Monday, September 29, 2008

The Legend of Rich Rodriquez Begins

Two losses in three games; eight turnovers against Notre Dame, and the first half against Wisconsin was deja vu all over again. Five turnovers including two interceptions and a fumble by the “deer in the headlights” quarterback. Pathetic special teams play; non-existent blocking, failed offensive schemes.

The defense was on the field for over twenty minutes in the first half and held the Badgers to only a 19-0 lead. Just 28 yards rushing and -7 passing for Michigan. So much for Coach Rodriquez’s fabled spread offence. The mighty, number 9 ranked Badgers, were skunking the impotent Wolverines in a warm up game to the Big Ten Season.

Pathetic, inept, gross incompetence, nonfeasance, malfeasance, embarrassing. Time for a class action suit against the Athletic Department. The AD, President, and Regents are nervous. West Virginia partisans are cheering.

The fans, 100,000 in unison, booed the team as it left the field at halftime. The boos, a cacophony of Bronx Cheers, were audible in Madison and Columbus and Lansing and through ESPN everywhere. Some fans, the truly disgusted, left at halftime and never returned. Who could blame them? Thank God I didn’t TiVo the game.

O yee of little faith.

The third quarter begins with a slight sign of life. Michigan receives the opening kickoff without fumbling. Coach surprisingly keeps the QB in. The offense even manages a first down on a pass. Then comes the inevitable punt. But the copse has a pulse, feeble as it may be.

The score at the end of the third quarter is 19-7. The fans stay; no mass exodus.

And now the fourth quarter. The malaise clears; the sun shines; The Sword of Damocles lifts from the stadium. The force is with Michigan as Wisconsin commits the stupid penalties, fumbles, interceptions, and dropped passes. They’re playing like the last seven quarters of Michigan football. Maybe it’s contagious.

Michigan scores a second touchdown on a 34 yard run by the backup tailback, and the Wolverine Nation senses a comeback. Is it possible? The players feel it. The boos change to cheers.

Suddenly an interception for a touchdown and Michigan is up 21-19.

Yes, Michigan is winning! We believe. 100,000 are One! The 5,000 Wisconsin fans seek beer. 27 straight points for the mighty Wolverines.

The defense bends, but does not break – echoes of Bo. The mighty Wolverines hold on to win 29-27 with the once beleaguered QB gaining 58 yards on a run with both hands cradling the football.

The win is the greatest comeback in the history of Michigan Stadium. What a way to commemorate the 500th game in the Big House.

No more booing. Strangers high five, hug and kiss each other in this magical moment of spontaneous euphoria. Cell phones are inoperable in the pandemonium, but text messaging goes through. Were you there? My seat was in Row 4 of the Michigan endzone behind the goalposts in the Fourth Quarter – normally an awful seat, but not this game. I was there. Better than TiVo.

Rich has his Bo win. The Wolverine Nation accepts him as a Victor. He still has to beat Michigan State and Ohio State, but savor the moment.

Rich is our Man. We believe. We know. The memories of Appalachian State are erased. The AD, President and Regents are smiling again, and West Virginia is silenced.

Hail to the Victors Valiant!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Computers Caused Wall Street's Collapse

Blame computers for the collapse of Wall Street. Yes computers! Well, more precisely, software programs in the hands of brilliant, young MBA’s, who, totally divorced from reality, and lacking experience and commonsense, have subjected the world’s economy to a tsunami of Black Thursday dimensions.

As with any great disaster, multiple causes exist, but only the computer programs made this disaster possible.

Let me explain. Jim Walsh, District Counsel of the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers, hired me in 1976 as a 100 day wonder to research an Indian Law issue involving the claims of the Colvilles and Spokanes to Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams. No one, especially President Roosevelt, asked them if they minded that the dams would be built on their reservations, flood out their lands, and destroy their fishery resources, but that’s a different story.

The project involved working with the Corps engineers who designed, built, and maintained dams. They educated me on infrastructure issues and the design process.

Once upon a time, not many decades ago, engineers did their computations with a slide rule. Whether it be an airplane, bridge, dam, ship, power plant, or skyscraper, the wizened engineers knew the stress points and factored in a margin of error. Even with its algorithms, the slide rule did not provide absolute certainty. The result was that engineers over engineered; they knowingly and intentionally over designed to ensure structural stability.

Technology changed and the seasoned engineers retired. The newly minted engineers are fresh out of engineering school, educated with the latest technology, and highly proficient in computer programs. Many are clueless as to what a slide rule is.

They rely upon the precise answers spit out by the computer, which provides an illusion of safety. The keystroke replaced the personal touch.

