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Saturday, August 30, 2008

 

Miss a Week and Get These VP Candidates?

The only explanation I can think of is that neither Obama nor McCain actually want to be President, they just like to campaign. They both go into the tank, vet all these possibilities, we wait for the puffs of smoke, and this is what they come up with?

Joe Biden is far from the worst U.S Senator, although his often snide attitude is not very pleasant theater when Judiciary Committee hearings make it to TV. It is acknowledged that he has done considerable, though often flawed, thinking on foreign affairs, and he has shown courage dealing with health and family issues throughout his life (he overcame brain aneurysms and lost a wife and child in an auto accident).

Having said that, he delivers no state of any value to the campaign effort (the Dems will win Delaware anyway, and his PA roots are long forgotten), he has no executive experience, he is very much a Washington insider in a year when the electorate wants anything non-Washington, and his national campaign record is exclusively one of failure (two quickly aborted tries for the Dems nomination).

So McCain counters with the first term Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, former small-town Mayor, beauty queen, and high school basketball star. Ms. Palin enthusiastically rises to meet the challenge despite the burden of a young family of five children including a 4 month old child with special challenges. Alaska is a state which if McCain were to lose, the election would not be close, so it can't really matter that an Alaskan is on the ticket. Ms. Palin is a very popular governor so her limited executive experience is helpful but unless she has recently taken her kayak across the Bering Sea for a visit to Russia, she has zero international credentials. This undercuts one of the GOP's main attack lines against Obama, particularly since the GOP candidate is 72 and the possibility of succession by his VP must at least be considered.

One can only assume that the opportunity to exploit the Obama campaign's fallout with Hillary was irresistible, since the McCain campaign could have reached out to Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota, putting that state in play, possibly increasing their advantage in Wisconsin, and gaining a more experienced executive. The youthful Ms. Palin may prove to be every bit the rock star that Obama is, but one has to believe that both candidates underachieved in the category of VP selection, which is less important in and of itself than for what it says about the judgment of the candidates at the top of the tickets.

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Maybe I am in the minority, but to me, the Dems convention was relentlessly boring, scripted to a fault, and revealing of a party whose socialist tendencies seem to be taking over. The succession of everyday speakers bemoaning the failure of the Federal social net to come to their aid fast enough or strongly enough was nearly as nauseating as the Clinton's trying their best to look like they were making nice to Mr. Obama (and each other). If anyone thinks that Bill and Hillary will be out there enthusiastically beating the Obama drums this fall, I've got a bridge that's for sale.

We'll see if the GOP can do any better this week. I wonder if there will be any rational summarization of the achievements of the current administration. The big lie, successfully banged into everyone's head the last eight years by the media and Dem leaders, is that the Bushies stole the election(s) and didn't do anything right once elected, and worse, maneuvered the country into a war of revenge. Everyone since Hitler knows that the secret to making people believe the big lie is to repeat it often enough until it is accepted truth. You see the same approach in Iran's campaign against Israel. The GOP would do well to provide the upside of the last administration, and there is considerable upside to talk about (victory in Iraq, no terrorist incidents since 9/11, speedy recovery from the recession the Clintons left behind, Federal revenue increases after the tax cuts, particularly from the top 1-5% of earners, low unemployment throughout, etc.). They would also do well to discuss the failures (swollen Federal expenditures, weaker dollar, twin deficits, open seats in the Federal judiciary etc.) and assign sufficient blame to Congress where warranted.

The McCain speech should remind everyone of his courage and of his history of independent and ethical decision making. He should be forthright about his determination to advance the interests of U.S. and Democracy around the world.

By all indications, this election figures to be another cliffhanger, to be decided in two or three key states.

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Interesting that College Presidents favor lowering the drinking age to 18, if not lower. This blog, over two years ago, proposed that the drinking and driving ages be switched, lowering the drinking age to 16 and raising the driving age to 21. It would be a much safer world if kids learned to drink before learning to drive, instead of the other way around.

