Sunday, December 31, 2006


1. Tom and SirSaunders quit their jobs at the end of 2007 to manage successful "Junto Boys" Fine Wine and Spirits store.
2. Dude, finally fed up with California, lays down the law to wife Marci. Dude soon moves into guest room at SirSaunders house on weekdays, then Tom's on weekends. Kids delighted by sudden change in routine.
3. E is given a "Genius Grant" by the Carnegie Foundation and takes dream job at Heritage Foundation think tank.
4. Swish wakes up and realizes it is 2007. Decides to devote more time to slots and eating.
5. Dick Cheney dies of sudden heart attack. Rush Limbaugh ascends to Vice-Presidency. Suddenly Bush is educated on what a conservative is.
6. Hillary throws hat into the ring officially to make a run for president. Names Monica as running mate.
7. Iraq becomes even more intensely chaotic after sudden US troop build up. Dem's cut funding to military. US forces withdraw. Iran invades both Iraq and Kuwait, creating "United Republic of Islam" now holding 78% of worlds oil reserves. Dem's blame Bush for "not doing more."
8. First Earth like planet revolving around another star is discovered.
9. Sirsaunders becomes governor of the first lunar colony.
10. Junto Boys becomes powerful political Action Committee after Tom wins lotto and funds Junto Boys aspirations.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


That's what I heard a guy say at the table next to ours at Steak and Ale Friday Night. We were out shopping for Christmas dinner and stopped by to let someone else cook. Next to us was the 25ish everypundit who was holding court next to a guy and a girl his age and a man that could have been a tagalong father. Our pundit was talking at a level that he obviously wanted others to hear. You see, Bush mislead the American people and now we're losing this war in Iraq. If more people were informed about this then Bush would surely be impeached. Nobody is watching CNN.

I said, "Trish, are you listening to that guy? This is why Bush's approval numbers hover around 20%."

Now I showed great restraint in not saying anything. Decorum means letting blowhards be blowhards and that's probably why so few people have confronted my bombastic public opinions. Speaking up won't change anyone's mind, but the urge to do so is still deep within me. The audacity of public confrontation is fun because you can feel the adrenaline the moment you decide to speak the first word. The mystery of what someone might say if confronted makes it all worth it.

In this case, he probably had a little speech prepared for a direct confrontation. But what might he have said if I commented, "I voted for Bush. But I thought the war would be over by now." He'd probably reiterate much of what he said prior. If I followed up by saying, "What's it like over there now?"

Would he fall into the trap of telling me how it is or would he say he doesn't know? If he presumed to tell me how it is, I could simply point out that he doesn't know anything but what some newsman told him. CNN, the same news organization that admitted that it failed to report the whole truth during Saddam's reign for fear of losing their credentials? Al Qaeda has openly admitted beating the Republicans in the 2006 election through their use of the media. E's recent post about Santorum sums it up. If we had the current casualty-focused media during World War II we would have been forced into a settled peace with Hitler instead of unconditional surrender.

But the real question is whether or not to speak up in these situations. The answer lies in the ratio between how much fun it is as the time and how many frowns it will produce from the wife the rest of the evening. Just that look in my eyes brought a begging Trish that I say nothing. After all, it is Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Now it's easy for me to bemoan America's lack of resolve to lose 3,001 lives in the war on terror. I won't be called to fight and neither will my kids. But that does not mean I forfeit my right to an opinion.

I saw a young man in the airport recently who had lost both arms and both legs in combat, and any problem I may have is pathetically puny by comparison. But that does not forfeit my right to an opinion, and my opinion is that our lack of will to wage war, our lack of will to sacrifice American lives for the good of the nation and the world, to sacrifice x actual lives to prevent or stave off x+y potential deaths, is going to have grave consequences here and abroad--consequences that will ultimately mandate war at a far greater cost in terms of lives, dollars and anxiety.

Let's say we've lost 3,000 soldiers in combat. In just the 10 most deadly battles of the US Civil War, 288,776 troops were killed, so at present we have lost about 1/100th of that subtotal, or a cent on the dollar. Yes, every life is precious, and yes, all the rest, but that does not shut down the discussion. In war some of your own get killed, and there is no other way to win a war, shock and awe notwithstanding.

Having a foothold in the region, and having influence over who receives the massive wealth from those oil reserves, is vitally important to our national interests and to global security. Absent our will/resolve/testosterone to assert our will on the ground, the world is about to become an extremely dangerous place.

War is hell. Fine, true. Every life is a treasure, yes. But war does not increase death. Each is appointed once to die, whether in bed or on the battlefield, and some deaths are more noble than others. I would still like to see some overwhelming military force, and let the political chips fall where they may. It is not too late to kill as many bad guys as possible before beginning the pullout, and the day after Christmas is not too soon to deploy.

Santorum took positions on the issues, fought the popular consensus the media helped create, and lost big, but he is still one of the only politicians talking about the real issues and making any sense. Now, heading out of office, he becomes Newt with opinions on foreign policy.

Following are excerpts from his recent interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh’s conservative answer to the Post-Gazette).

Trib: In an earlier interview, you were very confident when you said you would rather lose your seat than give up your convictions about Iran and the overall situation in the Middle East. On some level do you think that people do not get the potential gravity of the situation that is rapidly developing there?

We have faced the great secular threats of fascism and militarism on the part of the Japanese and the Germans in the Second World War, and the Germans in the First World War. Those wars were wars of secular powers. The Soviet Union, that was a secular power that wanted to dominate the world and impose either a fascist or Marxist society.

Here, you have an enemy that is indifferent whether they live or die. Their purpose is not necessarily to control the world, but to conquer the world and if they do die, well that is perfectly fine with them. Death is a desired aim, not a tragic consequence.

... (If) you do not understand the spiritual realm, then you don't have any understanding of what motivates and drives these people, and you have no idea on how to confront them and defeat them.

Trib: Do you think that, as a country, we are too detached from the war and that plays in with our disconnect and discontent with it?

I have thought about this a lot. How do you connect the war to the people without artificially imposing burdens upon people that are not necessary?

I have said this in a lot of my speeches: The enemy understands us better than we understand them. They understand that if that if they continue to do this, the American people will grow weary of it and want to stop.

And that is exactly what they want -- they want us to get out, they want us to stop, and they want an opportunity to gain resources and power around the Middle East and around the world. So that, in turn, they can become an even greater threat to us.

Trib: Explain the issue of energy security, why it is so critical.

The Left always says that we went to war for oil, and everybody on the Right always gets upset about that. But in many respects, it is true. It is not that we went to war to get their oil, but we went to war to make sure that oil and the energy markets were stable and available for the world.

These folks use oil as a weapon. Chavez, Ahmadinejad -- both have been very clear that oil is a weapon. And the fact is that we are sending over 60 percent of our money out to foreign nations, many of whom -- although not most -- are hostile to the United States.

That is not a good security posture to be in -- we finance your enemy either directly or indirectly. We don't buy directly from Iran, but the price of oil is greatly influenced by the consumption of Americans.

And the lack of production in this country has an impact on world supply and therefore on world price. Our lack of using alternative resource has the same impact. So I have gone from being a sort of traditional Republican on the issue of energy to somewhat more of a radical in terms of what we should be producing.

Trib: Are there any immediate, short-term solutions that we could apply?

... I mentioned during the campaign, just in Western Pennsylvania alone we drilled over 3,500 gas and oil wells last year. Thirty-five hundred! We go through floor debates to stop us from drilling less than 1,000 wells in all of Alaska for the next 25 years.

I just don't figure that: We have ten gas wells at Oakmont Country Club, and they are right there on the course. I mean, they are playing the U.S. Open there and we are drilling gas wells right there, and we can't drill them in Alaska? Where nobody lives? How does this make any sense to anybody?

Trib: Do you think that history will eventually be kinder to Rumsfeld than the media was?

... I did not see the Clinton administration doing the things that were necessary to transform the military to a force that can respond to these threats of terrorism, these asymmetric threats. The reason is because people make careers out of "fighting the last war." We are not going to have any of the "last wars" -- we are going to have wars like this, right now.

Rumsfeld understood that. I think Bush understood that. They came in there and they really started banging heads in the Defense Department, and he made a lot of enemies.

Did he consult everybody that he should have consulted? No. But did he have, in my opinion, the right idea? Yes. He had a lot of people disagree with him, and they were very public with their disagreements. I think that he did what he needed to do. I think that our military is going to be much better off for it.

