Monday, December 31, 2007

The Election and The Economy

Ignore the trade deficit. That’s one way a smart candidate can win the 2008 election in terms of the economy. I will come back to explain that statement, but the disparity between that advisory and the behavior of the front-running politicians demonstrates just how poorly most understand the economy and how a nation’s chief executive should run it.

Bill Clinton ran in 1992 on the theme, ‘it’s the economy, stupid’. And in that time, it was true. Regardless of whatever else we want to say about President Clinton’s performance, the economy hummed along while he was in the White House, which if nothing else shows he knew when to not mess with it. Of course, ol’ Bill deviated from the customary accounting methods used by the government to claim his “surplus”, which never existed in any material sense, but since the United States government has not used anything much like GAAP in my lifetime, I can’t really say too much against Bubba, except to observe that his Administration’s bookkeeping was more creative than most.

No matter whether the party in power is Republican or Democrat, the plain fact is that they plan on spending your money. Lots of it. Sometimes a President gets to feeling a mite guilty about how much they grab from the taxpayer, and they give just a little of it back. Of course, when this sort of thing happens, the other party gets nasty and tries to claim that the tax cuts will lead to terrible consequences. This claim is generally a lie. And when we talk about lies and the government and the economy, this leads us to talk about the trade deficit.

“Nothing is more absurd than this doctrine of the balance of trade." Those words come to us from Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations, and he wrote this in summation of his great experience and a long-considered debate back in 1776. Trade, when it began, was just what the name suggests, a person trading something they are willing to give up, for something they want to get, with each party pleased with the agreed terms. For all the fancy talk, that is what trade is now. Just because we use cash instead of barter, and in many cases buy on credit, does not change the fact that trade is always a transaction where both sides are satisfied with the deal. No one, despite the protestors, is forcing you to buy a certain brand or from a certain country. And despite the politicians trying to say otherwise, no nation in history has been undone because of a trade deficit. Look, for example, at Japan. During the 1970s Japan was going great guns, and all sorts of people were worried about the “inbalance” of trade. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japanese investors were buying up American real estate and companies. Everyone was crying gloom and doom, surely we’d end up no longer the United States, but some dismal possession of Japan. Yet, within a decade, everything was largely back to where it was. This is because the Japanese were no more immune to bad business decisions than Americans were, and the market corrected itself in a number of ways, leading to some startling reversals. No, that does not mean that stupidity gets a ‘reset’ button, but it does mean that panicking because one nation happens to have more cash than other nations at one point or another is just silly. If you’ve ever played ‘Monopoly’, you know that just because one player has a lot of cash does not mean that the player is going to win; a lot of things can and do happen. And that board game is a very simplified environment; it is essentially impossible to buy an entire country, especially in a global economy.

That global economy is another reason not to sweat a deficit. If we are back in the barter days, there’s not going to ba a lot of trade. Why? Because the guy you are dealing with will only have a few things you may want, and it is not easy to find a point where both sides agree on a trade. Is that sweater worth a whole cow? What do mean, he won’t take eggs … you get the idea. Now, a look around your town and what do you see? Yes indeed, some folks do better financially than others, but that doesn’t mean the rich guys own the town, does it? Money can’t buy happiness and all that, the point is that there’s more to even financial success than a flash of cash. Also, these weasels who go on about a trade deficit are forgetting that this is not the United States making deals with other countries, this is individual consumers buying things and individual companies and sellers supplying the products. They are, it may surprise you to learn, happy to accept our money at the agreed price, and none of them have any real intention of desctroying our economy, since doing so would ruin the value of the money they worked so hard to get from us.

So, in the end the “trade deficit” is largely a myth, so far as the government is concerned. Oh sure, the statistic is real, and to a limited extant it is a quality which should be watched, but in the political sense it’s a non-starter. This is because there is not much, at all, that the government can do to help things. They can, and often do, make things worse, with such tactics as tariffs and quotas and the like; all this does in actual effect is anger the country from which the products are coming, while making our own citizens pay more for products they want or might even need. The government does its job to make sure that certain strategic products are not sent overseas (we should be careful not to let China have the technology to make ICBMs or Stealth Bombers), but China is simply not going to take over America by making inexpensive plasma television sets or novelty items. And before anyone gets the idea that China is some deviously brilliant nation which will outwit the United States, I may need to remind you that all that contaminated food and unsafe tires and so on that we got so angry about, is still being sold to China’s citizens, who lack the means to protest in the way that the American media can. Also, the regime in charge of China has been importing wheat and other basic foodstuffs for a generation, because they thought the “Great Leap Forward” was a winning plan.

Should the United States government track what comes in and goes out of our country? Absolutely. Should we play gatekeeper on certain dangerous items and consider the intentions of foreign governments? Of course. But using scare tactics to create a boogey man so that citizens will grant even more control over their lives to the government? That should disqualify any candidate for federal office.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Politics 201 – A Refresher

Friday afternoon, I was listening to Hugh Hewitt talk with Mike Gallagher, and they briefly discussed negative campaigning. I was surprised to hear Hugh claim that citing supposed deficiencies in your opponents’ positions was somehow not negative campaigning to him. Strange, if an educated Law Professor in LA can miss that one, it’s clear that we need to go over the basics.

There are four basic types of campaigning; Informational, Advocational, Negative, and Dirty. Most candidates will use something from all four types during a campaign, especially national campaigns which last more than a month or two.

Informational campaigning happens when a candidate is trying to announce to the public who they are and what they stand for. The chief goals are to increase name recognition and create a unique position in the voter’s mind for the candidate;

Advocational campaigning happens when a candidate releases advertising and other media designed to persuade the public to vote for him or her. Advocational campaigning is different from informational campaigning in that advocational campaigning attempts to achieve specific gains in support, which is generally represented by poll response and fundraising results. However, advocational campaigning can also lay the groundwork for later strategy, such as the ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries;

Negative campaigning is the flip side of advocational campaigning. Where advocational campaigning gives reasons why a voter should support a certain candidate, negative campaigning gives reasons why a voter should not support a certain opponent. Any advertisement or statement which discusses weaknesses or flaws in an opponent is negative campaigning;

Dirty campaigning is behavior which is generally considered unethical in attempts to influence an election. Examples of dirty campaigning are sadly abundant, ranging from bribery, scare tactics, lying about beliefs and behavior, especially in an attack on a political opponent, to attempts to manipulate conditions to prevent losing.

It should be noted that the lines between these categories can sometimes be indistinct. For instance, Kerry supporters considered the ads by Swift Boat veterans in the 2004 campaign to be dirty campaigning, because they felt the charges were false, while Bush supporters felt the ads were negative campaigning but legitimate, because the claims were accurate. Other times the lines are quite clear; LBJ’s ‘Daisy’ ad in 1964 for example, which implied that electing Barry Goldwater to the White House could result in Nuclear War, was clearly dirty in character.

The reasons for these different categories of campaigning are structural and conditional. The front-runner in a political race, for example, enjoys name recognition and a generally positive image, and so would be reluctant to use negative campaigning, and would be very likely to forbid dirty campaigning, as these types could damage the candidate’s public perception. Candidates behind the leader or in a tight race, however, would be far more tempted to use negative campaigning, as it is necessary to change the public’s preference for the front-runner in order for another candidate to take the lead. All modern political candidates decry dirty campaigning, yet the two most lopsided Presidential elections (1964, 1972) both incorporated dirty campaigning, which implies that carefully-applied dirty tricks can be very successful.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Faith Is Not a Marketing Tool

I don’t want to pick on Governor Huckabee too much, but he’s starting to really creep me out. I figure I can write about this, since the man has it in mind to become our next President, a possibility which can only come to pass if God turns out to be really angry with America and determined to punish us with a thoroughly incompetent and dishonest President. Sure, Liberals say that now about President Bush, but in the case of Huckabee, it really would be near a worst-case scenario.

Of course, there are other candidates equally unsuited to the job, but for here one trait which sets Huckabee apart is his belief that selling himself as a devout evangelical Christian is a political advantage. I have to admit that there is strategic precedent for this belief; Jimmy Carter essentially ran as a devout Christian, sort of a juxtaposition against the immorality of the Nixon Administration, even though Carter was running against Ford. And before Carter, many earlier politicians ran on their religious image. So, it’s no new thing for Huckabee to sell himself as a pastor-cum-leader. But this is a very dangerous thing for voters to believe. Real Christians do not flaunt their pious credentials, but sell their skills and experience. George W. Bush appealed to Christians, but did not speak about his faith except to answer direct questions. Ronald Reagan was a very devout Christian, but he too separated his role as a believer from his work as a President. John F. Kennedy made a point of asserting that while he was a strong Roman Catholic, as President he would answer to the American people, not the Pope in Rome. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, all throughout American History the greatest religious Presidents made sure not to blur the boundaries between Church and State. So, when a candidate sells him or herself as a strong believer in a particular faith, this is a danger sign. A big one.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Desperate Snake

A long time ago, I worked a summer job at a pet store. They had all the usual pets, including puppies and kittens, various fluffy rodents, fish and birds … and snakes. Snakes were especially popular with some folks, for reasons I never quite understood. The thing is, when a kitten or puppy got loose, everyone was well amused and happy to pick up the animal and get it back to safety. Not so with the snakes. When a snake got loose, we had to shut the store doors, make an announcement, and watch the customers freak out as their worst fears about reptilian intentions drove them to irrrational behavior. But that’s how it is with snakes: While most snakes would like nothing more than to leave people alone and live their lives far away from anything so much bigger than they are, many people are convinced that snakes are aggressive and malicious creatures which can’t resist attacking people. Now, it’s true that snakes are sometimes dangerous because of their venom, and in any cases no one likes getting snake-bit. But in my experience, snakes are most dangerous when they are desperate; a calm snake only attacks its prey but when in a panic it will bite anything that seems to be a threat. This is as true of vipers and cobras, as for grass snakes and garter snakes.

