Friday, December 26, 2008

Buy It Forward

So, I am sitting here racking my brains about what can be done to get the economy going again. By the way, I hope greater minds than mine are also being racked... Anyway, I think, or at least hope it is becoming clear that the way we pawns have been manipulated into spending our limited resources on things we really don't need for all these years is not only fool hardy but ultimately destructive. Time to move on from the conspicuous consumption model.

Yet it's consumers buying things and businesses investing and selling things that keeps us all employed and well fed. This is basic structure of the world we live in, this is reality and it's not going change anytime soon. We really do not want a world where the government essentially tells us what we need and then supplies it for us. Nothing good will come of a socialized marketplace and economic model. So, we need to remake the world with what we already have - because so much of it is good - we wouldn't tear down a sturdy house just to remodel it.

We have all by now heard the term "pay it forward". It was popularized most recently by a book of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde and a movie staring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. The concept is not so new as this. In 1951 Sci-fi legend Robert A. Heinlein in his book 'Between Planets' popularized the term and personally lived this doctrine. Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22, 1784:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

So the concept is not so alien to the human condition as there have always been people in need and those with good hearts able to help without demanding recompense. With this in mind I began fleshing out something I would call "Buy It Forward".

Buy It Forward

Doing a good turn by helping someone out with a favor or paying a debt is all well and good but to revive the economy things need to be bought and sold. As mentioned, buying things we really don't need and drowning ourselves in conspicuous consumption is pointless and ultimately unsatisfying. Why not buy something for someone else? Something they really need...

What I envisioned is a 'CraigsList' sort of thing. While I have not fleshed out any details I see an all voluntary system national in scope but local in practice like CraigsList. Those in need could post up requests including compelling details and those with means could voluntarily fulfill the requests with new "store bought" items after judging for themselves the veracity of the requester. Obviously fraud and abuse would be the major problems with something like this. Fraud and abuse would probably doom an unsophisticated deployment. The last thing I want is crimes being committed and lawyers getting involved.

A second thought would be to try to establish local "Buy It Forward Chapters" through places like Churches and community organizations . The chapters would be loosely bound by standard concepts and completely voluntary for any member of said organization. Again, I don't have specific details - I'm just trying to come up with a concept.

The basic point is there are a lot of people out there who need things and there are a lot of people out there with money and good hearts that really don't need more things cluttering their lives. What Buy It Forward would hope to do is get them together and also drive the economy forward which will be good for all people.

The truth is that the best solution for poverty is prosperity. Strong and rational economic growth is the key, but buying "stuff" just to spend, spend, spend is more destructive than good. However, buying stuff to help someone in need is downright righteous!

I would love to hear some thoughts on this idea - crazy? misguided? brilliant? wonderful?

Please write me at If it is something that could be done - for all the right reasons - then we should put it out there and maybe it will snowball into something fantastic.

Craig Willms
St. Paul MN

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Prosperity: So Long, Its Been Good to Know 'Ya

If you would, do me a favor and Google the phrase "end of prosperity". If ever there has been a consensus on the subject of economics this is it. More than any other economic downturn in my 47 years on this Earth this one has elicited the greatest pessimism. Truth be told it's all rather unsettling.

According to the U.S. — not to mention Western Europe — is in the grip of a downward spiral that financial experts call deleveraging. Arthur Lafer and Stephen Moore tell us in their book "The End of Prosperity" that the rest of the world is following the American economic growth model of lower tax rates, more economic freedom, and sound money. Paradoxically, one country is moving away from these growth policies and putting its prosperity at risk -- America. In his OP-ED piece "The End of Prosperity" Stephen Lendman quotes Marc Faber's "Gloom Boom and Doom" report. "I think first we'll have a bout of deflation that will actually be quite substantial, but then the budget deficits will go through the roof and the Fed will print even more money (so that) later on we'll have very high inflation." Last week in a single edition of the Wall Street Journal every headline in the finance section was negative.

What in the hell is happening here?

