Monday, September 21, 2009

Payback



The picture is from the NY Times – their composite.

I did not watch the Obama-thon on yesterday’s Sunday news gabfests – honestly forgot all about it and Sunday morns are busy enough – no time for TV.

My only comment is I think it is odd that he omitted – rather snubbed Fox. I know it was payback for their snub of his recent speech. But he seems the be the Olive-branch sort of Pres.

And given the feedback all summer long, if he thinks Fox viewers are more conservative and since it seems like some (or a lot!) of those folks have concerns about his health care proposals, that he’d figure he needed to preach to somebody else besides his choir.

Why not go on Fox and reach all those people who maybe aren’t inclined to agree with him but then he could face-to-face put to rest so very many rumors and (so-called) misconceptions about his proposals.

It just seems like he missed a good opportunity.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Plug free til now.

This blog has always been ad free and plug free until now.

I just have to give a shout-out to some people who work in one of the least appreciated jobs on the planet – convenience stores.

Probably once a week I go to AutoTronics, a combo gas station/c-store/kettle corn/car-repair place about two blocks from where I work.

Everyone who works there that I have met is so friendly. They always greet me, ask questions, are polite etc. Many C-store workers act like you are IN-conveniencing them when you need or want something.

I imagine these folks aren’t paid much more than minimum wage so that’s even more impressive. I usually see the same faces and I’ve been going there for years so the lack of turnover says something too.

So a hat-tip to the folks at the Springfield AutoTronics on north Benton Ave.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

musings on Obama

I’ve taken a little heat from a few friends over my position on Obama’s speech to schoolchildren this week. I hope we can move along and get along.

To use a cliché, conservatives need to learn better how to pick their battles. I don’t think one speech to some school-kids is going to make or break a Presidency.

Who knows what Obama might have said had this event not been picked up on somebody’s radar. I’m told things were changed. Teleprompter copy was re-written. Curriculum was modified.

Don’t know. I read the proposed curriculum last week when I first heard about it. I didn’t find anything offensive or problematic to me.

But one good thing may have come from all this attention; I imagine many parents are clueless about what their kids are taught or do all day in school. If this got them to start paying attention and wanting to know more, then good.

I heard someone say that students were asked to pledge their lives to Obama. That’s stupid. Obama didn’t say that. The Dept. of Education didn’t say that. Maybe a teacher somewhere did something like that and if so, they should be fired or disciplined. What I’ve been able to find is an account of a teacher putting up Obama’s picture while students say the pledge to the flag. I guess there was also some sort of Hollywood thing with actors etc. pledging support or whatever for Obama.

But today’s entry is about moving on and how to move on.

Another blogger I follow (Brett McCracken - stillsearching.wordpress.com) had this:
“If he (Obama) could give a speech tomorrow night (the one last night on health care) in the tone of his speech today to the students, this country would be much better off … It’s a good speech, I recommend it to everybody if you have any doubts.”

From none other than Newt Gingrich on the Today show.

I already had in mind to look back to 1992 and 1994 when things started brewing again on the conservative front. Clinton was young, new and liberal. He had plenty of ideas that were quite the policy shifts from the Reagan era and Bush 41.

I can’t speak for the tone of talk radio back then. The Internet was just getting going so the amount of commentary was reduced and available mostly on radio or mainstream media. There was no Fox on cable yet (not until 1996). CNN had been the new news force for only a few years.

But in the midst of all this a congressman from Georgia stepped up and organized a campaign to start from the bottom-up toward winning back the White House. It began with the Contract with America. The early results were that in 1995 the GOP regained a majority of seats in Congress while a Democrat was still in the early years of his Presidency.

Why all this arcane history? I don’t really care for Newt Gingrich but he has a sharp political mind and he probably more than anyone brought back the conservative movement. There was hope.

History will tell whether this was a success or not and I’m not here to debate that.
My point – which I am taking a long way around the barn to get to – the GOP has no strategy or leader right now who can bring about this type of change again. If there is a strategy it seems to be shrill and critical and not constructive. (I started this before Obama’s speech on Health Care – Rep. Joe Wilson only serves to prove some of my point.)

I wouldn’t call the Contract with America exactly starting at the bottom or grassroots but it was a beginning.

What do we have with the GOP right now? Who speaks for the conservatives? I can’t think of a single voice right now that I think speaks for me and my values and concerns.

