Monday, August 31, 2009

New Painting: The Stutzman Farm House

"The Stutzman Farm House"

18X24 (acrylic)
(click on the image for a larger view)
Inspired by an Ester Stutzman photo.

This was commissioned by my wife for a family member with fond memories of the farm.

Please visit my online art gallery to see more of my paintings when you have a minute.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

What He Said...

Mark Steyn says it so well...

In the wake of the passing of Ted Kennedy we are only going to see and hear what the MSM feels is "appropriate". If, like Michael Jackson's, any of Mr. Kennedy's less than honorable transgressions are mentioned don't blink or cough - you will miss them.

Well Mark Steyn is not afraid and he sums it up nicely in his Orange County Register column of Aug 28th.

As Teddy's biographer Adam Clymer wrote, Edward Kennedy's "achievements as a senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne."

You can't make an omelet without breaking chicks, right? I don't know how many lives the senator changed – he certainly changed Mary Jo's – but you're struck less by the precise arithmetic than by the basic equation: How many changed lives justify leaving a human being struggling for breath for up to five hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy's Oldsmobile? If the senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been OK to leave a couple more broads down there? Hey, why not? At the Huffington Post, Melissa Lafsky mused on what Mary Jo "would have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history … Who knows – maybe she'd feel it was worth it." What true-believing liberal lass wouldn't be honored to be dispatched by that death panel?

We are all flawed, and most of us are weak, and in hellish moments, at a split-second's notice, confronting the choice that will define us ever after, many of us will fail the test. Perhaps Mary Jo could have been saved; perhaps she would have died anyway. What is true is that Edward Kennedy made her death a certainty.

Thank you Mark. Nicely put. Now, I have never, ever been a fan of this Kennedy at all. He may have been a swell guy if one had gotten to know him personally. All I know is his over the top bloviations that put him on par with the most vehement talk radio hosts generally turned my stomach. Yet his adorers have marked this as the end of civility in the body politic. Steyn begs to differ:

An NPR listener said the senator's passing marked "the end of civility in the U.S. Congress." Yes, indeed. Who among us does not mourn the lost "civility" of the 1987 Supreme Court hearings? Considering the nomination of Judge Bork, Ted Kennedy rose on the Senate floor and announced that "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit down at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution."

Whoa! "Liberals" (in the debased contemporary American sense of the term) would have reason to find Borkian jurisprudence uncongenial but to suggest the judge and former solicitor-general favored resegregation of lunch counters is a slander not merely vile but so preposterous that, like his explanation for Chappaquiddick, only a Kennedy could get away with it. If you had to identify a single speech that marked "the end of civility" in American politics, that's a shoo-in.

Again, so well said. That was the moment the American Cold Civil War began.

So long Mr. Kennedy. I hope you made peace with your maker because you didn't make peace here on this Earth.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Spike Strips

Caution: what follows is a rambling but not necessarily incoherent thought stream.

Have you heard? All our assumptions about capitalism and free market economies - - basically the Milton Friedman "Chicago" school of economics has been discredited. For decades we had been duped into believing that Reagan style economics, owing much of its basic tenants to Friedman's philosophies was a panacea, the end all, the be all for the American economy. Main Stream News Flash!!! Reaganomics is dead, a complete failure of massive proportions.

Yet we had nearly thirty years of economic growth that not only saw the real wealth in the U.S. increase exponentially, but also heretofore unseen wealth burgeoning in Asia as well as a massive reduction in poverty worldwide.

Don't kid yourselves we still live very rich lives in America, at least for now. Even with millions of jobs transferred to China and millions more taken by illegal aliens the middle class in the U.S. still lives quite well. Seems impossible, even implausible since we are constantly told the American dream is dead and life here is inherently unfair.

Have no fear our rescuers are here now.

These are the people who threw the spike strips into the middle of the road and then pointed to capitalism's flat tires as evidence that free market paradigm is going nowhere fast. They are selling a government solution to everything - that solution has a name... Fairness.

Fairness runs on square wheels. Now that may not be efficient but four equal sides is the definition of fair!

These are the people who want to limit the salaries of corporate executives but wouldn't think of imposing these same limits on movies stars or athletes whose salaries are, let's face it, obscene. For one the multi-million dollar athlete is making 100's of times what the towel boy is making - is that fair? The pampered and spoiled movie actor makes 100's of times what the lowly best boy makes. Fair? I think not.

