Friday, September 17, 2010

Five Saturdays

The difference between winning big on November 2nd and winning REALLY BIG could be decided by five Saturdays in October.

It is daily becoming more apparent that Republican candidates will unseat many Democrats. A lot of deadwood will get trimmed and a lot of toothless “Blue Dogs” will get kicked off the front porch of the Capitol Building where they’ve been dozing for the last couple years.

Most pollsters seem comfortable predicting that the Republicans are within range of picking up the 39 seats necessary to regain control of the House of Representatives. A retaking of the Senate is no longer out of the question. If you are a Republican this is a nice place to be in the middle of September.

But having a very good election year is not the same thing as having a Great election year.

A Great Election Victory will not be limited to a monotone of predicted easy wins in communities where voters have been “mad as hell” for months. It will include a lot of other victories that are won on the edges. There will be surprise pickups that weren’t supposed to happen. There will be “squeakers” in districts or states that are currently “leaning Democrat” or too close to call. These tough wins are what will put the frosting on the cake. But, it is going to take more than positive voter trends to win the marginal races.

Through a gift of happy Providence the calendar this October includes five Saturdays. Those five Saturdays can be put to good use by dedicated activists.

In election politics there is absolutely nothing that can match the effectiveness of personal one-on-one campaigning. It is the cornerstone of American politics. A volunteer who walks up the front steps and rings the bell of a perfect stranger, a fellow citizen, and in a few sentences explains his candidate’s cause and – this is important – ends by respectfully “asking for the vote” is much more effective than another TV ad or four-color mailing. Direct personal appeal can win over a surprising number of marginal voters who otherwise may have gone either way.

This kind of campaigning is work. It requires a basic level of physical conditioning. It also requires commitment. But if you can march in a rally, you can go door to door. The candidate who can count on a corps of effective working volunteers has depth and a “ground game” added to his or her campaign.

You’ll find there is no greater joy in campaigning than working for a cause you love and a candidate you believe in and helping them win. Yes, giving up a month of Saturdays is a tough decision to make, but look all of exercise and fresh air you’ll get, and consider all the great new friends you’ll be working with.

Here’s another thing. In much of the nation by mid or late October the weather has turned ugly. It can be rainy and cold. But, with the right frame of mind this can offer another fun aspect to campaigning. Under particularly bad conditions, for those with a certain impishness, there is great sport in going out while you know your opponents will be staying in. Your fingers numb and your feet damp, there is much enjoyment in letting the opposition discover that while they were cozy on the sofa you were out in the weather getting votes. The chill you feel outside is toasty-warm compared to the chill they feel on the inside while learning you are gaining ground on them. They may have millions in donations from some government employee’s union but you have the intensity and the will to win.

It is this intensity and will to win that turns marginal campaigns into winning campaigns. Informed, motivated people going door to door reaching persuadable voters one at a time makes many tough races winnable.

This year there are five Saturdays in October. They were put there for a reason. Make them count.

This essay was originally published in American Thinker
September 17, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

What We Don't Want Future Generations to Say

Future generations will judge us harshly. Let’s hope they don’t judge us for the wrong things.

Even though it looks like all governmental bodies involved have cleared the way for construction of the Cultural Center/Mosque near the site of the 9/11 terror attack a growing segment of the general public is still very much engaged in stopping the project.

According to a Fox News report today, August 9, 2010, resistance to the construction of Mosques is growing nation wide. Right now there are approximately 1,200 Mosques in the United States and plans are under way to increase that number to 1,800 in the near term. The Fox News cameras showed clips of sizable protests all across the country as Americans become increasingly alarmed.

Naturally, critics are characterizing this opposition as “religious intolerance”. And if we can agree that Islam is a religion and not just an extremely large “cult”, there may be a point to be made along those lines. Other people’s religious beliefs along a whole spectrum often seem cult-like to an outside observer. From the burning bush to the Resurrection, from no meat on Friday to no meat at all, from full-dunk baptism to just a splash…Most in this country believe the bill for any theological errors will come due soon enough. In the meantime, why make each other miserable arguing here on earth?

But, tolerance is not something we see in Islam. Pick up a newspaper almost any day; Bali, Mumbai, Lockerbie, Fort Hood. Today it was reported that ten international medical aid workers were lined up and shot in remote Afghanistan. No amount of politically correct happy talk can smooth that over.

Americans share a healthy suspicion of the Islamic community for a host of reasons, not the least is the 9/11 Attack and the video images of the Muslim world celebrating, dancing in the streets following it. Seeing no discernable effort of the Muslim community to rid their own faith of violent fanatics, is it any wonder that the American public’s “radar” is turned on and loaded with fresh batteries? And while none of us would like to be thought of as intolerant there is a prudent need for caution with regards to the spread of a belief system that has both declared and shown itself hostile to other religions and to the West.

So, rather than go round in a circle on the question of tolerance, let’s get to the point. Here is what we want to happen:

One hundred years from now we want the American people to look back and say of us, “The early 21st Century was truly a dark time. Many American citizens were rather silly in those days. They viewed the Muslim religion with skepticism and outright suspicion. They even went so far as to hinder the construction of hundreds of much-needed Mosques and cultural centers. Yet, in the face of all this intolerance, the good Muslim people themselves cleansed their faith of dangerous fanatics, renounced the violence of their traditional justice system, embraced their new culture in the West and became a model of tolerance and understanding.” That’s what we want future generations to say.

What we don’t want future generations to say, especially historians writing centuries from now, is something like this:

“The political leadership in America was every bit as weak and frivolous as their enemies suspected. This leadership was unsure of the value of their own culture. Preferring to avoid controversy at all cost, they were willing to look the other way and distract themselves with trivial matters. Public concerns were swept aside while the country was re-populated by residents who were openly hostile to the basic tenants of their Constitutional government. Once a tipping point was reached, the Old American Republic was no more and mankind sank, as Winston Churchill stated in 1940,

“into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

That is what we don’t want future generations to say.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Monument at Ground Zero

In Columbus, Ohio stands a statue dedicated to that city's namesake: the discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus.

Let's not quibble about whether a band of Vikings or an errant Chinese vessel reached the New World centuries earlier. Other than to quote the famous line "Yes, but when Columbus discovered America, it stayed discovered," that's beside the point.

In the late 1980s, I was photographing campaign commercials for Democratic candidates. One bright day, I was riding in a van with that day's candidate, his media consultant, a director, camera assistant, sound man, gaffer, and whoever else squeezed in. We were discussing particulars of our project when we turned a corner. There, in a grassy park, was the statue of Columbus. As we rolled past, gazing at it from the windows, one of our number offered a comment: "Christopher Columbus: a symbol of racism, sexism, genocide and oppression."

No one seemed to need clarification. He might as well have been talking about the weather. If you have spent any time at all around Leftist Democrats, you know that this remark was nothing out of the ordinary. Inside their comfort zone, or after they've had a couple glasses of wine, they are capable of making the most astonishing pronouncements and judgments, delivering them in the most unequivocal terms.

The Christopher Columbus remark lingered in the air for a moment, a couple heads nodded in agreement, and then talk returned to details of the job at hand.

That statement made an impression on me, however, and on occasion over the years, I have remembered it and considered it from various angles. It is certain that readers of this essay will find much to comment on regarding the peculiar mindset this anecdote exposes and the low opinion Democrats frequently express of the nation they seek to lead. It may even prompt readers to wonder whether some Democrats identify with America as a nation at all, wishing instead that the country had been settled by a better class of people. Again, this is not the point.

My point, rather, is this: Those who erected that statue intended the image of Columbus to reflect and honor the noble characteristics of Vision, Courage, and Resolve. They intended it to be viewed as symbol of the power of Right Idea and Inspired Enlightenment as a direct challenge to ignorance and superstition. And for quite a while, the statue of Columbus stood as a representation of those very things. But then we arrived at the era of postmodern Liberalism, and out of the classrooms and intellectual enclaves came political correctness, revisionist history, and the image of The Ugly American. Things changed, or were made to change. Immediately following World War II, there seemed to be a deep need in some to take a little of the shine off the U.S. The United States was no longer depicted as a beacon to mankind but as a plundering bully that needed to be cut down to size. To some in this country -- and every year, hordes of them come out of the woodwork around October 12 -- the image of Christopher Columbus was made to represent the exact opposite of Freedom, Enterprise, and the power of Mind.

Interesting, isn't it, how a monument erected to noble ideals can be remade instead into a symbol of "genocide and oppression"?

Let us now consider another monument, recently approved by state and local leaders to be built in lower Manhattan, a block from the hole in the ground known as "Ground Zero."

Less than nine years after the 9/11 attack -- the "Day America Will Never Forget" -- state and city officials in New York have cleared the way for a proposed fifteen-story mosque, or Islamic "culture center," just paces away from the hole. While nothing has yet been built on the actual site of Ground Zero, the mosque zipped through zoning and landmark hearings untouched by city and state bureaucrats and unscathed by citizen protests. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo were both early supporters of the project. Much of official media sees nothing wrong or disrespectful about it. Words like "insensitive", "tacky," and "in poor taste" have had no place in the conversation, nor have words like "vile" and "obscene." In the minds of our current officialdom, the issue is one of America's lack of religious freedom and tolerance -- and officialdom is all about tolerance of religion, don't you know.