And that, in essence, is what happened Thursday in Rawalpindi. Al Qaeda has lost Iraq, and they are also being driven out of Afghanistan. AQ looked for a new home and found support in Sudan and Somalia, but neither has the resources AQ would need to effectively operate as a global terrorist organization. On the other hand, Pakistan is appealing on a number of levels to Al Qaeda, not least because they still have some of the old Taliban and Fedayeen hanging around. If the media reports are correct, the chief reason Osama bin Laden is still breathing air is because he found friends in the border mountains of Pakistan. All that is left of Al Qaeda’s nasty ambitions rests on Pakistan staying open to them. If Pakistan became a truly democratic republic, this would be the end of Al Qaeda. So it is not a stretch to say that the snakes of Al Qaeda were desperate indeed.

This is not to say that Benazir Bhutto was the worst enemy of Al Qaeda, but she would have revitalized the war against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and increased the government’s credibility in the war. Bhutto held the advantage that she was respected by U.S. officials but owed them no favors, so that she could deal openly and without any appearance of undue western influence. With a new U.S. Administration coming into power in 2009, A Bhutto Administration in Pakistan offered the hope of a completely new beginning in U.S.-Pakistan relations. While the Bush-Musharraf relationship was forged from necessity and the existing conditions, Bhutto could choose to work from a wider range of options, allowing more flexibility in the war against Terrorism, which in Pakistan is effectively always at the front door. The assassination of Bhutto, therefore, is in retrospect obvious necessary for Al Qaeda, and her death appears to have accomplished just what Al Qaeda hopes to achieve.

The key to moving forward from here, is understanding that President Bush was correct in his initial description of the assassination: A desperate, cowardly act. The reason this is important, is because whoever takes office as Pakistan’s next President will have a situation far more to their advantage than may be immediately apparent. Al Qaeda is still dangerous and their doctrine a foul poison on the faith of Islam and a terrible crime against the people of the Middle East, but they are weak and inconstant; a resolute leader in Pakistan could destroy them, if he or she is wise, and it is certainly in Pakistan’s interest to do so.

Al Qaeda is a remarkable organization for a number of reasons, not the least that their greatest successes will eventually bring about their own destruction. Osama believed that a war against the United States would eventually result in the U.S. leaving the Middle East, in the same way that the Soviets did after their loss in Afghanistan. There are many reasons why this was a faulty analysis, but the chief result is that the Bush Administration conducted the war in a far different manner than bin Laden expected, and as a result Al Qaeda suffered the decimation of its manpower and resources. An organization that once maintained offices in over a dozen countries and operated in a dozen more, Al Qaeda has seen its bases destroyed, almost its entire leadership structure killed or captured, and public opinion turned strongly against it, even in Afghanistan. Some writers have compared Bhutto’s assassination to that of JFK, but in reality it is closer to the Lincoln assassination, a bitter useless act which will in the end not help the cause of the murderers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The ITTI-bitty Review of the Major Candidates

Here’s the policy positions from each of the major candidates as of December 26 2007 (per their campaign websites), along with poll and fundraising numbers and my take on their chances:

DEMOCRATS (popular and media favorite as a party to win the White House in most polls at this time)

Hillary Clinton * New York Senator, former First Lady
Iraq : Pull-out within two years regardless of situation
Terrorism : Ignores it
Taxes : No specifics, likely would increase corporate taxes and raise personal some.
Immigration : Amnesty for illegals, easy access for more.
Polls: RCP Average 43.8% for Dem. Nomination (front-runner)
Fundraising: $90.4 million raised, $40.5 million spent so far
Prospects: 60% chance will win nomination, election depends on Republican opponent.


Barack Obama * Illinois Senator
Iraq : Would abandon Iraq immediately
Terrorism : Would ignore it
Taxes : Higher taxes across the board
Immigration : favors Amnesty
Polls: RCP Average 25.2% for Dem. nomination
Fundraising: $80.3 million raised, $44.2 million spent so far
Prospects: Diminishing chances, only 30% chance for the nomination, VP slot most likely. As Democrat nominee he would be shredded by almost any GOP opponent.


John Edwards * North Carolina former Senator
Iraq : Would abandon Iraq immediately
Terrorism : Return to pre-9/11 practices
Taxes : Would wipe out Bush tax cuts, whack corporations
Immigration : No plans to change anything
Polls: RCP Average 13.2% for Dem. nomination
Fundraising: $30.3 million raised, $17.9 million spent
Prospects: Articulate, getting stronger as race goes along, but a very dark horse. Maybe 8% chance of claiming nomination, could be a dangerous candidate if he gets the nod, as none of the GOP candidates has prepared much of a case for running against Edwards.


Joe Biden * Delaware Senator
Iraq : Would abandon Iraq in Vietnam-style disgrace
Terrorism : Would ignore it
Taxes : Would raise income taxes immediately
Immigration : Would ignore it
Polls: RCP Average 03.2% for Dem. nomination
Fundraising: $08.2 million raised, $06.3 million spent so far
Prospects – None at all. Best hope is to influence nominee and grab a nice post like SecState if the Democrats take the White House.


Bill Richardson * New Mexico Governor
Iraq : Would abandon Iraq immediately
Terrorism : Ignores it
Taxes : Across the board increases
Immigration : Amnesty and pro-Hispanic policies
Polls: RCP Average 02.4% for Dem. nomination
Fundraising: $18.7 million raised, $12.9 million spent so far
Prospects: Zero chance at the White House, unless asteroids hit the top 4 candidates. Then he’d have a 25% chance. Likely pushing for a cabinet post.


Christopher Dodd * Connecticut Senator
Iraq : Would leave Iraq in first year
Terrorism : Ignores it
Taxes : Opposes tax cuts, otherwise no plans
Immigration : Would not change existing conditions
Polls: RCP Average 00.0% for Dem. nomination
Fundraising: $13.6 million raised, $09.7 million spent so far
Prospects: When a fly meets a windshield, his odds of winning are still better than Senator Dodd’s.


Dennis Kucinich * Ohio Congressman
Iraq : Would abandon Iraq, apologize to Al Qaeda, and sue President Bush
Terrorism : Would ignore it
Taxes : Would raise them
Immigration : Would ignore it
Polls: RCP Average 00.0% for Dem. nomination
Fundraising: $02.1 million raised, $01.8 million spent so far
Prospects: None whatsoever.



REPUBLICANS (popular and media underdog as a party to win the White House in most polls at this time)

Rudy Giuliani * New York City former Mayor
Iraq : Supports Bush and Petraeus’ plan
Terrorism : Promotes local and state actions
Taxes : Vows to cut income taxes
Immigration : Middle-road approach, security and reform
Polls: RCP Average 20.8% for GOP nomination (front-runner)
Fundraising: $47.3 million raised so far, $30.6 million spent so far
Prospects: Weaker than in the fall, but still the lead dog, 75% chance of claiming GOP nomination. Excellent prospects in all potential General match-ups.


Mike Huckabee * Arkansas former Governor
Iraq : A total fool, promises a tough war but thinks we can trust Iran and Syria
Terrorism : No specifics, but promises it’s Job One
Taxes : Promotes the ‘FairTax’, but ignores flaws
Immigration : Hard-line right, no compromise
Polls: RCP Average 17.8% for GOP nomination
Fundraising:
Prospects: Strong lately due to slick speeches, but his record is suspect and his positions will not dovetail with his claims. I expect he will win a couple primaries but crash. Huckabee is too combative to be anyone’s running mate or take a key post.


John McCain * Arizona Senator
Iraq : Agrees with Bush/Petraeus, but goes further to insist on long-term commitment to the region
Terrorism : Emphasis on strong, well-equipped military
Taxes : Opposes AMT, wants Super-majority needed to raise taxes
Immigration : Middle-road, mix of enforcement and opportunity, some amnesty
Polls: RCP Average 15.5% for GOP nomination
Fundraising: $32.1 million raised, $28.6 million spent so far
Prospects: Gaining strength, will put pressure on Romney and Giuliani, could well be the VP nominee. About 15% chance of claiming the nomination.


Mitt Romney * Massachusetts former Governor
Iraq : No specifics, generally supports the war effort
Terrorism : Supports Coalition approach, wants more “local government” participation
Taxes : No specifics, wants to cut spending
Immigration : Hard-line Right, opposes Amnesty in any form
Polls: RCP Average 15.0% for GOP nomination
Fundraising: $62.8 million raised, $53.6 million spent so far
Prospects: Strong start, fading a bit now because of inability to handle criticism, may well be damaged later by his handling of Craig scandal. Will not consider running mate position. 10% chance of winning nomination.


Fred Thompson * Tennessee former Senator
Iraq : No specifics, implies agreement with Bush/Petraeus surge
Terrorism : Strong military will total support, Demonstrated “will to win”
Taxes : Eliminate IRS, make taxes simpler, no specifics
Immigration : Generally wants enforcement, few specifics
Polls: RCP Average 11.5% for GOP nomination
Fundraising: $12.8 million raised, $5.7 million spent
Prognosis: Very strong start, but a fast fade when he could not keep up the pace on the actual campaign. Has not detailed many of his positions, and his Senate record is all but empty. Great potential, but as we know “potential” is a nice way of saying you have not actually done anything yet. He must show something substantial before Groundhog Day, or he’s done. Right now has no effective chance of winning nomination, which will be hotly disputed by the FredHeads.


