April 2008

This past week has pretty much represented the low point in politics.

First, we have a Democratic pension analyst revealing the fact that Sen. John McCain is drawing a $59,000 or so disability pension from the government, tax free as are such veteran’s benefits. Once this information percolated up to the mainstream media (MSM), the talking heads had a speculative field day. There were even musings that if McCain drew a “disability” pension, that meant he was “disabled”, and as such unfit to serve as president.

Notwithstanding the fact that John McCain earned his pension by sitting for six years in a dark Vietnamese hell-hole, all the while being tortured to the point where his arms were permanently injured (he can’t lift them higher than his chest), this attack was simply the most vulgar that I can remember. To question the rightful pension of a disabled war veteran…a HERO war veteran…is beyond the pale. I didn’t think politics could get this low. I thought wrong!

The second issue revolves around the brouhaha in North Carolina over an TV and radio advertisement by the State Republican Committee that highlights Sen. Obama’s entanglement with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Nothing untoward or salacious with the advert…but the response was unbelievable if not predictable.

The ad was termed “racist” by many operatives in the Democratic party and the MSM (aren’t they the same thing?). How dare those pesky Republicans impugn the reputation of Sen. Obama with those pesky FACTS! How can we possibly have a political race without politics? Particularly politics that reveals actual facts and information about the shortcomings of a particular candidate. It is one thing to throw mud or dirt and accuse a candidate of something that they did not do. It is entirely another thing to run an ad where a candidate is rightfully linked to a controversial and divisive figure (particularly when the candidate refers to this figure as a mentor and spiritual adviser).

If Sen. Obama is going to run for president, he should have learned early on that it is a matter of skin — not skin color, but skin thickness! The same goes for the analysts and pundits. It was not “racist” for the NC Republicans to run this ad. Sen. Obama opened himself up to this criticism by associating himself with the, and I’m being kind here, controversial Rev. Wright.

The cries of racism may even be lower, politically speaking, than the revelations and analysis of Sen. McCain’s disability pension. In any event, it is all part of the MSM’s operant conditioning of the electorate. Yes indeed, we are all being slowly conditioned to respond in a politically-correct manner to situations that give the liberals and the MSM pain or affects their fragile sensibilities. it doesn’t matter that the response is illogical or defies reason and common sense. It just matters that we all share the same “groupthink” because, dammit, we were told to!

Hopefully we can get past this insanity and focus on the issues at hand, and to vet the presidential candidates in an open, candid manner. We will then get to see them as they are, not as they would want us to see them.

Test PatternAfter a few technical difficulties were fixed by my ISP, I’m finally back after a 1.5 week hiatus! It’s great to be able to comment once again: It made me realize how much for granted that I take this ability to vent my spleen to the world.

And boy has there been a lot of topics worthy of a good old spleen venting lately. It’s too bad that I didn’t have my trusty cyber-scribe all this time to help me with my diatribe deficit!

Anyway, that’s all in the past and I’m anxious to take on all the world’s problems anew.

Thanks for tuning in…

I had to pinch myself earlier today! I read an editorial in the Boston Globe that agreed with my feelings for once. This editorial, Education doesn’t take a palace, recognizes that it doesn’t take magnificent buildings to create a meaningful learning experience for our kids. In this piece, they actually use the word “boondoggle” in an apparent reference to the planned $200 million high school in Newton. The wording of this editorial is so “unGlobe” that I’m shocked and delighted that they would take such a reasonable and measured stand on this issue.

I’m an advocate of moderation being practiced when a community constructs a school building. The only trappings of a public school should be modest architecture and bare-bones landscaping. As many folks will attest, the schools of the past were austere and functional — places that contained desks, chairs, blackboards, chalk, students and teachers. And these schools successfully turned out legion Nobel laureates, scientists, educators, writers, poets, engineers and physicians. It wasn’t the edifice that made the student — it was the experience contained within the four walls of the classroom.