Well, here is what that mosque will truly represent: To the American Left, this mosque represents a gooey dose of feel-good inclusiveness. It provides a platform for them to lecture and talk down to the public on the subject of America's perceived moral shortcomings while at the same time allowing them to act as enablers for a religion that happens to have many adherents who wish for the destruction of America. It's a win/win.

To Islamist fanatics, it will represent a victory over what they perceive as a corrupt and complacent America. To them, America is a "weak horse"; we can be had, and official approval of this mosque only nine years after the slaughter that took place at this location serves as living proof.

But to us regular citizens, living in the burroughs, across the Hudson, or out here in flyover country, driving our seven-year-old cars and happy to have our families together, that mosque represents the dangerous fecklessness of the Left. It is another symptom of timidity when common sense is called for. It is the disease of the Arizona border issue spread to New York City. That mosque will stand as a testament for every modern liberal who never missed a chance to call Ronald Reagan a "warmonger" but finds Islam a "religion of peace." Additionally, if actually built, it will be a testament to shortsighted Islamic overreach. Erected as a chip-on-the-shoulder challenge to the United States, it will sooner or later be knocked flat.

No one contemplating this building as they pass on their way to pay respects at Ground Zero will have to have lost loved ones that day to understand the meaning of that building. We all know that not just New York was attacked, but all of America. And we all will see this building as an insult to the three thousand people who were crushed or burned alive that September 11. This mosque, at fifteen stories tall, will memorialize two hundred souls per floor. And every brick, every stone will represent Progressive Liberalism's astonishing preference to defend everyone else's position, but not ours.

While we marveled at the implications of one Democrat's words on seeing a statue of Christopher Columbus, consider that same re-interpretative phenomenon magnified ten thousand times over as Americans contemplate this proposed monument at Ground Zero.

This essay was originally published in The American Thinker, August 7, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Arizona and the Pottery Barn-rule

What happened last week to the Arizona illegal immigration law is a clear indication that in these serious times America has an un-serious President… as if we needed more proof.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has acquiesced to the Obama Administration’s pleading and issued an injunction preventing implementation of the Arizona law. What’s likely to happen next? To those who feel that Judge Bolton’s decision is a sure disaster I say, “Yes, it will be a disaster. But, let’s slow down and see if we can find a ‘bright side’ to any of this.” And, you know, there just may be. Barack Obama may have given the people of Arizona an insurance policy.

A few years ago regarding Iraq policy someone warned George W. Bush of the Pottery Barn-Rule; “You break it, you own it.”

By telling the people of Arizona, "Relax. I'll take care of it" the President has taken ownership of the illegal immigration issue and of all the collateral problems that result from it.

Okay, Mr. President, you’re in charge. From here on out, if anything breaks you get the bill. That includes shootings, kidnapping and headless bodies found in the desert.

Moving the official command and control center from Phoenix to Washington, DC, about as far away from Arizona as is possible to get, is not a confidence-builder. Arizona residents will not sleep better knowing that help is only 2,300 miles away and that it moves at the speed of the Federal bureaucracy.

The President does not seem to understand that because of his own Justice Department’s case and Judge Bolton’s ruling he is the one who will be receiving the likely "3:00am phone call". All of the crime and violence, the shootings and kidnapping are his problem now. While he can count on a continued news blackout on the part of the MSM, it is a safe bet that Fox News will continue to report (you decide) on the subject and to air hidden-camera footage of drug smugglers and human traffickers crossing the border at will.

It is not likely to be a pretty picture. It is inevitable that sooner or later the Obama Administration will get tangled up in some unpleasant border incident. When that happens the President will attempt to shift the blame and the people of Arizona and their police force will bear the cost. Our job will be to make sure that Obama is not able to shirk the responsibility he has taken with his District Court victory.

We were looking for a bright side to the story. That’s about as bright as it gets.

Simultaneously, there is a dark cloud that seems to have escaped much notice. The Republican Party also had a hand in Judge Bolton’s decision. All you Tea Party people take note.

In 2000 Judge Susan Bolton was nominated to the District Court by none other than President Bill Clinton. No surprises there. Problem is, US Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, is the one who suggested her. Further, at that time the Republicans held a majority in the US Senate and Trent Lott was Majority Leader.

Fade Out – Fade In: Ten years later…

When Democrats needed a Judge to do them a favor they had one in the right place, and the Republicans put her there. This is what America gets as a result of Republican “collegiality” and going-along-to-get-along.

The purpose here is not to bang on John Kyl. He’s a pretty good Senator. But the Pottery Barn-rule applies to him, too, and to all of our elected officials. They have to know that they are accountable to us, not “Them”. We do not hold elections and send people to Washington to represent someone else’s interest. They are to represent our interests.

Keep the Arizona decision in mind when Elena Kagan’s name comes up for a vote.

To those reading this in Maine, Massachusetts, or South Carolina; now would be a good time to contact your Republican Senator. Remind them that if they break something, they bought it.

This essay was published August 2, 2010 on The American Thinker.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In the fall and early winter of 2008, former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was caught on a series of tapes attempting to sell the US Senate seat soon to be vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. It caused quite a sensation when the case broke in early December. The resultant early reports of involvement or complicity by top Obama people put quite a dent in the showroom finish of the new administration

For much of the nation the Blago case was their first lesson in how things are done in Illinois. Stunned voters didn't have to connect too many dots before they got a picture of what we would be seeing more of in the weeks and months to come. So much for “Hope and Change”.

A brief recap of the case offers a Who’s Who of Democratic politics. One of the bidders, allegedly, was Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. who had a platoon of fundraisers out trying to scratch together $6.5 Million. Convicted fixer and fraudster, Tony Rezko, the new President’s old pal and next door-neighbor was implicated. Also playing parts were key members of the Obama team; Rham Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, as well as Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. A local Union official, Tom Balanoff president of Local 1 of the SEIU, the union associated with ACORN, is alleged to have acted as a “cut-out” between the Obama team and Blago in the Governor’s mansion. There were bugs crawling around under every rock. All that was needed was a court case that would kick a few of them over.

Unfortunately, crack Federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, sprung the trap before money actually changed hands, which means the main crime, actually “selling” a Senate seat, technically was never committed,. Why he did not wait a day or two until he caught all concerned in the act has not been made satisfactorily clear. As a result of Fitzgerald's jumping of the gun, Federal Prosecutors had to base their case entirely on recordings of wire taps and testimony involving other crimes and cases of bribery, which, other than “guilt by association”, did not directly involve members of the Obama Administration

Still, the case against Rod Blagojevich seems not only rock solid, but sensationally so.

To an Illinois public accustomed to existing in a dirty political world, Blago was widely known to be running an exceptionally dirty operation. His administration was something special even by Illinois standards. On one of the tapes, when Children's Memorial Hospital balked at making the suggested $50,000 “donation”, Blago was heard to say “Screw those guys” -- and he held up State funding to the hospital. His brand of politics was not tiddly-winks.

However, Blago’s methods were not so far out of line that he had any problem getting reelected in 2006. Voters in the Land of Lincoln when given the choice between a crook or a Republican, no matter how Rino-like, can always find a reason to go with the Democrat. Look at the current Illinois Senate race between bland establishment Republican, Mark Kirk, and disgraced banker and failed State Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, Democrat. It’s neck and neck.

As the corruption trial heated up over the last year Blago was everywhere; making personal appearances, phoning in on talk shows, even at one point hosting his own weekend talker; and all the while professing his innocence and defiantly vowing to take the stand and name names. In fact, he regularly declared his eagerness to take the stand to tell his side of the story. He was only doing what everyone else in Illinois politics does, and he was not going to go to prison without naming names.

Naturally, people in Washington were nervous. Pile the Blago trial on top of the Gulf oil leak, the economy, unemployment, resentment over health care, and etc., all coming just before the mid-term elections, and you can picture the sleepless nights in the White House, in Georgetown, or in other enclaves of power.

It was clear from the start that the official media grasped the serious implications of just how badly it could go if things spun out of control. You see at work their instinct to soft-peddle the trial, which began in June, as a sordid, second-rate “page 3” story. The big reporters were not present at Chicago’ Federal Court Building. The breathless coverage, the interviews, the speculation were largely absent. Lindsay Lohan, LeBron James, even the President's current vacation plans, padded the news and helped squeeze coverage. The trial to proceed next-to unnoticed.

In the media's spin, this was simply the trial of a local big-shot who opened his mouth one time too many and got caught. Nothing to do with Barack Obama or his associations or the polluted political pond that for years he swam in.

But there was always a feeling that the media was holding their breath -- up until news broke that the defense would rest without calling Blago to testify in his own defense.

