Saturday, August 30, 2008

Platitudes and Attitudes

NOTE to readers: I am going to repost a New York Times op-ed because 1.) it's priceless 2.) it may disappear when angry Obamakins complain(whine). What follows is a hoot. I didn't know David Brooks had it in him. Has he stolen Mark Steyn's mojo?


A Speech to the Delegates


My fellow Americans, it is an honor to address the Democratic National Convention at this defining moment in history. We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election since last year’s “American Idol.”

One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead. We must choose wisely.

We must close the book on the bleeding wounds of the old politics of division and sail our ship up a mountain of hope and plant our flag on the sunrise of a thousand tomorrows with an American promise that will never die! For this election isn’t about the past or the present, or even the pluperfect conditional. It’s about the future, and Barack Obama loves the future because that’s where all his accomplishments are.

We meet today to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans, a generation that came of age amidst iced chais and mocha strawberry Frappuccinos®, a generation with a historical memory that doesn’t extend back past Coke Zero.

We meet today to heal the divisions that have torn this country. For we are all one country and one American family, whether we are caring and thoughtful Democrats or hate-filled and war-crazed Republicans. We must bring together left and right, marinara and carbonara, John and Elizabeth Edwards. On United we stand, on US Airways, there’s a 25-minute delay.

Ladies and gentleman, I never expected to be speaking before you today. Like so many of our speakers at this convention, I come from a hard-working, middle-class family. I was leading a miserable little life, but, nevertheless, overcame great odds to live the American Dream. My great-grandfather fought in Patton’s Army, along with Barack Obama’s great-grand uncles’ fourth cousin once removed.

As a child, I was abandoned by my parents and lived with a colony of ants. We didn’t have much in the way of material possession, but we did have each other and the ability to carry far more than our own body weights. When I was young, I was temporarily paralyzed in a horrible anteater accident, but I never gave up my dream: the dream of speaking at a national political convention so my speech could be talked over by Wolf Blitzer and a gang of pundits.

And today we Democrats meet in Denver, a suburb of Boulder, a city whose motto is, “A Taxi? You Must be Dreaming.”

And in Denver, we Democrats showed America that we have cute daughters who will someday provide us with prestigious car-window stickers. We heard Hillary Clinton’s ringing endorsement of “the weak-looking thin guy who’s bound to lose.”

We heard from Joe Biden, whose 643 years in the Senate make him uniquely qualified to talk to the middle class, whose family has been riding the Acela and before that the Metroliner for generations, who has been given a lifetime ban from the quiet car and who is himself a verbal train wreck waiting to happen.

We got to know Barack and Michelle Obama, two tall, thin, rich, beautiful people who don’t perspire, but who nonetheless feel compassion for their squatter and smellier fellow citizens. We know that Barack could have gone to a prestigious law firm, like his big donors in the luxury boxes, but he chose to put his ego aside to become a professional politician, president of the United States and redeemer of the human race. We heard about his time as a community organizer, the three most fulfilling months of his life.

We were thrilled by his speech in front of the Greek columns, which were conscientiously recycled from the concert, “Yanni, Live at the Acropolis.” We were honored by his pledge, that if elected president, he will serve at least four months before running for higher office. We were moved by his campaign slogan, “Vote Obama: He’s better than you’ll ever be.” We were inspired by dozens of Democratic senators who declared their lifelong love of John McCain before denouncing him as a reactionary opportunist who would destroy the country.

No, this country cannot afford to elect John Bushmccain. Under Republican rule, locusts have stripped the land, adults wear crocs in public and M&M’s have lost their flavor. We must instead ride to the uplands of hope!

For as Barack Obama suggested Thursday night, wherever there is a president who needs to tap our natural-gas reserves, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a need for a capital-gains readjustment for targeted small businesses, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a president committed to direct diplomacy with nuclear proliferators, I’ll be there, too! God bless the Democrats, and God Bless America!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The History of W

Blinded by BDS we can't see straight... But one day we will

With the perpetual race for the White House building up to its crescendo as we speak it's nearly impossible to properly assess the current occupant's legacy. In fact it may take 30- 50 years before the book will be closed on George W. Bush.