If you ask the folks in my parents generation it seems quite clear to them why this has happened. These folks lived in an America that built things. They will sadly point out the America they knew is truly gone. Today with one of the last of the heavy industries - the auto manufacturing business in the throes of its waning days I find it hard to argue with them.

In this WalMart generation where manufacturers big and small have been compelled (or coerced) to move their manufacturing to China or other points offshore in the name of cheap labor America has lost much of itself. The greatest generation fears for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Many of their own children successfully made the transition from the manufacturing age to the information age. They have been servicing the slow decline of the American manufacturing sector and all its ancillaries. But even the information age worker is seeing a morbid transformation of his skills into a commodity that can be filled by better educated, lower waged, and outsource-able talent from overseas. The fortunate few young people who can afford a university education have preferred law degrees and business majors over engineering and hard science majors. Honestly, do we really need any more lawyers.

If you ask folks in my generation what has happened you will find most of us are speechless, shell shocked more or less. We have made the leap from the 19th century the 21st century and now find there are absolutely no laurels to rest on. Those of us who have educated ourselves, found meaningful work, bought the house, had the kids and tried to do all the right things in this hyper-paced world have found that everything we have been programed to believe is a sham. They said buy a house, they urged us to invest in our 401Ks, we must save for college and most importantly spend, spend, spend.

After 25 years what did it get us? The house is hardly worth what we owe on it, the 401K has less than one year of living expenses in today's dollars, tuition for one semester gobbled up everything in the account. Then there is, of course, that mountain of debt. Wow, this is just great.

Are we really seeing the end of prosperity? Who or what is truly to blame? The peevish, cynical and intellectually lazy will say it was Bush of course, but they would be wrong - or at least mostly wrong. Bush failed because he let himself become completely marginalized. He backed many policies the Democrats would have loved had they hailed from a Democratic administration. As it was his opponents and their toadies in the media were never going to give him accolades, never.

The current subprime mortgage mess that is at the heart of the economic meltdown can trace its origins to the Clinton years. Yet it could have been stamped out years ago had the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress pushed hard for the regulatory reforms they proposed, but alas, they didn't. The GSE's - Fannie and Freddie - were out of control and everyone in Washington knew it. Since 2003, the Administration was calling for a new GSE regulator, and over the next five years, the Administration continued to call for GSE reform only to be accused by Democrats in Congress of creating artificial fears and fomenting racism and classism. Had Bush displayed any fight at all on this subject it would have gotten done. He failed and so here we are.

So, when housing prices collapsed it sucked out all the capital that had been supporting every other sector of the economy. Simple as that, really. When the banking and investment institutions that had thrived on it began their precipitous avalanche precisely when oil prices began to skyrocket driving the cost for food and everything else to new heights it constituted the perfect storm. With a touch of corruption at every level of business and government and a sprinkle of a media driven liars-fest called a presidential election pure psychology finished the job. We all got screwed.

In all reality we do have to spend, spend, spend as consumers and as businesses to keep the economy viable and growing. But we can't go on like we have before. For the American middle class - don't kid yourselves there are still plenty of us - one of the biggest problems we have is what to do with all this junk we have accumulated. For 30 years we have been buying stuff we don't really need and then buying bigger houses with bigger garages to put it all in.

The perpetual rising values of our new overstuffed homes was essentially a bank account we leveraged to buy more stuff we either didn't need or couldn't really afford. It's a mentality that has to change. The real question is what to replace it with? No one really has the answer to that. Does it mean that the America we knew is over? Maybe.

One of things that has to change is the tax system. We have a tax system that absolutely punishes personal savings. We have a tax system on our businesses that punishes profits. It's a tax system that has spawned entire industries and corporate strategies to "creatively" do work arounds to avoid paying taxes. It wastes time and energy and for the most part is patently stupid. Why are our non-labor intensive corporations compelled to move their headquarters and operations to other countries and offshore tax havens? Insane tax laws. In the end the government sees even less revenue from the corporations and consequently less income tax revenue because the jobs have gone too. We need a leader who can throw off the shackles of the special interests and gather the American people behind the idea of rational and realistic tax laws.