Not only would the defense rest with no Blago, but it would rest with no Emanuel, no Rezko, no Jarrett, no Durbin, no Jackson, no Reid, no etc… That’s a lot of questions dodged by a lot of people.

Locals may greet the news with a shrug. Around Chicago far worse things get swept under the rug all the time. A few years ago a mysterious fire in the Evidence Room of the Cook County Building killed six county employees. There was some initial hubbub, but after a week or two the story just went away. To this day all we know about the matter is that some evidence was destroyed and six people died. The man ultimately in charge of the investigation, Cook County Board President John Stroger, was a supporter of Barack Obama.

Can anybody reading this guess how the “deal” was made? I can't. Who gets what, and how was the problem made to go away? Previous Illinois Governor, Republican George Ryan, is mid-way through a seven year sentence for corruption. How much time will Blago get? Will he get any time? Will he retire somewhere fat and happy with an off-shore bank account?

It is all part of the infinite puzzle of Chicago Politics.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All The News That's Fit to Print

All of a sudden, they seem pretty optimistic over at BP. Sounds like they may finally be getting a handle on the Gulf oil spill.

Engineers are installing a new containment cap which is expected be a big improvement over the current cap. That first device, lowered into place on June 3rd, has managed to capture only about one-third of the estimated 60-80,000 barrels of crude gushing from the bottom of the Gulf each day. As we know, the other two-thirds of that oil continued to pollute the shrimp and oyster beds, kill wildlife, wash into marshes and spread onto white sand beaches. It will be about a week before installation is complete and crews can determine if the new cap works. Ideally, it will capture all or most of the oil.

Success will take a big load off President Obama’s mind. Knowing that he can play golf, fiddle with the nation’s economic system, or sue the State of Arizona without feeling like he’s somehow tied down to a crisis that needs attention should put a little of the swagger back in his step.

For Obama the best news is the fact that, if the new cap is successful, the leak will essentially be stopped before the invisible July 28th “deadline”, which would mark Day-100.

Not that an oil spill lasting 100 days would be guaranteed in-depth media coverage. There seems to be an unspoken truce between the President and the media: he’s not saying anything about the spill and the press isn’t asking. It would be nice if they’d ask even a teensy little question; like, how did BP become a finalist for a Major Award on safety and pollution control to be given just days after the initial explosion and disaster?
Wouldn’t any finalist have to undergo an inspection to qualify for such an award in the first place?

There were a few outbursts among talking heads back around Day-50, but they all seemed to quickly get back on the same page. Since then, aside from The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily and talk radio, there has been a remarkable lack of media intensity in nosing around the story. They’ve been compliant, too, down along the Gulf, in staying back behind the yellow police tape strung along the beaches and wetlands, in not bothering people or otherwise getting in the way. Strange, isn’t it, that Bush and Cheney were often derided as oilmen – the word “oilmen” said with a sneer – then the nation elects a highly qualified community organizer from Chicago and this happens. It only goes to show that even for a man of Barack Obama’s gifts there is a limit to what he could learn from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.

Still, there are lingering questions that need to be asked – and answered truthfully – about some of the connections between BP and the current Administration; from the dollars BP donated to the Obama presidential campaign in ’08 and the gobs of money they’ve given to Democrats in general, to the cozy personal relationship between White House chief of staff, Rham Emanuel and BP lobbyists, to the breezy way Obama’s people in the U.S. Minerals and Management Service waved through BP’s list of variances and exemptions to standard drilling requirements.

President Obama’s hand-picked Minerals and Management Service director, Elizabeth Birnbaum, was thrown under the bus soon after the disaster occured and word of several other, shall we say, SNAFUs got out. So far, enterprising reporters have failed to track down Ms Birnbaum and question her.

To be fair, the Main Stream Press has generally had its hands full lately with other important breaking news. Waiving a calendar and pointing to an arbitrary “Day-100” of an environmental disaster is no guarantee such a story would be considered “news”, or that there would be any space available. These are extraordinary times we live in. Recently, displacing Gulf oils spill was coverage of the tragic Lindsay Lohan court case. Simultaneously crucial contract negotiations were under way involving NBA star LeBron James’, who ended up signing with the Miami Heat. Naturally this shocking development called for lots of interviews with angry fans in Cleveland and happy fans in Miami. Of those interviewed I saw, none seemed terribly upset about the oil spill. And then, wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of all of this, Mel Gibson went off the deep end again.

Looking ahead to the end of July, space for stories about out-of-work fishermen, lax governmental oversight, environmental catastrophe, and questionable Washington ethics will be especially limited. Right around that mythical “Day-100” Pro football training camps will be opening and the pre-season will be just around the corner; the major television networks will be pitching their new fall line-up; and with any luck at all Hef will be on his way to repurchasing Playboy, which some feel he never should have sold in the first place. Any one of these things could lead to a potential big story. Besides, by now just about everybody this side of a Tonight Show “Jay Walking” segment knows that there’s been a leak in the Gulf of Mexico since the middle of April. Right? So, what’s the big deal?

Well, seriously folks, there is a Big Deal. A bureaucratic Charley-Foxtrot of this magnitude demands accountability.

The so-called Main Stream Press has simply become too conflicted and too timid to do its part of the job. Remember all the Hurricane Katrina coverage; the weeks and months of follow-up stories; the stream of celebrity charity concerts; the coffee table commemorative books; the documentaries? Remember how the incompetence of state and local elected officials and the massive crime wave that followed the flooding were carefully Photoshopped out of the story and George Bush was Photoshopped in? We know what it looks like when the official eyes and ears of the media are hot on a story. We know how they sound when they want heads to roll. Right now the media is just going through the motions. They are uncomfortable with this story and are ready to move on.

Next up: Congressional hearings. Damage along the Gulf Coast is not going away anytime soon, no matter how much hush-money the Obama Administration wrings out of BP shareholders to throw at the local economy. No one in the current Administration is interested in getting answers about causes of the Gulf oil spill or the tardiness of Federal response to it. Neither the Harry Reid Senate, nor the Nancy Pelosi House is curious. Otherwise they’d already be holding hearings. Assuming a Republican take-over of either chamber in November, the new Republican committee chairmen should be clear: responsible Federal officials will be subpoenaed. Those who caused or compounded this disaster deserve to tell their stories under oath.

Remember in November.

This essay was originally published on The American Thinker, under the title; "Suppressing the Political Impact of the Gulf Oil Crisis" July 13, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

After November

Why kid our selves? There is something seriously wrong with our government. Some of us may choose to ignore it, others may wish it would go away, but we all, at least on some subconscious level, know it. We see it in dozens of ways: persistent high unemployment, government spending through the roof, a health care system made worse by “reform”, two thousand miles of southern border left wide open, taxes set to explode next January 1, vote buying at the highest levels of the Administration, terrorist states building nuclear weapons, and an oil leak that has been a Charley-Foxtrot of mismanagement from Day One…on and on…

Behind all of this, down in the pit of our stomachs, is the gnawing feeling that many, even a majority, of those we’ve sent to Washington have no interest in looking out for the country’s best interests. What ever particular star in the east they are following, it isn’t ours.

But, a large segment of the population is not taking this bad situation quietly. An epidemic of November Fever has broken out. Brought back from near death by the infusion of energy from revved up Tea Party activists, Libertarians and political first timers, the Republican Party stands a real chance of getting control of at least some part of the government. We know it and the Left knows it.

There is, however, a catch: Electoral victory will not be enough.

Victory at the ballot box will need to be based upon – and followed up by – a plan for swift, sure action. No pussy footing around. The moment the new Representatives and Senators take the oath of office, they get in gear.

The new Congress and new Senate will need to drive off the vultures that are already circling. They will need to face down the Main Stream Press. They will need to challenge every political appointment that comes out of this White House. They will need to keep the nervous ones from panicking or breaking ranks. They will need to force the Administration’s hand by cutting off Federal funding for everything from implementation of the Health Care Reform to so-called “sanctuary” cities. They will need to immediately begin reassuring both the American people and financial markets that they are dead serious about reversing the damage that has been done. World War II was fought on two major fronts. This struggle will be fought on many fronts; legislative, executive, judicial, economic, educational, political and social. The enemy is a malevolent octopus that is rapidly getting its arms around everything and everyone.

So, what can we, the John and Jane Doe’s out here, do to further help mold Congress into a sharp, focused and effective band of legislators, one that takes seriously its Constitutional duties, one that will put the interests of the nation first?

The answer to that question appeared Monday, June 28th. A web site called American Thinker – a terrific site, you ought to take a look at it some time – published an essay by
Kieran Michael Lalor entitled “Top 10 Reasons GOP Must Rally behind Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Candidates”

Read Lalor’s article. After listing 10 good reasons, the author does us the further service of listing seventeen Iraq and Afghanistan vets running as Republicans in various parts of the country. In order for them to help us, we must first help them. Obviously, it goes without saying that this year any veteran running as a Democrat is not running as a candidate of change, but rather in support a very toxic status-quo.

