Monday, December 31, 2007
1. The Surge/Petreas Report/Iraq
Although this has fallen from the headlines of late, I think this was probably the biggest story of the year to me. The President's decision to increase troop levels in order to provide stability to generate a political settlement; the unquestioned success of the military in acheving that increased stability/decreased violence; Gen. Petraus and Ambassador Crocker testifying solely to the security side of the equasion; and finally, the Bush Administration, politicians, and the mainstream media completely ignoring the fact that, again, our military's steller success is being squandered by politicians who are unable to find settlement.
2. The '08 Presidential Nomination Campaigns
It's been a fun race with a surprising number of contenders for the nomination in both party's keeping the race wide open.
Both the increasing leverage and threat Iran poses as a legitimate regional hedgmon, and the intelligence community's surprising uprising against the Bush Administrations drum-beat to war on a third front.
4. Upheaval in Pakistan/Bhutto Assination
Pakisatan was already devolving, led by a military dictator ditinguishable from Sadaam Hussein only in degrees. The assination of Bhutto was tragic to a new middle class seeking legitimate democracy. The Bush Administration once again demonstrates its utter incompetence and lack of wisdom by un-hedged support of an anti-democratic dictator.
5. Resurgance of the Taliban in Afghanistan
Fueled by drug profits that the Bush Administration (in an all too familiar refrain) does not have the competence or intelligence to curtail, the Taliban and Al Queada is finding renewed strength in Afghanistan, where the US troops are stretched thin by the Surge in Iraq.
6. Mortgage madness/Sub-prime lending mess
I'm not convinced this will end up being as bad for the average American as the "If it Bleeds it Leads" media's bold-typed headlines would indicate, but there is no question that financial mismanagement and over-reaching has taken its toll on some of Wall Streets biggest firms.
7. The VT Shootings
Just a tragedy that defies explanation.
8. Oil Prices
With all the volitility in the world, this should not come as a surpise, but it flat out does come with upside. The higher oil prices reach, the more cost-efficient research into alternative fuels and alternative transportation becomes.
9. The Final Chapter of Harry Potter
It was somewhat sad, to me, to read the conclusion of this wonderful series. I've enjoyed every moment of it, and will probably continue to do so long into the future through re-readings.
10. Baseball's Steroid Scandal/Bonds' homerun record
Just ugly. The Mitchell report was damning, but it feels more like the closing chapter on a nasty era than the beginning of anything. And Bonds got his HR record, but received as little media attention (for the record) as could possibly be imagined.
11. AG/AG - The Improbable rise, and Cataclysmic Fall of Alberto Gonzalez
Just a mess of an Attorney General, Bush's fiercest Yes-Man could not withstand the cascading pressure of scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal.
12. Houston Dynamo Repeat as MLS Champions
Okay, this is much more local, and just a personal favorite, but to me, the improbale journey of this team from mediocre, at best, to repeast MLS Champs was really amazing. I've never supported a champion in any sport - and now I get two back-to-back. It's great, and it's all the better to support an organization that builds its team as a team, and players who really do define hard-working, team-first attitude. Good on you Dynamo - let's get another next year!
On a personal level, this has been one of the greatest years our family has ever experienced. We started the year by finding out we would soon be adding a second child to our family. We travelled to Florida in February to attend the wedding of a close friend. We spent spring-break in Idaho skiing with Shana's parents. The spring found me graduating from law-school and us buying a new home, complete with indoor washer/dryer and a big yard for the kids to play in (and dad to grill out).
The summer was a contrast of toil and fun - I spent much of the summer studying for and taking the Bar Exam, but in August we took our first-ever real vacation as a family - spending four days in San Antonio and Sea World - and later that month, the "big-kids" spending a glorious long-weekend on an island off the coast of Belize.
Not long after, Noah started his new school for Pre-K and I started work for my new law firm. The fall saw the leaving of my brother and his family - moving from Houston to New Jersey, but it also brought a new member to our family, Kennedy Kate, and the combination of fun and work that a newborn involves. I found out in November that I had passed the Bar Exam, and was finally sworn in to the State Bar of Texas. We traveled to visit my parents for a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas. Shana went back to work in December, and her family came into town to spend Christmas here.
It's been a wild year, but a great one. So many blessings in such a short time. It seems like the year literally flew by - and I know they won't be getting any longer as the kids grow (ever faster) and careers demand ever more time. Still - this is a glorious time for our family, and I hope we are appreciating it, and I hope we hold on to it for as long as possible.
Happy New Year.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Yet, I have always hoped that my positions on issues are not mere partisan hack-ary. There are reasonable and intelligent conservative people and ideas that I respect, admire, and agree with. I have conservative friends that I enjoy talking issues with because they are thoughtful, they recognize nuance, and they are as willing to consider ideas that don't come from their "side" as I feel I am.
So, after railing against the Logic (or lack thereof) of the Conservative in my last post, here I am to promote the reasoned commentary, and yes - logic - of a conservative, David Brooks. In his NY Times op-ed column yesterday, Follow the Fundamentals, Brooks made some excellent points that I agree with - yet are conservative in nature. Exerpts follow:
Once upon a time, the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are rising out of poverty would have been a source of pride and optimism. But if you listen to the presidential candidates, improvements in the developing world are menacing. Their speeches constitute a symphony of woe about lead-painted toys, manipulated currencies and stolen jobs.Absolutely. Whether it is on the right or left, Demoratic or Republican presidential hopefuls - there is an irrational fear being preached of America's ability to compete in a world market. We can compete anywhere, anytime, in any arena - and politicians and commentators shouldn't grasp for the low-hanging fruit in order to scare people into votes. We don't need to be reactionary - we need to be leading.
In the first place, despite the ups and downs of the business cycle, the United States still possesses the most potent economy on earth.
Second, America’s fundamental economic strength is rooted in the most stable of assets — its values. The U.S. is still an astonishing assimilation machine. It has successfully absorbed more than 20 million legal immigrants over the past quarter-century, an extraordinary influx of human capital. Americans are remarkably fertile. Birthrates are relatively high, meaning that in 2050, the average American will be under 40, while the average European, Chinese and Japanese will be more than a decade older.
The American economy benefits from low levels of corruption. American culture still transmits some ineffable spirit of adventure.
Third, not every economic dislocation has been caused by trade and the Chinese. Between 1991 and 2007, the U.S. trade deficit exploded to $818 billion from $31 billion. Yet as Robert Samuelson has pointed out, during that time the U.S. created 28 million jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent from 6.8 percent.
That’s because, as Robert Lawrence of Harvard and Martin Baily of McKinsey have calculated, 90 percent of manufacturing job losses are due to domestic forces. As companies become more technologically advanced, they shed workers (the Chinese shed 25 million manufacturing jobs between 1994 and 2004).
Are there perils and downsides to globalization? Absolutely. But nothing that America cannot deal with - especially if we deal with it in a prudent, progressive way. But to bury our head in the sand and scream "It's Mexico's fault" or "It's China's fault" is no answer. As Brooks closes:
I’m writing this column from Beijing. I can look out the window and see the explosive growth. But as the Chinese will be the first to tell you, their dazzling prosperity is built on fragile foundations. In the United States, the situation is the reverse. We have obvious problems. But the foundations of American prosperity are strong. The U.S. still has much more to gain than to lose from openness, trade and globalization.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Anyway, I read Redstate on occasion to learn what it is conservative extremists are focused on. A significant portion of the time, it's pretty much just about how Hillary is the most terrifying woman in the world, and on a completely different topic how Hillary is the biggest threat to the future of the United States.
Hey, at least they believe in variety.
Occasionally, they write about things other than an irrational fear of Hillary Clinton, and that is often when you can really get to see what it is that the extreme right-wing is thinking. See the logic that they use. And here is an excellent example of how fundamentally flawed conservative thought is today:
Exxon-Mobil's Net Income Declines
This is a post that decries the unfair negative impression the American people have had of the oil industry over the past several years. It is a defense of Big Oil, who are just struggling to get by - at least by the sound of this article. Look at some examples:
It's earnings season in the oil patch. While you might think this is news you could easily get in a lot of different places, there's a reason to call it out here, in a political forum.
That's because Exxon-Mobil's earnings sucked in the third quarter, and oil companies only make mainstream news when they do well.
Prices of refined products like gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel did not increase as much as crude oil prices. That puts a hurt on the other half of Exxon's business, which is refining and marketing. As a result, Exxon's net income in the third quarter was more than $1 billion less than it was in the third quarter of 2005.