We now have to wait and see if Mr. Obama is a pragmatist or a pure partisan. His campaign rhetoric suggested the later. His partisan credentials suggests higher taxes all around and more government socialism than we already have. The worst possible outcome - and right now the most likely - is the complete loss of trust in our government and our businesses. We need corporate leaders and government officials to shun corruption, embrace transparency and do what is right for society instead of continuing to be what is wrong it. The rest of us are pawns - if that isn't clear by now you are not paying attention.

We the people have to save more (which is damn near impossible now) and be much, much wiser about our spending. No one likes austerity, wealth is so much nicer, but we must all be pragmatists now.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SHORT STORY: Presidential Decency

Please take a minute to read this short story. I can't verify its authenticity, but I personally have no doubt that it's true since I have read similar stories about President Bush. He did in fact visit the air force base on his way to Asia...

This short story was linked in the comment section of this American Thinker article "The simple human decency of George Bush" by Rick Moran posted on Dec 22 2008.


Posted by: Rob Hains
Dec 22, 02:01 PM

The Value of Service

Lt. Col. Mark Murphy, 354th Maintenance Group deputy commander.

8/15/2008 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- I learned a big lesson on service Aug. 4, 2008, when Eielson had the rare honor of hosting President Bush on a refueling stop as he traveled to Asia.

It was an event Eielson will never forget -- a hangar full of Airmen and Soldiers getting to see the Commander in Chief up close, and perhaps even shaking his hand. An incredible amount of effort goes into presidential travel because of all of the logistics, security, protocol, etc ... so it was remarkable to see Air Force One land at Eielson on time at precisely 4:30 p.m.--however, when he left less than two hours later, the President was 15 minutes behind schedule.

That's a big slip for something so tightly choreographed, but very few people know why it happened. Here's why.

On Dec. 10, 2006, our son, Shawn, was a paratrooper deployed on the outskirts of Baghdad. He was supposed to spend the night in camp, but when a fellow soldier became ill Shawn volunteered to take his place on a nighttime patrol--in the convoy's most exposed position as turret gunner in the lead Humvee. He was killed instantly with two other soldiers when an IED ripped through their vehicle.

I was thinking about that as my family and I sat in the audience listening to the President's speech, looking at the turret on the up-armored Humvee the explosive ordnance disposal flight had put at the edge of the stage as a static display.

When the speech was over and the President was working the crowd line, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a White House staff member. She asked me and my wife to come with her, because the President wanted to meet us.

Stunned, we grabbed our two sons that were with us and followed her back into a conference room. It was a shock to go from a crowded, noisy hangar, past all of those security people, to find ourselves suddenly alone in a quiet room.

The only thing we could hear was a cell phone vibrating, and noticed that it was coming from the jacket Senator Stevens left on a chair. We didn't answer.

A short time later, the Secret Service opened the door and President Bush walked in. I thought we might get to shake his hand as he went through. But instead, he walked up to my wife with his arms wide, pulled her in for a hug and a kiss, and said, "I wish I could heal the hole in your heart." He then grabbed me for a hug, as well as each of our sons. Then he turned and said, "Everybody out."

A few seconds later, the four of us were completely alone behind closed doors with the President of the United States and not a Secret Service agent in sight.

He said, "Come on, let's sit down and talk." He pulled up a chair at the side of the room, and we sat down next to him. He looked a little tired from his trip, and he noticed that his shoes were scuffed up from leaning over concrete barriers to shake hands and pose for photos. He slumped down the chair, completely relaxed, smiled, and suddenly was no longer the President - he was just a guy with a job, sitting around talking with us like a family member at a barbeque.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes, he talked with us about our son, Iraq, his family, faith, convictions, and shared his feelings about nearing the end of his presidency. He asked each of our teenaged sons what they wanted to do in life and counseled them to set goals, stick to their convictions, and not worry about being the "cool" guy.

