Monday, September 29, 2008

l'shana tovah

L'SHANA TOVAH. L'Shana Tovah to one and all -- that means Happy New Year in Hebrew. This evening, at sundown, the Jewish New Year begins and the rabbi will blow the ram's horn. So bring out the apples and honey and be happy. We've had a good year and, God willing, the next year will be a good one, too.

JUST LIKE THE HUXTABLES. If you want to know what America will be like once the Obamas move into the White House, just find a re-run of the old Bill Cosby Show with the fictional Huxtable family. Bill Cosby was the pater familias with a Father Knows Best attitude. It was a fairly conservative program in terms of social dynamics. The road ahead was made very clear to the Huxtable children -- You will do your homework, you will stay in school, and you will respect your parents. And when you grow up, you will work for a living, get married and raise your own family, and serve your country and be of good service to mankind.

It's a good image. For those of you conservatives concerned about Obama's liberal objectives -- keep in mind this conservative aspect of his character.

EVERY DAY IS A NEW DAY. Every day is a new day for Senator John McCain. He has cast himself free from the burden of memory. Critics point out that he said one thing on Monday and another thing on Tuesday. He wasn't lying or being inconsistent. Not at all. He simply doesn't remember. I call it the joy of forgetting - one of the true blessings of advanced age.

FINANCIAL TURMOIL. Things are happening too fast. That's never good. Markets are in turmoil. What is the cost of not knowing what the cost will be? I support the bailout proposal as I have studied it. Sure, we're all paying attention now -- but who can we blame for being asleep two years ago? There were warnings and concerns, but the good times were rolling in, and few of us became alarmed. I see no point in blaming anyone right now. In fact, our best chance to is use the talents of the very people who screwed it up. I do not hate Wall Street. They have created a river of wealth for America over the generations. Of course, we have to spank 'em good right now.

ON FIR ISLAND. September has been a glorious month. Wonderful sunrise, sparkling air, apples falling off the trees. The swallows are gone. One day I looked around and they were all gone. I watched them with delight all summer, darting about the house. They had a dozen nests under the eaves.

But they're gone now. I asked my neighbor Meynard Axelson where the swallows sent. "South?" he said. You don't know?" I replied. "Nope," he said. The thing is Meynard is a renowned local expert on waterfowl and geese. He raises more than forty kinds of ducks on his farm property, and he is highly in tuned to the fall migrations. But apparently he knows squat about the other birds.

Anyway, Meynard did say that the snow geese are starting to trickle in and he expects the main flock -- over 100,000 -- to arrive in mid-October.

Meanwhile the slough in back of the house has gotten plugged by a beaver dam. The adjacent farmer removed the dam once, but the beaver put it back the next week. Then the farmer put up a wire fence around the culvert which the beaver had dammed up. Do you think the beaver will give up now? Stay tuned.

Farmer Dave reports a fairly good year in agriculture. He and I have concluded an ongoing alliance. I said, "You gotta keep farming as long as I keep eating." He said that was fine with him.

The potato crop is off 20 percent this year because of the cold, wet spring. But the price held up so it isn't too bad. The spinach and cabbage seed crops did fairly well. The cucumber crop came in incredibly late. They usually finish the harvest by early August -- but they were more than a month late.

Thankfully, the warm weather held up in September and the cucumber harvest was decent. Skagit Valley farmers compete with farmers from India -- that's right, India -- in growing pickles. The big pickle company can sometimes get a cheaper price by contracting out to farmers way over there. But Farmer Dave said, if they want to go to India to buy pickles, then let 'em. He said there was a price that made it worthwhile for him to grow pickles and he wouldn't do it for less.

So they bargained a decent price with the pickle company. You can grow pickles cheaper in India, but you can't get them here cheaper.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who do you Trust?