Trib: The media -- how do you think they have played a role in the public's perception of the threat of Islamic fascism, the effects of the war in Iraq?

By [reporting the way our media reports,] all you do is accomplish exactly what the terrorists want you to do, which is to weary the American public of this war -- and eventually cause us to stop fighting it. That is the end result of what we are doing.

I have always said that if World War II was covered like this war, I really, very seriously doubt that we would have ever won that war. Certainly, we might have been willing, when the losses got so high, to negotiate a compromise or negotiate some sort of surrender. The death that went on -- I always remind people that we lost more people in a couple of hours on D-Day that we have in the entire war (in Iraq).

The amount of death and destruction that occurred in the previous wars, under the current media coverage, would not have tolerated by the American public.

The bottom line is, the media -- and I am not saying that they are intending to do this -- but simply by what they are doing, without question, it is aiding the terrorists and their objective.

Covering the bad things that are going on Iraq, and not covering the greater complexities that I have talked about in my speeches and highlighting the threat, is a disservice to the American public, and, I think, will have far-reaching consequences.

Trib: So is that what is next for you -- a book or an action plan based on your speeches about terrorism?

Well, I am working on that. No one has agreed to publish it, and I have just started putting my thoughts together. I feel compelled to sort of make the case.

It is not going to be a scholarly piece, it is not going to be 400 pages. It will be a book that will hopefully be around 200 pages, that will explain to the people of this country the situation that we are in, how we got there, and what we can do to extricate ourselves from this problem.

Trib: What is the next wave of reform for the Republican Party? Do they need to retake the reform mantle to win again?

I wrote a book about this, laying out an agenda for the Republican Party, and I worked very hard to try to be an idea guy. The alternative for us is to be a party that keeps our traditional bases -- fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, a strong national defense -- as well as a party that believes in life and the sanctity of marriage ... there are people on the margins of our society and that we have a responsibility to deal with them from a public-policy perspective, not just focus on the top-line economy --

Look, we have to be engaged in the culture, engaged in building a stronger society and building a stronger family. And if we are not, and if that is not what we as public officials feel is important to us, well, then the American public is not going to connect with us anymore.

Trib: Why do you think you lost?

(Laughter) I spoke up too boldly, too often and too loudly, on some of the things that my employer, the voters of Pennsylvania, didn't agree with me on.


I decline the award as Person of the Year and do not plan to attend the ceremony. Buchanan argues this week for Ahmadinejad as the obvious newsmaker of 2006, and he is right. Ahmadinejad has shown us for what we are, and we fail to impress even ourselves. Our lack of resolve is a problem not just for us but for nations and peoples everywhere.

Eighteen months ago, Ahmadinejad was the unknown mayor of Tehran. Today, he is the visible face of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, both a cause of and the personification of our failures. He has defied Bush's demand that he give up the enrichment of uranium, split the Security Council, mocked the Holocaust, called for the end of the Zionist state and the expulsion of America from the Mideast, terrified the Sunni monarchs, and united the Arab and Islamic masses behind his defiance.

His trip to the United Nations, where he ran circles around U.S. journalists, was a diplomatic triumph. And he has done it all not with military power – Iran would not last a week in an all-out war with the United States and has no defense against Israel's nuclear weapons – but with theatrics and rhetoric.

He inspires all who hate Israel and Bush's America. And, according to the Zogby polling yesterday, that is a majority which, in some once-friendly nations, is approaching near unanimity.

Ahmadinejad, a man of words without real power, is the big winner of 2006, because Bush, America and Israel were the big losers.

Why do a billion Muslims prefer Ahmadinejad to America? That is the question that needs to be addressed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How I crawled through 2 miles of S%$@# and came out clean on the flip-side

After stewing about this for months now, I've finally decided to come out and give you the full skinny on something most of you knew nothing about. Here's the full story.

Last year I was asked by a company that I contract for (we'll call the company Corp X). To apply for credentials at HEALTH CENTRAL HOSPITAL of Ocoee, FL. Health Central, like many hospitals in Florida, has a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF, i.e. Nursing Home) attached to them to help care for the elderly and chronically infirm. Their nursing home is called HEALTH CENTRAL PARK. Their Nursing Home is a very large and nice, 200 bed facility that would have kept me very busy. Busy means work and work means I can feed my family, etc. etc. Work is good. Additionally, you see, most hospitals are JCAHO accredited. Which means that all health care workers that practice there must meet a minimum standard of care in order to practice. A good policy. You don't want incompetent knuckleheads practicing on you or your family. I am credentialed at five other SNF's, 2 Assisted Living Facilities (a step down in need for care from a SNF) and one JCAHO accredited hospital, which I also have admission priviledges. So I had been through the credentialing process before. Now mind you priviledges is not employment. All it gives me is the right to see the patients at the hospital but only on the order of the attending physician. I bill the patient myself and it costs the hospital nothing. But none of my prior experience prepared me for what was to come.

So the Owner and President of Corp X. had spoken to the Hospital administrator at Health Central and was satisfied that I was an experienced and competent person. The social worker and Chief of nursing at Health Central Park had called me and given me a nice tour and even bought me lunch. The administrator stated, "Dr. Saunders has to go through our credentialing process. It's really just a formality as there is nothing I can see that would prohibit him from coming." Given this positive welcome and strong desire on their part to have me, I decided to go ahead with the process.

JULY 2005
I called the credentialing administrative assistant (part of Human resources) introduced myself and asked for the application. A very pleasant sounding older woman answered the phone and my questions, "Well you can't get the application right away, firstly you have to fill out the PRE-application. Then we review that and decide if you meet the standard to fill out the regular application." Chuckling to myself I agreed and gave my address. "Can't I just tell you that I'm already a Licensed Psychologist and recognized by the National Register of Health Care Providers? Isn't that enough to start? It was at every other place I've applied." I very firmly but lovingly stated. "No, I'm so sorry. That's not how we do it here. You'll have to fill out the PRE-application." Feeling I was slipping back into my old job with the Feds and getting caught in a bureaucratic nightmare, I knew to let it go. Little people who handle your paperwork are not to be pissed. They can really screw you. "Well thank you so much for your help, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it." I said as I hung up.

The PRE-application arrives. I look at it. It's about 10 pages. Sighing, I toss it into my "to do" pile at my office and forget about it.

MARCH 2006

At this point I've gone through an office move, I've quit the FEDS, and am now unpacking the office after my move. I find the application but put it aside. My practice is booming and I'm making more money than I need and have more work than I want. I'm busy hiring other therapists and psychologists to help with the work load. Preferring to work for myself before anyone else. I decide to put my energy in my business.

MAY 2006
I start getting calls from the good folks at Health Central Park begging me to come. "We really need these mental health services. We think your company and Corp X is what we need for our long term plans. We're getting slammed on our State of Florida audits for not attending to our mental health needs enough so you're what we really need." says the kindly Social Worker. "Well honestly, I don't know how I will fit you all into my schedule, your facility is really big and I'll have to pair down my other work to fit you in." I retort, firmly but diplomatically. "I tell you that it will be so worth it. We are a good facility and can really keep you busy. I will work on things from my end and then you do your necessary paperwork." The man is so nice that I decide to comply and move forward. My original tour and talk with them was great too, so I was excited about another positive move. Change is good in my book and I'm always up for a new adventure. I spend about 2 days on the PRE-Application and compiling together the necessary paperwork.

JUNE 2006
The PRE-Application is approved and I get the actual application in the mail. It's even bigger with more outside verification needed. So I start making phone calls and sending emails. I submit the following:
1. Copies of my diploma's
2. Copies of my Psych License
3. Copies of my resume and vita
4. The complete application that includes an essay portion on why I want credentials and what I have to offer the hospital.
5. A letter of recommendation from a physician
6. A letter of recommendation from a psychiatrist
7. A letter of recommendation form a psychologist.
8. A letter of recommendation and verification of employment from my previous job with the Federal Government from my old boss (also a psychologist).
9. Verification of my private practice status
10. A couple of other documents.

I combine this huge package together and send it off to human resources.

JULY 2006
"We're waiting on your final verification of your residency from the Feds." Reports the kindly Admin Assistant. "But You already have verification of employment and a letter of recommendation from them." I reply confused. "Yes but we need a verification of your licensing year you spent with them separately."

I spend these months off and on attempting to beg and plead with my old boss to write this for me. She's as confused as I am. Finally she understands and writes the verification of my licensing year. It's bureacracy within bureacracy.