He said that he'd taken a lot of heat during his tenure and was under a lot of pressure to do what's politically expedient, but was proud to say that he never sold his soul. Sometimes he laughed, and at others he teared up. He said that what he'll miss most after leaving office will be his role as Commander in Chief.

One of the somber moments was when he thanked us for the opportunity to meet, because he feels a heavy responsibility knowing that our son died because of a decision he made. He was incredibly humble, full of warmth, and completely without pretense. We were seeing the man his family sees.

We couldn't believe how long he was talking to us, but he seemed to be in no hurry whatsoever. In the end, he thanked us again for the visit and for the opportunity to get off his feet for a few minutes. He then said, "Let's get some pictures." The doors flew open, Secret Service and the White House photographer came in, and suddenly he was the President again. We posed for individual pictures as he gave each of us one of his coins, and then he posed for family pictures. A few more thank yous, a few more hugs, and he was gone.

The remarkable thing about the whole event was that he didn't have to see us at all. If he wanted to do more, he could've just given a quick handshake and said, "Thanks for your sacrifice." But he didn't - he put everything and everyone in his life on hold to meet privately with the family of a Private First Class who gave his life in the service of his country.

What an incredible lesson on service. If the President of the United States is willing to drop everything on his plate to visit with a family, surely the rest of us can do it. No one is above serving another person, and no one is so lofty that he or she can't treat others with dignity and respect.


If you didn't feel something after reading this you are either 1.) dead 2.) suffer from terminal BDS. As another comment suggested - George Bush could find the cure for cancer and AIDS, and then single-handedly bring peace between Israel and Palestine and the chattering classes (the left) still would hold him in [utter] contempt. Despite rumors to the contrary George W. Bush does have a heart.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is The Internet in Trouble?

My profession is in large enterprise networking. Much of my work in the last few years has been to leverage the power of the Internet for my employer. In that regard there is much to be gained building relationships and collaborative ventures with business partners, vendors and customers via the Internet. Everyone is doing it.

However, it is unwise for any business to put all their eggs in one basket. There are growing concerns that the Internet as it is constructed is reaching its limit. As well known Internet architect-guru John Day once said: "The Internet architecture has been fundamentally flawed from the beginning. It's a demo that was never finished."

With all the talk of net-neutrality and IPv6 and the coming exponential growth of demand as TV, movies and newspapers move inexorably to an Internet distribution model it's almost inevitable that we are heading for a crash. Some say as early as 2012.

Today's Internet was mainly designed together with the TCP and IP protocols in the 1970s and early 1980s. TCP or Transmission Control Protocol and its famous three way handshake is what has made the Internet as reliable as it is today. It has inherent error checking built in that ensures that the data/content you requested is delivered. IP or Internet Protocol shows TCP the way. You may have heard the term IP address in your computing career - and that's exactly what it is - an address that points the way to your computer. For all intents and purposes it's hardly any different than the street address on your house. But just like back before the days of postal zip codes in 50's and 60's the system is becoming too large for something as quaint as IPv4.

For a while network address translation or NAT together with CIDR and VLSM helped stave off the inevitable depletion of available IP addresses. NAT allowed you to do a "many to one" scenario behind an Internet connected firewall so that from a web server's stance hundreds or thousands of connections all appeared to coming from the same address. The firewall would maintain a table of private addresses to deliver the request "inside" to a unique computer. CIDR and VLSM in a nutshell allowed network engineers to carve up large networks and route the traffic efficiently without wasting address space. OK that's a lot of mumbo jumbo that basically describes a band aid.

The problem now is that what we are doing and what we want to do with the Internet is going to bring the current architecture to its knees. In today's Internet, a URL or web site name first must resolve to an IP address - a street number if you will, and then to a well-known port, like say, an apartment number for example. If a system has multiple interfaces (such as when it's multihomed - a computer with more than one address for the same physical place), it has multiple aggregate-able IP addresses. The Internet routers can't tell, however, that these different addresses go to the same place (because there's no defined mechanism for this), the system has to be assigned a non-aggregate-able address, which increases everyone's router-table size. In practice, that means that either most users can't use multihoming, or routing tables must increase causing a strain on an rickety system. The system as it was designed is revealing its limits.

