Wednesday, May 30, 2007

He's in

It looks like it's all but official: Fred Thompson is running for President.

Thompson, a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, has been coy about his intentions with audiences, but made clear in an interview that he plans to run.

"I can't remember exactly the point that I said, 'I'm going to do this,' " Thompson says, his 6-foot, 6-inch frame sprawled comfortably across a couch in a hotel suite. "But when I did, the thing that occurred to me: 'I'm going to tell people that I am thinking about it and see what kind of reaction I get to it.' "

I will follow my own advice and not get too excited. No one except Jesus is the saviour. But I do think this bodes well. Here's hoping he proves to be as good as his hype.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The American Dream

I've fought an uphill battle at forums such as this by arguing that the Bush economy is not as impressive as it may seem. While we have enjoyed a good deal of economic prosperity for the past half-decade, I think it pales in comparison with prior cyclical booms of recent times. However, with the stock market at an all-time high, inflation nearly non-existant, low unemployment, and very manageable interest rates, it is not an easy case to make.

And yet I've still felt that the economy was something of a house-of-cards. It may stand pretty tall, but it's going to make a real mess when it falls. I blame factors including an overly meddling tax code, wild government spending, massive budget deficits, an over-reaching foreign policy, a failed energy policy, unrestricted and unfair free trade, illegal immigration and cheap labor, and unquestioned corporate deregulation as the major government-created negative influences on otherwise solid economic growth. I sadly don't see any signs of these items getting better regardless of political party. However, Wall Street is counting on it never happening.

So many of us have thus made the argument that in this new economy Wall Street and Main Street are at a crossroad. The issue of illegal immigration is a perfect example. Afterall, what else could bring together the most ardent of Milton Freidman and Cesar Chavez supporters? But with near daily record-setting Dow Jones numbers, it's not been an easy case to make.

Until today. I noticed the release of an interesting but ignored study that I think reveals a lot about our economy and, indeed, the state of the American dream. Check this out.

American men in their 30s now earn less than their fathers' generation did at the same age, potentially reversing longtime assumptions that each successive generation will be better off than its predecessor, according to a study released yesterday.

Between 2000 and 2005, productivity rose 16 percent while median income fell 2 percent, challenging the notion "that a rising tide will lift all boats." Several factors could explain the divergence: a growing share of income going to the highest-paid workers, or to profits; an increased share of labor compensation going toward benefits such as health care; or a decline in the number of wage earners, or hours worked, in the typical family.

American families, which experienced a 32 percent increase in income levels between 1964 and 1994, saw household income growth slow to 9 percent between 1974 and 2004, according to the report.

There are many other interesting elements of this study released by the Pew Foundation. I would encourage those interested to look further into them. I suppose we can debate how much of a problem it is that people like me will (on average) make less than our dads did when dollars are adjusted for inflation. Maybe it's not a problem at all? Maybe it was ineveitable with all the changes we've made to the American economy?

But, for me, this being the first time this has happened since WW2, it sure does sting. And it causes me again to ask are we really going in the right direction? Has the American dream taken a blow from which it may never recover? While there are positive aspects to globalization (who doesn't appreciate fuel efficient Toyotas, stylish Nikes, low Wal-Mart prices, and countless new cell phones and other gadgets?), there are also some real negatives.

I wonder when/if the bad will seem to outweigh the good? Wall Street apparently says never. Main Street just might be saying right now.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The FoxNews GOP Debate

Anyone have thoughts on the South Carolina Republican debate? It was definitely better than the first one. Brit Hume was a more effective moderator and his panel made the 10 candidate format work much more smoothly than MSNBC.

I thought Rudy Giuliani did well. I still don't think he can win, but he's not going away anytime soon. And I don't mean to be insensitive, but is anyone else sick of hearing him say, "I was mayor during 9/11?" We know, Rudy, we know. McCain looked old and weak. And I didn't know he had 7 kids. Wow. Romney was ok, but not as sharp as he looked in California. And Jim Gilmore's use of the term "Rudy McRomney" seemed an effective summary of the top of the Republican field.