"Good news! Your application is complete and has been preliminarily approved. We now have to send it the credentialing committee for their approval. Can you come in for some final paperwork?" says the kindly Admin. "Sure!" I say with a sigh of relief, thinking it's all about to be over. I go over to the hospital and meet with the voice on the phone. She has a kind face and sweet demeanor. The admin had been working for the hospital for over 20 years and knew everything about everybody. She takes my picture for the hospital badge and has me sign a few documents. She shows me the Doctor's lounge and gives me a tour of the hospital. Everyone is very friendly and kind and are interested in helping me. I feel pretty good about my future here.

I receive a letter that there are "areas of concern" with my application and the credentialing Committee wants to see me in person. Confused I pick up the phone and call the author of the letter, the Chairman of the Credentialing committee and a physician. I get his secretary and she assures me he will return my call. In about 2 hours he does call back. "Hi, I'm the psychologist you wrote to recently regarding my credentials. You say their are areas of concern, can you tell me more? What does that mean?" There is a moment of silence and he begins to stutter over his words. "Well, the committee did have some concerns and wants to ask you some questions. We'd prefer if you'd appear in person and answer the questions before all of us." He said. "I'd feel more comfortable if you'd tell me now what you are concerned about so I can be prepared for what you might need to know. That way I can bring documents to help answer your question." He chuckles a bit, "Yes, Dr. Saunders I know this sounds like it will be an inquisition (his exact words) but I assure you it's all very friendly and supported by peer review." I pause myself to take in his words and then, feeling I will get no where with him, say, "Ok, I'll see you in a few weeks."

That was my first big mistake.


I have to wait 2 solid weeks to find out what this is all about. I first appear at the door of the Admin. The Chairman is there. He shakes my hand, tells me the meeting is not for another 12 minutes on the 3rd floor up. He offers a chair but my throat is dry and I'm a little hungry. Not wanting to endure a 12 minute PRE-interview, I go have a snack at the cafe to calm my nerves. I wait in the lobby of the 3rd floor conference area. The Chairman exits the elevator and spies me. "We'll be right with you." I wait about 20 minutes. The admin comes down the hall and invites me into the conference room. There are about 11 men sitting around a huge series of rectangular tables, set end to end in a large horseshoe pattern that fills the room. I sit down. I note that the admin is behind the chair taking the minutes of the meeting. I look for other exits. There is one other across the hall. Everyone is eating and having a drink. No one offers me anything. Bad hospitality is always a bad sign. There is an older gentleman (about 60) sitting to my right in med scrubs. Most everybody else is in suits or just shirt and tie. I'm in my best navy blue conservative, red-tie, republican with a flag pin on the lapel suit that I can find. I feel pretty good. "Thank you Dr. Saunders for appearing before us and taking the time out of your busy schedule. We just have a few questions." He takes out a piece of paper. It has a long, page length series of questions. I spy my name at the top with my near superhuman 20-15 vision. It's all about me and my anxiety goes up. "Tell us a little about yourself." I recite by heart my standard interview monologue about growing up in a small town, my work history, my academic history, etc. They all seem bored and impatient with my monologue. So I cut it short. "Did you have any problems with your work with the Feds, why did you quit after only 7 years?" I smile and look at him puzzled then answer. "Well because it's always been my dream to be my own boss, I had learned all I could there I felt and it was time to move on." He asked again and again if I'd had problems and why I quit. I calmly gave the same answer and challenged him to call my old boss. I pointed to my National Award received by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (a prestigious award) only months before I left as evidence of my good standing. Finally he let this go. He then dove into the heart of the matter. "Tell us about your websites." He said almost painfully, like he couldn't bring himself to even ask. "Well is my professional website about my practice." I said. "Yes, yes Dr. Saunders, but what about the other one, the one that is linked to it." "Well that's my Wedding Officiant and for fun website." (He was referring to formally the "Hallelujah Jamboree") The silence was very tense at this point. "Yes but what is it all about." I was very anxious by now not sure what he was trying to get at. "I'm not sure I understand the question." "What is it all about?" He said incredulously. At this point my full manic, fun, party persona came to full force.

You see, when I get very anxious, especially in a crowd, I tend to get loud and funny. It's an old coping mechanism that has served me well in the past but in these circumstance was probably the last thing I needed. Professional Dr. Saunders persona should have remained in control. He was tired that day and not at all in the mood for these questions about his professional credentials. But he's just not as strong as SirSaunders, super fun party dude.Dr. Saunders sighed and took a back seat.

"Well, hey man we all have to blow off some steam and have some fun once in awhile, am I right?! If you think that website is wild, you should see me at a poker game, (I laugh in my famous high-pitched crazed maniacal way). Ain't that right old-timer" (I slap the back of the man in scrubs beside me only to find out much later that he is the Director of Surgery for the Hospital). "I just want to know why you linked those two sites together" says Oldtimer. I then ease into a cool surfer dude voice trying desperately to regain my composure. "Hey man, you know, we all do things at 3am that we might regret. Let's just let it go..." (more high-pitched laughter from me). They all look around at each other with stone cold faces. There are moments of painfully, shocked silence.........

"Again, thank you for coming out today Dr. Saunders, it's been quite informative." The Chairman shakes my hand and escorts me out. My head spinning, I walk out. "I think that went well", I say trying to soothe and console myself.

OCTOBER 26th, 2006

Letter from Health Central, "Dear Dr. Saunders, Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with our committee. At this time we wish to ask for two additional pieces of information: Please submit a letter of reference from each administrator or Director of Nursing where you have credentials and secondly, we strongly encourage you to have a Psychiatric Evaluation. We've enclosed 3 referrals of Board certified psychiatrists that we urge you to see. Thank you again and we look forward to getting the rest of your application. If you wish to withdraw your application we certainly understand. Sincerely, Dr. Chairman of the Crendentialing Committee.

For the next few weeks I undergo a rather painful self examination. Never before had my personality or creative side or sense of who I am come under such question and attack. I knew I had blew the interview, but it seemed as if their questions and distaste for me was based, not on my professional qualifications, but rather based on my personal website and perhaps even my spiritual beliefs? I was both humiliated and angry. "How dare they!" I spoke to my attorney and the President of Corp. X. which both told me I would have to have direct evidence that it was religious discrimination. Not having that, the hospital could ask for anything they wanted or deny me for any reason. Hospitals are run like mini-kingdoms with the Administrator as king and the physicians as his faithful knights. The psychologists are the knaves or at best, squires of the kingdom. I felt powerless and helpless...

A few days later, I went on our quarterly meeting with buddy Tom who did a good job of cheering me up. "You can't ever stop being you, Steve, it's really the best qualities of who you are that they rejected. If you give up little parts of yourself to satisfy this person or that organization, pretty soon, you're 55 or 65 years old and don't even recognize yourself. That's a recipe for disaster and a denial of the best core of who you are. The very qualities and parts they reject, is what makes you so successful in life."

Tom always has a great way of very succinctly putting everything into a great little package that makes it all clear. Yes, he was right. I didn't need to and certainly didn't want to change myself. I liked my website with it's Star Trek ramblings, fake news releases, creative writing, and art. In the end, I really liked myself. It was heart breaking to go through all that. To be doubted by professionals and thought of as crazy for just being me. Ironically, Health Central has one of the strangest and oddest architectural designs in the world for any hospital. It looks like Cirque Du Solei belongs there not a hospital. I realized later that I unconsciously mistook their wacky building for housing wacky people like me. No, rather the people that worked there were the same judgmental, concrete in-the-box thinkers who had always judged me. I had spent a life-time laughing at those types. I had, in my efforts to conform to a slavish system, almost become one of them.

Now that I've finally got all this down in print. I realize, that is what needs to happen here. Just move forward and embrace what I and others love about me. Thanks Junto Boys for your support. As I have begun the process of letting it all go and moving forward, I've felt more like myself than I have in years. SirSaunders is back in the saddle. Stronger than ever. But perhaps wiser, more integrated, more my complete self...

Letter to Health Central Chairman.