The message of Lalor’s essay is very encouraging. Those vets he lists know how to march and not tire. They know how to face an enemy. They know how to simplify things down to what they can carry on their backs. These Iraq and Afghanistan veterans potentially offer the mix of leadership and support it will take to effectively turn things around in Washington.

In November, if the American people elect a new Republican Congress and include a squad of lean and mean military vets, starting in January we stand a good chance of hearing some coconuts knocked together.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Guy With a Camera

Just a few days ago this was all over the internet and Fox News...

This morning a similar video surfaced involving campaign aids of Illinois Democratic Senate candidate, Alexi Giannoulias...

Hmm....Seeing them reminded me of an incident last February, about the time Democrats began to worry that Scott Brown just might pull off an upset in Massachusetts...

Its summertime, we're all busy and we've all seen at least one of these clips. But, take a moment to refresh your memory. Click on one of the videos and then ask yourself this question: Have I ever seen a cameraman from, say, CBS or NBC get cuffed around? Has a major news media ever been ejected from an event? To the best of your recollection has a reporter from a major news outlet ever wrestled to the ground?

I'll bet you come up with a blank. Right? And I think I know why:

The reason you don't see reporters and cameramen from CNN get knocked around is because the Main Stream Media does not ask questions of tipsy Democratic Congressmen in the middle of the day, nor do they photograph attendees at Democratic fundraisers, and they don't ambush Democratic candidates coming out of fundraisers with questions they are not prepared to answer.

In fact, things are pretty Hunky-Dorey between the Democrats and the media. That's because the Main Stream cameramen and reporters know their place. They are on an invisible leash.

Any other guesses out there?

Friday, June 4, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours

As President Obama discovered when he tried to deliver his Memorial Day speech near Chicago last weekend: “when it rains, it pours.”

The mile-deep gusher now polluting Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico is a metaphor for the Pandora’s Box of miseries that seem to be raining on the nation and the world: European financial instability; Third World nukes; South American narco-states; the re-emergence of piracy; America’s unprotected borders, our persistent 10% unemployment rate, exploding government debt; runaway entitlements and public pensions; aging infrastructure; a health care system headed for bureaucratic sclerosis; and on and on…

Standing between us and this onslaught is the leader of the free world himself, Barack H. Obama, who, it is becoming increasingly obvious, is in way over his head. If you were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would you feel comfortable knowing this White House has got Israel’s back? If you were Governor Jan Brewer would you be confident in the President’s ability, even willingness, to halt the hordes of illegals pouring across the Arizona border? If you were Governor Bobby Jindal would you sleep easy knowing this Administration might eventually, some day, perhaps support your request to build protective sand barriers between the advancing oil slick and valuable Louisiana fishing and wildlife waters? Not on your life. You don’t have to be a governor or a foreign leader to feel nervous. A lot of people are starting to worry.

Joining those of us getting worried is Barack Obama. But he’s got a lot more on his mind than developing an effective American energy plan, or Israel getting blown off the map, or helping the private economy recover. Part of what keeps the President awake nights is the fact that jury selection has begun in the Rod “Blago” Blagojevich trial, and a federal judge just cleared the way for White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel to testify.

Don’t think for a moment that it was a coincidence that President Obama abandoned the BP oil-rig mess to take a family vacation to Chicago last weekend. He didn’t travel back to the Windy City because it is a fair-weather paradise in the springtime, or because he missed the old Hyde Park home and his next-door neighbor Anton “Tony” Rezko. Besides, Rezko hasn’t lived next door for quite a while. He’s in a witness protection program, with Federal bodyguards keeping him safe.

Even in Chicago, where wiring legal outcomes is a political art form, this trial has to be making a lot of people nervous; among them the President of the United States, along with the Mayor, the current Illinois Governor, several US Senators and some members of Congress. Blago has made it clear that he doesn’t plan to go to prison quietly. He wants to be put under oath and tell his side of the story. Without a doubt, his side of the story will boil down to exactly this: Blago only did what everyone else was doing. Handing out jobs and selling Senate seats is what Chicago politicians do all the time.

Given the current flap over the Administration’s offer of a job to Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak in exchange for his staying out the Senate race, and stories of a similar job offer to a Colorado politician we can understand the concern. Scratch the recently passed Health Care Reform Bill and you’ll find dozens more cases of job offers in exchange for votes. As this trial drags on who knows how many cans of worms will get kicked over.

As it turned out, it was Obama’s “vacation” to Chicago that resulted in the rain-soaked Memorial Day speech. This in turn led to the news footage that provided the picture worth a thousand words. There he was on our television screens; President Obama, grimly clutching his umbrella after the temperature suddenly dropped 15 degrees and the skies opened up in a mid-west gully-washer. It was all he could do to read the teleprompter and make himself heard over the rolling thunder.

The audience, hundreds of loyal Democrats, stood dutifully shivering in the rain. Many of them had, perhaps, seen Obama speak before, in better times, when he was full of dreamy promises about lowering the sea level, healing the earth and fundamentally changing America. We can only assume it began to dawn on some in the crowd, the smarter ones, just what kind of President we are stuck with for most of the next three years.

When it rains, it pours.

This essay was originally published on
June 4th, 2010 in American Thinker

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Deep Cover at Organizing for America

Democrats are already gearing up. They can’t wait for the November elections to arrive.

One of the Chicago blogs I check into, Marathon Pundit, ran an interesting post this weekend. I don’t want to mention the writer’s name and risk blowing his cover, but due to a DNC computer glitch he received an invitation to attend an Organizing for America “training session” in Evanston, Illinois. Well, what have we here?

After checking the box marked Yes! You can count on me! said Blogger returned his RSVP. Then, wearing what he described as a “subtle disguise”, he arrived at the session, signed the guest list and positioned himself in the audience to take copious notes.

The Covert Blogger is to be commended. He got in and got out undetected, and filed an informative and enjoyable report. You can read it here: Marathon Pundit.

In the report are some interesting details and quotes, a few of which may benefit from a little further analysis.

For instance, briefly describing the political landscape in Evanston, we are told that in the 2008 election Evanston – which is home to North Western University – voted 87% for Obama-Biden.

That is an astounding percentage of voters even for an affluent liberal college town. But, it is even more astounding when we turn that number around and consider the fact this left only 13% to vote for the Green Party, Communist Party, or the Socialist Worker’s Party.

According to the report, one of the hosts of the training session was the secretary of the Democratic Party of Evanston, Brian Miller. Miller told attendees that the DP of E has “a history of exporting our influence.” This was the purpose of the meeting. Under the name “Organizing for America”, it is their stated objective to further export Democratic influence. Miller went on to describe the hundreds of Obama volunteers the group sent into Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa; busloads of them. Evanston, the Blogger shows, is a major distribution hub of Leftist politics. Reading this part of the report I recalled the scene where the Doctor looks out his window on the town square in the b&w version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and witnesses his fellow citizens loading pods onto trucks and into the trunks of their cars.

“We got it locked down” in Evanston, Miller told attendees.

Then, Organizing for America regional field director, Brian Gorman asked attendees to consider the question, “How can I use the tools to take ownership of the community?”

One such “tool’, apparently, will be the continued use of the sexual slur “Tea Bagger”. Democrats seem to take a giggly delight in saying it. It’s like a dirty word in the mouth of a child. President Obama has been quoted using it. I still don’t know exactly what it means, but get the idea that unless you’re into whips and chains it isn’t good.

To drill attendees in proper usage, they used the term to refer to Republican Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate, Bill Brady, never mentioning him by name. He was just the “The Republican ’Tea Bagger’ running for Governor”.

Concerning the Left’s dismissal of Bill Brady, so far the main thing the public knows about him is that he is asking where our tax money has been going for all these years. He’s calling for an independent audit of the State of Illinois’ financial books. Given the $12-17 Billion dollar hole in the State’s annual budget and the estimated $77.8 Billion in unfunded state worker pensions this seems reasonable.

Yet, the only thing Organizing for America had to say about Bill Brady is that he’s a “Tea Bagger” and “a really bad guy.” There was nothing in the report that indicated concerns over the current Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, a Democrat, who was Rod “Blago” Blagojevich’s running mate just four years ago, back when Blago was cutting deals and shaking down charity hospitals. No worries there.

Notice, too, the use of the phrase, “take ownership of the community.”

Evanston borders Chicago on the north and they speak the same political language. In Democrat-ese “owning the community” means if you got a problem with trash pick up, talk to the Democratic precinct captain. If you have a kid who needs a job, talk to the Democratic precinct captain. If you have trouble with delivery trucks getting ticketed for double-parking in front of your shop, talk to the Democratic precinct captain. If you need a block party permit, a one-day liquor license, or building code violation overlooked, talk to the Democratic precinct captain. Democrats own the community. They don’t own the potholes or the crumbling infrastructure or the failing schools, or the crime in the streets – that part of the community taxpayers own. Democrats just own the parts with the “juice”. Additionally, in Evanston they own the part that gets to decide how everyone else has to live and how much VAT tax they’ll have to pay and whether mass illegal immigration is a good thing or a bad thing. They own the policy part.

