Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I love Christmas! And yes, I'm talking the "secular" Christmas of Santa and Rudolf and presents under the tree...

At the same time, though I'm not a regular church-goer, I sure as heck want to "keep the Christ in Christmas." While Christmas is "secular" in the sense that it's effectively a national holiday via its status as a federal holiday officially observed by all 50 states, beyond Frosty and Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas," there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that "Jesus is the reason for the season."

My favorite part of Christmas? Christmas Eve Mass. I've been attending Christmas Eve Mass (7:00 p.m. sharp for the caroling, service begins promptly at 7:30 p.m) at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Pearl River, NY with my best friend, Carl, and his family for the past 30 years. We - Carl and his family, me and mine - take the front pew, right in front of the hand carved eagle lectern, and Carl and I belt out the Hymns at the top of our lungs, giving the choir a run for their money!

My second favorite Christmas tradition? It's when we get home after the socializing following the Church service and the local "rounds" we make afterward - we usually arrive back home around midnight. My daughter Kim heads right to bed and my wife Mary retires soon after. Me? I pour myself a scotch, sit myself down in "my" chair, turn off all the lights except for the Christmas tree lights and lighted window decorations, and turn on the TV to watch His Holiness the Pope conduct Midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

I respect Pope Benedict. He's a brilliant man and intellectually honest. Still... I miss John Paul II and I know I always will. He was "my" Pope even though I'm not Catholic. Between the two Masses, all my religious "bases" are covered. St. Stephen's is about family and friendship and singing and joy. I can feel God there... I visualize God looking down upon us with a smile on his face. The Pope's Mass from Vatican City... watching it gives me a feeling of comfort - I feel the Grace of The Father upon me and upon the world - upon All of Us.

But I digress...

This thread is titled Christmas Shopping. The above sentiments are meant to place the following thoughts in context, the greater context of Christmas being a secular celebration of materialism as well as the religious celebration of the birth of our Christian Lord Jesus.

Today marks the "official" start of the Christmas shopping season, Black Friday. Three days hence... Cyber Monday.

BUY! BUY!! BUY!!! That's the economic message of the Christmas Season. SPEND! SPEND!! SPEND!!! Those are the marching orders. While some buck the "Shop Till You Drop" mentality, others insist "Shopping Is Patriotic."

Well... it seems to me there's a reasonable, rational, patriotic middle ground:


No... seriously... BUY AMERICAN!!!

A few more links? Sure. My pleasure!!! BUY AMERICAN!!! BUY AMERICAN!!! BUY AMERICAN!!!

More links? They're out there. Whether you enter "American Made Products" into your preferred search engine or whether you narrow down your search to find specific goods, there's no lack of info on the internet. And speaking of specifics...

Here's a gift I bought for a friend's twin ten year old girls last year - Patriot Challenge.

The kids loved it. The parents loved it. Instead of sending our hard earned dollars overseas, instead of selling countries like China the rope they may one day use to hang us with, we'd be wise to instead support American companies, American workers, and the American economy via supporting American entrepreneurs such as Christine Nelson.

Other ideas? Com'on... from boardgames to books to beer and booze... we can all Buy American if we try. Have a whiskey drinker on your list? If he's anything like me, he'd love one of these American single malts. Beer? A great gift for American micro-brew lover on your list, and whether it's a single bottle, a four-pack, six-pack, twelve-pack, or case, who doesn't like opening something heavy?!?!

Seriously... whether it's wine or widgets, you can find American made gifts if you're willing to do a bit of research, ask a few questions, and last but not least, tell American merchants that you WANT to be able to find American made products at their stores and websites.

Call Wal-Mart at 1-800-925-6278 - Tell the customer service representative that Wal-Mart should be taking the lead in stocking more American-made products - featuring more American-made products - identifying American-made products as such for your shopping convenience. And tell them... politely but firmly... if they don't start do so you'll start shopping elsewhere.

Call Sears at 1-800-549-4505 ext. 5 - Ditto!

You folks get the idea! BJ's, Costco, J.C. Penny, Macy's, Home Depot, big box giants and your local mom and pops retailers... it's time consumers send this message:

Folks, it's time - past time - to make a fuss, kick up a rumpus. Make telephone calls. Send emails. While shopping ask for the store manager and tell him or her that the more American-made products they carry the more of your business they'll get. Talk to friends and family - ask them to do the same!

The American People
CAN and MUST support each other. Christmas is the perfect time to do so. Target your spending. Stick to your budget. Support local businesses such as owner-operated restaurants by purchasing gift certificates and urging the recipient(s) to use the gift card(s) sooner rather than later so as to spur economic growth sooner rather than later.

