Saturday, December 29, 2007

REACT: The battle of Brattleboro

Kurt Daims, of Brattleboro, Vermont, is passing a petition to require his town’s selectboard to have George Bush and Dick Cheney indicted and arrested as war criminals should either of them ever set foot in Battleboro. (Do not be overly concerned, Vermont is the only state Bush has NEVER visited. Not likely he will find any reason in the future.)

Before we address the merits of the issue in more detail, it is first important to understand that Vermont is the closest we come to a national asylum. The folks there take such pride in be different that they almost qualify as an alien culture. I sometimes use the term “left-leaning loonies” in a figurative sense. In Vermont it has literal meaning. On the other hand, I love living in a country that people are free to be … ah … shall we say … peculiar?

Peculiar? Consider this. Vermont has the most active secessionist movement in America. As far as I can tell, the only thing preventing their departure from the Union is the rest of us being unwilling to pay foreign import fees for the maple syrup – their only discernible asset.

Granted, Vermont is a beautiful state, and well worth a visit – as long as you are not under some silly indictment for your political views and can put up with their favorite pastime – self congratulations. If you find a normal person from Vermont, chances are they are too new (less than three generations) to be fully indoctrinated or they only have a vacation home there.

The Vermont Attorney General said that Daims’ law would not be legal. Daims, a retired factory worker, disagrees. Rest assured that petty issues like legality is not likely to dissuade any of those hard line left-wing “green mountain” boys. Daims likens his petition to the Declaration of Independence, no less.

Occasionally, Vermont-itis flares up in other areas. I recall my once-hometown of Evanston, Illinois passing a resolution declaring the suburban community a “nuclear free zone.” Churches and a few residents even put up signs affirming their declaration. These are the kinds of things I refer to as “civic masturbation.” They have no discernible benefit other than making the person feel good at the time.

All this has resulted in me adding another listing to “Larry’s Laws of Life.” “Never move into a town that has a national or foreign policy.” They tend to be too busy doing the business of Congress or the United Nations to deliver basic services.

At the opening of this blog item, I promised to deal in with the merits of Daims’ petition drive. There are none.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

REACT: Ron is a-Paul-ing

It is one thing to march to the beat of a different drummer, but quite another to have no cadence at all. GOP presidential hopeless hopeful, Ron Paul is learning that to be different is not always good. No … I stand corrected, HE is learning no such thing. WE, the people, are learning it from him -- and not a minute to soon.

In his latest I-need-to-get-attention outlandish comments, Paul has said that the Civil War was unnecessary. He is right, of course. All Lincoln had to do was to politely ask the southern states to terminate slavery, and “presto!” – no Civil War. Why didn’t Old Abe ever think of that. He would have saved some 600,000 lives – including his own.

While we have wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lack of healthcare, low quality education, energy crisis and Al Gore, it is good to know that at least one presidential candidate is focused on the issues of 1860.

If Ron Paul has presidential timber, it is balsa wood. He makes Alan Keyes look downright presidential. I think I would rather vote for Ru Paul than Ron. (You think Ru is his son. I mean, check out the shape of the head, the nose and the eye brows. Hmmmm.)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

OBSERVATION: Is the theory of global warming slipping away?

It appears that the controversy over global warming is getting hotter than the earth.

Is it wishful thinking on my part or is the conventional mythology regarding the causes and results of any global warming starting to turn? In recent weeks, I seem to have heard a lot more from the other side – from the “deniers,” as the critics so arrogantly like to call them. Apparently, the certainty of Al Gore and the Nobel Prize industry is coming under challenge by a growing number of scientists, whose voices are beginning to penetrate the cone of silence imposed by the mostly liberal media on the critics of the hothouse theory.

Lincoln once said that “widely held beliefs, whether well or ill founded, have the impact of fact.” In a more famous quote, he also noted that you cannot “fool all the people all the time.” I think both apply to the debate surrounding global warming.

First there was the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) special featuring a bunch of leading scientists debunking the U.N. report that sent the international fire alarms off. The BBC special not only took to task the accuracy of the U.N. report, but impugned the integrity of the process and laid the blame at the foot of money and politics rather than science.

Gore’s problem with the British extends to the education community. In a previous item, I noted that schools in Great Britain have disallowed the showing of his Oscar winning docu-ganda, “An Inconvenient Truth,” because of all its inaccuracies and political propaganda.

John Stossel, ABC’s special reports guy did an American version of the rebuttal to Al Gore -- suggesting that it is the former Vice President who finds truth to be an inconvenience. While the left has attacked Stossel, the have not effectively rebutted the content.

Now, I know you are saying, what about all those awards – an Oscar and a Nobel Prize, no less. Impressive as they are, they are not the judgments of science. (I know the Oscar is the product of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SCIENCE, but remember this is the profession known for fiction, hype and Paris Hilton.) These are political awards that are handed out by liberals to liberals – and the most political recipients make political acceptance speeches.

If you do not think so, you have not seen “An Inconvenient Truth”, or are too blinded by philosophic prejudice to have noticed – it stinks. Without even considering the pseudo science, it is a sophomoric production. At times, it seems more of a shameless Al Gore public relations film than a documentary. (Oh! That is what it is … an Al Gore pr piece. And it plays well in liberal circles.) Remember, Hollywood also promoted the global warming panic with, “The Day After Tomorrow,” a god-awful movie, riddled with global warming paranoia, that shows New York freezing over between lunch and quitting time. People turn into human icicles within seconds of exposure to the cold air, but the hero walks from Pennsylvania to New York to save his son. Now come on, how stupid can this stuff get?

Recently, David Deming, whose scientific credentials (geophysicist, adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis, and associate professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma) are as good as any (and a lot better than Al Gore’s), penned an article that raised the question of “global cooling.” You read it right. No typo. Global cooling!
Deming concedes earth may be experiencing some VERY MODEST global warming in the modern times. Nothing out of the ordinary, and certainly no threat to humanity. The mean temperature of earth has not increased in the past nine years. No increase in hurricane activity. In fact, he suggests we maybe on the edge of a cooling trend.

The author offers an impressive list of instances of record breaking cold snaps -- snow in regions that never had snow before. Record breaking lows scattered throughout the world. While we are supposed to shudder in fear of the North Pole turning into a tropical paradise, Deming notes that the South Pole is getting colder. Good old mother earth might be getting a few hot flashes, but nothing to worry about.

So, why is there all this concern? International politics. A whole bunch of emerging and submerging nations want to gain some leverage by cooling down the high-powered U.S. and Chinese economies. The least productive countries want to go into a new business – selling us carbon credits they do not need (since much of their population lives in the gloriously green Stone Age). Rather than compete in the race called “progress,” they figure it is easier to simply trip the front runners.

A lot has to do with m-o-n-e-y. No surprise, eh? Major sectors of our society will gain major mullah from the fear mongering – everything from government grants to the providers of goods and services. Yeah, there is chunk of corporate America that stands to gain. Think of the lawyers passing rules and regulations as legislators and lobbyists, and seeing opportunity in new litigation.

Think power. The liberals see environmental fear as a wedge issue to maintain and gain power. They will save the cowering public from the mean old straw man they created -- if given the power of public office. I once worked for a candidate. A voter said he was going to vote for my gal because she was a Catholic. She was not. But, the candidate did not correct the misconception and risk the vote. The Democrat strategy on global warning is ever worse, because they are not only not correcting any public misconceptions, they are among the folks spreading disinformation.

You may wonder, why has the American left embraced this issue if it is not good for our country – or the world? First, you have to keep in mind that a portion of the left is composed of visceral America haters. They are on the barricades at every opportunity to denounce their homeland. (And “yes’” there are those on the right who never see anything wrong with their America. A plague on both houses, as far as I am concerned.)