Once again, Senator Barack Obama has set the agenda for the nation's business. Yesterday morning, Obama initiated events by phoning Senator John McCain and suggesting that they issue a joint statement about the bailout proposal. McCain agreed to that, and then went Obama one better -- "I'm going to suspend my campaign and go to Washington to make this deal," McCain said.

Not to be left out, President George Bush pre-empted both Obama and McCain by inviting (summoning) both of them to the White House for a conference.

The conference proved productive. The bailout deal, as of this moment, has been worked out, and the credit goes to Obama for pulling it together -- if it works.

But, the debate will go on as scheduled, and Obama is right about that. The nation's voters need to hear from both Obama and McCain. We need to hear them engaged in a lively discourse.

There is no reason or precedent for delay. In 1944 America was deep in conflict, fighting wars against Japan and Germany, with millions of men mobilized and sitting in foxholes, bravely fighting and dying -- but we had an election that year. The candidates, Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey, made whistle-stop tours around the country competing for votes. Our parents and grandparents marched to polls in November 0f 1944 to cast their votes. In the midst of war, we argued, debated and voted, because that is what we do.

In a far less dangerous situation today, there is no reason to postpone the debate.

TRUSTING BARNEY FRANK. Democrat Barney Frank is the Chairman of the House Finance Committee. He is the man I trust in working out the details of the bailout. Trust is a difficult thing. If it goes wrong, then I will share the blame.

Frank is 68 and has represented the 4th District in Massachusetts since 1981. I don't know him personally, but I know many of the people who sent him to Congress -- I lived in that district for 2 years. The 4th District comprises Boston suburbs, such as Newton and Brookline, as well as towns that have seen better days such as New Bedford and Fall River.
Frank represents all kinds of people -- except they all tend to vote Democratic.

Well, it's Massachusetts. Newton is a prosperous place, with an outstanding public school system and magnificent public library. If you conservatives out there despise the elitists, then Newton is ground zero. The average Newtonite -- first, would object to being called average -- but he would be educated, professional, highly competent, and well-informed. He does not often grouse about the evils of big government or the oppression of high taxes, BUT he wants his money's worth. I lived with these people for two years and, by and large, they are level-headed and generous.

Further south from Newton are the historic whaling towns of New Bedford and Fall River. You can almost see the ghost of Captain Ahab in these haunts. But the fishing and whaling days are long gone. They were replaced by textile mills that employed thousands -- but those mills are gone too -- gone to the South, and then to Mexico, and then to Viet Nam and Lesotho -- leaving behind an industrial heritage of empty brick factories and unemployed people waiting for jobs that will never come back.

In addition, New Bedford has one of the largest Portuguese communities in the country. Portuguese fishermen settled in these parts many generations ago and continue to celebrate their culture.

The Fourth District is in New England, of course, and the fall colors are beginning to show. There is no place that I have ever seen that is more beautiful than New England in the fall. And it's not the colors -- which are gorgeous and intense -- even so it's not the colors, but the very air -- intoxicating, refreshing air that gave birth to the word "crisp" like the crunch of a New England apple.

This story about the people of New England and the fall colors is in no way a diversion from the current economic crisis, because it is most important to realize, at times like this, that critical actors, such as Barney Frank, are rooted in a community which they represent, and whose judgment they will face in early November.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


President George Bush is going to address the nation tonight on prime time -- I can hardly wait.

But I have a better idea, instead of listening to him, you can listen to a Real President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who often spoke to the people in what he called "Fireside Chats.

At the time he took office in March 1933, the nation was deep in Depression. Unemployment was over 25 per cent and stocks were in the basement. A banking crisis was sweeping the countryside. Long lines of depositors were closing their accounts in big banks and in small banks. Many banks failed and closed their doors.

It was a dangerous and frightening moment. The American people were being pushed to the brink by forces they barely understood.

Roosevelt took dramatic action in his first week in office. He declared a bank holiday -- meaning that he ordered the temporary closure of every bank in the country, until the Federal Reserve could distribute enough cash for the needs of most of the banks.