Historian John Lewis takes the long view and wonders if we can be fair to the Bush presidency's historical significance without the filter of time. Read his article "Ending Tyranny" before you close the door on a consequential but flawed presidency- you may have a change of heart toward our 43rd president.

Without a doubt this Bush presidency was consequential. The same can't be said for all presidents. Looking back through the post WWII administrations few have been notably consequential in the long run.

Truman, without question had a profound and deeply misunderstood effect on the world. At the time he was very unpopular - with popularity numbers below GWB's. His was the administration that formed the doctrine that grew up to be known as the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine was the right thing to do and yet at the time hardly anyone was thrilled about it. Truman was held in much higher esteem in the subsequent 40 years, and rightly so.

Eisenhower presided over a period of general calm - the world was weary after a decade of war. The thought of Ike illicits little emotion one way or the other.

Kennedy, unfortunately, didn't reign long enough to have left much more than an emotional legacy. He recovered from mistakes his arrogance and inexperience led him into, but an assassins bullet preempted him from "changing" the world.

Johnson, well now, he had a profound and lasting effect alright... Vietnam and the Great Society. Johnson's administration was quite consequential, but in a very, very damaging way. The legacy of the Great Society still haunts us today. The decay and rot in our inner-cities is due in large part to Great Society policies. The stain of Vietnam has faded, but it is still an open sore in many quarters today.

Nixon: consequential in that he hurt the Republican party immensely. His policies and actions didn't change the country fundamentally. He will be a sorry figure in presidential history.


Carter was a result of Nixon. He was a disaster. Even the things that he did that were positive - like beginning deregulation, nominating Volker for the Federal Reserve - didn't seem to make an impression. He has spent the years since leaving office soiling his country and its leaders in foreign lands - oh, and building little houses.

Reagan was a result of Carter. Even though his time in office ended 20 years ago his impact on the country and the world can be assessed. Many critics still see him as a bumbling fool, scripted but otherwise disengaged. This was not true. Years after his presidency ended and his office was being closed down many hundreds of pages of his personal hand written papers and (radio) essays came into the light. He was a deep thinker who formed his own policies without a round table of consultants. He, without question, helped bring a resolution to the Cold War in America's favor. To this day his vision and belief system is cited by the new leaders of the nation-states that had been under Soviet dominance. Domestically he set in motion policies that led to a prolonged economic expansion that still lingers today. Reagan, if he did nothing else, made Americans feel good about their country and that was no small feat after 4 years of Carter telling us our best years were behind us.

Bush 41. He was an able administrator, but if you look up the word inconsequential in the dictionary his picture would be there.

Clinton also presided during time of relative calm as the Cold War wound down. It is far too early to fully assess his administration. Was his a consequential presidency? Hard to say of man who had no real over arching vision or strongly held belief system. He was and is a narcissist. The economy benefited from a so-called peace dividend and a technology boom - particularly in the run up up to Y2K. On the foreign front he let Carter drum up a bad deal with North Korea - when Carter had no right. He didn't react anywhere near boldly enough to the rise of violent terrorism. He allowed technology and financial deals to flow into Communist Chinese hands that may in time become profoundly dangerous to American interests and the American economy. It's just too early to tell about Clinton...

Then there is Bush 43. If nothing else he is a brave man. He took action, decisive action after 9/11 and has paid dearly for daring to engage an enemy that had smacked around the West with impunity for 2 decades.

It would be pointless for me to go into a long contentious prattle about Bush. In many ways his presidency is a failure. His biggest failure was his inability to communicate. The bully pulpit is a president's most important tool. But only time will tell if his biggest, boldest and most controversial act - the elimination of Saddam Hussein's barbarous government in Iraq - will be a positive for the Middle East and the world. I think it will be.

al Qaeda is severely impaired, decimated really, and due to its actions in post-Saddam Iraq has lost favor in much of the Muslim world. Bush can take pride in the rightouness of that.


