Saturday, November 08, 2008

Monday morning quarterbacking

If the economy, the war, an opponent with more cash and an unpopular President in office, all were not enough to doom his campaign -- any chance of victory went irretrievably south after Senator McCain selected Governor Palin as his running mate.  Bold choice? You betcha, but look what it bought him.

I was hopeful after Ms. Palin's rousing convention speech, but I still worried that Joe Biden would wipe the floor with her at the debates -- he did not and I kept hoping.  I chose not to write about my Palin doubts, but my heart sunk after those Katy Couric interviews.  I became an impostor by my silence.

Katy Couric's interview revealed a vacuous performance from a candidate who is supposed to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.  Ms. Palin did the best she could and she will have a future in national politics, but she was not at all ready for this experience. Don't blame her, blame McCain's advisers. Having the "right views" and no skeletons, is not enough. 

Yes, Ms. Palin has a fine record as Governor, yes she appeals to my Midwestern values and yes I was invigorated by selection of a conservative woman on the ticket, but she simply doesn't know enough and she is not yet equipped to think fast enough on the national stage.  

As Peggy Noonan aptly put it in her October 17 Wall Street Journal column (Palin's Failin') -- "She just. . . says things."  One thought for future GOP campaign strategists:  The next time the market data suggests that your candidate's running mate should be a female-outside the Beltway-gun toting-strident Pro-Lifer; you must look harder than they did in 2008.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The infamous AIG party

AIG logo
This outing was the same type of company outing that other companies fund each year. There were less than a dozen AIG people in attendance.

Unfortunately, due to the timing, the issue has become a a silly media-driven frenzy. Even the White House couldn't resist criticism and CNN keeps saying, "Spa treatments! Spa Treatments!"

If your insurance company has a business model of selling through independent reps, it does the same thing to reward and motivate them (Note: they are not employees).

These events are planned months or years in advance. It has nothing to do with the loan program -- it wasn't even funded by the holding company. It is...a cost of doing business. Would you prefer that AIG shut down it's incentives for independent sales agents? Should AIG stop selling insurance?

Which AIG executives should be fired? Should they fire all of the independent reps too?

Disclaimer: I own shares of AIG. (But even if I did not, my reaction to this storm would be the same.)

I did not like the bailout. However, I reject some of this populist furor because it has painted the AIG event with the same brush used to condemn the Dennis Kozlowski Toga bash and his golden shower curtain.

Old Hillary Posts (re-posted)

Saturday, June 07, 2008--Hillary Clinton, Peggy Noonan and me

I owe Ms. Peggy Noonan. My own infatuation with the tenacious campaign of Hillary Clinton almost made me lose my senses. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan brings me back to earth. Before I explain, here's my take on Peggy Noonan - she's a better columnist than speechwriter, or television commentator.

For me, one of the most memorable parts of the disastrous Dukakis campaign in 1988, was when Dukakis mocked the then famous Noonan line written for George Bush, about "a thousand points of light" by asking, "What does that mean?" That was also my thought at the time. Similarly, I was baffled by the amount of recognition Ms. Noonan received for the phrase crafted for President Reagan to describe Washington D.C. as, "that shining city on a hill."

So much for my petty problems with her speech writing. On TV she's occasionally cheeky or demonstrative, leaving the impression that she is trying to hide some nervousness. Having one whole local television appearance under my belt, during which I was shaky as a slinky (and it showed) - I understand. So, I can't even imagine the pressure associated with the type of TV settings she is acquainted with. Stage fright (if that is the culprit here) breeds embarrassing gaffes.

I spotted Ms. Noonan on a TV program some years ago when she was expressing doubts about the notion that Lyndon Johnson was funny. (Presidential historians will tell you, Johnson was often hilarious. A brilliant mimic and comic story teller).  It wasn't a difference she needed to have with her co-panelists that day and she needlessly revealed an ignorance of LBJ's persona. Again, minor quibbles.  So much for the critique, I want to gush about her other work.

Each week I eagerly look forward to Peggy Noonan's Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal with that caricature of her sporting a smile next to her often compelling political prose.  She has incisively expressed her views about the actions and character of Hillary Clinton in several columns and today's piece, "Recoil Election" - is a fine example. Ms. Noonan understands how both Clintons are brilliant, cunning and hopelessly deceptive.