As our clandestine Blogger reports, Democratic strategy for the 2010 mid-term elections boils down to this: they are going to quote-unquote “zero in” on those first-time voters who in 2008 went overwhelmingly for Obama. That’s their plan. That’s it. That, and the phrase “Tea Bagger”.

At this point, let me caution against over-confidence. The mid-term election is by no means a sure thing for Conservatives, Libertarians and right-thinking Republicans. We are all going to have to work with a will. But if this is the central strategy of the Democrat’s plan to hold on to power they are in deep water. Obama won in ’08 with 53% of the vote, which, outside of places like Evanston, does not give the Administration much room to play with.

What this tells us is that the official Leftist Democratic agenda has peaked. It has gone as far as it can go at the ballot box and is now contracting. The reality of economic and world events has made it difficult if not impossible for Democrats to expand their voter base. Now they are forced to put their efforts into holding on to their old voters, especially those who were “new” voters two years ago. Most of those new voters in 2008 were inexperienced. And, if they were young voters they were inexperienced, period

Having this knowledge of the Democrat’s strategy presents us an opportunity. When Conservatives, Libertarians and Republicans volunteer to campaign door to door we, too, will take the opportunity to “zero in” on those young voters. Many of them are not so inexperienced now. Many have awakened from the fog that was the Obama-Biden campaign of ’08. Many now realizes our nation and the world face problems that can’t be overcome with feel-good speeches of Hope and Change.

Take it as a guarantee. When you come to the door of those “new” voters of the ’08 campaign you will find many are now open to discussion.

Let us offer thanks to the Covert Blogger for this valuable reconnaissance.

This essay was originally published May 11, 2010 on
American Thinker.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vote for the Crook -- It's Important

If anyone ever wonders why politics in the State of Illinois is such a bucket of worms they need look no further than the shot a CBS-Chicago bureau producer fired at Republican US Senate nominee, Mark Kirk the other day.

Said CBS producer, Ed Marshall in front of a live mike;

"Channel 2's made a decision. We're really not going to cover the Senate race if it consistently, only in your terms, is about Broadway Bank. The bank's been taken over by the government, Alexi's been pilloried. Tell me: what is your campaign going forward? What are the issues that you are going to tell the voters why they should vote for you?"

The Feds closed Broadway Bank on April 23rd, after it came up $395 million dollars short in the books. Now, two weeks later, CBS-Chicago is already tired of hearing about it. Producer Ed Marshall’s statement amounts to a CBS Policy Statement: CBS is not interested in digging into the story. Further, CBS considers the subject off-limits as a campaign issue. In other words they told Kirk to button his lip – or else.

Why is this significant? Because the “Alexi” in the above quote is the Democratic nominee for US Senate in Illinois, Alexi Giannoulias. He also happens to be the former VP and Chief Loan Officer of the Broadway Bank. Oops.

In an election year where the word “banker”, as Joe Biden would say, is a “four letter word”, CBS doesn’t want to rock any boats. Nor do they want Kirk to emphasize any clear distinctions between his record of service in Congress and the US Navy, and Giannoulias’ record of service making “juice loans” to Chicago mobsters.

Mark Kirk continually harping about Broadway Bank makes it tough for the media to run soft coverage of the Giannoulias campaign. Financial details get in the way of the warm and fuzzies about Alexi’s recent marriage or his love of Bulls basketball.

CBS would rather Illinois voters not ask themselves “Does a bank failure matter?” After all, in the grand scheme of things, what is another $400 million? Billions and Trillions are tossed around every day. At the federal level there are so many zeros on the end of budget deficits that the numbers runs off the edge of the page.

But, to answer the question – darn right it matters! Somebody has to pay it back. And we know that Democratic-connected insiders are not the ones who will be stuck with the bill.

Another thing the media would rather not concern voters with is the fact that a lot of the missing Broadway Bank money was lent to Chicago crime figures. Reportedly, Giannoulias lent some $20 Million to felons who were already convicted and were awaiting sentencing at the time the loans were made. This is the kind of banking we’d expect to see on The Sopranos. Yet, to CBS News Mob connections are not a disqualifier for public office. Today’s Democratic Party is a big tent.

The fact is, Illinois politics are conducted inside a house of mirrors, and everywhere the media looks they see a crook.

Standing in one spot inside that house of mirrors we see this: Alexi Giannoulias is the Democratic Party nominee for Barack Obama’s old US Senate seat, the same seat that former Illinois Governor Rod “Blago” Blagojevich attempted to sell for $5 Million dollars just a year and a half ago. The “Blago” trial is set to start in June. A key witness is expected to be money-man Anton “Tony” Rezko, who also helped fix things so Barack and Michelle Obama could buy their Hyde Park house at below market price. See how it works? One crooked politician reflects another. And we haven’t even mentioned three recent suspicious suicides (one just yesterday) or Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the gaggle of Alderman and City officials under investigation.

This is the kind of delicate glassware that the Mainstream Media in Illinois has to tip-toe around every day. There are crooks everywhere and they need to be ignored. And, all the mouthing-off that Mark Kirk is doing is just making CBS’s job of keeping this Senate seat in Democratic control tougher.

To further move the narrative along, in 2006 Giannoulias got himself elected State Treasurer of Illinois. Don’t bother to ask “how’d that happen?” It’s just the way things seem to work in Illinois. On the good side, at age 30, he was the youngest treasurer elected in state history. On the bad side, his record in Springfield is similar to his record at the Broadway Bank. Illinois finances are a mess; per capita taxpayer debt is second only to California. Here’s an example; recently “Illinois Bright Start”, a State program that allowed parents to send money to Springfield to pre-pay for their kid’s college tuition, was found to have lost $85 Million dollars. That’s $85 Million in tuition fees up in smoke.

While we have to admire Giannoulias, he dogged; failing at one thing – at the bank or at the Treasurer’s job – he dusts himself off and attacks his next goal.

But, what about CBS? What makes them think they can tell a candidate which public issues he should ignore? In an era of economic turbulence aren’t a candidate’s financial blunders worthy of public examination, even if that candidate happens to be a Democrat? Has the mainstream media become that useless? Worse than useless?

I never thought I would think of Mark Kirk for more than two seconds. I didn't vote for him in the primary. He's a "moderate" Republican. One thing’s for sure, though; he hasn’t cost taxpayers a dime. But, between Kirk and Giannoulias how tough a choice can it be?

Illinois is one of the battlegrounds in the 2010 elections. But, there are hundreds of other battleground races, on every level, all over the country. Each one is important to the future of America. No matter where you live in the country there are good, clear-thinking candidates that need your help. Go ahead. Make the commitment to work the election this fall. You’ll get lots of exercise, you’ll meet great people, you’ll help the country, and you’ll drive the media nuts.

Here in Chicago CBS news is already working for their guy. For them, the old Democratic Party slogan seems to be the order of the day:

“Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.”

A version of this essay was published May 8, 2010 on
The American Thinker

Sunday, May 2, 2010

California Considers a Boycott of Arizona

Dude, what’s with California?

Leftists in Los Angeles and San Francisco are so hopping mad at Arizona that they are working themselves up into a boycott of that whole State. Democratic officials in California are seeking a way to cancel public contracts with companies based in Arizona. This is in retaliation for that state’s new law calling for the enforcement of federal immigration laws. These threats are concrete evidence that The Left has reached a condition of self-parody. There ought to be somebody in a position of authority who will think this through first.

The City of Los Angeles is on the verge of bankruptcy. They are not just broke; they’re in hock up to their chins. LA faces a nearly One Billion Dollar budget short fall. Scores of businesses have left the city due to high taxes and regulation. A significant part of the workforce has drifted into the “gray economy”, untaxed and working off the books. San Francisco’s condition is only marginally better. The City by the Bay is just Half a Billion Dollars in the red. It is hard to believe that taxpayers in municipalities in this kind of deep water would permit elected officials to waste time figuring how they can cancel contracts with Arizona businesses.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I believe the days of the Left are numbered. The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God will not allow a belief system this dangerously silly to survive.

Let’s refer to our studies from City Contracts 101.

Customarily, when a governmental body seeks bids for a public contract, assuming officials are doing their jobs and bribery or insider connections are not a factor, it awards the contract to the lowest bidder. Assuming this is the case – and if it is not the case California taxpayers have more problems than they realize – it therefore follows that the cancelled contracts will have to be re-issued to higher bidders…at additional cost to taxpayers. Take that, Arizona!

This is what passes for thinking among California’s elected leaders. They are going to take economic revenge on Arizona and citizens of the Golden State will tally as collateral damage.

Officials haven’t been clear about exactly what Arizona goods they will be boycotting, hopefully incidentals of little importance. But you never know. I seem to recall reading that due to California’s environmental laws the state purchases much of its electricity from Arizona, from facilities like the Palo Verde Nuke plant near Phoenix.