Upon taking this action, Roosevelt addressed the people on the radio, for the first time, to explain what he had done and why he hoped it would work.

Roosevelt began:

"My friends:

I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking -- to talk with the comparatively few who understand the mechanics of banking, but more particularly with the overwhelming majority of you who use banks for the making of deposits and the drawing of checks...."

He explained the banking system, how it worked, what went wrong, and how it could be fixed, in a language that was very clear and not condescending.

It's a short speech and he finished with an appeal to the spirit of the people:

"After all, there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system, and it is up to you to support and make it work.

It is your problem, my friends, your problem no less than it is mine."

Ahh -- there was a man! We need Roosevelt now, and we can find him now, because the spirit of Roosevelt is embedded in the American tradition. That spirit is still here and so is the strength.

"Confidence and courage are the essentials of success," he said --- Amen to that.

Our current President is really not up to the task of reassuring the nation, but I haven't got time to hoot and holler at him.

Instead I will look to that candidate who most truly imbibes the spirit of FDR -- Do you know who I'm talking about?

HISTORICAL NOTE: Roosevelt had an enormous majority in Congress in 1933. He rushed through a large stimulus package and established many government employments programs -- it was called the New Deal.

In hindsight, it has been argued by Roosevelt's many conservative critics, that his New Deal prolonged the Depression rather than healed it.

Be that as it may, I believe that Roosevelt saved the nation from a far greater peril -- civil strife, violent rebellion, mob action, and a complete rendering of the social fabric. Maybe the programs didn't work too well economically, but they sustained us, they kept us going, and they kept us working together.

Last week, I was at Deception Pass State Park. Walking around I viewed the sturdy stone cabins built by the CCC boys in the 1930s. These cabins are weather-worn and moss-covered, now 75 years old. But they were built strong and they should last another century.

We can do at least that well.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

No fear, No Deal, and No Comment

FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE. Gov. Sarah Palin will meet with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia during the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

THE $700 BILLION BAILOUT. The Bush administration is trying to hold out for a clean bill that deals only with the financial rescue, and will not include any add-ons.But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Congress would not simply hand over a $700 billion blank check to Wall Street. Democrats would insist on independent oversight, protections for homeowners and constraints on excessive executive compensation

Paul Krugman said -- "Looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal. Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets."

Frog Hospital says -- Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson used to be the CEO of Goldman Sachs and he knows everybody on Wall Street. Critics of his bailout plan say that Paulson will help out his fellow "malefactors of great wealth," and not take care of the rest of us. But personally, I'm inclined to go along with his plan.

However, many Senators, including Joe Biden, regret the blank check they gave to George Bush when he wanted to invade Iraq. They succumbed to his argument of "national emergency" and were duped into supporting an unnecessary war.

Now those same Senators are being asked to give another blank check to Bush's people because of a new "national emergency. I don't think they will be that dumb a second time.

ANGER MANAGEMENT, PART TWO. The Obamas are not allowed to express anger because they are black, and the first black President cannot be angry. That's a handicap, but it's also a reality.

Sarah can be snarky as hell, and McCain can hop up and down and get red in the face, but the Obamas have to stay cool.

Although I wish we could let Michelle be Michelle. I mean, there's Alaska tough, which isn't bad, and then there's Chicago tough, which is getting there, and then there's South Side of Chicago tough, which is the baddest thing in America.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Anger Management

I spent five days in jail, and then I had to go to anger management class in 1999 because I belted my wife. Five days in jail wasn't so bad, because I shouldn't have done what I did, so I was punished for it. But the Anger Management class was a session of totalitarian feminist thought torture which I did not deserve to suffer. I went to those classes and you can't get out of them until you repeat all the lies that they want you to to tell. It almost destroyed my soul. A braver man would have gone back to jail instead of debasing himself like that.

I'm remembering that experience because so many Democrats are urging Barack Obama to get angry. Oh, he's plenty angry, but he's too smart to show it. Michelle Obama is angry too, but she smiles and makes nice on Ellen's Show. The Obamas are not allowed to be angry.