These schools of the past didn’t have air conditioning, computers, networks, multimedia systems and all the trappings that make up a modern school. All these things are contrivances — meant to enhance the learning experience. I believe what they’ve done is add little to education except for cost at the bottom line: The cost of the equipment and the electrical power required to run them are expensive indeed. But parents feel good if little Johnny or Sally types out a paper on a computer or learns how to use PowerPoint to give a science fair presentation — even though half of the words are misspelled and the grammar is atrocious. We’ve gone from being results oriented to process oriented.

Add all these trappings to the buildings which contain them and you have a model for costs gone wild. And costly buildings filled with costly equipment inevitably means higher and higher future operating costs. Once the genie is out of the bottle, and we are societally inured to this education process, it is damned hard to put the genie back in its rightful place! After all, what proud parent in their right mind wants their kid to have less than the kids who came before them? I mean how are the future parents in Newton, for example, supposed to deny their kids a learning experience unlike the $200 million “Taj MaHigh School” when it comes time to eventually replace that munificent edifice? This begs the question — What’s next? A billion dollar high school? Where do we end with this escalation in spending and what goal do we have by spending this kind of money on a school?

Like it or not, the example of Newton is the main reason why school department spending is far-and-away the largest line item expense in any municipality. For any given city or town it may not be the building that is a boondoggle, but there are numerous extraneous trappings that have become accepted practice. And these trappings become heaped on one another like layers on a cake. And each layer is “important to the education of the child”…or so say the educators. So municipalities struggle to pay for this education lest they deny all the Johnny’s and Sally’s out there the “best” education that can be given them, and that they’re entitled to.

The problem is, as the Globe editorial writers have pointed out, that we can’t always have our cake and eat it too. We’ve turned what once was a modest and successful enterprise into an untouchable municipal fiefdom. And it will take some time to reverse this trend — but only after we’ve punished ourselves with onerous taxes and fees in order to feed this beast. I guess the old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” aptly applies to our present predicament with ever-escalating school budgets.

And for most municipalities in Massachusetts, and nationwide for that matter, the pavement is about 100 feet thick and growing thicker every day!

In a breathtakingly lemming-like op-ed in the April 5th edition of the Boston Globe, Tripp Jones (Senior VP of the Mentor Network and co-founder of MassINC) implores his fellow “progressives” to take a principled stand: My fellow Clintonites, it’s time for Obama.

It seems that Mr. Jones, a former Hillary Clinton supporter has seen the writing on the wall. He has come to the conclusion that progressives must circle the political support wagons behind Sen. Barak Obama for the sake of the principles of the progressive movement. They must support the effort (any effort, apparently) for Obama to win the White House in the fall .

It seems that Jones is willing to compromise a few principles of integrity in order to support his progressive leanings:

The exposure of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.’s outrageous and divisive remarks has injected the raw emotions associated with race relations into the presidential campaign. This new dynamic raises the stakes in an already high-stakes race. Our responsibility as progressive-minded voters is to show Americans a positive alternative to the toxic politics of race. Rallying around Obama now increases our chances of doing just that. Obama has run a positive and inspiring campaign, and has attracted a majority of pledged delegates. It is hard to envision a scenario in which Democratic superdelegates override the will of millions of primary voters and caucus participants. Obama will be the nominee.

Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Wright presents Republicans with a polarizing wedge issue to exploit with general election voters. This approach not only risks an Obama loss in November – denying us a fresh, capable leader – but it would set the country back in its racial reconciliation process. Americain 2008 should be better than that.

As we have done at many key junctures in our nation’s history, Democrats and other progressive-minded voters must lead the way. The current firestorm is an opportunity to move beyond the anger and resentment that have characterized our nation’s dialogue on race. By throwing our enthusiastic support behind Obama now, voters of all political stripes can echo the candidate’s refrain, “Not this time.”

