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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|This is disturbing.|
A couple nights ago I wrote about my growing concern that the difficulties in the housing sector have the potential to trickle over into the broader economy and slow down the economy.
Then today comes word that other economists are starting to feel the same way.
Hit by a severe credit crunch, existing home sales fell for the eighth straight month with median home prices dropping by a record amount.
The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that sales of existing homes dropped by 1.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million units. That represented the slowest sales pace on record going back to 1999 and was 20.7 percent below activity a year ago.
The median price of a home sold last month, the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less, declined to $207,800, a drop of 5.1 percent from a year ago, the biggest year-over-year price decline on record. . . .
The worry is that the credit crisis and a deepening housing slump could be enough to push the country into a recession. In its latest outlook at business conditions around the country, the Fed said Wednesday that while the economy continued to grow in the October to mid-November period it did so at a "reduced pace."
In another sign of spreading economic weakness, the Commerce Department reported that orders to factories for big-ticket manufactured goods declined by 0.4 percent in October. It was the third straight drop, representing the longest stretch of weakness in nearly four years.
Especially troubling was the fact that the category which represents business investment plans dropped by 2.3 percent, the biggest setback since last February.
I'm not sure what's more disturbing--the actual news of the troubles in the economy, or that I might actually be learning a little bit about economics.
|Who is the bonehead who makes decisions like the one that made it impossible for me to watch the second most interesting football game of the season tonight?|
Honestly, if they can manage to get their own network up and going, and suck off of the main schedule a game as interesting as Dallas-Green Bay, then you would think they could manage to put it on a venue that somebody with expanded basic cable would be able to watch.
But, apparently, not so much.
|First of all, let me be the first to recognize that my background in economics is . . . weak.|
That said, I'm pretty good with numbers, and I'm beginning to wonder a few things.
First of all, I still believe that the economy is chuggin' along pretty well. 2.5-3% growth in the GDP, unemployment below 5%, wages up, inflation low . . . everything is pointing a pretty good situation.
But I'm starting to wonder just how widespread the housing and credit problems are going to get. The news is not good.
U.S. home prices fell 4.5 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, the sharpest drop since Standard & Poor's began its nationwide housing index in 1987 and another sign that the housing slump is far from over, the research group said Tuesday.
The index also showed that prices fell 1.7 percent from the previous three-month period, the largest quarter-to-quarter decline in the index's history.
How many times did people in your life in the last thirty years say to you "your home is your best investment"? I know I heard it a lot.
So what does it say that your best investment has lost significant ground in the last year, and its not looking to get any better any time soon?
On top of that, the credit problems have left a lot of people in need of refinancing/renegotiating their home loans--if the house isn't worth what the loan is worth, there's nowhere to go. What kind of long-term effect does THAT have?
And then don't you have to wonder about other debt? Think about this scenario: ten years ago, a family could accumulate significant credit card debt, but in a few years, when the combination of payments and appreciation made their homes worth more, they could refinance their mortgage and get rid of that credit card debt. That's not particularly an option these days, and that debt is going to cause its own set of problems as it weighs on families.
It's not that I'm a pessimist about the economy--with the little knowledge I have, I still think the picture is pretty good.
But the housing market problems have the possibility of rolling downhill with some momentum, which may effect a lot more than that one sector of the economy. I would guess that that's a fair part of why the Dow Jones is down more than 7 percent over the last six months (that, plus the price of a barrel of oil going through the roof), and why consumer sentiment is at its lowest level in two years.
And given the lack of actual reporting on the actual state of the economy, reports that keep coming out about the housing sector will have an even greater and greater impact on the consumer psyche.
So color me cautious. It seems to me like it would be a good idea for the GOP candidates to get out in front of the electorate with not just the strong numbers and a PR plan for getting that information out, but also an economic plan for containing the damage within the housing sector and for mitigating some of the damage therein.
|Part of the Iraq statement from Ed Perlmutter's website:|
“I voted for this bill because it provides funding for our troops, but begins the mission of redeploying them home and to nearby bases in the region so we can refocus our efforts on the war on terrorism and protecting our homeland.
“It is past time to provide for our soldiers who were sent into battle without proper equipment or a clear mission. Now is the time to hold the Iraqi government accountable to meet benchmarks the president created. Now is the time to begin responsibly redeploying our troops.
I don't even know what all that means. He sure is dancing rhetorical circles to try to justify forcing surrender on our military. So far, the war on terrorism is being fought in the theater he wants us to quit, and protecting the homeland has, so far--SO FAR--been pretty well covered. And, honestly, Ed? Do you expect to provide for our soldiers by legislating their defeat? With friends like that . . .
And then there's this from Ken Salazar's website:
“For many months, I have been calling for a responsible change in mission in Iraq. I still believe that is our best course of action – it was the primary recommendation less one year ago of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
“We have not seen any meaningful political progress by the Iraqi government to bring about the long term reconciliation necessary to achieve stability in Iraq. As stated by both General Petraeus and Secretary Gates, there is no military solution to this war.
“Our soldiers have performed admirably in their duties, and they have accomplished their mission, but our commitment cannot be open-ended. We cannot give President Bush another blank check.
Did you catch that in there? Look again.
Go ahead--I'll wait.
Yep, Senator Salazar says that our soldiers have "accomplished their mission." That's quite an admission, don't you think.
Good thing his website isn't the deck of the USS Enterprise.
But then you have to wonder how he goes from congratulating the military for accomplishing its mission and then saying that our commitment is not open-ended.
