Saturday, August 21, 2010

Did Keith Olbermann Defend a Monument to the 9/11 Terrorists? No, he didn’t.

Not long ago, Keith Olbermann, of CNBC, gave a long-winded talk regarding the building of an Islamic center near the site of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

He made a few good points, but not enough, considering the length of his talk.

But what is more important is that he sought to make some thoughtful points about a very emotional issue. And, he took the unpopular side of the issue.

Well and good. However, this is the same Keith Olbermann who is ready to lie about people who try to make thoughtful points about emotional issues when he disagrees with them!

Several years ago, conservative talk-radio host, author, and movie critic, Michael Medved wrote a piece defending the history of the Unites States regarding slavery. He condemned slavery in the piece, as he has frequently done during his show. However, Keith Olbermann, in response to Medved’s article, called Michael Medved the worst person in the world because he wrote an article defending slavery. Either Olbermann didn’t read the article, or he decided that he could lie about it.

Two of the points that Olbermann made, when discussing the 51Park Islamic Center, were that the Islamic Center is not a mosque, and that it isn’t at ground zero. So, he concludes, there isn’t really a ‘Ground Zero Mosque.’

So, Olbermann is intelligent enough to distinguish between a mosque and a building that includes a prayer room for the same kinds of prayers that happen in a mosque. He is intelligent enough to distinguish between ground zero and two blocks away from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center Complex. So, he ought to be intelligent enough to distinguish between a defense of this great nation with regard to slavery and a defense of slavery itself. He is intelligent enough. But he’s malicious enough to lie about Michael Medved’s article.

Would it be appropriate for someone to say that Keith Olbermann has defended building a monument to Muslim terrorists at ground zero? Of course not! It would be a lie. But, it would be in keeping with Olbermann’s penchant for twisting words.

The point is, if you want to make reasoned arguments about emotional issues, and you want people to take you seriously, then you need to be willing to listen carefully to others who are attempting to do the same, even if you disagree with them. And you should never lie about what they write or say.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Will we remember?

A short time ago I saw on the local television news a short reference to a young Marine from Westerville Indiana. I wish I had caught his name. What I did catch was a scene from the town in which someone had made a sign that said, “We will never forget you.” We want to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but will we really remember them?
During the fundraising efforts for the World War II Memorial, I recall thinking that the real memorial to the service of the World War II generation was the Baby Boom. I just thought that the men and women who sacrificed so much for their country would count it worthwhile if their children could be free, healthy, and prosperous. And, the time that followed World War II was a time of great change, but we should realize that it was a time of great prosperity. Even the days of stagflation in the 1970s were more prosperous than the 1930s when the World War II generation grew up.
So, we who are the Baby Boom generation owe a great deal to the generation that fought the war. The least we can do is remember them, especially the ones that didn’t come back.
I know the names of three men from Jeffersonville Indiana who went to war and made the ultimate sacrifice. But it wasn’t just their sacrifice. Each one of these men left a widow. Between the three of them, they left four daughters.
John Higgins died during the Battle of Brest in July 1944. He left a wife who never remarried. He left a daughter, Ann, who lived in Jeffersonville, until she and her mother moved to Florida. Ann lives in Mexico and has given her father three grandchildren and four great grandchildren. John’s widow, Adele, had two brothers who also didn’t make it back.
Freddie Hunckler died March 10, 1945 on Iwo Jima. He left a pregnant wife who had their daughter 19 days after he died. She didn’t even find out that she was a widow until after she got home from the hospital. Freddie’s widow, Wanda, eventually married again, but died when she was only 40 years old. Freddie’s daughter, Susan, lives in Louisville and Freddie has five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Freddie’s brother, John ‘Buddy’ Hunckler managed to get through the war alive. In October of 1945, the Unites States was reducing its troop levels in the Pacific. Buddy got orders to go home. He got on an airplane loaded with other soldiers to get back to the States. That plane disappeared. Buddy never came home to his wife, Marcie, or their two daughters, Patty and Margaret. This was particularly hard on Buddy’s mother since there was so much uncertainty about the disappearance of the plane. The only memorial to Buddy is his name on the list of missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. His brother, Freddie is buried there. Buddy’s widow married again and lived a long life. Buddy has five grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.
These families remember their fallen. We remind our children of their grandfathers. But, what about the young men who didn’t leave families behind? Will they be remembered by their nieces, nephews, and cousins? Do you remember anyone who died fighting in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan? Will you remember them? Memorial Day is not until the end of May. Before then, try to find the name of someone in your family or town who made the ultimate sacrifice. Remember someone.
Remember the sacrifices of these men and their families. Then, live. They died so that we, their children, friends, and fellow citizens could live in freedom and prosperity. That’s what we should do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are you Special?

