Monday, December 29, 2008

Why We Watch Sports

Even the most grumpy Philadelphia sports fan has to sit back and think about what 2008 has delivered to him. It was a year that gave us everything fans desire from the sports world. The Flyers had a tremendous run in the post season, playing well above their talent level. The Sixers gave us the great high of signing a big-time free agent (and then had the season go catastrophic). But then the Phillies bewildered us (Myers' bad start; Rollins' bandwagon comment) before putting together an astonishingly good postseason. Now the Eagles, after spending so much time giving their fan base heartburn (and allowing their fans to go through the catharsis of crucifying the head coach and quarterback) turn around and luck their way into a playoff opportunity before thrashing the Cowboys in cost-the-headcoach-his-job fashion. Brilliant.

Thanks, teams, for 2008.

Friday, December 26, 2008


It's taken me a while to formulate my thoughts on this. However . . .

America's president, a lame-duck suffering from apocryphally low confidence ratings, had a shoe hurled at him in another country. Ignoring for the moment the speculation that that reporter would have been summarily shot for doing such a thing in Hussein's time, I can't help but be bothered at the glee many pundits and commentators are expressing in this incident. We should not forget that however unpopular, the president of the United States is the chief representative and chief citizen of the people of the United States. That shoe was thrown at us as well as at him.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Team of Pragmatic Rivals

I find myself tiring of the media's adulation of the brain trust that President-Elect Barack Obama has been putting together. In fairness, it looks like he is reaching out to find talented, experienced, and skilled political problem-solvers to help him govern the nation. It's laudable that he's reaching across the aisle to a Republican like Gates in DOD and to a rival like Clinton at State.

Yet the media who styles this as some revisitation of Lincoln's "team of rivals" or of Kennedy's "best and brightest" are missing some critical points. Matt Pinsker, for instance, recently wrote a column debunking some of the mythology surrounding Lincoln's "team of rivals;" as he put it, Lincoln's cabinet was more of a cautionary tale of how not to assemble a cabinet. We forget that Lincoln cobbled together a cabinet out of political necessity, using appointments to unify elements of an adolescent political party in the midst of a tremendous national crisis. More importantly, twentieth-century presidents don't rely on cabinet members for advice as much as they rely on cabinet members to be predominantly one-way conduits to implement policy. Clinton and Gates might be luminary figures at the head of their posts, but it will be Mr. Obama's foreign policy, not theirs.

More bothersome, however, is the hazy focus I still detect from this proto-administration. Again, he has obviously assembled an excellent group of talented problem solvers and policy experts. But what is their guiding ideal? It seems like the closest we have to a unifying ideal is "get the country moving in the right direction." Though I acknowledge the honesty of that feeling for many, many Americans, Americans deserve a more precise articulation of vision from their leadership.

One problem with a Democratic White House right now is that the Democratic Party has not yet matured into a coherent party in this cycle. They are still defined mostly by what they do not represent, namely George Bush. The subtext I detect with all of Mr. Obama's appointments is that he is assembling smart people because Bush's people were, well, dumb.

There are a host of problems with well-meaning problem solvers guiding policy without a guiding vision that they share. It forces such groups to focus on what is right in front of them at the exclusion of what might appear down the road. A Washington Post column this summer struck a nerve with me in asserting that Americans tend to solve pressing problems and manage crises as they appear rather than implementing long-term policy strategies. Obama's White House seems like they will most likely fit this heuristic.

So, as these well-intentioned problem solvers solve problems, the debt for paying for their solutions will accumulate. Chronic problems of a capitalistic and diverse nation like the U.S. will remain incompletely solved. Inflation will rise (as it usually does with Democratic adminsitrations). Political favors will be called in, and new ones will be doled out. Four or eight years from now, the same stale issues will remain, though perhaps made a little bit better, and the price tag for stop-gaps and patch-jobs will weigh us down.

For all his faults, and there were many, the Bush administration did pursue a vision when tackling problems it saw in foreign policy, education, and other issues. That administration's lack of execution was its downfall.

