Sunday, October 19, 2008

Barbarians at the Gate

Barbarians at the Gate

Tom: earlier this month, you replied to my concerns about “spread the wealth around” with your opinion given as follows:

In my oh so humble opinion, we definitely need a serious
redistribution of wealth. We've seen the number of people in the
middle class decrease while the poor have increased and more and more wealth is concentrated among a few very rich. This is exactly the phenomenon that spelled doom for the Romans. Wealth becomes more and more concentrated in a few hands at the expense of the masses. If McCain wins and more and more people are poor and without health care, etc., violence will increase, public schools will go down the tubes, the American dream will vanish, and hello revolution and civil war.

Is that what rich fat cats who bank roll the McCain lies about Obama want? Come on! Ties to terrorists? He's a Muslim because of his middle name? How stupid are we? If we don't change course soon, this country is headed for a revolution that's going to be ugly for us all.

I want to provide a response. I know it would be better in a dialogue or discourse, however let me at least give a few of my reactions.

Redistribution of wealth equates to socialism. And yes, we have some of that now: we pay a negative income tax to people at the bottom, and we heavily tax those at the top of the income ladder. We have numerous welfare programs. You want more distribution of wealth? Tell me where socialism has worked – one can certainly point to places where capitalism has even overcome communism – Russia and China are two huge examples.

The overall theme of your response appears to be that if we allow more poor people to exist, then we are asking for revolution. “Poor” is such a subjective term, however I would interpret this to mean folks who don’t have (or have considerable trouble with obtaining) the basic needs of food and shelter. Do you think that just giving money to people gets them out of this “poor” category? Only if the money is given forever, throughout their lives. That is a welfare state, and to some degree, we have that in this country now. Have you seen any of the statistics that after the welfare rolls were purged during the Reagan administration that people actually went out and got jobs? That’s how people can stop “being” poor, not by waiting around for their government handouts during what should be their productive years.

I would not agree that increase of poor, and wealth at the top, was what spelled doom for the Romans. I would argue that it was, if you want to put a word on it, apathy – apathy coupled with, or even brought on by, the excesses of the welfare state. Here’s what says:

The historian Vegetius theorized, and has recently been supported by the historian Arthur Ferrill, that the Roman Empire – particularly the military – declined partially as a result of an influx of Germanic mercenaries into the ranks of the legions. This "Germanization" and the resultant cultural dilution or "barbarization", led to lethargy, complacency and loyalty to the Roman commanders, instead of the Roman government, among the legions and a surge in decadence amongst Roman citizenry.

To me, a better example of poor causing a revolution is the example of the French Revolution of 1789, however there the "rich" were indeed the ruling class and the "poor" had no say in their government.

Perhaps you would argue that wealth causes decadence. I can point to numerous cases of wealthy people working hard – some are even Democrats! However, there is a more important point here. Your response appears to imply that people are poor or middle class or rich essentially throughout their lives, and that those are their permanent classes (thus the concern of Republicans that Obama is encouraging this ‘class warfare.’) However, if you think about it, you will see that (for examples) your in-laws the Elders, and the Genonis, and the Ganongs, and the Blackledges all started as “poor” – we were all making about $220 a month, and we all had just about enough to get by on as we had babies and young careers. You state that if McCain were elected, the American dream will vanish – well, we all lived that American Dream. We all worked hard and improved our status a little each year as we rose through the ranks of the military and then into the military-industrial complex, and voila! We became RICH! (at least by Obama’s yardstick). This IS the American Dream!

What we did then can still be done today: moving from poor to rich by applying oneself: working your way through college as Paul did at Montana State, or applying for an appointment to a service academy as Tom and Gary and I did. Giving money to poor people, or furthering the welfare state, is very much in opposition to what the American Dream is all about. Giving people 110% mortgage loans with no money down and no proof of the ability to repay the loan may be the dream of some liberal Democrats but it is not the American Dream. It is a blueprint for the Fall of the America-We-Know-And-Love.

It appears at this juncture that you will get your dream, in that Barack Obama will indeed be the 44th President of our United States. I know he is articulate, I accept he is intelligent, I concede that he has displayed superior political attributes to include excellent organizational skills. I sincerely hope he surrounds himself with good advisers and governs wisely – wisely in encouraging what facilitates the American Dream, not what undermines it with handouts under the guise of "economic justice."

