Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aha! Some of the Barackian Mystery Revealed

A post by Cigar Mike on Babalu may shed some light on the Obamamiam penchant for unsavory associations. He presents some highlights of Dreams from my Father:

On page 100, Obama says he went out of his way to choose Marxist professors as his friends. Obama wrote: "To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully, the more politically active black students, the foreign students, the Chicanos, the Marxist professors and punk rock performance poets.

Now I really have to question his judgement. The "punk rock performance poets" alone would do it for me. I've heard my share of flying squirrel poems recited, but I don't think I've ever come across that combination. As to the book, I won't read it because I'm afraid of turning into a mindless automaton a la sci fi.

Book Notes for a Friday Evening

Today I had an advance copy of Toni Morrison's new book, A Mercy, in my hand. My first thought was "Great." I've read quite a bit of her work. Although I tend to find her uneven, she is unequaled in the excruciatingly painful, powerful moment: the ending of The Bluest Eye, the origin of the Beloved title. I stopped in my tracks.

I just recently came across a paean to Fidel Castro by Ms. Morrison. It occurred to me that I am supposed to feel sorrow for her people; all her fiction is constructed around that notion. Yet she shows no such consideration for mine. In fact, she extols the oppressor of my people. So thanks, but no thanks.

But then that isn't fair. In my heart, I believe that Ms. Morrison is misguided, because she is misinformed. She has fallen prey, as have many others, to the pretty picture of healthcare and education and equality painted by the dictatorship. And who is to disabuse her? Leftist professors, scholars who use only Cuban government sources, teachers trained by Bill Ayers, journalists who do not believe a singly word uttered by the Bush administration but swallow whole reams of propaganda put out by the junta? Don't take my word for it. Here's a clue, Ms. Morrison, how many AfroCuban faces are there in the ranks of the rulers? What color are some of the most famous political prisoners and dissidents? Those are less than pretty pictures.

On a more pleasurable front, The Eight by Katherine Neville has been reissued, doubtless as the result of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and the publication of a sequel, Fire, available this week. For those who haven't read the original, published twenty years ago,the plot centers on Charlemagne's chess set, which is a bit more than it would seem. In Fire, the story is continued with the daughter of the original characters. It's on my list. The first one was quite good.

New entries on the horizon include a new Jonathan Kellerman, Nelson DeMille, Jeffrey Deaver, Clive Cussler, and Patricia Cornwell. Some of these franchises are getting a bit worn, but like old friends, I'll welcome them anyway.

Friday, October 10, 2008

While I'm in the Advice Business

I've been working on some common sense joe six pack reforms. Try these on for size:

1. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist and should be broken up. Use national
security as a pretext if you have to. No more bailouts needed.

2. If an investment instrument can not be explained in language a sixth-grader can understand in one sentence, it should not be allowed. That way, maybe, our politicians can understand what they are supposed to oversee.

3. Here's a novel thought. The sum total of insurance on a bond should not surpass the face value of the bond. At present, there are incredible multiples of the bonds involved in the credit swaps. Only those who present the bonds should be able to collect.

4. You've heard of "insurable interest," right. In order to short a stock, you must own the stock. In order to insure a bond, you must own the bond.

5. Insurance, by another other name- call it credit swap or not- should be subject to insurance regulations.

Just another two cents offered facetiously, maybe.

What McCain Needs to Say: Part 1

He should be mad. He should be presidential. He should attack Obama. He shouldn't attack Obama. Admonitions to the Republican candidate seems to multiply like tribbles. Well, I'll add my two cents here.

Americans do not like attacks. They do, however, work. The trick is to get someone else to do the attacking. But since the media has abnegated its role this election cycle, and there is no "swift boat" equivalent here, McCain has to do it. Obama, realizing his opponent's quandary, has coyly said, "Gee, funny he didn't say anything to my face," as if McCain were afraid of him. Still.... Let me propose something revolutionary. It doesn't have to be an attack.

The choice here is not between Senator Obama and Senator McCain, but between two competing visions of America. It is not important if the Senator was bosom buddies with Bill Ayers, although that would show poor taste. What is important is that Obama was the first chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, the dreamchild of Mr. Ayers. During his tenure, the CAC used 50 million dollars of education reform funds to raise the political consciousness of inner city kids. This, of course, is in perfect keeping with the education philosophy Mr. Ayers explained as he praised Hugo Chavez:

We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution. . . . I look forward to seeing how . . . all of you continue to overcome the failures of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane."