I'm reminded a bit of a quotation I once heard for Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany: his approach was "All ahead full" even though he hadn't the slightest clue where he was headed. It's a bit too stern a judgment for Mr. Obama. But there is a sense of all ahead intelligently, but to where we don't know.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Word came early Saturday that a friend of my brother's, Scott, was killed during a robbery in Reading. Scott died later Saturday as a result of the gunshot wound.

Apparently it happened quickly and brutally. Two gunmen stormed into Scott's shop, ordered the four barbers and two customers to the ground. Scott reached for a gun. One of them shot him in the head at close range.

Scott had been robbed before.

The cynic might say Scott should've been more careful than to operate a business in an area of Reading notorious for its roughness. The cynics don't know Scott.

Scott was a man who genuinely liked other people and who worked hard. How else does someone who is only 31 become so successful in a trade like that of a barber? More importanly, he had built himself into one of his neighborhood's most widely-known and respected figures. He was beloved by many. A kid from a farm in northern Chester County carves out a niche for himself among the people of an area in reading far more diverse than Knauertown, where he grew up. The guy was special.

The guy was murdered.

When I talked with my brother about it Saturday, all I could say was "Not a damn thing fair about it." That's what has moved around in my mind since Saturday. It's horribly unfair.

Unfairness happens. It strikes all - the happy and good, the miserable and sour. Unfairness might hit my family someday - I am a fortunate man. My faith in God instructs me to have faith in Him to keep us safe. But my faith in God also tells me to brace for the unfairness that could someday descend upon my home, and to raise my son and daughter to have the character to persevere through unfairness when it (hopefully never) befalls them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

So, about that market (again)

When I teach about the Great Depression, I try to convey to my students as to how that tragedy was the consequence of a seismic shift in how business was conducted. It was a response to the maturation of heavy industry. Or, the logical outcome of an economy that had become truly proficient producing durable goods, and of a marketplace that couldn't maintain the demand to keep those factories running.

So, forty years from now as we analyze this economic malaise, what will the lesson be? I think, largely, we will look at this recession as the consequence of technological transparency in the marketplace. Since 2000, we as consumers have developed unprecedented means by which to see why we should be paying x price when buying a good. The way in which the internet allows us to see what price is fair and see what competitors are selling a good for has tremendous power to lower the prices of what used to be high-margin goods. Further, how often do we purchase now without the assistance of a salesperson who, by the way, cannot as easily upsell us on something we don't need. Heck, this laptop was purchased via a merchandizer's online ordering system: I ordered it, and never talked with a store employee until I was at the brick-and-mortar establishment to claim my box.

Couple this transparency with the irony that the technology that empowers consumers so greatly also costs jobs. Technology always works to devalue a worker. How many jobs have been made redundant by web-based tech. support, catalogs, and customer service?

There is also the great irony that in the middle of this decade there has been a keen increase in consumers' awareness as to how credit cards operate. Card users are becoming more wise, generally speaking. Fuse this with the evangelical zeal of consumer gurus like Bill Ramsay and the increasing tendency in my generation of two-income households to fold into one- or one-and-a-half-income households after babies arrive, you see a real slowdown in consumer demand.

There are too many good minds out there for this recession to last indefinitely. Yet our shift to a society in which face-to-face interactions between somewhat ignorant consumers and knowledgeable salespeople/employees becomes a thing of the past is a traumatic shift. And it will take some time for the rejuvenation to occur.

So, about that market

My mother-in-law's blog talked about the demise of Rizzo's, a wonderful Italian place in Glenside. I had driven by the empty business a couple of weeks ago and wondered aloud to my wife that it might have closed. We both discussed how that couldn't be true.

So, the demise of that Glenside landmark made me do something simple - patronize a pizza place in Lansdale I like too much to see it go away.

Not too long ago a small grocery store in Lansdale, Vidalia, closed because they couldn't maintain enough of a customer base. It was a shame, and it saddened me that they closed, but I realized that I had maybe spent $300 there in the 13 months. If I really wanted it to remain open, I should have shopped there more often.