Friday, August 22, 2008

In Defense of Minas Tirith

'click on the image for a larger view'

"In Defense of Minas Tirith"
24 X 30 (acrylic)

This is the product of my summer fishing trip described in an earlier post - Gone Fishing. This painting was commissioned by my son. It was inspired by a scene from the movie Lord of The Rings: Return of the King. The original image is found on the official web site. I truly enjoyed this project. The architectural detail and the play of light and shadow was at the same time challenging and satisfying. I was particularly happy with the way the stormy skies came out. I hope you enjoy it.

Please visit my online art gallery for more.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Vista Experiment...

... is over.

When I got a new computer I decided since it is part of my job (at work and in my personal life) to support computer users I should stay on the "cutting edge". I had Windows Vista Ultimate installed on my new laptop.

After taking over a week just to get a few client software packages loaded - considering that the productivity suite came pre-installed - I dug in and started to get to know all that was Vista!

As happens with every new operating system older software can have trouble loading and working. The one thing that Vista had that I applauded was the ability to install and run software as if it was on the older operating system. This actually seemed to work well. But that's where it ended for me.

Let me sum up my opinion of Windows Vista: What a piece of crap.

I am not a Microsoft basher at all. Even though I work with both UNIX and Linux regularly I did not find need to elevate them above what is the defacto standard desktop operating system. Since Windows XP SP2 has been a very, very good system for years I had gotten past any knee jerk Microsoft bashing. Solaris, Mac and Linux have become darlings because their basic under lying structures are modular and can, in a sense, protect the core operating system from "locking up", but they are also less useful in many respects. Windows tries (and mostly succeeds) in being all things to all people. Until Vista...

With Vista I had serious stability issues whenever I used my laptop as a laptop. Locked in the docking station it seemed to work OK, but ladies and gentleman it is a laptop! Crashing aside what bothered most me was a sense of value. Vista had no apparent value over XP SP2, none. All the fancy look and feel only made the computer boot and run slower than it should have.

On top of that the venerable Microsoft Office Suite that came pre-installed was simply horrible. In many ways it was needlessly changed making it ultimately less usable. Edit Copy, Edit Paste, Edit Select All, Edit Delete - it used to be just that easy. Not any more. Attention: Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates this was NOT an improvement.

I don't want to go into all the reasons I have given up on Vista, I just want to get my work done. I want to stop playing around on Google searching for ways to put Vista back to the way Windows used to be. FYI Classic View is not the answer either, believe me. And I know I am not alone; computer maker Dell will once again offer Windows XP on new systems, responding to customer complaints. The decision reverses a Vista-only policy the PC seller has moved to since the release of Microsoft's latest OS. The web is full of disgruntled Vista users. Corporations are seriously considering Linux for the desktop for the first time because the end of the Windows XP life cycle means they have to do something and going with Vista isn't it.

Plain and simple my friends, Vista sucks!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Will the Bubble Burst?

There is no doubt that the price pressure on a barrel of oil has subsided a bit it the last few weeks. Falling from a high of $147 (U.S.) to around $113 even as the crisis in Georgia was ramping up. We all know - or we should know - that the oil business is not only one of the most important aspects of any economy it is also one of the most complicated.

There has been volumes written on the part the oil speculators have had in all of this. I am one who believes speculation is definitely a large part of the run up in the per barrel price. I have only to cite the fact that New York Times economist Paul Krugman argues that it's not a speculative bubble, because there had been no build-up of inventory. If there is one thing you must know about Krugman is he is very nearly always wrong. The truth is there is excess inventory. Before the Saudi's substantially increased production (this after both the President and Vice President "asked" them to) and having learned Iran has been floating 30 million barrels in tankers there was no inventory crisis. Even after demand in the world's number one oil consumption economy fell for the first time in decades prices remained high. So, simple supply and demand could not have accounted for the huge run up in prices or this mild pull back.