And of course there are huge political implications to all of this. Remember a year ago, when Exxon (and others) were making record net income? What did the sainted tribune of the American people, Hillary Clinton, have to say about that? That's right, she felt that the government should help itself to some of Exxon's obscene profits, which they obviously stole from the pockets of you and me. I don't even want to remember all the boneheaded diaries we had to wade through here at RedState from people who believe that downstream operators in the US form a cartel that can set prices as they see fit.
So now that things aren't looking so obscenely good for Exxon, what is Dame Hillary going to be saying about it? My prediction is nothing.
(See, they can't stop talking about Hillary, even when they are not talking about Hillary.)
Anyway, doesn't that sound awful? Exxon is really struggling. We should really feel sorry for them, right?
Only by applying the logic of the extremist conservative. Why? Look:
Net income fell to $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, from $10.5 billion, or $1.77, a year earlier, Irving, Texas-based Exxon said in a statement. Revenue rose 2.8 percent to $102.3 billion, an all-time high.
No. You are not reading that wrong. Net income for XOM in the third quarter was 9.41 BILLION DOLLARS. Yes, that was lower than last year - but it is still 9.41 BILLION DOLLARS.
To the right-wing nutjob apparently: $9.41 billion = things not looking good financially.
I simply believe that conservatism is fundamentally flawed. And this is an example of that. The (lack of) logic that must be engaged to equate $9.41 billion to poor earnings is simply foreign to us average, normal - dare I say THINKING - Americans.
Now, to be clear, I am a believer in the free market. Exxon-Mobil was able to make obscene profits in the third quarter - if that's what the market says, then more power to them. What I do NOT understand, is why our federal government continues to give Big Oil subsidies, when a down quarter for them is only $9.41 billion.
Why don't we use some of that subsidy money to increase medical research, increase education funding, or hey, why don't we do something crazy like fund SCHIP???
Nope, the conservative says. We can't afford to provide healthcare to 10 million children in our nation, because XOM had such a bad quarter, only $9.41 billion after all, they need those subsidies, and probably more.
That's the logic of the conservative.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Can something really be visionary if it is merely taking an idea from one place and extending it to a wider audience? On the other hand, if no one has suggested it or thought of implementing it, isn't that the very meaning of being visionary...seeing something that others don't yet - but soon will. Creative foresight to imagine something that isn't --- becoming?
Whatever you want to call it - this is a great idea: Clinton's 401K Proposal
[Hillary] Clinton laid out a proposal to provide a universal 401(k) plan for everyone, at a speech Tuesday in Webster City, Iowa.
She said the savings rate today is lower than it was in 1929, more than 75 million workers do not have employer-sponsored pensions to save for retirement and many people who do have retirement plans are not saving enough.
Under her "American Retirement Accounts" plan, everyone would have access to a portable 401(k) and the government would offer matching tax cuts of up to $500 to $1,000 to help middle class and working families save. The campaign estimates it would cost $20 billion to $25 billion a year to provide the matching tax cuts and said she would pay for it by freezing the estate tax at 2009 levels. "These accounts will take the best of the 401(k) plans and make them available to every working family," Clinton [said]. ...
Clinton said that like her health care plan, no one would be forced to set up these accounts and that people who like their current retirement accounts could keep them. She said the current government was subsidizing those who need it least, using about half of the nearly $200 billion spent yearly to encourage retirement savings to help the top 10% of earners and spending only 10% of that money to help the bottom 60% of earners.
Her plan would provide a matching refundable tax credit for 100% of the first $1,000 in savings for every married couple making up to $60,000 and would provide a 50% match on the first $1,000 of savings for couples making between $60,000 and $100,000 a year. The accounts would allow individuals to contribute up to $5,000 per year on a tax-deferred basis.
The credits would be available to all Americans in existing 401(k) type accounts as well as people who choose the accounts she proposes.
The plan would give new tax credits to small businesses to encourage them to provide retirement plans for employees. It focuses on creating competition among private firms that would drive more of them to provide marketable, secure plans, but that there would be an option of opening an American Retirement Account through "a publicly managed clearinghouse similar to the Thrift Savings Plan which Members of Congress can currently utilize". Those plans would be held and managed by private firms. ...
The accounts would allow penalty-free withdrawals for major investments like buying a home and paying for higher education or to help manage periods of unemployment.
Now there is a solid, enterprising, free market proposal that helps people, details how it will be paid for, and makes sense for millions of Americans.
I know that there is a large portion of the public that feels bitterness and distaste for Hillary...but it is not because of where she stands on the issues, or what she proposes, or how she intends to accomplish her goals for America. Instead, it is because of a charicature of her that has taken hold.
This is a brilliant idea. One that will likely soon be championed by politicians on both sides of the aisle. One that, hopefully, will soon be carried into fruition.
Hillary continues to propose rational, thoughtful, and achievable ideas about how we can improve our America. The more she does this, the less polarizing she becomes, and the less people accept the charicature. That's a pretty good idea too.
For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in this broad goal.
Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.
"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
This is what Bush and the Republicans have sent more of our soldiers over to Iraq in the "surge" for - the "struggle about power." One in which the US is caught in the cross-fire.
The so-called "surge" - which really did nothing except push US troop levels in Iraq back to 2005 numbers - is not and will not be a failure because our military has been in any way ineffective. On the contrary, the military side of operation is generally successful - as is almost any US military operation, because we have the absolute best military in the world. Rather, this POLICY has been an unmitigated disaster because Bush and his advisors are fundamentally wrong on Iraq. We won the war - and we should have come home. Instead, he is attempting to advance American Empire around the world - and that foreign policy choice is a disasterous failure.
Iraq is a calamity. It has been an exercise in historically poor judgment. And it is telling that we are not learning from our failures. Look at this quote from the article:
"I, as deputy prime minister responsible for the portfolio of security and services, until now, have never been consulted on any security operation taking place in Iraq," said Salam Z. al-Zobaee, Iraq's second-highest Sunni official. "The Sunnis, even if they've been participating in the government, are still marginalized in decision-making." ...
Th[e] imperfect balance of power, deemed the "national unity government," entrenches these sectarian divisions and prioritizes a politician's ethnic or sect background above experience or ability, Iraqi officials say. The system makes selecting Iraqi ambassadors or cabinet ministers an exercise in horse-trading subject to bitter disputes.
For some reason, our President is asking the US military to arbitrate this conflict. It is not in the interest of our nation as we have existed for over 200 years. It is only in the interest of American Empire. Without political reconcilliation, the President's "surge" will be just as much a folly as the President's occupation of Iraq. This Administration simply does not learn from its mistakes - to all of our detriment.
Monday, October 08, 2007
8-Oct: Same Old Party
There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush as someone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, these articles say, need to return to their roots.
Well, I don’t know what true conservatism is, but while doing research for my forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of the American political movement that calls itself conservatism — and Mr. Bush hasn’t strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he’s the very model of a modern movement conservative.
Now, as they survey the wreckage of their cause, conservatives may ask themselves: “Well, how did we get here?” They may tell themselves: “This is not my beautiful Right.” They may ask themselves: “My God, what have we done?”
But their movement is the same as it ever was. And Mr. Bush is movement conservatism’s true, loyal heir.
7-Oct: Why Democracy?
[D]emocracy is the only form of government that, at least theoretically, contemplates its own demise with equanimity. Democratic elections do not guarantee that the victors will be democratically inclined, and it is always possible that those who gain control of the legislative process will pass laws that erode or even repeal the rights – of property, free expression and free movement – that distinguish democracies from theocracies and monarchies. (Some would say that this is exactly what has been happening in the past six years.) Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes captured the fragility of a form of government that can alter itself beyond the point of recognition when he said that if his fellow citizens want to go to hell in a handbasket, it was his job to help them, even if he deplored the consequences. Democracy, then, can be said to be its own biggest threat.
Terrorism presents a parallel threat from the outside. The danger is not so much that terrorists will defeat democracies by force as it is that, in resisting terrorists, democracies will forgo the procedural safeguards (against warrantless detention, censorship and secret surveillance) that make a democracy what it is. (Again, some would say that is already happening today.) If terrorists can maneuver democracies into employing tactics indistinguishable from theirs, it could be argued that they have won no matter what the outcome on the battlefield.