Dear Dr. Chairman:
Regarding your letter Dated October 26th, 2006, No thanks. Have a Merry Chirstmas and very happy new year.
Dr. Saunders

Saturday, December 09, 2006


A few weeks ago I ordered an Up-converter DVD player from

While Blue Ray and HD DVD compete to win the format war, Samsung and some others are producing Up-Converter DVD players that take the normal DVD resolution and boost them to HD quality. A few weeks ago I purchased the Samsung DVD-HD-960 that boosts the signal to 1080p, a standard that my television supports, but broadcast hasn’t reached. Due to some circumstances that I will get to in a minute, I had to settle for the 860 model they sell at Best Buy instead. That version raises the picture to 1080i or 720p.

The first movies I tried were old favorites Rio Bravo and The Maltese Falcon. They both looked great, especially Rio Bravo shot in widescreen. You could really tell a difference. I would highly recommend Samsung’s up converter to anyone with a HD ready TV. It looks so good that I don’t really know if buying the new formats is really worth it.

The 960 that I originally wanted wasn’t easy to get at any of the local stores. Best Buy carries the item on their website but even there it is listed as sold out. I was lucky to find it at $30 less than Best Buy with free shipping, but I had to wait ten days for delivery, which I decided was reasonable.

The item was delivered to my door at 4:32pm on Thursday November 30, and although I was home by 5:30 it was nowhere to be seen. My neighbors on either side were gone, but the suspicious construction workers across the street had a clear view to my house. Only a few weeks ago, workers from that very site were "suspected" of breaking into a house whose alley faces the pool they were working on. My neighbor on the Architectural committee for the Association said that there has been a rash of thefts, especially appliances after installation.

I emailed the warranty lady at Transeastern (The builder) asking who I should contact. She said she would get back to me with the answer. A phone call to the main office and then to the builder gave me the name of the construction manager. And I left a message asking what contractors were working across the street at 4:32pm that day. I’m still waiting for an answer. The other lady didn’t get back to me either.

The property manager for the Homeowner’s Association suggested I write a letter that he would pass on to the board. I wrote one on Monday and when I received no answer I followed up by writing a second one on Thursday. The gist of the two letters was that Transeastern isn’t policing the people who work here. The second letter brought on a call by Gale from the builder’s office transcribed here paraphrased a little but the essence in tact.

GALE: Mr. Stamper, there have been an awful lot of emails going back and forth and I thought I should call so we could clear this up.

TOM: Back and forth? I still haven’t had an answer to any of them.

GALE: I’m here to answer. Unfortunately, thefts are common during this time of year. I live in a real nice section of Metro West and I have had packages stolen from my front door. You need to let the police handle this.

TOM: There was a break in here recently attributed back to the same construction site. And my neighbor on the Arc committee tells me that numerous things have been stolen from houses during the construction process. And that the chandelier in that very house was stolen last week.

GALE: Sir, thefts at construction sites are common occurrence.

TOM: I’d like to have copies of all the police reports you filed for thefts here.

TOM: I’m not going to gather those up for you, sir.

TOM: How many there have been then?

GALE: This is not our responsibility. We can’t just go accusing our contractors without evidence. You need to file a police report and they can do an investigation.

TOM: Let’s say that the contractors are perfectly innocent. Why not ask them if they saw anything? Tell me who they are and I will ask them.

GALE: Listen, sir, that’s entirely inappropriate. You can’t just call the contractor. You need to file a report with the police.

TOM: How many convictions have you had for the all reports you’ve filed?

GALE: It’s very difficult to get convictions for theft because you have to catch them in the act.

TOM: So you people consider theft just a part of doing business. It may be for you, but for me it’s a matter of personal safety.

GALE: Call the police, sir.

TOM: What do you know about the people working here? If I went across the street and shot photos of them, could you identify them?

GALE: We hire contractors and they hire their own people.

TOM: So how do you know if the people working here have criminal records and are in this country legally.

GALE: House construction is the last handmade product in America and we build houses the same way every builder in town, the same way yours was built. ( I can tell that I’ve been put on speaker phone)

TOM: So you are not interested if the people working here have criminal records or are in the country legally?

GALE: We do not hire anyone that we know to be illegal.

TOM: (using the wise knowing voice) But you don’t ask because you don’t want to know.

GALE: Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m going to have to hang up on you if you continue talking to me this way.

TOM: Put words in your own mouth then. How would you describe the process in which people are screened to work here?

GALE: Be careful, you’re on speakerphone and I have a whole group of people here listening to this.

TOM: Fantasic. Any one you sitting there tell me whether you ask the contractors if their people have clean records and are in this country legally.

(CLICK—She hangs up)

She began in a very condescending tone referring to me as “sir” in that way that people do when they’re trying to gloss their superiority. She would have loved me to use one curse word so that she could hang up on me. I just clung to the Socratic method and she was so flustered in her voice that she hung up not wanting to directly admit what the accidentally admitted indirectly.

I wrote another letter yesterday summarizing the phone call and pointing out that making contractors sign affidavits saying that their people have clean records and are in the country legally would be of minimal cost, pass the liability to contractors, and ensure that far fewer criminals would have the legal right to stand around in this neighborhood gawking at the residents and their property.

I hit two political issues in the letter pointing out that John Lindsay, Ed Koch and David Dinkins all said that crime in NYC was a way of life and nothing could be done and then Rudy Guliuani proved them all to be fools. As citizens we have the obligation of preventing crime before the fact.

I also said that business is always complaining about over-regulation and taxation and yet here you are punting your problems to the overworked police when your own policies are causing the problem.

Then I did the Rush Limbaugh being absurd to demonstrate absurdity. I asked the board if they would be comfortable with the current policy if the people working here knew when their houses were vacant during the day. If so, then please send the names and addresses of all the board members and Transeastern Employees with their work hours and I will gladly deliver it every morning to the construction site.


Thursday, December 07, 2006


There is an interesting psychological study that needs to be done on how the affluent in the best of times economically get worried about scarcity, overpopulation and phantom curses. Al Gore's movie could just simply be a political platform for his public comeback. He could hardly do better shoring up the collectivist base with his warning and solutions. But to see the Prince of Wales embrace both the green chic and the radical sheik certainly seems like an identity crisis.
'We are consuming the resources of our planet at such a rate that we are, in effect, living off credit and living on borrowed time.

'It is our children and grandchildren who will have to pay off this debt and we owe it to them and ourselves to do something about it before it is too late.'

How can an educated man like Charles forget the lessons of history? Economic growth all throughout history has led to innovations which has unleashed new resources. It's just in the last 100 years or so that we've put fossil fuel to use. Before that's gone we'll find our power somewhere else.

It's the regulations and calls to action that these chicken littles employ that hurt economic growth that lead to scarcity. How much of Charles move to the Left is really in reaction to Diana and her overwhelming popularity due to her causes? It wasn't like he was this big activist in his fox hunting days.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Since Mr. Gibson’s drunken tirade against Jews last summer, many people in Hollywood swore — both publicly and privately — that they would not work with him again or see his movies.

Powerful players like Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Ari Emanuel, of the Endeavor talent agency have publicly disavowed Mr. Gibson, with Mr. Emanuel writing online last summer that “people in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him.”

Mr. Gibson has disavowed his own statements instead of hiding behind the 5th Amendment like so many of the Hollywood Ten. Ah, but look how it's framed:
The problem posed by Mr. Gibson touches on an age-old question of whether an artist’s personal behavior ought to be a factor in judging his or her work.

The question is not a new one even in the brief history of cinema, which includes people like D. W. Griffith, the visionary feature director whose work fed racist stereotypes; Leni Riefenstahl, whose ground-breaking talent served Nazi Germany; or Roman Polanski, who in 1977 pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor and then fled the country, which did not prevent him from winning the Oscar for best director in 2003 for “The Pianist.”

Sure Polanski's problem was behavior. What he did was illegal.

What does Gibson's behavior have to do with the blacklist? Drunken rants are a Hollywood favorite pastime. Maybe he hates Jews and maybe he doesn't, but even asking him the question is against the 1st Amendment, remember? He's allowed to believe anything without question. Dalton Trumbo wrote for the Daily Worker did that make the poor man a Communist? We were cowards for even letting Congress ask.

Hollywood's real problem with the 1950s blacklist was that they sympathized with communist positions. Not one of the Hollywood Ten was ever acquitted or absolved dead or alive of being a communist, although the issue is always presented as a frame up. No one even says they were innocent only that making them name the names of other communists was worse than the gulag.