Tripp Jones, MassINC

Mr. Jones suffers from the flawed logic of many, if not most, present day self-described progressives. They can’t see beyond the “D” in Democrat! And they have a problem processing critical information found in the real world, which most progressives deign to visit if only for groceries, cleaning supplies and the occasional plumbing service. The mind-speak used by progressives highlights their insular, insulated life, their contemptible view of the surrounding world, their feeling of superiority and their enhanced enlightenment with which they have been bestowed. They know what’s best for us all so, my fellow unwashed, don’t bother to object or to discuss!

Jones makes the provocative statement that “an Obama loss in November – denying us a fresh, capable leader – but it would set the country back in its racial reconciliation process. America in 2008 should be better than that.” Since when did Obama’s run for the presidency become the rallying cry for a “racial reconciliation process?” Is this what progressives see Obama as — an individual through which they can finally rid themselves of the centuries of pent up institutional guilt over America’s vile history of slavery and racism? That is quite a lot of responsibility to heap upon Obama’s narrow shoulders. Jones seems to make the crucial error that a totem of this process, Obama, can finally push American society past the tipping point towards “Cumbayah” racial harmony.

It’s clear that Jones and his philosophical soul mates are willing to overlook the most egregious actions and character flaws on their way to the promised land of racial reconciliation: All in the name of recapturing a progressive bent in our Federal government. To what ends are these ideologues willing to go to capture power and force feed the citizens of the US with their nanny-state agenda? Apparently, the answer is “All the way!”

It seems that Mr. Jones represents the dilemma that progressives face in this presidential election: they can support Hillary Clinton with her flaws or Barak Obama with his flaws. It is a flaws-based election rather than an election based on accomplishments, skill, and character. In Clinton they have a divisive candidate who views the world through pink colored glasses — everywhere she looks she sees a potential socialist solution to a societal problem. She also has a well-deserved reputation of obfuscation and “truth stretching”. And then let’s not forget her albatross, Bill. With Obama, the progressives are given the Hobson’s choice of supporting a candidate who is the “right” color for them but who is very much a blank slate when it comes to experience. And he obviously has a major credibility problem when it comes to his long-time association with the Trinity United Church of Christ and its former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Jones made his decision: He’s willing to jettison Hillary for Barak. He’s also willing to overlook and “forgive” Obama’s participation in this reprehensible, racist church. A relationship that, in my opinion hasn’t been fully vetted.

I predict that there will be a virtual avalanche and blizzard (the ultimate snow job!?!?!) of mindspeak and doublespeak in support of Obama that mirrors what Tripp Jones wrote, and some they goes much further. In the minds of some of these very-left-tilting lemmings, there is a parallel between Obama and Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Ghandi and Dr. King. But unfortunately it is not the man and his message. It is his color: Not the gray of his brain matter, but the brown hue of his skin that drives the frenzy of support for his candidacy. Jones so much as says so!

As Virgil warns us in the Aeneid: “Do not trust the horse, Trojans. Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts,” we should similarly be warned and alarmed by the psycho-babble coming from the progressives. Obama is just a man: An inexperienced and flawed man with considerable explaining to do regarding his controversial past. To overlook these facts in favor of his one progressive-approved attribute, his skin color, is to welcome a horse into our midst that is filled with danger and trouble. The progressives may not be able to resist the siren call of this horse, but I think that clear-minded Americans will ultimately make the difference in this decision!

Let’s all hope this come to be true!

The political correctness factions in our society have taken a turn which leads them the the precipice of a cliff. The question is: Will they jump? Only time will tell. But the newly found revulsion with all things bottled water reminds me of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

An article by Boston Globe staff writer Sacha Pfeiffer “Bottled water’s popularity tapped out?” is yet another illustration of just how deranged our societal politically-correct bent has become. One of the main premises of the article is that bottle water somehow has a negative impact on our society. There is a move afoot by many larger communities to reduce their consumption (at least at the municipal level) of bottled water, as bottled water has become viewed as somehow harmful to the environment and an affront to municipal water resources.