Is California’s anger with Arizona so great that they are prepared to boycott Arizona electricity? Are increased brown-outs and more frequent rolling black-outs, euphemistically referred to by the state as “load shedding”, a worthy price to pay in order to keep the flow of illegals coming? (And the flow of illegal voters) How much inconvenience will Californians tolerate in support of this crusade? It’s nice to have lights at night. Those giant screen TVs drink up a lot of juice. And, summer is right around the corner and not everyone has airy beachfront property. It gets pretty hot in most of California. Will residents be willing to give up their air conditioners? And, what about Silicon Valley? What kind of impact will power shortages have on tech industries? Before biting the hand that feeds shouldn’t someone think about that?

And, then there is California’s perpetual water problem. With miles of Pacific coastline, California has a lot of salt water – remember the movie Chinatown? “Bad for glass...” – but it has very little fresh water. The state’s major source of water is the Colorado River – which flows through, wouldn’t you know it, Arizona. No matter how outraged California officials are, there is only so much bottled water that can be trucked in. While bottled water has become recognized as ecologically taboo, still, in the interest of punishing Arizona, will Californians be willing to fill their swimming pools with Perrier? That still leaves the problem of how to water their lawns and wash their cars. Again, did anyone consider this? There are no easy answers.

Here is what’s going on: Many Leftists had a great time in college. An all-warts picture of the United States was drilled into their heads. After graduation many of them moved directly into government jobs. Added to their disdain for America, many have little or no experience running things more complicated than ad-hoc student committees. Although some find their way into the Sunlight of Conservative-Libertarian-Capitalist Enlightenment, many are doomed to an existence trapped inside the box of political-activist thinking. Mentally they remain thoughtless teenagers, arguing with their parents one minute and asking for the keys to the car the next. A handy example is Oakland Mayor, the former Governor Moonbeam himself, Jerry Brown. He’s seriously considering getting aboard the boycott bandwagon -- and he wants to run for California governor again. In thirty years he’s learned nothing.

Once upon a time, these people could march on an Administration Building, block the doors in protest and shut an entire campus down. Now they are peppered throughout various levels of government.

California officials need to accept the fact that they have a duty to their citizens. They need to put childish things aside. Leave the protesting to the college kids.

But, if they simply can’t help themselves, here’s an idea: Any California official who wants to protest Arizona in a nice, harmless way that will leave taxpayers unmolested might consider making a guest appearance at a campus demonstration somewhere. There’s sure to be lots of cameras and, unlike the Tea Parties, the news coverage is guaranteed to be glowingly positive.

Out there in the land of “less is more”, my suggestion would be to give a speech denouncing Arizona -- and America, too, just for good measure. More talk is always a good thing. At the conclusion rip down the American flag, take out a pair of scissors and remove the 48th star. Then spray it with lighter fluid and burn it. Unless you accidentally set something else on fire, the flame will be small, so it will not add the air pollution. The message will be “it is better to light one candle than to enforce the law”. Touching, huh?

Guaranteed, you’ll make the news and you can feel good about yourself in the bargain.

This essay was originally published on May 1, 2010 on
The American

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fancy Nancy

That’s a pretty amazing photograph of Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the cover of the May/June issue of Capitol File magazine. I saw it linked on The Drudge Report and didn’t even recognize that it was her. The change is nothing short of remarkable.

At first I thought one of her “image” handlers had goofed. In an effort to polish her up they had gotten carried away and smoothed off a few too many years. This picture’s effusive puffery goes so far that it nearly amounts to the roll-out of a new product that the public hasn’t seen, like the Apple iPad. But, Nancy Pelosi is not new.

In marketing and advertising certain procedures are followed when the time comes to re-make a person or product’s public image. Media-savvy consultants don’t just spring a major change on the public out of the blue.

Simply explained a re-build is done in phases and measured steps. The hair is allowed to be shown progressively grayer; the words “sugar sweetened” get smaller on the box and the word “Natural” gets larger; the suit gives way to a sport coat, then to a sweater. The tee shirt and sandals come last.

It may actually be, if we could measure it, that the photo’s impact on the general public is not one of positive approval, but of stunned amazement. John and Jane Doe, fed up with taxes, unemployment and Washington double-think, recognize this for what it is -- political spin. We all know Nancy Pelosi has been around the block a few times and has had some "work" done. So, who do they think they are kidding? Another new "do" and some pictures are not going to improve her numbers with the public.

Having been involved in this sort of thing, I look at Speaker Pelosi’s new photo and see the lights, the silks, the scrims, the makeup artist, wardrobe stylist, the security officers shooing tourists away (if, indeed, this was really shot on location). I see the staffers, the 20-somethings on cell phones back to the office, and the personal assistant sent to fetch some Fiji Water – in a glass with ice, not in the bottle. I see the photographer walking on eggs trying to get the Speaker to look this way or that, to smile -- but not too broadly -- and the crew banging off dozens of high res images before heading into a long session of Photo Shop-by-committee. And, all of this fuss was in quest of a vanity portrait that was never destined for the cover of The Rolling Stone, but rather a stuffy inside the beltway version of Cincinnati Magazine.

However, now that I think about it, this picture is more than a vanity portrait. It is a tool intended to send a message to a specific audience.

Capitol File magazine’s primary circulation area is Washington, DC. The audience is very select. This cover photo is so outlandish in its visual flattery that it can only be seen as a warning directed to the lobbyists, and vendors, and supplicants who travel to our nation’s capitol. It communicates to them that Nancy Pelosi can command how others should see her; as Our Glorious Speaker, and you better not laugh or you’ll be on the next plane back to Palookaville. Gone are the wild eyes. Gone are the grasping facial expressions. Gone is any hint that she habitually accuses Tea Partiers or others who challenge her of being “violent” and “Nazis”.

For the next two months Capitol File magazine will sit on coffee tables in reception areas throughout Washington. All the people who are not insiders, who have to wait, who are not whisked past the desk directly through to meetings, will sit in lobbies and see Nancy Pelosi’s picture smiling at them from the coffee table as if there’s nothing wrong.

Nancy Pelosi's cover portrait is not designed to fool anyone into believing that she is younger, kinder or gentler than she really is. We all know the truth in that matter.

The picture is intended to let people know who is in charge.

This essay was originally published April 30, 2010 on

The American Thinker

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The US is Not "Like Nazi Germany"

Oh, Brother.

I just heard a radio sound bite of some anti-anti-illegal immigration protester claiming that America is like Nazi Germany: We are putting up a border fence in Arizona and storm troopers are demanding to see people's papers.

The easy explanation would be to point out that in Nazi Germany those things were done to keep people in -- in Arizona they are being done to keep people out. That's a significant difference right there, but also an over-simplification itself.

It is commonly agreed that The United States is a nation of immigrants, legal immigrants. For over two hundred years in all parts of the world -- people have left their homes, their extended families, their possessions and moved to the New World of the United States. Those huddled-masses built this nation. An immigrant today doesn't just join us, but in a real sense joins those earlier immigrants, too.

It should be self-evident that the old legal-way worked well; we're all here, aren't we? We all have grand-parents or great grand-parents many times removed who came here from somewhere. They all were escaping a tyrant, a famine, religious oppression, or a backward culture that would abandon them to an eternity of peasantry. All were looking for a new start and a chance at Life. Very few of the world's wealthy left their estates or their villas to move here. Even the Marquis de Lafayette, after serving with George Washington and helping win our independence, moved back to France -- I'll never figure why. So don't fall for a lecture about "America hates poor people". Poor people by the million came to the United States and made it what it is.

The protest focused on Arizona is really a part of the economic resentment directed at the American people as a whole. It is self-serving and ultimately will prove self-defeating. There is no reason now to discard our measured means of selecting, admitting and absorbing new citizens in favor of a lax open border policy that disadvantages the American people.

The recent Arizona law was forced on the Governor, the Legislature and the People of that State by the inaction and fecklessness of the Federal Government. We've all heard the stories. How much murder and kidnapping does the Administration expect the people of Arizona to put up with? Just a little bit more, and then we'll do something? The fact is, the American public is being ignored by those who would benefit from either cheap labor or cheap votes. As Americans we have a right to expect our government to fulfill its commitment to "provide for the common defense" and to "insure domestic tranquility".

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A 3-D Slide Show -- in Breathtaking Kodachrome

As I have mentioned before, I am a dedicated and long-time stereo photographer. The rugged Stereo Realist is my camera of choice. It was Made In the USA, in Milwaukee to be exact, and is one of those American built-to-last wonders of the post WWII-era. Other companies introduced more sophisticated stereo cameras with more features and simpler operation, but the good-old Stereo Realist just keeps taking the pictures I want it to take.

Shooting with a 60 year-old stereo camera means, obviously, that I use film. Very retro compared to the current mode of photography. This year I am shooting my way through my last supply of Kodachrome 64. Last summer, after 75 years, Kodak announced they are suspending production of that wonderful film. -- One of the earliest posts on Plumwood Road, June 23, 2009, dealt with the subject of Kodachrome's passing.-- I found a cache of this film at PJ's Camera in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and bought a brick of it. My camera has been souped-up in such a manner to enables it to shoot "wider" views, but that means it burns through a 36-exposure roll in only 20 clicks. I am trying to make my supply last through the year, which is also the last year that processing will be available.