Others are monochromatic. They can only see green. Anything that appears to hint green, they are on board. Nice people, but color blind. Others are corpo-phobes. They miss no opportunity to attack the free market and the corporations that produce the enviable American standard of living. They are the central planners, and the history of doctrinal failure never dampens their enthusiasm for paternalistic government. Others see political, professional or personal advantage in the mythology. (Did I mention Al Gore?) Collectively, these folks seem to be the “some” that can be the fooled (or fooler) all the time.

The thing about science is that truth will be discovered eventually. We “all” will not be fooled all the time.

Here’s my bet. In twenty years, global warming will be a non-issue – and the polito-pseudoscience community will raise a new money and power grabbing panic issue. We will not perish from the face of the earth … and, in fact, we’ll hardly be inconvenienced by the ultimate truth. I am predicting that “global warming,’ will go by the way of the “population explosion,” the cataclysmic consequences of “nuclear bomb testing,” the depletion of all the earth’s natural gas, and the many other prognostications offered up by politico-pseudoscience community of their day.

Oh! Chuckle over this. The august scientific community of the late-1800s responded to motorized travel by warning that the human body could not sustain traveling at more than 45 mph. How about the theory that the moon is made of cheese. (Ooops! That was fairy tale. Sometimes hard to tell the difference.)

These are only the modern scientific faux pas. Let us not forget the “scientists” who proffered the once widely held belief that the earth was flat and was the center of the universe. (Personally, I like the Indian image of a halved earth resting on the backs of elephants. I ultimately rejected that theory, however, due to the absence of a place for the pachyderms to stand.) In the Middle Ages, pseudoscientific bullstuff was advanced by the all-powerful religious leaders. Today it is the politicians, but global warming is still more religion than science.

What all this means is …. relax, This latest doomsday scenario will evaporate like a dew drop on a hot day. To be that “good steward” and green as Kermit, we do not have to rerteat into the primeval forest. Let’s use our technology for to continue the kind of progress that has made us the most successful civilization in the history of the world.

Al Gore should keep in mind that that guy who carries the sign that the world will end tomorrow is going to have some explaining to do “the day after tomorrow.” That truth is neither convenient nor inconvenient. It just is.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: St. Peter, the right winger

A right wing friend of mine passed this along. I thought I would share it with all my readers. I hope you both like it.

We all know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because "a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed."

Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, went there to register for the tax.

We also know that many of the early disciples were fishermen. They paid a fish tax to the Roman Empire.

St. Peter met Jesus in a town called Capernaum.

Peter was not originally from Capernaum, but we now know that the fish tax in Capernaum was only half the fish tax in his original home town of Bethsaida.

We also know that Peter operated a large fishing fleet, perhaps the largest in the area, with hired men, that he ran on behalf of his mother-in-law, who is mentioned in the Bible.

The mother-in-law owned a large house in Capernaum, where Jesus often stayed, which is only a few steps from the synagogue in Capernaum, and which is also mentioned in the Bible.

The Bible also tells us that Peter carried a sword and used it in the Garden of Gethsamane.

So there you have it:

St. Peter, the chief disciple and leader of the early Christians, and first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, was an entrepreneur, a tax refugee, a small business owner, an employer, the inheritor of a family-owned business, and a man who kept and bore arms.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

REACT: Daley in the dark ... again!

Once again, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has issued his standard excuse. “I know nunttin’.” This time it has to do with his son’s investment in a company doing big business with the City of Chicago – well doing big business AFTER the Daley boy and his wheeler-dealer cousin bought into the company.

Hizzoner said his son had a lapse in judgment, and he (the Mayor) wishes his son had not invested in a company doing business with the city. Then the Mayor got weepy as he confessed that he loved his son – and that is about the only thing the tight-lipped Mayor was about to confess. He answered no other questions. Not sure why loving your son trumps the son’s actions. I am sure Papa Capone loved his son too. (Relax, I am not comparing Patrick Daley to Al Capone, only make a point that a father’s love does not exonerate bad behavior.)

All in all, the Mayor sounded pretty convincing, and I really want to believe the guy. However, something just does not seem right. It is also hard to believe that the Mayor’s son did not discuss it with dad, or that no city officials tip off the Mayor that his son was into some questionable deal.

First, if the Mayor’s alibi is valid then young Patrick Daley was sleazing behind his old man’s back. I mean, the kid is savvy enough to know exactly what he was doing – taking advantage of insider information and clout. If Patrick did not know it was wrong, or even wondered, he would have gone straight to his dad to talk about.

Furthermore, if the Mayor intended to do a sincere mea culpa on behalf of his son, he would laid forth the results of his investigation into the matter– even if the investigation was only asking his son, “What in the hell did you do?” That leaves three possibilities. The Mayor did not care to share the information he had garnered with the press and public. He did not inquire because he did not want to know. Or, he knew about it all along.

I think the taxpaying public has a right to know how much was invested. How much profit did Patrick make on the sale of his interest? Who did he sell it to? How did the company get the contracts? Did Daley family members do any contacting of city officials to promote the contract? Why were the Daley family names left off the legally required applications? If the Mayor does not care to get the answers, I suspect U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald might.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

OBSERVATION: Bob Cesca writes more %#@*&

Bob Cesca, who writes regularly for Arianna Huffington’s “Huff n’ Puff” Post (as I like to think of it), is the nephew of a friend of mine. Since I am convinced that any direct communication to Bobbie will do no good whatsoever, I thought a letter to his Uncle Ray might be helpful.

Dear Uncle Ray,

I fear your nephew, Bobbie, is at it again. Unfortunately, it appears that he is the son of your brother and therefore presents a significant danger to the reputation of your good family name. Let me explain.

I am not at all sure you read his recent commentary. If public policy was not my addiction, I certainly would hit the spam button. Rather, I do skim the offerings of quite a few Internet writers. His writing is like a gory accident. I really hate to look, but I do anyway. Like an unhappy toddler, he grabs attention by throwing a tantrum -- verbal.

Apparently, he has not inherited your family’s cordiality, talent for articulation and thoughtfulness. In fact, having read a number of his articles, I was surprised to learn that he was actually out of high school. His logic and language are a bit … shall we say … on the sophomoric side.

And the language? Oh my! He seems to think that a point of view is enhanced by name-calling and the use of street language. He could have used some of the training I got from the old nuns and a couple good college professors. I recall on professor saying that profanity is for morons.

There is an expression that one can disagree without being disagreeable. Apparently, your loving nephew, Boobie … ooops … Bobbie … is not familiar with the concept. Rather than counter an argument, he prefers to scorch those who do not align to his thinking with baseless labels such as liars, bigots, fear mongers, etc.

In one of his most recent tirades, he referred to his adversaries (and he seems to have lots of them) as “frightened, dickless hooples,” and then made a second reference to their “dickless status.” (What is a “hooples” any way? My friends Merriam and Webster were not familiar with that word either.)

In his article, Bobbie created a delusionary ad produced by imaginary adversaries. (I know. I Know. Cheesy, but that’s our Bobbie.) The pretend advertisers were labeled in the faux ad as “frightened dickless bigots…” He seems to view “freightened” and “dickless” almost as a hyphenated word. (Uncle Ray, I think you can now see my concern about Bobbie’s phobia-castration hang-up.)

I am not sure if it is an obsession, but he is in the habit of calling his political enemies “ratfuckers.” Judging from his favorite aforementioned description of their physiology, I wonder if he knows that you need a “dick” to fuck a rat – at least I assume so. Since I am not familiar with the status of the aforementioned “dicks,” or who (or what) they are being used on, I must yield to your nephew’s apparent superior knowledge.

You know, Uncle Ray, the lad seems to be a bit paranoid, too. I mean soooooo many people and institutions that are conniving to do him harm – and only Bobbie (and a few friends) seem to think they are smart enough to know the truth. Like others on the political fringe, he seems to think he has exceptional insight and knowledge to save us all from our own mass stupidity. I guess they just don’t trust most people. We are all either evil or duped – saved only by the mercy and wisdom of Bobbie and his few friends. When he was a child, did he play well with others? I suspect not.

