Archive for the 'Peg's Page' Category

Risk and Reward

Playground Many of us, when we hear the phrase “risk and reward” think of Wall Street.  Or business in general.

But in reality, “risk and reward” affect us throughout our lives.

Our parents take a risk when they conceive us.  They hope that we will provide them with more joy and satisfaction than heartache and pain.  They pray that we will be born relatively healthy rather than sickly.

As we get older, parents do their best to provide a fine environment for us to learn and grow.  What some adults seem to have forgotten, however (if they ever knew at all) – is that all gain requires some risk.  It is impossible to achieve rewards without taking on chances of failure.  Parents want to keep us safe.  Yet, too many protections and too much removal of risk can oddly enough produce difficulties.

Safety is meaningful only in the context of other benefits and risks. Safety always involves trade-offs — of opportunities, of scarce resources and, especially in the case of children’s play, of learning to manage risk. The question is whether the trade-off makes sense. Soft rubber matting will cushion any fall. This is probably a good thing, at least in situations where children may fall on their heads. But rubber matting also gets hot.

There’s only one solution. Someone on behalf of society must be authorized to make these choices. Courts must honor those decisions. Otherwise, the pious accusations of safety fanatics, empowered by the nearly universal fear of being sued, will guarantee a cultural spiral downwards toward the lowest common denominator.

For America’s children today, that means spending more than six hours per day staring at a screen. Is that the way we want our children to grow up?

Philip Howard of The Common Good lectured several years ago at The Center of the American Experiment, and it was my pleasure to be able to hear him then.  Mr. Howard and his organization are battling to return common sense to everyday society.

None of us want a dangerous place for our children – or for adults!  Still, we must never forget that a risk-free society is impossible to achieve.  The removal of some risks must be weighed against what we are sacrificing by removing that risk.  While sometimes we agree that the risk of harm is too great – other times we can see that the purported removal of risk actually heightens the odds of other, not immediately obvious, forms of harm.

If we never forget that reward entails some risk, then we all will be better served.

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Smarty Pants

Every day, Professor Keith Burgess-Jackson reprints a Letter to the Editor from the New York Times.  This offering left me gape-jawed.

The Professor’s first point is well-taken.

Where is the evidence that Barack Obama is more intelligent than John McCain? Have they taken intelligence tests?

One might argue that because Obama performed better in college than McCain, he is the more intelligent of the two.  Yet, we all know many people where one individual had a superior college record to another, but the first is not more intelligent than the second.  Perhaps Obama is smarter than McCain.  But, I do not know of any overwhelming evidence that this is so.

In any case – let us grant the writer this point.  So what?  While a certain level of intelligence is assuredly required for someone to be a good President – it is but a necessary condition, and not a sufficient one.  A wide variety of other factors matter:  character, experience, leadership, voting record, viewpoints on issues and more.  Essentially, this is Keith’s second point:

Americans want an intelligent president, but not at the cost of good character and good judgment.

If people believe that Obama is a superior candidate to McCain – that is their decision.  Yet, their choice should be based upon this entire set of qualities – not simply which man is smarter than the other.

Finally, the writer’s point about race is not framed properly.  Of course racism has not been eliminated; I am not aware of any reasonably sized society on the planet where all hate and racism has been excised.  Unfortunately, I believe that a certain amount of hate, racism, sexism, anti-semitism and the like is endemic to the human condition.  It will never disappear entirely within my lifetime – or that of future lifetimes.

The question we need to ask is this:  is racism diminished enough and have racists been re-educated and shamed enough that racism is low enough to allow a non-white to win a Presidential election?  I believe that it is.  Of course, if Obama does not win this fall, I am sure that many will pin the blame on racism.  In part – they may be correct.  Nevertheless, it just may be that enough people do think that McCain’s set of characteristics:  his intelligence, leadership, qualifications, moral fiber, experience and voting record is more of what they want than Obama has to offer.

We shall see.

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Age Old Problem

Iowa farm My time at the Nebraska Regional was super.  Our team won three of the four Knockout Events, was second in a shorter “Compact” Knockout – then struggled to 13th place in the last day’s Swiss Team, although we were in second place with only 3 rounds to go.  Still, our performance was enough to place each of our team members as tied for the best showing overall.  We bridge players are competitive animals; this is our goal! (more…)

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Reporting for Duty?

My guess is that if I were a liberal, I would find Obama to be an attractive candidate.  Surely the man is well spoken, charismatic – and whatever else you may believe negative about him, Obama is nobody’s fool.  Even if I were liberal, I might be a bit concerned about his inexperience.  But – I imagine he would get my vote anyway.

Thus, I find this bit of news/gossip almost difficult to take seriously.  Some people think that Obama is going to select John Kerry as his running mate?  The same guy who couldn’t beat George W. Bush when his ratings were on the downslide?  The fellow who lost an election you would think that 74% of Democrats could have scooped up with relative ease?

Obama seems to smart to me for this.  Then again – we have all seen much stranger happenings in politics.

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Humpty Dumpty Language

When you’re Speaker of the House, I guess that, in addition to all your other powers, you can make language mean whatever you wish it to mean.

PELOSI: I’m never certain of anything. Today, I would be certain. I just think that it is the opportunity for our country to move away from Washington.  You know, I’m the Speaker of the House. I’m an outsider in Washington, D.C. .  Business as usual in Washington is not in the people’s interests. It there’s for the special interests.

KING: You would be the ultimate insider, wouldn’t you?

PELOSI: Well, I — you would think. But I…

KING: The speaker of the House isn’t an insider?

PELOSI: Well, they didn’t want me to be Speaker of the House.

KING: But you are.

PELOSI: I had to fight these special interests. And now to make the change, we have to have a Democratic president. And Barack Obama has done more than anyone in terms of passing the toughest ethical bill — ethics bill in Congress, to shed the bright light on transparency on the link between special interests and legislation in Washington.

Even Larry King is incredulous at the notion that a chosen Speaker of the House would not be the ultimate insider!

The amazing thing is that these politicians can get on national TV and make ludicrous statements with a straight face.

Ah, well.  They have got lots of practice at it.

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The Dinosaur, The Dodo

And now?  The end of the mainstream media as we know it.

Edwards, 55, now admits that he had an affair with Hunter, now 44,in 2006, but denies that he is the father of the child she had in February. Andrew Young, another former Edwards aide, has said he is the baby’s father. In a statement released Friday, Edwards said he was willing to take a paternity test; doubtless we’ll hear more on that issue.

But what’s really significant here is the cone of silence the nation’s major newspapers — including The Times — and the cable and broadcast networks dropped over this story when it first appeared in the tabloid during the presidential primary campaign. Next, the Enquirer reported that the unmarried Hunter was pregnant. Still no mainstream media interest. Indeed, never in recent journalistic history have so many tough reporters so closely resembled sheep as those members of the campaign press corps who meekly accepted Edwards’ categorical dismissal of the Enquirer’s allegations. Late last month, Edwards came to Los Angeles, and Enquirer reporters trailed him to the Beverly Hilton hotel, where he met Hunter and her daughter in their room.