I am so tempted to go on a rant inspired by an unwelcome article reminding me that the vast majority of people don’t understand the concept of free speech.

I think I’m special. You are probably special too. Normally, that’s a good thing, right? Well, apparently not when you are exercising your constitutional rights to free speech, assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances. Then, the term ‘special’ becomes a pejorative, as in ‘special interests.’ Well, when it comes to petitioning the government, there are a lot of interests, and each one is probably ‘special’ in some way. The AARP is a special interest. The National Education Association is a special interest. The National Rifle Association is a special interest. The National Wildlife Federation is a special interest. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is a special interest. These groups, and many others, represent their members and their interests not just by visiting members of the government, but by publishing advertisements and attempting to influence public opinion. So, if you don’t think ‘special interests’ have a right to free speech, then just who does? Are we all supposed to speak as individuals? Even then, don’t we each represent our own ‘special interest?’

Ah, but you want to keep money out of politics, right? That’s just an excuse to limit free speech. I barely have time to blog. I sure don’t have time to write to my congressman about every issue I feel is important. His staff would start ignoring my letters after the first hundred or so. I depend on being represented by organizations like the National Rifle Association or the Political Action Committees that I support.

Free speech has always been difficult. It has many enemies, including Senators McCain, Feingold, Schumer, and every other Senator and Representative who voted for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, President Bush who signed it into law, and President Obama who criticized the court for upholding the First Amendment in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.

I support free speech. Apparently, that puts me in a minority. I am thankful that there are five Supreme Court justices who also support free speech.

Interested in other opinions of this case? Here’s a short correction of President Obama’s error. Ralph Nader, that champion of freedom, makes his point in the Wall Street Journal which published letters from several folks who didn’t agree with him. I like what the Cato Institute says. And Senator McCain blames the Supreme Court’s ‘political inexperience’ for their decision. Yeah, Senator, those guys who wrote the First Amendment didn’t have much political experience either, did they?
(note: that I have a great deal of respect for Senator McCain, but I respect him more as Captain than Senator

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How’s that hope and change working out?

Unemployment is still high. I’m still unemployed. So, what will it take to get employment? I believe that the economy started to slow down as soon as the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 because it quickly became apparent to investors that the 2003 tax cuts would not be made permanent. Economist John P. Cochran says it very well in his letter to the Wall Street Journal: jobs will grow when investment grows and investment will grow when investor confidence returns.
Unfortunately, as I have said before, the current administration isn’t really making any changes that will help our economy. The credit crisis was brought on by a number of factors, including 100% financing of mortgages and dishonest appraisals of real estate. This practice is being revived as can be seen in this credit union’s advertisement that 100% financing is back. Note that the advertisement indicates that “Seller concessions up to 4% allowed.” This relates to the second problem that I mentioned, dishonest appraisals. If you buy a house for $100,000 but you get a kickback from the seller of $4,000, you haven’t paid $100,000 for the house. You have paid $96,000. And, if the bank loaned you $100,000, you are already underwater in your mortgage. The bank thinks that it loaned you $100,000 on a house worth $100,000, but it is really only worth $96,000 because that’s what you really paid for it. And, if you default on your mortgage, what can the bank get for the property to cover the mortgage? Certainly, the bank won’t get more than $96,000 for the property. That’s what is called a ‘toxic asset.’ The current $8000 tax credit extended to first time buyers only exacerbates the problem.
I know that veterans have always been eligible for better deals in home loans. The first house I bought, in 1976 required only a 10% down payment because I was on active duty and eligible for VA benefits. But a realtor I know in Texas tells me that she has received many e-mails advertising 100% financing. A quick search of the web indicates that 100% financing is still advertised by the State of New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency, Atlantic Mortgage in Florida, from Blake Investment Group in Chicago, the US Department of Agriculture, and Merrill Lynch (now owned by Bank of America, one of the bail-out recipients). You can buy land in the Tampa and other parts of Florida with 100% financing.
Easy money is part of what got us into this mess. Easy money is popular, so politicians support it. It’s much easier to demonize highly paid executives and blame them for the mess we’re in. Well, you can fire all of the bank presidents and replace them with laid off auto workers, and the problem won’t get any better. As long as the government encourages irresponsible lending, we are going to run the risk of additional financial melt-downs, more unemployment, and shattered retirement plans.
I hope we get some change.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sex and Politics