These engineers did not program the software, much less understand its assumptions or limitations. Thus, they design up to the razor thin margins of error provided by the computer.

Over engineering is often replaced, albeit unknowingly, with under engineering.

The same pattern exists on Wall Street. From our nation’s most prestigious universities and business schools come a horde of highly educated, brilliant manipulators of data, in reality undereducated numbers crunchers. Like all the youth of the world, they march fearlessly into battle ignorant of risk, just like the Charge of the Light Brigade.

John Kenneth Galbraith’s classic The Great Crash of 1929 should be required reading for everyone working on Wall Street. A dash of history is a better educator than computer programs. As Santayana said, “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” A little knowledge of Ayn Rand is also in order: “Check your premises!”

The programs consistently underestimate risk – especially human risk. Programmers are optimists. These programs are not based on reality, especially the foibles of humans. Fraud and bubbles are historical constants. Zero percent down, adjustable rate, interest only mortgages with balloon payments, were not factored into the high returns, minimal risks displayed on the computer screens of the wunderkinds.

They did not understand that mortgage brokers were paid for generating mortgages and that banks were also not concerned with the risks of these mortgages because they were going to sell them to others. Traditional lending standards went out the window. Both the brokers and bankers passed on the risks to the all-too trusting wiz kids.

Two decades ago a brilliant professor at Berkeley devised a “risk minimization investment scheme” called “portfolio insurance.” It looked great on paper, but failed on Black Monday in 1987 when put to the test. Similarly, “stop losses” to minimize risks don’t work in a major decline.

Not just sub-prime, or alt A mortgages were at risk, but so too were regular mortgages, underwritten in the housing bubble of the New Millennium. The underlying premise behind all these complex financial instruments was ever rising housing prices – truly an example of the greater fool theory of investing. The original mortgages were sliced and diced into complex slivers called derivatives. They were just as seductive as portfolio insurance two decades earlier.

Friday, September 26, 2008

On Wisconsin

On Wisconsin! On to Ann Arbor where you haven’t won since 1994! It’s like the Democrats this election cycle; if you can’t do it this year, call it quits.

Forget Bo and Woody. Wisconsin epitomizes Big Ten Smash Mouth Football. Pound the defensive line with your elephant size offensive linemen. Spring the running back, who may win a Heisman, but fail in the pros.

The quarterback’s role is to master the various forms of handoffs: straight ahead, right and left with an occasional quarterback keeper for a first down. The forward pass is for the opponents trying to play catch up. Michigan’s porous secondary may not be severely tested.

On defense the Badgers will stack the line. Since Michigan has yet another starting offensive line because of injuries, the Wisconsin should dominate the lineplay. A long afternoon is the sunny forecast for Ann Arbor.

And yet, this is the same Wisconsin team that barely, and I emphasize “barely,” outlasted Fresno State two weeks ago.

Wisconsin has won two of the past three games. Three years ago the Badgers pulled out a victory in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines yet again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by being out of condition. That will not be the case this year.

Last year the banged up Wolverines failed early against the Badgers. But for the lack of continuity on the offensive line, tomorrow would be an easy call for a Wolverine victory.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Biden Defines Patriotism As Paying Higher Taxes

Thank God for Joe Biden. He’s the loose cannon who doesn’t mince words. No careful phraseology like Senator Obama. Just plain Joe doesn’t do nuance. Obama talks in terms of “fairness,” but not Joe.

Biden just gets wound up and speaks from the heart. Never a Freudian slip from Joe! The neurons go straight from his brain to his mouth without filters.

The truth Joe, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And the truth is “We want to take money” and give it to the middle class. He will take from the rich, defined as those earning over $250,000 a year. “It’s time to be patriotic” for the poor saps who will be taxed to excess. Many of our “patriots” will be the small business entrepreneurs who build the American economy by the sweat of their brow.

Yes, paying taxes is a matter of patriotism. Our patriotic duty is to pay ever higher taxes: federal, state, and local, sales taxes, property taxes, FICA taxes, income taxes, and a host of nuisance nickel and dime taxes. That’s our patriotic duty.

Joe Biden, the Senator who reported almost $2.5 million in income from 1998-2007, but only $3,645 in charitable contributions. Why should the Senator give, when he can tax us in the name of patriotism?

Every time we question the apostles of appeasement, the advocates of surrender, the foes of armament, the opponents of missile defense, the haters of the military, the obnoxious flag burners, we are told that we should not question their patriotism.