As the economic times get trying, I cannot help but think of two lessons I try to impart to my students but am just now learning to articulate. Namely, whenever we spend money we are transmitting two messages: a) we're rewarding someone for the way in which they conduct business and b) we're expressing some level of confidence that we will be able to replace the money we just spent. And in a time of recession, it's so easy for us to pocket our own money and save (with good reason). For me, I'm thinking more about where I want to spend that money. Whose approach to business do I wish to reward? Whose work ethic do I wish to reward?

It leads me to think about Detroit, and how, as a car lover, I cannot fathom a world without the big three. However, twice since the 21st century began I had the chance to replace automobiles. Each time, I rewarded a Japanese automaker with my hard-earned money. Do I regret my choices? No. And I don't like the idea of Congress siphoning large amounts of money to Detroit in order to rebuild. The long-term prospects of doing so don't seem to justify the use of my tax dollars. Me and the millions of Americans who have rewarded Detroit's competitors should be wary of our government using our money to prop up businesses to which we, at some point said, no thank you.

However, perhaps the third message I need to convey to my economics students, aside from spending money as an expression of reward and confidence, is that we need to live with the decisions we make.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Feeding Frenzy

Months ago I speculated about the impossibly high expectations Senator Obama was creating for himself, and how this might be something of a trap for him. In the past couple of days I have seen an onslaught of ideas from liberal pundits as to what Obama should do from the op-ed sites I like to visit. To wit:
  • a reversal in funding protocols for abortions in and outside the U.S.
  • a dramatic change in the funding of public education, including merit pay (is that really liberal?)
  • a dramatic infusion of money to poorer families in the form of seed-money savings account for children born into poverty
  • a bailout of the Detroit auto industry (oh, wait, let's get President Bush to do that and take the bullet)
  • a reversal on most federal policies governing stem-cell research
  • an infusion of financial aid to Africa
Perhaps all this is normal speculation for adherents to a political faction that finds itself suddenly empowered. Yet political capital is a finite good, and the president-elect must be judicious in figuring out how to bring his weight to bear for a rather daunting set of economic and political issues.

Monday, November 10, 2008


So, should I be worried that last night's Eagles game meant to me as little as it did? I half-heartedly watched the first half as I inputed grades for school, turned it off for nearly a half hour to talk finances and work with my wife, and effortlessly flicked it off in the fourth quarter when I thought the Eagles' cause unlikely.

This might be the result of kids around the house, who give me so many distractions from what used to seem so important.

It might be because of the game the Eagles played against Tampa Bay two seasons ago. I found myself so aggravated over that poor effort I turned off sports talk radio, the sports page, and sports websites for a week.

But I think it's also hangover from the Phils' victory two weeks ago. In their last month and a half, the Phillies played profoundly good baseball. And baseball is a game constructed around players doing their job with precision and accuracy (unlike football which is more about one-on-one physical and mental matchups). After a while, I started to watch those baseball players as if they were more like classical musicians in that they were so trained and disciplined that mere mortals couldn't understand the extent of their proficiency. All the while that playoff baseball is nerve-wracking, there is still the mathematical simplicity of the sport.

When you're coming down from championship caliber baseball, the NFL mid-season product seems so manufacture, so ersatz, so blase.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Proud to be a Pennsylvanian

As many of you know, Pennsylvania boasts some of the most anachronistic laws regarding the sale of beer one can imagine. So, like most Pennsylvania beer connoisseurs, I buy my beer in cases of 24 at a time. My rhythm has become one of buy a case of Yuengling lager, buy a case of something else, buy a case of Yuengling lager, buy a case of something else (and so on and so forth).

I think one of the truly great pleasures in life is that first and second bottle of Yuengling after about two weeks without. I've been to Germany, and to Belgium. I've bought beers that ranged in price and quality from $15 to $50 a case. Yet I still have yet to find something that matches the all-around satisfaction a Yuengling Lager brings. What a beer!