In the case of raw bandwidth there is good news. With fiber optic cable having been put down with abandon in the late 90's by Qwest, Global Crossing, AT&T and others we should have bandwidth to spare. That's all fine and well, but what good is a super highway with billions of unicyclists going every-which-way without guard rails and coherent signage.

IPv6, the next generation of IP protocol will not in and of itself solve the problems of mutihoming or network mobility, but rather shine the light on the Internet's inherent transport limitations. One of the biggest challenges surrounding adopting IPv6 is that nearly all the applications in use today are potentially impacted. Each and everyone one of them would need to be explicitly enabled to work with IPv6. We can't underestimate what a huge challenge that would be. Considering what I know of human nature there will be gazillion widely deployed and beloved applications that will never, ever be upgraded. Essentially the de facto APIs in use today are more or less tied to TCP/IP rather than along the lines of - ConnectTo: DNS name, service or port. Have you heard the term - painted into a corner?

What many in my field euphemistically call PFM (Pure Friggin Magic) to explain how all this Internet stuff works in a fashion that is greater than a sum of all its parts, we will be left standing mouth agape with our keyboards in hand when the bottom finally falls out. Just knowing how people go absolutely ape when their e-mail doesn't work it will not be hard to imagine what will happen when commerce comes to halt on The Day The World Wide Web Stood Still!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Bush Flamed by a Shoe Thrower

I share this from the Ace of Spades HQ blogsite not because I think this incident was really very important, it was not, but because I thought the comment section was interesting and funny. I have included one of those comments allegedly submitted by an Indian national turned US citizen. Comment # 143 drips with passion and incredulity at the way we (Americans) tear ourselves and this country down. There is a time when we need to step back and see the world through a different pair of eyes...

Bush Visits Iraq UPDATE: More On Bush's Reaction To The Shoes
This is probably as close to a victory celebration as the President is likely to get. Slipping out of the White House over the weekend, Bush flew secretly to the Iraqi capital to hold talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and address a rally of U.S. troops.

"Bush has come to meet Iraqi leaders, thank the troops and celebrate the new security agreement," a White House official said.
Bush arrived first by helicopter at the presidential palace for talks with President Jalal Talabani and his two vice-presidents. He planned to meet later with Maliki. Bush's trip -- his fourth to Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion -- follows approval of a security pact between Washington and Baghdad last month that paves the way for U.S. forces to withdraw by the end of 2011.

Unlike previous visits which were so secret that there were no official welcoming ceremonies, this time there were.

Sadly, the host of the Iraqi version of Countdown was on hand and tried to attack the President.
The president's appearance was interrupted by a man, apparently a journalist, who leapt to his feet and threw his shoe at the president, who ducked and thus narrowly missed being struck. Chaos ensued. The [man] threw a second shoe, which also narrowly missed the president. The president was at no point injured and he brushed off the incident. "All I can report is it is a size 10." The pool's Iraqi colleague said the man shouted, "This is a farewell kiss, dog."

/sarcasm on/Apparently the man and his family were arrested, his wife raped in front of him and then the entire family was thrown screaming into a wood chipper. Oh sorry, that's what would have happened if this brave Iraqi patriot had tried this during Saddam's reign. /sarcasm off/

No one likes to have their country invaded and patrolled by a foreign military, even if it's for a their own long term good but maybe this guy should think about why he suddenly is so courageous and who made that possible.

Meantime, no doubt many on the left are cheering this asshat. The world turned upside down my friends.

UPDATE: Gee, I wonder why this part was left out of the earlier reports:
Some Iraqi journalists stood up to apologize. The White House said Bush ducked to avoid the first shoe, while the second narrowly missed the president. Bush said: "Thanks for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. If you want the facts, it was a size 10 shoe that he threw".