As it happens, we have very few Kodachrome slides of any kind from my youth. My Dad was not a slide shooter. He shot black and white print snapshots. Nothing fancy. Although, some of the shots he took in World War II in China and India are pretty dog gone amazing.

My introduction to Kodachrome slide film came in the mid-1970s, when I was a motion picture camera assistant. I was working in the California desert on a car commercial. The still photographer's assistant saw that I was using some commonly available "vacation-type" slide film in my personal camera and gave me a roll of Kodachrome 25 to try.

"This is called 'The Good Stuff'", he said. "Use it once and I guarantee you'll never go back."

And he was right. Kodachrome is/was rich, vivid, crisp, sharp...and permanent. Properly stored some estimates claim it to be stable for 500 years. It is perfect for documenting for viewers in the distant future a record of the images we see around us now.

Most people remember slide shows when they were kids. It was a common form of entertainment in the 50s and 60s; gather in the living room, dim the lights and project last summer's vacation pictures for the neighbors.

The Kodachrome slide shows that I remember seeing were photographed and projected in 3-D.

Long time friends of my parents from our church were Emil and Stella Miller.

Emil Miller was corporate/portrait/wedding photographer in the post-WWII years in Dayton, Ohio. Stella ran the business. Though it may be hard to picture now, Dayton, Ohio was once a booming industrial center, home to NCR, Delco, Frigidaire, Mead Paper, Lau Industries and a host of other manufacturing businesses. It was a very prosperous Mid-Western city that was full of engineers, machine shops, factories, and aerospace firms. All of this provided Em and Stella with work and interesting photographic subject matter. During his assignments Em would often switch out his view camera or 6X6, and mount his Stereo Realist on the tripod and click off a few shots in 3-D for his personal collection. He had nifty views taken on the plant floors, inside offices, at the mill...the lady at the switchboard, the guy in the bow-tie with the clipboard, the sparks flying as the molten metal was poured, the line of bottles rattling along at the local Coca-Cola plant... all preserved in that perfect You Are There effect that only 3-D can capture.

Emil's business was very profitable. It allowed him and his wife to indulge their interests in art and antiques. They restored an old frame house and filled it with paintings. They enjoyed nice vacations, too; road trips in the summer, ski trips in the winter, as well as European or Asian travel. This they covered extensively in 3-D as well.

In the winter they hosted parties where they would project their slides; the kids sitting on the floor up front and the parents comfy on furniture in back and everybody wearing cardboard glasses. These shows were a lot of fun, not only due to the interesting subject matter but for the unusual 3-D effect. As the images clicked by, Stella or Em would narrate and tell us what we were seeing and who was in the picture. If you've never seen well-shot, well-projected 3-D pictures, it's quite an experience. We would look at the pictures and feel like we could step right into the screen and stand in front of the Eiffel Tower, or walk through the gates of the newly opened Disneyland. The pictures made quite an impression.

Years later, I began shooting Stereo pictures myself. This common interest put me in contact with the Millers who would phone from Ohio occasionally with questions like "where can I find supplies", or "who do you recommend to repair my projector?"

Sometime in the early 1990s, my wife and I, visiting family in Dayton, were invited to attend one of Emil and Stella Miller's 3-D shows. They had found a few boxes of old slides and thought we would enjoy seeing them.

That evening's show came as almost a shock: All of the views were shot on Kodachrome and projected as beautifully as the day they were shot. We saw pictures of my brother and me as boys, my parents as a young couple, adults and kids from church, There was a shot of Dave Rothman when he was about 10 years-old, standing next to his dippy sister, Diane, who had cooties. But, what did I know then? For the record, she was a dish the last time I saw her.

There were slides taken inside our old house, at a picnics with people long gone, of Dayton, bustling and decorated up for Christmas. In the mid-50s my brother and I had a pet raccoon and there were a couple pictures of him, still a young pup, sitting on my brother's shoulder or standing up on his hind legs mooching a handout. The pictures were so life-like I felt I could reach out and give the fuzzy little guy a scratch behind the ears. The show went on to highlight some of Emil's commercial work, views of Dayton, Ohio as it used to be, and of some of the travel Em and Stella enjoyed; all of it was interesting. The over-all effect was this: Emil Miller had taken a shovel and scooped up a load of random memories and flashed them on the screen.

The evening concluded with refreshments of soft-drinks, with ham and rye, sweet pickles, veggies with potato chips and dips -- all smells and tastes associated with the era in which most of the pictures had been taken.

In 2002 my wife and I were in Dayton. Stella had passed a few months earlier and we found Em packing boxes in the dining room. He was breaking up their art collection and selling the house in preparation to move into a retirement community.

"While you're here, I have something you may be able to get more use out of than me..." Em opened a closet, shifted a few boxes around and got out his Stereo Realist projector, which to this day is the only genuine "Realist" projector I've ever seen. It was a phenomenal gift and one for which I was very grateful.

Along with the projector he gave me four boxes crammed with stereo slides.

"These are not my best slides" he said. "But I won't have room for them in the new place. Maybe you could look through them and see if there is anything you want to keep."

It took my wife and me several days to get through all the slides. They were all interesting and fun. Yes, I could see that some of them were misfires or out-takes, but there were some gems in the collection as well.

I stayed in touch with Em, over the next few years and on visits would stop by his apartment and say hello. He was a handy fellow with tools and kept busy hanging pictures and making repairs for the widows in the community.

After a while I began thinking about the rest of his stereo slides, the ones he'd shot at church functions, of my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, the views inside factories and old airliners, "the good ones" that he had kept. I wondered if he had any idea what he planned to do with them. I knew they were more personal to him, so I put off any questions. I would have loved to have had them. But, as it turned out, I never got the chance to ask.

In the fall of '07 Em didn't return a couple calls I had made. When we stopped by at Christmas time his apartment was empty. We were told that Em had died several months earlier. An auction had been held for his remaining artwork.

But, sadly, all those slides were tossed into a dumpster.

This article was published earlier by The Kodachrome Project. If you are a photographer you will enjoy going to that site and taking a last look at that wonderful, soon to be gone, film...Kodachrome.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tea Time in Chicago

I’ll tell you right now: this Chicago Tea Party report has a very happy ending…and, I’m going to get to it as fast as I can, so just sit tight and be patient.

I haven’t had a chance yet to check in on reports of tax day Tea Parties from around the country, but I don’t suppose Chicago’s made much of a ripple. Other rallies were much bigger, featured speakers of national stature, or had coverage on Fox. But in heavily Democratic Chicago, the capital of Obamanomics, what could happen worth comment?

The Windy City’s Tea Party took place on Daley Plaza in the center of Chicago’s Loop. Daley Plaza is dominated by the five-story high Picasso statue depicting a giant iron bird. Since it’s erection in the 1960s, it has evenly divided locals between those who like it and those who think it is an eyesore. Artistic merit aside, it never the less qualifies as a major Chicago landmark. You can walk by even in the dead of winter and find tourists, under-dressed and shivering, snapping pictures of each other in front of it. Then, to the west of the Plaza, across Clark Street, looms Chicago City Hall. It is the local equivalent of the Tower of London; the source of some local pride, but also the site of many infamous deeds.

The rally kicked off smartly a few minutes after noon, right at the heart of lunch hour. It was a warm day and the Plaza quickly filled. A couple major problems quickly became apparent. First, the speaker’s platform was located too close to the Picasso, so the view of a lot of people was blocked off. And, second, the sound system, which would have been fine for a high school pep rally, was totally inadequate to reach the ears of several thousand of the attendees. For most of the rally I could hear nothing but a low rumbling blur.

What happens when people half-way back in the crowd can’t hear? They stop trying to listen and begin to talk among themselves. It was in large part due to those conversations that the event was such a success. There were people all around introducing themselves, taking pictures, commenting on clever signs, exchanging literature, business cards and email addresses. Yes, there were a few “Party Crashers”, but they amounted to little more nuisance than ants at a picnic. On the plus side, however, was a surprising number of the genuinely curious; those who came to see what the Tea Party was all about. It was a lively, very satisfying social gathering; a cocktail party without the cocktails.

Several of us eventually managed to inch our way into hearing range just as the MC introduced Congressional candidate Joel Pollak, who is running for Congress in the Illinois 9th District, for the seat now held by Democrat Jan Schakowsky. If somebody from the Republican National Committee is reading this, pay attention: Pollak is somebody to keep an eye on.

Pollak's turn at the podium came late in the program. He stepped to the microphone with a toothy grin, gave the crowd a few laughs and then got down to business. He clicked off a short stump speech stressing political accountability, of “More freedom, less government, less taxes”. Then he shouldered an acoustic guitar and led the crowd in a Hootenanny. It was a blast. Joel Pollak was on stage about twelve minutes and created a lot of buzz in the crowd.