7-Oct: Charge It to My Kids
Every so often a quote comes out of the Bush administration that leaves you asking: Am I crazy or are they? I had one of those moments last week when Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, was asked about a proposal by some Congressional Democrats to levy a surtax to pay for the Iraq war, and she responded, “We’ve always known that Democrats seem to revert to type, and they are willing to raise taxes on just about anything.”
Yes, those silly Democrats. They’ll raise taxes for anything, even — get this — to pay for a war!
Previous American generations connected with our troops by making sacrifices at home — we’ve never passed on the entire cost of a war to the next generation, said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who has written a history — “The Price of Liberty” — about how America has paid for its wars since 1776.
“In every major war we have fought in the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Mr. Hormats, “Americans have been asked to pay higher taxes — and nonessential programs have been cut — to support the military effort. Yet during this Iraq war, taxes have been lowered and domestic spending has climbed. In contrast to World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, for most Americans this conflict has entailed no economic sacrifice. The only people really sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families.”
In his celebrated Farewell Address, Mr. Hormats noted, George Washington warned against “ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burdens we ourselves ought to bear.”
Sunday, September 09, 2007
I realize that I am quite biased, but when the Dynamo are playing their best, they seem almost a cut above MLS. They have times of really beautiful soccer where they just slice the opposing team apart with quick, creative passing and smart runs. It really is fun to watch as a fan. Last night, for about an hour, they played like that. Given - RSL is the worst team in MLS, and have been for their 3 years in the league. But the Dynamo have shown that class in other games, against much better teams - a 4-0 victory over Chivas USA on a Thursday night springs to mind. Last night, I think the fourth goal (Jaqua's third) was evidence of the Dynamo at their best. Ricardo Clark took possession in midfield and played a quick, aggressive ball up to Dwayne DeRosario just to the outside and left of center of the penalty area. DeRosario turned nicely on it, and looked as if he might move to the center - but instead very quickly played the ball forward to the left, where Corey Ashe came running on it and played an early cross perfectly - it was a thing of beauty - to Jaqua storming in to the area. Jaqua very simply placed the ball in the back of the net for the goal. It was very fast, it was quick, one touch passing (there were a total of five touches from Clark to the goal - Clark's pass, DeRo's turn, his pass, Ashe's cross, the finish), it made RSL really look like amateurs - AND, it looked so simple. That's Houston at their best. If they can get healthy and harness that beautiful game for 90 minutes a night, they have a serious shot at defending the MLS Cup this year.
Having said all that - and watched a pretty exciting MLS match last night - MLS has a genuinely serious problem: The officiating in MLS is shamefully poor. No, I'm not just a fan railing about the bad calls his team gets. RSL got as many bad calls last night as the Dynamo, if not more. In fact, my concern isn't even due exclusively to Houston matches. I tend to watch quite a bit of soccer. Almost every MLS match I watch stands out because the officials are so poor - they are inconsistent, they do not keep tempers properly in check (which invariably leads to things getting chippy later), they consistently miss off-sides calls (both ways), and more than anything else - they just stand out. I've recently noticed that when watching English, or Italian, or Argentinean, or International soccer, I rarely if ever even notice the officiating crew. That is the way it is supposed to be. If they are doing their job professionally, they do not stand out, do not take away from the match.
MLS officials are rarely that way. The officials have simply not kept up to the professional standard of the league. The standard of play in MLS has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 12 years, the standard for the officiating has not. MLS leaders better take some steps to bring some professionalism to their officials, or this league will never achieve the respect it is pursuing.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Gov. Mike Huckabee - he is simply brilliant in these formats. While other candidates just seem to struggle in the large debate format (read: McCain, Tancredo), Huckabee shines. But - as I've been saying for some time - he is clearly running for VP, complimenting everyone of the "front-runners" and only taking on the other second tier candidates. Still, Huckabee is very, very good and has a real shot of becoming the "fourth" top-tier candidate replacing McCain.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani - he seems to be getting more comfortable with the whole debate thing each time out. I thought he was really effective last night - especially on the "family values" ambush question. (As an aside, I really thought the ambushes of Giuliani and Romney were poor.) He seems to be taking heat for his answer by some commentators today, but for me is was very effective - No, I'm not a saint, but I am a successful manager regardless of the trials of the personal side of life. Sounds like a leader to me.
Sen. John McCain - esasily the best debate performance I have seen by McCain. He almost seems to have his old "maverick" swagger back. But is it too little, too late? The conventional wisdom in both national and Republican circles seems to be that his campaign is dead. He has no traction with votes. He has no real "support." He simply has a block that feels it is his turn to run. That is not much to base a campaign on. Regardless, he flat showed up last night and showed signs of life. Now, he must use that performance as a spring-board to re-start his campaign.
Gov. Mitt Romney - every indication is that Fred Thompson's entry into the race hurts Romney more than any other candidate. So, on the night that Thompson was so much the story, it was essential that Romney could shine, and keep the focus on him. To put it plainly, he failed. He rarely made an interesting or original point. He nevery stood out - although it appeared to me tha the was given considerably more time than the other candidates. He was robotic, over-scripted, and dull. A large opportunity lost.
Why Are They Still In It? -
Rep. Tom Tancredo - he is just so terrible in these formats. I have no idea what he is like as a campaigner generally, but he is terrible in the debates. He has utterly no organization to his thoughts. He is extremely poor at thinking on his feet. And he is disasterous at articulating his points. He serves no purpose in the debates, nor in the field of candidates more generally. Although, to be honest, it is sad that FoxNews gave more time to Ron Paul than it did to Tancredo. Although, Paul's libertarian-ism is more genuine than whatever it is Tancredo is supposed to represent.
Rep. Duncan Hunter - Yawn. Over and over. He is merely trying to secure a cabinet appointment, and isn't doing great at that. Yawn.
On Charlie Rose the other night a reporter covering the 2008 Campaign made an interesting point. He mentioned that traditionally in his coverage of Presdiential elections Democratic voters tend to be pessimestic. On the other side, Republican voters have tended to be optimistic and looking forward to the election. To this reporter, this year that appears to be reversed. That sentiment summed up last night's debate to me. Other than Huckabee, the other candidates appear somehow off. They don't seem to inspire, rather they seem to beg for support. It's very odd. Among the "front-runnners" there does not appear to be anyone that draws strong support, rather the feeling is one of lesser-of-evils. That is how the debate felt to me - as if each of the candidates would rather appear less-of-a-loser than the other candidates, rather than the leader and winner. In addition, other than Giuliani, none of the men on stage seemed to give the impression of being a President. It's just an odd time for the Republican party, which is likely why so much stock is being placed in Fred Thompson.
Will this finally be the rallying point for the Republican party. It is such a strange campaign on the Right this cycle, because there seem to be no candidates anyone is excited about. Everyone appears to be holding their nose and picking a candidate. Maybe Thompson will change that perception.
I thought this announcement video was terrific. He his the key issues - both national issues as well as Republican or traditional conservative issues. He - his very presence - carries a weight, gravity, and seriousness of a President. Something that the Republican field (outside Giuliani) is missing, and something the nation has missed for the past six years.
BUT, - there is always a but - so much of the Presidential campaign in the first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire is about organization. Being on the ground, signing up volunteers on the ground, getting out the vote, etc. Can Thompson do that? Does he have time? Are all the key experienced precinct leaders taken already? Those are critical questions.
I remember the last cycle so well. Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont had come out of nowhere running a grassroots national campaign and surprised the Democratic party base by taking big leads in the polls. But (again that but) the grassroots, netroots, national support did not translate into precinct by precinct organization in two tiny, fairly unrepresentative states - and his campaign was finished almost before it began.
The success or failure of Fred Thompson as a candidate will depend in large part - if not in entirety - upon his ability to organize support in these two tiny states. And that success or failure may call into greater question the wisdom of putting so much of our nation's decision on whom our Presidential candidates will be upon Iowa and New Hampshire - states that are not as urban as America, not as diverse as America, and simply not fully representative of us as a people. Yes, it may be traditional - but is it best?
It will be fascinating to watch the Thompson campaing get off the ground in the next couple of months - and to see how the Republican contenders react to it. One thing is certainly true, for the first time in months and months attention is back on the Republican side of the race instead of on the exciting Democratic candidates. Let's see if Thompson can keep the focus there over the long haul.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
“I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”
Then he said, “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”
From the new book Dead Certain by Robert Draper, as excerpted here in the New York Times.
I don't think any more need be added by me - it says enough on its own.