Ayers told the great humanitarian Chavez: "Teaching invites transformations, it urges revolutions large and small. La educacion es revolucion." It is that form of socialist revolution that Ayers, and Obama, have worked to bring to America.

The real problem with the association is that Senator Obama helped carry out the agenda of someone who is not only an unrepentant terrorist, but who has spent the past decades as a professor of education undermining the system he was unable to blow up.

Then there is the pastor in whose church he sat for twenty years. Now the Senator claims he never heard the Pastor's "God damn America" diatribes. For the sake of argument, let's assume that's true. Is it believable that he never ever got wind of it? Given the nature of church gossip in general, I'm sorry, it's not likely.

The Rezko matter we can drop, because that just smacks of routine cronyism. But what of ACORN, which has emerged as a insidious Hydra with tentacles that reach into the Capitol? The Senator maintains that he only worked on a lawsuit on their behalf. Fair enough. But he also paid a branch of that organization which is perennially accused of voter fraud $800,000 to register voters. At the same time, this summer, the parent organization was given hundreds of thousands by a Democrat congress in a housing bill. In fact, they were planning on forking over 20 percent of any taxpayer monies retrieved from the bailout bill until outrage stopped them.

This same organization organized sit ins at banks, followed bankers home, and applied pressure to lower lending standards on, you guessed it, the Democrats in congress- the first step in the Fannie/Freddie debacle which ultimately resulted in the present economic implosion. This is the same organization whose workers are reputed to have turned in thousands of fraudulent registration forms, threatening to subvert a fair and free election. Has anyone anywhere heard of conflict of interest? Unseemly, at best.

So Senator Obama did not make an unfortunate choice of a friend or two. He has set a longtime pattern of professional associations with people who don't seem to like America, some who have actively worked for its demise. That is the problem.

For me the scariest is this ACORN business. Who are these people? When did they start pulling the strings on the three stooges on Capitol Hill? And how did they get away with doing it surreptiously? But that is beside the point here. If the Senator does not espouse this hatred of America, it apparently does not bother him. There is another possibility, almost as inpalatable, that he used this fifth column simply as a means to further his ambitions. Of course, there is also the possibility that Barack Obama was walking along the street, minding his own business when Mssrs. Ayers et al yanked him into their web. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Reflections on the Second Debate

There was one winner last night, and it was not McCain nor Obama. I've heard all the pundits complaining about how boring it was, how badly Tom Brokaw moderated, etc. I beg to differ. As I sat there listening initially, then lured into watch, my chest swelled with pride. Whatever my own preferences might be, here were two intelligent men with competing visions for America essentially asking for the support of the American people. Each did a more than adequate job of explaining that vision. I happen to side with one. And Tom Brokaw did a marvelous job of ensuring that there were no questions from melting snowmen and the like, that there were no "gotcha" questions. Yes, it was boring, particularly if you've been reporting on the campaign for two years. And policy, itself, is boring to all but wonks. But the debate was an excellent primer for those who are going to be called upon to pull that lever in November.

On that day, there will be no white smoke issuing from the Capitol building. There will be no bells tolling. It will not be the advent of a Messiah. Those who think he came already don't need one, and those who await his coming will still be waiting. There will, however, be the promise of a new administration, freely chosen by the citizens of this great Republic. There is no more beautiful a thing in the civic sphere.

I may or may not agree with the people's choice on that day, but I can countenance that there are opposing points of view, that people are entitled to their own opinions, that they can disagree without being immoral or stupid. I, of course, think I'm right; but so do they. In either case, there is always the next election. Fancy that! Stop, think, and marvel. As an Eastern European I knew used to say, "Ameriiica, Great Country!"

On Guevara: A Tale of Two Executions

Humberto Fontova has an uncanny ability to shake the cobwebs of history and extract a single shining moment which encapsulates reams of dry polemic. This talent is especially valuable to the Cuban cause, because no one wants to hear it. The purveyors of information in the United States, no, most of the world, have made up their minds to accept the Venetian carnival mask of the Cuban regime. They do not want to be confused by the truth. Humberto, however, a master storyteller, holds a mirror up to the seamy underside of all that revolutionary mythology.

