Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About the bailout...

Now that the government has decided to bailout GM and Chrysler, and in light of the news that the financial corporations who have already received bailout funds refuse to disclose exactly where the money went and how it was spent, I have made a personal decision.

Some of you may remember that I recently purchased an American-made auto. I had been a Toyota man for much of my life but I decided to go American with the commitment that I would continue to buy American as long as I was happy with the quality of the product. This was their chance to win me over for life.

Well, so much for that.

I am so disgusted with the behavior of our auto industry, in particular the executives and the labor unions, that I have decided to never buy a GM or Chrysler product again. And if Ford accepts federal money I will add them to the list as well. I will be in the market for a new truck soon and it seems that my options have just been narrowed.

And for the record, I bank with a local bank that is not involved in the financial mess. The same goes for my 401k, IRA and other investments. I will remove my money at once if I discover that any of them accept federal money as part of the bailout. I figure since our elected representatives have no interest in the will of the people regarding this matter, then I have no interest in doing business with these agencies. One way or another I'm determined to have my voice heard.

I'm not calling for a boycott. I'm simply documenting the action that one citizen has decided to take against this monstrosity that Congress has decided to shove down our throats.

So be it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nothing funny about it

After reading the countless reports on the recent attack on President Bush, I am now ready to make a few comments. I admit that the media never ceases to amaze. Just when I thought the American mainstream press couldn’t get anymore biased, I read the accounts of this incident that are filled with near-glee. It’s almost like the liberal press was happy to see the President of the United States treated with such disrespect in a foreign country that thousands of American soldiers have died to free.

The attacker describes himself as someone who hates war and violence, a rather bizarre and contradictory position to take for someone who hurls a shoe at the head of another human being. For the record, he has a poster of Che Guevera in his home. Guevera was responsible for the death of over 14,000 people, many of them women and children. Yet, he is adored by radicals and the anti-establishment folk. I mention that just to give you an idea of what kind of person attempted to harm President Bush.

I wonder how this would have been portrayed if Barack Obama were the target of the shoe.

I also wonder what would happen to this man had he thrown his shoe at Saddam Hussein during the butcher of Baghdad’s dictatorial reign. No, actually I don’t wonder that because I know what would have happened. The guy would have been dead before the second shoe hit the ground. Yet, he is still alive thanks to the freedom that he has been granted via the blood and treasure of the American people, whom Bush was representing in Iraq when this attack occurred.

And speaking of Hussein, let’s not forget that he was responsible for the death of 300,000 Iraqis during his 24 year rule. Some estimates place that number as high as a million. So if he were still in power over the past 6 years he would have murdered at least 75,000 people. I think the people of Iraq should pause to remember that the next time they feel the urge to throw a shoe at the man who removed Hussein from power. The Iraqis are starting to behave like the French.

As for the Liberals who have yet to voice any whimper of criticism towards the perpetrator, shame on you all. Regardless of political party, regardless whether or not you agree with him, George Bush is still our President. This attack was disrespectful on many levels, and was an insult to all Americans, especially those who have lost a son, daughter, husband or wife fighting for these people to have the freedom to voice civilized opposition to those with whom they disagree. There is nothing funny about it and I challenge the patriotism of anyone who celebrates it, ashamed to call you a fellow American.

And, yes, I will feel the same if this ever happens to Barack Obama.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A fat tax?

New York Governor David Patterson is proposing a new tax to help close their massive budget deficit. Some call it the obesity tax or fat tax, basically it’s a 15% levy on non-diet soft drinks. If this becomes law, a Coke will cost you $1.15 while a Diet Coke costs $1. So does this make sense?

The conservative in me says that taxation is inherently bad, just another way for the government to make up for their budgetary mismanagement. If they need money, they can find it by spending cuts. But the capitalist in me says that if you want to discourage bad behavior then increasing the price on such behavior is the proper way to go, and the market will allow things to properly settle. It has worked to some degree with smoking as the huge taxes on cigarettes have helped many people at least cut back if not quit completely. So why not do the same for bad food?

I’m actually okay with this kind of tax. Obesity is becoming the number one health problem in this country and childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Latest estimates show that 20% of children are obese. That’s appalling. These same children are being diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes before they turn 20, and some are developing coronary artery disease before age 30. Obesity brings with it many other health problems, things like osteoarthritis, hypertension, asthma, infertility, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol and depression/anxiety just to name a few. This translates to higher costs for health care and if those patients can’t afford it then these costs are passed on to the general consumer. Indeed, in my opinion, obesity is THE number one health problem in our country. Eliminate it, and we eliminate many, many other medical problems.

The beverage association points to two studies that supposedly link diet soda to obesity, as though to claim that the tax targets the wrong thing. Disregard these studies. The data in question shows that people who drink diet soda are more likely to be obese than those who don’t. This would lead some to conclude that diet soda causes obesity. That’s not a proper conclusion. In order to draw such a conclusion, you’d have to structure the study in a way that includes people of similar genetic backgrounds, fed the exact same diet, on the exact same exercise program, with the exception being one group gets diet soda and the other gets something else. Then you follow these people over time to see who gains more weight. That’s not what these studies did. They simply gathered statistical data on the general population that showed obese people are more likely to drink diet soda. All that tells me is that obese people are more likely to diet than non-obese people, and drinking diet soda is often part of dieting. I’m sure I could produce a similar study that shows that people who drink slim fast are more likely to be obese, yet are we prepared to say that slim fast causes obesity?

So if you want to tax soda then that’s fine with me. A typical 12 ounce soda contains about 120 calories, more than 10% of our recommended daily caloric intake, more than you’ll find in a typical light beer. Drink 3 or 4 a day and you’ve consumed 40% of your daily calories without taking a single bite. And this doesn’t even address the basic metabolic effects of sugar and what it does to insulin levels. Yeah, sugary soft drinks are most definitely contributing to our health problems. The state of Texas has eliminated soda vending machines in their public schools. Good riddance. There is no doubt in my mind that this new trend of over-diagnosing attention deficit disorder is in some way related to the amount of sugar intake these kids are experiencing. It just makes sense. A child hopped up on sugar is going to have difficulty concentrating, focusing and paying attention in class.

So I say tax it, but don’t stop there. Why not tax other things that are problematic? I’d levy a tax on fast food, candy, potato chips, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. But the powerful food lobbies would never allow it, and the dems would hardly support it claiming that it would unfairly tax the poor. Bull.

It’s funny how we so easily demonize tobacco, yet seem to have little problem with a super size menu at the local fast food joint. I could make a strong argument that eating off that menu is worse for your body than smoking. But something tells me that argument would fall on deaf ears. But one thing’s for sure: If we don’t take action to stop the obesity epidemic in America we’re going to see a massive increase in health care costs, a drop in life expectancy and declining worker productivity. That will make it hard for us to compete with countries like China, which doesn’t seem to have this problem.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rangel...and the time for a third party

On a day when the Governor of Illinois has been arrested for allegedly attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat, I would like to shed some light on another corrupt individual. Charlie Rangel is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and he has been up to some rather shady dealings. Here is a list as reported by TIME magazine (hardly a member of the vast right wing conspiracy):

Recently paid his son $80,000 in campaign funds "for a pair of political websites so poorly designed an expert estimated one should have cost no more than $100 to create."

He claims to simultaneously occupy 4 rent controlled apartments in Manhattan, paying less than half of the going market for rent in each

While doing this, he also claimed homestead exemption for a house that he owns in Washington DC

Failed to report $75,000 of rental income to the IRS for a villa that he owns in the Dominican Republic

According to the New York Times (also not part of the vast right wing conspiracy), he was “instrumental” in preserving a tax loophole for an oil company whose CEO contributed $1 million to a school in NYC bearing Rangel’s name and supported by Rangel

All of this is going on while Rangel continues to serve as chairman of the committee that writes our tax codes and is responsible for funding the nation’s entitlement programs. The NYT has asked Rangel to step down from that position while his ethics investigation is ongoing. Rangel has refused and claims no wrongdoing, and has even written a scathing letter denouncing the Time’s irresponsible reporting, thus giving credence to the notion that the corrupt are not sorry for their transgressions as much as they are sorry for getting caught in the process.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker who hasn’t hesitated to use her power to strong arm opponents and exert maximal control of her caucus, has stopped short of chastising Rangel and has yet to take any action on the matter beyond calling for a conclusion prior to Obama’s inauguration. Pelosi is the same person who took office in 2006 promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington with sweeping ethics reform. Also of note: Chris Dodd and Barney Frank have yet to be investigated for their involvement in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac collapse.

Ethics reform? Give me a break.

So here is what I would like to see. It’s evident that corruption spans both political parties and is so deeply entrenched in Washington and elsewhere that replacing one party with another will get us nowhere. So now is the time for a viable third party. I would like to see a split in the Republican party, with a new group of young conservatives leading the charge in forming a new party separate from the old guard, with a new agenda that maintains American traditionalism while turning away from the old ways that spark kickbacks, palm greasing and the same old DC ways; an agenda that seeks to return power to the people via local government while reducing power in Washington. What was it that someone said about power, corruption and absolute power?

The leader of this movement would find some willing ears among the moderate “blue dog” Democrats who are about to be isolated by Pelosi’s congress and Obama’s spend-happy administration. Recently, Obama hinted that the pay-go rules may be suspended for a while, not something the blue dogs will be eager to support. And these Dem moderates are very much a part of American traditionalism and preserving the things that made America great. The fringe Left has become the dominant force in the Dem party, thus making the blue dogs potential allies for a new party of American traditionalism.