Watch an interview with the author on MSNBC's Harball with Chris Matthews.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Positives: This new layout allows for a whole LOT more links - and much easier managment of links. In addition, I really like the new feature where you can search the blog by topic Label (on the right under the links). I think that will be really useful. (Just FYI - I have gone back and added labels to a majority of my old posts, but there are still a few more to go.) Finally, I think this format provides a more useful Archive feature.
Negatives: There are a lot more links - maybe it's too many? Too bulky over on the right side of the blog? Also, I don't like the picture I have up at the top currently, and the way it does not stretch the entire width of the page. I'll have to work on that.
Anyway, I think overall, this new layout will be efficient and helpful. It's just hard getting used to new stuff - once you are so comfortable with the old. Anyway, comments about the format/layout of the blog are appreciated.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. -- Bill Clinton, First Inaugural Address
In the early 2000's, I used to make an argument to friends that history would one day look back on the last decade of the 20th century as the Golden Age of America. For almost a decade, America experienced a sort-of new Pax Americana - a time of peace and prosperity simply unrivaled in American history.
But that story is rarely if ever told today. Instead, over the past two years, crescendo-ing over the past six months, we are constantly bombarded by propaganda by the conservative right alleging that the Clinton Presidency accomplished nothing; was a do-nothing administration; did not do anything for America, etc. And people, apparently, are actually buying into this propaganda.
In my opinion, this is just a calculated attempt by the Right to cast dispersions on the Democratic Party in the run-up to Election 2008. More specifically, it is probably an attempt to de-legitimize the candidacy of Hillary Clinton by negating the accomplishments of Bill Clinton's administration. You see, Republicans...at least hard-core wingers...are running scared. They realize that America remembers what a good President was like, even thought we've had 6+ years of incompetence now. America is impressed by this slate of Democratic candidates who are willing to take our nation in a new direction. And more specifically, as America gets to know Hillary Clinton (not the right-wing caricature of her, but the actual candidate) they like her, they see her as a strong, intelligent, nuanced, and having the gravitas of a Commander-in-Chief. Heck, that is enough to give a conservative nightmares.
So they make stuff up. They try to convince regular folks, independents and traditional Republicans that the Clinton Presidency was a joke. That he accomplished nothing. Therefore, another Democrat - or Hillary herself - will accomplish nothing.
That simply could not be further from the truth.
Let me be honest - Bill Clinton was not one of America's "Great" President's. In my opinion, he will not go down in history as one of the top five, the "upper-echelon" if you will. And, it must be conceded that Clinton and his administration was unable to accomplish nearly as much in his second term as in his first - because of the most shameful, partisan witch-hunt in American political history. I don't excuse Clinton's affairs in office. It was wrong, and frankly pathetic. The lack of judgment regarding his personal life that he showed in office is enough, at least for me, to have knocked him out of the running for one of our Greatest Presidents, even if he had accomplished more than what he did. Having said that, his impeachment was nothing more than a political sham, and it took the focus away from the work of the American people.
But, the amazing thing is what was done in the 8 years of the Clinton Presidency. It is a truly amazing record, and one that has probably not been seen in the post-War era. To combat some of the revisionist propaganda about the lack of accomplishments of the Clinton era, below is a PARTIAL list of accomplishments and initiatives passed or put in motion during 1993-2000. Not everyone will agree politically that each of these items was a home-run. The point is the VAST amount accomplished during Clinton's two terms...especially when contrasted with the abysmal record of the past 6+ years.
Accomplishments of the Clinton Presidency
~ Family Medical Leave Act (1993) - unpaid leave to care for a newborn child or sick family member without losing jobs
~ Brady Bill (1993) - gun safety legislation
~ Creation of AmeriCorps (1993) - most significant public service program since the 1960s
~ Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit* (1993) - provided tax relief to millions of low-income working Americans
~ Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act* (1993) - raised taxes on the top 1.2%, lowered taxes for 90% of all small businesses and 15MM low-income Americans
~ Omnibus Crime Act (1994) - included supplemental funding to local governments for 100,000 new police officers
~ Paperwork Reduction Act* (1995) - streamlined federal government processes; reduced bureaucracy; saved tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money
~ Minimum Wage Increase* (1996) - was not increased again for 11 years
~ Defense of Marriage Act (1996) - allows state-determination of recognition of marriage
~ Welfare Reform (1996) - most significant welfare overhaul since the programs inception
~ Creation of the Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits* (1997) - makes two years of post-secondary education available to Americans at no cost
~ Creation of the Roth IRA* (1998) - tax savings for retirement
Economy (*Note: many of the economic and tax laws listed above play directly into this area):
The longest period of peace-time economic expansion in American history - including:
~ Average economic growth of 4.0%
~ Creation of 25MM new jobs, 92% in the private sector (more than the previous 12 years combined)
~ Real Median Family Income increases (after falling each of the previous four-years, and having been stagnant since)
~ Unemployment reached its lowest level in 30 years (before Bush Admin changed the definition of unemployment to kick the long-term unemployed off the rolls)
~ Inflation at its lowest level since the Kennedy Presidency
~ Home ownership at 67%
~ 7MM fewer Americans in poverty than when Clinton entered office (lowest poverty rate in 20 years)
~ Largest increase in higher education funding since the GI Bill (expansion of federal loan and grant programs; Lifetime Learning Credit and Hope Credit which enable any American to achieve 2 years of post-high school education for free)
~ Smallest welfare rolls in 32 years
~ Largest budget surplus in US history (after inheriting the largest deficit in US history)
~ Lowest government spending as a share of the economy since 1966
~ Lowest tax burden as a percentage of family income in 35 years
~ Surplus used to pay down debt - $360BB worth of debt paid down (remember, at the end of Clinton's second term, the government was running a surplus and was projected to pay of the ENTIRE federal debt by 2009...four years later, the US had it's LARGEST budget deficit in history AND highest debt level in history)
~ Lowest federal debt since the 60s
~ Balanced budged for the first time since 1969
~ NAFTA (1993) - established North American Free Trade Zone (Canada, US, Mexico)
~ Creation of the WTO (1995) - world-wide initiative, US was a leader in getting it done
~ Numerous other free trade agreements with Asia, South America, and others -
~ Normalized trade relations with China
~ Agreed Framework with North Korea (1994) - kept N. Korea w/o nukes until Bush pulled out of the framework upon taking office
~ Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (1996) -
~ Containment of Iraq (1993-2000) - including numerous bombings to enforce the no-fly zone and prevent the re-emergence of weapons of mass destruction
~ Kosovo War (1999) - NATO run, US led
~ Mideast Peace Talks (1999) - attempt to end the 2d Intafada through diplomacy
~ One America Initiative - race relations initiative
~ Justice Department (FBI) investigated, found, and convicted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing terrorists
~ First Democrat to be re-elected to the Presidency since Franklin D. Roosevelt
~ Highest end-of-Presidency approval rating since the end of WWII
~ Lowest crime rate in 26 years (overall crime rates went down each year during the Clinton era)
~ Lowest teen birth rate in 60 years
~ Lowest infant mortality rate in American history
That, my friends, is a record of accomplishment standing alone. It shines all the more brightly when placed in comparison to the last six years of the Bush Administration.
No, Bill Clinton was not one of greatest Presidents in American history. He's not in the top five. It's unlikely he cracks the top-10, although that is probably where the argument begins. The years of the Clinton era in many ways swept clean the mess and murk of the 70s and 80s, and left America stronger, safer, smarter, and more optimistic than it had been in a generation. As President, Bill Clinton accomplished as much or more domestically than any President in post-war America.
Yes, he had massive faults, poor judgment, and down-right wrong aspects of his personal life. And don't let this list convince you that I believe that everything on here was a great policy, or great decision. The point of this overview is not the wonderful things that Clinton did, but rather, the things that his Administration accomplished. Anyone can find these things using a simple Google search...but the concerted effort of the Right is to not allow people to think critically for themselves (or google for themselves) - they want to tell people what to think. Don't believe the hype about the "do-nothing" Clinton Presidency. It simply isn't true.
As President, Bill Clinton was massively successful, and massively accomplished.
The Clinton era was a new Pax-Americana, the Golden Age of our still-young nation.
Related Posts: Clinton Presidential Center
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Keith Olbermann was a tremendous debate moderator. He asked very current questions, provided genuine respect and weight to the proceeding, but actually included some levity in the process. The "crowd" that the AFL-CIO provided all the rest needed to break many of the candidates out of their shell and provide an actual "debate."