I wish Elia Kazan would have lived long enough to get his Oscar post-Gibson so that they could sit on their hands like a bunch of heroes and then explain why Mel is intolerable.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

49 UP (2005) A Documentary Film Review

In 1964 British TV interviewed a group of seven year-old schoolchildren and each seven years since director Michael Apted has returned to follow up on their lives. I first heard Ebert praise the series when 28 Up was released in 1984, but I couldn’t locate a copy. I finally saw 35 Up on Cinemax in the early 1990s and I had a lot of trouble connecting with the people. I’ve since read reviews saying that it was a poor episode to begin on because the increasingly middle aged subjects were less optimistic about their futures.

Earlier in the year I saw 42 Up on TV and had an entirely different experience. The familiarity with the characters, my own aging, and the more positive outlook made for a much better ride. With 49 UP I’m now with Ebert in calling this one of the best executed documentaries in film history. The perseverance to chronicle these lives through the years is ultimately life affirming especially as it contrasts the present realities with the bleak expectations a few films earlier.

The characters lives are like ours. They struggle with disease, death of their loved ones, divorce, career changes, but as they near the half century mark, they are much more resigned with their accomplishments and failures and less interested in the status that they were so conscious of in the past. Many of the people say bluntly that they don’t like doing the series and that it trudges up bad memories that they have to re-live every 7 years. And yet, they continue to participate out of habit or maybe just the commitment that it’s bigger than their individual wants.

Who would have thought that Tony, the poor East End kid, would become a jockey, cabbie, bit actor, and business owner would someday own his own vacation house in Spain? He misses his old neighborhood, the pubs and the culture that is overrun by immigrants. Though Apted had thought him to be a likely candidate for a life of crime he instead became a Tory conservative.

It takes some getting acquainted with the principles to really dig it and I’m glad that with time I have come to enjoy their parade. The series has become as much about life in general although it focuses on these specific lives.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


He (Newt) also reaffirmed the Pledge of Allegiance, criticized attempts to ban its recitation and said the executive and legislative branches should watch over the courts.

"We are the only society to say power comes from God to you personally and you loan part to the state," Gingrich said. "It doesn't begin with the lawyers , with the bureaucrats... If there is no creator, where do your rights comes from?"

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Brought to you by Chris Larsen, the entrepreneur that created E.LOAN, brings a fantastic idea to the masses. I'm always looking for innovative ways to make a buck, whether in real estate, the art world, or financial investing. This is the best way I've seen in a long time. Basically, YOU can be the bank. It makes sense from a lot of angles. Say you have a fellow with $10,000 in credit card debt paying 18-25%, you bid on his loan and charge 14-15%, he pays off his debt and refinance it at a lower rate. Where else are you going to make 15% now days? You review 100's of requests for loans, you look at their credit rating, then use to mediate. It's billed by Money Magazine as a way to "...get in on the ground floor of some guy in Maine who needs $500 to fix his car..."

The site looks like they cover all there bases. The borrower pays them 1% of the value of loan (that is their profit margin) then you get the remaining interest. You set the interest and terms you are willing to pay someone. The higher the risk, the higher the interest. If they default on you, then goes after them with collection agencies just like credit card companies. With over a trillion dollars in consumer debt floating around, this is a great way for the average Joe to enjoy some of those famous credit card interest rates. I might try it with a small amount and see how it pans out.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ROBERT ALTMAN (1925-2006)

He defies most of what we know about directors in that few are allowed to direct into their 80s, especially when their track records are inconsistent. He certainly wasn’t box office. I have seen a ton of his films hoping that they would live up to the few that I really like. Although they were all interesting to a point, I’ve been mostly disappointed.

+MASH (1970) – His breakout hit began an even larger TV hit that continued into the 1980s. The film is funny, entertaining and more subtle in its poignance. A combination he rarely achieve in his body of work.

MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER (1971) – Way too bleak for me and a snooze the one time I tried to watch it.

Elliot Gould stars as Philip Marlowe in a contemporary film with hippies and what not although the youthful Marlowe drives a vintage 1940s car. Interesting but not as good as a straight telling of the wonderful novel could have been.

– Gould and George Segal star as a couple of gamblers that find that the action is more important than winning. Somewhat entertaining but forgettable.

NASHVILLE (1975) – Overlong with too many uninteresting characters and begging for importance that the critics bought I just couldn’t.

3 WOMEN (1977) – Altman goes all weird European with this story starring Shelley Duval and Cissy Spacek that I still don’t know what it was trying to say.

POPEYE (1980) A famous Box Office disaster that I still find more charming than most of what he’s produced. The setting is certainly Altman bleak, but the songs are catchy enough and Robin Williams is fun.

SECRET HONOR (1984) – Philip Baker Hall is Richard Nixon in this one man show that works pretty well due to the lead actor and the fact that its script doesn’t lend itself to Altman’s quirky touches.

– Altman’s comeback after box office failure sent him to work in TV. It’s got a great cast and it’s pretty funny and yet I didn’t really like the resolution which I felt was too cheeky for the drama that led up to it.

+SHORT CUTS (1993)
– For some reason this blend of Raymond Carver stories works for me in a way his others films don’t. A great actor like Jack Lemmon and an unusual one like Lyle Lovett and even a bad one like Andie McDowell come together to really make the whole piece work. Probably because it’s full of interesting actors like Fred Ward, Julianne Moore, and Peter Gallagher.

– An attempt at continuing the ensemble thing in the prior two films that “wears” shorts on the attention span.

– Forgettable. Something to do with Belafonte as a KC mobster and Jennifer Jason Leigh struggling for her kidnapped child.

THE GINGERBREAD MAN (1998) – A snooze with Kenneth Branaugh as a southern lawyer. Written by John Grisham. Nuff said.

+GOSFORD PARK (2001) – Like Short Cuts a great movie in the middle of so many misfires. Clever and well cast.

Monday, November 20, 2006


The Nuremberg War Trials begin


24 of the biggest Nazis were put on trial for their lives among them Hitler Deputy Rudolf Hess, Commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring, Nazi Party Secretary Martin Bormann and Nazi Architect Albert Speer.


It was one of the few times in European history in which a war ended in unconditional surrender and that event meant that the Allies had far greater room in which to hold the loser’s guilty.

The Allies had several ideas of what to do with the captured Nazis. Early in the war, Winston Churchill advocated summary execution of the leading figures without trial. Joseph Stalin’s plan went further saying that they should execute up to 100,000 German staff officers. It was eventually decided that the defendants would stand trial under an occupational powers and Nuremberg was chosen for its symbolic power as the former home of Nazi rallies.

The Soviets, British, French and Americans each named judges to the panel. The U.S. chose Attorney General Francis Biddle, the man responsible for interning Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. The Soviets sent Major-General Iona Nikitchenko, a man who presided over Stalin;s infamous show trials in the 1930s.

U.S. Supreme Court justice, Robert Jackson was the main prosecutor.


Half of the men were executed, two were acquitted. Speer and Hess and four others wound up as the only guests at the giant Spandau prison. Hess remained there until the late 1980s. Hundreds of other trials followed into the 1950s.

The case that they were war criminals was well made, but so were criticisms that the trials were simply “victor’s justice” since German’s were convicted of crimes against Poland while no Soviet faced trial for the same abuses.

The trial has lent some amount of credibility to the idea that Nazi atrocities were a singular act of history when they weren’t even unique in the 20th Century. Those trials brought out specific details that make the crimes more vivid so the same atrocities elsewhere seem more remote or speculative. Notice how few in the media are interested in cataloguing Iraq’s crimes over the last 20 years. To do so would be to justify the war under the terms in which they lionize FDR’s actions during World War II. You don’t need to compare Saddam to Hitler you only need to compare Saddam’s actions to the actions of the over 800 Nazis we executed during the war trials.

Since we have since adopted a different standard to accommodate our non action, we allow ourselves the moral space to permit the continued existence of Castro, Saddam or Kim Jong-il. Rather than a continuation of ancient policy or a direction of new responsibility, these trials seem an aberration of how the world works, a time when the bad guys really paid the price.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Veronica Lake is born (Lest you think I’m getting too serious about these posts)


Like many starlets before and since, Lake headed to Hollywood to be discovered. She was one of the lucky ones that made it to leading roles in SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, THE GLASS KEY, I MARRIED A WITCH, and THIS GUN FOR HIRE.

She appeared in only a few major films and yet her one unique feature that peek-a-boo haircut made her the It-girl in the early 1940s. So popular and emulated was she that the U.S. government asked her to cut her hair during the war because they were afraid imitating Rose Riveters would get their mane caught in the machinery.