The Enquirer went with the story, and when no major newspaper or broadcast outlet even reported the existence of the tabloid story, bloggers and online commentators redoubled their demands that the mainstream media explain their silence. The tabloid followed with a story alleging payments of hush money to Hunter and, this week, with a photo of Edwards holding an infant in what appears to be a room at the Beverly Hilton. As pressure mounted on major newspapers to take some aspect of the unfolding scandal into account, editors and ombudsmen issued statements saying it would be unfair to publish anything until the Enquirer’s stories had been “confirmed.”

It’s interesting that what finally forced Edwards into telling the truth was a mainstream media organization. ABC News began investigating the Edwards affair in October, but really began to push after the Beverly Hilton allegations. When ABC confronted Edwards with its story (which confirmed “95% to 96%” of the tabloid’s reporting, according to the network), he admitted his deception.

With that admission, the illusion that traditional print and broadcast news organizations can establish the limits of acceptable political journalism joined the passenger pigeon on the roster of extinct Americana.

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With This Ring

Bride What attracted you to your spouse?  Was it his devilish sense of humor?  Her warmth and abilities to be a fine mother?  His strength and intelligence?  Her beauty and sexiness?

Today, we find couples tying the knot for another reason:  excellent health insurance.

Bo and Dena McLain of Milford, Ohio, eloped in March so he could add her to his group policy because her nursing school required proof of insurance. Corey Marshall and Kim Wetzel, who had dated in San Francisco for four years, moved up their wedding plans by a year so she could switch to his policy after her employer raised premiums.

We can argue what exactly we should do to change it all.  But, are there very many out there who disagree with the proposition that our entire system of health care and insurance is in dire need of complete overhaul?

Who wants to hear their adult child phone home and breathlessly announce:  “Mom and Dad; I found my future spouse!  He has Blue Cross/Blue Shield with no deductible!”


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A Special “Energy”

Few of us approve of marital indiscretions.  Personally, however, I hesitate to toss too many stones.  Knowing what occurs in the confines of a marriage is difficult, if not impossible, to know.  Some marriages are marriages of convenience, be it due to sexual orientation, power, money, parenting – or an array of other issues.  Sometimes the other spouse is well aware of what is happening – and actually condones it.  Many of us also know of marriages where, should we be in shoes of a long suffering partner, we, too, might well be tempted to stray.  In any case – it is never easy to judge from the outside looking in.

Of course, all that being said, when high profile celebrities or politicians have affairs, all bets are off.  And when the “wronged” spouse is a woman battling cancer as she treks around the nation supporting her running-for-President husband, sympathy for the philanderer is in shorter supply than center court tickets for Wimbledon finals.

You might wonder:  what could be worse?  Well, I shall tell you.  Read this article about the woman with whom John Edwards risked all as he attempted to earn the candidacy for the most powerful position in the world.

I struck up a conversation with the woman at the next event, as we waited outside. She told me her name and asked me what my astrological sign was, which I thought was a little unusual. I told her. She smiled, and began telling me her life story: how she was working as a documentary-film maker, living with a friend in South Orange, N.J., but how she’d previously had “many lives.” She’d worked, she said, as an actress and as a spiritual adviser. She was fiercely devoted to astrology and New Age spirituality. She’d been a New York party girl, she’d been married and divorced, she’d been a seeker and a teacher and was a firm believer in the power of truth.

She told me that she had met Edwards at a bar, at the Regency Hotel in New York. She thought he was giving off a special “energy.”

Ugh.  It’s enough to make me lose my cookies.  Can you imagine that a man who would be attracted to an airhead like this almost was the Democrat candidate for President?  While I realize that we choose different people with whom to fall in love than we do to be our Secretary of State or our bridge partner – still.

Our nation dodged a bullet.  No matter who gets elected come November, we will have a President infinitely superior to the man who gave off “a special ‘energy’”.

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What If I Played Bridge All Week?

If you note very light blogging, it’s because I’m at a huge regional bridge tournament in Omaha this week.? When I’m not playing bridge, I’m taking photos or writing bridge columns.? When I’m not doing that, I’m working on real estate long distance!

Sleep occurs in rare instances.

A few photos for your inspection.? Yes, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are in attendance.? ?And, some of my Japanese friends and teammates stopped by, too!

Japan team Tadashi


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The McCarthyism of 2008

Joe McCarthy

Are you now, or have you ever been a conservative?

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Today’s GOP

Occasionally I have arguments with my liberal friends about which party was responsible for what actions throughout history.  Some liberals think, for instance, that it was always the Democrats who battled for civil rights and against Jim Crow.  Yet, for periods of our history, Republicans were far more the friends of blacks and the party that fought to achieve real freedom.

Some seem to think that political parties are fixed entities.  I’ll hear people say:  “Your party is corrupt” or “Our party fights for freedoms.”  At any given time, they may be accurate.  Over the long haul, however, the people who make up each party change, and the actions and nature of each party alter.

Republicans advertised themselves as the party of lean government and low spending.  Yet, too often, Republicans were anything but.  What will the Republicans of 2008 and beyond be?

One reason Congress now has even lower approval numbers than in 2006 is the failure of Democrats to make good on their vow to clean up the earmark process. A “moratorium” on earmarks has been quietly set aside; and the Congressional Research Service has been directed by Congressional leaders to no longer respond to requests from members on the size, number or background of earmarks. “Democrats claim the earmarks will now be transparent, but they’re taking away the very data that lets us know what’s really happening,” says South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. Democratic earmark reform, concludes Mr. Coburn, “not only failed to drain the swamp, but gave the alligators new rights.”

Mr. Coburn’s main point on earmarks is that senators must choose between a culture of parochialism and a culture that puts the national interest first. He stipulates that few members are corrupt, and that most go with the flow. He has even offered to release his holds on earmarks — if their sponsors will propose reducing federal spending elsewhere, so “we aren’t just dumping more debt on our kids.”

They may not like it, but Mr. Coburn is showing Republicans how the GOP can return to its small government roots. Consider Ronald Reagan, who in 1987 vetoed a highway bill because it had a mere 121 earmarks in it.

Reagan quoted a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1796, warning that allowing Congress to spend federal money for local projects would set off “a scene of scramble among the members (for) who can get the most money wasted in their State, and they will always get most who are meanest.” Reagan didn’t think that represented good government or good politics. Republicans today should heed his warning.

Sometimes people decide to vote for candidates of another party because the voter himself has new views.  Sometimes, however, the voter switches because the party no longer practices the principles they purport to hold.

Time will tell what the Republicans of the future choose to be.

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Moving Day

Newhouse As a Realtor, I often am able to congratulate folks on a move to a wonderful new home.

