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Monday, March 31, 2008

Howard Dean Endorses McCain?

Okay, the title is a little misleading, but I was lead to this 2004 quote by Howard Dean when he endorsed John Kerry for President:
(From the Washington Post)Dean added, "The real issue is this: Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America, a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life, or a guy who served his country honorably and has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star on the battlefields of Vietnam?"
Jack Tapper, at ABC was nice enough to post that quote on his Political Punch blog, and ask the question, will that and other quotes Dean (and presumably other Democrats) made to bolster Kerry in 2004 be used to hurt Clinton or Obama in 2008? He also noted McCain's awards, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

I'm sure Dean cringes when that quote is brought up, and will probably have to duck and run for cover over other 2004 quotes between now and November. He, and much of his party which used John Kerry's military service to try and bolster their stance that he was the best to defend the country now have to figure out how to downplay that same service by McCain.

My guess is Hillary's dodging bullets in Bosnia won't quite qualify for a Dean endorsement.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Change That Tune!

Today's newest game is evidently "Change That Tune". If you claim that you dodged sniper fire one week, and everyone else their denies it happened, Change That Tune, and claim you were speaking in generalities, and your memory was fogged, since it was a dozen years ago.

If you give a speech saying you'll stand by your pastor, but not his words, and folks start jumping from you ship, Change That Tune! What, you don't get this one?

Evidently on tomorrow's installment of "The View" Barack Obama will say that if Rev. Jeremiah Wright hadn't decided to retire he'd have left the Trinity United Church of Christ. But wait, a week ago he wasn't leaving, he couldn't, he was married there, his children baptized there. It would have been like ripping a piece of the family away.

While people had been willing to ignore his legislative record as the most liberal member of the Senate, and consider him the great hope for uniting the country, they evidently won't forgive him for his association with Rev. Wright. Now that he's figuring that out, in full politician mode, he's changing his tune (for the third time) on what he'd have done about the minister.

(This song is paraphrased, I don't have the exact lyrics in front of me)
Stanza 1. (Sunday Talk Shows)
If I had heard any such sermon from Reverend Wright, I'd have confronted him about it.

Stanza 2. (The Great Speech of 2008)
Yes, I heard some things that I strongly disagreed with. But I could no more abandon the Reverend than I could a family member.

Stanza 3 (tomorrows View)
I'd have left if he hadn't decided to retire.

Months ago I said that once the sheen started wearing off folks would realize that "St. Barack" isn't the next messiah, but a politician. It looks like that's starting to sink in. The Democrats are realizing that they have Hillary "Harding" Clinton in one corner, and "The Great Unknown" in the other, and are starting to get nervous.

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is calling for a neutral site meeting of the party Super Delegates in June to "assess the situation" and see if they can't come to a consensus over who the nominee should be. He wants it to be public, and on the record. Good luck with that part, most of them don't want to be know as the backstabbers who killed a candidacy before the convention.

Unfortunately for the Democrats Bredesen's idea probably won't fly, and we'll have a fight through the summer until their convention, turning off more potential voters as the mud continues to fly. And John McCain will get to sit back, laugh, and let his opponent fight their own party.

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Choosing Friends, and Pastors

Mary Mitchell at the Sun Times is indignant over Hillary Clinton's mentioning of Rev. Jeremiah Wright with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial board. I'll give Mitchell the point for Clinton wanting to change the subject from her Bosnia lie. She also gets a scores one for pointing out that some politicians depend on voters being idiots to get elected.

However, Hillary's comment on Wright was correct, you can't chose family, but you can chose friends, associates, and pastors.

Mitchell, like many in the media, seems to be disconnected from "the average joe" on the Wright issue. While many of us are wondering how you'd sit through 20 years that had to include more than a few such sermons and not be wondering if the preacher was off his rocker, Mitchell is wondering why were aren't all just happy St. Barack talked.

I've left a couple of different churches over issues of management and direction. It's not hard to find a new one if you look. In Chicago Obama could have picked from hundreds of black parishes to find spiritual guidance. Instead, he chose one that apparently chose to mix some very unchristian thoughts with it's Sunday sermon.

While Mitchell paints Clinton as someone who needs dumb voters to move off the Bosnia problem and go back to Wright. The problem with that theory is Obama counts on the same dumb voters to believe that he was oblivious to his spiritual mentor's radical leanings for 20 years. Maybe we could rename the candidates Dumb and Dumber, or the folks defending both of them.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Going Tonya Harding

I caught a piece on the morning show that I listen to that sent me over to ABC to find out what's going on with the Democrats.

Jack Tapper has a piece up on Political Punch that says DNC insiders are starting to whisper that the Clinton's are finding that throwing everything, including the kitchen sink at Barack Obama isn't getting them where they want to be, nominated. Therefore, according to Tapper's unnamed source, they are looking at the "Tonya Harding Option". In other words, whacking him in the knees so hard he can't compete.

Evidently, Hillary still wants to be the nominee, though her chances are small. To that end, her folks are supposedly looking for enough dirt to make Obama toxic come November.

Good Morning America's home page has a big piece up (also written by Tapper) on how other Democrats are worried about such a scenario. They are starting to see McCain's numbers rise, and the bad blood boil into crossover votes for him from the loser of such a fight. Gallup's polls* show that if Obama got the nomination 28% of Clinton supporters say they'd vote McCain, and 19% of Obama supporters would do the same if Hillary is nominated.

Those are the types of numbers that can't be ignored. No matter what percentage of independents or undecideds you get, losing 10-15% of the party base would be the death blow to the Democrats chances in November.

One outcome of such a fight could end up being a brokered convention, where Florida Congressman Tim Mahoney has suggested Al Gore could be put on the top of the ticket with the survivor of the Clinton Obama melee as the second.

While many see Gore as the White Knight who, on his Prius Powered Horse, would save the party the truth is Gore is damaged goods already. Add to that McCain is a global warming believer, and shares many Democrat's views on things like Guantanamo and immigration you'd have taxes end up being the big issue of difference. Name the last "tax more people" candidate that won the election. Better, ask Walter Mondale how that position works.

If the Democrats want the White House back this fall, the two candidates need to start playing a little nicer. Their toxic stew of accusations and half truths is turning off their own party base, and the independents they need to get the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania.

*corrected to say Gallup instead of Rassmussen. there are too damn many pollsters out there

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Something Good About Athletes

After spending most of the winter listening to congressional hearings about HGH and other steroids it's easy to get very jaded about athletes.

Today's Washington Post has an excellent piece that helps remind us that not all athletes are jerks, and that they can be humbled by the realization they are role models for many kids.

Michael Flowers is a guard from Wisconsin who's made his name in college ball not by scoring 25 a game, but keeping the other teams best player from doing that. He was robbed (IMHO) by not being the defensive player of the year in the Big 10.

Flowers took 2 weeks off this year to deal with "personal problems" which he, and his family don't discuss. But he credits a 5 five year old, half way across the country with putting things into perspective for him.

He keeps a number 22 jersey (his number) that says "Kidball" on it that he got from Max Bass of Maryland with him all the time. It reminds him that things can be tough for some folks, but not nearly as tough as they are for a 5 year old with leukemia.

Check out the article, if you are tired of Bonds, Cansenco, Clemens, and the other jerks of sport, this might give you back some faith in athletes.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bottoming Out Too Soon?

The Dow was up 187 yesterday, mostly on news that (existing) home sales went up by 3% in February, and that JP Morgan Chase was looking to up it's Bear Stearns offer from $2 to $10 per share. That in turn lead to a rise in the dollar, and a fall in oil prices, all good things for the economy.

The Bear Stearns news was a psychological boost for investors. If JP Morgan was upping the offer to $10 per share to appease Stearns investors, there had to be an "on paper" reason for it. Let's call the reason sanity. When actual money driven accountants started looking at all that paper Stearns was holding that said "mortgage secured debt" they ran the numbers and found out what's been said for months, the subprime meltdown is only a small fraction of the mortgage industry. A lot of that paper is worth more money that the news would have the emotion driven investors and politicians believing.

The housing number was actually mixed, while sales were up for the first time in 6 months, prices were down. But, as most everyone knows when those occur together you've probably found the bottom of a market.

National Association of Realtors regional figures show that the Northeast seems to be coming out of the slump, with sales up 11% and prices up slightly, while the West coast remains a drag on the overall picture. It's not totally surprising, since the west was where the ridiculous run up in prices began. The South would have done well if not for Florida, another hotbed of speculative buying.

For some folks, finding light at the end of the subprime tunnel isn't good news. If you have another month of homes sales increases, even slight, without Congressional intervention, it will show that the market is capable of correcting itself. That doesn't work well for the folks on the campaign trail telling us more government regulation is the solution to the problem.