I would tell you more about the article itself, but between all the name calling, straw men, specious arguments and hyperbole, I can’t quite recall what it was all about. Something about Obama being a terrorist … and Giuliani being evil incarnate … and some newspaper in Pennsylvania that he either liked, or didn’t like. I can’t recall now. His screeds tend meander like a shallow river. Has he ever been tested for Attention Deficit Syndrome?

He is more like the fireplace than the candle -- preferring to produce heat rather than enlightenment. I guess that is good news. Given his distorted sense of reality, maybe it is good that his opinions get lost in all the potty-mouth prose. It is easier to not take him serious.

I notice that Bobbie seems to take some strange pride in his immature, profanity-laden writing. He boastfully invites people to read what he, himself, calls his “usual outraged, profanity-laced rants.” Reminds me of my uncle, the drunk. He was a proud drunk. Always bragged about how much he drank, and the stupid things he did when we was drunk. So, I guess if someone cannot be good, they can still be proud.

Hey! Maybe for this Christmas, you can sign him for journalsim or writing course – even better if taught by old nuns. Maybe some anger management thearpy. Maybe a haircut. That “Meathead” look (left) was a cliché when they did it on Archie Bunker – before Bobbie was even born, I assume.

Oh… and make sure he knows that dispite our differing opinions, I have a very happy outlook, am fully equipped, and harbor no speical allure for rats. Just so he can find some vulgarity other than “frightened dickless ratfucker” to describe me.

Merry Christmas, Uncle Ray. And extend my best wishes to Bobbie for a very happy whatever it is he celebrates around this time of year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

REACT: Blagojevich should be trolling for votes?

There has been a lot of reaction to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s attendance at a Chicago Black Hawks hockey game while the legislature was in overtime emergency session, trying to work out a deal to determine just how much of our taxpayers' money would be wasted on the Chicago Transit Authority. None of the reactions were good. Only his hired staff defended his absence from the field of battle, and not all that well. How could they?

Go back a few days, and you will recall that some sort of “deal” was likely to pass. Optimism abounded, if only the cautious type. Mayor Daley expected a bill (legislative variety, since only taxpayers get the other kind). The four legislative leaders were in agreement, the papers reported. But, no! Once again the ineptitude of our dysfunctional state government trumped reason, common sense and progress.

So … while the legislature burned, the Governor fiddled.

What was remarkable to me was his bull shit excuse. (Pardon the expletive, but no softer euphemism sufficiently describes the Governor’s response). He said it would not have done any good for him to be there. It would not have changed the outcome.

Read that again before you go on.

Now consider this. The Governor is say he has no influence. He has no power of persuasion. He has no bully pulpit. He has no Machiavellian strategy. He has no favors to call on. No ability to twist arms. Nope! His presence is irrelevant ... inconsequential.

The Governor once bragged, "This is the kind of thing that I think, frankly, separates the men from the boys in leadership. Do you have the testicular virility to make a decision like that…?” (My emphasis.) The man who once flaunted his "testicular virility" now claims impotency – no more “testicular virility” than one of those troll characers. (Gads! He kind of looks like one, too. Don’t you think?)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

REACT:More CHRISTMAS nonsense

Well, I am offened again. So, what else is new … eh?

I received an email invitation to visit a traditional holiday event at Chicago’s oldest existing home. It will feature traditional food, traditional decorations, traditional music, and traditional whatever else. The only problem with the invitation, it conspicuously avoids naming THE tradition. Never anywhere in the invitation does the word Christmas appear. I guess it is okay to ASSUME what the tradtion is, but one must not print or utter the naughty word … ah … you know … uh …shhhhhh … Christmas.

About the same time I heard a radio commercial for a special concert of traditional (there’s that word again) holiday music. Again, no mention of Chirstmas. So, in this case I am assuming it must be John Philip Sousa playing patriotic Fourth of July marches.

Then there was the item about a village ordering the exclusive use of white light bulbs in holiday (nee Christmas) decorations because … get this … because red and green are religious. (I wonder if this is the same community where the school officials declared “noose” to be a racial slur?) Interestingly, several churches with which I am casually familiar use all white bulbs for the … uh … holiday decorations. But, don’t tell the poli-correct Gestapo or we will all have to have an unlit Christmas trees in our living rooms.

This stuff gets crazier every Christma … ah … holday season.

REACT: Court decision about abortion is an abortion

There is an old story about a witness who makes a derogatory comment about the court proceedings. The judge angrily inquires, “Are you trying to show your contempt for this court?? The witness answers. “No your honor, I am doing my best to conceal it.”

I think that sort of sums up the public’s growing attitude about our increasingly irrational and abusive judicial system. It is not hard to find examples of courts and judges who deserve contempt. Here is the latest.

A court in Texas ruled that a person can be charged with homicide if they cause the death of a fetus in the commission of a crime, such as murdering the pregnant woman or battering her. As a pro-lifer, I like the ruling so far. It recognizes the fetus as a protectable human life. It gives the fetus the same right to life as a toddler or an adult.

However, the court also ruled that the ruling did not apply to doctors performing an abortion.

In other words, an 8-month-old fetus is a human being if killed by a criminal on the street, but is not a human being if killed by a doctor in an operating room.

It is sort like you getting 20 years to life for strangling granny, but if you take granny to a hospital to be professionally strangled, it is not a crime at all.

So here is the quiz. Do you think the judge in this case is (1) brain damaged, (2) an idiot, (3) on drugs, (4) should be on drugs, or (5) all of the above?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

REACT: Old school ties.

Just when I stopped going “Ho! Ho! Ho! over the last item, I run across yet another nutty example of the over zealous political correctness Gestapo. This time it is those repeat offenders, who place contorted political correctness over common sense – the educators. Seems like a young boy scout was asked if his knot tying education gave him the skill to tie a noose. The young scout proudly (assumedly) answered that he did, indeed, know how to tie a noose.

That exchange got BOTH boys detention because some undies-in-a-bunch school person declared the word “noose” to be a racial slur. Someone should tell this nincompoop that “noose” is NOT the n-word commonly referred to in terms of racial insensitivity.

LMAO: No mo' ho

Believe it or not, but there is a company in Australia that trains “Santas” and dispatches the jolly fellows to retail malls and stores throughout the world to provide a comfortable knee and an eager ear to young believers coveting the latest toy. Personally, I never thought the Santa schtick was that complicated, but what do I know?.

What tickled my funny bone was a report that the new batch of politically correct Santas have been advised against employing the traditional “Ho! Ho! Ho!” as their tummies shake like a bowl full of jelly. Seems that the word “ho” is an insult to women.

First, “ho” ain’t no word. But for the moment, let us accept the fact the “ho” is a shortened version of the word “whore,” as used mostly by black brothas who had the misfortune of graduating, or not graduating, from an urban public school – the distinction of graduation having no real bearing on their education, anyway.

They recommend “hehehe” or “hahaha. Personally, I think “hehehe” is too much of a snicker and too widely used in Internet chat after someone offers up a salacious comment. “Hahaha” can be too mocking, like the laugh that bursts forth when you see a person stumble with a bag full of groceries. .

And I say “so what?” if there is a double meaning. I am sure that every glitter-eyed, four-year-old thinks of ghetto streetwalkers the minute Santa bellows his trade mark laughter. I mean, really!

And think about this. What happens if these political correctness Gestapos apply their cynical thinking to all the other double-meaning words? Do we ban Peter Rabbit? Or Dick Tracy? Rename the movie, “The Owl and the Pussycat?” Rip the “Johnson” pages from the telephone book? Ban the expression “tit for tat?” No more cocktails? No more dancing at society balls? Can we still get a screw at the hardware store? No more door knockers? A ban on roast butt?

So… I say “No! No! No!” to the ban on Ho! Ho! Ho! Hehehe … hahaha ….!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

OBSERVATION: God and teenagers.