Sen. Hillary Clinton - she was clearly a Commander-in-Chief among politicians. One slight mis-step (shouldn't say anything that's on the mind) - otherwise a commanding and imposing figure. She maybe the best politician in my lifetime.
Sen. Barak Obama - he did not dominate on his home turf, but he held his own. With expectations so high, that is an accomplishment. His mistake was taking on lesser candidates when Hillary should be his only focus.
Former Sen. John Edwards - he should have been Labor's candidate...but he simply never made any inroads against the top candidates. His campaign for President is over. As for another office...
Gov. Bill Richardson - another forgetable debate performance. He is such a strong public servant, maybe I am simply expecting too much. But he is CLEARLY NOT the "anti-Hillary" candidate I was expecting. I got the clear impression he is "running" for VP.
I am so impressed by these Democratic candidates for President. Frankly, if you take away Rudy Giuliani from the Republican side, I think that there are five or six Democratic candidates that clearly surpass the Republicans as far as resume, gravity, leadership, and genuine "Presidential-ness" goes. I can see Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Dodd, and Biden as President. Let's be honest, outside of Rudy, none of the Republican candidates look like a President - McCain...does he even know who he is anymore? Romney...he seems little more than a suit trained to be a politician. Anyone else?!?
This is the strongest Democratic party of my lifetime. I'm a Hillary supporter, and I think she has what it takes to win the nomination and be our next President - but beyond her, there are so many Democratic candiates that I can be happy supporting - it's an embarrassment of riches!!!
Please go look that this website and organization - Center for American Progress. I've had this site bookmarked for about three-plus years now - it's time you do to.
Take a look at this US Senate candidate: Rick Noriega.
Is there anything else you want from a public servant?
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Okay - all you Harry Potter fans...we're just hours away.
Well, you are. As for me - I haven't bought the books in hardback, so I'll either have to borrow from someone, or wait about a year...yeah, I think I'll be borrowing.
Frankly, I'm a little disappointed with Scholastic and Ms. Rowling for issuing the final book in the Harry Potter series the weekend before the BAR EXAM! Hello - a little consideration for us future barristers out here Ms. Rowling...how can we be expected to pass the Bar with you putting the book out right before?!?
I, for one, will be self-disciplined and not read Deathly Hallows until after the exam. How in the world I will keep from having the ending spoiled for me, I have no idea. But since I spend about 12 hours a day cooped up in a library now, I think I can manage.
Since the day is upon us, I want to link to (re-posted below) the blog entry I wrote after finishing the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter spoiler alert... (from 1-Dec-2005).
As I said at that time - I have not and do not read Harry Potter rumor/speculation/fan websites. I know that there is massive questions surrounding whether Harry makes it out of the series alive - and I have my opinion on that too (which has changed as I have re-read Half-Blood Prince in the past few days). But I'm still more interested (and was a year and a half ago) in the fate of another character.
As is mentioned - potential spoiler alert both for happenings in Half-Blood Prince (if there is anyone left who hasn't read that) and for speculations on the finale.
Happy reading to all of you who will start just after midnight tonight --- Don't Spoil It For Me!!!!
This week I finished reading the latest in the Harry Potter series of books - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I was fortunate to be able to get this in over the Thanksgiving holiday - now that I'm in school I very rarely have much time for reading for pleasure. I borrowed Half-Blood Prince from a friend and was about 100 pages into it, a week or so ago, but I was totally lost. There were characters and story lines being referenced which I had absolutely no recognition of. So, then I decided that I needed to go back and read
Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix again, because I literally did not remember a thing about that book. That is kind of a scary proposition - the fact that you have read a book before and could not remember a single event, character or plot twist only a year or two later. I console myself thinking about how the thousands of pages of legal cases I've read since then has simply pushed these stories from my mind...but I'm really just worried I'm getting old.
Well, if you've read Half-Blood Prince, you know there are some - shall we say - twists and turns, or surprises in store. Well, I want to talk about some of those surprises a little bit in this post...
So, WARNING - PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD.
If you have not read Half-Blood Prince, but intend on doing so, please stop reading this now - because I am going to write about somethings that happen that you will not want to know before you read. If you do not want to spoil the plot of Half-Blood Prince stop reading now.
Also, WARNING - FUTURE PLOT CONJECTURE AHEAD.
The purpose of this post is I have some ideas kicking around in my head about something that may happen in the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter books - and if I'm right, it may well not surprise you as much when you read that book. So, if you do not want to face the possibility of a surprise of Book 7 potentially being revealed here, stop reading now.
Okay, as I mentioned, after reading Half-Blood Prince, I got to thinking about the ending, and something came to me that might be an important part of the final book - and I want to record that here so that, in two years when the final book comes out, I can verify if I was correct or not. I do want to add here - I do not read Harry Potter websites - so if this is a very common theory of what is happening in the books, then I apologize for not citing those sources, but this comes simply from my thoughts about the books, not anything external I've read.
As you know if you have read Half-Blood Prince, Professor Dumbeldore (Hogwarts Headmaster, and mentor/protector of Harry Potter) dies toward the end of the book. That was a bit of a surprise - not completely, but to some extent. What was much more surprising to me was the source of his death - he was killed by the killing curse by none other than Hogwarts Professor Severus Snape. Snape is a former Death Eater, who had turned spy for the Order of the Pheonix (those whom fight the antagonist in the books - Lord Voldemort). But many in the Order - if not all other than Dumbledore - still did not trust Snape. They felt he was still too entwined in the Dark Arts, and was really still a follower of Voldemort. But Dumbledore steadfastly trusted Snape, and refused to listen to anyone's doubts of Snape's pure loyalty.
And yet it was Snape who administered the curse which killed Dumbledore.
What to make of this. Well, clearly, the idea from the book is that Harry and the other members of the Order were correct all along about Snape - that he was still evil, still following Voldemort, and that Dumbledore was wrong to trust him.
I do not think this is the case. I think Snape is still loyal to the Order, and that even now - having killed Dumbledore and on the run back to Voldemort - he will be acting as spy.
How can that be?
My conjecture is that Dumbledore had a reason to put his trust in Snape fully. What kind of a reason - an Unbreakable Vow. We learn in Half-Blood Prince about these Unbreakable Vows that bind the two oath takers together to the point that death will result if the Vow is broken. What if - and it is a big what if - Dumbledore had convinced Snape to take an Unbreakable Vow of loyalty to him, to the Order, and against Voldemort, but always as spy, never revealing his true loyalties - even if that meant he had to kill Dumbledore in front of other Death Eaters to remain with his access to Voldemort.
This is how I support such a conjecture:
1. Dumbledore never waivered in his support of Snape. In the books, has Dumbledore ever been proven wrong about such a massive point? No.
2. When Harry was chasing Snape and Malfoy from the Hogwarts grounds, Snape fought back only with defensive spells. If he was truly working for Voldemort, there is no reason not to kill Harry at that point - after all he had just killed Dumbledore.
3. My idea is that Dumbledore knew that in order to defeat Voldemort, Harry would need someone on the inside to do something, which will provide Harry the access to kill him. My gut feeling is that at this point, Dumbledore felt his life was less important than Snape's in defeating Voldemort - Snape has to be there in order to accomplish the Feat, the Something which will enable Harry to end the War. Harry doesn't know this. The Order doesn't know this. But Snape does, and he will accompolish the Feat just before he himself perishes - and is redeemed - in the final book.
Who knows. Maybe Snape is just evil. But I think that Dumbledore had a master plan, and he saw his sacrifice as simply a piece of that plan.
We shall see.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Having said that - this really is a funny spoof of the Sopranos finale. Good stuff...
Friday, July 13, 2007
David Beckham is a soccer player - maybe you've heard of him? Yes, I think it's fair to say that most people have at least heard of him and - even if not familar with his resume - know that he's a footballer.
Is Beckham in MLS going to work out? Who knows. The day this was announced last spring - and the money was disclosed - I was skeptical, but hopeful. There are so many shades of the NY Cosmos (of the long-defunct NASL) signing Pele in the 70s - big name, loads of money, big crowds, media attention - but an absolute wreck of a business plan and the league blew up just years later.
Beckham will be getting somewhere between $30 and $50 million over five years from the Galaxy and MLS - and somewhere around $200 million in profit-participation and additional endorsement deals. Spending that kind of money on soccer in America is a MASSIVE risk.