It will be harder for Hillary Clinton to sell her fix for the housing crisis, which Barack Obama says looks suspiciously like one he laid out last year, but with more money. It will be harder for the doomsayers to beat up John McCain for not having a plan for the government to fix the problem, if it's fixing itself.

She's also supporting the Barney Frank proposal (written about here) with a few added features, like the feds actually buying foreclosed houses (not held by FHA/VA type loans), and then holding them until the market improves. Something she claims would be "revenue neutral". Since the average price for foreclosed homes is discounted at sale by about 19%, the revenue neutral idea doesn't hold much water.

If month to month foreclosures continue to fall (as they did in February) and houses continue to sell, suddenly a lot of the pessimism in the general public will start to fade. Add to that the fact that if home sales increase again in March the Fed will be less likely to cut interest rates, which will again help the dollar. Suddenly all of the gloomy numbers look better (not great, but better), and selling despair becomes a tougher job.

It must be tough being a politician who hopes that good news doesn't continue, only for self gain.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Here's My New Candidate!

I've found my new candidate for President! If you aren't happy with Hillary or Barack, or if you are too conservative for John McCain, maybe you should check out this guy.

He's kind of a dummy, but still talks with a lot of sense, and doesn't seem to be bound by political correctness. His thoughts on Hillary, and many other subjects are covered in the 7 minute clip.


Walter is a dummy, Jeff Dunham is the ventriloquist/comedian "behind" Walter, and has been getting laughs for years. You can sometimes see him on Comedy Central, or rent one of his DVD's for a great evening of entertainment. If you own a Prius, you might be offended by his "Spark of Instanity" show, though.

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A Week Later

A week after Barack Obama's speech the Washington Post has four different columns about the speech and it's effect and consequences in today's paper.

Robert Novak looks at the problems it may be causing him with super delegates.

David Broder comments on the presidential bully pulpit aspect of the speech.

Bomani Armah asks Barak to show us his "white side" in a satirical look at the speech and the "one drop rule".

Jonetta Rose Barras writes on why she's no longer in the camp of the Rev. Wrights of the world after spending a few decades believing it was the correct path.

Novak makes the point that since the speech Obama's numbers have fallen in Pennsylvania, as some of the undecided white vote decided he was just "another black candidate" based on his speech, not a trancendant one.

Having watched any number of white people be "tossed under a bus" because of racially inept statements, they evidently don't get why Obama can't disown his minister like Hillary was forced to disown Geraldine Ferraro.

This, according to Novak is going to cause a superdelegate problem for Obama, as the start looking at electability once again. They'll wonder if the Republican Attack Machine won't roll Rev. Wright back out come the fall, and beat Obama to death with the good Reverend's words.

Broder's piece is about the substance of Obama's speech and it's delivery. He believes it helped Obama paint himself as a person, like Reagan (sorry Democrats), who can use words to effect change and rally people behind him.

There's little doubt that Obama is a great orator who's come up with top notch speech writers. For him to get to the place Broder puts him though, he has to get past the problems Novak pointed out.

Barras' piece is long, but explains her journey from a person who saw everything in the country as separate for blacks and whites to someone who realized that working together works better. It kind of reminded me of the David Mamet piece in the Villiage Voice, "
Why I am no Long a Brain-Dead Liberal".

She doesn't think, by a long shot, that racially everything in the country is perfect. Instead she seems to have found that while imperfect, it's not nearly as bad as the Rev. Wrights, Jesse Jacksons, and Al Sharptons believe it to be. She seems to have stepped out of the comfort zone of those folks, ventured into the "real world" and found out that there are whites, asians and hispanics that aren't afraid to help, all you have to do is ask. And evidently she found enough to give her some hope that all isn't lost as Wright seems to think.

Armah takes a tongue in cheek look at Barack Obama's heritage and tells him it's time to start showing off his "white side". He's gained his black "street cred", and now needs to remind people, by posing for pictures with the other half of his family that he's white, too. Read the comments to see how many foaming at the mouth liberals don't get satire, even when it's pointed out in above the title line.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Erica Jong... Fear of Math!

Erica Jong has an article up at the Huffington Post that made me laugh, hard, about her lacking skills at both research, and math. You'd think an author, who posts to the internet could use Google or Wikipedia to check her facts.

"Why I Am So Afraid" shows the depths of despair of guilty liberal elites when they realize the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot (again).

First, let's get to Erica's deficiencies. According to her, we are spending $12 Billion A DAY in Iraq. I'll do the math for her, that comes out to 4.3 trillion dollars a year, 50% more than the entire US Budget for FY 2008. Even 10-12 million a day would be hard to figure, since that would have 75% of the defense budget and off budget requests being spent there. But hey, what's being off by a factor of 1000 matter when you are making a point, right.

Erica also thinks we spend more on war than our people:

If anyone in Washington read history, they'd understand that any empire that spends more in war than on its people eventually goes down in flames.

Only one problem with that theory, we aren't close to spending as much on the war in Iraq, or the military in general, as we do on people. Mandatory Spending for 2008's budget was listed at 1.79 trillion dollars, while the discretionary portion (which includes much more than war) was 1.14 trillion. Social Security alone was higher than the DoD budget and GWOT budget combined!

If you add in HUD, Transportation, Education, Labor and Interior budgets to money spent on "people" and subtract the debt from mandatory spending, you end up with about 70% of the federal budget going to people, and 30% going to not only war, but everything else.

But then, why both fact checking, or even writing factual articles, when the lemmings that read it believe everything you say. (You can check my numbers, lest I call you lemmings.)

Now, on to the real issues she's dealing with. The real problem she's having though, is that Hillary and Barack are beating each other to death in the primaries, and letting John McCain grow his lead over both of them. Had she just said that, and not bothered with the Bush bashing hyperbole and LIES her article might have had some merit. Instead, it's another joke of a post at Huffington.

If you want to get into the other aspect of her post, the characterizations of Clinton and Obama as a beaver and a stallion, go check out Brainster.

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The Beauty of Ugly

I'm not much of an NBA fan, I like basketball, not the glorified street hoops it's become. The NCAA tourney, on the other hand, I like. You get to see a ton of teams who never get TV time otherwise, If it's like Friday, where the four lower seeds in Tampa won, you get to see some great upsets.

The big thing, though is you get to see basketball played by a lot more teams on the court than in the NBA. The Wisconsin Badgers are one of the ultimate teams in what many people like to think of as an individual sport anymore with four other guys around the indivdual.

OJ Mayo and Michael Beasley, two great freshmen players are gone from the tourney, OJ because Beasley had help at Kansas State to beat USC. Beasley because he didn't have enough help to beat Wisconsin. They were the talk of the tourney, how far could they take their teams. The answer, not far enough, because they really don't have teams. They have a guy (two in KSU's case) and some roll players out there to fill the roster.

Wisconsin is never a glamour pick in the NCAA Tournament, usually they are the team picked to leave kind of early. But they are in their 2nd sweet sixteen in the last 4 years. Kevin Blackistone on ESPN's "Around the Horn" picked them to lose in the first round to Cal State Fullerton, because they hadn't played such a high scoring team all year, and wouldn't know how to defend them. They held Fullerton to 56 points (26 below average); Blackistone had it backwards, Fullerton didn't know how to play against a team defense, something few teams see a lot of anymore.

Against Kansas State pundits picked Wisconsin to lose because of KSU's one two punch of Micheal Beasley and Bill Walker, probably both going to the NBA in the next draft. Wisconsin has no one following that route according to conventional wisdom; and won again with a defense that frustrated, and an offense that may have frustrated more. They don't take many bad shots, and eat clock like it's candy on Easter Sunday.

KSU players after the game admitted that once they were down they sometimes felt desparate, because Wisconsin didn't give a lot of extra shots. Zero fast break points is a telling stat, so is 0-13 from beyond the arc. That's a lot of 3 point shots to take, and when they don't fall it generally means the other team gets the ball, and more of that clock candy to eat.

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin's coach was asked about how they decided to defend Beasley and answered "Same defense, same everything. If we changed what we did against him, we'd probably lose by 20. We do the same thing we've done every year against every team." The 31-4 record this year, when they were picked to finish 5th in the Big 10, shows that the system is important.

One of the questioners at the KSU post game press conference seemed to get that when he asked Coach Frank Martin what Wisconsin did to them, since they seem to do it to everyone.

That's the beauty of Bo Ryan's "ugly" system. It doesn't matter who you play, you play your game, not theirs. Very few teams have taken them out of that system since Ryan arrived, because he make his players believe in the system, not their own stats in the box score.

The system is not glamour ball, it's ugly sometimes, slow most times, and basketball the way it was meant to be played, with five guys working as one. I love it.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Global Warming Denial

I'm becoming a deeper and deeper denier of the theory of Global Warming. NPR (of all places) this week had an interesting article about the Argos system of about 1600 ocean bouys, which measure temperatures of the worlds oceans, as deep as 3,000 feet.