A little later, after the rally, I walked into The Berghoff for a pint of dark. Several groups of Tea Partiers had gotten there ahead of me and were in discussion. While I was paying for my beer, a young man standing at the bar carrying a nice Canon professional commented on my Stereo Realist. Camera-talk led to talk of the Tea Party. He’d attended the rally to photograph it. He had seen little that impressed him, “A few nice people, but not what the country needs right now.” He was generally unsympathetic to the views of the Tea Partiers.

As the remaining Tea Party crowd drifted out of the bar and onto the sidewalk, the photographer and I continued talking.

“What do you think of Sarah Palin? What about Glen Beck? How can you let all those people go without health care?” I did my best to advance the ideas of Free Markets, less government, and lower taxes, and to describe the dark waters that lay ahead if we don’t bring government under control.

Then his cell phone rang. It was the photographer’s new girlfriend.

“I’m at The Berghoff talking to some Tea Party-guy.” He said. “Okay, see you in ten minutes.”

We continued our conversation, and ten minutes later the girlfriend walked in. She was in her late 20s, wearing a cotton sun dress, and very attractive. The photographer introduced us, “This is Lisa.”

She ordered a beer and sat quietly while the photographer and I continued our conversation.

When her beer arrived she, with some ceremony, picked it up, took a sip, set the glass back on the bar then looked at us steadily for a moment. “Are you guys just talking politics? ‘Cause, if you are, here’s my politics: I voted for Barack Obama and I wish I hadn’t.”

Maybe it wasn't the sum-total of the Tea Party philosophy, but what happier, more unexpected conclusion to the day’s events could there be? A beer at The Berghoff, and a cute girl who wraps things up in one sentence.

Case closed.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Congressman Paul Ryan Speaks in Oklahoma

Today while doing yard chores I caught part of Rush’s show on my Walkman, and heard him comment about a recent speech given by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. I was trimming some dead branches and trying not to step on spring flowers starting to poke up, so I was only half-listening.

It wasn’t what Limbaugh said that caught my attention, but the way that he said it. A little light flashed in the back of my head. When I finished the job I came in and fired up Old Sparky and looked around the internet.

Representative Ryan spoke last week, on March 31st, to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. If this sounds like Ryan is tap dancing his way through the Rubber Chicken Circuit, put that thought out of your mind. I found a transcript at Real Clear Politics and it took about 20 minutes to read. It was riveting and you should take a look at it; Click Here for Paul Ryan Speech.

The whole thing is a freight train of ideas barreling along at 80mph; one terrific passage after another. There is nothing half-way about it. He absolutely demolished the Health Care Reform Bill, Cap & Trade, the concept of “ethics” in the current Administration, but one part caught my eye:

“Since America began, the timid have feared the Founding Father’s ideas of individual freedom, so they yearned for Old World class models. Our Progressivists are the latest iteration of that same fear of the people.”

A few weeks ago I happened to run across a quote by Samuel Adams that said the same exact thing more than 200 years ago.

Many people would be surprised to learn that after the Founders won our independence an astonishing number of colonists packed up their belongings and moved back to England. Isn’t that astounding? They sailed here, and then sailed back. They could not comprehend living in a representative democracy without a Monarch. No King, no Duke, no Sultan, no permanent ruling class; just “Mr. President”, some Congressmen and Senators and “We the People”. It’ll never last. Who’ll take care of them?

There was, understandably, some resentment at the time directed toward those who wanted no part of The American Adventure, who couldn’t comprehend any sort of “American Dream” and Sam Adams expressed it beautifully:

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

The spirit of that quote lives in Paul Ryan’s Oklahoma speech. As does this sentence, which I take to be Ryan’s Topic Sentence:

“We are at the beginning of an election campaign like you’ve never seen before!”

Read Ryan’s speech, and mark the man well. We will see him again before long.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Submitted For Your Approval...

If you’ve been wondering if you’d ever see author George Orwell, screen composer Bernard Herrmann and early television writer Rod Serling all mentioned in the same sentence, your wait is over.

I am, and have been for years, an admirer of all three. For purposes of this short piece let me simply state that in their respective fields, each is a giant. If you scroll back through the Plumwood Road archives you’ll see a piece posted December 21, 2009 that concerned one of Serling’s excursions into The Twilight Zone. Let the record therefore show that I’ve at least nibbled around the edges of the subject before.

The three men were not quite contemporaries. Orwell died in 1950, while Serling was writing teleplays for the great WLW in Cincinnati, and Herrmann was near composing the score for The Day the Earth Stood Still. But for the purposes of this article, let me offer this single observation: these three artists, Serling, Herrmann, and Orwell all frequently created works built around a dread of the totalitarian state.

For The Twilight Zone Rod Serling wrote dozens of episodes depicting the nature of dark, futuristic mega-governments, of state control and monitoring. The music of Bernard Herrmann, beautiful and listenable as it is, frequently contrasted warm inner passion with an icy, sterile, emotionless condition. Watch a copy of the 1966 production of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Pay special attention to the musical score and you’ll see what I mean. And, finally, what is there to say about George Orwell, author of 1984, that hasn’t already been said? The word “Orwellian” sums it up nicely.

As it happened, the other evening I was reading Orwell’s essay, The Prevention of Literature. It’s an excellent short piece if you want to gain a little insight into the workings progressives and of the leftist press from an expert.

Usually I read in silence. But I’d received a new CD; a collection of the scores that Herrmann wrote for The Twilight Zone.

After dinner, as Karen and I settled into the living room to do some reading. I unwrapped the double-disc CD set and put it in the player. I had only a hazy memory of the music composed for the episode titled Eye of the Beholder, so I cued it up and pushed play, then settled down to read.

As the music played, this is the passage from Orwell’s The Prevention of Literature that I happened to read:

“The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient… It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary….From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible… This kind of thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country (Great Britain in the post-war 1940s) usually argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie. It is pointed out that all historical records are biased and inaccurate, or, on the other hand, that modern physics has proved that what seems to us the real world is an illusion, so that to believe in the evidence of one’s senses is simply vulgar philistinism. A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying a historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectuals.”

Did you get all of that? The above is excerpted from one, single paragraph. It pays to read Orwell slowly, with a pencil for underlining. But he opens a door for you, doesn't he?

About half way through the passage I became aware of the effect that Herrmann’s music was having in enhancing the impact of Orwell’s words and I began to read aloud. I didn’t get far before Karen said,

“Stop, Jed. Stop. It’s scaring me.”

She made my point. Orwell’s text read with Herrmann’s musical accompaniment projects a vivid image. You can feel “the state” at work. The state is everything. You are an ant.

And, now that you have read George Orwell’s text displayed on your computer screen didn’t you, too, even without musical embellishment, see the state as represented by our compliant, unquestioning press, by evidence-destroying global warming scientists, by a power hungry Congress, by seedy, self-serving cradle-to-grave programs?

But what about Mr. Serling; where’s his contribution in this discussion of a potentially all-controlling state?

If you have 23 minutes to spare, click on this You Tube video, broken into three short segments,

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

It is the original November 11, 1960 broadcast of The Eye of the Beholder. See if you don’t get the warnings concerning government medicine, of rationing, of benevolent oppression.

Submitted for your approval...
from Plumwood Road, via The Twilight Zone.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This Is What Change Looks Like

I should listen to my wife more often.

After Sunday night’s health care vote we turned off the television and took our dog for a walk.

I was pretty grumbly and probably not very good company. I griped and complained and expressed astonishment that a bill that mandates this much federal oversight of private industry, that is stuffed, end to end with pork – literally built on a cornerstone of graft – could ever be written in the capitol of the United States.

And then I said, “I wonder how long it will be before some Democrat sums all of this up as 'just a step in the right direction’.”

“Oh! Good point,” Karen said. “When we get home you should fire up Sparky and blog that.”

As it turns out I would have had to blog it that very instant, because while we were out, President Barack Obama addressed the nation and said the same thing almost word for word.

“This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction.”

Astounding, isn’t it? It’s like I’m some kind of a mind-reader.

Of course, the President's intent, after all the hype this last year, was to begin lowering expectations and yet still declare that the bill was “close enough for government work.” And, make no mistake; government work is precisely what medicine will become.

Looking at the bright side, Congress and the federal bureaucracy got exactly what they want: a platform they can build on and tinker with ad infinitum. More government jobs, more "process", more opportunities, as they say in Chicago, for a few extra potatoes on the side. At the same time, Democrats believe they’ve put another bullet in their campaign clip, and that for decades to come whenever they get into elective-trouble they can always talk about expanding coverage, adding or cutting benefits, means testing, increasing fees, tighter mandates, etc., etc. For Democrats, what’s not to like? This kind of thing is their bread and butter.

Then, President Obama, in his very next sentence, put a cherry on top of the sundae:

“This is what change looks like.”

He got it exactly right. With those six words spoke more truth than he intended.