In James Ellroy’s L.A. confidential the main hooker look-alike is a fake Lake.

Her career didn’t much have legs past World War II and by the 1960s she was tending bar in obscurity.


Lake was a 1940s version of flavor of the month rising and falling within a short time. And though most filmgoers have not seen a Lake picture, she still holds just enough lore that she’ll be referenced in period novels and films. Unlike so many others of her time and ours she still has some sort of iconic significance that more beautiful and talented actresses never attained.

She’s also an example of the downfalls of fame. Just as her career was taking off she married a regular guy who worked on the sets. Years later she said that her biggest mistake was getting caught up in the euphoria and leaving her husband and breaking up her family. She died in early 70s from hepatitis probably aggravated by her heavy drinking.

Monday, November 13, 2006


The Government Shutdown


In 1990, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell presented Bush with a budget that included a tax increase. Bush refused to sign it citing his no new taxes pledge at the 1988 convention. Mitchell said flatly that the President either sign or the government would shut down. With the media backing Mitchell and blaming any shutdown on Bush, the President relented.

In 1992 James Carville used “It’s the economy stupid” and Bush’s tax pledge, “The biggest broken promise in the history of politics” as the cornerstone rhetoric in the campaign for Clinton.

SO IN 1995

The Republicans pulled a Mitchell and sent a budget cutting many Democrat favorites and Clinton refused to sign it. This time the media blamed Congress for the shutdown and the public relations battle was so nasty that in one short year reform was finished. The Republicans wouldn’t dare try closing down the Departments of Education, Labor or Commerce with the media and President lined up against them.


The ensuing impeachment battle was supposed to bring Clinton’s corruption to light and give crusading Republicans the capital to renew reform, but it only made Clinton look sympathetic because who would relish being married to Hilary? They lost House seats in 1998 and decided it was much safer to concentrate on building a permanent majority through gerrymandering rather than take on another risky fight.

When Bush became President out the door went any fiscal restraint and Republicans decided to pork their way to re-election. In 12 short years they became everything they were against.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This summary of lessons learned at The American Thinker is the best piece I've seen so far on the topic.

Voters didn’t like events in Iraq two years ago and they put President Bush on probation. They gave him a dangerously narrow reelection victory against an inept candidate with a long history of anti-American activism, a figure who should have been buried under a landslide that would make 1972 look like a squeaker. Two years later nothing had changed except that the voters were out of patience.

* * *

When we finally got around to an invasion we had to put a humanitarian gloss on an essential demonstration of our power. Instead of Operation Arab Smackdown we got Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was the true blunder that turned Iraq from a political asset into a liability. This blunder belongs to George W. Bush and George W. Bush alone, even though Don Rumsfeld has now paid for it with his job.

* * *

When President Bush cast the war in Iraq as a war for the benefit of Iraqis with vital collateral benefits for the U.S., sensible people recognized his argument for the nonsense it was and tuned him out. By choosing to cast it that way, President Bush guaranteed that the war would have shallow support at best. He also guaranteed that it would drag on long after that shallow support dried up entirely.

* * *

Playing the good guys also cost us the advantage of our overwhelming power. We deliberately refrained from destroying the Iraqi army during our invasion even though we certainly had the tools to do so. Many thousands of men escaped to fight another day and another way. It wasn’t a lack of manpower that kept us from crushing Moqtada al Sadr’s militia and caused us to back away from Fallujah and other Sunni hot spots. From the beginning we were much less lethal than we should have been because we have been trying to fight without causing too many bad feelings that might get in the way of the effort to engineer a political settlement.

* * *

Never play follow the leader over a cliff again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


At my polling station (the local fire station) there was nowhere to park. Inside there were only 3 people voting, including me, and about 8 poll workers parked in all the parking spaces. I was handed a paper ballot and was asked "Paper ballot?" as if I was supposed to understand that I had a choice. I did not bother asking what the choice was. (Turns out there were also 2 touch-screen machines, gently used.) No wonder there are so many more early ballots and absentee ballots being cast.

I had a bit of a problem voting yesterday. I showed up when the polls opened. When I finally got to the check-in table the computer would not allow me to cast a vote. I later discovered that somehow my voter registration had been changed from my residence address to my work address. Something had changed since the 2004 election ... but I can't figure out what it was. At any rate, I went back after the show, cast a provisional ballot, and changed my registration. Problem solved .... unless someone sees fit to change my registration without my knowledge or consent again.

More amazing was my experience at the polling place. It was a lesson in basic government incompetence. Let me try to set the scene.

After you filled out the voter information sheet you were directed to one of two tables. One table was labeled "A - L" The other table "M - Z". There were two touch-screen computers at each table. Poll workers would use these computers to check in the voters and give them their access cards for the voting machines.

Though there were two computer touch-screens at the A table, only one was being used. Both screens at the M table were in use. To make matters worse, the two ladies running the screens on the M table were working very efficiently, while the woman at the A table looked like she had never seen a computer before in her life. In no time the line at the A table was snaking out of the door and down the hallway, while the line at the M table was .... well, there was no line. The two ladies there had nothing to do.

I just couldn't watch this idiocy without saying something, so I got out of line and went inside to find the poll manager. I said "Look, you have two women sitting at this table doing nothing. You have an empty computer screen at the A table. Why not let one of these ladies work that screen to see if you can shorten that line?" She just looked at me with a blank stare. Finally she said "Well, you would have to wait to vote anyway! See that line for the voting machines?" At this point one of the two ladies working the M table said "We can check those people in here!" Again ... blank stare from the poll manager. "Can you let some of the people in that line come over here to be checked in?" I asked? Blank stare. But finally the light bulb went on and she announced that people with the A - L names could go to the M - Z table to check in.

As the line was shifting I heard a woman say "This is what it's going to be like with government health care."

Exactly right.


If you're not familiar with Dr. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) he is such a small government proponent that he's hated by his own party. In fact, Congress continues to challenge his citizen-legislator ideal by brining him up on ethics charges because he refuses to give up delivering babies back in his home state. They surely fear that constituents might get the idea that it's possible to have a legit job too.

Here's what he said about last night's loss:
“Many factors contributed to these election results. The American people obviously are concerned about the conduct of the war in Iraq. Members of both parties have an obligation to work together to offer creative and constructive solutions that will help our troops accomplish their mission.

“The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

“A recent CNN poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe government is doing too much while only 37 percent want government to do more. The results of this election reflect that attitude. Among the Republicans who lost their re-election bids a surprising number were political moderates who advocated a more activist government. Several Republican members of the appropriations committees, which have been on a spending binge, also were not re-elected. On the other hand, the two Republican senators who pulled off the most impressive victories were unapologetic conservatives, Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV). It is also notable that the Democrats who won or who ran competitive races sounded more like Ronald Reagan than Lyndon Johnson.

“This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.

Jim Talent summed it up in his concession speech when he said his defeat "was not for lack of effort. There was just a very, very strong headwind this year." To wit:

In Pennsylvania, about half of those who said in exit polls that they voted for Casey characterized their votes being primarily against Santorum rather than a vote for Casey. Casey also got a boost from one-third of voters who said they were angry with Bush. One-fourth of them said they were mad at GOP leaders in Congress.

Ohio voters expressed similar views. About six in 10 Brown voters said their vote was intended to register opposition to Bush. Two-thirds of Brown voters said they disapproved of the way Congress was handling its job.

All candidates had to do was oppose Bush, that's it, and that was enough. What a weird campaign season.

Things looked a lot better when I went to bed than when I woke up. Allen was up 29,000 votes in VA with 96% in, and Talent was up 61,000 votes in MO with 41% in. Those seemed like comfortable margins at the time, but it all depended on which precincts were still out.

And now the lawyers.

I was listening to The Michael Reagan Show on Monday and a caller asked Reagan a good question that Reagan did not answer well. The caller said We Americans are impatient and self-centered and have short attention spans. Just tell us what's in the Iraq War for us? What are we, America, getting out of it? Just tell us how we benefit. I agree that that has been much needed and sorely missing. The closest we have gotten is "We are taking it to the enemy there so they don't bring it to us here," and that's true, and good, but Joe Missouri doesn't see how that benefits him personally.