Ron Paul * Texas Congressman
Iraq : Abandon Iraq immediately
Terrorism : Ignore them and hope they leave us alone
Taxes : No specifics, generally holds Mercantilist positions
Immigration : No specifics, implies hard-line position
Polls: RCP Average 06.8% for GOP nomination
Fundraising: $08.3 million raised, $02.8 million spent
Prospects: None whatsoever. Paul is a spoiler at most.


Duncan Hunter * California Congressman
Iraq : No specifics, generally pretends it never happened.
Terrorism : No specifics, generally approves of post-9/11 actions
Taxes : No position
Immigration : Border fence, strict enforcement, no Amnesty
Polls: RCP Average 00.0% for GOP nomination
Fundraising: $01.9 million raised, $01.8 million spent so far
Prospects: Hunter appears to have done the most he could hope for; he got his name on a few primary ballots. His lack of effort to explain his positions demonstrates his own lack of confidence.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Whiners, Cry-Babies, and A Thought

The Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday afternoon. Of itself, that is hardly shocking; the Texans are still a young team, and even there they are rebuilding from the previous coach’s bad decisions, while the Colts are one the NFL’s strongest franchises, powerful every year. What disappointed me, however, was the way in which self-proclaimed fans in Houston immediately went on a temper tantrum after the game, demanding coaches be fired and players traded, out of some vague notion that these professionals were less competent to make the Texans a successful club than the emotionally unstable mob of malcontents who contend that rash and chaotic upheavels are the best way to reach the promised land of winning games, divisions, and eventually Super Bowls. Those who have actually studied those teams which reach and win the NFL’s title game, note that the actual path to greatness is something a bit more rational and far less profanity-laced. Yet the screaming weenies persist, and their numbers are never small when their chosen team is anything less than perfect in results. Small spirits always harass the greater ones, it seems.

The same thing happens in Politics as in Sports. We see the candidates starting in on one another in a fairly juvenile manner of debate, but even more we see foul behavior and bitterness in the ranks of partisan snipers. I thought about posting some of the comments made on websites like Daily Kos and Polipundit, just to name two of the most rancid antagonists on each side. Now granted, from my conservative point-of-view it sure looks like the Left is far worse about this than the Right is, but every so often Ann Coulter writes something utterly cruel and heartless and she gets applause for it, or Michael Savage makes a baseless disparagement of a class of people and his callers call him brilliant for it. As for the Left, just look at Al Gore, Michael Moore, or Harry Reid. They are not only evil in their intent and thoroughly dishonest in their arguments, but also have propogated a cadre of like-minded minions who shout down all reasonable debate and discourse in the belief that only their side has the right to speak.

That’s the thing, really. I have tried to have discussions on the most sensitive issues with people who disagree with me, both Conservatives and Liberals. More and more often, it is impossible to touch certain topics, even to find out the reasoning and evidence for why someone holds a certain position. Ask most Liberals what they would do about Al Qaeda, and you will get a sermon on the evils of President Bush, but never a serious, considered alternative to the War on Terror. When I tried to discuss the obstacles to resolving the Illegal Immigration crisis on the Polipundit site in 2006, the site owner began a series of tirades that led to him kicking off the other four writers, not for disagreeing with him but for not instantly agreeing to write only in support of his position and opinion. More and more, I realize that these are not outliers, but actually represent the present tone and mietre of the campaign. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not allowed by their ‘base’ to promise military support for America’s allies, even where we have treaty obligations in place. Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are not allowed by their ‘base’ to say that Roe v. Wade is not likely to ever directly be challenged in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during their lifetime, and so even if elected President they would never be in a position to “overturn Roe v. Wade”. The issues which matter most are swallowed into the gaping maws of popular expectancy. I would even dare to say that this, more than anything else, is what is killing excitement for the 2008 election. I said before that the GOP would miss Dubya, and the fact is that none of the present crowd of candidates rises to his level. Given that fact, if any of the present Republicans were to try to compare themselves to Reagan, the resulting laughter from the absurd attempt would drive them from the field. As for the Democrats, we are bereft of a substantive explanation of their planned policies from any of them – the Bush-hate demands that all speeches focus, indeed obsess, with the current President, even though he will be a private citizen after this next election.

The Blogosphere carries its share of the blame for this corrosive atmosphere, though most of it still rests with old-guard mandarins in the MSM who bitterly resent the fall of Soviet-style socialism and the Fairness Doctrine. But unlike the NYT, LAT, and their devolutionary progeny, the Blogosphere can also be a source of solutions for this problem. It’s a bit early for New Year’s Resolutions, maybe, but even so one cannot help but wonder what it would be like if the Blogosphere worked to calm tensions, not play on them, to suggest specific solutions and debate the pros and cons openly and honestly, rather than simply trashing the other side. What if Democrats could accept that George W. Bush did a pretty good job? What if Republicans could accept that the public saw something they liked in the Democrats in 2006? What if we argued the issues and the proposals to solve crisis, rather than created lists of remembered slights and offenses? What if we were less like The Sopranos, and more like real adults?

Hey, it’s Christmas Eve, and just maybe now is a good time for a spirit of renewed hope and optimism. What do you think?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Update On Online MBAs - Detours

Those who have been following along since mid-2006, are aware that I am earning my Master of Business Administration at the University of Houston at Victoria. That is actually a bit of a mis-statement though, since in actual fact I am taking almost all of my courses online. Just to catch up, here are the courses I have taken so far and their resulting grades (UHV uses only A/B/C/D/F for graduate classes, no ‘+’ or ‘-‘ grades):

FALL 2006
Accounting 6351 – Financial Reporting and Analysis ******** B
Economics 6351 – Economics for Managers *************** A
Business 6351 – Business and Society ******************* A
[][] Semester GPA 3.66 [][]

(SPRING 2007 cancelled due to cancer treatment)

SUMMER 2007
Accounting 6352 – Strategic Cost Management ************ A
Management 6351 – Management & Org. Behavior ********* A
Quantitative Analysis 6351 – Statistics & Research Methods ** A
[][] Semester GPA 4.00, running GPA 3.83 [][]

FALL 2007
Management 6354 – Leadership & Organizational Change **** A
Management 6355 – Operational Management & Comp. ***** A
Marketing 6352 – Strategic Marketing Management ******** A
[][] Semester GPA 4.00, running GPA 3.89 [][]

SPRING 2008
Economics 6361 – Managerial Economics
Finance 6352 – Financial Management
Management 6352 – Management of Information Systems

Assuming I pass the Spring 2008 classes, that will fulfill all of my core requirements except the Capstone course which includes the case competition, and three remaining concentration classes in Accounting.

That’s where things get sticky. If you have not earned your Bachelor’s degree yet, I strongly urge you to stop and think – HARD – about what you want to do for a living, because – no matter what your counselor or advisor tells you – your undergraduate studies will have a great deal indeed to do with what you can do later on. In my case, I was somewhat less than industrious at Baylor as an undergrad, and so in my Junior year I discovered that I was in no way ready to graduate. I scrambled around for answers, got some really bad advice from BU’s advisors, and left the place in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.

Fast forward to today. In my work at four companies over 24 years, I have discovered that I love Accounting. I mean sure, there’s parts of it that a boring, but on the whole it’s just what I want to do. There’s analysis, there’s the clean fact that numbers are non-political and objective, and with Sarbanes-Oxley, accountants are far more appreciated than ever before. So, I thought about things for a long time and decided I wanted to earn my CPA license. But, given my work background in Business Management, it just made sense for my to go after the MBA with a concentration in Accounting, rather than first go for a Masters in Accountancy. UHV’s Strategic MBA offers a quick MBA in that respect, and I thought it would be simple.

Ahhh. But Life always hits you upside the head every now and then. Two of the Accounting courses in the Accounting section have undergraduate prerequisites; Advanced Auditing and Advanced Taxation. I am hardly complaining about that; it just makes sense to prove competency in the basic skills before taking on the advanced work. However, the prerequisites are not offered online. The only way to take them is to actually apply and register at one of the other universities in the UH system, and take those classes in person. The problems get even stickier when I realized that those prerequisites also have prerequisites, and worst of all those courses may not be taken concurrently, and they are presently not offered at all in the summer. So, to take those courses, I would have to register for Intermediate Accounting II in the Spring of 2007, follow it with Intermediate Accounting III in the Fall of 2007, follow that with the next course in Spring 2008 and finally take the graduate level courses in the Fall of 2008. Since I planned to get my MBA in the Spring of 2008, this was a real problem, especially since the school offering the first course in the Spring of 2007 filled all its evening classes before I knew about this specific requirement.

This is where that 24 years of experience comes in. The nominal way to earn the MBA with a concentration in Accounting, is to take the core courses plus four Accounting concentration courses. However, I found out that it was also allowable to earn an MBA with a concentration in Accounting by taking the core courses, three Accounting concentration courses, and one additional course in Finance or Economics. That is why Managerial Economics is on my Spring schedule; it’s allowed as a replacement for one of the Accounting courses, though it won’t add to satisfaction of the course requirements for my CPA. Besides the two Accounting courses I have already completed, UHV offers five other Accounting courses at the graduate level: The Auditing and Taxation courses which require special pre-requisites, but also International Accounting, Selected Topics in Accounting, and Contemporary Issues in Accounting. If I take those last three plus Managerial Economics and the Capstone course, I can still get my MBA with a concentration in Accounting, and worry about the other courses post-graduate in preparation for my CPA exam. The hitch, of course, is when and how those courses may be offered, so I will have to wait and see how that shakes out. In case you think this is just a bit ‘iffy’ and is dependant on luck, I agree, but the situation is the best I can make of it right now.

