."  Unions are composed of teachers, policemen, firefighters, carpenters, plumbers - they are my neighbors.  I know some union members and I do not see them as thugs, in fact some of them are very good friends of mine.  I see unions as a valuable part of the social fabric of America and admire much of the history of the union movement in this country.  At the same time, I see problems within the union movement and I have serious questions about some of the leadership of some large unions.  It is appropriate to have a discussion about these issues, but that discussion should be civil on both sides.

This is particularly important right now because there are some serious negotiations that are on the horizon between municipalities, states and the federal government on one hand and a range of different unions on the other hand.  The downturn in the economy is forcing a reassessment of union contracts throughout the country.  The prospect is that there will have to be a downward adjustment of compensation levels within unions.  For obvious reasons that is going to be difficult on a number of levels.  Maligning one or the other of the participants in these discussions is not useful.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

California still leads the way...

It is not politically correct to say it, but I believe that there is a sizable group of people in America that lack self-confidence, don't think clearly, and are without motivation to try to accomplish much of anything.  I do not think that they are necessarily bad people, but I do believe that they are a problem for society.  Obviously there are many reasons why these people are in this situation, but part of the problem is that America is a very rich country.  There appears to be enough wealth to support folks who do not fully support themselves.  Very few of these people are fiscal conservatives and many of them understandably find liberal policies attractive.

I find it understandable that the folks who work hard to create the wealth that is used to support these people sometimes feel that welfare recipients should be encouraged to do a bit more for themselves.  The "Joe the Plumber" debates are very much about this issue and the key question is just how much wealth should we spread around and to whom?  I confess that I am very old school in this regard.  I do not favor giving someone something for nothing unless they are truly handicapped physically or mentally.  I see no reason why we should not all be required to earn our way in this world and I see absolutely no problem with some people accumulating more wealth than others as long as they do it legally.

The welfare state is already part and parcel of our society and it is not going to be fully eliminated.  I understand that, but I do not see why it has to be further enlarged.  I suggest that eventually it will break the bank and pull down the very engine that sustains it - the free enterprise system.  We have long provided welfare assistance to individuals, but during the last few decades we have started adding large companies to the welfare rolls, and right now we are bailing out entire states.  At some point along the line, painful though it might be, we have to start asking folks to be more responsible for their decisions.

I live in California, a state that has long been controlled by very liberal political forces.  Liberal politicians have created a welfare state of epic proportions in California.  I am told that although we have only 12% of the nation's population we have a third of the nation's welfare recipients.  Our legal system is unfriendly to business and we have driven much of it out of the state - on purpose.  Our unemployment rate is 12.4%, well above the national average, and our taxes are some of the very highest in the country.  It is estimated that a quarter of the nation's illegal immigrants live in California and 15.3% of all Californians live in poverty.  Our debt is the highest in the nation and we are currently being subsidized by tax payers in the rest of the country.

Those who are tempted by our president's rhetoric and policies should look hard at California.  It is not just a serious problem for our country it is a preview of where we are going if we continue to pursue the kind of change that Mr. Obama advocates.  With New York leaning the same way that California is going we should ask ourselves how many states can go on welfare before we do not have enough tax payers left to support this kind of change.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thank You Mr. President

I think that we all agree that health care is an important subject in today's political debate.  A lot of Americans, myself included, do not like what is popularly called Obama Care.  Many of us, myself included, would like to see it repealed and replaced with new legislation.  I see no hope that will happen anytime soon and believe that it will be an important issue in the 2012 presidential election (see previous post).

While I agree that health care is a very important issue, there are a lot of other extraordinarily critical issues on the table right now.  The sum total of our decisions in dealing with all of these issues will determine the future direction of this nation.  I do not like the political direction that this administration favors and want to see the fundamental leadership change that started in the midterm elections this month continue in 2012.  In order for that to happen, conservatives must convince a majority of Americans that our solutions are what this nation needs.  This means that we have to attract thinking Americans in the middle of the political spectrum - not just the political right.