Thanks for your consideration. Please provide your response by clicking on "comments" below.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party

The ever elusive and often mysterious Bonnie was up to something as 10 October grew ever closer. Others seemed to know that change was in the air. As it turned out, the invitation said it all, but of course I was not allowed to see the invitation in advance:

When I showed up at Bonnie's house on the evening of 10 October, there were signs that something was underway.

Yes, guests kept arriving - Barry Howard, Ron and Claudia Weber, Tom and Sheila Genoni, Pam and Ron Walters, and then the families of the grandkids: Beth and Ron with Garrett and Mollie, David and Tricia with Charlene and Ian. It soon became a full house, and one of political intrigue and insight.

My campaign manager had the Soup Kitchen in great shape, with
three choices of healthy soup, including Sheila's contribution of green chili corn chowder - plus delicious sourdough bread.

As it turned out, the Presidential Trivia questions proved too difficult except for Pam and Tricia, the only Democrats in the crowd. I understand the readers of this blog are sharp and thus I offer the trivia questions for you, interspersed with photos from the gathering. Please leave your comments at the end of this article.

Great party, Bonnie!

U.S. Presidential Trivia
1. Who was the only president to be
elected unanimously by the Electoral College?
A: George Washington
2. A New Hampshire delegate to the Electoral College wanted to preserve George Washington's legacy, and thus another president received every vote from the Electoral College save one - who was the President who almost tied George Washington's record?
A: James Monroe, the 5th President (1817-1825)
3. In the 2000 Election, George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore, yet won the Electoral College. Three other presidents share this distinction of attaining the highest office in the land without the backing of the majority of the voters. Who are these three presidents?
A: John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), Benjamin Harrison
4. Who was the first president to attend a Major League Baseball game?
A: Benjamin Harrison, on 6-6-1892, and the game went into extra innings. He found it boring and never came back.
5. Who was the first president to throw out the season opening pitch?
A: William Howard Taft, 4-14-1910. Extra credit: What baseball player did he throw it to: Walter Johnson
"The first time I faced him (Walter Johnson) I watched him take that easy windup and then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him....every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park." - Ty Cobb
6. Only one president since Taft has not thrown out a season opening pitch - who was that?
A: Jimmy Carter
7. Who was the first president to successfully throw the ball from the pitcher's mound all the way to the catcher?
A: Bill Clinton - and surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky caught it for him.
8. Who was the first left-handed president to throw out the first pitch?
A: Harry S. Truman (4-15-1946)
9. Much has been said about Barack Obama's middle name. What two men had already deleted their first names by the time they became president:
Answer: Stephen Grover Cleveland and John Calvin Coolidge

11. What president was
often heard singing "Daddy's Home" while in the White House shower?
A: Ulysses S. Grant
12. Who was the first president to attend a NASCAR race?
A: None - every president has refused to attend since NASCAR started in 1955. OK, Ronald Reagan, July 4, 1984.
13. What president had only a letter for his middle name?
A: Harry S. Truman - named for both of his grandfathers.
14. In 1812, George Clinton died in office, causing what first in American History?
A: For the first time, the country was without a Vice President. No one noticed for 3 years.
15. You probably know the tallest US President (Abraham Lincoln, 6'4"). Who was the shortest president?
A: James Madison (5'4" and less than 100 pounds) He was never photographed during his life wearing a tank helmet.
16. Grover Cleveland paid someone $150 so
he, Cleveland, could take care of his mother and sisters. For what?
A: He was drafted in the Civil War but paid for a substitute to take his place.
17. William Henry Harrison (the ninth president) made the longest U.S. inaugural speech on record, March 4, 1841. What happened exactly one month later to the day?
A: He died from pneumonia - he had made the speech in the snow.
18. Next: John Tyler, our 10th President, accomplished this rather amazing feat when he was in his 70s. What was it?
A: He fathered his 15th child. He was sometimes called "his Accidency" because of the "devolved" duties. Interesting that one of Tyler's children died in 1847, the last in 1947.
19. William Howard Taft weighed over 300 lbs. What fixture in the White House did he have workmen replace?
A: The bathtub, after he had become stuck. The new one could hold four full sized men - not that there is anything wrong with that -

Only Pam, Tricia, and Barry Howard were awarde
d a prize for their trivia knowledge. However, a good time was had by all, as seen in the following.