Which brings us back to the larger question of whether we as a nation have the will to wage war, and the returns seem to indicate that we do not, which will bring a whole new host of problems that may end up restoking our will after all. Fire safety is abstract, but putting out burning cities will require our immediate attention.
MEDIA REACTION. . . in 1994

"Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. It's clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around. It's the job of the parent to teach the child to control the anger and channel it in a positive way. Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week....Parenting and governing don't have to be dirty words: the nation can't be run by an angry two-year-old."
-- ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings in his daily ABC Radio commentary, November 14.

Who will be the first media person to say angry voters were having a temper tantrum in 2006?
"They are not voting Republican tonight, Mary. They are voting against a lot of unhappiness in their own lives....I think that it's very easy for the Republicans to make the same mistake that the Democrats made in thinking that somehow we've been given this great mandate....They have got to be practical. They have got to compromise. They have got to meet the real needs of people. This is not an anti-government vote tonight."
-- U.S. News & World Report Senior Writer Steven Roberts on CNBC's Equal Time, election night.

Who in the media has suggested that Democrats will have to compromise?

So here are some early thought on the 2006 election results-

It will be very hard for any President to run an offensive war in the future. There is really no political upside but a tremendous downside. The enemy knows that the media will run with the casualty news and that well-placed guerrilla actions will be treated like major defeats. If terrorists can drag the fighting out long enough for the media to lament to extra effort and casualties, eventually the American people will tire of the conflict and punish the leader.

But was it really a verdict on offensive action or was it a verdict on nation-building. We won the war, but got mired in the re-building. Is the lesson to seek, destroy and then withdraw? Or is the lesson to head back to our pre-WWII isolation? What kind of isolation can we maintain in a globalized economy? Is the end result that we won’t be fighting too many wars until we’re far enough behind that the losses are greater.

The good news is that the Republican Presidential candidate can run against the nutty Nancy Pelosi, that hasn’t gotten nearly the scrutiny she deserves. If Hastert leaves he’s no real loss. This election has shown that Republicans need ideas to win and Democrats just need to be another option, so when Republicans run out of ideas, Democrats fill the gap. The biggest Democrat initiative in this campaign was to remind voters that we should only fight easy wars and they got a free pass for having voted for the one at hand. So Republicans can win again with ideas, but after failing to enact the Contract with America, Republicans won’t have an easy time convincing voters to trust them. They’ll need all new faces which would have happened if they had passed term limits. A number of the seats lost are natural Republican enclaves that will move back with a national Republican tide. Tom Delay and Mark Foley are two obvious ones and others will be available with the right candidate at the top of the ticket.

Divided government isn’t a bad thing. It’s what led to the stock market gains of the 1990s. Gridlock means that investors know exactly what playing field their on. The key is Bush deciding that he will finally veto some bills. The Republican Senate has sent too much nonsense his way in the last 6 years and you should expect it to continue during the next 2 years. If Bush can’t get the veto stamp out with this environment then he’ll disappoint the base more than he has already.

I’m not nearly as upset as I was in 1992. That night I couldn’t sleep. It’s hard to be too upset when there are very few heroes in Congressional Leadership. This may be Newt Gingrich’s rebirth moment. He can articulate how they lost their way and how they can regain it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Thomas Sowell laments that Democrats succeed where Republicans fail because Democrats don't pretend to stand for anything, or is it they pretend to stand for things they don't really stand for. But if the Republicans had really stood up for the things they said they stood for, both this time around and going back to the takeover in 1994, we might not be having this conversation today.

As Socrates persuaded Glaucon (sort of), we philosophers should rule, because we philosophers are the wisest of all men, and being so wise, we surely know better than the dullards what is best for the dullards, but we can't let the dullards know we think that, because no one considers himself a dullard, and besides, dullards, being dullards, can't appreciate our genius, so cloak the message in compassion-speak, as if we really care about the little guys whom we tacitly hold in such contempt.

Given the greater political shrewdness of the Democrats and the overwhelming bias of the media in their favor, it is remarkable that Republicans have had any political success at all. That the Republicans are still a viable party is one measure of how far the Democrats’ policies and values differ from those of most Americans.

Nowhere is that difference greater than when it comes to defending the American people against crime at home and against military and terrorist threats from abroad. Liberal Democrats — which is to say, most Democratic politicians and all of their leaders — are ready to try almost any “alternatives to incarceration” of criminals and almost any alternative to maintaining military strength as a deterrent to enemy nations.

More is involved than an unwillingness to face unpleasant facts of life. There is a coherent ideology behind these positions. That ideology goes back more than two centuries — and has failed in country after country over those centuries. But it is an ideology that sounds good and flatters the vanity of those who consider themselves part of a wise and compassionate elite.

Getting people to vote for moderates, in order to put extremists in power, may be the newest and biggest voter fraud.


FDR reelected to a 4th term.


Though the real precedent breaker was FDR’s successful third term in 1940, the 1944 election continued FDR’s rule as near emperor. The press was a willing accomplice keeping from the public the state of his health which surely would have cost him the nomination or at least the election.


As a nation of laws and not of men, the FDR years forced the 22nd Amendment limiting the terms of Presidents. A shame Congress didn’t go ahead and limit their terms as well.


Today we have lifetime appointed judges to be our emperors so things haven’t changed all that much.

Side Note:

Funny, in the History Channels description of this event they took the liberty to tell us that “Roosevelt's progressive legislation improved America's economic climate, and in 1936 he easily won reelection.” Oh, Really? Did they ask Milton Friedman?

Worse is that they claim that FDR beat Wendell Wilkie in 1944 when his opponent was actually Tom Dewey. So the second error explains the first, I suppose.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Abraham Lincoln is elected 16th president of the United States

AND IN 1861

Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederacy


They were both born in Kentucky less than 100 miles apart and within 12 months of one another. Davis was one of the most successful political figures in the south having in his youth married the daughter of a future President (Zachary Taylor) and serving as Secretary of War (under Franklin Peirce). Before that, the West Point educated Davis had shown his prowess in war having rose to Colonel in the Mexican-American war. He was serving in the U.S. Senate representing Mississippi when the Civil War began. Although he opposed succession in principle, he followed the sentiment of his people.

Lincoln’s political career was never so bright. Other than serving one term in the House of Representative, Lincoln’s experience lied solely in the Illinois legislature. He was even beaten just two years earlier by Stephen Douglas in a bid for an Illinois Senate seat. He was unusually tall for a 19th Century man and he was not too dreamy either. Danny Sheridan would have considered this coaching matchup lopsided although he would have had to recognize the north’s superior offense.


Davis had maybe the best General in the war (Lee) to fight a brilliant defensive campaign while Lincoln was always holding tryouts. Davis and Lee hoped to prolong the war long enough to make the north grow weary and bargain for peace. Lincoln showed perseverance never yielding despite defeat after defeat on the battlefield. With a group of worthy adversaries both political and military, Lincoln with his self-taught education and national political inexperience bested them all. How did the American people know? Was greatness always in Lincoln or did he simply rise to the occasion? When they say that the American experiment must have been guided by the hand of providence, it certainly helps explain Lincoln.


The Union was saved from fracturing into who knows how many little bits had the South won. The U.S. could have resembled a map of Eastern Europe. On the downside, it was the beginning of Federal authority of localities that would cement itself during the New Deal. With 20% of GDP going to the federal government those are the wages all of us pay for the national conflict 130 years later.

Had the South ended slavery and the North reduced the harmful tarrifs before the 1860 election, things might very well look different.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


X-MEN 3: The Last Stand (2006) – It’s strange to take a psychological character study, make two competent financially successful films and then ignore what worked by making an impersonal action film, complete with foolish jokes right out of a Swartzenegger vehicle. You figure that Bryan Singer’s departure was a great deal of the problem. I don’t think he would have been happy with the script that was shot. I never read the comics books, but the first two movies were solid. A shame they ended like this.

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (2006) I read the book in the 1990s and it was pretty funny, but maybe not a natural movie since the witty writing style was a biggest plus. Director, Jason Reitman makes up for it by punching up the dialogue. Another good decision was downplaying the central kidnapping plot element that was far less interesting than just the day to day happenings and charm of the lead character played note-on by Aaron Eckhart. Like many movies it gets going stronger than it finishes, but it’s witty, well-paced and only 90 minutes. The trailer suggested a movie that was close to an instant classic, but the film is simply above average being a rare smart comedy.

THE DEPARTED (2006) – Marty and the mob is always worth a look and this film stays entertaining a lot longer than Casino. The mole cop and the crooked cop is a great idea and it makes me want to see the Hong Kong original. Supporting performances by Marky Mark and Alex Bladwin offer some fun moments too. It’s just hard to think of Nicholson as a mobster for as fun as he is to watch. Still, I was on the road forgiving the movie anything until it ended the same way as PENN AND TELLER GET KILLED. It seemed more Hong Kong than Martyville.