That system has recorded no warming of the oceans since 2003, and a slight, but non-alarming cooling of them. This is important, because according to the alarmists, it's the warm ocean waters that are too wreak havoc upon the planet. 80-90 percent of all global warming, according to the NPR article is caused by warmer ocean water. No surprise, since it covers 75% or so of the earth's surface, and is our heat sink.

The NPR folks contort themselves into pretzels to explain how the oceans are staying the same temperature, but that global warming has to be happening. It's almost comical to read that it's "taking a breather".

You see, according to the other set of alarmists, the CO2 folks, warming can't take a rest. As CO2 increases, temperatures have to also (see their hocky stick charts). Yet, for that to be true, the ocean temperature data can't be right. NPR has decided that the data must just be misunderstood.

One of their explainations nearly caused me to fall out of my chair laughing. Maybe all that warmer water is below 3,000 feet , so Argos can't find it. That explaination ignores the fact that if it is in fact that deep, and not rising to the surface, or the 3000 ft level, then it can't be getting to the atmosphere helping the warming. It would in fact, show that the upper ocean is acting like a very high "R Value" insulation and keeping the warming from happening.

Read the NPR article, it shows the depths that the alarmists will go to dismiss any evidence that they aren't quite sure what's going on.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Diversity Survey at University of Wisconsin

I just caught this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's JSOnline page, and it got me wondering.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh,
UW-Stevens Point and the 13 two-year UW colleges will conduct campuswide climate surveys this spring to find out more about how comfortable their campuses are for students, faculty and staff from different racial, ethnic, gender and other

I'm trying to figure out what they mean by "different racial, ethnic, gender and other groups", does that mean all groups, or just non-white male groups?

Administrators at all the schools hope the results, due next fall, will help them identify problem areas and make the campuses more inclusive and comfortable.
One hopes this means for all students, not just those of "different" backgrounds. Generally though, this type of survey is meant to make one or another "disadvantaged group" feel comfortable, often at the expense of others.

These types of surveys, and their results generally can't make everyone feel good. Which means that the administration(s) will be forced to figure out which of the groups is least comfortable, and make the changes to suit them.

The problem is, as often happens, the changes for one group may well annoy another, and a future survey will find new problems. Then what?

Take for instance, Montgomery County, MD, who was set to pass a bill allowing folks with a sexual identity issue to use what ever restroom THEY felt comfortable with. Suddenly other folks who were uncomfortable with that idea (and a very poorly worded law) came out and put a halt to it. (read about it at the Washington Post)

What will happen on the campuses when they run into a similar issue? Then a new survey (at the cost of $147,000) will be done to figure out how to fix that problem?

The problem is when you try to pacify everyone, you will end up inflaming everyone pretty much. You can't make everything all inclusive to everyone without stepping on toes. And when you do, the owners of the toes will yell. It ends up being a circle of whining, where nothing gets accomplished.

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Reflecting On The Speech

After a few days of reflection there is more reaction to the Barack Obama race speech, and it's not all as good as the earlier, glowing reviews.

Dan Schnur, John McCain's 2000 communications director, writing in his NY Times Blog see's Obama's standing going up in peoples eyes because of the speech, but that they'll be less likely to vote for him.

His arguement is somewhat compelling. He say's the speech definitely shows Obama's skills as an orator, and leader on a tough subject, but also reminded people of how much is still unknown about him. The unknown is what he thinks makes Obama harder to elect than say, Hillary Clinton, who's been through this wringer before, and has less unknowns.

He also correctly (I believe) points out that Obama probably played the Jeremiah Wright problem the only way he could. While many of us would have preferred that he toss Wright under the bus, not his Grandmother, that would have angered a much larger group of his supporters. His denouncement of Wrights words, but not the person, mollified the middle of the road folks, and kept the African-American constituency happy. Yes, conservatives were left unsatisfied, but then he wasn't going to satisfy conservatives anyway.

Charles Krauthammer was less impressed by Obama, giving his column the title "A Brilliant Fraud". Charles want's to know why Obama didn't leave a church that he obviously knew was run by a man with some strange beliefs and horrible rhetoric.

He takes Obama to task for tossing Grandma under the bus, noting that the example of her saying she was afraid when she passed black men on the street was something that Rev. Jesse Jackson has admitted to in the past. And while she may have said some things in private that bothered him, she wasn't standing on a stage, trying to incite a thousand or so when she said them, as Wright was.

His criticism of Obama for staying in the church is well placed (IMHO), if as he said on Tuesday, Wright is a man rooted in the past, and spewing vitrol from an era gone by, why did he expose his daughters to it?

It's a good question, if you are a man of "hope and change", they why not find a better spiritual venue for raising your children than a place that claims nothing has changed and there is no hope? I'm not an expert on African American churches, but my guess is there is one out there that more closely aligns to the Senator's hope and change mantra than Trinity UCC. In fact, I pray that there is one, because if there isn't, the black community is in much more dire straits than anyone can imagine.

If you need a totally useless comparison, though one that makes some sense in the context of Obama's assertation that Reverend Wright lives in the past, read E.J. Dionne's column. He spends his time comparing Wrights current demeanor with that of Rev. Martin Luther King. Great comparison, if King were speaking today, or Wright were preaching in 1968. However, they are 40 years, and eons separated.

What I gleaned from Dionne's column is something Krauthammer pointed out in his; because of "white guilt" the liberal elite would love and defend Obama's speech, and Rev. Wright. Dionne proves it his column, becoming the apologist white guy for the Reverend.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Naive On Iraq

I think someone at the Washington Post missed the memo on not criticizing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on their Iraq stands. Today's lead editorial in the Post is titled "Fantasies on Iraq", and skewers both Clinton and Obama's stances on ending the war and naive and short sighted.

The Post, or at least the editorial board, seem to be getting the fact that if the US leaves Iraq, someone will have to fill the security vacuum, and there aren't many good choices out there.

How bad is it for Obama and Clinton? Well, here's the best line of the editorial, and one that shows how little the folks at WaPo think of the two's withdrawal ideas.

In all, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama speak as if they have no understanding of Iraqi leaders, whom they propose to treat as willing puppets.

It's not the first time they've spoken like that. Their stands on NAFTA and other trade agreements share that same trait. They seem to think that every leader will bend to their wishes, and there will be no repercussions from their actions.

I guess we can hope that this is all a big show to try and appeal to the base of their voters while the two are still locked in a tough primary struggle, and that after the convention the winner will gain some common sense.

Maybe, now that the Post has had the courage to call out the candidates on their stands more folks from the MSM will start asking them tough questions about it, and asking for answers, not campaign slogans.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Rank And File Don't Buy It

After Barack Obama's "ground breaking speech" yesterday I listened to the new casts, and you'd have thought he single handedly defeated racism in America, and made his pastor a thing of the past.

Then around a couple of different water coolers today; both physical and electronic; I found that the rank and file white guys, the folks this was supposed to help with, aren't buying it. While many think that he expressed some great ideas, and spoke a lot of truth on race relations, and where they need to go, they thought that the meat of the speech, dealing with Rev. Jeremiah Wright came up lacking.

There are two reasons, apparently. The first is many think that Obama should have denounced the Pastor, not just "the words". They wanted Obama to take the route the Clinton campaign was forced to take with Geraldine Ferraro for expressing her opinion. Obama instead gave the pastor a big forgiving hug, for expressing his. Considering Ferraro was obviously seeing America through the same "static" lens of his Pastor, some thought he should have forgiven her in his speech.

Secondly, many folks saw this as a politician covering his tail. Just days before he'd been on the news programs telling us how he'd never heard any of the inflammatory rhetoric. Yet yesterday, he confessed to being in the pews for some of the speeches, and disagreeing with them.
(I personally think Fox News caused that, by claiming to have "hours" of Reverend Wright's sermons on tape, and that Obama couldn't possibly claim to have been absent from every one.)

But that second reason brings up the question, is he a liar? Which is true, what he said on the talk shows last weekend, or yesterday's speech? If yesterday is the truth, then why; as he claimed he would have on the talk shows; didn't he confront the Reverend?

Obama wanted to make Reverend Wright go away with yesterday's speech. But from what I've listened to today, in person, on the radio, and read in blogs, he didn't accomplish that. Instead, he may have opened a whole new can of worms. He may find that he'll have to defend himself against the questions raised above.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Number One Issue

The number one issue in this years election is discussed in this clip. It pretty well sums up politics today

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Nader Siphon

(H/T To Brainster on this info)

Zogby has a new poll out, showing that John McCain wins a 3 way race against Obama and Ralph Nader or Hillary Clinton and Nader.