Playing down the incident, the president later added: "I don't know what the guy's cause is... I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it." This is the the second classiest way for Bush to have handled it. The classiest way? Bush pulls a dagger out of his waistband and flings directly into the guy's heart and shoe chucker is dead before he hits the ground (which incidentally is exactly how Dick Cheney would have handled it).

Posted by: DrewM. at 02:38 PM

Comment #143
I am really amazed and saddened by the division in this country. It is no surprise that the whole world blames US for all evil in the world when we have an abiding media and a growing number of people in our own country who would waste no time in blaming USA first. A house divided is seen as weak and vulnerable. Our own media would take every opportunity or create if there are not enough, to downplay this great nation and make it a mockery for the rest of the world.

I am an immigrant from India and I have always admired this country for the freedoms and opportunities it has to offer. There is no other nation for which people are willing to stand in long lines in the blistering heat outside embassies to get a chance to enter this nation, some are even willing to die crossing the border to somehow make it to the land of opportunities.

Around the world and at every corner, nations are in an eternal chaos and have their own internal battles and demons to fight. Take India for example, we are engaged in an unrelenting war with radical jihadism, and we were recently attacked by this fanatic cult. Indians were anguished and angry and wanted to retaliate like America, but our spineless leaders came out and condemned the attacks and gave only speeches. In the last two years alone, there have over 5000 ppl killed in bombings and suicide attacks in India, but the leaders of india wanted a peaceful resolution reflecting the sensibilities and resolve of that L****** "mahatma" gandhi. what did we acheive, more bombings, attack on our congress, massacre in mumbai, and more to follow.

Peace is only possible with peaceful people not with someone who are itching to exterminate you.
Bush may be a lot of things, but he had the courage to stand up to this growing and imminent threat and had the resolve to not back down even when the political winds reversed course and slapped him in the face at every turn. Bush has the necessary attributes that Indians only wish there leaders could have. For a better grip on reality and a grasp on the breadth of threat of radical Islam awaiting the shores of this country, ask an Indian or an Israeli.

I hope this country is prepared under infantile Obama to take this threat head on.

Posted by: Manu Saini at December 15, 2008 02:47 AM (WKpuS)

We will soon find out how the new President will handle terrorism against the U.S. since it's likely he will be tested despite Joe Biden's stern warnings. For all his faults, and there are plenty, Bush acted swiftly and harshly toward Islamic terrorists and their state sponsors. They have been reduced to throwing shoes.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Let the Obama Scandals Begin

The Question(s) Should Have Been Asked...

The media, and the electorate for that matter, were so in love with Barack "the Savior" Obama that important questions were not asked and basic vetting was not performed.

The first question the investigative press should have asked is how one rises so fast and so high through the world famous Chicago political machine without getting tainted? Well, one doesn't. The major media purposefully dropped the ball on this. They had well over a year to tell the story of the rise of Barack Obama but didn't. Curiously within minutes of Sarah Palin's entry into the campaign legions of investigative reporters were dispatched to that bastion of political corruption known as Wasilla Alaska.

Before Obama even takes the oath of office he is tainted by scandal. This must be some kind of record. It is almost too bizarre to be true - the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich puts the President-Elect's vacated Senate seat up for sale to the highest bidder. Obama's favorite Jesse Jackson Jr. is reported to have offered a half a million through third parties. Of course everyone (except Blagojevich) is denying any involvement whatsoever. Don't buy any of it.

This is the way things get done in Chicago. It has been this way for as long as anyone can remember. Payoffs, nepotism and cronyism is the Chicago way. Can we believe that Obama somehow rose above it all? We already know that Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is neck deep in this thing. (Rahm also had a role in the Fannie Mae debacle too, but the media doesn't seem to care about that either.)

Obama and Blagojevich have a history of personal involvement with each others campaigns. Obama acted as an advisor on Blagojevich’s first run at the governor's office and endorsed the governor again in 2006, but said Tuesday that he has had no recent contact with him. Again, this is the way things are done in Democratic party politics in Chicago. With one hand it's back scratching and with the other waving off any knowledge of impropriety.