We are told that whether or not Senator Obama wears an American flag pin is not a question of patriotism. But he never tells us precisely what patriotism means. Now we know; his sidekick, Senator Biden has defined it for us: to be patriotic is to be taxed.

We were told at the Democratic National Committee that’s it’s patriotic to object, to protest. That’s to be an American.

But words and actions have consequences. We too can dissent from their judgment, and vote against those who apparently don’t share our beliefs. That too goes to the essence of being an American.

Overlooked in the duty to be patriotic by paying taxes is his statement that “we want to take money.” To take in that sense has the connotation of “to steal,” but now true patriots are to be stolen from. When lowly criminals take, they go to jail, but now when Senator Robin Hood takes, we should stand by and salute.

Our founding fathers, the Sons of Liberty, viewed it their patriotic duty to oppose the taxes imposed by England. Remember the glorious Boston Tea Party, ironically on The Patriot Trail in the heart of Taxachusetts!

Also ironically, many of the new patriots, those earning over $250,000, will be the professionals in the Blue States – those that will vote for Obama-Biden in November.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

R.I.P. Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch: The Real Wall Street Tombstone

Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch (Piece Fenner & Beane) now join all the other investment banks which have lost their independence either through dissolution or acquisition.

A.G. Becker
A.G. Edwards & Co.
Alex Brown & Co.
August Belmont & Co.
Bear Stearns
Blyth & Co.
Bond & Goodwin.
Clark & Dodge
Dean Witter
Dillon Read
Donaldson Lufkin & Jeanette
Drexel Burnham Lambert
Eastman Dillon Union Securities
E. I. DuPont & Co.
First Boston
Glore Forman
Goodbody & Co.
Halsey Stuart
Hambrecht & Quist
Harriman Ripley
Hayden Stone
Hemphill Noyes
Henry Clews & Co.
Herzog, Heine & Geduld
Hornblower Weeks
Ira Haupt & Co.
Jay Cooke & Co.
Jeffries & Co.
Kuhn Loeb
Lee Higginson
Loeb Rhodes
McDonnell & Co.
Montgomery Securities
Neuberger Berman
Nuveen & Co.
Oppenheimer & Co.
Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis
Robertson Stephens
Robinson Humphreys
J & W Seligman
Salomon Brothers
Smith Barney
Stone & Webster
White Weld
William D. Ritter & Co.
J. R. Williston & Beane

The Survivors (for now)

Brown Brothers Harriman
Goldman Sachs
Lazard Freres
Morgan Stanley
Stevens, Inc.
Charles Schwarb & Co.

Bank of America
J.P. Morgan Chase


Swiss banks

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who will gaffe next?

We are witnessing critical campaign days lost for Senator Obama as we wrestle with the inner meaning of lipstick on a pig. Was it directed at Senator McCain, as seems indicated by its context, or was it a subliminal attack on Governor Palin? Was it a Freudian slip or too brilliant by half?

A few weeks ago Senator McCain could not answer how many homes he had, and said his staff would have to get back to reporters on that. Wrong answer!

None of these are really relevant in this epochal campaign, perhaps as significant to the future of the Republic as Abraham Lincoln’s 1964 reelection. The nation is leading the international war against terror. The battle fronts are not just in Afghanistan and Iraq for no fixed battle lines exist in the global struggle against radical Islam. America is continually at risk of weapons of mass destruction. How we confront our mortal enemies is critical to the survival of the country. And we’re talking about “Lipstick on a pig.”

In addition, the laws of supply and demand must be confronted with our energy shortages. That certainly outweighs how many homes McCain may or may not technically own.

The country is confronting major economic disruptions. Whether or not the economy is technically in a recession, Detroit, banking, housing, credit markets, retail and restaurants clearly are. Aviation is near implosion.

But we are engaged in meaningless battles entailing much ado about nothing.

Gaffs can be Freudian slips, sleep, alcohol or drug induced misstatements or the truth, brutally honest statements, open mikes, double statements, off the record statements, or sometimes outright lies.

So why are we concentrating are gaffes? Where is the debate on the issues?

First, gaffes can control an election. This election may be so tight as to come done to a last minuted gaffe.

Second, we essentially know nothing about two of the four candidates: Senator Obama and Governor Palin. Thus, every piece of information, even if seemingly trivial, is welcome.

Third, this era of mass communications allows us to track every word, every second of election campaigns.

Fourth, negative campaigns and “gotcha” work.

Fifth, they can fill in voids and reinforce preexisting impressions.

Two classic examples of gaffes deciding elections were in 1976 and 1984.

