Sunday, November 30, 2008


Over the Thanksgiving holiday I spent some time in a house full of people I didn't know all that well. In this group was a man named Trace that, among other things, runs the website After talking with Trace for 15 minutes or so I found myself conflicted - did I like him or did I not? Smart, articulate, informed, etc., etc. but also, well, scary.

Trace's thing is finances and the economy. Over the last few months I've learned more about the economy than I ever cared to know. Just when it was making sense and I was feeling comfortable that the bottom of the decline was just round the bend, I run into Trace who tells me that the economic framework of the last 100 years (maybe even the last 600 years) is coming apart and crashing to the ground. The speed and depth of the "vaporization" of assets and capital is on a scale that is unimaginable. It was at this point I realized the first thing that I am thankful for - I don't have too much money so even though my personal capital has vaporized right in half it turns out that half of not much is also not much. The power of poverty!

Amongst the many interesting things Trace had to say I was struck by his thoughts about the politics of the last election. Trace explained that there are three layers to society. At the bottom are the poor and/or lazy that want the government to pay for everything. At the top are the ultra-wealthy who are either well-connected enough or insulated enough that they exist outside of party politics. In the middle are those that want to make their own money and keep it for their own purposes. The middle has been squeezed out by the bottom and narrows with each election. When an economic system collapses, Trace explained, there are only two options: liberty or repression. American Revolution = liberty. Rise of Nazi Germany = repression. The masses are easily susceptible to each. Trace did not go on to elaborate on whether the Obama administration was repressive or not, though he did point out the Patriot Act was the ultimate tool of financial repression allowing the government nearly unfettered access to financial information. The bailout, or government control of the economy, also is repression.

While Trace did slip very close to the edge of presenting himself as a wacky libertarian, conspiracy theory, Ron Paul clone, I feel his pain. I visit that same domain from time to time. I always come back, but I wonder if next time I'll stay.

I've been distrustful of the bailout, adamantly opposed the Patriot Act and continue to believe Ron Paul wasn't such a bad guy, so in the end I liked Trace. He didn't make me feel good about coming out of this with any money - actually he made me realize I don't have any money, just the promise of money that doesn't exist - so I'm not going to be calling him up for any warm and fuzzy chats. I'll remember his perspective on this whole mess, though. I'll remember and I'll shudder a little each time.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008


A strange thing has happened in my neighborhood. A new celebrity has taken root here. For the last couple weekends as I've strolled around to the grocery store or the ATM or wherever it is my feet may take me the local street entrepreneurs have multiplied. Their goods - Obama paraphernalia.

There are buttons. There are shirts. There are collectible issues of major American newspapers.

Booths spring up on Saturday afternoons in Bank of America parking lots. Teenagers wear button covered aprons. Instead of flowers being hocked at the stoplights there are lanyards and bobble-heads.

I had feared that Obama might crush the business world under his regulatory foot, but for now, in this neighborhood, it seems he's inspired a whole gaggle of capitalists ready to cash in on his celebrity. My kind of capitalists, too - I'm betting not a one of them is paying a dime of sales tax (and to that I say, God Bless America!).

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Free the GOP

Christine Todd Whitman and Robert M. Bostock wrote and op-ed piece in today's Washington Post called "Free the GOP".

The most interesting tidbit in the piece was that the proportion of white evangelical/born-again voters increased from 2004 and yet John McCain (who presumably won those votes) still lost the election.

My original attraction to John McCain in 2000 had been his brazen disregard for this group of voters. I cheered when he called Jerry Falwell an agent of intolerance.

I respect the evangelical/born-again and even the Christian moral tradition. Other than regular attendance at church I could live happily within the bounds of Christian teachings (a condition that fools friends into believing I am something I am not - a Christian). This respect and my own life choices does not translate into political agreement. Though some may believe I'm setting the stage for the degredation of society I maintain that imposing my religious beliefs and my sense of social normalcy onto others is unacceptable. I would hazard to argument that it is an un-Christian thing to do.

One should not force their religious leanings on another. They should lead by example. They should demonstrate their righteousness through the workings of their lives, not the number of souls they set about to save.

What I am saying is that I agree with Ms. Whitman and Mr. Bostock. Social conservatism cannot be the only foundation of a majority party. It may still function as a pillar of the party, but when it's the focus it relegates that party to the permanent minority.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Where To Now?

As fascinating to me as the new administration may be one thing draws my interest even more - what next for the Republican Party?

In the face of fresh losses, party members and media look over the landscape wondering what made it so. Some will conclude that it is all George W. Bush's fault. Some will conclude it was the terrible economy. Some will think it was because the party wasn't conservative enough. As they do, they could draw the party into permanent minority status.

I recall thinking that the Democratic Party had no ideas. They were running on a solitary mantra - Bush is bad. If Bush wanted something, the Democrats didn't want it. I imagine that had Bush supported unionizing the entire workforce of America, the Democrats would have opposed it. When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, they did nothing to prove me wrong. I encourage anyone to list the significant legislative accomplishments of the 110th Congress. Even as the presidential season got into full gear, it wasn't so much that Barack Obama was running on fresh, new ideas as he was running on the idea that Bush is bad.