While there is still a big number of undecideds in either match up (11% in both), Nader takes away enough support from the left end of the Democratic party to cost either Obama or Clinton the race.

Something in the poll that should bug democrats more than the idea of Nader running is that in the McCain Obama results Obama gets 8% less support from Democrats than Hillary would (67% to 75%). Those votes go most likely to McCain, since Nader's numbers don't change much.

It will be interesting to see, if as in 2004 the DNC pulls out it's lawyers to try and keep Nader off the ticket in certain states to prevent him from siphoning off votes. Remember, they didn't try it in all states, only the swing states. Because McCain gains the most independent votes according to Zogby, they may have to increase the pressure in some states that they didn't last time.

It will also be interesting to see if Hillary's mouthpieces pull out those numbers to try and shore up their standings with the super delegates. Any poll that shows her maringally more electable than Obama is going to be ammunition for her. Even though her and Obama's numbers are about the same in both polls, her folks will definitely tout the numbers that show she'll do better with the party base.

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Golf Season Is Upon Us

Golf season is upon us. For those who play the game, I found this great video tip for improving part of your game.

If you don't play golf, you may still want to watch, it will explain some things to you.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Trough Shall Be Full!

As Congress passed it's budget plans last night one thing was made certain. Earmarks are here to stay. Ignore all that stuff about reforming the process that you hear in 2006 when the Democrats were going to clean up Congress' wasteful ways. In the Senate only 5 of them voted for a 1 year moratorium on pet project spending, 2 of those five are running for President, and knew they'd be bludgeoned if they didn't.

The Pelosi lead House, and Harry Reid's Senate voted to keep their earmarks, and they'll probably "bundle" them again in the next budget, to make sure that their new, transparent process is anything but.

But hey, when you vote to raise taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars, why would you want to close the feeding trough? The folks in Congress see that huge increase in (Congress's) income as a way to make everyone happy, and keep themselves in power. Everyone will get a bridge to nowhere and two new parks! And they see you, typical voter, as too stupid to remember the promises that they made less than 2 years ago to fix this process.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cutting Their Own Throats

Democrats today endorsed a plan in the Senate to allow all of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire in 2010, netting America an increase of 683 BILLION dollars in taxes. Both candidates running for President thought it was a good idea.

The GOP, if they have half a brain, will begin advertising this, and the number (20 million) of lower income taxpayers who came off the tax rolls as a result of those cuts. Under the plan passed today, all 20 million of them will get an unpleasant surprise in 2010 when they have to pay taxes again.

The odditie of this is that six weeks ago Democrats decided that by giving us back some of our tax dollars, they could stimulate the economy. Now, somehow, giving out tax increases that average about $2000 family per year is going to be good for us. I can't follow that, but I think Steely Dan's song title, "Pretzel Logic", explains it' pretty well.

I will give Democrats this, they've got some sack putting this to a vote before the election. You have to be supremely confident that you are going to win re-election and take the White House to come up with this idea at this point in the year.

My guess is that they'll find out that as much as they want to claim the tax increases are only going to hit the rich, the truth will get out, and they may be left wondering come November what happened.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Harold Has The Right Question

Over the last few days we've been inundated with the news that New York's Democratic Governor, Eliot Spitzer was hooking up with high end call girls that charge $5,500 per HOUR.

For a long time I railed against Spitzer when he was New York's Attorney General, and looked for ways to destroy Wall St. companies. Most of the time it was in the name of protecting the "little guy", but usally came of as him being a self righteous prick, who felt guilty about his own silver spoon upbringing.

It was kind of proven out by the fact that the few companies who challenged him in court all won. Most didn't challenge him, not because they were guilty, but because they (unlike governments) do cost benefit analysis as a matter or course, and decided that it was easier and cheaper to settle that have their name drug through the mud for months or years.

So now Spitzer, who as DA in Manhattan used to round up and bust prostitution rings, is caught using one. Evidently Wall St. companies weren't the only one's he liked to screw.

Harold Myerson, over at the Washington Post, has a great question, what makes a hooker worth $5500 an hour? I've asked a few folks that question over the last few days, and no one can think of a reason to pay that kind of money for a hour of what a hooker does.

Myerson, though, has the answer. It's not that what she does is worth that kind of cash, it's that guys like Spitzer can afford that kind of cash, and you, Mr. Little Guy he's been protecting can't.

You see, Spitzer is a hypocrite. For year's he's been telling us that the little guy is who he's out to protect. Having based his political career on that premise, he can't buy a lot of things other rich guys do. He's look like a self righteous snob. So no Ferrari for Eliot, no private plane, though he did have a nice place in Manhattan (payed for with Daddy's money). The rest of the toys rich guys got would make him look two faced. So, instead, he flaunted his money with hookers the little guy couldn't pay for. No uptown street walkers for Eliot, he had to have the "good stuff".

Myerson points out that Spitzer was also looking for the one thing that a $300 an hour hooker couldn't give him, discretion. At $5500 an hour you better be quiet. But this brought out another of his flaws, hubris.

Spitzer like a lot of folks in his position in life feel they are the smartest guys on the block, or in the world. He didn't get caught because of buying the hookers. He got caught because of odd ways he was transferring money to accounts around the country. The Feds thought he was being blackmailed and were looking in to it, only to find the truth was it wasn't him who was being "screwed".

Mr. Spitzer, I hope you enjoy your future life in obscurity. I'm not sure why you haven't resigned yet, other than that little hubris issue of yours. It's time to sign the papers, and head out of Albany, and the headlines. Though I'm sure when the divorce comes up you'll be back in the news.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

I Thought They Fixed This

I was kind of surprised tonight to read that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had committed to a 1 year moratorium on earmarks. Earmarks are those little riders stuck in bills to get some federal money sent to your state or district.

Now someone correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Democrats who took over Congress in January last year promise to fix this then? What happened? Oh yeah, they took control of the purse, and like the GOP before them, who took power wanting to curb spending found out how easy that credit card is to use when you don't pay the bill.

According to the Associated Press, Clinton worked through $342 MILLION and Obama was responsible for $100 MILLION dollars in earmarks in the fiscal year 2008 budget out of a total of $15 Billion. That puts Obama's earmark haul at nearly 4 times the congressional average, and Clinton at 12 times the average. Clinton's total haul in 2002-2006, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense was $2.2 BILLION!

I'd tell you how much Obama earmarked in 2005 and 2006, but he hasn't ever released the records of it. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times wrote about his lack of cooperation on this and other fronts a few weeks ago.

To have them both come out now, and claim that earmarks are bad only proves how stupid the average voter is. They'll buy it hook line and sinker that the two of them are somehow above them, and suddenly want to curb waste.

GOP Candidate John McCain didn't really have to commit to it, he claims to have "never" asked for an earmark. Some folks on the left point to two items, one in 2003 and one in 2006 they considered earmarks. Total, $24 million. Let's face it, if $24 million in 24 years in Congress is all he's ever earmarked, he's a rank amateur. He should take lessons from the Democratic candidates for President to find out how to really spend our money.

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STOP BREATHING! You are Killing The Planet!

Ah yes, today's alarmist headline in the Washington Post "Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say". The problem with that is to completely eliminate carbon emissions, specifically CO2 emissions, we have to kill every living creature on the planet. We all exhale carbon dioxide. So, where do we line up to being the exterminations?

Here's what we should do, the President should read this, and become extremely alarmed. In fact, he should sign an executive order that eliminates all required studies, and blocks lawsuits against companies wishing to build any type of non-carbon emitting power plant. Nuclear, solar, wind farms, put 'em up, where ever there is space. In the mean time, ration electricity so as to reduce the impact of it's use.

He should also ban air travel until it can be accomplished without emitting carbon. Ban use of personal vehicles unless they are certified to be 100% non-carbon emitting. Require all emergency vehicles to immediately be switched to 0 carbon emitting models. Require all public transportation to be 0 emitting, within 1 year.

Any business that, as a byproduct of doing business, emits carbon must be immediately shuttered.

Anyone who lives in Arizona, Southern California, Southern New Mexico and Most of Texas will immediately be relocated somewhere else, we'll need the space for the solar panels. Any property in the highest category for wind generation (4-7) , regardless of location or use, will be taken based on eminent domain for new wind generators.

Does this all sound silly? IT IS! Getting to zero carbon emissions isn't going to happen. Wish you may, wish you might, someone will be burning charcoal tonight (me, probably).

The alarmists can scream all they want, but unless they are willing to sanction wars against the countries that don't drop their emissions, zero carbon output isn't going to happen, not in the next 10 years, not in the next 100, or even 1000. By the way, war has a huge carbon footprint.