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I am also proposing that the Dems rename their party to the Social Democrats, or something more befitting their philosophy of socialist redistribution. Though they are couching their proposals in conservative vocabulary, as befitting the post - Reagan era, their ideas all seem aimed at minimizing the private sector while expanding the public sector. And in the name of "fairness," which trumps incentives in their view, there does not seem to be any end to their appetite for tax policy that redistributes wealth, that stymies business while enabling unions, that increases our risk while enriching the plaintiff bar, etc.

To illustrate, I offer the following imaginary interview between a Man of the Street (MOTS) and a Young Dem (YD) organizer trying to register and recruit Obama voters:

YD: Hi, I'm trying to register new voters who might support Barack Obama with their vote this November. You look like you're having a tough time right now, what do you think?
MOTS: I really don't have much time for politics...
YD: But your vote is so important this year, we can make change that matters, you can make your life better...
MOTS: What's going to change?
YD: Mr. Obama will be giving you a tax cut
MOTS: I don't work at the moment, so I don't pay no taxes.
YD: Your job was probably transferred overseas but that doesn't matter, you will still get a tax cut in the form of a tax credit. The Government will send you a check!
MOTS: That sounds good. I guess, I can use a check if I can find a place to cash it somewhere, but where's that money coming from.
YD: That's simple - we're going to raise the taxes for the rich fat cats who got all the tax cuts from Bush.
MOTS: Well OK, as long as they keep work' and keep payin,' I guess I can take their money...
YD: Damn right! Why should they have all the money?
MOTS: Well I can use some, I'll tell you that. Just one thing I worry about is that those rich guys will turn around some day and decide they ain't workin' no more since all their extra money goes for taxes. Then where will my tax credit come from?
YD: Don't worry, those rich pricks never have enough, they'll keep working.
MOTS: Well OK, but I don't know, it sounds a little bogus to me, I don't know about this votin' thing.
YD: Well, what about health insurance? Don't you want health insurance? Mr. Obama will get everyone health insurance.
MOTS: Well, I don't know what I'm going to do with insurance but it sounds pretty good.
YD: Well what do you do when you get sick?
MOTS: Nothin' unless I have to go to the emergency room at the hospital...
YD: Well now you won't have to wait until it's an emergency, you can see a doctor before you get sick.
MOTS: If I'm not sick, how do I know when to go see the doctor? Anyway, if I go to the doctor, don't I have to pay?
YD: That's why insurance is important, you pay only a little, the insurance pays the rest.
MOTS: Guess I need it then. Those rich guys gonna pay for my insurance too?
YD: You bet, the Government will pay out of the tax increase for the wealthy.
MOTS: All I can say is they better keep makin' big money, those rich guys or there be no emergency room, no health insurance, and no tax credits.
YD: Don't worry, they love to work. So are you registered?
MOTS: In Michigan where I used to live
YD: And you're going back there to vote? we could really use your vote there in Michigan, it's a swing state, not like NY.
MOTS: You crazy?
YD: Well, we could get you an absentee ballot...
MOTS: You are crazy.
YD: OK, how would it be if we had one of our people go to the polls there and vote using your name?
MOTS: Nah, I can call my cousin back home, he could take care of it.
TD: Sure. Thanks anyway, good luck.
MOTS: Let me know when that credit's comin' OK?

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On Aug. 19, I bought 200 shares of Ladish Co. (LDSH) at 26, a 0 buy and a new name recommended by my full service broker. On 8/20, I bought 100 shares of Belden (BDC) at 38.63 for my IRA. On 8/25, I sold 100 shares out of my Longs Drug position for 73.31, 1.81 above the tender offer price. This has occurred because the hedge funds think they can find a buyer to pay more than CVS has offered, a doubtful prospect if you ask me. These were purchased on 2/18/03 for 15.21. We still have 300 left. On 8/27. we added 100 shares of Loews (L) at 41.87, a value buy.

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