Everytime I ponder God, I become more impressed with His perfect wisdom. Consider this. When our youngest children need our total attention and nurturing, He makes them sweet and cuddly. We can hardly let them out of our sight for the shear joy of their being. Then, when it is time for those same sweet charming children to begin their exit from the nest, He turns them into teenagers. Think about that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

REACT: Ronald McDonald stomps out Santa

After publishing my blog item on Macy’s de-Christmas’ing the 2000 year old holiday (November 21, 2007), I went to checked out Chicago’s traditional State Street Christmas Parade held each Thanksgiving – you know, the one that welcomes the arrival of Santa Claus.

Well, the anti-Christ(mas) has struck again – this time in the form of another corporate behemoth, McDonald’s. Not sure when this all happened, but there is no Christmas parade any more. Ronald (the Grinch) McDonald booted the Christmas theme, and the event is now known as the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Forget about Christ. Ronald has knocked off even the secularized Santa image in favor of a logo featuring a trite and tacky turkey in a pilgrim high hat.

(As an aside: In the above logo, doesn't that look like the front end of an old Pilgrim-style blunderbust rifle pointing at the turkey from behind the leafy bush? I am sure that is not the intent, but still a fitting bit of symbolism, don't ya think?)

If you were hoping that perhaps the real Christmas parade was rescheduled for another time, you’re out of luck. The only other parade is the Michigan Avenue merchants Parade of Lights produced by Walt Disney. No celebration of Christmas. An obligatory Santa, but certainly nothing to symbolize the real meaning of the holiday.

Corporate America, in a fit of greedy political correctness has changed the “love thy neighbor” holiday message to “love thy neighbor’s money.”

On the other, maybe the Christians got just what we deserved. I mean, most of our religious holidays were superimposed over Pagan celebrations in an effort, successful to be sure, to drive the godless holidays into extinction. It would seem that the neo-Pagans of corporate America are providing pay-back time. They are driving Christians from the public forums in favor or superficial Disney cartoons, holiday trees symbolic of nothing, and irrlevant festivals of lights. Sure, it is all very pretty, but prettiness does not connote significance or relevancy. (Did the name Paris Hilton just pop into your mind, too?)

Kicking Christ out of his name sake holiday is nothing new. The transformation from the elderly St. Nicholas of European origin to the cartoonish pot-bellied, retail-hawking Santa Claus happened more than three generations ago. The “Xmas” abbreviation was the rage at mid-20th Century. The supporting roles once held by shepards were given to a bunch of elves. The drab animals of the manger faded in the face of the bright-eyed and bright-nosed reindeer know as Rudolph – the creation of the advertising department or the now defunct Montgomery Ward & Company.

It would seem that the austere message of Christ is not in keeping with the sales strategies of the big retailers. The maniacally generous iconic characters, such as Santa Claus, make for better sales. Can you image for one moment bringing your child, with a long selfish wish list, to Macy’s to sit on the lap of a actor dressed as Jesus?

The very modern-day buying orgy is an anathema to the biblical Christ. To celebrate this holiday in keeping with its theological origins would require feeding the hungry as opposed to gorging the gluttonous. Clothing the naked, not donning designer duds. Comforting the ill, not imbibing until we are. We are admonished to care for those less fortunate, not over indulge the already blessed.

When you look at it that way, I guess dumping Christ and Christmas makes sense. What has evolved is NOT Jesus' holiday. It is the celebration of the new religion, Consumerism. Maybe … just maybe … the secular iconology is not driving out the Christmas of Christ. Maybe it is just filling in the vacuum we have selfishly provided. Maybe the Grinch is not the politically correct, but the theologically challenged. Maybe it is not “they” who stole Christmas, but “we” who too willingly abandoned it.

Something to ponder as we good Christians begin our annual pilgramage to Wal Mart. At least they still know it is Christmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

RECT: Gore gored by British school authorities

In case you missed it, Al Gore’s sci fi movie, An Inconvenient Truth, has been banned from British schools as being political propaganda and fraught with errors. The English school authorities have ordered that any time the movie is used as an educational tool, will have to carry a disclaimer stating that it is basically bull shit. Oh! Well that is not the exact terminology used by the understated and overly polite Brits, but the thought is the same.

FLASHBACK: Greeting cards on sale.

You may recall, I recently posted an item ranting about the high cost of greeting cards (Friday, October 19). Well, good news! The free market works.

I recently ran into a discount card and party store that sells cards for as little as 49 cents. Most around 99 cents. And … these are not chintzy postage-stamp size cards akin to children’s valentines. These are totally competitive with Hallmark.

Sure, greeting cards are still fodder for the paper recycling bin, and I prefer personal greetings and hand made cards over the store bought variety. However, at least you can cover a birthday without taking out a second mortgage.

Even as I was penning the previous submission, I had a feeling that greeting card price competition was just around the corner. The free market abhors price gouging. Now, if only we could bring gasoline, tobacco and casino gambling into the free market world.

REACT: Macy's Christmas. Bah humbug!!

I sent the following as a letter-to-the-editor to a number of major publications. Generally, at least one will publish my epistle. As I prepared this for delivery, the shadow or pessimism crossed my mind. Would, I wonder, any major newspaper publish a letter-to-the-editor so critical of a major advertiser? The answer is … “nope.” I got two calls to confirm that I was author – a practice that most often leads to publication. For a moment, there was hope. But alas, my condemnation of Macy’s was rejected even as the department store ads grew larger and more frequent on the eve of the busiest shopping day of the year.

So, for whatever it is worth. Here is my unpublished opinion.



To: The Editor

Christmas at Macy’s, bah humbug!

On November 10, the Big Apple department store, Macy’s (nee Marshall Field & Company), again insulted Chicagoans and Christians.

In celebration of one of Christianity’s holiest seasons, Macy’s invited convicted felon Martha Stewart to preside at the official tree lighting ceremony – and hawk her designer ornaments. Full-page newspaper ads invited all of us to participate in this event by dropping by and (they hope) giving them some of our hard earned money to send back to New York.

For most of my life, the lighting of the “great Christmas tree” in the Walnut room was one of the highlights of the Christmas season. If you missed the lighting, you could always drop in at the Walnut Room at any time during the Christmas holidays.

But wait! Something is missing. Oh yeah! Christmas. Nowhere in the full-page ad did the word Christmas appear. No Christmas tree. Just a tree. No Christmas ornaments. Just Martha Stewart ornaments. Turns out that the Grinch who stole Christmas is none other than Macy’s.

The ad was devoid of any references to or images of Christmas – the official name of this national holiday. No stars. No angels. No nativity scene. No candles. No cross. No Santa Claus (nee St. Nicholas). The ad featured only bells, birds and bright shiny bulbs of one shape or another.

I am not a religious zealot. In fact, I would have to improve considerably to attain the level of a poor Christian. But why, in the name of tolerance, do we have to pretend something is not what it is. This is the Christmas season, and most of us Christians will be putting up a Christmas tree, decorated with Chirtmas ornaments -- and singing Christmas caroles. We will greet others with “Merry Christmas” – whether the friend is Christian or not, because we are wishing them goodwill not engaging in religious rivalry.

Macy’s has taken the warm and loving feeling of Christmas and turned it into a Martha Stewart make-over. It is much too cold, too sterile, too commercial, too New York. When I was a child, traditionalists fought against the “xmas’ abbreviation with the slogan, “put Christ back into Christmas.” Well the East Coast heathens of commerce have gone one better. They have driven everything Christmas out of Christmas. Not even a teensy weensy bit of religious imagery.

If I was not already boycotting Macy’s for dumping the Marshall Field name, I would certainly have to boycott them for this latest effrontery.

Larry Horist

P.S. The Macy’s windows will feature the Nutcracker this year. Somewhat traditional, but safely on the secular side.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

REACT: Denny, we hardly knew ya.