By the way, there is an interesting alternative out there for Yuengling drinkers. Recently, a Wilkes-Barre brewery started brewing the old Reading label. It's decent. I remember encountering a clerk at a distributorship last spring who suggested I buy a case because "If you like the taste of beer, you'll like Reading." Strange thing to say, I thought. He eventually just gave me a bottle to try at home. I tasted it and immediately thought, da*n, that tastes a lot like beer.

Sorry, folks, no politics today. Too much, and then again, too little to say.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tactics and Strategy

Already I'm reading political commentary positing who should be the GOP candidate for 2012. One post by Novak at The Washington Post speculated about Newt Gingrich as a possibility. Okay. I can see advantages and drawbacks to him. However, Mr. Obama's election probably signals a generational shift, and unless he has a dramatic and tragic gaffe in his administration (which I think unlikely), it's time for the post-Baby Boomers to be leaders in Washington.

I guess Obama isn't a post-baby boomer by definitinon - he was born before 1964, after all - but he seems of a completely different generation than President Bush, former President Clinton, and Senator Clinton. In fact, his triumph (narrow as it might have been) over Clinton in the primaries signified a fatigue with Baby Boomers. Their time is done, as long as Obama exhibits competence.

So is Newt therefore damaged goods? I think he is, unless there's a catastrophic first term by Mr. Obama.

More than speculating which Republican might give the party a tactical edge in 2012, I'd rather see the party work in earnest to define its core values for 2010, 2012, and the future. The Republicans are the minority party of this nation, which is fine. But the minority needs to have a core philosophy around which they can rally the support by which they challenge unwise legislative ideas from the majority.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

An interesting way to word something . . .

So, I have one student who happens to be Canadian, and from my last graduate program, I learned that Canadian schools tend to emphasize different skills and knowledge when teaching the English language. I've seen different skills in his writing - which is quite good - namely that it is more lyric, and more "top-heavy" (strongest at the introduction and beginning of body).

Today he related a writing strategy an English teacher used to offer, and I love the terminology: When ordering body paragraphs (arguments), go Ace-Queen-King.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

In my classes I set forth a set of values. The purpose of these values is to be a guidepost when students and I disagree on a given situation. The first value:

"Intelligent people can disagree."

Boy, is the fallout of this election testing that value. Even my lovely, beautiful, intelligent wife and I, who for years have joked at how we cancel out the votes we have each cast on election day, were finding it hard to converse politely about the election's results. Actually, it's better to say that we had a hard time navigating how differently our respective families are digesting the news, and how each really can make us feel like strangers in a strange land.


Neat post at Time's Real Clear Politics Blog about the transition of power. It is an awesome thing that this country does when one president gives way to another. I remember once hearing an anecdote about how George Bush (41) once called the White House the February after he left for an update on some foreign relations matter (perhaps Israel-Palestine). Supposedly, a secretary politely said, "I'm sorry, Mr. President, but you're not the president anymore and we cannot provide that information to you" (not a direct quote).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 4

It would seem that the election is over now, and that Senator Obama was victorious.

To my friends who had a lot invested in his candidacy, enjoy his victory. He ran a very good campaign and I hope and pray he has a successful presidency.

Though I don't regret my support for Senator McCain, I can't help but think of something a Pennsylvania woman said of General Robert E. Lee as he marched with his men into the state in 1863: "I wish he were ours." In some ways, I feel that way about Obama.

God bless America.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Coming back to planet earth

The shrillness of the campaign got to me. I had to back away.

The moment that did it was McCain's announcement of Palin as his running mate. I giggled. Then I found myself outraged at the hostility against her.

Then I realized that my outrage must have been similar to that felt by Obama loyalists as the right wing, with Hannity at the head, blasted Obama for all sorts of deficits in his character.

I'm still backing my horse. But I am remembering that this election pits two men of character against one another. They're both the ones I rooted for in their respective primaries.