I'm so proud to be represented by these guys.
|Hiding Behind Lies and Half-Truth, Mark Udall Defends Attempt To Snatch Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory|
From Mark Udall's website, his statement accompanying his vote in favor of a $50 billion supplemental that commanded a strict timeline for withdrawl from Iraq.
"This bill is the opposite of a blank check for the president. The funds it will provide are those that will be needed to move toward an immediate and orderly redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq.
“In my view, there is no sustainable role for large numbers of U.S. troops to play in Iraq –
HALF-TRUTH: while most of the civilized world does recognize that large numbers of troops have an obvious role in Iraq, Udall cleverly hides behind "in my view" to disguise his ignorance
. . . whether refereeing a civil war or waiting for the Iraqi government to decide to act within the ‘breathing space’ our brave troops have provided and our taxpayers are paying for at $9 billion per month.
HALF-TRUTH: nobody's refereeing a civil war right now--our troops are very busy taking the offensive to the bad guys; and, while the central government has its issues, local governments and civic leaders [read: Sheikhs] are taking a very active role in creating the infrastructure of reconciliation
. . . .However, while this bill sends the right message – that our troops cannot remain in Iraq indefinitely – regrettably, it does not send it in the best way, because it will be supported almost exclusively by Democrats, and the president has already promised to veto it.
LIE: The message could be easily sent, with near unanimous support, and with the President's signature, if it didn't insist on a retreat starting in thirty days to be completed in one year.
. . . What we need is consensus here at home on a path forward in Iraq,
LIE: Consensus behind surrender is NOT what is needed; consensus behind victory SHOULD be easy to obtain, but is too antithetical to Liberal orthodoxy to ever achieve.
. . .and today’s quick consideration of this bill doesn’t bring us any closer to that goal. I believe consensus can be found around the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which I introduced as legislation earlier this year, including supporting a course of escalating economic development, empowerment of local government, the provision of basic services, a ‘surge’ in regional and international diplomatic efforts, and lightening the American footprint in Iraq.
HALF-TRUTH: of course, all of these elements are already in place, including the lightening of the US footprint which will begin with the withdrawl of troops in the very near future--ALL ON THE TIMELINE OF THE US COMMANDERS. Of course, Udall also conveniently ignores the ISG's recommendation that a "precipitous withdrawl" would be disastrous.
Only Democrats and Republicans working together can find the path out of Iraq.
LIE: Only the U.S. military, working with a mandate for victory in Iraq, can find--or forge-- the path out of Iraq. Republicans are willing to provide this mandate; whither the Democrats?
I will continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on further steps we can take to change our broader Iraq policy.”
HALF-TRUTH: Name five Republicans, just FIVE "colleagues" from the other side of the aisle that you are working with, Mr. Udall. And why, oh why, would you be working to change the broader Iraq policy now that the new strategy of the President's and Gen. Petraeus is showing such promise? You remind me of the offensive coordinator who decides to go away from the running game, even though it's working, because it wasn't your idea.
THIS is the man who wants to represent Colorado in the U.S. Senate, boys and girls. And he will be well-funded, and he will have the cover of the Denver media.
But idiotic statements like this one need to be held up and shredded for all the public to see. Mark Udall is far too extreme to represent Colorado; Bob Schaffer should be able to make that point, at a minimum.
Whether his campaign can effectively communicate that, and then take the next steps toward victory, remains to be seen.
|--I'm Thankful that my infant child is sleeping through the night . . . . often.|
--I'm Thankful that the Bewitching Mrs. BestDestiny continues to put up with my hobbies, habits, quirks, and foibles--maintaining this blog being but one of those.
--I'm Thankful that every night I get to walk around my house and look at the peaceful sleeping faces of the people I love, and know that their lives, while imperfect, are full of hope and opportunity.
--I'm Thankful that, despite how much I complain about my profession, I am still able to come home at the end of the day and put food on my table for my family and keep them warm as they sleep through the night. This is a good day to think of those who can't say as much; it's an even better day to do something for them. Let me suggest Operation Christmas Child as a starting point.
--I'm Thankful that Colorado finally has major league baseball--even though we got totally screwed in the post-season awards.
--I'm Thankful that my church is a great place for worship and fellowship; I'm even more Thankful that it's not considered a sin to miss church on Sunday (it's been a heckuva quarter for us).
--I'm Thankful that I grew up in a family complete with a mother and a father and brothers and sisters (actually, let's not kid ourselves, with six siblings, we were a little more than complete); I'm also Thankful that every one of them is still alive and going strong (though all in various states of "brain-dead" . . oh no, that's just me)
--I'm Thankful for new friends, partners and sparring partners.
--I'm Thankful for old friends and golfing buddies who continue to make me look bad on the course . . . but they get me to go out there once or twice, which I wouldn't do on my own.
--I'm Thankful for the power of the internet which has helped me get back in touch with old friends who would otherwise be nothing more than a memory.
--I'm Thankful for cranberry sauce. Seriously, I could make a whole meal out of the stuff and not bat an eye. And, for the record, the real stuff--not the can-shaped gelatin stuff.
--I'm Thankful that General Petraeus was right, and fewer Americans are dying because of it.
--I'm Thankful that I live in a country where I'm able to spout off every night on whatever strikes my fancy and not have to be afraid of the police coming to get me.
--I'm Thankful that I live in a country that, once upon a time, decided its values were so important that it would risk splitting asunder and spilling the blood of an entire generation to uphold and defend those values.