But other people might do it for them. Take action, my friends. Say it. Do it. Now.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. The Big Apple. The Financial and Cultural Capital of the the Western World. Manhattan -- the most important and most expensive real estate in the country.

I love New York. Frog Hospital readers are expected to know when I am being ironic and when I am being sincere.

The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, and the financial collapse of this September are the bookends of the Bush Era. I pray to God that we never elect another Texan to be President, because Bush has almost brought this country to ruin.

But with as much study as I can muster, I place the blame for the Wall Street disaster on the bankers and financiers themselves -- those exceptionally talented New Yorkers who made it all happen. They made all that money and now they have lost all that money.

And yet I say, these people are national treasures, because making money is so important. Our free market economy is based on self interest -- a most dependable sentiment. Gone to excess, self-interest becomes greed, but in its normal state, you can deal with it reliably. If your adversary is rational, you can assume his self-interest too. You can make laws and plans.

And so the bankers of Wall Street do not make good villains. All they want is money, at their worst. I do not fear them like I fear Ideologues who want to control my mind or Religious Zealots who want to steal my soul.

Therefore, I endorse the government's rescue plan, as it has been presented in a simple format. The Democrats, including my man Obama, want this plan to include measures for the rest of us common folk such as protection from foreclosure, but I feel that a quick and simple plan is the best solution right now. Give them the money their asking for -- those bankers.

Then elect Obama President, and give him a solid majority in Congress -- we'll start taking the money back in January -- you and I. It's our turn.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Money Talks

I went to a gathering of liberal bloggers in Seattle last night. They were STILL talking about Sarah Palin. She is so over.

The financial collapse on Wall Street is bad for all of us, but it sure makes Obama looks good. The swing voters, the independents, are thinking about their money today -- forget Sarah.

Money talks -- it's screaming.

What do you know about investment banking and hedge funds? Probably as much as I do. But surely, if they accept the bailout money from the federal government, then they must likewise accept sterner regulation.

Now, you and I COULD understand the arcane workings of Wall Street if we put our minds to it, and it might be necessary for us to study this problem in a serious way, so let's get off the lipstick wars.

McCain's seat of the pants style will not serve, but Obama's professorial style inspires trust. Competence is not a virtue, or the highest good, but it does come into play at this point --- a calm, deliberate manner, a sorting out, a "taking stock."

ONE MORE DIG. All right, I can make one more comment about Sarah Palin. I live in the country where a gun-totin' redneck mama is a common sight. You city folks might get scared the first time you meet one, but I've seen them around for years. I just go Fffft !

CHICAGO RULES. Obama is in league with the power players of Chicago politics, especially His Honor, Mayor Richard Dailey. Chicago Rules are as follows: "Do unto others before they get a chance to do unto you." Obama's friendly critics have urged him to talk tougher, but he's already there. Do not underestimate Obama's steel.

MISERY ON THE GULF COAST. My attention has been on Chambers County, a lightly populated area near Galveston, but on the other side of Trinity Bay. Little hamlets in the vast coastal wetlands -- Double Bayou, Oak Island, High Island -- no longer exist. Hundred of vacation homes on the Bolivar Peninsula are destroyed. I was thinking that maybe people just can't live there anymore -- it's too dangerous, it's too expensive for relief to help them out over and over again.

But that would be very hypocritical for me -- I live on Fir Island, a diked and drained farming territory fronting on Skagit Bay -- plum at sea level. If the dike wasn't there, I'd be standing in a foot of water right now -- on a calm day. It's true we don't get hurricanes this way. But theSkagit River could drown this island anytime it chooses. It's true that not many people live on the island and that's good, but the farm land is so valuable and important. When the whole island flooded in 1991, many homes were damaged, but the farmland itself was quickly restored to productive use.