If I were in a position of political influence in Congress I would start 2011 by recognizing that conservatives have, heretofore, done extraordinarily little, if anything, to address the very real problems plaguing our health care system.  If I were secure enough in my own convictions, I might even consider thanking Barack Obama, Harry Reed, and Nancy Pelosi for bringing this issue to the forefront of our national debate.  For conservatives to turn a blind eye to our failures of the past is disingenuous at best and ignorant at worst.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tomorrow's Prosperity is tied firmly to Today's Classroom

When the subject of the conversation is the economy, most Americans are understandably focused on the lack of jobs.  There is a great deal of hand ringing about the fact that many jobs have been exported to other countries where production costs are lower.  Some prominent conservative business people suggest that we use tariffs on imported goods to level the playing field, while many liberal commentators call for us to insist that salaries and benefits in foreign countries be raised or the products be boycotted.  Clearly America misses the twentieth century during most of which our economy was without challenge.

We are, today, in a different century and a different economy.  We are in the process of accommodating to new political and economic conditions in this country and abroad.  The twenty first century is characterized by many as being the age of the "global economy" in which the various national economies are tied together more closely than ever before.  Financial problems in Greece immediately impact Wall Street, political instability in the Middle East raises prices throughout the world, currency decisions in China effect the value of the American dollar, etc, etc, etc.  Like it or not, we are in a new game and there is no turning the pages of history back to an earlier time.

President Obama is visiting South Korea and will attend the G20 summit where he will be criticized by many of the other national leaders for his economic policies, particularly his decision to weaken the value of the American dollar.  Foreigners do not like this policy because it adversely impacts their exports to the United States and dilutes the value of the large loans that they have given to America in recent years.  Obama is manipulating our currency for a variety of reasons, and one of them is indeed to blunt foreign imports and make our exports more competitive in foreign markets.  At home, the policy is also controversial, in part because of it's impact on inflation.  The Federal Reserve is actually trying to increase inflation in America.

Very few of us mere mortals really understand the intricate interrelationship of the world economies - certainly I do not, but I think that I do see what we have to do to compete effectively in this global economy.  I do not think that we should attempt to protect an outmoded economy by shutting our markets to foreigners.  We have to do what we have always done - compete through innovation.  Here, I agree with President Obama when he emphasizes the importance of green energy.  The world is going to need alternative sources of energy and we should be leaders in the development of those technologies.  This is not to say that I like all of his policies in this regard.  For instance he is wrong to minimize the importance of NASA (see earlier post).  He is correct, however, that we have to look to the future and develop our economy on that basis - not try to preserve what we used to do.

In order to compete effectively in the global economy we must solve the very serious problems that our education system currently suffers.  I believe that  the fundamental problem with our education system is not lack of financial resources nor do I believe that we lack enough qualified teachers.  I believe that the fundamental problem that we face is far more serious and infinitely more difficult to repair - it is the lack of motivation at all levels within this society.  I suggest that our civic leaders, politicians, teachers, and students are all insufficiently interested in education.  Too many Americans are trying to fill a check box while people in other countries are trying to learn.  Most of those countries have fewer resources than we do, but they beat us hollow in motivation.

Look at the rise of China and ask yourself why they are well on their way to being the most powerful economy in the world.  I suggest that it is not because they have more guns.  It is not even because they make very many things better than we do - at least not yet.  It is because so many of their people want an education more than just about anything else that you can imagine.  President Obama was right when he pointed to the fact that China now has the fastest super computer in the world and then went on to comment "that used to be ours."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Principals can be Bad if they aren't Yours

Recent statements from conservative and liberal politicians portend considerable gridlock in government going forward toward 2012.  While some gridlock is to be expected during a period of divided government, it is also important that the people's business get done.  There is no question in my mind, but that the liberal policies of Barack Obama pushed the United States too far to the left and that the midterm elections expressed very significant (but not universal) dissatisfaction with those policies.

As a general principal, I favor compromise wherever possible, but there are a couple of things that must be done as quickly as possible.  First and foremost, we must get our economy on a sound long term basis with or without the support of the Democratic Party.  Second, we must replace current health care legislation with genuine bipartisan solutions that can be supported by the vast majority of Americans.  Recently, it was pointed out to the president that exit polls showed that half of the voters felt that Obama Care must be repealed.  He responded saying that those same polls indicated that half of the voters liked Obama Care.  Please note that Mr. Obama's conclusion does not necessarily follow, and even if it were to be the case, 50% support for legislation of this magnitude is very far from adequate.