--I'm Thankful that there are millions of men and women of honor and courage who choose to take up arms to defend that country every day.
For these and many other blessings, I give thanks to Almighty God for His Wonderful Bounty, and pray that every one of you out here get to share in those Blessings.
|If THIS doesn't become a campaign ad for 2008, then somebody in the GOP just isn't thinking. On a day in which the Congress has only shepherded two--TWO-- of the required fifteen (?) appropriations bills into law, THIS is what the Senate is going to be doing with three of the next ten business days.|
Suggestion for a Shaeffer ad:
In 2006, the country elected a Democratic majority to the U.S Senate--to "get things done."
In 2007, the Democratic Senate attempted to declare defeat in Iraq 42 times.
In 2007, the Democratic Senate attempted to add $15 billion in useless pork projects to needed funding for Veteran's benefits.
In 2007, the Democratic Senate only managed to pass TWO of its 15 required appropriations bills for things like the Department of Education, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.
Why, you might wonder, did the Democratic Senate accomplish so little in 2007?
Don't make the same mistake in 2008. Elect a Republican to the Senate. Elect Bob Shaeffer.
If only the Dems would send Ken Salazar up to do this little charade so we could get that on video. THAT would be priceless.
|This strikes me as very good news.|
Researchers in Wisconsin and Japan said yesterday that they have turned ordinary human skin cells into what are effectively embryonic stem cells without using embryos or women's eggs -- the previously essential ingredients that have embroiled the medically promising field in a nearly decade-long political and ethical debate.
The ability to turn adult cells into embryo-like ones capable of morphing into virtually every kind of cell or tissue, described in two scientific journal articles yesterday, has been a major goal of researchers for years. In theory, it would allow people to grow personalized replacement parts for their bodies from their skin cells and give researchers a powerful means of understanding and treating diseases.
All the advantage of the famous "plenipotentiary" stem cells with none of the ethical or political baggage.
Win-win, right? You would think that advocates of stem-cell research would like this because they have access to an unlimited supply of material, and opponents can advocate the scientific advances without having to advocate destroying fertilized eggs.
But, no. Some of these people just can't take "yes" for an answer.
Others involved in the stem cell debate cautioned that much work remains to be done to prove the value of the new cells. No one yet knows, for example, whether the new cells will be as effective as conventional embryonic stem cells may prove to be against certain diseases, or whether the new cells will even prove safe for use in people.
First of all, let's deconstruct that last sentence just a little bit. " . . . as effective as conventional embryonic stem cells may prove to be . . ." So conventional stem cells have yet to be proven effective?
Of course, anybody paying attention to this debate already knows this. While embryonic stem cells have great theoretical potential, so far all they've produced is tumors.
But what the "professional journalist" is trying to do is plant the seed in your mind that conventional stem cells are the cat's meow, when the reality is that this brand new technology is EXACTLY as useful as conventional stem cells at this point.
"I don't think this changes the debate," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a key participant in the House debate. "We still need to encourage all types of research, and we need to put ethical oversight in place."
Gosh, she makes me proud to be a Coloradan.
In a time of limited governmental budgetary resources, it is only logical to put the funding into the area of research that shows the greatest promise for clinical therapies at the earliest date. If the Democrats had spent as much time trying to fund ALL kinds of stem-cell research, instead of focusing all their energy on embryonic stem cells, we might be much further down the road to cures and therapies for some of the terrible diseases people have to suffer through.
But, no. Instead they've wasted a year trying to force-feed embryonic stem-cell research down the President's throat, and is seems a near-certainty that they will do the same again this year.
Oh, and, by the way--keep this development in mind every time somebody pontificates to you about "reducing your carbon footprint". In another five years, that carbon footprint may be the basis of brand new green technologies.
|Jared Polis is going on a field trip:|
Congressional candidate Jared Polis is taking his campaign to Iraq, where he plans to do a live Web chat and pose questions from Coloradans to Iraqis. . . .
"This isn't a trip to do any of those grandstanding Thanksgiving items. . . . This is not a typical photo op," Polis said Sunday.
"This is not a feel-good trip or a feel- good story."
Well, I should hope not. The feel-good story has already been written:
American officials said other measures indicated that civilian deaths had dropped. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for the command, said civilian deaths had dropped by 60 percent since June.
Military analysts said a number of factors explained the drop. They say, for example, that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a predominantly Iraqi insurgent group with foreign leadership, has been greatly weakened by American military attacks. . . .
These trends are stunning in military terms and beyond the predictions of most proponents of the surge last winter,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, referring to President Bush’s troop reinforcement plan.
I wonder if Polis sees this as a fact-finding mission, or a fact-creating mission. Actually, it's probably nothing more than him demonstrating how many more resources he has at his disposal than his opponents.
Look, Polis is probably pretty well-positioned to take over for Mark Udall in the 2nd. The question is will he continue to pull stunts like this or will he mellow things out as the facts on the ground keep changing.
I'm sure the more embarrassing he is to Democrats in general, the more likely he is to get elected in Boulder. But that general embarrassment ought to be useful to Republicans--
again, if we have the means and the will to make use of it.
|From the transcript of last Thursday's Democratic debate:|
Note: I'm going to "embed" my commentary within Biden's response (there's too much there to save it all for the end)
BLITZER: I want to move on to the next question, but I want Senator Biden to weigh in, because I know your wife is a teacher, so go ahead. Should an excellent teacher be given merit pay?