Regardless, my children will grow up thinking that a president of color or a vice president who is female is normal, not exceptional. That's right and proper.

In our nation's past, when individuals and circumstances have challenged the Constitution, the Constitution has always won.

More later. We'll be just fine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

West-East Relations

Having taught international relations for a couple of years to high school students I know the trendy move in academia is to focus on north-south relations. Makes sense, given the great rift in wealth between the two hemispheres, the mixture of anger and admiration one finds southerners harbor for the north, the ambivilence with which the north sees the south. But apparently many in the east haven't forgotten of the civilization conflict that they see as central - east vs. west.

China endeavors to impress the west with what it represents from the east in Beijing. As one colleague put it, what we're seeing in Beijing is a sham, and we don't know (we don't want to know) the cost in lives and fortunes and freedoms that show has cost. Meanwhile, Russia set forth to "punish" (V. Putin's words, not mine) Georgia for, among other sins, being too cozy with the West.

Of course there are exceptions, but it would seem an autocratic, totalitarian east is resisting whatever the democratic west wants to do. I feel truly fortunate I'm on the side of the divide that I am - where individuality is valued, where liberty is safeguarded, where real, meaningful input to the political system is allowed. I'm glad I live on the side of the divide where my son and daughter will go to schoolhouses with kids of various races and religions, with kids whose parents braved a great deal to come to this land, with kids who lack the mental or physical gifts so many of us take for granted. I'm glad they'll have teachers like me who question and probe at the warts and wrinkles from our past. I'm glad they can work to choose the careers they want, like my wife who entered college with aspirations for medicine, graduated with a degree in Spanish, and now works in information technology.

I'm glad a government show won't deem either of them not cute enough to be put on the national stage, but good enough of a singer to make someone else look special. I'm glad they won't conspire to fradulently change the age of my daughter so the nation can win athletic glory.

But when the east looks at us, what must they see. They look for strength or weakness and I think of all the evidence of weakness they see. European nations who believe so strongly in the cause in Afghanistan that they restrict their troops' missions within that country. An aspiring American president who travels to Europe like a rock star and then asks, pretty please, for more help policing the world. They see a western world that hasn't figured out yet how to stand up to terrorism or that can meaningfully deal with nuclear threat in Iran or tyranny in Zimbabwe.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Show

Senator Obama's trip abroad is coming to concern me more and more. I can't say that I disagree with the content of his message - that Europe and the U.S. should work more closely together, that Iran should accept the current EU proposals for stopping its nuclear program, that Europe needs to support even more the war in Afghanistan. Yet I'm concerned about what is missing.

Missing is a sense of humility. This is an individual asserting himself as president. Granted, Senator McCain did his own factfinding trip. Yet his was more subtle and seemed focused more on dialoguing with other leaders than giving speeches to throngs. Obama is conducting himself as president-in-waiting, and seems to be speaking for the American people.

Also missing is a sense of reservedness. Obama is giving speeches filled with sentiments that are laudable. But he is betraying division at home in the U.S. (which any intelligent observer must know of, but he is amplifying that division for all to see). Also, he is telegraphing too much of the approach he would take. Diplomacy requires a sense of the poker player's guile and sublty. Obama is telling too much of what he will do with his hand when he gets it in January 2009.

There's a great danger that Obama is running in that he elevates expectations for what he will do so much, it will be impossible for him to fulfill them. Europe is getting a package of vague multilateral internationalist principles, but Obama will have to bow to domestic political pressure. That domestic pressure on him will be keen . . . the Democratic Party remains a coalition of political factions and those promises are all seeking Obama's political capital.

But maybe that is just it. Perhaps Obama and the Democrats are signalling a withdrawl from the world stage while they tend to domestic matters.