On the Gulf Coast, Houston reports a morning temperature of 67 degrees -- unusually cool for this time of year, and a great relief for thousands of people living without electricity or air conditioning. I hope they make it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike Hits Texas

We used to live in Chambers County, about 60 miles east of Houston. Chambers County took the worst hit from Hurricane Ike. I read that 20,000 head of cattle were in danger of starvation and dying of thirst. The storm surge spread salt water all over the county and there is little fresh water for humans, much less livestock.

Chambers County is a hot humid place. We lived there in 1986 when the kids were little and I worked for a local newspaper. It was a hot Texas summer, but we had good AC.

It is a pretty place that gets lots of rain, over 50 inches annually. The principal crop is rice, and the green fields of rice waving in the breeze make a pretty sight. But there is no high ground in Chambers County, hardly a foot of it. It's just really a big wetland that has been diked and drained for pastures and rice fields.

The county fronts on the Gulf of Mexico. There is lots of good fishing, sport and commercial. It is also a famous place for birdwatching, and I can attest to that. It is a major stopping point on the migration route of songbirds, going south for the winter, and returning in the spring. Chambers County is a good place to visit, and an inexpensive place to life.

According to the news, the people of Chambers County have suffered catastrophic damages. I hope they make it.

AND WORSE NEWS COMES FROM WALL STREET. Who among us can adequately discuss the intricacies of investment banking? We can't. It's a special, valuable skill, practiced by the "elites" of Wall Street -- those same people whom the conservatives hate, those high-toned people in Manhattan who are so smart about making money. Those elites -- there were over 3,000 elites working in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and they took it pretty hard that day. How many people died that day in small town America?

But these financial elites have ill-served the country, since they were freed up from gov't. regulation. It was Phil Gramm's idea to unleash the banks, and we all thought that bankers were prudent, cautious people. We were wrong -- absent the guiding hand of government, the bankers became wild plungers and predators.

Gov't. regulation is expensive -- sure, it is. But does it cost as much as the $200 billion bail out to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? No, sound regulation of the banking industry is a very practical investment.

McCAIN'S NEED FOR REDEMPTION. John McCain is on a "journey of self-discovery" -- something that Gov. Palin disparaged in her convention speech.

But I think McCain seeks redemption. Something good has to happen for him, which he calls "victory," and that victory will validate his Vietnam experience. Because what he can't admit is that he spent six years in prison for a worthless cause.

In contrast, the much younger Barack Obama is not on a journey of self-discovery. He knows who he is now, and he realizes that he has the strength and the energy to serve his country by becoming President.

Obama's ambition is healthy, McCain's ambition is not healthy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Courtesy of Senators

Senators Barack Obamas and John McCain jointly visited the site of the Wolrd Trade Center attack last week, to commemorate the seventh anniversary of September 11.

Their united effort was a model of senatorial courtesy, and a moment of brotherly love, I would say, seeing these two warriors with their heads bowed solemnly.

Too much has been said about the executive experience of Governors -- you would think Senators don't do anything at all. And yet, with complete certainty, we know that our next President will be a Senator - either Obama or McCain. We hear them refer to each other as "my friend," and sometimes they mean it. It is a long-held custom of the Senate to maintain cordiality.

A Governor can run his own ship and say that the buck stops here. but Senators work in a group. One hundred men and women, representing each of fifty states, come together to debate and decide our nation's laws. Sometimes, one man, among the Senators, can hold his ground, and by filibuster bring this body to a halt -- one man. Or sometimes one woman can make the entire Senate pivot over to her point of view.

But those are exceptions -- because nothing happens in the Senate by individual decision, but by the group, the Committee of the Whole, or the various subgroups. You work together with other people, or nothing gets done at all.

And courtesy is the tradition, so that when Senator Obama invited Senator McCain to meet in Manhattan on September 11, 2008, McCain responded. News sources say that Obama spoke directly with McCain on the phone, and they quickly worked out the details.