And on that note... MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not So Fast There, Mr. President-Elect...

Excerpting from and commenting upon President-Elect Obama's Press Conference:

...if we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.

And if the swift and bold "action" relies upon false premises and faulty advice - what then? What if the new administration steers the American Ship of State in the WRONG DIRECTION, full speed ahead?

This is not random speculation, fear-mongering, or adversarial partisanship. Obama supported the first "stimulus package" pushed by Bush, Reid, and Pelosi last year. How'd that work out? Obama supported the original bailout. Same question - how's that worked out so far?

...move forward in a new direction to create new jobs, reform our financial system, and fuel long-term economic growth.

What new direction? Serious question. WHAT new direction...??? If by "creating jobs" the President-Elect is referring to throwing piles of borrowed (at interest!) and printed (allowed via increasing the debt ceiling) money at the construction unions and fulfilling the Christmas wish lists of America's top corporate executives for corporate welfare then all I can do is point out to liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike that there's nothing "new" down that road.

...we know that rebuilding our economy will require action on a great variety of fronts: from education and health care to energy and Social Security. Without sound policies in these areas...

Again. What action? If the highway to hell is paved with good intentions and the devil is in the details... well... Beelzebub is probably hitching along the Washington D.C. Loop at this very moment looking for some poor sucker to offer him a ride into town. administration will honor the public commitments made by the current administration to address this crisis.

Meaning spending. Meaning debt.

Folks. Again. Especially any liberals reading this. If you hated Bush's economic policies, you might want to consider... Obama's economic policies sound uncomfortably like Bush's economic policies on steroids. If you critiqued (with good reason!) the spendthrift ways of the two preceeding Republican Congresses, fasten your seatbelts... you ain't seen nothing yet!

...we need to restore both confidence in the markets...

And you believe decoupling "income" - revenue - from spending will do the trick? You believe out of control deficit spending and debt creation, piled on top of unfunded liabilities approaching $92.2 TRILLION on Social Security and Medicare alone are the stuff "confidence" is made out of? God help us.

Our families can't afford to keep on waiting and hoping for a solution. They can't afford to watch another month of unpaid bills pile up, another semester of tuition slip out of reach, another month where, instead of saving for retirement, they're dipping into their savings just to get by.

But... but... but... (*SCRATCHING MY HEAD*)

But that's what you're proposing as federal government policy under the Obama administration! You're talking new financial commitments when there's not enough money coming in to pay for old and existing financial commitments! You're talking borrowing more and more money with no prospect of ever being able to pay the principle back and as for the interest... as time goes by interest payments just to sustain the unrepayable debt will crowd out other spending priorities.

And to make the investments we need...

"Investments...?!?!" Governments do not "invest;" they SPEND! An "investment" is supposed to garner a return - a concrete financial return. Interest. Dividends. Capital gains.

You invest in a private company. Your profit - if any - is based upon that business' profit. They have to make money with your money - make enough money, enough profit, to not only pay back your principle, but pay it back with interest, all while having also made a profit themselves.

This isn't the way government "investments" work. Not on either end. The government doesn't make an actual financial "profit" on the money it borrows via T-Bill, bond issuances, etc. Thus, when the government "repays" these loans, they're not repaying the loans via a percentage of the profit they themselves made utilizing the loan to make a profit; rather, they're repaying interest and principle via their taxing authority, via new borrowing, and/or via simply printing currency.

...we have a consensus, which is pretty rare, between conservative economists and liberal economists, that we need a big stimulus package...

No. No we don't. Not so fast there, Mr. President-Elect. Bill Barker votes "no." Anyone else?

...the 2.5 million jobs that I intend to create during the first part of my administration. We have to put people back to work.

Entrepreneurs create jobs - politicians don't; not even presidents. People like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates create jobs. People like Barak Obama - or John McCain if you'd rather - don't. What people like these do is spend our money and take the credit if there's success and duck the responsibility if there's failure.

...across the board, people believe that this stimulus is critical.

Again... putting aside how much the average American knows about Keynesian economics... (*SMILE*)... the average American puts his or her own money directly on the line when he or she believes "stimulus" is warranted. No, Mr. President-Elect, I'm not so sure that the average American is enamored with borrow and spend credit rating destroying economic policies... print and spend inflationary smoke and mirrors... (*SIGH*). The average American wants government to spend within its means - our means - not beyond them. That's what I believe.

...the first job of my economic team is to shape that economic stimulus package so that it is delivering on the 2.5 million jobs that we talked about and is also providing a down payment on the long-term strategies we need in terms of making this economy work for all Americans.