The second Carter-Ford Debate in 1976 witnessed a colossal misstatement by President Ford: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration.” Time Magazine appropriately headlined “The Blooper Heard Around the Globe.”

President Ford was almost able to pull out a victory, but he could never overcome the perception that “he was out of it.”

President Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Carter’s ineptitude was so great that referring at the Democratic National Convention to Senator Hubert Horatio Humphrey as Senator Hubert Horatio Hornblower did not affect the November election.

The second example was in 1984. Senator Gary Hart sought the Democratic nomination against Vice President Mondale. Mondale was in the lead and probably headed to victory, but his first ballot victory was cemented late in the primary campaign at a Hart rally in Bel Air, California, where the Senator and his wife, Lee, were present.

Hart delivered a bad news and good news joke. The bad news was that he would be campaigning apart from Lee, but “the good news is that she campaigns in California while I campaign in New Jersey.” She interjected “I got to hold a Koala bear” and then the Senator added “I won’t tell you what I got to hold: samples from a toxic waste dump.” The joke was on Senator Hart as he lost New Jersey by 15 points.

Senator Kerry’s brilliant statement: “I voted for it before I voted against it” became an instant classic. It didn’t cost him the election, but it didn’t help.

Michelle Obama’s statement that “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country” did not come out the way she intended, but it added to the perception that the Obama’s are not representative of traditional American values.

A gaffe can also be one of omission. For example, Senator Obama substituted for Senator Kennedy at the Wesleyan University Commencement. With his usual eloquence, he praised all forms of public service for the graduates. However, he failed to mention the most personal of all service commitments: the military

Sometimes you don’t want to be too blunt and truthful. When pushed on why she was staying in the race when it became clear Senator Obama would win the nomination, Senator Clinton stated: “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Senator Obama’s campaign has been responsible for two classic two-timing events this year. The first occurred during the Ohio primary when he bitterly attacked NAFTA and stated he would opt out when elected. His senior economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, then privately told the Canadian government not to worry; it was “just campaign rhetoric.”

The second was more critical. He has campaigned heavily for Blue Collar voters, but then was caught on tape April 6 at a closed fundraiser in San Francisco stating: “People don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody is going to help them … They don’t believe they can count on Washington. You go into their small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small town voters in the Midwest, the jobs have gone now for 25 years … And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter; they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them … as a way to explain their frustrations.”

That statement constituted a double whammy. First, he slammed a key constituency of the Democratic Party while playing to the prejudices of the San Franciscans, and reinforced the Obama’s image as elitists. He displayed a traditional bicoastal contempt for Flyover America, better known as the heartland of America. Senator Obama is from Chicago and not the rural heart of Illinois. The three years I lived and taught in Ada, Ohio (population 3200) taught me solid Midwestern values.

When Rev. Rick Warren asked Senator McCain about how do you define rich? McCain’s initial answer was “I think rich should be defined by a home, good job, and education,” but then he flippantly continued: “How about $5 Million?”

Senator Obama had his own faux pas at the same function at Saddleback Church. When asked when life begins, he responded “That’s above my pay grade.”

Some gaffs may be caused by weariness in hundreds of appearances during an interminable campaign, but we do not expect a graduate of two Ivy League universities to state that he had campaigned in 57 states and had one to go.

Even better was on Memorial Day when he orated to the audience: “As we honor our unbroken line of fallen heroes, and I see many of them in the audience today.” Obama must have thought he was still campaigning in Chicago where the dead are known to make their votes count by voting early and often.

Another Obama instant classic was on July 8 in Powder Springs, Georgia. He agreed that immigrants should learn English, but added “Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English – they’ll learn English – You need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”

He’s right about that, but then joked about Americans who “go over to Europe, and all we can say is ‘merci beaucoup,’” which is French and not Spanish.

Senator Kerry had a wonderful moment in 2004. He had been campaigning in Ohio and proclaimed “Nothing’s better than Buckeye football.” The next evening in Taylor, Michigan he stated “I just go for Buckeye football; that’s where I’m coming from.”

And then there are the lies which get repeated so often they become part of the candidate’s bio. However, Senator Clinton did not dodge sniper fire in Bosnia and she was not named for Sir Edmund Hillary. Similarly, Senator Obama did not have an uncle who liberated Auschwitz and his parents did not unite because of the bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, which occurred 4 years after he was born. President Reagan also did not participate in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

All three have compelling personal stories and no to inflate themselves.

We learnt a few years later from the Wall Street Journal that Vice President George H. W. Bush’s resonating Convention promise of “No new taxes” was simply a campaign promise he never intended to keep.