Then the Republican Party went and did the same thing. They'd won enough legislative victories that their platform had grown a little stale. Dismal poll numbers and minority status led to the same defensive posturing as the Democrats had employed for the last 8 years. In the face of a Democratic opponent running on charisma even more than substance, the Republican Party failed to offer up anything new...and lost.

Ronald Reagan formed the modern incarnation of the Republican Party by marrying the wealthy and corporate fiscal conservatives to the evangelicals and social conservatives. For thirty years it worked. Yet the Republican Party has spurned both wings of the party. Taxes may be lower, but the size and spending of the government has run rampant. Abortion is still legal. Gay marriage continues to advance. Family values are more campaign talking point than political reality. It isn't that the Republican Party has been a failure. The Republican Party has simply run its course.

It seems to me that the Republican Party has two options - develop innovative, new, free market solutions to the problems Americans worry about or quietly fold the tent. The Democratic Party has become an amalgam of political philosophies (many that were elected in the last two years would have been Republicans a decade ago). Something has to give. In a country that has become so enamored with the niche, it seems hard to believe we can continue to be satisfied with only two parties.

Perhaps it is time that the Republicans choose to be the party of social conservatism. Perhaps then the Libertarian Party could get over its propensity for nominating crazy people and adopt a pragmatic libertarianism (classical liberalism, if you will).

James Madison favored factional government. Maybe the time has finally come.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Regarding The Pied Piper

The masses are a nutty group, and ever have they been, but are we ready for aristocracy or plutocracy?

I've already commented that democracy can be ugly. Even now, after Californians did their share of direct democracy, they are protesting in the streets over the results. Not everyone is pleased with the outcome - is your concern that people don't know what they are voting for or does it have more to do with the result?

The nuttiness of the masses cuts both ways. While the Obama supporters were voting for him because McCain was having heart attacks on the campaign trail there were McCain supporters voting for him because Obama was a Muslim that disavowed not only his Islamic faith, but the Christian faith he adopted after it (as noted by 7 members of Latinas for McCain).

I'm reminded of the words of Winston Churchill, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

I am in complete agreement that it is a dangerous world in which voters can vote themselves wealth they have not earned, but have the Republicans been doing such a fantastic job of not redistributing wealth. They lowered taxes, but they increased spending. Instead of redistributing the wealth of the rich to the poor they've redistributed the wealth of the those not yet born to those that are living now.

A final thought...we've already elected one pied piper. It was 8 years ago and he played his evangelical flute luring in the far right and the God-fearing, family values, rural votes but once in office increased the size of federal government enought to make Roosevelt and Johnson blush. My recollection of the pied piper story is that the piper took away the rats, asked for more money than anyone was willing to pay and then took the children. If I know the Brothers Grimm, the kids never came back. If you are correct, and we've voted in another piper then I'm glad I haven't any kids to sacrifice.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Pied Piper

Well it appears that Barack Obama has won the election and will now be the next President of the United States of America. I am concerned. Mostly because a large number of adamant supporters of Barack can not provide one single issue that they agree with Barack on. They can tell me that they are ready to be done with the Bush administration. When pushed they will tell you that they do not 'Like' John McCain. One voter, after calling in to a local radio station to celebrate that they voted for Barack stated that they did so because they were concerned that McCain had already suffered two heart attacks and they didn't think he would live to fill out his term. This voter then went on to say that they 'HATED' Sarah Palin. Since McCain has not suffered even one heart attack, this voter is obviously uninformed.
Our founding fathers were very concerned that those casting votes would not be educated on the issues. This is the reason that they created the Electoral College. The Electors were to take the will of the people in to account, and then make the best decision whether that decision was in line with the people or not.
They were also concerned with giving the right to vote to those who did not pay taxes. This was why the right to vote was originally given only to those who owned property, because the concern was that those without property would would vote the property out of the owners hands.
I am sincerely concerned that with the momentum of this Presidential election and the majorities that will be enjoyed in the houses of Congress, the capital of this country will be voted into the hands of those who do not pay taxes, nor who are educated on the issues. My concern is simply this, that we have asked the pied piper to rid us of the rats, I just hope we can afford to pay the price when it is asked.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Ballot

We are afforded a secret ballot when voting, but I'm not ashamed of my votes. I may be later, but for now, they are what I believe.

When I go to the voting booth Tuesday evening, my ballot will look like what follows. It leans Republican and its relies heavily on the option of no. I did not support a single bond measure believing that if the people want it they should fit it into the normal operation of the budget. If there isn't money or credit enough for the project then the project doesn't need to be completed.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Terry Pratchett on Politics

I stumbled across a quotation that sums up the race for political office, particularly when looking at presidential candidates.

"If cats looked like frogs we'd realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That's what people remember."
Terry Pratchett (Lords and Ladies)

It's also an accurate assessment of cats.

Barack Obama has style. He has a biography that can compete with John McCain's biography. It doesn't matter all that much what positions these men try to sell. It's the style and the Barack Obama style is what America appears to be craving.

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