Athletes play games and actors are playing make believe. These folks without a doubt generate a lot of ancillary economic activity as do many, many corporate executives. So why is the corporate executive singled out? Is it because some industries and institutions get bailed out with public money? But athletes don't? C'mon every city bends over backward to build infrastructure and stadiums for sports stars.

Fairness is a lousy justifier. It's a lousy motivator too, but it sounds good and people buy into it. That is until the wheels come off. The point is until real free market principles are honored again and real oversight and (reasonable) regulation is imposed we are in for a very rough road. The road we are on now will never get us to this mythical town called Fairness. Besides there's nothing to do in Fairness, it's boring.

Reality is a better place... Let's go there!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Painting: Hydra


18 x 24 acrylic
by Craig Willms
(click on the picture for a larger view)

Here is my latest painting. It was commissioned by a dear, dear friend. This is a hillside city on the Greek island Hydra. I felt the subject matter had a very cool abstract quality to it. It was inspired by a Georges Meis photo. I hope you enjoy.

Please visit my online art gallery for more examples of my paintings.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Guy is Unbelievable!

Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling

The problem is the 2 billion in loans and/or loan guarantees are going to Petrobras, a Brazilian oil giant. Petrobras has discovered a vast oil field in the Atlantic Ocean that they plan to tap with no eco-guilt reservations whatsoever.

It is well known that the United States also has vast oil reserves on land and offshore but lawmakers have prohibited access to it for years. The President has made it clear he wants America to work towards a "green" energy infrastructure and is not in favor of domestic exploration/extraction. So why aid a foreign oil company while denying America access to its own resources? There are numerous advantages to domestic production, not the least of which is a lot of decent paying jobs for Americans, but also a huge step toward lessening dependence on the oil we have to have from unfriendly sources.

Is this man the President of the United States or not? Is he trying to hobble this country on purpose?

We all want to see the end of the oil age for all kinds of good reasons, but right now truly viable alternatives do not exist. Work should proceed with haste to develop new energy paradigms - but we should not upend our economy for windmills and pipe dreams.

Everyday I dislike this President more. These kind of headlines boil my blood.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Silver Lining...

...this recession has one

If there is one good thing that can come out of this rather serious economic downturn is the fact that we are not going to be able to afford the remedy for eco-guilt. Eco-guilt is a luxury. Luxuries are something we can't afford right now. Cap and trade, new energy taxes, windmills and other silliness in the face of dire economic fortunes will only further erode the manufacturing sector and thus American exports. The so-called green economic model (green jobs) has been tried in a country called Spain. Unemployment in Spain is closer to 20% than to America's 10%.

Ecology is a new religion for urbanites that have lost all faith in Christianity and tradition and frankly in John Wayne himself. The new icons and High Priests are people like Al Gore and rock bands like Green Day. Both are making huge amounts of money trashing the very system that exists to allow them to make huge amounts of money. The fact that huge capitalistic multinational companies - like for instance General Electric - support "green" initiatives is because they too stand to make huge amounts of money selling infrastructure that is ultimately inadequate to supply the power this country needs. To top it off they'll build this stuff in countries that haven't shot themselves in the foot with really bad laws and regulations regarding energy use.

When folks who voted for all this hopey/changey gobbly guk, having lost their decent paying jobs, seeing their energy costs skyrocket and ancilary costs shoot through the roof (or worse, deflation that bleeds off even more jobs and wealth) finally realize what has happened the last thing we will need to worry about is eco-guilt. Eco-guilt is a function of the wealthy - we won't be wealthy anymore.

Economic strength and wealth depend on energy use. It has been and will forever be that way. So, in a sense we are being told by the wealthy and powerful that America will no longer strive to be powerful and wealthy. Eco-guilt is a gun pointed at the head of America. The shame of it is that Americans are ecologically literate and are taking measures in nearly every aspect of life to be as "green" as we can be. We are in a sense treating our ecologic depression, but the protectors of the Earth are hell bent on suicide as the remedy.

They never point to the positive changes and attitude shifts that they themselves have helped foster. It's always bad, bad, bad America that should be ashamed instead of praised for what we have already accomplished. Global Warming and Climate Change alarmism gets attention whereas slow, steady improvements do not. In the scientific world where the Al Gore's and Lord Stern's get their fodder billions of dollars per year in grant money goes to those who toe-the-world-is-ending-line, yet the fabled industry-sponsored science is approaching a whopping 20 million.

The global economic downturn and a planet that has been (provably) cooling since 1998 will hopefully start to tampen down the eco-guilt consuming the well to do here and in Europe. We will all be better off for it.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not So Smart?

For all the talk of how smart Barack Obama is I find his gaffes to be far more telling (and concerning) than George Bush's frequent grammatical stumbles.