Unless the world decides it should go back to the stone age it won't happen. Just the manufacturing of the vehicles, power plants, etc, to get to that zero output will have a huge carbon output. In fact, most manufacturing has some sort of output of carbon, so do we end all that, too?

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Barney Frank's Bailout Idea

I just finished reading Barney Frank's housing bailout idea, and it's clear he doesn't understand a lot of the mess housing is in.

First, he gets a few things right. Many folks did act imprudently when getting loans for houses, and some lenders did act stupidly as to who they gave loans to.

He gets wrong why it happened. It wasn't just lenders going after every sale they could get. Instead it was a combination of congressionally mandated lending rules designed to make redlining more difficult and home ownership easier, and stupidly low Fed Rates that caused the perfect storm for this crisis.

What he gets wrong is the biggest problem in this crisis. The biggest problem hasn't been the folks who got "sub prime" loans, but instead the folks with 'A List credit' who got ARMS, but didn't do what was necessary to adapt to the higher payments down the road. If he did the research, he'd know that as a percentage of total loans 'A list' ARMS are going into foreclosure faster than 'D credit' sub prime fixed loans.

His idea is another crisis waiting to happen. He proposes that lenders be forced to rewrite loans at the new value of homes, then after they do that FHA refinance the houses at a lower rate, to save the homeowner from the high payments.

The first problem is he doesn't seem to get how much money is involved. Current estimates are that $2 TRILLION of equity has been lost nationwide since home prices started falling. Writing off that much money will cause more financial institutions to fail than are currently at risk of it. JP Morgan estimates that there is already a $325 billion dollar hit coming in missed margin calls for banks. Let's just multiply that by about 7 times and see what kind of shapes that leaves banks in, and their ability to get back to lending.

Second, many of the folks who've lost equity, and their houses, aren't in need of a bailout. Yet his proposal doesn't address that at all. As Holman W. Jenkins Jr. pointed out in the Wall St. Journal a week or so ago, many folks are defaulting not because they can't afford the loan, but because it's not worth it to stay in a house that's "upside down" after taking out a zero down loan.

There is actually quite a bit of evidence that people with "buyers remorse" over getting into too much house for the money are, before foreclosure, buying a new house that isn't upside down on the loan, then letting the first get taken by the bank. Because many states don't allow secondary judgement lawsuits after a foreclosure it's seen as an attractive way of getting out of a bad loan.
Yes, it hurts your credit because there is a foreclosure on it, but the "good loan" helps offset that hit.

The Frank plan would give these folks the same bailout options as people who truly need the help. That's not what I consider a wise use of my tax money.

Finally, as Jenkin's points out, all of the housing bailout proposals out there are delaying the inevitable "bottom" in the housing market. While a smoother landing sounds good, it actually delays the recovery after the bottom, meaning that the credit crisis will hang on longer, and the associated economic slowdown will be harder to recover from.

Martin Feldstein had a plan that makes more sense ; at least for the financial sector; in Friday's Wall St. Journal, and would achieve the goals of Frank's idea, without causing a huge hit to financial stocks. In fact, it would probably boost them which would mostly likely help the economy as a whole. It would also insulate the government from much of the risk it would assume under Frank's plan.

His scenario would have the government loan you the money at the government's rate on T-Bill repayment (about 1.6%) to pay down 20% of your mortgage with a 15 year repayment. Your future wages would act as collateral, along with a lein on the house. In other words, if you default, they attach your wages to get the money back if a sale didn't bring it in.

The loan money would go not to the home owner as it does in a home equity loan, but to the primary mortgage holder who would then rewrite the loan, with a corresponding 20% drop in interest and principle payments. The immediate boost in cash flow to the banks would be very helpful in the current money crunch.

The problem with Feldstein's idea is that it wouldn't help the homeowner who can't make the payments. Here's the math, a 200k loan at 5.5% for 30 years has a P&I payment of about $1135 per month. Using Feldstein's proposal, that would become a 160k loan with a P&I payment of $908. That part looks good. But the payback for the government backed portion would be $250 per month, meaning that ther would be a net increase of about $20 per month to the homeowner. (Math courtesy of Real Data Real Estate Calculator).

This of course assumes that the 20% would not be enough to get the Loan to Value ratio down to 80% (because of falling prices) and that Mortgage insurance would still have to be paid.

For his plan to work for both parties under the above assumption the payback to the government would have to be over a 20 year period, which would then save the homeown about $30 per month.

As you can see, there isn't a "perfect" bailout plan. Congress needs to act prudently when it gets into this business to help avert a huge hit to taxpayers, lenders, and homeowners. At the same time, homeowners have to start acting more responsibly, with whatever plan is brought forth.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

George McGovern's Surprising Thoughts

George McGovern was the 1972 Democratic nominee for President (He lost, in case you forgot), and a Senator from South Dakota. So, much to my surprise, he wrote a piece fitting of a GOP capitalist called "Freedom Means Responsibility" in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

McGovern blasts both the right and left for their "paternalism" on issues such as sub prime lending, health insurance (especially regulations by states), and payday loans. Surprising issues to hear someone from the left argue about leaving alone!

I'm not sure if what he's writing about health care is a jab at government managed care as a whole, or just on the silly regulations many states have put into effect, you can read it and figure that out:

Health-care paternalism creates another problem that's rarely mentioned: Many people can't afford the gold-plated health plans that are the only options available in their states.

Buying health insurance on the Internet and across state lines, where less expensive plans may be available, is prohibited by many state insurance commissions. Despite being able to buy car or home insurance with a mouse click, some state governments require their approved plans for purchase or none at all. It's as if states dictated that you had to buy a Mercedes or no car at all.

Wisconsin is a great example, the legislators complain incessantly about the rising cost, but every year or so add something to the list that is "required coverage" to sell policies in the state. Oddly, they are the same legislature that is considering required "al a carte pricing" for cable TV, because requiring consumers to purchase channels they don't watch isn't fair to them.

He sums up the entire article in a thought that is surprisingly simple, but positively true:

The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else.

Unfortunately many in today's legislative world won't listen to him, believing that government knows best, or should manage everything to protect us. We, as the consumer end up paying for the paternalism, through higher health care costs, more difficult to get mortgages, etc. But, hey, at least we are safe, right.

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Best Line of the Week

Going through all stuff I've read this week, and listened to, Charlie Sykes from 620 WTMJ radio win's the "Best Line of the Week" award.

When he did his 7:30 teaser for his show the other morning, he found a way to mix the Wisconsin grief over Brett Favre's retirement and politics.

He commented that since Hillary Clinton's "experience" as first lady has made her ready to be the President then naturally Deanna Favre will be the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers this fall.

If you need a read about Hillary's "experience" give this one at Below the Beltway a shot. It's about her recent comments on helping bring peace to Northern Ireland, and reaction from folks who were there in 1998.

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McCain's Boeing Problem

John McCain has a problem, now that Boeing has been beaten out by Northrop-Grumman and EADS for an Air Force contract to build tankers.

Why is McCain in trouble because of this? He was one of the guys who pulled the rug out of a previous deal, awarded to Boeing to build those tankers. Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to Rahm Emanuel to Norm Dicks from Washington (where Boeing has a lot of plants) are screaming that it's McCain's fault.

The truth is, it's Boeing's fault. These folks railing against McCain have short, selective memories about this particular incident. You see, the reason Boeing lost the contract originally wasn't because McCain had a problem with them. They had a hiring problem, and a scandal problem.

Boeing had hired Darleen Druyun, an Air Force procurement officer illegally, actually while she was still in the Air Force. She went to jail for that. The guy responsible for her hiring, Michael Sears admitted that the hiring was illegal, and that Druyun was funneling Air Force contract money to Boeing, including helping with the original tanker deal. He went to prison for his role in the scandal.

Nearly a dozen years worth of Druyun's contract work, totalling billions of dollars, came under scrutiny, and it was found that's she'd been working pretty closely with Boeing and getting them sweethart deals.

Somehow, in Congressional Democrats minds, rebidding a contract that was fraudulently awarded is now a bad thing. These are the same folks who've been asking for, or conducting, hearings about anything and everything under the sun since Bush took office to try and find some sort of fraud.

They are the same folks who, bipartisanly, included new military procurement guidelines in the 2006 Defense Authorization Bill, because of the Boeing scandal. Now, suddenly, they are appalled at the idea that their version of an 'open and honest' contracting process didn't give them the winner they wanted.

Hopefully Congress doesn't decide that the Air Force has to rebid the contract, or just come out and order them to award it to Boeing. International defense spending is tilted pretty far in the US favor when you look at closely. There is European money being spent on the F-35, Aegis equipped destroyers, F-16's and other US equipment. It would be a shame to see those contracts come under scrutiny from the other side of the pond because suddenly we don't like doing business with European companies.