But you have to take big risks to reap big rewards.
Addidas and the Galaxy announced yesterday that they have already sold over 250,000 Beckham jerseys. They have increased season ticket sales by 4,000 plus. MLS got their first paying TV contracts. A five year, 8-figure new jersery sponsorship.
This just might work out. And not ONLY due to the dollar and cents...
"It's not a big brand thing," Beckham insists. "It's about me being the ambassador for MLS. If I can make people more aware and make kids realize that you can go into higher levels and make a great living from playing soccer, that's what I'm going over there to do."
Everything this guy is saying about the game, the game in America, and growing the sport is right. Does he really believe it? Is he really here for an early retirement - or acting - or his wife's career? That is the question. But, if he's genuine...wow...
This could pay off because he puts soccer and MLS in the minds and on the lips of millions of Americans who never would have before. More kids play, more fans watch, more folks buy jerseys, more investors want to buy teams... all of that takes time - but those are the lasting impacts that could make this deal pay off beyond the financial concerns. Pay off by truly making soccer a "major league" sport in America.
The key difference between Pele and Beckham is this - Pele was brought here to grow soccer on the sports map in America. But there was no foundation, no infrastructure, so fertile soil if you will, to grow the sport...and so the attempt did not sick, the seed didn't grow.
Beckham doesn't have to establish soccer in America. Soccer IS established now - we've got a strong league, with financially savvy owners, expansion, stadium construction, good players, a strong national team, etc., etc., etc. Now soccer in the US has a foundation, an infrastructure - fertile soil. So now, the hope is that Beckham will really be the seed that grows US soccer into a whole new realm of popularity, credibility, and significance.
I was very skeptical of this deal - but the leaders of MLS (managment and the investors) have been such solid cultivators of the league - I think this is a big risk that just might pay unimaginable rewards.
The Americanization of Beckham - Sports Illustrated (Grant Wahl)
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Hindu prayer in Senate disrupted
A Hindu clergyman made history Thursday by offering the Senate's morning prayer, but only after police officers removed three shouting protesters from the visitors' gallery.
Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day's Senate session. As he stood at the chamber's podium in a bright orange and burgundy robe, two women and a man began shouting "this is an abomination" and other complaints from the gallery.
Police officers quickly arrested them and charged them disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor. The male protester told an AP reporter, "we are Christians and patriots" before police handcuffed them and led them away.
For several days, the Mississippi-based American Family Association has urged its members to object to the prayer because Zed would be "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god."
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the protest "shows the intolerance of many religious right activists. They say they want more religion in the public square, but it's clear they mean only their religion."
I am a Christian who believes in the clear separation of church and state. One of the reasons is this right here. If I would choose not to have my child exposed to Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or any other sorts of prayers in public school, or public events; why would I be so arrogant as to exect Hindus, Muslims, Jews, or anyone else to accept forced exposure to the prayers of my religion? The arrogance and hypocracy of screaming for public prayer, then screaming when it's not your prayer being offered.
A little more relationship with God, and a little less of using 'god' as an election tactic would serve right-wingers well.
President Bush on Thursday acknowledged publicly for the first time that someone in his administration likely leaked the name of a CIA operative...
"I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person," Bush said. "I've often thought about what would have happened if that person had come forth and said, 'I did it.' Would we have had this endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter? ..."
Now - this is a perfect example of a conservative "taking responsibility" for something: too little, far too late, and focus on the money rather than the truth...
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The first U.S. surgeon general appointed by President George W. Bush accused the administration on Tuesday of political interference and muzzling him on key issues like embryonic stem cell research.Systematic corruption. Nothing you wouldn't expect from this President.
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the nation's top doctor from 2002 until 2006, told a House of Representatives committee.
"The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. ..."
Monday, July 02, 2007
Bush spares Libby from 2 1/2-year prison term
Not only did the President lie to the American people about firing anyone associated with the leaking of the name of a CIA agent, it appears to me that he has now made himself complicit in that crime, by commuting the prison sentence of the high-level White House official convicted as a part of those events, which were intended to strong-arm and discredit a vocal opponent of the Administration.
The behavior of this President is dispicable and will be a part of his legacy. This is a sad day in our nation's history, when a President wants again puts power and control above the good of our nation - probably more so than our nation has ever seen (yes, including Nixon and Watergate). When you add into Bush's tragic legacy the fact that his administration condoned and advocated torture, condoned and advocated the holding of prisoners without charges, and the fact that he is now asserting executive privilege in regard to White House involvement in the political firings of US Attorney's - this is the most corrupt Presidential Administration since Warren Harding - if it has not already eclipsed Harding's pervasive levels of corruption.
The disasterous entagling intervention, invasion, and occupation in Iraq is tragic. The utter lack of planning for the occupation, and no clue as to how to extract our military will be pointed to by future generations as a lesson in how not to use and abuse our military. The monied interests dictating legislation (energy policy, medicare drup policy, bankruptcy reform, etc.) to a compliant White House has surpassed all that our government has ever experienced. And corruption spread so wide, and so deep it simply DEFINES this President has his Administration.
This - all this mire and muck - will be the legacy of George W. Bush.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
That's what I'm experiencing right now. Just when I felt we had been in a bit of calmness and steadiness in our lives - EVERYTHING CHANGES.
Deciding to send our son to a brand new school...
Expecting a new child...
Law School finals...
Studying for the Bar Exam...
Purchase of a new home...
ALL AT ONCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It is a very hectic time, but this is life. This is the way it seems to go. It is not "easy," but it is always more than you expect.
Our family's life is changing quickly - and we are excited about our future.
There are, however, a lot of things going on that I would love to be writing about - the politicization of the Justice Department; the attempt at Immigration Reform; the Texas 10% graduates policy; the press-privilege in Texas issue; etc. Hopefully, I'll be back at it soon - but right now, it's just too much.
The Texas Bar Exam is in late July - as much as I love Oil & Gas and Trusts & Wills, I regret that I will likely be spending more time on those topics than on things I'd like to write about. But, this is life, and there is nothing I would trade for it.
Recently, I have taken to a little ritual with my son Noah each morning. Before we go to school, I stop him in our morning preparations and first I ask him to shut his eyes and think about one thing, and secondly, ask him a question.
First, I ask him to shut his eyes and think about him being a good boy, and how proud his teachers will be of him if he listens to them and if he learns and listens to them through the day; and how he his friends will be so happy if he is nice to them, and treats them well, and puts their interests ahead of his. I also tell him how proud I and his mom will be of him if he is on his best behavior all day, and he listens to his teachers, learns as much as he can, and is the best friend that he can be to his friends during the school day.
Secondly, I ask him to tell me three things that he is thankful for that day. That is such a beautiful and wonderful question. It differs every day -sometimes it's his toy cars, sometimes his piano (a keyboard he got from his grandparents for Christmas), and sometimes it is his mommy. But the most mornings, just like this morning, it was the following:
1. I'm thankful for Jesus saving our sins and love.
2. I'm thankful for God loving us.
3. I'm thankful for Jesus rising.
Let me be honest, I have no idea how much Noah really "knows" or "believes" these things. But what I do know is that he regularly gives me these answers - in this order - when I ask him this in the morning.
Sometimes, life seems so fast and furious that we're rarely doing more than treading water. But then for moments - even if it's brief and relatively rare moments - it seems like maybe we are making progress amidst all the chaos. As much as I care about the myriad of issues and challenges that face us all these days... really all we can do is make a difference a little at a time.
I've always believed that changes are brought about from the bottom up. Family, Church, Community, City, State, Nation. That is how I have felt differences were made. In the midst of a blinding amount of upheaval and change in life, it is centering to hear your child say that Jesus is one of the things he is thankful for.
I can't seem to find the time to write everyday about all the things I think and feel about. But - I HOPE - I am imparting everyday the things that are true and important --- to my little boy and to everyone I come in contact with. That may not change the world, but it may change people.
That is enough for me.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
This makes me both scared, and hopeful to be a parent these days. Scared because of all the pressure to compete and exel kids are under; hopeful because I'm convinced that good kids will ultimately excel - and hopefully keep a little bit of innocence and wonder as well. Read the whole article, but here is a bit:
ON a Sunday morning a few months back, I interviewed my final Harvard applicant of the year. After saying goodbye to the girl and watching her and her mother drive off, I headed to the beach at the end of our street for a run.