It has become clear that our government is now one of elites, run by a class of people with vast wealth who abuse their office for personal gain with little interest in common Americans, seeking to expand their wealth regardless of the best interest of the country. Often, these people are voted into office by people who seek the same, with campaigns funded by industries with similar motives. A wise man once said the democracy fails when the population realizes they can vote themselves rewards from the treasury. The government should always be of the people, for the people, by the people. Does anyone out there think these words are our current reality? Me neither. Now it’s more like of the elites, for the special interests and the entitled, by those with the means to fund a campaign.

We have a lot of problems to deal with, problems created by government and in many ways magnified by it. Both parties have been in control at one time or another in the past century, so for one to blame the other is ludicrous. For the voters to believe that only one party is at fault is even worse, taking naivety and blind partisanship to a new level.

The two party system has failed because both parties are corrupt and unwilling to serve the people. Power is what they want and there is simply too much of it in Washington. This must change. The balance of power must be in the favor of the people, by local government. The further government is from the people the more corrupt it becomes. In 2010, I want a third option, made of people who serve for the purpose of serving, not for personal gain. This may be idealism at it’s finest, but that’s the only way things will improve in this country and it’s the only way to keep us from complete domestic disaster.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Notes on the past week

A few things to comment on in the past week:

Obama has nominated Hillary for SecState. Turns out the Constitution forbids her from serving. Why? The rules say that any member of Congress who is in office when cabinet salaries are increased can not serve in any of those positions in the future. Pay raises were approved by Congress early last year. But don’t hold your breath. Dems are already saying that this won’t be a problem. There have been “work arounds” in the past and no one expects this to prevent Hillary from becoming Secretary of State….Yeah, it’s only the Constitution, no sense letting that keep us from business as usual in DC

Yesterday, Obama announced that he will not seek a windfall profits tax on oil companies. He says the price of oil has now dropped low enough that it will not be practical to impose such a tax. WEP will officially call this the first broken campaign promise, and it may be a record. We’re barely in December and the President-elect is already going back on what he promised his supporters. This only proves what I suspected all along, that Obama does not represent a “new kind of politics”. He is just like any other politician, willing to say or do anything to get elected. But don’t fret too much my Lefty friends. Bush pulled a fast one on us conservatives as well, promising to act like a conservative and then governing like a liberal Republican. It happens to the best of us. But does this mean that Obama plans to do away with his middle class tax rebate? After all, he promised to pay for it through the windfall profits tax, so he will now have to either break that promise or just print more money so he can write those rebate checks.

In light of broken campaign promises, WEP is eager to see what Obama does about Gitmo. He promised to shut it down, but will soon learn just how difficult that’s going to be. I mean, it’s not like Bush enjoys having a prison camp in our own backyard. The problem is: What do you do with those people you’re holding? Turn them loose in society? Expedite them to their home country? It’s easy to criticize from the outside, but things change once you’re calling the shots. My guess is that Obama doesn’t close Gitmo. Something tells me he’s too much like BJ Clinton in that he will pay lots of attention to polls, and Americans won’t approve of letting all those people go.

Speaking of polls, recent tabs show that 61% of Americans oppose bailing out Detroit. That’s comforting. Giving the Big 3 federal money would be akin to investing in Worldcom the day after the accounting scandal was uncovered. They have failed, bankruptcy is inevitable. Let’s down flush taxpayer money down with them. Many auto companies have failed in the past. Remember Tucker, Studebaker, American Motors? It’s a tough business. There’s absolutely no reason why the federal government should try to keep these poorly-managed companies afloat. And the UAW should understand something: When you demand a labor agreement that forces the Big 3 to pay workers $70 per hour in wages and benefits while the competition pays $40 per hour, then you have damaged your job security because you have forced your employer into a position where they simply can’t compete with the competition. Seems like common sense to me.

Finally, I have always considered Al Franken a propagandist slimeball, so his recent behavior doesn’t surprise me. But I am surprised at how the American people – particularly Minnesotans – are willing to sit back and let this guy steal a Senate election. His Dem friends in polling places are “discovering” lost ballots on an almost daily basis, yet Franken wants to challenge votes for his opponent because the bubble was not completely darkened in. One election official finds a box of uncounted ballots in his trunk well after the initial results were in…because, you know, it’s so easy for ballots to accidently be misplaced in someone’s trunk during a close election. Of course, this discovery favored Mr. Franken, big surprise there. More recently, Franken has asked the US Senate to intervene in the process. It doesn’t matter to him that the US Senate has no jurisdiction in the matter, it only matters that the US Senate is 58% friendly to him.
When you couple Franken’s behavior with that of ACORN, the debacle in Washington a few years ago and, of course, Al Gore’s attempted coup in 2000, you can’t help but wonder if our election process carries any legitimacy at all. I mean, Fidel Castro gets elected with 100% of the people’s vote. How far are we from that kind of vote tally?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama's "team"

Well, this is interesting. Obama has named his new economic team and it has me quite intrigued. Geithner, Summers and Romer will be advising the new President when he takes office and, to be honest, I am a bit optimistic about it, particularly Romer’s presence. Christine Romer is hardly a Leftist. In fact, if you do your research, you’ll find out that the Left is not happy about her appointment. However, Wall Street responded favorably. Why? Because she is more of a supply-sider than a socialist. Romer could easily serve in any Republican administration, she is very much right of center, which is a good thing for economic times like these. She is pro-free trade and market oriented. She does not believe that government intervention can revive or stimulate the economy. She has been quoted as saying “…tax increases are highly contractionary” and cause a “…large, sustained, highly significant negative impact on output.” All indications show that both Geithner and Summers tend to lean this way as well.

What does that mean? Well, it tells me that Obama may govern as a centrist. That he will listen to economic advisors when they tell him that raising taxes during a recession is disastrous. It means that there will be no tax hikes in 2009, and possible not even in 2010, even though Obama has stopped short of officially announcing it. If this is true, then he improves his chances of re-election dramatically and stands to succeed as our leader. That’s good news. Now, let’s hope that he stands strong against Congress when they try to strong-arm him and his economic team, which is sure to happen. I only wish he would just come out and announce that he will not raise taxes during his first year. That would have a dramatic impact on the market and could potentially trigger a recovery. Why he has failed to do this, I don’t know.

So I give Obama a B+ on his economic team. His campaign rhetoric on redistribution of wealth so far appears to be only that. Hopefully, he won’t follow through on it. We’ll have to see how the media responds. Interesting how they brutalized Hillary and McCain for their economic proposals and have been rather silent so far regarding Obama’s economic team when that team could have just as easily been appointed by Obama’s former opponents.

Now the bad news. Hillary for Secretary of State??? Are you kidding me? This is very disappointing. I suppose Obama is attempting to mend fences here but couldn’t he have named her to a lower level cabinet position? She is not qualified for the job and has a very shady history relating to Bill’s final days as president. Foreign leaders will not take her seriously and may consider her a pushover. This is dangerous. My only hope is that her past will prevent her from being confirmed, but that’s a long shot. Obama missed it big time on this and it looks like nothing more than politics as usual, something he promised to stay away from. This gets a big fat “F” from WEP.

Good job on the economic team, very bad on the Sec State appointment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Marine Corps Marathon

On October 26 I ran my first marathon. It was the famous Marine Corps Marathon held annually in DC. I’ve been meaning to document my experience for a while and felt that the post-election lag would be ideal. Some parts of this are gross, I apologize. And it is rather lengthy, but it’s necessary for me to write it down while it’s still fresh. Hope you enjoy.

I didn’t realize I would be so nervous. Why the nerves? Isn’t this a leisure activity? I guess it has to do with the fear of not meeting a particular challenge. I set this goal in May – at a time when I was running no more than 1-2 miles. Here I am, five months later, about to begin my first full marathon. It’s a cool, crisp morning and sleeves would be nice but I know that soon I wouldn’t need them. The runners – thousands of us – are gathering in our respective start corrals as the clock approaches 8 AM. A Marine Osprey does a flyby. Very cool. I can hear Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” playing somewhere in the distance. Then, I hear a countdown over the loudspeakers and at zero a howitzer fires, thundering the start of the wheelchair participants. Ten minutes to go. I do a few last minute stretches. To my right, a guy is hugging his wife and son. Another supporter has brought their dog. I start to finalize my early strategy – go easy until the pack thins then open it up, make it to mile 16 and the tourist attractions will distract enough to get me to the final 5 miles. The howitzer fires again and the lead corral is off.

We slowly start to walk towards the starting line, the pack lurching forward. I’m a mid-level runner so there’s about an equal number of runners in front and behind – 30,000 in total. I notice some around me trying to break into a sort of walking jog. Conserve the energy, I told myself. Just walk until you reach the start. It took me about 4 ½ minutes to finally reach the starting line and I pick up into a light jog. The pack simply doesn’t allow for anything faster. I resisted the urge to start weaving between runners to quicken my pace. Conserve the energy, be patient. We passed the 26 mile marker – the finish line is very close to the start – and it gave me a chuckle. Miles 1 and 2 went by fast with the excitement and the pure adrenaline. We ran through Rosslyn in front of huge crowds. It was amazing. We turned onto Lee Highway and began the first of two big climbs. It was early and I was pumped, so this wasn’t bad. Plus, the crowd drowned out any effect a climb would have.