So, why mention all this? Well, I started writing about my MBA studies as a sort of journal for anyone who might be in something like the same situation, so I owe it to you to note the squirrely things, like previously unmentioned requirements and the need to be creative in planning your degree route, never trusting anyone else for your own results. No matter your accomplishments, you have to have educational certification for certain opportunities, and an MBA is a powerful tool in certain situations, provided you plan things properly. That planning, however, includes thinking out what you will do with your degree, and therefore making sure you get the specific credentials for your desired position is critically important. Not every school is really interested in working with the student to help them get the right degree, and many schools are still very-much hidebound to the way they have always done things, so there will be situations where what makes sense has nothing to do with what is required of you. Fortunately, if you have had enough experience in the real world, you will already be familiar with similar chaos in working conditions.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Mitchell Report – Witchhunt, Anyone?

“At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the “facts” reported were simply manufactured.”

- Judge Edward C. Voss, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Arizona, in an order to unseal the “Novitsky Affadavit”.

I don’t like Roger Clemens all that much. He’s an amazing athlete with Hall of Fame credentials, and I was glad to have him play for the Astros for a couple seasons, but he can be a jerk at times and he’s never been much of a team player that I can see. But with that said, I don’t jump to conclusions when unsuported allegations are made, even against him. I do not accept the Mitchell Report at face value, and neither should you.

I was surprised when the Mitchell Report came out. Not about what it said, but by the public reaction. I mean really, what did you expect it to say, especially given the way in which the “investigation” was conducted? I hate the gratuitous use of steroids and completely agree they should be banned from professional sports, if for no other reason than the fact that kids copy what they see their heroes do. But at the same time, the presumption of innocence is - or should be – a hallmark of American justice. What happened with the Mitchell Report, is that a variety of people made accusations against other people, without the persons accused being allowed to cross-examine their accusers or even state their side of the story.

The media didn’t help things, either. For example, ESPN gushed with excited anticipation about the report, as a preview of the report said “the big questions have been whether the final report would name names, and how many names would be named, and how important the names would be.” The reader may note that ESPN was not at all concerned with the lack of any proof; the accused would be presumed to be guilty. Investigative journalism ended with the prospect of a juicy scandal.

That’s why I noted Judge Voss’ order. Back in 2006, the LA Times ran a story which accused Roger Clemens of using “performance-enhancing drugs”. The accusation was based solely on the report that Clemens was named in an affadavit to the court made by Jason Grimsley. The Times specifically wrote “Grimsley told investigators
that Clemens used athletic performance-enhancing drugs.” The order by Judge Voss observed that a “review of the disclosed affidavit proves that the Times never saw the unredacted affidavit. Roger Clemens is not named in the affidavit and Grimsley makes no reference to Roger Clemens in any context. At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the “facts” reported were simply manufactured.”

Judge Voss went on in a footnote to show just how far off the Times was in its claims. He wrote “This conclusion is almost inescapable. The Times article lists six players purportedly named in the affidavit. Actually, the affidavit names only two of the six and as to Tejada, the Times quote relates to alleged anabolic steroid use which is incorrect. The reference in the affidavit is to amphetamine use.”

Now I’m no expert on the fine differences between understandable error and deliberate defamation, but this sure seems to cross that line. Again, I have no special appreciation for Mr. Clemens, but the LA Times story certainly shows a climate that can only be called hostile. The Mitchell Report merely reflects that same environment on a much larger scale – the nation wants athletes punished, and all they need is an accusation, never mind the proof. Anyone who wants to get down to the truth of the matter with regard to Major League Baseball and the use of drugs, needs to understand that the Mitchell Report has no real value in that search.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The American Imperative

The mainstream media was long ago identified as an enemy of the Conservative Movement in the United States. So it should be no surprise that whenever an opportunity arises to disrupt the Republican Party to the advantage of Liberals, the media is quick and eager to assist in that mischief. This, in sum, is the media’s reason for their fascination with Congressman Ron Paul’s candidacy, the perverse hope that casting him as a true Conservative will split the Republican vote and assist the Democrats’ candidate in claiming the White House.

There are many reasons to reject Ron Paul’s claim to the nomination, but the man has been successful in fooling people into thinking his positions reflect a well-considered plan and a solid grounding in historical Conservatism. In actual fact, Paul’s positions are na├»ve and contrary to proven historical precedents, but they are at least illustrative in how people can fail to understand basic lessons from History and Ethics. For this article, I focus on one volatile yet essential lesson, America’s duty regarding the War in Iraq.

Paul’s Foreign Policy is predicated on a historical model which has failed many times before; the immediate and total abandonment of alliances and defense treaties signed with allies across the globe. Paul’s contention is that American military presence outside our national borders constitutes a provocation to other nations and non-government forces, and that we can correct our National Debt in large part by decimating our military in size and capability. An impotent America is the cure for the world, says Paul.

Radical as this sounds, it is aligned with a certain mind-set, which often shows up in debate about the morality of the Iraq War. Philosophers, who by the nature of their work have little practical comprehension of the realities of war and conflict, separate moral arguments about War into three broad groups; those who argue War may be pursued if it achieves desired gains at an acceptable cost, those who argue War may be pursued if it can be defended as “Just”, and those who argue that War is never a valid action, always something to be avoided at any cost. These positions could be interesting to discuss, but they all share one critical flaw – they presume that War is an action which may be judged impartially by the “international community” or some similar body (“International Law” is another popular term) which carries the authority to punish those nations and leaders who pursue a war judged to be wrongful. In actual fact, the “international community” is, in this context, a purely hypothetical construct with no true substance. Where a body of nations exists which could fill this role, there is always a specific leader, one nation which directs the course of that group. Napoleon was defeated by a coalition of nations, but that coalition was led by England. World Wars One and Two were clearly and plainly fought by many nations, but won by the United States’ leadership. Half the world fought off the Soviets, but again it was America which led the fight. For nearly all of America’s history, when the world is in direst need it callls for American help, and American arms. This is the American Imperative, the clarion call to lead the world. To say anything else is to ignore the lessons of two centuries.

Consequently, whether a war is moral and just or immoral and unjust is decided not by the world as a whole, but by America. We have the leadership and set the course in motion, and it is the American people who will punish a leader or reward him for his decisions. It sounds arrogant to say so, but on this point the opinion of the rest of the entire world is plainly irrelevent to the matter. This fact is why the debate over a war is especially strong and so often divisive; people sense the significance of our decision and defend their position with every weapon at hand. This is also why personal attacks are so common in this debate – advocates of a position excuse slander against leaders, even the most false and defamatory statements and attacks, as necessary in the pursuit of a “greater good”, even if the true character of that ideal is never scrutinized to verify its claims.

Paul’s arguments against the U.S. involvement in Iraq follow this wholly subjective course. Paul contends that the United States chose to invade a sovereign nation on no just cause, and therefore that only abandonment of the nation is an acceptable course of action. He is not merely wrong in his assumptions, but his chosen position would be catastrophic for all parties concerned. First, to cause. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of a number of provocations, including Iraq’s refusal to honor the terms of the 1991 Cease-Fire from the first Gulf War. Iraq turned back and even physically threatened weapons inspectors, they moved materials and documents to hide them from discovery and inspection. Iraq fired on Coalition aircraft monitoring the no-fly zones to which Iraq had agreed in 1991. Iraq’s intelligence service attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush, likely with the approval of strongman Saddam Hussein. Iraqi intelligence had connections to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing through Ramzi Yousef. Saddam used chemical weapons at least twice on civilian populations in Iraq. Biological weapons were tested on prisoners at least six times in various locations in Iraq. Any of these constituted a basis for action, and together they demonstrated a regime in clear and continuing defiance of the sovereignty and security of its neighbors and its own citizens. The WMD question is hardly the sole basis for the invasion, although it must be noted that at the time of the invasion, the consensus of every major intelligence agency with whom the U.S. had friendly relations, was that Iraq was developing WMD and would use such weapons without moral restraint.

It may be said simply, that the second Gulf War occurred because America did not finish the first one properly. The reader will recall that the first Gulf War ended with the United Nations pressing for the United States to allow Iraq to simply return to the initial position, providing no penalty for invading Kuwait in the first place. Had the U.S. occupied Iraq then, the present war would not have been needed. Forseeing the inevitable objection from the Paulites, that Saddam would have been dealt with by his neighbors had the United States not intervened, again History proves that claim a lie. Just after Saddam claimed top power in Iraq, he began a war with Iran which killed literally millions of people and lasted throughout the 1980s. The United States tried to stay out at first, but no Middle East state intervened to end the war or stop the war. The 1990 invasion of Kuwait was deplored by all the Gulf states, but again none of them made a move to stop Saddam until they first demanded American intervention, and had the U.S. declined to intervene there is no evidence they would have “taken care” of Saddam. No one but the United States had the means or the resolve to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. After the 1991 cease-fire began, Iraqi forces crossed the border into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and Iran and Syria on a number of occasions, but again none of those nations did anything about it for years, instead depending on the United States to take action. Indeed, American involvement in the 1990-1 Gulf War began not with the actual invasion of Kuwait but the official request from Saudi Arabia for U.S. troops to defend their borders.