The question now is will the press be as agressive toward an Obama "scandal" as they were with Bush's or Clinton's scandals? This rises so far above the phony baloney scandal of the outing of a non-covert CIA operative that dominated the chattering class for over a year. The 21st century media wanted their own Watergate and their own Nixon. The fact that they knew early on that neither Bush nor Cheney (not even Karl Rove) had a bloody thing to do with it really didn't matter now did it? And just maybe Obama really did steer clear of Blagojevich and the Chicago political machine... Yeah, and maybe one day pigs will have wings.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

PAINTING: Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

"Eagle Harbor Lighthouse"
18X24 (acrylic)

Here's a new painting for your pleasure. I was really pleased with the way this one turned out. For some reason I really like lighthouses as art. I suppose it's the beauty of human architecture against the awesome background of the natural world. This painting was based on a photo by Paul Lemke. I hope you enjoy.

[be sure to click on the picture or a larger view]

Please visit my online art gallery when you have a minute. Thanks!


Saturday, December 06, 2008

How Convenient...

...that after flying high for five years despite the best efforts of the doom saying media the national and global economy has rapidly ("rapidly" being the key term here) deteriorated just in time for Barack Obama to ride to the rescue. As noted in an earlier post, and by bloggers all over the blogosphere, just a scant two years ago, about the time the Democrats took over control of both houses of Congress the economy was doing quite well, thank you. I'm just saying...

Capitalism has been given a black eye, the titans of industry and finance have either been tarred as creepy, greedy sleazeballs or reduced to beggars rattling their tin cups on Capitol Hill. The conservative mantra of free-markets, low taxes and small, efficient government is a complete joke (not that much of this has been tried in the last 8 years). While applauding his tax cuts, we cringed as President Bush presided over the most rapid expansion of government in U.S. history. Talking free trade and open markets out of one side of his mouth and steel tariffs and lopsided trade balances with every single trading partner out of the other. In the real world they call it bait and switch.

So true capitalism with its free markets, free trade and limited government has never really been tried in post radical America and yet it has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the voting public. Can you blame them? The only time we saw anything approaching it was a few years during the Reagan Revolution and then again when the Gingrich led Republican's "Contract for America" got some help from the most unlikely of sources - the Clinton Administration.

So now enter Barack Obama. The stage is set for the Savior. Depending how far and deep this economic malaise descends we could be seeing the beginning of the most radical paradigm shift in American culture since the signing of the Constitution. In fact it is the Constitution itself that Obama plans to target.

The question is: will he be content to let his judges do it over time? Highly unlikely.

Melanie Phillips of London's The Spectator has an eye opening piece that spells out what the Obamakins have in store for America. Read all of this important article "Ruling by a Radical".

Ms. Phillips directs our attention to this:
look at the latest email Camp Obama has sent to the 13 million-plus names on its database of supporters:

Exactly one month ago, you made history by giving all Americans a real opportunity for change. Now it's time to start preparing and working for change in our communities. On December 13th and 14th, supporters are coming together in every part of the country to reflect on what we've accomplished and plan the future of this movement. Your ideas and feedback will be collected and used to guide this movement in the months and years ahead.Join your friends and neighbors -- sign up to host or attend a Change is Coming house meeting near you. Since the election, the challenges we face -- and our responsibility to take action -- have only gotten more urgent.

A house meeting? Real grassroots stuff here. Eerily similar to the early Soviet system. Problem is in America our civic policies are debated in formal and public forums called city councils and state and federal legislatures. Personally I find it a bit creepy.

Perhaps the most chilling thing Phillips offers is this:

[Communist and radical Saul Alinsky, a hero to Obama,] believed that the revolution had to be carried out through stealth and deception with its proponents cultivating an image of centrism and pragmatism, set out in Rules for Radicals how capitalism would be overthrown by the mobilization of the masses and the whipping up of their discontent. As I noted here, the strategy revolved around creating apparently moderate local organizations that would be manipulated by community organizers -- effectively deniable political agitators -- to foment grievance and dissent.