We turned onto Sprout and headed back towards Georgetown. The previous climb became a downhill run and the pace quickened. By now I was at a steady 10 minute/mile, which is what my target was. This was an isolated part of the course and for a while it was just us runners. People began darting off into the woods to relieve themselves of some excess pre-race fluids. At first, I thought this was pretty gross, but it became such a common sight on the course that I eventually figured it was normal for a race this size.

The course merged onto Washington Parkway and we got our first glimpse of the Potomac as we approached mile 4. A heavy fog had set in and the opposite shore was barely visible. As we climbed up to the Key Bridge I could see the tower of Healy Hall at Georgetown Univ. peeking above the fog. It was breathtaking and I wished for a camera. Later I would find photos from other runners on the web. Great stuff.

We crossed the Potomac and turned north up Canal. Again it was an isolated part of the course but the pack had begun to spread out a bit. I passed marker 5 and 6 and was able to stretch out my stride, quickening to a 9 minute pace. By this time I was feeling good. The early stiffness typical of any long run was gone, along with any early jitters. The blood was moving through my legs, I was loose, my breathing was steady. I was at a good place. Soon the others runners started to fade away and I slipped into my own little world, just me and the road. That’s always a good place to be, even for a rookie like myself. But it was about to change.

At mile seven the course turned onto Reservoir and MacArthur and headed into Georgetown. We began the second big climb, and this would ruin my day. Dreams of darting across the finish line with a triumphant smile would soon be dashed. I trained on hills at home, in the Texas heat, and thought I was adequately prepared. I was wrong. For one, the climb was steep, steeper than I expected, and it was long. Nearly one mile uphill. That was longer than I had previously run. Plus, the road narrowed a bit, which bunched us up. We also began to surpass the wheelchair racers at this point, which meant further bunching. The bunching meant shortening my stride, thus more steps, uphill for over a mile on a pretty steep grade. By the time we reached the top I could feel my calves really tightening, like I just finished with 1000 calf raises in the gym. To make things worse, we started on a downhill run that took an equal toll. Seeing Georgetown was cool, but the tightness in the calves took away from any appreciation of it. I had to hop over the remnants of someone’s nausea, apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt the effects of what on paper seemed like a simple climb.

We merged back onto Canal and passed by the tail-end of the pack heading the opposite direction. I took pity on them for what they were about to endure. We turned onto M Street, through the heart of Georgetown. It was wider here and I was able to stride out some, relieving some of the tightness. Despite this, my pace remained steady at about 10 minutes/mile. A few more turns, another short downhill run (rather steep), past markers 9 and 10 and we were on Rock Creek Pkwy. At some point we passed the Kennedy Center and Watergate, but I didn’t notice. I was too concerned about my legs, hoping they wouldn’t start cramping this early. So far, so good. Tight, but still functioning well. I could’ve done without that climb, but overall I still felt pretty good and I was happy with my pace.

We merged onto Ohio, through East Potomac Park and then West Potomac Park, beginning a long isolated stretch along the perimeter of the golf course. The tightening in my calves was getting worse. We passed markers 11 and 12 and for the first time I began entertaining the notion of walk breaks. Way too early for that…not a good sign. Thus began the mental battle that I learned would be such a part of this kind of race. Near marker 12 I passed a woman walking, on her cell phone. I heard “come get me, I’m done”. No way was I at that point. Keep going.

We turned at the point and headed back up Ohio, passing the halfway mark along the way at a little over 2 hours. Not bad at all. Despite the tightness and the bundled pack, I was still on a good pace, much better than I expected. I was shooting for 4 ½ hours and so far was on target. I retrieved an energy gel from my pack and downed it with some water. I passed marker 14 still feeling okay, but somewhere near marker 15 the cramps hit. Both calves locked up in spasm. It hurt…badly. This was a first. In all my training runs, some as long as 20 miles, I have never cramped up, even when consuming less in fluids. No doubt this was due to the previous climb. I pushed through to about halfway to mile 16, and then had to walk for about a tenth/mile. I started back running, hoping the cramps would ease but they didn’t. I did an intermittent run-walk through miles 15-17. This was a bummer because as we approached the Mall the crowds grew substantially, 4-5 deep in places, and I had to walk past them. That sucked. Also somewhere at this point we passed the Lincoln Memorial, but I never saw it.

Near marker 17 we passed the White House, and I was able to take a good look since the pack was rather thin and my cramps were easing off. I started back running and was able to tolerate it a little better but was by no means pain free. And then the stomach cramps hit. This wasn’t muscular pain, it was intestinal pain. I had to go. Not sure why, again this was something that had never happened during my training. Maybe it was too much pasta the night before, maybe it was the energy gel. I don’t know. But I contemplated stopping at a porta-potty. I didn’t want to lose the time but I wasn’t sure if I could hold it in to the finish. I was literally trying not to crap my pants in front of thousands of people lined along the Mall.

We passed the Capitol building and I resisted the urge to give Congress the finger, instead refocusing the energy towards my bowels. I saw a group of porta-potties on the right near marker 18. The line was short so I stopped. My stomach was feeling a little better so I opted just for number 1. Maybe relieving some bladder pressure would help my gut. I had already lost time walking and didn’t want to lose anymore. Surprisingly, it helped.

I got back on course and was able to maintain a slow jog, about an 11-12 minute/mile pace. My stomach pain was gone, but the calves just wouldn’t leave me alone. At marker 19 I stopped and stretched them on the curb, hoping to buy some distance. An onlooker gave me a word of encouragement and I could only respond by saying “ouch”. We turned off the Mall and headed toward the Rochambeau Bridge, past mile 20. This is where I felt every ounce of energy completely drain from my body. I’ve heard people describe “the wall”, the moment where you feel like you literally can’t take another step and I always thought the reports were exaggerated. They aren’t. The science behind it is the body has depleted all glycogen reserves in the liver and muscles, leaving only fat as an energy source, which is inefficient, thus the lack of energy. The thought of another 6 miles was overwhelming and I wondered if this was it. Was this the moment that I quit? I though about it. Then I thought about all the training, those early AM runs where I would have rather slept in. The runs in the Texas heat where I questioned my own sanity. The fact that I travelled all this way to challenge myself. Was I going to quit? Hell no.

Instead, I walked across the bridge to mile 21 while fighting myself. My brain wanted to quit, my body sure as hell did. But I recalibrated my strategy and settled on a timed run-walk. 4 minutes running, one minute walking. Surely I could do this for 6 miles.

We turned off the bridge and headed into Crystal City. So far my strategy was working. It got me through miles 21-23 and the larger crowds helped. But soon 4 minutes of running was too much. I adjusted to 3 running, 1 walking. Then 2 running, 2 walking. I had no energy…none. It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been tired before, but this was totally different. Keeping to the 2-on-2-off strategy became difficult, but I pushed on as we exited Crystal City, back under the interstate. I passed mile 24, and saw a young girl probably mid-teens leaning over and vomiting profusely. Her entire body was heaving, this girl was hurting. I wanted to say something encouraging but couldn’t. By this time the pain in my legs was excruciating, I was completely wiped out and the noon sun was starting to beat down on me. My will was starting to wither. My feet were sore, my knees swollen and tight, my hips and ankles hurting. I silently wished her well and kept on.

Downhill to mile 25 and I decided to walk ½ mile to prepare for the finish. It was getting warm. One mile to go. The intermittent walking was no longer working. The pain in my calves had surpassed anything I had ever experienced. By this time crawling was becoming a legitimate option. I retrieved a photo of my kids and looked at it. Their faces, smiling. I looked at my youngest and remembered his battle against meningitis. He faced something much tougher than what I’m facing, and triumphed stronger than before, stronger than I will ever be. The photo was my last option for motivation, my “broken arrow”, to be used when I was near the end, and it worked. It was exactly the final motivation I needed and I started running again, slow and wobbly, but running nonetheless. Every step felt like a knife in my calves, every breath burned. As we drew close to mile 26 the crowd began to swell and I mustered every ounce of strength I had for the final push. We passed mile 26 and turned into Arlington Cemetary. The crowd was huge and loud. The final 1/10 mile was straight uphill towards the Iwo Jima Memorial. The crowd was deafening and this climb sent explosive pain into my calves, but it finally leveled out and I finally crossed the finish - clutching the photo - at 4:46:50.

Shortly thereafter a Marine officer hung the finisher’s medal over my neck and they took my picture in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial. I finished. No, it wasn’t the time I wanted and it was painful, but I finished. Sure, there were moments where I wanted to quit, where I no longer thought it was worth it, but I finished. I raced against myself, challenging my body, mind and spirit like I had never challenged it before, and I finished. I was a marathoner!

That night was painful, but my body recovered. And my spirit had been given a taste of accomplishment. I am a marathoner, but I have a time to beat and on February 1 in New Orleans I intend to do just that. People have told me that running is addictive, but I disagree. Running itself sucks, it’s the feeling afterward that’s addictive and I can’t get enough of it. It's amazing what I will go through to get it. I got a taste on October 26 and even though I was temporarily miserable, I want more.

Special thanks to all the Marines and volunteers along the course. What a great job and what an amazing event!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another trillion, please

When is this going to stop??

From Reuters today:

"The U.S. financial system still needs at least $1 trillion to $1.2 trillion of tangible common equity to restore confidence and improve liquidity in the credit markets, Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Paul Miller said...The bulk of the capital will have to come from the U.S. government, Miller said. The government needs to take the initial steps to begin the process, and private capital and earnings can finish the job. "The quicker the government acts, the sooner the financial system can work through its current problems and begin to supply credit again to the economy," he said." FULL STORY

Nearly $2 trillion of taxpayer has already been sunk into failing companies, and now another trillion?