For an example of what happens when the United States stays out of a conflict, the reader need only consider the cases of Rwanda and Bosnia. In both cases the United States was persuaded to allow the countries in the immediate area to address the crisis, but nothing happened, except that a lot of innocent people got raped and murdered, and the nations of Rwanda and Bosnia ceased to exist in any normative sense. As much as we may dislike the phrase “world’s policeman”, absent American intervention the condition becomes much like neighborhoods where the police are known to be missing. In the end, if the United States does not protect the world, no one does. The United States eventually did get involved in both Rwanda and Bosnia, but well after many casualties were sufffered. There can be no question, at all, that American action is literally the life-and-death decision for many millions of people in dozens of locations.

Paul also makes the mistake of judging American actions as unilateral actions, with no consequence except immediate response to our acts. The fact that the United States prevents aggression from certain groups, and establishes accountable government where such would otherwise not exist, is well beyond rational dispute, so it should be understood that, aside from the direct interests of the United States, if the U.S. were to remove its troops from their commitments, the regions concerned would immediately lose stability and the welfare of the people in those areas would be imemdiately imperiled. Again, we can see this in Iraq. For all the noisy speeches made by Democrats, it is well understood by all that if the United States had not removed Saddam, Iran would have invaded Iraq at some point and seized the land and resources as its own – the fate of the Iraqi people would be grimly bloody. If the United States were to remove troops from Iraq prior to the stablization of the government (the military matters are proceeding well just now), again this would invite incursion by avaricious forces in Syria and Iran. For all the whining about the cost and the cause of the war, the decision is clear – support the U.S. mission and establish a truly functional Arab democratic republic, which would create impetus for the entire region towards stability, representative government, and economic prosperity, or else desert our allies and abandon precedent, treaty, and commitment, and see the enemies of freedom and democracy set upon these places like jackals on their prey. It really is that simple.

I now come to the basic question of American self-interest. That is in no way a bad thing, you know, especially if you understand what Globalization really means in practical application. Leaving aside labels of ‘Superpower’ and the like, there is no country in the world, indeed in History, to match the present power and influence of the United States. That, to put it bluntly, is one of the big reasons why some folks hate America – they resent America’s stunning success and wrongly believe that the destruction of America would benefit their own position, when in fact the opposite is true. In Economics, for example, nations often find that there are certain things they do well, and certain products where they make the best. This has limited value in a pre-Globalization economy, because you are trading like products between economies. In the Global economy, nations seek to export services and products where they excel and have surplus, for services and products where they have need. While the specific cases vary in success and it takes some tweking to get the balance right, the general effect of Globalization is to raise the standard of living and trade levels for all participating countries. They quite literally live better in a Global economy than they could on their own.

The same effect occurs in military and political matters, as well. Alliances based on common goals and mutual interests allow the partipatory nations to protect themselves more effectively with less expense of resources. The political sphere is somewhat less effective, as nations tend to take a more proprietary view of their policies, but even there nations find that open dialogue benefits everyone, even when there are sharp disagreements. This is one reason why France is closer to the United States in spirit and policy, than it was in 2002.

America is the quintessential Global partner, the sole nation which posseses abundant wealth of resources, population, services, military ability, and political influence. Accordingly, those nations which work with the United States will profit by it, while America’s enemies will generally suffer from their own spite. The disbursement of American forces exist not only to advance American diplomatic objectives and to maintain peace in sensitive regions, but also to protect American ventures throughout the world. It is therefore the most rational course for an American leader to advance American interests through the maintenance of U.S. bases and force projection. Again using Iraq as an example, if the United States were to abandon the region, Iran’s inevitable invasion would lead to Persian control of oil supply throughout the world; gasoline prices would quickly reach $10.00 a gallon and the American economy would fall into serious recession within four months, quickly followed by European and Asian markets.

The abandonment position embraced by Ron Paul, and to a lesser extent by foreign policy beginners like Barack Obama and Duncan Hunter, is to my mind sufficiently serious to disqualify a candidate from any further consideration. While I like neither of them overall, I am satisifed that both Senator Clinton and Senator McCain understand the American Imperative, and I support Giuliani and Romney in part because I am confident they support that imperative. The other candidates may well find that the survival of their candidacy depends on showing their own comprehension of and dedication to American supremacy on all counts and in all theaters of conflict.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not the Usual Suspects

“Iran.”

President Shaw merely said the word, and heads started nodding. All but two.

Ailes was one of the nodders. “It makes sense, Mr. President” he said.

“With Iraq now stable, the mullahs have to be sweating out what would come next. And Governor Reynolds never minced words about his opinion of the regime in Iran.”

“Sorry, but no. Iran was almost certainly not behind this.”

Everyone turned back to the head of NSA.

“No comm chatter” he said, pointing a finger up. “No evidence of special training in the last three months, or –“ cutting off Ailes, who was about say something – “any support activity in Iran that matches the profile.

“No cash flow from Iran to D.C. in the past two weeks, and we know this team was here that long.”

Shaw looked at Ailes for confirmation, who nodded. “We think the hit team was in D.C. for the last part of the election, so they’d need a safe house somewhere close.”

NSA continued.

“Also, the President of Iran has to know the payback on this. In fact, I would not be surprised to see a hit on the President of Iran in the next few days.”

Everyone in the room stopped.

“Explain” ordered Shaw.

“Mister President”, said NSA, “this was meant to destabilize the United States. They did not go after you, or all the candidates, just the one they were sure would win.

“But that by itself will not have the kind of effect needed to make a difference. But a lot of people will think of Iran as being behind this assassination, and some would expect you to go after Iran in retaliation. Killing their President would be easy to sell to the Middle East as an American action, and that would pay off in a lot of ways that the plotters could take advantage of.”

“Well, that’s a real problem, then” nodded Shaw. “So, what do we do? Send a message to Iran warning them to take care.”

“We can’t do that” warned SecState. “They’d just take that as a threat, and their President would not believe you, anyway.”

“OK” said Shaw. “Frank? I need a plan on what our options are, if someone whacks the President of Iran. Who benefits, who blames us and how we prove we’re clean.”

Chairman JSC nodded.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Gordian Inquest

President Robert Shaw stared grimly down the table.

“Seems like we have a lot of questions, but damn few answers a day after the murder of Don Reynolds and his people.

“Perry, I want to know who’s our suspects.”

Perry Ailes was the head of FBI, and nominally in charge of the investigation. Jack Hill was still angry that the Secret Service was not running the case, but Ailes was already running LEGATTs in a dozen cities around the globe, showing resources everyone knew would be critical to the task.

“Mr. President, we’ve got some information, but nothing definitive” said Ailes.

“Understood” replied Shaw, “but you’re leaning somewhere for starters. Let’s hear what you are looking at.”

“Obviously, this was a conspiracy,” began Ailes, “which for some reason seems to have focused solely on Governor Reynolds and Ms. Green. We have found no evidence of a conspiracy to kill either Mr. Jordan or Ms. Connolly, possibly because Reynolds led in the polls ever since the conventions.

“We’ve run into problems with the shooters, as well. Five men, one woman, Middle Eastern in appearance, though witnesses said their English was European.

“The team was a suicide crew, we are sure. The van was clean of papers, and besides the phony ID’s there was nothing to trace, not even the normal pocket litter. They burned prints off their hands and palms with acid, but we’re doing sub-cutaneous tracking to try to raise something. Homeland is working TSA tapes to find entry points, starting with Dulles and working up the coast, but so far no video. Autopsies underway, but early signs are poor; nothing in the stomachs but bread, amphetamines and caffeine. No tattoos, even the dental work appears minimal. We have some scars which could give us leads, but so far the team appears brand new to us, someone we’ve never seen.”

“What about pre-hit chatter” asked Shaw.

NSA answered, “Only what we expected right after the election, and nothing at all from known Al-Qaida spots.”

“Al-Qaida”, repeated the President. “Well, we’re all thinking it, so let’s talk it out. Is this an Al-Qaida hit?”

“No” said three people at the same time. Shaw looked surprised.

“That’s pretty strong: he observed. “OK, why not Al-Qaida?”

“First, Mr. President, Al-Qaida has effectively been disintegrated” said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “They can’t even issue a press release with an official spokesman, they have to use the FDM.”

“FDM?” asked the Secretary of the Interior.

“Favorite Dead Martyr” explained the President, “since AQ still uses Osama-bin-mashed-to-jelly for their videos.

“General, I hope you have not forgotten that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln AFTER Lee surrendered. Losing a war does not mean they stop going after folks.”

“I know that, Mr. President” replied the Chairman. “But this is a serious operation, something well beyond the ability of Al Qaida.”

“Besides,” interjected NSA, “we’ve heard nothing to show Al Qaida was training for anything like this. This team stayed under the radar right up the attack. Mister President, this was state-sponsored.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Plan

Derek Jordan grasped it first.

“The election isn’t final until the electors vote”, he said.

“Right” answered Duke. “And there’s a big difference between ‘President-elect’ and ‘President’. With Reynolds dead, the question of who won the election is back to square one.”

Heather Connolly nodded. “The voters picked Reynolds, but he’s dead now” she noted, “so the election is void, right?”

“That’s our plan” agreed Duke. “Without a President-elect, they’ll have to run another election, and nobody they pick will be as strong as Derek.”

“But why even have another election?” pondered Heather. “Derek got the second-most votes, and since Reynolds can’t take office, we can argue Derek is the next in line.”