It's safe to say speculation operates on a human emotional level which can't be divorced from the raw logic of economics 101.

There is a fine article in The Australian business section today that speaks about the psychology of the speculators:

Citigroup energy analyst Tim Evans argues inventories are already rising, with Iran storing 30 million barrels in ships offshore, because storage at its Kharg Island oil terminal is full. The International Energy Agency notes that at almost two months supply, OECD oil stocks are also above their five-year average level.

Evans cites the definition of speculative bubbles by Yale economist Robert Shiller, who says they arise when news of price increases spurs the enthusiasm of an ever larger class of investors who, despite doubts about the real value of the investment, "are drawn to it partly through envy of the other's successes and partly through a gambler's excitement".

Peak oil -- the theory that the world's oilfields are in irreversible decline -- was the elixir that got investors going.

But, speculation is not the whole story. The weak U.S. dollar is probably more responsible for this situation than anything else. It's hard to understand the seeming disinterest for so long in the value of the dollar by the Fed and the Bush administration. Sure there are winners and losers in every move by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury department, but as the weak dollar spurs oil prices higher absolutely offsetting any gains exporters might make it makes you wonder what the upside is... Besides huge profits for the oil companies and those hostile regimes that have nationalized their oil businesses. As the dollar has gained strength in the last few weeks the barrel price has fallen - cause and effect.

There was also the announcement by President Bush that he suspended the no-drill ban in continental waters. The Democrats have also hinted that they will loosen their grip on drilling bans. This may have forced speculators to realize that peak oil is not anything more than "political peak oil".

There is one positive to $4.00 a gallon gas. It has quelled some of the public acceptance of Global Warming as a serious and detrimental crisis worth killing the American economy over. If nothing else this was a taste of what is to come if the eco-nut burgers get their way.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

American Millionaire Murdered in Beijing

This is shocking and incredibly sad. While I obviously didn't know Todd Bachman I can't help but feel for him and his family. He was the CEO of an institution here in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Bachman's Garden Center has been around for as long as anyone can remember and we've all shopped there. My heart breaks for the family.

I see little mention of the man himself in the articles I've read. Except for the local newspapers the fact that he was a wealthy and successful businessman is hardly mentioned. There is speculation that the Chinese government has censored the local news of the murder - gee, that's hard to believe...

It's hard to know what to make of it - other than it should be a bigger story than it is. Perhaps this paragraph from's story explains why it isn't front page news for days:

The murder did not appear to have been pre-meditated. "It seems like a senseless act of violence by a random individual with no motive," says Richard Buangan, spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Beijing. "They were not targeted because they were Americans." The USOC said the victims had not been wearing any USA apparel. Still, athletes and officials walking around the village were stunned, and even a little afraid. Violence against foreigners is rare in Beijing and across China...

If it was terrorism or directly attributably to Mr. Bachman being an American (or a millionaire) then maybe this would be a true "international incident" in the eyes of the main stream press.

God Bless the Bachman's.


Friday, August 08, 2008

One Nation Under "O"

Yes He can... anything he wants. Is symbology even a word? It should be. Something about the study of symbols and symbolism, right?

Never before in American presidential politics has pure symbolism been taken to such heights. Barack Obama has either officially or unofficially spawned a marketing campaign unseen in this land since the pet rock. Selling the Obama brand of style over substance is all the rage in the smart set.

Some of this stuff is not the work of Obama or his "team". Some is the work of over zealous supporters and some the inevitable work of his detractors. Some of it is a natural reaction as pretty, young Obamicans are literally fainting and collapsing at his feet, while the media darlings swoon all over him. The funny and goofy stuff is completely understandable. When the candidate takes himself so seriously that he is incapable of any self-deprecation at all - then nothing is sacred.

On the other hand when the candidate himself has all the American flag decals removed from his official campaign plane in favor of his own logo it makes you wonder about his priorities. Are the stars and stripes safe in Obamanation?