I saw Rick Santorum on the news and was reminded of this once bright star in the political spectrum but then he got beat in his home state and I don’t think I’ve heard much about him since. John Boehner? Who the heck is he? I guess he is the GOP leader of the House but I only saw his name for the first time today. Ms. Palin somehow keeps herself in the news but like so many moths and so many flames …

The GOP, conservative and like-minded folks need to start working from the bottom-up, not top-down. You don’t have to like Obama or any of his policies, ideas or politics to still grant him the respect due the office.

I never really cared for Clinton. Look at his baggage – purported affairs, Travel-gate, Vince Foster, Monica – OK enough of that. But he still was our President (for a time) and who knows how history will treat him. And you know what else? We survived for 8 years.

So far Obama may have made mistakes – possibly plenty re: the stimulus, health care proposals, et al but he isn’t stupid.

Much was made over Rush L’s wish that Obama would fail. I really, really hope Obama succeeds. We owe him that much. Like it or not he creamed our guy. (OK he wasn’t really my guy and much like 1996 with Dole – I really thought and hoped we could do better than that. Guess not.) We are going to live in the country he creates for the next four or eight years so we better hope (and pray) he does it right.

So I guess a point finally would be this: The GOP needs to come up with a plan. Find some great or even good people. Start getting them elected to local offices from where they can climb (if they so aspire) to higher offices. Do this in not only in the red states, cities and towns but in the blue ones as well. Especially in the blue ones. Right now more voting people are blue than red and unless some of them come over …

Campaign Finance Reform

This all by itself is not much of a current topic but is connected in many ways to the larger debate over health care reform. Locally one of our Congressmen has been criticized for taking in more than $500K from the insurance industry.

This is not about him or health care.

Journalists are purported to be objective but this thin veneer wears … well, thin after awhile. We all bring our collective biases to the table for every discussion, every thing we write, conversations at the watercooler – whatever. We are hard pressed to be objective.

Why should politicians be any different?

I heard on Imus (rerun of an interview with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone mag) that during his campaign (now) Pres. Obama received something just shy of $1 million from Goldman Sachs – a large Wall St. firm. Today on his staff are two people who used to work for Goldman Sachs. Hmmm.

I digress.

I propose a radical and likely impossible idea to reform the mechanisms of campaign finance: anonymous contributions.

Citizens should support candidates because they like what they stand for and in general they believe the candidate will do things they support, once elected and in office. I know, I know, naïveté reigns supreme in the minds and hearts of voters everywhere!

I am reminded of a scene from an old movie, Power with Richard Gere where he played a political consultant helping candidates get elected. He suggested a candidate say something the candidate didn’t believe in. Of course the future pol balked but Gere’s character said something to the effect of ‘say it now and when you are elected, do whatever you want to do.’

If Goldman Sachs or the Health care insurers think that Obama and Blunt respectively are going to do things that will benefit their particular industries, then give away. But Obama and Blunt should never know. They should simply see a deposit made to their campaign accounts.

It would take a 3rd party (not political) apparatus to manage all this. I write a check (or go on-line since people don’t write checks anymore) to Obama or Blunt but I send it to some newly created organization – a not-for-profit answerable to a board made up of a balance between representatives of all registered political parties and perhaps even able to handle people with no party affiliation.

This not-for-profit takes a small, very small, % for administration and then deposits the funds into the candidates account. All the candidate knows is that on a certain date, so much money went into their account.

This not-for-profit could be audited after every election cycle to ensure things were being handled properly.

If candidates’ contributions dropped, then maybe they aren’t really as popular as they appeared. Maybe the level of contributions had/has more to do with how easily the special interest groups think they can get their way.

One thing this could do is eliminate contribution limits. What difference does it make if I give $1 below an arbitrary limit? (The limits currently imposed say to me that someone somewhere thinks that there can be influence where amounts ABOVE a certain threshold are involved)

Those special interests would still hope their candidate would be supportive of the things (or lack of things) that will benefit their industry or cause. But no candidate could be beholden to them if he/she didn’t know where the money came from. Assumptions could be made of course but there’d still be that protective layer of anonymity.

I know this is nowhere near as simple as I am making it out to be but for any of us to believe that “money doesn’t talk …” as the old saying could go, is naïve.

Don Henley and Glen Frey have a line in the song Frail Grasp of the Big Picture that goes: “And the right will prevail, all our troubles will be resolved. We have faith in the Lord, unless there’s money or sex involved.”

I doubt we can ever take sex out of the picture but we can work on the money.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pres. Obama's speech to kids next week

I weighed in on a friend's FB page but decided to go longer since FB doesn't give you many characters so ...