“Well, we’ll have to word it better, so it doesn’t sound like we’re selling the Presidential election like a Miss America pageant” warned Duke, which earned him a cold stare from Connolly, “but yeah, we start with that angle, and then use the new election as a back-up plan.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Triangulation

Heather Connolly glared down her running mate and party chairman.

“Look, I know how to look sympathetic”, she protested.

“It’s not enough” replied Horace Duke, the party chair. “Right now, we have to play along with the ‘We are all Americans’ line. The killers were Arabs or Palestinian, or even if they weren’t most people will think of them that way.”

“So?” asked Derek Jordan.

“So,” explained Duke, “There’s a big difference between us calling out the other party for Hypocrisy or being crooked, and looking like we’re happy they get assassinated.”

“It’s murder, not assassination” argued Heather.

“Assassination” returned Duke bluntly. “Like it or not, these people killed the President-Elect of the United States. We just can’t ignore that.

We can play this to our advantage, but you’re going to have to be strong on this, Heather.”

Heather Connolly knew what was coming, but even so she became furious as she listened to Horace Duke explain the new plan.

“You want me to demand a Senate investigation into IRAN?” she exploded.

“Absolutely” replied Duke. “Everyone already thinks Iran did it, so there’s no way we can run against that. But if we push hard as a National Security issue, this plays to our support for winning the White House.”

“What, you mean next time?” asked a puzzled Jordan.

“Hell no” retorted Duke, “Didn’t you realize this means the White House is up for grabs now?”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Concerns

Pete Mallard sat across the coffee table from President Shaw, aware that the President had quickly grasped the significance of the event. Shaw’s habit had always been to meet with groups, not individuals, so a private meeting with his NSA showed a quick grasp of the stakes.

“Pete, this smells to high heaven”, began Shaw. “The plot was pretty damned complex, with fake news credentials and a stolen van and all, but they don’t go for anyone else?”

Shaw stood up and paced as he spoke.

“And why not a bomb, or just go for a mass attack? This was too chancy.”

“But it worked” reminded Mallard.

“Yes, it worked” agreed Shaw. “That’s strange too. The right place at the right time? Too lucky.

“So, I don’t buy the ‘usual suspects’, Pete. We need to find the indirect attack.”

Sunday, December 09, 2007

First Decisions

President Shaw looked grimly across the coffee table at Tom Sands, his Press Secretary, and Pete Mallard, his National Security Advisor, as well as Agent Hill and a number of staff officials.

“How bad is it?” he asked.

“Seven dead including Donald Reynolds, plus the attackers, Mister President”, said Tom Sands. “Another five injured, all critically, including Ms. Green.”

“The dead are the President-elect, two from his campaign staff, an agent from his detail, two of Green's staff and an agent from Green’s detail.

“The injured are Ms. Green, two from Reynolds’ detail, and two more from her detail.

“The attackers appear to be Middle-Eastern, one female mid 20s, and five males, also mid 20s. They were wearing CNN shirts, carried credentials and had a CNN van. We’re chasing down the materials on that angle. The credential question is why we slammed the lid on the press-“

“Lift it. NOW” interrupted Shaw. Sands paused, but after a moment he and a man from the AG’s office got up and left to carry out the order.

“OK, I know the security drill” said Shaw, “but what next?”

“Frankly, Mr. President” began Pete Mallard, “that depends on what happens next. This was a conspiracy, which means we need to know what was their next planned move. We can guess, but right now that would be sure to be a mistake.”

“Agreed” said Shaw. “Then I need you to find options for me for each possible route. And Tom?”

Tom Sands stopped at the door.

“I will address the nation tonight. I need a draft by noon, and keep me updated on conditions.

“Also, get me phone numbers for the families of the victims. If I can’t go anywhere right now, I still need to reach the people who lost loved ones here. Start with Peggy Reynolds.”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wildfire

President Shaw was about to enter the Press Briefing Room for a quick chat about Reynolds’ win, when Jack Hill, his detail lead, abruptly grabbed his arm and led him away. The angry noises Shaw could hear from Hill’s earpiece told him something was very wrong, even before Hill said a word.

Inside the briefing room, things were even more surreal. Cell phones rang in a dozen places at once, and as newspeople answered them they saw every exit closed off by men with heavy weapons. The regular White House employees had been removed, and the men who replaced them looked very angry indeed. A man most had never seen before stepped to the podium:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for the inconvenience, but this is an emergency situation and we require your immediate cooperation.

“There has been a shooting involving the media, and I’m afraid we must require everyone to sit down and keep your hands in plain sight.”

For a moment, there was a stunned silence, prolonged as reporters began to realize the deadly earnest of the men holding guns on them.

Across town, Heather Connolly was about to enter her car to go to her Senate office, when her detail lead was stopped by a large group of Secret Service agents Heather had seen before at Camp David. Her pique at the delay was vented at the Secret Service, who Connolly found a hindrance and too sure of their importance to the world. The she saw Sam Wilson come from the group towards her, walking with a grim urgency that she knew meant bad news.

“Let me guess, bomb scare at the Hill?” she suggested, but Wilson ignored the remark.

“Someone shot Reynolds and Green and damn near everyone in a block’s range” he said bluntly. “No word on their condition, yet, so we’re still going to the Senate but no press appearances for now.”

“Why the hell not?” demanded Connolly, “Does Shaw want to control the spin on this?”

“It’s not that,” replied Wilson. “The guys who did this had media credentials and a CNN van. The Service thinks they may not be done.”

For the first time in many days, Heather Connolly was at a loss for a reply.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Peril

President-elect Donald Reynolds met in the second-floor foyer with Vice-President-elect Green, as a small entourage led the way. Over the protests of his detail, Reynolds wanted “low-key” security, something no one commented on – publicly.

“Hey Carol” asked Don, “where do you want to go for breakfast? I’m thinking I want to try Franky’s down the street. I’ve heard they have awesome pastries.”

“Don, aren’t we supposed to meet the press at the Verizon Center?” asked Carolyn.

“They can wait a few, while I enjoy a good bear claw” replied Reynolds. And with that, the party took the stairs to a side door and found 9th Street. Not 50 feet away, a news crew jumped to its feet, and Reynolds groaned. Carolyn chuckled.

“Hey, invite them along” she suggested.

“Good idea”, agreed Reynolds. He waved at the crew, a woman and five men wearing CNN International shirts. Carolyn thought it was odd that they carried three cameras, but Reynolds now seemed elated, despite his earlier attempt to duck the media. The woman was saying something about a building, and Carolyn realized she wanted it as a backdrop for the interview.

“Now, just a few quick questions, please” smiled the woman, who seemed exotic to Carolyn, olive in complexion and a little stilted in English. Frank was walking back towards their van, which had an open back door with cables running to and from the cameras.

“Remember to smile”, said the woman, and the men raised their cameras in unison.

Something clicked in Carolyn’s mind as she saw Frank pull out his weapon, yelling “Gun!”

There was a heavy sound like ripping metal, and something slammed into Carolyn’s shoulder, spinning her and slamming her backwards. Her head bounced off the sidewalk as she heard automatic gunfire from everywhere, and the world went black.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Duck in Repose

Robert Shaw was enjoying himself, munching on a croissant while tossing bits of the bread to his collie. Across the table, next to the space recently vacated by the President’s wife, Alan Pearsall tried to decide whether he should try to maintain a dignified air, or play along with the President’s playful mood.

“Welcome to weird-out Wednesday, Al” remarked President Shaw, to which Pearsall did not reply.

“Yep, every loon and moron with a microphone and satellite feed to a TV station will be dissecting the election for the nation, with some of the wackiest conspiracy theories you ever heard of”, continued Shaw.

“Mr. President, you’ve been looking at Kos again?” inquired the Vice-President.

“Well, it does make for some good comedy” said Shaw, “and you should be flattered, Al. They think that since I’m leaving office, you’re going to ‘control’ the next President just like you ‘controlled’ me.”

“How is that?” asked Pearsall. “I have no connection to Governor Reynolds at all.”

“Ahhhh,” sighed Shaw, “but that just ‘proves’ that you’re subtle and devious, and so on.

“Now me, they still say it’s all luck that I won two terms and had a good run and all. That, or an evil plot of your machination.”

“Wait a minute, now I’m confused” said Pearsall. “Is that one from Kos, or CBS?”

“Well, they do both like the theory” admitted Shaw, “but it’s a bit more coherent than Helen Thomas these days, so I gotta guess it started with Kos.”

“So, anything special today?” asked Pearsall, though he knew the schedule already. Shaw sometimes liked to shake things up.

“As scheduled, we will meet President-elect Reynolds and Carol Green at 10, take some photos and start folks seeing the new POTUS in the Oval Office. Think I can sneak Bingo into the pics?” asked the President, as he scratched behind the collie’s ears.

“What about the Speaker’s request?” asked Pearsall, asking about the Speaker of the House Panini’s demand on television Tuesday, that President Shaw come to the House to answer questions from the Armed Services Committee about the Global Warming effects from military operations. Panini had implied that she would attempt to subpoena the President if he did not volunteer a visit.

“That’s why I’m in a good mood, Al” remarked the President. “In just a few months, the angry monkey parade will have a new Grand Marshal, and I can get back to being a regular guy again.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Scorned Woman

Heather Connolly glared across the breakfast table at her husband and campaign manager. She felt a strong need to break something or hurt someone, but Jeff Connolly had warned her that the media might look badly on a show of temper after losing the election.