And at least Claudia and Ron demonstrated the proper respect for the Birthday Boy with their card:

However other cards were fun as well:

Finally, we offer a few unedited selected photos of guests having way too much fun:

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Straight Talk Motorcade

Monday, October 06, 2008: During the second half of Saturday’s Navy – Air Force football game at the Fox and Hound sports Bar, Barry Howard had requested that I be one of the eight drivers for the McCain Campaign coming to Albuquerque on Monday afternoon. I can’t say “No!” to Barry, one of John McCain’s class of 1958 classmates, and a former Air Force Fighter Pilot. [Two days earlier, I had stood with Barry at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial as former Marines and Jon Voight along with City Councilman Don Harris performed the ground-breaking of the War on Terror Memorial.] When I told Bonnie about this, she implied that with my driving ability, she wished I were driving the Obama staff. A lot of confidence in my driving abilities.

Nevertheless on Monday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and headed off to Cutter Aviation. There I was met by Barry and his three other recruits (Jim Monsees, Hoppy Hopkins '59, Dick Porter), plus Chris Livingston from ABQ McCain Hqs and his recruit Howard DeLaCruz-Bancroft. Barry ensured that each driver had a McCain-Palin button. At 9:30 am, we were told to drive our cars over to the Van rental company and after more than an hour of obviously biased paperwork, we each found ourselves driving off in a white, ten passenger Chevrolet van.

We arrived back at Cutter Aviation and were soon let out to drive across the tarmac and back in, awaiting the arrival of the Straight Talk Express. But first, each hood was opened and bomb-sniffing dog was led by each van, followed by members of the APD bomb squad who used flashlights to look underneath and throughout the vans. Then we were given a name for each van: PRESS 1 or STAFF 3. I was designated to be STAFF 2, a very important van, for if anything were to happen to STAFF 1, guess who would have to step up. Barry became PRESS 1, which I guess is important if you like Katie Couric.

Tony of New Mexico's Secret Service office gave me an A-7 pin to wear. Apparently S-pins can escort people, and R-pins can be trusted as well. A-pins are, well, at least part of the entourage. Barry didn't get a pin at all, and we heard about that for most of the day.

At 12:44 pm, the Straight Talk Express [see photo] arrived at Cutter Aviation, and immediately many, many folks started pouring out of the back door and down the gangway. Two young ladies piled into my van, with a quick “Hello!” to me. “Welcome to Albuquerque!” I responded. Soon Three young men joined them, including one in the front passenger seat. I asked them if they had previously been assigned or just filled up whatever van. They said they had found that STAFF 2 was usually not full, so that was their choice.

After Sen. McCain made a short statement, we vans pulled up close to the aircraft, the rest of the people filed in, and away we went. I had never participated in a motorcade before, and found it quite exhilarating to fly through stop signs, red and green lights without regard, as the Albuquerque Police Department managed to set up blocks at each intersection. Then the police would have to leapfrog up to the next intersection, so they would go roaring by us vans. Thus we were told to always keep to the right, as the cycles would pass on the left, and during a not-so-long ago Bush motorcade, one of the police officers was killed.

Off we went to University of New Mexico, taking Rio Bravo entry to Interstate 25, which was also blocked – amazing feeling to have the Interstate to yourself and a few close vans. Exited at Lomas, then right on University, left on Central and into the campus, down the ramp to the loading dock behind the Student Union (SUB) bldg. The candidate and his wife got out of their Suburban and into the facility; the vans quickly unloaded and all the occupants scampered off with their cameras and laptops. That left us van drivers sitting and awaiting the order to re-position our vans for the exit. This was done with precision, as we moved into the area, and backed into position.

We awaited the opportunity to enter the bldg and here some of the talk, but it never came. What did come was a photo-op with Cindy and the Senator as a thank you to all of us – great! When I shook hands with the Senator, I used my 3 seconds to say, "Hi, I'm Mike Blackledge, Class of '63" to which he replied, "Oh, I saw Navy beat Air Force in football Saturday!" "Yes, a great game!" I agreed.

An exciting time, then we loaded back into the vans, and back to Cutter Aviation, again with the police escorts and motorcade/intersection blocking procedure. Again worked most smoothly. All loaded onto the Straight Talk Express, and we took a few photos of the plane.

We headed back to the van rental facility, turned in our vehicles and our keys, and shook hands all around – a good days’ work? So it was, and we each got into our vehicles and headed home. It was 3 pm and I first had to borrow Chris’ cell phone/Blackberry and call Bonnie and ask her to meet me at Golden Corral (Eubank and Central) for the Early Bird Buffet so I could tell her how I not only survived this adventure, but succeeded in not killing off a single McCain staffer. Every vote counts!

That night Bonnie and I watched the local and national news. They seemed to focus on Senator and Mrs. McCain. The van drivers were not featured. No, I have no explanation.