Such exciting news. In politics, Democrat Evan Bayh announced that he would not seek a third term in the US Senate. It seems that he doesn’t like Congress anymore. Now this is interesting because when he was first elected to the Senate in 1998, the Republicans controlled both houses of the Congress. Then, for several years, the Senate was split with control shifting back and forth between Democrats and Republicans. When Bayh ran for reelection in 2004, the Senate was again under Republican leadership. After the 2006 elections, the Democrats took control and since 2008 the Democrats had a super majority of sixty votes in the Senate. I have to wonder why he has such a problem when his party has more control. He liked the Congress well enough when the Republicans had more power. This seems strange to me.
In 1998, when Evan was first elected to the Senate, the US House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton. When the case went to the Senate, the newly elected Bayh was one of the Senators voting Not Guilty. Today’s Wall Street Journal contains a book review of The Death of American Virtue by Ken Gormley. This book chronicles the impeachment of Bill Clinton. President Clinton still thinks he shouldn’t have been impeached. This was a sordid moment in our government’s history; a president fooling around with an intern. Most of us agree that, nasty as it is, there are worse things a president could do. And President Clinton did something worse. He lied about it under oath. That is what he was impeached for. Many in the media say that Clinton was impeached for his ‘affair’ with Monica. Not so. He was impeached for lying under oath. He should grow up and admit his mistakes.
There is one point where Bill Clinton and I agree. He should not have reauthorized the independent counsel statute. Our founding fathers set up a system where the people elect the administration separate from the legislature. The administration is responsible for enforcing the laws. If there is a problem with the administration, then the press should investigate it, report on it, and the people should vote accordingly. If that isn’t enough, Congress can investigate and impeach the president. We don’t need Special Prosecutors. We didn’t need one for Watergate, Iran-contra, the October Surprise, Whitewater, or Monica. I hope we never have any more. I don’t want to know any more about Bill Clinton’s sex life.
And speaking of sex lives that we’ve heard too much about, the latest about Tiger Woods deserves some comment. It appears that a porn star claims that Tiger got her pregnant twice. Imagine that, having unprotected sex with a porn star. I thought that a golf champion would be more thoughtful about life. I guess there just isn’t enough excitement in golf and he has to create excitement by risking his marriage, health, and the health of his wife. Does he not know what porn stars do for a living? Does he not know that they are at an elevated risk for STDs? I understand the temptation that Tiger has to take chances, but does he really want his kids to have parents who have to fight AIDS?
My suggestion to Tiger is this. If you want some excitement in your life, take up sky diving. It is probably less risky than having multiple sex partners. And if the worst happens, only Tiger suffers, not Elin.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Something to offend people on both sides of the ‘Gays in the military’ debate

I am not a supporter of ‘gay’ rights. I don’t believe people deserve civil rights protection for behavior that puts them in the minority. And I like using the term homosexual. It is a more accurate description than ‘gay.’

However, when considering the current discussion of homosexuals in the military, I don’t exactly come down on the side of conservatives. Homosexuals have served in the military for a long time; probably forever. When I served on active duty in the Navy, it was well known, but rarely discussed, that there were lots of homosexuals serving as Hospital Corpsmen (pronounced COR-MEN for those of you who were educated at Columbia). They had to keep it secret, because the official policy was to prohibit homosexuals from serving in the military. The Naval Investigative Service (now the NCIS) spent a lot of time investigating and processing people out of the Navy for homosexual activity. That was in the 1970s, when I was on active duty.

My father served in the Navy in World War II and the Korean War. He mentioned that when he grew up in Indianapolis and Kokomo, that he didn’t know anything about homosexuals, but in his word, “When I got in the Navy, they were everywhere.” I wondered about this until I remembered that my father was a Navy Corpsman. So, at least as far back as World War II, homosexuals were serving their country. And if you don’t know it, Navy Corpsmen serve as the medics for the Marine Corps, so these guys aren’t wimps. They are on the frontline of the most dangerous combat missions.

So, in the 1990s, the policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was implemented. This allowed homosexuals to serve as long as they weren’t caught in homosexual acts. Well, this doesn’t make the ‘gay’ community very happy, because it doesn’t allow homosexuals to serve openly. But, it was an improvement over the old policy in that fewer resources were spent drumming people out of the military for what most of American society would consider private behavior.