BIDEN: An excellent teacher should be judged by whether or not that teacher outside of the classroom improves themselves and their teaching skills. Pray, do tell, Senator, how--precisely--is a teacher to be judged on the improvement of their teaching skills OUTSIDE of the classroom? Should Jay Cutler's quarterbacking skills be judged by the amount of time he spends in film study? Of course not--there is a difference between the acquisition of new tools and the demonstrated ability to use those tools.
My wife got two master's degrees and a doctorate degree. That's merit pay. Huh? So your wife has bought/earned herself three extra degrees, for which she gets pretty well compensated--how is that merit? HOW does that demonstrate that she is a better or worse teacher than the kid fresh out of college with a million ideas and passion? She went out there and she earned the ability to be able to demonstrate to everyone that she was an exceptional teacher, because she went out and she gathered this additional knowledge, instead of being -- not just being a good teacher. Again, HUH?? She "earned the ability to be able to demonstrate . . ." Maybe, just for grins, she ought to just be an effective teacher.
Here's the problem with simple merit pay, based on the principle. Who makes the decision, based on merit pay?(APPLAUSE)
Who is the person who...(APPLAUSE)
I believe there should be teaching excellence. I think we should demand more of our teachers in continuing education. But that's not teaching excellence. Excellent teaching is done from the front of the classroom, not from a desk. I think there should -- and unions don't like that.
I think there should be -- demand more of the teachers, in terms of the participation after school and in school.(APPLAUSE)
But I think you've got to pay them.And the last point I'll make is, Bill is correct. You have to -- look, the idea you start teachers at $28,000, in most states, where, in the countries we're competing with, they start off and they graduate their -- the graduating seniors are getting the same pay that engineers are getting in those same schools. And here's a thought, Senator--do those same engineers only get additonal pay when they take more classes? Or do they get a pay raise when they build a better engine . . .or whatever?
There's the essential incoherence of the Left--any demonstrable skill, aptitude, talent or accomplishment is valueless. One can only be valued for the choices and attitudes they possess which align to the orthodoxy.
As if to make the point, Hillary underscored that.
Well, I support school-based merit pay for a lot of the reasons Chris was talking about. We need to get more teachers to go into hard-to-serve areas. We've got to get them into underserved urban areas, underserved rural areas.
See, it's not about what they accomplish or waht they inspire their students to accomplish--it's about the choices they make.
How else can one explain that Hillary and Obama are at the top of the Democratic heap?
This is an important difference between the two parties, and it's one that cuts to the advantage of our side. . .
if we have the means and the will to highlight it.
|Correction: FOUR Things (see bottom)|
Boulder Valley School District will no longer give valedictorian awards to its top graduating seniors starting with the class of 2010.
The district's high schools used grade-point averages to determine the honor, but the top students were sometimes separated by just hundredths of a grade point, leading to complaints. . . .
Boulder Valley had previously abolished class rankings to reduce "unhealthy competition," and the committee said keeping the valedictorian system no longer made sense.
Can't wait til these kids have to go interview to get into Princeton, or audition for Julliard, or try to impress the coaches at Michigan and Ohio State. Thank God they've been spared the evils of "unhealthy competition" and narrow victories and defeats.
School officials in the southern Oregon town of Eagle Point have suspended a first-grader. His drawing of a stick figure shooting another in the head attracted complaints from parents.
Is it really too much to ask for just a LITTLE common sense when applying "zero-tolerance" policies?
But, of course, that's the point of zero tolerance--the orthodoxy must be enforced at all costs. Better for kids to learn that lesson young.
Seattle school officials are telling teachers that Thanksgiving actually is a time of "mourning" since it represents "500 years of betrayal.". . .
The school letter refers educators to a website, Oyate, run by an outside organization that promotes Indian culture, and recommends teachers explore it.
"Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective," the letter said. "Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at No. 11 and begin your own deconstruction."
And what, you may ask, IS no. 11?
"Fact: For many Indian people, 'Thanksgiving' is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, 'Thanksgiving' is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship," the website describes.
Really? I, personally, find Thanksgiving to be an enormously happy time. But that's just me.
The real problem I have with this is it strikes me as contrary to EVERY instinct I have as an educator. My primary goal is to give my students the skills and habits to become self-sufficient learners and citizens in their own lives. This . . . crap . . . does nothing but provide a group of students with an excuse to not be a part of their communities. It does NOTHING but perpetuate a victims' mentality which, ultimately, leads to nothing but dependency and failure.
Way to go, educators. Way to "shine a light" and show students the way.
[will provide link to transcript when I find it--until then, all "quotes" are paraphrases from memory]
Wolf Blitzer: In many industries, when a worker does a very good job, they get rewarded with a pay raise; in contrast, if a worker does a very poor job, they get fired. Would you support putting a system in place for public school teachers that follows this model: pay raises and bonuses for exceptional teachers, while firing bad teachers?
EVERY ONE OF THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES: NO
Hillary Clinton: No . . .blah blah blah . . .but I would support rewarding a teacher who chooses to go into the inner city to work with underprivileged students, or who devotes a lot of their time after school to working with students, . . .blah blah
So, the Democrats toe the Union line on teacher accountability, and Hillary's idea of "rewardable behavior" is a choice, not an achievement.
Let me reiterate that: Hillary--the Democratic front-runner and most likely the next President--believes teachers should be rewarded for their choices, NOT their achievements.