“Bottled water is bad for taxpayers, it’s bad for our environment, and it’s bad for our public water systems,” said Annie Sanders of Corporate Accountability International, a Boston nonprofit group running a national campaign, “Think Outside the Bottle,” aimed at persuading companies and municipalities to cancel their bottled water contracts.”

Sacha Pfeiffer/Boston Globe

It makes me wonder just who in the bottled water industry got on the wrong side of Ms. Sanders? Did someone at Poland Springs or Aquafina tell her that she has an ugly baby?? Because she and her group certainly have it in for the bottled water industry.

Those evil water bottling bastards!!

There is also another issue that arises when municipalities outlaw the use of bottled water. It is public health and safety. Do you remember the last time that you took a good swig from a filthy water fountain “bubbler”? Or filled up your mug/cup/glass/sippy cup from a public spigot or sink? The whole thing reeks unsanitary to me. Maybe the “Ban Bottled Water” advocacy has a hidden agenda — they secretly support the medical profession and they desire an increase in water-borne or contact communicable diseases.

Bacteria are our friends. Plastic water bottles are our enemy!

I live in a community that has an antiquated water delivery infrastructure. Consequently, in order to guarantee that bacteria and other little nasties that love to live in turbid, rusting pipes are killed, the municipality has to add a lot of chlorine to the water. This is fine if your palate is tolerant of Clorox! Mine isn’t, so I don’t drink the municipal water. I use it to cook with, bathe, wash dishes, run the toilet and fill my hot water boiler. However, I simply cannot tolerate the taste and smell of the tap water in my home as delivered from my municipality. My wife and I don’t even feed it to the dogs!

I love the smell of Clorox in the morning…it smells like…laundry!

Tony Marini

My solution is to lug large jugs (either 3 or 5 gallons) of water each month from BJ’s Wholesale, and use the water chiller/dispenser that is sold with these jugs. I think it’s a reasonable solution for me. It is cost effective, and it is not a hassle or undue expense to procure the water. I’ve done this for over 15 years, so I’m quite used to this process. I know that other folks take a different, more hands-on approach to supply their drinking water. They filter and treat their incoming water supply with neutralizing chemicals. This system works well, and provides adequate clear, potable water for them. This isn’t for me, as it’s a little too labor intensive, with water filters and chemicals to mind and replace. There are also “delicate adjustments” that must be made to the filtration system lest you POISON your family!

The filtration thing may be right for some folks, but it’s not my cup o’ tea! I prefer to lug my water in containers. It’s a case of “you say to-may-to and I say to-mah-to…”, to each his own. But now I have to contend with the demonizers of bottled water! Because in addition to the larger jugs of water, I also buy several cases of bottled water to keep upstairs (where the jugs/chillers/dispensers aren’t located). You can say we’re lazy, but in a perfect water world, there is a tap in the bathroom that may be used to get a glass of good-tasting water at bedtime, etc. So, for my household, these cases of bottled water upstairs are my tap water replacement.

Oh, the humanity!!!

Listen, let’s be real here…bottled water is a product, just like any other commodity. For the life of me I can’t understand the vehemence with which opponents or detractors of bottled water attack this product. These opponents tout the purity and other positive attributes of municipal water in comparison to the earth destroying, baby whale-killing attributes of bottled water. Bottled water, to these zealots, is pure evil in a plastic bottle.

I’ll join the cause the day that these folks similarly demonize any industry that uses 10 layers of plastic shrink wrap and yards of cardboard to package a simple product, say a pen or a child’s toy. Now there is a waste of resources and energy if I’ve ever seen one, and a perfect windmill for these Quixotes to tip!

Till then, put me down unashamedly in the bottled water user category!

The Boston Celtics!