It was a spectacular winter day, bright, sunny and cold; the tide was out, the waves were high, and I had the beach to myself. As I ran, I thought the same thing I do after all these interviews:
Another amazing kid who won’t get into Harvard.
Actually, meeting the soon-to-be rejected makes me hopeful about young people. They are far more accomplished than I was at their age and without a doubt will do superbly wherever they go.
Knowing me and seeing them is like witnessing some major evolutionary change take place in just 35 years, from the Neanderthal Harvard applicant of 1970 to today’s fully evolved Homo sapiens applicant.
There was the girl who, during summer vacation, left her house before 7 each morning to make a two-hour train ride to a major university, where she worked all day doing cutting-edge research for NASA on weightlessness in mice.
When I was in high school, my 10th-grade science project was on plant tropism — a shoebox with soil and bean sprouts bending toward the light.
These kids who don’t get into Harvard spend summers on schooners in Chesapeake Bay studying marine biology, building homes for the poor in Central America, touring Europe with all-star orchestras.
Summers, I dug trenches for my local sewer department during the day, and sold hot dogs at Fenway Park at night.
I see these kids — and watch my own applying to college — and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.
But I’ve stopped feeling bad about the looming rejection. When my four were little, I used to hope a couple might go to Harvard. I pushed them, but by the end of middle school it was clear my twins, at least, were not made that way. They rebelled, and I had to learn to see who they were.
I came to understand that my own focus on Harvard was a matter of not sophistication but narrowness. I grew up in an unworldly blue-collar environment. Getting perfect grades and attending an elite college was one of the few ways up I could see.
My four have been raised in an upper-middle-class world. They look around and see lots of avenues to success. ...
That day, running on the beach, I was lost in my thoughts when a voice startled me. “Pops, hey, Pops!” It was Sammy, one of my twins, who’s probably heading for a good state school. He was in his wetsuit, surfing alone in the 30-degree weather, the only other person on the beach. “What a day!” he yelled, and his joy filled my heart.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
I was taking notes - but it got late, so let me just give a few general impressions broken into categories -
Brownback - Wow - I would never have expected it, but I thought he came off really, really well. Much better than I expected. I thought he seemed composed, rational, and direct. Easily the best of the second tier.
Romney - Incredibly smooth and positive; almost too smooth in that it almost seems contrived, but he was impressive.
Giuliani - This was an incredibly difficult situation for him because he is the most moderate of the Republicans, yet he stood his ground, and was strong - and yet got his points across clearly. He managed a difficult situation well as the front-runner.
McCain - Shockingly bad; he warmed up a little bit as things went along, but frankly, he didn't look remotely like a President, and I think he won't make it to the primaries.
Tancredo - Simply looked out of his league; he was so choppy and utterly unable to get his point across; I thought his campaign was about taking extreme conservative stands, but I simply have no idea what he was trying to do tonight
Who? - I'm going to divide this into two sections - First, those who gave it a valient effort, and then those who were just invisible...
Gilmore - when he was actually asked a question, I thought he did fairly well, even though I've never even heard of him before; he always seemed poised, strong, and have ideas...but he was rarely given much of a chance
Huckabee - He was what he always is - full of character and leadership - yet he simply was not given a chance to really expand on anything - it was always in brief questions that were not in his wheelhouse
Hunter - simply did not stand out, he looked like a Congressperson, not much more
Paul - diligently advocated the Libertarian position - which was different, but that was the only thing that made him stand out
Thompson - disappointing; he was just barely there, there was simply nothing whatsoever impressive about him
Who looked Presidential?
Romney - won the debate, solidifies position, will take supporters from those who didn't do great
Brownback - stood about among the 2d tier
Guliani - as long has he can do this - fight against the right-wing effectively - he will be nominee
McCain - Ugh...he won't make it to the primaries
Thompson/Huckabee (because he made no splash) --- these two guys I thought could be dark horses, and they didn't stand out - it's over for them
Similar to the Democratic debate of last week - this just goes too fast to give any of these guys a chance to really come off well...so the key is not to come off poorly. Romney and Guliani accomplished that - McCain simply did not.
I've never seen my congressman
But I can't deny that he exists
'Cause I've seen his legislation pass
I've seen his name on the ballot list
Same I can't deny this fallen world
Though not my home it's where I live
How can I preserve and light the way
For a world that I can't admit I'm in
'Cause I know who you say you are
But these crows can't be made to stop
So I'll sit denying by this fire
I ain't standing up for nothing
Lack of interest leads to
Lack of knowledge leads to
Lack of perspective leads to
Lack of communication leads to
Lack of understanding leads to
Lack of concern leads to
This complacency denotes
This approval denies
On Monday night, my wife and I were having a conversation with some friends in which we were discussing the idea of ideas - or maybe to put it better, the way that some Christians seem to be overly defensive or downright militant against discussion of ideas or thinking that is different than ours. My friend said something terribly insighful - we have no reason to fear others' thoughts or opinions, as long as we are firmly rooted in the things we believe. As a Christian, I do not have to be defensive about - or withdraw from discussion or debate with - people who disagree with me. In fact, in pulling away and refusing to address people and ideas that are contrary to our own - we end up standing up for nothing. That's not to say that we will necessarily agree with others all the time - in fact, I think the faith that I hold means that very often my thinking may be very different than non-Christians. Yet, that doesn't mean that I will avoid those discussions, conversations and disagreements.
It is my job as a Christian to acknowlege this world - and in so doing, light the way for others. It's not mine to dig my head in the sand and deny, deny, deny.
Lack of interest, knowledge, communication, and understanding denies the truth.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Round 1 - Iraq
Clinton - Steady; Looks authoritative; didn't answer the question (was Reid right in saying the war was lost); conceded to Obama on a rebutal - GREAT move, made her look deferential yet forceful
Edwards - Smooth; good answer on Iraq (foreign policy can be his weak spot)
Biden - very off the cuff; spontaneous
Obama - Slow start, but recovered well - good, but expected, position on Iraq
Kucinich - same old, same old on anti-war; he just doesn't seem Presidential
+ Richardson - Wow, made stronger impression on Iraq that I expected; no funding; leave by 31-Dec-07; specific three point plan on what to do when the soldiers came home on 31-Dec; only specific plan answers
Dodd - unremarkable
Gravel - "this fraudulent war was lost from the beginning;" old codger; law to make it a felony to stay in Iraq
Note: Clinton given two rebuttals - no one else
R2 - Perceptions in the Public
Obama - Corruption in Campaign - Smooth, in a tricky spot
Edwards - Haircut/Wealth - nice job of twisting this into running to give the same chances to all Americans as those he has had; Hedge Funds - markets are instrumental in getting rid of poverty
Clinton - Hedge Funds - we have an enterprising economy; basic answer
Richardson - AG AG, didn't call for resignation because he's hispanic - Took this right back to AG's failings
Dodd - Washinton insider - Proud of his pubic service; we've had 6 years of a President going through on-the-job-training, maybe we could use an insider
Kucinich - Anti-war candidate - Choppy answer; pushing his anti-war position genuinely
Biden - Gaffe-machine - Yes (first laugh-line)
Gravel - Doesn't matter if he gets elected - Scared of the rest of these guys; no nukes
+ Clinton - Unfavorable Republican view - ask them; Health Care, still have the scars from that battle; Republicans are worried, and that is why they are so vitriolic; promotes universal health care, energy independence, climate-change initiatives, corruption of Bush years, internatinoal alliances, not alienations; Serious - good answer
Notes: Clinton given two questions; Gravel is an utter embarrassment
R3 - Domestic Issues
Edwards - Abortion - This decision (the recent late-term abortion SCOTUS decision) shows just how important the Presidency and appointments to SCOTUS are; difficult decision that must be respected
Obama - Abortion (most of America agreed with decision) - would not agree; he would trust women to make the decision; then - really nicely - turned to prevention and other issues that would reduce abortions without bans
Biden - Litmus test on R v. W - no specific test, but nominees must share my values and understand there is a right to privacy; bad decision with dishonest reasoning; the late-term procedure itself is bad, but the decision was bad
Kucinich - Litmus test - yes, but the focus should be on other things: living wage, preventive care is support for life; listen to those opposed to abortion in order to be a healer on the issue; respect and protect women but listen to opposing views
Dodd - Regret voting for Roberts - No; disppointed but no - he didn't do what he said he'd do (respect precedent)
Richardson - Model SC Justice - Byron White (moderator says "alive") - Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Dodd - Model SC Justice - since Brennan is excluded (by moderator); Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Edwards - Model SC Justice - Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Stephen Breyer
Clinton - did govt fail at VT - YES; while respecting gun owners rights, improve gun regulation especially to mentally ill
Richardson - NRA favorite - Protection of gun rights is important in the west; moved to mental health and enforcing background checks
Show of Hands - who has had a gun in the house as an adult: Gravel; Biden; Dodd; Richardson; Kucinich(?!?)