Although I remain enamored with Ms. Clinton's tenaciousness and durability, the shameful playing of the gender card as reason for her downfall overshadows much of the virtue behind her campaign effort. In her piece this morning, Ms. Noonan makes comparisons to the character of an equally tenacious Golda Meir. (I might add Margaret Thatcher).

The point is this: other high profile women face equally if not more daunting gender challenges than Ms. Clinton, without falling prey to all the fallacious, excuse-making.  Thanks Ms. Noonan - I had almost forgotten.


Monday, May 19, 2008--- True grit


I have been hard on the Clintons for a long time and I'll make no apologies for my words. A representative sample of my dissatisfaction with Mrs. Clinton's persona can be found in this post and an equally frank assessment of Mr. Clinton's presidential foibles can be found here.

Even if I set aside their policy positions, with which I almost uniformly disagree, it's their pathological dishonesty, smugness and selfishness that leaves me cold again and again. I see Bill and Hillary Clinton as one person who has never stopped disappointing me. With all that as the backdrop for this post, I am about to go positive on one of them...

Occasionally, we astonish ourselves and I wish to share a very personal moment when I astonished myself. Given the bile that all things Clintonian will arouse in me, I surprised myself when I began to feel something warm and inspiring while contemplating Hillary Clinton recently. It is redemptive to have had so much disdain for another person and then find something you admire. Strange feeling, but very human I think. My revelation is this: she's strong.

It's not Mrs. Clinton's usual pluck that I am referring to here. You know the in-your-face type of retort that she is both admired and reviled for, by millions.  I'm talking about tenacity. The type of thing that reveals itself after one is knocked down again and again. Some people get hit harder each time and yet still manage to rise. Think of Richard Nixon in his teens as the tackling dummy on the school football team. Yes Mr. Nixon had this quality too.

You simply must respect another person who has taken so many punches and just keeps coming back. It's a very American quality that exists in people you've come to respect, but it is only delivered in spades, by a precious few. Senator Clinton has such chutzpah and I have come to respect it. It would be intellectually dishonest to ignore it, no matter how much contempt I have for her attitudes, ethics and policies. I called the Democratic race over almost exactly 3 months ago - Mrs. Clinton will not be her party's nominee for president.

What I didn't predict and never expected, was that she'd stay in the race this long, after so much bombardment, and still credibly come back for more. It's fascinating to watch. Iran has cause to be afraid...very afraid.

No, I could never support anyone, or anything Clintonian. However, at the time of this post, I must grudgingly concede, this woman's profile has risen in my mind, if only because of one single feature - true grit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vinegar in your morning cup of coffee

When I was first learning to write essays, our teacher stressed the importance of grabbing your readers' attention early on in your work, like a compelling "lead" to a news story.

Consider columnist Jessie Eisinger's recent piece in the latest edition of Portfolio magazine in which his very first sentence will punish the unwitting reader who is harboring any sense of financial security...

"The worst Wall Street turmoil in a generation is going to wipe every other issue off the table for the next president."

You'll want to read on, but be warned, it gets worse. Eisinger describes potential for so many financial calamities that one might arrive at a conclusion some have long feared, but few vocalize...

"There will be blood."

Whether you hold a PhD in economics or no sheepskin whatsoever, common sense dictates that one can only cop a dangerously free ride for so long. At the end of that ride (and there always is an end) there is an inexorable crash, that brings great pain to the free-rider.

Unfortunately, there will also be pain felt by those who paid for their rides and even wore protective gear (which they also paid cash for), because they are tethered to the free-riders - and that's the real tragedy. That's our system.

We'll pay for the free-riders' avarice, their lack of discipline, their recklessness.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama travel files is breaking news?

Apparently, Senator Obama's passport file has been reviewed. 

OK, logical questions are by whom and why? Also, how did the story breakers learn about it?  But I'm also trying to understand -- where is the story?
Keith Olbermann, Wikipedia

Is there some profound secret associated with Mr. Obama's public travels? What is the conspiracy they are tripping over themselves to report upon?  Moreover, why is a presidential candidate's foreign travel history somehow more privileged than a review of his tax returns?