This was senatorial experience at work, and that's what we need right now in America -- people who can come to an agreement. Such matters as energy independence are not questions of principles, but require a pragmatic compromise solution. Governors don't have that skill, but Senators do.

As the campaign continues, Obama can take great pride in the flattery that McCain has shown toward him. I say flattery because McCain is largely imitating the major themes of Obama's candidacy.

"We need change," Obama said, and McCain agreed, "Yes, we do."
"We need to achieve energy independence," Obama said, and McCain agreed, although not in the details.
"We need to open opportunities for minorities and women," Obama said, and McCain heard that, so he named Sarah Palin as his Vice-President.

Obama has already accomplished a great deal, because his ideas have set the agenda for whoever becomes the next President.

And, to say something about the horse-race aspect of this campaign, McCain and Palin are peaking now, in September. I say let them, because my man, Obama, will peak in October, and he will win.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Image of God

In the previous post, I said Obama was tired, I didn't say he was going to lose -- big difference.

My, my, but the Democrats panic easily. Sarah Palin sprinkles them with moose dust and they're ready to give up. What a bunch of sissies.

You know, if the Democrats don't start listening to me, they WILL lose.

And you Republicans better watch your mouth. If you call me an elitist one more time, I'm going to thrash your redneck rear end.

But enough of that. It's hunting season. Frog Hospital is a pro-hunting newsletter. I can understand people who don't hunt, and I can understand people who criticize hunting practices, and there is something that happened in the Skagit Valley this summer which requires a discussion.

It was one of the first days of bear-hunting season, August 4, a hot day. The Sauk Mountain Trail was crowded with hikers -- it often is. A fourteen-year-old hunter figured there might be a bear on that part of the mountain. He took aim at a woman, age 56, out hiking on the trail, and shot and killed her at a range of 120 yards. He thought he was aiming at a bear. He made a terrible mistake and the woman died.

Later, the prosecuting attorney filed charges of manslaughter against the boy. It frustrates me. Clearly, the boy had no intention to cause any harm. But to me, a hunter is totally responsible for what he shoots at, and the boy has to face some serious consequences for what he did.

Those are the hunting rules: If you kill it, you eat it. If you wound it, then you risk life and limb to finish it off. And if you shoot a hiker or birdwatcher, then you are 100 percent responsible. I would like to hear from anyone who sees this differently.

Hunting is an ancient and honorable activity. The problem is that there's less room for it. There's too many people on the Sauk Mountain Trail, and people say the bears never come there anyway, so one outcome will be that this area will be closed to hunting, and I agree with that.

I like to fish. I'm a catch-and-eat fisherman. You can fish in many urban areas. Elliot Bay, right off downtown Seattle, can be a good place to catch salmon. So there is little pressure on the fishing fraternity. There aren't many people who want to ban fishing, but plenty who believe hunting is now an archaic activity, no more suitable to modern man that rubbing two sticks together to build a fire.

I don't want to get too far into that argument. I saw an eagle flying over the house this morning, a young one, with no white feathers. Eagles are pure predators. The coyotes are pure predators too, and they eat the rabbits that run around our back yard. The herons wade in the slough and eat the frogs and little fish. Human beings are predators, but not purely. We are omnivores. We can do fairly well on vegetables and grains. And so we can make ethical distinctions and refrain from killing game when we don't need to.

The Bible says we are made in the image of God and that we are given stewardship over all the earth. I believe that. But I wonder about those rabbits. Maybe God told the rabbits the same thing, and the rabbits believe that the entire earth was made for their benefit. God may have told the same thing to all of His creatures. Maybe we're not that special.

I like to think about things like that when I look out the window. I am an expert theologian, among other skills.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama is Tired

Obama is tired. He's been campaigning for 18 months, sleeping in hotels, living in airports, and he misses his home. He has a healthy ambition and the ego to match, but Obama does not "live for campaigning." He does not need the adulation of the crowd to affirm his identity.