Biden - what could federal govt have done for VT - (I owned a shotgun, not just a handgun); Assault weapons ban should not have been allowed to lapse; close the gun sho loophole; focus on mental illness
Notes: No one really hit a homerun; Obama's not standing out
R4 - Health Care (HC)
Edwards - What taxes will be raised to pay for your HC plan - Repeal the Bush tax cuts on anyone over 200k; I have a specific, different HC plan
Obama - How to pay for plan - (doesn't answer, just discusses plan); Pool to buy into like Congress; must control costs; preventive care; technology; catrostophic coverage
+ Clinton - Pay for plan - (doesn't answer) - Experience of fighting for a plan; Control and decrease costs for all, including those with insurance currently; save monies in the current system before we transform to a new system
Richardson - No taxes? - No - don't want to raise taxes to pay; as Governor deal with this issue every day: 1. Cut existing beuracracy; 2. Share savings throughout system; 3. Prevention; 4. clean up inefficiencies (insitute HC Info System); 5. reinstate Dr./Patient relationships
Biden - NAACP ban on SC due to flag - more important to show of the capabilities of the people of the host historic black college, than to avoid the state
Obama - Conf. flag - Confederate flag belongs in a museum; but there are bigger issues on the table to discuss tonight - black infant mortality rates/poverty; deferred to "Hillary"
Notes: Obama finally warming up; Clinton carries the air of a President; Richardson focusing on specifics all night
Rd5 - Serious Mistake in the Past 4 Years
Gravel - Wouldn't have held the youth of the other candidates againist them
Kucinich - Years ago, fired the Cleveland Police Chief live on local news
+ Clinton - not enough time to list all mistakes; HC message; believing the President was going to go to the UN and listen to inspectors
+ Obama - when first arrived in Senate; left after debate on a law re: Schaivo - should have stayed and had a full debate/vote
Biden - overestimating the competence and underestimating the arrogance of Bush administration
Edwards - Voting for the war; lesson = listen to own judgment
Dodd - Voting for war
Richardson - too impatient, has tried to force changes, including a minimum wage in NM when should have used diplomacy
Rd6 - Miscellaneous
+ Clinton - Amnesty for immigrants - Comprehensive immigration reform including additional enforcement, helping states pay for costs of illegals, get 12MM immigrants out of the shadows so we know who is here, give current residents a chance to pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English and get in back of the line to become citizens
Biden - Tech degrees/brain drain - Change the way we educate our children; smaller class sizes and better pay for teacher to get better teachers
Dodd - Welfare drug tests - No; over-tested all over; addition is an illness; show respect and compassion
+ Edwards - Oil Comp. windfalls - much is due to demand, we need to focus on transforming that - climate change initiative, cap carbon emmissions, clean energy resources; let's ask America to be patriotic about something other than war
Kucinich - HC premiums - due to For Profit Insurance companies; non-profit HC
Richardson - 1st thing accomplished in office - 1. Get out of Iraq; 2. Energy independence plan like Apollo program; 3. Climate change initiative
Notes: Clinton cruising
Rd 7 - Non-Iraq Foreign Policy
Obama - 3 biggest allies - 1. EU/NATO; 2. Japan; 3. Emerging China; distraction of Iraq ---follow up question - what about Israel - covers on Palestinian quote; strong ally
+ Biden - 3 biggest threats - 1. N. Korea; 2. Iran; 3. Russian/Putin; we need a change in policy - jettison preemption & regime change - we don't need regime change, but conduct change
Gravel - 3 threats - No important enemies; treat the world as equals; not afraid of any nations; military industrial complex
Edwards - Russia, friend or for - they have moved from democracy to autocracy; how does America change the dynamics of the world? Set America as a force of good in the world; lead on education of children of the world; clean water; economic independence
Richardson - 4 time nominee for Nobel Peace Prize, what about Russia - Assess strategy interests: 1. contain the nukes; 2. Humane treatment in Chechnya; 3. develope Russia as a stable source of energy for US; 4. Promote democracy; stubborn is not a foreign policy; fight terrorism and nuclear proliferation
+ Clinton - Giuliani/Dem perception - Disconnect between rhetoric and reality; current administration hypes fear without delivering on promises; our foreign policy under Bush is less stable; this is a Myth they can put to rest
Dodd - Dem perception - Myth; not building international support; problem of stateless terrorism
Hands - Who does NOT believe there is a Global War on Terror - Kucinich/Gravel
Kucinich - move away from Bush's aggressive war; the world is waiting for US leadership
Obama - Terrorist attack 2 cities, what do you do? - 1. Effective emergency response (re: Katrina); 2. Intelligence - cannot allow the world community to be doubtful of our intelligence; 3. Talk to the international community
+ Edwards - Same question - 1. Act swiftly and strongly to hold the culprits responsible; 2. Assess what happened, address DHS; need to use more tools than bombs - work to get the next generation of potential-terrorists on our side
Clinton - Same question - Immediate retaliation - but do not look for other fights which are not ours
Hands - Who would support impeachment of VP Cheney? Kucinich alone
Kucinich - Constitution - Cheney must be held accountable for Iraq and ginning up a war agaisnt Iran; notes that he is the only candidate willing to impeach
Notes: Clinton stumbles for the first time; in both answers here, she is clearly thinking while speaking and not as commanding as previously; Obama's first answer here was poor
Rd 8 Miscellaneous
Dodd - Civil Union vs. Gay Marriage - Supports civil unions; consider what he would want for his own daughters - same rights; yet marriage is distinct due to the tradition
Biden - Hard choices on climate-change - Manhattan project for climate change; "Barak and I" proposal; Car emissions/ethanol/lithium battery technology/cap emmissions now, today; hard choices
Richardson - Cuba - goes back to question about an attack - retaliate mightily, then build coalition; on Cuba, beginning planning for a post-Castro cuba; bring in Cuban-Americans to develop a plan; change policy on family visits; re-evaluate the embargo
Gravel - Nuclear energy - maturation process; back to the war - there has been a mischaracterisation of terrorism - a war won't work; change in foreign policy
+ Obama - what have you done personally for environment - on Earth Day organized volunteers to plant trees (moderator - no, personally, like light bulbs); making an effort to use efficient light bulbs and teach his children of conservation; back to terrorism - terror networks must be hunted and demolished; build alliances (great answer - I didn't get too many notes because I was caught listening - his best of the night)
[Bit of back-and-forth between Kucinich/Obama/Gravel/Obama] - Obama looks Presidential others...not
Edwards - who is your moral leader - thoughtful; cannot identify one person; the Lord who I pray to for forgiveness and counsel; wife - who is my conscience; father - every person is of value
Clinton - Is Wal-Mart good or bad - mixed blessing; it allowed rural America to stretch its dollar; but now it is raising serious questions about corporate accountability - providing HC, discrimination in the work place, work place safety; Bush and Corporate America no longer even see Middle Class America
Biden - Is there a winner on the statge - YES, a bunch of winners; if anyone on the Republican side is wishing for Hillary, they are making a mistake; back to security - for security, specifically in Afghanistan, Darfur, Balkans, have to use force; all the "happy talk" (from Kucinich and Gravel) is unrealisic
Notes: Finally - Obama hits a home-run (about time) he got better and better as things went along; Clinton closed strong; Edwards limped to the finish
Overall Immediate Impressions:
Clinton did great - she was Presidential, composed, and articulate; she stumbled a bit toward the end, but was consistently the strongest candiate on the stage...but she also got the most opportunities
Edwards did well until the very end; he is substantive and charismatic
Richardson really proved himself to me this evening - specifics, strong, bold; the biggest winner of the 2d tier
Obama really warmed up as the debate moved along; started slowly but grew commanding by the end
Biden is just really off the cuff and unrehearsed; probably the funniest, and you can see depth, but it doesn't completely come through
Dodd was essentially invisible
Kucinich towed his standard line, and actually almost looked relatively mainstream due to the man on his political and physical left...
Gravel was a joke, simply did not belong
90 minutes simply isn't enough time for 8 candidates.