The media is reacting as though someone has broken into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist again. Keith Olbermann at MSNBC has actually referred to this story as "jaw dropping." 

Please. We need much more. For the moment, my jaw is motionless.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hello Earth to Google! Anyone there?

A small, almost unnoticeable news brief on the page B4 of The Wall Street Journal today, contained a disturbing AP report. Apparently, the Pentagon had to intercede in order to thwart Google from proceeding with its plans to have "Google Earth teams" make detailed, panoramic maps of U.S. military bases.

I suspect that authorized military personnel know how to get around on those bases very well without using Google Earth, thank you.

To Google, I say: Your earth technology is magnificent, but don't you think that you might be compromising national security by plastering that content out on the Internet? (Sorry Google, I feel strongly about these things; but please don't shut down my blog).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

R.I.P. WFB

Yesterday morning at the age of 82, while working in his study, we lost William F. Buckley.

Mr. Buckley captivated many of us for decades with his columns, speeches, debates, appearances on TV talk shows, his authoring of 50+ books, his harpsichord-playing, creation of National Review and a seminal television program for serious political discourse called "Firing Line."
WFB, Wikipedia
In my twenties, I'd watch television debates with awe and amusement as Mr. Buckley gracefully routed his opponents. He had no equal then.  I'm not sure he has one today.  Millions of Americans, I'm guessing under the age of 35, have little appreciation of this man's enormous gifts and contributions to contemporary conservative thought.

He advocated for free markets and limited government before it was cool to do so.  He warned about secularism before it reached the proportions with which we now contend. He was also America's most charming intellectual. His command of language, politics, economics, history and philosophy is legendary.

But it's often the subtle things we recall about those we've known (or wish we had known).  I'll never forget that devilish, enlightened sparkle in his eyes flashing at the same moment his expansive smile would emerge. That radiant face revealed something more than the intellectual gifts for which he is often parodied.
WFB with Ronald Reagan, Wikipedia

What I saw in those signature Buckley facial expressions was an abundant joyfulness and love of life beaming straight through the camera lens and into our homes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Does Rivera know something?

Geraldo Rivera, Wikipedia
Yesterday, my wife and I watched incredulously as we observed Gerlado Rivera interviewing Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones on FOX.

The first reaction was that we must have missed some bombshell discovery like a photograph of Senator McCain on a boat with a babe in Bimini.

No we didn't miss anything like that because there has been zero evidence to support such a "smoking gun" which made us wonder, why in the world would Geraldo Rivera be interviewing these women about the McCain story in the New York Times?

Unless Mr. Rivera knows something that the rest of us do not, linking the stories of these women and their affairs with Bill Clinton to the current McCain story, is shoddy journalism.  And if Mr. Rivera does know something, he ought to report it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's over for Hillary Clinton

It's over for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

It doesn't matter what happens in Texas, Ohio, or elsewhere. Her presidential bid is finished. Forget your delegate counts (pledged or not) and your polling data.

Consider instead the NY Times blog today and posts under the story, "Clinton Sharpens Her Attack on Obama"

Try to find authors supporting Mrs. Clinton. Instead, overwhelmingly, you'll find items from Democrats, that sound like this one...

"I went to an ivy league college with a lot of people who remind me of Mrs. Clinton. Bright, articulate, driven, but with an off-putting sense of entitlement. A know-it-all attitude that brooks no dissent."

It's as if scores of the party faithful are now emboldened to express heretofore repressed criticisms of Ms. Clinton, because they no longer fear retribution. Maybe this is cathartic for them.  In any event, it is over.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hucka-strength


Excerpt published in the New York Times Politics Blog, 2.19.2008

Last night I attended the Mike Huckabee rally in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The room size was well chosen. Swelling with hundreds of people and dozens of signs, it must have translated into a great television picture.

The crowd was largely white, middle-class and peppered with people from all age groups. Their spirit was buoyant, lively and good-natured throughout.

The former Governor of Arkansas speaking for some 30+ minutes, delivered a flawless speech laced with endearing stories and humour that delighted the crowd, even though it included some now shopworn idioms (that all candidates resort to at this stage) including how he plans to "nail the Going Out Of Business sign" on the door of the IRS.