People talk about Sarah Palin and about how the election will take her away from her family. Well, she's not my candidate and I don't care about her.

But I do care about Barack and Michelle, and they need some time. Barack suffered from the absence of his father, and he will not let that happen to his two precious girls. Barack, should he be elected, will have the two most important jobs in the world, being President of the United States and being a father. The Obamas will have a more normal life when they move into the White House. It's like living above the store, and Barack can go home for lunch. But right now, it's pretty rough and he's getting tired.

Barack Obama also carries a load, call it the black man's burden. It's like running a race with a 25-pound pack on his back. Conservatives believe in the inherent sinfulness of mankind, and that we will always be tempted by selfishness, dishonesty, lust, and cruelty. But then those same conservatives cheerfully claim that we have banished racial bigotry from our shores. They say "it's not about race."

Yes, race relations have improved, but it's not hard to find a story. My friend, an older black man, past 70, was discharged from the army in 1957 after two bitter, cold winters in Korea. He went looking for a job, but they told him, "Sure, you're qualified, but we don't hire colored people in that position." To his face. That was fifty years ago, but he still remembers.

And in the present, another friend, a black woman my age with a good income and a nice house. And yet, with her remarkable intelligence and energy, she could have been so much more -- the Governor of Washington, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company -- if she had been white. I know her -- that's how good she could have been.

Or a young black woman I saw, looking into a mirror while she applied a skin bleaching cream, giving into a hopeless desire not to wear that face every day, wanting to disappear from who she really is.

That's the burden, and Obama is getting tired.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Teeth Hurt

I was one of 37,000,000 Americans who listened to Governor Sarah Palin's speech last night. She spoke very well, but after a while my teeth started to hurt, so I turned it off.

She didn't address any health care issues, which is a pressing matter in my mind. I favor the Canadian system myself -- single payer from top to bottom. The Canadians get better access to basic health care, but they have to wait in line for a CT scan. It's a trade off, but it's what I would choose.

Palin, I assume, because she didn't mention it in her speech, supports a market-based health care system.

Neither did she express her opposition to Roe v. Wade, but her pro-life stance is well known. In this matter, I also disagree with her. I feel that all health care decisions should be made as close to the patient as possible and with the least government interference. Palin's own family has flourished under Roe v. Wade, and they have made their decisions freely with only the consultation of a doctor.

I work at a regional hospital and I see doctors and nurses making decisions every day, and to my mind, ALL their decisions are moral and ethical, as they involve the life, suffering, and healing of human beings.

I have seen these doctors and nurses make poor decisions, wrong decisions, and make mistakes, but overall they do far more good than harm, and I think all those choices should remain with the doctor and the immediate family.

When does life begin? Life began when God created the Earth. He said, "Let there be light," and the creation became manifest. When did my life begin? On June 25, 1946, the day I was born, the day I became a human being and an American citizen.

That's what I know. If Palin and McCain wish to make the 2008 election a referendum on Roe v. Wade, then I would welcome that. It was a poorly crafted ruling and has long since needed a ratification or rejection by the voters.

But overall, Sarah expressed herself forcefully and clearly. And it's a wonderful change that she represents.. Geraldine Ferraro was the first female vice presidential of a major party in 1984. Then the Republicans, after thinking about it for 24 years, decided to do the same thing. Welcome to the fight!

Rupert Murdoc, the newspaper mogul and owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, was quoted in Vanity Fair on which candidates he prefers, "Obama -- he sells more papers."

But Murdoch said that before Palin got the nod. I'll bet old Rupert is beside himself with joy this morning, because Sarah is going to sell plenty of newspapers herself.

McCain gets his chance tonight. Sarah Palin will be a tough act to follow. McCain is a wealthy man who owns more houses than he can count, bought with money he didn't earn -- but he's not an elitist. McCain is a a legislator with no executive experience, He has served in the Senate for 22 years, and yet he is not a Washington insider -- it's kind of cool trick -- having all that money, being that well connected to the Washington scene -- and yet not really being a part of it.