I thought my own horse Tom Tancredo continued to shine. After hearing all the last-minute conservative conversions on stage from Rudy McRomney, Tancredo had the line of the night in saying, "I trust conversions on the road to Damascus much more than those on the road to Des Moines."

I do like Ron Paul as he mirrors much of my own libertarianism. But he made a big boo boo in linking the 9/11 attack to pre-war Iraq bombings?!? Did he not learn anything from Rumsfeld? Shame on you Ron. I'm afraid you just became the GOP's version of Mike Gravel. And kudos to Giuliani for calling him out. I wish there were more moments like that in these debates but I won't hold my breath.

Anyone else consider who might win if the whole thing were judged American Idol style? Snicker all you want now, but that could be the way of the future. And with 10 people clogging the stage, it makes sense. Who needs diners in New Hampshire or town halls in Iowa when you have instant text messaging?

I say Jim Gilmore would have been voted off after week 1 by a landslide. See ya! And after tonight's show, the bottom three would have to be: Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, and John McCain. So vote early and vote often to see who America sends home. Big Daddy....out!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

I'd be remiss if I didn't pay tribute to a personal hero and a man who greatly impacted the American political spectrum. It really hit me today when I learned of Reverand Jerry Falwell's passing. Still active in the ministry, it just didn't seem like his work was done when the Lord called him home. However, Falwell certainly did live a life to the fullest. As our nation's leading televangelist and the founder of the Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University, Rev. Falwell enriched the souls and minds of millions of Christians. A robust man with an even bigger voice - whether you loved or hated him - you usually heard him. And for what more could any preacher preaching the word from the hills of rural Virginia ever hope?

Falwell helped give unapologetic Christians a mainstream voice in American culture and in American politics. Starting the Moral Majority in 1979, it was no coincidence that the Republican messiah, Ronald Reagan, finally landed in the White House in 1980. Though other ministries fell even quicker than they rose, Falwell's influence continued to be felt for 3 decades as the South became a GOP stronghold, Congress went Republican for the first time in 50 years, and Bush after Bush won the White House. And every conservative politican on the national scene came to Jerry Falwell hoping to tap into the millions of like-minded and politically-involved Christian voters who valued his endorsement.

I'll wrap this up since I know many readers may not share my fondness for Falwell. But, all that aside, as he passes I think it's only fair to pay respect to one who had such a large impact. If you're a Reagan Republican, if you're a Gingrich Republican, you owe Jerry Falwell a debt of gratitude. Like it or not, he helped make them possible.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Rudy, Abortion, and the 2008 Prez Field

Ever hate something so much that you gave money year after year to an organization dedicated to helping that very same thing flourish???

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in his campaign appearances this year has stated that he personally abhors abortion, even though he supports keeping a legal right to choose. But records show that in the '90s he contributed money at least six times to Planned Parenthood, one of the country's leading abortion rights groups and its top provider of abortions.

Federal tax returns made public by the former New York mayor show that he and his then-wife, Donna Hanover, made personal donations to national, state and city chapters of Planned Parenthood totaling $900 in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999.

Look. If Giuliani has any sincerity, he should get up there before GOP crowds and say, "Yep, I'm pro-choice. I've always been pro-choice. And if you vote for me that's what you'll get. But let me tell you what else you'll get...."

I probably still wouldn't support him in the Republican primary. But the idea of voting for him in a general election against another pro-choice candidate would suddenly become slightly more palatable.

But we shouldn't expect any politician at the top of either field, no less Giuliani, to provide such honesty. Instead he speaks out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, much like the top 3 candidates on both sides have been doing for some time now. Personally, even at this early stage, what I wouldn't give for a Huckabee-Richardson 2008 contest?!?

And where did this damning info come from? I'm guessing McCain. Nice work. Yes, you gotta love politics!

The returns have been on the public record for years, but the detail about Giuliani's support for Planned Parenthood -- along with e-mailed copies of the returns -- was provided to The Politico by aides to a rival campaign, who insisted on not being identified.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Missing the Real Story

In a recent Ian Bishop article, “Flighty Hill Changes Planes- Constantly,” he attacks Sen. Clinton’s propensity for finickiness in her flight arrangements. To hear Bishop tell it, Ms. Clinton has a propensity for discharging planes that don’t meet her rather stringent requirements; right layout, accommodations, crew, etc.