Today, good wishes are extended to Professor Keigh Burgess-Jackson on his new abode.  The Professor won’t be cooking in his new home, and he will not need to clean out the gutters nor scrub the tub.  Nevertheless, I am certain it will be a delightful spot in which his thoughts can reside.

May both Keith and his readers enjoy his new home!

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Earth’s Evolution

Earth2_medium Do you ever find yourself holding views that are mutually exclusive?  If so, do not despair.  My experience is that virtually all of us do this, even if very rarely.  With the thousands of issues and millions of details pertaining to those issues, it would not be shocking to note that at times, some of what we hold to be so conflicts.

Still, if you are like me, you do your best to review your beliefs frequently.  If you see that some positions are illogical, you analyze and reconsider.

Should a number of liberals do this vis a vis evolution and “saving the planet”?  In my opinion, fer sure.  Most liberals I know scream bloody murder if anyone offers a shred of a doubt that evolution isn’t settled fact.  Yet, when it comes to practice with Our Earth – underlying notions of evolution seem to fly out the window.

Take Nancy Pelosi and Paul Krugman today.  (I know; I know – please forgive me.)  They want to “save the planet” – both hoping against hope that it is not “too late.”

It’s true that scientists don’t know exactly how much world temperatures will rise if we persist with business as usual. But that uncertainty is actually what makes action so urgent. While there’s a chance that we’ll act against global warming only to find that the danger was overstated, there’s also a chance that we’ll fail to act only to find that the results of inaction were catastrophic.

Does man have a major impact on the Earth’s temperature?  Like all of us, I have seen data both confirming and disproving.  My own extremely non-professional viewpoint is that the answer is: perhaps, but if so, not to a tremendous degree.  Nevertheless, I am a proponent of conservation, searches for alternative energy sources, escaping the stranglehold of the middle-east on our energy needs and the like.  These beliefs are related to other benefits, however; not to “saving the planet.”

Why do some among us imagine that Earth should remain forever as it is in 2008?

Long before man came on the scene, this planet changed cataclysmically.  Glaciers formed and melted.  Chunks of continents broke off and fell into the sea.  Volcanoes erupted.  Islands that existed disappeared – not to mention the scores of living creatures that sailed off into extinction due to climate changes.  All this and much more happened prior to our firing up SUV’s, using incandescent light bulbs and keeping our homes above 63 degrees in the winter.

As mentioned previously, we have many good reasons to conserve and not waste our resources.  And, it may be the case that a small portion of doing so can have a beneficial effect on Earth.

But, if these radical, enormous changes occurred in the planet long before Adam accepted that round red offering from Eve, then why should we assume that they cannot occur now, irrespective of what we all do?

If liberals believe in evolution and want it taught in the classroom – then why don’t they apply it to the nature of our planet?  “Save the planet”?  I say:  “Save the notion of evolution.”

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Two Americas

I am not an Ann Coulter fan.  Sometimes, however, you must give the woman her due.

Evidence is accumulating that John Edwards is right — there really are “two Americas.” There’s one where men cheat on their cancer-stricken wives and one where men do not cheat on their cancer-stricken wives.

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Just Say “No”

Do you want to know why terror thrives today in the world?  Please read this.

VIOLENCE may be endemic to mankind, yet the community of nations nevertheless managed to outlaw poison gas and criminalize genocide. Is it beyond people’s capacity to, belatedly, define deliberate attacks against civilians as a crime against humanity? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if terrorists found no sanctuary, no financial backing and no diplomatic cover – because, simply, no “reason” justified their actions?

Of course, attempting to vastly minimize terror in the world is far more difficult than just saying “no.”  Nevertheless, saying “no” is the first step.  Why do so many, over and over, seem to believe that we will have superior outcomes if we negotiate with that which we know to be terribly wrong?  Decide that it is and stay the course battling it.  While it may be a most painful road to travel, ultimately the other fork in the road is worse.

And you would think by now we would know that.  Our actions, however, speak otherwise.

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Peter Pan America

Peterpan Growing up means accepting responsibility for your actions and attempting to make wise decisions as much as possible.  Peter Pan rejected this; he didn’t want to grow up and lose the carefree, irresponsible days of youth.

Too often, it appears that America today has accepted the mantle of a Peter Pan society.  Adults choose poorly, or do little investigating prior to actions – and then expect the government to save them, over and over and over.  The worst of it?  The government does seem to step up to the plate, again and again.

When people are rewarded for bad behavior and never need to face the consequences of irresponsibility, do they then learn that these activities should not be repeated?  I think not.

Professor Mankiw examines the upcoming mortgage bailout.  Although Larry Summers is a very smart guy, I’m with Dick Armey on this one.

Americans who work hard, pay taxes and play by the rules can’t seem to get fair representation in Washington, D.C., these days. In the current debate over a government bailout of speculators, irresponsible banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the responsible majority has once again been pushed aside in a legislative rush to “do something.”

This should have been a perfect opportunity for Republicans, struggling to regain some standing with the American people, to rise united and demand real accountability and reform.

Actions by Fannie and Freddie management and their regulators this year precipitated the current crisis. Under pressure from the Democrat-controlled Congress, the Bush administration lifted Fannie and Freddie’s portfolio caps in February and reduced their capital reserve requirements in March. In this year’s stimulus bill, Congress went further and nearly doubled the size of the loans that Fannie and Freddie can purchase or guarantee.

As a result of this reckless expansion, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) now touch nearly 70% of all new mortgages. At the same time, they are insolvent by most measures. The ostensible purpose of Fannie and Freddie is to provide liquidity to America’s housing markets. In practice, they are the source of systemic risk and instability in a time of need.

I’m a Realtor.  Passing bills to “bail out” the mortgage industry may well help me out a great deal – short term.  But, I always try to have the “long view.”  And, long term, putting bandaids on large wounds will only make facing the deep difficulties later more complex and significant.

Neither party is stepping up to the plate to honestly face our people and tell them that we cannot party forever like drunken teenagers.  Very few of our leaders are willing to set examples with “tough love.”  As long as we continue in this manner, we will leave one enormous mess for the next generations to clean up.

Where is Wendy when we need her?

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Dogs Sleeping dogs or flying cockatiels?  Matters not.  Each of us has our particular pets that we adore.

My best friend from first grade, Roxane Gilbert, shares a similar political Cockatielflying viewpoint to my own.  Yet, we recognize that we can all hold disparate views – and still be friends.  Thanks to Rox for pointing out at Critter Blog what a nice lady Susan Estrich is.

UPDATE: If you want to see what a thoughtful woman Susan Estrich is, read this.

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Campaign Racism

ABC’s Jake Tapper thinks it’s primarily being leveled by Democrats.

There’s a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he’s condemned it.

What I have not seen is it come from McCain or his campaign in such a way to merit the language Obama used today. Pretty inflammatory.

Back in February, McCain apologized for some questionable comments made by a local radio host. In April, he condemned the North Carolina Republican Party’s ad featuring images of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

With one possible exception, I’ve never seen McCain or those under his control playing the race card or making fun of Obama’s name — or even mentioning Obama’s full name, for that matter!