In response to the paeans to the iconic "Che" on the anniversary of his execution in Bolivia, where he was fomenting revolution in yet someone else's country, Humberto gives us a description of another execution, one dictated and carried out by the "Che" apparatus of death:

In 1961 a 20 year-old boy named Tony Chao Flores took his place at the execution stake, but he hobbled to it on crutches. He'd taken 17 bullets from their Czech machine guns when the Castroites captured him. On the way to the execution stake at the old Spanish fort turned to a prison and execution ground by Che Guevara, Tony was forced to hobble down some cobblestone stairs. Tony tumbled down the long row of steps and finally lay on the cobblestones at the bottom, writhing and grimacing. One of Tony's bullet-riddled legs had been amputated at the hospital, the other was gangrened and covered in pus. The Castroite guards cackled as they moved in to gag Tony with their tape.

Tony watched them approach while balling his good hand into a fist. Then as the first Red reached him — BASH!! right across his eyes.

"I'll never understand how Tony survived that beating," says eyewitness Hiram Gonzalez who watched from his window on deathrow, screaming in helpless rage at the Communist guards. The crippled Tony was almost killed in the kicking, punching, gun-bashing melee but finally his captors stood off, panting and rubbing their scrapes and bruises. They'd managed to tape the battered boys mouth, but Tony pushed the guards away before they bound his hands. Their commander nodded, motioning for them to back off.
Now Tony started crawling towards the splintered and blood-spattered execution stake about 50 yards away, pushing and dragging himself with his hands as his stump of a leg left a trail of blood on the grass. As he neared the stake he'd stop and start pounding himself in the chest. His executioners seemed perplexed. The crippled boy was trying to say something. But his message was muzzled by the gag the gallant friend of George McGovern made obligatory for his thousands of execution victims.

Tony's blazing eyes and grimace said enough. But no one could understand the boy's mumblings. Tony kept pushing himself, shutting his eyes tightly from the agony of the effort. His executioners shuffled nervously, raised their rifles, lowered them. They looked towards their commander who shrugged. Finally Tony reached up to his face and ripped off the tape that George McGovern's sparkling dinner companion required for his condemned.

The 20 year-old freedom-fighter's voice boomed out. "Shoot me RIGHT HERE!" roared Tony at his gaping executioners. His voice thundered and his head bobbed with the effort. "Right in the CHEST!" Tony yelled. "Like a MAN!" Tony stopped and ripped open his shirt, pounding his chest and grimacing as his gallant executioners gaped and shuffled. "Right HERE!" he pounded.

On his last day alive, Tony had received a letter in jail from his mother. "My dear son," she counseled. "How often I'd warned you not to get involved in these things. But I knew my pleas were vain. You always demanded your freedom, Tony, even as a little boy. So I knew you'd never stand for communism. Well, Castro and Che finally caught you. Son, I love you with all my heart. My life is now shattered and will never be the same, but the only thing left now, Tony . . . is to die like a man."

"FUEGO!!" Castro's lackey yelled the command and the bullets shattered Tony's crippled body, just as he'd reached the stake, lifted himself and stared resolutely at his murderers. But Castro's firing squads usually murder a hero who is standing. The legless Tony presented an awkward target. So some of the volley went wild and missed the youngster. Time for the coup de grace.

Normally it's one .45 slug that shatters the skull. Eyewitnesses say Tony required . . . POW!-POW! . . . POW! — three. Seems the executioner's hands were shaking pretty badly. But they finally managed. The man Time magazine's hails among the "heroes and icons of the Century" had another notch in his gun. Another enemy dispatched — bound and gagged as usual.

Castro and Che were in their mid-30s when they murdered Tony. According to the authoritative "Black Book of Communism" their firing squads riddled another 14,000 bound and gagged freedom-fighters. Many (perhaps most) of their murder victims were boys in their late-teens and early 20s. Some were even younger. Carlos Machado and his twin brother Ramon were 15 when they spat in the face of their communist executioners and died singing their national anthem as lustily as they cursed Che Guevara's Internationale. Their dad collapsed from same volley alongside them.

Compare Carlos and Tony's death to Guevara's capture: "Don't shoot!" whimpered the arch-assassin to his captors. "I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"

Then ask yourselves: who's face belongs on T-shirts worn by youth who fancy themselves, rebellious, freedom-loving and brave?

Then they wonder why we're intransigent? Read the whole article on Newsmax here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

An Evening at the Movies: An American Carol

Like any self-respecting semi-conservative, I went to vote today. No, not at my local polling place, but at my local theater. In other words, I went to see An American Carol, adding my little mite to the box office receipts. I suspect others had the same idea, as the limited audience, although not bad for a Monday night, seemed to consist of middle-aged couples. They had the look, if you know what I mean. I've never actually seen Naked Gun or any of Zucker's other films, so I don't really have a basis for comparison, particularly since I'm not a big fan of comedy.