Hold it!!! In order to have a "down payment" aren't... err... savings... usually the first step? In other words, you have to have something in the first place in order to have something to put down. (*SHRUG*) Again... deficits... debts... future liabilities. Obama's "plan" sounds a lot like the "plans" of all those folks who leased Mercedes and Lexus' while buying McMansions they couldn't afford on zero down payment, five-year initial fixed rate plans. (*FROWN*)

That means we have to invest in clean energy. We're going to have to invest in the systems in our — in health care that can reduce costs for families and for businesses.

So Obama is going to support, push through, and begin construction of 50-100 nuclear power plants spread throughout the nation, and they'll all be completed and online by 2016? FANTASTIC!!! Why didn't he say so before?!?!

(Oh... you mean that's NOT the plan...??? You mean that's the furthest thing from the President-Elect's mind? No new nuclear plants? How'bout refineries - government built and owned refineries - a logical extension of the strategic petroleum reserve concept - that the government would lease out to for-profit American companies on a "need basis" so as to better be able to quickly react to sudden future shortages of refined petroleum products so as to blunt price increases which would otherwise be shouldered by the American consumer? No? That's not gonna happen either? Well... he's in favor of digging, right? Dig here, dig now...? No?!?! No drilling either? I'm NOT getting a good feeling about the future.)

It means that we're going to have to invest in the education system...

(*SNORT*) He's kidding - right...? That's all we do is "invest" in the education system! What about reform? What about accountability? What about coming up with "a plan" that amounts to more than throwing money (money we don't have!) at the problem? How about instead of starting with the question "How do our kids afford four years of college?" we ask the following two questions instead: "Why isn't an American high school education of sufficient quality to prepare our young people for entering the work force?" and "Why a FOUR year college undergraduate degree - why not refocus our efforts into offering a useful and meaningful college undergraduate education that can be completed in three or even two years of full-time study - saving a year or two of tuition and housing?"

(You want CHANGE...?!?! Now THAT'S a proposal for change!)

I said during the campaign that my plan represented a net tax cut. And that's important to remember: 95 percent of workers in this country would receive a net tax cut under my plan.

More spending... less taxes. (*SHRUG*) What's the Obama diet - eat more, weigh less...??? Seriously... who knew, who would have thunk it, after all these years... the Democratic Party has apparently come to the conclusion that 95% of Americans are overtaxed!

(Hmm... what ever happened to PayGo?)

We're going to be putting money into people's pockets so that they can spend on buying a new computer for their kid's school, so that they can, you know, make sure that they are able to deal with heat and groceries and all the other strains on family budgets.

No. You're going to BORROW money from the Chinese and others at interest, indebting us, our children, and our grandchildren. You're going to simply print money too, and I don't care how many economists are presently throwing around the word "deflation," what I see is stagflation coming back full swing in 2009/2010. Bush's policies did a job on the dollar; we ain't seen nothing yet though. (*SIGH*)

Seriously... if just throwing money at people is such a great idea, why not just cut every American - each man, woman, and child - a check for $1,000,000. I mean... if it's that simple and if it makes that much sense, why can't we all be instant millionaires?!?!

Oh... and by the way, Mr. President-Elect... that new computer you want that family to buy - chances are it's made in China. The factory is in China. The workers are Chinese. The profits are going overseas.

...if we're going to help pay for some of these expenditures that are absolutely necessary to get our economy back on track, that those who are in a position to pay a little bit more do so.

Oh! Great! You're interesting in paying for "some" of these expenditures! Outstanding!!! As to increasing taxes on "the rich"... I'll believe it when I see it. Forget issues such as "fairness." I'm simply talking nuts and bolts cause and effect. The truly rich have teams of accountants, tax attorneys and financial planners ready to "deal" with anything you can throw at them. Worse case, they'll move overseas. As for those making $150,000/$200,000/$250,000 a year... how much is enough, how much is too much, how much is too little? Anyway... we'll see how things work out in the real world I suppose.

I want to emphasize is that there is a consensus among across the political spectrum that we need a stimulus...

Nope. Sorry. No consensus here! (By the way... wasn't there a consensus back in 2002/2003 that Saddam definitely had chemical weapons, probably had biological weapons or at least the capability to create them in short order upon demand, and that he had a secret viable nuclear weapons development program or at least could start one up at any time...??? Forgive me if the word "consensus" doesn't overly impress me.)

...we can't allow the auto industry simply to — to vanish.

I agree. BUT... this doesn't mean I'm in favor of a federal bailout nor of the federal government taking a managerial role in the auto industry. Bankruptcy and structured reorganization is the ticket. It's the legal/economic framework we as a society have created for such situations and I see no need to FORCE American taxpayers to "invest" in private companies via their tax dollars.