Last night the Boston Celtics did something that they hadn’t done in about 20 years. They won their 60th basketball game, with a 92-77 win over the catatonic Pacers! It is a gross understatement to say that this has been a turnaround season — last year they Celt’s went a dismal 24-68, displaced at the bottom of the standings only by Memphis at 22-60. But this year’s team has made new believers our of many disenchanted Celtics past true believers!

How did this almost miraculous turnaround happen? Well, the key reason is acquisition of some talented, professional players like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, among many others. Garnett and Allen have signaled that the Celtic management has tired of “wandering in the pro basketball desert”. As a result, management spent a few bucks to revitalize a team on the brink of eternal mediocrity. In Garnett, Allen, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Sam Cassell and, of course veteran/captain Paul Pierce, the Celts field an immensely talented team. And this extends fully up and down the roster with guys like Scalabrine, Posey, Pollard, Brown, House and Pruitt…they have all contributed to this success.

I like the nose-to-the-grindstone attitude of this Celtics team. They are talented, but they’re not cocky and they don’t portray themselves as thugs or spoiled-brat, bling-laden individuals. They seem like a team whose players genuinely like each other and have committed themselves, top to bottom, to hard work.

And let’s not leave coach Doc Rivers’ steady leadership out of the equation. He suffered through some horrible years with a hodgepodge of talented and mediocre players, but he never experienced a coming together of talent and hard work in his team like he has this year. It’s great to see him finally get the satisfaction and recognition that he deserves.

I haven’t closely followed much Celtic’s basketball since the “Big Three” era. But I do tune in to the games and I follow the personalities. I haven’t seen much in the way of team talent, but rather random groupings of sometimes talented individuals. My hope is that the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics represent the start of a new legacy. A legacy based on hard work, professionalism and talent. They rightfully join the NE Patriots and the Boston Red Sox in this regard.

For the first time in many, many years I’m actually looking forward to the NBA playoffs! Go get ‘em Green!

It’s about time that there was finally a democratic vote (meaning not controlled by the ruling ZANU-PF party) in Zimbabwe, and that Robert Mugabe the 84 year old dictator and tyrant was removed from his office. It seems that 28 years of insane, autocratic and corrupt rule was more than enough for the citizens of Zimbabwe.

Good riddance, Mugabe…don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out the door of the presidential residence in Harare!

Perhaps now with new uncorrupted leadership, the country and its citizens can prosper and join the rest of the world in the 21st century.

The answer is when the grandstanders in the Congress see political opportunity in calling them so! Oil company executives are set to appear today before Congress to do something that, at least for me, chafes at my capitalistic roots. You see, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, chaired by Rep. Edward Markey (whom I’ve never had the pleasure to vote AGAINST), wants the big oil companies to explain their “big” profits. I assume that by the tone of the rhetoric prior to this appearance that there are certain industries for which earning profits is a no-no, and earning “big” profits cause a surge of acid reflux in socialists like Markey.

In a news story by AP writer H. Josef Hebert, Markey is quoted railing against big oil companies and “…he wants to know why, with such profits, the oil industry is steadfastly fighting to keep $18 billion (?11 billion) in tax breaks, stretched over 10 years. He said the executives would be asked to explain how they can get energy prices down in the short run and “in the long run what are they going to do to shift the focus to a renewable energy agenda.”"

Is it just me or does everyone who reads this get a little angry? Not with “big oil”, who as a group of corporations with shareholders are doing what they are supposed to do — earn profits, but with Rep. Markey for being so meddlesome in the free-market affairs of US corporations. An obvious question that arises is: Why are oil (petroleum/petrochemical) corporations under pressure to diversify into other energy venues? Why must they be urged or forced, at the behest of the government, to “focus on a renewable energy agenda”, according to Markey? How can we expect our government to assume this role? Would it be similarly fair if there were hearings by some other “Select Committee” to force Reebok or Nike to explore business avenues outside of the footwear business? I bet the public response would either be anger or amusement at the craziness of the suggestion!