This is absolute madness!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bailout? What was I thinking?

Well, based on the latest news I think it’s time for me to admit to my mistake. Supporting the government bailout was dumb…very, very dumb. I heard our politicians telling us that we were facing a crisis, something that was going to affect us all. I believe “main street” was the catch phrase du jour and I fell for it. Dumb.

My fellow conservatives were shrieking their disagreement and I didn’t listen. This was different. These companies were too big to fail. I was caught in the net of fear and I trusted the government to be responsible with the money. I trusted them to draw a line, to avoid the temptation of extending its power and getting more involved in the free market. This was supposed to be the exception and not the rule and I trusted the government to abide by that. Very dumb.

Gingrich led the opposition, stating that this amount of money would bring unprecedented corruption to Washington, that there was no way they could control it and that there was no guarantee that it would work and the taxpayers would get paid back. He made some very good points but I gave in to the fear that the White House was brewing, that Congress was echoing and I voiced my support for the package on this very sight. Big mistake. Now look what’s happening. Pandora’s Box has been opened.

First, the treasury says that of the initial $350 billion that was freed for bailout purposes, all but $60 billion has already been allocated. In other words, they’ve already burned through nearly half the money. Hank Paulson sat before Congress and told them that the money was needed urgently so he could begin buying up “toxic debt” from our financial institutions. To delay action would be catastrophic.

To this date not one dime has been spent for this purpose. In fact, I’m not sure if anybody really knows where the money is going. Paulson hasn’t exactly been 100% up front about it. Transparency and accountability? These words don’t exist inside the monetary vortex of Washington.

Two days ago, Paulson declares that he has changed his mind and will instead use the money to purchase stock in failing companies and let the companies themselves use the added revenue to solve their problems. In addition, he has extended the taxpayer infusion to other industries, including credit agencies, insurance agencies and others.

And the results? Unless I’m mistaken, the economy continues to fall, credit is still frozen and no one on Wall Street has any confidence to invest because of the uncertainty the government has created by playing god with the free market. In fact, every time Paulson opens his mouth the market drops. Not a good thing considering this guy is an unelected official who has been granted the power of a soft tyrant. The precedent is dangerous.

And, worst of all, government action hasn’t helped. If anything, the government has made the situation worse. The market has yet to correct itself because of all the uncertainty created by Washington. Like I’ve always said, if you want something screwed up really bad then let the government handle it. I violated that principle by initially supporting the idea of a bailout. Very, very dumb.

Now the automakers are asking for a bailout and Obama and Congress appear poised to give it to them. I thought the bailout was meant to save main street, not any company that flirts with bankruptcy. It would be a shame if the Big 3 went under, but that won’t affect me and it won’t affect the majority of Americans. Yet the government feels compelled to continue their free market meddling at my expense.

Washington has been swarmed with an army of lobbyists each trying to secure a piece of the bailout pie. The president of the American Bankers Association voiced concerns yesterday that money won’t be available to help smaller banks free their credit lines. A long line has formed with hands out and the smaller banks are apparently at the back of that line. AIG is going to get more money because the original $75 billion wasn’t enough. American Express just announced that they’re now a bank holding company, most likely because they also want some government money. AllState, Metlife and GMAC financing are also in line. But that’s not all. Lobbyists from the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association both want money so dealerships can “keep their showrooms stocked”. How exactly does that relate to a national financial crisis? It’s now the taxpayers’ responsibility to make sure my corner auto dealer keeps his showroom stocked?

Today, Freddie Mac is asking for more money. Sure! We’re writing checks Left and Right, why not give more taxpayer dollars to a failed and sinking franchise?

And let’s not forget about other governments. Several states have begun begging for federal money, along with some larger cities. If it’s my responsibility to bail out the auto industry, then why not bail out legislatures who can’t even balance a checkbook??? Fiscal responsibility for state and local governments is now nothing more than a suggestion as long as big brother Fed is there with money whenever you can’t balance your own budget. In the Washburn household, whenever income isn’t sufficient we cut expenses. I guess that’s too much to ask for government agencies.

And if that isn’t enough, the Fed is intent on changing the rules regarding federal money – as evidenced by Comrade Paulson’s latest decree. I guess there are no contracts here. Some Dems have discussed further restrictions on executive pay and shareholder dividends. Folks, when you change the rules like that it scares off investors and injects the most virulent of atmospheres into the market…uncertainty. This makes it more difficult for these companies to free themselves from the government nipple and operate independently. Perhaps that’s the idea, I don’t know.

"We are like a tenant signing a lease contract with the landlord where the landlord can come back and change the terms after the fact, and in fact we are going to have a new landlord in a couple of weeks," said Ed Yingling of the bankers association.

It appears that companies who take this money have just signed a deal with the devil, and there is no way out. I think the same can now be said of us taxpayers. And to make matters worse, all of this is happening on the eve of a dramatic Left shift in Washington, where politicians will be eager to exert maximum government power over the free market. Any industry that asks for money will likely get it, at a very steep cost. Once the government gets their claws in, they won’t let go. My fears of socialism are looming larger every day.

No lines have been drawn, no one has clearly defined the stopping point. No one has clarified just how far the government will go. Will this continue until Washington has ownership stakes in every corner of the economy?

We hear world leaders criticize greed in the free market, yet no one is willing to allow the greedy to get what they deserve….bankruptcy. I’m at the point where I’m okay with them all failing. Whether we’re talking about automakers or state treasuries, let them all go bankrupt. Instead, we bail out the greedy with main street’s dollars in the name of protecting main street. So far, the tally comes to about $10,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. I personally think it would make more fiscal sense to give that money to the people. Imagine the economic stimulation of 10K for every US citizen. No, that’s way too simple. Let’s instead use it for the government’s own portfolio and (according to Obama) RAISE taxes on main street. It’s all rather nauseating. What was I thinking?

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Before all of this I thought Bush’s greatest failure was not anticipating the insurgency in Iraq after Hussein’s departure. No more. Free market capitalism took a giant step backward to give way to neo-socialism under his watch, and he championed the cause locked arm-in-arm with Congressional Democrats. Now he has the audacity to say the government shouldn’t go too far.

Mr. President, with respect, once Pandora’s Box is opened there is no closing it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"A virus that causes cancer..."

So I just viewed the commercial for the one billionth time. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about… “a virus that causes cancer”. The ad is for Gardasil, the relatively new vaccine for HPV, a group of viruses that we have been aware of for quite some time that can, in fact, induce changes on the cervix leading to cervical cancer. Merck Pharmaceuticals is the manufacturer and they have launched a marketing campaign with one objective in mind…fear. I have long been a skeptic of Gardasil and I will not immunize my children unless some new evidence emerges that changes my mind. I simply don’t think it’s necessary.

Some of you may remember my post roasting Texas governor Rick Perry for his proposal to mandate Gardasil for all girls. I think such a policy is ridiculously authoritative and irresponsible. Perry has since backed down, but the issue remains very much alive. 41 states have taken the matter into consideration, including 24 legislatures that are considering mandatory vaccination. Most notable is Virginia, under some rather shady circumstances. In Decemeber 2006, Merck announced it would invest $57 million to expand its plant in Elkton, Virginia to manufacture Gardasil. Two months later, Governor Kaine signs legislation that makes the vaccine mandatory for school attendance. Four months after that, Merck announces an additional expansion of $193 million in Elkton. You decide.

So why would a physician – a family physician at that – be opposed to such action? Well, it’s a simple matter of risk versus benefit.

First, Gardasil is expensive, upwards of $1000 for the vaccine series. And it has been a boom for Merck, bringing in $1.5 billion for the drug company last year alone. Naturally, much of this tab is paid by governmental entities since the poorest families can’t afford the vaccine. Even if you assume that Gardasil would eliminate all deaths from cervical cancer (which it doesn’t) then you see that it costs about $70K for each year of life saved. This is a big number when you compare it to other anti-cancer measures. The natural question is: What are we getting for our investment?

Merck’s answer is cancer prevention. We are vaccinating young women against cervical cancer, thus saving money on treatment and lost productivity. But there are more questions about this vaccine - and Merck’s marketing - yet unanswered. If you watch the commercials you will get the impression that cervical cancer is a major public health threat. The actors do a good job of expressing fear and concern that we are all at risk. The message: get immunized now. This is just one reason why I oppose allowing drug companies to advertise on television. For years, doctors acted as a buffer between patients and drug makers. Now, the drug companies can take their pitch straight to the customer and the result is a lot of misinformation, fear, unnecessary doctor visits and uninformed decision making.

The fact is cervical cancer isn’t the big danger that Merck wants us to believe. Last year 3,600 people died from it in the US. Not a big number compared to other diseases. Pap smear screening has been very effective in reducing cancer rates and saving lives. Since we started routinely using pap screening, the rate of cervical cancer has dropped 74%. It is the most successful cancer screening tool ever discovered. Basically, if one maintains their routine screening then cervical cancer becomes less of a threat. The vast majority of deaths are in people who don’t get screened.

So, perhaps the vaccine could eliminate the need for these tests, again saving money. Wrong. The vaccine only covers viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancer. So, pap smear screening STILL must be done even if you’ve been immunized. You’re still at risk. The problem is – and what many doctors fear – that many people will assume that immunization incurs 100% protection or would he happy with the 70% number, and these people will fail to continue their pap tests. This would be dangerous. I could easily argue that cervical cancer rates are in danger of INCREASING from the use of this vaccine. Another danger would be a decrease in regular physician visits that lead to screening for other diseases. In comparison, breast cancer is 16 times more common than cervical cancer, and women are 10 times more likely to die from it. Often breast cancer screening is done during routine women’s health and pap smear visits. So, if women aren’t getting their paps done, they may be missing out on important other screening tools.