– Movie Stars are supposed to play themselves, but they are also supposed to be dynamic and interesting. Jennifer Aniston is a mystery. I have seen enough of her films to safely say that she has no sense of fun. She’s the girl on a date that you want to like, but her conversation is so dull that you understand why she doesn’t have a boyfriend. To cast her alongside Francis McDormand, Catherine Kenner and Joan Cusack must be some sort evil joke to prove that she isn’t an actress. The movie itself is forgettable. I saw it a few weeks ago and the best I can remember, it was about four women with varying problems.

RUMOR HAS IT (2005) – Sticking with Aniston again because Trish feels that she got the shaft in the Jolie thing. I have to ask what happened to Rob Reiner. Didn’t he use to make good movies? I’d have to head to back to A FEW GOOD MEN to remind myself. RUMOR was a clever idea for a movie. The Graduate theme had a lot of places to go and this movie went to the wrong ones. Costner playing within his bounds of regular guy does fine. Shirley MacClaine gets away with being a little too much. Richard Jenkins as Aniston’s father is solid in a quirky performance. He’s one of those guys you’ve seen a dozen times and finally put a name with him. It’s unsatisfying, but short which is at least something.

+BURDEN OF DREAMS (1982) – The story of making the film Fitzcarraldo is racked with problems. A political situation gets them kicked out of their shooting location early on. You get the idea that they are somewhat lucky to escape with their lives. A second location is found and a good portion of the film is shot and then he loses his principle actors and has to re-think the whole enterprise. Slowly the film focuses on the natives that act as extras and bearers of the equipment and props. They are very lucky to get the work which pays a great deal more than they’re use to. Still, Herzog has that romantic noble savage psychology in him. He regrets that his contact and contact by the west in general will ruin their culture. But do they even want to keep their culture? Work is sporadic and rival tribes are killing each other so gathering and cultivating food isn’t easy. Herzog integrates some of their culture into the movie by showing the process of making this nasty hooch that’s fermented by their own saliva. Klaus Kinski of all people is too grossed out to drink it on camera. The title comes from a quote by Herzog in the middle of the film. “If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams, and I never want to live like that.” In some ways BURDEN is similar to LOST IN LAMANCH, the Terry Gilliam failed attempt to make Don Quixote. But BURDEN is superior because it’s not just about the difficulty of making a film but the difficulty of life and how overcoming obstacles is a human victory separate from the ends themselves.

DANIEL (1992) – Based on the book by E. L. Doctorow that pretty much re-writes the Rosenbergs case with a more innocent seeming family instead so as to imply that their execution was nothing but McCarthyism. Timothy Hutton plays the grown son in the 60s that goes from wanderer growing into war protestor right where his parents would have liked.

INHERIT THE WIND (1960) This was near the beginning of Stanley Kramer’s classic “the world’s on trial” period that began with the Defiant Ones and ended with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. INHERIT is an actor’s showcase and was a must-see Broadway play in the 1950s. Kramer casts Spencer Tracy and Frederick March in the leads who are nothing but veiled representations of Clarence Darrow (Tracy) and William Jennings Bryan (March). Darrow takes the side of Enlightenment and Bryan the side of Puritanism. You could tell with the sound down that the emotional March is the heavy while the quiet and reasoned Tracy is our hero. Tracy frames the Darwin battle as a free expression question which probably seemed like a very liberal sustainable idea. Today you could make the same movie with some college administrator PC advocate thumping his code of conduct book versus some student who held an Affirmative Action bake sale.

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973) – I had just recently heard of this classic chiller based on a book by Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) and we decided to watch it on Halloween. Donald Sutherland is a restorer of classic architecture and he and his wife (Julie Christie) travel to work on a church in Venice shortly after the death of their daughter. Soon the wife meets a psychic that warns them to leave the city. The husband doesn’t believe in such nonsense so what explains all the weird stuff he sees? The movie is noted for a racy sex scene between the leads and the Venice setting couldn’t be better for this material.

– My favorite Frat Pack movies are the ones with Vince Vaughn, the only real unapologetic actor in the series. Next I like the Wilson brothers, Luke before the more popular Owen. Two out of three ain’t bad here although the insufferable Will Ferrell shows up for a cameo at the end. There isn’t much about this movie that strikes as real. To crash weddings is one thing, but to give speeches and pose during the cake cutting is a Bugs Bunny short. So if you can deal with that and characters shouting the truth to each other one room from the people they are duping then you will get some laughs. You also get Christopher Walken as the father, Jane Seymour as a Mrs. Robinson spoof, and Rachel McAdams as the fetching object of desire. I can’t say that it was good and yet I laughed quite a few times at all the nonsense.

(+ denotes exceptional film)



The United Auto Workers union proved to be the most effective union in America winning concession after concession from the Detroit auto makers. The big 3 made the biggest stylish cars so although they didn’t love these concessions, they had so much market share that they gave in. Toyota and Datsun made fuel efficient cars, but they didn’t have Lexus or Infiniti or anything hip to complete with in those days.


U.S. automakers are still bound to contracts that make them pay full wages to employees they lay off. So althought they have some car plants now in non-union states, it's still impossible for them to compete against Asian cars without tariff help. They have to skimp somewhere so it’s usually quality standards. Cars either look cheap, drive cheap or break down sooner than the rivals. At least their trucks and SUVs were making money, but that took a hit when gas prices rose in the last few years. The only asset they have left is patriotism – buy American.

Saturday, November 04, 2006




A few weeks earlier on October 23, 1956 Hungarians more or less took over Budapest from their Soviet oppressors. They ended one party rule and began a withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet’s finally got their tanks and superior military strength to put the whole thing away on November 4.


While the West had shown resolve in protecting West Berlin, the combination of that example and Radio Free Europe broadcasts gave Hungarians the false hope that the West would step in and help them defeat the Russians. Had the Hungarians prevailed it would have been the first real defeat for Soviet backed communism. Our inaction no doubt gave the Soviets confidence that we could be pushed around. A Cuban Missile Crisis, a war in Vietnam and the nonsense in Nicaragua may have been avoided had the Eisenhower Administration stood up for the Hungarians.

The Bolsheviks learned a key lesson. The Americans would not try and roll back communism they would only try to defensively stop its expansion meaning that there would be no gains in our fight just fewer losses. Once the Soviets could rest that the Eastern block was safe they could easily fund communist uprisings all around the world. That’s a recipe for how you get involved in Vietnam. Also, those geniuses who said that Reagan didn’t defeat the Soviets but that their system disintegrated on its own have never answered why it didn’t disintegrate against all of the other American Presidents that refused to take them on.

There’s another lesson here too. Bush’s offensive invasion of Iraq is said to have created more terrorists. There’s no way that can be measured, but it’s certain that fighting a defensive war against communism created more communists not less. It wasn’t until Reagan insisted on SDI, invaded Grenada and took the fight to the enemy that we had fewer of them.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Finally, something to explain the Democratic gains.

Johnson beat Goldwater


After the assassination of John Kennedy, the nation was loath to elect its 3rd president in 11 months. Johnson seemed like a centrist for the most part and he hailed from a section of the country that helped his chances. Goldwater’s straightforward conservatism that looks very libertarian by today’s standards was beaten so badly that the conventional wisdom said we'd never have a conservative President.


Johnson’s half measure fight in Vietnam only made matters worse and his domestic policy of spending his way out of poverty led the country on a road to massive vote-buying deficits. Johnson’s embrace of Civil Rights legislation versus Goldwater’s libertarian approach forever shifted the black vote in this country to the Democrats which led to things like busing that shifted the white suburban vote to Republicans. The polarization of Vietnam split the Democrats in the 1960s and the echo continues to this day.


Republicans can win nationally by calling themselves conservatives and Democrats cannot win by calling themselves liberals. Since the 1964 election, America has only given Democrats a chance to govern when domestic concerns were greater than foreign ones. When foreign situations do come up, Democrats always get credit for handshake deals between warring nations, but our enemies are still emboldened to go after us. The hostages in Iran and the myriad of terrorist attacks on the 1990s are a result of electing a party that's split down the middle on whether the U.S. should ever fight an offensive war. All of this seems to go back to our choice in 1964.