But I believe in my heart that our Republic will survive. Winston Churchill said of the United States that it can be counted on to do "the right thing," but only after it has tried every alternative.

An additional fact, not necessarily apropos: The Los Angeles Unified School District has 694,000 students, 45,000 teachers, 38,000 other employees, and a $20 billion budget. So what job would you rather have -- Governor of Alaska, or Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's Better to be Average

I beginning to understand and support the Republican criticism of elitists -- those high-toned people who think they know better than the rest of us average folks. That's why I am especially interested in Governor Sarah Palin -- because she's just like everybody else.

She's not like those smart-aleck people I met when I was in Boston. They all thought they were so smart, or those Holly wood people I've met in Los Angeles -- they think they're so cool.

I once admired these people, but I realize now that it's better to be average, and no better than anyone else. When your children come home from school today,you can begin to teach them this.

"Johnny, I think you should stop reading all those books -- you don't want to be smarter than anybody else in your class."

"Rebecca, it looks like you're practicing the piano a little too much. Are you trying to be the best? You know how we feel about that. We're normal people at our house. We don't make any more money than our neighbors, our house isn't any prettier than anyone else's -- because we're regular folks, and we want you to grow up and be just like everybody else --- not those terrible elitist people that we've warned you about."

That's how I should have raised my children.

Today, I went to the doctor. Thank goodness that he has no special training or ambition. I wouldn't go to one of those doctors who stay up late reading medical journals, trying to learn the latest techniques. Oh no, not my doctor, he practices regular medicine, and he's not going to adopt a new technique until all the other doctors do. That's the safe and normal way. It's always better to be average.

In my work as a journalist, I have carefully avoided ambition. I make an effort to get most of the facts, but if I worked any harder, then I would be trying to rise above my fellow journalists -- just like an elitist!

I feel the same way about our political leaders. I would never vote for anyone who was actually intelligent or particularly skilled in international affairs. I would never vote for anyone who spoke a foreign language. I only speak English, and if it's good enough for you and me, it ought to be good enough for the President of the United States. I especially wouldn't vote for someone who went to one of those colleges that require a high grade-point average and high SAT scores --- because I'm opposed to anyone who's better than average.

America is for average people. Those are our national values and we should all be thankful for that.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Is John McCain ready to lead?

Is John McCain ready to lead? Is he ready to serve as Commander-in-Chief from day one? Does he have the temperament and judgment to deal with a crisis when the phone rings at 3 a.m.?

Directing American military forces is an awesome responsibility. The United States has 5,000 nuclear weapons and 3,000,000 people in the armed forces, active and reserve. The U.S. Navy has 280 ships, including 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The combined forces -- Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard -- have thousands of planes. America maintains troops in 135 countries and ships in all the world's oceans.

We are in two hot wars right now.

Do you want to put John McCain in charge of all this? That is the most serious question.

Or would Barack Obama make a better leader?

For me, it gets down to Obama's stance on the invasion of Iraq. He was against it and I think he was right.

I believe McCain could manage well enough if he becomes President. I am not concerned about his hot temper -- that's a problem his staff and his wife have to deal with. But he was wrong about Iraq. It was an ill-advised war and a squandering of our resources. The surge has been a salvage operation that can give us a decent exit. The surge was the right tactic serving the wrong strategy.

BACK OFF ON PALIN. Leave Sarah Palin's family out of it. Let her speak for herself. She will have the nation's attention on Wednesday night when she addresses the Republican convention. Judge her words carefully and seriously.

I strongly identify with Sarah Palin in this one area -- she's being called a lightweight and not being seriously considered by people who act like they know more than she does. I identify with the man on the street and the woman on the dog sled. Let her speak. Weigh her words, and then respond.

I doubt that I will agree with Governor Palin on most issues, but the critics had better wipe the smirks off their faces.