Illinois Congressman Denny Hastert will step down from Congress before the end of the year. He will leave with the distinction of having served longest in a position he well might never have held -- Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time of his ouster in the wake of the 2006 Democrat election tsunami, Hastert was, with only 8 years incumbency, the longest serving Republican Speaker in American history. He also is among the most undistinguished speakers. (Ironically, he beat the record of fellow Illinoisan, Joe Cannon, who many consider to have been the most powerful speaker in American history.)

Hastert was an accidental speaker, gaining the office only after Newt Gingrich’s successor-apparent, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, was forced to admit some adulterous indiscretions in his past – suffering more from the hypocrisy, after having tossed some sizeable stones at President Bill Clinton on the very same subject.

To me, it is remarkable that in Hastert’s history making tenure, one can hardly find a significant accomplishment. While he may have presided over the Republican majority for eight years, he was never much of a leader on the national scene. Having hardly made a ripple in his own time, Hastert is not likely to endure in historic hindsight – his sole accomplishment being longevity.

In his original acceptance speech, Hastert set forth his priorities in what he called the “four big challenges” -- Social Security stabilization, Medicare reform, economic security, tax relief, a leaner and more efficient government; stronger national defense, and improved K- 12 education. (Yeah, I know he called them the FOUR challenges, but hey, the guy was a wrestling coach, not a math teacher.) Regardless how you count them, by his own challenge, Hastert failed across the board. In addition, his promise to lead a more congenial Congress was quashed by some of the most acrimonious partisanship since before the Civil War. Under his leadership, Hastert not only lost the speakership, he lost the Congress.

While Hastert was initially considered a philosophic brother of his predecessor, Newt Gingrich, they differed dramatically in style, strategy and intellectual power. Unlike Gingrich, Hastert eschewed the spotlight. He seemed to consider public communication as more of an inconvenience of his office than an opportunity to advance his, or the GOP, agenda. For Gingrich, the speakership was an ideological soap-box to espouse unbending conviction, for Hastert it was a pragmatic position for collegial compromise. Gingrich risked survival for his great causes. Hastert seemed to have no greater cause than survival. Gingrich is known for changing the course of a nation. Hastert is known for staying the course. If Gingrich was Meet the Press, then Hastert was Let’s Make a Deal.

Even in Illinois, Hastert’s reputation as an old-style “good ole boy” leaves little for the home town boosters to cheer about. His most memorable actions were dubious accomplishments. He is remembered for passing over fellow Illinoisan, Phil Crane, from the chairmanship of the all powerful Ways and Means Committee --a disservice to tradition, Phil Crane and the people of Illinois. It was a decision that ultimately cost the Republicans Crane's seat.

Hastert again proved himself to be the consummate insider when he joined the corrupt Illinois GOP establishment in attempting to derail the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald as the new U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois. This effort, too, ran against the longstanding tradition of conceding the appointment to the senior senator of the President’s party – in this case Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relationship to the appointee).

This was not the only time Hastert had crossed swords with the reform minded young senator on behalf of the boys in the back (nee smoke-filled) rooms – led by the criminal administration of Governor George Ryan. Over Fitzgerald’s attempt as fiscal responsibility, Hastert served up sizzling “pork” for Ryan massive Build Illinois rape of the taxpayers. He tried to shut down Fitzgerald’s efforts to bring accountability to the third airport fiasco. He attempted to thwart Fitzgerald’s effort to prevent Ryan from making the new Lincoln library and museum another cesspool of political cronyism.

Hastert also discovered that his throw-back concept of insider leadership was a relic with little relevance for the modern political game when he botched the handling of the Mark Foley “boys are toys” scandal. He mixed collegiality with Pontius Pilate-like washing of the hands to avoid addressing the issue at the time it was brought to his attention.

Most people do not know of Hastert’s record breaking tenure. His loss of the speakership is largely unnoticed because his presence there was largely unnoticed. He will now retire from Congress with most of America never having known he was even there. Hastert’s only enduring image may be his rotund Nast cartoon physique.

When the inevitable book is written about the career of Denny Hastert, it will be a short tome – lots of pictures and don’t wait for the movie. After noting that he was the accidental Speaker, who stayed a relatively a long time, what more can be said?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

REACT: Burned up over the war

We just past the first anniversary of war protester Malachi Ritscher’s self-torching. You may recall he is the guy who sat on a berm near the expressway, doused himself with some flammable liquid and lit a match. In a so-called “mission statement” he said, “If I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world.”

He has become something of a hero to a small cadre of anti war zealots, who consider his action sort of … well … noble. The anniversary was marked by a couple dozen people who gathered in the federal plaza to memorialize his flame out. Interestingly, I did not see any holding the customary memoral candles.

According to one of his sisters, Ritscher was “a casualty of the war.” She denied reports that her brother suffered from mental illness. WHAT? She denied that he was short a few cards in the deck when he lit that match?

Certainly, his death was tragedy. If we are motivated to use his death as a call for action, it should not based on his opposition to the war, it should be to address whatever madness caused him to kill himself. He may have chosen the war has his excuse, but it was not his reason. Hundreds of thousands of people have protested the war … and millions are burned up over it – figuratively only. But, Ritscher is the only person who thought that turning himself into a human torch was a meaningful means of influencing American policy. In that regard, his death was in vain. His impact nil. The opposition movement is so large that his contribution is imperceptible. My god, Cindy Sheehan was only marginally relevant, and she was in the press for months. The only result of Ritscher’s act of desperation is one less voice in the opposition choir.

It does not take professional analyst to know Ritscher suffered some sort of mental illness. No one ignites themselves for any rational reason whatsoever. To oppose violence through an excruciatingly violent act is not the work of a sane person. Not debatable.

I have always believed that suicide, for any reason, is the ultimate selfish act -- without even the opportunity to beg forgiveness. It is illegal. It is immoral. Under the pretense of caring about humanity, Ritscher cared nothing about the feelings of his loved ones. He cared nothing about men, women AND children who had the misfortune of witnessing his horrific death. He cared nothing for all the good he might have done in the world in the years to come. He wanted to check out, but wanted to leave a little guilt trip in his wake – since he was leaving nothing else. His only contribution was to end any further contributions.

Jennifer Diaz, one of the organizers of the small memorial said his act “speaks for itself.” We can all agree on that, but not likely will we agree what it says. She concluded by saying that Ritscher had “made himself into an icon.” No, Jennifer. He made himself into a Roman candle.

REACT: Thank God and John Walton for Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart just introduced the $199 computer. More about that below, but first a little preface …

The broad phalanx attack on Wal-Mart by the various battalions of liberal activists is typical of their hatred of the free market system, free trade and free just-about-anything-else -- except lunch.

The unions grouse about Wal-Mart resisting representation – representation which would do nothing more than increase the costs of goods for the American consumer and make the fat cat leaders of labor a little fatter. They tell how Wal-Mart is paying wages in Asia that are a fraction of the American worker. They forget to mention that you can buy a bushel of corn in China for 12 cents. My tailor makes my pin-stripped power suits for under $100. I can leave KFC stuffed for about a buck and a half. I had $3000 worth of dental work (American dentist estimate) completed beautifully in China for $400. Also had a physical and the complete blood test cost me a Jefferson. (No, not a nickel. Geeez. A two dollar bill.)

In China, Wal-Mart is lifting tens of thousands of people out of poverty at every step of the supply chain. If Wal-Mart was such a damned awful employer, why is it when they open a store in China the job application line runs from Beijing to Shanghai? Unions also grouse about how poorly Wal-Mart treats its American workers. Same question. Why do they receive thousands of applications at every store?

Some of the alderman in my Chicago home town city council are fighting hard to keep Wal-Mart out of the Windy City – thus denying their constituents much-needed jobs and lower prices, and the city coffers some tax revenue. What is their motivation? Blind hatred with a dash of stupidity. Of course, that is only an opinion.