Mike Huckabee, Wikipedia
Mr. Huckabee looked fresh, energetic and thoughtful throughout his time at the stump. You didn't get the sense that this guy is going away any day soon. He knows how good he is, how far he has come with so little cash and that he now has something to trade.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A gem from Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter, Wikipedia
I'm still chuckling about a recent Ann Coulter appearance televised on C-SPAN.  Ms. Coulter is less than enchanted with John McCain's candidacy.  Nonetheless, I believe Ms. Coulter and 95% of all Republicans would prefer Sen. McCain over Hillary Clinton.

Nonetheless, here's the gem...after briefly contemplating a question from an audience member as to whether there could be any positive aspect associated with the Clintons returning to the White House, Ms. Coulter replied calmly,

"At least we'd get the silverware back."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reflections on a summit for prosperity

Yesterday on a snowy wet Saturday, the Wisconsin Chapter of Americans For Prosperity (AFP) held its "Defending the American Dream Summit" in Pewaukee and attendees were treated to speeches from Dinesh D'Souza, Steve Moore and local Sheriff David Clark.

Attendees also witnessed a color guard, a stirring video of the late Ray Charles singing "America The Beautiful" and a film that celebrated the life and legacy of President Ronald Reagan. There was much more. If AFP hadn't delivered quality, I wouldn't have stuck around for 8 hours.

Other items from my notepad:

Wisconsin Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen made a notable distinction about Thomas Jefferson's seminal contribution to the Declaration of Independence of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,"  Mr. Van Hollen noted that unfortunately, Jeffersonian thought among many people in our nation has devolved into an expectation for government entitlements. Jefferson never envisioned life, liberty and the guarantee of happiness.  Rather, the founding idea was to help people by removing obstacles, by protecting them and by giving them a fair chance, but not through taxpayer sponsorship.

Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance gave a sober, tightly-constructed review of Wisconsin's fiscal mess and the accounting chicanery used to screen out our "structural deficit." Republicans are not without blame as significant red ink extends back to the Thompson administration (Governor Thompson's groundbreaking WorkFare policies, notwithstanding). As Mr. Berry's group is purely nonpartisan, he couldn't (or at least he chose not to) identify explicitly by name, more recent causes of our fiscal morass. Mr. Berry said "we" created off-the-books debt by issuing bonds to fund transportation projects. Yet, the last mega-debit to the transportation account was delivered two budget cycles ago - compliments of Governor Jim Doyle and his "Frankenstein veto" when he transferred $400 million to public education funding.  That move was not authorized by the legislature and of course it was not a "we" who was responsible - it was a "him."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NOW, that's an outrage

I never thought I'd find myself on the same side of anything as Ted Kennedy -- until NOW.  A press release from The New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) has attacked Senator Ted Kennedy for endorsing Barack Obama. The chapter has called the Senator's action, the "ultimate betrayal" since apparently, a vote for anyone but Hillary is unacceptable.
National Organization For Women, public logo
In fairness, the national organization has officially disavowed this insipid press release, but even that might not blunt the near-term reputation damage -- compliments of its rogue New York chapter.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'm sure he gets better advice than I can give...

but I do not understand why Senator Obama highlights relatively innocuous aspects of Hillary Clinton's history like service on Wal-Mart's board (is that a crime?) when there is so much else to choose from.

Ms. Clinton burst on to the national scene in 1992 when she insulted American women who choose to stay home and raise their children (remember her "cookies" comment?).  Then she held our attention after we learned about her involvement in FileGate and TravelGate.

She never stopped annoying many of us with policy proposals like her health care plan hatched as an un-elected, un-official, or her preposterous statements to the press about a "vast right wing conspiracy" when her husband's peccadilloes were already well chronicled.  Now she criticizes Mr. Obama for the quality of clients he represented while in private practice.

I bet Ms. Clinton would much prefer to discuss her board memberships than many other issues that stained her political dossier.  So why does Sen. Obama choose Wal-Mart?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Behaving un-presidential

I'm intrigued by all the disapproval of former President Bill Clinton's recent speech-making. When Senator Ted Kennedy is unhappy with the Clintons, you know it's an unusual time. 