So there I was, sitting in the theater, when the trailers came on. The first one was for W. "Oh, that one's a Bush bashing film," I whisper to my husband. The next one was for Maher's Religulous. Again,I whisper to my husband, this time saying, "Oh, that's an anti religion film." The third one was for Milk, who I had no idea was a Moses type figure.

At first, I wondered whether there were no thrillers, or love stories, or plain fluff being made in Hollywood anymore. Then I thought about it. There were other movies playing. Could someone have figured that that the type of people drawn to the Zucker opus would be attracted to politically-themed movies? Or was it more pointed? The jury's out.

An American Carol, itself, was actually fun. The best scene takes place on a campus when in a Godspell moment, the professors rip off their tweeds and stage a musical number in their hippie gear. There are inspired moments, but it's all pretty silly. I did have a lift in my step as I left the theater, however. And I struck a blow for the God Bless America crowd. Not bad for a Monday Night.

The Market: Another Learning Experience

I've been getting phone calls from investing buddies, asking my thoughts about whether they should sell their stocks. First off, I've got very little to lose. Thus for me, it is a bit of an academic exercise. Sometimes not having money to risk is a blessing.

"What would I do?" I ask myself. The first thing is a no brainer. If I were going to need my money soon and maybe even later, I'd sell out, the operative reasoning being bird in hand better than two in bush. But what about longer term? Well, some point out that the market over time goes up. I recall the average rate of return was 7% or 11% a year, depending on your source. Of course, the exact figure is irrelevant now. I reply, yes, but it took over twenty years to return to pre1929 crash levels. Still savvy investors like Warren Buffet are snapping up some goodies. Of course, they're getting perks you or I would never get.

Given time, even were we to go into a depression, the American economy will right itself. Al Queda pronouncements aside, the rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated. The money of investors, however, might never be recovered. I have owned stocks that have ceased to exist overnight, although the companies bearing the name continue to carry out business. Talk about unfair. I wanted those suckers to die. I don't know what I would do, but I do know I'd have to ask myself, "How much am I willing or able to lose?" Common sense.

Which leads me to my real point. The "irrational exuberance" of investment, entitlement, and irresponsibility has overwhelmed this nation for decades. However angry they may be at whomever, Americans are no different than the investment giants that have collapsed- over leveraged and under capitalized. I know the lunacy was contagious. I used to chide myself for not investing my pension in the market. As it is, we're a tad overextended. And I'm not a particularly materialistic type.

The moral of the story is that our parents and grandparents were right. There is something to be said for saving, living within your means, and handling money with respect. I can still hear my father exclaiming, "Le han perdido respeto al dinero" when he saw house prices. He was right. If there is anything good to come out of this, it is to force us to take a look at our priorities. And right about now, my mattress is looking pretty good. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Business Briefs

Given the recent near or impending economic meltdown...

The Origin of the Specie. Didn't get the chance to highlight this interesting take on the situation, circa the 27th. It contains a dollop of reassurance that something had to be done, as well as a few clues to the derivation of the crisis. Also, if you get the chance, be sure to watch FoxNews' documentary, "Saving the Economy." Worth watching if only for the professor's clear and cogent exploration of the genesis of the problem, not to mention an edifying explanation of the alphabet soup of debt instruments. Did you know that there have been six mortgage blow ups since the Civil War? I didn't.

The Wheel of Fortune. Also from the Wall Street Journal comes "The Intelligent Investor" with an upbeat and serendipitous view of the markets. Wall Street may be dead, but only as we know it. His advice: don't bail. I personally advocate no position, as to my mind at least the casinos comp you drinks.

The Nature of the Beast. On Townhall, Ken Connor introduces the moral dimension when he categorizes the current situation as an outgrowth of moral relativism. I'm not sure I have the same rosy view of possibilities going forward. To my mind, Wall Street types will always be greedy, money-grubbing characters, subject only to the fear of God. However, he is correct in the deleterious influence of the new morality on our society: the lack of absolutes has led to an arbitrary Chinese menu of prejudices and preferences, most of them self-serving.

The Tipping Point. This one by Frank Silverstein, I include as a public service because it is timely. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I have seen the phenomenon up close. The true measure of a businessman or businesswoman is knowing when to cut your losses.

Survival of the Glibbest. And how about finishing up with an inspirational list? From Fortune comes a top ten list of remarkable coups in the annals of salesmanship.