A so-called "pre-packaged" bankruptcy. That's the ticket. As I understand it, this is what President-Elect Obama is leaning towards and if this is indeed the case he'll have my support.

And on that note... (*WINK*)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What I'm Reading - What I Suggest You Read

O.K. Down to business!

Enter the Comments Section of this thread and you'll find links to what I've been reading. Some links will stand alone - perhaps with a brief teaser description - others will be followed by commentary, my reaction and hopefully the reaction of other readers.

Think of this as an Open Thread. Perhaps you'll comment on an issue I've brought up. Maybe you'll provide your own link recommendation. The point is, I'm posting this thread as a general clearing house for news and information linkage which I believe is worth being aware of.


Homage To Drudge - And Speaking Of...

There's a reason why Matt Drudge's "Drudge Report" is my homepage. Drudge provides clear, concise teaser headline links to an eclectic mix of news being reported throughout the U.S. and the world. Take a moment to browse Drudge and you'll have a better idea of what's going on in the world than someone who hasn't.

Drudge is also a one-stop source for media related bookmarks. Newspapers, magazines, columnists, pundits... Drudge provides the links - categorized and alphabetized! All inclusive? No. Pretty damned impressive...? As Gov. Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha!"

Yep. Bottom line, even if you don't set Drudge as your homepage, make sure you bookmark the site for ease of multiple daily visits.


What do I read? I start each day with the Wall Street Journal. Though most of the daily content as well as the archives are "subscriber only," the online editorial page, Opinion Journal, is a freebie and I say Amen to that. I've been reading the WSJ since high school - graduating Pearl River (NY) High, class of '81. It is my firm belief that if every American took a half hour or 45-minutes a day to browse/read the WSJ, this democracy of ours, this Republic, might stand a chance of surviving this century intact and indeed prosper and fulfill the Founders' dreams rather than decline and retract as I fear we will. (But that's a subject for another thread...)

Other than the WSJ, my daily browsing consists of The Financial Times (also in large part subscriber only), Investor's Business Daily Editorials, Real Clear Politics, and a whole host of other newspapers, magazines, and straight cyber-publications. I also spend a fair amount of time browsing/reading various Think Tank white papers and opinion pieces. With all due respect to journalism, whenever possible I bypass reporters, editors, and columnists and go straight to original source material. I urge others to do the same.


This brings me to the "informational" aspect of this thread posting:

Unlike many bloggers, I'll be utilizing the COMMENT SECTIONS of my various threads to advance my "messages" far more than I'll be using the blog's front page thread posts. As I noted in my previous thread, "Hmm... I've Never Been A Bloghost," I intend this site to be a place where ideas and information are shared. To my way of thinking, the best way to encourage this is to give people a reason to visit this blog other than just to see what new threads are posted.

We'll see! Either this technique will work or it won't. Let's give it a try!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hmm... I've Never Been A Bloghost

So far, so good! The initial "Intro" thread post, titled "Thank You Robert A. George," garnered three replies - one from the Great Man Himself, one from my RT buddy Rob, and one from my RT buddy Ed McGonigal, who is himself a bloghost over at

I suppose my next move should be to notify friends, family, and acquaintances with whom I often chat with about politics, economics, and frankly, just about every topic under the sun, that I have my own blog.

With this in mind, and having decided to take "baby steps" with regard to this blog hosting business, I'm going to invite you folks to consider this thread to be an Open Thread for general commentary, thoughts, and questions (if any) and topic submissions.

Tomorrow I'll hit the ground running with a few additional threads. Note, though, just in terms of general Usually Right format, my goal is not simply to pontificate. I want my submissions and those of others who blog here to inform, educate, and spur debate. With this in mind, while obviously since this is my blog I'll be posting threads, I'm anticipating that the vast majority of my commentary to be found on within the comment areas of the various threads.

Thank you Robert A. George

O.K. I'm doing it! Thanks to Robert A. George... I'm now an "official" blogger with my very own blog.

For the last couple years I've been quite happy to pontificate via Mr. George's (RAG's) blog,, but after the Great Man banned me...

Yep. That's what it took to get my lazy, technophobic butt in gear.

So thanks, RAG. Sincerely. Thanks for giving me the kick I needed.

And thanks also to Robert Dakin, aka Rodak, aka Rob. He's a guy I met over at RT whom I sincerely hope will not be a stranger here at Usually Right.

Anyway... (*DRUM ROLL*)

And now... for the very first time as a bloghost...