Now, when normal people join the military, they know that some of their fellow soldiers or sailors may be homosexual, but they can’t really discuss it. After all, the policy is ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (and Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass). This should work, but the homosexual community is still not happy because they can’t ‘serve openly.’ My, my, how sad.

I find it irritating that the homosexual community frequently says it wants to ‘repeal’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. To most people, that would mean going back to the way it was before the policy was implemented. Is that what they really want? Remember, we used to drum people out of the military for homosexuality.

On the other hand, the opponents of allowing homosexuals to serve openly have a lot of questionable arguments. Will serving with ‘openly’ homosexual people cause some people discomfort? Of course, but the military isn’t about comfort; it’s about winning wars and giving our soldiers the best chance to come back alive. When I served on active duty, I had to go to the corpsman on occasion. I didn’t care what about his sexual desires or activities. I wanted competent medical advice. I would imagine that the wounded Marine is more concerned about the medical competency of the Corpsman than he is about that Corpsman’s sexual life.

Will allowing ‘openly’ homosexual people to serve affect unit cohesion? It may, but I don’t think it will be significant. After all, if you don’t like working with homosexuals, what are you going to do? Get out of the military and go to work in a civilian job? About the only place you can find a job where you won’t be working with openly homosexual people is at a Christian school.

I personally am skeptical of the claim that allowing homosexuals to serve openly will hurt the military. So, of all the crazy things that the Obama administration is doing, the attempt to allow homosexuals to serve openly is the least of my concerns.

The parable of the reckless drivers

WARNING: This story and commentary will be offensive to Democrats and other Obama supporters.

Once upon a time there was a father who entrusted his expensive pickup truck to his son. His son, a young man in his twenties, had proven he could drive a smaller pickup truck quite well, and he promised his father he would drive it carefully.

The young man loaded up the pickup truck with people he thought were his friends. They proceeded to drive down country roads. The passengers kept putting their personal stuff on the dashboard, eventually hiding the speedometer and other important items on the dashboard. They all encouraged the driver to go faster, which he did. After all, he had no indication that he was speeding. Everything seemed to be going well, except that some of his passengers wanted him to go even faster.

Eventually, there was a pretty bad accident. The truck landed in a ditch, and the driver had to get someone with a tow truck to pull it out. As they started driving down the road, it became apparent that the truck was damaged. It just didn’t handle right, and the driver was reluctant to try to go fast again since the truck made a lot of bad noises and shimmied when it got very fast.

Everyone in the truck decided that they had to have a new driver. It came down to two candidates, one older fellow, more seasoned, but still not used to driving a truck. The other was a young fellow with a learner’s permit. He was absolutely sure he knew how to drive the truck better. He was charming, good looking, and he spoke very well, so he was elected as the driver. When he got behind the wheel, he made a couple of the passengers from the front seat get back in the bed of the truck because they had had too much fun when the other guy was driving. Then, the new driver stepped on the gas as hard as he could and drove on down the road telling everyone that his driving skill had averted a horrible disaster, but they had to drive faster than before to make up for the time lost while the truck was in the ditch. So far, he hasn’t put the truck back into a ditch, but the truck is making a lot of noise and the whole truck is shaking pretty hard. And, the new driver keeps reminding us that he’s doing pretty well considering the condition of the truck that he got from the other driver.

What, you ask, is the point of this story? The point is that President Obama isn’t doing anything helpful to fix the economy he got from George W. Bush. The policies that put us into the ditch are either still in place, or are worse. The culture of debt, cultivated under Bush and the Republican Congress has been given steroids by President Obama and Speaker Pelosi. Sure, the President has made a fuss about bonuses that the top bankers get, but those bonuses are not the cause of the credit freeze of 2008 and they aren’t the cause of the high unemployment of 2009 and 2010. If going into debt were the answer, we wouldn’t have had the problem to begin with. Debt is dangerous. Debt backed by overvalued assets is even more dangerous. I don’t see President Obama or Speaker Pelosi doing anything to address the real causes of our economic mess. They are driving down the same road as President Bush and the Republican Congress, but they have all their feet on the accelerator.
We elected a man with less executive experience than Sarah Palin, and he isn’t doing anything that can reasonably be expected to bring about an economic recovery. All he can do is blame Bush while he encourages Congress to spend even more than the Republicans. That tactic may make for good politics. It won’t inspire investors to risk capital in new businesses. It won’t allow a growing economy to create jobs.