While I have no doubt there will be a bunch more racist, xenophobic, and other ignorant drek coming our way courtesy of the Internet and perhaps the occasional cable news network, it’s important to determine where it’s coming from. Is it from a specific campaign or party? A third-party group? A third-party group with direct ties to establishment figures? This all matters.

I’ve seen racism in campaigns before — I’ve seen it against Obama in this campaign (more from Democrats than Republicans, at this point, I might add) and I’ve seen it against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, when his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was alleged, by the charming friends and allies of then-Gov. George W. Bush, to have been a McCain love-child with an African-American woman.

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Fountain of Youth

Want to stay youthful?  No magic potion, pill nor surgery will deliver it to you.

But, you can follow this prescription to ward off Father Time:  keep active and working!

Thanks to my friend and very smart guy Mitch Perlstein at the Center of the American Experiment for this fine column.

You might note that Mitch cites both conservatives and liberals who are following their passion, irrespective of their ages.  You might also note that in my own life, my dad has been an exceptional role model.  Despite hitting his 87th birthday a week ago, Dad still remains busy throughout the day.  An industrial realtor for scores of years, he continues to manage properties.  On a volunteer basis, Dad daily assists friends and strangers throughout my parents’ community with all kinds of technical issues:  computers, printers, DVD’s and the like.  He has served on the Board at their association and done mentoring in local inner city schools.

My mom sometimes wishes he would slow down.  I maintain that part of why Dad is in such fine shape is due to his constant motion and giving!

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And You Think the Housing Market is Tough?

OyJewish wedding!

Just as the economy is headed to recession, the shidduch system is in crisis mode. Or so the rabbis moan, noting the surplus of women eager to marry and the corresponding shortfall in the quality and quantity of available Jewish men. It’s not that there are more Orthodox women than men out there; experts instead attribute the shortage to the broader sociological trend of postponing marriage, which works to the disadvantage of women looking for spouses their own age or just a few years older. Men who are 30 will date women as young as 18 and may turn their noses up at dating any woman past the age of 25. The 20% or 30% of women who  don’t get hitched right away begin to worry they’ll be left out in the cold for good.

Sensing this shift of power, mothers of sons who remain in the matchmaking system increase their demands: Any prospective daughter-in-law must be a size two, or a “learner” son must be supported indefinitely by the girl’s parents. For men, “it’s a buyer’s market,” says Michael Salamon, a psychologist and author of “The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures” (2008). “And the pressures of dating are creating all kinds of social problems, such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders. It’s frightening.”

Part of the problem is the increased number of “serial daters” who, as Ms. Fishman says, are “shopping for perfection.” When Mr. Ostrov runs workshops, he asks male participants in their early 30s how many girls they have dated. “One hundred seventy-five is not an unusual number,” he says. “Dating” in these cases usually ends after just one or two meetings with each girl.

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Greg Mankiw for President

Is it really too late for him to be a candidate?

Too bad. Mankiw’s platform surely would be our nation’s best.

Mankiw coyly calls it “pandering.”  I call it a breath of fresh air – along with refreshing rationality.

No wonder most of it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting implemented.

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Fascination and Frustration

When I leave for an international tournament, my friends wish me good luck – and tell me to have a lovely, relaxing vacation.


A bridge tournament is about as far as one can possibly get from relaxing!

Here it is, almost 4AM – and I have not yet been able to sleep.  I’m trying to determine why one tournament, I seem to be a rising star . . . and a few months later, this game seems to confound me at every turn.  It is the nature of the beast.  While assuredly good sense, people reading, statistics, memory, concentration and far more weigh in – luck of the draw plays a role, too.  Some days the heavens seem to be tilting in your direction.  Other days?  Hold on.

I doubt I will ever stop loving this game.  But – that doesn’t mean that on any given day, I am not frustrated to the hilt with it, either!

And now?  Some photos of my friends from around the world that this stupendous game has delivered to me.

DSC_0063 DSC_0064 DSC_0069

DSC_0157 DSC_0176

Cross posted at What If?

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Free To Fail

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love competition.  Bridge is all about using your mind and creativity to best advantage – and then hoping that you can best the opponents due to it.

In America, we’ve always been a nation of competitors.  We try to learn more than the previous generation, invent more, expand more.  Most people like to win.  Yet, without the ability to fail, “winning” has no meaning.

Uber-free market afficianado Larry Kudlow is well familar with this philosophy.  Let the master expound.

It seems like failure is off the board nowadays and that it’s government’s job to rescue everybody.

Whatever happened to the philosophy of Friedrich Hayek, the great free-market economist and Nobel Prize winner, who said the great thing about capitalism is the freedom to succeed beyond your wildest dreams, but that there is also the freedom to fail? I believe Hayek once argued that if he had to choose between success and failure, failure is more important in terms of preserving the free-market system.

Of course, the great thing about America is that you can fail many times, pick yourself up, keep on trying, and then succeed beyond your wildest dreams. But this whole process is being subverted by the political attitude that no one must ever be allowed to fail. I don’t like it. It’s socialism, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s big-government socialism. Or maybe it’s corporate socialism. Or maybe (with Fan and Fred) it’s Republican socialism.

Some of you may like the bailouts.  Remember, though – too many bailouts, and you will lose the wins.  No one wants to put forth the energy, risk, time and the like to win if those who do a poor job end up in the same spot as the winners.  And without the risk and effort – that which made our nation great will no longer be produced.

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Freedom of Choice

Why do so many deny parents the ability to chose a superior education for their child?

The straight talk on education.

“Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity,” he said. “When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school.

“Many will choose a charter school.  No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.”

If Democratic congressmen choose private schools for their kids – shouldn’t those with less financial resources have some choice, too?

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And On This Topic -

John McCain gets my vote.

What exactly is the problem with the American health-care system?

The problem is not that Americans don’t have fine doctors, medical technology, and treatments. American medicine is the envy of the world. The problem is not that most Americans lack adequate health insurance. The vast majority of Americans have private insurance, and our government spends many billions each year to provide even more.

The biggest problem with the American health-care system is one of cost and access, and as a result tens of millions of individuals have no insurance. For example, we currently spend for about 2.4 trillion dollars a year on health care. A decade from now that number, under current projections, will double to over four trillion dollars.

The Obama and Clinton response to these problems is to promise universal coverage, whatever its cost, and the massive tax increases, mandates, and government regulation that it imposes. But in the end this will accomplish one thing only. We will replace the inefficiency, irrationality, and uncontrolled costs of the current system with the inefficiency, irrationality, and uncontrolled costs of a government monopoly. We’ll have all the problems, and more, of private health care — rigid rules, long waits, and lack of choices, and risk degrading its great strengths and advantages including the innovation and life-saving technology that make American medicine the most advanced in the world.