Then there is the crowd that complains that Wal-Mart’s lower prices are ruining the market. Pause and ponder here folks. These libs are so whacko that they think higher prices are good thing – competition is a bad thing. They say higher prices means more pay for the workers. Well, a lot of those wage gains will be eaten up by the higher prices…..duh. And the over-paid union leaders seem completely oblivious to the fact that a company also must serve its stockholders and the consuming public – and there are a lot more of them than workers. Wal-Mart has been a key player in bringing down the prices of tens of thousands of consumer products, even in the face of modest inflation. These are real dollar reductions, not the theoretical stuff we get from economists and accountants. Tee shirts that were once $14 are now $5.

One of my more liberal friends (and yes I DO have liberal friends – quite a few, in fact) criticized Wal-Mart for practically putting FAO Schwartz out of business. If you are not familiar with them, they are a trendy upscale toy store that catered to the rich and famous. It seems that nasty old Wal-Mart began selling a lot of the same toys for a fraction of the prices charged by FAO to the price-is-no-object crowd. (Since my friend’s heart is bleeding for FAO, the term “limousine liberal” suddenly jumped into my mind.)

This is how the free market and competition works. This is a good thing. I mean, yeah, I am sorry to see FAO become more like a Macy toy department. They were a fun store. However, price rules for most people – as it should.

Now … about those $199 computers. I can’t wait for the libs to figure out how to criticize this one.

The left pays a lot of attention to public education (which, in and of itself, serves as an example of the failure of their philosophy). They like to think that they are the vanguard of progressive and innovative education. Everyone agrees that getting computers in the hands of students at an early age is a good thing. The education industry has expressed that need for decades (ever since Al Gore invented the Internet).

The fear and reality is that the computer age created yet another gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those financially-challenged kids trapped in the liberal-run city school systems are at the greatest disadvantage. The affluent parents are buying their kids thousands of dollars of cutting edge electronics to support education, while the kids in the inner city schools are getting the benefit of electronic metal detectors to eliminate cutting edges of a different sort.

There have been scores of programs to try to provide computers. The Holy Grail was always held out to be the $199 computer. Most programs fell far short of success because of the cost of the equipment. Now cometh that nasty old Wal-Mart again, this with the $199 computer. Suddenly, the dream of every kid having a laptop is inching toward reality.

Just think of the impact on our children when we can finally bring modern technology to the disadvantaged. (We do not call them disadvantaged for nothing, folks). There have been tons written on the enormous benefits of computers for kids, so you can only imagine the impact Wal-Mart pricing will have on education.

Next time you hear one of these liberal groups kicking about Wal-Mart, just remember those kids who are getting a better education – something the lip-service libs and the kids-last unions have failed to do for a generation or two.

The free market works. Alleluia!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

OBSERVATION: Tony Periaca not quite cutting it.

By every measure, Cook County Commissioner Tony Periaca is exerting leadership within the frail and floundering Republican Party. He is using his office to expose the nepotism, cronyism and corruption that abounds in Todd Stroger’s government fiefdom. He is runner for higher office, Cook County State’s Attorney. He is challenging the Democrat power structure at every front. His public relations machine is going at full tilt. He is raising money. He shows up at every event with an audience larger than my family reunion. In every way, he is making an effort to fill the huge leadership void that besets the GOP in Illinois.

So, why is he failing?

Some may argue with my view, but there can be no doubt that he is not living up to expectations … especially his own. Either he is a flawed candidate, or he is very poor at managing his public image.

Let me stress that I hope he can bring some leadership to the GOP, and begin to rebuild the party. I do not think he is wrong, but not cutting it with the public.

First and foremost -- and for all his best efforts -- he seems to lack charisma. I don’t mean that pretty boy, Hollywood casting look and Oxford eloquence. I mean that basic connect with the voters. He does not charge a room upon entering. There is no tittle of anticipation that usually surrounds the man on the rise.

This failure to connect cost him what should have been a clear victory over his weak and unqualified opponent in the race for president of the Cook County Board. Never has a Democrat candidate for county office looked so hopelessly and obviously unfit. Not since Republican Dick Ogilvie won the office in a 1966 upset has there been a better opportunity.

Periaca could not carry the county like many of those GOP stars of yore – Chuck Percy, Dick Ogilvie, Jim Thompson, Joe Woods, Bernie Carey, Jack O’Malley, Jim O’Grady, etc. And they had far tougher challenges. (I suppose there has to be some slack given for the number of stolen ballots. Even without concerted effort, the long entrenched Democrat political machine steals thousands of votes automatically. The system is so perfected, it cannot NOT steal votes.)

So, what is it about this guy that lacks curb appeal? Probably a combination of things. Since I don’t really know him personally, maybe my perspective is more valuable. I only see the public personae – the extension of him that will determine his political popularity.

There is a difference between being impassioned and arrogant. Periaca seems to fall on the wrong side of that divide. He does not seem to be the rallying point, the consensus builder or the team player (and even captains have to be team players).

Expanding on this later point, he does not seem to build camaraderie among any of the GOP crowd. He often seems as much at odds with the GOP leadership as he is with the Democrats. Granted, the GOP leadership has lacked a lot – most notably success. However, they do seem to be demonstrate modest improvements here and there. Regardless, the warring within the ranks that has destroyed the effectiveness of the right wing does not reflect any better on Periaca. His feud with Cook County GOP Chairman Liz Gorman detracts from his stature as a candidate.

There is also a thuggishness about him. The election night attack on the Board of Elections was only one example of his seeming pugnacious attitude. He seems to banter about with a political chip on his shoulder.

In observing him in social settings and in the audience, he appears to be a man with all the answers – most eager to express them from the platform or in conversation. He seems to have no need to listen – at least no desire. He has the answers to all the unasked questions. His self appointed mission is to postulate.

In addition, he lacks professed vision. Great leaders produce great visions, if not always the greatest results. We all know that Periaca, like Howard Beale in the movie Network, is “mad as hell” and so not going to take it any more. However, the unrelenting criticism, carping and complaining makes him too much the scold. It is ok to “tell it like it is” as long as you can also “tell it like it will be.”

Then there is the ambition that seems to be worn on his sleeve. Is he a “wannabe” or a “wannado?” Often candidates with a lack of vision are more interested in being this or that, rather than a vehicle for doing. He seems more driven by ego than issues. Of course, he talks about issues, but more like a means rather than an end.

As political leader, the public Periaca appears more like one of those ubiquitous designer knock-offs flowing from Asia. He looks good on first blush, but not quite the quality of the genuine product upon closer examination.

THAT is my perception of the public Periaca -- the only Periaca most of the voters will ever see. Is that really him? I really don’t know.

Friday, November 02, 2007

OBSERVATION: Feeling blue about seeing red

I find myself channeling Dr. Seuss:

Red state? Blue state? What are we to do, mate?
Blue state? Red state? Make me go to bed late.
More red, you dread. More blue, I rue.
Maybe in the morning we'll find a better hue.


Blue state? Red state? More confusing than you think.
Red state? Blue state? All I want is pink
Donkeys are blue. Elephants are red.
Don't know why, but that is what they said.

Red state? Blue state? Always in the news.
Blue state? Red state? How are we to choose?
Red means danger. Blue means sad.
Making these decisions is gonna drive me mad.

Blue state? Red State? Popping on my screen.
Red State? Blue State? Nobody voting green?
Half the country blue. Half the country red.
Turning off the TV and heading for my bed.

The question of the state colors on our national election night news maps got me thinking. When did those broadcast rascals make the switch-a-roo on the colors? In my early days in politics, the election night political maps always showed the Republican states in blue and the Democrat states in red. Sometime between then and now, the big three networks appear to have made a behind the scenes decision to switch the traditional colors. But why?

Is it possible that they just wanted to give their favored Democrat party the more positive color? I am not paranoid, and I even hate to think that those guys in New York would stoop to such a thing. It is just too petty. I mean, they entirely too busy distorting the daily newscasts to bother with such seemingly trivial graphic matters.

Or are they? My problem is that I cannot think of any other reason why they would change the colors.