Of course if they do, Congressional Democrat's won't take responsibility for it, as always it will be someone elses fault.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Why Do I Know Barack Obama?

As I read Charles Krauthammer's column today "The Great Non Sequitur", about how Barack Obama has played the voters, and is now getting called on it, I was reaching to think of where I'd seen this character before.

Then it came to me. I saw him at the theater 20 years ago. He was on screen with Holly Hunter, I had to do a IMDb search to find the movie I was thinking of, but did.

Barack Obama reminds me of Tom Grunick, the character played by William Hurt in the 1987 movie Broadcast News. He seems with it, all knowing, and caring beyond belief. Then, when you get behind the scenes as Holly Hunter did, you find out that he can cry on queue and knows what makes good TV news. He doesn't really care, he doesn't trancend anything, he just knows how to get ratings.

Unfortunately for the country as a whole, this seems to play well. But then, since we insist on our news being condensed to 30 second sound bite aired over and over each 24 hour news cycle, we shouldn't be suprised that Grunick might be our next President, it's what many of us want.

In his column today Krauthammer sums up the Obama pheonomenon quite well with this line:

It goes like this. Because Obama transcends race, it is therefore assumed that he will transcend everything else -- divisions of region, class, party, generation and ideology.
He then goes on to bash that myth, as it should be bashed, not with name calling, but facts about Obama and his record in the US Senate.

The Obama campaign has sent journalists eight pages of examples of his reaching across the aisle in the Senate. I am not the only one to note, however, that these are small-bore items of almost no controversy -- more help for war veterans, reducing loose nukes in the former Soviet Union, fighting avian flu and the like. Bipartisan support for apple pie is hardly a profile in courage.
(emphasis mine)

I pointed this out last Sunday in "Building Bridges out of Nothing", commenting on a David Ignatius' column. Hopefully more people will point it out over the next seven weeks until the Pennsylvania primary.

Krauthammer also brings up the fact that while the strategies to bring Obama to earth failed on many levels, the one that seems to be working is a simple question,"do you know this guy?" It's a legitimate question, and as the Rezko trial gains steam, senate voting records get scrutinized, and his own background looked at more closely, it's likely many folks won't know the guy they voted for.

If it becomes more and more clear to those who've already voted that Obama isn't (as James T. Harris calls him) "The Black Jesus", then what happens? How will the Democratic electorate behave if they find out the messiah was a snake oil salesman? What does that do to the party as a whole?

It's a question that those who haven't yet voted should be looking into closely. Is he really the great uniter or; as his Senate voting record, and Chicago political background suggest; is he a guy who's really only interested in winning for his side and his gain? Are we electing a true agent of change, or are we electing Tom Grunick, with fake tears and all?

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Even Less Love On Trade

Last weekend I wrote of the lack of love the Democratic contenders were receiving on their trade stances. That lack of love is continuing, with Newsweek International's editor, Fareed Zakaria, writing "The Democrats' Dangerous Rhetoric" concerning their trade stances.

Just this one quote from a Latin American diplomat should make folks on the left side of the aisle wonder if we'll really increase our world standing by electing either Obama or Clinton:

The backlash could be greatest against Obama because he's raised the highest hopes. A senior Latin American diplomat told me, "Look, we're all watching Obama with bated breath and hoping [his election] will be a transforming moment for the world. But now that we're listening to him on trade - the issue that affects us so deeply - we realize that maybe he doesn't wish us well. In fact, we might find ourselves nostalgic for Bush, who is brave and courageous on trade and immigration." (emphasis mine)
That quote should send shivers through the spines of Democrats. Having other countries diplomats openly, and rather brazenly, stating they'd rather deal with Bush than Obama is not good for Mr. Obama's image as the great uniter.

The democrats are starting to find that they can't have it both ways when it comes to America's world standing. You can't be a "kinder, gentler giant" in one area and a protectionist thug in another, and have everyone base their opinion on the kinder side of things. Hillary Clinton's own polling profiles should tell her that.

One problem that Zakaria has, as do a lot of Americans, is confusing politics with leadership, and the electorate with people who will do their homework. In both cases the it's a poor assumption.

And isn't the point of leadership to educate and elevate people, not to pander and drag them into the swamp of ignorance and fear? There is a way to speak about the pain of globalization - and about the need for investments in retraining, education, health care and infrastructure - so that we can compete but also absorb the shocks of a changing global economy. Unfortunately, that is not what the Democratic candidates are talking about.

Yes, that is the point of leadership, but politics point is to get votes, regardless of how you do it, especially in primaries. One of the ironies of our election process is how many times in the last 20 years candidates have been burned for "flip-flopping" positions from the primaries to the general election season, and how they continue to do it.

In 1950 it was easy to say something in Dallas on a campaign stop and have it not heard anywhere else. Then when the convention came around the candidate could take a more populist, across the aisle stance, and no one would be the wiser. It doesn't work that way anymore, YouTube, CNN, Fox, MSNBC (for both viewers) are their 24/7.

Then again, both candidates on the Democratic ballot are running their campaigns on the trade topic as if it's the 1930's; both in substance (protectionism), and in their obvious belief that what's said in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas or Pawtucket won't be heard outside those cities.

Too bad for them that it's not 70 years ago, that protectionism has been proven to be an economic disaster, and that the Internet and satellites exit. Editors will continue to run articles about how poor a position they've taken, and trade partners will continue to talk about the apprehension of having either of them in office.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Death Watch Postponed

The death watch on Hillary Clinton's campaign has been given a reprieve, but not much of one. For every headline touting her 3 wins last night another, or the same story pointed out that Democratic delegate allocating made the victories pretty hollow. She won the popular votes, but really didn't make up any ground in the delegate race.

The Superdelegate, who've been flip flopping like, well Democrats on defense, are still going to be the key to the race. While Obama can claim droves have moved to his side of the aisle after 11 straight victories, he now has the shadow of Tony Rezko's trial hanging over his candidacy, which could flip them back to Hillary. Worse for him is the theory that the defense could issue a subpoena to have him testify for Rezko, which probably wouldn't help his standing with those superdelegates.

John McCain on the other hand won his nomination last night, and gets to spend the entire spring working over the Democrats, without having to worry about delegate counts or trials. While Clinton and Obama have to spend the next 7 weeks leading to Pennsylvania beating each other up over differences in their very similar stances, McCain gets to take pot shots at those stances.

With Rezko's trial starting, and McCain having sewed up the nomination for the GOP, the DNC has to be wondering if this year will once again be one where they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

This isn't a new thing for the Democrats. In 1988 Mike Dukakis held a huge summer lead over George H.W. Bush, then Willie Horton started turning up in ads all over the country. Like Rezko the Democratic establishment knew about Horton, and had been warned he could end up being the "deal breaker", but ignored the warnings. This time around former DNC treasurer, Joe Cini who had already been tied to the scandal 2 years ago, should have provided the warning, but it's been ignored.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Important Day

Today is a big day. Yeah, Mike Huckabee dropped out, Clinton could be wiped out, but the truth is the big story is that Brett Favre bowed out.

I don't think a lot of fans will realize just how much they miss him until the first game of the regular season, when number 12 trots out to get under center, not number 4. Suddenly a lot of fans of the Packers will realize that there are other quarterbacks on the roster.

A few folks have grumbled that if it's taken him six weeks to make up his mind, and he should have retired right after the season. Bull, when you've played 17 years you can take your time deciding if the grind of number 18 is worth it.

I know a lot of folks wanted him to go after the interception in the NFC Championship, not me, it didn't bother me. If New York's kicker hadn't shanked two easier kicks that pass would never have been thrown.

I can forgive him for that one, and the other 287 picks he tossed, because in the 8400+ attempts I got to witness a lot of crazy, magic, and many times unbelievable things.

I can forgive it because of Antonio Freeman's miracle Monday night catch against the Vikings. The defense gave up on it when they thought Favre was going to be sacked.

I can forgive it because of the night he limped onto the field to beat the Bears with an ankle wrapped so thick it you wondered how he stood, but then tossed 5 TD passes.

Or the day after his father died still playing, because it's what Dad would have wanted, and destroying Oakland 41-7.

I can forgive it because of the pass to Donald Lee in this year's playoffs on what looked like a sure sack, and instead, one hand on the ground, he tosses for 12 yards and a first down.

I can give him a pass on that bad toss because in 2003 he played 11 games with a broken thumb, and won 8 of them. Half the league with healthy quarterbacks didn't win that many total.

I can forgive him because of the 99 yard TD pass and catch with Robert Brooks in Chicago in 1995.

I can forgive it because of his 80+ yard pass to Donald Drive against the Vikings. Larry McCarren screaming "YES! YES!" is still one of the great sports sound bites out there.

I can forgive a couple bad tosses because I've still got the memories of him and Warren Sapp (who also retired today) jawing after every play for years. Two supreme competitors who respected each other, regardless of how the play turned out.