Viscerally, I would like to see an early legislative effort to repeal Obama Care, but I understand that, given the present makeup of the Senate, it would not make it to the president's desk and, even if it did, Mr. Obama would veto it.  The effort would almost certainly be divisive, time consuming, and expensive.  In an ideal world that would be enough to throttle the impulse, but the probability is that an important segment of the public will demand it and new congressional members will feel that they have to make the effort in order to send a message.  Any real progress that will be made will come from the small battles that will take place as we understand more and more of this legislation and the administrative rules that will implement it are written by regulatory agencies.  Unfortunately, in these battles the administration will have the upper hand and any progress that can be made will be slow at best.

This will be the background for the 2012 presidential election.  The odds are very good that we will get our economy well on the way to recovery during the next two years and Republicans and Democrats will both take credit for it.  Obama Care will have been modified around the edges and both political parties will be fully engaged in the continuing struggle.  As November 2012 approaches, we can expect the president will do his level best to position himself for re-election and conservatives will make a strong effort to replace him with one of their own.  Unfortunately, this can result in public posturing rather than effective policy.  As we go forward, conservatives can not let themselves be cast in the role of spoiler by their opposition.  They must be seen as offering real solutions to the extremely difficult and vitally important challenges that our nation faces.

Conservatives must present workable solutions to the problems our country faces - even if it means compromise with some liberals.  Currently there is a lot of talk about principals.  I am not arguing against principal.  Nor am I advocating mindless deal making.  I am advocating that we conservatives genuinely seek bipartisan support for intelligent policies that will be good for America.  During the past two years, Barack Obama stood on principal and refused to compromise.  Look what happened to our country.  At least half of us think that it was the wrong set of principals and the resultant policies are causing great harm to our nation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is it Worth the Price?

I believe that it is important for the president of the United States to travel abroad and to meet personally with foreign leaders just as I see value in having the president travel around our own country and meet with average citizens.  I also understand that the president can not be exposed to physical danger and requires the protection of the secret service as well as local security forces.  In addition to that, he has to have staff with him so that he can remain fully in control of his government.  All of this translates to a sizable coterie of travel companions over and above the folks who fly the plane.

In a few days, Mr. Obama is leaving on a nine day trip to Asia.  A trip this high level and this complex had to have been in the planning stage for quite a while.  I presume that his political advisers saw the timing of the trip useful in getting the president out of the country subsequent to the drubbing that they expected in the mid-term elections.  They were also on top of things when they made the expansion of trade one of the most important objectives of the trip.  This permitted the president to casually refer to the trip in yesterday's press conference as an example of the importance of the economy in his agenda.  The stops on the trip include India, Indonesia, China, South Korea, and Japan.  That is an excellent itinerary and, depending on how the president handles himself, the trip could be useful in improving our relations with some of the most important countries in the world.

I do not know how much all of this costs, but a prominent Democratic critic of President Obama has estimated the cost at $200 million dollars a day.  If that number is correct, nine days would cost close to two billion dollars.  The same source said that there would be three thousand people accompanying the president.  Assuming these numbers to be accurate, (and I unfortunately find them plausible) I begin to question the value of this trip.  I have been involved in several presidential visits to foreign countries.  I've been privileged to have been able to see some of the actual meetings and I am impressed by the prominence of pomp and circumstance and the paucity of actual work that is done by the participants.  With 9.6% unemployment I can think of much better ways to spend a couple of billion dollars. 

I think that the trip concept is flawed and the timing of it is even worse.  While I agree that trade with Asia is extremely important and am willing to argue about the best way to improve it, I am not willing to concede that the president should leave Washington D.C. at this point in time nor do I think that he should spend very large amounts of money on pomp and circumstance.  From a public relations point of view, this trip is going to be seen by a large part of the public as being in the same category as the President and Mrs. Obama's romantic dinner in New York after his election - another thoughtless waste of tax payer money while millions of their fellow Americans are without a job.  I confess that this kind of thing further weakens my own respect for my president.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Policies were Right - I just didn't do Enough...

President Obama's press conference the day after the mid term elections was an excellent look into the man.  His opening comments were as artful as most of his speeches, his tone was moderate, and the rationale behind his words was enlightening.  Mr Obama identified the economy as the most important issue on the voting public's mind and argued that while his administration had stabilized the economy and started the growth of jobs in the private sector, the general public did not see and feel the progress that was being made and held him responsible as president.  He specifically took responsibility for "not making as much progress as we need to make," but he consistently defended his various policies as being what he felt was needed in the perilous situation that he found the country to be in when he took office.