One thing that I think is getting lost in the media attention on Obama's trip is how other audiences are viewing his tour. Europe's reaction is duly recorded, as is Obama's electorate. But what image of America is Obama portraying to the Middle East? To Africa? To Eastern Asia? To Southern Asia? No doubt, he is seen somewhat as a well-intentioned idealist. But is he positing himself as someone strong and determined?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Evaluating a Presidency

My inclination as a historian is to hesitate on calling a current political figure a "failure" or "success." Often I tell my students that one should wait 25 years before being able to really begin evaluating a president. If I'm right on this, then it really is too early to meaningfully evaluate even Ronald Reagan's presidency. Sure, we can give Reagan credit for redifining the values of the Republican party and we can see his political savvy. But was his presidency a success or failure? Hard to say.

In the current media enviornment, it's almost impossible to find an article, analysis, or op-ed that refers to the presidency of George Bush as anything but a failure. Though I suggest historians will look back on his term as nothing better than mediocre, I think there's ample reason to believe his presidency will be regarded more positiviely than we might think.

On foreign policy matters, he has brought down one of the "Axis of Evil," helped another make major concessions on its nuclear program, and left the remaining member isolated in the international community. Let's not forget that he shephered the return of Libya, pariah of the 1980s, from the wilderness of international disdain. America's geopolitical position has been furthered along the Arc of Instability so that, militarily at least, Iran and Pakistan have fewer options in the upcoming years.

In terms of domestic matters, most years of the presidency saw strong economic growth, Americans' standard of living (as measured by creature comforts) increased, and a major shift in the federal government's role in education. Certainly the president's position viz a viz NCLB is hotly debated by many in the educational community, yet it's unlikely the Democrats will substantially do away with the accountability movement in education in the foreseeable future.

Of course his presidency has his warts.

But it is interesting to compare the likely legacy of Bush with his immediate predecessor. Both stumbled in fulfilling key domestic campaign promises: Clinton with health care and Bush with Social Security. Yet Bush left more of an impact on a secondary domestic front than did Clinton: Bush with education, Clinton with reforms for welfare and "three-strikes-and-your-out" criminal reform. Both alienated key elements of their party with pursuit of larger economic programs: Democrats today talk of reworking the NAFTA that Clinton helped put in place, Republicans balked at Bush's plans for reforming immigration law in the United States.

Both showed appalling lack of judgement in unexpected developments midway through their presidencies: Bush's seeming indifference to Katrina victims, Clintons' indiscretions with Monica Lewinski.

Both angered and embittered citizens who voted against them in two elections.

Domestically, it's fair to say Bush has less to show than does Clinton. However, is it not fair to say that Americans are safer now than they were at the beginning of the Bush presidency?

Legacies take decades to flesh out. But historians will likely view the presidencies of Clinton and Bush to be more similiarly successful than we might think.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day

I put the Maple Leaf out in front of the house today to celebrate our northern neighbors' closest equivilent to Independence Day. I think our neighbor on the other side of the world's longest demilitarized border deserves a neighborly celebration.

When covering the American Revolutionary era with my students, I like to pose the question why the U.S. didn't go the way of Canada in terms of its independence from Great Britain. An equally good question: Why didn't Canada go the way of us in declaring their sovereignty so provocatively from the mother country?

I often like to think about he symmetries in U.S. and Canadian history. We share many of the same foibles (moments of great insensitivity to immigrant groups, internal conflicts between suppressed minorities and the majority, frustrated relations between natives) and many of the same points of greatness (remarkably multicultural societies, a willingness to fight for other peoples, nuanced federal systems of government, a proud tradition of civil liberties).

History often doesn't give us the chance to experiment. But sometimes you can see two societies with much in common evolve in different ways. Canada and the U.S. provide an interesting lens through which we can see similar (but not identical) lands, political cultures, and populations evolve into distinct societies.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Return to Ordinary Politics

Charles Krauthammer's column in the Washington Post struck a vein about the 2008 election I had been noticing. Namely that Barack Obama has made a transition toward becoming an ordinary politician. Surely, John McCain isn't doing a great deal to put forward novel policy ideas, but he is the less fresh of the two, despite his reputation as a maverick.