Is there a better microcosmic statement of the difference between Liberals and Conservatives? Liberals value choices and shy away from punishments (unless you wander away from the orthodoxy), Conservatives value achievements and employ punitive consequences when necessary.
Note: Joe Biden's response to this question was SO bizarre that it deserves its own post tomorrow.
|that watched the Democratic debate tonight.|
Actually, I only watched about an hour of it--it would have been a lot less, but every time I flipped over to watch the Suns-Bulls game it was at commercial.
So here's a few impressions.
--If we can't beat these guys, we don't deserve to have power. Seriously, for the better part of the first half-hour, the only guy on stage who was making ANY sense was Joe Biden. Yes, THAT Joe Biden. And you know, when Joe Biden is leading any pack anywhere, the only thing that pack is going to produce is large, steaming piles of . . . well, you know.
--Does Bill Richardson ever say ANYTHING that makes any sense?
--I swear, every time Hillary says something about "slinging mud" it sounds like she's crying for help; which makes me wonder why so many of her "rivals" are willing to provide cover for her. Only Obama seems willing or capable of going toe-to-to with her. Pinky toes, that is. Kinda like how the contestants on "American Gladiator" used to go toe-to-toe with those giant q-tips.
--I had this brief image flash across my brain of a third-party ticket of Ron Paul and Denis Kucinich--the All-Five-Eight-And-Under League made up of extras from one of the later Star Trek series. The only thing the whole night that got a chuckle.
--Two policy statements that should become commercials: when pressed, not a single candidate managed to support the idea that bad teachers should be fired and good teachers should get pay raises; and not a single candidate managed to acknowledge the great work that Gen. Petraeus and the men and women are achieving.
What's truly frightening is that whoever of the six or seven people up on stage tonight becomes the Democratic nominee, they will get 46% of the vote. Not a single one is qualified, not a single one offers any great solutions, not a single one makes any sense at all.
And they will get 46%, regardless.
Sometimes I worry about this country.
|My father served in Korea. For the first time in my lifetime, he opened up just a little bit about this experience to me yesterday.|
He "volunteered" for the Army after completing his second (?) year in the seminary--he knew he would get drafted, so by volunteering he could control which branch he went into, which meant he had a little control over how long he would be in.
After basic and NCO school (not OCS--he didn't want the five-year commitment), he got on a boat and crossed to Pacific Ocean to serve nineteen months in theater as a First Sargeant.
Life was tough for the Infantry in Korea--when they weren't moving from one place to another (an almost constant condition), they were deployed to hold one sector. What that meant for them was a grim task: ten hours in a foxhole, watching one field of fire, followed by ten hours to the rear to get some sleep, followed by ten more in the trench. When you consider that Korea is generally both wetter and muggier than we're used to in much of the States, that makes for some unpleasant conditions.
But it wasn't always trench warfare--every six rotations, Dad had to lead a squad out on patrol. A squad consisted of ten men: the leader, two men manning the large machine gun, and seven rifle men. Their task was usually fairly specific, and mostly involved great secrecy--they were never allowed to break radio silence. When they achieved their objective, they would signal to the base their completion, and return.
How many of you knew that? How many of you know that "patrol" probably involved more mountain climbing than a Normal Miller film? Korea, you see, has very few flat spots. And helicopters for transportation? Hardly--nowhere to land. Limited almost exclusively to Med Evac.
I knew none of that about Korea. Everything I knew about Korea was basically from M*A*S*H, and it turns out I knew nothing.
But 36,500 Americans died on what looks like the appendix of Asia, to accomplish essentially very little except repel the Communists back across the 38th parallel, which still requires a commitment of 37,500 Americans to keep the North at bay . . .
and very few Americans know much about this.
Which is probably true of the VAST majority of the efforts of Americans all around the world.
So on this day in which cities and banks celebrate our Veterans, please take a moment to think not just of the 3800 who have died in Iraq, and all of those from WWII and Vietnam who we tend to think about so easily, but take a moment to consider the lesser-known heroes who have done some amazing hard work around the world that never get memorialized properly.
And thank all of them for their service.
And, by the way--thank you John, and thank you Dad, and thank you Uncle Bill and Uncle Dick, and thank you Bob, and . . . .
|I had assumed that Gov Ritter's cowardly Executive Order creating unions for state employees was a simple payback for their support in the next election. My mistake.|
Turns out it was more of an attempt to drive an electoral Mack Truck through a loophole in the campaign finance laws.
Our story begins with a seeming "loophole" in Amendment 27, the 2002 Colorado campaign finance law written by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. It allows labor unions to contribute up to $4,000 to candidates to the legislature. Businesses and private citizens like you are limited to one-tenth as much as unions can contribute, no more than $400 per election season. . . .
Here's how it works: "Small donor committees" are allowed to give politicians 10 times as much as any other person or group if they get only $50 or less per contributor.
If a union sponsored a barbecue and asked 100 members to kick in $40 each to elect a Democratic challenger to Witwer, he'd have no reason to complain. But that's not how it works. For example, unions can deduct $4 a month from a member's $15 monthly dues to the Colorado Association of Public Employees/Service Employees International Union, and count the resulting $48 a year as a "small donor" contribution from a member who may not even be aware that she made that supposed "donation."
There are about 83 races for the legislature in a given election, which would allow a single union to pour $332,000 into legislative campaigns. But that's only the start — each union local can play the same game with dues money. If CAPE/SEIU organizes just five such locals, it could pour $20,000 into each of those races, more than $1.6 million. If four other unions followed suit, that would mean $100,000 for each friendly Democrat, more than $8 million in all.