Then there’s the question of effectiveness. Merck expeditiously pushed this thing through the approval process, again stressing the urgency of cervical cancer in America. The FDA gave in. Gardasil only took 6 months from application to approval, whereas most vaccines take 3 years. This is concerning. Some clinical data shows the vaccine may not last, with evidence that immunity wanes after only 3 years. A longer approval process may have brought this further into light. Even the fine print on their commercials says: “duration of protection has not been established”.

Not that Merck is too concerned about waning immunity. That simply means regular booster shots would be required. More shots equals more money. See how it works?

Yet the fear-mongering continues. The American College Health Association has joined in. This from one of their campaigns: “You, the female students sitting in your class, your sorority sisters, your teammates and your best friends could all be at risk.” Sounds a lot like Merck’s commercial. Now, the ACHA recommends all female students get immunized, despite the fact that many women this age are sexually active, already have HPV, and getting immunized would be minimally effective if at all. What the heck is going on here?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for preventive medicine. In fact, it’s the backbone of family medicine. But that doesn’t mean that I am willing to recommend my patients do things that would be costly and of little benefit. Protecting against cervical cancer is important. This can be done by getting regular pap smear tests as recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gyn. Do this, and cervical cancer isn’t much of a threat. Paying a lofty price for a vaccine that, at best, only grants you 70% protection that may or may not last for only 3 years isn’t in the patient’s best interest. Until new evidence emerges, my opinion won’t change.

In Merck’s defense, it is true that cervical cancer remains a global problem. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide, mainly because of high rates in developing countries where pap screening is seldom available. So here is my challenge to Merck: Stop advertising Gardasil in the West and instead take that money and use it for a free vaccination or pap program in the third world. Any chance this will happen? If so, I will be the first to echo praise for this company.

I’m not beating up on the drug companies. In fact, I support our pharmaceutical industry. They’re one reason why we have the best health care in the world. But allowing them to advertise directly to consumers is wrong. It presents too much opportunity to distort facts for the purpose of financial gain. Any health care plan that doesn’t stop this practice is incomplete in my mind. The drug companies have lots of money, and that money can be spent better than on misleading commercials and fear-mongering.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Blaming Palin

This is what I’m talking about. Just a few days after losing the election, and some “unnamed” McCain aides have begun their attempts to throw Sarah Palin under the bus. Yesterday, I said the conservative revolution is about to begin, and now we see the old guard of the republican party fighting back. They want to retain control and since Palin is one of us, they have to destroy her before any hint of 2012 support gains hold.

I was never 100% comfortable with Palin’s qualifications, but I argued that she wasn’t any less qualified than Obama. This argument was never countered by the Obama supporters. And now the McCain folks want to blame Palin for the loss. I disagree.

For one, without Palin the conservative base would have never rallied around McCain. Personally, I would have voted for him but there would have been zero enthusiasm. McCain is simply not a conservative. But Palin energized the conservatives across the country to the point that I – for the first time ever – actually gave money to a campaign and put a sign in my yard. I’m not saying that conservatives would have voted for Obama, but I am saying the turnout for McCain would have been smaller without Palin.

The other thing is obvious. Just look at the poll numbers. Before Palin, McCain was trailing. After Palin, he was leading and this lead was approaching double digits. Then the financial crisis hit and McCain’s campaign completely fell apart. The man who tried to paint himself as a conservative all of a sudden became a populist. Folks, populism isn’t something conservatives are warm to. It’s one small step away from liberalism. Not once did McCain mention the Community Reinvestment Act. Not once did he mention that Joe Biden voted for deregulation of the industry (McCain, on the other hand, did not) and Bill Clinton signed it into law. Not once did he mention bad economic decisions by home buyers. Instead, he parroted the “Wall Street greed” mantra and it left us conservatives wondering if we actually had a dog in this fight. He allowed Obama to lay the blame for the mortgage meltdown on the Republicans and did nothing to counter the argument. He suspends his campaign to go to Washington and then votes for a bill loaded with pork barrel spending – something he has argued passionately against. All of this is not Palin’s fault. While he was trying to find his footing on the matter she was drawing crowds triple the size of his. She was the only one who talked about “living within our means”.

During the third debate, he mentioned Warren Buffett as a potential treasury secretary. What? Buffett is another Soros. What about Romney? And why on earth didn’t McCain bring up the Reverend Wright issue? Why didn’t he discuss Dodd and Frank, and the loads of money given to them and to Obama by Fannie Mae? There were many mistakes made in this campaign, but choosing Palin wasn’t one of them.

When unnamed staffers start making ridiculous assertions I immediately toss them aside. If someone doesn’t have the sack to go on record, then they have no credibility with me. So I think it’s ridiculous to claim that Palin thought Africa was a country, and she didn’t know what nations made up North America. Are you kidding me? This is the most popular and, arguably, the most successful governor in the country. This is not a dumb woman and any attempt to paint her as such will be met with a huge backlash from the conservative base. The liberals may believe it because they want to believe it, but we know better. Attacking Palin is nothing more than assigning blame for a poorly-run campaign.

I won’t pretend that Sarah Palin had a vast wealth of Washington knowledge. She didn’t. And she clearly lacked political experience. So what? What she brought was strong judgment and a demonstration of conservatism. She lived it. This woman risked her career to blow the whistle on political and corporate corruption and her tenure as governor has been marked by a constitutent-before-party principle. She is a problem solver with loads of charisma and charm, backed by sound judgment when confronted with tough choices. Those are qualities that we need in Washington.

The problem is that often people like her are so turned off by the nastiness in politics that they lose the stomach for it. See Condi Rice for another example. Whether or not Palin will be back is up for debate, but I think it’s shameful for any Republican to blame her for the failures of the McCain campaign. And if John McCain is the man I think he is, he will come out and condemn these attacks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My fellow conservatives...

To all my fellow conservatives and WEP faithful, let’s not hang our heads low. There is hope here. Yes, it’s possible that America just elected a Marxist for President and gave him a very Liberal congress to govern with, but it’s also possible that the Marxist won’t venture too far from the center. And it’s also possible that he may not be a Marxist after all. That would be nice.

Don’t listen to the pundits who say conservatism is dead in this country. That’s bull. Yesterday’s exit polls showed that 44% of this country identify themselves as moderates, 38% as conservative and only 22% as liberal. Those are good numbers for us and it tells me that much of Obama’s support were protest votes against a morally bankrupt Republican party. Good riddance! Plus, Obama had to paint himself as a centrist in order to win. He had to run as a moderate or he never would have won. That’s encouraging. This is still a center right country even though it will be governed by the far Left for at least the next 2 years. Perhaps this is exactly what conservatives needed, a complete dismantling of the modern day Republican party, allowing it to be rebuilt into something that would make Reagan proud. We’ll see if someone emerges as a new leader, prepared to build a party that will truly represent conservative political ideals.

And don’t listen when the Left pressures you to be more bipartisan. That’s just code-speak for “betray your principles”. They have no intention of being bipartisan, but they will certainly expect us to be. Hold your conservative ideals close and don’t let go of them. They will attempt to isolate us as fringe in their push to Europeanize this country. They will call us names like “divisive” and “antagonistic” and the media will be more than willing to peddle their rhetoric. Again, this is their way of separating us from what we believe. Don’t let them do it. We are the only hope this country has. If we go down, America is lost.

Pray for the military. For those who remember serving under Clinton, you will remember times of very low morale. Those were difficult days for our men and women in uniform and let us all pray that those days don’t return. Pray that President Obama will not misuse the military as Clinton did and pray that God keeps our troops in high spirits. Fighting is hard enough, fighting while serving under a Commander in Chief you don’t believe in is even harder. I will remember our troops in my prayers and I ask that you do the same.

Don’t listen when they say that Reaganomics is a failure. The statistics don’t lie. Recessions come and go and there will always be short periods of economic slowdown, but the big picture is clear. Supply side economics has produced incredible economic growth for this country top to bottom and turning our backs on it would be a disastrous mistake. Obama may attempt to reverse these policies. If he does, he will fail. That would be a shame, but at least it would vindicate Reagan’s economic ideals and pave the way for re-implementing his policies. Let’s hope we don’t have to say “told you so”.

Don’t listen when they say the UN is good for us. The UN is a third world organization whose primary goal is equalization of global military and economic power, which starts by weakening the US. The UN is corrupt and completely inept. Anything they say or do must be greeted with a great deal of skepticism, and our President should keep that in mind as well.

Don’t listen when they say that terrorism should be treated like nothing more than a natural disaster. We all know better than that. We still have a big fight on our hands and a change in leadership is coming. What that means for our fight has yet to be determined, but whatever happens we must never lose sight of the fact that we have been drawn into war by an enemy that seeks our complete and utter destruction.

As for the Republicans, let’s kick them to the curb once and for all. They betrayed us like never before and it began when Gingrich’s Congress left office. Gingrich’s exit was the beginning of the end of the Reagan revolution and yesterday was the death blow. It’s time to revive that cause. The dark days of Delay, Hastert, Frist and Lott are over. Let us now start working on rebuilding the conservative movement with leaders who won’t betray us, and let’s use the ’06 and ’08 elections as reminders of what happens to those who forget where they came from. It may not seem like it now, but this election may be a blessing in disguise. Remember, we had to endure 4 years of Carter to get Reagan. Perhaps 4 years of Obama will bring us the next great conservative leader.