So, how come Congress has such latitude with its oversight of “big oil”? The answer lies in the relationship that modern society has with oil: It is not only a mechanical lubricant, but the financial lubricant at the heart of our economy. However, just because we need the stuff, and use it in vast quantities doesn’t mean that it’s bad to earn a profit from the sale of this valuable commodity.

But Markey sees a high calling and social responsibility for oil companies beyond being a good corporate citizen. “We have to move beyond this oil economy,” Markey said Tuesday on CBS’ “The Early Show.” “We have to move to a renewable energy economy. … We can never get out of this trap as long as the oil companies want to hold us hostage to this old agenda.”, according to the AP story by H. Joseph Hebert. So, Reebok selling sneakers is holding their customers “hostage” to the sports footwear agenda? Puh-leeze! Mr. Markey obviously has it out for the oil companies. He obviously sees them as being held to a uniquely higher standard in terms of business model and practice than any other industry.

But what will Mr. Markey do if and when the oil companies choose to diversify into renewable energy business venues? Given that the demand for energy will not decrease with time, there will certainly be an even greater demand for the techniques and machinery of renewable energy. And with this high demand will be a premium price to be paid according to the economic laws of supply and demand. Will Markey similarly rail against the energy hegemony of these new energy conglomerates because of their profits?

I’m not so sure! I think that if there were magic wands, and we could wave one over the petroleum industry today and make it independent of oil, then Markey would be playing a different tune. Why? Because oil is a radioactive word in the halls of Congress. You see there is a Bush-Cheney-Halliburton-big oil-black gold conspiracy that must be dealt with! At least in the minds of socialist ideologues like Rep. Markey.

The truth appears in the AP story a little over halfway down: “The threat of nationwide $4-a-gallon gasoline, perhaps this summer, and $100-a-barrel oil is producing strong political reverberations, even as lawmakers acknowledged there is little that Congress can do to bring prices down.” Why is this so? Why is Congress powerless to do anything about the cost of oil? Because of demand! Because without poking its nose into the fabric of capitalistic business practice, Congress is powerless to change the behaviors of the citizens it represents. And these citizens are the numero uno reason why gas and oil cost what they do…American consumers are the ones who use and consume such copious quantities of petroleum products. If Americans could just get it through their thick skulls that a reduction in consumption would translate into a lowering of price, then things would work themselves out in an economic sense. But US consumers are obviously willing to pay just about any price to keep their present lifestyles and deal with the economic consequences and realities of ever-rising gasoline prices.

Markey realizes that changing the behavior of millions and millions of energy consumers towards conservation is a Sisyphean task, so what can a meddlesome, grandstanding politician do to ameliorate the outrage and anger of the very people responsible for the “crisis”? Well, for starters, blame the energy provider for doing what the rules of our economy allow it to do! This is the hallmark of a skillful politician…the redirection of blame.

I think that Rep. Markey’s time would be better spent trying to encourage the citizens of the USA to conserve energy, particularly oil and gasoline. I think he could more reasonably use his power as a representative by pushing very hard for funds to increase public transportation, by providing greater incentives for entrepreneurs to invest their capital and time in renewable energy, and by urging the education of US citizens to the economic realities which affect the price of gas/oil. Because obviously we all just don’t get it!

Secretly though, just between us, we all like Markey’s aggressive pursuit of the oil companies and his portrayal of them as new-age robber barons. We want him to be successful in his quest to somehow get the price of gas/oil products to be lowered…because it would benefit US! But we just as much hope and pray that Markey and his ilk in Congress don’t put OUR company and its hopefully “big” profits in their crosshairs. Because although it’s perfectly acceptable for Congress to vigorously attempt to lower the profits and subsidies of the oil-selling bums when it’s beneficial to us all, we just won’t tolerate these do-gooder legislators meddling in the profits of OUR employer or business.

How dare they!