I can forgive some bad passes because I've got sixteen years of insane memories from a guy who played like a kid when he was one, and even when he was "over the hill".

I can forgive that pass because he celebrated touchdowns in his last season like he did in his first, like each one might be his last. Sorry to Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw, but I don't remember you guys tossing your recievers over your shoulders after a TD pass in a mid season game.

I can forgive him because of a story I heard this morning on my way to work. A guy from Iowa made a custom golf cart for Favre and with a friend delivered to Favre's Mississippi home. After he delivered it Brett spent two hours giving his guests the grand tour of the estate, and just shooting the breeze about lawn care, sports, weather, etc. I'm pretty sure T.O. and Randy Moss wouldn't be so gracious.

Personally, I'd hate to be in Aaron Rodger's shoes on opening day, they'll feel like lead bricks on his feet I would guess. Short of winning it all, there isn't much you can do to live up to a legend when you have to step into his shoes. Ask Steve Young if he's still got that monkey, if he doesn't check your back Aaron, that's probably where it is.

Thanks for the memories Brett, I already miss you, but I hope you have a great time with the family, and get to enjoy life on your terms.

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Hey, Look, He's A Politician

Something's becoming clear of late about the Messiah of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama. He's a politician. His many positions on NAFTA, one for Ohio, one for Texas, and evidently, one for the Candian Consulate shows that he knows how to work the particular room he's in.

Another way he shows that he's actually a politician is by saying a lot without actually answering a question, as Lynn Sweet points out in the Chicago Sun Times today. Specifically she's referring to his answers, which really weren't, at yesterdays press conference where he continually dodged real questions about his dealings with Tony Rezko.

She also debunks the idea (circulated by the Obama camp) that he's answered all the questions about Rezko before. Her blog has some great posts up, including video and transcripts from the meetings where that supposedly happened. Read through it and see if you can find any answers.

One of the ironies of this whole flap comes in reading the comments by Obama supporters; my guess mostly loyal democrats; on many of the above linked articles. A good portion of them try to deflect criticism from Obama by bringing up, of all things, Whitewater. Many of these folks, I would suspect probably spent the late 1990's arguing about how much money the government was wasting on that investigation. Suddenly they all think it was worth it and shows Hillary to be a corrupt person.

I'm not a Clinton supporter, but her previous comments on being more fully vetted than the junior Senator from Illinois are starting to ring true. While there is a lot in her past that could be brought up in a general election, it's mostly stuff that's been around for a dozen or more years. Obama's problem will be that most of his issues are fresh.

When Rezko's trial actually gets underway and starts picking up steam over the next 6-8 weeks, Obama's name is sure to come up more than once. Each time it does it will bring Obama more clearly into focus not as a "savior" but as a Chicago styled politician. That's never a good thing in a national election.

Obama, of all politicians, should understand just what damage hidden skeltons in one's closet can do. He's in the Senate not because he was the best candidate in Illinois in 2004, but because his opponent, Jack Ryan, hid some serious skelton's in his divorce papers.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Taking Aim At Obama?

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post spent a good chunk of today's "Media Notes" column looking at the treatment of the press towards Barrack Obama, and found that for the most part he's been given a pass by them until recently. He also points out that many stories about Obama failed to gain traction the first time around, or got little coverage for weeks.

While Obama's folks claim this just isn't true, the Center for Media and Public Affairs studied newscasts from ABC, NBC and CBS and found that 83% of the stories about Obama from December 16th-January 27th were "positive" stories, while only 53% about Hillary Clinton fell into that category.

The same study found that; and this has to bug liberals; Fox News has been the most balanced outlet for news about candidates. It has also had the best coverage of actual positions, instead of the beauty pagent aspect of the election.

The previous study by CMPA (link is a PDF file) found similar results in the period from October 1st through December 15th, with Fox being the "fair and balanced" news outlet, having a 50/50 split on positive and negative stories on all candidates, and the most substance on issues.

The CMPA study doesn't look into newspapers, but with the exception of the Chicago papers little coverage nationwide has been given to the Tony Rezko trial that starts today. And even in the Chicago papers much more attention is being paid to Rezko's dealings with Governor Blagojevich than connections to Obama. This though, should be expected, since the focus of the trial is on the "Pay for Play" system that appeared to be in effect at the Governors office.

That could start changing as the Rezko trial gets underway, as it's widely thought that a number of witnesses will mention Obama in their testimony. It will be interesting to see the next CMPA study of positives and negatives and if the trial affects the newscasts.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Is This The Best Team?

I mentioned in my last post that I'd write at length about Barack Obama's foreign policy/national security advisers. With John McCain having stronger credentials on the subject than either Democrat it's going to be a big issue, and is starting to get a lot of press coverage, so here's a few things to think about.

The lead advisor in this team is Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of much of Jimmy Carter's policy. ZB isn't an idiot when it comes to foreign policy, but at the same time many of his judgement's during the Carter era can legitimately be questioned. Specifically how did we fail so miserably at knowing what was going on in Iran, and was abandonment of Taiwan necessary to improve relations with China?

Even 30 years later our relationship with Taiwan is strained because of that, and while trade relations with China are good, diplomatic relations have never been as strong as they should be.

Anthony Lake, another high ranking advisor was directory of Policy Planning for President Carter, and held several posts in the Clinton administration. Again, Lake is an experienced person in foreign affairs, but is his the right experience? Remember that his nomination to head the CIA was pulled after a horrible hearing when it was realized that he'd never get enough support to be confirmed. Many of the issues at those hearings concerned how he, and the rest of the Clinton team handled informing Congress about actions and events in Bosnia. (If you think this administration is bad about informing Congress, look up the transcripts of Lake's hearings, and gain some insight on how Clinton handled Bosnia)

Richard Danzig was Secretary of the Navy for Bill Clinton's last 3 years in office and Undersecretary prior to that. Someone once remarked that 'he was probably the smartest guy who ever walked the halls of the Pentagon, and he didn't mind reminding people of that'.

I lived through that time period in the service, and can say that Mr. Danzig was probably the LEAST respected SecNav I encountered in 21 years of service.

His view of the military as a vehicle for social change was roundly criticized by the leadership I worked with and for during that period. Admittedly not all of the change was the horror story some made it out to be. However, Danzig's implementation of it, and complete ignoring of anyone with other opinions made things much worse than they had to be.

Near open revolt by senior leadership over his policies and priorities by late 1999 and 2000 and the huge departure of junior officers after only one tour have left a gaping hole in the Navy that still hasn't been fully repaired. The scary thing is, he'd probably be Obama's choice as Secretary of defense.

Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak was brought up yesterday, concerning comments on John McCain. McPeak's claim to fame was being Air Force Chief of Staff from 1990-1994 when he retired, and for 3 weeks in 1993 acting as both Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force. He did bring a lot of change, much of it neccessary, to the Air Force after the end of the Cold War, but has been dogged by accusations that he cut too much, too fast, and without thoughts on how those cuts would affect the service in the future.

Many of his contemporaries also felt that he spent too much time trying to turn the Air Force into a "corporate structure", and too little concentrating on it as a fighting force.

Lawrence Korb is probably a far left liberal's wet dream as far as being on a "defense" team goes. His objectives at some of the institutes he's affiliated with are getting rid of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy (which, oddly, was formed while Danzig was on the Clinton team), and redirect a good portion of the military budget to programs such as education, healthcare, job training, renewable energies and and deficit reduction. Unfortunately, his stated goal isn't to save that money by modernizing acquisition and expenditure methods in the military, which would probably work to give him that windfall.

The now infamous Richard Clarke, who served both GHWB and GWB, and Bill Clinton is another member of the national security team. Clarke's falling out with the current administration has made him a hero of the far left. When you look over the full body of work written about him after his departure, from 2 administrations worth of people, you start wondering about just how much of what he said was true, and how much was salesmanship for his book.

When you look at the team as a whole what you find is a group that has had a few big successes, a number of abysmal failures, and is ripe with political agendas that may not be the best match for the world we face today.

Both Lake and Brzezinski are probably capable of leading the bureaucracies that they would get handed to them, but both carry a lot of baggage from their past government posts to make it clear they may not be the best choices, or be particularly effective.

Danzig has already proven that he's not a great leader, and probably would alienate a good chunk of the military based on his past.

McPeak, Korb and Clarke appear to be on the team to show the left that it's serious about getting as far from Bush, and even Clinton policies as possible, with all of them being outspoken critics of Bush, and at least one wanting to kill off some Clinton policies that are still hanging around.

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Building Bridges out of Nothing

David Ignatius at the Washington Post has a great piece up today contrasting Barack Obama's claims to be a "bridge builder" and the reality of his voting record.