As for Obama, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. We owe that to the country we dearly love. Let’s not behave like the Left did when Bush won office, plotting resistance to anything he plans to do. Instead, let’s give him an opportunity to turn away from the extremist Left that molded him and his career, and remain in the center as he promised. Should he veer, we will most definitely call him on it, but he deserves a chance. It would be unpatriotic not to grant him at least that. Let’s give the guy a chance to prove himself. He didn’t win our vote, perhaps he can win our respect by the way he governs. There is a chance that he won’t govern from the far Left. He is an incredibly ambitious man and re-election will be his priority. If he governs from the far Left his chances in ’12 will be slim. His ambition may work in our favor. It’s also possible that we were wrong in our assertion that he is a Marxist. His record is thin and therefore can be deceptive. Maybe he is a centrist after all. Perhaps he will surround himself with economic advisors that tell him not to raise taxes during a recession. Perhaps he will listen to his military advisors who tell him not to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

Maybe Biden was wrong when he suggested that Obama’s leadership would invite attacks from our enemies. Maybe Hillary was wrong when she criticized his inexperience. Maybe BJ was wrong when he said Obama came to him looking for the “right answers” so he could sell it to the country.

Maybe his cap and trade policy will get filibustered and we won’t face skyrocketing electricity bills. Maybe the same thing will happen to the fairness doctrine and the union card checks. Maybe one of the strict constructionist Supreme Court justices won’t leave office during his term. As McCain says, nothing is inevitable here.

It is my fear that if Obama implements the economic plans that he has proposed it will be disastrous. I hope I’m wrong. He has a large burden to carry. He is the first black President and for that reason alone I hope he is successful. I don’t want to see this man fail, which is why I urge him to stay in the center and not give in to Leftist ideology. I will be praying for him and so should you.

I am willing to give him a chance and I will be watching him like a hawk. I hope he doesn’t veer from his campaign rhetoric, but if he does I will be the first to call him on it. Accountability is what we need most in Washington and WEP will be watching. We can’t tolerate extremism and Leftist ideology. No country has survived that kind of government and America will be no different. Therefore, we must hold strong.

So start compiling an email list of all your representatives and senators and be prepared to write them. The minute our government tries to take this country to the far Left we will have to dig in our heels. We may go down, but by God we will go down swinging.

Yesterday, a dear friend texted me as the first votes started rolling in. It said “Gingrich-Jindal 2012”. Now that has promise. My fellow conservatives, let’s seize the opportunity. May we all pray that Obama succeeds, but prepare for his failure. 2012 is only four years away and it can be the year the Reagan legacy was reborn.

God bless you all. God bless our next President. And God bless our beloved country.

Friday, October 31, 2008

“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded..."

Obama mentioned this in his infomercial the other night, and apparently this has been part of his campaign stump speech. I for one would like a little clarification on this matter. What exactly does Obama plan to do with this domestic police force? For what purposes will it be created? Is there some sort of law enforcement void that is not being filled by local authorities that we have to create a civilian national security force? And he wants to fund it to the same degree as the military?

I tell you, I'm slowly getting more and more uncomfortable with this guy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What more can we expect?

Last night Senator Obama, endowed with unprecedented campaign dollars, gave his 30 minute infomercial selling himself to America. It was a political advertisement basically telling us all how horrible things are in this country, how miserables our lives are, and how he will save us. There was no rebuttal offered, basically allowing Obama to say anything he wanted factual or not. I call that propaganda and I pay little attention to propaganda, especially what's been put out from the Obama camp lately. But I did pick up on a few things in the news that voters should be aware of and likely won't be reported in mainstream outlets.

THe LA Times has come across a video of Obama at a celebratory dinner honoring Rashid Khalidi. For those who don't know, Khalidi is a middle east historian currently teaching at Indoctrination University (also known as Columbia). He is a palestinian supporter and has said and done some questionable things, including: claim the Palestinians have a legal right to resist Israeli "occupation"; saying the US owes reparations to the Iraqi people; accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing; calling suicide bombings a response to Israeli "aggression" and referred to the West as the "Jew hating West". Yes, a Palestinian sympathizer is on record accusing someone else of anti-semitism.

He also dedicated his book "Under Siege" to: "...those who gave their lives in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon." Khalidi has endorsed Obama because he is "the only candidate who has expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause."

Apparently, the LA Times tape has Obama toasting Khalidi. We don't know all the good things Obama says about him because the Times has buried the tape...how convenient for us voters. Of course, Obama downplays his relationship with Khalidi, something he has become quite good at recently. According to him, the two are just casual acquaintances and nothing more. Well, the facts don't seem to agree with that description. In 2000, Khalidi held a fundraiser to benefit Obama's House campaign. An anti-Israel group led by Khalidi's wife has received $75,000 in donations from the Woods Group, a Chicago nonprofit for which Obama was a board member. And then there's the new tape showing Obama toasting his casual acquaintance. Regardless what he says, this guy has some very shady people raising money for him, and yet he warns us not to give in to "guilt by association". The question is: how many radicals must you associate with before guilt by association becomes appropriate?

And speaking of fund raisers, recent news reveals that Obama has been accepting a lot of untraceable donations from internet sources and prepaid credit cards. These donations can't be tracked, therefore Obama can't verify that he is not violating campaign finance laws. Yet, he accepts the money and is happy to spend it, only returning it when he gets caught breaking the law. In September alone, these donations accounted for over 60% of the money raised by Obama's campaign. That is fraudulent.

And just two days ago, a senior ACORN official testified under oath that the Obama campaign provided ACORN with a list of its top donors. Why is this important? Because the law only allows a person to give so much to a political campaign, it does not limit how much can be given to a nonprofit like ACORN. So the easy way around the law is to provide a list of your top donors to a friendly nonprofit and you can get more money. This may not be illegal but it is certainly unethical. What more can we expect from this man?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Always temporary in nature...

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

This was said many years ago by a man named Tyler, and later repeated by Alexander Hamilton. I couldn’t agree more, which is the basis of my concern for America’s future. Our democracy has been in existence for nearly 233 years and I don’t recall in history any other democracy lasting that long. How exactly did the Roman empire fall?

And when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, the moderate members of the Russian parliament walked out in protest, prompting Trotsky to say this to them: "You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!" Sound familiar? Shortly thereafter, the Bolsheviks passed the Decree on Land, which ratified the actions of the peasants who had been seizing private land and redistributing it amongst themselves. In addition to this, the Bolsheviks: nationalized all banks, granted control of all factories to the soviets, confiscated private bank accounts, seized all church properties, fixed wages at higher rates and implemented a shorter 8-hour work day, repudiated all foreign debts.

Indeed, I have seen a trend in the Democrat party for several decades, basically one of alienating the wealthy and pandering to the middle and lower class. I’ve heard some call this class warfare, and Barack Obama has taken it to an even higher level. This man’s campaign tactic, taken right from the writings of Saul Alinsky, is to cast away the 5% of America’s wealthiest and pander to the other 95%, literally promising them money for their votes. We hear things like “bottom up” growth and “fairness”. And it just may work.

During the primaries, Obama did an interview and was asked about his tax policy. The questioner pointed out that past tax increases have often led to a DECREASE in government revenue. Obama acknowledged this to be true, yet when pressed about his tax plan he responded by saying that it was a matter of “fairness”.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” – Karl Marx

I have a deep problem with Obama’s perspective. In my mind, taxes are a necessary evil. I don’t believe in anarchy, so we must have a functioning government to provide things like courts, roads and national defense. This costs money and the citizens are responsible for providing that money. It’s simply the toll we pay for reaping the benefits of a free society. But Obama, and most democrats, take a much different approach. They see taxes as means of balancing society, establishing “fairness” whatever that means. They describe the rich as “fortunate” and the poor as “less fortunate” as though the only difference between the two is varying degrees of luck, and they use taxation to balance the good and bad luck as a matter of fairness. In other words, taxation is the government’s way of exerting control over its citizens, by punishing the upper class and giving to the middle and lower class, essentially redistributing wealth. But more than that, taxation is the democrat’s method of self-preservation, a means of achieving and maintaining power by nothing else than taking from the minority and giving to 95% of the citizens. You buy votes, implement programs that encourage government dependence, and in doing so you guarantee yourself power. The more citizens depend on the government, the less likely they are to vote you out, this is how communists keep power by ensuring the citizens need them in power. Cater to the middle and lower class, isolate the upper class because you don’t need their vote to gain power, and if that’s not enough then you literally promise the “less fortunate” money for putting you in power, thus the ability to vote themselves rewards from the treasury. It’s simple.

And, folks, if Obama DOES win this election and he is given a super-majority in Congress with a filibuster-proof Senate and just one or two Obama Supreme Court choices – easily appointing the most radical of liberals with his rubber-stamp Senate - then exactly how close will we be to a dictatorship? In theory, they could pass any law they wanted. Honestly, who will stop the Dems from doing it? This makes me very uncomfortable.

I believe Obama’s economy will be disastrous. The last time our economy was this bad was 1980, when Carter lost 10 million jobs, had a 21% interest rate and inflation was at a staggering 12%. Reagan stepped in and immediately dropped taxes to the floor. The top rate was cut from 70% to 28%. As a result, 20 million jobs were created, and government revenues doubled. This is historical fact, yet Obama claims that trickle down economics doesn’t work. Obama plans to do the exact opposite. His plan couldn’t be any further from Reagan’s and instead represents a hybrid of Carter and Hoover. Remember, it was Hoover’s policy that turned the recession of 1929 into the decade-long Great Depression by minimizing free trade and raising income taxes. Obama’s plan is dangerous, and McCain is committing campaign malpractice by not hammering home this issue enough. You NEVER raise taxes in the midst of a recession. NEVER!