Nearly everyone was a little taken aback when he trotted out his pre-presidential seal. Biting comments in the main stream media forced the Obama people to quietly retire it - but not before it became a "symbol" of his pretentiousness.

The latest that has passed my radar is the "Obama Salute". Yes, George W. Bush had his - the 3 finger salute in the form of a "W". Presumably a spontaneous incarnation by the President himself. Kinda neat, really. Of course you can't mention Bush without also a mention of Hitler, now can you? Adolph had his own salute. Heil Hitler! Remember that? We all watched Hogan's Heroes... Anyone, anyone, Bueller? OK, it was the arm straight out a 30 degree angle, palm facing down. C'mon you gotta remember that!

Well, it has come to my attention that a marketing firm has come up with an Obama "salute" that they are hoping spreads like wildfire. It is a pair of hands with fingers interlaced depicting a new and intriguing symbol. It is an "O", a zero, zip, nada, nothing.

If you really think about it - two hands with fingers interlaced can perform no actions, can accomplish nothing, and can hold, manipulate, and release nothing. This meaningless gesture is a admission that together we can accomplish nothing. Simply put, we are too busy trying to impress ourselves.

Honestly, I doubt Obama is behind this thing, but it only goes to show you that the anointed one has attracted the goofiest among us.

It makes you wonder if the people who support Obama have an elevator that even reaches the top floor???

We can only hope that a President Obama, once sufficiently mugged by reality, can be the Super "O" we all have dreamed about. A man who can propel us beyond the petty and back stabbing world modern politicians have occupied for as long as our memory serves. Long Live Super "O"!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gone Fishing


I'm taking some time off to go fishing with my son and his best buddy. The three of us head up to God's Country in northern Wisconsin every summer. If you've never been to northern Wisconsin in the summer you really are missing something. Although I live in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes here in Minnesota I really do love Wisconsin. It is a very different geography than the granite and jack pines of northern Minnesota.

The little lake we visit is chock full of small mouth bass of about the 1lb variety. The fish will mostly safe in the mornings... The boys will sleep in late while I have coffee and set up my easel and paint another masterpiece as the sunshine dances across the water. It will be very pleasant. After lunch (their breakfast) we take a swim and generally laze about. Come around 4PM we load up the boat and go fishing 'til sunset. The only trick is to find out what they're biting on this year.

See you in a week or so.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Can Mc-what-his-name Win?

After writing my last post (see below) I realized I too have contributed to the phenomena of Barack Obama in my own little way - based on the number of readers of this page - very little.

So, what about McCain? Can he win? He gets about 1/10th the press that Obama gets. He looks terrible, really terrible. He sounds bitter and frankly a bit out of touch sometimes. He was a media darling for 6 years while he denigrated the Bush Administration at every turn. Now, suddenly he's an awful little man who wants to spoil the Obama coronation. He has absolutely no momentum, no spark, no real message and yet... My God, the polls show him within striking distance.

I know of not one single person who is enthusiastically behind McCain, not one. There were plenty of people solidly behind George W. Bush both times. Isn't McCain supposed to have all this integrity and righteousness? Isn't he the anti-Bush? What gives?

Are people intuitively wary of the Obama phenomena? Is it the real and justifiable fear of creeping socialism that America rejects at the polls time after time now coming at them like a freight train? I hope so, but I honestly don't get it. Seriously, Barack should be at least 15 points up on McCain.

Either the polls are wildly off or the major media doesn't have the power it thinks it does. But then I look at the current administration. The media has relentlessly piled on Bush for 7 straight years. (GW's inarticulateness surely doesn't help). But they were similarly after Bill Clinton in his 2nd term and his wife in the recent primaries. So, yes the media has the power to influence. So, why is McCain hanging in there? The media clearly does not favor him...

Time will tell. I sure hope McCain can say or do something that will energize the electorate. Of course with the major media more or less ignoring his policy declarations he's going to have to do it with that effervescent personality of his!