Gaffs can also include photo ops. The pictures of Governor Dukakis in a tank in 1988 and Senator Kerry duck hunting in Ohio in 2004 are priceless Kodak moments.

Sometimes we never get to see Freudian slips. Senator Dole campaigned for the GOP nomination in 1988. He was trying to discount his reputation for supporting tax increases, so he twice tried to tape “The Pledge” in the New Hampshire Primary. New Hampshire voters, especially Republicans, abhor tax increases so “The Pledge” is to not raise taxes. However, the Senator just could not say “I will not raise your taxes.” No matter how hard he tried, it came out “I will raise your taxes.” The tape never ran.

So who will make the next great gaff this election cycle? My guess is Senator Biden, but if it’s either Senator McCain or Governor Palin, the media will not let us hear the end of it. The media crucified Vice President Quayle for spelling potato with an “e.” Potatoe is an uncommon, but acceptable spelling.

Senator Biden had two great comments during his unsuccessful primary campaign earlier this year. First, he referred to Senator Obama as “The first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy.” His other Mrs. Malaprop moment came when he stated “You cannot go to a 7 Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donut unless you have a slight Indian accent. It’s a point. I’m not joking.”

Earlier insensitive moments cost Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butts his position in 1976, James Watt the Secretary of Interior in 1983, and Trent Lott the Senate majority leadership.

My money's on Biden.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Touchdown Jesus is Smiling Again

Touchdown Jesus is Smiling Again. The Fighting Irish are fighting back. Last year’s 3-9 is an anomaly and is excised from the Notre Dame litany.

Anyone watching last Saturday’s Notre Dame-San Diego State game saw an enormous upset in the works. The Irish were trailing 13-7 when the Aztec running back was crossing the goal line with the clinching touchdown. Yet, one nanosecond, one millimeter short of the goal line, the ball trickled out of the runner’s hand, resulting in a touchback for Notre Dame. Notre Dame then scored two quick touchdowns to win. The Aztec descendants of Montezuma were impotent against Touchdown Jesus’ smile. The Notre Dame Fight Song was playing again.

I remember a Playboy cartoon from the 1960’s. It roughly showed a Fourth and 40 for Notre Dame from their 10 yard line with 2 seconds left in the game and Notre Dame down by 5. The caption read “Notre Dame will need a miracle to win this one.” A hand was diagramming a play in the sky.

That’s Touchdown Jesus.

Beat Michigan, which is not now but will yet become Michigan, and Notre Dame is on its way to a bowl. Charlie Weis becomes the second coming of Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, and Ara Parseghian.

Lose to Michigan and Charlie Weis retires on his ten year contract.

Michigan will be winning 19-17 with 2 seconds left in the game, but Notre Dame will kick a 52 yard field goal, barely crossing the goal posts to win.

Touchdown Jesus wins again.

Forget 4 leaf clovers and shamrocks. Don’t listen to the harps. Don’t be diverted by the leprechaun. The shillelagh is a cover. The fabled “Luck of the Irish” is a way to explain Touchdown Jesus to the heathen.

Am I the only person who thinks Notre Dame Quarterback Jimmy Clausen with his helmet off looks like a smirky Draco Malfoy?

Notre Dame is favored under the Golden Dome, but the forecast is for rain, rain, and rain – a great equalizer. There will be no 52 yard field goals.

Go Blue!


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Impressions of the Republican National Convention

The Grand Old Party may be on its death bed. America’s demographics are changing rapidly. Caucasians are no longer a majority in states like California while the Southwest is becoming Hispanic (Think Reconquista). Yet this convention was a sea of white faces. 51% had annual incomes over $500,000. This is not the wave of the future.

President Bush and Senator McCain understand this reality, but the Senator dared not raise the “I” word, immigration, at the Convention. President Bush, or was it Karl Rove, ensured non-whites had prominent roles at the 2004 Convention, and seats were distributed liberally to minority Republicans. Senator Mel Martinez, former Lt. Governor Michael Steele, Michael Williams, and Rosario Marin were provided minor speaking opportunities in non-prime time this year.

Only 36 delegates, out of 2380, were African Americans compared to 24.5% of the DNC delegates, and 6.8% at the 2004 Republican Convention. Understandably, in light of Senator Obama’s nomination, the DNC would have a disproportionate number of African American delegates this year, but that doesn’t explain the absence of Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians in Minnesota. Youth were also missing in action.

If Senator Obama wins, it will be because of record turnouts by African Americans, Hispanics, and the young. The GOP is seemingly forfeiting these votes this year.