Going forward from the mid term elections, the president indicated a desire to sit down with Republican leadership to find common ground on the issues that face the nation.  He indicated that he believed that the American people did not want their political leaders re-fighting the battles of the last two years.  He expressed the hope that he could work with the new Congress to solve problems in the area of energy, education, jobs, debt reduction, and a wide range of other issues.  Health care was not in the list.  When pressed on health care he reiterated his belief that America did not want Democrats and Republicans re-fighting old battles.  On the issue of transparency, he argued that the economic crisis that he had inherited was so pressing that he did not have time and had to get his stimulus program through congress in traditional ways.  He was not asked why health care was handled that way.  A particularly interesting part of the press conference dealt with his relationship with the business community.  He made a strong presentation regarding the importance of the free enterprise system and the role of private business in creating wealth.

I voted against Obama in 2008 because, based on his personal background and congressional record, I felt that he would support policies that were far too liberal for my taste.  At the same time, I confess that I liked a lot that I found in his various speeches and, following his election, I sincerely hoped that he would turn out to be someone that I could support.  I wanted him to succeed.  During the past two years he did not live up to his rhetoric and he turned out to be every bit as far left as I feared.  I no longer trust his word and I listen far more carefully to the exact phraseology that he uses than I did a few years ago.  I do not know how he will govern during the next two years, but i will no longer take his words at face value.  I will judge my president by what he does not what he says he is going to do.  He obviously has an agenda for the lame duck congress so it will become fairly clear fairly soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

America does not have a Muslim Problem

I am really tired of the outright stupidity of some of the right of center pundits who insist that the United States has a "Muslim problem,"(including those with whom I frequently see eye to eye).  I completely agree with Whoopi Goldberg - you should be more careful when you open your mouth.  A number of these very influential personalities say that moderate Muslims are not doing their part in the struggle against radical Islam.  This kind of rhetoric is not only stupid - it is dangerous and is not in the best interests of the United States of America.

If we confine ourselves to direct attacks on the United States by radical Muslim terrorists we must understand that many of these attacks were thwarted because of information provided to security authorities by Muslims.  In places where American forces are engaged in fighting radical Muslim combatants, not only are there large numbers of Muslim military and police alongside of our troopers, but many within the general population are risking their lives to help defeat radical Islamic forces.  There are internal arguments, but the leaders of most Muslim countries in the world today are on our side in this struggle.  I don't have numbers, but my guess is that there are far more Muslims engaged in the struggle against radical Islam than there are Americans.  Certainly there are far more moderate Muslims with their lives on the line than there are Americans.

While we argue about the appropriateness of a mosque at Ground Zero, people in the Middle East are engaged in a life and death struggle with some very bad people.  I suggest that we should not blindly criticize the very considerable efforts of these brave men and women.  To do so, does not in any way help us, but it does help those who say that we do not understand the Muslim world.  Men like Osama bin Laden.  It also contributes to the American public's misunderstanding of what is going on in the world around us.  In the long run that may well be the most deleterious effect of this kind of trash talk.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2012 Presidential Campaign

It is November and the 2012 presidential campaign is about to start.  I assume that Mr. Obama will head the Democratic ticket, but do not completely rule out finding Hillary Clinton there (see previous post on this subject).  In either case, I would prefer a good sound conservative in the oval office, but that opens the discussion as to who that might be.  I confess that I am not yet seeing an obvious choice.  I am, however, encouraged that there are a lot of potential candidates out there that I do not know very much about.  I look forward to learning more about each of them as they test the waters during the next few months and I intend to keep an open mind.  I am also curious to see how the Tea Party will fare following the midterm elections and assume that it will depend in very large part on how the Republican Party handles itself during the run up to 2012.

One potential conservative candidate that I sincerely hope does not run is Sarah Palin.  I admire Mrs. Palin, respect her many abilities, and agree with many of her political views.  I also believe that she would be as divisive a president as the one that we have now and for that reason alone believe that she probably can not defeat Mr. Obama in 2012.  Many of my conservative friends will not agree with me because they want to remain true to their political principals at all cost.  I find that admirable, but impractical.  I want to elect a president that can live up to the bipartisanship that Mr. Obama promised in 2008, but did not deliver these past couple of years.  I do not find Democrats to be evil people and suggest that many of them actually have some pretty good ideas.  At the very least, I want a president that can talk to all Americans and help us find solutions to our problems that the vast majority of us can support.