I have a different approach. I believe the key to real reform is to restore control over our health-care system to the patients themselves. To that end, my reforms are built on the pursuit of three goals: paying only for quality medical care, having insurance choices that are diverse and responsive to individual needs, and restoring our sense of personal responsibility.

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Stop the Madness

Sooner rather than later.

And this:

Perhaps turning food into transportation fuel would make sense if massive amounts of grain spoiled every year from a lack of demand, but that certainly isn’t the case. Farmers love the higher prices that come from the new demand to fill gas tanks, but higher prices have consequences for poorer nations that have just begun to be felt. Morally speaking, shouldn’t we feed people before we feed cars?

What makes this even more absurd is ethanol itself. It burns cleaner, but has significant problems as a transportation fuel. It has only two-thirds the potential energy of gasoline, which means more of it has to be used to get the same mileage. Ethanol has to be shipped by truck as it cannot be pumped through a pipeline, so much more energy has to get expended just to bring it to market. In order to use more than just a small amount in a mixture, car engines have to be designed differently to use it, which means more energy and resources have to go into producing the vehicles.

Every fill of the tank with ethanol uses the same amount of corn a child would eat in a year, and let’s not even talk about the amount of potable water used to grow the corn in the first place. Given the above, which is the better use of the corn?

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Hear, Hear

One of my girlfriends is smart as a whip and a talented artist to boot.  Cathy is also hard of hearing.

While Cathy can read lips and she also has a device that allows her to converse in very small groups, she is unable to hear in most other settings.  Last year, the two of us attended a fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani.  As we watched Rudy live on TV, I quietly “translated” what he was saying for Cathy.  Many of the other people in attendance thus realized how unfortunate it was that there weren’t closed captions for Cathy and people like her.

Elise Knopf, of the Minnesota Commission Serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People wants the state of Minnesota to pass a law making it mandatory to have closed captions in political ads.  As you all know, my philosophy is to urge small government, and I’m not quite certain that people should be forced to include closed captions.  Nevertheless, I am very sure that the captions should be included in these ads – not to mention most everything else on TV!  Cathy has explained to me that the cost to do so is minimal – and that the captions can be invisible to those who do not need them.

Including those among us who cannot hear well or at all has a simple solution.  Let’s apply it.

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I’m with Senator Obama

At least on this topic.

Economists in general oppose a tax holiday because it would encourage consumption of gasoline at a time of soaring demand.

Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, a longtime Republican donor, criticized Sen. McCain’s policy in an interview with The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations last week.

Mr. Pickens said suspending the federal gas tax “sends a signal that we have plenty of gasoline and diesel, and that’s not the case.”

Yep; what Boone said.

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Get Over It!

Justice Antonin Scalia will appear on 60 Minutes this coming weekend. A preview of what he has to say is here.

“I say nonsense,” Scalia responds to Stahl’s observation that people say the Supreme Court’s decision in Gore v. Bush was based on politics and not justice. “Get over it. It’s so old by now. The principal issue in the case, whether the scheme that the Florida Supreme Court had put together violated the federal Constitution, that wasn’t even close. The vote was seven to two,” he says, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision that the Supreme Court of Florida’s method for recounting ballots was unconstitutional.

Furthermore, says the outspoken conservative justice, it was Al Gore who ultimately put the issue into the courts. “It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question….We didn’t go looking for trouble. It was he who said, ‘I want this to be decided by the courts,’” says Scalia. “What are we supposed to say — ‘Not important enough?’” he jokes.


Stahl asks how he can be a close friend of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, his liberal bench mate, despite the fact that they oftentimes disagree. “I attack ideas, I don’t attack people, and some very good people have some very bad ideas,” he tells Stahl.

Bravo, Justice Scalia! I have dear friends (and, dare I say it – relatives) whom I very much love and care for – yet, on some topics, they are utterly wrong. Of course, I myself have been utterly wrong on issues and at times in my life!

If we are looking for perfection in our friends, relatives, peers, associates …. we will assuredly be woefully disappointed in our lives. We also will have never ending battle.

I do not agree with Scalia myself on a number of topics. On what he says above, however, applause from me. And – get over it, those of you who have not!

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Surgery on the Middle Man

We all expect to eat – but we don’t get insurance to guarantee food.  We all need various sorts of transportation.  But, other than some insurance to cover the value of a valuable vehicle, we don’t need insurance to make sure that we can get around.

Why then, do we need health insurance for routine exams, medications, doctor visits and the like?

Jonathan Kellerman, professor of pediatrics and psychology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine asks some insightful questions and provides some well grounded and thoughtful answers.

Insurance is all about betting against negative consequences and the insurance business model is unique in that profits depend upon goods and services not being provided. Using actuarial tables, insurers place their bets. Sometimes even the canniest MIT grads can’t help: Property and casualty insurers have collapsed in the wake of natural disasters.

Health insurers have taken steps to avoid that level of surprise: Once they affix themselves to the host – in this case dual hosts, both doctor and patient – they systematically suck the lifeblood out of the supply chain with obstructive strategies. For that reason, the consequences of any insurance-based health-care model, be it privately run, or a government entitlement, are painfully easy to predict. There will be progressively draconian rationing using denial of authorization and steadily rising co-payments on the patient end; massive paperwork and other bureaucratic hurdles, and steadily diminishing fee-recovery on the doctor end.

Some of us are old enough to remember visiting the doctor and paying him/her directly by check or cash. You had a pretty good idea going in what the service was going to cost. And because the doctor had to look you in the eye – and didn’t need to share a rising chunk of his profits with an insurer – the cost was likely to be reasonable. The same went for hospitals: no $20 aspirins due to insurance-company delay tactics and other shenanigans. Few physicians became millionaires, but they lived comfortably, took responsibility for their own business model, and enjoyed their work more.

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Open Minds

One of the toughest tasks to master is to keep an open mind.  We work hard to discover what we ultimately believe to be the truth.  After all that effort, often the last thing we wish to do is have to re-analyse, check – and toss out what we have labored so long to achieve.

Nevertheless, sometimes the honest course is to do just that!

Here is a man who took that course.

Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.

My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.

Opposition to the use of chemicals such as chlorine is part of a broader hostility to the use of industrial chemicals. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” had a significant impact on many pioneers of the green movement. The book raised concerns, many rooted in science, about the risks and negative environmental impact associated with the overuse of chemicals. But the initial healthy skepticism hardened into a mindset that treats virtually all industrial use of chemicals with suspicion.

Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas.

And – if you think I am pointing fingers at others, I am – but at myself, too.  Just like most people, my mind frequently wishes to stay slammed shut – and I must work to insure that it does not happen.

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Silent Tsunami

As an update to this previous post, be sure to read this from The Economist.

Governments ought to liberalise markets, not intervene in them further. Food is riddled with state intervention at every turn, from subsidies to millers for cheap bread to bribes for farmers to leave land fallow. The upshot of such quotas, subsidies and controls is to dump all the imbalances that in another business might be smoothed out through small adjustments onto the one unregulated part of the food chain: the international market.