And don't forget, Republicans trying to counter this torrent of Democratic cash would be limited to no more than $400 per donor. No wonder Republicans are crying havoc.
When you think about it, that's a pretty good return on an investment for the Gang of Three--over $5 million invested over the last two elections to all but guarantee an $8 million return per election into the future.
And they say our new campaign finance laws take the corruption OUT of politics.
If the GOP doesn't get an up and running in the next two weeks about this, they don't deserve to take back any part of the state of Colorado.
I'm serious. If we keep the powder dry, waiting for more favorable winds in 2010, there may be no sail left on the ship to catch those winds. We need to start defining the terms of the election NOW, before we get swamped with Gang/Union money in the cycle.
For more thorough commentary on this, buzz on over to Ben's site and read his usual piece of smart writing.
|Lately, the History Channel seems to have the market nearly cornered on interesting new shows. Enter this offering:|
Examining Iraq War blogs and bloggers providing firsthand accounts of combat by soldiers, and how blogs change the wat war is seen and reported.
I'll be curious to see what the slant is, if any.
At any rate, you gotta love every time new media breaks through and gets covered by the "professionals."
"Band of Bloggers" is on Friday night from 10p-11p, 10a-11a Monday, and 4p - 5p Monday.
|There's a line from a decent movie called The Peacemaker, goes something like this:|
"I don't worry about the man who wants ten nuclear bombs; I'm terrified of the man who wants only one."
Keep that in mind as you read this article:
Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday he may ask voters to approve a tax increase next year to pay for health care, transportation or higher education.
But he emphasized that while all three need extra funding, only one should wind up on the ballot. Colorado voters are too fiscally conservative to approve more than one tax increase at a time, he said.
Never mind that he's already raised fees to the tune of millions; never mind that he's already raised property taxes by billions; never mind that Ref C--which swept him into office--is already double the size it was supposed to be.
He just wants one more tax hike.
. . . <wait for it> . . . THIS time.
|It always cracks me up to get glossy "public service" mailers from my Congressman--especially one as clueless as Ed Perlmutter.|
Today, I get this shiny little flier called "An Eye On Your Future--Inside: Details on Congressman Ed Perlmutter's Plan to Protect Your Family's Finanacial Future"
But, even better, you know what he touts as his big agenda? Four things:
:Protecting our Famlies' Homes by stopping predatory lending
:Securing our students' funding by . . . well, this isn't even serious enough to write about
:Tax Relief for Colorado's middle class
Ha Ha Ha. Man, this guy is hilarious.
Actually, what he has here is the doubling of the child tax credit and an extension of the AMT. Of course, neither of these are actually "tax relief"--my tax rate is exactly the same as it was before Perlmutter saved me, but . . .
:Honoring Social Security's promise by making sure that the fund runs out of money right on schedule.
What a character, this guy. I wonder where he gets it--is it natural, or does he have speechwriters?
Of course, he dodges the issues that might actually effect my--and everyone else's-- financial well-being. While touting this "tax relief", he completely avoids mentioning Charlie Rangell's massive tax hike coming round the corner. He also avoids mentioning how irresponsible he is with our money. Luckily, The Club For Growth has done their work.
The Club for Growth has compiled a RePORK Card of all members' votes on all 50 anti-pork amendments (see below). . . .
105 congressmen scored an embarrassing 0%, voting against every single amendment. The Pork Hall of Shame includes 81 Democrats and 24 Republicans.
The Democratic Freshmen scored an abysmal average score of 2%. Their Republican counterparts scored an average score of 78%. . . . .
Perlmutter's score? A WHOPPING 2%. Yep--not just funny in a clueless sort of way, but determined to maintain the perks of office by voting to thwart almost every anti-pork amendment.
You wanna secure my financial future, Congressman? Secure your own House's fiscal issues. I'll trust you to look out for my money when you take care of what I already give you.
Oh, but my favorite part of the mailing?
This mailing was prepared, publised and mailed at taxpayer expense.
Stop. You're killing me.
|Just some stray thoughts on the debacle the Broncos season has become.|
Pat Riley, basketball coach, is one of those people who inspires either admiration or loathing, it seems. Me, personally, think of him as a very smart basketball man who started reading too many of his press clippings sometime around 1998.
Prior to 1998, though, he was smart, and he wrote a book about being smart, called The Winner Within. In it, he wrote this oh-so-smart section:
. . .my wife, Chris, learned that patients sometimes draw great benefits from switching professionals. It's not that the new one is smarter than the old one. It's just that people sometimes respond best to fresh viewpoints and techniques. Over ten years the Lakers may have had their fill of me. As the team's core aged, one key member already gone, others either in decline or approaching it, my tactics and speeches lost some of their edge. I wasn't as successful at changing players' minds, sharpening their focus, or helping people get out of themselves and with the team.
No matter how high we had reached in the past, by 1990 we were a team with no choice but to embrace change. One by one, we all followed Kareem out the door.
Sound familiar, Broncos fans? Consider the QB draw play on second down with time running out and the Broncs on the Packers 4 yard line last week. Consider the abyssmal running game--there was a time when the Broncos running was like a well-choreographed ballet, every person hitting exactly the location they were supposed to; now, the O-line looks as confused as the fans about what they're trying to accomplish. And consider the recent departures of Rod Smith and Al Wilson.