Much brou-ha-ha over the planned speech to kids next week (Tuesday) that will be streamed over the internet and part of the day's curriculum for kids across the country.

I'll be quick to say I'm not happy about many policies, actions, etc. that the President is enacting or trying to get in place but ...

I don't understand the gnashing of teeth by conservatives over this.

First this: "The first President George Bush, a Republican, made a similar nationally broadcast speech from a Washington high school in 1991, urging students to study hard, avoid drugs and to ignore peers “who think it’s not cool to be smart.” Democrats in Congress accused him of using taxpayer money — $27,000 to produce the broadcast — for “paid political advertising.”" NY TIMES Sept. 3, 2009

Second: I went to the website where all the stuff is posted re the speech. Granted we can't know every word to be spoken yet but this seems like pretty tame stuff.

Third: Even if some of the fears are well-founded, I can't imagine Pres. Obama would be foolish enough to use the classroom bully-pulpit inappropriately when everyone in the country is on tenterhooks waiting for him to say the "S" word (and it doesn't have four letters!) or something equally bad.

Finally: just as I went to the website to read what my kids (I"ll have three who can watch) will be exposed to, I also plan to watch the speech. That way I won't be dependent on anyone else to tell me the horrible/wonderful things he said. If he steps over some imaginary line, I'll be able to talk with my kids about it and set them straight by golly! And if he plays nice, then I can still talk to them and see what it made them think.

I'd encourage others to do the same.

Campaign Finance Reform

This all by itself is not much of a current topic but is connected in many ways to the larger debate over health care reform. Locally one of our Congressmen has been criticized for taking in more than $500K from the insurance industry.

This is not about him or health care.

Journalists are purported to be objective but this thin veneer wears … well, thin after awhile. We all bring our collective biases to the table for every discussion, every thing we write, conversations at the watercooler – whatever. We are hard pressed to be objective.

Why should politicians be any different?

I just heard this morning on Imus (rerun of an interview with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone mag) that during his campaign (now) Pres. Obama received something just shy of $1 million from Goldman Sachs – a large Wall St. firm. Today on his staff are two people who used to work for Goldman Sachs. Hmmm.

I digress.

I propose a radical and likely impossible idea to reform the mechanisms of campaign finance: anonymous contributions.

Citizens should support candidates because they like what they stand for and in general they believe the candidate will do things they support, once elected and in office. I know, I know, naïveté reigns supreme in the minds and hearts of voters everywhere!

I am always reminded of a scene from an old movie, Power with Richard Gere where he played a political consultant helping candidates get elected. He suggested a candidate say something the candidate didn’t believe in. Of course the future pol balked but Gere’s character said something to the effect of ‘say it now and when you are elected, do whatever you want to do.’

If Goldman Sachs or the Health care insurers think that Obama and Blunt respectively are going to do things that will benefit their particular industries, then give away. But Obama and Blunt should never know. They should simply see a deposit made to their campaign accounts.

It would take a 3rd party (not political) apparatus to manage all this. I write a check (or go on-line since people don’t write checks anymore) to Obama or Blunt but I send it to some newly created organization – a not-for-profit answerable to a board made up of a balance between representatives of all registered political parties and perhaps even able to handle people with no party affiliation.

This not-for-profit takes a small, very small, % for administration and then deposits the funds into the candidates account. All the candidate knows is that on a certain date, so much money went into their account.

This not-for-profit could be audited after every election cycle to ensure things were being handled properly.

If candidates’ contributions dropped, then maybe they aren’t really as popular as they appeared. Maybe the level of contributions had/has more to do with how easily the special interest groups think they can get their way.

One thing this could do is eliminate contribution limits. What difference does it make if I give $1 below an arbitrary limit? (The limits currently imposed say to me that someone somewhere thinks that there can be influence where amounts ABOVE a certain threshold are involved)

Those special interests would still hope their candidate would be supportive of the things (or lack of things) that will benefit their industry or cause. But no candidate could be beholden to them if he/she didn’t know where the money came from. Assumptions could be made of course but there’d still be that protective layer of anonymity.

I know this is nowhere near as simple as I am making it out to be but for any of us to believe that “money doesn’t talk …” as the old saying goes, is naïve.

Don Henley and Glen Frey have a line in the song Frail Grasp of the Big Picture that goes: “And the right will prevail, all our troubles will be resolved. We have faith in the Lord, unless there’s money or sex involved.”

I doubt we can ever take sex out of the picture but we can work on the money.