For decades, this produced low world prices and disincentives to poor farmers. Now, the opposite is happening. As a result of yet another government distortion—this time subsidies to biofuels in the rich world—prices have gone through the roof. Governments have further exaggerated the problem by imposing export quotas and trade restrictions, raising prices again. In the past, the main argument for liberalising farming was that it would raise food prices and boost returns to farmers. Now that prices have massively overshot, the argument stands for the opposite reason: liberalisation would reduce prices, while leaving farmers with a decent living.

There is an occasional exception to the rule that governments should keep out of agriculture. They can provide basic technology: executing capital-intensive irrigation projects too large for poor individual farmers to undertake, or paying for basic science that helps produce higher-yielding seeds. But be careful. Too often—as in Europe, where superstitious distrust of genetic modification is slowing take-up of the technology—governments hinder rather than help such advances. Since the way to feed the world is not to bring more land under cultivation, but to increase yields, science is crucial.

The record of governments trying to manage markets is woefully poor.  Free markets assuredly are not free from their own anomalies and swings; witness our current real estate difficulties.  Nevertheless, even with all their flaws, free markets are superior to the alternatives.

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As Ye Sow

So shall ye reap.Am I the only one who finds massive government interference in agricultural markets to be insanity? And, surely our own nation’s recent love affair with ethanol is a significant contribution to world wide inflationary food costs – and starvation.

I would say we should vote for politicians that will end government sticking its snout into agriculture markets. But – would we have anyone left for whom to vote?

Sadly, the answer is unclear.

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Raise Your Hand

Are you someone who thinks that the Republican Attack Machine is far more vicious than anything Democrats could ever dream up?

Please read this – and if you are still convinced, raise your hand.

That is – if you have never been tortured and are still able to raise your hand.

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Competition plays a large role in much of my life. As a tournament bridge player, competition is the name of the game. The better you do, the more you rate to win. The more you do to learn, improve your game and secure superior partners and teammates, the higher you climb.

As a Realtor, it’s much the same. If I deliver top-notch products and services to my clients, then I rate to prosper with my business. If I fail to improve, connect and listen to the needs of my clients, then I am unlikely to do as well as the next guy.

Competition is great. Most people enjoy doing well – but you cannot unless you work hard and try your best. Learning, improving, growing …. All of us should strive to include this in our lives.

Why, then, is it that so many Democrats seem to spurn competition?

The Democratic Party has become the anti-competition party.

It’s true in education where Democrats, with their slavish devotion to teachers unions, oppose vouchers even for constituencies they pretend to champion such as minorities and the disadvantaged. Vouchers would force public schools into competition.

It’s true with immigration, where many Democrats advance the phony argument that illegal immigrants displace U.S. workers by lowering wages. For low-skilled workers who refuse to get more skills or learn a new trade, illegal immigrants amount to competition.

And it’s certainly true in the area of trade, where Democrats do the bidding of organized labor by fighting trade agreements and advocating protectionism. Trade, by its very nature, encourages competition by opening up markets across borders and seas.

This rejection of competition I believe relates to the Democrats’ embracing of equality. Don’t get me wrong; I am someone who strongly believes in equality. But – equality should be a matter of equal opportunities, and equal justice before the law. What each of use chooses to do with those opportunities can vary widely among us – just as our abilities, talents, strengths and weaknesses vary dramatically.

Total equality is a fiction. It is impossible to make the human condition the same for everyone, irrespective of what steps are taken.

Nor, as explained above, should we really want to do so. It is competition and variance that causes us to improve and yearn for something better.

When President Clinton worked to get the passage of NAFTA, I applauded him. More free trade was a win-win situation for the world.

Why do the Democrats of today – and in particular, President Clinton’s wife – reject it today?

Why do they not wish to compete and search for new heights and achieve new goals?

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La La La La

All that Pejman has to say is correct. Ignore at your own peril.

And the fat lady is already belting out her arias.


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Quote of the Day

Multiple times I have lauded the exceptional blog Booker Rising, masterfully managed by my friend Shay Riley. If you are looking for a wealth of information about the black community, a wide variety of viewpoints, articles and comments on related issues, then Booker Rising is a must-stop for you.

Shay has a feature called “Quote of the Day.” National leaders, celebrities, politicians and more are quoted here.

Today, however, Shay has a very special guest. Anyone doubt that this lady has wisdom beyond her years?

“I think the next president should lower taxes so people have more money to buy food and stuff, know what they’re doing, and give me liberty or give me death! Mommy likes John McCain, and voted for him [in the Illinois primary earlier this month] so I guess I would vote for McCain. I think Barack Obama looks fine. That woman [Sen. Hillary Clinton] gets on my nerves because she is always crying.”

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Fair and Balanced

Many of my liberal friends believe that the line “Fox News; Fair and Balanced” is a joke. I happen to think it’s pretty accurate, but – who knows? Perhaps it is indeed my bias that lends me to that opinion.

I defy my friends on the left, however, to read this post by Ed Morrissey and then be able to tell anyone with a straight face that their beloved New York Times is “fair and balanced.”

The Times may have the slickest, sharpest advertising around, in depth feature articles and quality bridge columns. “Fair and balanced,” however, has not been associated with news reporting at the Times for a while.

Think that may be a factor in this?

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One Life to Give

Private jets.  Multiple mansions.  Designer clothes and vehicles.  Dazzling jewelry.  Generally, these are the hallmarks of the uber-wealthy.

For one man, however, something beyond the glittering materialism of this world matters.  What is it?  Giving.

Feeney Read about a remarkable man who made a fortune – then gave it all away.

Feeney correctly foresaw a pent-up demand for foreign consumer goods, especially liquor. Over the years DFS opened dozens of duty-free shops across the world. Feeney learned Japanese and did deals with tour guides to divert travel groups through their outlets. “We caught a wave,” he said. DFS became a global retail empire, a moneymaking machine that made its partners super rich. In 1988, Forbes magazine included Feeney in the top 20 of its 400 richest people list, estimating his worth at $1.3 billion.

But Feeney did not belong on the list. In 1982, he had secretly and irrevocably transferred his entire 38.75 percent interest in DFS to a charitable foundation, keeping less than $5 million for himself. The decision to give his wealth away was not sudden, he said. “I did not want money to consume my life.” The decision to create a foundation came after Feeney made his first major bequest of $700,000 to Cornell University in 1981, and was besieged with requests. He turned to a legal friend, Harvey Philip Dale, a brilliant New York law professor, who advised him on setting up a mechanism to handle future donations. The foundation — in reality a number of separate foundations collectively known as The Atlantic Philanthropies — was registered in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements. To maintain secrecy, the organization did not bear his name — almost unheard of in the world of philanthropy. Feeney declined even to take personal tax deductions on his giving.

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Blue Moon

How often do I agree with Paul Krugman? Not. Very. Often. But – here is that blue moon moment.