“Look at Gore”, he warned. “He was so nasty after losing Florida, no one remembered his good points and in oh-four he had to sit out the election. Don’t be like Gore, sweetie.”

Heather hated being called ‘sweetie’, but Sam Wilson dragged Jeff away before she could launch an effective evisceration of her husband. Heather was not especially happy with Sam either, but one of Sam’s qualities was that no one could stay mad with him.

“Look Heather,” began Sam, “for right now we have to cut our losses. The sharks are looking for any holes in the results-“

“Like Pennsylvania? Like New Jersey?” shot back Heather. Losing those two states seemed impossible to her, which meant a fast one by somebody on Reynolds’ campaign. That, or else Shaw and Pearsall had played some games behind the scenes to make a difference.

“Like anything that can help us.” Replied Sam. “But this one wasn’t close enough for one state to break Reynolds. Derek has accepted it, hell even Duke is facing up to it. I know it’s a hard hit, but maybe you need-“

“-a drink” retorted Senator Connolly.

“and by the way,” she said as she shot Sam a glare across the top of her glass, “do NOT ever, ever talk to me again about meeting with Reynolds and Green. The only way I want to see either of them face-to-face, is when I find something to subpoena them to appear before the Senate.”

“Geez, already thinking impeachment” started Jeff Connolly, but Heather silenced him with another look.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Day of Decision

Carolyn Green checked her appearance in the mirror for the eighth time that morning, still not accustomed to what seemed banefully narcissistic, but which her staff claimed was one of those critical areas of public approval, especially now. She sighed inwardly as she wondered, again, just how she had let herself be talked into taking on this challenge. Well sister, she told herself, you said you wanted to make a difference and by God, you’ll do that one way or another.

Carolyn did not turn on the television that morning; she already knew what the news was saying. The election results had been mercifully predictable, which no doubt annoyed the media types. If God was truly merciful, Carolyn mused, He’d let America have some boredom for a while. President Shaw had called in his congratulations just after Texas made the win official, and – as expected – four hours before Derek Jordan conceded the Presidency to Don Reynolds. Governor Reynolds enjoyed a pleasant phone conversation with Senator Jordan, which was more than Carolyn could say; her attempt to reach her counterpart, Heather Connally, was met with a series of lame excuses by her Chairman, Sam Wilson. Sam was a good guy but a bad liar, and Carolyn could tell Heather was bitter from the loss. Horace Duke, the party chair, called around 5 AM with an ‘explanation’ about why Heather Connally was not available for public appearances or to talk with Ms. Green, but the whole tone smacked of hypocrisy, and calling her private line at 5 AM was simply a cheap shot. Connally would return to life as a United States Senator, where Carolyn had no doubt she would obstruct every move made by President Reynolds.

Carolyn looked around to make sure everything was ready; the hotel room would be tended by Secret Service as well as the 4-star staff, but Carolyn hated to leave a mess or forget things. Her own campaign chairman, John Lake, had set up a breakfast meeting for President-elect Reynolds and herself, along with party Chair Fred Barrett, and of course a crowd of press. Thus the need to act and look perfect, today of all days. Carolyn left the bedroom and nodded to Frank Gorshin, the head of her Secret Service detail. Frank was so good at so many things, that Carolyn had more than once asked him to become her Chief of Staff, but he had always told her he’d have to think about it. Frank brushed a cuff with a subtle movement of his hand, issuing a fast click signal to alert the team that the VP-elect was on the move.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Problem With Reason

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case out of Washington D.C., where a long-standing law prohibiting honest citizens from owning and keeping handguns for their self-defense and the defense of their families is being challenged as a violation of 2nd Amendment rights. It would seem, at first, to be a clear division of positions – one either contends that the 2nd Amendment was written regarding individuals, or it was not. But, a longer inspection makes things a bit sticker. For Liberals, the fact that the Bill Of Rights was clearly written to protect the people from a repressive government makes it hard to claim that they should be denied the right to protect themselves from criminals. But for Republicans, the notion that an individual has the right to bear arms runs into trouble as soon as you ask how far that right extends; taken to extremes an insurrectionist collecting an armory of weapons could claim he was protected by the Constitution. One is forced to depend on Reason, no matter where one’s ideals and emotions originally direct their opinion.

The problem with that Reason, however, is that people tend to ignore it when it won’t say or do what they demand of it. An obvious example is the pervasive paranoia on the Left, which increasingly blames things on President George W. Bush, no matter how absurd the charge, but the Republicans have their own share of myopia on that count, as the 2006 mid-term elections bear out. America was hardly thrilled with the Democrats, yet the GOP managed to convince the voters that they should change the party in power. As a result, the nation is thoroughly disgusted with Congress, yet has given no clear signal who should lead; the Anarchists must see this as their golden opportunity. Certainly the focus of political ads for the Presidential campaigns has been largely stylistic, with little to no substance for anyone to use to decide who should get their vote. The serious voter must be close to despair.

The United States is a country truly unique in the world. And yet, American politics is no more lucid and civil than many other places. To run for President requires a campaign fund larger than the value of some corporations, it depends on a serial contest in multiple venues, where candidates must hone an image sufficiently distinct to stand out, but sufficiently common to remain appealing as a member of the established community. It’s a lot like any large demographic, a majority of middle-road performance, with a few noteworthy for their failures or success. The American condition is different, because when it works, the system produces leaders who listen to the people, respond to their needs, and whose vision advances the country, more often and with better foresight than any other nation on the planet. But the way we get there is far from reasonable at times. It is chock full of emotion and symbolism, of sometimes trite, even banal displays of the obvious. The most reasonable candidate is often the first rejected.

American business is still the template for the world in many ways; organization, marketing, and distribution are obvious arenas where U.S. companies excel. Yet the United States is also home to some of the most bone-headed economic decisions ever made by a non-Communist/Socialist government. American CEOs run the range from some of the most insightful and innovative leaders in the world, to some of the most insipid and trollish boors on the planet. Reason gets a migraine just trying to explain why that is so.

The American Education system is regular derided for its poor quality, in part due to a determined emphasis to place socially “conscious” issues on equal footing with practical developmental tools, or even superior. Yet the lion’s share of innovative products, medical breakthroughs, and applicable discoveries continues to go to the United States. Apparently, geniuses somehow understand the limitations of the public education system and find alternative avenues for self-education and intellectual growth. Yet again, Reason is baffled by the results.

Reason is an essential quality of a complete adult, yet it constantly finds itself trumped in decisions of the moment.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Assassination: Still a Threat

Today is a grim anniversary, marking 44 years since President John F. Kennedy was gunned down while in a motorcade to a speaking engagement in Dallas, TX. The event is singularly memorable in American history, the kind of gruesome reminder that terrible things can happen anywhere, to anyone.

Some people get the notion that this is old news, that the day when assassinating a President should be worried about is long gone. The actual record since that horrible day in 1963, however, is not promising:


April 14, 1972 – Arthur Bremer traveled to Ottawa (where he believed security would be looser) to attempt to assassinate President Richard Nixon. The security proved tighter than he expected, and he abandoned that attempt,. Choosing instead to try to kill Governor and Presidential candidate George Wallace.


February 22, 1974 – Samuel Byck hijacked a DC-9 at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, with the intention of crashing the plane into the White House to kill President Nixon. He shot three people, killing two of them, but committed suicide when police stormed the plane.


September 5, 1975 – Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of serial murderer Charles Manson, attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford.


September 22, 1975 – Sarah Jane Moore, also a member of Manson’s “family”, shot at President Ford. Oliver Sipple, a bystander, grabbed her arm, which caused her to miss.


March 30, 1981 – John Hinkley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan in front of the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.


October 29, 1994: Francisco Duran shot at the White House from the outside fence with a semi-automatic rifle. He fired at least 29 shots.


May 10, 2005 – Vladimir Arutyunian threw an RGD-5 hand grenade at the podium in Tbilisi, Georgia, where President George W. Bush is giving a speech. A malfunction kept the grenade from detonating.


It must also be noted that attempts, successful or not, were also made on Presidents Jackson, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

There are also unconfirmed reports that attempts have been made on the life of every President since Kennedy, but that the Secret Service does not release information which might compromise its procedures or which might promote interest in an assassination attempt. One example is the reported attempt by a group of Middle Eastern men to “interview” President George W. Bush at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort early on the morning of September 11th. They were turned away, but later were witnessed close to the motorocade.

Controversy continues to surround the JFK assassination, but it’s by no means old history.

Will You Answer What Congress Won’t? The Top 20 Questions pt 20

Back in late 2004 and early 2005, I sent emails, faxes, and letters to every member of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In it, I asked them for their answer to a set of twenty questions which the readers of Polipundit wanted asked. The text of the letter was posted here.

52 Readers in 38 states joined the effort, asking their district Representatives and Senators to answer the questions. Response from our elected Representatives and Senators was poor, predictably so. Most Congressmen and Senators simply ignored the letters, emails and faxes. In the end, only seventeen answered with any degree of substance, and not one answered more than two questions.

I was looking at the set of questions this week, and you know, they still look like good questions to me, so I am going to ask you for your opinion on them. This will take a while, since I am putting up one question for each post, but please give this your serious consideration. And folks, this is not about politics or smacking down the other side; this is an opportunity to explore the issues of substance for our country. Sad that Congress was not up to it, but maybe we can get the conversation going. Thanks in advance.


20. What should the United States’ relationship be with the United Nations?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Will You Answer What Congress Won’t? The Top 20 Questions pt 19

Back in late 2004 and early 2005, I sent emails, faxes, and letters to every member of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In it, I asked them for their answer to a set of twenty questions which the readers of Polipundit wanted asked. The text of the letter was posted here.