Obama, though promising "change," has backed away from his more provacative campaign-trail promises and now seems to offer a palate of generic larger-government Democratic ideas. Perhaps this comes from trying to appeal to Hillary Clinton's constituents. Regardless, this candidate that seems to have a chance to redefine Democratic ideals is seeming to hesitate at the opportunity.

Both parties have so far been close-lipped about their proposals for change. The only whiff of change I get from Republican circles comes via a Kevin Ferris column in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote of a five-term Republican Congressman from Wisconsin who was proposing a whole host of different solutions for economic issues: from a dual-method approach toward income tax to encouragement of private market reform to medical care. Some of his ideas were novel, some unrealistic. But I applaud the effort.

Perhaps the new generation that will come to dominate Washington between now and 2012 can start to redefine how the government collects and uses money. Two unrelated topics come to mind.

The first of these is highway and transporation improvment. State governments are finding themselves pressed to improve their infrastructure. A recent Economist article talked of how America underfunds its infrastructure (relative to other developed and BRICS nations). Should Congress reevalute the amount of and uses for the federal gasoline excise tax? Is it time to consider an excise tax on the purchase of automobiles (after all, the majority of those sold are foreign anyway)? Before the states create their own confusing quilt of toll roads, the federal government might need to give it some form. One idea: toll interstate highways that end in "0" and "5". These are the principal throughroutes anyway. The money from those tolls could then go toward state programs that improve highway structures.

Secondly, it might be time to reevaluate some existing entitlement programs. The Democrats are hitting a strident populist tune about medical coverage for all Americans. I remain highly suspicious of the Democrats' proposals and intentions. This is a party that is often guilty of ignoring the long-term consequences of goals that seem right and good in the short term. As I hear these populist appeals for universal health care, I can't help but wonder why Medicare isn't doing the trick. A quick trip to doesn't reveal what the goals of that program are. But Medicare receives $2.30 for every $100 I earn (1.15% from my check and from my employer each). My wife and I together contribute more than $3,000 each year to the program. To what end is that money going? Before we embark on an expensive entitlement program, don't we owe it to ourself to see why the forty-some-year-old institution that takes from every Americans' income isn't helping all Americans have access to medical care.

If the Democrats do indeed win in 2012 (they'll at least have Congress), I hope they think before acting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's been the sort of political season where virtually every prediction I made proved wrong. It took some time for me to figure out that John McCain would indeed win the GOP nomination. Then, for the longest time I held firm to my prediction that Hillary Clinton would figure out some way to get the Democratic nomination. I constantly made predictions to my high school studnets about when someone or another would have to drop out of the race, predictions that rarely materialized. Then, when the slate of McCain vs. Obama was set, I was fairly confident that McCain would easily win such a prediction.

Today it came over me, though, that I'm probably wrong on that one, too. I once heard political analyst Terry Madonna speak of the cyclical rhythm to American politics whereby Republicans and Democrats trade forty-year periods of hegemony in federal politics. I've thought 2012 would be the year in which party that Reagan created gave way to a new Democratic order. My reasoning? The Democrats hadn't yet articulated a vision of what they were for, just what they were against (that being President Bush). Until they could put forth an image of what they were seting forth to do in office, they weren't ready for their turn at the helm.

It's dawned on me in the past couple of days, however, that the Republicans aren't really putting forth any consistent image of what they hope to do in office.

So this space in blogosphere begins with a dispirited moderate Republican who is convinced that he's about to begin a period of forty years in something of a political wilderness, the supporter of a party that will be mostly in the minority. This will consistute the bulk of my adulthood. Does one respond to this with cynicism? With introspection? With dispair?

An article in the most recent The Economist talked of how Americans increasingly surround themselves with people of similiar political leanings, and of how American increasingly avoid political conversations with people with whom they know they'll disagree. Americans tune into news broadcasts from networks they expect to echo their own ideology. Perhaps responding to a new reality of being in the minority means prompting the sort of dialogue that gets Americans to question more often the policies they hope their leaders will implement.