Ignore the snarky dig relating to the fact that President Bush is a recovering alcoholic. Read on and see why we have lost our collective minds by putting ethanol in our tanks.

Increased demand for the grain helped boost food prices by 4.9 percent last year, the most since 1990, and will reduce global inventories of corn to the lowest in 24 years, government data show. While advocates say ethanol is cleaner than gasoline, a Princeton University study this month said it causes more environmental harm than fossil fuels.

“We are mandating and subsidizing something that is distorting the marketplace,” said Cal Dooley, a former U.S. congressman from California, who represents companies including Kraft Foods Inc. and General Mills Inc. as president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington. “There are no excess commodities, and prices are rising.”

Innovation and creativity to cut back (or better control) our use of fossil fuels? I’m all for it. Ethanol, however, is not the answer, for a myriad of reasons.

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Do Not Stay Silent

Please read this, and then pass it on and post it yourself.

We cannot stay silent.


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Tragic News for Leftists

Due to free markets, capitalism and freedom in general, the world is getting wealthier.

The last quarter century has witnessed remarkable progress of mankind. The world’s per capita inflation-adjusted income rose from $5400 in 1980 to $8500 in 2005.Schooling and life expectancy grew rapidly, while infant mortality and poverty fell just asfast. Compared to 1980, many more countries in the world are democratic today.

The last quarter century also saw wide acceptance of free market policies in both rich and poor countries: from private ownership, to free trade, to responsible budgets, to lower taxes. Three important events mark the beginning of this period. In 1979, Deng Xiao Ping started market reforms in China, which over the quarter century lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. In the same year, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister in Britain, and initiated her radical reforms and a long period of growth. A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, and also embraced free market policies. All three of these leaders professed inspiration from the work of Milton Friedman. It is natural, then, to refer to the last quarter century as the Age of Milton Friedman.

Oh!  The agony of it all!

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Take It Away, Shay

Two funerals in a week. Work commitments. Continuing education. Coverage of a junior bridge tournament.

Who has time to blog?

Fortunately, my (younger) friend Shay is like the U.S. Postal Service: come rain or shine, she does it!

Millions of words have been written about Michelle Obama’s statement the other day about being “proud”. As usual, few summarize and analyze the situation quite as well as Shay.

I can rattle off a bunch of things that, from her adult life, Mrs. Obama can point to with pride. Three words immediately came to my mind upon hearing her comments: Civil Rights Movement. How about a country that has provided many opportunities for her – coupled with her own hard work – to graduate from Princeton University, Harvard Law School, become a lawyer and have a successful career? To create the sort of life that she wants? Not to mention the middle-class upbringing that she had on Chicago’s South Side, prior to all of these achievements. Mrs. Obama ain’t starved a day in her life. Most of the world would love to be in her shoes! How about a country with the world’s lowest black poverty rate? A country that played a role in bringing down communism? Assistance to Africa? How the country came together after 9/11? The donations that were raised by Americans after the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina? Going old school, the abolitionist movement?

With her statement, Mrs. Obama not only did a slap in the face of America’s history, but a major slap in the face to the generations of black Americans who paved the way for her to be able to do what she does today. That was a key reason why my 63-year-old uncle was so ticked off at the 44-year-old Mrs. Obama, because my uncle actually lived in Jim Crow Alabama and has seen America’s growth and the road that was paved for Mrs. Obama and us. This is a growth that Mrs. Obama, in her implied victimology rhetoric, ignores until it involves her husband. The statement also made me wonder if Mrs. Obama has ever traveled abroad, and thus would be less apt to dismiss what she has here in America.

And when you’re done appreciating her efforts – you can see a few shots of part of what has kept me from much blogging: a high school bridge tourney!

P12 P18


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One Day at a Time


One of the most depressing, pessimistic, negative and plain old unappealing books I have ever read is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Ms. Ehrenreich goes “undercover” as an entry level worker, and reports how incredibly difficult it is for people at the lower rungs to get by.

While I would never argue that people who earn hourly wages at Wal-Mart, fill orders at Wendy’s or clean rooms at Hampton Inn don’t have serious struggles, Ms. Ehrenreich’s book was a joke. Part of her undercover stint took place in my hometown, Minneapolis. Thus, it was easy to see that the author didn’t really want to be successful. She never tried to improve her positions, get superior housing, bargain for better anything at all. She was surly and rude to most with whom she met – be it co-workers, superiors or clerks where she was trying to find decent but inexpensive housing. Worst of all – she didn’t like pet birds! Can you imagine…

In any case, today I read the flip side of this embodiment of suffering: Homeless in South Carolina. Here, a young man tries an experiment of starting out with virtually nothing; $25 and the clothes on his body. Yet, despite having almost nothing whatsoever, this young man tells a story of hard work and hope, resulting in vindication, success and savings.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading “Nickel and Dimed,” in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream.” The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve.

People who get “Nickel and Dimed” should burn it as being dangerous. Instead, they should read these words:

Would your project have changed if you’d had child-care payments or been required to report to a probation officer? Wouldn’t that have made it much harder?

The question isn’t whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it’s the attitude that I take in: “I’ve got child care. I’ve got a probation officer. I’ve got all these bills. Now what am I going to do? Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life…?” One guy, who arrived [at the shelter] on a Tuesday had been hit by a car on [the previous] Friday by a drunk driver. He was in a wheelchair. He was totally out of it. He was at the shelter. And I said, “Dude, your life is completely changed.” And he said, “Yeah, you’re right, but I’m getting the heck out of here.” Then there was this other guy who could walk and everything was good in his life, but he was just kind of bumming around, begging on the street corner. To see the attitudes along the way, that is what my story is about.

You made it out of the shelter, got a job, and opened a bank account. Did you meet other people who had similar experiences?

Oh, absolutely. We don’t need “Scratch Beginnings” to know that millions of Americans are creating a life for themselves from nothing…. Just as millions of Americans are not getting by. There are both ends of the spectrum.

To meet that guy [in the wheelchair] at the shelter, [makes you wonder] ‘Can he get out and go to college and become a doctor?’ Maybe, maybe not. I think he can set goals….. You can use your talents. That’s why, from the beginning, I set very realistic goals: $2,500, a job, car. This isn’t a “rags-to-riches million-dollar” story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter …that anyone can do that.

Success is achieved by doing what you need to do to be successful – and by believing that you can achieve and do better. It is achieved by doing as well as you can, one day at a time.

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Free Speech

Americans spend billions of dollars on clothing, cosmetics, housing, automobiles, vacations, restaurant dining, and so forth.  Why, then, are so many bothered if people wish to contribute financially to political speech?

Of all our rights, one of the most precious is the ability to communicate our views about political philosophy and government.  Insuring that others know of what we think and believe sometimes takes money – and a lot of it.  Assuming that we, the people, know the source of spending in political speech, why should it be fettered?

Bradley Smith and Steve Simpson make the case that we should keep our political speech free.