Hurricane Gustav, and its disruptions of the GOP Convention, indicate either God/Allah wants Barack Hussein Obama to be President, or did not want President Bush to attend the Convention. Gustav was “An Act of God” that provided Bush a timely excuse to miss the festivities.

Gustav also proves that the 4 day, 4 night, seemingly interminable conventions can be reduced to three nights. Monday night was a rainout, and Tuesday was non-confrontational. Two nights of red meat is sufficient to rouse the base of either Party.

The Bush Dynasty in the Republican Party is probably over and we will not see 36 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton-Bush Presidencies in our democracy. Thank God.

President Bush is now “the man whose name shall not be mentioned.”

Win or lose this year, Governor Palin’s speech established her as the future of the GOP, just as Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “It’s Time To Choose” televised speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater, anointed Reagan as the Republican leader, leading first to the California Governorship and then to the Presidency. Hard to believe in this election, but the Republicans actually have a chance of retaining the White House because of Governor Palin.

The Republicans, supposedly a well functioning machine, displayed basic inexcusable mistakes. First, Mayor Giuliani and Governor Palin spoke through teleprompter problems.

Second, the big screen was supposed to show pictures of Walter Reed Hospital during Senator McCain’s presentation. Someone must have Googled “Walter Reed” and found a picture of Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood. To not test run the video is inexcusable while the presentation was incongruous.

The conclusion, of showing prerecorded fireworks on the big screen, fails in comparison to the DNC spectacle.

Indeed, the Democrats had a much better choreographed and organized convention than the Republicans.

President Bush literally phoned in his flat speech. Bush is not a naturally gifted orator, but he is capable of better.

Where was this Fred Thompson during the primaries? He might have been the nominee if he had campaigned for the Presidency with that intensity.

Senator Joe Lieberman is a modern Profile in Courage, a rarity in the 21st Century.

Mayor Giuliani provided red meat to the delegates, but his timing was off. He had a number of one-liners, but his comment to Senator Biden to get Senator Obama’s nomination in writing because of all of Obama’s flip-flops, would have been more timely 16 years ago with Governor Clinton’s well known proclivity to play fast and loose with the facts.

Senator McCain is not a speechifier, and his speech will not stand as a landmark. It does not, could not, compete with either Senator Obama or Governor Palin for soaring rhetoric, but it was from the heart. McCain did something dangerous for a politician. He opened his soul to Americans. We know McCain the man; we cannot say the same about Obama.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Michigan Needs An O Ring

Forget quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and defensive backs. Don’t worry about the intricacies of the single wing, double wing, T, I. Power I, Wishbone, student body left and student body right, triple option, ProSet, spread, or Statute of Liberty. Coaching may be irrelevant. Running or throwing quarterbacks are hapless without blockers. If you don’t have an offensive line, it doesn’t matter if you are playing Ohio State or Ohio Northern. If blocking is non-existent, then the offense will be anemic.

Michigan lacks an offensive line, which is not a critique of the individual players. It is unfortunately what it is.

Bo, an ex-lineman, was such a stickler for the O Line that he used a ruler to measure the linemen’s stances. Woe be to the linemen who deviated by a fraction of an inch.

Last Saturday’s game was an offensive disaster, especially in the first quarter. No matter how tricky or slick the handoff, a Utah defensive lineman was standing there. No time to pass either. The defensive game plan for Utah seems to have been: “Just run straight ahead; no one will stop you.”

Not withstanding the four years of Jake Long at left tackle and Adam Kraus lining up next to him, two problems have plagued the line for a couple of years. First, Michigan’s recruiting has fallen down in recent years, especially for offensive linemen and defensive backs. Only one OL starter returned from last season. An additional OL, who received extensive playing time last year, was expected to start, but he transferred to Ohio State with nasty comments on the way out about Coach Rodriquez.

Second, the right guard position has been a Bermuda Triangle as injury after injury has decimated the ranks. Early last week a DL was switched to the OL.

The first game in the fall is usually sloppy; missed assignments and stupid penalties are common. Utah certainly made its share of silly mistakes. Michigan started 6 freshmen and 6 redshirt freshmen against Utah, mostly on offense. The results were predictable. Even Michigan’s last play, the old high school Hook and Ladder, was poorly executed.

Miami of Ohio, tomorrow’s opponent, is usually a solid Mid American Conference (MAC) team, best known as the Cradle of Coaches. Head coaches who have gone on to fame elsewhere include Bo and Woody, Ara Parseghian, Paul Brown, Sid Gilman, Johnny Pont, Randy Walker, and Terry Hoeppner. Miami alums and assistant coaches who have succeeded elsewhere include Jim Tressel, Weeb Eubank, Paul Dietzel, Ron Zook, Bill Mallory, Carmen Cozzi, and Earl Blaik.