It probably would not affect a specific election night outcome. But … is there a long term psychological impact? Do voters think more kindly of blue Democrats than they would or red ones?

There is no doubt that blue reflects positive American imagery. It is a cool color, and seems to be more patriotic than red. Yeah, I know red is in our flag, too. Outside of Santa Clause, however, red is a disturbing color in our culture. Everything associated with the devil and hell is red. In 1776, we fought the redcoats. Our contemporary world adversaries have been the “Reds” – the “red menace,” no less. Danger signs are red. Red Alert means an imminent terrorist attack. A Red light means an annoying stop. The Red Cross brings to mind disasters. When we are angry, we “see red.”

Blue is a peaceful color. It reminds us of patriotism. It is the color of a clear sky. The soothing blue water. The only negative connotation is feeling blue -- sad.

Hmmm. Maybe that is it. You know, when I see my native state, Illinois, go blue on election night, I do get sad. As more states go blue across the nation, I can go into a total funk. So, maybe I should not be so harsh on the network bosses. Maybe they understand me. They switched the colors out of respect for my depressed state of mind -- to represent sadness.

Nay!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

OBSERVATION: Be a zealot for Halloween?

As I look forward to the coming of Halloween, and selecting my hidden personality dress-up option, I suddenly realized that zealotry seems to be reflected through permanent fashion. I mean you can actually dress up for Halloween like some real people do every day.

Examples.

Today’s left wing radicals are often seen wearing their best 1960s radical hippie attire. While once a modern subculture style, the Jesus look-alike hair styles and rumpled poverty-esque Raggedy Ann and Andy attire can now only be viewed as some sort of neolib costume. Less radical liberals have sustained the pre-WWII tweedy cum academic look of the early Communist sympathizers.

Then my mind drifted to more extreme examples of zeal-driven dress codes. Until recently, Catholic nuns and priests were going around in clothing designed during the Renaissance – the remnants (no pun intended) of which can still be seen among the more zealous religious orders. What did God have in mind to decide that devotion depended on the resistance of modern style from that point in time? Why the Renaissance?

Then I wondered. What did the God of the Amish liked so damn much about that late 1800s? And not only haute couture but every other modern development from the electric light to the automobile.

Of course, up popped the Muslims. Apparently Allah decided that the fashion of devotion stopped about the time of the Christ, in whom they do not even believe. Did you ever notice that a lot of the Middle East war photographs depict scenes that look like sets for a Cecil B. DeMille biblical movie? What is with these theological fashion time warps?

Then I realized that as a conservative, I have no symbolic attire – no historic look that instantly tells the world what I am. (Okay. Okay. I heard that. Neanderthal? Very funny, but not truly relevant.) I cannot think of any right wing sect that has maintained a fashion for more than a season as an expression of philosophy. There was a moment that the Gatsby look of the Roaring 20s might have had a chance, but no.

I am eternally appreciative that the 1970s were not the time of conservative zealotry. I shudder at the thought of being permanently attired in hip hugger bell-bottoms (Yeah, men had hip huggers, too.), Nehru jackets (which were a throwback themselves) and ruffled tuxedo shirts

Looking back was no help in selecting this year’s costume. In the past, I have been a pope, a rock singer, a Chinese emperor, Dracula (not my most creative year) and a bumble bee (that may have been). Some say that customs reveal a portion of the inner psyche. If that is true, I don’t even have a theory as to the meaning of the bumble bee.

Still undecided is this year’s costume. Hmmmm. I could go in drag, but then everyone would mistake me for Rudy Giuliani. I could dress up like a liberal. Now, that’s a scary idea. If I can come up with enough global warming one-liners, I could go as Al Gore. Like: “A newly discovered major cause of global warming is hot air emanating for Al Gore’s mouth.” Hey! Cut me some slack. This is still a developing thought.

Maybe I will just stay home, put on a grotesque mask and scare the crap out of little kids who come to my door. Teach them a valuable conservative lesson. There is no such thing as free candy.

REACT: Bob Cesca wrong about right ... again!

Bob Cesca, the spewer of left wing pablum (and who I recently discovered is a nephew of a friend of mine AND whose photo [right] reminds me of Meathead in the old Archie Bunker show), is one of Arianna Huffington’s opinion-by-proxy scribes. In his most recent post on her blog he proffers that Amrerica is not a right-of-center nation, as we conservatives claim, but rather a left-of-center society, as he wishfully thinks. He presents his case with all the arrogant certainty of an extreme ideologue, utilizing dubious facts, out of context quotes and twisted logic.

Of course, his brief is not compelling or convincing … because he’s wrong. America IS politically right-of-center when relevant indicators are measured objectively.

Yes, our philosophic continuum spans from left to right, but more as an internal comparative convenience than a full and absolute standard. Compared to our erstwhile friends in the European Common Market, we are a household of right wingers. Only the smallest portion of our left wing (where Cesca and Huffington exist) can compare to the more abundant liberals in many other nations. If we overlay the American philosophic continuum on the international measure, the vast majority of you good citizens are right of the global center. Hence, we are a conservative leaning nation.

Cesca bases much of his claim on the individualistic religious beliefs of the founders, and the fact that most were not very fond of the great denominations. If he wants to make a case against America as a Christian founded nation, he makes some interesting, albeit debatable, points. They are not, however, relevant to his argument in support of a liberal nation.

Even many of our self proclaimed liberals are more conservative than liberal. Blacks, for example, are among the strongest supporters of litmus test conservative causes, such as the right to life, Second Amendment gun rights, heterosexual marriage exclusivity, school voucher, tough crime measure, and so forth. Many with bedrock conservative leanings eschew the media maligned right wing label. They prefer to be known as liberal among certain peers, even as they support one conservative issue after another. A rose by any other name, is still a rose.

If we are not a right-of-center nation, then why are our policies so conservative? Why is conservative talk radio so overwhelmingly popular, while liberals cannot get their media blabbermouths into even survivable ratings range? Legislation we call liberal wouldn’t even cross the center line in the parliaments of Europe. Why do the liberals dominating Congress shrink from the left wing campaign rhetoric? I dare say it is because they know the public is not with them. They would rather risk the betrayal of their less plentiful liberal supporters than the anger of the more conservative majority. George Bush is not in trouble because of liberal oppositon to the war in Iraq, but because he lost his conservative base with his drunken sailor spending policies. (If the GOP leaders figured this out, they might have curtailed spending when they had the chance, and been poised of leadership again.)

Cesca may enjoy the self certainty of his opinion, but the facts do not support him beyond the comforting fantasies of his own mind. Like Huffington, when you are so far to the political edge, you begin to think that the small crowd around you is a mob

I wonder if his liberal bluster is just to cover up his own latent conservative thoughts? Hmmmm?

Friday, October 26, 2007

REACT: Latter day Ryan earned prison

It appears after years of delaying tactics, former Illinois Governor George Ryan is heading to the hoosegow. It is a long sad story.

During most of my adult life, I have been aware of George Ryan – sometimes dealing with him personally.

There are really two George Ryans. The first was the up and coming legislator. That George Ryan was an idealist, conservative and guy as good as his word. He reached conservative hero status when he engineered the defeat of the so-called Equal Right Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In denying the ERA Illinois’ ratification vote, Ryan gave the coup d’gras to the feminists’ effort to tweak the Constitution.

The early Ryan was a man of principle.

When and why the latter day Ryan emerged is not at all clear. There was no reported seminal event. Rather a gradual, often imperceptible, erosion. The latter day Ryan is a cynical man, lead by power and greed over principle. He abandoned conservative positions and personal ethics simultaneously – some say an inevitable pairing. Many early friends and supporters either separated in disappointment or were brutally cast aside as irrelevant to his lust for power and money. Those who stood in the way suffered even more.

His big sins were well laid out along the evidential trail by the federal prosecutors. Like the tip of the iceberg, however, the larger mass of his misdeeds never surfaced. Virtually all of us in the political arena around Ryan have personal stories of his political brutality.