As interesting as the particular habits, however crazy they seem, of celebrities are, Bishop misses the REAL story. About half-way through, he notes that:

“[S]he [Sen. Clinton] used a Hawker 800 private jet owned by the New York investment firm Gilder Gagnon Howe for a morning flight to Greenville, S.C., from Washington, after an 8 a.m. address at a New York teachers' association gathering. . .Presidential campaigns can pay as much as $9,000 for a charter flight, but get a break when borrowing a corporate jet - like Clinton did with the Hawker 800. That's because ethics laws allow candidates to pay the aircraft's owner only the equivalent of first-class airfare.”

Let me preface my remarks by noting that I am QUITE sure that a great many, if not the majority, of the elected officials in Washington, of every political stripe, engage in behaviors that are inappropriate and tie them too closely to interests undeclared in their campaign finance declarations.

Bishop is concerned that Ms. Clinton has a penchant for getting things her own way.

I am concerned that “ethics rules” permit elected representatives to use luxury transport of persons and companies that potentially have business that either is or will be in front of that official or a committee over which they have oversight.

Bishop’s story ought to have been about the use of the Hawker 800, about the relationship between Gilder Gagnon Howe, if there is one, about the practice of using luxury aircraft of potential “big donors.” He ought to have answered meaningful questions about the scope and effect of the practice.

Instead, we know that Sen. Clinton has a quirkiness to her travel habits.

With journalism like this, it is no wonder our nation has no sense of the challenges it faces and cannot make reasonable decisions.

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Does "green" oppose "religious?"

In this article,

the journalist notes that the Gideon will not be found in the "green" hotels of the future. Instead, "An Inconvenient Truth," former VP Gore's environmentalist manifesto will be in each room.

It is not clear to me whether this conclusion represents the actual state of affairs or whether the journalist was using a writing devise to propel his story. It may be that both are to be found or that "An Inconvenient Truth" will not ACTUALLY be found but that the ideas contained therein have permeated the hotel's designer's thinking. For the purposes of this post, it doesn't really matter.

There has been a trend among Evangelical Christians to "capture" environmentalism as a Christian duty. Similarly, there is a trend among Traditionalist Christians to include "stewardship," a byword for a range of obligations to others, including caring for the environment, in the affirmative duties required of every Christian. I imagine there are similar movements among other religious groups.

It may be too early to tell whether these movements have had meaningful impact on moving mainstream America into the environmentalist camp. The trendiness of environmentalism may have more to do with Hollywood and academia than religious teaching. Nonetheless, there is a discernable movement towards environmentally sound living... as long as it doesn't cost us anything.

This is the rub... that living in a way that truly honors our place in the environment requires sacrifices that I really don't think Americans will make without being compelled to do so. All of the preaching and writing and doomsaying will get a general nod of approval... then we will all jump in our SUVs and drive 90 miles a day to and from work.

At its best, socio-political movements drive politics which crafts economics to compel behavioral changes. IF America moves towards a more environmentally conscious and sustainable way of life, it will be because taxation and permit fees drive the costs of living in an unsustainable way up to the point that no other rational choice is available.

The rub is that such economic disincentives to waste burden the middle-class and poor more than the wealthy. The Los Angeles crowd that preaches about fairness, justice, and sustainable living will not cut out their flights back and forth across the country to attend openings. The rich will not drive better cars or limit the building of mansions on virgin turf. The markets for true "luxury" goods will barely be dented by the moves of the larger society.

The real question for environmentalism is not whether America is ready to accept a sustainable lifestyle but whether they can sell the real economic losses to the lower classes, knowing that the rich will not be so burdened. Unless the audience is receptive, the politics will not move and the economics will not drive far enough to make a difference.

So... Add "An Inconvenient Truth" to the repetoire of the hotel reading materials, but keep the Gideon handy... without preaching from every sector that can reach Middle America, the environmentalist movement cannot succeed.

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