If Michigan can correct some of its mistakes and block better, it should win. If not, this season will unmercifully be long. The defense better show up on the first half this week.

The Borking of Sarah Palin Continues

The left wing blogs and the main stream media have been Borking Governor Palin since her selection as Senator McCain’s running mate. Both left wing and right wing blogers and commentators are capable of vicious commentary. Bloggers, especially anonymous bloggers, often engage in misogynist, sexist, racist, homophobic, and obscene postings. Political bloggers often display a similar lack of restraint. The DailyKos started the flood by reporting that the Palin’s fifth child, the young infant with Downs Syndrome, was not really theirs, but a coverup of their daughter’s pregnancy.

We expect better of the media.

And yet on February 21, 2008 The New York Times displayed its bias in an article, based on an anonymous report, that 8 years earlier McCain was advised to change his ties with a female lobbyist. The article faintly intimated of an illicit relationship. Somehow, it ignored the stronger rumors of Senator Edwards adultery, not to mention Governor Clinton 16 years ago.

Governor Palin's acceptance speech Wednesday night is one of the great political speeches in American political history, right up there with Lincoln’s Cooper Union and Gettysburg addresses, William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech at Westminister College, Nixon’s Checkers speech, Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing,” and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream.”

She is a natural. Sarah Palin can deliver a barb with a smile, a la Anne Richards. A star was born on September 3, 2009. It has revived a dispirited Republican Party.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Media will stop acting like piranha at a feeding frenzy. Or perhaps they will be shamed into objectivity.

And yet, what if it comes out that Sarah drank to excess, toked weed, and snortled coke at 19? The outrage level will go through the roof. But that was Barack Obama by his own admission. The media praises his explanation of the maturing process.

Nor should we concentrate on illegitimacy because that would reflect poorly on Barack’s mom. The son grew up OK.

Why is it commendable and praiseworthy that Joe Biden entered the Senate as a single, working father, but Governor Palin, the married Governor Palin, should spend more time with her children?

This last proposition is an insult to a century of women’s rights. Women have the same right to determine their role in society, the workplace, and home as a man. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guaranteed equality in employment for women. Motherhood, marriage, job, volunteer activities, profession, Palin has achieved it, and now this working mom is being slammed for it.

We are witnessing a double standard bordering on sexism.

The media respected the privacy of Chelsea Clinton in the White House and barely mentioned the problems of Vice President Gore’s son, but had a field day with the alcohol consumption of the Bush twins and is now focusing on the Governor’s daughter.

We are all humans, thus lacking perfection. Few, if any, of us could survive the scrutiny of an electron microscope in our personal and professional lives.

So why Borking? Because it works – at least sometimes.

The word comes from the rejection of Judge Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee, to the Supreme Court in 1987. Scurrilous and outrageous charges were made against the Judge, who, to be honest, was not a good advocate for himself.

The Judge had been a distinguished legal scholar at Yale Law School, a federal appellate judge, and Solicitor General of the United States. He believed in originalism and not judicial legislation. He held contrarian views on Antitrust – views which have since been adopted by the Supreme Court.

Senator Kennedy gave a passionate speech saying Bork would take us back to the days of back-alley abortions, segregated lunch counters, rogue police, and closing of the court house doors to millions of victims.

The distinguished actor, Gregory Peck, narrated anti-Bork ads.

The practice had been pioneered earlier in the Nixon Administration to deny confirmation of two Southern appellate judges, Clement Heynsworth and G. Harold Carswell, both of whom were tarred with charges of racism.

Attempts were made, almost successfully, to deny confirmation to Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.

In spite of Sarah Palin’s great speech, the search to Bork her continues. We hear rumors that appointees to state positions were asked their views on abortion, and that she said God wanted us to go to war in Iraq and to build a pipeline.

The Chronicle of Higher Education in its on-line edition today published a report that the Governor attended 4 colleges in 5 years to earn her diploma.

What’s the point?

If we are going to flyspeck academic records, then let’s drop the double standard.

Let’s talk about Senator Biden’s checked law school experience in which he finally graduated roughly in the bottom 10% of his class (76/85). Senator McCain also fared poorly at the Naval Academy. They’ve both matured since then and have led exemplary lives. Let’s leave it at that.

However, since we are constantly told that President George W. Bush is dumb, let’s look at Gore’s transcripts at Vanderbilt, where he is rumored to have entered both the law and divinity schools, and then dropped out. Why? It doesn’t really matter unless an issue is being made of Bush’s academic performance.