Watching Obama appoint a series of seemingly reasonable centrists to his cabinet surely has fostered a notion that he is not the radical the right-wing has made him out to be. Not so fast. Barack Obama has been trained from an early age by the leading communists of our time. Can a Zebra change its stripes? Can a scorpion resist using its stinger. It is the nature of a communist to be subversive.

Lord knows I hope both Melanie Phillips and I are completely wrong.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Meltdown: America's Waning Days?

It is so hard to be positive and optimistic about the future. For years leading up to the current fix we find ourselves in I simply rejected the doomsayers - and for good reason. For one, I was not ready to give up on America, Mother, apple pie and Chevrolet. Two, at the time the evidence didn't support such a pessimistic outlook. I believe we are as much a victim of self-fulfilling prophesies as we are being slapped by reality. How much of today's market meltdown and consumer (un)confidence is pure psychology? Much of it?

The things I personally believed in such as the American middle class lifestyle, free-market capitalism, the Catholic Church, GM cars, rock music, meat-based diets, conservatism, cheap gas, rising incomes, the Minnesota dream( a lake front cabin w/a boat) and happy, well adjusted children are all under assault these days. Nothing we have been programed to take for granted is safe anymore. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

The question is: Is it over for America?

Maybe not. Even when you consider that we have huge and looming problems as a nation our starting point as compared to the rest of the world is our ace in the whole. It has been said that when America catches a cold the rest of the world gets pneumonia. I think this is mostly true considering that the subprime mortgage disaster that set off this economic tailspin occurred in the U.S. and has now affected the entire global economy. Amazingly America has prospered despite everything the Congress, the unions and big business has done to neuter our competitiveness with our foreign rivals. Of course there is only so much even the remarkable resilience of the American backbone can withstand. We may be buckling, but so is the rest of the world.

According to Rod Hunter of The American Magazine "Demographic and economic trends suggest that the age of American dominance won’t end anytime soon."

Mr. Hunter goes on to point out some important trends that face economic giants in Europe and Japan and the emerging giants of China and India that do not favor a massive hegemony shift. In his article "America is Not Declining" he points to Robert Shapiro the author of "Futurecast" who cites analysis that suggests the United States will remain the leading global power, but Europe, Japan, and China, meanwhile, have reason to worry.

He goes on to report:
In Europe and Japan, where labor forces are already shrinking, fewer workers will have to pay more taxes to support the growing pensioner population, triggering a vicious economic cycle. Workers will have less money to save. That will mean less investment, which will translate into slower productivity growth and sluggish income progress, making it ever harder for the fewer workers to support the pensions of more seniors.
China will face similar challenges. Thanks to its notorious one-child policy, it has the world’s most rapidly aging population: between 2005 and 2020, the number of Chinese aged 65 and over will grow by 65 percent. China does not offer much government support for its elderly, which may lead to unrest, particularly among seniors living in urban centers such as Beijing and Shanghai.
The United States faces a more encouraging demographic future. To be sure, it will need to make adjustments and reform its entitlement programs. But America has maintained higher fertility rates than the countries of Europe and Japan, and its population has been rejuvenated by two generations of high immigration.

Similar aurguments were made in Mark Steyn's bestselling book "America Alone". Steyn went on to highlight the assent of non-productive (in the Western economic sense) Muslim populations in Europe that will further erode the fragile welfare states of France, Germany and England.

Where Russia and India are concerned one is most likely to decline precipitously while the other will slowly improve. Russia faces a severe demographic problem that is unlikely to be reversed particularly if a prolonged global recession devastates Russia's energy industry - it's all they have.

India on the other hand will one day eclipse China in population and will have such a servere poverty problem that their global economic progress will be hampered. However, since turning away from rabid socialism they have attracted foreign investment that can tap into a growing educated class which bodes well for long term Indian prospects.

I still have hope for this country. I believe in the American experiment and that a well tempered capitalist approach to economics is preferable to full fledged socialism. We need to work on the "well tempered" part. Who knows what will get with Obama, Reid and Pelosi???

Godspeed to us all.