The point is, every coach loses their edge--not because they're any worse as coaches, but teams and cultures can only be maintained by the force of one will for so long. I think Mike Shanahan may have reached the end of his run here in Denver.
So, unless there's a radical change in the Broncos fortunes for the next eight weeks, I'll be looking for a change at the top in January. And Shanahan will find a job somewhere else where he can try to re-earn the moniker "mastermind." And the Broncos will be redefined by somebody else's personality and style.
I understand Charlie Weis may be available. Or how about Bill Cowher?
|For those who don't know me, I write that title tongue-in-cheek.|
There are many Democrats that I know who are deeply religious, whose own Faith I would never question.
But, as a party, the Democrats have become too beholden to the secularists and the ACLU to make any effective claim to the Faith vote. But Howard Dean is trying to change this, and it started with the woman he chose to run the Democratic National Convention next year in Denver.
The Rocky Mountain News devoted several pages to Leah Daughtry, the Chairwoman of the DNC. And it made for very interesting reading.
It's no accident that Daughtry, a Pentecostal pastor, heads the team that will put on her party's biggest show in Denver next year and is the right-hand woman to Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean.
At 44, she's part of the drive to encourage Democrats to talk about religion - a tenet Dean says was wrested from them in 1994.
I encourage readers to read the whole article. It includes the usual social justice gospel, and is, of course, very flattering towards the ministry of Ms. Daughtry--as it should be, from what it sounds like.
But, if you were expecting any Huckabee/Romney-like "defend your Faith" type questions, you will be disappointed.
David Montero does not ask Ms. Daughtry any of the following questions:
:do you believe that only a believer in Jesus Christ can go to Heaven?
:do you believe that two persons of the same gender should be allowed the sacrament of Marriage?
:what are your views on premarital sex? do you think its a good idea to distribute condoms and abortion advice in the public schools?
:do you think cities and townships should be allowed to have displays that include Christian, Christmas symbols?
And it's not like I really think that sort of question SHOULD be asked.
But you know those questions would be asked of a Republican. And the reason they weren't asked of a Democrat is because the answers would alienate many in the atheist-ACLU-Freedom-From-Religion coalition that makes up a significant wing of the Democrat Party.
I trust that Ms. Daughtry's Faith is genuine, and I honor her ministry and recognize that members of her father's congregation did wonderful work when they went on a missions trip to Darfur--something more Conservatives--more AMERICANS--should do.
It's simply that all that outreach, all that talk of God, will come to nothing in the long run.
Because, as we've seen in Colorado in the last two days--THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A PAYOFF.
And, when push comes to shove, who would a President Hillary and a Democratic Congress have to pay off--religious Democrats who voted for them or the ACLU lawyers who gave them millions to get them elected on a secular agenda?
|When I wrote last night about Ritter's fiat, I had no idea how much support I would have for my position.|
From the Rocky Mountain News editorial:
Well, forget about the drama of a freewheeling debate. On Friday, Gov. Bill Ritter granted the unions most of what they wanted with a stroke of the pen, in one of the biggest changes in state government in years.
It's a mistake, in our view, that threatens to raise the cost of government while reducing its ability to react to a changing environment.
. . .the idea that unions are indispensable to the creation of a new workplace ethos is hardly consistent with experience elsewhere in the economy. . . .
In other words, greater union leverage in setting compensation appears to be a solution in search of a problem. . . .
Far from being a bridge to a new economy, Ritter's initiative would then turn out to be an unexpected trek back to the past.
Of course, I kind of expected the Rocky to come out against this plan.
What surprised me was that the Denver Post is also against the Governor's plan--and with far harsher language than the Rocky.
When Coloradans elected Bill Ritter as governor, they thought they were getting a modern-day version of Roy Romer, a pro-business Democrat. Instead, they got Jimmy Hoffa.
Ritter campaigned under the guise of a moderate "new Democrat" but now we know he's simply a toady to labor bosses and the old vestiges of his party — a bag man for unions and special interests. . . .
It's unconscionable for the governor of a state that's limped through lean budget years to knowingly drive up the cost of government. And for what? Political payback to unions? . . .
It's government by fiat. . . .
Experts say collective bargaining can add as much as 30 percent to the cost of doing business. Tell us, how does that make sense for a state that can hardly pay its bills and plans to come to voters as soon as 2009 with its hand out?
Ritter's two Democratic predecessors, Dick Lamm and Romer, were able to govern for 24 years, collectively, without introducing collective bargaining. . . .
Coloradans bought the Colorado Promise, but may end up with a trail of broken promises.
A governor with such early promise has squandered his future in order to keep his backroom promises to a few union bosses.
And Colorado is the loser.
OUCH! That's gotta hurt.
The thing about Romer and Lamm, though, is that they had to operate with a Republican legislature. Ritter assumes he can get away with this because of the "unusual coalition" of a Democrat legislature and a Democrat press.
And, sadly, he's probably right.
Unless Republicans can make this THE issue in the state, starting today, Ritter will probably be able to push this aside and next year's campaign will be what it was always shaping up to be.
But if Republicans surprise all of us and make an effective campaign on this issue, we may see a very different campaign next Fall than any of us expects. Is Dick Wadhams up to it? Stay tuned. . .
|Guv Backs State Unions, Angers GOP|
First of all, you would think that that sort of a headline might accompany an article that features many quotes from an angered Republican.
You would be wrong.
The article features one--ONE--quote from a GOP-er, and that was a fairly reasonable statement from John Suthers.