Some have criticized Mr. Clinton's bare-knuckled comments to promote his wife's candidacy as "un-presidential" which seems like a fair charge to me.  What happened to ex-Presidents and a long tradition of publicly-muted retirement? I've long been enamored with Mr. Clinton's intelligence, his command of complex issues and I do believe he cares about the average citizen.  He's also a magnificent speaker and a gifted politician and a Dem with some fiscal moorings.  There's much to admire in this man.

On the other hand, he used the Oval Office like a Bangkok sex parlor, deceived the American people about it, lied under oath, rented the Lincoln bedroom for campaign funds, pardoned billionaire tax cheat Mark Rich and one could go on.  The point is this -- how consistently did he behave in a "presidential" manner while in office?

I was disappointed by the aforementioned indiscretions because I had hoped Bill Clinton would be a Democrat that I could admire without reservation.  He is somewhat different from the see-no-evil tax and spend pack he runs with.  

After all, we haven't seen a surplus since Bill Clinton left the White House.  His peccadilloes aside, I'll give him some credit for those balanced budgets and we need a dose of fiscal responsibility -- now

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A toast to South Carolina

The Palmetto state makes me proud tonight.  State motto: Dum Spiro Spero (while I breathe, I hope).
South Carolina state flag
Consider the beginning to tonight's Republican debate in Myrtle Beach -- a chorus of men in suits and women in lovely white dresses all singing the Star Spangled Banner.  

My, how radical.  For me, it was a perfect start to the debate.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

State of Wisconsin flubs identity handling (redux)

Haven't we seen this movie before?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that a state mailing may have compromised the identities of thousands of Wisconsinites because of Social Security numbers that were inadvertently printed on mailing labels.

I published a column last year in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after approximately 171,000 taxpayer social security numbers adorned the front of tax booklets. I also mentioned in that column, another breach (not cited in today's Journal Sentinel story) by a human resources aide who mishandled social security numbers of state assembly members.

The only thing more astonishing than all of this repeated carelessness, is the blatant blame game being played. It appears that the State Department of Health and Family Services and Governor Doyle's spokesman, Matt Canter, are feigning indignation in order to place the blame squarely (and entirely) on the vendor, EDS.

I remember the Mea Culpa letter last year from the printer that accompanied a similar letter from the Department of Revenue explaining and taking responsibility for that debacle. At least, there was a semblance of accountability communicated by the Department of Revenue.

In today's JS story, the Guv's spokesman Matt Canter, suggests that there is a big difference between last year's data goof and this new one because last year, the printer had no use for the data compromised, but EDS needed the data to do it's processing this year.  So what?

How does that make State government any less responsible? In both cases state government provided the data files containing our social security numbers to a vendor. Therefore it's incumbent upon them to review and sign off before irretrievable damage goes out the door.

Here's the first step for a patient to heal thyself - admit you have a problem and stop blaming the vendor. Next, examine your processes and what went wrong- then implement new controls and test them, again and again and again - to make sure they are working.

We don't need to have someone's head - just take responsibility, analyze it and fix it.

Also announced today was Governor Doyle's commendable effort to expand tax incentives for research and development at Wisconsin companies.  If only we could persuade the Governor's administration to research and develop better state processes for handling our critical data.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Public teachers unions and selective "choice"

Public teachers unions and their supporters often exalt a right to choice including free-from-faith learning environments, politically correct history curricula, etc.  They also frequently choose to fight performance standards intended to hold public teachers accountable, and they choose to strike.  
Office.com clip art

Yesterday’s blog post from Patrick McIlheran is spot on.  Mr. McIlheran makes the point that when parents choose alternatives to public education for their children, the principle of “choice” will often vanish from teacher unions' consciousness and they'll proceed to behave as though they are victims.  

It seems to some of us, that when educational standards and competition emerge, some on the other side of this school debate throw the notion of "choice" out the classroom window. 

I'll always support a strong public education system, but not those commentators that remain antagonistic to alternative education, or enhanced performance standards.  

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Repudiation!


Hillary Clinton, official public photo
Repudiation.  It's an appropriate word to describe Hillary Clinton's third place finish in Iowa tonight. The leading spender finishes third.