The other day while defending his Health Care Reform plan I heard the President claiming multiple times that the AARP had endorsed it enthusiastically. The AARP begs to differ - they have not endorsed it. Hmmmm, rather a large oversight I'd say.

Later that day I heard the President say (paraphrasing) "people ask me all the time, how can private insurance possibly compete with a public option? I say to them what about UPS and Fed Ex, they seem to be doing pretty well. It seems to me it's the Postal Service that's always having problems."

Excuse me??? So, Mr. President you are going to justify a federal takeover of the health care industry (which is what he truly wants, make no mistake about it) by using the Postal Service as an example. Fed Ex and UPS produce profits year after year while the Postal Service reports projections of massive deficits even though they have a legal monopoly over daily first class mail delivery. How smart does this sound?

Yesterday while handing out the "Medal of Freedom" awards at the White House one of the recipients didn't recognize the person she was supposed to be. Tennis great Billie Jean King looked on as the President didn't get any of it right - according to King herself.

"They didn't get any of my facts right," King lightheartedly noted afterward. "Did you see all the - how many titles I won? I was cracking up."
"Not even in the ballpark," she continued.

It should be noted that the President did not have his teleprompter for this event. While he generally doesn't claim to be the decider or worry about obstetricians who are no longer able to practice their love, don't misunderestimate his ability to say stupid, illogical things.

Minus the teleprompter President Obama does not exude the pure intellect so often attributed to him by his adorers. One day they will see that the emperor has no clothes - maybe.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Yes Frank, the fix is in...

I don't often agree with Frank Rich of the New York Times. In fact I don't often agree with any one at the Times, even any of the so-called conservatives since Saffire retired. But Rich's column called "Is Obama Punking Us?" has elements that are hard to argue with.

Here I offer some red meat from Rich's column for you to chew on-

...this mood isn’t just about the banks, Public Enemy No. 1. What the Great Recession has crystallized is a larger syndrome that Obama tapped into during the campaign. It’s the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged ...What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media ...It’s a cynicism confirmed almost daily by events.

He's right. Every day, in every way I feel this undercurrent as well. I do not believe that the average business - the super market, the home improvement store, the local bank or even the dreaded and presumably evil gas station are part of some grand conspiracy to rip us off in every possible way. Nor do I believe that the average government bloke desires to dictate the terms and conditions of my daily life. But I do believe that powerful global/corporate and government interests have rigged the game of life the way the casino rigs the slot machines - the house always wins.

We are not fools out here in the real world but in many ways we are powerless. If we withhold our money, saving instead of spending, like is happening right now, then we and our friends and neighbors will lose our jobs. It's not like our direct bosses are making out much better - many of them lose their businesses or get laid off too. Somehow the the well connected on Wall Street and in the Halls of Congress make out just fine. What is this system? What they do can't be called capitalism - it's something perverse and rancid. It's not socialism either...

Honestly the elected politicians, the lobbyists (many former Congressmen among them) and the corporations they represent don't care a whit about political or even economic theory. They will get theirs regardless of what political or economic system stands before them.

Those on the left convince themselves that it's greedy corporations that rig the system and government is too weak and too timid to do much about it. Many on the right run with the mantra that government itself is the cause of so many of the problems that face our economy and our culture with its insatiable appetite for power and control. News flash! They're both right...

Who writes the tax laws and the rules that practically invite American corporations to ship jobs overseas - who shirks the responsibility of protecting our borders and guaranteeing that foreign workers are legitimate? Not the corporations. Who hires lobbyists, pays off political campaigns and blackmails municipalities for favorable tax loop holes until it they don't need it any more and close up shop - culling jobs - anyway? Not the government.

Even if a politician loses an election he has usually set himself up and become so well connected that his future is assured. When a CEO fails miserably he is still handed a going away present that should make him embarrassed. Yes, Frank the fix is in, the system is rigged.

But I think Mr. Rich's column was about more than just golden parachutes and comfortable ex-politicians. Yes, he tries to be political, tossing barbs at Bush and there's even a bit of uncharacteristic ridicule for Obama, but he taps into the sentiment that some greater force (not necessarily a large force) is channeling events into funnel that only a select few can access on the other end. The unseen hand that holds the marionette strings connected to Obama is the same one that manipulated Bush and every president before him. Or is it an ultra exclusive club that presidents get a membership pass to?