But, to the meat:
Gov. Bill Ritter gave unions a stronger voice in state government Friday, nine months after angering them by vetoing a bill they wanted.
He did it quietly, however, issuing an executive order at 3 p.m., hoping that it will pre- empt a full debate on the topic once the legislature convenes in January.
First of all, COWARD!!! At least the News noted the timing and the motivation for that timing, to its credit.
But then, you would think that "vetoing a bill they wanted" might lead the News to do a little reporting on how the Guv's order differs from the legislation he vetoed.
You would be wrong.
Ritter has worked with union officials since then to craft what both have called a "partnership for the 21st century." He previously had said he did not know whether an employee partnership could be achieved without collective bargaining.
"This is not collective bargaining," he said Friday. "This is a partnership arrangement."
Just for a moment imagine what the headline would read if President Bush held meetings with members of an interest group to draft a policy position.
Oh, wait--you don't have to imagine, because all you have to do is go back to the headlines from when the Vice President met with energy executives. The hue-and-cry was a roar from the media.
This go-around? barely a whisper.
But the answer to the Guv's quote was priceless:
Joe Blake, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, disagreed.
"I have read this executive order, and I re-read it, and I think this is sort of a New Age version of collective bargaining," . . .
Not being a big fan of things New-Age, I think this is a great way to label this.
But it remains to be seen if any effective opposition can be raised to this.
However, it should become campaign fodder, and LOUD: no matter what they say, the Democrats will ALWAYS be beholden to their interest groups, and will ALWAYS have to find a way to pay them off.
It remains to be seen if the state GOP can campaign effectively, even when we have such easy targets.
|Paul Greenberg brought this man's name to my attention, so I went and learned a little more about him. And, with a little extra effort, I was even able to access his WSJ editorial (thanks to the Freepers).|
First, the bio:
John R. Christy is the Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. He holds a PhD and an MS in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois, as well as Master's in Divinity (?!) and Bachelor's in Mathematics. He has published no less than 20 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals in the last seven years, and he serves on both the National Research Council and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, he was the lead author of the 2001 IPCC report.
I put this in here to establish the credentials of the man--somewhat more impressive than those of . . . ahem, other climate change "specialists."
Now, the heresy:
From Christy's article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal:
. . .I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never "proof") and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.
There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why.
This is more than simple Global Warming skepticism--this is the smart (and therefore humble) scientist doing what the scientist is supposed to do. He is looking at real data, confirming it against hypotheses, and then altering his understandings accordingly. And a real scientist should look at the Earth and see in it a complexity that baffles the imagination--certainly far beyond our meager skills to understand at this point in time.
He goes on . . .
[Some of us] discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we've seen the climate do has happened before. Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic ice cap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America. . . .
The recent CNN report "Planet in Peril," for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.
Ouch. That's fairly devestating to the Al Gore/Michael Moore-held position that man is the root of all evils. Why, one might actually start to think that the world behaved in a cyclical fashion. If only we had seasons or lunar cycles or similar patterns to suggest that . . . . oh, wait.
But what really got my attention here were the conclusions Christy arrived at with regards to development and so-called "moral imperitives":
Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world's energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 -- roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2 ?176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It's a dent.
But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?
My experience as a missionary teacher in Africa opened my eyes to this simple fact: Without access to energy, life is brutal and short. The uncertain impacts of global warming far in the future must be weighed against disasters at our doorsteps today. Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus 2004, a cost-benefit analysis of health issues by leading economists (including three Nobelists), calculated that spending on health issues such as micronutrients for children, HIV/AIDS and water purification has benefits 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit "global warming."
Given the scientific uncertainty and our relative impotence regarding climate change, the moral imperative here seems clear to me.
In short, the evil we see now that we have a chance to emiliorate is far more important than the evil we've invented that we have very little ability to effect.
THAT is a smart, principled position. One every politician with any intestinal fortitude should adopt IMMEDIATELY!
But, more importantly, I'd just be happy if our side of the political aisle started voicing a little reasonable skepticism based on some real science. The policy discussion can only be meaningful after we agree on a set of facts. And, right now, we've allowed the other side to control ALL the facts in this debate.
|From today's business headlines:|
Mindful of a warning from the Federal Reserve Wednesday about inflation, the market nervously watched the price of oil, which passed $96 a barrel overnight for the first time before dipping on profit-taking. The Fed, which cut interest rates a quarter point, said in a statement that inflation remained a concern, and oil’s ascent to another record raised the possibility not only that the Fed might stop cutting rates, but that it might even consider raising them if inflation accelerates.
From The-Man-Who-Would-Be-Senator's website:
Udall worked with Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa) on a provision requiring all leases for the federal lands on top of the Roan Plateau to include a "no surface occupancy" stipulation. Lands could still be leased, but the minerals could be accessed only from other locations.
So, Mr. Udall, at what price-per-barrel would you think it might be justified for Americans to search for their own energy resources, rather than rely on the rest of the world? $100? $120? $150?
And tell me, Mr. Udall, in a state so heavily dependent on the agricultural economy, a sector heavily dependent on energy supplies, how do you justify continuing to prevent your own state from tapping some of its own natural resources?
Yeah, yeah . . . Roan is about natural gas, and I'm talking about crude oil--energy is energy. Crude oil not used to fuel homes and electricity (because its been replaced by natural gas) is crude oil available for transportation.
But, more importantly, is Mark Udall going to continue to represent out-of-state environmental interests, or at what point is he going to try to represent Colorado's interests?