We know that Bush’s SAT score was 1206 versus Gore’s substantially higher 1355. We also know that Bush’s freshman GPA (77) was higher than that of Senator Kerry (76 with 4 D’s), who, to date, has yet to release his SAT scores. Assume what you want.

The three most recent Presidents have Yale degrees, but Ronald Reagan attended Eureka College in the heartland of America., and LBJ Southwest Texas State Teachers College. America is great for upper mobility.

If the Borking continues, then either it will succeed (highly unlikely) or create a backlash in favor of the McCain Palin ticket.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Impressions of the Democratic National Convention

Political conventions have become an orchestrated circus, full of fluffery and puffery, hyperbole and hypocrisy, distraction and disingenuous statements, magic and mendacity. The DNC was no exception, and there is no reason to believe the RNC will be any different.

Obviously, what distinguished this Convention from all that preceded it was the nomination by a major political party of an African American for the Presidency.

Yet, this was not a Rainbow Coalition. Where were the Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans in positions of prominence? Congresswoman Lynda Sanchez had a short speech, but that was about it. A growing political split between Blacks and Hispanics is inevitable. Hispanics are increasingly displacing Blacks from their traditional power bases in the economy and politics in major cities like Los Angeles.

Yet the odds of Blacks turning to the Republican Party are low and some Republicans are doing their best to repel Hispanic support with hard line immigration positions.

The second general observation is that we witnessed the end of two modern Democratic dynasties: the Kennedys and Clintons.

The prime time presentations were, as expected, excellent. The substance is irrelevant as these speeches are honed for style.

We witnessed the Last Harrah in Senator Kennedy’s speech. It was not a great speech, but a powerful and moving speech as the Senator left his hospital bed to appear at what is probably his last Democratic Convention. He apparently did not write the speech, which was somewhat disjointed at times, but he delivered in his inimical, forceful style.

Senator Clinton presented her acceptance speech, with the obligatory sops to Senator Obama. Much of her speech was “Me, me, and me,” so vote for Obama. Interestingly, she only mentioned her husband, if my count is right, a few times.

Michelle Obama is impressive in her own right. She is a working mother, educated at the nation’s top universities, a professional, and highly intelligent (probably smarter than her husband). Her achievements, like her husband’s, demonstrate the greatness of the American Dream, upper mobility, and strength of character.

However, the speech tried to transform her into a Stepford Wife with a Cheshire Cat smile. If the handlers could have, they would have presented her as a suburban soccer mom. Obviously the need was felt to personalize Michelle, and indeed Barack, as ordinary Americans in light of their past gaffes that indicate elitism and disdain for fundamental American values.

If Senator Clinton’s speech was “Me, me, and me,” then President Clinton’s speech could be summarized as “Be Like Me?” Barack will be a great president if only he follows President Clinton’s lead.

The former President delivered a speech he didn’t believe in as only Clinton could.

Joe Biden’s speech was mercifully short. He talked about his Catholic working class, Scranton background and the tragedies he overcame – truly a compelling personal statement. All I remember is “Always get up.”

The highlight was his 90 year old grandmother. He couldn’t find much to say about his or Barack’s legislative accomplishments. 36 years in the Senate and not much to show for it. How sad! He claimed the Violence Against Women Act as his, but that’s equivalent to Al Gore’s invention of the internet.

Senator Obama displayed his oratorical gifts to 40 million viewers. He is the greatest orator of our age. His was a soaring aspirational speech followed by a crescendo of fireworks – 45 minutes of empty rhetoric extolling the mantra of change. True change comes from the outside, which is why Senator Obama nominated a 36 year veteran of the Senate to be his running mate.

He laid out a laundry list of traditional Democratic pabulum. He even promised a taxcut to 95% of working class families, a middle class tax cut. He forgot to mention retirees and senior citizens.

Remember to follow President Clinton’s lead. Governor Clinton promised a similar tax cut 16 years ago, but once in office he realized that the only large pool of taxable income is from the middle class. Those of us, the vast majority, whose income is reported on W-2’s, have no loopholes, no special deductions, no shelters to minimize our reportable incomes. Hold on to your wallets.

He said little about Senator Biden’s accomplishments, just as Biden said little about Obama’s. The silence says everything. To fill the void Senator Obama repeatedly attacked Senator McCain, a role usually reserved for the Vice Presidential candidate.

Oratory is a great skill, but should not be confused with expertise, judgment, decision making, values, morals, or governance.