Obama supporters can look forward to more pieces like this, should he wrap up the nomination shortly and it may make life a little bit painful. Readers of the Post should appreciate that someone there is asking questions other than "would you like another pillow" (thanks SNL).

Ignatius performed what one of my favorite talk show host refers to as a "flagrant act of journalism" by looking at Obama's record both in Illinois and the US Senate for the signs of how he's going to build the bridges to reunite America. Unfortunately for Obama's supporters what he found was a lack of construction skills nearly 180 degrees out of sync with his message.

This is kind of a telling portion of the column, and points to the "softball issues" that Obama claims as bipartisan victories:
The Obama campaign sent me an eight-page summary of his "bipartisan accomplishments," and it includes some encouraging examples of working across the aisle on issues such as nuclear proliferation, energy, veterans affairs, budget earmarks and ethics reforms.

Let's look at that list, and see if there is anything on it that wouldn't have bipartisan support from pretty much anyone in the Senate.

Nuclear Proliferation... Not since Barry Goldwater can I think of anyone from either party who didn't think that slowing the spread of nuclear weapons was a good idea.

Energy, well the parties have differences on how to work a policy, but the vote in the Senate on the current energy bill was pretty bipartisan since 40 votes to block it couldn't be found.

Veteran's affairs, especially after the Walter Reid stories broke a few years ago EVERYONE in Congress wanted to fix the DoVA. Prior to those stories in 2005 though few people did anything about it, except argue over funding for Concurrent Receipt of disability and retirement pay (which still isn't 100% happening).

Budget earmarks, considering when Obama came into office, and why the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, it was a no brainer that both sides would work towards earmark reform. If you look at how the Democrats have made this "transparent" though you might question if the reform as done any good at all.

Ethics Reform, again, Obama was elected at the height of the Tom DeLay scandal, and Duke Cunningham's problems were in the news. Anyone voting against ethics reform wouldn't be seen as partisan, they'd be seen as stupid!

Ignatius points out, correctly, that there isn't an instance on that list where Obama worked across the aisle on a subject that would raise eyebrows with the party base. Even on one topic he did work on that's contentious, immigration reform, he didn't work at the front of the pack, like McCain and Ted Kennedy. Even in 2005 before they took over Congress, it was the Democrats working from the position of power on the topic, with 41 votes locked up to stall any bill that didn't meet Harry Reid's liking.

The truth is that Obama's campaign rhetoric isn't exactly inclusive, bipartisan, or "post-partisan" as one commenter on Ingatius' article claimed. It's basically Howard Dean and John Kerry in 2004, running hard left against "Bush Policies" though Bush won't be on the ballot.

His rhetoric on labor, trade, and taxes all smack of the politics of class warfare, not inclusion, yet he's going to be the 'great uniter'?

McCain may have had a change of heart on the Bush tax cuts of '01 and '03, but he's honest enough to note they've worked. Obama (and most democrats) can't even acknowledge that they took 20 MILLION of the lowest income workers completely off the federal income tax rolls because it doesn't fit the "only rich got breaks" mold that they've been running on since 2003.

If you get a chance, go read Ignatius' column, and if you are an Obama-maniac try and do it with an open mind. You might learn something about your candidate.

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A Few Words For Gen. McPeak

Barack Obama has been surrounding himself with retired Generals, and former advisers to past presidents to beef up his image on national security and defense, something most Democrats have to do since they are widely seen as weak on those issues. (The group as a whole will come up in a later post).

One of his surrogates, retired General Merrill A. McPeak, know as Tony, recently took a jab that's completely off base at John McCain.

McPeak's comment (which can be found at the LA Times) was "But like I used to tell John: You don't get to be a hero by getting shot down, you get to be a hero by shooting the other guy down.". You need to read the whole article to understand just how snarky a comment that is in context.

McPeak is correct, but only on a certain level. Richard Bong, Greg Boyington, Eddie Rickenbacker all got to be heroes due to shooting a lot of the other folks out of the sky. We adore success at just about anything, but in a war we adore it even more.

Most folks who get shot down don't become heroes, Ens. George Gay, the only survivor of VT-8 at the battle of Midway wasn't considered a hero, he was considered lucky for surviving a mistimed attack. His whole squadron, though should be considered heroes since their mistimed attack lead to the victory that turned the Pacific theater around.

On the flip side, guys like McCain, Rod Knutson, Ted Guy and many others became heroes after being shot down. McCain himself jokes that it doesn't take a lot of piloting skill to get hit by a SAM, and knows that's not what made him a hero. Instead, they became heroes based on how they conducted themselves while they were prisoners of war, and what they endured.

I served under the above mentioned Capt. Knutson for the better part of 2 years in the mid 80's, and he was instrumental in getting my career moving in the right direction at a time that I was bound and determined to move it the wrong way.

One of the pleasure of that couple of years was getting to hear Captain Knutson's story in both public appearances, and some personal conversations. The mosting striking thing about hearing him talk wasn't that it was "his" story, but "their" story. The recurring theme was the one Obama is trying to run on, unity. When a POW would come back from a visit with the captors, a trip to the pit or isolation, another POW always checked on them somehow, whether scratching on a wall, or trying to talk to them; even when they knew the consequences if they got caught.

Contrast that the the unity theme Obama is running on, which is "I'm going to unite the country", followed by which groups he thinks should be punished by the tax code, be regulated by the government, and basically told that they aren't as important as others in his vision of unity.

I didn't realize until after Captain Knutson had moved on to another command; and I did some more reading; just how bad he'd personally had it in the Hanoi Hilton. In all the conversations and public appearances he never really went into the fact that he was the test subject for a lot of the more grizzly methods the North Vietnamese used on our POW's.

General McPeak may think Barack Obama is going to become a hero by "shooting down" Hillary Clinton and John McCain, but what he'd actually become is just another victorious politician. McCain will still be the true hero in this bunch, regardless of the outcome of the election in November.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

No Love On Trade

When the Secretary of Commerce beats up both Democratic candidates positions on NAFTA (at least as they stated them last week), it's to be expected. When the GOP Candidate whips up on them about it, it's to be expected. But when the editorial board at the Washington Post schools them, they should take note.

In their final head-to-head meeting before Tuesday's Ohio and Texas primaries, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) declared that they would opt out of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico unless those two countries renegotiated the pact's labor and environmental provisions to the United States' liking. For two candidates who pledge to repair U.S. standing in the world, it was an odd swipe at our next-door neighbors.

The last line is especially true, it's hard to gain better standing anywhere when you want to renegotiate approved treaties from a "me first" perspective.

The Congressional Budget Office studied NAFTA in 2003, and found that the effect of it on the US economy wasn't huge, but it was a net positive, with our exports to Mexico growing faster in all but 3 of the first 10 years of the agreement than our imports from Mexico.

Carlos Gutierrez, the Secretary of Commerce makes two good points, one current and one historic. The current one being that while the economy has slowed due to the housing and credit crunches, our exports have been increasing, and cushioning that slow down. This was pointed out in the Wall Street Journal on January 28th by Brian Wesbury, who noted:

With housing so weak, the recent softness in production and durable goods orders is understandable. But housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.
Does either Democratic candidate truly believe that we'll sustain that kind of export growth if we decide that unilateral renegotiation of trade agreements is the path we should take?

Gutierrez's historical note was based on the protectionist past of the US, and it's devastatingly bad impact on the economy:

There was a time in our nation's history when we sought to protect Americans by withdrawing from the world. In reaction to increasing agricultural imports, our government raised tariffs to historically high levels. We tried to protect jobs. But instead of the prosperity Americans expected, our unemployment rate increased to 25 percent and international trade dropped 66 percent. Protectionism was the wrong approach during the Great Depression, and it's still wrong in 2008.
We've seen this occur in small pieces over the last decade or so, whether is was the net loss of 250,000 manufacturing jobs to protect 60,000 steel workers with a misguided tariff on imported steel, or the decrease in agricultural exports to Europe when we decided to impose tariffs on certain imports from them, and got beat up at the WTO.

While it's easy to pander (as the Post puts it) to certain segments of the population for political gain, it's harder to reverse the notion with trade partners that you want to redo set agreements for your own gain. That same sentiment will end up creeping into negotiations with other potential partners, and soon you find that even if you support decent trade agreements you can't negotiate them because of the perceptions that are out there.

Isolationism and protectionist trade rants aren't going to turn back the clock to 1950, when the US was the supplier of everything to nearly everyone. It's not going to bring back jobs that were lost when segments of our industries became uncompetitive and too expensive to compete in the world market that has been emerging for the last two decades.

Instead, that type of rhetoric, and the actions suggested by both Clinton and Obama would bring back the 1930's, not a time many of us are yearning to return to. (Or in my case visit for the first time).

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