He calls for a “new” new deal, which makes sense considering his basic beliefs. The New Deal was our first brush with socialism as the government basically began acting as a major employer, attempting to replace the private sector, which had been choked by excessive taxation. It was very costly and, more importantly, it didn’t work. The Depression continued until the industrial boom of world war two revitalized the economy.

Obama’s tax plan will no doubt increase unemployment, hitting small businesses especially hard. He says only 5% of small businesses will be affected, but this is not the whole story. The truth is 50% of small businesses who employ 20 or more people will see an increase in taxation. These are America’s major employers.

And I just don’t get the “bottom up” theory. How exactly does the economy grow bottom up? The economy grows through employment, and a $1000 check doesn’t get you employed. In fact, it will probably not even pay one month of credit card bills. If people are employed, they have money to spend. If they have money to spend, then investments increase, especially if capitol gains rates are low; retail sales increase; borrowing and major purchases increase; and all of this ultimately leads to more business growth and more employment. There’s a reason why immigration became such a major issue and it’s because our economy was so strong that we actually had to import workers to fill the need.

And business taxes are passed to consumers. Let’s be clear about this, businesses DON’T PAY TAXES, they simply pass the cost to the consumer. As a result, the cost of living goes up, investments decrease and the economy staggers. You can write checks to the middle and lower class, but those will quickly be consumed by the higher cost of living and does nothing to create jobs. This was tried just this summer when we all got rebate checks, and it amounted to nothing more than a speed bump in the economic decline. Bottom-up economics is unsound. It just doesn’t make sense. If you want to grow the economy it starts by growing business since they are the ones who employ people. Instead, it is the businesses and corporations – the “petite bourgeoise” - that are demonized by the Left in their class warfare tactics as they maintain efforts to appeal to the middle and lower class.

And one sector of the economy that continues to thrive is exports. The US is still the world’s largest exporter, accounting for $1.3 trillion annually or 20% of our GDP. This has come mainly through free trade, which has also resulted in a net GAIN of US jobs despite the dem’s claim to the contrary. Obama wants to limit free trade in the name of keeping jobs from going overseas. Again, this is nothing but pandering to key swing states hit hardest by some of the negatives of free trade, despite the fact that free trade is overall beneficial for the whole country. If trade is affected, it could potentially affect 16 million US jobs that would be threatened by trade restrictions. This is on top of what could be lost by the taxation on small businesses. And this doesn’t take into account the fact that free trade increases the buying power of middle and lower class citizens, who can buy cheaper goods and make their dollars last longer. Restrict free trade and you raise the cost of everyday goods, on top of the cost of living that goes up with higher corporate taxation. When Hoover restricted trade by imposing a 40% tariff on imports, it led to a loss of 6.5 million jobs in his 4 year term, half of these were lost in his final year, and the GDP dropped by 25%. Obama is talking about doing much of the same. Our economy simply can’t handle it and if he has his way the recession of 2008 could quickly become the next great depression. And if this happens it will compel the Dems to enact more government programs, make more people dependent on their power. Again, McCain has failed to make this point clearly enough.

Biden says Obama will be tested by an international crisis and that’s concerning enough, but still not nearly as concerning as what will happen to our economy. The signs of disaster couldn’t be any clearer. I wonder if the chaos on Wall Street is somehow related to his current position in the polls, and I fear that on Nov 5 if he’s declared the winner the market could plummet. His ideas are radical, hardly those of a moderate democrat, and he has a radical as House Speaker and as Senate leader. Not a good combination when we are in dire need of economic growth. Mark my words, if he wins we’re looking at some very dark days ahead.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New perspective...

I read something today that gave me a new perspective on Obama’s associations, and it’s something that his defenders need to hear. For the past several weeks, all I’ve heard from the Obamatrons is that his association with Bill Ayers doesn’t matter, his friendships with Reverend Wright and Father Pfleger are inconsequential or, as Obama says, are just a distraction from the “real issues”, as though a man’s character is not an issue.

So, I rely on my military roots for this assessment. Having served a total of 11 years of active and reserve duty I can speak from experience. During this time, I had a security clearance as all active duty members have. This isn’t exactly an easy process. It’s more than just signing a piece of paper and then being granted a clearance. There is some probing involved. During my active duty time, I also wrote a book and in order to have it published I had to get it cleared through the Pentagon. Yes, they actually read my book page by page before allowing me to publish it. In fact, maintaining this very web site while on active duty required that I follow certain rules, one of those still apply in the sense that I am not allowed to divulge any sensitive information regarding national security (not that it matters since I was never privy to such information, but the rule still applies and I was briefed on it after I separated from service). The point is a security clearance is a serious thing.

And based on Obama’s prior associations, I can safely say that obtaining an upper-level security clearance would be impossible for him. The minute the Pentagon discovered his Wright association alone – never mind the one with a domestic terrorist – he would be denied access to any significant national security information. If he joined the military, he would not be granted the most basic security clearance. Yet, as President and Commander in Chief, Obama would have access at the highest level. This man wouldn’t be qualified to be a White House staffer, much less President unless, of course, the American people voted to put him in charge. And there are some who believe his associations don’t matter? Yeah, right.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Biden: "Obama will be tested"

Joe Biden recently made comments to donors that Obama will be tested by an international crisis within the first 6 months of his presidency. He compared it to Kennedy who – as history shows – was tested in Vienna by the Soviets and apparently failed the test since not long after this meeting the Soviets built the Berlin Wall. So, the comparison was probably not ideal for Biden to make. But I agree with his basic notion. Bush was tested early in his presidency, as was Clinton. So I think it’s safe to assume the same will happen to Obama. Our enemies are no doubt curious to see how Obama responds to certain actions. I don’t think they have any doubt how McCain will respond.

What concerns me is Biden’s other comments. Basically he said Obama’s response won’t seem right initially and it will be important to stick with him through it all. What is Biden saying? Is he suggesting that perhaps Obama will respond in a “weak” manner? If so, then the comparison to Kennedy would be accurate, although this doesn’t bring me much comfort. After Kennedy’s weakness at Vienna, we got the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis. These aren’t things that I would be eager to see replayed. It certainly gives voters something to think about.

Which brings up another point about Obama that I’ve been meaning to make for a while. Obama likes to boast that he was right about Iraq. I have a problem with that. First, Obama wasn’t in the Senate at the time so he never had to actually cast an up-or-down vote. He would have us believe that if he were in the Senate, then he would have voted against the Iraq War. Fair enough, but therein lies the problem. Bush was given intelligence that basically said Iraq had WMDs and the potential to use them posed a significant threat to the US, its allies and the surrounding region. The same intelligence was given to Congress. Every major intelligence organization worldwide concurred, and based on that information the Congress voted overwhelmingly for action to protect our nation. Obama says he wouldn’t have done so. Does this concern anyone besides me? What compelled Obama to dissent? Did he not believe the intelligence reports or did he simply not think that action was necessary against the “threat” that was being described? Suppose a similar situation presented itself - this time without the convenient hindsight - and Obama was faced with a threat supported by loads of evidence.

Granted, hindsight showed that the intelligence was wrong, but nobody knew that at the time. All we knew at the time was what we were told, that Iraq had WMDs and was dangerous. Even the most liberal, most dovish of our political leaders voted to take action, yet Obama says he would have ignored this intelligence and opted for something different. Sorry, but I don’t count that as good judgment. It doesn’t bring me comfort to think Obama may be in charge when Iran continues to pursue nukes. Suppose the CIA comes to President Obama and says that Ahmadinejad has succeeded, and he now has nuclear capability. What will Obama do? Will he believe the CIA and take action or will he dissent as he did regarding Iraq? Or will he wait for definitive proof of Iran’s nukes like a test detonation or, perhaps, an actual attack? He says a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, would be a “game-changer”, but his judgment on Iraq doesn’t back that up. So is this what Biden is talking about?

Today, discussing Iraq is difficult because that means distinguishing between what we know now and what we knew at the time. Bush didn’t have the luxury of knowing then what we know now and he had a decision to make regarding our national security. I’m certain that he considered the possibility that the intelligence could be wrong; but counting on that and doing nothing carried with it potentially disastrous consequences. Imagine the uproar if he had ignored the reports and Iraq subsequently launched a WMD attack. That would have been an impeachable offense. He opted to trust the intelligence and take action to protect American citizens. I think it was the right decision. Yes, he should have listened to Powell instead of Rumsfeld and ironed out a distinct exit strategy. Yes, he should have reacted faster when evidence of insurgency first developed. There are many things he should have done differently, but the core initial decision was right. And Obama says he wouldn’t have done the same.

Certainly, there were many mistakes regarding Iraq, but the initial decision to go in wasn’t among them. The government’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens. The government was given significant information that its citizens were potentially in danger and they responded appropriately. Some things were mishandled, but the initial decision was the right one. I’m concerned that Obama would fail in this regard, and Biden’s comments seem to be somewhat prophetic.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell endorses Obama

General Colin Powell is a man that I respect and admire very much. He is one of the most decorated military leaders in modern American history, and you don’t get to that point by being a dishonorable man. So when Rush Limbaugh says that he can’t think of any “inexperienced, white liberal candidates” that Powell has endorsed, I take exception. He is basically accusing the General of racism, and racism is dishonorable. Powell is career military, and the military has a zero tolerance policy on racism; plus battlefield commanders – more than anyone else – know that we all bleed red. I find Limbaugh’s comments in very poor taste. I think Powell would have endorsed just about any Democrat candidate this year and I have my reasons for thinking this.