52 Readers in 38 states joined the effort, asking their district Representatives and Senators to answer the questions. Response from our elected Representatives and Senators was poor, predictably so. Most Congressmen and Senators simply ignored the letters, emails and faxes. In the end, only seventeen answered with any degree of substance, and not one answered more than two questions.

I was looking at the set of questions this week, and you know, they still look like good questions to me, so I am going to ask you for your opinion on them. This will take a while, since I am putting up one question for each post, but please give this your serious consideration. And folks, this is not about politics or smacking down the other side; this is an opportunity to explore the issues of substance for our country. Sad that Congress was not up to it, but maybe we can get the conversation going. Thanks in advance.


19. What should our short and long term strategies be in Iraq?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Will You Answer What Congress Won’t? The Top 20 Questions pt 18

Back in late 2004 and early 2005, I sent emails, faxes, and letters to every member of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In it, I asked them for their answer to a set of twenty questions which the readers of Polipundit wanted asked. The text of the letter was posted here.

52 Readers in 38 states joined the effort, asking their district Representatives and Senators to answer the questions. Response from our elected Representatives and Senators was poor, predictably so. Most Congressmen and Senators simply ignored the letters, emails and faxes. In the end, only seventeen answered with any degree of substance, and not one answered more than two questions.

I was looking at the set of questions this week, and you know, they still look like good questions to me, so I am going to ask you for your opinion on them. This will take a while, since I am putting up one question for each post, but please give this your serious consideration. And folks, this is not about politics or smacking down the other side; this is an opportunity to explore the issues of substance for our country. Sad that Congress was not up to it, but maybe we can get the conversation going. Thanks in advance.


18. Should judicial nominees be guaranteed a “yes or no” vote in Committee? Why or why not?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will You Answer What Congress Won’t? The Top 20 Questions pt 17

Back in late 2004 and early 2005, I sent emails, faxes, and letters to every member of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In it, I asked them for their answer to a set of twenty questions which the readers of Polipundit wanted asked. The text of the letter was posted here.

52 Readers in 38 states joined the effort, asking their district Representatives and Senators to answer the questions. Response from our elected Representatives and Senators was poor, predictably so. Most Congressmen and Senators simply ignored the letters, emails and faxes. In the end, only seventeen answered with any degree of substance, and not one answered more than two questions.

I was looking at the set of questions this week, and you know, they still look like good questions to me, so I am going to ask you for your opinion on them. This will take a while, since I am putting up one question for each post, but please give this your serious consideration. And folks, this is not about politics or smacking down the other side; this is an opportunity to explore the issues of substance for our country. Sad that Congress was not up to it, but maybe we can get the conversation going. Thanks in advance.


17. What actions do you support for education reform?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Night, Thoughts on a Fired Coach

I just finished and submitted a 37-page Marketing plan for one of my classes. I’d tell you all about it, except for a few things:

1. The plan was for a real business in the area, so a lot of the information is privileged;
2. Marketing is one of those bad habits people get into, and except for a rare few who use morals in their work, it’s not something I would want to encourage;
3. Proof-reading the paper bored me no end, and I wrote the dang thing, so I would be cruel indeed to inflict it on an innocent public.

It’s not enough I had to write it and send it in electronically; I also have to print up a hard copy on quality bond paper, and have it bound and mailed in to the professor. So, I am sitting here waiting for the printer to put out the product, which at “best quality” is taking longer than it did for Hillary Clinton to figure out that advocating drivers licenses for illegals was not a good way to win the Donk nomination, mush less the White House. So, I am plunking away at my keyboard while the printer does constructive work. Well, I also have to iron my clothes, but if there’s anything more boring than what I am doing now, it has to be ironing.

If you are still reading this, you must be as bored as I am. But, at least it’s free, except for the wasted time.

But to the topic. Earlier today, Baylor University’s Athletic Director officially announced the firing of Head Football Coach Guy Morriss. Morriss was 18-40 in five seasons at Baylor, which team lost all 8 of its Big XII conference contests, and frankly stunk up the place all season. That by itself could be a shame, except for a couple points which annoyed me and made me question Morriss’ integrity. The first part was the discovery early this summer, that Morriss had put his house up for sale. Well folks, you usually only do that if you figure you are going to have to move, and when a coach does something like that in advance of a season, it’s darn hard for me to believe he’s going to give his best effort into his job. Certainly, I watched his post-game statements with that fact in mind, and I did not like at all, what I heard and read. Also, this is a coach who promised, from before the season started, that the 2007 Baylor Bears were going to a bowl. When they reached 3-1, it might even have looked like a possibility, but a closer look at the season revealed that such a claim was hopelessly optimistic at best, and from what I could tell, completely dishonest in light of actual conditions. As the conference season got underway and progressed, Coach Morriss started becoming evasive about why his promise was not coming true, and worst of all, he started blaming the players for the losses, even when glaring errors in coaching became obvious. I could go on about the football side of things, especially my hope that Mike Singletary, College and NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker and legend to Bear fans, will be the next head coach of the Bears – pretty much no one else would have a realistic chance of recruiting real talent for Baylor right now, much less shaping the team into a winning program anytime soon. But as I read the news about Morriss’ firing, I did not feel any pleasure, not even a real sense that he deserved his dismissal. Part of that comes from having to acknowledge that I am a fan, not a professional coach, and the Big XII is a hard place to win – three of the top 5 teams in the AP rankings right now are from the Big XII, after all. I may have seen errors on Morriss’ part, but I cannot really say whether or not he was the right man for the job. I know in other places that sometimes someone enjoys success because of hard work someone else did before him. Also, I have to wonder what it is like, to work where every mistake you make is known to, and ridiculed by, countless thousands of people who can’t say they would have done better in that place.

So, Guy Morriss, while my farewell to you is not reluctant, it is sincere in my goodwill, and my thanks for your work.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Welcome, Readers of 'Sadly, No'

I received a strange and rather peculiar communication today, which alerted me that I have guests here at 'Stolen Thunder'. So, I took a virtual stroll and found the fine lodgings of the distinctly Left-of-Center blog "Sadly, No". So, first off, thanks to everyone for the visit. Second off, yeah that's my dog at the top. Beautiful animal and a great companion, and much better to look at than I am. Just in case you were wondering ...

But I feel obliged, as well, to respond to a rather silly comment made by one of your readers on your site. The reader, in a piece which rather nastily tried to smear Lorie Byrd (but people will amuse themselves in their favorite fashion, and for some folks that means lies and insults when that's all they know). The reader, in a comment which linked to here - thank you - remarked that "Another Wizbang! contributor has a site (VERY SERIOUS) of his own". Well, it's true that I also write on Wizbang!, but I do not see why that obliges me to maintain my personal site free of wit, personal perspective, and simple good humor. This is my site, and while I open my thoughts to the consideration of anyone inclined to stop by, I alone choose the mietre and timbre of the writing here. I carry the mood I do just now for the following reasons:

1. A little more than a year ago, I was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, an unusual form of abdominal cancer where the cells are free-floating, and generally do little more than block the body's internal fluids unless they go malignant, at which time the cancer attacks several organs at once and in that case is commonly fatal. A bit like carrying around a grenade in your gut, so please excuse me if my perspective values certain common elements of Life rather highly, in the knowledge that if something goes wrong it could go very bad very fast. I am fortunate to live in a city with arguably the world's foremost Cancer treatment hospital, and I am happy to say that my present prognosis is quite hopeful. Even so, I am hardly about to forget that Life can end at any time, and so I try to focus on the things which matter. Your mileage may differ;

2. A few years ago, I fell victim to that condition so endemic to bloggers, the notion that I was important and deserved to be heard because I was so damn smart and profound. Well, I woke up from that. I post if I have something to say, and maybe sometimes I think it's good stuff, but other times I'm just making noise to amuse myself. Hey, I know a guy who posts his video games on You Tube, and Al Gore gets awards out the wazzou for spouting off on things where he is absolutely illiterate. The nice thing about the Blogosphere is that there is no 'gravitas' litmus test, and those who think there is, well, I mentioned that 'I'm so important' virus, and those guys still have it.

3. If you're still reading this, you're mistaking me for someone important. I'm just a Dad with a job and a ton of work, who happens to blog. If the stuff here sounds good to you, thanks. If not, hey, at least I'm not hitting you up for money or your vote.

Again, thanks for the visit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Will You Answer What Congress Won’t? The Top 20 Questions pt 16

Back in late 2004 and early 2005, I sent emails, faxes, and letters to every member of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In it, I asked them for their answer to a set of twenty questions which the readers of Polipundit wanted asked. The text of the letter was posted here.

52 Readers in 38 states joined the effort, asking their district Representatives and Senators to answer the questions. Response from our elected Representatives and Senators was poor, predictably so. Most Congressmen and Senators simply ignored the letters, emails and faxes. In the end, only seventeen answered with any degree of substance, and not one answered more than two questions.

I was looking at the set of questions this week, and you know, they still look like good questions to me, so I am going to ask you for your opinion on them. This will take a while, since I am putting up one question for each post, but please give this your serious consideration. And folks, this is not about politics or smacking down the other side; this is an opportunity to explore the issues of substance for our country. Sad that Congress was not up to it, but maybe we can get the conversation going. Thanks in advance.


16. Do you believe the continued existence of a central bank (the Federal Reserve) that issues fiat money is in the best interests of the U.S.?