If not the Free Masons then perhaps the Bildeburgers. History is littered with grand conspiracy theories. These make great fodder for blockbuster movies and Internet lore, but can there possibly be anything to it? What possible purpose does a continual cycle of war, destruction, peace and prosperity, feast and famine, good times and bad serve? The short answer of course is money. But is money enough when obviously the unseen hand has more money than it knows what to do with? It can't just be money, can it? Is it just about power and ego?

If presidents get inclusion to the club why would they ever allow themselves to be treated the way Bush was treated, the way Clinton was treated - the way Obama will be treated eventually? It makes no sense. History is a their reward - not money. These are men of spectacular ego's - and the presidency is often called the most powerful position in the world. So either presidents are on the outside engaged in a shadow war against the unseen hand (and losing) or it isn't about money, power or ego.

I have always had a hard time accepting conspiracies on such a massive scale primarily because coordinating men with money, power and ego is like herding cats - damn near impossible...

Damn near???


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Something Smells Fishy in The White House

Achtung! You vil report on your neighbors, shvine!!!

The White House has has issued marching orders to their minions out in the hinterlands to report any suspicious activity re: the health care reform debate.

From the White House website…

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

This is not the way the White House should behave toward the citizenry. We have, at least for now, free speech rights - particularly on policy issues - and the government should not be keeping a tally of regular citizens as to who is for them and who is against them. That is what elections are for. The tally is taken in the halls of Congress not on main street.

Texas Senator John Cornyn has written a letter to the president politely asking if he could please put an end to it. Here's an excerpt:

“I am not aware of any precedent for a President asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed ‘fishy’ or otherwise inimical to the White House’s political interests,” Sen. Cornyn wrote. “You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.”

First it's to be the Global Warming deniers to be publically flogged and driven off to the gulags, next it's the health care dissenters!


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Aldi - Huh? I don't get it

Recently a new store opened up in my area. It was called Aldi. I had never heard of it and didn't have any idea what it was (didn't care either). Someone at work said "Oh, yeah, Aldi. It's a supermarket chain - out of Germany, I think..."

I let it slip my mind thinking nothing of it and went about shopping at my usual grocery store chain. During the course of life you'll find you need to "pop" into the grocery store and get something you need for dinner tonight. Well, going to one of the big mega grocery stores can be a huge hassle if you just need one little thing, you know what I mean.

So, as it happened I was driving right passed Aldi and needed a head of lettuce for making tacos. Let's see what this Aldi is all about. Pulled in and parked easily enough right close to the front door. Check one for Aldi so far. My next thought was 'what the #$%&'.

I don't get it. For one they didn't even have the damn lettuce. Two they didn't even have grocery store shelves and for three they didn't have any brands I recognized whatsoever. Based on the number of shoppers in the place they must be doing good business - clearly someone gets it. Is it the prices? I have no idea - never actually bought anything.

I tried again under the same sort of circumstances and again they didn't have the item I needed. I doubt I will ever walk through their doors again - I wish them well, I guess.


Monday, August 03, 2009

A New Tact on Health Care "Reform"

Is the Obama team signaling a new tact on the presentation of health care reform to the public?

It's clear that the strategy originally taken by the Administration of "crisis, crisis, crisis" and strict deadlines has failed. Obama, cognizant of what befell Hillary Clinton's secretive health care "reform" cabal in the early 90's, opted for a transparent approach by throwing the ball in the congressional court. Only Congress wrote up a turd that no one actually read (including Obama himself) that began to whither the instant sunlight fell upon it. The key question is: has anyone devulged who actually wrote this bill?

Instead of sitting down with his vast MAJORITY in both houses of congress and carefully crafting a thoughtful and practical bill Obama merely accepted what was thrown against the wall by congressional lobbyists and pushed hard. The more the opposition press read and reported on the small print in the House bill the further support for his health care reform bill fell.

So today I found this article "Is Health Care Talk Toxic for Cable TV" and it made me think that a major change in strategy is coming. Obviously health care is an enormously complicated issue and cable TV has no forum other than CSPAN to give it a fair hearing. After a while the blather and bickering over the "Public Option" gets the nation's clickers looking for re-runs of Gilligan's Island. People in general will tune out complicated subjects and ratings will suffer - but support for the bill suffers right along with it. (Michael Jackson's untimely death has perhaps saved Obama's health care reform from irreparable damage)

Soon there will be a new crisis, crisis, crisis real or imagined that will dominate the traditional news and health care reform will plod along with key milestones getting passed in the middle of the night. The adoring Obama press will present it on a gold plated platter without the debate and declare that a new era has begun.

Once complete it will be impossible for anyone to unwind the takeover of the health care industry.