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the government cannot limit what an individual spends to promote her political views, even if she tells people how to vote. It is common sense that groups of individuals should have the same rights. No one should have to sacrifice the First Amendment right to associate in order to exercise the First Amendment right to speak.

Imposing limits on groups such as ends up hurting the very people whom backers of campaign finance regulation always claim they’re trying to help — people of average means who must pool their resources to be heard — while leaving the field to the very wealthy to spend what they please.

Those are among the claims and its members made in a lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It challenges the constitutionality of requiring independent groups of citizens to register and organize as political committees. For the first time, federal courts will be asked to decide whether independent political speech by groups of individual American citizens has the full protection of the First Amendment.

Would a victory for allow groups of citizens to spend unlimited funds to influence the outcome of elections? Yes. And that is exactly why should prevail.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to urge political change, and elections present an ideal opportunity to affect policy by affecting the political futures of those who make it. That requires telling voters how they should vote.

A victory for would bring federal campaign finance laws into line with the constitutional principles of free speech and association, and bring them closer to the First Amendment that most Americans already believe we have.

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Seeking Justice

Scales Attempting to achieve absolute equity and fairness in our justice system is impossible.  I could list a dozens reasons why this is so – and I doubt that many would seriously argue with me that it is so.

Still, that we can never achieve perfection is not a reason not to reach for that goal.  When we see clear injustices and flaws in our system, we should do whatever we can to correct them.

For many years, I have believed that our drug laws are unfair in many ways, and ultimately cause far more pain and problems in our society than they correct.  Last Wednesday, former Republican congressmen J.C. Watts and Asa Hutchinson make a powerful plea to institute these changes.

Congress created a federal criminal penalty structure for the possession and distribution of crack cocaine that is 100 times more severe than the penalty structure relating to powder cocaine. African Americans comprise more than 80 percent of federal crack cocaine offenders. That statistic does not make sense given that two-thirds of all users of crack are white or Hispanic. The disparity in the arrest, prosecution and treatment has led to inordinately harsh sentences disproportionately meted out to African American defendants that are far more severe than sentences for comparable offenses by white defendants. Indeed, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that revising this one sentencing rule would do more to reduce the sentencing gap between blacks and whites “than any other single policy change.”

The truth is that for years our legal system has enforced an unfair approach to sentencing of federal crack cocaine offenders. The attorney general’s approach will perpetuate this unfairness. As Judge Reggie Walton, who represents the Federal Judicial Conference, said, “I just don’t see how it’s fair that someone sentenced on October 30th gets a certain sentence when someone sentenced on November 1 gets another.”

And it makes no sense that somebody arrested for a crack cocaine offense should receive a substantially longer prison term than somebody who is convicted of a powder cocaine offense. When disparities like this exist it offends the high principles of equal treatment under the law and fundamental fairness. The disparate racial impact of the sentencing rules undermines our nation’s larger goal of instilling respect for the criminal justice system.

These changes will not secure judicial nirvana.  They will, however, move us a little closer.

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Speaking of Cash


In my most recent post, I referred to the cool cash that at least one of the Democrat candidates is spreading around her community.

Cash abounds in the Democratic world! My liberal friends squeal about the money that they believe transfers from Republicans to big biz. It’s true – and that is part of why many of us who want small government desire such. If the money doesn’t come in, it can’t go anywhere.

If you think that Republicans are the only ones who like to throw money around, however – please quickly be disabused of this notion.

Many of the superdelegates who could well decide the Democratic presidential nominee have already been plied with campaign contributions by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a new study shows.

“While it would be unseemly for the candidates to hand out thousands of dollars to primary voters, or to the delegates pledged to represent the will of those voters, elected officials serving as superdelegates have received about $890,000 from Obama and Clinton in the form of campaign contributions over the last three years,” the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reported today.

About half the 800 superdelegates — elected officials, party leaders, and others — have committed to either Clinton or Obama, though they can change their minds until the convention.

Obama’s political action committee has doled out more than $694,000 to superdelegates since 2005, the study found, and of the 81 who had announced their support for Obama, 34 had received donations totaling $228,000.

Clinton’s political action committee has distributed about $195,000 to superdelegates, and only 13 of the 109 who had announced for her have received money, totaling about $95,000.

My thanks to Duane at Black Informant for the link.

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McCain Abstained


Are you one of those who says there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republican and Democrat candidates?

If so – well, viva la difference.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure more than $340 million worth of home-state projects in last year’s spending bills, placing her among the top 10 Senate recipients of what are commonly known as earmarks, according to a new study by a nonpartisan budget watchdog group.

Working with her New York colleagues in nearly every case, Clinton supported almost four times as much spending on earmarked projects as her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), whose $91 million total placed him in the bottom quarter of senators who seek earmarks, the study showed.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the likely GOP presidential nominee, was one of five senators to reject earmarks entirely, part of his long-standing view that such measures prompt needless spending.

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Time in a Bottle

When we are young, life seems to stretch out in front of us, seemingly forever.  Concepts like wrinkles, aches and pains, chemotherapy, hip replacements and the like are almost unfathomable.

Yet, time does not stay in a bottle.  Unless we are one of those who perishes young, that which we cannot imagine in youth eventually visits.

When I was much younger myself, my perception of death and loss was so unlike what it is today.  I would look at older friends who lost parents, at “advanced” ages like 70, 75 or even 80… and I would think, “Well; we do not live forever.  Death at an old age is expected.”  The older I become myself, however, and the more mortality for those I most love – and myself – marches closer to reality, the more my sentiments change.  I realize that there is no “good” time to lose those for whom you most care.  When a parent dies, it matters not whether they were 68, 80 or 100.  It’s a loss.

This past week, one of my close bridge friends lost his dad.  His father also happened to be a good friend of mine, too.  The “political-bridge” lunch bunch met for some 15+ years, arguing, shouting and railing about politicians and policies, bridge hands and bidding.  A lot of emotion and a lot of disagreement – but, underneath it all we were all friends.  Tough to see the group diminished so.

Bootsiesmombw300 Another dear friend of mine sits at her mom’s bedside, waiting.  Her mother is an astounding 103+ years old ….  Though my friend and I knew she would never last forever (despite it seeming at times that she would!), the letting go is still so hard.  My friend is someone full of courage, spirit and fight – and all the exceptional qualities of my friend clearly were inherited from her mom.  My love is with both of them as they face these final days together.

Howardclairewedding I am lucky.  My parents still reside in their sunny Florida home, enjoying delicatessen, theatre and friends.  Although serious health issues do now face them, our family looks forward to celebrating their 60th anniversary (!!) soon.

They no longer look like the lovebirds they did the day of their wedding.  And, to hear some of their battles, you’d wonder if they would make it to sixty years without a knock-down, drag out fight!  Everyone’s love is individual, though, and with all its flaws, theirs still works.

None of us can keep time in a bottle forever.  While you have it though – be sure to appreciate it.  When it is gone, no power on earth can return it to that flask

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The Man That Got Away


Great song, great actress, great film.


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