First, Powell is not a Republican. He hasn’t said or done anything to give me the impression of GOP loyalty. Plus, you’ll find that most military folks are not partisan either way, and many have voted for both parties at one point or another. Powell is a moderate and he seems to me to lean Left on most things, including foreign policy. He served as Bush’s SecState because Bush ran as a moderate and because Powell served under his father, and obviously respected the elder Bush very much. Bush Sr was a moderate on foreign policy…he stopped short of Baghdad for a reason and you can bet that Powell was in agreement. The notion of furthering combat, perhaps unnecessarily, was something that Powell would never agree to. Ditto for pre-emptive military action.

You see, in history there are basically two kinds of military commanders. The first is the hawk, the bloodthirsty leader who likes nothing more than combat. He is aggressive, relentless, and often looked at as egotistical. Think of Patton, MacArthur, Napoleon. The other is the dove, the general who hates to see blood spilled for any reason and absolutely despises war. He recognizes that combat is sometimes necessary but will avoid it whenever possible and will end it as soon as possible. Names like Lee, Eisenhower and, yes, Washington come to mind. I also place Powell in the latter group. Keep in mind that I don’t think one type of general is any better than the other. Instead, I think the context is the deciding factor. In times of peace, I want the dove commanding the army. But if you’re facing extermination and literally fighting for survival, then I want Patton out front.

Something else came to mind when I heard of Powell’s endorsement. This was no surprise to me, since I don’t think of Powell as a Republican, but I still couldn’t help but think of George Pickett after Gettysburg when he said of Lee, “That old man destroyed my division.” You see, generals have very special regard for the troops they command, and even though Powell was no longer commanding the troops he still felt connected to them. Every life lost in Iraq was taken personally, and I don’t think Powell will ever forgive Bush for it.

Powell does not believe in pre-emptive military action. That’s just the sense that I get from him. And I honestly don’t think George W Bush was a pre-emptive war kind of guy either, since his father wasn’t the type. But 9/11 changed a lot of things, including Bush’s own foreign policy, and this is where he and Powell eventually split. He decided that pre-emptive action was better than waiting to respond to an actual attack. I get the sense that Powell still disagrees. Yes, Powell argued the case against Iraq to the UN, but I felt he did this against his better judgment. And when Bush sided with Rumsfeld on how to handle post-war security, Powell was done. He wanted no further part of it. Again, he is honorable, and it’s hard for an honorable person to support something they don’t believe in. It’s no secret why he left after Bush’s first term.
To put it simply, Obama will not continue Bush’s policy of pre-emptive strikes, McCain will, and that’s why Powell endorsed Obama. Make of that what you will. On that matter, I will respectfully disagree with the General and continue to always wish him well with a deep sense of appreciation for his service to our country.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My own theory about the election...

Today I’m feeling a bit theoretical. Maybe because it’s Friday, who knows? But actually I’ve been cooking up this theory for several weeks now. There’s nothing scientific about it. This is based on a sense that I get from the overall mood of those around me and what I consider interesting trends that seem to be reinforced every day. Call it a hunch, maybe even personal bias, but I believe that this country and the major media outlets are in for a shock on election day. I believe the outcome will either be very, very close, closer than any election in our history, or will end up as a big win for McCain. By “big win” I mean McCain takes the traditional red states including Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio; and additionally wins New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and possibly wins close races in Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon and Washington. Is this my own partisan bias? Not likely, since I am hardly a partisan. But I admit that my conservative blinders may be affecting my objective thought, which is why I say this is a non-scientific observation. Nonetheless, I see things this election cycle that I haven’t seen before which, in a nutshell, is a hesitancy among people to admit that they either support McCain or don’t support Obama.

I’ve had friends recently ask me, with some concern, what I think about the polls. If you believe what you see then basically Obama wins in a landslide, taking all the aforementioned states. The question is: Does anyone actually believe that? My answer to those friends is that I get the sense that people are angry right now and many are taking it out on the GOP, especially when a pollster asks the question. But inside the privacy of the voting booth it will be different, and many people will be unwilling to allow their anger to cast a risky vote, making it very difficult to punch Obama’s name. If Barack Obama were a moderate Democrat then the answer would be yes. And let’s face it, a moderate Dem in our current environment would slaughter any GOP challenger. If the Dems had nominated Hillary (hardly a moderate, but seen by many as such), or Richardson this thing wouldn’t even be close. But they didn’t. Instead, the Dems have once again nominated a far-Left candidate along the lines of Kerry, except this time the candidate is far-Left with extremist economic policy, foreign policy, questionable associations and virtually no prior political record. Contrast that with McCain, a man who is well-known as a centrist and someone that can be trusted with the people’s money. Folks, this is a center-right country and McCain is a center-right candidate opposing a radical Left candidate. Am I to believe that Obama wins in a landslide? That would mean an incredibly sudden and dramatic shift in the American political landscape that would be historic and that I simply don’t think is likely to happen.

I noticed something during the debate the other night. When McCain said “I am not President Bush…” there was a subtle spattering of applause from the audience. This is rare in a debate and the first time it’s happened this year. I had to rewind the TiVo to be sure of what I heard, but it was there. The audience that promised no outbursts actually applauded this line, and in the past two days of debate analysis it has been this line that has gotten the most attention. Why? I believe it’s because people simply don’t buy the assertion that McCain is another Bush. Again, people know McCain, they are familiar with his record and the vast majority of folks see him as I see him, a centrist. They don’t think McCain is what Obama tells us, and this is a problem for Obama because it’s basically the foundation of his entire campaign of change. If he can’t convince people that McCain equals a Bush third term then he loses his role as the only “candidate for change” and has nothing to stand on but his thin record of far-Left principles.

So what about the polls? I’ve had my own theory on that and yesterday I read this column by Jonathan Morris describing his experiences nationwide. It’s very interesting. McCain supporters are apparently hesitant to be vocal about their support for him, or perhaps their unwillingness to support Obama. Morris asks: Would you be willing to stand in front of a divided crowd and tell them that you will vote for McCain? I get the sense that many would not. Why? Well, I think it’s because this is a Dem year. The GOP has become the focus of anger and mistrust in a truly unique political environment. Voting for them isn’t the “in” thing. And in this campaign McCain has defended himself against subtle accusations of racism, war mongering, grouchiness, and erratic absent-mindedness. Standing with him carries the risk of similar accusations hurled your way. And the “general consensus” is that the Dems are better on economic matters, thus a vote for them is good for you economically while a vote for the GOP suggests a degree of naïve subservience. It’s like what Marx described as “false consciousness” at a different level, so when pollsters ask they may not be getting truthful answers since no one wants to appear naïve or self-detrimental. Morris described a group of GOP ground-pounders who say repeatedly that they go to people’s doors, get a “wink” of support, but then are turned down when they ask to put a McCain sign in the yard. We saw this in 2004 to some extent. Remember the excitement in the Kerry camp when the exit polls showed him winning handily, yet the actual vote count was dramatically different? At the time, the media brushed it off as faulty exit polling techniques, but I think there is more to it. Many Americans just seem to vote differently than they may want to admit. I find this fascinating.

Let me give my own little example. Even here in the conservative stronghold of Texas I see something similar. As recent as three weeks ago, in the midst of the economic meltdown, there wasn’t a single McCain sign on my street. I live in a conservative neighborhood in a conservative city. Why no signs? So, as I said before, for the first time in my life I planted a sign in my yard, not as a challenge but simply to show my support. Something impressive happened. Within a period of two weeks, four other signs appeared on my street, all McCain. Did I have something to do with this? I don’t know, but I find the timing a bit odd. Is it possible that even my neighbors on a street of about 20 homes in a conservative stronghold were reluctant to show their support fearing that they may be the only one, concerned about how their neighbors may view them? If so, certainly my neighborhood isn’t alone, especially when you consider some of the states that show Obama leading. When is the last time states like Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Florida voted Liberal? Yes, some of them went for Clinton but Obama is hardly another Clinton.

And when I look at the polls I’m frankly surprised that they are so close. Again, a moderate Dem would probably have a 20 point lead right now, but Obama is having some serious trouble closing the deal. There is no explanation for this other than the fact that voters simply don’t trust him, that they are uncomfortable with him and I think that’s because he is just too far Left for the average American. I think the folks want to vote Democrat, but it will be simply too much to vote for Obama.

The shame of it all – if my prediction holds – is that the Left will blame racism as the cause. I just don’t buy it. In a time where conservatives adore people like Condi Rice, Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas, Lynn Swann and, to some extent, Colin Powell, it’s hard for me to accept the notion that Americans will vote based solely on race in a large enough extent to sway a national election. Plus, if someone were truly voting on racial grounds, I don’t think they’d have a problem telling a random pollster that they will vote for McCain. True racists aren’t exactly ashamed of their thoughts. But ask someone who trends center-right, is angry at republicans, and sees the pollster as a vent for that anger and you may be more likely to get a protest “vote” for Obama that won’t play out when it counts. That is my prediction. No matter what the polls show I think this election will either be a late-night squeaker or will end up being a near-landslide shocker for McCain. America may be ready for a Democrat president, but I don’t think it’s ready for an ultra-Liberal.