One of my own experiences came through my friendship and working relationship with Bill and Carol Dart, among Springfield’s most prominent players. He was chief lobbyist for the then powerful Illinois Manufacturer’s Association. She was among the most respected and effective independent lobbyists in the state capital.

Ryan owed his early success in large measure to Bill, who had single-handedly engineered the deal that put the Kankakee Republican in the Senate presidency. Year’s later, Ryan would engineer Bill’s ouster from the IMA as part of a Ryan insider take over.

Around that same time, Carol and I were working for the same client on a piece of legislation. One day the client called me to ask what to do about Carol – and if I would take over the relationship alone, if necessary. My contact said they were astonished when Ryan called them in to tell them they would get nowhere unless they “fired that cunt” and hire a lobbyist he recommended. They assured me that the c-word was an exact quote. Having seen the latter day Ryan, I was NOT astonished. This was who he became.

To the credit of the client, they decided to defy the Governor, and keep Carol as the principle lobbyist. In the spirit that good things happen to good people, our client came out okay when Senate President Pate Philip defied the Governor on the legislation.

Because we knew the latter day Ryan extremely well, from this and many other incidences, Bill, Carol and I broke life-long traditions of supporting Republican governors and endorsed and openly supported Ryan’s Democrat opponent, Glenn Poshard. We knew then what the public would only discover years later. The latter day George was a crook.

Glenn called Ryan out on his corruption, but the protective press denied Poshard the credibility his charges deserved. It was only after Ryan’s election, and the dedicated work of a truly independent prosecutor, that the public was finally able to see the real George Ryan, of the latter day. With Ryan’s election, the atmosphere in Springfield became so hostile that the Darts left the state. I remained to occasionally suffer the sling and arrows or Ryan’s revenge. He cost me a few clients along the way.

Many wondered if the cadre of political thugs that formed his inner circle had unduly influenced the once respected public official, or if they merely were an extension of his own metamorphous from the well intention Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde. There are those who believed Ryan’s power and money crazed actions we committed by his aides, and that he was mostly unaware of them. Some of that excuse was found in his trial defense – and ultimately repudiated by the weight of evidence. The buck stopped at the Ryan’s desk – every buck he could get his hands on, in fact.

Some say his release of the death row reprobates was and act of conscience, others say a crass exploitation to create public sympathy going into his trial. I cannot say if it was about pre-trial sympathy, but I am pretty damn sure it was not about conscience. Not many, friend or foe, ever saw much of a conscience in the latter day George Ryan.

Perhaps the most tragically eloquent example of the cost of corruption was the 1994 deaths of the six Willis children, caused by an unqualified truck driver who obtained a license through bribes to Ryan's campaign fund when he was Illinois Secretary of State.

The latter day Ryan is old, but has not lost any of his survival skills. He has not repented. He fights prison with all the cunning and guile he exhibited throughout his carrier. It is sad, to be sure. But, do not pity George Ryan, he has gotten no more than he deserves – and maybe not even as much.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

OBSERVATION: China's new dynasty?

I get a lot of my fellow conservatives rankled over China. I am of the opinion that China will be THE dominant social and economic world force for the better part of this young century. I believe in a certain inevitability. Most of the opposition to this view comes from wishful thinking, trade union propaganda and strident nationalism – none of which is consistent with conservative philosophy.

For most of my adult life, I have head my conservative colleagues talk about spreading the free market system around the world. The old counterpoint to our system was communism. Now that communism is only a name severed from the former failed ideology, and the free-market spirit is abounding in the Middle Kingdom, my friends are upset because we seem to be losing our completive advantage. But hey! That is what free-market competition is all about. Right?

Understand, I am not happy about us sinking to second place, but I just don’t see the strategic resolve in this country to stop it from happening. Yeah, there are a few things about China that can be criticized. But, against the monumental shift to a western-style economy, the problems pale by comparison.

Understanding why China will overtake the United States need not be overly complicated. One of the principle reasons seems to have escaped the attention of analysts and pundits. So, it is up to me to again provide some enlightenment. Gads, it is not easy educating the world.

But, here are the hard facts.

In the United States, the ruling class is the legal profession. It is almost assumed that you cannot serve in public office with out being a lawyer. That profession dominates all three branches of government, and a good deal of the entrenched bureaucracy.

On the other hand, the ruling class of China is composed of engineers. Not sure why that is. Maybe the authoritarian rule of pre-Nixon China found little need for lawyers because not a lot of things needed to be adjudicated. The legal profession thrives on two points of view. Dictatorships do not.

Engineers, by their professional nature, are creators, inventors, designers, innovators, builders. They give us the new products that drive a fee-market economy. They improve the quality of life, and stimulate the production/consumption cycle. Laws and policies in China bend to the perception and well-being of their ruling class.

Our laws and policies also bend to our ruling class; lawyers. While lawyers serve a good purpose in a free society in terms of their professional duties, they are about the last group on earth you want as a ruling class.

By there very nature, lawyer-legislators are counterproductive. They inhibit progress, and make all things more expensive. The empower their peers to wreak havoc on the free enterprise system. They entangle citizens, corporate and private, in restraining red tape. They discourage production and innovation.

The litigiousness of our society is well reported. The very fear of litigation is undermining every aspect of American life. Think for a moment how many times litigation and fear of litigation come into play – at home, in the work place, at school, in restaurants, at sport events. Every aspect of our civic life suffers from hyper-litigation. How many times do your read about ridiculous law suits – with ridiculous settlements?

It is an exponential problem because even as the practitioners increase litigation under current laws, the lawyer-legislators are passing new laws to create more opportunities and exclusivity for their professional colleagues.

A generation ago, I could form a corporation for a small fee, and no help from a lawyer. That is not so easy or cheap today.

A generation ago, I could set up a not-for-profit civic group in a few days for a small fee, and no lawyers. Today, the process requires reams of paper and stacks of dollars for the attorney.

A generation ago, I could close on real estate with a few papers and no lawyer. Today it takes more reams of paper and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

A generation ago, I could effectively represent myself in court. Today, lawyer-generated laws and self-serving court procedures make that impossible. We have literally lost our right of self-representation.

A generation ago, a teacher could discipline a child without fear of civil or criminal charges. Today, our education system flounders – and some due to inability to impose discipline.

It goes on and on.

We are suffering from lawyer-induced advancing civic paralysis. In many ways, they are like a medicine that is beneficial in its prescribed dosage, but lethal when over consumed. America is definitely overdosing on lawyers in government. Add it all together, and you can see why America will not compete effectively against the growing consumer and technology-driven Chinese free-market.

In many ways, China and the United States are still far apart on the free market continuum. How far apart is debatable. What is less arguable is the fact that China is heading in the right direction, and the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. While they are opening up more and more free market opportunities, we are slowly suffocating them with excessive laws, regulations, and litigation.

LMAO: Arianna Huffington sucks

Arianna Huffington, the accented voice of the extreme left, has issued a pronouncement from her blog. She claims that it is now beyond any doubt that the Republican Party has been taken over by the right-wing “luntic fringe.” She refers to the Democratic leadership as the American “mainstream.”

Reading her words, I could not help but break out in uncontrolled laughter. I guess when you teeter on the very far left edge of the political spectrum, everything to your right looks a bit far out.

How does she explain that the approval rating of her darling Democratic leaders in Congress is lower than President Bush? At those levels, the Reid-Peolsi crowd must be losing the support of their immediate families.

Arianna fails to see the lunatics in her own party – probably for lack of a mirror. Or … maybe … hmmm … just may … her image does not reflect in a mirror. (Sorry. It must be the Halloween season that plunked that thought into my brain. Is it just me, however, or does the vampire photo I downloaded bear an uncanny resemblance?)

Though not often accurate, Arianna is amusing. Happy Halloween, Arianna. Did you think it was April Fool's Day when you wrote your blog?